Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pakistan seeks Russian cooperation in expansion of Steel Mills

The Prime Minister was talking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov who called on him in Islamabad
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said that there is consensus in Pakistan that relations with Russian Federation should be further strengthened. He was talking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov who called on him in Islamabad on Thursday. The Prime Minister said that Russia is very important because of its linkages with Europe and Asia. He said that Pakistan and Russia have convergence on many regional and international issues including Afghanistan‚ Syria and the security council as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Raja Pervez Ashraf said that Pakistan seeks to increase economic relations and benefit from the expertise of Russian Federation‚ especially in the energy sector. He said Pakistan also seeks Russian Federation cooperation in expansion of Pakistan Steel Mills. The Prime Minister assured the Russian Foreign Minister that his government would extend all possible assistance to the Russian Federation in securing contracts in Pakistan and their execution. The Russian Foreign Minister conveyed the best wishes of President Vladimir Putin for President Asif Ali Zardari. The Russian Foreign Minister said that the inter-governmental commission between the two countries has been working to promote economic cooperation between the two countries.

Pakistan should stop terrorists crossing to Afghanistan:
Addressing the possibility of signing a strategic pact with Pakistan, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said Pakistan “should stop terrorists, suicide bombers crossing to Afghanistan.” “We are happy to have strategic relations with Pakistan. We want this strategic pact with Pakistan. But we want some conditions and preconditions from Pakistan,” Karzai told a press conference. “If these conditions are met – terrorism is stopped, extremism is dismantled, anti-Afghan activities are stopped, destruction of Afghanistan is stopped, friendship starts between the two countries which hasn’t happened so far – then a strategic pact would be signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. Afghan future predictions Karzai criticised Western media for gloomy predictions about Afghanistan’s future once US-led foreign forces withdraw from the war against Taliban insurgents in 2014. “This is a psychological war by the Western media against Afghanistan: once the foreign troops pull out, Afghanistan will be poor, there will be civil war and the Taliban will return, etcetera,” Karzai told a news conference. The president said he had raised the issue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a visit to the United States for the UN General Assembly last week. “I believe if the objective is to influence future agreements on the number of US military bases, the presence of US troops beyond 2014 – it can’t achieve this through psychological war,” he said. The United States has said it does not seek permanent bases in Afghanistan, but is expected to keep a small force in the country after 2014 for counter-terror operations. Details have not yet been agreed. Karzai mentioned in particular The New York Times, BBC and CNN, adding, however, that “unfortunately, local media, television and radios and analysts are also predicting civil war in Afghanistan once foreign troops pull out”. Respected Afghan expert Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is just one among many analysts who have predicted renewed strife in Afghanistan. “After 2014, the level of US support for the Afghan regime will be limited and, after a new phase in the civil war, a Taliban victory will likely follow,” he wrote recently.

Russia, Pakistan stress ties despite scrapped trip

Associated Press
The foreign ministers of Russia and Pakistan insisted on Thursday that the ties between their countries are strengthening, despite grousing in the Pakistani media about Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to cancel a visit to Islamabad. Putin was supposed to be in Pakistan this week as part of a summit involving Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which also ended up being postponed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived Wednesday on a seemingly hastily scheduled visit, assured Pakistanis that Putin merely had scheduling issues and that he hoped to visit at a future date. During a press conference Thursday, Lavrov and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the two countries were working on forging stronger bonds in areas such as the steel and energy sectors, as well as combatting drug smuggling. Also this week, Pakistan's army chief is visiting Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, suggesting a desire for more military cooperation. Lavrov and Khar also discussed the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, as well as other crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Neither offered details about what they discussed, but Lavrov said "there is a convergence of views on all these issues." The Russian foreign minister also expressed dismay over the violence at the Syrian-Turkish border. Turkey fired on Syrian targets for a second day Thursday after deadly shelling from Syria killed five civilians in a Turkish border town the previous day. Russia, which has steadfastly supported the Syrian regime as it battles an armed uprising trying to topple President Bashar Assad, has been in touch with the Syrians about the shelling, Lavrov said. Syria has promised to investigate the matter and "assured us such incidents will not happen in the future," he said. Lavrov was also to meet with the Pakistani president and prime minister during his visit.

KP,FATA cautions Imran Khan about peace-march

With every passing day, the scheduled peace-march of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) towards South Waziristan faces growing concerns and security threats. Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Barrister Masood Kousar warned the PTI about peace-rally, saying that Imran Khan lives in dreams. Speaking to a private TV channel, he said army had restored peace in South Waziristan with great difficulty and no one can be allowed to disrupt the peace process. He observed, “Imran is an ignorant man and likes to live in his dreams but the government is fully cognizant of its responsibilities and cannot allow any adventurism in the tribal areas where the situation is already fragile.” He noted, “Imran is an ignorant person, unaware of the ground realities. There is no infrastructure in Waziristan and Imran Khan is talking about taking one lakh people there.” He said no authority in Waziristan was ready to take the responsibility for the security of rally, adding that the former cricketer must realize that it is an unwise step on his part, the governor added. It is vital to mention here that the PTI had announced to take out a rally to South Waziristan against the US drone attacks along with thousands of people, including international civil society activists. However, the local as well as provincial administration opposed the idea, citing security threats. Additional Chief Secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Area Tafsheen Khan said that the PTI’s peace-march could result in serious consequences from a security standpoint. He stated, “I do not term the security situation in Fata unsatisfactory, but it’s not equipped to host the visit of PTI chief Imran Khan along with such a huge gathering of locals and foreign nationals. He (Imran) should realize that he is going to put everyone in danger.” He remarked, “We are working to establish peace in FATA, but that will be through development and welfare projects, not through rallies and adventures.” He further stated that FATA Secretariat had asked the central government to not permit Imran Khan to hold the rally. However, he added that it hasn’t received a reply from the government yet.

Pakistan: Homeless children at centre of sex abuse case

As many as 40 homeless children living under the care of the Child Protection Bureau (CPB) were shifted to Lahore following registration of an FIR carrying serious charges of child abuse against some junior staffers at a local CPB facility, Dawn learnt on Wednesday. According to sources, bureau’s local head Umer Daraz Bhatti got the FIR registered against nine CPB employees, alleging they had been subjecting these children to various sorts of abuse. The accused denied the charge and counter-alleged that it was an act of revenge by the complainants. Mr Bhatti stated in the FIR registered with Madina Town police on Oct 1 that the children told him that attendants Tahir, Nasrullah, Shehbaz, Iftikhar, Shahid , cooks Ashraf and Shahbaz, laundryman Javed and security guard Riast had been subjecting them to rape, physical torture, harassment and forced labour. Besides, Mr Bhatti quoted the children as telling him the accused had been showing them objectionable movies and pictures and had threatened them with dire consequences in case they revealed these cruel acts to anyone. All the accused were booked under sections 294, 374, 377, 378 and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code. However, no arrests had been made till the filing of this report on Wednesday evening. The sources said, after being informed of the situation, CPB Punjab Director General Amina Imam paid a visit to the local CPB facility some three days ago and after a personal meeting with the abused children ordered their shifting to Lahore. Denying the charges, the accused CPB workers claimed they were being victimised by Mr Bhatti because they had been raising objections to his misbehaviour and pointing out his corruption. They said they were ready to face any impartial inquiry and demanded the Punjab government should conduct a probe into bureau’s affairs in the light of complaints they had been filing against Mr Bhatti from time to time. They alleged the children gave statements against them under duress and were chained and locked in a room before their meeting with Ms Imam was arranged. One of the accused said she had taken 40 out of 51 children living in the bureau along with her to Lahore without getting the mandatory permission for the court. He said also mandatory was a preliminary departmental inquiry before registration of a criminal case against a government employee. However, no inquiry was conducted, and this, according to him, was against the law. Another man nominated in the FIR said the bureau employees had sent applications to the Punjab Home Department and the CPB provincial head against Mr Bhatti which needed to be probed. He maintained the entire junior staff of the bureau was on a token-strike for the last two months and their salaries were stopped by the provincial head without any justification. About allegations of rape and sexual harassment, he said all the accused were ready for any kind of medical examination, including DNA test to prove their innocence. The CPB head told Dawn children were shifted to Lahore for their safety. He said the CPB director general did not need court’s permission to transfer children to any centre across Punjab and insisted the allegations against him were baseless.

SC makes President Zardari party to Asghar Khan case

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC), hearing Asghar Khan case, gave a go-ahead to make President Asif Ali Zardari a defendant in the case and issued him a notice for the purpose. Heading the bench, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry said there should be no political activities at the President House, as president of the country is a constitutional head and supreme commander of the state. The bench also expressed displeasure over the absence of Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir. Meantime, the court, granting the plea by Asghar Khan’s counsel Salman Akram Raja, made President Asif Ali Zardari a respondent in the case regarding political funding by the ISI in the run up to 1990 elections. The court has issued a notice to President Zardari through his Principal Secretary. The hearing has been adjourned till October 15.

Political football over Balochistan

Politics in Pakistan having veered increasingly towards confrontationist postures and away from the ruling PPP’s oft-repeated mantra of ‘reconciliation’, it should not come as a surprise that any and all criticism, including the mildest and most apologetic, invites fierce verbal retaliation. This has increasingly been in evidence from the PPP government at the highest level, a seeming loss of patience with its numerous and increasingly vocal critics. Take for example the statement of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif after his meetings with Akhtar Mengal and Talal Bugti. Nawaz expressed his sympathy, solidarity and support for the suffering people of Balochistan, adding that if the Baloch leaders think that the presence of the army and Frontier Corps (FC) would impede the holding of free and fair elections, they should be withdrawn. In the same breath, Nawaz said he was not inclined to criticise the PPP government needlessly, but only pointing out the critical need to address the issue of Balochistan. Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, instead of approaching the issue in the serious mien he says it deserves, chose to indulge in political point scoring by sarcastically inviting Nawaz to guarantee peace in Balochistan and the government would withdraw the army and FC. The suggestion of course is absurd. Nawaz Sharif or the PML-N are not in power either at the Centre or in Balochistan. How then can they be asked to take this responsibility? Mr Kaira went on to accept the situation in Balochistan was sensitive and serious and required urgent solution, but at the same time hid behind the formula that ‘forces’ behind the complex situation in the province want to endanger national unity. If the reference is to the separatist sentiment in Balochistan, this is hardly a secret. On the other hand, the worthy minister should also focus on the ‘forces’ right in front of our eyes who, arguably, through their repressive policies, are ensuring that national unity is threatened in no uncertain terms. Mr Kaira reiterated the government’s ‘resolve’ to resolve the issue, but in the same breath made some startling revelations. He said the secret agencies were working under the government and had answered all the accusations against them in the Supreme Court (SC). Now this is stretching credibility to breaking point. Everyone knows by now, including the SC, that the secret agencies and the FC are involved in enforced disappearances, torture and dumping dead bodies all over the province. If Mr Kaira’s claim is taken at face value, it would imply the government is complicit in this ‘kill and dump’ policy, a claim it is certain the minister would balk at on reflection. If we leave the penchant of our political culture to indulge in point scoring and making serious issues a political football, it would be in the fitness of things to remind ourselves once again of the ground realities in Balochistan. Long simmering resentments and grievances of the people of the province first found expression in a return of young militants to the mountains in 2002 to wage the only form of resistance they concluded would make any difference to their plight, having been utterly frustrated in their efforts to ‘engage’ with the system for 25 years between the end of the last resistance in 1977 and the start of the current fifth one. The situation was exacerbated and polarised even further when Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed by the Musharraf regime in 2006. Since then, a new and formerly unknown factor has entered the scenario. There are reports that in order to maintain plausible deniability and carry out actions to defame the Baloch nationalist resistance, the intelligence agencies have nurtured local mercenary proxies who not only carry out abductions and killings of dissidents, they also carry out orders (in return for money of course) to kill settlers and other innocents to defame the nationalist resistance and solidify opinion elsewhere against the just demands of the Baloch. If any of the nationalists were at any point indulging in such misguided tactics, it appears better sense has prevailed in their ranks. Evidence of this is the reduced instances of settler targeting over the last two years. Perhaps the residual incidents are now authored by the proxies mentioned above for totally mercenary reasons. If there is any truth to these assertions, it is a very dangerous game in an already very dangerous situation. Given the incrementally growing worry over the largest in area province of the country with great geo-strategic importance and development potential, it is heartening to note that on the eve of his departure for Russia, COAS General Kayani has stated that the military will support any political settlement in Balochistan within the confines of the constitution. Since it is the military that is accused of running the show in the province (with the chief minister a top candidate for being included in the list of ‘missing persons’), this statement may represent a chink of light in the darkness that has overtaken Balochistan, towards a political solution of an essentially political problem.

Pakistan‚ Russia agree to enhance Bilateral Cooperation

Khar and her Russian counterpart held in-depth discussion to work on new avenues to increase relations in various sectors
Pakistan and Russia have agreed to intensify efforts to strengthen their relations to the mutual advantage of the two countries. This was stated by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov following their formal delegation level talks in Islamabad on Thursday morning. Hina Rabbani Khar said there is broad national consensus in Pakistan in further strengthening and improving relations with the Russian Federation. She pointed out that this aspect is well-articulated in the parliamentary recommendations governing foreign policy of the country. The Foreign Minister said the two countries today had detailed discussions on bilateral relations both at economic and political planes. It is their vision that the economic projects which were contributed by Russia in 20th century must see 21st century with Russian collaboration. She pointed out that only recently the two countries signed three MoUs on expansion and modernization of Pakistan Steel Mills‚ cooperation in Railway sector and energy field. She said the two Foreign Ministers agreed that it will be useful opportunity for Presidents of the two countries to meet shortly. She said the political leadership of the two countries has the commitment and resolve to strengthen bilateral ties. She said today the two countries had an extensive review of the scope of cooperation within the economic framework Hina Rabbani Khar hoped that in the next few months the two sides will be able to move beyond MoUs and go to specific projects within these areas. She said there was convergence of views between the two countries on issues of regional and international importance. Replying to questions the Russian Foreign Minister opposed drone strikes against Pakistan and said violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state is unacceptable. About postponement of the visit of President Putin to Pakistan‚ he said the Russian President has already conveyed to President Zardari that he was unable to visit Pakistan due to tough schedule. He has also expressed his desire to have meeting between the two Presidents at the earliest. On Afghanistan‚ he said any solution imposed from outside would not work. He said there should be national reconciliation and the process should be driven by Afghans themselves. To a question he said Russia was encouraged by confidence building measures between Pakistan and India. He said the two countries are capable of resolving their problems. The Russian Foreign Minister said his country supports President Zardari's proposed conference on drugs trafficking. He said Moscow also supports Pakistan's efforts to address the challenge of terrorism. To a question Foreign Minister Khar said drone attacks are not only counterproductive but also illegal and unlawful. She said there is need to find ways and means to counter terrorism within the legal means. He said drone strikes are also violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. Clarifying her remarks made in the United States about drone strikes‚ she said if the objective is to end terrorism than Pakistan supports that objective but ways and means to achieve this objective must be legal and lawful and must not be counter-productive.She said the Pakistan-Russia ties entered a "new era" of bilateral relations with the visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Moscow. She said the country's parliament had given clear policy guidelines for further strengthening and improving ties between the two countries. Khar and her Russian counterpart who earlier discussed the whole range of bilateral relations covering the political and economic spheres said there was a consensus that the joint projects on which the two countries worked in the 20th century must see more collaboration in the 21st century.

Bilour calls Imran’s Waziristan plan a farce

Calling Imran Khan’s proposed peace march to South Waziristan a farce, senior Khyber Pakhtunkhwa minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour on Thursday alleged that Khan was travelling to the tribal region on ‘someone’s’ request and was therefore allowing Americans to participate in the rally, DawnNews reported. Speaking to media representatives at an event in Peshawar, Bilour said the United States was planning to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan and alleged that Khan was staging a farce by leading the rally to South Waziristan. He added that Khan was going to South Waziristan to hold a rally while his party could not even organise a rally in Peshawar. Earlier, Bilour distributed allotment letters to those affected by the Mufti Mehmood Flyover project. At the occasion, he added that the KP government had played a vital role in the development of Peshawar by establishing seven universities and 470 colleges and by generating increased revenues for electricity and gas from Rs 3 billion to Rs 22 billion. He also expressed his reservations regarding the high court’s decision calling for the demolishing of various government buildings, including a government college, for the restoration of the Shahi Bagh. He added that he would submit an appeal in the Supreme Court with regard to the case.

Supreme Court summons Shahbaz Sharif

The Express Tribune News
The Supreme Court summoned Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in the dual nationality case on Thursday, reported Express News. The court also summoned Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz who had earlier alleged that Sharif is a dual nationality holder. The apex court is currently hearing cases against lawmakers with dual nationalities and had suspended as many as 11 lawmakers last week, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik. On Wednesday, the court suspended the National Assembly membership of Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) MNA Shehnaz Sheikh for holding Australian nationality while being a Pakistani national.

Obama and Romney, in First Debate

Mitt Romney on Wednesday accused President Obama of failing to lead the country out of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, using the first presidential debate to invigorate his candidacy by presenting himself as an equal who can solve problems Mr. Obama has been unable to. The president implored Americans to be patient and argued that his policies needed more time to work, warning that changing course would wipe away the economic progress the country is steadily making. The two quarreled aggressively over tax policy, the budget deficit and the role of government, with each man accusing the other of being evasive and misleading voters. But for all of the anticipation about the debate, and with less than five weeks remaining until Election Day, the 90-minute encounter unfolded much like a seminar by a business consultant and a college professor. Both men argued that their policies would improve the lives of the middle class, but their discussion often dipped deep into the weeds, and they talked over each other without connecting their ideas to voters. If Mr. Romney’s goal was to show that he could project equal stature to the president, he succeeded, perhaps offering his campaign the lift that Republicans have been seeking. Mr. Obama often stopped short of challenging his rival’s specific policies and chose not to invoke some of the same arguments that his campaign has been making against Mr. Romney for months. At one point, Mr. Romney offered an admonishment, saying, “Mr. President, you’re entitled to your own airplane and your own house, but not your own facts.” A boisterous campaign, which has played out through dueling rallies and an endless stream of television commercials, took a sober turn as the candidates stood at facing lecterns for the first time. Mr. Obama, who has appeared to take command of the race in most battleground states, seemed to adopt an air of caution throughout the evening. “Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess,” he said, “or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says, ‘America does best when the middle class does best’ ”? For much of the debate, the l candidates commandeered the stage, taking control away from the moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, as they kept trying to rebut one other. At times, the moderator seemed as if he had walked off the stage, a result of new rules that were intended to allow for a deeper and more freewheeling discussion. On a basic level it was a clash of two ideologies, the president’s Democratic vision of government playing a supporting role in spurring economic growth, and Mr. Romney’s Republican vision that government should get out of the way of businesses that know best how to create jobs. Mr. Romney sought to use his moment before a prime-time audience of tens of millions to escape the corner Mr. Obama and his allies have painted him into, depicting him as an uncompromising adherent to policies that have been tried before. He instead turn the focus on his opponent’s record. “You’ve been president four years. You’ve been president four years,” Mr. Romney said at one point. He ticked through a list of promises he said Mr. Obama had not lived up to, and said, . “Middle-income families are being crushed.” For all of the buildup to this first debate, neither candidate delivered that knockout blow or devastating line that each side was hoping for. Still, style points went to Mr. Romney, who continually and methodically pressed his critique of Mr. Obama. The president at times acted more as if he were addressing reporters in the Rose Garden than beating back a challenger intent on taking his job. Mr. Obama criticized Mr. Romney for his answer to a primary debate question last year in which he joined his fellow Republicans in saying he would not accept a budget deal allowing $1 of tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts. “Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach,” Mr. Obama said, “then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education.” Mr. Romney said his position on the tax-for-revenue deal was because of the state of the economy, not necessarily ideology. “I’m not going to raise taxes on anyone because when the economy’s growing slow like this, when we’re in recession, you shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone,” he said. He said his proposals were unlike those of other Republicans because he was combining tax reform with lowered tax rates. “My plan is not like anything that’s been tried before,” he said. He said he would not support any tax cuts that added to the deficit, in other words, that were not paid for. The debate, which was held at Magness Arena on the campus of the University of Denver, was the first of three face-to-face encounters between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. It took place even as voters across the country were already casting early ballots. All year Democrats have been waiting for Mr. Romney to make a more overt appeal to the sort of moderate voters he needs to win over by highlighting the more centrist positions from his years as Massachusetts governor. And on Wednesday he seemed to highlight his record in ways he had yet to do. Even as he repeated his plans to repeal the president’s health care plan, he happily embraced the plan he pushed into law in Massachusetts — the basis for the president’s — that is anathema to many in his party. “I like the way we did it in Massachusetts,” Mr. Romney said of his health care plan, noting, “We had Republicans and Democrats come together and work together.” But an argument for bipartisanship animated much of Mr. Romney’s message through the night. He said he had worked with Democratic legislators in Massachusetts. And he said that he would do the same thing on his first day in the Oval Office. The claim drew one of Mr. Obama’s sharpest retorts of the night. “I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day,” he said, “because he’s also going to repeal ‘Obamacare,’ which will not be very popular among Democrats as you’re sitting down with them.”