Sunday, October 7, 2012

Five killed, ten injured in PPP rally firing

At least five people lost lives and scores were injured when unknown gunmen opened fire during Pakistan Peoples Party leader Dr Nafisa Shah’s rally here in a suburban town of Khairpur, Geo News reported. According to sources TMA Khairpur had organized a public gathering at Saddo Janori Goth, where Member National Assembly Dr Nafisa Shah was to speak. Reportedly as soon as she arrived at the venue indiscriminate firing ensued. MNA Nafisa Shah is reported to have escaped unhurt.

Human Rights violations of migrant workers in Bahrain

Hundreds of thousands of mostly South Asian migrant workers in Bahrain face exploitation and abuse despite government reforms intended to protect them, Human Rights Watch said in a new report. The 123-page report, “For A Better Life: Migrant Worker Abuse in Bahrain and the Government Reform Agenda,” documents the many forms of abuse and exploitation suffered by migrant workers in Bahrain and details the government’s efforts to provide redress and strengthen worker protections. Bahraini authorities need to implement labor safeguards and redress mechanisms already in place and prosecute abusive employers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. “The government should extend the 2012 private sector labor law to domestic workers, who are excluded from key protections.” “Bahraini authorities understand that migrant workers have helped build the country and have instituted some important reforms,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. Failure to Pay Wages, Withholding Workers’ Passports “But without more vigorous enforcement, these reforms do little to address the most widespread rights violations such as failure to pay wages and withholding workers’ passports.” Bahrain has just over 458,000 migrant workers, about 77 percent of the total work force, public and private. Most are employed in low-skill, low-wage jobs in construction, trade, manufacturing, and domestic work, adds Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch interviewed 62 migrant workers and met with government officials, recruitment agents, diplomats from labor-sending countries, labor attorneys, and worker advocates. Recent government reforms include safety regulations, measures to combat human trafficking, workers’ rights education campaigns, and rules giving migrants greater ability to leave their employers. Human Rights Watch found that authorities enforce some safeguards, such as a ban on midday construction work during dangerously hot summer months.” “But authorities have not adequately carried out several other worker protections, such as those against withholding wages, charging recruitment fees, and confiscating passports. All of these practices make it harder for workers to leave abusive work situations.” Discrimination, Abuses Migrant workers in Bahrain also face discrimination and abuses from Bahraini society in general. Human Rights Watch documented several violent attacks against South Asian migrant workers in March 2011, during a period of heightened political unrest. Migrants in some cases said their attackers were anti-government protesters. Pakistani workers provided evidence to Human Rights Watch about attacks that led to the death of a fellow worker and seriously injured others. Human Rights Watch found that employers who violate migrant worker rights typically do not face the penalties provided in Bahraini law and rarely, if ever, face criminal consequences outlined in the penal code and laws against human trafficking. Human Rights Watch found no evidence that Bahraini authorities have utilized anti-trafficking legislation, introduced in 2008, to prosecute labor related violations. Recruitment Agencies “The plight of many migrant workers begins in their home countries, where many pay local recruitment agencies fees equivalent to 10 to 20 months of wages in Bahrain, incurring substantial debts, often using family home and valuables as collateral. This debt, sometimes exacerbated when employers withhold wages, effectively forces many migrants to accept abusive work conditions.Employers in Bahrain routinely confiscate workers’ passports. Coupled with the prevailing sponsorship system (kefala), these practices greatly limit the ability of workers to leave employers and freely return home.” Workers consistently told Human Rights Watch that unpaid wages topped their list of grievances. Half of the workers Human Rights Watch interviewed said that their employers withheld their wages for between three to ten months. One domestic worker did not receive wages from her employer for five years. Raja H. worked in construction along with 19 other men who said they had not been paid for four months. “My father died, and I’m the oldest brother,” he said. “I have younger brothers and sisters and one brother who’s working as a laborer in Pakistan. I call my family and they tell me to send them money. If I don’t get money, what am I supposed to say? I’ve got a wife and my kids are at school and it’s a big problem.” Excessive Working Hours, Physical, Psychological Abuse Workers also described low wages, excessive working hours, and physical and psychological abuse – and in the case of domestic workers, sexual abuse. Construction workers raised the persistent problem of crowded and unsafe labor camps. The suicide rate for migrant workers is alarmingly high, Human Rights Watch found. In a few cases, labor conditions amounted to forced labor. Domestic workers, almost all of them women, described working up to 19-hour days, with minimal breaks and no days off. Many said they are prevented from leaving their employer’s homes, and some said that they aren’t provided with adequate food. “We worked from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” said Ayesha K. “No break time. No rest. No time to eat even.” The Gulf Daily News reported on September 18, 2012, the case of 63-year-old Aakana Satyawati, whose employer allegedly had not paid her for the past two years and had refused to allow her to leave to visit her family in India for nearly 21 years, “Isolated in private homes, domestic workers are often victim to appalling work hours for little pay, and sometimes physical and sexual abuse,” Stork said. “These workers face the greatest risk of abuse yet have the fewest legal protections.” A new labor law that went into effect in July expands a few protections to domestic workers, including annual vacations, and codifies others, including access to labor dispute mediations. The law fails, however, to mandate needed reforms such as establishing maximum daily and weekly work hours and weekly days off. In some areas, Bahrain has made noteworthy improvements, Human Rights Watch found. “The Labor Market Regulatory Authority, an agency created in 2006, streamlines work visa applications and administers worker education campaigns, some of which provide information on worker rights and redress. A law passed in 2009 sharply reduced the transport of workers in “open air” trucks, which had led to many injuries and deaths. A government-run shelter has taken in female migrant workers fleeing abusive employers since 2006.” Not Enough In many critical areas, reforms have not gone far enough, nor has implementation been adequate, Human Rights Watch found. Workers in two labor camps that Human Rights Watch visited said that Labor Ministry inspectors had cited their employers years ago for serious and hazardous housing code violations but that the employers never took the required actions and the camps remained open. “The Labor Ministry allows workers to file grievances, most of them wage related, and mediates labor disputes. Yet abusive employers often refuse to settle and often ignore the ministry’s requests for meetings. According to data provided by the ministry, in 2009, 2010, and 2011, mediators resolved only 30 percent of complaints filed by migrant workers, compared with 56 percent of complaints filed by Bahraini workers.” When migrant workers file grievances, employers often retaliate by alleging that the worker committed theft or a similar crime, or “absconded” without permission, subjecting workers to potential detention, deportation, and bans on re-entry, Human Rights Watch reports. “If you go talk to the ministers and look at the law everything is perfect and nothing can’t be handled,” said Marietta Dias, from the Migrant Workers Protection Society, a local civil society group. “But when you go to the little guys [in the ministries], the guys that process everything, they either don’t have the authority to do anything or they haven’t been told the law.” Culture of Impunity Lawyers told Human Rights Watch that courts often issue worker-friendly judgments, but that cases take between six months and a year to resolve and are subject to appeals. Migrant workers are legally unable to work and have no income during this time, and say they typically feel they have little choice but to accept an unfavorable out-of-court settlement. Many migrants settle for plane tickets home and return of their passports, forgoing a sizable portion, sometimes all, of their back wages. Some workers said they had even paid former employers to return their passports and cancel their visas, allowing them to leave the country. The case management system introduced in the new labor law is potentially helpful, Human Rights Watch said. It should streamline labor litigation and has the potential to strengthen the ability of migrant workers to seek redress in civil courts. “Bahrain clearly seeks a reputation as a country with forward-looking migrant labor practices,” Stork said. “Authorities should start by addressing the culture of impunity for abuses against migrant workers that is the direct result of the lackof prosecution and enforcement of penalties under its laws.” *Source: Human Rights Watch release.

War in Afghanistan enters 12th year
Nobody wants a repeat of the bloody ethnic fighting that followed the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in the 1990s - least of all 32-year-old Wahidullah who was crippled by a bullet that pierced his spine during the civil war. Yet as the Afghan war began its 12th year on Sunday, fears loom that the country will again fracture along ethnic lines once international combat forces leave by the end of 2014. "It was a very bad situation," said Wahidullah, who was a teenager when he was wounded in the 1992-1996 civil war. "All these streets around here were full of bullet shells, burned tanks and vehicles," he added, squinting into a setting sun that cast a golden glow on the bombed-out Darulaman Palace still standing in west Kabul not far from where he was wounded. "People could not find bread or water, but rockets were everywhere," said Wahidullah, who now hobbles around on red-handled crutches. The dilapidated palace is a reminder of the horror of the civil war when rival factions - who had joined forces against Soviet fighters before they left in early 1989 - turned their guns on each other. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed. Fed up with the bloodletting, the Afghan people longed for someone - anyone - who would restore peace and order. The Taliban did so. But once in power, they imposed harsh Islamic laws that repressed women and they publicly executed, stoned and lashed people for alleged crimes and sexual misconduct. The Taliban also gave sanctuary to al-Qaida in the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. When the Taliban refused to give up the al-Qaida leaders who orchestrated 9/11, the U.S. invaded on Oct. 7, 2001. Eleven years later, Afghanistan remains divided and ethnic tension still simmers. The Taliban, dominated by the ethnic Pashtun majority, have strongholds in the south. Ethnic minorities such as Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks live predominantly in central and northern Afghanistan. The fear is that when international forces leave, minority groups will take up arms to prevent another Taliban takeover and that members of the Afghan security forces could walk off the government force and fight with their ethnic leaders. Anxiety and confusion about what will happen after the foreign forces leave permeates every aspect of society. Political debate about an Afghanistan post-2014 is getting more vocal. Some political leaders threaten to take up arms while others preach progress, development and peace. Young Afghans with money and connections are trying to flee the country before 2014. There also is mounting uncertainty about the upcoming transfer of power. At the same time that foreign troops are scheduled to complete their withdrawal in 2014, Afghans will go to the polls to elect a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by the constitution from running for a third term. The Afghan people already view their government as weak and corrupt and those doubtful of a peaceful future say that if the upcoming presidential election is rigged and yields an illegitimate leader, civil war could erupt between ethnic groups backed by neighboring countries trying to influence Afghanistan's future. "Unfortunately in Afghanistan, we do not have any political unity," said Gen. Sayed Hussain Anwari, a former governor of Kabul and Herat provinces who led fighters during the civil war. Speaking in emotional, rapid-fire sentences at his home in Kabul, Anwari says that the Taliban have a right to participate in the political process. "But if the scenario changes and they come to power by force, there will be groups that won't go with the Taliban and the fighting will continue," he said. Ghairat Baheer offers an even gloomier prediction. Baheer is a representative and son-in-law of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a key civil war leader in the 1990s whose fighters attack foreign troops today. He warns that the current Afghan government will collapse with the international troop withdrawal and says civil war is likely without a peace agreement. "The realties are that the government is not sustainable," he said in a telephone interview. "Anti-Americanism and anti-western sentiment is increasing daily in Afghanistan and the resistance is spreading day-by-day across the country." Fahim Dashti was with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the charismatic Tajik leader who commanded the Northern Alliance of minority groups, when he was fatally wounded by two terrorists posing as journalists two days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Dashti's face and hands were burned when one of the journalists blew himself up as the interview began. Even now, Dashti's hands are not strong enough to twist the cap off a bottle of water. Despite his experience, Dashti, who now directs the National Journalists' Union in Afghanistan, doesn't think his country is headed toward a civil war. "I do share the concerns of the people, no doubt. But there are some positive points such as the (growing) capability and the ability of the Afghan security forces," he said in his office. Donor nations have pledged to continue supporting the Afghan forces, which will avoid civil war and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a sanctuary for international terrorists again, Dashti said. He's more worried about the upcoming presidential race. "There is no one-man solution," he said, adding that a team of leaders from all ethnic factions needs to be assembled to lead the nation forward. Gen. Majid Rouzi, who also commanded fighters in the civil war and is now an adviser at the Afghan Interior Ministry, agrees. "Nobody has any justification for rearming," he said, sitting cross-legged on a rug in his home in Kabul. "The Taliban coming again? It is not possible. A factional war is not coming." However, Gen. Sahki Dad Ghafel, who led 1,500 troops fighting under Hazara commander Abdul Ali Mazari during the civil war, says civil strife is inevitable unless a peace can be reached with the Taliban before 2014. And he's not optimistic that the Taliban will renounce violence, moderate their hardline ways and participate in the political process. "Maybe if there is a deal between America, Pakistan and the Taliban, the Taliban might come with the tie instead of the turban," Ghafel, a round-faced military man with a small black mustache, said snacking on green grapes and melon in his office. "If the foreign troops leave, there will not be a good result. I am not confident about the future. I'm not optimistic." Karzai has called for national unity and has tried to reassure his people that Afghanistan will not collapse when the troops leave. "If the foreigners are not here, we are nothing?" he asked sarcastically at a news conference last week: "We were not a nation before NATO and the Americans came?" Karzai claims there has been a decline in violence in areas where Afghan troops are taking over from U.S. and NATO forces and that Afghan policemen and soldiers will be strong enough to provide security in the future. He blames the media for scaring Afghans into thinking they have no future once the international coalition leaves. Those who share Karzai's optimism argue that despite reports of drug use and unprofessionalism, Afghan security forces -- now 352,000 strong - will be capable of securing the nation by international troops leave. Coalition officials claim they have battered the Taliban and that while they are capable of staging suicide bombings and insider attacks, the insurgents cannot defeat the Afghan forces on the battlefield. They contend that keeping up the pressure on insurgents will push Taliban leaders to the negotiating table and that the international community's pledge to bankroll the Afghan army and police force in coming years will support the Afghan government as it works to provide better governance. The more pessimistic view is that the Afghan forces won't be up to the task. The joint international and Afghan force is fighting a losing battle, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement marking the 11th anniversary of the start of the war. Mujahid claims the Taliban have infiltrated the Afghan forces and are responsible for the rash of insider attacks that have left more than 50 U.S. and NATO forces dead at the hands of their would-be Afghan partners so far this year. "Right now, the foreigners are in a position where they are just trying to escape," Mujahid said.

Pakistani businessmen to visit Afghanistan
A 31-member trade delegation of Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry will visit Afghanistan from October 7 -11, 2012. In reciprocity to the delegation from Afghanistan that visited Pakistan in the month of July 2012, a group of business delegates from across the Pakistan has joined platform of PAJCCI and will visit Afghanistan for a business and networking visit. The prime objective of this visit is to provide an opportunity to the business community across the border to interact with each other for transforming bi-lateral economic deals. The agenda includes meetings with Afghanistan Ministry of Commerce, Afghanistan Investment Agency, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan and other most important organizations of repute. Further during B2B meetings, businessmen from across Afghanistan are invited to meet delegates from Pakistan. PAJCCI President, Mr. M. Zubair Motiwala elaborated that as a Founder President of this unique Chamber, it would be my utmost priority to ensure win-win situation for all stakeholders by resolving long pending issues between Business Community amicably, and help provide facilitation to the business community across the border in the greater interest of both the nations. The Chamber will serve as a body to enhance trade relations between two brotherly nations without succumbing to any unrelated political or cultural influence. Muhammad Zubair Motiwala informed that during the visit, board members will also deliberate upon feedback collected from stakeholders across the border pertaining to APTTA 2010. The meetings were conducted with stakeholders in the month of September 2012 and participation in those meetings was overwhelming. In July 2012, Executive body of PAJCCI met Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Mr. Munir Qureshi and discussed issues faced by business community across the border and assured that after feedback will be acquired from stakeholders then a comprehensive draft proposition will be prepared and submitted to Ministry across the border. Mr. Motiwala further added that this visit along with Executive Committee and Members of Business Community to Afghanistan would InshaAllah prove to be a leap forward in the enhancement of Bi-lateral and Trade relations between the two Countries.

Imran represents West, not tribal people

JUI-F chief Fazal-ur-Rehman has said Imran Khan wants to become a political martyr. Addressing the students’ convention on Sunday at Islamabad Convention Centre Maulan Fazal-ur-Rehman said no system could be successfully run in country without sincerity. He said that the national institutions were being used against our own people. Criticising PTI chief Imran Khan, Fazl said that Imran wants to become a political martyr, adding he (Imran) is representative of the western countries not the tribal people. The JUI-F chief said that a Jirga has been set up to solve the problems of the tribal areas.
Secretary Information PML-N Mushahidullah has said PTI Peace March has flopped. Mushahidullah Khan Sunday said that Imran Khan announced to go to North Waziristan at first, but in the end went to South Waziristan just to do point scoring. There is a difference between Imran’s words and his actions, he observed. The foreign lobby, which is supporting Imran Khan, is worried about his declining credibility and wants to restore it, he claimed. He said the foreign media considers Imran Khan near to its own agenda, which is why it is supporting him. He noted that international NGO, namely Code Pink is helping Imran Khan financially. Answering to a question, he said Jamaima Khan is making a film and Imran Khan has shares in it. To another question, Mushahidullah Khan said the dual-nationality holders should be allowed to contest elections and after their election, they should give up the foreign nationality.

PML-N banking on turncoats to govern Punjab

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that the so-called principled party - Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) - was banking on the turncoats to rule the Punjab. Addressing party workers late last night, Kaira said that the PML N, which did not have majority in the Punjab Assembly, indulged in changing loyalties of the legislators. He said that it was the PML-N chief, Mian Nawaz Sharif, who had pursued the politics of hatred by fueling provincialism and raising slogans such as “Jag Punjabi Jag”. On the other hand, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) promoted the politics of reconciliation, he said, adding that was why it had restored the Constitution of 1973 with the help of coalition partners. The Information Minister said that Nawaz Sharif had miserably failed on many occasions to fulfil his commitments and learn a lesson from his past mistakes. He said that Nawaz Sharif backed out from many articles of the Charter of Democracy (CoD), which he had signed with Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, including the commitments of not to buy the political loyalties of opponents and to form a constitutional accountability commission. Kaira said that the PPP was in a position to form the government in Punjab through coalition with the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, but it preferred to keep its commitments as per the CoD. He said that the PML-N had withdrawn its support at the Centre but the PPP continued to back it in the province for the cause of democracy, though its legislators were subjected to persecution and prosecution. Kaira said the PPP had never compromised on principles nor its leaders fled abroad despite the worst dictatorial oppression and victimization. Even the PPP is still blamed for the sins committed by the others. The Information Minister said that the PPP government had given autonomy to the provinces, distributed over Rs 900 billion among the provinces, overcome terrorism and made the country self-sufficient despite many hurdles. He said that only elections could determine the popularity of political leaders not the IRI surveys, which were not reliable by any means. The next general elections will decide how much Nawaz Sharif is popular among the masses, he added. The Information Minister said that the PPP was accountable only for the period it was in power, but it could not be held responsible for the actions taken by others before 2008. He said that power loadshedding existed before the PPP came into power. The PPP leadership had even criticized the menace of loadshedding in its election campaign for 2008 general elections, he added. He said that the PPP government would soon overcome the power loadshedding, the problem, which it had inherited from the past dictatorial regime.

The demagogue in Imran Talib Khan

TALIBAN Khan is back. Today, Imran Khan and his band of angry Khanistas will be in full cry. They will rail against the state. They will decry the spilling of blood in Fata. They will wring their hands and speak of peace. They will claim state policy is endangering Pakistan and Pakistanis. They will be lying. Not in a well-meaning but-they-don’t-know-better way. They will be lying through their teeth. Khan knows what he’s doing. He’s being exactly the cynical politician he curses and spits on every hour of every day on every TV channel. In Fata, the drones fall in North Waziristan, and occasionally South Waziristan. Khan is going nowhere near where the drones strike. Why? Because drone missiles may rain down on Fata, but they resonate in Pakistan proper. A made-for-TV dog and pony show that will be high on drama and low on substance will resonate with Khan’s base. In Punjab, they love their nationalism. Chest-beating, drum-banging, fire-and-brimstone nationalism. Pakistan is under attack! The imperialist Americans are out to destroy Pakistan! Imran Khan is standing up for what’s good and right. We must support him. Ergo, a few more votes come election time and some red meat to keep the base from thinking too much about factionalism and infighting in the PTI. The same goes for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They’re afraid of the Taliban. They don’t like the army. But they’re also suspicious of the US and bitter about what their Pakhtun brethren have suffered in Afghanistan and Fata. So Khan rattling the American cage stirs up the right kind of emotions. In a province where so many parties are jostling for votes, every little bit counts. And because this is Khan, arrogant, head-in-the-clouds Khan, he probably thinks protesting drones and military operations — though mostly just drones — will boost the PTI’s chances in new electoral terrain. Fata for the first time will be contested along party lines at the next election. That’s 12 seats in parliament up for grabs. Twelve seats that were nominally independent but that will now go to some party or the other. Twelve seats out of 272 directly elected seats in an assembly that will be fragmented and where every seat will count come government-formation time after the elections. The problem with Khan isn’t that he’s playing politics. Bashing your opponent, promising milk and honey, pandering to the lowest common denominators to reap the maximum electoral benefits — all of that is par for the course, here or anywhere, in politics. The problem with Khan is that he’s endangering Pakistan and Pakistanis. Yell loud enough, mock long enough, condemn emphatically enough — and what you say can begin to sound like the truth here. But there is also an objective truth. We fight in Fata because there is a terrible and tenacious foe there, a hydra-headed enemy that craves destruction and is fantastically good at it. Mercifully, those who understand the enemy and put their lives on the line fighting it will not be deterred by Khan’s antics. The army will fight on because it knows it has no choice. Also mercifully, Taliban Khan’s antics won’t provide comfort to the enemy, his lies in South Waziristan and on Fata will not swell the enemy’s ranks, and there isn’t going to be a surge in militant violence because Khan wants to play politics with Fata. But Khan’s march today will have pernicious effects. Complex effects that the glib Khanistas will try and swat away with high-sounding pabulum. Stripped of the hype — and the lies — Khan’s antics amount to buttressing and mainstreaming resistance to a modern and progressive Pakistan. Khan may have Asad Umar and Jahangir Tarin who want to fix the economy. He may have Shafqat Mahmood who wants to bring some professionalism and competence to governance. He may have Shah Mehmood Qureshi who wants to use diplomacy to improve ties with the outside world. But all of that is meaningless if we don’t get rid of the militants and the infrastructure of jihad. And we will never be rid of the militants and the infrastructure of jihad until Pakistanis understand who the enemy is, why it is the enemy and what the enemy wants to do to Pakistan. And Pakistanis will never understand any of that if mainstream politicians parrot the lies the security establishment told us for years until the lies blew up in its face and took down the rest of us as collateral damage. Do Khan’s lies make him worse than the dangerously delusional security establishment and the wickedly cowardly politicians who have betrayed this country and its people over and over again? No. But it does set him alongside them. It makes him yet another demagogue whispering seductive nonsense into the ears of Pakistanis while the enemy creeps up from behind, sword in hand. What if the people don’t think they’re being seduced or anaesthetised for harm, the PTI will ask. What if it’s the critics who are brainwashed and the pontificating analysts who have walked this country into a cul-de-sac with no way back, the Khanistas will shoot back. But that’s what happens when demagogues play politics and distort the undeniable. While the false argument rages, the real threat — the problems of militancy, extremism and radicalism and the enabling environment Khan is helping perpetuate — will grow in plain sight, ignored by the wilfully ignorant. The obvious problem: what we refuse to see, what we refuse to accept, still has very real effects. Militancy and the extremist mindset are as real as real can be. Today, Taliban Khan and the little Khanistas will bask in the warm glow of adulation. But it will come to be remembered as the harsh glare of truth. The truth that the demagogue who preached about saving Pakistan helped make Pakistan and Pakistanis that much less safe.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan: Trilateral transit trade agreement on the cards
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan are likely to sign a trilateral transit trade agreement on the pattern of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA), officials told Business Recorder on Saturday. The sources said during meetings with his Afghan and Tajik counterparts on the sidelines of the Chicago-NATO Summit, President Asif Ali Zardari proposed trilateral transit trade agreement between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Both the president agreed to the proposal. President, sources said, has desired that the agreement may be ready for signatures at the fourth quadrilateral Summit to be held in Islamabad. The Summit, has, however, been postponed indefinitely. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had requested that a draft agreement be prepared along the lines of Afghanistan-Pakistan transit trade agreement signed in October for sharing with the governments of both the countries. The sources further stated the proposed agreement had been prepared in consultation with the relevant stakeholders i.e. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Communication, Revenue Division and Ministry of Interior. The agreement has been vetted by the Law and Justice Division. Commerce Ministry had submitted summary to the Cabinet for approval, in principal, to start negotiations. However, Secretary Commerce informed the Cabinet that due to time constraints, approval of Prime Minister has been obtained to start negotiations under rule 16(2) of the Rules of Business 1973. Ex-post facto approval of the Cabinet was therefore, solicited to initiate negotiations for trilateral transit trade agreement amongst Pakistan –Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The countries private sector argues that though Pakistan’s economic relations with Tajikistan were on an upward trajectory yet there was still a rich potential to enhance relations manifold. Both countries have to work harder on the removal of impediments and invest more on building air, road and rail links, besides easing the problems faced by the businessmen of the two countries. Pakistan has been urging Afghanistan to facilitate the opening of a road linkage through the Wakhan corridor as it provides a shorter route to Tajikistan. Both countries are also negotiating CASA-1000 (Central Asia-South Asia) project for the last several years but the project has yet to begin implementation. Under CASA -1000 Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would supply 1000 MW electricity to Pakistan through Afghanistan, becoming the first energy project connecting Central Asia and South Asia. Afghanistan too will get 300 MW power from the project. In August 2012, Pakistan-Tajikistan held extensive meetings as the latter sought different commodities from Pakistan to deal with its food security issues. Pakistan, on request of Tajikistan had agreed to provide 30,000 tons of white refined sugar through Trading Corporation of Pakistan in compliance with the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet’s decision dated August 7, 2012 at a rate $20 per ton lower than the international market in the wake of humanitarian crisis faced by the people of Tajikistan. The Tajikistan government, while appreciating the goodwill gesture of Government of Pakistan, requested for early delivery of sugar to Tajikistan i.e. before the onset of winter season. Sugar deal, however, has not yet materialised.

PPP won’t show flexibility on presidential immunity

Daily Times
In view of severe resistance from senior leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Law Minister Farooq H Naek is likely to stick to mentioning presidential immunity in the draft of the letter to be sent to the Swiss authorities for reopening of graft cases against President Asif Zardari. He will present the draft before the Supreme Court’s five-member bench on October 10. Sources revealed to Daily Times that a group of PPP leaders close to former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani was already upset over change in the party’s policy on the NRO implementation case and were questioning as to why did the PPP’s legal team not advise about writing the letter to former PM Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the same case. It has been learnt that due to pressure from this group, the law minister was likely to mention Article 248 of the constitution in the draft, as on Friday he had refused to give any commitment before the bench for further improvement in the proposed letter. It was Naek who convinced the PPP leadership to write a letter to Swiss authorities by claiming immunity for President Zardari. He also said at this stage it would be easy for the government to settle the issue but it might lose control over contents of the letter during tenure of the caretaker government. The sources also said the PPP legal experts have suggested President Zardari show flexibility in the exclusion of presidential immunity from the proposed letter, otherwise cases against him would be reopened in Pakistan as well. They said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was also reluctant to show flexibility in the immunity issue after the court’s proceedings against non-implementation of its judgement in the Rental Power Projects case. A PPP lawyer claims the bench is divided over the immunity issue, therefore, the 30-month deadlock between the judiciary and executive could remain unresolved. He also lauded the efforts of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa in resolution of the long-standing issue. It is to be noted that Justice Khosa on July 25 had assured the government’s legal team that they did not want to prosecute President Zardari, and that Zardari as the president of the country enjoys customary international immunity abroad. Similarly, Justice Khosa on Friday observed they were only “inches away” from the perfect solution that would uphold the dignity of the court and also address the government’s concerns. “We have in the last hearing said that it is the last opportunity, but don’t want the efforts to go to waste,” he further noted. On the other hand, a number of PPP workers still believe that writing to Swiss authorities would be tantamount to the trial of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s grave.

PSF blames Islami Jammat Taliban for violence in Charsadda College

President Pukhtun Students Federation (PSF) Peshawar University Campus Imtiaz Wazir has strongly condemned the violent action of IJT students in Post Graduate College Charsadda and has termed the incident as inhuman and sorrowful. In a press statement issued on Saturday, Wazir said that PSF was a well organized association of students who were followers of the great Pukhtun leader Bacha Khan’s philosophy of non violence and peace. "We believe in a peaceful environment in all the institutions of KP and want to act upon live and let others live" said the veteran student politician in his statement. He also expressed great concern over the conditions of the injured fellow Sangeen Shah and demanded of the college authorities to probe into the case and bring the culprits to the book. He warned that if PSF observed any kind of apathy in this regard, they would not hesitate to go to any extent.

Pakistan: Their insolence

Whatever constructs his apologists may put, the real truth is too obvious to hide. Imran Khan's Waziristan odyssey is all politics. Had it been humanitarianism, he would have shown it too, say, in taking note of the almost abandoned IDPs of the tribal areas, going through such gruelling times in Jalozai camp. He has not. They stand in such a dire need of a human touch, of which he too has left them unquenched. Not even has he ever bothered to see the IDPs of Waziristan living doleful lives in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan and console with them. But why to call his foul when the political eminences across the spectrum are not in any manner inhibited in burnishing their petty politics on the grief of the aggrieved? How many times has one heard both the rightists and the liberals crying over the unenviable plight of our pitiable tribal compatriots displaced due to the military operations in the tribal areas and living miserable lives in refugee camps, with their kith and kin or in rented accommodations? But has one ever seen the Munawwars, Nawazs, Qazis and Asfandyars of this world visiting them and sympathising with them? Not even once. Isn't it? But it is the insolence of those whose bounden duty it is to care for the people that is baffling, galling and deafening, to say the least. Never ever the IDPs have figured on their daily engagement cards. Never ever have the refugee camps made to their travel itineraries. President Asif Zardari has been warming the presidential chair now for almost four years. But not once has he paid a visit to even the Jalozai camp. Yousuf Raza Gilani said adieu to his over four-year-long prime ministerial stint without having a truck with the IDPs of the tribal areas even once. And one doubts if these wretched people are in the thoughts of incumbent prime minister Raja Parvez Ashraf either. Their impudence comes out so jarringly from the short shrift they have given to our brave soldiers fighting the militants and terrorists in the tribal areas and laying down their precious lives for their compatriots to live in peace and security. In neighbouring Afghanistan, the political leaders of the occupation armies are frequent visitors to them. They come calling on them in the very insurgency-infested areas they are deployed in and spend time with them, dine with them and have warm chit-chat with them. President Barack Obama has done it more than once. His predecessor George W. Bush did it several times. Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister, keeps constantly the British army in Afghanistan on his travel itinerary and has visited it many a time in Helmand where it is deployed. Even a woman prime minister, Julia Gillard of Australia, has visited her country's military contingent. And she too didn't call them to Kabul to meet, but went straight to their station in Uruzgan province where they are deployed. These visits have never been risk-free. The bases of the foreign troops have at times come under insurgent attacks during their VIP's visits. Yet that has not deterred their political leaders from visiting them. They keep coming calling. They brave the dangers to their lives but make it a point to be with their troops not infrequently for the morale-boosting that their visits palpably provide tremendously actually. But this truism is yet to come home to our ruling political top echelons. Zardari has never visited our troops. Gilani too did not. Time will tell if Raja would ever do it. But not even any of our defence ministers, both incumbent and outgoing, has bothered to do it. VIP visits are undertaken with lot of security measures in place to ensure the visitor's safety maximally. If the military top command can undertake visits to their troops in the insurgency-infested areas, certainly the political rulers could do it as well. Should one, then, hope that at long last President Zardari would overcome his inhibitions and make a trip to South Waziristan to be with our brave soldiers for a few hours? And would thereafter Prime Minister Raja take the cue and make way to the region to the same end? If nothing else, will defence minister Syed Naveed Qamar muster up the courage and make this immensely morale-boosting gesture? Or, are we just hallucinating and asking for moon? After all, neither the president nor the prime minister, not even the defence minister, visited even the Salala post after it was attacked thuggishly by the US-led NATO forces and over two dozens of our soldiers were massacred with hellfire.

PML-N politician buys Tony Blair's family home

A Pakistani politician has bought a house from former Prime Minister Tony Blair after outbidding dozens of millionaires who were vying to buy the house due to the political significance attached to the Edwardian property. Dr Ashraf Chohan, a Pakistani professional with interests in nursing homes and real estate, paid £1.3 million to Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair, a human rights lawyer, for their house near his clinic in Marylebone, an exclusive London area, only a stone’s throw from Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Rehman Malik’s properties in nearby Park Lane and Marble Arch areas. Incidentally, Dr Chohan belongs to PML-N and was a Punjab assembly lawmaker from Gujranwala until the dual national Pakistanis were barred from holding a public office. The Blairs had put the property on market for over 6 months and although there was a huge interest in the sale from the property hunters who make business out of places linked to celebrities, Dr Chohan stunned everyone when he gave an offer that the Blairs found hard to refuse. The market price of the house is stated to be £1.3 million in papers but it’s understood that in every such sale, tens of thousands of Pounds are paid under the table to win the deal. When reached for comment, the estate agent, who negotiated the sale of the house, refused to answer whether any amount in cash had been paid to the Blairs but it is believed that the deal was finalised after Tony Blair told the estate agent that he was interested in the offer put up by the Pakistani doctor. Speaking to Dr Chohan commented that when he heard about the Blairs’ were selling their home through press reports, he didn’t even think about bidding for it because of the huge interest the property was receiving. “Then I was told that property hunters were trying to play hard and negotiate the price and taking their time to see the interest trend in the house. I made an offer to the Blairs they found difficult to turn down and the deal was done. “Doing business with notables is a joy in itself and it has been interesting to see how this deal has attracted so much attention. When Pakistanis do good in public life, this helps to lift the image of the country of their origin. I always tell my clients and business people that I am a proud Pakistani and my motherland sets my direction,” he said. Dr Chohan has been a neighbour to the Blairs for several years. “It has been shocking to see children of Tony Blair doing their own shopping, cycling around like ordinary children, having no protocol to them. We would hardly see children of ministers in Pakistan mixing with anyone other than their own class. The Blairs have been very good neighbours, always courteous.” Since the deal was finalised two weeks ago, Dr Chohan’s new home has received huge attention from media. He has been interviewed about the purchase of the house and the questions to him have focused on whether he will sell the house at an even an inflated price, his connections with Blairs and his decision to buy the house from a leader who remains deeply controversial. Tony Blair and his wife have recently been in news for their interest in real estate investment and it is believed that that they own properties worth £14 million. Dr Chohan, who came to Britain 22 years ago from Pakistan, owns 6 properties around and in central London and his worth stands at around £17 Million. Tony Blair currently lives a few streets away from the property he has sold to the Pakistani doctor in a £3.7 million mansion on Connaught Square. Scotland Yard’s armed officers provide round-the-clock protection to the Blair family due to his role in the Iraq war.

US waives conditions on Pakistan aid

The State Department has waived conditions for this year’s annual US assistance for Pakistan, saying providing economic and security aid to the country, totaling around $2 billion, is in America’s national security interest. The development paves the way for release of US economic and security assistance for Pakistan and comes as the two countries try to rebuild relationship in the wake of a strained phase in bilateral ties for more than a year. The relations began to improve in early July, when Pakistan reopened its overland routes to NATO supplies following Washington’s expression of apology over November 2011 Salala attacks that had claimed lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton formally notified Congress on September 13 that the US Administration would continue the American aid flow by waiving certifications required contained in the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009 and in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 finding that “it was in the national security interest of the United States to do so.” The Obama Administration’s FY2013 request for aid to Pakistan totaled $2.2 billion, of which $800 million for Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund is in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), considered to be short- term, temporary funds. Another $1.4 billion is considered to be enduring or regular funding, according to a Congressional Research Service report. In mid-August 2012, the State Department notified Congress of its intention to cite U.S. national security provisions in waiving two certification requirements that placed conditions on U.S. assistance to Pakistan. These provisions related to Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on a range of counterterrorism, nonproliferation, democracy, and other issue-areas. This marks the first time the Obama Administration has waived aid sanctions on Pakistan. In the past, Congress had permanently waived all proliferation and debt-arrearage sanctions on Pakistan in October 2002, and the Bush Administration issued six waivers of democracy-related sanctions— for FY2002-FY2007—until these were permanently waived following an April 2008 determination that a democratic government had been restored in Islamabad. American officials say “despite recent challenges” in relations with Pakistan, there has been progress toward rebuilding ties. A State Department statement, quoted by McClatchy news service, said the aid for Pakistan is “critical component of U.S. efforts to continue to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan.” “We believe we should continue building on these steps and that our civilian and security assistance is a critical component of this effort,” the statement said. A CRS report on US aid for Pakistan says the goal to provide $1.5 billion in annual nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan for FY2010 through FY2014, as authorized by the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, also known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Bill has been met only in FY2010. It fell short in FY2011 by $414 million, in FY2012 by an estimated $500 million, and in the FY2013 request by $428 million. For the third consecutive year, Pakistan is experiencing major seasonal flooding that, while not as severe as that of 2010 and 2011, has resulted in more than 430 deaths and has negatively affected nearly 4.8 million people with deteriorated living conditions, according to the report. The report says Islamabad has pledged $91 million toward relief and is coordinating response efforts. As of end September, 2012, the State Department and USAID humanitarian assistance totaled $134.6 million. U.S. flood-relief provided to Pakistan in FY2010 and FY2011 totaled more than $600 million in funds and in-kind aid and services.