Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Benazir Bhutto:'' We Salute You For Your Courage''

A tribute to "a woman of tremendous courage and a symbol of freedom in tumultuous times." December 27 Benazir Bhutto was murdered in 2007 by fanatics supported by cronies of Mush regime and Remnant of cruel dictator Zia era. Benazir Bhutto, Her name, which translates to the “One without equal” signifies and trails her uniqueness. She had gone to university at the age of 16 and had emerged from Harvard University with startling distinctions, having earned a Cum laude degree in Comparative Government. Benazir was a true leader. A woman of heart, a woman of mind, a person driven by the courage and passion of heart to maintain democracy as a way of life on this globe and to defeat those determined to take the liberties of democracy away and to keep those liberties from those who have never known such freedoms of thought and the dreams associated with democracy. To millions of her supporters she was a brave daughter of a brave father who died while fighting for democracy and self-rule. To them she was a woman of unflinching determination who returned to Pakistan to reclaim what rightfully belongs to the people of Pakistan. Benazir was, by all accounts, a devoted patriot, a loyal friend and a loving mother. Benazir Bhutto was a woman of immense personal courage and bravery. Knowing the threats to her life she risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan. She would be remembered for her long struggle for return of democracy in Pakistan. Forced reluctantly in to politics by her circumstances, she proved better than what her father could have ever hoped for. She led the persecuted family in the aftermath of her father's assassination, Spent five precious years of her youth in the jail. She saw two younger brothers killed. To the end she looked after an old heart-broken mother. She traveled vast distances battling for her country, party, and family. In between she even found time to raise a family and check the home work of her kids,drop her son at the moque for Friday prayer in Dubai. She persuaded Musharraf to give up military position. From the Sindhi haris to the Western politicians she could hold forth before anyone. She had become the most seasoned and wise leaders of not just the country but the world beyond as well. She had become the symbol of promise that this wretched land of ours holds. But she was not to be forgiven one small discretion of standing up to respond to her enthusiastic supporters from the safety of her transport. But then as Ali, the cousin of the Prophet and husband of Ummay Abeeha has said, "I found my creator in my broken resolve" and "Death is a man's greatest lifeguard". It is amazing that even under such trying circumstances, she stayed strong and fought for what she believed in. It takes a tremendous amount of inner strength to spread your message and fight for what you believe in when you know that you are in danger. I think that Ms. Bhutto showed us the definition of a leader. It is so hard to believe that this amazing woman's life has ended. Her death came too sudden and unexpected. My heart ‘wept’ in shock the moment I saw the newsflash of Benazir Bhutto’s violent death. Who could have thought that her departure would come so soon? I always thought that nothing would happen to her. She will remain safe. No harm will be inflicted on her. Even the day and the time when the news came that she is injured, it did not cross my mind that any fatal harm could be done to her. We always saw her hail and hearty, fighting and surviving. For eleven long years she fought for her honor. She fought for her lost respect. For eleven long years she was the subject of a malicious campaign. Not a day would pass by when a "cock and bull" story would not adorn the front page of a newspaper. Today she is no longer with us, but her absence will always be missed forever. History will remember her as a great leader and as the only Muslim woman leader, who stood the tests of time, who never betrayed the trust of the people and who accepted every challenge that life threw at her. What is the difference between a politician and a leader? A politician asks for sacrifices, a leader gives one. She gave the ultimate sacrifice for her nation. One does not need power to be a leader. A leader needs followers, and she had plenty of them, even when out of power. How many prime ministers, presidents and generals can claim that? Power does not make leaders. History and followers do. She was brave and courageous then her male counterparts and coward opponents, determined to succeed and deliver the agenda of moderation and reform, she had the drive to put Pakistan onto the right track. Far bolder than any male leader, she told the Afghan president hours before her tragic assassination on December 27 that "life and death is in the hands of Allah, and that is why I have the courage to stare in the eyes of death without any fear",just like her great and brave father Z A BHUTTO, who refused to bow his head in front of dictator Zia. Her sophistication and diplomacy established a large network of friends and admirers around the world. At the World Political Forum in Italy in 2003, when she walked into the conference hall, almost forty world leaders stood up and applauded her, was not that an honor for Pakistan and Muslim World? She would stop a conversation or an activity just by walking into a room. She lectured regularly at universities globally where she would dazzle a large audience, In the preceding decade of political struggle, Ms. Bhutto was arrested on numerous occasions; in all she spent nearly 6 years either in prison or under detention for her dedicated leadership of the then opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, while her one political opponent couldn’t stay in jail for a year and ran to Saudi Arabia by making a deal with General Mush. Throughout the years in opposition, she pledged to transform Pakistani society by focusing attention on programs for health, social welfare and education for the underprivileged. Benazir was God’s gift to Pakistan. A brave woman who knew no fear and wanted for her country and its children things that all civilized world cherishes; food, clothing ,housing ,education and a future. She saw the evil of religious extremism for what it is; a self defeating disease and was not afraid to define it and fight it. Despite the controversies, which may never be resolved, her accomplishments as a woman in a Moslem society are remarkable. To many Pakistanis, she was a leader who spoke for them, their needs and their hopes. If you asked an ordinary person what they achieved when Benazir Bhutto was in power, they would say at least she gave us a voice and she talked about us and our problems. That was her real achievement." Benazir was a person of great character and she never forgot her traditions, although she spent most of her life in West during her education years but she had arranged marriage. The arranged marriage of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari was not expected. Benazir when asked "Why would someone as independent as you accept marriage to someone you hardly knew? She said, Actually, I had reconciled myself to a life without marriage or children for the sake of my career ... So keeping in mind that many people in Pakistan looked to me, I decided to make a personal sacrifice in what I thought would be, more or less, a loveless marriage, a marriage of convenience. The surprising part is that we are very close and that it's been a very good match ... I'd love to arrange my own children's marriages. I say that because I've been so happy." She also inherited the legacy of by far the most pro-people tradition in the otherwise elite-oriented political process of the country. Before coming back to Pakistan, she, herself, observed that there were two most important battles going on in the country. One, between dictatorship and democracy, the other, between moderation and extremism. Benazir was a woman of extraordinary power. Her critics often dismissed her credentials by saying that she was a privileged woman who did not reflect the true status of Pakistani women, Yet they seemed to miss the point in their critique - precisely because of her privilege and status she could have led a life of luxury and seclusion but instead chose to embrace many of the shackles of tradition. She married a landlord , had three children and acquired the Islamic garb of modesty. Since entering politics, she never let her /dupatta/ (or head covering) slip down for more than a few seconds in public and played by most of the rules . As the first Muslim woman to become a head of state, Benazir Bhutto will remain an icon for generations to come. The fact that even a privileged woman could reach her level in a society where traditional tribal elders are still debating whether or not it is permissible to beat your wife, makes her story particularly inspirational. Her acquiescence in benign traditions was matched with her astonishing ability to move masses in a male-dominated society. What she managed to accomplish as a Muslim woman by breaking the taboo of female leadership was her least appreciated and most lasting legacy. Talking about Benazir’s political history would require a long article to include her successes, failures, disappointments and official triumphs. But she was a charismatic unique character coming from Kurdish-Farsi roots with a vision that believed in the Pakistani community regardless of its different ethnicities. She believed strongly that the country had so much potential to progress and advance so that its citizens would achieve success strongly. Benazir was only 25 years old when her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi in April 1979. She was 32 when her younger brother Shahnawaz was mysteriously killed in France in 1985. She was 43 when her other brother Murtaza was killed by the police in 1996. Murtaza's killing was a great tragedy for her. Benazir spent more than nine years in exile without her husband. She raised her children as a single parent. She used to teach them the Holy Quran regularly with English translation. She tried her best to ensure the children did not feel the absence of their father. When her husband was released on medical grounds, he was sent to the United States for treatment. Once again Benazir was alone with her children in Dubai. She did not allow her husband and three children to accompany her to Pakistan when she returned on Oct 18 2007,the last 30 years of her life were full of struggle and trouble, but she proved to be a woman of strong nerve. She was a caring wife, loving mother and a courageous leader. Her agenda for better Pakistan was to seek reconciliation, peace, ending militancy, eradicating poverty, building institutions of civil rule and democracy, spreading education and providing hope to the people of Pakistan for a better future. Benazir’s platform had been leftist, including food for the hungry, health care, jobs, slum clearance and a monthly minimum wage. She has been opposed by Islamic fundamentalists who have been suspicious of the PPP because of its alleged leftist. According to Western media and intelligence agencies reports Hamid Gul, Nawaz Sharif, and Osama bin Laden conspired to assassinate Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Husein Haqqani, a Pakistani journalist who claims to have been involved in the plot, will later say that ISI Director Hamid Gul contacted Osama bin Laden, who was then known to provide financial support to Afghan mujaheddin, to pay for a coup/assassination of Bhutto. Gul also brings Nawaz Sharif, then the governor of Punjab province and a rival of Bhutto, into the plot. Bin Laden agrees to provide $10 million on the condition that Sharif transforms Pakistan into a strict Islamic state, which Sharif accepts but he puts all the money in his pocket. Benazir was not assassinated at this time, but bin Laden allegedly helps Sharif replace Bhutto one year later . In October 1990, Nawaz Sharif is running for election to replace Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan. According to a senior Pakistani intelligence source, bin Laden passes a considerable amount of money to Sharif and his party, since Sharif promises to introduce a hard-line Islamic government. Bin Laden has been supporting Sharif for several years. There is said to be a photograph of Sharif chatting with bin Laden. Sharif wins the election and while he does not introduce a hard-line Islamic government, his rule is more amenable to bin Laden’s interests than Bhutto’s had been. Sharif will stay in power until 1993, then will take over from Bhutto again in 1996 and rule for three more years. Former ISI official Khalid Khawaja, a self-proclaimed close friend of bin Laden, will later claim that Sharif and bin Laden had a relationship going back to when they first met face to face in the late 1980s. This tells us that there were people who wanted to kill her long time ago. Independent Investigators appointed by the UN must find out who are the real murderers of Benazir .Chaudry Pervaiz Elahi; Chaudry Shujhat; and the son of Zia Ul Haq, all haters and sworn enemies of the Bhutto family and of Benazir in particular ,and former officials of ISI must be investigated. She never believed in violence and revenge, in her own words , ‘’democracy is the best revenge’’. She was innocent. Before her tragic death, she wrote Reconciliation, Islam, Democracy and the West, which is one of the greatest books I ever read., according to Arianna Huffington ,’’This is a courageous and powerful answer to hatred and intolerance, written by an extraordinary women .’’She believed in democracy, freedom and openness -- not as slogans, but as a way of life, she remained the most potent Pakistani voice for liberalism, tolerance and change. Her place in history will be written with golden words and she would be remembered and honored by generations to come. Benazir Bhutto was a symbol of Democracy in Pakistan. Her killing is the Killing of Democracy in Pakistan. She was a great daughter of a great Father. The most popular leader and Chairperson of the Peoples Party fell victim to the murderous and cowardly act of terrorism. One can cite many examples of the courage and determination of the fallen leader and the domestic and international media is not lacking in enumerating her qualities of courage and intelligence, democratic credentials, popularity, charisma, farsightedness and bravery in the face of adversity, love for her people and country, her abhorrence of and determination to root out terrorism and her rightful understanding that terrorist supporters still exit in the Establishment and political circles of the country. Benazir had also fought for women's health, social and discrimination issues. She had plans to set up police stations of women, banks and also courts. She always spoke against abortion. She was one among the forefront to form the council of women world leaders. As a politician, wife and mother, Benazir fulfilled her responsibilities to the fullest. Thus being an icon to many women. Especially Muslim women. Benazir was against violence on woman. Benazir's zest for life, her charisma was so good that she became a role model to many. From getting the best of education and being a great leader. Benazir has done it all. She fought for democracy until death. Her intelligence and charm has an everlasting print in everybody's mind. Her proudest accomplishment, as Benazir Bhutto said, is her success as a woman in a man's world. "My greatest contribution lies in that my success as a woman in a Muslim society, where tradition and tribal taboos held sway, has emancipated other women," she said. "My success helped other women make choices that were not available to them before, not only in Pakistan but all over the Muslim world." One of the most disgusting aspects about the murder of Benazir is that Ms. Benazir Bhutto was callously murdered by people who were SCARED of her return to power. Fact remains, that she was perhaps amongst the very few Pakistani Women and indeed from Asia who could have changed the political scenario. Benazir Bhutto’s brutal and gruesome slaughter equates a decline in the quality of the democracy prevailing in our world today. To have watched, helplessly or conveniently, while such a stunningly charming, charismatic, cerebral and flamboyant political giant is slain reduces the world’s claim to civilization and to humane ideals. Today as we are celebrating her birthday; she lies buried next to her father, her life cut short at a time when she seemed the only symbol of hope for leading Pakistan to a semblance of democratic normalcy, the tsunami of chaos and unanswered questions, comments and commentaries, flooded all airwaves and social gatherings globally. Her assassination, the fear of an uncertain future not just of her party but Pakistan is an ongoing topic of discussion. Needless to say, its impact is being felt the world over, and what happens in Pakistan will have repercussions on the international community as well. There are many who remember her as a warm, generous and extremely lovable woman; a fantastic mother, wife and friend. Those who love her also say that as a politician Benazir tried her best in spite of the many roadblocks put in her path, loved her country, its people and wanted to lead it towards a democratic path once again. Hers was a life that was meant for something special...for something more. Hers was a life that was meant to change the world. And change the world she did. She felt the hand of destiny upon her and she never wavered from following its direction. Benazir Bhutto made extraordinary choices of bravery and self-sacrifice. When her father was about to be hanged, he told her that she did not have to stay in Pakistan, that she could leave and live in safety and comfort elsewhere. She promised him that she would stay and take up his fight for democracy. She never swayed or faltered, not from her promise, nor in her commitment. In 2007 - some 28 years since she first made that promise - she once again made an extraordinary choice. She left a life of comfort and safety to return to Pakistan - knowing the risk, knowing the peril - to continue her fight and her struggle to fulfill that promise. And fulfill it she did. In life and in death, Benazir Bhutto lit a flame, a flame of hope, of courage, of commitment - a flame for the birth, realization, and hope of peace and democracy. The flame she lit is a flame we must commit ourselves to carry, to embrace, to raise high, and to never let be extinguished. We must all become keepers of the flame. In this way, she lives. Benazir lives. Her promise lives and will see fulfillment each day we carry, raise, and keep the flame. A flame that will live, and will burn, and will inspire people the world over for the duration of time. Her life here on this earth may have ended but her spirit lives on. And her cause goes on. It goes on within all of us who embrace her courage and her spirit - and who believe in the hope and vision that were the mission of her life. What makes a martyr is not the who or the how of the person's murder, but the why. Joan of Arc was martyred because she fought for and spoke for her beliefs - and because she was willing to pay the ultimate price for continue fighting for, and standing for, and speaking for what she believed in regardless of anything else. Patrick Henry who famously said "Give me liberty or give me death," was willing to die - to lay down his life for his vision, hopes, beliefs, and convictions - and his commitment to such was stronger in his heart than the fear of death. Socrates made people think. Most people fear the truth, as if it were death. Socrates did not, believing in the immortality of the soul. He went to his death not afraid, but eager to go and enjoy the fortunes of the blessed,drank poison like wine but did not bow his head. And so was Benazir Bhutto martyred - for standing up, speaking out, and struggling and fighting for her beliefs, for her vision, and for her hopes for her country, and for the rights, opportunities and freedoms of its people. Her commitment, dedication, and belief in her cause and her vision called her to make the ultimate sacrifice, to pay the ultimate price. It was a sacrifice and a price that, throughout her life, she seemed to know in all her prescience and wisdom that she would one day have to pay. And she marched on. Ever onward. With spirit and strength; with faith in God; with conviction and commitment to her beliefs and her vision and her cause; with hope; and always with courage ,undaunted, unblinking, undying courage. What she gave to the world, to humanity, to time itself - courage, faith, spirit, bravery, love, kindness, self-sacrifice, optimism, and hope - will live forever. Her life was a light in an oft-darkened world. She was the embodiment of courage, beauty, and strength. She never failed to put her country and her people above and before herself. Her light has gone out of this world, but will shine forever in the hearts of those who loved her. Her memory is enshrined forever in the fabric of time. And I know and believe that her courage and spirit will live forever in the hearts of those whose lives she touched; in the warm, immortal wind; and in the dusty earth of the land she loved. Hers truly was and forever will be in every way , a heart, a spirit, and a life without comparison.
She had longed to walk once again upon the dusty roads of her homeland. Now she walks there forever. Now she walks with God. Now she is free. As the "Daughter of Destiny" that she was, it was fated before her time on this earth even began that she would be a martyr for her country, her people, and for freedom and democracy. She died as she lived , embracing those who loved her with her beautiful smile and a heart full of love for Pakistan and its people. The idea and vision of a democratic Pakistan was the cause, the struggle, and the dream for which Benazir Bhutto so courageously gave her life. And it is an idea, a cause, and a dream that must not die with her - it is an idea, a cause, and a dream that must live and breathe and come to fruition. It is a struggle and a fight that she began - and it is a struggle and a fight that we must finish. when a reporter from the Times suggested that her life was the stuff of Greek tragedy, she laughed. "Well, I hope not so tragic," she said. "Don't all Greek dramas end in tragedy?" Benazir’s Bhutto's assassination was a blow to people all over Pakistan, and the world, who hold life sacred and believe in the basics precepts of democracy. It is also a blow to women worldwide who took strength from seeing such a courageous, articulate and charismatic woman playing a leadership role in a powerful Muslim country. Inside Pakistan, even her most bitter critics wept at the news of her death, understanding that it is indeed a dark day when assassination becomes a tool for eliminating opposing viewpoints. She gave her life serving the cause and hope of democracy, equality, justice, freedom, and humanity. She was one of the greatest leaders and advocates for democracy and human rights that our world has ever known. She was a mother. She was a wife. She was a daughter and a sister. She was a friend. She was a remarkably special person. She was, is, and forever will be, every ones inspiration. Benazir Bhutto lives. Her spirit lives forever in the hearts of those who loved her; in those to whom she gave hope; in those who were touched by her unbreakable, beautiful and special spirit; in those who were inspired by her courage, her bravery, and her largeness of soul. Those of us whose lives and hearts were forever touched and changed by hers - those of us who loved her - will forever carry her extraordinary spirit in our hearts. Hers was an extraordinary, epic life of tragedy, triumph, love, bravery, and sacrifice. She died as she lived - and as she will forever be remembered - a woman of great faith in God and of tremendous courage. Forever brave. Forever beautiful. Forever BENAZIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Benazir, They killed you, you knew they were going to kill you, the same people who killed your father, the same group of generals, politicians, mullahs and bourgeois, who did not want to see you as a liberal, educated leader, but you fought for us , you fought for democracy and freedom. You are our HERO and will always be... YOU WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED AND WILL BE ALIVE LIKE THEY NEVER WANTED YOU TO BE. May God give the people of Pakistan to fight the tyrants. Benazir ! our hearts will cry for you on every beat until alive. She lives on. And her courage lives on. As is the legacy of a martyr. Benazir Bhutto for past 30 years has been a part of our life, I dare say that for most of us she will remain a part of our lives as long as we live. The Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto & Mohtarma BB shall always respectfully be remembered by all democratic masses of Pakistan in particular & those of the world in general. We are very unfortunate people of this Country that we lost Zulfiqar Bhutto and now Benazir. She was the last hope for the unity and prosperous Pakistan. You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea." Long Live Bhuttoism. BB, we miss you. We love you, we salute you for your courage. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Quaid-e-Jamhooriat: Shaheed Benazir Bhutto
Every moment of incessant struggle of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, her speeches as a source of strength for the people, her expression of sheer courage on the face of every threat and depiction of the inspiration of people have always remained a source of strength for me. Her great struggle and services for her beloved country could inspire any an individual in the world and her sacrifice and laying down her life is being termed a guarantee for the sustainability of the democracy in Pakistan. This great leader of us who had persuaded the golden principles of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Quaid-e-Awam Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ought to be remembered as Quaid-e-Jamooriat (Leader of Democracy) as its merely a result of her great struggle that the democracy in Pakistan is fully vibrant and functional and striving to improve the lot of the nation with full zest and vigor. All the spectacular moments I was privileged are a precious asset for me to spend with my Quaid-e-Jamooriat and it's not enough to whatever extent I may talk and mention about it. While writing this article, all these moments begin flashing before my eyes and it's truly provide the very basis of my life as all these moments provided me a great opportunity to enhance my learning and this could be ascribed to a remarkable asset. The unprecedented leadership and epic struggle of Shaheed Mohtarma would always remain imprinted on my kind. It is a matter of immense honour to me to be able to observe her endeavours. The level of her commitment and perseverance always provide me a source of continued guidance. The conversations with Shaheed BB during the struggle for democracy and her persistent guidance have become part of my personality. The overall welfare of people of Pakistan, empowerment of women folks of the society and creation of new economic opportunities for the youth of the country remained her major concerns. Her reason behind the decision of coming back to Pakistan was out of deep affection for the people. She was aware of the fact that the rights of the people are not being provided in the absence of genuine democracy and hence, the integrity of federation had become under dire jeopardy. The sheer courage and bravery of my Shaheed BB could be ascertained from the fact that she had spent many of precious years of her life either under house arrest, in the various prisons of the country or in the exile but still kept voicing her truthful stance firmly. The last return of Shaheed Mahtarma to homeland infused a great spirit in the struggle for establishing a genuine democracy in the country. While working with our great leader, we were enthused with great deal of passion and enthusiasm for the people by taking great deal of inspiration from her courage and commitment. The cruelty and barbarian had snatched this great gift to nation from us in the tragic incident of 27th December but she would also remain a beacon of the light of democracy. The enemies of the country targeted Shaheed BB to thwart the rule of people of Pakistan while she laid her life to save the Federation of Pakistan and to safeguard the rights of the people of the country. There is no denying the fact that today the sun of truthfulness has pushed the darkness of the lies forever. During her last and historic and heroic speech, Quaid-e-Jamooriat expressed her uncompromised stance about the democratic future of Pakistan where there was no room for the forces representing obscurantist mindset and having anti-people agenda. This was indeed a commitment to the restoration of true democracy in the country and thus creation of a social welfare state where the socio-economic rights of every citizen are provided and protected through the high values of democracy. Being leader of the masses, Shaheed BB was most effective and forceful advocate of the democratic and human rights of all the citizens of Pakistan including vulnerable and marginalized segments of society. Her murderers in fact attempted to exterminate the hopes and aspirations of the people but they are bound to fail as Quaid-e-Jamhooriat has become a symbol of hope and resistance and thus an invigorating factor for them to pursue their dreams of getting rid of poverty. Thanks God, today, by virtue of the visionary leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, we are on the road to achieve a preposterous and stronger Pakistan as per the aspirations of Shaheed BB. Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) can be termed the practical manifestation of our great leader's vision highlighted in slogan of "Roti, Kapra aor Makan - Elm, Roshni, Sab ko kaam". We can rightly claim that BISP is playing a vital role in improving the socio-economic conditions of underprivileged segment of the country. The trust of the people and unprecedented service is a reality that has received the acknowledgement and endorsement from entire word. It would worth mention here on her Yaum-e-Shahadat of Shaheed BB that the democracy in Pakistan today is truly a gift of Quaid-e-Jamooriat to us and it's a success of the people who have secured democracy out of dictatorship through the vision of our great leader.

Benazir Bhutto: An epitome of courage and charisma
BY: Sharmila Faruqui
Today Pakistanis pay tribute to the inimitable combination of courage, charisma and defiance. The December 27 is a tragic day not only for Pakistan and its people but for all those across the world who truly believe in the ideals of democracy.
Five years after her brutal assassination we are still unable to reconcile with the fact that Benazir Bhutto is no more, but the reality, however nightmarish cannot be blotted out of one’s mind. For long we will remain mired in her memories and her struggle for the revival of democracy in Pakistan. She lived for the poor and died for the poor. Bhutto epitomized courage and courted death because she challenged dictators and tyrants and dare extremists and terrorists. She was a woman swimming against the tide of obscurantism. She died because she represented the aspirations of millions of her countrymen. In her death, Pakistan was robbed of the jewel in its crown. Daughter of the indomitable Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and a child of privilege her personal and political struggle remains legendry. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had championed the cause of the poor and downtrodden and had given a sense of dignity to the common man in Pakistan. Bhutto who rose to become her father’s political successor did the same. The most inspirational woman I have ever met her belief in democracy and freedom as a way of life inspired devotion among her people. The Pakistan People’s Party is a party of the die-hards. It has always stood against the dictators who robbed the people of their basic right to rule themselves. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was martyred because he championed the cause of the common man. Bhutto followed in his footsteps. She challenged the demons of darkness in Pakistan and was the most potent rallying point to combine the forces of Islam and modernism. On her return, she was mobilizing a new politically credible resistance to primitivism. Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October 2007, after nine years of exile, hopeful that she could be a catalyst for change. Upon a tumultuous reception, she survived a suicide bomb attack that killed nearly two hundred PPP’s stalwarts. But she continued to forge ahead, with more courage and conviction than ever, since she knew that time was running out for the future of her nation. While briefing the media after the attack, she said that it was not an attack on her, but an attack on democracy, and the unity and integrity of Pakistan. Bhutto challenged the forces of dictatorship and extremism. The restoration of democracy and ridding the country from the clutches of dictatorship were her articles of faith. She was the hope of masses, the downtrodden and the marginalized. Bhutto was martyred on December 27, 2007, while she was leading a political rally in Rawalpindi. All hopes of the extremists to bury her ideals with her physical obliteration have been smashed by her followers, who have vowed to continue the struggle spearheaded by her for democracy and rule of law in Pakistan. When audiences around the globe hear Bhutto’s dramatic story of democracy and deposal, they are awed by the tireless strength with which she struggled to bring freedom to the people of her country. Bhutto is an icon of the battle for democracy, and stands with only a handful of female executive leaders who have shaped the global events of the last century. During her terms of office, she was faced with an enormous challenge: how to effectively govern a poor, politically factitious and ethnically diverse nation. Bhutto moved swiftly to restore civil liberties and political freedom, suspended under military rule. Bhutto did great things to her country. She had very strong determination as it can be seen in her life and her decisions. She was demonized by the civil-military oligarchy that has virtually run Pakistan since 1958. Bhutto had the combination of political brilliance, charisma, popular support and international recognition. In the democratization process of Pakistan, Bhutto has played a huge role. She saved her people from the military and brought much advancement in their lives. She was a courageous lady. In 2007, despite the threat of extremists and the hostile government, Bhutto decided to return to her homeland. While commenting on her return, Bhutto said, “Some people may not understand why I left a comfortable life and faced these threats. So many people have sacrificed much for so many things, so many died and so many see me as the hope of liberty. Now I cannot run away from the battle. Dr. Martin Luther King’s phrase comes to my mind: ‘Our lives end when we keep our silence on important issues.’ And I confide myself to my own people by my belief in God.”

The Bhutto legacy lives on!

By: Munir Ahmed Khan
My father always would say: “My daughter will go into politics? My daughter will become Prime Minister”, but it’s not what I wanted to do. I would say: “No, Papa, I will never go into politics.” As I’ve said before, this is not the life I chose; it chose me…….But I accepted the responsibility and I’ve never wavered in my commitment. – Benazir Bhutto
it is the fifth death anniversary of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. She spent 30 years of her life in prison or exile, in the opposition when in Parliament and as the first woman Prime Minister of Pakistan. Despite the fact that she had no plans to join politics, Benazir bravely laid down her life for the sake of her country. Being a woman, she had many other responsibilities like marriage, children and their career, but, more than anything else, she preferred to serve the people of Pakistan. That she had learnt from her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Her charismatic leadership was a reflection of the powerful image of her father, who was loved by people because he understood their sufferings and made endless efforts to alleviate them. Nevertheless, Bhutto paid a heavy price for standing up to his principles, not bowing down in front of manipulative forces and keeping his head high during times of adversity. Benazir was also gifted with these qualities; and it seems that Bhutto had noticed it long before anyone else. Indeed, she was blessed with an extraordinary intellect and leadership qualities. Ever since she became the PPP’s Chairperson at the age of 29, Benazir ventured the path her father had taken - brittle and rough, yet compassionate and humane. With the passage of time, she earned the titled of the “Iron Lady” from her Indian counterparts mainly when against all odds, she decided to return to Pakistan putting her trust in people whom she cared for most. Benazir was a visionary leader. She compromised for the sake of the country. She forgave her opponents and raised slogans of reconciliation in its interest. For instance, her struggle against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf was difficult because Mian Sharif and his party, the PML-N, had opposed Benazir and the PPP from 1985 to 1999. Yet, she did not accept the dictator and instead opted to engage with her political rivals. She surprised the world by making a political alliance with the PML-N, which was named as the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) that led to the signing of the Charter of Democracy. She was a courageous lady and believed that Pakistanis should face the threats posed to their country without fear. Indeed, Shaheed BB was an optimistic leader, who firmly believed in people’s power. When she came to Pakistan just before her sad demise, she maintained: “I’ve been having a party meeting and, believe me, the spirit amongst the party is one that I’m so proud of because they say we can’t let the militants dictate to us what’s going to happen, and that we have to try and save Pakistan by saving democracy. So my supporters are ready.” Her cavalcade upon her arrival in Pakistan was not even a day old when it was hit by a bomb that killed hundreds of people. But those who wanted to see Benazir’s death failed to see one thing - and that was the consistent, persistent and stoic belief of the party followers whose trust in their leader did not go through as much as an inch away. Benazir once said: “We are prepared to risk our lives. But we’re not prepared to surrender this great nation to militants. The attack was on what I represent. The attack was on democracy and very unity and integrity of Pakistan.” She firmly believed in democracy, openness and freedom. She made incomparable efforts to strengthen democracy in Pakistan. She took several initiatives for the revival of democratic institutions in order to preserve the unity and solidarity of the country. She said: “You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea.“ Having said that, the PPP is not merely the name of a political party. It is a never-ending struggle for truth and justice; a gallant tale of the forfeitures of blood - young blood; a vision that bestowed people with the strength they were deprived of – the strength to stand on their own feet against all odds; and the biggest democratic power to fight all evil mindsets that have been destroying the system. Founded by the son of the soil, Bhutto, the PPP gave the concept of “One Man One Vote” and taught the people to unite under this platform. Be it any dictatorial regime, the PPP and the Bhuttos have remained loyal and determined to the cause of empowering the masses and getting the country out of the bog of dictatorship. The PPP has made numerous sacrifices to make Pakistan a civilised and legitimate country. But for those who think that the PPP, under the leadership of President Asif Zardari, has changed; I would like to remind them that it is the same PPP that restored democracy and sent Musharraf home. It is the same party that despite several conspiracies has kept democracy alive under the slogan of “Pakistan khappey”. It is the same PPP that has initiated several programmes for the welfare of the poor such as the Benazir Income Support Programme. On Benazir’s 5th death anniversary, her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is beginning his political career to advance the vision of his grandfather Shaheed Bhutto and mother Shaheed Benazir. We whole-heartedly welcome him in the best interest of Pakistan and its people. The writer is PPP leader and former secretary information of ARD.

Attacks rising on minorities in Pakistan

Egypt: A minority constitution for a minority of extremists

Egyptian president, Muslim Brotherhood conduct illegal campaign that sets the stage for new confrontations.
Without bothering to wait for official results, the Muslim Brotherhood hastened to declare itself the victor in the referendum on a constitution solidly grounded in Shari’a and Islamic values. The Brothers can now boast of having conquered the allegedly “democratic” elections – the last bastion in their steady takeover of all power points in Egypt. The problem, of course, is that there was nothing democratic about the process. The constitution was drafted in a matter of days by order of President Mohamed Morsi, after six months of endless bickering in the constitutional assembly composed mainly of the Brotherhood and Salafists – in blatant violation of the transitional constitution. Most non-Islamist members and delegates of the Coptic minority had resigned in protest. Furthermore, according to the new constitutional declaration issued on December 9, there could be no recourse against the text of the constitution until after the referendum, a somewhat bizarre decision since there is no point in appealing to the courts once the constitution is approved. According to unofficial results, a mere 32 percent of the electorate took part in the referendum, with 64% approving the constitution and 36% opposing it. Even if these highly dubious returns turn out to be true, it would mean that only 20% of all eligible voters said yes to the new constitution: in absolute numbers, 10.5 million out of the 51 million Egyptians eligible to vote. This is a far cry from the wide consensus needed to launch the country on its post-revolutionary path. This is a minority constitution for a minority of Islamist extremists, with the overwhelming majority voting against it or staying home. The National Salvation Front, the main opposition group, refuses to accept these results. Set up to fight the draft constitution, it is led by Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi, as well as other political figures. They all claim that fraud was rampant, with minor and major violations in all voting districts, and that judicial supervision was partial at best since most judges went on strike to protest Morsi’s measures. These violations included bulletins saying “no” to the constitution were allegedly found thrown in public toilets or in ditches; others were marked “yes” before the vote. A number of polling stations opened late as officials deliberately worked slowly, in order to discourage voters in districts where the opposition was strong. Roadblocks prevented Coptic villagers – who were obviously going to vote against the Islamic constitution – from reaching polling stations. ElBaradei himself stayed home, having been warned that his voting station was surrounded by young toughs from the Brotherhood. Needless to say, the Brotherhood conducted a perfectly illegal campaign by using religion as the persuading factor: Religious leaders issued fatwas saying that voting “no” was a grievous sin and an insult to Islam; preachers in mosques warned that Allah would punish those who dared oppose the constitution. Israel, it was also said, was subverting naïve people and bribing them to vote against the constitution. And as if this was not enough, the Brotherhood and their supporters were overwhelmingly present inside the polling stations, exerting pressure until the last minute. They, and they only, had enough people to cover every single station. They could be seen everywhere taking advantage of the fact that many poor Egyptians are illiterate or barely educated and place their trust blindly in Islam. So far, hundreds of complaints have been lodged with the courts for these and other violations. Though the constitution was adopted, this was not a victory for democracy or for Egypt, and there was little rejoicing at the victory of political Islam. The country is deeply divided. The National Salvation Front has issued a call to continue the fight against the imposition of Shari’a and for the adoption of a constitution that takes all citizens into consideration. Protesters were told to remain in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and around the presidential palace to maintain pressure. Morsi had gambled – and lost. He had thought that once the constitution was accepted he would regain the legitimacy he had lost because of widespread opposition, ongoing demonstrations and the growing number of resignations among his close aides. At times the sheer number of protesters in the streets was reminiscent of the popular groundswell that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Slogans called for the president’s resignation and spoke out against the domination of the Brotherhood. Vice President Mahmoud Mekki, a respected member of the judiciary, resigned even before the results of the referendum were announced, saying that “politics were incompatible with the values he defended as a judge.” Rumor had it that the governor of the central bank had tendered his resignation. The new attorney-general appointed by Morsi resigned, but was “persuaded” to change his mind. The regime is trying to stay the course throughout the country, and is in for another lengthy period of confrontations. The Brotherhood will not budge in spite of the opposition; they will not deviate from their avowed aim: imposing Shari’a in Egypt, then in Islamic countries and finally in the whole world. Their claim of victory at the polls is hotly disputed by a powerful opposition representing a significant number of Egyptians and nearly all the educated elite. Can that opposition remain united? Will it be able to coordinate the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood? Because that fight is far from over. Elections to parliament have to be held two months after the constitution has been approved. Can opposition forces win these elections and demonstrate that the Brotherhood has lost its popular support? Or will the Brotherhood, controlling the country, muster all their supporters to once again frighten and cheat their way to a majority in parliament? It might not be so easy, with the ever deepening economic crisis and overall lack of security. Poverty and hunger may drive millions of people to the streets. Furthermore, it seems that at long last the West is beginning to understand that there is nothing “pragmatic” about Morsi’s policies and nothing “moderate” about the Brotherhood. The first to speak openly on the subject was the German foreign minister, who voiced his doubts about the the referendum. And the long awaited loan from the International Monetary Fund, which Egypt desperately needs, is apparently on hold.
The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.

Salvation Front will continue its fight against Egypt's new constitution
Hussein Abdel-Ghani, the official spokesperson of National Salvation Front (NSF) stated on Wednesday in exclusive statements to Al-Ahram Arabic news website that the NSF would continue its fight against the constitution “drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood” to either reduce or amend the national charter. “The fight against the constitution will continue through all the democratic mechanisms, whether through protests, sit-ins and parliamentary elections,” Abdel said, adding that these approaches would work in parallel until Egypt writes a constitution that represents all Egyptians. The official spokesperson also revealed that the front plans to hold a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the possibility of running in the parliamentary elections under one electoral list. Abdel-Ghani added that the NSF also plans to form a coordination committee to coordinate between different parties in order to ensure that the front gets the majority of votes in the upcoming elections. Opposition groups have argued that the constitution lacks national consensus, describing the charter as "unrepresentative." Drafted by an Islamist-led Constituent Assembly that saw walkouts by church representatives, liberals, leftists and others, the constitution was upheld on late Wednesday after a referendum that saw nearly 32 per cent of voter turnout.

Egypt’s churches object to new constitution
Egypt’s Coptic, Catholic, and Evangelical churches disclosed a note Tuesday night to the office of the presidency. The note listed articles in the newly-ratified constitution with which they have concerns and felt should be clarified. Representatives from the churches reportedly discussed the articles extensively with Vice President Mahmoud Mekki during recent national dialogue sessions. The disputed articles include ones dealing with roles and procedures surrounding Al-Azhar and some addressing personal and religious rights and judicial powers. The memo included Article 4, which states that Al-Azhar’s grand sheikh cannot be dismissed and the method of appointing him is to be “determined by law.” The churches also included Article 219, which they cited when withdrawing from the Constituent Assembly, saying they felt “discomfort with the trends that prevailed in the writing of the draft.” The article is an extension of Article 2 and specifies the valid sources of Islamic law. The churches also included Article 10, a controversial part of the constitution addressing the “family” and the role of women. Article 10 says “the family is the basis of society, religion, morality and nationalism” and calls to “reconcile the duties of women towards her family and her work.” The letter to President Mohamed Morsy also included Article 43, which guarantees freedom of religious practice only for “heavenly religions” (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) as regulated by law. The churches argued that the freedom featured in this article should be absolute and not subject to legislation restricting it. Articles 51 and 52 were also included and deal with the formation civil institutions and syndicates. However the articles don’t prohibit the creation of political parties based on specific religious beliefs. The statement additionally included Article 70 of the new constitution, which discusses the freedom of children. The article says that every child has the right to a proper name, family care, nutrition, shelter, health services and religious, emotional and cognitive development. The churches wanted stricter wording to prohibit child labour and for an explicit age limit set for marriage. The churches also pushed to include human trafficking in Article 73, which criminalises sex trafficking. The three churches withdrew from the Constituent Assembly before it passed the draft constitution. However, they remained neutral during the referendum, urging their congregations to vote and make decisions based on their own personal beliefs and consciences. Proposed amendments would have to be presented to parliament once it is elected. Any changes to the constitution need approval from two thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Shura Council. They would then have to undergo a nationwide referendum before being ratified. Coptic lawyer Naguib Gabriel confirmed that the churches had attempted to raise these issues to the presidency during national dialogue sessions, but maintained that they were not able to come to any immediate compromises before the referendum.

President, Michelle Obama's First Post-Election Interview

U.S. administration urges Republicans not to block "fiscal cliff" deal

As President Barack Obama cut short a Christmas vacation to resume talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of automatic year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, the White House on Wednesday called on congressional Republicans not to stand in the way of a resolution in the U.S. Congress. "It's up to the Senate Minority Leader not to block a vote, and it's up the House Republican leader, the Speaker of the House ... to allow a vote," a senior administration official told reporters traveling with the president. Obama is seeking a stripped down deal to prevent tax rates from rising on all but the wealthiest Americans and to stop steep across-the-board spending cuts. The White House last week proposed a broader package that would have let tax rates stay low for those making up to $400,000, a compromise from the president's previous rate hike threshold of $250,000. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner was unimpressed with the offer and sought unsuccessfully to push his own proposal through Congress, but members of his own Republican Party balked at rate hikes of any kind. Talks broke down after that and the president and lawmakers left town for the holiday. The focus will shift to the Senate for a deal, where Obama will rely on an ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to work out a bill that the top Senate Republican, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, will not obstruct. The House must also pass the measure. A broader effort to trim the nation's massive budget deficit will have to wait, the official said. Congressional stubbornness risks again damaging the fragile economy, just as the nation's near-default in 2011 - the result of a stalemate over raising the national borrowing limit - dealt a nascent economic recovery a setback, the administration official said. "If you think about the possibility of Congress failing to act to avert the fiscal cliff, combined with the abomination of what occurred in the summer of 2011, hits to our economy aren't coming from external factors, they're coming from congressional stupidity," the official said.

India wakes up to child malnutrition ‘shame
India – Stung by the realization that it faced a child malnutrition crisis worse than in most African countries, India is finally waking to the scale of the problem.
Progress is still slow and political will still patchy, but there are signs that a new approach to fighting malnutrition is just beginning to reap dividends.Efforts to improve rural health and education have combined with an expansion of a child welfare program that employs nearly 2 million village health workers to focus on maternal and infant health and nutrition. A rural jobs plan has helped raise wages in the countryside and new programs are educating adolescent girls, nearly half of whom will marry before age 18, about feeding and hygiene. There are indications it could be starting to pay off. An independent survey of malnutrition in 100 of India’s least-developed districts released in January showed the first signs of progress, with the proportion of underweight children falling to 42 percent, a drop of 11 percentage points. Even more dramatic are preliminary data from the western state of Maharashtra released last month, showing a decline in the number of children who were stunted, to 22.8 percent from 39 percent in 2006, thanks to a government program aimed at the needs of infants and mothers. “We are confident that there is a good story in the making,” said Victor Aguayo, head of UNICEF’s India nutrition program. “There is excitement that what can happen, is happening.” Maharashtra is home to India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and is the country’s economic powerhouse. Still, malnutrition rates did not begin falling significantly until the state government started showing the political will to tackle the problem head-on. Nationally, the wake-up call came in 2007 with the realization that a decade-and-a-half of buoyant economic growth had scarcely dented child malnutrition rates, which remained higher than the average in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly half of Indian children under age 5 were stunted and underweight for their age, a government survey released that year showed, permanently impairing their mental and physical development. But in a country where many middle-class Indians find the subject of malnutrition rather boring, it took the idea that India was underperforming — not just compared with Africa but also with neighbors like Bangladesh — to embarrass the government into action. In 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a “national shame” and a failed strategy began to be reevaluated. “India as a nation had been overemphasizing economic growth in the hope it would somehow solve the problem,” Aguayo said. But growth has not been equitably distributed, and experts argue that the health sector has been neglected. Malnutrition, Aguayo said, has been undermining India’s ambitions to be the nation “it wants to become.” Grueling reality Despite the progress, India has a long way to go. In a poor tribal district of Banswara in the western state of Rajasthan, the mismatch between India’s aspirations and its current problems, between its self-image and the grueling reality of millions of its citizens’ lives, is striking.On the outside of one family’s simple home, between paintings of Hindu gods, were two pictures. One was a drawing of a woman cradling her baby, entitled “Mother’s Love.” The other was a photo of a pudgy white-skinned baby, wearing only a woolly hat. But beneath the posters, a filthy and thin Indian baby named Jitendra sat listlessly on the verandah, dirt caking his cheeks, flies gathering around his eyes, mouth and snotty nose.Three months ago, when Jitendra was 15 months old, health workers caught up with him and he weighed in at just 12.1 pounds — less than two-thirds the minimum global standard for his age. The workers have since been visiting regularly and giving the family supplementary food and he has put on roughly two pounds. But he remains severely malnourished. Jitendra was not born underweight, but after repeated illnesses he started falling behind. “He has been sick for a long time,” said his slight 18-year-old mother, Sundari Dhindor. “Where is the money? How do you expect me to feed him? He is still on my breast milk.” The family’s situation is just one illustration of what nutritionists call a perfect storm of factors driving India’s malnutrition crisis. Many children are born to teenage, anemic, malnourished mothers; feeding practices are poor; and the environment they live in, a crowded country where 600 million people have no access to toilets, is rife with fecal matter. Health programs were largely missing infants in the first two years of their lives, when malnutrition usually sets in and causes permanent mental and physical damage, Aguayo said. Fewer than half of Indian children start nursing within their first 24 hours, receiving water rather than the early, antibody-rich breast milk that helps protect against infections, and most spend their first few years subsisting on protein- and vitamin-poor diets of just rice or bread. The fact that economic growth has still not trickled down to the poorest communities and the low status of Indian women are also major factors. Child marriages In Banswara, village health workers blame rampant malnutrition on the prevalence of child marriages. Sundari, Jitendra’s mother, got married at the age of 13 to a man she describes as a “good for nothing drunkard.” She said she spends most of her day cooking, washing, cleaning and fetching firewood or water for her in-laws, or trying to earn money as a day laborer in local fields. Even now, India’s progress in fighting malnutrition fails to impress many experts. Save the Children and World Vision recently ranked India alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen at the bottom of a global Nutrition Barometer for its commitment and performance. While the nation frets constantly about whether economic growth and the stock market are up or down, the government has not collected data on child malnutrition since 2004 — something Purnima Menon of the International Food Policy Research Institute calls “mind-boggling.” Last month, India’s president and a leading Bollywood actor launched a national publicity campaign to combat malnutrition. The government has also promised a huge rise in health-care spending during the next five years. Nevertheless, experts say the government still lacks a coherent plan to overcome the shortcomings of the child health program, which depends on village health workers who are overburdened and poorly educated, trained and paid. Spending comes easily to the government, critics say, but setting up mechanisms to monitor performance and raise accountability seems far less instinctive. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Women and Child Development remains a junior cabinet post, a department where few civil servants want to work, said A.K. Shiva Kumar, an independent adviser to the government on development. “The problem of malnutrition is not visible or in your face,” he said. “The political attraction of working on nutrition is very low. It doesn’t really sell.”

Polio Campaign Crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan in 2012: Between hope and despair

Despite gradual improvements in relations with the US and India, terrorism, lawlessness, human rights abuses and multiple political crises hampered Pakistan's progress in the year 2012.
The year 2012 was not very different for Pakistan than the previous years as the country's progress continued to be plagued by terrorism and a non-functional economy. Terrorist attacks were mostly perpetrated by the Pakistani Taliban on civilians and security forces but there was also an increase in targeted killings of political and human rights activists, particularly in the southern port city of Karachi. Pakistan, which some experts think is either a failed state or on the verge of becoming one, had a better year in terms of its relations with its regional arch-rival, India, and its biggest international donor, the US. Despite bad governance and the ongoing tug of war between Pakistani parliament and judiciary - and at times between parliament and the military – Pakistan's civil society continued to assert itself in 2012 as well and spoke out against rights abuses, institutional corruption, and in favor of the supremacy of law and constitution. Although religious intolerance was on the rise, secular and progressive Pakistanis campaigned against controversial religious legislation, discrimination against women and religious minorities and atrocities committed by Islamists. Many were awarded on international forums for their work. Political crisis In June, Pakistan plunged into deeper political turmoil as the country's Supreme Court disqualified former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding office, following a contempt conviction in April - a move which many analysts said was a setback for Pakistan's nascent democracy.In April, the court found Gilani guilty in a contempt case after failing to write a letter to the Swiss government to re-open graft cases against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, which the Swiss authorities had shelved in 2008. The incumbent Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government says the cases are ''politically motivated" and cannot be re-opened while Zardari remains head of state and enjoys presidential immunity. Commenting on Gilani's disqualification, Harris Khalique, an Islamabad-based political analyst and human rights activist, told DW that certain groups had been pulling the strings from behind to dislodge the civilian government. "They [those in power] are not being ousted for being corrupt and incompetent; they are being ousted because there is a tug of war between institutions about who holds more power and who actually calls the shots in Pakistan," Khalique said. Relations between the government and the judiciary remained tense throughout the year. At the start of the year, the PPP government also faced a case in the apex court related to a scandal known as "memogate" revolving around a letter written to the US government with the request to rein in the Pakistani army and its generals to prevent a possible coup following the assassination of Osama bin Laden in May last year. President Zardari and his government denied any involvement in the scandal, which opposition parties claimed had undermined Pakistan's security and national sovereignty. The 'War on Terror' US-Pakistani relations got off to a rocky start in 2012. They had already been greatly strained by a covert US special forces operation in May the previous year which killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The year then started with Pakistan blocking NATO supply routes to Afghanistan after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala near the Afghan border at the end of 2011. The start of 2012 saw an all-time low in US-Pakistani relations. The relations further deteriorated after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala military post near the Pakistani-Afghan border last November. In retaliation, Islamabad blocked NATO supply route to Afghanistan.Pakistan agreed to reopen NATO supply lines to Afghanistan seven months later in July, after the US government apologized for the deaths of Pakistani soldiers. Malik Siraj Akbar, a former Reagan-Fascell Democracy fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington DC, told DW that both countries had realized they were "gaining nothing from the deadlock" and that they had to go forward. Observers said Islamabad's decision to resume NATO supplies eased its tensions with the US. The US responded by resuming much-needed civilian aid to Pakistan. As 2012 draws to a close, US-Pakistani ties have improved considerably, with Islamabad trying to facilitate the Afghan peace process by helping Washington and Kabul in negotiations with the Taliban. Experts, however, warn against too much optimism on this front. They say that Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan still clash with US policies for the region. Islamabad continued to officially protest against the US drone strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan's semi-governed northwestern tribal areas and called them a violation of its sovereignty. On the other hand, the Afghan-Pakistani ties have yet to improve. Both uneasy neighbors have accused each other of cross-border attacks which took place this year. Kabul allefed that Pakistan had been shelling its territory and threatened to report the border violation to the United Nations Security Council. Islamabad has repeatedly denied the allegations and has instead blamed Afghanistan for propelling rockets onto Pakistani soil. Indo-Pakistani ties Relations between New Delhi and Islamabad have also improved this year. The 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai had been a big set back to peace efforts between the two rival nations.In 2012, India allowed direct investment from Pakistan, which trade analysts say is one such step towards improved relations. "Bilateral trade would definitely improve relations between Pakistan and India because business would mean an increase in interpersonal contacts," Moonis Ahmar, professor of international relations at the University of Karachi, told DW. At the beginning of December, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik formalized a new visa agreement with in India during his visit to New Delhi. The new travel rules make it easier for traders, elderly people, tourists, religious pilgrims, members of civil society and children to get visas. Analysts say that with the hanging of Ajmal Kasab - the sole surviving gunmen of the attacks belonging to Pakistan - in November, both nations have a chance to bury the hatchet and move ahead. Terror attacks Taliban militants wreaked havoc on the country throughout 2012 as they targeted civilians and attacked sensitive military installations. In August, militants armed with guns and rocket launchers attacked an air base in the town of Kamra in the Punjab province. The large base is home to several squadrons of fighter and surveillance planes, which air force officials said had not been damaged in the attack. The Taliban indiscriminately killed innocent civilians in markets and places of worship, targeted international and national human rights and charity workers, journalists, and religious and sectarian minorities. The Taliban shooting of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai in northwestern Swat valley shocked the entire world. Most Pakistanis also condemned the attack on Malala, who is recuperating in the UK.The year 2012 has been one of the deadliest for Pakistan's Shiites. Human rights groups estimate that more than 300 Shiites have been killed in Pakistan this year so far in sectarian conflict. In August, several gunmen dressed as Pakistani security officials stopped a bus traveling from Rawalpindi to the northwestern Gilgit region and dragged the passengers off the bus. The gunmen asked the passengers to show their identity cards and then shot 22 Shiites at point blank range. It was the third such incident in six months. Pakistani experts say that although Shiite Muslims are also murdered in other parts of Pakistan, those living in the northwestern Gilgit-Baltistan region, a predominantly Shiite area, face systematic attacks by the Taliban and other militant groups. Some experts have even gone so far as calling it a "sectarian cleansing" of Shiites.

ANP announces campaign for coalition against militancy

The Awami National Party has decided to launch a campaign to build a coalition of political parties and state institutions against militancy after losing senior party leader Bashir Bilour in a suicide attack by Taliban last Saturday.
"If the experience of recent past is anything to go by, the terrorists will not forgive any political or religious party, even those who have literally acted as supporters or apologists of the terrorists. It will be an exercise in futility to appease the terrorists," the ANP president, Asfandyar Wali Khan, said during a news conference after chairing party think-tank meeting held to take stock of Bashir Bilour's assassination. Bashir Bilour died of wounds following a suicide attack on him in old Peshawar city on Saturday. Seven others, including his personal secretary Noor Muhammad and police officer Abdul Sattar were also killed in the attack. The think-tank meeting of the party authorised Asfandyar Wali to contact coalition partners, political parties and all the states institutions to share ANP's concerns with them and prepare a decisive line of action against militancy. "His blood along with the blood of all other martyrs will not go in vain and it will (also) go a long way in ridding the country of the scourge of extremism and terrorism," Asfandyar Wali, flanked by party leaders, said. "We shall continue non-violent struggle against extremism and terrorism." The ANP president reiterated his party's stand that it would support negotiations with all those elements that recognised the writ of the state and renounce violence. "Those who are not prepared to do so should face effective and meaningful actions," he warned. Asfandyar said the ANP was of the opinion that all political forces should express "zero tolerance" towards all volitions of the country's sovereignty and integrity. "We are opposed to the drone strikes and have raised our voice against it. However, we are also opposed to terrorists, both individuals and networks, within the country and from other countries who have made sanctuaries on our soil." He demanded a change in the government's strategy for fighting militancy saying, "Instead of defending ourselves at our doorsteps and in the streets we should go after the terrorists' sanctuaries. We should evolve a national consensus on a comprehensive strategy for defeating terrorist outfits that are out to destroy our state and society." The ANP president complained that the Pakhtuns in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were bearing the brunt of terrorism. "Why is the rest of the country not effectively joining this struggle? Is it only the struggle of Pakhtuns who are being killed on both sides of the Durand Line?" he lamented. "We appeal to all the party workers and sympathisers to be patient and not to be provoked by the provocations of the anti-states elements who want to ignite (a) civil war."

FATA, FR regions abundant in oil, gas, says report

The Express Tribune
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Frontier Regions (FR) have enormous reserves of minerals, oil and natural gas that can augment economic activity in the war-torn areas, a research project concluded. Talking to The Express Tribune ‘Source Rock Mapping and Investigation of Hydrocarbon Potential (SRMIHP)’ Project Coordinator Dr Fazal Rabi Khan said that exploration and excavation of oil and gas will introduce a new era of development and prosperity in the tribal areas. “There can be many job opportunities created for people in the tribal belt if mineral exploration and extraction is pursued properly,” said Khan, who is also the chairman of the Geology Department in Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (Palosa Campus). The project was launched in 2008 under an agreement between the Fata Development Authority and National Centre of Excellence in Geology University of Peshawar. The project, which was completed at an estimated cost Rs40 million, was completed in June 2012. Khan said that their objectives include identifying hydrocarbon generating rocks and its distribution in the region, preparing a geo-database regarding hydrocarbon potential and generating a systematic data to attract oil and gas companies for exploration.The project has successfully collected, processed and digitised the data as a result of which, 80% of the project area has been mapped digitally. “This mapping has led to the discovery of seven new oil and gas seepages.” He added that 11 oil and gas exploration companies have reserved 16 blocks in Fata, which go across from FR Peshawar and Kohat to Khyber, Orakzai, Bannu, Tank and up to North and South Waziristan.He said that recently 17 oil and gas exploration companies initiated their operations in Khyber, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan agencies as well as in FR Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Tank and DI Khan. Khan said that Mari Gas Company, HYCARBEX Inc, Oil and Gas Development Company, Tullow, Saif Energy, MOL Pakistan Oil and Gas, Orient Petroleum International, Pakistan Petroleum, ZHEN, ZAVER and others are currently working in Fata. Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) will start drilling in these areas for the exploration of oil and gas reservoirs. The chairman said that the foreign oil company, Tullow, has obtained a licence for the exploration of oil and gas in North Waziristan Agency and Bannu, while MOL has shown interest in Khyber Agency, Kohat and Peshawar. “Although law and order problems can become a hindrance, the project can be managed considering its importance,” he added. Khan elaborated that the process in Fata would not only help overcome the energy crisis but will also give a big boost to efforts for the socio-economic development of the region. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is teeming with minerals and Fata is a new oil estate, he said. “In the next five years, this province will produce more oil than Dubai and as far as shortage of gas is concerned, the hills of FR Tank are full of it.” He said Governor Masood Kausar has also taken keen interest in the project. “The best news for the tribal areas is that there are large reserves of natural resources and foreign and local companies interested in its extraction can exploit the resources,” said Kausar.

Pakistan: Crime, culture and forensics

By: Rafia Zakaria
WE are all aware of the failings. Five years ago tomorrow will mark not simply the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto but also scenes that have become etched in our minds as hallmarks of incompetent crime investigation. On Dec 27, 2007 the bloodied grounds of Liaquat Bagh were washed clean of evidence that could have led to an indictment of the culprits. The end of that saga was known even then; no evidence meant no trial, no truth and ultimately no justice. Since then, the order of events has become routine: a horrific attack, devastation, panic, pain, scattered pieces of a puzzle, bodies carried away, bomb fragments left to foraging journalists and garbage collectors. The recent assassination of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial minister Bashir Bilour was one more reminder of the failure of forensics in Pakistan: the crime scene open and bleeding and soon contaminated by thousands of destructive footsteps, hundreds of pilfering hands. The body bathed and buried without autopsy, uncollected evidence abandoned in the crippling emotional aftermath of another catastrophe. Through the years of skyrocketing bomb explosions and suicide attacks much has been said about the lack of sufficient facilities to undertake forensic investigations. In Karachi, the city of target killings, with 18 million lives stuck in the middle, there is to date no operational DNA lab that can analyse samples from crime scenes for evidence at a trial. An attempt to amend this situation took place earlier this month, when the Sindh governor signed an MoU with a Turkish company for the establishment of a DNA and forensics laboratory in the city. Things have not fared well for those planning to establish a forensics laboratory in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has a very ill-equipped one at the moment. In 2001, the Japan International Cooperation Agency had planned on setting up a forensics lab at the Khyber Medical College in Peshawar. As part of this plan, a PCR machine was purchased for Rs3.1 million. This machine sat around for years without being used. This was because the other equipment necessary for analysis was never actually purchased. At the frontline of the war against terrorism, therefore, there are no facilities to take apart the mechanics of terror or to tell stories in a way that they lead to the courts to enable evidence with culpability to be established and justice meted out. The state of such a laboratory, or what would have been one, is an apt metaphor for the story of forensics and crime scene investigation in Pakistan. Like the pricey PCR machine that could not function without the pipes and accompanying sequencer among other parts, the idea of forensics in Pakistan exists in a lonely, unsupported place. The loneliness of its position can be understood in relation to a horrible massacre in another part of the world. On Friday, Dec 14, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in New-town, Connecticut and opened fire. The ensuing events are known all around the world: 20 children and six adults lay dead within minutes of the forced entrance. What may have received less attention is the forensic processing of the scene. It was nearly 48 hours after the school carnage that anyone other than investigators was allowed to approach the scene of crime. The bereaved parents who had sent their children to school that morning did not get to see them when they learned that they had perished. They were forced to wait until every aspect of the scene was processed before they could do so. The bodies were finally released to the medical examiner’s office on Sunday, two days after the shooting. The American media, eager anchors and swooping satellite vans all waited around Sandy Hook, for statements and glimpses and sound bites; but none were able to get inside the crime scene. The shooter was known and already dead, never to be prosecuted, but this did not stop a full and complete investigation that would provide a complete story of the massacre. Here in Pakistan then, the difference is not simply one of technological ability but also whether a culture accepts forensics as a means of understanding tragedy. Away from the requirements of forensic labs (even if these exist), religious and cultural mores in Pakistan create hurdles for the requirements of investigations: delayed burials, autopsied bodies and closed-off crime scenes and what is required of families, media and loved ones. In this sense, the failure of forensic investigation in Pakistan reflects not simply the absence of this machine or that laboratory, but also a lack of belief in the values of empirical knowledge in general and the cultural space for digesting it as well. Nowhere is this more visible than in the processing of death resulting from crime or tragedy where the imperatives of heroicising the dead, enabling the rites of communal mourning and creating a socially palatable narrative are, in Pakistan, far more important than the brute facts. Finally, while secrets and sealed-off locations are hardly new in Pakistan, they are connected not to investigation but rather to a surreptitious shortening of due process: the unknown drone victims, the tortured journalist found in a ditch. At the tail-end of a year of bombings, looking ahead to one that is likely to bring more of the same, some consideration must be given to whether Pakistanis as a society really want the facts, or prefer to shy away from reality in life as in death, forensics or otherwise.

Bhutto family has always sacrificed for Pakistan

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his family had given many sacrifices in the last 30 years for the country and the PPP will succeed in elections as the party is popular among the people.
Qaim expressed these views while addressing journalists after a meeting of the Ratodero Executive Committee here at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto after visiting the mausoleum of Bhutto family. He viewed arrangements in connection with fifth death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto. He said that the PPP-led government had served the nation and common people under the leadership chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. On December 27, in his address Bilawal will brief the gathering about the five years of achievements of the government. He said that strict security measures will be taken on the occasion of the anniversary of Benazir Bhutto at Garhi Khuda Bux Bhutto. He condemned the attack on senior minister Bashir Bilour and said that Bilour was a strong man and his death was a national loss. Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Ali Shah said that the PPP will hand over the government to the newly appointed care-taker set-up after completing its tenure of five years and the elections will be held in time. Sindh Law Minister Muhammad Ayaz Soomro said that the PPP was not doing the politics of ‘meetings and assemblies’ but taking real steps.

Bilawal Bhutto to make formal entry into Pak politics tomorrow
Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
will make his formal entry into the hurly burly of Pakistani politics at an event to be held tomorrow to mark the fifth death anniversary of his mother Benazir Bhutto. "Bilawal will make his entry into active politics during the meeting to be held at Garhi Khuda Bux (in Sindh) and take over the PPP's campaign for next year's general election," said a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari. Both 24-year-old Bilawal and his father will make speeches at the event to be held outside the Bhutto family's mausoleum near the PPP's stronghold of Naudero, said the confidant who did not want to be named. There has been speculation that Zardari might also announce the date for the next general election at tomorrow's event but the confidant said no final decision had been made in this regard. "The President is keeping things close to his chest and he is the person who will make the decision about announcing the date for the polls," the confidant said. The current National Assembly or lower house of parliament will complete its five-year term in March and PPP leaders have indicated that the next general election is likely to be held in April or May. Polls will simultaneously be held to the four provincial assemblies. During his speech at the event in Garhi Khuda Bux tomorrow, Bilawal is expected to make public a report on the investigation into Benazir Bhutto's assassination by a suicide bomber after an election rally in Rawalpindi in 2007. Bilawal himself cannot contest polls till he turns 25 in September next year. Zardari, who is the co-chairman of the PPP, has convened a meeting of the party's central executive committee at Naudero on Friday. This meeting is expected to fine tune the PPP's campaign for the polls, party insiders said. The PPP's top leadership was mulling a move to elevate former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to the post of co-chairman but this is now unlikely to happen due to opposition from several leaders, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Law Minister Farooq Naek, sources in the party said. A recent Supreme Court judgement that said the President should be non-partisan and have no political affiliations has made it almost impossible for Zardari to play an active role in the PPP's election campaign. The Lahore High Court is hearing a petition seeking action against Zardari under the contempt of court law for failing to act on an order that expected him to give up the post of chief of the PPP. Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah said earlier this month that Zardari would not lead or participate in the PPP's election campaign. Under these circumstances, Zardari was keen to rope in Gilani to play a greater role as co-chairman of the PPP. "The move was shot down because of opposition from some leaders. The party felt it would be better to avoid any divisions just before the elections," said a source. Gilani was convicted for contempt and disqualified by the apex court after he refused to revive graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland. He subsequently became estranged from Zardari as he felt he was being given no importance within the party. Zardari visited Gilani in his hometown of Multan last month to allay his concerns about being abandoned by PPP. Gilani is now expected to be the main force in the PPP's campaign in Punjab as the party's current head in the province, federal minister Manzoor Wattoo, has "failed miserably" in mounting a challenge to the PML-N, sources said. Gilani will also play an important role in the PPP's campaign across the country, the sources said.

PPP ready to go to ‘court of people’, says Zardari

Daily Times
President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday said the PPP was ready to go to the court of the people, saying they were the real judge of the performance of the government. Addressing briefly the notables from the area at the Makhdoom House, the president said that the vision of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the legacy of Benazir Bhutto were being followed by the present leadership. He said Benazir Bhutto was a symbol of democracy and had left behind a legacy which is a source of inspiration for the present leadership to improve the socio-economic condition of the people of the country. “We have gathered here to pay tribute to an indomitable fighter for the rights of poor and marginalised,” the president said, adding that ZAB and Benazir Bhutto gave voice to the downtrodden people of the country and even laid down their lives while fighting for the cause of the people of the country. “We will continue to follow their footsteps and will never hesitate in offering any sacrifice in pursuing the noble mission of our great leaders,” the president said in his remarks. The president said the leadership will not be deterred by the negative propaganda by its detractors and would continue serving the masses. “We believe in making our enemies our friends,” he said. Zardari said that the next elections would be held in a free, fair and transparent manner and the people of the country would give their verdict. He said that the leadership was ready to go to the court of the people who were the real judge for measuring the performance of the government “We will never leave the poor, marginalised and vulnerable people alone in their fight for their rights,” the president said while reiterating the resolve of the PPP leadership. He said the leadership fully believes in addressing the issues of the masses who, he said, are the real source of power. President Zardari also visited the mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on his birthday to pay tribute to him. He laid a floral wreath on the Mazar-e-Quaid and offered Fateha.

Bilawal Bhutto will deliver first address to nation tomorrow

Radio Pakistan
Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has said the process of sacrifices by the PPP leaders and workers would continue till the realization of the dream of a stable Pakistan. Addressing the People's Workers Convention in Rahim Yar Khan today he said that Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will deliver his first address to the nation tomorrow on the eve of anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. He said that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto are ever alive in the hearts and minds of the people following their sacrifices for the cause of democracy and public rights. He asked the workers to listen carefully the address of PPP Chairman. The Minister added tomorrow all the convoys will proceed to Garhi Khuda Bux to pay homage to their Shaheed leaders. He said our leaders had chosen which path we have to adopt that which was for the glory and stability of Pakistan. He said our leaders did not work for any personnel gains‚ this is why they are living in our hearts and minds. Mr. Kaira said that the elections are coming nearer and are at a distance of few months‚ while our opponents and media has raised a barrage of opposition. He said the main accusation being levelled on PPP led government that what they have delivered to the people in the last five years. He said they also blame the coalition government for price hike‚ joblessness and massive scale corruption. He said the painting of events by media and opposition is not a new one for PPP workers. He reminded the audience that it was Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who revived the feelings of a living nation among the demoralized nation at that time. They also blamed him and martyr him on fake facts which have now proved to be only allegations. Information Minister said when NAB said that there is corruption from 7 to 8 Billion rupees daily‚ then the media and opposition made hue and cry that all the resources were plundered by the government. But he questioned that on such a scale the corruption volume goes to 3000 billion rupees annually which is equal to our budget. Thus we are paying pay and pensions‚ serving foreign debts and are meeting defense expenses‚ than how it would be possible to make such huge plundering of resources. He said when NAB Chairman clarified that 65 per cent of corruption is being grabbed in Punjab province only‚ than these opposition leaders said that Chairman has gone out of his mind. Earlier Special prayers were offered for the departed soul of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto at the Peoples Workers Convention.