Friday, December 28, 2012

Video: A tribute to Benazir Bhutto -''Tu sab Ki bibi zinda hai''

Pakistan: Report documents recent persecution of religious minorities
Five Christian churches, three Hindu temples, and one mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community were attacked in Pakistan in 2012, according to a report prepared by the Pakistani Bishops Conference’s Justice and Peace Commission. 95% of Pakistan’s 190 million people are Sunni or Shia Muslims. The report also cited “cases of forced occupation of land destined as places of worship” and “the murders of those engaged in the construction of places of worship.”

Are women safe in India?

Brahimi's shuttle diplomacy rekindles hopes of solution to Syrian crisis

The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi is conducting a shuttle diplomacy in yet another drive to end the 21-month-long Syrian crisis, rekindling hopes of a possible breakthrough given the apparent Russian-U.S. rapprochement and resolve to find an exit for the intractable crisis. Brahimi has held meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and representatives of the opposition groups during his recent visit to Syria. His talks were culminated by a suggestion to form a transitional government with "full executive powers." However, he stopped short of defining the future role of Assad. Brahimi, who would leave Syria Saturday for Moscow for further talks, revealed that he would have discussions with U.S. officials soon. Media reports said Brahimi has carried with him to Syria a proposal to form a transitional government with broad executive powers. The proposal suggests that Assad keep power till the end of his presidential term in 2014 without having the right to run once again for the next presidential elections. After a meeting with Brahimi on Tuesday, opposition groups in Syria talked about some "positive" results, but refused to discuss any settlement that does not include the departure of the Assad government. General coordinator of the opposition National Coordination Body, Hassan Abdel-Azim, told reporters that Brahimi would work to reach an international consensus, especially a Russian-U.S. one, to solve the crisis. Abdel-Azim indicated that the Syrian government has agreed on a number of points, most notably the cessation of violence and the formation of a transitional government with full authority. However, he stressed that the issue of Assad's staying in power during the transitional period remains the only sticking point, adding that Brahimi assured him that his mission did not fail and he has unwavering resolve to achieve a breakthrough. Brahimi would reportedly return to Geneva to work on achieving a U.S.-Russian compatibility for another Geneva conference. If he gained such a consensus, a new resolution would be issued by the UN Security Council, binding both the opposition and the Syrian government. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has recently warned that the chances of resolving the Syrian crisis on the basis of the Geneva Conference still exist, but dwindle. Yet, he said that those chances should be sustained, because " bloody anarchy" would be the alternative. The Geneva conference's statement, which was endorsed by the " working group" on Syria on June 30, calls for the formation of a transitional government in Syria combining representatives of the government and the opposition to hold legislative elections and presidential elections. Both Brahimi and Lavrov have reiterated that the Geneva conference is still the suitable basis to build on. Brahimi said during a press conference in Damascus that the provisions of the Geneva conference are suitable for every time and everywhere. Likewise, Lavrov said the recent trilateral contacts in Geneva attended by Russia, the United States and Brahimi have emphasized that the possibilities to find common points regarding the implementation of the Geneva conference's provisions still exist. "We are determined to proceed in this way. The ball is now in the court of our partners who support a political solution verbally but in fact incite the continuation of the war to topple Bashar al-Assad," Lavrov said. He stressed that any settlement requires coordinated efforts by all external parties that should "speak with one voice and work for seating the Syrian government and the opposition groups to the negotiating table." Russia, the Syrian government's main ally that had vetoed three U.S. resolutions against Syria and refused to follow suit of some other countries in recognizing the opposition coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, has lately shown leniency in dealing with the coalition. Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian deputy foreign minister, said his country has sent an invitation to Ahmed Maaz Khatib, head of the opposition coalition, to meet with Syrian representatives in Moscow, Geneva or Cairo. On Wednesday, Alexander Ukashevi, spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, said Moscow would continue contacts with all spectrums of the Syrian opposition "that are interested in understanding the Russian position more clearly." A Syrian government delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad is now in Moscow to discuss the Syrian crisis with Russian officials and sound out whether the Geneva conference is still workable. Syria has previously made it clear that the Geneva conference is the best formula to find a way out of the crisis. Observers believe that following the recent visit of Brahimi to Damascus, an international tendency, especially a Russian-U.S. one, toward a political solution to the Syrian crisis has been crystallized.

Saudis hold anti-regime demo in Qatif

A large number of Saudi Arabians have held a demonstration in the eastern city of Qatif to protest against a deadly attack by government security forces that left an 18-year-old dead.
On Friday, Qatif residents took to the streets to denounce the House of Saud, in defiance of the 22-month crackdown in Eastern Province. In Qatif on Thursday, Ali al-Marar was killed and several others were injured when Saudi security forces in two sports-utility vehicles "indiscriminately" opened fire on demonstrators, who were calling for political and social reforms and the release of political prisoners. Government forces even fired at people on rooftops, according to eyewitness reports. There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province since February 2011, with protestors calling for political reform. Anti-government protests have intensified since November 2011, when security forces opened fire on protestors in Qatif, killing five people and leaving scores more injured. Activists say there are over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia. In October 2012, Amnesty International called on the Saudi authorities to stop using excessive force against pro-democracy protestors. “The Saudi authorities must end their repeated moves to stifle people’s attempts to protest against the widespread use of arbitrary detention in the country,” Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said on October 16. “The right of people to peaceful protest must be respected and the security forces must refrain from detaining or using excessive force against people who exercise it,” he added.

Jordanian protesters hold nationwide demos, call for reforms
Jordanian protesters have taken to the streets across the country to call for political reforms and price cuts. During demonstrations on Friday, protesters called on the government to prevent the prices of everyday goods, and especially fuel, from rising, Jordan’s Petra news agency reported. Prices of everyday items have soared in Jordan in recent months. The prices of natural gas cylinders, diesel fuel, and gasoline increased by 54, 33, and 15 percent respectively on November 13, when government subsidies were withdrawn to tackle a budget deficit of 3.5 billion dinars ($5 billion). The demonstrators also chanted slogans against the country’s intelligence agency, demanded the release of prisoners arrested during previous anti-government demonstrations, and called for a boycott of parliamentary elections scheduled for January 23. Jordanians have been holding demonstrations since January 2011, demanding political reforms, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote and an end to corruption. Since the demonstrations began, Jordanian ruler King Abdullah II has sacked three prime ministers to appease the protesters.

Obama 'modestly optimistic' on fiscal cliff deal

A political summit Friday at the White House left it to the Senate's top Democrat and Republican to work out a compromise to avoid the country going over the fiscal cliff, participants said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters that the next 24 hours would be "very important" toward efforts to reach a deal to lessen the harshest impacts of the fiscal cliff, a combination of broad tax hikes and deep spending cuts due to take effect at the start of the new year. "Whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect. Some people aren't going to like it, some people are going to like it less," Reid said on the Senate floor after the high-stakes meeting with President Barack Obama, other congressional leaders and top administration officials. Reid's Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, expressed hope that he and Reid could agree on a plan to present to their respective caucuses "as early as Sunday." Obama said he was "modestly optimistic" that the Senate leaders would be able to forge an agreement, even as he warned "nobody's going to get 100% of what they want." Absent such a deal, Obama said his latest proposal should be put to a vote. He predicted it would pass the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Economists warn that continued stalemate could trigger a recession as government spending is slashed, including for the military, and taxes go up on everyone, due to the expiration of lower rates dating to the administration of President George W. Bush. Diminished hope for a substantial agreement in Washington depressed stock indexes on Wall Street this week despite other encouraging economic news. Consumer confidence has also softened. Prior to Friday's late afternoon meeting, which lasted just over an hour, a source familiar with the matter said Obama would propose the framework for a scaled-back agreement that he described last week. In his later remarks, Obama described his plan as holding down tax rates on middle-class Americans -- which he described as family income up to $250,000 -- while letting rates increase for top income brackets. It also would extend unemployment benefits and "lay the groundwork" for economic growth and deficit reduction. At the very least, Reid said he was preparing legislation for a vote by Monday that would include elements favored by Obama. "I look forward to hearing any good-faith proposals Senator McConnell has for altering this bill," Reid said in a statement that followed his floor remarks. The White House meeting came with the Senate back in town for a rare end-of-year appearance before a new Congress convenes January 3. Boehner plans to bring the House back on Sunday. Senators from both parties earlier expressed opinions on the negotiations that ranged from optimism to frustration. "When the dust settles and everything is said and done, federal individual income taxes are not going to go up on almost all Americans next year," GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told NBC's "Today" show he was "a little more optimistic today" about a deal being reached. "Sometimes it's darkest before the dawn," Schumer said, noting the renewed engagement by McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, the top congressional Republicans. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee downplayed Friday's meeting on CBS "This Morning" as a seeming political ploy "to make it look like we're doing something." "This is a total dereliction of duty at every level," added Corker, who has urged Republicans to compromise on the central issue of letting tax rates increase on top income brackets. "I've been very surprised that the president has not laid out a very specific plan to deal with this, but candidly Congress could have done the same. And I think the American people should be disgusted," he said. On Thursday, McConnell vowed his side would not "write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff." Reid, however, argued Republicans undermined a potentially major agreement over the past two years by refusing to compromise on their opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy.The principal dispute continues to be over taxes, specifically Democrats' demand to extend most of the tax cuts passed under Bush while allowing higher rates of the 1990s to return on top income brackets. During his re-election campaign, Obama said this would protect 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses from tax hikes. Republicans have opposed any kind of increase in tax rates, and Boehner suffered the political indignity last week of offering a compromise -- a $1 million threshold for the higher rates to kick in -- that his GOP colleagues refused to support because it raised taxes and had no chance of passing the Senate. Democrats have rejected the GOP proposals, which would extend all Bush-era tax cuts and revise prescribed spending cuts, calling them insufficient and saying they would shift too much deficit reduction burden on the middle class. One possibility is the fiscal cliff takes effect and taxes go up in January, then Congress steps in to bring tax rates back down for at least some people -- allowing them to say they're lowering taxes, even if rates for top income brackets are higher in 2013 than they were in 2012. Obama and Democrats have leverage, based on the president's re-election last month and Democrats' gains in the House and Senate in the new Congress. In addition, polls consistently show majority support for Obama's position on taxes, and Democrats insist the House would pass the president's plan with Democrats joined by some Republicans if Boehner allowed a vote on it. However, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist has vowed to back primary challenges against Republicans who violate his widely signed pledge not to raise taxes. Even if a deal is reached, Norquist predicts more budget showdowns every time the government needs additional money to operate. The two sides seemingly had made progress early last week on forging a $2 trillion deficit reduction deal that included new revenue sought by Obama and spending cuts and entitlement changes desired by Boehner. Boehner appeared to move on increased tax revenue, including higher rates on top income brackets and eliminating deductions and loopholes. But his inability to rally all House Republicans behind his plan raised questions about his role and what comes next. All this has fueled disdain for politicians by many Americans. Such contempt is deserved, said Rep. Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, who is retiring from Congress. "I think America should be embarrassed by its leadership in D.C.," he told CNN on Friday. "The fact that we have been unable to do things, and instead worried about our next elections. ... I think it's sinful."

Egypt's 'civil servants' told not to criticise president Morsi
Diplomats and journalists say they are being pressured to abandon their opposition of the president.
Some Egyptian diplomats and media personnel have complained that they are being pressured by their bosses into refraining from criticising Egypt president Mohamed Morsi. Opposition forces have frequently accused Morsi of attempting to curb freedoms since the influential Muslim Brotherhood group propelled him into office in Egypt's first freely contested elections earlier this year. “I was summoned into the office of the assistant (foreign) minister; he said we were all partners in making the (January) Revolution a success and now we should be sensible to help the president deliver the hopes and dreams of the Revolution," said a young diplomat about what he considered as an explicit warning by his boss. "He added a few incoherent words about the national role of the foreign service, its independence and so on; then he asked me to be ‘careful’ and not to confuse my role as a diplomat with that of an activist." According to this diplomat, who asked for his name to be withheld to spare the disclosure of the identity of his boss, other young diplomats were given the same warnings. “One of them was told that his overt opposition to the president would undermine his chances to go a good post and another was told that the minister (of foreign affairs) is so angry with his ministry being looked at as disloyal by the president,” the same diplomat added. During the past few weeks, some diplomats have declined to bow to orders issued by Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to promote the president’s political choices, Ahram Online has learnt. Others have declined to observe the referendum over a controversial draft of the constitution. In the two cases the minister received written and open letters from the concerned diplomats. Meanwhile, on their internal diplomats' Facebook group, the Lotus, Egyptian diplomats have openly criticised the president’s decisions and what they perceived as the "unsatisfactory state of foreign relations due to the choices of the president". To prompt an end to this, the minister had re-issued a decree, which was in place during the transitional rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), to prohibit discussion over state affairs through the Lotus under the pretext that this attitude "poses a threat to state secrets”.
Restrictions on media?
The attempt to rein in criticism against President Morsi at the foreign ministry is not unique in key state bodies. Editors and broadcasters at the state-run Radio and TV channels have been rebuked, according to their accounts, by the minister of information and his aides for their participation in the activities of political opposition. According to one broadcaster of an entertainment programme, her head of section openly told her “we have photos of you taking part in the demonstrations against the political leadership next to the presidential palace”. “I told him he did not need get the photos because, yes, I was there and yes I would go there again and if he wants me to be legally penalised, he needs to start an official investigation into my professional conduct – otherwise he has no business with my political choices,” she said. Meanwhile, three news broadcasters and anchors of political shows on the radio and TV say they hate being on air doing an interview with one of the opposition figure because "no matter how hard we try to force a limit on the criticism made against the president and his political decisions, our effort is never appreciated by the minister". Minister Salah Abdel-Maqsoud, who is known for his affiliation with the Muslim Brothehrood, recently said that he would have put a member of Brotherhood members at the head of every Radio and TV section had there been enough of them at his ministry. Beyond the state ministries, Egyptians working at some regional organisations have also complained of similar treatment. Two Egyptian officials at the Arab League say they received “indirect” and “polite” remarks from their heads of departments over their political activism. One said she offered to take a leave without pay if her activism was a source of embarrassment and the other said that she informed her boss that she “had participated in every day of the demonstrations of the 25 January Revolution and that today nothing is going to stop her".

Indian rape victim dies in hospital
A 23-year-old Indian woman who was raped by six men on a bus, has died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital. The hospital said in a statement she "died peacefully," after almost two weeks fighting for survival. Mount Elizabeth Hospital said in a statement that the young Indian woman died of her injuries early on Saturday morning. She was gang-raped, beaten and then thrown from a bus by six men on December 16.
"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4.45 a.m. [local time, 2045 UCT on the previous day] on 29 December, 2012," Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement. "Her family and officials from the High Commission of India were by her side. The Mount Elizabeth Hospital team of doctors, nurses and staff join her family in mourning her loss." The 23-year-old was traveling with a friend, who was also set upon by the men, on a bus in New Delhi when the attack occurred. The attackers apparently hailed from rural, conservative areas of the country but had moved to New Delhi. Her ordeal has prompted public protests demanding greater protection from sexual violence for women. The chief minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, on Friday pledged 65 all-female police stations dealing with crimes against women. She said that ten of them were already up and running.

Pak-Afghan: Fresh attack prompts closure of Torkham border

Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan on Friday following reported assaults on Pakistani labourers by Afghan troops. The development came a day after Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers reportedly beat up two Pakistani citizens and tore up their travel documents. ANA troops stopped a Pakistani driver’s vehicle, thrashed him along with his cleaner passenger, and took away the cash they were carrying, said Wing Commander Colonel Mushtaq Ahmad while talking to journalists at Torkham border. The driver, Yar Khan, and his cleaner, Lal Gul, also spoke to the media, and said they were beaten up by ANA personnel at Pul-e-Charkhi checkpoint near Kabul. They said the Afghan army men warned them to never enter Afghanistan again. After the border was closed, Afghan police official Nisar Afghani apologised to Col Ahmad, as well as political administration official Mairaj Khan, and tried to convince them to open the border – but his efforts were unsuccessful. Last Friday, 29 Pakistani labourers were harassed by ANA personnel at Pul-e-Charkhi after which Pakistani authorities closed the Torkham border for six hours – however, after negotiation with Afghan authorities, it was re-opened. Afghan labourers beaten Meanwhile, Afghanistan protested over attacks on its nationals by unidentified men in Khyber Agency and demanded an investigation into the incident. The Afghan foreign ministry said that unidentified men harassed Afghan nationals and tore up their passports and other travel documents near Landi Kotal town. “The Afghan foreign ministry expresses serious concerns over the incident of maltreatment and beating of Afghan nationals in Khyber Agency on Thursday,” said a statement emailed to The Express Tribune. Afghan Ambassador Umer Daudzai noted that whenever the two countries make progress to strengthen their bilateral relationship, incidents like these happen. “Both sides are trying their best to contain the current problems and to prevent such incidents in the future,” Daudzai told The Express Tribune. The foreign ministry as well as the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad are taking up the issue with Pakistani authorities to bring those responsible to justice. Afghan officials in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar meanwhile said that three children under the age of ten died of cold following the closure of the Torkham border. Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor, said in Jalalabad that the children were waiting on the Afghan side of the border in severe cold and rain to cross into Pakistan but “died of harsh weather”. An Afghan border police official, Idrees Momand, was quoted by the Afghan media as saying that the three children were sick and had been waiting to cross the border for treatment in Pakistan.

Bilawal Bhutto: '' The son also rises ''

Editorial:Daily Times
Twenty four-year-old Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and current Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, launched his political career on Thursday with a fiery speech before the tens of thousands who had flocked to the Bhutto family’s ancestral graveyard, Garhi Khuda Baksh, to observe the fifth anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. Bilawal’s speech comes several months before national elections are expected to be held. He is too young to participate in the elections himself — the minimum age is 25 — but is bound to be a key asset for the ruling PPP. The question is, with Bilawal, can we hope to see a fervent return to the liberal and progressive ideology that the PPP has been associated with and revered for in the past? Even critics of the party cannot deny the impact of Bilawal’s speech. Whipping up the emotions of the crowd, he spoke remarkably, with feeling but logically, and his beautiful, lyrical speech sounded like poetry, not prose. He sounded uncannily like his mother and grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, both gifted — and self-taught orators and among the finest leaders Pakistan has produced. Bilawal’s mastery of the Urdu language has silenced all those who were sceptical about him for being raised abroad. Bilawal defended the achievements of the PPP during its tenure — progressive legislation, economic growth, fighting terrorism — and spoke out against the incessant meddling of the agencies. He also took a swipe at the judiciary, which has clashed with the current government, and asked why those arrested for involvement in Benazir’s murder have yet to be convicted. Many, however, were left wondering why the party has not done more to push the investigation forward during its over four years in power and whether we will ever see closure. At a time where the PPP has been criticized for not taking a stronger stand against terrorism, Bilawal spoke bravely against militancy and paid tribute to Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Bashir Bilour and Malala Yousafzai. He made it clear that fighting terrorists is his highest priority — not only because they snatched his mother from him but because they currently pose the greatest existential threat to Pakistan. Bilawal also spoke in favour of gender equality, something that must be highlighted and welcomed. Although critics are quick to denounce what they deem “heirloom politics”, it is a fact that dynastic politics has long been a part of the political culture in South Asia. The positive aspect here is that, as his father said in his speech on Thursday, Bilawal is currently on a learning curve and taking time to understand how to handle the grave challenges that lie ahead. Bilawal is also younger and representative of a new generation replete with modern ideas — whether related to energy, the economy or the internet — and new mechanisms. He will bring new energy to the tasks, and this is something to be celebrated. He may be the right person to mobilize Pakistan’s greatest asset, its youth, which makes up 65 percent of the population. This is also the PPP’s chance to harness one of its greatest assets — its workers or so-called jiyalas and perhaps Bilawal can be the one to put his finger on that pulse and bring about the change that is so desperately needed. Irrespective of who wins the next elections, the party’s responsibilities and determination to tackle Pakistan’s very serious problems remain very much on the agenda.

Asif Ali Zardari raises hand of his son Bilawal Bhutto

In this handout photo released by the Press Information Department, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, left, raises the hand of his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari during a rally to mark the fifth anniversary of Pakistan's assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Baksh, Larkana, on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 in Pakistan. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24-year-old son of Bhutto launched his political career Thursday with a fiery speech before thousands of cheering supporters observing the fifth anniversary of his mother's assassination.

Fresh polio case in Peshawar

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday recorded a new polio case amid the World Health Organisation’s concerns about poor vaccination campaigns and the missing of immunisation targets. An official of National Institute of Health in Islamabad told Dawn that poliovirus was found in eight-month-old Ammar Umar, a resident of Yakatoot II union council in Peshawar. He said the child received two doses of oral polio vaccine. The new case, the 26th in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, brings this year’s countrywide polio count to 57. Until now this year, 20 fresh polio cases have been reported in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, four each in Sindh and Balochistan, two in Punjab and one in Gilgit-Baltistan. Peshawar, which missed targets in 10 per cent of its UCs against the 95 per cent set in the National Polio Eradication Programme, 2012 in five rounds, leads with six cases recorded by infected districts in the country. WHO senior coordinator for polio eradication in Pakistan Dr Elias Durry told Dawn that the new polio case from Peshawar highlighted the fragility of the achievements by the country’s polio programme during the current year. “We must reach all children and give them oral polio vaccine to safeguard them against poliomyelitis. It is very important to ensure that each and every child is immunised during every polio campaign,” he said. Officials associated with the vaccination campaign in the province said the number of cases had reduced to 57, while the number of infected districts and tribal agencies had come down to 28 in 2012 from 58 last year. They said the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, which was responsible for vaccination, missed around 80,000 of the 5.2 million children in every campaign. The officials said the unvaccinated children, around 16,000 immunisation refusal cases, remained in certain areas risking the health of immunised children. They said the most daunting task of EPI was to vaccinate the children who recently missed on immunisation due to the killing of health workers in the province. According to them, the assassination of workers in coordinated campaign is the first armed violence against immunisation teams. The officials said after Taliban banned polio vaccination in Waziristan a few months ago, it was the first manifestation of violence, which had scared away low-paid health workers engaged for immunisation. “We have to vaccinate 2.39 million children, who remained unvaccinated due to the suspension of the campaign last week over the killing of polio workers,” an official said, adding that the violence could adversely affect the campaign slated to begin early next month. The officials said the health department would continue with the planned immunisation programme in high-risk areas focusing on vaccination of persistently missed children.

North Waziristan drone strike

At least five people were killed Friday in a suspected US drone strike in North Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said.
According to the intelligence sources, the US predator targeted a compound in Gurbaz village of North Waziristan’s Shawal district, close to the border of South Waziristan agency, firing two missiles and killing five suspected militants inside. Shawal district of North Waziristan region is considered a bastion of Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants. North Waziristan, which is close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, is one of the seven regions in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), governed by tribal laws. An extremist insurgency led by the Pakistani Taliban plagues the region while the area is known to be infested with militants, including the al Qaeda, Taliban and other armed extremist organisations. Attacks by unmanned US aircraft are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but US officials are said to believe the attacks are too important to give up.

President Zardari lays foundation stone of various projects in Sindh

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday inaugurated various developmental projects aimed at further improving the communication infrastructure and enhancing the education facilities in Sindh province. The projects inaugurated today included a 61-Km Larkana-Naudero-Lakhi Road‚ a 19-Km Sakrand-Shaheed Benazirabad‚ 15 Km Ratodero-Naudero Road via Garhi Khuda Baksh. The President also inaugurated Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Sakrand‚ Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Chair & Convention Centre/Hall of the Sindh University Jamshoro and also laid the foundation of Dadu Campus of the Sindh University. Giving details of the projects inaugurated today‚ Spokesperson to the President Senator Farahtullah Babar said that Shaheed Benazir BhuttoUniversity of Veterinary and Animal Sciences‚ Sakrand‚ established at the cost of Rs. 3000 million approximately‚ is the first veterinary institution in Sindh and second in the country. The University has main campus in Sakrand and additional campus in Larkana. It will have six faculties‚ two directorates and one institute. He said that the President also inaugurated Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Chair & Convention Centre/Hall of the Sindh University Jamshoro that has been established in memory of the great leader and former twice-elected Prime Minister of the country. The SMBB Chair‚ Spokesperson said‚ besides compiling database covering aspects of her life will carry out research studies in the field of development sciences with special focus on devising pro-poor policies for sustainable economic development of the country and the Sindh province in light of aspiration of the martyred leader. It will also initiate gender development studies with emphasis on women issue‚ their role in the nation-building and democratization process‚ the state of human rights‚ freedom of speech and other issue that hinder their march towards prosperity. Spokesperson said that the President Zardari today also laid the foundation of Dadu Campus of the Sindh University which at present is housed in a sharing limited accommodation with Ustaad Bukhari Government Degree College Dadu. Spokesperson said that in view of the importance of the institution disseminating education in the country especially in the rural areas of Sindh‚ there was an urgent need for setting up full-fledge campus of the University. He said the Sindh Government has recently allotted land measuring 50 acres free of cost for the establishment of the campus at the distance of less than two kilometers in the south of Dadu City. Spokespersons said that Sindh Government has also included a scheme for construction of main/permanent campus of Sindh University at Dadu in the current year ADP 2012-13 with an allocation of Rs. 100.000 million during his year. Senatore Farhatullah Babar said that while inaugurating the road projects President Zardari urged the need for building road network throughout the country to attract investment and fully exploiting the geo strategic location of the country. The President said that geo strategic location of Pakistan at the cross roads of Central and South Asia offers the country to serve a huge market of over 3 billion in our neighborhood. He said that the roads inaugurated today will further improve connectivity of interior Sindh with the economic life line N-5 and the Indus Highway. Spokesperson said that while highlighting importance of the ports at Karachi and Port Qasim for the economic and industrial development of the country‚ the President said that present government has completed seven road projects costing 18 billion rupees in Sindh adding that because of the location of these two ports‚ roads and highways in Sindh have become very important. The Government‚ he said‚ is according the greatest attention to road network in the province and termed the road projects costing nearly four billion rupees‚ a gift to the people of interior Sindh. Commenting on Government's measures for promoting an investor-friendly environment‚ the President recounted various measures that have resulted into offering huge incentives to the investors and business community. He said that recently a law has been enacted whereby incentives and facilities offered to the investors and entrepreneurs cannot be withdrawn without Parliament's approval. The President said that despite the challenges of terrorism and natural disasters the economy has shown great resilience and is steadily recovering. Referring to positive results of government's initiatives ‚ the President said that Interest rates have come down twice recently and large scale manufacturing has also increased this year compared with last year besides growth shown by services sector and constantly increasing per capita income. The President said that Karachi Stock Exchange which was trading at5500 points in 2008 has performed tremendously and is trading at above 16000 points at present. The President said that Government was alive to the challenge of energy shortage in the country and said the country was not deficient in energy resources but these resources needed to be exploited. He said that solar and wind energy have great potential in meeting the energy crisis. The President also referred to 50 MW wind power project inaugurated two days before in Sindh and said that it was the first major wind project in the country. Pakistan‚ he said‚ has abundant sunshine that can be used for power generation and the abundant coal reserves of the country are ready to be converted into electricity and diesel. Highlighting country's mineral wealth‚ the President said that Pakistan is blessed with all kinds of precious minerals which are lying untapped and urged for exploiting this wealth. The President while commenting on challenges of extremism and militancy to the region said that the best way to fight extremism is to generate economic activity in the region. He termed poverty and economic deprivation as breeding grounds for extremism and said that economic security was the most effective weapon to fight extremism. Roads and connectivity projects‚ he said‚ will enhance economic security. On Government's efforts for peace in the region ‚ the President said that we have liberalized visa regime and improved trade relations with India which he said will contribute to stability in the region. Promotion of regional trade‚ the President said‚ is an important component of our growth strategy and added that present Government has concluded Free Trade Agreements with China‚ Sri Lanka and Malaysia besides Preferential Trade Agreements with Iran‚ Mauritius and Indonesia. Pakistan has also extended its trade relations to the ECO countries and Central Asian Republics‚ the President said on the occasion. The President on the occasion urged the need for more roads‚ more educational institutions and more infrastructure projects to meet the needs of a growing population. In this context he commended the Sindh Government for initiating massive developmental program "Sindh Development Package" and the Karachi-Hyderabad super highway which is being up-graded to a 6-lane Motorway. In addition 17 development projects costing 78 billion rupees have been undertaken in Sindh‚ the President said and reiterated firm resolve of the Government to change the face of the rural population. He assured that Government will left no stone unturned in improving the standards of living of common people in the remote areas of the country. The President on the occasion also touched on government's steps for poverty eradication and said that the Government has launched a major drive against poverty and has introduced ‘Benazir Income Support Programme for the poorest which he said was supporting millions of poor families across the country.

Bilawal did not say anything against judiciary

Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira claimed on Friday that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did not say anything against the judiciary in his December 27 speech in Garhi Khuda Bukhsh, reported Express News. Speaking to the media at Sukkur airport, Kaira said that the PPP respects the judiciary, and a free judiciary is a sign of a strong nation. The minister also clarified that Bilawal had not called for the arrest for his mother Benazir Bhutto’s killers, but had appealed for punishment to be given to the arrested accused.