Monday, January 7, 2013

Surviving the winter in Afghanistan

US drone attack kills four in Miranshah: officials
At least four militants were killed and four others wounded Tuesday when a US drone fired missiles at a militant compound in a tribal area, security officials said. The missiles struck a militant compound in Haider Khel village, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) east of Miranshah. "US drones fired four missiles at a militant compound. At least four militants have been killed," a security official in Miranshah told AFP. Another security official in Peshawar confirmed the attack and casualties. Both officials said the identity of those killed was not yet known.

Pakistan: PEPCO report unveils govt defaulters

President House, Prime Minister House, intelligence agencies and defence institutions are defaulters of making payments against use of electricity, disclosed a report issued by Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO). According to the report presented before the power crisis committee and whose copy was obtained by Geo News, Army Military Engineering Service is a defaulter of Rs824.6 million; Army personnel deployed at borders has yet to pay Rs89.5 million against power dues; military dairy farm Rs14.7 million and; Joint Staff Headquarters Rs16.7 million. In total the Defence Services are a defaulter of Rs1.13 billion while Rs47.9 million stand outstanding against Defence Production Division. The report says the President House is a defaulter of power dues amounting to Rs15.8 million; Prime Minister Secretariat has to pay Rs4.12 million; office and residence of Chairman Senate Rs59.9 million; residences of federal ministers Rs13.8 million; Supreme Court Rs3.67 million and; Federal Shariat Court as a defaulter of Rs3.94 million. Election Commission of Pakistan is defaulting against electricity dues of Rs3.32 million; Federal Police Rs25.8 million; Intelligence Bureau (IB) Rs6.3 million; FIA Rs8 million; Ministry of Railways Rs263.4 million; Ministry of bordering areas Rs340 million and; Frontier Constabulary Balochistan Rs100 million. The report further disclosed that Rs7.23 billion are outstanding against the Federal Government and departments working under it.

Pakistan Loving Fatburger as Fast Food Boom Ignores U.S. Drones
On a Saturday afternoon in Pakistan, dozens of teenagers and young families stand in line at an upmarket Karachi mall, waiting to order burgers at the latest fast-food store in town.
“I’ve been coming here every alternate day for the past month to see if it’s opened yet or not,” Hana Khan, consultant for restaurant delivery website foodpanda, said at the Jan. 5 launch of Fatburger, a Beverly Hills, California-based hamburger chain that also operates in 14 countries outside the U.S. Within two hours of the doors opening, all 130 seats inside were taken and dozens of people were waiting at the ordering counter.
Local and overseas business groups are queuing up to buy franchise rights in Pakistan for an array of popular food sold from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, driven by rising demand from a booming middle class in South Asia’s second-biggest economy after India. Pakistanis increasingly flock to American food outlets even as ties between the two nations are strained by U.S. drone missile strikes in the northwest of the country. Johnny Rockets Group Inc., another American fast-food group based in Aliso Viejo, California, that operates or franchises 68 hamburger restaurants in 16 countries, Second Cup Ltd., a coffee shop chain based in Missisauga, Canada, with over 360 cafes and Malaysia’s MammaRoti and PappaRoti are set to open their first stores in Pakistan this year.
U.S.-Pakistan Ties
“Food is universal, it transcends politics,” Don Berchtold, president and chief operating officer of closely-held Fatburger North America Inc., said at the Karachi opening. “In food, people don’t look at relations between countries. They just want to eat.” The company, which was founded in 1952, plans to open four more stores in Pakistan over the next three years, including the world’s biggest in the eastern city of Lahore, with a capacity to seat as many as 175 people. Fatburger joins Hardee’s Food Systems Inc., headquartered in St. Louis, Atlanta-based cinnamon roll maker Cinnabon International Inc., The Noodle House of the United Arab Emirates, and five foreign frozen yoghurt chains that opened their first outlets in the world’s sixth-most populous nation since 2011. Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, a consumer research firm. Taliban insurgencies along the border with Afghanistan, nationwide bombings and political unrest have plagued Pakistan’s economy, limiting growth to an average of three percent a year. Even so, Pakistan’s middle class has doubled to 70 million people in the past decade as booms in agriculture and residential property, as well as jobs in telecom and media have helped people prosper, according to Sakib Sherani, chief executive officer at Macroeconomic Insights in Islamabad.
Traditional Diet
As Pakistanis join the middle class, they seek international cuisines made popular by the television and internet boom of the past decade. A traditional Pakistani diet consists of curries, lentils and wheat bread. Franchising is also booming as businesses battling Pakistan’s record energy outages seek alternatives to factories that can’t run without adequate power, said Samiullah Mohabbat, chief executive officer of Fatburger Pakistan and the country representative for the World Franchise Association. Mohabbat received over 100 queries this year from entrepreneurs wanting to buy franchise rights for
international food chains.
“In this business, you get money in your pocket from the very first day,” he said. The number of foreign food franchises in Pakistan will “easily double” in the next two years as more coffee houses and casual dining outlets enter the country, Mohabbat said. About two dozen foreign food franchises operate in Pakistan since Louisville, Kentucky-based Yum! Brands Inc.’s Pizza Hut opened two decades ago, followed by the same company’s KFC in 1997 and Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, the following year.
More Stores
KFC plans to open 40 more stores in Pakistan over the next five years to expand its network of 64 outlets in 18 cities, said Rafiq Rangoonwala, chief executive officer of Cupola, the company with the franchise rights for KFC, the biggest fast-food chain by outlets in Pakistan. “Western brands have only just scratched the surface in Pakistan,” he said. Still, street violence can hurt business. KFC stores in Karachi have been attacked five times in the 15 years the franchise has operated in Pakistan. In September, when Pakistanis protesting an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. poured onto the streets, mobs attacked banks, movie theatres and damaged a KFC store in Karachi. Western Brands “There’s not a lot to be worried about because the violence tends to be mostly in Karachi,” Rangoonwala said. “All these western brands wouldn’t be coming if violence was such a drawback.” Pakistan has the fewest fast-food stores for its population among 34 emerging markets, according to a Bloomberg Ranking from July. The nation has 0.55 outlets for every 100,000 urban residents, compared with 1.33 for India and 4.15 for Turkey, the data show. Salt Lake City-based Mrs Field’s Original Cookies Inc., that opened an outlet in Lahore in 2011, plans to start 15 more this year, said Rashed Siddiqui, franchise owner. “Pakistan is a developing market and the food business is an attractive segment,” Cozette Phifer-Koerber, a spokeswoman for Johnny Rockets, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “The presence of international American food brands has further developed the local market.” The group plans to open its first shop by the end of March in Karachi. Islamabad Outlet Second Cup will open its first outlet in Islamabad within the next six months and Red Mango Inc., a Dallas-based frozen yoghurt retailer, will enter Pakistan this year, Mohabbat said. Fullerton, California-based Tutti Frutti Frozen Yoghurt, that has 20 outlets in Pakistan since opening in late 2011, plans to start 100 more this year, said Naeem Niazi, director for international business development at Wellspring Industry Inc., owner of Tutti Frutti. Pakistanis spend 90 billion rupees ($924 million) a year on eating out at the 20,000 restaurants nationwide because of a paucity of other entertainment facilities, said Nauman Mirza, founder and chief executive officer of Food Connection Pakistan, an online restaurant guide. Luxury shopping malls in major cities have also given foreign retail and food franchises the opportunity to open stores in a modern setting, said Yasin Paracha, managing director of Team A Ventures, which introduced London-based department store Debenhams Plc and American shoe brand Timberland to Pakistan last year. Fatburger, Johnny Rockets, and Papparoti have all chosen Karachi’s seafront Dolmen Mall for their first Pakistan outlets. “Pakistan is an amazing destination for food outlets because eating out has become the nation’s biggest source of entertainment,” said Ghulam Hussain Soomro, owner of Berrylicious, a local frozen yoghurt chain that opened in 2011. “Every new place that opens up is packed because the spending power of the masses when it comes to eating out is amazing.”

Choices on Afghanistan

President Obama will soon make critical choices on Afghanistan, including how fast to withdraw 66,000 American troops and whether to keep a small residual force there once the NATO combat mission concludes at the end of 2014. His talks with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, this week will be an important marker in that process. A lot has happened since the two men met in Kabul last May and signed a strategic partnership agreement. Some developments, like signs of an incipient peace process between the Taliban and the Afghan government, are promising. But many are not. The Afghan Army and police forces have taken responsibility for securing larger and larger swaths of the country, but the Pentagon has admitted that only 1 of 23 NATO-trained brigades can operate without American assistance. The recent alarming rise in fatal attacks by Afghan forces on their American military mentors has crushed whatever was left of America’s appetite for the costly conflict. Ideally, the 66,000 American troops would already be leaving, and all of them would be out as soon as safely possible; by our estimate, that would be the end of this year. The war that started after Sept. 11, 2001, would be over and securing the country would be up to Afghanistan’s 350,000-member security force, including the army and police, which the United States has spent $39 billion to train and equip over a decade. But there is a conflict between the ideal and the political reality. Mr. Obama has yet to decide how fast he will withdraw the remaining troops, and the longer he delays, the more he enables military commanders who inevitably want to keep the maximum number of troops in Afghanistan for the maximum amount of time. Another matter of concern is that Mr. Obama is seriously considering keeping a residual military force for an indefinite period after 2014. He needs to think carefully about what its mission would be and make his case to the public. Gen. John Allen, the commander in Afghanistan, had provided the White House with options for an enduring presence that went as high as 20,000 troops. That was an alarmingly big number, but fortunately now seems to be a nonstarter. American officials on Saturday said the administration is considering a much smaller force of 3,000 to 9,000. If Mr. Obama cannot find a way to go to zero troops, he should approve only the minimum number needed, of mostly Special Operations commandos, to hunt down insurgents and serve as a deterrent against the Taliban retaking Kabul and Al Qaeda re-establishing a safe haven in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama will want to discuss all these issues with Mr. Karzai. The United States cannot go forward if Afghanistan opposes a residual force or puts undue restrictions on those troops. Mr. Karzai, a deeply flawed leader who is expected to leave office next year, has his own agenda, which includes requests for updated American aircraft, surveillance equipment and longer-range artillery to modernize his army. Those requests cannot be taken seriously when Afghan security forces are increasingly murdering Americans and the Afghan government remains so profoundly corrupt.

President Obama Names Chuck Hagel for Defense, John Brennan for CIA

President Obama today rounded out his second-term national security team, nominating former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA. Obama heralded the credentials of both candidates during an East Room press conference, flanked by both men and their predecessors, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and acting CIA chief Mike Morell. "Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve," Obama said. "He is an American patriot." Turning to Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, Obama said he was one of the "most skilled and respected" members of his national security team, contributing "strong analytic insights" and "invaluable perspective." "I hope that the Senate will act on these confirmations promptly," Obama said. "When it comes to national security, we don't like to leave a lot of gaps between the time that one set of leaders transitions out and another transitions in, so we need to get moving quickly on this."

Afghani pashto song by a russian girl

Afghanistan: Woman gets divorce amid threats

A 20-year-old woman on Sunday got divorce from her husband through the court of appeals in eastern Nangarhar province. The court verdict came amid reports that the woman, Diwa, had invited the wrath of a judge by refusing to marry him in return for a verdict in her favour. The judge has been secretly taped by a journalist, allegedly demanding a $2,000 bribe or a marriage from Diwa seeking his help in her divorce case. The proceedings took place behind closed doors in Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, where Diwa divorced from her spouse. Leaving the courtroom, Diwa told reporters she had received threats from many people, including her former husband and the judge. She claimed receiving phone calls threatening her with death. "The callers warned me they would not let me live after entering enmity with the judge. In each threatening call, I was told my days are numbered." Diwa said her ex-husband had told the jury that she had illicit relations with men, but failed to produce any proof in support of his claim. Without giving his name, the husband said her spouse had illicit ties with her colleagues in the office where she worked. The accused judge had flown to America, a reliable source in the Appellate Court told Pajhwok Afghan News. He had been dismissed by the Supreme Court and after that he did not come to the court, Judge Fazal Hadi said. About another two judges who had allegedly sough bribes from Diwa, Hadi said the pair had been transferred to other provinces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai heads to Washington

By Kevin Sieff
KABUL — When Afghan President Hamid Karzai visits Washington this week, he’ll bring with him a list of complaints he has enumerated for months in public speeches, including accusations that the United States has fomented corruption in Afghanistan and continues to violate the country’s sovereignty. Karzai’s top advisers say he has been forced to go public with his critique because meetings with U.S. officials here have yielded no progress on the issues he values most. Now he’ll share the list of grievances with an American president in the midst of disentangling the U.S. military from its longest war. The prospect of a diminished U.S. presence in Afghanistan hasn’t dulled the tone of Karzai’s critique, even though he claims to want a long-term American security footprint here. That footprint would be welcomed, his advisers say, but only if it is accompanied by concessions on a number of seemingly intractable issues. “The world needs us more than we need them,” said Abdul Karim Khurram, Karzai’s chief of staff. Karzai wants U.S. officials to stop approving contracts “with warlords who use the money for their own gains,” according to his spokesman, Aimal Faizi. Karzai said in a speech last month that corruption is “imposed on us, and it is meant to weaken our system” — an assertion roundly rejected by U.S. officials in Afghanistan. Karzai wants a full handover of the Parwan military prison, which U.S. officials approved last year but later rescinded, saying it appeared that Afghan officials were planning to release a slew of suspected terrorists. Karzai also wants a stronger Afghan air force, an end to U.S. military operations in villages and a guarantee that his country will be protected from cross-border incursions, particularly by Pakistan-based insurgents. “Fighting them in Afghanistan is not defeating them. It is adding to the fire,” Karzai told Time magazine last year. Those pledges, too, will be hard to secure. As Karzai presses those demands, he and his advisers have extended their critique to the larger legacy in Afghanistan of the United States and NATO, which they say have failed to deliver security, despite billions spent. “The war has been fought in a very incorrect manner. . . . It didn’t improve the situation, but it worsened it,” Khurram said. In addition to meeting with President Obama in Washington, Karzai is scheduled to give a speech at George Washington University. After narrowing down potential topics, one that remained on the table is, “The things which have gone wrong and which we could have done differently,” according to an Afghan official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the possible content of the speech before the event. Karzai has addressed the topic several times from his palace in Kabul, leading some U.S. officials to believe that the invectives it typically entails were intended to satisfy a domestic audience, not to inspire action by Afghanistan’s international partners. In Washington, a Karzai speech aimed squarely at American failings would probably be received differently. Still, many here argue that Karzai’s leverage is limited. He could refuse to sign a bilateral security agreement that is currently being negotiated with the United States. But his closest advisers say that a U.S. military role beyond 2014 is in Afghanistan’s best interest. Karzai could relinquish some of the demands that U.S. officials see as particularly unrealistic, such as his request for a list of all Western contracts given to Afghans with connections to the Afghan government — a list that U.S. officials say doesn’t exist. But Karzai’s advisers say he will continue to raise the issues he feels are important, particularly when his allies ignore them. “The reason why the president speaks out about these issues is because no one listens in private meetings,” Khurram said. For their part, officials in Washington said they plan to consult with Karzai on the possible size and character of the U.S. mission beyond 2014. They will also press him on his commitment to improving transparency and governance — both conditions attached to $16 billion in aid approved last year at an international donors conference in Tokyo.

Bhutto family symbol of democracy
Federal Minister for Communication Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan Khalil has said that Bhutto family is a name of ideology and a symbol of democracy. The sacrifices by the Bhutto family for the supremacy of democracy are matchless, Federal Minister said while addressing party workers at his constituency on Sunday. He said the government was utilizing all available resources to end the deprivation of masses by providing all basic amenities of life to them at their doorsteps. "We are committed to end the deprivation of masses by utilizing all available resources for their betterment. However, time is required to address the huge problems inherited by the Govt from the past," he added. He said the government was well aware of the problems being faced by people and time is required to solve the problems inherited from the past. The Minister said Quaid e Awam Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed believed on power of people, constitutionalism, democracy and urged people to work hard to complete his mission to make Pakistan a dynamic and progressive muslim welfare state among comity of nations. He said Bhutto was the name of ideology and symbol of democratic struggle. He said Benazir Bhutto Shaheed had laid down her life for democracy and rights of people and never compromised on principles like his brave father. Dr Alamgir Khan said our leadership had given unprecedented sacrifices for rights of people and the country and PPP will continue to carry forward their mission. He said some elements again come out with catchy slogans to grab attention of people, however, he said in presence of free media people would foil their anti political designs and will support PPP. He said Constitution of 1973 was restored, BISP programme was underway and identity were given to Pakhtoons besides provincial autonomy to federating units. He said PPP was symbol of federal with strong roots in masses and will emerge victorious in upcoming elections. He said election would be held on time and urged masses to elect honest and upright leaderships. Later, the Minister openly met with people.

Shahzeb Khan murder: Jan 10 deadline given to arrest Shahrukh Jatoi

The Supreme Court has set a January 10 deadline for the arrest of Shahrukh Jatoi as it resumed hearing the murder case of 20 year old Shahzeb Khan who was gunned down in Karachi on December 25. During today’s hearing, Inspector General of Sindh Police Fayyaz Leghari appeared in the court for hearing where the bench expressed dissatisfaction over the police report on Shahzeb's murder case. During the hearing DIG Shahid Hayat told that the main accused in the case Shahrukh Jatoi had traveled to UAE under a different name. He also told that a police team will leave for Dubai today after getting a tip off that Shahrukh Jatoi is in Dubai. He further told that Interpol has been contacted to arrest the accused. IG Sindh Fayyaz Leghari pleaded for fifteen days’ time to arrest Shahrukh Jatoi but the court rejected the request and and gave January 10 deadline (3 days) to arrest the accused and present him in the court. Later, the court adjourned the hearing till January 10. During the previous hearing, the apex court had directed IG Sindh to arrest the killers of Shahzeb within 24 hours else he should appear before the apex court without uniform. The SC also ordered the Sindh Police to present a charge sheet of the alleged killers. The court also ordered to attach the property and freeze the bank accounts of the accused involved in the brutal murder. Police sprang into action on Friday after the SC’s directives and arrested Siraj Talpur, one of the key accused in the murder, along with his three mates. Meanwhile, another main accused Shahrukh Jatoi reportedly departed for UAE on December 27. The chief justice had taken suo moto notice of the brutal murder on 20-year-old Shahzeb Khan, based on press clippings carrying the story regarding his killing. Shahzeb Khan was gunned down in Karachi on December 25th, while police failed to make any progress due to immense political pressure. The killing mobilised hundreds of the people against unquestioned authority that people with political connection enjoy in the country and gathered outside Karachi Press Club carrying banners and requesting the honourable chief justice of Pakistan for taking suo moto action in the matter for arrest of the accused. The incident has received international attention with activists protesting outside Pakistan High Commission in London on Thursday demanding justice for Shahzeb.