Monday, January 21, 2013
President Barack Obama has taken his public oath of office on the steps of the US Capitol to mark the beginning of his second term. Hundreds of thousands of spectators converged on Washington to witness the ceremonial swearing-in, and to listen live as Mr Obama delivered his inaugural address. US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath as the 44th president placed his hand on two Bibles - one used by President Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration and one used by civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr. After taking the oath, Mr Obama used his speech to call for a divided nation to come together to right the nation's course, following a bitterly partisan election and lame-duck session of Congress. "Now more than ever we should do this as one nation," he said, adding that Americans are made for this moment and can succeed "so long as we seize it together". Former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were among dignitaries seated on the Capitol steps for the event. Mr Clinton and Mr Carter are the only living Democrats who have occupied the White House. Mr Clinton was accompanied by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is departing as Mr Obama's second term gets under way. In addition to the key political figures on hand, several celebrities, including Jay-Z and Beyonce, were in attendance to give the inaugural a red-carpet atmosphere. Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will take part in a traditional parade before heading out to formal balls where the presidential couple will dance for the cameras.
indiatimes.comThe threat to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is from within the Pakistani army and there's no way external powers can destroy or seize these as long as Islamabad doesn't make the mistake of attacking India, writes MIT-educated Pakistani nuclear scientist Pervez Hoodbhoy in his book, "Confronting the Bomb" . Hoodbhoy writes that Pakistani army insiders in collusion with an external Islamic group could be plotting to appropriate nuclear assets, unknown to authorities entrusted with protecting these. In February 2000, Pervez Musharraf, then chief of army staff and head of Pakistan government, created a nuclear command, which included a strategic plans division (SPD), which has physical custody of the weapons. Hoodbhoy argues, "Whatever the procedures and equipment Pakistan may adopt, they can only be as good as the men who operate them. Mindsets and intentions matter more than anything else." He adds, "The fear of loose weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan's armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day." He emphasizes, "The fear of the insider is ubiquitous and well-founded," and describes the Pakistani army as "a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts." There are two Pakistani armies, he maintains. One led by General Pervez Ashraf Kayani and the other by Allah. "It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders." Even non-fundamentalist elements are "soft Islamists", he says. It is, however, possible that Pakistan possesses US supplied technology to enhance protection against unauthorised use or accidental nuclear detonations. A former director of SPD, Feroz Khan, is quoted as saying that to meet the insider threat; SPD has adopted a US programme which carries out checks on personnel. "The system knows how to distinguish who is a 'fundoo' (fundamentalist) and who is simply pious." Hoodbhoy reacts, "But this does not really reassure." He illustrates, "Long beards and prayer marks on the forehead are common and religious zeal is especially apparent during the month of Ramzan."
At least 13 children with measles were brought to two public hospitals in Lahore on Sunday, as the Health Department sought to dispel fears of an epidemic in the province. Five children with the disease were admitted to Services Hospital and five to Mayo Hospital, said doctors on duty. Another three children were discharged after treatment from Mayo Hospital, they said. A Health Department spokesman said that following the outbreak of the disease in Sindh, the government had conducted vaccination campaigns in districts close to the border. He said there was no measles epidemic in Lahore and arrangements for the treatment of patients had been made at all public hospitals. However, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique called an emergency meeting of Health Department officials for Monday to review the measles situation in the Punjab. Professor Yaqoob Kazi, a paediatrician and former dean of the Institute of Public Health, said that for each child affected with measles brought to the hospital, there could be 300-400 unreported cases.The Express Tribune
http://www.thedailystar.netThe ICT-2 pronounced its maiden verdict on a crimes against humanity case on Monday awarding death sentence to fugitive and expelled Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar. The nation had to wait for 41 years for this day. The International Crimes Tribunal-2, set up to try those accused of committing crimes against humanity during the country's Liberation War in 1971 passed the verdict amid tight security. ICT-2 Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan earlier read the summary of the 112-page verdict. The ICT-2 delivered the verdict at the room of International Crimes Tribunal-1 today following space crisis due to huge presence of people particularly journalists and lawyers at the court room. Azad, the former leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, went into hiding around seven hours before ICT-2 issued an arrest warrant against him on April 3, last year. He used to present a television show on Islamic issues. Earlier on November 4, Azad was indicted with eight charges of crimes against humanity, based on eight incidents that left at least 12 unarmed people dead and two women raped in Faridpur during the country's Liberation War. Azad was active in Jamaat-e-Islami but was later expelled from the political party, according to an investigation agency. On December 26, 2012, the three-member Tribunal-2 led by Justice Obaidul Hassan with members Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Judge M Shahinur Islam kept Azad's case waiting for verdict after the conclusion of closing arguments. Wrapping up the arguments between December 23 and 26, 2012, the prosecution appealed for capital punishment for Azad, while the state-appointed defence counsel sought his exemption from the eight charges. On March 25, 2012, three days after the Tribunal-2 was formed, the prosecution submitted a petition for issuing arrest warrant against Azad, also a close associate of another war-crimes accused Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed. It asked for the warrant as an investigation was going on against him in connection with crimes against humanity. On April 3, 2012, the tribunal issued the warrant but Azad had made a run for it. On July 26, 2012, the investigation agency, formed to deal with war crimes probes, completed its enquiry on Azad and handed over the report to the prosecution on July 29, 2012. On September 2, 2012, the prosecution submitted the formal charges against Azad, accusing him of 10 types of crimes against humanity. On September 9, 2012, the tribunal took the charges into cognisance. On October 7, 2012, the tribunal decided to hold Azad's trial in his absence as even after publication of newspaper ads asking him to appear before the tribunal he failed to show up.
http://www.washingtontimes.comServing as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States is risky business, as the country’s former envoy noted after hearing about the legal threat against the current ambassador. Ambassador Sherry Rehman, who has been in Washington for a year, is under police investigation in Pakistan on accusations of violating the country’s blasphemy law, a charge that carries the death penalty. Pakistan’s supreme court last week ordered a police inquiry into a complaint from a businessman against Ms. Rehman for comments she made in 2010 as a member of the Pakistani parliament. Ms. Rehman had proposed legislation to remove the death penalty for blasphemy convictions after Rimsha Masih, a teenage Christian girl, faced execution for burning pages of the Koran. Following an international outcry, a court threw out her blasphemy conviction two months ago after a Muslim cleric, Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, was accused of framing the girl. The complaint against Ms. Rehman, a prominent member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, came from a businessman, Muhammad Faheem Ahkter Gill, 31, who claimed he was shocked by Ms. Rehman’s comments in a television interview in 2010. He told Pakistani reporters that he had tried for two years to get a court to hear his complaint. In that interview, Ms. Rehman talked about her goal of removing the death penalty from Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which are the strictest of any Muslim-majority nation. She dropped her efforts after facing resistance from her own party. Defendants accused of blasphemy often face street mobs who kill them, even if they are acquitted. Many defendants flee Pakistan after they are freed by the courts. Husain Haqqani, the Pakistani ambassador Ms. Rehman replaced in Washington, was shocked when he heard of the case against the ambassador. “It seems that ambassador of Pakistan to the United States is becoming a hazardous job,” he said in an email to Embassy Row. Mr. Haqqani, ambassador from 2008 to 2011, faced treason charges after a Pakistani-American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, claimed he and Mr. Haqqani were involved in a plot to seek U.S. military intervention in Pakistan to prevent a military coup. Mr. Haqqani strongly denied the allegations but resigned rather than face the vagaries of the Pakistani judicial system. He now teaches international relations at Boston University. “Pakistan’s extremists charged me with treason without putting me on trial under law, and they seem to be doing something similar by accusing Ambassador Sherry Rehman of blasphemy,” Mr. Haqqani said. He criticized the supreme court for accepting the petition of blasphemy instead of insisting the complaint be filed in a lower court, from which the case could work itself up the judicial system through appeals. “These petitions generate a hostile environment without a formal charge or trial and encourage extremists to physically threaten an ambassador viewed as a traitor or blasphemer,” Mr. Haqqani said. He added his concern that “ideologically motivated judges” are damaging Pakistan’s “image as a modern democracy.”
The Express TribuneHuman rights activists, students and politicians staged a protest demonstration in front of the National Press Club against the killing of innocent tribesmen in Khyber Agency and violent police action against peaceful protesters in Peshawar. The protesters — mostly students from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Fata and Balochistan — were holding banners inscribed with slogans such as “Are Pakhtuns not human”’, “Are they not Pakistanis” and “where is the media”. They resorted to full-throated sloganeering against the government for its inability to provide protection to the people. They criticised the government for the treatment meted out to peaceful protesters who had brought the bodies of loved ones brutally murdered by “the so-called protectors of the country”. “Bullets are being fired at us, what kind of freedom is this,” the protesters shouted. Speaking to the protesters, Awami National Party’s MNA Bushra Gohar condemned the killings. “Unless and until the difference between Islamabad and Rawalpindi are sorted out peace in Fata is impossible,” she said. Defending provincial government’s position, she said order to baton-charge the protesters had been issued from Governor House. “K-P Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain was heading a jirga negotiating with the protesters to go back, but as soon as the jirga members went inside the Governor House to inform the governor about the protesters’ demands, the police outside started baton-charging the protesters,” she maintained. To bring the tribal areas into mainstream politics, the government must abolish the draconian laws being enforced in the region for the last one century. “We will no longer tolerate the use of Pakhtun regions for so-called strategic policies,” she said, added that they are being killed by those whose duty is to provide protection to the people. “People of the tribal areas have been dealt a double whammy. On one hand, terrorists are targeting them, while on the other, the state declared them as terrorists,” she said. She said Fata falls under the president and the K-P governor, directly but if anything happens there, the provincial government is held responsible. “The president should devolve his powers to the provincial government and immediately abolish articles 246 and 247 of the Constitution,” she demanded. Jan Achakzai, a social activist, said the government is pursuing anti-people policies. “Unless the government is clear in its policies and targets in Afghanistan, thinking of peace is akin to daydreaming,” Achakzai said. He said tribesmen were receiving dead bodies for the last 40 years, but now a “well-planned genocide of Pakhtuns has been started”. Sarwar Bari, a social activist, appreciated the change in the establishment’s policies, but noted that, “Only changes in policies won’t help improve the situation. Practical steps must be taken.” He said everyone know who are the mentors of terrorists groups which roam the streets of Pakistan with impunity, openly claiming responsibility for killing Hazaras and Pakhtuns. “Pakhtuns are not weapon-loving people, rather they are a peace-loving people. They just want jobs, education and security,” he said. Later, a candlelight vigil was also held for the victims in Khyber Agency.
THE FRONTIER POSTWhen terrorists had taken Balochistan their hostage, when members of all ethnic minorities were being butchered without fear of law and authorities, when senior police officers were themselves involved in the deadly crimes to worsen law and order conditions and when missing persons case was becoming more or more complex, all the provincial lawmakers without exception kept a criminal silence, abetting in the commission of broad daylight crime against humanity. Now that the federation placed the province under the governor’s rule for two months on Jan 14 following a three-day protest by Shia Hazara community against the killing of about 100 people in two terrorist attacks on Jan 10, all have joined hands to requisition a session of the Balochistan legislature pleading that the new constitutional arrangement is in conflict with the political rights of the people. What actually has happened is that the MPAs, all of whom except one, were enjoying all perks and privileges as ministers at the expense of public money, have come out wailing after losing their pomp and show Where have they been when the dismissed Aslam Raisani’s government was showing gross indifference to the volatile situation of the province confronting insurgency with active involvement of foreign powers? Regrettably the Pakistan People’s Party MPAs who are now supporting Raisani and who demanded his resignation in November, are also among MPAs signing the requisition. They had another view of the former chief minister when first Kalat division president of the PPP Rafiq Sajjad suspended the basic party membership of Mr Raisani on charges of corruption and failing to deliver as the chief executive of the restive province and then the PPP Balochistan chapter, headed by Sadiq Umrani, not only endorsed the suspension but also requested Islamabad that Aslam Raisani should be removed as chief minister. Can this conduct be called fair by any yardstick? Ironically an assembly session has been convened on Monday by the speaker, “elected” in a fraudulent electoral exercise where members were pressured to show their ballot papers to the officials of the provincial information department before casting them. It may be mentioned here that President Asif Ali Zardari has dismissed only the provincial cabinet by invoking Article 234 of the Constitution and the assembly was allowed to remain functional. Simultaneously, coalition partners of the ousted government have threatened launching a movement against the imposition of governor’s rule from the day the requisitioned assembly is scheduled to meet. No doubt the requisitioning of an assembly session at this stage would add to confrontation with the federation and the governor and aggravate the woes of dejected communities. Seen in the light of a Supreme Court interim order of October 12 last at Quetta in a constitutional petition filed by the Balochistan High Court Bar Association that the Balochistan government had failed to fulfill its constitutional duty and protect basic human rights in the province, a clear indictment of the former chief minister, the belligerence of Balochistan MPAs becomes unlawful. The fact of the matter is that the federal government had given the Raisani government a great time period of four years and a half before taking it on. Islamabad tolerated him although he hardly lived in Quetta to attend to important administrative, development and political work. Even when the Hazara community members were being slaughtered, their relatives refused to bury their dead and staged a three-day sit-in at Quetta’s Alamdar Road with shrouded coffins, Mr Raisani was abroad. That is why no political organization across the country has opposed governor’s rule in Balochistan. It was rather upon the pressure of political parties, the civil society and other conscientious people of Balochistan and elsewhere in the country that the federation took the constitutional step of removing the chief minister and his cabinet and giving the province’s administration in the hands of the governor. With only a few weeks remaining for the dissolution of the national and provincial legislatures, the governor’s rule in Balochistan seems a fate accompli particularly when almost all segments of society seem content with the federation’s decision. The province’s lawmakers must also reconcile themselves with what has come out because of their own recklessness to the extent of compromising with, rather abetting in, crimes against the people. They must know that governor’s rule was imposed after a consensus that involved all the political parties and nobody throughout the country would support their agitation. They have demonstrated a gross political misconduct and can, therefore, only blame themselves for the outcome.