Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cuban leader Raul Castro says he will retire in 2018
Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Sunday he will step down from power after his second term ends in 2018, and the new parliament named a 52-year-old rising star to become his first vice president and most visible successor. "This will be my last term," Castro, 81, said shortly after the National Assembly elected him to a second five-year term. In a surprise move, the new parliament also named Miguel Diaz-Canel as first vice president, meaning he would take over if Castro cannot serve his full term. Diaz-Canel is a member of the political bureau who rose through the Communist Party ranks in the provinces to become the most visible possible successor to Castro. Raul Castro starts his second term immediately, leaving him free to retire in 2018, aged 86. Former President Fidel Castro joined the National Assembly meeting on Sunday, in a rare public appearance. Since falling ill in 2006 and ceding the presidency to his brother, the elder Castro, 86, has given up official positions except as a deputy in the National Assembly. The new government will almost certainly be the last headed up by the Castro brothers and their generation of leaders who have ruled Cuba since they swept down from the mountains in the 1959 revolution. Cubans and foreign governments were keenly watching whether any new, younger faces appeared among the Council of State members, in particular its first vice president and five vice presidents. Their hopes were partially fulfilled with Diaz-Canel's ascension. He replaces former first vice president, Jose Machado Ventura, 82, who will continue as one of five vice presidents. Commander of the Revolution Ramiro Valdes, 80, and Gladys Bejerano, 66, the comptroller general, were also re-elected as vice presidents. Two other newcomers, Mercedes Lopez Acea, 48, first secretary of the Havana communist party, and Salvador Valdes Mesa, 64, head of the official labor federation, also earned vice presidential slots. Esteban Lazo, a 68-year-old former vice president and member of the political bureau of the Communist Party, left his post upon being named president of the National Assembly on Sunday. He replaced Ricardo Alarcon, who served in the job for 20 years. Six of the Council's top seven members sit on the party's political bureau which is also lead by Castro. The National Assembly meets for just a few weeks each year and delegates its legislative powers between sessions to the 31-member Council of State, which also functions as the executive through the Council of Ministers it appoints. Eighty percent of the 612 deputies, who were elected in an uncontested vote February 3, were born after the revolution. EFFORT TO PROMOTE YOUNGER GENERATION Raul Castro, who officially replaced his ailing brother as president in 2008, has repeatedly said senior leaders should hold office for no more than two five-year terms. "Although we kept on trying to promote young people to senior positions, life proved that we did not always make the best choice," Castro said at a Communist Party Congress in 2011. "Today, we are faced with the consequences of not having a reserve of well-trained replacements ... It's really embarrassing that we have not solved this problem in more than half a century." Speaking on Sunday, Castro hailed the composition of the new Council of State as an example of what he had said needed to be accomplished. "Of the 31 members, 41.9 percent are women and 38.6 percent are black or of mixed race. The average age is 57 years and 61.3 percent were born after the triumph of the revolution," he said. The 2011 party summit adopted a more than 300-point plan aimed at updating Cuba's Soviet-style economic system, designed to transform it from one based on collective production and consumption to one where individual effort and reward play a far more important role. Across-the-board subsidies are being replaced by a comprehensive tax code and targeted welfare. Raul Castro has encouraged small businesses and cooperatives in retail services, farming, minor manufacturing and retail, and given more autonomy to state companies which still dominate the economy. The party plan also includes an opening to more foreign investment. At the same time, Cuba continues to face a U.S. administration bent on restoring democracy and capitalism to the island and questions about the future largess of oil rich Venezuela with strategic ally Hugo Chavez battling cancer.

Pakistan PM says Islamabad resolved to go ahead with Iran gas plan

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Sunday that Islamabad is keen to go ahead with the proposed gas pipeline project with Iran in order to overcome its energy crisis. Talking to journalists at the Government College, Hyderabad, during a visit to his alma mater, he said, “Pakistan is facing a serious energy crisis and we want to end it as soon as possible.” He, however, avoided commenting specifically on a statement by a U.S. State Department spokeswoman warning Pakistan of sanctions if it went ahead with the Iran gas pipeline project. “We believe there are better, more secure and more efficient ways for Pakistan to get its power. We’ve made clear to countries around the world, including Pakistan, that we believe it’s in their interest to avoid activities that could be prohibited by UN sanctions or that could be ‘sanctionable’ under U.S. law,” the spokeswoman had warned Islamabad on Friday. The prime minister said the energy crisis had become a big burden on the national economy. He said everyone knew that India had been part of the project in the past.

Zardari to finalise gas pipeline deal in Tehran

The Express Tribune
Despite mounting US pressure, President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to travel to Tehran this week to finalise a multibillion dollar gas pipeline deal, officials revealed on Sunday. Under the agreement, Iran would offer a loan of $500 million to Pakistan for the construction of a gas pipeline on its side of the border. However, the project has run into trouble due to an absence of investors fearing economic sanctions by the United States. A foreign ministry official confirmed to The Express Tribune that President Zardari will begin a two-day visit to Iran on Tuesday to finalise the much-anticipated deal.The official, requesting anonymity, disclosed that Washington was pushing hard to convince Islamabad to abandon the project. “But we feel that the project is important for our future energy needs and we will pursue it at all costs,” he added. Meanwhile, at his weekly briefing on Thursday, the foreign ministry spokesperson rejected reports of US pressure insisting that the Iran-Pakistan (I-P) gas pipeline project was “enormously important” for Pakistan. “We are an energy deficient country. It is in our national interest to have this project,” Moazzam Ali Khan asserted. Not only would President Zardari sign a deal on the I-P project, Iran will also set up an oil refinery in Gwadar, Balochistan, it was revealed. And both the formal agreements would be inked between leaders of the two countries during the president’s upcoming visit to Tehran. The $4 billion refinery is slated to be constructed in the port city of Gwadar with an estimated capacity of about 400,000 barrels per day. The proposed cooperation between Islamabad and Tehran is likely to invite more pressure from Washington, sources say. The US State Department said on Saturday that there were better options available for Pakistan than the I-P project to meet the country’s growing energy demands. But, Pakistan so far resisted the pressure and has decided to go ahead with the project. Last week, the Iranian oil minister visited Islamabad and said Tehran would start supplying natural gas to Pakistan by December 2014.

Babra Sharif IN Pakistani Movies

Remembering Mehnaz Begum

Mehnaz Begum (1958 - 2013) was born in karachi to the celebrated subcontinental singer Kajjan Begum. She was trained under her mother in music and sang a variety of genres, including ghazal, thumri, dadra and geet. She also sang for films in the 70s and 80s. She died at Bahrain Airport January 19, 2013 while traveling from Karachi to Miami, where she was going for medical treatment.She was 55. She sung over 2,500 songs for the radio‚ television and films which is the second largest after that of Malika-e-Taranum Madam Noor Jehan’s. Her widely acclaimed ghazals included “Ab Kay Tajdeed-e-Wafa Ka Nahi Imkaan” and “Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana”. She was so versatile that she even made her mark on khayal, dadra and drupad singing. Mehnaz also recited salam, noha and marsiya. Introduced by Salim Gilani, Mehnaz made her debut on Radio Pakistan in 1973. The same year, Ameer Imam, a Karachi television producer, signed her for a musical programme ‘Naghmazaar’ bringing her to television audience. Her most popular songs are from ‘Aina’ and ‘Bandish’. In 1981, Mehnaz toured the US and Canada, where she sang for large audiences in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto. Three years later, she visited the United Kingdom and captivated a large audience with her magical voice.In his condolence message, the president Zardari lauded the invaluable contributions of Mehnaz Begum in the field of music and said that in her demise, the music industry has lost a great asset. He said that her melodious voice would be remembered for long. Expressing sympathies with the bereaved family and her millions of fans, he prayed to the Almighty to grant eternal peace to the departed soul and to give courage to the bereaved family to bear this loss with fortitude.

Afghan forces 'are just like criminals'

Murder, sexual abuse, drugs and extortion revealed in Panorama investigation
Shocking revelations of murder, sexual abuse of young boys, unarmed civilians being shot at, police officers high on drugs, and routine kidnaps and extortion are exposing the true state of Afghanistan's security forces in Helmand province. An investigation has revealed how Afghan forces running bases that British soldiers fought to secure are barely able to function – let alone pose a challenge to the Taliban. More than 100 British soldiers lost their lives in Sangin before handing over to the Americans in 2010. Foreign troops are due to leave their combat role in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 – passing security to the Afghan government. But the despair of the US marines advising Afghan forces is laid bare in scenes being broadcast on BBC1's Panorama tomorrow evening. It reveals how three boys were shot dead escaping from police commanders who were sexually abusing them. Major Bill Steuber meets the deputy police chief, who claims the children want to stay at the bases and "give their bodies at night". Eventually he agrees to take action, but the operation to rescue the other "chai boys" used as sex slaves does not happen. Major Steuber angrily gestures to a nearby Afghan patrol base commander :"who we know is kidnapping boys and sexually molesting them, robbing the people. He treats the people of Sangin like a piggy bank that he can just shake and rob and, you know, that's really difficult, you know. How do you work with a guy like that?" Ben Anderson, the reporter embedded with the US marines, has been visiting Afghanistan since 2007 and said: "The police are behaving like the worst criminals imaginable." He added: "Even going out there with very low expectations I was still shocked at how widespread the abuse is and how it's not really being tackled." Reacting to the investigation, Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, cautioned that Afghan forces "will not be ready to take on the insurgency alone when coalition forces leave. Instead many areas of the country will suffer brutality, abuse and corruption as well as surreptitious collusion with insurgents." Afghan forces are seen under the influence of drugs, indiscriminately firing into the air without regard for civilians, and US soldiers discover four men kidnapped by police and used to barter with the Taliban. The scenes are in stark contrast to the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond's assurances during a visit to Helmand earlier this month that transition is "on track" and that the Afghans "will be able to maintain security as the Isaf draw down." A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said in a statement: "We are unable to comment on the specific incidents raised by Panorama" and insisted the Afghan security forces are a "professional and capable force" in the "vast majority of cases" but admitted "real challenges remain across Afghanistan, including proper adherence to the rule of law and respecting human rights".

Violence continues to shake Pakistan's Lyari town

Afghanistan's first female mayor proves critics wrong

Azra Jafari has won respect in her community as she fights to improve lives and change attitudes towards women
When Azra Jafari became mayor of Nili, she knew that the impoverished and remote Afghan town desperately needed roads and investment. She was aware that she would be living in very basic conditions, on a meagre salary of $76 (£50) a month, and that taking care of a four-year-old daughter at the same time would be challenging. What she was less prepared for was the appearance of a powerful mullah in her unheated, makeshift office, wagging his finger at her, warning that Nili was not about to accept a female mayor who thought she could "exploit her femininity in order to complete a few projects and influence our women". "After three months, the same man came up to me and thanked me," Jafari recalled, four years later. "He said, 'If a man could do just half of what you've done here, our province will surely flourish'. He now supports me and we work very well together – I have a great deal of respect for him." She is now referred to as "Mr Mayor" by her community, a title that conveys respect in a country not known for women's rights. Until 2009, Nili – a small town of about 40,000 people at the centre of Daykundi province – had never seen a female official, said Jafari. She had to prove to the community that she was serious about improving their lives. Jafari was shocked by the complete lack of infrastructure in the town. "Anything that needed to be built in Nili, had to be built from scratch," she said. "And I had no budget" – something she had to address by making regular trips to Kabul to implore ministry officials to release funds. "When I arrived, my office had been damaged by snowfall. It was a small room, with a few pillows. There was no table, no chairs. Just a couple of people there to help me," Jafari said. "Wherever it was necessary I picked up a shovel, kicked dirt, and gathered coal with my hands. Nili is not the sort of town where you can easily drive a car. I often had to walk from place to place through deep snow, getting my feet soaking wet." The 34-year-old cannot be further from the image of the downtrodden victim that has become a misleading shorthand for Afghan womanhood. Nor is she connected to a powerful or wealthy family, and she fiercely rejects the suggestion that her promotion was an exercise in tokenism by a government under pressure from its western financiers to show it is bettering women's rights. "If our friends in the international community really made me mayor because I am a woman then they would have paid for the roads I built. Unfortunately they have contributed very little to the changes in Daykundi," she said. Jafari also does not hold back on the subject of how severely women in office in Afghanistan are judged, likening it to having one's decisions and behaviour placed under a magnifying glass. "There are plenty of men here with no ambition to work, who are bad at their jobs and over whom a lot of money has been wasted. Because they are men, no one really questions them and asks 'as a man, how successful have you managed to be?' But as the only female mayor among 180 others, the first question I'm always asked, wherever I am, is 'show us what you've done for your people'." Jafari, who is married to an Afghan film-maker, is currently the subject of a documentary series called Kabul: A City at Work, a sequel to Kabul at Work, which seeks to show ordinary, working Afghans doing extraordinary things at a time of war. "Mr Mayor" grew up in Ghor province, which borders Daykundi to the west. Like Daykundi, Ghor's population is poor and mainly Shia Hazara. Jafari says that her familiarity with the people and their needs is what partly drew her to the job in Nili. Daykundi has virtually no western troops. It was carved out of inhospitable, mountainous terrain in the centre of Afghanistan in 2004, hugged by the much more restive provinces of Ghazni, Uruzgan and Helmand. It takes Jafari and her daughter, Indira, two days to drive to Nili from Kabul. It is a perilous journey on poorly paved roads. It becomes a death trap during winter's heavy snowfall. Two days after this interview, Jafari telephoned from Nili to explain that say the small coach she had been travelling in, along with her daughter and 13 other passengers, had overturned and almost careered 1,600ft towards a riverbed below. "The windows were shattered. Thank God we were OK," she said, adding that she had suffered a sprained neck and her daughter had cut her finger on some glass. "But she couldn't stop shaking for half an hour afterwards." Bad weather and heart-stopping bus journeys are one risk. The other is the war being waged between Afghan and foreign forces and insurgents. Jafari's commute often takes her through the insurgent-filled province of Maidan Wardak. "Last year we were caught in a gunfight between Afghan forces and insurgents for three hours. We couldn't move." And violence is slowly encroaching on Nili itself. Daykundi has long been known as one of the least dangerous and most isolated provinces in Afghanistan. But the Taliban are making increasingly bold moves on Nili, advancing from a district called Gizab, on the border with Uruzgan and technically under that province's jurisdiction. For many years, it was the very lack of an insurgency that starved Daykundi of adequate attention from foreign donors. Now, Jafari says, that argument is running on borrowed time. Between 2001 and 2011 the US government's development agency, USAid, spent $37m (£24.4m) on projects in Daykundi province, which has a population of just over 400,000 but no Nato-backed provincial reconstruction team (PRT). By contrast, the more dangerous Uruzgan province, which borders Daykundi to its south and is home to 100,000 fewer civilians, received almost twice as much aid over the same period and hosts a PRT. Like thousands of Afghans, Jafari fled the civil war in the early 1990s, taking refuge in Iran, where she ran a school for Afghan refugee children. She moved back to Afghanistan in September 2001 to take part in a peace jirga (a tribal assembly of elders) as the fall of the Taliban became imminent. She has also published two books, one entitled I am a Working Woman, which she wrote specifically for women with low levels of literacy. When we met, Jafari was dressed in a fitted, beige, knee-length tunic, buttoned down the front, and worn over trousers. Her hair was neatly covered with a black shawl splashed with bright colours and loosely wrapped around her neck. It is a typical Kabul look, but perhaps seen as less acceptable in a much more conservative and rural place such as Nili. "I like to dress formally," she explained. "This means clothes tend to be more fitted and a bit tighter, but this is the way formal, professional people dress. Not traditional loose, wide clothing, and people need to accept this." She has never changed what she wears, even in the face of criticism and gossip, as she sees it as part of her job to change mindsets and to encourage people to understand that the way someone dresses has no bearing on who they are or their ability to get a job done properly. "What I've really learned is that it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman, what matters is that you do your work properly and you work hard and how seriously you take your responsibilities," she said. As Afghanistan's first and only female mayor Jafari is determined to make her mark not just on infrastructure, but on people's attitudes towards women. She feels strongly that since being in Nili, she has influenced the way younger women think for the better. She says one day she may angle for the top job in Afghan government, but she would like to become a member of parliament first, before reaching for the presidential palace. "I'm like a template for women," she said. The morning after the interview, Jafari set off, with Indira in tow, on their long and dangerous journey to Nili.

PAKISTAN: Shia genocide -- What exactly is preventing the military and the judiciary from performing their duties against militancy?
After hearing the accusations of covert and overt support for sectarian terrorism and the terrorists the state institutions, like the judiciary and the army are trying to clarify their positions. There is of course, the involvement of the civilian set up that, after a total of 32 years of collision between the army and the judiciary, succeeded in coming to power. The Supreme Court has started hearing the cases of the genocide of the Hazara Shias to determine the cause of the killings after a demand from a budding politician, Imran Khan, who is well known for his relationship with the former chief of ISI, the notorious intelligence agency.The Chief Justice, Iftekhar Choudhry, during the hearing, has placed the sole responsibility for the genocide at the feet of the prime minister and the governor of Balochistan province thereby relieving the military, Frontier Corps (FC) and intelligence agencies who are, in fact virtually ruling the province of any blame. The CJ also kept the reports of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and FC confidential and their contents were not divulged as he said that he did not want to demoralize 'anyone'. On the other hand the military has come out with a clarification and denounced its involvement in supporting the religious terrorist organizations. The chief of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Bajwa, claimed that during the last four months the ISI has conducted 130 operations, but in the same breath he said that military has not been stationed in Balochistan province since 2008. He disassociated the military from the carnage of Quetta. The statement of the spokespersons of the military is actually a confession as to how military intelligence is operating independently as even the Supreme Court was not informed about its activities in the province when the CJ asked the Secretary of Defence to submit a statement about the killings in Balochistan. Even the civilian authorities did not know that so many operations were being carried out in within 120 days which means that more than one operation was conducted in any one single day. The military has also not bothered to mention as to who the targets of the operations were; whether they were against the local population or against sectarian terrorists? Were those operations were against the Islamic militants or to establish them in Balochistan to create another province which would fall into the hands of banned militant organisations? Has just one single militant network been destroyed? Have any militants been arrested? Indeed, one crucial question is: why there were the attacks against Hazaras successful without any loss to militants. It is no doubt that the ISI are operating freely in the province without any legal authority against the Baloch nationalists who are secularly free from any religious hate, fighting for the cause of simple autonomy for Balochistan whose resources were always usurped by the military and its forces through their operations. The abductions, extrajudicial killings and the dumping of bodies of Baloch people after arrest have never stopped. The peculiarity of the military and its intelligence agencies is that they do not like any secular or democratic movement and that is why the most democratic section of the population is under attack from military agencies. It is also no longer a secret that when General Head Quarter (GHQ) of the Pakistan army was attacked in 2010 all the leaders of the sectarian groups and militant organisations were loaded onto a military plane and given a red carpet welcome in the GHQ for negotiations. Among them was also Malik Ishaq, the commander of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) who always claims responsibility for attacks on the Shias and Hazaras. After the successful discussions at GHQ Malik Ishaq, was awarded and the Supreme Court was requested to release him unconditionally -- the Supreme Court followed the request from the old masters and he was released in July 2011. What is known is the fact that before his release he announced very proudly that he has killed more than 100 Shias and also managed the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team from inside his prison cell. The spokesperson has not clarified as to why two notorious killers of the Shias, Usman Kurd and Daud Badini were allowed to escape from the Anti Terror Jail in 2008 which was situated in the military cantonment of the Quetta, the capital of the province. Nor has he explained what actions have been taken against the officials of the military cantonment. The Supreme Court has yet not taken action against the escape of the killers who are in the city and declaring they will never be caught again. There are many doubts about the Sou Moto action of the Supreme Court on the killings of Hazaras Shia on February 16. The action of the SC will not yield any result as no results have ever been witnessed in such Sou Moto actions. It is rather for the consumption of the galleries. The role of the judiciary is also being discussed in the media about the release of militants just on the excuse of want of evidence. The militants know better how to deal with judiciary and that is why judiciary is spared of any rebound from the militants. The judiciary and military know full well that if there would be fair inquiry then their role is certain to be discussed and their collusion exposed. Therefore it is wiser to hide their crimes and act quickly to put all the blame on the civilians. This explains as to why the reports of the intelligence agencies are kept secret by the Supreme Court in an effort to save their old masters and the judges themselves for not following the law in order to save their countrymen from acts of terrorism. What exactly is it that is preventing the military and the judiciary from destroying the militants? The only possible explanation is that there is a hidden agenda with regard to terrorists and religious extremism which the military and the judiciary are keeping to themselves. Blaming the civilians is not the answer as the responsibility for safeguarding the security of the public lies with the military and the judiciary as well. This responsibility is non-transferable. All institutions of the government have to fight against this malaise that is pulling the country down to the level where the people live and die at the whim of the terrorists. The blame game between the institutions is not going to resolve this problem and the only people who are winning are the militants.

Afghan President Karzai ends U.S. Special Forces operations in key province

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday ordered all U.S. Special Forces to leave a strategically important province in two weeks, alleging that they have been involved in the torture and murder of “innocent people.” A presidential office statement that followed a meeting of Afghanistan’s National Security Council also said Special Forces operations had to stop immediately in Wardak province west of Kabul, a hub counterinsurgency operations. The action comes after Karzai last week banned his forcesfrom calling in NATO airstrikes in populated areas, citing civilian casualties. The announcement also is playing out as the White House and NATO leaders ponder their troop commitments to Afghanistan after the coalition finishes its combat mission here at the end of 2014. A statement from the U.S.-led coalition forces here said abuse allegations were taken seriously, adding, “This is an important issue that we must discuss with our Afghan counterparts.” Karzai’s blunt statement did not provide specific evidence or mention any judicial determinations. “After a thorough discussion, it became clear that armed individuals named as U.S. special force[s] stationed in Wardak province engage in harassing, annoying, torturing and even murdering innocent people,” the statement said. “A recent example in the province is an incident in which nine people were disappeared in an operation by this suspicious force and in a separate incident a student was taken away at night from his home, whose tortured body with throat cut was found two days later under a bridge.” The statement, noted, however, that “Americans reject having conducted any such operation and any involvement of their special force.” At a news conference, Karzai spokesman Amal Faizi sought to clarify the statement, saying the abuse allegations were connected to Afghans working “within these Special Forces groups.” “Those Afghans in these armed groups who are working with the U.S. Special Forces, the defense minister asked for an explanation of who they are,” Faizi said. “Those individuals should be handed over to the Afghan side so that we can further investigate.” U.S. Special Forces are partnered in some parts of the country with the Afghan Local Police, but it was not immediately clear which Afghan units were involved in the alleged incidents.

Sherry Rehman awarded US Smith College Medal

Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman has been awarded the prestigious US Smith College Medal for her extraordinary achievements and outstanding dedication to the rights of women. Ambassador Rehman‚ who graduated in 1985 from the institution‚ joined five other alumnae who are now outstanding professionals and are also receiving the medal. Established in 1962‚ the Smith College Medal is given annually to those alumnae who‚ in the judgment of the trustees‚ exemplify in their lives and work the true purpose of a liberal arts education. Sharing her views on the occasion from her experience as a journalist and parliamentarian‚ Sherry Rehman emphasized that the outstanding people must focus on building institutions to ensure success of their efforts. Ambassador Rehman urged the women of Pakistan to devote their efforts towards their own well being and development, realizing their importance

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has safe havens in Punjab

Daily Times
Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday said Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) had safe havens in Punjab. The Punjab government should take action against the criminals of the banned outfit, he told reporters at a ceremony at Police Lines. The interior minister said Pakistan will soon request the Interpol for repatriation of Tehrik-e-Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir from Afghanistan. Maulvi Faqir was arrested by the Afghan forces from border area a few days ago. Malik said that Maulvi Faqir was involved in a series of terror attacks in the country. “We want his deportation to Pakistan so that action can be initiated against him in accordance with the law,” he added. Replying to a question about Taliban’s dialogue offer, Malik said first they (Taliban) should demonstrate seriousness for talks by surrendering their arms. The minister said law and order was a provincial subject, therefore, provincial governments were responsible to maintain that. He appreciated the country’s intelligence agencies for providing complete and correct information about terrorists and hoped the masses would soon get rid of terrorism.

Dally-dallying in Sindh politics
Hardly a month before the fresh elections, the MQM made a tactic move of parting ways with the Pakistan People’s Party. The move enabled the former coalition partners—MQM & PPP—to grab the two important slots of the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly. The separation, analysts believe, was scripted to maintain a firm grip on the provincial politics with ‘both hands’, avoiding the involvement of any other political party from the interior Sindh. But the situation has become a harsh reality. The MQM decision to part ways and sit on the Opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly provided a good opportunity to the PPP to soothe frustration and bitter feelings prevailing in the interior Sindh, which is considered to be the hub of the PPP. The rulers pounced at the opportunity to reverse the controversial ‘Sindh People’s Local Government Act, 2012—an act the people from the interior Sindh earlier resisted. Obviously, the MQM is annoyed and its anger that has gone unnoticed. On Friday Acting Governor Sindh, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro signed the Sindh Local Government Ordinance (SLGO), 1979, said to be with the governor’s assent, restoring the old Commissionerate System throughout the province. Interestingly, this time around, the MQM in the National Assembly blamed the Pakistan People’s Party for creating a gulf between Urban and Rural population, saying all those living in Sindh are brothers to one another, the PPP had indulged in ethnic based politics. The MQM MNA Asif Husnain praised the Musharraf-made local government system protected under the Article 184 of the Constitution though the MQM criminally ignored the execution of the said article with the help of its coalition partner PPP for nearly five years. Though needless to remind yet it is pertinent to mention here that the PPP-MQM coalition partners, through the Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance 2012, played a dangerous game of dividing the province to serve their political interests; the MQM wanted to maintain its hold on Karachi and Hyderabad, leaving the interior Sindh comprising 18 districts under the Commissionerate System for the PPP to cash in on Bhutto sentiments existing there. In the process, discontent and reservations of the opposition parties left unaccounted for. Now the U-turn taken by the clever PPP leadership has left the MQM sulking. If the PPP sticks to its decision it may dent the MQM dominance in the forthcoming elections. The PPP government is known for follies and retreats who knows what they have in store to appease the MQM. It would be a little wonder if PPP undertakes another summersault to bring the SPLGO 2012 one way or the other. Until then the MQM must be having sleepless nights for losing the leverage that it extracted with the introduction of the SPLGO 2012. The reintroduction of the Local Bodies Act 1979 has, to a larger extent, given the political advantage back to the PPP that won a majority in the Sindh in the previous election. For the time being, the PPP has saved itself from brunt of the Sindh nationalists under the leadership of Pir Pagaro in the interior Sindh. The latest move has stemmed anti-PPP tide yet all is not well. The people do understand the political intent of both the parties, and given the services the coalition government delivered to the people of Sindh , the PPP-backed candidates will come under the hammering in the next election from anti-PPP lobby banking on third option—be it is Imran Khan or Nawaz Sharif—has been taken out. At least, Zardari can no longer be labeled as ant-Sindh ruler. Lethargic PPP rule in last five years and interest-based policy-making by the regime particularly dally-dallying between the PPP and the MQM is a cruel joke to the people of Sindh. The MQM’s sole walk-out from the National Assembly, if at all is an indication, reflects that the party stands isolated. No other member of the House bothered to come to the MQM rescue rather its protest was given cold shoulder hence the chances are the MQM from hereon is going to take a solo flight in the up and coming elections until PML-N or Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf undergoes a change of heart to extend olive branch to the MQM. Otherwise, Karachi turf suits the PPP to swing the situation around to its advantage. However, MQM leader and Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad has gone off to London to seek fresh guidance from his chief on the emerging political scenario that looks difficult for the MQM to control restive Karachi on its own. He may have a surprise to spring when he comes.

Pakistan proposes new vision for ties with US

Radio Pakistan
Pakistan's ambassador to Washington says Pakistan wants to help the United States in managing a smooth and responsible transition in Afghanistan.Pakistan has proposed new vision for the ties with the United States. Pakistan's ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman in her speech at Harvard University said it has set out ten-point course of action in this regard. She said the envisaged regional policy would help bring stability and prosperity to the region if the US plays its part. The Ambassador reiterated Pakistan's full support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. She said that Pakistan will support all roadmaps for a negotiated settlement of the Afghan war. Sherry Rehman said that Pakistan wants to help the United States in managing a smooth and responsible transition in Afghanistan.