Friday, March 15, 2013

Islamofascists of Jamat Islami initiate blasphemy case against a university teacher in Multan

A blasphemy case is registered against visiting faculty member of BZU , Multan on basis of his comments on social media website . According to news report student wing of jamat islami started a campaign against a faculty member on basis of his comment of social media website . Its unfortunate that state turns a blind eye to militant organization hate speech and naked threat against non muslim paksitanis and also Shias and Ahmedia muslim but collected adequate digital evidence of blasphemy against accused in no time .
With Thanks : South Punjab News Blasphemer university teacher sent to jail MULTAN,March 14th: A visiting teacher, Junaid Hafeez of English department in Bahauddin Zikiriya University Multan was sent to prison on judicial remand by a local Magistrate Kashif Rasheed, Court official said.Regional Police Officer Aamer Zulfikar said,” we have arrested the teacher from Lahore and took him back to Multan and we have registered a case against him under section 295- B and 295-C PPC and a four member committee headed by SP(City) Naeem-ul-Hassan Babur investigated the case and he was found guilty of blasphemy and denying the presence of Almighty Allah.Junaid Hafeez made off on Wednesday when enraged students staged a demonstration against him and shouted slogans. Heavy Policecontingent was deployed in the University which controlled the situation.Vice Chancellor Syed Alqama said,”we have terminated his contract as visiting teacher and got vacated the room in the hostel.,” Regional Police Officer Aamer Zulfikar said,” we have recorded the statements of the students of english department and they had also produced documentary proofs against him.The students of English department told newsmen that Junaid Hafeez was using derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Almighty Allah.They had lodged a number of complaints to the Universityadministration but no action was taken.Consequently they staged a demonstration in the campus to raise voice against blasphemy.

Bill Clinton: Educating Underserved Girls Is 'Deeply Human Drama' Of This Century

Summoning personal experiences and heartfelt sentiments about education, Bill Clinton delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Global Education and Skills Forum Friday in Dubai. Clinton's speech wound down the second day of the conference, which focuses on public-private partnerships as a means of improving education equity for some 139 million children who miss out on school worldwide. The former president recalled a time when being a "good citizen" meant simply working hard, being informed and voting. "Today, that is not enough. We have to create a world with more shared prosperity and more shared responsibility," he said. The founder of Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation cited the fact that by 2050, it's projected that 86 percent of children will be living in developing countries. "There is no way that governments alone or international aid flows alone will be able to provide those children with the quality of education they need to be full participants in society," he said in his address. He urged these partnerships to ramp up efforts as the primary pathway to educating girls, consequently lifting a country's economic status and lowering birth rates to a sustainable level.The former president also said empowering girls through education is an issue that has gained impassioned support globally -- and notably by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton. Educating underserved girls and women is a "deeply human drama that will play out in 21st century," he said. As part of an exclusive partnership, Clinton also took questions from HuffPost readers via Twitter, citing examples of education partnerships that have been a success. Other global leaders including Tony Blair and the Vice President of South Sudan are meeting at the forum March 14-17 to discuss gender inequity and other education issues such as new and disruptive technologies. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke Thursday at the forum, also urging governments “not to be afraid to experiment. The problem with government is that they become risk averse so I would certainly look at public private partnerships.” The Global Education and Skills Forum is in partnership with organizations including UNESCO, the UAE Ministry of Education and the Varkey GEMS Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers underserved children for which Clinton is honorary chairman.

Despite tension, India eyes trade with Pakistan

Associated Press
Despite a spike in tensions between South Asia's nuclear rivals, India's ambassador said Friday her country wants closer trade ties with Pakistan. Nirupama Rao, New Delhi's envoy to Washington, also said that overland trade from war-battered Afghanistan to India via Pakistan would be a boon to regional stability. Her comments at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank come despite a fraying in relations that had recently improved between the nuclear rivals and was driven by the mutual benefit they can get from more commerce. In a reminder of the core issues that divide them, India this week accused Pakistan of involvement in a militant attack in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory they both claim and over which they fought two wars. On Thursday, Pakistan's parliament condemned India's hanging of a Kashmiri man convicted in a terror attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan. The condemnation drew an angry reaction from India. Rao did not directly address the current tensions but said whatever their differences, India and Pakistan cannot ignore the fact they are close neighbors. She said it was "very encouraging" that Pakistani businessmen in particular have a great desire to open trade with India. Much of the current trade goes through third-countries or illegal channels. Pakistan announced in late 2011 that it would grant India most-favored-nation trade status, which would reduce tariffs on Indian goods coming into the country. That step was seen as significant as it signaled support from Pakistan's powerful army for more trade as the troubled nation's economy stutters. Last September, the two countries signed a visa agreement to ease travel by businesspeople and tourists. "Pakistan has assured us that it's going to provide MFN status to India. We are waiting for that decision to be announced formally and implemented. That will certainly boost confidence and clear the way for closer trade ties," Rao said. The ambassador also made a pitch for the prospect of more trade from Afghanistan, which has been a source of dispute as India and Pakistan vie for influence in the region. Rao said Afghanistan is a potential trade hub linking Central and South Asia. "We have to insure Afghanistan can fulfill that role for its own stability and well-being and our well-being in the region. Transit and trade for Afghanistan through Pakistan into India is important in that context," she said. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated strong U.S. support Friday for dialogue between India and Pakistan. She said they have made good strides on economic cooperation and on visas. "We want it to continue and be expanded to security concerns they have with each other," Nuland told a news briefing.

Kishanganga award an achievement, says Pakistan

The Hindu
Pakistan on Friday claimed that the partial award of The Hague-based Court of Arbitration in the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant dispute had corrected the “travesty of justice” done by the decision of the neutral expert in the Baglihar case, and restored the efficacy of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). Briefing journalists here on the February 18 partial award, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Water Resources Kamal Majidullah said the 2007 verdict of the neutral expert on the Baglihar project had turned the IWT on its head. Pakistan did not challenge the verdict because the Treaty did not allow questioning the neutral expert’s decision. Consequently, Pakistan is billing the partial award as an achievement as it “brings to an end India’s reliance on an erroneous and inconclusive decision [on Baglihar] which had put to question the efficacy of the Treaty.” With India using the neutral expert’s decision as a precedent and basis for designing new hydroelectric plants, Pakistan’s contention was that the expert’s decision was not within the parameters defined by the IWT and harmed its rights under the Treaty. The partial award, according to Mr. Majidullah, provides an important safeguard for Pakistan’s right to uninterrupted water flows of the western rivers. “Without this determination our right would have been seriously compromised giving complete control to India of the Western rivers given to Pakistan (and Azad Jammu & Kashmir in the Neelum Valley).” The Court of Arbitration’s clear interpretation prohibiting India from lowering the reservoir levels below the Dead Storage Level also provides Pakistan “strong grounds for challenging India’s conventional low-level orifice spillways in the design for sediment management and reservoir maintenance purposes,” he added. On the partial award, Pakistan’s interpretation is that India will not be permitted to divert waters as it deems fit nor permanently deny Pakistan water in lean months “which in lean years could stretch to 10 months.” The court will put in place a minimum flow regime to which India must adhere and Pakistan expects the final award to outline a monitoring process. With regard to the court acknowledging that the IWT gives India the right to construct run-of-the-river power plants on the Western rivers, Mr. Majidullah said the court was also well aware that this right was subservient to Pakistan’s primary right over these waters. “It is our belief that in order to give a fair and just decision affecting the flow of water in the Neelum river and its long-term consequences on the validity of the Treaty, the rights of the lower riparians to ensure eternal progress from this source, the court has delayed a final decision on what would be a permanent apportionment of the Neelum River’s waters.” The final decision is expected in December before which both countries have been asked to submit flow data by June.

Complications, not solutions, push Syrian crisis into third year

As the Syrian crisis literally enters its third year on Friday, the salient feature of the current situation on ground is a combination of political and military stalemate, economic squeeze and social problems with no concrete solutions in sight. For many Syrians, the crisis is getting deeper and may move toward fragmentation. While some draw an even dimmer picture, saying Syria is more likely descending into the abyss akin to what had happened in Lebanon during its 15-year-old civil war in the 1980s.
Politically, neither side of the conflict is willing to show leniency. Instead, they stick to their respective conditions for any political solution. The Syrian government has called for an unconditional national dialogue, and refused the opposition's demand that dialogue would start only after the departure of President Bashar al-Assad. Over the past two years, dozens of meetings have been held in regional and European countries under the sponsorship of big powers to work out a palatable formula to end the crisis. But practically, none of them has achieved any breakthrough. Most recently, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the European Union (EU) had lately worked on the idea to prepare a list with the names of Syrian officials who are acceptable by the National Syrian Coalition to start dialogue with. However, the spokesman of the coalition, Walid al-Bunni, disdained the idea of talking with Damascus representatives "so long as the dialogue would start after Assad's departure." As their efforts stalled on finding a solution to protect civilians caught in the crossfire of the Syrian conflict, some Western countries are getting to be afraid of extremism that is believed to be on the rise in Syria. Al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for dozens of suicide attacks inside Syria that had claimed the lives of numerous innocent civilians, while the infiltration of Jihadists, reportedly hailing from many countries to fight alongside the Syrian rebels, only put people's nerves on edge. France and the United States have intensified efforts to cooperate with Russia to achieve a political solution to the Syrian crisis on the basis of the Geneva Conference that calls for a transitional government and an immediate cessation of violence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recently that what America and the world want is a cessation of killing in Syria, calling on Damascus and the opposition to sit around a negotiation table to "establish a transitional government." Yet, amid the call for peaceful solutions, a stark sign of the West's division can be observed as some keep tarring on arming the rebels to tilt the balance in the fight against Assad's troops. On Thursday, Britain and France said that they would push the EU to lift the arms embargo on Syria so as to be able to provide the rebels with arms.Over the past two years, violent events have left around 70,000 people killed in Syria, according to UN statistics. However, the warmonger rebels, with no plan to rest, got addicted to making hit-and-run guerrilla style attacks on military targets, government institutions as well as daily assaults on residential areas -- some creeping to the heart of Damascus. Their intensified aggressions prompted the army to sometimes respond with strong cracking down operations, which were usually followed by more outrageous acts. The government argues that the country is subject to a conspiracy to disintegrate it and weaken its role in the region that has always been supportive to "resistance" groups like Palestine's Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah. As the military deadlock drags on, Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour recently warned of a global catastrophe once the Syrian situation gets loose, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres also alerted the risk of an explosion in the entire region. Pessimistic prospect was also provided by UN special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who feared that the conditions in Syria might become worse than those in Somalia unless a peaceful solution is reached soon. Observers hold that, a bright solution to the crisis will only be harder, given the possibility of EU's lifting the arms embargo to the Syrian opposition groups, despite the rejection of Russia, Syria's main ally, which has clearly said that financing and arming the Syrian opposition would hinder dialogue and further augment violence in the country. According to the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, sources of the Syrian opposition said they are expecting the arrival of " sophisticated weapons" to their fighters inside Syria. Therefore, a surge in the opposition's attacks and counter-attacks by the government will remain the topic of the Syrian conflict, militarily.
The political crisis has had a devastating influence on Syria's sluggish economy, sharply depreciating its currency that has lost more than 50 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar and sending the prices of foodstuff and all other items to soar. The crisis has also upped inflation whose annual average has officially reached 48 percent, and devoured most of the country's foreign reserves of 18 billion dollars, as unofficial reports say that the reserve had shrunk and stands now at two billion dollars. Moreover, the harsh economic sanctions the EU has slapped Syria with, including an embargo on purchasing or transporting Syrian oil and prohibiting companies from dealing with Syria or investing in it, have triggered off a choking fuel crunch and forced Syrians to queue for hours in front of fuel stations and gas distribution centers. Recent statistics issued by the Arab Economic Report unveiled that Syria's oil reserve stood at around 2.25 billion barrels by the end of 2011, down by 14.7 percent from that of 2010. The report estimated the losses of the Syrian economy until the end of 2012 at about 48.4 billion dollars, equal to 81.7 percent of the 2010 GDP. The total losses also include a 43-percent damage in the capital stock, in addition to seven percent, which represents an increase in military spending as a result of the crisis. Socially, the crisis has displaced people from hotspots parts of the country and exacerbated poverty. The UN estimated that more than one million Syrians have fled the conflict in their country and sought safe haven as refugees in neighboring countries, while over three million were displaced inside Syria. Guterres warned that the number of Syrian refugees might reach four millions by the end of 2013 unless the conflict is brought to an end. A recent study said about 1.5 million Syrians have lost their jobs due to the crisis, adding that jobless rate had broken the record and reached 34.9 percent by the end of 2012, and that most of those who lost their jobs during the crisis were the young.

Ms Parveen Rehman: A saint silenced

EDITORIAL : Daily Times
One of the saddest days in Karachi’s long and bloody history is not one involving the deaths of many but the murder of one very special, very compassionate soul — Ms Parveen Rehman, a social worker who made it her life’s mission to develop impoverished neighbourhoods and to help all those downtrodden people who had been made victims of land grabbing mafias in the port city. As the head of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) — taking over after its founder Akhtar Hameed Khan died — she was a rare light in the darkness that has engulfed Karachi. Looked upon as an ‘elder sister’ by the inhabitants of neglected slums, her death has struck a blow to the cause she was fighting for. That her death has come in such a gruesome manner, where she was gunned down in her car while travelling in the west Orangi area, has struck a hard blow to the people, her friends, family, and the OPP. The police have been amazingly ‘efficient’. Within a few hours they had managed to not just capture the assassin but kill him too. Now, for a police force known as habitually lazy and incompetent, this is shocking. However, the country’s police institution is also known to succumb to pressure and revert to just about any tactic to ease the mounting calls for ‘justice’. Could this be a very convenient police encounter, one that hits two birds with one stone? It is imperative that the authorities and the higher ups in the police force look into the death of the ‘gunman’ and investigate whether he really was who the police say he is. There is plenty of speculation about who was behind the murder. Some reports are labelling this a jihadi attack. If this is true then we must pause to ask what beef the militants have with community development, where citizens are being helped to realise the importance of education, sanitation, healthcare, living standards, etc — basically their rights. The militants are averse to human rights and by eliminating such individuals who promote those very rights they may be creating a void they wish to fill themselves. Some reports indicate land-grabbing groups and this, too, makes sense. By assassinating a voice that spoke out against such groups, the land mafia’s imprint is a possibility. She was a clear target, having received death threats as well. In each case, the reasons and motive behind the attack may be different but the organisation and the cause she belonged to seem to be a connecting factor. A woman who dedicated her life to help the poor and defenceless, cannot be allowed to die in silence. Her death must be investigated and the culprits and their agendas must be brought to light. Otherwise, she will remain a mere statistic.

A growing divide in Saudi Arabia between rulers, ruled

By Karen Elliott House
The 10-year prison sentences a Saudi court handed down last weekend are more significant than the sad fate of two moderate political activists who persisted in calling for a constitutional monarchy and respect for human rights. The saga is a microcosm of the political dilemma facing the House of Saud and, by extension, a challenge to U.S. policy, which from one administration to the next supports the regime while remaining silent about Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. The two dissidents, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid, were accused of, among other things, sedition, providing inaccurate information to the foreign media and founding an unlicensed human rights organization, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (known as ACPRA). Saudi Arabia permits no civil society or political organizations. But Qahtani, a chubby, cherub-faced man in his mid-40s, determined long ago that he would seek to change the kingdom. In 2009 he told me that he would “challenge and change the system legally,” so that his young children would live in a freer society. Qahtani is no bomb-thrower. During our interview, he recalled arriving at Philadelphia’s Temple University (where he earned his master’s in economics in 1993) so eager to avoid pork, which is forbidden to Muslims, that he asked a waitress whether each item on an unfamiliar American menu, including Coca-Cola, contained the offensive meat. While in the United States, he managed to avoid pork but picked up a penchant for freedom. Qahtani and Saudi authorities have been playing cat and mouse almost since his return to Riyadh in 2003 to teach economics at the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The regime long has preferred to bribe or buy wayward citizens than to beat them. When its preferred methods fail, however, the Sauds, like most Arab autocrats, can be ruthless. In 2008, Qahtani hosted a current-affairs show on government television. But after he helped found ACPRA in 2009, his show was canceled. Such harassment is intended to alter behavior or at least ensure that opposition is limited to words, never actions. Yet Qahtani and his colleagues persisted. In 2010 they wrote an open letter to King Abdullah asking for judicial reform and calling on the nation to “engage in a peaceful struggle to resist tyranny.” Because most Saudis depend on government jobs, or outright largess, open defiance is rare. The regime may toy with and torment citizens, like a cat with a timid mouse, but it tries to avoid arousing ire. After the Arab Spring took hold, however, even in docile Saudi Arabia some citizens have become more assertive. Qahtani and ACPRA finally crossed a red line in January 2012 by asking the king to remove his heir, Crown Prince Nayef, who during four decades overseeing internal security was responsible for imprisoning any number of Saudi citizens without charges or trials. This request defied an explicit ban (established after the Arab Spring began) on criticizing the royal family, or its compliant religious establishment. Nayef died soon after but his son quickly replaced him, and small-scale Saudi protests multiplied. Qahtani’s campaign against the judiciary holding Saudis without charge was taken up on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook but also by shrouded Saudi women — mothers, wives and daughters of imprisoned men who began regularly to protest at the Interior Ministry in Riyadh. Worse yet to the regime, some clerics supported the women by asking the king to quickly resolve the issue. Moreover, the protests spread to Buraidah, heartland of fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam, where in February women fearlessly burned a photo of the new interior minister in front of security cameras. “If the Ministry ignores this new activism, it is a disaster for its authority,” Saudi political scientist Madawi al-Rashid predicted on the Al-Monitor Web site on Feb. 28. “If it suppresses it, it is a catastrophe, as Saudis may not always be tolerant of security agencies messing with their women.” Although the trial of Qahtani and Hamid had dragged on for nearly nine months, it soon concluded abruptly. The judge ordered decade-long prison terms and ruled that ACPRA, which had been tolerated for four years, would be disbanded and its assets confiscated. The challenge Qahtani and his colleagues initiated had expanded beyond an unauthorized human rights organization to questioning the regime’s authority and clearly had to be stopped. Yet efforts to snuff out dissent pose their own dangers in a society rife with mostly unexpressed discontent. Salman al-Ouda, a popular sheik, tweeted to his 2.5 million followers after the sentences were announced: “Prisons and sacrifices strengthen causes and attract more people.” Today’s aged Saudi rulers share the governing strategy of Muawiyah, a long-ago successor to the prophet Muhammad. Asked why he had ruled nearly 20 years when three of his four predecessors were murdered, Muawiyah said, “I hold a hair between me and my people. When they pull, I yield. When they yield, I pull.” That philosophy still describes the thin margin for change in Saudi Arabia. But the growing divisions between the kingdom’s rulers and ruled suggest a tougher tug of war that risks breaking that hair. So far the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has remained silent about most Saudi abuses of human rights activists whose only sin has been to seek peaceful change. That supine support doesn’t diminish the risk of political challenge to the royal family; it merely increases the risk that American standing among Saudis will be further eroded. Read more from PostOpinions: Janine Zacharia: Silenced in Saudi Arabia Waleed Abu Alkhair: Pursuing a freer Saudi Arabia David Keyes: The charges of blasphemy against Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari

Obama: US will not stand back and allow Iran to build nuclear weapon

Iran is at least a year away from successfully developing a nuclear weapon, according to Barack Obama who last night told Israeli television that the US would not stand back and allow Tehran to acquire such a weapon. Speaking just days before his first state visit to Israel as president, Mr Obama said he had always been clear - that Washington will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power. “I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. That is a red line for us. It is not only something that would be dangerous for Israel. It would be dangerous for the world,” Mr Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 News. “...I've also said there is a window, not an infinite period time, but a window of time - where we can resolve this diplomatically.” Mr Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, differ on Iran’s ambitions with the Americans yet to be convinced that Tehran actually wants to develop a nuclear weapon. The Iranians deny any plans to make a bomb and that its nuclear programme is designed for peaceful means. The issue is just one that has the potential to antagonise the two leaders during Mr Obama’s three-day visit next week. Mr Obama appeared to try and smooth the historically icy relations between himself and Mr Netanyahu during the interview, referring to the Israeli prime minister by his nickname, ‘Bibi’, no fewer than 10 times during the interview. Officials on both sides claim that the gulf between the two men over the Iranian nuclear issue is narrowing. Israelis claim that Mr Obama is shifting towards their view that diplomatic efforts, particular sanctions imposed on Tehran, are likely to fail. However, the two sides are still apart on the likely response. The Israelis want the Americans to lead any military action, while Washington is extremely reluctant to commit to yet another military adventure in the region. Mr Obama arrives in Israel on Wednesday and will visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank. It is still unclear whether he will visit the Palestinian Authority’s administrative capital, Ramallah, before he leaves next Friday. As part of the wide ranging Channel 2 interview, Mr Obama also said that he wished he could visit the coastal city of Tel Aviv in disguise. “Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise, wear a fake moustache and I can wander through Tel Aviv and go to a bar and have a conversation,” he said. “I’d love to sit at a cafe and just hang out. The last time I was there as a senator, I still had the option of wandering through the Old City of Jerusalem. That option becomes much trickier once you’re actually president. You can’t just slip out and interact with people without having a bunch of guys with machine guns with you.”

Pakistani Shiites condemn government after bombings

By Richard Leiby
KARACHI, Pakistan — On the fearful advice of his father, 20-year-old Hussain Buksh recently fled this violent port city for Lahore, a calmer northern metropolis where Shiite Muslims like him are less likely to be assassinated for their beliefs. Last week, the soft-featured young man came back here to bury his father, one of at least 50 people killed when a truck packed with explosives detonated in the family’s mainly Shiite neighborhood. The blast was presumed to be the work of Sunni radicals who since last year have accelerated attacks on members of Pakistan’s Shiite minority — whom they consider apostates — into a war of unrelenting tempo. This year’s violence includes bombings that killed nearly 200 people in Shiite enclaves in the city of Quetta, raising serious questions about the government’s ability to provide security and the destabilizing impact of deepening intolerance on Pakistan’s feeble democracy. The bloodshed is likely to increase as the nation heads into parliamentary elections, expected to be held in two months, that would bring the first democratic transition in Pakistan’s 65-year history. Experts say al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban militants have allied with anti-Shiite extremists and are finding new opportunities to step up attacks. “It is quite precarious,” said Moeed Yusuf, a Pakistan expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. “The state writ has unraveled, and the military doesn’t seem able to put the lid on things as they could in the past.” The Pakistani army says it is tied down fighting the Taliban in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and has resisted Shiites’ calls for interventions in Quetta, in southwestern Baluchistan province, and Karachi, the nation’s financial hub and most populous city. The latest bombing, however, stirred Pakistan’s two most powerful men — Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani — to step bluntly into the void left by local and national civilian leadership. As soon as Chaudhry convened hearings in Karachi, the top provincial police official was sacked. Kayani, citing the alarm of his nationwide commanders, publicly chided President Asif Ali Zardari over the deteriorating security situation in Karachi and Quetta. The carnage in Karachi’s Abbas Town, as the Shiite section is known, brought the usual denunciations from political leaders but no concrete action, in a repeat of the official indifference shown to the Quetta victims until they refused to bury their dead and mounted massive demonstrations across the country. Five days after the Karachi blast, Zardari, who had been in the city all week, issued a statement condemning the “barbaric incident,” offering financial support for victims’ families and vowing to hunt down the attackers. It was of little comfort to families in the Shiite neighborhood here, still littered several days after the blast with charred motorbikes and pages from children’s lesson books. Their disgust at local and national leaders could not be more palpable. “They don’t care about the Shia,” said Buksh, crouched with his three sisters and mother on the floor of their small cinder-block home a few blocks from the blast crater. His father, Mohammad Akram, 50, died while going to buy milk for his youngest daughter, his family said. He was a driver for an industrial development ministry. “No head of state or official from the province has come to express condolences,” said his widow, Kausar Perven, as she looked tearfully at 25-year-old pictures from her wedding. “Nothing they do is for the people.”
Killings on the rise
Fatal attacks against Shiites, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people, have risen and fallen for years. But 2012 was the deadliest on record, according to Human Rights Watch, which says more than 400 Shiites were killed; the toll for this year has already hit at least 250. Militants have recently focused the killings on ethnic Hazara Shiites in Baluchistan, who have fled the province by the thousands. For decades, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, backed by Saudi Arabia, groomed Sunni extremists to offset any threat by Shiite Iran and also to wage attacks against India. Many Shiites today subscribe to the widely held belief that the Pakistani intelligence services protect Sunni extremists, including the al-Qaeda-allied Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian militant group that has asserted responsibility for numerous sectarian attacks in Pakistan, including the recent Quetta blasts. Pakistan officially banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001 and the military denies any links to the group, but security forces have done little to crack down on it. One popular conspiracy theory holds that an omnipotent military “establishment” that is disgusted by Pakistan’s civilian government is seeking to sow chaos and postpone elections. “These generals want to extend their control in this country and they need the blood of Pakistanis for their goals,” thundered Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, a burly, white-turbaned Shiite party leader in Karachi. “These terrorists are their strategic assets.” Experts cite an array of factors for the spike in attacks. In Quetta, for example, ethnic Baluchis who simply hate Hazaras are thought to have allied in convenience with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. And anti-terrorism coordination among provincial and federal governments and the military is deficient. “The sectarian outfits’ attacks are not because the elections are near,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, a terrorism expert who heads the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies. “It is because the focus of the security forces has been on the insurgency. This opened opportunities for these outfits to plan and carry out attacks.” A caretaker government is set to take over March 17, when the current government completes its five-year term. An interim administration will rule for two months, and during this period the government will be at its weakest, but few experts expect that rising violence will delay elections. Pakistan’s military leadership says its goal is to foster democracy by securing the country against terrorism — including providing protection for the upcoming elections. Kayani offered the civilian government support for a crackdown on terrorists as well the political party militants and criminal gangs that run rampant in Karachi, said a military official who is not authorized to brief the media. But the top general also stressed that “it’s the government’s decision whether it wants the army to play any role in Karachi or not,” the official said.
‘A lawless land’
A city of nearly 20 million, Karachi is a cauldron that distills all the nation’s ethnic, regional, political and religious poisons — the hatreds that prevent many Pakistanis from espousing a unified national identity. The city has been on the boil for decades, often spilling over with extensive bloodletting among various factions. The blast in Abbas Town, which propelled body parts onto the rooftops of five-story apartments, also has reverberated among the wealthy and the intelligentsia. They say that unrelenting violence — not just here but in the militant-besieged tribal belt — discourages global investors and accelerates capital flight and brain drain. “It is a lawless land,” said Taymur Mirza, owner and headmaster of the International School, which caters to children of Karachi’s upper crust. “What investors are waiting for is safety and security.” In some quarters, the instability has prompted fond memories of dictatorship. “The people want the army back,” Mirza added flatly. The street where the bombing took place is named after Abul Hassan Ispahani, Pakistan’s first ambassador to the United States after the Muslim nation’s creation in 1947. Ispahani was a key loyalist of Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who espoused religious tolerance. A catering outfit, a grocery store and a gift shop were among the businesses shredded into heaps of corrugated iron in the explosion. Many were owned or staffed by Sunnis, at least 20 of whom died, residents said. A Sunni cleric named Birjees Ahmed, acting Karachi head of the right-wing Jamat-e-Islami party, showed up a few days later with a black-turbaned delegation to extend condolences and offer relief supplies. His theory about the attack? “It’s a conspiracy to postpone the elections and create rifts among the Muslim community,” Ahmed quickly answered. And the conspirators? “America, Israel and India,” he said, turning up his palms as if to indicate the obvious. No group has asserted responsibility for the Abbas Town bombing. ­Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Punjabi Taliban are chief among the suspected perpetrators, but police have announced no breakthroughs. That does not surprise the family of Mohammad Akram, who rage against shadowy enemies as they mourn. “They want to kill us,” Buksh said. “But they will not succeed.”

Bahrainis mark protester’s death anniversary

Hundreds of Bahrainis rally in Sitra to mark the death anniversary of anti-regime protester, Ahmad Farhan, who was killed in a Manama crackdown.

‘Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz should be disqualified’

The ruling PPP MPAs in Sindh Assembly consecutively on second day protested with slogans and staged walkout against non-execution on the Supreme Court’s verdict in Asghar Khan petition, on Thursday . The PPP MPAs and ministers also setup toke hunger strike camp at the stairs of Sindh Assembly, which continued till midnight. When the house completed the legislation and chair allowed ruling PPP MPA Nawaz Chandio to move his resolution, through which Assembly demanded the government to establish the Indus International University at Tando Muhammad Khan. When he was on his feet, the ruling PPP’s Imdad Pitafi rose on his seat and reminded the chair towards non-implementation on the verdict of Supreme Court in Asghar Khan Case. He said that we have given 24 hours to the Interior minister Rehman Malik to implement on SC court and take action against the Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and others and recover the money of public exchequer they got from the secret agencies for rigging to stole the elections against PPP in 1990. Imran Zafar Leghari, Taimour Talpur, Dr Sikandar Shoro, Farheen Mughal, Kulsoom Chandio, Shama Mathiani, Shamim Ara Panhwar, Rukhsana Shah and other MPAs also stood on their seats and chanted slogans in support of their demand of implementation on SC verdict in Asghar Khan Case. The protesting MPAs assembled in front of Speaker’s rostrum and continued chanting slogans and demanding the government as well as Supreme Court to implement the verdict and recover the money from the Nawaz Sharif and others. After protesting, the MPAs walked out of the house and staged sit-in at the stairs of the Assembly. Law Minister said that PPP MPAs protesting against non-execution of the Supreme Court in Asghar Khan Case and they wanted to take action against those who received money to steal the elections through IJI. When the PPP’s over dozen MPAs walked out in protest, PPP MPA Nawaz Chandio again took up his resolution. When he started speech in favour of resolution, MPA Muzmal Qureshi of MQM drew the attention of the chair towards lack of quorum in the house. Speaker directed the secretary of Assembly to count the members present in the house, which were total 38 against required number of 42 to meet the quorum. Speaker said that whether he can wait for five minutes to complete the quorum or adjourn the house until the quorum completed. During this discussion, Speaker announced adjourning of session to meet today on Thursday. Meanwhile, the protesting MPAs staged sit-in at the stairs of the Assembly where they continued chanting of slogans of ‘we want justice from Supreme Court, we want justice for Election Commission and Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif should be disqualified’. They PPP MPAs announced converging of their sit-in into hunger strike camp, which continued mid night for over five hours. Speaker Sindh Assembly Nisar Ahmed Khuhro also joined the protesting MPAs for some time and sat with them. However, PPP ministers Pir Mazharul Haq, Agha Siraj Durani, Sharjeel Inam Memon, Tauqeer Fatima Bhutto and others joined their hunger strike. It is expected that Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah would come to the Sindh Assembly sometime in the night and persuade the protesting MPAs sitting on hunger strike to end their hunger strike.

Truck Bomb Plot Foiled in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's intelligence agency says it has defused a massive truck bomb that could have destroyed a whole area of the capital. The National Directorate of Security said Friday the eight tons of explosives were found early in the week in eastern Kabul in a night raid. A resulting firefight killed five suspected plotters. Two other people were arrested. The NDS said the bomb scheme was planned by the Pakistan-based Haqqani network. Shafiqullah Tahiri, a spokesman for the spy agency, said the detonation of the explosives would have been a "catastrophe" for people living in the city, destroying everything within 1,500 meters of the blast.

Joseph Colony : Rising from the ashes

Double layers of coiled barbed wire protect the entrances to the camps set up for the residents of Joseph Colony whose houses were burned down in a mob attack last week. Riot police are deployed at the entrance and exit points, and traffic wardens guide vehicles carrying reporters, city government officials and relief goods. Two streets leading to the decades-old gated Christian neighborhood in Lahore's Badami Bagh area are packed with white tents, most of which were donated by the Al-Khair foundation, a UK based religious charity. Residents of Joseph Colony lost their homes after they were asked to evacuate because the police could not protect them from an angry mob of Muslim men who went on to attack the neighborhood. "We trusted the police and thought our belongings would be safe because they had asked us to leave," says Rubina Saleem, mother of three and wife of a Rickshaw driver. "The police said we had to hurry because the mob might hurt our women, so we did not take anything with us." There were similar stories of loss in every tent and on every crowded charpoy. "All our lives we have served those who are above us," said Mrs Perveen Pervaiz. "We have cleaned people's houses, even their filth, and this is how our community gets paid? I am very angry. I pray that those who dragged our women into the streets and made us homeless should face the same circumstances." Thousands of Muslim men had gathered outside the Joseph Colony on March 8 to avenge alleged blasphemy committed by Sawan Masih, who lived in the locality, in a conversation with Shahid Imran, a local barber. Despite Sawan's arrest under Section 295-C of the penal code, which the Christian elders had agreed to, the mob attacked the colony, and robbed and torched more than 150 houses and two churches. Local residents say they were both drunk when the conversation took place. But Sawan's brother Babar Masih disagrees. He believes the problem may be political. Sawan Masih and Shahid Imran were supporting rival groups in the elections for the local trade unions. Eating rice and chicken from a polythene bag, Babar said he believed Shahid's group paid him to make the allegation. "Shahid Imran is a good lad," said Sawan's father Chaman Masih. "He was the caterer at the weddings of all of my children. Someone has misled him." Sawan's defense council Naeem Shakir is a human rights activist and belongs to the Awami Workers Party. "The FIR says the alleged blasphemy took place at dawn on March 7," he said. "The report was registered at 3:45pm on March 8. That leaves sufficient time to manipulate the events and concoct lies." Sawan's house is on the outer front of Joseph Colony, on a street where there are several Iron Factory warehouses. His family is among several others who say they had been pressured by businessmen in the area frequently in the last two years to sell their land to them for cheap. Home to more than 260 families, Joseph Colony is not a new settlement. A majority of its residents were born and brought up in the locality. The occupants are mostly janitorial staff at government offices. Some work in the iron factories in the area. Shakir says the mob attack, in the presence of police, is more than about just land grabbing or intolerance. It shows the state's complicity in crimes against minorities. "We have said it 100 times that Sawan did not commit blasphemy," said Bushra, the man's sister. "And those who are paragons of virtue, can they not see the blasphemy they committed while setting fire to our churches and Bibles?" she said her mother had suffered a heart attack after his arrest and had been sent to live with her relatives in Faisalabad. Bushra was among the several families who had not been given a tent by then. The district government had set up 185 tents, and was struggling to persuade people to follow a procedure for acquiring relief goods and tents. Various charities were stopped from distributing food and relief items. Unused beddings, tents and charpoys were set up in two schools of the area, but most of the victims preferred to stay on the street adjacent to Joseph Colony. Some of them walked back to the few homes where the toilets were still working, because there are no toilets with the tents. The trauma of losing their homes was visible on the faces of Joseph Town residents. Mrs Majah is a widowed mother of two daughters, who lost the dowry she had made for them. She appeared calm, but quietly said: "I wish I could burn the faces of the people who burned our houses." "Wouldn't it be better if the Christian community gets its own province?" Tasneem Wajid said with a shy smile. "We must get our own space, maybe a city of our own," added Rubina, who was living in a nearby camp. The Joseph Colony arson is the largest attack against the Christian community in a major city in Pakistan in terms of damage done. But it is not the first attack of its kind. Since the heinous Shanti Nagar attack in 1997 in which a mob burned down schools, churches and buses, there have been 80 such incidents as per the data compiled by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a Catholic Church run human rights organization working on religious minorities. Leading Human Rights activist Asma Jahangir believes state institutions have accepted defeat. "They are simply afraid of the people who use religion for mob violence." Veteran journalist, activist and academic Dr Mehdi Hassan blames politicians and their lack of will in resolving the problems with the blasphemy laws. "Until the leading political parties develop a general consensus on the issue of blasphemy laws, we will not get anywhere." He said police needed sophisticated training for dealing with a mob which is charged because of what they think is a religious matter. At the other end of the city, Pervez Masih, a driver in the Lahore Chamber of Commerce, lives in fear in Bihar Colony, another Christian neighborhood. When the other Christians of Bihar Colony were protesting against the Joseph Colony arson, Pervez stayed home. "In my family, we do not engage in any conversation about religion with anyone," he said. "My adult sons are so disturbed by the arson that they did not step out of our house unnecessarily since then." But this Sunday, Pervez Masih said special prayers for peace and religious harmony in Pakistan.

''Echoes of Gojra''

The Supreme Court has observed that the Punjab Police failed to protect the lives and properties of the people of Joseph Colony in Lahore which was attacked, looted and burned last weekend. In an interim order, the court ruled that the attack was predictable and preventable. Police statements in the case were found to be contradictory and the court queried why the residents were forced to leave their homes on the night of March 8/9 – giving a free hand to those who came to destroy them the next day. It is difficult not to conclude that the police had foreknowledge of what was afoot and did nothing to stop it, either before the incident began or for its duration – and there is ample evidence that they stood by as the destruction occurred. From that analysis comes the equally weighty conclusion that the police were complicit in the crimes they were silent witness to. During the course of proceedings the Punjab advocate general placed on record the report of the judicial commission in respect of the August 2009 Gojra incident which must make for grim reading. In Gojra, a mob – mainly comprising members of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SPP) – had set some 100 Christian homes alight. Eight Christians were burnt alive. The similarities of circumstance and event between Gojra and Joseph Colony are striking. There were slow or inappropriate responses from the police who had prior intelligence. Following the Gojra crime, the Punjab government had set up a tribunal which duly presented its findings in October 2009, also proposing amendments to some controversial sections in the PPC, the CrPC, the Police Order 2002 as well as the anti-blasphemy laws. But the report saw little exposure or public discussion and its recommendations were not followed due to differences between the home department and the police. The court was also informed that a ‘compromise’ had been reached between the accused and the victims of the Gojra incident! Wondering what made the Punjab government fail to follow through on the tribunal’s findings, the bench noted that what happened at Joseph Colony could have been avoided had the government acted on the Gojra report. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif should answer questions arising out of the whole affair. A report in this newspaper has detailed how police officers suspended after being found responsible for what happened at Gojra were reinstated and how a Christian who had brought murder charges against SSP members and a PML-N office-bearer had to flee the country. The lessons are clear and the conclusion unpleasant. The safety of our minorities is a minority consideration as far as the police are concerned. We should at least be thankful for a proactive judiciary, which resumes hearing of the case on March 18, as a spur to police reforms, because on the plentiful evidence in the public domain the police are never going to willingly reform themselves.

Karachi: Self-destruction: Social worker killed

THE brutal slaying of Orangi Pilot Project director Perween Rahman in Karachi on Wednesday comes as a shock, despite the fact that as a nation we have become inured to violence. She was a brave, committed woman who worked for the uplift of the poor and marginalised. For three decades, Ms Rahman worked in a challenging environment in a part of Karachi that suffers from frequent breakdowns of law and order. She worked for the benefit of those the state was unable — or unwilling — to help. The OPP has developed sewage and sanitation systems for the vast settlement as well as undertaken health, education and economic uplift projects for the community on a self-help basis. The brainchild of the late Akhtar Hameed Khan, the OPP has won national and global acclaim. Those close to Ms Rahman say she had been receiving death threats from the land mafia, while police claimed a Taliban ‘commander’ had been involved in her slaying. The OPP director had been documenting cases of land grabbing on Karachi’s fringes, and anti-encroachment activists have been targeted in the past. All angles must be probed and the police cannot simply wash their hands of the investigation by blaming the killing on religious extremists. In Karachi, crime, land grabbing and dirty politics complement each other while religious militancy adds further potency to this toxic mix. Hence it is difficult to pinpoint a motive in such cases. Ms Rahman’s killing represents a disturbing trend where those who attempt to bring positive change to society are targeted. Last month Dr Ali Haider, a leading eye specialist of Lahore, was killed in a sectarian attack along with his son. The doctor also regularly provided free medical care to needy patients. Across Pakistan aid workers have been attacked, polio teams have been hunted down and teachers have been killed due to a variety of reasons, including religious and nationalist militancy. What is equally disturbing is that women — and children — who were previously not targeted by militants are now considered fair game. The state and society have both failed to unequivocally condemn these deadly trends and work towards uprooting the forces responsible for spreading such violence. Meanwhile political parties are too busy politicking to raise their voices against the targeting of socially active individuals. Hence the question for us all to ponder is: what will become of a society that, for the most part, sits quietly as its messiahs are systematically wiped out?

Pakhtunkhwa:Profile of nominated Caretaker Chief Minister

The profile of Justice Tariq Pervez Khan (Retd), a former judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan who was nominated as Caretaker Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) by the government and the opposition on Friday as under. Justice Tariq Pervez (Retd) was born on February 15, 1948 in Peshawar and obtained his early education to the graduate level at Peshawar. He was graduated in Law in 1971 from Faculty of Law, University of Peshawar and did his Master in Political Science in 1975. His track record is full of co-curricular activities and distinctions. He was enrolled as advocate at the District Courts of Peshawar in 1972 and was licensed to practice at the High Court in 1975. After completing 11 years of practice, he was enrolled as advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1983. He was considered a competent lawyer and well-versed in different fields of law, especially criminal jurisprudence. During his illustrious career at the Bar, he not only excelled professionally, but also manifested his leadership role. He was elected as President, Young Lawyers Association in 1978, Vice President of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association in 1980 and President of the High Court Bar Association in 1996. His elevation to the Bench in 1997 was an acknowledgement and recognition of his professional capabilities. During his tenure as Judge of the Peshawar High Court, he remained member of the Administration Committee of the Peshawar High Court, member of the Peshawar University Syndicate, then Chairman NWFP Bar Council's Enrolment Committee, member of the Election Tribunal and Chairman of the Subordinate Judicial Services Tribunal. Justice Tariq has a deep insight on major legal issues and as follow up of his academic pursuits; he remained the visiting faculty member of the Federal Judicial Academy and delivered discourses at different Workshops and Seminars including Provincial judicial Conferences and earned great name. He was elevated as Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court on April 5, 2005. A former chief justice of Peshawar High Court, Justice Tariq was a judge of high repute who earned a lot of respect from the legal fraternity and civil society when he declined to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order after General Pervez Musharraf declared emergency on Nov 3, 2007. He was chief justice of the high court at that time. Later on, Tariq Pervez was finally restored along with several other judges of superior courts on September 5, 2008. Later, he was elevated to the Supreme Court in October 20, 2009 and retired from that post on February 14 this year. His professional career is spread over on 40 years and also served as Caretaker Governor and remained very active in dispensation of duties and took suo moto notice on several important and human right issues.

Pakistan: Too little, too late

On the eve of the dissolution of parliament, it was strange to see both houses active in passing legislation in a hurry. Having already been passed by the National Assembly (NA), the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) bill was passed by the Senate unanimously despite a critique by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani and questioning of the haste on display by Senator Mohsin Leghari. Rabbani’s reservations revolved around the fact that though it is described as an independent body, NACTA did not answer to the description since it would work under the bureaucracy. He also pointed out that the composition of the NACTA Board of Governors (BoG) meant that the military would command a superior position, one proof of which was that the prime minister, despite heading NACTA and its BoG, would be able to do nothing if the head of any agency did not attend NACTA meetings. Rabbani went on to say that the NACTA BoG was expected to be comprised of terrorism experts and federal secretaries, and questioned their ‘expertise’ in countering terrorism. He therefore, for all these reasons, did not think NACTA would fulfil the objectives for which it was being set up. Mohsin Leghari on the other hand did not want such an important piece of legislation passed in haste and wanted it sent to the committee concerned for further deliberations. The house nevertheless passed the bill and no party opposed it. The main purpose of the setting up of NACTA is said to be to ensure coordination and interaction amongst the federal, provincial, civilian and military law enforcement and intelligence organisations. Although we have consistently argued in this space for the setting up of a centralised anti-terrorism body, whether NACTA lives up to that billing remains to be seen. While the Senate was smoothing the path of the NACTA bill, the NA unanimously approved the Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) bill 2013, but only after the government, in its inexplicable hurry to see the bill passed, accepted 18 amendments suggested by the PML-N, MQM and others. Although the bill was originally being described as stringent, analysts are of the view that the incorporation of these amendments has drawn the teeth of the law. The bill empowers the government to preventively detain, for 30 days at a time and after recording reasons for the same, any person involved in any offence under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 (as now amended by this bill), or against whom a reasonable complaint has been made or credible information received or a reasonable suspicion exists of his having been so involved, for purpose of inquiry. Further, this preventive detention may be extended by an anti-terrorism court for 30 days at a time, while recording reasons for the same, up to a maximum of 90 days. Interestingly, journalists have been included in the list of people, departments and installations against whom attacks and intimidation would be dealt with under this amended law. Last but not least, the bill empowers the authorities to declare as proscribed any organisation composed of the leading lights of an already proscribed organisation who seek to re-invent themselves under a new name (as has happened to all the organisations banned under the Musharraf regime). It is amazing that at the fag end of its tenure, a fire has suddenly been lit under the government (with some help from the opposition) on these issues when five years have been wasted unnecessarily. To recall, the EU offered Pakistan a centralised anti-terrorism organisation, to be funded and provided training by EU experts, years ago. That proposal fell foul of turf wars over who would lead it, the Interior Minister, a civilian, or someone in uniform. Needless to say, the outgoing minister proved unacceptable to the military (and perhaps others), and the military seemed reluctant to share intelligence with its civilian counterparts. The present arrangement has elevated the office of head of NACTA to the prime minister, incorporated the heads of all civilian and military law enforcement and intelligence agencies, plus the four provincial chief ministers. If anything, this structure seems too unwieldy and therefore scepticism will persist that it is unworkable, quite apart from the quizzical questions why this has been promulgated now, when its fate would only be known at the hands of the incoming government after the elections. While the idea is good in principle, all these questions and anomalies as to structure, functioning and timing mean that we will only know if this really is an advance on present arrangements (including preventive detention for a similar period under the MPO) in the fullness of time.

Zardari: Govts's completion of tenure a major achievement
The completion of a five-year term by the Pakistan government and a peaceful transition from one democratic set-up to another would be another major achievement of the current dispensation, President Asif Ali Zardari has said. Zardari made the remarks during a dinner he hosted last night for outgoing Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and some ministers and parliamentarians. "The completion of the tenure of the present government and a peaceful transition from one democracy to another would be another major achievement of the present dispensation," Zardari was quoted as saying in an official statement. The Pakistan Peoples Party-led government is set to complete its tenure tomorrow, the first time in the country's history that an elected government has lasted its full term. The PPP is conducting negotiations with the main opposition PML-N on choosing a caretaker Prime Minister who will head the interim set-up that will oversee elections expected to be held sometime in May. Zardari said the government had faced "huge challenges" during its tenure, including the war against militancy, economic issues, recurrent natural disasters and an energy crisis. It is to the credit of the government that it pursued a policy of reconciliation and took all political forces along on issues of national interest while confronting the challenges, he said. Among those who attended the dinner were Zardari's sister Faryal Talpur, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Syed Naveed Qamar, Rehman Malik, Farooq Naek, Khursheed Shah, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Jahangir Badar and presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Pakistan’s FM downplays US threats over gas project with Iran

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has downplayed Washington’s threats of imposing sanctions on Islamabad over a joint gas pipeline project with Iran. Addressing a press conference on Thursday, the Pakistani minister expressed confidence that the United States would never impose sanctions on Pakistan because of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project. Khar pointed to the importance of Pakistan’s relations with Iran and added that the completion of the gas pipeline project would be a harbinger of good news for peace and cooperation. The remarks came after the US Department of State on March 11 threatened Pakistan with sanctions if Islamabad went through with its multi-billion-dollar project with Iran. On March 11, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari inaugurated the final construction phase of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, intended to carry natural gas from Iran to its eastern neighbor. The pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its growing energy needs at a time when the country of over 180 million people is grappling with serious energy shortages. Pakistan faces a crushing energy crisis, which has caused difficulties in financing the pipeline, whose section on Pakistani soil stretches from the border between the two countries to Nawabshah region. Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its territory.

Pakhtunkhwa: 4.948 million students to get free textbooks

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will distribute free text-books in 4.948 million students for the upcoming academic year and amount of Rs.1.62 billion has been allocated in this regard. The inauguration ceremony of the distribution of free books was held in Text Book Board, Hayatabad with Provincial Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education, Sardar Hussein Babak as chief guest. Besides, chairman, Text-Book Board, academicians, teachers, students and parents attended the ceremony. Addressing the ceremony, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education, Sardar Hussein Babak said the government has given priority to education sector and had initiated many measures for the promotion of education. He said the government besides establishment of schools, colleges and universities has also awarding scholarships and distributing free text-books from nursery to intermediate level students of all public sector schools in the province. Minister said like previous year, on the directives of the provincial government, Text-Book Board had prepared plenty of text-books, whose delivery and provision to all districts would be completed by April 2, 2013 The printing and delivery of the books will cost Rs.1619.743 million. The distribution will be carried out under the supervision of Education Sector Reforms Unit, district and circle officials of Elementary & Secondary Education department to ensure timely and transparent delivery of books to children.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Justice(r) Tariq Pervez will be caretaker CM

Retired Justice Tariq Pervez will be the caretaker Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This was announced by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti at a news conference in Islamabad along with leader of opposition in provincial assembly Akram Khan Durrani. Hoti said Justice Tariq Pervez enjoys the reputation of an honest and impartial person. He said he was chosen unanimously and purely on merit. Akram Durrani said both the sides proposed several names and finally the name of Justice Tariq Pervez was agreed. He hoped that other provinces too will follow this example of upholding the democratic spirit. He said we should think of the well-being of the country and the nation and not our personal interests. Justice Tariq Pervez is a former chief justice Peshawar High Court.