Thursday, March 21, 2013

Interpol rejects Pakistan call to arrest Musharraf
Terming it as "politically motivated", the Interpol has rejected Pakistan's request to issue a Red Corner Notice against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in connection with Benazir Bhutto's assassination case, days ahead of his homcoming from self-exile. Musharraf has cleared the final hurdle to his plans to return to Pakistan as he no longer faces the possibility of arrest at the hands of Interpol, The Express Tribune quoted its sources as saying. The 69-year-old ex-president, who went into self-exile in early 2009, has said he intends to return to Pakistan on March 24 to lead his party All Pakistan Muslim League in upcoming polls. He has been shuttling between London and Dubai after he went out of Pakistan in exile. Islamabad's request to issue a Red Corner Notice for Musharraf was rejected by the Interpol headquarters in a reply sent to Pakistani authorities, who had sought an arrest warrant for him as a suspect in Bhutto's assassination. The agency said the case filed against Musharraf in Pakistan through Interpol channels constitutes a matter of a predominantly "political character". This is the second time a request from the Federal Investigation Agency has been rejected by Interpol. Last year, Interpol rejected the request due to insufficient proof by Pakistani authorities.

Jalozai Camp blast: Another social worker falls to terrorism

The Express Tribune
Namesakes Perween Rahman and Humaira Parveen shared a similar purpose and unfortunately, the same fate. While Orangi Pilot Project Director Perween Rahman was shot dead in a targeted attack in Karachi last week, Humaira Parveen, a social worker from Peshawar, died in a car-bomb explosion in Jalozai Camp, which claimed at least 17 lives and injured another 28 on Thursday. Humaira, a health worker, would educate people on hygiene matters. Both women, determined to change society, eventually died while doing what they believed in. Colleagues said in her death the local aid organisation BEST NGO has lost a guide. “We considered her a sister to all staff members because she was older than all of us,” said an employee, requesting anonymity. “We consulted her when any of us had a problem in the office or in the field. She was our guide when we needed her most and would tell us we need to use our education and skills to bring betterment in society.” Humaira, 32, belonged to Tehkal village and had joined the NGO, around six months ago, as a hygiene promoter. Her job was to encourage internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Jalozai Camp to adopt habits that would keep them safe from waterborne diseases. Five women of the organisation were injured in the blast. While Humaira died at the Lady Reading Hospital, the others are said to be in stable condition. “We will always miss her leadership skills and commitment to bring change,” said BEST NGO Managing Director Hamesh Khan. “It will be a long time before someone can take her place.” Speaking about whether the NGO will continue its work, Khan said it depends on the directives of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority whether social work will be suspended. He added Huamira was paid a monthly salary for the project and the organisation cannot provide financial aid for her children. The provincial government should announce monetary compensation for her family, stated Khan. In a statement issued by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network, Coordinator Idrees Kamal said: “We strongly condemn the bomb blast in Jalozai Camp and demand security provisions for aid workers. We pay tribute to NGO workers who, despite threats, have continued their struggle to help the needy.”

Malala : Back to school

EDITORIAL : Daily Times
For child activist Malala Yousafzai, Wednesday was a big day. After fighting a long, hard battle of recovery, the 15-year-old has attended school for the first time since the tragic shooting that left her critically wounded last year. Joining a school in Birmingham, UK, little Malala is back on her feet and a sure symbol for other girl children the world over that if a cause is worth being threatened and hurt for, then it is a cause worth pursuing. What bigger cause than to promote education in Pakistan, a country rife with war — a war that is being waged on the nation’s daughters who want nothing more than to go to school so that they make better lives for themselves? It is here that Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by militants in Swat for the crime of going to school and speaking out for girls’ education in the country. Her shooting jolted the nation out of its stupor and brought to light the real barbarity of the Taliban; anyone who can hurt a child is no less than a monster. Malala was flown to the UK for her recovery and, after months spent on a hospital bed, she has recuperated and has once again stepped foot in a school — her dream is coming true. However, Pakistan is full of Malalas: brave young girls defying the Taliban to receive an education. They have been issued threats and their schools have been blown to smithereens in the northern areas. How will they go to school? Where is their shot at a better life? The Taliban have left them with hardly any option other than to stay at home or study underground. Now that we will be seeing the arrival of an interim government until May, one wonders how the temporary set-up will look at this unaddressed issue. Chances are it will not, and the issue of female education will remain in the air for a while even with the post-elections government. However, there will be continuity in the security establishment and it is hoped that the security forces will be able to deal with this issue by preventing more schools from being blown up and more school girls from being shot. Any hiatus given to the Taliban to regroup and strengthen themselves will only allow them to expand their havoc and cause further mayhem. Malala did not take a bullet for that.

Interview:Abduction Of Two Czech Women In Pakistan

Two young Czech women were abducted in Pakistan's restive Balochistan Province on March 13. The 24-year-old women, identified only as Hana and Antonie, had been traveling from Iran on a passenger bus. Khudainoor Nasar of RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal spoke to Manoo Khan, the bus driver, in Quetta on March 15.
RFE/RL: Can you describe what happened?
Manoo Khan: We started to travel from the [Iranian] border at around 3:30 p.m. and reached [the spot of the abduction] around 5:25 p.m. They [the kidnappers] waved at the bus from around 500 meters away [and ordered it] to stop. Two of them came from the right and five others from the left side. The five [who approached from the left] were wearing uniforms and the two [on the right side] were in plainclothes. One of them was holding a wireless set. I thought they were security men who were checking the bus. Then two of them came inside the bus and took the AK-47 away from the guard [a man guarding the women] and had them all [the guard and the two Czech women] get off the bus.
RFE/RL: How did they identify the Czech women at first sight?
Manoo Khan: They [the women] were sitting in the front seat and [the kidnappers] spoke to them in English. Then the conductor removed their luggage. I asked if they had some more things with them. And the women said, "Yes." Then they went back into the bus and took their remaining luggage.
RFE/RL: What was the women's reaction?
Manoo Khan: [They said] "No, no, no." Then the women took their luggage and the kidnappers took their shoes and pushed one of the women. She was very upset. Then they were forced to sit in a pickup truck.
I asked the kidnappers again to make sure they didn't have any more luggage because I am just a poor driver and would not be able to pay for it if they claimed it later. Then the girls said in English that they didn't have any more luggage. All this happened in four to five minutes.
RFE/RL: What did the kidnappers look like? Who did they represent?
Manoo Khan: What I can say? They came in uniforms. I can't say if they were Frontier Constabulary, intelligence, or private people. God knows. One of them was holding a wireless set and they had [Toyota] Land Cruisers.
RFE/RL: And then they were forced into those cars?
Manoo Khan: Yes, the women were made to sit in the back seats and five people sat on either side of them.
RFE/RL: And what was the exact area where they stopped the bus?
Manoo Khan: We are exactly 20 or 20 1/2 kilometers from the Naw Kundi area on the Taftan side. This is a sandy area and when the wind blows it closes the road.

Pakistan:Energy crisis: solutions

The five years of the PPP-led coalition government are marked by severe criticism due to its failure to resolve the energy crisis during its tenure. There is a general agreement that the crisis was inherited by the elected government with the Musharraf-appointed caretakers engaged in three disastrous policies: (i) extending crippling subsidies to ensure that the rise in the international oil price was not passed on to the consumers with its consequent negative impact on the budget deficit and the country's financial resources; (ii) supporting inefficiently-run distribution companies by paying hundreds of billions of rupees to eliminate the inter-tariff differential though analysts are agreed that a political government cannot afford to provide electricity at different rates at different locations; and (iii) not implementing identified reforms inclusive of eliminating the inter-circular debt, reducing transmission losses as well as bringing the tariff to the level of full cost recovery. The five years of PPP rule indicate a focus on increasing tariffs as the main means to deal with the crisis while the other reforms remained unimplemented in spite of the government's commitment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to implement them within a two-year period. In effect, the Water and Power Ministry increased tariffs by 100 percent in five years and the duration of loadshedding doubled - from four hours in urban and 8 hours in rural in 2008 to 8 hours in urban areas and 16 hours in rural areas. Thus data suggests that the government efforts towards demand as well as supply management remained ineffective. In this context, it is also relevant to note that the federal government actively promoted a policy of expanding the energy network with a major energy shortfall resulting in compounding the demand-supply gap. In addition, due to failure to implement tax reforms that would have rendered the tax structure equitable and less anomalous; the government also relied on taxing the fuel and energy sector to generate funding for its ever increasing expenditure given that this was a relatively easier way to collect revenue. Thus the fuel and power sector were not only inefficiently run with large-scale leakages from the system but also were a key source of revenue for the government that simply raised tariffs without any focus on increasing the performance of the sector. This disastrous policy led to the government's failure to meet the energy demand of the economy's largest export earner - the textile sector. In short, the government, by relying on the energy sector as a major source of revenue, was unable to generate revenue from higher economic activity which is the major revenue source in other countries. President Asif Ali Zardari has stated that the onus for the electricity crisis rests with the provinces given that Article 157 (2) (c and d) of 18th Constitutional Amendment empowers a province to "construct power houses and grid stations and lay transmission lines for use within the provinces and determine the tariff for distribution of electricity within the province". The provincial response has been that it lacks resources to engage in constructing large dams but this explanation does not absolve them from their own failing to use indigenous resources like Thar coal to generate electricity. Punjab has consistently maintained that any attempt to establish power houses have been stonewalled by the federal law ministry and refers to Nandipur and Chichon ki Malian with a combined capacity of 900 MW as examples. The question, however, is if the provinces can determine their own distribution tariffs then why does the federal government feel the need to release over 400 billion rupees per annum for inter-disco tariff differential? In short, there are many issues that need to be worked out in terms of federal and provincial roles in the energy sector notwithstanding the 18th Amendment. The power sector as it stands today is inefficiently run with no effort being made to ensure that the obsolete plants are being run at operational capacity. Rehabilitation projects are under way and the USAID has brought a few plants to their full operational capacity but a lot more needs to be done. A short-term policy focus therefore must be on eliminating inter-circular debt which would necessitate disconnection of electricity to all those who fail to clear their bills, and cutting the unpaid dues of government entities at source to ensure bill payment, and finally to repair transmission lines and obsolete plants to ensure that the system is at operational capacity. However, there is also a need to begin implementing new energy projects. Pakistan today has a gas deficit of around 3 mmcf and neither the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline which is expected to generate around 0.75 mmcf nor Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline with 1.5 mmcf can hope to meet our energy requirements. Pakistan needs to develop Thar coal fields as well as explore for new gas fields and begin construction of run of the water dams and large dams. Finances to undertake these mega projects remain a challenge; however, we must reprioritise expenditure, implement reforms and last but not least, support inter-provincial as well as federal harmony to resolve the crisis once and for all.

Pakistani Refugee Camp Hit by Deadly Car Bomb

A bomb blast in a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan has left 13 people dead and injured at least 30 others. The camp is home to people displaced by years of fighting between militants and the Pakistan army. The car bomb went off at the Jalozai camp food distribution center just moments after the refugees had picked up their rations. Women and children are among the dead. Camp administrator Noor Akbar said that one of the workers giving out food was also killed in the blast, but casualties could have been much higher. "The explosion took place just 15 minutes after the food was handed out," Akbar said. "That's why the death toll was lower. One NGO worker was killed."Many residents in Jalozai camp get their food from the United Nations World Food Program. The camp is located just outside the northwestern city of Peshawar, where a number of bombings have taken place. The Taliban said they were not behind the Thursday blast. There are militants other than the Taliban network operating in the region, said Peshawar based political analyst Khadim Hussain. But he added even if they did not claim responsibility, Thursday's explosion had all the hallmarks of a Tehreek-e-Taliban attack. "History tells us that over the past several decades, past several years, the TTP did not accept responsibility of those attacks which took away a part of their support base in the public, among the masses," said Hussain. The Jalozai camp once hosted thousands of Afghan refugees who have since returned to Afghanistan. Today, the camp houses thousands of Pakistanis who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in the northwest border region. A doctor at Lady Reading Hospital, Abdul Majeed, said bodies were being rushed in for medical help. "At least eight dead bodies were brought into the hospital, two of which were women, and there were six males, and one child," he said. "He says, 31 people were injured, including children." District police officer Muhammad Hussain said some 30 to 40 kilos of explosive were used in the blast. Pakistan's security forces have been battling the Pakistan Taliban for almost a decade. It is unclear why militants would target a food distribution center in this camp, but non-governmental aid workers have in the past been targeted by militants who perceive them as working for Western organizations. The Pakistan Taliban recently withdrew their conditional offer of peace talks with the government, accusing the authorities of not being serious in wanting peace.​

Pakistan: ''Political hiccups notwithstanding''

The Frontier Post
Finally, President Asif Ali Zardari has on Wednesday announced that the general elections to the National Assembly will be held on May 11. The President signed the summary sent by the Prime Minister to this effect immediately it was received in the Presidency, putting an end to political uncertainty prevailing upon the federal capital. Amidst the eye-souring violence and lingering threats of heart-breaking terrorist strikes especially in Karachi, Quetta and KPK, the announcement of the election date and subsequent announcement of the election schedule will induce new impetus to the electioneering in the country. According to the ECP spokesman, the submission of nomination papers will begin on March 25 which will be completed on 30th. Scrutiny of papers shall start from 31st and will continue for 7 days. Candidates may withdraw their nomination papers by April 18 while the final list of the contesting candidates will be published the following day. Earlier on Tuesday, the Election Commission allotted 'lion' as the election symbol to the PML-N, however, allotment of election symbol to the PPP of the President Asif Ali Zardari was deferred owing to a controversy that surfaced when an estranged party leader Naheed Khan, who served as political secretary to slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto until her assassination in 2007, claimed that she should be allotted the symbol as she is real leader of the PPP. The decision is pending with the ECP. Otherwise, it was smooth sailing; the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam was allotted the symbol of 'book' while Awami National Party was given 'lantern', MQM got the symbol of 'kite' and the fast emerging popular party of cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan had been allotted 'bat'. On the other hand, on the first day the meeting of the eight-member parliamentary committee formed to break political impasse on the appointment of caretaker prime minister was too adjourned without any success-giving rise to the Opposition's accusation that the rulers are bent on give-and-take rather than paving way for impartial caretaker setup. Blame for the delay does not lie squarely on the rulers; the Opposition as well cannot be absolved of the responsibility. The Opposition too seems to take the issue to the Election Commission of Pakistan for its own 'reasons.' Whatever! The Constitutional mechanism on this matter is going to take its course-- it is just a matter of time; the deadlock over the appointment of the caretaker PM is notwithstanding. Another good omen is; the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly has completed the first phase of the political process, withering another hiccup in holding fresh elections on the same date. Indeed, the stage is all set for the elections which will be monitored by a large number of international and local observers who had already approached the Election Commission of Pakistan which issued a Code of Conduct for the observers, prohibiting any interference in the election process. The history, witnessed never before, is in the making; notwithstanding the political hiccups or differences erupting amongst the political forces out there in the election field. The nation too must grab the opportunity with both hands to elect their true representatives.

President Zardari stresses need for strengthening regional security

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari has stressed the need for strengthening security and counter-terrorism cooperation in the region. Addressing 4th Nowruz conference in Ashgabat on Thursday‚ he said all regional countries will have to unite and make collective efforts to bring peace to the region. The president said Pakistan firmly believes that peace and stability are vital for economic progress and development of the region. Pakistan is working to further improve its relations and expand cooperation with the regional countries. He said the region has vast natural resources and Pakistan can provide a corridor as transit for their export to the other countries. The main objective of the ECO to which Pakistan and Central Asian Republics are members‚ is to build infrastructure and connectivity projects in the region. He said Pakistan is willing to facilitate transportation of LNG from Central Asia to South East Asia and other world markets. The latest and modern seaport of Pakistan at Gwadar is the shortest route for Central Asian States to the Arabian Sea. It also offers excellent port facilities for export of LNG and other products. President Zardari said Pakistan is also ready to provide safe transit of piped gas to other neighboring countries. We are keen to implement the projects of energy connectivity like Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India and Iran-Pakistan gas pipelines. President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Dr Mahmood Ahmadinejad had a meeting at Ashgabat. They exchanged views on strengthening of bilateral relations especially in economic field.