Wednesday, March 27, 2013

President Obama favorability up, poll shows
Things are looking up for President Obama. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday is showing that a majority of Americans have a favorable impression of the president. The poll shows that 57 percent of those polled had a favorable impression, while 41 percent had an unfavorable impression. The poll was conducted from March 20 to 24, 2013 among a random national sample of 1,014 adults. President Obama’s high marks came as the poll results revealed increased discontent for the U.S. Congress. Of those polled, 65 percent had an unfavorable impression of Congress, while 30 percent had a favorable view.

Kerry Hears Afghan Fears From Women in Business

After meeting again with the leader who is at the top of the Afghan pyramid, Secretary of State John Kerry paid a visit on Tuesday to a group of women who have managed to make their way in male-dominated Afghan society. The event, held in the secured confines of the American Embassy compound, was intended to demonstrate the progress that women have made in Afghanistan since the days of Taliban rule. But it also highlighted the women’s apprehensions about the course their country will follow after 2014, when the government in Kabul is scheduled to take full responsibility for security in the country, and the American-led international presence will shrink. Hassina Syed, who runs companies involved in trucking, construction and catering, told Mr. Kerry at the meeting that with the transition approaching, “there is a lot of negative effect on the business sector.” The encounter illustrated the tensions between the American vision for Afghanistan, which still includes a democratic system that ensures women’s rights, and worries that Afghanistan’s military and civic institutions might not be able to manage the transition. Mr. Kerry, who had earlier met for a second consecutive day with Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, displayed the political skill he developed as a senator from Massachusetts as he asked the women about how they had built up their businesses, and headed a soccer ball with one of Afghanistan’s top female players. He then spoke to a group of civic leaders preparing for Afghanistan’s 2014 election. “You’re engaged in a remarkable effort, and the whole world is watching,” he said. Afterward, the entrepreneurs expanded on their concerns. Even with American troops still in the country, Ms. Syed has plenty of challenges, she said, estimating that one-third of her budget is spent on security. Her major worry now, she said, is that many of the new businesses that have opened in Afghanistan, particularly those in construction, transportation and hospitality, will wither without a steady infusion of foreign spending, and may not survive. “Most especially, construction and other businesses are shutting down slowly,” Ms. Syed said. Getting orders from the Afghan government that might make up for some of the lost international spending will be hard, she said, because those contracts will be steered to companies with friends in high places. “Only a few people who are really connected with the government, they will just take those things,” she said. “The normal businesspeople, they are not going to get benefit out of the government.” Many businesspeople who have been successful in recent years, but who are apprehensive about the future, are already looking to move their money to the United States, Britain or the United Arab Emirates, Ms. Syed said. Nadima Sahar, who sells jewelry, pottery and artwork made by a network of artists and craftsmen, studied in the United States on a scholarship, earning a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts. “As a woman and also as an Afghan, I have my concerns,” she said, citing the challenges of maintaining security and women’s rights. “I don’t think that my country mates are really ready to take over the transition process and to handle it as effectively as the U.S. troops have been doing so far.” “With the international community’s presence, I think they in a way encouraged women to get involved further and further,” she added. But Ms. Sahar wonders what will happen if Afghan officials negotiate a peace accord with the Taliban, whose leaders are determined to reinstitute restrictions on the role of women. “I have family members who are fleeing the country because they have concern that the situation wouldn’t remain that stable,” she said. Roya Mallboob, who manages a software company in the western Afghan city of Herat that makes educational programs available to women, noted that she had some measure of insulation from trouble because much of her work was done online. Still, she said, “I am worried about the security and who will be the next president.” For all their concerns, though, none of the women who met with Mr. Kerry on Tuesday said they planned to rush for the exit. Each insisted she would to try to make a go of it as Afghanistan takes control of its own security and holds national elections next year. “I will be the last woman who will leave Afghanistan,” Ms. Syed said.

Despite threats, ANP steams ahead with its campaign

The Express Tribune
With the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) breathing down their neck, the Awami National Party’s (ANP) Sindh leadership has decided to carry out a door-to-door political campaign for the upcoming elections, The Express Tribune learnt on Monday. The party’s Sindh president, Shahi Syed, verified the information, saying that the security threats by the TTP-backed Taliban were making it difficult for the party to conduct large public meetings and rallies. The party will, however, contest elections on almost 15 seats of the Sindh Assembly and eight seats of the National Assembly. Activists will hold public meetings and gathering at their relevant localities. “Almost 35 leaders and office-bearers of our party have been killed by the Taliban, who have even claimed responsibility for their killings,” said Syed, who avoids travelling unnecessarily in Karachi and makes undisclosed visits because of the threats. “Almost five leaders of our party have left Karachi and migrated to Islamabad because of threatening calls from different people who identify themselves as the Taliban. The TTP has also accepted these calls. The callers ask for payment of extortion money and demand the leaders to leave ANP.” Around 35 offices of ANP at Sohrab Goth, Ittehad Town, Manghopir, Sultanabad, Kwanri Colony, Pashtunabad and Landhi have been closed by the militants, Syed told The Express Tribune. Party flags have reportedly been removed from these areas while some of the offices have also been attacked.
Do or die
When asked if the party will boycott the elections, Syed replied in the negative. “We will participate in the elections at any cost. We will die fighting if we have to – those who boycott the elections, eventually vanish from the political scene altogether.” He said that their party leaders have taken nomination papers from the election commission and the ANP’s parliamentary board will decide the names of the candidates for the provincial and national assembly seats. “Despite all the threats and difficulties, our party will be successful in the public’s court. We will come through with high achievements in the elections due to the party’s historical sacrifices for the country.” ANP’s central committee member, Sultan Khan Mandokhail, was in agreement with Syed’s opinions. “It is not easy for us to hold large rallies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi because of the security threats from militants. But we will still go, meet our people and ask for their votes,” said Mandokhail who has been associated with the party for decades. “We will hold rallies and public meetings at every constituency, no matter who threatens us,” said Zaman Chagharzai of the ANP. If granted a ticket from the party, Chagharzai will contest the elections on the National Assembly seat NA-239. “Our party has been threatened at every period on different grounds – we have been called traitors and infidels, but we will continue our struggle.” To contest or not to contest ANP Sindh won two seats of the Sindh Assembly in Karachi, PS-93 and PS-128, on which former provincial labour minister, Ameer Nawab, and Amanullah Mehsud were elected respectively. This time around, however, both constituencies, which cover SITE, Landhi, Feature Colony and Quaidabad, will be tricky for the party because of the security threats posed by the Taliban presence in these areas. According to Chagharzai, the party has threats at PS-90, PS-93, PS-94, PS-96, PS-128, PS-129, and PS-126. Voters boundaries The following constituencies of the Sindh Assembly cover the areas of Pashtun majority PS-90 Ittehad Town, Baldia Town, Mawach Goth PS-93 Frontier Colony, Metrovill, Pathan Colony, Banaras PS-94 Areas of Orangi Town, including Fareed Colony, Faqeer Colony, Afridi Colony and Tori Bangash PS-96 Qasba Colony, Kuwanri Colony, Pukhtunabad, Mianwali, Baloch Colony, Bukhari Colony, Aligarh, Pirabad and a portion of Manghopir PS-128 Muslimabad, Bilal Colony, Sherpao, Dawood Chali, Feature Colony, Mansehra Colony and Sharafi Goth PS- 129 Quaidabad, Qazafi Town, Gulistan Society, Rehri Goth, Muzffarabad, Cattle Colony PS-126 Covers the areas of Gadap Town, Sohrab Goth and Super Highway.

Afghan army cancels Pakistan visit over 'shelling'
Afghanistan on Wednesday cancelled a planned army visit to Pakistan to protest against alleged cross border shelling, the latest sign of deteriorating relations between the troubled neighbours. The Pakistani army invited 11 Afghan officers to take part in a military exercise and drill in the southwestern city of Quetta, the Afghan foreign ministry said. "This visit will no longer take place due to the resumption of unacceptable Pakistani artillery shelling against different parts of Kunar province," it said. Kunar provincial governor Fazlulah Wahidi told AFP that up to 50 rockets, fired from the Pakistani side of the border, landed in two districts on Monday and Tuesday, damaging property. A Pakistani military official told AFP it had "no details" of the cancellation and declined to give any other immediate response. Afghanistan and Pakistan are deeply distrustful of each other and trade blame for Taliban violence plaguing both sides of their 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) border, known as the Durrand Line, drawn up by British colonialists. Relations had recently improved, building up to a three-way summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron on February 4 as part of efforts to end 11 years of war in Afghanistan. Western officials believe that Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan's 1996-2001 Taliban regime, has a crucial role to play in shoring up peace efforts between Kabul and Taliban insurgents. But since the London talks, there have been a series of public accusations and fallings-out between Afghan and Pakistani officials. In a report released on Tuesday, Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency said there was "strong support" in Afghanistan for members of the Pakistani Taliban, which have been fighting against Islamabad for nearly six years. Submitted to the Supreme Court as part of a long-running investigation into how the ISI holds terror suspects, the agency wrote of a "nexus" between members of the Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan government. "The strong support of miscreants, through provision of logistics, training and finances by the anti-Pakistan elements, specially from across the border, is one of the main factors for increased militancy," the ISI said in English. Last month, a conference of Afghan and Pakistani religious scholars aimed at pushing forward the peace process was called off due to disagreements. The head of Pakistan's Ulema Council, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, said there was no point to the meeting unless the Afghan Taliban were invited. He was then accused in Afghanistan of condoning suicide attacks in a television interview, in which he insists he was misunderstood. His public opposition against suicide attacks is well documented. There was another spat over Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, a senior Pakistani Taliban fighter arrested recently in Afghanistan. Pakistan demanded he be handed over, but Kabul indicated he would be held as a bargaining chip for prisoner exchanges. Pakistan has released at least 26 Afghan Taliban prisoners in recent months -- a move that Kabul welcomed in the hope that they could help persuade the Taliban to enter into peace talks. But there is little evidence that the prisoners have done so and Kabul is now increasingly impatient that other detainees, including former Afghan Taliban deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, have not been handed over. "In recent months unfortunately, Pakistan's commitments, specially very strong commitments made during London talks were not fulfilled and we missed some good months," Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Siamak Herawi told AFP recently. A senior Pakistani security official was quick to hit back. "The overall effort seems to be to sabotage the peace talks and not let Pakistan get close to the driving seat," he told AFP on condition of anonymity. Britain's Cameron held a telephone conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday evening to follow up on the London talks and discuss Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan, according to an official statement that did not elaborate further.

Afghanistan says ready to work for peace without Pakistan help

Afghanistan is shocked by Pakistan's "complacency" in the nascent Afghan peace process and is ready to work without Islamabad's help on reconciliation, Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told Reuters on Wednesday. It was the first time Afghanistan has suggested the possibility of going it alone without its neighbor. Regional power Pakistan is seen as critical to stabilizing Afghanistan because of its long ties to insurgent groups. Ludin also said the government would look to senior Taliban figures recently handed over by the United States in Bagram prison to urge militants to pursue peace. He did not elaborate. Afghan officials had been pushing Pakistan hard to encourage the Taliban and other groups to join reconciliation efforts and Kabul had spoken of progress after Islamabad released some Taliban prisoners who could promote peace. But Ludin, widely believed to shape foreign policy, told Reuters in an interview that Afghanistan had noted a shift in Pakistan's position towards peace efforts that are gaining more urgency as foreign forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014. "We here in Kabul are in a bit of a state of shock at once again being confronted by the depth of Pakistan's complacency, we are just very disappointed," he said. "But what has happened in the last few months for us, (we)see that Pakistan is changing the goal post every time we reach understanding." Afghanistan also said it had canceled a military trip to Pakistan due to "unacceptable Pakistani shelling" of the country's mountainous eastern borderlands. More than two dozen Pakistani artillery shells were fired into Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar on Monday and Tuesday. The cancellation of the trip and days of angry diplomatic exchanges have placed further strain on a fraught relationship. Afghanistan expressed its concern about what it called Pakistan's attempt to sideline President Hamid Karzai's government to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Kabul this week, said Ludin. The deputy foreign minister, who is closely involved in peace efforts, said Afghanistan insisted that its High Peace Council, formed by Karzai, should spearhead any peace efforts. Ludin said Pakistan had been trying to get the Taliban to talk to other parties, like the opposition, something he said would reverse gains. "Suddenly, there is a new notion of the peace process now being introduced by Pakistan and that's 'well why should the Taliban talk to President Karzai or the High Peace Council?'" said Ludin. "They (Taliban) should in fact talk to other political parties. That's what they have told us," Ludin said. "Pakistan's concept of the peace process is one that will reverse the achievement of the last 10 years that will negate the centrality of the Afghan state." Although there have been several meetings in Western capitals over the last few months in which representatives of the Taliban met Afghan peace negotiators, there are no signs of any breakthrough. RENEWED TENSIONS Karzai is due to visit the Gulf Arab state of Qatar soon to discuss the opening of a Taliban office that could be used for peace contacts in the future. Kabul has long been suspicious of Pakistan's intentions, accusing it of harboring the Taliban leadership in the city of Quetta, and using militants as proxies to counter the influence of rival India in Afghanistan. But a few months ago, Kabul was encouraged after Pakistan released some Afghan Taliban prisoners from its jails. Now relations seem to have taken a sharp turn for the worse as the United States winds down the war, now in its 12th year. This week, Pakistani officials accused Karzai of being an impediment to the peace process. Ludin suggested Pakistan wanted Afghanistan to remain unstable so that militant groups allegedly backed by Islamabad would be in a position to capitalize on instability after 2014. "What they would like is again a fragmentation of the Afghan state and going back to the drawing board so that they can have another 10 years, at least another decade, of weak, compromised Afghan state," he said. Ludin stressed that Pakistan was a pivotal player and Afghanistan would still welcome its support. "The sad reality is though Pakistan still remains the most important missing link in this whole vision that we have," he said. Karzai had worked too hard and taken too many political risks to let Pakistan dictate how peace efforts should proceed, Ludin said. "He (Karzai) has spent his political capital on this, he has basically staked his own political capital, his own reputation, on this and he has really mobilized the whole country, the whole region in support of the process," said Ludin. "It is laughable, laughable if Pakistanis think that the whole notion of the President Karzai is impediment to peace." Karzai's government, he said, would now turn to some of the most senior, hardcore Taliban leaders behind bars in Bagram in its quest for peace. "We will try to appeal to them and say: 'Look, continued reluctance of Taliban to stay away from peace process and any buy in to this whole Pakistani design that they should not to speak to the Afghan government, is dangerous,'" said Ludin. "Now that we have them we will see who is ready to help in this process."

Peshawar gunmen kill female teacher
Unidentified gunmen fatally shot a female head teacher in the Shah Kas area of Jamrud near Hayatabad March 26, officials and family told Central Asia Online."My wife, Shehnaz, was the head teacher of the Government Primary School in Takhta Beg Jamrud," Ishtiaq Ahmad, a resident of Kohati Gate in Peshawar, said. "She was going home with our son Danyal when men wearing hoods shot her." She was shot in a tribal area, police in Hayatabad said. Danyal, 14, escaped injury but is in shock, Ishtiaq said. His wife had taught for 24 years and had worked in Jamrud two years, he added. Meanwhile, authorities reported finding the body of a 20-year-old woman, Noor Bibi, in a bathroom in Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). She had been strangled and stabbed. Two senior doctors will lead an inquiry, LRH spokesman Jamil Shah said.

Zardari makes Sharifs eat humble pie

Though the PML-N is one of the biggest stakeholders in Pakistani politics and the upcoming general election, it was completely knocked out on the issue of the caretaker set-up, as its nominees for the caretaker prime minister and caretaker Punjab chief minister were rejected. No doubt, Najam Sethi was selected by the Parliamentary Committee but the PML N had no option, as the credentials of its candidates were very poor. Najam is a man of integrity and a clean person but he was the one who faced the wrath of Sharifs when he printed a report in his weekly on their loan and tax default. Soon after the publication of this report, the Punjab police raided his house in the middle of night and arrested him. He enjoyed the ‘hospitality’ of the police on the direct orders of Sharifs and was only rescued by the courts. In his magazine, Najam criticized Sharifs’ government and later being an editor of a daily newspaper that was known as Sharifs’ critic. This newspaper was owned by late Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer and his relations with Sharifs is no hidden thing. The appointment of Mir Hazar Khan Khoso as the caretaker prime minister brought embarrassment to the PML-N. The point of concern for the PML-N was the rejection of its candidates at the federal and Punjab level instead of selection of the PPP’s candidates. The PML-N’s wrong selection of candidates and poor decision policy was responsible for this awkward situation. It seems it had not done any home work or checked the credentials of its nominees before putting them on board. Though some leaguers blamed Chaudhry Nisar alone, the buck stops with the top leadership. The PML-N leadership should admit that the criterion for choosing their candidates was just ‘personal loyalty” and PPP’s enmity and nothing else. Did they think why their nominees could not win the confidence of an independent Election Commission? Did they do homework before pitching Justice Nasir Aslam and Rasool Bukhsh Palejo as their nominees or they ignored it despite knowing their past? In fact, they left no option for the Election Commission to go for a dark horse. By appointing Khoso, the Election Commission played wisely and secured its credibility. This decision will surely help Baloch nationalists to participate in elections, and Ataullah Mengal’s return is a good sign. How the PML-N dropped Justice Shakirullah Jan speaks of its political immaturity. In this connection Ch Nisar went out of his mind because of his aversion to property tycoon Malik Riaz. In this madness he withdrew the name of Justice Shakirullah Jan. Instead of embarrassing Justice Shakir, the PML-N should have checked all odds against him before his nomination. It indicates that the PML-N’s decision making is very poor. The result was obvious — the electoral alliance or adjustment between the PML-N and JUI broke down and the worst thing was that it had no regrets and this attitude would be alarming for future allies as well. Despite all odds, the PPP carried its allies in all decisions. PML-N insiders disclosed that Chaudhry Nisar was dead sure that the Election Commission will nominate their candidate. The nomination of Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was a surprise for them. The question is why it was so sure and why it faced disappointment? The reason was that the party has always played on home ground with its own empires. For the first time, it was playing with neutral empires in neutral grounds and that’s why it was completely beaten. The PML-N agreed in the federal parliamentary committee that no PCO judge would be nominated as the caretaker prime minister. They had no knowledge that their own candidate Justice (R) Nasir Aslam Zahid was a PCO judge. Instead, Chaudhry Nisar defended his nomination despite knowing this fact. The dual policy of PML-N came out when it objected to the PPP’s nominee Justice Zahid Hussein for being the PCO judge while defending their PCO judge (Nasir Aslam Zahid). On the other side, the PPP’s nominees were not angels, but at least they were acceptable and that’s why their candidate was chosen. In Punjab, its nominee Justice Amir Raza was active during the Pakistan National Alliance movement against ZA Bhutto. He was among those lawyers who welcomed Ziaul Haq and was appointed advocate general and later as the high court Judge. Apart from it, he enjoyed various luxurious posts during the PML N’s regime. The other candidate ex-bureaucrat Khawaja Zaheer was accommodated by the PML-N governments and was part of the team that framed cases against Asif Ali Zardari. The PML-N rejected the name of Justice Zahid, as he was a PCO judge. In this situation, only Najam Sethi was left and it had no choice but to accept him as a neutral caretaker Punjab chief minister. People have started talking about the outcome of the extreme follies of the PML-N leaders. The result came in the shape of Zardari making Sharifs bite the dust. Zardari played his cards very wisely. Before nominating PPP candidates he kept in view of the fact that if the matter reaches the Election Commission what would the criteria of any candidate’s selection there. Zardari knew that distance of the nominee from the party that nominates him would be more important than the competence and experience of the nominee. That is why he selected such candidates whose links with the party could not be found. While the PML-N nominees were devoid of this most important quality that was necessary to win the selection.

Balochi Language Writer, Journalist Goes Missing From Karachi

The Baloch Hal News
A Balochi language writer, journalist and social activist, Haji Abdul Razaaq Baloch, has gone missing from Karachi’s Liyari area, family sources confirmed. Mr. Baloch’s family sources said he went missing between 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm on March 24. No one knows about his whereabouts since he was seen last. They said he had remained affiliated with Daily Tawar, a pro-Baloch nationalist newspaper whose reporters had been kidnapped, tortured and killed in the past as well. Mr. Baloch was employed by the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation and the sole breadwinner for his family. The family has made a passionate appeal to the government authorities to ensure his safe and immediate recovery. Several Baloch political activists kidnapped from Balochistan have been found dead in Karachi in the recent times.

Musarrat Shaheen hopes to win against Fazl, Kundi

The Frontier Post
Chairperson of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Musawat and ex-film star Mussarat Shaheen has announced to contest elections from NA 24 D.I. Khan, the same constituency on which JUI chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman and ex-Deputy Speaker National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi are of PPP are also in run for the national assembly seat. Musarrat Shaheen, talking to The Frontier Post said she was not against Maulana Fazlur Rehman rather she was contesting polls against the male dominated society and all those who had usurped the rights of the womenfolk in her constituency. Musarrat also came hard on Faisal Karim Kundi and said she would give tough time to Kundi as well in the next general elections. "He has not visited his home town during the last five years. We just watch him on TV. He only cares for his attire more than helping the poor and needy community of his area," Musarrat Shaheen added. She was hopeful of winning the elections saying by saying that the time had changed and now the people had realized the real faces of the politicians. She also criticized Rehaman Malik and said he refused to extend any kind of help to her regarding security during electioneering. "Rehman Malik and Khwaja Saddiq are sitting in the president house and they have replied clearly to provide me security at a time when I am facing life threats," she said. She accused Rehman Malik for granting the contract of bullet proof vehicles to his brother Khalid Malik who is taking four million per car. "I don't need their security rather I rely on the support of the public who respect me and love me," she said while commenting on the security threats in the area. Replying to a query she said the women of Fata should be given representation in National Assembly and at least two women from each agency should have reserved seats for women. "As long as you don't empower women in Fata, you will have to suffer from the threats of militancy in one way or another," Shaheen opined. When asked about the increasing number of women now contesting direct elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, she said that when she entered into politics in 1997 there were hardly any woman councilor in whole KP and at that time she had taken part in the elections. "As a result of my struggle for the women rights and awareness there was a time when there were over 6000 women councilors in KP and today more and more women are following her footsteps and contest direct elections," Musarrat Shaheen added. Mussarat Shaheen is a super Film star and has worked in Pashto and Urdu movies. She started taking part in politics in 1997 and contested against the JUI-F chief Maulana Fazalur Rehaman which gained a lot of attention of the media notwithstanding the fact that she was defeated by a high margin. She also wanted to take part in the previous election from NA 40 North Waziristan Agency but she withdrew after she was threatened by the local militants.

Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) - Analysis of Najam Sethi

Nawaz League SSP & Lashkar-e-Jhangvi

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