Monday, May 20, 2013

“Dear Taliban, This is your province.” says PTI CM-designate. Taliban oblige by killing 21 Pashtuns in Malakand!

by Sarah Khan
Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) senior leader and soon-to-be Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pervez Khattak on Friday said that the coming provincial government was ready to hold talks with the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants. We have no enmity with the Taliban, said the PTI central Secretary General. He said the Taliban were also Pakistanis and that they request the militant group to hold peace talks and work for peace in the region. “We appeal to Taliban that we are not at war with you, this province is yours and we are hopeful you will work for its peace. “We are not against anyone and not here to fight anyone, we want peace and development in our province and we want to talk to them, ” he said. Pervaiz Khattak also said that they should be given a chance to settle the problem. “Our request to them is that we want peace in the province and that they should extend to us their help,” Khattak said.
“Dear Taliban, This is your province.” says PTI CM-designate. Taliban oblige by killing 21 Pashtuns in Malakand! posted by Sarah Khan | May 17, 2013 | In Featured, Original Articles “We have no enmity with the Taliban” PESHAWAR (17 May 2013): Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) senior leader and soon-to-be Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pervez Khattak on Friday said that the coming provincial government was ready to hold talks with the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants. We have no enmity with the Taliban, said the PTI central Secretary General. He said the Taliban were also Pakistanis and that they request the militant group to hold peace talks and work for peace in the region. “We appeal to Taliban that we are not at war with you, this province is yours and we are hopeful you will work for its peace. “We are not against anyone and not here to fight anyone, we want peace and development in our province and we want to talk to them, ” he said. Pervaiz Khattak also said that they should be given a chance to settle the problem. “Our request to them is that we want peace in the province and that they should extend to us their help,” Khattak said. پاکستان کے صوبہ خیبر پختونخوا کی اسمبلی کے لیے پاکستان تحریکِ انصاف کے نامزد پارلیمانی لیڈر پرویز خٹک نے کہا ہے کہ ’ہم طالبانائزیشن کی نہیں دہشت گردی کی بات کرتے ہیں‘ اور اس مسئلے کو مذاکرات سے حل کریں گے۔ خیال رہے کہ ملک میں گیارہ مئی کو ہونے والے عام انتخابات میں الیکشن کمیشن کے مطابق پاکستان تحریکِ انصاف نے صوبہ خبیر پختونخوا میں اکثریتی جماعت کے طور پر اْبھری ہے۔ پاکستان تحریکِ انصاف کی طرف خیبر پختوانخوا کی صوبائی اسمبلی میں پرویز خٹک نامزد پارلیمانی لیڈر کے طور پر سامنے آئے ہیں۔ بی بی سی اُردو کو خصوصی انٹرویو میں انہوں نے کہا ’ہم طالبانائزیشن کی بات نہیں کرتے، ہم کہتے ہیں کہ صوبے میں دہشت گردی ہے اور ہمیں معلوم نہیں کہ یہ کون کرتا ہے۔ کبھی کوئی ایک دعویٰ کرتا ہے کبھی کوئی اور۔‘ انہوں نے کہا ہے کہ انہیں ابھی تک اس کی تصدیق نہیں ہوئی ہے کہ دہشت گردی کون کرتا ہے۔ ان کا کہنا ہے کہ جو بھی دہشت گردی کرتے ہیں ’ہم انہیں درخواست کرتے ہیں کہ صوبے میں امن ہونا چاہیے، وہ جو عزت مانگتے ہیں ہم دینے کو تیار ہیں‘ اور ہم ان کو دوبارہ معاشرے کا حصہ بنانے کے لیے تیار ہیں۔
Taliban slaughter 21 Pashtuns in Malakand Division
Malakand (17 May 2013): Two bombs exploded near separate mosques after Friday prayers in Malakand Division’s Bazdara area killing 21 persons and injuring at least 100 others. “The explosive was a timed device planted apparently among the pillows and sheets of worshipers inside the mosque,” said Amjad, a govt official. He said both mosques remained open throughout the night, which is when the culprits may have planted the bomb. An eye witness, Aalam Khan, told that two blasts rocked the Bar Kalley and the main Jamia Masjid of the Bazdara region immediately after Friday prayers. “At least 12 bodies were brought to the Palai Hospital whereas only 30 of the 100 or so injured were treated at the Palai Hospital. The remaining casualties were referred to Dargai and Mardan hospitals.” Another eyewitness Israrullah said the first explosion rocked the Upper Bazdara mosque. “People from the mosque in the Lower Bazdara area immediately rushed to the site of the first blast. This is when the second blast rocked the Lower Bazdara mosque,” he said. The second explosion causes the roof of the other mosque to collapse, killing one person. “The huge blast occurred as soon as the prayer leader had finished the Friday sermon,” said Waseem, a young boy injured in the explosion. Nine of the injured are being treated at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, while fifteen were being treated at Dargai Hospital, where the condition of some of the patients were said to be critical. Security forces imposed a curfew in the area which is 35 to 40 kilometres to the border of Buner District. An emergency was also imposed in Dargai and Mardan Hospitals.

Malala Yousafzai selected for UNA-USA's global leadership award

Teenager Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot at last year by the Taliban for advocating education of girls, has been selected for the prestigious Global Leadership Award this year. 15-year-old Malala will receive the award for her role as a global activist in advocating for educating and empowering girls worldwide, a media announcement said on Monday. She was targeted for her outspoken views and advocacy on behalf of girls' education.Last year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared November 10 as Malala Day. He has also referred to her as a "daughter of the United Nations". Malala will receive the Champion for Global Change Award in Washington on November 6 at an event hosted by the UN Foundation and benefits UN Foundation and the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA)'s Global Classrooms Model UN programme. Together the UN Foundation and UNA-USA represent the single largest network of American supporters of the United Nations. Front-line polio workers are among the other awardees for their commitment to vaccinating those that live with the threat of contracting polio, besides multiplying its efforts to ensure all girls receive an education and GE Africa for helping countries in Africa take on tough challenges including helping them meet demands for clean energy and water. "The United Nations continues to lead the world as the most indispensable international organisation in the quest to solve the world's most pressing problems," said UN Foundation President & CEO Kathy Calvin.

Balochistan: Nawaz Sharif directly in partnership with the ISI

Let Us Build Pakistan
by Amir Mateen
PML (N)’s Balochistan Chief, Sanaullah Zehri’s electoral alliance with ISI-backed Shafiq Mengal group has thrown Balochistan politics into a tailspin. This may have seriously threatened the security and political stability of the already violence prone province. This also brings Nawaz Sharif directly in partnership with the intelligence agencies. Shafiq Mengal is the son of former Balochistan Caretaker Chief Minister Naseer Mengal and is accused of running the Baloch Mussalah Difah Tanzim (BMDF). Naseer Mengal and his two sons, Shafiqur Rehman and Ataur Rehman, have a decades- long rivalry with Sardar Attaullah Mengal and his sons, including the president of his own BNP faction, Aktar Mengal. Both groups compete with each other—while being on the opposite sides of the establishment–for local supremacy around Khuzdar and Kalat, but mostly in their home town Wadh. The rivalry has turned into a bloody feud in the last decade or so. Akhtar Megal continues to accuse Shafiq Mengal of running private militias backed by ISI to eliminate him and his party. The Shafiq Mengal group is known as the face of the intelligence agencies in countering the insurgents. The security agencies found Shafiq Mengal handy as Akhtar Mengal’s brother, Javed Mengal, ran his own separatist militant wing, Lashkar-i-Balochistan. Shafiq used official patronage to demolish and occupy Harbiyar Marri’s house in Quetta. However, in the process Shafiq Mengal targeted the Akhtar Mengal group more than others because of the local family enmity. Akhtar Mengal’s concerns about not getting a “level-playing field” and his warnings about being “pushed to the wall” are mostly hints at the Shafiq Mengal group. The Shafiq Mengal group’s alignment with Sardar Sanaullah Zehri has made things even more difficult and complicated for Akhtar Mengal. This may just be the beginning of a new round of tribal warfare, making the Balochistan situation more complicated. Nawab Sanaullah Zehri survived a bomb attack but his son, brother and nephew got killed recently. He is an angry man who has vowed vengeance. He has named Akhtar Mengal and his father, Sardar Attaullah Mengal as accomplices in the attack. Earlier, Akhtar was looking towards Islamabad and Rawalpindi to protect him from the “armed militias” but now he also has to protect himself from the tribal forces of Sanaullah Zehri, who in a tribal tradition is the bigger Nawab of Jhalawan (southern Baloch region). The tribal warfare has already started. According to one report the house of BNP (M) candidate from NA 269 (Khuzdar), Abdul Rauf Mengal, was attacked by grenades. He survived but his house was severely damaged. The attack was claimed by Zehri Youth Army, which is a new militia that has cropped up to avenge the attack on Sanaullah. This has electoral consequences also. Ataur Rehman Mengal has withdrawn against Sanaullah Zehri in NA 269 (Khuzdar) whereas the latter has withdrawn from two provincial seats against Ata (PB-35) and Shafiq (PB-37) in Sorab and Wadh, the home constituency of Akhtar Mengal. The Shafiq brothers also help Sanaullah in Zehri (PB-33). This alliance further dampens the electoral prospects of Akhtar Mengal’s party. The BNP (M) failed to hammer out an electoral understanding with its natural ally, Hasil Bizenjo’s National Party (NP). Such was the bad blood between the two nationalist parties that the NP preferred to have an electoral alliance with JUI (F) rather than Akhtar Mengal. National Party sources say Akhtar Mengal overestimated his strength and was asking too many seats in return. “You see, he was out for so long and does not know the new reality on ground,” said an NP leader requesting that he should not be named. “Frankly, we don’t trust Akhtar. He stabbed us in the back in 1998 and also Nawab Akbar Bugti when he manipulated politics to deny the Nawab’s party a midway to run the provincial government as promised.” Obviously, scars exist from the old rivalry in 1998 when the two groups parted ways over mutual acrimony. All of this leaves Akhtar Mengal and his BNP in a difficult situation. And it is not just because of the ISI. However, the new alliance between Sanaullah Zehri and Shafiq Mengal also puts Nawaz Sharif in a quandary. By default, this means that PML (N) is in league with a group that owns the ISI backing—so much for Mian Sahib’s accusation against Imran Khan of having the support of Rawalpindi. PML (N)’s provincial Chief is now officially in an electoral partnership with the ISI-backed group. Ironically, Nawaz Sharif went out of the way to visit Sardar Attaullah Mengal’s residence and expressed his support for Akhtar Mengal. It will be interesting to see whether he will disown Sanaullah Zehri’s alliance or wait for the time to see its results. Whatever the case, the symbolic value of Akhtar Mengal’s return seems to matter less now. Politics, they say, is a cruel game when it comes to electoral arrangements. But the empowerment of the Shafiq Mengal group may also bring pressure on the army and its ‘agencies.’ This can lead to many scenarios that may have long-term consequences for Balochistan as well as Pakistan. Akhtar Mengal may not have won many seats anyway–he has a chance on three provincial seats and one national seat. However, this will give him the chance to cry about foul play. A possibility exists that he might boycott the elections before or after the results. This will be a jolt to the efforts of bringing back the moderates. Although it is just a matter of two or three seats, its repercussions will go far and wide. The intelligence agencies should not only be out of this game but, more importantly, also seen to be out of it. Otherwise, it will be a delightful ‘we-told-you-so’ moment for the Baloch extremists who will be quick to quip “there you go again.” And not without reason.PML (N) may have blundered in its first political decision even before their third government by choosing Sardar Sanaullah Zehri as its nominee for Balochistan’s Chief Ministership. The troublesome province needed somebody who was less tainted in controversy, crime and corruption charges. True, he suffered a tragedy during the elections when his son, brother and a nephew got killed in an ambush. But this should not be the sole reason for anointing him for the top job in Balochistan. Here’s why: Sardar Sanaullah Zehri, almost as Nawab Aslam Raisani before him, has feuds of blood running with half of Baloch tribe. He has named Sardar Attaullah Mengal, Akhtar Mengal, Khair Bakhsh Marri, among others, as accused in the FIR registered for the triple murder of his family. He has also registered cases of murders against his own brothers (Israr and Zafar), uncles and cousins. In a tribal society ‘vengeance’ is predominant code and the office of the Chief Minister will actually facilitate him to fulfill his tribal ‘obligation.’ This happened in the case of former Chief Minister Aslam Raisani when his sworn enemy, MPA Yar Mohammad Rind remained holed up in his village for five years as he feared for his life. Another trail of tribal feuding is the last thing that the war-torn province needs at this stage. Sanaullah ascension will also put Nawaz Sharif’s effort for reconciliation in Balochistan, particularly with moderates as Aktar Mengal. He took a risk by returning to the country but feels aggrieved that he was wronged in the elections by irregularities. His ire is particularly directed at Sanaullah Zehri who aligned with Akhtar’s arch rivals in Khuzdar—Naseer Mengal. Naseer two sons, Attaur Rehman and Shafiq, contested against Akhtar and are accused of running a Rawalpindi-backed militant militia. Akhtar won the provincial seat but the result on the national seat in Khuzdar remains withheld. But this rivalry is crucial to any effort for peace in Balochistan and Sanaullah is seen as aligned to one group. He is the last person in Balochistan who could initiate the peace process, which everybody expects from the government. Aslam Raisani may have other faults but was acceptable to all parties as a compromise candidates—even the Baloch extremists. One cannot say this about Sanaullah Zehri. In any case, Sanaullah was not particularly known for his honesty and good practices when he was a Cabinet member (who was not) in the last government. He too wasted Rs 300 millional annual development grant with the same abandon as the others, He too was accused by a Police DIG (and his own brother) for harbouring arms gangs accused of kidnapping people for ransom. He was as much a symbol of mis-governance, corruption and lawlessness as were his worthy colleagues in the last government. PML (N) could oblige somebody from the National Party or Akhtar Mengal’s BNP if it wants to show political magnanimity—or even have a Pashtun Chief Minister from Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s PMAP, which won the largest number of (ten) seats. National Party’s President, Dr Malick has already suggested that there should be a Chief Minister by consensus, basically expressing his reservations about Sanaullah Zehri. And so has Mahmood Khan Achakzai who is likely to be a coalition partner of PML (N). But if PML (N) wants to play safe and have its own Chief Minister it may have other candidates in its ranks. Tahir Mehmood may not be acceptable as he is a Punjabi settler; Akbar Askani from Kech may not be a grandee that they might be looking for. Jan Jamali should fit the criteria as he–being a former Chief Minister and Deputy Chairman in the Senate– knows political ropes well. This decision is more important than many in PML (N) may realise. Next time the trouble starts in Balochistan—be it in the form of bomb explosions or sectarian violence against Hazaras—Nawaz Sharif will be in the eye of the storm even before he settles down in Islamabad. Sanaullah Zehri will be the last person that he will want at the helm in such an eventuality. Half of the Baloch tribes will even refuse to talk to him—and for the other half he will be a proverbial red flag that will keep the fires of hatred aflame. PML (N) seems in alliance with Rawalpindi as far Balochistan is concerned. PML (N)’s Provincial President Sanaullah Zehri was in electoral alliance with Mussallah Dafa-i- Balochistan that, we all know, is backed by the ISI. PML (N) won all the seats where the establishment matters. Lt General (Retd) Abdul Qadir and the MPAs under him in the crucial Avaran, Panjgur, Kech could not have won without ‘bhai log’—or even Changez Marri in Kohlu. But then this may have been the national plan all along. PTI may just have been the deflection as the establishment’s baby. If Balochistan is any guide, it is clear that PML (N) is in partnership with Rawalpindi. And that just may be the decisive factor in the selection of Sanaullah Zehri—Balochistan be damned.

Imran made Karachi a battlefield
Post-May 11 elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan made Karachi a battlefield, accused Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Waseem Aftab on Monday. Aftab was addressing a protest gathering outside the Karachi Press Club. He further said that the PTI chairman offended MQM supporters by accusing their leader of killing. PTI leadership had earlier held MQM chief Altaf Hussain responsible for the murder of PTI central vice president Zehra Shahid Hussain in Karachi. “I hold (MQM leader) Altaf Hussain directly responsible for the murder as he openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts,” Imran Khan had said in a tweet. “I also hold the British government responsible as I had warned them about British citizen Altaf Hussain after his open threats.” MQM termed the allegation as an attempt to defame the party leadership. “It’s yet to be confirmed whether this incident is a street crime or targeted killing,” said Farooq Sattar while speaking at a news conference in the wee hours of Sunday, adding that the blame game at this stage would affect the investigations. “It is unfortunate that PTI Chairman Imran Khan showed his political immaturity and blamed MQM chief Altaf Hussain for the murder,” he said and called upon the government to take notice of Imran Khan’s statement. Another MQM protest was held outside the press club in Hyderabad, reported Express News on Monday. According to MQM protesters, the demonstration will continue till the MQM Coordination Committee asks them to disperse. Security arrangements have been made by authorities to ensure peace.

Zardari blames ‘national, international conspiracy’ for PPP defeat

President Asif Ali Zardari, in a meeting with Pakistan People’s Party’s ticket-bearers from Punjab on Monday, held national and international institutions responsible for the party’s defeat in the general elections. The meeting was held at Bilawal House in Lahore in which senior party leaders were also present. Following rigging allegations by various parties in the aftermath of May 11 polls, President Zardari also claimed that his party was defeated through planned rigging. The president has formed a probe committee, which will be headed by Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, to ascertain reasons for the PPP’s resounding defeat in the recently held general elections across the country. Pointing towards his expected exit from the presidency, he said that by the end of year, he himself will lead the party out of its current crisis. President Zardari’s term in office is due to end this September. He said his children – Bilawal, Aseefa and Bakhtawar – will also play their role in mobilising the party again. Former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani, former Punjab governor Sardar Latif Khosa, former PPP central Punjab president Mian Manzoor Wattoo, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and other important leaders also attended the meeting. Meanwhile, PPP supporters gathered outside Bilawal House in great numbers to record their protest against imprudent policies of the party leadership, which they said led to its defeat in the polls. They cited alliance with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) as the main reason for the party’s downfall.

Pakistan: Fall in external debt and liabilities

Decline in overall stock of external debt and liability is normally considered a healthy development for a country. Seen against this background, the news in the Business Recorder on 17th May, 2013 that stock of external debt and liabilities of the country had declined by seven percent or over $4 billion during the first nine months of the current fiscal year would appear to a good sign for the economy. The fall in the stock of total external debt and liabilities was reportedly due mainly to repayment of loans to international financial institutions, particularly the IMF. The country had availed Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) programme from this institution in November, 2008 to avoid default and a massive amount of foreign exchange is being paid now on account of this programme, resulting in a decline in the external debt stock. As per schedule, Pakistan has to pay three more instalments in the next two months and these repayments are expected to further reduce the stock of external debt and liabilities. Ministry of Finance is reported to have made it clear that Pakistan was able to meet its commitments with international financial institutions and manage overall debt servicing. In specific terms, the data compiled by the SBP showed that with the current decline, overall stock of external debt and liabilities stood at $60.869 billion on 31st March, 2013 as against $65.478 billion last year. A large part of decline originated from public debt which posted a decline of 8 percent during this period. The public sector debt comprises government debt, IMF debt and foreign exchange liabilities. It may be mentioned that repayment of SBA began from last fiscal and during the nine months' period of this year. IMF debt was reduced by $2 billion to $5.3 billion from $7.34 billion. PSE's debt, on the other hand, went up to $1.826 billion in March this year, up from $1.524 billion in June, 2012. The decline in external debt and liabilities could be interpreted and analysed in several ways. It could be argued that as per the advice of Ministry of Finance and also probably the State Bank, Pakistan was in a position to manage its external debt servicing on its own and it was a good news for the country. A further decline in the external debt due to SBA repayments in the coming months could lighten the debt servicing burden of Pakistan further and enable it to look confidently in future. Sadly, however, the reality is vastly different. No country or IFI is prepared to write-off or reschedule our loans and neither there is a possibility of a huge turnaround in our current account balances in the near future - the two factors which could help us tide over the deteriorating situation easily. What in fact has happened is that the fall in external debt and liabilities has occurred due to drawdown on our foreign exchange reserves held with the SBP, which are now at a very low level of $6.5 billion. Further fall in reserves could impair the capacity of the country to pay its debt obligations in time. In our view, consistent impression by the relevant authorities that external sector is manageable without some extraordinary measures is not only self-deceptive but gives a false sense of security, especially to the government at the helms, whereas the reality is quite different. While the level of home remittances have lately tapered-off, there is hardly any chance of increasing exports substantially until and unless the productivity of the country is sharply enhanced by improving its macroeconomic indicators. The institutional and structural constraints and the infrastructural requirements of the country are so huge that the existing resources are not adequate to alter the situation for the better, at least in the near future. As is evident, the incoming government would have to tackle very difficult challenges before it could be satisfied with the progress in the external sector account of the country. In the meantime, there seems to be no credible alternative but to initiate a programme with the Fund to support the balance of payments of the country and avoid the risk of insolvency which seems to be looming large on the horizon. It is time to think seriously about the shrinking foreign exchange reserves rather to be satisfied with the fall in external debt and liabilities.