Friday, May 24, 2013

Bahraini protesters clash with police

Thousands of anti-government protesters have rallied in Bahrain to demonstrate against a raid last week on a top cleric's home. Shia protesters in the village of Diraz, west of the capital Manama, threw stones at hundreds of riot police who responded with tear gas and water cannons, a witness said on Friday. The violence continued for more than an hour before the demonstrators dispersed. The raid by security forces on the home of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim on May 17 infuriated the Shia opposition and drew condemnation from neighbouring Shia power Iran. The Gulf Island nation, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been at the centre of a series of pro-democracy protests over the past two years and has become a hot spot in a region-wide tussle for influence between Iran and Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia. The mass protests were crushed but smaller demonstrations continue, led by Bahrain's Shia majority, who want the Gulf Arab state's Sunni rulers to call elections and create a constitutional monarchy. The raid on the ayatollah's house prompted main opposition group Al-Wefaq to announce on Wednesday that it would withdraw from reconciliation talks with the government for two weeks. Thousands gathered in the cleric's village on Friday for a peaceful sit-in against their Sunni-led government. Protesters at the sit-in, called by Al-Wefaq and authorised by the government, waved Bahraini flags and held up images of Sheikh Issa. Police say the raid on the cleric's home was not targeted but occurred during a security operation in the same neighbourhood.

Michelle Obama Gives High School Students Life Advice

The first lady tells graduates that there is more to life than getting good grades.

VIDEO: President Obama Speaks on the U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy

West Wing Week: 05/24/13 or “Justice for Everybody”

PPP’s soul-searching: A hard talk with the party leadership

Pakistan People’s Party’s first meeting after its defeat in the general elections was an eventful session. The decision made in the meeting which was held in Lahore appeared to suggest the level of concern within the party over its poor performance. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan was tasked to head a fact-finding committee to look into the reasons for the party poor performance in Punjab where the PPP won only two seats. Mr Ahsan, in consultation with the committee members, who are yet to be nominated, will come up with recommendations to reorganise the party. However, it was the discussion that preceded this decision that was newsworthy. A heated debate and a frank exchange of ideas took place as the party’s losing candidates from Punjab gave their opinion about the party’s poor performance in the province. While the PPP has retained 29 National Assembly seats in Sindh, it could only manage two from Punjab. In the 2008 elections, PPP candidates from 49 constituencies of Punjab had reached the National Assembly. Co-chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the fortified Bilawal House in Lahore, the participants of the meeting spoke frankly. A former MNA of the party from central Punjab told Dawn that participants criticised former prime ministers Mr Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf. They argued that the two former prime ministers only looked after their own constituencies ignoring the rest of the province, and that these two leaders were also responsible for bringing a bad name to the party because of their alleged involvement in corruption cases. One party loyalist even went so far as to say that “a few in the party filled their pockets through corruption at the cost of the entire party.” Another factor which was blamed equally for the party’s defeat was the failure on the part of party’s former cabinet members to effectively defend President Zardari in the media, said the former MNA. The inadequate portrayal of the PPP in the media was also seen as a reason for the party’s thrashing in the Punjab. However, this does not mean that only the ministers were criticized. Some went further and even questioned the president. A party loyalist from district Layyah waxed lyrical about the political secretary to the late Benazir Bhutto and praised her for maintaining an effective communication between the party leadership and the workers. He then added that the present lot of aides to the party leaders did the opposite. He said, “One Nahid Khan kept the party leadership abreast of the on-the- ground developments and let party workers speak to BB every now and then. Now there are a half a dozen women who are supposed to do the same job but there is zero communication between the president and the party workers.” Nahid Khan and her husband former Senator Safdar Abbasi were sidelined from the party after Ms Bhutto’s assassination in December 2007. After this ‘hard talk’, President Zardari agreed to the suggestion that Bilawal Bhutto and his two daughters should spend considerable time in Pakistan and reach out to the party workers. Earlier during the meeting a former lawmaker had pointed out that the complete absence of the Bhuttos from the election campaign. “If we want to bounce back, we need Bilawal, Bakhtawar and Asifa among us. Video messages are not enough,” said the lawmaker in his concluding remarks. During the election campaign, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto addressed election rallies through recorded video messages. Apart from personalities and their acts, policies were also discussed. There was a general consensus that the electoral defeat was closely linked to the party’s failure to address the energy crisis in the past five years. Everyone agreed that the PPP could have performed better in the elections in Punjab if the loadhsedding had been contained. In his remarks, a former federal minister said the party needed to do some soul-searching to understand that voters could no longer be mobilised by slogans alone. “Yes, there were incidences of rigging; however, the party has to accept the reality that the voters were unhappy with our performance and they expressed their resentment by rejecting us in the polls,” said the former minister. Indeed, most participants of the meeting agreed that the party now had to improve its image and be seen as a party that could deliver. This is why most people endorsed the suggestion put forwarded by a young participant who said that the PPP had one last chance to recapture its old glory by delivering in Sindh where it had the numbers to form the government. He pointed out that with the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the PML-N in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh, the 2018 elections will be contested on the basis of the performance. If the party was able to govern well in Sindh, it would be in a better position to campaign in 2018. “The only slogan that will work in 2018 will be good governance and the party which will serve its people well will win elections,” said the young participant. There was also a suggestion that stalwarts such as Mian Raza Rabbani should be given a say in the reorganisation of the party. A party source told Dawn that it was Raza Rabbani’s idea to hold the meeting in Lahore and listen to the grievances of the party candidates. Though President Zardari is said to have listened to all the comments and suggestions, it remains to be seen if he will heed them. The choice the party makes in Sindh in the coming days will reveal how much he really heard.

Sino-Pak ties in realm of trust

After his visit to India, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday praised the existing Pak-China relationship terming the friendship between the two 'unmatchable' and that had always withstood the tests of time. He went on to say that 'our hearts beat together and if there is anything time-tested in this world, it is Pakistan-China friendship.' During his stay in Pakistan, the Chinese leader held a number of meetings with the top leadership of the country that also includes a one-on-one meeting with the prime minister in-waiting Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The two leaders held in depth discussion on matters of mutual interests. Nawaz sought Chinese cooperation in Civil Nuclear Technology to overcome the acute energy crisis that Pakistan is facing today. China has built two nuclear power plants in this country and is contracted for two more reactors. Thus Pakistan cannot find better helping hand than China especially when the country is facing a bloody fight with armed groups, sluggish economic growth, high inflation, a crumbling currency, the threat of balance of payments crisis and crippling electricity outages. Notwithstanding the worst law and order situation in Pakistan, bilateral trade between the two countries has hit a 12-month figure of $12 billion for the first time last year which recorded an increase of 18 per cent as compared to the previous year, and the two sides are committed to raise this to $15 billion in the next two to three years. Apart from that nearly 10,000 Chinese individuals and more than 120 companies are already working in Pakistan, braving the brunt of local violence. Bilateral economic relations have firmly taken roots. Despite several testing times that the relationship between the two countries remained firm. The strategic importance that China attaches to Pakistan can be gauged from the Chinese leadership thought visit to this country necessary even when it is under interim setup.. No doubt, it is welcome move on the part of China, and Pakistan must grab the opportunity with both hands to cash in on by removing the apprehensions that China had in the past. First, Pakistan should ensure provision of safe trade rout to China-of course, the Gwadar Port already contracted to Chinese is a prime interest that Beijing harbors. Through thick and thin, Pakistan must honour its commitment to this effect with an unshakable resolve, and should also uphold the ideology of China, standing guard against religious invasion. In Pakistan too the Chinese premier's visit to India has created some uneasiness amongst diplomatic circles. China and India are two big economies in the region, having bilateral trade worth billions of dollars; their contacts should not be viewed with suspicions rather Pakistan should support China's vision of maintaining harmonious ties with its neighbours. Apart from meetings with President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khoso, the Chinese Prime Minister Keqiang held talks with Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. The Chinese resolve to deepen strategic ties between China and Pakistan irrespective of the international situation especially emerging from the American pull-out from Afghanistan next year is yet another important step forward in reinforcing the strategic partnership between the two countries. Pakistan is badly exposed to terrorism which is believed to be sponsored by some foreign forces. To a certain extent, the situation emerging from the war on terror has pushed Pakistan to a diplomatic isolation; the strategic collaboration with China at this point in time will help Pakistan fight against militancy with greater success as the two states will have same stance on different international issues. On economic front, the people of Pakistan emulate the success story of China and hope for the same in the country which is only possible if Pakistan develops rock-solid relationship with economic giant like China sitting next door. Pakistan and China have unbreakable ties that should be translated into a joint partnership beneficial for the peoples of the two countries. This visit of Chinese Prime Minister will be crucial in drawing up the economic roadmap for the incoming government in Pakistan. The hallmark is that the visit has rooted the Sino-Pak ties in realm of trust.

Pakistan: Worst power outages as shortfall crosses 7,000MW

The Frontier Post
People across the country are facing worst ever electricity load shedding this summer with power shortfall already exceeding 7,000MW and the duration of load shedding rising to 20 hours a day in most areas. Especially, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) have been subjected to prolonged and unscheduled electricity load shedding varying between 18 to 20 hours a day. Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala and other cities in Punjab are experiencing 18 to 20 hours of loadshedding. Continuous power outage has affected domestic life to a great extent and caused water shortage in many areas. Meanwhile, the traders and business outlets have also been hit hard by the load shedding. According to officials, Gaddu power station tripped yesterday affecting up to 1300 megawatt power generation. At present, the power supply across the country is 9,500 MW with demand around 16,500 MW.

China, Pakistan issue joint statement, vow to deepen cooperation

China and Pakistan have agreed to cement their strategic partnership and deepen comprehensive strategic cooperation in various areas, according to a joint statement issued Thursday during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to the South Asian nation. The statement said both sides are satisfied with their relationship, which contributed to peace and stability in the region and acquired growing strategic significance under the current complex and volatile regional and international situation. To cement their partnership, the two countries decided to deepen practical cooperation in all sectors and strengthen coordination and cooperation on international and regional issues. China reaffirmed that its relationship with Pakistan is always a priority in its foreign policy and appreciates Pakistan's long-term staunch support on issues concerning China's core interests. Pakistan said it will continue to pursue this time-tested and all-weather friendship with China. The two sides regard the terrorist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) group as a common threat, and stand united in upholding China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the statement said. On economic front, the two nations agreed to link China's strategy to develop its western region with Pakistan's domestic economic development, with a view to translate their political partnership into results of pragmatic economic cooperation. The two sides have also agreed to carry forward free trade negotiations, deepen energy cooperation, and continue the implementation of currency-swap agreement, among others. To tap the potential of trade, logistics and flow of personnel between the two sides, China and Pakistan have agreed to enhance interconnectivity and jointly develop a long-term plan for China-Pakistan economic corridor.To strengthen maritime cooperation, China and Pakistan agreed to build and develop a joint marine research center to tackle the growing non-traditional threats to maritime security and safeguard international sea routes. On aviation and aerospace, the two sides welcomed the signing of an agreement on cooperation on the Beidou Satellite Navigation System in Pakistan and vowed to make continuous progress in the remote-sensing satellite system project. To build strong public support for China-Pakistan ties, the two sides agreed on a series of measures to step up people-to-people exchanges, including expanding Chinese language training in Pakistan, opening more Confucius Institutes in the country, and designating 2015 as China-Pakistan Year of Friendly Exchanges. On defense and security ties, the two sides agreed to further cooperate on defense technology and production, and continue cooperation to jointly combat the "three evil forces" of extremism, terrorism and separatism. China also expressed its appreciation and continued willingness to help Pakistan build up counter-terrorism capacity. On international and regional affairs, China and Pakistan agreed that all countries in the Asia-Pacific region should make united efforts to tackle global and regional issues, maintain peace and stability, resolve disputes peacefully and promote regional development. The two sides called for the establishment of an open, transparent, equal and inclusive security and cooperation framework in the Asia-Pacific region, based on the fundamental principles of international law. The two nations also said they are committed to strengthening the solidarity and cooperation between developing countries and safeguarding their common interests. As both sides are concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, they agreed that political reconciliation is a key step toward peace and stability in that country, and affirmed their support for the "Afghan-owned, Afghan-led" peace and reconciliation process. Li arrived here Wednesday for an official visit to Pakistan, the second leg of his first overseas trip as Chinese premier. He has visited India and will travel to Switzerland and Germany.

Pak-China: ‘Unswerving support’ for Pakistan: Li

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with Pakistani military leaders on Thursday as Beijing and Islamabad seek to expand their defense and anti-terror cooperation. Li reaffirmed Beijing's unswerving support for Pakistan to realize stability and improve its development. Li spoke during a meeting with top Pakistani military leaders, saying "the military is not only an important force in maintaining security and stability in Pakistan, but also a firm supporter of the China-Pakistan friendship". He urged the international community to help Pakistan overcome its difficulties while respecting its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Defense and anti-terror cooperation has been one of the areas that underpin China-Pakistan strategic friendship, Wang Dehua, head of Southern and Central Asian Studies Institute of the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies told the Global Times. The cooperation has gone beyond promoting peace and stability in the region and border areas of the two countries. "China and Pakistan are also seeking closer links in maritime security, especially that of the Indian Ocean, and other international affairs at the UN," Wang said. Li also expressed hope that the Pakistani military would continue to do its utmost to safeguard the security of Chinese agencies and staff in Pakistan. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said earlier at a joint press conference with Li that the two countries believed that "terrorism, separatism and extremism pose serious threats to regional peace, stability and security." The two sides had reiterated their resolve to continue cooperation in "combating these evil forces", he added. In a highlight of Li's visit to Pakistan, the two sides on Wednesday signed a series of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU). Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani signed the Agreement on Boundary Management System between Xinjiang and Gilgit-Baltistan, a MoU on maritime cooperation and an agreement on border ports and their management system. Representatives and officials from two countries also signed a MoU on building a long-term economic corridor. Fu Xiaoqiang, a professor on South Asian affairs at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the deal means the building of an economic corridor between China and Pakistan would gain momentum. "There are already very good foundations for such a corridor in the border areas laid by both sides, especially infrastructure, while Pakistani regions bordering China also enjoy relatively good security," he said. "The creation of the corridor would benefit both sides. This would improve Pakistani economy and boost its trade with China. And China would also diversify its trade links with other countries," Fu noted. China is Pakistan's second largest trade partner. Bilateral trade last year rose to above $12 billion for the first time and both sides are aiming to reach $15 billion in the next two or three years. A deal was also inked between China and Pakistan on the use and cooperation of the Beidou navigation system. China's Beidou, or Compass Navigation System, already started providing public services to Asia-Pacific countries in December last year and is expected to provide global coverage by 2020. China is expected to build a network of stations in Pakistan to improve the location accuracy of the system. The network, which has military applications, currently consists of 16 operational satellites, with 30 more about to join the system and Thailand, Laos and Brunei already use the system. Wang said the close friendship between Beijing and Islamabad will also help the development of China's relations with the Islamic world. Pakistan has the second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. In an address at the Pakistan's Parliament's Upper House Thursday, Li said Pakistan is significant at both regional and international levels, hailing what the role it plays in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Pakistan: Chronic malnutrition: Educate people, respect constitution to overcome malaise

The Express Tribune
Pakistan’s chronic malnutrition crisis has not improved over the past 40 years, costing the economy an estimated three per cent of GDP per year, making it a graver issue than the energy crisis, whose corresponding figure is two per cent. These views were expressed by World Bank Senior Nutrition Specialist Luc Laviolette at an orientation session on “Nutrition and Human Rights” at a local hotel on Thursday. The session, which was organised by the bank in collaboration with the Development Partners for Nutrition, was aimed at increasing civil society organisations’ understanding and knowledge of nutrition, thereby promoting its awareness as a basic human right. Laviolette said that currently half of Pakistan’s women and children were malnourished, terming the situation worse than in sub-Saharan Africa. He gave a presentation on ‘Malnutrition in Pakistan — A Silent Emergency’ during which some alarming statistics were shared. Comparing the findings of the National Nutrition Survey for 2001-02 and 2011, Laviolette said there had been a significant increase in various indicators. During this period, children’s wasting rate had increased from 12 to 15 per cent, the stunting rate from 31 per cent to 44 per cent, anemia from 51 per cent to 63 per cent and vitamin A deficiency from 13 per cent to 54 per cent. He said over 1.5 million children in Pakistan were currently suffering from acute malnutrition, which made them vulnerable to fatal diseases. All citizens should have access to adequate quantity and quality of food, he added. “Malnutrition makes children prone to acquiring communicable diseases like measles and reduces the effectiveness of certain vaccinations, said Laviolette. If this issue was not overcome, Pakistan risked suffering from a “demographic nightmare” — or an unskilled, economically unproductive population — rather than the “demographic dividend” which has powered its neighbour’s growing prosperity, he said. Save the Children Pakistan Advocacy and Campaigns Senior Manager Arshad Mahmood said that the Constitution under Article 38 recognised the right of access to food, mandating that “the state shall provide the basic necessities of life, namely food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief.” The mandate was not being followed by the authorities, which was a clear violation of human rights, said Mahmood. “More than 350,000 children die before their fifth birthday every year; 35 per cent of these deaths are due to malnutrition,” he added. Mahmood stressed on the need to engage parliamentarians at both the federal and provincial levels to tackle the issue. He called for sustained advocacy to implement the Protection of Breastfeeding law at both levels, and urged all media outlets to increase their coverage of nutrition. He said educating citizens on the differences between a healthy and unhealthy diet was another measure that could be taken to safeguard the country’s future generation from the malaise. Micronutrient Initiative Director Dr Tausif Akhtar Janjua lamented that nutrition was always considered as an extension of the broader category of health, and as a result was never prioritised as an issue.