Thursday, June 13, 2013
With an olive green head scarf poking out from her helmet, Ayesha Farooq flashes a cheeky grin when asked if it is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in Pakistan. Farooq, hailing from Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade – there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat. “I don’t feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing,” the soft-spoken 26-year-old said of her male colleagues at Mushaf base in Sargodha, where neatly piled missiles sit.
CNN's Mallika Kapur reports on young woman raised in a brothel who is going to college.
Anti-government protesters in the Turkish city of Istanbul have rejected an ultimatum issued by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to evacuate a park next to the landmark Taksim Square.
http://bostonherald.com/If you want to understand why tens of thousands of young urban Turks have been demonstrating against their government, you need look no further than the tragic plight of Kemal Guruz. Guruz, one of Turkey’s most distinguished academic reformers and the onetime head of Turkey’s Higher Education Council (known as YOK), has been held without charges in a maximum-security prison for nearly a year. An indictment against him was finally issued a couple of weeks ago, but the details have not been made public nor revealed to him or his family. The case is supposedly related to a long-running investigation launched by the “moderate” Islamic government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan into events that led to the resignation of a more hard-line Islamist government in 1997.Guruz, an outspoken advocate of Turkey’s secular traditions, says he had no links whatsoever to the 1997 events — which Erdogan’s followers regard as a “soft” coup — and no credible evidence to the contrary has been presented. Rather, Turkish human-rights activists believe Guruz’s arrest is part of a systematic effort by Erdogan’s AKP party to intimidate academics, journalists, and others who oppose its efforts to Islamicize society. The dragnet arrests that ensnared Guruz reflect the same arrogance of power that was on display when the government responded brutally to peaceful environmental protests against the destruction of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. That arrogance transformed a small demonstration into nationwide protests by middle-class, (mostly) secular youth against government intimidation of those with different views. Erdogan has racked up solid domestic achievements — notably, economic growth that has expanded the middle class. But the crackdown in Gezi Park triggered an explosion of pent-up outrage over the AKP’s crony capitalism and coercive measures, such as banning alcohol in public places after 10 p.m. and intimidating the press. Turkish media have been so cowed that the leading TV channels failed to cover the massive demonstrations. When social media tried to pick up the slack, Erdogan denounced Twitter as “the worst menace to society,” and 34 cyberactivists were arrested. Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkey 154th out of 179 countries on its press freedom index, just below Russia. Indeed, there is a strong whiff of Putinism in Erdogan’s disdain for civil society, and his hopes to change Turkey’s constitution to enable himself to become president and solidify power. The prime minister appears to think that, after winning 50 percent of the votes in 2011, he needn’t listen to anyone who didn’t choose him. But his backers included many liberals who will not vote for him again. So anyone (see: President Obama) who views Erdogan’s Turkey as the model that Arab states should follow should reconsider. Indeed, long before the Gezi Park protests, the AKP’s democracy deficit was laid bare by the arrests of Guruz and many others like him. Guruz believes the government’s real grievances against him revolve around steps he took as head of YOK that were legal, but anathema to Islamist officials: enforcing constitutional policy on banning girls in head scarves from university campuses, and helping design a new university admissions policy (without any military input) that was disliked by officials from Muslim schools. This stellar educator, highly respected in the West, faces a possible life sentence in solitary confinement. His trial may be held soon; a judge could dismiss the paper-thin case, but the government may not want to lose face. As thousands of young people continue to demonstrate against the government, the outcome of Guruz’s case will symbolize the direction this Turkish government intends to take. There are two options: On the one hand, Erdogan takes a hard line, dismissing the demonstrators as terrorists. He still says Gezi Park will be razed and a mosque built nearby. On the other hand, President Abdullah Gul, also an AKP leader, insists all Turkish views (secular or religious) should be freely expressed and considered by the government. If Gul’s outlook prevails, the demonstrations will likely cool and the politicized charges against Guruz should be dropped soon. If Guruz is convicted, it will signal to Turkey’s citizens and allies that its democracy faces very rough times.
http://www.usatoday.com/A lawyer says a protester injured during clashes with Turkish riot police has died, raising the death toll to five from the two-week standoff between police and activists that has challenged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. The protests centered on Istanbul's Taksim Square looked set to continue Thursday despite a referendum offer over a contested development plan presented a day earlier by Erdogan's party. Family lawyer Sema Aksoy said 26-year-old Ether Sarisuluk — who had been on a life support for days — was pronounced dead Thursday. He was believed to have been hit in the head by a tear gas canister during protests in Ankara on June 1. A human rights group says thousands of people were treated for injuries in protests that began May 31.
http://www.rferl.org/U.S. lawmakers in the House Committee on Homeland Security have urged greater vigilance against the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) and its potential to carry out attacks within the United States. Congressman Peter King (New York-Republican), head of the committee's counterterrorism and intelligence section, said at a June 12 hearing that LeT was "operationally active in this country," raising the threat of a strike. "LeT practices good communications security and is proficient at surveillance skills, making it a difficult target for our intelligence-collection efforts, which should be immediately increased on this target," King said. The group is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 100 people, including six Americans. It is thought to receive support from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency. "When our special operatives raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, they reportedly recovered correspondence between the late Al-Qaeda leader and the LeT leader Hafez Saeed," King added. "Certainly, working with other members on the intelligence committee, I believe that as much [as possible] should be done to declassify as many of the documents [as possible that were] recovered in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, which could well amplify the relationship [between Al-Qaeda and] LeT. That is an ongoing process. I think it should be done sooner rather than later." Committee member Representative Brian Higgins (New York-Democrat) added, "Given that there have been Americans that have cooperated with Lashkar-e Taiba [and] the group's connection with Al-Qaeda, I agree that a threat from that group [should] be examined and evaluated." Stephen Tankel, an LeT specialist at American University, testified that while there is no evidence the group has ever planned a U.S. attack, it could do so if the ISI's control weakens. "There's no evidence that [LeT] has ever attempted an attack against the U.S. homeland and the question is, what's stopping it? LeT's restraint, I would argue, has more to do with strategic calculation than ideological inclination," Tankel said. "Ideologically, it would be more than prepared to attack the U.S., but it does not want to risk its position in Pakistan and, as one of its members admitted to me, it remains tamed by the ISI."
The Express TribuneWith no increment in the wages of government employees, clerical staff has announced a strike starting tomorrow (Friday), reported Express News. Clerks will take to the roads starting tomorrow and have said that the strike will continue till their demands are met. Compared to the increment in commodity prices, the current salaries of government employees do not add up to an affordable level. It is the first time that the democratic government did not increase the salaries of government employees. The government informed them that the current economic situation of the country does not allow an increment in salaries, however government employees have projected that they are not in the situation to live comfortably within the given salary rate. Grade 1 to 16 officers did not see an increment in their heath or housing allowances either. The increase in pension is also not seen as a favourable decision as employees argued that the previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led government increased salaries and allowances generously. In the first three years of their tenure, they increased salaries by 135% and by 50% in the last two years.
Twelve ministers of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government took oath at the Governor’s House here on Thursday, whereas no female minister was sworn in. Governor Engineer Shaukatullah administered the oath to the new cabinet. The decision to appoint additional ministers in the provincial government was taken after a meeting, which concluded at midnight on Wednesday. Israrullah Gandapur has been assigned the portfolio of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Shaukat Yousufzai has Health and Information. Yousuf Ayub has been allotted the portfolio of Communication and Works whereas Shahram Khan Taraki has been handed over Agriculture. Moreover, Inayatullah Khan has been assigned the portfolio of local governance, Bakht Baidar has been given Manpower and Industry, Ibrar Hussan Kamoli has been given Forest and Habibur Rehman has Zakat and USHR. The Public Health portfolio has been assigned to Shah Farman and Ali Amin Gandapur has Revenue. Atif Khan has elementary education and Mehmood Khan has been allotted Higher Education. Jamaat-i-Islami's (JI) Sirajul Haq and Qaumi Watan Party's (QWP) Sikandar Sherpao earlier took oath as senior ministers. Haq has been assigned the portfolio of Finance whereas Sherpao has Energy.
EDITORIAL : Daily TimesThe first raging protests against the massive load shedding plaguing the country were seen in Faisalabad on Tuesday when residents, unable to hold in their anger any longer, ransacked a grid station and the offices of the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (FESCO). They blocked roads and traffic for more than 10 hours and threw stones at the police deployed to keep the protests in check. However, the police did a lot more than keep the angry citizens in check. With brute force, the police beat back protesters and, when they ran away, the police scaled the walls, broke down doors and entered their homes forcefully, beating and dragging women and children outside brutally, arresting more than 10 people in the process. This is abuse in every sense of the word from breaking and entering to violent treatment of citizens. Faisalabad has remained a hotbed of protests against the debilitating power outages. This is because the city is home to the country’s textile industry, a part of our business sector that has been all but shutdown due to the power cuts. This has left many without jobs and, hence, with enough time to boil over with rage and frustration. Add to this the police brutality that was witnessed and it makes for an explosive combination. People are now angrier and the government has plenty to answer for. The Shahbaz Sharif government has been in power for less than a week and already protests have begun. This just goes to show that the people will not sit back now and listen to the usual rhetoric on the energy situation. The Sharif government has hardly had any time to chalk out any conclusive policies to curtail the power crisis but the people are impatient; they do not want to wait because they want immediate results. It is a well-known fact that the Punjab police is notorious for being a brutal force practicing unrestrained violence. The kind of barbarity that allows unlawful entry into people’s homes is not something Shahbaz Sharif brothers should overlook. He would do well to look at the swelling protests in Turkey that have made global headlines all because of the excessive use of force by the police against protestors. It would be better for the Punjab government to address the public’s woes and not increase them through brutal crowd control tactics by the police.
Daily TimesThe Federal Budget 2013-14 announced by the Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar with an outlay of Rs 3.5 trillion on the floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday does not appear to be beneficial for the masses. The budget has failed to present immediate solutions to burning problems faced by masses as majority of pledges and commitment made by the minister relates to prolonged solutions. Making upward revision in sales tax ratio would have a negative impact on all kitchen items and it would only add to the financial miseries of the helpless consumers of the country. Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Adviser Communication Khurrum Saigal in his comments over the salient features of the new budget claimed that it has failed to offer fast-track solution to the burning issues specially ending the scourge of load shedding in the country, which has assumed critical dimension over the period of time. Major part of the speech of the finance minister is related to promises and pledges, which would start assuming solid shape after a long gap of two to three years and until then the general public of the country would have to remain patient.
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/Pakistan’s newly elected government Wednesday unveiled its first budget, which gave the go-ahead for buying two new nuclear power plants from China but made no allocation for a long-proposed natural gas pipeline from Iran that had sparked complaints from the United States. In not budgeting for the Iranian pipeline, agreed to by his predecessor in February, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tactfully sidestepped a potential diplomatic clash with the United States, which had warned that the pipeline, if it were ever built, could lead to sanctions on Pakistan. The deal also was criticized as a trap for the new administration by Sharif’s brother and de facto deputy, Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province. The $35.5 billion budget, which was presented to Parliament by the new minister for finance, Ishaq Dar, suggested that the new government would follow through on Sharif’s plan to resolve the country’s power shortages that Dar said had cut the country’s economic growth by 2 percent in the outgoing fiscal year, which ends June 30. Dar’s budget would switch Pakistan’s power generation plants from expensive imported fuel oil and gas to much cheaper coal sourced partly from undeveloped reserves in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. The rest probably would come from huge mines in India, Pakistan’s traditional foe, with which it has fought two wars since both gained independence from Britain in 1947. The South Asian neighbors opened talks Tuesday about the planned import of Indian electricity via cross-border cables near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. The budget also sets aside about $430 million for new nuclear power plants from China, a project that the United States and India have both objected to at meetings of the Nuclear Supplier Group, one of the international groups that attempts to prevent nuclear proliferation. But Pakistan insists that the plants are unconnected to the country’s nuclear weapons program and are regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Pakistan possesses between 80 and 120 nuclear weapons, according to estimates by Western analysts. A Cabinet minister, speaking to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the project with a reporter, said the Iranian gas pipeline hadn’t been altogether dropped, largely because that would invoke a penalty payment to Iran. Instead, he said, Pakistan’s new government would procrastinate by trying to haggle lower prices from Tehran, based on the comparison with coal. Analysts also said Sharif could forgo the Iranian pipeline because of the prime minister’s good relations with Saudi Arabia. Sharif spent six years in exile in the Persian Gulf kingdom as part of a deal for his release from jail in Pakistan negotiated by the Saudi royal family, after he was overthrown in a military coup staged by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in October 1999. Pakistani news outlets have reported that Sharif’s administration has since last month quietly been holding talks with the Saudis for a steady supply of crude oil and refined products on a deferred-payment basis, a step that would considerably ease pressure on the country’s treasury, which registered a record 8.5 percent fiscal deficit in the waning fiscal year. Analysts said the new energy proposals are consistent with Sharif’s plan to stay focused on solving problems at home. They expect him to continue to adopt policies different from those favored by the Pakistani military, which has pursued an ambitious strategy of involvement in Afghanistan. "Sharif is a man who views matters in very simple terms," said Habib Akram, executive editor of Dunya, a popular cable news channel based in Lahore. "He is completely focused on fixing Pakistan’s internal problems, and believes developments in Afghanistan are somebody else’s indigenous problem that doesn’t concern Pakistan as long as the violence there doesn’t spill over its borders," Akram said. Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/12/193732/no-money-in-pakistan-budget-for.html#storylink=cpy