Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Obama, marchers mark 50 years since King's 'Dream' speech

America is struggling to fully realize the vision that civil rights leader Martin Luther King described in his famous "I have a dream" speech 50 years ago, as the goal of economic security for all remains elusive, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday. Obama, the first black U.S. president, spoke to thousands of marchers on Washington's National Mall on Wednesday to commemorate King's landmark address, which came to symbolize the struggle for equality among blacks and whites in America. Obama said King's speech inspired millions of Americans to fight for a more just society and rights that people now take for granted. "To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed, that dishonors the courage, the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years," Obama said. "But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete," he said, calling economic justice the "unfinished business" of the civil rights battle. Marchers, many wearing T-shirts with King's face on them, began their walk near the U.S. Capitol. They were led by a line of military veterans and people who had been at the 1963 march, their arms linked. People sang "We Shall Overcome" and other civil rights anthems. Fighting restrictive voting rights laws that Democrats say hurt minorities, combating joblessness and reducing gun violence among African Americans are among the issues that civil rights leaders put at the forefront of their efforts in 2013. "This march was supposed to be about jobs, but it's about a lot more," said marcher Ash Mobley, 27, of Washington, who said she was there to represent her grandmother, who had been at the 1963 event. The marchers heard speeches from former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and members of King's family on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the site of King's address on August 28, 1963. A bell rang at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT), 50 years to the minute after King ended his clarion call of the civil rights movement with the words "Let freedom ring." Bernice King, his youngest child, urged the crowd to stay true to the ideals enunciated by her father. "If freedom is going to ring in Libya, in Syria, in Egypt, in Florida, then we must reach across the table, feed each other and let freedom ring," she said.
Obama's address commemorating King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate of non-violence, comes as the White House edges closer to launching military strikes in Syria in response to what U.S. officials say they believe was a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on civilians. Obama has said the country's history of racial discrimination had contributed to a persistent economic gap between blacks and whites in the decades since King's speech. Obama, whose mother was white and whose father was black, has sometimes seemed reluctant to weigh in on persistent racial divides in the United States, but he spoke forcefully about the issue last month after the man who killed black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was acquitted. The "Let Freedom Ring and Call to Action" ceremony comes as almost half of Americans say much more needs to be done before the color-blind society King envisioned is realized. Wednesday's event caps a week-long celebration of King's historic call for racial and economic justice. They included a march on Saturday that drew thousands of people urging action on jobs, voting rights and gun violence. King's speech is credited with helping spur passage of sweeping civil rights laws. A white prison escapee assassinated him in 1968.

Afghan women may be denied vote

By Jessica Donati and Miriam Arghandiwal, Reuters
Women across Afghanistan risk being unable to vote in next year's presidential elections because of a severe shortage of female members of the security forces, the country's election monitor said on Wednesday. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said that there were just 2,000 of the required 12,000 women needed to carry out body searches required for voters entering polling stations set aside specially for women. Voting is segregated as the two sexes are not permitted to mingle in public in conservative Afghanistan. The shortfall of women staff is one of the greatest challenges facing the government ahead of the vote, planned for April 5."This is a really important issue for the IEC. We must have the same opportunities for male and females," IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said. Recruiting women into the police force was considered an important victory for Western efforts to promote equality after the toppling of the hard-line Islamist Taliban in 2001.However, a Reuters report late last year found the aspirations of Afghanistan's female police force have been poisoned by a steady stream of taunts, molestations and even rapes by their male colleagues. Recruitment has proved slow and numbers remain far below President Hamid Karzai's target of 5,000 women by the end of 2014. To make up for the election day shortfall, the Ministry of Interior is considering training female teachers to carry out searches at polling stations, the IEC said. The Ministry of Education was prepared to "help in any way possible", a spokesman said, though it was unclear whether the plan was workable. Election officials encountered similar problems at the 2009 presidential poll, with female staff present at only 30 percent of polling stations set aside for women. No figures for turnout of female voters are available, but officials say the numbers were very low, except in central Bamiyan province and areas in the country's north. In some areas in the less secure south and southeast, officials and international observers reported that almost no women voted. Even if the ministry finds and trains the 10,000 women needed to secure polling stations, in Afghanistan's most conservative provinces hardly any women have registered to vote. "We have been visiting homes and trying to get women together to explain why voting is important, that they have a voice and despite government corruption their vote does matter," said Neda Khaihani, a member of the provincial council in Baghlan in the north. "We've been working for months and only have eight women registered at the moment."

Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Saudi Arabia has secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime in Syria.
The revelations come amid high tension in the Middle East, with US, British, and French warship poised for missile strikes in Syria. Iran has threatened to retaliate. The strategic jitters pushed Brent crude prices to a five-month high of $112 a barrel. “We are only one incident away from a serious oil spike. The market is a lot tighter than people think,” said Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review. Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides. Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break the deadlock over Syria. “Let us examine how to put together a unified Russian-Saudi strategy on the subject of oil. The aim is to agree on the price of oil and production quantities that keep the price stable in global oil markets,” he said at the four-hour meeting with Mr Putin. They met at Mr Putin’s dacha outside Moscow three weeks ago. “We understand Russia’s great interest in the oil and gas in the Mediterranean from Israel to Cyprus. And we understand the importance of the Russian gas pipeline to Europe. We are not interested in competing with that. We can cooperate in this area,” he said, purporting to speak with the full backing of the US.The talks appear to offer an alliance between the OPEC cartel and Russia, which together produce over 40m barrels a day of oil, 45pc of global output. Such a move would alter the strategic landscape. The details of the talks were first leaked to the Russian press. A more detailed version has since appeared in the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, which has Hezbollah links and is hostile to the Saudis. As-Safir said Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said. Prince Bandar went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on an off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.” President Putin has long been pushing for a global gas cartel, issuing the `Moscow Declaration’ last to month “defend suppliers and resist unfair pressure”. This would entail beefing up the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), a talking shop. Mr Skrebowski said it is unclear what the Saudis can really offer the Russians on gas, beyond using leverage over Qatar and others to cut output of liquefied natural gas (LGN). “The Qataris are not going to obey Saudi orders,” he said. Saudi Arabia could help boost oil prices by restricting its own supply. This would be a shot in the arm for Russia, which is near recession and relies on an oil price near $100 to fund the budget. But it would be a dangerous strategy for the Saudis if it pushed prices to levels that endangered the world’s fragile economic recovery. Crude oil stocks in the US have already fallen sharply this year. Goldman Sachs said the “surplus cushion” in global stocks built up since 2008 has been completely eliminated. Mr Skrebowski said trouble is brewing in a string of key supply states. “Libya is reverting to war lordism. Nigerian is drifting into a bandit state with steady loss of output. And Iraq is going back to the sort of Sunni-Shia civil war we saw in 2006-2007,” he said. The Putin-Bandar meeting was stormy, replete with warnings of a “dramatic turn” in Syria. Mr Putin was unmoved by the Saudi offer, though western pressure has escalated since then. “Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters,” he said, referring to footage showing a Jihadist rebel eating the heart and liver of a Syrian soldier. Prince Bandar in turn warned that there can be “no escape from the military option” if Russia declines the olive branch. Events are unfolding exactly as he foretold.

President Zardari to stay in Pakistan after completing his term

President Asif Ali Zardari will not leave the country after completing his five-year term on September 8 as he intends to focus on reorganising the Pakistan People's Party, his spokesman said today. The PPP has strongly dispelled a perception in political circles that Zardari, 58, will prefer to spend most of his time in Dubai and Britain after he steps down.
"The president is going nowhere. Soon after leaving the presidency, Mr Zardari will spend a week in Lahore to look into party affairs in Punjab province," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. "He will give more time and attention to the party and stay mostly in Lahore and Karachi for this purpose." Some PML-N and PPP leaders who spoke to PTI were of the view that Zardari might spend six months or so abroad with his family after completing his term. "Zardari will prefer to stay abroad in the coming months as, at this stage, there seems to be no need to look into party affairs," said a PPP leader who spoke on condition of anonymity. The leader said with almost five years to go for the next general election, no one seemed to be in a hurry to indulge in the affairs of the PPP. A PML-N leader, who too did not want to be identified, said there was an understanding between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Zardari that the PML-N government would not reopen any cases against the President after he completed his term. "In return, Zardari will be a friendly opposition," he said. The previous PPP-led government refused to revive graft cases against Zardari in Switzerland despite pressure from the Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the Swiss government informed Pakistan that the cases could not be reopened as they are time-barred.

Pakistan's chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry suffers public backlash

Jon Boone
An unprecedented surge of criticism directed at Pakistan's chief justice by lawyers, politicians and even sections of a once-fawning media threatens to bring to a close years of interference in government affairs by the country's top judges. After he ordered the sacking of a sitting prime minister and the cancellation of host of critical economic initiatives, Iftikhar Chaudhry came to be regarded by many analysts as second only to the country's army chief in his ability to influence the civilian government. But as the 64-year-old edges towards retirement in December, a backlash has begun and increasingly his critics are speaking out. "He's a dictator! A judicial tyrant!" said Abid Saqi, the president of Lahore's high court bar association, a powerful body representing 20,000 lawyers that in July called for the chief justice and two other judges to be charged with misconduct. Saqi added: "He has destroyed the judiciary as an institution and destroyed the constitutions as a sacred document for his own personal aggrandisement." Until recently few dared to speak out at all, let alone use such colourful language. That was partly due to Chaudhry's immense popularity – a 2011 Gallup poll found he was the most popular public figure in the country.
He became a key national figure during the struggle by the "lawyers' movement" to force his reappointment in 2007 after he was sacked and put under house arrest by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. After returning to power on the back of one of the biggest popular movements the country has seen, Chaudhry burnished his reputation further by picking causes and hauling ministers and officials into his grand marble court building in Islamabad, where, in a holdover from the colonial era, judges are addressed as "my lord". It amounted to a judicial revolution. Or, as one critical lawyer puts it, "ripping up the entire supreme court jurisprudence that had gone before". "Iftikar Chaudhry has enjoyed a degree of power that is unparalleled," said one lawyer. "He does whatever the hell he wants, he is outside the law and, most of the time, he is making it up as he goes along." He made extensive use of two once obscure legal tools: suo motu powers to investigate any issues of his choice, and contempt of court rules that bar the "scandalising" of the judiciary, which have been used to silence critics. Suo motu, a Latin phrase meaning "of his own volition", has become almost a household phrase in Pakistan, such is the chief justice's enthusiasm for picking up populist causes highlighted by the media. Some of its initiatives have won praise from human rights campaigners – particularly Chaudhry's scrutiny of security agencies engaged in a dirty war against separatists in the province of Baluchistan. He ordered individuals who have been "disappeared" without formal arrest to be produced before his court. And he was the architect of a major extension of rights to Pakistan's transgender community. But other actions have been much more controversial, particularly in the area of government contracts, privatisations and major infrastructure projects, which his court has cancelled or delayed on several occasions. Critics say the court's orders display an ignorance of economics and international business and have deterred badly needed investment, particularly in projects to help solve the country's crippling energy shortages.
The court regularly involves itself in other matters of public policy, at various times ordering the almost insolvent government to slash prices of sugar, flour and gas. One of the few tax-raising initiatives in this year's national budget had to be reversed after Chaudhry weighed in. But it is his recent meddling in politics that has prompted attacks on him.
In July, he asked the country's election commission to hold the presidential election a week earlier than planned, to which the main opposition party strongly objected but was not allowed to put its case. It prompted intense anger within the political class over what was regarded as blatant violation of the independence of the election commission. It also provided an opportunity for his enemies in the legal community – many bitter at what they claim is Chaudhry's favouritism in appointing judges – to lash out. Before this year's general election in May, the previous government led by the Pakistan People's party was reluctant to confront Chaudhry, even though it was continually subjected to his suo motu investigations. In June last year, the party's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, was forced to step down after Chaudhry found him guilty of contempt of court. The candidate proposed as his replacement was seen off by the supreme court even before he could be appointed while his ultimate successor was also threatened with being ousted. "If we spoke out he was just calling everyone in contempt," complained Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, a former PPP member of parliament. "The party was divided over whether to confront him because of fear that if we did so the whole system could be derailed." But fears that such standoffs could scupper Pakistan's fragile transition to democracy have faded since the successful elections in May that ousted the PPP, which had been widely regarded as corrupt and worthy of Chaudhry's investigations. Chaudhry has also picked a fight with Imran Khan, the leading opposition politician whose Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) bagged the second largest number of votes in May's national elections. He was accused of contempt after criticising the judiciary for failing to prevent alleged election rigging. The court ultimately backed down, however. If found guilty, a national icon with millions of diehard supporters could have been barred from elected office. Babar Sattar, a lawyer who was recently reprimanded by the court for some of his newspaper columns, said the court had stepped up its efforts to quell mounting public criticism with contempt laws that are barely used in other parts of the world. "The court is trying to control the narrative at a time when criticism is mounting, and to a certain extent it has succeeded," he said, claiming newspapers are carefully vetting articles on the supreme court before they are published. One person who could afford to throw caution to the wind was controversial billionaire property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, who last June launched a blistering assault on the chief justice. He produced reams of documents detailing how Chaudhry's son, a doctor-turned-businessman called Arsalan, had accepted gifts from him worth more than £2m in the form of stays in luxury London flats, hotels in Park Lane and gambling debts in Monte Carlo. Riaz said he had been effectively bribed by Arsalan, who was trading on his father's name for favours. Chaudhry responded, initially with a suo motu investigation that he led himself, before recusing himself from the case. Although the investigation has since gone quiet, some suspect the many enemies Chaudhry has made in the legal profession and politics will try to get the issue revived after he steps down in December. Most lawyers are anticipating calmer times under a new chief justice, with fewer challenges to the authority of government and parliament. "The supreme court has evolved under Chaudhry into one of the country's paramount institutions, and I don't think that's going to change," said Sattar. "But criticism of this chief justice and his suo motu reign has focused attention on some big problems and I think the next chief justice will want to address some of them."

Pakistan: Warning bells after fresh cases of polio surface

The Express Tribune
Health officials in Pakistan on Wednesday warned of a serious polio outbreak after the disease was detected in 16 children in a tribal district where militant groups have banned vaccination. Doctor Khayal Mir Jan, the top health official in Pakistan’s militant-infested North Waziristan tribal district, on the Afghan border, told AFP that thousands of children were at risk. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the highly infectious, crippling disease remains endemic. Infections shot up from a low of 28 in 2005 to almost 200 last year. “Polio virus has been detected in 16 children since the Taliban ban,” Jan told AFP. “We are waiting for the result of the stool samples of another 42 children suspected of having the disease.” Local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur banned polio vaccinations in Waziristan in June 2012, alleging the campaign was a cover for espionage. Bahadur, who is allied with Afghan Taliban fighting US-led troops across the border, said the ban would remain until the US stops drone attacks in the tribal regions. North Waziristan has borne the brunt of the strikes. Health officials said the disease is in danger of becoming an epidemic and voiced fears that it could spread to the neighbouring districts if vaccination was not begun immediately. The health authorities of North Waziristan Agency have sent 42 suspected polio cases for confirmation to National Institute of Health Islamabad, while two other cases were confirmed out of 14 sent to the said laboratory on August 20. “Every day we are receiving children with polio, we will have to start an anti-polio campaign, otherwise it’s becoming epidemic,” Jan told AFP. Most of the children affected were under five years old. Jan said nine cases were detected in Mir Ali town while seven were detected in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan. An administrative official in the area said efforts were underway to talk to militant groups and support from Islamic scholars had also been sought. Officials said more than 240,000 in North and South Waziristan were at risk due the ban and have not been administered polio drops since the ban. An World Health Organisation official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed: “Scores of polio cases have been reported in North Waziristan.” “Several other children have also been paralysed in North Waziristan but we are waiting for their test result as we don’t know what virus paralysed them,” the official said. Jan said that the entire process of confirming the polio virus in a patient takes up to two weeks. He added that most of the cases were being reported from the areas of Mirali, Sarai Darpa, Danday Darpa Khel and Hamzoni. “Unofficially I have received the information about two new cases surfacing in the tribal areas but an official confirmation will take time,” said an official of FATA Secretariat, on condition of anonymity.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: PMA files contempt petition against CM, minister

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Tuesday filed contempt of court petition against the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister, health minister and secretary for Health Department for non-compliance with the court orders. The PMA filed the contempt petition through its provincial president, Dr Hussain Ahmad Haroon against the chief minister, health minister and officials concerned for non-compliance with the court orders about the appointments of chief executives of all the four teaching hospitals of the province. The PMA made Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Justice Pervez Khattak, provincial Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai, Health Department Secretary Dr Fakhre Alam and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Secretary Arbab Shehzad respondents in the petition. The petitioner had challenged the action of respondents being taken for removing the chief executives of the hospitals and appointing chief executives of their choice against the posts after vacating the seats against the order of the PHC. The petitioner argued that the action of the appointment of the chief executives was in violation of law as Section 9 of the NWFP Medical and Health Institutions and Regulation of Healthcare Services Amendment Act 2010 read with section 3 of NWFP Medical Institution Rules 2001 further read with the relevant laws on the subject the chief executive hold the post on permanent basis for 3 years extendable by further 3 years. It said the PHC on August 5, 2013 had directed that the respondents may proceed with the matter but shall not pass any final order. It said the PHC had restrained the respondents from appointing chief executives till its final order in the petition filed by the PMA against the removal of the present chief executives. It said the respondents overlooking the orders of this court have prepared a summary and nominated certain doctors to be appointed as chief executives and by taking the above mentioned act the respondents have committed contempt of court. It said the petitioner came to know that the respondents were appointing the doctors of their choice as chief executives and thus the respondents were individually, jointly and severely responsible for the initiation of summary and for committing contempt of court.The petitioner prayed that on acceptance of the application the contempt of court proceedings may be initiated against the respondents.

Afghanistan aid workers among 12 dead in civilian killings

Insurgents shot and killed 12 civilians in two incidents at the weekend, including six aid workers employed on government projects, officials said on Tuesday. The bodies of six victims were found in the Gulran district of western Herat province, Jamel Danishof the ministry of rural rehabilitation said. Five were Afghan employees of the US-based International Rescue Committee who had beenkidnapped on Sunday. The group, which has worked in Afghanistan since 1988, is suspending its operations. The sixth victim worked for the ministry. "The IRC is devastated and grief-stricken by the deaths of our colleagues who were all working to make a better Afghanistan," the IRC's president, George Rupp, said in a statement. President Hamid Karzai and the UN office in Afghanistan condemned the killings, which the UN said could be classified as a war crime. The Taliban regularly target government employees. Danish said the six were kidnapped by the Taliban and killed after negotiations to free them failed. Meanwhile, Rohullah Samon, spokesman for eastern Paktia province, said the bodies of six unidentified civilians were found on Tuesday by a roadside. He gave no other details. In Kabul, a suicide bomber riding a bicycle was killed when his explosive went off prematurely, wounding a passerby, said Kabul's deputy police chief, Mohammad Daoud Amin. He said the intended target was unclear, but that the bomber was in Kabul city centre where the explosion took place.Violence in Afghanistan has increased in recent months as insurgents fight to regain territory, trying to take advantage of the handover of the country's security from the Nato-led coalition to Afghan forcesahead of the withdrawal of all foreign combat forces at the end of 2014. Civilian casualties have spiked this spring and summer. The UN said in its mid-year report that casualties were up 23% compared with the first six months of 2012.

Balochistan’s missing money

Sanaullah Baloch
Natural resources account for a large share of Balochistan’s wealth. Since 1952, Pakistan has been extracting large quantities of gas and coal and, more recently, copper-gold from Balochistan. However, the bleak socio-economic indicators in the province clearly indicate massive corruption, mismanagement and abuse of Baloch natural wealth. Despite countless natural wealth, Balochistan stands out for its terrible social indicators. It scores lowest in 10 key indicators for education, literacy, health, water and sanitation and has one of the most depressing statistics for the MDGs. Pakistan has no resource management policy and doesn’t have a transparent and well-established system. The Islamabad elite, in fact, is unwilling to establish or introduce a transparent system to channel natural-resource earnings towards human development. Balochistan’s multi-billion copper-gold project, Saindak, was gifted to a Chinese company without any transparency by Musharraf in 2002 – and recently extended for another five years – without sharing a single clause of the agreement with the public or parliament. Not only has Balochistan’s copper-gold been looted, the province’s prime land has been allotted by the Foreign Office to Arab royals and dignitaries to hunt the endangered Houbara Bustard. In return, the royals shower expensive gifts on the country’s retired military and political elite. And more recently, Islamabad mysteriously announced the handing over of the strategically significant Gwadar Port to the Chinese – again without a transparent process. This clearly shows how Balochistan’s resources are treated as personal property. Moreover, during Nawaz Shairf’s recent visit to China, Chinese authorities were assured of getting the world’s richest copper-gold deposit, Reko-Diq, by next year – again without following international transparent norms. Shady deals in the name of brotherly relations have deprived the people of Balochistan of any benefits they can get from these resources. Not a single contract has ever been made public. The IMF’s Revised Code of Good Practices on Fiscal Transparency notes that “contractual arrangements … should be clear and publicly accessible.” In Pakistan, though, questioning contracts can potentially elevate your status to ‘traitor’. As a member of parliament, I repeatedly requested details of agreements and contracts signed during the Musharraf regime, but to no avail. In fact, Gwadar, Saindak, the Duddar Lead-Zinc project and several other such deals are a complete mystery for the common Baloch. Even, the hapless provincial government has no clue about Islamabad’s unilateral agreement with the Chinese concerning Gwadar. Nevertheless, Islamabad has been shrewdly milking Balochistan. During the Baloch nationalist government of Akbar Khan Bugti some details were leaked about the lower gas price and systematic expropriation of Balochistan’s gas. To deprive Balochistan of billions in revenue, Pakistan’s elite reduced its gas price to ensure lesser royalty, which is based on 12.5 percent of the wellhead price. Until 2007, the wellhead price for Balochistan’s HEV gas was Rs47 which later increased to Rs70 compared to Rs222 for Punjab’s lower heating value gas. Despite the government of Balochistan’s repeated plea to the federal government to modify pricing agreements with oil and gas production companies and increase the wellhead price with the objective of increasing its royalty, Islamabad has shown no signs of fair play. When Baloch nationalists, including Akbar Khan Bugti, started questioning about the unfair treatment towards Balochistan, the civil-military establishment successfully used propaganda to paint the Baloch as traitors – responsible for all the miseries and problems of their people. General, journalists and politicians all mixed the rent and royalty issue and blamed Akbar Khan Bugti for the embezzlement of royalty money earned from the gas fields. In fact, a minimal rent used to be paid to the Bugti tribe through Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. And a negligible portion of the revenues is being transferred to the government of Balochistan as royalty. Along with depriving a province of its due share and rights, the government – together with Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) – systematically imposed a policy of ‘deliberate underdevelopment’ in Balochistan, particularly in the Dera Bugti area. They never bothered to establish a polytechnic institute to encourage local youth to train in oil-and-gas related subjects or focus on socio-economic development. Moreover, PPL systematically controlled education in the area – looking at ‘institutions’ as a security threat – and discouraged school and colleges in and around Sui. The results of this controlled development are obvious. Today, out of Pakistan’s 100 districts, Dera Bugti tops the list on poverty, illiteracy, infant mortality, malnutrition and unemployment. Providing gas to millions of domestic and commercial consumers in Pakistan, the helpless people of Sui and Dera Bugti still use wood to light their burners. Chaghi, which concealed Pakistan’s nuclear programme in its unreceptive terrain for decades, also has the world’s largest copper-gold and rare earth mineral deposits. The multibillion copper-gold Saindak project is being extracted, without any independent monitoring, for the past seven to ten years by a Chinese company. The fortified Saindak project is a no-go area for the Baloch people. According to official reports, copper-gold worth $633.573m was produced during 2004-08. The Balochistan government receives a paltry two percent share, while half the profits go to Beijing and 48 percent to Islamabad. Without prior approval of the Balochistan Assembly, in October 2012, the federal cabinet approved a five-year extension in the lease of the Saindak project allowing MCC Resources Development Limited (MRDL) to further aggressively expropriate copper-gold from Saindak till 2017. During a visit to the Chaghi and Nushki districts, I found not a single sign of socio-economic development. Schools without infrastructure, hospitals with no ambulances and medicine, shattered infrastructure, no drinking water. On top of all that, there is a massive security presence and check posts – to protect the Chinese and apparently to suppress the Baloch – making life further miserable and unliveable for the locals. The company claims that it had paid $6 million as rent to the federal government. Whether the land belongs to the federal government or to Balochistan is another question but according to local officials not a single penny has been spent in district Chaghi. The company also claims that it paid $39.8m to the Balochistan government as royalty $220m profit to the federal government including rent in the last ten years. But where has this money gone? Who maintains that specific account which deals with rents, royalties and revenues from Balochistan’s gold, copper and gas? Something has gone terribly wrong here. Why don’t students in Chaghi have a proper polytechnic or university? Why do locals in Nokkundi have to buy water? Why are they forced to send their kids to religious schools? The deliberate and systematic underdevelopment policy applied in Dera Bugti for the last six decades is being replicated in Chaghi – no schools, no colleges, no knowledge for the local population. The simple logic being: it’s much easier to steal in the darkness. Obviously, development and education would enlighten minds, raise consciousness and lead to clarity on how wealth is being exploited under the disguise of development. Nawaz Sharif and Dr Malik’s government in Balochistan have to find answers to some important questions – most of all, where has Balochistan’s gold and gas money gone? And where is it going? They have to ensure that money earned through Balochistan’s natural wealth should only be invested in improving human development. They have to ensure that the money is not, instead, transferred to powerful interests as ‘protection money’.

Shahbaz Taseer Should be Released Immediately

By Joelle Fiss
Exactly two years ago, Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped. On his way to work in Lahore on August 26, 2011, a group of armed gunmen surrounded his car and forced him out. The snatching shocked Pakistan and the world. It happened just seven months after Shahbaz’s father, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for opposing Pakistan’s lethal blasphemy laws.
Salmaan Taseer’s assassination illustrated how deadly the debate over blasphemy laws has become. He was murdered because he spoke out in favor of reforming abusive blasphemy laws and against the proposed death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian farm laborer convicted of blasphemy. It is hard to obtain credible information about the Shahbaz’s abduction, and scores of media reports have spread inaccurate rumors about him. His wife Maheen Taseer shared in Newsweek a poignant personal account on how “truth is trumped by sensationalism” with regard to her missing husband. Confusion about Shahbaz’s kidnapping reigns to this day, including about whether his abduction is directly linked to his father’s murder. Credible reports indicate that it is likely that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan are likely behind the kidnapping of Shahbaz, and over the past two years, there has been widespread speculation that Shahbaz has been kept in hiding in the federally-administered tribal areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, when other victims of kidnappings have been taken into captivity. On this solemn anniversary, Human Rights First again condemns Shahbaz Taseer’s abduction and urges the Pakistani government to do its utmost to release him, to identify and bring to justice his kidnappers, and to not be intimidated by the extremists who seek to exploit the issue of blasphemy to advance a destructive political agenda.

President Zardari to focus on PPP reorganisation after Sept 8

After completing his five-year tenure on Sept 8, President Asif Ali Zardari will focus on reorganising the PPP, especially in Punjab, party sources told Dawn on Tuesday. They said Mr Zardari would deeply look into the state of the party and try to use his past and recent experience to remove its weaknesses. Soon after leaving the presidency, Mr Zardari would spend a week in Lahore to study the situation, Presidency’s spokesman and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said. “Zardari Sahib will give more time and attention to the party and stay mostly in Lahore and Karachi for the purpose,” the spokesman said. He dispelled a perception that Mr Zardari would prefer to spend most of his time in Dubai and the UK. Mr Babar said that during his stay in Lahore, Mr Zardari would meet office-bearers and workers of the party and discuss with them matters relating to reorganisation of the PPP. The entire exercise will be aimed at preparing the party for the next general elections. The sources said Punjab PPP president Latif Khosa had met Mr Zardari on Sunday and briefed him on the situation in the province, especially on the party’s comprehensive defeat in the May 11 elections. At a recent farewell for media persons, President Zardari said the PPP had accepted the election results with some reservations. The PPP Punjab leadership described some of the decisions made by Mr Zardari as ‘unwise’, particularly the appointment of Manzoor Wattoo as provincial head of the party in October 2012. During Mr Wattoo’s tenure, the party lost the seats which it had won in the 2008 elections. A PPP leader said the party had won 35 National Assembly seats in Punjab in 2008, but only one seat in the May 2013 polls. The PPP, which had bagged 80 Punjab Assembly seats in 2008, managed to win only one seat in the general elections and another in by-polls. “We agree that we faced the biggest defeat in Punjab because the party leadership had made some mistakes,” he said. In Islamabad, the PPP could not win any of the two National Assembly seats. In NA-48, PPP candidate Faisal Sakhi Butt could get only 9,000 votes in the general elections, while Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of the PTI obtained 72,000 votes followed by PML-N’s Anjum Aqeel who secured 53,000 votes. In the Aug 22 by-election in the same constituency, Mr Butt received 3,000 votes, while Asad Umar of the PTI won the seat with 48,000 votes. In NA-49, PPP candidate Mustafa Khokhar, a son of former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Nawaz Khokhar, was defeated by Tariq Fazal Chaudhry of the PML-N by a big margin.

PML-N’s indecisiveness delaying Balochistan cabinet formation

The failure of the PML-N leadership from Balochistan to finalise the list for the cabinet slots, when its partners are fully ready and waiting in the wings, is delaying the formation of cabinet in the troubled province. Sources in the PML-N revealed that all major stakeholders in Balochistan had agreed to a formula of 6-4-4. According to this agreement, the PML-N will have six ministers, while Balochistan National Party, the ruling party, and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party will get four ministers each. It is learnt that acting on the formula, both regional parties have finalised the list of its members to become ministers, waiting for the PML-N to follow suit. But it has turned out to be a long wait as the PML-N leadership has not yet finalised its list. The sources confided that one difficulty in putting together a list for the cabinet slot was the desire of every PML-N MPA to become a minister. To appease and convince these members, the PML-N leadership has offered members left out in the cabinet selection the chairmanship of standing committees with status of minister. But no member is ready to take the bait. “Every member wants to become minister and nothing less,” one senior PML-N leader said. It appears the PML-N chief in Balochistan, Sanaullah Zehri, is helpless in the face of the unfolding situation with most members not ready to listen to him. There is a grouping also within the party, with Chengez Marri wanting his say in the formation of cabinet. Marri is not ready even to accept the leadership of Zehri. Sources in the party believe that ultimately, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would have to intervene to find a solution following failure of local leadership to break the deadlock. Already, the cabinet formation has been delayed inordinately, hampering progress on issues confronting the provincial government. The government in Balochistan was formed in June and yet it is finding the formation of cabinet an uphill task despite the lapse of over two months. A political analyst commenting on the cabinet formation delay said if the chief minister and others could not complete cabinet, there was little one could expect from them when it came to solution of other problems of the province. Interestingly, JUI-F, which has joined hands with the federal government in the centre, is also vying for cabinet slots in Balochistan.
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Pakistan: ‘Political faux pas’: Lawmakers slam MQM for demanding army

The Express Tribune
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s demand for Karachi to be handed over to the army incensed members of the National Assembly en masse who decried the party’s call, terming it ‘undemocratic’. MQM MNA Farooq Sattar made the demand while addressing the lower house on a point of order, saying that Article 245 of the Constitution should be invoked to protect the lives and properties of the people in the metropolis. The army should act without discrimination against all groups involved in terrorist activities, he added. However, legislators from all other parties decried the demand, deeming it preposterous. “Invoking Article 245 of the Constitution (as demanded by the MQM) is like imposing martial law in a city,” said Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Lt. General (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch of the PML-N. “The army is not trained for the job proposed by the MQM and they cannot be given the responsibility to maintain law and order.” Baloch explained that under Article 245, the civil government can call the army in aid and it was the prerogative of the Parliament to take such a decision.
Article 245 (1) reads as “The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.”Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah also vehemently opposed the idea of deploying army in Karachi, calling it ‘undemocratic’. He said that the ulterior motive behind the MQM’s insistence was to defame the provincial government of Pakistan Peoples Party. “The MQM has made a political mistake by making this demand.” The issues of Karachi should be tackled through negotiations with all political parties, he said. “We need to strengthen democracy and should avoid such undemocratic demands that have the propensity to harm the system.” Meanwhile, MQM chief Altaf Hussain issued a statement, saying his “demand for the deployment of the army to protect the life and property of the Katchi community in light of the severe and critical condition of law and order in certain areas of Karachi” is constitutional. He refers to Article 149(4) and Article 245(1) of the Constitution. He also cited precedence by referring to a 1994 Supreme Court judgment in the Shehla Zia Case. Along with rejecting the army deployment option, opposition parties condemned the law and order situation in Karachi as well. Members of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Awami Muslim League (AML) staged a token walkout from National Assembly proceedings against the Karachi situation. “It should be examined as to why the situation in Karachi reached a point where the MQM had to make this demand”, said PTI Deputy Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi. However, he did not subscribe to the demand. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmad rejected MQM’s demand for handing over of Karachi to army as he urged political parties of Sindh to join hands and find a solution instead of blaming each other. Meanwhile, Ghous Bux Mahar from the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional group also rejected the demand saying, “If no one is paying heed to Sindh governor Dr. Ishratul Ibad, then he should resign.” Separately, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hassan said that military operations across the country has only rendered losses and Karachi’s issues cannot be solved by an operation either.

Pakistan: Attack on media

One can only condemn in the strongest terms the Balochistan government for filing FIR against ARY TV channel. The crime of the channel was that in one of its documentaries, it tried to give an insight into the attack on Ziarat Residency. The spokesman for CM, justifying the the FIR, said Chief Minister Malik Baloch had no hand in registering the case, and that it was done on the Supreme Court's orders. The statement sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of many when they heard that the CM of the province had no knowledge or say when an FIR was lodged against a media outlet. Also, had it been the SC's order, he would not have been able to withdraw the report filed in the police station. Also, in a country where even IG level officers will not proceed against low-level politicians without the backing of government of the day, the CM's spokesman wants the nation to believe that an SHO can have the courage to register a case against a TV channel. CM Baloch sounded even more unconvincing than his spokesman when he said he had withdrawn the case, as it was the result of a misunderstanding. After saying so, however, he could not refrain from criticising the ARY channel airing the documentary. The CM's criticism may have clearly shown us the love he has for the freedom of the press. It is more shameful; however, that instead of locating the terrorists, the Balochistan government declared the journalists exposing the modus operandi of the terrorists, as terrorists and registered a case against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act. If we believe that the FIR was registered without the CM's knowledge, it will mean it is not the political government but the bureaucracy which is running the show in Balochistan. Is it now to be believed we are returning to the Raisani government style of governance, when the political set up, especially, the chief minister Balochistan stayed aloof from the affairs of the province and only made unbelievable excuses for the excesses of the officials? It seems the Balochistan government is unable to control violence in the province and wants its failures not to be exposed. By its action against a media house, it may have wanted to test the waters and see if the nation will accept action against the media in the name of security. Had the action been accepted without much ado, more such intimidating instances could have followed. Unwise as the action against the TV channel was, it was also a desperate one. The media is the eyes and ears of the general public and the government. Only governments made up of the naïve will try to shut its eyes and ears in a democratic setup. Problems don't go away if they are not reported; they get worse. It was also reckless because the freedom to the media has not been the grant of any past or present government; civilian or otherwise: It has been hard earned and the cost has been huge. Many journalists lost their lives; many went to jails in the struggle. The freedom they have achieved is irreversible and the struggle still goes because even now Pakistan is a high risk country for journalists. The case against ARY staff reminded many of General Zia's regime. It was withdrawn only when journalists, civil society and many other quarters expressed disdain on the outrageously dictatorial action of the elected provincial government. The Frontier Post (FP) strongly condemns the Balochistan government's action even though it was short lived. This paper is against unlicensed freedom but will fight tooth and nail against efforts to curtail legitimate freedom of expression. The FP has too many times been made victim for its independent policies and unwavering support for the freedom of expression of other media outlets. Such hardships have not stopped this paper or any other section of the media from propagating truth. We strongly stand by ARY channel and all its staff and management on this occasion and will do so in the future in such circumstances. This paper also reminds PM Nawaz that he has been chosen for the third term to lead the country and all the three times he has been elected democratically. As such it is his obligations to safeguard democratic norms; freedom of the press being one of them. He should weed out bureaucrats who insist on clinging to dictatorial practices. He should also publicly declare and insist on openness in his government and where his party is in coalition.

Army not a solution to Karachi

Diversified conflicts amongst criminal gangs, ethnic communities and political rivals in Karachi most frequently create ugly scenes wherein the innocent people of the city are continuously suffering the loss of life and property. On the top of all, militants too are exploiting the worsened situation for years. The successive governments, including military regimes in Sindh that mostly comprised the MQM as well, have failed to bring back the normalcy. Hence calls for the corrective measures to curb the unrest in Karachi do echo from quarters concerned from time to time. Of late, it was the president-elect who gave an insertion in a TV interview that the army’s assistance could be sought for restoration of peace in Karachi, and now the MQM chief Altaf Hussain, embattling against falling health and probe into money laundering in the UK, too has joined the chorus demanding the administration of Karachi be handed over to army. The latest public rhetoric from the two political leaders must have given a rude shock to the saner minds and souls engaged in a long political struggle for democracy and for the civil liberties. Suffice to remind here, the General Musharraf-led army regime, too tried its muscles against miscreants but it never succeeded in curbing violence rather the miscreants gained more strength, making strong inroads in the street politics of Karachi. If the history is something to learn from, the calls for handing over the responsibilities of the city to army sound illogical and unjustified on two counts first; the army deployment had been tried and tested earlier, and secondly, the armed forces are already engaged on the western and eastern borders of the country apart from fighting a full scale war on terror in the FATA, the KPK and Balochistan thus it can hardly afford more engagement. In difficult socio-political conflicts, the civil governments, sometimes, do face failures to give a matching response to the situation yet sagacious and sincere political leadership never gives up its efforts to hammer out solution to the civil issues. But the same is not true for Pakistan. Unfortunately, the president-elect has shown his inexperience on matters of such serious nature hence he made a premature observation on this sensitive issue, and perhaps the MQM chief, living abroad for too long, is not fully aware of the ground realities of today. Otherwise before jumping to such conclusion in the first three months of the new government, he should offered his all-out support to the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the Karachi unrest case that has given perfect remedies to the worsening law and order situation there. Even today, the decision stands valid for implementation. The SC called for depoliticizing police, disbanding criminal gangs and death squads in political parties. Unfortunately, the previous coalition regime of the PPP and the MQM ignored the decision somehow or the other. To bring the situation under the control, Karachi needs supremacy and rule of law that comes through strong political will and strict adherence to the court verdicts because no amount of military might can restore peace till the political leadership bows to laws of the land. First all political leaders had come clean of all accusations otherwise even their just calls too sound mere public oratory.

Pakistan: Demanding army in Karachi is slap on democracy: Khursheed Shah
Opposition leader in the National Assembly, Khursheed Shah responded to the MQM’s demand of seeking the deployment of army in Karachi by stating that this would be a slap on the face of democracy. Shah added that a non-democratic demand by any party could result in a huge political mistake. According to Shah, the MQM demand could be part of a conspiracy.

Does Obama know he’s fighting on al-Qa’ida’s side?

‘All for one and one for all’ should be the battle cry if the West goes to war against Assad’s Syrian regime
If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida. Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad. The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords. This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida – though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates. But it does raise some interesting possibilities. Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world. There will be some ironies, of course. While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front. And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind. Perhaps – since there is no institutional memory left among modern governments – Cameron has forgotten how similar are the sentiments being uttered by Obama and himself to those uttered by Bush and Blair a decade ago, the same bland assurances, uttered with such self-confidence but without quite enough evidence to make it stick. In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback? And while we’re talking about institutional memory, hands up which of our jolly statesmen know what happened last time the Americans took on the Syrian government army? I bet they can’t remember. Well it happened in Lebanon when the US Air Force decided to bomb Syrian missiles in the Bekaa Valley on 4 December 1983. I recall this very well because I was here in Lebanon. An American A-6 fighter bomber was hit by a Syrian Strela missile – Russian made, naturally – and crash-landed in the Bekaa; its pilot, Mark Lange, was killed, its co-pilot, Robert Goodman, taken prisoner and freighted off to jail in Damascus. Jesse Jackson had to travel to Syria to get him back after almost a month amid many clichés about “ending the cycle of violence”. Another American plane – this time an A-7 – was also hit by Syrian fire but the pilot managed to eject over the Mediterranean where he was plucked from the water by a Lebanese fishing boat. His plane was also destroyed. Sure, we are told that it will be a short strike on Syria, in and out, a couple of days. That’s what Obama likes to think. But think Iran. Think Hezbollah. I rather suspect – if Obama does go ahead – that this one will run and run.