Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pakistan - Faced with failure in Fata, PML-N spoilt Senate race?

What pro­m­pted the PML-N to issue a controversial late-night presidential order; the single seat that the ruling party had been eyeing from the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) or the eventual election to the posts of chairman and deputy chairman?
The answer differs depending on who one asks.
A couple of well-connected government sources told Dawn that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had asked his cabinet members to take every possible step to ensure the success of their party’s candidates in the Senate elections. Last week, after receiving the Saudi king’s invitation to him, the PM busied himself in preparation for his first official trip to the kingdom. However, federal ministers such as Pervaiz Rashid, Khawaja Saad Rafique and KP Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmed remained busy with reaching out to other political parties in order to seek their support for the PML-N candidates.
“Throughout Wednesday, government ministers tried their level best to muster support for a ruling party candidate from Fata, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the party’s legal experts had been tasked to work out the presidential order, which was issued after midnight,” said a government source privy to the developments.
Asked if the PM was taken on board before issuing the controversial presidential order, a government source said, “As far as I know, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif — son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif – was liaising with the two elder Sharifs, who were in Saudi Arabia when the decision was taken.”
Confirming the frantic efforts the government side was making, PML-N MNA from Fata Shahabuddin Khan told newsmen outside Parliament House on Thursday that, “We tried our level best to work out some common ground, however, we were left with no choice but to issue the presidential order.”
For Syed Ghazi Gulab Jamal, parliamentary leader for members of the National Assembly from Fata, it was a bit of both. Talking to Dawn, Mr Jamal explained that under the new scheme of things, three Fata MNAs could elect one senator, which suited the ruling PML-N perfectly as they had three lawmakers from the tribal region.
On the election of a new speaker and deputy speaker of the Senate, Mr Jamal said that after government ministers failed to gain support of independent MNAs from Fata for their candidate, “they must have reached the conclusion that Fata senators would not support its candidates for the top slots in the Senate either.” It now seems that outgoing majority party in the Senate, the PPP will be going toe-to-toe with the ruling PML-N in the election for speaker and deputy speaker.
Without revealing details of the last-ditch efforts made by the government until Wednesday night, Mr Jamal said the government side went the whole hog, but failed. Therefore, as a last resort, they opted for the presidential order.
Of the 11 Fata MNAs currently in the National Assembly, Mr Jamal leads a group of six, who had come together to elect four senators of their choosing. With one MNA having four votes, the remaining five MNAs, including the three from the PML-N, were rendered ineffective.
Responding to allegations of horse-trading, Mr Jamal told Dawn the four candidates they were supporting were all relatives of the MNAs who would be voting, therefore, the buying and selling of votes for them didn’t make sense.
For example, he said, candidate Taj Mohammad is the brother of MNA Alhaj Shah Jee Gul Afridi, while Moman Khan is the brother of MNA Nasir Khan and candidate Sajjad Turi is a relative of Sajid Turi and “I am supporting Aurangzeb. Will a brother ask for money from his brother?”
The issue of horse-trading, according to Mr Jamal, was raised by those who couldn’t buy votes from Fata this time, otherwise, the issue wouldn’t be in the public eye.

Video Report - Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

Pakistan - Authorities stop Mama Qadeer from leaving country

Authorities have slapped a travel ban on Mama Qadeer who campaigns for human rights in  Balochistan, stopping him going to a conference in the United States, sources said Thursday.
Abdul Qadeer Baloch, known as Mama Qadeer, was stopped at Karachi airport as he was about to fly to New York, where he was due to attend a weekend conference on alleged rights violations in Balochistan and Sindh provinces.
Qadeer is the founder of a pressure group working for information on people who have “disappeared” during the long-running conflict between the  government and Baloch separatist movements.
Hundreds of people accused of links to separatist groups have gone missing in recent years, allegedly at the hands of security forces.
Many, including Qadeer’s own son, show up dead, but many are simply never seen again.
Last year Qadeer led a group of families with missing relatives on a gruelling 2,000-kilometre march to raise awareness of their cause and demand answers from the government.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) confirmed to AFP its officers had stopped Qadeer and his companion Farzana Majeed, whose brother is one of the missing, because they are on the government’s “exit control list” (ECL) of people barred from leaving the country.
Majeed said she had visited Dubai only a month ago without any problem.
“But last night we went to Karachi Jinnah International Airport, but after check-in, members of FIA told us: ‘You are on the ECL, you people are in anti-state activities so we cannot let you (go)’,” she told AFP.
“I am not an anti-state activist, I am only a human rights activist.”
Human rights groups have long accused security forces of serious abuses in Balochistan, particularly kidnapping and killing suspected rebels and leaving their bodies by the roadside.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people have suffered this fate — known as “kill and dump” — in Balochistan since January 2011.
The security services deny the allegations and say they are battling a fierce rebellion in the province, which is also an important smuggling route for heroin from Afghanistan.
Balochistan, the size of Italy and rich in copper, gold and natural gas, is Pakistan’s largest but least populous province.
It is also the least developed, which has exacerbated a long-running ethnic Baloch separatist movement that wants more autonomy and a greater share of its mineral wealth.

Pakistan - Polio epidemic

Pakistan is one of only three countries left in which polio is still endemic and it has the highest rate of new polio cases in the world. Polio is a potentially life threatening disease, which can cause severe paralysis and muscular stiffness. Polio is asymptomatic in 90-95 percent of cases, which means that carriers of the virus can potentially pass on the disease unnoticed. Although the threat of contracting and transferring the virus can be avoided by ensuring that all children are administered the oral polio vaccine (OPV), the government’s attempts to launch anti-polio drives have been unsuccessful in the past. There have been severe threats to the security of health workers charged with administrating the vaccine from Islamic militant groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). TTP has also been propagating the notion that OPV harms the children that it is given to. This narrative, particularly in the north, rural areas and other parts of the country that are deprived of quality education, has persuaded some parents to resist having their children immunised against polio and other microbial diseases. It is the lack of an educated, scientific narrative and proper awareness campaigns that has created a vacuum of knowledge and allowed this ignorance to take hold. OPV providers have been staging protests in different parts of the country against the lapses and inadequacies of the payment of their salaries and the abductions and killings of their colleagues by TTP members.

The international community has begun to fear the polio epidemic in Pakistan. By a directive of the World Health Organisation (WHO), anyone travelling outside the country must now prove that they have been immunised. The US has already shut down two of its consulates and discouraged US citizens from travelling to Pakistan for, amongst health reasons, fear of security threats. It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain visas to other countries and at the risk of further travel restrictions or even complete isolation from the rest of the world, the government is under intense pressure to crack down on polio. The new polio drive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa began on Monday and over 500 parents have been arrested for not allowing their children to be vaccinated. Although it is tragic that the government has allowed the situation to get this far, it seems as though the threat of arrest is the only way to convince misguided parents to allow the administration of OPV to their children. There have to be broad based awareness campaigns, particularly from religious leaders, to counter the extremist narrative and the government must protect and adequately compensate health workers and arrest the people who threaten them. Under the status quo, extreme measures need to be taken to prevent the spread and export of the disease, but alternatives must be explored to prevent the further alienation of people who already consider the anti-polio campaign a threat to their families. 

Pakistan - Khurshid Shah condemns Nawaz Sharif’s absence during the Senate elections

Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Khurshid Shah on Thursday condemned the FATA ordinance and appealed to the chief election commissioner (CEC) to take notice.
While talking to media outside the Parliament, Shah said that rules cannot be changed after the election schedule is announced. Thus, the ordinance shall be considered unlawful, he said.
“The government has set an example of horse-trading by introducing the ordinance overnight,” Shah said, while accusing the government of bringing an ordinance which suited only the ruling party.
The opposition leader also lamented the fact that the prime minister and chief minister of a province are not present in the country on the eve of Senate election.

Pashto Music - Ay Zama Watana Poetry Ghani Khan - Takkar

Upload Music - Listen Audio Files - AY ZAMA WATANA POETRY GHANI ...