Thursday, June 25, 2015

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Pakistan - Opposition leader links loss of life with power cuts

Opposition leader Khursheed Shah today lashed out at the PML-N government for power cuts across the country as the death toll from the heat wave crossed 800.
In his emotional speech, he linked loss of life in Karachi with power cuts. Earlier, Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif gave details of power supply and shortage across Pakistan. Khawaja Asif claimed the federal government is not responsible for the power shortfall in Karachi.
“The government should stop talking about calculations,” Shah said. Shah questioned Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not delivering on his promise to end the power crisis.
“People are dying and there is no water to wash corpses,” he regretted.

Pakistan : Punjab police brutality

In typical form
Once again the notorious Punjab police makes the news for the wrong reason; this time for gunning down a 15-year old boy – without warning – as he was taking selfies with a toy pistol. What is more, in typical fashion again, the police quickly lodged a fake FIR about a fake encounter that named the boy, now deceased, as the accused. And they would have got their way, as they are so often used to, had not eye witnesses and the boy’s family taken the initiative and filed a separate FIR, this one naming the concerned SHO as the accused.
Clearly the police, especially in Punjab, is no longer the disciplined force that it once was. It has now, with good reason, assumed the reputation of a thuggish outfit that has grown too used to doing politicians’ dirty work, for fair return, than serve the people – which is what the state pays them for. It has also developed the reputation of a fearsome Mafia force in its own rights. Many inside the force have, time and again, been accused and found guilty of running crime rings involving theft, kidnapping, prostitution, etc. Yet little attention is paid to these facts where it matters.
From the time of the infamous Model Town incident not too long ago – when Punjab police overran unarmed PAT activists, killing and injuring many – the force’s reputation has taken a particularly visible nosedive. Part of the reason is an increasingly empowered media, which brings their excesses to light more often than before. But the main reason is that those in charge prefer it this way. The N-league, for example, makes no secret of leveraging the bureaucracy for its own political purposes. Only those that please the Sharifs find the best postings. So long as these trends are not checked, law enforcement will leave a little something to be desired. The boy’s killing in Faisalabad is just another reminder of the problem, yet we are no closer to the cure. The government needs to realise that the police force has become compromised. As such, it threatens not only public safety, but also the fight against terrorism, where it is supposed to be the first line of defence. Police reforms must be undertaken immediately, and followed through to the end.

Why China Snubbed India on a Pakistan-based Terrorist at the UN

On Tuesday, China blocked an Indian bid to question Pakistan at the United Nations sanctions committee (per resolution 1267) over the release of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander in Lashkar-e-Taiba, an anti-India terror group, and a central planner in the November 2008 terror attack on Mumbai which claimed over 160 lives. Lakhvi was released on bail by a Pakistani court in April, a move that India alleged was in violation of resolution 1267. China’s justification for blocking the Indian request—which sought clarification from Pakistan over Lakhvi’s release—was that India “failed to provide enough information.” The move is the latest in a series of recent moves by China to block or stall Indian proposals on countering or sanctioning Pakistan-based terrorism.
Though seemingly a bureaucratic snub from Beijing, the action has understandably stirred a hornet’s nest of negativity in India—Lakhvi’s connection to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, one of the worst terrorist incidents in recent Indian history, has ensured that the incident received top billing in the Indian press. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Beijing just over a month ago, conveyed his concerns to the Chinese government after the fact. The Times of India reported that the matter had been addressed to “the Chinese leadership” directly from Modi, who emphasized the issue of Lakhvi’s release as an “emotive issue for Indians.” A spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, outlined the Indian government’s response:
The government had taken up the issue of violation of the 1267 sanctions regime in respect of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Our concerns in this matter were conveyed to the Chair of the 1267 Committee. We also raised this bilaterally with the other members of the Committee. In the case of China, this matter has been taken up at the highest level.
China’s move to block UN action is particularly remarkable given how reserved it has been in the past in being seen as the sole standout on an issue within the permanent five (P5) members of the security council. China’s move was procedural within the UN sanctions committee, but it still stood in sharp opposition to the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia—all of whom were ready to entertain the Indian proposal. China’s effective “veto” on the matter should emphasize the extent to which Beijing is willing to publicly underwrite the Pakistani government’s approach to terrorism. Over the UN’s 70 year history, China has used its veto power at the security council just 10 times, making it the least obstructive member of the P5.
Indian reactions to the Chinese move have been understandably negative. Numerous commentators and analysts have remarked that China’s move shows that Beijing will continue to support Pakistan, regardless of Indian sensitivities. As Nitin Pai, director of The Takshashila Institution, a Bangalore-based think tank, notes, the episode highlights the necessity of New Delhi and Beijing liaising on important UN votes. The episode highlights the extent to which closer relations between India and China will be limited by Beijing’s interests in shielding Pakistan from international scrutiny.
China has in the past blocked India’s bids to get Jamaat-ud-Dawa (the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan) added to the United Nations Security Council’s terror list three times (JuD was finally added to the sanctions list in December 2008). As leaked U.S. State Department cables revealed in 2010, China placed “technical holds” at Pakistan’s request to block UNSC sanctions against Lashkar-e-Taiba and the al-Akhtar Trust (a charity front for Jaish-e-Mohammad, designated as a terrorist support organization by the United States). A similar “technical hold” was put in place in the case of India’s request to list Syed Salahuddin, a terrorist wanted in connection with numerous Hizbul Mujahideen attacks. Thus, China has a history of shielding Pakistan-based terror groups from sanctions under resolution 1267.
Beijing’s position on this issue is opaque, with few public statements or remarks on why China continues to block Indian requests on Pakistan-based terror. In an interview with the Press Trust of India in September 2014, China’s ambassador to India, Le Yucheng, noted that China’s position was that “China, India and Pakistan ought to work together to deal with the problem of terrorism and root out the cause of terrorism.” Borrowing a line verbatim from Pakistan’s diplomatic playbook, Le noted that “Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism.”
In their joint statement last month, Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang marked their joint resolve against terrorism and “urged all countries and entities to work sincerely to disrupt terrorist networks and their financing, and stop cross-border movement of terrorists.” For China to walk the talk, it needs to reconsider its intransigence at the United Nations for Pakistan’s benefit. Going forward, New Delhi and Beijing will have to broach this topic at the highest levels.

Deadly heat exposes Pakistan's power problems

A suffocating heat wave across Pakistan has killed over 700 in the past week, exposing a severe power crisis and threatening to usher in a new period of political unrest.
Temperatures have hit 45 degrees Celsius in recent days, prompting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to declare a national emergency this week. The blistering heat is exacerbated by chronic electricity shortages, forcing water pumping stations - the chief source of potable water - to come to a standstill, with residents also unable to seek relief from fans or air-conditioners. That's created a deadly health risk for Muslims fasting during the annual Ramadan holiday that began last week.
"This shortfall is the result of the failure, over successive governments' tenures, to invest enough to expand power system capacity," said a new report by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent and nonpartisan group.
Electricity deficits can exceed up to one-third of peak demand in Pakistan and cost more than 2 percent of gross domestic product annually, it added. Multiple factors like a physical shortfall, the financial inability of utilities to cover the cost of increasing supply and poor governance have contributed to the crisis.
Indeed, structural weakness in the power sector remains a major growth constraint and an impediment to investment, Moody's sovereign analyst Anushka Shah told CNBC on Wednesday. However, the government is making progress, she noted.
"Over the last few years, they have taken steps to address the crisis, mainly by increasing tariffs to reduce subsidies and add capacity. We do recognize these policy efforts and would view the implementation of these reforms as credit positive."

Criticism of Pakistani Government Intensifies as Heat-Wave Death Toll Tops 1,000


Most of the deaths have occurred among the elderly and poor people without access to air-conditioning

“There is a problem of very poor governance, and in normal circumstances it is not so exposed,” Khalid Rahman, director general of the Institute of Policy Studies in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, says in an interview with TIME. “In this very extraordinary heat wave, it has exposed so many things.”
The Pakistan government continued to face the nation’s ire Wednesday over what critics call its inadequate preparation for and response to a devastating heat wave sweeping the southern Sindh province.
Opposition lawmakers slammed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ruling party in Parliament over the repeated power cuts and water shortages that have considerably worsened the crisis, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported. Many accused the government of “inaction” in the face of hundreds of deaths in the provincial capital, Karachi — the country’s largest city — and its surrounding areas.
Over 1,000 people have now died from heatstroke or related medical problems, a majority of them poor and elderly people without access to air-conditioning. The escalating problems from the heat wave prompted the government to declare a public holiday on Wednesday so people could stay indoors, according to the New York Times, and though the resumption of sea breezes from the country’s southern coast contributed to a lowering of the overall temperature and a reduction in the number of fatalities, there are still thousands more undergoing treatment at various hospitals across the region.
The Pakistani army and a paramilitary force, the Rangers, have also stepped in, setting up relief camps for heatstroke patients, while various nongovernment and volunteer organizations have been distributing water and medicine outside hospitals.
“Today was a lot better,” Anwar Kazmi, a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation that runs Karachi’s largest morgue, told the Times on Wednesday. “We’ve had 58 deaths today, compared to yesterday when the death toll rose to 300.”
Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan’s Water and Power Minister, attempted to deflect the blame from his government and delink the power shortages, which Pakistan has long grappled with, from the heat wave.
“The federal government is not responsible if there is a water shortage in Karachi,” he said in Parliament. “We are ready for accountability, but it’s not appropriate to blame us for each and every thing.”
Rahman, however, says there is a lot the government could have and should have done differently.
“In these days of technology-driven information available well in advance, the government should have come up with an emergency plan as well as some kind of awareness campaign for the public and some emergency centers,” he says. “Unfortunately, despite so many deaths the governments, both provincial as well as federal, did not accept the responsibility. Instead they started blaming each other.”