Pakistan in Media

Opinionated Media Coverage

Pakistan Taliban regrouping outside South Waziristan

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Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan - Since the Pakistani army launched a long-awaited offensive last month to destroy the Taliban in South Waziristan, many militants have fled to nearby districts and begun to establish new strongholds, a strategy that suggests they will regroup and remain a potent threat to the country's weak, U.S.-backed government.

Pakistani Taliban militants have escaped primarily to Kurram and Orakzai, districts outside the battle zone but still within Pakistan's largely ungoverned tribal areas along the Afghan border, villagers there say. The military lacks a significant presence in much of these areas, making them an ideal environment for the Islamic militants to regroup.

Newly arrived militants have terrorized Pashtun residents and replenished their coffers through kidnappings and robberies, villagers said during interviews in the Kurram and Orakzai districts. With AK-47s and rocket launchers slung over their shoulders, the militants have begun patrols through the new territory and have set up checkpoints.
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posted @ 4:23 PM, ,

Abdullah Shah Mehsud, the most wanted militant arrested

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ISLAMABAD: Security forces have apprehended a most wanted terrorist Abdullah Shah Mehsud with Rs 10 million head money from Tank (the head money has been paid to the informer) during the operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan.

Our Miramshah correspondent adds: Meanwhile, the security forces sought tribesmen help in arresting 19 most wanted militants in NWA and also announced reward for the informers. Tribal sources said pamphlets were dropped from a plane at about 4 pm in different areas of the North Waziristan announcing the reward.

The militants on whom head money announced included Hakimullah Mehsud, (Rs50 million), Qari Hassain, (Rs50 million), Wali Rehman, (Rs50 million), Commander Gurguray, (Rs20 million), Mazloom Yaar, (Rs20 million), Azam Tariq spokesman (Rs20 million), Noor Samad, (Rs20 million), Maulvi Shamim, (Rs20 million), Commander Muhammad Ismail, (Rs20 million), Jalil Mahsud commander, (Rs20 million), Sher Azam commander, (Rs20 million), Shah Faisal Mehsud, (Rs20 million), Nisaruddin, (Rs20 million), Azmatullah Barmand, (Rs20 million), Commander Anwar Kulachi, (Rs10 million), Khan Saeed commander, (Rs10 million), Commander Asmatullah (Rs10 million), Abdul Wahab commander (Rs10 million) and Abdullah Shah (Rs10 million).
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posted @ 12:18 PM, ,

3m perform Haj

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ISLAMABAD: Around three million Muslims from all over the globe Thursday performed the Haj, one of the most sacred and cherished religious obligations, in the prescient of the Holy Kaaba at Makkah-tul-Mukarma, Saudi Arabia.

They converged in Makkah in a dignified manner by wearing “Ahram”, reciting the praises of Allah Almighty and offering various supplications to Him with their hands raised, in accordance with the practice of the Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Local and international TV channels telecast live Haj transmission from Makkah, covering Manasik-e-Haj including Waqoof-e-Arafat, Khutba-e-Haj and prayers of Zuhar and Asr. Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh delivered the Haj sermon from Masjid-e-Nimra. In his address, the Mufti praised the oneness of Allah Almighty and highlighted various aspects of life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

The Mufti said the current situation of the Islamic world could be changed only if the Ummah gets a sincere and pious ruler. He urged the Ummah to follow true teachings of Islam and footsteps of the last Messenger of God to achieve success in the world and hereafter.

He said Muslim Ummah is facing a number of challenges and enemies of Islam are hatching conspiracies against our religion to defame its followers in the world. The Grand Mufti said Islam is the religion of peace, harmony and brotherhood and it has nothing to do with terrorism and extremism. He underlined the need of greater unity among Muslims to tackle the challenges confronted by Ummah.
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posted @ 12:14 PM, ,

Reactions to Balochistan package

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Some Baloch nationalists had delivered themselves of a rejectionist message even before the Balochistan package was presented in a joint session of parliament the other day. The rest have now joined the chorus. In case anyone is jumping to any conclusions, it needs to be stressed that negative or indifferent reactions to the package are not confined to those from the province. The main opposition party, the PML-N, sat stoically throughout the presentation, clarifying later that it considered the package only a set of proposals and would respond when debate gets under way at another joint session after Eid. Other parties too have reacted rather less than enthusiastically. The only positive sounds have come, unsurprisingly, from the government, from President Asif Ali Zardari downwards. But is this divide unexpected? If not, why not?
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posted @ 4:07 PM, ,

US, India want Pakistan to do more

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WASHINGTON: The US and India on Wednesday welcomed the indictment of seven men by an anti-terror court in Rawalpindi in connection with the Mumbai attacks, but said a lot more needed to be done to curb such attacks. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he welcomed Pakistani steps to rein in extremists, but called for more action, while the US said the indictment was an “important step”. Pakistan has pledged it would do what is necessary to bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice,” a State Department official said. “...but a lot more needs to be done to make sure these types of attacks don’t emanate anywhere from Pakistani soil,” the official added. afp

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posted @ 4:04 PM, ,

Pakistan sees spread of Talibanisation in India

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ISLAMABAD: There is the potential for spread of the trends of Talibanisation in India and it would be in mutual interest of India and Pakistan to sincerely cooperate with each other to eliminate the menace of terrorism from region.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said this on Wednesday in a telephonic interview to a private television channel. He said Muslims are second largest population group in India and are facing suppression. He said the Indian leadership should realise this situation could be exploited any time by vested interests.
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posted @ 3:47 PM, ,

Zardar's thunderous speech devoid of vision

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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari created history on Wednesday evening when he addressed a public meeting in Karachi by sitting in his fortified Presidential Palace in Islamabad while warning that he was neither scared of death nor afraid of being consigned to gallows. The president used blistering language and it appeared from the tone and tenor of his speech that the policy of reconciliation had been done away with.

Political observers are of the opinion that the tone and tenor of the president did not match the exalted office he was currently holding. The presidential podium has been used to hurling threats and fanning political divide while the office of the president, as a symbol of the Federation, is expected to stay above the political divide. Ever since Asif Zardari has assumed the highest office, the presidential palace has become the hub of petty political activities and wheeling-dealings.
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posted @ 3:39 PM, ,

Have a heart, you are the president, Mr Zardari!

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WASHINGTON: When an elected head of the state, who is also the head of the largest political party of the country, the Supreme Commander of the country’s armed forces and (at least on papers) the man with his finger on the country’s nuclear button, cannot venture out of his bunker in the presidency, a five-star prison of sorts, and attacks a TV channel, a newspaper editor or a talk show anchor, he must be seriously in trouble or scared to death with insecurity.
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posted @ 3:36 PM, ,

Army capable of fighting terror war

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PESHAWAR: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said the nation is fighting the war against terrorism like a solid rock and every citizen has matchless spirit of making his contribution in efforts to curb the menace faced by the country.

He expressed these views while addressing the convocation of the seventh batch of the Khyber Institute of Technical Education (KITE) here on Wednesday. Corps Commander Lt-Gen Muhammad Masood Aslam, high ranking officials, tribal elders and students of the KITE were present on the occasion.
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posted @ 3:29 PM, ,

British Council's "Next Generation Report on Pakistan"

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The British Council's "Next Generation Report on Pakistan" provides perhaps the clearest picture of how our younger generation thinks and feels about their homeland. Its measured tones and careful analysis make uncomfortable reading despite both positive and negative paths being detailed. The sampling of the surveys that underpin the report is broad and its conclusions derived from data which is comprehensive. The report identifies something called the 'demographic dividend' which is a period where there is a favourable ratio of potentially productive young people, to old. The window of opportunity to exploit this began in 1990 and we have done nothing to take advantage of it since; and the window will close in 2045 (by when society will be aging rapidly) giving us thirty-five years to turn the tide. Alongside the possible opportunity there is demographic disaster which will only be averted by aggressive and sustained action by successive governments. The research indicates that one-third of the growth experienced by East Asian economies in their boom years can be traced to this demographic structure; and if we are able to harness it effectively we could see economic growth increase by as much as one-fifth by 2030.

Our young generation is politically disillusioned. They are very loyal and strongly nationalistic but only 10 per cent have any faith in the key institutions of state – national and local governance, the police and the courts. In terms of identity 75 per cent see themselves as Muslims first and secondly as Pakistanis with just 14 per cent seeing themselves primarily as a citizen of Pakistan. Democracy gets short shrift with 33 per cent seeing it as the right system for us and another 33 per cent preferring some form of Sharia. A majority are critical of the way Pakistan has been manipulated by the international community for most of its life. Despite attempts at optimism, there is little cheer in the report, especially when it is laid alongside the failure of virtually every government we have had to address the issues it identifies and which have been there from the beginning. We cannot throw up our hands and claim ignorance because this particular elephant in the living room has been standing there for over sixty years. Either we invest in our young generation now or we wither and fail in thirty-five years time — our choice is that stark.
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posted @ 12:08 PM, ,

Blackwater’s secret war in Pakistan?

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At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the centre of a secret programme in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found.

The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA Predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programmes for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater’s involvement.

He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the programme is so “compartmentalised” that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, “We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature.”

A defence official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan.

“We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period,” the official said. “There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organisation for these types of services.”

The previously unreported programme, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination programme that the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had cancelled in June 2009. “This is a parallel operation to the CIA,” said the source. “They are two separate beasts.”
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posted @ 12:03 PM, ,

Wrong scanners bought

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SLAMABAD: The Interior Ministry is buying scanners to be installed at roads to check explosives being brought into cities by terrorists but ironically, the selected models lack the vital capability of detecting explosives from a distance (as in other available models) and this critical deficiency could make all the difference between an apprehended shipment or another bomb blast right in front of one of these very scanning posts, sources told The News.

The News was told that two scanners were purchased from China, to be used by Customs, to detect smuggled items, including drugs and explosives.

Interior Ministry sources said security agencies had demanded seven scanners having the specific capability of detecting explosive material, which cost Rs 5 billion and these also had complete Excess Control System (ECS) whereas the inferior systems were being bought for a much higher price tab of Rs 9 billion.

The sources also said that the purchased scanners are not human friendly and their radiation levels were too dangerous for human body.

According to technical experts, jots or particles of explosive materials are unstable and continuously puff out in the air. They say that specially made scanners, recommended by the security agencies, catch particles and alarm the operator from a distance of over 400 yards regarding the presence of explosive material.

They said that unfortunately the scanners purchased could detect the dangerous explosive only after the vehicles would pass close by them and thereby explosive could explode in the very ascertainment process.

The sources said that the Islamabad police demanded seven explosive detecting scanners with ECS to install on seven sensitive entry points of the capital city, including the Red Zone.

The estimated cost of the complete system, including seven explosive scanners was Rs5 billion but the people involved in the deal rejected the proposal of the actual requirement and decided to purchase unrelated scanners on over-estimated price, allegedly, for kickback and commission.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik when contacted said that the scanners, imported from China were multi purpose as they had the capability of detecting explosive material as well as narcotics hidden in vehicles. He denied any commission or kickback was involved in the deal.

The minister said a shipment of two huge scanners has reached Pakistan, which would be installed at major roads of the Capital, adding, while a consignment of mobile scanners would arrive soon.

He said that mobile scanners would be provided to all provinces. The minister expressed ignorance about the quality and type of scanners, and said, “The quality and type of scanners was finalized by a board of experts of atomic energy commission (AEC) while the deal and financial matters were settled by the Planning Division.”
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posted @ 11:59 AM, ,

Rs9 billion financial scam at the Bank of Punjab (BoP

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ISLAMABAD: Sheikh Afzal, the main accused in the Rs9 billion financial scam at the Bank of Punjab (BoP), on Tuesday revealed before the bench of the Supreme Court that he paid Rs35 million to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Babar Awan for winning the case in the apex court.

Sheikh Afzal, an absconder in the BoP scam, was recently arrested by the FIA from Malaysia along with his son Haris Afzal and was produced before a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The bench was hearing the Rs9 billion BoP scam. The BoP had granted a loan of Rs9 billion to the Haris Steel Mills (HSM), Lahore without fulfilling legal requirements and consequently the steel mills defaulted on the loan. The Bank of Punjab then filed a petition against the HSM.

Sheikh Afzal admitted to having given Rs5 million as fees to a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and minister for parliamentary affairs Dr Babar Awan besides giving him Rs35 million for assuring him to win the case.

It is pertinent to mention here that earlier former attorney general Sardar Latif Khosa was removed from his office after being charged with taking money for a favourable court verdict during the tenure of Justice (retd) Abdul Hameed Dogar.

The arrest of Sheikh Afzal became possible after the Supreme Court issued orders to the government to produce the accused in the court come what may. This is the biggest achievement of the judges led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry since their restoration following a popular movement. It perhaps never happened in this country that the accused of such a huge fraud was made to submit to law and agreed to pay the embezzled amount. This task was beyond imagination during the tenure of Abdul Hameed Dogar as chief justice when such people got away scot-free.

After the court hearing, Sheikh Afzal disclosed a list of top lawyers to the newsmen who extorted millions of rupees from him to clear his loan default cases from the courts.

He alleged that Dr Babar Awan took Rs40 million, Sharifuddin Pirzada Rs10 million, Malik Muhammad Qayyum, the then attorney general, Rs20 million and Ali Waseem, the son of Waseem Sajjad, Rs7.5 million.

Afzal said Dr Babar Awan took Rs5 million as fee and Rs35 million for getting a favourable verdict from the then Islamabad High Court.

In addition to these leading lawyers, Afzal said he had given Rs400-500 million to Hamesh Khan, former BoP president, Rs30 million to Aziz Ahmed, BoP Control Risk Manager, Rs50 million to Haroon Aziz, Rs10 million to Shoaib Qureshi, Rs40 million to Saleem Mirza, treasury head of the bank, Rs5 million to Fazil Asghar who helped him escape despite being on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Earlier, Shiekh Afzal tendered an apology to the court and submitted to surrender in the case by satisfying the Bank of Punjab in its claim against him.

He regretted over his loot and plunder but requested that his family members including his spouse and children should not be humiliated who were not involved in the fraud case.

He said his wife and 18-year-old son Hamza were also arrested from the Lahore airport. He confessed to getting Rs8 billion loan from the Bank of Punjab, adding 40 per cent was taken by his elder brother, Seth Yaqoob.

The court was informed that Sheikh Afzal had deposited $6 million to his son’s account in Dubai, besides depositing Rs2.5 billion to his wife’s account.

Sheikh Afzal’s son Haris Afzal, a BBA student, also told the court that he was ready to furnish all accounts and properties purchased on his name by his father.

During the course of the proceedings, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry asked Dr Danishwar Malik, prosecutor general of the NAB, if there was any criminal case against Haris Afzal, son of Sheikh Afzal. Dr Danishwar replied in negative at which the court observed that it was an injustice with the family members.

The court ordered the release of Haris Afzal, however, directed to put his name on the ECL besides surrendering his passport to the NAB. The court directed Haris Afzal to extend his maximum cooperation to the NAB in the investigation process.

The court also allowed protection to Seth Nisar, elder brother of Shiekh Afzal, who wanted to return to Pakistan and pay the money.

His counsel, Advocate Wasim Sajjad, submitted before the court that Seth Nisar, who was abroad, wanted to return to Pakistan and ready to pay the amount being claimed against him.

He further submitted that earlier the court was misguided that Seith Nisar, brother of Sheikh Afzal, Chief Executive Haris Steel Mills, and Sheikh Munir had flown out of the country on October 24 despite being on ECL since 2000.

“His name was removed from the ECL on April 15, 2009 and he had taken Rs400 million as debt from Sheikh Afzal,” Wasim Sajjad added, requesting the court to ensure protection to Seth Nisar.

The court accepted the request and directed Wasim Sajjad to produce Seth Nisar before the court on December 2 and adjourned the hearing.

The court directed the NAB not to harass any family member of Sheikh Afzal, but allowed to take the due action for recovery of the defaulted money. The court also directed the NAB to expedite efforts for extradition of Hamesh Khan, who is an absconder in the case and in the US.

The court praised the role played by officials of FIA, particularly Azam Khan, the FIA DG, and the Foreign Affairs Ministry in the arrest of Sheikh Afzal from Malaysia.

Khawaja Haris, counsel for Bank of Punjab (BoP), and AK Dogar, counsel for Seth Yaqoob, also appeared before the court.
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posted @ 11:30 AM, ,

Baloch nationalists reject package

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LONDON: Exiled Baloch leaders on Tuesday rejected the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package on the grounds that it doesn’t go far enough to meet their main problems.

Hyrbyair Marri, the London-based leader of the powerful Marri tribe, remains staunchly opposed to any compromise with the government. He called Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package a “mockery and a cruel joke” with the people of Balochistan and said it falls short of Baloch expectations and was only an exercise in buying more time.

He told The News: “This package is misleading. It’s another trap set for us to convince us that the federation pains for us and wants the solution of our miseries.

Marri said President Zardari and his government may have good sentiments but they were powerless and the real powers rest with the military establishment. “If Zardari is so powerful and omnipotent then why is he expecting the UNO to find killers of his wife Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto? Why doesn’t he have faith in the courts and institutions of his own country?

Mir Suleman Dawood Khan, the current Khan of Kalat, said the government failed to take all stakeholders on board and didn’t consult those it didn’t like.

“Baloch nationalist parties were not consulted and only allies of the current government were informed about it a few days ago.”

Noordin Mangal, who regularly speaks at the UN forum, said the package doesn’t address the real problems of the Baloch people.”

Mumtaz Alvi adds: Three leading Balochistan tribes - Marris, Mengals and Bugtis ñ on Tuesday billed the Balochistan package as a political gimmick and charged that it was like rubbing salt into the wounds of the Baloch people.

When contacted by telephone for comments, late Akbar Bugti’s son and President of Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) Talal Bugti charged that the package was prepared by the invisible forces and not by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s team or a parliamentary committee.

“The prime minister in his address to the parliament’s joint session said the FC would remain in Balochistan, which means, no change in the status-quo. If they are not serious, which I believe, we have the option to knock at the doors of the United Nations,” Talal warned.

Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) Vice-President Sajid Tareen, while talking to The News from Quetta, noted what had been announced in the package had never been the demand of Balochistan’s people.

“Our stand remains unchanged that the federating units must be treated as per the 1940 Pakistan Resolution,” he said.

Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri was not available for comments.

“We don’t believe in dialogue anymore, as it has been non-productive. We are not politically active as several other parties are,” said a source close to the veteran Baloch leader, who is chieftain of the Marri tribe.

Muhammad Anis adds: The package could not satisfy the people of Balochistan, as it had nothing significant for them, Senator Dr Abdul Malik of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) said while talking to media persons after the announcement of the package.

Senator Hasil Bazinjo said the package carries most of the old things and there is nothing new in it. “The Baloch people want practical steps, not announcements,” he added.
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posted @ 11:22 AM, ,

Possibility of limited war in S Asia

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NEW DELHI: Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor said on Monday that the possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang was still very much a reality in South Asia.

Addressing a seminar on “Changing Nature of Conflict: Trends and Responses,” he said South Asia, along with West Asia, had emerged as “one of the epicentres of conflict and instability.” He said the situation would “worsen since there is neither any political nor diplomatic unity, nor any common ground to build a consensus to fight this new war.” Gen Kapoor said: “Territorial disputes, provocation by proxy wars, religious fundamentalism, radical extremism, ethnic tensions and socio-economic disparities are the hallmark of South Asia.”

He said sub-conventional conflicts might force nations to undertake interventions on “purely humanitarian grounds if the diaspora is under threat, sovereignty of nations being questioned, such as attacks on missions abroad, and national assets and foreign soil being used constantly for attack by state and non-state actorsî.

Speaking on the occasion, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands was an “area of serious concern” and its consequences would be “unimaginable”.
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posted @ 5:12 PM, ,

Military operation likely in Khyber Agency

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BARA: Another full-fledged military operation is anticipated as scores of soldiers equipped with latest weapons and backed by artillery guns arrived in different areas of Bara subdivision in Khyber Agency on Sunday.

Sources told The News that over 1,000 personnel of security forces, equipped with artillery guns and rocket launchers, were stationed in different areas of Bara Tehsil.The decision about deploying security forces and launching a fresh operation against the militants and miscreants, the sources added, was taken by the federal government after several incidents of bomb blasts in Peshawar and elsewhere in the province and killing of scores of innocent people.

Some sources disclosed that the operation would be launched in Khyber and Orakzai Agencies simultaneously to purge the two tribal regions of the militants and protect the provincial metropolis and other major cities from the insurgents’ onslaught.

It is believed that suicide bombers are being trained in the neighbouring Orakzai Agency and then sent to settled parts of the province, particularly the Peshawar city, via Bara in Khyber Agency. The sources added that fleeing militants from South Waziristan also used to sneak into Peshawar and other districts of the NWFP for subversive acts.
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posted @ 4:05 PM, ,

How to clean up the bloody mess?

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Instead of stabilising the political system, giving a clean and effective government and supporting the Army and security forces to fight the menace of terrorism with full political backing and support, the arrogant and lop-sided governance style of President Zardari has messed up everything. Within a year he has reached the point where everyone is asking and discussing “what after him”. Musharraf took nine years to reach that stage when the Americans dumped him. Zardari was fast. He has now dug into his bunker and is ready to fight. But fight for what? Fight with his own self against his own failures?

Today’s mess is not for the Pakistan Army to clean, as it was 15 months ago. The Army has already played its behind-the-scene role to keep the system going. Today the failure is of the politicians and they should not blame anyone else, as is now becoming a habit in pro-Zardari circles. No one wants to destabilise the system. But the blunders and egocentricities of the PPP leadership is going to do that.

A very mischievous impression is being given that criticism of Zardari, and sidelining him, would mean another attack on Sindhi rights. He should be sidelined because he has failed as a politician and not as a Sindhi. He should pay for his acts of omission and commission, the rampant corruption unleashed all around and the failed policies that he has forced on everybody. All this has nothing to do with Sindh or the Sindhi card.

In fact, all reports from Sindh say people in Larkana and Nawabshah would be more than happy if the tyranny of these newly unleashed feudals is ended. The decades old servants and workers of Mr Bhutto’s ancestral homes would like to come back to their jobs and not live in wilderness any more.

The heavy onus of correcting the situation thus lies on the prime minister and the PPP, or whatever part of the organisation which can come out of the scare spell of the presidency. Gilani is considering many options, including his own resignation if he does not get his way. But right now the centre of power has shifted to his office and the presidency is in a lame-duck mode.

As a starter Gilani can slash his cabinet and remove all the tainted NRO hit ministers, advisers and ambassadors. In one go, he will boost his image and credibility and deliver a fatal blow to the one-man style of governance that has led the PPP into a corner in just two years.

The PM should then move with super speed to get the 17th Amendment repealed, get the competent and popular PPP leaders back into the party fold, take Mian Nawaz Sharif and others on board, even in his cabinet, as in the early days of the coalition. Get a political consensus on major issues, start a dialogue with moderates in the ranks of militants and then lead the country with a focus on ending the miseries of the poor harassed masses and crushing the militancy.

He should keep the president informed and on board if he wants to play along. But it should be clear that the buck would stop at the PM House. If this does not happen and Mr Zardari creates hurdles, plays his dirty tricks, unleashes his ‘Ghairat’ or ‘Izzat’ brigades against the PM, the media, the security establishment or all of them, he would be the one responsible for demolishing the system. No one else should then be blamed.
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posted @ 4:02 PM, ,

Crippled NAB bodes well for NRO beneficiaries

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ISLAMABAD: After the unveiling of the names of NRO beneficiaries, particularly the ruling class, the question striking every mind is how these big-wigs would continue to retain their present positions and status.

There is good news for these beneficiaries as the tamed and subdued National Accountability Bureau (NAB) fears that unless it is independently allowed to pursue corruption cases of the NRO beneficiaries on merit, acquittal of all the accused, despite the presence of concrete evidence, is imminent.

Sources in the NAB say reopening of the cases of the NRO beneficiaries would be meaningless if the bureau continues to be controlled by the government. In the absence of an independent accountability apparatus, the government would expect from the NAB prosecutors to lose or concede cases of corruption and misuse of authority against the powerful and the mighty in the present government.

The sources said the government has already made the NAB a completely impotent body by making it to dance to its tunes. The rulers have not only indicated to abolish the bureau but have also drastically cut its budget, besides inducting favourites.

Referring to a few corruption cases settled outside the NRO through the normal court processes in the present government, involving high-profile public office holders, the NAB sources said that in order to ensure honourable acquittals, the NAB was directed to make certain that its prosecutors did not pursue the cases on merit in the concerned courts. The friendly prosecution behaved as per the dictates of the rulers, which resulted in the desired results — honourable acquittal from corruption cases through normal court processes.

Analysts say if this could be proved it would be a gross obstruction of justice and a violation of laws and the Constitution. “The same formula is now expected to apply in the cases of all those important players, including federal ministers, key advisers and influential bureaucratic appointees, whose corruption cases would revive with the demise of the NRO,” a NAB source said, adding that despite the fact that the NAB has been used for political victimisation in the past, most of the corruption cases and the references made by the bureau have strong evidence to prove these cases in the court of law.

These sources said that without the NAB being administratively and financially autonomous, the dream of across-the-board accountability could never be fulfilled. The NAB even in the Musharraf government was not allowed to target pro-Musharraf politicians and his ministers despite massive corruption and mega financial scandals that had surfaced during his tenure.

However, under the present government the NAB has been made completely redundant and is not even allowed to probe massive corruption cases of the Musharraf era. Now, it is said the government intends to abolish the NAB and replace it with a new accountability commission, which would, however, remain under the strict control of the government.

Ironically, the draft accountability law that has recently been finalised by the government, if enacted in its present shape, would promote corruption instead of curbing it as it contains a permanent NRO for the politicians. It contains a controversial clause which says: “No case against the holder of a public office shall be registered, after three years of the expiry of his term or of his ceasing to hold office, of an offence under this Act which is alleged to have been committed during his tenure.”

The said clause was rejected by the committee but was mysteriously added in the final draft of the accountability commission, reportedly by a former law minister who still holds the strings although he has moved to a top parliamentary position.

Sources said that the new accountability commission is proposed to be placed under the Law Ministry, which would never allow it to function as an autonomous body. It would perhaps be used for political vendetta.

Interestingly even the PML-N members of the committee did not object to the Law Ministry’s proposed control over the future accountability commission. The NAB sources said that whether the NAB continues to exist or it is replaced by the new accountability commission, fair and across-the-board accountability could only be ensured by making it independent, both financially and administratively. One option could be to put it under judicial committee comprising some selected members of the superior judiciary and members of parliament belonging to all different shades of political parties.
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posted @ 3:53 PM, ,

Inaction on the Competition Ordinance

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ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has warned that it will cease to exist and its actions will become invalid in case the government fails to re-promulgate the Competition Ordinance on or before November 28.

Addressing a press conference here at the CCP office, Chairman CCP Khalid Mirza said that the commission had formally kick-started the required process by sending an official communication to the Ministry of Finance for taking steps to re-promulgate the Competition Ordinance 2009 till November 28, 2009.

He said that according to one legal opinion the president could re-promulgate the Competition Ordinance 2009 even after the cut-off date of November 28, 2009 but in that case the CCP would cease to exist after Nov 28 till the re-promulgation of the ordinance.

He said that the World Bank and the donors were closely watching Pakistan and inaction on the Competition Ordinance would hurt the already tarnished image of the country. He confirmed that strengthening the competition mechanism in Pakistan was one of the conditions of the World Bank under the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP-II) related lending.

He stressed that it was imperative to insert a clause in the re-promulgated ordinance to protect the decisions taken by the CCP during Feb 2, 2008 till date otherwise its action would become invalid.

The CCP, he said, had taken decisions in about 20 cases pertaining to various sectors, including cement, stock exchanges, educational institution, telecom, LPG, refineries etc whereas its proceedings were continuing against sugar, fertilisers, PIA, Takaful insurance etc.
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posted @ 9:52 AM, ,

A case of tolerance, inclusivity and democratic principles

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The first steps have been taken in the grand plan to take over America from the inside, and a small town has elected a Pakistani immigrant as its mayor. Haroon Saleem is an upstanding member of the community of Granite Falls where he runs a popular café, restaurant and bar. He stood for the mayoralty on a platform of honesty and responsibility and beat the incumbent mayor by taking around 60 per cent of the vote. The voters were clearly unimpressed by the previous mayor who submitted some doubtful travel expenses claims, failed to seek competitive bids for capital equipment and did not record his utility-bill payments in a timely manner. In small-town America slipups like that can cost you your mayoralty, so the voters gave Mayor Lyle Romack his marching orders and installed a Muslim immigrant who had made his way up the ladder of modest success and had the respect of most of the townspeople.

Haroon Saleem's tale is a classic. He went to America in 1979 to seek his fortune. He overstayed his visitor's visa and dodged immigration officials until 1987 when he got a lucky break from President Reagan, who extended an amnesty to unregistered immigrants. He became a 'legal', made an arranged marriage in 1992 and took American citizenship in 1995. He worked in the fast-food industry, gradually getting to the point at which he wanted his own business, saw the Timberline Café for sale and bought it. He was welcomed into the small community of which he is now mayor and for which he has plans. We wish well to Haroon Saleem in his new role at the cutting edge of our invasion forces. We also wonder how things might have turned out if the tale were reversed – an American immigrant coming here and trying to make his way. Would he have been welcomed? Accepted within a community where he might be the only representative of his faith? Perhaps elected a town nazim in rural Sindh or Punjab? We may be rightly suspicious of American motives when we view their foreign policies and how they impact on us, but Haroon Saleem offers us an object lesson in terms of tolerance, inclusivity and democratic principles.
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posted @ 9:42 AM, ,

Conspiracy to besiege the country’s nuclear assets

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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights was told on Thursday that American nationals were purchasing land in the suburbs of the capital, which could be a conspiracy to besiege the country’s nuclear assets.

MNA Javed Hashmi, who also heads the NA human rights body’s sub-committee on American private security firm Blackwater’s alleged presence in the country, said the US was purchasing land in the city’s suburbs, including Malpur, Sihala and the Simly Dam area.

“Influential people in Islamabad are renting out their houses to Americans,” he added. Talking to Daily Times, Hashmi said the sub-committee had not finalised its report, “but as per preliminary information, it is an established fact that Inter-Risk and DynCorp are training recruits in Peshawar”.
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posted @ 11:20 AM, ,

Rs1,000 billion corruption swept under the carpet

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As if the news that we had dropped a further five places down the Transparency International corruption scale were not enough, there comes the (not unexpected) revelation of the writing off of billions of rupees as a consequence of the promulgation of the NRO. A report in this newspaper suggests that the figure could be as much as Rs1,000 billion, a number so incomprehensibly large that it beggars the imagination. The National Reconciliation Ordinance effectively cancelled the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (itself flawed and of doubtful provenance but something is better than nothing) and opened the gate for hundreds – perhaps several thousands – engaged in graft and corruption to walk away from their crimes. Those who did the walking were not the poor or needy; they were the rich and powerful, the movers and shakers at the top end of our society. In many cases there is powerful evidence of wrongdoing, much of it by politicians and the workers of political parties across the entire spectrum of our political entities and institutions. Whatever evidence there was has disappeared and will never be presented. A stratum of criminality at the heart of politics and governance once again escapes the rule of law.

The determination to resist any form of accountability is embedded at every level of governance and has become a defining national characteristic. Small wonder that the world sees us as something of a basket case, seemingly teetering on failed-statehood and forever in denial of our many flaws. They have only to read through the back issues of our newspapers for the last twenty years or so (which is as far back as archives go online) to see the rot at the core of the state, the venality that elsewhere would have brought down individuals if not entire governments. Unless and until there is a change in the culture of corruption we seem doomed to wallow very publicly in our own filth – and there is neither sign of nor incentive for change. Our rulers invest heavily in the status quo and perhaps have little real interest in educating or empowering the majority, because by doing so they may be in a position to challenge that artificial equilibrium. The iniquitous NRO was, according to some legal eagles, itself unconstitutional and discriminatory, a law applicable only to a tiny section of the population and not a law for all men and women everywhere. How many schools could have been built for Rs1,000 billion? Hospitals? Roads? Rural water supply systems? Vocational training centres? Until a majority decides to stand up and say ‘Enough’, NRO beneficiaries are going to be laughing as they dance towards their banks.
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posted @ 11:16 AM, ,

Dreaded NRO list is out and official

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ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) presented to the government on Thursday a list of 248 politicians and bureaucrats, who were alleged to have plundered hundreds of billions of rupees but were cleared by the NAB under the NRO.

Sources in the Law Ministry while sharing with The News the “complete list” of NAB’s NRO beneficiaries, explained that thousands other cases of NRO beneficiaries did not belong to the NAB but with the provincial governments because they were criminal cases and were not covered by the NAB law.

On top of the list is the name of President Asif Ali Zardari while his several close associates, both political and bureaucratic, including Rehman Malik, Salman Farooqi and his brother Usman Farooqi, Hussain Haqqani and Siraj Shamsuddin are also reflected.
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posted @ 11:13 AM, ,

IDPs from South Waziristan and winter

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As winter sets in over Waziristan, the over 300,000 people reported by the UN to have fled the area have now begun to move beyond the neighbouring districts of Dera Ismail Khan and Tank, where they have so far been based. With little prospect of being able to return to abandoned homes till after the snows melt away, IDPs are headed to larger cities in search of work to sustain them over this period. Some say they are also fearful of clashes breaking out in D I Khan, where persons from rival tribes have all sought shelter. It is also clear that the IDPs from South Waziristan have not received the level of help offered to those from Swat. Requests from international humanitarian agencies to be permitted to work with the IDPs have been turned down by authorities on the grounds of security.

These concerns are valid, but as a consequence men, women and children who have played no part in militancy suffer. Even the International Committee of the Red Cross, known internationally as a body that is neutral, has been prevented from visiting the conflict zone or even areas where IDPs are based. With the advent of winter certain to impose a prolonged period of displacement, it is vital that the situation be reviewed. Ensuring that the people of Waziristan receive adequate support goes beyond immediate humanitarian needs of the old, the sick, the very young or the vulnerable. Wining the trust of these people is of utmost importance and this could prove a vital factor in the future to ensure that victory in Waziristan over the militants is sustained and indeed built upon to guarantee the future of the territory.
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posted @ 9:26 AM, ,

‘India’s N-sites ground zero for terrorists

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TORONTO : The Canadian media says a nuclear deal could be risky because of terrorist threats to India’s sites. They cite the recent alert at India’s nuclear facilities as a warning to the Canadian government that is keen to clinch the deal.

John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail says: “India’s nuclear facilities have been placed on high alert, as evidence emerges that two men, one of them Canadian, might have scouted sites for the terrorist attack on Mumbai last year...

“Does Canada really want to help sell nuclear technology to a country that is the midst of such a volatile region, a country that in the 1970s appropriated our first foray into building Indian nuclear reactors to help fashion nuclear weapons, a country whose nuclear reactors would be an ideal ground zero for jihadists?”
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posted @ 9:19 AM, ,

Hasty and untimely withdrawal from Afghanistan could be disastrous

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LONDON: Pakistan warned the concluding 55th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly against any hasty and untimely withdrawal from Afghanistan saying such move could be disastrous for the region.

The head of the Pakistani delegation Senator Syed Nayyar Husain Bukhari, while addressing the participants in Edinburgh on Wednesday, dispelled the Western misperceptions about Pakistan’s commitment towards ongoing war on terrorism.

He drew the world attention towards Kashmir issue as a perpetual source of regional insecurity and instability and urged them to persuade India to commence stalled negotiations on the resolution of this long- standing issue.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns, the Committee adopted two major amendments in the draft resolutions, which were related to insertion of a paragraph urging India and Pakistan to open a dialogue on Kashmir and deletion of a negative reference expressing ambiguity over Pakistanís stance towards extremists.

Instead, the Committee, while appreciating Pakistanís pivotal role, decided to acknowledge country’s increasing efforts to eliminate terrorism.
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posted @ 9:16 AM, ,

Rs1,000 billion corruption swept under the carpet

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ISLAMABAD: According to the official National Accountability Bureau (NAB) list, approximately Rs165 billion was written off because of the promulgation of the NRO and the subsequent act of making the NAB impotent but official sources claim that according to ‘actual’ calculations corruption cases of about Rs1000 billion were terminated.

These also include such cases where even the initial investigations had yet to begin. In just one case, a case of a highly influential individual involving a US$1.5 billion (Rs122 billion) plunder was terminated with the legal stroke of an illegal pen. In yet another case, the wife of an influential politician walked away scot-free and an amount of exactly Rs310 million was written off. There is a long list of cases in which complete immunity of billions of rupees was granted to a select segment of society.

Besides the NAB list of NRO beneficiaries given to the Law Ministry for presentation before the prime minister and then the National Assembly, hundreds of other political luminaries were given a clean slate in corruption cases without mentioning the word NRO and thousands of political workers involved in heinous criminal activities too got their records cleansed.
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posted @ 9:12 AM, ,

Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah 'flees Pakistan'

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One of the most wanted Taliban leaders in Pakistan has escaped to Afghanistan and is planning new attacks on Pakistani forces, he has told the BBC.
Maulana Fazlullah founded the Swat Taliban to enforce a hardline version of Islamic law.
The government at first accepted his demands, but later accused the militants of reneging on a peace deal and sent troops into the valley.
Maulana Fazlullah was said by officials to have been wounded or killed in July.
Threats
"I have reached Afghanistan safely," Maulana Fazlullah told BBC Urdu.
"We are soon going to launch full-fledged punitive raids against the army in Swat."
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posted @ 8:57 AM, ,

Politics of the NRO

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It appears as if the MQM chief’s stand is a decisive one in the current political situation. This is attested by the fact that following his decision, not only is the NRO dead and buried forever but it also seems to have set the stage for the implementation of the minus-one formula

The other day the MQM supremo Altaf Hussain caused a political tsunami when in a mysterious call made in the dead of the night he announced not to support the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) bill and counselled Zardari to leave the presidency for the sake of democracy and along with his associates face cases in the courts. It left the Zardari government high and dry because it was banking on MQM’s support for the smooth passage of the bill. For President Zardari, Altaf was a Brutus who had stabbed him in the back. Visibly upset by this development, the PPP had negotiations with the MQM in Dubai, which however did not produce the kind of result that the PPP was looking for because though the MQM apparently made a summersault on Zardari’s resignation by claiming that it did not ask for his head, only surrender of the 17th amendment presidential powers, it refused to budge on the NRO. Resultantly, the government withdrew the NRO from parliament and Zardari is now struggling for his political survival. How do we explain the latest theatre in town?

Why has the establishment that had accepted the PPP government after Musharraf’s exit now turned hostile towards it? The explanation for this lies in Zardari’s personality and performance with which the establishment is not satisfied on several counts. First, there is lack of governance and the Zardari government appears to be utterly rudderless. Second, there is rampant corruption in which he and others are allegedly involved. To compound the matter he is not willing to show the door to the latter. Third, he is perceived as America’s man echoing his master’s voice as evidenced by the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB), which he tried to promote even though the establishment viewed it as an American instrument to get Pakistan’s nuclear programme capped and the Pakistan army and the ISI controlled. Fourth, the Zardari government has allowed the Americans to get themselves installed in Islamabad, which allows them space to indulge in espionage activities in Pakistan. Finally, Zardari is perceived as being soft on India.
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posted @ 8:41 AM, ,

Inside story of PPP CEC meeting

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ISLAMABAD: In the last fateful meeting of the party central executive committee, the old PPP guards surprisingly compared the present siege-like situation of President Asif Ali Zardari to that of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who during his incarceration days was given similar sugar coated assurances about his survival by his party leaders, just as an ‘all is well and great’ report being given today by all the president’s men.

President Zardari was reportedly told point black by Nawab Yousuf Talpur that these were the similar sycophants who were nowhere to be seen when the time of trial came and ultimately their leader was hanged.

Apparently, Talpur’s bold utterances proved only a harbinger of more to come. According to sources, after a very long time some of the senior party leaders blasted the policies and failures of their own government, and much to their pleasant surprise, they found the president, also the party co-chairman, ready to listen to them uninterrupted and without giving them a put up or shut up call. Some of the senior party leaders were said to be dissatisfied with the briefing given to them on the NRO issue and the government plans to tackle it in the days to come.

Earlier, unlike the past traditions, CEC members were also asked to give approval for the long pending reshuffling of the cabinet. The CEC empowered the president to change the portfolios of the ministers but Mr Zardari hurriedly passed on these powers to PM Yousuf Raza Gilani, who might soon announce the changes in the portfolios of the ministers. One source said, MNA Sherry Rehman and Senator Raza Rabbani were likely to rejoin the cabinet.
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posted @ 8:25 AM, ,

TI reports Pakistan 42nd most corrupt country

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KARACHI: Corruption in Pakistan increased in one year of the PPP government and Transparency International ranked Pakistan 42nd among the world’s most corrupt countries against 47th last year.

Pakistan’s 2009 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score was 2.4, ranking it at 42, TI Pakistan chief Adeel Gilani said while releasing the report here on Tuesday. Against this, Bangladesh has marginally improved its position also ranked 42nd against 38th last year. India has been at 84th position.

According to the Transparency International ranking, the higher the position of a country on the list the better is its integrity account and lesser corruption. Countries scored highest in the 2009 CPI are: New Zealand at 9.4, Denmark (9.3), Singapore and Sweden tied at 9.2 and Switzerland at 9.0, reflecting political stability and long established conflict of interest regulations.

According to Gilani, anti-corruption efforts in Pakistan had taken a 180-degree turn since the then-president Pervez Musharraf issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in October 2007. The NRO, which granted immunity to politicians, military officers and bureaucrats charged with corruption, enabled the return home from exile of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
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posted @ 7:39 AM, ,

Pakistan on Fred Bremner

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Light Within on on Fred Bremner writes, “He was not a diplomat, historian or a journalist, yet his photographs and publications have become an important source of historic records of the cities, events, places and people in Pakistan.”

posted @ 11:37 AM, ,

Rigging allegations in Gilgit-Baltistan elections

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The PML-Q and the MQM have made allegations of massive rigging by the PPP in Gilgit-Baltistan, where the ruling party swept the poll to 23 seats in the new legislative assembly for the region. The charges have been denied by the prime minister and other members of the winning party. This pattern of accusations and denials is of course not a new one. Disturbingly, the tensions between rival parties triggered clashes in Skardu as supporters pelted each other with stones. The losing parties have demanded re-elections on nine seats rather than on four, as announced by the Election Commission. The poll in Gilgit-Baltistan was monitored by neutral observers. A mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has noted the process was flawed. It has for instance stated the indelible ink to mark voters could in fact quite easily be removed and that the Benazir Income Support Programme may at times have been used unfairly. But the human rights body, with considerable experience in watching polls, does not appear to have found evidence of a large-scale attempt to alter the results.

As we have said before, there is only one way around this problem. Pakistan today urgently needs an autonomous and independent Election Commission, which is free of government control. The models for this used in other countries, including India, could help us work out how to set one up. The fact is that until this is done, every election will be followed by allegations of manipulation. After all the very nature of polls means there will always be winners and losers. One part of the democratic process is transparency and fair play at the ballot. This can be guaranteed only if the process is overseen by a body free from political affiliation and respected by all the major contestants. Otherwise we will continue to see the kind of unfortunate aftermath to polls that we are witnessing today in Gilgit-Baltistan.
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posted @ 7:55 AM, ,

Missing persons case

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Interior Ministry to submit before the court details pertaining to Pakistani citizens who have been handed over to foreign countries.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, hearing the case of missing persons, observed that it will not give more time to the government for tracing the whereabouts of the missing people.
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posted @ 7:41 AM, ,

Sindh and beyond

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Peer Sa’een is Peer Sa’een. He is not here to serve us. We vote for him and will keep doing so, as it is our duty.

Vaderas, the de facto rulers of Interior Sindh, are generally untouchable. Nobody is there to challenge their licence to rule. As there is no other option but to woo voters to get elected, come every election season they appear for a little while and then vanish until the next polls.

Not being accountable to their voters, these landlords enjoy a status no less than that of a deity. It was after a visit to Nawab Shah and other far-flung areas of Interior Sindh, I realised that the vaderas are ruling the roost in 2009 as imperiously as their forefathers did centuries ago. The status quo is and will remain. Nobody knows until when.

The poverty-laced but hospitable Sindhis do not even think of questioning the deeds of their Sa’eens. The poor folks do so not because they are illiterate or penniless but rather because it is their tradition. To question the Pir Sa’een is considered no less than a sin; even the outsiders are not allowed to do so. “Peer Sa’een is Peer Sa’een. He is not here to serve us. We vote for him and will keep doing so, as it is our duty,” is the rule these people live by and are easily angered by queries on this matter.
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posted @ 1:15 PM, ,

CIA and ISI

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It has given hundreds of millions to the ISI, for operations as well as rewards for the capture or death of terrorist suspects. Despite fears of corruption, it is money well-spent, ex-officials say.

Reporting from Washington - The CIA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan's intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency's annual budget, current and former U.S. officials say.

The Inter-Services Intelligence agency also has collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA program that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department, officials said.

The payments have triggered intense debate within the U.S. government, officials said, because of long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.
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posted @ 12:56 PM, ,

Official results of Gilgit Baltistan polls

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GILGIT: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday notified the Gilgit-Baltistan poll results of 21 constituencies out of 23, confirming the lead of the Pakistan People’s Party that grabbed 11 seats.

The results of two constituencies, LA-3 and LA-17, were withheld, while death of a candidate caused postponement of elections from another seat. The ECP said the PPP won 11 seats, the PML-N got two seats, the PML-Q secured two seats, independent candidates grabbed four seats, and the JUI-F and the MQM got one seat each.

Meanwhile, no let-up was seen in the demonstrations, being organised by the PML-N and the MQM, accusing the PPP and the local administration of rigging the polls. They were demanding re-elections in certain constituencies.
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posted @ 12:24 PM, ,

New Concept of War

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War weaponry that might have started with one to one use of force and hurling of stones on adversaries have changed into attacks by precession guided and capable of mass destructions warheads launched across long distances through independently target able re-entry vehicles, camera fitted smart bombs or even nuclear warheads.

Soldiers in today's conventional armies are already making use of computer chips; global positioning systems, range finders, meteorological measuring and sophisticated fire control systems. What is more, "microwave cannons, plasma guns, sensing devices and even mechanical bugs that can swarm and explode around the enemy, body heat powered combat dresses and digital helmets are turning up" reads Defence Journal's report, which is making it difficult to draw a line between conventional and cyber wars. But this is not about how computer chips are serving soldiers in battlefields. It is about how computers and the Internet have become a new weapon in the military's arsenal that need not mobilize the physical forces; virtual battlefield, virtual warfare but no less seismic in any sense as far as their potentials to inflict casualties and loses are concerned. Read about new concept of war at Logic is Variable.

posted @ 8:50 PM, ,

Criminal neglect in checking of explosives

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ISLAMABAD: While the pilferage of high explosives and detonators is risking the lives of the people, the authorities are showing a criminal neglect in checking the manufacture, distribution and use of these lethal mass killer products.

Documents reveal that the ISI found a blasting company in Qilla Saifullah a few months back being involved in the sale of high explosives to unauthorised persons. On the basis of the ISIís report, the company’s license was cancelled by the Ministry of Industries on the recommendation of the Interior Ministry. However, the Interior Ministry got back to the Ministry of Industries within 10 days and sought the revival of the license. The Industries Ministry revived the license, ignoring a three-page charge-sheet issued by the department of explosives against the same company. Minister for Industries Watto, however, expressed his unawareness about the case whereas the Interior Ministry spokesman was not available for comments.
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posted @ 9:54 AM, ,

Hersh claims US nuke team already in Islamabad

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ISLAMABAD: Pulitzer prize winning American journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed that an elite US special forces squad which operates covertly and includes terrorism and non-proliferation experts from the US intelligence community — the Pentagon, the FBI, and the DOE — is already present in Pakistan and could well be housed in the US embassy in Islamabad.

The startling disclosure was made in Hersh’s candid interview with Pakistan’s most popular TV channel Geo News’ widely viewed current affairs programme ‘Meray Mutabiq’, hosted by Dr Shahid Masood. The programme was aired on Saturday late evening.

Seymour Hersh said that the Americans had been constituting such crack teams for various purposes and the team in question here was to deal with any eventuality including any fear of takeover by Taliban or any other ‘development’ with regard to Pakistani nukes.

Group Editor of The News Shaheen Sehbai taking part in the programme expressed the view that Musharraf’s remarks about President Asif Zardari, as attributed by Hersh, could not be casually ignored. He said it must be investigated why Musharraf accused Zardari of not being a patriot, because, according to Sehbai, Hersh had some inside information given to him in interviews with Musharraf and Zardari which he did not reveal in his report. But Sehbai said journalists always attribute information given to them by responsible people to “reliable sources” if these people ask them to refrain from quoting them directly.
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posted @ 9:48 AM, ,

Lucky NRO club members

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ISLAMABAD: The list of the NRO beneficiaries runs long but that of real lucky ones is a rather short one. Seven to be precise. These lucky gentlemen are taking it easy, enjoying life, travelling abroad and even visiting holy places. Why? Because they were fortunate enough to have their cases tied to President Asif Ali Zardari, who as per the Constitution cannot be called in any court as long he occupies the presidential office. Those implicated in cases involving the President therefore too will face the music only if and when the prime accused is tried in the court.

These lucky seven include five former federal secretaries and two politicians, according to the NAB list furnished for tabling in the National Assembly. The NAB list indicates that Zardari’s principal secretary Salman Farooqi, ex-principal secretary Saeed Mehdi, ex-chairman ADBP Badar-ud-Din Zaidi, ex-commerce secretary Aslam Hayat Qureshi, ex-chairman CBR AR Siddiqui, ex-agriculture minister Yousaf Talpur and Begum Nusrat Bhutto are co-accused in different cases with the president.
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posted @ 11:04 AM, ,

Explosives factory closed as ministry finally wakes up

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ISLAMABAD: The ministry of industries was jolted into action on Friday and it finally closed the explosives factory, three days after the seizure of 58,500 kg of high explosives in DG Khan, which were being driven across the country in a criminally casual and unguarded manner with the devastating load, an easy picking for terrorists.

To give an idea, this load was much larger than the total amount of explosives used in suicide attacks in the last four to five years, including the Marriott bombing. The minister for industries Mian Manzoor Wattoo told The News that he has ordered the immediate suspension of the licence of the explosives manufacturer, BIAFO, the sealing of the factory, and has also ordered an inquiry into the matter.

Wattoo, however, was not updated on yet another seizure on Thursday of a truckload containing 30,000 detonators in the tribal area adjoining DG Khan. These detonators were manufactured by another factory.
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posted @ 10:37 AM, ,

Leadership crisis

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No democrat would hold a brief for military dictators. But if a dispassionate analysis is made, one comes to the conclusion that elected leaders are also responsible in equal measure for having brought the country to the present pass.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has said at an election rally at Chilas Rest House that the primary reason for all the problems of the country is frequent violations of the Constitution. One would agree with Mian Nawaz Sharif that all organs of the state must work according to the parameters defined in the Constitution and no one should overstep into the other’s domain. He is also right in demanding of President Asif Ali Zardari the annulment of the 17th amendment and withdrawal of 58(2)(b), and it should be done in days and not weeks and months. But Mian sahib has to be reminded that during his second stint as prime minister, PML-N leaders and workers had stormed the apex court. The treatment meted out to then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah can only be described as despicable. Second, it has to be borne in mind that almost all leaders or parties on the political scene today have at one time or another aided and abetted dictators, despite claiming to be champions of democracy.
Of course, power has its own dynamics; and the key to social dynamics that Marx found in wealth, Freud in sex, Bertrand Russell found in power. It has to be mentioned that Hitler and Mussolini were also elected leaders who were instrumental in the death and destruction of millions of people before and during the Second World War. Arundhati Roy, in her article titled ‘The end of imagination’ wrote: “Fascism is as in the people as it is in the governments. It starts in the drawing rooms, bedrooms and becomes a national psyche.” In Pakistan also we see tendencies of fascism in some religious and even so-called democratic and liberal parties. Their leaders are devoid of clarity of vision and sense of proportion. Paul Johnson, author of several best-selling books, during his lecture delivered on November 1, 2007 said: “In statesmanship, personal self-restraint in the search for and exercise of power is a key lesson to teach.” Unfortunately, Pakistan has not been lucky to have genuine leaders after the demise of the Quaid-i-Azam.
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posted @ 10:05 PM, ,

Take Pakistan into confidence on Afghan strategy, PM asks US

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ISLAMABAD: The US must take Pakistan into confidence on its review of its Afghanistan policy and ensure that the intended military build-up should not affect Balochistan and other areas of Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Wednesday.

During talks with a US Congressional delegation headed by John Tierney, Gilani said, “The US and ISAF forces should coordinate and improve the current level of intelligence-sharing with Pakistan to solidify the ongoing operation against militancy on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.” He urged the US to channel its economic assistance through a transparent mechanism established by the Government of Pakistan.

Gilani also suggested that the US should release Dr Aafia Siddiqui, extend the Fulbright Scholarship Programme for Pakistani students beyond 2010 and allocate special scholarships for 500 children of those martyred and injured in operations against terrorists. staff report/app

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posted @ 10:03 PM, ,

Shoddy journalism

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Journalists lead dangerous lives in Pakistan. They are targeted by the terrorists whose actions they report and by politicians and bureaucrats whose failings and indiscretions they expose. All this is to be expected. What a working journalist may not expect, however, is to be stabbed in the back by one of his own, as has recently happened to Matthew Rosenberg, a journalist working for the Wall Street Journal. Mr Rosenberg has been accused in a local newspaper of having links to the CIA and Mossad and of acting in some undefined way as an agent of Blackwater. As if this were not enough to blight his life and career, he is further accused of having 'secret' meetings with Secretary Law and Order FATA Secretariat, Tariq Hayat Khan, and Additional Chief Secretary FATA, Habib Khan. Both are said to have 'fed' documents to Mr Rosenberg, thereby implicating them in his alleged espionage activities. The story is based upon information from a nameless source and has no supporting evidence. Mr Rosenberg has had to leave the country and is unlikely to be working here in the foreseeable future.

The editor of the Wall Street Journal has rightly and robustly sprung to the defence of his journalist and written to the editor of the newspaper that printed the story. The opening paragraph of his letter reads … "As a fellow editor I am writing to convey in the strongest possible terms our dismay and disgust over the slanderous falsehoods published on the front page of your newspaper on November 5th regarding our reporter Matthew Rosenberg." We might add 'grossly irresponsible' and 'unprofessional' to the list of printable adjectives that may be applied to this dangerous travesty of journalism. Accusations such as this, based on information from a single unnamed source are life-threatening in their gravity. At the very least there should one other corroborating source and preferably more than one where accusations as grave as this are made. The electronic media has recently reached a voluntary agreement to 'clean up its act'; and perhaps some sections of the print media need to do the same.
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posted @ 8:48 PM, ,

Obama thinks Pak Army not targeting Afghan groups

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WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama is still sceptical about Pakistan’s willingness to attack Taliban groups allegedly operating out of Quetta, who are involved in attacks across the border inside Afghanistan, Pakistan’s military operation against the Taliban militants in Waziristan notwithstanding.

Top US officials familiar with the situation room discussions on Pakistan and Afghanistan in the White House say: “Though Pakistan has mounted military operations in Fata, they are focused on the Taliban who are targeting the Pakistani government, not those who are running operations inside Afghanistan.”
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posted @ 7:40 PM, ,

Gilgit-Baltistan people vote for the first time

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The upcoming election in Gilgit-Baltistan will be the first since the territory was granted status as an autonomous region in August this year. Though the measure stopped short of making the area a province as its people demand – the Legal Framework Order built on the PPP's legacy in the area. The late Benazir Bhutto had introduced electoral reform here and her father had played a role in ushering mainstream politics into an area that had at the time been largely isolated from Pakistan. The PPP as such has enjoyed traditional strength in the area. But this could change as campaigning ends ahead of voting on November 12. The failure of the party to bring in new candidates and the loss of credibility of old guns who have frequently failed to keep promises may mean the party fails to secure a full hold over the 33-member Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. Of these, 24 will be directly contested and nine – including six for women and three for technocrats – will be filled later. Though the significant population of Ismailis is seen by some analysts to give the PPP an advantage, many predict a hung house.

Other parties have been campaigning hectically too. The PML-N chief has made a personal trip up to the mountainous area, donned the traditional woollen cap to guard himself from the freezing winds and – rather oddly – portrayed himself as the true heir of the Bhuttos. The PML-Q, using posters on which the portrait of Pervez Musharraf appears, has also been active and – rather late in the day, the ANP has recently stepped up its efforts, apparently suddenly realizing it needed to play some part in an election being held in what it sees as its backyard. As always, some independent candidates will claim seats. The MQM, eager to expand its influence beyond urban Sindh, has fielded 19 candidates. Only the PPP, with 23, has more. Altaf Hussain has also spoken to people over giant television screens – a novelty in Gilgit which attracted much attention. So too did the MQM's message against sectarianism and extremism, in a region that has seen repeated Shia-Sunni violence. The MQM showing could prove extremely interesting, with other parties generally steering clear of the extremist question. Even before voting gets underway, there have been warnings about unfair means and neutral monitors have stressed the need for a fair, transparent process. We must hope this advice is taken and people genuinely allowed to determine who they wish to represent them.
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posted @ 6:09 PM, ,


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