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Swiss govt shuts the door on Zardari case

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: The decades-old Swiss case saga has finally ended in favour of President Asif Ali Zardari after Swiss authorities informed the government that a corruption case involving him cannot be reopened in their country on legal grounds.
According to sources, the Swiss attorney general, in reply to a letter sent by the government three months back, told the law ministry that the case could not be reopened because it had become time-barred under the Swiss law.
The government had written the letter to Swiss legal authorities in the first week of November last year in line with the Supreme Court’s order in the NRO case seeking revival of the case accusing President Zardari of receiving kickbacks in the award of a pre-shipment contract to a Swiss company in 1994.
The letter, addressed to the Swiss attorney general, had been sent through the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s embassy in Switzerland.
Submitting a copy of the letter before the apex court, Law Minister Farooq Naek had said that there had been no change in the draft approved by the five-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, during the hearing of the NRO judgment implementation case on Oct 10.
Approving the draft presented by the minister, the court had given the government five weeks to send the letter to Swiss authorities.
Through the letter, signed by Law Secretary Justice (retd) Yasmin Abbasey, the government had sought withdrawal of a letter written by former attorney general Malik Abdul Qayyum to his Swiss counterpart Daniel Zappelli on May 22, 2008, telling him that the Pakistan government was withdrawing the mutual legal assistance in the graft case against Mr Zardari after promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) by former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
“This is with reference to the letter dated 22nd May, 2008, addressed by Malik Mohammad Qayyum, the then attorney general of Pakistan, to Mr Daniel Zappelli, Attorney General, Geneva, Switzerland.
“In view of the directives given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Paragraph 178 (copy attached as Annex-I) of its judgment dated Dec 16 December, 2009, in the case of Dr Mobashir Hasan, reported as PLD 2010 SC 265, the aforesaid letter is hereby withdrawn and may be treated as never written and, therefore, revival of requests, status and claims, is sought,” the draft approved by the SC and read out by Justice Khosa in the court while dictating the order said.
The letter had not only asked for reopening the $60 million case against the president but also emphasised at the same time the legal protection and immunity available to him, without mentioning constitutional provisions.
The NRO case that had gripped the country for over 30 months had finally come to an end when the Supreme Court approved the government’s letter – after having rejected three previous drafts – it had ordered while hearing the case about implementation of its verdict against the NRO.

Shaukatullah new KP governor

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, Feb 9: President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday appointed the federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions, Engineer Shaukatullah Khan, as the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to official sources.
Mr Khan, who will replace the incumbent, Barrister Masood Kausar, is expected to take oath of his office on Sunday.
An official at the Governor House confirmed the appointment of Mr Khan as governor, saying the federal government had already issued a notification.
Mr Khan told reporters on Saturday that he had been informed about his appointment during meetings with President Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
He said he would work for the establishment of peace in the tribal region and strive for the betterment of people.
Mr Khan was elected member of the National Assembly from Bajaur tribal region as an independent candidate because the Political Parties Order was not extended to Fata at the time of the 2008 general elections.
His father, Haji Bismillah Khan, was an MNA too and had supported former prime minister Benazir Bhutto when a no-confidence motion was moved against her in 1989. His brother, Hidayatullah Khan, is a senator.
Born on April 2, 1969, Engineer Shaukatullah, acquired his primary education in Sangota, Swat, and completed matriculation and intermediate education from Cadet College Kohat. He received a degree in civil engineering from a private university in Taxila, which had an affiliation with the Lahore University of Engineering and Technology.

Fazl in Doha for talks with Afghan Taliban: JUI-F

By Our Correspondent

NOWSHERA, Feb 9: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has gone to Qatar to hold talks with the Taliban, revealed Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a leader of the party and general secretary of the Milli Yakjehti Council, on Saturday.
Speaking at a condolence reference for Jamaat-i-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad here, he urged the government and the army to take the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s talks offer seriously and initiate a dialogue to ensure a peaceful atmosphere during the general election.
But contrary to the statement by Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a spokesman for JUI-F, Abdul Jalil Jan, told Dawn in Peshawar that Maulana Fazl had gone abroad on a private visit.
According to the western media, the US is in contact with the Taliban in Qatar to persuade the militant group to initiate negotiations with the Afghan government as Washington prepares for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
Hafiz Hussain did not disclose on whose behalf Mr Rehman had gone to Doha.
However, he said the JUI-F was playing a pivotal role in the peace process and the maulana was in Qatar to advance the process.
He said the use of force was no solution to the conflict between the Taliban and the military and urged them to sit on the negotiating table to restore peace in the region.
The Jamaat’s deputy Amir, Sirajul Haq, said the government was looking towards the US for a signal after the negotiation offer by the Taliban. “The government is not sincere in peace negotiations and is waiting for dictation from Americans.”
He said if the US could hold talks with the Taliban why Pakistan could not do so.

India hangs Afzal Guru

By Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI, Feb 9: India hanged Kashmiri fruit vendor Mohammed Afzal Guru in a New Delhi prison on Saturday for plotting a botched attack on parliament in Dec 2001.
A state-wide curfew was imposed across Jammu and Kashmir where telephone connectivity was suspended as soon as the hanging at 8am was made public.
Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyat Conference declared four days of mourning, possibly to include the death anniversary of iconic Kashmiri guerilla Maqbool Butt. He was executed in the same Delhi prison in 1984.
In New Delhi, police and rightwing Hindu groups attacked Kashmiri protesters who had gathered for a peaceful vigil for Guru.
Guru had pleaded with the Congress party-led government to execute him as early as 2008, three years after the Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence. Then he despondently supported opposition Lal Kishan Advani’s candidature as prime minister in the 2009 elections, hoping that the hardline politician would be more likely to fulfill his wish.
That was not to be. Instead, he was executed barely days ahead of the parliament’s budget session under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s watch, a move that is being seen as potentially helpful in thwarting of impending criticism of the economy’s dwindling growth rate that has reportedly dipped to a 10-year low of five per cent.
The hanging is also expected to make the Congress party look as hardline as the main opposition party. The demeanour is considered useful with the urban middle class voter.
Guru’s body was buried near his execution site in Delhi’s Tihar jail and his widow has petitioned the government to allow the family to perform the last rites.
All the main parties — the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) — welcomed the hanging. Movie actor Amitabh Bachchan said the guilty must be punished as per the law.
“We should all abide by the law and whatever has happened has happened within the law. The nation has done an investigation and then took a decision. We respect the decision of the courts,” he said.
Opposition to the hanging came from Kashmiri politicians. Terming the execution of Guru disappointing, Kashmir’s opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti called for handing over his body to the family for last rites.
“While the hanging should not have been carried out, the return of Afzal’s body was the least the government could do to show its concern for humanitarian values,” the PDP president said.
Ms Mufti said the PDP believed that whatever the requirements of legal process, there was a need for the government to take into consideration the overall political impact of this execution, which is the reason why the option of mercy has been provided under the constitution.
The slanging match was on. Referring to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s claim that he had no role in carrying out the execution, Ms Mufti said the state government cannot be absolved of its responsibility in taking this crucial decision that can have long term political implications on the state.
Guru was hanged after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea.
On Dec 13, 2001, five heavily-armed gunmen stormed the Parliament complex in New Delhi and opened indiscriminate fire, killing nine persons.
They included five Delhi police personnel, a woman Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) official, two Parliament watch and ward staff and a gardener.
A journalist died later of his injuries. All five suspected terrorists were shot dead.
Guru was arrested soon after the attack from a bus in the national capital.

TTP not serious: Malik

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik asked the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan on Saturday to nominate their ‘real’ representatives for talks if they were serious about holding negotiations with the government.
Talking to journalists here, the minister said that Taliban’s decision indicated they were not serious in talks because they had nominated Adnan Rashid, a murder accused and proclaimed offender, as their representative for dialogue. He said the Taliban factions should form a joint team for negotiations.
Mr Malik said starting the dialogue process with the Taliban before the elections would be a welcome development.
He again urged the militants to give up violence in order to start the talks. “If they believe in Pakistan’s sovereignty, they must stop killing innocent people.”
The interior minister said Taliban’s statements appeared to be made on the directives of ‘someone else’ because they did not reflect their own thoughts.
In reply to a question, Mr Malik said Taliban had threatened to assassinate Dr Tahirul Qadri, chief of Tehrik Minhajul Quran, but three days after the threat they denied their statement.—Agencies

NAB gives clean chit to Riaz in land scam

By Malik Asad

RAWALPINDI, Feb 9: Days before the formation of a caretaker set-up, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has exonerated property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain and his son Ali Riaz Malik from a four-year-old land fraud case.
The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) had registered the case against Bahria Town and some officials of the Punjab revenue department on Nov 4, 2009, on the complaints of residents of some villages near Rawat. Malik Riaz, his son and others were accused of bribing revenue officials to get 1,401 kanals of ‘shamilat’, or community land, transferred to their names on fake documents.
The ACE conducted four inquiries into the matter. Initially, it exonerated Malik Riaz and his son, but later implicated both of them in the case after the Supreme Court, during hearing for bail of an accused on May 23, 2011, observed that the ACE had cleared the influential beneficiaries and booked the less influential persons in the case.
After the directives of the apex court, the ACE director general constituted a four-member team to investigate the case and it submitted its report to the court in Sept 2011, nominating Malik Riaz, Ali Riaz and 14 others as accused.
During the investigation, then governor Sardar Latif Khosa ordered suspension of the inquiry against the tycoon but the Punjab government refused to do so.
An Anti-Corruption Court (ACC) of Rawalpindi in October 2011 issued the arrest warrants of Malik Riaz and his son.
Malik Riaz filed a petition in the LHC for the quashing the inquiry but when the court summoned him he went to the Supreme Court and obtained interim bail.
Meanwhile, Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari took over as the National Accountability Bureau’s Chairman in October 2011 and in November issued a letter for transfer of the land fraud case from the ACE to NAB.
The Punjab ACE challenged the in LHC’s Rawalpindi bench.
It alleged that ten transfer of the case had been sought in order to exonerate Malik Riaz and his son through a ‘friendly prosecution’.
In July last year, the ACC ordered confiscation of the property of the two because they did not join the court proceedings despite repeated summons and issuance of warrants for their arrest.
A division bench of the LHC on Sept 19 set aside the NAB chief’s letter but referred the matter to the ACE court to decide the fate of the case.
The LHC observed that the ACE inquiry which had found Malik Riaz and his son guilty was valid because it had been conducted by its most senior officials.
In October last year, the ACC on request of NAB transferred the matter to the accountability court.
On Saturday, NAB Prosecutor Sardar Zulqarnain told the accountability court that after examining the available record and evidence the bureau had found that Malik Riaz and his son were not liable to be accused.
He told Dawn that the businessman and his son were victims of the land fraud but the ACE had wrongly implicated them in the case despite the fact that their names were not in the FIR.
According to him, the NAB prosecutor general had dropped the charges against Malik Riaz and his son while exercising powers vested in under Section 31-B.
Punjab Prosecutor General Sadaqat Ali Khan, who represented the ACE in the LHC, said when contacted that the NAB application for the withdrawal of the reference had proved the bureau’s intentions and a nexus between Admiral Bokhari and Malik Riaz.
“I am hopeful that the accountability judge will not accept the NAB’s application for withdrawal of the reference against Malik Riaz and his son because both of them are the prime accused in the land fraud case,” he said.
“Our petition against the transfer of the case is also pending in the Supreme Court and we will bring the recent development into the notice of the apex court,” he added.
Accountability Judge Chaudhry Abdul Haq adjourned the proceeding till Feb 16 when the NAB prosecutor and Malik Riaz’s counsel will argue on the application for dropping the reference.

Plan afoot to bar tax evaders from elections

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: Taking note of reports that about 70 per cent of lawmakers did not file tax returns in 2011-12, the Election Commission of Pakistan has decided to tighten the noose around the evaders and put in place a mechanism to ensure they do not manage to sneak into legislative bodies again.
According to sources, the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) has suggested modifications in the declaration part of the nomination forms.
A letter sent to the ECP secretary by his counterpart at the FTO secretariat said the modified form would add transparency abut tax matters of the prospective lawmakers.
The proposed declaration says: “I solemnly declare that I have filed all my income tax returns along with wealth statements and wealth reconciliation statements (copies enclosed) that were due during the last five years and no tax liability is outstanding against me on the date of filing of this nomination form-1. I further declare that no company of which I am a director or a shareholder of more than 10 per cent paid up capital is a tax defaulter. I also declare that no applicable tax, including agricultural income tax, is payable by me under any federal or provincial laws on the date of filing of this nomination form-1. I have enclosed attested true copies of no demand certificates from relevant authorities.”
An ECP official told Dawn that the commission was obtaining details of tax evaders, loan defaulters, dual nationals and fake degree holders in the existing parliament and the provincial assemblies from the Federal Board of Revenues, income tax and revenue departments, National Accountability Bureau, Higher Education Commission and other ministries and departments concerned.
He said those who had filed wrong declarations and forged documents with their nomination papers in the 2008 polls would not be able to contest the coming election.
The official said the commission was ready to hold the election as and when announced. He said the work on preparation of lists of polling stations and polling staff was in full swing in the field offices and would be completed well before the issuance of schedule for the general election.
He said lists of employees of federal and provincial governments were being compiled by the field offices and would be handed over to the returning officers.
Instructions for appointment of 50 per cent staff from federal departments and 50 per cent from provincial governments will be issued to the ROs as soon as their appointments are notified.
SYMBOLS: The commission is set to ask the political parties next week to meet the legal requirements to qualify for obtaining election symbols. The requirements include submission of details of party election and assets and liabilities.
The symbols will be allotted afresh to the parties in the first week of March. The parties applying for a symbol they had been allotted in
the past will be given preference if they meet the legal requirements.

McChrystal opposes drone strikes

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Feb 9: There’s widespread resentment against drone strikes in Pakistan, says the former commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.
At the launching ceremony of his book, “My Share of the Task”, on Friday evening, the retired general repeated what he had said earlier that US drone strikes were “hated on a visceral level”.
He warned that too many drone strikes in Pakistan without identifying suspected militants individually can be a bad thing.
Gen McChrystal said he understood why Pakistanis, even in the areas not affected by the drones, reacted negatively against the strikes.
He asked the Americans how they would react if a neighbouring country like Mexico started firing drone missiles at targets in Texas.
The Pakistanis, he said, saw the drones as a demonstration of America’s might against their nation and reacted accordingly.
“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” Gen McChrystal said in an earlier interview.
“The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”
The former US commander urged his government to use the missiles responsibly.

ECP defends ban on recruitment

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 9: The Election Commission of Pakistan has asserted that it has powers to impose a ban on mass recruitments even before the election date is announced.
In a verdict authored by Justice (retd) Riaz Kayani and available with Dawn, the commission explained that neither the Constitution nor any law barred it from guarding practices that could disturb level-playing field for elections.
“This omission by the lawgiver was intentional connoting that powers of the commission should not be abridged to the day when the date for election is announced but should be exercised through a preventive measure even before the (declaration of the) election date,” observed Justice (retd) Riaz Kayani, a member of the ECP from Punjab.
He dismissed objections raised by the federal government through Law Minister Farooq H. Naek, justifying that the commission had the right to put a ban on recruitments if it considered that any step taken by the incumbent governments (both federal as well as the provincial) has the potential of making the general elections non-transparent by giving an advantage to one contesting party over the other.
In a follow-up, the ECP has also sought an explanation from the ministries of railways, commerce, information and broadcasting and postal services, the cabinet division, the chief administrator, Auqaf Department, Sindh, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd, and Teaching Hospital, Bannu, for violating the directive not to do fresh recruitments.
Through a letter dated Jan 29, the federal government had taken a serious view of the ban imposed by the commission on Jan 22, stating that it could seriously affect the continuation of projects and could also be a hurdle in accomplishment of the mandate given to it by the Constitution and law.
Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim in his note, however, held that no recruitment and diversion of funds should be made without reference to the ECP, clarifying that the commission could consider any specific and bona fide request for recruitment or diversion of funds.
In an additional note, Justice (retd) Shahzad Akbar, a member of the ECP from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, observed that the ban on appointments and diversion of funds should not be construed as a hindrance in the governmental administration at any level. “The ECP is dynamically open to reasons,” he stated.
Justice (retd) Fazlur Rehman, a member of the ECP from Balochistan, observed that the opinion expressed by Justice (retd) Kayani was so comprehensive that it hardly needed any elaboration.
But Justice (retd) Roshan Essani, a member of the ECP from Sindh, dissented with the majority view.
“Mere words of Article 218(3) have not to be kept in consideration rather its spirit has to be seen and the mandate given to the ECP to conduct fair, free and transparent elections and guard against corrupt practices,” observed Justice (retd) Kayani.
This stance of the ECP, the member recalled, had also been upheld by the Supreme Court March 8, 2012 Workers Party judgment in which the court had held that in a parliamentary system of governance a constitutionally independent and empowered commission rested as one of the foundational stones of a democratic set-up.
The ECP is aware of the hazard, which the federal government has expressed in the letter by couching commission’s directions in extremely selective manner applicable to the reported steps of inducting thousands of people on different positions in different departments. Such recruitments, by any reasonable and prudent person would without hesitation dub such steps to amount to pre-poll rigging by way of political bribe, synonymous to the proverbial jobs for votes, Justice (retd) Kayani said in his verdict.
The verdict had also banned diversion of money to the discretionary fund of the prime minister and other important people by way of supplementary grants intended to reallocate such funds for its utilisation to promote their candidacy in the elections.

Man killed in explosion

By Saleem Shahid

QUETA, Feb 9: A man died in an explosion and police foiled an attempt to bomb Kuchlak police station as they defused an explosive-laden car parked near it on Saturday.
The explosion occurred 500 metres from the police station close to the employees’ colony, sources said.
The dead, identified as Muhammad Naeem, was a tractor driver and had been living in the colony along with his family.
Initial investigation showed Naeem had spotted an object and when he tried to pick it up a powerful explosion occurred, leaving him dead.
“His head and hands were blown up,” DIG Operations Wazir Khan Nasar said.
Soon after the blast, police found a suspected car parked behind the police station. Police cordoned the area and called the bomb disposal squad which confirmed the vehicle carried explosives in it.
“The BDS defused the explosive fitted with a timer and a detonator in the car,” the DIG said, adding that around 25 to 30kg of explosive was planted in it. Two big cans filled with petrol were also found in the car.

Mumbai attacks case: Pakistani panel’s visit to India delayed

By A Reporter

RAWALPINDI, Feb 9: Legal complications have delayed a Pakistani team’s visit to India, scheduled for the second half of the current month, for recording statements of four Indian witnesses to the 2008 Mumbai attacks after the defence counsel sought written assurances for cross-examination of the witnesses.
On Feb 2, the FIA had filed an application in the Anti-Terrorism Court, seeking permission to join the proceedings of the commission constituted by the Mumbai High Court under Indian judge Amer Ahmed Khan to record statements of the witnesses against seven Pakistani suspects.
The Indian authorities had asked Pakistan to send a panel of lawyers in February for recording the statements of R.V. Sawant Waghule, who had recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab; Ramesh Mahale, chief investigation officer of the case; and doctors Ganesh Dhunraj and Chintaman Mohite, who had conducted post-mortem of the terrorists killed during the attacks.
Khawaja Harris, defence counsel for the alleged mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, informed the ATC on Saturday that Indian government’s letter about recording the statements lacked clarity. It did not mention whether the witnesses would be cross-examined or not, he pointed out.
He said the proceedings of last year’s Mumbai commission had been declared illegal by the ATC because the defence team had not been allowed to cross-examine the witnesses.
Riaz Cheema, another defence counsel, told Dawn that governments of Pakistan and India had agreed on Nov 5, 2010 to exempt the witnesses from cross-examination.
He said when the defence counsel sought to cross-examine the witnesses during the proceedings of the Mumbai commission presided over by S. S. Shinde, the Indian prosecutor produced a letter containing details of the Nov 5, 2010 agreement. “Consequently, the commission did not allow us to cross-examine the witnesses,” he said.
“We will not join the proceedings of the commission unless the Indian and Pakistani authorities cancel the letter and assure us in writing that we will be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses,” he said.
Earlier in March 2012, another Pakistani panel — including special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali and counsel for the suspects — had recorded statements of the witnesses but had not cross-examined them.
According to the prosecution agency FIA, the suspects — Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum — could not be convicted unless the witnesses were cross-examined.
Chaudhry Zulfiqar told Dawn that the Indian government had agreed in principle to allow the cross-examination but the defence counsel wanted the assurance in writing.
“The counsel do not want timely disposal of the case and their recent request is part of their strategy to make the case linger on,” he said.
He said the case should be decided without further delay because it had strained relations between Pakistan and India and countries like the UK, the US and Canada, whose nationals had been killed in the attacks, were also keenly awaiting the outcome of the over four-year-old case.

PML-Q, PAT to finalise names of caretakers next week

By Our Staff Reporter

LAHORE, Feb 9: The Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) have agreed to jointly finalise next week issues related to the nomination of caretaker prime minister and chief ministers.
Addressing a press conference after holding talks with a PML-Q delegation led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, PAT leader Dr Tahirul Qadri said Saturday’s meeting was a follow-up of the Jan 27 meeting which Qamar Zaman Kaira, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and other PPP leaders also attended.
He said that although some names for caretaker prime minister and chief ministers were discussed on Saturday, a decision would be taken at a meeting next week.
Dr Qadri said it had been decided that the PML-Q leadership would bring Mr Kaira, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek and other people concerned to the next meeting to finalise several issues. He said the declaration/agreement reached with the PPP government after his long march would be given legal cover before dissolution of assemblies.
Chaudhry Shujaat told the press conference that he would ensure presence of members of the government team (Mr Kaira, Mr Naek, Amin Fahim and others) at the next meeting. He said that Mr Qadri was independent in dealing with the issue of his party’s election alliance with any other party.
The PML-Q chief also condemned manhandling of journalists at Bilawal House in Lahore on Friday.

A perfect day for democracy

By Arundhati Roy

WASN’T it? Yesterday I mean. Spring announced itself in Delhi. The sun was out, and the law took its course. Just before breakfast, Afzal Guru, prime accused in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, was secretly hanged, and his body was interred in Tihar jail.
Was he buried next to Maqbool Butt? (The other Kashmiri who was hanged in Tihar in 1984. Kashmiris will mark that anniversary on Monday.)
Afzal’s wife and son were not informed. “The authorities intimated the family through speed post and registered post,” the Home Secretary told the press. “The Director General of J&K police has been told to check whether they got it or not.”
No big deal, they’re only the family of a Kashmiri terrorist.
In a moment of rare unity the nation, or at least its major political parties, the Congress, the BJP and the CPM, came together as one (barring a few squabbles about ‘delay’ and ‘timing’) to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law.
The conscience of the nation, which broadcasts live from TV studios these days, unleashed its collective intellect on us — the usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts. Even though the man was dead and gone, like cowards that hunt in packs, they seemed to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because deep inside themselves they know that they all colluded to do something terribly wrong.
What are the facts? On Dec 13, 2001, five armed men drove through the gates of the Parliament House in a white Ambassador fitted out with an IED (improvised explosive device). When they were challenged they jumped out of the car and opened fire. They killed eight security personnel and a gardener. In the gun battle that followed all five attackers were killed.
In one of the many versions of confessions he made in police custody, Afzal Guru identified the men as Mohammed, Rana, Raja, Hamza and Haider. That’s all we know about them even today. L.K. Advani, the then Home Minister, said they ‘looked like Pakistanis’. (He should know what Pakistanis look like, right? Being a Sindhi himself.)
Based only on Afzal’s confession (which the Supreme Court subsequently set aside citing ‘lapses’ and ‘violations of procedural safeguards.’) the government of India recalled its ambassador from Pakistan and mobilised half a million soldiers to the Pakistan border. There was talk of nuclear war. Foreign embassies issued travel advisories and evacuated their staff from Delhi. The standoff lasted for months and cost India thousands of crores.
On Dec 14, the Delhi police special cell claimed it had cracked the case. On Dec 15 it arrested the ‘mastermind’, Professor S.A.R Geelani, in Delhi and Showkat Guru and Afzal Guru in a fruit market in Srinagar. Subsequently they arrested Afsan Guru, Showkat’s wife.
The media enthusiastically disseminated the special cell’s version. These were some of the headlines: ‘DU Lecturer was Terror Plan Hub’, ‘Varsity Don Guided Fidayeen’, ‘Don Lectured on Terror in Free Time.’ Zee TV broadcast a ‘docudrama’ called ‘December 13’, a recreation that claimed to be the ‘Truth Based on the Police Charge Sheet.’ (If the police version is the truth, then why have courts?) Then Prime Minister Vajpayee and L.K. Advani publicly appreciated the film.
The Supreme Court refused to stay the screening saying that the media would not influence judges. The film was broadcast only a few days before the fast track court sentenced Afzal, Showkat and Geelani to death. Subsequently the High Court acquitted the ‘mastermind’, Professor S.A.R Geelani, and Afsan Guru. The Supreme Court upheld the acquittal. But in its 5th August 2005 judgment it gave Mohammed Afzal three life sentences and a double death sentence.
Contrary to the lies that have been put about by some senior journalists who would have known better, Afzal Guru was not one of “the terrorists who stormed Parliament House on December 13th 2001” nor was he among those who “opened fire on security personnel, apparently killing three of the six who died.” (That was Chandan Mitra, now a BJP Rajya Sabha MP, in The Pioneer, October 7th 2006). Even the police charge sheet does not accuse him of that.
The Supreme Court judgment says the evidence is circumstantial: “As is the case with most conspiracies, there is and could be no direct evidence amounting to criminal conspiracy.”
But then it goes on to say: “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties had shaken the entire nation, and the collective conscience of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”
Who crafted our collective conscience on the Parliament Attack case? Could it have been the facts we gleaned in the papers? The films we saw on TV?
There are those who will argue that the very fact that the courts acquitted S.A.R Geelani and convicted Afzal proves that the trial was free and fair. Was it?
The trial in the fast-track court began in May 2002. The world was still convulsed by post 9/11 frenzy. The US government was gloating prematurely over its ‘victory’ in Afghanistan. The Gujarat pogrom was ongoing. And in the Parliament Attack case, the Law was indeed taking its own course.
At the most crucial stage of a criminal case, when evidence is presented, when witnesses are cross-examined, when the foundations of the argument are laid — in the High Court and Supreme Court you can only argue points of law, you cannot introduce new evidence — Afzal Guru, locked in a high security solitary cell, had no lawyer. The court appointed junior lawyer did not visit his client even once in jail, he did not summon any witnesses in Afzal’s defence and did not cross examine the prosecution witnesses. The judge expressed his inability to do anything about the situation.
Even still, from the word go, the case fell apart. A few examples out of many:
How did the police get to Afzal? They said that S.A.R Geelani led them to him. But the court records show that the message to arrest Afzal went out before they picked up Geelani. The High Court called this a ‘material contradiction’ but left it at that.
The two most incriminating pieces of evidence against Afzal were a cellphone and a laptop confiscated at the time of arrest. The Arrest Memos were signed by Bismillah, Geelani’s brother, in Delhi. The Seizure Memos were signed by two men of the J&K Police, one of them an old tormentor from Afzal’s past as a surrendered ‘militant’.
The computer and cellphone were not sealed, as evidence is required to be. During the trial it emerged that the hard disc of the laptop had been accessed after the arrest. It only contained the fake home ministry passes and the fake identity cards that the ‘terrorists’ used to access Parliament. And a Zee TV video clip of Parliament House. So according to the police, Afzal had deleted all the information except the most incriminating bits, and he was speeding off to hand it over to Ghazi Baba, who the charge sheet described as the Chief of Operations.
A witness for the prosecution, Kamal Kishore, identified Afzal and told the court he had sold him the crucial SIM card that connected all the accused in the case to each other on the 4th of December 2001. But the prosecutions own call records showed that the SIM was actually operational from November 6th 2001.
It goes on and on, this pile up of lies and fabricated evidence. The courts note them, but for their pains the police get no more than a gentle rap on their knuckles. Nothing more.
Then there’s the back story. Like most surrendered militants Afzal was easy meat in Kashmir — a victim of torture, blackmail, extortion. In the larger scheme of things he was a nobody. Anyone who was really interested in solving the mystery of the Parliament Attack would have followed the dense trail of evidence that was on offer. No one did, thereby ensuring that the real authors of conspiracy will remain unidentified and un-investigated.
Now that Afzal Guru has been hanged, I hope our collective conscience has been satisfied. Or is our cup of blood still only half full?

Monthly fuel-based tariff hike: Govt may seek SC help to get Rs171bn

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 10: The government has decided to move Supreme Court against the decisions of Peshawar and Islamabad high courts barring recovery from consumers of Rs171 billion on account of monthly fuel-based power tariff increase.
A government official told Dawn on Sunday that about Rs67bn arrears had been stuck with consumers on account of fuel-based monthly price adjustment approved by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) after the IHC declared monthly fuel adjustment illegal.
Another Rs15bn approved by Nepra had been stopped by the PHC. The official said that after the IHC’s decision Rs17bn worth of petitions by distribution companies of Wapda could not be notified by the regulator.
He said the government had decided to club the two decisions and file an appeal before the Supreme Court so that tariffs approved by the regulator could be recovered from consumers.
Under the monthly fuel adjustment formula, the variation in fuel prices is recovered from consumers as a direct pass-through item approved by Nepra. The fuel adjustment mechanism was put in place about eight years ago and remained in practice until early this year when aggrieved consumers challenged it in courts. While the PHC issued a stay order, the IHC declared variation in fuel prices illegal.
Officials said the government would also challenge a decision of Nepra for disallowing transmission and distribution losses. Under this head, the government has estimated that it has lost Rs72bn over the past two years.
Officials said that Wapda’s distribution companies had been pleading before the regulator to take into consideration investment plans being taken in hand with assistance from international lenders to reduce transmission losses that would take five to seven years to complete and then disallow higher transmission losses to be passed on to consumers. They contended that given the poor shape of the transmission system, certain percentage of losses were unavoidable which should be charged to consumers until fresh investment plans were completed. To achieve this, the annual loss reduction should be linked with gradual reduction in tariff.
The Nepra has, however, taken the stance that it was a failure of the power companies to augment their system and they should bear the cost of inefficiency instead of passing it on to consumers.
Officials said the power ministry was preparing a case for filing an appeal before the Supreme Court because it felt the apex court’s view on recovery of revenues had been more favourable to it. The court has in many cases upheld powers of the government to impose taxes and recover revenues in the interest of running the country’s affairs.
Another measure under the recovery plan involves increasing electricity rates for big consumers on the principle of “ability to pay” to encourage energy conservation to reduce large-scale subsidies being enjoyed by all consumer groups resulting in about Rs3.60 per unit gap between the electricity cost approved by the regulator and the subsidised tariff notified by the federal government because of social or political compulsions.
Currently, the government is paying about Rs150bn as tariff differential subsidy per year as a result of an average applicable tariff of Rs7.80 per unit against a Nepra approved tariff of Rs11.40 per unit.

Missing: the boy on the bicycle

By Mohammed Hanif

SIX years after Hafiz Saeed Rehman went missing from Sariab Road Quetta, the police dug up a grave to look for him. The High Court ordered that a body be exhumed because Quetta police, after giving half a dozen other explanations for his disappearance, had started saying that Hafiz Saeed had been killed. His father Allah Bakhsh Bangulzai who has been campaigning for his son’s release for nine years, didn’t believe the police. “I knew it wasn’t his grave, I knew my son wasn’t dead,” insists Allah Bakhsh, who runs a small grocery store near his house. Allah Baksh Bangulzai’s faith wasn’t just the faith of a father who can’t bring himself to believe that his eldest son might be dead. He had seen with his own eyes the body that was buried in that grave. Nine year earlier looking for his newly disappeared son Allah Baksh had done the rounds of the mortuaries. “They showed me two bodies,” says Allah Baksh. He had a really good look. “They were both my son’s age. One boy had his throat slit. Another one had his legs cut off just below his knees. I was relieved neither of them was my son.”.
Hafiz Saeed became one of almost 1300 disappeared Baloch citizens whose families have been holding almost a perpetual vigil for their release. They travel from distant villages and towns to hold three-month-long protest camps outside Islamabad and Karachi Press Club but our press usually ignores them. When Voice of Missing Baloch Persons recently held a rally to mark one thousand days of their protest, no TV channels covered it.
After his visit to the local morgue, Allah Baksh was convinced that his son was alive. For next six years Allah Baksh’s son kept making fleeting appearances in various reports, official documents and court hearings. Once it was admitted in Balochistan High Court that he was in the custody of our intelligence organisations. Once he was told that his son had been sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment because he was a terrorist. Then the high court was told that he was doing his time in Gujranwala jail. But after six years of running up down the country and knocking at every one’s door Allah Baksh stood besides a grave waiting for a body to be exhumed, certain in his heart that it wouldn’t be his son.
Hafiz Saeed left his home on the evening of July 4, 2003. It was a Friday and there had been a huge bomb blast in the area. Forty people died in that blast and soon after a curfew was imposed. “He came home after his maghreb prayers, got on his bicycle and left,” remembers Allah Baksh. He repeats the same details over and over again as if he has missed something and if he can remember the exact sequence of events, he’ll find out where his son is right now. “There was a curfew in our part of the city, the curfew started at 6pm and Hafiz left home at 6.15.” Six years of searching his memory and he still has no answer why his son left home just after the curfew came into effect. “May be he thought if you are on a bicycle nobody will bother you. May be he didn’t know that a curfew has been imposed. I don’t know what he was thinking.”
Hafiz Saeed was 25 when he disappeared. He was an obedient and bright son. He had done his Hifz-i-Quran by the age of 15. He went on to do his matric privately. He was teaching other children Hifz-i-Quran at Iqra School. He was the eldest in the family and was engaged to be married a year after he disappeared.
With his madressha background, his teaching job, his beard and his shalwar above his ankle, a lot of people, specially the security forces, tend to jump to the conclusion that Hafiz must have been somehow involved with some religious cult, some jihadi organisation. “He never did any of those things. After finishing his teaching work at school, he came straight to my shop in Gharib Abad and helped me out. He had cousins who were also madressah teachers. Sometimes they visited. I never heard anything political. He was very pious, yes, but he was a straight boy. He was the eldest of my children, he was close to me. I would have known.”
Hafiz Saeed didn’t return home that night. “My son had never not spent a night at home. I got worried. I started looking.”
Hafiz Saeed and his family had no personal enmity. His father assumed that Saeed had been picked up by the law-enforcing agencies for violating the curfew. He thought about kidnapping for ransom but told himself that who would expect a ransom from someone as poor as him. He registered an FIR, did the rounds of the hospitals and asked everyone he could.
“Fifteen days later a man came looking for me,” says Allah Baksh. “He came on a motorbike, introduced himelf as Yasin from MI.” Yasin from MI asked Allah Baksh if his son Hafiz Saeed was involved with any Jihadi organisation. “I told him that he wasn’t involved with anyone or anything except his teaching and my shop.” The man on the motorbike assured Allah Baksh that MI will investigate and if he was with any of the law-enforcing agencies, he’ll be released.” For next three months Allah Baksh kept looking but didn’t hear anything from anywhere. He filed a petition in the high court. The petition has been going on for eight years, now, but not once has he seen a glimpse of his son despite various orders by the court saying that a meeting should be arranged between the missing person and his family. He has not had any kind of contact with his son during this time.
In the intial hearing a statement submitted on behalf of the ISI said that Hafiz Saeed had been arrested after he was injured in the bomb blast and he was being interrogated. Crime Branch also confirmed in a separate report that Hafiz Saeed was in the custody of ‘sensitive agencies’. The high court instructed that a meeting be arranged with the family. The meeting never happened. Instead Crime Branch submitted another report, this time saying that Hafiz Saeed wasn’t in the custody of ‘sensitive agencies’.
Allah Baksh wrote letters to President, to Chief Justice but never heard back. For 11 months he sat in a protest camp outside Quetta Press Club. For all these years there was no sighting, no news of his son but he didn’t give up.
Then out of the blue a list surfaced in Quetta High Court in 2009. There were 13 missing people on it. They were all supposed to be serving time in jails. Hafiz Saeed was on it. According to the list he had been court martialled and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. The report said that he was in Gujranwala jail.
Allah Baksh managed to contact HRCP who sent one of its people to Gujranwala jail. The jail authorities said they didn’t have Hafiz Saeed. Allah Bakhsh went back to the high court and this time police filed a submission that Hafiz Saeed had actually been killed in that blast and buried.
By now Hafiz Saeed had been suspected of being involved in the blast, suspected of being injured in the blast, and now six years later his family was being told that Hafiz Saeed had actually died in the blast. Allah Baksh reminded the court that his son had left home four hours after the blast happened. High court ordered a DNA test. Police were basically saying that one of the bodies that they had shown Allah Baksh six years ago was his son’s. “I had had a good look at those bodies,” Allah Baksh again gives a graphic description of the slit throat and decapitated legs. “That wasn’t my son.”
Before they exhumed the body that wasn’t his son’s, they gave him some clothes and asked if he recognised them. “These clothes didn’t belong to my son. After he became a Hafiz-i-Quran he never wore a shirt with buttons. But just to make sure I took these clothes to show his mother. And she also said that these were not his clothes.”
The body was exhumed and as Allah Baksh had predicted it wasn’t his son. He was relieved. But not for long. He says that secretly he envies people who have found the bodies of their loved-ones. “They have buried them and now they mourn them,” he says. “All I can do is wait.”
And while he waits, Allah Baksh can’t stop thinking of the events of that fateful evening. “What I don’t understand is that he came home after offering his maghrib prayers. There had already been a bomb blast. Then he took his bicycle and went out. There was curfew outside. I don’t know why he went out.”

Zardari was tried as beneficiary, not as accused: Naek

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 10: The Pakistan People’s Party believes that after the Swiss authorities’ refusal to open a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari there is no case pending against its co-chairman in any court.
“There is no case pending against the president in the country,” Law Minister Farooq Naek told Dawn on Sunday.
He said three cases involving President Zardari were being tried in the country and in all of them he was not the main accused, but one of the beneficiaries. “The main accused in these cases was Ilyas Siddiqui and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was cited as a beneficiary but Mr Siddiqui was acquitted of the charges and after the death of Ms Bhutto cases involving her became redundant,” he said.
He cited a judgment of Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench and said: “In a case I was pursuing for a former chairman of the Capital Development Authority, Shafi Sehwani, the court had issued a judgment that if the main accused in the case had been acquitted than there was no question of trying the beneficiaries.”
The minister said that on the basis of evidence presented in the courts, President Zardari was cited as one of the beneficiaries in money-laundering cases tried simultaneously in a Swiss court and local courts. Secondly, he said, Section 248 of the Constitution provided immunity to the incumbent president. If the claim of the minister is accepted by the courts which are trying the cases, President Zardari will face no problem even after leaving the office of president.
However, an official of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) said he believed cases against the president could be reopened after he left the office because he enjoyed immunity under the Constitution only till he was in office and not after that.
It may be mentioned that the government and lawyers of President Zardari had never pleaded in the Supreme Court that there was no case pending against him as a beneficiary of money laundering. They always referred to Section 248 which concerned his immunity.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was removed by the Supreme Court for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening cases against President Zardari, had also referred to presidential immunity.
Replying to a question, the NAB official said the record of the Swiss cases, reportedly in 12 boxes, was under the bureau’s secure custody and could be used if the cases were reopened after the end of the president’s tenure.
But the law minister said the record had become redundant. “Actually, it was not any precious record but photocopies of court orders that were already available with NAB,” he said.

Lahore turns festive as Metro Bus service opens

By Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE, Feb 10: The Metro Bus System (MBS), arguably the country’s first rapid mass transit bus project, was launched here on Monday.
It was inaugurated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at a ceremony attended by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and ambassadors of a number of countries.
About 45 modern buses started plying a 27km dedicated corridor from Gajjumata to Shahdra. The service is free for one month.
Construction work on the project planned by the Punjab government in the last quarter of 2011 was undertaken in March last year. The MBS route covers dozens of residential and commercial localities along the city’s main artery — Ferozepur road linking Lytton road, Jain Mandar, MAO College, Lower Mall, Civil Secretariat, Aiwan-i-Adal, Chowk Katchehry (District Courts), Shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh, Ravi Road and Shahdra town.
The route has 27 bus stations, nine of them built on the 8.6km long overhead bridge from Ferozepur Road/ Canal Intersection to Texali.
The Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA), a subsidiary of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), was entrusted with the task of constructing the MBS, a copy of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) of Istanbul, in collaboration with Turkish and local experts.
Since Turkey was actively facilitating the MBS, it also ensured investment from a leading Turkish firm in providing and operating 45 18-metre long articulated buses (Volvo China) the 27km pathway covered with fences. Platform, a Turkish firm, has been entrusted with the task of running the operational activities.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, the chief minister said people criticising the spending of “Rs70 to 80 billion” actually didn’t want to see the project which would be of great value to people who have been waiting for hours and travelling in old buses for decades. “As I have already said many a time I tell you again that we have spent only Rs29.8bn on the project which has made the people’s dream of travelling in state-of-the-art buses that never happened in the history of Pakistan,” Mr Sharif said.
The government and the Lahorites took the MBS inauguration like a festive event and a large number of people thronged the route to welcome the inaugural operations right from Gajjumata to Shahdra. The people, including government officials and PML-N workers, showered rose petals on the buses carrying distinguished guests.
The chief minister also announced Rs30 million cash rewards for all construction workers and special prizes for best workers. He gave away appreciation certificates to senior officials, including the LDA director general, PML-N leaders, Turkish experts and local firms for timely completing the project.
Speaking on the occasion, the Turkish deputy prime minister said his country would continue to support Punjab and other provinces for launching such major innovative projects. “Turkey and Pakistan enjoy cordial relations and trust each other. The countries have helped each other on various occasions and we will continue to do so in future too,” he said.
Mr Bozdag said that although Pakistan and Turkey couldn’t promote bilateral business relations in the past, the MBS would help in promoting investment by the business community in the two countries. He called for more and more business relations among Muslim countries.
Earlier, LDA Director General Ahad Khan Cheema and Punjab Metro Bus Authority’s Managing Director Sabtain Fazal Haleem briefed the guests on salient features, cost, construction work and other matters relating to the project.

PPP, PML-Q work out seat-sharing formula

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Feb 10: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) have worked out a seat adjustment formula for the upcoming elections.
Under the formula, each party will name candidates for the seats won by it in the last elections. In a constituency where neither of the parties had emerged victorious, the party that had secured the second highest number of votes will field a candidate.
The ruling allies — PPP and PML-Q — have already announced that they will jointly contest the polls.
“We have worked out a formula under which our party will field candidates for all seats won by it in the last elections,” PML-Q spokesman Kamil Ali Agha told Dawn on Sunday. However, he said, there were a few seats about which a final decision had yet to be taken.
Talks between the two parties over seat adjustment are being held amid reports that a powerful group in the PML-Q is opposing an electoral alliance with the PPP and wants the party to contest the polls on its own.
According to media reports, the two parties have differences over about 60 seats of National and Punjab assemblies won by the PML-Q candidates who later quit the party and formed a forward block.
The PML-Q leaders, who recently discussed the issue with Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, insisted that as the seats had been won on their ticket, they had the right to field candidates in the constituencies concerned.
On the other hand, Punjab PPP president Mian Manzoor Wattoo is reportedly of the view that members of the forward block had won the seats in their individual capacity and not because of the PML-Q. Therefore, the PPP had the right to field its candidates for the seats.
Mr Agha denied any disagreements about the seats. He said most of the 60 seats belonged to Punjab Assembly
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said it had been decided in principle that the seats won by a party would have candidates of the same party.
He said that by and large the issue (of seat adjustment) had been resolved through the formula but changes and readjustments could be made about some important seats if the leaderships of the two parties insisted.
The PPP and PML-Q would hold further talks from Feb 15 on some seats of the provincial assembly, he said.

JKLF holds rally in Muzaffarabad

MUZAFFARABAD, Feb 10: The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front held a demonstration here on Sunday to condemn the hanging of Kashmiri activist Mohammed Afzal Guru in a New Delhi prison.
The participants of the demonstration held at the press club were holding party flags and placards inscribed with slogans paying tribute to Guru and condemning India for his ‘judicial murder’.
The AJK government, in consultation with all political parties, has given a call for a strike on Monday to condemn the hanging.
Funeral prayers for Afzal Guru, led by Prof Shahabuddin Madni of the Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadith, AJK, were also offered in Upper Chattar.
—Staff Correspondent

Abdullah assails Guru’s hanging

SRINAGAR, Feb 10: An angry Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Indian-held Kashmir, slammed on Sunday the execution of Mohammed Afzal Guru and said this would reinforce a sense of alienation and injustice among generation of youth in the valley.
He also said it was a tragedy that Guru was not allowed to meet his family before he was hanged. The 43-year-old, convicted after a trial fairness of which is being questioned, was hanged and buried in Delhi’s Tihar jail on Saturday.
Clearly unhappy with the hanging, the chief minister said there were many questions that needed to be answered.
He said the long-term implications of Guru’s hanging were “far more worrying” as they were related to the new generation of Kashmiri youth who might not have identified with Maqbool Butt but would identify with Guru. Butt, a leader of Kashmiri liberation movement, was hanged in Tihar jail in 1984 for the murder of an Indian diplomat in the UK.
“Please understand that there is more than one generation of Kashmiris that has come to see themselves as victims, that has come to see themselves as category of people who will not receive justice,” Mr Abdullah said in TV interviews.
“Whether you like it or not, the execution of Afzal Guru has reinforced the point that there is no justice for them and that to my mind is far more disturbing and worrying than the short-term implications for security front.
“How we would be able to correct or address that sense of injustice and alienation is a question I do not have answers.”

By arrangement with the Times of India

Man killed in Kashmir protests despite curfew

SRINAGAR, Feb 10: One person was killed as protests broke out in at least two parts of Indian-held Kashmir on Sunday despite a strict curfew to prevent violence after the execution of a Kashmiri man convicted in the 2001 attack on India’s parliament.
Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in New Delhi on Saturday. Ahead of the execution, authorities ordered people in most of the disputed Kashmir region to remain indoors indefinitely in anticipation of anti-India protests.
On Sunday, scores of people defied the curfew and clashed with troops who fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowds, a police officer said.
Police said a man died in Sumbal village in northern Kashmir after he jumped into a frigid river while trying to run away from troops who were firing tear gas and using batons to disperse the mob.
In Watergam, a village near the town of Sopore, which was Guru’s home, at least four people were wounded, one critically, as police and paramilitary troops fired tear gas shells and bullets to disperse an angry crowd, police said.
Four policemen were injured in separate clashes.
Police said 23 troops and 13 protesters were injured in demonstrations on Saturday.
Tens of thousands of security troops were fanned out across the region, and metal barricades and razor wire blocked all major roads in the area.
Cable television and mobile Internet services were shut down in most parts of the region, and most local newspapers were not available on Sunday.
Greater Kashmir, an English-language newspaper, said on its website that police went to the printing presses of most local newspapers and asked managers not to publish Sunday editions.
Showkat Ahmed Motta, the editor of another English daily, Kashmir Reader, said his paper published Sunday’s edition, but that police seized the copies.
A top police official denied that any newspapers were stopped from publishing, but said the strict curfew might have prevented copies of the papers from reaching readers.
Guru’s execution is an extremely sensitive matter in the region, where most people believe his trial was not fair. Several rights groups across India and political groups in held Kashmir have also questioned the fairness of his trial.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but is claimed by both.
Since 1989, an armed uprising in the region and an ensuing crackdown have killed an estimated 68,000 people, mostly civilians.
Guru confessed in TV interviews that he helped plot the attack on India’s parliament that killed 14 people, including the five gunmen, but later denied any involvement and said he had been tortured into confessing.
Government prosecutors said that Guru was a member of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-i-Mohammed, a charge Guru denied.
Guru had been on death row since first being convicted in 2002. Subsequent appeals in higher courts were also rejected, and India’s Supreme Court set an execution date for October 2006. But his execution was delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition with India’s president. That petition, the last step in the judicial process, was turned down last week. While Indian government officials said that Guru’s family had been informed of his imminent execution by express mail, the family said it learned of it only through television news.
“I wish we were the ones authorised to give the news to the family — we owed him that much,” Omar Abdullah, held Kashmir’s top elected official, told CNN-IBN news channel on Sunday.
After the execution, Guru was buried in the prison compound.
The secrecy with which Guru’s execution was carried out was similar to the execution in November of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Kasab was buried in the western Indian prison where he was hanged.—AP

Seven injured in Quetta rocket attacks

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, Feb 10: At least seven people, a woman and a child among them, were injured in rocket attacks here on Sunday night.
Police sources said the rockets landed in Khudadad road, Pir Abul Khair road and Quaidabad areas with brief intervals.
“Seven people received injuries in the explosions,” Wazir Khan Nasar, the DIG of police, told Dawn.
“Police are trying to trace the location from where rockets were fired,” the DIG said.
United Baloch Army’s spokesman Murid Baloch claimed the responsibility for the attacks. Calling from an unknown location, he said the target was the Quetta Cantonment. “Rockets were fired in reaction to Awaran, Mashkay and Mastung operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, a blast took place near a private hospital in the Sariab road area.
No casualty was reported.

SC grills Qadri on his nationality

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran chief Dr Tahirul Qadri may have made waves with his four-day sit-in last month but he was cut to size when he appeared before the Supreme Court on Monday to plead for reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He waited for hours for his turn and when his case was eventually taken up, the court dropped a
bombshell by asking him whether he had sworn allegiance to Queen Elizabeth of United Kingdom.
Dr Qadri who had kept himself busy throughout the day consulting his advisers and giving final touches to his written submissions appeared at a loss for words when a three-judge bench asked point blank at the outset of the hearing whether he was a citizen of any other country.
He conceded that he had acquired Canadian citizenship in 2005 after resigning as a member of parliament, but hastened to add that he had not ceased to be a Pakistani national.
Dr Qadri has challenged the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC) and four members of the ECP, arguing that their appointments were not in accordance with the provisions of Articles 213 and 218 of the Constitution.
The court, however, referred to a recent judgment on dual nationality and highlighted a bar on Dr Qadri from entering parliament as long as he remained a citizen of Canada.
He was asked that when he had sworn allegiance to another country how could he point out deficiencies in parliament which represented the will of 180 million people by pushing a case of public importance before the Supreme Court.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir, when asked to give his opinion, said he did not agree with the contents of the petition but the court itself had enlarged the scope of locus standi (right to appear) under the enforcement of fundamental rights.
“This is a case of co warranto where the question of locus standi will not arise,” he said, citing the July 31, 2009, case in which 108 superior court judges had been removed without dealing with the issue of locus standi.
Talking to Dawn later, senior counsel Waqar Rana said that in his view Dr Qadri had not lost his Pakistani nationality and, therefore, also enjoyed certain fundamental rights as a citizen.
“There is also no bar that he cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but while doing so he has to meet a certain threshold of Article 184(3) of the Constitution by establishing that his fundamental rights have been violated and that such violations affect the public at large,” he said.
Former president of Supreme Court Bar Association Tariq Mehmood cited the 1988 Benazir Bhutto case challenging a ban on political parties imposed by the Ziaul Haq regime and explained that since Dr Qadri was neither the head of a party nor intending to enter parliament, it appeared that he had no nexus to raise a question of such a public importance before the court.
The court asked Dr Qadri to submit a concise statement by Tuesday, admitting that he had sworn oath of allegiance to another country and that the federal government had issued a notification allowing him to retain the citizenship of Pakistan at the same time.
If the court is satisfied with the reply the petitioner will get the right to argue his case.
Dr Qadri, who commenced his arguments by praising the role played by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry for the independence of judiciary, was asked to confine his arguments to explaining why he had not given his introduction in the petition to establish his locus standi to stand before the court.
The court specifically asked whether he had acquired the foreign nationality for business interests or because of a threat to his life in Pakistan.
Dr Qadri said he had applied in 1997 for the citizenship in accordance with the law through normal procedures in an ordinary manner for certain categories, one of which was reserved for religious scholars.
He cited Section 14(3) of the Pakistan Citizenship Act of 1951, suggesting that a citizen of Pakistan could hold dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies or of another such country as the government might specify by notification in the official gazette and said Canada was a Commonwealth country.
But Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed reminded the plaintiff that a citizen could not enjoy simultaneous nationality of Pakistan and India although both were Commonwealth countries.
Dr Qadri admitted that the laws did not permit him to contest general election but said he had gone to the court as an ordinary voter for which there was no bar.
He explained to reporters outside the court that he had acquired the Canadian citizenship because it helped him get visas easily which he needed occasionally being a scholar for giving lectures in different countries.

Terror attacks part of conspiracy, says MQM

KARACHI, Feb 11: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has termed the increase in target killings and incidents of terrorism in Karachi part of a well-planned conspiracy and called upon the country’s leadership to take effective steps for protecting the life and property of citizens.
In a statement issued here on Monday, the party’s Coordination Committee said that MQM chief Altaf Hussain had forewarned about the threats when terrorists started making Karachi a centre of their activities. At that time, other political and religious parties denied the reality and alleged that the Muttahida wanted to frighten the people and it was talking against a particular community.
The committee said that now media reports had highlighted that many areas in Karachi had become places similar to Waziristan where even law-enforcement personnel could not enter.
The MQM regretted that while most political and religious parties had been criticising the Sindh government over the incidents of terrorism and target killings they were still not speaking out publicly against elements responsible for violence, bloodshed and terrorism in Karachi.
It urged President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah to act effectively to protect the life and property of citizens of Karachi.—Staff Reporter

Commission set up to investigate ghost schools

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: The Supreme Court constituted on Monday a commission comprising district and sessions judges to investigate ‘ghost’ schools and ascertain reasons for state’s apathy towards government schools and institutions.
A three-judge headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked members of the commission to conduct surveys in their areas to ascertain the number of non-functional and ghost schools and their conversion into cattle pen. They are required to submit their reports in a month.
Although the hearing was about a case relating to the plight of girl students who were forced to sit beside graves in Gujranwala, it ended up with the issuance of a detailed order on the overall state of affairs in education departments across the country. The case has been pending before the court for more than a year.
“Given the pathetic situation of schools, especially in rural Sindh where many of them have been turned into cattle pen, it looks as if all people in the province have become educated and now it is the turn of the cattle to read,” regretted Mr Rehmatullah, coordinator of the Sindh Rural Development Society, who appeared before the court on his own.
The harrowing details of the condition of education in Sindh visibly disturbed the bench which asked why the authorities did not consider children of government schools as their own children.
Mr Rehmatullah alleged that most of the teachers in rural Sindh never went to their schools, although they regularly got their salary. He cited the example of a high school in Ghotki district which had remained closed over the past five years and except for two teachers all others had gone on deputation.
The two teachers came to the school twice a year, he said, adding that local education officers paid no heed to a number of complaints in this regard because they had been appointed on political affiliations.
“The children of most of the teachers are studying in private schools in different cities,” Mr Rehmatullah said, adding that in tehsil Matyari alone 60,000 children never went to schools, while a school in tehsil Jati had been made a police station.
“We have failed to understand why the executive authorities are reluctant to improve the educational system of the country when a number of schools are being abandoned for one reason or the other but monthly salaries are being dispersed,” the court said in its order. “Why laws are not being made when the right to education from five to 15 years is compulsory and a fundament right under the 18th Constitution Amendment,” the chief justice observed. He said education was the most important social service and the government was duty bound to provide education to all children.
The district and sessions judges are required to investigate how much funds are being spent in the name of imparting education, what is the ratio of students attending schools, how many schools have been occupied forcibly by influential people and what are the reasons for converting schools into lounges and guest houses.
They will also investigate why the education department did not take back possessions of the occupied schools and if the authorities did take action why it has not been pursued vigorously or expedited and who is responsible for this.
The presidents and secretaries of district and tehsil bar associations will assist the judicial officers in conducting inspections of government schools and preparing reports which will be submitted to the provincial high courts.
The chief secretaries and education secretaries of the provinces are also required to support the judicial officers in the exercise.
Additional Advocate General of Punjab Jawwad Hassan informed the court that 266 schools in the province were under illegal occupation, although necessary orders had been issued to take back their possession. Nine kanals of land of a school in Moghalpura, Lahore, had been encroached upon and houses constructed there, he added.
The chief justice regretted that Rangers had occupied a school in Lahore.
The case will be taken up on March 18.

Blast in Karachi gas substation injures policeman

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 11: A bomb went off on Korangi Road near Qayyumabad flyover on Monday night, injuring a policeman who happened to be passing by the area.
“It was an improvised explosive device weighing 200gm planted at a Sui Gas substation. It appears that the target was the substation,” DIG South Shahid Hayat said, adding that no traces of the device containing ball-bearings had been found.
The powerful explosion was heard several kilometres away and triggered panic in the entire DHA locality.
The wounded policeman was taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.
Initial reports suggested that the explosion had taken place in a gas pipeline.
The Sui Southern Gas Company termed it an act of sabotage and said its town border station (TBS) under the Qayyumabad bridge had been targeted.
“The roof, grill and recorder installed at the TBS were partially damaged when some unknown miscreants threw a cracker at the station which caused the blast,” the company said in a statement. The gas pipeline was safe and supply to the area was not affected, it added.

Katchi Abadis on railway land: Slum dwellers must not be displaced: Zardari

By Our Staff Reporter

LAHORE, Feb 11: President Asif Ali Zardari has asked the railways authorities not to demolish Katchi Abadis on the railways land and to initiate the process of giving ownership rights to dwellers.
Talking to Evacuee Trust Property Board Chairman Asif Hashmi at Governor’s House here on Monday, the president expressed concern over the plight of people in slum areas.
“Not a single dweller should be displaced from his residence in Katchi Abadis and the railways authorities should initiate a process of giving them ownership rights,” Mr Hashmi quoted the president as saying.
He said the president had also ordered the launching of a free “Mohtarma Benazir Bus Service” from all stops of the shuttle train between Shahdara and Kot Lakhpat.
He announced that no fare should be charged for two months for the shuttle service.
The president also visited the Services Hospital and inquired after the health of Shaukat Basra, PPP deputy parliamentary leader in Punjab Assembly, who was injured when he was beaten up by police when he was with protesting doctors outside the hospital on Sunday.
The president said Mr Basra was a valuable asset of the PPP and he knew how to protect workers of his party.
MINISTER SWORN IN: Earlier in the day, President Zardari administered oath to Senator Abbas Khan Afridi as federal minister. The oath-taking ceremony, held at Governor’s House, was attended by Punjab Governor Ahmed Mehmood and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The president and Bilawal Bhutto also met the governor’s sons, Syed Mustafa, Murtaza Mehmood and Ali Mehmood who have recently joined the PPP. They discussed political matters relating to Rahimyar Khan and south Punjab.
The PPP chairman presided over a meeting of party workers from Faisalabad division at the Bilawal House in Bahria Town. He listened to their problems and asked them to prepare for the coming election.

Pope to quit on 28th; first pontiff to resign in 600 years

VATICAN CITY, Feb 11: Pope Benedict XVI announced on Monday he would resign due to old age, becoming the first pontiff in 600 years to step down because he could no longer fulfil his duties, in a move that stunned the world.
The German-born leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics said he would resign on Feb 28 after just eight years as pope, making his one of the shortest pontificates in modern history.
The 85-year-old pontiff made the announcement in a speech in Latin at a meeting with world cardinals at his residence in the Apostolic Palace, dressed in red vestments and with his voice barely audible as he read a written text.
“I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” he said.
As tributes poured in from across the world, the Vatican emphasised that the former Joseph Ratzinger was not resigning due to any illness, following speculation over his frail appearance at recent ceremonies.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he expected a conclave of cardinals to be held in March within 15 or 20 days of the resignation and a new pope elected before Easter Sunday on March 31.
“The pope caught us a bit by surprise,” Mr Lombardi said at a hastily-arranged press conference.
Pope Benedict’s brother Georg Ratzinger said he had known “for a few months” that he was planning to resign and was “feeling the burden of his age.” “It is a positive thing that he is handing over the office to younger hands,” he added.
Some faithful said they hoped the move would signal a major change for the Church after a conservative pontificate that has been marred by scandals, including most notably clerical child abuse.
Vatican observers have already begun speculating over who could succeed Pope Benedict, with online betters tipping an African pope as the most likely.
But some say the number of cardinals from Europe and North America who can vote for a new pope — 76 out of 118 — could sway the choice to a western state.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel led tributes from political and religious leaders across the globe, hailing the outgoing pope as “one of the most significant religious thinkers of our time”.
US President Barack Obama offered “our appreciation and prayers” on behalf of all Americans. Justin Welby, leader of the world’s Anglicans, said he understood “with a heavy heart” Benedict’s decision, and that he had held his office with “great dignity, insight and courage”.—AFP

Appointment of KP governor triggers controversy

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, Feb 11: The appointment of Shaukatullah Khan as governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has triggered a controversy because he is not ‘a registered voter and resident of the province’ as required under the Constitution. He took oath of office on Sunday.
Mr Khan who hails from Bajaur Agency was elected to the National Assembly from NA-43 in the 2008 elections.
Prior to the enactment of the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act in 2010, people from any other province could be appointed governor of a province.
But the 18th Amendment made it mandatory for the governor to be “a registered voter and resident of the province concerned”.
Article 101 (2) says: “A person shall not be appointed a Governor unless he is qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly and is not less than thirty-five years of age and is a registered voter and resident of the province concerned.”
When contacted, Presidency’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said there was no illegality in the appointment of the governor.
Official sources said the provincial government headed by the Awami National Party had not been taken into confidence before the appointment of the governor and it appeared that the decision was made in haste.
Constitutional expert Qazi Mohammad Anwer told Dawn that there could be no relaxation and the Constitution had to be followed in letter and spirit.
He said Mr Khan could claim that he was also a resident of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa because he owned a house there, but he would have to prove that he was a registered voter of the province and not of Bajaur Agency.

Muscat airport closed after PIA plane crash-lands

MUSCAT / KARACHI, Feb 11: A Pakistan International Airlines plane crash-landed on the runway of Oman’s main airport on Monday, forcing the cancellation of all flights from the facility.
Muscat International Airport’s flight safety director Ali Al Zuwaidi said the pilot had reported no injuries among passengers or the crew.
“The PIA aircraft crashed on the runway after its landing gear collapsed,” he told Reuters. “We had to close the airport until the investigation is completed,” he said.
Mr Zuwaidi said the Boeing 737 flight had arrived from Islamabad.
A PIA spokesman said the Islamabad-Sialkot-Muscat flight PK 259, carrying 105 passengers, had landed safely at Muscat airport.
The return flight was operated with a delay after PIA arranged an alternative aircraft. A team of PIA engineers had left for Muscat, the spokesman added.—Agencies

Rs200bn injected into power sector in 8 months

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: The government has injected Rs200 billion into the power sector in less than eight months of the current financial year with the budgetary target for the entire year being Rs120bn.
A senior government official told Dawn on Monday that Rs10bn was released by the ministry of finance to the power sector on Feb 4 and Rs5bn on Feb 8. The total injection into the power sector had stood at Rs185bn by the end of January.
Even after these disbursements, the Pakistan State Oil required about Rs50bn to honour international letters of credit this month and arrange fuel oil for the power sector, the official said.
This is in addition to about Rs350bn circular debt as of Aug 13 last year after adjustments for all payables and receivables among the supply chain of electricity, oil and gas companies.
This means that even if all payables and receivables were cleared, the net amount payable by the government stood at Rs350bn, according to finance ministry’s year book released on Monday.
“Due to unprecedented upsurge in prices of petroleum products in the international market and non-passing of full power tariff determined by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to consumers, power sector has been facing a severe liquidity problem and has lost the capacity to liquidate its huge outstanding dues owed to IPPs and oil and gas companies.”
Pepco has, therefore, resorted either to huge borrowing from banks or to rely on government support to meet its operational cash shortfalls, said the finance ministry.
Due to the inability of distribution companies of Wapda and the Karachi Electric Supply Company “to pay off their outstanding dues, all public sector entities are trapped in the circular debt, which is severely affecting their cash flows. Net power sector circular debt as of August 13, 2012, amounted to Rs349.577 billion”.
The ministry attributed the pile-up of huge circular debt stock to six major reasons. This included partial transfer of tariffs as determined by Nepra, heavy line losses that stood at about 20 per cent, incomplete corporatisation, weak governance, costly fuel mix putting extra financial burden to meet the cost of fuel oil due to constant increase in the oil prices and accumulation of huge receivables of distribution companies from the government sector as well as consumers.
The finance ministry said total receivables from the federal government departments stood at Rs5.3bn as of August last year, from provincial governments Rs84.5bn and private consumers Rs197.2bn.
The government has been providing subsidies to the power sector to bridge the gap of tariff determined by Nepra and that notified by the government. During 2011-12, the government had set a target of Rs147bn for power sector subsidies, but ended up paying Rs464bn even though a Rs55bn interest on term finance certificates envisaged in the budget was not paid as it was rolled over for another year.
The Rs55bn interest payment would have to be paid during the current financial year. The government had set a target of Rs50bn to equalise tariff for all distribution companies, but it paid Rs412bn.
Likewise, the government had set a target of providing Rs24bn subsidy to the KESC, but paid Rs45bn.
The finance ministry said a debt swap of Rs313bn relating to the power sector was carried out during 2011-12 for creating fiscal space in the sector. The amount included Rs142bn raised from banks in February last year to provide cash flow facility to distribution companies while the process was currently in progress to issue Rs14bn worth of fresh Sukuk bonds for reducing the circular debt. A sovereign guarantee for Rs82bn financing facility was also in process that would be utilised for slashing the circular debt.

US begins pulling out hardware through Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: The US has started using the land route through Pakistan to pull American military equipment out of Afghanistan as it draws down its troops in the country, US and Pakistani officials said on Monday.
The US moved 50 shipping containers into Pakistan over the weekend, said Marcus Spade, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan. The containers were the first convoys to cross into Pakistan as part of the Afghan pullout, he said.
Pakistan will be a key route for the US to withdraw tens of thousands of containers of equipment out of landlocked Afghanistan as it pulls most of its combat troops out by the end of 2014.
Pakistan closed the route for nearly seven months after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani troops at a post along the Afghan border in November 2011. Islamabad reopened the route in July 2012 after Washington apologised for the deaths.
During the closure of the Pakistan route, the US had to use a longer, more costly path that runs north out of Afghanistan through Central Asia and Russia. The US has also used that route to withdraw equipment.
It’s unclear what took the US so long to begin withdrawing equipment through the Pakistan route, which runs south out of Afghanistan to Karachi. Supplies have been flowing into Afghanistan since the route reopened in July 2012.
Twenty-five containers that originated from a base in Kandahar entered Pakistan through the Chaman border crossing on Saturday, said
Ata Mohammed, a shipping official.
Another 25 containers entered Pakistan on Sunday through the other major Afghan border crossing at Torkham in Khyber tribal area, said Mohammed Yousuf, a local political official.
The US still has about 66,000 troops in Afghanistan, down from a high of over 100,000. As it pulls out of the country, the US will have to move an estimated 50,000 vehicles, as well as about 100,000 metal containers — each about 20 feet long.
There are also about 40,000 troops from other Nato countries in Afghanistan that will have to withdraw supplies and equipment as well.
Another American military officer in Afghanistan, Lt-Col Les Carroll, told AFP the two convoys had been sent through Pakistan as a “test” as the military decides how best to withdraw the huge amount of US and Nato equipment in Afghanistan, more than 11 years after a US-led invasion brought down the Taliban.
“There are still 100,000 men and 200 bases. Some of the equipment will stay (in Afghanistan), some of it will be redeployed,” Col Carroll said.
“We have got to use any feasible way to do that. The northern route and of course air are other solutions.”
Pakistani-US relations have now largely recovered and the outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, Gen John Allen, and his successor, Gen Joseph Dunford, on Thursday held talks with Pakistani army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Although Pakistan is the most efficient and cheapest route, the blockade and Pakistan’s past demands for more money have made western officials wary of over reliance on Islamabad.A report in The New York Times last month said officials in Uzbekistan had offered to provide a land route for equipment leaving northern Afghanistan if vehicles and military supplies could be left behind for them.
A customs official in Jamrud said that Sunday’s containers came from Bagram, the largest US-run air base in Afghanistan, and were trucked into Pakistan under tight security provided by paramilitary troops.
Hanif Khan Marwat, the president of All Pakistan Goods Carriers Association, said the convoys were on their way to Karachi port.
“The containers are carrying military equipment.
This is the first time that such a big number of trucks are coming back to Karachi with Nato equipment,” he said.—Agencies

N-capable missile tested

By Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: Pakistan on Monday successfully carried out a test-fire of a short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, Hatf IX (Nasr).
According to a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the test-fire was carried out with the successive launches of two missiles from a state of the art multi-tube launcher.
It said Nasr, with a range of 60km and in-flight manoeuvre capability, can carry nuclear warheads of an appropriate yield with high accuracy.
Defence experts are of the opinion that Hatf IX (Nasr) has been developed to discourage and counter the application of ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ by India, which envisages maintaining a smart rapid development force that can be launched within hours and can have the capacity to penetrate deep inside Pakistan.
Reports suggest that under the ‘Cold Start Doctrine’, the area of operation by Indian forces could be Rahimyar Khan because the city is mostly isolated and it is situated at the border of Punjab and Sindh provinces.
Because it is difficult to maintain a large force everywhere along the border, the ‘Doctrine’ suggests that an Indian rapid force can penetrate deep inside Pakistan to cut the national highway off Sadiqabad, areas around which are sparsely populated.
The experts said for countering such advance by India, especially along such remote areas with vast plains, Pakistan’s strategic planners had decided to opt for ‘Tactical Nuclear Weapons’ (TNW), a concept already put into practice by other nuclear powers.
They said the launch of Nasr missile was a move in that direction because it was capable of carrying nuclear warheads for delivery over short ranges. The strategy is known as ‘shoot and scoot’. It referred to military tactic of firing at a target with accuracy and quickly relocating to another position to avoid counter-fire from enemy’s positions, they added.
“Since Nasr is a short missile, four missiles can be loaded on one launcher,” said missile expert Syed Mohammad Ali, adding that because of the missile’s small size the launcher could be moved from one place to another for further launches.
He said the TNW concept demanded miniaturisation of nuclear warheads. Pakistan had expertise for the advanced nuclear programme, he said, adding that “such small nuclear weapons have low yield and limited impact on the area, hitting only the military formations”.
The experts say even though miniaturisation is difficult, small nuclear heads are cheaper than strategic nuclear weapons. According to them, 400 TNWs can be prepared out of one device that Pakistan detonated in Chaghi in 1998.
During the Cold War, the two main short-range missile systems deployed were FROG -7 by the Soviet-led eastern bloc and Lance by the US-led Nato forces.
According to the experts, Hataf IX (Nasr) missile system is closer but an advanced version of the Lance missile because it has an in-flight manoeuvre capability with increased accuracy.
“Additionally, Nasr has specially been designed to defeat and dodge all known anti-tactical missile defence systems,” the ISPR’s statement said.
According to experts, this addition has been incorporated into the design as India possesses many categories of anti-missile systems.

SC notes interference in Ogra scam probe

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: The Supreme Court took notice on Monday of ‘interference’ by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, through the cabinet division, in investigation into the Rs82 billion scam of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) in which its former chairman Tauqir Sadiq was allegedly involved.
The court said the prime minister was one of the accused in the case for illegal appointment of Mr Sadiq and asked how he could order the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to apprise him about the investigation.
It observed that the government and NAB had not made serious efforts for deportation of Mr Sadiq, who was currently detained in Abu Dhabi.
The court shared the letter written by the cabinet division to NAB with the media.
“The prime minister has been pleased to desire that NAB may keep cabinet and establishment division(s) updated by submitting fortnightly progress reports about the developments of the case and further directions of the apex court till the closure of the case. Above in view, NAB is requested to furnish a fortnightly report on the subject to cabinet and establishment division(s),” it said.
According to NAB, principal accused Tauqir Sadiq, who had reportedly escaped to Abu Dhabi under mysterious circumstances, had been arrested by Abu Dhabi police on the intervention of Interpol on Jan 28 and a NAB team had rushed there to facilitate the arrest, but the government of the United Arab Emirates refused to hand him over because of legal constraints.
The bench, comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, said the prime minister’s desire conveyed to NAB prima facie amounted to interference in the independent working of the bureau.
“This is particularly so considering that the prime minister may himself be, prima facie, implicated in the unlawful appointment of Tauqir Sadiq as chairman of Ogra. We are also somewhat surprised that this letter has not been responded to as yet and nor has the cabinet secretariat been informed of the independent status of NAB as an investigating agency,” Justice Khawaja said.
“What is of serious concern to us is that the said letter appears to have been received one month ago by the NAB chairman whose initials appear on the letter, but thereafter, as stated by NAB’s Prosecutor General K.K. Agha, the letter was never marked or even shown to him and he was totally unaware of the existence of the said letter until it was referred to the court by the learned amicus curiae.”
The judge said: “NAB must act with alacrity and independently of the government, the cabinet division or the prime minister.”
The court asked the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), ministries of
Interior and foreign affairs and all other government authorities and their subordinate divisions and offices in the country and abroad to render full and prompt assistance to NAB in diligently pursuing the absconding accused (Mr Sadiq) and to bring him back to Pakistan.
The amicus curiae referred to a number of provisions in the Pakistani and UAE laws. The bench said it appeared that the absconder could be deported from the UAE if diligent efforts were made.
“At present, there is nothing on record to indicate that any request at an official level through the right official quarters has been made by the government of Pakistan to the government of the UAE, seeking the deportation of the absconder,” it said.
“We are concerned that presently there are documents on record which show that the expeditious route seeking deportation has not been pursued and instead the government authorities are contemplating extradition which could be a lengthy and time-consuming process. A legal opinion on UAE laws also has not been obtained from local counsel in UAE. We may emphasise at this point that, prima facie, the right law and the right approach with the right authorities may not have been pursued by NAB and other concerned Pakistani authorities,” the court observation said.
It was informed that Mr Sadiq was detained in Al Wathba prison in Abu Dhabi for 15 days, ending on Feb 14. The period is extendable by 30 days.

Pak-origin man named minister in Canada

By Latafat Ali Siddiqui

TORONTO, Feb 11: Yasir Naqvi became on Monday Canada’s first minister of Pakistani descent.
He was sown in as minister for labour in the Ontario cabinet of Kathleen Wynne who recently succeeded veteran politician Dalton McGuinty. Mr McGuinty resigned last year as Premier (chief minister) and head of Liberal Party in the province.
First elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in October 2007 from a diverse, urban riding of Ottawa, Mr Naqvi served as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Ministers of Community Safety and Revenue, until he was appointed the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education.
As an MPP (member provincial parliament), Mr Naqvi introduced four private member’s bills — the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, the Independent Board of Public Health Act, the Escaping Domestic Violence Act and the College and University Student Associations Act.
The Ottawa Citizen, one of the leading newspapers of Canada named him as one of its “People to Watch in 2010”. Ottawa Life magazine also included him in its Tenth Annual “Top 50 People in the Capital” list for 2010.
Mr Naqvi was born and brought up in Pakistan. He migrated to Canada with his family in 1988 at the age of 15. His father Anwar Abbas Naqvi decided to leave Pakistan after he was imprisoned for participating in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD).
Mr Naqvi’s elder brother Ali Naqvi, an immigration lawyer, is an active member of Canada’s left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP).

Balochistan teachers end strike

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, Feb 11: Teachers recruited under the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan Package called off their two-week hunger strike on Monday after district authorities assured them that their contractual jobs would be regularised.
Quetta Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Kakar visited the striking teachers’ camp outside the press club and informed them that their demand had been accepted.
According to official sources, Balochistan Governor Nawaz Zulfiqar Ali Magsi has approved the summary sent to him for the regularisation of teachers’ services.
The governor directed the Services and General Administration Department (S&GAD) to set up a committee to supervise the process of regularising the job of over 5,000 teachers, according to the summary.
The committee would be headed by an additional secretary of S&GAD and would comprise secretaries of finance, secondary education, and law. An officer of the deputy secretary level from the federal government would represent the Finance Division, Islamabad.
The secretary, secondary education, would submit district-wise details of teachers recruited in Grade 14 and 16 with credentials of their educational qualification within one week.
The committee after reviewing these details would begin the process of regularisation.
The provincial education department recruited over 5,000 teachers in July 2010 under the Balochistan package. The federal government was responsible for providing funds for their salaries for two years. After two years salaries were stopped with teachers fearing their services would be terminated.

Guru’s family gets letter of hanging

By Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI, Feb 11: Two days after he was hanged in a Delhi jail amid controversial haste and secrecy, Kashmiri fruit vendor Afzal Guru’s family received the official letter in Srinagar on Monday informing them of the sudden decision to execute him.
The secrecy with which he was killed denied Guru, convicted for plotting the botched 2001 attack on Indian parliament, a legitimate chance to seek a judicial review of President Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to not grant his prayer for mercy.
Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde more or less confirmed this on Monday. He said that Guru was executed ahead of other death row inmates, including Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins convicted way before him, as they had delayed their hangings by seeking a judicial review of the presidential decision against granting them mercy.
Guru was evidently denied the mandatory option to appeal against the president’s decision.
On Monday, Mr Shinde, however, said the government might consider the family’s request to visit Guru’s grave in Tihar jail.
The family of the executed man has written to authorities in Delhi’s Tihar jail, asking that they be allowed to exercise their right to visit his burial site. In a letter addressed to Tihar chief Vimla Mehra, lawyers for the family have said: “We do not wish to make this a political issue in an atmosphere which is already volatile. But family members, as citizens of India, have rights, which must be respected.”
On Monday evening, Mr Shinde told a press conference in Delhi, “If they (Guru’s family) want to go (to the grave), it can be considered.”
The family had earlier demanded the return of Guru’s body to them. In a letter written to the deputy commissioner, Baramulla, hours after Guru was hanged, the convict’s wife, son and brother had said: “Please convey our appeal and heartfelt request to the Tihar jail authorities to return the body... to carry out his last rites. ...Every human being has his birthright to go through his religion and faith for his disposal...”.
A copy of the letter was sent to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Mr Shinde said on Monday that the family had been informed of the decision to execute Guru “as per the rules”. In that case, the letter delivered on Monday could be the evidence of that rule.
On the veil of secrecy over the execution, Mr Shinde said: “Police investigations and intelligence operations cannot be done in the open. If that is done, the country will not run.”
Asked about the allegedly ‘selective’ execution and the alleged ‘political’ motives behind it, the minister said: “In the cases of (the assassins of) Rajiv Gandhi and (Punjab) Chief Minister (Beant) Singh, the cases are still pending in Supreme Court. After rejection (of the mercy petitions) cases were filed in the Madras High Court and Supreme Court. These cases are still under consideration before the judiciary. Hence it (Afzal’s case) is different from these cases.”
“...The files were sent to the states concerned. There they (the convicts) went for appeal,” Mr Shinde said. “Afzal’s execution was not a political decision but done according to rules.”

US commando describes how he killed Osama

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Feb 11: “There was (Osama) Bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly towards me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion,” says the man who killed the Al-Qaeda chief.
In this first ever interview to the media, the US Navy SEAL who killed Bin Laden shares the details of the operation with the Esquire magazine, telling interviewer Phil Bronstein how the raid had affected his life.
Fearing a possible terrorist reprisal, his wife left him and he has been unemployed since he retired from the Navy in September, 2012.
The woman Bin Laden was using as a shield, the Navy SEAL explained, was his youngest wife, Amal.
When the Team6, which killed the Al-Qaeda chief, arrived at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad on May 1, it was “coal-dark” and they could hear Bin Laden and other residents but could not see them without their night-scopes.
Bin Laden “looked confused” and was “way taller than I was expecting”, said the shooter. “He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit. I can’t tell you 100 per cent, but he was standing and moving. He was holding her in front of him. Maybe as a shield, I don’t know,” he said.
“For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That’s him, boom, done.”
Bin Laden was skinny, tall and had a short beard. He was wearing a white headgear, which showed his almost shaved head. “I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think,” said the shooter.
“I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about 10 inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward,” he added.
“I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].”
“In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my (electronic) red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.
“And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him.”
Explaining why he shot Bin Laden at first sight without making any effort to arrest him, the US Navy SEAL said: “Everybody wanted him dead, but nobody wanted to say, hey, you’re going to kill this guy. It was just sort of understood that’s what we wanted to do.”
The shooter also endorsed the Obama administration’s decision to turn down media requests for releasing photos of the shooting.
“His forehead was gruesome. It was split open in the shape of a V. I could see his brains spilling out over his face. The American public doesn’t want to know what that looks like,” he said.
After the shooting Bin Laden’s second wife, Amal, turned back, screaming, first at bin Laden and then at the shooter.
“She came at me like she wanted to fight me, or that she wanted to die instead of him. So I put her on the bed, bound with zip ties”.
The SEAL then noticed Bin Laden’s youngest son, who was about two or three, was standing there on the other side of the bed.
“I didn’t want to hurt him, because I’m not a savage. There was a lot of screaming, he was crying, just in shock. I didn’t like that he was scared.
He’s a kid, and had nothing to do with this. I picked him up and put him next to his mother. I put some water on his face”.
Before they killed Bin Laden, the team also had “zip-tied two other women they met in the compound.
The third-floor action and killing took maybe 15 seconds.

FC seizes weapons

QUETTA, Feb 11: The Frontier Corps on Monday seized 30 rocket launchers, 12 hand grenades and 2,000 SMG rounds from a vehicle coming from Afghanistan in Gulistan area of Qila Abdullah district, officials said. A man was killed and another injured in a clash.
FC sources said the arms were being smuggled to Quetta.—Staff Correspondent

Caretaker set-up: Nawaz asks govt to show urgency

By Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE, Feb 12: The Pakistan Muslim League-N has demanded immediate induction of an interim government (for overseeing general elections) and warned that any delay or stalemate on the issue may damage the democratic process.
“The caretaker set-up should be announced at once,” PML-N President Nawaz Sharif said while talking to newsmen here on Tuesday.
“The government should take serious steps for formation of the caretaker government without delay. (Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly) Chaudhry Nisar has been asked to hold consultations with the government on the matter,” he said.
“The entire political leadership should evolve a consensus on the issue because a deadlock may adversely affect the democratic process.”
Declining to give any name he said his party had decided on a name for the caretaker prime minister and was ready to accept the (PPP) government’s nominee provided the person was of good reputation.
Answering a question about Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition filed in the Supreme Court for reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Mr Sharif said Dr Qadri’s approach and intentions were not good.
“Pakistan cannot afford any ‘drama’,” he said, adding that “Qadri’s agenda is aimed at sabotaging the elections because his demands are unconstitutional.”
He said Dr Qadri did not respond to reservations expressed by the PML-N, but now he would have to answer the Supreme Court’s questions.
A large number of Pakistanis held dual nationality but they were not making such demands. He said that Pakistan should be given an opportunity to become a civilised country.
Mr Sharif said his party would attend the all-party conference being organised by the Awami National Party on combating terrorism.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Chaudhry Nisar and Raja Zafarul Haq will represent the party at the conference and the delegation will have one-point brief (how to counter terrorism).
On the recent hanging of Afzal Guru in New Delhi, the PML-N chief said India would have to act responsibly if it wanted to improve ties with Pakistan. Replying to a question, he said President Zardari had phoned him 10 days after the death of Abbas Sharif.

Pakistan, UK to strive for stable Afghanistan

LONDON, Feb 12: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said in a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron here on Tuesday that Pakistan desired a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and was working closely with the Afghan High Peace Council to ensure that steps taken in this regard were beneficial.
He stressed the need for strengthening the Afghan security forces during the transition period to enable them to take up the responsibilities of the future.
The British leader praised the recently concluded trilateral meeting on the issue and said Pakistan’s role was constructive and he would visit the country this summer to carry the process forward.
“Your friends are our friends, and your enemies are our enemies,” he said.
Expressing satisfaction over bilateral relations, both the leaders said they hoped to strengthen their cooperation during the transition in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Ashraf thanked the British premier for his country’s support on the issue of Pakistan securing the ‘GSP plus’ status from the EU countries.
He praised the assistance being extended by the United Kingdom for the development of health and education sectors in Pakistan.
The prime minister apprised Mr Cameron of the investment opportunities in Pakistan and the economic reforms and policies initiated by his government to facilitate investors.
About ties between Pakistan and India, the British prime minister said there was “need to open market to harvest economic bonuses”.
Prime Minister Ashraf said Britain had proved to be a friend of democratic Pakistan. —APP

Another gruelling day for Dr Qadri in SC

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The issue of locus standi (right to appear) raised by the Supreme Court on Monday at the beginning of hearing on a petition filed by Dr Tahirul Qadri is an obstacle which appeared to be insurmountable on Tuesday.
On the second day of hearing, Dr Qadri apparently failed to establish that he had the right to knock at the doors of the Supreme Court and seek reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He will try his luck again on Wednesday since the court did not appear to be convinced by the justification he presented in his concise statement on Tuesday.
“Dr Sahib our anxiety is that you are not an ordinary individual but a jurist, a scholar, rather Sheikhul Islam, and deliver lectures in over 90 countries to bring people to the folds of Islam, but you are showing allegiance not only to Queen Elizabeth but also her successors,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who heads a three-judge bench which had taken up the petition of Dr Qadri.
“This petition of yours asks us to think over these issues,” the chief justice said and repeatedly asked how Dr Qadri could attack a constitutional institution by approaching another institution when in a third country he was not a Pakistani.
“Your allegiance is divided and you are more concerned about your loyalty to Canada,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed. He said he wondered how the Supreme Court could hear a person who might come from another land to seek an order on sensitive strategic issues like Kahuta or ask for certain kind of relationship with a particular country or seek an order on monetary policies, etc.
Any person holding a dual nationality could come to Pakistan anytime to meet his relatives and spend time, but how he could be allowed to indulge in political or other activities which might affect the entire country, Justice Gulzar asked. “Perhaps this may not be permissible.”
Dr Qadri could only disagree with the court’s observations and say that the Constitution did not disallow him to retain dual nationality and that he could not think of violating any provision of the Constitution.
He cited verses from Suratun Nisa and said authority always vested in the people and not in the rulers or parliamentarians.
But he was told by the court that he had only come to Pakistan in December last year and filed the petition at a time when 180 million people, senators, lawmakers and intending candidates had not objected to the formation of the ECP, especially when the general election was round the corner.
“We do not want to open a Pandora’s Box,” the chief justice observed. He said nobody could dare raise such issues in India or any other country.
“We are moving towards the path of strengthening democracy,” the chief justice observed. He categorically stated that overseas Pakistanis were respected and nobody could snatch their right to vote in elections.
Dr Qadri said he had to rely on Canadian passport to visit different countries for lectures even in institutions like Harvard or George Washington University. After the Gulf war, he said, the situation had changed and it had become difficult for him to seek visa on Pakistani passport whereas no visa was required on Canadian passport.
But Justice Gulzar observed that there might be a conflict between the oath of allegiance to Canada and Article 5 of the Constitution which asked for loyalty to the state and obedience to the Constitution and law. “Being a Canadian citizen there may be certain obligations on you that cannot come under the definition of loyalty to Pakistan,” he said.
A born Pakistani even if in the North Pole remained a Pakistani, the chief justice said and cited the example of Asma Jehangir who preferred to remain in the country despite threats to her life.
Dr Qadri cited cases of Shehla Raza, Malik Asad Ali, NRO, etc, to establish that the point of locus standi had been interpreted liberally in the cases. He also recalled that in the memo scandal case the Supreme Court had converted an application of Shafqatullah Sohail into a petition. But the court said Sohail’s petition was still pending and notices had also been issued to the attorney general and the ECP on Dr Qadri’s petition.
When the court cited the July 31, 2009, judgment, Attorney General Irfan Qadir reminded it that prestigious bar councils and associations had adopted a resolution against the judgment.
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jehangir, who was present in the Courtroom-1 to witness the proceedings, spoke to reporters outside the court and opposed the idea of raising the question of locus standi on the basis of dual nationality of Dr Qadri.
“There should no be discrimination with the holders of dual nationality as the court should not divide people in A, B or C category on the basis of their loyalties,” she said, adding that if the apex court was too much sensitive on the issue of loyalty of dual nationals why it had spent so much time on Mansoor Ijaz in the memo scandal case when he was not even a Pakistani.
But Ms Jehangir admitted that the court had the right to raise questions to ascertain the bona fide and real intention of the petitioner though it had been remaining quiet in this regard for three years.

Police see TTP hand in Karachi explosion

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 12: Police said on Tuesday they suspected involvement of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in Monday night’s blast in an area of the Defence Housing Authority.
The explosion along Korangi Road, near the KPT flyover, left a policeman injured.
South Karachi DIG Shahid Hayat said an improvised explosive device had been planted at a sub-station of the Sui Southern Gas Company.
“There is no doubt about the involvement of Taliban in the bombing,” CID SP Fayyaz Khan said. The bombing was apparently aimed at disrupting gas supply to a significant part of the city, he said.
The TTP has not yet claimed responsibility for the bomb attack.

PML-Q, MQM, PTI among 103 parties yet to qualify for polls

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) are among 103 political parties which still do not qualify to contest the coming elections as they have neither held party polls nor have they disclosed details of their accounts.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) issued on Tuesday the list of the parties which had “not submitted the details of due intra-party elections”, as required under the Political Parties Order (PPO) of 2002, warning that the parties failing to submit certificates of internal elections would not be entitled to obtain election symbols.
The list of the 103 parties — out of the 216 registered with the ECP — which have so far failed to hold party elections also includes the Balochistan National Party-A (BNP-A) and National Party (NP). The BNP-A had held last party election in 2006 and the NP in May 2004.
The PML-Q, which is registered as PML, held its polls in July 2009 and an election has been due since July last year.
The last elections in the PTI and PAT were held in 2002 and 2006, according to the ECP record.
The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai has also failed to hold election within the party since June 2007.
The list also contains the names of the now dysfunctional Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and National Alliance.
Other prominent parties in the list are PPP (Shaheed Bhutto) led by Ghinwa Bhutto, Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP), Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith (Sajid Mir), Jamiat Ulema Islam-N, Pakistan Seraiki Party, Hazara Democratic Party and Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party.
The ECP also released a list of 91 parties which had not submitted the “details of due statements of accounts”, which is also mandatory for applying for symbols to contest elections.
The MQM — the fourth largest group in parliament — is also required to submit details of its accounts to the ECP to become eligible to contest the polls. The party has been submitting the accounts details for the past 10 years, but its statement for year 2010 is still pending, according to the ECP.
The PML-Z, led by Ijazul Haq, has also not submitted the statement of accounts.
Besides them, the Millat Party (which has now been merged into the PML-Q), Sindh National Front, MMA, BNP-A, Sindh Democratic Alliance and Jamiat Mashaikh Pakistan are among the parties and alliances which have neither held election of their office-bearers nor submitted details of their accounts.
It was after the issuance of a similar warning by the ECP in December that the PPP, registered as PPP-Parliamentarians, fulfilled the requirement of party election by announcing on Jan 26 that all its office-bearers had returned unopposed.
The fresh ECP list does not contain the name of the PPP, thus implying that the party had submitted the certificate of the intra-party election, though held only on paper.
Meanwhile, PTI chief Imran Khan expressed his concern over the ECP’s act of accepting “dummy elections” held by some parties, saying that no elections had been held by those parties and mere nominations had been made.
“There was no election and all nominations were made behind closed doors by a handful of people. These were not elections, but selection and nominations. Such elections are actually a part of the rotten political culture which has taken Pakistan to the verge of collapse,” he said. “The whole world laughs when politicians who don’t hold party elections talk about democracy.”
Mr Khan, whose party is in the process of completing its elections, said: “Those not holding elections and making nominations in their parties actually are like monarchs who believe in dictatorship and autocracy. They are worse than dictators.”
The ECP has advised the parties to submit the statements of accounts as well as certificates regarding elections so as to become entitled to get election symbols for the general election.

Finance secretary transferred

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: The government appointed on Tuesday finance secretary Abdul Wajid Rana as member of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC).
The government designated Abdul Khaliq as additional secretary in charge of the finance ministry to look after the functions of principal accounting officer. “A full-time finance secretary is expected to be appointed by the caretaker government,” a senior officer told Dawn.
After his retirement as finance secretary and being designated as “principal officer” against the post of finance secretary, Mr Rana was re-employed in November last year on a one-year contract to sidestep a Supreme Court judgment that barred extension to grade-22 officers after retirement.—Staff Reporter

TTP asked to declare ceasefire before talks

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has asked the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan to declare a ceasefire if they are serious in holding peace talks with the government.
Mr Malik was talking to reporters during a visit to the Directorate General of Passport and Immigration on Tuesday.
Casting doubts over sincerity of the TTP in holding peace talks, the interior minister raised objection over its appointment of Adnan Rashid as a peace negotiator.
He said Adnan Rashid was an absconder and proclaimed offender and that he did not qualify to hold peace talks.
He said Taliban factions should form a team instead of giving the name of an individual for holding peace talks.
The minister, however, said he would welcome negotiations with Taliban before the general elections.
Mr Malik claimed that Ihsanullah Ihsan was not a representative of Taliban, saying that it would soon be revealed that he was working on someone else’s agenda.
Meanwhile, some private TV channels ran reports on Tuesday that the government had called a meeting of Defence Committee of the Cabinet on Feb 19 to discuss security issues, including TTP’s offer for peace talks.
There was, however, no confirmation about the DCC meeting and the interior minister too, while talking to Dawn, expressed his ignorance about any such move.
During his visit to the DGPI, the minister was informed that the directorate general had earned Rs48.6 billion by issuing 12.3 million passports during past five years.
Mr Malik said no one would be allowed to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan without legal documents.
He directed DGPI officials to form a committee to work out a policy for issuing student visas.

PPP, PML-N still poles apart on caretakers

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: With all political parties gearing up for elections, the ruling PPP and the opposition PML-N are still poles apart over the selection of a caretaker prime minister.
Similarly, while PPP leaders continue to proclaim that the government will hold elections on time, the PML-N leadership day in and day out is talking about conspiracies to postpone polls.
Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition seeking reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is a case in point.
If chief spokesperson for the PPP Qamar Zaman Kaira is to be believed, selection of caretaker prime minister will be made on time and the country will go to the polls as prescribed under the Constitution. But the PML-N continues to express its scepticism about the government’s intentions.
“Who says we are late. The National Assembly will complete its term on March 16 and the selection of caretaker prime minister can be finalised any day before it,” Mr Kaira told Dawn.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had done initial consultation with the coalition partners over the caretaker set-up and was going to consult the leader of the opposition at an appropriate time, he said.
Asked why the PPP wanted to delay the selection of the caretaker setup till last days of the assembly, Mr Kaira said: “It’s just a matter of a few days. Nobody should worry about delay in elections.”
Mr Kaira, who is also information minister, said the Constitution was clear on the roadmap of the caretaker set-up and date of next elections.
“If the assembly dies its natural death on March 16, the ECP will have 60 days to hold polls. In case of its dissolution before that, the commission will have 90 days.”
On the other hand, the PML-N leadership has repeatedly expressed apprehensions, though without any substantiation, that the PPP is not serious about elections. Therefore, it is delaying announcement of a date for the general elections.
Talking to Dawn, the leader of opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said the PML-N had floated a couple of names (of former judges) for the post of caretaker prime minister.
He said the PML-N leadership on several occasions had called upon the government to announce a date for elections, but it was showing unnecessary reluctance for no reason.
Although some anti-democracy elements were not in favour of timely elections, he said, nobody could snatch the right of people to elect their representatives.
A PML-N leader said it was high time for both parties to amicably resolve the issue of the caretaker set-up and smoothly move towards elections.
“If the two parties fail to reach an agreement over caretaker prime minister and let the chief election commissioner do the job, it will be a setback for the democratic transition,” he said.
While the PPP and the PML-N are yet to start consultation over the caretaker set-up, some believe the petition filed by Dr Qadri could delay elections.
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir and Akram Sheikh, a Supreme Court lawyer, at a TV talk show on Tuesday said the timing of the filing of the petition was crucial and it might affect elections.
Mr Sheikh, a pro-PML-N lawyer, even accused the PPP of supporting Dr Qadri in his efforts to get elections delayed.
An early announcement of elections will put conspiracy theorists predicting delay in elections to the rest.
The Constitution, after the 20th amendment, has spelled out the criteria for selection of the caretaker set-up.
Article 224 (A) says if the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the National Assembly do not agree on the selection of caretaker prime minister within three days of the dissolution of the assembly, each of them will forward two names to a committee.
The panel will be immediately constituted by the speaker of the assembly and comprise eight members of the NA or the Senate or both, to be nominated by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. It will have equal representation from the treasury and the opposition
The committee will select the caretaker prime minister within three days. If it fails to do so, the names will be referred to the ECP for a final decision in two days.

Consensus on caretaker govt soon: Zardari

LAHORE, Feb 12: President Asif Ali Zardari says consensus will be achieved on the caretaker government and date for elections.
In an interview to BBC Urdu‚ he said the interim government would comprise non-controversial people and no-one would be able to question their sincerity.
He said polls would be held on time and the caretaker government would have complete authority as envisaged in the Constitution to hold free and transparent polls.
About his son’s political career‚ the president said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would take some time to assume the responsibility of running the PPP because he was still young.
On the war against terror, he said Pakistan being a frontline state had suffered losses of human lives and economic complications.
He said the conflict in Afghanistan continuing for over 40 years had created a number of social and economic problems for Pakistan. —Online

Al Qaeda suspect battles extradition to US

THE HAGUE, Feb 12: Dutch-Pakistani Al Qaeda suspect Sabir Khan launched a last-ditch bid on Tuesday to halt his extradition to the United States where he is accused of planning acts of terror, including a suicide attack on a US base in Afghanistan.
Netherlands Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten in December gave his final approval for the extradition of Khan, 26, but his lawyers argued that the US was complicit in his torture in Pakistan, where he was first arrested in 2010.
Khan’s extradition would “give the impression that the Netherlands tolerates the violation of human rights”, lawyer Andre Seebregts told a District Court judge in The Hague, where an urgent interdict has been filed.
Mr Seebregts argued that Khan, arrested in a dawn raid in Quetta on September 23, 2010, had been tortured while in a Pakistani jail with the full knowledge of US intelligence agencies.
His extradition to face five terror-related charges in a New York court would breach the European Convention on Human Rights, preventing torture, as well as Dutch law, which prohibits the handing over of a suspect to a country suspected of involvement in torture, Mr Seebregts argued.—AFP

Iran’s N-programme is for peaceful purpose: Larijani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: Iranian Speaker Dr Ali Larijani has said that Americans and Israelis would think twice before carrying out an attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
In reply to a question at a press conference on Tuesday‚ Dr Larijani said that Iranian nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes, adding that his country had no aggressive designs against any country of the region.
Asked whether there was any connection between Iran and North Korea on the nuclear issue‚ he said Iran had access to nuclear knowhow and technology and didn’t need any cooperation from countries like North Korea.
About threats of American or Israeli attacks on his country’s nuclear installations‚ Dr Larijani said no sane element could think of such a dangerous proposition.
He said the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was a strategic project and that the people of Pakistan had the will to go ahead with it as it was in their own interest.
The speaker said Iran had opened a credit line to help Pakistan build its part of the pipeline as the Iranian part was already complete.
He said Iran was rich in oil and gas resources and wanted the Ummah to benefit from it so that it could develop and progress. Dr Larijani said that Iran was already providing gas to Turkey and it would be a privilege if Pakistan benefited as well.
He said Sunnis and Shias were brothers and would remain so for ever. “Enemies are sowing seeds of discord among Muslims despite the fact that we all believe in one God‚ one Prophet (PBUH) and one Book.
It is high time for Muslims to unite.”
In reply to a question, he said there should be no military interference in Syria. —Online

US SEAL team was to surrender if surrounded by Pak troops

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Feb 12: The American commandos who killed Osama bin Laden were prepared to surrender if surrounded by Pakistani troops, says the man who killed the Al Qaeda leader.
The Obama administration also saw this as a real possibility and was ready to send Vice President Joe Biden to negotiate their release, the shooter adds.
In an interview to the Esquire magazine, the shooter says he feels betrayed by the US government as he has “no pension, no health care and protection”. The interview will be published in the magazine’s March issue.
The shooter, whose name was not disclosed, was a member of the US Navy SEAL Team 6, which raided Bin Laden’s compound on May 1, 2011, and killed the world’s most wanted man. He retired in September, is unemployed since then and continues to worry how he is going to provide for his family.
While planning their raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, the Team 6 also discussed what would happen if they were surrounded by Pakistani troops.
“We would surrender. The original plan was to have Vice President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan’s president,” says the shooter.
“This is hearsay, but I understand President Obama said, ‘Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military?’ ”
The commandos were also told that “we’d be scrambling jets on the border” to back up the raiding party.
“That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am … voting for this guy (President Obama). I had a picture of him lying in bed at night,” says the shooter.
The `shooter’, as he is referred to in the interview as well, retired after 16 years, four short of the required service length for qualifying for a pension. He is also having trouble finding work because he cannot list his true credentials.
The Esquire interview goes into detail about the night the `shooter’ killed Bin Laden, as well as his life before and after military service.
Since Abbottabad, the shooter and his family have feared a retaliatory attack by terrorists.
He has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first sign of a problem as the safest, most fortified place in their house. His wife also knows how to use a shotgun and keeps a knife on the dresser should she need a backup. The family also keeps bags of clothes, food, and other provisions for two weeks in hiding.
“Personally, I feel more threatened by a potential retaliatory terror attack on our community than I did eight years ago,” when her husband joined Team 6, says his wife.
When the White House identified SEAL Team 6 as those responsible, camera crews swarmed into their Virginia Beach neighbourhood, taking shots of the SEALs’ homes.
After Bin Laden’s face appeared on their TV in the days after the killing, the shooter cautioned his older child not to mention the al Qaeda leader’s name ever again to anybody.
The wife could not take the pressure so they officially separated, although she still lives in the same house as she cannot afford to rent or buy another.
The Esquire points out that this is “a common occurrence in SEAL Team 6”.
“We’re actually looking into changing my name, changing the kids’ names, taking my husband’s name off the house, paying off our cars. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other,” the wife tells the magazine.
When the family asked about any kind of government protection should the shooter’s name come out, they were advised that they could go into a witness-protection-like programme.
The SEAL command told the shooter `they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee” under an assumed identity. Like Mafia snitches, they would not be able to contact their families or friends. “We’d lose everything.”
The shooter recalls that when the Team 6 arrived in Afghanistan, they were asked to write letters to their families which would be delivered to them only if they were killed.
“The tears are hitting the page, because we all knew that none of us were coming back alive. It was either death or a Pakistani prison, where we’d be raped for the rest of our lives,” says the shooter while describing how he felt.

Guru’s family snubs offer to visit jail grave

NEW DELHI, Feb 12: The family of Afzal Guru rejected an offer by Indian authorities to pray at his graveside inside a prison, insisting the body be buried in occupied Kashmir. Home Secretary R.K. Singh made the offer and said the belongings of Mr Guru would be handed over to his family members.
“We have no problem if the immediate family of Afzal Guru wants to come and offer prayers at his grave in Tihar jail.
“Belongings of Afzal will be returned to the family,” Singh told reporters in Delhi.
However a relative of Guru said the family had no intention of visiting his grave, insisting that the body be brought back to Kashmir.
“As Muslims we can pray for Afzal from here,” Yasin Guru said from the family’s hometown of Sopore. “We will go to Tihar only if the government of India is kind enough to hand us his body for burial here.”
The announcement comes amid criticism of the government for failing to inform the family about the execution before he went to the gallows.
Mr Guru was convicted of helping a group of militants plot a 2001 attack on the Indian parliament which left 10 people dead. He always maintained his innocence and many of his supporters accused police of framing evidence against him in the case.—AFP

TMQ chief maligns CJ but escapes contempt charge: SC throws out Qadri’s petition

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: It was a day of severe setback for Dr Tahirul Qadri. The Supreme Court showed him the door by throwing out his petition seeking reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan.
However, he narrowly escaped the charges of contempt for his unnecessary and controversial demeanour inside the Courtroom-1 on Wednesday.
But before leaving the court premises empty-handed amid slogans raised by his supporters, Dr Qadri cast aspersions on Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry inside the court.
“Is this not your picture taking oath from (former president Pervez) Musharraf,” asked Dr Qadri showing a June 30, 2005, picture of the chief justice and the former president. “You (CJ) are still sitting in the court under the PCO (Provisional Constitution Order) oath,” alleged a visibly agitated Dr Qadri.
“If you want to address the press, go and do it outside (the courtroom),” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed said, adding that this was not permitted inside the court.
Taking oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth was better than taking oath under the dictatorship of Gen Musharraf, Dr Qadri shouted in his typical style and accused the court of asking political questions about his credentials for the third consecutive day.
“Verdict has already been given through observations,” he regretted and said he would not proceed further without a ruling on the question whether a dual national had the right to approach the court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution or was he a third grade citizen of this country.
“We may consider proceeding against you for undermining the Supreme Court,” the chief justice said, adding that Dr Qadri was taking liberty and making mockery of the court.
“There is no bar on a dual national from coming to the court; rather such kind of questions asked by the
bench is mockery of the court,” Dr Qadri retorted.
In its short order, the court said Dr Qadri had hurled uncalled for aspersions on a member of the bench which was prima facie tantamount to undermining its authority and calling for action against him for contempt under Article 204(3) of the Constitution read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.
But the court decided to exercise restraint by not proceeding against him following the principle that such jurisdiction should be exercised sparingly on a case-to-case basis.
Soon after the announcement of the judgment, a dejected Dr Qadri vented his frustration before the media and said through the verdict the apex court had questioned the loyalty of over three million overseas Pakistanis whose remittances were the basis of essential government expenditures.
During the proceedings, Dr Qadri repeatedly complained about what he called his media trial over the past several days.
PETITION DISMISSED: “Dr Qadri has failed to make out a case for exercising the discretionary jurisdiction by this court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution,” the order said, adding that he had neither listed in the petition nor established during the hearing violations of any fundamental right.
“The petitioner has also failed to prove his bona fide to invoke the jurisdiction of this court as under peculiar circumstances he has no locus standi to claim relief as has prayed for in the petition. For being a holder of dual citizenship, he is not qualified (disqualified) to contest the election to parliament in view of the bar under Article 63(1c) of the Constitution, interpreted by this court in the 2012 dual national case.
“However, it is loudly and clearly observed that as a voter like other overseas Pakistanis whose names have been incorporated in electoral rolls, he (Dr Qadri) can exercise his right to vote as this right is recognised under the Constitution and has also been held by this court in the 1994 Yasmin Khan case. Thus, the petition is dismissed,” the order said.
LOCUS STANDI: During the proceedings, Attorney General Irfan Qadir supported Dr Qadri on the question of locus standi, but expressed his reservations over the cases cited by the petitioner in his defence like the July 31, 2009, judgment under which 108 superior court judges were sacked.
“I do not subscribe to the cases since the bar councils and associations have passed resolution against the judgment. Besides, in my opinion both the July 31, 2009, and dual nationality verdicts were unconstitutional,” he said.
But he said the court had the right to ask why the petitioner had come after so much delay and whether he had come with clean hands.
Talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, rights activist and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jehangir said the court could question the bona fide of a petitioner and ask to distinguish which fundamental right of the petitioner had been breached.
Such petitions should be dismissed in two hours and not in three days, she said, adding that Wednesday’s case was different from previous ones where credentials of the petitioners had never been asked like in the case of memo scandal.
Ms Jehangir suggested that busy bodies should be discouraged from filing petitions and said showing the photograph of Gen Musharraf was not appropriate. “We never did this despite the fact that we always get a hostile judiciary,” she said.
Former deputy attorney general Raja Mohammad Irshad suggested that the Supreme Court should examine on its own the questions raised by Dr Qadri since these were serious questions to shut the doors on others, especially when the general election was round the corner.

CEC welcomes verdict

ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict on Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition, a TV channel reported.
Mr Ebrahim said the Election Commission of Pakistan was formed according to the Constitution and the SC decision rejecting Dr Qadri’s petition was expected. Both the court and the ECP want elections on time, he said.—APP

Stage set for thorough vetting of candidates

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: The Federal Board of Revenue and State Bank of Pakistan have assured the Election Commission of Pakistan to help identify tax evaders, loan and utility bill defaulters and beneficiaries of written off loans, setting the stage for meaningful scrutiny of declarations of assets to be submitted by candidates contesting the coming general election.
Analysts are of the opinion that the mechanism being evolved for this first exercise in the country’s electoral history will seek to filter out people who use the cover of their dependants to avoid disqualification.
This time the exercise meant to determine financial integrity of candidates will be expanded to cover all their dependants with the help of National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) which maintains the record of all CNIC holders and their family tree.
In a meeting of the commission, senior FBR officials said it would be possible to verify within 10 days the statements of assets and liabilities filed by candidates along with their nomination papers.
They also said they could quickly verify national tax numbers (NTNs) provided by candidates and share with the ECP particulars of the candidates enlisted on tax rolls but who did not file tax returns.
A senior representative of SBP also agreed to share information relating to borrowings and payments made or otherwise which were available with the electronic credit investigation bureau (ECIB) of the bank.
It was decided that FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem, SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar and Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik would be asked to attend the next meeting to be held on Feb 19 to finalise the mechanism to be used for verification of nomination papers to effectively implement the qualification and disqualification clauses (Articles 62 and 63) of the Constitution.
A senior ECP official told Dawn that the eligibility of candidates had been clearly defined in the law and a returning officer was the person who would ascertain which candidates were eligible to contest elections. He said that returning officers normally relied on declarations submitted by candidates and objections raised by opponents or electors.
He said lack of sufficient time to investigate and collect information from other departments had remained a major hurdle in the way of carrying out a detailed scrutiny, but added that there were now clear indications that the time for scrutiny would be doubled before the elections through an amendment to the Representation of People’s Act, 1976.
He said under section 12 (2) (c), each candidates was required to file a declaration that no loan for an amount of two million rupees or more, obtained from any bank, financial institution, cooperative society or corporate body in his own name or in the name of his spouse or any of his dependants, or any business concern mainly owned by him or his dependants stood unpaid for more than one year from the due date, or the candidate had got such loan written off. Under section 12 (2) (d), he said, the candidate was also required to file a declaration that he, his spouse or any of his dependants or a business concerns owned by him or his dependants were not in default in payment of government dues or utility charges, including telephone, electricity, gas and water charges of an amount in excess of Rs10,000 for over six months, at the time of filing of nomination papers.
The law explains that “loan” shall mean any loan, advance, credit or finance obtained or written off on or after Dec 31, 1985. “Taxes” include all taxes levied by the federal government, provincial governments or a local government and government dues and utility charges include rent, charges of rest houses and lodges owned by the federal, provincial or local governments or corporations established or controlled by such governments. In all three categories, the amount recovery of which has been stayed or suspended by any order of the court or tribunal have been excluded from the scope.
The ECP official said Nadra had been asked to help in identifying all candidates who were liable to be disqualified due to the default of their dependants, making use of its unique database including the family tree of all CNIC holders.

Three killed

QUETTA, Feb 13: A man was shot dead here and two brothers killed by kidnappers in Pasni on Wednesday.
Men on a motorbike shot dead Ghulam Sarwar in Gulabad area. Allah Bakhsh and his brother Khuda Bakhsh were kidnapped and killed in Pasni.—Staff Correspondent

Budget calendar to be followed

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: The government is confident of completing the financial and political transition to the next elected government on schedule — between May 15 and June 30 — following initial feedback from Punjab suggesting holding of elections for national and provincial assemblies on the same day.
A senior cabinet member told Dawn that the finance ministry had been asked to go ahead with its pre-determined calendar so that the federal budget could be announced in the first week of June, as the political transition was expected to be completed before May 31.
He said that even though formal contacts with the Pakistan Muslim League-N for the general election were yet to be made, informal feedback from the Punjab government suggested that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was in no mood to recommend dissolution of the provincial assembly before the National Assembly.
The chief minister indicated that the constitutional tenure of the National Assembly would end on March 16, after which there should be no problem in dissolution of all provincial assemblies even though the Punjab Assembly would have a few more days to complete its term.
As a matter of principle, the provincial assemblies could be dissolved soon after the National Assembly, he is reported to have informed the federal government through informal channels.
“This has happened in the past. The precedent is there,” the federal minister said, adding that despite different constitutional terms, the national and provincial assemblies were dissolved and elections held on the same date in the past.
This is in line with the political consideration of the federal government to complete its constitutional term on March 16 and hold the general election for the assemblies on the same date — by May 16.
The finance ministry expects to complete the budget exercise in the last week of May so that it could immediately adjust with major economic priorities of the new government.

Multi-party conference in Peshawar today: Major parties to discuss TTP’s talks offer

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: Almost all mainstream political parties and representatives of bar associations will meet here on Thursday at a multi-party conference organised by the Awami National Party to devise a joint strategy to deal with the menace of terrorism.
The deliberations are likely to be dominated by the offer of talks made recently by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
According to the ANP, the conference will be held in camera because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
“Of course, the peace talks offer made by the Taliban will be discussed at the conference,” said ANP’s parliamentary leader in the Senate Haji Mohammad Adeel.
Talking to Dawn, he said the main objective of the conference was to devise a national policy that could bring about peace in the country. He said the ANP would go into the conference with an open mind and expected the country’s political leadership to come up with some consensus decisions and strategy to deal with terrorism that had severely affected national economy and caused huge losses to human lives.
He said the ANP did not want to impose its policies or viewpoints on others, but it was ready for dialogue and also for a military operation, if needed, for the sake of peace.
Mr Adeel said all major parties, including the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, JUI-F and the MQM, had accepted the invitation to attend the conference. He regretted that the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf had declined to participate in the event for some reasons.
According to him, while the JI refused to attend the conference, the PTI leadership even declined to meet the ANP delegation which wanted a meeting to extend the invitation.
He said they had requested the JI to review its decision.
Replying to a question, the ANP leader said he could not confirm the names of the participants, but expected Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Raja Zafarul Haq, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao to attend the important event.
The conference is considered significant because it is being held only two weeks after TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had expressed willingness to hold conditional talks with the government.
The TTP spokesman had declared that if PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and JI Amir Syed Munawwar Hasan acted as guarantors for the talks, they would be willing to hold negotiations in the best interest of the country.
PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, it may be mentioned, has urged the government to accept the Taliban offer and take result-oriented steps.

KP governor rubbishes objections

By Ismail Khan

PESHAWAR, Feb 13: Facing a legal battle over his eligibility just three days after he took oath as governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shaukatullah Khan vowed on Wednesday to defend his appointment.
Mr Khan, who quit as federal minister and also his seat in the lower house of parliament to become the governor, was immediately caught in a controversy when it was pointed out that under the 18th Amendment a person could become the constitutional head of a province only if he was a registered voter and resident of that province.
While the former parliamentarian from Bajaur is known to have a residence, both ancestral and personal, in Peshawar, questions were raised if he was a registered voter in the province.
“I am not a kid. I must have read the Constitution before taking oath of office. I must have done my homework,” Mr Khan told Dawn. “All that is being said about my eligibility is not correct.”
On Wednesday, uncorroborated reports were doing the rounds that Mr Khan got himself registered as a voter in Hayatabad to fend off a looming legal battle, hours before a constitutional writ petition was filed in Peshawar High Court challenging his appointment as governor.
“This is not true,” the governor said. He said ECP rules allowed a citizen to enrol and register himself as a voter any time.
Legal experts said ECP’s electoral roll was based on Nadra database and CNICs and that while dual votes had been eliminated, corrections could be made if a person was shown to have his vote registered at some other place.
Asked if it was correct that he had got himself registered as a voter in Peshawar’s posh residential locality on Wednesday, he said this could be done anytime. “There is no bar,” he stressed, but hastened to add that “everything will come out in the open”.
When reminded that any lateral registration would not have retrospective effect, the governor said he would prove his detractors wrong by unveiling all facts.
He said he had been sounded on his proposed appointment as governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Jan 30 in the last cabinet meeting. “So there was ample time for me to read the Constitution and know all issues pertaining to the office.”
The governor said the constitutional amendment made in Article 101 had not taken into account the peculiar congruity of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.
Under the Constitution, he said, Fata was the prime responsibility of the governor of the province and, therefore, it was unfair to the people of the tribal agencies if they were made ineligible to become the region’s constitutional figurehead.
“I would like this issue to be settled,” he said, adding that the muck had been spread by some “jealous friends”.
He insisted that he was politically independent and he and his family had no political leanings. “Time will prove that we shall remain independent.”
The governor insisted that it was his performance as federal minister for two years which must have won him the coveted post and that his predecessor had been removed due to his poor health.
But sources said the replacement of a veteran PPP leader, Barrister Masood Kausar, had been in the works for six months. Among the reasons being cited for the replacement of the octogenarian PPP leader were his being “too friendly” with the ANP, the ruling party in the province, to the discomfort of increasingly assertive PPP leaders there, and his handling of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the proverbial last straw being that of a protest demonstration by Bara residents outside Governor’s House.
There is little surprise that the president who enjoyed cordial relations with ANP leaders did not bother to consult them while belligerent statements were made by PPP’s provincial chief Anwar Saifullah Khan.
Several names, the sources said, had been under consideration, including those of former governor Lt Gen Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah and former ISI chief Lt Gen Ehsanul Haq.
But that President Zardari chose Shaukatullah took many by surprise, including some Fata parliamentarians.

Consensus on caretakers soon, Raja assures Altaf

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 13: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has told Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain that the government will resolve the issue of caretaker set-up after consultations with the opposition and allied parties.
According to a statement released in London by the MQM on Wednesday, the prime minister called Mr Hussain and discussed with him the issue of formation of the caretaker government and law and order and overall political situation in the
The prime minister, who is on an official visit to the United Kingdom, said he would soon write a letter to the leader of opposition in the National Assembly about the caretaker set-up. Parties in the ruling coalition will also be consulted.
Prime Minister Ashraf expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved with consensus.
Mr Hussain said everyone wanted fair and transparent elections, adding that the Election Commission should act in a fair and impartial manner so that no-one could raise a finger at it.
The Muttahida chief also raised the issue of terrorism in Karachi and other cities and urged the prime minister to take effective steps to deal with the problem.
He said the strength of police force was inadequate in view of the increasing population and should be increased on an emergency basis.

ATC gets 3 months to complete BB case trial

RAWALPINDI, Feb 13: The Lahore High Court directed an anti-terrorism court on Wednesday to complete the Benazir Bhutto murder case trial in three months.
The Rawalpindi bench of LHC comprising Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Ali Baqir Najafi asked the ATC to conduct day-to-day proceedings and submit a report of its verdict to the LHC registrar office in three months.
The court issued the order on a petition filed by the FIA on Jan 5. The FIA had earlier filed three petitions for daily trial and the LHC had directed the ATC for expeditious disposal of the case.
FIA special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said that under Subsection 7 of Section 19 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, the ATC was bound to decide a case within a month.
He pointed out that the ATC had decided a case about the killing of a civilian by a Rangers official in Karachi in a month and the Salman Taseer assassination case was decided in six months, but the Benazir murder case had been pending for adjudication since December 2007.
He also produced a letter of LHC Administrative Judge Manzoor Ahmed Malik in which all ATCs in Punjab had been directed to dispose of all terrorism cases in accordance with Subsection 7 of Section 19 of the ATA.
The ATCs were also asked not to allow more than two consecutive adjournments during the trial of the case.
The FIA prosecutor pointed out that the LHC had at least three times ordered the ATC to decide the BB murder case expeditiously, but the trial court always dismissed the prosecution plea for day-to-day trial because of workload and engagements of defence lawyers.—Malik Asad

Sindh for compulsory, free education

Dawn Report

KARACHI, Feb 13: Sindh took the lead among provinces in making education free and compulsory in compliance with Article 25A of the 1973 Constitution when on Wednesday the provincial assembly unanimously adopted a bill entitled “Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education”.
The Article 25A reads: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
Senior Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq, who tabled the bill in the assembly, termed the day historic and said the law would help achieve 100 per cent literacy rate by 2015, a target set under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Under the bill, any parent who fails to send a child to school may be imprisoned for three months or can be fined up to Rs5,000. The law makes it mandatory for private schools to admit 10pc underprivileged students on merit to provide them free education.

Main parties hail SC decision on Qadri’s petition

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: Most of the mainstream political parties have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the petition of Dr Tahirul Qadri that sought reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The opposition PML-N, which had been opposing Dr Qadri’s demand for dissolution of the ECP and a raft of electoral reforms, described the court’s decision as a major development in the country’s judicial history.
PML-N’s spokesman Senator Mushahidullah Khan said the apex court ruling had not only vindicated his party’s stance that the Canadian citizenship (Dr Qadri) had no right to play with constitutional institutions, but also barred all dual nationals from doing politics in the country.
“According to my party, Dr Qadri is a non-entity. God knows on whose behest he was busy conspiring to delay the general election in the country. Now the Supreme Court’s decision has cleared the way for elections which is a good omen for the country,” Senator Khan said.
Answering a question, he said the PML-N believed that the ruling PPP had supported the cleric at some point; otherwise he would not have gone so far.
He said that only a few weeks ago Dr Qadri was all praise for the Supreme Court when it ordered the arrest of all accused in the RPP case, including the prime minister, and now when the court rejected his petition he criticised it in the worst possible terms.
The Pakistani Tehrik-i-Insaaf, which had endorsed the Islamabad declaration signed between Dr Qadri and the coalition government and supported his demand for dissolution of the ECP, has also accepted the SC decision.
Talking to Dawn, PTI spokesman Shafqat Mehmood said his party was not satisfied with the performance of the ECP but never demanded its ‘unconstitutional’ dissolution.
When reminded of a statement made by party chief Imran Khan in Chakwal that members of the ECP could be replaced prior to elections, Mr Mehmood clarified that the statement was linked to the Supreme Court’s approval of Dr Qadri’s plea.
“Now the court has given its ruling and the PTI wholeheartedly accepts it,” he said.
The PML-Q, whose chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had headed the government team for negotiations with Dr Qadri which led to the ending of his long march in Islamabad last month, said it was the first party which had demanded reconstitution of the ECP.
The PML-Q has been criticising members of the commission for their alleged soft stand towards the PML-N.
Commenting on the SC ruling, PML-Q information secretary Senator Kamil Ali Agha said his party had nothing to do with Dr Qadri’s petition. Referring to a meeting with Dr Qadri held on Jan 27, he said the government team had categorically told the cleric that its hands were tied as far as changes in the ECP were concerned.
“Dr Qadri moved the court in his personal capacity and it has nothing to do with his agreement with the government,” Mr Agha said.
In reply to a question, he said the party leadership was in contact with President Asif Ali Zardari on the issue of implementation of the Islamabad declaration.
The government had accepted Dr Qadri’s demand to dissolve the National Assembly before March 16, allowing the ECP to conduct elections within 90 days. Under the agreement, the government was bound to seek his input while recommending two names for the caretaker prime minister.
Political observers believe that after the SC ruling Dr Qadri has lost the moral high ground he had gained as a result of the Islamabad declaration.
A senior PPP leader, who was part of the government’s negotiating team, said the ruling party had never accepted Dr Qadri’s demand for dissolution of the ECP.
But he said the SC verdict would be taken in bad taste as the Constitution did allow Pakistanis to hold dual nationality who, except for contesting elections and becoming parliamentarians, were eligible to all basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
According to him, the ruling will open another Pandora’s Box with serious repercussions for millions of Pakistanis who are living in other countries and are in possession of dual citizenship.

Kamran Faisal’s death: Experts find no trace of poison, injury

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 13: Punjab’s forensic experts issued their report on Wednesday on the Jan 18 death of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) investigator Kamran Faisal.
According to the report, there were no signs of torture on the body and he had not taken any poison before hanging himself from the ceiling fan of his room in Federal Lodges.
“We have sent the forensic report to the medical board formed for this case and the final medical report will be submitted before the Supreme Court soon,” Islamabad police chief Bani Amin told Dawn.
He said the board would first examine the report and then prepare one of its own.
The Supreme Court took suo motu notice on Jan 23 of the death of Mr Faisal, who was investigating the Rs22 billion Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case in which Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is also an accused. His death came days after the court ordered the arrest of the prime minister and 15 others in connection with the scam.
It has been learnt that the forensics team found similarities between the DNA test of the body and the rope used for hanging.
A preliminary medical report issued on Jan 28 had said that there was no injury mark on the body and apparently the official had committed suicide.
Members of Mr Faisal’s family rejected the report and stuck to their stance that he had not committed suicide, but had been murdered.
A four-member team of forensic experts from Punjab visited the room of Mr Faisal on Feb 6 and examined different articles used by him to ascertain the cause of his death and gather related information.
The team, headed by Ghulam Abbas, had taken snaps of internal and external views of the room.
Zafar Iqbal, the NAB spokesman, said the forensic report had not been shared with the bureau because it had been prepared on the directives of the investigating agency (police) and would be submitted to it.
“NAB believes that whoever is mandated to investigate Kamran’s case should be given a fair chance without casting any doubt for an independent and impartial inquiry,” he said.

Ex-envoy Munter assails US ‘callousness’ on Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Feb 13: The former US ambassador to Pakistan on Wednesday criticised Washington’s “callousness” over the killing of Pakistani troops as he called for both countries to rethink how they see each other.
Cameron Munter served as ambassador during some of the most difficult times of the turbulent US-Pakistan relationship, including the slaying of Osama bin Laden and a US border raid that killed 24 Pakistani troops in November 2011.
Mr Munter, who resigned last year, said the United States had shown a lack of generosity over the deaths of the Pakistani troops.
Pakistan shut down Nato supply routes to Afghanistan until the United States apologised seven months later.
“The fact that we were unable to say that we were sorry until July cost our country literally billions of dollars,” Mr Munter said, pointing to the costly shift to sending supplies for the Afghan war via Central Asia.
“But worse than that, it showed a kind of callousness that makes it so difficult simply to begin to talk about those things, that I’ve always tried to stress, that we have in common,” he said at the Atlantic Council, a think tank.
Mr Munter steadfastly denied conspiracy theories and said the deaths near the Afghan border were a case of mistaken identity. He said that US-led forces “obliterated” the soldiers by firing from an AC-130, a powerful gunship.
“If you don’t have that in common — that you’re sorry when there is nothing left of the bodies of 24 of your boys — then it’s very hard for many people, especially those who want a relationship with us... to defend us
to their peers,” Mr Munter said.
The Salala border post attack took place as Mitt Romney and other Republicans seeking the White House were attacking President Barack Obama for allegedly being too apologetic about the United States.
Mr Munter called for the United States to change its way of thinking but was also critical of Pakistan. He urged the two countries to get past “the tyranny of negative narratives”.
He said that Pakistanis, who in opinion polls voice widespread dislike for the United States, were wrong to take for granted that Washington simply wanted to use the country for its own interests and then discard it.
“It’s a bigotry, it’s a lazy way of thinking, and as long as Pakistanis do it, they’re going to cripple the relationship,” he said.—AFP

US war in Afghanistan will be over by end of 2014: Obama Direct attacks on militant hideouts to continue

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Feb 13: In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama declared that the US war in Afghanistan would be over by late 2014 but vowed to continue direct strikes on militant hideouts.
“We will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans,” he said.
The US media interpreted this as an indication that the US drone programme, which has been used in Pakistan and elsewhere to track and kill suspected terrorists, would continue.
Last week, Pakistan urged the United States to discontinue the drone strikes, although Pakistani officials admitted privately that their demand cannot be accepted.The United States and other developed nations see the unmanned aircraft as the future weapon and are devoting new resources to develop more effective and better equipped drones.
Mr Obama, however, promised to work with Congress to ensure the legality of such measures so that “our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world”.
The US media last week leaked a White House memo which provides legal justification for using drones, even against US citizens. Lawmakers strongly criticised the memo and urged the administration to consult Congress on the issue.
In his first State of the Union address after re-election, Mr Obama also announced plans to halve the US military presence in Afghanistan by the end of this year, from 66,000 to 34,000.
“This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead,” Mr Obama said.
“Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.”
The president, however, pledged that the US would remain committed to Afghanistan after 2014, but the nature of its commitment would change.
The United States, he said, was negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focused on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces and counter-terrorism efforts.
The agreement will ensure that Afghanistan does not again slip into chaos and the US is allowed to pursue the remnants of Al Qaeda and their affiliates.
Mr Obama said that Al Qaeda was now only a “shadow of its former self” after years of operations against the militant group in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Moving from Afghanistan to Iran, the US president urged Tehran to pursue a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis as the international community could not allow it to have atomic weapons.
Mr Obama also condemned North Korea’s third nuclear test on Tuesday and pledged to “lead the world in taking firm action” in response.
The president offered help to countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia to counter religious extremism.
Much of the speech, however, focused on the economy and job creation, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and a proposal to spur growth of manufacturing jobs.
Immigration reform
Mr Obama called upon lawmakers to send him comprehensive immigration reform legislation and initiatives to reduce gun violence.
“Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship,” Mr Obama said, as he sought to rally support for immigration reforms. “Let’s get this done,” he added.
Mr Obama informed lawmakers that parents of some of the children killed in recent gun attacks at American schools were also present in the room and urged them to support gun control measures.
Mr Obama closed his speech with a nod to a 102-year-old woman who waited in line for hours to vote and reminded lawmakers they also needed to support voting reforms.
Mr Obama used his speech to push past the fiscal battles that plagued his first term – and still threaten his second – and laid out an agenda he hoped would shape his legacy.

Gulzar cuts short visit, returns home

Dawn Report

LAHORE / KARACHI, Feb 13: Poetry lovers and film buffs were saddened to know on Wednesday afternoon that legendary Indian poet and filmmaker Gulzar had returned home from Lahore without going to Karachi where he was supposed to take part in the Karachi Literature Festival.
According to sources close to him, Gulzar visited his place of birth, Deena near Jhelum, after 70 years. He went to the school where he had gone as a child. Then he visited his ancestral house and was so overwhelmed by emotions that he broke into tears.
He requested his friends -- film director and music composer Vishal Bhardwaj and his vocalist wife Rekha Bhardwaj (who had accompanied him to Pakistan) -- to take him back to Lahore. In Lahore he decided to return to India through the Wagah border.
However, an unconfirmed report says Gulzar was asked by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to return. The Indian mission has rejected the speculation as false and fabricated.
Gulzar spent a busy day in Lahore on Wednesday. He attended a luncheon hosted by popular poet and playwright Amjad Islam Amjad and supervised audio recording of a qawali for Bollywood film Dedh Ishqiya. He also visited the grave of his mentor Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi in Pakki Thathi graveyard in Samanabad.
Some men, believed to be from the Indian embassy, reportedly asked him to leave a hotel on The Mall immediately. The men ensured that the poet reached Amritsar through Wagah en route to Mumbai, it is said.
One of the hosts of Gulzar in Lahore told Dawn that there was no change in his schedule for Wednesday till last evening. “Things changed overnight. I have come to know through media that he has left.”
The host gave two reasons for the sudden return of Gulzar. Either he had received security threats in the wake of Kashmiri activist Afzal Guru’s hanging in Delhi’s Tihar jail or some unforeseen development forced him to return home.
However, the “threat” factor was ruled out by the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad and Vishal Bhardwaj.
Bhardwaj said in a statement on NDTV website that their trip to Pakistan was not cut short for political reasons.
“After Gulzar visited his birth place, he was emotionally overwhelmed and felt uncomfortable after reaching his hotel in Lahore. So we decided to go back to India…. We plan to visit Pakistan again for recording (the qawali) as soon as Gulzar Sahab feels better,” the statement says
The Indian High Commission said in another statement that Gulzar’s trip was a private one and they were not aware of his itinerary. “No one from the mission gave him any advice about his return.”
Gulzar was supposed to deliver the keynote address at the fourth Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). His exclusion from the event has caused disappointment to those who had wished to see him in person.
Talking to Dawn, Managing Director of the Oxford University Press and founder of the KLF, Ameena Saiyid, said: “I’m disappointed and saddened. It’s a great loss for his readers and admirers in Pakistan. I don’t know what caused his early return. I received the news when he had already crossed the border. It’s strange because he had come by air and went back on foot.”

Eight of a family die in Kuchlak road crash

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, Feb 13: Eight members of a family were killed and another was injured late on Wednesday in a car-truck collision near Kuchlak town, some 25km from here, police sources said.
Abdul Salam, a resident of Quetta’s Satellite Town, rented a car to travel to Chaman along with his family to attend a wedding ceremony in the border town.
“The family was on its way when their car collided with a speeding truck head-on in Killi Sheikh Khan area near Kuchlak,” a police official said.
Four members of the family were killed on the spot and five others were injured.
“Four of the injured died while being taken to hospital in Quetta,” police said.
Three men, two women and three children were among the dead.
They were identified as Gul Jan, Parizat, Zeba Gul, Abdul Salam, Ghulam Sarwar, Wali Jan, Fawad and Arshad.
The truck driver fled the scene after the accident.
The Kuchlak police started an investigation into the accident after registering a case.

EU slams Guru’s hanging

By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Feb 13: The European Union has expressed regret over the hanging of the Indian parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and asked India to put a moratorium on executions, a statement said on Wednesday.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was with `regret’ that she learned of the execution of Afzal Guru last Saturday.
While recognising that `terrible murders’ were committed in the attack and aware of the sufferings of the victims and their families, the EU “reiterates its principled opposition to the death penalty under all circumstances”, Baroness Ashton said in a press statement.
Guru had been on a death row during the last 10 years since his conviction in December 2002 for playing a central role in the attack on the parliament on Dec 13, 2001 that left nine people dead.
His execution at the Tihar Jail in New Delhi last Saturday comes less than three months after Ajmal Kasab, the only survivor among the perpetrators of the terror strike in Mumbai in 2008, was hanged in November.
Baroness Ashton said the EU calls upon India to re-establish a moratorium on executions, in line with the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment.
She also offered India EU’s support in the fight against terrorism and said the 27-nation bloc looked forward to continuing to work together in this area.

Violence entire country’s problem, say APC participants: Accord on dialogue for peace

By Bakhtawar Mian

ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: Two weeks after the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) made a conditional offer for talks, the country’s major political parties went into a huddle and later announced that they had all agreed to pursue peace through dialogue.
The participants of the day-long conference organised by the Awami National Party (ANP) on Thursday, claimed to have reached a consensus on the need for dialogue with the militants, but failed to come out with any plan to achieve the lofty aim.
“Attaining peace through dialogue should be the first priority,” said the joint declaration of the APC read out by ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan at the end of the closed-door conference that was attended by representatives of 24 political and religious parties and bar associations.
“The conference recognises that militancy and violence is … the entire country’s problem. The survival and progress of our country depends upon finding relevant solutions to the problem,” the joint declaration said.
Terming the conference a big achievement, the ANP chief said it was just the beginning of a process for peace, adding that all the participating parties were united on the single point that talks should be given priority.
“This was ANP’s initiative. We would welcome any other party that comes forward with another such conference the next time to end terrorism,” Mr Khan said.
To a question about the non-implementation of the two parliamentary resolutions on the terrorism issue, the ANP leader said the APC was more important because it included parties and politicians which were not part of the present parliament.
In response to another question, Mr Khan denied a perception that his party had convened the APC out of fear or because of threats.
The participants through the declaration demanded that the central and provincial governments announce aid packages for the relatives of the victims of terrorism.
Almost all the major parties had sent their delegations to the all-important event and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party was represented by its Secretary General Jahangir Badr and federal minister Nazar Mohammad Gondal.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Raja Zafarul Haq and Iqbal Zafar Jhagra represented the main opposition PML-N, whereas Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain, the President and the General Secretary of the PML-Q, were also there.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Dr Farooq Sattar, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai, JUI-F general secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Akram Khan Durrani and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Asma Jahangir were other prominent participants.

Strong words but little action
Background conversations with a number of participants revealed that the conference was held in a spirit of harmony. However, the enthusiasm did not — and nor was it expected to — reveal any concrete measures.
One politician told Dawn that the issue was discussed freely to the extent that most participants agreed that the political leadership did not play a leading and effective role in security matters. It was stressed that the politicians should take ownership of the issue.
Most of them agreed that they were not told and did not know enough about the issue.
In fact, the participant pointed out that the politicians even discussed acquiring more information about the ‘proxy wars’ being fought in different parts of the country and who or which groups were involved in them.
However, there was little in terms of concrete measures that could address these shortcomings and help the politicians take ownership.
After having discussed these longstanding problems, the participants reverted to clichés and hackneyed measures such as stressing “the need for dialogue”; “insisting that all dialogue will be held within the ambit of law and constitution”; “that there will be no dialogue before the Taliban lay down arms”; and “that any challenges to the writ of the state will not be accepted”.
In addition, all political parties stuck to their party lines and made sure that the official stand was highlighted during the day-long discussions.
Hence, Dawn has learnt PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who pointed out that the conference was held a bit late in the date [as the government was about to end] also urged the participants not to issue any joint declaration as they would not be able to come out with any concrete policy or decisions.
Chaudhry Nisar, who left the conference before its conclusion, told reporters present outside the main venue that everyone wanted peace and favoured dialogue with Taliban, but the issue was that who would hold talks as the present government had lost its credibility.
Farooq Sattar of the MQM used the opportunity to underline the need for local government because it can provide the local intelligence and “vigilance nizam” needed to get rid of militants.
The representatives from Sindhi nationalist parties such as Awami Tehrik’s Rasool Bakhsh Palejo argued that the focus of the conference should not be merely on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, since terrorism existed in Karachi and other parts of Sindh as well while the JUI-F pressed to include the representatives of tribal jirgas in the ensuing talks.
Apart from the poor timing of the conference, it seems the participants were also aware that a solely political initiative could not succeed.
Sahibzada Fazal Karim of the Sunni Ittehad Council told Dawn after the conference that such initiatives could not work till the military leadership was on board. “After all, they are the one who have to fight.”

Additional information provided by Amir Wasim and Khawar Ghumman

21 killed in suicide attacks, blasts

Dawn Report

KOHAT/BANNU/KALAYA/KARAK, Feb 14: Twenty-one people, including security personnel and militants, were killed and several others injured in suicide attacks on police posts in southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and roadside explosions in Orakzai Agency on Thursday.
Eleven people, including three FC personnel, two policemen and one Levies man, were killed as a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a security post in the volatile Hangu district.
Five suicide bombers and a non-combatant were killed in a pre-dawn attack on a police station in Bannu while a police post was partially damaged when police repulsed a militant attack in Karak district.
Four tribesmen were killed in roadside blasts in the Hassanzai Dara area of Orakzai tribal agency.
Sami Paracha reported from Kohat that at least 11 people, including security men, were killed and over 23 injured in a suicide bomb attack on a security checkpost in Spin Thall of Hangu district.
The death toll may rise because more than a dozen people were feared to have been under the wreckage of the checkpost.
Officials said that the victims included two policemen, four civilians and one Levies man. The explosion demolished the security post.
Officials feared that there were dozens of men still buried under the rubble. Darkness and difficult terrain hindered rescue efforts. They said the affected security post was a major checkpoint and a heavy contingent of security personnel was always present there.
A spokesman for the army told Dawn from Thall on telephone that a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden Toyota pick-up into the security post at Kurram Pul, killing 11 people. The post is jointly manned by police, Levies and FC personnel.
The army cordoned off the area and suspended traffic on the Hangu-Parachinar highway. Traffic from Kohat to Hangu was also suspended at Juzara and nobody was being allowed to go to Thall, especially journalists.
Abdul Salam reported from Bannu that five suicide bombers and a non-combatant were killed while two policemen were injured in a pre-dawn attack on a police station in Bannu.
Nisar Ahmed Tanoli, DIG Bannu-Lakki region, told newsmen that five attackers who had strapped explosives to their bodies hit Miryan police station in the Noorarh area, 16km southwest of Bannu bazaar. The attackers also fired rockets and hurled hand-grenades.
An official said the suicide bombers wanted to take control of the police station, but security personnel repulsed the attack and killed all the five attackers.
Eyewitnesses said security personnel who were carrying out a search operation in the nearby Akhundkhel area also rushed to Miryan police station. They cordoned off the area and started a search operation.
Eyewitnesses said the bullet-riddled body of a civilian Amir Khan, son of Hazrat Omar, was recovered from the place. They said the deceased was a student and part-time rickshaw driver.
A security personnel identified as Naek Amjad received injuries during the shootout and was taken to CMH Bannu. The police recovered four Kalashnikovs, chargers and several rounds of cartridges from the scene.
Meanwhile, the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack on Miryan police station. The TTP spokesman told newsmen from an undisclosed location that the attack was in reaction to the killing of seven fighters in North Waziristan.
Syed Hassan Mahmood reported from Orakzai Agency that four passengers were killed and 20 others wounded as bombs hit two vans in the Hassanzai Dara area of lower Orakzai Agency.
Sources said the vans were carrying passengers from the Akakhel area of Khyber Agency to Peshawar via Hassanzai, lower Orakzai Agency, because roads were closed at Bara due to clashes among various militant groups and local tribes.
The first blast took place at 8:45am, followed by another at 11:13am.
The injured were taken to tehsil headquarters hospital in Kalaya, but 15 of them were referred to a hospital in Kohat because of their critical condition.
Sources said people of Malakdin Khel and Zakhakhel tribes travelling in the vans were the targets in the attack.
The Orakzai Levies personnel retrieved the bodies and the injured.
Nasir Iqbal Khattak reported from Karak that militants attacked the Kundi Frontier Reserve Police checkpost in Tehsil Banda Daud Shah late on Wednesday night. No loss of life was reported.
Police said that a group of about 10 militants infiltrated from neighbouring Hangu district and stormed the checkpost. Police at Banda Daud Shah, Terri and Gurguri police stations repulsed the attack.
The building of the police station was partially damaged.
Police said militants left behind a rocket projectile grenade-7 and 10 kg of explosives.
The militants escaped in the darkness of night.
Later the bomb disposal unit defused the RPG-7 and explosives.

Consultations soon on caretaker PM: Raja

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Thursday that he would soon consult the leader of opposition in the National Assembly for the selection of the caretaker prime minister.
During a meeting with Law Minister Farooq H. Naek who called on him at Prime Minister’s House, he said the appointment of the caretaker prime minister would be made in accordance with the Constitution.
According to a handout, the prime minister said his government was fully committed to “holding free
and fair election” since democracy was the only way forward.
Mr Naek and the prime minister discussed various issues, including appointment of the caretaker prime minister, the coming general election and the Supreme Court’s decision on Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition.
Despite opposition parties’ repeated demands for an immediate announcement of the dates when the caretaker set-up will take over and
election is held, the prime minister did not give any timeframe.
He said: “Democracy cannot flourish without free and fair elections. It is our responsibility and commitment to ensure that elections are held transparently and the people of Pakistan choose their representatives in a free environment.”
According to the opposition, the National Assembly will die its natural death on March 16, just 29 days from now, after which the Constitution will take its due course, so the statement by the prime minister without any dates is meaningless.
But the government argues that since the Constitution is quite lucid on the roadmap towards installing caretaker set-ups at the federal and provincial levels, the opposition’s criticism is unfounded.
Talking to Dawn, a senior minister said the coalition partners had not discussed any name so far for the caretaker prime minister.
“We need to settle these issues among ourselves before announcing the dates.”
Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had said earlier that there was no need for formal consultation with the prime minister regarding the caretaker set-up and he would recommend a couple of names as required under the Constitution for the job, leaving it to the government to pick one.
Otherwise, the issue would be referred to the Election Commission in accordance with Article 224(A), he said.

Army commanders discuss Afghan peace efforts

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The army top brass met on Thursday at the General Headquarters with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in the chair and reviewed the Afghan situation with specific reference to the ongoing peace process.
The meeting, attended by all corps commanders and principal staff officers, also discussed matters relating to internal security.
Though it was a routine meeting, it took place at a time when the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has made a conditional offer for talks with the government. It coincided with an all-party conference held here to discuss the offer.
The ongoing voter verification exercise in Karachi with the army’s help also came under discussion.
A senior military official told Dawn that the verification exercise had been undertaken by the Election Commission of Pakistan and the army’s role was confined to providing security to the verification staff. He said the exercise was to be completed in a few days after a fresh extension in the timeline.
The official said that additional security had been provided by the army in high-profile areas and a proper security cover was being provided to the ECP staff. According to an official press release, professional matters were discussed at the meeting.

Karachi Literature Festival begins today

By Peerzada Salman

KARACHI, Feb 14: Despite an unexpected pull-out of distinguished Indian poet and filmmaker Gulzar, the three-day fourth Karachi Literature Festival beginning at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Friday promises a lot for the country’s book lovers and art buffs.
Like the previous three editions of the festival, this year too intellectually stimulating sessions with a galaxy of internationally renowned writers, authors and performing artistes are in store.
Ever since its inception in 2010, the Karachi Literature Festival has assumed a significant position in the cultural space of the country. If on the one hand it has successfully managed to dispel the notion that Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular cannot host international events, on the other it has provided book loving Pakistanis to see, hear, meet and interact with writers of high merit.
The change of venue this year is a welcome sign. It is a bigger venue and is accessible to all kinds of book lovers, including those who travel by public transport.
The event features many sessions and book launches, along with theatrical presentations and a children’s literature festival.
The highlight of the first day will be the keynote address by novelist Nadeem Aslam.
Discussions on contemporary English literature with respect to reality and kitsch; Ghalib’s relevance to today’s world; and cricket and cricket writing will follow. This will happen alongside some important book launches.
Sindhi poet the late Hasan Dars’s book will be launched as will be Nadeem Aslam’s new novel A Blind Man’s Garden.
An interesting session titled Mantoiyat: Dastangoi is slated for the latter part of the day.
The second day will witness a discussion on the fall and rise of Pakistani cinema and on the world of theatre. A session on Karachi writings will happen simultaneously. The launch of a book by Mohammed Hanif titled The Baloch Who is not Missing and Others Who Are will take place in the first half of the day.
The second half will feature a conversation with writer Mohsin Hamid and a session on social satire hosted by Nadeem Farooq Paracha.
A discussion on Afghanistan, a mushaira and a conversation with Farrukh Dhondy are also likely to generate interest.
The final day will commence with discussions on dynastic politics, secularism in Pakistan, dramatic reading from Intizar Husain’s play Pani Ke Qaidi followed by a conversation with Najam Sethi, a press conference by George Galloway, a session on the dynamics of Karachi and an exchange of ideas on Urdu ghazal and dastaan between Zehra Nigah and Intizar Husain.
The highlight of the second half of the day will be a press conference by Palestinian writer Izzeldin Abuelaish followed by a session on folk music. George Galloway will deliver the closing speech on Sunday evening.

SC wants polling arrangements for overseas Pakistanis

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: A day after rejecting Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition on the basis of his dual nationality, the Supreme Court handed out on Thursday a set of proposals for ensuring voting rights to overseas Pakistanis in the coming general election.
The court noted that the task appeared to be arduous, but it suggested an immediate meeting between the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Ministries of Interior and Overseas Pakistanis to devise a mechanism for the purpose and wanted the outcome to be submitted by Feb 22.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry gave the suggestions during the hearing of a petition filed by PTI chief Imran Khan seeking voting rights for Pakistanis living abroad.
One of the suggestions was to convert the Pakistani missions abroad into polling stations to facilitate the expatriates to cast their votes.
The court was informed that a complete voters’ list along with ballot papers of 272 constituencies across the country would have to be dispatched to each Pakistani mission and guarded jealously for secrecy.
The ECP will also consider early enrolment of all voters living abroad who will submit their sealed ballot papers to the missions on the election day. The court asked the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the Ministries of Overseas Pakistanis and Interior to extend all possible assistance to the ECP. It ordered the speeding up of the process of issuing National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) to those who did not have the card.
The court noted that no legislation was required to extend the facility of voting rights to overseas Pakistanis but, if needed, the task should be completed with the assistance of Attorney General Irfan Qadir preferably before the elections.
An appropriate number of ballot papers are needed to be sent to the missions in advance after ascertaining the exact number of voters in a given area. The ECP will dispatch ballot papers to the returning officers concerned to be nominated or appointed. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior will assist the ECP in this regard.
During another hearing, the Supreme Court was informed by Nadra that the authority had issued 4.4 million identity cards to overseas Pakistanis (3.7m men and 612,830 women) in 20 countries -- over 1.5m in Saudi Arabia, 1.3m in the UAE, 829,080 in the UK, 197,540 in the US, 19,465 in Germany and 150,020 in Canada. The figure does not include people who have gone abroad from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The attorney general informed the court that a draft bill for granting voting rights to overseas Pakistanis was ready and would soon be tabled in the National Assembly. He said the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis had been engaged in devising voting procedures.
The court asked the ECP to submit a report on the registration of votes of overseas Pakistanis holding national identity cards.
The chief justice said most of the expatriates had no idea whether their votes had been registered.

5 Pakistanis stranded in India may return in two weeks

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 14: The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi is working to make sure that five Pakistani crew members of a Panama-flagged ship, which was detained at an Indian port for safety reasons, return home as soon as possible, officials said.
The ship was detained at India’s Visakhapatnam port over five months ago, they said.
A senior official said a formal contact between the Directorate Ports and Shipping and Indian authorities was established after the federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Babar Khan Ghori, took notice of media reports about the incident.
The official said the situation was not ‘alarming’ and the Pakistanis were expected to return home by the end of current month.
“The ship which had five Pakistani and 19 Bangladeshi crew members was detained by Indian authorities when during inspection it failed to meet the required level of safety,” said Director General, Ports and Shipping, Vice Admiral (retd) Azhar Shamim. “We have contacted the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi, located the agent of ship in Karachi and also got in touch with the Indian shipping authorities.”
Mr Shamim said information collected from different sources showed that the shipping company was also a defaulter of a Sri Lankan bank which is carrying out a process for its takeover.
“The process is likely to be completed by February 20. We have traced the company’s local agent in Karachi and asked him the company must clear six months’ salary dues of the Pakistani crew members at the earliest. The agent is in contact with crew members’ families,” the DG said, adding the Pakistani embassy was actively monitoring the situation in India.
The Pakistanis trapped in the vessel anchored at Visakhapatnam are: chief engineer Sohail Shamshad, second engineer Muhammad Luqman, third engineer Gohar Ur Rahman, chief officer S. Furqan Ali Asgari and second officer S. Jawaid Mehdi Jaidi. Earlier this week, they managed to contact their friends and families, who highlighted their plight through media.
Mr Shamim explained the crew members had not been detained, adding it was an issue with their shipping agent in India who had violated the rules. He said the Pakistanis were expected to return home by the end of this month.

Commando, outlaw killed

By Mohammad Asghar

RAWALPINDI, Feb 14: A commando of the Elite Force died in a shootout with outlaws near the Holy Family Hospital on Thursday night. One of the outlaws was also killed.
The shootout followed a raid by the Elite Force on a house in Feroz Lane.
The dead were identified as ASI Hassan Naeem and Jamshaid. Elite Force commando Asad and a suspected criminal, Sajjad, got injuries in the encounter.

Man dies in accident with US embassy car

By Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD, Feb 14: A car driven by an official of the United States Embassy met with an accident on Thursday night in which two men on a motorbike were injured on the Margalla Road.
One of the injured, Muzammil Shah, later died in hospital during an operation.
The police arrested the driver, stated to be an administrative assistant at the embassy, and also impounded the vehicle.
According to police sources, a Land Cruiser bearing registration number MK-927 collided with the motorbike injuring two employees of the Capital Development Authority. Mr Shah and Shaukat Ali were going home after completing their duty.
A police officer said that after the accident some embassy officials reached the accident scene and asked the policemen on duty to release their colleague.
Some senior officials of the Islamabad police also reached the crash site and assured the embassy staff that the driver would be set free after the family members of the injured were informed about the accident. According to hospital sources, the condition of Mr Ali was stable.

Gulzar apologises to people, festival organiser

KARACHI, Feb 14: Realising the dismay that his early return to India from Lahore would have caused to his admirers in Pakistan, Indian poet and filmmaker Gulzar on Thursday wrote a letter to the founder and organiser of the Karachi Literature Festival, Ameena Saiyid.
True to his poetic inclinations, he titled the letter “Mujh Se Naraz Na Hon (Don’t be cross with me)”.
The contents of the letter cleared the air regarding the reasons for his sudden return to his homeland. According to Gulzar, it was his visits to his birthplace Dina and to Ahmed Nadim Qasmi’s gravesite that he felt “uneasy in the chest”. When the discomfort continued he decided to go back to the ‘familiar’ Mumbai where such ‘contingencies’ could be met.
He profusely apologised to the people of Pakistan and wished the festival success. The following is the letter that was sent by him to Ameena Saiyid:
“Dear Ameena Saiyid Ji,
“Perhaps by now you may be aware that while at Lahore, I had taken the opportunity to visit Dina to have a look at the house where I was born and spent my teens and of course the Qaber of my late guru and mentor Ahmed Nadeem Quasmi to pay my respects. I was moved very much by these two visits. As ill-luck would have it, I felt very uneasy in the chest. The uneasiness subsided temporarily at the recording studio.
“We were recording a song for Vishal with Pakistani singers. The discomfort returned when I reached the hotel. It was 2am Vishal postponed the recording for a later date some time in March and we impulsively decided to return to Mumbai, which being a familiar terrain to meet such contingencies.
“Thus I reached Mumbai on 13th night. I had come fully prepared for The Karachi Literary Festival. But this mishap has disappointed me very much.
“I am awfully sorry for this, which is beyond my control. With very best wishes for a very successful festival.
“You may share my letter with the media if you think it proper. I have no reservation. My apology from the people of Pakistan. My message: ‘Mujh se naaraaz na hon!’ Yours sincerely, Gulzar.”
—Peerzada Salman

KP governor listed as voter in Bajaur

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, Feb 14: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah Khan is a registered voter in Nawagai area of Bajaur tribal region, background checks on his status through the Election Commission of Pakistan voter database system has revealed.
The verification done through SMS by sending Shaukatullah Khan’s CNIC number revealed that the governor was a registered voter in his native Nawagai area of Bajaur tribal region.
According to the ECP database, Shaukatullah’s Block Code is 081060301 and serial number 424.
This contradicts his claim of having done his homework and taken care of the constitutional issue which requires a person to be registered as a voter and resident of a province to be eligible to become its governor.
The issue cropped up when two days after Shaukatullah took oath of office as the 22nd governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it was revealed that Article 101 (2) of the Constitution required the governor to be a registered voter and resident of the province.
Mr Shaukatullah has a residence in Peshawar but he is a registered voter in Bajaur and that will be a subject of a legal debate in the Peshawar High Court, where a writ petition has already been filed challenging his eligibility to become governor.

Pakistanis’ trust in civilian govt has nosedived: US survey

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Feb 14: Most Pakistanis have lost faith in their US-allied government and instead trust the military, says a Gallup survey released on Thursday.
Ninety-two per cent of Pakistanis disapprove of US leadership and 55pc of them fear greater interaction between Muslim and western societies could be harmful.
“The public’s confidence in the Pakistani national government — sometimes seen by Pakistanis as too cosy to the US government — has nosedived, reaching a low of 23 per cent in March and October 2012,” says the survey report.
This is down from 54pc in December 2008, shortly after the beginning of democratically elected President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration.
The trust in civilian government in recent years was the highest in 2006, 58pc, dropped slightly to 54pc in 2008, almost halved to 31pc in 2010 and fell to 23pc in 2012.
Conversely, confidence in the interventionist military — the organisation that has ruled the nation for over half of its post-independence history — climbed to 88pc in October 2012.
The confidence in the military stood at 84pc in 2006, came down to 76pc — the lowest in recent years — by the end of 2008, climbed to 80pc by mid-2012 and peaked to 88pc in 2012.
Gallup, one of the most prominent US surveyors, based these findings on a survey conducted from Sept 30-Oct 16, 2012, in Pakistan. The survey directly followed massive demonstrations against the release of an anti-Muslim film made in the US.
The surveyors predict that the upcoming May elections in Pakistan will be of “seismic importance for the future direction of the country and for US-Pakistan relations”.
The elections will mark the first time in the country’s history that a civilian government peacefully transfers power to a new civilian government.
“Insomuch as the role of the US in Pakistan weighs on the campaign dialogue, the perceived failures of the current regime might translate into the election of political actors that are more hostile or confrontational towards US interests,” the survey warns.
“The degree to which the US-conducted operations within Pakistan have weakened the political position of the existing Pakistani government is an open question,” the surveyors argue, “but the concomitant erosion of approval of US and Pakistani leadership on the Pakistani public’s part is impossible not to notice.”
Instead, Pakistanis put their trust in the military, despite its “meddlesome history in national governing affairs”, the surveyors add.
“What these trends mean for the coming election is unclear, but they suggest that the next few months could be of vital importance for the stability of the Pakistani government and the US-Pakistani relationship.”
The survey pointed out that President Barack Obama’s first term was characterised by strained relations between Pakistan and the US. Consequently, more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92pc) disapprove of US leadership and 4pc approve, the lowest approval rating ever.
Pakistanis’ approval of the leadership of their ostensible ally, the United States, has historically been quite low. However, perceptions began to change, albeit modestly, through much of President Obama’s first term. As recently as May 2011, 27pc of Pakistanis approved of US leadership, the apex of support.
Noticeably, approval declined after the May 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, an event that many Pakistanis viewed as a blatant disregard for Pakistani sovereignty.
Concurrently, Pakistanis now more than at any other time in the past three years feel threatened by interaction with the West, according to a May 12-June 6, 2012, survey.
A majority (55pc) say interaction between Muslim and western societies is “more of a threat”, up significantly from 39pc in 2011.
This sharp increase is observed at a time of heightened Pakistani concerns regarding US encroachment on Pakistani sovereignty, including an intensified number of US drone strikes in Pakistan.
Nearly half of the Pakistani population (49pc) is between the ages of 15 and 29. The largely anti-western sentiment among these young Pakistanis suggests that, even as this sizable group ages and begins to have a larger role in Pakistani governance, relations between the US and Pakistan may continue to be fraught with challenges.

Reconciliation process: US on same page with Afghanistan, Pakistan: official

WASHINGTON, Feb 14: The United States is seeking Pakistan’s support to secure Afghanistan as it prepares to pull out from the war-ravaged country by the end of next year, says the State Department.
The issue came up when the new US Secretary of State John Kerry called President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday to show his interest in continuing close ties with a key ally which shares a long and often troubled border with Afghanistan.
Mr Kerry emphasised “our shared interest in regional stability, including a secure and peaceful future for Afghanistan,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington.
Mr Kerry acted as US President Barack Obama’s unofficial envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan when he headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and often visited the two countries to supplement the administration’s efforts for resolving difficult issues.
Mr Nuland noted that Mr Kerry had established “a longstanding relationship” with many Pakistani leaders during these visits, and he used the phone call to “underscore the continuing importance of an effective, strong, and mutually beneficial US-Pakistani relationship”.
Since Mr Kerry called President Zardari hours before President Obama announced his plans for ending the war in Afghanistan, diplomatic observers in Washington say that their conversation must have focused on the issue.
Asked if Afghanistan’s reconciliation process also came up during Mr Kerry’s conversation with the Pakistani leader, Ms Nuland noted that Washington, Islamabad and Kabul were on the same page on the issue.
“We have been in a good place in recent months — Afghanistan, Pakistan, US — in terms of using the core group that we established to support Afghanistan reconciliation to work through some of the practical issues like safe passage for Taliban who are willing to consider reconciliation,” she said.
“As you can see from some of the moves that have been going on between Afghanistan and Pakistan, they are also having a better dialogue now about facilitating reconciliation. So we would hope that that trend could continue,” Ms Nuland added.
Secretary Kerry also underlined the issues on which the United States and Pakistan had common interests. These include fighting terrorism and extremism, supporting democratic civilian institutions, and supporting Pakistan’s efforts to increase economic growth, she said.
Secretary Kerry also discussed “our ongoing interest in finding a concrete way to act jointly in support of all of these goals, and he made clear that he looks forward to working with President Zardari going forward,” the spokesperson said.—Correspondent

Process for high treason case against Musharraf begins

By Our Staff Reporter

LAHORE, Feb 14: The government has begun the process for lodging a high treason case against former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Deputy Attorney General Iftikhar Shahid told the Lahore High Court on Thursday.
Being authorised to register a high treason case, the interior secretary had been appointed as complaint officer, he said during the hearing of a petition seeking registration of the case against the former dictator for subverting the Constitution twice and ousting an elected government.
He said the secretary had been given the power through a notification issued in 1994.
Advocate Rana Jamil, the petitioner, had argued that all unconstitutional acts of Gen (retd) Musharraf fell within the ambit of high treason. Therefore, the government should be asked to lodge the case under Article 6 of the Constitution.
The law officer urged the court to dismiss the petition, saying the grievance of the petitioner had been addressed.
Justice Kazim Raza Shamsi, however, postponed the hearing till a date to be fixed by the registrar’s office.

India, France in air defence pact

By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Feb 14: India and France concluded on Thursday negotiations on a deal expected to be worth around Rs300,000 million for co-developing a short-range air defence system even as visiting French President Francois Hollande made a fresh push for the sale of Rafale fighter jets to India.
“Both sides noted the ongoing progress of negotiations on the Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) programme and look forward to their conclusion... steps are being taken for finalisation of the short-range surface to air missile (SR-SAM) project,” India and France said in a joint statement.
“Discussions on the M-MRCA contract are progressing well. We have also concluded negotiations on the SR-SAM, which, once approved by the government, will be co-developed and co-produced in India,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
Under the M-MRCA contract, India has selected the French Rafale combat aircraft for the deal expected to be worth over Rs500,000 million and the two sides are in the commercial negotiations stage.
“There is a welcome shift from defence trade to co-development and co-production of advanced defence items in India, which will help expand our domestic production base and strengthen the India-France strategic partnership,” he said.In the SR-SAM project, Indian DRDO and French MBDA would co-develop an air defence system to take out enemy missiles and aircraft attacking vital installations and buildings.In the meeting between Dr Singh and Mr Hollande, the “leaders agreed to give further impetus to the strategic partnership”.
“The leaders reaffirmed their continued interest to enhance bilateral cooperation which is an important pillar of their strategic partnership and reflects their common determination to work for global peace and security,”
it said.
The two countries welcomed the ongoing military exercises including, Shakti, Varuna and Garuda and confirmed their willingness to further defence cooperation, by continuing to conduct such interactions, it said.
India has had strong defence ties with France and several ongoing projects such as the construction of the Scorpene submarine in Mumbai and upgrade of Mirage-2000 aircraft are
going on.

Parity sought with Turkmenistan rate: Pakistan seeks to renegotiate Iran gas price

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: The government has asked Iran to reduce gas price for Iran-Pakistan pipeline under price renegotiation clause of the bilateral sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) to bring it at par with the rates finalised with Turkmenistan.
“We are activating the price renegotiation clause of the agreement,” Prime Minister’s Adviser on Petroleum Dr Asim Hussain told Dawn on Friday. “Iran has to reduce gas prices and come down to TAPI ((Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline) rate.”
An official said if the price of Iranian gas was lowered to that of TAPI pipeline level, Pakistan would save about $1.5 billion over the life of the project as compared with the price finalised under the IP-GSPA.
“The price renegotiation will be an ongoing process,” said Dr Hussain, explaining that under the agreement, the prices could be renegotiated on the basis of comparable gas prices one year before the gas flow begins in Dec 2014.
“We may be able to secure even lower prices than TAPI rates if gas prices plunge in the international market, in Europe and the US. We are closely monitoring world gas prices,” he said.
He confirmed that Iran’s Tadbir Energy and Pakistan’s Interstate Gas Company could not sign an agreement for the construction of 781-km pipeline by the Iranian firm inside Pakistan because discussions required further consultations. “The agreement will be signed before Feb 27,” Dr Hussain said.
An official said a draft agreement had been handed over to a visiting Iranian delegation for getting it vetted in Tehran.
The cost of construction of the pipeline from Gabd-zero point, on Pakistan-Iran border, to Nawabshah for the delivery of 750 million cubic feet of gas per day has been tentatively agreed upon at $1.5 billion but Iran has been asked to reduce the per kilometre construction cost.
After Iran vets the draft agreement, the mode of payment for gas sales will need a delicate examination in view of US sanctions against that country. Barter trade between the two countries can be an option.
Under the proposed agreement, Tadbir Energy has to lay the pipeline inside Pakistan and provide $500m loan, which is repaid as part of gas price, involving an interest rate of about two per cent plus London Interbank Offered Rate. Pakistan’s engineering and pipeline companies will provide advisory service and the Frontier Works Organisation will handle the civil works.
An official said the Iranian technical team was expected to return to Islamabad next week for consultations. Then a Pakistani team will go to Tehran to sign the agreement.
Meanwhile, a cabinet committee — headed by the minister of state for finance and comprising senior officials of petroleum, finance and law ministries — has approved a $1.5bn financing plan for the pipeline.
The plan envisages a $500m loan agreement with Iran on government-to-government basis and provision of $500m by the ministry of finance on account of receipts of the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess.
The remaining $500m will be arranged through a combination of loans from China and domestic banks.

KP chief minister Hoti escapes suicide attack

By Mohammad Jamal Hoti

MARDAN, Feb 15: Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa narrowly escaped a suicide attack on his motorcade here on Friday.
DSP Khalid Khan told Dawn that a suicide bomber aged about 23 years attacked the motorcade on the busy Mardan College Chowk when it was on its way to Mardan-i-Khas locality where Mr Hoti was to address a public meeting.
He said legs and hands of the bomber had been found at the site of the blast and a head outside a nearby building.
The DSP said the chief minister appeared to be the target of the bomber but because of strict security measures he could not reach the venue of the public meeting. He said only the bomber, and no-one else, was hurt.
Police cordoned off the area after the blast and started looking for elements behind the attack.
The attack came a day after a multi-party conference convened by the Awami National Party in Islamabad to work out measures to counter militancy and terrorism in the country.
Mr Hoti was not deterred by the attack and he went to the meeting. In his speech, he said terrorists would not stop him and leaders of his party from serving the people.
He said the suicide attack was an attempt to sabotage the process of dialogue for peace initiated by the ANP through the MPC. But, he said, attempts to derail the process would fail and people behind them would be exposed.
The chief minister welcomed political parties’ response to the MPC and said: “We will continue to strive for restoration of peace and will serve the masses without any fear.
He said thousands of workers and leaders of ANP had sacrificed their lives for peace in the country.
Mr Hoti announced that he would contest for two constituencies — NA-9 and PK-23 — from ANP’s platform in the coming elections. He said he had received an offer to contest from Chitral because of the good performance of his administration but he preferred his own constituency in Mardan.
He said his government would distribute 23,000 laptops among talented students in the province to encourage them to work for excellence in their fields of education.

Nine PPP legislators join PML-N

By Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE, Feb 15: The PPP suffered a setback in Punjab, particularly in its southern region, when its nine MPAs joined the PML-N on Friday.
The MPAs, four of them from south Punjab, announced their decision to join the opposition party after a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
They included Nishat Ahmed Daha, Syed Jamil Shah, Rana Babar Hussain and Abbas Zafar Hiraj from Khanewal district, Rana Munawwar Hussain and Sardar Kamil Gujjar (Sargodha), Javed Alauddin (Okara), Qaiser Sindhu (Gujranwala) and Uzma Zahid Bukhari, an MPA elected on a seat reserved for women.
Her husband Samiullah Khan, a former PPP MPA from Lahore, is also among those who have joined the PML-N.
Welcoming the newcomers, Shahbaz Sharif informed them that PML-Q MNAs Dewan Ashiq Bukhari, from Multan, and Pir Aslam Bodla, from Khanewal, had also joined the PML-N.
Information Minister and PPP Information Secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira played down the defections, saying the party had been expecting that the MPAs would desert it.
He said the PML-N was not setting good traditions as it was relying on Lotas (turncoats) to rule Punjab.
Leader of opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar said the MPAs had quit what he called Zardari League and not the PPP.
Mehr Ishtiaq, a PML-N MPA, who was present in the meeting and had played a role in roping in some of the parliamentarians, told Dawn that the newcomers had joined the party unconditionally and no promise had been made to them.
Asked whether PML-N leaders aspiring for party ticket from the areas of the defectors would not resent the inclusions, he said the MPAs had been welcomed only after taking chapters concerned on board.
“The MPAs have assured the PML-N leadership that they will follow its directives.”
Earlier, Punjab PPP information secretary Dr Fakhruddin had announced that he had decided to quit the party a couple of months ago, but reversed the decision next day.
Asked if the PML-N had ensured that the Dr Fakhr episode would not be repeated, Mr Ishtiaq said: “We know that it’s the final round and there is no room for mistakes. Therefore we have made the defections public after being satisfied that the MPAs will not return to the PPP.”
Punjab PPP president Manzoor Wattoo belongs to Okara from where one of the defecting MPAs, Alauddin, also hails.
Mr Wattoo had been claiming that he had been mandated by President Asif Zardari to cause defections in the PML-N. But so far he has failed to even stop PPP members from changing their loyalties.

TTP terms APC an election stunt

By Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH, Feb 15: The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) rejected on Friday the declaration adopted at an all-party conference on terrorism organised by the Awami National Party and termed it a ‘part of the party’s campaign for elections’.
“We are still waiting for serious and meaningful talks with the government and the army,” TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told this correspondent on phone from an unspecified place.
He said the TTP had offered peace talks in the larger interest of Islam and Pakistan, but warned that the initiative should not be construed as a sign of its weakness.
The timing of the conference was also criticised by the TTP leadership. “Organising the conference on Valentine Day reflects imperialist thinking of the ANP,” Ehsan said.
He said the TTP Shura had met on the directives of its chief Hakimullah Mehsud and discussed the declaration adopted at the conference. “The Shura found nothing new in it. It was an old story,” he said.
The TTP recently said it was ready for talks with the government and proposed that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat Islami Amir Syed Munawar Hassan should act as guarantors on behalf of the army.
The ANP convened the conference in Islamabad to find a solution to the problem of militancy which has plagued the country, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata. It was attended by all mainstream political parties except the JI and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf.
The declaration said: “Peace needs to be restored in the country so that losses of valuable lives can be stopped and the country is put on the right track. Attaining peace through dialogue should be the first priority. The resolution of the issue of terrorism should come within the ambit of the Constitution and law.”
The TTP spokesman said the absence of the JI had put a question mark on the conference.
He criticised some ‘media persons for opposing Taliban’s peace initiatives’ and said they wanted to keep the “fire burning”.

Plan for world’s tallest tower in Karachi: $45bn real estate deal signed with Abu Dhabi Group

By Dilawar Hussain and Syed Irfan Raza

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: Two real estate tycoons — Abu Dhabi Group of the UAE and Pakistan’s Malik Riaz — have joined hands in a bid to construct the world’s tallest building in Karachi.
The parties signed a deal in Abu Dhabi on Friday, which envisages a staggering investment of $45 billion in Pakistan’s real estate. Apart from some stunning projects, it includes construction of the world’s tallest building, which would loom large over the current tallest Burj Khalifa of Dubai.
In Islamabad, Ali Riaz, son Malik Riaz, confirmed the signing of the agreement.
Reports from Abu Dhabi said the agreement was signed between the Chairman of Abu Dhabi Group, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarik Al Nahyan, and Malik Riaz, best known as ex-chairman and now consultant of Bahria Town, arguably the country’s most famous real estate project. Under the terms of the agreement, a sum of $35 billion would be invested in Sindh and $10bn in Islamabad and Lahore.
The investment in Karachi is proposed to encompass a sports city, an international city, a media city and an educational and medical city. The project also includes the construction of miniatures of Seven Wonders of the World.
A big construction magnate in Karachi disclosed on condition of anonymity that the site for construction would most likely be KPT Island, known among the masses as “Kutta Island”. The island, which is 3-4km off the coast of Karachi into the Arabian Sea, derives its name from the prevailing practice of dumping stray dogs there.
This construction tycoon stated that the “Kutta Island” was at first handed over to Emmar Properties, but the deal was later scrapped. That, however, could not be immediately confirmed from Emmar Properties.
The Karachi construction magnate believes that the Abu Dhabi Group-Malik Riaz would, apart from the above mentioned projects, also launch into building of 125,000 houses on the island.
Another real estate developer said that the news should be greeted with cheers for it could give big boost to the tourist industry in the country, as people from all over the world would flock in to see the world’s tallest building and for their accommodation, hotels, residential buildings and casinos would sprout on the island. Karachi, already the industrial hub of the country, could undergo an amazing transformation into one of the world’s biggest and most modern cities.
The news flow regarding the deal said the distinguishing feature of the project would be utilisation of sea water to produce electricity. Under the project, advanced water treatment plant would be built to purify the salty water of the Arabian Sea into water fit for human consumption.
The deal is expected to generate over 2.5 million jobs in Pakistan and will promote investment opportunities for 55 local industries, including cement, iron, steel and glass. These multiple kind of projects will provide equal opportunities to lower and middle classes of the country.
Speaking on the occasion of signing the deal, Sheikh Nahyan expressed pleasure in working with Malik Riaz, saying that Bahria Town not only represented modern Pakistan but was also a credible, respected and authentic name in the real estate sector worldwide.
As regards the timeframe, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Group said: “We will Insha Allah be welcoming first residents in next three to four years”.

End of the Afghan war: possibilities and pitfalls — I: Pakistan in contact with Afghan Taliban, former Northern Alliance

By Madiha Sattar

KARACHI: As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan for the second time, Pakistan is looking for a role in Afghan politics once again. This time, though, it’s putting its eggs in more than one basket.
Reports of Islamabad attempting to control proxies in Afghanistan are nothing new. For decades Pakistan has been involved in power politics next door, from supporting the mujahideen against the Soviets and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Taliban against the Northern Alliance to allowing Mullah Omar’s presence in Pakistan and arresting Afghan Taliban who could have facilitated intra-Afghan reconciliation talks.
But conversations with senior Pakistani security officials and security and foreign policy analysts indicate that as the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan draws closer, direct and more active contact has been established not just with the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, but also with members of the former Northern Alliance.
These contacts are a last-minute bid to prevent even more instability this side of the border and seem designed to indicate to the Taliban and the United States that Pakistan supports an intra-Afghan rather than a fundamentalist Islamist government in Kabul.
The conversations revealed that the Pakistani military now prefers a coalition government in Kabul to Taliban rule, making communication with multiple groups essential preparation for the uncertain post-2014 political scenario. A Taliban administration is considered a risky option carrying the potential for both civil war in Afghanistan and new safe havens there for Pakistani militants, and the best-case scenario is seen as being a loose federation of autonomous regions with a coalition set-up at the centre.
That thinking would indicate a move away from the state’s policy of banking on the Taliban as the primary, if unreliable, ally in Afghanistan. “The shift came about when it became clear that 2014 was a genuine deadline,” says former foreign secretary Najmuddin Shaikh.
But direct contact with multiple Afghan groups has not openly been admitted to despite increased public activity on the reconciliation front, including Pakistan’s release of Taliban prisoners and the Chequers summit last week where the Pakistani and Afghan presidents and military and intelligence chiefs indicated a six-month timeframe for a “peace settlement” but provided no further details about a desired political outcome.
And while in public the Taliban have said they are only willing to talk to the United States, Pakistani security officials tell Dawn the insurgents are open to talking to the northern, non-Pakhtun leaders, their traditional rivals, as the Western withdrawal draws closer.
Pakistan’s outreach, which adds to the publicly known reconciliation efforts facilitated to various degrees by several countries including the Afghan government, the United States, Germany, Japan and France, is unlikely to sit well with President Karzai. These separate strands of talks came about, according to Mr Shaikh, because international donors and Isaf members were eager to “get out with some honour” long before the US decided it made sense to talk to the Taliban. But he points out that Mr Karzai has felt sidelined by these efforts and wants his government to be considered the sole Afghan interlocutor.
In Pakistan, though, domestic instability has changed views, says Moeed Yusuf, South Asia adviser at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based think tank. The security establishment “wants to get the Taliban back into Afghanistan in an inclusive reconciliation and power-sharing process,” he says. “They don’t want to attack Taliban sanctuaries or give the Taliban power. This has been the policy for some time, and other countries are now moving closer to Pakistan’s game plan.”
The Pakistani strategy is in part driven by the belief that both the Taliban and the northern leaders remain formidable groups. Pakistani intelligence estimates that the Afghan Taliban are a well-organised force of 40,000-50,000 fighters grouped into militant, political and finance wings with significant funding from the narcotics trade and extortion along transport routes in their areas.
But the northern leaders are also financially strong and highly motivated, controlling a wide expanse of land and commanding the support of several different ethnic groups. Leaving the two to divvy up power in Afghanistan would be a recipe for another bloody civil war.
According to Pakistani security officials, December’s intra-Afghan talks outside Paris — which included representatives from the Taliban, the government, and, significantly, members of the former Northern Alliance — were particularly important in terms of demonstrated Taliban willingness to consider a coalition and put forward specific demands related to such a set-up.
It remains, unclear, though, how Mullah Omar’s status in the eyes of the Taliban as Amirul Momineen, the leader of the Muslim ummah, could be reconciled with a power-sharing system.
Other well-known challenges remain, including the extent to which various factions and commanders within the Taliban, including Mullah Omar, agree on talks, let alone the notion of sharing power. They are also unlikely to accept even the residual American presence in Afghanistan that Washington and Kabul are negotiating. And the long-standing rivalry between the Taliban and the former Northern Alliance could scuttle any power-sharing agreement. For this reason, Pakistan’s preferred post-2014 scenario also includes a complete American withdrawal and a regional understanding in which neighbours, particularly Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, agree not to play favourites in Afghanistan.
In one example of the fears about rivals next door, the security establishment appears to believe that Iran has spread its influence beyond the Persian-speaking Herat region and is simultaneously supporting the Taliban with arms, safe havens and support for the narcotics trade as a way to get America out of the region, maintain its own influence in Afghanistan and contain that of Pakistan, which it sees as being too accommodating of American demands.
Journalist and Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid cautions that talk of a coalition set-up is premature. “The Pakistani military is now interested in a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan. But the talks are very far from anything like that,” he says, adding that they are still at the stage of trying to agree on confidence building measures. He also points to significant roadblocks and open questions. “The Taliban say they won’t talk to Karzai. They are opposed to a residual US force. And what about the upcoming elections? Can power-sharing be worked out before then?”
Pakistan may be interested in a coalition government next door, but whether the Taliban are interested in sharing power is another matter altogether. And if they aren’t, the consequences for Pakistan’s security situation could be disastrous.

President’s public activities liable to scrutiny: LHC

By Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

LAHORE, Feb 15: President Asif Ali Zardari may face difficulties in handling political affairs publicly as the Lahore High Court ruled on Friday that all public activities of the President were liable to scrutiny.
A five-judge full bench of the LHC, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, gave the ruling during the hearing of a petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against Asif Ali Zardari for not complying with its May 12, 2011, judgment declaring political activities by the President unconstitutional.
Justices Nasir Saeed Sheikh, Sheikh Najamul Hassan, Ijazul Ahsan and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah are other members of the bench.
Chief Justice Bandial observed that private activities of the President were not open to scrutiny, but his public activities could not be separated from his persona as the President of Pakistan.
The court issued notice to the President on a fresh application filed in the main petition questioning the alleged political activities by President Zardari during his recent visit to Lahore.
The court asked Wasim Sajjad, the counsel for the federation, to come up with specific instructions from the President whether he was willing to refrain from indulging in political activities in public.
During the proceedings, Attorney General Irfan Qadir appeared before the bench and said he wanted to advance his arguments on different points in the case. He said courts could commit errors and being a custodian of the Constitution he was duty-bound to assist them accurately as per the Constitution.
However, he said he was to leave for India in about two hours and sought time to make his submissions.
Chief Justice Bandial told the attorney general that the court would seek his assistance when required.
He observed that the recent political activities by the President in Lahore pointed out by the petitioner were a serious matter and the court could take notice of it.
Wasim Sajjad accused the media of misreporting activities of the President and said that after an undertaking submitted by him at the last hearing, no political meeting was held in the Presidency.
He argued that the President in his private capacity could meet political leaders and deal with political issues. His private activities could not be questioned by courts, he said.
The chief justice asked the counsel whether or not public meetings outside the President House will be reckoned as private activities of the President.
Advocate Sajjad said the general election was round the corner and the President was supposed to take part in political activities.
He said the case involved political issues and the court should keep itself away from the matter. No president could keep himself away from political controversies, he argued.
The counsel reiterated that the President was not head of any political party. He was co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, which was
not a political party as
per Political Parties Order 2002. It was the PPP (Parliamentarians) which was registered with the Election Commission, he added.
In the light of the May 12, 2011, judgment, no contempt had been committed by the President, Wasim Sajjad observed.
Chief Justice Bandial said it was a weak argument that the PPP was not a registered political party.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the court was discussing the conduct of the President who, according to the Constitution, should be non-partisan. “Apparently, the President has stepped out of his constitutional role,” he said, adding that the counsel’s arguments suggested that the President could even canvass for a political party in elections.
Wasim Sajjad said if people had any objection to the President’s activities they would speak as much through the ballot.
The counsel expressed his inability to confirm if the President would refrain from indulging in political activities or holding meetings with political leaders in the public arena.
The court directed him to get instructions from the President on the matter and inform it about the outcome at the next hearing on March 8.
Earlier, Additional Attorney General Abdul Hayee Gillani and the petitioner’s counsel A.K Dogar were admonished by the chief justice for not observing decorum.

FO, ISPR denounce shooting by Indians: Killing of Pakistani soldier may affect peace process

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: The killing of a Pakistani soldier who had strayed across the Line of Control (LoC) by Indian troops is threatening to undermine the bilateral peace talks which have already come under strains because of last month’s cross-LoC incidents.
“The killing of a Pakistani soldier by the Indian army yesterday in Khoi Ratta sector along the LoC … has the potential to further vitiate the atmosphere,” an FO statement said as India returned the body of soldier Sepoy Akhlaq.
The body was returned after Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem made an unscheduled call to his Indian counterpart Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia to protest the killing of the soldier, who had inadvertently crossed the LoC, and demand the return of his body.
Sepoy Akhlaq had on Thursday afternoon (around 3pm), according to Pakistani military sources, “lost his way between two posts and inadvertently crossed over to LoC in Khoi Ratta sector”.
The military claimed that some locals had seen Sepoy Akhlaq being interrogated by the Indian troops on the other side of the LoC.
“A few civilians present close to the incident, who saw him being questioned by the Indians, informed Pakistan military,” the military spokesman said.
Pakistani field commanders reportedly contacted their Indian counterparts asking for the return of their soldier, but when the DGMOs spoke over hotline on Friday, the Indian general said that he had been killed.
This was not the first time that a soldier crossed LoC by mistake. Army claims it returned a number of Indian soldiers in the past who had strayed across the LoC.
Sepoy Akhlaq will be buried on Saturday in his hometown Kallar Syedan with full military honours.
Both the Foreign Office and Inter-Services Public Relations strongly denounced the killing of the 22-year-old sepoy, who had served the army for four years.
“Pakistan strongly condemns the killing of a Pakistani soldier by the Indian army. The killing of our soldier, who had lost his way and inadvertently crossed the LoC, goes against the understanding reached between Pakistan and India on speedy return of inadvertent line crossers,” the FO spokesman said.
“We condemn such an inhuman and brutal act of killing of our soldier after he had identified himself and explained his position,” the ISPR said.
The FO urged the Indian government to investigate the incident and prevent recurrence of such incidents.
Reuters adds: An Indian defence spokesman said there had been a firefight in the Rajouri district after two militants in combat dress crossed the LoC from Pakistan.
He said one militant had been killed and an Indian soldier injured.
“Our troops continuously tracked their movement and they were asked to surrender when they entered over 200 metres inside Indian territory,” spokesman S.N. Acharya said.
“They opened fire indiscriminately, to which our men retaliated, and in the exchange of fire one militant was killed.”

Attack on Pakistanis in Greece: suspect held

ATHENS, Feb 15: Greek police have arrested two neo-Nazi sympathisers for illegal arms possession and a third person suspected of involvement in an attack that left three Pakistani migrants hospitalised, a police source said on Friday.
The arrests come as Greece is increasingly coming under pressure by human rights groups and its European neighbours to fight its growing neo-Nazi tendencies and widespread xenophobic violence.
In a public appeal to witnesses, police on Friday released the names and photographs of two of the men — arrested in an Athens suburb earlier this month after officers found a gun, switchblade knives and bats stashed in their car.
The men, aged 19 and 27, are suspected of having taken part in recent anti-migrant raids linked to the violent Greek neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn, which entered parliament in June after amassing seven per cent of the votes.
At least two people have been killed and about 10 injured in the xenophobic crackdowns.
Police arrested the third man, in his 30s and married to a Golden Dawn member, on the popular resort island of Crete.
He is suspected of having taken part in Thursday’s violent attack on three Pakistanis who were hospitalised after being severely stabbed and beaten.
Greek police are still searching for nine other suspects linked to that attack.—AFP

Fight against faceless enemy in Balochistan: Media doesn’t recognise military’s effort, SC told

By Nasir Iqbal and Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 15: The Supreme Court was informed on Friday that the armed forces and intelligence agencies were feeling frustrated by disparaging remarks being made about their performance although they were in the frontline in the strife-torn province of Balochistan.
“They are virtually at war with a faceless enemy but their efforts are not being recognised by the press,” Advocate Shahid Hamid, the counsel for Balochistan, regretted. These were the sentiments of the military, he said.
Shahid Hamid, who recently attended a high-level meeting presided over by Balochistan Governor Zulfikar Magsi and attended by federal law-enforcement agencies, the director general of southern command of Frontier Corps and other senior officials, said a comprehensive plan had been chalked out to utilise law-enforcement agencies, including the FC and Levies, in an effective and coordinated manner to bring Balochistan back to normalcy.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken up a petition of Balochistan High Court Bar Association president Malik Zahoor Shahwani and vice-president Sajid Tareen on the breakdown of law and order, incidents of terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and enforced disappearances in the province.
The meeting, Advocate Hamid said, had identified at least 88 ‘Farari’ camps in the province and about 38 in border areas being run by the banned outfits. He alleged that whenever a raid was planned against the camps, militants were tipped off in advance from inside and they went underground. But he admitted that the FC needed to improve its public image.
The chief justice observed that the only way to steer Balochistan out of the quagmire was to ensure free, fair and transparent elections by giving the people a free hand to elect their genuine representatives without any outside interference.
Since the general election was round the corner, immediate measures were needed to restore law and order, the court observed.
“Convey this message to the federal and provincial governments,” the chief justice asked the counsel and said all would suffer if old tactics continued to be used.
“There should be no interference in the coming general election. Only free and fair elections will ensure peace, bring about change and improve the law and order situation in the province,” the chief justice observed.
Balochistan desperately needed elections, said Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the bench.
The court asked the provincial administration, home secretary and IG police to expedite efforts to recover the missing persons and stressed that nobody should be kept in illegal confinement without adopting a legal course.
The court was informed that necessary measures had been taken to restore law and order in sensitive districts like Turbat, Panjgur, Kohlu, Jaffarabad, Marri, Kohlu, Khuzdar and Awaran.
ELECTORAL ROLLS: Chief Secretary of Balochistan Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad informed the court that he had recently held a meeting with provincial officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan for registration of voters in the troubled Dera Bugti district.
At the last hearing on Jan 29, chief of Bugti tribe Nawabzada Talal Bugti had stressed the need for early rehabilitation and resettlement of about 250,000 displaced people. He also called for addressing complaints about non-registration of the people of Bugti, Marri and Kohlu in the electoral list.
The court ordered the civil administration to approach Talal Bugti for assistance in the matter.
The chief justice praised Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa for visiting Dera Bugti despite all odds and setting up a court of district judge.
“We are of the opinion that unless all internally displaced people are brought back safely to their homes in Dera Bugti by adopting effective mechanism, peace in the area will remain elusive. Utilise the service of elders of the area,” the court suggested.
Expressing concern over the situation in Dera Bugti where everybody is complaining about the absence of civil rule and the FC being in charge, the court ordered the chief secretary to ensure that the FC was used only for specific purposes envisaged in the law.
“The people should be given full access by adopting a mechanism that ensures that no hindrance is made in repatriation of the displaced people,” the chief justice said, adding that before the announcement of election date, electoral rolls should be updated and delimitation of constituencies completed.
JWP LETTER: Meanwhile, Jamhoori Watan Party has asked the ECP to help eliminate no-go areas to ensure transparent elections in Balochistan.
In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, a copy of which is available with Dawn, JWP’s central secretary general Sardar Niyaz said his party had conveyed its concern to the authorities over obstacles to transparent elections, but no concrete measures had been taken so far.

Justice Nasir may be opposition’s choice for interim PM

By Our Staff Reporter

LAHORE, Feb 15: Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Friday that a name for caretaker prime minister had been finalised after intra-party consultations.
During his media talk at Model Town he did not make the name public, but unsubstantiated reports are doing the rounds here that the PML-N, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf and JUI-F have agreed on the name of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid.
Chaudhry Nisar said the PML-N would consult the opposition parties again for a consensus name if the government rejected the first one.
In reply to a question, he said the PTI would also be consulted on the formation of the caretaker set-up, adding contact could not be established with JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman because he was on a visit to Qatar.
He said the JUI-F had conveyed its willingness for entering into an electoral alliance with the PML-N and a wider coalition (against PPP) was in the offing in Sindh.
Referring to nine PPP MPAs’ decision to join the PML-N, Chaudhry Nisar said President Asif Zardari had stayed in Lahore for several days to `conquer’ Punjab but contrary to his expectation the PPP had started losing ground.
Asked if the PML-N would accept PML-Q leaders in the PML-N, particularly the chaudhrys of Gujrat, he said PML-N’s doors were shut on the elements that had damaged it during the Musharraf regime.
He criticised the government’s attitude to the Taliban’s talks offer.

Hatf-II Abdali test-fired

RAWALPINDI, Feb 15: Pakistan successfully test-fired on Friday a short-range, surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Hatf-II (Abdali), as part of the process of validation of land-based ballistic missile systems.
Abdali, with a range of 180km, carries nuclear as well as conventional warheads with high accuracy.
The weapon system, with its varied manoeuvrability options, provides a much-needed capacity to Pakistan’s strategic forces.
According to the ISPR, the test was witnessed by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, Director General of Strategic Plans Division Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, Commander of the Army Strategic Forces Command Lt Gen Tariq Nadeem Gilani, senior officers from the strategic forces and scientists and engineers of strategic organisations.—APP

Bounty for gangsters’ arrest withdrawn

KARACHI, Feb 15: Ignoring the protest lodged on the issue by the MQM, the Sindh government on Friday withdrew bounty it had earlier announced for the arrest of eight suspected gangsters said to be affiliated with the banned People’s Amn Committee.
The names of Umair Katchi, Fahim, Sheraz alias Comrade, Abdul Jabbar alias Jhengo, Faisal Pathan, Rashid Bangali, Mullah Nisar and Rashid son of Ghulam Hussain Lond have been withdrawn from the list of people carrying reward money for their arrest, said a notification issued by the home department.
Sources said the eight were booked in dozens of criminal cases, including murder, attempted murder, attack on police, and some of them had been declared proclaimed offenders by courts.
They said the decision to withdraw the reward money, ranging between Rs1 million and Rs300,000, was a first step towards withdrawal of FIRs against them.
A government official told Dawn that the withdrawal of the reward money and withdrawal of FIRs against the suspects were two different things. “The government has not withdrawn any case against the eight men.”
However, the move would further widen the gulf between the MQM and the Pakistan People’s Party and may jeopardise their alliance in the province. The MQM had boycotted the in-camera session of the Sindh Assembly on Thursday and also stayed away from Friday’s proceedings in protest over a move to withdraw cases against Lyari gangsters.—Staff Reporter

Editorial NEWS

Blissfully asleep

WARNINGS of serious difficulties regarding the foreign exchange reserves are refusing to go away, despite repeated attempts on the part of the government to either ignore the alarm bells, or to minimise the problem.
A serious situation has arisen as a consequence. Market players and other stakeholders are now asking in earnest: is the government actually aware that there is a problem? Or does it actually believe its own denials of any difficulties? Thus far, there are no signs of any latent understanding on the part of the government that the ship of state is veering towards dangerous waters, and that this is happening precisely when an election is approaching, and an interim government is about to take charge.
In interviews given on the record, Minister of State for Finance Salim Mandviwala has minimised the challenges on the reserves front, saying there are no difficulties in making repayments to the IMF, nor will any difficulties arise in the foreseeable future. The State Bank has also shied away from acknowledging that there may be difficulties ahead on the reserves front, preferring to say only that debt repayments are drawing down reserves and the consequent shrinkage of the import coverage ratio is, “unfortunately”, set to continue. Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh is quiet, and giving no indications of busily working to redress any problems behind the scenes. Neither the fiscal policy statement, nor the debt policy statements released by the finance ministry give any indications that Pakistan may end up knocking on the doors of the IMF during the year 2013. In fact, going by government pronouncements and body language, it would appear that all is well.
But the markets fear that the government is simply hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock again and again. The refusal to issue a clear-cut acknowledgement of Pakistan’s serious economic difficulties is now feeding confusion in the markets, and people are preferring to hedge all bets. The custodians of Pakistan’s economic stability are duty-bound to clarify where they see the ship of state going. If Pakistan’s is washed up on the doorstep of the IMF in the next six to eight months, today’s economic custodians will have some accountability to face. They will need to answer some basic questions. How did they fail to recognise the growing vulnerabilities within the economy? Why did they minimise the warnings being sounded by quarters such as the IMF, or other multilaterals? What will it say for their quality of mind, or their intellectual integrity, if their assurances of today are shattered on the rocky reefs of tomorrow?

The contagion spreads

IN a globalised world, it seems that religious militants are also exchanging notes on tactics and strategy. On Friday, gunmen in the northern Nigerian city of Kano killed at least 10 polio vaccinators, nine of them women.
The grisly incident drew instant comparisons to similar attacks in Pakistan at the end of last year. Suspicion for the attacks has fallen on Boko Haram, dubbed by some as the ‘Nigerian Taliban’. The group is one of Africa’s deadliest Islamist militant outfits; it has reportedly killed hundreds in Nigeria, including members of the security forces, Christians and those among Muslim clerics opposed to Boko Haram’s obscurant worldview. As in Pakistan, some clerics in Nigeria have cast doubt over polio vaccines, claiming they are a Western ‘plot’ to eliminate Muslims. Such resistance to anti-polio campaigns has existed in Nigeria for around a decade. Apparently taking another cue from Pakistani militants, Boko Haram has set a number of schools on fire in Nigeria, although militants in this country have been far more destructive, reducing hundreds of schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata to rubble.
Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only polio-endemic countries left in the world, with the West African state reporting the highest number of polio cases last year. Considering this, the silence of Muslim religious authorities — in these countries and elsewhere — is unforgivable. Militants are dooming the future of children in Muslim countries, or those with large numbers of Muslims, making them vulnerable to disease and forcing them to stay illiterate. Unfortunately, the religious authorities have not yet mustered the courage to confront their extremist worldview. Institutions with influence in the Islamic world — such as Egypt’s Al Azhar and the Saudi religious establishment — need to play a far greater role in countering militant propaganda against polio vaccinations. The OIC should also take up the issue with the seriousness it deserves. Meanwhile, the help of those Muslim countries that have successfully elimin-ated the virus, Iran and Bangladesh among them, must be sought to counter the situation where polio persists. Militants cannot be allowed to jeopardise the future of countless children in the remaining polio-endemic countries.

The ties that bind

IS it tone-deafness or brazenness? One of the two must be behind the president’s embrace of a massive property in Lahore reportedly gifted to him by Pakistan’s most controversial real-estate tycoon.
And even if it wasn’t a gift, the mansion’s location in Malik Riaz’s Bahria Town means that it doesn’t take a public-relations genius to figure out how bad the optics are. Rumours of the businessman’s closeness to the president — and other top government and military officials — have long done the rounds, and in the public’s eyes this action will only connect the two men more directly than ever. The message is clear: the country may grumble on about corruption in politics, but the head of state doesn’t particularly care. And the details don’t help; even if half the rumours about several acres of land, a helipad and a runway, bomb- and bullet-proof exteriors, and a price tag in the billions of rupees are true, they make the president look like a man remarkably out of touch with the economic problems of ordinary Pakistanis. Sadly the sprawling estate nearby of his political arch rivals, the Sharifs, is a reminder that the lack of sensitivity cuts across party lines.
The irony is that the point of the Lahore house is reportedly to serve as a base from which to strengthen the PPP’s electoral prospects in Punjab and deflect some of the Supreme Court’s irritation in the dual-office case. Call a building Bilawal House instead of President House and move it from Islamabad to Lahore, and somehow that will resolve the contradiction involved in a head of state strategising and negotiating, if not campaigning, for a particular party in the run-up to elections. The concrete images of the Lahore mansion, though, might prove a little harder to shake off.

Case closed

THE president has immunity against criminal prosecution under the Pakistani constitution — thus has declared the Swiss attorney general, according to the law ministry here.
Has the long-running and vexing so-called Swiss letter saga finally come to an end? It would appear so, though never say never in Pakistan. After all, anything is possible, as Prime Minister Ashraf discovered in the rental power case, where the Supreme Court caught the country by surprise and seemingly ordered the arrest of the prime minister as Tahirul Qadri’s thousands were staging a sit-in near parliament last month. But with matters now in the hands of the Swiss authorities, who are presumably less unpredictable than their Pakistani counterparts, it would appear that at least as far as the millions of dollars once upon a time lodged in Swiss accounts and allegedly belonging to President Zardari are concerned, the file can be considered shut.
In a better world, there would be hard lessons learned. Article 248(2) of the constitution has always read: “No criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Governor in any court during his term of office.” While an argument could be made that the Swiss letter only sought to reinstate Pakistan’s role as a civilian party laying claim to the allegedly ill-gotten gains lying in Swiss accounts, it was always a stretch that the Swiss legal system would dance to the tune of Pakistani indecision: prosecution under Nawaz Sharif and then Gen Musharraf; then withdrawal of the cases under the latter after political realities at home had changed; and then the attempted reinstatement of the withdrawn cases at the behest of the superior judiciary. Unsurprisingly, the Swiss probably are not very interested in having their legal system used as a pawn in Pakistani political games. Should the court here have known better? Yes. Should it have acted differently? Yes. Will it absorb the right lessons from this episode? We don’t know.
As for the PPP, will it learn that there is a different way to approach challenges than always as a zero-sum political game? Farooq Naek was the law minister when the NRO-related matter first erupted and he was the law minister again when the Swiss letter was finally dispatched — how much time and energy could have been saved had calmer, more reasoned counsel been listened to earlier? And for the public at large, a more fundamental challenge: to argue Mr Zardari has immunity and the democratic transition needed to be kept on track is not to deny Pakistan has a serious corruption problem; how does it build pressure to have cleaner representatives without bringing the democratic system itself down?

A complex situation

THE gravity of the security situation in Karachi is clear to all. Several deaths a day, whether due to sectarian, ethnic, political or criminal activity, have become a depressing routine.
All too often the city finds itself shutting down out of sheer fear when some party or the other puts out a strike call. The crime rate, meanwhile, remains unacceptably high in the country’s largest metropolis, where paramilitary forces are deployed on a regular basis. Do the police and other law enforcement leaderships have a plan to counter the situation? Perhaps not, judging from the answers provided by senior police officials to questions posed by a bench of the Supreme Court in Karachi on Friday. At the hearing on the Karachi killings case, it was pointed out that some 400 under-trial policemen are currently on duty. Similarly, the bench observed that it had earlier asked Nadra and the IG police to set up a joint cell to identify illegal immigrants that law enforcement agencies often simplistically blame for violence in the city. This has not been done. Indeed, beyond promises of investigations and inquiries, few meaningful moves have been in evidence.
While the law enforcement agencies must certainly, and urgently, do more, so must other groups, including political and religious parties. The reasons behind organised violence in Karachi are complex, and the combined failure of the police and the lawmakers has led to a situation where new, more lethal groups continue to crop up. Experience has dictated that when there is agreement among the leaderships of political, religious and other groups to ensure peace in the city, organised violence is minimal. Such a lasting agreement, with focus on political, sectarian and ethnic concerns, is what it will take to free the city from being held hostage to violence. The Supreme Court could help by giving firmer guidelines, and law enforcement agencies need to step up to the challenge. But ultimately, it is political and other stakeholders who hold the key to a peaceful Karachi. Tragically, going by past experience, it is unlikely they will use it anytime soon.

Clean cricket

THE recent hearings of disgraced Pakistan players Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif at the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne have given the two banned cricketers renewed hope of making a comeback.
The two men, along with young fast bowler Mohammad Aamir, were banned by the International Cricket Council in 2011 following the infamous spot-fixing scam in England that saw the three serving sentences in a British prison. While Aamir has since pleaded guilty to the charges, both Asif and Salman have maintained their innocence and have now decided to contest allegations that they connived with bookies to underperform in the Lord’s Test against host England in the 2010 series.
Whether the CAS overturns their ban or reduces it to give some reprieve to the disgraced duo is not as significant as the fact that the current Pakistan team, under the able Misbahul Haq, has come a long way from the turbulent times of 2010 and has done well overall to re-emerge as a cricketing force while keeping unwanted controversies at bay. To their credit, Pakistan have not only won four of their last five Test series, the national players have also successfully managed to resurrect the country’s image through their impeccable conduct on and off the field in the last two years, earning praise from the ICC and other quarters. Only time will tell what fate has in store for both Salman and Asif at the CAS, which is set to announce its verdict early next month. But the induction of any tainted element in the national team at this stage would once again put Pakistan cricket under the microscope and would undo the good work done by the players as well as by the current Pakistan Cricket Board.

New KP governor

MYSTERY continues to surround the removal of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor Masood Kausar — and just as confusing appears to be the appointment of Shaukatullah Khan as the new governor.
Sacked on the day he completed two years in office, Mr Kausar had managed to draw the ire of many within the PPP and even the tribal MNAs and senators. The general complaint: Mr Kausar, despite being an old PPP ideologue, did little to ‘help’ his party in the province; his age and health prevented him from being very active; and, as per usual in such situations, he had spent too much time padding his own nest. If the writing was on the wall for Mr Kausar for some time, the timing of his dismissal was unexpected and President Zardari appears to have suddenly yielded to the growing chorus of complaints. Whatever the reasons for his dismissal, Mr Kausar’s governorship is unlikely to be remembered for anything significant, good or bad.
The logic behind Shaukatullah Khan’s appointment appears to be just as opaque. Where Mr Kausar’s nomination was pushed by the ANP, the new governor appears to have been selected by President Zardari without any consultations with provincial allies. This much Mr Khan has going for him: he is astonishingly well-connected through marriage and other ties with many political leaders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata and he appears to be a non-controversial choice. As the first ever civilian governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Fata — the only previous Fata native who held the governor’s office was a retired general — it would appear that President Zardari is making some attempt to reach out to Fata’s representatives, who were particularly vocal about their unhappiness with Masood Kausar. But to what end? Understanding the tribal mindset and being able to mingle with ease among its people and leaders ahead of a general election — the first ever to be contested in Fata along party lines — could provide a boost to the PPP, but few seasoned observers of Pakhtun politics appear convinced that Governor Khan can make much of a difference.
Unhappily, the problem in Fata goes deeper than the appointment of a single official, however senior, can make a difference to. Integration into Pakistan proper, economic development of the region, improved basic service delivery and security are the fundamental needs of Fata. For that to happen, though, the politicians — tribal, provincial and federal — and the security forces would need to sit down and hammer out a road map, and then focus unrelentingly on its implementation. But then, neither the army nor the president appears particularly interested in doing that.

Mass transit system

WHILE the debate on whether it is actually the most cost-effective and environment-friendly solution to the problems of commuters will continue, Lahore’s Metro Bus mass transit system, inaugurated on Sunday, should ease the burden of travel in the city.
There is no denying that the project — spanking new as it is at the moment — looks impressive. The 27-kilometre dedicated corridor the 45 new buses are plying follows the main traffic arteries and connects the city from one end to the other, with 8.6km of the route along a bridge over the denser parts of the city. It is to be hoped that the project operators, the Turkish firm Platform, manage to maintain standards in service and schedule and that commuters use the service responsibly. Further, the mass transit system will reduce the number of privately owned and generally recklessly driven wagons and rickshaws that put further pressure on already congested roads.
While the provincial government has been criticised over the cost and modalities of the project, there is no argument that Lahore urgently needed a mass transit system — as do the other major cities in the country. Over the years, as cities have grown, in most places the administration’s role in the transit sector has more or less disappeared and commuters have been left to the mercies of largely privately owned, effectively unregulated public transport. Karachi, where the government once ran commuter trams and a railway, is now overrun with decrepit buses and the more expensive rickshaws. Why can we see no urgency on part of the city administration to remedy this? Plans for reviving the Karachi Circular Railway have vaguely been being talked about for years, but there has been no forward movement. As for Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the state’s role in providing public transport is so minimal as to be indistinguishable. City administrations need to wake up to the fact that merely building more and more roads is a route to nowhere and environmentally disastrous to boot; the long-term solution to traffic congestion in expanding urban areas lies in mass transit systems and reducing the number of vehicles on the roads.

State of zoos

THE celebration of ‘zoo day’ at the Karachi zoo on Sunday was a welcome change, as most often the news coming out of the facility is not good.
A number of recreational and educational activities were organised on the day; children seemed to particularly enjoy the festivities, observing exotic animals up close. Such events are an important source of recreation for a populace starved of leisure activities. However, it is also true that the overall condition of zoos in Pakistan is far from satisfactory. In a society where human lives are not worth much, animal welfare falls much lower on the priority list. For example, at the Karachi zoo, the number of qualified veterinarians and trained handlers is sadly inadequate. Not enough attention is paid to ensure that animals will survive in Karachi’s climatic conditions while the absence of proper caged areas is another matter of concern; concrete enclosures are not suitable substitutes for an animal’s natural habitat. Lahore zoo is relatively better run compared to its Karachi counterpart, yet it also requires investment and expansion in terms of animal welfare. Apart from officially managed facilities, private zoos are a major issue, especially in Karachi. There is no accurate estimate of how many such facilities exist, while they are completely unregulated.
The whole approach towards zoos needs to be re-evaluated. Instead of being mere places for public entertainment, they should be centres of conservation, where people are educated about wildlife and nature. For this our zoos need to be run by professionals trained in conservation and concerned about animal welfare. If our attitude does not change and we cannot ensure the safety and security of animals in Pakistan’s zoos, perhaps it would be a better idea to leave the beasts in their natural habitats instead of caging them and then neglecting them.

No place to learn

THOSE who wield power in Pakistan are hardly concerned about the state of public education because they can afford to send their children to private schools.
Those with no choice but to turn to government schools lack the influence to demand change. Hence it is welcome that the Supreme Court has taken notice of ‘ghost’ schools — public ‘schools’ where no teaching takes place but whose teachers draw regular salaries. Hearing a related case on Monday, the apex court ordered the formation of a commission, made up of district and sessions judges, to report on the details of ghost and non-functional schools in the country.
Estimates by NGOs indicate that there are thousands of such schools throughout Pakistan, although the problem is most acute in Sindh. While figures suggest that around 25 million children are out of school nationwide, the neglect of public education is manifesting itself in different ways in the provinces. In Sindh over a third of schools don’t have a building or boundary wall. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, aside from the large-scale destruction of schools by militants, many institutes have closed because teachers prefer to seek better paying jobs in the urban areas. Among Punjab’s main problems is the illegal occupation of schools. Balochistan faces a litany of woes, among them the fact that the majority of teachers in rural areas don’t show up to teach. The core of the problem everywhere is the same: bad governance.
It is difficult to address the inadequacies of the curriculum or pedagogy if the physical infrastructure is poor or no teaching is going on because schools exist only on paper. Efforts were made during Gen Musharraf’s rule to ascertain the situation in public schools, which is when the issue of ghost schools came to the fore. By all accounts, attempts to reduce teacher absenteeism met with resistance as many elected nazims of the time argued that holding teachers accountable would not go down well in their constituencies. The Supreme Court-constituted committee should now focus on checking the misuse of education funds and curbing teacher absenteeism. Ideally, local people must be hired, trained and persuaded to stay in their native areas as it is difficult to convince those based in cities to move to the hinterland. There must also be zero tolerance for political inductions and interference in educational affairs, as political appointees serve the interests of their patrons rather than of education. Denying Pakistan’s children educational opportunities will result in a nation of uneducated millions with no marketable skills, causing further complications such as reduced productivity and social strife. In fact, the disaster is already in the process of unfolding.

Wrong estimate

AT the beginning of the current financial year, the government must have hoped that the power-sector subsidies for the entire fiscal would not cross the Rs120bn mark.
That they did shows that our economic managers made a wrong estimate. But even at that time, the sceptics didn’t agree. How could they? The massive line losses had not reduced; theft had not been controlled; electricity prices were not raised to reflect the actual cost; the energy mix was not changed to cut generation costs; and the inefficiencies of public-sector power producers were not checked. The only way to “contain” the power sector subsidies in line with the budgeted amount
was to stop generation. Since the government could not use this option, it has ended up injecting Rs200bn into the power sector in less than seven and a half months. Another Rs50bn will have to be provided to Pakistan State Oil over the next few days to avoid disruption to the fuel supplies meant for thermal power stations.
In its annual report on the state of the economy during the last fiscal, the State Bank had sounded optimistic that power subsidies wouldn’t prove to be a drain on meagre financial resources this year because the government had already paid off the accumulated subsidies of Rs391bn or 1.9 per cent of GDP for the last fiscal against the budgeted amount of Rs147bn. The bank is now required to revise its earlier fiscal deficit forecast of six to seven per cent of GDP for the current year. The government has provided over Rs1.2tr as power subsidies, a lot more than the cost of the Diamer-Bhasha project. Yet we don’t have electricity for our homes, shops and factories and find it difficult to liquidate the circular debt that stood at Rs350bn in August. Our economic managers will continue to face embarrassment unless they start implementing crucial reforms to restructure the entire power sector, or, at least, to budget the subsidies accurately. Until then, we should
forget about an early economic recovery and the generation of enough electricity to light up our homes and shops and to operate our factories.

Doctors’ protest

THE young doctors’ protest initially was a trade unionist agitation in Punjab — one waged without a proper organisational structure, though.
The doctors wanted an increase in their perks and reasonable working hours. The protesters were advised restraint in the interest of patients, and the provincial government, too, drew its share of criticism for failing to intervene promptly. Many of the demands made by the Young Doctors’ Association were genuine — which the stubborn government took its time to concede. Finally, towards the end of 2012, a solution appeared likely and the government agreed to a new service structure, having committed itself to a raise earlier. The government says it is gradually implementing the new package.
Yet the doctors remain on the street, holding a hunger camp in Lahore. The government has been angry or suspicious of the strikers’ aim. Last Sunday it allowed the brutal use of police force in order to contain the protest. This was an ugly development and the consequent scenes at the hospitals shut by the young doctors in reaction were even grimmer. Once again familiar calls to the conscience and for a quick resolution to the problem were made. Yesterday’s trade unionists claim to have taken the next step in their struggle: they say they are now fighting for a better deal for the patients — asking for uninterrupted supply of free medicines, provision of medical tests free of charge, etc. The telling part is that the biggest losers of the campaign are the same people the strikers say they are fighting for. The assault on the protesters’ camp on Sunday is condemnable, but surely there has to be a new, less destructive strategy which rids the doctors of the label of habitual agitators. Egos have to be curbed on both sides, and quickly to prevent more suffering at the hospitals.

Talks overdue

THE instructions for the government and the opposition couldn’t be simpler. Discuss with each other your preferred candidates for a caretaker prime minister.
If you don’t agree, forward two names each to a joint parliamentary committee. If the committee doesn’t agree, let the Election Commission of Pakistan decide. The constitution lays out the process in a series of straightforward steps needed to put a caretaker prime minister in place and get on with the business of contesting elections. So why all the fuss? Why the constant statements to the media, from the president, the prime minister, the information minister, the leader of the opposition, the PML-N chief and whichever other politician — whether belonging to a party represented in parliament or not — who has a moment in front of the cameras? It’s obvious that the best way to solve this issue is behind closed doors. Every time one party mentions a possible candidate and some other group shoots the option down, a potential caretaker prime minister becomes controversial. The same happens when one side proposes judges and generals and another side disagrees.
A similarly unnecessary public spat is under way about announcing the election date, with the government now suggesting
dissolving the assemblies near their natural end date in mid-March, when it had earlier, in the immediate aftermath of Dr Qadri’s protest march, suggested mid-February. The opposition, meanwhile, is insisting on an immediate interim set-up, though without committing to the disbanding of the Punjab Assembly before time. This demand is based on the allegation, one for which no evidence has been provided, that the ruling party wants elections delayed. The upshot is that with their public squabbling, the two major parties are playing into the arguments of those who think civilians should not be allowed to govern Pakistan.
It is tempting, when elections are around the corner, to turn up the heat on political rivals and
turn every non-issue into an opportunity to score points, which is precisely what the government and the opposition seem to be trying to do. But there was some merit in what Nawaz Sharif said on Tuesday. Whether or not it is necessary to put a caretaker government in place immediately, as he suggested, is up for debate, but he had a point when he said that a deadlock isn’t helping the democratic process. The government and the opposition don’t appear to be talking to each other in any meaningful way, when genuine behind-the-scenes consultation, with eyes on the ultimate prize of a smooth democratic transition, is in their own best interests.

An opening?

IN his state of the union message, devoted largely to domestic issues, Barack Obama touched on Iran’s nuclear question.
While the American president pledged to do “what is necessary” to prevent Iran from going nuclear, he asked Tehran to realise “it is time for a diplomatic solution”. This is the second major overture from the US directed at the Iranians in the past few days. Vice President Joe Biden hinted at the option of bilateral talks to break the nuclear deadlock at a security conference in Munich recently. Though Iran rejected that offer, citing continuing US sanctions, which are strangulating its economy, the signals coming from Washington may pave the way for fruitful nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Kazakhstan scheduled for later this month, even though Tehran may have reservations about the parleys.
Offers of talks are always preferable to sabre-rattling. As it is the international community is grappling with another nuclear crisis, with North Korea having tested its latest device despite world condemnation. Of course North Korea and Iran do not fall in the same category. Iran signed the NPT in 1968 and has not denounced it, while Pyongyang renounced the treaty in January 2003. Still, although Iran has consistently denied it is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is difficult to take such statements at face value. After all, Pakistan denied it was pursuing atomic arms for decades before finally going nuclear in 1998. Having said that, the international community has yet to come up with solid evidence confirming that the Iranians are building the bomb. So perhaps the key here for all is to tread carefully. Tehran must be more open about its nuclear programme and allow the IAEA access to all sites where there may be suspicions that a weapons programme is being pursued. The US and its allies, on the other hand, should loosen the harsh sanctions regime which is hurting ordinary Iranians the most. This may convince Tehran that the West seeks to negotiate in good faith. Israel should also be restrained, as the irresponsible war talk coming from Tel Aviv only serves to further poison the atmosphere.

Gilani’s case

NOW that the main Swiss-letter saga is over, perhaps it is time to address, as suggested by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, one of its incidental consequences: the disqualification of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding public office for five years.
Mr Gilani’s disqualification of course stems from his conviction by the Supreme Court for contempt of court and he was convicted because had refused to dispatch the letter to Switzerland on the grounds that the president enjoyed immunity. Now, the Swiss authorities themselves have confirmed the standard interpretation of presidential immunity — and Mr Gilani stands alone as a direct casualty of the tussle between the judiciary and the PPP over the NRO.
The point here is not that Mr Gilani did not defy the court’s orders — he did. Nor, in the larger scheme of things, with sons and assorted family members already carrying the Gilani family torch, does disqualification hurt the former prime minister politically as it would other public representatives. However, there is a case to be made that disqualification of elected representatives from holding public office should be seen through for only the strongest and most durable of reasons. This is particularly so given the peculiar political history of this country in which disqualification is often wielded as a stick by anti-democratic forces to disrupt the democratic process. Seen in that light, with the Swiss case issues seemingly settled until at least Mr Zardari remains president, the continuing disqualification of Mr Gilani from elected office appears excessive and harsh. True, for the Supreme Court to reverse course at this stage would involve some delicate legal gymnastics. But much has been possible under the present superior judiciary, and here is an opportunity to stand alongside the elected representatives and to let the people’s vote be heard and registered.

Mixed results

ON balance it’s a good thing that, for the moment at least, the Election Commission of Pakistan will stay intact.
The desire for free and fair elections is a legitimate one, but context and timing matter too. The process of appointing this ECP has been one of the most neutral in Pakistan’s history. Whether or not it missed some procedural details, the commission that has resulted has the confidence of most political parties and several constitutional experts. And the country is on the verge of its first democratic transition — would it really have been worth it to rock the boat at this point? All in all, there was simply not a good enough reason to try to take the commission apart right now, and in that sense the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition led to the right outcome.
But the basis of the dismissal has been disappointing. For one, it has discriminated against dual citizens, and in the process also set a dangerous precedent. The only thing Pakistan’s constitution denies dual nationals is the right to run for elected office. One public reaction has been to argue that overseas remittances make up a significant portion of the country’s GDP. But even that is a secondary issue; there is nothing in Pakistani law that says dual nationals, whether or not they contribute to Pakistan’s economy, should not be able to appeal to the judiciary. And the court’s argument on this front — that Dr Qadri’s dual nationality prevents him for running for parliament, and therefore from seeking the particular relief he did — simply doesn’t stand up to logical scrutiny. Second, the court questioned Dr Qadri’s intentions in its verbal remarks, if not in the written order. But while his agenda and timing have been suspicious, that doesn’t amount to a legal argument against him. Third, the court argued his petition did not concern fundamental rights, even though it has set a fairly flexible bar for several other cases to meet that standard over the last few years.
The upshot of all this is that the petition’s dismissal has become controversial, when the preferred outcome would have been to dispose of the petition on stronger grounds, or allow the government and opposition to quickly reappoint the ECP, or handle the case in some other way that would have put to bed any possibility of the ECP’s constitution becoming a roadblock on the way to on-time elections. The hope now is that the more detailed order will clarify some of the questions and concerns the short order has raised.

Munter’s view

THE American envoy who perhaps understands Pakistan-US relations better than most but officially did so at a time when Washington was less sympathetic to the Pakistani condition and position is back in the news.
Having retired from the US diplomatic service, Cameron Munter has been speaking his mind in recent days and his comments have a refreshing tinge to them. Addressing a Washington think tank on Wednesday, Mr Munter hit out against the “callousness” of the US in refusing to immediately apologise for the deaths of Pakistani troops in the 2011 Salala incident. That refusal led to an escalation in a war of words between Pakistan and the US and the damaging closure of the Isaf supply routes through Pakistan for seven months. Since that chain of events, Pakistani and American officials have been keen to stress that a “new realism” has been injected into ties and both sides have a better understanding of what is and isn’t possible in the bilateral relationship going forward.
Yet, what Mr Munter was highlighting was something more subtle — and surely continuing. The trust deficit that has become a yawning chasm is still tiptoed around, instead of being squarely addressed. If the US military put its foot down and prevented a quick apology for Salala, that stubbornness is rooted in its own complaints about US troops being injured or killed in Afghan Taliban attacks — attacks made possible, in the US military’s formulation, by Pakistani support, direct and indirect, for the Afghan Taliban. But where militaries are meant to be fierce and suspicious, it is the job of diplomats to inject some stability and reasonableness in discourse and find ways to lessen tensions and expand common interests. Particularly with the US presence in Afghanistan to be significantly downgraded and changed in nature over the next couple of years, there is an urgent need to squarely face up to the deep-rooted suspicions on both sides. The US should know that Pakistan worries that on its way out of Afghanistan, it may just aim a kick or two at Pakistan as payback for a decade of being the “ally from hell”.

Pemra’s Valentine

WHETHER or not it is only a minority that is protesting against Valentine’s Day celebrations, the impact on the media watchdog in the country has been telling.
A day ahead of the event, on Wednesday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority asked the television channels to “avoid offending religious sentiments and corrupting the nation’s youth in their Valentine’s Day broadcasts”. The
well-meaning regulator explained it was issuing this advice in the wake of complaints — the volume, source and seriousness of which it didn’t reveal. All the polite reminder said was: “Such events have been perceived as a source of depraving,
corrupting and injuring the morality of Pakistani youth as well as violating the code of conduct developed by Pemra … All satellite TV channels/FM stations are, therefore, requested to honour viewers’ sentiments/opinion while conceptualising any programme or celebrating any event connected to Valentine’s Day.”
Pemra’s stance shows where the official bias lies. The moral stick which anti-Valentine’s Day groups use for beating their opponents, often literally, is a difficult enough challenge. Official involvement tips the balance — not in favour of those who see red when it comes to the way the extremist-minded operate but of those who object to people trying to exercise their right to say it with flowers. There may be plenty of complaints about the quality of Valentine broadcasts here. They may be a burden on the aesthetics for their gaudy overdose of colour and lack of content. The fare can always improve and the offering be made more nuanced. But it must be improved by professionals, without troubling Pemra whose attempts to control can most effectively be answered by the channels collectively. At the same time, it would be well worth the effort for Pemra’s new chief to stop the regulatory body’s drift towards moral policing.

Not strong enough

THURSDAY’S multi-party conference said three things: peace is important; dialogue should be our preferred tool for attaining it; no solution can violate the country’s constitution, laws or sovereignty.
But what does a statement that vague — one that doesn’t even mention the possibility of military action — mean in the face of an enemy as unreasonable as the Pakistani Taliban? The varying messages the TTP has sent have not been encouraging. Conditions for talks might have been scaled back to the release of some prisoners and guarantees by select politicians, but those for a ceasefire have included such unacceptable demands as rewriting the constitution and waging war against India. In fact, yesterday, the TTP rejected the ANP-sponsored conference in which the PTI and JI were conspicuous by their absence. The militants continue to pledge allegiance to Al Qaeda, oppose democracy and refuse to stop violence until after dialogue — a position they have backed up by carrying out a slew of attacks, including, possibly, yesterday’s attempt to kill the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister. Meanwhile, considering the TTP is an umbrella organisation, it is unclear which of its factions and affiliates agree with Hakeemullah Mehsud’s offer of talks and whether he can guarantee their good behaviour in any deal.
So for starters, it is unfortunate that the Pakistani state has let things get to a point where such terms are being dictated to it by an extremist militant organisation. But now that we have dug ourselves into this hole, a clear and forceful strategy is the only way to get out of it. Multi-party conferences inevitably end up producing sketchy resolutions because strong positions cannot be taken while still getting everyone to agree. Which is precisely why Pakistan needs a lot more than a broad-based conference — or a parliamentary resolution of the kind passed in October 2008 — to tackle the problem. What it needs is a viable and multi-pronged strategy, a concrete plan to support that strategy, and effective civil-military collaboration to devise and implement these.
Instead the military, the government and political parties have all been trying to evade responsibility, failing to realise that by not uniting on a tough position against the Taliban they are headed towards their own demise. Ultimately, though, the buck stops with the administration, not with parties outside parliament or even the opposition. The ruling coalition consists of several secular parties. They need to develop a plan with the military that may include talks but will not hesitate to take military action. The TTP has been audacious with its demands, and there is no reason for the state to demonstrate weakness in return.

Voting rights

IT is a good idea, in principle. But with the elections mere weeks away, how practical is it? On Thursday, a day after rejecting Dr Tahirul Qadri’s petition on the grounds that he is a dual national, the Supreme Court released a set of proposals to ensure that voting rights for overseas Pakistanis are secured in the coming polls. Amongst the suggestions presented was an immediate meeting between the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Ministries of Interior and Overseas Pakistanis to devise a mechanism in this regard, converting Pakistani missions abroad into polling stations, and directing the National Registration and Database Authority to speed up the process of issuing National Identity Cards for Overseas Pakistanis to all those expatriates who do not possess them.
This is all very well, but as the court itself noted, where the practicalities are concerned the task
is arduous. The process would have to start with identifying those eligible to vote which, presumably, could be settled by Nadra. After that would come the identification of constituencies, creating a system for votes to physically be cast, making staff available, ensuring the availability of ballot papers (and making sure they remain confidential) and so on. This constitutes a massive bureaucratic exercise requiring funds that might run into the billions given that the polls include constituencies for not just seats in the National Assembly — of which there are 272 — but also for the provincial assemblies. Together, the number of ballot papers required and the mechanics of allowing expatriate Pakistanis to vote present a formidable picture. It would perhaps be more pragmatic, then, to confine the exercise to settling in principle overseas Pakistanis right to vote, and opening up a debate on the various methods through which this could be made possible. There is nothing to bar legislation on a new system for expatriate voters such as, for example, creating a new constituency for them or making the entire country one constituency in terms of these voters, as was earlier the case for non-Muslim citizens. The coming polls are important; no new arrangement should be ordered that can potentially delay them.

A first step

WE welcome the passage of the Sindh Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2013 by the provincial assembly on Wednesday, though with cautious optimism. Inspired by the 18th Amendment’s Article 25(a), Sindh is the first province to pass a law making it mandatory for children aged between five and 16 to be in school; last year the National Assembly passed a similar law for the Islamabad Capital Territory.
The law calls for various measures to try and improve the dismal state of education in the province, including fines and jail terms for parents who refuse to send their children to school. It is important to have a legal framework in place calling for compulsory education but the real issue is of implementation, as Sindh’s education minister himself pointed out in the house. Most educationists say that people do want their offspring to attend school, yet in the public sector in many places either the physical infrastructure of schools is non-existent or teachers fail to take classes while still drawing salaries. It is these two issues that require the provincial government’s immediate attention. Also, assuming that the new law does result in increased enrolment, does Sindh have the requisite number of schools with adequate facilities or trained teachers to deal with the increased numbers?
Raising literacy levels is a challenging and lengthy task, so we must not be under the illusion that matters will magically change in the next couple of years. The law is just the first step. For example a similar law concerning primary education was passed in Punjab in 1994. It has not resulted in any major changes. Laws themselves will not improve literacy levels; good policies, solid follow-up and constant evaluation are required, guided by the political will to bring about genuine change in the education sector.

Columns and Articles

The case against reforms

By Cyril Almeida

REFORM or sink. That’s the message the outside powers are trying to impress on Pakistan’s civilian political leaders ahead of the next election cycle.
The thinking is fairly straightforward: Pakistan’s macroeconomic outlook is dismal and unless some fundamental reforms are undertaken soon, the country will be trapped in a low-growth, high-insecurity cycle for a generation or beyond.
The desired reforms?
Improve the tax-to-GDP ratio — more revenue is essential if the country is to be pulled out of the disastrous spiral of high borrowing and high expenditure.
Fix the power sector — growth is being choked by the desperate shortage of electricity and the state’s finances will collapse under the weight of hundreds of billions of rupees being shelled out annually to prop up a broken electricity sector.
Curtail borrowing from the domestic market — the banks are having such an easy time lending to the government that they’re ignoring the private sector; without private investment picking up, the medium-term trajectory of the economy can only be down, down, down.
Why press for reforms now?
Again, the thinking is fairly straightforward: whoever comes to power after the election, the government — weak or strong — will have some political capital to spend at the very beginning and so a small window of opportunity to push through reforms that six months or a year later will become politically untenable.
The message and the logic are both impeccable: Pakistan desperately needs economic reforms and the warm glow of a fresh mandate from the electorate will give the government a chance to push through unpopular reforms.
Here’s the problem: it won’t happen.
Start with the PPP. Let’s assume the party leads it’s unwieldy coalition back to power. What next?
The single most terrifying thing about the PPP? Party leaders genuinely believe Asif Zardari is some kind of economic wizard.
Waxing lyrical about your leaders is one of those squeamish necessities of politics here. But it becomes something else when that hype is internalised.
From leading the country through a perilous international financial crisis and recession to navigating the pitfalls of domestic special interests and markets, the PPP sells Zardari as a Nobel Prize-winning economist or the second coming of Nassim Nicolas Taleb.
If you’ve already got a hero in your midst, why would you need to reinvent yourself?
The PPP won’t do it, push through desperately needed but painful reforms, that is.
Turn to the PML-N. On paper, the N-League has a better economic team than the PPP — how could it not when compared to zero?
But scratch the surface and the same superficiality and misplaced confidence is evident: fixing Pakistan is just about a few steps — and please, don’t talk about taxing traders as one of those steps — that are primarily about management, not reforms.
For the PML-N there is no trade-off between better economic management and political exigencies — though the two are of course fundamentally interconnected.
The PTI? It talks a good reforms talk but it has yet to walk the reforms walk — and the same electables that maybe, perhaps, who knows will catapult the PTI to power or junior-coalition-partner status will be answerable to the same electorate that Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are answerable to.
And therein lies the basic problem: seen from the outside, through rational, reasonable and sensible eyes, the political mainstream in Pakistan is irrational, unreasonable and insensible.
A little pain now and the long-term benefits would be enormous. Improving the tax base would mean more money to spend on public services. Fixing the power sector would mean more jobs through small and big business flourishing. Curtailing borrowing would help put the brakes on inflationary pressures, essentially a tax on the people.
A rising tide lifts all boats — to use a terrible cliché — the outside powers are essentially arguing.
But Pakistani politics is about individual boats — about a personalised, patronage-driven style of politics that often works at cross purposes to the common good.
The most offensive thing you can say to a Pakistani politician is that they don’t do enough for their voters.
As far as they’re concerned, they do. They go to weddings and funerals, they get the kids into school, they get the young adults jobs, and they keep the delinquents out of jail.
They transfer money to the family patriarch when the family land is flooded or destroyed and to the matriarch when the economic going gets really tough.
They work, and they work damn hard, thank you very much, the politicians know and believe.
Of course, there are the subjective wishes of the electorate and then there is objective reality: ignore the macro for the micro, the collective for the individual, long enough and wantonly enough, and reality will eventually bite.
But when will reality bite, savagely and life-threateningly, not the death by a thousand cuts we’re currently suffering?
Because reforms won’t come unless there is absolutely no alternative.
Raise the tax base? Not unless the federal government can’t pay its dues: debt obligations, salaries of a bloated bureaucracy and the expensive toys for the spoilt boys.
Best guess: that’s another three to four years off.
Fix the electricity sector? Not unless it actually, definitively collapses, say, with the default of Pakistan State Oil, the lynchpin of the power sector and most connected to the global markets.
Best guess: that’s another year or two away.
Stop borrowing from the local banks? Not unless a massive inflationary spiral is triggered or the banks’ lopsided balance sheets threaten unmanageable risk.
Best guess: that’s several years away from happening.
No unavoidable agony, no immediate desperation, no imminent collapse — no reform. Not by the politicians.
No matter what anyone else wants or says.

The writer is a member of staff.
Twitter: @cyalm

Mona Lisa with toothpaste

By Hajrah Mumtaz

FINE, so it’s common practice. But are we unthinkingly embarking on a road where Pakistan’s arts industry will one day find itself held hostage by the commercial concerns of giants? Will this road take it to a point where it will have to compromise on artistic integrity? .
Strong words, yes. So first, the problem.
Product placement. We’re no strangers to extended, very expensive advertisements by commercial giants such as phone and tea companies, and that’s fine, because it’s their money; they can make whatever advertisement they like and when it runs on television, we know it’s an advertisement.
We’ve seen the practice in its variations in local television programming. But now, it’s trickling on to the stage, and if it becomes common practice then that, for me, raises more than a few alarms.
Product placement, a.k.a. embedded marketing. This, as most readers must know, is a method of advertising in which a product is brought to the attention of the potential consumer in a context that is not an advertisement. In other words, something — usually a cultural product — is used as a vehicle to deliver an advertising message, but is not in and of itself an advertisement.
Product placement in movies has a history that goes further than the film narrative in the form that we recognise it today. In fact, the term ‘soap opera’ was coined because back in the 1940s and 1950s, the expenses of this specific type of television programme — targeting a primarily female audience, which is the lot that usually does the household shopping — were often borne by packaged-goods companies that wanted above all else to shift goods.
Detractors of the practice call it cheating. An advertisement ought to be presented as exactly that, they say, which is why infomercials and commercials are in format and in content usually expected to be clearly distinguishable from creative products. But the thing is, research seems to show that embedded marketing does help push a product — and the marketing and advertising world is in deadly earnest about and has a bag full of money for research into what makes people buy.
It’s presented in an ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ kind of way: we’ll give you some money to achieve your rather expensive ambition, all you have to do is help us sell our product; or, when the cultural product is stronger, such as James Bond, we’ll let him wear ABC watch if you give us some money.
Thus it was that Knightrider is an example of brand integration with the Pontiac Trans Am, GoldenEye was the focus of a very successful BMW campaign and Sex and the City made one more than a little aware of Absolut.
So why does this make me uncomfortable in terms of the stage in Pakistan? Because here and there, during a play or a comedy sketch, this can of a popular soft drink or that fast food is rather unusually prominently displayed, at the demand of the sponsor or advertiser.
Going beyond mere props on the stage, there have even been instances where the advertising of a certain product has been done with as much discreetness as possible (which is not really that much) woven into the dialogue.
But anyone who has even a little more than pedestrian knowledge of how the stage works ought to know that for the director of a live performance — a play, a dance, a sketch — every single thing on that stage has been carefully, painstakingly, selected for its creative input into the piece as a whole.
If something is there or not there, that is supposed to mean something — or at least, it should, if the director is worth the honorific at all. What is on stage or said on stage should not be dictated by commercial concerns (leaving aside the half-related dimension that all of stage, and some art, is commercial because it must sell a ticket).
But hang on, you might be thinking, what about the long history the arts have had of being able to survive — thrive — over the centuries because of patronage by the elite? What about Beethoven and Archduke Rudolph, to name just one of many?
And in this part of the world, too, art and literature flourished in earlier centuries because of the interest and patronage of the rich and the powerful; how about Ghalib and Bahadur Shah Zafar? Then, and now, it is mainly the elite that at the very least pays the ticket-price.
But here’s the thing: money sponsored art, it also commissioned art, but it didn’t figure in the art produced to the extent of actually being in it. Beethoven wrote a fair bit of music in tune with guidelines presented by patrons, but none of his music said “fealty to the princes”.
The Mona Lisa is thought to have been painted on request, a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. If the latter had run a toothpaste company, or whatever, imagine the results da Vinci could have been asked to produce.
So then, you might ask, why are directors and producers in Pakistan allowing this, if it can compromise their artistic licence and integrity? The answer: money.
In these days of compromised security and economics, sponsorships for the stage are not that easy to come by. In the case of independent productions, that often means either not holding the production (or being out of pocket) or ceding to the advertising industry’s demands.
And, therefore, now would be a very good time for directors and producers to start resisting the demand for product placing on the stage. Can we really risk a future where Lady Macbeth’s problem of “out, damned spot” is said to be easily resolved by a detergent?

The writer is a member of staff.

Elections in Fata

By Khadim Hussain

THE Joint Committee on Fata Reforms represented by 10 major political parties submitted its recommendations to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding fair and free elections in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) some time ago.
The committee in its recommendations has suggested steps to be taken by the ECP for successfully holding elections in Fata. This is a significant move and can pave the way for the political mainstreaming and de-radicalisation of the tribal agencies if the federal government, the military establishment and the ECP take the necessary measures for holding fair and free elections in these areas.
The extension of the 2002 Political Parties Act to Fata in August 2011 was a move aimed at bringing Fata into Pakistan’s political mainstream. Such mainstreaming, accompanied by efforts at administrative and economic integration is meant to be a harbinger of a genuine political process in Fata to give the people there an opportunity to participate in the policymaking process of the country.
Such participation might bring about an end to the marginalisation that has been Fata’s lot for the past several decades. It might also neutralise the militant discourse that has permeated the local communities, and at the same time be considered the first essential step towards making the residents of Fata stakeholders in the country’s future. But there are challenges ahead.
First, the militant network has spread to almost every agency of Fata especially South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber. Most of these agencies have been witnessing the strangulating social control of the militant network over the past two decades. One can assume that some modicum of normalcy has been restored to the Bajaur, Mohmand and Malakand agencies and some parts of South Waziristan after intermittent military operations from 2009 to 2012.
The social control of the militant network in various shades poses a threat to the political process in Fata in general but specifically to all liberal democratic parties. This might severely endanger the process of genuine representative electioneering in Fata.
Second, the civilian administration in almost all agencies of Fata has not yet been allowed to start functioning routinely. The registration of voters, allotment of polling booths and administration of electioneering through returning officers might face serious hurdles in the absence of the writ of the high courts and Supreme Court in Fata. Right from election campaigning to the counting of votes, questions may arise pertaining to transparency, especially in the case of female voters. Besides, the issue of the hundreds and thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) still lingers.
Third, political parties might not be able to openly conduct their election campaigns in the presence of military checkposts and the stranglehold of the militant network. Ticket-holders of political parties might face severe resistance from militant networks.
It is a matter of satisfaction that the majority of the people in Fata including the IDPs are inclined to support party-based elections in the area as emerged from interviews conducted with people belonging to different parts of the tribal areas. This gives hope to those who are for reforms, mainstreaming and de-radicalisation in Fata.
Certain measures can be suggested to create an enabling environment for holding free and fair elections in the tribal region.
First, as has been suggested by the Fata committee, the ECP needs to make urgent arrangements for the registration of voters. The ECP also needs to develop a mechanism for the deployment of returning officers from the adjoining districts. No progress in this regard has been made so far. The process of the allotment of polling booths that are accessible to voters and booths for the IDPs needs to be planned on an urgent basis due to the fact that in most agencies of Fata, the population is widely scattered.
Second, the federal government may develop a mechanism for coordination between the political administration and the military in Fata to ensure the security of both contestants and voters. Specifically, the intelligence wings of the security forces have to make sure that no candidate is abducted, attacked or intimidated by the terror network in Fata before and during the elections. All supply lines of the militant network need to be cut off for the security of both voters and candidates.
Third, all those political parties that wish to participate in the elections in Fata must form an alliance to agree on the fundamental principles of the rules of game. The alliance may not be necessarily for the purpose of contesting elections together but for creating an enabling environment for polls.
Due to the sensitive security and sociopolitical circumstances of Fata, political cooperation is of utmost importance. Besides agreement on the code of conduct developed by the ECP, political parties contesting elections in Fata must agree to safeguard one another against imminent dangers and mobilise voters. They should also facilitate one another in holding corner meetings.
Political parties must carry out consultations on an urgent basis to form a strategy for engagement with at least some militant groups with the help of the federal government, the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the military establishment. This move could slow down militancy during the election season.
Civil society organisations, including unions of journalists, working in Fata must form consortiums to facilitate the registration of voters, help returning officers conduct electioneering and develop tools for monitoring the elections. Civil society organisations might also form cells to update the government and political parties on important issues and events in Fata. They might also help in developing an enabling environment for dialogue between political administrations and militant groups.
Last but not least the holding of local- bodies polls in Fata immediately after elections is important so that the political process becomes the norm at the grassroots level. The time to act is now.

The writer is a political analyst.

Bus bhai bus and chief saab

By Asha’ar Rehman

SHAHBAZ Sharif’s dream metro bus finally kicked off on Sunday, the red of the long line of coaches complementing the Valentine mood.
The second weekend of February is when Lahoris would have their beloved Basant until a few years ago. Now colourful bunches of balloons greeted the launching party, which included the deputy prime minister of Turkey.
It was tempting enough for television journalists reporting from the spot to flaunt their own celebratory neckties in competition with the expectedly vibrant shades sported by our own evergreen Turk, the chief minister.
It was a real festive moment for the city, which has not quite been the same after the launch of the project. As the bus took off on its 27-kilometre journey, old objections were revived: how the money could have been better spent elsewhere. (The project according to unofficial, even at times unkind, estimates has cost Rs70 billion.)
The amount could have been used to set up universities, hospitals, or could have yielded the country the megawatts it so desperately needs. If this was a point people were ready to lend an ear to, quite clearly they had one eye fixed on the new Shahbaz invention.
While Lahore has had its share of initiatives in public transport over all these years, the new-look imparted to the city by all these bridges and underpasses built for the fast-track metro bus does create excitement.
The bridges are good carriers of popular aspirations. They conform to the general impression of development and modernisation. For long, Pakistani cities have wanted to match London and Paris; the stretch metro bus on the Ferozepur Road could well turn out to be their route to the much-craved progress. It is some kind of progress, at least.
Critics — mostly rival politicians — have dubbed the metro bus a waste, a drain on resources and an arbitrarily created monument to satisfy the desires of an absolute ruler. They are not wrong in pointing out that it is a gift lavished on a people who should have instead been allowed to make their own choices about what they wanted at this particular moment.
Transparent consultancy and involvement of citizen groups has never been a preferred option for rulers here and it remained so as Lahore takes this expensive plunge towards modernity.
Having said that, not all politicians have been as vocal in their dismissal of the metro bus as one would have expected the Pakistani model to be. Many, it appears, are waiting for the people’s jury to come up with its verdict. Along with the politicians this ‘waiting list’ includes other important observers such as economists and journalists.
Shahbaz Sharif’s bus is a costly project and it has been confronted with some alternative ideas, prominent among these, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi’s partly underground train system. But it has not drawn the kind of dire economic warnings Nawaz Sharif’s motorway generated in the mid-1990s.
This is sometimes explained in terms of the changed times where economists from outside the public sector are increasingly partnering with the government in its development endeavours and thus cannot be as independent in their thinking as they might have been previously.
There are a few economists, some of them aligned with the federal government, who have only mildly described the metro system as politically motivated — thereby conceding that Shahbaz was doing something that could win him votes.
The strongest argument against the bus so far is one which sees it as an act of favouritism at the cost of other parts of Punjab. This is the point PPP and PML-Q leaders highlighted in their public meetings in Punjab, which coincided with the launch in Lahore.
Shahbaz has been trying to combat this attack by promising similar transport systems for other cities, ‘if he was given an opportunity’. The truth is that his party, his family actually, has had plenty of time and opportunity since the 1980s to do for others what they have been accused of doing for Lahore. Their bias for the city is all too visible and is a source of embarrassment for some Lahore-dwellers.
Even if this favourite’s embarrassment is to lie concealed amid all these official celebrations and public expectations, a total disregard for the cultural argument does play the spoiler here. There has been some criticism of the cultural impact of the bridges that have come up for the bus, but this is one of the weaker arguments, considering the space it has been given in
the debate surrounding the venture.
This is sad for a city which prides itself on its heritage and which has been promised a status equal to Paris or London — towns more famous for their cultural offerings than their buses.
It was a love for the old etiquette and old culture that made some Lahoris hope the Punjab rulers might finally show greater hospitality and invite to the opening of the metro bus a guest who happened to be in the city. Some television channels even wondered if President Asif Ali Zardari, camped in the new and reportedly palatial Bilawal House in Lahore,
will make it to the launch as a surprise guest.
Instead, perhaps inspired by the presence of President Zardari and party chairman Bilawal Zardari, the PPP’s provincial leadership was drawn to the young striking doctors who threatened to mark the arrival of the bus with a protest demonstration.
The doctors were brutally dealt with. One PPP member of the Punjab Assembly, also beaten up with the doctors, managed to make a bandaged appearance. The party’s provincial chief did at long last turn up to show solidarity with the strikers.
Back at the ceremony, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif did get to recite his pet poem that decries the ‘Zar’ factor in the country’s affairs —– at the expense of an audience that could do with a verse change. He is obviously too busy building bridges to find time for such literary pursuits.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

No point in talking

By Zahid Hussain

TERRORISM is an extreme form of criminality and one doesn’t talk to criminals. But some political leaders are shamelessly calling on the state to surrender to the very criminals who have killed thousands of Pakistanis in suicide bombings, beheaded soldiers and bombed schools.
It is all in the hope of an elusive peace that can never be achieved by legitimising violence. While some of them are outright apologists for the Pakistani Taliban, others are pursuing a policy of appeasement born out of fear. This dangerous self-deception will have disastrous consequences for the country.
The Taliban offer for peace talks is more of a ploy to gain legitimacy and a public relations tactic than a sincere move to end violence. It has come on the back of a series of gruesome and audacious terrorist attacks, including one that killed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa senior minister Bashir Bilour. Days before the talks offer, the militants killed 13 soldiers in a spectacular attack on a security post near Lakki Marwat.
It is apparent that the Taliban want negotiations on their own terms. Not only have they refused to halt the violence, they have also set preconditions for talks. One demand calls for the release of three senior Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commanders who spearheaded the insurgency in Swat that killed thousands of people. For once the Interior Minister Rehman Malik was right when he dismissed the talks offer as non-serious and a joke.
It seems like a grotesque joke that the offer of talks came in a video message from Ehsanullah Ehsan, the notorious TTP spokesman who was seen sitting next to Adnan Rashid, a murderer on death row who was sprung from Bannu jail in an audacious raid by the Taliban last year.
Ehsanullah is the same man who would boast of attacking security installations on behalf of an outlawed organisation, slaughtering soldiers and killing high-profile politicians. Not long ago he had justified the attack on Malala Yousufzai saying that it was ordered that she be killed under Islamic Sharia laws. He has vowed to target her again if she returns. Talk of peace coming from him sounds extremely bizarre.
While expressing complete distrust of the government and the military, the Taliban have had the audacity to suggest the names of three political parties who they want to sit at the negotiations as guarantors. But with whom are they going to negotiate if the two major stakeholders, the federal government and the military, are not trusted by them? How can the offer for negotiations be taken seriously in this environment of distrust?
One can understand the support for talks by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), both long-time apologists for the militant outfits. Many of the militant fighters now active in the TTP and allied groups have come from the ranks of these two mainstream Islamic parties and it was during the rule of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Aml in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that Talibanisation started to take root in the province. Yet it did not stop the Taliban from targeting the top leadership of the JUI-F and the JI with suicide bombings.
Most inexcusable, however, is the support from Nawaz Sharif for the talks. Despite the fact that Punjab, after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been the main target of Taliban violence, the PML-N has maintained a policy of appeasement allowing the militants to operate freely in Punjab.
Vigorous opposition from Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League has remained a major stumbling block in the way of developing the broad national consensus needed to fight terrorism and religious extremism, which present an existentialist threat to the country. This ostrich-like attitude driven by political expediency to win over rightwing votes in the upcoming elections will cost the party and the country hugely.
There has hardly been any precedent where a state has negotiated with terrorists seeking to enforce their retrogressive worldview through brute force. The examples of Britain’s negotiation with the nationalists in Northern Ireland and the US talking to the Afghan Taliban cannot be applied in support of arguments for negotiations with the TTP. In Northern Ireland it was a struggle for sharing political power and ultimately integration with the Republic of Ireland. Under the Good Friday agreement the Irish Republican Army was decommissioned and the nationalists agreed to participate in the political process within the United Kingdom.
Similarly, it is different in the case of the United States seeking talks with the Afghan Taliban to find a political solution in Afghanistan before the occupation forces complete their withdrawal from the war-torn country. But neither are there any occupation forces in Pakistan nor is the TTP fighting for democratic rights. The violence perpetrated by the Pakistani Taliban in fact threatens the democratic process in the country.
Those who are supporting negotiations with the TTP have perhaps forgotten what happened in Swat after the peace deals with the militants in 2008 and 2009. The Taliban leaders released in 2008 went back to the valley and massacred hundreds of their opponents. They used the 2009 agreement to spread violence to other areas. That led to a massive military operation. We certainly don’t want to go through that horrible experience again.
What is most appalling is the way the terrorists are being glorified by some mainstream political parties and the media. Some journalists have become virtual messengers for the outlawed outfit and its spokesman is interviewed by TV anchorpersons. Some newspapers have unwittingly become instruments for the militant propaganda campaign by splashing their statements and pictures on the front page. This kind of publicity given to terrorists is unheard of in other countries in a similar situation. What has also given the TTP this new-found confidence and stridency is the failure of the state to formulate a coherent policy and evolve a national narrative for effectively fighting the menace of militancy. The policy of appeasement has not worked in the past and certainly cannot deliver peace in the future.
Talking to the terrorists amounts to selling the blood of thousands of men, women and children who have fallen victim to the insane violence. Whatever gain has been achieved in the battle against the militants will be completely lost if the government concedes to the Taliban’s conditions for talks.

The writer is an author and journalist.
Twitter: @hidhussain

The extent of cooperation

By Rafia Zakaria

SOME days before CIA chief John Brennan’s confirmation hearings, the Open Society Justice Initiative released a report saying that 54 countries around the world aided the Central Intelligence Agency in providing secret detention facilities, investigative assistance and safe houses.
These venues, scattered all over the world, were used to detain and often torture at least 136 people picked up as “the CIA conspired with other governments to build a highly classified system of secret detention and extraordinary rendition of terror suspects”. The report’s chapter on Pakistan shows that permission was granted by Pakistani authorities to allow the CIA to use Pakistani airspace and airports. The revelations are not surprising. In addition to various statements made by Pakistani officials as well as a UN report released in 2012, it had long been assumed that Pakistan provided cooperation in apprehending Al Qaeda suspects.
The details of the hunt for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad that emerged last year showed one such ostensibly collaborative effort. Going back to 2002 and the early years of the ‘war on terror’, Pakistani intelligence along with the CIA raided a house in Gulshan-i-Iqbal after an informant told them that his boss often had Arab-speaking guests.
When they apprehended the owner, he gave them the address of another house in Tariq Road where passports allegedly belonging to Osama bin Laden’s family and two children, apparently the sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, were found. The last raid in that episode of collaboration took place after a night-long vigil outside a shady commercial building in Defence where a firefight and siege yielded none other than Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, a coordinator of the 9/11 attacks.
Those of course were the first years of the ‘war on terror’ during the tenure of Gen Pervez Musharraf, days before drone attacks and Nato blockages and incursions into Abbottabad.
Many would say that the current stalemate between the United States and Pakistan points to less cooperation between the two countries where the task of apprehending terrorists is concerned.
Adherents of this logic could, for example, point to the closing of the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan in December 2011, and the fact that Pakistan denounced the US drone strikes taking place within Pakistani territory.
At Pakistan’s end, the truth about the extent of cooperation is mired in speculation. One could point to the confused aftermath of the Osama Bin Laden raid and say that intensive cooperation would have suggested a programmed aftermath, joint statements and less mistrust.
One could even look at the changing nature of US drone strikes in Pakistan in recent months; note their change in pattern from “targeted” strikes in response to specific intelligence; to “signature” strikes that simply rely on patterns.
None of this however, can dislodge the conclusion that while the details of past cooperation may now be emerging, the clauses of current or future cooperation remain and will most likely continue to remain murky.
The change in tone has been on the American side. If the tone of the overtures of old between the US and Pakistan was signified by American dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge the relationship or proffer enough public displays of affection, the confirmation of John Brennan as the new head of the CIA marks an end to that dynamic.
In the post-9/11 world, America’s chief interest in Pakistan is to enable cooperation in the ‘war on terror’, the arrest of terror suspects and the killing of variously defined militants on lists approved by President Obama.
With the sleuths of the CIA, rather than elected officials or even State Department bureaucrats managing the relationship with Pakistan, the disjointed nature of the ties between one side wishing to keep cooperation secret and another worrying about political accountability is
further emphasised.
The acceptance of this new recipe for fighting terror could be seen in the questions that the US senators did not pose when the CIA chief-to-be was sitting before them. For instance, no one asked about how the CIA determines its targets, if there are any rules for selecting them, how confirmations are made (without consulting anyone on the ground in Pakistan) of whether a strike actually killed the militant thought to have been targeted.
The dodge was deliberate; and the result of the tacit and new American conclusion; that it is best after all to hedge behind the dictates of national security, and let the spies of the CIA, adept at secret deals and surreptitious slyness, handle the tricky and dirty business of catching terrorists.
Where Pakistan is concerned the result is clear. In relegating the war to its spy agency the CIA, the United States seems to have recognised that no Pakistani politician in the present can likely withstand, and in the future will likely be able to take on, the tremendous and devastating political cost of a public alliance with the United States.
With the ‘war on terror’ now the domain of the CIA, Pakistan and its intelligence apparatus can consider the cosy possibility of being secret allies, untroubled and untrammeled by the tasks of explaining to opposed publics the ethics of agreeing to give up one suspect and not another or explaining why torture was necessary and secret rendition required.
Blissfully unseen, the relationship can grow and bloom for now and forever, free of the meddlesome stresses of democratic transparency, ethical constraints or legal procedure. For Pakistan, a country dominated by secrets, a new secret relationship may be just the thing for an uncertain future.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

Australia on a sticky wicket

By Mahir Ali

HAND-WRINGING and breast-beating are not officially recognised as sports, but in recent days Australian officials could easily have claimed the crown in either field.
The impetus came from the results of a year-long Australian Crime Commission (ACC) investigation that concluded unfairness was rife across any number of sporting activities. Doping? Tick. Match-fixing? Tick. Underworld connections? Tick.
Welcome, then, to the international world of sports, where various forms of corruption have prospered for decades. Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who recently confessed that each of his seven Tour de France titles was acquired with the aid of performance-enhancing substances, wasn’t exactly a pioneer. Nor was spot-fixing an innovation of the three Pakistani cricketers who got nailed for it in 2010.
It is perfectly possible that even the Chicago White Sox, the American baseball team that notoriously threw the so-called World Series in 1919, was continuing rather than initiating a trend. The lure, of course, was hard cash.
The culpability, in the context of corruption, of the sports-money nexus is fairly obvious. And it’s hardly a surprise that, in the modern era, the United States got there first. During the period of the White Sox scandal, much of the world still relied on amateurs to demonstrate athletic prowess. The switch to professional status was gradual, but by the late 20th century it encompassed almost every field of sporting endeavour.
Which, on the face of it, seems fair enough. No one can seriously question the concept that dedicated sportspeople ought to be adequately compensated for dedicating their lives — up to a certain age at least — to a particular game. Kerry Packer’s World Series cricket was a tremendous success precisely because cricketers were until then poorly paid.
But an ostensibly good thing can be taken too far. It has long been common, for instance, for footballers to be “bought” and “sold” for enormous sums by European clubs. The Indian Premier League (IPL) brought the concept of auction blocks to the subcontinent. Other nations have emulated the idea, not least Australia with its Big Bash League, which is now under scrutiny.
It is still the IPL, though, that, despite corruption scandals, remains unprecedentedly lucrative for international cricketers.
In one respect, the IPL and other bodies instrumental to the internationalisation of sport deserve approbation as an antidote to the virulent nationalism that all too often sullies the potential of such pastimes as goodwill-generating pursuits. On the other hand, all too many of them can be seen primarily as profit-generating enterprises that barely give a toss about fair play.
Betting, illegal or otherwise, has a great deal to do with it. And in countries where gambling on the outcome of sporting fixtures is common, the line between legal and illegal variants is thinly drawn. On top of that there are syndicates with underworld connotations.
In Australia, the ACC’s unclassified report has not named names, ostensibly for legal reasons. But classified reports are said to have been forwarded, mainly to the National Rugby League and Australian rules football clubs whose procedures are considered suspect, some of whose names have emerged in new reports. Sports scientists, doctors and bureaucrats have been cited as potential culprits.
Hormone-inducing peptides are believed to have been administered to players, sometimes apparently without their knowledge. The various “footy” codes are particularly under a cloud, whereas in sports such as cricket match-fixing is deemed to be the chief issue.
The trouble with performance-enhancing drugs, of course, is that they make a difference in any field of endeavour, affording an unfair advantage to those who imbibe, knowingly or otherwise. Roger Federer complained this week about the laxity of controls in tennis, saying he was surprised not to be tested after the Australian Open. He is not the only tennis player to have suggested that testing is less rigorous than it used to be.
Cricket Australia has noted that its primary concern is spot-fixing, given that the game itself depends largely on talent. But, surely, it could not possibly be unaware that stamina-enhancing substances could prove attractive to players.
The non-specific allegations on what was described last week by a former anti-doping official as the blackest day for Australian sports have prompted claims that what the ACC has unearthed is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. The damage this might do to the self-esteem of a nation where sport is effectively a religion, and which has long prided itself on a drugs-free sporting field, is potentially considerable.
There’s also the possibility, though, that — regardless of the extent to which deleterious tendencies can henceforth be curtailed — it won’t make all that much of a difference. After all, if religion can withstand the assault of rationality, what’s to prevent sport from surviving the onslaught of ethics?
Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a dilemma if everyone were to recognise that competitiveness on the field is inevitably aligned to the capitalist ethos of making as much money as possible, regardless of who is trampled in the process.
In a world where players can be bought and sold, it would be hard to convince them that there is anything seriously wrong with taking a lucrative dive at a propitious moment, or with injecting a solution that enhances their prospects of heroic deeds and, consequently, their bank balances.
It could justifiably be argued that in the past purportedly socialist nations such as East Germany and the Soviet Union went to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate their supremacy in various sports, and China has been accused of conforming to the pattern.
Nationalism has undoubtedly been a culprit in promoting unfair tactics on the field. But it ought to be equally clear that the individualism and the profit motive that capitalism prides itself on have now effectively taken over.
Even the supposedly illegal betting syndicates, after all, are instances of free enterprise. Many worthy athletes, in Australia and elsewhere, are perfectly justified in resenting the stigma, but it’s hard to imagine it will ever completely be vanquished.


America’s drone issue

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh

OVER the last few weeks, particularly in the week preceding the congressional hearings for confirmation of Obama’s new CIA director, much has appeared in the American and international media about the role of drones in Washington’s war against terror.
What new or old information has all the hard news, commentary and testimony in the confirmation hearings of John Brennan and, less importantly, Secretary of State John Kerry brought us? And what does this portend for our region — the principal operational area for CIA-operated drones?
Let me include in this column the facts that were revealed or repeated before moving on in a subsequent article to what this means for Pakistan and the region.
Despite the many learned commentaries questioning the efficacy of drones as a counter-terrorism tool, in the absence of efforts to win hearts and minds, the American public supports their use by an overwhelming majority. A Washington Post-ABC poll conducted last year showed that 83 per cent of Americans approved the use of drones against suspected terrorists overseas. There is no indication that this level of support has dropped.
One respected expert and critic of drone attacks, Micah Zenko of the Council for Foreign Relations, says that the total number of deaths since 2004 is more than 3,000.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism based in the UK, estimates that in Pakistan 3,461 people were killed since 2004; 891 were civilians. Our own interior ministry has been quoted in our newspapers as saying that 2,670 people have been killed in Pakistan, and of them 487, including 171 children and 43 women, were civilians. Senator Dianne Feinstein at the Brennan hearing maintained, while calling for greater transparency, that the annual civilian death toll from drone attacks was in the single digits.
Only one American public source, the New American Foundation, supports this maintaining that total civilian deaths were six in 2011 and five in 2012. The Long War Journal, however, puts the figure at 30 in 2011 and 39 in 2012 and the other sources quoted would also seem to suggest at least double-digit civilian fatalities.
There is some concern on the part of experts, such as former US commander in Afghanistan, Gen (retd) Stanley McChrystal, that the American public did not appreciate the anger that drone attacks provoked, implying that they thus proved counterproductive.
Congressional concern, however, focused not on this aspect but largely on the use of drones to kill American citizens without due process of law. (Of the three American citizens killed in Yemen one was a 16-year old.) There did not appear to be much of a push to stop the programme but there was a clear push for greater congressional and judicial oversight. What did seem likely was that the drone programme’s operation would be transferred from the CIA to the defence department which by law would be required to provide more information to Congress.
It also appeared that the Obama administration would go along with the demand that approval of drone attacks be obtained from a special court. This would be a replication of the court set up to approve administration requests for surveillance and wiretapping of suspect American citizens.
Secretary Kerry at his confirmation hearings appeared to recognise that the drone campaign was presenting a very negative image of America, stating that the US had to make sure that “American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone”. However, there were no concrete indications in his testimony of how this was to be done.
Brennan in his testimony asserted that “I think the American people would be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined, very judicious, and we only use these authorities and these capabilities as a last resort.” Is this so?
The Obama administration in 2009 decided to end the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists captured by US agencies and even more importantly ended the programme of “extraordinary rendition” under which suspected terrorists detained by US or allied forces were handed over or detained in other countries where less than savoury methods were used to extract confessions and information.
The Open Society Foundation’s recently released report states that some 54 countries including Pakistan, Syria and Iran participated in this programme in various ways “including by hosting CIA prisons on their territories; detaining, interrogating, torturing, and abusing individuals….”
It would be safe to surmise that deprived of these tools US officials — notably Brennan himself — may well have reasoned that drone strikes were the answer to the problem even though they carried the risk of alienating the very people whose cooperation would be needed to strike at the roots of terrorism. Certainly the initiation of signature strikes, a notable feature of recent drone strikes in Pakistan, could not be termed “a last resort”.
In 2001 the United States had less than 200 drones. Now there are some 7,500 of which more than a few hundred are armed. It seems that far from being discarded as a tool, drones will be used even more extensively in the future. Two years ago a new secret base was set up in Saudi Arabia and was apparently the principal launching pad for drone operations in Yemen against the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Negotiations are under way with Niger to set up a base in that country under the African command for unarmed surveillance drones. We can anticipate that it will soon thereafter acquire lethal Predators to kill the terrorists that surveillance has identified and who cannot be captured easily.
An MQ-9 Reaper, the hunter-killer drone costs $27 million, a fraction of the cost of a modern fighter aircraft. Its use eliminates the risk to the pilot that would arise if manned aircraft were to be used or the loss of American soldiers if Special Operation Forces were deployed to capture suspected terrorists. Given this situation, it appears that Americas reputation for being a nation of laws will be sacrificed at the altar of the prime objective of eliminating imagined or real terrorist threats.
Legalisms, as one observer put it, will be used to justify what is illegal in international and domestic US law but even these legalisms will be abandoned in the case of our region as will be explained in a subsequent column.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

Sectarian threat to polls

By I.A. Rehman

THE brutal killing of a leading lawyer in Peshawar last Friday, apparently for his belief, should awaken everyone who wields any authority in Pakistan to the dangerous consequences of the continued failure to address the root causes of sectarian violence in the country.
The assassination of Malik Jrar Husain, a soft-spoken, non-controversial lawyer and a prominent campaigner for human rights, is the latest in a series of high-profile sectarian killings in Peshawar. Earlier, some weeks ago, two senior doctors, one an eye specialist and the other a gastroenterologist, had been shot dead. And an additional sessions judge barely survived a bullet injury.
It is said that Mr Jrar Husain was being considered for elevation to the high court bench. At a time when scores of posts of high court judges are said to be lying vacant in the country for want of qualified candidates his death is doubly painful. One wonders whether Peshawar is becoming another Karachi, where the targeted killing of prominent professionals seems to have resumed.
A month has passed since the nation-wide protest against the Jan 10 massacre of the Hazara Shias in Quetta had rattled the powers that be and the Raisani ministry had been sent packing. Mercifully, no major incident has been reported from Quetta since then, although one wonders why the law-enforcement agencies, that were in command even before the imposition of governor raj, had failed to establish order earlier.
Elsewhere, however, the monster of sectarian violence has been taking its toll. Only the other day two religious scholars were killed in Karachi. Earlier, 27 people were killed in a blast outside a mosque in Hangu. The attacks on Eid Milad processions at some places in Punjab indicate that the virus of sectarian intolerance has also spread to the villages.
Notwithstanding the imposition of governor rule in Balochistan, the shock caused by the Quetta massacre and the bereaved families’ refusal to bury the dead for four days has scarcely galvanised the state and society into action against the menace of sectarianism.
What makes the situation especially serious and disquieting is the fact that the administration is still treating targeted killings for sectarian differences wholly as a law and order matter and that too in a narrow sense. The emphasis continues to be on increasing the ring of security for vulnerable communities and individuals. An example is the federal interior minister’s assurance to the president of the Jafaria Alliance that additional security was being provided to the Hazaras in Balochistan. The public has not been taken into confidence as to what ‘additional security’ means.
The complaint that even the task of catching the culprits responsible for the major incidents of sectarian bloodshed is not carried out does not seem to be baseless. The organisations behind the killing of the Hazara Shias and quite a few members of other sects in Balochistan have been known for many years. One of them made its plans to exterminate the Hazara Shias known in advance. The statement that the organisation to which the killer gangs belonged was banned long ago is meaningless. For one thing the new identity acquired by the outlawed organisation is known to the authorities, and for another the relevant laws do not exempt persons belonging to banned outfits as well as those committing crimes after their organisations are banned.
Besides, no action has been reported against the instigators of sectarian violence. A great deal of literature is published year after year that causes hatred among the various religious sects. Suppression of such activity was one of the primary objectives of the law designed to deal with terrorism and sectarian violence, an objective that, for all practical purposes, seems to have been discarded. Those having access to pulpits and possessing public address systems continue to preach hatred, extol violence and incite impressionable youth to murder anyone who does not share their belief.
That sectarian madness cannot be cured by courts and law-enforcement agencies is now a cliché. Yet alternative strategies are not developed to answer the need for a battle of minds that the situation demands. The recent accord in Karachi between two religious organisations belonging to different sects for a joint protest against fratricide was welcome but they need to do much more to promote inter-sect harmony.
The problem with initiatives for a better understanding between different sects and mutual tolerance of one another is that exchange of views and making of compacts are limited to leaders/scholars of the parties involved; the process is not carried to the grassroots. Ordinary members of the different communities, especially in the vast countryside, get messages of inter-sect goodwill in bits and pieces through the media or intermediaries and often remain unconvinced. There is great need for the leaders of the various sects to address, jointly as well as separately, their followers in towns and villages.
One does not know whether it is possible to persuade the ulema of various inclinations to concentrate on the elements of unity in Islamic thought instead of excommunicating all those who wish to seek salvation from one of the many other legitimate paths open to them. The reason is that often sectarian exclusivity is pursued for worldly gains. Separate mosques, madressahs and debating caucuses are built and organised as a means to acquire power over ordinary people and also to harness methods of better living. Often the arguments for sectarian peace and harmony fail to break the rock of material interest. And now sectarian controversies are politically motivated as well.
A nation-wide effort by religious scholars as well as lay persons and civil society activists to keep sectarian forces out of politics is urgently needed during the run-up to the general election. One can already see growing polarisation in society, and political and religious parties, along sectarian proclivities. There are grounds for apprehension that certain elements might exploit sectarian differences to undermine the democratic character of elections. The danger of violence too cannot be ruled out. That will be a great disservice to both religion and politics and, as in the case of nuclear fallout, the next generation of none of the sects will escape the dehumanising effect.

The rupee rollercoaster

By Khurram Husain

I FIRST heard about it in the summer 2010, from Dr Ehtesham Ahmed, who had served as adviser to the executive director for Pakistan on the board of the IMF, and was in Pakistan in those days to advise the government on the VAT legislation.
Dr Ahmed went on air with me, and if I am to paraphrase from memory, this is what he said: ‘The IMF programme is dead. Pakistan has failed to implement the central expectation contained within it. The thing to worry about now, is not how to get the programme back on track. I emphasise, it is dead. The thing to worry about is how to meet the repayment obligations that are going to begin in a big way sometime next year, and accelerate thereafter.’
Now this was in 2010. And I feel free to reproduce it here because it was said live on air, as part of our main 9 pm bulletin, in which my director news at the time had slotted a full half hour just for this interview, after listening to Dr Ahmed in his office for 10 minutes.
I’m often reminded of that 30-minute interaction with Dr Ahmed that I had in the summer of 2010, because in hindsight it’s clear to me that he was the only one who was sounding the alarm on the gaping vulnerabilities on the reserve front that were coming our way.
I write this today not to edify Dr Ahmed, I’m sure he has his fair share of regrets like any other human being. I write it simply to underline that the serious difficulties faced by Pakistan today on the external front were known back in 2010, and a record exists of these concerns being aired in a prime time news broadcast of a major television channel.
At the time, Pakistan’s total foreign exchange reserves stood just over $15 billion. Some people dismissed talk of difficulties in making repayments by doing simple back-of-the-envelope arithmetic.
“What do we owe the IMF— $7bn or $8bn? And what are our reserves? $15bn or $16bn dollars? Do the math, Khurram, does it sound to you like we are in trouble?” said one economist at the time who serves in a senior government position.
The layperson can be forgiven for missing the point behind the simple arithmetic. If we set up the problem like one of those multiple choice questions from a Scholastic Aptitude Test we used to sit in the bloom of youth — when life was so full of optimistic possibilities — then of course it would appear that there is no problem.
After all, if Jack has 15 oranges in his hands, and he gives eight of these oranges to Jill, doesn’t he still have seven oranges left? How many oranges does Jack need, aren’t seven enough?
But the point is precisely that seven oranges get us nowhere in this day and age. The crisis of 2008, which moved fast across the financial sector — threatening a freezing of all bank accounts if emergency aid had not arrived in time — was sparked precisely when reserves fell below the $7bn level.
It wasn’t that there weren’t enough oranges for Jack at the time. The problem was that the continuous downward glide path ate away the central bank’s firepower to defend the rupee, which ignited speculative sentiment as the rupee fell with alarming speed, and people and institutions rushed to buy dollars fearing continuous and large-scale devaluations.
This rapid ‘dollarisation’, as the phenomenon is called, put enormous strain on the financial sector, and as the panic spread, the authorities were forced to shut down the stock market, then shut down withdrawals from mutual funds, and may have been forced to shut down withdrawals from banks and impose curbs on the forex markets had the IMF not stepped in quickly with something like $3.5bn of immediate assistance.
But today, eight oranges and five years later, we are standing at the exact same spot we stood in on the eve of the 2008 crisis. Reserves are now at $8.7bn, according to the State Bank, but that doesn’t include those dollars ‘encumbered’ in a complex array of swaps and forwards, meaning eight oranges aren’t exactly eight oranges but more like seven or so.
The rupee has started registering large declines, and it’s hard to tell where these are going to stop and how. Anxiety on the continuous declines is already being voiced in the mass media, and this is what the State Bank said last Friday:
“[The] challenges on the balance of payments position are unlikely to subside. Further payments of $1.6bn of IMF loan in the remaining five months of FY13 and $3.2bn in FY14 do not help the situation either. While the economy has sufficient reserves to meet its debt obligations, the real challenge is to manage the market-driven sentiments … It is important to remember that only a consistent increase in foreign exchange can ensure stability in the market.”
But still, not everybody gets it. The last one to reassure us that Jack has enough oranges is none other than the newly minted face of Q bloc, Mr Salim Mandviwalla, who in an on-record interview has assured us that there are no problems on the external front, that we have been paying the IMF without difficulty.
It’s time for Jack to put his oranges away. It’s time to wake up to the fact that Pakistan is coming back full circle, to the autumn of 2008, if urgent actions are not taken immediately. It would be a pity for posterity if Jack were to take his famous tumble all over again — and break his crown — after all the warnings that have been sounded.

The writer is a Karachi-based journalist covering business and economic policy.
Twitter: @khurramhusain

The evolving scenarios

By Jawed Naqvi

AFZAL Guru’s secret hanging on Saturday, conventional laws of dialectics direct us to believe, has spawned multi-layered linkages, ranging from corrosive domestic politics to high military strategy.
Of these perhaps the most serious fallout came on Monday when Pakistan tested its short-range battlefield nuclear missile to arm itself against threats from “evolving scenarios”.
This weapon is specifically meant to stall a major armour thrust from India although well-regarded experts doubt its efficacy. If anything, its use could give India an excuse to invoke its second-strike option leading to an almost certain full-blown nuclear exchange in South Asia.
I do not wish to dishearten Ishrat Husain, the genial former chief of Pakistan’s central bank, who was in Delhi a week ago to root for increased bilateral trade between the two countries. But do remember that official notices and pamphlets were out in the Kashmir Valley just a couple of weeks back detailing (futile) measures, which residents should take against the impact of a nuclear attack.
What then are the evolving scenarios the Pakistani military is worriedly looking at? Let’s begin with an important digression.
At one level every nuclear test or experimental missile launch mocks the Nobel Prize given to Barack Obama at the start of his first innings in office. That the North Koreans on Wednesday tested a far bigger bomb than they were thought to be capable of assembling is one such testimony to his failure as the guru we thought could stop the doomsday clock from ticking closer to midnight.
Returning to South Asia, it is well-known that the epicentre for a future India-Pakistan stand-off would be located in Afghanistan even if its trigger lies in Kashmir. Afzal Guru’s hasty execution links many of these dots.
Why was he killed and so unfairly? Was the Kashmiri fruit vendor and a surrendered militant taken out to assuage popular sentiments of a middle class whose rightwing tendencies are becoming more pronounced than its promise of Nehruvian liberalism? (The plaque at Mughal Emperor Akbar’s tomb in Sikandara, near Agra, says: “He planted his kingship in the Indian soil and … made a nation out of a mob.” How would Akbar regard his beloved Hindustan’s flaunted political system working daily to make a mob out of a nation?)
Those who know the law insist that Afzal Guru was denied his right to a judicial review after the president rejected his mercy petition. Other death row prisoners, including the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi, are alive by taking recourse to the option after their mercy petitions were rejected. Their appeals are under a judicial review.
My guess is that the review option gained validity because the presidential discretion on mercy pleas was deemed essentially subjective, often based on political or even parochial considerations. I remember how Shamim Rehmani, convicted for killing her alleged lover Dr Hari Om Gautam in Lucknow in the 1970s, was granted clemency by then president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed.
Afzal Guru had no lawyer to assist him when he made a televised confession in handcuffs. He later said he was made to speak out the script given to him by the investigating officer Rajbeer Singh. “This was first told to me by Rajbeer Singh … If I will speak according to their wishes they will not harm my family members and also gave me false assurances that they will make my case [the case against him] weak so that after some time I will be released.”
This and many more similar questions in the case remain unanswered, a few of which were compiled by Penguin in a book of essays titled 13 December, A Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament.
Still, assume for a moment that Afzal Guru was guilty of a terror outrage and that he deserved to die. What did the Indian state or the present government gain from his death? There are many beneficiaries and a few losers. The Indian Army and Indian arms merchant will clearly benefit from a resultant violence in Kashmir and beyond.
It is well-known that the situation in the Valley is poised to worsen when militants engaged in the Afghan war are relieved of their duties. They have threatened to link up with Pakistan-based Kashmiri groups to wreak havoc in the Valley. Guru’s death has handed them a popular base, which they lacked.
Moreover, the grovelling growth rate of the Indian economy which has reportedly dwindled to five per cent of the GDP was going to strip the military of any budget enhancements. This paring down could become untenable if Kashmir burns.
Some arms merchants are thought to masquerade as nationalist hawks and analysts on TV. They will have a field day — regardless of the latest scandal in which the Italians claim to have paid bribes to the air force to sell their helicopters.
Low growth rates should spur a more restive society led by an ever more bloodthirsty middle class, helping rightwing hero Narendra Modi, and not necessarily Rahul Gandhi. If so, draconian measures are nigh, particularly in the tribal belts where the panacea for wealth generation has to be dug out to fill the yawning gaps in everyone’s budget.
Interestingly, one of the men who sent Guru to his death was an active supporter of the Emergency rule of Indira Gandhi. His corporate links are also only too well-known.
The recent sequence of events on the Line of Control was part of an orchestrated spiral that leads to various scenarios both military and civilian. We may be staring into a very dark political alley, or down the barrel of some nuclear rocket launcher.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent.

Missing the target

By Faisal Bari

THERE are too many large untargeted subsidies in Pakistan that are wasting a lot of resources due to their untargeted nature. The wheat subsidy goes to all the people who eat wheat and not just to the poor. Similarly, the electricity subsidy is enjoyed by all who have access to electricity.
The power subsidy alone was Rs464 billion in 2011-12, of which only some Rs4bn went to lifeline consumers. Should Pakistan, with a ballooning fiscal deficit and a dire need for resources to cover important areas like social protection, health and education, have such large untargeted subsidies? It does not make economic sense. But are there compelling reasons of political economy which explain their persistence?
The alternative to untargeted subsidies are targeted ones. But targeted programmes are expensive. We need to find those who truly need the subsidy and find them in a transparent way and verify their needs. And the identification mechanism has to be dynamic as we need to keep tabs on who falls into the poverty category and who doesn’t.
All of this is expensive to do. And whichever methodology is used for targeting, and there are a number of these, there will always be errors of inclusion and exclusion. But, depending on how the exercise is carried out, these errors can be minimised and eliminated over time.
Pakistan has, over the last five years, invested a significant amount of resources and effort in developing the mechanism for targeting subsidies to the poor through the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). Through poverty scorecards BISP has identified the population of the very poor across Pakistan. They have the ability, now, to make targeted subsidies to the poor. Why is Pakistan still using untargeted subsidies and ‘wasting’ resources when a targeting mechanism is available?
Untargeted subsidies are as large as 2.5 per cent of GDP, translating into a significant figure that, if targeted, could go a long way in addressing poverty issues across Pakistan. In fact, even when we are spending only Rs70bn or so through BISP we have evidence that these transfers have an impact on poverty. If we could directly spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on the poor, the impact could be dramatic.
I am not arguing that by doing away with untargeted subsidies we can get the ‘fiscal space’ for targeted subsidies. This argument, though often made, is not the focus. Our fiscal deficit is above eight per cent of GDP. Even if we cut down all untargeted subsidies the fiscal deficit is still at six per cent, still above the minimum that we are supposed to maintain.
So, even with no untargeted subsidies we will have no fiscal space. But that is not the issue. We are just pointing out that if the same money that is being spent as subsidy in the name of the poor was actually spent on the latter, and targeted well, we would be able to address the issue of poverty to a much larger extent. It is an issue of efficiency and effectiveness, not of more resources.
The story of untargeted subsidies is a complicated one. Is there a government, political or not, that can say it is going to do away with untargeted subsidies on wheat or electricity, replacing them with targeted ones, and risk facing the wrath of various interest groups that benefit from the way the current untargeted subsidies work? Or, is there a government that can halt the bleeding due to the transfers that are made to state-owned enterprises? Pakistan Steel, Pakistan Railways and PIA together had losses in excess of Rs80bn in 2011.
The government has also been unable and unwilling to implement tax reforms. Our tax-to-GDP ratio is one of the lowest in comparator countries. Even then cutting untargeted subsidies has been hard. Possibly the same reasons of political economy are involved in ensuring that the government is unable to carry out tax reform, revamp state-owned enterprises and cut untargeted subsidies.
Most insiders seem to suggest that all of these areas are so entrenched that they are taken for granted when future policies are discussed. According to one insider, a minister, starting the discussion on the reform of untargeted subsidies, said that the subsidies were a ‘given. Now let us go ahead and talk of how we are going to do things given these subsidies’.
Political economy issues aside, there is also tremendous mistrust among provincial governments and political parties (other than the PPP) of BISP and its method of targeting. Though few politicians from the opposition parties know the details, they are convinced that the methodology is flawed and people have been identified on a political basis.
Even a number of provincial bureaucrats have this impression. Clearly BISP and the PPP-led government have failed to share the details of the identification method with important stakeholders. But moving forward, if we are going to have any hope of continuing to develop the area of social protection, given the fiscal issues, we need a better dialogue between provinces and the federation and the various political parties in the country.
We do not have any fiscal space for providing resources for essential services. And it seems that governments are also unwilling and unable to implement reforms needed on the fiscal and governance side that can create fiscal space.
In such a situation the case for moving to targeted subsidies becomes even stronger as that seems to be the only way we can use our resources more efficiently. But though we have the basic tools for doing this now, ala BISP, lack of dialogue and consensus between political parties and the government is making this move hard too.
The gains from such a move could be substantial in terms of the dent we could make in poverty levels in the country. But given the intensifying divisions amongst political parties in the run-up to elections it seems unlikely that any attempt towards consensus development will be sought by anyone.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

An elite like no other

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

WHILE continuity is the word to characterise much of Pakistan’s social and political life, a great deal has also changed over the years.
During the last decade or so a very profound transformation of the public sphere has been effected by the electronic media. The nature and extent of this transformation has yet to be properly investigated, both by media persons themselves and serious
If and when a meaningful study of this phenomenon is undertaken, it will, I think, be definitively established that a new elite has emerged in Pakistan, whose influence is growing by the day.
The media — owners as well as professional journalists — has always been an important social, economic and political player in Pakistan. Until Gen Ayub Khan’s 1958 coup d’état, many of the most influential newspapers in the country, including Pakistan Times, Imroze and Lail-o-Nahar, were actually run by leftists operating under the guise of Progressive Papers Limited (PPL).
After PPL was seized by Ayub’s stooges, a virtual state monopoly was established and almost all media outlets became clearing houses for state propaganda.
It was yet another military dictator who was in power when the TV media ‘revolution’ unfolded at the turn of the millennium. Gen Musharraf repeatedly claimed that he alone deserved credit for deregulation of the electronic media, but in truth the imperatives of capital had much more to do with the coming of 24-hour television into our lives.
There are many commentators who continue to hail cable TV as the ultimate accountability mechanism, the closest thing to a democratic leveller as exists in Pakistan.
On the other hand, a growing number of people have become increasingly sceptical about the manner in which TV anchors and producers manipulate public discourse, often reinforcing state ideology in an extremely retrogressive way.
The media’s ability to chart public discourse is in itself not new. What stands out as remarkable is the power that TV ‘people’ have come to exercise over a very short period of time.
Indeed, it can be argued, as Akbar Zaidi has done on these very pages (April 9, 2012), that many anchors have arrogated to themselves the role of public intellectuals in an era where the very notion of the ‘public’ is as virtual as it is real.
This is despite the fact that there is an absolute dearth of genuine investigative reporting on TV. Even when one comes across so-called ‘human interest’ stories, social and political orthodoxies are rarely questioned and information sources inevitably prove to be self-selecting.
For the uncritical watcher of television, importance is attached then not to the issues that are raised by the storyteller but the fact that a particular storyteller is more compelling than any of the others. It is thus that a dozen or so TV anchors have very quickly become (urban) household names, and not necessarily because of journalistic prowess.
These dozen or so anchors — and the list will grow — have become bona fide Very Important Persons. They do not stand in queues or get subjected to security checks nor do their often serious transgressions necessarily result in meaningful loss of status, wealth or power (as was evident during and after the Malik Riaz exposés).
It is not by chance that this new media elite has come to the fore more or less at the same time that the Supreme Court has emerged as a relatively autonomous power centre in Pakistani politics. The media and judiciary were both major protagonists in the anti-Musharraf movement and therefore established their credentials as apparently untainted defenders of the ‘public interest’.
They are both popular with a burgeoning urban middle class that is thoroughly dismissive of formal politics. Perhaps most importantly, the media and judiciary can be carriers of state ideology in an era where it is no longer politically correct to call for the disruption of procedural democracy under the guise of the ‘greater national interest’.
This is not to suggest that the media (and judiciary) is incapable of being anything other than pro-establishment. As I noted above, many significant media outlets were bastions of anti-establishment ideas during the first decade after the inception of the state. Having said this it is highly unlikely that an entity like the PPL will once again emerge, especially given the role that big money now plays in the media industry.
Many progressives believe that the social media is a site of many radical potentialities. I agree that a plethora of virtual communities that can be created and sustained through the social media. There is, however, no guarantee either that these communities necessarily become strongholds of progressive ideas or that they help build meaningful political alternatives to status quo. Importantly, there is far less chance of a social media ‘elite’ emerging in the manner of the TV media elite. Because of the medium, social media users relate to one another on a much more equal footing than the TV viewer relates to the all-powerful anchor. Yet the social media can hardly be seen as a great leveller in a world in which the ‘digital divide’ is becoming more rather than less pronounced.
In the final analysis, we are currently witnessing the emergence of an elite like no other. While those who control the means to disseminate information in society have always exercised power, the technological changes that have taken place over the past decade or so, the ever-insatiable appetite of capital to reproduce itself, and the peculiar contradictions in Pakistan’s structure of power have given rise to an altogether new situation.
Notwithstanding its claims of false modesty, and its self-anointment as public watchdog par excellence, the new media elite is well aware of the extremely privileged position that it has come to occupy in contemporary Pakistan. It uses its privilege unabashedly and projects a holier-than-thou attitude as if to suggest that it bears no responsibility for the myriad problems that we encounter.
In fact, like all other elite segments, the media elite too is part of the problem rather than the solution. It constantly seeks to extend its power, both material and in terms of its perceived right to determine the public interest.
It does not tolerate fundamental questions about the ideological behemoth that is the Pakistani state, the various forms of oppression in Pakistan society, and the imperatives of global capitalism. And like any elite throughout history, its fall will be as precipitous as its rise.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Share my iPain

By Irfan Husain

THE phrase ‘It’s already been done’ is the sound of the door to the treasury being slammed shut to any inventor. After hours of working out what you think is a clever idea, to learn that somebody’s beaten you to it is the worst news you could get.
I have lost count of how many times I have been at the receiving end of these five deadly little words. Usually, they arrive in the form of a laconic email from my son. Shakir runs a software firm and is generally up to date with new developments, so I have to take his word for it.
A word of explanation is in order here: over the years, I have spent lots of time working on ideas and inventions in the hope that one day, I will strike it rich and be able to retire in the style I would like to get accustomed to. The problem is that in order to cash in, I first need to patent an idea; and not just an idea, but the detailed design and working model.
Sadly, having no engineering or software skills, I end up refining my ideas in my head until somebody else thinks of it and makes the fortune that, in a just world, would have been mine.
Let me give you an example: when I first went to the US in the late 1980s, I noticed long queues at tollgates on motorways. I thought then that a pre-paid memory chip on a gizmo on the dashboard could be pinged by a radio signal, and the amount of the toll automatically debited. When the chip ran low, you could take it to a shop and get it recharged.
Now, of course, this system is commonplace, and no doubt the person who actually patented it has cashed in big time. As I said, there’s no justice in the world. Had I been less mechanically challenged (and less lazy), I might have done something with my brainwave.
Or take my idea for car parks: in London on a visit many years ago, I noticed that we’d end up driving around and around different levels in car parks, looking for a slot.
What if, I thought, an infrared beam was placed at each parking bay? When it was broken, it would signify that the slot was occupied. People driving into a car park could be informed of the nearest numbered parking space, together with the level, on a large screen connected to a computer. Although not yet commonplace, car parks are increasingly using this system.
Another idea I still think would work is to do with picture framing. Normally, when you take a painting or a photograph to a framer, you will be shown several kinds of frames and borders, and then decide the size and combination. The framer will then work out the price. I find it quite unsatisfactory as it’s hard to visualise the complete effect on the basis of a couple of frame angles.
What if, I thought, the framer took a digital picture of your painting, and the computer then showed you a number of framing options with your picture in them? As soon as you picked the one you liked, the computer would give you the price. As usual, I haven’t done anything about this idea, even though Shakir didn’t say: “It’s already been done” when I told him about it.
One idea I did do something about came to nought, even though I got in touch with an agent about it in London. This was a board game I called Galleon in which each player represents a trading nation in the year 1600, and gets a fleet of cargo ships and some capital. With the roll of dice, ships are moved to distant destinations to buy and sell goods at fixed prices. Along the way, the ships encounter dangers like storms and pirates determined by ‘hazard’ cards that would be pulled if your ships landed on certain squares.
The point would be to maximise profits, and buy more ships and more high-profit items like spice from the Spice Isles. My old friend Zohra Yusuf got a couple of enthusiastic young colleagues at the advertising agency she works in to make a full playing board, and I took it to London to sell the idea.
I was told that board games manufacturers would only consider games sent to them by agents. The two agencies I contacted told me that new games were just not being developed currently. So Galleon remains at anchor, awaiting its moment.
When smart-phone apps became commonplace, I was sure that finally, I was going to hit the jackpot. I sent a succession of ideas to Shakir, for him to shoot them all down. But there’s one that even he was unable to reject: my concept for a killer app I call iPain remains, as far as I know, unique.
Underpinning the idea is the fact that all of us have some hate figure in our lives. It could be a boss, a spouse or a politician, but nobody is lucky enough to sail through life without wishing great agony on at least one person. Fortunately, social conditioning and the fear of spending years in prison prevents most of us from carrying out these fantasies. But repressing these urges can lead to ulcers and sleepless nights.
Enter iPain. My app will let the user download a photo of the hate figure, and then inflict imaginary pain by ramping up the voltage, and experience the satisfaction of listening to the virtual victim screaming for mercy. Imagine young people gathering after work to subject the boss to untold agony.
Of course the idea is to keep the victim alive, so pain is gradually enhanced up to the point where the life force — shown on the screen — is very low. Other forms of torture like water-boarding, or forcing the victim to listen to Altaf Hussain’s speeches, can also be downloaded at very little extra cost.
Although the app does not exist, Shakir is sure no vendor, including the ubiquitous Apple Store, would sell it. I can see a conspiracy to keep my inventions out of the hands of the paying public. Sadly, my retirement plans will have to stay on hold.

The writer is the author of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West.

Kashmir’s new age of dissent

By Abbas Nasir

WHETHER Afzal Guru’s execution was just is for the jurists and legal experts to debate and decide. But let’s look at some other issues.
Perhaps, a more significant matter it brought to light is that while India and Pakistan remain wedded to old positions, dissent in the Kashmir valley has taken a new turn.
The Kashmiri was convicted of being involved in the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001 based on circumstantial evidence and was hanged in considerable haste and interred in the grounds of Delhi’s Tihar jail last Saturday when even his family hadn’t been intimated.
Many observers have pointed out that while those convicted of murders much before the attack on Lok Sabha in 2001 such as those held responsible for Rajiv Gandhi’s murder in 1991 are still alive because of the judicial review process, Guru was denied such relief even if it were to be temporary.
This, coupled with the imposition of curfew in Srinagar and elsewhere in the valley and a media shutdown, was attributed to the Indian authorities’ mindset in dealing with Kashmiris where, simmering Kashmiris alleged, a different yardstick is being applied compared to Rajiv Gandhi’s Tamil killers whose ethnic group is seen as part of the Indian mainstream.
While the Indian government’s ‘muscular’ stance is consistent with its policies over the years, across the border Pakistan officially refrained from commenting on the judicial process though it ‘reaffirmed’ solidarity with the Kashmiri people.
It wasn’t a surprise that the more vocal response came from the ‘semi-official’ Jamaatud Dawa (banned militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba) leader Hafiz Saeed and a senior leader of the Jaish-i-Mohammad. Both of them condemned ‘martyr’ Guru’s execution and vowed to avenge it.
All these voices, of course, represented forces ‘external’ to Kashmir. External but not disinterested. However, these views, positions seemed caught in a time warp: the Indian state muscle, Pakistan’s ‘principled stance’ and the militant groups’ blood-curdling vendetta threats.
If you look at the valley itself you can see how the mood there has evolved over the past decade and how it has moved away from armed resistance to what writer Mirza Waheed, who won acclaim with The Collaborator, calls the “new age of dissent”.
The gun of the 1990s has been replaced by unarmed yet massive peaceful demonstrations and more so by the pen, with an explosion of writers, researchers, columnists dedicated to writing Kashmir’s history, documenting human rights abuses with a ‘we’ll not forget’ philosophy as the central theme.
Powerful fiction and non-fiction is emerging from the valley with Basharat Peer (Curfewed Night), Mirza Waheed, and Siddhartha Gigoo (Garden of Solitude) writing poignantly heartrending prose, informed as it is by their experiences of the bloodshed there in the 1990s in particular.
And the one common denominator which screams out to be seen, heard and acknowledged is that those representing this so-called new age of dissent, mainly through unarmed defiance, reject the mediation of Pakistan and Indian narratives.
A lawyer, Pervez Imroz, who has followed and documented cases of human rights abuses including disappearances and extra-judicial killings blamed on the state is seen as a hero. One writer says: “His unarmed defiance has done more for the Kashmir cause than all the attacks by armed groups.”
Imroz was the central figure in the British TV Channel 4’s chilling documentary, Kashmir’s Torture Trail, detailing cases of torture and other excesses against Kashmiri civilians suspected of involvement in militant activities. In December last year Imroz co-authored an eye-opening report.
The report, published under the aegis of People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in the Indian-Administered Kashmir (IRTK) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), says it is based mostly on government documents and witness testimonies.
It names 500 ‘perpetrators’ including senior army and paramilitary as well as police officials in 214 specific cases. Such reports may not have caught the fancy of the mainstream Indian media but have been read by most Kashmiris who are able to and that cements their defiance.
The growth of the writing and new media has also given a substantial voice to these new age dissenters. There is a staggering array of bloggers and online writers. How this generation of writer-dissenters is coming of age is easily understood if one googles their names and sees their work.
Kashmir-based young lawyer and writer Arif Ayyaz Parrey who addresses the issue of beheadings; Ather Zia, PhD candidate at the University of California at Irvine, a poet and a telling short story writer; Wasim Bhat, who has written a significant book on the cultural and historical density of Srinagar.
Sameer Bhat, journalist and sharp satirist, who is currently with Khaleej Times; Parvaiz Bukhari, one of Kashmir’s finest journalist-writers and a great political thinker, is working on what is already being seen as a seminal book on the militarisation of Kashmir.
Then there is UK-based scholar-poet Nitasha Koul; and Mohamad Junaid, a Kashmiri anthropologist at City University of New York, whose essay Stone Wars on the uprising of 2001 is enough to give one a chill. The list goes on and on and this was by no means exhaustive.
Even a hurried read through a selection of their work leaves one with the distinct impression that their love of their land and their people is infinite; and that their Kashmiri identity shines through. They are writing their own distortion-free history and documenting how they have been wronged.
And this extends to all Kashmiris including Hindu Pandits on whose plight and exodus Gigoo was the first to write. Rahul Pandita’s recent book (Our Moon has Blood Clots) is also part of this effort, though many people in Kashmir disagree with his account.
One wishes Islamabad and Delhi’s civil and military establishments would take a leaf out of the Kashmiris’ new age struggle and genuinely abandon the quest for a solution by force. A historical wrong may be righted. Perhaps, it is time to revisit the formula of soft borders and demilitarisation again.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Siachen: glacial speed

By A.G. Noorani

THE Siachen dispute has exacted a toll. A study by Dr Ghulam Rasul of the Pakistan Meteorological Department entitled Climate Data and Modelling Analysis of the Indus Ecoregion warns that the Siachen glacier has been reduced by 5.9 kilometres in longitudinal extent between 1989 and 2009.
A ‘Siachen proposal’ was formulated some months ago at Lahore by a group of retired military officers and diplomats of Pakistan and India, on the basis of consensus as part of a project on conventional confidence-building organised jointly by the University of Ottawa and the South Asia Centre of the Atlantic Council.
It envisages demilitarisation of the region by redeployment of the troops to agreed positions after recording the present ground positions. Two previous accords collapsed.
The import and significance of the proposal, very briefly set out above, can be appreciated only in the context of the diplomatic background since the dispute erupted following India’s occupation of the Siachen glacier on April 13, 1984.
Agreement was reached in Islamabad on June 17, 1989 “to work towards a comprehensive settlement, based on redeployment of forces … and the determination of future positions on the ground so as to conform with the Simla Agreement …The army authorities of both sides will determine these positions”. India’s army chiefs insisted that existing positions be identified. Pakistan feared that this would signify its acceptance of the status quo.
Pakistan’s army chief, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was perfectly right when he said last April: “You know that they were close to a solution but then nothing came out of it. We want this issue to be resolved and it should happen. It is a tough mission for us and them, which has its costs.”
In the talks in New Delhi on Nov 2-4, 1992 each side had begun with an offer which was a non-starter. As I wrote earlier in another publication: “Pakistan proposed an upturned demilitarised triangle — marked by Indira Col in the northwest; point NJ9842, where the Line of Control (LoC) ends in the south, and the Karakoram Pass in the northeast. A joint commission would delineate the LoC beyond NJ9842 after the troops withdrawal. India agreed to the delineation of the LoC beyond NJ 9842.”
However, India wanted a definition of existing positions for both Pakistan and India, and where there would be deployment. The vacated area would be “a zone of disengagement” within the boundaries of “existing positions”.
But the Pakistani offer was amended: “The armed forces of the two sides shall vacate areas and redeploy as indicated in the annexure. The positions vacated would not for either side constitute basis for a legal claim or justify a political or moral right to the area indicated”.
Pakistan’s amended proposal took in India’s concerns. The deal was struck between India’s Defence Secretary N. N. Vohra and his Pakistani counterpart. In the technical talks that followed it was agreed that: (1) India would withdraw to Dzingulma and Pakistan to Goma; and (2) there would be helicopter surveillance.
On January 1994 India confirmed to Pakistan that in 1992 “a broad understanding had been reached on disengagement and redeployment, monitoring, maintenance of peace and implementation schedule. … Both sides agreed that to reduce tension in Siachen, the two sides shall disengage from authenticated positions they are presently occupying and shall fall back to positions as under:….”
One fundamental on which the talks had proceeded since 1986 was mutual withdrawal. It was left to defence minister George Fernandes to wreck it. He asserted on July 18, 1998 that “India needs to hold on to Siachen both for strategic reasons and wider security in the region”. None had made this claim before.
The talks that followed in New Delhi on Nov 6, 1998 thus were doomed to failure. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who came to office in 2004 with a strong desire for an Indo-Pakistan rapprochement, told the soldiers at the Siachen base camp on June 12, 2005 that the icy battlefield should be converted into a “peace mountain”.
However, successive army chiefs espoused the Fernandes line, ruling out any withdrawal. On June 10, 2012 The Hindu not only published the full texts of the rival proposals made in the 1992 talks but also a revealing interview by the leader of the Indian team, the Defence Secretary N. V. Vohra. One of the most upright civil servants, he is now governor of Jammu and Kashmir.
“We had finalised the text of an agreement at Hyderabad House by around 10pm on the last day. Signing was set for 10am. But later that night, instructions were given to me not to go ahead the next day but to conclude matters in our next round of talks in Islamabad in January 1993. That day never came,” Mr Vohra said. “That’s the way these things go.” Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao was out to appease the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Siachen proposal of 2012 provides that “both sides should agree to withdraw from the conflict area while retaining the option of punitive action should either side renege on these commitments”. The region will be demilitarised. An annex set out the details on “monitoring and verification of the demilitarisation”. It drew attention to a very important but hitherto neglected fact.
“Nothing happens quickly on Siachen; logistics and weather drive all. The possibility of a quick, stealthy reoccupation, without an area bridge is remote”. India secures joint authentification of existing positions; Pakistan secures mutual withdrawal from Siachen.

The writer is an author and a lawyer.

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