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Large number of women, children among dead in Quetta: Terror comes back to haunt Hazaras; blast kills 67

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, Feb 16: Terror and tragedy came back to haunt Shia Hazaras after a lapse of one month when a massive bomb devastated a residential area in Quetta on Saturday, killing at least 67 people. A large number of women and children were among the dead.
This was the first attack on the community after the imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan on Jan 13 — three days after a suicide bomber took almost 100 lives and set off a chain of events that eventually toppled the government of Chief Minister Aslam Raisani.
The bombing left security agencies and the administration with no place to hide as this time they did not have the fig leaf of an “inept chief minister” to cover their failing.
“The blast shook the entire city,” Quetta police chief Mir Zubair Mehmood said at a press conference.
A spokesman for the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Abubakar Siddique, told reporters by phone: “Our suicide bomber carried out the blast and the Shia communi-ty in Hazara Town were the target.”
DIG (Investigation) Fayyaz Saumbal said the explosives were fitted to a water tank that was loaded on a tractor-trolley. He said the quantity of explosives was more than that used in the Alamdar Road explosion of Jan 10.
About 30 people died on the spot and 37 others in hospitals.
Bomb disposal squad sources said the device was packed with 800-1,000kg of explosives. They put it as a suicide attack.
The explosion left a crater six feet deep and 18 feet long.
A large number of people were shopping in the busy market and schoolchildren were passing through the area after attending the second shift when the explosion shook their neighbourhood.
Buildings and shops caught fire and several people, including schoolchildren and women, were trapped by the leaping flames.
“At least 12 people were burnt to death,” the hospital sources said, adding that the bodies were charred beyond recognition.
“I saw several charred bodies in Bolan Medical College Hospital,” a witness, Ahmed Khalil, said, adding that women and children were among the victims.
“Half burnt school bags and books were scattered all over the place,” Ali Hassan, a resident of the area, told Dawn.
At least four markets and over 20 shops were razed to the ground by the explosion.
Many vehicles, motorcycles and pushcarts were also destroyed.
OUTRAGE: Police and Frontier Corps personnel rushed to the place, but the people of the area opened fire and pelted law enforcement personnel with stones.
The security and rescue workers managed to enter the area after about half an hour and moved the injured and bodies to the city’s three main hospitals.
The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen announced that it would observe a strike in Quetta on Sunday and the Anjuman-i-Tajiran supported the call. The Tahaffuz-i-Azadari Council called for a seven-day mourning.
Talking to reporters, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, leader of the National Party, said two countries were involved in sectarian terrorism in Balochistan. “Two countries are behind the killing of 1,500 to 2,000 people in sectarian attacks over the past five years,” he said.

Magsi admits failure?

KARACHI: The Balochistan governor admitted on Saturday that the state seemed to be non-existent in the province, according to a DawnNews TV report.
Talking by phone from Quetta, Zulfiqar Magsi said his “heart was bleeding” over the sectarian attack.
“There is chaos everywhere and the state dose not seem to be effective,” he said, thus indirectly admitting his own failure to ensure law and order since the imposition of governor’s rule.
However, Mr Magsi added that he was trying his best to bring peace back to the province.—Dawn Monitor

MQM quits provincial, federal govts

By Azfar-ul-Ashfaque

KARACHI, Feb 16: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced on Saturday that it had decided to quit the federal and provincial governments in protest against what it described as ‘negative attitude’ of the People’s Party.
The decision of the MQM coordination committee came at a time when the national and provincial assemblies are going to complete their tenure in a matter of a few weeks and the office of the leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly has gained much importance because of its role in finalising a caretaker set-up in the province with the outgoing chief minister.
Now lawmakers belonging to the MQM would sit on opposition benches in parliament as well as in the Sindh Assembly and keeping in view its strength in the provincial assembly, it would easily have any of its MPAs notified as leader of the opposition.
Although senior MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar strongly criticised the PPP at a press conference on Saturday, it appeared that the relationship between the top leaders of the MQM and the PPP was not strained, as the former did not ask Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan, an MQM nominee, to quit the gubernatorial office and not to work in Sindh as a representative of President Asif Ali Zardari.
Flanked by other MQM leaders, including Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Nasreen Jalil, Dr Sattar hurled serious accusations against the PPP of patronising ‘criminals and terrorists’, not implementing the Sindh People’s Local Government Act, 2012, and creating hindrance in work of MQM ministers.
He insisted that the decision to part ways with the PPP was final and it would not change.
The MQM leader said the decision to end the alliance with the PPP was not taken in haste and now no one could blame his party for not allowing the government to complete its five-year term.
He said the PPP had formed the People’s Amn Committee and gave it a free hand to “extort traders, industrialists and shopkeepers and kill workers and supporters of the MQM”.
He evaded a question about the fate of the Sindh governor and said that the coordination committee had decided about quitting the federal and provincial governments and ‘any other decision’ would be taken in future sessions of the committee.

Assemblies to be dissolved on March 16, says Kaira

By Khalid Hasnain and Waseem Shamsi

LAHORE/SUKKUR, Feb 16: The national and provincial assemblies would be dissolved on March 16 and the general election will be held within 60 days after that, two federal ministers said on Saturday.
The government also dropped a hint that names for the caretaker government would be finalised in a week.
“We will dissolve the assemblies on March 16 and then elections will be held within 60 days,” the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Qamar Zaman Kaira, told reporters after a Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain-led government delegation held talks with Pakistan Awami Tehrik leader Dr Tahirul Qadri.
Mr Kaira said the government and the PAT had agreed over allocation of 14 days, and not 30-days, for the scrutiny of nomination papers. He said the government would introduce an amendment to the related law that allowed seven days for this purpose.
Flanked by PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat, Law Minister Farooq H. Naik and Syed Mushahid Hussain, Mr Kaira said the government would involve Dr Qadri in the consultation for the nomination of caretaker prime minister. “We will meet Dr Sahib soon to finalise the name for the caretaker premier’s slot,” he pledged.
Mr Kaira ridiculed the PML-N for taking some PPP MPAs in its fold, saying he would ask President Asif Ali Zardari to announce medals for Chaudhry Nisar and Shahbaz Sharif on March 23. “Of the nine legislators, eight were already in contact with the Mian Brothers,” he said.
He declined to comment on the MQM’s announcement about parting ways with the PPP, saying he would talk on the issue after consulting his party leadership.
Dr Qadri appreciated the government for consulting him over the interim set-up, elections and electoral reforms.
Caretaker government: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah said on Saturday names for caretaker government would be finalised in a week and elections would be held in May.He was talking to the media during the inauguration of a road from Sukkur Barrage to Rohri bypass in Sukkur. The road has been constructed at the cost of Rs50 million.
About the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s estrangement from the Pakistan People’s Party, he said the MQM was a PPP ally only in government and it was not necessary that both the parties jointly fought elections.
On a question about withdrawal of cases against Lyari’s gangsters, he said it was not a unique event as such cases had been withdrawn in the past also.
He said eights members of the Punjab Assembly, who had deserted the PPP and joined the PML-N on Friday, had earlier been issued show-cause notices by the PPP for not casting votes for the party candidates in March 2, 2012 Senate elections.
The minister predicted that the PPP would obtain 15 to 20 per cent more votes in Punjab in the coming elections as compared to previous ones.
About the newly launched Metro Bus Service in Lahore, he said that Rs97 billion had been spent on the project and alleged that the buses were in such a poor condition that on the inaugural day of the project, gear box of a bus developed a fault and the vehicle rammed into a wall.
He accused the Punjab government of indulging in unnecessary spending over construction of overhead bridges, distribution of laptops and the Roti plants scheme and said nobody asked it about the misuse of funds.
About Dr Tahirul Qadri’s long march, the minister said the government had skillfully resolved the issue through negotiations. Asked who was behind Dr Qadri, Mr Shah said he (Dr Qadri) and God knew better.
He said it was yet to be seen whether those politicians, who had floated the idea of confederation, would be absorbed in the PML-N or not.

Acquittals in terrorism cases: CJ for protecting witnesses, judges

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has expressed concern over an alarmingly high rate of acquittal in terrorism cases and called upon the government to take measures for effective prosecution of such cases in all provinces.

He was presiding over a meeting on implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, on Saturday. The meeting urged the government to enforce Section 21 of the Act, which provides for the protection of judges, counsel, public prosecutors, witnesses and people concerned with court proceedings.
It drew attention to a case in Sindh in which six witnesses were murdered one after the other and expressed concern that if such negligence continued no one would come forward to record evidence.
Senior judges of the Supreme Court Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and monitoring judges of provincial high courts Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik (Punjab), Justice Sajjad Ali Shah (Sindh), Justice Mian Fasih-ul-Mulk (Peshawar) and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail (Balochistan), SC registrar, home secretaries, IGPs, additional IGPs, secretaries prosecution and prosecutors general of all provinces and IG Islamabad attended the meeting.
The meeting noted that according to a report compiled by the prosecution department of Punjab government, the large rate of acquittal was on account of various factors, in particular, defective and dishonest investigation and weaknesses in prosecution.
It observed that the respective provincial government must address such defects and deficiencies immediately and impart necessary training to investigators and prosecutors and provide requisite equipment, including forensic lab.
The meeting noted that investigation should be carefully carried out so that innocent persons did not have to suffer the ordeal of investigation or trial and necessary material and all requisite witnesses were produced so that the guilty could be convicted and punished.
The IGPs made presentations regarding the causes of delay which are mostly due to defects in registration of cases, non-availability of eyewitnesses, no description of accused, role of accused not specified, material evidence not mentioned, delay in FIR registration, defects in investigation, defects in identification parade and doubtful recovery, etc.
The chief justice said the major reason for non achieving desired results was non-implementation of certain provisions of the Anti Terrorism Act. Not only that adequate protection had not been made available to presiding officers of the trial courts and investigators, but no protection whatsoever was available to the witnesses.
The witnesses usually avoid coming forward to depose against the culprits, especially in the cases of terrorism and sectarian killing. Thus, the matter of safety and protection of witnesses is very important and needs to be tackled on a priority basis. If there is no sufficient evidence, it is not possible for the court to inflict punishment without determining the guilt of the person. Nobody can be deprived of his life and liberty without due course of law.
He said backlog of cases in anti-terrorism courts in some places was partly because of delay in appointment of judges. Therefore, the issue of shortage of Judges must remain under constant focus.
He said the apex court had issued certain guidelines to be observed by the ATCs and related agencies like prosecution and investigation departments. The guidelines provided for a monitoring mechanism of functioning of these courts. Four judges of the Supreme Court and one for each province monitor the ATCs’ performance. The chief justices of high courts have also designated one judge each for the functioning of these courts.
The meeting agreed that initially two anti-terrorism courts, along with necessary infrastructure, staff and prosecutors, may be established in Islamabad because being a capital territory it has good number of anti-terrorism cases.At presently, the anti-terrorism cases of Islamabad are being heard at Rawalpindi ATCs.
It proposed that meetings of stakeholders in each province under the chairmanship of monitoring judges of the respective high courts be convened as soon as possible to formulate strategies and to resolve issues.

Contempt case: SC rejects Bokhari’s plea

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari stepped up his war of words against the superior judiciary on Saturday, heaping allegations of bias in an application he submitted in reply to contempt of court charges.
Filed by Advocate Navid Rasul Mirza on behalf of the chairman, the application pleaded with the court to place the contempt case against Admiral (retd) Bokhari before another bench.
Describing the application as a move to scandalise the judiciary, the court office refused to entertain it.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to resume the contempt proceedings on Monday.
On Feb 4 also the court had declined a request made by NAB’s Prosecutor General K.K. Agha to form a larger bench and simultaneously hear all the matters relating to the implementation of orders in the rental power projects (RPP) case.
On Jan 31, the court had issued a contempt notice against the chairman under Article 204 of the Constitution, read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, for writing a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari and accusing the superior judiciary of influencing the bureau’s ongoing probe into the RPP scam.
On Sept 14 last year also the court had asked the chairman to explain why he should not be arraigned under contempt charges for not implementing its verdict in the case.
In his application, the chairman alleged that Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan had informed him in the middle of last year that the judiciary wished to see Advocate Raja Amir Abbas as a member of NAB’s legal branch. But he could not accommodate this wish because of adverse opinion on record in the bureau against the individual.
“The respondent believes that inability to accede to the wish gave rise to a distinctive predisposition against him.”
Barrister Ahsan, when approached by Dawn, confirmed the allegation but Raja Amir said it was not proper to make observations on a sub judice matter, especially when it involved a contempt case.
The Jan 31 court order, the chairman pleaded, carried an air of conclusiveness and finality of opinion. He said he had been led to believe that the bench stood predisposed towards him and he already stood condemned. “Therefore, it will be in the fitness of things that the matter in question is heard by another bench of the Supreme Court.”
The chairman said his Jan 27 letter to the president was a confidential communication made by him as the administrative head of NAB on his personal letterhead to his appointing authority.
He said he owed a statutory responsibility of submitting an annual report to the president and the letter fell within the category of a protected statement as envisaged by Section 16 of the contempt law.
“The bench has not adverted to this crucial legal position before issuing the abovementioned notice to him and this furthers the respondent’s apprehension that the bench stands already predisposed towards the respondents,” the letter alleged.
Referring to a recent episode between Malik Riaz of the Bahria Town and Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the chief justice, the application said Dr Arsalan was harsh and unrelentingly critical of him. Dr Arsalan had also accused him, in a notice he had sent, of having close relations and family terms with Malik Riaz both in personal and financial terms.
It was also suggested by Dr Arsalan that it would not be appropriate for the NAB chairman to undertake any investigation in that case, the application alleged, adding that in a subsequent case Dr Arsalan repeated his insinuations against him and went on as far as calling him “a person of suspect past”.
He had reasonable and strong apprehensions, the chairman alleged, that the opinion, rancour and hostility carried by Dr Arsalan would go to influence the bench against him.
He pleaded that he was entitled to a fair trial and due process, which included adherence to the law and procedure even prior to start of any proceedings against him.

Abbas arrives on three-day official visit

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived here on Saturday on a three-day official visit to Pakistan.
Federal Minister for Textile Makhdoom Shahabuddin and high-ranking officials welcomed Mr Abbas at the Noor Khan Airbase.
This is the first visit by President Abbas to Pakistan after the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. Pakistan was co-sponsor of the UN General Assembly resolution that granted this status to Palestine on Nov 29, 2012. He last visited Pakistan in February 2010.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who has invited the Palestinian leader, will receive President Abbas on Sunday at Aiwan-i-Sadr where a formal welcome ceremony would be held.
President Abbas’s engagements include delegation-level talks followed by a luncheon to be hosted by Mr Zardari.
The two leaders are expected to discuss all aspects of bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international issues.—APP

Govt finalises tax proposals for budget

By Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: With only about 25 days left before end of its term, the government has finalised optimistic taxation proposals for the next federal budget which is expected to propose raising Rs461 billion in additional revenue.
A well-placed source in the Federal Board of Revenue told Dawn that the FBR had finalised budgetary proposals and shared them with the finance ministry and the International Monetary Fund.
“We have finalised our tax-wise targets for the next year,” the source said.
In absolute terms, the proposed taxation target has been edged up to Rs2,651bn for the year 2013-14 from the revised target of Rs2,190bn, reflecting an increase of 21 per cent.
The source said that new taxation measures of about Rs100bn would be proposed in the budget and the government had identified new areas for taxation.
The new taxation proposals included withdrawal of exemptions given through SROs, and special procedures.
At present, 84 per cent of tariff and duty rates are either been exempted or reduced to benefit certain lobbies.
The proposals include withdrawal of exemption on domestic sales in five sectors — textile, sports, carpet, surgical and leather goods; enhancement of withholding tax rate from 0.5 to 1 per cent on supplies to exporters; introduction of uniform rate of 3 per cent withholding
tax on import of all goods, including edible oil and scrap.
The FBR has proposed further tax of 3 per cent on commercial importers to unregistered persons; disallowing input tax adjustment on unregistered sales and raising of the federal excise tariff on cigarettes.
A range of other tax proposals were under consideration, the source said.
An amount of Rs44bn is expected to be raised through administrative measures by plugging loopholes in the taxation system.

Police get medical report on Kamran Faisal’s death

By Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD, Feb 16: A medical team of Polyclinic hospital handed over on Saturday to police a report on the causes of death of Kamran Faisal.
Kamran Faisal, an officer of the National Accountability Bureau, was involved in investigations into the rental power projects scam and was found dead in his apartment on Jan 18. An earlier report had declared suicide as the cause of his death. Police will submit the report, finalised and sealed on Saturday, in the Supreme Court, Dawn has learnt.
Polyclinic hospital’s spokesman Dr Sharif Astori confirmed that the report had been sealed and handed over to police personnel.
The six members of the Polyclinic hospital’s team were Dr I.U. Baig, Dr Ehsanul Haq, Dr Javed Ahmed, Dr Imtiaz Hussain, Dr Tanveer and forensic expert Dr Abdul Mateen from Rawalpindi Medical College.

US seeks closer relations with Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Feb 16: The United States seeks to boost its relationship with Pakistan, though it is committed to winding up its combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year, says a top Pentagon commander .
Gen Lloyd J. Austin, nominee for commander of US Central Command (Centcom), told his confirmation hearing earlier this week that the conflict in Afghanistan remained Centcom’s top priority despite the Obama administration’s determination to end the war by December 2014.
President Barack Obama announced this week that 34,000 US troops, about half of those now there, would leave Afghanistan over the next year and this, the general said, had increased Centcom’s responsibilities.
The movement of so many troops and their equipment would be a “Herculean undertaking,” Gen Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Last week, reports in the Pakistani media said the US had already started the pullout and was using the Karachi port for the purpose.
Senator Joseph Donnelly, a Democrat, suggested the United States should also make alternative arrangements for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“One of the things we want to do is to continue to work closely with Pakistan on that plan, but also have alternative options, if there are bumps in the road as we proceed forward with borders and with other things,” he said.
Former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told a briefing in Washington on Wednesday that Washington’s “callousness” over the killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a US air strike on a post in November 2011 had strained ties between the two nations.
“The fact that we were unable to say that we were sorry until July (2012) cost our country literally billions of dollars,” Mr Munter said.
But Gen Austin assured the Senate committee that ties with Pakistan were on a positive trail now. “I think our relations with Pakistan are critical.”
Gen Austin, now the Army’s vice chief of staff, said as the new Centcom commander his goal would be to “immediately work to continue to boost the existing relationship, which is on somewhat of a positive slope right now, a positive path.”
When a senator asked how he would deal with Pakistan as the Centcom chief, Gen Austin said: “I want to continue to build on that. They will be a key throughout going into the future.” But lawmakers underlined the problems that strain relations between the two allies and urged him to deal with those too.
“Among the greatest threats to stability are the safe havens for Afghan insurgents across the Pakistan border, which the government of Pakistan has failed to disrupt or eliminate,” said Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Ranking Republican Senator James Inhofe said: “In Pakistan, we see a nuclear-armed government teetering on collapse while militant groups have enjoyed that as a safe haven.” —Correspondent

•Death toll tops 84 •Army deployment sought: Outrage across country at Quetta carnage

Dawn Report

Outrage over Quetta massacre erupted all over the country on Sunday with people expressing solidarity with the Hazara community and demanding immediate steps to punish the culprits.
Demonstrations and sit-ins were held in most cities and towns in the country. There were calls for handing over Quetta to army to protect the life and property of the people, particularly of the Hazara Shia community.
Quetta and several other towns in Balochistan closed in protest and in Karachi a call was given for a strike in the city on Monday. Traders and transporters supported the strike call. Schools in the city will remain closed.
Saleem Shahid adds from Quetta: The Saturday carnage toll rose to 84 on Sunday but the bodies of the victims were not buried and some Shia organisations said the burial would take place only after Quetta was handed over to the army.
At least 169 people, including women and children, were injured in the massive explosion that rocked the entire city and destroyed four markets and 100 shops. A further rise in the toll is feared as, according to hospital sources, over 20 men and women with critical injuries are battling for their lives.
Leaders of the Shia community criticised the federal government and the Balochistan administration under the governor’s rule for having failed to act effectively against the terrorists involved in attacks on the Hazaras.
Tehrik Nifaz-i-Fiqa Jafria chief Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosvi, in a statement issued in Rawalpindi, urged the government to admit that it had failed to provide security to people.
The TNFJ leader said things were going from bad to worse and if the government was not able to protect the Hazara people from terrorists, it should provide them weapons and military training and enable them to defend themselves against the onslaught of sectarian terrorism.
“The toll has risen to 84 after some seriously injured people died at the Combined Military Hospital,” DIG Wazir Khan Nasar told Dawn.
But unofficial sources put the death toll at 96.
Over 70 bodies were handed over to families of the victims. But around a dozen bodies, charred beyond recognition, are lying in the morgue of the hospital.
“DNA test would be conducted to establish their identity,” hospital sources said.
Twenty people were missing, according to leaders of the Hazara community.
Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Balochistan Shia Conference and Milli Yakjehti Council failed to reach an agreement on burying the victims.
The Majlis leadership said no burial would take place until the army was deployed to protect the Hazara community and a targeted operation was launched against the banned organisation behind such attacks.
But leaders of the Milli Yakjehti Council wanted the dead to be buried but supported the demands made by the Majlis. Sources said a final decision would be taken on Monday.
The bodies have been kept in Imambargah of Hazara Town and in an open place adjacent to the graveyard in the town.
Meanwhile, about 2500 women of the Hazara community took out a procession and held a demonstration in protest against the carnage. Later, they held a sit-in with coffins of the bodies. They said they would not allow the burial until the city was given army’s control.
The Majlis leaders took part in the sit-in. Addressing a news conference, Majlis leader Daud Agha said the community had been pushed against the wall.
Also on Sunday, a gathering was held in connection with the Chehlum of the victims of Jan 10 Alamdar Road terrorist attacks.
Talking to reporters on the occasion, Allama Sajid Naqvi of the Islami Tehrik-i-Pakistan said: “Killing of Shia people in bomb blasts and other terrorist attacks has been continuing unabated for several years because of the government’s abject failure to act decisively to punish terrorists.”
He called upon the government to expose the sponsors of terrorism and uproot their network.
Abdul Qayyum Changezi of the council urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take notice of bomb blasts and other heinous crimes in Balochistan.
Around 100 people were killed in the Jan 10 twin blasts and their bodies were not buried until Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf reached Quetta and announced dismissal of the provincial government and imposition of governor’s rule in the province.
Chief Secretary of Balochistan Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad visited the hospital on Sunday and enquired after the health of the injured. He said arrangements had been made to take seriously injured people to Karachi.
Heavy contingents of Frontier Corps, Balochistan Constabulary and police patrolled the city. A large number of law-enforcement personnel was deployed in and around Hazara Town, Alamdar Road and other areas.
Roads leading to Alamdar Road and Hazara Town were blocked with containers and barricades.

Pak-Palestine commission planned to expand ties

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: Pakistan and Palestine on Sunday agreed to form a joint commission comprising foreign ministers of the two states to expand bilateral ties in economic, agricultural, banking, social and cultural sectors.
The commission would begin its work soon, President Asif Ali Zardari told his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas when during a meeting at the presidency the latter expressed the desire to take bilateral cooperation to new areas.
President Zardari offered a $1 million grant for construction of Palestinian embassy in Islamabad, according to his spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
The two sides held two rounds of talks — one meeting involving the two presidents and the other their delegations.
“The talks covered a host of issues, ranging from the ongoing struggle of the Palestinian people for statehood to bilateral issues and from the Middle East situation to the stalled Palestine-Israel peace process,” Mr Babar said.
This is the first visit to Pakistan by President Abbas after recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. Pakistan was co-sponsor of a UN General Assembly resolution that granted this status to Palestine on Nov 29.
Issues relating to the Palestine-Israel relations, with focus on continued construction of settlements by Tel Aviv, and reconciliation within Palestine also figured prominently in the talks.
During the meeting President Zardari said that Pakistan believed in the Palestinians’ and the Kashmiris’ inalienable right to self-determination. He underlined the need for evolving a global consensus on ways to resolve the two conflicts.
The president called for withdrawal of Israelis from the occupied Arab territories including Jerusalem, an end to construction of settlements, and establishment of an independent homeland for Palestinians with Al Quds as its capital.
“Pakistan strongly condemns the building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories and calls upon the international community to stop Israel from building settlements to the east and south of occupied East Jerusalem,” he said.
Mr Zardari expressed concerns over Israel’s act of ridiculing the UN and said its behaviour was against international law but ‘champions of justice and human rights’ had raised no objection over it.
Pakistan would continue to extend unwavering support to the Palestinian people till the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, he said.
He expressed joy over grant of status of non-member observer state at the UN to Palestine and noted with pride that Pakistan played a pivotal role in the process.
Mr Zardari said Pakistan had supported every effort for resolving the Palestine-Israel dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions to ensure lasting peace in the region. He expressed confidence that under the leadership of President Abbas the people of Palestine would bravely confront the challenges being faced by them.
He recalled that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation was first recognised as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the Islamic Summit in Lahore in February of 1974 which also led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Palestine. President Abbas briefed his Pakistani counterpart on Israel’s use of the division between the West Bank and Gaza strip to renege on the peace process and the antics resorted to by Tel Aviv after Palestinian leadership undertook efforts for achieving national reconciliation.
Since 1988, he said, the Palestinians had accepted the two-state solution as a basis for ending the Palestine-Israel conflict and added that they would continue to work to realise this goal through negotiations.
However, he deplored, the solution was becoming increasingly unattainable because of Israel’s unacceptable settlement policies.
President Zardari was also briefed on the Arab peace initiative that, President Abbas said, also addressed the Israeli concerns but had been ignored by Tel Aviv.
The initiative revolves around recognition of Israel by Arab and Islamic countries on the basis of the 1967 borders, a just and agreed upon resolution of the refugee issue and a collective regional security framework to safeguard the agreement in future.
The Palestinian president thanked Pakistani government for its initiative to build Palestinian embassy in Islamabad. The gesture, he said, underlined strength of their bilateral relations.
Later, the two presidents unveiled a plaque of the foundation of the embassy.
The Palestinian delegation included Foreign Minister Riad N.A. Malki, Ambassador in the Presidency (Ramallah) Majdi A.M. Khalidi, the president’s adviser Nabil G.O. Aburubainah and Walid A.M. Abu Ali, ambassador in Pakistan.
The Pakistani delegation included Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Minister for Textile and Industry Makhdoom Shahabuddin, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Lt Gen (retd) Ahsan Azhar Hayat, ambassador designate to Palestine.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also attended the talks between the two delegations.
President Abbas last visited Pakistan in February of 2010.

Achakzai’s presence at Presidency lunch noted with interest

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: The presence of Mehmood Khan Achakzai, considered to be a leading candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister, at a function at the presidency and extraordinary protocol given to him was noticed by everyone.
The head of Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) was the only leader from any party other than the PPP to attend the lunch hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari in honour of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mr Achakzai was given what appeared to be extraordinary protocol and he shared the main table with President Zardari, President Abbas and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. The PkMAP chief was seated next to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Mr Achakzai was surrounded by hangers-on trying to please him, apparently because he could be the caretaker prime minister.
“We saw that some ministers and frontline leaders of the PPP were moving around him as they were trying to please him,” a senior official who attended the lunch told Dawn.
Talking to journalists, the PkMAP chief himself refused to comment on the issue of caretaker prime minister. He said: “I will not talk on caretaker prime minister.”
He, however, said election must be held after the expiry of five-year term of the PPP-led coalition government on March 16.
He said: “Election should be held at any cost, even if Chacha (uncle) Fazlur Rehman wins.”
Mr Achakzai has said on several occasions that he was not interested in becoming caretaker prime minister, but in his latest statement he said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif wanted him to take the post.
According to the Constitution, the caretaker prime minister will be appointed with the consent of the ruling coalition and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly who belongs to the PML-N.
When contacted, Presidency’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar had nothing to say when asked why Mr Achakzai had attended the lunch where no other leader of any political party had been invited. “I have to check with the people concerned why he was invited to the ceremony,” he said.
He agreed that the presence of PkMAP chief was quite significant because of media reports that he was one of the strongest candidates for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Mr Babar said no meeting between Mr Achakzai and President Zardari had taken place. “He did not meet President Zardari before or after the lunch.”
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Sunday that the government and the PML-N would suggest two names each for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Under the Constitution, the prime minister shall be appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing National Assembly and in the case of a disagreement within three days of the dissolution of the National Assembly, the prime minister and Leader of Opposition shall forward two nominees each to a committee to be constituted by the National Assembly speaker comprising eight members of the outgoing assembly or the Senate or both having equal representation from the treasury and the opposition.

End of the Afghan war: possibilities and pitfalls—II: Post-2014 Afghanistan: Pakistan’s nightmare?

By Madiha Sattar

KARACHI: They are Pakistanis, Afghans, Arabs, Germans, Turks, Libyans, Sudanese, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Uighurs. They operate from Bajaur in the north to the Waziristans in the south. And the areas they target range from Pakistan and its neighbourhood, including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and China, to the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
In the event that civil war breaks out next door or the Afghan Taliban capture significant power after the Western withdrawal, will Afghanistan become a new safe haven for this motley crew of Fata-based militant groups?
“2014 and the Western withdrawal will not mean Pakistan’s problems are over,” says Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on Fata and Afghan militancy. “If the Taliban cannot capture Kabul, which is highly likely, they will be operating from the border areas. So they may still need to come to Pakistan for shelter, funds and medical treatment, and the Pakistani Taliban will find safe havens in Afghanistan.”
That is precisely the fear driving the apparent shift in Pakistan’s mindset from banking on the Afghan Taliban for strategic depth in Afghanistan to realising that a broad-based coalition government there is more likely to be in Pakistan’s best interest. But some within the security establishment worry that even a power-sharing system, with the east and south controlled by the Taliban and Uzbek and other ethnic groups controlling the north, could end up providing sanctuaries and operational bases to Pakistan-based militants.
A model already exists for how these groups might operate from Afghanistan. According to Pakistani intelligence estimates, 223 attacks have been carried out from across the border since June 2010, including 14 major ones in which up to 200 militants were involved.
About 150 security personnel have lost their lives. The attacks are believed to originate in Kunar and Nuristan from 18 to 20 camps run by Pakistani militants Maulana Fazlullah of Swat and Abdul Wali (aka Omar Khalid) of Mohmand.
The obvious implication is that if Fata-based militants are not tackled quickly, they could become an even bigger nightmare for Pakistan as the 2014 deadline approaches.
But conversations with security officials reveal how complex the tribal areas’ militant network is. That in itself poses a problem, considering Pakistan’s historical tendency to try to separate friends from foes.
A prime example is the late Tahir Yuldashev’s Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, with several hundred Uzbeks operating out of North Waziristan, currently led by Abdul Fattah Ahmadi, aka Usman Ghazi. The fierce fighting force is available for hire by Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and could well find refuge in northern Afghanistan.
But what of smaller groups less obviously linked to militancy within Pakistan? Pakistani security officials estimate that the Islamic Jamaat Uzbekistan, a breakaway faction, has a force of several dozen Central Asians in the tribal areas, led by one Hameedullah Kyrgyzstani. There is the East Turkistan Islamic Movement of Uighurs aiming to create an Islamic state in China’s Uighur region, and a group called the Turkish Jamaat consisting mainly of militants from eastern Turkey who have sought refuge in North Waziristan and want support for an Islamic movement in their home country.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigade, currently led by Abdullah Majid, has a handful of men in North Waziristan plotting operations in the Middle East. While none of these might seem focused on Pakistan, foreign groups have supported Pakistan-oriented militants often enough to set a worrying precedent.
Then there are the groups under the TTP umbrella and their multiple goals. The most powerful TTP commander, Hakeemullah Mehsud, mainly attacks Pakistan, but has collaborated with the Afghan Taliban against American troops; the followers of Maulvi Nazir, who was killed in a drone strike last month because he concentrated on Afghanistan, still operate from South Waziristan; and the Hafiz Gulbahadur group in North Waziristan also focuses on Afghanistan but sometimes attacks Pakistani troops.
All have supported the Afghan Taliban in one way or another, and there is no reason to think the favour will not be repaid. And once Fata is no longer needed as a safe haven, even the delicate truces that Pakistan has maintained with militants such as Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gulbahadur will become worthless.
But the Pakistani Taliban web is much wider than these groups. Ten outfits formerly supported by the state for fighting in Kashmir or other purposes are now linked to the TTP, with the deadliest commander being Asmatullah Muawiya of the ‘Punjabi Taliban’, who security officials believe was involved in the 2008 Islamabad Marriott bombing and attacks on the army and ISI.
These and other groups, such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, may have their own agendas, but according to Pakistani intelligence, carry out attacks with material and physical support from the TTP. The 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, executed by an LJ-linked group with militants and material provided by the TTP, is a case in point. In the event of the Afghan Taliban controlling parts of Afghanistan, there is little doubt these militants would find a new operational base if they wanted one.
“If the war escalates next door, Pakistan could lose the tribal war,” says Zahid Hussain, author of Frontline Pakistan: the Struggle with Militant Islam.
“The ideological lines between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are very thin; they share world views and their agendas for the region.”
These groups appear to be more of a worry to Pakistan than Al Qaeda, which under Ayman al-Zawahiri — who Pakistani intelligence believes could be in Fata or in Afghanistan’s border region — appears more focused on Iraq and Syria. But even he is believed to have a force of a few hundred men working within Pakistan, led by his son-in-law and deputy, Safiyan al-Maghrabi, and a dozen or so top commanders, including men in charge of training, screening, media, internal communications, finance, IEDs, security and international affairs.
Despite the series of military operations in Fata, security officials admit that besides Orakzai, all the agencies remain unstable to varying degrees. The TTP’s main bases are in North Waziristan, but it has maintained a presence in most other agencies, including Kurram with its sectarian conflicts and Bajaur and Mohmand with their cross-border strikes.
But who will tackle the problem, and when and how they will do so, all remain troublingly open questions.
Neither the military nor the civilians want to take ownership of a North Waziristan operation. Elections could be a few weeks away, which would leave a caretaker government overseeing military action and lack of ownership from the next administration.
And there is still no consensus across the civilian and military leaderships about whether to talk to Pakistani militants and how to combine that with military action.
“There is now an understanding that Taliban control in Afghanistan is not good for Pakistan,” says Mr Hussain. “But the problem is that it is not being translated into a coherent strategy or a national narrative against militancy.”
Through the first week of January, according to military estimates, over 49,200 Pakistanis had become victims of militant violence (contrary to popular perception, this number includes those injured, not just killed). Of those, about 3,600 army and Frontier Corps personnel have lost their lives. How high could this death toll go if militant groups aren’t reconciled or defeated before Western troops leave Afghanistan?

Washington to make CSF payments

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, Feb 17: A team of senior defence officials is coming to Washington this week for talks which will focus on replenishing US-supplied weapons for Pakistan, official sources told Dawn.
The sources said the United States had agreed to continue reimbursing Pakistan from the Coalition Support Fund despite strong objections from some lawmakers.
Director General Joint Staff Lt Gen Mohammad Asif will represent Pakistan at the Defence Resources Conference, which begins in Washington on Tuesday.
The conference will review Pakistan’s defence requirements, both in the fight against terrorists and for self-defence, and make recommendations.
The sources, however, rejected media reports that the United States and Pakistan had reached an understanding to allow Islamabad to receive some of the weapons the Americans would be leaving behind while withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014.
“Several countries are interested in those weapons and no decision has yet been made on this particular subject,” said a source familiar with the situation.
The sources said that the United States and Pakistan were also negotiating a new arrangement for reimbursing Islamabad from the Coalition Support Fund.
In the present arrangement, Pakistan submits its claim for every dollar it spends in the fight against terrorists and the United States has to check and approve each item before the funds can be released.
Under the proposed arrangement, the reimbursements will be divided into several major sectors and Pakistan will be required to file claims for each sector.
The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency, while justifying the reimbursements, noted that “Pakistan conducts major border operations along the Afghan border and has significantly impacted terrorist networks in the region, achieving successes that would be difficult for US Armed Forces to attain”.

Canadian agency to develop tribal areas

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: The Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA) is likely to assume a major role in developing the tribal region on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border, upgrading entry posts and monitoring the movement along the border after withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan next year.
A senior government official told Dawn that a nine-member CBSA delegation headed by Canadian High Commissioner Randolph Mank would hold meetings with Pakistani officials this week to assess investment required for the development of the tribal region.
The delegation will meet ministers and senior officials of the ministries of commerce and interior on Feb 22.
It will visit the border areas before going to Afghanistan to look into work required
to generate economic activities as part of a broader
international effort for
mainstreaming the Pakhtun people to reduce security threat.
Because of the fact that the government, owing to limited resources, could not initiate development and economic activities in Swat and Malakand which were cleared of terrorists by security forces, Pakistan is encouraging international efforts, led by Canada, to take up the task in Fata and across the border.
“The size of the expected investment is not clear yet but will depend on the government’s assurance about a corruption-free spending of foreign investment in Fata,” the official said.
He said the government would have to put in place effective and credible monitoring and audit systems.
“We have to put in place tools to identify projects and implement them in a transparent and effective manner to convince the Canadians to get over prefixed notions,” he added.
“The Canadian government, with the support of the United States, is interested in making substantial investments in the tribal region to enable peaceful withdrawal of coalition forces and repatriation of hardware from Afghanistan.”
He said the CSBA was expected to take a lead role in the supervision of security posts on the border, particularly at the Torkham and Ghulam Mohammad crossing points.
“Unlike the US, the Canadian border agency is not well versed with the ground situation in the border areas but also does not attract hostile sentiments in the tribal region,” he said, adding that the US did not want to be on the forefront in this regard and hence the CSBA would be paying an exploratory visit to both sides of the border.
The delegation will also hold meetings with security officials and the leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Guru told his family to be proud of him

By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: About an hour before going to the gallows at Delhi’s Tihar Jail, the Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru had written to his family to be bold and proud on the stature he had attained in the death sentence, The Hindu said in its web report on Sunday.
Guru’s wife Tabbasum handed over a copy of the letter to The Hindu on Sunday. She had received her husband’s hand-written letter last week but opened it exclusively for this newspaper on Sunday.
A loose translation of the letter written in Urdu by Guru at Tihar Jail at 6.25am on February 9 reads as under:
“Respected family members and the devout Muslims.
Assalamu Alaikum
Hundred thousand gratitudes to Allah that He chose me for this stature. I also have a sense of gratitude for you, all followers of the faith, that we are all on the side of the truth and the right. Let the hereafter (death) be the end for all of us who are on the path of the truth and righteousness. This is my request to the members of my family that they should all respect the stature I have attained rather than nourishing a sense of loss and repentance.
Be Allah the saviour and the protector for all of you. Allah Hafiz.”
Guru was hanged to death at Tihar Jail between 7.30am and 8am on February 9.
The letter has arrived with a note in English from Superintendent of Tihar Jail, communicating to Guru’s wife that the convict had written it before his execution on February 9 and wished that it should be passed on to his family, The Hindu said.

Four soldiers wounded in N. Waziristan explosion

By Our Correspondent

MIRAMSHAH, Feb 17: Four soldiers were wounded in a bomb explosion in North Waziristan on Sunday, officials said.
The remote-controlled bomb was planted on a road leading to Razmak Town and it went off when an army convoy was passing through the area.
Injured soldiers were taken to combined military hospital in Bannu.
While clearing the area security personnel found an improvised explosive device on the road and defused it.
A curfew was imposed in the area. Helicopter gunships were seen flying over the region after the incident.
Our Correspondent in Orakzai Agency adds: Ten militants were killed when planes pounded their hideouts in Mamozai area on Sunday.
According to officials, four hide outs came under attack in Jandari Kali and Mikalam Khel villages of Mamozai in the upper subdivision of Orakzai.

‘Back Nusrat as leader of opposition’: PML-F sets testing demands for MQM

By Habib Khan Ghori

KARACHI, Feb 17: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement which announced on Saturday that it was quitting the provincial and federal governments, offered to the opposition in the Sindh Assembly on Sunday to work out a plan to achieve the rights of the deprived and oppressed people of the province and put it on the road to progress and prosperity.
This was stated by Muhammad Raza Haroon, who led an MQM delegation which held talks with PML-F leaders at the residence of its provincial general secretary Imtiaz Ahmad Shaikh.
At a press conference, Mr Haroon, accompanied by Syed Sardar Ahmad, Khwaja Izhar and Khalid Omar, said the PML-F had demanded that the MQM should call for repeal of the new local government law, back their candidate Nusrat Sehar Abbasi as leader of the opposition in the assembly and ask Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad to quit his office.
“We have assured them that we will place their point of view for consideration before the MQM Coordination Committee and also our parliamentary committee which is meeting on Monday.”
He recalled that over the past five years the MQM had been accused of playing the role of opposition despite being in the government by opposing any legislation which was against the interest of people but it had not parted ways with the government to strengthen democracy and acted as a true friend of the PPP.
But the situation changed, he said, when the government withdrew the offer of head money and cases against notorious, hardened criminals, terrorists, extortionists and killers of MQM supporters. The decision, he said, was illegal, unconstitutional and immoral and for that reason his party decided to sit on the opposition benches.
Mr Haroon said they had decided to meet the opposition before applying on Monday for joining its benches because of good relations between their leaders and Pir Pgara also had given a message to be conveyed to MQM chief Altaf Hussain.
As far as the SPLG Act was concerned, he said, it was before the Supreme Court and the verdict was awaited.
Besides, these laws had been made by the assembly and if the Constitution could be amended why not the laws in the interest of the people, he said.
Mr Shaikh, the PML-F leader, said the demand he had made at a press conference earlier and the party’s stand on the issue of local government law had been placed before the MQM in a candid manner.
“We informed them that repeal of the local government law was the demand of the people of Sindh and if their governor stayed in his office their opposition would be perceived as the outcome of some understanding with the PPP to deprive the genuine opposition of its role in formation of the caretaker set-up.
Mr Shaikh, who was accompanied by Pir Yasir, Nusrat Abbasi, Syeda Marvi Rashdi, Dr Rafique Bhanban and Kamran Tessori, said the need of the hour was to hold free and fair elections on time.
At his earlier press conference, Mr Shaikh said the MQM’s decision of quitting the government was part of a plan to manoeuvre the installation of caretaker government.
If it was not the outcome of a deal, the MQM should support PML-F candidate Nusrat Abbasi to become leader of opposition and ask its governor to resign.
His said the PML-F and its allies had quit the coalition government over differences on the local government law and as such it was their right to nominate the leader of opposition.
He said if the MQM did not support the PML-F candidate, they would be justified to presume that its decision to quit the government was the outcome of a deal because of its record of quitting and rejoining the government.
He criticised the Sindh Assembly speaker for having failed to appoint the leader of opposition over the past two and a half months and now the court had asked him to take a decision in 10 days.
He said the PML-F had emerged as the alternative leadership in Sindh.
Condemning the attacks and killings in Quetta, the PML-F leader said the Balochistan governor had conceded his failure even after imposition of governor’s rule and, therefore, there was no justification for not handing over Quetta to the army in accordance with the popular demand.

Billions wasted by Punjab govt: Elahi

By Nabeel Anwar Dhakku

CHAKWAL, Feb 17: Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said on Sunday that billions of rupees belonging to the poor people of Punjab had been frittered away on ‘ill-conceived and useless schemes’ by the Shahbaz Sharif government.
Addressing a big public meeting at the Talagang Government Degree College, the provincial PML-Q chief, who is set to contest election for the National Assembly constituency NA-61 (Chakwal II), mentioned the major development projects launched when he was the chief minister and said he would change the fate of the people of the area after coming into power.
The public meeting, apparently held in an attempt to regain PML-Q’s lost ground in the district and woo the voters for the general election, was attended by local leaders of the party as well as the PPP.
“Shahbaz Sharif is wasting the money of poor people on useless schemes like distributing laptops among students, the yellow cab scheme and mechanical ovens,” the PML-Q leader said.
Hurling at the Punjab government allegations of wrongdoing in the affairs of the Metro Bus Service, he said: “Such massive corruption has been done for the first time.”
Mr Elahi said that Rs70 billion from the public exchequer had been squandered on a small, 27km road in Lahore. “Rules and regulations have also been violated in this major scam,” he alleged.
“The chief minister has four bullet-proof vehicles and has appointed a number of police personnel for his own and his family’s security
and yet he does not hesitate to describe himself as ‘Khadim-i-Aala’ (the grand servant).”
Referring to the PML-N’s ongoing bid to bring politicians of rival parties into its fold, he said in a comic way that the Sharif brothers could not digest their food “unless they took a few ‘lotay’ (turncoats) at breakfast”.
“The PML-N has turned Punjab into a quagmire of problems,” he said.
He said he had left Rs100bn in the provincial exchequer but now it had been rendered empty because of poor policies and the government was hardly able to pay salary to its employees.

Lawyer to face action for serving venison to judges

UMERKOT, Feb 17: The District Bar Association of Umerkot will meet on Monday to take action against a lawyer who has been accused of serving venison to the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court and other judges at a reception hosted by the association.
Besides Chief Justice Mushir Alam, the reception was attended by Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Aftab Ahmed Borar, Justice Salahuddin Panhwar, Registrar Abdul Malik Gaddi and Additional Registrar Altaf Hussain Gaddi.
At the reception, a lawyer, Azhar Arain, reportedly claimed that meat from deer had been served to all guests. This was confirmed by lawyers Nabi Bux Azad, Jai Dev Sharma and Poonjo Bheel, the president of the association, who expressed grave concern over the
Poonjo Bheel told Dawn that the lawyer convener would be asked at the meeting why he had done that without discussing the matter with the association.
Azhar Arain told this correspondent on phone that he was ready to face any action that might be taken against him.
Environment activist Bharumal who has been working to save the endangered wildlife said that poaching of Thar deer, which was on the verge of extinction, was strictly forbidden.—A.B. Arisar

MQM submits Sindh cabinet resignations

KARACHI, Feb 17: A day after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced parting ways with the Pakistan People’s Party, its 11 provincial ministers, an adviser, a special assistant and a coordinator to the chief minister tendered their resignations on Sunday.
However, it appeared that the federal ministers of the MQM were not in a hurry to quit their offices. According to an MQM spokesman, they would submit their resignations on Monday.
It is a widely held view that the MQM, after enjoying power for almost five years, is quitting the federal and provincial governments with a tacit understanding with the Pakistan People’s Party in order to grab the office of the leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly to become eligible for consultation for finalisation of the caretaker government.
An MQM spokesman said the 11 provincial ministers belonging to the party had submitted their resignations to Governor Ishratul Ibad, while the Chief Minister’s Adviser Raza Haroon, Special Assistant Hyder Abbas Rizvi and Coordinator Nadia Gabol had sent their resignations to CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah.
He said MQM’s federal ministers Dr Farooq Sattar and Senator Babar Ghori would send their resignation on Monday.—Azfar-ul-Ashfaque

Iran plans navy base near Gwadar

TEHRAN, Feb 17: Iran’s official news agency says the country’s navy plans to establish a new base near Pakistan’s border in the Sea of Oman.
The IRNA report on Sunday quotes Admiral Habibollah Sayyari as saying that the base will be built in Pasabandar, about 30km west of Pakistani port of Gwadar.
Iran has conducted numerous naval drills in past years as it increases its presence in regional waterways.—AP

NA, Senate summoned to meet today

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, Feb 17: President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned the National Assembly and the Senate to meet on Monday afternoon.
It will be the 50th and most likely the last sitting of the National Assembly before it completes its five-year term on March 16 and the Senate will be meeting for its 91st session.
Talking to Dawn, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Farooq H. Naek said that the National Assembly would die its natural death on March 16 and the next session beginning on Monday could be its last.
The minister said the government had decided to let the National Assembly complete its full term and not to dissolve it before that.
In its agreement with Dr Tahirul Qadri last month, the government had agreed to dissolve the National Assembly before March 16 and let the Election Commission of Pakistan hold elections within 90 days.
But in a meeting on Saturday, Dr Qadri accepted the government’s request to let the National Assembly complete its term.
Under the Constitution, if the National Assembly is dissolved before the expiry of its term, the ECP is given 90 days for holding polls; otherwise the election process will have to be completed within 60 days.
About a possible date of elections, Mr Naek said if everything went well it would be in the second week of May.
About the bills the government might push through the National Assembly in its last session, Mr Naek said they would be mostly of routine nature.
He said the government had one important bill at hand, for the creation of ‘the Province of Bahawalpur-Janoobi Punjab comprising territories of Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions and districts of Mianwali and Bhakkar’. He said the bill had already been presented in the Senate and it was lying with the committee concerned.
The law minister said: “Let’s see how the bill, which is for the enactment of the 24th constitutional amendment, fares first at the committee level and then in the Senate and if it clears these hurdles then of course the National Assembly will have to pass it with two-thirds majority.”
The PPP and its major coalition partner PML-Q desperately wanted to do necessary legislation at the federal level to create the new province in order to achieve some political mileage over the PML-N in southern Punjab. But now it looks almost impossible when the MQM has parted ways with the government.
Chances of the bill to become an act of parliament, according to analysts, are nil because PML-N, the ruling party in Punjab, has opposed it.
Under the Constitution, no bill meant for dividing a province could become a law until adopted by the provincial assembly concerned by two-thirds majority.
The National Assembly is likely to take up government bills for setting up the National Counter Terrorism Authority, Defence Housing Authority Islamabad and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University. The bills introduced in the house during its last sitting and are pending with the committees concerned.

Protests against massacre disrupt train, air services: Unbowed Hazaras refuse to bury dead

Dawn Report

KARACHI, Feb 18: Anger and outrage replaced shock and grief as tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country on Monday to protest over the mass killing of Shia Hazaras in the suicide attack in Quetta three days ago.
From Karachi to Parachinar, and Hyderabad to Multan, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, people staged sit-ins, blocking main
The protesters’ demand at all these places was the same: call in the army in Quetta and take immediate action against the extremist militant group, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which in recent months has played havoc with Shias, mainly the peaceful Hazara community of Balochistan, through a string of attacks.
The majority of these protesters were Shia men and women, but at many places a large number of people from a cross-section of society joined in to make it a collective voice against violent extremism.
As expected, Quetta remained the most disturbed of all places, with thousands of Hazara men, women and children continuing their protest sit-in for the third consecutive day. Refusing to bury those who died in Saturday’s explosion on Kirani Road, Hazara Town, unless action was taken against the perpetrators, the protesters kept the coffins on the main street.Even a bitter weather was not enough to weaken the agitators’ resolve.
“Installation of lights and other arrangements indicate that we are ready to stay here till the government meets our demands and takes measures to stop Shia genocide,” a representative of the community said.
Nearby, Hazara volunteers kept digging more graves as the death toll rose to 89 after a few more of the injured died on Monday. The volunteers were not sure how many more graves they may end up digging as several of the over two hundred injured in the incident continued to remain on the list of those critically injured.
An air of fear and uncertainty hung over the Balochistan capital, already reeling from an endless wave of bombings over the past few years. Traffic was negligible and most places of business remained closed.
Heavy contingents of law enforcement personnel were posted at all sensitive points in the city and patrolling stepped up.
Representatives of the Hazara community told Dawn that 73 bodies, 16 of them of women, had been identified. “Most of the bodies were of children and women and some were badly burnt,” one of them said.
The administration was unable to shift the critically injured to Karachi as most of the roads remained blocked the whole day. President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf had asked the Balochistan government to send them to Karachi for special treatment.
PUTTING THEIR HEADS TOGETHER: The Hazara Town tragedy and the protesters’ demand were reviewed at a meeting at the Governor’s House. It was presided over by Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi and attended, among others, by the Commander of the Southern Command, Lt Gen Aalam Khattak, Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, Frontier Corps IG Maj Gen Obaidullah Khattak, Police IG Tariq Omar Khitab and Home Secretary Captain (retd) Akbar Hussain Durrani.
“As the participants were unable to reach a consensus on calling in troops, they decided to approach the protesters with a request for burial of the victims after giving them an assurance that an operation against perpetrators of Saturday’s explosion on Kirani Road and on Alamdar Road (Jan 10) would be launched by law enforcement agencies, including the Frontier Corps,” an official said.
Home Secretary Akbar Durrani told a press conference after the meeting that the death toll had shot up to 89 after five injured people, including a child, died on Monday. He said 110 injured people were being treated at the CMH and 44 at Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Hospital.
“The dead include 33 Afghan refugees,” the secretary said, adding that 55 refugees who lived in the area were injured.
Quoting from an initial report of the bomb disposal squad, he said about 1,000 kilograms of explosives, along with urea fertiliser, potassium and sulphuric acid (all easily available in the market), might have been used to trigger an improvised explosive device (IED).
“The terrorists used an unconventional method to carry out the blast. We are in a state of war,” the official said.
In reply to a question, Akbar Durrani said a decision to hand over Quetta to the army had not been taken so far and the paramilitary FC, which was a part of the army, would continue to play its role to maintain peace and order.
“Some hidden hands want to destabilise the country by engineering a Sunni-Shia conflict,” he said.
He said a committee, headed by Quetta Commissioner Qambar Dashti, would hold talks with leaders of Shia organisations to persuade them to bury the victims.
The home secretary said the government would pay compensation to the bereaved families immediately.
He urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide financial support to the families of Afghan refugees who lost their lives or sustained injuries in Saturday’s attack.
PLEA TO DOCTORS: Balochistan Health Secretary Nasibullah Bazai said 19 of the injured were in a critical condition and the provincial government was bearing expenses of their treatment.
He called upon doctors working in government hospitals to ensure their presence, saying that bomb blast victims were suffering because of their absence from duty.
In reply to a question, Mr Bazai said the district administration was being empowered to take action against elements involved in the sale of fake and spurious medicines.
Speaking to the protesters, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen leader Allama Amin Shahidi said: “We will not bury the victims until an army operation against the banned groups is authorised.”
He urged the administration to shift the critically injured to Karachi immediately.
“Since law enforcement agencies have failed to ensure safety of life and property, people should be issued arms licences and the training to use them,” he said in a moment of undisguised disdain for officialdom..
KARACHI: The angry response to Quetta killings was widespread in Karachi and throughout the day people continued to block main roads by staging sit-in at more than a dozen places.
Right from the Shahrae Faisal to Clifton, at Teen Talwar, protesters refused to leave till our going to press. Train service for upcountry was badly disrupted as an enraged mob blocked the track near Malir, and several flights got delayed because roads leading to the airport were blocked by the enraged crowd.
In the evening violence broke out in Patel Para, near Guru Mandir, following a shootout in which three people were killed, including members of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and ANP.
Clashes between armed men and police continued till late in the night, with supporters of ASWJ resorting to violence.
Our Staff Reporter in Lahore adds: Rail traffic came to a halt after operation of all major passenger trains had to be suspended in the wake of countrywide protests against the Quetta explosion.
“Operation of 11 express trains from Karachi has been suspended, another six from Lahore will not be operated on Tuesday, while five will not leave Rawalpindi and Peshawar on Wednesday,” a railway spokesman said.
Agencies add: Demonstrations were also held in Islamabad, Peshawar, Hyderabad and a number of other cities and towns across the country.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government announced that a day of mourning would be observed on Tuesday.


SC takes notice of killings

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court took suo motu notice on Monday of unabated killings of the Shia Hazara community in Quetta and termed the gruesome incidents a critical moment in the history of Pakistan.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ordered to summon Attorney General Irfan Qadir and Advocate General of Balochistan Amanullah Kinrani to appear before a three-judge bench of the court on Tuesday.
“This is indeed a critical moment in the history of the country,” the order dictated by the chief justice said, adding that the death of over 87 innocent citizens and injuries to 200 in the Hazara Town bomb blast was a dismal failure of the government to protect people and their property, which infringe the safeguards laid down in Article 4, 9, 14, 24 and 25 of the Constitution.
The chief justice recalled that 93 people had died and 120 injured in powerful explosions at Bachcha Khan Chowk and Alamdar Road took place in Quetta on Jan 10.
The incident caused a furore amongst the Shia Hazara community not only in Quetta but across the country and eventually resulted in proclamation of the governor’s rule in Balochistan on Jan 14 which is still continuing.

Protest strike, blasts in Karachi

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 18: A complete strike was observed in the city and other parts of Sindh on Monday on a call given by the Shia Ulema Council and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen in protest against the Quetta carnage, with closure of markets, educational institutions and suspension of legal proceedings in courts.
The protest, which was backed by traders, lawyers, transporters and several political parties, including the Sunni Ittehad Council and Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam-F, resulted in disrupting road, rail and air traffic as sit-ins were organised at a number of places across the province.
Late in the evening, a bomb blast ripped through one of the protest venues, near the FTC building in Karachi, shortly after a daylong sit-in ended there.
Police said the IED had been planted beneath the FTC flyover closer to the Christian cemetery. No casualty was reported in the blast, but a crater was created at the place.
“The IED weighed around 2 kg and the explosive was laced with ball bearings, however it was not clear if a remote control device or cellphone was used in the explosion,” SP Counter Terrorism Cell of CID, Raja Umar Khattab, told Dawn.
“It seems to have been planted to terrorise the participants of a sit-in which was being held at the FTC intersection,” he said.
Participants of the sit-in were vacating the intersection when the explosion took place, police said.
Another low-intensity blast took place near Banaras area, shortly after the FTC explosion. No casualty was reported in the incident. The explosion took place outside the house of one Hussain Bhai.

China given contract to operate Gwadar port

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: The government on Monday formally awarded a multi-billion dollars contract for construction and operation of Gwadar Port to China with the hope that the port’s development would open up new vistas of progress in Pakistan, particularly Balochistan.
Under the contract, the port which will remain the property of Pakistan will be operated by the state-run Chinese firm — China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC). Earlier, the contract was given to the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA).
The contract signing ceremony held in the Presidency was attended by President Asif Ali Zardari, Chinese Ambassador Liu Jian, some federal ministers, members of parliament and senior government officials.
“The ceremony was actually held to mark the transfer of the concession agreement from the PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) to the COPHC,” said the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
The PSA is reported to have abandoned the project on the plea that Pakistan failed to meet obligations under the 40-year port-handling agreement signed in Feb 2007.
Media reports allege that the PSA, which was to spend $525 million on the project in five years, made no investment because of non-fulfilment of its demand for allotment of land worth Rs15bn.
Last year, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the Gwadar Port contract, barring the PSA from transferring immovable property of the Gwadar Port Authority to a private party and allowed the Balochistan government to become a party to the case.
In Dec 2010, China had offered the provincial government to construct 20 more berths and make the port fully operational if the port was handed over to it.
President Zardari praised the award of the contract to China as an auspicious development in Pakistan-China relations and expressed the hope that it would create new economic opportunities for Pakistan and Balochistan.
The spokesman quoted the president as saying ‘Gwadar will soon be a hub of trade and commerce in the region as it holds the key to bringing together the countries of Central Asia and lends new impetus to Pakistan-China relations.”
He highlighted the strategic importance of the port for China and Central Asian republics and its potential of integrating the economies of the countries in the region.
He said the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet were closer to Pakistani ports than to any port in China and development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East via Gwadar held great prospects.
The president said 60 per cent of Chinese import of crude came from countries in the Gulf and the amount would increase in next decade. “Because of the proximity of the Gulf countries to Gwadar, oil flow from the region to China will be facilitated.” The president praised the role played by Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Khan Ghori, who did not attend the ceremony, in the transfer of port operations to China.
AFP adds: China paid about 75 per cent of the initial $250m used to build the port but in 2007 the PSA won a 40-year operating lease.
Then president Pervez Musharraf was reportedly unwilling to upset Washington by giving control of the port to the Chinese.
On Feb 6 Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony said New Delhi was concerned by Pakistan’s decision to transfer management of the deep-sea port to China, which had interests in a string of other ports encircling India.
Foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan dismissed those concerns last week, telling reporters: “This is not something that any other country should have any reason to be concerned about.”
President Zardari said the building of infrastructure around the port would promote economic activity in Gwadar and Balochistan.
But some analysts warn that it may be some time before Pakistan can benefit from China’s takeover of Gwadar, stressing that the connecting roads and an expanded Karakoram Highway still need to be finished.

India can divert only minimum water from Kishanganga: tribunal

By Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: In a partial award announced in the Kishanganga dispute, the Hague-based Court of Arbitration allowed India on Monday to divert only a minimum flow of water from Neelum/Kishanganga River for power generation.
The Indian government had sought full diversion of the river water, but the court determined that India was under an obligation to construct and operate the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) in such a way as to maintain a minimum flow of water in the river at a rate to be determined by the court in its final award.
A copy of the judgment available with Dawn shows that the final award will be announced in December this year. The court asked India and Pakistan to provide data by June so that it could determine the minimum flow of water.
On May 17, 2010, Pakistan had instituted arbitral proceedings against India under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 and approached the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) against violation of the treaty. The ICA granted a stay and stopped India from constructing the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan had put two questions, which were legal in nature, before the tribunal -- whether India’s proposed diversion of the Neelum/Kishanganga River into another tributary breaches India’s legal obligations owed to Pakistan under the treaty and whether under the treaty, India may deplete or bring the reservoir level of a run-of-river plant below the dead storage level in any circumstances except in the case of an unforeseen emergency.
On the second question, the court determined that except in the case of an unforeseen emergency, the treaty did not permit reduction below the dead storage level of the water level in the reservoirs of run-of-river plants on the western rivers.
It further said the accumulation of sediment in the reservoir of a run-of-river plant on the western rivers did not constitute an unforeseen emergency that would permit depletion of the reservoir below the dead storage level for drawdown flushing purposes. Accordingly, India may not employ drawdown flushing at the reservoir of the Kishanganga hydroelectric plant to an extent that will entail depletion of the reservoir below dead storage level.
A senior official who is familiar with the development told Dawn that the court’s decision had endorsed Pakistan’s view that the neutral expert’s decision in the Baglihar case regarding drawdown flushing below the dead storage level was wrong and in gross violation of the parameters defined by the Indus Waters Treaty. Henceforth, designs and operations of run-of-river plants on western rivers would be determined by this decision and not that of the neutral expert.
By obtaining this award, Pakistan has taken the issue of Indus waters with India on a new basis. The years of inconclusive discussions and delays in the Indus Waters Commission during which Pakistan was constantly frustrated by the apparent inability of the commission to oversee the water regime effectively have been brought to an end.
Experts said the award had clearly and conclusively established that there were procedures set out in the Indus Waters Treaty that India must follow and the commission must secure and that India’s compliance with these obligations could and would be reviewed by international courts.
India is constructing the 330MW hydroelectric project with a dam at Gurez from where it intends to divert the entire winter flow through a tunnel and deliver water into Bunar, Madhmati, Nallaat, Bandipora in occupied Kashmir.
The court’s partial decision is clear in this regard that it permits India to divert water for power generation but will determine limits and parameters of the diversion. The court will define a minimum flow regime and thus India will be unable to divert permanently complete winter flows over a period of six to eight months in a year.
The Indus Waters Treaty denoted the conclusion of protracted and taxing negotiations ending the canal waters dispute which had erupted in 1948. Unlike other water treaties, it created an inimitable paradigm by allocating entire rivers dividing the Indus system of rivers between India and Pakistan. While largely perceived to be an exemplary accord having endured two wars and constant strain between the two governments, some experts question its efficacy. They consider this view to be a misnomer as India’s disregard for the treaty began from its inception.
From its planned construction of Wullar Barrage in 1961, failures to release canal waters in 1965, Dul Hasti, Salal, Baglihar, Kishanganga, Nimoo Bazgo, Chutak, Uri-I to many other projects on the western rivers, India has ignored its treaty obligations and designed its projects as it saw fit.
The erroneous perception stems from Pakistan’s omission to take timely action against illegalities. India proceeded with the construction of works not permitted under the treaty and kept Pakistan engaged in correspondence and negotiations for years while taking their projects to a stage of a fait accompli.

Six killed in attack on agency official

By Ali Hazrat Bacha

PESHAWAR, Feb 18: Four security personnel and two civilians were killed and 14 others injured when two militants wearing suicide jackets opened indiscriminate fire before blowing themselves up at the offices of Khyber agency’s political agent in the cantonment area on Monday.
Assistant Political Agent Khalid Mumtaz Kundi was among the injured and was taken to the Combined Military Hospital. The other injured were taken to Lady Reading and Khyber Teaching hospitals.
Peshawar SSP (operations) Imran Shahid said the attackers clad in Levies uniform entered the offices after killing security guards and injuring five others at the main gate.
He said one attacker blew himself up after he was shot at during an exchange of fire with security personnel. The blast destroyed control room, waiting room and veranda. He said the APA appeared to be the target.
“Representatives of different political parties and tribal elders were holding a meeting with APA Attaur Rehman in the conference hall to discuss the code of ethics for the next general election in Fata when the incident took place,” Iqbal Afridi, a leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf in Fata told Dawn.
He said the participants ran for safety when the militants struck, adding the attack was so abrupt that people got confused and could not understand what to do.
Bomb Disposal Unit in-charge AIG Shafqat Malik told reporters that each bomber carried eight kilograms of explosives in their jackets. Body parts of the attackers had been collected, he added.

Will fight terrorists to any extent, Raja tells NA

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: Amid nationwide mourning over the massacre of Hazara Shias in Quetta, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf assured an outraged parliament on Monday that his government would “go to every possible extent” to fight terrorists for which he called for “collective wisdom and collective action”.
While the Hazara community in Quetta still refused to bury people killed in Saturday’s terrorist bombing, angry lawmakers agitated in both houses of parliament against the second such sectarian carnage in 40 days, while some opposition parties staged protest walkouts, but the prime minister spoke only in the National Assembly at the start of the likely last session of its five-year term.
“The dangers facing Pakistan and the Pakistani people today need collective wisdom and collective action (to fight them),” he said at the end of a debate in which members from all political parties condemned the attacks in Quetta as well as in Karachi and Peshawar, some of them calling for the removal of Balochistan governor and heads of police and security agencies operating in the province.
“On behalf of the government, I assure the whole of Pakistan that we will go to every possible extent,” he said, adding: “The people who committed this atrocity will get effective punishment.”
In some of his other strong remarks during his speech, the prime minister vowed that the “perpetrators of this zulm will face hell” and that the government would use “whatever security force is needed” to eradicate terrorism, but he did not refer to Hazara community’s demand to hand over the Balochistan capital to the army.
However, the strongest speech of the day in the National Assembly came from Sheikh Waqqas Akram of the government-allied Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Minister for Education and Training, who, while calling for all political parties to confront rather than befriend known terrorist groups for electoral considerations, said: “This is no time for speeches, we need action. This is the time to go against these outfits with full force. If they come to kill us, they should be killed first.”
The prime minister, whose government faced opposition criticism earlier in the debate for what some lawmakers called insensitivity to the situation despite repeated attacks against Shias, promised full protection and help to members of the Hazara community and said he had asked the Balochistan governor to investigate any negligence or incompetence responsible for the second attack in Quetta despite the imposition of governor’s rule in the province after the January 10 suicide bomb attacks that had killed about 100 people.
He said the federal government would take action against any federal agency for its faults while the provincial government should act against provincial agencies.
At the start of the debate, PPP member Nasir Ali Shah from Quetta, who himself is a Hazara, staged a solitary walkout and announced the start of a hunger strike outside the house until the government took action against terrorists, after making a sentimental speech in which he warned that “Pakistan will sink” unless the country discarded what he called “Ziaul Haq’s formula” of arming terrorists.
Maulana Ataullah of opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam led a token walkout by members of his party after a speech in which he called the Quetta attacks part of a conspiracy to get the coming elections postponed, against which, he said, political forces should unite.
Much later, Shaikh Salahuddin of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement led his party’s first walkout from the lower houses after it announced quitting the ruling coalition two days ago.
The Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), main opposition party, did not join any of the walkouts in the National Assembly though two of its members, Rana Tanveer Hussain and Shaikh Rohale Asghar, lambasted the government for its perceived failures and Mr Hussain later exchanged some angry remarks with minister Waqqas Akram.
However, in the Senate, where several lawmakers spoke on points of order while a formal debate on the situation will be held on Tuesday morning, PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq, following walkouts by the MQM and JUI, announced a walkout by his party just before the upper house Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari adjourned proceedings.
In the National Assembly, PPP’s Nadeem Afzal Gondal, chairman of the house Public Accounts Committee, sounded so frustrated with the prevailing situation that he proposed that politicians better step aside for a couple of years and let unspecified powers to run the country.

Ministry warns of severe energy crisis

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: Warning of a severe energy crisis in summer, the Ministry of Water and Power has informed a special sub-committee of parliament that energy crisis has become a national security issue that should be given the kind of attention the country’s security demands.
At a meeting of the committee here on Monday, the ministry conceded that despite injection of huge funds the performance of power sector had not improved.
Headed by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the sub-committee was formed to make specific recommendations for resolving of the power crisis, circular debt and non-recoveries and theft.
Musaddiq Khan, a joint secretary in the ministry and Managing Director of National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), told the committee that power shortage during the coming summer was anticipated to be quite serious.
Arshad Mirza, an additional secretary in the ministry, said subsidy in power sector was a serious issue. He recommended limiting the subsidy
only to poor domestic consumers.
He opposed subsidy for all sectors of economy, bureaucrats and parliamentarians.
Mr Abbasi said the government had provided over Rs190 billion to the power sector in seven months and the amount would reach Rs350 billion by the end of the year. Subsidies in power sector had gone beyond the expenditure on running the entire federal government and soon it would surpass the defence budget, he added.
According to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, privatisation of distribution companies through initial public offering was the only solution to improve the condition of power companies in view of the involvement of independent shareholders and monitoring by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.
Musaddiq Khan said the basic problem with distribution companies was political interference, adding that power crisis could be overcome in two to three months by appointing “right person for the right job”.
He said national interests were compromised in the privatisation of Karachi Electric Supply Company. The experiment of privatisation could not be successful in a monopolised environment, he said, adding that it could succeed only in a competitive environment where the management was removed when it failed to achieve targets.
When Mr Abbasi asked if the power sector had shown any improvement after the investment of Rs350-400 billion per year, Mr Mirza said there was no improvement in practical terms even though the ministry was now focusing on administrative corrections.
Joint Secretary Zargham Eshaq Khan said almost all sectors of economy — domestic, commercial, industrial and agriculture — were being provided subsidy in power sector the total impact of which had now been estimated at Rs215.632 billion for the current year.
He said domestic consumers were being provided about Rs1.80 per unit subsidy that worked out at Rs57.5 billion. Commercial consumers enjoyed Rs2.09 per unit subsidy involving a financial impact of Rs10.44 billion while industrial consumers were getting Rs1.10 per unit subsidy involving a total amount of Rs20.88 billion. Agriculture consumers on an average enjoyed a subsidy of Rs2.57 per unit or Rs12.352 billion.
Mr Abbasi said some private producers were interested in selling electricity directly to consumers but government rules did not allow them to do so.

Manifold attacks on Shias: Imran condemns Lashkar-i-Jhangvi

By Khawar Ghumman & Bakhtawar Mian

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18: Breaking his silence against religious militant organisations, Pakistan Therik-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan severely criticised the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) on Monday for the senseless killing of Shia Hazaras in Quetta.
“I am on behalf of my party condemning the LJ by name for committing crime against humanity in the name of Islam. You (LJ) people are committing genocide of Shia community and, by doing so, bringing bad name to Islam,” Mr Khan said at press conference which was attended by Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Dr Arif Alvi and other leaders of the party.
Besides endorsing the demand of the protesting Hazaras for handing over the security of Quetta to the army, he called for setting up special courts for speedy trial of the people involved in the crime.
He said that because of fear nobody was willing to provide witness against the LJ operatives and, therefore, the government should take special measures to plug this legal anomaly.
He said Lashkar-i-Jhangvi had accepted responsibility for the Quetta blast in the name of Islam and regretted that it was damaging the image of Islam as well as of the country. “Sectarian killings in the name of Islam are shameful.”
This is first time the PTI has taken a clear stand on an issue involving a banned religious organisation.
Since the party’s march to South Waziristan in October last year against US drone attacks, its leadership has been facing criticism for not raising voices against local religious militant organisations.
The social media severely criticised the PTI for not publicly speaking against the perpetrators of the deadly bomb attack on the Hazara community in Quetta on Saturday. Some of its critics have even started dubbing the PTI a party which harbours right-wing sentiments.
Imran Khan announced that his party would hold countrywide demonstrations in support of the Hazaras.
He hit out at the PPP and PML-N for ignoring the plight of the Hazara community and alleged that the two parties were busy in roping in opportunists to win next elections.
Talking to Dawn, PTI information secretary Shafqat Mehmood said that practically the party had joined protest demonstrations of the Shia community throughout the country after the press conference, but a detailed plan of the party’s own rallies would be worked out on Tuesday.
Imran Khan said the army could be deployed in Quetta under Article 245 of the Constitution to meet the demand of the victims’ families. “Since the governor has failed to deliver in Quetta, the army can be deployed to stop further death and destruction.”
The PTI chief asked President Asif Ali Zardari to tell the nation how many times he had visited Quetta to express solidarity with the families who had lost their loved ones in the twin bomb blast in January. “(President) Zardari is enjoying life in a palace of Rs5 billion, whereas innocent citizens are being butchered on road.”
He said the Balochistan governor and his appointing authority were responsible for Saturday’s bomb blast. The government should announce financial support for the victims’ families, he added.
Mr Khan said former consultant of Shaukat Khanum Hospital Haider Ali and his eleven-year-old son had also been killed by terrorists only because they belonged to the Shia community.
He said it was the first time in the country’s history that the federal as well as provincial governments had failed to curb lawlessness in the country while there was no existence of a real opposition.
He said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif should also tell the nation why he was silent over such a precious gift of 200-kanal house to the President. “The silence of the PML-N over the building of Bilawal House in Lahore has raised many questions,” he said.
Answering a question, Mr Khan said elections should be held on time because these were the solution to all problems. “Those who want to get the elections delayed are not sincere with the country and its people. I have even demanded mid-term elections,” he said.
Had the government held mid-term elections, the country would not have been going through the present crisis, he said.

Magsi wants people’s rights protected

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, Feb 18: Governor of Balochistan Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi has said that rights and interests of the people of the province must be protected in any agreement with foreign companies and countries for exploration and development of natural resources.
In a statement on the handing over of Gwadar Port to a Chinese firm, he said it should be ensured that the first to benefit from exploitation of natural resources by foreign companies would be the people of Balochistan who were owners of the resources.
Nawab Magsi welcomed the signing of the agreement with China for the port and said it would create employment opportunities for local people. Besides, the country and the province will benefit from the infrastructure to be raised for the port.
“It is necessary to protect rights of the local people while developing resources to remove the sense of deprivation prevailing among the people and their reservations over exploitation of natural resources,” the governor said.
If the people benefited from the port, he said, they would participate in the process of development of Balochistan and it would cast a positive impact on the overall situation in the province.
He recalled that agreements contrary to the aspirations of the people reached in the past had created an unpleasant situation.
He said a lesson should be learnt from the past to ensure success of the agreement with China.
“Balochistan can no longer afford bitter experiences,” he warned.
He said the country’s future depended on Balochistan’s progress because its resources were backbone of the national economy.

Quetta dead to be buried today: Relatives agree to end sit-in after initial defiance

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, Feb 19: At a late-night press conference, leaders of Shia organisations and Hazara community announced that relatives of the people who had died in Saturday’s terrorist attack had agreed to start burying the dead at 9 on Wednesday morning and end their sit-in.
The leaders included Allama Amin Shaheedi of Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen; Sardar Saadat Ali Hazara, chief of the Hazara tribe; and Qayyum Changezi of the Quetta Yekjehati Council. They are accompanied by Agha Ghulam Abbas and Ghulam Raza who have lost several dear ones in the attack. They said there were 113 bodies in the camp which would be kept overnight.
Earlier in the evening, the protesters holding the sit-in with the bodies of the dead had insisted on continuing their sit-in after what was described as success of negotiations with a parliamentary delegation from Islamabad. The Shia leaders had announced their decision to end the sit-in and start burying the bodies. Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi had attended the talks.
The protesters said they would not bury the dead till their main demand of handing over Quetta to army had been met.
Till late in the evening there were reports of protesters in some other cities of the country taking the same position. They said they would end their protest only if the sit-in was ended in Quetta.
After negotiations with the parliamentary delegation, the leaders said they had been assured that a targeted operation would be launched against banned extremist organisations involved in attacks on the Hazaras.
They also said the bodies of the victims of the Karani Road carnage would be buried soon.
But Ghulam Ali Hazara told reporters in Hazara Town that the heirs had refused to burry the dead till the handing over of Quetta’s control to the army.
Hundreds of relatives of the victims remained sitting with the coffins at Imambargah in Hazara Town despite heavy rain and cold weather. “We will end our protest only when the army takes over security of Quetta and launches a targeted operation against banned organisations.”
After the negotiations, the Shia leaders had left the Hazara Town area. “The government has accepted all our demands,” they told reporters.
The parliamentary delegation comprised Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira, Maula Bakhsh Chandio, Afzal Nadeem Chan, Hazar Khan Bijarani, Sughra Imam and Yasmeen Rehman. After arriving in Quetta, they held a meeting with Governor Magsi, Frontier Corps IG Major General Obaidullah Khattak, IG Police Tariq Omar Khitab, Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, Home Secretary Capt (retd) Akbar Hussain Durrani and other senior officials of the army and intelligence agencies at the Governor’s House. The meeting discussed the protesters’ demand of handing over Quetta to the army and launching a targeted operation.
In the afternoon, the delegation went to Hazara Town and met leaders of Shia organisations.
After about two hours, the two sides announced success of the talks.
Allama Shaheedi, Sardar Saadat Ali and Qayyum Changezi announced that they would end their sit-in and bury the dead because the government had assured them that the army would carry out an operation.
“We are going to end our sit-in and protest and ask the protesters across the country to end their sit-in and disperse peacefully,” Allama Shaheedi said.
He said that after successful talks with the government, burial of victims would take place.
“We have formed a three-member committee to monitor the fulfilment of the federal and the provincial governments about the army operation and we will launch sit-ins and protest again if another act of terrorism takes place again.”
Mr Kaira told newsmen that the FC and other law enforcement agencies had already launched an operation against the groups involved in sectarian killings. Four terrorists had been killed and dozens of other suspects had been arrested so far, he added.“The army will also carry out the operation which will continue till all suspects wanted in cases of sectarian attacks are apprehended,” he said.
Mr Kaira said the government had accepted all demands of the Hazara leaders.
Sardar Saadat Ali Hazara said they would try to complete burial on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who returned here after an official visit to Iran, joined the parliamentary delegation at the Governor’s House.
He told reporters that the government would declare the Shia-Hazara areas of Quetta as a red zone.
He said the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jaish-i-Mohammad and Sipah-i-Sahaba were working as a syndicate and carrying out bomb attacks against the Shia community.
The syndicate of three banned outfits, he said, had stopped target killings and were now carrying out bomb blasts like the one on Karani road in which potassium and sulphuric acid had been used.

SC hits out at security agencies

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: The performance of the federal government and that of premier intelligence agencies, both civil and military, came under intense scrutiny in the Supreme Court which took up the Quetta massacre case on Tuesday.
“Why responsibility should not be fixed on Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf like it was done against Chief Minister Aslam Raisani when a similar incident happened in January,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who heads a three-judge bench which held three
proceedings after intervals on a suo motu notice of unabated killings of the Shia Hazara community.
The court observed that it was the foremost duty of the state to protect the life and property of its citizen.
The gruesome killings triggered countrywide strikes, protests and demonstrations paralysing the civic life as markets, business centres and schools were closed.
Such incidents taking place in the presence of the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary force but recently delegated with police powers after the imposition of governor’s rule, was beyond comprehension, the court regretted. But it offered that cases would be decided by trial courts concerned in three days if real culprits were apprehended.
The court framed a set of questions and asked Interior Secretary Khawaja Siddiq Akbar and Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Yasin Malik to get their answers from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Field Investigation Unit (FIU), FIA’s Anti-Terrorist Wing, Special Branch, Crimes Branch and Crime Investigation Department (CID).
“Prima facie, either the intelligence agencies are negligent in performing their duties or they do not share intelligence with police and law-enforcement agencies,” the court observed.
The court’s questionnaire asks who are responsible for the Quetta carnage; why the intelligence agencies have failed to discharge their responsibilities; what are the circumstances preventing the agencies from proceeding against the culprits involved in the dreadful killings because of which life has been paralysed throughout the country; and why the federal as well as provincial governments have not taken necessary and effective normalisation measures throughout the country, particularly in Quetta.
The two secretaries are also required to inform the court at the next hearing on Wednesday about measures taken for arresting the criminals.
The secretary interior informed the court that the Inspector General of Balochistan had been replaced by Mushtaq Sukhera from Punjab, the IB director transferred and IB Quetta’s deputy director suspended.
But the court observed that these measures were not sufficient for identifying and locating the criminals who were carrying out terrorist activities one after the other in a daring manner.
Agha Nasir Ali Shah, a PPP member parliament belonging to the Hazara community who is on a hunger strike over the Quetta massacre, came to attend the proceedings, along with Dr Safdar Abbasi, Ms Naheed Khan, PML-N MNA Capt (retd) Safdar, Senator Rafiq Rajwana and Begum Atiya Inayat.
He criticised his party colleagues for not sympathising with him or offering him to accompany a broad-based parliamentary delegation which went to Quetta to hold talks with leaders of the Hazara community for ending the sit-in staged by the victims’ families.
What surprised the court most was the unchecked entry of a water tanker carrying 800-1000kg of explosives to the Hazara Town in Quetta. Over 87 innocent citizens lost their lives and 200 suffered injuries when the explosives went off.
The court asked why the intelligence agencies had failed to gather prior information about the incident and why no combing of the troubled area had been done soon after the proclamation of governor’s rule to arrest the culprits without any discrimination. The court was surprised that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a proscribed outfit, had claimed responsibility for the Quetta carnage, but no action had been taken against it.
By now tribal elders should have been approached by the authorities to seek their assistance in arresting the culprits since criminals usually took refuge in small areas after carrying out terrorist activities, it said.
The court directed that its orders be dispatched to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and the Balochistan governor so that they might submit reports through Attorney General Irfan Qadir.

Govt vetoed Hazaras’ demand: Army was ready for Quetta deployment

By Baqir Sajjad Syed and Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: The government on Tuesday refused to accept the main demand of Shia leadership and Hazara community for army deployment in Quetta although the military was ready to take on the responsibility.
“The decision for not calling in army under Section 245 of the Constitution was made by the political leadership. The armed forces are not reluctant to provide security to the Hazaras,” a senior military official told Dawn after Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at the Presidency to discuss the situation arising out of Saturday’s Quetta bombing.
Had the government asked for it, the official said, the army was ready to take action against the killers.
Defending the government’s decision, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said: “The situation is not so bad that army should be deployed in the city.”
Shia leadership and Hazara community elders had presented a 23-point charter of demand after the massacre and their main plea was handover of Quetta’s security to the army.
The government’s negotiating team that travelled to Quetta for talks with the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and Hazara leaders, accepted 22 of the demands, but persuaded the other side to compromise on the central demand. The non-acceptance of the main demand led to confusion about ending the sit-ins, many of which continued late into the night.
Speaking about the confusion, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who led the government delegation at the
talks, said the agreement was holding. “They have decided to bury the bodies of the blast victims on Wednesday morning. Till then protestors in Quetta will remain sitting with the bodies. The media twisted the situation and reported that the Hazaras continued their sit-in,” he said.
The government had been averse to army deployment after the Jan 10’s bombing as well. However, it had accepted the demand for imposition of governor’s rule in Balochistan. It is believed that the government’s unwillingness to army deployment has been caused by its fear of losing more space to the army on national security, which is already dominated by the armed forces.
At the Presidency meeting, Gen Kayani was informed that intelligence-driven targeted operations against those involved in the carnage would be launched by the Frontier Corps.
Personnel of the Balochistan Constabulary and the Balochistan Reserve Police will also be put at the disposal of the FC to meet manpower requirement for the operations.
The government adopted a two-pronged strategy for making the MWM and Hazara leaders budge on the demand for an army-led operation in Quetta. It launched an operation, killing the “mastermind” of the Jan 10 attack and his accomplices and arresting a former provincial minister accused of patronising sectarian elements. And it won over some of the Hazara leaders.
It was surprising that suddenly the FC received a tip-off about a Lashkar-i-Jhangvi hideout in the suburbs of Quetta and carried out an operation in which four terrorists were killed and seven, including a high value target, were arrested.
Those killed in the operation were Shah Wali, the LeJ commander and main planner of Alamdar Road attack of Jan 10, who was also involved in targeted killing of Hazara people, murders of some police officers and a judge and attacks on pilgrims’ buses in Mastung; Abdul Wahab alias Doctor, the recruiter of the shooters and head of target indication ring; Naeem Khan, a close associate of known terrorist Usman Khalid Kurd; and target killer Anwar Khan.
Security officials claimed that their action against the LeJ had foiled another major attack on Hazara people.
The government also persuaded Hazara tribe chief Sardar Saadat and Hazara Democratic Party head Abdul Khaliq Hazara to give up their demand for army action. The two leaders clearly said during the talks that they did not want army to be involved.
Asked about yielding on the core demand, acting chief of the MWM Allama Amin Shaheedi, said: “No option was left for us after the stakeholders (Hazaras) said they did not need army.”

TTP leader captured in Afghanistan

Dawn Report

PESHAWAR/KHAR, Feb 19: A senior commander of Pakistani Taliban has been captured by Afghan intelligence personnel in a border area.
Security officials said reports about Maulvi Faqir Mohammad’s arrest in Afghanistan appeared to be correct.
Reports from Afghanistan said Afghan intelligence agencies had captured Maulvi Faqir, who was deputy to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakeemullah Mehsud until 2011, and his four aides when they were trying to cross into Pakistan from Nangrahar.
A Pakistani security official said: “This is big news. We are reasonably sure that reports of his arrest are correct but unless the Afghans officially confirm it we would not like to say anything publicly on this.
“This has confirmed what we have been saying all along that Maulvi Faqir and others have fled and taken shelter in Afghanistan. We hope that others like him, who also are hiding there, would also be captured.”
Another security official said the reports of the capture of one of the most senior TTP figures in Afghanistan were true.
An administration official in Maulvi Faqir’s native Bajaur tribal region said the fugitive militant had been captured in Basawal, eastern Afghanistan, while trying to cross over into Khyber Agency’s Tirah valley. Local militants also said Maulvi Faqir had been captured along with his aides Maulana Hakim, Shahid Khan, Maulvi Turrabi and Fathi Khan.

Mandviwalla steps in as Shaikh quits

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has stepped down as federal Minister for Finance and Revenue three weeks before completion of the five-year constitutional term of the government in what appeared to be a move to canvass support for his candidature for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Saleem H. Mandviwalla, who had recently been appointed minister of state for finance, was promoted and sworn in as federal minister on Tuesday.
“President Asif Ali Zardari today administered oath of office to Mr Saleem H. Mandviwala as federal minister at a ceremony held at Aiwan-i-Sadr,” a statement issued by the presidency said.
A staff officer to the former finance minister attending his personal telephone confirmed that Mr Shaikh had submitted his resignation as minister but had not yet given up his Senate seat.
“Hafeez has been able to muster support of the PPP leadership to be its top nominee for caretaker prime minister,” a close friend of the former minister told Dawn.
He is reported to have persuaded the key stakeholders in and outside Pakistan to support him and even the Pakistan Muslim League-N may have to finally accept his nomination despite initially opposing it in public, said the friend of Mr Shaikh who spent most of the day at the Hillside Road residence of the outgoing minister in Islamabad’s posh E-7 sector.
He said Dr Shaikh’s possible induction as caretaker prime minister was important in view of a likely economic bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without which the country’s foreign exchange reserves and currency were expected to come under severe pressure in a few weeks.
Mr Shaikh has been asked to make use of good rapport with PML-N’s Ishaq Dar to secure support for his nomination and the economic package.
The lending agency made clear last month that it would not support a bailout programme without “broadest and deepest” political support for upfront economic reforms and policy changes.
“The IMF programme has become unavoidable during the caretaker period to stave off an economic crisis,” he said.
The foreign exchange reserves have depleted to a level enough to cover imports of a little over two months, while the exchange rate has dropped to a historic low.
On Sunday, Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, of the PML-N, had ruled out his party’s support for the nomination of Dr Shaikh as caretaker prime minister.
Under the law, the leader of opposition and the prime minister must agree on a name for caretaker prime minister; otherwise the Election Commission would select one from a list of four nominees. Two each proposed by the two sides.
Dr Shaikh, who served as federal minister for privatisation and investment in Gen Musharraf’s government, was appointed finance minister in March 2010 after the resignation of Shaukat Tarin. He was elected a senator on a PPP seat from Sindh.
Mr Mandviwalla was President of the Lasbela Chamber of Commerce and Industry before he was inducted as chairman of the Board of Investment in October 2008. Later elected as a senator on a PPP seat from Sindh, he was appointed minister of state about three months ago.

Joint parliament session to quiz security agencies

By Raja Asghar and Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: As the role of security agencies was repeatedly called into question in parliament over Shia massacre in Quetta, the government and opposition agreed on Tuesday to call a joint session of the National Assembly and Senate to hear from the heads of these agencies.
During debates in both houses for the second day running, lawmakers blamed perceived negligence or failures of the agencies for the second massacre of Hazara Shias in the Balochistan capital in just 40 days and called for accountability.
But it was in the National Assembly, which saw two separate token walkouts over the issue, that a joint session was formally proposed by the opposition PML-N, to which the ruling PPP’s chief whip and Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah agreed, saying such a meeting, possibly in camera, could be held some time next week.
In calling for the joint session, Khwaja Mohammad Asif, a ranking PML-N lawmaker, demanded that “all institutions responsible for security” — including secret agencies, the paramilitary Frontier Corps operating in Balochistan and police — should be called “so the representatives of 180 million people (of Pakistan) ask them why the nation is so unsafe”.
Wasim Akhtar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) endorsed the PML-N proposal on behalf of his party, which quit the government only last week over another issue concerning law and order in Karachi, before the PPP chief whip agreed to hold such a sitting in camera, saying he would convey “the sense of the house” to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and that “Insha-Allah the session would be held some time next week”.
But a veteran PPP member, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor, who was chairing the house, proposed that the joint session be open in light of the past experience when proceedings of similar sessions could not remain secret.
The development, following separate walkouts by the MQM and the PML-N, came after the prime minister assured the house on the first day of the likely last session of its five-year term on Monday that the government would “go to any possible extent” against the perpetrators of Saturday’s suicide bombing in a Hazara community residential area of Quetta that killed about 90
people, 40 days after a suicide attack targeted Hazaras in the same city, killing about 100.
During the debate on the bombing, claimed by the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi group, Himayatullah Mayar of the government-allied Awami National Party (ANP) had called for summoning heads of military and security agencies to parliament to explain their position.
But he opposed the Hazara community’s demand to hand over Quetta to the army, saying such a course could encourage “voices tomorrow” that the whole country be handed over to the army.
But PML-N’s Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch said heavens would not fall if troops were called out in Quetta for a couple of months to satisfy the Hazara community.
However, Khawaja Asif, who was the main PML-N and opposition speaker on the day, did not suggest an army takeover of Quetta over the massacre, which he said had made heads of all Pakistanis hang in shame and of parliamentarians before the large portrait over the speaker’s chair of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who himself belonged to the Shia community.
MQM’s Wasim Akhtar, who termed the result of previous in-camera explanations of military forces to parliament “zero”, said this time “we should order them to go and kill Lashkar-i-Jhangvi”.

Failure or deliberate negligence
In the Senate, lawmakers across the political divide blasted security and intelligence agencies for their failure to pre-empt terrorism and questioned allocation of huge budgets for them.
Speaking on an adjournment motion moved by MQM’s Col (retd) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, opposition members warned against a spread of sectarianism all over the country if effective measures were not taken immediately.
A key government senator also joined his voice with those who had earlier suspected involvement of some elements within the agencies and security apparatus in the ongoing violence.
“Today, what is regarded as intelligence failure might be interpreted tomorrow as deliberate negligence,” said PPP’s Senator Farhatullah Babar who is also the spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari.
Most of the senators asked Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari to call federal secretaries for interior and defence to explain the failure of the intelligence agencies which, some noted, could not spot about 1,000kg of explosives transported in a vehicle on Saturday to an area already under security cover.
The members were of the view that since the National Assembly was about to complete its term in a few weeks after which there would be no interior or defence minister of the present government, the secretaries must be summoned before the Senate which would remain intact even after the dissolution of the lower house of parliament.
Mr Babar drew the attention of the house to “the mysterious escape” of two dangerous and condemned militants of a banned outfit from “the highly secured and improvised prison in the Quetta cantonment” on the night of Jan 18, 2008.
He said the defence and interior officials should also be asked as to how these prisoners managed to escape and why the guards who were actually on duty had been replaced all of a sudden with some new ones the same night.
The PPP senator said the two activists, Usman Kurd and Daud Buledi, sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in November 2003, had been kept in an improvised prison in Quetta’s cantonment area.
At a time when transition from dictatorship to democracy was taking place, these two prisoners escaped from the prison and then the country witnessed an increase in sectarian-related incidents during the civilian rule, he said. “Beyond this, I can’t be more explicit,” he said, amid desk-thumping by house members.
Senator Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party alleged that some 550 Baloch people had been kidnapped and killed by security agencies during the past 30 months.
He termed the Quetta carnage part of an international conspiracy, saying the same day Shias had been killed in blasts in Baghdad and Damascus as well.
Haji Adeel of the ANP said parliament would also not remain safe if steps were not taken to improve the situation.
He regretted that when political parties showed their readiness for dialogue with the militants, they responded with suicide attacks on a convoy of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and on the office of the Khyber Agency political agent in Peshawar.
The ANP senator said there had been demands for a tough military operation against the terrorists from three provinces and Fata but there had been no such call coming from Punjab. “Our army will not come into action unless such a call also comes from Punjab which has 64 per cent of the country’s population,” he said.
He said Sri Lanka had succeeded in tackling the terrorism issue with the cooperation of Pakistan’s army and security agencies but Pakistan itself was unable to check the menace. Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F criticised those who bracketed the mainstream religious parties with the militants, saying his party itself had been a victim of terrorism.
He opposed the demand about Quetta handover, saying the army was already present in Swat and Fata but there had been no peace there.
He said the intelligence agencies and the military were helpless because
they could not annoy the US which was the main source of terrorism in the country.
Leader of Opposition Ishaq Dar asked the chairman to issue directive to the government to arrange an in-camera sitting of the house to discuss the security-related issues in the light of a statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik that the country was facing a threat of disintegration.
The chairman asked the leader of the house to consult the prime minister and suggest a date for the in-camera session.

Candidates required to submit tax returns of three years

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 19: The Election Commission of Pakistan has made it mandatory for candidates for national and provincial assembly seats to submit income and agriculture tax returns of the past three years.
According to changes in declaration and oath approved by the ECP at a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim here on Tuesday, candidates will be required to disclose their income and source and income tax paid over the past three years.
They will also have to submit details of their children studying abroad and expenses incurred on their education, foreign trips undertaken by them during the period and cost incurred and a copy of the passport used.
The candidates will be required to give details of agricultural land held by them and agriculture income and tax paid during that period.
Earlier they were required to provide details of their movable and immovable property in and outside Pakistan, but now they will also have to state location, description, built-up area and market value of the house or apartment in which they are living.
The candidates will also have to submit names of their spouse and dependants and declare that the names are correct and no name has been left out. They will be required to give details of companies owned by them, their spouse or dependants.
They will also have to submit a statement on oath that they have neither ceased to be a citizen of Pakistan nor they have acquired or applied for citizenship of a foreign state and a declaration that they will have no objection if information relating to acquisition of citizenship of a foreign state or application for such citizenship is provided by a foreign state to the ministry of foreign affairs. Failure to provide details about any matter mentioned in the form shall render their nomination invalid.
Those who have been members of the national or a provincial assembly will be required to describe what they consider to be the most important contribution made by them for the benefit of their constituency.
Candidates will also be required to state whether they made any payment to their political party to obtain its ticket, and if so how much.
They will also have to disclose if they received any amount of money from the party which awarded them the ticket. They will be required to provide details of any donation given by them to any recognised charitable organisation or educational institution over the past three years.
Candidates will also be required to provide details of the bank account opened for election expenses, along with the name and branch of the bank and an undertaking that they will make all election expenses from the amount deposited in the account and will not make any transaction for poll expenses through another account.
They will have to provide details of the value of total assets and expenditure including mortgages secured on property or land and their personal expenditure, indicating increase or decrease over the previous year.
An official of the ECP told Dawn that rules needed to be amended for making changes in the format of nomination papers and declarations, which the commission would be able to do with the approval by the president. He said a reference for the purpose was being sent to the president through the ministry of law and justice.
He said the commission had taken notice of reports about Sindh government’s plan to give 27,500 plots to PPP workers and sought a report from the chief secretary.
The ECP decided that a ban on transfer of Rs250 million by the Finance Division to the ministry of law for payments to be made to the bar councils will be lifted next month after expiry of the term of the National Assembly.

Four suspects killed, seven held in FC operation

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, Feb 19: Four members of a banned organisation were killed and seven arrested in a pre-dawn targeted operation launched by Frontier Corps in Killi Qambrani area of the provincial capital on Tuesday.
Separately, police conducted a search operation in Killi Badini area, on the outskirts of the city, and took into custody about 170 suspects. Haji Rafiq Mengal, a provincial leader of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, was among the arrested people.
Provincial Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told Dawn that the alleged mastermind of the Quetta explosion was among those arrested.
Sources said that the FC, on a tip-off about the presence of some suspects, cordoned off the area late on Monday night. When FC personnel started moving towards suspects’ position in early hours of the morning they opened fire on them. The personnel returned fire and the exchange of fire continued for several hours. Two personnel received bullet wounds.Col Maqbool of the FC claimed that men killed in the encounter were members of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. Among the seven arrested people, two were suspected teenage suicide bombers, he said, adding that the FC seized two suicide jackets, 80kg of explosives, three Kalashnikovs, two rockets, two anti-personnel mines, hundreds of rounds, one IED, ball-bearings, three remote controls and a huge quantity of ammunition.
He identified the dead as Shah Wali from Rahimyar Khan, Abdul Wahab alias Doctor from Kohlu, Anwar Khan from Karachi, and Saleem Khan from Quetta.
Col Maqbool also claimed that the mastermind of Quetta’s explosion was among the arrested people. However, he did not disclose his name.
Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat’s leader Allama Abdul Rahim Sajid condemned the arrest of Haji Rafiq Mengal and other members of his organisation. He claimed that police raided madressahs in Killi Badini, Akhtarabad and other areas and arrested many people, including 15 students.
He called for the release of Haji Rafiq Mengal and others.

Accord on security signed with Iran

TEHRAN, Feb 19: Pakistan and Iran have signed an agreement to enhance cooperation in security matters and combat trans-national organised crime.
At the signing ceremony, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and his Iranian counterpart Mustafa Najar said providing internal security would be conducive to trade and crime control.
Under the agreement, Mr Malik said, both countries would cooperate in preventing and combating organised crime, including smuggling of goods, especially cultural and historical objects, and the restitution of such times.
They will also collaborate to curb forgery of state securities, travel documents, currency notes and credit cards, money laundering,
use of income from such activities and illicit trade in weapons, ammunition and explosive materials.
Other areas of cooperation include terrorism, activities posing a threat to national security of either country, human trafficking, illegal immigration and abuse of women and children during the process, cyber crime and crimes committed through misuse of communication and telecommunication devices.
In reply to a question about methods of cooperation, Mr Malik said measures to be taken by each country to implement the agreement would include identifying groups or persons involved in trans-national organised crime and providing relevant information such as photographs and fingerprints (of criminals) to the other country.
He said both countries would also exchange information on different types of trans-national organised crime, preventive methods, laws on crime prevention and measures taken to strengthen the management of the borders, like equipping the border stations.
They would share information and experiences on new types of narcotics, psychotropic substances, basic and chemical substances and the routes used for drug trafficking, besides their experiences in organising and training their forces, the minister said.
He said they had agreed to establish a joint working group, headed by the deputy interior minister of Iran for security and the home secretary of Pakistan, to monitor implementation of the agreement, offer solutions of problems faced during the course of the implementation and review and update this agreement, if and when required.
Mr Najar said the agreement would help expand bilateral ties. He expressed sympathy with the people of Pakistan over the Quetta bomb blast, saying both countries stood together against terrorism and would eliminate the menace to ensure peace in the region.

Rehman meets Iranian president
Mr Malik held a meeting with the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and discussed with him matters of bilateral interest.
Taking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Malik said the Iranian president had agreed to set up two more check-posts at his country’s border with Pakistan to curb smuggling and enhance bilateral trade. Officials from both sides will meet in the first week of March to finalise the modalities.
He said Mr Ahmadinejad had expressed sympathy over the Quetta tragedy and said joint effort would help both countries to eliminate the menace of terrorism and extremism. —APP

Grief-stricken Hazaras bury the dead as angry youths protest

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, Feb 20: Quetta buried the victims of the devastating Saturday sectarian attack in the Hazara Town graveyard on Wednesday amid tension as protesters and police both started firing into the air.
The bodies of men, women and children were taken to the graveyard in the morning after the Namaz-i-Janaza offered at an Imambargah. The graves had been prepared on Monday and Tuesday.
Dozens of women and youths started protesting and called for halting the burial. They said the bodies should be buried only after deployment of army in Quetta for launching an operation against banned organisations.
Some protesting women went down the graves as the bodies were being lowered and said they would not let the burial to go ahead until their demand was met.
Leaders of the Hazara community persuaded them to let the burial begin.
Some enraged Hazara Shia youths started firing into the air to prevent the burial, triggering a stampede when hundreds of people ran for their life. Four policemen and an employee of a TV channel were injured.
The youths also opened fire at the official vehicle of Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Kakar and pelted it with stones. The vehicle was damaged but the official remained unhurt.
Quetta police chief Mir Zubair supervised the action taken by law- enforcement personnel to avert any deterioration in the situation. “Police acted after Hazara youths had opened fire and those involved will be booked,” he said.
He said leaders of the community had assured senior police officers that no untoward incident would take place at the graveyard but some armed youths fired at the police and damaged the DC’s vehicle.
The burial process was resumed after law-enforcement personnel took control of the graveyard and areas around it.
Leaders of Shia organisations said 113 bodies had been buried but sources put the number of graves at 87.
Talking to reporters, Quetta Yakjehti Council leader Abdul Qayyum Changezi said the persons who had tried to obstruct the burial were not related to the dead.
“The relatives of the dead had given permission to the Shia organisations to bury their loved ones killed in the explosion.”
He said the government had promised a targeted operation against banned organisations and there was no reason to not bury the dead.
There were moving scenes as the heirs of the dead wailed and cried.
Personnel of the Frontier Corps, police, Balochistan Constabulary and Levies had been deployed in the area.
Some Hazara people, including women, held a protest sit-in on the Western Bypass near the graveyard and blocked the road for some time.

Operation to continue till arrest of LJ leadership

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: The federal government announced on Wednesday that the operation launched against the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) would continue till the arrest of its entire leadership.
Briefing reporters after a meting of the federal cabinet, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said all law-enforcement agencies were participating in the operation which had led to the killing of four LJ members and arrest of 170 people allegedly involved in carrying out attacks on Hazara Shias.
“We assure everybody in the country that the government will take the ongoing operation to its logical conclusion,” he said.
Defending the Balochistan government which has been under Zulfiqar Magsi since the imposition of governor’s rule on Jan 14, Kaira said the federal government was satisfied with his performance and would keep on supporting him.
He rejected a perception that the army and the government were not on the same page on security measures taken for the Hazara community in Quetta. “The army is part of the government and we can use it whenever a need arises.”
When asked that the army was ready to deploy its troops but the government had resisted the move, Mr Kaira said if tomorrow the province wanted army’s deployment it could do it under the Constitution.
“Yes, in the past institutions used to act on their own, but now things are different and all of us are trying to work within a framework laid down in the Constitution,” he said.
CARETAKER SET-UP: The information minister neither said ‘yes’ nor ‘no’ when asked about the possibility of Dr Hafeez Sheikh, who had resigned as finance minister, emerging as a consensus candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Referring to a statement of Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in which he had outright rejected Dr Hafeez as potential caretaker prime minister, Mr Kaira said the Constitution was quite black and white on the matter -- in case of a disagreement between the prime minister and the leader of opposition, two names each from both sides would be sent to a parliamentary committee to select one. And if the committee also failed to do so, the Chief Election Commissioner will choose one of the four names recommended by the two sides.
After Dr Hafeez’s resignation an impression is being created that he may be picked as caretaker prime minister.
“The issue of caretaker set-up and election time have been adequately addressed in the Constitution. So I can only suggest to the soothsayer, ‘take rest, everything will go ahead smoothly’,” Mr Kaira said.
He said like in the past, the government was hopeful of crossing this final hurdle after consultations with Mian Nawaz Sharif and elections would be held under an impartial caretaker set-up. HAJ POLICY: The information minister said the cabinet had approved the new Haj policy, which would be formally announced by Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Shah at a press conference on Thursday.
In reply to a question, he said the religious ministry was sorting out the issue of air fare with the PIA through the defence ministry.

Iran to set up $4bn oil refinery in Gwadar

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: In a major move to boost bilateral cooperation, Iran has agreed to set up a $4 billion oil refinery in Gwadar with an estimated capacity of about 400,000 barrels per day.
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain told Dawn on Wednesday that an understanding to this effect had been reached during a meeting between Iranian delegation led by Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
An official said a memorandum of understanding for setting up the refinery was expected to be signed during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Tehran on Feb 27.
He said land for the project would be provided to Iran near Gwadar port.
Dr Asim said Pakistan was expected to pay the price of gas to be delivered to it through the Pak-Iran gas pipeline and petroleum products purchased from the proposed refinery in the form of food products, particularly wheat, rice and meat.
He said a technical team would visit Tehran on Thursday to finalise parameters of the MoU on the refinery and settle issues relating to the Pak-Iran gas pipeline.
Earlier, a company owned by the UAE government had committed to set up a refinery at Khalifa Point in Balochistan but backed out for unknown reasons.
Meanwhile, the visiting Iranian delegation met President Asif Ali Zardari to firm up schedule for his visit to Tehran next week.
A statement said President Zardari had highlighted Pakistan’s energy needs and steps taken to meet them. He called for greater connectivity between the two countries and stressed the need for moving forward on the ‘ECO Container Train’ project.
He said that regular operation of the ‘ECO Train’ would lend impetus to cargo and transit facilities between the two countries. The president said Pakistan would welcome technical and financial support from Iran for upgrading the Quetta-Taftan railway track.
Mr Zardari called for improving visa procedure, opening new border posts and removing tariff and non-tariff barriers. He also called for early finalisation of agreement to export of wheat to Iran.
He said Pakistan was examining feasibility of starting direct flights from Quetta and Gilgit to Mashhad and expressed satisfaction over the signing of security cooperation agreement between the two countries. He said enhanced cooperation on border security would help to counter terrorism, cross-border crimes and drugs trade.

EC attracts NA ire for ‘politician-bashing’

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: For some of its officials’ acts, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) came under fire in the National Assembly on Wednesday for a perceived pre-poll politician bashing and the house decided to send a bipartisan committee to plead for a more respectable treatment.
After a furious opposition leader, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan of the PML-N, protested against an apparently impolite and threatening letter he said he had received from a commission official to verify his educational qualification, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek termed the behaviour a “witch-hunt”, Speaker Fehmida Mirza asked all parties in the house to nominate their representatives for the committee to be formed by Thursday.
But no names were given during or after a heated discussion marked by an unusual desk-thumping and cheers from the main parties for one another’s speakers, some of whom also complained about the role of unspecified media outlets in “vilification of politicians.”
The nerves of lawmakers seemed eased towards the end of the evening sitting when the house unanimously adopted a key government bill seeking to strengthen provisions of the existing Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 against terrorism financing, and heard Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani express satisfaction over the result of negotiations of a government team with the leaders of Hazara Shia community in Quetta that ended a sit-in over the massacre of over 90 people in Saturday’s bombing. The session was adjourned until 11am on Thursday.
Chaudhry Nisar, who braved what he called terrible back pain to stand up and speak against “across-the-board vilification of parliamentarians being painted in the media as fraudsters, fake degree holders or tax evaders,” and particularly about a letter he said he had received from an ECP director — reportedly also sent to 249 other legislators — threatening that their degrees would be treated as fake and criminal proceedings would be initiated against them if they failed to produce their matriculation and intermediate certificates.
Informing the house that he had done his “O Level” and “A Level” from a foreign university, he said instead of complying with the directives issued in the letter, he would write a letter to the ECP, asking it to withdraw the objectionable letter sent by its director (legal), Sanaullah Malik.
The opposition leader, who asked the commission not to turn itself into a “media house” to defame parliamentarians, proposed formation of a joint committee of parliament to take up with the commission matters about its procedures.
Mr Naek, whose brief speech was greeted with as much applause by opposition members as Chaudhry Nisar’s tirade received from the treasury benches, came out strongly in support of what he called the “truth” in the opposition leader’s speech. The minister said “writing such letters is a witch-hunt the ECP is engaging in” and demanded withdrawal of the document.
He said the commission was acting beyond powers vested in it by the Constitution by stopping development or other grants -- like one made for the Pakistan Bar Council -- before the announcement of election schedule.
Support for the opposition leader’s case also came from the government-allied PML-Q’s Mohammad Raza Hayat Haraj, who objected to a reported decision by the commission to publicise details about families of parliamentarians, and Riaz Fatyana who sought, without success, a ruling from the chair against the commission’s directive to stop release of development funds before election schedule.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement
parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar, whose party quit the PPP-led coalition last week, sounded a somewhat discordant note by warning against making the commission controversial, and said verification of degrees should be accepted like verification of voters’ lists in Karachi.
LANDMARK LAW: The law minister, who piloted the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill in the absence of Interior Minister Rahman Malik, called it a “landmark” legislation that he said would address shortcomings in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 highlighted by the international Financial Action Task Force, which sets and monitors international standards on efforts against money laundering and financing of terrorism.
“The amendments shall improve the regime for freezing, seizing and forfeiting property used for terrorism,” the bill’s statement of objectives and reasons said.
QUETTA CARNAGE: Winding up a debate on Quetta carnage, Mr Bijarani said the government team’s negotiations with Shia and Hazara leaders in Quetta on Tuesday had led to the acceptance of almost all of their demands, including those related to protection of the Hazara community, a targeted operation against terrorists and compensation for the deaths, injuries and damage to properties caused by the terrorist attack.
He said army deployment in Quetta had not been included in the charter of demands presented to them, adding that army had already been deployed in two Hazara areas.

Tax details of poll candidates to be made public

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to make public details of income, expenses and taxes mentioned by candidates in their nomination papers and invite objections against any possible concealment of facts.
A meeting of the ECP, presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim here on Wednesday, finalised modalities and mechanism for electronic scrutiny of declarations made by candidates in nomination papers.
SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar, FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem, NAB Director General (Awareness and Prevention) Brig (retd) Mussadiq Abbasi, Nadra Chairman Tariq Malik and Director Intelligence and Investigation, Inland Revenue, FBR Tanveer Malik also attended the meeting.
An official told Dawn that the candidates who submitted false declarations about their wealth and assets would be disqualified even after the expiry of period for scrutiny of nomination papers.
He said the authorities concerned agreed in principle to provide information required by the ECP.
The SBP governor informed the meeting that he had sought details of loan defaulters from banks by Monday. Returning officers would be provided online access to the data about defaulters, he added.
The governor said the central bank would provide the data within a week and if it was to be gathered from other banks it would take a couple of weeks.
The FBR chairman said a comprehensive list of tax defaulters would be provided to the commission within a week. He asked the ECP to define parameters of tax defaulters so that the FBR could share specific information with it.
The NAB representative assured the ECP that information about convicted candidates would be provided to it. He informed the meeting that the conviction remained there even after an accused entered a plea bargain with NAB.
Under the rules, beneficiaries of plea bargain are not qualified to contest elections.
A committee, headed by ECP Director General (Elections) Sher Afgan, was constituted to draft standard operating procedures to define responsibilities of officials. The committee will have representatives from the FBR, SBP, NAB and Nadra.
The meeting decided that information provided by candidates would be verified through the departments concerned.
Nomination forms will be placed on ECP’s website.
Some FBR officers will be placed at the disposal of ECP to scrutinise entries in nomination forms related to tax defaults and the FBR will provide details about tax defaulters to returning officers concerned.
NAB will provide lists of convicts and details of plea bargains under the NAB Ordinance.
The SBP will provide details of bank defaulters to returning officers along with the system to be adopted for the purpose.
A meeting will be held with the heads of departments concerned to identify candidates who have not paid utility bills in excess of Rs10,000 for over six months at the time of filing of nomination papers.
Earlier, the chief election commissioner told the meeting that the ECP needed cooperation of all departments to ensure that the candidates fulfilled legal requirements to become a lawmaker.
He said the ECP wanted to let the general public know credentials of candidates to enable them to choose their best representatives.
It was the third meeting of the ECP in a row skipped by Justice (retd) Roshan Essani, member of the commission from Sindh.

Pakistan risks sanctions over Iran gas deal: WSJ

By Masood Haider

WASHINGTON, Feb 20: Pakistan risks imposition of stringent US and UN sanctions if proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline deal goes through, Wall Street Journal says in a report.
“Washington has made it clear that it will impose economic sanctions on Islamabad if it begins to buy gas from Iran. Besides, the UN mandated sanctions on any trade with the oil-rich country,” the newspaper said.
In a written reply to The Wall Street Journal, the US embassy in Islamabad reiterated the US position and said: “Our policy on Iran is well known. We have made it clear to all of our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by United Nations sanctions or sanctionable under US law.”
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Tuesday that the pipeline would be a “big leap forward” in resolving country’s crippling power crisis.
The WSJ says: “While the pipeline could bring relief to energy-starved Pakistan, analysts say that the deal reveals more about the geopolitical dynamics between the US, Pakistan and Iran than about the government’s commitment to address the energy

2,500 Hazara families offered asylum

By Inamullah Khattak

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: The Australian government has offered asylum to over 2,500 Hazara families of Balochistan and urged the United Nations refugee agency in Pakistan to facilitate migration of the community facing sectarian violence, Australian embassy sources said.
Jim O’Callaghan, assistant secretary of the humanitarian branch of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Australia, had held a meeting with UNHCR officials last week and discussed the asylum offer with them, First Secretary Australian High Commission Sherief Andrawos told Dawn on Wednesday.
The UNHCR was informed that Australia was willing to accommodate 2,500 families or 7,000 individuals of the Hazara community, keeping in view attacks on them.
“Yes we have started work on facilitating members of Shia minority and other people prone to sectarian violence for giving them refuge in Australia. The Australian government wants our assistance in this regard,” Maya Ameratunga, deputy representative of United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Pakistan, confirmed to Dawn.
On Saturday, over 100 members of the Shia Hazara community were killed in a bomb attack in Quetta. The dead included 33 registered Afghan refugees, triggering condemnation from the UNHCR that asked authorities to protect the lives of refugees in this hour of sadness.
Official sources told Dawn that the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) had been informed about Australia’s offer. The resettlement process would be taken up after the return of UNHCR’s Country Representative Neil Wright to Pakistan from Geneva.
“The resettlement process is a complicated issue as we have to identify the most vulnerable and affected families of Hazara Shia community in Balochistan,” Ms Ameratunga said, adding that they would soon give a list of 2,500 families to the Australian government.

Pour out your fury on provincial governments, pleads Malik

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: Interior Minister Rehman Malik told his critics on Wednesday that the real target of their ire at terrorists’ attacks should be chief ministers because law and order was the responsibility of provincial governments after the 18th Amendment.
Winding up a debate in the Senate on an adjournment motion on the Feb 16 bomb blast in Quetta, the minister disclosed that he had sent a “security alert” to the Balochistan authorities on Jan 27 about the possibility of a massive terrorist attack on the Hazara community.
“Instead of criticising me, summon all the four chief ministers and ask them what’s going on,” Mr Malik said in reply to the criticism by senators. “How can you say that the federal government has failed?” he asked.
As a federal minister, he said, his job was restricted to “intelligence sharing” and the rest was the responsibility of provincial governments. “Even today in the morning, I sent an alert to the Sindh government that Karachi will witness mass killing,” he told the house.
“I simply ask them (provinces) to enhance security. And if they do not do it, what can I do?” he remarked, adding that he would continue to fulfil his responsibility of providing information to the provinces.
He told the house that the explosive material used by terrorists in the Quetta blast had been transported from Lahore and a number of arrests had already been made.
He claimed that four people involved in the attack had been killed and seven others were arrested during a raid at a house.
The minister told the house that Karachi police had recently arrested 30 members of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi whose head office, according to him, was situated in Lahore. He alleged that there had been a nexus between Al Qaeda, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in the province.
The minister said that the Taliban were not behind every terrorist incident in the country, claiming that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi was responsible for 80 per cent of terror attacks. He also named Sipah-i-Sahaba and Jaish-i-Mohammad as the organisations involved in terrorism.
Mr Malik said he had provided a list of 3,117 members of proscribed organisations to the provinces for action.
He praised the Punjab government for taking effective measures to prevent acts of terrorism on the basis of information he had provided.
“The Punjab (government) handles information in a better way since they have resources. Do I not provide information to the Sindh government? Do I not give information to the Balochistan government?” he said rhetorically.
Mr Malik tried to dispel a perception that the Quetta blast was a result of “intelligence failure”. He said he was ready to give an in camera briefing to a joint sitting of parliament, suggesting that all provincial chief ministers should be asked to attend it.
The PPP’s Raza Rabbani said that foreign powers who were unhappy over Pakistan’s decision to hand over Gwadar port to China and signing of a gas pipeline agreement with Iran were creating unrest in Balochistan.
Kalsoom Parveen of the Balochistan National Party warned that the country could face a “civil war” if steps were not taken to stop spread of sectarianism.
Mohammad Khan Sheerani of the JUI-F asked the government to stop receiving the Coalition Support Fund and aid through the Kerry-Lugar bill. JUI-F members staged a token walkout over poor handling of the terrorism issue by the government.

IB report on Quetta an ‘eye-opener’: Insecurity turns democracy into disorder: CJ

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: The Supreme Court has described a report of the Intelligence Bureau on the recent Quetta carnage as an eye-opener and said that lack of protection for people always turned democratic order into disorder.
“This is not possible for intelligence agencies to provide exact date or time of an eventuality, rather information has to be put together on your own,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry observed on Thursday while pointing towards members of the Balochistan administration during hearing of a case about the Feb 16 Quetta massacre.
A three-judge bench had summoned Home Secretary Akbar Durrani and Capital City Police Officer Mir Zubair Mehmood in the case. The Commandant of Frontier Corps, who was busy with operational commitments, was represented by Major Sohail.
During the hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court had treated the IB report as confidential and its contents were not divulged by the chief justice who said he did not want to demoralise anyone.
On Thursday, Attorney General Irfan Qadir, who submitted reports on behalf of the federation with a request to treat them as reports by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf, and suggested that all these be considered as confidential.
Although CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood conceded before the court that his department had been receiving threats since the Jan 10 Alamdar Road bomb blasts, it did not have any specific information about the Feb 16 Hazara Town blast. He explained that his department always took seriously the information it received.
“I cannot protect the entire city of Quetta with 2,000 to 3,000 policemen with additional assistance of 1,000 FC men,” the CCPO said, adding that one SHO and five police officers, who were at the blast site, were still missing.
“DNA testing is being conducted of whatever small pieces of flesh we have collected whereas the leg of one SP, who reached the scene soon after the blast, had to be amputated.”
Agha Nasir Ali Shah, a PPP legislator belonging to the Hazara community, said that 26 members of his community were missing, but their families believed they must have been killed.
“We had made an elaborate plan to prevent such happenings,” the CCPO explained, but admitted that terrorists had taken advantage of water scarcity in the area where tankers supplying water was a common sight.
And despite two police pickets and six FC checkposts in the area, no-one suspected a water tanker which passed through all these checkposts, laden with explosives.
Terrorists had placed 800 to 1,000kg of explosives in the tanker.
A number of improvised explosive devices had been detected and defused in nine operations carried out before the Feb 16 incident, the CCPO said. About 183 people arrested in different raids, he said, were being interrogated.
But the chief justice described these efforts as inadequate and asked why the accused were not arrested by using sophisticated devices to detect explosives and why jails were being broken with impunity.
Police should have combed the entire area to prevent such incidents in different cities of Balochistan especially when the general elections were round the corner, the chief justice observed.
He recalled that in 1986 Gen Imran Khan had conducted an operation to clean up the entire Balochistan.
The CCPO said the city police was in the process of securing sophisticated equipment.
“Do not think you are an officer, you are son of the soil as God Almighty has given you the chance to serve people and for all intent and purposes people were looking towards you,” the chief justice said, adding that the CCPO should not be demoralised since challenges did come in life.
“I am a proud commander of Quetta police which had lost 50 men and many more are ready to lay down their lives,” he assured the court.
The Supreme Court ordered the FC commandant to submit a comprehensive report under his own signature also suggesting preventive measures his department had taken.

Army says it has no links with LJ

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: The army emphatically denied on Thursday that it maintained links with the banned terror outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) which has unleashed Shia killing spree in Balochistan and other parts of the country.
“The armed forces were not in contact with any militant organisation, including Lashkar-i-Jhangvi,” ISPR chief Maj-Gen Asim Bajwa said at a specially-arranged media briefing.
Human rights organisations have been accusing the army and its intelligence agencies of maintaining links with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
The allegations stem from the army using LJ chief Malik Ishaq for negotiating with the terrorists who had attacked the military headquarters in October 2009. Ishaq’s subsequent release from jail was sceptically seen as a deal. The escape of LJ’s operational commander in Balochistan, Usman Saifullah Kurd, in 2008 from a detention facility in the military Cantonment in Quetta has always raised questions.
“There is no reason to think about army’s involvement with LJ,” Gen Bajwa later told Dawn. He also ruled out any collaboration at the lower levels as well.
“There is no way the army can afford this. If such a thing comes to notice it will be sorted out,” he said and referred to action taken against several soldiers for their association with extremist groups, including Hizbul Tehrir.
Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility for the Feb 16 attack on Hazara Shias in Quetta in which over 90 people lost their lives.
The militant group is said to be responsible for other attacks on Shias as well.
Despite doubts in the Shia community its leadership’s main demand in the sit-in held after Saturday’s bombing in Hazara Town was handover of Quetta to the army for targeted operations against militants’ hideout.
The federal government reportedly vetoed the demand despite the army’s readiness to take up the task.
Maj-Gen Bajwa told reporters: “Decision of not calling the armed forces in Balochistan was also a political move, although the military leadership was not reluctant to support the civil administration under Article 245 of the Constitution.”
The Shia leadership was at the meeting in Quetta where it was given the impression by the government negotiators that the army was unwilling to take up the role, one of the participants revealed later.
APP adds: The ISPR chief said the army fully backed timely elections in the country. “We fully support free, fair and timely elections. We have been supporting the present political set-up for five years and will not get anything if the elections are delayed,” Maj-Gen Bajwa said.
He said there was a civilian government in Balochistan and the decision to impose governor’s rule there was taken after a consensus. It would also be a political decision if the provincial government was restored, he added.
About the law and order situation in Balochistan, he said the Frontier Corps had set up 19 additional posts in Kalat and Quetta divisions to further beef up security after the Hazara Town bombing. A targeted operation, led by the FC and supported by police and intelligence agencies, continued in the province. Maj-Gen Bajwa claimed that not a single army soldier had been deployed anywhere in Balochistan over the past five years.
In reply to a question, he said the country was in a state of war and there was a need for a united and comprehensive response from all institutions. About the extradition of Taliban’s senior commander Faqir Mohammad, he said: “Our Foreign Office is in contact with the Afghan Foreign Office for the purpose.”

New political set-up in Balochistan soon

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: The political crisis in Balochistan is likely to be over soon as the main parties having representation in the provincial assembly — Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Q and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F — have reached an understanding for a new set-up in the province, sources privy to the development told Dawn.
Sources in the Presidency, where Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi met President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday, said: “A new political set-up is likely to be installed in the province soon and it has been conveyed to the president.”
They said first governor’s rule would be lifted and then a session of the provincial assembly would be called to elect a new chief minister as Nawab Aslam Raisani had already resigned.
The sources said the new leader of the house would be decided by the PPP, PML-Q and JUI-F. They said the PML-Q would most probably get the chief minister’s slot because the JUI-F had already decided to sit on opposition benches.
“We enjoy a majority of 21 members in a house of 65 and it is out right to have our own chief minister,” PML-Q information secretary Kamil Ali Agha said, adding that no government could be formed in the province without consent of the Q-League.
According to the official website of the Balochistan Assembly, the PML-Q has 19 members, PPP 15, JUI-F 10, independents eight, Balochistan National Party-Awami seven and Awami National Party three.
The PML-N, JUI-I and National Party have one member each. Mr Agha said his party was in a position to nominate its own chief minister, but it had agreed on the name of PPP leader Aslam Raisani.
Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, a leader of JUI-F who had held a meeting with President Zardari on Wednesday on the issue of a new political set-up in Balochistan, told Dawn that his party had decided to sit on opposition benches.
In reply to a question about the future caretaker set-up, he said it would also be decided in consultation with the main stakeholders.
“During my meeting with the President I have offered him to appoint anyone as new chief minister because the JUI-F will sit in the opposition,” Maulana Haideri said.
GOVERNOR’S MEETING: Governor Zulfiqar Magsi briefed President Zardari on the situation in Balochistan. He informed the President about the progress so far made in investigation into the recent Quetta blast and measures being taken to bring the culprits to justice.
The President stressed that every effort should be made to apprehend the culprits. Mr Zardari reiterated that socio-economic uplift of the people of Balochistan and maintaining law and order were top priority of the government and it would continue to undertake every effort in this regard.

Controversial Sindh LG Act repealed

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 21: The Sindh Assembly repealed on Thursday the ‘Sindh People’s Local Government Act, 2012’ and revived the ‘Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979’, amid noisy protests by MQM legislators and jubilant cheers by PPP members.
It was not immediately clear how the move will affect the anti-government campaign, centred on the now repealed local government law, of the combined opposition comprising the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, PML-Likeminded, PML-Q, the National People’s Party and the Awami National Party.
Angered by the move, the MQM’s coordination committee held a joint meeting at its offices in Karachi and London and severely criticised the government action.
It said the Zia-era local government law which had been revived was against Article 140-A of the Constitution and the MQM would oppose the decision at every forum through a legal, constitutional and democratic struggle.
The committee recalled that the 2012 act had been approved after prolonged consultations and debates and PPP leaders had described it to be in the ‘greater interest of Sindh’. But when the MQM decided to sit on the opposition benches, the PPP, ‘out of malice’, replaced the law enacted by itself with the 1979 law.
The committee said the MQM had always tried to promote harmony and unity among all permanent residents of Sindh, but by repealing the SPLG Act the PPP had again tried to drive a wedge between the Sindhis and Mohajirs.

ECP to get updated list of loan defaulters

By Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: The State Bank will provide updated lists of loan defaulters to the Election Commission of Pakistan on Monday for scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates for the coming election.
SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar informed the Senate Standing Committee on Finance on Thursday that all banks had been asked to provide updated Credit Information Bureau reports which would be forwarded to the ECP.
Senior management of the central bank also informed the committee headed by Senator Nasrin Jalil of the MQM that the government had failed to comply with the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act and the SBP Act on curtailing borrowing that could lead the country into a debt trap.
But the committee was assured that the SBP had all the resources to honour the international debt obligations, including those with the International Monetary Fund, until June 30.
Replying to questions, the SBP chief said the loans defaulted or restructured because of natural calamities and economic recession would not be treated as default and the names of their borrowers would not be included in the list.
The SBP governor said the government had time and again announced incentives for retiring loans after natural disasters and those availing themselves of such schemes through restructuring and repayment could not be classified as defaulters.
On the question of defaults owing to economic recession, he said the SBP had given liberty to commercial banks to restructure such loans in view of the prevailing conditions for recovery of outstanding amounts. Those who were able to get their loans restructured and make payments will also not be treated as defaulters. He said no-objection certificates from banks would not be required because the ECP would have all the updated data from SBP’s credit information reports.
Mr Anwar said the entire record of loan defaulters from 1999 to 2004 was with the Supreme Court which regularly acquired information from the SBP about those cases.
One of his aides said the court wanted the banks to recover the loans at all cost, instead of offering incentive schemes. He said a judicial commission headed by Justice Syed Jamshed Ali Shah had submitted a 27-volume report on defaulters to the court and the SBP was trying to get its copy.
ECONOMIC SITUATION: The SBP informed the committee that political and economic uncertainties were posing many challenges but all international obligations, including $398 million repayment to the IMF, would be honoured without any problem.
It conceded that annual targets for inflation, government borrowing and fiscal deficit had been exceeded throughout the past five years because of external factors and lower tax collections and higher expenditures than planned, which in the long term could plunge the country into a debt trap.

Afghanistan urged to hand over Maulvi Faqir

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: Pakistan asked Afghanistan on Thursday to hand over senior Pakistani Taliban ‘commander’ Maulvi Faqir Mohammad.
“We hope that he would be handed over to Pakistan as soon as possible because he has the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands,” Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said at the weekly media briefing.
The capture of Maulvi Faqir, former deputy `commander’ of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan from Bajaur, by Afghan security forces was announced a couple of days ago.
He was said to have been arrested when he entered Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province along with four accomplices identified as Shahid Umar, Maulana Hakeemullah Bajauri, Maulana Turabi and Fateh.
Maulvi Faqir led the Taliban in Bajaur for a long time and reportedly has links with Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri.
Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul officially conveyed the information about Maulvi Faqir’s arrest to Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in a telephonic conversation on Wednesday night.
Pakistan hailed the arrest, describing it as an indication of the improved trust and increased counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.
The spokesman said Pakistan hoped that all those elements, which were engaged in anti-Pakistan activities and had taken refuge in Afghanistan, “will be captured, arrested and handed over to Pakistan”.
He expressed concerns about the presence of Pakistani Taliban in Kunar and Nooristan provinces of Afghanistan from where they carried out subversive activities to “destabilise Pakistan”.
Maulvi Faqir in a radio broadcast claimed to have carried out two attacks in June and July 2011 — one on a Pakistani paramilitary post and the other on villages in Bajaur.
Border with Afghanistan: The spokesman dismissed as “laughable” a claim by the Indian finance minister that India shared 106km border with Afghanistan.
“This Indian claim has no legal or geographical basis,” he said.
The spokesman said Pakistan supported the US-India-Afghanistan trilateral mechanism, but emphasised that said it should be purely focused on “peace, stability and prosperity of Afghanistan”.
“The initiative should have a very clear objective. It should have a transparent strategy and we also expect that any initiative that is taken in this regard will ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used against Pakistan,” he added.

ASF official dies in accident

KARACHI / SUKKUR, Feb 21: The Commanding Officer of the Airport Security Force (ASF) in Nawabshah, Tanweer Ahmed Khan, died after being hit at the Sukkur airport by the propeller of an aircraft of the PIA Training Academy on Thursday. He had traveled by the aircraft from Nawabshah.
The Civil Aviation Authority launched an investigation into the accident.
According to sources, the pilot / trainer, an under-training pilot and two ASF officials, including the deceased, were in the plane.
It was not clear why the ASF officials were traveling in a training aircraft, why its door was opened while the propellers were still rotating and what was the rush owing to which the deceased went so near the engine.
PIA spokesman Mashhood Tajwar said the pilot turned off the engine and Mr Khan got off the aircraft, but on the tarmac he was hit in the arm by the rotating propeller. He started to bleed and died before reaching a hospital.—Bhagwandas & Waseem Shamsi

Rabbani opposes new province

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 21: Senator Raza Rabbani, a PPP leader and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security, has warned against creation of a new province and has said that taking such a step without national dialogue is a recipe for destabilisation.
In a note of dissent on the 24th constitution amendment bill as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, he said creation of a province would aggravate the national, ethnic and linguistic issues on the question of natural resources.
“It is correct that on the national or ethno-linguistic basis, certain regions may have a historically legitimate claim of being called a province, but I am of the firm view that this is not the opportune time. I concede that in these regions this will be a political slogan for the elections, but national decisions are based on firmer reasoning,” the PPP leader said in the note attached to the committee’s report presented in the Senate on Thursday.
He said the political situation was fluid, polarised and plagued by terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and regionalism. There were forces of extreme nationalist, particularly in Balochistan, working for arrangements outside the scheme of the Constitution, he said, adding that such elements would be encouraged by creation of a new province. The nationalist forces whose politics have been adversely affected by the 18th Amendment will get a new impetus.
Mr Rabbani said that if new provinces were to be created on the basis of administrative necessity, the entire federal structure would need to be revisited. “Existing provinces will also come under the knife. Will the people allow this,” he asked. Apart from sharpening the national and ethno-linguistic question, there would be a severe political backlash, he said.

Mukherjee sees progress in ties with Pakistan

By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Feb 21: India sees progress in ties with Pakistan in spite of recent hiccups on the Line of Control in Kashmir, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday.
In his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the start of its budget session, he said: “With Pakistan, we have made progress towards normalisation of relations, strengthening mechanism for bilateral trade and facilitating greater people-to-people contact.”
Against the backdrop of the alleged beheading of an Indian soldier on the LoC, Mr. Mukherjee, however, said: “It is also important that Pakistan abides by its commitments and desists from acts that contribute to a trust deficit”.
The president prefaced his remarks by saying that India continued to seek peace, stability, cooperation and economic development in the sub-continent. “We attach the highest priority to relations with our immediate neighbours”.
He also made it clear that as Afghanistan prepared for a political and security transition in 2014 and beyond, “we will continue to help Afghanistan evolve peacefully and fight terrorism and extremism”.
On China, Mr. Mukherjee said his government intended to work with the new Chinese leadership to reinforce the positive direction of the bilateral relationship. “My government’s foreign policy continues to be driven by the objectives of creating an enabling environment for our national development, ensuring the security of the nation and fulfilling our international responsibilities”, he said.
About Sri Lanka, he said: “We are making efforts in our engagement with Sri Lanka, including in our efforts to resettle and rehabilitate the internally displaced persons there and to ensure a life of peace, dignity and equality for the Tamil people.”
Hinting at a resolution of lingering disputes with Bangladesh, he said the government proposed to introduce a Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament to give effect to provisions of the Land Boundary Agreement with the neighbouring country and its 2011 Protocol, which will strengthen border management and the country’s security.
The Strategic Partnership with the US has deepened with progress across all areas of the relationship. “We look forward to intensifying this engagement during the second term of President Obama,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

ANP, JUI-F in sight of poll alliance

By Ismail Khan

PESHAWAR, Feb 22: Politics, they say, is the art of the possible and if indications are anything to go by the secular-nationalist Awami National Party may soon find itself getting into an electoral alliance with the right-wing JUI-F.
According to credible sources, talks between the two political parties, which had fought the 2008 elections against each other, are warming up and have entered into some sort of an electoral adjustment in two districts crucial to the ANP — Charsadda and Mardan — while negotiations on similar adjustments in other districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are in an advance stage.
One indication of the two parties getting eager to give a bear hug to each other came when the JUI-F agreed to participate in the ANP-sponsored multi-party conference on working out a so-called political consensus on peace talks with Pakistani militants.
To return the favour, the ANP agreed to participate in a soon-to-be-held grand tribal moot sponsored by the JUI-F on the same subject. Not just that, the ANP saw to it that it found its mention in the joint declaration issued at the end of its conference in Islamabad.
The possibility of the two erstwhile political adversaries, who until very recently did not see eye to eye on militancy in Pakistan, working out an electoral arrangement, may seem odd although the two parties have shared political history. ANP’s predecessor, the National Awami Party, was part of the coalition government headed by Maulana Mufti Mehmood, father of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, after the 1970 elections.
How does the new-found political bonhomie pan out in the months leading up to the coming elections is probably still early to predict, but if leaders from both sides are to be believed work is in progress to expand seat adjustment in Charsadda and Mardan to other districts of the KP.
So hopeful are some of the ANP leaders that if things go the way they are it would be possible to see the two parties getting into an electoral alliance.
And the war-on-terror? A lot of water has flown under the bridge, says one leader. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is on record having opposed “armed struggle” for the enforcement of sharia and the ANP says it would support peace talks with militants accepting the writ of the State and Constitution.
If there were still any doubts the two parties are now sharing podiums and tables to push the agenda of talks with the militants.
Sensing the delicate situation it finds itself in, the ANP has been in an over-drive to keep the all-too-shrewd Maulana from Dera Ismail Khan in good humour. And it has worked — so far.
Whether leaders of the two political parties would be able to take this newly-established relationship down to their workers and voters is hard to tell. The JUI-F has been giving hard and tough time to the ANP in its stronghold of Charsadda in the past. Just to recap, in 1990 JUI’s Maulana Hassan Jan defeated veteran politician Khan Abdul Wali Khan after a bitter and hard-fought election campaign. Thereupon, a shocked Wali Khan threw in the towel and retired from active politics.
Where does this leave ANP’s erstwhile ally, the PPP? The prognosis is not good. The ANP leadership is unhappy over the hawkish and at times belligerent tone of the PPP’s new KP president, Anwar Saifullah Khan.
So much so that the ANP President, Asfandyar Wali Khan, said publicly that if there was one political party he would not get into an electoral alliance with, it was the PPP. The ANP official says the PPP leadership — that is the one in Islamabad — has come to realised and is seeking to mend ways and patch up with it; hence the almost back-to-back two meetings between Anwar Saifullah and Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti. There could be some seat adjustments between the two parties but an electoral alliance? Not likely, says the ANP leader.

Literary Festival begins in Lahore

By Our Reporter

LAHORE, Feb 22: The first Lahore Literary Festival was under way with Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif declaring it open at a ceremony at Alhamra, The Mall, on Friday.
The prelude provided a sampling of what the festival is going to offer. The highlight of the ceremony was the life-time achievements given to three shining lights of literature, Intizar Husain, Bapsi Sidhwa and Zehrah Nigah, who also recited her famous ever-relevant poem that yearns for some kind of order in the country — even if the one the jungle is ruled by. “Suna hai jangalon ka bhi koyee qanoon hota hay (We are told even the jungles are governed by some rules)
William Dalrymple read out from his famous ‘Last Mughal’. The selection, just as the book itself, brought out shades which have been submerged by the general and long-held view of the British claiming the throne of Delhi as the culturally superior contestants for power.
Ghalib in Dalrymple’s excerpt was followed by rendition by Ali Sethi of Faiz and then by Haider Rehman — in the words of the chief guest, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, with a mesmerising performance on flute.
With his reputation as doer, Mr Sharif spoke about the need for action, yet pledged his support for the promotion of arts and culture. In a light vein, he compared himself to another man of steel and iron, Ratan Tata and his initiatives for the encouragement of literature.
The chief minister spoke fondly of the Lahore of 1950s and 1960s where families — including Parsis and Christians — would stroll on The Mall, and lamented how these values were trampled under the weight of occurrences around and during the 1980s. The Afghan war and vices such as the Kalashnikov culture it brought to Pakistan inevitably figured as the turning point in his speech.
Responding to the organsiers’ call for greater government-private initiative partnership in aid of culture, Mr Sharif agreed to set up a fund for writers and announced that he would be setting up a committee for the purpose.
While this fund may require some time, and some constant pursuing by the writers’ well-wishers to materialise, Mr Sharif offered writers gathered for the festival some instant reward: using the occasion to introduce the audience to the omnibus edition that he has himself proudly authored, he offered the gathering of writers a free instant ride on his flagship metro system.
He was particularly keen on taking on the bus tour writer Tariq Ali “a leftist activist of the 1960s”. “I want to show him how this bus has ended the divide between the left and the right and placed people on an equal footing
(aik hi saff main kharay ho gaye Mahmood-o-Ayaz)”.

LJ leader Malik Ishaq detained

By Malik Irfanul Haq

RAHIMYAR KHAN, Feb 22: Vice president of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), Malik Muhammad Ishaq, has been detained for one month after he offered his arrest outside his residence on the airport road here on Friday.
The arrest came after DPO Sohail Zafar Chattha negotiated for an hour with Malik Ishaq, who is also a leader of the outlawed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) which has claimed responsibility for sectarian attacks in Quetta that have killed nearly 200 people this year.
Talking to reporters before his arrest, Malik Ishaq said he was being arrested in connection with the Quetta bomb blasts, though he had no role in the incidents.
He said poor people from Sunni as well as Shia sects were being killed in the country, adding that they wanted peace. “I am ready to go to any forum to ensure peace and harmony in the country.”
He urged Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take notice of killing of Sunni people in Karachi. “He should hear views of both the sects. I will accept the decision of the judiciary.”
Condemning arrests of ASWJ leaders in Punjab, he said: “As many as 600 Ulema, party workers and madressah students have been killed over past three months, but no one from the rival sect has been arrested.”
He said ASWJ leaders and workers were being arrested on the orders of Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “If the minister has any evidence about our involvement in terrorist activities, he should produce it in court.”
Malik Ishaq also accused the minister of doublespeak, saying on the one hand he says ‘foreign elements’ are behind terrorist activities in the country and, on the other, he blames the LJ.
He said arrests could not stop them from carrying out their mission. He alleged that an alarming situation was being created in Rukenpur town of Rahimyar Khan district. “Followers of Shia sect are storing weapons and turning the town into their state,” he alleged.
Before the arrest of Malik Ishaq, a heavy contingent of police was deployed on the airport road.
He has been detained in a local prison, but there are indications that he will be moved to Lahore.
Reuters adds: Malik Ishaq was released from prison in July 2011 after spending 14 years behind bars charged with 34 counts of murder and terrorism.
He was released after the charges could not be proved — partly because of witness intimidation, officials said.

Politicians’ barbs fail to unsettle ECP

By Iftikhar A Khan

ISLAMABAD, Feb 22: A PPP senator criticised Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim on Friday for making a telephone call to Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and termed it an act which amounted to ‘pre-poll rigging’. At the same time, Senator Saeed Ghani, in the course of his speech in the upper house of parliament, endorsed the views expressed by the leader of opposition about the ‘inappropriate language’ used in a letter written by the Election Commission of Pakistan to 249 lawmakers.
“It was a move to malign politicians,” the senator said.
He said the ECP should concentrate on measures for holding elections rather than attempting to purify the entire country.
When contacted, Justice (retd) Ebrahim neither confirmed nor denied having made a call to the Leader of Opposition. He simply said: “They can move the Supreme Court if I had done anything wrong.”
About objections to verification of degrees of lawmakers, he said commission had been given certain directions by the Supreme Court and “we have to follow them”.
Senator Saeed Ghani was of the view that the ECP would lose its credibility if it continued to act on what he termed instructions from certain media houses.
“The credibility of the ECP is at stake as it is taking guidelines from specific media groups,” he claimed.
The Chief Election Commissioner had made the call to Chaudhry Nisar because of his reaction to the ECP’s letter threatening to start criminal proceedings against 249 lawmakers if they failed to provide their matric and FA degrees within 15 days.
Although details of the telephonic conversation between the CEC and the Leader of Opposition are not known, it is understood that the subject was the ECP’s letter. The commission issued a statement on Friday making it clear that it stood by its decision on the issue of fake degrees.
“The ECP is steadfastly determined to implement the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in letter and spirit and the process of verification of degrees shall be completed so as to achieve the objective of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution,” the statement said.
The ECP had written letters to 249 lawmakers seeking their educational certificates for onward verification from the Higher Education Commission (HEC).
An official of the ECP said that matric and FA certificates were required by the Higher Education Commission for verification of graduation degrees of lawmakers.
Senate chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari proposed that the Parliamentary Committee on Election Issues should look into the mater of degrees’ verification.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Ishaq Dar said that although it was not in the terms of reference of the committee it would look into it.
Mr Dar claimed that the demand for extending time for scrutiny of candidates from seven to 30 days was unconstitutional as elections were to be held within 60 days after completion of the term of assemblies, and after the proposed amendment the election schedule would go beyond the period.
Ishaq Dar also urged the chair to ask the government to brief the house on the economic situation as well as terrorism. He expressed concern over the change of five finance ministers during the five-year term of the government. He said that in his opinion, the house should be informed about the exact condition of the economy so that a way forward could be suggested. He also said that Interior Minister Rehman Maik was not ready to give an in-camera briefing to the house although he himself had made repeated offers to that effect. The chief whip of PPP said that an approval from the prime minister was needed for an in-camera briefing, adding that a request had already been made to him.
Senator Zahid Khan rejected the claim of interior minister that the law and order situation was the prime responsibility of provinces and said that all intelligence agencies were under the administrative control of the federal government except the special branch of police.
“Why he seeks reports from provinces on law and order if it was not his responsibility,” he asked.
Senator Sughra Imam of PPP said that several issues which were required to be resolved prior to elections still remained unaddressed. She said that electoral rolls had not been dispatched to constituencies concerned and 3.7 million voters had neither their biometric fingerprints nor photographs on the rolls. The house will meet again on Monday.

Wedding party bus falls into nullah: 15 killed

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, Feb 22: At least 15 people, four of them children, were killed when a bus carrying them to a wedding ceremony fell into a nullah on Friday.
According to police, the bus was going from Budo Samarbagh in the suburbs of Peshawar to Mardan. The driver lost control of the speeding vehicle when it reached near a nullah in the vicinity of northern bypass.
Police said at least eight persons, including six women, died on the spot. Seven others died either on way to hospital or after reaching there.
Of the 27 people injured, at least 10 were in critical condition, they said.
The deceased were stated to be close relatives.
According to some people who took part in the rescue efforts, five children might have been washed away. Efforts were continuing to find them.
An eyewitness said the bus was overcrowded and the accident took place because of the driver’s negligence.
Staff of the Al-Khidmat Foundation and Edhi Foundation said the accident site was far from populated areas and that they could not reach there promptly. That was the main reason why the number of casualties was high.
“We reached the area at least 30 minutes after the accident because the police did not know exactly where the accident had taken place,” one of them told Dawn.
The bus was ultimately hauled out of water with the help of a crane, he added.

NA Speaker sets up committee

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza set up on Friday a six-member committee to discuss with the Election Commission concrete procedures for the upcoming general elections, an official of the assembly secretariat told Dawn.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Law Farooq H. Naek will be convener of the committee which will comprise Navid Qamar of PPP, Moulana Attaur Rehman of JUI-F, Zahid Hamid of PML-N, Bushra Gohar of ANP and independent MNA Zafar Beg Bhittani.
About the terms of reference of the committee, the official said the basic objective was to apprise the ECP of reaction of members of the National Assembly to its recent measures, including its move to write to all lawmakers of the National Assembly asking them to get their academic certificates attested which otherwise would be considered fake. But no such condition was in place for future lawmakers.
The condition of graduation for lawmakers introduced by Gen Musharraf was scraped by the present National Assembly.
Politicians across the board have also objected to the ECP’s alleged use of media to defame politicians just before elections. In his remarks on Wednesday, Law Minister Naek termed the behaviour of ECP officials `witch-hunt’.

Bahria keeps quiet on UAE group’s clarification

By Syed Irfan Raza and Khalid Hasnain

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE, Feb 22: The administration of Bahria Town (BT) housing scheme kept mum on Friday despite a damaging clarification from Abu Dhabi Group (ADG) that there was no agreement between them for a $45 billion investment in Pakistan’s housing sector.
A large advertisement published in national dailies on behalf of ADG said the management of BT floated a misleading news item on Feb 15 claiming that BT and ADG had signed an agreement under which the group will invest $45bn in the housing sector and build the world’s tallest building in Karachi.
A number of attempts were made to contact owners and officials of BT, but they did not come out with their group’s reply to the ADG disclaimer.
However, Col (retd) Tanveer Ahmed, personal secretary to the owner of BT, Malik Riaz, did talk on the matter and challenged authenticity of the advertisement. He claimed that the advertisement was got published by some people who were against BT, and not by the management of ADG.
“There was no telephone number or e-mail address in the advertisement. This shows that it was fake,” he said.
He, however, had no reply to a query that if the advertisement was fake, why the BT administration had not come on the media with its version.
Attempts were also made to seek comment from the BT spokesperson, Ms Nida, but she refused to speak on the subject. She attended a phone call and assured that she would call back soon with an official version, but neither did she call back nor attend any call later.
The advertisement published in newspapers on Friday said a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding was entered into by Dhabi Constructing Establishment, a business unit based in Abu Dhabi, which is wholly owned by Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, and not by ADG. The MoU, it added, was simply an indication of interest by Dhabi Constructing Establishment to provide technical support and assistance to BT for the project — as, when and if appropriate commercial terms and conditions were agreed upon. The clarification said since the discussion between the parties did not reach any conclusion, the MoU had been cancelled.

Two suspects killed near Quetta, four arrested

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, Feb 22: Two suspects were killed and four security personnel injured in an exchange of fire between armed men and Frontier Corps personnel in Nawan Killi area on Friday. Four suspects were arrested.
The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat said the dead — Mohammad Qasim and Abdul Manan — were its workers.
Sources said Abdul Manan was a member of the Anti-Terrorist Force and had been removed from service for unknown reasons.
Official sources said the FC personnel on a tip-off that some suspects were present in a house on the outskirts of the city reached there to capture them. When they reached near the house armed men hiding there opened fire. The personnel retaliated and the shootout continued for some time in which two suspects died and four security men were injured.
Four suspects were taken into custody.
The injured were taken to CMH, Quetta, and bodies to civil hospital.
Later, the ASWJ supporters paraded the streets along with the bodies and held a sit-in at the General Post Office roundabout.

Nine killed in Karachi

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, Feb 22: A young man was gunned down in an apparent sectarian attack near North Nazimabad on Friday night, bringing the dead toll from day’s violence in the city to nine.
Police said the incident took place near Kati Pahari where unknown suspects on a motorcycle attacked Syed Fayyaz Hussain Zaidi, 24.
In another incident, an unidentified young man was killed in Jamshed Quarters.
Police said the incident took place in the vicinity of a wedding hall near Patel Para where the unidentified man in his mid 40s suffered a gunshot wound in the chest.
Earlier in the day, seven people including two policemen were shot dead in separate acts of violence in the city.

Global efforts failing to stamp out terror: Zardari

ISLAMABAD, Feb 22: In what can be described as an indictment of global efforts to stamp out terrorism and extremism from the society, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday the efforts were likely to end in failure.
Speaking at the concluding session of the National Conference on Inter-faith Harmony organised by Ministry of National Harmony at the presidency, he said he had been pleading with world leaders that the manner in which the problem was being addressed was wrong.
Apparently opposing the use of force as the sole means of tackling the menace, President Zardari remarked: “We believe in ‘tolerant Islam’ and have to counter those who believe in hate with peaceful efforts.”
Referring to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan, the president said that even three decades of war in the country would not bring peace there. “And Pakistan is affected particularly badly by the turmoil in Afghanistan.”
There was a time, he said, when no one in Pakistan thought of blowing himself up because “Islam was against suicide”.
People lived in peace and harmony and there were no sectarian issues. “But then the global politics changed and religion was used as a weapon of war.”
The world had yet to realise fully the dangerous consequences of using religion and faith as a weapon of war, Mr Zardari said.
The world needed to adopt peaceful means to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism, he said.
The president also recalled the words of Benazir Bhutto who told former American president George Bush during a conversation that “a Frankenstein is being created to defeat the rival ideology”.
Mr Zardari said it was disturbing to see that values like tolerance and harmony were fast eroding. “Extremism is not confined to one religion or country. It is growing across the world,” he remarked.
“We must act before rationality is completely destroyed,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti said that since its inception in 2011 his ministry had been taking steps to promote harmony and inter-faith dialogue.
He said that more than 4,000 scholarships had been awarded to students hailing from poor families and the number of seats reserved for minority communities had been increased in the national and provincial assemblies.
Dr Bhatti said that no religion taught violence or extremism, and added: “We should live together peacefully as citizens of Pakistan as envisioned by the Quaid-i-Azam.”
Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwandas was of the view that the challenge of terrorism could be addressed through unity and tolerance.
He said the country was passing through a critical phase and there was a need to take practical steps to promote inter-faith harmony.
Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman read out a declaration adopted at the conference which calls for establishing a National Council for Inter-faith Harmony comprising representatives of different faiths.
The conference also recommended formation of local committees to promote national harmony. It also recommended discarding the use of the word ‘minorities’ and replacing it with some appropriate words like ‘non-Muslim Pakistanis’.
The conference recommended measures aimed at promoting inter-faith dialogue and also the steps the international community should take to address the root causes of terrorism.
It condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasised that the menace should not be attributed to a particular group, nation or religion. —APP

Alerts spoke of Pak-based group, say Indian officials

By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI, Feb 22: A specific alert warning of an attack by a ‘Pakistan-based terrorist group’ was shared by India’s central security agencies with Hyderabad police on Thursday hours before two bombs there killed 16 people and wounded over a hundred, Home Ministry officials were quoted by Press Trust of India as saying on Friday.
Two blasts ripped through a crowded market in Hyderabad on Thursday.
The ministry had sent specific alert on Thursday morning to four cities — Hyderabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Hubli — warning them of probable attacks by terrorists, the officials said. Maharashtra and Gujarat police forces were also sent the alert, the officials said.
According to Home Ministry officials, the alerts were also sent to all states on February 19 and 20 that Pakistan-based terrorist groups might carry out attacks in a major city to avenge the hanging of Mumbai terror mascot Ajmal Kasab and Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
They said the central security agencies had sent an advisory on Tuesday asking all states to tighten security in sensitive places as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen might launch attacks.
The security agencies sent another advisory on Wednesday saying the banned shadowy group called the Indian Mujahideen might carry out terror attacks to avenge the hanging of Kasab and Guru.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had on Thursday said all states were alerted about a possible terror strike by militant groups but did not identify any group.
In the past Hindu extremists have been caught for their alleged roles in bombings across India, including Hyderabad.
However, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy had said those
were general alerts which often kept coming from the centre.
Meanwhile, Mr Shinde told Parliament on Friday that government would make all possible efforts to apprehend the perpetrators and masterminds behind the twin blasts in Hyderabad.
Making a statement in the Lok Sabha after touring the blast sites, Mr Shinde said the situation was under control and the government was committed to combat such cowardly terror attacks.

Pakistan slams blasts in India

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, Feb 22: Pakistan on Friday condemned bomb blasts in the Indian city of Hyderabad in which at least 16 people were killed and scores injured, terming them “unjustifiable”.
“All acts of terrorism are unjustifiable regardless of their motivation,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
“Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” the statement said.
“Being itself a victim of terrorism, Pakistan fully understands and shares the pain and agony of the people of India. Our prayers and thoughts are with the families of victims of this terrorist attack,” it said.

Editorial NEWS

Still a pipe dream

AS the Iran-Pakistan pipeline edges closer to the next step — construction of the pipeline on the Pakistani side — the federal government has indicated an interest in revising downwards the tariff to be paid to Iran.
Given that gas is slated to begin flowing by the end of 2014, the terms of agreement allow for the readjustment of the eventual gas price to be paid if international prices suggest a revision is merited. The Pakistani case is
fairly strong: not only have gas prices declined internationally but they are expected to continue a downward trend as global output rises and demand pressures remain static.
The larger problem is one that the Pakistani government would prefer to avoid stating publicly: with the gap between domestic supply and demand already having grown intolerably large — and expected to grow further very rapidly — the IP pipeline has already achieved near do-or-die status. With the government’s oil and gas exploration and production policy failing to have attracted the kind of interest the government hoped for last year and other deals for imported gas languishing in various stages of completion, the IP pipeline is the main hope in the near-term to avoid gas starvation. Given that the pipeline on the Pakistani side is expected to take up to 15 months to be constructed, the window of opportunity to get the project up and running on time is fast closing. If gas is not flowing by December 2014, the IP pipeline agreement allows for the imposition of stiff penalties on Pakistan for non-execution — money that Pakistan cannot really afford to pay. The timeline is still doable but with a general election on the cards and hard bargaining over the formation of a coalition government expected immediately afterwards, several months could be eaten up. At that point, what is presently doable could become near impossible.
A key impediment could be the money Pakistan has to raise for the construction of the pipeline inside this country. The Iranians have offered $500m of financing, leaving Pakistan to arrange $1bn on its own. Half the sum Pakistan will have to raise has already been lined up but in the present tough economic climate even the remaining $500m can be tricky to arrange. Witness the recent hit the rupee took after the markets were unnerved by the repayment of a few hundred million dollars to the IMF. It may be a forlorn hope to expect the present government to demonstrate judiciousness and alacrity at this late stage but the stakes are too high to fumble again in the midst of a historic energy crisis.

Election catch

THE long-awaited switch by a group of Punjab Assembly legislators from the PPP to the PML-N has finally taken place. Nine members of the provincial assembly left the PPP for PML-N on Friday, joined by another well-known PPP leader from Lahore who adds greater weight to the already impressive catch. It was further announced that two PML-Q members of the National Assembly and from Punjab have gone over to the PML-N. This is a real setback to the PML-N’s opponents. Many of these departures are rooted in the making and breaking of alliances at the local level. Yet the development is also in sync with observations which place the PML-N as a party on the ascent in several parts of the province — and hence, in many areas as the first choice of an election aspirant. Given this impression, there may be more desertions.
The other parties are also drawing politicians to their respective folds as the elections draw closer. In recent weeks, the PPP has stolen two PML-N MNAs from Jhelum, which is why its criticism of its MPAs joining PML-N makes little sense. In today’s cut-throat politics, it may feel it has to hit back which it can only do by successfully wooing some known N-League names to its side. Given its own preferences in recent times including the slogan of the Seraiki province that it has raised, the PPP will find it hard to have good enough candidates in upper Punjab. And these are the areas where it needs to contain the Sharifs most urgently. Under such circumstances, the thinking could be to go over the results of past elections and, on the sheer strength of the votes polled, locate names to take on party deserters under its banner. This is how election politics has worked for long and this is how it remains. In the garb of local-level politicians, these are the same old mercenaries. In changing their camps they are looking for a commander who can best lead them — who can best reward them for their services and for their current loyalties. That is the catch.

Missing persons

WITH the missing persons issue refusing to go away, it is encouraging that pressure from sections of the otherwise slow-moving justice system is helping to answer some questions. At a hearing on Thursday regarding the whereabouts of some 300 people, the Peshawar High Court was told that around 100 detainees had recently been shifted to notified internment centres. Defence Secretary Asif Yasin Malik told the court that the cases of 95 other detainees were in the process of being verified. The authorities were spurred into action when, at an earlier hearing, the court had taken exception to what it saw as the slow pace of deciding the fate of detainees. In this regard, according to provincial home secretary Azam Khan, 35 detainees had been declared “white” by the law-enforcement agencies and set free.
The judicial system must press on with its efforts to locate people thought to be detained by various arms of the security apparatus. It is not just a question of illegal custody, at least in terms of some of the missing. As the experience of the 35 “white” detainees shows, in areas where conflict is under way there is a grave risk of innocent bystanders — people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time — ending up in detention. A sluggish process of coordination among the relevant branches of the law and of verification of the detainees’ identities means that several people unnecessarily spend time in custody — which, in turn, exacerbates the missing persons’ issue. If, therefore, insistent inquiry by the courts can provoke action — which the PHC has demonstrated it can — then that is a tool the law must employ. The challenge in the north is delineating between militants and ordinary citizens; prompt application of due process can go a long way in this regard.

Hazara killings

BARELY a month since the horrific and devastating bomb attack targeting the Shia Hazara community in Quetta, the militants have visited yet more damage and destruction on the besieged community. The gargantuan explosion on Saturday that killed dozens and injured many more is a bloody exclamation mark on the state’s continuing failure to protect a vulnerable people, and this time there is no incompetent political government to pin the blame on. While governor’s rule was never going to be able to immediately stop all violence against the Hazaras, the sheer scale of Saturday’s destruction indicates that even the biggest of attacks continue to be planned and executed with the state still unable to disrupt them. And therein lies a central problem with the very imposition of governor’s rule: it wasn’t put in place as a result of a well-thought-out and properly articulated counterterrorism strategy but because of the emotional and powerful protest by the Hazara community that refused to bury its dead after the Jan 10 attack in Quetta.
With no real strategy in hand at the outset, governor’s rule has in effect been making it up as it goes along. Counterterrorism is not about telling the security, intelligence and governing apparatus that it is free to do its job and will be supported in whatever steps it decides to take — it is, instead, about giving proper guidance and direction to the instruments of counterterrorism policy. There exists in Quetta in the recent past a very relevant example of just what a proper counterterrorism approach looks like: the state’s response to the targeted killing of Punjabi ‘settlers’ by Baloch insurgents that caused an exodus of a large number of Punjabis from the city. Without endorsing the army-led security establishment’s tactics — allegations of ‘kill and dump’ and ‘killing the killers’ policies abound — the approach was to systematically map a threat and then work on eliminating it.
Few will admit it, but the threat to the Hazaras has been treated differently for at least a couple of reasons: one, the community doesn’t have much political, economic or social clout; and two, they aren’t very well regarded by ethnic Baloch, either not just a callous state. Unhappily, until that changes, until the state regards the protection of all lives as an equal priority, the Hazaras will continue to suffer.

Tarred with same brush?

IT is a move that smells uncomfortably of paranoia of the sort Pakistan is wont to suffer from. But if the raison d’être of a state and government is even remotely understood as catering to the needs of the population, it amounts to cutting off the nose to spite the face. When it was found that Dr Shakil Afridi used a vaccination campaign to mask his efforts in locating Osama bin Laden, the interior ministry reacted by ordering the expulsion of foreign workers of Save the Children. Now, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has issued a new, cumbersome set of guidelines and restrictions. Henceforth, workers of international and local NGOs wishing to undertake humanitarian relief work in certain areas must apply to the provincial home and tribal affairs department for permission at least six to eight weeks in advance, for scrutiny by the 11th Corps and other state agencies. Foreign workers are required to submit details such as their religion, residential address and contact numbers in their own countries, while Pakistanis must submit their CNICs.
A clue as to why this is so can be found in the realities that prevail across the districts where the restrictions apply. These include Buner, Swat and Malakand — areas where suspected militants and security forces have a considerable presence. By implication, given the government and military thinking post-Bin Laden, every aid worker might be indulging in espionage. But UN agencies, working for ordinary citizens in the country, have expressed serious reservations, and rightly so. These new requirements are likely to have an adverse effect on humanitarian work being undertaken by international organisations and their local partners, curtailing activities and impacting the amount of funds received. The irony is that in these areas that the state calls “sensitive”, the people remain desperately in need of help and rehabilitation which the government is either unable or unwilling to provide — and thus the presence of non-state “helpers”. In the interests of the citizenry on whose behalf the state is resisting the militants, these restrictions must be softened and rationalised if not removed altogether. NGO support is needed where the government has failed.

A laudable step

GIVEN the recent spate of alarming developments on the health front, specifically with regard to polio and measles, it is encouraging that the Sindh Assembly has taken a proactive step to improve overall child health in the province. The passage of the Sindh Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Act 2013 renders illegal the propagation by anyone, including manufacturers, distributors, health workers and medical practitioners, of any material that encourages bottle-feeding or discourages breast-feeding. Transgressors are liable to imprisonment up to two years and a fine ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs500,000. Under this new law, no product can be promoted as a substitute for mother’s milk, either equivalent to, or superior to it. Moreover, it is now obligatory for manufacturers to display a prominent notice on such products stating that mother’s milk is best for babies and helps in preventing illness.
For a society that tends to cling to tradition, the fact that breast-feeding has fallen out of favour — or else goes hand-in-hand with the ubiquitous “top feed” — among Pakistani mothers is unfortunate. According to Unicef, only 16 per cent of infants are exclusively breast-fed in Pakistan, even though research has long established the many benefits of the practice. Breast-feeding precludes the risks associated with unhygienic handling during preparation of bottle feeds, thereby affording protection against diarrhoea, one of the leading causes of death in infants in Pakistan. Its cost-effectiveness can scarcely be overstated for a populace increasingly burdened by inflation. However, as one is well aware from the experience of health warnings on cigarette packs, changing attitudes takes more than cautionary notes on packaging. If the campaign is to effectively counter bottle formula advertising and its apple-cheeked babies, the media should be co-opted to disseminate messages in support of breast-feeding as a corollary to this laudable first step.

Disturbing questions

WITH each attack on Balochistan’s Hazara Shias, it becomes harder to understand why those responsible continue to get away with their agenda of wiping out the community. Who carries out the attacks, and where they are based — in and around Quetta and Mastung, the home base of former chief minister Aslam Raisani — is publicly known. The madressahs that have mushroomed in these areas since the spread of extremist religious ideologies to the province exist in plain sight. And the attacks on Hazaras take place in certain areas and have demonstrated speci-fic patterns. So why the continuing intelligence failure? There are the straightforward explanations: that even if security agencies know which groups are responsible, it is hard to track them as they move around to avoid capture. That it isn’t possible to completely guard all civilian areas against attacks at all times. And that intelligence-sharing between agencies isn’t happening. The military intelligence agencies are better equipped and informed than civilian and police agencies, but poor coordination means that information isn’t used effectively.
But then there are the more sinister explanations, and the longer Hazaras continue to get killed, the more strength these will gain. Baloch nationalists claim that the state is using — and therefore patronising — anti-Shia groups to fight them. According to that narrative, Sunni extremism is foreign to the secular nature of Baloch politics and has been cultivated for a purpose, so that in Balochistan these militants are not the anti-state elements they are elsewhere in the country. Here they are a tool, and in the state’s calculation, using them has the inconvenient but accepted side effect
of sectarian conflict. As attacks continue unabated, this theory is gaining currency. Locals point out that the base of anti-Shia ideology in the province is in the former chief minister’s stronghold in an area with a heavy Frontier Corps presence; or that two of the leaders of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Balochistan faction escaped a high-security prison in Quetta’s cantonment area; or that some pro-state Baloch groups have links to Sunni extremism.
Official denials will at this point not be enough. Only tough action to stop the attacks will. In part this is for historical reasons; though there are signs the state may be moving away from its earlier policy of supporting certain militants elsewhere in the country, memories of support for ‘useful’ militants still linger. And in the case of Balochistan, continued failure to do something about an obvious problem is reviving them. Is Balochistan’s sectarian problem an intelligence failure? Or is it deliberate negligence? Unless something changes on the ground, those questions will continue to be asked.

Room for improvement

PERHAPS it speaks to the condition of the once glorious city by the sea that the Karachi Literature Festival is celebrated more for what it represents than what it does. The mere fact that a demoralised Karachi can be in the news for positive reasons, even if only for a weekend each spring, is seen as a boost for its beleaguered denizens. But with the festival now crawling out of its infancy and having established itself as a significant annual event, it is time to focus more on what the KLF does and has achieved over the last weekend. From a purely literary point of view, this year’s event was somewhat of a letdown. Local literary stars were assembled in strength once again and trotted out in many sessions but there is a growing sense of familiarity about them. After all, pick up a newspaper, flip through a magazine or attend any civil society gathering and one or more of them is present. Missing this year, then, was a strong international contingent of writers. Perhaps this has to do with an over-reliance on star-power from across the border, always a risky proposition because Pakistan-India ties get disrupted frequently enough and this makes for many a no-show. Going forward, the KLF may be better served by reaching out more to authors, writers and performers from beyond India.
Also disappointing this year was the tendency towards the overtly and purely political. Given the region that Pakistan exists in and the existential questions being asked about this country’s future, politics is never far from the surface — and can never be really — but the KLF is perhaps one venue better anchored in the literary than in geopolitics. If going big necessarily means veering away from the core of books and literature, then the festival may want to consider reverting to smaller and more thoughtfully planned sessions for its next edition. The KLF has much going for it: to have come out of nowhere and established itself as a big event in a mere four years is incredible. The next step is to build on that admirable success.

Defeat in South Africa

THE Test series loss against South Africa has once again exposed the brittleness of Pakistan’s batting and the lack of mental toughness among the players which for long has been the Achilles’ heel of our national team. Although the tourists put up an improved show in the second Test at Cape Town compared to the rout at Johannesburg, where they had capitulated for an all-time low of 49, it was their batting once again that let them down giving the hosts a decisive 2-0 lead in the three-match series. In the final analysis, one is compelled to note that the Pakistan Cricket Board and the team management overlooked several key factors while planning for the extraordinary assignment at hand i.e. going into battle with the top team in world cricket that South Africa is today.
To begin with, the tour itinerary contained basic flaws with only a couple of practice games scheduled in between the Tests that were clearly insufficient and did little to familiarise our players with the bouncy tracks or to acclimatise them to the sultry weather. The weeklong camp in Lahore prior to the series, too, served no purpose since the coaches failed to draw the players out of the hit-and-run Twenty20 mode which eventually proved to be the team’s undoing in the five-day format. Moreover, the absurd choice of replacement players — Tanvir Ahmed and Rahat Ali — backfired as both the players failed to make any impact in the Tests. While Saeed Ajmal’s 10 wickets at Cape Town and fine centuries from Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq have been a few high points for Pakistan on the tour, Misbah-ul-Haq and his men have failed to fire as a unit so far. They must regroup now to win the third Test and avoid a white-wash which, unfortunately, looks imminent.

Failure to lead

IT is an indication of the state of the nation today that when a politician names the perpetrators of a series of brutal attacks — perpetrators who have already named themselves — it is hailed as an impressive move. Imran Khan has at long last directly spoken out against a militant organisation. But the fact that his remarks stood out from those of other politicians yesterday reflects one of the main reasons why we are where we are today: the cowardice of our civilian leaders. There is no particular bravery or leadership in vaguely condemning sectarian attacks or in saying terrorism is a bad thing; that is the least politicians can possibly get away with in Pakistan today. But how often do our parliamentarians and other political figures — particularly the leaders of religious parties — name and shame those responsible, whether it is the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or any other militant organisation? Instead, they get together at multiparty conferences and even at this point prioritise talking to militants without making any mention of military action, failing to appreciate two things: that at this point talks will probably not solve the problem, and that in the democratic system they claim to value, any military operation will be a non-starter without their support.
Perhaps they should learn a thing or two from the community leaders, both Shia and Sunni, who have courageously condemned the violence and, without pitting one community against the other, named those carrying it out. The Hazaras have been particularly impressive in their restraint, arguing that the country’s Shias and Sunnis are not at war and that the problem lies with the ideology of the particular militant groups behind the attacks. So far their level-headedness has helped unite the country rather than exacerbate its divisions, but if leaders at the national level do nothing to look beyond political and other fears, the conflict could also spread beyond Karachi and Quetta to several other parts of the country.
Thankfully, the people of Pakistan haven’t given up yet. The bloodshed of the last several years means they have become accustomed — perhaps desensitised — to most of the violence that takes place. But the collective outrage they expressed
on Monday across the country and across sects and religions means they can recognise when things have gone too far. And their speaking out has achieved some changes, however insufficient, including the imposition of governor’s rule last month, the prime minister’s call for targeted operations in Quetta and the removals and transfers of some senior police officers. Their protests, and especially the bravery of Hazaras and others protesting in dangerous areas, have put our politicians to shame.

Power crisis

AS if we didn’t know already: a water and power ministry official has warned us that the worst-ever power crisis is due to hit Pakistan this summer. But he, or anybody else for that matter, hasn’t told us as to what the ministry or the government are doing to stave off what is slated to come; therefore, it may just be safe to assume the answer is ‘nothing’. At the core of our growing power troubles lie a confused energy policy and disjointed decision-making, huge subsidies for the wealthy, the weak finances of the government, inefficient and corrupt generation and distribution systems, and bureaucratic inertia stalling a change in the energy mix to boost output and decrease electricity cost. The growth in the demand for electricity has far outpaced the insignificant increase in the supply, despite of an injection of over Rs1.2tr in the power sector during the past five years. And even this amount wasn’t enough for the optimal utilisation of installed capacity. According to a recent report by the State Bank of Pakistan, the peak shortfall for the system of the Pakistan Electric Power Company rose from 2,645MW in 2007 to 8,398MW in 2012. Consequently, the country does not have enough electricity for its homes, shops and factories. The story of gas is not too different either. Heavily subsidised gas is being used to burn gas heaters and geysers rather than to generate power or operate industry. Little wonder, then, that the crippling ‘energy crisis’ has become a looming reality.
There are no quick fixes to Pakistan’s energy problems. The formation of a single ministry in charge of the entire energy sector, the formulation of a long-term integrated policy and complete autonomy to regulators could be the first steps in the long journey, after which could come the privatisation of power and gas utilities to attract private investment and change the energy mix to reduce dependence on expensive oil. Yet before embarking on that road the government must liquidate circular debt, eliminate subsidies for the wealthy and recover unpaid bills for the optimal utilisation of the capacity to minimise shortages next summer — a tall order indeed.

Disappearing forests

AS has been the case in numerous other locations in Pakistan, forest cover in Sindh’s Chhor forest has been reduced significantly over the last few decades, and encroachment and state apathy are principally to blame. Although Chhor is a protected forest, its size has been reduced from 3,000 acres to 300 acres over time. Hundreds of acres were reportedly given to the military for a cantonment, while large parts of the forest have been occupied by local people. Forest guards are said to be instrumental in allowing the illegal occupation of forest land. Perhaps that is the root of the problem: what is to be done when the guardians of the forests themselves play a central role in their destruction? The short-term benefits — such as selling timber or exploiting the forest for other commercial purposes — are not worth the disaster that will unfold if forests continue to be denuded. This must especially be communicated to those who live in or near protected forests.
Pakistan has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, while trees are also mercilessly chopped down in urban areas. Yet this reckless behaviour has consequences: deforestation adds to the intensity of floods and landslides, while (disappearing) mangroves serve as natural buffers against tidal waves and tsunamis. Protecting forests is far more important than generally understood. There is a need to update laws so that stiffer penalties are in place for those who illegally occupy forests or use them for commercial purposes, just one example being the draft of the Sindh Forest Act, 2011, which has been languishing in limbo waiting for passage by the provincial assembly. Some NGOs are doing commendable work to raise awareness about the importance of forests but unless these efforts are supported by the state and communities, it is difficult to see a greener future.

Crucial questions

A SECOND round of tragic but dignified protests across the country this year has come to an end with the Shia Hazaras of Quetta agreeing to bury the victims of Saturday’s bombing and to withdraw their demand that security of Balochistan’s capital be officially handed over to the military. The protests may be over but hard questions still linger — questions that if not answered satisfactorily could lead to another incident that is almost too awful to contemplate: another devastating attack on the Hazaras of Quetta. A spate of arrests has taken place and some alleged Lashkar-i-Jhangvi activists have been killed since the weekend, leading to the first obvious question: who are the people arrested and killed, and why, if they are in fact members of or linked to the LJ, was action not taken before? .
It is a fairly common law-enforcement phenomenon in Pakistan that after intense pressure is brought to bear on the security agencies — either because of public demands or the sheer scale of terrorist activity — the security apparatus casts a wide net and hauls up or ends up killing all manner of suspects. Little is ever proven subsequently against the suspects, few details are shared with the public and only the most tenacious of citizens or journalists ever finds out what happens to those suspects, many of whom are eventually released, either because they were falsely implicated or the investigations and prosecutions were bungled. What is all the more remarkable about the latest round of arrests and counterterrorism operations is that the January bombing of the Hazaras did not spur this action, only a second devastating bombing in the space of approximately one month did. Just what will it take for the security apparatus to go after the killers of the Hazaras with the urgency and ferociousness that the situation demands?
Almost as worrying is the absence of any real understanding of the scale of the problem. As the deposed IG of Balochistan explained earlier this week, the attacks in Quetta are often planned outside the city, in other parts of the province. And preliminary intelligence reports on Saturday’s bombing suggest that at least the material for the bomb came from another province. Include the possibility of the porous borders of Balochistan also playing some role and the targeting of the Hazaras becomes an intra-provincial as well as an inter-provincial and cross-border problem. That means coordinating across a range of state intelligence and security agencies to track down the network of killers and dismantle it. Does anyone in the state apparatus have the understanding, let alone the will, to make that happen?

Chance for cooperation

PAKISTAN has long been privately and publicly complaining about lack of American and Afghan action against its militants who’ve found homes next door. So even though he no longer seems to have the importance he once did within the Pakistani Taliban, the symbolism of the reported capture of Maulvi Faqir, the former deputy head of the TTP, is important. Faqir of Bajaur was among those commanders who, along with Mullah Fazlullah of Swat and Abdul Wali of Mohmand, had fled to Afghanistan and were launching cross-border attacks into Pakistan. According to intelligence estimates, Pakistani militants run up to 20 camps in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan and over 220 such attacks have taken place since June 2010 in which about 150 security personnel have been killed. The Pakistani military argued that it had provided concrete evidence about these camps to Kabul but no action had been taken. So while it may have come late, Maulvi Faqir’s capture, if handled correctly, has the potential to kick off more effective cooperation.
For that to happen, though, Pakistan would have to reciprocate. Older than Islamabad’s complaints about these militants are American and Afghan complaints that Afghan militants are being sheltered, or ignored, on this side of the border. And for Pakistan to reciprocate, it would have to rethink its strategy of trying to cultivate allies for a foothold in post-2014 Afghanistan. There is some evidence that that rethink is taking place: expressions of support for an Afghan-led peace process, the release of some Afghan Taliban prisoners and assurances that the remainder will be released. But there are also reports that Pakistan is talking to multiple Afghan factions, indicating it still wants to be involved in the outcome in Afghanistan. Whether through a renewed commitment to going after each other’s militants, or a prisoner-swap agreement in which Maulvi Faqir is handed over in return for prisoner releases from Pakistan carried out in a way that is useful to Afghanistan, the commander’s capture offers an opportunity for both countries to work out a better way to collaborate.

Signs of polls

THE president has just enriched the list of poll symbols for the general election by some 27 new entries. But the swollen size — we now have 190-odd symbols — still doesn’t quite encourage an attempt to see through these signs. Some of these poll symbols remain as much a mystery as they have ever been, and the discussion can often boil down to the same old, funny point about why would anyone want ‘that image’ to represent them just when the voters are about to perform the very sensitive task of stamping their approval of a politician.
The presidential additions can instead be seen to betray a fatherly desire to revive an old, more peaceful culture. The hookah and the knife are back and will surely bring back memories of a less injurious past. Also, some old symbols which had acquired a sinister tinge can now be left out — such as the bulb and the lantern. As an alternative the mighty sun finally rises on the country’s electoral horizon — a safe choice for all those who have not been able to set Pakistan’s electricity problems right. The cat has been thrown out of the bag, on the insistence of the PML-N which was a wee bit worried about its rampaging tiger being mixed up with its less pompous if more acrobatic aunt. The PML-N appears to be perched on too high a branch to require anyone teaching its tiger how to climb up a tree. Among the lucky creatures fighting for the politicians’ favour this time, it is heartening to note the persistent tortoise and the crocodile have finally been given their due — so long as their tears for the people are genuine and so long as they can carry on while the others in the race are found slumbering.

Risk of sanctions

EACH time it appears that the Iran-Pakistan pipeline deal is edging closer towards final status, an old roadblock appears: the objections of the US. With US sanctions against Iran being tightened further this month and talks between the US and Iran on the latter’s nuclear programme apparently going nowhere, Pakistan’s attempt to import gas from Iran was inevitably going to be the source of some friction in Pakistan-US relations. As a Wall Street Journal blog reported on Wednesday from Islamabad, the US embassy in Pakistan had this to say in response to WSJ queries about the IP pipeline: “Our policy on Iran is well-known. We have made it clear to all of our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by UN sanctions or sanctionable under US law.
If Pakistan does press ahead, would businesses and individuals connected to the IP pipeline really be placed under US, and perhaps UN, sanctions? For now, the US is taking the soft route of quiet discouragement; but with the construction of the pipeline on the Pakistani side due to commence soon and gas scheduled to flow by the end of 2014, the soft voice may turn into the big stick. Pakistan can and should resist this US pressure. To suggest this is not to advocate defiance for defiance’s sake but a calculated risk on Pakistan’s part. These are the bare facts: Pakistan has a huge energy deficit; gas shortages here will grow exponentially over the next few years; there are no obvious quick fixes at home; imported gas, while more expensive than locally produced gas, is still much cheaper than furnace oil and is the most logical choice; and among the imported gas options, the IP pipeline is one of the most viable and cost-effective.
Those bare facts amount to a solid case to press for an on-schedule implementation of the IP pipeline. And it’s not as if Pakistan is the only country trading energy with Iran. Even now, China and India import substantial amounts of oil from Iran and Turkey helps ease payments through. If those countries can do it — and their energy situation is nowhere as dire as Pakistan’s — then why must Pakistan sit on the sidelines? Ultimately, though, Pakistan can make its case on the basis of a sound cost-benefit analysis: are growing energy shortages here, and the social unrest and economic cost that entails, worth the price of adding but a tiny sliver of further pressure on the Iranian energy sector by blocking the IP pipeline? Surely, the answer must be no.

Eyes on the prize

THE spirit behind the Election Commission of Pakistan’s project to scrutinise election candidates is understandable. Pakistan has long suffered at the hands of corrupt politicians. And while there is no way to ensure that someone running for office has never committed any misconduct and won’t when in office, there is information out there that can point out obviously crooked election candidates. So the calls for scrutinising data to identify those who have dabbled in high-stakes corruption, defaulted on significant loans or avoided paying money they owe the state in taxes or utility bills makes sense — up to a point.
The objective of this scrutiny should be to weed out the truly rotten elements in the system. What it should not become is a process so focused on the minutiae of data gathering and verification that it becomes impractical and gets in the way of the ultimate goal: successfully holding elections. Nor should it become a witch-hunt, or an attempt to meet subjective notions of who is “honest and ameen” — a constitutional clause that was inserted by Gen Ziaul Haq and which there is
no conceivable way to apply impartially. A classic example of missing the forest for the trees is the letter that has apparently been sent to parliamentarians asking them to submit their educational qualifications. The graduation condition for election candidates has been done away with. Revisiting the closed issue — presumably in an attempt to establish that people told the truth when they last ran — is a waste of time given all the other information the ECP has decided to verify. What it does do is create a perception of misconduct across the board. And there is not much point going after those perceived to be corrupt if that leaves no one to contest polls — or at least no one people will vote for — or, in the worst case scenario, is used by some as an excuse to delay putting a newly elected government in place. The ECP’s zeal is welcome, but it should be focused on the bigger picture: holding the cleanest elections possible, not making them impossible to hold.

Ugly scenes

ON Thursday, lawyers in Faisalabad and Sargodha were staging a sit-in for the establishment of benches of the Lahore High Court in their respective cities. But despite the relative calm in the protest camps, violence lurked in the background. A day earlier, lawyers in Faisalabad had resorted to familiar, violent action, apparently instigated by an impatient bar member who threatened to immolate himself in support of the demand for a bench. Sessions and district courts were ransacked. The courtrooms were locked, an image which apart from conveying the desired message of the lawyers conjured up a host of other distressing thoughts. Not least disturbing of these was the symbolism in relation to the many litigants for whom the doors to justice now appeared closed. The summary closure has added insult to injury in the case of these Pakistani citizens. The call for new LHC benches notwithstanding, there is plenty of reason to focus on reforming the subordinate courts. This is what the stranded litigants have been waiting for, only to find a lock blocking them.
The phenomenon of professionals, trained to uphold the principles of justice, taking the law into their own hands has been a common occurrence, and the repeated violence has added an element of despair to the pain such happenings inevitably cause. The tendency for violence is often blamed on “arrogance”, which is then readily linked to the lawyers’ victory in the free-judiciary movement a few years ago. This is as bad an advertisement for justice as there can be. Obviously, a counter-
explanation can be attempted by terming such behaviour a sign of desperation among a group that has been denied its demand. In reality, this is disappointment mixed with a sense of power, as if the rampaging protesters enjoy immunity due to their proximity to the law.

Back and forth

THE U-turns and flip-flops when it comes to how the third tier of government in Sindh is to be organised was already enough to make the head spin. And that was before the sudden reversal of the PPP this week, undoing the Sindh People’s Local Government Act signed a few months ago. First, some background. The PPP resented the Musharraf-era local government system because it bypassed the provincial government and was funded, and to some extent controlled, by the centre. So once the constitutional protection given to the Musharraf-era local governments expired in 2009, all the provinces ditched the law in favour of direct control by them of the third tier of government. In Sindh, there was an added complication: the MQM dominates Karachi and Hyderabad, while the PPP, and its Sindhi-speaking base, dominates the rest of the province. As a coalition partner, the MQM demanded direct control of Karachi and Hyderabad. So the SPLGA was mooted: rendering five districts of Sindh, including Karachi and Hyderabad, as metropolitan corporations while the remaining 18 districts were to be run under the commissionerate system.
Behind that duality is a tussle of two key issues: which tier of government effectively oversees land rights and controls the police. The PPP, content to operate through provincial bureaucrats it controls by virtue of its dominance in the Sindh Assembly, preferred the commissionerate system. The MQM, knowing it would lose out at the provincial level, preferred Karachi being administered as a separate whole and Hyderabad divided into several parts to solidify its control at the local level. Unhappily for the denizens of Sindh, none of these arrangements had much to do with better service delivery to the people. It was and remains principally about political control. So with a general election on the horizon and the PPP and MQM having to shore up party bases that are rippling with discontent, the fate of SPLGA was sealed. Once the election is held and the PPP and MQM presumably again emerge as the largest- and second-largest blocs in the Sindh Assembly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the SPLGA is reverted to in one form or another.
Until then, though, the PPP and the MQM have triggered a dangerous game. Slanging matches in Sindh along ethnic lines can have all manner of unwanted knock-on effects — and all for the sake of parochial political interests of the PPP and MQM ahead of an election. Swapping in and swapping out an entire system of government is a bad joke with the people; and its consequences can linger far beyond what the masterminds have planned.

Action against militants

THE demand for cracking down on militant organisations has picked up in the wake of the Quetta blast last week which killed more than 90 people. The federal government has been taken to task for failing to protect lives and as tough questions are asked, the army has been heard denying any ties with the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi which claimed responsibility for the attack. There has been a build-up of public anger and a number of statements and newspaper articles have pointed out the urgency of all parties closing ranks to defeat terrorist strikes carried out in the name of religion. But even if this mood is seen as holding out hope for a concerted drive against the militants, in practical terms there is insufficient support by key players. News reports have gone to the extent of shaming political parties over striking convenient alliances with militants for political gains — something which unfortunately is bound to be repeated when elections are held. There have been impassioned pleas for provincial governments, too, to come out of their comfort zones and contribute to the fight against the militants. The government of Mian Shahbaz Sharif in Punjab has been a particular target of criticism on this count, and this criticism has increased after Interior Minister Rehman Malik stated the explosive material used in the Quetta blast had been procured in Lahore and renewed his call to the Punjab government to launch an operation against the LJ.
PML-N circles have reacted to the ‘allegation’ with the standard two-pronged argument. Party members have as per routine countered accusations of links with militant groups by blaming opposing parties of having connections with the same militants. On the administrative level, a PML-N spokesman used an old tactic when he lamented the failure of Rehman Malik and his government to share with Punjab crucial information, gathered by the federal intelligence agencies, about a possible strike. This was a typical exchange between two governments that remain at loggerheads. On the whole it is politics that reeks of disrespect for the dead and apathy for the people of Pakistan whose lives are in peril.

Shameful statistics

IN the din of the Syrian civil war, the world seems not to have grasped the full dimensions of the refugee tragedy. The number of people who have poured into neighbouring countries is nearing one million, and there are an estimated two million internally displaced persons. This means the 23-month old conflict has rendered nearly three million people homeless. As statistics released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees show, 78 per cent of those in foreign countries are women and children, 52 per cent are children, and one in every five refugee households is headed by a woman. According to the UNHCR 65 per cent of the refugees have been living in the open because there are no camps. Schools and other shelters are overcrowded, and severe winter conditions and lack of adequate medical help have added to the refugees’ ordeal. During a snowstorm in Jordan, tents were blown away, and there was a blaze when embers in the camp caused a fire. The world community’s response has been tardy. At a meeting in Kuwait last month, donors agreed to pay the $1.5bn asked for by the UNHCR, but the agency says it has received only three per cent of the amount. Now Syrians are fleeing to neighbouring lands at the rate of 5,000 a day.
There is a stalemate in the civil war, but that doesn’t mean the miseries of the Syrian people have come to an end. More worryingly, since the UN is routing its aid for internal refugees through the Syrian regime, state agencies help IDPs in government-held areas, ignoring others. While humanitarian assistance must be increased to help the refugees, the greater need is for bringing the conflict to a halt. Of this there is little possibility in the near future, because all peace moves seem to have fizzled out.

Columns and Articles

The logic of controversy

By Cyril Almeida

SOMETIMES, you can spot a damp firework a mile off.
Hang on to your seats, Qadri is going to the Supreme Court, the election commission could be in trouble and extreme turbulence may lie ahead, some warned fancifully.
Article 213(2) of the constitution, post-18th and -20th Amendments, reads:
“The Commissioner [or a member] shall not be removed from office except in the manner prescribed in Article 209 for the removal from office of a judge….”
Spot the bucket of ice-cold water on Qadri’s dreams there?
An ECP member is given exactly the same protection of office under the constitution that a judge of the Supreme Court is.
If the Supreme Court itself were to tinker with the ECP’s cast-iron protection, someone else may get the idea that it’s OK to interfere with the judges’ security of tenure.
The danger would be apparent to even an extravagantly activist court.
So Qadri’s petition was dead on arrival, though it still had to be dispensed with theatrically.
But why the obsession with the election commission in the first place?
ECP this, ECP that, down with the ECP, throw out the ECP — Qadri has hammered away at the election commission since his reincarnation as political gadfly.
Qadri’s assault has been all the more remarkable because until he came along the ECP was regarded near universally as more independent and more relevant than ever.
But more independent and more relevant does not necessarily mean more powerful.
For Qadri and his ilk, a paper tiger isn’t good enough to get the job they want done done, i.e. banishing from politics at least the worst of the worst — to clean up the system some and serve as a warning to the rest.
To be less effective come election time — or altogether ineffective, in the minds of the Qadriites — all the ECP members would have to do is follow the letter of the law. Because the letter of the law, as it stands, doesn’t really allow the election commission to do much.
To go beyond the letter of the law — and perhaps in search of the true spirit of democracy that the anti-democrats are always so keen on — you’d need to replace the five election commissioners with crusaders.
Say, of the kind we’ve seen in the Supreme Court in recent years. Crusaders are result-orientated folks, not too concerned with the minutiae of the law.
And it’s precisely in the minutiae that the powers of the election commission come unstuck, hobbling the ECP’s role as a transformative agent of democracy, the gatekeepers who will deliver a cleaner and better democracy — at least along the lines Qadri and the anti-democrats are hoping for.
To understand why the ECP can’t really keep out the bad eggs under the existing laws and rules, look to the amendments the election commission itself has proposed to toughen its bark and bite.
Say you want to knock out the bad eggs at the nomination stage. Candidates file their papers, then what?
At present, election officials have just seven days to vet the nomination papers and few powers to requisition official records to corroborate what the candidates claim in writing about their financial and legal position.
Give even the most ferocious and committed of election commissions just seven days to scrutinise an avalanche of nomination papers — as the law does at the moment — and only the most superficial scrutiny will be possible.
And even if you have all the time in the world to scrutinise nomination papers for falsehoods and misleading statements, it would amount to little if you don’t have the power to summon documents and information to verify what the candidates’ claim about their financial and legal standing.
Relying on good faith and cooperation of other institutions is just not good enough: when the stakes are this high, you can bet your last rupee that what isn’t absolutely required to be provided under the law will not be provided.
Turn to the most common electoral malpractices: corruption and bribery, as set out in details 78 and 79 in the Representation of the People Act, 1976, the controlling
As the law stands, the most common manipulations of the voting process do not attract more than a slap on the wrist — no fine worth its mention and no threat of jail.
Small fines, no threat of jail time: when the incentive to cheat is as great as a potential electoral victory, the deterrent has to be substantial, else it is meaningless.
Return to Qadri and the anti-democrats.
Knowing the inadequacies of the electoral laws, the insufficiencies of the election commission and the unwillingness of the politicians to fix a system they thrive on, the ECP has become a logical pressure point for Qadri and the anti-democrats.
Best-case scenario: the ECP members resign under pressure, or are chucked out somehow, and are replaced with a crusading bunch.
That crusading bunch could then use the bully pulpit of the ECP to lobby parliament for significant new powers, while in the meantime using ends-justify-the-means logic to purge the political class of its worst offenders.
Worst-case scenario: the composition of the ECP doesn’t change but the members are so bullied and battered and their reputations so impugned that they react by tightening the application of the existing laws — and so knock out some undesirable politicians anyway.
Either way, Qadri and the anti-democrats walk away with their pound of flesh.

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

The new normal

By Hajrah Mumtaz

IT may well be grotesque, but the face of the next generation of Pakistanis is going to make for an interesting study.
As evidenced by the lack of concrete measures proposed by last week’s conference on resolving the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan problem, it’s hard enough to even develop a working grip on a situation where ideological, sectarian, ethnic, political and several other dimensions all have a role to play; figuring out what to do about it is a task so formidable as to appear insurmountable.
The people who gave their best at this conference are all equipped with the tools required to understand how things reached this pass: the history, background, context, complicities — all these factors are familiar territory to them. Many were, in fact, present through the rehearsals.
If these people find it difficult to figure it out, how do those who don’t even have the tools grapple with it? There are several such groups, so to take one example, how do children under the age of, say, 15 understand the terrain in which they are growing up? (I’ve picked this age arbitrarily because for these millions, violence and arms have been an outstanding feature of life since they reached the smallest degree of consciousness about the world.)
From personal experience, I can offer a few anecdotal examples.
A four-year-old was playing in his secure home in a reasonably well-to-do area where he has had next to no exposure to the horrors that lie outside. The wind was blowing, so a window banged shut loudly. Startled, he looked up and exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, a bomb blast.”
He doesn’t know what that is, but it is a fact of life to a sufficient extent in his environment that he’s picked it up and uses it casually.
A 10-year-old, well-informed for his age, was dwelling upon the economic travails of the government. On some earlier occasion, the reasoning behind levying a toll tax on roads had been explained to him. So, he reasoned, the same should be applied to graves; the government would earn masses of money off it since so many people die every day.
This child cannot really fathom life and death, yet the dispassionate manner in which he can calculate graves as being money-earners is remarkable. People die in large numbers, he is thinking without emotion, so might as well raise funds.
Outside a playgroup for the well-off, two mothers are chatting. One asks the other, “My son said that you were immigrating to Canada. Are you considering it?” The other replies, “Of course not. Why, did my daughter say something? Where would she hear that?” They laugh about how curious it is that their kids are using this exact phrase, “immigrating to Canada — not going to or travelling to or visiting Canada.
Which would indicate that the concept of immigrating is such a prominent feature in the conversations of adults of a certain class that it’s entered the lexicon of three-year-olds who have no idea what that, or even Canada, means.
These are anecdotes from an urban, educated, well-off section of society. What the circumstances of Pakistan are saying to children and young adults that are less fortunately situated is anybody’s guess, but there’s little doubt that it’s terrible.
What will the next generation be like? What will its mindset be, given the exposure in formative years to daily violence and brutality?
We’ve got roughly a decade and a bit of this behind us. If it all ended now, I suppose it wouldn’t matter much. For that generation, it would be a period of conflict from when they were growing up, with a beginning and an end.
But it’s not going to go away that fast in Pakistan. Ten years behind us and the prognosis is, many years yet to go — this is the new normal. The realities that apply to today’s children and teenagers are going to prevail for many, many years.
For those from backgrounds of privilege, that means schools with gunmen, and play and sport at private venues because of the lawlessness ‘outside’ and the consequent — dangerous — insularity from mainstream Pakistan. It means their parents’ fear of them being kidnapped for ransom, held up at gunpoint, caught up in an ‘incident’ and hurt — and the resulting effort to keep them safe and far from the country’s normal landscape.
For those that are not from such fortunate backgrounds, today’s realities mean being groped and jostled on the pavement, having a Prado squeeze you off the road whilst riding with the family on a motorbike and, yes, being robbed at gunpoint; it means increasingly restricted educational and employment opportunities, a criminally wide division between the haves and the have-nots, the daily risk of being on the spot where an improvised explosive device or worse is due to explode — and the resulting seething, festering anger.
And this is not to include the uncounted hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children and young adults that have been directly affected by Pakistan’s circumstances: those that have lost family and friends, been in the crowd when the euphemistic ‘incident’ occurs, seen their schools bombed or their parents’ livelihoods snatched away, even seen bodies swaying from the lamp posts.
What happens when this generation, that has grown up entirely and exclusively in the new normal, becomes in the fullness of time the generation in charge?
I wish I could believe that because of the circumstances of their childhood, they would be more inclined towards empathy, tolerance and would constitute a lobby for peace. But history tells us that those who have been sinned against usually do not end up nicer than their oppressors; they usually end up with scores to settle.
The children of areas that have seen long-drawn-out conflicts grow up scarred, scared — and angry.

The writer is a member of staff.

The festival that is Lahore

By Asha’ar Rehman

THE culture of historical Lahore has had problems coming to terms with the new and the modern.
Many of the old landmarks have been obliterated or are direly threatened. Governments have found new pet projects and the most consistent of rulers in the last few decades tend to dismiss calls for preservation as elitist, making a fetish of their standard connections to the future and trampling on much of what was required to be urgently protected.
The elite the ruling families form is yet to show sufficient ‘waywardness’ for them to branch off from palaces into areas where they can enrich folklore.
When culture makes it to their to-do list, easier options are readily taken. Food streets are set up obsessively, derived from and in aid of the Lahori reputation as fun-
loving people.
By contrast, calls for exploiting other cultural aspects have only grown weaker with time. Among these, the demands for setting up a permanent book fair where it is complemented by the historical ambiance were much louder a few years ago.
This is a situation fit for citizen initiatives which could later be expanded and ultimately enlist everyone including the official minders of affairs. Small, scattered groups are doing their best to carry on with past literary traditions. Literary meetings are held at various places in the fast-expanding city.
Sometimes it feels as if it is more a case of old centres and players losing their exclusive abodes and identities.
The long-running lament says the links to the past had been summarily severed for hampering progress or these were impossible to maintain because of reasons of diversification of themes and ideology and lack of patronage. But increasing physical distances and a lack of organisation are huge factors here.
The number of readers, in proportion to the population, has increased. They are only more widespread now and thus somewhat difficult to manage as an entity. More books are published in Lahore in a month than one can skim through, and not too far away from the Lahore of
the establishment exist numerous thinking islands working for greater refinement and seeking to be truly invoked into arbitrating on behalf of the people and their culture.
Icons are important. In a city that has struggled to prevent old pivots of literary dialogue such as Pak Tea House from being crushed under the wheels of time, a literary festival has taken a while.
The event, which is to take place at the weekend, opens up the immense possibilities that the city offers. Inevitably, the occasion kicks off a historical tour from even beyond the moment when Masood Saad Salman produced his lost first Urdu or Hindi verses a thousand years ago to Iqbal, Hali, Azad, Kipling, Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Munir Niazi, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and a host of others who carried forward literature through an adherence to the classical code and by experimentation.
The Sufis encamped in the city and its vicinity peek out from their khanqahs to find out if they are needed, speaking the people’s language and as a choice against the oppressive order.
At the festival you will certainly hear about Manto and be treated to Intizar Husain. This is a good enough start, which can be built upon thematically and linguistically. Of course, the mela will take time debating bolder issues some of which may have political connotations.
But while it does create expectations of a needed institution taking shape it has to diversify and representation from all around will be central to its evolution. Intizar Husain and Zahrah Nigah have to be ultimately joined by other Urdu writers, and by great names from other languages such as
Najm Hosain Syed, the greatest living figure of Punjabi literature.
The list of the first literary festival includes celebrated writers most of whom have drawn on Lahore at some point to keep their story going. For Daniyal Mueenuddin it is a homecoming, as also for Bapsi Sidhwa who must update herself on the partitions happening since.
Or those who know their way around may not find it impossible to as yet locate Tehmina Durrani’s feudal lord here. You might run into him, hung upside down a tree in a public park early in the morning, as if an old bat reduced to playing the daylight watchman.
The city where the carrier of Mohsin Hamid’s first novel found his muse is also bound to figure prominently as the panelists at the fair sit down to discussing aspects of the cinema in the country. Mohammed Hanif’s Shigri is on the proud list of those who underwent torture at Akbar’s fort during the Zia regime.
Whereas the imaginative Hanif did avenge his generation by setting Shigri on a vengeful pursuit of the dictator, Nadeem Aslam was one of those who fled home because of the same regime. Aslam ended up dedicating his Map for Lost Lovers to Faiz and to Abdur Rehman Chughtai, the last of the great Mughal patrons of art in Lahore.
It is the same fort of Akbar which provided the title image for William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal. It is a picture of King Bahadur Shah Zafar — “a poet of Persian, Bhasha and Punjabi” — which the historian discovered here, apart from much else of use.
The archives located in Anarkali’s tomb are a relic of the British war against the 1857 freedom fighters in which the new rulers of India had used Lahore as a vital operation base. This is where Dalrymple found at least some of the material that informed his books.
It would be intriguing to have Khair-un -Nisa from The White Mughal coming face to face with Lahore’s very own Anarkali, a readymade and ageless story that never ceases to fascinate despite the noted inaccuracies in the accounts. It matters not if Anarkali comes accompanied by Akbar himself or his sufficiently wayward son Salim. For when Lahore is the venue, everyone and everything is interconnected.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

MFN status for India now

By Shahid Kardar

THE Pakistan government had resolved in principle to give India MFN status by end of 2012. Regrettably, it has sought an extension in the implementation of this decision, an outcome that could have been avoided through better preparation on the management of this transition.
The Institute of Public Policy, Beaconhouse National University, has undertaken a major study (of which this writer was one of the authors) on the potential of, and gains from, further trade liberalisation with India. This article attempts to summarise the findings.
Both countries have made major concessions recently. Pakistan has eliminated its ‘positive list’ and opted for a shorter ‘negative list’ of 1,209 tariff lines, resulting in a sharp increase in tariff lines importable from India. This list will be replaced by a briefer ‘sensitive list’ following the granting of full MFN status to India. The latter has reduced the list of items that Pakistan cannot export to India by 30 per cent and declared its intention to reduce the sensitive list to 100 items and lower the duty rate to five per cent by April 2013.
However, our analysis shows that although India has ostensibly opened up its trade regime for products from Pakistan through a reduction in the number of items on its sensitive list, the concession is less liberal than it appears. When the items on the sensitive list are quantified on the basis of the eight-digit level of HS Code, the number of tariff lines in India’s list at 1,753 is significantly more than the number of tariff lines, 1577, in Pakistan’s sensitive list for India.
Furthermore, Pakistan has given preferential treatment to far more tariff lines for imports from India; India’s sensitive list only grants preferential treatment to 65 per cent of Pakistan’s exports, and is heavily loaded with agricultural and textile products in which Pakistan has a comparative advantage. Pakistani exporters also have to negotiate more than a dozen legislations, a plethora of standard setting and certifying agencies implementing multiple laws and regulations that make trade in agriculture more restrictive. Indian has high import duties, ranging from 30 per cent for most produce to 70 per cent on rice and 100 per cent on wheat.
This protection comes despite massive subsidies on agricultural inputs borne by the Indian and state governments of close to $50 billion per annum, amounting to 15.3 per cent of production and 5.2 per cent of GNP, compared with Pakistan’s agriculture-related subsidies of less than one per cent of GDP and tariffs ranging from five to 10 per cent with zero duty in the case of cotton.
On many of the value-added items of textiles in India’s sensitive list the duty is the higher of the rate of 10 per cent or a specific duty. For several products the ad valorem equivalent of the specific duties exceeds 100 per cent. The maximum duty, excluding automobiles, in Pakistan is 30 per cent,
The composition of India’s sensitive list is particularly important for Pakistan because India has reduced more sharply its sensitive list for Bangladesh and signed an FTA with Sri Lanka. For example, India’s sensitive list comprises only 25 items in the case of Bangladesh. This has helped Bangladesh increase its garment exports to India by 46 per cent in 2011/12, inducing fears that the exceptional access to India’s markets, while denying Pakistan a ‘level playing field’, could incentivise flow of investment capital outside Pakistan to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to take advantage of the more liberalised trade environment for these two countries.
This is particularly important because India, with its more diversified industrial structure and export base, is likely to gradually move out of textiles, opening up opportunities for countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh in the large Indian market.
The study projects that India’s exports to Pakistan in the next three years will grow from $1.4bn to $6.3bn with a significant proportion of this increase representing the shift to formal trade of items that were being ‘informally traded’. Pakistan’s exports to India in the medium-term are projected to increase $300 million to $1.3bn
Trade liberalisation with the granting of MFN status to India, the implementation of tariff reductions under Safta and the induction of structural reforms in Pakistan is projected to push up the country’s GDP in the medium-term by a ‘moderately favourable’ 1.5 per cent to a healthy four per cent.
In the case of the more cautious assumptions for the ‘modestly favourable’ outcome: Pakistan’s private investment will rise from 1.25 per cent of GDP to 4.2; there will be a net increase in employment of approximately 170,000; prices will decline by around one percentage point; the current account will become a surplus of more than $1bn; fiscal deficit will increase by Rs130bn, even though tax revenues are expected to grow by Rs70bn; the average gain for consumers is estimated at Rs2,300 per household.
Therefore, Pakistan should grant India MFN status to exploit opportunities created by trade preferences under Safta as well as seek relaxation of India’s non-tariff barriers and tariffs; the latter mainly through a revision by India of its sensitive list, involving the removal of agricultural and textiles items in which we have a comparative advantage. However, India will only give these concessions as a reciprocal gesture for being accorded MFN status.
Moreover, by changing the composition of the sensitive list, employing appropriate safeguard measures provided for under WTO rules and Safta provisions and by lowering duties on raw material and intermediate goods used by industries likely to be threatened by imports from India, Pakistan can prevent any ‘serious injury’ to different manufacturing sub-sectors.
The instruments available to us to prevent ‘material injury’ to some of our industries include: amending the sensitive list by excluding the large number of tariff lines relating to textiles and clothing and substituting them with tariff lines from threatened industries; improved efficiency and competitiveness of threatened industries by reducing duties on their raw material and intermediate goods; providing some protection to agriculture by raising tariffs moderately and eliminating zero duties.
Checks on predatory behaviour by Indian entrepreneurs should entail strengthening the legal framework pertaining to safeguard measures. Some industries outside the sensitive list may end up getting ‘negative protection’. Pakistan should establish a tariff anomalies commission to avert material injury to such industries The timing of this trade liberalisation coincides with a tricky period for Pakistan’s balance of payments. If in the short run there is a significant increase in imports from India without a perceptible increase in Pakistan’s exports we can consider invoking Safta provisions that allow a country to provisionally suspend the concessions.
Today there is a huge window of opportunity to speed up the project of integration. The timing is also better because traditional markets for South Asia in the West are slowing down.
To change the existing narrative the dissemination of gains from trade and the costs of non-cooperation must be carried out imaginatively, since most benefits will come in the future and initially Pakistan’s trade deficit with India will widen, making it more difficult to persuade influential detractors that obstacles are more imagined than real. So as not to jeopardise this shift India will have to be more generous in its approach to Pakistan, creating opportunities for it, especially in agriculture and textiles.

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Fair trial for terrorists?

By M. Zaidi

THE Investigation for Fair Trial Bill, 2012 has drawn a lot of attention as it allows certain law-enforcement agencies to use modern evidence-gathering techniques and devices against suspected militants and terrorists.
The bill has drawn criticism due to the potential of posing a direct threat to the privacy and civil liberties of citizens, since it is feared that security agencies would be empowered to intercept communications at whim.
It has been said that this may clash with constitutional guarantees like Articles 14 and 8, which guarantee inviolability of the privacy of citizens. However, the government claims the existing laws are inadequate for modern counterterrorism needs.
The purpose behind the bill appears to be to regulate the use of interception and make it admissible in court against terrorists. This surely cannot be a bad thing as everyone knows that interception is needed, so why not make it a criminal offence if its use is abused or unauthorised?
It is worthwhile comparing this legislation with similar laws, notably UK legislation, to try to find compatibilities and digressions, since the British legal template has apparently been considered in drawing up the Pakistani variant.
Within the bill, the law rests on issuance of warrants to intercept communications, with the power to ask for such warrants vested in the director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence, the three services’ intelligence agencies, the Intelligence Bureau and the police.
In the first instance the applicant must seek the authority of the minister of interior to apply for the specific warrant. The applicant then has to apply to the Islamabad High Court for the warrant to be issued. If the warrant will enable the collection of evidence and there is a reasonable possibility of an attempt to commit a scheduled terrorist offence, the judge shall issue the warrant.
In practice, every telephone line needed to be tapped has to be agreed to in writing by the minister of interior, which is contrary to the Rules of Business 1973, and then additionally approved by a senior judge. If not, the person allowing the intercept is committing a criminal offence and liable to go to prison for three years.
The issue is that on a strict reading of the bill, every CCTV camera in the country potentially becomes illegal unless the interior minister and a high court judge have allowed it.
In comparison, British law entrusts the secretary of state with powers to issue warrants of interception only on condition of reasons relating to national security, serious crime or similar circumstances of gravity. However, the list has expanded since 2003.
Crucially, in the UK interception evidence cannot be used in court as evidence. It is solely used for intelligence-gathering purposes requiring the intelligence services and law-enforcement agencies to work together, share the information, and then turn the intelligence into evidence admissible in court.
The power to issue warrants for intercepts is used sparingly and human rights are widely taken into consideration to see whether the act of interference in a person’s private life is necessary and proportionate. According to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, an interception warrant is usually only valid for three months, with an interception of communications commissioner held accountable for oversight of the process administered by the executive.
As regards the necessity of issuing such warrants, British law requires the home secretary to consider the possibility of getting information by other means without resort to intercepts. Also, interception may cause collateral invasion of privacy of other people. This happens for instance when there are multiple users on a single phone line, and necessitates the British home secretary to consider less collaterally damaging methods where possible.
The UK courts are not, however, involved in the issuance of warrants, and there is heavy reliance upon integrity and oversight of the executive. Pakistan may be embarking on a time-consuming process by overburdening the minister of interior as the sole permission-granting authority, and then a high court judge to make a decision.
There are also no emergency regulations that can be used if the intelligence services get information and need to act on it immediately in times of crisis.
Since the intercepted material obtained under legal authority of the fair trial
legislation would be admissible as evidence in legal proceedings, there has been debate that the law is draconian in not allowing the accused to have access to orders of interception.
However, even in the UK, the manner of interception is not revealed to the accused, as this may prejudice further investigations by exposing the technology driving such investigations. Disclosure of the existence of an intercept is a criminal offence in the UK.
If anything, the law when it comes into effect will make it even harder to prosecute terrorists who already have more than 90 per cent chance of being acquitted, should they even find themselves in court. The bill needs more extensive forethought.
The one good thing about it is that there is a one-year time limit in which the government can correct any defects, so if it is signed into law shortly then not only will the rules have to be written to make it operational, but someone is going to be extremely busy in righting all the wrongs contained within it.

The writer is a security analyst.

Aid and achievement

By Rafia Zakaria

SPEAKING at an event in Jacobabad last week, US Ambassador Richard Olson said that his country would continue to build “a long-term partnership with Pakistan by extending cooperation in several key areas.
The ambassador was in the city to inaugurate a medical facility built through funds received from USAID and to meet local leaders and inform them about the projects being undertaken in the area. The US, the ambassador reiterated, is “committed to strengthening the foundation on which Pakistan can build a more prosperous future”.
A day or so before the ambassador delivered his speech in Pakistan; President Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union address of his second term. The speech was replete with new policy proposals on a variety of topics, from clean energy to jobs and immigration. In the bit
about immigration, President Obama presented some details about a new visa program that his administration is developing together with American technology companies. The speech did not provide many details of the plan which seeks to enable companies in the US to keep skilled workers and to attract innovators.
More details emerged a few days later when US senators introduced a bill called Startup 3.0. The bill, which is being touted as a bipartisan effort supported both by Republicans and Democrats, seeks to create a new skilled visa category for immigration to the US. Named the STEM visa, the programme seeks to increase by 75,000 the currently capped quota of visas available to highly skilled workers and enable international Masters and PhD students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM fields) in US institutions to avail a path to citizenship. The idea is simple: if the best talent that is being nurtured by these institutions is kept in the country, then their capabilities and research skills remain there too.
In addition to creating the new visa, the bill would also help secure 50,000 visas for foreign-born entrepreneurs that raise up to $100,000 in startup funding to start technology-based businesses in the US, demonstrate the ability to hire more staff and create jobs. The bill also contains tax breaks for foreign investors in these areas and other regulatory reforms that would reduce the number of obstacles faced by foreign-born innovators from doing business and developing companies in the US.
The bill comes in the footsteps of several other measures incubating in the Senate and the House that focus on increasing the number of H-1B visas available to skilled workers seeking permanent residence in the country. Some of these moves — a departure from the aversion American politicians have had to the idea of bringing in competition for US workers that are facing a job crisis — came after a visit by 12 CEOs from Silicon Valley who told senators and members of Congress the frustrations of trying to develop startup businesses in the country.
These developments are good, and those that stand to benefit most from them were paying attention. On the heels of President Obama’s words, Indian newspapers and media reported at length on the new effort, several of them noting that the additional 75,000 visas a year for immigrant entrepreneurs and 50,000 visas for foreign-born STEM students were designed to attract more Indian students to stay in the US or develop their startup companies on American shores. Their calculations may be right; not only is India experiencing unprecedented growth in its own technology sector, but a large percentage of Indian students studying in American universities are enrolled in STEM fields.
This provides an interesting and unique challenge to Pakistan which, if Ambassador Olson’s words are any indicator, is negotiating its own terms of friendship with the US. Pakistani science and technology students, while having tremendous talent, are often stymied in their ability to develop ideas or partake of an education at research institutions in the US.
Much of this is owing to the mistrust between the two countries and the security issues of clearance and background checks that impose huge and often damning delays, even when Pakistani students are accepted by US institutions on merit scholarships.
In effect, these delays, obstacles and refusals serve to keep Pakistani technology and science students out of the global labour workforce that the US is hoping to attract. When Pakistani students with exemplary grades and impressive ideas face the wall of suspicion that is the current visa regime between the US and Pakistan, they are effectively excluded from international competition and from the ability to develop ideas that can benefit not simply Pakistan but the world in general.
The USAID projects that Ambassador Olson spoke about last week — the dispensary in rural, healthcare-deprived Jacobabad and numerous other similarly well-intentioned initiatives dotted all over Pakistan —ultimately seek to build trust with Pakistan and convince the Pakistani people that American commitment to them is substantive. If this is indeed so, then one way to do it would be to discuss ways in which Pakistani students that obtain scholarships to US universities to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics can be permitted to avail of these opportunities and not turned away at the door of opportunity and achievement.
Aid projects see a lack of services, a want, a need — be it literacy or sanitation or healthcare — and try to fill that need by resources from an external source. Whatever the individual dynamics of an aid project may be, its core identity is as an act of charity, benevolently given.
Rewarding achievement by recognising the merit that is present — the potential that exists — is, instead, an exchange of equality. In the wake of so many failed overtures of trust and cooperation, perhaps the US and Pakistan can consider trying this one.

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

A partial reckoning

By Mahir Ali

ABDUL Quader Mollah certainly did himself no favours when, earlier this month, he flashed a smile and a V-sign as he emerged from a hearing of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Dhaka that had just sentenced him to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh’s struggle for independence in 1971.
The culprit’s body language, interpreted as an indication that he felt he had got off lightly, helped to spark off mass protests in the Bangladeshi capital’s Shahbagh area, with thousands demanding the death penalty for Mollah and others who are believed to have collaborated in the Pakistan army’s alleged campaign of mass extermination nearly 42 years ago.
Following several days of sustained demonstrations in Shahbagh and other parts of the country, as well as clashes between police and activists of the Jamaat-i-Islami that Mollah belongs to, Bangladeshs parliament has approved legislative amendments that permit government prosecutors to appeal the sentence.
The changes have elicited cautionary statements from organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both of which justifiably abhor the death penalty, amid concerns that the trial process itself has failed to measure up to international standards.
The ruling Awami League fulfilled a campaign promise by setting up the ICT in 2010, but the subsequent legal process has been beset by allegations that it is part of a political vendetta. The list of accused thus far features mostly members of the Jamaat, plus two members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The latter is the League’s chief political rival and the Jamaat is its long-standing ally.
However, no one can seriously question the Jamaat’s collaborationist role in the nine-month gestation period that foreshadowed the birth of Bangladesh. A quarter-century earlier, its all-India incarnation had resisted the formation of Pakistan, albeit for all the wrong reasons. In 1971, its cadres in East Pakistan made common cause with what was widely perceived as an occupation army and supplied many, if not most, of the recruits for the so-called razakar (or volunteer) brigades Al Badr and Al Shams that perpetrated and facilitated atrocities on a barely imaginable scale.
Sure, they may have been puppets in a historical tragedy, but they cast themselves in that role. It is all but impossible, in this context, to argue with the concept of trials for the guilty. Justice delayed is better than justice denied. But it is crucial that the legal process to be above suspicion. And whereas one can appreciate where the demand for capital punishment is coming from, it deserves to be deplored. Inhumane punishment can only tarnish the otherwise understandable urge for a reckoning.
It should — but, unfortunately, doesn’t — go without saying that war crimes trials in relation to the atrocities in East Pakistan ought to have been conducted in Pakistan, with the primary perpetrators in the dock. That wasn’t to be. In fact, quite to the contrary, the general internationally derided as ‘the butcher of Bengal’ became the army chief in what remained of Pakistan and received a carte blanche, barely a couple of years after his exploits on Bangladeshi territory, to deal with ‘miscreants’ in Balochistan.
The consequences of that monumental folly are still being played out four decades later, but there’s at least equal cause for consternation in the Pakistan Army’s enduring tendency to deploy surrogates to do its dirty work, which first surfaced during 1947-48 in Kashmir. Recent echoes of the razakar militias deployed to assist in the attempted abortion of Bangladesh can, meanwhile, be found in outfits such as Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The latter has claimed responsibility for both the unconscionable instances of carnage in Quetta this year, yet ostensibly remains untouchable. After the first massacre of Hazara innocents, the regime in Islamabad eventually sacked the provincial administration and instituted governor’s rule. That proved to be a futile gesture, and now even Balochistan’s governor has noted that either cowardice or incompetence is bound to be responsible for the security agencies’ failure to thwart a repeat of the January bomb attack.
The Guardian quotes Hamid Mir, not renowned as a military critic, as saying: “Some of these people who go by the name of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are part of the same private death squads created by the security agencies against Baloch militants. Yes, sometimes they oblige the security agencies by taking action against the Baloch militants, but on the other hand they quietly organise their own actions against the Shia community.”
The nexus between segments of the army and the forces of fundamentalism, forged long ago and solidified during the years of General Ziaul Haq’s odious misrule, continues to be a debilitating aspect of Pakistan’s structure. In 1971, it helped to bury the residue of what was arguably anyhow an unsustainable concept, contributing considerably in the process to the pain and misery of separation. Its role in the relatively short-term future may well entail putting paid to what remains.
Representatives of the Hazaras have used the word “genocide” to describe the hunted community’s predicament. The same term frequently surfaces in descriptions of the unforgivable events of 1971. One of its earliest uses was as a headline in the Sunday Times above a groundbreaking article by the Pakistani journalist Anthony Mascarenhas, who had been given a tour of the battleground by the army but felt free to describe what he had witnessed only once he and his family found refuge in Britain.
Just a couple of years after the catastrophe, the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz memorably lamented: Kab nazar mein aaye gi bedaagh sabze ki bahaar / Khoon ke dhabe dhulein ge kitni barsaaton ke baad [When will we gaze upon the untainted verdure of spring / How many monsoons will it take to wash away the bloodstains?]
He was writing about Bangladesh following a visit to Dhaka. A few decades hence, it has become pertinent to pose the same questions about Pakistan.


America and the drone issue

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh

SINCE my last article the debate in Washington on drones continues .
The confirmation of John Brennan as the new CIA chief has been put off, with Senator Rand Paul of the Select Intelligence Committee saying that he would not permit a vote until his question on whether the president had the authority to use a drone strike against a US citizen on US soil was satisfactorily answered. Brennan, in his written reply, had only said “the administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so”.
The congressional debate, however, is clearly focused on the conditions that should attach to the use of drones on US territory or against US citizens. It certainly does not lean towards banning the use of drones for attacking non-US citizens in foreign countries. On that score, all Congress seems to be demanding is that there should be more information shared with it and that, in some cases, drone operations should be subject to judicial approval.
President Barack Obama has said that he would work with Congress to craft a mechanism that would make the drone campaign more open. Brennan himself favours transferring most drone operations to the Department of Defence, which Congress believes tends to be more open to sharing sensitive information. Brennan has also said that even though the option of having a special court to oversee drone operations was complicated, it was worth considering. It is not clear whether the proposed court would consider all strikes or only those against American citizens whose right to life under the American constitution could not be taken away without “due process”.
This debate will probably end next week when Brennan will be confirmed. It will probably be preceded by an announcement that henceforth, most but not all drone operations would be conducted by the defence department and even perhaps by the setting up of a special court which alone would authorise the placing of the name of an American citizen on the drone ‘kill list’.
For our region, however, this debate is not relevant. The current discussion in Congress builds upon what has been called the ‘playbook’ that was being drawn up by the administration to govern the use of drones during Obama’s second term. This playbook was endorsed by various American agencies only when it was agreed that for the next year or more the drone campaign against targets in our region would be exempt from the restrictions that were being envisaged.
This was reported by the Washington Post on Jan 19 and was based on interviews with US officials. There is no doubt in my mind that these interviews were authorised and certainly, there has been no contradiction despite the uproar this caused in Pakistan.
From the perspective of US planners, this exemption was understandable. It was inconceivable that in a nation that prides itself on being a ‘nation of laws’, a playbook seeking approval for “signature strikes” — that is, strikes against groups that had over an extended period of observation betrayed terrorist intent even though no specific individuals had been identified — or for treating all adult males in a particular area as combatants would be considered legal even if the justice department resorted to ‘legalisms’ to justify illegal acts. After all, as the Washington Post reported, American officials believe that they killed more Al Qaeda leaders in signature strikes than when they attacked clearly identified Al Qaeda operatives.
Again, treating all male adults in the vicinity of a drone attack as combatants made it easy to claim that annual civilian fatalities in drone attacks had been in the single digits despite relatively clear evidence to the contrary. Above all, this exemption permitted a higher tempo of drone attacks before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
One must therefore assume that drone attacks in the Pak-Afghan region will continue and will be the principal reason for the Americans to maintain a residual military presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Nato forces is completed in 2014.
There is no doubt that in international law drone attacks are illegal. Objections on this score are justified even though people might argue that our sovereignty in these areas has been in name only for many years. More importantly, we have also been conditioned to believe that drone attacks are detrimental to Pakistan’s interest. As a result, surveys have established that 95 per cent of Pakistanis who know about drones consider them a bad or very bad thing.
Is this true? Today we are being torn apart by sectarian and extremist violence in areas far removed from the tribal areas. The over 80 people, mainly Hazaras, who died in Quetta last week were not killed by people who had been radicalised by the drones. In the tribal areas thousands of people, including virtually all the Maliks, were killed by people whose agendas had been set long before drone attacks were intensified.
I suspect also that our own military offensives — because our weapons are less precise — have caused more civilian casualties than the drones. That is why we have urged the Americans to transfer this technology to us.
Our interior ministry has put out figures on the number of civilians killed in drone attacks. To promote rational and pragmatic debate the ministry should also compile figures of the innocent civilians killed deliberately by the militants and the civilians killed inadvertently in our own military offensives. It would also help if we had an estimate of the number of people who fled their homes because of the drones, the number who fled because of the militants and the number who fled because of army offensives.
We might then reach the conclusion that the benefits outweigh the costs and educate our public accordingly. We could then focus on securing a greater say in targeting policy and thus ensure that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is targeted along with Al Qaeda and foreign militants. One report says that Mullah Fazlullah, who is held responsible for the attack on Malala and earlier on American forces, is now a priority for the drone operators and that there are “assets focused on killing him”. If this is true, it may be an indication of the direction cooperation, not confrontation, can take.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

The ghouls of South Asia

By Jawed Naqvi

WHEN South Asian leaders met at their first summit in Dhaka in 1985 there were just two democracies among the seven-member states that formed Saarc at the time — Sri Lanka and India.
The remaining five leaders comprised two military usurpers, including the host, representatives of two absolute monarchies, and an interloper who passed for a permanent head of a picturesque atoll.
You would have thought that the two representative states flaunting names such as Dudley Senanayake and Jawaharlal Nehru among their founders would have a natural moral edge over the hoi polloi dictators and autocrats in the neighbourhood who abused and mistreated their people at will.
The bitter truth is that some of the most egregious human rights violations in South Asia have been committed and are still being perpetrated by the two ‘gold standard’ democracies.
There is nothing novel though about self-regarding democracies becoming susceptible to the malaise of blood lust. The United States, Britain and France are among the current vanguards of rights abuse at a global scale. The colonial global onslaught in the 18th century was directed from the mother of all parliaments in London.
Still, if there is anything worse than the pain they inflict on their own people — the more powerful democracies inflict it on others — it is their penchant for mutual collusion in the macabre ordeal they subject their quarries to.
A new documentary by Britain’s Channel 4 on the military pogroms carried out by the Sri Lankan rulers against the island’s minority Tamils has pitted India against its own conscience, depleted though it may be after the trials and tribulations it has wreaked in Manipur and Kashmir as well as on a growing number of hinterland regions.
The latest revelations from Sri Lanka focus on more blood-curdling abuse of the Tamil people. The fresh narrative is pegged on a “victory trophy” the soldiers captured in their racist enterprise that purported to target the Tamil Tiger rebels.
The victory insignia is the pictures of the 12-year-old son of Tiger chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran the soldiers took while he was in their custody looking frightened and nibbling at a cookie. The next shot is that of the boy’s bullet-riddled body.
As always, the Sri Lankan government was prompt to deny any wrongdoing as it described the pictures as fabrication. A right-wing Brahmin leader who claims to speak for India’s Tamils was against New Delhi’s intervention in the affair.
“Support for such adventurist resolutions will make India vulnerable to future resolutions on Kashmir and Manipur,” Subramaniam Swamy reasoned. He was referring to a rare US-backed resolution to be taken up soon against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Navanethem Pillay on her part spoke bluntly when she accused the Sri Lankan government this week of “triumphalism” in the Tamil north, home of the vanquished Tamil Tiger insurgency. In a report published on Monday, she said that civilians in the area called the “Vanni” were not allowed to commemorate the memory of those killed in the war.
She would perhaps note a similarity in this with the weeklong military curfew slapped on Kashmir after the secret execution of Afzal Guru on Feb 9. The fear of people commemorating their tragedy is common among many states.
Guru’s family received a letter two days after his hanging to inform them officially of the decision to kill him. Why Guru was hanged ahead of others on the death row may never be known.
The waitlist included a Sikh separatist, who unlike the executed Kashmiri, has expressed pride in his killing of a Sikh chief minister of Punjab, a controversial Congress leader.
Again unlike Guru, the Sikh radical Balwant Singh Rajoana, wears his militant links as a badge of honour. He has dared India to hang him, though one hopes there is a sliver of sanity still left in Delhi and he is denied his passionate request to be martyred.
Let’s also hope that the Indian parliament doesn’t take up the proposal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to debate whether Guru’s body should be returned to his family. Let us not make his macabre death even more ghoulish by fighting over his body for that is unlikely to change the Kashmiri narrative of injustice under military occupation.
The blood lust is getting more pervasive among the younger citizens. A massive crowd of youngsters has been gathering in Dhaka’s Shahbagh square to demand the hanging of a Jamaat-i-Islami leader who evidently played a role in the army’s rape and plunder of Bangladesh when it was still part of Pakistan.
In India, bands of youth nudged by right-wing parties want rapists to be hanged. As the economies shrink the bloody chorus will get even louder.
In Sri Lanka’s Tamil north, museums and memorials commemorating the victors have sprung up across the province. These, in Ms Pillay’s words, “tend to use triumphalist images from which the local population feels a strong sense of alienation”.
Sri Lanka’s vehement denial of rights abuse is of a piece with all other South Asian countries, including Pakistan’s stance on Balochistan where the army has run riot for decades.
I happened to be the judge in a mock TV trial of former Indian army chief Gen V.K. Singh. Amid the orchestrated cheering for revenge against Pakistan, China and whoever else, a young Muslim boy asked why the Indian army was mistreating Kashmiris.
“Have faith in your army. There’s no such thing happening,” the young man was informed tersely amid louder applause. This is the danger we are all facing in South Asia — the pervasive blood lust, and the ghoulish applause.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Costly appeasement

By I.A. Rehman

THE past week has left the Pakistanis grappling with two serious issues: they cannot protect the Hazara Shias of Quetta, nor can they resist the armed extremists. The result of the failure to resolve these issues cannot be contemplated with equanimity.
On Jan 10 more than 100 Hazara Shias were killed in an area dominated by them but where people belonging to other communities were also living. Barely five weeks later, the terrorists attacked them in their exclusive settlement — Hazara Town — and caused the death of over 90 innocent citizens. The beleaguered community was again driven to despair, delaying the burial of the dead and staging sit-ins.
As usual the latest outrage has been strongly condemned by the government and leaders of political parties. Their cliché-ridden rhetoric carries little force because they only condemn the foul deed and lack the guts to unmask its perpetrators beyond describing them as terrorists. They refuse to come out of their make-believe world.
They know the reason why the Shias are being killed and yet they keep pretending to be ignorant of it. They are aware of the identity of the culprits and yet they keep organising missions to find out who they are. The naivety of the country’s ruling elite is matched fully by the Quetta Hazaras themselves when they ask for their city to be handed over to the army.
After the January bloodbath, the Raisani ministry was sacked. That the Hazara Shias have fared no better under governor raj proves that the culprits are stronger (or enjoy the patronage of elements that are stronger) than elected ministers and the bureaucratic apparatus headed by the governor. That confirms that a mere change of guard is not going to end the Hazara Shias’ plight. The stark reality is that those who can deal with the culprits do not wish to do so.
The anti-Shia pogroms in Quetta raise many critical questions and somebody has to answer them: how has Balochistan been captured by forces of religious intolerance? Why did all those engaged in hunting down the Baloch nationalists not notice the mushrooming of religious seminaries across the province or were these centres encouraged as an antidote to the Baloch yearning for autonomy?
Are the Hazara Shias of Quetta being punished for not being landlords or for being more interested in education than others, or for holding somewhat liberal views on women’s rights?
Do these Hazaras have any jobs or businesses and enterprises left with them that their less capable rivals covet? Has any serious effort been made to find out why a large number of Hazara Shia young men have tried to seek asylum in Australia and elsewhere? Has Punjab’s government done anything to stop the export of terrorists to Balochistan? Besides targeted killings there are several aspects of the Hazara Shias’ ordeal that need to be addressed.
Some people might not see any nexus between the killing of Shias in Quetta, or in Gilgit-Baltistan, Fata and Karachi, and to some extent even in Punjab, and the extremists’ challenge to the state of Pakistan in the tribal belt and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A brief reflection will be enough to find that the two issues are interlinked. Also it will be realised that the decision of last Friday’s all-parties conference to negotiate with the Taliban will increase the threat to the country’s democratic premise and the pluralist complexion of its society.
This conference was not sponsored by the state but its call for negotiations with the militants carries as much weight as state policy because it enjoyed the backing of the parties in power and in opposition both, and they have, unwittingly perhaps, helped the forces that are battling the state. Any appeasement of the extremists now will inevitably lead to a costlier surrender by the state.
The factors that impelled the ANP to convene this conference as well as its need for a safe playing ground during the general election can easily be appreciated. It might also be under pressure to heal the intra-Pakhtun split. But it is extremely doubtful that it will gain anything by embracing the Taliban at this point in time.
This does not mean a rejection of the principle of solving all problems through negotiations. A time may come when talks with militants could be mutually beneficial but as matters stand today Pakistan will only court disaster by entering into a dialogue with the militant forces. The reasons are many.
There is an open disagreement between Islamabad and the Taliban on the timing for cessation of armed confrontation and terrorist raids. The former’s demand that a ceasefire should precede negotiations has been turned down by the latter, which has declared that a ceasefire could only follow successful conclusion of negotiations. More importantly it is difficult to see what the Taliban can offer.
The authors of the conference declaration apparently believe they have acquired a safety cover by stipulating that any settlement with the Taliban will be within the limits of the constitution. The Taliban will agree and argue that they only want the constitutional requirement of enforcing the Sharia to be honoured. None of the leading political parties in the country today will contest this.
The sticking point will be the militants’ claim that they alone have the right to interpret the Sharia. But to accept any group’s monopoly over interpreting the Sharia will be as contrary to the Sharia as anything else.
The militants have repeatedly declared that they have a religious duty to kill all renegades and heretics and they cannot stop attacking the Pakistani state and anyone who is aligned with their enemies because that would amount to abandoning a duty ordained by belief. Their minimum demand could be a revival of the Zia regime. The only party that has to yield anything is the hapless state of Pakistan.
Negotiations with militants will mean making Pakistan’s constitutional order subject to the outcome of a theological disputation. How will the concept of Pakistan as a federal democracy, governed by elected representatives, survive?
It is possible that some politicians think they will be able to manage the militant hardliners by giving them inconsequential concessions. They will be as thoroughly disappointed as the authors and defenders of the Objectives Resolution have been. The policy of appeasing the obscurantists has never worked throughout the last six decades and will not work now either.
The pressure on the state in the north and the killing of the Hazaras in Balochistan constitute a pincer movement against the Pakistan state by a force that begins by claiming custodianship of the true Islam and goes on to call for a theocracy as an unavoidable consequence.
There can be no peace in any part of the country unless all energies are directed towards raising the bulwark of a pluralist democracy and leaving the people free to follow their beliefs in private life.

Conflict economics

By Khurram Husain

A PARANOID style of thinking is entrenching itself in our country, and a bizarre reading of our economic challenges and destiny lies at the root of it.
Over the last couple of days, while our airwaves have been full of talk about the bombings of the Hazaras, we’ve heard some fairly strange conversations taking place in the public domain.
For one, there is a line doing the rounds which begins by asking whether or not there is a connection between the Quetta bombings on the one hand, and Pakistan advancing matters with the Iranians on the gas pipeline, and the Chinese regarding Gwadar port, on the other.
In one TV programme, we saw senior-level politicians, including one who has served as minister petroleum, actually seriously discussing this line in connection with the Quetta bombings!
Another line argues that Pakistan’s enemies are trying to pin us down by sponsoring instability in the west, which begs a simple question: how on earth are anybody’s interests served by instability in Pakistan?
One answer to this question was provided by another TV fellow, a formerly highly rated anchor who fell on bad days, who was seen speculating on air about the “trillions of dollars” of mineral riches that lie buried beneath the soil in Afghanistan, and how “all wars in our day and age are about the economy, aren’t they?”
This was his final thought for the viewer before signing off on a programme that was supposed to be about the growing wave of violence against Pakistan’s Shia minority.
Another highly rated anchor, in his trademark breathless style, superimposed the arrival of David Cameron in India at the head of a large delegation of investors, with the growing violence in Pakistan to produce a rather stunning contrast between what is happening in the two countries.
This was useful until he started talking about the hidden enemies of Pakistan who want to see the country divided, and were targeting the security forces in particular. Security and prosperity were clumsily woven together in a short narrative burst and left the viewer wondering what the real intention of the anchor was all along.
The paranoia is growing, and I fear that the more confusing things become and the more unsettled the state of affairs, the more space paranoid analysts have to splash their insanity upon.
It’s useful to bear in mind, through the rubble and wreckage of the moment, that there are deep economic dysfunctions that are driving this country towards an increasingly anarchic state of affairs. But it’s also useful to have a clear idea of what those dysfunctions really are.
For one, our economic difficulties stem largely from not having taken certain critical decisions over the last two decades. Time has not yet run out, but before those decisions can be taken the problems need to first be seen in their proper light.
We’re not the only country in the world struggling with an energy crisis. Nor are we the only ones with a sharply rising debt burden. We’re also not the only one stuck on the road to tax reform.
Restructuring vast sectors of the economy, restraining expenditures and raising revenues, especially in times of recession, are difficult decisions to implement anywhere.
These problems need not cripple us the way they have, and in many cases, the way forward has been known for a very long time.
Complicating the picture for Pakistan is the power exerted by a hidden economy. We have an economy that has amongst the largest currency in circulation to bank deposit ratios in the world, meaning much of our cash never sees the inside of a bank, but circulates forever outside the jurisdiction of the monetary authorities of the country.
And a further complication is the presence of a large conflict economy along the western borderlands which is impervious to the policy instruments that operate east of the Indus.
Evidence of this conflict economy, and its true scale, reveals itself in patches here and there in the official data releases, but you don’t see it anywhere in the larger macroeconomic data.
So the weight of history, combined with a growing undocumented economy, is providing fertile ground for militant groups and organisations to strike roots in the country that makes them resilient and able to sprout up again after an “operation” to eliminate them.
This is the economic story we need to understand very urgently, because without draining this swamp of an undocumented economy we’ll at best be swatting the militants away from time to time only to watch them grow back all over again.
In a sense, two stories can be seen to blend with each other here, like the confluence of two mighty rivers. One is the steady emergence of an economic space that lies completely beyond the reach of the state, although it
interacts intimately with large formal-sector players of the settled economy.
The other mighty river is of course the emergence of a large militant nexus that is threatening our future with increasing ferocity every day. And when these two mighty stories merge, they create a powerful momentum towards an anarchic economic state of affairs, which becomes self-perpetuating.
Every tool at our disposal needs to be used to fight this growing menace. It is good to see some awakening in our society against the menace of extremism, but this popular awakening will mean nothing, and the operations launched in the troubled areas will amount to nothing, if they are not backed up by a set of reforms to put our economy on a sustainable footing.
Key to this is increasing visibility of individual transactions. In short, rebuilding the capillaries of the state is crucial to fighting this war.

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

Optimism of the will

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

ARGUABLY the most prominent dimension of the latest round of dharnas against the killings of Hazara Shia in Quetta was the participation and leading role of youth.
When Shia and Hazara community leaders agreed to end the protest on Tuesday night, the youth refused to comply, relenting only after great efforts to placate them.
That almost all the young people present were vociferous in their demand that the army be given full control of Quetta city is disturbing, but not unexpected.
Pakistan’s youth is generally understood to be relatively uninterested in the affairs of the state, and prone to making common cause with what might be called ‘patriots’ in all fields of life. In the case of a relatively insular community such as the Hazara, the prevalence of an uncomplicated ‘black or white’ worldview is hardly surprising.
Yet even while the young men, women, boys and girls participating in the dharna were calling for the army to take over, their desperation betrayed rapid politicisation. It is these youth that symbolise the collective trauma to which the Hazara community has been subject over the past few months. And it is these same youth whose politics will evolve in the months to come.
Indeed, whether they admit to it or not, young people in today’s Pakistan are inevitably the carriers of the ideologies of the groups from which they hail.
In the case of the Hazara Shia — a relatively educated community integrated into formal economic and political institutions — young people will be forced to reconsider their unthinking ‘patriotism’ if their current predicament does not subside.
And because of their greater access to the media, young Hazara will end up representing the (quickly evolving) political position of their community.
A cursory look at other contemporary nationalist movements within Pakistan — most of which have a much longer history of ‘unpatriotism’ — confirms the central role of educated youth.
Indeed, an argument can be made that the propertied classes and ‘elders’ who exercised a virtual monopoly on the discourse and practice of the movement in years past are quickly being eclipsed by a globally connected younger generation.
To take the most obvious example: the tone and tenor of the ongoing Baloch national movement is increasingly determined by its younger cadres. Schools, colleges and universities across Balochistan — or at the very least the Baloch-majority areas of that province — have become the breeding grounds of nationalist politics. It is from these breeding grounds that militants draw their strength.
Kashmiri, Sindhi and even Seraiki nationalisms are similarly reliant on young people. These nationalisms are less radical than the Baloch variety but more radical than the Hazara variety.
Yet even where complete rupture is not the objective of the movement, the youth are drawn to revolutionary imaginaries, whatever their type. In a country where almost two-thirds of the population is under the age of 23, and there is increasingly little chance of integration into crumbling formal political and economic structures, let alone resisting state-sponsored terror, the lure of liberation ideologies is hardly surprising.
This growing youth bulge in political movements is not just a function of the current conjuncture in Pakistan. Around the world young people who are able to bridge social and other divides through the use of new technologies are at the forefront of responses to societal and global crises of various kinds.
The Occupy movements in North America and Europe, the radical student movement in Chile and the Arab ‘revolutions’ that have unfolded over the past two years are all pertinent examples.
There is no guarantee that youth — like any other social group — align themselves with a progressive political ideology or movement. In the case of nationalist movements, as I have mentioned above, the primary commitment is to the ‘liberation’ of one’s own ethnic-national community.
In contemporary Pakistan young people are attracted to a host of other political movements and organisations, including right-of-centre formations like the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI).
Youth have also been consistently pushed in the direction of jihadi militancy due to state ideology and the network of educational and welfare institutions run by the religious right.
If there is one similarity between all of these contemporary movements within Pakistan, it is that they rally young people around constructed identities that are relatively exclusive.
In comparison, young people in an erstwhile era were attracted more to movements that sought to bring together diverse ethnic and religious groups on the basis of universalistic principles such as class struggle and resistance to imperialism.
Indeed, even if one compares movements within Pakistan to those in the rest of the world that I have listed, the difference in composition and objectives is readily apparent.
This does not necessarily make any one kind of movement more or less legitimate than any other. But it does indicate which ideologies are currently circulating within the specifically Pakistani context.
In fact, ethnicity and religion (or sect) have been major signifiers in Pakistan since the very beginning because Pakistani nationalism was — and still is — built around Islam. The role of these identities has only intensified since the dark days of Gen Ziaul Haq.
Ethnic-national movements are generally far more progressive than religious ones, but the overall trajectory of politics in Pakistan over
the past couple of decades has not been particularly reassuring.
It is thus that the young people who are becoming the face of this politics of identity will come to play a decisive role — knowingly or otherwise — in charting the future of this country.
Only time will tell whether or not this relatively educated segment of society can bridge the ethnic and sectarian divides that become apparent with each passing day, or if instead it becomes the unwitting agent of the state’s long-term project of sponsoring parochial ideologies.
At the very least, young people will eventually establish the truth about the ‘patriots’ to whom they have always been taught devotion. In fact, I would like to believe that there is hope yet that youth in today’s world can still be drawn towards inclusive political projects that emphasise a rejection of all forms of oppression, including the structures of capitalist imperialism that both divide us and bring us all together.
Hope is, of course, not quite enough. History, however, is testimony to the ability of the young amongst us to challenge the pessimism of the intellect with the optimism of the will.

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

When a state is dysfunctional

By Abbas Nasir

WHO knows what a failed state is? Such definitions are for the academics and experts. But what one can easily ascertain is a state that is dysfunctional.
For what would you call a state that has neither the power to generate resources and tax those who need to be taxed, nor the system or even the need to ensure that it accounts for what it spends? It can keep piling up a huge deficit without question and have nothing to show for it.
What would you call a state that cannot deliver the very least: the safety of life and limb to its citizens? Where if you particularly happened to be in the smaller provinces the only thing you could get by on is your faith. Yes, God remains the only recourse.
It has to be a dysfunctional state where those who call for their legitimate inalienable rights can be picked up in the dead of night and be found weeks or months later in a ditch with telltale signs of what happens if you take your fundamental rights too seriously; where in one part of the country police officers such as Malik Saad, Sifwat Ghayur and hundreds of nameless others whose sacrifices are as worthy as those named, write a final, valiant chapter in their blood.
At the same time an ‘anti-terror’ police boss in another part of the country cuts deals with sectarian murderers to leave his jurisdiction alone reportedly in exchange for safe passage for operations elsewhere and is rewarded with promotions. The sectarian groups are much stronger as a result.
Take Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and more recently Bashir Bilour. All these politicians stood like a rock in defying the terrorists, bigots and intolerant ideologies — until they were cut down by the terrorists.
Have you ever seen a person with greater courage than that Pakhtunkhwa minister Mian Iftikhar whose son was mowed down in a hail of Taliban bullets? Neither his grief nor personal loss forced him to bend his resolve.
These are high-profile figures. Can we look at those they left behind in the eye and assure them that the sacrifices of their loved ones were not in vain? Go ahead if you can but I, for one, will be too ashamed to even contemplate doing any such thing.
Is there a point in trying to remember Asiya Bibi? Well done, we can say to ourselves for at least we recall her name.
Do we recall a single name of the many, many Christians who died when their entire neighbourhood was torched in that Punjab village? Godhra, was it?
Surely, we have expressed such outrage over the mass murder of Shia-Hazaras in recent days that we’d be able to think of the victims in terms other than mere statistics. But we can’t. If it was 200 Shia Hazaras killed last year, a greater number has fallen in the first two months of 2013 alone.
We are not supposed to have photographic memories so how can we name a single Hindu woman converted forcibly to Islam. Of course, if (yes, if) the state was not dysfunctional such incidents would be the exception, not the norm. We’d remember the one or two victims.
Now that the state has stood by, paralysed by fear or expediency, we have let armed zealots show all minorities their place. Christians and Hindus couldn’t be more marginalised. The Ahmadi community has been taught how safe it is for them to bow before their God in their place of worship.
Yes, now it is the turn of the ‘minority’ Muslim sect, the Shias, they consider an ‘arrogant’ lot who openly exercise their religious freedom. This too must end. Bomb their congregations; shoot their community notables and who knows they’ll also be subdued into abandoning their faith.
What next? Oh yes plenty left. There are many whose Islamic rituals and practices differ from ours. And religion must not have room for diversity. We must find and exterminate all who don’t agree with what we believe Islam to be.
Next it’ll be women. Lock them up for they aren’t equal citizens of the country; shameless that we have women working side by side with men in most urban centres. They even go to schools, colleges and universities and aspire for careers! Do they think they live in the 21st century?
Surely, they don’t. We’ll make them see their reality. What else will be our fate when we await an ever-elusive consensus while an existential threat snowballs? You and I can simmer and explode all we want.
The vision and the wisdom of the decision-makers can hardly be expected to deliver in such ‘unimportant’ areas. When the Kerry-Lugar legislation was passed, nobody needed a consensus to oppose the principle of civilian supremacy in matters of the state.
When memogate surfaced whatever its merits, extremely dodgy to the naked eye, neither the politicians nor the defenders of our territorial and ideological frontiers needed a consensus. And the courts to this day believe none is needed. Those were bigger threats to our integrity.
We have lost more of our brave sons, soldiers including officers of both regular and paramilitary forces, over the past five years than perhaps in any war that we have fought. And yet we await a consensus to establish whether the state or armed terrorists will rule over swathes of our territory.
An elected government came into being five years ago. It says its unprecedented achievement is completing its term; its unparalleled legislative record which will provide the glue to hold the federation together. All we can count is our dead. Men, women and children.
Now we are told a huge percentage of new young voters have been added to the electoral rolls. Youth represent a hope for tomorrow. Let’s hope that over the next five years we have to count fewer dead. Anything more will be too ambitious an ask.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Open season on Hazaras

By Irfan Husain

“AM I next?” asked the placard carried by a little Hazara girl in the aftermath of the most recent atrocity against her community in Quetta.
It speaks volumes for our collective impotence that not a single person in Pakistan from the president downwards can reassure her about her safety. So sadly, until she can move to a less violent and more tolerant country, she will have to live under the constant shadow of a terrorist attack.
The international community seems to be more aware of the danger the Hazaras are in than we are. Days after the most recent massacre, the Australian government has generously offered to take 2,500 families. And thousands of Hazaras have already fled abroad, legally or illegally, seeking asylum in safe, normal societies.
After days of peaceful protests that paralysed parts of several cities, things are back to normal, and the Hazaras have buried their dead. But apart from the routine, well-practised drill — suo motu proceedings, cabinet committees, transfer of the police chief, etc — little has changed.
Immediately following the Feb 16 slaughter, a spokesman for the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi called the media to claim responsibility and threaten more attacks, boasting that his organisation had 20 similar vehicles ready to kill yet more Hazaras. And given the incompetence of our security services, who can doubt the LJ’s ability to carry out their threat?
In a bid to distance themselves from any responsibility, both the ISI and Interior Minister Rehman Malik claimed that they had warned the provincial authorities about an impending attack on the Hazaras. But as hundreds of tankers daily bring water into a parched Quetta, this vague warning was like telling the cops to look for a needle in a haystack. What they have failed to explain is how the LJ was able to buy nearly a ton of explosive material in Lahore and transport it across hundreds of miles without let or hindrance.
I’m glad Imran Khan has finally climbed off the fence and condemned the LJ for this attack. But he needs to take the next rational and moral step, and realise that you cannot cherry-pick between these groups of killers. When he calls for negotiations with the Taliban, he should know that the LJ is not only the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s ideological clone, but is believed to often coordinate attacks with them.
Indeed, the presence of Ejaz Chaudhry, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s senior vice president, at rallies organised by the establishment-supported Difa-i-Pakistan Council last year, raised many questions. On the stage with him was Malik Mohammed Ishaq, a key LJ leader. Despite the ban on the LJ, leaders from this group have hardly bothered to conceal their presence in public.
This should not surprise us, given the fact that Ishaq was freed on bail by the Supreme Court in 2011, despite being accused of over 100 sectarian murders. Understandably, the Hazaras see a link between his release and the increase in the attacks targeting their community. In 2008, two LJ leaders mysteriously escaped from a high-security jail in Quetta’s army cantonment.
Rehman Malik has tried to pass the buck to the provincial authorities. But he needs to remember that after the Jan 10 attack that left over 100 Hazaras dead, Balochistan was placed under governor’s rule, thereby making the federal government responsible for security. Indeed, why he hasn’t had the decency to resign long ago is beyond me.
Some in government have tried to spin the recent attack as a foreign reaction to the decision to hand over Gwadar port to a Chinese firm for operational purposes. But this is clearly a red herring as no such decision had been finalised when the January attack took place. Indeed, Shias have been relentlessly targeted for years. A Shia doctor and his young son were gunned down in Lahore only days ago.
The desperate Hazaras have demanded that Quetta be handed over to the army to ensure security. But the truth is that the army is part of the problem as it has been the real power in the province for years. In an effort to quell the insurgency there, it has allegedly used extremist groups like the LJ to kill and kidnap Baloch nationalists. This is one reason the LJ feels it has carte blanche to go after the Hazaras.
The harsh reality is that over the years, Balochistan has become a cauldron of armed and dangerous gangs and militias of all kinds, pushing a wide range of religious, political and sectarian agendas. From the Afghan Taliban to the Baloch National Army to Jundullah, the province encompasses a witch’s brew of violent forces that are tearing it apart.
None of this provides any solace to the unfortunate Hazaras. Clearly, they cannot continue living in Balochistan with any degree of security. Even with the most efficient police and army — something we can hardly claim to have — there is little that can be done to stop determined suicide bombers.
As long as the poisonous Takfiri ideology justifying the murder of other Muslims is freely propagated in mosques and madressahs, deranged killers will continue to wreak havoc. And as long as our civilian and military security agencies can’t get their act together, innocent men, women and children will continue to be slaughtered.
No country in the world has suffered as much as Pakistan from religious violence, and no other country facing this threat has done so little to counter it. One would have thought that after two decades and over 40,000 dead, we would have figured out a way to tackle the terrorists. Other states have enacted robust laws, and put in place highly trained and well-armed anti-terrorist forces. Intelligence-sharing between agencies is routine.
In Pakistan, despite years of mayhem, our intelligence agencies keep information close to their chests, and federal and provincial governments seldom coordinate operations. And there is still no consensus among political parties about the existential danger extremism poses to Pakistan.
Tensions between the civilian government and the military leadership means that they are working at cross-purposes in what should be a united struggle against extremist forces.
Despite the outrage after the latest atrocity, I don’t expect things to change. The state has always relied on our short attention span: as soon as there is another attack, our focus will be diverted from the Quetta carnage. Soon, it will be business as usual for everybody except the Hazaras.

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

A reprehensible act

By A.G. Noorani

THE sheer folly of executing Afzal Guru in Tihar Jail in Delhi on Feb 9 was well described by an ambitious former intelligence chief: “It has the potential to take the valley several years back.” He said, “I was not expecting this to happen.”.
The biggest loser in this entire episode was Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. As the former RAW chief said, “He has completely lost his credibility in the Valley.”
He took over 24 hours to voice his indignation. His interview to Muzamil Jaleel of the Indian Express on Feb 10 gave him away completely. “Asked when he first learnt that Afzal was going to be executed, Abdullah said he was in Delhi on Friday (Feb 8) when the union home minister spoke to him. ‘I spoke to the governor and then to the DG police. Then we started planning for the aftermath,’ he said. ‘To be honest, when they executed Ajmal Kasab, we started expecting that this will happen.’” His “only job or role was to take care of the fallout”.
Omar Abdullah was in Delhi on Jan 31 when he met the United Progressive Alliance chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. By then, everyone knew that the execution was not far away.
If he was not informed, he ought to resign. If he was, as seems likely, he stands exposed. Indeed, he was responsible for preventing the assembly from debating a motion by the intrepid independent MLA from Langate, Abdul Rashid, demanding that Afzal Guru not be executed. The Tamil Nadu Assembly had freely passed a similar resolution on those convicted of the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.
The prolonged curfews and the house arrests and a Srinagar without newspapers for days, reveal a lot. Wrong as the decision was, it was also executed in a disgraceful manner. Syed Ali Shah Geelani was put under house arrest in a small room in New Delhi. His son-in-law, the distinguished journalist S. Iftikhar Gilani of the DNA was shabbily treated. So was his wife. The children were locked up in a room.
Comment in the mainstream media, especially on TV, reflected as always, a complete disconnect between New Delhi and Srinagar. The refrain was to let the law take its course. The Supreme Court had found him guilty and “politics should not be mixed with the law”.
Arundhanti Roy, as distinguished a public intellectual as she is a novelist, punctured holes in the judgments of the high court and the Supreme Court in a brilliant article and established to the hilt that the man was condemned unheard because he was undefended.
Politics do impact on the legal process. In Britain, there is a sharp difference between the “party political” and the “political” which bears on the interests of the realm. If Subhas Chandra Bose had not reportedly died in an air crash but was, instead, brought to India, tried and sentenced to imprisonment, can anyone doubt that the very first act of the interim government led by Jawaharlal Nehru would have been to free him?
If the Muslim Leaguers imprisoned in 1947 during the agitation against the unionist ministry of Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana had not been released by the governor, the Quaid-i-Azam was certain to have granted them a pardon no sooner had he became governor-general.
A comprehensive exposition of the law was made by the attorney general of England, Samuel Silkin, QC in the Sir George Bean Memorial Lecture in Manchester on Oct 29, 1978. He was explaining the law officers’ dilemma on law enforcement. “But what if their enforcement will lead inevitably to lawbreaking on a scale out of all proportions to that which is penalised or to consequences so unfair or so harmful as heavily to outweigh the harm done by the breach itself? … If I make my decision on a party political basis, I deserve all the criticisms which I am likely to receive. But if I ignore political considerations in the widest sense of that term, then I am failing in my responsibilities and courting disaster.” He was answerable to parliament and to the electorate.
In 1988, a noted judge Lord McCluskey complained that “vast numbers of people are being punished for crimes they did not commit”. Particularly common are unfair convictions in insurgency-affected situations, based on confessions obtained under duress. Four accused in the Irish Republican Army public house bombings in Guildford in 1974 spent 15 years in prison before the dishonesty of the police officers was exposed.
It was the same story in another equally famous case of The Birmingham Six. They were convicted of 21 counts of murder in 1974. They alleged that their confessions were not made voluntarily and the police officials who had interviewed them were guilty of perjury and violence. In 1991, however, their convictions were quashed as evidence surfaced of conspiracy by the police officers to pervert the course of justice.
Judges are not infallible and the Supreme Court’s use of emotive language in the Afzal Guru case revealed a lot. No prime minister has accused militants of “treason” as it did. Rulers in medieval times might have ordered humans to “become extinct”; surely judges are not supposed to.
Even as the evidence on the attack on Parliament House on Dec 13 2001 stood, Afzal Guru was, at best a bit-actor. No witness testified against him. The evidence was entirely circumstantial and lawyers assigned to him were either indifferent or hostile. The execution, intended to silence the Bharatiya Janata Party, will only whet its appetite.

The writer is an author and a lawyer.

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