DWS, Sunday 10th March to Saturday 16th March 2013
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NATIONAL NEWS

Imam among five killed as blast rocks Peshawar mosque

By Ali Hazrat Bacha

PESHAWAR, March 9: At least five worshippers, including the Imam (prayer leader), were killed and 29 others injured in a bomb blast inside a mosque in Peshawar on Saturday.
The explosive device, planted near the pulpit of the Bilal Masjid, on the city’s residential-cum-commercial Baqar Shah Street, exploded when people were offering Zuhr prayers. The blast left a deep crater in the mosque and damaged walls.
According to AFP, there were about 40 people in the mosque when the bomb went off.
The device carried four kilograms of explosives and was laced with ball bearings.
The mosque belongs to Barelvi sect and houses a madressah.
According to Shafqat Malik, in charge of the bomb disposal squad, the device was detonated through remote control.
The injured were taken to Lady Reading Hospital. Its chief executive, Prof Dr Arshad Javaid, said out of the 32 injured brought to the hospital, three had died.
He said 29 wounded people were under treatment and four of them were in a critical condition.
He said a number of people looking for their loved ones thronged the hospital, causing inconvenience for the administration.
Due to massive movement of onlookers and relatives of the victims, rescuers faced difficulty in shifting the wounded to hospitals. Police had to step in to force the crowd to leave the place.
“We tried to keep people away from the place of the explosion because militants often go for a second explosion.”
The dead were identified as prayer leader Shah Hussain, Bashir Khan, Mohmmad Ilyas, Jan Mohammad and Naveed Khan.
As word got around about the death of the prayer leader, many people broke into tears and started raising slogans.
“I have been saying prayers in this mosque for the past 10 years and never thought that such an ugly incident could happen in a holy place,” said Irfan Khan, a daily wager who suffered multiple wounds.
Fayyaz Khan, another injured, said he was in the third row during the prayers. “I fell on the ground when the blast rocked the mosque.
The injured started screaming and a thick column of black smoke engulfed the place of worship.”
The mosque had no security guards or volunteers to search people at its gate, he added.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf condemned the bombing and said in a statement: “Such acts of terror cannot weaken the nation’s resolve to wipe out terrorism from our society.”

Judicial commission on RPPs scam: SC to take up PM’s request tomorrow

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, March 9: Acceding instantly to a letter by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, the Supreme Court decided to start examining his request on Monday to appoint a judicial commission, headed by Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle, to investigate the Rs22 billion rental power projects (RPPs) scam.
After treating the letter as a civil miscellaneous application, its hearing was fixed before a bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Mr Ashraf, who has only one more week to go in the office of prime minister, had written the letter to the chief justice on Friday, requesting transfer of the investigation from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to a commission.
Dr Suddle had earlier investigated the Rs54bn Nato container scam and a financial dispute between Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the chief justice, and property tycoon Malik Riaz.
The court office issued a notice to Prime Minister Ashraf either to appear in person or through a counsel who had been appearing on his behalf in earlier proceedings.
Advocate Waseem Sajjad is expected to represent the prime minister since he had been pursuing a review petition against the March 30, 2012, overarching verdict of holding the government’s RPP plan as non-transparent.
However, the prime minister had withdrawn the case on Jan 21.
Sources said that the step had been taken because of apprehensions that adverse observations or an explicit order might compromise the situation of the prime minister.
On Jan 15, the court ordered NAB to get approved corruption references and arrest all the accused, including the prime minister.
With general election around the corner, a perceived smear campaign against the prime minister pushed him to write the letter suggesting that reassigning the probe to the commission would quell allegations that the government was trying to influence the investigation.
“With the NAB inquiry getting unduly prolonged and mired in all sorts of controversies, I feel hurt when my reputation and that of my family is continually tarnished by the subjective perception that I was in any way instrumental in not letting NAB conduct the investigation in a dispassionate, objective and credible manner,” he said in the letter.
The prime minister also said the apex court at times had expressed doubts on the competence, fairness and professionalism of NAB.

Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline ceremony: Guest list keeps capital guessing

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD, March 9: With the groundbreaking of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project set for Monday despite unrelenting US opposition, the diplomatic community is buzzing over which of the foreign heads of state invited to the ceremony would be turning up.
President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is hosting the ceremony, are reported to have sent invitations to eight heads of state and government.
Neither of the countries would divulge the guest list for the event being held at Gabd Zero point on the Iranian border but diplomatic sources say they include leaders from Central Asian states, Gulf Cooperation Council and Afghanistan.
According to one source, China too has been invited.
Afghanistan is so far the only country to have declined to attend the ceremony.
President Hamid Karzai’s regrets, a diplomatic source said, had more to do with renewed tensions with Pakistan than his US connection.
The Afghan president does not have the best of relations with Iran either.
The confirmations received by the Iranian government till Monday night, according to a foreign ministry official, were from Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
The first three states would be represented at the ministerial level, while the UAE is reportedly sending its Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahayan.
The Central Asian states are yet to reply to the invitation sent earlier this week.
This response to the invitations for the ceremony “is because of the short notice on which they had been sent”, a Pakistani diplomat explained while denying that US pressure was making regional leaders stay away from the very significant event both for Pakistan and Iran.
The diplomat hinted at “surprises” at the event.
Pakistan and Iran had invited regional leaders to offset the western resistance to the project because of sanctions on Iranian nuclear programme.
The two countries plan to sign a couple of other agreements at the Gabd ceremony, including setting up of an oil refinery in Gwadar and opening of new border crossings.
The Pakistan component of the pipeline will be constructed at a cost of $1.5 billion. Iran will provide $500 million loan to partially finance the construction, while Pakistan will pay the remaining cost.
The project is scheduled to be completed in 15 months.
Iran has already completed the pipeline in its territory, while the laying of 785km Pakistani section will commence now.
Pakistan will import 21.5 million cubic metres of gas daily from Iran through the pipeline.

Zardari calls for promoting regional trade

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

HYDERABAD, March 9: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that Pakistan needs more internal and regional trade than external and that was why the Iran gas pipeline and Gwadar projects were being executed.
Gwadar port was being given under the control of the Chinese to achieve this goal, he said.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of Hyderabad-Karachi Motorway (M9) here on Saturday, Mr Zardari said: “There’s a debate about whether there should be external trade or internal. We need internal and regional trade more than external trade… and the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline and Gwadar-Ratodero projects are being executed. We also had a deal with China over Gwadar port.”
He said the route would link Karachi with Gwadar. “Once we are done with this connectivity, there will be progress,” he remarked.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, provincial Housing and Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, Finance Minister Murad Shah, federal Communications Minister Arbab Alamgir, Defence Minister Naveed Qamar and Political Affairs Minister Maula Bux Chandio also attended the ceremony.
Mr Zardari handed over keys of low-cost houses built under the Behn Benazir Bastis Scheme by the provincial housing ministry for women. He asked the chief minister to build houses in every village and give them to the people.
He said the Hyderabad-Badin-Sanjar Chang Road would benefit the people.
He said that financial dealings and documentations would be carried out online in future. “Land revenue and other taxes will be paid online and farmers and businessmen will not have to deal with any tapedar or income tax officer. There will be no role of a middleman,” he said.
The president said that Hyderabad city and Qasimabad should be developed under a project. “We have to redesign the city, keeping in view its growing population.”
Federal Communications Minister Arbab Alamgir proposed that the M9 project should be renamed as “Benazir Highway”.
He said there were 62 projects in the pipeline and his ministry would spend Rs45 billion on 12 projects in Sindh. Six of them had been completed and the rest would be completed next year.
Chief Minister Shah said the housing project was completed in time because the president took personal interest in it. The project was a gift to the entire country, he added.
Sindh Housing Minister Ayaz Soomro said that of the 10,000 houses to be built, 6,500 had already been built and 991 were in final stages of completion.
The 136-km M9 project will be completed in two years at a cost of Rs13.5bn as per its approved PC-I. It will have seven interchanges.
The road is to be used by 21,000 vehicles daily. It will stretch from Sohrab Goth to Jamshoro. It will ensure fast and uninterrupted link between Karachi and Hyderabad, reducing the travelling time significantly.
It will ensure improvement of road safety and reduction in accident apart from saving operating cost of vehicles.
The 48.3-km Sanjar Chang project will be built at a cost of Rs1,844 million. DARAWAT DAM: Later, the president inaugurated Darawat Dam at Jamshoro and said it would ensure economic well-being of the people of Khirthar mountains.
Mr Zardari had laid the foundation stone of the dam two years ago.
He directed the chief minister to construct a bridge over Super Highway and asked him to ensure that no wrongdoing took place in recording of land of women peasants.
He said at least 15 to 20 small dams should be built in Sindh to increase cotton production.

125 Christian houses burnt over blasphemy

By Muhammad Faisal Ali

LAHORE, March 9: A mob enraged over alleged blasphemy set on fire a number of houses belonging to Christians in Badami Bagh on Saturday.
There was no casualty as members of the Christian community, including women and children, had left the neighbourhood on Friday night after police advised them to do so.
A church and several shops were also torched by the mob. Police put the number of burnt houses at 125. Around 25 were arrested.
The blasphemy suspect was identified as 26-year-old Sawan Masih. Police took him into custody in the small hours of Saturday. Later a magistrate sent him on judicial remand.
Thousands of protesters armed with sticks, clubs and stones ransacked Joseph Colony, which is surrounded by iron warehouses, and then set over 100 residential properties as well as some motorcycles and rickshaws on fire.
A clash between the police and the arsonists left a number of people injured from both sides.
Fire-fighters succeeded in dousing the flames after battling for several hours.
A heavy police contingent cordoned off the area for rescue work.
As soon as businessmen saw the mob, they shuttered their shops and warehouses.
Witnesses and police said an angry crowd ransacked and burnt the entire locality comprising 175 small houses, a day after all Christian families left the area because police had alerted them to the possibility of an attack.
They said a majority of attackers who had lodged a protest a couple of days ago assembled on Noor Road, facing Joseph Colony, and started setting houses and shops on fire.
The affected people accused police of doing nothing to pre-empt the plunder.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif issued orders for suspension of two police officers and for making two others OSD.
City SP (Operations) Multan Khan, who was made OSD, said the arson attacks began at around 11:30am and up to 7,000 people took part in it.
He said the accused and the complainant had quarrelled under the influence of liquor on March 7, but the latter painted it as a case of blasphemy.
The case was registered on March 8 under Section 295-C of the Blasphemy Act.
“I returned after dropping my children at their school around 8am and saw people gathering at the roundabout. They later started throwing furniture and crockery from houses and burning them,” said Muhammad Safdar, a local resident.
He said most of the attackers belonged to the Pakhtun community.
According to him, tension gripped the locality after Imran Shahid, a barber, and blasphemy accused Sawan exchanged hot words on Thursday.
Safdar said most Christian families had left the area after Sawan’s house was attacked on Friday evening.
A group of protesters visited the police station on Saturday morning and asked police to identify the accused. Later people gathered outside the colony and ransacked houses, he added.
Imran Shahid accused Sawan of making blasphemous remarks about Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) after the latter came to his shop.
However, Dilawar Masih, who lost his house and shop in the attack, said: “Both Imran and Sawan are close friends and the former has made the allegation only to settle a personal score because they had quarrelled over some petty matter.”
Dilawar wondered why the attackers burned their houses after the accused was handed over to police by the mob.He said a few policemen deployed on Friday evening fled the next day after the angry crowd attacked the houses.
A local woman, who identified herself as midwife Riaz, claimed Imran and Sawan dealt in liquor business and the former got the latter implicated in a fake blasphemy case. She said Sawan was handed over to police by local people, including Christians, on the demand of Muslims.
Raja Asif, standing outside his burnt house, said around 165 houses were destroyed.
Religious scholars, led by the prayer leader of Badshahi Masjid, visited the place on Saturday and persuaded the mob to disperse.
The Badami Bagh attack is the second such incident during the tenure of the PML-N-led Punjab government.
A few years ago, people burnt a Christian colony in Gojra (Toba Tek Singh) over alleged blasphemy.
INQUIRY: President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have ordered an immediate inquiry into the attacks.
“President Zardari called for a report into this unfortunate incident and said such acts of vandalism against minorities tarnish the image of the country,” his spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in a statement.
Prime Minister Ashraf also ordered an “expeditious inquiry and measures to stop recurrence of such incidents”, his office said in a statement.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the government would not spare those involved in the attack.
“These people committed a serious crime... there was no moral, legal or religious ground to indulge in such an act,” he told a TV channel.
The exact number of houses in Joseph Colony was not immediately known but police and rescue officials said they belonged to low to middle-class families from the minority community.“At least 160 houses, 18 shops and two small churches were burnt by protesters,” Dr Raza, who was busy in rescue operations in the area, said.
Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, put the number of houses burnt at over 100. She criticised the provincial government in a statement and said “it totally failed in providing protection to a minority community under siege”.
Shamaun Alfred Gill, a spokesman for the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, also condemned the incident and called upon the government to ensure safety of life and limb to Christians.

Raja prays for peace at Ajmer shrine

AJMER, March 9: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Saturday prayed for peace in his country at a 13th-century shrine in northern India during a lightning visit.
Mr Ashraf and his family prayed at the revered shrine of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, also known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, in the Indian desert state of Rajasthan.
“I wish for peace in the world and for peace and prosperity in Pakistan,” the prime minister wrote in Urdu in the visitors’ book after spending half an hour at the shrine in Ajmer, 130km from Jaipur.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid earlier hosted a lunch for Mr Ashraf at the Rambagh Palace,
a luxury heritage hotel in Jaipur.
He said he was welcoming the Pakistani leader with “open arms”, despite a chill in ties between the two countries over recent border clashes.
“It’s in our culture to welcome our guests with open arms,” said Khurshid, adding controversial topics such as alleged sponsorship of cross-border militancy by Pakistan were not discussed.
“Today it was a private visit. There were no official talks.
“We will do it at the appropriate time,” he said.
According to sources, at the informal talks between Mr Ashraf and the Indian minister the upcoming general election in Pakistan came up for discussion.
The sources said that Mr Khurshid also congratulated the prime minister on the successful completion of the tenure of Pakistani government.
On his part, Mr Ashraf asked Mr Khurshid to convey to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh his best wishes.
He also thanked the Indian government for facilitating his visit and making arrangements in this regard. —Agencies

US supports contact

WASHINGTON: The United States strongly supports high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan, said the State Department as Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf arrived in India on a private visit.
“We strongly support these ties and communications and high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan, the progress that they’ve made in visa, in travel, in economic warming,” said the department’s spokesperson Victoria Nuland when asked how the United States viewed the prime minister’s visit to Ajmer.
“We are always encouraging, at the ambassadorial level in both Delhi and Islamabad, increasing warming in that relationship,” she added.—Correspondent

Nato preferring alternative routes to Pakistani ones

WASHINGTON, March 9: It is the least expensive way to get food and fuel to the US troops in Afghanistan. But eight months after Pakistan reopened its ground supply routes for the Nato war effort, hardly any new cargo has taken that path into the landlocked country.
Instead, supplies have been moving almost entirely along far more expensive routes, one of several factors that have prompted senior Pentagon officials to warn that Afghan war costs are higher than projected at a time of increasingly tight budgets.
In what was hailed as diplomatic breakthrough, the United States and Pakistan agreed to reopen the supply lines last July after Washington issued a reluctant apology for an air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border in November 2011.
But restoring the supply routes to full service after a seven-month closure has taken time. The United States has cleared upwards of 5,000 of the 7,000 pieces of backlogged cargo in the supply routes.
However, data from the US Military’s Transportation Command show that only 40 containers of new cargo have moved across Pakistani ground routes since July. At the same time, about 28,000 20-foot containers came through alternate pathways, known as the Northern Distribution Network, into Afghanistan from July 2012 through last month.
Gen William Fraser, head of Transcom, said the situation was improving. After months of working to clear a backlog of supplies and deal with procedural issues, cargo movement on the Pakistani supply lines has improved and officials are ready to use them more heavily, he said.
Reopening the routes was considered vital to the US war effort. Beyond being cheaper, they are seen as the best way to remove military equipment from Afghanistan as the 11-year-old conflict draws to a close.
Fraser said there were several reasons for the slow start-up. They included the need to work through a backlog of cargo; reach agreement on how to re-export equipment that was no longer needed; obtain new rates from contractors; and decide on the process for bringing military cargo out of Afghanistan. —Reuters

ECP fulfils key election requirement

By Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, March 9: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has fulfilled a key prerequisite for the upcoming general election by finalising the ‘polling scheme’, which deals with issues like the number of polling stations to be set up across the country and the polling staff to be deployed for the elections.
Sources told Dawn on Saturday that as per the polling scheme approved, 40,818 polling stations with 128,577 polling booths would be set up in Punjab, as compared to 36,598 poling stations and 95,735 polling booths set up for the 2008 elections.
The number of presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers for the province will be 40,818, 257,160 and 128,580, respectively.
In Sindh, the number of polling stations will be 15,586 against 13,406 in 2008 and there will be 48,850 polling booths as compared to 39,329 in the previous elections.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there will be 12,001 polling
stations as compared to 7,933 in the 2008 elections. The number of presiding officers, assistant presiding officers
and polling officers will be 12,001, 64,425, and 34,220 respectively.
In Balochistan, there will be 3,783 polling stations and 8,553 polling booths as compared to 3,457 stations and 8,332 booths for the 2008 elections.
Meanwhile, the provincial election commissions (PECs) have called for beefing up security measures for this year’s elections because of the indifferent law and order situation in all the provinces.

Malala’s family declined US award?

WASHINGTON, March 9: The US State Department has indicated that Malala Yousufzai was among those who were to receive this year’s International Women of Courage award but they withdrew her name on her family’s advice.
“I think you know how much we admire Malala, her bravery in the face of adversity,” said State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland when asked why Malala was not among this year’s recipients.
“In consultation with her family, in the context of deciding on these awards, our understanding was that they preferred to focus on her recovery,” the US official added.
On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and first lady Michelle Obama gave the awards to nine women from across the world. Among the recipients were a Tibetan blogger, a Russian journalist and a Syrian human rights lawyer.
The award was supposed to be given to 10 women, but at the last minute a 26-year-old Egyptian was removed from the list. Anti-American tweets were found on her Twitter account; she claims her account was hacked.
—Anwar Iqbal

Badami Bagh arson attack: Clashes between protesters, police paralyse Lahore

By Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE, March 10: As the Christian community took to streets across Punjab and cities and towns of other provinces on Sunday to register their protest against Saturday’s Badami Bagh arson attacks, Lahore presented the look of a battlefield with angry protesters blocking roads, causing suspension of metro bus operations and clashing with police.
The police baton-charged the protesters and arrested a number of them for damaging public property.
The protests erupted in various parts of the provincial capital in the morning after a large number of Christians appeared on different roads. On the Ferozepur Road residents of Yuhanabad who were carrying placards and banners blocked the traffic. They were chanting slogans against the Punjab government.
The situation took an ugly turn when police tried to disperse them when they stormed the central track of the metro service, halting its operation. Police also pelted the protesters with stones.
The charged protesters damaged a metro bus and ransacked parts of the Yuhanabad bus station. Police fired tear gas and fired into the air to disperse them but without success.
The situation forced the Punjab Metro Bus Authority to suspend its entire operations. The daylong protests, mainly at Yuhanabad, left the traffic on both sides of Ferozepur Road out of gear.
“We have no way but to protest in the present scenario because we feel insecure after the burning of our homes in Joseph Colony,” Johnson, one of the protesters, said.
Replying to a question, he blamed the police for using traditional tactics to deal with protests which led to the damage to the bus and the station. “Had the police avoided using tear gas and firing into the air the protesters would have remained peaceful.”
Another protester, Kamal Maseeh, also accused police of provoking the protesters.
A spokesman of the Lahore DIG (Operations) said the officials were forced to take action after the mob damaged the public property. “What should police do when protesters start taking the law into their own hands?”
The protesters also removed posters and banners of various PML-N leaders displayed at the bus station and along the road.
A government team led by local MPA Zaeem Qadri rushed to the place to hold talks with Christian leaders but returned after reportedly having been criticised severely by the protesters.
Police managed to disperse the protesters in the evening.
Another procession taken out by hundreds of Christians from Shah Jamal locality blocked another stretch of Ferozepur Road.
Traffic police diverted the traffic towards Canal Road.
Police succeeded in diverting the protesters towards Wahdat Road where they dispersed.
Near the press club, local Christian leaders led a demonstration under aegis of the Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan. The protesters chanted slogans against the government for its failure to protect Christians and other minorities.
Pastor Javaid Anwar, Peter Gull, Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra and other leaders said the atrocities committed against Christians in Lahore had proved the Punjab government’s inability to protect the minorities.
They said the minorities had been left at the mercy of religious extremists who tortured them from time to time. They said the Christians wouldn’t end their protests in Lahore and other parts of the country till concrete assurances were given by the rulers about protecting the lives and property of the minorities.
They also rejected the chief minister’s announcement about compensation to be given to affected families and a judicial investigation into the incident.
Similar rallies were held in other cities and towns of Punjab by Christians and members of the civil society. The protesters blocked busy thoroughfares but remained peaceful.

CJ summons Punjab IG, advocate general

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has taken notice of Saturday’s arson attack on Christian houses in Lahore and directed that notices be issued to the advocate general and inspector general of police of Punjab to appear and put up comprehensive reports on Monday, says an official announcement.
It says that the action has been “taken on an office note initiated by the registrar of the Supreme Court (SC) based on press clippings of different newspapers containing the details of the incident that over 178 houses were burnt in a mob attack” on Saturday in a predominantly Christian colony in the Badami Bagh area over an alleged incident of blasphemy.
The note says that the incident is a serious threat to the life and property of the people of minority community, which are serious violations of fundamental rights, guaranteed under articles 9, 14, 23 and 24 of the Constitution.
LNG IMPORT: The chief justice has also taken notice of press reports as well as a note of the SC registrar containing details regarding the LNG contract, says another official announcement.
The CJ has issued notices to the secretaries of the ministries of petroleum, finance and economic affairs, the managing director of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA), the chairman of the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), and the former SSGC chairman who has reportedly tendered resignation.
The registrar in his note has mentioned the SC’s ruling in the suo motu case of 2010 (action regarding huge loss to public exchequer by ignoring lowest bid of Fauji Foundation and Multinational Energy from Vitol by awarding LNG contract).
The CJ has taken action on newspaper reports that the ECC has failed to take a decision on the award of a multi-billion dollar contract for import of 400 million cubic feet of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and left the matter to the federal cabinet.
After going through the contents of the note, the CJ passed the following order: “I have perused the above stated press clippings as well as note of the registrar containing inter alia relevant extract from the judgment of the court (PLD 2010 SC 731). It is to be seen as to whether the contract of LNG is being awarded in a transparent manner or otherwise, in view of the allegations reported in the newspapers. The issue may, therefore, be registered as constitution petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and fixed in the Court on 11.3.2013. Notices be issued to the secretaries of the Ministry of the Petroleum, Finance and Economic Affairs, MD, PPRA, Chairman SSGC, both incumbent and former Waqar A. Malik who has reportedly tendered resignation. The secretary petroleum is further directed to effect service upon the bidding parties through his own sources through use of e-mail, fax, telephone, etc.”

A community under siege

By Qasim A. Moini

QUETTA: Saeeda’s house is barely a few metres away from the snooker hall in Quetta’s Alamdar Road which was struck by devastating twin bombings on Jan 10. For her the sectarian violence targeting Balochistan’s Hazara community has come home: her eldest son Irfan Ali Khudi lost his life in the second of the two blasts.
The young man, who worked as a community activist and was married a year and a half ago, had gone to help the injured after the first blast at the snooker club.
She also lost her son-in-law Zahid Hussain in the blast while her other son Ali was injured, but has since recovered.
Saeeda is just one mother out of countless that have lost sons, husbands and brothers to the relentless wave of sectarian violence that has targeted Hazara Shias in Balochistan.
Upon leaving Alamdar Rd one arrives at the Hazara graveyard at the foot of the ominously named Koh-i-Murdar. There is a separate section for ‘shuhada’ and it is filling up fast. Brightly coloured pictures of young men in sharp suits, some barely teenagers, stare back from above the graves. There are pictures of older men as well. Some have flowers in the background, others feature motifs of Karbala and other sacred places.
Some of the faces are sombre, others display exuberance. In nearly all the Hazara-dominated neighbourhoods of Quetta, especially Alamdar Rd, the pictures of the victims are everywhere, on every street corner, looking back at the onlooker, perhaps awaiting justice. Mohammad Nabi’s eldest son Nazir Hussain, 22, was also killed in the Alamdar Rd bombing. The young man was in the police. “He had gotten engaged and preparations were being made for his nikah. He had joined the police two and a half years ago,” Nazir’s father says.
Many of those who have lost loved ones to sectarian violence in Balochistan belong to low-income backgrounds. Terrorism has only compounded their financial misery.
“Irfan’s father passed away when he was very young and I raised my children by sewing clothes. Our income was supplemented by my late husband’s meagre pension,” says Saeeda, who lives in a rented three-room house.
Mohammad Nabi lives in a tiny mountainside house in Marriabad adjacent to Alamdar Rd that he shares with his two brothers and their families. A day labourer, he does not speak proper Urdu and is not literate.
“After Nazir’s appointment in the police there was an improvement in our financial position. But I am unwell, often unable to work,” he says.
Mohammad Nabi has only received Rs20,000 from the police department, even though the provincial government announced Rs1 million compensation for each victim. “The police have promised me a job, but my other sons are too young to work.” He adds that Nazir’s police dues have not yet been cleared.

‘There is no government’
Though Saeeda says the government has paid her compensation, she feels let down by the state and society. “There is no government in this country. There is no value for human life. I cry tears of blood.”
No government official has visited to condole with the bereaved family. She also bemoans the fact that “terrorists are not caught. They are not punished. Where do they disappear”?
As Saeeda explains her plight her maternal grand-daughters Itrat and Sidra Batool enter the room. One is a class V student, while the other studies in class III. “Their father used to wake them up for school every morning and have breakfast with them. Now they mourn his loss every day. Who will look after these girls?”
Asked if the sit-ins by the community with the victims’ bodies have made a difference, Mohammad Nabi says, “after the first dharna there were promises from the authorities. Yet a day before the chehlum of the Alamdar Rd blast the Hazara Town bombing occurred. We still face threats. The terrorists have made it clear the only place for Hazaras in Quetta is the graveyard. But we will not let go of our faith.”
Across the city in Hazara Town, the other major Hazara locality in Quetta, the mood is equally depressing.
Ahmed Hussain, a father of four, worked in a coalmine and was out buying vegetables when the devastating blast of Feb 16 occurred. An Afghan citizen, he came to Quetta in 1999.
“He left Afghanistan due to war and poverty. Also, the Afghan Taliban had killed members of his family,” the victim’s nephew Mohammad Musa says.
Ahmed Hussain was his family’s only breadwinner. Now his brother Qurban Ali, also a miner who has five kids of his own, will have to look after his brother’s family as well. Both families share a rented two-room house.

‘Nothing to go back to’
“Our relatives in Afghanistan have asked us to come back. But we know there is nothing to go back to,” says Musa. Mr Hussain’s family says the Afghan consulate has contacted them and asked for documents; officials told them the Afghan government and the UNHCR would try to help.
Mohammad Jan was also an Afghan miner. He came to Pakistan 12 years ago. He lost his life in an incident of targeted killing in Mach in June 2012. He left behind his wife and seven children. His oldest daughter is blind.
“We fled poverty. But here we lost everything. How will I raise my children? How will I feed them”? asks Mohammad Jan’s widow. “After the Hazara Town blast fear is everywhere. When my daughter leaves for school in the morning, she tells me she doesn’t know if she’ll return.”
Several days after the blast, the site of the Hazara Town bombing is still a shambles. Debris is everywhere. Bricks are strewn about, as are rotting fruit and mangled pieces of metal. A burnt-out motorbike and taxi remain frozen in their tracks. Shattered glass is everywhere while shops are still charred. On one wall bloodstains are clearly visible. It is early evening and people are milling about, surveying the damage with empty, blank faces.
A tractor-trolley towing a large water tanker rumbles by on Kirani Road, much like the one packed with 1,000kg of explosives that caused the havoc of Feb 16. The sight is enough to send chills down the spine.
The stories of all the families affected by terrorism were depressingly similar: the lives of sole breadwinners, promising sons, doting fathers and caring brothers were all cut short, with the families unsure if the killers of their loved ones would ever be brought to justice.

PTI to unveil manifesto at Minar-i-Pakistan

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, March 10: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan said here on Sunday that 80,000 elected representatives of the party would take oath at what he called the party’s largest-ever public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore on March 23.
Kick-starting his formal election campaign, Mr Khan told a public gathering in Peshawar’s Ring Road area that the PTI would unveil at the Lahore meeting its manifesto which would offer ways of coping with the crisis the country was facing and present a glimpse of a new Pakistan the people would be proud of.
He said that under a programme for change, one million youths of the PTI would be assigned the task of spreading the message of change and preventing poll rigging.
“Change is finally coming after 16 years of PTI’s struggle. We have become the only party in Pakistan which has held intra-party polls,” he said, adding that unlike the PML-N which could be ruled only by a person belonging to the ‘Sharif’ family, poor people had been elected in the PTI’s elections at local and district levels.
“The N-League, PPP and others are ‘family parties’ ruled by unelected people, whereas in the PTI workers elect their leader. They can throw me out. They run the party and are part of the campaign against corruption and for building a new Pakistan,” he said.
Mr Khan condemned the killing of Shias and said that his was the only party capable of ending the sectarian divide and curbing violence.
He advised the enthusiastic youths who were dancing and Pashto and Urdu songs were being played to be more active politically because the general election was round the corner and the party was determined to sweep it with an unprecedented margin.
The PTI chief said political parties were now talking about dialogue with the Taliban. “This has vindicated our stated policy of negotiations with the Taliban, instead of deploying armed forces in Waziristan and other areas. For the past eight years we have been calling for a political solution to the problem of militancy. The armed campaign has proved fruitless and caused more damage than good,” he added.
He said it was surprising that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman was now supporting talks with the Taliban although until only a few months ago he had termed PTI’s long march to Waziristan a ploy of the Jewish lobby.
“Where were you, Maulana Sahib, over the past five years? Why are you holding a peace conference now? Were you not aware of the seriousness of the situation and importance of talks with the Taliban instead of using arms against them? What did you do when you were part of the government,” he asked.

Zardari and Ahmadinejad open pipeline work today

By Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD, March 10: President Asif Ali Zardari is visiting Iran on Monday to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the long-awaited Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline.
The government believes the project will help Pakistan overcome the energy crisis and spur economic growth.
“President Zardari is going to Iran along with his team as per schedule to witness this ‘big event’,” the president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn on Sunday.
Brushing aside concerns and pressures of the United States, the spokesman said the whole world should realise that the project was being commissioned purely to meet economic needs of the country and was being executed by two sovereign states.
“The government is going to initiate this important project in view of the energy requirements. The project will bring economic prosperity, provide better opportunities to the people and help defeat militancy,” he said.
The ceremony will be held in the Iranian border city of Chabahar on Monday afternoon, according to details released by the ministry of petroleum and natural resources. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mr Zardari will jointly inaugurate the pipeline construction work.
President Zardari will be accompanied by a large delegation comprising ministers, members of parliament and political leaders. Several heads of state have also been invited to the event.
According to the schedule, the Pakistani delegation will arrive at Chabahar Airport at 9am (Iranian time) from where it will be taken to the inauguration site which is at three-hour drive. The ceremony will take place at 12.30pm.

28 boxes of ancient artefacts seized

By Waseem Shamsi

SUKKUR, March 10: A large quantity of ancient artefacts being taken from Islamabad to Karachi has been seized by the Customs intelligence, officials said on Sunday.
The seized artefacts worth millions of rupees belong to Gandhara civilisation, pre-Christian era and the periods of Muslim rule, Tasawwar Shah, a local Customs officer, told Dawn.
He said Customs personnel on information that thousands of artefacts were being transported to Karachi from Islamabad cordoned off the entry points of Sukkur and caught a container (JT-0439).
He said the container was impounded about a month ago but it was opened on Sunday when senior officials, headed by Mohammad Shah Bokhari, arrived here from Karachi, adding that the artefacts were being taken to Karachi from where they were to be smuggled to a foreign country.
The official said 28 wooden boxes were found packed with thousands of artefacts stolen from archaeological sites and museums in Punjab.
He said details about the artefacts were being collected and an investigation into the case was under way.
He said the driver and cleaner of the container had been released on surety bonds but they could be called when required by the department.

Yasin Malik’s passport may be blocked, says report

NEW DELHI, March 10: Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chairman Yasin Malik, who returned here on Saturday after a visit to Pakistan, was allowed to leave for Srinagar on Sunday without ‘formal questioning’ by the authorities.
Apart from his brief interaction with intelligence officials manning the immigration counter at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, he was spared a detailed explanation for his appearance along side Hafiz Saeed, the suspected Mumbai attacks mastermind, at a protest in Islamabad.
Eyebrows were raised here when Mr Malik shared the dais with the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief at a hunger strikers’ camp organised in protest against the hanging of Afzal Guru for his alleged involvement in the Indian parliament attack.
Home ministry sources said the ministry was yet to take a call on revoking Mr Malik’s passport for his activities in Pakistan.
According to an official, the JKLF leader’s passport is unlikely to be reissued after it expires on March 19. Agencies are contemplating blocking his passport for a year or two, he said. Mr Malik had, however, been advised by Indian authorities to lie low and not to make any ‘intemperate’ remarks or statement that could fan tempers in held Kashmir which is already tense since the hanging of Afzal Guru last month.

—By arrangement with Times of India

Two killed in drone attack

By Our Correspondent

MIRAMSHAH, March 10: A US drone fired two missiles on two suspected militants in Dattakhel tehsil of North Waziristan early on Sunday, killing both of them.
Sources said the attack took place in Degan village. The men were on a mule when the missiles were
fired.
US drones regularly attack suspected hideouts of militants, vehicles and motorbikes in tribal areas, but this was the first time an animal had been targeted.

Issues with Pakistan will take time to resolve, says India

ISLAMABAD, March 10: Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said that achieving success in efforts for resolving bilateral issues with Pakistan is “a time taking affair”.
Addressing a ceremony in the Indian city of Ghaziabad on Sunday, Mr Khurshid said he would not be able to give a timeframe as to when official talks between the two nations could take place, The Indian Express reported, quoting Press Trust of India.
“Success (in issues related to India and Pakistan) is not achieved in a day or a moment. First the foundation is made and then we subsequently go ahead to create an edifice,” he added.
The minister was asked if there was any progress in bilateral issues after he met Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in Jaipur on Saturday.
The Pakistani leader’s visit, he explained, was “not an official” trip and it was a courtesy extended by the Indian government when Prime Minister Ashraf desired to visit the Ajmer shrine along with his family.
“It is courtesy that one is allowed to go to his place of prayer for the peace of the soul and mind...Similarly when people from India
want to visit a gurudwara for pilgrimage in Pakistan that is a courtesy,” Mr Khurshid said.
During his daylong visit to India on Saturday, Prime Minister Ashraf offered prayers at the shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.—APP

Gas pipeline — work on Pakistan phase inaugurated: Project in the interest of region: Zardari; Outsiders must stop creating hurdles: Ahmadinejad

By Khaleeq Kiani

GABD (Iran), March 11: President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad performed on Monday groundbreaking of the long-awaited $7.5 billion gas pipeline project, laying the foundation of bilateral energy cooperation and defying western opposition.
The project will deliver 750 million cubic feet of gas per day to Pakistan by Jan 2015.
“The Iran-Pakistan ‘gaslifeline’ will help eradicate terrorism, bring prosperity to the region and overcome poverty,” President Zardari said after he and Mr Ahmadinejad unveiled the plaque of the project at a ceremony in the Iranian city of Chabahar, near the Pakistan border. They also saw welding of pieces of pipeline painted with flags of the two nations.
Mr Zardari described the event as a historic moment not only for the two countries but also for the region. He said many countries in the world had prospered by doing trade within their regions, adding that economic and energy cooperation could make Pakistan and Iran prosperous.
“Relations could be cold and warm, but geographic neighbours cannot change. Let us live together in prosperity and cooperation.” Adviser to the Prime Minister on Petroleum, Dr Asim Hussain, announced that Gwadar port would soon have Pakistan’s largest refinery, which would be built jointly by the two countries.
President Zardari said the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project was not against any country. It is in the national interests of Pakistan, Iran and countries in the region. By promoting regional integration, these countries will be better placed to fight terrorism and extremism.
He said the pipeline project marked a new chapter in the history of Pakistan-Iran relations. It is also a leap forward in regional cooperation and integration.
Muslim countries faced big challenges because the “world does not understand us and does not want to understand our problems. They wish well for us but don’t know how to help us; so we have to build and strengthen ourselves. Let us do it for ourselves”, President Zardari observed.
The pipeline project and other bilateral cooperation would help fight terrorism through prosperity and wellbeing of the people. “I urge the international community don’t put in us different definitions. We have our own definition and we know what is good for us,” he said.
He said no matter what “our detractors say about this pipeline, but work on it will go on. Our detractors never believed that our democracy will survive, but we have survived and gave five years to democracy”.
President Ahmadinejad said the project had nothing to do with its nuclear programme because the gas pipeline cannot help make bombs. “This is a peace pipeline and if the world wants peace it should refrain from creating hurdles,” he said. “This pipeline will become a milestone in regional cooperation and this event is a message to opponents”.
The future of Pakistan and Iran depended on cooperation, Ahmadinejad said, adding that while Pakistan had agriculture, commodities and value-added goods, his country had abundant energy resources which should become the basis of bilateral trade.
Analysts were of the
opinion that the groundbreaking was a big step forward, but the success lay in steadfastness. “This is the first big step towards gas pipelines in the region,” former petroleum secretary Dr Gulfaraz Ahmad said. “If we remain steadfast and show resolve to complete it, the US pressure will not matter and in fact subside, but if we waver they will exert more pressure,” he said. “The caveat lies in resisting pressures and implementing the project with full focus,” said Ahmad Waqar, another former petroleum secretary. He said national interest demanded pursuing the project as it would contribute to prosperity of the people of Pakistan.
The project, conceived in the early 1990s, envisages delivery of 750MMCFD of gas from Iran’s South Pars field at the Pakistan-Iran border through a 56-inch 1150-km pipeline.
A 900-km pipeline from South Pars to Sheher in Iran has already been laid while the construction of a 200-km pipeline up to Gabd-zero point is in the final stages of design.
The 781-km Pakistani section of the pipeline (42 inch diameter) is to be laid close to Makran coastal highway from Gabd-zero point to Nawabshah, in Sindh. On completion, it will help generate 4000MW of electricity.
The price of gas is currently estimated at 78 per cent of the international oil price, but subject to revision a year before first flows on the basis of comparative energy sources, notably Turkmen gas.
The 781km section’s consultants include Germany’s Beratende Ingenieure GmbH and Pakistan’s Nespak. Construction work will be undertaken by Tadbir Energy of Iran at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. Iran will provide $500 million -- half through a government loan and half through an Iranian bank. The remaining cost will be arranged through a Chinese loan and gas infrastructure development cess.
The two countries had signed intergovernmental framework and gas sale and purchase agreements in 2009, which legally became effective on June 13, 2010.
Dr Asim Hussain said the project on completion would contribute about five per cent to Pakistan’s gross domestic product and create 10,000 jobs during construction and about 3,000 after completion.
The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by delegations from Kuwait, Turkmenistan, the UAE, Oman, Afghanistan and Qatar, according to an announcement made from the podium.
Pakistan’s delegation, led by President Zardari, was flown in three planes to Chabahar airport, about 200km from Gabd-zero point on the Pakistan-Iran border.
Besides ministers, the delegation included former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, retired generals and almost all former secretaries of the petroleum ministry.

Twists and turns

1994: Pakistan and Iran start discussing gas pipeline project.
1995: Governments of Pakistan and Iran sign preliminary agreement.
1998: Iran proposes extension of pipeline to India.
1999: Governments of Iran and India sign preliminary agreement.
2003: Iran and Pakistan form Working Group.
2005: MoU is signed to include India in the project.
2007: After a long break, Pakistan, Iran and India resume talks on the project and agree on a tariff of $4.93 per million British thermal units. However, many of the technical details and issues related to price revision mechanism remain unresolved.
2008: Iran expresses interest in Chinese involvement in the project.
2009: India withdraws from the project after signing civilian nuclear deal with the US in 2008 citing security and pricing issues.
2009 (April): Pakistan’s cabinet approves Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with Iran.
2009 (May): Presidents Zardari and Ahmedinejad sign Inter-Governmental Framework Declaration. GSPA is also initialled on the occasion.
2010 (January): US asks Pakistan to quit the project and in return offered to assist in construction of LNG terminal and import of electricity from Tajikistan.
2010 (March): Pakistan and Iran sign agreement in Turkey for the construction of the pipeline.2010 (May): Iran and Pakistan sign sovereign guarantees agreement.
2010 (June): Pakistan and Iran sign export contract, binding Iran to supply gas from 2014.
2010 (June): US for the first time warns Pakistan of sanctions because of involvement with the project.
2011 (July): Iran announces that it has completed its section of the pipeline.
2012 (March): Industrial and Commercial Bank of China backs out of agreement to finance the gas pipeline because of US sanctions on Iran. Pakistan starts looking for alternate sources. Russian energy giant Gazprom expresses interest in the project.
2012 (April): Pakistan’s petroleum ministry floats tenders for construction of the gas pipeline.
2012 (October): Iran offers to finance one third of the cost of laying pipeline in Pakistan’s territory.
2013 (January): Pakistan’s federal cabinet ratifies the project.
2013 (February): Iran and Pakistan agree on financing deal and conclude technical negotiations in Tehran. Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khameini tells President Zardari to disregard US pressure and go ahead with the project.
2013 (March 11): Ground breaking is performed.

ECP orders printing of amended nomination papers

By Iftikhar A Khan

ISLAMABAD, March 11: The cold war between the Election Commission of Pakistan and the law ministry took a new turn on Monday when the former ordered immediate printing of nomination papers with amendments proposed by it without waiting for an approval of the president.
An ECP member from Punjab, Justice (retd) Riaz Kiyani, told Dawn that the decision had been taken by a majority to avoid any delay in elections. “The ECP has asserted itself and will keep on doing so in the interest of free and fair elections,” he declared.
He said Article 218(3) of the Constitution had mandated the ECP to take any steps to hold free, fair and transparent elections and guard against corrupt practices. In view of the mandate, the signature of the president allowing the ECP to make amendments in nomination forms had become a mere formality, the member added.
Mr Kiyani pointed out that in its judgment in the Watan Party case, the Supreme Court had observed that the ECP was empowered not only to check illegal actions or corrupt practices but also review all activities related to the elections.
The court held that the commission has powers to take pre-emptive measures to ensure that the spirit of democracy and fairness, justness and honesty of elections is fully observed.
The ECP had sent a draft of amendments for approval of the president through the law ministry last month in order to screen out loan defaulters, tax evaders, loan write-off beneficiaries and convicts from the electoral process. The ministry raised objections and said publicly that the proposed amendments would not be forwarded to the president till its reservations were addressed.
Law Minister Farooq H. Naek met Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim twice to convey his reservations, but failed to reach an understanding with him.
In the last meeting on Thursday, the minister was asked to submit his objections in writing. The ECP received his objections on Friday, rejected them immediately, set the deadline of March 11 for approval of the proposed amendments and said it would go for printing of the old version of nomination form if amendments were not approved by then.
But hours after expiry of the deadline on Monday, the commission decided to order printing of nomination forms with the proposed amendments.
Now the candidates will have to submit their income and agricultural tax returns of the past three years, details of foreign trips undertaken by them during the period, details of expenditure of children studying abroad and a declaration of not having or applied for a foreign citizenship.
They will also have to provide details of their income and expenditure and a list of spouse and dependants.
An ECP official told Dawn that a candidate could be disqualified at any stage on production of concrete evidence.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Farooq Naek told reporters that under Section 107 of the People’s Representation Act, 1976, only the president could decide the fate of any amendment proposed by the ECP.
He said some unnecessary amendments had been proposed which had nothing to do with qualification and disqualification clauses under the Constitution.
The minister, however, said the government had faith in the ECP.
He said the election schedule would be announced on March 20 or 21 and the polling will take place 50 days after that.
The Governor’s rule in Balochistan should be lifted so that leaders of the house and the opposition could decide about the caretaker set-up in the province, Mr Naek added.
Senator Zafar Ali Shah of the PML-N said under Article 218 of the Constitution, the ECP was solely responsible for the conduct of free and fair elections. It would have been better had the commission got the president’s approval as provided under Section 107 of the People’s Representation Act.
The Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency has welcomed the ECP’s directive for printing of the nomination forms without waiting for the approval of the president.
“This is an important step towards the ECP exercising its independence and powers conferred upon it by the Constitution,” it said in a statement. Pildat said even though it did not entirely agree with all the changes in the nomination paper, it respects the ECP’s right to exercise its powers to retain and carry the changes made.

Punjab PA dissolution conditional: PML-N

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, March 11: The PML-N linked on Monday early dissolution of the Punjab Assembly with a consensus on caretakers, particularly in Sindh and Balochistan.
“The Punjab Assembly will not be dissolved on March 16 if the government continues to play tricks in Sindh and Balochistan,” declared Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House, he said the PML-N wanted that all assemblies be dissolved simultaneously, but “if someone tries to be clever, then we also have an answer”.
“The Punjab Assembly will be dissolved on March 16 only if a consensus on the caretaker set-ups (in all provinces) is reached before time,” he said in categorical terms, adding that otherwise the Punjab Assembly would complete its constitutional term ending next month.
Chaudhry Nisar, who had announced his party’s three nominees for the office of caretaker prime minister last week, said that he would formally suggest these names to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf through a letter to be sent on Tuesday.
The PML-N has proposed the names of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan and Sindhi nationalist leader Rasool Bakhsh Palijo for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Chaudhry Nisar said the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly with the expiry of the National Assembly’s term on March 15 was “conditional” to the setting-up of caretaker regimes in all the provinces with a consensus among all political parties — not only between the PPP and the PML-N.
He claimed that his party had even consulted the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf on the issue of caretaker set-up not only at the Centre but also in Punjab.
In a reference to a recent decision of the MQM to sit on opposition benches, apparently to become a stakeholder in the appointment of the caretaker set-up, the PML-N leader said his party wouldn’t remain silent if the PPP and the Muttahida “strike a deal fraudulently in Sindh”.
Chaudhry Nisar criticised Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira for terming his party’s nominees “a joke”.

Captain among three security men killed in landmine blast

By Our Correspondent

KALAYA, March 11: Three security personnel, an officer among them, were killed and two others wounded in a roadside blast in Upper Orakzai tribal region on Monday.
Sources said a security convoy was going to Balras area of Orakzai from Staar Kalley Dogar in Kurram tribal region. When it reached Dolai area, one of its vehicles hit a landmine. Captain Abbas, Lance Naik Rizwan and a soldier Waseem died and two other soldiers, Qayyum and Omar, were injured in the blast.
The injured were taken to the Ghaljo headquarters before being airlifted to the Combined Military Hospital Tal. The vehicle was badly damaged.

SC seeks to determine facts behind Lahore arson attack

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, March 11: The Supreme Court observed on Monday that what lay behind the Saturday’s Badami Bagh arson attack in which over 178 houses belonging to the Christian community were burnt appeared to be more than what met the eye.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed which had taken notice of the attack in Lahore’s Josheph Colony rejected as incomplete a report on the incident submitted by the Punjab administration and ordered it to submit by Wednesday a 258-page report on the 2009 Gojra riots in Faisalabad prepared by a tribunal headed by Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman.
The court said it wondered whether the tribunal’s report had ever been made public and its recommendations implemented.
It also asked about the fate of Ahmed Raza Tahir, a police officer who was severely criticised for his role in handling the Gojra incident and the tribunal had suggested that he should never be placed on field duty.
The court said it intended to pass an appropriate stricture against senior police officers, including Acting Inspector General Khan Beg and the Lahore police chief, but after the filing of comprehensive reports by the Punjab government.
The court said it wondered if there was a possibility of a land dispute or an alleged attempt to acquire lucrative property of Joseph Colony on Noor Road by certain interested quarters being instrumental behind the incident.
The area is spread over 20 kanals in the heart of Lahore. The angry mob forced some 170 Christian families to flee the area and burnt their houses over allegations that one Sawan Masih had committed blasphemy by making offensive comments about the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and by defiling pages of Holy Quran.
Justice Azmat expressed apprehensions over a growing pattern in the Punjab police that whenever minorities came under attack it avoided taking any action. Visibly irked by the response of Advocate General of Punjab Ashtar Ausaf and the acting inspector general, the court observed that prime facie it appeared that the acting IG, city police chief and the superintendent of police had failed to protect the life and property of the people of Joseph Colony.
Ashtar Ausaf regretted that the federal government was sitting on a request by the Punjab government to appoint a senior officer to fill the vacant post of the IG.
The court was disturbed by the absence of a satisfactory reply by the Punjab police to why the occupants of the area were forced to vacate their houses a day before the incident and why police did not put up any resistance to the mob?
Had the police taken adequate measures the incident could have been averted, it said, adding: “When the police force itself persuaded the inhabitants to leave, too many inferences could be drawn from the fact.”
The bench said different versions of the fact were brought to the court, including the ensuing polling in the area to elect representatives for the local market. “What we have failed to understand is the link between the elections and the Christian community living in the area,” it said.
The court noted that Imran, a barber, had complained against Sawan Masih about having made the derogatory remarks while sitting on a rickshaw when the complainant was going to godowns in the area after dawn on March 7, but moved an application about the incident to the local police on March 8 at about 3.05pm.
The court expressed dismay over the absence of supplementary recording of evidence of the complainant and witnesses. No intention was shown by the police to conduct a thorough investigation and make attempts to protect the property of people in the area.
The court observed that the incident was a serious threat to the life and property of the people belonging to the minority community, which was a serious violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 9, 14, 23 and 24 of the Constitution.

US declines to allay Pakistan’s concerns

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, March 11: The United States cannot allay Pakistan’s fears that the Iran gas pipeline will trigger automatic sanctions against the country, the State Department said on Monday.
At a news briefing in Washington, the department’s spokesperson Victoria
Nuland also urged Pakistan to work with the United States for exploring alternative source of energy.
I would not like to allay those fears. We have serious concerns if this project actually goes forward, that the Iran sanctions act will be triggered, said Ms Nuland when asked if she would like to ally Pakistan’s fears about the sanctions.
Immediately after President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had officially inaugurated the gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan, fears of likely US sanctions took its toll on the Karachi Stock Exchange, which plummeted almost 2.5 per cent, or 441 points, on Monday.
Analysts say that the latest reaction will add to the market’s nervousness. We have been straight up with the Pakistanis about these concerns and as I said about some length last week, we are also working very closely bilaterally to support alternative projects to provide Pakistan with the energy that it needs, said the State Department official when informed about the market’s reactions.
Ms Nuland, however, also expressed doubts about the project’s completion.
All of that said, we have heard this project announced about 10 or 15 times before in the past, so we have to see what actually happens, she said.
Ms Nuland said: If this project actually goes forward we have serious concerns that the sanctions will be triggered.

Gas project to help end energy crisis, hopes Magsi

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, March 11: Welcoming the inauguration of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi said on Monday it was a great move towards ending the energy crisis being faced by the country for several years.
He said since a major portion of the pipeline would pass through Balochistan, its people should be the main beneficiary of this project.
“I hope Balochistan’s interests will be protected while implementing this project,” the governor said, adding it would also help improve provincial economy.
He said signing of the pipeline agreement with Iran was a historical event and launching of this project was a great achievement of the government.

BNP-M criticises Iran pipeline plan

By Our Correspondent

QUETTA, March 11: Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s acting president Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldani criticised the government on Monday for reaching an agreement for the construction of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.
Addressing a press conference, Dr Jamaldani said that projects such as handing over of operation of Gwadar port to China and Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline were against the interests of Baloch people.
He claimed that resources of Balochistan were being plundered and the forces involved in it were also responsible for political destabilisation in the province.
Dr Jamaldani accused the establishment and intelligence agencies of hatching a conspiracy to weaken nationalist political forces in the province.
He condemned the killing of Baloch political workers and expressed concern over recovery of bodies from Karachi.
The BNP-M leader said his party would not compromise on the rights of Baloch people.
He announced that BNP-M leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal, who has been living abroad for the past few years, would return to the province in 10 days.
On the occasion, Mir Farooq Marri, Mir Habibullah Marri, Mir Ali Khan Marri from Kohlu and Jamil Tareen and Abdul Ghaffar Tareen from Harnai announced their decision to join the BNP-M.

Separate voters list for Ahmadis: Court summons AG over discrimination complaint

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, March 11: The Supreme Court made known on Monday its intention to take a decision, in the light of constitutional provisions and principles laid down in the 1993 Zaheeruddin case verdict, on a complaint that the election procedures discriminate against the Ahmadi community.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was hearing a petition against an amendment to the election rules decreed by Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2002 that effectively declared ‘non-Muslim’ a candidate who, if his faith was challenged, refused to sign a declaration regarding his belief that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the last of the prophets.
Petitioner Kanwar Idrees said a separate electoral list for Ahmadis was an insult meant to exclude them from the mainstream.
Gen (retd) Musharraf had promulgated the Chief Executive Order 15 of 2002, inserting Articles 7B and 7C into the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002.
Article 7B asks to keep unchanged the status of Ahmadis but Article 7C suggests deletion of the name from the joint electoral rolls of a person who refuses to sign the declaration.
The name then should be added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslim, the law says.
The court said the issue was very sensitive and required an in-depth study for which it also summoned Attorney General Irfan Qadir on the next date of hearing.
It suggested deciding the case in the light of Article 260(3) of the Constitution which included the Qadiani or Lahori group in the definition of non-Muslims.
The court will also consider Section 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which was added to the law book under the Prohibition and Punishment Ordinance of 1984, in addition to the principles laid down in the Zaheeruddin case verdict.
The 1993 Supreme Court judgment had barred people belonging to the Ahmadi community from calling their worship place ‘masjid’ or reciting Azan.
Advocate Munir Paracha and the Election Commission’s Additional Director General (Legal) Abdur Rehman emphasised the need for legislation to amend the list but said inclusion of names in the supplementary electorate rolls did not affect their right to vote for general seats.
The chief justice said the Second Amendment to the Constitution had been introduced by the late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslim, and the court could not undo the constitutional command.

5 kidnapped from Turbat

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, March 11: Five people were kidnapped at gunpoint from Turbat town on Monday night, police sources said.
Shah Mohammad, Shahzeb, Mohammad Ibrahim, Mohammad Aslam and Mohibullah were sitting at a hotel in Turbat when unidentified armed men reached there and took them to an unknown destination.
Investigating was under way, police said.

PM’s request affected by review plea withdrawal

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, March 11: No-one had ever imagined that an unexplained withdrawal of a review petition on the Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam would pose a challenge later in the Supreme Court’s acceding to the prime minister’s request for the transfer of the probe to a commission from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
“Why should the court hear the matter when the March 30, 2012 verdict has attained finality to the extent of Raja Parvez Ashraf after the withdrawal of the review petition,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while heading a three-judge bench.
The court had taken up a letter of the prime minister to the chief justice requesting transfer of the investigation into the Rs22 billion scam from NAB to a commission headed by Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle.
On Jan 21, the prime minister had withdrawn his review petition against the overarching judgment on the RPP scam because of the apprehension that adverse observations or an explicit order could compromise his situation.
On Monday, Waseem Sajjad advocate, representing the premier, told the court that the press and the people had shown mistrust on NAB investigations and expressed apprehension that the prime minister would influence the probe -- “an allegation that may adversely affect him when he will go to his electorate in coming elections”.
Therefore, Mr Sajjad insisted, it was necessary to transfer the investigation from NAB to a one-man commission under Dr Suddle.
However, the bench refused to buy the argument and its member Azmat Saeed quipped: “If it concerns with image building then the prime minister should go to the Saatchi and Saatchi, a global advertising agency”.
At the outset of the proceedings, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, another member of the bench, asked why the prime minister had doubts about NAB which was government’s own organisation.
What message the prime minister was giving by saying that he did not trust the bureau, the chief justice asked. “Under which law the court should accept the request of the prime minister when he has withdrawn his review petition?”
The pending review petitions had been moved by a number of persons and it concerned all of them, the chief justice said, adding that the prime minister was not the only affected person in the case.

JI presents three-point agenda

KARACHI, March 11: Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Syed Munawar Hasan has presented a three-point agenda for solving problems faced by the country.
Addressing a press conference here on Monday, he said all political and religious parties should unite on the agenda — eradication of terrorism, recovery of economy and resolution of Kashmir issue.
He said the issue of Kashmir should be resolved according to the desire of Kashmiri people. The JI chief said terrorism was assuming menacing proportions.
He said national economy was on the verge of collapse and stressed the need for taking measures for its recovery.
He said the government should formulate independent foreign policy based on national agenda.
About coming elections in the country, he said the JI was in the process of making seat adjustments with JUI-F in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and PML-N and PTI in Punjab. He regretted that the Election Commission had not yet implemented the Supreme Court’s verdict in its true spirit on verification of voters’ lists.
Mr Hasan termed the conviction of JI leaders in Bangladesh an unjustified act and called upon the media to play its role and highlight what he termed atrocities being committed against Jamaat leaders.
He accused the United States of intervening in the affairs of Pakistan and said the US wanted to seize resources of the country. “Our present rulers are obeying US commands.”—PPI

Amended nomination form sent for printing: Supreme Court gives free hand to ECP

By Nasir Iqbal and Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD, March 12: As the Supreme Court cast its vote in favour of the Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday by telling it not to show any weakness in holding the general election and ensuring that it was free from all kinds of malaise, an assertive ECP decided to implement the unfinished agenda of electoral reforms.
Invoking Article 190 of the Constitution which authorises the court to call any executive authority in its aid, the Supreme Court on Tuesday commanded the government not to drag its feet in abiding by constitutional provisions and its earlier verdict for ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.
The reported friction between the ECP and the Ministry of Law on proposed changes in nomination papers for candidates had caught the attention of the apex court which specifically ordered the executive authorities in clear terms not to show any hesitation in implementing the June 8, 2012 verdict and also to enforce Article 218(3) of the Constitution which empowered the ECP to guard against corrupt practices for impartial elections.
The ruling has virtually closed the doors for any legal challenge to the ECP decision to get the amended nomination papers printed, without a stamp of endorsement by the president.
The attention of a three-judge SC bench was drawn to the controversy by an office note. The bench had taken up a case relating to implementation of its verdict of June 8 last year.
“Why the ECP is feeling so weak in not arranging the election process in accordance with Article 218(3),” the chief justice observed. He asked if the court should always approach the law ministry before passing judgments each time. “The nation has suffered dearly and, therefore, it’s high time to check (corrupt practices),” the chief justice observed.
The court ordered the ECP to submit details along with a comparative statement and other steps taken to implement the June 8 verdict when Munir Paracha, the counsel for the ECP, informed it that the commission had suggested some two dozen amendments to election laws.
“In my opinion, the apex court by invoking Article 190 has empowered the ECP to go ahead with any decision, instead of waiting for approval from any highest office, that helps ensure free and fair elections in the country,” former Supreme Court Bar Association president Tariq Mehmood commented.
ELECTORAL REFORMS: Buoyed by the SC decision, the ECP which had on Monday decided against continuing to wait for the president’s approval, is now gearing up to confront parliament.
A member of the ECP told Dawn that the draft of a bill prepared by the commission proposing amendments to about 24 sections of the Representation of People’s Act, 1976 was yet to reach parliament. If the amendments were not passed before the expiry of National Assembly’s term, the commission would get them done through an ordinance, he added.
He said the caretaker prime minister would be asked to advise the president to promulgate the ordinance, adding that if the advice not acted upon within 15 days the ordinance would automatically become a law.
The member confirmed that the parliamentary committee on election procedures, along with the law minister, had sought a meeting with the ECP but was told that it was not possible before March 18 (Monday) because Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was not feeling well.
He said the CEC had allowed members of the commission to meet the committee in his absence, but it was finally decided that the meeting would be held on Monday when he came to Islamabad after recovery.
The draft bill seeks an increase in the period for nomination papers’ scrutiny from seven to 14 days and elimination of the president’s role in the appointment of election tribunals.
Under the existing law, the tribunals are nominated by the chief election commissioner with the approval of the president, but under the proposed bill they will be nominated by the ECP in consultation with the chief justice of the high court concerned.
The ECP seeks to suspend any public functionary or member of law-enforcement agencies who disobeys an order or fails to carry out any instruction issued by the commission or an authorised officer or takes any step meant to influence election results in any manner.
Under the proposed bill, the commission will be competent to initiate and finalise disciplinary action and impose any penalty on an official for misconduct.
The ECP proposes to increase the fee of nomination paper from Rs4,000 to Rs50,000 for the National Assembly and from Rs2,000 to Rs25,000 for a provincial assembly. It suggests that the amount of a candidate who bags less than one-fourth of the total votes polled should not be refunded. It seeks an increase in the fee for challenging a vote from Rs2 to Rs10.
The bill suggests submission of election petitions to the election tribunal concerned, and not to the chief election commissioner, and only a returned candidate should be allowed to be made respondent in a petition. The candidates will not be required to sign each and every schedule or annexure with the petition.
The draft bill suggests a penalty of Rs100,000 for impersonation, failure to submit return of election expenses in 30 days, violation of a bar on affixing posters, banners and hoardings larger than the prescribed size and violation of a ban on wall-chalking, use of loudspeakers, canvassing near polling stations or demonstrating disorderly conduct near polling stations.
A person who violates the code of conduct will be liable to a penalty up to Rs100,000. The penalty for corrupt practices, including capturing polling stations and breach of election duty, should be Rs50,000, the bill suggests.

PML-N’s ‘opposition-party’ manifesto

By Nasir Jamal

LAHORE: The cover of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s manifesto for the forthcoming election depicts a clean, green, economically strong and technologically advanced country. It projects a Pakistan where bullet trains operate, cars run on signal-free multi-storey thoroughfares surrounded by skyscrapers, windmills produce electricity, satellites revolve in space, engineers work on virtual screens, the national flag flutters on large industrial complexes, religion and tradition blend with modernity supported by education --- all under the revived civilian leadership of Mian Nawaz Sharif who is shown sitting in a relaxed mood in a JF Thunder fighter with an air force officer by his side.
Five years ago, as the PML-N leaders returned to rediscover the country they had been exiled from, they set simple, uncomplicated objectives. At the time the economy was in a much better shape than it is now, in spite of escalating global oil markets and the beginning of the economic slowdown and financial crisis in the United States and Europe. Power shutdowns were already a norm but gas shortages had only just surfaced, and overall, the energy sector was comparatively manageable.
The people were clamouring for greater political freedoms, their demands spiked by the uniformed ruler who had invited the public wrath with his wholesale sacking of the superior judiciary. Terrorism was routinely blamed on the military establishment’s decision to side with the American-led invasion of Afghanistan.
A fair election, Musharraf’s ouster and judges’ restoration were viewed as the prerequisites to allowing the country to move on. It was these ideals which the PML-N’s election manifesto then primarily reflected, focussing on restoration of the judiciary and, as a party that had been ousted by Musharraf in 1999, elimination of the army’s role in politics. The economy, jobs, education, etc were all mentioned but more as secondary objectives.
Five years on, the PML-N, which has re-entrenched itself in the country’s politics, must set itself new goals. The people are reeling under rising costs of living, rolling blackouts and gas shortages. The urban middle class that thrived under Gen Musharraf is feeling the bitter pinch of growing economic pressures, deteriorating quality of life, and worsening supply of public services like education, healthcare, drinking water and transport.
No party can hope to woo the voters without suggesting a solution to their immediate problems. Hence, the economic revival, energy security and jobs have received top priority from the authors of the new PML-N manifesto, which opens with a ‘personal’ message from its leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif. He acknowledges the “enormity of multiple challenges” and shares his party’s achievements during its two truncated terms in office in the 1990s as also his vision for changing Pakistan into a “self-respecting, prosperous and sovereign nation”.
The economic revival programme is followed by the party’s agenda to ensure food security for the poor, launch a social protection programme (the manifesto clearly implies that the PML-N intends to scrap the popular Benazir Income Support Programme (or at least change its name), bring better education and healthcare to the people, empower women, youth and minorities and encourage democratic governance by holding local elections and reforming civil service and police.
It promises to implement certain actions to improve inter-provincial harmony and remove deprivations in the smaller provinces, especially in Balochistan, ensure speedy and inexpensive justice and eradicate corruption. Civil-military relationship and Pakistan’s role in the region and in the world at large are discussed in a chapter on foreign policy and national security with a pledge to establish a federal cabinet committee on defence and national security chaired by the prime minister to “maintain democratic oversight of all aspects of foreign, defence and national security policies”. Militancy and terrorism have found place in the last chapter, which elaborates on the causes of its spread and vows to bring tribal areas --- the source of militancy and terrorism --- into the country’s political mainstream and make investment to ameliorate the lot of the people.
Nawaz Sharif is an astute politician. He rarely lets his words commit to anything. The manifesto is consistent with this reputation of his. Barring the PML-N’s strategy on the economic revival, the manifesto also gives little idea about the policies his government will pursue if voted to power.
Mostly, the authors of the document have chosen to speak in general terms to avoid committing anything. The chapter on militancy and terrorism, for example, doesn’t provide any clear direction, let alone a plan, to deal with the menace: whether it will prefer dialogue or use force or employ both the tools while dealing with the terrorist groups.
It is natural to view the PML-N moves in relation to the emerging challenge in its stronghold from Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) of Imran Khan. PTI has in the last one year vowed to implement more or less similar policies on economy, energy shortages, industry and trade, education and healthcare and plans to release its manifesto on March 23 in Lahore. Actually, PTI has already spoken in more concrete terms on these issues than the PML-N manifesto which has taken a full two years in making.
The document appears to have essentially been written from the perspective of a party that has remained in opposition and is going into the new election with a clean slate. What its authors have totally ignored is the fact that many voters will judge the party’s election promises in the context of its government’s performance in Punjab, the country’s largest province, which it has ruled during the last five years. If the PPP-led coalition in the centre and elsewhere is going to be subjected to public scrutiny for its ineptitude before the election, the PML-N government, too, will have to answer for its performance, or lack of it, in Punjab.

Commission comes under fire in Senate

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, March 12: Senators belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party on Tuesday questioned impartiality of the Election Commission of Pakistan and accused it of overstepping its constitutional mandate.
In hard-hitting speeches in the Senate, they alleged that like the Supreme Court, the ECP had started making decisions under pressure from media in violation of laws.
Discussing the ECP’s role on an adjournment motion moved by PPP’s Saeed Ghani, the treasury members also assailed the judiciary and the media.
The Senate debate took place at a time when the five-year term of the government is to expire in three days and the ECP is about to announce the schedule for the general election.
Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal of the PML-N feared that the tussle between the government and the ECP could lead to a delay in the general election.
Initiating the debate, Saeed Ghani criticised the ECP for its decision to publish the amended nomination forms without getting permission of President Asif Ali Zardari and alleged that the commission was making decisions which did not fall in its jurisdiction.
The senator expressed surprise over a sudden change in the ECP’s decision, saying its secretary had announced on Monday that if the president did not approve the changes in the nomination forms till midnight, the commission would have no option but to go for the printing of old forms. But later the ECP came out with an explanation that the president’s approval was just a formality and that it was authorised to make any decision to ensure fair and transparent elections, he said.
“Already sick of arbitrary interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, we now have another institution taking to that,” Mr Ghani said. The ECP did not have unlimited powers and it was bound to hold elections under the existing laws, he added.
Saeed Ghani said the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms had worked hard to make the ECP independent and to prepare transparent voters’ list. The commission had made some proposals which were impractical. He also expressed surprise over interviews given by ECP members to newspapers, saying like judges, they could not interact with the media directly and they also could not meet politicians.
Mr Ghani claimed that he had information about some ECP members, but “I am silent because I am a member of the government party”.
He, however, threatened that if they did not show restrain, he would expose their “connections”.
The PML-N’s Jaffar Iqbal said that the ECP had sent amended nomination forms to the president for approval last month. There would be some reasons for the delay in the approval by the Presidency, he said.
The government wanted to delay the polls on the pretext of standoff with the ECP, the senator alleged, adding there was nothing wrong if the commission talked about stopping the corrupt and looters from entering parliament.
The PML-N senator, however, termed the amended nomination form complicated and suggested that the parliamentary committee should ask the commission to simplify it.
Another PPP senator, Kazim Khan, said Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim was an honest man, but he had no authority to declare someone corrupt or thief. He said in India even a known dacoit Phoolan Devi had become a member of parliament. He also lamented the role of media.
The Minister for Political Affairs, Maula Bakhsh Chandio, said that seeking approval of the president was not a formality, alleging that the ECP had violated the Constitution by bypassing the Presidency. He criticised the PML-N for supporting every act of the judiciary and the ECP only because of its enmity with the PPP, warning that tomorrow it would have to face the consequences.
Responding to the attacks on his party by Mr Chandio, PML-N’s Senator Mushahidullah Khan, who is also the party’s information secretary, said the PPP government was critical of the ECP whereas it had failed to resolve the country’s problems. He said the PPP had not arrested the killers of Benazir Bhutto and was not ready to implement the decision of the court on holding of dual offices by President Zardari.
Mr Khan said the ECP could have committed some mistakes, but there was no need for a hue and cry. He was of the opinion that only the corrupt and fake-degree holders should fear the ECP.
Earlier, the Senate passed the Federal Ombudsman Institutional Reforms Bill, 2013, and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2013, unanimously.
During the question hour, the Minister of State for Interior, Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, told the house that Pakistan’s loss in the war on terror had touched $69 billion and that the country had not received any amount under the Coalition Support Fund from the US.

Qatar offers LNG at reduced rate

By Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD, March 12: In meetings held on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Qatar offered to sell two million tons of liquefied natural gas to Pakistan annually at reduced rates and the offer letter has been received by the Ministry of Petroleum.
ISLAMABAD, March 12: In meetings held on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Qatar offered to sell two million tons of liquefied natural gas to Pakistan annually at reduced rates and the offer letter has been received by the Ministry of Petroleum.
“Based on this offer letter we are forwarding a summary to the cabinet meeting tomorrow for consent,” Dr Asim Hussain, Adviser to the PM on Petroleum, said here on Tuesday.
Addressing a press briefing, Dr Hussain said the import from Qatar was different from the LNG plan on which the Supreme Court had issued a stay order.
This would be under an agreement between the two governments, he said, adding that the Qatari offer related to an unbundled project under which each segment of the import would be independent of each other and the Qatari government would be responsible only for the sale of LNG.
The transportation arrangements, handling in Pakistan and providing the gas to pipelines would be our responsibility,” the adviser said.
Earlier, the Qatari government had offered LNG at around $18 per mmbtu and an official of the petroleum ministry said the new rate was expected to be $4-5 lower.
Mr Hussain declined to comment when asked if Qatar had revised the price because of progress in the Iran pipeline project.
Two million tons of LNG is equivalent to 300 MMcfd and the ministry is planning to use part of an LPG terminal at Port Qasim in Karachi.
Replying to a question about possibility of US sanctions because of the Iran pipeline project, he said: “Iran is selling gas to Iraq, Afghanistan, Armenia and even Kuwait. They are also selling oil to China and India and nobody is talking about sanctions there.”
He said the project would cost $1.35 billion.
“We are also going for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.”
He said the gas infrastructure development cess (GIDC) had been imposed to raise funds for the pipeline project and if collections were made fairly “we can meet our share in 2-3 years”. But, he added, it was unfortunate that large businesses were resisting the GIDC by obtaining stay from courts “which is unfair with the country”.
He said that apart from other pressures, the local authorities too were to blame for delays in such projects. “We have missed the boat several times in the past and one reason is that our bureaucracy is too slow to act in time while the other reason is that technical experts are not up to date at least in this sector.”
SSGC, SNGPL: Dr Hussain said his ministry was also forwarding a summary to the cabinet regarding unbundling of the SSCG and SNGPL.
“This is a very serious and challenging job and there is very strong resistance against it because even the officers are involved in gas theft,” he alleged.
Under the plan, the government will be responsible only for transmission of gas, and smaller, semi-autonomous companies will sell it to consumers in their areas.
The adviser said both the SSGC and SNGPL lacked a progressive vision, while Ogra lacked technical expertise to guide them.
“The gas lost from a pipeline after a terrorist attack is categorised as loss but this should have been insured and accounted for,” he said.

Quetta poll official shot dead

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, March 12: The district election commissioner for Quetta was gunned down here on Tuesday.
The outlawed Baloch Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the killing.
Police said unidentified people riding a motorcycle opened fire on Mohammad Ziaullah Qasmi in Satellite Town when he was going home from office in an auto-rickshaw.
DIG operation Fayyaz Sumbal said Mr Qasmi received six bullet wounds. The rickshaw driver was injured.
Mr Qasmi, who hailed from Sargogha district, was posted in Qeutta in 2010.
A spokesman for the BLA told BBC that the group would not allow holding of elections in Balochistan.

National Assembly annuls Musharraf-era ‘mischief’

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD, March 12: With its time ticking by, the National Assembly moved with lightning speed on Tuesday to strike off a perceived Musharraf-era ‘mischief’ from an electoral law and exempt politicians from personally delivering their nomination papers to returning officers.
While only four days were left of its five-year term, and possibly only a day or two of its present session, the house also did a quick work of two pending private bills — one to prohibit corporal punishment in schools and care institutions and the other to promote reproductive healthcare rights of men and women — which were passed unanimously.
But the alacrity seen in bringing and adopting only a hand-written draft of a private bill with the consent of all major political parties for an amendment to the Representation of People Act, 1976, and delete an article of a 2002 decree of then military president Pervez Musharraf was rare.
After some hectic consultations between key lawmakers on the two sides of the aisle, rules were suspended to allow an immediate introduction of the bill although it was not on the day’s agenda, and it was voted upon without being referred for vetting to a house standing committee concerned.
The mover of what was called the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013, Zahid Hamid of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), said his amendment sought to undo changes made by Gen Musharraf to prevent both his party’s chief Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto from standing as candidates while they were in foreign exile by making it mandatory for candidates to personally deliver their nomination papers to returning officers.
But Law and Justice Minister Farooq H. Naek, while supporting the bill, mentioned only the late Ms Bhutto as the target of Gen Musharraf’s amendment, probably keeping in mind a deal the PML-N leader had struck with the general who had toppled him as prime minister in a 1999 coup, to refrain from taking part in politics for 10 years in exchange for being released from prison and sent in exile to Saudi Arabia.
The amendment, which must also be passed by the Senate to become law, to restore the pre-2002 position says: “Every nomination paper shall be delivered to the returning officer by the candidate or by his proposer or seconder or, if so authorised in writing by the candidate, by his nominee, and the returning officer shall acknowledge receipt of the nomination paper specifying the date and time of receipt.”
It also omits a related article in the Conduct of General Elections, 2002, Order issued by Gen Musharraf in his position as chief executive.
As support for the amendment also came from some other lawmakers, including Education and Training Minister Sheikh Waqqas Akram of the PML-Q and Wasim Akhtar of the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the law minister said he hoped the bill would be passed by the Senate as well in the next two to three days — although it was later put on the Senate agenda for Wednesday — so it doesn’t lapse with the National Assembly’s automatic dissolution with the completion if its tenure on Saturday.
The only “no” in the voice vote on the bill came from a PPP dissident, Syed Nasir Ali Shah, from Quetta who was protesting at the time over his allegations of not being fully heard by the chair and an unexplained bill of his not taken up for a year and a half.
Corporal punishment
Of the two other private bills authored by PML-Q’s Attiya Inayatullah and adopted by the house, the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill provides for “the protection of children against corporal punishment in all types of educational institutions, including formal and non-formal, both public and private, and in childcare institutions, including foster care and any other alternative care setting, both public and private”.
Penalties under this law, which will override all other laws now in force, will include -- among minors ones -- withholding promotion or increment, stopping promotion and recovery from pay of any pecuniary loss, and — among major ones — reduction to lower post or time-scale, compulsory retirement, removal and dismissal from service.
Dr Inayatullah’s second draft — the Reproductive Healthcare and Rights Bill — with her party colleague Donya Aziz as co-sponsor, seeks to give, according to its statement of objects and reasons, legal status to what it called the “principal” Islamic-ordained right to life “because in Pakistan, on average 80 women die every day because of pregnancy-related complications”.
“This bill seeks to promote the reproductive healthcare rights of men and women and to redress the complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, which are among the leading causes and consequence of mortality and morbidity for women of reproductive age…”
Another private bill of Ms Aziz to provide for a charter of child rights was first deferred in the middle of its consideration over an unexplained objection from the law minister and when the chair called for its reconsideration later, lack of quorum forced an adjournment of the house until 5pm on Wednesday.
But before that, the house adopted a resolution she moved with four other co-sponsors of different parties, condemning the practice of corporal punishment and calling upon caregivers in institutions such as hospices and orphanages as well as educational institutions, including schools and madressahs, to refrain from physically reprimanding children.
At the start of the day, Speaker Fehmida Mirza informed the house of Senate messages about several bills adopted by the Senate after passage by the lower house, and about a Constitution amendment bill the upper house passed last week seeking creation of a new Bahawalpur Janoobi Punjab province from Punjab, which appears destined to die if with the dissolution of the National Assembly which seems in no position to pass it with the required two-thirds majority.

Balochistan makes school education free, compulsory

By Our Staff Correspondent

QUETTA, March 12: The governor of Balochistan on Tuesday issued an ordinance under which primary and secondary school education has been declared compulsory and free.
The ordinance will be implemented with immediate effect, according to a press release.
The move has come against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s directive to implement Article-25A of the Constitution.
The article says it is the responsibility of the state to provide free and compulsory education up to matriculation to children.
It was inserted in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment. The court had issued the directive while hearing a petition regarding deteriorating condition of schools.
Education was among the subjects devolved to the provinces under the amendment.

Man, son killed in Bannu bomb blast

By Our Correspondent

BANNU, March 12: A man and his son were killed and 20 people, two of them policemen, were injured as a bomb triggered by a remote control exploded in Bannu bazaar on Tuesday.
Police and residents said a police van was on routine patrol at the Ahmed Khan Bazaar when the bomb strapped to a motorcycle exploded, killing Shahab and his son Dilnawaz.
The injured were taken to the DHQ hospital. Three of the critically injured people were taken to Peshawar.
DPO Waqar Ahmed told journalists that Bannu was adjacent to several tribal agencies and police were alert to thwart any act of terror.
Agencies add: District police chief Nisar Ahmed Tanoli said the device contained two kilograms of explosives and destroyed the police van.
“It was a remote-controlled bomb, planted on a motorbike parked outside the police station,” he said, adding that the blast killed two civilian passersby.
“We were six people in the van which was on routine patrol in the city. A sudden blast ripped through the van and all of us were injured,” police constable Mohammad Shiraz said.
No-one claimed responsibility for the attack but suspicion fell on Taliban who often target police and security forces deployed there.

Two bodies found, 2 shot dead

QUETTA, March 12: Two bullet-riddled bodies were found in Aab-i-Gum area of Bolan district and two men were shot dead in Quetta and Khuzdar on Tuesday.
Levies Force personnel took the bodies to the Mach Civil Hospital after local people informed the administration about the bodies in their area.
“They had been shot in the head and chest,” Levies officials said.
The victims were identified through slips of paper found in their pockets as Sikandar Qambarani and Baz Khan Marri.
They had gone missing two days back from their native areas.
A banned group claimed the responsibility for killing them.
In Quetta, Abdul Razzaq was shot dead by men on a motorcycle in Nawa Killi.
Khuda Bakhsh was gunned down in Zehri area of Khuzdar district.—Staff Correspondent

PM consoles Christians: Investment policy, FDI strategy approved

ISLAMABAD, March 13: The federal cabinet approved on Wednesday the Investment Policy, 2013, and Foreign Direct Investment Strategy, 2013-17.
The focus of the investment policy is on reducing the cost and processes of doing business to enhance Pakistan’s competitiveness.
It proposes liberalisation of economy with emphasis on investors’ facilitation, investment protection, removing regulatory impediments, public-private partnership and coordination between stakeholders.
The cabinet approved an amendment to Section 82 of the PPC to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven to 12 years. The bill excludes children involved in terrorist activities.
In his opening remarks at the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf expressed sorrow over the recent attack on a Christian colony in Lahore.
He said Christians were equal citizens of the land and must be given complete protection.
He assured the Christian community that the loss of property would be compensated jointly by the federal and provincial governments and the culprits responsible for this inhuman act would get exemplary punishment.
The prime minister said it is an important day because the democratic government was completing its tenure.
He praised the provincial governments, civil servants, armed forces and security agencies for extending full cooperation in serving the country and its people over the past five years.
“The PPP-led government has been working on multiple fronts to achieve energy security for the country. The start of work on Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project is a major step in this direction,” he observed.
LNG IMPORT: The cabinet approved a proposal to start negotiations for the import of LNG from Qatar under government-to-government arrangements.
It approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the National Records and Archives Authority of Oman and the National Archives of Pakistan for cooperation.
It approved initiation of negotiations for an agreement with Iran and an MoU between the Financial Monitoring Unit of Pakistan and Financial Intelligence Unit of Iran.—APP

Opposition has its say in amended terror law

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD, March 13: In the face of opposition filibuster, the government managed to get a new bill through the National Assembly on Wednesday, accepting almost all their amendments that may have weakened some provisions of what was promised to be more stringent law to curb terrorist violence.
Law and Justice Minister Farooq H. Naek accepted about 15 amendments, including the omission of a couple of clauses, mostly coming from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), and a couple from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in the hope of a smooth sailing for what was originally a 25-clause Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Bill, 2013 aimed to make perpetrators of various acts punishable under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.
Yet the PML-N legal expert, Zahid Hamid, wanted to speak on each of more than a dozen of his party’s amendments, prompting Speaker Fehmida Mirza to complain that he was “testing my patience” late in the day, just before she was to play host to house members at a farewell dinner ahead of the expiry of their five-year term.
But then jumped in opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in one of his rare appearances in the current session, to voice his wonder why the government was rushing with what he called controversial legislation and threatening that his party would block bills like the one aimed to give a one- time amnesty for not complying with tax laws.
The chief whip of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and religious affairs minister, Khursheed Ahmed Shah, countered by arguing that the opposition should be happy, rather than angry, with the government carrying out legislation to the last days of its term.
The law minister noted that the bill under discussion was no more controversial after he had accepted all opposition amendments, which Mr Hamid of the PML-N said sought to make the bill “more effective” while also addressing some fundamental concerns such as right to a fair trial and powers of superior courts to grant bail.
He noted the bill had been pending for about two years in the Senate, where it was first introduced by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, but could not pass through a house standing committee headed by a senator of the opposition Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam for unexplained reasons, prompting frequent complaints from the minister.
And to become law, the bill must be passed by the Senate as well before the National Assembly stands automatically dissolved at the end of its term on March 16.
So many amendments to a bill that amended another parent law, came with such rapidity, and sometimes amid confusion, that it was hard for people in the galleries to immediately grasp their significance.
The bill’s statement of objects and reasons noted that a “growing menace of terrorism and attacks on armed forces, civil armed forces, law enforcement agencies and government offices and installations have adversely affected the security situation” and said: “The extraordinary circumstances demand more stringent laws to curb the terrorist violence and to punish those found involved with a view to create adequate deterrence.”
The bill expands the definition of terrorism to acts like “intimidating and terrorising” the public, social sectors, and business community, attacking civilians, government officials, installations, security forces as well as government premises, schools hospitals, taking law into one’s own hands, award of punishment not recognised by law, and preaching one’s beliefs on unauthorised FM stations.
Earlier the house passed, for the second during this session, a government bill seeking the establishment of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto University in Islamabad, this time with some amendments made by the Senate last week.
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT: A Dawn report on Wednesday incorrectly, though inadvertently, cited penalties like withholding promotions and increments as well as compulsory retirement or dismissal of staff among corporal punishment in schools and other institutions under private bill passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday. In fact, these penalties were proposed in the original draft of the bill moved by Dr Attiya Inayatullah of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, while the final draft, as passed, prescribed the punishment of imprisonment of up to one year, or a fine of up to Rs50,000, or both, “in addition to any punishment arising out of hurt or injury caused by such corporal punishment under other applicable laws”.

Speculation over fate of Balochistan government

Dawn Report

QUETTA/ISLAMABAD, March 13: The governor’s rule in Balochistan will be lifted on Thursday or early Friday morning upon completion of a two-month period since its imposition on Jan 14, according to sources in Quetta.
The sources said that after the end of the governor’s rule fate of the suspended provincial government of Aslam Raisani would be decided.
The sources said that Mr Raisani, who had earlier announced that he was ready to resign his position, on Wednesday expressed his unwillingness to relinquish the post.
A former senior minister and parliamentary leader of the JUI-F in the provincial assembly, Maulana Wasey, said his party’s delegation would meet Mr Raisani in Islamabad on Thursday.
“The fate of the Balochistan government will be discussed at the meeting,” he told Dawn.
Meanwhile, a crucial meeting was held in the presidency amid confusion over whether governor’s rule in Balochistan had been lifted or not.
Some politicians believed that governor’s rule had ended after completion of two months. Some others, however, said that there were two days to go for completion of the 60-day period.
No official word was issued about the meeting till the filing of this report. Even the president’s spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, and Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira refused to speak to media about the matter.
The meeting was continuing till late in the night, with some sources saying that former chief minister Raisani was also present.
The meeting was being presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Argentina’s cardinal elected new Pope

VATICAN CITY, March 13: In a surprise choice, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected to be the new leader of the troubled Roman Catholic Church on Wednesday, and said he would take the name Francis I.
Pope Francis, 76, appeared on the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica just over an hour after white smoke poured from a chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel to signal he had been chosen to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
The choice of Bergoglio was announced by French cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran with the Latin words “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum. Habemus Papam” (“I announce to you a great joy. We have a pope.”) Francis becomes the 266th pontiff in the church’s 2,000-year history at a time of great crisis and difficulty.
Although a conservative, he is seen as a reformer and was not among the small group of frontrunners identified before the election.
He also went against one of the main assumptions before the election, that the new pope would be relatively young.
He is the oldest of most of the possible candidates and was barely mentioned in feverish speculation about the top contenders before the conclave.
FIRST JESUIT POPE: He is the first Jesuit to become pope.
The decision by 115 cardinal electors sequestered in a secret conclave in the Sistine Chapel came sooner than many experts expected because there were several frontrunners before the vote to replace Pope Benedict, who resigned last month.
The cardinals faced a thorny task in finding a leader capable of overcoming crises caused by priestly child abuse and a leak of secret papal documents that uncovered corruption and rivalry inside the church government, or Curia.
The wave of problems is thought to have contributed to Pope Benedict’s decision to become the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate.
Thousands of people sheltering from heavy rain under a sea of umbrellas had occupied the square all day to await the decision and the crowd swelled as soon as the white smoke emerged.
They cheered wildly and raced towards the basilica as the smoke billowed from a narrow makeshift chimney and St Peter’s bells rang.
The excited crowd cheered even more loudly when Francis appeared, the first pontiff to take that name.
—Reuters

Orangi NGO chief Parveen shot dead

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI, March 13: Parveen Rehman, the Director of the Orangi Pilot Project, was shot dead in Orangi Town when she was returning home on Wednesday evening.
The city’s leading social worker, who worked for Orangi Town, said to be Asia’s largest slum project, was attacked near the office of the research and training institute of the project located in the Qasba Colony, reportedly by four gunmen who started firing when her car had slowed down at a speed-breaker. Hearing gunshots the car of the deputy director which was ahead of Ms Rehman’s car sped away.
When called by the driver, the car returned and then drove her to a private hospital in North Nazimabad where doctors expressed their inability to treat Ms Rehman because her wounds were too serious. They advised that she should be taken to a larger hospital. She was rushed to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Govt piqued by one ECP amendment, court told

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, March 13: The Election Commission of Pakistan disclosed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the federal government was not happy with an amendment it had proposed in the Representation of People’s Act, 1976.
The amendment seeks to appoint monitors to check violations of the code of conduct by contesting candidates on a daily basis for a constituency or a group of constituencies. It is to be made by inserting Section 104(b) in the act.
“They (federal government) have no problem with the rest of the amendments proposed but have shown reservations over the insertion of Section 104(b),” Munir Paracha, the counsel for the ECP, informed a three-judge bench which had taken up
a case relating to imple-
mentation of its June 8, 2012, verdict.
The court had on Tuesday ordered the ECP to submit details of steps being taken for holding free and fair elections, including the pro-
posed amendments it had sent to the government for legislation.
The commission has suggested about two dozen amendments to election laws.
Deputy Attorney General Dil Mohammad Alizai asserted that the government had no intention to create any hurdle in the conduct of free, fair and impartial elections. But he said it was an irony that on the one hand the ECP had sent its proposed amendments to parliament for adoption and, on the other, it had initiated the process on its own.
When asked about the government’s point of view, he said he had received the court’s order late and, therefore, could not seek timely instructions.
Bilal Hassan Minto, representing the Workers Party, pointed out that the amendment being proposed germinated from an earlier observation of this court during the hearing of the main case when it had stated that the ECP was empowered to check not only illegal actions relating to elections or corrupt practices but also to review Jalsas, Jaloos, use of loudspeakers, etc.
Hamid Khan, the counsel for Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf, argued that the ECP had the power to make arrangements necessary to ensure that elections were conducted honestly, justly, freely and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices were guarded against.
He said the proposed amendment through Section 104(b) was most vital by any standard because it would empower the commission to arrange elections to achieve the objectives in terms of Article 218(3) of the Constitution.
The court ordered the ECP to submit a chart, separately showing the portion which was to be implemented in pursuance of the court’s directives for which no legislation was called for and the directives, observations and improvements which the commission intended to achieve the objective under Article 218(3) of the Constitution.
No delay by any quarter should be made in the larger national interest, the court emphasised.

Police claim arresting 11 children used by terrorists

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA, March 13: Police claimed on Wednesday to have arrested, after a brief encounter, 11 children who were allegedly lured and used by militants of an outlawed Baloch organisation to plant bombs and trigger blasts at various places in the provincial capital.
The chief of Quetta police, Captain (retd) Mir Zubair Mehmood, accompanied by DIG Investigation Mobin, told journalists at a press conference that police, on a tip-off that militants of a little-known outfit, the United Baloch Army, headed by Abdul Nabi Bangulzai, raided the Kalli Khli Angoori Bagh area. The raid triggered an armed encounter with members of the organisation.
The leader of the organisation escaped along with other militants during the exchange of fire, leaving the children at the place.
“We have taken 11 children into custody and they are under interrogation,” CCPO Zubair Mehmood said.
The arrested children were present during the news conference.
“Their ages are between 10 and 17 years,” he said, adding that one of them is the son of a serving police officer.
He said that during initial interrogation, the arrested children disclosed how they were being used by the banned outfit to plant bombs and explosives at various places in and around Quetta.
“All these teenagers are innocent and belong to poor families and they were being used by members of the outlawed organisation for their nefarious designs,” he claimed, adding that the children were being paid Rs2,000 to Rs5,000 for planting and exploding bombs.
He said children had admitted during an initial investigation that they were used for carrying explosives and bombs and conducting blasts at crowded places, including the Bacha Khan Chowk. He said they had also admitted to their involvement in at least eight cases of bomb blasts and grenade attacks in Quetta and on outskirts of the provincial capital. Mr Mehmood said that police also seized anti-personnel mines, detonators, 10kg of explosives, four rockets of 107mm, chemicals, safety fuses, two hand grenades and ammunition from the area. He said that it was a matter of great concern that the outlawed organisation was using innocent children to achieve its evil designs.
One of the children, Mohammad Sabir, told journalists that he, along with some others, planted a bomb on Jan 10 this year at the Bacha Khan Chowk. The bomb killed 10 civilians and two soldiers of the Frontier Corps, besides inuring 67 civilians.
The CCPO said that police were making arrangements to ensure these juvenile did not turn into hardened criminals.
“We are investigating all acts of terror in the province, including two massive bomb blasts which took place in Quetta recently and have found an important lead to reach those involved in these acts of terror,” Mr Mehmood said.
He said that in order to improve law and order situation in Quetta, Rs500 million had already been earmarked for the installation of CCTV cameras and other equipment for technical surveillance.
In reply to a question, he said the government had approved recruitment of over 1,000 policemen for Quetta police.
The children were identified as Munir Ahmed, Muhammad Azim, Muhammad Shoaib, Aamir Khan, Javed Ahmed, Muhammad Sabir, Faisal, Niaz Muhammad, Baryali, Babar Ali and Abdul Shakoor.

Amended nomination forms: Court upholds commission’s initiative

By Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD, March 14: The Supreme Court upheld on Thursday the Election Commission of Pakistan’s right to get its new, biting nomination forms printed. Traditional politicians and major parties have severely criticised the changes made in the form as being too intrusive and too personal.
The court said the nomination paper was strictly in accordance with the law and the Constitution and there should be no objection to it.
In order to avoid delay in elections, the ECP decided on March 11 to go ahead with the printing of the forms which include the proposed amendments it had sent to the president for approval. The nomination papers seek details about aspiring candidates’ income and agricultural tax returns of the past three years, foreign travels, expenses of their children studying abroad, declaration of not having or applied for a foreign citizenship, etc.
The decision led to a friction between the ECP and the law ministry which insisted that without the president’s approval the proposed amendments could not become part of the nomination form.
But the commission was of the opinion that it was not changing any election rule but only improving the proforma which had been brought to the knowledge of all stakeholders, including voters and candidates, much before time.
“All the stakeholders, including over 80 million voters, candidates, parliamentarians and the nation, are unanimous on one point that their representatives should be honest and not polluted with allegations,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry observed while dictating an order after hearing a case relating to implementation of the court’s June 8, 2012, verdict calling for electoral reforms.
Heading a three-judge bench, the chief justice emphasised that the court would not allow a delay of even a day in elections, but noted that the government had certain objections to some of the sections in the nomination papers like the one in which information had been sought about criminal cases against a candidate over the past six months as well as about foreign visits.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir contended that an individual could not be held guilty of an offence unless declared so by a court of law. He asked why the ECP had sent the proposed amendments to the president for approval when the commission itself could have made changes in the Representation of People’s Act 1976 and other rules.
Referring to its June 8, 2012 verdict in the Workers Party case, the court emphasised that the ECP had a constitutional commitment and obligation to hold and organise elections in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Constitution. The ECP also enjoys the power as described in Article 222 of the Constitution which bars parliament from making any law which takes away or abridges any of the powers of the commission. This meant that in conducting the elections honestly, justly and fairly, corrupt practices had to be guarded against by the ECP, the court said.
It observed that when over 1,000 candidates would have to be elected, the people reserved the right to know about credentials of the candidates who would represent them for five years. Likewise, it said, the representatives were also supposed to provide all information to their electorates.
“We believe that the government also supports the holding of fair and impartial elections free from all corruption,” the court said.
The attorney general informed the court that the law ministry had examined the proposed amendments and a special committee had also been set up and the objections raised by it to the amendments had been sent back to the ECP. But so far no reply had been received from the commission, he added.
In all fairness, Mr Qadir explained, it would not be possible to legislate on the amendments sought by the ECP since the National Assembly was going to complete its five-year term on March 15. But if a need arose a temporary legislation could be made by promulgating an ordinance, he added.
In view of the importance of the issue, the court said, it had already held that the president was competent to issue an ordinance on which a legislation could be done later. Therefore there should not be any difficulty either on the part of the ECP or the competent authority (president), it emphasised.
The court, however, asked the ECP to submit its stand on the remaining amendments which it believed did not require legislation.
The case will be taken up on Friday.
About the grant of voting rights to overseas Pakistanis, the court ordered the attorney general to seek instructions from the Ministry of Information Technology on the possibility of electronic voting.

PPP pledges improved performance next time

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD, March 14: Two days before the expiry of the term of its government, the Pakistan People’s Party has pledged to do better than during the first term and to ‘protect’ the people of Pakistan from terrorism.
A manifesto of the party unveiled here on Thursday adheres to the old slogan of ‘roti, kapra aur makan’ (food, clothing and shelter).
“As we take Pakistan into its first constitutional transfer of power through elections, we resolve to take the country into a future based on social justice, peace and prosperity for all,” said president of the PPP (Parliamentarians) Makhdoom Amin Fahim at the newly-built Central Secretariat of the party.
Unable to promptly respond to some tough questions of reporters mostly relating to the five-year performance of the government rather than to the manifesto, Mr Fahim was occasionally assisted by former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar and Defence Minister Naveed Qamar.
At one point when Mr Gilani appeared reluctant to respond to a question about the failure of the government during its five-year term to arrest the murderers of Benazir Bhutto, saying “the matter is sub judice,” Mr Kaira intervened and claimed that efforts were being made to arrest one accused who had absconded to another country and another accused had been killed while charge-sheets against others had been presented before a trial court.
“The biggest security is the food security. The PPP has guaranteed the food security” was the response of Mr Gilani to a question regarding the poor law and order situation, resulting in deaths of hundreds of people in terrorist and sectarian incidents.
To a question about failure of the government to end loadshedding, Mr Gilani claimed that the PPP-led government had added 3,400MW of electricity to the national grid. He held the provincial governments responsible for not doing anything in this regard. “Under the Constitution, there is no bar on power generation by the provinces. Have you ever asked a provincial government how many megawatts it has generated?” he said.
On the issue of Balochistan, he said the main demand of the people of the province was provincial autonomy and that had been met.
In response to a question about price-hike, Mr Fahim said inflation and increase in prices of edibles were an international phenomenon and Pakistan faced the same problem.
Mr Kaira said the government had regularised the services of over 250,000 contract and daily-wage employees.
Earlier, announcing the salient features of the manifesto, Mr Fahim presented seven “core priorities” aimed at protecting and empowering the people of Pakistan. He pledged that the PPP would initiate key programmes in the first 100 days after coming into power at the federal and provincial levels to implement these core priorities.
The priorities are “ensuring basic needs of the economically- and socially-disadvantaged people; inclusion and empowerment of all citizens, especially women, minorities, youth and dispossessed; revival of a globally-impacted economy and investment in equitable and inclusive growth through job-creating programmes; investment in infrastructure for the future; spearheading a new social contract for the federation and provinces through parliamentary consensus; security and a guarantee of basic protections; and pursuing the goal of stability and peace-building in the region.
Although the PPP leaders – intentionally or unintentionally – did not talk about the party’s future policy regarding the war on terror, the manifesto has pledged to continue cooperation with the US in the war on terror.
Like the PML-N, the PPP also promised to “make military budgets accountable to parliament, and institutionalise better oversight of defence expenditure”.
The manifesto also promises to “encourage closer working relationship between defence and parliamentary institutions for cooperation as well as oversight”. The PPP claimed the credit of “doubling the salaries of members of the armed forces”.
It pledged to expand the tax net to five million people and increase the tax-to-GDP ratio to 15 per cent by 2018. The party will ensure cheap electricity by combining hydel, coal, gas and renewable energy of up to 12,000 MW by the end of its next term.
Through the next NFC Award, the manifesto says, Sindh will receive a special grant for Karachi as Pakistan’s only mega-city, port and economic capital.
“We will invest in the police and law enforcement agencies for each province to ensure internal security,” Mr Fahim said.
He said the manifesto was based on “ground realities in Pakistan” and added: “We make no promises for which we cannot find resources.”
“We believe that national security is premised on human security first. Anyone governing Pakistan in the next 10 years of a global recession and regional security upheavals will also have to make tough fiscal, economic, security and governance decisions,” he said.
The manifesto pledges complete eradication of polio from the country by 2018. The BISP cash payments will be increased to Rs2,000 per month. A health insurance plan will be launched for the poor through Waseela-i-Sehat and employment will be provided to youths through Waseela-i-Rozgar. Enrolment through Waseela-i-Taleem programmes will be increased. The party commits to spending more than 4.5 per cent of the GDP on education by the end of its next term in the government.
It also proposes to set up a national education standards council, seeking to bridge the gap between private and public schooling.
The manifesto promises to increase the minimum wages to Rs18,000 per month by 2018. It plans to reserve four seats for labour representatives in the National Assembly and two seats in each of the provincial assemblies and two seats for women from Fata.
The party also plans to set up a national commission on minorities with statutory status.

Interim PM: ex-judge, economists on govt list

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, March 14: The People’s Party has picked two economists who worked closely with military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf and an octogenarian retired judge from Balochistan as its nominees for caretaker prime minister.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf unveiled the names in a letter he sent to the Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, on behalf of the ruling coalition as Leader of the House.
Pervez Ashraf said in his letter: “As a result of our consultations I propose three names for the office of the caretaker prime minister: Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso.”
He put Dr Shaikh, who until last month was the finance minister in his cabinet, as his top choice, followed by former State Bank governor Dr Hussain and Justice Khoso, a former chief justice of the Balochistan High Court and Shariat Court and ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court.
“These persons are of known standing, integrity and competence and we can discuss and deliberate on the names put forward both by the government and the opposition at a mutually convenient time so that we can agree on a suitable person in line with constitutional obligations,” the prime minister said.
He expressed hope for an early response “so that we can put a closure to the issue and move forward to set the stage for holding general election”.
The leader of opposition had put forward the names of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan and Awami Tehrik founder Rasul Bakhsh Palijo.
DR SHAIKH: Since his resignation first as finance minister in the third week of last month and then as a PPP senator, rumours were rife that Dr Shaikh would be one of the nominees of the coalition for caretaker prime minister.
Many believe that the PML-N will not accept him as interim chief executive of the country because of his association with Gen Musharraf and then with the outgoing PPP government.
Hailing from Jacobabad, he got higher education from the Boston University and later taught at the Harvard University. He also remained associated with the World Bank as its director of economic operations during the 1990s. After the dismissal of the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999 by Gen Musharraf, he was made a provincial minister in Sindh and later privatisation minister under former prime minister Shaukat Aziz.
He oversaw the privatisation of the KESC and PTCL. The KESC continues to be a permanent liability on the national grid and despite De Shaikh holding the charge of finance minister since 2010, the government has yet to recover $800 million from the PTCL management.
Controversial privatisation steered by him of the Pakistan Steel Mills was cancelled by the Supreme Court. In addition to the current state of the national economy, his failure to impose the value added tax is cited by financial experts against him.
However, according to analysts, his perceived trustworthy relationship with the IMF and World Bank and closeness to the security establishment may go in his favour.
Chaudhry Nisar, during a recent press conference, rejected his candidature.
Talking to Dawn, PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan said it was too early to say anything about the matter and things would become clear in a day or two.
DR HUSSAIN: In comparison to Dr Shaikh, Dr Hussain, who led the State Bank from Dec 1999 to Dec 2005 under Gen Musharraf, is regarded as non-controversial and a thorough professional. A PhD in economics from the Boston University, Dr Hussain is a former civil servant. He too has had stints with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in senior positions.
Political experts argue the international community is quite concerned about the country’s economic condition and, hence, would push for somebody like him as caretaker prime minister.
Finance Minister Saleem H. Mandviwalla recently said the country might need an IMF programme in the near future.
Having worked closely with the military establishment under Gen Musharraf, he might receive much needed support from the GHQ side as well, the experts said.
Dr Hussain led the National Commission for Government Reforms for two years from May 2006, but its report was not implemented.
JUSTICE KHOSO: Born in 1929, Justice (retd) Khoso is known for his close association with the PPP.
He was appointed as a BHC judge by the PPP government in 1977 and elevated as chief justice in 1989 after the party returned to power. He retired in 1991 but was appointed a Federal Shariat Court judge in 1992.
Mir Hazar Khan Khoso was appointed as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court in 1994. But he was removed as a result of the Al Jihad Trust case in which former chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah ruled against temporary appointment of judges.
Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood of the Supreme Court, who is against the appointment of former judges in the caretaker set-up, said Justice Khoso stood no chance of getting the job in comparison with the two other nominees.
THE COUNTDOWN: Under Article 224 of the Constitution, the PM and the Leader of Opposition have three days after the dissolution of the National Assembly on Saturday to reach an agreement on the caretaker prime minister. Otherwise, under Article 224-A, both of them will forward two names each to an eight-member bipartisan parliamentary committee where both sides can also bring in more names for consultation within three days.
If the committee too fails to decide on a name, the Election Commission will select the caretaker prime minister within a couple of days.
According to government sources, a senior ANP leader may also be considered for the post in case of a deadlock.
Analysts said the PML-N was likely to try its best to complete the process in the first stage because, with the MQM sitting on opposition benches now, it can be voted out at the committee level before the case moves to the ECP.

Justice Tariq likely CM of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

By Waseem Ahmad Shah

PESHAWAR, March 14: The government and the opposition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa agreed on Thursday on the name of Justice (retd) Tariq Pervez Khan, a former judge of the Supreme Court, as the caretaker chief minister. A formal announcement in this regard would be made on Friday, official sources said.
A source privy to negotiations going on for the past few days between Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti and Leader of the Opposition in provincial assembly, Akram Khan Durrani, told Dawn that the two leaders considered several names before agreeing to send the name of Justice Tariq Pervez to the governor for appointment as caretaker chief minister.
Abbas Khan, a former inspector general of police, was among the candidates for the job of caretaker chief minister.
Mr Hoti and Mr Durrani are scheduled to address a press conference in Islamabad on Friday where they would announce nomination of Justice Tariq Pervez as caretaker chief minister.
By agreeing on the name of a caretaker chief minister, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has taken lead over the three other provinces as well as the centre. Under the Constitution, a caretaker chief minister has to be appointed by the governor in consultation with the chief minister and the leader of opposition.
A former chief justice of Peshawar High Court Justice Tariq Pervez was a judge of repute who earned a lot of respect from the legal fraternity and civil society when he declined to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order after Gen Pervez Musharraf declared emergency on Nov 3, 2007.
He was chief justice of the high court at that time. Tariq Pervez Khan was finally restored along with several other judges of superior courts.
Justice Tariq Pervez was born in Peshawar on Feb 15, 1948, and did his graduation in law in 1971 from the University of Peshawar. He was considered a competent lawyer and well-versed in different fields of law, especially criminal jurisprudence.
Justice Tariq Pervez had served as president of PHC Bar Association in 1996. He was appointed as chief justice of PHC on April 5, 2005, and elevated to the Supreme Court in Oct 2009. He retired from that post on Feb 14 this year.
Sources said that some elements in the government had raised objections over the nomination of Justice Tariq Pervez because two years had not elapsed after his retirement from government service. However, they added, the objections was rejected as some legal experts were of the opinion that the two-year bar was not required for the post of caretaker chief minister as it was not included in the service of Pakistan under article 260 of the Constitution.
When a reference was filed against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March 2007, Justice Tariq Pervez was the first chief justice of a high court to have attended a reference put forward by the Peshawar High Court Bar Association.

Three killed, six injured in Karachi explosion

By Our Staff Reporter

KARACHI: March 14: Three people were killed and six others injured in an explosion in the city’s Landhi area about two hours after Thursday night.
According to a senior police official, the explosion was caused by explosives placed in a rickshaw parked outside a cable operator’s office not far from the Quaidabad police station in New Muzaffarabad Colony. The explosives were detonated by remote control.
Earlier another police officer had said it was not clear if the blast was caused by a bomb or gas cylinder in the rickshaw because bomb disposal personnel were yet to reach the area.
The dead and injured were taken to the JPMC.
Earlier on Thursday, police claimed to have shot dead a man who was said to be involved in an attack in which Parween Rahman, a renowned social worker, was killed on Wednesday.
The man was identified as Qari Bilal, deputy chief of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, and police said they had killed him during an encounter in Manghopir area.
According to them, a police team signalled a Toyota car carrying several suspects to stop, but the men opened fire on policemen and tried to escape. Police returned fire and injured one of the suspects who was later identified as Qari Bilal. He succumbed to his injuries, police said.
Separately, DIG South Shahid Hayat said at a press conference that police had arrested six TTP militants, including its Karachi chief Sher Alam Mehsud, during raids in different areas of Karachi and seized a number of arms, ammunition and explosives.
He claimed that Mehsud was one of the masterminds of the Abbas Town bomb blast in which over 50 people were killed.

Selection of caretaker PM: Stalemate as both sides reject nominees

By Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD, March 15: There appeared to be a stalemate on Friday night on the issue of reaching consensus on a candidate for the post of caretaker prime minister.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan rejected all three names proposed by the ruling PPP for the post and categorically stated that the consultation process “can only move forward if the government withdraws all its nominees”.
And in a tit-for-tat response, a senior leader of the PPP told Dawn late in the night that the government had rejected the names proposed by the leader of opposition.
According to sources, the decision was taken at a meeting presided over by President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidency.
The PPP leader who did not want to be named said the party had serious reservations over the two names suggested by the PML-N and would never accept them.
When asked about the reasons, he said President Zardari had been falsely implicated in a murder case of his brother-in-law Murtaza Bhutto in 1996 and it was Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid on whose order he had been sent to jail. About Rasul Bakhsh Palijo, he said he was not acceptable because of anti-Pakistan statements made by him. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had said he would continue to reach an agreement on the name of a caretaker prime minister. “In case such an agreement is not possible, the government shall forward the names of two persons to the parliamentary committee as stipulated in the constitution,” he added.
On Thursday, the government picked Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Justice (retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso as its nominees for caretaker prime minister.
The PML-N had put forward the names of Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Justice (retd) Shakirullah Jan and Awami Tehrik founder Rasul Bakhsh Palijo.
During a telephonic conversation with the prime minister, Chaudhry Nisar said he had withdrawn the name of Justice Shakirullah Jan and asked the government to consider the remaining two names as final from the opposition.
Mr Ashraf confirmed in a press release that the leader of opposition had withdrawn the name of Justice Jan. It said the prime minister was in constant contact with Chaudhry Nisar in connection with the nomination of a suitable person for the office of caretaker prime minister.
According to the PML-N, Dr Shaikh and Dr Hussain are technocrats, whereas Justice Khoso is known for his association with the PPP since 70s and, therefore, they are not acceptable to the party. It said the PML-N had been against selection of a technocrat for the coveted post.
Under Article 224 of the Constitution, the leader of the house and that of the opposition have three days after the dissolution of the National Assembly on Saturday (today) to reach an agreement on the caretaker prime minister.
In the event of their failure to do so, the matter will go to an eight-member bipartisan parliamentary committee which will choose one name from the four nominees --two each from the prime minister and the leader of opposition -- within three days. The two sides can also bring in more names for consideration by the committee.
If the committee also fails to decide on a name, the Election Commission of Pakistan will select the caretaker prime minister within two days. The PML-N will hold a meeting in Islamabad on Saturday to discuss the political situation and chalk out its future course of action.
The party’s spokesperson Senator Mushahidullah Khan told Dawn that in the absence of Mian Nawaz Sharif, who is at present in Switzerland, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif would attend the crucial meeting. He said the meeting would also discuss nominations for caretaker chief minister in Punjab.
According to a source in the PML-N, the purpose of Mr Sharif’s visit to Switzerland is being kept secret even within the party. “He is there for some meetings, but with whom and for what purpose only he knows,” the source said.
CARETAKER CM: In an interesting development, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement nominated on Friday Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid as one of its five nominees for caretaker chief minister in Sindh.
If the PPP and MQM agree on the name of Justice Zahid for the post, the PML-N will be left with only one nomination, Rasul Bakhsh Palijo, for the post of caretaker prime minister.
“Things are quite fluid at the moment and will become clear only after the PML-N meeting on Saturday, whether we have to talk to the government or go for the committee-level selection of the caretaker prime minister,” said a senior PML-N leader while talking to Dawn.

Lawmaker disqualified on eve of NA dissolution

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, March 15: PPP lawmaker Capt (retd) Ghulam Mujtaba Rai, who was elected to the National Assembly from NA-143 constituency, was found to be holding dual nationality on Friday, just a day before the completion of the assembly’s five-year term.
The Supreme Court ordered his disqualification and instructed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to immediately ‘de-notify’ him as a member of parliament.
A three-judge bench — comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed — also ordered ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan to furnish the list of lawmakers disqualified under Article 63(1c) of the Constitution. The ECP was asked to inform the Supreme Court on March 25 about actions initiated against members of parliament for possessing dual nationality.
On Sept 21, the court had disqualified five members of the National Assembly and six of the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Sindh.
MNAs sent home were Chaudhry Zahid Iqbal (for having the citizenship of Great Britain) and Farahnaz Ispahani of the PPP (USA), Farhat Mehmood Khan of the MQM (USA), Jamil Ahmed Malik of the PML-N and PML-Q’s Begum Shahnaz Sheikh.
Disqualified MPAs included PML-N’s Mohammad Akhlaq (USA), Dr Mohammad Ashraf Chohan (UK), Chaudhry Nadeem Khadim (UK), PPP’s Amna Buttar (USA) — all belonging to Punjab — and PPP’s Dr Ahmad Ali Shah (UK) and Ms Nadia Gabol of the MQM, from Sindh.
Referring to Ghulam Mujtaba, the court noted that he had yet to provide the certificate of renunciation of his Canadian citizenship under Section 9(3) of the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1985. But he had furnished a document issued by the High Commission of Canada.
His counsel Munir Paracha requested the bench to refer the case to the ECP on the ground that his client had filed an affidavit before the commission. Ghulam Mujtaba had applied for renunciation of his Canadian nationality on Jan 20, 2007, he told the court. But the court rejected the request.
“Because of non-production of certification of renunciation at the time of filing of nomination papers before the ECP in 2007-08, Ghulam Mujtaba was not qualified to be an MNA under Article 63(1c) of Constitution,” the court order said.
“Thus he is declared disqualified to be the member of the parliament,” the order said, adding that Ghulam Mujtaba had been occupying the position of MNA from the constituency NA-143 as a disqualified person.
Since he had violated Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, the court observed, he deserved to be dealt with like the members disqualified earlier.

Provincial assemblies likely to be dissolved on 19th

By Syed Irfan Raza and Saleem Shahid

ISLAMABAD/QUETTA, March 15: Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has agreed to the dissolution of assembly along with three other provincial assemblies, averting a constitutional crisis and paving the way for holding elections for national and provincial assemblies on the same day.
Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have agreed to the dissolution of their assemblies on March 19.
Mr Raisani had earlier refused to resign. His government stood restored on Thursday after the lifting of governor’s rule imposed in the province two months ago.
The decision was taken at separate meetings held in the presidency in Islamabad on Friday.
The first meeting was attended President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr Raisani, Law Minister Farooq Naek, Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, senators Mualana Mohammad Shirani and Mir Israrullah Zehri and MPAs Maulana Wasey and Mir Asim Kurd.
The second meeting was attended by Mr Zardari, Mr Raisani, Governor Zulfiqar Ali Magsi and Mr Naek.
Mr Raisani is reported to have agreed to call a meeting of his cabinet on March 17.
Sources told Dawn that Maulana Shirani of JUI-F and Mr Zehri of BNP-Awami had played important roles in resolving the crisis.
However, JUI-F has refused to sit on treasury benches. In this way it will get the post of leader of opposition and the PPP and JUI-F will decide name of the caretaker chief minister to meet the constitutional requirement.
The sources in the presidency said Mr Raisani has been visiting the presidency over the past three days on the call of President Zardari.
They said that Mr Raisani and JUI-F leaders had put some conditions at the meeting, including transfer of Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad and some other administrative changes in the province. They said the name of Mahfouz Ali Khan, a senior bureaucrat from Balochistan, was suggested for the post of chief secretary.
However, the sources added, the Establishment Division wanted to appoint Iqbal Mohammad Khan Khattak as chief secretary.
It has been learnt that the lifting of governor’s rule was required under the Constitution to form a caretaker set-up in Balochistan.
Soon after the imposition of governor’s rule, there were reports that Mr Raisani would be replaced by another member of the provincial assembly, most probably from PML-Q, as chief minister.
PML-Q’s spokesman Kamil Ali Agha said his party had no objection to restoration of Mr Raisani as leader of the house and Maulana Wasay as leader of the opposition.According to official website of Balochistan Assembly, the PML-Q has 19 members, PPP 15, JUI-F 10, independents eight, BNP-Awami seven and ANP three. The PML-N, JUI-I and National Party have one member each.

NA completes term today

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly will complete its five-year term at 11:59:59pm on March 16.
Talking to Dawn, a senior official said that the first session of the National Assembly was held on March 17, 2008 and, accordingly, the house would complete its term between the night of March 16 and 17.
The Article 52 of the constitution reads: “The National Assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, continue for a term of five years from the day of its first meeting and shall stand dissolved at the expiration of its term.”
With the dissolution of the assembly, members of the federal cabinet, except Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, will cease to function as minister. The prime minister, the official said, would continue to be the chief executive until the selection of a caretaker prime minister as mentioned in Article 224 and 224-A of the constitution.
The federal government has cancelled weekly off on Saturday apparently to enable ministers to bid farewell to the staff of their ministries.
Meanwhile, the media cell of the PM’s secretariat announced on Friday that the prime minister would address the nation on Saturday evening.—Staff Reporter

Pakistan beat South Africa by 6 wickets

CENTURION (South Africa), March 15: Pakistan defeated South Africa by six wickets in the second one-day international at SuperSport Park on Friday to level the five-game series 1-1.
South Africa were bowled out for just 191 in 43.2 overs before Pakistan reached their target with 28 balls to spare.
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Irfan took four wickets in a devastating opening spell. He took a career-best four for 33 in seven overs.
The home side won the first game by 125 runs in Bloemfontein last Sunday.—AFP

Drone attacks violate Pak sovereignty: UN

By Baqir Sajjad Syed and Masood Haider

ISLAMABAD / NEW YORK, March 15: United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism has concluded that US drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and called for their immediate cessation.
The Special Rapporteur, Mr Ben Emmerson, said in a statement after conclusion of his unannounced visit to Pakistan from March 11 to 13 that Pakistan needed to be given an opportunity to establish peace in the country.
The UN rapporteur is investigating the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing in the context of counter-terrorism operations. He would present his report during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in October.
Mr Emmerson held meetings with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Adviser on Human Rights Mustafa Khokhar, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production Mushahid Hussain, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and other officials. He also met a number of victims of drone attacks, lawyers of some of the victims, and a delegation of tribal Maliks from Waziristan.
Representatives of military and ISI did not meet him.
“It (drone war) involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” Mr Emmerson, a British counter-terrorism expert, said.
He appeared to be convinced with the government position that it had not consented to the strikes by the US. The rapporteur was informed by officials that “thorough search of government records had revealed no indication of such consent having been given”.
In 2010, then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had told reporters that former president Pervez Musharraf had allowed the United States to carry out drone flights in tribal areas for reconnaissance.
The international community has remained seized with the debate over the legality of intervention by a third party (an outside state) in an internal conflict in a country even with the tacit permission of its government and deployment of remote targeting technology like drones.
The other important part of Mr Emmerson’s investigation was whether unwillingness of a state or its inability to tackle the terrorist threat posed by an insurgent group operating on its territory made the use of force by an outside state legal.
The rapporteur’s assessment challenged the widely propagated narrative that Pakistan was not capable of fighting the terrorists, who were having sanctuaries in Waziristan.
“Based on its direct knowledge of local conditions, Pakistan aims to a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy that involves dialogue and development in this complex region and that tackles not only the manifestations of terrorism but also its root causes.”
He said Pakistan needed space “to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other States”.
Mr Emmerson noted: “Taken together with its broader strategy of engaging militant groups in dialogue, and the provision of development assistance to the tribal communities in Fata, the government considers that it has the necessary legal, law-enforcement and military resources at its disposal to tackle the issue of militant groups operating in Fata in a manner which is effective and which respects local tribal affiliations and traditions, with a view to building a sustainable route to peace in the region.”
Pakistan considers the drone campaign to be counter-productive and to be radicalising a whole new generation, and thereby perpetuating terrorism in the region, he said.
The rapporteur was told by the ministry of human rights that its findings suggested that strikes were a source of radicalisation and violent extremism among younger Pashtun males.
Government statistics shared with Mr Emmerson said that at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of drone strikes, out of whom 200 were likely non-combatants.
Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based independent
Centre for Research and Security Studies, said the UN rapporteur had considered at least 25 case studies in which civilians were killed because of drone strikes.
“The accelerated use of combat drones on the western border region of Pakistan is setting a dangerous precedent for countries such as India, China, and Russia, which are all characterised as having conflicts with their neighbouring states. The Pakistan precedent makes it more likely that other countries will follow the American example, when almost 76 countries currently have drones in their military arsenals,” a CRSS report said.
According to the ministry of foreign affairs’ data, the US has carried out at least 330 drone strikes on the Pakistani territory since 2004 in which around 2,200 people have been killed and more than 600 others suffered serious injuries.
In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Friday that he was concerned by the use of armed UAVs (drones) for targeted attacks.
“There is a need for greater confidence in the international community that the use of these weapons is within the bounds of international law,” he said.
Reuters adds: US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland while reacting to the UN rapporteur’s report in Washington said: “We’ve seen his press release. I’m obviously not going to speak about classified information here.”
“We have a strong ongoing counter-terrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue,” she said.
Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgment until it saw the UN rapporteur’s full report.
“We have a solid working relationship with them (Pakistan) on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship, and we’re in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues.”

Polls a milestone for Pakistan, US Congress told

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON, March 13: US intelligence agencies have informed Congress that the coming general elections will be a milestone for Pakistan and must be held by May 2013.
In a report sent to Congress on Tuesday, James R. Clapper, Director US National Intelligence, also notes that “Islamabad is intently focused on Afghanistan” in anticipation of the withdrawal of American and Nato forces.
The annual report titled “Worldwide Threat Assessment” includes the input of 16 US intelligence agencies, including the CIA.
The report points out that since late last year, the Pakistani government has attempted to improve relations with Kabul and ensure that its views are taken into consideration during the transition period.
The military this year continued operations in Fata and has forces in place for an operation against anti-Pakistan militants in North Waziristan.
The report notes there were fewer domestic attacks by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan this year than in the previous several years.
“Economically, trouble looms. Pakistan, with its small tax base, poor system of tax collection, and reliance on foreign aid, faces no real prospects for sustainable economic growth,” the report warns.
“The government has been unwilling to address economic problems that continue to constrain economic growth. The government has made no real effort to persuade its disparate coalition members to accept much-needed policy and tax reforms, because members are focused on retaining their seats in upcoming elections.”
Sustained remittances from overseas Pakistanis (roughly $13 billion from July 2011 to June 2012) have helped to slow the loss of reserves. However, Pakistan has to repay the IMF $1.7bn for the rest of this fiscal year for money borrowed as part of its 2008 bailout agreement; growth was around 3.5 per cent in 2012; and foreign direct investment and domestic investment have both declined substantially.
Assessing India-Pakistan ties, US intelligence officials informed Congress that both countries had made calculated decisions to improve ties, despite deep-rooted mistrust. They held a series of meetings in the past year and would probably continue to achieve incremental progress on economic relations, such as trade.
Serious discussion on the more contentious issues of territorial disputes and terrorism, however, were deferred.
But the report warns that “even modest progress could easily be undone by a terrorist attack against India linked to Pakistan, which could trigger a new crisis and prompt New Delhi to freeze bilateral dialogue.”
“We judge that India sees its goals in Afghanistan as consistent with US objectives, and favours sustained Isaf and US presence in the country,” say US intelligence agencies while assessing India’s role in Afghanistan.
As the International Security Assistance Force completes its drawdown, US intelligence officials assess that “the Taliban-led insurgency has diminished in some areas of Afghanistan but remains resilient and capable of challenging US and international goals”.
Taliban senior leaders also continue to be based in Pakistan, which allows them to provide strategic guidance to the insurgency without fear for their safety, the report adds.
It sees Al Qaeda’s influence on the insurgency as limited, although its propaganda gains from participating in insurgent attacks far outweigh its actual battlefield impact.
The report notes that security gains are especially fragile in areas where Isaf surge forces have been concentrated since 2010 and are now transitioning the security lead to Afghan National Security Forces.
The report also warns that Afghanistan’s economy, which has been expanding at a steady rate, is likely to slow after 2014.
“Kabul has little hope of offsetting the coming drop in western aid and military spending, which have fuelled growth in the construction and services sectors.
“The country faces high rates of poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, and poppy cultivation.”

Czech women tourists kidnapped

QUETTA, March 13: Some gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped two women tourists from the Czech Republic in Balochistan, officials said.
Local government officials said the women entered the province from Iran as tourists and were abducted from an area some 550km west of Quetta.
“Both the women were from Czech Republic and entered Pakistan as tourists,” Akbar Hussain Durrani, the provincial home secretary said.
“Gunmen stopped their bus in the Nok Kundi area of Chagai district and abducted both of them.”
Mr Durrani said women were being escorted by a tribal policeman when they were abducted. The guard was also taken captive but was later freed.
Qambar Dashti, a senior government official in Quetta, confirmed the incident.—AFP

Energy sector hit by poor policies, weak financial management

By Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD, March 13: When the PPP-led government departs this weekend, energy crisis and high prices of oil and increases in gas and electricity tariff would be among the defining legacies of its five-year rule.
Despite difficult circumstances under which the PPP-led government had taken over, analysts point out that domestic factors and poor policies contributed greatly to oil price and tariff hike.
They say poor policies and weak financial management affected all three sectors of energy — oil, electricity, and gas.
OIL: Prices of oil increase mainly because of the rise in international market, but, according to analysts, that is not the sole reason for 70 to 160 per cent hike in prices of petroleum products in retail market over the past five years. When the government took over in March 2008, the international oil price was about $120 per barrel. It now hovers around $123.9, an increase of 3.29 per cent.
Three factors were behind the phenomenal rise in prices of petroleum products for end-users — unprecedented declines in the value of the rupee, imposition of taxes and the levy of special tax on petroleum products to raise revenue.
In March 2008, the US dollar fetched Rs62.6, but now it is worth 97.8 rupees. This has increased the cost of all imports.
Former economic adviser Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan blames policies of former finance minister Shaukat Tarin for the steep decline in the value of Pakistani currency and the resultant inflation.
According to the analysts, the government allowed depreciation of the rupee and did not take corrective measures.
In March 2008, the landed cost of oil was Rs8,029.5 per barrel which has now gone up by 51.1 per cent to Rs12,133.
Higher oil prices led to higher collection of sales tax, from Rs134.73 billion in 2007-08 to Rs307.65 billion in 2011-12, an increase of 128 per cent.
A similar increase was recorded in collection of customs duties and withholding tax on petroleum products. But it was of no benefit to the federal government because the revenue transfer to the provinces under the divisible pool also increased under the 7th NFC Award. So the federal government increased the taxes on petrol to meet its rising expenses.
Federal expenses went up because the spending on defence and debt-servicing increased by 53.73pc and 39.39pc, respectively.
Under the 18th Amendment, the provinces are not bound to share the burden of defence, debt and bailouts of public sector enterprises.
In 2009, the petroleum development levy was imposed on petroleum products also. The move brought the government Rs88.74 billion in 2009-10 and Rs57.6bn in the first six months of the current financial year and the figure may cross Rs100bn by June 30.
Currently, consumers pay Rs103 for a litre of petrol, of which the government exchequer gets Rs28.5 in the shape of PDL, freight margin, dealer’s commission, distributor’s margin and general sales tax. In March 2008, petrol price was Rs61 and the PDL Rs10.76.
ELECTRICITY: Oil price hike affected the electricity tariff because many power plants use imported furnace oil to generate power.
Since 2008 electricity tariff has been raised by 40pc to 94pc. The lowest rise of 40pc was for consumers using less than 50 units.
The circular debt of the energy sector, which keeps the oil-based power plants running at much lower level, continues mounting.
A recent study of USAID estimated that the circular debt would reach Rs872bn by June 30. It was Rs326bn in March 2008. Since then the government has injected more than Rs1.5 trillion in the power sector.
The electricity sector is facing three main problems – poor recovery of dues, tariff determination and passing of fuel adjustments. For the past eight months, the fuel adjustments were not passed on to end consumers. As a result, the government provided Rs3.15 per unit as subsidy.
GAS: Almost similar treatment was meted out to gas reserves. An increase of 20pc to 60pc was witnessed in the gas tariff in five years. The sector witnessed deterioration because of bad governance.
Inefficiency in preventing gas theft and poor recovery remained the hallmark of the two government-owned gas companies and the burden is being passed on to consumers by increasing the tariff.

FO condemns Srinagar attack

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, March 13: The Foreign Office rejected Indian allegations on Wednesday that Pakistani militants were behind an attack in Srinagar on a paramilitary force compound, saying imprudent reactions from Delhi could affect normalisation of ties.
“We feel that this trend of making irresponsible statements and knee-jerk reactions by senior Indian government functionaries have the potential of undermining the efforts made by both sides to normalise relations between the two countries,” FO spokesman Moazzam Khan said.
He was reacting to a statement by Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh that attack on Central Reserve Police Force might have been carried out by Pakistani militants.
Mr Singh had said: “Prima facie evidence suggests that the militants who attacked the members of the Central Reserve Police Force were from across the border, they were probably from Pakistan.”
Pakistan, Mr Khan said, “condemns such actions of terrorism in the strongest possible terms”. He called upon Delhi to carry out thorough investigations into the incident before levelling accusations against Pakistan which he said were counter-productive and served no purpose.
Pakistan, he reminded, was itself a victim of terrorism and had made “immense sacrifices in its efforts against this menace”.
Mr Khan also rejected a statement by Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony in Rajya Sabha in which he had accused Special Services Group of Pakistan Army of beheading two Indian soldiers along the Line of Control on Jan 8.
Cross-LoC violence has put the dialogue on hold. Pakistan remains committed to discussing and resolving all outstanding issues with India through a meaningful dialogue, Mr Khan said.

Armed men disguised as cricketers kill five policemen in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, March 13: Militants disguised as cricketers killed five paramilitary police in an ambush in the main city of Indian-held Kashmir on Wednesday, officials said, in the deadliest attack for nearly five years.
Two gunmen from the local Hizbul Mujahideen group, which claimed the attack, were shot dead after the assault on a police compound housing a barracks, school and playing field, the officials said.
A senior police officer said the extremists from the group pretended to be joining children for a game of cricket before taking out automatic weapons from a bag and throwing a grenade.
“They came into the compound carrying cricket gear in which they hid their weapons. We recovered weapons and grenades from their bags later,” Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) spokesman Sudhir Kumar said.
Four civilians and four CRPF soldiers were injured in the Srinagar attack, police said.
The Kashmir News Service, a Srinagar-based news agency, reported it received a call from a Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman who claimed the “guerilla attack” and warned that more would follow.
Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh said in New Delhi the dead gunmen appeared “not local but from across the border” in Pakistan and added two other militants who were not involved in the attack might still be at large in Srinagar.
Wednesday’s deaths marked the deadliest single day for Indian forces since July 2008 when a landmine killed nine soldiers on a bus on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The attack comes as a 23-year freedom movement has been on the wane. Violence across the region has been at its lowest since the Kashmir struggle against Indian rule began in 1989.
But tensions have mounted since the execution last month of a Kashmiri separatist over a deadly 2001 attack on the national parliament in New Delhi.
Mohammed Afzal Guru was convicted over the attack, but he retained wide support in held Kashmir where many said he had not got a fair trial.
Much of the region has since been under repeated curfews while protests and strikes have disrupted daily life.
Police said a 24-year-old man, Altaf Ahmed Wani, was shot dead on Wednesday by paramilitary forces when they opened fire to stop people hurling stones at their armoured vehicle.
But several bystanders who said they witnessed the killing contested the account and said Wani was shot dead as he crossed a road and there was no stone-throwing.—Agencies

UN urges restraint

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Wednesday for restraint following reports of a deadly attack in Srinagar.
Responding to a question on recent outbreak of violence in Indian occupied territory, UN deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said the secretary-general was aware of the situation and called on all concerned to exercise restraint and resolve their issues peacefully.—Correspondent

Complainant in Lahore ‘blasphemy case’ disappears, SC informed

By Our Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD, March 13: Shocking disclosures were made on Wednesday in the Supreme Court during the hearing of the Badami Bagh arson attack case when the Punjab police confessed about the disappearance of complainant Imran along with two witnesses who had implicated a Christian in a blasphemy case.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was informed that the local station house officer (SHO) had been compelled to register an FIR on blasphemy charges against Sawan Masih despite his reluctance and that too without mentioning in the report the derogatory remarks. The complainant fled because he had been implicated in another FIR for his involvement in the mob attack on the Christian neighbourhood.
In his report submitted to the court, Acting Inspector General of Punjab Police Khan Beg conceded that the police system to control law and order had failed to rightly assess the situation in Joseph Colony which eventually led to the arson attack and burning of over 178 houses of Christians.
“The judgment call by the local police officer resulted in the evacuation of the locality which saved the lives of the Christians but could not save their property,” the report said.
Lahore’s Special Superintendent of Police (investigations) Babar Bukht informed the court that local prayer leaders had cooperated with police in trying to defuse the tension. The riot, he explained, was the result of local politics in which one of the groups contesting the nearby iron market elections had encouraged workers of different godowns to gather and attack the Christians. He named two local leaders, Tariq Gujjar and Usman Butt, involved in the mob attack.
Advocate General of Punjab Ashtar Ausaf submitted a 258-page report on the 2009 Gojra riots in Faisalabad prepared by a judicial commission headed by Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, but conceded that neither any action was taken against the miscreants who had killed eight Christians nor had its recommendations been implemented.
The reason, he said, was a compromise reached between the parties.
But the chief justice asked him how could a compromise be struck when the charges of blasphemy had been levelled. “This means that allegations of sacrilege were phoney,” the chief justice observed. Discrimination against minorities always sent a bad impression to the world, he added.
“How can we trust police and give them a free hand to play with the life and property of people when the general election is round the corner,” the CJ asked.
The bench was not satisfied with the police report and said the court could not understand why police had failed to bring truth on record. Unless true facts were produced before the court it would not be possible for police or any agency to pursue against the culprits, it said.
The court expressed annoyance over the non-submission of a report on the conduct of senior police officers, including the inspector general and Lahore police chief, despite its earlier directives.
It ordered the Punjab government to submit a comparative table suggesting measures taken to prevent attacks on Christians and if such a system was in place why the Badami Bagh incident had taken place.
The court regretted that it was because of insensitivity and disinterest shown by the Punjab IG, otherwise the incident could have been averted.
The court noted that police and the prosecutor general of Punjab were giving contradictory statements and nobody knew why the people of Joseph Colony had been compelled to leave their houses between the night of March 8 and 9. It asked why no security was provided to protect belongings of the residents of the area when undoubtedly they had the right of protection by the state under Articles 7 and 9 of the Constitution. The Punjab government, the bench said, owed a duty to satisfy the court why the fundamental rights to protect the property and dignity had not been enforced.

Editorial NEWS

Without autonomy — Passage of Nacta bill

FROM December 2009 to March 2013, that’s how long it has taken for the National Counter Terrorism Authority to go from inception to standing on the verge of getting legislative cover with the passage of the National Counter Terrorism Authority Bill, 2013 by the National Assembly on Friday. First mooted as an intelligence coordination, research and international liaison organisation in response to the wave of terrorism that gripped the country in the late 2000s, Nacta has been a case study of institutional turf wars, political disinterest and civil-military tensions. Now, with a raft of pending legislation being rushed through parliament, new life has been breathed into Nacta’s cause. That is the good news.
Unhappily, last-minute changes to the bill that was vetted and approved by a parliamentary committee have left question marks over Nacta’s future efficacy. Thanks to these late insertions, Nacta can now be headed by an army officer, policy matters can only be approved by the board of governors if all members — including the DG ISI and DG MI — are present, and Nacta personnel are to be vetted by the military’s intelligence apparatus. What was meant to be a civilian-run entity can now be effectively controlled by the armed forces, defeating the very purpose of a cross-institution coordination body that was meant to bridge the gaps between the civilian and military security apparatus. If that seems like an exaggerated version of Friday’s changes, then consider how a holistic counterterrorism strategy can be crafted by Nacta when its very organisational structure reinforces the old hierarchy in civil-military relations. Who can propose a fundamental rethink in national security strategy when the generals are still in charge?
The sense of a missed opportunity is compounded because the Nacta bill, until the last-minute amendments, had incorporated the input of technical experts. There is a genuine need for a high-powered Nacta that is adequately resourced and given the time and space to bring about a change in intelligence and bureaucratic culture. For example, the lack of coordination between the various tiers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and between the civilian- and military-run organisations means that even the most basic inter-provincial coordination when it comes to tracking down sectarian outfits is missing. By acting as a clearing house for such information, Nacta can help change insular organisational cultures of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. But it needs to be seen as independent of existing power centres, something it may have failed to achieve.

NAB failure — Rental power case

WHETHER or not the prime minister was involved in corruption in the rental power plants project remains an open question. But his request to the Supreme Court on Friday to replace the National Accountability Bureau investigation with a one-man commission is the best way forward at this point. The NAB investigation has been languishing for months now, plagued by delays and controversies, complete with the sinister death of an officer assigned to the case. It is difficult to see how the probe could credibly continue with the same people at its helm, and if those people are replaced by an opposition party’s candidates after the elections, a new set of biases could come into play. So the prime minister’s suggestion that a trusted person outside NAB be appointed to look into the case is probably the only chance the investigation has of being completed and its findings widely accepted. But that, too, has its challenges; the Arsalan Iftikhar case was also moved from NAB to just such a commission, and that investigation has not held anyone accountable or announced any results.
The real challenge that both these cases reflect is the all too familiar, long-running problem of the lack of an effective accountability body in Pakistan. In their various guises over the years, these bodies have been seen as little more than tools of political victimisation or, at best, as being too soft on the party in power. That in turn has had a lot to do with the way these bodies are appointed and who they report to. The real need is for an organisation that is financially and administratively independent, as far as possible, from the government of the day, and whose head is appointed through a truly bipartisan process. The delays and disagreements over the National Accountability Commission legislation are proof that Pakistan still hasn’t come up with such a set-up and process. This government managed to delay the creation of the commission long enough to complete a term without it. The hope now is that the next government has the integrity to move forward with it.

A treasure restored — Pak Tea House reopens

NOT all attempts at cultural revival are impossible in Pakistan. Where the government decides to intervene, these revivals are that much more likely. On Friday the Pak Tea House re-emerged on the Lahore scene after 13 years in oblivion. It has survived the tyranny of the market. The building’s possessor wanted to set up a tyre shop in place of the literary venue. The Punjab government, in this instance working through the chief minister’s son Hamza Sharif, took up the case. Once this happened, the obstacles on the way to resurrecting this cultural icon of the city were cleared smoothly, and the honour of reopening the Pak Tea House went to PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif. It was pleasing to spot the greats of literature such as Intizar Husain and Abdullah Hussain there to savour the return of the literary centre, along with other prominent literati and, inevitably, some journalists with knowledge of letters.
So much for the official role, such patronage can lead to a dilemma. The next crucial step for
writers and ‘writer-types’ would be to steer the Pak Tea House out of the domain of official influence and re-establish it as a place for a free exchange of ideas. The officials in the meanwhile can build on this promise by carrying out some other urgently required restoration work. They can find plenty of opportunities to intervene in this city of contrasts, a once proud site for cultural cohesion. Just when Mr Sharif was reopening the Pak Tea House on the Mall, a few kilometres away, in Badami Bagh, Christians were being targeted by a group incensed by an individual’s alleged crime. This is a terse reminder that a more complete restoration can only be possible with prompter, non-selective and unqualified intervention in all areas.

The silent spectator — Attack on Christians

HOMES are burned, religious paraphernalia destroyed, residents terrorised, a country’s already tattered reputation for looking after its own further damaged. And the Punjab government just stood by and let it all happen in the provincial capital of the country’s largest, richest, most powerful province. If that was not staggering enough, early reports suggest that it was the police that told the Christian residents of the small neighbourhood in Badami Bagh to evacuate because they feared an attack — the night before it actually occurred. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has belatedly swung into action, suspending police officials, promising immediate relief to the victims of the mob and making all the usual noises. But there’s a more important fact here, and it may give an indication of what will come next: as also highlighted by the media in the wake of the Badami Bagh attack, no one has been held to account for the devastation wrought on another Christian community in Punjab several years ago, in Shantinagar. The past, in incidents such as these, will almost surely be repeated in the present, particularly with electoral considerations dominating political thinking at the moment.
Also sobering is the growing track record of the PML-N when it comes to mob violence against Christians during the party’s watch: Shanti-nagar, Gojra and now Badami Bagh. For mob violence to break out in Lahore in this day and age, when the provincial government is touting metro buses and laptop schemes and ‘futuristic’ solutions to the province’s myriad problems, is a measure of perhaps just how misplaced the PML-N’s priorities are. Of course, the PML-N will point to this being a national malaise and the fact that Dadu district in Sindh recently saw a man burned to death by a mob after he was accused of blasphemy underlines the reality that it is not just a ‘Punjab’ problem.
All of that would only obfuscate the mishandling of the latest situation. When in Lahore recently another Christian community was besieged by right-wing activists celebrating the conversion of a Hindu boy, the Punjab government used a combination of local political and police influence to defuse the situation and bring an end to the provocative demonstrations. What was the Punjab government doing overnight after the blasphemy charged had been raised and tensions spiralled? The chief minister, known to be a micro manager, needs to explain why his administration was so passive. Complicity or incompetence, it’s a question being raised distressingly often of Pakistan’s institutions.

A convoluted puzzle — Karachi law & order

WHILE a chief justice-led Supreme Court bench was hearing suo motu cases related to the Abbas Town blast and lawlessness in Karachi on Wednesday and Friday, several incidents in the city illustrated the complexity of the metropolis’s violence. On Wednesday gunmen brought life to a standstill in Karachi and other urban centres in Sindh, even as the MQM called for a “peaceful protest” to denounce the government’s “inaction” over the arrest of the Abbas Town attackers. The day after Lyari saw violence as Rangers entered the locality to conduct a “targeted operation” after two of their personnel were kidnapped and later found dead in a Lyari graveyard. Meanwhile, on Friday a bank was robbed in Defence, making it the fifth bank heist this year. Hence the Supreme Court is absolutely right in its criticism of the police and Rangers; both have failed to control crime and terrorism in the city. The police are corrupt while the Rangers have proved ineffective despite being given wide-ranging powers. But the chief justice’s observation that Karachi’s lawlessness is mainly due to a turf war between vested interests is debatable. As the events have shown, the metropolis faces more complex issues.
True, organised crime plays a major role in Karachi’s violence, but there are other, equally powerful fault lines tearing the city apart: Karachi is plagued by sectarian, ethnic and political violence, with the lines often blurring. In such a scenario, can administrative and judicial orders alone bring peace? Will increasing the number of anti-
terrorism courts in Karachi or recruiting more policemen help unless the courts prosecute criminals and the police take unbiased action against suspects regardless of their political links? After all, political parties often apply pressure to have suspects with whom they have links released. So even if we assume that the police are transformed into a professional force, the violence will not end unless they are also depoliticised and political meddling in law enforcement ends. That is the first step.

Child healthcare — Poor medical facilities

THIS country’s healthcare sector is already under severe stress; it is going to get worse. The youth bulge in the population demographic means that health, particularly of children, will remain a serious issue. How prepared are we? A clue can be found in the research findings shared at the 35th National Ophthalmic Conference in Karachi on Friday: babies born with low birth weight or prematurely, and required to spend time in intensive care units, are vulnerable to developing retinopathy of prematurity, a major cause of childhood blindness that is preventable if detected early. While there is no data on how prevalent it is in Pakistan, in the US the incidence stands at 15.58 per cent of premature infants and in Iran at 34.5. Few parents must be aware of this health risk. But when a survey was conducted in five major Karachi hospitals to estimate how many health-sector professionals were aware of the need to run diagnostics, it was found that 47 per cent of the paramedical staff had never heard of the condition.
On the other side of the coin is the situation at Lahore’s health department-run Children’s Hospital, one of the largest such tertiary-care facilities in Pakistan. It is facing an acute shortage of doctors. Of the institution’s 43 departments, only seven are headed by professors; 85 positions of senior doctors, including 36 professors, are vacant. Due to the lack of specialist physicians and surgeons, patients are daily turned away or referred to private facilities. Taken together, this is indeed an indictment of the country’s dedication to raising healthy future generations. Reversing this trend would take some effort on part of those at the helm. The question is, do they care enough?

Moment of hope IP pipeline inauguration

AFTER long delays and many uncertainties, the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline took a major step forward yesterday. For all its potential risks, and uncertainty about where the remaining $1bn of funding will come from, the inauguration by the two countries’ presidents of the construction of the Pakistan portion of the pipeline brings with it the promise — if Pakistan capitalises on it — of preventing even more damage to the economy from the country’s growing gas shortage. Investment for domestic gas exploration and development has not been forthcoming. Other schemes to import gas have been stalled by mismanagement and possibly corruption. The existing supplies are so insufficient, and have been so badly managed, that they have severely impacted major industries, rendered consumers unable even to cook or keep warm, and driven up energy prices and the circular debt by increasing reliance on furnace oil for power generation.
There is the risk, of course, of ending up on the wrong side of American sanctions on doing business with Iran. But the United States-favoured Tapi pipeline through Central Asia and Afghanistan looks untenable given the security situation in the region, and Pakistan’s energy problems — together with their economic, political and security implications — are severe enough to warrant that exceptions to sanctions be made in this case. Pakistan should cooperate as far as possible by routing this business through Iranian companies and financial institutions that are not connected to that country’s nuclear programme. But beyond that, the US must recognise that Pakistan needs to balance its own economic needs with its responsibilities as an ally.
However, as Pakistan moves forward, one thing that must be kept in mind is that no amount of imported gas will be useful as long as the country doesn’t whip its energy and power infrastructure into shape. If they aren’t tackled, power-sector failures such as transmission losses, poor dues collection and insufficient diversification away from furnace oil for power generation will continue to hold the economy back. And the lack of a gas management plan that is actually followed and intelligently balances the needs of the residential, commercial, transport, industrial and power sectors will mean that we won’t be using the imported gas in the most efficient way possible. Whichever new government comes into power should keep in mind that, as it formulates its energy and power policies, it has an obligation to make the best use of the gas from the IP pipeline.

Missing Baloch Bodies dumped in Karachi

THE issue of missing Baloch people appears to be taking a worrying new trajectory — one that may be reflective of the air of impunity that law-enforcement agencies have for years been accused of by those who maintain that the missing are mainly in undisclosed custody. The wall of photographs at the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons camp outside the Karachi Press Club has become distressingly familiar. But on Saturday, two pictures were removed. The bodies of Babu Iftikhar Baloch and Maqbool Ahmad Baloch, who disappeared on Jan 24 from near Karachi’s Baldia Town, had been found — they had been brutally tortured and killed. Sunday saw two more bodies of missing Baloch men — schoolteacher Abdul Rehman and student Zahid Hussain — found in the city’s suburbs. Their bodies bore strangulation marks and the men had been shot in the back of the head. The VBMP’s Abdul Qadeer Baloch (who started the camp after losing his son in a similar tragedy in 2011) maintains that so far the bodies of 11 missing Baloch have been found dumped in various Karachi areas.
It is imperative that the state and administration adopt greater urgency in bringing this issue to a resolution, once and for all. The Baloch are not the only ones at the receiving end of a suspected ‘kill and dump’ approach; similar allegations are levelled with regard to the militancy-hit zones in the northwest. Persistent inquiry by judicial and other quarters, though, has proved instrumental in the provision of answers in some cases. Just last month, for example, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances managed to trace 19 of the hundreds of missing people that it is looking for. Greater urgency needs to be brought to bear on the issue of the bodies of missing Baloch being found in Karachi, too. Those responsible for these and other cases of disappearances, torture and killing cannot be allowed to operate with such impunity.

Tomb raiders Smuggling of antiquities

PAKISTAN is a land of contrasts. While on one hand it is good to know that excavators have dug up new objects from the Gandhara civilisation near Taxila, it is also a matter of concern that efforts to smuggle antiquities out of the country continue. On Sunday authorities in Sukkur opened up an impounded container bound for Karachi and found 28 boxes filled with artefacts reportedly stolen from sites and museums in Punjab. The antiquities included pieces from the Gandhara and Muslim periods. A similar raid in Karachi last year uncovered hundreds of artefacts. The trade in illegally sourced antiquities is a profitable one; local smugglers find ready buyers in foreign countries willing to pay large sums for pieces of Pakistan’s rich history. Corrupt local officials let the smugglers excavate without hindrance once they are paid off. Hefty fines and jail sentences are on the books for those who illegally smuggle antiquities. Yet these have failed to deter the smugglers.
Though the state is making efforts, as the Sukkur raid shows, perhaps what is needed is more vigilance at the archaeological sites by increasing the number of guards. Better intelligence is also required in order to dismantle the smugglers’ networks. Illegal digging remains a problem in Taxila, a Unesco World Heritage Site. In fact Taxila is still virgin territory: there are said to be over 100 unexcavated sites in the area. This bonanza can either be tapped for the benefit of the people, or it can be whisked away for profit. The state must decide whether it wants to preserve these treasures, or if it prefers to look the other way as short-sighted criminals fill their pockets by shipping off Pakistan’s history piece by piece.

Vote fraud Rigging at booths for women

ACCORDING to reports, the National Database and Registration Authority has issued more than 40 million computerised national identity cards to women. However, there is still a difference of 3.3 million in these statistics and the tally displayed on the website of the Election Commission of Pakistan. There are also a large number of Pakistanis over the age of 18 who have yet to be entered on the electoral roll. Some political parties have taken up this issue, avowedly wanting to enfranchise, and hoping to enlist the support of, youngsters. Yet even in the case of parties loudly claiming to work for change, a specific thrust for bringing in a greater number of women voters into the equation is sadly missing. According to ECP figures, there are more than 48.4 million male voters in Pakistan, as opposed to 37.3 million female voters. That is a gap of 11 million — three times the size of the electorate in Balochistan, and this is just the start of the story.
The climax to the discriminatory act comes at the polling booth on election day. This is when votes cast by women are lost under the heavy weight of ballots stamped by the males. There are routinely reports about women being stopped from voting as also of polling booths set up for women being used for rigging. Experienced poll watchers say the candidates find it easier to carry out vote fraud at booths for women as opposed to those for male voters where the atmosphere is much more charged and prone to violence and where a more efficient regime to identify the voter is in place. Experience tells us that bogus votes are more likely cast in polling booths for women.
There are many factors that have prevented a more clear analysis of this problem — not least significant a strange ECP policy. There are exclusive polling stations for women in the country as there are those for men. But then outnumbering these are ‘combined’ polling stations with separate booths for men and women where piles of the women’s votes are mixed with those of the men before a count is undertaken. It shouldn’t be too difficult for a reform-driven ECP to count the ballots cast at a women’s booth separately from the ones collected at the men’s booth. This will be in aid of fairer polls and can go a long way in truly enfranchising one half of the Pakistani population.

Law to protect minorities What will it achieve?

IT is obvious what fuelled Monday’s demand in the National Assembly for the formulation of a law aimed at preventing attacks on minorities. Public reaction over the shameful acts of arson in Lahore’s Badami Bagh on Saturday — that followed the Quetta and Karachi blasts targeting the Shia community — has been fittingly strong. It has finally become obvious to all that such violence is not only spreading, its intensity too is increasing. While it may be argued that laws regarding transgressions such as arson, looting and harassment — all of which can be applied to the Badami Bagh tragedy — are already in place, it is also true that targeted laws criminalising specific practices and protecting specific groups have their value. This is evident, for example, in the body of laws that countries continue to develop to protect vulnerable groups such as women and children.
What is difficult to make out, though, is what the new law demanded by our parliamentarians might be expected to achieve in actual terms given the ground realities. The neglect of minorities’ rights has been an issue for decades. The demand for installing a new legislative framework has come at a time when there is less than a week to go before the assemblies are dissolved thus making the proposal appear as a sop to the public, especially with general elections on the horizon. However, more pertinent than this is the cravenness of the political and administrative elite whenever the issue of the misuse of the blasphemy laws or the persecution of minorities has come up. At every juncture, they have caved in before the hard-line right. Consider merely the way Monday’s demand in the Assembly was worded: “[…] carry out necessary legislation, if so desired, to prevent such unfortunate incidents in the future”. This hesitant request encapsulates the problem: protecting minorities means standing up to those who persecute them — but sadly, too few are willing to take that bullet in
the chest.

Far from reality Sindh CM on crime rate

WITH elections on the horizon, the incumbents will no doubt trumpet their achievements, both real and imagined. However, there needs to be a modicum of reality attached to their claims. While Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah told the provincial assembly on Monday that the law and order situation in Karachi was “fragile”, his assertion that the overall crime rate in the metropolis has come down under PPP rule and that the crime graph is also down in Sindh’s rural areas is hard to digest. If anything, lawlessness has been Sindh’s biggest problem over the last five years. Admittedly, terrorism is a nationwide problem, but the provincial administration’s efforts to deal with even routine crime have been lacklustre. At the same time, the MQM criticism of PPP rule, particularly on the law and order front, is strange. After all, the Muttahida just moved to the opposition benches in Sindh last week after spending most of the last five years as the PPP’s coalition partner. Whatever the PPP’s performance has been, the MQM shoulders equal responsibility for it.
The chief minister himself admitted in the house that around 4,000 people had been killed in Karachi during the current government’s tenure. Street crime is so rampant in the metropolis that people don’t even bother reporting it any more. The rest of Sindh is no better, with kidnappings and highway robberies common. In some parts of Sindh people are advised not to use the highways after sunset for fear of criminals. Hence, where law and order is concerned, the current government has failed miserably. We can only hope Sindh’s next administration will do a better job and take the steps necessary to restore order throughout the province.

Going too far ECP’s nomination forms

THIS is an exciting moment in Pakistan’s history, with the country heading into its first democratic transition. And part of what makes it promising is the presence this time of a bold, active and independent Election Commission of Pakistan that is willing to step on some influential toes to make elections freer and fairer. The ECP should function independently of the president, so the law ministry’s demand that the amended nomination forms for election candidates needed his approval had no merit and the commission took an important step by proceeding with the printing of the forms anyway. The move sent a strong message that the ECP is beholden to neither the government nor the head of state as it prepares the country for polls.
But reformist zeal doesn’t have to mean creating needless complexity and treating all politicians as if they have something to hide. Critics of the amendments have a point: several of the new questions are unnecessary and intrusive. Graduation is no longer required for contesting elections, so the continued focus on documenting educational qualifications, for example, feels like a witch-hunt rather than a constructive move forward. Details about assets already appear on the tax returns candidates will submit with their applications. Whether or not candidates are living within their means is a matter for the Federal Board of Revenue to investigate, so the need for the ECP to ask detailed questions about travel and other family spending remains unclear. If the FBR doesn’t have returns on file or complete information about a person’s financial situation, or the numbers don’t quite add up, that would warrant a deeper look to see if a particular candidate is evading taxes. But the ECP has neither the time nor the resources to sift through reams of data supplied by every applicant.
Perhaps the least defensible question of all, though, is about what candidates have done for their constituencies. That is for nobody but voters to decide. The notion that our politicians are incompetent is entirely justified, but that doesn’t warrant asking them to prove their contribution in any court outside that of the people. Together with some of the other questions, this one too reveals a suspicion of democratic politics that runs through the new nomination forms and, given Pakistan’s history, has the potential to feed the dangerous perception that perhaps civilian governments are not right for this country.

A welcome offer LNG import cost

QATAR’S offer to annually supply two million tons of liquefied natural gas at a discounted price raises hopes of Pakistan overcoming its gas shortages — albeit only to some extent — in the near term. Islamabad had signed an MoU with Doha some time ago for importing LNG, but the plan did not materialise due to pricing issues. Now, says the government, the Gulf state has agreed to substantially cut its earlier price demand of $18 per mmbtu. The government has not disclosed the new price, but some reports suggest it is in the range of $14 to $15 per mmbtu, 16 to 22 per cent lower than the previously quoted rate. The gas will be supplied on a government-to-government contract basis in line with the recommendations of a private sector-led energy committee last year. The exclusion of private contractors from the deal should help the government move more quickly towards the early implementation of the project.
The rapid completion of the LNG import project is important not only to keep gas shortages for the power and industrial sectors to a minimum in the summer but also in view of the delays in the implementation of the two LNG import projects of 400mmcfd a day, each through the award of contracts to the private sector. The first project has been stalled because of minor violations of public procurement rules. Any further action on this project has been stopped by the Supreme Court, which took suo motu notice on the basis of some media reports. In the past, the government had to scrap a similar project because of the intervention of the court. It is hoped that the court will decide the matter at the earliest in the larger interest of the country’s sliding economy. The materialisation of Doha’s offer will add only about 300mmcfd gas a day to the network of the two public utilities facing shortages of over 1000mmcfd, and the country will be resigned to gas scarcity unless the stalled private-sector LNG import projects are also implemented.

Violent ‘discipline’ Corporal punishment bill

THOUGH the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, 2010, had been in the works for a while, it is welcome that the private bill was finally passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday. The provisions outlaw corporal punishment in public and private educational institutions as well as in childcare institutions. It is unfortunate that violence against children is rife across the country. While the media often reports extreme cases — such as when parents or teachers cause grievous bodily harm to children who sometimes sustain injuries that prove fatal — mental and physical hurt of relatively lesser proportions meted out to children goes largely unreported. Hence it is important to ensure that the law also addresses non-physical punishment. For many youngsters, physical violence is an unfortunate part of life in school, at the madressah and at home. There is widespread acceptance in Pakistani society of this practice. While all four provinces have taken administrative steps to ban corporal punishment at school, implementation has been lacking. It is generally observed that lack of implementation is the central issue, along with society’s changing attitude towards violent punishments. As a first step, teachers need to be trained and sensitised about other, more humane ways of instilling discipline into children without resorting to tactics of violence or humiliation.
The law does not clearly address corporal punishment within the home. Perhaps when the cruel practice is eliminated from schools work can begin on addressing the more sensitive matter of physical violence at home. Due to the prevalence of corporal punishment in society an incremental approach is required to eradicate it. Nevertheless, the goal must be nothing less than eradication, for when children are exposed to violence at home and at school, they end up becoming violent adults themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

Self-destruction: Social worker killed

THE brutal slaying of Orangi Pilot Project director Perween Rahman in Karachi on Wednesday comes as a shock, despite the fact that as a nation we have become inured to violence. She was a brave, committed woman who worked for the uplift of the poor and marginalised. For three decades, Ms Rahman worked in a challenging environment in a part of Karachi that suffers from frequent breakdowns of law and order. She worked for the benefit of those the state was unable — or unwilling — to help. The OPP has developed sewage and sanitation systems for the vast settlement as well as undertaken health, education and economic uplift projects for the community on a self-help basis. The brainchild of the late Akhtar Hameed Khan, the OPP has won national and global acclaim.
Those close to Ms Rahman say she had been receiving death threats from the land mafia, while police claimed a Taliban ‘commander’ had been involved in her slaying. The OPP director had been documenting cases of land grabbing on Karachi’s fringes,
and anti-encroachment activists have been targeted in the past. All angles must be probed and the police cannot simply wash their hands of the investigation by blaming the killing on religious extremists. In Karachi, crime, land grabbing and dirty politics complement each other while religious militancy adds further potency to this toxic mix. Hence it is difficult to pinpoint a motive in such cases.
Ms Rahman’s killing represents a disturbing trend where those who attempt to bring positive change to society are targeted. Last month Dr Ali Haider, a leading eye specialist of Lahore, was killed in a sectarian attack along with his son. The doctor also regularly provided free medical care to needy patients. Across Pakistan aid workers have been attacked, polio teams have been hunted down and teachers have been killed due to a variety of reasons, including religious and nationalist militancy. What is equally disturbing is that women — and children — who were previously not targeted by militants are now considered fair game. The state and society have both failed to unequivocally condemn these deadly trends and work towards uprooting the forces responsible for spreading such violence. Meanwhile political parties are too busy politicking to raise their voices against the targeting of socially active individuals. Hence the question for us all to ponder is: what will become of a society that, for the most part, sits quietly as its messiahs are systematically wiped out?

Too rosy: New investment policy

THE government has approved a new investment policy and a five-year strategy to attract foreign direct investment. The policy seeks to further liberalise the economy, improve the regime protecting new investments and remove regulatory impediments to investment. The government’s focus is on raising gross FDI inflows to more than $5bn in the next five years. That is an uphill task. The near- to medium-term investment outlook for Pakistan remains negative, not least because of growing energy shortages, security concerns, political instability, high credit costs, fiscal problems and frequent policy changes. It is because of the government’s failure to address these critical issues, especially the energy crunch, that private investment in the economy has dried up over the last five years. The total private investment to GDP dropped to 12.5 per cent in the last fiscal, from around 23 per cent in 2007. The net FDI flows also came down to just above $800m from the historic peak of $5.4bn.
Local investors are holding back on their investment plans because they do not have enough power or gas to operate their existing capacities. Nor do they have access to cheaper credit that encouraged the industry — textile, auto, food, etc — to invest billions of dollars in expansion and technological upgrading during the mid 2000s. Foreign investors do not find security conditions here conducive for bringing in their money. With the foreign official capital flows already in short supply due to the financial troubles of Europe and the US, Pakistan must attract higher amounts of foreign private investment, an important non-debt source of financing a country’s current account, to push growth as well as support its balance-of-payments position. Pakistan is still considered a more attractive country for investment in the region because of less regulatory impediments to doing business compared with China, and even India. Yet few investors want to come here. And they will not come here unless the preconditions — energy, consistent policies, political stability, security — are met.

Recovered or arrested?: Minors paraded before media

AS the security situation worsens, the law-enforcement agencies have come under tremendous pressure to not just bring matters under control but also to make arrests. The
triumph displayed by the Balochistan police on Wednesday, therefore, was understandable. The pride with which 11 individuals, who, the police say, confessed that they had been involved in planting bombs and triggering blasts, were paraded before news crews and cameras was obvious. According to the Quetta police chief, the enforcers of the law received a tip-off about a militant outfit, the United Baloch Army. Resultantly, a raid was conducted and when the bullets stopped flying, it was found that the militants had escaped, leaving these individuals behind. The police arrested them, and obtained from them accounts of being used to plant and trigger explosives at various locations.

What’s missing from this stellar tale is what the police already know, but that has been given no consideration by either them or the media: these are children, aged between 10 and 17 years and come from poor backgrounds. They are “used by members of the outlawed organisation for their nefarious designs”. And, this being so, they deserved to be treated as children. In these circumstances, they should be seen as having been recovered by the police from the militants’ clutches. It seems these minors have been treated as cannon fodder by militants and law enforcers alike. Where one lured them towards a life of crime, the other clapped them in chains to stand in the media spotlight. It is a measure of how state and society have themselves been brutalised in the face of brutality. Branded as murderers before a trial has been conducted, the hanging heads of these 11 children constitute a reminder of how callous a place Pakistan has become.

A mixed bag: Assessing parliament

IT is a measure of both how far democratic politics in Pakistan has travelled and how much distance it has yet to cover that the historic completion of parliament’s five-year term has been greeted with both jubilation and anxiety. Jubilation because the against-the-odds full term has brought the country to the verge of one thing it has never had: a civilian-led electoral process in which both the opposition and the government have a shot at power. Anxiety because parliament’s full term has not really done much to address the flaws in the democratic process. Perhaps the immediate difficulty in assessing parliamentary performance over the past five years is that it is far too often conflated here with the government of the day. Parliament serves several distinct functions and it is against those benchmarks that its performance ought to be judged: providing a government; legislating; passing budgets; holding the government to account.
Paradoxically, for all the unhappiness with the federal government’s performance, parliament turned in a stellar performance when it came to its essential duty: selecting from among its numbers a stable government. Despite the PPP having just a little more than a third of seats in the National Assembly, the prime minister was elected unanimously in 2008, a second one was elected comfortably in 2012. The government itself was never close to being brought down by a vote of no-confidence. Messy and often unpalatable as it was, the reality is that without stability there can be no meaningful progress, and parliament delivered on this front. Next, the conventionally understood core function of parliament: legislating, including passing money bills. Here the performance was more mixed. The passage by this National Assembly of more than twice the number of bills than by the previous one, and three important constitutional amendments, are significant accomplishments. But the list of what was not done is far longer. On the security front, until a late spurt of poorly vetted legislation, the country’s counterterrorism and counter-insurgency framework was barely touched. On the economic front, the taxation system remained immune to reform. Public-sector enterprises were not restructured and privatisation remained dormant. Society’s drift towards extremism was watched passively.
Holding government, and parliament itself, to account was also a mixed performance. The Public Accounts Committee was handed over to the leader of the opposition, but little was done to make its recommendations automatically binding on the relevant ministries and departments. State policies, particularly national security, were debated in a quintessentially Pakistani sense — which perhaps counts as some progress — but tangible progress was elusive. Even on the one national security subject that has bipartisan support and space for civilians to manoeuvre, i.e. improving relations with India, parliament failed to push for meaningful breakthroughs. Accountability of politicians also stalled, leading to disruptive interventions by other institutions.
Going forward, what parliament needs to focus on is the strengthening of its own institution. With few professional staff, little research and scant resources, parliamentarians are essentially on their own when it comes to understanding the complex legislative and governance challenges the country faces. When the input is so ad hoc and unstructured, the output will be flawed. Spending more money on parliament may seem an affront to good sense in difficult economic times, but if done smartly it will be less of a case of splurging on already pampered parliamentarians and more about genuine institution building. And two individuals in particular need to rethink their choices if parliament is
to gain the centrality to the democratic process it deserves. By opting to control the political process from outside parliament, President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have given further credence to the old allegations of parliament being a rubber stamp. Both should embrace
the logic of parliamentary democracy and take a seat at the right table.

No common yardstick: Provinces’ record

LAW and order was the concern when new provincial governments took over five years ago. In assessing the performance of the four provincial set-ups at the end of their tenure it seems that it was law and order that, to a great extent, defined their workings. The nature of the threat and the administrative and political response to it differed from province to province. Consequently, finding one measure to judge them all is difficult. Some comparison is, of course, possible since many problems were common, such as the floods which broke provincial boundaries to devastate millions across Pakistan. At times all provincial governments seemed alike in their struggle to undertake development programmes in time. They were not prepared for devolution under the 18th Amendment, and betrayed a lack of vision: most critically, they couldn’t take effective charge of sectors such as health and education which now fell in their jurisdiction. Some schemes introduced by one province were comparable to those undertaken by another: the Ashiana Housing Scheme in Punjab reflected the same urge to cater for the less affluent as did Sindh’s Behan Benazir Basti. All four governments claimed to create new opportunities for the ‘marginalised’, by enacting laws and approving development schemes — all were blamed for favouritism as in the case of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister’s spending spree in Mardan and his Punjab counterpart’s lavishing favours on Lahore.
On its own, Punjab would be justified in flaunting the projects undertaken to benefit the youth — students’ endowment fund, laptop distribution, etc. In the same way, KP’s claim to efficiently dealing with the situation in Swat cannot be easily ignored — the KP government can be given credit for even partially restoring the official writ in cer- tain districts. Meanwhile, Sindh has a lot to answer for the mess in Karachi. But the security situation in the two provinces cannot be compared with that in Balochistan or Punjab. In Punjab the government succeeded in managing the threats, while Balochistan stood apart, too troubled by its own realities of insurgency, sectarian violence and lack of a cohesive government to take up the offer of a better share in resources under the new National Finance Commission, the high point of these five years. The NFC saw the provinces as entities on their own; yet it signified their inter-dependence and a common future.

Columns and Articles

On to the next stage

By Cyril Almeida

DARE whisper it now: we’re there. On the verge of that much sought after civilian-led transition, or a re-endorsement of the last five years.
Here’s the credit — or blame — they each get for getting us to this point: Zardari, 40 per cent; Sharif, 40 per cent; Kayani, 20 per cent.
Zardari because he learned to say both yes and no: yes, to whatever price whoever had a chance of knocking him and his government out demanded; no, to the politics of vendettas.
Sharif because he learned to say yes: yes, to letting a government complete its term, and absorbing whatever hurt came his way for having the gumption to say yes.
Kayani because he chose to say neither yes nor no: sitting on the fence, poking and prodding on occasion but never actually getting off the fence.
Because of those three, and the choices they’ve made, we’re here: with a rickety elected system — democratic being a stretch, for now — with some hope of continuity.
A back-to-back and on-time election is now as close to a certainty as anything can be in the land of uncertainty. Should, then, we pause to celebrate the implausible and applaud the protagonists?
Fuggedboutit. This is Pakistan; this is democracy — what comes next matters more than what came before.
So out comes the crystal ball and into May and beyond we gaze.
The civilians got their election, the army let them have it, the Taliban weren’t able to derail it — now what?
Parliament is hung. Sharif looked like he may run away with it but Pakistan — and Imran — held him back.
Punjab is still Sharif Land, but gone are the days of the Heavy Mandate: we’re firmly in the Era of Coalitions.
The coalition maestro, Zardari, has been relegated to second, still in with a shot for re-election as president and still in charge of Sindh (minus Karachi) but shunted across the aisle — from the treasury to the opposition — in parliament.
The shoe is now on the other foot.
Gen K is going home — he’s told everyone he’s going home — but he’s got six months left as Chief Guardian of Pakistan.
Zardari, 40; Sharif, 40; Kayani, 20 — the old percentages, credit and blame, start anew.
Here’s the doomsday scenario:
Sharif the Democrat fails as Sharif the Coalition Builder. Hung parliament becomes paralysed parliament. One seventy two — the elusive number for prime minister and the keys to the semi-promised land — is unattainable.
Elsewhere, it’s too late for the caretakers to stop the economy from sliding towards IMF oblivion. Law and order, already a mess, slips a few notches further towards catastrophe.
The barbarians are billeted inside, long since done with waiting at the gates. The external environment, shaped by the exit from Afghanistan and the election in India, takes a turn for the worse.
Kayani now has the same choice but in new circumstances: carpe diem — seize the day — or permit national death by drift and paralysis.
Say Kayani chooses the same again: if the civilians sink, they’ll do it under their own weight, not be pushed; if they stay afloat again, Allah be praised and let’s everyone strap ourselves in for another helluva ride.
The choice — to let the elected system (remember, democratic is a stretch) continue as it was meant to — then switches to Zardari.
Stung by an electoral defeat everyone warned him of but he refused to believe, Zardari is feverishly doing his math.
Start with the certainty: the Senate is locked in till March 2015 and the PPP has close to a simple majority there; the PML-N a very distant second.
Zardari’s passive option: he can sit back and enjoy the show as Sharif runs here, there and everyone to get even basic legislation passed, the PPP effectively enjoying a veto with its near-majority in the upper house.
Non-aggression but also non-cooperation — Zardari can just let Sharif’s gung-ho, go-it-alone instinct undo an N-League government all on its own.
The active option: Zardari can lure last-term’s allies into cobbling together a minority government — just enough votes to get the PM elected and a cabinet sworn-in but too few to guarantee any kind of stability beyond the shortest of short terms.
That would be Zardari unable to live with the shoe on the other foot, to extend the same democratic courtesy to Sharif that Sharif extended to him.
On to Sharif: he’s got his government, he’s back as PM, he’s learned a new trick or two — but has he learned enough?
Nominating Kayani’s successor is an early critical decision.
The usual decision process — though there’s nothing usual about something that last happened in 1990s: the chief gives the PM three names, giving the appearance of choice but in reality, the preferred candidate is made known.
Sharif is torn. He could be aggressive and reject all the nominees, opting for what he thinks is a pliant chief he’ll be comfortable with. Or he could go with the preferred nominee and learn to co-exist with a “professional” chief who may have ideas of his own.
There’s another early minefield Sharif has to navigate: seeing out the last few months of another chief — CJ Iftikhar — with a penchant for activism and a perceived reluctance to leave the bully pulpit.
Zardari learned to submit to his flagellation, but will Sharif, Heir to the Mughal Throne, also learn to submit, or will he unleash his dogs of war?
Why all this hypothesising now about a future no one can really know, you may be wondering. Why not focus on how we’ll get through election season, or why the speculation that there won’t be one after all refuses to go away, you may be thinking.
Because perhaps the best way to stop something is to let it happen.
You got your election, you got your politicians, you got your government — and look, it’s more screwed up than ever.
The Bangladesh model doesn’t die with a mere election, or even two.

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

Social media pitfalls

By Hajrah Mumtaz

TO every action there is an opposite and equal reaction; these days, a caveat is being added: except in the media, where you’ll find overreaction.
This the country’s electronic media has gone on to prove. The smallest cause for worry — and Pakistan has no shortage of these — and the media machine goes into overdrive.
But most viewers, I would imagine, have become savvy enough. This is in any case a country where any scrap of information tends to be pounced upon, examined from all angles possible, especially those of the fringe, and then often turned on its head.
In terms of the social media, we are less adept — though in the interests of fairness it should be noted that the world generally is slowly getting used to a method of communication that can cause a snippet
of information to spread like wildfire, mask the old as
the new, mix fact and fiction and effortlessly blur boundaries. It says something that the term used is “going viral”.
In a city such as Karachi, that lives on its nerves — and for good reason, generally — the spread of information through routes such as the Internet and SMS text messaging can be dangerous, given that not everyone stops to discern between fact and fiction, ‘olds’ and ‘news’, before sending it on with an added fillip.
Before you know it, rumours can end up being taken as fact, often simply by virtue of the fact that they are being discussed everywhere, with everyone adding an ‘it happened to my mother’s friend’s cousin’s daughter’ account. The social media means that urban legends are able to claim larger and larger numbers of victims very fast.
These days, the scare going around elite schools in Karachi is that a group of students was kidnapped from outside their school. Several parents I know are consequently keeping their children home.
I do not know whether anyone has tried to ascertain the veracity of this scare — though the number of students said to have been kidnapped (around 50) — makes it sounds unlikely. But efforts have been made to trace the veracity of two stories of kidnappings outside a popular café and a mall (not Dolmen Mall). It seems that these accounts are based on rumours going viral.
Similar seems to be the case with stories about gangs roaming the elite residential sectors of the city, abducting and raping young women. In some of these accounts, an expensive black car is said to be the vehicle used by these gangs. But the couple of apparently first-hand accounts that are attributable to specific names (as opposed to unnamed purported victims) do not provide details convincing enough to conclude that the scare is anything but an urban legend.
(In a similar vein, some will remember that well over a decade ago, another myth that hit the elite in urban Pakistan was that the streets were being paced by gangs of men carrying syringes filled with AIDS-infected blood, ready to plunge into the arm of an “immodestly” dressed woman.)
This is not to definitively say, obviously, that no woman was ever assaulted or no one was ever abducted. The point is, though, that one or two incidents can spark off an urban legend that, through the social media, spreads so rapidly as to become larger than its component parts.
It’s an odd thing to have to say, but I’ve met of late more and more people from well-to-do Pakistan, generally women, confessing with something between defiance and embarrassment that they no longer read the newspapers or listen to the news. This is to some extent regrettably understandable, given that domestic news on any given day is guaranteed to depress and disturb. But what that means is, they are also cutting themselves off from credible news sources.
Admittedly, the nasty stereotype about women through the ages, across the world, has been that they get their information from the gossip circuit. Today, the gossip circuit encompasses the social media, too, where rumours can spread like viruses and a thousand pitfalls await to swallow whole the unwary.
Users need to be more discerning, smarter, more aware of the flaws and the character of the mediums they are using to communicate.
And, just to make my argument fair — before you nod and smile fondly at the foolishness of Woman — the social media can trip up anyone, including savvy swimmers in the media sea such as journalists.
In 2009, Neda Agha Soltan was shot on the streets of Tehran and the light dying from her eyes was caught on a cellphone camera. Needing a still, someone — it is thought a journalist — pulled a photograph from what he thought was her Facebook page; it was that image that went viral on the Internet and was displayed on thousands of placards and posters around the world, everywhere she and the Iranians’ cause had sympathy.
Except, this photograph was actually of a different woman, Neda Soltani, who taught university-level English. Though she and the slain woman’s family tried to set the record straight, it had already gone too far; Soltani managed to flee just before the Iranian secret police came to pick her up. In her book, My Stolen Face, she says the error ruined her life, forced as she was to live for years as a refugee in Germany.

The writer is a member of staff.
hajrahmumtaz@gmail.com

‘Security’ via appeasement

By Zahid Hussain

PAKISTAN is at war with itself on many fronts. It is not only a battle for its soul but also for its very existence. But the battle is already half lost when there is confusion in the ranks about who is the enemy and fear paralyses the will to fight.
The declaration of the recent multiparty conference, called by Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam, on peace talks with the Taliban was virtually a signing of a surrender document — weak political leadership buying security for themselves, leaving the people at the mercy of terrorists.
Less than a week after the declaration supporting virtually unconditional negotiations with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the terrorists struck again by blowing up, in Karachi, an entire block of apartments predominantly inhabited by the Shia community. There was no claim of responsibility for the gruesome attack that killed scores of men, women and children.
But the footprints lead to a Taliban aligned sectarian outfit. Last week another bombing destroyed a mosque in Peshawar killing several worshippers. The wages of appeasement are leading to the loss of more innocent lives and pushing the country towards more instability.
Not only did the conference concede to the Taliban’s conditions for so-called peace negotiations, it even dropped the word terrorism to mollify those responsible for murder. The killings of thousands of people were instead attributed to “lawlessness”, absolving the Taliban of suicide bombings and beheadings of security personnel for whom they themselves had claimed the responsibility.
Nothing could be more farcical than the conference declaration that reduced the whole issue of militant violence to a war between the Taliban and the army. For peace, it declared, it is essential to bring the two sides to the negotiating table. The fact that the TTP and its allies have declared a war on the Pakistani state was completely ignored by the participants in their eagerness to placate the Taliban.
The five-point declaration seems to be a part of the move by the political parties to distance themselves from the military operations against the militants in Fata. Thousands of soldiers have been killed fighting the militants who had turned the already lawless region into a new hub of terrorism presenting an existentialist threat not only to Pakistan, but also challenging regional security.
Nothing can be more treacherous than legitimising the violence and absolving those responsible for the death of thousands of Pakistanis. No wonder the Taliban have welcomed the multiparty declaration which has virtually validated the terms set by the banned terrorist outfits.
One can understand the defence of the Taliban by the JUI-F and other right-wing Islamic parties, who have contributed to the rise of militant narratives in this country. But the signing of the declaration by parties like the Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement is quite shocking.
Although there is no formal government approval for the declaration, the participation of the members of the coalition at the conference provides tacit support to the peace talks. This has created huge confusion about the government’s position on fighting militant violence and the nature of the threat confronted by the country.
The peace talks would apparently be conducted by a tribal jirga under the supervision of the newly appointed governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, providing some kind of official sanction to the initiative. Although the formal negotiations have yet to start because of the non-response from the army leadership, the declaration seems to have already adversely affected the counterterrorism efforts of the security agencies.
The recent terrorist attacks in Karachi and Peshawar are glaring examples of unrelenting violence despite the peace talk offer by the Taliban. For sure there is a strong nexus between the TTP and the sectarian groups involved in the large-scale killing of Shias across the country.
What makes the declaration more absurd is that it makes a peace deal, if it happens, binding on any future government. These kinds of guarantees are obviously not going to work. But they can certainly be used by the militants to strengthen their position.
It is so obvious that the purpose of the multiparty conference, so close to the elections, was to mollify the Taliban to get them to halt violence during the election campaign. But there is no indication, yet, that there will be any respite in terrorist attacks particularly those directed at the parties on the Taliban hit list.
The militants have warned that they will continue to target the ANP, the MQM and the PPP, which unfortunately are also signatories to the declaration. Undoubtedly, the ANP has suffered the most with militant violence gripping Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But it now appears to have relented after the assassination of its senior party leaders.
The effort to buy security through appeasement is certainly not going to work. Instead it will result in more insecurity. The Taliban and their allies only seek to buy time through engaging in so-called peace talks to create more space to expand their activities, as they have done in the past.
There seems no possibility of the peace talks taking off, but the declaration has further widened the gulf between the political leadership and the military with disastrous consequences for Pakistan’s battle against militancy and terrorism. Most definitely security forces cannot fight the enemy without political support. The multiparty conference has exposed the civil and military divide that has consistently hampered the formulation of a coherent counterterrorism strategy.
While most political parties, either out of fear or driven by political expediency, pursue a policy of capitulation, the military’s ambivalence on militancy and sources of extremism has contributed to the current paralysis of policymaking. It is the main reason for the failure to build a national narrative so important to ridding the country of the menace of terrorism and extremism.

The writer is an author and journalist.
zhussain100@yahoo.com
Twitter: @hidhussain

Jalibs for everyone

By Asha’ar Rehman

IT has been exactly 20 years — 20 long years — since Habib Jalib passed away on March 12, 1993. The anger shows no signs of ebbing. The street agitation spearheaded by Jalib continues unabated, with one or another manifestation of him unavoidably in the central role.
Back in the 1990s, when an obituary writer paid the final homage to a Pakistani communist, he was tempted to dryly add that the departing internationalist had lost his relevance in the post-glasnost world. Jalib, a poet who had a word of admonishment for everyone, would appear to have survived this change, given his popularity.
Today just as he is celebrated as a leftist who had challenged, without resort to metaphors, everyone from the general to the feudal to the mullah and the industrialist, he is proudly owned and hailed by virtually anyone and everyone — except perhaps by the unyielding judges of refined literary expression. Habib Jalib is one literary figure who has not been subjected to a romantic posthumous discovery by the people, the kind of rediscovery many others have undergone. He does not have this romantic appeal since he had never left the motley crowd occupying the popular stage, the mystique of revelation requiring the face and the message a phase of hibernation to shape up.
There have been no no-shows on ever-ready Jalib’s part and he has accompanied the procession all along, his lines offering people the most sought-after tonic to sustain it. If anything, the unconquerable hero of our political folklore makes more appearances at rallies now than he could allow himself to attend during his lifetime.
This is not to say that the ever-present poet has not undergone adjustments. His ‘Dastoor’ (The Law) may echo everywhere and ‘Zulmat ko zia kya kehna’ (why call zulmat, or darkness, zia, or light) may be cited by one and all as the most brutal and matter-of-fact dismissal of a dictator anyone can ever come up with.
Jalib may shine through anecdotes, warning fellow political prisoners against agreeing to a conditional release or snubbing Z.A. Bhutto’s offer to him to join the PPP.
But at the end of it, despite all these compliments and his expansive oeuvre, even Jalib can be contained: from his bag he supplies his citers only the parts which are useful to them and are less dangerous to quote.
His critique, almost ridiculing, of the bigots who must exploit religion as if by habit, is seldom if ever invoked in the public discourse, existing instead in quiet, whispered discussions that have to do more with the past and at best are a lament for the present.
Not even a horrifying attack on Christians in Lahore can embolden the protesters to dust off his poignant ‘Khatray main Islam nahin’ (It is not Islam which is in danger) for a much delayed public recital. Nor are those who speak of his urge to always say the truth likely to recall his lines in which he, albeit in an uncharacteristically polite tone, advised Benazir Bhutto against “the American trip” when she was the prime minister.
Habib Jalib, the uncontrollable permanent rebel who could never help speaking his mind can cater piecemeal to the rebellious streaks of his current followers without forcing upon them verses which could put them in a spot of bother.
For many Habib Jalib fans his universal appeal and use is a vindication of the truth of his message. It is the same argument which is posthumously applied to others such as Faiz and Z.A. Bhutto, and has even won a phenomenon as recent as Benazir Bhutto all-round respect.
They are all hailed as common heroes or leaders or at least sincere guides of Pakistanis of all dispositions, a kind of appreciation that, instead of adding to the stature of these personalities, ultimately neutralises their potential to influence the proceedings in a manner they would have liked. Their objectives are clouded in the non-partisan, across-the-board accolades Pakistanis must shower them with.
This is problematic. It is reflective of an absence of the much-needed contrasts in the country’s politics. Jalib’s promotion as a spokesman for all is even more jarring.
It is one thing for, say, an assortment of ghazal listeners to spend an evening immersed in the poetic delicacies of a kalaam, or verse, but Jalib, we are told by the authorities, is not someone distinguished for his art and his aesthetics. He stands apart for his courage, his incorrigibility, the directness of his message and — claim those who shared his path and goal during his lifetime — for a certain brand of ideas which are irreconcilable with his universal acceptance.
This group cannot be bought over by the idea of a universal market for an old comrade. It wishes to snatch its beloved Jalib away from the grasp of opportunists who are using, abusing the poet when he cannot spurn them.
There are various reasons why these jealous ‘original’ Jalib owners have not been successful in establishing exclusive rights on him — none bigger than their failure to make the old ideology palatable to the people without compromising the basics Jalib and his contemporaries were committed to.
Also, by virtue of his greater proximity to the people, the rugged, non-delicate Jalib is more difficult to be separated from the general tumult and specifically placed on the basis of a certain ideology. He fits all agendas and equations even if to the literary critic he so famously dismissed in one of his poems he remains a glorified, peripatetic cheerleader.
He has been dismantled, and the various parts of him have been eagerly snapped up according to the respective needs of his current users. Like so many others before him, he is alive and relevant in these parts. The rebel Habib Jalib as one single unbreakable whole is too heavy to bear and has gone irrelevant.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Elections and betrayals

By Rafia Zakaria

ON March 9, Kenya’s Election Commission declared Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the country’s first president and a suspect wanted for war crimes, Kenya’s next president. Mr Kenyatta won by a narrow margin, receiving 50.7 per cent of the vote.
While no warrant has been issued for his arrest, Mr Kenyatta faced criminal charges before the International Criminal Court at The Hague. These focus on his alleged involvement in the violent ethnic clashes that erupted in Kenya’s last elections in 2007.
Mr Kenyatta’s ascendancy to the presidency of a major African country portends some realignments in global power. In the run-up to elections in Kenya, the Obama administration’s top official on Africa, Johnnie Carson, said that “choices have
consequences”.
According to the New York Times, this comment backfired within Kenya, energising support for Mr Kenyatta and his running mate and eventually propelling the former to victory. Mr Carson responded that one comment from the US did not have the capacity to swing an entire election.
However, regardless of whether or not American commentary on the issue was responsible for the outcome of the election, Mr Kenyatta’s election poses significant challenges to the US in the coming months and years.
Possibly elected because of his willingness to thumb his nose at the US, Mr Kenyatta may not be as interested in cultivating American support as his predecessors have been.
At the same time, while a move away from the US would have fiscal consequences for Kenya, which receives nearly $1 billion in American aid every year, it would have more significant consequences for the US. Not only has the latter relied on Kenya for assistance in the “war on terror”, for hunting down Al Qaeda operations in Somalia and in Kenya itself, it is also the US strategic centre in the region.
The American embassy in Nairobi is the largest such complex in sub-Saharan Africa and a centre for monitoring and maintaining American interests in the region.
Add to this the fact that Kenya continued to be courted by China, an emerging power in Africa, and you have a situation where the American imperative for maintaining a good relationship with Kenya, following a strategically unpleasant electoral outcome, is far greater than Kenya’s need for US support.
This is not the first time in the recent past when the results of elections — a ritual of democracy championed by the US — have yielded less than favourable results. Even more devastating to American strategic interests was the June election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi to the Egyptian presidency.
After a tumultuous revolution, which ousted former US ally president Hosni Mubarak from power, the election of an Islamist government — the worst scenario in the view of the US — had weakened the American imprint in the Middle East.
The visible effects of the weakening of the US position was seen late in 2012 when, following Israeli attacks on Gaza, it was the Egyptians who were able to step to the fore in brokering a ceasefire between the Israelis and the Palestinians; Americans watched from the sidelines with then secretary of state Hillary Clinton making a few encouraging statements.
Elections in Pakistan presage yet another strategic dilemma for the US. With the completion of the term of the current government and the imminent announcement of poll dates, American officials are undoubtedly weighing the likelihood of possible outcomes and what they would mean for US strategic interests in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Except for the current administration, which has during its tenure cooperated with the US, most national opposition parties in Pakistan have in the run-up to the election date announcement purported a distancing from the US as part of their electoral platform.
While none have offered fiscal clarifications as to how they would make up the budgetary shortfalls resulting from such a position when and if they do manage to achieve electoral victories, most undoubtedly plan to use the position as a means of jockeying themselves into power on the back of popular anti-Americanism.
A worst-case scenario for the US would be the election of a hard-line government that sees no possibility of cooperation with the US on any front and a complete renunciation of all forms of American aid.
While such an outcome seems unlikely (let alone unfeasible given Pakistan’s own strategic imperatives) it would mean a severe blow to aspects of the “war on terror” in this region. It is perhaps these very concerns that have led to the US taking pre-emptive defensive stances, such as the statement last week which alleged that two drone attacks that took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had not been conducted by the CIA.
The electoral victory of parties that have promised a cessation of drone attacks and an end to perceived Pakistani capitulations would not, taken by itself, have been debilitating to the US.
However, when added to the changes that have taken place in Egypt, and now in Kenya, they could point cumulatively to a realignment that would have a significant impact on the “war on terror” and the hunt for Al Qaeda that has determined American coalitions for the past decade.
With long-standing alliances crumbling to democratic upheavals, and a new order ambivalent about the value of cooperating with the US, it is likely that the global game of cooperation will require new incentives and a new strategy of diplomatic overtures by the US.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.
rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

New US-Afghan tensions

By Najmuddin A. Shaikh

US DEFENCE Secretary Chuck Hagel, on his first overseas trip after a bruising confirmation hearing, arrived in Afghanistan probably hoping to hear some words of praise for the “blood and treasure” that the Americans and their allies had expended in Afghanistan.
He must have also hoped for appreciation for the aid they had promised to continue supplying to Afghanistan after the withdrawal of most of the foreign forces there by 2014.
Before his arrival Nato Secretary General Fogh Rasmussen had been in Kabul and had confirmed that Nato was planning on supporting the retention of the 350,000-strong Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) up to 2018 rather than drawing them down to 230,000 as originally planned. This would mean that the $3.6 billion in annual assistance pledged at Chicago would be raised to $5.6bn at least until 2018.
Before his arrival there had also been statements by American spokespersons reassuring Karzai that the US supported an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation process and that the planned Taliban office in Qatar would be used only for negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan High Peace Council.
Hagel probably entertained the hope that he would be able to persuade Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the first step needed for reconciliation was the exchange of the American prisoner held by the Taliban and the five Taliban whose release from Guantanamo Karzai and the Taliban had both demanded. The second would be a Taliban renunciation of ties with Al Qaeda and the third talks between the Taliban and the High Peace Council along the lines of the blueprint for peace formulated by the latter.
Perhaps Hagel had also hoped he would be able to persuade Karzai to withdraw his decree calling for the cessation of all operations by American forces in Maidan Wardak and for the withdrawal of all American Special Operations forces from that province by March 12.
Hagel had reason to believe that an agreement on the transfer of control over Bagram prison to Afghan forces, which Karzai saw as an assertion of Afghan sovereignty, would be implemented during Hagel’s visit. Karzai had insisted on this during his visit to Washington and on return had informed his parliament in January that this was now on the verge of being achieved.
This transfer, which was to have happened on Saturday, was cancelled after Karzai vetoed an agreement that his officials had negotiated with the Americans. The point of contention apparently was the American insistence that formally or informally the Americans needed to retain a veto power on the release of prisoners they perceived as “enduring security threats”.
To my mind, the loss of face Karzai suffered because of this “last-minute hitch” as much as the suspicions he has entertained of American intentions since his 2009 re-election prompted the broadside he launched against the Americans in a nationally televised speech on Sunday.
In essence he said that the two suicide attacks by the Taliban in Khost and then outside the gate of the defence ministry in Kabul, which killed 19 people, were not a show of force by the Taliban rather “a service to the foreigners”. “These bombings,” he said, “aimed to prolong the presence of the American forces in Afghanistan.” He accused the Americans of talking to the “Taliban leaders and Taliban representatives abroad everyday”.
As a result the Americans, citing security reasons, cancelled the scheduled joint press conference but went ahead with the private dinner Karzai had arranged with Hagel.
For the moment the Americans seem to be engaged in damage control. The new American commander in Afghanistan Gen Dunford addressing his own press conference said, “President Karzai has never said to me that the United States was colluding with the Taliban. I don’t know what caused him to say that today.… It’s categorically false. We have no reason to be colluding with the Taliban”. He went on, however, to say “we do not have a broken relationship” and went on to suggest that Karzai had engaged in political gamesmanship given that he has both “an internal and external audience”.
Hagel after his dinner with Karzai told reporters that he had reassured Karzai that the US had no unilateral back channel talks with the Taliban. “Obviously,” he said, “the United States will support efforts if they are led by the Afghans to come to some possible solutions.”
On the issue of Bagram prison, Karzai’s office had issued a statement after a Karzai-Dunford meeting late Saturday evening that the transfer would now take place in the coming week “allowing time for some of the remaining technical details concerning the handover to be resolved”.
This seems unlikely since if this had really been the expectation Karzai would not have made the speech he gave on Sunday. The Americans are clear that they will not allow the release of those they consider to be “enduring security threats”. Karzai may believe that securing the authority to release the mostly Pakhtun detainees will improve his domestic standing but he will have to accept some limitations.
Karzai is capable of changing his stance. He has done so in the past. But given the current situation and his current attitude it appears unlikely that the Americans can reach an agreement with the Karzai administration on a residual American/Nato troop presence. It also seems unlikely that reconciliation will move forward on the terms that Karzai desires and which the Taliban reject. Will Western assistance to Afghanistan continue?
It would be pertinent to ask where all this leaves Pakistan which more than any other country has a vital stake in Afghanistan’s stability. We must find ways to help achieve reconciliation without which there can be no peace in Afghanistan. We must find ways to ensure that the international community is not so put off as to walk away from Afghanistan. Our domestic preoccupations notwithstanding this is some-thing that we must address using all the diplomatic and political tools we can muster.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

Chavez now belongs to posterity

By Mahir Ali

VENEZUELA’S next presidential election has been scheduled for April 14, the 11th anniversary of Hugo Chavez’s triumphant return to office three days after a reactionary, US-supported coup had led to his brief detention.
At this point, Chavez’s designated successor, Nicolas Maduro, is expected to comfortably outvote Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate the deceased president decisively defeated in last October’s poll. Yet Venezuela’s direction post-Chavez remains indeterminate.
That it won’t be the same without him is more or less a given. That prognosis, in fact, extends far beyond Venezuela. Chavez was transnationally an inspirational figure for many Latin Americans. He was also a colourfully formidable figure on the wider international stage.
Behind the occasionally overblown bluster and the sporadically reckless rhetoric lay an astute, thoughtful and well-read mind. In the aftermath of his death last week, even critics have conceded that his concern for those in poverty was not an affectation and that his administration’s efforts to alleviate misery were not in vain.
In the West, though, this is largely part of a tendency to damn him with faint praise, not least because blanket condemnation would simply not be credible in the light of verifiable figures whereby inequality, absolute poverty and infant mortality have substantially diminished during Chavez’s 14 years in power.
Sure, there are less creditable figures that can also be cited. The rate of inflation has fluctuated and remains inordinately high. The level of crime has soared. At the same time, there are innumerable Venezuelans for whom routine hunger has given way to three meals a day. There are the multitudes who have in recent years entered a classroom or been examined by a doctor for the first time in their lives.
Such progress cannot lightly be dismissed, and it undoubtedly contributed in large part to the spontaneous outpouring of mass grief as Chavez’s cortege passed through the streets of Caracas last Friday.
Back in 2002, Venezuelans had also poured on to the streets of their capital upon learning that the head of the chamber of commerce had been ensconced in the presidential palace. At the time, popular enthusiasm was driven largely by the hopes that Chavez’s declared intentions had raised. Last week’s mourning was also a tribute to what has since then been achieved.
It is not easy to forget that in the wake of the April 2002 coup, a substantial section of the so-called liberal press in the US unequivocally hailed the putsch as a positive development. The same sort of mentality was reflected in Phil Gunson’s obituary last week in The Guardian. “The debate continued as to whether Chavez could fairly be described as a dictator,” he noted, “but a democrat he certainly was not.”
As someone who emerged victorious in 13 out of 14 national votes during his incumbency, Chavez would justifiably have begged to differ. Furthermore, at the grassroots level he succeeded to a remarkable extent in instituting levels of participatory democracy unparalleled in much of the world.
“A hero to many, especially among the poor, for his populist socialist programmes,” Gunson rattled on, “he assiduously fomented class hatred and used his control of the judiciary to persecute and jail his political opponents, many of whom were forced into exile.”
The pejorative use of the term “populist” is common in the Western media in the context of Chavez, and it is not unusual for efforts towards greater socio-economic equality to incur the charge of inciting class warfare. Greg Grandin has noted in the American periodical The Nation that there are at most 11 political prisoners in Venezuela.
Perhaps that’s 11 too many, but the level of political persecution cannot even begin to be compared with the state of affairs under US-sponsored or supported regimes across Latin America in the past 60 years.
Chavez has also been criticised over the years for attempts to muzzle segments of the privately owned media. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that even Chavez critics familiar with these outlets concede some of them made Fox News appear fair and balanced in comparison.
Chavez is arguably more open to criticism on the grounds that in his irritation with Uncle Sam, he was too indiscriminate in embracing regimes that the US despised, gathering some unpalatable friends in the process, notably in the Middle East.
What most distressed Washington about him, though, was that his determination to ameliorate the consequences of rampant neoliberalism proved infectious. And as if it wasn’t bad enough to seek to use Venezuela’s oil wealth for the benefit of its poorest citizens, Chavez was willing to spread it about in the region, too.
As one Latin American electorate after another voted in left-wing leaders, the American nightmare of falling dominoes seemed to be coming true long after it thought it had put an end to such nonsense with the overthrow of Salvador Allende and the Nicaraguan counter-revolution. Blame for helping to transform Latin America into something other than America’s backyard is a badge Chavez would have worn with pride.
Brazil is often cited by his critics as a valuable counter-example, an instance of centre-left “pragmatism”. It’s worth remembering, though, that Inacio Lula da Silva, elected shortly after the abortive 2002 coup, consistently resisted US advice to isolate Chavez. And his successor, Dilma Rousseff, declared last week: “President Chavez will live on in the empty space that he filled in the heart of history and the struggle of Latin America.”
She might have added that this prediction is likely to be fulfilled without recourse to the quasi-religious, semi-macabre and mostly communist tradition of embalming his corpse and putting it on display.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

Missing humour in religion

By Jawed Naqvi

WITH all the bloody mayhem unleashed in the name of religion today, there may be no occasion left to remember that not too long ago people of different faiths in our region and elsewhere could poke fun at each other’s beliefs without incurring the death sentence.
Given the current state of strife in Pakistan (and its shadow in other parts of the world), I am already beginning to miss my favourite Shia-Sunni jokes.
The backstage of the two newspapers I worked with in Dubai in the 1980s was packed with the wildest banterers from Shia and Sunni sects of the subcontinent.
The Shias were described as khatmals, bedbugs and the Sunnis were happy to be called machchars, mosquitoes. I had heard this description of the two ‘teams’ in Lucknow earlier but could never figure out the basis of merrily seeing or accepting the sects of a shared religion as troublesome insects.
Deep political messages could be expressed with an undercurrent of satire between fellow believers of different ethnicities. The Pathan taxi driver in a Gulf state was so riled by his Arab hosts that he grumbled in anger to me: “Allah Ta’ala isko upar se Quran diya, ye nai samjhi. Allah isko neeche se tel diya, ye wo bhi nai samjhi.” (God gave this fellow the Quran from heaven, he didn’t understand it. God gave him oil from the ground below, he missed that too.)
In India, the popular sardarji jokes went out of fashion after the 1984 communal onslaught against the Sikhs. The biggest teller of the sardarji stories was none other than the prolific Sikh writer Khushwant Singh. He was too shaken by the murder of Indira Gandhi and the mass lynching of Sikhs that followed in Delhi by vengeful mobs to completely recover his infectious joie de vivre again.
After paying our homage to Hugo Chavez in Delhi the other day, a couple of Marxist friends pointed out worriedly that his successor, Nicolas Maduro, was an ardent devotee of the controversial Hindu ‘godman’ the late Sathya Sai Baba.
The saffron-clad guru with a distinct coiffure lured a diverse range of devotees with his famed miracles. They included Pakistani cricketer Zaheer Abbas, his Indian contemporary Sunil Gavaskar as also the relatively younger Sachin Tendulkar.
There was a period when the most powerful men in India — the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the prime minister, the army chief and even the president — were followers of the Baba.
It was an eyesore to many of course to see the guru ensconced on a higher chair than the prime minister of India, just as it evidently riled my Marxist friends to see the anointed heir of Chavez involved with a miracle man of ordinary credentials.
A well-known Indian magician took a more humorous view of the Baba’s flaunted abilities with the sleight of hand. Garbed as a devotee of the guru, the Bengali conjurer P.C. Sorcar Jr accepted a “miracle sweet” the Sai Baba pulled out from the air for him.
Then Sorcar waved his own hand and plucked out a different refreshment to return the favour. Sai Baba, we are told, was livid. If my Marxist friends have their way they would plant P.C. Sorcar in Caracas to keep a close watch on the promise of the Bolivarian revolution staying the course. However, the fact is that Hugo Chavez too was a deeply religious Catholic. And if that didn’t deter him from taking the revolutionary path, there is little to indicate that his successor would be waylaid by a miracle he may have experienced with an Indian guru.
What set Chavez apart from his other revolutionary peers was perhaps his bubbly sense of humour, and his ready laughter. That’s the point to remember.
Was there ever a Holi, the festival of colours (just a week away) when the day would not end with a session of risqué poetry at the local Hanuman temple in the Nirala Nagar district of Lucknow? Lord Krishna’s frolic with the milkmaids of Mathura, which the occasion celebrated, mutated into amorous verses involving the men and women of the mohallah, including Muslims, Hindus, everybody. That humour has become a problem, a ruse for harassing women today.
Similarly, the theatrical Ramlila, staged in every village and mohallah, would celebrate the return of Lord Ram from exile with the most rambunctious ribaldry that spared no community and involved everybody.
We would fall off our chairs just listening to Anand Ghildayal’s irreverent versified take on the Ram narrative. This was before Mr L.K. Advani converted an Indian icon into a Hindu deity as he flexed his nationalist muscles astride a makeshift chariot. He was on his way to the destruction of an unused 16th century mosque in Ayodhya to reclaim the mythical glory of his Mother India.
In Semitic religions in which laughter was more or less banished by some unspoken law from the pulpit, the people quietly discarded the rigidities. The idiom of the Singing Nun perhaps drew the sharpest line between
the etiquette of the church and the spontaneous street culture that anchors much of our collective quest for less constrained expression of happiness.
While Muslim societies are definitely lagging behind today in their ability to allow for humour in religious narratives — and look what they have done to themselves in the process — it is the hitherto freer Hindu ethos that has veered sharply to the right as it imbibes a glum look that was associated with the Semitic disapproval of hearty laughter. Returning to sardarji jokes, to Shia-Sunni banter would be a blessing worth praying for.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
jawednaqvi@gmail.com

The fatal disorder

By I.A. Rehman

“If Pakistan is to develop as a democratic and progressive state, sectarian activities must be put down with firmness; otherwise Pakistan will become a mediaeval and reactionary state.” — Punjab DIG, CID, 1952 .
LAST Saturday’s sack of a Christian settlement in Lahore has again laid bare the rot that today defines the Pakistani people’s mindset and which has paralysed the vital organs of the state.
The incident was no sudden attack by a suicide bomber, nor an ambush by an extremist militia; it was homemade mischief that was allowed to brew for three days. What reportedly began as a quarrel between two young men soon became known to neighbours and the police, and both could have prevented the orgy of violence, arson and plunder that followed.
A man was accused of committing blasphemy. The sole witness was the complainant who had turned against his friend. The accused was arrested, apparently without the mandatory inquiry. By then the state had become seized of the matter. Yet it was possible for a mob of several thousand people to burn and ransack scores of houses and shops, including a church. The attack was a sustained and well-planned operation aimed at not only punishing the innocent population without cause but also rendering their houses unfit for habitation.
This act of sheer barbarism has thrown up quite a few questions that wise heads must face.
Once again an opportunity has presented itself for an appraisal of the various forms in which the Pakistan Penal Code provisions about offences relating to religion are liable to abuse. Such abuse can be seen in treating all sections in the Penal Code chapter XV as blasphemy provisions while only one section — 295-C — can be taken as the blasphemy law.
The fact that this law has often been invoked by land-grabbers, business rivals or professional complaint-writers is widely known. Also well-known are instances of failure of investigation and prosecution agencies to protect the innocent, including the mentally challenged.
Even the holy brigade in politics has off and on conceded the need to stop the misuse of belief-based laws. Each government since 1988 has talked about amending the law to prevent its abuse only to beat a hasty retreat. The crux of the problem is the state’s failure to stand up to the perpetrators of violence, preachers of intolerance and hate speech, and killers of innocent citizens, and all this as self-appointed executioners of the Divine Will.
The writing on the wall is clear. The abuse of law and the exploitation of people’s belief for the purposes of committing murder and arson will continue because of the arrangement to ensure that the young ones are more intolerant of religious diversity than their elders were, not only in madressahs but also in public schools.
The second, and a more critical, issue is the consistent disinclination of the state authorities and the popes of the ideological caucuses to go to the root cause of the disorder.
Each time there is an outrage the question mostly asked is about the failure of the police to prevent or control the incident or the incompetence of the politicians if they are not in one’s good books. Is it any secret that the police have never taken on a mob incited by clerics and no political outfit has challenged religious groups for their attacks on minorities?
The issue is not simply why the police or the provincial authority failed to do their duty in Quetta or Karachi or Lahore; the issue is the environment in which the police, political authorities and even oversight bodies become parties to promotion of hatred for and intolerance of minorities.
The essential questions are what made Salmaan Taseer’s murderer change his concept of duty — from protecting the governor to killing him. What made men of law garland him? What makes prison staff hail sectarian killers as heroes?
Only a little reflection will be enough to realise that the state has been sowing the seeds of violence in the name of belief by blinking at the organised exploitation of religion for narrow personal/group interests and by becoming and remaining a hostage to the dark forces of religiosity and hypocrisy.
The state did not heed the words of caution it received in the early 1950s nor during the subsequent five decades. It does not seem to have awakened to the crisis it is fuelling these days. Many a time it has been told not to divide the citizens on the grounds of belief with the argument that eventually the Muslims would be divided on the basis of sect, and sects would be divided by various interpretations of religion. All this to no avail.
It is difficult to recall any state in modern history that can match Pakistan’s record of self-annihilation.
The fault does not lie in this policeman or that, nor in one politician or another, the fatal disorder lies in all those who sanction the use of law or force — both equally bad — to impose on the normal people of Pakistan so abnormal a polity as theocracy always is.
Let anyone who cares for justice, human dignity and Islam’s pristine principles go for those who swear by the Quaid’s principles only to flout them and denounce the secular ideals of Pakistan without bothering to understand them. The fact is that in the hearts of most people who matter reside monsters that persuade them to blink at atrocities
targeted at non-Muslims, Shias, women and the poor, even if they themselves do not join the bands of killers and robbers.
Those who cannot see in the Badami Bagh blaze the whole country on fire will not need any outsider to destroy them. Nor will they find anyone to cry for them.

Sanctions and pipelines

By Khurram Husain

PLACE your bets. Will Pakistan risk inviting American and European Union sanctions upon itself, as well as the ire of its key ally Saudi Arabia, in return for Iranian help in overcoming a crippling energy crisis?.
The simple answer is no. But the times are far from simple. For one, Pakistan’s own energy crisis is getting worse exponentially. By some estimates, put out by the Petroleum Institute, the country’s oil import bill will cross $50 billion in a little over 10 years’ time. That’s about five times what it is today.
Put it another way. Our peak shortages of gas today are just over one billion cubic feet of gas per day. By 2025, just over 10 years from now, these shortages will hit eight billion cubic feet, assuming a growth rate of four per cent per annum.
It’s hard to overemphasise the significance of this. Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world that has been relatively insulated from the full impact of the oil price hikes of the past decade precisely because we’ve had indigenous natural gas to fall back on.
As the price of oil went into triple digits, our consumption of indigenous natural gas intensified, until today when it accounts for almost half of our primary energy consumption in the country.
The result is all around us. The growing shortages have aggravated inter-provincial disharmony, and inaugurated an ugly chapter in our economic history: the bitter wrangling between industry and sectors over gas allocations.
Seen through the prism of Pakistan’s growing gas crisis, the Iranian pipeline seems like a solution as natural as the gas it will presumably carry. But as a wise old professor once wrote: geography proposes, history disposes.
The proximity of Iranian gas is geography’s proposition. But the sanctions imposed on that country by the international community hold the destiny of this proposition in their hands.
Let’s not underestimate the forces that stand behind the sanctions. Let’s recall that
in addition to America, the EU and the UN all have Iran-specific sanctions in place.
US sanctions on Iran began with an executive order that became effective on Nov 14, 1979. Since then, there have been 24 additional executive orders tightening the noose further, the last of which became effective on Oct 9, 2012.
The earliest sanctions seized Iranian government properties in the US, went on to block all assets that were pledged to American banks, and in 1995 made illegal any investment by American firms in the Iranian oil and gas sector.
The latest executive order, of October 2012, goes so far as to “prohibit any transfers of credit or payments between financial institutions or by, through, or to any financial institution, to the extent that such transfers or payments are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.”
This clause unplugs Iran from the global clearing house of all inter-bank payments as far as they are processed through New York.
Then on Dec 26, 2012, came an amendment to this order, issued by the treasury department, which expanded “the categories of persons whose property and interest in property are blocked” if they are found “to have provided material support for certain Government of Iran-related entities or certain activities by the Government of Iran”.
A little further down, the note clarifies that amongst the entities to whom it is prohibited to “provide material support” is the Central Bank of Iran and amongst the “activities by the Government of Iran” that are prohibited from being provided support to are the “purchase or acquisition of US bank notes or precious metals by the Government of Iran.”
And there’s the clincher. With these laws in place, you cannot transact with Iranian banks, you cannot make a payment to the Central Bank of Iran in dollars, and you cannot make that payment in gold without running the risk of being unplugged from the US financial system.
But as mentioned earlier, there are complications. Carefully read the myriad documents where the sanctions laws are clarified and you’ll notice strange loopholes in the text.
For instance, the prohibitions laid out earlier, according to the clarification, will “not apply to any activity relating to a project:
“1. For the development of natural gas and the construction and operation of a pipeline to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey and Europe;
“2. That provides to Turkey and countries in Europe energy security and energy independence from the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Iran; and
“3. That was initiated before August 10, 2012.” Basically the red lines the US is trying to draw around Iran are not so red when they touch the matter of helping break Europe’s energy dependence on Russia. So can Pakistan ask for some of the red to be taken out of the red lines for the sake of its energy security as well?
The history of the sanctions clearly tells us that an executive order issued by the president would be enough for the purpose, without requiring any congressional approval.
So will Pakistan really press ahead with the project? Are the red lines drawn by the Americans really all that red after all?
It’s highly unlikely that Pakistan will risk calling the US warnings about sanctions a bluff. But it’s equally unlikely that the Americans will allow the sanctions to be triggered — that requires a determination from the secretaries of treasury and state — and push Pakistan’s economy into meltdown, because that is what would happen to us in the event. Our economy cannot withstand that sort of a blow, anymore than it can withstand the continuous declines in its gas supplies.
What’s more likely is that Pakistan is using Iran to build a negotiating position on some other table, and when the offer there is up to par, they’ll bargain geography’s proposition away on the tables of history.

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

How to help the poor

By Faisal Bari

HELPING people move out of poverty, on a sustainable basis, and helping to lower their vulnerability threshold is not a straightforward or easy policy issue.
The poor have low incomes and they have low or non-existent wealth or asset levels — whether human assets (education and/or skills) or physical assets. So, in order to climb out of poverty and ensure that this move is sustainable the poor need help at two levels: they need resources to meet their current needs (food, clothing, shelter etc.), and asset accumulation so that they can continue to benefit from higher income levels in the future.
A pertinent question is that if the poor do not have enough even for today, how can they accumulate for the future? In most cases, apart from meeting their current needs, the poor need accumulation mechanisms for building their savings and assets. There are various ways one can facilitate this. If current income increases sufficiently to allow some savings, these can be accumulated to build assets.
Micro-credit takes this route by giving borrowers loans to make, predominantly, productive investments which leads to an increase in current incomes and allows not only higher current consumption but some accumulation of savings as well. Continued for a sufficient period or with some repetition of loan cycles, and without any negative shocks, the process allows people to climb out of poverty and to stay out of it on a sustainable basis.
If current income increases are not considered feasible or are not sufficient to allow for the accumulation of savings, a good way to address vulnerability and the future is through the transfer of assets. Though a slower route, this can be done through imparting education and/or vocational skills to build human assets. But here we have to ensure the quality of education as well as the relevance of skills. This, evidence shows, is not always easy to manage.
The other option is the transfer of physical assets to the poor. Studies show good returns on transfer to the poor of land, livestock and/or resources for starting a small business. The usual risks with these assets (death of animals, the closure of business etc.) apply but the reported returns, after taking risks into account, from countries that have used asset transfers to tackle poverty, are quite significant.
Within asset transfer programmes, though returns on land transfer to the very poor are significant, land distribution programmes are politically very difficult to set up, and to handle effectively and efficaciously. Taking productive land away from people, even from those who might have large holdings, is not an easy task, while distributing marginal lands does not result in returns that are high enough.
Livestock distribution and business loans are the easiest to manage, while still getting good returns. For these programmes, if there has been some relevant training for recipients, prior to asset transfers, in taking care of animals or in basic skills for business management, success rates appear to be even higher. If too many assets of the same kind are given in a small market and/or area, it can create market saturation issues and a reduction in returns.
The agency responsible for running the programme should keep an eye out for such issues. Too many animals in an area can create fodder shortages or a milk glut and raise the risk of epidemics. In the same way, too many women producing similar embroidery can lower returns as well. A good mix of assets can easily address these issues.
We are facing very substantial levels of poverty in Pakistan and, more importantly, very high levels of vulnerability where even a substantial number of non-poor are at high risk of falling into poverty. Health, employment, and income shocks that are household-specific are quite common, as are systemic shocks like floods and droughts.
The Benazir Income Support Programme has a large transfer programme, Rs1,000 a month for each eligible poor household, and this sum is now reaching millions of households. But this transfer, by design, just takes care of a portion of the current needs of those who are very poor. Federal and provincial governments need to experiment with asset transfer programmes too.
Waseela-i-Taleem (for education) and Waseela-i-Rozgar (vocational training) address human asset questions. But these programmes are just starting out and are still too small and recent for one to say whether or not they will be implemented well enough to address poverty issues at the scale required.
The Rs300,000 one-time transfer programme for business that has been started in Sindh is an asset-transfer programme but it has just been announced. We will not know about its efficacy for some time, even if it continues to work after the elections.
More importantly, for the moment, the government has chosen to only deal with a cash-transfer programme, even on the asset side. It has not tried to experiment with livestock transfer programmes and/or land transfer programmes. Since such programmes have shown promising results in other but comparable jurisdictions, incoming governments should definitely do pilot projects in these areas.
We need to establish the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the various options we have open to us through a careful and rigorous evaluation of these so that large-scale interventions can be designed with some level of confidence.
It is likely that there will be little political opposition to asset-transfer programmes for education/training or even against livestock transfers and business loans. But land redistribution programmes are bound to raise political difficulties.
Will the high returns on land redistribution, as a means of reducing poverty, provide any incentive to political parties to think of this as a policy option for fighting poverty in Pakistan? Will any party include such a programme in its election manifesto? It will be interesting to see this through the election process and beyond.

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

Public-speaking judges

By Faisal Siddiqi

A CURSORY look at the daily print and electronic media reveals that judges no longer speak only through their judgments.
In addition to the regular publication and broadcasting of Supreme Court and high court judgments by the print and electronic media, a new phenomenon has emerged — constant reporting of the verbal comments of superior court judges during hearings and of their public speeches.
In other words, the judges of the superior court have been transformed into publicly present figures, engaging in giving both written and verbal decisions.
But why have these judges engaged in such public-speaking through their verbal comments and public speeches? Or is the persistence of this phenomenon of verbal decisions/speech fulfilling some judicial need?
We can tentatively identify five such reasons for this phenomenon.
Burden of history: Post-March 2007, the emergence of this “new” judiciary is historically linked to the growth of the media, especially the electronic media, during this period, in two ways.
Firstly, the media played an important role in the public mobilisation/support of the lawyers/judicial movement. Therefore, it was naïve to think that the media would not enter the courtroom after the judiciary’s restoration. Secondly, the public-speaking judge and the constant reporting of his judicial verbal comments emerged during this lawyers/judicial movement. Therefore, before the first (July 2007) and second (March 2009) restoration, judges had already been socialised out of their traditional non-public judicial roles and into their new publicly present judicial roles.
Judico-media power: The de facto power of the “new” judiciary has public legitimacy and the threat of public mobilisation in its favour. The judicial strategy to sustain and increase such public legitimacy on a constant basis is to have a constant judicial presence in the print and electronic media.
In other words, the public-speaking judge, and his daily remarks, propagating the “rule of law” as a key solution to state and societal problems, reproduces and increases judicial power on a daily basis.
Such daily reproduction of and increase in judicial power is not possible through mere judgments as the latter are too long and legalistic, whereas a judicial comment during a hearing or in a public speech is short and simple. It has a more immediate and effective public impact.
Media & middle class connection: If the media plays a role in the reproduction of and an increase in judicial power, the judiciary is also a vehicle for the growth of power of the media and the middle classes, especially the professional classes.
For example, suo motu actions have been taken on the basis of print and electronic media reports giving power to the print and electronic media, to intervene in public affairs through judicial action.
But what is this Pakistani media, especially the electronic media? It is primarily composed of businessmen/ capitalist class, the middle class and the professional class. It is also important to note that judges predominantly have middle/professional class backgrounds. Thus, the agenda of the media is also being set by the middle and professional classes.
In short, the persistence of the publicly present judge is now also linked to the emerging power needs of the media and middle class.
Fear of the law: Machiavelli was probably right in noting that it is better to be feared than loved. Unless societies are socialised into being obliged to follow the law, the fear of consequences is key to forcing people to obey the law.
The judges of the superior courts, especially Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, reinforce this fear of the law, on a daily basis through their critical judicial comments during court hearings, and through public judicial warnings, which are constantly reported as headline news in the print and electronic media.
Such daily and visual fear of the law can never be conveyed through legalistic judgments — it requires constant judicial performance in the public arena to be instantly spread in society through the media.
Legal shaming: One of the punishments recognised in criminological theory is “public shaming”. The court’s directions to government officials and private parties to personally appear in court and its public anger and criticism in open court, which is then greatly amplified by being reported or broadcast, is a kind of dispute resolution through legal public shaming. Legal shaming works because people comply with the law because of the fear of public shaming.
Justice/dispute resolution without orders: The superior court’s judicial strategy of “fear of the law” and “legal shaming” point towards a dilemma faced by the courts. The public’s demand for justice and dispute resolution is too overwhelming and varied to be fulfilled by legalistic judgments. Therefore, this judicial verbal decision-making is a kind of a dispute resolution/justice without written orders.
But we should be cautiously critical about such developments for the following reasons.
Firstly, judges who speak too much may prejudge the persons appearing before them. And prejudgment is a classic form of unfairness. Moreover, instant, instinctive or hurried decision-making, is more likely to lead to injustice.
Secondly, in cases in which the fundamental rights of individuals or minority or depressed groups are involved, it is the constitutional duty of the judiciary to protect these rights, regardless of the opposition of the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis.
In other words, democracy/majoritarian rule may lead to dictatorship of the majority and it is the judiciary’s constitutional duty to play the counter-majoritarian role to safeguard individual rights or the rights of depressed or minority groups.
In such cases, judges who are sitting in their secluded courtrooms, relatively free and without fear of public disapproval, may be better equipped to deal with such cases than those who are worried about their public legitimacy, as perceived and constructed by the media.
But these are uncharted judicial waters and what needs to be accepted is that the public-speaking judge is here to stay.

The writer is a lawyer.

Headless chickens

By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

TO be a political worker on the left of the spectrum in Pakistan is a genuinely thankless task.
One has to contend not only with the steady shift in political discourse and practice to the right — both within Pakistan and globally — but also with the growing cynicism and power of money in activist circles that threaten to turn the ideologically committed and volunteer political worker into a relic of the past.
And all of this is aside from the fact that political workers in this country are constantly grappling with crises. Too much time is spent by those committed to radical social change, of the leftist variety, reacting to one or the other such crisis.
The pattern goes something like this: the media decides that a particular injustice constitutes a genuine public interest issue and activists dutifully organise a plethora of protest meetings, rallies, demonstrations etc.
While the upsurge in what is often called “civil society activism” — on which I have commented on these pages before — is laudable on many counts, it is nevertheless true that there are serious questions of both a political and sociological nature that must be posed to help understand the nature and impact of this activism.
Many progressives have been on the streets at some point or the other over the past few weeks to protest the alarming attacks against Quetta’s Hazara community, Shias in Karachi and Christians in Lahore. Amidst the carnage it can be argued that there is a silver lining i.e. a growing number of ordinary Pakistanis raising their voices against millenarian violence reflects a growing consensus — which includes the media, government and other political players — that we collectively need to buck the trend.
While there are encouraging signs, there are also very worrying ones that must be acknowledged. The aftermath of the Badami Bagh episode in particular is, in my opinion, an eye-opener precisely because of just how significant a public response there has been.
It is indubitable that Christians in Punjab are amongst the most subjugated people in Pakistan. Yet it is telling that the public concern with this particular group is limited only to spectacular incidences. As deplorable as the burning down of almost 200 poor Christians’ homes is, one cannot help but ask why it is only through the lens of a Shantinagar, Gojra or Badami Bagh that the problem is viewed.
In other words, what we need to think deeply about is what exactly the “problem” is. All too often activists with all the right intentions are found reacting to symptoms rather than addressing causes.
I am not suggesting that a majority of folks whose conscience implores them to act against such glaring injustices have not thought about the historical causes of millenarian violence. What I am nevertheless pointing to is that the immediate reactions to the spectacular episodes such as Badami Bagh betray a lack of understanding of highly complex political dynamics.
For instance, is it not worth asking why it is that poor people’s homes being burnt down in Lahore garners front-page coverage whereas similar — if not worse —– incidents that take place in the war-torn Baloch and Pakhtun areas of the country on an almost daily basis are never reported (let alone responded to by gracious chief ministers)? And if we move beyond the complicity of the police, how do we reconcile the modernising tendencies of the political — and often military — leadership of Punjab with the pervasive and persistent evidence of its hobnobbing with the radical right?
To reiterate: it is possible, and indeed quite likely, that progressives privately do ask these and similar questions, but the sad reality is that it is precisely such questions that are not part of public discourse, and that the consensus over “terrorism” that we so desperately want will only emerge once we separate, in a manner of speaking, the cat from the pigeons.
This brings me back to the “traditional” political worker of the left, and the nature and impact of civil society activism. I think the reactive tendencies of progressives to which I have alluded here are to a great extent explained by their unwillingness to commit themselves to a coherent political philosophy and, by extension, a political party. To take up every “human rights” issue under the sun is all good and well, but ultimately such a modus operandi means appealing to, or at best making demands of, the very political parties and state institutions that benefit from keeping the incumbent, oppressive structures intact. If the objective is not simply to react to a large-scale episode of violence every other day, then a much more thought-out long-term response is required to dismantle these very structures. Such a response begins with the articulation of a coherent agenda for change and extends to mobilising constituents at the grassroots level that can make change happen, through the ballot box and/or mass agitation. This is what a political party does, whatever its ideological content.
Joining or building a political party, and a long-term agenda for change, is not, unfortunately, what a majority of otherwise well-intentioned activists are doing in today’s Pakistan. Many of the issues that activists take up are undoubtedly real and pressing, but the way these issues are situated, and the demands that activists articulate only reflect the weaknesses of those on the streets.
It is thus that right-wingers in the media, legal fraternity, mainstream political parties, and most significantly, state institutions themselves, continue to do the right’s bidding, while the left remains something that progressives talk about but are unwilling to actually resurrect. Running around like a headless chicken might help placate our own conscience but it will not prevent more Badami Baghs from coming to pass.

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

Caring for the earth

By Amin Valliani

THE earth and its environment are the most valuable assets for all creation. Be it the tiniest insect or a gargantuan creature, all are dependent on the earth’s resources.
Among all earthly creations, the position of human beings is superb. Man has a special relation and connection with the earth. Being worthy of prostration by the angels, he is regarded as the crown of creation, a microcosm of the universe and a trustee of all that is created. He is God’s vicegerent on earth and assigned the responsibility of taking care of other creations.
He has been gifted with divine guidance, a potential to develop his intellect and build a repository of knowledge. He can also develop his intuition to become a spiritual being. These developments enable him to foresee the portents of the future and act accordingly. Allah says that “It is He who created for you all that is on earth. …” (2:29). The resources of the earth — material and non-material — are all under man’s trusteeship.
The higher position of humans leads to higher responsibility. This includes the responsibility of protecting the earth against all perils. The earth has all the ways and means needed for man’s survival and development. Allah has created the earth for human habitation. Among the known celestial bodies, it has been inhabited by humans and other creatures from time immemorial. It is a place of worshiping Allah and prostrating before Him, seeking blessings and invoking His name day and night.
The Quran refers to the earth very often as a reflection of Allah’s power of creation and invites us to look at the mountains, rivers, trees and flowers as evidence of Allah’s grace for humanity. The earth provides divine signs and symbols, paving the way to develop one’s self, society and the world at large. Islam guides humanity about how to fulfil the responsibilities related to the earth and carry out development cautiously, thoughtfully and conscientiously.
The earth is an exciting place where man can develop a reflective self and a humane society to foretaste the promises of the life hereafter. The social interactions that take place on earth also impact on one’s faith and spiritual life. It is a training ground where a believer learns how to lead a pious life. If he is able to live a pious life here, he would resultantly be capable of inheriting an abode in paradise.
We have inherited the earth from our ancestors and will leave it behind for future generations. It has the beauty and resources to sustain humanity for centuries to come. Therefore, every human act should strengthen its beauty and safeguard its resources.
Humans have been warned over time to be cautious as every act of man has an impact and leaves an imprint on the earth. The earth has been assigned the task of providing sustenance and shelter to all creatures. It is spacious enough to perform prayers. It has been symbolised as a sowing field to harvest in the hereafter. In short Allah says “…Therein you shall live and therein you shall die and from it you shall be brought out” (7:25).
History testifies that humanity has always been capitalising on the earth’s resources. Many a time the quest for the earth’s resources has become a bone of contention among different nations. Many have fought wars and killed each other over the competition for earthly resources. The earth provides evidence of tyrannies, atrocities and bloodshed of past nations as well as signs and symbols of man’s past achievements in order for us to think and draw lessons.
The present era of modernisation and industrialisation has also brought new challenges for the earth. Myriad human activities have created a sense of fear among saner circles that rampant use of resources and unwarranted extinction of natural life would render the earth barren.
Many societies have witnessed the fast-disappearing natural beauty. Rapid expansion of population, increasing environmental degradation and uneven development have contributed to make a mess of the earth.
The environment is affected with the advancement of modern technology, cultivable land has been turned into industrial zones, mining, exploration, dams, deforestation and highways have changed the nature of the environment. Though laws exist in Pakistan requiring environmental impact assessments to regulate developmental projects and ensure sustainable development, these need to be rigorously implemented.
Also, the growing precariousness of resources demands self-assessment with a change of mindset. Aggrandisement, avarice, excess spending and showing off are vices which the human nature is prone to. These vices have often led some to plunder and subsequently degenerate the earth.
We have been enjoined to be careful in the use of natural resources and to leave behind the world and its resources in a better shape than it was when we came into it. Being the trustees, our ideal spending patterns should be in conformity with Islamic values that reflect simplicity, modesty and forethought. This does not imply, however, that one should refrain from utilising nature-gifted resources for meeting legitimate needs or providing necessary comforts.
Yet it does require some sort of sanity, sound and serious judgment and consideration when it comes to consumption. Islam’s central emphasis is on walking the middle path, avoiding the epicurean as well as the miserly ways of life.

The writer is an educationist.
amin.valiani@itrebp.org

Tough tasks ahead

By Abbas Nasir

WHEN the present parliament ends its term tonight, the tenure of the government will also be over and the focus will shift to the elections and then the challenges facing the new elected cabinet.
The present government may say it inherited many of the challenges it faced owing to Pakistan’s rather ambivalent participation in the so-called US-led war on terror but it will also know that much of the mess it is leaving for the incoming leaders could perhaps have been avoided.
Let’s look at how the regional environment may inform Islamabad’s decision-making in the coming months and particularly as the US/Nato forces complete their planned pullout from Afghanistan next year with the race intensifying between various aspirants to the Kabul throne.
One will be the incumbent President Hamid Karzai who, ahead of the US pullout, has started sounding like an Afghan nationalist particularly as the news emerges of some contacts between the Americans and the Taliban leadership.
Hamid Karzai seems to be making anti-American noises in an attempt to somehow try and remain relevant in the Kabul set-up that will emerge once the pullout is complete. Many contacts are being made and negotiations going on in the shadows, and very few details are emerging in the public domain.
The Pakistanis on their part will have to calibrate whether taking sides is prudent. In the recent past neutrality has been rejected as an affordable luxury. In what is perceived as a zero-sum game with India, Delhi’s heavy investment in the current set-up was seen with suspicion and therefore Pakistan seemed to stand with the other side.
Our policymakers have not earned a name for themselves for learning any lessons from history. So who knows whether they’ll continue to side with the Afghan Taliban after the pullout? They could also reach the conclusion that the West’s arming and training of the Afghan National Army has made the security force into an effective fighting unit.
If it is the latter, perhaps, a more neutral stance would be the safest bet for Pakistan and it can use its good relations with the Taliban leadership that it has been accused of sheltering over the past decade for leverage in getting favourable policy responses from the Kabul administration.
Some hint of this has already been forthcoming when Afghanistan reportedly accepted the offer of Pakistani military trainers for its forces. Such small measures can go a long way in soothing Rawalpindi’s nerves regarding hostile Indian influence on the Afghan military leadership.
Whatever shape the final outcome takes over the next 18 months or so, it is clear that fleet-footed responses and a flexible policy are likely to deliver the most benefits to Pakistan which has had to bear the brunt of the scourge of terrorism over the past five years blamed on the Afghan strife.
If a power-sharing deal in Afghanistan is possible then perhaps a (friendly) and non-hostile regime will leave the Pakistan government and the military to deal with the existential threat to the country being posed by religious militancy.
Cracking down on militant groups, perhaps even going after their sanctuaries in North Waziristan once the Haqqani network has moved back to their home country thus circumventing the fear of a clash with it, can improve the security situation and create a domestic environment conducive to economic growth.
There is no denying that the current government’s burgeoning deficit has created a ticking bomb if some experts are to be believed but it is equally true that if economic growth picks up from the current 3.5 per cent the deficit could be rapidly reduced.
Admittedly this will only happen if the incoming government is able to show more spine than the current ‘coalition’ where the diverse interests of coalescing partners didn’t allow the expansion of the income tax base or the imposition of a general sales tax.
Even a dramatic improvement in the security situation and a drastic cut in the deficit, more as a result of better tax collection rather than merely a reduction in government expenditure, on their own may not work if a serious attempt isn’t made to resolve the energy shortfall that has dogged the country.
The incoming government may have to take the exceedingly unpopular decision of more or less turning off the valve on the use of compressed natural gas in private vehicles in order to utilise the same resource for the generation of power till projects such as the gas pipeline with Iran are not completed.
Of course the fate of the failing public-sector corporations will also need to be decided and a progamme of stabilisation will have to be initiated before any investor will step forward in an eventual privatisation process. It has been amply demonstrated that corporations can’t work without such a programme.
Where the legislative record of the current parliament has been decent in certain areas, the next one will need to think of drastic all-encompassing legislation to deal with terrorism, intolerance, etc. If it means a programme of anonymity for judges on the lines of the US witness protection programme so be it.
The burden of reintegrating all the alienated Baloch nationalist politicians will fall on the caretaker administration as only their free participation in the polls will create a scenario where some of the Baloch wounds will at least have some chance of healing.
Equally the slide in the law and order situation in Karachi may need to be arrested in the same six, seven weeks period as the major stakeholders once elected may not have an attitude different to what was demonstrated over the past five years.
This is a far from exhaustive list of challenges the next elected government may face. Whether it will have the ability to take difficult, yet prudent, decisions may well be demonstrated in new appointments to the powerful positions of the army chief and chief justice of Pakistan in 2013, its first year in office.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Conditions for democracy

By Rafiq Hussain Agha

BRIEFLY, democracy can be defined as a government of, by and for the people. In using these words, Abraham Lincoln meant not to provide a complete definition but to highlight the system as being people-oriented.
Democracy goes by majority rule in the political sphere. However, it is imperative to appreciate that the rule of the majority can be termed democratic only when it operates strictly within the parameters of a democratic constitution as well as people-friendly law and regulations.
Otherwise, one would have an electoral or elected government but its oppressive decisions would be overriding, which would make it the tyranny of the majority.
There are two dimensions to democracy: it is an ideology as well as a system of governance. As an ideology, it stands for basic values attainable through the fulfilment of fundamental rights — towards the rule of law in a welfare state. This constitutes its ideological frontier and moral foundation.
As a system of governance, it stands for the synergy of autonomous institutions in a network of distributed powers. These include a politicised legislature for lawmaking and higher policy formulation, an independent bureaucracy and judiciary for impartial decisions in the service of the public, and genuinely autonomous institutions in both the public and the private sectors.
Elections are an absolute must for democracy but the naïve understand the system as restricted to and hinged on elections alone. Elections are a procedural matter, but they are not exclusively the feature of a democracy; they are used under totalitarian regimes or elected dictatorships, too. Adolf Hitler, after all, came to power through elections.
It is necessary to guard carefully against a tyranny of the majority in a democracy. If an elected majority exclusively looks after its own interest but ignores the minority, for example, it amounts to just such tyranny. Mechanisms have to be in place for impartiality towards the rule of law — the rule of law being meaningful only in a welfare state. There can be no genuine rule of law in a plutocracy or an oligarchy.
In this regard, the generally oppressive role played by feudal lords vis-à-vis destitute tillers is a limiting factor in a modern democracy such as the kind that Pakistan is aspiring to. Corrective steps are necessary, and there is an urgent need to abolish the oppressive ‘thana-kutchery’ culture.
For democracy to flourish, there must be a public mindset of pluralism and tolerance. Without that, a democracy would end up as a de facto totalitarian entity, even if not de jure. Elections need to be held within political parties too in order to avoid cults of the individual being created.
The founding father of Pakistan emphatically expressed his vision of the bureaucracy as an independent institution for public service on merit, free from the undue influence of politicians who remain under pressure from their constituent supporters and who operate in a separate sphere.
This is in the fitness of things because the bureaucracy is the largest of all institutions and if there are deficiencies in its power to function on merit, what it — and by extension, democracy — can deliver is impaired.
The current systemic fault in Pakistan’s bureaucracy is that it stands deprived of its basic institutional feature of independence for impartial decision-making. This catastrophe arose following the general elections of 1970.
Through misdirected administrative reforms — which should actually be called deformations — bureaucrats were de facto transformed into staff officers to the politicians in power. They were deprived of due independence and consequently demoralised and unmotivated.
This fault is basic and systemic, and unless it is removed, good governance will remain a dream. This undue over-politicisation has led to pervasive ill-governance as political authorities in power can hide behind civil servants and use them to conceal their wrongs.
Such ill-governance also badly impacts on the functioning of the judiciary in the dispensation of justice. It is obvious that where cases are massively mutilated at the investigation stage, it would become mighty difficult to sort them out at a subsequent judicial forum.
The World Bank strongly recommended the reintroduction of an independent bureaucracy in this country in the second half of the 1990s, but we took no heed.
Comprehensive democratic rights are enshrined in the segment of our constitution titled ‘Fundamental Rights and Principles of Policy’. The fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens include the right of life and liberty (Article 9), of the dignity of man (Article 14), of property, as well as compensation, if necessitated, (Articles 23 and 24), and of welfare facilities as recorded in the constitution.
Welfare facilities, however, stand qualified as, “[…] subject to availability of resources”. This rider clause virtually nullifies welfare facilities for the common man. It is time that a time frame and a target date were fixed by political consensus for the annulment of this clause.
The final test of a genuine democracy is that it demonstrates the power of freedom in good governance in all sectors of development. In the event that such delivery remains absent, despite the passage of time, it is a sure sign that democracy exists in nomenclature alone.
To sum up, democracy needs to be understood as a comprehensive system, not just a matter of elections.

The writer is a former officer of the erstwhile higher Civil Service.

Groundhog Day

By Irfan Husain

IN the 1993 movie, Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a reporter who finds himself in a time loop in a small American town celebrating Groundhog Day.
Each day is identical to the last one, and attempts to leave result only in waking up yet again in the same hotel room to the sounds of ‘I’ve Got You Babe’ by Sonny and Cher.
So, too, in Pakistan: each day brings news of a fresh atrocity, and we go through the identical motions that follow each barbaric act.
There are the graphic images on our TV screens, the breathless interviews, the condemnations, and the familiar expressions of anguish.
These are followed by the government’s pledge to protect the community most recently targeted, the setting up of an inquiry commission and the transfer of a few cops.
As these horrors pile up, the most recent one buries earlier killings, except for the family and friends of the victims.
I was going to focus exclusively on the recent ordeal of the Christians of Joseph Colony, but then came the numbing news of Perween Rahman’s brutal murder. For this brave, dedicated woman to be gunned down in cold blood is a tragedy beyond words.
But while Perween’s shooting could probably not have been prevented, the attack on the hapless Christians in Lahore certainly could. Many previous attacks on Christians have been accompanied by arson and looting. It seems the faithful are just itching to grab possessions and land belonging to oppressed minorities, and burn what they can’t carry away.
One Christian, in a call to a TV chat show host, demanded that those arrested for torching two churches in the area, together with many copies of the Bible and other holy objects, be tried for blasphemy. This is only fair. If non-Muslims can be subjected to our unforgiving blasphemy law without a scrap of evidence except somebody’s say-so, surely there is a case to be made to try Muslims for the desecration of another faith’s holy icons and books.
Indeed, this is a test for the PML-N government in Punjab. Considering that other similar attacks have taken place on its watch, it needs to prove that it is not supporting extremists, as many critics accuse it of doing. After the Gojra incident in 2009 in which eight Christians were killed and over 100 houses burnt, not one of the mob of extremists who carried out the attack has been convicted.
Despite chief minister Shahbaz Sharif’s pledge to the victims that those guilty for the massacre would be punished, nobody was prosecuted. And although the inquiry committee recommended action against the police officials guilty of gross negligence tantamount to collusion, nothing was done.
And this is what happens in Groundhog Day: here we are, four years later, witnessing a replay in Lahore just because the Punjab government took no action after the Gojra tragedy.
It’s not just incompetence on the part of our rulers, but the cynical calculus that the minorities are too helpless to bother about. On the other hand, the extremists are armed and dangerous, and their millions of supporters constitute a huge voting block.
One reason this murderous cycle never ends is that we believe that people are being slaughtered because it is God’s will. “Allah ki marzi”, is an expression you hear at every funeral, whether the deceased died due to an incurable illness, a doctor’s neglect or an assassin’s bullet. This fatalism prevents the build-up of anger that’s so necessary to bring about change.
Another reason why terrorists who slaughter in the name of Islam have a free ride is that there is a misplaced notion that they are motivated by religious fervour. The conventional wisdom suggests that rather than fight, we ought to talk to them to convince them of the error of their ways. Good luck with that. The killers have always used these respites to rearm and reorganise.
While the majority mull over how low to bow before the Taliban, Shias, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis keep getting killed in increasing numbers. Although many have been forced to seek shelter in less hostile societies, millions are stuck here at the mercy of an unkind and violent majority.
So how should the minorities protect themselves when the state won’t? The Christians of Joseph Colony and Gojra are hardly likely to form armed militias to defend their homes. Despite their anger, these are peaceful people who, in any case, cannot afford to buy guns. And the truth is that at the slightest sign of armed resistance, they are likely to be butchered.
The Shias have hit back on occasion, but they are hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. The Hindus and Ahmadis, too, are unlikely to take up arms. So what’s the answer? Perhaps they should be given land where they can set up their own state and live in peace.
Before you dismiss this suggestion as outlandish, recall the precedents: Pakistan was carved out of India because Muslims felt insecure under majority Hindu rule. And East Pakistan seceded because Bengalis could no longer stand being bullied by West Pakistani Muslims. Why then should non-Muslim Pakistanis not demand a state of their own?
Okay, I know this is unlikely to happen any time soon. My point is that in an increasingly fanatical country, anybody not subscribing to the majority strain of Islam is under threat. The space for different beliefs and schools of thought is being rapidly squeezed by shrill and violent fundamentalists, supported by elements in the media.
As the mayhem continues, we are caught up in a time loop straight out of Groundhog Day. But instead of a Sonny and Cher song, we wake to the sound of explosions and gunshots.

The writer is the author of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West.
irfan.husain@gmail.com

Europe’s hidden crisis

By Shada Islam

ASK European Union policymakers what really worries them these days and you are likely to hear of the continuing eurozone crisis, high levels of unemployment and prospects of a British exit from the EU.
Only a few will point to recent constitutional changes in Hungary which many believe are threatening democracy and the rule of law in the Eastern European nation which joined the European Union in 2004.
For those who believe in the EU’s core commitments to human rights, diversity, democracy and the rule of law, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is taking his country down a dangerous road. His moves are not only a menace to Hungary’s democratic future but also to the EU’s global standing and reputation.
I confess that like many in Europe, I have not been paying adequate attention to recent developments in Hungary. Elections in Italy are more interesting. British politics, complete with sad scandals of politicians’ betrayed wives, are almost Shakespearian in their tragi-comic implications.
In comparison, Hungary is far away — not a part of Europe’s mainstream and not very high on the EU agenda. Things may be changing, however. If the EU is to be credible as a global defender of democracy and human rights, it can no longer turn a blind eye to Hungary’s clear disregard of European values.
Critics fear that a recent amendment approved by Hungarian lawmakers weakens the country’s constitutional court and undermines its democratic checks and balances. Orban’s conservative government holds a two-thirds majority in parliament, which it has used to push through a sweeping overhaul of the country’s institutions and its constitution.
Prime Minister Orban disagrees with the critics, however. The much-attacked recent amendments to Hungary’s constitution are in line with EU treaties, he said in Brussels recently, adding: “Hungary’s democratic institutions are strong enough to defend themselves.”
Since 2010, Orban has battled often with the EU over attempts to increase his executive control, ranging from limiting the central bank’s independence to curbing media freedom. His government has altered some legislation to comply with EU demands, but critics claim the changes were only superficial.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned that Hungary’s constitutional changes are cause for “great concern,” especially for minorities. “Europe is not only about the market and the currency, but it is also a community of values that we share — human rights, democracy,” Rutte said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also voiced concern, saying a government with such a strong majority bears a special responsibility to protect minorities. European Parliament President Martin Schulz has urged EU leaders not to allow a member state to slide back on the EU’s core principles.
Hungary’s constitutional amendment allows local authorities to fine or jail homeless people, bans political campaign ads on commercial radio and TV stations, and forces university students who accept state scholarships to work in Hungary for years after their graduation.
Crucially, the amendment also limits the court’s right to review constitutional amendments. That allows any government with a two-thirds majority — as is the case with Orban’s Fidesz party — to put whatever it wants into the constitution.
For the EU, it is a terrible dilemma. While the European Commission has sweeping monitoring and enforcement powers on many economic matters, it lacks authority if a member state changes its laws to curb the rule of law or democracy itself.
So far no leading EU politician has explicitly called for Hungary to be stripped of its voting rights in the EU’s institutions, but several EU countries have suggested the setting up of a powerful new watchdog mechanism to monitor legal compliance with the EU’s fundamental values.
Four foreign ministers — from Germany, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands — have highlighted that the EU needs “a new and more effective mechanism to safeguard fundamental values in member states”.
There is no doubt that the 2004 enlargement of the EU has brought several former communist nations into the Union which do not fully share the same norms of democracy, human rights and the rule of law as the others. There is general consensus that if the EU takes no action against their policies and actions, Europe will lose its global credibility and internal legitimacy. “It is important that every country in the EU understands that we belong to a community of values,” according to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
But for all the frustration and denunciation, there is little the EU can do to prompt an immediate change in attitudes. In the case of Hungary, and similar stand-offs with Romania and Bulgaria in recent years, the first response from fellow member states and the European Commission tends to be political pressure or moral persuasion to try to make the government in question change its behaviour.
Beyond political pressure, the Commission can launch what is known as an “infringement proceeding” against a country. But that relies on having hard evidence that EU law has been breached and pursuing the case through tortuous legal channels.
One article of the treaty that binds EU member states together does allow for the near-immediate sanctioning of a member country, but it requires unanimous backing of
all other member states and is considered a “nuclear option”. In another era — 2000 — for the first time in its history, the EU did impose diplomatic sanctions on a member state, Austria, after Joerg Haider’s extreme right-wing Austrian Freedom Party entered into government. The sanctions — more symbolic than practical in nature — were lifted after several months.
Some EU politicians believe it is time to take similar action against Hungary. But the majority view is that moral pressure is the best way forward. At least for now.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels.

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