Canadian Pakistani Times
January 17, 2013 Volume 1, 043
SC orders prime minister’s arrest
ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the NAB to arrest all the persons, including incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, involved in Rental Power Plants (RPPs) scam and submit report tomorrow (Thursday).The court directed NAB Additional Prosecutor General Rana Zahid Mehmood “to get approved the challans/references against all the accused persons and to cause their arrest without any hesitation and submit report on January 17.”Giving a 24 hours deadline to the authorities to implement the orders, the a threemember bench being led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry maintained that National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will be responsible if any of the 16 accused manage to escape.The court order came as Dr Tahirul Qadri was addressing participants of a sit-in he is leading in front of the Parliament House and which has taken the county by storm. As he learnt of this development in the middle of his address, Qadri congratulated the attendants, creating an impression as if it was a result of their protest.The timing of the court decision also led many analysts to believe that it was linked to Qadri’s agenda and part of a bigger plan to dislodge the government and installation of a government of technocrats or imposition of martial law by the establishment. However, the history and the current facts about this mega corruption scam belie all such claims. Moreover, the chief justice allayed the fears by stating in clear terms the same day that “elections will be held on time”, as he heard another case pertaining to introduction of reforms in the electoral process.The RPPs contracts were awarded to the various companies in violation of laws when Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was minister of Water and Power. And the apex court had announced an interim judgement in March, 2012 when he was not a prime
minster. In that judgment, the court directed NAB chairman to proceed against the ministers and secretaries holding charge of Water and Power ministry in 2006 and onward and from 2008 to onward, the periods when the RPPs were approved/set up and also against the minister as well as secretary of finance ministry holding the charge when the down payment was increased from 7 percent to 14 percent.The NAB had been using delaying tactics and no significant progress was made while the court kept pressing the bureau to implement its order and hold transparent investigations. Tuesday’s hearing was also fixed as per schedule and the apparent tough court decision was taken at the due input of the Additional Prosecutor General (APG) and the NAB.The NAB investigation officers Asghar Khan and Kamran Faisal probed the RPPs Piraghaib and Techno Sahuwal and filed challans against Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and 15 others in Case No.2(3RPP)/SOD/2012/NAB and Mr Shahid Rafi and 21 others in case No2(4-RPP) /SOD/2012/NAB.During Tuesday’s proceedings the APG informed that reference was filed against former Water and Power minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and secretary Shahid Rafiq; former Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen and secretary Salman Siddique; former Pepco chairman Ismail Qureshi; and Munawar Baseer Ahmed, Tahir Basharat, Fazal Ahmed Khan, Rafiq Butt, Muhammad Anwar Khan, Qaisar Akram and Maqsood Akhtar.The chief justice ques-
tioned how many persons have been arrested and how much money has been recovered. The APG said that NAB has recovered Rs2.36billion out of Rs11 billion. When asked about progress report of implementation of the March 2012
judgment, the newly-appointed APG asked the court to issue order for the arrest of people against whom the challans have been submitted in the RPPs case.On this, the chief justice questioned as to why the court should issue such order and asked whether the NAB was incapable of arresting them. The APG said that they were investigating and collecting more evidences against the accused. The chief justice questioned what more evidences NAB require as the advance money was given for the same machinery in Guddu and when that machinery was shifted to Naudero again the money was charged.The court noted that it appears that prima facie the investigating officers are not being allowed to ensure the implementation of the judgment of this court in letter and spirit. The CJ made clear to the NAB chairman “If any accused involved in these cases succeeded in making good
his escape from the country, he will be personally responsible for the same” and action would be taken against him.The APG told the court that they have already put their names on the ECL. The chief justice remarked that there was no benefit of putting their names on ECL as Shahrukh Jatoi, who allegedly killed Shahzeb Khan in Karachi, and Ogra scam accused Tauqir Sadiq escaped from the country despite their names being on the ECL.Suspended NAB Rawalpindi DG Col (r) Subeh Sadiq appeared and said that the authorities have suspended him by misusing the name of Supreme Court. He stated that he has 36 years of unblemished service to his credit and he has been maligned and disgraced on the pretext that the Supreme Court was unhappy with his performance.Raja Amir Abbas, counsel for the investigation officers to whom the notices for contempt have been issued, pointed out that on 71-2013 Brig (r) Principal Secretary to NAB Chairman Farooq Naser Awan has issued a letter stating that “IO’s under contempt be removed from these cases since Supreme Court of Pakistan also does not appear happy with their performance.”The court said that they were led to believe by the Principal Secretary that such action has been taken against the IOs on the recommendations of the DG. The court observed that NAB chairman is already under contempt notice for non-compliance of the judgment in the RPP cases and copy of the same
had been delivered to him in the month of March, 2012, therefore, he should have been careful, “however, under the circumstances, we issue notice to NAB chairman to explain as to why he has falsely used the name of the Supreme Court” with a view to remove the IOs namely, Asghar Ali and Kamran Faisal. The case was adjourned until Thursday.PM Ashraf was given the title of Raja Rental after he was accused of receiving kickbacks in the rental power projects. Of the 19 RPP deals signed initially, only nine were allowed to function after a damning Asian Development Bank evaluation report. Subsequently, six of those nine RPPs were discontinued. The prime minister was also accused of buying property in London from money earned through corruption in various scams.Following the Supreme Court orders, a private TV channel quoted sources as saying that the prime minister has summoned a meeting of close ministers for consultations. Sources said Raja was waiting for the detailed Supreme Court order after which he would consult President Asif Ali Zardari.The ripples caused by the court decision deepened the uncertainty of country’s political environment and the Karachi Stock Exchange fell by nearly three percent. In an apparent reaction to this decision, shops were closed in Sukkur and aerial firing was reported in Hyderabad.Speaking to reporters, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the Supreme Court order was unexpected. Law Minister Farooq Naek was quoted as saying that the Supreme Court order did not mention Prime Minister Ashraf. Information Qamar Zaman Kaira told a TV channel that Prime Minister Ashraf and the Law Ministry had not received the written order of the Supreme Court. Kaira added that people would not let democracy be derailed.
Opposition parties declare not to Pakistan protests India over LoC violation support any unconstitutional move The opposition parties meeting in Raiwind Lahore have made it clear that they will not support any unconstitutional move. PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif said that we are not power hungry but for the sustainability of the democracy. JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that they will resist any unconstitutional move. He also demanded of the government to announce election schedule.
JI leader Syed Munawar Hussan said that the Opposition's grand alliance is need of the hour. JWP leader Talal Bughti claimed that the undemocratic forces were out to create anarchy in the country. PKMAP Chief Mahmood Achkzai said that there is no room for political orphans in the country.
Pakistan accused India of "warmongering" and lodged an official protest on Wednesday after another soldier was killed in disputed Kashmir in a flare-up that threatens to derail a fragile peace process. Diplomats on both sides have warned against allowing a spate of deadly cross-border incidents to wreck the tentative progress that has been made since a total break in relations following the 2008 attacks on Mumbai. But tensions escalated as Pakistan reported another of its troops had been killed Tuesday in "unprovoked" firing across the militarised border, bringing the toll on both sides to five since January 6. Pakistan army's director general of military operation telephoned his Indian counterpart Wednesday to "strongly protest" over the death, an official told AFP. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar hit out at strident comments by Indian politicians over the incidents, and warned against "upping the ante" (Cont.. to page no 11)
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January 17, 2013
Bangladesh cricket chiefs said on Wednesday that Pakistan had refused to release any of its players for a Twenty20 competition which begins this week after a planned bilateral series had to be scrapped. Pakistan had been due to host Bangladesh for a Twenty20 game and a 50-over match in Lahore this month in what would have been its first home internationals since a deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team bus nearly four years ago. But the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) cancelled the tour, saying Pakistan was not safe for its players. According to a BCB spokesman, Pakistan has now responded by preventing any of its stars from competing in the Bangladesh Premier League
Pakistani stars barred from BPL
which begins Thursday. “The chief executive officer of PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) called our CEO today and informed him that they won’t allow Pakistani players to play in the BPL until we send our team to their country,” spokesman Jalal Yunus told AFP. “We’ve now decided to host the event without Pakistani players,” he said, adding the BPL’s seven franchises would now find replacements for the 26 Pakistani players they bought in the auction last month. The move represents a major blow for the second edition of the BPL since Pakistani cricketers have a big following in Bangladesh. More than 50 Pakistani players took part
Serena scare as Federer coasts MELBOURNE - Serena Williams' bid for a historic Grand Slam hit an injury hurdle at the Aus-
tralian Open Tuesday, as Roger Federer and Andy Murray coasted and a landmark for Chinese tennis proved short-lived. Federer and Murray opened their accounts with superlative wins on a sundrenched Rod Laver Arena, as they joined Novak Djokovic in the second round and stayed on course to meet in the semi-finals.
As the tennis world reeled from news that ATP chief Brad Drewett was stepping down after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Wu Di became the first Chinese man to play a Grand Slam match, losing in four sets. And there was drama when Williams, gunning for the first sweep of all four major titles in the same year since 1988, was on court for only 19 minutes against Edina Gallovits-Hall before going over heavily on her right ankle. However, after medical treatment and despite hobbling around the court, the 15-time Grand Slam-winner astonishingly won 6-0, 6-0 in just 54 minutes as she belted every winner in sight to keep her running to a minimum. The 31-year-old said she felt pain and swelling and may need an X-ray, but pledged to soldier on in her quest for a sixth title at
in the auction for the second edition of BPL, with opening batsman Imran Nazir fetching $280,000. Last year more than 20 Pakistani players took part in the inaugural edition, with all-rounder Shahid Afridi sold for the highest fee of $700,000. No international matches have taken place in Pakistan since the militant attack on the Sri Lankan team bus that killed eight people in March 2009. Spokesman Yunus said Bangladesh has not ruled out touring Pakistan in the coming months but wanted to reassess the security situation before sending a team. Bangladesh was also due to tour Pakistan last April, but the tour was blocked by the Dhaka High Court on security grounds.
Pakistani cricketers unlikely to feature in BPL LAHORE: The chances of Pakistani cricketers’ participation in the Bangladesh league seem to have dimmed as the Bangladesh national cricket team is unlikely to tour Pakistan. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had made it clear to its Bangladesh counterpart that Pakistani crickets may not be released for the
on Tuesday there is no development. The Bangladesh cricket team was to tour Pakistan in April for a short three-day tour to play just one T20 and one ODI. But later lack of coordination between the PCB and the government of Punjab prompted some Bangladeshi citizens to file a petition in the
league if Bangladesh’s national cricket team does not tour Pakistan as committed by them earlier. Now just one day is left in the league to start for which 51 Pakistani cricketers have signed the contract. “We have no report from Bangladesh about their plan to tour Pakistan before the start of the league and we have not yet taken any decision whether to release the players for the league or not,” a spokesman for the PCB told Dawn. “Yes, the time is running short but I am not in a position to give any comment on the prevailing situation,” he said. The BCB on last Saturday decided to send a security team to Pakistan and sought three more days from the PCB in confirming its tour, but
Dhaka High Court, raising objections over the tour as a result of which the court ordered the BCB to defer the tour. The PCB, which has desperately been making efforts to organise a successful tour of any foreign team in Pakistan, wrote a letter to the BCB warning it about non-participation of Pakistani players but the move seems to have failed as Bangladesh did not give any response. Though some cricket experts of Pakistan were of the view that Pakistan cricketers should be allowed to play in the league, the PCB turned a deaf ear to their demand. The cricketers, who will suffer financial losses, also pressurised the PCB through some cricket experts to get the NOCs, but it all went in vain.
Pakistan Super League has potential, says Haroon Lorgat DUBAI - Haroon Lorgat, the former International Cricket Council boss who is now a consultant for the Pakistan Cricket Board’s new Twenty20 league, feels it has got huge potential and will attract top foreign players to participate in the event soon. In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, Lorgat, who stopped over in Dubai after launching the logo of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore, said: “There is a lot of potential for the PSL. We all know that Twenty20 cricket is now a reality and professional cricket in the form of franchisebased models is now common and people understand it. So professional leagues will develop and Pakistan, which has some 180 million people, are very passionate for the game of cricket. They have amazing talent within the country and the response I have seen for this league has even excited me.” Lorgat, who was the Chief Executive of ICC during a crucial phase, strongly believes that foreign players will return to play in Pakistan. “Foreign players should come to play in Pakistan. We all know the negative perceptions about safety and security. It is something which is real and the PCB will put in place a security plan to deal with the risks and perceptions. The enquiries received from some very good foreign international
players to play in the league are extremely encouraging. If I look at what has already been confirmed and what is in the pipeline, it bodes well. I hope some of the real super stars too will consider though I do understand that it will be up to each individual to decide. I have been to Pakistan a number of times recently and Lahore is quite a normal place. Cricket goes on there and I know that Pakistan will put appropriate safety and security measures in place.” When asked how did he get involved with PCB, Lorgat said: “When I was leaving the ICC, I offered my assistance to all the Member boards because I am still passionate about the game and I believe there is a lot that Member boards can do to grow themselves and strengthen themselves. So it was natural for me to offer my services and do whatever I can to assist the game of cricket.” Answering to a query why Pakistan players are good Twenty20 players and whether it has to do with their physique or skill, Lorgat said: “It is a combination of a number of things. They certainly have serious talent and skill. We all know how often Pakistan select new players that thrills the world. They appear to work a lot harder these days and I have seen their academy which is very impressive.
January 17, 2013
Well begun is half done ISLAMABAD - Welcoming the Supreme Court decision of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s arrest in RPPs case, Dr Tahirul Qadri repeatedly sought pledge from the participants of his long march to continue their sit-in till the fulfilment of their reforms agenda.In what he termed as the maiden address after the launching of revolution on completion of the march, Tehreek Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief said on Tuesday that issuance of PM’s arrest orders by the apex court has completed half of the job while the rest would be accomplished by today (Wednesday).“I will address again tomorrow if need be. May be we won’t need to stay here tomorrow,” he remarked and asked the participants and the nation to bow before God and celebrate this ‘success’. The charged protesters took no time to follow his call and bowed down on the road.“There might be no need of third day if you continued supporting me,” he told the demonstrators, who stormed Islamabad on Monday marching all the way from Lahore and other cities. The Jinnah Avenue echoed with ‘Supreme Court Zindabad, Chief Justice Zindabad’ after Qadri’s announcement about the PM.Dr Qadri in sobbing voice said that he would stay in Islamabad till achieving the objectives and vowed to force the “usurpers” to quit power to be replaced by an honest leadership. “I have no (personal) enmity with Zardari, Nawaz, Asfandyar and others as I am only raising the issues of the poor,” he maintained.Advising the participants to remain peaceful, Qadri said that emotionally charged crowd could have run over Parliament had he given a signal to them but quickly added that they believed in constitution and democracy and wanted to bring change through constitutional means.Unveiling his proposed agenda, Qadri said the last point of his seven-point agenda is dissolution of assemblies. However, he assured they don’t want to derail the democracy. “Millions of people have
gathered here for real democracy in the country. You better dissolve assemblies; otherwise, protesters are increasing and eventually you will have to take this step,” he demanded.Qadri said his first point is to get ‘peace at home and abroad’. He said due to the incompetence of the political leadership, a national policy against terrorism could not be constituted. “We never want miscreants with tattoos to be arrested from the country,” he said, adding that some ministers who also have tattoos on their bodies might be promoters of terrorists.The TMQ leader said 70 percent MPs do not pay tax. “We do not want to see those in the parliament who have made billions from corruption,” he said. “Present parliament is not democratic and priorities of the parliamentarians are loot and corruption... Pakistan’s democracy is full of Tauqeer Sadiqs.”Dr Tahirul Qadri said they want reforms in electoral system, full implementation of constitution, and change in the system. Strongly criticising PPP and PML-N, he said they have forgotten their history of meeting army at night but he met them in daylight. He also challenged the government to find out who was behind his campaign. “All your assumptions have proved wrong... Let me inform you I have strong support of Allah; I have support of the nation,” he added.Agencies add: Police earlier in the day clashed with stone throwers and protesters brandishing sticks, shooting into the air and firing teargas. Demonstrators smashed vehicle windows and reached the edge of the heavily fortified Red Zone, which houses parliament and Western embassies that were closed on Tuesday. Eight police were hurt in the clashes, a Federal Government Services Hospital spokesman said. But organisers of the rally accused police of opening fire, of attempting to arrest Qadri and of trying to provoke them into violence.
Another Pak soldier dies in Indian firing ISLAMABAD - Indian troops again resorted to ceasefire violation and carried out unprovoked firing Tuesday evening at Line of Control (LoC) in Hot Spring and Jandrot sectors from 2200 to 2300 hours, Pakistan Army said in a statement issued late night. Resultantly, Naik Ashraf embraced martyrdom at Kundi Post due to unprovoked Indian firing. Naik Ashraf is survived by a wife and three daughters, the statement added.Agencies add: A local administration official in Azad Kashmir’s Ha-
jira district, close to the Line of Control where the soldier died, said that Indian troops were firing at mountain villages.“Indian troops are firing at Pakistani villages intermittently,” Sardar Mushtaq, the local government official, told AFP.“We do not immediately know about the casualties because of communication difficulties in a mountainous region at night,” Mushtaq said.He said that two civilians had been wounded in cross-border shelling this week.
YDA virus returns LAHORE – The Punjab Young Doctors Association has announced a boycott of OPDs the province from Wednesday (today) to protest against government. YDA spokesman Dr Mudassar told TheNation on Tuesday that the young doctors would continue providing health care facilities to the visiting patients at camps to be established outside OPDs. Alleging that the government was victimising the YDA leadership, he said that all services would be withdrawn if the government continued arrest and transfer of young doctors. He said protest would continue till registration of FIR against those who manhandled young doctors in Gujranwala and withdrawal of transfer and termination orders of YDA leadership. Leaving patients in the lurch on January 11, the young doctors boycotted outdoor and indoor services at the government hospitals though the Lahore High Court barred them from going on strike. The Punjab government had placed the services of doctors in Essential Services as provided in Punjab Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1958, therefore, doctors and the government were bound to facilitate patients without any hurdle and restriction, the court heard. On January 10, the YDA announced protest outside all public sector hospitals in the province to press for the demand of registration of an FIR for torture on young doctors in Gujranwala where reportedly a group of juniors attacked their sen-
ior a day ago. YDA Punjab President Dr Javaid Iqbal Aheer that the police was not registering version of young doctors in Gujranwala incident while the health department was victimising YDA men. Dr Aheer claimed that the health department transferred 200 young doctors from Jinnah Hospital alone.
On the other hand, a spokesman for health department said that Essential Services Act 1958 had been enforced at all government hospitals under which all the doctors and paramedics are bound to perform their duty. He said that action will be taken against the elements involved in strikes or creating hurdles in the treatment of patients. Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Kh Salman Rafique said the government implemented half of the decided points on service structure, while the remaining would be implemented soon. He said there was no justification of repeated protest calls by young doctors. Special Secretary Health Babar Hayat Tarrar and other officers were also present.
Pakistan protests India over LoC violation between the nuclear-powered neighbours. "We see warmongering," Khar said at the Asia Society in New York late Tuesday. "It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement." India says two of its soldiers have been killed since hostilities erupted along the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border in Kashmir where a ceasefire has been in place since 2003. It has demanded the return of the soldier's head which is still missing. Pakistan, however, denies its forces are responsible for the killings and says three of its troops have now been killed in the spate of incidents. India's army chief Bikram Singh, who has already called on his commanders to respond "aggressively" to any Pakistani firing, made a highly-charged visit Wednesday to the home of the beheaded soldier. "Whatever we need to do we are doing," Singh said in brief comments to reporters outside the home in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The two countries have fought three wars since their independence in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir. But Khar said they had to get over their "narrative of hostility". "The doors to dialogue are open," she said. "We need to meet at any level, I think we need to call each other, we need to become mature countries which know how to handle their truth." Khar again denied Indian accusations that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of two soldiers that India says were killed on January 8.
She said an inquiry had found "no evidence" of the deaths. Her comments are likely to stoke further indignation in India, whose prime minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday condemned the beheading as "unacceptable". "It cannot be business as usual" with Pakistan, Singh said in his first public reaction to the attack which has caused outrage in the army's ranks. Indian newspapers said the prime minister had highlighted a growing sense of frustration in New Delhi at Islamabad's denial of responsibility. "Singh's comments signalled a hardening of the government's stand which had so far seemed to be trying to resist demands for pausing the peace process," The Times of India said. After the collapse in ties following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which India blamed on Pakistanbased militants, relations had been making steady progress, with talks focused on opening up trade and offering more lenient visa regimes. But the mood has soured dramatically since the apparent titfor-tat exchanges along the militarised border. On Tuesday, India was meant to begin allowing Pakistanis over the age of 65 to obtain a visa on arrival at the border in Punjab. However the programme was put on hold indefinitely hours after Indian officials said it had come into force, although the delay was attributed to "technical" reasons. Nine Pakistani players were also withdrawn from a new field hockey league in India and asked to return home just before Singh's comments.
January 17, 2013
Suicide attack targets Afghan spy headquarters in Kabul KABUL: A squad of suicide bombers attacked the national intelligence agency headquarters in heavily-fortified central Kabul Wednesday, killing at least two guards and wounding dozens of civilians, officials said. Five attackers were killed in the brazen midday attack on the National Directorate of Security, which is playing an increasingly important role in the war against Taliban insurgents as Nato forces prepare to withdraw. The Taliban claimed responsibility in a text message to AFP, saying “a large number of intelligence workers were killed and wounded”. “There were five attackers involved. The first detonated a car bomb at the gate, the other four were shot dead by police and NDS guards as they approached,” Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, adding that about 30 civilians were wounded. A senior police officer said two guards from the National Directorate of Security intelligence agency were killed and others wounded. A second car full of explosives was found nearby and defused. The huge explosion was heard throughout Kabul’s diplomatic district, and witnesses said windows were shattered in nearby Chicken Street, a popular shopping destination for Westerners.
AFP journalists at the scene said it was swarming with security forces moments after the attack. An NDS official, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed concern over how the attack-
heard. “It’s a big facility and very, very sensitive, with a very high security installation and system,” he said. The NDS plays a crucial role in the fight against the Taliban, who have been waging an in-
ers had managed to penetrate one of the most heavily-guarded areas of the capital, which includes the police HQ and the Interior Ministry. “It was a suicide explosion at the gate,” he told AFP, adding that gunshots had also been
surgency since being ousted from power by the 2001 US-led invasion for harbouring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. Its chief was wounded in an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber posing as a fake Tal-
iban peace envoy at a spy agency guest house in Kabul on December 6, just months after he took office. Afghan police and other security forces are increasingly targets of Taliban attacks as they take a bigger role in the fight ahead of the Nato withdrawal. The NDS influence on the conduct of the war is likely to grow as the US and Nato withdraw the bulk of their 100,000 combat troops from the country by end 2014 and hand responsibility for the war to Afghan forces. The NDS chief, Asadullah Khalid, is still receiving medical treatment in the United States. A spokesman for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force said no international forces were targeted in Tuesday’s attack. “There was a big boom around noon and then we heard an exchange of fire close to the Green Zone,” a diplomatic source told AFP. After 11 years of war and claims by the US-led Nato force that the insurgency has been weakened, Kabul is regularly targeted in the Taliban’s bid to oust the Nato-backed government of President Hamid Karzai. They also remain active in their traditional strongholds in the south and east of the country, and there are widespread fears of a new multi-factional civil war once the international troops leave.
Death toll from Syria university blasts reaches 87
French triple troops in Mali, prepare for assault
BEIRUT: The death toll from two massive blasts that ravaged the campus of a Syrian university has reached 87, anti-regime activists said Wednesday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the number of those killed in Tuesday’s blasts at Aleppo University could rise even further because medics have collected unidentified body parts and some of the more than 150 injured are in critical condition. It remains unclear what caused the blasts,
BAMAKO: After a punishing bombing campaign failed to halt the advance of Al Qaeda-linked fighters, France pledged Tuesday to triple the size of its force in Mali, sending in hundreds more troops as it prepared for a land assault to dislodge the militants occupying the northern half of the country. The move reversed France’s earlier insistence on providing only aerial and logistical support for a military intervention led by African ground troops. France plunged headfirst into the conflict in its former colony last week, bombarding the insurgents’ training camps, arms depots and safe houses in an effort to shatter the extremist’s domination of a region many fear could become a launching pad for terrorist attacks on the West and a magnet for extremists from around the world. Despite five days of airstrikes the rebels have extended their reach, taking over a strategically important military camp in the central Malian town of Diabaly on Monday. On Tuesday, France announced it was increasing the number of troops from 800 to 2,500. The offensive was to have been led by thousands of African troops pledged by Mali’s neighbors, but they have yet to arrive, making it increasingly apparent that France will be leading the attack rather than playing a supporting role. French President Francois Hollande told RFI radio early Tuesday that he believed France could succeed in ousting the extremists in a week. By afternoon he had outlined a far longerterm commitment. “We have one objective: To make sure that when we leave, when we end this intervention, there is security in Mali, legitimate leaders, an electoral process and the terrorists no longer threaten its territory,” he said during a stop in the United Arab Emirates. “We are confident about the speed with which we will be able to stop the aggressors,” he added. Supplies for the French forces arrived in a steady stream Tuesday, part of the enormous logistics operation needed to support thousands of troops in the baking Sahara sun, a terrain the extremist militants have operated in for nearly a decade. Transport planes bringing military hardware landed in quick succession on the short
which hit the campus as students took exams, setting cars alight and blowing the walls off dormitory rooms. The opposition and the government have blamed each other for the explosions, which marked a major escalation in the struggle for control of Aleppo – Syria’s largest city and once the country’s main commercial hub. Activists said forces loyal to President Bashar Assad launched two airstrikes on the area at the time of the blasts, while Syrian state media said a “terrorist group” – the government’s shorthand for rebels – hit it with two rockets. Either way, the explosions shattered the relative calm of the sprawling, tree-lined campus, signaling that Syria’s civil war has reached areas that were mostly spared the violence that has killed more than 60,000 people and reduced entire neighbourhoods all across the nation to rubble. The competing narratives about what caused the blasts highlighted the difficulty of confirming reports from inside Syria. The Syrian government bars most media from working in the country, making independent confirmation of events difficult. Both anti-regime
activists and the government sift the information they give to journalists to boost their cause. The civilians stuck in the middle avoid talking to the media, fearing reprisals from both sides for speaking their minds. Aleppo has been the focus of a violent struggle for control since rebel forces, mostly from rural areas north of the city, pushed in and began clashing with government troops last summer. The university is in the city’s northwest, a sector still controlled by the government. Both activists and the Assad regime said those killed in Tuesday’s blasts were mostly students taking their mid-year exams and civilians who sought refuge in the university dorms after fleeing violence elsewhere. Activists said a government warplane carried out two airstrikes on the university. To support their claim, they circulated a video they said showed a small trail of smoke left by a jet. They could not explain why the government would strike an area controlled by its forces. “We have no idea why the plane hit there, but it was very clear that it was a plane that struck,” said an Aleppo activist reached via Skype who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns. Syria’s state news agency said a “terrorist group” – government shorthand for rebels – fired two rockets at the university from an area further north. It did not give numbers for the dead and wounded. The scale of destruction appeared inconsistent with the rockets the rebels are known to possess. On Tuesday, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari told a Security Council meeting on combating terrorism that “a cowardly terrorist act targeted the students of Aleppo University” as they sat for their mid-terms. He said 82 students were killed and 152 were wounded. Syria’s crisis began with political protests in March 2011 but quickly descended into a full-blown civil war, with scores of rebel groups across the country fighting Assad’s forces. The UN said this month that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the violence.
airstrip: A giant Antonov, two C-17 Boeings and a C-160 disgorged equipment in preparation for a land offensive to try to seize back the northern territory held since April by a trio of rebel groups affiliated with Al Qaeda. Burly French troops in fatigues carried boxes of munitions as armored personnel carriers lined up at the airport’s gasoline pump. Roughly 40 armored vehicles were driven in overnight by French soldiers stationed in Ivory Coast. They in-
clude the ERC-90, a six-wheeled vehicle mounted with a 90mm cannon. Dozens of French Marines camped out on the cement floor of an airport hangar. Although at least 13 countries have offered support to the Mali mission, only France so far has boots on the ground. On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated the Obama administration’s position, saying no American troops will be sent. The US is helping with communications and intelligence-gathering, and may allow American aircraft to help with transport. A convoy of French armored cars was spotted late Tuesday heading toward Diabaly, the strategic town seized by the extremist militants a day earlier, said a resident of the nearby town of Segou, who declined to be named out of fears for her safety. The extremist militants appeared to be mostly equipped with Russian-made machine guns and other small arms, said a French Marine adjutant who gave only his first name, Nicolas, in keeping with military regulations. He added, however, that the French force would not underestimate the insurgents. On the first day of the operation, a French helicopter gunship was downed by rebel fire.
US expands terror informant rewards program WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed into law a measure expanding a cash rewards program for informants designed to thwart terror attacks to also target organised crime and human rights abuses. He said the new law would help bring individuals like the Lord’s Resistance Army chief Joseph Kony and commanders of the M23 and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda
group to justice. The legislation also allows the US government to offer rewards for information that leads to the arrest of transnational criminals involved in money laundering and trafficking in persons. “This powerful new tool can be used to help bring to justice perpetrators of the worst crimes known to human kind,” Obama said in a statement. “We have made unmistakably clear that the United States is committed to seeing war crim-
inals and other perpetrators of atrocities held accountable for their crimes, and today’s legislation can help us achieve that goal.” The State Department bills the Rewards for Justice program as a key tool in preventing terror attacks and hunting down terror suspects. Since the program’s debut in 1984, the US government has paid out over $100 million to more than 70 people who provided actionable in-
telligence that disrupted terror attacks or led to the discovery of perpetrators of attacks. The program led investigators to Uday and Qusay Hussein, sons of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who died in a firefight with US forces in 2003. Convicted 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef was also captured in Pakistan as a result of information provided by an informant under the program.
January 17, 2013
SC strikes Raja with lightning bolt ISLAMABAD: The breaking news about the possible arrest of the prime minister on Tuesday proved that the Supreme Court and the prime minister’s office never let someone else hog the limelight for long in Islamabad. An hour into Dr Tahirul Qadri’s muchawaited address came the earth-shattering news that the chief justice had ordered NAB to arrest the prime minister in the rental power projects (RPP) case. The reaction was immediate and hysterical. The second act of the conspiracy that had been launched with Qadri’s march had begun, claimed some. Those in favour of the SC argued it was a mere coincidence and that the court was innocent of all that it was being accused of. The RPP case was heard by the SC earlier under which the deals had been cancelled; in March last year, the court had also ordered that NAB pursue the financial and criminal liabilities in these cases. This meant that while the private companies had to be pursued to cough up money that they owed to the state exchequer, the government officials involved in approving these deals were to be charged and tried. The names of the accused, which included Raja Pervez Ashraf in his role as the minister for water and power, had once earlier been placed on the ECL after the March verdict. And then on Tuesday, in the midst of nail biting tension, came the latest apex bolt. “We direct Additional Prosecutor General of NAB Rana Zahid Mehmood that he should undertake all the necessary steps during the course of day [italics added] and submit investigation reports to the concerned authorities and to get approved the challans/references against the accused persons and to cause their arrest… and put up report on Jan 17,” ordered the court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. SC-NAB friction The orders did not come out of the blue. The tensions had been building for some time. Last week, a NAB official informed the court that he had suspended two investigating officers, Asghar Ali and Kamran Faisal, who had recommended to Director General of NAB Rawalpindi Col (retd)
Subeh Sadiq that he should submit references against the accused in the two RPP cases to the NAB head office. Heeding their advice, Sadiq did so; he too was suspended. However, the court was informed that these officials had been suspended because their performance or lack thereof was making the SC unhappy. But it was the news of this suspension that
supervise the progress in corruption references against the accused. And it was in this regard that the court on Tuesday ordered that the NAB complete the investigation reports, get challans/references against the accused and then arrest them. This paperwork has to be completed by NAB before the arrest of the prime minister will
made the SC unhappy; it did not like being made scapegoat for a decision that critics felt NAB had taken to slow down the progress in a case that could lead authorities to the Prime Minister’s House. What added to its ire was Col (retd) Subeh Sadiq who informed the court on Tuesday that the authorities had blamed his suspension on the SC. A visibly irritated bench ordered that NAB Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bukhari appear before the court on Thursday and explain why he had falsely used the Supreme Court as pretext to remove the two investigating officers. In its order, the court reminded the chairman that it had already issued a contempt notice against him for not complying with the March verdict in which the contracts signed between the governments and the RPPs had been rescinded. The current case is about overseeing the RPP verdict and the proceedings are being held to
become a possibility. The investigations and paperwork relate to two specific RPP cases which NAB has to pursue — the 150MW RPP contract given to Techno Engineering Services (Pvt) Sahuwal, which caused a loss of Rs20.436 billion, and the Piran Ghaib Multan. While the SC had been pushing for the investigations to be completed and the references to be filed, NAB was trying to argue that it had its own due process to complete which meant that it would hold an internal executive board meeting. The meeting, NAB said, would decide whether or not to file the references now that the investigations had been completed. The accused in the references are: Prime Minister Ashraf, former finance secretary Salman Siddique, former water and power secretary Shahid Rafi, Pepco’s former chairman Ismail Qureshi and managing directors Munawar Baseer Ahmad and Tahir Baharat Cheema, member power
Fazal Ahmad Khan, chief executive officers of NPGCL (National Power Generation Company Limited) Mohammad Anwar Khan, Rafiq Butt and Ghulam Mustafa Tunio, chief engineer (CPP) thermal Qaiser Akram, Nepra chairman Khalid Saeed, chief executive of Techno Sahuwal Abid Ali, etc. Hysteria is premature None of the legal experts Dawn spoke to felt that there was any likelihood that the prime minister was going to be arrested anytime soon. They said the power to order the arrest was with NAB which had so far not ordered to do so. Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said in an interview to a television channel that if the NAB chairman felt that the case was fit for the trial he would file it before a trial court (accountability court) which then had to issue orders for the arrest of any accused before the apex court could take up the matter. “I think that being the apex court of the country the Supreme Court will never take any such decision that deprives the rights of any individual,” he added. Advocate Chaudhry Faisal Hussain was also of the opinion that there was no arrest warrant against the prime minister and it was the prerogative of the investigating agency and the court concerned to see whether arrest was required or not. However, senior counsel Waqar Rana said the prime minister could be arrested without the permission of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza since the assembly was not in session. The court’s order, he said, was unqualified and, therefore, the prime minister did not enjoy any immunity under Article 248(1) of the Constitution. In a similar vein, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said in a TV channel that the government had not even received the SC order. A spokesman for NAB said investigation into the case would be completed before a criminal liability was fixed. “The RPP investigation is continuing and on its completion, NAB will proceed to prosecute in the court irrespective of what position is held by individuals responsible for the scam,” he said, adding that it was not easy to fix criminal liability and NAB investigators might require more time.
FM Khar says India ‘warmongering’ Balochistan Assembly rejects governor’s rule NEW YORK: India is “warmongering” over deadly clashes in the disputed Kashmir region, foreign minister said on Tuesday while calling for talks to end the new hostilities. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar spoke out after Pakistan reported another of its troops had been killed in Kashmir while India’s prime minister has warned there can be no “busi-
ness as usual” between the neighbors. “We see warmongering,” Khar said at the Asia Society in New York where she hit out statements by Indian politicians over the new tensions. “It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement,” Khar added. India says two of its soldiers have been killed in Kashmir, one beheaded, since January 6. Pakistan says three of its troops have been killed in that time, the latest on Tuesday. Khar said the neighbors had to get over their “narrative of hostility” from the past six decades. “The doors to dialogue are open,” Khar said. “We need to meet at any level, I think we
need to call each other, we need to become mature countries which know how to handle their truth.” The minister again denied Indian accusations that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of two soldiers that India says were killed in Kashmir on January 8. She said an inquiry had found “no evidence” of the deaths. India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier called the beheading of an Indian soldier “unacceptable” and added there could be no “business as usual” with Pakistan. “As I read statements coming in from the highest levels of government (in India) I can just say that we are deeply disappointed and I can say on behalf of my government that we feel that the dialogue process should be uninterrupted and uninterruptible,” Khar said. She added that there was “warmongering coming in from the other side of the border which is I thought the thing of yesteryears and thing that we had put behind us.” The Pakistan government “has invested deeply in the last four years to building a peaceful relationship with India,” the foreign minister added. “I represent a government which has taken political risks to reach out to the Indians and to give them a clear message when we say we mean business when we say we want a different type of relationship,” Khar said. “What you see in India is currently not living up to that and I hope that we will both show a deep abiding commitment to a normalised peace process, to a normalisation of relations,” Khar said.
Indian PM talks tough over LoC flare-up NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday wound up a one-sided discourse led by irate TV channels and hawkish opposition leaders on the ongoing cross-border flare-up with Pakistan, as he asked Islamabad to punish the men
who allegedly killed two Indian soldiers in Kashmir, though he refrained from publicly endorsing punitive measures urged by a restive military. “It cannot be business as usual” with Pakistan, he told reporters on the sidelines of an army function days ahead of the national military parade. “What has happened is unacceptable… Those responsible for this crime will have to be brought to book.” In what could be a concerted move, India’s government suspended a new programme to allow elderly Pakistanis to get visas on arrival at the border, citing technical glitches only hours after officials said it had begun Tuesday.
Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters that the scheme, which was designed to issue visas on arrival to senior citizens from Pakistan, had been suspended until further notice. “Couple of issues have to be resolved on that. There are technical issues, documents required. We will iron it out after consultation with other agencies,” he said. The Indian government has accused Pakistani soldiers of crossing into Indian territory and killing two of its soldiers on Jan 8. Pakistan denies its troops were involved in any such incident and has accused Indian troops of killing two of its soldiers. Foreign ministers of both sides have warned against escalating tensions. But the Indian army chief of staff told his commanders on Monday to respond “aggressively” to any future Pakistani firing across the de facto border in Kashmir known as the Line of Control. Shortly after the prime minister’s comment, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid read out an official statement, threatening that it should not be felt that bilateral relations could remain unaffected. “I think specifics of what might be necessary or found useful are decisions that will be taken as we move forward. At present, we feel that it is important that convergence of similar point of view on behalf of the government reflects the large section of our public opinion…
QUETTA: The Balochistan Assembly unanimously adopted on Tuesday two resolutions which rejected imposition of governor’s rule in the province as an undemocratic move, demanded reversal and called for a judicial inquiry into the killing of Shia Hazaras in bomb blasts. The movers and supporters of the resolution said it was for the fifth time that an elected government of Balochistan had been dismissed by the centre. They warned Islamabad against pushing to the wall the people and political parties which stand for parliamentary politics and democracy. The assembly session was called by Governor Nawab Zulfikar Magsi on Jan 12. But, when MPAs reached the assembly building they found a contingent of Frontier Corps deployed on the gates and doors of the assembly hall. The FC personnel refused to let them enter the premises. Former senior minister Maulana Wasey and other MPAs rushed to the Governor’s House and informed Mr Magsi about the situation. The governor ordered withdrawal of the FC contingent from the premises after which the session began with Speaker Syed Matiullah Agha in the chair. Legislator Aainullah Shams moved the resolution which condemned Thursday’s blasts and expressed sorrow over deaths and injuries caused by them. The resolution demanded an inquiry into the incidents by judges of the Supreme Court or Balochistan High Court to bring the perpetrators to book. MPAs Syed Ehsan Shah, Ali Madad Jattak, Sultan Tareen, Dr Abdul Razzaq and Jay Prakash Narain said the blasts were part of a conspiracy to destabilise the elected government. They said that it was the responsibility of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to provide prior information about such incidents and arrest the culprits. The house adopted the resolution unanimously. It unanimously adopted another resolution which described the imposition of governor’s rule as an undemocratic act and demanded withdrawal of the notification issued in this regard and reinstatement of the government headed by Nawab Aslam Raisani. Moving the resolution, Mir Shahnawaz Marri said removal of the elected government was
an insult to the elected representatives of the province. Ali Madad Jattak, Maulana Wasey, Syed Ehsan Shah, Asghar Rind, Asad Baloch, Dr Abdul Razzaq and Aainullah Shams criticised the federal government for imposing governor’s rule and accused the bureaucracy of having hatched a conspiracy against the elected government. They said targeted killings, bomb blasts and terrorist attacks were taking place throughout
the country, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi, and even at GHQ, Mehran naval base and military installation in Risalpur. The airport in Peshawar and Sri Lankan cricket team had also come under attack. But such action was not taken in any other province. In a meeting with Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf at Governor’s House on Saturday, they said, they had proposed an in-house change and told him that the Nawab Aslam Raisani was ready to resign. They said through governor’s rule, Islamabad was forcing political parties believing in parliamentary politics to look for other options. They alleged that bureaucracy wanted to establish what they called “Punjab Raj” in Balochistan. They said Reko Diq copper-cum-gold mining project was one of the reasons behind removal of the government because it had resisted attempts to award mining rights at throwaway prices. They warned that Balochistan would not accept the signing of any agreement on Reko Diq project in the absence of an elected government. They said they would not move the court against the governor’s rule and would instead “go to the court of people’ to get their verdict on the injustice meted out to the elected government. The speaker later adjourned the session till Jan 18.
Asma Jahangir sees democracy in danger KARACHI: Prominent rights activist and former president of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA)Asma Jahangir on Tuesday said that lawyers will not support any decision which is against the rule of law and democracy. Addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club, she said future generations will not forgive us if democracy was derailed in the country, adding it is about time that we should start resisting undemocratic decisions. Jahangir said the lawyers’ community will announce their strategy after going through written order of the Supreme Court for ar-
resting Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and other accused in the rental power projects case. President Sindh High Court Bar Association Mustafa Lakhani said an all parties’ conference was called to discuss the long march of Dr Tahirul Qadri a few days back in Lahore in which the participants, including lawyers, rejected it. President Karachi Bar Association Naeem Qureshi said the lawyers had taken active part in the movement for independence of judiciary, adding the Karachi bar has given many sacrifices in this regard.
January 17, 2013
RPP case to be heard “though the heavens fall”: CJ ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday said the Supreme Court would hear the Rental Power Projects (RPP) case “though the heavens fall”, DawnNews reported. The chief justice added that the apex court would decide all cases that it has been hearing in accordance with the country’s Constitution and its laws. Chief Justice Iftikhar made the above remarks during the hearing of a petition the apex court. During the hearing, the chief justice, addressing former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Yasin Azad, said that although there was hue and cry in Islamabad that the court should not
hear the case, the case would be heard and decided in accordance with the law
“though the heavens fall”. Chief Justice Iftikhar said the judges had taken oaths to dispense justice, adding that it did not matter to the court what was happening outside its bound-
aries. A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar, had on Tuesday directed the authorities to arrest Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the RPP case. The prime minister has been accused of receiving kickbacks and commission in the RPPs case as minister for water and power. In the case, nine RPPs firms were accused of receiving more than Rs22 billion as a mobilisation advance from the government to commission the projects but most of them did not set up their plants and a few of them installed them but with inordinate delay. In March 2012, the Supreme Court had held the RPP contracts non-transparent and ordered that these be rescinded.
SC wants govt to consider making voting mandatory ISLAMABAD: During Wednesday’s hearing of a petition pertaining to electoral reforms, the Supreme Court declared that it would be commendable if the government made voting mandatory for all those eligible for it, DawnNews reported. A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice
adding that there was no space for any other form of governance in Pakistan. The chief justice added that for this reason, democracy and democratic institutions would have to be strengthened in the country. He said the system would change for the better only if the
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard the petition. The bench also requested the government to give its opinion on making voting mandatory for all those eligible. Responding to which, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said legislation was necessary for making voting mandatory. He added that voting was compulsory in only a few countries, adding that voting was not a condition in the United States, Canada and European countries. Qadir said while voting was the right of every citizen, he/she should also have the right note to vote. In his remarks, the chief justice said amendments were being made to the system in order to sustain democracy. Chief Justice Iftikhar added that the apex court had declared that only a democratic system would be allowed in the country,
gradual reforms are made to it. The chief justice clarified that the court did not imply that not voting should be made a punishable offence. He moreover inquired whether voting could be made mandatory before the upcoming general elections. Responding to which, Qadir said he would consult with the government as to whether the condition could be implemented before the elections. Also during the hearing, counsel for the Workers Party of Pakistan, Bilal Manto, said there should also be a restriction on the amount of money spent on the elections. Responding to which, the chief justice said the atmosphere gets so charged and fervent during the elections that it may become difficult to implement a regulation of that sort. The hearing was later adjourned to Jan 30.
Qadri addresses supporters; police register FIR against TMQ chief ISLAMABAD: Islamabad police lodged a First Information Report (FIR) on Wednesday against Tehrik-i-Minhajul Quran (TMQ) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, DawnNews reported.
The FIR was registered at the federal capital’s Kohsar police station. Qadri was delivering an address as his supporters continued their sit-in for the second day at D-Chowk near Parliament House in Islamabad and reiterated his demands. His demands entail electoral reforms in accordance with the law and the Constitution along with the resignation of Chief
Election Commisioner Fakhruddin G Ibrahim. He also demanded for the care taker setup to be installed without the consensus of only two political parties, namely the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) During his address today, the TMQ chief said the long march was the harbinger of change. He further said that the intentions of those trying to link the Supreme Court’s orders with the sit-in staged near Parliament House were malafide. Qadri added that “such people” should be ashamed of themselves. Qadri said he considered Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan as a fellow seeker of change who was not tainted by corruption. The TMQ chief invited Khan to join the sit-in. Referring to the Supreme Court’s order for the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the Rental Power Plants (RPP) case, he said that despite the court’s clear instructions to arrest the premier, some federal ministers were denying that the orders were meant for the prime minister.
Large explosion, gunfire heard in Kabul KABUL: A large explosion followed by gunfire was heard in the Afghan capital Kabul Wednesday, with initial reports placing the blast near a tightly-secured area housing key buildings including the police headquarters. The explosion was heard in the AFP office in the diplomatic district of Wazir Akbar Khan, while gunfire was reported from near the French embassy. First reports located the explosion close to the area housing the police HQ, national intelligence headquarters and the interior ministry. “There was a big boom around noon and then we heard an exchange of fire close to the Green Zone,” a diplomatic source told
AFP. A spokesman for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force confirmed the explosion and gunfire but said there was no Isaf involvement in the incident and he was unaware at this stage of the cause of the blast or casualties. Kabul is regularly targeted by Taliban insurgents waging war against the government of President Hamid Karzai and his Nato backers. In the most recent attack, a Taliban car bomb targeted a US company in Kabul on December 17, killing one person and wounding at least 15. A suicide car bomber killed 12 people, including eight South Africans, on September 18.
Relatives of slain Bara tribesmen march towards Governor’s House PESHAWAR: Relatives identified on Wednesday the 18 bullet-riddled bodies found a day earlier in Alamgudar area of Khyber tribal region’s Bara tehsil. The heirs described the deceased as tribesmen who were allegedly shot at their homes during an operation which was conducted in the area. They carried the bodies and began heading towards the official residence of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Governor Syed Masood Kausar to register their protest against the killings and to demand an end to the ongoing operation in the area.
The relatives alleged that the slain men included seven of a family. The protesters, chanting anti-government slogans, were stopped on by police near Ring Road on the Bara-Peshawar road on the outskirts of Peshawar. The relatives were reportedly stopped from proceeding ahead and security personnel resorted to aerial firing to disperse them. Also in Bara, militants of Lashkar-i-Islam barged into the house of a former Frontier Corps sepoy and killed his father and four brothers. ------------------
January 17, 2013
The attempt to rescue Timbuktu Mahir Ali
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Call for ban on Israeli products THE European Union must ban produce from Israeli settlements in the West Bank from entering its markets in order to cut off “a vital source of revenue which allows settlements to thrive”, says a report by the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq. The trade, estimated by the Israeli government to be worth about $300m a year, is “an essential step in the process of reinforcing and consolidating the settlement enterprise, while simultaneously ensuring the viability of the entire settlement strategy”, according to the report, Feasting on the Occupation. It points out that although the EU repeatedly states that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law, it continues to allow settlement produce to enter its markets. The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner, receiving about 20 per cent of total Israeli exports. Al Haq estimates that settlements in the Jordan Valley — the large swath of fertile agricultural land in the West Bank that is dominated by Israeli agribusiness — contribute 40 per cent of herbs, 50 per cent of grapes and 40 per cent of dates exported by Israel. “The flourishing agricultural environment in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley area, coupled with the exploitation of water and other natural resources found in the occupied territory, has … turned Israeli settlements into profitable corporations,” says the report. Settlement goods are often labelled “produce of the West Bank” or “produce of Israel”, implying it is Palestinian produce or it originates on
the Israeli side of the 1967 green line. The British government issued guidelines to UK supermarkets three years ago urging clearer labelling, such as “Israeli settlement produce”, to allow consumers to make informed choices about purchases. An EU-wide policy on labelling has been discussed in Brussels, although officials have rejected a boycott of settlement produce. Al Haq argues that the EU is obliged by international law to ban trade with settlements. It says that in serious breaches of the fundamental principles of international law, such as colonialism or the appropriation of property, states must not assist in maintaining an illegal situation. “While the EU has been quite outspoken in condemning settlements and their expansion, they continue to import produce from these same settlements and in doing so, help to sustain their very existence,” said Shawan Jabarin, of Al Haq. “As things stand, the EU is doing little more than ticking a box by acknowledging that settlements are illegal. Until they support this rhetoric with action and ensure that no assistance or recognition are provided to settlements, even indirectly, any such criticism will continue to be meaningless.” Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, said: “Al Haq is confusing a political position with international law. They are entitled to their own political views, but not to their own law. The banning of produce on political grounds is not in accordance with international law, rather the contrary. To wit, no country has legislated in this sense.”
Dependence on remittances Dr Kamal Monnoo While the slowdown of capital inflows, especially foreign direct investment (FDI), into Pakistan’s economy has triggered serious concerns of late, there is, on the other hand, another inflow that surges year after year and has not only successfully maintained its upward momentum even during the peak global recession period of 2008-09, but also proved to be the much needed support in a period where the Pakistani economy is confronted with serious economic challenges and very demanding constraints on its balance of payments. This pertains to remittances or private transfers from the Pakistani Diaspora the potential of which, for now, has been estimated at about $20 billion in a World Bank report published in 2012 (currently these are on schedule to cross the $14 billion mark in the running fiscal year). Remittances from Pakistanis, working in West Asia (Middle East), North Africa and in the developed regions like the USA and Europe, tend to be a big positive since they have literally transformed Pakistan’s external profile and are one of the biggest strengths of the economy. During much of the post-independence Pakistan, foreign exchange reserves situation and a precarious balance of payments situation has been a serious constraint on our overall growth. Given our peculiar and in certain ways inelastic requirements on imports, the ongoing inflows from remittances can be regarded as the key factor in saving us many a time from the dreaded situation of default on our foreign payments’ obligations.
As we know, these inflows help in financing the current account deficit (CAD) - which is the broadest measure of a country’s trade imbalance in goods and services - expected to be around four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This help in somewhat easing of the external constraint is a profound transformation from the earlier decades of the Pakistani economic history. Though remittances are expected to keep rising, there are doubts, however, about their sustainability in the future or certainly about the sustainability in the pace of their growth. After all, the West-Asian oil financed construction boom is over and there is now a less need in general of an unskilled Pakistani worker, who builds the basic infrastructure. As the process of recovery from the 2008-09 global crises is far from complete - with the largest economy in the world, the USA, likely to remain in recession - there is a growing backlash against foreign workers in the developed world (especially Europe). Also, the question that arises here is that under such conditions, how much longer can even the emigration of Pakistani white collared and skilled workers sustain private transfers back home? Further, the history and future of Pakistani remittances need to be looked at from a regional perspective. And in this context, Kerala’s (India) experience is quite relevant, since it vitally depends on private transfers that amount to one-thirds of its net state domestic product. (Cont.. to next page)
THE capture by Islamist rebels on Monday of Diabaly, a hitherto government-controlled town some 400km from the Malian capital of Bamako, comes across as a setback for the French military intervention in Mali, which began last week without a great deal of warning. On the other hand, it also suggests that President Francois Hollande was to some extent justified in claiming that delaying international assistance could have led to Bamako being overrun by jihadists. A degree of international attention has been focused on Mali since last year, with government writ more or less absent in the northern twothirds of the country amid a separatist Tuareg rebellion complicated by the increasing clout of Wahabist groups. Western training for the Malian army was part of the idea, but it was thwarted to a degree by the defection of US-trained military officers — and an army captain, also American-trained, led a coup last March that pre-empted elections planned for April. Captain Amadou Sanogo overthrew the regime of Amadou Toumani Toure, an ex-general who had once led a coup of his own but was subsequently credited with ushering in democracy. Toure is reported to have become fairly unpopular by the time he was deposed, and he was replaced after the coup by the speaker of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traore, a mathematician by training, who made a calculated decision to request assistance from the former colonial power — France ruled Mali until 1960 — after Islamists overran the central town of Konna. Just last month, meanwhile, Hollande turned down a plea from the Central African Republic’s Francois Bozize to send troops to stave off a rebel takeover of the capital, Bangui. “Those days are over,” the French president said at the time — which partly explains why the decision to send French troops and fighter jets into combat in Mali came as such a surprise. Domestically, it has done wonders, at least in the short term, for the reputation of a president widely seen as indecisive. Even those who oppose Hollande on various other grounds, such as his advocacy of gay marriage rights (which prompted a sizeable conservative mobilisation on the boulevards of Paris on Sunday), are impressed by his initiative, which has officially been explained on the grounds that Mali’s conversion into a “terrorist state” would not just endanger the 6,000 French expatriates in Bamako but also sharply increase Western Europe’s vulnerability to Islamist attacks. In his campaign for the presidency, one of Hollande’s planks was an early pullout from Afghanistan — which could be viewed as something of a contradiction, given that it’s not hard to draw parallels between the Taliban and Mali’s Ansar Dine and the smaller Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa. Besides, just as Al Qaeda and the Taliban are frequently deemed to be in cahoots, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is deemed to be playing a significant role in Mali. It is believed, for instance, to have been instrumental in the destruction of historic Sufi mosques and shrines
in Timbuktu. A key element in the Malian rebellion, meanwhile, is the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg organisation that has fought alongside the Islamists but also feuded with them. Its declared aim is a separate state in northern Mali, but it has lately indicated its willingness to join the push against the jihadists. There have been reports that Nigeria’s Boko Haram is also involved in Malian subversion. Ansar Dine, intriguingly, is led by Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, whose conversion to the Salafist cause was reportedly the consequence of proselytisation by Pakistan’s Tableeghi Jamaat. Much of the MNLA’s firepower, meanwhile, is attributed to the weapons its fighters brought back from Libya, where they were apparently involved in defending the Gaddafi regime. The US has been engaged to some extent in ‘counter-terrorist’ surveillance and training across swathes of Africa, its operations shrouded in secrecy; it came as a surprise to American media last July when three US commandos ended up dead in the Niger River after plunging off a bridge in Bamako. Tellingly, the fatalities included three women accompanying the troops, who were subsequently identified as Moroccan prostitutes. Unwilling to commit substantial forces, the US has backed a United Nations Security Council plan that entailed eventual military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which was expected to commence in September, after the rainy season, as well as training for Malian soldiers. France evidently believed that would have been much too late, and last week Ecowas countries indicated they would rush troops into Mali within days to back the French forces. Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, has meanwhile rejected comparisons with Afghanistan and indicated that his nation’s involvement in Mali would be over in “a matter of weeks”. That may turn out to have been a tall claim. Foreign military interventions, no matter how well-intentioned and well-planned, are rarely swift and they can often turn exceedingly messy. There have already been claims of civilian casualties in Mali, and many more are likely to follow. The strength of the rebels is a source of speculation, and one can only hope that reports of their grassroots unpopularity are not exaggerated. It is not hard to understand why brutal punishments would cause consternation in a hitherto relaxed milieu, or why a ban on music would go down poorly in a land that has spawned the likes of Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita and Toumani Diabate. An eventual evaluation of Monsieur Hollande’s initiative will depend, however, on what French forces — so far gratifyingly small — leave behind. The weakness of Mali’s civilian as well as military institutions suggests stability would be a miracle even if the local and foreign Islamists can decisively be repulsed. What’s more, there’s not much comfort to be found in the consequences of either sustained military intervention of the Iraqi and Afghan variety or the short, sharp variant witnessed in Libya.
The greatness and meanness of man Akif Abdulamir I often get drawn to the simple lives of Asian labourers. I was never sure why until a couple of months ago when I wandered in a small labour camp. I was looking for a carpenter to replace my door and it was the only place I knew I could find one in a hurry. About half a dozen, skinny and gaunt souls stood up to welcome me as I walked in. They told me to wait for the carpenter, who they expected to be back in a few minutes. I was about to say that I would come later, but somehow lingered a little longer. They motioned me to sit on a worn-out mat under an old tree. One of them bought a drink from an adjoining shop and offered it to me. We were sitting in a smelly, open yard and the source of the stench was an overflowing septic tank in the middle of the enclosure. They explained that their employer did not bother to repair it since it cost money to do so. There were three huts shared by sixteen of them. I knew they were sixteen because I counted the beds in that courtyard. Since the huts did not have air conditioners, they slept half-naked and in the open air. Their bathroom was a small, roofless wooden shed that had tiled floor. The branches of two big trees provided the support of the covering of their kitchen, which was made of canvas. This was the home of a team of labourers that made their employer a very rich man in the last 12 years. As I was talking to them, I looked at their weather-beaten bodies ravaged by hard labour. Their weak voices somehow did not lack humour and their eyes radiated life despite the hardship
they endured. There was something good emanating from them and it was hard for me to understand. They knew they were treated as sub-humans by a man, who lived in a mansion just hardly a kilometre from their labour camp. Despite all that, they had no hard feeling because they had nothing but warm words for him. They were no fools and they understood their limitations. Why fight something that they could not change? Five minutes later, the old carpenter walked in and I was introduced to him. He promised to come over to my house the next day and I left the yard immediately. He turned up as promised and did his work. When he finished, I asked for the fee of his service and he said I could pay him anything. I refused until he named his fee. He did eventually and it was below the average standard for the work. I paid him and he walked away happily. A week later, my mother came to visit me and she admired the new door. She asked me how much I paid for and I boasted that I got myself a bargain. It was then my mind drifted to the labour camp and the appalling condition the workers lived in. I already condemned their boss, but I also took advantage of one of them by paying him almost a pittance. It was too late and he would not have accepted if I had gone back to offer him more money. So I left it like that, but the truth is that we all take advantage of the little people no matter how much compassion we have for them. I guess they remind us of the widening gap between them and the people they serve for.
Karzai in Washington AS I write this on Tuesday morning the drama of the ‘long march’ of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran dominates the air waves. Whatever its outcome we must recognise that it reflects the willingness of ‘friends’ outside the country to use whatever tool is available to create a counterpoint to the fundamentalist Islam that now seems to hold sway in our unfortunate country. Propagating this version of Islam was Gen Ziaul Haq’s doing but the tool was Afghanistan. If Afghanistan was seen as only peripherally linked to the ‘long march’ it was more directly
Najmuddin A Shaikh
pertinent to the tragedy of the killing of the Hazaras in Quetta, the subsequent dharna, the granting of police powers to the Frontier Corps in Balochistan and the much delayed government decision to impose governor’s rule in the province. It is no secret that the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi draws upon Afghan refugees in Balochistan to reinforce its cadres or that its anti-Shia fervour feeds upon the contempt in which the Hazaras are held by the Pushtuns and other ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Sectarian conflict in Pakistan was fuelled by the Iran-Iraq war in (Cont.. to next page)
January 17, 2013
Karzai in Washington the ’80s but its present manifestation in Balochistan certainly owes its intensity and brutality to the Afghan situation and its fall-out on Pakistan. Today, after daily attacks with improvised explosive devices, the daily killing of our armed forces personnel and the effect of this insecurity on our economy, we have recognised that the greatest threat to our security is internal. These challenges — including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other extremist organisations — are largely a result of unwise policies on Afghanistan. It is to be hoped that we also recognise that they cannot be eliminated until the Afghan problem is settled. Reconciliation in Afghanistan would be the first step towards eliminating the pernicious influence the country has had on our body politic and our economy. From Pakistan’s perspective this is the lens through which the Karzai visit to Washington and its results must be viewed. What are these results? First, according to the joint statement issued after the Karzai-Obama meeting the US welcomed Karzai’s “desire” to move the date for ending US combat operations forward to the spring of 2013 rather than the summer. This would mean “most unilateral US combat operations should end, with US forces pulling back their patrols from Afghan villages.” While not as categorical as Karzai would have liked this can be interpreted as meaning that there will be no US unilateral counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Second, “the presidents committed to placing Afghan detainees under the sovereignty and control of Afghanistan, while also ensuring that dangerous fighters remain off the battlefield. President Obama reaffirmed that the United States continues to provide assistance to the Afghan detention system.” This leaves some leeway for the US to continue the detention of those deemed dangerous but can be projected as meeting a key Karzai demand. Third, projecting the foregoing as major victories, Karzai has moved on the question of immunity for any US forces that remain after 2014. In a press conference in Kabul after his return Karzai said that the decision on this issue would be made by a Loya Jirga. He had earlier said in a television interview before leaving Washington that he did not anticipate any problem securing such approval. In the joint press conference neither president was willing to indicate the size of the residual presence but it is more than likely that the number will be, as I had stated in an earlier article, between
3,000 and 6,000 and will focus almost entirely on Al Qaeda and its affiliates rather than on training Afghan forces. Fourth, the two presidents “reaffirmed that Afghan-led peace and reconciliation is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability of Afghanistan and the region … they stressed the importance of accelerating efforts, including by countries in the region that have a role to play in support of the Afghan peace process … (they) said that they would support an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the High Peace Council and the authorised representatives of the Taliban.” In the joint press conference Obama’s opening statement said that “Reconciliation also requires constructive support from across the region, including Pakistan. We welcome recent steps that have been taken in that regard, and we’ll look for more tangible steps …” Karzai reinforced this, stating that “We also agreed on the steps that we should be taking in the peace process, which is of highest priority to Afghanistan. We agreed on allowing a Taliban office in Qatar — in Doha, where the Taliban will engage in direct talks with the representatives of the Afghan High Council for Peace, where we will be seeking the help of relevant regional countries, including Pakistan …” Karzai’s categorical assignment of highest priority to reconciliation and his asking for Pakistan’s help for this is exactly what we want. Whatever the misgivings about a residual American presence this, we must acknowledge, is the only way to ensure a measure of economic assistance from the West for an Afghan economy where at this time annual exports are $480m against imports more than 10 times this size, the price of flour is Rs300 a kilo, the price of cooking oil is Rs200 a kilo and where unemployment is estimated as more than 40 per cent. It is also perhaps the only way to ensure that an equitable reconciliation acceptable to the minority ethnic groups can be arrived at. Absent this assistance and absent reconciliation, the economic downturn and the political turmoil will bring a huge new influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan. Apart from accepting the inevitability of continued US military presence and concomitantly accepting that the focus of the force will be on Al Qaeda and affiliates largely located in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Pakistan has also to accept that it will be required to play the key role in promoting reconciliation.
Dependence on remittances Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies (CDS), India, has been doing pioneering work on emigration and the impact of remittances on Kerala’s economy. The CDS has, in fact, completed five large-scale surveys on migration - in 1998, 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2011. A Return Migration Survey was done in 2009 to study the pre-recession (October-December 2008) and recession (June-August 2009) experiences of emigrants from the state. These surveys point to a decreasing trend in emigration from Kerala, bulk of which is to West Asia (Middle East). Although the overall emigration numbers in 2011 were no different from the levels in 2008, important centres like Pathanamthitta district are already experiencing a decline in the number of emigrants and/or emigrants per household. This process could reach its “inflexion point in a matter of four to five years,” argues a recent CDS working paper by Professors K.C. Zachariah and Sirudaya Rajan titled “Inflexion in Kerala’s Gulf Connection: Report on Kerala’s Migration Survey 2011”. Though there is no such report yet compiled in Pakistan, concerns are already being raised by the Chamber of Overseas Pakistanis about the fast-dwindling emigrant numbers from the historically high emigration areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Punjab. Analysts believe that the era of largescale emigration to West Asia may already be over due to a number of reasons, besides the construction boom petering out. Locally, demographics can be held responsible with the shrinkage due to internal relocation of the young working age population in the key areas of Pakistani manpower export. Moreover, due to falling wages and rising inflation in the Gulf States, the wage differentials between the Gulf and those prevailing in the developed centres at home have narrowed. Monthly wage of an average unskilled worker in the UAE is Pak Rs 800 per day as against 300 per day in Pakistan, but when adjusted for living and travelling expenses and the inhuman working hours in the UAE, the gap narrows dramatically! Then, of course, there is a growing competition from other countries, whereas, the number of available employment slots abroad (as discussed above) is decreasing. And if the above is to serve as a precursor for the rest of Pakistan, the big question is that how long will the good times last on the remittances front? What would be the impact of a neg-
ative or even a stagnant remittances’ trend on the economy of Pakistan? Without the boom in remittances, Pakistan will most certainly register higher current account deficits, which if all other things remaining the same may not be sustainable. Having become so reliant on this inflow and its growing trend, financing the resultant balance of payments gap if the remittances were to fall (beyond a certain point) would, perhaps, just not be possible at least in the near-term. This shows the unhealthy nature of our dependence on these inflows and on which the economic managers have little direct control. Moreover, if the FDI inflows remain sluggish as they are at present, the impasse could push us further towards a default situation, since the alternative of relying on incoming portfolio investments has never really been a significant option in our markets. Further, portfolio investments more often than not tend to be quite risky, as they are procyclical in nature - rising in good times and falling in bad times - and are highly-volatile as well. The World Bank report also highlights the research, which has established that remittances augment savings and hold, and help in poverty reduction. If such inflows reduce over the near-term, they would worsen these distributional outcomes. The report further warns that while remittances contribute to better economic performance, they can also at the same time be a source of output shocks when they turn volatile. Such an outcome will be more keenly felt in Pakistan, since we have become highly dependent on foreign remittances from our Pakistani Diaspora abroad – arguably, the single most contributing factor to our current account after the textile sector, however, with a current growth rate higher than the growth rate of our textile exports. Lower remittances, in turn, would lower per capita income, all of which contribute to social tensions. One understands that in the short term, it is neither possible nor can be expected of our economic managers to reduce our heavy dependence on remittances. However, it will be in order to sound a warning that in the medium and long terms one of the principal challenges for our policymakers is to find alternatives and develop ways to reduce this dependency, so that the country can cope with a situation if such inflows hit a declining trend. And there is a strong likelihood on such a possibility arriving sooner than we expect!
Pakistan to protest to India over killing of Pakistani soldier ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Army’s Director General Military Operations (DGMO) will call his Indian counterpart on Wednesday to complain about the latest killing of a Pakistani soldier in Kashmir. A statement from the Pakistani army said that he would “protest strongly” about the killing on Tuesday. Two Indian and three Pakistani soldiers have been killed in Kashmir since the beginning of the year. The army directors of military operations from both the countries had met earlier on Jan 8 to discus the situation. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said on Tuesday that India is
“war-mongering” over deadly clashes in the disputed Kashmir region, while calling for talks to end the new hostilities. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday wound up a one-sided discourse led by irate TV channels and hawkish opposition leaders on the ongoing cross-border flare-up with Pakistan, as he asked Islamabad to punish the men who al-
legedly killed two Indian soldiers in Kashmir, though he refrained from publicly endorsing punitive measures urged by a restive military. “It cannot
be business as usual” with Pakistan, he told reporters on the sidelines of an army function days ahead of the national military parade.
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January 17, 2013
Enter tainment LOS ANGELES: Pop star Britney Spears on Friday called it quits with both fiancé Jason Trawick and as a celebrity judge on “The X Factor” talent show. Spears, 31, and Trawick, 41 – her former agent – got engaged in December 2011. “Jason and I have decided to call off our engagement,” Spears said in a statement. “I’ll always adore him and we will remain great friends.” The couple began dating in May 2010, following a turbulent few years in Spears’ personal and professional life in which she lost custody of her children, entered rehab and shaved off her hair. Trawick added in a statement: “As this chapter ends for us a new one begins. I love and cherish her and her boys and we will be close forever.” The wedding would have been the third for Spears. She divorced dancer Kevin Federline, with whom she had two children, in 2006. The singer also spontaneously married childhood friend Jason Alexander during a trip to Las Vegas in 2004. That marriage lasted 55 hours before the singer annulled the union. Spears and Trawick announced their split the same day that the “Toxic” singer confirmed she was leaving “The X Factor” after just one year Panic. Pandemonium. Press conferences. Pakistan’s television drama industry has ‘united’ and ‘unanimously’ demanded a ban on foreign content (namely Indian and Turkish) on local television during the prime time slot. The call has been raised to save and rescue the local industry from total collapse within a year, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs not to mention the years it would take for local TV drama to recover from the setback. It has also been claimed that hundreds of students enrolled in media sciences will have lost their jobs even before they graduate! Can this be real? It’s an industry, not a house of cards. To allow sanity to prevail we must concentrate on the ‘crisis’. First off, many in the industry believe that what faces us is a boon, not bane. What we need is positivity, not panic. What’s really at stake is something else and not drama. It was in July 2012 that the satellite chan-
as a judge on the Fox singing show, saying it was time to get back to making music.
teens but it’s time for me to get back in the studio. “Watching them all do their thing up on
Britney Spears calls off engagement, quits “X Factor” “I had an incredible time doing the show and I love the other judges and I am so proud of my collective intelligence as it implies they neither have the sense nor sensibility to choose what to watch — show them a little skin and they’ll drool, and keep on doing so for the next 200 episodes. And not just local but international audience, too? If this argument had any substance, why did Ishqe-Memnu become such a major hit in its country of origin as they must be used to such ‘exposure’? Secondly, it entails that our viewers have no sense of story and they only want to watch beautiful people driving around in expensive cars while living in luxury villas. How can we forget that at the heart of every popular show is a conflict so engaging that people can’t help but root for the good guy and wish ill upon the vile ones? Humans have an innate need for an emotional journey that they can relate to at the very basic level such as characters they can like, con-
that stage every week made me miss performing so much! I can’t wait to get back out there and do what
I love most,” Spears said of her “X Factor” departure. Spears’ most recent album, “Femme Fatale,” was released in March 2011. Celebrity website TMZ.com reported on Friday that Spears was in talks about a longterm residency gig in Las Vegas. The gambling city is already host to stars like Celine Dion and Shania Twain, who perform under long term contracts. Spears was recruited to “The X Factor” with a reported $15 million salary after a 14-year singing career that made her one of the biggest pop stars of the 2000s. But audiences slumped and the TV show lost about 3 million regular viewers from its first season. Many fans and TV critics found Spears bland and boring. The exit of Spears leaves “X Factor” creator Simon Cowell searching for two new judges to lift his show past its NBC rival, “The Voice,” in the ratings when it returns in September. Judge and record producer L.A. Reid announced in December that he would be returning full time to his job as the head of Epic Records. Spears took “The X Factor” gig with singer Demi Lovato, 20, in May 2012 to fill the judges’ seats left by Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger, who were both fired by Cowell a year ago.
Golden Globe winners announced Jennifer Lawrence has won a lead-actress Golden Globe for the oddball romance “Silver Linings Playbook,” while supporting-acting prizes went to Christoph Waltz for the slave-revenge tale “Django Unchained” and Anne Hathaway for the musical “Les Miserables.” The wins Sunday firm up their prospects for Hollywood’s top honors at the Feb 24 Academy Awards. Former President Bill Clinton upstaged Hollywood’s elite with a surprise appearance to introduce Steven Spielberg’s Civil War epic “Lincoln,” which was up for best drama. The film chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s final months as he tries to end the war and find common ground in a divided Congress to pass the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Lincoln’s effort was “forged in a cauldron of both principle and compromise,” Clinton said. “This brilliant film shows us how he did it and gives us hope that we can do it again.”
as a genteel bounty hunter who takes on an exslave as apprentice. The win was Waltz’s second supportingactor prize at the Globes, both of them coming in Quentin Tarantino films. Waltz’s violent but paternal and polite “Django” character is a sharp contrast to the wickedly bloodthirsty Nazi he played in his Globe and Oscar-winning role in Tarantino’s 2009 tale “Inglourious Basterds.” “Let me gasp,” said Waltz, whose competition included “Django” co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. “Quentin, you know that my indebtedness to you and my gratitude knows no words.” “Lincoln” came in with seven nominations to lead the Globes, but it went zero-for-four on its first categories, including supporting actress for Sally Field and supporting actor for Tommy Lee Jones. The film also lost for screenplay, a prize that went to Tarantino for “Django Unchained.” Tarantino thanked his cast and also the group of friends to whom he reads work-in-
Amy Poehler, co-host of the Globes with Tina Fey, gushed afterward, “Wow, what an exciting special guest! That was Hillary Clinton’s husband!” Lawrence won as best actress in a musical or comedy for her role as a troubled widow in a shaky new relationship. The Globe winners in musical or comedy categories often aren’t factors at the Oscars, which tend to favor heavier dramatic roles. But “Silver Linings Playbook” is a crowdpleasing comic drama with deeper themes than the usual comedy. And Lawrence — a 2010 Oscar nominee for her breakout film “Winter’s Bone” who shot to superstardom with “The Hunger Games” — delivers a nice mix of humor and melancholy. “What does this say? I beat Meryl,” Lawrence joked as she looked at her award, referring to fellow nominee and multiple Globe winner Meryl Streep. Lawrence went on to thank her mother for believing in her and her father for making her maintain a sense of humor. Hathaway’s win came for her role as a doomed single mother in the big-screen adaptation of the stage musical based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel. “Thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against selfdoubt,” Hathaway said, cradling her trophy. Waltz won supporting actor for his role
progress for reaction. “You guys don’t know how important you are to my process. I don’t want input. I don’t want you to tell me if I’m doing anything wrong. Heavens forbid,” Tarantino said. “When I read it to you, I hear it through your ears, and it lets me know I’m on the right track.” The Scottish tale “Brave” won for best animated film. It was the sixth win for Disney’s Pixar Animation unit in the seven years since the Globes added the category. Austrian director Michael Haneke’s oldage love story “Amour,” a surprise best-picture nominee for the Oscars, won the Globe for foreign-language film. The top prize winner at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, “Amour” is a grim yet moving portrait of an elderly woman tended by her husband as she is incapacitated by age. Pop star Adele and co-writer Paul Epworth won for best song for their theme tune to the James Bond adventure “Skyfall.” “Oh, my God!” Adele gushed repeatedly, before offering gratitude to the group that presents the Globes. “I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press. I never thought I’d say that.” The prize for musical score went to Mychael Danna for the lost-at-sea tale “Life of Pi.”
Local discontent over foreign content: the inside story nel Urdu1 started airing the Turkish play, Ishq-eMemnu, after getting it dubbed in Urdu by Imran Momina aka Emmu of Fuzon the band. Things seemed to be going well until alarms went off when it reached the TRP (target rating points) of 10 when many local plays allegedly struggle at four or below (TRPs are the industry standard through which channels and advertisers assess popularity of a show and decide whether to extend or axe it). Overnight, phones began ringing in Turkey and eager agents were scouting for the next big thing to beat and compete with its popularity. But the FPCs (fixed point chart) of channels are prepared weeks, if not months, in advance so how do you replace a future deal with an existing one? By cancelling contracts. But that’s not easy so what’s the next best alternative? You reschedule programming. And that’s when all hell broke loose. To accommodate the next best thing, channels had to make space in their FPCs on certain days by moving local shows up: from 8pm to 9pm and from 9pm to 9:30pm and so on. Since shows are paid according to time slots (8pm being the most lucrative one), this means that local shows will be paid less since they won’t be aired at 8pm. So far, the ‘united’ TV drama industry has taken several stances. For instance, there are fears that people will stop watching local plays. Why would that happen? Have our stories become monotonous or is it because the content of some of our plays has become obnoxious? Do the same faces appear in different mix across all channels or is it that we attach more value to production than content? There are also concerns that we are being confronted with an alien culture. So have we been depicting our culture in plays with crass language, objectionable plots and offensive characters? There are voices that claim foreign plays feature sparsely-clad women and we don’t have a level playing field. It is a direct insult to the viewers’
flicts they may have craved and issues they want addressed. The videos that went viral on social media stated that characters in such plays drink, wear skimpy clothes and act immorally and we don’t have the permission to show that. Subtext: what we can show is an amorous 50-year old chasing his daughter’s best friend? Or a husband pursuing his sister-in-law? Or a mother forbidding her son from sharing a bed with his wife, thereby causing tension of the sort that’ll make Lolita appear safer in comparison? Rumour has it that local channels are now scouring the Iranian market for dramas. What will we have to say when people get hooked to hijab-clad women living in smaller houses than ours and discussing issues that plague the world, and not just them? Some believe it’s just a passing fad but the recent popularity of Fatima Gul and Minahil Aur Khalil has proven otherwise. They have revealed a major flaw, a void in our system that has long existed and grown over time: we’ve turned this business into fast food. Writers are expected to write at jet speed, talent and technicians are required to shoot 25-30 scenes a day, serials that take 18 weeks to air are shot in two weeks. Investors have replaced the +, – and ÷ buttons on their calculators with X. It’s all about profits, economies of scale and possible collusion. Well, mostly anyway. Private producers such as Abdullah Kadwani, Abid Ali, Asif Reza Mir, Humayun Saeed, writers like Anwar Maqsood, Faiza Iftikhar, Umera Ahmed, Zafar Mairaj and freelance directors like Kamran Khan, Mehreen Jabbar, Shahid Shafa’at, Usman-Zulfiqar and countless others have given us such remarkable shows that we all feel proud and sure about the secure future of our drama industry. So where is the silver lining to this dark cloud? Essentially the same situation existed from the year 2000 to 2006 when most viewers were hopelessly hooked on to Indian soaps.
January 17, 2013
New rape outrage in India as schoolgirl attacked VASCO DA GAMA, India - Thousands protested in the holiday state of Goa on Tuesday after a seven-year-old girl was raped in a school toilet, sparking fresh outrage in India following a deadly gang-rape on a bus. Crowds began gathering outside the Deepvihar High School in the city of Vasco da Gama on Monday night after news of the attack emerged, prompting police to arrest the headmistress on charges of neglect as well as appeal for calm. A massive manhunt has been launched to trace the attacker, thought to be in his early 20s, who managed to get into the premises despite security guards posted at the school gate. A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the youngster was raped after being dragged inside the toilet situated next to the headmistress’s office during a break in classes. Police were alerted after the girl complained of pain and was given a medical examination. The girl was taken to hospital and has since been discharged, a charity worker accompanying her told AFP. “She is fine now and recuperating at home,” she said. The victim’s identity has
been protected in line with Indian law. Thousands of people surrounded the school on Monday night, shouting to demand the arrest of the headmistress and the perpetrator. Demonstrations then spread to other parts of the city on Tuesday, with shops and businesses closing in protest. Police were due to hold a press conference on the incident in the late afternoon. Goa’s Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar visited the spot to try and calm the tense gathering. “We will not spare the accused and anyone involved in this crime,” he told the crowds, after which the headmistress was detained. She was later arrested for alleged negligence of duty, the police
official said. The case has been transferred from local police to the state crime branch, which has taken up the help of a teacher to draw a sketch of the accused, seen loitering in the school compound. The attack comes after the gang-rape of a
student on a bus in New Delhi last month sparked nationwide protests and fuelled anger across India over the alarming incidence of sexual assault. Five men and a teenager have been charged with the rape and murder of the 23-yearold woman, who died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital from horrific injuries. Police say the suspects lured the woman and her male companion onto a private bus in the capital when the pair was returning home from the cinema. The group allegedly beat the man and raped the young woman in the back of the bus while driving around the city for about 45 minutes. They also sexually assaulted the woman with a metal bar, leaving her with severe intestinal injuries, before throwing her out of the vehicle. Protesters across the country have called for tougher laws to punish rapists, including the introduction of capital punishment in the most extreme cases. Also in Goa on Monday, a policeman was arrested after being accused of sexually abusing sex workers, who said he and two other policemen - all now suspended - had been exploiting them in return for protection of their trade.
Iran unable to get life-saving drugs due to sanctions Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs. Western governments have built waivers into the sanctions regime - aimed at persuading Tehran to curb its nuclear programme - in an effort to ensure that essential medicines get through, but those waivers are not functioning, as they conflict with blanket restrictions on banking, as well as bans on “dual-use” chemicals which might have a military application. “Sometimes companies agree to sell us drugs but we have no way of paying them. On one occasion, our money was in the bank for four months but the transfer repeatedly got rejected,” Naser Naghdi, the director general of Darou Pakhsh, the country’s biggest pharmaceutical company, told the Guardian, in a telephone interview from Tehran. “There are patients for whom a medicine is the different between life and death. What is the world doing about this? Are Britain, Germany, and France thinking about what they are doing? If you have cancer and you can’t find your chemotherapy drug, your death will come soon. It is as simple as that.” European officials are aware of the potential for disaster reminiscent of the debacle of the UN oil-for-food programme imposed on Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and discussions are under way in Brussels on how to strengthen safeguards for atrisk Iranians. The US treasury says its office of foreign asset control is seeking to reassure banks that they will not be penalised for financing humanitarian sales. However, the US and EU bans on doing business with the major Iranian financial institutions still make such transactions extremely difficult and risk-averse western companies have tended to avoid them. Naghdi, the head of Darou Pakhsh, which supplies about a third of Iran’s pharmaceutical needs, said he can no longer buy medical equipment such as autoclaves (sterilising machines), essential for the production of many drugs, and that some of the biggest western pharmaceutical companies refuse to have anything to do with
Iran. “The west lies when it says it hasn’t imposed sanctions on our medical sector. Many medical firms have sanctioned us,” Naghdi said. A senior British official acknowledged that discussions between London, Brussels and Washington had been going on for months with the aim of unblocking the supply of medicines, but without a decisive outcome. “The problem is that
for some of the big pharmaceutical companies and banks it’s just not worth the hassle and the risk of reputational damage, so they just steer clear,” the official said. The international financial sanctions and the EU oil embargo last year have caused severe damage to the Iranian economy but have so far not forced the Tehran regime to accept restrictions on its uranium enrichment programme. Iran insists it is for electricity generation and medical purposes, while the west and Israel claim it is a front for Iranian ambitions to build nuclear weapons. Major western powers have suggested a new round of talks in Istanbul in mid-January, but Tehran has yet to confirm any date or venue. Meanwhile, the scale of the looming Iranian health crisis threatens to overwhelm recent efforts to mitigate the sanctions regime. At present 85,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed each year, requiring chemotherapy and radiotherapy which are now scarce. Iranian health experts say that annual figure has nearly doubled in five years, referring to a “cancer tsunami” most likely caused by air, water and soil pollution and possibly cheap low-quality imported food and other products.
In addition, there are over 8,000 haemophiliacs who are finding it harder to get blood clotting agents. Operations on haemophiliacs have been virtually suspended because of the risks created by the shortages. An estimated 23,000 Iranians with HIV/Aids have had their access to the drugs they need to keep them alive severely restricted. The society representing the 8,000 Iranians suffering from thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder, has said its members are beginning to die because of a lack of an essential drug, deferoxamine, used to control the iron content in the blood. In the absence of an official supply, the drug market is being flooded with smuggled products. Many arrive on donkeys from Turkey, but there is no way of knowing which products are counterfeit and which are real. The drugs routinely spoil on the long, precarious journey over the rugged frontier. A drugs bazaar has boomed on Tehran’s Naser Khosrow Street, but prices have doubled in a few years and the provenance and authenticity of the medicines on sale are questionable. US and European governments put the blame squarely on the Tehran regime. “Financial sanctions against Iran are in place because of the Iranian government’s refusal to address the international community’s well-founded concerns about its nuclear programme,” said John Sullivan, a US treasury spokesman. “If there is in fact a shortage of some medicines in Iran, it is due to choices made by the Iranian government, not the US government.” Last month, Iran’s health minister, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, was sacked for complaining that her ministry had only received a quarter of the £1.5bn allocated for the imports of medicine, noting that foreign currency at a subsidised official rate had been spent on imported luxury cars. In London, the Foreign Office said: “There
Graft case pressed against Khaleda Zia DHAKA - A court paved the way for corruption charges to be pressed against Bangladesh’s opposition leader which could end up preventing the former premier from contesting next year’s election. Khaleda Zia is accused by the Anti-Corruption Commission of abusing her power while in office between 2001-6 by forcing people to donate to a charity named after her late husband, a former president who was assassinated in 1981. Zia was present at the crowded court hearing in Dhaka. Judge Zahirul Haque of the Metropolitan Sessions Court accepted the charge sheet which named her the “main accused” in the case, prosecution lawyer
Mosharraf told AFP. “The case has been taken for cognisance for the purpose of trial,” Hossain said, adding that the court would also issue an arrest warrant against her
fugitive political secretary who is a trustee of the charity. The court will now hear arguments on whether it should press charges against Zia. If convicted, she could face a maximum seven years in jail and be banned from taking part in
any future elections. Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was crushed in the last parliamentary elections in 2008 by the Awami League party of her bitter rival Sheikh Hasina, who is now prime minister. Her lawyer Sanaullah Mia told AFP the case was “false” and “politically motivated”, adding the charity was a private organisation and not under the jurisdiction of the antigraft body. Both Hasina and Zia were detained for a year until the middle of 2008 as part of an anti-corruption crackdown launched by an army-backed caretaker government. The charges against Hasina have all been thrown out
Ban urges UNSC to focus terror UNITED NATIONS - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday called for a focus on conditions that feed terrorism as part of a comprehensive strategy against the scourge, as he spoke in a Pakistan-sponsored Security Council debate that included several high-level national officials. “Terrorism festers where conflicts are endemic … and where human rights, human dignity and human life are not protected and impunity prevails,” Ban said in the meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar of Pakistan, which holds the January Presidency of the 15-member body.
since she came to power after the 2008 elections. In recent months the BNP has enforced a series of crippling nationwide strikes demanding polls under a neutral technocrat-led administration. It says it fears vote-rigging if the Hasina government organises the elections due in January 2014.
are a number of explicit exemptions within EU sanctions to allow Iran to purchase humanitarian goods such as medicines. The UK issues, as a priority, licenses for transactions for humanitarian goods. The responsibility for any shortage in humanitarian goods in Iran lies with the Iranian regime.” Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American business consultant based in Dubai, argues the regime’s own shortcomings may well exacerbate the acute medical problems in Iran but are not their direct cause. “There is a lot of government mismanagement that is compounding the problem. But Iran had the same government before and there were plenty of medicines around. This is not a chicken-and-egg situation. The shortages have come after the sanctions,” said Namazi. One of the unintended consequences of sanctions on the health sector is that they have strengthened companies linked to the regime and the Revolutionary Guards at the expense of the private sector, because of their privileged access to hard currency at the official rate. In some cases, those regime-connected firms are actually using their access to cheap foreign currency to acquire drugs cheaply and smuggle them into Iraq, deepening the crisis.
January 17, 2013
Toronto stands in solidarity with Hazaras in Pakistan Hundreds gathered at the Toronto City Hall on January 13 to protest against the senseless murders of Shias and other minorities in Pakistan. Pakistan Development Fund, a Toronto-based student group, organised the event in which religious and other groups also participated. While the Hazaras sat with the coffins of their children who died in targeted bomb attacks on January 10, 2013, millions in Pakistan joined the grieving parents by holding protest rallies against the senseless and targeted violence against minorities in Pakistan. The Hazaras have particularly been an easy target because of their unique features that set them apart from the rest. In the past year alone, hundreds of Hazaras have died in bomb blasts and targeted killings. Standing in the rain outside of Toronto’s iconic City Hall, the protesters raised slogans against the unabated violence against minorities in Pakistan. The chants of “We want justice, stop Shia killings” resonated in Toronto’s downtown core, which is otherwise a quiet place on a Sunday afternoon. Speaking at the event, leaders of the Hazara community in Toronto warned that the protest in Toronto and other large cities in North America and Europe should alert Pakistan’s civil and defence establishment to the reality that what goes around in Pakistan is not lost on the world, especially the Pakistanis living abroad. Furthermore, while it may be true that misguided patriotism may have made Pakistanis ignore violence and injustice in Pakistan in the past, this is no longer the case. Others warned that Pakistanis protesting against injustices in Pakistan is indicative of the fact that Pakistan now was part of the group of rogue states whose own citizens have to alert the
rest of the world to the injustices being committed in their homelands. Such acts suggest the lack of confidence in the State and its agencies to establish
Muslim himself, Ayyaz organised the rally with other university students in Toronto to show solidarity with Shia Hazaras who have been sitting on
the rule of law in Pakistan, one protester observed in Toronto. Ayyaz Mallick, a student at Toronto’s York University, is one such Pakistani who believes that the state and its institutions do not represent the Pakistan he has envisioned. A Sunni
Quetta’s Alamdar Road with the coffins of 86 young men who died in two bomb attacks at a popular billiard club, which was mostly frequented by the Hazara youth. Speaking at the rally in Toronto, Ayyaz asked if the State was indeed even concerned about
representing the interests of the marginalised communities in Pakistan. He urged Pakistanis back home and in diaspora to be on the streets to register their protest against targeted killings of minorities in Pakistan and ethnic cleansing of Shia Hazaras in Quetta. Dr. Alia Ali, a resident of Toronto, observed that in the climate of despair and gloom there was still some hope left when she saw Sunni students at Toronto’s universities arranging protests to register their support for the Shias in Pakistan. As the protest wound down in downtown Toronto, the protest on Alamdar Road in Quetta continued. It was only hours later that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Parvez Ashraf, committed to imposing emergency and Governor’s rule in Balochistan. This made many in Toronto wonder why the government waited for days to take this decision. Apart from facing the indignity and immense grief of sitting on a street with the dead bodies of 86 young men, not much changed between Thursday and Sunday for the government to realise that Balochistan has not been governed at all in the past four years, said a long-term resident of Toronto in a telephone interview. While the Hazaras are busy burying their dead in Quetta’s Bahisht-e-Zahra cemetery, where hundreds of other victims of violence are also buried, many in Pakistan wonder why their elected governments are so reluctant to govern.
Snubbing the stooges If you are on Twitter or Facebook, you are bound to come across episodes of (albeit unintentional) comic relief amidst tragedy. Take the recent and unprecedented response of the ‘Hazara Shia’ and the Shia in general against the unrelenting carnage they have been facing by groups of maniacs who consider them as ‘heretics’ and are said to have the backing of certain sensitive organs of the state. Pushed against the wall and maybe beyond it, the Hazara Shia in Quetta and their supporters across Pakistan, braved biting cold weather and the always present danger of the now ubiquitous violent audacities of the maniacs, to stand their ground in a do-or-die scenario, forcing the government to dismiss the Balochistan government and impose Governors Rule in the war-torn province. But amidst all this genuine bravado exhibited by the Shia community and many of their nonShia supporters, one just couldn’t ignore that young, hyperbolic ‘revolutionary’ lot across social media who suddenly emerge like a spring does from a worn out sofa. ‘Occupy this!’ ‘Occupy that!’ This Square, that Square. It’s as if a child would behave after watching a Batman or Superman flick, using a towel as cape and mouthing incoherent shrieking monologues that at least in his little head sound quite like what he’d heard Batman uttering in the movie. The wise( if not completely jaded) would rightly suggest that for the last thirty years or so, whatever number of civilian governments this country has had, they have continued to be hostage to a domineering military-establishment: an intricate labyrinth with twisting, turning pathways paved with political intrigues and terrible ideological experiments; a way to all the secret backdoors from where Generals and their lackeys have entered the corridors of power to put Pakistan where it is today. And in spite of the fact that the military under General Parvez Kayani has, perhaps for the first time, publicly confessed to the fact that Pakistan faces a greater danger from the monsters that its establishment itself created, the armed forces have remained paralysed in this respect just like their civilian counterparts. The admirable reassessment of the situation by the military chief was like looking back at the military-establishment’s follies of befriending maniacs as a ‘strategy,’ but by looking back the military seems to have turned to stone. Furthermore, the civilian administration looked back at the military and it too turned to
stone. Over 40,000 soldiers, policemen, politicians and civilians have been slaughtered by terrorists to whom each and every Pakistani is either a ‘heretic’ or a downright infidel deserving to be killed. And this is the kind of audacity that has left the military and the government feeling all at sea and overwhelmed, having little or no idea how exactly to contain this audacious enemy. Yet there are those out there who believe the answer lies in the overthrow of government! The answer lies in the ousting of a failing, lethargic government through the vote. A government that has focused more on surviving rather than being dynamic and bold in its actions to address the many ills facing the country. Civilian set-ups constitute only a fraction of Pakistan’s main decision-making process. They are never sure how far they can go to push certain agendas, actions and policies without angering the military-establishment. General Kayani’s statement should have been seen as an opening and a window of opportunity for this PPP-led civilian set-up. If now the military’s high command considers many of its former sacred cows to have become bloodthirsty wolves, the government should have gone all out against these wolves. But it didn’t. And neither did the country’s military. Both are waiting for the other to take the decision. And this wait is costing the lives of innocent Pakistanis, soldiers, politicians and policemen. What more will it take for the state and the government to turn their condemnations against extremists into action? How many more deaths and bloodbaths? It is vital that an election is held as soon as possible. The democratic process that is still a young and raw entity in Pakistan needs to continue. We must realize that democracy alone is the answer to most of the questions being posed by a country affected ever so violently by decades of ethnic and sectarian cracks, animosities and divides inflicted by the establishment and hapless, chaotic governments. Democracy alone can turn these detested and dreaded divides into a democratically empowered and progressive diversity.
All those brave Hazara Shia men, women and children who have stood up to extremist atrocities, a failing state, and a paralysed government, need to be conscious of yet another negative: Infiltration. As we can see there are still some men out there who are willing to create the ground required for some backdoor maneuvering. Apart from hyping up manufactured ‘revolutionary movements’ and sudden messiahs, these people also look for openings in genuine movements from which they can infiltrate and ideally hijack it to suite their diabolical political goals. Tahirul Qadri is too obvious an example, even though at this point in time his ‘long march’ against the country’s political system (read political parties) has become more of a face saving exercise than anything a bit more threatening. More interesting in this context is the way how a number of elements tried to ride the wave of protests generated by an entirely authentic and spontaneous exhibition of defiance and anger shown by the Hazara Shia in Quetta. It is understandable that after noticing the genuine sense of sympathy running across large numbers of Pakistanis for what the Hazara men, women and children have faced from violent sectarian bigots, political partitas tried to jump in to get their share of the milage. Unable to turn the sombre Quetta sit-in into a vulgar show of populist politics, some parties tried their luck in Shia protests elsewhere in Pakistan. I spent a couple of hours at the sit-in held outside Bilawal House in Karachi where President Zardari was staying. The first party to reach the sitin was the MQM. But at least till I was there, I didn’t see its contingent trying to turn the angry gathering into an MQM show. They treated the occasion as nothing more than a photo op because I believe like me they too had sensed that the gathering had already been infiltrated. But before I explain the above I must mention my coming across a rather animated group of young PTI members there. It is good to see Imran Khan now understanding the ground realities that have been charring Pakistan, and it is admirable that he was quick to
show sympathy with the Hazara Shia. It’s good because Khan now understands the importance of democracy, and how the hurdles that are manufactured in its path are explained as being messianic, of ‘national interest’ and at times, something wholly ordained by God. After all, only last year he was sending emissaries of his party to establishmentarian circuses packed with exactly the kind of religious bigots against whom the Hazara Shia sat in freezing cold weather in Quetta. The PTI contingent was shouting to burn Bilawal House down. Of course, had it been a rally outside the headquarters of the maniacs who kill ‘heretics’ like an angry child would harmless little ants, this contingent would never have been there. The PTI guys were the comic relief in the tense atmosphere, even though in their heads they were about to storm the Bastille. No, the gathering did not turn into a PTI show. I told one of them that The Strings won’t be playing here tonight to which he replied, ‘You PML stooge!’ Ah, I thought, that was a first. I told him I was actually a stooge of democracy and he was better off waving his fist at those who’ve slaughtered over 40,000 men, women and children. ‘And stop watching so much AlJazeera,’ I jokingly advised. ‘Or you’ll continue to repulse grouchy men like me who have been fans of Khan before you were even in liquid form!’ Black comedy apart, what bothered me the most about the gathering was the gradual emergence of a few posters with faces of famous Iranian leaders. I saw none (on TV) at the Hazara gathering, but did so here. Yes, an attempt was made and almost succeeded to hijack the spontaneous gathering outside Bilawal House. Off-shoots of the Shia outfit, the Majlise-Wahadat Muslaymeem (MWM), arrived and tried to navigate the gathering into becoming a tad more radical. By radical I mean more rhetorical and outof-focus. The MWM is quite clearly an evolutionary outcome of the many pro-Iran outfits that emerged in the 1980s along side the proSaudi/Saudi-backed Sunni extremist organisations. Both these tendencies have been at war on the streets of Pakistan for almost three decades now. Of course, the extremist Sunnis outfits with the kind of patronage they enjoyed from the establishment have always enjoyed an upper hand, but one of the reasons for this has also been the disconnect the Iran-backed outfits have had with the fate of the Shia in Pakistan.