Air chief visits Pak envoy to UN makes somersault combat crew at Saﬀron Bandit exercise on drones
Bollywood has been kind: Ali Zafar
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Army to stay in S Waziristan unless people are satisfied: Kayani
COAS asks South Waziristan IDPs to return Security forces clear Maidan area of Tirah Valley
WANA: Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said army will remain in South Waziristan unless people of the area are satisfied. “Army will stay in South Waziristan unless people of the area are satisfied. Army is playing every possible role for the development and uplift of these areas. Those who had quit South Waziristan during the operation should return to their homes. No one will be involved in terrorism when prosperity
comes in the tribal areas,” he said this while addressing tribal dignitaries on the occasion of inauguration of third corridor in the tribal areas on PakAfghan border Thursday. The ambassador of United Arab Emirates (UAE) also accompanied army chief. Official sources said a 50-kilometre road from Wana to Angora Adda has been constructed at the cost of 38 million dollars in the tribal areas along Pak-Afghan borders in South
Waziristan in collaboration with UAE. The army chief said operation was completed within four weeks in South Waziristan and peace has been established therein due to cooperation of the people of the area. “Army is there for establishment of peace in South Waziristan. Peace in the area will benefit people.” He went on to say that roads were being built in South Waziristan. Roads, irrigation and electricity projects will
lead to change the destiny of the areas, he asserted. “I give guarantee that construction of roads in the area will benefit future generations. “We are naming Wana-Angora Adda road as Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zahid Al-Nihan Road,” he stated. –Online Meanwhile, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday appealed to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) from war-ravaged South Waziristan Agency to return to their areas,
assuring them of military support. Speaking after the inauguration of 50-kilomtere road from Wana, main town of South Waziristan Agency, to Angoor Adda, the army chief said the army would maintain its presence in the area as long as people were satisfied with the law and order situation. The road from Wana to Angoor Adda has been completed at a cost of about 40 million dollars with the financial assistance of the UAE. He noted that nobody would indulge in terrorism if the tribal region
prospered. United Arab Emirates Ambassador was also present during the inauguration of the project called Third Corridor, which the Pakistan Army chief announced to name after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayad Al Nahayan. He also thanked the people of South Waziristan for their support to the armed forces in bringing peace in the region. Meanwhile, security forces which have been engaged in heavy clashes in the militants strong hold of Tirah valley, have cleared the Maidan area from the terrorists. –INP
End to target killings in province
Centre gives 30 days to Sindh
Nisar orders withdrawal of civil armed forces from VIP duty
ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government has been given one month to end target killing in the province. During a high-level law and order meeting chaired by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, it was decided that if the Sindh government failed to make any headway, the issue would be taken up by the federal government. Several important decision regarding law and order were taken during the meeting which included the use of security chips in vehicles, the use of effective measures to enhance information sharing between security agencies and the computerization of all police stations in Islamabad. It was also decided that paramilitary forces would be answerable to the
India warns Kabul
National Security Policy would be announced soon. According to Nisar a Task force would be constituted for enhancing coordination among security agencies and between security and intelligence agencies while another task force would also be formed on missing persons’ issue. Khursheed Shah says same ultimatum also be given to Balochistan On the other hand, Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah, while commenting upon the deadline given to Sindh to end target killing, said that the same ultimatum would also be given to Balochistan. Talking to a private TV channel, he said that help of federal government needed to stop target killing from the economic hub of Pakistan, adding he hoped that the result of MQM’s referendum would become in favour of government, he added. Khursheed Shah agreed with the point of view of Nisar about security institutions. –AGENCIES
PM for changing mindset, adopting e-governance
Karzai set to join Taliban peace talks KABUL: An Afghan spokesman says President Hamid Karzai is willing to join peace talks with the Taliban if the US follows through with promises he says were made by Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call. The planned talks were thrown into disarray when Karzai canceled a planned delegation to the newly opened Taliban office in Qatar because he said the U.S. broke commitments that the office would not be seen as an embassy or government-inexile. Spokesman Fayeq Wahidi says Kerry promised that the Taliban flag and a nameplate with their former regime s name would be removed and said the U.S. would issue a formal letter supporting the Afghan government. Meanwhile, India has cautioned Afghanistan over peace talks, saying the initiative should not violate the "red lines" drawn up by the international community. "We have reminded all stakeholders about the red lines that was drawn by the world community and certainly by the participants should not be touched, should not be erased and should not be violated," external affairs minister Salman Khurshid told reporters. –AGENCIES
provincial government. The meeting was also briefed about the security situation in Balochistan and a nexus between different militant groups. Meanwhile, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the withdrawal of civil armed forces from VIP security duty. The interior minister was addressing the media following a high-level meeting with heads of security agencies which deliberated on the law and order situation in the country. Nisar said civil-armed forces would continue to provide security protocol to the president, prime minister, chief justice and those prominent individuals who were at threat. Nisar said the meeting finalized priorities to improve the security situation across the country and a
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday underlined the need to bring about a positive change in the mindsets of people serving in public sector for their adoption of e-governance in order to improve efficiency and enhance coordination in the government’s working. The prime minister expressed these views while chairing a high-level meeting on e- governance at the PM’s Office this afternoon. The PM said that for the attainment of the present government’s agenda of good governance, the implementation of e-governance in public sector is necessary. The PM further said that with the use of technology and adoption of e-governance, we can overcome redundancies, enhance efficiencies and promote transparency and accountability which were the hallmarks of good governance. The meeting was informed by Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman that Pakistan stood 156th in the international egovernance ranking. Terming it a sorry state of affairs, the PM emphasized that in order to take Pakistan forward, the first stage in this connection was to automate ministries and departments for fast track and knowledge-based decision making. –AGENCIES
S OUT H WAZ IRASTAN: Ch ief o f A rmy S ta ff Gene ra l As hfaq Parvez Ka yani mee ts wit h t rib al e lders d uring h is vis it afte r ina ug urat ing 5 0-km-lon g Wa na -An go or A dh a (als o cal led th ird corrid or) Roa d. – INP
Rs 198 billion Balochistan budget comes QUETTA: Balochistan budget worth more than 198 billion rupees for the next financial year was presented in the provincial assembly on Thursday. Presenting the budget in the house‚ Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch said every possible step has been taken to provide relief to the people.He said that despite resource constraint‚ the government has decided to give fifteen percent increase in the salaries of government employees and in the pension of retired government employees. Giving details of funds allocation to various sectors, the chief minister said over 43 billion rupees have been allocated for development sector while a sum of 34 billion rupees has been earmarked for education sector. Baloch said over 16 billion rupees have been allocated for maintenance of law and order in the province. Over 11 billion rupees will be spent on health sector while Over 5 billion rupees have been allocated for agriculture projects. For capital expenditures, 37.47 billion rupees while for revenue expenditures over 117 billion rupees have been earmarked. –ONLINE
PM announces to start talks with TTP: FO
Pakistan verifies role in Taliban office TTP says we hit convoy
ISLAMABAD: The prime minister has announced to hold talks with the Tehrik–e-Taliban Pakistan, said Foreign Office spokesman on Thursday. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry also said that Pakistan has facilitated opening of Taliban Office in Doha as it is part of the larger process of reconciliation to end the war and ensure peace and security in Afghanistan. Aizaz, in his weekly briefing here, said that he was not aware of the terms and conditions of opening of the Taliban office. Aizaz clarified that no untoward incident occurred in the meeting between special advisor to PM and charge d’ Affairs of American embassy. He reminded that Pakistan always asserted for holding dialogue with all the factions for sustainable peace and to end the war in Afghanistan. The spokesman added that peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of all, adding that Pakistan was busy in talks with the US and Afghanistan at different levels. Chaudhry said that Pakistan had released 26 Taliban prisoners on the request of Afghan Peace Loya Jirga in the past. While replying to a query, “If America can talk to Afghan
ISI chief briefs PM on security, region ISLAMABAD: ISI Director General Lt-Gen Muhammad Zahirul Islam called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM’s Office on Thursday and briefed on important security issues. During the meeting, the ISI chief apprised the prime minister about the working of his organization. Furthermore, matters pertaining to national security and regional stability came under discussion. According to a press release issued, matters pertaining to national security and regional stability also came under discussion. Both Nawaz and Zahir reaffirmed their commitment to mobilize all resources to curb the scourge of terrorism. Both of them exchanged views on a set of issues including terrorism, regional stability, challenges facing the national security and matters of national interest. They also discussed matters related to peace and stability in Karachi and expressed sorrow over loss to life and property in terror related incidents at Quetta and Mardan. –ONLINE Taliban then why Pakistan cannot talk to TTP,” he asked. Aziz said Pakistan had said its stance over the drone attacks is clear which are in violation of its territorial sovereignty. “Pakistan has taken the issue of drone attacks with United States at all levels and will continue its strides to stop them.” To a question he said Pakistan fully supports Afghan reconciliation process and all groups to the issue should be involved in this process. He said Pakistan also supported US-Taliban negotiations to bring
peace and stability in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the proscribed militant organization, Tehrik-iTaliban Pakistan on Thursday accepted responsibility for the attack on a military convoy on Wednesday in Peshawar in which at least six military personnel were martyred. TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan told media that security convoy was attacked in retaliation to the killing of its senior leader Waliur Rehman in a US drone strike on May 29. –INP
Levying interim sales tax unacceptable: CJP
SC to announce the verdict GST case today AG prays judgment should be prospective and not from retrospective effect
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has remarked that the way interim sales tax has been imposed is not acceptable and parliament role will come to end if permission is accorded to levy tax in interim way. “We are not restraining the government from levying tax. The government should have adopted legal and constitutional mode. The government cannot run without charging tax. The way interim sales tax has been slapped is not acceptable. If levying of taxes in interim way is allowed then parliament role will come to an end. No one will resort to parliament if the rulers impose taxes on their own,” he gave these remarks while
presiding over a three-member bench of Supreme Court during the course of hearing of suo motu case on imposition of General Sales Tax (GST) on Thursday. The court reserved the judgment which will be pronounced today. Attorney General Munir A Malik, Ikram Chaudhry, Suleman Akram Raja and Rana Shamim counsel for FBR completed their arguments. At the inception of hearing, the CJP remarked, “Tell us how can the prices be increased in proposed declaration.” Suleman Akram Raja said this tax has been imposed by the government. The CJP observed, “We are not preventing government from imposing
taxed. Governments run on taxes. The president can promulgate ordinance on the advice of prime minister. State is responsible for the welfare of the people. This money is spent for the sake of welfare of the people. Government increased one percent tax and the inflation soared high fifteen fold. Sales Tax details are required to be filed by July 14. Shopkeeper pocket increased one percent sales tax.” The CJP remarked, “If FBR works properly then too much amount can be collected. If government raises this tax then what work will be left for parliament to do? Amendment in the sales tax act can be made subject to approval of
Finance Bill. The highest level of sales tax is 16 percent. How can it be charged at the rate of 25 percent? Ikram Chaudhry advocate argued “The issue started from the budget speech of finance minister. After his speech prices of all commodities were increased. 1931 advance tax collection act is in clash with Article 77. The CJP observed, “State should go to extreme end for protection of rights of the people. Tax slapped on CNG is wrong. The state can survive only when the rights of the people are protected. The money charged illegally should be returned.” Raja Shamim, counsel for FBR argued that the impression of
recovering of 26 per cent tax is wrong and it is only 16 per cent tax. The AG said the rules which show you the way to levy additional taxes are in conflict with the constitution and a flagrant breach of it. Pump owners charge additional tax to compensate for the arrears and amount paid by them under other heads to gas company. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has reserved its verdict in the suo moto notice case pertaining to increase in GST and petroleum prices which would be issued today (Friday). A three-member bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the case. –INP
CMYK FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
enom Inc. This should not be held against me in a court of law aˇ I solemnly declare that these a˘e absolute lies, dirty whispers and wild speculation that I have heard while crawling in the dark power corridors of the creepy Capital. You will believe them aˆ your own risk Shh...If you have venom to spill please don’ˆ hesitate to share with ˙ˇ on our blog aˆ ˛˛˛ .thespokesman.pk
Pak envoy to UN makes somersault on drones akistani bureaucrats will do anything to please the government—even somersaults in policy announcements. Our Ambassador at UN, Masood Khan made a scathing speech against drone strikes in Pakistan. He also made sure that the news got properly covered in Pakistan. He could do that because he made connections in media while working as Foreign Office spokesman during Musharraf ’s regime. The problem is that the same gentleman made an equally scathing speech at the UN in January this year in favour of the drone strikes in Pakistan. And this he did while Pakistan enjoyed the rare position of the Security Council President. Pakistan could have used its position to plead its case but Masood Khan went out of the way to convince his bosses at the time about the sagaciousness of Pakistan;s position. Now, Pakistan is in a difficult situation of reversing its position within six months— and funnily the same person is making the opposite speech. Why, you may ask. Elementary: the gentleman is on a contract and wants his job to be protected. He is known to be good at sucking up to rulers. He got closest to Musharraf, by-passing his seniors sometimes and got himself the best postings. He lived for one of the longest time in the US and then was kept in China by Asif Zardari. He is privy to all those shady deals that the previous government made in China. He was rewarded for that by getting this choicest posting after his retirement. He wants to please the present government now. As the policy on the drone changes, he is being over active in making speeches that might please the present government. We’ll see if he manages to do that.
Pearls of Wisdom Satisfaction is the highest level of happiness and it is very easily obtained when you have no expectations.
#PTI MNA Mujahid Ali Khan demands release of Mumtaz Qadri - the man who killed my father @SalmaanTaseer - in the National Assembly today
In 24 hours 198,000 people have watched Imran Khan's speech. 151K on Tune.pk pti vid, 22K Zemtv vid, 20K dailymotion and 5K on Youtube. #PTI
#PTI PRESS RELEASE: Mujahid approach for Mumtaz Qadri does not reflect PTI policy
Tariq Vaid @Tariq_Vaid
Instead of appreciating the move by #PMLN 2 initiate Inhouse debate in the NA on Nat. Counter Terrorism Auth, PTI supporters criticizing it.
zafar malik @zafarmaliCk
Ever heard the word LOGIC? NO? ok carry on @Rectified_Guy: #PPP is trying hard to get MQM in its govt's slots - because PPP has fear of PMLN
Nisar makes idealistic start to making Islamabad a model city TAHIR NIAZ
ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister, Ch.
Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday came out with what seemed to be a bit idealistic plan to make the federal capital a worth-living city and announced a number of measures in this regard ranging from connecting all city police stations through computer to launching massive operation against non-registered vehicles. The initiative is good but to refresh the memories of the people, it is necessary to state here that most of the non-registered vehicles are under use of the ‘untouchables’. Furthermore, the foreign-funded project to computerize the registration of FIR in the city police stations is yet to be materialized. Later comes the stage of attaining the copy of the FIR about which the
Coming to governance, Ch. Nisar said a list of notorious officials of ICT and CDA would be prepared and they would be sidelined. He said that he has given instructions for computerization of land record of Islamabad within six months to get rid of Patwari and Girdawar
Interior Minister said that it would be made a public document. Coming to governance, Ch. Nisar said a list of notorious officials of ICT and CDA would be prepared and they would be sidelined. He said that he has given instructions for computerization of land record of Islamabad within six months to get rid of Patwari and Girdawar. But he did not think appropriate to say a single word about the police officers who have been posted in the city for several years but miserably failed to control crime. Abolishment of police check posts from the city roads has also been decided without any homework that may lead to increase in terrorism incidents in the city. Nisar told a press conference after chairing a meeting that a number of decisions have been taken to make Islamabad model Capital. As per decisions taken in the meeting, all police stations of Islamabad would be connected through computerization in three months and registration of FIR would become a public document. A massive operation would be launched in Islamabad in three days against non-registered vehicles and under-age drivers and the campaign would be across the board. In the first phase‚ Nisar said, checking would be done on three roads - Koral to Faisal Mosque; Faizabad to Convention Centre and Jinnah Avenue in Blue Area. Chief Commissioner Islamabad in collaboration with Commissioner Rawalpindi will prepare an emergency Mass Transit programme of metro bus from Rawalpindi to
Islamabad. A flyover would be jointly constructed by Federal and Punjab Governments on Murree Road at Bhara Kahu to ensure smooth flow of traffic. Coming to governance, Ch. Nisar said a list of notorious officials of ICT and CDA would be prepared and they would be sidelined. He said that he has given instructions for computerization of land record of Islamabad within six months to get rid of Patwari and Girdawar. The Minister said security barriers placed on roads going out of Islamabad would be removed immediately. Golra Toll Plaza would be abolished this month to ensure unhindered travel of the citizens and in phases all such plazas would be done away with. He said the government gets only 18 to 20 crore rupees from these Plazas while contractors earn about a billion but humiliate passengers and travelers.
He said NADRA has been asked to issue E-Tags to vehicles of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and the bearer of these tags would form a separate unhindered lane at check posts. The Interior Minister said a Civil Centre would be established where citizens of Islamabad would get licenses‚ domiciles‚ attorneys and other documents under one roof in a transparent manner. He also announced to launch Rescue 1122 Service in urban and rural areas of Islamabad while steps would be taken for overcoming drinking water shortages in Islamabad on emergency basis. A GIS mapping of all forests of Islamabad would be done to check their illegal cutting. A scheme for rehabilitation of roads and parks of the capital would also be launched on emergency basis. A team consisting of NADRA and administration personnel would go
door-to-door to get photographs and details of house servants as part of the process to check rising crime rate. A campaign against professional beggars would also be launched and after two warnings and they would be put behind the bars, he added. The minister said the government on Thursday decided to seek input from heads of all security agencies for the formulation of a national security policy. After discussing new security policy, he constituted two Task Forces on the issues of Missing Persons and ensure better coordination within and among the security agencies. The Interior Minister told the news conference that the meeting has decided to withdraw FC and Ranger personnel from security duties with important people except the President‚ the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. He said there was no justification to deploy these personnel for security of those who can afford private security. Ch. Nisar said to begin with‚ he has voluntarily returned such personnel to their parent departments. The meeting also decided to seek input from heads of all security agencies within two days for the formulation of a National Security Policy. Ch. Nisar said the Prime Minister has already constituted a Committee for interaction with the armed forces to get their input for the policy. The Interior Minister said there should be accountability of failures in security and to begin with he will make public findings of the Joint Investigation Team of the Quetta terrorist incidents through National Assembly and Senate.
Another chapter in Kashmir Council corruption saga Millions made off tenders meant for public welfare ALI SAJJAD SHAH
ISLAMABAD: While Pakistanis claim to love
their Kashmiri brethren and claim the ownership of Indian Occupied Kashmir, the part of Kashmir belonging to them is being subjected to millions and millions of corruption, with the precious money supposed to be used for the people of Kashmir being siphoned off into the pockets of the bureaucracy. The saga of the Kashmir Council’s corruption simply refuses to end, with more and more cases of nepotism and corruption emerging, with politicians condoning it all. The Kashmir Council mafia ‘gifted’ millions to their close relatives in the name of fudge payments and unjustified escalation of the development schemes, it has been learnt. Reliable sources told The Spokesman that the estimated cost of construction of new Azad Jammu Kashmir Council building in G-5 was about 1200 million, mentioned in the tender. Three companies qualified in the prequalification round. M/s Elli Lilly, despite being the highest bidders among three contractors, was awarded said tender, whereas according to SOPs the lowest bidder has to be granted the tender, confirmed the source. The ex-Joint Secretary made an under the table deal with management of M/s Elli Lilly and got 50/50 percent partnership in the project of construction of new building for AJK Council, alleged the source. Ex-JS Qasier Majeed put his nephew Malik Amir as front man and managed to sign partnership deed between M/s Elli Lilly and Malik Aamir to protect his share. After shaking hands with the contractor on the basis of 50 % profit sharing, the project cost of construction of AJK Council
Building was revised twice, first from 1200 million to 1454million and then again from 1454 million to 1978 million. Interestingly, the project has not yet been completed and another revised estimate of Rs. 140 million is under way for the kind approval of Birjees Tahir, claimed the source. The project record confirms that all this unjustified and illegal escalation has the complete nod and approval of the then Competent Authority i.e. Mian Manzoor Wattoo. Abdullah Shah, another close relative of Chief Planning Munawar Shah, also benefited from AJK Council. The construction of Audit Building in Muzaffarabad, a community Library in Rawlakot and a few others projects awarded to him and the costs of these projects were increased illegally by Munawar Shah as indicated in the audit report of AJK Council for 2011-2012. Similarly, ex-Joint Secretary Qaiser Majeed, son of Gen(R) Abdul Majeed from PML (N), with the support of Manzoor Wattoo and his corrupt sub-ordinates, violated rules and regulation while awarding contracts to their favorite contractors. There were a few irregularities in other projects as well. In the construction of Bethak Gala Kunath road, Phase-I Sidhnoti, work order issued by Mr. Mukhtar Abbasi only amounted to Rs. 8.7 million but the record
shows that amount paid to said contractor is 55 million. For Bethak Gala Kunath road phase-II Sidhnoti, the tender amount mentioned in the estimated cost and tenders was 23 million but 90 million was paid to Mr. Mukhtar Abbasi. It is also found that there was no bid advertisement given in the newspaper for open completion and just to award their favorite contractor, fake ad was attached in the file to fulfill the audit requirement and this was confirmed by DAG. In the tender of Nandal Katheli road awarded to Mukhtar Abbasi, the tender amount was 50 million whereas the actual amount paid to the contractor is 90million. Furthermore, the construction of Time College Poonch for 17 million was awarded to the concerned contractor but the amount escalated up to 100 million. The contract of Baithak Awan Abad Road was advertised for 19 million but work order issued to the contractor was 33 million and interestingly actual payment made to the contractor was 80 million. Another case of corruption was in the construction of Distt. Account Office, Neelum, in which the tender published in dailies shows amount 32 million while work order issued to contractor reached 68 million but the amount paid to the contractor was 72 million.
The tender amount of Ring Road Palandri was 240 million but 400 million was paid to the contractor; Construction of Kashmiri Colony, Quetta’s tender amount was 50 million but 190 million was paid to the contractor in two phases; Pulandri Tarar Khal Road contract was awarded to Saadat Rasheed for an amount of Rs. 418 million but the amount paid was 529 million. Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Chaudhary Birjees Tahir and Shahidullah Baig, Secretary for Kashmir Affairs were once again contacted for their comments on the huge corruption under their nose, but the Federal Minister was in the National Assembly to attend the Session and Secretary Shahid Ullah Baig had a tight schedule of meetings according to his private secretary. Deputy Auditor General of Pakistan, Tahir Mahmud once again confirmed to “the Spokesman” the corruption in KC. “The corruption will remain the order of the day in KC as long as Munawar Shah, Chief Planning, is working in his seat”, he said. “I am going to send reminder to Federal Secretary regarding outcome of my reference against corrupt officials within days”, he asserted. Mr. Qaiser Majeed, ex.JS Kashmir Council, did not pick the call when contacted for his comments. Chief Plannin, Munawar Shah, however, picked the call and threatened this correspondent with grave consequences very soon, when asked for his point of view. One can only hope that the inquiry ordered by minister Birjees Tahir, after the corruption was brought to his notice by The Spokesman, brings the true culprits to task and ensures that the Council does puts an end to corruption once and for all.
NESPAK MD’s loot and plunder continues unchecked ZEESHAN JAVAID
While the nation suffers from a crippling energy crisis, the bureaucracy responsible for managing energy seems to be firmly entrenched in mismanagement, nepotism and corruption. The latest institution is NESPAK, whose MD has managed to get him and his friends quite a measure of comfort and pleasure at the cost of the taxpayers’ money. The PML-N federal government needs to pay more attention to grey areas such as NESPAK where misappropriation and embezzlement in financial accounts continues with the backing of controversial managing director Asad.I.A.Khan and his ally bureaucrats in ministry water and power. The PML-N leader and federal minister for water and power, Khawaja Asif who took the charge as head of the ministry on June 7, 2013 has not even introduced the energy
policy yet on how to overcome or at least minimize the quantum of the ongoing energy crisis, but it seemed that top bureaucrats in ministry water and power including additional secretary Arshad Mirza and joint secretary Dr. Nasarullah are not too intent on solving the crisis as they have become obstacles in the removal of NESPAK MD. The joint secretary painted a rosy picture to save their skins against the alleged favours given to the heads of NESPAK and other allied departments of ministry water and power. A close buddy of additional secretary Mirza informed daily “The Spokesman” on condition of anonymity that despite hefty perks and financial facility by MD NESPAK Asad.I.A.Khan to top bureaucrats in ministry water and power, the two bureaucrats barred action against the illegal practices of sitting MD, who has no more reason to stick with his chair in view of the clear verdict of the apex court in this particular regard.
Interestingly, MD NESPAK shielded his all decisions of business by placing his favourite Vice Presidents of the company in board meetings including Mansoor Hashmi, Ahsan Anwar, Ahmed Saeed and Abdul Qadir, because the decisions in Board meeting could be taken by only three members as described in rules of business of the company. A senior official of NESPAK revealed that the sitting managing director of the company, misusing his powers, bought a bungalow of costing Rs. 45 million in the posh residential area of Lahore Defense U-Block from company accounts, despite the denial of approval by the board of the company. It was also learnt that MD Khan within couple of years has also spent the hefty amount of Rs. 5-6 million over the renovation of his bungalow, with the entire amount used from the company account. The powerful MD NESPAK very skillfully denied access of company accounts to the highest oversight platform of parliament, Public Account Committee (PAC), twice in the tenures of former chairmen committee Ch. Nisar Ali Khan and Nadeem Afzal Chan.
Another revelation was unearthed that MD NESPAK allegedly misused his powers to remove a high level committee comprising three members, including secretary water and power, additional secretary and MD of the company, which was formed by Establishment Division (ED) to review the issues that dealt with the promotion of company’s staff. It was also disclosed that two engineers of Grade-12 including Abdul Qadir and Farhat Adil, who left the
company because of having some other good opportunity were accommodated again by managing director on hefty package in the company as General Manager (GM) Islamabad office and in charge company’s secretariat Karachi as Vice President (VP) respectively. The former officer of the company further revealed that the sitting MD allegedly established a company in the name of his spouse and placed the details of maximum projects awarded
to NESPAK by different public and private sector companies in the brochure of that company to attract the investors. An inquiry was initiated in this particular regard and the then VP NESPAK Muhammad Aslam, who was the member of inquiry committee, strongly recommended termination of Asad.I.A.Khan; however, later on with the connivance of other VPs, a clean chit was given to MD NESPAK and former VP was awarded as Executive Director (ED) of a sister company Turk Pak International. He further maintained that the sister organization of NESPAK, which was shut down in the past due to running in loss, was allegedly rehabilitated by the MD without approval of board, which was aimed to facilitate the older and retired favorites. The sources in NESPAK informed that the scheduled board meeting on June 16 was postponed, which was probably called to discuss the controversy over the MD’s chair, however it was cancelled without announcing some new date for meeting. Despite repeated attempts to contact sitting MD Asad.I.A.Khan for his comments, he couldn’t be reached.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
Air chief visits combat crew at Saffron Bandit exercise
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry presenting shield to Keshari Raj Pandit, the chief judge of Nepal’s Court of Appeal. APP
First phase of ‘Clean and Green Islamabad’ ends
Capital’s residents ﬁling complaints directly at camp oﬃce CDA announces to allocate budget to resolve grievances
ISLAMABAD: Capital Development Authority (CDA) Thursday completed its first phase of "Clean and Green Islamabad" campaign which was started from sector I10 and culminated at G-6. In a statement issued here, CDA Chairman Tahir Shahbaz said that the credit of the successful campaign goes to the residents, traders, civil society, senior citizens, especially the students of the federal capital. He said the purpose of this healthy activity was to make direct and effective coordination between CDA officials and public. He also said that the residents of the city have been filing their complaints in connection with their grievances directly at camp office. For the first time in the history of CDA, the chairman along with board members and other officers remained present among the public and resolved their issues at their doorstep. During the first phase of the campaign, the civic body had understood the basic issues persisting in all sectors of Islamabad, the chairman pointed out. He also said that the CDA, in the light of this experience, would
specifically allocate budget for the next fiscal year to resolve the grievances. Discussing temporary water crisis, Tahir Shahbaz stated that it was due to power outage and after the operating the tubewells on generators, availability a 30 more than water tankers and its effective monitoring help reduced the water complaints. The chairman thanked the media for its cooperation and said that media has been playing its vital role in awareness about the sanitation issues, saving the water and making the city clean and green. During the campaign, CDA focused on basic issues related to 13 sectors of I, G and F series, where the officers of different formations of the authority have received complaints directly at camp offices from the residents of these sectors during the three day campaign in each sector and resolved the issues. The chairman directed the officers of different formations of the authority to resolve the problems of the residents of Sector G-6 and remained present in the camp office for three day. APP
AIOU introduces solar project at its campus ISLAMABAD: Allama Iqbal Open University has introduced solar project energy for its nationwidecampuses, enabling their students to continue their study during the loadshedding hours. “This is in line with the national needs to overcome the energy shortage, as we are trying to make best possible efforts to facilitate our students and help them to continue their study without interruption,” AIOU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Nazir Ahmed Sangi. In a message to the students, he hoped that they will fully benefit from the facility, which initially has been launched at its campus at Mithi; while later, such a project will be introduced at other campuses as well. ONLINE
Hiroshi pays farewell call on Nawaz ISLAMABAD: Japan’s Ambassador Hiroshi Oe Thursday paid a farewell call on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM office and congratulated the prime minister on the assumption of his office as the chief executive of the country. The ambassador also conveyed a message of felicitations and best wishes on behalf of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Nawaz appreciated the positive contribution made by Hiroshi Oe during his tenure as ambassador in Islamabad in further promoting Pakistan-Japan relations, especially in the field of trade. The prime minister said that Pakistan attaches high priority to its relations with Japan and expressed the desire to take these relations to further heights. He said that Pakistan-Japan relations were of great importance to Pakistan and that Pakistan regards Japan as an important friend and a development partner. Underlining the need to raise the
harder and offer greater sacrifices than the earlier ones,” he said. The air chief further said, "the nature of aerial warfare continues to rise in complexity under a time compressed environment, and PAF being a professional outfit is totally focused on it. As the nation pins high hopes in Pak Fazaia, and we must never let it down." The eight-month long Exercise Saffron Bandit commenced in October, 2012. It is conducted in PAF since 1994. This time, the environment was unique where modern capabilities of PAF were operating under one umbrella for the first time. Pak Army Aviation and Army Air Defence were also deployed for undertaking the
exercise. The prime objective of the exercise was to excel in the air combat capability with focus on Air Power employment in any future conflict. The hallmark of the exercise was the participation of JF-17 Thunders in the concluding cycle of exercise Saffron Bandit for the first time. The combat crew from various operational squadrons comprising F-7PGs, Mirages, F-16s and JF-17 Thunders participated in the exercise. JF-17 Thunders operated in multiple configurations alongside other PAF platforms in various combat/support roles which encompassed all spheres of aerial warfare in near war like environments. AGENCIES
CDA chief to visit major markets
ICCI demands a new industrial estate in federal capital
ISLAMABAD: Capital Development Authority Chairman Tahir Shahbaz has decided to visit all major markets of the federal capital to see the on ground situation of problems and take required remedial measures to facilitate the business community. Addressing a gathering of businessmen at the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, he said that he was fully aware of the problems of the business community and from the next week, he would kick start visits of major markets for two hours daily to get stakeholders input and come up with optimum solutions of their problems. He termed trade and industry as engine of economic growth and said that CDA wants actual representation of ICCI in its board to take businessmen into confidence in
level of trade between the two countries which is currently at $ 2.1 billion, the prime minister noted with concern that the trade balance is heavily tilted against Pakistan and expressed the desire for its rectification through concrete measures. He said that the existing trade imbalance can be addressed by lowering tariff rates for Pakistan textiles. The prime minister expressed his gratitude to the government of Japan for its assistance in up gradation of
Unit 1 and Unit 4 of Mangla Dam. He also sought Japan’s assistance in energy projects in Pakistan like Diamer Bhasha, Kurram Tangi Dam, Munda Dam and other small and medium dams. Hailing Japan’s achievements in the fields of science and technology, the prime minister said that Pakistan was keen to learn from Japan. The ambassador termed his stay in Islamabad as fruitful and fulfilling and said that he would take rich memories of Pakistan back home. ONLINE
Dawah Academy, Iqbal Institute arrange training programme for students
ISLAMABAD: International Islamic University Islamabad is the leading institution, which has always enrolled maximum students from Balochistan in comparison of other universities of Pakistan. These views were expressed by Dr Mumtaz Ahmed, acting president of the university during 15th Islamic training programme for the students of Balochistan organised by the Children’ Literature Department of Dawah Academy and Iqbal Institute for Research and Dialogue Thursday. Balochistan province was ignored
ISLAMABAD: Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt Thursday said that the regional environment demanded an ever vigilant role for Pakistan Air Force. Addressing the combat crew at the closing ceremony of PAF Triennial Command level Air Exercise Saffron Bandit at an operational air base, he said that presently, in the face of security challenges, PAF preparedness and response had to be precise and expeditious. “It is through the rigorous training imparted by exercises like Saffron Bandit that we look forward to maintain the cutting edge of the PAF,” he said. “We are a peace-loving nation, but fully prepared to defend the integrity and solidarity of our motherland,” said the air chief, who was the chief guest on the occasion. Accentuating the nature of the aerial warfare, the air chief emphasised that combat training in the PAF was maintained at the highest pedestal of realism and responsiveness to meet the contemporary challenges. “You must utilise the experiences gained in the best possible manner,” he added. “While our quest to modernise PAF continues, we must remember that our generation will have to work even
policymaking process. This matter has been discussed in the standing committees of the Senate and the National Assembly to complete legal formalities and assured that he would fully support ICCI representation in CDA Board so that the business community could have a strong voice in CDA affairs. Tahir Shahbaz also announced to allocate a cricket ground to ICCI so that the chamber could contribute in promoting sports activities. He admitted that there were lots of issues to be resolved but due to financial constraints of CDA, they have to prioritize them for redressal. He assured that he would look into all issues raised by the businessmen to find their best solutions. In his welcome address, ICCI President Zafar Bakhtawari
highlighted the different issues being faced by the business community. Till the formal notification of ICCI representation in CDA Board, the civic body should unofficially invite ICCI to its board meetings for getting input. He stressed that establishment of a new industrial estate in Islamabad to promote industry, simplifying the complicated lease renewal process, allocation of plots in markets for construction of residential plazas for small traders, providing car parking facilities in commercial centers and improving roads, water & sewerage infrastructures in markets are some of the major issues that need urgent attention of CDA. Founder Group Chairman Tariq Sadiq highlighted the issues of industry. ONLINE
First-ever education ranking, interactive electoral map released
Balochistan students a priority: IIUI
Tahir Butt says regional environment demands ever vigilant role for PAF
since emergence of the country but now special measures taken by the present government show that it really desires to improve the situation of province on priority basis. Dr Mumtaz said it was quite unfortunate that after 1972 no representative government was formed in the province due to that situation of Balochistan could not improve. On the occasion, he assured that IIUI would not only accommodate students from Baluchistan on priority basis but university would also cooperate with
them according to its financial resources. He stressed upon the Baloch students that they should work hard for development of the country while saying that always an organized, lawful and constitutional struggle for the achievement of prerogatives becomes successful. Earlier, IIUI Vice President and Dawah Academy Director General Sahibzada Sajid-urRehman said that Balochistan was that remarkable part of the country, which has valuable contribution in Pakistan movement. ONLINE
Alif Ailaan reveals 25 million children out of school
ISLAMABAD: Alif Ailaan Thursday released its first Pakistan District Education Rankings, an in-depth assessment of the state of education in the country. While the results are not heartening, they highlighted specific issues in the quality of education and the availability of facilities district by district. State Minister for Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education Engr Muhammad Balighur-Rehman said that the new government has a massive task of tackling the education emergency. “It is a matter of great shame for us that 25 million children are out of school. Strong political will is needed to change this,” he said. “We not only need to focus on increasing enrolment but also ensure that quality is not neglected,” the minister said. “My government is preparing a plan for accelerated delivery of education for all,” he said. The study, conducted in association with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, shows how widely education standards vary across the country. One of the goals of the report is to serve as a benchmark against which the performance of politicians, administrators and education providers can be assessed. It will also provide a baseline against which future progress or deterioration can be
State Minister for Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education Engr Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman addressing launching of “Alif Aillan District Education Rankings.” measured. “The big picture in education is stark and demands urgent action,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, team leader of the Alif Ailaan. “With this report, we hope to generate a healthy public debate about education emergency,” he said. The report dispels perception, such as the idea that providing infrastructure and facilities will automatically improve the overall quality of education. In fact, this is not the case, as demonstrated by the findings for Azad Kashmir, which ranks highest in terms of the quality of education but lowest in terms of school infrastructure. Similarly, it is surprising that no district in Sindh makes it in the top 50, not even Karachi. Punjab takes the top position in the overall provincial rankings while Balochistan is the worst performing province. “The bottom line here is
that very few districts are performing as parents would want them to. This should be a wake-up call for the government. “We need to see a dramatic improvement in education, if we are not to lose the next generation to illiteracy and poverty,” said Asif Saeed Memon, the principal author of the report, of SDPI. An interactive ‘education and budget’ map, the first of its kind in Pakistan, was also launched at the event. Available on the Alif Ailaan website, the map allows users to access key education statistics for each district and to send a letter to elected representatives in each constituency, pressing them to play their role in ending education emergency. To reinforce the message, Alif Ailaan will also post a copy of each letter sent through the map directly to the MNA or MPA in question. PR
Solidarity with millions of uprooted people
Afghanistan remains world's largest source of refugees Pakistan still hosts more refugees than any other nation
ISLAMABAD: The UN Refugee Agency and the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions marked the World Refugee Day Thursday with a series of events across Pakistan involving the government, UNHCR, its partners, and refugee communities. A report, released by the UN Refugee Agency, states that more than 45.2 million people are in situations of displacement, compared to 42.5 million at the end of 2011. This includes 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum
seekers, and 28.8 million people forced to flee within the borders of their own countries. Afghanistan remains the world's largest source of refugees. On average, one out of every four refugees worldwide is an Afghan, with 95 per cent of this population located in Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan continued to host more refugees than any other nation (1.6 million), followed by Iran (868,200) and Germany (589,700). In his World Refugee Day speech, States and Frontier Regions Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch said that Pakistan
would continue to adhere to international norms while dealing with refugees. “We believe that nobody leaves his home willingly.” UNHCR’s officer-in-charge Maya Ameratunga paid tribute to the resilience of the refugees, but also noted Pakistan’s sincere efforts in hosting the world’s largest refugee population. She commended that the government’s current efforts at formulating a policy on Afghan refugees, including extension of their registration status beyond June 2013. The minister expanded on this,
expressing the government’s desire to devise a realistic action plan for beyond June 30, 2013 and reaffirming that its policy would be an appropriate continuance of the excellent relations enjoyed by Pakistan and Afghanistan. This commemorative day also serves a reminder that displacement is not limited to refugees. In Pakistan, UNHCR also supports the government in its primary responsibility to protect and assist internally displaced Pakistanis from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. With the arrival of hundreds of thousands of
newly-displaced persons from Tirah Valley and Para Chamkani, the total number of IDP families has soared to 179,269. Globally, some 2.7 million people, including 526,000 refugees and 2.1 million internally displaced people, returned home in 2012. From Pakistan alone, more than 83,000 refugees returned to Afghanistan in 2012, while some 19,000 have returned so far this year under the UNHCR-facilitated voluntary repatriation programme. Since 2002, UNHCR has assisted more than 3.8 million Afghan refugees in
Pakistan to return home, in the world’s largest voluntary repatriation operation In Islamabad, government officials, heads of diplomatic missions and UN agencies, UN staff and a large number of refugees from different countries attended a colourful cultural event. In Peshawar, the day’s main event was held in the University of Peshawar Hall. Similar events were also organised in Quetta and Karachi to express solidarity with the refugees. Speakers praised Pakistan’s long history of generously hosting the world’s largest refugee population.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
When base political instincts are considered normal
THE SPOKESMAN Chief Editor: Huma Ali Resident Editor: Saeed Minhas
Pakistan’s filthy rich elections
Block 11, G-6/1, Aabpara, Islamabad Telephone: 051 260 7153-4
BY TARIQ ALI
Fax: 051 260 7498
PM-COAS meeting Meetings between Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif and COAS General Ashfaq Parvez augur well for harmonious relationship between the political leadership and military high command. These meetings dispel the ugly scenarios being conjured up by certain elements. On Wednesday, both discussed the formulation of a new security policy, and militant attacks that have plagued the country. Amongst other things, they discussed the implications of the changing political situation of Afghanistan. Nawaz Sharif may have legitimate grouses; however Bonapartism, praetorian and military adventurism is in any case indefensible and unacceptable. But at the same time, the military just cannot be kept completely out of the counsels in running the state. This is how the things all over the world, even in entrenched democracies are. Mian Nawaz Sharif is a sagacious person, and understands that the COAS is the right man to apprise him and advise him on security matters. The prime minister would do well to ask his party leaders and ministers to avoid unwarranted statements and remarks, as the conduct of present military leadership has comparatively remained apolitical. In his recent interview with a private TV channel, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali said that “there are people like General (r) Ahmed Shuja Pasha in the army, and we need to purge the army and its leadership of such people.” During PML-N second stint in the government with heavy mandate, it had developed differences with the judiciary and military, perhaps because of hawks in the party who created a situation that adversely impacted the relations between the pillars of the state. However, after Nawaz government was overthrown, some of them joined the bandwagon of the dictator Pervez Musharraf. One of them is a Senator, who heads the defence committee in the Senate now. He had suggested in Senate that our law enforcing agencies should learn from the experience of Sri Lanka to defeat terrorists. He conveniently forgot that Sri Lankan government had taken the terrorists head on with the unstinted support of the Parliament, and that the entire nation was on the same page. Nobody came out with polemics of ifs and buts like it is happening in Pakistan. Recently, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan triggered a debate in the Senate on the issue of civil-military relationship. He stated that terrorist attacks on Ziarat Residency and Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta were result of “serious security lapse” and “lack of coordination” between security and law enforcement agencies. He questioned as to how terrorists had managed to transport a huge quantity of explosives and arms in vehicles passing through a number of check-posts manned by the police, FC and even army personnel both in Ziarat and Quetta. We should remember that 9/11 had happened despite super power’s myriad intelligence agencies equipped with the most sophisticated equipment. Nevertheless, the US government had pondered over the reasons of the security lapses and came out with the strategy with the result that 9/11-like disaster did not happen again. The PML-N should come out of opposition mode, as it is the ruling party. Instead of publicly criticizing the law enforcing agencies, interior minister should discuss the matters with the prime minister, as military is under him, which means under the civilian control.
The antics of mainstream politicians in Pakistan no longer appear unique, just a more extreme version of some of their European and North American counterparts. The South Asians could, in fact, be regarded as pioneers, shamelessly and shamefully linking politics to big money long before the latest wave of globalization. Even amongst their own supporters, very few see them as defenders of noble causes or servants of the public good and, increasingly, they themselves no longer feel the need to adopt fictive ideologies. The baser instincts neversated financial appetites, ambition, power, bribes paid and received etc, are now regarded as normal. Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel, How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is deadly accurate in describing this mood. A would-be-tycoon has been advised by a civil servant how to meet and bribe a leading politician. He’s received while the great man is having lunch. In the words of the fictional do-it-yourself manual. ‘Your deal is concluded in an uncomplicated, if seemingly whimsical, fashion, the politician asking one of his henchmen for an opinion with a laugh and raised eyebrow, much as he might ask him to assess the desirability of a mid-priced prostitute. A number is thrown out. This is accepted by you with obsequious murmurs and bows of the head, precisely as you have been instructed to do by the bureaucrat. And that is that.’ Even the best fiction is hard pushed to compete with the realities of everyday life in Pakistan. The six months preceding the elections saw two factory fires in Karachi and Lahore with dozens of workers being burnt to death, without arousing more than token expressions of regret or any pledge that the winning party would introduce a tough new law. The poison effectively paralyses the lower and middle echelons of the judiciary, the police and the politicians. Earlier this year in March, Joseph Colony a Christian settlement of janitors in Lahore’s Badami Bagh, was attacked by a hard-core Muslim group calling itself ‘Lovers of the Prophet.’ The Lovers had been stoked by false
accusations of ‘blasphemy’, i.e. accusations that the Christians had defiled the name of Muhammad. The person accused was arrested. A depressed, demoralized and disoriented people seek solace in religion. In Pakistan this is taken advantage of my frauds and charlatans of allsorts. Inner ‘purification’ requires exterior measures such as targeting the ‘impure’ Muslims and members of other religions. Did any of this trouble the elected representatives of the people in the National or provincial parliaments? No. They were busy elsewhere. Let’s take just one example: the shenanigans of the Sind provincial Assembly where the Zardari party was and still is the single largest bloc representing the people. On the day preceding its dissolution prior to the general election campaign, the provincial government led by the PPPP ordered all the banks in Sind to remain open (it was a Saturday) so that money could be extracted. Longexpired projects were hurriedly revived and a number of dodgy deals were hurriedly voted through the chamber. Why they refrained from making the privileges hereditary remains a tiny mystery. Hence the desperation on the part of many to become a member of any of the existing five parliaments in the country. Membership of these august bodies will help them become what they are. And so it happened on 11 May 2013 that after being governed for five years by a party led by the filthy rich Asif Zardari, the country voted to replace him and his gang with the filthy rich Sharif brothers and their gang. Veterans of the NGO community hastily declared their loyalty to the new regime, praising democracy but in reality by their very actions only confirming that both sides of the coin are basically the same. Crooks and climbers, braggarts and boozers, swindlers and schemers, serial rapists rule the roost, regardless of which gang wins. In their local environments many of the parliamentarians appear as frightening and colorful figures: a land-grab or two here, a few abducted women, stolen properties, blackmail,
violence, bullying. In the National Assembly they become mediocrities, ignored by their patrons and barely able to comprehend the contents of a parliamentary bill crafted by civil servants and concerned mainly with making up for the five years that they were out of power and lost out on the money and land-grabbing stakes. The combined history of Zardari and the Sharifs as political entrepreneurs has been sketched in this journal often enough. So what is there to say about the general elections of May 2013? First, that the turnout was huge. 86 million people (60 percent of the electorate) voted. The Pakistan Muslim League (N), the vehicle currently licensed to the Sharifs, won convincingly with the help of a firstpast-the-post system whose distorting effects produce a truncated democracy. These was made available by a few ‘Independents’ voluntarily joining the largest party and additional security, if necessary, can easily be purchased for a modest price: some of the elected ‘Independents’, who usually auction themselves to the highest bidder when no party is close to an overall majority, now have little choice but to go with the winner who decides the price. Secondly, the Pakistan Peoples Party under Asif Zardari’s stewardship, long past its sell-by-date even before he took over, has been wiped out as national presence. It was humiliated in the country’s largest province the Punjab and is now effectively restricted to its home base in Sind, reducing a once hegemonic political force to the status of a provincial pawn. The reason for its fall is hardly a mystery. Thirdly there is the emergence of Imran Khan’s PTI as the second largest party in the country and the largest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The much- predicted political tsunami that he promised would sweep him to power never materialized. Clearly they believed that as businessmen themselves the brothers would end the power cuts that have destroyed many small businesses and made the lives of a majority of people even more miserable than usual. The only solution being touted is immediate privatization of the steel mills,
airlines, railways and power and the ending of food subsidies. Where immediate reforms are needed is in the tax system. The PTI had antagonized some of its supporters by doing deals with tried and tested failures: bandwagon careerists who joined thinking they would be on the winning side. Was it the MQM or a pair of their motorcycle executioners who acted without authority? We do not know and the MQM has denied the suggestion very strongly. They always do. If there is a difference between the defeated and the victors it is this: Zardari and gang enriched themselves and bullied and punished those who stood in their way or refused to empty bags of money regularly into the pig trough; the Sharif brothers insist that they have transcended the phase of the primitive accumulation of personal capital. Nawaz’s longish sojourn in Saudi Arabia as a guest of the state gave him to time to think of past mistakes and perhaps the proximity to Mecca helped a bit as well. It’s never easy running a government in a country torn by violence and fanaticism and smelling strongly of a rottenness that shows no sign of coming to an end. Shahbaz Sharif is busy wooing the generals and promising an easy relationship. Nawaz has said in public that he was toppled by a bad General (Musharraf) and not the army as a whole, the fiction being designed to secure a rapprochement without which friendly business ties with India will be difficult. The US favours the latter. Might they be willing to cease all drone attacks for a year to help the Sharifs in return for a smooth transition in Afghanistan after the withdrawal? And would the Army play ball in Baluchistan and stop their ‘destroy and dump the Baluch’ tactics in that province? Will the Saudis join in, use their money and religious standing to de-fang the Pakistani Taliban? All three questions are now being mooted. The commentariat is convinced that things can’t get worse. I hope so, but if they’re wrong it might be the fire next time with gravediggers in short supply. COUNTERPUNCH: TARIQ ALI IS THE AUTHOR OF THE OBAMA SYNDROME (VERSO).
The struggle for power in Saudi Arabia BY DAVID B. OTTAWAY With the reign of King Abdullah in its twilight, Saudi Arabia has become consumed with speculation about the future of the ruling alSaud brotherhood as it contends with an increasingly bloody Syrian civil war, a nuclear challenge from Iran, and doubts about U.S. steadfastness in the Middle East. Abdullah, who has been the dominant figure in Saudi politics since 1995, is in very frail health. The king, who is roughly 90 years old, has made no public appearances for almost four months, and left at the end of May for vacation in Morocco. He only cut his holiday short this past weekend, returning to Riyadh to attend to the fallout from the increasingly bloody civil war in Syria. Despite his age and frailty, Abdullah has been busy preparing the House of Saud for his departure from the political scene. He has appointed younger princes to key ministries and as governors to the most important provinces, made one half-brother a contender for the throne, sacked another, and weeded out the weakest aspirants among the younger alSaud princes. Such a sweeping shakeup of the staid ruling family has even included moves to make his own son a prime contender for the throne. The leadership turnover couldn't come at a more critical time for the kingdom. Saudi leaders have been deeply anxious about the waning of American leadership in the Middle
Burdening student’s shoulders
Through the esteemed columns of your newspaper, I wish to share my concern about the heavy school bags problem most children are facing. Being a student, I know what it feels like to carry huge and heavy bags that make every child like me bend down. Most of the time the weight of the bag is nearly a quarter of the student’s
East -- including the U.S. commitment to the kingdom's protection just as their confrontation with Iran is coming to a head. This Saudi-Iranian cold war is most evident in Syria, where Tehran strongly supports Bashar al-Assad's besieged regime and Riyadh is supporting the armed rebellion seeking to overthrow it. Meanwhile, King Abdullah's remaining energies have been focused on remaking the House of Saud's own leadership. The upheaval continued right up to his departure for Morocco: On May 27, Abdullah decreed that the Saudi Royal National Guard, a powerful military force that he commanded for decades, was to become a full-fledged ministry -- and that his son, Miteb, 61, would be the new minister. The whirlwind of new appointments has left Saudi citizens and veteran watchers of the House of Saud grasping for meaning in the king's zigzag maneuverings. It has also raised concerns about a destabilizing power struggle among the younger princes, and questions whether the process of king-making is about to change dramatically. But so far, the smart money is betting that he's preparing to hand the throne to one of his half-brothers, delaying the transfer of power to the "younger" generation as long as possible. Washington has good reason to look fondly on Mohammed: The prince is not only from the younger generation, but he was the architect of the highly successful Saudi
body weight. It is serious, yet an issue overlooked by the education and health authorities, heads of the school and teachers. Doctors are reporting serious spinal abnormalities in pupils, disfiguring postures and physical strain on students. This also includes me as I feel terribly exhausted after school, and I have a lot of back pain after carrying such a huge load. Health experts say that children are at risk of long-term and ultimately permanent damage, if they carry a load of more than 15 per cent of their body weight on their shoulders. I would be obliged if this letter spreads awareness of this serious topic in society as well as the school, health and education authorities. I also hope that appropriate measures will be taken on this issue. MS RAINA LALIT SHAH LAHORE
Don’t waste food As Ramadan is fast approaching I send out my wishes to everyone fasting during the holy month. Before we start
campaign in the mid-2000s to crush al Qaeda inside the kingdom. He also became a family hero after an audacious terrorist attack against him inside his own palace in August 2009, in which a suicide bomber gained a meetingwith the prince. But Prince Mohammed isn't seen as the likeliest candidate to become the next crown prince. Both Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman, 77, seem ambivalent about whether the time is ripe to pass power from their generation to the next. Now, however, only two of the sons of the kingdom's founder, Abdulaziz bin Saud, still appear viable. If that trend holds which it has for 81 years the Saudi "chattering class" gives a better-than-even chance that Prince Ahmed, the youngest of the powerful "Sudairi Seven" brothers at 71 years old, will emerge the winner. That would represent a remarkable turnaround for Ahmed: The king fired him as interior minister last November, after appointing him only five months earlier. However, Ahmed still retains much support within the fractious alSaud family, according to Saudis in both royal and diplomatic circles. Veteran Saudi watchers of the royal family believe that decision could come down to who lives longer King Abdullah, who has outlived two crown princes already, or the current heir, Salman. Rumors that the crown prince suffers from Alzheimer's are untrue, but there is no doubt that Salman has been slowed down considerably by age he is "certainly no longer
celebrating the holy month, I am writing this letter to remind everyone about the Dubai Municipality’s plea to reduce wastage of food. While all people, charity organisations, hotels and restaurants are planning iftar buffets, I humbly request everyone to not waste food. I feel sad that Ramadan nowadays has become a month for extravagance. I suggest that the iftar meals distributed outside mosques be delivered in packets so that people can use their leftovers at home. As there is hardly any time between iftar and the prayers, people cannot finish the food on their plates. Secondly, hotels hold a great responsibility and can help curb the wastage. Just shrugging their shoulders and shifting the responsibility to the customers is not responsible. Lastly, families that invite guests for iftar must remember that an excess display of food is not an indication of a good host, only the kind and welcoming gestures are. So please limit the food and its quantity. I hope my letter puts a thought in the minds of those who read it. In the end I hope you all reap
the Salman of yesterday," in the words of one Saudi who recently saw him, a judgment in which U.,S. officials concur. But if Salman does outlive Abdullah to become king, the thinking is that he will favor Ahmed because they are full brothers from the same tightly-knit Sudairi clan. Should Abdullah miraculously outlive the far younger Salman, he has put his half-brother Muqrin in line to move up the power chain to become the next crown prince. Saudis say Muqrin is clearly campaigning for the job through constant public appearances, designed to keep himself in the limelight. Miteb has also been keeping a high profile, but most Saudi watchers doubt the king is ready to upset the whole al-Saud family by naming him heir apparent -- a move that would constitute an unprecedented kingly power play. Abdullah's sweeping shakeup of the House of Saud's leadership hasn't been kind to the Sudairi clan. One of the king's first moves was at the Ministry of Defense and Civil Aviation, which had been the personal fiefdom of Prince Sultan, another of the Sudairi brothers, for 48 years. While minister, Sultan allegedly parlayed his grip over tens of billions of dollars in defense spending into a family fortune. But the king, in retrospect, clearly had other ideas. He also put another half-brother, Prince Salman, in charge of the Defense Ministry shortly before naming him crown prince last June, and authorized him to dismantle the Sultan family empire there.
fortunes of goodness out of this holy month. Please remember Ramadan is a month in which everyone tries to be a good human being by restraining desires. Wasting food that could feed the hungry defeats the purpose of goodness. Muhammad Aamir Islamabad
Era of social media I came across the Speak Your Mind debate on underage social media users and wanted to share an incident that took place in class last week. Being 13 years old, I am one of the few students in eighth grade who does not have a Facebook account. Recently, I overheard my friends having a conversation about who had the oldest ‘Facebook age’. One of them claimed that he lately turned 27 on facebook. I was surprised to know that they were using a fake date of birth just to have an account on a social networking website. That’s when I realised that the so-called ‘13-year-old’ age limit was pointless. The creators of Facebook have done their job by setting the
In another of his bold, unexpected strokes, King Abdullah sacked Khalid in April and replaced him with the little-known former head of the Royal Saudi Navy. This leaves the once powerful Sultan branch of the al-Saud family with just one top post, the General Directorate of Intelligence. Since last July, this has been in the hands of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the long-serving Saudi ambassador to Washington who had been the king's national security advisor. Choosing the next king of Saudi Arabia still remains a deeply personalized decision, made by the royals at the very upper echelons of the House of Saud. This tradition had seemed set to change dramatically after King Abdullah established in 2007 an Allegiance Council, made up of Abdulaziz's sons and grandsons, and gave the 35-member body the power to approve or reject the king's choice as heir apparent. It is a time of change for the risk-averse royals in Riyadh. In addition to the eventual handover of power to the next generation of Saudi princes and the struggle for Syria, the princes doubt whether Washington is still committed to the longstanding U.S.-Saudi security relationship. King Abdullah's moves in the next months and years will determine who leads Saudi Arabia and what sort of Middle East the kingdom must contend with for decades to come.
limitations, but they have no way to check the actual age of their users. Taken aback by the entire concept, I decided to go out and ask ten other random children about the same. Guess what? All ten of them also have Facebook accounts with a fake date of birth. These children have been on Facebook for over a year or two, meaning when they made an account they were only 10 or 11 years old. Additionally, in most cases, their parents were not aware of their accounts and those who were aware were not bothered. I believe the age limit is a must and students are exploiting it. There should be a way to stop them. MR. FARHAN ALVI ISLAMABAD
Pensioners and budget The Supreme Court had, in a judgment, ruled that the classifying of pension as old and new was permissible under the law and there is nothing un-Islamic about it. As a result of the decision, we have two
THE WRITER IS A FREELANCER
categories of pensioners, those who retired before May 1997 and those retiring thereafter. These two categories have been clubbed together and given a 10 per cent raise in pension. It is obvious that budgetmakers, led by Nawaz Sharif, in their profuse wisdom have treated both the classes at par insofar as the raise in pension is concerned despite the vast difference in their pensions. Nawaz Sharif treats those retiring after May 1997 as less superior to those in their loyalty, dedication and devotion. The near extinct species of old pensioners, who are discriminated against, also deserve sympathetic involvement of these who have displayed through magnanimous voting in reinstating the sacked/ sympathetic followers. It is pertinent to mention here that political affiliation have not brought any benefit for the discriminated oldies . SAMAN IQBAL LAHORE Please email your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them to our address in Islamabad.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
30 killed after bus plunges into Peru river
PERU: At least 30 people are dead as the bus they were traveling on skidded of the road and plunged off a ravine into a river in Central Peru. The bus had 52 passengers total, and at the moment, nine are missing, according to various reports. "So far, I have 30 confirmed dead, but the police are continuing to search for victims," local highway police chiefRodoricao Cubas Hurtado told ONE News. The bus was en route to Satipo when it dove off the cliff some 160 feet into the Tarma river below. The rescue operation was inhibited by torrential rainfall in the area and rough river waters. –AGENCIES
Obama commits to tough push on global warming WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama is planning a major push using executive powers to tackle the pollution blamed for global warming in an effort to make good on promises he made at the start of his second term. "We know we have to do more — and we will do more," Obama said Wednesday in Berlin. Obama's senior energy and climate adviser, Heather Zichal, said the plan would boost energy efficiency of appliances and buildings, plus expand renewable energy. She also said theEnvironmental Protection Agency was preparing to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate heat-trapping pollution from
coal-fired power plants. "The EPA has been working very hard on rules that focus specifically on greenhouse gases from the coal sector," Zichal said. Zichal, speaking at a forum hosted by The New Republic in Washington, said that none of the proposals would require new funding or action from Congress. It has shown no appetite for legislation that would put a price on carbon dioxide after a White House-backed bill to set up a marketbased system died in Obama's first term with Democrats in charge. The plan, with details expected to be made public in coming weeks, comes as Obama has been under
administration official, who wasn't authorized to comment on the plan by name, said the White House was still weighing it. But since the administration has already proposed action on future power plants, the law would likely compel it to eventually tackle the remaining plants, or it would be forced to through litigation. Obama's remarks in Berlin echoed comments he made in his State of the Union and inaugural speeches this year. "This is the global threat of our time," Obama said Wednesday. "And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a
increasing pressure from environmental groups and lawmakers from states harmed by Superstorm Sandy to cut pollution from existing power plants, the largest source of climate-altering gases. Several major environmental groups and states have threatened to sue the administration to force cuts to power plant emissions. And just last week, former Vice President Al Gore, a prominent climate activist and fellow Democrat, pointedly called on Obama to go beyond "great words" to "great actions." It was unclear whether the White House's plans would include controls on existing power plants. An
Somalia's al-Shabab militants in 'deadly feud'
China, Russia slam US human trafficking report
BRAVA: Heavy fighting has taken place between rival factions of Somalia's militant Islamist group al-Shabab near the key coastal town of Brava, witnesses say. Six militants, including two foreigners, were killed in the gun-battle at dawn, they told the BBC. Al-Shabab denied there had been any fighting within its ranks. If confirmed, these would be the first clashes between rival factions of the al-Qaeda linked group since its launched an insurgency in 2006. –AGENCIES
‘PNA to redeﬁne relations with Israel if Kerry fails’ RAMALLAH: The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) will redefine its relations with Israel if US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive peace talks between the two sides fail, a Palestinian official said Thursday. "The Palestinian side is drafting its strategic plan to act on the international level or in regard to the relations with the Israeli side," said Jamal Muhissen, a member of the Central Committee of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party. One of the measures the PNA may take is "stopping or minimizing security coordination" with Israel, Mussien said. –AGENCIES
Court refuses to hear appeal against Mubarak CAIRO: An Egyptian criminal court withdrew Thursday from hearing an appeal by the prosecution against a judicial decision to release ex-President Hosni Mubarak over investigations on charges of illicit gains, official MENA news agency reported. The withdrawal of North Cairo Criminal Court, presided over by Judge Mohamed Amer Gado, was based on a sense of "uneasiness" to review the appeal as the same court with the same presiding judge accepted a similar appeal in April and decided to continue Mubarak 's detention over the illicit gains case. –AGENCIES
Kuwait sets July 25 for parliamentary elections KUWAIT CITY: The Kuwaiti cabinet on Thursday decided to set July 25 as the date for holding the country's parliamentary elections, state-run KUNA news agency reported. "The cabinet, at an extraordinary meeting today, approved a draft decree inviting voters to choose the members of the parliament on July 25," Minister for Municipal Affairs, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah al-Sabah, said in a statement after the meeting. On Sunday, Kuwait's Constitutional Court decided to dissolve the National Assembly (parliament) and called for fresh elections. –AGENCIES
SAMEER N. YACOUB/ ADAM SCHRECK
People wear masks in the street in Singapore, June 20, 2013. Singapore's air pollution index soared to a record high on Thursday, pushed by the transboundary haze resulting from forest fifirres in neighboring Indonesia. —WIRE SERVICE
‘Third of women suffer domestic violence’ LONDON: About a third of women worldwide have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner, according to the first major review of violence against women. In a series of papers released on Thursday by the World Health Organization and others, experts estimated nearly 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner and that being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women. "Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions," WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement. WHO defined physical violence as being slapped, pushed, punched, choked or being attacked with a weapon. Sexual violence was defined as being physically forced to have sex, having sex because you were afraid of what your partner might do and being compelled to do something sexual that was humiliating or degrading. The report also examined rates of sexual violence against women by someone other than a partner and found about 7 percent of women worldwide had previously been a victim. In conjunction with the report, WHO issued guidelines for authorities to spot problems earlier and said all health workers should be trained to recognize when women may be at risk and how to respond appropriately. Globally, the WHO review found 30 percent of women are affected by domestic or sexual violence by a partner.
The report was based largely on studies from 1983 to 2010. According to the United Nations, more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. The rate of domestic violence against women was highest in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where 37 percent of women experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lifetime. The rate was 30 percent in Latin and South America and 23 percent in North America. In Europe and Asia, it was 25 percent. Some experts said screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care, such as obstetric clinics. "It's unlikely that someone would walk into an ER and disclose they've been assaulted," said Sheila Sprague of McMaster University in Canada, who has researched domestic violence in women at orthopedic clinics. She was not connected to the WHO report. "Over time, if women are coming into a fracture clinic or a pre-natal clinic, they may tell you they are suffering abuse if you ask," she said. For domestic violence figures, scientists analyzed information from 86 countries focusing on women over the age of 15. They also assessed studies from 56 countries on sexual violence by someone other than a partner, though they had no data from the Middle East. WHO experts then used modeling techniques to fill in the gaps and to come up with global estimates for the percentage of women who are victims of violence. –AGENCIES
New Palestinian PM offers resignation RAMALLAH: Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas just two weeks after taking office, an official in his press office told Reuters on Thursday. It was not immediately clear whether Abbas would accept the resignation by Hamdallah, an academic and political independent whose cabinet only met for the first time last week. The government source told Reuters that Hamdallah made the abrupt, unexpected move because of a "dispute over his powers". Hamdallah's cabinet consists overwhelmingly of members of the Fatah party led by Abbas, and political commentators immediately questioned how much room he would have to maneuver. His predecessor, Americaneducated economist Salam Fayyad, resigned in April after six years in power defined by tough economic challenges and rivalries with Fatah politicians, who were eager to get their hands on the levers of power. Since a brief civil war in 2007 between the Western-backed secular Fatah party and the Islamist group Hamas, Palestinians have had no functioning parliament or national elections. Abbas exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won 2006 legislative polls, has its own prime minister in the Gaza Strip. –AGENCIES
MOSCOW/BEIJING: Russia and China have reacted angrily after the US downgraded them in a report on efforts to fight human trafficking. Russia spoke of its "indignation". A Chinese official called the report an example of an "arbitrary judgement". The annual US Department of State report relegated Russia and China into its lowest category, which also includes Iran and North Korea. Uzbekistan also fell to Tier 3 in the report, published on Wednesday. The 21 countries in Tier 3 may face sanctions in areas including cultural and education programmes, and the US could withdraw its support for loans from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. "The very idea of raising this issue causes indignation," Russian foreign ministry human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement. It said the report had used "unacceptable methodology", grouping countries in terms of their friendliness with Washington. "In fighting organised crime, including countering trafficking, Russian authorities will never follow instructions worked out in another country, let alone fulfil conditions presented nearly in the form of an ultimatum," it added. In Beijing, foreign ministry
spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China attached "great importance to fighting all crimes of trafficking". "We believe that the US side should take an objective and impartial view of China's efforts and stop making unilateral or arbitrary judgements of China," she said. The US report said Russia had made "ad hoc" efforts to tackle trafficking, but that it "had not established any concrete system for the identification or care of trafficking victims, lacking any formal victim identification and referral mechanism". It said China had taken steps to raise awareness and work with international organisations, but drew attention to continuing cases of child and adult forced labour, and sex trafficking of women and girls. "Despite these modest signs of interest in anti-trafficking reforms, the Chinese government did not demonstrate significant efforts to comprehensively prohibit and punish all forms of trafficking and to prosecute traffickers," the report said. It said trafficking was "pronounced" among China's internal migrant population, and that the country's one-child policy had produced more boys than girls, fuelling demand for prostitution and foreign brides. –AGENCIES
Al-Qaeda gathering strength in Iraq’s north
L-QAEDA'S Iraq arm is gathering strength in the restive northern city of Mosul, ramping up its fundraising through ganglandstyle shakedowns and feeding off anti-government anger as it increasingly carries out attacks with impunity, according to residents and officials. It is a disturbing development for Iraq's third-largest city, one of the country's main gateways to Syria, as al-Qaeda in Iraq makes a push to establish itself as a dominant player among the rebels fighting to topple the Syrian regime. The show of force comes as Mosul residents cast ballots in delayed local elections Thursday that have been marred by intimidation bymilitants. AlQaeda's renewed muscle-flexing is evident in dollar terms too, with one Iraqi official estimating that militants are netting more than $1 million a month in the city through criminal business enterprises. Mosul and the surrounding countryside, from where al-Qaeda was never really routed, have emerged as major flashpoints in a wave of bloodshed that has killed nearly 2,000 Iraqis since the start of April — the
changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work." Some environmentalists who cheered those remarks when they were made months ago, criticized them Wednesday. "President Obama deserves praise for including climate change among the long-term threats facing us all," said Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clear Air Policy, an environmentally friendly think tank. "But he should do more than talk about the problem. The president needs to put the full force of his office behind new regulations that will truly curb greenhouse gas emissions. –AGENCIES
country's deadliest outbreak of violence in five years. Gunbattles have broken out between militants and security forces, and several candidates have been assassinated. Just since the start of last week, attackers in and around the city have unleashed a rapid-fire wave of five car bombs, tried to assassinate the provincial governor and killed another local politician and four other people in a suicide bombing. The violence increased as Thursday's elections approached in Ninevah and neighboring Anbar province. Iraqis elsewhere went to the polls in April, but the Baghdad government postponed voting in the two provinces, citing security concerns. Other Sunni militant groups, including Ansar al-Islam and the Army of the Men of the Naqshabandi Order, are also active in Ninevah. Mosul is the capital of the Sunni-dominated province. Al-Qaeda's growing power is particularly worrying because it is thought to be behind the bulk of the bombings across Iraq and because it is trying to assert itself as a player in neighboring Syria's civil war. The head of al-Qaeda's Iraq arm last week defied the terror network's central command by insisting that his unit would continue to lay claim to al-Qaeda operations in
Syria, too. "We're definitely concerned about it," said a US diplomat about the deteriorating security situation in Mosul. The diplomat, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record, said al-Qaeda's Iraq arm sees an opportunity to try to build support in the area and is "out blowing things up to show that the government can't protect and serve the people." Al-Qaeda's growing strength in Mosul is painfully clear to businessman Safwan al-Moussili. Traders like him say they are once again facing demands from militants to pay protection money or face grave consequences. Merchants say that practice had largely disappeared by the time American troops left in December 2011. "They tell us: 'Pay this amount.' And if it's higher than before, they say something like: 'You recently went to China and you imported these materials and you made such and such profits,'" he said. "It seems they know everything about us." Small-scale shop owners, goldsmiths, supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies are all being hit up for money these days. Al-Moussili and his fellow businessmen feel they have little choice but to pay up. About two months ago,
he recalls, one businessman refused to pay, and insurgents planted a bomb inside his shop that killed the man. "That forced everybody to pay, because we don't see the security forces doing anything to end this situation," he said. A Mosul food wholesaler, who referred to himself only by the nickname Abu Younis out of concern for his security, said he and other traders resumed paying $200-a-month kickbacks to al-Qaeda three months ago after finding threatening letters in the market hall where they operate. Al-Qaeda focused its operations in historically conservative Mosul following setbacks in Anbar province in 2006. It soon became the only major Iraqi city with a significant alQaeda presence. The US urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to focus his resources on Mosul to wipe out al-Qaeda and prevent the insurgents from reorganizing there. Instead, the government shifted resources at a key moment to crush alMaliki's armed Shiite rivals in the southern city of Basra, which prevented a decisive defeat of al-Qaeda. Over time, the militants, exploiting ethnic tensions in the Mosul area between Arabs and Kurds, were able to reinforce their position.
Michael Knights, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who closely follows regional security issues, said al-Qaeda in Iraq has long generated cash from businesses such as trucking and real estate, and through extortion of large firms such as mobile phone companies. "If they're extending their extortion back out to local traders, that indicates they've got better street control," he said. "It just shows they're able to operate in the urban neighborhoods and don't see a security force retaliation like they did two years ago. And they don't fear informants identifying them." Al-Qaeda is also enjoying increased sympathy in Mosul because of what alShimmari called the central government's "brutal and irresponsible" handling of Sunni protests that have raged for months against the Shiite-led administration in Baghdad. In March, security forces in Mosul opened fire on Sunni demonstrators demanding the release of a local tribal sheik who had been detained. At least one person was killed. Human Rights Watch recently urged Iraqi authorities to investigate allegations that federal police executed five people, including a 15-year-old boy, south of Mosul in early May. Residents discovered the bodies more than a week
later in the same area where the five were last seen being led away by federal police, according to the rights group. Maj. Gen. Mahdi al-Gharawi, the federal police 3rd Division commander who was named in the rights group's report, called the allegations baseless. He said the five were no longer in police custody at the time of their deaths. He blamed alQaeda for killing them in an effort to tarnish the image of the police. A lack of trust from the people, who fear both the militants and the security forces, is hindering authorities' fight against al-Qaeda and other militants, according to Iraqi officials. "The problem is that nobody in Mosul will come forward and complain" about al-Qaeda's increasing abuses, said a senior military intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss operational matters with reporters. He estimated that al-Qaeda is able to pull in between $1 million to $1.5 million from Mosul alone each month — a considerable amount in Iraq. "We want to catch these people redhanded, but the local government is not cooperating with the security forces," he complained.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
PTI, JI to fight jointly in Local Bodies polls PESHAWAR: Following developing a good working relationship at the level of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami decided to jointly go for local bodies election, media quoting party sources reported on Thursday. The insiders said that both of the parties have decided to make the alliance for the local bodies election against the Pakistan Muslim League-N. However, at this point it is not clear whether they will be going joint across the county or they will restrict themselves at the provincial level, where both have coalition government. Earlier, some differences have developed among PTI and JI in making of the government of KPK; however, following the patch up leaders of both of the parties are excited and pleased with each other. This pleasant working relationship has led leaders of both of the parties, having same opinion on drone attacks and terrorism, to fight against PML-N in local bodies polls. PML-N have made its feet strong in last few years in the most populous province, Punjab, as well Pakhtoon dominated KPK province making it a strong contender for winning mayors elections. Senior KPK leader Sirajul Haq while presenting budget 2013-14 for the province informed that a total of Rs. 1 billion had been set aside for holding of local bodies elections. The local bodies in KPK are likely to be held in next three months while Shahbaz Sharif led Punjab government has also announced to hold polls for local bodies as soon as possible. ONLINE
Teenage boy kills man in brazen revenge GUJRANWALA: A 14-year-old teenager Thursday shot dead a man accused of murdering his father in a brazen attack in the premises of Sessions Court, officials said. According to local police, the accused was brought to the session court for hearing of the murder case. On the occasion, the teenage boy was also present. The boy, a student of eighth grade, brought a pistol with him reportedly hidden in his bag. He fired several shots on the man to presumably take revenge of his father’s killing. The man was taken to the hospital but he succumbed to injuries. The police have taken the boy in custody. ONLINE
SMEDA to become a total paperless organization LAHORE: Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) is going to be completely transformed into a paperless organization within three months, according to a press release issued here on Thursday. A process to upgrade the information technology at SMEDA head office has been initiated, which will be completed within next three months. The hardware and software to be added up in this regard would enable the entire organization to process documentation within the organization through internet leaving no room for submission of hard copies around. A software-based Document Management System is being introduced for this purpose, which will provide all of the required facilities for scanning and forwarding the notes along with annexure for having approvals from the relevant competent authorities. Hence, the DMS will eliminate need of personal appearance of the staff before each other as well as the competent authorities for seeking approvals, which would be economical as well as time efficient. Similarly, the management has decided to introduce the facility of video conferencing first time in the organization, which will drastically reduce the heavy cost of TA&DA, which is incurred on movement of regional employees to attend the meetings to be held at head office and vice versa. ONLINE
Baloch poet escapes grenade attack, wife injured GWADAR: House of a Baloch poet was attacked with hand grenades in Gwadar distract of Balochistan province on Thursday. In the attack, Mubarak Qazi remained. Officials said that the miscreants hurled hand grenades on Mubarak’s residence located in Pasni, a medium-sized town and a fishing port in Gwadar district Thursday. Qazi, remained safe as he was not present in his home at the time of the blast, whereas his wife was injured. ONLINE
Militants blow up school HANGU: Miscreants blew up another school at Karbogha Sharif in the suburb of Hangu city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On the other hand, terrorists destroyed a house with remote control bomb; however, no casualty has been reported. Militants of the banned Tehreek-eTaliban have blown up hundreds of schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal belt in a decade. ONLINE
Punjab govt defends aid to Hafiz Saeed LAHORE: The Punjab government has justified its allocation of over Rs 61 million to the largest centre of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, saying the funds are needed to continue the services being provided to people by the facility. A spokesman of the Punjab government said it had taken administrative control of the welfare institutions being run by (the JuD) in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions. “There were two
purposes behind taking control of these institutions: one, no one from the (JuD) could continue its activities, and two, to ensure that local people might not be deprived of the facilities like dispensary, hospital and schools etc,” the spokesman said in a statement. The spokesman said the government had appointed an official as an administrator to ensure the provision of basic facilities to the local people. The government has been making these arrangements for these
institutions since the end of 2008, he said. The PML-N government in Punjab announced a grant-in-aid of Rs 61.35 million for the administrator of the JuD's Markaz at Muridkey in its budget for fiscal 2013-14. The allocation is listed on page 31 of the Punjab government's annual budget statement that has also been posted online. The budget also includes another allocation of Rs 350 million for a knowledge park at Muridkey and various other
development initiatives across Punjab. The spokesman clarified that the proposed knowledge park spread over 88 kanals has nothing to do with the JuD. “The proposed knowledge park has been planned as an independent developmental initiative and has no relevance with the (JuD)," he said. Though the spokesman referred to the JuD as a banned organisation, an assistant advocate general of Punjab told the Lahore High Court as far
back as October 2009 that there was no notification to establish that the JuD was a banned group. The assistant advocate general said the JuD was put under some restrictions after the UN Security Council passed a resolution but the organisation was not on the list of proscribed groups. The sources said a few months ago, JuD chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed held a convention at Markaz-e-Taiba that was largely attended by JuD activists. AGENCIES
Generators’ smoke can cause lung cancer, says doctor
Power outages force shopkeepers to use alternative
PESHAWAR: UNHCR sub offi fficce head Jacques Franquin visiting a stall during a ceremony on World Refugee Day. INP
Bilawal urges people to reiterate commitment to democracy KARACHI: Pakistan People’s Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has urged all democratic people to reiterate their commitment to the democratic values the late Benazir Bhutto stood and fought for. In his message on the eve of 60th birthday anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto falling on June 21, Bilawal congratulated the PPP workers and the people of Pakistan. He also urged them to pursue the mission and philosophy of the late PPP chairperson and uphold the democratic values she stood and fought for till she lost her life. He said the birthday celebrations this year coincide with yet another triumph of democracy as the nation has witnessed for the first time a
democratic transition in the country. "We are proud that a dream of her has come true," he said. Bilawal said that it was a measure of her commitment to democratic ideals that when the mandate of the people was stolen and the party had only 17 members in the National Assembly, Benazir Bhutto decided to pursue the path of democratic struggle. She strengthened the parliament through active participation and refused to listen to those, who wanted her to reject the parliament and adopt the path of agitation. Treading in her footsteps the party would play an active role in the opposition. This is a triumph of democracy and a reaffirmation by the party of the glorious democratic ideals pursued by
Benazir Bhutto, he said. “On this day, let us also rededicate ourselves to uphold the ideals of democracy and egalitarianism for which Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto stood for and even laid down her life,” he emphasised. Benazir Bhutto fought courageously against the militants and extremists bent upon forcing their ideological agenda on the people through brute force, he added. Bilawal Bhutto said that a few weeks before her assassination, she had advised the people to continue the fight against extremism, dictatorship, poverty and ignorance. “Following her footsteps, our democracy loving people will make Pakistan a country of moderation and pluralism where ballot and not bullet will determine the ultimate choice of the people,” he added. The late Bhutto lives in the hearts of the people, he said. "Let us on this occasion also remember all our martyrs. Our brave soldiers and members of law enforcing agencies have laid down their lives so that the nation lives in freedom and without fear. The martyrs of democracy have suffered incarceration, exile, torture and executions. We salute them all on this day," Bilawal said. APP
Not airing Imran’s speach undemocratic behaviour: PTI ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Thursday termed cutting off live transmission of the state-run PTV during Imran Khan’s speech in the National Assembly as undemocratic behaviour. PTI Central Information Secretary MNA Dr Shireen Mazari in an epistle to Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rasheed said that PTI Chairman Imran Khan addressed the parliament and it was a speech of immense national importance as was also acknowledged by the government benches. Therefore it was shocking and
disturbing to find that PTV, the only television channel allowed on the floor of the House, cut off live transmission of Khan's speech after about seven minutes – just when he began speaking on the critical national issue of terrorism. “This is not acceptable democratic behaviour and sends signals of a continuity of dictatorial practices of the past when PTV was used simply as a propaganda tool by the dictator and his cohorts. Why PMLN would follow in this tradition is inexplicable as they should have enough confidence in their mandate to govern
democratically,” she said. PTI is the second largest national party on the basis of votes cast in the elections and as such its leader's address should have been carried live on PTV so other channels could have taken the feed. “We find this a shameful act of censorship by the official media which deprived the nation from seeing and hearing PTI leader Imran Khan's speech live,” she said. “We would like an answer to our query of why this happened and whether it is part of the government's policy to deny proper coverage to national leaders,” she questioned. ONLINE
PESHAWAR: Unscheduled and prolonged power cuts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have forced shopkeepers to use power generators in the crowded markets here in the provincial metropolis, but its smoke and continuous noise can cause lung cancer and disturb spirit of tolerances. Talking to The Spokesman, Nauroz Khan, a cloth merchant at Shafi market in Saddar, said that due to unscheduled power outages they had to use generators. Continuous use of generator could cause noise pollution, which had badly affected their spirit of tolerance, he admitted. “Customers mostly visit those shops which have lights and that is the reason they use power generators,” stated another shopkeeper, Asif Iqbal. To a quarry he replied that due to heavy load-shading they could not use Ultimate Power Supply (UPS) because it did not store charge for long time and UPS also consuming more electricity. He said that expenditure of oil and gas for the generator was more than electricity bills. He appealed to the government to take concrete steps to overcome the prolong load shading and save their business from collapse due to massive power cuts.
Najam Sethi calls on Nawaz Sharif ISLAMABAD: Former caretaker Punjab chief minister and veteran journalist Najam Sethi Thursday called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM office. Sethi felicitated the prime minister on the assumption of his office as the chief executive of the country. The prime minister appreciated the role Sethi’s caretaker administration played in the holding of free, fair and transparent elections in the Punjab province. “Pakistan has achieved a democratic milestone by successfully effecting smooth transition of power from one civilian government to another,” said the prime minister. Talking to Sethi, Nawaz said that the government believes in an independent and vibrant media which should actively play its role for the promotion of national cohesion and good governance. ONLINE
Azad Kashmir presents Rs 55.68b budget
Govt increases development budget, prioritise education‚ health‚ hydropower and forests
MUZAFFARABAD: A tax free budget of over 55.680 billion rupees was presented in the Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly on Thursday. Finance Minister Latif Akbar informed the house that total outlay of the budget was 55.680 billion rupees. He said over 10.5 billion rupees have been earmarked for development projects. “An amount of 10,500.00 million rupee has been allocated for development sector with Rs 45,185.00 million recurrent budget for the coming fiscal year,” he informed the House. The development budget has been increased around nine percent for the next fiscal, compared to the financial year 2011-12. In his key note address, the minister said that the PPP government has presented a
well-balanced and public-friendly budget for the fiscal year 2013-14 of its five-year term, and almost all the sectors have been focused. He said the new budget provides solid foundation for the socio-economic uplift of the people by providing maximum facilities to them and accelerating pace of
developmental activities in the state. He said that the AJK government would generate 45 billion 18 cror and 50 lakh rupees from its own resources‚ while the remaining amount would be provided by the federal government. He said that their priorities were to improve and promote education‚ health‚ hydropower generation‚ forests‚ communication and agriculture sectors. The Finance minister said that work on 1836 different projects for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the quake-affected areas was also underway. These projects are being carried out with the help of Pakistan and international donor agencies at a cost of 250 billion rupees. ONLINE
Asad Ali, a customer, said that use of generators inside the narrow markets have also caused an increase in chest diseases, adding that costumers especially female were reluctant to go into the shops due to smoke and noise. “Noise and smoke not only harms visitors but also dangerous for the traders as they have to face it for several hours,” he said. Shakeela Hayat, a costumer, said that in past they (her family) were frequently used to come for shopping here at night because in day time they had to go to their offices but now due to heavy power cuts they felt irritation to visit these congested and narrow markets because of generator smoke and its loud noise. She added that mostly parents brought their children for shopping and the noise and smoke of generators were very dangerous for those children, adding that parents should not brought their children to those areas where smoke and noise could affect their health. Dr Naveed Khan, a medical specialist at the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH), said that most people were feeling uncomfortable due to noise pollution, adding that it affected their hearing power and could cause irritation, hypertension, high stress level, hearing loss, tinnitus, paralysis and sleep disorder. He said that smoke could cause lung and chest cancer too.
CMYK FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 2013
Jiah Khan died of hanging: Postmortem report
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is not just a sports ﬁlm: Rakeysh Mehra
NEW DELHI: Postmortem report of Jiah Khan has concluded that the Bollywood actress died due to hanging and no external injuries were found on her body, police said today. "The postmortem report has found that the death of Jiah Khan was due to hanging and no other external wounds were found," they said. Jiah (25) hanged herself at her residence in western Mumbai on June 3, allegedly over broken relationship with aspiring actor Suraj Pancholi, son of actor couple Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab. Police arrested Sooraj (21) and booked him on the charge of abetment to suicide following the incident. The actress' mother blamed Suraj for driving her daughter to suicide and later handed over a six-page letter, purportedly written by Jiah, to police, throwing light on the relationship between the two. The letter did not mention the person it is addressed to and narrates emotional travails of its writer. -SHOWBIZ DESK
MUMBAI:Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra says his upcoming film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is not just a sports film but shows the entire journey of legendary athlete Milkha Singh."It's not a film about a sportsperson or is a sports film. The film is about an Indian, the love for his country, the passion to make his country win a match. And it happened to be Milkha Singh," Mehra told reporters here at the trailer and music launch of the film. "Here is a boy who lost his family at the age of 12 but still he wanted to do something for his country. This human story attracted me, not the records, which were an added bonus," the director said. There were reports saying the film has been banned in Pakistan but Mehra said film will release in the neighbouring country. "We are the first people to get an invitation from Pakistan to showcase the film. The film will very much release there. In fact today only we got three offers from Pakistan on releasing the film," Mehra said. Starring Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor, the film is slated to release on July 12. -SHOWBIZ DESK
Yash Raj Films forays into south with Band Baaja Baaraat
NEW DELHI: Bollywood movie production giant Yash Raj Films (YRF) is geared up for its southern innings, which begins with the Tamil and Telugu remake of successful Hindi movie 'Band Baaja Baaraat'. Starring well-known southern actor Nani along with debutant Vani Kapoor in lead roles, the film is directed by Gokul Krishna and produced by Aditya Chopra. The untitled film went on floor end of May, and it has completed its first schedule in Chennai, said a statement from YRF. The next schedule will be conducted in Hyderabad and Mysore, starting early July. Padam Kumar, who heads the South operation of the company, is the creative producer of the project. "This is the first of many new ventures to come from YRF in regional content," Rafiq Gangjee, vice president (Marketing and Communications), YRF, said in a statement. The 'Band Baaja Baaraat' remake will be followed by not just other Tamil films, both from YRF's catalogue as well as new and original content, but also movies that are poised to break into other regional film markets of the south, added Gangjee. -SHOWBIZ DESK
Selena Gomez hanging out with Ed Sheeran
NEW YORK: Singer-actress Selena Gomez seems to have finally put an end to her relationship with Justin Bieber after she was spotted spending time with singer Ed Sheeran. The 20-year-old has been spending quality time with Sheeran, 22, according to a source, reported Us magazine. "They are hooking up. They met through Taylor Swift who is currently touring with Sheeran," said a source. Though Sheeran had earlier said he was single at the Much Music Video Awards, when pressed about the possibility of being fixed up with the pop star, Sheeran admitted, "I wouldn't complain. -SHOWBIZ DESK
Grand Masti set for August-end release
MUMBAI:After a hiatus of 9 years, the Masti team is back again with a sequel Grand Masti which promises to be bigger, funnier and dhamakedaar. It was the year of 2004 when Masti set a trend by presenting the hot topic of adultery in a new and refreshing light by giving a rip roaring insight into the lives of 3 married men having an extra marital affair to spice up their lives. Post completion of its shoot, Maruti International's Grand Masti has cleared the Indian Censor Board and is all set for an end August-early September release. Director Indra Kumar's laugh riot Grand Masti will see the trio Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi and Aftab Shivdasani once more on the big screen with their superb comic timing and funny antics and as many as 6 young fresh female faces in the lead. The cast comprises of Riteish Deshmukh, Vivek Oberoi, Aftab Shivdasani, Manjari Fadnis, Karishma Tanna, Sonalee Kulkarni, Kainaat Arora, Bruna Abdalah, Maryam Zakaria, Suresh Menon and Pradeep Rawat. -SHOWBIZ DESK
Bollywood has been kind: Ali Zafar
SHOWBIZ DESK MUMBAI: Pakistani actorsinger Ali Zafar, who has acted in Bollywood films like Chashme Buddoor, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and London Paris New
York, says the industry has been very kind to him. "Bollywood and its people have been very kind, loving and welcoming. I am happy that my work is getting appreciated. I am
delighted to work with good directors and actors," Ali told PTI. He believes that an actor should be flexible and versatile and not remain stuck in groove. "I want to do different kind of roles. For me the script of the film is very important, followed by who is backing it. Today, marketing the film in right way is also very important," Ali said, adding that he is devoted to his work. Ali has been roped in for Yash Raj Films (YRF) latest venture Kill Dil, being directed by Shaad Ali of Saathiya fame opposite actors Ranveer Singh and Parineeti Chopra in lead roles. The actor says he will be seen in a rugged avatar in the up coming movie. After Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, this is his second film YRF. Ali's other project is Aman Ki Asha also starring Yami Gautam of Vicky Donor fame. He is all praise for his co-star. "Yami is a delight to work with. She is a fabulous actress. In reality, she is a simple girl," the 33-year-old added.
Kanye happy to move in with Kim's family LONDON: Rapper Kanye West is reportedly happy to move in with Kim Kardashian's family while they adjust to parenthood. The 36-year-old is set to move in with his girlfriend's mother, Kris Jenner, as soon as she is able to leave hospital with their new baby daughter, who was born five weeks premature, reported Hollywood Life. "All that's going to happen is that the family is going to wait on Kim hand-and-foot and do everything around the house while she and Kanye just chill with the baby. That sounds like a deal. It's like first class service all the way at Kim's mom's house," a source said. The source also revealed that the couple, who are reportedly eager to tie the knot later this year, can't wait to bring their baby home. -SHOWBIZ DESK
Deepika Padukone to perform at IIFA awards MUMBAI:Deepika Padukone is all set to peform on her hit numbers like Tumhi ho bandho and Balam pichkaari at the upcoming 14th IIFA awards in Macau this July. The 27-year-old actress will set the stage ablaze by showcasing some of her signature moves from the recent hit songs like Angreezi beat, Tumhi ho bandho and Balam pichkaari. "Im thrilled to be performing at the IIFA this year. I will be performing to some of my favorite songs from my recent release Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Cocktail. This will also be my first visit to Macau and I hope my fans enjoy my performance," Deepika said in a statement here. The 14th edition of the Videocon DDB IIFA Weekend will be held in Macau from July 6. The awards have travelled to Macau for a second time after 2009. -SHOWBIZ DESK
MUMBAI: Tamil actor Dhanush and Sonam Kapoor pose at a promotional campaign of their upcoming film Raanjhanaa.
James Gandolﬁni dies in Italy PARIS: Triple Emmy Award-winning actor James Gandolfini, best known for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, has died aged 51. Gandolfini died after a suspected heart attack in Italy, where he was to attend the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. He was scheduled to participate in a festival event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino, reported TMZ Online. "It is with immense sorrow that we report our client James Gandolfini passed away today while on holiday in Rome, Italy. Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving," Gandolfini's management said in a statement. He is survived by his wife Deborah Lin and his son Michael, from his previous marriage with Marcy Wudarski. Gandolfini shot to fame playing a hitman in the 1993 hit True Romance and quickly became a Hollywood legend when he was cast as Tony Soprano in 1999. Actress Olivia Wilde, Steve Carell, Russell Crowe and Jonah Hill are some of the celebrities who are mourning the death of the actor Joseph R Gannascoli, his co-star on The Sopranos, said, "James is one guy who never turned his back on me. He was the most humble and gifted actor and person I have ever worked with. He was a great man and I will forever be indebted to him. -SHOWBIZ DESK
I will continue acting till I become the best: Sonam SHOWBIZ DESK
MUMBAI: Love has always been an integral part of her films and Sonam Kapoor says she chooses romantic movies because fairytale love stories don't exist in real life. The 28-year-old star's films Saawariya, I Hate Luv Storys, Mausam and upcoming Raanjhanaa - all have love as the common theme. "I believe in love a lot. I think these movies and novels have spoiled us and we will never find a good boy. We look at boys and think... Do they exist? So I think if I am not getting them in real life, at least, I can see them in reel life. That is why I am attracted to love stories," Sonam told PTI in an interview. "I like the heroic and unconditional love because I know such boys don't exist in real life and I am very idealistic and romantic. I want to live my life vicariously through these characters," Sonam added. In Raanjhanaa, slated to release this Friday, Sonam Kapoor plays a small town Muslim girl who falls in love with a Hindu Brahmin boy from her locality. Sonam Kapoor believes the audience would be able to relate to her character of a modern, independent girl. "Zoya is a Muslim girl from Banaras who is the only child of her professor father. She is very much loved and a lot of freedom has been given to her. The movie is about love but a more realistic one, with which people will be able to relate to," said the actress, who is also gearing up for the release of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag this July. Raanjhanaa
director Anand L Rai, who shot to fame with Tanu Weds Manu - is all praise for his lead heroine and believes Sonam has given her career's best performance.
Palestinians step up campaign for Gaza ‘Arab Idol’ star SHWOBIZ DESK GAZA: Palestinian fans and big business are rallying behind a 22year-old singer from the Gaza Strip in a final push to vote him the next "Arab Idol" in a TV talent contest choosing a winner in Beirut on Saturday. Mohammed Assaf is the first Palestinian to qualify for "Arab Idol", the Middle East's version of "American Idol", in which contestants perform for judges and voting viewers. His potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands have helped to turn the young man from Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp into a star and symbol of unity for Palestinians plagued by deep internal divisions. Voting in the pan-Arab competition is done through text
messages. To encourage support for Assaf, one of three finalists, two Palestinian cellular telephone companies have cut their rates for
ballots cast for him. The Bank of Palestine is throwing money into the campaign, promising to match up to 350,000 texted votes - each
one costs 1.50 shekels ($.40) - for Assaf. It has placed billboards with his picture at major intersections in Gaza and the West Bank. "Vote and the Bank of Palestine votes with you," says a radio and television commercial broadcast in the Palestinian territories, where Assaf 's songs blare constantly from vehicles. President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken to Assaf by phone and instructed Palestinian embassies abroad to urge expatriates to vote for him, calling the singer "the pride of the Palestinian and Arab nation". Abbas's main Palestinian rival, the Islamist group Hamas that rules Gaza, frowns on non-Islamic songs and the kind of Western-style glitz on full display in TV talent shows. But Hamas has tacitly endorsed Assaf, who has performed with a traditional black-and-white
Palestinian scarf around his shoulders, saying he is free to sing in the Gaza Strip and noting that he comes from a respected family. Egyptian Ahmed Jamal and a Syrian woman, Farah Youssef, are also finalists in the contest broadcast by the Saudi-owned MBC Group. To keep the votes for Assaf coming, the Palestinian cellular operator Jawwal is offering cash prizes of up to $10,000 for customers who text in the highest number of ballots. Some cafes in the West Bank city of Ramallah are offering to text a vote for every cup of coffee that customers order. "By voting for Assaf, we are voting for Palestine, for us," read a typical entry on his Facebook fan pages. Huge celebrations are likely on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza if he wins.