Saturday, November 13, 2010

DWS, Sunday 07 November to Saturday 13 November

                       D A W N W I R E S E R V I C E
                Sunday 07 November to Saturday 13 November
The DAWN Wire Service (DWS) is a free weekly news-service from Pakistan's largest English language newspaper, the daily DAWN. DWS offers news, analysis and features of particular interest to the Pakistani Community on the Internet. DWS is sent by e-mail every Saturday.
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                            C O N T E N T S
+ Tax bills enter parliament amid uproar
+ Spectacular ceremony launches Asian Games
+ RGST vote a teaser for Muttahida
+ Witnesses say some terrorists may have escaped
+ Prisoners' whereabouts: SC seeks agency chiefs' reply in Adiyala case
+ LJ behind CID terror attack, says Malik
+ Qureshi says India in UNSC to upset balance of power
+ PM urged to scrap decision: Lasbela land sale to foreigners criticised
+ Chinese PM to visit Pakistan next month
+ Hepatitis drug: notices issued
+ US panel calls for Pakistan membership of G-20
+ Water can take months to evaporate: EU
+ 1000kg explosives flatten CID building; at least 17 killed, over 100 injured: Bomb and gun attack rocks Karachi: Tehrik-i-Taliban claims responsibility
+ NA set to witness ruckus over RGST bill today
+ RGST, flood surcharge to harm economy: MQM
+ India not yet fully eligible to enter UNSC club: Qureshi
+ Minister asks critics to suggest alternative
+ Christian woman sentenced to death in blasphemy case
+ Drone attack kills eight
+ New body on accountability being set up
+ Speculators with sweet tooth bite deep for profit
+ Minister delayed funds for import
+ Taxpayers to pay surcharge; govt clears RGST
+ Centre-Punjab showdown feared: FIA to conduct sugar raids; hoarders given two days
+ Nawaz offers good rule recipe to Zardari
+ When Bush almost sent troops into Pakistan
+ Senate adopts bill for reinstating govt employees
+ Judicial panel likely for probe into breaches
+ Attacks on pipelines cost Rs382m: minister
+ Food prices increased considerably, says FAO
+ Musharraf on US president's visit to India: Kashmiris deserved Obama's attention
+ US hints at enhanced focus on lairs in Fata
+ PML-Q faces split over move for alliance with PPP
+ Devolved ministries: Centre to bear expenses till June
+ US endorsement of Indian bid for permanent UNSC membership: Pakistan concern conveyed to ambassador
+ Sugar barons' clout in govt blamed for crisis
+ Zulqarnain facing uncertain future
+ Both Pakistan and India have role in Afghanistan: US
+ Houbara hunting permits issued to Gulf dignitaries
+ Iqbal Day observed across country
+ Six killed in Balochistan
+ Karzai invites Gilani to Kabul
+ 'Heart' of Al Qaeda still in Pak-Afghan border area: US
+ KP varsities shut in protest against VC's abduction
+ Zulqarnain disappears in Dubai, emerges in London
+ National Assembly in shock: Two soldiers 'train' guns at minister
+ Millers, wholesalers to determine sugar price
+ Rehabilitation plan for flood-hit people approved
+ Punjab struggles to sell four-year BS degree
+ Power tariff has gone up by 95pc since March '08
+ 12 militants killed in 2US drone attacks
+ Many out there still long for Watan
+ Low-cost hepatitis drug stuck in official machination
+ RGST bill to be finalised by Nov 12, lenders assured
+ VC asks govt to accept captors' demands
+ Bush calls for increasing pressure on Pakistan
+ 4 policemen shot dead near Mastung
+ JC approves rules for judges' appointment: Minister hints at amending statute
+ Thousands pay their last respects to assassinated MQM leader
+ Guessing game feeding on govt's vulnerability
+ New dossier handed over to Indian official
+ Toll in Darra mosque attack rises to 68
+ 10 militants killed in Orakzai air strikes
+ Pakistan ready for tax reforms, says IMF
+ Pakistan-US team recovers 'PN asset' from sea
+ Award of $2.2bn hydel project: Govt considering bypassing rules to favour China firm
+ Karachi carnage
+ Balochistan troubles
+ VC's abduction
+ Double Shah scam
+ The sugar spiral
+ A delicate balance
+ Cricketer on the run
+ Party elections
+ Watan Card scheme
+ Need for stricter regime
+ Rules relaxation
+ Militant infighting
+ Gwadar conundrum
+ Haj accommodation scam
C O L U M N S / A R T I C L E S
+ Changing the status quo
+ Lies, damned lies and taxes
+ Is this education?
+ Diplomacy by flattery
+ A monumental voice
+ Oklahoma and Sharia law
+ Beyond our moral radar
+ It's good to learn
+ Why India's realty scam should interest Obama
+ View from US: A tale of two hackers
+ Funds for terror
+ Targeted killings
                        N A T I O N A L N E W S
13, Nov, 2010
Tax bills enter parliament amid uproar
By Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: Over noisy protests from the opposition and a slippery ally, the government on Friday brought to parliament two bills to bring promised general sales tax (GST) reforms and one-time levy of a so-called flood tax.
Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was barely audible amid hostile slogan-chanting when he read out his motions in the National Assembly introducing the General Sales Tax Bill and the Finance (Amendment) Bill, both of which must now go to the standing committee on finance for scrutiny before coming back to the house, probably next month, for approval to become laws.
The two bills were later introduced in the Senate to a milder protest by the MQM and JUI members in the absence of the opposition.
The introduction of the bills comes two days before a related meeting of the Pakistan Development Forum of international donors in Islamabad to consider Pakistan's needs for reconstruction in areas devastated by the country's worst flooding.
The sales tax reform -- for a uniform GST of 15 per cent on sales and purchases of goods compared to the present 17 to 25 per cent, but designed to bring additional revenues by doing away with exemptions -- is a precondition for aid to Pakistan by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both of which are also part of the forum that meets on Monday and Tuesday.
The second bill provides for a 10 per cent surcharge in income tax payable for the tax year 2011 and an increase in the rate of special excise duty to two per cent from one per cent with the aim, as said in its statement of objects and reasons, "to raise additional local resources to relieve pressure on the budget caused by extraordinary demands for expenditures" for the rehabilitation of flood-displaced people.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in a speech to the National Assembly in response to a multi-pronged tirade by opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, did not appear worried by his threat to block approval of what was described as "anti-people decisions" and asked the opposition to use their democratic right when the time came for a debate and vote on the two bills.
But it seems that the passage of the 60-page GST reform bill will particularly be an uphill task in the lower house if the PPP-led ruling coalition's ally MQM, which sounded more strident in protesting than the main opposition parties PML-N and PML-Q and has 25 members, refuses to vote for the measure, depriving the government of a simple majority in the 342-seat house.
However, parliamentary sources said the government could still manage to garner a majority with the support of independents mainly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), other smaller groups, and possibly from some members of the PML-Q, with which the PPP has already initiated a dialogue for cooperation.
The bitterness over the bills -- marked by their opponents rising in their seats with opposition members chanting "no, no" and MQM "nam-nihad GST namanzoor" (so-called GST unacceptable) -- was followed by a brief period of congeniality when the house unanimously passed a joint resolution voicing its "serious concern" over US President Barack Obama's recent endorsement of India's desire to get a permanent seat at the UN Security Council when it is reformed, before the house was prorogued by a presidential order after a 12-day session.
OILY HATCHET: The MQM attitude on Friday, including a speech by its parliamentary leader in the National Assembly and Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Farooq Sattar, who tried even to contradict the prime minister in his presence on a couple of points, made it clear the Karachi-based party's lawmakers had not buried an oily hatchet with the government even after ending their boycott of the house on return from burying an estranged party figure killed in London.
The MQM announced a boycott of the National Assembly on Nov 3, saying it would not return unless the latest high increases in domestic petroleum prices announced by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority were withdrawn.
But without such a withdrawal, and due to PPP leadership's persuasion, the party members returned to the house on Monday, two days after the burial of Imran Farooq, who was mysteriously killed in London in September.
The MQM has since continued protesting inside the house against the oil price increases but took its dissent to a new high by joining hands with the opposition against a bill which Mr Sattar said his party opposed firmly rather than having only reservations about it as earlier said by the prime minister. In another attempt to contradict Mr Gilani's statement that he had taken the unusual step of taking an accord with the IMF to his cabinet for approval, Mr Sattar said neither he nor his party's Minister for Shipping Babar Khan Ghauri remembered the matter was ever brought for a cabinet approval.
The prime minister said it was strange the opposition was opposing the GST reforms after these were unanimously approved and recommended by all the four provincial chief ministers at a recent meeting of the Council of Common Interests, which included PML-N's Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Chaudhry Nisar opposed the bill -- which he said must be withdrawn -- mainly on the ground the government had not taken the opposition into confidence beforehand on this as well as its "deals" with the IMF and warned that "with this style (of governance in vogue) we will not let anti-people decisions to be approved even if the 145 members of opposition were thrown out of the house".
The prime minister said his government gave due weight to the opposition leader's views and would not resort to any undemocratic method to get the new bills passed.
He said there was no need to quarrel over the matter now and asked the opposition to wait for the standing committee report and then "it will be for the house to accept or reject it" in the voting.
In another development, the prime minister said he had talked to some ministers as well as the chief of the army staff and the director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence about the opposition leader's claim on Monday that two soldiers had insulted a minister by stopping his car and pointing guns at him at a checkpoint near the parliament house and found out that no such incident had taken place.
"When no such incident has taken place… why should you unduly condemn an institution?" he asked.

13, Nov, 2010
Spectacular ceremony launches Asian Games
GUANGZHOU, Nov 12: The 16th Asian Games officially opened on Friday in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou with a 'breakthrough' ceremony that organisers hope will linger long in the memory.
In a departure from the standard openings, Guangzhou, China's third-biggest city, held the traditional curtain raiser on a boat-shaped island in the middle of the Pearl River instead of in a stadium.
The extravaganza ignited a huge security sweep to protect national leaders, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, with forces mounting a land, sea and air operation that brought parts of the city of over 10 million to a standstill.
Central to the water theme of the ceremony was a flotilla of 45 boats — representing each competing team — that sailed up the river before anchoring off Haixinsha island, where a packed grandstand eagerly awaited.
The 9.3km cruise saw each brightly lit float carry a landmark of the individual country or territory, as crowds on the embankment, many of them waving Chinese flags, cheered and clapped.
On a warm, clear night, the 610-metre Guangzhou Tower unleashed a volley of red fireworks before a People's Liberation Army brass band played a rousing rendition of the Chinese national anthem to kick off the spectacular. —AFP

13, Nov, 2010
RGST vote a teaser for Muttahida
By Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD: The main opposition PML-N and PML-Q are eyeing the possibility of blocking the passage of the reformed general sales tax (RGST) and flood surcharge in the National Assembly with the support of MQM, a coalition partner.
If the three parties stick to their stated position against the taxes, they can outvote the PPP. In the house of 342 members, the PML-N has 90, PML-Q 53 and MQM 25 — the combined strength being 168. The PPP has 126 members, its coalition partner ANP 13, MMA seven and PML-F five — totalling 151.
The government will need a simple majority of the members present in both houses of parliament to get the bill through.
Recently, when a government bill relating to reinstatement of sacked employees was presented, the PML-N staged a walkout but the law was approved by a majority of the remaining members in the house.
Therefore, if the opposition parties and the MQM decide to block the taxes they will have to ensure the presence of their members and participation in the voting.
"In the legislative business, absence is considered cooperation," a former secretary of the National Assembly said.
PML-Q's parliamentary leader Faisal Saleh Hayat told Dawn on Friday: "As of today, our party leadership is determined to prevent the approval of the RGST by the National Assembly."
He said PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had issued a statement rejecting the tax and the party had decided to oppose it in parliament.
"Definitely, we will work out our strategy to effectively stop this anti-people bill from becoming an act of parliament," Mr Hayat added.
MNA Dr Abdul Kadir Khanzada of the MQM, who along with his parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar had announced the party's opposition to the new taxes at a press conference, said in reply to a question: "We will vote against the bill."
He said the party's coordination committee would take up the matter in a few days. "However, as far as my understanding and Dr Sattar's statements are concerned, the party will not abstain but vote against the RGST."
However, sources at the prime minister's secretariat said the PPP was actively engaged with the MQM and hoped that the party which was in coalition at the centre and in Sindh would not oppose the bill.
An MQM delegation led by Dr Sattar has already held a couple of meetings with Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Shaikh and Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar.
"Issuing a statement for media consumption and real policy decisions are two different things," a government representative said.

13, Nov, 2010
Witnesses say some terrorists may have escaped
By S. Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Nov 12: The possibility that at least a few terrorists managed to escape from their bomb-and-gun attack scene on the CID Centre in Karachi on Thursday night has gained credence after several witnesses said that terrorists had another vehicle waiting for them besides the explosives-packed truck used in the devastating strike.
As many as 17 people were killed and over 100 injured in the attack.
Rescue workers retrieved the body of a nine-year-old girl from beneath the rubble on Friday morning. The girl's two paternal uncles are in police.
"A Shezore or a larger Mazda truck laden with explosives was used in the blast and terrorists used a Prado jeep, whose occupants first killed guards posted at the CID gate, clearing the way for the truck to enter the building," a senior police officer, summing up different witness accounts, told Dawn.
An investigator who didn't want to be named said witnesses' accounts suggested that terrorists had come to the CID Office through the Beaumont Road from the M.T. Khan Road. "There is a fair chance that some of the attackers might have escaped from the scene in the Prado jeep," an investigator told Dawn.
Relying on witnesses' accounts, investigators said the Prado first appeared on the scene and its occupants engaged guards posted at the CID offices.
Similarly, an occupant of the truck also came out and took part in the firing on the guards posted at the gate.
The footage of close circuit cameras installed at the Chief Minister House, two five-star hotels and at the PIDC traffic signal has been collected and is being examined.
A clip from the CCTV footage of a five-star hotel aired by a TV channel, showed a Shehzore truck pass through the area at 7:40pm. But investigators contested that this was not the vehicle used in the blast as the strike took place 40 minutes later at 8.20pm.
It could have been another truck passing through the area, another police official said.
Officials of different investigating agencies, including Special Investigation Group (SIG) of FIA, visited the crime scene on Friday morning to collect evidence.
FORENSIC EVIDENCE: The forensic evidence was badly spoiled by the onslaught of media personal and unconcerned people at the crime scene.
Moreover, officials of different law-enforcement agencies who visited the crime scene after the blast took away evidence along with them, forcing CID officials to request all agencies to return whatever piece of evidence they had picked up.
Sources at the Forensic Division told Dawn that they had not collected any evidence from the scene and all "we are doing are collection of remains of the vehicle used in the blast and verification of vehicles found at the crime scene".
Sources said that even spent casings of bullets could not be collected.
An FIR under the Anti-Terrorist Act was lodged with the Artillery Maidan Police Station on behalf of the state.
A special investigation team, headed by Additional CID IG Saud Mirza and comprising SSP CID Fayyaz Khan, SSP CID Omar Shahid and SSP Raja Omar Khattab, has been formed to investigate the attack.

13, Nov, 2010
Prisoners' whereabouts: SC seeks agency chiefs' reply in Adiyala case
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: Exasperated with repeatedly hearing from the attorney general words like "they (intelligence agencies) say they don't have them", the Supreme Court decided on Friday to directly ask heads of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Directorate of Intelligence Bureau (DIB) the whereabouts of 11 prisoners who went missing after their acquittal on terrorism charges.
"Issue notice to respondents to submit para-wise comments by Nov 25," ordered a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Ghulam Rabbani with an observation that the court should not be forced to take strict action.
Advocate Ilyas Siddiqui, the counsel of the petitioner, says the respondents in the petition are the chiefs of the ISI, MI and IB.
The court has taken up the petition moved by Attiqur Rehman and others against the alleged abduction from Rawalpindi Adiyala Jail of Dr Niaz Ahmed, Mazharul Haq, Shafiqur Rehman, Mohammad Aamir, Abdul Majid, Abdul Basit, Abdul Saboor, Shafique Ahmed, Said Arab, Gul Roze and Tehseenullah.
The issue became contentious when Punjab Chief Secretary said in a report at the last hearing that the prisoners had been taken into custody by intelligence agencies from the prison and Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq denied the claim.
The prisoners had been acquitted by trial courts in four terrorism cases, including charges under the Explosive Substance Act. On May 26 this year, the Lahore High Court upheld the trial court's decision to acquit the suspects in cases of a rocket attack on the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, firing of anti-aircraft shots at a plane carrying former President Pervez Musharraf and a suicide attack on a bus of an intelligence agency in Rawalpindi and at the main entrance of the GHQ.
To prevent their release, the District Coordination Officer (DCO) Imdadullah Wassal issued a detention order on April 8, 2010. After the expiry of that order a similar order was issued by Punjab's Home Secretary Shahid Khan.
These orders were challenged by the petitioners at the Rawalpindi Bench of the Lahore High Court which ordered them to approach the judicial commission on the missing people set up by the Supreme Court.
According to the petitioners, their relatives were abducted from Rawalpindi's Adiyala Jail and allegedly handed over to intelligence agencies after the high court ordered their release in May.
A case has also been registered in this regard.
Earlier, Adiyala Jail Superintendent Saeedullah Gondal and Deputy Superintendent Khalid Bashir were arrested from the apex court premises without any directive of the court.
At the outset of Friday's proceedings, the AG said he had again contacted the authorities concerned, including the ministry of interior, but they denied having any information about the suspects.
The chief justice observed that the court should not be compelled to take tough decisions saying evidence existed that the men were being held by agencies.
"The chief secretary is a reliable person. Think again or else things will get more complicated," the chief justice said.
The court also asked the AG to get a copy of the report submitted by the Punjab chief secretary from the Supreme Court Registrar.
The bench rejected a request made by the AG to hear in his chamber some agency officials who wanted to update him on the matter, and ordered the AG to submit a written statement in this regard.
"It is not appropriate being a judge to meet them in chamber," the chief justice said, adding that everyone should respect courts and avoid disharmony. It is the responsibility of the court to safeguard and ensure fundamental rights of the people guaranteed in the Constitution.

13, Nov, 2010
LJ behind CID terror attack, says Malik
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has accused the outlawed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) of carrying out the Karachi carnage on Thursday.
Talking to reporters outside the Parliament House on Friday, the minister said the CID Centre had been attacked by terrorists in retaliation for the arrest of their accomplices. An operation had been launched in Karachi against the banned organisation, Mr Malik added.
The CID had announced a day before the attack the arrest of seven militants belonging to Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
The arrested LJ men were wanted in cases of murder of several Shia doctors in Karachi.
Police on Friday night released sketches of two suspects allegedly involved in the attack on the CID Centre.

13, Nov, 2010
Qureshi says India in UNSC to upset balance of power
By Intikhab Hanif
LAHORE, Nov 12: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Friday that balance of power in the region would be disturbed if India became a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Referring to the US support to the Indian bid, he said Pakistan was of the firm view that any unilateral assistance not based on deep thinking would have a deep impact on the peace and stability of the region.
Talking to journalists at the airport, he said Pakistan was not opposing the Indian move for the sake of opposition. Rather it had reasons for doing so.
"Islamabad's opposition is in line with its stance regarding the expansion and reform of the UN," he said.
The minister said the expansion and reform involved a long and complicated process with groups of countries representing different regions having divergent views in this regard.
Mr Qureshi said the Italian foreign minister had also said at a joint press conference with him on Thursday that the Security Council could not be reformed by merely having more permanent members.
He also urged India to negotiate with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute.
Mr Qureshi said the issue had also been discussed with China and the two countries had similar views on the matter.

13, Nov, 2010
PM urged to scrap decision: Lasbela land sale to foreigners criticised
By Saleem Shahid
QUETTA, Nov 12: Balochistan Assembly Speaker Aslam Bhootani has accused the Prime Minister House of putting pressure on the provincial government to sell thousands of hectares of land in the coastal district of Lasbela to some Arab princes.
Addressing a press conference here on Friday, he said Balochistan was not a saleable commodity and its people would not allow anyone to sell their land.
"On the directives of PM House the provincial revenue department has prepared a summary for selling about 70,000 hectares of land to Arab princes for hunting," Mr Bhootani said.
He said the plan had been prepared without considering the apprehensions of the local people and, therefore, following public reaction Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has stopped the summary.
"The revenue department ignored even my reservations and apprehensions while sending the summary to the chief minister," he said.
Mr Bhootani said the land belonged to the people of Lasbela and no foreign national would be allowed to purchase it.
He said that the Balochistan government had earlier refused to give the same land to a federal security institution because local people's opposition.
"When we refused to sell this land to our own federal security institution how can we sell it to foreigners for hunting," he said, adding that local people had been living on the land for centuries and no one would be allowed to displace them.
Mr Bhootani expressed the hope that the provincial government would foil any attempt to deprive the local people of their land.
He said the chief minister had already expressed his anger over giving Gwadar Port to Singapore Port Authority and Reko Diq gold and copper project to foreign companies.
He said that it was true the Arab princes would be paying the price of the land one could ask that if someone wanted to "purchase the whole of Balochistan what would be our reaction?".
Mr Bhootani called upon Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to withdraw the decision about allotment of coastal land in the district.

13, Nov, 2010
Chinese PM to visit Pakistan next month
GUANGZHOU (China), Nov 12: Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will visit Pakistan next month to "deepen strategic cooperation" and establish a mechanism for formal and structured dialogue to ensure smooth and real time communication on all issues of common interest.
"We are looking forward to establishing contacts between leaderships of the two countries," Mr Jiabao said here during a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday.
Two rounds of talks were held -- first between top officials of the two countries and the second between the two leaders.
The meeting was attended by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Amad Khan, Ambassador Masood Khan, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah, Board of Investment Chairman Saleem Mandviwalla and president's spokesman Farhatullah Babar.
Mr Babar told reporters that the Chinese premier announced that the second instalment of commodity aid for the flood-affected people in Gilgit-Baltistan would be provided from next week.
China has donated $250 million for flood relief and reconstruction and has also provided assistance to people stranded in the upper Hunza-Attabad lake region.
President Zardari stressed the need for a currency swap agreement and making full use of the Pak-China free trade agreement for increasing bilateral trade to $15 billion. He called for Chinese investment in water and energy projects in Gilgit-Baltistan and Thar coal project in Sindh and for setting up a China-Pakistan energy corporation.
The president congratulated the Chinese premier and people on the successful opening of the 16th Asian Games. He said the Pakistan-China friendship was a symbol of peace and stability in the region.
Mr Zardari reiterated Pakistan's full support for China on issues relating to Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang and said the bilateral strategic cooperation was vital for defending common interests and combating forces of destabilisation. He praised Chinese assistance during the devastating floods in Pakistan.
"We have entered into the post-flood reconstruction phase and are mobilising our own resources, but we also need greater international assistance," he said.
The Chinese prime minister said: "Every visit of the president (Mr Zardari) has further deepened Pakistan-China cooperation".
President Zardari also met Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on the sidelines of the Asian Games.
The president stressed the need for early conclusion of a free trade agreement to explore true potential of trade between the two countries.—APP

13, Nov, 2010
Hepatitis drug: notices issued
By Mudassir Raja
RAWALPINDI, Nov 12: The Lahore High Court issued notices on Friday on a petition requesting that the health ministry be directed not to create hurdles in the production of a locally-produced hepatitis medicine.
Justice Sagheer Ahmed Qadri of LHC's Rawalpindi bench sought a written reply within two weeks from the secretaries of health and science and technology and the executive director of the Pakistan Medical Research Council on the petition filed by Advocate Batish Mehmood Tipu.
The lawyer contended that the low-cost interferon injections were not being used for treating poor hepatitis patients primarily because of official apathy.
"The petition has been filed in the public interest as there are about 12 million people suffering from hepatitis in Pakistan and the cost of imported interferon injections is too high," the petitioner said.
Citing press reports, he said a dose of local interferon cost Rs70 whereas the price of the imported medicine was Rs6,000 to Rs9,000.
The low-cost drug was produced following research work undertaken at the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology of the Centre of Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB) and the Allama Iqbal Medical College.
In 2008, the health ministry permitted production of 100,000 vials of interferon injection for clinical trials. But later some officials started creating hurdles and a proposal for indigenous production of interferon has since been pending with the ministry.
Vials of locally produced interferon injection have been stored below 4 degrees centigrade in the CAMB.
The petitioner said 100,000 injections produced a couple of years ago would expire in December.
He requested the court to order health ministry officials to allow the production of the low-cost medicine and arrange its provision to poor patients.

13, Nov, 2010
US panel calls for Pakistan membership of G-20
By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON, Nov 12: The United States should seek Pakistan's membership – or at least observer status – in major international forums, such as the Group of Twenty, a US task force recommended on Friday.
The panel – led by Richard Armitage and Samuel Berger, top aides to former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – notes that Pakistan's presence in such groups would enable it "to connect with new power structures and familiarise it with emerging norms and responsible international behaviour".
In a report released on Friday, the task force, which enjoys support of the administration, endorses the Obama administration's effort to cultivate cooperation with Pakistan as the best way to "secure vital US interests in the short, medium, and long run".
It recommends that this approach should include significant investments in Pakistan's own stability, particularly after this summer's floods. But in order for US assistance to be effective over the long-term, Washington must make clear that it "expects Pakistan to make a sustained effort to undermine Pakistan-based terrorist organisations and their sympathisers." The task force warns that "two realistic scenarios" could force a fundamental reassessment of US strategy and policy.
First, it is possible that Pakistan-based terrorists conduct a large-scale attack on the United States and that the Pakistani government – for any number of reasons – refuses to take adequate action against the perpetrators. In the aftermath of a traumatic terrorist attack, it would be impossible for US leaders to accept Pakistani inaction. The United States most likely would launch a targeted strike on Pakistani territory led by Special Forces raids or aerial attacks on suspected terrorist compounds. Even limited US military action would provoke a strong backlash among Pakistanis. Public anger in both countries would open a rift between Washington and Islamabad.
In a second scenario, Washington could reach the conclusion that Pakistan is unwilling to improve its cooperation on US counter-terrorism priorities. The panel warns that frustration over Pakistan's persistent relationships with groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban at some point could cause the United States to shift its approach towards Pakistan.
In this case, Washington will have a number of points of leverage with Pakistan. It could curtail civilian and military assistance. It could also work bilaterally and through international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the UN, to sanction and isolate Pakistan.
US operations against Pakistan-based terrorist groups could be expanded and intensified.
In the region, the United States could pursue closer ties with India at Pakistan's expense.
"Sticks would be directed against Pakistan-based terrorists, but also against the Pakistani state, in an effort to alter its policies. The US-Pakistan relationship would become openly adversarial."
But the panel warns that "Americans and Pakistanis must understand that these options carry heavy risks and costs. Both sides have a great deal to lose".

13, Nov, 2010
Water can take months to evaporate: EU
ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: A senior EU aid official warned on Friday that floodwaters could linger up to another six months in Pakistan, where he said the magnitude of the crisis meant people were still going without aid.
"There is nearly water everywhere," Peter Zangl, the director-general of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, told reportrs here after a five-day visit to Pakistan.
"The only perspective of getting rid of the water is evaporation. Depending on depth and climate conditions, this will take between two and six months," Mr Zangl said.—AFP

12, Nov, 2010
1000kg explosives flatten CID building; at least 17 killed, over 100 injured: Bomb and gun attack rocks Karachi: Tehrik-i-Taliban claims responsibility
By S. Raza Hassan
KARACHI, Nov 11: At least 17 people were killed and over 100 injured in a massive bombing that was preceded by a shootout and grenade attack at the Crime Investigation Department (CID) offices in Civil Lines on Thursday night.
Among the dead was a woman from an adjoining neighbourhood, policemen posted in the CID and some personnel of the Frontier Constabulary deployed at a security post at the entrance of the offices located on the Beaumont Road.
The blast took place at around 8.20pm in what is supposed to be a most secure area of the city, at a walking distance from the Chief Minister's House and two five-star hotels located on the Club Road.
Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, who was among the first to reach the scene, said that the blast bore resemblance to Islamabad's Marriott hotel blast of 2008.
Soon after the blast, the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility.
"Five or six attackers took out the guards present at the main entrance of the CID offices. One of them went inside the raised barrier and opened the gate. Meanwhile, policemen who were in the building opened retaliatory fire and the attackers rammed an explosives-laden truck of medium size into the second gate of the building," a CID official told Dawn.
The structure, especially residential quarters located across the road and around the CID offices, were also razed to the ground by the impact of the blast, killing and wounding many residents.
The blast left a crater over 15 feet deep and 30 feet across.
"I ran for safety inside the offices after hearing what appeared to be a shootout between two sides. It lasted 10 to 15 minutes, during which a small explosion also took place, and was followed by a massive blast", said Abdul Razzaq, a labourer who was doing a paint job at the home of SP Naeem Shaikh, which caved in after the explosion.
A mosque located inside the premises of the offices was badly damaged.
An official of the Special Investigation Group (SIG) said the quantity of explosives used in the blast was less than that used in the blast in Islamabad on Sept 20, 2008, but more than the Lahore blast of May 27 last year.
He estimated about 1,000kgs of explosives were packed into the truck.
He said the vehicle used in the attack could carry a maximum of 2,000kgs of load, but the explosives must have been camouflaged.
SSP Raja Umar Khattab, citing initial information, said the attackers had used a Shezore pick-up. He said there was no restriction on movement of such truck at the place because a multi-storey building was being constructed in front of the CID offices.
A CID officer, who didn't want to be named, said a lock-up had been damaged, but there was no suspect in it at the time.
Saddar SSP Javed Akbar Riaz told Dawn that the attackers might have used the M.T. Khan Road and turned towards the Beaumont Road leading to the CID offices, to avoid the PIDC traffic signal.
CCTV footage from cameras installed at the traffic intersection was being analysed to spot any suspect vehicle, the officer said.
Investigators also found a chassis number, of a pick-up, from the scene.
Two bodies were recovered from the debris several hours after the blast when heavy machinery was employed.
The shockwave created by the explosion was so severe that the Met Office recorded a jolt measuring 1.3 on the Richter scale at 8.20pm.
Only a day earlier, the CID had disclosed the arrest of seven militants belonging to the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
"The men were involved in the murder of several Shia doctors in the city," SSP Aslam Khan told journalists.
Citing initial interrogation of the suspects, he said they were planning to carry out bombings on a procession of the community in the city.
Karachi has seen a number of attacks since a Muharram procession was bombed on Dec 28 last year.
Another team of the CID police had also arrested a wanted militant in the city.
Iqbal Khan is said to hail from Bajaur, where he was affiliated with the TTP.
Police officials said he was involved in the killings of security personnel and the bombing of army convoys in the tribal region.

12, Nov, 2010
NA set to witness ruckus over RGST bill today
By Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: The National Assembly is set to witness a ruckus on the last day of its regular session on Friday as the PPP-led coalition government has decided to present the Reformed General Sales Tax Bill 2010 amid warnings from the opposition vowing to block its passage.
The introduction of the bill is the first item of the legislative agenda issued for the Friday session. Interestingly, there is no indication that the government also intends to introduce a separate bill on the 15-point agenda of the assembly for imposition of a 10 per cent flood surcharge and one per cent increase in the special excise duty, a government official told Dawn on Thursday.
But a source in the Federal Board of Revenue said the government would also introduce the bill on flood surcharge and special excise duty at the same time. "Under a commitment with the IMF, the bills need to be presented in the Friday session," he added.
The government has assured the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that it will introduce the two bills in the assembly by Nov 12. Officials of the IMF are scheduled to arrive here on Saturday for a meeting on the sidelines of the Pakistan Development Forum slated for Nov 14 and 15. Both the houses of parliament are scheduled to be prorogued on Friday. As per rules, the bill will be sent to the committee on finance for discussion. It must return the bill back to parliament within 60 days.
According to the provisional calendar for the National Assembly, its next regular session is due on Dec 20. The Senate will meet on January 3.
This means that if the two bills -- flood tax and excise duty -- are not presented on Friday, the government will have to call a special session next month for approval of the bills for implementation from the next year.
According to the government official, RGST bill will introduce a broad-based tax on sales and purchase of goods and services across the country. However, the bill will only apply to those services specified by the provinces for the purpose of sales tax. The bill will be extended to other services as soon as the provinces agreed on the mode of collection and other services to be brought under the tax net. The proposed bill also seeks withdrawal of GST exemptions on pesticides, fertilisers, tractors and pharmaceutical products, except for life-saving drugs.
The major problems for the government will begin on Friday even if the act of tabling the bills pacifies the IMF delegation.
Except for the Awami National Party, no other parties -- coalition partners and opposition -- are willing to support the new taxation measures. Since the announcement of taxes on Wednesday, several parties have been up in arms. This may put an end to the so-called era of reconciliation.
Ahsan Iqbal, a PML-N spokesman, said his party would oppose the government's move to impose new taxes on an already burdened nation. The government should first demonstrate the political will and reduce its non-development expenditures and size of the cabinet. "Imposition of additional taxes to minimise deficit is not the answer. It will be the cruellest thing to do with the masses," he said. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a government ally, described the RGST and flood surcharge as a "last nail in the coffin" of the national economy.
MQM leader Farooq Sattar said the government had assured the party that it would review its decision on the new taxes.
Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said that RGST was aimed at expanding the coverage of taxation system and it would not affect the common man.
The government has announced the mid-year taxation measures to raise revenue required for financing the budget deficit, caused by rising debt services and defence-related expenditures.
The taxation measures of over Rs65 billion were approved by the federal cabinet on Wednesday. The government expects to yield over Rs40 billion from flood surcharge and special excise duty on luxury items.
The rate of GST on sugar will be revised to 15 per cent from the current eight per cent. The tax on telecommunication will come down to 15 per cent from the existing 19.5 per cent.
The proposed bill seeks a reduction in the GST rate to 15 per cent from 17 per cent, doing away with multiple rates, increasing the retailers' exemption threshold from Rs5 million to Rs7.5 million and expanding the narrow tax base.

12, Nov, 2010
RGST, flood surcharge to harm economy: MQM
By Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: The Muttahida Quami Movement stepped up its opposition to the Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and flood surcharge on Thursday, terming the measures the last nail in the coffin of national economy.
Addressing a press conference at the National Press Club here, Dr Farooq Sattar, the MQM's parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, accused mill-owners who belonged to both treasury and opposition benches for creating artificial shortage of sugar in the country and called for strict action against them.
He said if the government didn't take concrete measures within three days to control sugar crisis, the party would launch a countrywide campaign against the price hike.
"Over 90 per cent sugar mills of the country belong to landlords, industrialists and politicians who control the commodity. It is quite surprising to see these owners shedding proverbial crocodile tears in the house for the poor people of Pakistan," Mr Sattar said.
"One should ask the main opposition party, the PML-N, why its leaders are silent over the sugar crisis in the country," Mr Sattar said, adding that everyone knew that a PML-N leader owned about 10 sugar mills. He didn't name the PML-N leader, but said that everyone knew who he was.
Referring to a meeting an MQM delegation had held with federal finance and petroleum ministers, he said the government had assured the party it would review its decision on the RGST and flood tax.
However, Mr Sattar who himself is a federal minister, said in case the government went ahead with its plan, the MQM would oppose the move both within and outside the house with full force.
Asked if the MQM would leave the coalition in case the government didn't change its position, Mr Sattar said that while remaining in the government, the MQM would oppose the move and if it was put to the vote, it would definitely go against it.
The MQM's 25 votes in the National Assembly did not matter much, the thing which mattered, was its unequivocal stand on any given issue, he said.
He said the party believed that the new measures would push the inflation rate further up and result in almost 100 per cent price hike and therefore, it would never support them. Instead of introducing reformed tax, he said, the government needed to reform PIA, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Steel and other public sector entities, which were eating up over Rs400 billion a year, he said. The government should also put in order the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) which miserably failed in implementing the GST, and is now thoughtlessly calling for the RGST, the MQM minister said.

12, Nov, 2010
India not yet fully eligible to enter UNSC club: Qureshi
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday that despite the US support India needed to cover a lot of ground before realising its ambition of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini, Mr Qureshi used Persian phrase 'Hanuz Dilli Door Ast' (Delhi is still far away) in response to a question about the expansion of Security Council and the American support for the Indian bid.
The phrase attributed to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was about Ghiasuddin Tughlak's arrogance who was trying to conquer Delhi, but died before fulfilling his ambition.
Mr Qureshi used the phrase to say that Islamabad was not really concerned about Delhi strengthening its credentials for permanent UNSC seat, even though past few days have seen strongly worded statements from the Foreign Office and federal cabinet denouncing the American statement of support.
Pakistan's confidence about India's membership not becoming a reality in immediate future is based on the fact that Security Council expansion is a long and complicated process.
The first step is to get a framework resolution through the General Assembly by a two-thirds vote, without specifying candidates. The second would be to name candidates for permanent seats. Finally, a ratification by national legislatures of member states will be needed to amend the UN Charter.
The foreign minister said Pakistan desired a "comprehensive, democratic and representative" expansion of the Security Council. He hinted that President Asif Ali Zardari, who left for China on Thursday to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Asian Games, would also discuss the matter with the Chinese leadership.
Pakistan has been opposing the Indian bid on the grounds that India's elevation to the UNSC will affect regional peace and stability because Delhi is yet to address some of the disputes, central among which is the Kashmir issue.
Italian Foreign Minister Frattini said his country believed that reform of the Security Council could not be achieved by having more permanent members.
Mr Frattini urged India to hold dialogue with Pakistan on the Kashmir dispute.
He said he had during his stay in Pakistan raised the issue of alleged abuse of blasphemy law against religious minorities.
He said Italy was offering 81 million euros in aid, but for that Pakistan needed to identify priorities for utilisation.

12, Nov, 2010
Minister asks critics to suggest alternative
By Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar has shrugged off calls for providing relief to the masses by reversing the increase in prices of petroleum products, saying that those advising to give subsidies must also come out with plans to bridge the resource gap.
"Let's talk about something which makes sense," she said in the Senate on Thursday while winding up a discussion on the state of economy in the wake of devastating floods.
The PML-N, PML-Q and Jamaat-i-Islami have announced a boycott of the entire session in protest against what they called the bulldozing of the government employees' reinstatement bill by the PPP after ignor-ing opposition's demand to refer it to the standing committee.
Ms Khar said the floods-affected people were being provided cash assistance of Rs20,000 and each family would be paid an additional Rs80,000.
She said the cash assistance and compensation would require an additional Rs160 billion to Rs200 billion.
She said 26 countries and organisations wanted to help Pakistan and they had been requested to provide additional assistance and ensure quick disbursement for reconstruction to be carried out through the state structure.
The Reformed General Sales Tax applicable only to value-added items will generate Rs20-22 billion per year. The proposed flood surcharge will be paid by people with a specific minimum income and will be 10 per cent of the income tax paid.
The salaried group contributes Rs35 billion to the total taxes of Rs500 billion.
She urged the critics of monetary policies not to indulge in point scoring at such a difficult time and come up with concrete proposals for resource mobilisation.
The issue of allotment of accommodation to a lawmaker in the parliament lodges dominated the proceedings with most of the members criticising Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan for raising the issue in the lower house without ascertaining the facts.

12, Nov, 2010
Christian woman sentenced to death in blasphemy case
LAHORE, Nov 11: A Christian mother of five has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, the first such conviction of a woman, sparking protests from rights groups on Thursday.
Asia Bibi, 45, was handed down the death sentence by a court in Nankana district in central Punjab on Monday.
Pakistan has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy. Ms Asia's case dates back to June 2009 when she was asked to fetch water while out working in the fields. But a group of Muslim women labourers objected, saying that as a non-Muslim she should not touch the water bowl.
A few days later the women went to a local cleric and alleged that Ms Asia made derogatory remarks about the Prophet (peace be upon him). The cleric went to police, who opened an investigation.
Ms Asia was arrested in Ittanwalai village and prosecuted under Section 295-C of the PPC, which carries the death penalty.
Husband Ashiq Masih, 51, said he would appeal her death sentence.
Human rights activists want the controversial legislation repealed, saying it was exploited for personal enmity and encourages extremism.
"The blasphemy law is absolutely obscene and it needs to be repealed in totality," Human Rights Watch spokesman Ali Dayan Hasan said. —AFP

12, Nov, 2010
Drone attack kills eight
MIRAMSHAH, Nov 11: Eight people were killed and five injured when US drones fired eight missiles into a house in North Waziristan's Gulikhel area near the Afghan border on Thursday.
Sources said that a group of unidentified people removed the bodies and the injured from the area immediately after the attack.
AFP adds: The deceased were returning from a militant bastion in Afghanistan, security officials said.
The missiles targeted the group when they were about 12km from Miramshah. "Several unmanned US aircraft fired six missiles targeting militants in Gulikhel village," the official said. —Correspondent

12, Nov, 2010
New body on accountability being set up
ISLAMABAD, Nov 11: Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Thursday announced the establishment of a new anti-corruption body empowered to take action against any government employee indulging in wrongdoing.
On Nov 1, the minister had declared that an anti-corruption campaign would be launched in the departments working under his ministry. However, at a meeting on Thursday he said a new body would be set up with powers to take action against employees of any of the government departments.
Mr Malik said the body would comprise chief secretaries of the four provinces and representatives of NAB and the intelligence agencies. The organisation would be looking into complaints by citizens.
He said in the first phase of the anti-corruption drive, complaints regarding departments engaged in public dealing would be taken up.—Syed Irfan Raza

12, Nov, 2010
Speculators with sweet tooth bite deep for profit
By Nasir Jamal
LAHORE, Nov 11: Speculators and hoarders are estimated to have made profits of around Rs270 million in just one day, on Nov 5, when the wholesale sugar prices soared to Rs106 a kilo -- up by Rs23 from Rs83 on Oct 28.
The calculation is based on estimates that about 11.7 million kilograms of sugar is consumed in the country every day by domestic consumers and the industry. The sale of the commodity fetched Rs968 million on Oct 28 while on Nov 5 the amount jumped to Rs1.24 billion.
The consumers, however, were forced to pay a lot more than that because retail prices fluctuated between Rs110 and Rs125 in different parts of the country, while the federal and provincial governments sat pretty.
"The sugar mafia has made billions since the prices began surging from Oct 28," Asghar Butt, a wholesale dealer in Lahore, told Dawn on Thursday.
In Mr Butt's definition, the "sugar mafia" includes "everyone from powerful politician millers to wholesale dealers to speculators to stock-holders to retailers".
"Leaders in the government and the opposition own or have stakes in at least 30 sugar mills out of the 81 in the country. These politicians include Asif Zardari, Jehangir Tarin, Humanyun Akhtar Khan and Dr Fehmida Mirza," he said.
"How can you expect any government to take any decision beneficial for the consumers in such a situation?," Mr Butt wondered, referring to the federal government's failure to import the sweetener in time to bridge the gap between the annual demand of about 4.3 million tons and domestic supply of 3.1 million tons.
Domestic sugar prices in the wholesale market rose from Rs57.2 a kilo on June 5 to Rs83 on Oct 28 before peaking to an all-time high of Rs106 as millers exhausted their stocks towards the end of last month and the government failed to release the state reserves in the market to stabilise the prices.
The provincial governments also looked the other way instead of taking action to force speculators and hoarders to bring out their stocks.
"You cannot blame anyone for taking advantage of the gaps created in the market by short supply. It happens everywhere. That's why governments maintain buffer, or strategic reserves, to fill these gaps," a miller from south Punjab said.
"We had warned the government about the possible shortage of sugar even at the start of the last harvest in November/December 2009. The government did not do anything even when global prices crashed to $400 a ton in May from a peak of $760 in February," Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan, a leading sugar producer, said.
According to Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) chairman Javed Kayani: "Such crises erupt only when the demand and supply equation gets disturbed. The government could have easily avoided this embarrassment if it had heeded PSMA's warnings and imported sufficient quantities of the commodity in time," he said.
With the global sugar prices hitting new records, expected domestic shortages of up to 500,000 tons and surge in production costs on the back of rising sugarcane prices in the local market, consumers may face another price shock if the government does not formulate a policy to cope with the situation over the next year. The government must take steps to shield consumers from a fresh price shock, a miller said.
Mr Kayani said that the government should agree to a reasonable, fair benchmark consumer price in order to avoid a replay of the recent crisis. "That will protect all stakeholders -- consumers, growers and millers."
According to him, a fair ex-factory benchmark price should be Rs70 (exclusive of a reformed general sales tax of 15 per cent). "If the price crosses this benchmark, the government can immediately ask the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) to intervene in the market. If the price drops below this benchmark, it should compensate the mills for their losses. It will be a win-win situation for everyone."
Senator Haroon said an agreement on the benchmark price proposed by the PSMA chairman would allow the millers to pay growers who were demanding international price of up to Rs250 per 40kg this year, Rs175 against the official minimum support price of Rs125 (in Punjab).
Governments had an important role to play in a free market economy to protect consumers, said Kayani. "It must build strategic buffer stocks in years of surplus and sell them in times of shortages to stabilise the market."
The government, however, is reported to have decided to withdraw the TCP from sugar trade and leave the field open for private investors and importers to determine when and how much sugar needs to be imported to fill the supply gaps.
The PSMA chief, who wants the TCP to act as an intermediary between the government and the industry, rules out private importers bringing in sugar unless the government gives a guarantee not to intervene in the market to control prices. "This is why no importer brought in sugar this year."
The global sugar prices have hit a 30-year high with New York raw sugar jumping to $0.33 a pound and London white sugar to $780 a ton on supply concerns and increasing demand. "The imported raw sugar will cost in Pakistan around Rs90 a kilo and white sugar Rs95 a kilo. In this scenario, who will import the commodity unless he is sure to recover his cost and earn some profit?," Mr Haroon wondered.

11, Nov, 2010
Minister delayed funds for import
By Ahmad Fraz Khan
LAHORE, Nov 10: Stuck in a financial quagmire, the federal government declined to provide money to the Trading Corporation in June for importing sugar.
According to sources in the finance ministry, the TCP came up with a schedule to open letters of credit (LCs) to line up 525,000 tons of sugar imports for October and November, which were predicted to be crucial months.
The corporation pleaded that it had exhausted its Rs110 billion credit line with banks and was short of money to open LCs for imports, as ordered by the government. However, the finance ministry refused the money point blank, the sources said.
At that time, the international price was around 18 cents per pound which has now risen to a staggering 33 cents. The import would not have cost more than Rs55 per kilogramme, but now it is Rs90.
"Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had just taken over as the Finance Minister and was trying to bring financial discipline in accordance with his own preferences," an official said.
"People in the ministry think that he could not, at that point of time, figure out the social, political and economic cost of his step and with single-minded focus on savings he refused the money," he said.
"It is now proving to be a suicidal step where everyone, except for the sugar millers and traders, is a loser. The government tried belatedly to line up import, but it failed to bring in sugar when required and is paying the political cost," the official added.
According to the sources, the TCP kept pressing the government and ultimately some money was arranged as 'bridge finance' in late August. But two crucial months were lost by then and the delay is hurting the people now.
TCP's imports are now lined up for November and December, when the domestic market will already be brimming with sugar in the middle of the crushing season, they said.

11, Nov, 2010
Taxpayers to pay surcharge; govt clears RGST
By Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: Facing possibly the toughest moment in the court of people, the PPP-led coalition government approved on Wednesday what is being described here as a 'mini-budget' which includes some politically risky taxation measures of over Rs65 billion.
These will be taken to parliament for approval by the government in a bid to share the political burden and also backlash.
The measures, to be implemented from January next year, were approved by a meeting of the cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. These include imposition of a 10 per cent flood surcharge on income tax paid by individuals for a period of six months and an increase in the special excise duty on luxury items from one per cent to two per cent. These measures are estimated to yield over Rs40 billion.
The cabinet also approved a draft of the reformed general sales tax (RGST) bill.
"Taxpayers over the exemption threshold of Rs300,000 who pay income tax will be subjected to the flood surcharge," Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said at a press conference also addressed by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
Dr Sheikh, however, did not mention that the flood surcharge would also be imposed on withholding tax paid by various businesses which, economic experts believe, will pass it on to end-consumers.
What the government did not announce is that the RGST bill also proposes withdrawal of tax exemptions on agriculture and textile sectors.
The government decided to continue GST exemptions on food items. The rate of GST on sugar will be revised to 15 per cent from the current eight per cent. The tax on telecommunication will come down to 15 per cent from the existing 19.5 per cent.
When asked why had the government failed to impose tax on agricultural income, Dr Sheikh said: "Personally speaking, I am in favour of taxing the rich, but the Constitution does not allow the federal government to do so because it is a provincial subject".
He said the RGST draft had been prepared in consultation with the provinces as under the Constitution collection of tax on services was a provincial jurisdiction and the federal government, if asked by all or any province to collect the tax, would return the entire money so earned to the respective province.
"We are expecting that the current session of parliament will approve the bill before the end of the current year," the finance minister said, adding that these revenue measures would be finalised after approval by parliament.
"Parliament will also give final nod to the RGST bill seeking withdrawal of exemptions and introduction of a singular rate," he added.
Dr Sheikh said that about Rs10 billion would be generated from an increase in special excise duty on luxury items like cosmetics, cigarettes, soft drinks, etc, Rs27-31 billion from the 10 per cent flood surcharge and Rs25 billion from withdrawal of GST exemptions on goods and services.
The proposed bill seeks a reduction in the GST rate to 15 per cent from 17 per cent, doing away with multiple rates, increasing the retailers' exemption threshold from Rs5 million to Rs7.5 millions and expanding the narrow tax base.
Powerful lobbies which enjoyed exemptions would now have to pay their share of taxes, the finance minister said. Justifying the imposition of taxes, he said the government needed Rs250-275 billion for rehabilitation of over two million flood-affected people -- Rs160 billion for cash assistance to the flood-affected families, Rs7 billion for farmers in the form of free seeds and fertilisers and Rs3 billion subsidised credit to the affected people.
As per donors' estimates, Dr Sheikh said, the government also needed $3 billion over a period of three years for rehabilitation of federal and provincial infrastructures affected by the floods.
A senior FBR official was of the view that the revenue measures would increase tax-to-GDP ratio to 12 per cent from the current nine per cent. But, he said, this estimate depended on 100 per cent compliance level as against the current 30 to 40 per cent.
During the cabinet meeting, ministers belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement strongly opposed the decision to enforce RGST and flood surcharge.
Talking to reporters, Dr Farooq Sattar, deputy convener of the party and Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, said: "The new taxation measures are going to open floodgates of a tsunami of price hike."
He said the MQM had not been taken into confidence by the government and "we will continue to oppose the move both in parliament and outside".
Economic experts criticised the taxation measures.
"This is a mini-budget which will lead to price hike and fuel inflation across the board," former finance minister Salman Shah said. He said that instead of curtailing its rising expenditures, the government was financing these through additional revenue measures.
Former chief economist Dr Pervez Tahir suggested that instead of imposing the flood surcharge across the board, the government should have limited it to higher income groups.

11, Nov, 2010
Centre-Punjab showdown feared: FIA to conduct sugar raids; hoarders given two days
By Kalbe Ali
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: With sugar prices skyrocketing and hitting Rs110 to Rs125 per kilogram, a showdown appears to be in the offing between the Punjab government and the federal government after the federal cabinet decided on Wednesday to use intelligence network to trace sugar hoarders and confiscate their stocks.
In what the PML-N termed a political stunt, the cabinet authorised Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday to act against sugar hoarders and force them to release their stocks in the market to bring the price down.
The minister has asked hoarders manipulating prices to declare their stocks in two days and warned them of stern action if they did not do so.
"You will be in deep trouble when my boys come after you," Mr Malik told hoarders. He offered a hefty reward of 10 per cent of confiscated stocks to people providing information about the concealed stocks.
Though Mr Malik did not announce how his ministry would trace the hoarded sugar, an official of the interior ministry said that the Federal Intelligence Agency would be used for the purpose. "Raids would be conducted by taking local police into confidence and in close coordination with relevant provincial authorities," the official said.
He, however, pointed out that this could be seen as "interference" in the jurisdiction of provinces.
The federal government says that sugar mills have 200,000 tons of sugar and wholesalers and retailers have stocks of 170,000 tons. The government took action in 2008 against owners of sugar mills and wholesalers, but the action was taken only against the mills owned by political families outside the PPP fold.
Talking to Dawn PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal claimed that the entire game was to politicise the issue and blame the Punjab government for the crisis.
"They will try to prove this point by showing some success in Punjab, but the fact is that the federal government is hiding the fact that the country is facing sugar shortage and the government has not imported it in time," Mr Iqbal said.
"It is often said by PPP leaders that the Punjab government has failed to control sugar prices, I have asked PPP leaders to say what is the price of sugar in Sukkur?" The PML-N leader asserted that raids and confiscation of stocks would only disturb the supply channel and market mechanism.
Even wholesalers and the millers were up in arms against the government decision to use intelligence network to confiscate stocks. He termed it a political stunt and said that prices were moving upwards mainly because of the failure of the policies of the federal government.
According to wholesalers, raids at a time of shortage, would only scare the business community. They said the largest sugar stocks were still held by the Trading Corporation of Pakistan.
"The federal government should first conduct a raid on the TCP," said Anis Majeed, Chairman of the Karachi Wholesale Grocers Group, adding: "The government will lose all claims before the court because before any raid the policy has to be made clear."
They said that earlier actions and decisions by government functionaries and the judiciary had only led to disappearance of sugar from the market and further increase in the price.

11, Nov, 2010
Nawaz offers good rule recipe to Zardari
By Syed Irfan Raza
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif has written a letter to President Asif Ali Zardari advising him to address the issues of corruption, inflation, lack of accountability and non-implementation of Supreme Court orders and to take measures to save large state-owned enterprises.
The letter was presented before the National Assembly and handed over to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani by Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Wednesday. "Prime Minister Gilani in his speech in the National Assembly on Nov 3 had remarked that he would welcome suggestions and recommendations from those who had misgivings about the government's commitment to good governance. It is in the spirit of his offer that I want to share some of my thoughts with you, as I have done in the past with all sincerity," Mr Sharif says in the letter.
The issue of accountability and formation of the proposed National Accountability Commission (NAC) is the first matter addressed in the four-page letter.
"Both PML-N and the ruling Pakistan people's Party (PPP) had agreed to establish an independent accountability forum. Regrettably, more than two and a half years have elapsed, but the Ehtesab Bill has not been enacted till today. PML-N believes that a consensus Ehtesab Bill is an urgent requirement to ensure fair and transparent accountability in the country and must, therefore, be presented during the current session of parliament."
Mr Sharif said a recent report of the Transparency International painted a dismal picture of how Pakistan was viewed the world over. "This perception will inevitably have a most damaging impact on all dimensions of our relations with the outside world, particularly our efforts to attract foreign investment.
"In his budget speech, the finance minister had admitted that the country was suffering losses of over Rs250 billion through leakages in SOEs. In the past four months, the situation has worsened. Regrettably, no corrective action has been taken so far. PML-N feels that incompetence, corruption and cronyism in the management of the SOEs are the major factors responsible for the huge losses being incurred by these corporations.
"We demand that senior management of all SOEs, including Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan State Oil, Railways, National Investment Corporation, Trading Corporation of Pakistan and power sector companies, be replaced through a transparent recruitment process with well-reputed and talented Pakistani professionals from home and abroad."
Referring to the National Reconciliation Ordinance, he said: "Non-compliance of a Supreme Court judgment on the NRO is an attempt to seriously compromise the rule of law and generates tension between the judiciary and the executive. PML-N demands that all judgments of the apex court must be implemented in totality without further delay."
On inflation and sky rocketing prices of petroleum products and electricity, Mr Sharif said the need for mobilising more resources was understandable, but "it must be done by preventing losses in the SOEs, leakages in the tax collection process and by better enforcement of the tax regime, rather than by accentuating the suffering of the already distressed citizens. Moreover, the failure to take any substantive steps to reduce the non-productive expenditures, such as rationalisation of the size of the cabinet, is adding to the common man's frustration. PML-N demands that the increases in POL prices be withdrawn immediately as they are causing great hardship to people. Further, the coalition government must reduce the size of the cabinet forthwith. We also propose a comprehensive and thorough debate in parliament on measures to encourage savings by cutting wasteful expenditure."
The former prime minister said that despite repeated written requests by the Punjab government to make timely imports of sugar to avoid escalation in the prices, the federal government had miserably failed to take appropriate steps. "PML-N demands that a parliamentary committee be formed to investigate the matter for taking action against those who failed to ensure timely import of sugar."

11, Nov, 2010
When Bush almost sent troops into Pakistan
By Masood Haider
NEW YORK, Nov 10: The United States almost sent its special forces into Pakistan to destroy the safe havens of Al Qaeda and Taliban in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks and again in 2008, but was thwarted by caveats from military leader Pervez Musharraf, writes former US president George W. Bush in his memoir "Decision Points" released on Tuesday.
Praising Musharraf's leadership time and again, Bush writes: "He (Musharraf) told me that sending American troops into combat in Pakistan would be viewed as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. A revolt would likely ensue. His government would probably fall. The extremists would take over the country, including its nuclear weapons."
Bush relented: "In that case I told him, his soldiers needed to take the lead." He expresses satisfaction at the arrangement. "For several years the arrangement worked, Pakistani forces netted hundreds of terrorists, including A Qaeda leaders..."
Bush goes to note that Musharraf also arrested A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistani nuclear bomb, for "selling components from country's nuclear programme on the black market".
In return, the US lifted sanctions and the Congress provided $3 billion in aid to Pakistan. Over time, it became clear that Musharraf either would not or could not fulfil all his promises.
Part of the problem was Pakistan's obsession with India, Bush said. "In almost every conversation we had, Musharraf accused India of wrongdoing. Four days after 9/11, he told me that Indians were trying to equate us with terrorists and trying to influence your mind," he said.
As a result, the Pakistani military spent resources preparing for war with India, Bush wrote.
A related problem was that the Pakistani forces pursued the Taliban much aggressively than they pursued the Al Qaeda. "Others wanted an insurance policy in case America abandoned Afghanistan and India tried to gain influence there," he said.
In 2008, Bush says he changed his mind and instead ordered the deployment of drones. Ending two years of silence, Bush has come out with a number of revelations in the book. He says that post-9/11 some in the Pakistan intelligence services maintained ties with the Taliban and provided them safe havens.
Whatever the reason, the Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan took refuge in Pakistan's tribal regions and populated cities such as Peshawar and Quetta. In 2005 and 2006, these sanctuaries aided the rise of the insurgency.
By the middle of 2008, Bush said he was getting frustrated with the continued existence of extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan and again thought of sending his special forces to the country.
Bush refers to a meeting with the Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2006. "Mr President, we need permission to go and kick some ass inside Pakistan," a force official is quoted as saying in the book. But this time again, Bush says he decided against sending troops inside Pakistan and ordered the deployment of drones inside Pakistan.
He also labelled Musharraf an unreliable and reluctant partner in the war against terror.
Musharraf' uniform
Bush who through his term in office admired Musharraf also writes about the time he told the general to take off the uniform. He writes: "My meetings with President Musharraf focused on two overriding priorities. One was his insistence on serving as both president and the top general, a violation of Pakistani constitution. I pushed him to shed his military affiliation and govern as a civilian. He promised to do it, but wasn't in much of a hurry."
The former US president writes: "As the insurgency (in Afghanistan) worsened. Hamid Karzai became furious with Musharraf. He accused the Pakistani president of destabilising Afghanistan. Musharraf was insulted by the allegation. By the fall of 2006, the two were barely on speaking terms. I decided to step in with serious personal diplomacy. I invited Karzai and Musharraf at the White House in September 2006. When I welcomed them in the Rose Garden they refused to shake hands or even look at each other. The mood did not improve when we sat down for dinner in the old family dining room."
Bush continues that as his Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condi Rice and his National Security Adviser Steve Hadley watched, Karzai and Musharraf traded barbs. At one point Karzai accused Musharraf of harbouring Taliban.
"Tell me where they are", Musharraf responded testily.
"You know where they are", Karzai fired back.
"If I did I would get them", said Musharraf.
"Go do it", Karzai persisted.
Bush writes that he started to wonder if the dinner had been a good idea.
"I told Musharraf and Karzai that the stakes were too high for personal bickering. I kept the dinner going for two and a half hours, trying to help them find common ground." But, Bush writes: "After a while, the venting stopped and the meeting turned productive."

11, Nov, 2010
Senate adopts bill for reinstating govt employees
By Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: The Senate adopted amid an opposition boycott on Wednesday a bill for reinstatement of sacked government employees.
The opposition senators announced they would boycott the entire session in protest against what they termed was a hasty move to play to the galleries.
Around 25 lawmakers from the Pakistan Muslim League-N, PML-Q and Jamaat-i-Islami started leaving the house before the bill was put to vote, as their demand for sending the legislation to a standing committee was ignored.
The walkout forced the government to withhold Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's in camera briefing on the strategic dialogue with the United States.
The PML-Q had supported the bill in the National Assembly.
The change in the party's stance was seen by many as a fruit of the Raiwind visit of PML-Q Senators Tariq Azim and S.M. Zafar, followed by a meeting of PML-N leader Ishaq Dar with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
The PML-N's parliamentary leader, Ishaq Dar, forcefully opposed the bill in its present form, terming it a declaration of mistrust in the system. He said the adoption of the bill would amount to overturning decisions of the superior judiciary because even those whose removal from service had been upheld by courts would be reinstated through the blanket legislation.
Mian Raza Rabbani, the architect of the legislation meant to provide relief to employees dismissed during the second tenure of the PML-N, said all of them had been sacked without following the procedure and their only crime was that they had been inducted by a PPP government. He said the workers had not been issued show-cause notices.
Mr Rabbani said the leader of the opposition had won various cases in the superior courts for sacked employees, but the judgments had not been implemented during Musharraf's rule.
Chaudhry Shujaat said heavens would not fall if the bill were referred to the standing committee.
Tahir Mashhadi of the MQM said the matter involved poor and lower middle-class people who had been sacked without even verifying their political affiliation. This was nothing but political victimisation, he said.
An independent senator, Humayun Khan Mandokhel, said there was no harm in referring the bill to the Senate committee.
Prof Khurshid Ahmed, of the Jamaat-i-Islami, said decisions should be taken in accordance with conscience and inductions on the basis of nepotism and favouritism were illegal.
He said the proposed law was discriminatory because it envisaged relief to employees removed during a specific period and the blanket reinstatement was also against the spirit of the Constitution.
Dr Abdul Malik, of the National Party, said rejecting the bill would send a negative message to the youths who had been awaiting their reinstatement for years.
Zahid Khan, of the Awami National Party, said the government should have removed flaws from the bill after consulting all parties, but it should be approved now because the time for doing so had elapsed. Leader of the House, Nayyar Hussain Bokhari, said the PPP had to its credit the repeal of the law of compulsory retirement and now it would provide jobs to people who had been thrown out of service on political grounds.

11, Nov, 2010
Judicial panel likely for probe into breaches
By Our Staff Reporter
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: The Supreme Court hinted on Wednesday at forming a judicial commission to probe into the overflowing of rivers, unauthorised diversion of floodwaters and breaches allegedly made in embankments of barrages and canals during the recent floods in the country.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Ghulam Rabbani had taken a notice of breaches allegedly made in embankments on letters written by renowned lawyer Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim and Senate's Deputy Chairman Jan Mohammad Khan Jamali and a petition moved by MNA Marvi Memon. Dr Asad Laghari, Muhammad Rahim Baloch and Advocate Zahida Thebo had also approached apex court on the issue.
The Supreme Court issued fresh notices to respondents asking them to submit reply by Dec 1, after noticing that only the Establishment Division, the Prime Minister Secretariat and the Balochistan government have submitted comments on the matter.
The court suggested appointment of the commission after going through the available material and the video footage provided by the electronic media.
The respondents in the petition are the federal government through the Cabinet Secretary, Sindh Chief Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, provincial disaster management authority, ministries of water and power, finance, defence, departments of home, irrigation and revenue of the Sindh government, Federal Flood Relief Commissioner, Sindh Flood Relief Commissioner and the Federal Flood Commission.
On Tuesday, Balochistan Advocate General Salahuddin submitted a report which alleged that flood waters entered Jafarabad district after breaches had been made in the Tori dyke. The report also alleged that the waters had been diverted from Sindh to Balochistan, but the provincial law officer chose not read out certain paragraphs of the report saying the court itself should read them.
The chief justice observed: "If you have the courage then call a spade a spade," instead of telling the court to do this or that.
Punjab Chief Secretary informed the bench that the provincial government had established a commission under a Lahore High Court judge who would submit a report after visiting different affected areas in Punjab. The chief secretary said that he would also be filing an independent report on the matter.
PML-Q lawmaker Marvi Memon told the court she had submitted additional documents comprising dyke manual and text of the Sindh irrigation minister's Aug 7 talk in which he had admitted that breaches were deliberately made in the Ghauspur Loop Bund with the consent of the Sindh government.
She requested the court to summon the defence minister who had told the National Assembly that the meteorological department had warned the Sindh government in advance about the flood situation.
She requested the court to order the departments concerned to explain why floodwaters were diverted to Balochistan from Jacobabad to save the Shahbaz airbase which allegedly was being used by US forces.
She argued that influential people had breached canal and barrage embankments to serve their own interests, but the government had failed to take any notice.
In her petition, Ms Memon requested the apex court to order the respondents to pay damages to affected people who were either forcibly moved from their homes or prevented from entering other areas after the flood hit their localities.

11, Nov, 2010
Attacks on pipelines cost Rs382m: minister
By Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: The national exchequer lost over Rs382 million during the last three years because of attacks on gas pipelines in the country that totalled 54 in the same period, federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Syed Naveed Qamar told the Senate on Wednesday.
However, he said, the intensity of such attacks had gradually lessened.
Giving data showing a decline in the attacks, he said that 2007-08 saw 16 attacks on pipelines of SNGPL. In 2008-09 these pipelines were attacked 9 times and in 2009-10 only 5 times, he said in reply to questions from senators. He did not provide details of the rest of attacks.
The minister informed the house that the suspected attackers escaped punishment though cases had been registered against them. "Handing down punishments is a provincial subject," he said.
Mr Qamar said his ministry had engaged security personnel for installations in sensitive parts of the country, adding that watch guards had been deployed at vulnerable points and patrolling of 'Right of Way' by the company staff had been enhanced.
He said that construction crew and emergency teams of transmission, equipped with heavy machinery, had been raised to meet any eventuality.

11, Nov, 2010
Food prices increased considerably, says FAO
By Amin Ahmed
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: Food prices in the country, which have risen considerably over the past two months, are currently about 10 per cent higher than in August, says a new report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The report attributed the rise to higher demands from Afghanistan and uncertainties about the sowing of Rabi crop because of the damage caused by recent floods. The report on global information and early warning system on food and agriculture was published on Wednesday.
It said that in Pakistan prices of wheat which had remained stable immediately after the floods, increased in September and October. The increase in prices has been more pronounced in the main producing region of Punjab.
With improved second consecutive bumper wheat harvests this year, retail prices of wheat in major cities have come down from a peak of about Rs29 per kg two years ago to about Rs26 in October this year.
They are still significantly higher than the prices before the 2008 food crisis. Rice prices have also been rising in recent months after remaining stable for some time.
The report cautions that the price impact on overall food consumption of the vulnerable population is expected to be substantial. The overall food supply situation in Pakistan was satisfactory following the two good harvests, the report said.

11, Nov, 2010
Musharraf on US president's visit to India: Kashmiris deserved Obama's attention
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Nov 10: US President Barack Obama should have raised the Kashmir issue during his visit to India earlier this week, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf said on Wednesday.
In his address to the Atlantic Council, Mr Musharraf also accused India of using Afghanistan for stirring troubles in Pakistan.
Mr Musharraf said that while he too believed that the Kashmir dispute should be resolved by India and Pakistan, President Obama should have shown some concern for the Kashmiri people during his visit.
"In this unipolar war, when you are the only superpower, you have responsibilities towards every one," he said.
"President Obama should also have shown some concern for this small strategic partner and visited Pakistan."
The Kashmir dispute, he noted, had a negative impact on the fight against terrorism and extremism and that was another reason that President Obama should have at least mentioned this issue in India.
Mr Musharraf said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he were close to resolving the Kashmir dispute.
"We were proceeding reasonably fast. We had worked the parameters and were drafting an agreement. It's a pity that we could not reach the conclusion," he said. He said that Pakistan's policy of nuclear deterrence was India-centric because India too was focused on Pakistan.
"Pakistan is nuclear because an existential threat exists. No Pakistani will understand the logic why Pakistani nuclear assets are disturbing the world," he said.
The Indians, he said, had 33 infantry divisions, 25 oriented towards Pakistan border and so were their other troops, their air and naval forces.
"They are a force four or five times and we cannot ignore such threats," he said. Mr Musharraf said he did not understand why in Afghanistan India had opened consulates close to the Pakistani border in places like Jalalabad and Kandahar.
He also questioned the Indian decision to build roads close to the Pakistan, suggesting that India was using its presence on the border for stirring troubles in Pakistan.
"People who openly oppose the Pakistani state are kept in Kabul. They are received by RAW agents when they travel to New Delhi," he said. "Now how do you expect the ISI to react? After all, the ISI is there to protect Pakistan's interests."
The former chief of the army staff disagreed with a journalist who suggested that he had allowed the Taliban to operate a base in Quetta, identified as the Quetta Shura in the US media.
"People who attacked me and tried to kill me, how can I allow them to operate?" he asked. "There is a CIA and an ISI office in Quetta, have they identified where the Quetta Shura is?"
Mr Musharraf said that the US made several major blunders in Afghanistan and the biggest was to try to run the country without the Pakhtuns.
The Afghan government, he claimed, was run by the Panjshiris who were only 8 per cent of the total population while the army was dominated by the Tajiks. "Unless the Pakhtuns are given full representation, this will not work."
Mr Musharraf said he believed that negotiating with the Taliban from a position of weakness would not work. The US needed to have an upper hand militarily before it could negotiate with the insurgents, he added.
He opposed setting a timeline for withdrawing US troops, arguing that it unsettled other allies.
He disagreed with the suggestion that he had allowed drone attacks but also did not call for ending the attacks.

11, Nov, 2010
US hints at enhanced focus on lairs in Fata
By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON, Nov 10: The first annual review of President Barack Obama's Afghan strategy may suggest increasing focus on alleged Taliban safe havens in Fata, indicates a senior US official.
At a background briefing on the review process, the official said that getting rid of these militant safe havens in Pakistan's tribal belt was "a key item" of their agenda.
The 70-page "quite comprehensive" review will focus on eight objectives covering progress in counter-terrorism, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the official said. The experts have already made a 12-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan to review the situation.
"There still are safe havens in Pakistan. Getting at those safe havens is fundamental to our approach," the official said.
"This is the fundamental underlying question that we've examined carefully in the quarterly reviews."
Under the Obama administration, the US has already increased its air strikes on suspected terrorist targets inside Fata. There have been a total of 194 drone attacks inside the tribal belt since 2004, killing 1,914 people.
While there were only 4 strikes in 2007, they increased to 34 in 2008 and to 53 in 2009, after President Obama occupied the White House.
So far this year, there have been 98 reported drone strikes, killing about 800 people.
The experts reviewing the US Afghan strategy will submit their report to President Obama and the US Congress some time next month.
The review will account for adjustments and revisions that have taken place during the year, such as Pakistan's military initiatives, and devastating floods that Pakistan has been dealing with since summer, the US official said.
In Afghanistan, it will focus on efforts to reintegrate the Taliban militants into civilian society and on the initiative to better hire and train local police.

11, Nov, 2010
PML-Q faces split over move for alliance with PPP
By Khawar Ghumman
ISLAMABAD, Nov 10: A recent meeting between federal Law Minister Babar Awan and Punjab PML-Q chief Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has led to speculations of a possible alliance between their parties but this may not be enough to provide a second lease of life to the Q League in the long run.
Background interviews with several PML-Q parliamentarians show that in Punjab the party has been virtually divided into three groups: one group looking for a merger with the PML-N, the second leaning towards the PPP and the third continues to sit on the fence. But it appears that a majority of the lawmakers will either go for understanding with the ruling PPP or with the opposition PML-N.
The developments in Punjab are going to decide the future of the party nationwide, because out of 49 PML-Q members in the National Assembly 27 are from the province.
"Each one of us has already started charting out our possible future course of action," a lawmaker said. Claiming that the PML-Q parliamentarians were desperately running around to secure their constituencies in the next elections, a party insider gave the example of Khanewal where his party had three MNAs and all of them were making different political moves because of their own compulsions.
Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj from NA-156 dumped the PPP after the 2002 elections to jump onto Gen Pervez Musharraf's bandwagon. Having won the 2008 election on a PML-Q ticket, he is at the moment in search of his future political orientation. And having got the message that the PPP will not welcome members of the PPP (Patriots) such as him who played a critical role during the Musharraf rule (Hiraj was a federal minister), he has been left with no option but to look towards the PML-N. According to reports, he has met Hussain Nawaz, the elder son of PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, in London a couple of times.
Pir Aslam Bodla from NA-158 has more choices. Not only is he a veteran PPP member, he also kept a low profile during 2002-08. This is why he can join the PPP.
That the party leadership is going to welcome him is evident from the fact that he has accepted the chairmanship of a NA standing committee without seeking permission from his party chief.
Hamid Yar Hiraj from NA-157 is keeping his options open simply because he can. Not only did he win in 2002 as an independent candidate (he later joined the Q League), he also enjoys links with the PPP because his late father was elected to the Punjab Assembly in the past on the party ticket.
Similar trends can be observed in other parts of the province. For example, Riaz Hussain Pirzada from Bahawalpur is looking towards the PML-N. And he can do so because one of his nephews, Mian Mohammad Kazim Ali Pirzada, won an election for a provincial seat as an independent candidate and then joined the PML-N on his uncle's advice. This has kept doors open for Pirzada.
MNA Sardar Bahadur Ahmed Khan Sihar from Bahawalpur has met President Zardari and reportedly garnered an assurance for a party ticket in the next elections.
Khwaja Sheraz Mahmood from Dera Ghazi Khan has also been given the leadership of a standing committee of the National Assembly. This indicates that he will support the party in the future.
On the other hand, Sheikh Waqas Akram from Jhang is eyeing the PML-N in view of its influence in his area.
At the same time, both parties are also deciding about accepting 'turncoats' on the basis of political expediency. Consider Raja Jawaid Ikhlas, a former nazim of Rawalpindi, who has recently rejoined the PML-N. This will give a big boost to the party because his son Raja Qasim Jawaid Ikhlas gave a tough fight to PPP's Raja Ashraf in NA-51.
This, it is noteworthy, is the only seat the PPP won in Rawalpindi city which was otherwise swept by the PML-N. On this seat, experts felt that the Muslim League votes had been divided which led to the PPP's win, as Chaudhry Mohammad Riaz of the PML-N had secured 54,000 votes.

10, Nov, 2010
Devolved ministries: Centre to bear expenses till June
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD, Nov 9: The federal government will bear, till June next year, the expenses of the ministries and departments to be transferred to the provinces under the 18th Amendment.
According to sources, the decision was taken on Tuesday by the Parliamentary Commission on Implementation of the 18th Amendment after Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa expressed their inability to immediately arrange funds needed to run the ministries.
Similar reservations had been expressed earlier by the chief secretaries of Punjab and Balochistan, the sources said. The provinces are also concerned about the debt liabilities of the departments.
The commission headed by Senator Raza Rabbani reviewed the progress made by the provinces in implementing the constitutional clauses relating to provincial autonomy and discussed the hurdles in the way of devolution.
Members of the commission said the concerns expressed by the provinces were justified and decided that the federal government would bear the expenses for the current financial year of the functions and staff of the devolved ministries and departments.
The commission has decided to transfer five ministries — population welfare, youth affairs, special initiatives, local government and Zakat and Ushr — to the provinces this month.
Talking to Dawn, Senator Rabbani said: "Everything is going smoothly. The federal government and the provinces are on board on every issue and they all are taking these issues in the spirit of the 18th Amendment."
He said any loophole in the implementation of the amendment would be overcome when the time came.
The next meeting of the commission will be held on Nov 15.

10, Nov, 2010
US endorsement of Indian bid for permanent UNSC membership: Pakistan concern conveyed to ambassador
By Baqir Sajjad Syed
ISLAMABAD, Nov 9: Shocked by the US support for India's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations' Security Council (UNSC), Pakistan has conveyed its disappointment to the American ambassador here and told him the move could have serious repercussions for the conflict-ridden region and reform of the world body.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, diplomatic sources said, curtly told Ambassador Cameron Munter that while endorsing India as a permanent Security Council member the US appeared to have acted out of expediency of power politics, completely forgetful of Delhi's conduct in relations with its neighbours, disputes that engulfed the region and its flagrant violations of UNSC resolutions on Kashmir and human rights in occupied Kashmir.
Pakistan's military establishment, arguably the real force behind the country's foreign policy, will also get an opportunity to convey its sentiments during meetings with US Commander in Afghanistan Gen David Petraeus, who is expected to arrive here on Friday.
With President Obama having supported the Indian candidature, eyes in Islamabad are now focussed on China, the only Security Council member which is yet to announce its support for New Delhi's move for a bigger role in the world body. The other three permanent members — Russia, Britain and France — have already declared their support for India.
But, soon after President Obama's announcement, China indicated its readiness to hold consultations with India on the issue, even though the offer was punctuated with a desire for a "democratic and patient" process.
Meanwhile, the Uniting for Consensus, a grouping of countries which are opposed to any expansion in the UN council's permanent membership, meanwhile, has expressed concern at the US support for India's bid.
But despite the protestations, the prevailing sense in Islamabad is that the US announcement is merely symbolic, given the complexity of the issue.
Talks in New York over UNSC reform and expansion are stalled. Besides, the expansion process is protracted and complicated.
Senior Pakistani diplomats, however, emphasised that symbolism mattered a lot when it came to India and Pakistan.
The diplomats took heart from Mr Obama's phraseology, which they believe did not explicitly endorse India's candidature. President Obama said: "US welcomes India as it prepares to take its seat at the UN Security Council. I look forward to a reformed UN Security Council that includes India as a permanent member."
One diplomat said: "The words have been carefully phrased and shouldn't be read as a statement of support. There isn't much effort in that direction."
An interesting explanation on offer at the Foreign Office was that the economic aspect of Mr Obama's visit was very clear, but it definitely "lacked the big bang".
"He probably wanted to create some highlight of his visit to India to overshadow President Bush's trip to New Delhi in 2005 in which the latter had announced a civilian nuclear deal. Supporting India's desire for a permanent UNSC seat was something which could go very well with the people of India, but at the same time did not cost Washington anything. Hence the announcement."
Pakistan, diplomatic sources said, had been earlier assured by the White House that President Obama would not endorse the Indian candidacy.
In an interview before embarking on the visit, President Obama himself had termed the Indian membership issue "difficult and complicated."
Masood Haider adds from New York: Diplomats at the UN observed that India's quest for a seat was likely to face opposition from China, a permanent member of the council, and from nations and advocacy groups who say India's conduct in the disputed Kashmir region and elsewhere consistently violates key UN resolutions.
The Uniting for Consensus involved in discussions on the expansion of the Security Council opposes new permanent members. It has expressed "serious concern" over the United States' endorsement of the Indian bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council and says that it will complicate the reform process.
The UFC group, led by Italy and Pakistan, opposes induction of new permanent members and strongly advocates expansion in the non-permanent category.
Progress is stalled in the ongoing inter-governmental negotiations taking place in the General Assembly that are aimed at reforming and expanding the Security Council to make it more effective, accountable and representative.
The negotiations to reform the Security Council are focused on five key areas – the categories of membership, the question of veto, regional representation, size of an enlarged Security Council, and working methods of the council and its relationship with the General Assembly.
Despite a general agreement on enlarging the council as part of the UN reform process, member states remain sharply divided over details.
The diplomats and UN officials here observed that the process of expansion of the most powerful organ of the world body was such a complicated process that it would take years before any accord was reached.
And even if a broad agreement is reached, ratification by the member states of such an agreement would be quite a complex process.

10, Nov, 2010
Sugar barons' clout in govt blamed for crisis
By Amin Ahmed
ISLAMABAD, Nov 9: TheNetwork for Consumer Protection has expressed concern at the dramatic increase in sugar price and alleged that sugar barons having clout in the government have created an artificial shortage.
Sugar price has surged to an all-time high of Rs120 per kg in a week from Rs85 on Oct 31, proving that the government has miserably failed to keep a check on food prices and provide relief to consumers, a press release issued by the organisation said on Tuesday.
Its executive coordinator, Dr Arif Azad, said roots of the problem lay in the sugar lobby's political clout in determining sugar output, timing of import and scaremongering about rises in prices.
"For the sake of protecting consumers from artificially inflated sugar price rises, the government has to bring in regulatory measures to rein in the power of sugar lobby," he said.
He called for an investigation to fix responsibility for a 'criminal' delay in sugar import which, he said, had given a chance to mill owners to sell the commodity at high prices.
Dr Azad rejected the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association's claim that damage to sugarcane crop in recent floods was the main cause of the surge in price.
"While this may be partly true, the real reason has been collusive price-fixing behaviours which have been highlighted by the Competition Commission."
If sugar tycoons and the government departments concerned had taken measures to import sugar in time, the commodity would have been available in the market at not more than Rs70 per kg, he said.
Dr Azad wondered as to why no policy statement had been given on the artificial sugar crisis and even the main opposition parties were not exerting pressure on the government to control the price.
However, the CCP is of the view that the crisis has evolved because of hoarding.
The commission's chairperson, Rahat Kaunain Hassan, said it was closely monitoring the crisis and would intervene only when it found a violation of the Competition Act.
An investigation by the CCP last year had found that sugar mills were violating the rules of open market competition. The investigation was carried out after mills unilaterally raised the prices, compelling the Supreme Court to fix a rate.
Ms Hassan said the CCP was not a price regulatory authority, but it believed in the principles of free import and free market where prices were fixed on the basis of availability.
"It's purely an issue of hoarding, and not pricing," she said, adding that strict measures by the provinces were required to eliminate hoarding.
In reply to a question, the CCP chief said there must have been some faults in the government's import policy.
She said the Trading Corporation should develop a mechanism under which the stocks of sugar should go to retailers instead of hoarders. The issue will not be resolved by merely opening tenders.
She said the provincial governments should launch a campaign to impound the commodity from hoarders and make it available in the market.
In India, sugar is being retailed at Rs55, in Brazil at Rs60 and in the US at Rs117 per kg.

10, Nov, 2010
Zulqarnain facing uncertain future
LONDON, Nov 9: Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider is considering his future after fleeing to Britain amid alleged threats from match-fixers.
Haider made conflicting comments on Tuesday about retiring from cricket and seeking asylum in Britain since leaving the Pakistan team in Dubai and flying to London on Monday.
He claimed he had received threats and was offered money to lose matches against South Africa during a series of one-day internationals.
Earlier in the day, Haider told Pakistan television he was retiring from international cricket and seeking political asylum in Britain.
Later, however, Pakistan TV channel Geo quoted Haider as saying he would return to Pakistan if the government guaranteed his safety. He also said he would play for Pakistan again if the selectors asked him.
"I have no issues playing for Pakistan again provided the Pakistan Cricket Board wants me to play," he said in remarks reported on the Geo channel's website.
"It depends on the (Pakistan) government. If they give me security, I can go back," he said in the interview.
The 24-year-old Haider said he received threats after scoring the winning run in Friday's one-wicket victory in the fourth one-day international in Dubai. South Africa won the fifth and decisive ODI on Monday and clinched the series 3-2.
"I was approached by one person who asked me to fix the fourth and fifth match and there would be problem for me if I did not do it," Haider told Geo Television.
"One man threatened me but I felt behind us there were two or three more men. I don't know who they were or who was the man who threatened me," he said. "That man said, 'Come into our circle and you will get a lot of money, but if you don't join us you will be in trouble.'"
Haider would not identify who threatened him or the nature of the threats, but said he "did not do what I was asked to do in the fourth one-dayer."
Pakistan police have beefed up security at his house in Lahore "to avoid any untoward incident," according to senior police official Sahahzada Salim.
Haider added: "The country is like a mother and anyone who sells it cannot get anything in life. I did not want to sell my mother. I did not want to sell my country and I did what I thought was better."
Following Friday's match, Haider asked a Pakistan Cricket Board official for his passport, pretending that he needed it to buy a mobile phone connection, and then left the hotel three days later to fly to London.
He said his decision to leave without telling team officials was to protect his safety.
"I was afraid if I spoke to them (team management) words could have gone out and I would have faced problems," he said.
International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat encouraged Haider to cooperate with the game's authorities.
"We are sympathetic to any player who believes he is in this sort of position and of course we would help him or anyone who came forward," Lorgat said. "We certainly hope that he will shortly indicate a willingness to talk to us."
Haider told Geo television he had spoken to the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit at his hotel in London. He was also interviewed by British police and the border control agency.
"The border agency has taken my fingerprints and issued me a temporary stay," Haider said.
"I had no intentions of applying for political asylum at this stage and, if the Pakistan government is ready to give me assurance of security for me and my family, I am ready to return to Pakistan."
Pakistan selectors replaced Haider with uncapped 25-year-old Adnan Akmal — brother of Test players Umar and Kamran — for the two test matches against South Africa. The first Test begins in Dubai from Friday.—Agencies

10, Nov, 2010
Both Pakistan and India have role in Afghanistan: US
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Nov 9: The United States believes that both India and Pakistan can play an important and constructive role in Afghanistan, the White House and the State Department say.
Earlier, US officials had assured Pakistan that while they recognise India's reconstruction efforts and economic support to the Afghan government, Washington also appreciates Islamabad's concern about involving India in military matters.
This echoed in a statement the White House issued on Monday afternoon on talks in New Delhi between US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The two leaders agreed to collaborate closely to as-sist the people of Afghanis- tan by identifying oppor- tunities to leverage their relative strengths, experience and resources, the statement said.
"Our collaboration will focus on agricultural development and women's empowerment, where Afghanistan's needs are great," the White House said.
The statement, however, ignored India's desire for a greater role in training Afghan security forces and in the talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents.
The issue was raised again at a State Department briefing where an Indian journalist asked why India was never mentioned as a country that had a role in stabilising Afghanistan.
"We have talked to India regularly, repeatedly, in every high-level meeting about Afghanistan. We completely support India playing a constructive role in Afghanistan as part of our regional strategy," said State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley while responding to the comments.
"We recognise that a number of countries in the region, including India, including Pakistan, including others, can play an important and constructive role in the advancement of Afghanistan. So we have not excluded India in any way, shape, or form," he said in response to a question.
The US-India joint statement also emphasised this point, saying that both countries were committed to intensify consultation, cooperation and coordination to promote a stable, democratic, prosperous and independent Afghanistan.

10, Nov, 2010
Houbara hunting permits issued to Gulf dignitaries
By Bhagwandas
KARACHI, Nov 9: The federal government has issued 28 special permits to the rulers, members of ruling families and other dignitaries of four Gulf states to hunt the internationally protected Houbara bustard during the 2010-2011 season, according to reliable sources.
The sources said that, according to the code of conduct, the hunting period is restricted to 10 days with a bag limit of 100 birds.
Hunting of Houbara bustard by Pakistanis is banned under wildlife laws.
Houbara bustard, a native to Central Asia's Kuzl Kum region, around the Aral Sea, is a migratory bird species that visits Pakistan every year to escape the harsh winter.
The bird is sought after by Arab hunters owing to a myth that its meat has aphrodisiac qualities — a notion not supported by scientific evidence.
The United Arab Emirates tops the list with 13 hunting permits — 11 of these have been awarded to the ruler and ruling family members. Five of these have been granted to people from Abu Dhabi and six from Dubai.
ABU DHABI: Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, has been allotted hunting areas in three provinces.
In Punjab he has been granted Rahimyar Khan, Rajanpur and D.G. Khan districts, in Sindh Sukkur, Ghotki, Nawabshah and Sanghar districts and in Balochistan his areas comprise Zhob, Ormara, Gwadar, Pasni, Panjgur and Washuk districts.
Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown prince of Abu Dhabi, can hunt in Lehri Tehsil of Sibi district, Balochistan.
Deputy prime minister of UAE, Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has been permitted to hunt in Khairpur district, including Kot Diji.
DUBAI: Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-president of UAE and ruler of Dubai, has been permitted to hunt in Khuzdar and Lasbela districts of Balochistan and Muzaffargarh district in Punjab.
SAUDI ARABIA: Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud has been allotted Chagai and Nushki districts of Balochistan.
Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, interior minister and brother of King Abdullah, has been permitted to hunt in Dera Bugti, Dera Murad Jamali, Nasirabad and Awaran districts of Balochistan.
In Punjab his territory comprises Khushab, Jhang, Mianwali and Sargodha districts.
QATAR: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the amir of Qatar, has been allotted Bahawalnagar district in Punjab.

10, Nov, 2010
Iqbal Day observed across country
ISLAMABAD, Nov 9: The 133rd birth anniversary of poet philosopher Dr Allama Mohammad Iqbal was celebrated on Tuesday with national zeal, fervour and enthusiasm.
Cultural, educational and literary programmes were held in cities and towns across the country to pay homage to the great poet who envisioned the idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent.
The main event was held at Mazar-i-Iqbal in Lahore where a change of guard ceremony was held and a Pakistan Navy contingent assumed duty.
In Sialkot, the birthplace of Iqbal, a group of schoolchildren gathered at Iqbal Manzil and cut a birthday cake.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, people renewed the pledge to make Pakistan a vibrant democratic wel- fare state as envisioned by Iqbal.
At a programme organised by the KP branch of the Allama Iqbal Open University, prominent literary, social and political figures discussed Iqbal's poetry and his message.
The day was celebrated in Quetta with a ceremony at the Qasmia High School.—APP

10, Nov, 2010
Six killed in Balochistan
By Amanullah Kasi
QUETTA, Nov 9: Six people were killed in incidents of firing here and in Turbat on Tuesday.
Three people were killed when gunmen on motorbikes attacked a vehicle on the Qambrani street in the provincial capital.
The three were identified as Abdul Qadir, Manzoor Ahmed and Adam Khan. Wali Khan was injured.
In Turbat, armed men entered a house and opened fire on the inmates, killing Akhtar, Asghar and Aamir.
Mohammad Ayub and Sabir Shah were seriously injured and admitted to the civil hospital. According to police, the victims were from Bahawalpur and worked in the town as tailors.

10, Nov, 2010
Karzai invites Gilani to Kabul
By Ahmad Hassan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 9: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has accepted President Hamid Karzai's invitation to visit Afghanistan.
According to sources in the Prime Minister's House, the Afghan president called Mr Gilani and formally invited him to visit Kabul at an early date.
It will be Mr Gilani's first official visit to the war-torn country.
The prime minister recently said that Pakistan could play a key role in Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.
Mr Karzai, according to officials, said he would like to discuss with the prime minister the whole gamut of issues, including the war on terror and bilateral relations.
The prime minister accepted the invitation and said that high-level contacts would help bring the two countries closer and strengthen their efforts in the fight against terrorism.
The two leaders decided that foreign ministries of the two countries would coordinate to agree on a mutually-accepted timeframe for the visit.

10, Nov, 2010
'Heart' of Al Qaeda still in Pak-Afghan border area: US
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday the "heart" of Al Qaeda remained in the Afghan-Pakistan border area even as the network tried to spread its influence in the Arabian peninsula and northern Africa.
While Al Qaeda's leaders, including founder Osama bin Laden, continued to operate out of the border area, "they provide the guidance, they provide the priorities, they provide legitimacy to other Al Qaeda affiliates that are developing in other places, including in the Arabian peninsula, in Yemen in particular and in northern Africa, in the Maghreb," Mr Gates told reporters.
"I would say the heart of Al Qaeda remains... in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said during a visit to Kuala Lumpur.
With Al Qaeda "spreading its tentacles", the United States was able to cope with the threat partly thanks to help from allies who realised the dangers posed by the network, he said.
The US government could count on "strong friends", including France and predominan- tly Muslim Malaysia, to take on militants, he said.
"We're not in this fight by ourselves. We have some strong friends who see their own self-interest in dealing with this threat of extremist terrorism," he said.
"So I'm confident that we will have the resources and the capability to continue to deal with it," he said.
Western intelligence officials and analysts say the threat posed by Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has been steadily building while the United States ramped up operations against the network in Pakistan, where CIA drone strikes reportedly have taken a toll on the leadership.—AFP

09, Nov, 2010
KP varsities shut in protest against VC's abduction
By Sadia Qasim Shah
PESHAWAR, Nov 8: As the government said it was engaging kidnappers through informal channels to secure the release of the vice-chancellor of Islamia College University, Mr Ajmal Khan, and his driver, vice-chancellors of all public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced closure of their institutions in protest.
Security officials have said that informal contacts had been established with the kidnappers, adding that Ajmal Khan was said to be in North Waziristan.
"Taliban have put forward their demands, including money and release of their commanders," official sources said.
An official claimed to have made considerable headway in the case. He said a seminary in the cantonment area of the city had been raided a few days ago on information that the mastermind was staying there. But, he added, the man slipped away because the director of the seminary had taken a long time in allowing security personnel to enter the building. "If anything happens to Ajmal Khan, the director of the seminary would be held responsible", the official said.
He said the raid had been organised after negotiations with the Wifaq-ul-Madaris.
Meanwhile, all public sector universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were closed on Monday for an indefinite period to press the government to recover the vice-chancellor.
The Federation of All Pakistan Academic Staff Association has announced a strike by academic staff in the universities of the province and threatened to extend it to universities across the country.

09, Nov, 2010
Zulqarnain disappears in Dubai, emerges in London
LONDON, Nov 8: Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider arrived in London on Monday after skipping his team's one-day match against South Africa in Dubai.
Haider flew to Heathrow Airport aboard a flight from the United Arab Emirates, where he had been scheduled to play in the deciding one-day international (ODI) in the series against South Africa.
Team officials had reported Haider as missing to police and the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption and security unit.
On Haider's Facebook page, he wrote earlier in the day that he was "leaving Pakistan cricket because (he) got (a) bad message from one man to lose the last game".
Haider scored the winning run in the fourth ODI against South Africa on Friday to clinch a one-wicket victory for Pakistan that levelled the five-match series at 2-2 and set up the final match at Dubai International Cricket Ground.
"The information shared with the PCB by local authorities indicates that Mr Haider has left the UAE for the United Kingdom," the PCB said in a statement. "The PCB continues to monitor this situation and is in regular contact with concerned authorities in this regard."
The PCB said a "full inquiry" would be held into the "circumstances surrounding this incident" and "no further comments will be made until the facts are known."
The ICC said it was aware of Haider's disappearance.
Pakistan reported that it received a text message from Haider in which he said he was leaving for England in the next two hours and that his family would be provided with security back in Pakistan. It was impossible to verify the authenticity of that text message.
The disappearance of Haider is the latest setback for a Pakistan team that has been troubled by matters off the pitch.
On Sunday, Pakistan's team manager Intikhab Alam said that Haider and two other players had been fined for breaking curfew during the team's series with South Africa.
Alam said opener Shahzaib Hasan, spinner Abdul Rehman and Haider were fined 500 dirhams ($136) for staying out late in Abu Dhabi, where the series began last month.
Alam had said on Sunday that all three would be available to play Monday.—AP

09, Nov, 2010
National Assembly in shock: Two soldiers 'train' guns at minister
By Raja Asghar
ISLAMABAD, Nov 8: The National Assembly appeared shocked to hear from opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Monday that two soldiers had insulted a federal minister in his flag-bearing car earlier in the day by training their guns at him at a checkpoint near parliament when a four-star general too was in the area.
The government acknowledged that this "serious" incident had happened, which Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Naveed Qamar said would be taken up with "appropriate authorities".
Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, chairing the proceedings at the time, called for a report about what he called an incident of "highhandedness" before the house concludes its current session after four days.
But neither of the three men who spoke about the matter identified the minister involved in the incident, which the opposition leader said happened some time in the afternoon, when he also drove around 2pm through the Constitution Avenue, on which the Parliament House is located and where one of the checkpoints normally manned by police checks vehicles going towards the Parliament House as well as the nearby presidency and the Prime Minister's House.
Also none of them named the general for whom troops came to control traffic, although Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani met President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday afternoon.
Chaudhry Nisar said he saw "a lot of military activity" on the avenue at the time, giving him the impression that "some four-star general" was coming to meet either the president or Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and that he was informed by some witnesses later on coming to his office in parliament about a minister's car flying the national flag having been stopped along with other cars by two soldiers "carrying bandooks (rifles)" and controlling traffic at the checkpoint instead of police.
"The soldiers did not have the courtesy to salute the national flag… which is the duty of every uniformed Pakistani," he said.
"The matter did not end there," he said, and added that when the driver of the minister -- who too he thought was heading towards the presidency or the prime minister's house -- "tried to move his car forward, the two soldiers trained their guns" (towards the inmates).
"Is it the national army or an individual's army," the opposition leader asked and stressed the troops had no business to assume police job. "If they stop me tomorrow, I will not stop."
The army would enjoy the nation's respect only if it complied with its constitutional duty of defending the borders, Chaudhry Nisar said, drawing cheers from his PML-N colleagues as well many PPP members.
Minister Naveed Qamar said it was a "serious matter" to stop the car of a minister with the national flag or of any elected member of the house and added: "The government takes it seriously. We will take up the matter with appropriate authorities."
The opposition also lashed out at the government mainly over the prevailing price hike, particularly the recently raised prices of petroleum products though a formal debate on opposition adjournment motions scheduled for the day could not begin because of time lost in speeches of members on points of order before the house was adjourned until 5pm on Wednesday.
However, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh promised to brief the house in camera or in an open session about the country's economic problems.
The house passed a bill further amending the National Database and Registration Authority Ordinance of 2000.
The MQM ended their boycott of the house but staged a token walkout to protest against the price hike.

09, Nov, 2010
Millers, wholesalers to determine sugar price
By Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 8: With the prices of sugar skyrocketing, the Council of Common Interests agreed on Monday to a proposal of the federal government to end the role of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan in import and supply of sugar, giving a free hand to millers and wholesalers to determine its price. The move, according to an official, was in compliance with an IMF condition to end subsidy on food items. This means the government will no longer provide subsidised sugar to consumers through utility stores or open market.
The third CCI meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and attended by the four chief ministers, approved a proposal made by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet that the government should stop intervention in the market and end subsidy on sugar.
Meanwhile, the Utility Stores Corporation has increased prices of sugar by Rs10 to Rs65 a kg.
The USC chairman, Muhammad Arif Khan, said at a press conference on Monday that the government had increased the quota of sugar for the utility stores to 100,000 tons from 50,000 tons.
Sources told Dawn that the IMF had expressed concern over a 50 per cent reduction in GST rate of 16 per cent on sugar announced by the prime minister. It has been available on sugar since 2009, which led to a revenue loss of more than Rs9 billion in 2009-10. Had the rate been 16 per cent, revenue collection from sugar would have been over Rs18 billion.
At the same time, the government has also kept a very minimal value of sugar at Rs28.88 as ex-factory price for assessment of GST since 2009, despite a massive increase in the retail price of sugar.
A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Secretariat said that a committee comprising representatives from the four provinces would determine a mechanism for disposal of 100,000 tons of sugar at a landed price of Rs56 per kg plus taxes and other charges.
At present, the TCP had 350,000 tons of sugar which would be made available in the open market, the statement said.
Pakistan Sugar Mills Association chairman Javed Kiyani said at a press conference in Lahore that the price would come down by about 30 per cent to Rs70 per kg from the present Rs100 after the start of cane crushing.
The TCP chairman, Anjum Bashir, told Dawn that the corporation had already started offloading sugar in the open market on the instructions of the federal government. He said the TCP had disbursed 68,000 tons of sugar to the provinces and the remaining 32,000 tons would be disbursed soon.
Mr Bashir said the TCP had offloaded 28,000 tons in the open market since Oct 12, leaving a balance of only 12,000 tons. It offloaded 10,000 tons of sugar on Monday. A similar quantity would be released on Nov 10, 12 and 15, he added.
He said the TCP would still have a stock of 361,000 tons at the end of this month even after meeting all commitments to utility stores and the provinces. Senator Haroon Khan, who owns the biggest sugar mills, accused the government of not offloading the commodity in time. "There is no sugar in the market. It is obvious that the price will rise." However, he said the sugar price should range between Rs82 and Rs86 per kg as per international price.
Mr Khan claimed that millers had disposed of all their stock at Rs70-75 a kg in the open market last month. The delay in offloading the bumper sugar stock lying with the TCP had led to the highest-ever price hike of Rs100 per kg, he added.
Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim said in a statement that the TCP had an adequate quantity of sugar and it was offloading it in the market to offset the artificial shortage. He said the provinces should immediately lift their stock from the TCP to curb price hike.
Ahmad Fraz Khan adds from Lahore: PSMA chairman Javed Kiyani said that mills in Punjab would start crushing one week after Eidul Azha -- around Nov 25 -- and the price would start declining.
He also deflected the responsibility for the current price hike. "We have been urging the government since October to import sugar to meet the domestic requirement, but it did not listen to us," he said, adding that even the Punjab government had requested the centre to import sugar.
"If mills get sugarcane at Rs200 per 40kg, the price of sugar will remain around Rs70 per kg. The government has, however, fixed support price of cane at Rs125 and also waived sales tax on sugar. The millers are not getting cane even at the announced price," he added.
The PSMA chairman urged the government to withdraw sales tax and excise duty on sugar to bring down its price.
He claimed that millers had offloaded all their stocks in the market. "On Sept 30, millers had 270,000 tons and sold all of them in October." The market was now completely dry, he added.
He contested a questioner who maintained that the PSMA had informed the industries and production ministry that it had 1.1 million tons of sugar by the end of September.

09, Nov, 2010
Rehabilitation plan for flood-hit people approved
By Our Staff Reporter
ISLAMABAD, Nov 8: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) unanimously approved on Monday a national strategy for rehabilitation of flood-affected people to be presented at the Pakistan Development Forum (PDF) meeting scheduled for Nov 14-15.
A meeting of CCI held with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the chair was informed that long-, medium- and short-term economic programmes and priorities would be laid down before the PDF to seek help from donors.
According to the damage need assessment (DNA) reports submitted to the government by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on Nov 5, the floods caused an estimated damage of $10.05 billion. The reconstruction cost for various sectors is $6.79 billion and restoration of the infrastructure will take three years.
The cost of about Rs578 billion, a handout said, would be disbursed in various sectors in accordance with the needs of the provinces.
The meeting was attended by the chief ministers of the four provinces and the federal ministers concerned.
It observed that the national strategy fully defined the requisite parameters to ensure appropriate standards of reconstruction and early rehabilitation of the flood-ravaged areas.
The CCI decided that the second instalment of compensation would be paid under a unified formula and the government would ensure availability of funds.
The criteria for identifying the beneficiaries will be decided by a committee which will include the chief ministers.
The council was informed that after reprioritisation of budgets by the federal and provincial governments Rs150 billion could be made available for financing the post-flood efforts during the current financial year.
The prime minister said the International Monetary Fund had agreed to provide $450 million as budgetary support and the World Bank was inclined to put its share of $1 billion for committed projects on the fast track.
The United Nations has contributed $292 million and the ADB has agreed to accelerate the release of a significant amount.
The CCI was also briefed on the fiscal framework for the current year following the distribution of resources under the 7th National Finance Commission Award.
It was informed that the federal government would be able to save up to Rs24 billion and the provinces Rs20 billion through current expenditure controls.
CENSUS: The CCI decided to hold the 6th population and housing census in August-September next year in consultation with the army to ensure availability of its personnel.
The house-listing exercise will be launched in March-April after examinations in educational institutions. Around 180,000 enumerators, mainly teachers, will be involved in the census.

09, Nov, 2010
Punjab struggles to sell four-year BS degree
By Mansoor Malik
LAHORE, Nov 8: The number of bachelors' students in the 'top 26' Punjab colleges has dropped almost by half in the wake of the Shahbaz Sharif government's flagship initiative: the launching of four-year BS (Honours) programme.
The Punjab higher education department says some 12,400 students have got admission in the new programme offering 25 disciplines -- against last year's enrolment of over 23,500.
The programme was launched on Oct 15. These top 26 colleges in 12 districts have ceased to offer the old two-year degree programme. These were considered to be more resourceful of the 440 government colleges in the province.
The students who have enrolled in the new programme are uncertain as they await qualified teachers to turn up in full strength, and for infrastructural facilities to take shape.Many in the select group of colleges lack even the information technology (IT) labs which are an important component of the programme. An IT teacher from one of the selected institutions in Gujranwala says his college has not even been provided a course outline.
The teacher says the higher education department had promised that there would be no increase in the fee but each student had been asked to pay a monthly charge of Rs350 at computer centres being managed privately in the colleges. Since IT is part of each of the 25 disciplines offered in the four-year programme, it would mean that, without something which the department would consider as an increase, each student would be required to pay Rs2,100 in a six-month semester.
Ali Murtaza, a student of BS (Honours) at the Government College, Gujranwala, says only 18 of the 38 students who qualified for admission to the English programme there had enrolled.
This wariness on the part of the students is substantiated by a letter Punjab University Affiliation Committee's Chairman Dr Hafiz Iqbal wrote to the education department. It reads: "The syllabi for some of the disciplines offered in four-year BS (Honours) programme still need to be developed."
Ahad Khan Cheema, who was the driving force behind the initiative as the higher education secretary, has since been transferred. The administrative secretary, Haseeb Athar, is a fresh arrival and is busy taking briefings from officials. Dawn got hold of Additional Secretary Yawar Husain who admitted that the number of students had fallen because the affiliating universities had allowed only 50 seats in each of the 25 disciplines. "We got approved 100 seats for two sections in certain disciplines," he said.
He confirmed that some 400 faculty seats were vacant in the selected colleges. These include faculty seats that have become redundant as well as some which were not related to the BS (Honours) disciplines on offer.
The higher education department is unable to recruit qualified faculty because the boards of governors, constituted to exercise administrative and financial autonomy, have been unable to meet even once. Initially, the department could not finalise the BoGs' rules and regulations and in the meantime then Lahore High Court's Multan bench granted a stay against the boards. The case is pending.
As the classes have begun, the bloc allocation of Rs500 million -- Rs250 million each for faculty and setting up of IT and science labs and other infrastructure -- is lying unspent in the absence of the BoGs. This grant was in addition to the regular budget of Rs2.12 billion for the 26 colleges.
It is an alarming situation especially because the colleges are required to hold mid-term exams in the third week of December.
College teachers and students under the banner of the Joint Action Committee, Punjab, led by Punjab Professors and Lecturers' Association chief Dr Zahid Ahmed Sheikh have been protesting against the constitution of BoGs.
The protesters demand constitution of college or academic councils comprising senior academics and educationists instead of BoGs that will, they fear, eventually lead towards privatisation of education.
Dr Sheikh says the BS (Honours) programme is destined to fail because the higher education department has introduced it in haste. The existing faculty, which has no experience of teaching BS (Honours) classes, he claims, has neither been imparted training nor given orientation about the semester programme and the courses approved by the Higher Education Commission.
He cites the example of five colleges, including two girls' colleges, in Lahore, where some 10,800 students got admission to two-year degree programme last year. This year, the colleges were allotted 5,700 seats and admitted only around 4,150 students. He says even some of the enrolled students have since withdrawn, realising that the four-year programme might not be fruitful for them.
The additional secretary blames teachers' protests for creating doubts in the minds of the students about a programme which was set to bring about a revolution and train the students to take on the challenges of the modern world. Mr Husain seeks to justify the rather selective gathering of students in the 26 colleges on the basis of figures from the previous year.
He says some 22,000 students got admission to the two-year graduation programme and 1,500 in the two-year postgraduate programme in these colleges last year. But then only 10,000 students appeared for their BA/BSc programmes and only 3,500 of them got the degree.
In the new four-year programme, Mr Husain predicts, the higher education department will ensure that at least 8,000 out of 12,400 students admitted would get the BS (Honours) degrees. "It is these 8,000 BS (Honours) degree holders who will help bring about a revolution in the society," he declares.
The additional secretary says the department has finalised the rules and regulations for the BoGs for approval by the chief minister. For the moment, college principals have been asked to utilise income from their evening programmes to upgrade their centres and they have recruited 'college teaching interns' at a monthly salary of Rs10,000 to bridge the faculty gap.

09, Nov, 2010
Power tariff has gone up by 95pc since March '08
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD, Nov 8: Since coming to power in March 2008, the PPP-led coalition government has increased power tariff for domestic consumers by 95 per cent and plans to raise it by another 15 to 18 per cent by June next year.
This was stated by Federal Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervez Ashraf during the question hour in the National Assembly on Monday.
"It may not be possible to predict the tariff during the next three years. However, in order to bridge the gap an increase of 15 to 18 per cent up to June 2011 appears to be inevitable," the minister said in a written reply to a question asked by PML-N's MNA from Multan Rana Mahmoodul Hassan.
The minister also informed the house that an agreement had been reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under which all subsidies being given to the power sector would be stopped from the beginning of the next financial year.
"It has been agreed to do away with the power sector tariff subsidies with effect from the financial year 2011-12. For the FY 2010-11, the subsidy was reduced to Rs30 billion from the required Rs226 billion. Therefore, the consumer tariff had to be raised, the minister said in response to a question "whether it is a fact that for an agreement for grant of loan, the IMF has made it compulsory to increase the electricity tariff in the country".
Replying to a question raised by another PML-N MNA Qudsia Arshad, the minister said the government had so far increased power tariff for domestic consumers by 94.9 per cent, for commercial consumers by 67.6 per cent and for industrial sector by 77 per cent. Moreover, he said, there had been an increase of 13.33 per cent in "other taxes applicable as the GST".
Mr Ashraf, who faced huge criticism across the country because of his failure to fulfil his promise of completely eliminating loadshedding by Dec 31, 2009, explained reasons for the constant tariff increase.
He claimed that increase in prices of fuel like furnace oil and gas, more dependence on thermal generation, non-availability of committed gas and increase in administrative expenses were major causes for this phenomenal hike in electricity charges.
Mr Ashraf said that he expected that the power tariff would be reduced with the completion of hydropower projects and import of gas from Iran and Tajikistan.
Moreover, he said, efforts were being made to reduce line losses and create awareness among the people for economical use of electricity.
Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi came to the rescue of the minister when PML-Q's MNA Marvi Memon, through a supplementary question, asked about the amount so far paid in advance for the controversial rental power projects (RPPs).
Mr Kundi stopped the minister from answering the question. He said that the matter was subjudice and it was not appropriate to discuss the issue at this forum.The minister claimed that about 2,125MW of electricity was expected to be added to the national grid by the end of this year. Out of that, 1,077MW of electricity would be generated by five IPPs (independent power projects), 924MW by six RPPs and 124MW by a public sector project at Guddu.

08, Nov, 2010
12 militants killed in 2US drone attacks
By Our Correspondent
MIRAMSHAH, Nov 7: Twelve suspected militants were killed in two US drone attacks within an hour in North Waziristan on Sunday.
Sources said that the first attack in the Dandi Sedgai area left eight militants dead and the second in Dattakhel area killed another four.
In the first attack, the drone fired two missiles on a car near a house, destroying the vehicle and damaging the house.
The identity of the deceased could not be ascertained because journalists have no access to the remote area.
In the second attack, a vehicle in the Mizer area of Dattakhel was attacked.
AP adds: Local intelligence officials said that 14 militants were killed in the latest attacks against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants seeking sanctuary in the region.
The region is home to hundreds of Pakistani and foreign militants, many belonging to or allied with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

08, Nov, 2010
Many out there still long for Watan
Dawn Report
LAHORE, Nov 7: Hundreds of thousands of the flood-hit people are still awaiting their Watan Cards exactly two months after the cash-assistance programme was launched in the country.
The delay is put down to a variety of problems relating to identification of the deserving for the disbursement, but the case of Balochistan is unique. The federal government is yet to honour a pledge to contribute Rs1 billion to the cause of the flood-hit in Balochistan and consequently the Watan is yet to kick off in the province.
Heavy rains lashed Barkhan district in Balochistan on July 22 in what turned out to be an ominous sign of the things to come. The scene later repeated itself with horrifying intensity and frequency across the country. The rivers boiled over and the deluge left a trail of devastation, blurring and breaking natural and man-made boundaries, yet failing to rid Pakistan of the all too routine and disturbing allegations of discrimination.
By the beginning of November, as Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan were busy in disbursing cash to the flood-hit, Balochistan -- the proverbial 'remote' and 'backward' province beset with all kinds of problems -- was still waiting to be embraced by Watan.
Under the formula, the cost of the cash assistance to be made through Watan Cards in a province was to be shared equally by the respective provincial government and the federal government. The Balochistan government transferred the Rs1 billion it was required to contribute to the fund about a month ago. In the other three provinces where the cash was being distributed, the governments were behind schedule and even a province as resourceful as Punjab missed its target of distributing the first instalment of assistance money through Watan Cards by the end of October. There were allegations of inefficiency, of political point-scoring and corruption from various corners of the country -- prompting the sceptics to point out that it was not for no reason that the card was called Watan.
"You must appreciate the fact that this is the biggest Visa card distribution operation ever in the entire world," said an official of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority in Lahore. "You must understand that we are talking about distribution of more than 800,000 cards (in Punjab) in a very short time. Reaching out to such a big number of families spread across the length of the province is not easy."
Officials claimed the provincial authorities were trying to be extremely careful while identifying villages and families and individuals hit by the disaster. But still, they admitted, there were instances where "undeserving" people also got their names included on the lists provided to Nadra and banks for issuance of the cards.
Some of the problems which cropped up could be ascribed to the fact that Watan Cards were launched on Sept 9 in a hurry. The aim was to quickly provide a basic assistance sum of Rs20,000 to each of the affected families. In the original plan, the first grant was to be followed by at least one more, much bigger instalment of Rs80,000 -- the chances of which happening any time soon looked rather slim given the financial crunch the government was faced with.
On Nov 4, officials said more than Rs20 billion had been given in cash assistance to more than 1.15 million flood-hit families through the National Database and Registration Authority's 100 distribution centres set up countrywide. That was against some 2.5 million who had approached the centres for obtaining the card.
By Nov 3, the Punjab government had compensated just over 542,000 families -- or about two-thirds of the families affected in the province -- for their losses.
In Sindh, till Nov 1, of a total of 408,366 cards issued, 373,793 had been activated.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, of a total of 283,963 registered cases, 134,728 cards had been issued and 119,744 activated.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, which had a funding of Rs60 million to disburse among the flood-hit, the card was only launched on Oct 30.
The figures indicate how gigantic the task of the assistance-providers is. Given the number of people affected, complaints were but inevitable.
Reports from across the country suggested that a large number of people who qualified were without cards until the first week of November. Many of those who had the card could not cash it because either they did not have the Computerised National Identity Cards or their CNICs were invalid. Officials in Lahore elaborated that while in some cases the affected people did not have CNICs, in other instances families were without their "heads" (husbands/fathers) and, therefore, did not "qualify" for the official financial help under the laid out procedure.
Since the Watan Card holders were mostly not well versed in the technicalities, they were frustrated. For instance, at a relief camp in Hyderabad, many of the flood affected had on them receipts of automated teller machine (ATM) that showed their Watan Cards had been deactivated. Similar complaints abounded in Thatta and Dadu in Sindh and in the flood-hit districts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The complaints took the shape of a pyramid, and if the revenue officials at the grassroots were subjected to the charged popular attacks, the politicians sitting at the top of the system were also not spared a few harsh words from the public.
The onslaught against the rulers was perhaps more pointed and had greater dimensions to it in Punjab than anywhere else, given the peculiar nature of the government set-up here. The two parties in coalition here didn't see eye to eye on many issues and it was inevitable that the PML-N and the PPP found themselves in conflict with each other on a matter that involved money and a chance to win people over.
Even some bureaucrats in Lahore said political affiliation did matter when it came to qualifying for the assistance. But one of the officials Dawn talked to argued that it was the initial inaction on the part of the federal government that had allowed the PML-N this room to play the sole saviour of the flood-hit.
At the bottom of the pyramid, reports from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said, the notorious revenue official -- the patwari -- was cashing in on the miseries of the flood hit. Another from D.G. Khan in Punjab spoke about how the patwaris' list of people to be compensated had been rejected in favour of a simpler method based on data provided by Nadra. This change was effective to an extent and it denied the patwaris in the area the lucrative few weeks that they must have hoped for.Hundreds in Pakhtunkhwa had to wait for redress of their grievances since the PDMA said it would only hear the complaints after the end of the first phase of registration in the province on Nov 14. Most of these complaints related to the greedy patwaris fleecing the Watan-seekers. People in Nowshera, Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and Lakki Marwat accused patwaris of 'charging' them as much as Rs10,000 to hand out the card. The PDMA had to rely on these revenue officials since it did not have a network of its own ready in the districts.
"There are very few reports of fraud," said Tariq Malik, Nadra's Deputy Chairman, in Islamabad. According to his understanding, even these complaints related to events that took place after Nadra was through with its part of the assignment. If the biometric system had not been deployed by Nadra, he said, a lot more people would have been hoodwinked.
Nadra was spending millions of dollars on preparing the Watan Cards and on their distribution to the affected families, Mr Malik told Dawn last week.
The authority was also tasked with monitoring the use of the grant by the card holders.
"Bear in mind that all these 100 distribution centres are new. We have bought technical equipment needed for a biometric solution. And for the past two months, Nadra's employees have been working without a break even for Eid."
Mr Malik requested the law-enforcing authorities to take stern action against those who exploited the flood-hit. On its own part, the authority had announced that "anybody who has lost or sold his card by mistake (should) call the issuing bank, provide his CNIC number and have it blocked and submit a request for its replacement."
Nadra was also launching a campaign in 13 local and regional languages to make people aware on how to handle the card responsibly and to remind them any subsequent instalments will also be routed through Watan.

08, Nov, 2010
Low-cost hepatitis drug stuck in official machination
By Asif Chaudhry
LAHORE, Nov 7: A large batch of interferon injection --- produced indigenously for the poor hepatitis patients after getting the manufacturing process patented in 2008 --- will expire in December due to an indifferent attitude of the federal ministries of health and science and technology, Dawn has learnt.
Research work was undertaken at the Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) of the Centre of Applied Molecular Biology (CAMB) and Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC), where interferon was replicated to reduce the cost of treatment of hepatitis, sources said.
About four years ago, a group of scientists and medical experts led by a former director of the CEMB, Prof Riazuddin, and the principal of the AIMC, Prof Javed Akram, chalked out a programme for producing proteins indigenously and began working on the project to rid the country of dependence on proteins produced abroad.
After three years of hard work, the group succeeded in cloning 18 human pharmaceutical protein genes. The proteins cloned by the experts included insulin for diabetics, erythropoietin for use in kidney transplantation, interferon injections of four types for hepatitis patients, interleukin of four types to develop immunity in patients, myosin of three types and connexin of four types to heal bone fracture and HPOF for hearing. The scientists termed it a breakthrough in the bio-pharma field.
The group analysed the effects of various diseases and on the basis of reports and data available concluded that hepatitis C was the "number one killer disease" in Pakistan, which infected predominantly, if not exclusively, the poor and middle-class people.
The group cloned interferon injection to make it available in the local market at a price far lower than that of imported vials of the injection.
Discussing the importance of the project, a senior researcher told Dawn that in 2005 the Musharraf government initiated a five-year programme at a cost of Rs2 billion to eradicate hepatitis from the country.
He said the import bill for interferon was Rs1.1 billion in 2005, Rs1.4 billion in 2006, Rs1.87 billion in 2007, Rs2.3 billion in 2008 and over Rs3 billion in 2009.
Despite the massive spending, only five per cent of the hepatitis patients got properly diagnosed and treated, while 90 per cent died an untimely and accelerated death without getting any curative treatment, he said.
At present, he said, some 70 brands of interferon were being imported from various countries. All these brands were beyond the reach of the poor patients suffering from hepatitis C.
"We developed procedures for the production of interferon to ensure a reliable supply at an affordable price of Rs70," he said.
A source said the federal health ministry initially lauded the efforts of the group and in 2008 gave it the permission to produce 100,000 vials of interferon injection for clinical trials among humans.
But later on some senior officials in the two ministries started creating hurdles, he said. The experts visited Islamabad a number of times to convince the authorities of the importance of the project but to no avail.
The proposal for indigenous production of interferon has been pending with the federal ministry of health and the Pakistan Medical Research Council (PMRC) since then. The vials of locally produced interferon injection have been stored below 4 degrees centigrade in the CEMB.
Finally, the frustrated researchers stopped their work on 17 other proteins for an indefinite period when a senior health ministry official told them: "Initiate clinical trials on healthy volunteers, otherwise wait for a miracle."
When contacted, Dr Riazuddin said low-cost interferon injections were a longstanding demand of the poor hepatitis patients in Pakistan. "If the delay persists, 100,000 interferon injections produced a couple of years ago will expire next month, resulting in the wastage of research effort and material resources," he said.
He said a hepatitis C patient had to take three injections per week and the treatment continued for six to 18 months, depending on the intensity of the virus. On an average, the diagnosis and follow-ups cost more than Rs50,000 per patient, with the total cost of treatment often amounting to Rs150,000.
The situation was quite alarming as hepatitis B and C were the common cause of liver diseases in Pakistan, he said.
Dr Riazuddin said locally produced interferon compared well with the imported brands sold in the market, as evidenced by the results of safety and bioactivity tests and the results of bio-equivalence tests carried out at a German laboratory.
"The local product was also found safe in experiments on rats and rabbits, comparable to standard interferon as approved by the World Health Organisation," he said.
Prof Javed Akram said bureaucratic red-tape motivated by "vested interests" was creating hurdles in the clinical trials of the locally manufactured interferon.
He added that if and when their research, which led to the indigenous production of 18 important pharmaceutical proteins, was allowed to reach the poor patient, Pakistan would benefit greatly in the shape of foreign exchange savings and minimising the suffering of millions. "This (bureaucratic red-tapism) has certainly discouraged me and my able researchers. The research remains confined to laboratories and the applicability of such hard work remains a dream," said Prof Akram.
Federal Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari told Dawn that a few months back his ministry had forwarded the case to the PMRC for ethical evaluation after giving a formal approval.
He said there were certain ethical guidelines to ensure that the drug had no harmful effects on humans.
When reminded that the ethics committee of the AIMC had already approved the drug, he said the decision held good for just one institution.
"It should again be evaluated by experts at the national level," he said and added that the PMRC had been requested to evaluate the drug at the bioethics committee level.
"Since then the matter is pending with the PMRC," Mr Lashari said.
He added that his ministry had not only approved the CEMB interferon but also sanctioned an amount of Rs8 million for the purpose.
Asked about the expiry next month of a large batch of interferon injections, he said the PMRC officials could throw a "light on the subject".
A PMRC member said the council was a part of the health ministry and headed by the secretary himself. "The health secretary can tell you why the project is being delayed," he said.
A deputy chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly and member of National Assembly's Standing Committees on Commerce, Health, Human Rights and Environment, Yasmeen Rehman, told Dawn that the issue had already been discussed at a higher forum and the government would be pressurised to resolve the matter.
She said the chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Health, Nadeem Ihsan, had briefed the members about the breakthrough.
The committee would discuss the issue after Eidul Azha, she added.

08, Nov, 2010
RGST bill to be finalised by Nov 12, lenders assured
By Mubarak Zeb Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 7: As international donors appear to be in no mood to give the government any more breathing space, the government is reported to have assured the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that it will simultaneously introduce five bills in five days in the National Assembly as well as provincial assemblies about enforcement of reformed general sales tax on services and new steps to generate additional revenue to rein in the rising fiscal deficit.
The federal coalition government, Dawn has learnt, has informed the donors that final touches will be given to the reformed general sales tax (RGST) law in a next few days. The bill will seek complete withdrawal of exemptions on sectors such as pharmaceutical, textile and agriculture to raise over Rs100 billion required for financing the budget deficit caused by rising debt services and defence expenditures.
"We have assured the review mission that bills will be finalised latest by Nov 12 for tabling them in the assemblies, which will be discussed with officials of the IMF and World Bank on the sidelines of a meeting of the Pakistan Development Forum (PDF) scheduled for November 13-14," said an official who was part of the Pakistan's delegation which held talks with donor agencies.
Federal Finance Secretary Salman Siddiqque announced on Friday that a meeting on the RGST would be held on Monday to resolve differences among provinces.
According to him, financial representatives of the provinces are scheduled to reach Islamabad to discuss the issue, but Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Dr Kaiser Bengali has expressed ignorance about any such meeting.
"I have received no message from the finance ministry about the meeting on the GST issue," Mr Bengali told Dawn by phone from Karachi.
He said there were still issues among the provinces to be resolved.
"We only know through media that an understanding has been reached among the provinces over the RGST issue. We, as negotiating team, know well that provinces are still divergent in their positions on the RGST," he said, adding that he would accompany the chief minister to the Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting to be held in Islamabad on Monday.
A similar ignorance about the meeting was expressed by Senator Haji Adeel of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when contacted by Dawn.
"I have no information about the meeting," said Mr Adeel, who represents the KP in finance-related meetings at the federal level. However, he added that this could be a technical-level meeting.
Haji Adeel said that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had no set-up to collect RGST on services.
He said that his province supported the proposal of Punjab and Balochistan that the centre should collect the RGST until the provinces developed the capacity to do so.
"Only Sindh demands that the RGST collection should be given to provinces. Our excise department is unable even to collect provincial taxes," the senator said.
A well-placed source in the finance ministry told Dawn that it would be difficult to evolve consensus on the bills in four days because Tuesday was a public holiday.
Pakistan, according to the source, plans to seek US intervention to soften IMF conditions attached to the release of $3.6 billion tranche of the $11.3 billion standby arrangement in case it failed to meet its commitments.
The source said that Pakistan had assured the review mission that all GST-related exemptions would be withdrawn and the current 17 per cent GST rate would be maintained.
At the same time, the sources said, there was a proposal to levy 10 per cent tax on all incomes.
The IMF has asked Pakistan to keep the fiscal deficit up to 4.7 per cent instead of four per cent set earlier. However, the fund set a condition that the 0.7 per cent of the budget would be used for rehabilitation of flood-affected people, the official said.
Pakistan, according to the official, would have to sort out the issues before the IMF board's meeting which will be held on Dec 15.

08, Nov, 2010
VC asks govt to accept captors' demands
Bureau Report
PESHAWAR, Nov 7: A video footage of the kidnapped Vice-Chancellor of Islamia College University, Prof Ajaml Khan, surfaced here on Sunday, with him appealing to the government to accept the demands of his captors by Nov 20.
"The government should accept mujahideen's demands, which are of trivial nature, by Nov 20, failing which I may lose my life the following day," he said.
Prof Khan was kidnapped on Sept 7 when he was going to his office from his residence.
In his first video released last month he had requested the provincial government and leaders of the Awami National Party to get him released.
The fresh video, released to some private television channels, Prof Khan who has grown a beard, calls upon teachers and students of the university and sincere workers of the ANP to call upon the government for acceptance of his captors' demands.
Prof Khan, who is related to ANP Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, said he had been in custody all this time and he had earlier requested the government through a video to accept his captors' demands, but his request fell on deaf ears.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said he neither knew who had released the video nor any group had put forward any demand to the government.
In a handout issued here, the minister said that Prof Khan was respected by the government and all possible efforts would be made to get him released.
"For the sake of humanity we have always strived to get every kidnapped person released and will continue to do so," he said.

08, Nov, 2010
Bush calls for increasing pressure on Pakistan
By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON, Nov 7: In his memoir, former US president George W. Bush favours escalating the war in Afghanistan and urges his successor to increase pressure on Pakistan to do more.
"I strongly believe the mission is worth the cost," Mr Bush writes in "Decision Points", which comes out on Tuesday. "Fortunately, I am not the only one."
In the 497-page autobiography, Mr Bush expresses gratitude that President Barack Obama "stood up to critics by deploying more troops, announcing a new commitment to counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, and increasing the pressure on Pakistan to fight the extremists in the tribal areas".
"Ultimately, the only way the Taliban and Al Qaeda can retake Afghanistan is if America abandons the country," he concludes in his chapter on the subject. "Allowing the extremists to reclaim power would force Afghan women back into subservience, remove girls from school, and betray all the gains of the past nine years. It would also endanger our security."
Mr Bush writes that on Sept 11, 2001, he gave his administration a clear goal: find out who was responsible and "kick their ass".
In "Decision Points", Mr Bush describes his reaction when his then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice informed him of the crash of a third aeroplane into the Pentagon.
"I sat back in my seat and absorbed her words. My thoughts clarified: The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war," he writes.
"My blood was boiling. We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass," Mr Bush writes.
"In a single morning, the purpose of my presidency had grown clear: to protect our people and defend our freedom that had come under attack." President Obama is mentioned at 10 places in Mr Bush's book. Each mention is either a favourable, sympathetic or tangential reference. There is not a single unkind word about Mr Obama in the book.
"On election night, I was moved by images of black men and women crying on TV," he writes. "Barack Obama had campaigned on hope, and that was what he had given many Americans."
Mr Bush ordered the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and he's been criticised for allowing the situation to get out of control by diverting resources to a war of choice in Iraq.

08, Nov, 2010
4 policemen shot dead near Mastung
By Amanullah Kasi
QUETTA, Nov 7: Four policemen were gunned down when armed men on motorbikes opened fire on their van near Mastung on Sunday.
The police van carrying salary of the department came under attack in Kardigab area.
Those killed in the attack were identified as Nazir Lehri, Saeed Ahmed, Nazir Ahmed and Mohammad Arif.
According to sources, the assailants fled to the hills after the attack.
AFP adds: "Three police recruits were killed on the spot. Another died on the way to the hospital," local police official Abdul Salam said.
He said that two more policemen were injured.
The casualties were confirmed by a local government official.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

07, Nov, 2010
JC approves rules for judges' appointment: Minister hints at amending statute
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: The government intended to make another amendment to the Constitution, instead of calling a joint session of parliament, for implementing the guidelines on judges' appointment suggested by the Supreme Court in its interim order last month on petitions challenging the 18th Amendment, the federal law minister said on Saturday.
Babar Awan, talking to reporters after attending the inaugural meeting of the Judicial Commission, said he was confident that the "19th amendment" bill would be unanimously adopted by parliament, as was done by it in the case of the 18th Amendment.
Experts are split on interpretation of the Supreme Court's interim order of Oct 21, particularly about what precisely the court had asked parliament to do. Clearest in the order was what would happen between Oct 21 and the last week of Jan 2011, when the final judgment will be handed down: "Notwithstanding the pendency of these petitions, the constitutional provisions under challenge have come into effect."
This meant Article 175A, which set out the new, two-tier appointment process, became effective immediately.
The order stated: "We (the SC judges) would like to refer to the Parliament for reconsideration the issue of appointment process of judges … in the light of the concerns/reservations expressed and observations/suggestions made hereinabove."
Legal experts hesitated to reply to questions whether the Supreme Court had asked parliament to pass a fresh constitutional amendment to reflect the changes desired by it in the procedure for the appointment of judges.
Neither the lawyers who appeared before the 17-member bench nor government representatives were specific in their replies.
At his briefing the law minister also said the Islamabad High Court would start working on Dec 13.
The establishment of the high court had to be annulled after the Supreme Court had, on July 31 last year, declared the Nov 3, 2007, emergency unconstitutional and illegal. Mr Awan said that a notification to that effect had already been issued and the four provinces and Fata would be given representation in IHC as judges to deal with the issues exclusively pertaining to the federal capital.
CJ OPTIMISTIC: At the meeting of the Judicial Commission, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry described the gathering as something that would herald a change in the system of appointing judges in the light of the 18th Amendment.
Justice Javed Iqbal, a senior SC judge and member of the JC, introduced the agenda and tabled a draft of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan's Rules, which was unanimously adopted after a few minor amendments.
The chief justice expressed the confidence that the collective wisdom assembled here would come up to the expectations of the entire nation in discharge of their constitutional duties.
He it was his hope that any weakness in the new system would be addressed by parliament in the light of the Oct 21 interim order.
On nomination for appointments, the rules suggest that for each anticipated or actual vacancy of a judge in the Supreme Court or chief justices of the Federal Shariat Court or high courts, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry will initiate nominations in the JC for the appointment against such vacancy.
Similarly, for an anticipated or actual vacancy of a judge in the FSC or a judge in the high court, the chief justice of the respective court will initiate and send nomination for appointment against such vacancy to the JC chairman (CJP) for convening its meeting.
The rules empower the chairman to regulate the proceedings of the commission.
On the JC proceedings, the rules say the chairman can call any record or information from any person or authority, while the JC secretary will forward nominations to his counterpart in the Parliamentary Committee constituted under Article 175-A (9) of the Constitution.
The PC proceedings will be held in-camera, but a record of the proceedings will be prepared and maintained by the PC secretary duly certified by the chairman under his hand.
The retired chief justice or a judge of the Supreme Court and a retired chief justice or a retired judge of the high court while attending the session of the JC will be entitled to TA/DA and accommodation as admissible to a judge of the Supreme Court or judge of the high court.
The chief justice said the Saturday's event was the result of a democratic system prevailing in the country.
He said: "What the Constitution has given is the result of democracy to make the judiciary more independent for the purpose of dispensation of justice.
"Undoubtedly, we would be having some difficulty in making so many comments because of the reason that matter is presently sub judice before two forums, one is parliament and the second is the Supreme Court, and for the time we will be functioning under the constitutional provision and the interim order which has got the binding force.
"We will be making collective efforts to ensure that whatever the duty placed on our shoulder be discharged in a befitting manner so that we could be able to give more improved and transparent judicial system to this nation. Our future generation must be looking towards these deliberations aimed at making selection of upright, honest and dedicated judicial members of the superior courts."

07, Nov, 2010
Thousands pay their last respects to assassinated MQM leader
By Azfarul Ashfaque
KARACHI, Nov 6: Nearly 50 days after his assassination in London, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Dr Imran Farooq was laid to rest in a Karachi graveyard on Saturday amid unprecedented security and thousands of mourners.
According to AFP, the turnout was in the region of 200,000.
While the city was completely shut down and no public transport was available, MQM workers and sympathisers, including women, flocked to Azizabad's Jinnah Ground to attend the funeral of their leader. Discipline was the hallmark of the day as mourners queued up at roads leading to the ground and crossed walkthrough security gates installed before entering the venue.
The administration had placed Karachi under a thick security blanket since Friday night in a tense build-up to the burial. Thousands of policemen and Rangers personnel were deployed and a helicopter kept hovering over the Jinnah ground.
Law-enforcement agencies used sniffer dogs to perform 'technical sweeping' at the MQM headquarters, Jinnah Ground and along the route of the procession towards the Yasinabad graveyard.
Earlier, a PIA flight carrying the body of Imran Farooq landed at Karachi airport after 10am. Parents, the widow, sons and other relatives of the slain leader arrived in the city on the same flight.
Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, along with Interior Minister Rehman Malik and several MQM leaders, entered the aircraft to meet the bereaved family. They received the coffin carrying Dr Farooq's remains and later wrapped it in the Muttahida's tricolour.
From the airport, the coffin was taken to his Sharifabad residence in an ambulance of the Khidmat-i-Khalq Foundation. Later it was shifted to the MQM headquarters in Azizabad and from there to the Jinnah ground.
The turnout at the funeral was so big that rows stretched from the Jinnah Ground to the graveyard in Yasinabad.
The Namaz-i-Janaza, led by Maulana Asad Thanvi, was offered at 1.30pm. After the prayers, emotions overtook MQM workers and they broke into slogans demanding justice for the slain leader.
The coffin of Dr Farooq was again placed in the ambulance which started moving slowly towards the graveyard, which is at a distance of about one kilometre from the Jinnah Ground. However, it took over 30 minutes to reach the cemetery, where only close relatives of the slain leader and senior leadership of the MQM were allowed to enter.
The body of Dr Farooq was lowered into a grave by his father Farooq Ahmed, brothers and Dr Farooq Sattar amid tears.
Moving scenes were witnessed in the Jinnah Ground and during the funeral procession, as many people could not control their emotions and burst into tears.
"The whole nation mourns his death…after Liaquat Ali Khan, it is for the first time that people shut their business in mourning," said Farooq Ahmed, the father of the slain leader.
"It was a memorable, but extremely painful day," MQM leader Dr Sattar told newsmen after the burial. "We are sure that his murderers would be arrested and brought to justice."
Later, the participants of the funeral procession dispersed peacefully.
Imran Farooq was assassinated by unidentified assailants outside his London residence on Sept 16. The London police kept his body for 45 days and then handed over to his family for last rites.

07, Nov, 2010
Guessing game feeding on govt's vulnerability
By Cyril Almeida
ISLAMABAD: There will be, there won't be; there could be, there may not be.
The favourite parlour game in Islamabad these days is to figure out if there's any meat on the rumours of a change in government in the offing.
Last week's (un)parliamentary sparring between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition over the possibility of mid-term elections churned the rumour mill even more. But the mill had already been grinding away for several weeks: will there be an 'in-house' change or mid-term elections?
Here's what is known. Two and a half years into power, the PPP is perceived as politically vulnerable.
The government's anaemic response to the floods, rising prices, particularly of foodstuff, electricity and fuel, and a very real governance deficit magnified by the media have combined to create a political opening.
But there is another factor — often only whispered, sometimes talked about in code and virtually never said outright — which may be the key to it all: the army/establishment is known to be unhappy with the PPP-led government in Islamabad.A PML 'Like Minded' leader, who recently joined the Pir Pagara-led grouping of PML fringe players, speculated about the possibilities: "Perhaps this is to keep them (the government) off balance. Look, at the end of the day, if they (the army) want to come, they will come.
"But if they don't want to come or can't come at the moment, the constitutional route is open. The MQM, the ANP, Fata, if they switched, the PPP will fall. The recipe isn't a secret."
A PML-Q leader alluded to the international dimension: "With Obama's strategy reappraisal in Afghanistan, pressure on Pakistan could mount. The army may find itself under pressure on the western border, and frustration over the lack of help it (the army) is getting on counter-terrorism stuff inside the country from the government could boil over."
The Q-Leaguer added: "Look at this place, is it investment friendly? The government needs to reinvent itself on two issues: the economy and counter-terrorism."
Nawaz factor
But if change is desired, the even worse relations between Nawaz Sharif — the only other obvious political option — and the army stand in the way.Khwaja Asif, a self-described 'belligerent' against the present government, tried to downplay the rumours: "Yes, there was a genuine grouse with the army for the last many years, but many of those generals, Gen Aziz, Gen Mehmood, Gen Usmani, have gone now. Shahbaz Sharif has good relations with the army and he does what Nawaz Sharif asks."
But Humayun Akhtar, another PML Like Minded leader, had this to offer: "There are two establishments now — the local one and the international. Will they be comfortable with Nawaz Sharif? All Nawaz Sharif's principles will go down the drain when the time is right, but I don't see that happening right now." So if rapprochement between the N-League and the army currently stands blocked, the exploratory work for the creation of a 'third option' has set tongues wagging.
Referring to the recent gathering of marginal PML figures in Karachi at the home of Pir Pagara, leader of the PML-F, a Q-League figure suggested: "It's a good counter for the Sindh card. Pir Sahib's relevance is a lot to the making and breaking of governments."
Humayun Akhtar claimed: "What we are trying to do is make our relevance and create a viable third option before the next election. Nawaz Sharif is a central Punjab guy.
"In south Punjab, the Bahawalpur movement is with us. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the non-'Khan' families are with us. In Sindh, Pir Pagara, Arbab Rahim and Sindhi Awami Ittehad are an option (against) the PPP."
But the group perhaps most rejuvenated by the changing political winds is the PML-Q. Waseem Sajjad explained: "If the Muslim League is divided, the PPP benefits. Even if Q doesn't join N and chooses to fight on its own, the PPP would benefit from the split vote bank.
"Mian Sahib is the dominant player, but pride and personality get in the way."
Mushahid Hussain also appeared to sense an opportunity: "Q is being wooed by all sides. There are three major forces in Pakistan today: PML-N, PPP and Q. If two get together, the third is neutralised."
However, the Q-League is hamstrung both by internal divisions — its various centres of gravity include the Like Minded, the 'Forward Bloc' in Punjab, and a core led by the Chaudhris of Gujrat — and by the antipathy towards it from the Sharif brothers.
Echoing his leader's sentiments, Khwaja Asif said: "The one who are new (in the Q-League), we don't have any problem with. But the ones who stabbed us in the back, we can't accept."
But that may just be the talk of wounded egos and betrayed emotions, not hard-nosed interests. "The PML story is like a quarrel among lovers and you know all that goes with that," according to Mushahid Hussain.
Yet, hard-nosed interests are also at stake: observers of Punjab politics wonder if Shahbaz Sharif's hostility towards Pervaiz Elahi is motivated by the desire to keep out of the party yet another prime ministerial aspirant.
Complexity aside, there is a bottom line. "It's all about power politics," a senior Islamabad-based journalist said. "Forget everything else, follow the power and what's going on becomes obvious."
Though even that appears to lead to a contradiction at present: even as insiders suggest they expect the 'heat' to build up in the weeks and months ahead, no one appeared confident, on the record or off the record, that change may in fact be imminent.
Perhaps an even greater reality than power politics is reality itself.
"It doesn't suit any party to replace the PPP," according to a senior Q-Leaguer. "Why would anyone want to take responsibility and blame for the economic and security mess the country is in?"

07, Nov, 2010
New dossier handed over to Indian official
ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: The Foreign Office on Saturday urged New Delhi to allow a Pakistani commission to visit India to gather more evidence for the prosecution of seven suspects linked to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik had proposed sending a judicial commission to India to record witnesses' statements, as the trial of seven suspects continues in Pakistan.
"The deputy high commissioner of India in Islamabad, Rahul Kulshreshth, was called to the Foreign Office," and handed over a dossier about the attacks and details of the commission's proposed visit, the foreign ministry said.
"The government of India was requested to facilitate the visit of the proposed commission," it said."Further information has been sought from India to facilitate the ongoing Mumbai trial in Pakistan." —AFP

07, Nov, 2010
Toll in Darra mosque attack rises to 68
By Abdul Sami Paracha
KOHAT, Nov 6: Two teams set up to investigate Friday's suicide attack on a mosque in Darra Adamkhel started their work on Saturday.
Officials told Dawn that personnel of the Federal Investigation Agency, Military Intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence and political administration would take part in the investigation.
The official death toll rose to 68 on Saturday after three people injured the previous day died. But local people claimed that at least 85 people were killed in the attack.
A case has been registered against unknown terrorists.
It may be mentioned that Tariq Afridi, the chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber Agency, and a group led by Momin Khan Afridi have fought several battles for the control of Darra Adamkhel in the past.
The group, backed by the government, had in 2008 formed Islami Taliban Momin Afridi Group to flush out the TTP.
The group also enjoyed the support of six tribes in its stance against Tariq Afridi when the latter's men started closing hashish shops and CD markets, targeting girls' schools and extorting money from rich tribesmen and parliamentarians.
The hujra in the mosque attacked on Friday remained the headquarters of the Islami Taliban for sometime.
Momin Afridi moved to South Waziristan two years ago when the TTP started attacks against him and his men in Hangu, Thall and Orakzai Agency.
At present, Nasrullah of Mullah Khel tribe heads the group in Darra Adamkhel.
Tariq Afridi and his men have also left Darra Adamkhel and moved to Khyber and Orakzai agencies.

07, Nov, 2010
10 militants killed in Orakzai air strikes
By Our Correspondent
KALAYA, Nov 6: Ten militants were killed and five others injured when helicopter gunships pounded their hideouts in various areas of Lower Orakzai tribal region on Saturday.
Official sources said that military helicopters targeted militant positions in Andar Mella, Malokhel and Saidkhel villages after nine people, security personnel among them, were kidnapped.
Sources said that those kidnapped were going from Bezotkhel to Kohat on Friday when militants stopped their vehicles in Saidkhel area and forcibly took them away.
Three hideous were destroyed in the shelling.
The political administration called a meeting of the elders of Bezotkhel, Perozkhel and Istrikhel tribes and asked them to take action against militants who were attacking security forces' convoys and government installations in the area.
The elders were told to inform the security forces about the movement of militants in their areas.

07, Nov, 2010
Pakistan ready for tax reforms, says IMF
By Anwar Iqbal
WASHINGTON, Nov 6: Pakistan supports a general sales tax and changes to its energy industry, the International Monetary Fund said on Saturday while reporting on its talks with the country.
The IMF and Pakistan also have agreed on a budget deficit target for the 2011 financial year to help flood victims and reduce inflation, said a statement issued by the IMF headquarters in Washington.
Adnan Mazarei, the leader of an IMF staff mission which held a series of meetings in Islamabad this week, praised the country's efforts to stabilise its economy. Pakistani "authorities consider that the reformed general sales tax is essential to raise revenue to finance relief for flood victims, poverty reduction, and infrastructure reconstruction," Mr Mazarei said. "Tax reform is also needed to make the tax system more equitable."
Mr Mazarei noted that Pakistani authorities recognised the critical importance of energy sector changes and had initiated reforms aimed at reducing loadshedding.
Pakistani officials had agreed to "curtail energy subsidies in order to free up budget resources for spending in priority areas; and resolving the issue of circular debt," he said.
"Progress has been made regarding the measures to be implemented in the context of the authorities' economic stabilisation and reform agenda, while protecting the poor," Mr Mazarei said. "The IMF remains committed to the ongoing dialogue with the Pakistani authorities, and discussions will continue, including around the Pakistan Development Forum, to support Pakistan's efforts to strengthen macroeconomic stability."

07, Nov, 2010
Pakistan-US team recovers 'PN asset' from sea
By Iftikhar A. Khan
ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: Mystery surrounded statements by the Pakistan and United States navies on Saturday about a joint operation for the recovery of a "valuable PN asset".
The operation was conducted in the Arabian Sea 40 kilometres off the country's coast after a search by the Pakistan Navy found that the equipment lay at a depth of almost 60 metres. Since the navy does not have the equipment to carry out a probe at such depths, it sought assistance from the United States, a statement said without shedding light on the object in question or the timing.
"This team effort has resulted in the successful return of a valuable Pakistan Navy asset," said Commodore Mukhtar Khan, commander of the Pakistan Navy's auxiliary and mine squadron.
"The swift mission planning and excellent coordination between our two dive teams is a good example of how partner forces should work."
A statement from the US side did nothing to satisfy one's curiosity.
"One of our key missions is providing support to the military forces of Pakistan," said US Navy Vice Admiral Michael LeFever, the commander of the Office of the Defence Representative to Pakistan. "Therefore, when the request for assistance came in, we moved swiftly to assist where we could."
The Office of the Defence Representative to Pakistan at the US embassy in Islamabad acted as coordinator for the joint mission.
After the operation, the PN statement added, divers from the two navies trained jointly for a few days to "enhance their diving skills and for the coordination of techniques".

07, Nov, 2010
Award of $2.2bn hydel project: Govt considering bypassing rules to favour China firm
By Khaleeq Kiani
ISLAMABAD, Nov 6: Arguing that the process of inducting new power plants through international competitive bidding has become unviable for Pakistan, the government has said it is preparing for the award of a contract, without bidding, to a Chinese company for the construction of 1,100MW hydropower project in Azad Kashmir. The estimated cost of the project is $2.2 billion.
According to official record, the water and power ministry has asked a six-member committee to allow the CWE, a subsidiary of China's Three Gorges Corporation, to develop the Kohala Hydropower Project (KHPP) through the Private Power Infrastructure Board (PPIB) under yet-to-be-finalised special policy guidelines and criteria.
The committee set up by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet is headed by Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and comprises petroleum minister, secretaries of water and power, finance and economic affairs and PPIB's acting managing director.
"The CWE meets the criteria laid down in guidelines and has more than sufficient technical and financial worth," said a working paper prepared by the PPIB.
Interestingly, the working paper also seeks simplification of mechanism for fast track induction of indigenous, renewable and relatively cheap hydropower project into the national grid and its immediate approval by the ECC.
Government officials, reluctant to comment on the subject on record, said the main consideration for the project implementation by the Chinese firm without bidding was its commitment with President Asif Ali Zardari to providing financing through the Chinese government and banks and recovering it through consumer tariff over the 50-year life of the project.
The working paper said that in order to stop unnecessary and unfeasible proposals and to receive best proposals for raw site hydropower projects, the ECC had decided in 2005 to invite expressions of interest through advertisement in the press. The sponsors, who submit the best proposal, will be issued letter of intent for the feasibility study.
However, because of the recent financial crunch and recession in the international market a number of investors are reluctant to participate in the bidding. The working paper said that some renowned companies like CWE (China), AES (USA), International Power (UK) and Kepco, Komipo, K-Water, Sambu and Daewoo (Korea) were willing to invest in the hydropower sector, but they were not interested in the bidding.
"Therefore, it is high time to encourage them and process their proposals in a transparent manner on a fast-track basis," it said.
Interestingly, most of these Korean companies have recently been denied a contract for the $800 million Mahl Hydropower project on the same river in AJK after the international bidding process.
The CWE had entered into a memorandum of understanding during President Zardari's visit to China in Oct 2008 to develop the KHPP on a build, own, operate and transfer basis. No government money will be involved in the project.

                        E D I T O R I A L N E W S
13, Nov, 2010
Karachi carnage
Dawn Editorial
For the second time in five weeks, Karachi has been rocked by an act of terror, albeit much more devastatingly.
Coming a little more than a month after the attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi's shrine, Thursday evening's blast flattened buildings and spewed death and destruction in an area supposed to be a high-security zone. This cold-blooded though daring attack clearly demonstrated how well-organised the enemy is, and how ill prepared are those whose duty it is to protect our lives. The number of the dead and injured does not truly convey the intensity of the blast, but it does serve to highlight in unmistakable terms the months of planning that must have gone into organising a devastating truck-bombing of this nature. Among others, one message is loud and clear: notwithstanding the security agencies' claim that they have turned the corner, the Taliban are out there right in our midst. They live among us, pass for normal citizens and choose to strike where and when they please. Their target — let there be no mistake about it — is not just the security apparatus, it is society itself.
CID officials, whose building was the target, have recently claimed successes in the war on terror. But Thursday night's carnage close to the Chief Minister House does not substantiate this claim. The working of this agency, and that of other arms of the security machinery, lacks a level of scientific planning commensurate with the complex task of winning the war on terror. As irony would have it, on Thursday a police van carrying some terrorist suspects broke down near the City Courts. This would tend to strengthen the popular belief that the best of vehicles and equipment and a large number of police personnel are reserved for VIPs, and this invariably has a bearing on the security agencies' performance on the terrorism front.
Fata's mountainous terrain may have its own advantage for the militants, while Karachi's size in terms of territory and population presents problems in counter-insurgency. If not thoroughly policed, large pockets of the urban jungle can serve as excellent hideouts and planning cells as much for criminals in Lyari as for hard-core Taliban and sectarian terrorists determined to kill and destroy. Catching a suicide bomber near the target is well-nigh impossible; but what is indeed possible is to get his handlers in their safe houses. To come up to this task, the security forces have to fine-tune their intelligence-gathering system led by officers and men dedicated to the task of giving people across Pakistan a much-needed sense of peace and security.

13, Nov, 2010
Balochistan troubles
ON Wednesday Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif made a little noticed but important reference to the plight of Punjabi 'settlers' in Balochistan who have become a target in the long-running insurgency in that province. Targeted killings of such settlers appear to have become fewer in recent weeks, but the non-Baloch population in Balochistan, particularly Punjabis, continue to very much live in fear. In the murky world of the Baloch insurgency, it appears the targeting of Punjabis has become a way of signalling to the Pakistani state that the Baloch extremists demanding independence will not accept the 'yoke' of a Punjab-dominated security establishment. So, the issue of the targeted killing of settlers is really part of the larger dynamic of the insurgency in Balochistan. Worryingly, while the levels of violence are down, there is no sign of any real movement towards resolving the long-standing grievances of the Baloch.
In this regard, perhaps Shahbaz Sharif and his Punjab government ought to, as key figures in the Pakistani federation, take the lead on engaging the Baloch and begin the tentative first steps towards an eventual peace. Given the genuine political legitimacy of the PML-N in Punjab, the chief minister has the ability to at least do two things: one, reassure the Baloch that the state of Pakistan they are so suspicious of is in fact not out to crush the Baloch; and two, create awareness in other provinces about the dire state of affairs in Balochistan. While there is a relative lull in the violence, there is an opportunity for further reduction in tensions — Chief Minister Sharif should play his role to help achieve that further reduction in tensions. However, the main onus ought to be on the federal government to re-evaluate its strategy towards Balochistan. Certain fiscal and administrative measures through the NFC award, the 18th Amendment and the Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan package have been sensible, but have not done enough to address head-on the main grievances of the Baloch at the moment. Caught between a stubborn security establishment and fierce separatists among the Baloch, the government must keep trying to chip away at both.

12, Nov, 2010
VC's abduction
AS negotiations between the abductors of Ajmal Khan, the vice-chancellor of Peshawar's Islamia College University, and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government continue, public-sector universities in the province have indefinitely closed in protest against the kidnapping. The abductors have released two videos of their victim, who was kidnapped in September, appealing to the government to secure his release. The case is similar to that of the VC of the Kohat University of Science and Technology who was in captivity for nearly eight months before being released in exchange for money and militant prisoners. As in all negotiations concerning hostages held by militants, the dilemma of those on the side of the victim, especially when the government is involved, is understandable. While the safe recovery of the victim should no doubt be the top priority, there is also considerable concern that agreeing to the abductors' demands would send a signal to others of their ilk to resort to the same crime, in effect fuelling a vicious cycle.
In fact, the incidence of kidnapping for ransom in the province has assumed serious proportions over the past few years. Apart from academicians like the two vice-chancellors, victims have also included government officials, doctors, lawyers and other high-value or well-off people including children. Even with the most stringent security measures, it would be impossible to protect each and every person in the province from abductors. This, however, is no justification for inertia or non-action. The problem must be dealt with on a priority basis. The provincial and federal government together with all concerned security and defence agencies should put their heads together to find a lasting solution to a menace which is not only causing fear among the public but is also turning out to be a major source of funding for militants and other criminal networks.

12, Nov, 2010
Double Shah scam
ONCE bitten, doubly shy? Not so when it comes to the prospect of making a large amount of money in as short a time as possible in the country or, for that matter, anywhere in the world. Suffice it to say that Pakistan has seen its fair share of Ponzi schemes. All it requires is a chain of investors with the old members paid hefty returns on their money from the deposits of the new entrants. The investors may or may not understand the mechanism of it all, and quite often they don't care so long as they are getting unrealistic profits on their investments. The problem begins when the chain is broken, by the force of law or due to any other reason. The price — monetary, social and emotional — the investors awaiting the profit have to pay in the event is enormous. Those bitten by Double Shah, an ex-school teacher in the vicinity of Wazirabad in Gujranwala, a few years ago can vouch for the fact. Having said that, they must consider themselves lucky; it had taken victims of earlier scams such as the cooperative scandal much longer to get — or even realistically expect — reimbursement.
It was in 2007 that Sibtain Shah alias Double Shah was charged with defrauding a large number of people by promising to double their investment in quick time. He has since returned a part of the amount to the National Accountability Bureau. On Wednesday some of the money was disbursed in Lahore among people with claims of Rs100,000 or less. NAB has said that a total of 2,158 of Shah's victims have so far been reimbursed to the tune of Rs110.879m. The cause of all these claimants was helped by calls that they be reimbursed as early as possible — the most influential of these voices belonging to the Supreme Court. Still, there is a long queue of Double Shah victims who are hoping that there is no let up in the attention that their plight has drawn so far, and that the task of reimbursement will be completed as quickly as possible.

11, Nov, 2010
The sugar spiral
Dawn Editorial
AN unprecedented upsurge in domestic sugar prices has left consumers wondering if there is anyone who can protect their rights.
The runaway prices have broken one record after another in recent weeks, peaking to an all-time high of Rs125 per kilo.
This is the situation despite official claims that the country has enough reserves for at least this month. If so, why is sugar in short supply in most parts of the country? Who is responsible for the dramatic price rise at the expense of hapless consumers: the centre or the provinces? In fact, both must be blamed. The provinces failed to take effective action to check the hoarding of sugar.
The provincial governments appeared to be looking the other way as the hoarders created a shortage in the market.
Instead of taking strict measures against the hoarders, who are quick to take advantage of official inaction, the provinces waited for the federal government to import sugar and put state reserves on the market to check the rising prices.
The situation may not have spiralled out of control had the provinces not shirked from their responsibility of cleansing the sugar market of speculation.
It is unfortunate that the federal government disregarded all warnings of insufficient domestic production during the last crushing season and failed to import the required quantities of the commodity to leverage its position in the market.
Also, it did not release the state reserves well in time to ward off shortages in the market and allowed matters to go from bad to worse.
Now it has decided to bring in official stocks of 0.35 million tonnes of the sweetener to make up for the short supply in the market and in order to stabilise the latter. This should help to substantially reduce the retail price of sugar.
The federal food minister was partially correct when he said the job of the central government was to ensure availability of sugar (or any other commodity, for that matter) and that it was a provincial responsibility to curb hoarding and control prices. But he did not say what kept the centre from importing the sweetener despite shortages, and releasing the available reserves into the market well in time.
The centre, obviously, has a lot of explaining to do and the federal information minister should have done better than to resort to the 'sugar causes diabetes' refrain in defence of his government. Not many Pakistanis would be willing to listen to talk about sugar as a luxury as they consider it a vital source of their daily calorie intake.

10, Nov, 2010
A delicate balance
Dawn Editorial
AWARE of the zero-sum game that characterises geopolitics in South Asia, President Barack Obama did not get carried away by the hospitality of his hosts during his three-day state visit to India and played his diplomatic cards well.
He made his Indian hosts happy — but only up to a point. Though headline-grabbing it was, his support for a permanent Indian seat in the Security Council wasn't unqualified, for he linked it to a general expansion of the world body's executive arm. More importantly, the president seemed to have slightly digressed from the subject of interest to New Delhi when he pleaded with it to assert its influence with the Myanmar junta to stop human rights violations.
Guilty itself of rights abuses in Indian-held Kashmir, New Delhi may have little interest in matters not in sync with its ambitious agenda, especially in Myanmar, where it is keen to advance its commercial interests. Other gains for India included commercial deals worth $10bn that may create 500,000 new jobs back home, and his promise to pressure the nuclear suppliers to relax constraints on exports.
On the sensitive, trilateral relationship between America and the two nuclear-armed South Asian powers, Mr Obama walked a tightrope, balancing his criticism of Islamabad's counter-insurgency policies with categorical pledges to continue to work with Pakistan.
There was no denunciation of Pakistan as evidenced during the British prime minister's visit to India some time ago. Instead, the president made laudable references to Pakistan in the context of the war on terror, though he coupled this with the 'do more' American mantra. The Indian prime minister added conditions to talks with Pakistan, saying negotiations were possible only when Islamabad moved away from "terror-induced coercion".
Mr Obama's declarations made clear he thought differently, and though safe havens were "unacceptable", he told his Indian hosts, Pakistan increasingly realised that terrorist networks were "not just a threat outside of Pakistan, they [were] a threat to the Pakistani people, who have suffered greatly at the hands of violent extremism". That may not have been what New Delhi wanted to hear.
On Kashmir he reiterated America's position that his administration could not "impose solutions" on Pakistan and India and it was for these two countries to talk, though they may not begin with "that particular flashpoint". Even though the Pakistan Foreign Office criticised Mr Obama on the Security Council issue, the matter is not Pakistan-specific. All members of the P5 must agree on its expansion. Nevertheless, Pakistan has to live with the reality of America's Indian connections getting deeper and deeper.

10, Nov, 2010
Cricketer on the run
PAKISTAN wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider's abrupt run from the national team is the latest in the sorry tale of cricket in this country. Early on Monday, the wicketkeeper slipped out of the Dubai hotel the national team was staying in for a series against South Africa and fled to London. He has sought protection there. The cricketer alleged that he was asked to under-perform and had received threats from an unknown source. His brief stint has been replete with mystery. A couple of months ago, he was sent home post-haste after a gutsy showing against England in a Test. The stated reason was that the cricketer had an injury; he maintained the injury was not serious enough to have prevented him from playing in the next Test. The episode reflected that, like so many others before him, the young man did not actually receive from the team the kind of reception a newcomer is entitled to. For the umpteenth time the incompetence of the Pakistan Cricket Board has been exposed.
The circumstances of Zulqarnain Haider's 'escape' strengthen the case for remedial action. Gen Tauqir Zia, a former PCB chairman, thinks the wicketkeeper may not have been the only member of the team approached by the fixers. There may be others who have chosen to remain silent, out of fear or due to some other reason. The incident, unfortunate as it is for the man and his country, offers another opportunity to Pakistan to take the lid off the gambling brew that has taken the glorious game hostage. A defensive position will not help. It is time to stand tall and address the problem. The PCB under chairman Ijaz Butt has hardly appeared inclined to do so and has no credibility. It must give way to a set-up which is capable of reform.

09, Nov, 2010
Party elections
IT is a measure of the absence of democratic culture in our political parties that the PML-N has postponed party elections for the fourth time. We know, of course, that if and when party elections are held a Sharif will be the PML-N chief.
The Sharifs have the clout and the money, and that counts, and they run the country's biggest province. This dynastic hold on parties is not confined to the PML-N; many other parties, including the PPP, the largest party in parliament, suffer from the same drawback. Some parties with a low representation in parliament, like the Jamaat-i-Islami and ANP, do hold party elections.
But the two parties which now have the highest number of representatives in parliament and have formed five governments since 1988 have demonstrated utter indifference to democratic values within their own ranks. The PPP also has come under scathing criticism from some of its cadres and supporters for what appears to be an arbitrary expulsion of some of its dedicated workers.
In the PML-N's case, the contradiction is obvious. It is not prepared to hold local bodies' elections, and apparently wants a mid-term general election. But it is not prepared to have an elected hierarchy and leadership. In September 2009, Mian Nawaz Sharif asked workers to complete the party's elections by March this year.
Then it kept postponing the date, the latest target being Jan 15. In the absence of elections, both the PPP and PML-N resort to nominations for key party posts. This reduces these parties' democratic credentials to a joke.
Nominations lead to resentment and heartburning, weaken the parties and cause splits. Like charity, democracy must begin at home. Without party structures based on democracy, our parties do not inspire much confidence among the people when they trumpet their attachment to democracy.

09, Nov, 2010
Watan Card scheme
WHEN millions of families have been affected in the largest humanitarian crisis to hit in the country's history, some problems in getting aid and relief to the victims is perhaps to be expected.
But there is a depressing familiarity to the litany of complaints surrounding the Watan Card scheme launched by the government in September to transfer an initial Rs20,000 to flood-affected families with the promise of Rs80,000 more at a later date.
Amazingly, Balochistan, the economically and socially most backward province that was also hit hard by the floods, has yet to see the scheme kick off because funding commitments by the federal government have not been met.
In addition, flood affectees in the province in the districts of Jafarabad and Nasirabad may be denied benefits under the scheme altogether because few among the population there have Computerised National Identity Cards, a prerequisite for the Watan Card.
In other provinces, complaints about political pressure to include undeserving families and exclude deserving ones are rife. Then there's the extortion local officials are indulging in, while unscrupulous elements are busy in some areas buying the cards at knockdown prices from illiterate and ill-informed flood affectees who do not properly understand the worth and purpose of the card.
To be sure, the vast scale of the operations and the many departments and officials involved means many administrative hurdles and some margin of error are inevitable. There are also political realities in a patronage-based system which need to be taken into account.
But an entire province deprived of cash grants two months after the launch of the Watan Card scheme? Or political bickering between coalition allies in the Punjab government limiting the disbursals to two-thirds of the total affected families? Surely that ought to be unacceptable, whatever the political climate or other concerns, given the unprecedented nature of the crisis.
And what about the complaints about inactive cards or cards which are rejected by ATM machines? Since 2005, Pakistan has dealt with a number of humanitarian crises: the October 2005 earthquake, multiple militancy-related IDP crises and the floods in Balochistan in 2007.
Various government agencies, with Nadra in the lead, have been involved in the disbursement of aid through electronic means. Surely technical glitches and administrative errors ought to have been minimised by now.
Yes, a number of flood victims have indeed received relatively decent care and attention. But if you happen to be a victim who has fallen through the cracks in the system, it matters little that others have received aid. All are equal citizens of Pakistan and everyone should be treated as such.

08, Nov, 2010
Need for stricter regime
Dawn Editorial
THE federal environment ministry has informed parliament that a number of indigenous fauna — the snow leopard, markhor, the Balochistan bear, houbara bustard and the Indus river dolphin among them — are listed as endangered species by international conservation bodies.
The briefing came ostensibly with a view to emphasising the need to put in place additional conservation mechanisms and stricter vigilance and punitive measures to curb illegal hunting. Disturbingly enough, another report brought to light the gross violation of the ban imposed on hunting in Chitral district by none other than the president of a local village conservation committee.
The police reportedly recovered a number of markhor hides from the house of the violator before booking him.
Poaching is a multimillion-dollar illegal trade that goes on unabated in much of the developing world, with Africa, Asia and South America being the main originating points.
Pakistan can learn a lesson from the strict conservation regime that India has implemented to curb illegal hunting and to save the environment.
Vigilant Indian authorities have not spared even the most popular of film celebrities in recent years when it has come to enforcing environmental and wildlife laws. A Bollywood superstar was restrained from cutting down a tree located within the walls of his house; another superstar was fined and imprisoned for shooting a deer.
In Pakistan, one has yet to hear of any such meaningful enforcement of the law where it does exist. Our municipal authorities routinely fell trees in the cities and execute development projects without the required environment impact assessment; in the countryside much of the hunting of endangered species is done by those who wield power and influence.
Implementation of a stricter vigilance and punitive regime is long overdue. It is needed urgently if we are to conserve a wide variety of indigenous flora and fauna.

08, Nov, 2010
Rules relaxation
Dawn Editorial
ACCORDING to a report in this newspaper yesterday, the government is seeking to award a $2.2bn hydropower project to a Chinese firm without bidding.
There is prima facie no evidence of any foul play and the project may arguably be important for the national economy. But it does appear to violate the principles of good governance. No-bid contracts, particularly of the multi-billion-dollar variety, are never a good idea.
Rules exist for a reason and in the case of the award of public contracts are meant to enhance transparency and promote accountability.
To be sure, changing technical and economic environments sometimes require rules to be amended. If the present process for the award of hydropower projects has outlived its usefulness, a clear and transparent debate on the matter should be held and the rules amended accordingly.
Simply getting special committees to issue special waivers for special projects is not an acceptable way of doing business.
The usual argument — that rules should not thwart what is otherwise necessary for the economy or the state — is a weak one.
Yes, Pakistan requires a better energy mix and needs to tap its hydropower potential more effectively. But it shouldn't do so at the expense of transparency and accountability. To put the amount at stake, $2.2bn, in context, consider that at present the government is locked in tough negotiations with the IMF for the release of a $1.3bn tranche of the stand-by agreement.
The price the IMF is demanding for the release of the money is serious and meaningful reform in the power sector and tax structure — $2.2bn is almost twice that sum, so it is staggering that relaxation is being sought even in the implementation of basic rules.
Consider also that the rules in question were formulated in 2005 — the peak of the business- and investment-friendly regime of Gen Musharraf.
Again, it is entirely possible that the global investment climate has made those rules utterly unfeasible, but why can Pakistanis not be told in clear terms what is so fundamentally wrong today with the rules for the award of hydropower projects?
Consider also that the present government has had two and a half years to evaluate what needs to be done in the hydropower sector and how it is to be achieved. But as yet the government has not made public its strategy in the area or filled out the details.
Given the serious position on the power sector and foreign investment fronts, Pakistan should welcome friends like China willing to invest in the sector. But it must be done transparently and fairly.

07, Nov, 2010
Militant infighting
A DEADLY suicide attack in a mosque in Darra Adamkhel, a town sandwiched between Peshawar and Kohat, has killed nearly 70 people, the latest incident in a spate of intra-militant groups violence. The militant group regarded as 'friendly' by the state was targeted by the Tariq Afridi group which the security forces had sought to evict from the area. But friendly/unfriendly, good Taliban/bad Taliban classifications are rather simplistic: the 'good' militants in Darra, the Momin group, which was targeted in Friday's attack, are believed to have deep connections with the TTP in North Waziristan Agency. What is clear is that divisions within the militancy world are detectable in a number of places. In Bara, the Lashkar-i-Islam has been racked by infighting; in North Waziristan, the Asian Tigers and the TTP are fighting; and at the start of this month, the brother of Baitullah Mehsud was shot dead in Mir Ali, North Waziristan.
Finding good policy options in such a fraught environment is extremely difficult for the state. A headlong assault on all groups at the same time would prove counter-productive, driving them together instead of maximising the advantage to be gained from leveraging them against one another. But there are two problems that the state has long faced in this regard that it has not been able to address as yet. One, when the security forces help pit one group against another, the state has been unable to provide the level of protection to the 'friendly' group that could convince them, and others, to align with the state in the long term. The Momin group, which had helped security forces evict the Afridi group from Akhorwal, was hit in one of its strongholds on Friday.
Second, despite a series of military operations, the security forces have been unable to capture or eliminate any of the senior militant commanders fighting the state. This is without doubt helping the insurgents and allowing them to retain some threat potential even though they have been denied many of their bases by now. To be sure, eliminating or capturing the highest leaders will not automatically put an end to the insurgency, now in a hit-and-run guerrilla phase in many areas, or the elimination of rival militant groups and leaders, but it appears to be a necessary condition to bring the insurgency down a further notch. Des-pite much time having elapsed, the state's intelligence capabilities — necessary for the capture or killing of insurgent leaders — are still not adequate. Arguably, this is both an administrative and military failure. Much better coordination and more serious efforts are needed on this front.

07, Nov, 2010
Gwadar conundrum
THE Gwadar port project has had a variety of critics, ranging from Baloch nationalists to the Pakistan Navy. Now the Balochistan government has decided to approach the Supreme Court in order to challenge the federal government's deal that allows a foreign firm to run the port. Chief Minister Aslam Raisani wants the deal — signed during Gen Musharraf's rule — cancelled. The deal granted control of the port to the Port of Singapore Authority for 40 years. The CM has said the contract is not in the interest of Balochistan and was not signed by the "true representatives" of the people. Calls to scrap the contract have been made in the past, notably by the Planning Commission, while nationalists have long railed against the mega-project, fearing that a demographic earthquake would result because of the port, turning the native Baloch into a minority.
Despite the fact that the port has been functioning for two years it has fai-led to attract any substantial commercial traffic. Strategically speaking, Gwadar has immense potential: located at the mouth of the Gulf the port can be the hub of an energy corridor linking the Gulf with Central Asia and China. In fact, Gwadar has been described as a key jewel in China's 'String of Pearls' strategic doctrine, aimed at protecting the Middle Kingdom's energy and trade interests. But infrastructure, such as road and rail links, warehousing facilities and storage facilities for oil and gas, is sorely needed. China was a major investor in the project, yet it is claimed that former prime minister Shaukat Aziz gave away the contract to favourites without transparent bidding. The matter needs to be resolved as Gwadar cannot be allowed to turn into a white elephant. China is one of our closest allies and alienating it does not make sense. If the contract was awarded after meeting all the requirements, it must be honoured as cancelling a sovereign agreement may send a wrong message to foreign investors. The government must take steps to make Gwadar port viable and to ensure that locals in particular and Balochistan in general get a fair share of the pie.

07, Nov, 2010
Haj accommodation scam
A SENATOR'S demand for a house committee to probe allegations contained in a Saudi prince's letter to the chief justice about accommodation for Pakistani hajis makes eminent sense. Doubts have been raised about the authenticity of the letter which claims that Pakistan's Haj directorate had secured accommodation for Pakistani pilgrims at prices higher than those offered by the company headed by the prince. The authenticity of the letter is less of an issue, and the Supreme Court has done well to instruct the Foreign Office to take up the matter. The real issue is the irregularity — or perhaps outright corruption — which the letter highlights. Every pilgrim wants to be as close to the Grand Mosque as possible. The closer one is to the sacred sanctuary the higher the cost of accommodation. The letter points out the price differential between what the prince's company offered and what Pakistan's Haj directorate paid to acquire lodgings for the pilgrims at a given distance from the Grand Mosque. The prince has alleged that this constitutes corruption.
There are a large number of companies which send pilgrims to the holy land on a contract. They determine the cost, and it is up to an intending pilgrim to choose. One can understand if they charge more than what a Saudi contractor offers since privately run companies obviously want to maximise their profits. But why the Haj directorate should settle for higher charges and ignore a cheaper Saudi offer is difficult to comprehend. The issue has rightly rattled many people and concerns have been echoed in both houses of parliament. While the government, no doubt, must already be in touch with Riyadh, we hope it will make the truth known to the people, take action where necessary and streamline the accommodation issue for the future.

            C O L U M N S / A R T I C L E S N E W S
12, Nov, 2010
Changing the status quo
By Kuldip Nayar
ON his visit to Pakistan in 1999, the then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote in the visitors' book at Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore that India's prosperity and integrity depended on that of Pakistan.
More recently, US President Barack Obama used more or less the same words, saying that Pakistan's stability was in the interest of India. Although Obama said that the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai must be brought to book, he did not satisfy Indian opinion which wanted him to name Pakistan.
There must have been some pressure on him. While addressing the joint session of parliament, Obama said that terrorism emanating from Pakistani safe havens was "not acceptable", although he refused to take sides and said that India and Pakistan must settle their problems themselves.
Obama should have maintained his guarded stand because he must remain credible in Pakistan at a time when American forces are combating terrorism in Afghanistan with Pakistan's active help. Even so he maintained a balance.
When asked about Kashmir at the joint press conference he said that it was a long-standing dispute. America did not want to impose a solution, but was willing to play a role if both India and Pakistan so desired.
He was more categorical on the topic of Myanmar and Iran, showing his disappointment with India's policy of wooing Yangon. He expected India to come on his side in punishing Iran.
The Indian prime minister said he was not afraid of discussing the 'K' word but that it was difficult to do so when the "terror machinery [was] active as ever before". Few will find fault with what he said. Yet India should appreciate that Pakistan may not be in a position to deliver 100 per cent on terrorism. After all, its cities, one after another, have been attacked by the terrorists.
One may argue, even justifiably, that it was the Pakistan establishment which initiated terrorism that has now become a Frankenstein. The genie of terrorism is not returning to its bottle. Whether or not Delhi and Islamabad like it, they must arrive at an equation.
At one time, Bangladesh was alleged to have provided shelters to anti-India terrorists. But since the return of Sheikh Hasina the sanctuaries have gone. Islamabad has to do something similar and more credible in the fight against terrorism to make Delhi believe that the Pakistan government is doing its best.
On the other hand, Manmohan Singh should realise that terrorism is not a tap that can be turned off. Otherwise, Prime Minister Gilani would not have requested him to separate terrorism from the talks.
Both had agreed to this at a meeting in Sharm El Sheikh last year. Strong public opinion in India did not allow the prime minister to follow through. Yet the impasse must be broken. Perhaps talks can start on small matters as Obama suggested and India can make it clear to Pakistan that problems like Kashmir would be taken up only when Delhi feels confident that Islamabad is seriously tackling terrorism.
It would be in Delhi's interest to make some concession to Islamabad to help it resist more pressure from an increasingly powerful China. Otherwise, the region might become the victim of a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing, with New Delhi supporting the first and Pakistan the second. Both India and China are two giants which have to be kept away from clashing.
An Indian regional leader, Mulayam Singh, has already warned Delhi against a war with China "at any time". The whole region can become a theatre of hostilities and destruction and another world war cannot be ruled out if a process of conciliation between India and China does not get under way.
Pakistan has some influence over China. I remember a Pakistani foreign secretary telling me that the road from Delhi to Beijing goes through Islamabad. Therefore it is incumbent on Pakistan to try to bridge the gap between Delhi and Beijing. It is an open secret that China has not only laid claim to Arunachal Pradesh but also parts of Jharkand and Ladakh.
Some incidents of forcible occupation by China in these areas have been noticed but deliberately ignored by Delhi in the larger interests of keeping the peace. But it is an uneasy peace if the two sides do not come to accept rules and guidelines on the border's inviolability.
Jawaharlal Nehru similarly kept China's assertiveness under wraps for some six years before the Indian public came to know about it. Still there was a war between the countries in 1962. Pakistan can play a role to ensure that they do not follow the same path of hostilities.
Pakistan was a bit hasty in criticising Obama for supporting India's candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Islamabad should be happy that another permanent seat is coming to Asia.
I concede that this kind of attitude can come about only when the two countries have buried the hatchet. How long will the region have to wait for that to take place? More than 60 years have gone by and the basic problems of hunger, health and education remain unresolved. The two countries have even fought three wars resulting only in misery, frustration and helplessness.
Fundamentalism takes root in countries which do not think beyond enmity and hatred. That is why both countries are falling victim to it. If they want to change the status quo, they must start talking. It is only then that their people can start to dream again.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi.

12, Nov, 2010
Lies, damned lies and taxes
By Cyril Almeida
If only we had a John Morton here in Pakistan. Back in the 15th century, Morton, a devilishly clever lord chancellor serving Henry VII, gave the world Morton's Fork.
Trying to raise more tax revenue for his boss, Morton went for a two-pronged strategy. If you lived in luxury and spent a great deal of money, Morton decided it meant you had enough money to spare for the upkeep of the king, too. A reasonable enough assumption.
But, it didn't end there — hence the Fork. Morton also decided that if you lived a humble life and spent very little on yourself, it must mean you had enough savings — and so could also afford to pay for the king's needs.
Rich or poor, you were taxed, and so Morton's Fork became a metaphor for unpleasant choices in life. Here in Pakistan, we have the Half Morton.
This week Pakistanis earning and trying to support families on Rs25,000 a month were informed they are rich enough to pay 10 per cent more as income tax. Well, at least now they know they are rich.
Now they should be able to afford pricey fuel the government saddles with levies, the introduction of indirect taxes on a range of basic products courtesy 'Reformed GST' and higher utility bills in times of shortages because, y'know, they are rich enough to pay more for less.
John Morton would have been proud.
What about the really rich? Oh shucks, told you we only had a Half Morton. "Personally speaking, I am in favour of taxing the rich, but the constitution does not allow the federal government to do so because it is provincial subject," drawled Fin Min Sheikh. Suo moto that, Supreme Court!
Personally speaking, Sheikh was being disingenuous. Yes, agriculture which makes up nearly a quarter of the GDP contributes only one per cent to tax revenues and for that to change the provinces have to introduce legislation they won't (the 'feudal' hangover is stronger in the provincial assemblies than at the centre).
But that's not just where the rich are. From this newspaper of record on Thursday: "A senior FBR official was of the view that the [new] revenue measures would increase tax-to-GDP ratio to 12 per cent from the current nine per cent. But, he said, this estimate depended on 100 per cent compliance level as against the current 30 to 40 per cent." So is the constitution to blame for a 60-70 per cent non-compliance rate, too?
And buried inside Sheikh's income-tax-hike boast is another little half-truth: the bulk of it will get passed on to consumers as indirect tax.
Here's why. From the State Bank's annual report released late October: "A compositional analysis of the income tax collection which comprises more than 95 per cent of the direct tax collection shows that withholding tax (WHT) continues to hold more than 50 per cent of the income tax collection."
To connect the dots, let's return to this newspaper's story on the flood surcharge/income-tax hike: "Dr Sheikh, however, did not mention that the flood surcharge would also be imposed on withholding tax paid by various businesses which, economic experts believe, will pass it on to end-consumers."
See what they did? They boast about raising income tax on the 'rich', but income tax, according to the State Bank, is really mostly collected as withholding tax, a tax which is passed on to consumers. Take that, you Rs25,000-salary folks! Frankly, the system works (read: the poor get a right rogering) because the tax policy is so opaque and convoluted, partially by design and partially by the inherent complexity of the national tax system.
It is where the ultimate information asymmetry rules: the ones who most need to know what the system is doing to them, i.e. the poor, understand little about how the system works; the ones who least need to stay out of the system, i.e. the rich, set the rules and have an army of experts to help them cheat the rules that do exist.
But Pakistan is a simple place, and the politics of taxation can be simplified, too.
Start with the obvious: the wedding season will be in full swing soon. Rather piously, governments have tried to go with 'one-dish' rules and the like. But revellers should be encouraged to spend, spend and spend.
Spending is good, it helps the economy (yes, yes, lots of them will travel abroad and spend there, but the celebrations and ceremonies will mostly be held here).
Plus, for the tax man, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. All they would have to do is roam the high-end hotels and wedding halls, ask around for the bride and the groom and their parents and hand them a little wedding present: a tax-audit notice. See you tomorrow morning, 9am. OK, it's your wedding night, how about 11am?
See what that does for the compliance rate. Or set up shop outside one of those posh schools where mothers lovingly wait for their kids in the afternoon sun while drivers stand nervously by gleaming cars, waiting to quickly open the air-conditioned interiors for the lady of the house and her tiny tots.
Oh hello, Mrs Haq. Good to see young Ali growing up so fast. Sorry for the bother, need you to pass this on to Mr Haq.
And just like that, another audit notice handed out. It really would be like fish in a barrel.
But for that we'd need a John Morton. Sadly, we're stuck with a Half Morton only too willing to show the Full Monty to the poor.

11, Nov, 2010
Is this education?
By I.A. Rehman
The contribution public school textbooks make to the production of narrow-minded elements, even if all of them do not become suicide bombers, has not received due attention. It is time this attitude was abandoned.
Many civil society initiatives have exposed the atrocious contents of textbooks. But the revised integrated curriculum has only confirmed its authors' inability to address the demands of a plural, democratic society.
Commenting on the new textbooks for classes I to III in Punjab, a curriculum expert observed that their content was insufficient to enable a child to gain basic knowledge in any subject and that these textbooks were overloaded with religious and moralistic preaching and paid scanty attention to themes related to nation-building.
Even a cursory perusal of textbooks for classes I to V in Punjab shows that these are full of poorly written religious essays and are apparently designed to keep children ignorant of their society and environment.
For instance, Meri Kitab for class I declares that Punjab, Frontier, Sindh, Balochistan and Kashmir are parts of Pakistan. Is it fair to tell children that Pakistan includes Kashmir? The provinces are mentioned in textbooks for primary classes but the Punjabi, Sindhi, Pakhtun and Baloch people are nowhere recognised. In the textbook for class IV students are told of two poets who wrote in Punjabi — Mian Mohammad Bakhsh and Mian Waris Shah — and both are essentially religious figures. It is only in the Urdu book for class V that Sachal Sarmast is introduced as the founder of the Kafi tradition in the Sindhi language "while Punjabi is rich in Kafis, thanks to Hazrat Bulleh Shah". Sachal also is basically a religious figure. The Punjab Textbook Board is not aware of any Pakhtun or Baloch poet or any other figure or does not consider it appropriate to mention them in Punjab schools.
The Urdu book for class V allows students to look beyond Punjab — at Quetta and Ziarat. While the lesson on Ziarat does not disclose that this town is in Balochistan, in the description of Quetta a reference to Balochistan is unavoidable: "In respect of area, Balochistan is the largest province of our dear homeland Pakistan…. Many tribes live in this province. Its inhabitants speak, along with national language Urdu, Balochi, Brahvi and Pushto."
There is no discussion on Pakistan's non-Muslim citizens in the book for primary classes. Meri Kitab for class II only says that Pakistan's population includes non-Muslims. Then in the Urdu book for Class V, while describing 'Our Punjab', non-Muslims are mentioned: "the majority of people living in Punjab are Muslim. The people order their lives according to Islamic teachings. [Delusion is sweeter than ignorance.] Here, besides Muslims, the inhabitants also include non-Muslims."
In all stories in these textbooks the children are Muslim boys and girls. None of them meets a non-Muslim child. The textbooks for classes I to V contain 41 poems but Allama Iqbal's beautiful poem, Child's prayer, which is supposed to be recited at each school before the start of classes, comes last in the class V Urdu book, possibly because it refers to the poor and infirm.
It is easy to see what kinds of half-truths and distorted facts are dinned into children's ears. The attempt at converting and reconverting Muslim children to Islam, and putting each hero in religious clothes can induce boredom or worse reactions. Introduction to religious belief is one thing. An obsession with religiosity is far less creditable. Apart from undermining the purpose of education such exercises confuse impressionable minds and cause a huge waste of time, to use an expression favoured by great religious authorities such as Aurangzeb and Sir Syed.
However, if the textbooks for the primary classes attract criticism for distorting reality or their preference for selective factualness, civic textbooks contain much mischief. At a recent seminar in Karachi, the material contained in the textbooks in Sindh was criticised for being outdated and distorted. The situation in Punjab is equally pathetic. Here, too, the books on civics prescribed for classes 9 to 12 are full of subjectively edited quotations from the Quaid. He is said to have described Pakistan as a 'laboratory' for testing religious principles. All these books are loaded with controversial interpretation of many themes, such as the Pakistan ideology, the Islamic state and the continued relevance of the two-nation theory.
For instance:
— Democracy and dictatorship have seven merits and eight demerits each. A merit of dictatorship is that under it "the whole nation is inspired by the will to progress and each citizen considers honest labour as his duty and therefore the pace of creativity and progress is fast". Another merit of dictatorship is that "because of the absence of opposition political parties the people are rid of partisan politics and factionalism; the people's solidarity and national unity are assured and this makes the country prosperous". (Civics, Classes 9-10)
— "One merit of Urdu language is that it upholds Islamic civilisation and culture: therefore, its promotion is one of our important obligations from the religious and national point of view, too." (Ibid)
— "Provincialism is a curse that undermines national unity. Some opportunist elements fan provincial and regional affiliations; we should eradicate such trends." (Ibid)
— The Khilafat movement is discussed over four pages in the textbook for class 12 but there is no reference to what the Quaid thought of it.
— A demerit of the federal system: "Dictatorial attitude of the judiciary"… "the central government and the governments of the units often quarrel with one another and this, on the one hand, weakens the federation and, on the other, the judiciary, as the superior guardian of the constitution, gets an opportunity to intervene". (Book for class 12)
When a student reads that it is necessary to practically enforce the divinely ordained system in Pakistan so that the Islamic revolution prevails across the globe (book for classes 9-10), he might wonder as to what is wrong with the Taliban. More objectionable are omissions such as the absence of any reference to the havoc caused in Pakistan by authoritarian regimes and war-mongers.
Quite a few educationists claim that a review of civics textbooks was undertaken in 2008 but that the government has been sitting on recommendations that would have replaced the present material with new and democratic concepts of citizenship. Similarly, there are allegations that the curriculum review decisions of 2004 and 2007 have not been fully or properly implemented. If true, these claims reveal a scandal of the first order. Delay in revising school textbooks to promote the values of pluralist and participatory democracy, inter-faith harmony and human rights will render the government liable to indictment for laying, unwittingly if not deliberately, the foundations of religious extremism.

11, Nov, 2010
Diplomacy by flattery
By Jawed Naqvi
When US President Barack Obama chose to stay at Mumbai's Taj Hotel last week, it was seen as a gesture of America's solidarity with India's fight against terrorism.
The hotel was a target in the Mumbai terror outrage of November 2008.
By the time Mr Obama signed a joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi his choice of the Taj had acquired a more palpable symbolism. The hotel was built with money from the India-China opium trade. The opium export to China was legal under British colonial laws though the Chinese resisted it as an assault on their sovereignty.
The differences resulted in the outrageous Opium Wars between British garrisons and Chinese satraps. Lest we forget, the Chinese resistance to Indian opium was akin to the anti-colonial upsurge against the British crown as evidenced in the Boston harbour.
In a way The Boston Tea Party of 1773 that triggered America's break from Britain, completed the irony of Mr Obama's recent visit to India. It involved a significant jostling between three countries that were subjugated in different ways by a common former foe — British colonialism.
While the more readily obsequious among the Indian media parroted the American line in concert with the spurious nationalist assertion about India's emergence as a global player thanks to Mr Obama's conditional support for New Delhi's quest to sit at the UN high table, The New York Times put it plainly, and without excessive waffling.
It observed that Mr Obama's promise on UNSC membership signalled an American plan for India "that would expand commercial ties and check the influence of an increasingly assertive China". That the plan envisages pitting India against Myanmar and Iran remains a less discussed fine print.
The timing of the visit was significant. Messrs Obama and Singh are headed to South Korea this week for a meeting of the Group of 20, "apparently in agreement on what is expected to be a significant clash between the world's big powers over the United States Federal Reserve's plan to boost the American economy by pumping $600bn into it".
It so happens that China has severely criticised the move by the US central bank, which it sees as intended to push down the value of the dollar to boost American exports. In fact, Germany's finance minister equated the move with currency manipulation "with the help of their central bank's printing presses".
Mr Obama's defence of the measure absurdly enough found backing from his Indian host. "Anything that would stimulate the underlying growth and policies of entrepreneurship in the United States would help the cause of global prosperity," the Indian prime minister ad-libbed.
Should someone have asked him to explain how a weak US dollar was good for anyone wanting to export to America? Dr Singh might have been indulgent because he plans to import huge quantities of military hardware from the US, perhaps for some new wars minus the opium.
It has been a widely caricatured characteristic of the feudal rajas and nawabs that they were susceptible to flattery. Few expected a proud Indian republic to fall prey to the lure of easy praise. However, in a country in which support by Malawi and Tonga for UNSC membership makes newspaper headlines, Mr Obama's address to parliament was manna from heaven.
The speech, replete with easy praise and distorted history, was naturally applauded by both the ruling Congress and the more stridently nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Had Mr Obama been more objective with his history, his praise for Gandhi's peaceful methods should have been juxtaposed with George Washington's military prowess that vanquished British colonialism. His praise for King Jr and Ambedkar should have been followed by a comparison of the continuing and relentless plight of black Americans and Indian Dalits.
However, now and henceforth India was going to be a major military power. It is another matter that its 600 million people, roughly 85 per cent of the population, still eke out a living on a dollar a day. But India was now going to take on all the threatening windmills in its neighbourhood and beyond, militarily if necessary.
Mr Obama would of course not say it to the Indian parliament, but his current four-nation trip of Asia touches base with three other countries — Indonesia, where an American-backed military dictator slaughtered millions of anti-imperialist partisans in the 1960-70s, thus clearing the ground for today's religious zealots to gain strength; South Korea, where it has stationed troops to sustain an internecine war since the 1950s; and Japan, an economic ally it once nuked. Is there a lesson for India?
For all his talk of global nuclear disarmament in New Delhi, Mr Obama has refused to attend an anti-nuclear meeting of Nobel laureates when he visits Japan because it would be a sign of a weak American presidency to be seen with those who censure the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There is another symbolism in Mr Obama's stay at the Taj. It was built by its Indian owner after he was not allowed into Mumbai's "for whites only" hotels. It is just as well that the first couple stayed in a suite that had no view of Mumbai's most familiar landmark — its massive clusters of impoverished but unvanquished slums. If India survives Mr Obama's grizzly embrace, it would be partly because life in its slums remains unaffected by kind words or distorted history.
The writer is Dawn'scorrespondent in Delhi.

10, Nov, 2010
A monumental voice
By Mahir Ali
FIFTY years ago this week, what eventually became one of the most readily recognisable concert venues in the world hosted its first performance, so to speak.
The Sydney Opera House was in the early stages of its construction back then; it would be more than a decade before it was officially inaugurated. Paul Robeson, one of the world's most prominent concert artists in his prime, was visiting Australia and New Zealand on what turned out to be his final tour as an entertainer.
Under the auspices of the Building Workers Union of Australia, Robeson visited the construction site and sang to the construction workers during their lunch break.
Alfred Rankin, who was working on the site on Nov 9, 1960, recalls this "giant of a man" enthralling the workers with his a cappella renditions of two of his signature songs, Ol' Man River and Joe Hill, in his distinctive bass voice.
"After he finished singing, the men climbed down from the scaffolding, gathered around him, and presented him with a hard hat bearing his name," Paul Robeson Jr writes in his biography of his father, The Undiscovered Robeson. "One of the men took off a work glove and asked Paul to sign it. The idea caught on, and the men lined up. Paul stayed until he had signed a glove for each one of them."
In a chapter on Robeson's visit in the book Passionate Histories: Myth, Memory and Indigenous Australia, Ann Curthoys, a professor of history at the Australian National University, quotes the performer as saying on the day after his visit to the Opera House site: "I could see, you know, we had some differences here and there. But we hummed some songs together, and they all came up afterwards and just wanted to shake my hand and they had me sign gloves. These were tough guys and it was a very moving experience."Former New South Wales minister John Aquilina, whose father was working as a carpenter at the site on the day, recalls: "Dad told us that all the workers — carpenters, concreters and labourers — sang along and that the huge, burly men on the working site were reduced to tears by his presence and his inspiration."
It wasn't an unusual gesture for Robeson. Even in his heyday until the mid-1940s, when he was one of the highest paid entertainers in the world, formal concerts were interspersed with impromptu performances in factories and at community centres across Europe as well as in his homeland.
For nearly a decade from the late 1940s, however, he was effectively deprived of the opportunity of earning a living. Pressure from the Truman administration and right-wing extremists meant that the concert halls of America were closed to him, and the US State Department's refusal to renew his passport meant he was unable to accept invitations for engagements in Europe and elsewhere.
Robeson never stopped singing, but was able to do so only at African American churches and other relatively small venues.
At the time, Robeson was arguably one of the world's best known African Americans. The son of an escaped slave turned preacher, Robeson had won a scholarship to Rutgers College, where he had endured all manner of taunts and physical intimidation to excel both academically and as a formidable presence on the football field: alone among his Rutgers contemporaries, he was selected twice for the All-American side.
Alongside his athletic prowess, he was beginning to find his voice as a bass-baritone. When a degree in law from Columbia University failed to help him make much headway in the legal profession, he decided to opt for the world of entertainment, and made his mark on the stage and screen as a singer and actor.
An extended sojourn in London offered relief from the racism in his homeland and established his reputation as an entertainer, not least through leading roles in the musical Show Boat and in Othello opposite Peggy Ashcroft's Desdemona. (He reprised the role in a record Broadway run for a Shakespearean play in 1943, and again at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1959.)
He returned to the US as a star in 1939, and endeared himself to his compatriots with a cantata titled Ballad for Americans. He had, in the interim, been thoroughly politicised, not least through encounters in London with leaders of liberation movements such as Kenya's Jomo Kenyatta, Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah and India's Jawaharlal Nehru (to the consternation of the State Department, his friendship with Nehru endured through the latter's prime ministership, although a planned visit to India never materialised).
He had sung for republicans in Spain and visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.
Robeson's refusal to reconsider his political affiliations once the Second World War gave way to the Cold War made him persona non grata in his homeland: his infatuation with the Soviet Union did not perceptibly pale in the face of horrific revelations about Stalinist excesses, partly because he looked upon Jim Crow as the pre-eminent foe. It is therefore hardly surprising that exposure in Australia to Aboriginal woes stirred his passion.
On the day after his appearance at the Opera House site, at the initiative of Aboriginal activist and Robeson fan Faith Bandler, he watched a documentary about Aborigines on the Warburton Ranges during which his sorrow turned to anger, and he vowed to return to Australia in the near future to fight for their rights.
He made similar promises to the Maori in New Zealand. But the years of persecution had taken their toll physically and psychologically: Robeson's health broke down in 1961, and on returning to the US in 1963, he lived the remainder of his life as a virtual recluse. He died in 1976, long after many of his once radical aspirations for African Americans had been co-opted into the civil rights mainstream. His political views remained unchanged.
Biographer Martin Duberman cites Aboriginal activist Lloyd L. Davies's poignant recollection of Robeson's arrival in Perth on the last leg of his Australian tour, when he made a beeline for "a group of local Aborigines shyly hanging back". "When he reached them, 'he literally gathered the nearest half dozen in his great arms' … Davies heard one of the little girls say, almost in wonder, 'Mum, he likes us'."
She would have been less surprised had she been aware of the Robeson statement that serves as his epitaph: "The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."

10, Nov, 2010
Oklahoma and Sharia law
By Rafia Zakaria
AS voters in the American state of Oklahoma went to the voting booth on Nov 2, an unusual question awaited them. State question 755, also dubbed the 'Save our state amendment', asked voters to amend Article 7 Section 1 of the Oklahoma state constitution such that "courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases". It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia law.
The proposition defined Sharia law as "Sharia law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Quran and the teaching of Muhammad [PBUH]". Under the proposition, voters had to indicate whether they voted 'yes' in favour of the ban or 'no' against it.
The measure passed with nearly 70 per cent of Oklahoma voters in favour of the proposition. Similar measures are now being considered in the states of Louisiana and Texas. Since the passage of the measure, the director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) has filed a legal challenge against it.
The lawsuit is based on the 'free exercise' and 'establishment' clauses of the First Amendment to the United States constitution, asserting that individuals have the right to practise their faith and that governments cannot favour or endorse any single faith. The legal challenge asserts that Oklahoma's ballot measure has singled out Islam for "profound stigma" and has consigned Muslims "to an ineffectual position within the political community". The Oklahoma ballot measure was sponsored by Sen Anthony Sykes, who asserts that its intent was never to stigmatise Muslims but to protect the state of Oklahoma from "un-American influences".
The supporters of the Oklahoma Sharia ban took impetus from a case adjudicated in the state of New Jersey earlier in the year. In that case, a trial court denied a restraining order to a Moroccan Muslim woman in an abusive marriage. The judge found that the woman's husband could not be found guilty of sexual assault because he did not possess the requisite "criminal desire or intent to sexually assault" her, since he thought he was merely exercising his rights under Islamic law.
While the trial court's decision in the New Jersey case was overturned on appeal, the negative construction of Sharia law in the minds of Americans was not. Within days of the decision, the case had been widely publicised by conservative blogs and news websites announcing the arrival of Sharia law in America which would allow men to abuse their wives with impunity. A few months later, a Muslim judge in the United Arab Emirates issued a similar decision that said that "disciplining" women was permitted under Islamic law.
The legal challenges filed against the Oklahoma ban on Sharia law in the state may well be successful. Nevertheless, several issues are likely to continue to be at the forefront of the Sharia debate in the US. While most American Muslims recognise the Islamophobic hate-mongering behind the Oklahoma initiative, few are interested in actively supporting counter-arguments on issues such as a man's supposed right to discipline his wife.
While Islamic scholars as well as new translations of religious texts have indicated that such interpretations are controversial and lack scholarly consensus, few American Muslim organisations have taken to supporting these new perspectives. Unsurprisingly, therefore, few protests were heard from the American Muslim community questioning the decision of the New Jersey judge or the judge in the UAE on the issue of whether disciplining women is permitted in Islam.
Oklahoma's ban on Sharia law is thus the visible symptom of a deeper problem. The crimes committed in the name of Sharia by governments such as Iran, set to stone a woman to death for adultery, or Saudi Arabia whose grand mufti recently issued a fatwa that it was forbidden for women to work as cashiers, or the Taliban who revel in hacking off arms, together make Sharia vulnerable to attacks such as the one seen in Oklahoma.
Extricating Islamic law from the clutches of the political theatre it has been reduced to is a daunting task and requires Muslims to take an active stand against literalist and backward interpretations of Sharia law that construct it in the western imagination as a mediaeval corpus that has little room for innovation.
Ironically, some of the very factors that enable Muslims to hold on to a collective sense of identity often impedes the project of distancing Sharia from the barbaric enactments of punishments that garner so much attention in the western world. The uniting concept of the Muslim world thus results in the unfortunate association of all Muslims with practices such as stoning and the religiously sanctioned abuse of women.
Even while diversity, plurality and dynamism are core features of Sharia law, Muslims — including American Muslims — are loathe to disagreeing publicly with fatwas emerging from Saudi Arabia, possibly because of their divisive impact on the idea of a single-faith community. This perceived tension between embodying the unity of the ummah and acknowledging Sharia as varied and diverse must be discarded if Sharia law is to be rescued from future bans.
The task of taking back Sharia law must thus necessarily involve vocal condemnations of barbaric acts carried out under the imprimatur of Islamic law wherever they may occur.
Just as Cair issues daily alerts that focus attention on civil rights violations against Muslims, so a similar body must be created by American Muslims that issues similar denunciations of practices such as stoning and the subjugation of women. The ban on Sharia law cannot be contested exclusively from inside an American courtroom on the basis of American constitutional guarantees that mandate the freedom to practise one's faith. It must also be fought at the level of American hearts and minds by promoting an understanding of Sharia as an evolving body of law meant to be motivated by justice and mercy rather than fear and intimidation.
The writer is a US-based attorney teaching constitutional history and political philosophy.

10, Nov, 2010
Beyond our moral radar
By Irfan Husain
It is amazing to see the bizarre contortions governments can put themselves through in the name of national pride. This time, the Chinese government has written officially to several European governments, asking them not to participate in the ceremonies surrounding the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Sweden next month.
The reason, of course, is that the winner of this prestigious prize is Liu Xiaobo, the well-known writer and human rights activist who was handed down an eleven-year jail sentence in 2008 for allegedly "seeking to subvert Communist rule". Communist rule in China must be very fragile, if one man can subvert it. Or at least, that's how it seems to the outside world.
Seeking to impose this boycott of the Nobel award ceremony, the Chinese vice foreign minister gave western governments the choice between "challenging the Chinese judicial system and developing friendly ties with Beijing". The Chinese have accused the Nobel committee of being a tool in the hands of western powers who resent China's rapid rise.
All this smacks of gross overreaction. While Beijing is perfectly at liberty to disagree with the award to a noted dissident, it surely does not have the right to try and coerce others to agree. One problem is that the Chinese government is managing a successful economy in the 21st century with 20th century totalitarian tools. Having to balance the needs of a largely capitalist system with the demands of a Communist dictatorship causes contradictions that manifest themselves in the recent self-defeating campaign.
We in Pakistan have been mute observers to the most extreme human rights violations in China. Successive governments, the public and the media have joined hands in this conspiracy of silence. While we all are (rightly and loudly) critical of America over abuses like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, we ignore what is happening in friendly countries like China and Saudi Arabia.
Of course, our own human rights record is hardly unblemished, but to their credit, the Pakistani media and civil society regularly take our government to task for violations. Western countries are castigated for perceived Islamophobia, but fellow Muslim countries are spared this critical approach, even though they torture and kill political opponents with sickening regularity.
This selective morality robs us of all credibility. While we rail against Israel for its oppression of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, we fail to comment on the savage infighting between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Egypt's thuggish ruling junta, Saudi Arabia's harsh monarchy and Iran's cruel regime – to name only a few – seem permanently beyond the range of our moral radar.
In China's case, our clergy and our liberals seem to be in tacit agreement to give the Communist regime a permanent pass on human rights. Termed Pakistan's 'all-weather friend', our powerful neighbour has indeed come to our help whenever our bumbling (usually military) leadership has got us into yet another mess. In 1971, when Islamabad stood isolated thanks to its bloody attempt to crush the popular uprising in East Pakistan, China shielded us from the worst effects of our army junta's ruinous policies.
During its 1962 border war with India, China invited Ayub Khan to take Kashmir while New Delhi was distracted. The general was bought off by American and British assurances that they would ensure a negotiated settlement if Pakistan did not take advantage of India's military setbacks. In the event, of course, Ayub Khan's faith in his uncertain western allies proved to be ill-judged. And whenever Pakistan has been subjected to military embargoes, China has continued arming our forces.
For its long-term diplomatic, financial and military support, China has earned a special place in our dwindling list of friends. And because unlike the West, it does not lecture us on our regular military coups and serial human rights abuses, we feel it would be churlish and ungrateful if we were to be critical of the treatment of its citizens.
For these reasons, a heroic human rights icon like Liu Xiaobo remains unknown in Pakistan. The brutal massacre that took place in Tiananmen Square where hundreds of protesters – mostly students – were killed is not something that is often discussed in Pakistan, even in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 event.
Another reason for this selective amnesia is China's dramatic rise as an economic power. It is true that literally hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty over the last two decades. There is thus much to admire, especially as hunger and disease violate human rights and dignity just as much imprisonment and torture for political opposition do.
But expedience is never a good reason to overlook dictatorial methods. However, we are not alone in turning a blind eye to despotism when it suits us: witness Washington's silence in the face of the Saudi record. Here we have public executions, severe gender-based discrimination and widespread torture, but without a word of condemnation from the United States. Similarly, Tel Aviv regularly escapes American censure for its appalling treatment of Palestinians.
So when Washington condemns a state for human rights violations, it can (and often does) cite those with similar records that are acceptable to the Americans. Nevertheless, we all need to be guided by our own ethical compass, and not use moral relativism as a cop-out.
Had China not made such a big deal of the Nobel Peace Prize award to a political dissident, the whole issue might have died away after the ceremony was over. But by demanding that the world ignore the award, Beijing has ensured far greater scrutiny of its own record. It has also revealed a vulnerability to peaceful protest that might give heart to its opponents at home and abroad.
A problem China will face in the immediate future is that a rising middle class will want a say in the power structure. Normally, a democracy allows such political participation in a way a dictatorship cannot. The Communist elite cannot forever maintain a monopoly on power without sharing it with the ruled. These tensions will keep surfacing until the system changes to accommodate normal political aspirations. Liu Xiaobo is a symbol of these tensions. Wishing them away won't help.

09, Nov, 2010
It's good to learn
By Kamran Shafi
I was fortunate enough, during a recent visit to London to attend a dear friend's wedding, to see on BBC Parliament a telecast of a meeting of the Justice Select Committee of the House of Commons.
Appearing before the committee was the lord chief justice and president of the courts of England and Wales, the Rt Hon Baron Judge PC, QC. Judge is the lord chief justice's family name, incidentally, his full name before ennoblement being Sir Igor Judge.
Wikipedia tells us that the Justice Select Committee scrutinises the policy, administration, and spending of the Ministry of Justice. In addition, the committee examines the work of the law officers of the Crown, the Serious Fraud Office and the Crown Prosecution Service. The committee also reviews draft sentencing guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council.
The committee is made up of 11 members of parliament and their names according to alphabetical order are: Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith, (chair), Liberal Democrat; Chris Evans, Labour; Helen Grant, Conservative; Sian James, Labour; Jessica Lee, Conservative; Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru; Claire Perry, Conservative; Yasmin Qureshi, Labour; Linda Riordan, Labour Co-op; Anna Soubry, Conservative; and Karl Turner, Labour.
It was instructive for one such as I, a citizen of Pakistan who saw and experienced firsthand the dismissal of over 60 senior-most judges of the superior judiciary by an army dictator helped by his civilian hand-maidens (stand up the Chaudhries of Gujrat, Mushahid 'Mandela' Hussain, Humayun Akhtar, Tariq Azeem, et al); then the cruel and uncivilised ways in which the dictatorship tried to quell the pro-judiciary protests; and finally the restoration of the judiciary.
It was enlightening for someone who daily reads and sees hysterical reports about a so-called stand-off between the judiciary and the government by a section of our media, case in point the recent, and so far unfounded and unproven, charge that the government was about to de-notify the judges' restoration, to see the total civility with which the lord chief justice and members of parliament interacted with one another.
The MPs questioned Baron Judge on matters ranging from certain courts being a burden on the exchequer in that they were not providing enough work hours to justify the expenditure on them, to asking him why the courts were not quickly adopting information technology which would help in reducing costs.
Elfyn Llwyd, the MP from Wales, complained that there was a seven-month backlog in cases in Wales. And so on.
The lord chief justice replied with equanimity and reasoning, agreeing that certain courts would have to be closed down and that he had himself thought the matter over.
On the courts not adopting new technology, he started to say something about funding and then stopped, smiled and said, "Let me rephrase that. Let me just say that it's not all a triumph," delicately putting it out that enough funding was not being provided for upgrading the technology being used in the courts. As to Llwyd's complaint he said he was surprised that there was such a backlog and that he would look into the matter.
Not once did a frown crease his brow; not once did the MPs refer to him as Your Lordship; not once did any of the participants show annoyance. They bantered back and forth, even laughed at little anecdotes that were told to illustrate a point. It was a humbling experience to see how very civilised the relations are between the various pillars of the state in a democracy, everyone giving respect to the other and allowing it the space necessary for it to carry out its duties.
I have said before that in the (very) early late-morning (!) of my life, I have become very fragile. Little things start me off crying my heart out for our country. The tears came then, and I sat there weeping at the dire, almost unbearable state of affairs that we live through and have to endure every waking moment of our lives. If it is not one tamasha it is another. Hypocrisy seems to have become second nature to us, telling plain untruths about someone we oppose the easiest thing to do.
I have to go back to the de-notification issue, and to say that certain media houses are still pushing the story line that the government was indeed about to do the deed. This is adding fuel to the fires already burning in Pakistan with wild rumours flying about regarding a change in government.
May I once more request My Lord Iftikhar Chaudhry to order a judicial inquiry by three judges of the Supreme Court? Let the faces behind this conspiracy be exposed, whether those are faces of people in government, in our faceless and venal 'agencies', or and indeed, in the media. This is imperative.
I might add once more that Ahmad Owais, the losing candidate in the SC Bar Association elections, is on record as saying that the de-notification conspiracy was real. The SC inquiry committee should immediately ask him to provide details of the conspirators and proceed against them to the full extent of the law.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a spokesman of the incoming Republican majority in the US House of Representatives has already announced that they will strongly oppose a withdrawal of US and Nato forces from Afghanistan according to President Obama's plan. Now if that doesn't put a spanner in the works for our great military thinkers and strategists I don't know what will.
To base one's own plans for the future of the volatile region we live in on someone else's withdrawing (or not) their forces within a certain time-frame is mindless to say the least. But who in the world can talk sense to our Napoleons?
Endpiece: One is gratified to learn that the PML-N will not be part of the political conglomerate being put into place by you-know-who. It will lose its individuality if it does and joins the likes of Pir Pagara and Sheikh Rasheed 'Tulli'.

08, Nov, 2010
Why India's realty scam should interest Obama
Jawed Naqvi
On the face of it, the Adarsh housing society scam in Mumbai does not look very different from dozens of similar scandals spawned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's dream to make India rich with a nearly vertical take-off. A nation that pawned its gold reserves to avert default just 20 years ago was being wooed at the weekend by President Barack Obama to help save the American economy.
A UNDP report released last week has presented a damning picture of the country's social health, evidently rooted in its grinding poverty and political callousness. The report equates the country's most populous states with shocking social indicators of sub-Saharan Africa. It is difficult to say if the hurriedly acquired wealth or the intractable poverty is the bigger scandal.
If you were a Kashmiri stone-thrower, or even a simple apple farmer living under an inevitably violent occupation by the Indian army, you should look at the Adarsh scam with concern, even fear. If the highest ranking officers of the Indian army could be involved in a corrupt transaction in Mumbai, short-changing the government and the Indian taxpayer under public glare, what havoc could the lower ranking soldiers be wreaking in Kashmir, where they enjoy unbridled immunities?
If they can do it to themselves, what won't they do to others?
The rush for rewards and promotions by producing corpses of alleged militants in Kashmir came to a head in a bizarre revelation in the Siachen Glacier in 2004. The Indian defence establishment was shaken over revelations by a newspaper that its officers on duty in the glacier had routinely stage-managed encounters with imaginary Pakistani troops.
The idea was to paint the Indian officers with false glory that would fetch them coveted gallantry awards. The army promptly admitted to faking encounters with "enemy personnel" in Siachen last year and ordered "administrative action" against a colonel and a major and disciplinary action taken against another major.
The Adarsh scandal surfaced recently after India's Western Naval Commander Vice Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin wrote to the defence ministry seeking action against the building promoters for disregarding security concerns over army land handed over for the multi-storeyed structure.
Among those reportedly allotted flats in the 100 feet building are former Army Chiefs Generals Deepak Kapoor and N.C. Vij, retired Navy Chief Admiral Madhavendra Singh, former Union Minister Suresh Prabhu and kin of Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. Of the 104 apartments in the buildings, about 40 have been allotted to serving personnel from the army, navy and the defence estates, which is the custodian of all defence land in the country.
Why should Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official who advises President Obama on South Asia and the Middle East, be made to be interested in the Adarsh society scam? There is an excellent reason. In President Obama's interaction with students in Mumbai on Sunday, his key policy statements on Pakistan and Afghanistan were an echo of what Mr Riedel has been saying recently. That includes what Mr Obama did not say – for example, on Kashmir. Bruce Mr Riedel's importance in the Obama administration's thinking on the region linked with Afghanistan is discussed in detail in Bob Woodward's new book, Obama's Wars.
What did Mr Riedel say recently that seems to be the mantra followed by the American president on his India tour? He said: "The intifada that exploded this summer in Kashmir cannot be ignored by the president during the visit but any comments on it will be potentially explosive."
He has said that President Obama and Prime Minister Singh needed to cooperate to help Pakistan solve its "jihadist nightmare". It cannot be resolved by outsiders, nor can it be contained and isolated from the outside. Other points Mr Riedel made in this regard, include: "Senior Indian officials in private say that New Delhi and Washington now share a common diagnosis of the problems, but neither has developed a strategy that promises success."
"It is an increasingly urgent concern, but one that does not have any magical answers. Both agree that engagement with Pakistan is the only way forward, but neither feels satisfied that its engagement is working."
"The third parties also involved, particularly Pakistan's ally China, will also figure extensively in the private talks. Obama is keen to find ways to use regional diplomacy to strengthen Pakistan, and Beijing must be a player in that process."
These points have naturally worried the hawks among the Indian establishment and within its hand reared media. But what can Mr Riedel or for that matter his president do if the idea is to discreetly, and certainly not publicly, nudge India to discuss the issue of Kashmir with Pakistan. Mr Obama did not refer to the "K" word in Mumbai, but he left little doubt that India should resume talks with Pakistan by first taking up the less difficult issues and moving on to the complex ones, meaning the key dispute. For Mr Riedel this is an important condition for a successful American strategy in Kashmir.
Therefore, whatever the public posture, the Kashmir issue is inevitably up for discussion and it's probably going to be out in public. Yet a resolution of the Himalayan dispute is not lurking round the corner or is about to spring upon us any time soon. This is where it is important in the interim, beginning now, to get India's military presence in Kashmir to open up to international scrutiny, to be made accountable. Prime Minister Singh has frequently promised "zero tolerance" to human rights abuse in Kashmir, but has done little to stop the disease from festering.
Last week, just days before the Obama visit, the Indian government thumbed its nose at the international community by ordering the deportation of an American scholar who has been a regular visitor to Kashmir. Professor Richard Shapiro, who was denied entry by the immigration authorities in New Delhi, is the head of the Department of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. He is also the life partner of Angana Chatterji, who is the Co-convener of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Reports say since July 2006, Prof Shapiro regularly travelled to Kashmir, and interacted with various human rights defenders, scholars, youth, to bear witness and learn from their experiences. He has evidently been conscientious in not violating the conditions of his tourist visa. He also helped form a Jewish-Muslim Friendship Circle. Kashmir was until 1990 a beautiful mosaic of syncretic culture under the overarching influence of Sufi Islam. A hard-line Islam blowing in from Pakistan together with Kashmir's Indian-run torture chambers are pushing the region towards an as yet untested brand of extremism. Mr Riedel knows what that implies for the region all the way to Afghanistan and beyond.
"There is a solution, however, to the problem," he wrote recently. "The cease-fire line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the Line of Control, would become the agreed international border between the two countries. At the same time, it would become a permeable border for Kashmiris, who could move back and forth easily. Both countries' currencies would be valid on both sides of the line. The two parts of Kashmir, Pakistani Azad Kashmir and Indian Kashmir and Jammu, would handle local issues like tourism, sports, and the environment in joint shared institutions along the lines of how Ireland and Ulster work together now on all Northern Ireland issues."
His ideas may find favour with the Indian establishment or they may not. Pakistan supported it once, but does it hold the same views today? While we debate the many options or non-options for a final resolution of the Kashmir issue, a frightening variant of the Adarsh housing scam may be wreaking havoc in the Valley. The state government admitted in 2003 that close to 3,000 had gone missing in Kashmir. Human rights groups say the figure is much higher. Is there a need to probe the scandal and to bring the guilty to justice as democracies are mandated to do? Or is the Indian army too much of a holy cow to be trifled with with or without its share of grievous scandals?

07, Nov, 2010
View from US: A tale of two hackers
Funny how life turned out for two hackers who broke into forbidden files; definitely out-of-bounds cyber chambers where even angels would fear to tread. One became a billionaire, the world's youngest, and the other went into hiding fearing for his life.
First about the rich guy - Mark Zukerberg or 'Zuck' as he's known is a short. He's nerdy, baby face with curly hair. He's a student at Harvard and has a girlfriend called Erica. His obsession is to become a member of an elite club exclusively for privileged and well-heeled males. "I'll take you along once I join the club," he condescendingly tells Erica. That's it. She dumps him. He hurries to his dorm; Opens his laptop; and begins blogging about Erica calling her names. While venting his anger, a light bulb comes on in his head – how about a website – a sort of "Hot or Not" which lets the Harvard guys compare Harvard women against each other. His best friend Eduardo is excited about the idea. Together they set up a site in less than 60 minutes hacking into the databases of various residence halls, downloading pictures and names of the women students. They call the page 'FaceMash,' where male students choose which of two girls is more attractive. Within half an hour, the entire Harvard computer network gets jammed as everyone logs on to the new site. The month that follows sees the birth of 'The Facebook', an exclusive network of friends who exchange personal information about each other in cyber space.
Mark is 'geek patrol' whose fingers are glued to his keyboard while Eduardo is the business manager 'plotting' the site's future. He wants to go commercial as the site spreads like a jungle fire and before one can catch one's breath; 'The Facebook' enters the dorms and classrooms of all the Ivy League schools across the US and the world beyond to land on laptops across Planet Earth. Three years later, the site is worth 16 billion dollars with investors wooing Mark with more money.
Having reached the zenith of success and wealth, Mark's downhill starts. He dumps his best friend and partner Eduardo because greed and his obsession to be recognised as the greatest, takes over. Enter Sean Parker. Remember Napster? Parker was its co-founder who in the late 90s almost busted the multi-billion music industry with Napster that allowed Internet users to download millions of songs they could choose from. Parker elbows out Eduardo to take his place and controls Mark's millions. The scene moves to Silicon Valley where the big bucks are. Parker gets Mark to change the name of his site by removing 'The' before 'Facebook.'
On February 4, 2004, it becomes 'Facebook.' Six years later a movie called Social Network has hit the theatres here in the US. Americans of all ages swarm to see the story of how a computer genius 'invented' a site which today has (update) more than 500 million active users (including Gen Musharraf!) out of which eight hundred and seventy-nine are the founder's 'friends.' But Zuck protects his privacy even though he insists "I'm trying to make the world a more open place." The movie shows the dark side of Zuck who dumped his Harvard buddies and co-founders. They take him to court and extract their 'pound of flesh.'
The universal lesson then is: Guys and gals, if jilted, channelise your anger into creativity and become a billionaire! If Zuck can do it, why not you?
Hacker number two is Julian Assange, the 39 year old Australian and founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowers' Web site. Brazenly he hacks into Pentagon computers and pulls out 391,832 secret documents on the Iraq war. At a recent news conference in London, Assange boasts that his break in constitutes the most "comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record." Earlier WikiLeaks causes cyber convulsions at Pentagon by posting its 77,000 classified documents on the war in Afghanistan.
Like Zuck, Assange has a near genius IQ and spent years hacking into computers with classified information; gathering secrets in bulk and then releasing them "instantly and globally." Like Zuck, he too has ditched many of his co-workers because he considers himself as indispensable. "I am the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier, and all the rest."
Assange is fast losing awe and respect of the world. Many feel he's putting lives in danger by giving out their identities. Assange is accused of targeting the US by exposing its deepest secrets. But he defends himself by saying that America is an increasingly "militarised society and a threat to democracy" adding "We have been attacked by the United States, so we are forced into a position where we must defend ourselves."
Known as the "James Bond of journalism," Assange is being hunted by western intelligence agencies. He's become so paranoid of his safety that he reportedly exchanges cellphone messages which are encrypted; continuously swaps cell phones; checks into hotels using false identity, changes the colour of his hair; sleeps on sofas and floors, and uses cash instead of credit cards, often borrowed from friends.
The universal lesson for hacker number two is: don't mess with Pentagon, CIA, FBI, the British military intelligence and spy agency MI 5 and MI 6, unless you want to die. How can one man, no matter even as brilliant as Assange, take on the most powerful and dangerous institutions of the world single handed?

07, Nov, 2010
Funds for terror
By Huma Yusuf
THE ongoing fight against militancy along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been hijacked by charged rhetoric, conspiracy theories and competing interests. Consume enough media, and it begins to seem like the great game that many say it is — a blame game, a game of chance, a guessing game.
But far too frequently one is reminded of the very real consequences and immense human toll of this twisted 'game'. Friday's attacks in Darra Adamkhel and outside Peshawar were the most recent reminders in this vein.
Scores, including children, were killed, in the suicide bombing at the Friday prayers in Akhorwal. A few hours later, three more people died when grenades were flung at another mosque in Badhber.
In light of these horrifying attacks, it is ironic that the big counter-terrorism news of the week was the Obama administration's announcement of stronger sanctions against the anti-India militant groups Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad. On Friday, one was left wondering where the Zardari administration's announcements about crackdowns against anti-Pakistan groups were.The sanctions were carefully timed: in the run-up to US President Barack Obama's trip to New Delhi, they were meant to reassure India that Washington was not undermining its interests in deference to Pakistan. Given their diplomatic cachet, it is notable that the sanctions target terror financing. The US Treasury has put a freeze on Lashkar and Jaish assets and banned transactions with the groups as well as their operational fronts, such as the Al Rehman Trust. It has also prevented senior militant leaders such as Azam Cheema, Masood Azhar and Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki from using financial institutions. Makki, in particular, has been targeted for his role in raising funds for the Lashkar-i-Taiba.
As a goodwill gesture to India, the US crackdown on terror financing is significant. After all, cut the funding and terrorist activities will inevitably decline. In the world of terror, money is needed not only to secure materials for attacks, but also to travel, pay militants, provide for their families, recruit and train new fighters, propagate the ideology and bribe government officials. As Pakistan's security situation further deteriorates, Islamabad should make its own call to disrupt the funding mechanisms of all militant groups active within its borders, not only those that plot against India.
To be fair, Pakistan has made efforts in this regard, as towards anti-money laundering legislation declaring terror financing to be a criminal offence. And in September this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan directed stock exchanges and more than 600 financial companies to implement anti-terror financing measures outlined by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Progress is already visible as the amount of remittances being channelled through banks rather than the informal hawala system has more than quadrupled since 2001.
But the push to combat terror financing is coming from abroad, not Islamabad. Pakistan's efforts have largely resulted from arm-twisting by the US Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and best financial practice recommendations are coming from the FATF. Without domestic political will, funds will continue to flow into the coffers of terrorists who target innocent Pakistanis as brutally as foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Instead of waiting for directives from Washington, Islamabad should devise its own strategy to minimise illicit finance. For example, the government can work towards licensing hawalas and other informal financial networks. In conjunction with the telecom sector, the government should also promote mobile banking as that reduces the prevalence of cash transactions and, consequently, the opportunities for illegal funds transfers.
The government should also convene monitoring committees to oversee the finances of Islamic charities known to serve as fronts for terrorist organisations, particularly in the case of donations received from the Gulf region. Moreover, the State Bank can be empowered to revitalise its financial intelligence unit, and law-enforcers should be trained to conduct financial investigations.
A well-coordinated crackdown on terror financing will also curtail a variety of criminal activity, especially in Pakistan's cities. Terror groups are known to draw on funds generated through drug trafficking, arms smuggling, bank robbery, kidnapping for ransom and even credit card fraud. By following the money trail, law-enforcers can identify and break up urban criminal rings that are affiliated with Fata-based militant groups.
Of course, the onus to impede terror financing does not lie with the government alone. Taking a page from their counterparts in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan's leading clerics can also speak out against illicit finance. The now-famous fatwa issued in May this year by the distinguished Saudi Council of Senior Ulema emphasised that financing terror is a form of complicity in the most heinous terrorist acts such as suicide bombings. Indeed, the kingdom's religious leadership stated in no uncertain terms that Sharia law forbids terror financing, and went so far as to say that the financier is more dangerous than the terrorist because he enables wrongdoing. A similar ruling by Pakistani clerics could discourage those looking to wage 'financial jihad' rather than 'frontline jihad'.
The media too can play a role. Since millions of dollars to fund terrorist activities are generated through misguided donations to charities that serve as fronts, the media can run public advocacy campaign reminding philanthropists to double check the credentials of organisations they support.
Ultimately, without a sincere governmental effort to incapacitate terror financing networks, attacks such as those that occurred on Friday will continue within Pakistan, game or no game.

07, Nov, 2010
Targeted killings
By Ardeshir Cowasjee
AT the peak of sectarian targeted killings in Belfast in the 1970s, an Irishman found himself accosted on a dark street one night by a group of armed men. They asked, "Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
Not sure of the leanings of his inquisitors, the Irishman decided to play it safe, "I am an atheist!" he declared. "Ah, yes," came the reply, "but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"Over the past decade, and ever-increasing all over the country, what has come to be known as (particularly in Karachi) targeted killings have come in all hues, shapes and sizes. The violence has not been senseless (as we observe), indiscriminate or impulsive, but very deliberate, meticulously planned and clearly directed. It has taken the form of suicide bombings, mass shootings or single or group murders.
Reasons have included religious bigotry, fanaticism and brain-washing in the case of the suicide bombers and mass shootings; ethnic hatred, lust for land, economic jealousy and mafia politics, etc.
The victims have been members of political parties, or of different religions or sects: men, women, children, Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, Muslims, Punjabis, Baloch, Pathans, Mohajirs, Sindhis, Sunnis, Shias, businessmen, doctors, government servants, social activists, anti-drug advocates — you name it.
Somehow, groups sponsoring targeted killings believe that the elimination of some or most of their targets is likely to solve their problems. This has evolved into a 'tit-for-tat' response from the targeted group. Since the present 'democracy is the best revenge' government took over, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that the average killing rate in Karachi has escalated from 104 per month (2008), to 147 per month (2009), to 172 per month (2010).
Targeted killing scores can proliferate only in a society where the writ of law has evaporated. Law and order have never been part and parcel of government in Pakistan apart from a relatively short while when the country came into being and to a certain extent up to the end of the 1960s.
Founder-maker Mohammad Ali Jinnah's exhortation to his constituent assembly, prior to the birth of Pakistan, that the first duty of any government is to impose and maintain law and order has for decades fallen upon deaf ears and today has been trashed by the false heirs of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto presiding over a population imbued with Ziaul Haq's tormented brand of religion to which morals, right and wrong, have no place in life.
The mathematical balance so far has been in favour of the perpetrators. More innocents have been exterminated than vicious killers caught, tried and punished. If Pakistan is to overcome this the root causes of the disaffection must be addressed. Needed: economic justice, educational reforms, population control and, above all, the banishment of bigotry and the coming of a spirit of tolerance.
One year ago today, Nisar Baloch, a social activist from the Trans-Lyari area of Karachi and a member of Shehri, the environmental NGO, was gunned down. For 16 years, Nisar had tried to protect the remaining 430 acres of the original 1,000 of Gutter Baghicha amenity land from various mafias bent on establishing housing colonies, industrial/commercial units and water hydrants in the sewage farm.
He battled the bad guys on the streets, in the government offices and in the superior courts — but was unable to convince the powers-that-be to follow the law and preserve the park space.
In May 2008 the president announced that Rs400m would be given, as part of the Green Karachi Project, to the 163-acre 'National Park' being established in Gutter Baghicha. A large section of this under-construction park had not been developed and was left vacant by the city government (CDGK), apparently to facilitate its illegal occupation by a political group. This invasion of the park started in mid-June 2009, and although, after prolonged area protests, an FIR was registered against the land-grabbers, the government did nothing to evict them.
Six weeks after the invasion, the city council passed a resolution on July 29, 2009, sanctioning plots in Gutter Baghicha to alleged "old inhabitants" of the adjacent Hasrat Mohani Colony who had been displaced 27 years earlier (!) when the katchi abadi was regularised. To support this scam, CDGK officials even submitted in court a revised plan of the 'National Park' with some 50 acres sliced off.
Of course, no KMC records and maps were presented to confirm that these "old inhabitants" actually lived in Hasrat Mohani Colony. No one knew where they had been for the past two-and-a-half decades, nor why they were allowed to build under armed protection in such haste without KBCA-approved plans, nor how their lease formalities and utility (KESC, KWSB, SSGC) connections were executed virtually overnight.
The Sindh government and Karachi administration know exactly what is going on (the land-grabbing at Gutter Baghicha increases daily) and who is responsible for the targeted killing of Nisar Baloch. The chief minister continues to wax eloquent about recovering public land from mafias in the province, and sets up committees to do so. The federal interior and Sindh home ministers splutter and fume about no one being above the law. Who believes one of them?
The reason many of us are still here today cannot be ascribed to Jinnah's 1947 vision of the primacy of "law and order". It just doesn't exist. If one of us were to be killed tomorrow, as is happening on a daily basis all over the land, there will be no arrests, no punishment meted out.
The probable explanation for our still being alive is that our number has not yet come — or if we are in Karachi the correct size of gunny bag is not available.

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