Monday, March 16, 2009

New book on Ghani Khan published

PESHAWAR: Qalam Taqat Literary Society has published a new book on the literary achievements of Ghani Khan, the legendary Pakhtun poet and philosopher.The publication titled ‘Ghani Khan — Da Pakhto Adab Da Shalom Sadai Shakhsiat’ is a thesis by late Fazli Ghani Ghani, the eminent Pakhtun writer who was killed when a suicide bomber targeted the house of Asfandyar Wali Khan on October 2, 2008. The book spanning 115 pages is available for Rs100. Since his college days, Fazli Ghani Ghani (Shaheed) was greatly inspired by Ghani Khan’s life and works. Being an enlightened nationalist himself, Fazli Ghani Ghani always appreciated Ghani Khan’s nationalistic fervour, his ecstatic poetry and his deep philosophical thought. A time came that the two Ghanis found themselves in a stronger bond of mutual trust and friendship. He was a regular visitor to Ghani Khan’s study room where they would sit for hours.Based on his interviews with Ghani Khan, the writer delves deep into Ghani Khan’s works and discovers him from quite new and refreshing angles. He discusses Ghani Khan’s themes of love, beauty, truth and death with the mastery of a prolific writer and seasoned critic.Many others wrote about Ghani Khan’s literary achievements and they wrote pretty well but this thesis written by one of Ghani Khan’s most trusted fan is totally different in its approach and contents. Fazli Ghani Ghani does not rely on accounts written by other people but he himself observes Ghani Khan from a very close angle, talking and laughing with him, learning from him and asking him why is he so different from others?Literary circles have applauded Azad Hashtnagri for publishing this original and refreshing thesis by his uncle Fazli Ghani Ghani (Shaheed) that discovers Ghani Khan in his true artistic and philosophical colours.

Parents seek help for treatment of minor terrorism victim

PESHAWAR: The parents of a five-year-old kid, who had sustained serious injuries in a terrorism act at the Ring Road here on February 5, have appealed to NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti and philanthropists for his medical treatment.Five-year-old Hamza suffered multiple injuries when unknown terrorists started firing on Saadullah Khan advocate, former president of the Charsadda Bar Association. In the incident that occurred in jurisdiction of the Paharipura police, the lawyer was killed on the spot along a minor girl, Naila, who along others were playing at the roadside. A colleague of the deceased lawyer, Anwarul Habib, and the innocent Hamza got wounded in the attack.Hamza sustained bullet injuries to his face, chest and liver while the doctors operated upon him twice. However, his liver and diaphragm were adversely affected. The father of the child, a rickshaw driver, has so far spent Rs80,000 on his medical treatment. The doctors have recommended another operation that could be carried out only at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), Islamabad. The treatment at Pims, according to the doctors, might cost up to Rs200,000, which the parents of Hamza could not pay due to abject poverty.Hamza has been writhing in pain for the 40 days at the Lady Reading Hospital’s Orthopaedic Ward looking for the much-awaited treatment. The desperate parents are awaiting financial help for the kid’s treatment. The parents of the patient could be contacted on cellular number 0346-5667290.

Obama wants to distance economic plan, AIG rescue

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is scrambling to assure Americans he is keenly aware of public outrage over taxpayer-backed bonuses for AIG executives, lest his own economic plan get caught up in the outcry.

"How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?" Obama asked, referring to AIG's management.

Obama spoke a day after it came to light that bonuses worth $165 million were being paid to executives at American International Group, a giant insurance company that is receiving up to $180 billion in federal bailout money.

The issue posed a challenge for Obama. He faces the unwelcome possibility of having the public associate AIG's taxpayer-backed bonuses with Obama's own economic agenda at a time when Americans are being asked to swallow some big numbers.

Since taking office nine weeks ago, Obama has proposed a $3.55 trillion budget for fiscal 2010. He has gained congressional approval of a $787 billion economic stimulus package and last week he signed a $410 billion budget bill for the rest of 2009.

In addition, the administration is soon to unveil a plan to remove toxic assets from banks that will likely mean more bailout money from taxpayer pockets.

"What the Obama administration is scared to death of is it morphing from AIG to the president's economic policy and if that happens, that's very bad news," said Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, who worked in the Clinton White House.

Schoen said the Obama White House so far has sounded the note of moral outrage successfully.

"The problem that they face is that people are getting increasingly skeptical and the last thing they want to do is to have to defend bonus payments to AIG," he said.

In retaliation, the U.S. Treasury will modify a planned $30 billion capital infusion for AIG. A Treasury official said the move was aimed at recouping hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

The bonus issue brought Democrats and Republicans together in a way unseen all year. Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank suggested the executives should be fired.

"These people may have a right to their bonuses; they don't have a right to their jobs forever. The federal government now is the 80 percent owner. One of the things we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again," he told NBC's "Today" show.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on the Senate floor that the Obama administration should work to ensure there is no repeat of the "absolutely appalling" bonuses.

"The American taxpayer needs to have complete certainty that their tax money is not going to be spent in this way ever again," he said.


Americans have already grown weary of government bailouts to companies that they believed squandered their investments on questionable loans, shredded their retirement accounts and helped toss the U.S. economy into recession.

Obama said he had asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to use the federal government's leverage with AIG and pursue "every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers afloat."

Geithner had complained to AIG Chairman Edward Liddy about the bonus structure.

Liddy said in a letter to Geithner that the firm was legally obligated to make already promised 2008 employee-retention payments, the value of which were set early last year before AIG's financial problems became public.

AIG also disclosed that Goldman Sachs Group Inc and a parade of European banks were the major beneficiaries of $93 billion in payments -- more than half of the U.S. taxpayer money spent to rescue the massive insurer.

Populist outrage at Wall Street has been boiling over, with such examples as comedian Jon Stewart's rapier-like interview of CNBC financial guru Jim Cramer, who hosts the cable network's popular "Mad Money" show.

Comments to a blog item on Reuters Front Row blog ( were illustrative of the anger.

"Boycott AIG. Boycott any company receiving bailout funds and paying bonuses. Bonuses are extra pay, rewards, typically given for excellent, above average, performance. These companies should have to demonstrate, publicly, the validity of each bonus awarded," wrote one commenter.

A writer who identified herself as an AIG employee expressed shame.

"While management and execs get bonuses they rip on us about how we should be acting to save the company money. Our management team is abrasive and negative and according to them we do everything wrong," this person wrote.

Chief Justice congratulates nation over his reinstatement

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has congratulated whole nation over his reinstatement. This he said in his short address to the people gathered outside his official residence. He appeared many times to see the people gathered outside his residence celebrating his reinstatement. Youngest son of CJ also appeared in balcony and waved his hands for the people present outside the residence.

14 killed in Rawalpindi suicide blast

ISLAMABAD:At least 14 people have been killed and 25 others injured in a suicide attack on a pick-up Suzuki van at Peshawar Road near Pirwadhai Morr on Monday evening. Thirteen people were pronounced in critical condition in two hospitals of Rawalpindi city. Body parts of dead and injured, blood and parts of vehicles were seen scattered on huge area around the place of the incident.Ball bearings and other iron particles were found at spot which guides investigators to declare it suicide bombing. The target of suicide bomber might be anywhere else but he failed to dodge the security around the capital and he blew himself at this spot, the police sources told Business Recorder.He said that there were threats of suicide bombing, but it was not being expected to occur at any public place. Besides the ill-fated Suzuki Pick-up, four other vehicles including Toyota Hiace, two Suzuki Mehran taxis and Nissan Taxi were damaged in the incident. Dozens of people standing at stop were affected by the suicide bombing.Police and other law enforcement agencies have cordoned off the area. Rescue teams of Rescue 1122, civil defence, police and bomb disposal squad reached on the spot and shifted the dead and injured to District Headquarter Hospital and Rawalpindi General Hospital (RGH). Moreover, they started collecting the sample of the explosive used in the incident and preserving the evidences.According to eyewitnesses, the suicide bomber, riding on a motorcycle came near the Suzuki pick-up (public vehicle) and blew himself up at Suzuki Stand located at Pirwadhai Morr, opposite Rescue 1122 office. Ten people died on spot. They said they have seen suicide bomber before he blew himself and he was a young man of 22 to 24 years.
Seven dead bodies and six packs of scattered decomposed body parts of many dead have been brought to District Headquarter Hospital besides 17 injured. Four critically injured people were shifted to operation theatre. Five bodies were brought to RGH along with ten injured.High police officials including Regional Police Officer (RPO) Nasir Durrani told reporters on the site and said that it was a suicide bomb blast. "We are collecting the material from the spot to get evidences," he said. City Police Officer (CPO) Inayat Farooqi also visited the site.Rescue 1122 spokesperson, Deba Shahnaz confirmed that Rescue 1122 has shifted ten dead and 17 injured to RGH and DHQ hospital. She said that it is not appropriate to tell the exact target of the blast but it was a suicide bombing incident as body parts were scattered in vast areas. She said the blast occurred at 9.03 pm and Rescue 1122 station located in front of the blast site responded quickly to start rescue work.

Clouded details of Pakistan deal

Tension has eased, optimism has been renewed and a wave of jubilation has swept through the country.A long, fraught night in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, culminated in the government's decision to reinstate the chief justice who was sacked more than a year ago.Lawyers who had campaigned for Iftikhar Chaudhry's reinstatement were ecstatic.The public was also happy, because the decision had averted a major confrontation between the two largest political forces of the country, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of President Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif.The two parties had together swept the 2008 elections and formed an alliance to rule the country.The alliance was widely welcomed by the electorate as it meant that the two parties would not resort to the political squabbling of the 1990s which destabilised successive governments and impoverished the economy.

Transfer of power

But the parties drifted apart over the question of the reinstatement of Justice Chaudhry, who had been sacked by military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
“ Public aspirations can no longer be ignored either by politicians, soldiers or judges, Justice Chaudhry included ” Many say Gen Musharraf sacked him because he feared the judge might upset his plans to win a second term as president.
Gen Musharraf's successor, Mr Zardari, had pledged to reinstate Justice Chaudhry but was accused of delaying the move because he feared the judge might revive corruption cases against him.Those cases were instituted by the government of Nawaz Sharif in 1997 but were withdrawn by Gen Musharraf's government under the transfer-of-power deal which paved the way for the 2008 elections.
That transfer-of-power deal also apparently contained an agreement that would protect Gen Musharraf from prosecution for actions during his leadership.
So what backroom deals were done to secure this latest accord, apparently sealed following high-level negotiations in which the army and some US diplomats played a key role?While the government has apparently agreed to make Justice Chaudhry the chief justice, it is still not known if this will mean a reversal of Gen Musharraf's order to sack him.Legal experts say a reversal would expose Pervez Musharraf to prosecution for illegal conduct, something many say is unlikely to happen.If, on the other hand, Justice Chaudhry is being offered an arrangement that does not term his sacking illegal, then the PML-N and some top lawyer leaders may have agreed to let Pervez Musharraf off the hook.
Then there is the question of Nawaz Sharif.
His PML-N threw its weight behind the lawyers' movement after the Supreme Court upheld a ruling to ban him and his brother Shahbaz from elected office.
Shahbaz was chief minister of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab, and had to step down. The central government extended federal rule to Punjab.
It seems the government has now offered a judicial review of that judgment.
This, together with the decision to reinstate Justice Chaudhry, has rekindled hopes for many that the two parties may revert to the post-election phase of mutual cooperation.There is certainly a growing feeling that politically motivated cases, such as those against Mr Zardari or the Sharifs, have damaged the credibility of the judiciary.
But what of Justice Chaudhry himself?In the past, he has shown himself to be an independent minded judge, not shy of passing judgments that hurt government interests.

He shot down some privatisation deals of the Musharraf government and forced the intelligence agencies to produce political prisoners they had earlier denied they were holding.But Justice Chaudhry has now been sacked twice. First in March 2007 and again in November of the same year.Although, on both occasions, public pressure played a decisive role in his reinstatement, some analysts say Justice Chaudhry may now be reluctant to delve into matters that will prove controversial.
The people want justice and the rule of law, but also political stability, democracy and equal opportunity.In the presence of an aggressive media, public aspirations can no longer be ignored either by politicians, soldiers or judges, Justice Chaudhry included.

Clinton warned Pakistan of aid cut if no deal

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Pakistan's president and opposition leader over the weekend U.S. aid could be at risk unless they defused a crisis over a top judge, U.S. officials said on Monday.In a surprise move, Pakistan's government announced on Monday it would reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice, aiming to defuse a crisis and end protests by lawyers and activists that threatened to turn violent.The officials said Clinton telephoned on Saturday both President Asif Ali Zardari and his rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had backed the anti-government lawyers.The officials said Clinton, who coordinated with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, had exerted strong pressure for a deal.Clinton told reporters the decision to reinstate Chaudhry was a first step for much-needed reconciliation and political compromise in Pakistan.She avoided answering when asked if she had linked continued U.S. aid to a deal.The stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan has emerged as a key worry in Washington, which also needs its help to combat a Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan
Asked if the political turmoil was distracting Islamabad from taking on the militants, Clinton replied: "They understand what is at stake."
U.S. officials said Clinton told both Zardari and Sharif congressional lawmakers might balk at sending Pakistan more aid while the crisis persisted."She warned them that congressional appropriations would be at risk," said one U.S. official, who asked not to be named.A senior State Department official said "many" in Congress had expressed concern over what was happening in Pakistan."The secretary's friendly advice to the Pakistani leadership is that we have got to get this situation under control," the official said.U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, also spoke several times over the weekend to Pakistani politicians."This was all done with great respect for Pakistan's sovereignty and sensibility but with great concern for the strategic and political implications of a protracted confrontation," a Holbrooke aide quoted him as saying.The Obama administration is reviewing its strategy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Details, including possible future aid, are expected to emerge in the coming weeks.In January, Zardari urged the United States to boost both military and non-military aid.The United States has spent billions of dollars in recent years helping Pakistan fight al Qaeda and the Taliban in remote tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released a report last month calling for $4 billion to $5 billion in immediate financial aid to help Pakistan avert financial meltdown.Kerry welcomed the decision to reinstate the chief justice but said more must be done."Now, Pakistan's civilian leadership must avoid divisions and work together to further strengthen the nation's democratic institutions," the Massachusetts senator said in a statement.State Department officials credited Pakistani leaders for their compromise and downplayed the effect of U.S. actions."These were decisions that had to be taken by the Pakistani leadership. And in the end, I believe they acted in the best interests of the Pakistani people, and that's what's important here," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. (Editing by Alan Elsner)

Russia, Venezuela start visa-free travel regime

The agreement will allow Russians and Venezuelans to visit each others' countries for up to 90 days without having to apply for visas."This greatly eases interaction between the countries and mutual travel of citizens, including businessmen... It simplifies the establishment of contacts as well as humanitarian, student and tourist exchanges," said Sergei Akopov, a deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Latin American department.
The deal was signed on November 26, 2008 in Caracas during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's official visit to the South American country.
The official said tourist turnover between the two countries was "not strong", but that the agreement could significantly increase the number of Russians visiting Venezuela. Venezuela has become the fifth state in Latin America to scrap visa requirements for Russian citizens, following Cuba, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Similar agreements are also expected to be signed with Brazil and Argentina. The Colombian Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday it was planning to unilaterally introduce a visa-free agreement for Russia, which would enter into force within 30 days.

OPEC decides to maintain current oil production level

VIENNA, -- Faced with declining international oil prices, the 152nd Oil Minister Conference of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided on Sunday in Vienna not to further cut crude oil production. The ministers from OPEC member states decided to maintain the current output level and boost the prices by strengthening the implementation of existing production quotas.During the six-hour discussion, the ministers analyzed the market situation and finally decided to keep the current production quota unchanged.Announcing the decision after the meeting on Sunday afternoon, OPEC spokesperson Omar Ibrahim explained that OPEC first needed to review each member state's compliance of the current production cut quota, as well as its effect on oil prices.OPEC Secretary-general Abdalla Salem El-Badri also told reporters that the production cut goal announced by OPEC so far has been attained by 79 percent, and there is still room for further cut on crude oil supply before its 100 percent compliance. At the Sunday meeting, OPEC member states also agreed to strictly follow the production quota further.Chairman of this OPEC Ministerial Conference, Minister of Petroleum of Angola Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos pointed out that according to OPEC's projection, the crude oil production of non-OPEC countries would continue to increase this year. He hoped that non-OPEC countries could also contribute to oil prices' stability.He noted that the stability of international oil prices concerns not only the interests of OPEC countries, but also those of non-OPEC oil producers as well as oil consumers. Sustaining low prices will harm investment in the crude oil production industry, and thus harm the future supply stability.Asked what kind of oil price is considered proper, he responded it should be "a price that satisfies consumers and also attracts investments."Vasconcelos also noted that due to the current unclear international economic situation, OPEC would keep paying attention to the market, and decide the next production strategy at the next Oil Ministerial Conference scheduled for May 28.Prior to the meeting, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi noted that another production cut of OPEC may boost oil prices, which is unfavorable to the steady development of the world economy. Since September 2008, OPEC has slashed production for three times, cutting an average of 4.2 million barrels per day, but the international oil prices remain low. The economic recession and relatively high crude oil reserve are the major factors.
However, some experts also pointed out that the retractation of a large number of speculation capital also attributes to the price drop. Therefore, to some extent, the current downturn of prices can not fully reflect the world economic recession and the shrinkage of future crude oil demand. Since the beginning of this year, the OPEC prices remain at 40 U.S. dollars per barrel.

Leftist Party Wins Salvadoran Vote

SAN SALVADOR — El Salvador’s F.M.L.N., the leftist party of the country’s former guerrillas, won the presidential election Sunday, marking a turning point after two decades of rule by the right.

Mauricio Funes, a former television reporter, declared himself the winner before F.M.L.N. campaign workers chanting “yes, we could” at the Sheraton Hotel as supporters on the street waved flags and honked car horns in celebration.

“This is the happiest night of my life,” Mr. Funes said. “And I hope it is also the night of greatest hope for El Salvador.”

Two hours later, Mr. Funes’s conservative opponent, Rodrigo Ávila, conceded defeat. “These are the ups and downs of democracy,” said Mr. Ávila , the former national police chief. His party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance, known as Arena, had won the presidency four times since 1989.

The electoral tribunal said that with votes from 92 percent of polling places counted, the F.M.L.N. had won 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent for Arena.

“We’re entering a new stage in our history now that candidates from the left have reached the presidency and the vice presidency,” Mr. Funes told supporters.

He called on the country to unite after the bruising campaign as it faced the global economic crisis. “I’m convinced the only way to confront the crisis is with national unity,” he said.

But those outside celebrating were not thinking about recession. “The people are greater than the oligarchy in El Salvador,” said engineering student Daniel Romero. “Enough years of false promises and censorship.”

The voting was calm Sunday, with a strong turnout among the 4.3 million registered voters.

“We want to change this system so it benefits the whole population and not just those with money,” said Victor Manuel Saenz, 53, a street vendor who wore a bright red shirt in the style of Latin revolutionaries.

With the end of the 12-year civil war in 1992, the F.M.L.N., the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, became a political party. It controlled city hall in San Salvador for 12 years before losing in January and it is now the largest party in the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Funes, the first F.M.L.N. presidential candidate who is not a former guerrilla commander, promised “safe change” in the mold of Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a moderate leftist whose economic policies have won support from foreign investors.

But Arena voters were not convinced. Fidelin González, 39, a single mother, said she had voted for Arena because she preferred to stick with what she knew. “It’s safer that way,” she said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s something you’re familiar with.”

Holbrooke hopes Justice Iftikhar restoration ends confrontation

WASHINGTON: US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke has welcomed the decision of restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and expressed hope that it will end the confrontation in the country.
Talking to Pakistani ambassador to US Hussain Haqqani, Holbrooke said it is a wise decision of President Asif Zardari. It will help to defuse the tension.Earlier, Haqqani had informed Richard Holbrooke about president’s decision.

Suicide bomber kills 11 in southern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber killed 11 people, including nine police officers, in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a day after one of the deadliest attacks against foreign troops in recent weeks, officials said.

Violence has increased since last year in Afghanistan where the Taliban, ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, have made a comeback in their campaign to drive out foreign troops. Afghan and foreign security forces are frequently targeted.

Since the weekend, nine foreign soldiers have been killed in a series of separate Taliban raids, the deadliest week for foreign forces in recent months. Four NATO-led soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack on Sunday.

The latest bomber was on foot and detonated explosives attached to his body in a group of officers outside the main police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, on Monday, a local police official said.

Two civilians were also killed, the interior ministry in Kabul said in a statement. Another 29 people, many of them police, were wounded.

A would-be suicide bomber armed with a grenade killed a police officer guarding a compound in a separate attack in western Farah province on Monday, an official said.

The bomber was shot dead by other police as he tried to enter the compound and blow himself up, the official said.

Some 70,000 foreign soldiers under the command of NATO and the U.S. military, along with tens of thousands of Afghans in government forces, are struggling to defeat a resurgent Taliban.

The new U.S. administration plans to send an extra 17,000 soldiers this year to stabilize the country, which some Western politicians and analysts fear may slide back into anarchy.

U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government after it refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders wanted by Washington for masterminding the September 11 attacks on the United States.

With the surge of violence and rising casualties among their troops, some Western nations are reluctant to send their soldiers into areas where the al Qaeda-backed group is most active.

US, NATO supplies attacked in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A witness and a police officer say militants have attacked a terminal for trucks carrying supplies to US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
The attack early Monday was the second on Afghan-bound military supplies in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar in as many days.
A security guard at the al-Fasil terminal on the outskirts of the city says up to 50 armed people entered the termimal.
He says they threw gasoline over 10 container trucks carrying supplies and then set off explosions.
Rising militant attacks are raising doubts about the reliability of critical supply routes through Pakistan, prompting the U.S. and NATO to seek alternatives.