Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pakistan faces challenging 2011

Pakistan has been in the headlines throughout 2010, and seems likely to remain in the spotlight this year. The devastating floods of 2010 continue to affect millions, and many who escaped that tragedy still live in fear of Taliban attacks, sectarian bombings and US drone strikes.

Tunisia Riots: The Youth Revolution

Demographic shifts fomenting the Arab world's hunger for change.

Power change

17 Dec: A graduate sets himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid over lack of jobs, sparking protests
24 Dec: Protester shot dead in central Tunisia
28 Dec: Protests spread to Tunis
8-10 Jan: Dozens of deaths reported in crackdown on protests
12 Jan: Interior minister sacked
13 Jan: President Ben Ali promises to step down in 2014
14 Jan: Mr Ben Ali dissolves parliament after new mass rally, then steps down and flees

He was the minor dictator of a minor nation in North Africa that’s best known for exporting workers and courting low-rent tourists. But when Tunisia’s President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali fled his country on Friday after more than 23 years with a ruthless grip on power, the Arab world was swept by the kind of excitement that augurs epochal change.

From Morocco to Egypt to Jordan and beyond, the news racing across the Internet and on cell phones hit these long-oppressed societies the way word of the fall of the Berlin Wall impacted the shaky dictatorships of the decrepit Soviet Empire in 1989. Indeed, Ben Ali and his wife had come to be known in their own country as “the Ceaucescus,” a reference to the brutal couple who ruled Romania for decades, then faced summary execution when they fell.

What was especially shocking to Arab regimes was the way Ben Ali’s overthrow began: a young fruit and vegetable vendor who had his cart confiscated by police in the town of Sidi Bouzid set himself on fire last month to protest against job shortages and low wages. As news of the self-immolation spread, so did riots. At first, the head of the military, Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar, refused to put his troops into the streets to stop the protests. Ben Ali replaced him. Then last weekend the soldiers began shooting in earnest. The death toll mounted. But the riots continued, moving from outlying cities into the heart of the capital. And at that point the military, it appears, decided to replace Ben Ali. A state of emergency and curfew have been declared and the ineffectual prime minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, has appeared on television to say he is running a self-described “temporary” government.

These events are resonating so widely because the core problems of Tunisia are common to just about every country in the region: a growing population of young people who are at once educated and ambitious, unemployed and frustrated, muzzled and resentful.

In a speech on Thursday, just one day before Ben Ali fell, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an audience in Qatar that “a growing majority” of the people in the region are under 30, and in some countries, like Yemen, the population is expected to double in the next three decades. “People have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order,” said Clinton, who called special attention to a member of the audience “whose work on human rights and democracy in Tunisia I admire.” Then with unusual vehemence, Clinton warned that “in too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand.” Whether Clinton was aware how fast Ben Ali was sinking at that point is not clear.

Yet for all the talk about human rights, the United States and Europe have grown so accustomed to the same set of strongmen running the Arab world year after year that there’s going to be some pretty frantic scrambling to sort out new relationships with new leaders as the old ones disappear.

In Egypt, the octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak will have held power for three decades this year, and is getting set to install himself for another term. In Algeria, the shadowy military regime survived a brutal civil war against radical Islamists in the 1990s, but now faces new unrest. In Jordan, the authority of the Hashemite dynasty has been undermined by dissent among influential retired generals and protests among the tribes that were its traditional base of support. Yet all these regimes are considered important allies of the West just the way they are, and no one has any idea how they might be replaced, or when, or by whom.

Ben Ali was Tunisia’s intelligence chief, with notoriously close ties to the CIA, before he moved to overthrow the increasingly senile Habib Bourguiba in 1987. Even back then, Ben Ali presented himself as a key player in the fight against extremism. By crushing dissent, courting tourists and playing along with international financial institutions, Ben Ali created an image of his country as a bastion of prosperous stability that Western governments appeared ready to embrace—at least in public.

In recent years, however, even the U.S. embassy in Tunis found Ben Ali’s regime hard to stomach. As Ambassador Robert Godec wrote in a July 2009 cable that surfaced through WikiLeaks, Ben Ali and his regime had “lost touch with the Tunisian people.” Corruption was on the rise, and popular resentment growing. “Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, first Lady Leila Trabelsi and her family,” wrote Godec. It’s probably too much to say that WikiLeaks helped inspire the overthrow of Ben Ali, but the content of the cable was considered so damaging to the regime that it tried to block the websites where it was displayed.

France, which has a large population of Tunisian workers and longstanding historical ties to the country, remained keen to downplay Ben Ali’s faults until the very end. Even as the rioting gained momentum in recent weeks, top French officials suggested they would help Ben Ali’s forces restore order. Yet once Ben Ali cut and ran, the authorities in Paris let it be known he wouldn’t be welcome in France.

As Ben Ali’s plane is reported in different locations around the world, the traffic on Twitter suggests the emotions that have been aroused:

“Breaking: An earthquake just hit Egypt, ooops sorry that was Mubarak shaking!!”

“Ben Ali's plane stopping over in Cairo before final destination in the Gulf? A couple of seats free for Mubarak.”

“If Ben Ali plane ran out fuel, let it be above Mubarak mansion, then we'll live victory.”

As of this writing, it’s still not clear where Ben Ali and his family will end up. The same can now be said for their country and for the region.

Tunisia:The Un-Islamic Revolution

A secular, grassroots movement in Tunisia has sent the president packing. Protesters say this is not a religious revolution.
Tunisian demonstrators standing above the Interior ministry's main door in Tunis wave their national country flag during a rally demanding President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's resignation.

Hisham Ben Khamsa arrived early for this morning’s demonstration on Habib Bourguiba, Tunis’s Champs-Élysées, to find the street filled with people from all walks of life—from poor mothers with children to denizens of the city’s upper class, all singing the national anthem and chanting, “Ben Ali, get lost.”

But around midday Ben Khamsa noticed a small group of people nearby who stood out for their religious attire—women behind veils and men with long beards and taqiyah, the caps worn by the devout. They were chanting a different slogan: “There is no God but Allah, and all the martyrs are loved by Allah.”

The word for martyr used by the men—shohada—has a special resonance in North Africa; it’s what they call the people who died in the independence wars. But Ben Khamsa worried the group was trying to portray those who have died since the unrest broke out in December as Muslim martyrs. Ben Khamsa went over to the men and told them to focus on the message of throwing Ben Ali out—and the people around him chimed in. The men put their heads down and joined in with the rest of the crowd.

“This has nothing to do with Islamists,” Ben Khamsa, a film producer, tells NEWSWEEK. “This Muslim fundamentalist thing in North Africa is a scarecrow.”

The uprising, which on Friday sent President Ben Ali fleeing abroad, casting the country into further turmoil, appears largely to be a secular, grassroots movement. And autocrats throughout the region should take note, says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center.

“Today there is no doubt. This is going to be everywhere. There will be no way for Arab leaders to escape from this,” Hamid tells NEWSWEEK. “Tunisia’s reputation was of being the most stable in the Arab regimes. If it can happen in Tunisia, it can happen anywhere.”

Until last month, Tunisia’s government was seen as having the firmest grip on control. People in the region are watching the situation in Tunisia closely; last night millions of people watched Ben Ali’s speech as it was broadcast on two Middle East–based satellite channels, Hamid says. Protests have also been taking place lately in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait.

As Ben Khamsa puts it: “We proved in this country that we’re worthy of having a democracy ... The proof is here. We threw that son of a bitch out just by taking to the streets.”

Arab activists hope Tunisia events inspire change

Celebrations over the Tunisian president's ouster spread Saturday as the popular uprising raised hopes throughout the Arab world that it could inspire pressures for reforms across a region dominated by authoritative regimes.

But while Middle East leaders may face bolder calls for change - such as chants against Egypt's Hosni Mubarak - the chances for other ruling systems to crumble quickly in domino-style fashion appear slim.

Many states with deep political rifts, such as Egypt and Iran, maintain vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo and have shown no signs of breaking ranks to join protesters. Still, the stunning rebellion in Tunisia against the 23-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sent an unmistakable message to other leaders that no hold on power is guaranteed.

"Now the bell is ringing and it should be a reminder to other leaders that people are fed up," said political analyst Labib Kamhawi in Jordan, where more than 5,000 people joined rallies on Friday to protest rising prices and demand the prime minister's ouster.

"They need political freedoms and serious economic reforms, that there must be an end to corruption and nepotism," he added.

Dozens of demonstrators rallied outside the Tunisian embassies Saturday in Cairo and Amman, Jordan.

Meanwhile, thousands of messages congratulating the Tunisian people flooded the Internet on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, and many people replaced their profile pictures with red Tunisian flags.

Egyptian activists opposed to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade regime danced outside the Tunisian Embassy in Cairo as the news broke on Friday, chanting "Ben Ali, tell Mubarak a plane is waiting for him too!"

Mubarak, 82, faces mounting dissatisfaction over the lack of democratic reform and frequent protests over economic woes in the country, a key U.S. ally.

Egyptian human rights activist Hossam Bahgat said he was glued to the news watching the fall of the Tunisian government and hoped that his countrymen could do the same someday.

"I feel like we are a giant step closer to our own liberation," he told The Associated Press. "What's significant about Tunisia is that literally days ago the regime seemed unshakable, and then eventually democracy prevailed without a single Western state lifting a finger."

Bahgat said the events in Tunisia would boost the confidence of opposition members in a region where leaders often rule for life.

"What happened in Tunisia ... will give unimaginable momentum to the cause for change in Egypt," he said.

News of Ben Ali's flight to Saudi Arabia was splashed on the front pages of all Cairo dailies on Saturday without editorial comment, while the mass-circulation Akhbar al-Youm tried to promote the government's performance on the economy with a dose of patriotism.

"Egypt is on the ascent," declared the paper's banner headline of a new story praising the government's policies on servicing foreign debt and the growth of money held in social insurance and pension funds.

In Iran, government-run media also reported the Tunisian uprising without any analysis or references to the massive protests after disputed elections last year.

Sudanese opposition leader Mariam al-Sadek said she had mixed feelings about the Tunisian riots: excitement the president was overthrown but sadness that her people haven't done the same.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on an international indictment for war crimes in the western region of Darfur, faces the division of his country after a vote for southern independence, a rebellion in the west and east, and internal opposition.

"What caused this in Tunisia is so little compared to what we are going through," al-Sadek said. "Our country is being divided; our sovereignty is lost and we are humiliated, and this is happening in Tunisia ... I feel ashamed."

Jordanians also held separate protests Friday in several cities over rising prices for fuel and foodstuffs, although King Abdullah II slashed some prices and taxes earlier this week to try to stanch the public anger and ease the burden on the poor.

About 200 people, some wearing Tunisian flags as capes, huddled together on Paris' Place des Invalides after being directed away from the nearby Tunisian Embassy.

French police closed off the street where the embassy was located to foot and car traffic.

Haitham Nasri, a 21-year-old university student from the southern city of Sfax in Tunisia who has lived in Paris for two years, said Friday was a day of celebration but warned the mobilization could continue.

"It's like halftime in an important football match, when the home team is up 1-0. We're happy with our performance so far but are regrouping for the second half. We've won the battle but not the war yet," said Nasri, who was wrapped in the red-and-white Tunisian flag.

Mohammed Abdel-Qudous, a veteran Egyptian opposition activist, predicted the ripples from Tunisia to be felt soon in Egypt.

"Egypt is a candidate to be the next Tunisia because conditions in the two countries are very similar," he said. "It is a question of time, nothing more."

Tunisia and the New Arab Media Space

An interesting discussion has already broken out over whether Tunisia should be considered a "Twitter Revolution" -- a far more interesting and relevant discussion than whether it was a "Wikileaks Revolution" (it wasn't). I've seen some great points already by Ethan Zuckerman, Evgeny Morozov, Luke Allnut, Jillian York, and others. I'm looking forward to being one of the social scientists digging into the data, where I suspect that both enthusiasts and skeptics will find support for their arguments. For now, I would just argue that it would be more productive to focus more broadly on the evolution of the Arab media over the last decade, in which new media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, forums and blogs work together with satellite television stations such as al-Jazeera to collectively transform the Arab information environment and shatter the ability of authoritarian regimes to control the flow of information, images, ideas and opinions. That feels like a sentence which I've written a hundred times over the last decade.... and one which has never felt more true than the last month in Tunisia.

Calling Tunisia a "Twitter Revolution" is simplistic, but even skeptics have to recognize that the new media environment mattered. I would suggest that analysts not think about the effects of the new media as an either/or proposition ("Twitter vs. al-Jazeera"), but instead think about new media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, SMS, etc) and satellite television as collectively transforming an complex and potent evolving media space. Without the new social media, the amazing images of Tunisian protestors might never have escaped the blanket repression of the Ben Ali regime --- but it was the airing of these videos on al-Jazeera, even after its office had been shuttered, which brought those images to the mass Arab public and even to many Tunisians who might otherwise not have realized what was happening around their country. This is similar to how the new media empowered Egyptian "Kefaya" protestors in the early 2000s and Lebanese protestors in 2005, but in a significantly changed media space.

Al-Jazeera may be so 2005, but it is still by far the most watched and most influential single media outlet in the Arab world. It has also embraced the new media environment, creatively and rapidly adopting user generated content to overcome official crackdowns on its coverage of various countries -- a practice perfected in Iraq, where it had to rely on locally-generated content after its office was closed down in 2004. Other satellite television stations have followed suit, leading to genuine and highly significant integration among new and slightly-less-new Arab media. All of these media platforms and individual contributors layer together to collectively challenge the ability of states to control the flow of information, images, and opinion. This is the latest stage in the new media revolution in the Arab world about which I've been writing since the early 2000s, and it's profoundly exciting to watch.

I'd point to one other aspect of this which often gets overlooked. Al-Jazeera and the new media ecosystem did not only spread information -- they facilitated the framing of the events and a robust public debate about their meaning. Events do not speak for themselves. For them to have political meaning they need to be interpreted, placed into a particular context and imbued with significance. Arabs collectively understood these events quite quickly as part of a broader Arab narrative of reform and popular protest ---the "al-Jazeera narrative" of an Arab public challenging authoritarian Arab regimes and U.S. foreign policy alike. Events in Tunisia had meaning for Jordan, for Lebanon, for Yemen, for Egypt because they were framed and understood within this collective Arab narrative. From al-Jazeera's talk shows to internet forums to the cafes where people talked them out face to face, Tunisia became common focal point for the Arab political debate and identity.

Al-Jazeera's role may not fit the current passion for the internet, but overlooking it will lead to some serious misunderstandings of how the media works in today's Arab world and how the Tunisian events might matter outside of that country over the longer term.

President Ben Ali flees as chaos hits country

President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, the pro-American leader of Tunisia, fell to a wave of student protest on Friday, fleeing into exile from a country that had descended into blood-soaked chaos.
Mohammed Ghannouchi, the prime minister, announced he was taking over as acting president as the army moved in to seize control of the main airport in the capital Tunis.

The collapse of the 23-year dictatorship, the first ever collapse of an Arab leader to a "people power" uprising, was met nervously by Tunisia's allies.

Mr Ben Ali was first thought to have flown to France but was reportedly refused permission to enter by President Nicolas Sarkozy. A plane carrying Mr Ben Ali landed early on Saturday morning in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah, a Saudi source said.

The US was keen to demonstrate it was open to a peaceful transistion in the North African state.

"We believe the Tunisian people have the right to choose their leaders, and will monitor this latest development closely," said Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council.
The White House will, however, be monitoring the stability of Tunisia's Arab neighbours.

Like Tunisia, many have been led for decades by repressive regimes that depend on the support of America and fear the discontent of young, underemployed populations.

But while the protests in Tunisia were led by an educated young population eager to expand their freedoms, in its neighbours much of the opposition is demanding the replacement of pro-western regimes with Islamic rule.

The final moments of Mr Ben Ali's long dominance of his country will be remembered for the drama on the streets as protests that have raged across the country for four weeks, finally reached the capital on Thursday.

Demonstrators ignored a curfew, and took no notice of a promise by Mr Ben Ali that night not to seek a sixth term of office in 2014. Instead of returning home, they took to the streets and the roof-tops, even of government buildings and the interior ministry, hurling stones at symbols of authority.

The police struck back. According to one report another 13 people were shot dead, bringing the total killed to almost 80 by one count by human rights groups. Tear gas floated over the city.

Television pictures showed plain clothes police firing rounds, and hauling individual students to the ground, where they would then be kicked and beaten by riot squads.

Thousands of British and other western tourists were told to stay indoors.

Many were evacuated. Holiday-makers described rampaging mobs breaking windows along the street outside their hotels.

"I was scared I was going to get hurt and I felt sorry for the people," said Cynthia Rigby, 55, from Liverpool. "It is horrible out there."

The initial trigger for the riots was unemployment. They started after a young graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself alight on December 17 in protest at having the vegetable barrow that was his only means of earning a living taken from him for not having a licence.

He died on January 5.

But students also objected to the heavy censorship of information, including the internet, and to the corruption in the president's family. A US dipomatic cable released by Wikileaks described their ally as a "police state".

Another described the luxurious beachside villa, complete with pet tiger, occupied by the president's son-in-law.

On Thursday night Mr Ben Ali also admitted that he had failed to listen to the people. But this only served to encourage the protesters.

He tried a final act of conciliation yesterday afternoon, sacking his government and saying he would call fresh elections. But not long after, state television said an "important announcement" was imminent, and Mr Ghannouchi appeared to address the nation.

"I call on Tunisians of all political persuasions and from all regions to demonstrate patriotism and unity," he said.

Earlier, a government statement had imposed a state of emergency. "The police and the army are authorised to fire on any suspect person who has not obeyed orders or fled without the possibility of being stopped," it said.

One opposition leader, Najib Chebbi, said change now had to be made permanent.

"This is a crucial moment. There is a change of regime under way. Now it's the succession," he told French television. "It must lead to profound reforms, to reform the law and let the people choose."

Officials in Afghanistan Begin Investigation Into Possible Fraud at Troubled Bank

New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials have begun an investigation into possible fraud at Kabul Bank, four months after irregularities there led to a weeklong run on the bank by depositors.

The investigation was confirmed Friday by Amanullah Eman, the spokesman for the attorney general, who he said ordered the inquiry, which began a week ago. Mr. Eman said that if the investigation showed evidence of fraud by any people connected with the bank, they would be prosecuted.

In early September, the Central Bank replaced the management at Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest, with its own officials after revelations that it had made $300 million in questionable loans to its own shareholders, more than allowed by law. Several of its shareholders were politically influential, including Mahmoud Karzai, a brother of President Hamid Karzai, and Haseen Fahim, the brother of the first vice president, Gen. Muhammad Qasim Fahim.

The investigation comes against a backdrop of an increasingly troubled Afghan banking industry, which has drawn the attention of the International Monetary Fund. It is seeking an overhaul of the entire Afghan banking system and has delayed its renewal of its main credit program for Afghanistan until the financial system’s problems are addressed.

Among the I.M.F.’s demands are that Kabul Bank, as well as other Afghan banks, undergo an outside audit, and that steps be taken to tighten banking sector supervision. It also wants the government to come up with a plan for ensuring that the losses from Kabul Bank do not continue to mount, according to Western officials and diplomats in Kabul who follow financial institutions. The monetary fund declined to comment on Friday.

It is necessary to recapitalize the bank, the officials said, but it is not clear where the money to do so would come from. The Central Bank’s chairman, Abdul Qadir Fitrat, had been urged by American and other Afghan officials to act on Kabul Bank as long ago as last June. He stepped in when the revelations of the bank’s bad loans in the real estate market in Dubai, among others, threatened a potentially catastrophic run on the bank.

After Mr. Fitrat publicly declared the bank sound, the run on it eased, and the Central Bank began notifying the shareholders that they would have to repay their loans.

It was unclear, however, if all of them would be able to do so, according to bankers and businessmen in Kabul familiar with the bank’s finances. Little if any of the money has been recouped, they said. Since last fall Western officials and the I.M.F. have been pushing for the Afghan government to commission an audit of Kabul Bank by an outside accounting firm, but they have met resistance from the government. One point of contention is who would pay for the audit: the Afghan government or Western donors.

The Afghan government wants to ensure that the results are not necessarily shared with outsiders, but if donors pay for the audit, then they would have a right to see the results. Another point of contention is whether the audit would be forensic, meaning that the results could be used in a subsequent prosecution of wrongdoers.

So far there has been no agreement.

“There are lots of contentious issues,” said a Western official in Kabul familiar with Afghan banking.

“And there’s not a lot of incentive for an accounting firm to want to do this,” the official said, adding that a couple had been approached but that they had decided for one reason or another not to pursue the contract.

Meanwhile, many Western diplomats and Afghan bankers fear the banking system remains ill-equipped to make lending decisions and move quickly if loans appear to be going bad, especially when the loans have been made to people with powerful government connections, as was the case with Kabul Bank.

In addition to being politically well connected, the bank has been Afghanistan’s most successful, with an extensive network of branches nationwide and innovative promotions, like a popular lottery for depositors. It also handles a large portion of the Afghan government’s payroll, including salaries for police officers, soldiers and teachers.

It was unclear if the recent move by the attorney general was part of a larger effort to focus on the banking system’s problems or merely an effort to deflect pressure by finding someone to blame.

“When it comes to Kabul Bank and the Afghan government, a lot of people in the government are upset with the principals in the bank and seem to be needing to find a scapegoat,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul.

Mr. Eman of the attorney general’s office refused to give any details of the investigation, and would not say which officials it was focusing on.

Calling 295-C as ‘black-law’ is not blasphemy, lawyer

Daily Times

LAHORE: Waheed Anjum, counsel for Mumtaz Qadri, has said calling section 295-C, as the ‘black law’ was not blasphemy, a private TV channel reported on Friday.

Speaking in a programme, Rawalpindi Bar Association President Waheed Anjum said that 302 and 295-C are man-made laws and calling such laws, as ‘black-laws’ didn’t fall into the category of blasphemy. The Pakistan Penal Code section doesn’t have any provision which can implicate a person, who threatens others to kill over the blasphemy issue, he said.

He said there was no law to kill or threaten a person for blasphemy. He said section 506 could be applicable on a person who hurls death threat on others.

He added that section 302 would be imposed on the person who kills somebody over the blasphemy issue, for which there is capital punishment or life imprisonment. Anjum said article 302-C would be imposed on Qadri, who killed former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer for terming the blasphemy law as ‘black law. He said Qadri didn’t have any enmity with Taseer. He said that the court would decide about the case after considering the evidences, the channel reported.

Campaign launched to make Peshawar clean & green

PESHAWAR: The civil society organisations in collaboration with the Sarhad Tourism Corporation (STC) on Friday launched a joint campaign to make Peshawar, once known as the City of Flowers, clean and green.

Peshawar Youth Organisation, Institute of Architects Pakistan (Peshawar chapter), Tajjir Ittehad, Jamia Usmania Welfare Trust, AVT Khyber/K2 and Sarhad Tourism Corporation joined hands and chose the University Road (Hayatabad Phase III to Gora Qabristan) as a pilot project.

In the first phase of ‘Clean and Green Peshawar Campaign’ a weeklong survey will be conducted starting from today. In the survey 70 students will gather and document data about garbage and its disposal on the seven kilometres long road included in the pilot project.

A simple ceremony of survey launching was held at a local hotel and participated by representatives of all the stakeholders and organisations.

Talking to The News, Mansoor Ahmad, the spokesperson for the campaign, said with the financial support of STC they would scientifically gather and document data, sensitise the community and then work in collaboration with all stakeholders and departments to set a model project on this stretch of road.

He said that from January 24 to 30, 600 students of 24 different organisations in 28 groups would clean the road. The prayers leaders of the mosques situated on the road would educate people about cleanliness in Friday prayers.

The spokesperson said that the campaign would not be simply a ‘cleanliness week’ but a sustained intervention. He said Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) officials promised 4,000 plants, 50 gardeners and 8 sweepers to help the team in the campaign. He said the saplings would be planted on both sides of the road.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Students Society of Agriculture University Peshawar had also extended their support to the campaign. He said the campaign could be extended to other areas if successfully adopted and implemented.

Dr Ali Jan, consultant to Sarhad Tourism Corporation on Publicity and Promotion, said it was a daunting task but it offered a ray of hope as a large number of youth, community and civil society organisations were involved in the endeavours to make Peshawar clean and green, adding that with the support of government it would yield the desired results.

The official said although there had been attempts in the past to restore glory to the historical city but the initiatives could not yield the desired results due to poor coordination between various departments and lack of sustainability and community support and ownership.

Massive Protests in Tunisia Push President to Flee