Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pakistan earthquake.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a strong 7.2 magnitude tremblor struck a remote area in southwest Pakistan at 8:23pm GMT January 18, 2011, (1:23am 1/19/2011 local time). The earthquake occurred 640 miles west-southwest of Islamabad, near the borders of Iran and Afghanistan, and was felt as far away as New Delhi, Jaipur and Dehradun in India, and in Dubai reports CNN.com.
The earthquake occurred on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 01:23:26 AM at the epicenter, or Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 20:23:26 UTC. The epicenter is located at 320 km (about 200 miles) southwest of Quetta near Kharan, Balochistan.
Buildings in Karachi - about 400 km west of the epicenter - show signs of cracks. No word of fatalities have been reported.
CNN.com quotes Kurt Frankel of the Georgia Institute of Technology as saying, "It's not uncommon for this region to have earthquakes. It is where two tectonic plates come together, he said."
Pakistan Earthquake Details
Location: 28.838°N, 63.947°E
Depth: 84 km (52.2 miles)
45 km (30 miles) W of Dalbandin, Pakistan
260 km (160 miles) W of Kalat, Pakistan
310 km (190 miles) ESE of Zahedan, Iran
1035 km (640 miles) WSW of ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
Past Pakistan Earthquakes with Fatalities:
1935 05 30 - Quetta, Pakistan - Magnitude 7.5 Fatalities 30,000
1945 11 27 - Makran Coast, Pakistan - Magnitude 8.0 Fatalities 4,000
1974 12 28 - Northern Pakistan - Magnitude 6.2 Fatalities 5,300
2005 10 08 - Pakistan - Magnitude 7.6 Fatalities 86,000
2008 10 28 - Pakistan - Magnitude 6.4 Fatalities 166

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Pakistan earthquake: Major 7.2 quake near Afghanistan felt in Dubai, New Delhi - National World News | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/world-news-in-national/pakistan-earthquake-major-7-2-quake-near-afghanistan-felt-dubai-new-delhi#ixzz1BRxlUfyC

Pakistan earthquake felt in India

A powerful earthquake struck Pakistan early Wednesday morning, causing people to run from their homes reciting verses of the Koran. Strong tremors from the earthquake, which hit about 50 kilometers west of Dalbandin, could be felt as far away as India and the Gulf.

The earthquake, which measured 7.2 magnitude, hit at 1:23 am in a remote and sparsely populated area in Baluchistan province, near the border with Afghanistan and Iran. It struck about 50 kilometers from Dalbandin, a town so remote Pakistan used the nearby Chagai hills for nuclear tests in 1998.

There were no initial reports of casualties, AFP reports.

"I was watching TV when suddenly the TV screen began shaking. Then I realized it was a very strong earthquake," Saeeda Jehan, a mother of six in Karachi told CBS News. "Everyone said doomsday has arrived. But I was concerned about my children. It took me 10 minutes to wake them all up before we could all step out."

Tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi, about 1,3000 kilometers away, other cities in northwestern India, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The earthquake comes as Pakistan struggles not to collapse in the face of deep divides within the country and pressure from the United States to extend its cooperation in the fight against militants in Afghanistan. The assassination of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, two weeks ago raised further fears about the fragility of the country. The troubled nation is also still recovering from floods that left more than 10 million people homeless last year.

"A humanitarian crisis in Pakistan caused by the earthquake will only undermine U.S. interests," a western diplomat in Islamabad told CBS News. "As it is, we must all worry about instability in a country armed with nuclear weapons and with political and economic problems," he added.

A 2005 earthquake devastated Pakistan, killing more than 70,000 people, leaving 3 million homeless and becoming one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

Major earthquake strikes southwestern Pakistan

An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 struck Wednesday morning in a remote area of southwestern Pakistan, but initial reports revealed no major damage.

The earthquake occurred at 1:23 a.m. (3:23 p.m. Tuesday ET) at a depth of 84 kilometers (52 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was centered 45 kilometers (30 miles) west of Dalbandin, and 1,035 kilometers (640 miles) west-southwest of Islamabad, the USGS said on its website.

Arif Mahmood, director of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, put the epicenter at 320 kilometers (about 200 miles) southwest of Quetta near Kharan, Balochistan, and said it had been felt in Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan provinces in Pakistan, as well as parts of Iran and India.
Mahmood predicted major aftershocks. "Earthquakes with such magnitudes in the past have brought on aftershocks," he told CNN from Islamabad.
Residents near the epicenter in the districts of Kalat, Dalbadin and Kharan told CNN some mud-walled homes were damaged but no one was hurt.
An official at Quetta's Civil Hospital said a female cardiac patient suffered a fatal heart attack during the earthquake. He said two residents raced to the hospital but they proved not to have been injured, just scared.Malik Muhammad Iqbal, the police chief of Balochistan province, said he was aware of no injuries.
"Things in the headquarters started shaking and books fell off the desks," Balochistan Police Inspector Sultan Mehmood told CNN in a telephone interview. "We left the headquarters running into the streets -- scared for our lives."
In Karachi, Faraz Leghari, director general police, said he had heard no immediate reports of casualties or building damage.
USGS initially reported the quake at 7.4. Quakes of 7.0 to 7.9 are classified as major; anything over 8.0 is classified as great.
In Dubai, about 500 miles southwest of the epicenter, a reporter said he felt a moderate shaking that lasted for about 30 seconds.
Usman Zahid, a night manager at Serina Hotel in Quetta, Pakistan, felt the quake. He said it was "frightening" and estimated that it lasted about 20 seconds. It left "broken glass in the kitchen" and made a chandelier swing, but caused no major damage, he said.
People with Twitter accounts in New Delhi, Jaipur and Dehradun -- all in India -- felt the quake. People with Twitter accounts in Bahrain said they felt the quake.
In Dubai, "I was just getting ready to go to bed," said Leone Lakhani in Dubai. She said she texted her friends in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
"It's not uncommon for this region to have earthquakes," said Kurt Frankel of the Georgia Institute of Technology. It is where two tectonic plates come together, he said.

Pakistan Braces for Worst in Quake Aftershocks

Panic-stricken people rushed out of their homes in Pakistan late on Tuesday night after a strong earthquake shook parts of the country, underlining another dimension of the challenges faced by Washington's key south Asia ally.
Pakistan's government officials said the earthquake emanated from a remote part of Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province which borders Iran and Afghanistan. It measured approximately 7.4 on the Richter scale, the international yardstick to measure earthquakes, and was powerful enough that its tremors were felt as far as Dubai in the Middle East.

Massive 7.4 Earthquake Hits SW Pakistan

The earthquake's intensity was just below that of another earthquake measuring 7.6 that struck parts of northern Pakistan in 2005 and killed more than 70,000 people. Early reports suggest that the extent of damage to property and human casualties may have been limited, as the earthquake's epicenter was near Dalbandin, a remote and sparsely populated town in the western Baluchistan province.

Government officials warned Pakistan will live with the danger of possible aftershocks in coming days. In some instances such aftershocks have come within a week of previous earthquakes.

In Karachi, Saeeda Jehan, a middle aged woman and mother of six children, quietly read religious verses from an Islamic prayer book she carried as she waited for the building with her apartment to be declared safe for her return.

"I was watching TV when suddenly the TV screen began shaking. Then I realized it was a very strong earthquake," Jehan told CBS News while standing in a crowd at Karachi's Stargate neighborhood near the city's main airport.

Forced to leave her apartment after the earthquake, which shook the country around 1:26 a.m. local time, Jehan recounted her ordeal. "Everyone said doomsday has arrived. But I was concerned about my children. It took me 10 minutes to wake them all up before we could all step out."

Jameel Harris, an ambulance driver in Karachi, also forced to leave his flat with his five children and his wife, said there were no reports of heavy damage, though signs of panic were all around. "I have heard of cracks in some buildings but that is not across the board. The damage seems to have been done mostly to older buildings," he said.

In Pakistan's capital Islamabad a western diplomat warned that further damage from the earthquake, notably any of its aftershocks, could seriously undermine Pakistan's future, right at a time when the U.S. is urging the country to extend more cooperation in its campaign to fight militants.

"A humanitarian crisis in Pakistan caused by the earthquake will only undermine U.S. interests," the western diplomat told CBS News on condition of anonymity. "As it is, we must all worry about instability in a country armed with nuclear weapons and with political and economic problems," he added.

Tuesday's earthquake was a powerful reminder of the 2005 earthquake when the death toll of more than 70,000 turned it in to one of the world's biggest humanitarian tragedies.

Quake shakes Pakistan, damage seems limited

A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 shook southwestern Pakistan early on Wednesday, jolting residents of cities as far apart as Delhi and Dubai, but the epicenter was far from major population centers.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was more than 80 km (50 miles) underground, close to the town of Dalbandin in Baluchistan province, near the Afghan and Iranian frontiers.

Poor communications ensured there were few immediate reports from the vicinity of the quake, but despite the major strength of the shock, the great depth may have limited damage. The USGS had first said that the earthquake was very much shallower.

The USGS said the epicenter was 55 km (34 miles) west of Dalbandin, a town of about 15,000 people, and at a depth of 83 km (52 miles).

In Dalbandin, several people were injured when the roofs of their houses collapsed, provincial Transport Minister Amanullah Notizai told Reuters, but so far there were no reports of fatalities in the quake which hit at 1:23 a.m. (2023 GMT on Tuesday).

People in India's border province of Rajasthan said cracks appeared in the walls of rural dwellings.

U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan were unaffected by the quake, according to preliminary reports from the U.S. military.

As dawn breaks and officials reach the affected area, more damage and fatalities may be revealed in an area where traditional simple structures may have fared badly under the strains of the powerful tremor.


In Quetta, the largest city in Baluchistan and 331 km (205.7 miles) northeast of the epicenter, a woman died at a city hospital from a heart attack following the quake, hospital officials said.

And in the major Pakistani port of Karachi, 400 km (250 miles) away, people woke and rushed from their homes after the tremors. An official at Edhi Foundation, the biggest private ambulance and rescue service in Karachi, said there were no reports of any damage.

"I was sleeping when the quake struck and I felt like my bed was shaking. I got up and ran to check the children...and thankfully they were all okay," said Masooma Rizvi, a housewife. "It was very scary. I have never felt anything like this before."

The Pacific Tsunami Center said the onshore quake had not triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

A major quake of this magnitude, if at a shallow depth and close to population centers, is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage. Pakistan is still reeling from devastating floods last year that left more than 10 million people homeless.

In 2005, a 7.6 magnitude quake 95 km (60 miles) northeast of the Pakistani capital Islamabad killed over 70,000 people.

Earthquake in Pakistan, with a magnitude of 7.2, felt from Dubai to Delhi

An earthquake has hit southwest Pakistan with a magnitude of 7.2. Twitter lit up with the news that people felt the earth move from Dubai to the outskirts of Delhi.

Reuters reports the quake struck 34 miles west of Dalbandin at 1:23 a.m. local time on Wednesday. The Pacific Tsunami Center said the onshore quake had not triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Dalbandin is in the most sparsely populated area of Pakistan and, so far, no damage has been reported. Quakes of this strength can cause widespread destruction. For scale, the Haiti earthquake in 2010 was 7.0 magnitude and the San Francisco earthquake in 1989 was 7.1 magnitude.

Quake shakes Pakistan, no damage reported

A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 shook various parts of country early on Wednesday, jolting residents of cities as far apart as Delhi and Dubai, but the epicentre was far from major population centres.

The US Geological Survey said the quake was more than 80 km (50 miles) underground, close to the town of Dalbandin in Balochistan province, near the Afghan and Iranian frontiers.

No damage wasreported immediately. The USGS had first said that the earthquake was very much shallower.

In Karachi, 400 km (250 miles) away, people woke and rushed out of their homes in very cold conditions, reciting verses from the Holy Quran after the tremors hit at 1:23 a.m. (2023 GMT on Tuesday). The authorities there had no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

In an ominous indication of problems for the small towns and villages of Balochistan, however, people in India's border province of Rajasthan said cracks appeared in the walls of rural dwellings. The simple structures common in the area closest to the quake may fare badly under the strains of major tremors.

The USGS said the epicentre was 55 km (34 miles) west of Dalbandin, a town of about 15,000 people, and at a depth of 83 km (52 miles).

The Pacific Tsunami Center said the onshore quake had not triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

A major quake of this magnitude, if at a shallow depth and close to population centres, is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage. Pakistan is still reeling from devastating floods last year that left more than 10 million people homeless.

In 2005, a 7.6 magnitude quake 95 km (60 miles) northeast of the Pakistani capital Islamabad killed over 70,000 people.

7.2 Magnitude Earthquake In Southwestern Pakistan

A strong, 7.2 magnitude earthquake just struck in southernwestern Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. (Update at 4:14 p.m. ET: USGS just revised the magnitude; earlier it put it at 7.4.)

Magnitude 7.4 quake hits Pakistan: USGS

A magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck southwestern Pakistan, the U.S. Geological Survey reported on Tuesday.
It said the quake was very shallow at a depth of 10 km (6.3 miles). It struck 55 km (34 miles) west of Dalbandin at 1:23 a.m. local time on Wednesday (2023 GMT on Tuesday).
There was no immediate report of damage from the area.
The Pacific Tsunami Center said the onshore quake had not triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
A major quake of this magnitude is capable of causing widespread and heavy damage.
On October 8, 2005, a 7.6 magnitude quake 95 km (60 miles) northeast of the Pakistani capital Islamabad killed over 70,000 people.

Egyptian dies after setting himself on fire

A 25-year-old unemployed man died in a hospital on Tuesday after setting himself on fire in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, security officials said, amid a wave of self-immolation attempts possibly inspired by events in Tunisia.
Alexandria resident Ahmed Hashem el-Sayed had been unemployed for a year and suffered from depression and may have been mimicking the Tunisian man who set himself alight last month and set off a popular uprising that deposed the government there, said officials.
The death comes amid a rash of such attempts in Egypt. On Tuesday, two men attempted to set themselves on fire in downtown Cairo, just a day after another man soaked himself in gasoline and burned himself in front of parliament. All three survived, however.
El-Sayed, a construction worker, was on his roof in Alexandria when he slashed his wrists and set himself on fire Monday night, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media. They said el-Sayed has suffered from depression since one of his brothers set himself on fire and died five years ago.
The incidents come as protesters in Mauritania and Algeria also set themselves alight in apparent attempts to copy Tunisian Mohammed Bouazizi, 26, whose self-immolation helped inspire the protests that toppled Tunisia's authoritarian president.
While isolated, the incidents in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria reflect the growing despair among much of the Arab public which has no real means of expressing its dissatisfaction. They are deeply symbolic means of protest in a region that has little or no tolerance for dissent.
Ben Ali ruled with an iron fist for 23 years. Similarly authoritarian rulers across much of the Arab world have been in power as long or longer, like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, in power since 1969; Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, in office since 1981; and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled that impoverished nation since he seized power more than 30 years ago.
The stunning collapse of the Tunisian leader drew a litany of calls for change elsewhere in the Arab world, but activists faced the reality of vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo backing hard-line regimes ready to crack down on dissent.
Self-immolation as a method of protest is uncommon in the Arab world, where many associate it with protesters in the Far East or the Indian subcontinent. But Egyptian women in rural or poor urban areas have been known to set themselves on fire to protest violent husbands, abusive parents or an unwanted suitor.

Nearly half of Egypt's estimated 80 million people live below or just above the poverty line set by the United Nations at $2 a day. The widespread poverty presents a potential threat to stability, along with the absence of any meaningful political reform.
Bahey Eddin Hassan, head of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the growing number of people setting themselves on fire was an indication that Egyptians were beginning to think they can emulate the Tunisian experience in their country.
"The reality is that people see their rulers as the ones responsible for their economic setbacks. People think the Tunisian recipe could work in Egypt since they have tried everything else and nothing worked," he said.

President Hu Jintao landmark trip looks to the future

China Daily

President Hu Jintao embarks on his long-expected four-day state visit to the United States on Tuesday, with the number of bilateral and global issues on the agenda putting it firmly in the international spotlight.

Observers said the visit will not only help reset bilateral ties after a rocky year, but will also help set the direction for Sino-US ties in a transformational era.

Hu's four-day visit includes stays in Washington and Chicago. It will be the first time that Hu has paid a state visit to the US since Barack Obama took office two years ago, yet it will be the eighth time that the two leaders have met for talks over the past two years, a frequency that some White House officials have described as "rare in modern US diplomacy".The Hu-Obama meeting will mainly focus on thorny bilateral issues including US arms sales to Taiwan and the bilateral trade imbalance, regional issues including the Korean Peninsula, and international issues including global economic governance and climate change.
Hu is also expected to meet local students and businesspeople in Chicago, Obama's hometown.

The Associated Press reported that Hu is to be feted in Washington with a lavish state banquet at the White House and other pomp usually reserved for close friends and allies - all of which, as the agency interprets, are intended to improve the tone of relations between a rising and prosperous China and a US superpower in a tenuous economic recovery.

Besides normal procedures involved for a state visit, the White House is also making extra efforts to ensure the success of the visit.

These arrangements include a small-scale private dinner for Obama and Hu on the day of Hu's arrival to allow for a frank and private discussion, which will help test the waters for the following day's talks.

First Lady Michelle Obama will also talk with US youngsters to encourage them to study in China, part of the plan announced by her husband during his state visit to China in November 2009 when he promised to increase the number of US youngsters learning in China to 100,000 by 2015.

Sources said Hu's visit will yield a number of agreements on bilateral trade, energy, environmental protection, infrastructure building, and cultural and personnel exchanges.

Purchases of Boeing aircraft and the building of a high-speed railway may be on the list of agreements, said sources. Diplomats from both countries have been negotiating a formal joint statement, but it remains to be seen whether Obama and Hu will issue a communiqu.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said that the two sides are still discussing the content of the statement.

According to Wang Fan, an international studies expert at China Foreign Affairs University, the US is now looking at China in the context of historic shifts in the balance of power, as it figures out a strategy for its China policy, and is therefore giving China unprecedented attention.
Analysts said the significance Washington is attaching to the visit also derives from the fact that it increasingly needs Beijing's help in managing global issues, such as piracy off the African coast, Iran's nuclear program and reinvigorating the world economy.

Also, given the background of the Democrats' poor showing in the mid-term election, Obama now faces huge domestic pressure, and is hoping to reap dividends from a successful visit by Hu. That means business contracts that bring jobs to the sluggish US economy, progress on some issues that has affected bilateral ties, including trade and the Korean Peninsula issue.

China is also keen to take the opportunity to win trust and dispel suspicion in the US, which leads the developed countries. China wants to foster a favorable environment for its development.

Meanwhile, as the two are now each other's second-largest trade partner, China views the US market as crucial to its sustainable economic development.

Hu, during his four-day trip, is expected to promote China's peaceful development in a speech to business leaders and opinion-makers in Washington on Thursday and to highlight the benefits of China's market and investment when visiting Chicago.

Before Hu's departure from Beijing, high-ranking officials from each side changed the harsh tone they adopted in 2010 and became more positive regarding bilateral cooperation.

A flurry of diplomatic efforts, either visits made or speeches given by keynote officials from each country, had already been arranged prior to the visit, shedding light on the importance each side attaches to it.

Three major figures in Obama's administration - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke - have successively delivered speeches on Hu's visit, a rare occurrence in US politics.

In a speech on Friday, Clinton dismissed calls for a Cold War-style containment policy and instead described the relationship as an increasingly complex global "entanglement".

"This is not a relationship that fits neatly into the black and white categories like 'friend' or 'rival'.

"It is clear that we cannot paper over the difference between our countries; nor should we try to do so," she said. "But the future of our relationship can be strong if we each meet our responsibilities as great nations."

Chinese officials have emphasized what they see as common concerns while acknowledging the complexity of the relationship.

"When the relationship is strained, we need to bear in mind the bigger picture and not allow any individual issue to disrupt our overall cooperation," Cui said in a speech on Friday.

And for Chinese Ambassador to the US Zhang Yesui, it is not strange to see China and the US hold different views on some issues due to the different political systems, culture, history and social development.

"The key is to respect and take care of each other's core interests and major concerns, and we must solve the problems through dialogue and consultation on an equal footing."

Analysts believe it is a state visit meant to reset relations after a rocky year, and moreover it might help lay the foundations for bilateral ties in a transformational era in the near future.

Others also hold that the visit will benefit regional and international relations on the whole.
China and the US have experienced an eventful 2010, with an array of issues affecting bilateral ties, including US arms sales to Taiwan at the beginning of the year and the continuous pressure from the US on China's trade and currency rate.
"It is absolutely critical for the two sides to be setting a tone that says 'hang on a second, we are committed to an effective, positive relationship'," Center for Strategic and International Studies scholar Charles Freeman, a former trade negotiator in the George W. Bush administration, told The Associated Press.

According to Jin Canrong, deputy director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, it is unrealistic to expect that a single visit by a leader will solve all major problems between the two countries, yet more communication between the two sides will certainly help to improve mutual trust.

According to Jin, the old issues between the two countries, including Taiwan and Tibet, will continue to feature in bilateral ties, while some new issues will keep emerging, including economic competition and friction in military ties.

However, "as it is unlikely that the US will manage to confront or contain China, the only way left is to try to get China engaged in its global agenda", Jin said.

"The two will have a functional partnership by cooperating on an issue-by-issue base. Yet to achieve this, they need a mechanism to deal with their differences."

According to Wang Fan from China Foreign Affairs University, the two countries are both at a transformational stage, and, given China's growing role in global affairs, the two sides need to rebalance their relationship

According to Wang, how the two countries manage to influence and change each other in the future will influence their policies toward each other.

"There has been not so much strategic misunderstanding by the US as some assume. Instead, the US is caught in several strategic choices as it is not sure of where a growing China is heading. And China needs to work harder to dispel suspicion on the US side and increase mutual trust," Wang said.

In a signed article in The New York Times, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as former US president Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, said that Hu's visit to Washington will be the most important top-level encounter between the US and China since Deng Xiaoping's historic trip more than 30 years ago.

"It should therefore yield more than the usual boilerplate professions of mutual esteem. It should aim for a definition of the relationship between the two countries that does justice to the global promise of constructive cooperation between them," he wrote.

In a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger also proposed establishing "permanent consultative institutions" between the two countries. "If we have a permanent contact, then even (when) there is an occasion of difficulty, it will fit into a continuing dialogue, and I expect this to be a result of this visit," Kissinger said.

Fu Mengzi, a researcher with the Beijing-based China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China-US cooperation will benefit not only both countries but also the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

That is due to the increasing interdependency between countries and regions in this era of globalization, he said.

Rana Mitter, a professor with the Institute for Chinese Studies at the University of Oxford, said the Hu-Obama meeting will "need to address the fact that both countries have a duty to the wider global community to solve problems that go beyond the nation-state".

Europe will be pleased that the US and China are holding such a high-level meeting. Bad relations between the US and China are not good for Europe, according to Mitter. But Europe and its large economies, such as the United Kingdom, will also want to remind China that they remain major trading partners and players in the international community, Mitter said.

Tunisia: A democratic roadmap

The road ahead for Tunisia is unknown, however with a cautious approach a durable decmocratic order can be established.

In the wake of an Arab world-shattering political development, the government of Tunisia has been effectively overthrown via an amalgamation of civil unrest, grassroots mobilization and what one could call a coup d'esprit.

Tunisia's new political masters must proceed by distancing themselves from self-congratulatory triumphalism. They will have to muster courage, display political imagination and modesty, and exercise tolerance of difference in order to fashion a durable democratic order in a post-Ben Ali Tunisia.

The question is always, of course, 'how'? Historically, whether it is the new republican order after the absolute monarchy in France more than 200 years ago, post-Franco Spain or post-Marcos Philippines, trepidation is inevitable. Skills of compromise, clear vision and purpose are needed to tread the unchartered waters of post-authoritarian construction.

Lessons from the 29 days that shook Tunisia

If anything, the bread riots that produced the Arab World's first people's power movement has served notice to the country's political class - past and present - in several ways.

One, Tunisia's people alone own the historical moment of victory against dictatorship. I think Tunisia's people have earned the right to be sovereign and treated accordingly. Any resulting political system must enshrine this moment as theirs alone. Institutionally, political reconstruction must entrust all sovereign mechanisms of checks and balances with the people.

Two, not the Western backers of the regime and not the expatriate politics of exile won the day against Ben Ali. This was a home-grown spontaneous movement.

Three, no single political movement, leader or ideology can fake political history and claim victory for a political current they neither precipitated, controlled or delivered. There is a poetic justice in this: all political actors enter the new political fray humbled and on equal footing. The Tunisian people are now handing them on a silver platter a rare chance to right many wrongs of the deposed president.

Four, spin politics and sugar-coating political performance are futile. Ben Ali's hiring spin trade and expertise from the US did not succeed to conceal the rot. No political spin could camouflage the visible political decay and loss of the last days of Ben Ali's rule. Deploying the classic technique of misdirection through the rhetoric of 'terrorism', Ben Ali failed to blind Tunisians and the Western machines of political patronage, unable to impress or stem the tide of rejection.

So spin politics must be condemned to the proverbial dustbin of history to join Ben Ali and co.

Fifth, the WikiLeaks moment means that the state can no longer withstand being 'Assanged', 'Twittered', 'Facebooked' and, consequently, denuded. Of course, Al Jazeera's own role in all of this must not be forgotten. It is about time Max Weber's template of statism is revised. Perhaps information, on which Weber says little or nothing, more so than monopoly over the technology of violence plays a decisive factor in the fate of states in the modern era.

Long live Ben Ali-ism?

Challenges remain ahead. People's power victories can be lost.

Ben Ali is gone but the vestiges of 'Ben Ali-ism' may still linger. Flushing them out will take time. Not so much in terms of personalities, political language and symbolisms, but most importantly in terms of political amorality or even immorality. Politics must be restored as a moral project with ends that transcend leaders, parties and ideologies.

The critical mass that eventually produced the flow of determination to defeat the authoritarian system, with a tipping-point provided by the national army, must now prove its fungibility in the reconstruction and transitional phase.

That is, it must be exchanged for new brand of political know-how after Ben Ali's removal in order to overthrow the system he has left behind.

But this is a political tightrope for all concerned. The endeavour to transform the system swiftly must be checked by the risk of total political vacuum. The ruling party's historical stature must be restored and it must therefore be maintained. Plus, not all Ben Ali's associates must be subjected to blanket witch-hunt or purge.

The struggle in the months ahead to maintain credibility with the Tunisian people and the world must be balanced with one conspicuous reality. Existing civil society and opposition are still fledgling. They need time to recover from the erasure of the past 54 years as well as partnership with those forces that worked for Ben Ali but are not necessarily 'Ben Ali-ist'.

The caretaker order, a remnant of the ancient regime, must therefore be allowed to act as a facilitator in the transition period. For this, the interim president and even whomever is elected after him must assume the role of an honest broker between the various political actors in the transition period.

The Islamists and the third republic

The Islamists have eaten humble pie after more than twenty years of political wilderness. This force is still to be reckoned with and must be given full rights of representation in the new political order. External considerations or reservations about a role for the Nahda party do not in the transitional period warrant its exclusion.

But the Nahda party of 2011 is not the Nahda party of 1989. Nor is Tunisia. New legitimate forces that have struggled from within Tunisia have earned the right to exist and contest power.

The Nahda party and whatever leadership is going to emerge now must absorb a few lessons of its own.

Firstly, it must get over its obsession with unity. Today's Nahda has at least two currents or factions within it. This must be viewed as enriching and pluralising and not a divisive dynamic. Secondly, it must engage with open politics away from secrecy or ideological rigidity. Thirdly, it must not return to the debates of the 1980s about the 'identity' question and its simplistic 'moralism'. Fourthly, it must act modestly and contest power with restraint, sharing the political scene with others instead of seeking domination. Lastly, it must favour political presence over absenteeism.

Nahda is a party which still has wide appeal but perhaps with a diluted following and even more political maturity. A sign of this is the tendency amongst many of its leaders today to even separate religion and politics. Nahda is not the Taliban.

No other single political entity in Tunisia can claim today to speak on behalf of all Tunisians. Let thousands of 'jasmines' of the unfolding Tunisian 'Democratic Spring' bloom on the basis of shared values of mutuality, respect, equality and modesty.

Fundamental Pact II: Learning Democracy

A new democratic order or 'workshop' will not moulded easily, irreversibly or quickly to succumb to new values of equal citizenship, continuously popularly mandated and contested power, inalienable rights for all Tunisians of all creeds and ideologies, and continuous tradition of political renewal and self-criticism.

Historically, Tunisia does not begin with a clean slate. Democratic learning should be inspired by the spirit of the 1857 Fundamental Pact ('Ahd Al-Aman), which amongst other things, sought to limit Beylical power. What begins now is akin to a 'Fundamental Pact' version II.

But Some of Tunisia's new players have just become apprentices in the politics of the state. Some have had no parliamentary experience; some not even participation at municipality level. So democratic learning begins now.

The path of democratic learning must keep in mind a threefold reality check: After the 14th of January 2011, no return to possession of the state or longevity in power will be possible; the state Tunisians have known is a state which practiced 'total politics' and learning self-government will involve trials and errors; Tunisians have rebelled for political freedoms but also for socio-economic equal opportunity and distribution, and this latter quest must not be forgotten.

Towards a transitional period

En route to democracy building and learning, short-term and long-term agendas must be clarified.

In the short-run, elections in two months must aim at producing only a transitional order. The 'rush' into elections may be premature in a society with weak political parties and until recently a heavily shackled civil society. But in this case it must proceed to organise the rules of political engagement and participation.

In the long run, the transitional order will have to work towards dismantling the presidential system. Excessive executive power must be terminated by preparing the legal and institutional grid and resources of switching into a parliamentary system. A new constitution will be needed for the new era and a transitional parliament and special commission aided by committees can be assigned this task.

The switch to a proportional electoral system can be planned in tandem with a switch to a parliamentary system.

The new order will need a free press to act as the unofficial opposition, and the security apparatus consisting of nearly quarter-of-a-million-strong force must be dismantled.

Tunisia is no island. A Truth and Reconciliation Committee, such as those of South Africa or Morocco, can institute a transitional justice system so that no blood is spilled or injustice committed in chasing after ghosts from the past.

Spain began its transition without any prior democratic experience. Its transition through a pact can serve to inform Tunisia's.

The socio-economic agenda will be challenging. But sustainable and even development along with mechanisms for governance must be allocated special resources and departments.

The 'Tunisia effect'

All Arabs feel emboldened and inspired by the overthrow of Ben Ali Baba's dictatorship. Tunisia now leads the way and others are closely watching. The Tunisia effect must be a democratic effect.

The 14th of January will go down in Tunisia's history as a milestone as significant as 1857 and 1861 when Tunisia reform produced, respectively, the Arab and Muslim world's first 'bill of rights' and constitution. Its significance equals that of March 20, 1956, Day of Independence from colonialism.

The stigma has been that the Arab societies are indefinitely confused with absence of civic cultures and self-governance potential. Tunisians have won the first battle in demolishing some condescending constructions of Arab societies. The battle ahead, to bring to fruition a sustainable 'democratic spring' has just begun. Winning it will require time, political stamina, and the will to think, act and be free.

The downfall of Ben Ali is metaphor for the storming of the 'Bastille' of political singularity. This is the 'disease' against which immunization of the new system is needed.

One of the new shared political values needed is the dynamic of difference and contradiction as a positive force in the political process and in any durable substantive democratisation. Purging, excluding or killing political difference is never possible. If it were, Ben Ali would have triumphed over the will of the Tunisian people long ago.

Tunisia's Revolt: U.S. Dilemma over Arab Democracy

By Tony Karon
"Yes We Can!" read a placard carried by one Tunisian protester last week, hours before he and his peers scored an improbable victory by forcing the autocratic President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country. The demonstrator's confidence that standing up to sclerotic authority could bring political change carries a chilling message for the leaders of Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Syria and other Arab governments also ruled by decades-old autocracies. Like all of those regimes, Tunisia had long relied on its security services to terrify would-be challengers into submission, and its collapse has provided the world with an electrifying first contemporary example of a successful Arab rebellion, prompting speculation over a domino effect across the region.

Even before the lightning-fast collapse of Ben Ali — although not necessarily of his regime — there had been demonstrations over rising food prices in Egypt, Jordan and Algeria. The Tunisian events were hailed by small but enthusiastic demonstrations in Egypt. And there were even reports of men setting fire to themselves in Algeria, Mauritania and Egypt in protest against their governments, mimicking the action of Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed Tunisian whose self-immolation last month triggered his country's uprising. Still, as much as many citizens elsewhere might seek it, a domino collapse of Arab autocracy remains unlikely. (See pictures of protesters in Tunisia.)

The fall of authoritarian regimes tends to come as a surprise — a miscalculation by those in power of the scale of popular outrage; of the willingness of the citizenry to defy traditional methods of control; and, most importantly, of the willingness of the security forces to kill their compatriots in defense of the regime. Tunisia, if anything, will have put the likes of Egypt, Jordan and Syria on heightened alert over the dangers posed by widespread economic grievances, making them more likely to act early to defuse such tensions. Egyptian officials over the weekend reportedly spoke of raising subsidies on food prices to ease the burden on the poor, mindful of the danger it posed. And the security forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria are perhaps more aware than their Tunisian counterparts were that they're sitting atop a powder keg.

Indeed, this week would be an opportune moment for key men in the security forces of the Arab autocracies to seek a pay raise. The key ingredient of last week's turnabout in Tunisia was the security forces, or a significant part of them, who refused to fire on their fellow citizens to protect the ruling family. Authoritarian regimes are innately vulnerable once economic despair strips citizens of their fear of challenging those in power. When soldiers are sent onto the streets to fire on people they recognize as their neighbors, their loyalty is far from certain. And it was clear that in Tunisia, the officer class was ready to seek a new governing arrangement once the cronyism of the rulers had ignited a popular revolt. That scenario ought to give Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak pause if, as is widely assumed, the 82-year-old autocrat plans to install his son Gamal as his successor — a move that would break the authoritarian regime's tradition of picking its leaders from within the senior ranks of the military. (Read "Why the U.S. Should Cheer Tunisia's Risky Revolution.")

Still, Tunisia is unlikely to set off copycat insurrections, for a variety of reasons that could be grouped under the principle that each country's political situation, despite similarities, has its own unique conditions that facilitate or preclude a successful rebellion. But even before the Tunisian uprising, the omens were grim for the existing authoritarian political order in the Arab world — both for regimes closely tied to the U.S., such as Egypt and Jordan, as well as those, such as Syria and Libya, traditionally hostile.

Warning that it would be premature to see Tunisia as a Berlin Wall moment for the Arab world, Beirut-based analyst Rami Khouri compares it to the uprising against Polish communism led by the Solidarity trade-union movement in 1980. While the Polish regime survived, shaken, for another nine years, the Solidarity uprising started the countdown on the final years of the Soviet satellite regimes of Eastern Europe. "As happened with an unknown electricians' union in a Gdansk shipyard in 1980 that required years more to transform an entire political universe a decade later," Khouri wrote in the Financial Times on Monday, "I suspect Tunisia's impact on the Arab world will similarly play itself out in stages ... The transformation of much of the rest of the Arab world is likely to follow in a less dramatic manner — but it will follow for sure." (Will Tunisia's "hunger revolution" spread?)

And that certainty represents a crisis for U.S. policy toward the Arab world. While President Obama saluted the courage of the Tunisian people, U.S. national-security strategy in the Middle East continues to rest heavily on autocrats lacking in popular legitimacy. Despite urging reform, Washington has shown a pronounced hesitation over the question of Arab democracy, which in most Arab countries would produce governments less closely aligned with Washington than many of the autocrats. In 2006, the Bush Administration pushed the Palestinian Authority to hold democratic elections, but when those were won convincingly by Hamas, Washington reversed itself, insisting that President Mahmoud Abbas ignore the verdict of the electorate and adopt many of the authoritarian practices for which the U.S. had chastised Yasser Arafat.

Many analysts have argued that the absence of an overt Islamist element in the Tunisian events have made them seem less threatening to the U.S. Perhaps, but the idea that Tunisian democracy would be free of an Islamist current is also premature; it remains to be seen what will happen when a more open system allows Islamists the political space that Ben Ali denied them. But in countries like Egypt and Jordan, deemed pivotal to U.S. security interests in the region, any popular rebellion — or genuinely democratic electoral challenge — would be led by Islamists, and the U.S. would likely play a more proactive role in seeking to ensure those regimes do what is necessary to survive. (Comment on this story.)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week chided U.S. autocratic allies over the need for urgent reforms, warning that "in too many places, in too many ways, the region's foundations are sinking into the sand." But those leaders are banking on continued U.S. backing based on their support for U.S. national-security strategy in the region. After all, even in Iraq, where thousands of American lives and many hundreds of billions of American dollars have been invested in regime change, the resulting democratically elected government is closer to Iran than it is to Washington. What Tunisia highlights, more than anything, is the deep structural weakness of an authoritarian Arab order that has proved politically reliable in U.S. regional strategy for decades, leaving Washington caught between the democratic impulse and fear of its consequences.

Tunisia's Revolution

Over the last few days we have seen some of the bravest people facing down some of the worst. Armed with nothing more than a revolutionary heart and hopes of a better future they gathered and protested as government forces aimed their weapons and fired live rounds in to the crowds. But the ammunition and the underlying threats of arrest and torture meant absolutely nothing to the masses – for they had simply lost their fear.

It was the final testament to the brutality of a dictator who has had the support of European leaders and various presidents of the United States.

And that the Tunisian President Zine El-Abedine Ben Ali fled from his country like a rat up a drainpipe after 23 brutal years spoke volumes about the character of the man himself.

If he had one ounce of the courage his own people displayed, he too would have stayed but most of these tyrants are gutless with the moral fibre of a dung beetle. The demise of Ben Ali came when police prevented an unemployed 26-year-old graduate from selling fruit without a licence. Mohammad Bouazizi turned himself in to a human torch on December 17 and died of the horrific burns in Sidi Bouzid, in central Tunisia. It was the final straw, a defining moment which ignited rallies, marches and demonstrations across Tunisia.

And revelations from Wikileaks cables exposing the corrupt and extravagant lifestyle of Ben Ali and his grasping wife fanned the flames of unbridled anger from a people who were also in the grip of poverty.

Our convoy witnessed the menacing secret police intimidate the crowds to stop them from gathering to cheer us on. This vast army of spies, thugs and enforcers even tried to stop us from praying in a local mosque.

That they stood their ground to cheer us on prompted me to leave my vehicle and hug all the women who had turned out. We exchanged cards and small gifts and then, to my horror, I discovered 24 hours later that every woman I had embraced in the streets of Gafsa had been taken away and questioned.

Human rights organisations have constantly condemned and exposed the brutality of the Ben Ali regime but that has not stopped America and European leaders from intervening or putting on pressure to stop the brutality. Sadly, it serves western interests to have a people brutalised and subjugated.

Now Tunisia is minus one dictator but it is still in a state of emergency. The next few days and weeks are going to be crucial for the Tunisian people who deserve freedom and liberty. My God, they’ve paid for it with their own blood and we must always remember their martyrs.

None of the politicians, secret police or other odious government forces will emerge from this period with any honour and quite a few are already cowering in the shadows.

Not one word of condemnation, not one word of criticism, not one word urging restraint came from Barak Obama or Hillary Clinton as live ammunition was fired into crowds of unarmed men, women and children in recent weeks.

But, as the injustices and atrocities continued there was not one squeak from the most powerful nation on earth … until America’s dear friend, Ben Ali had scuttled from the country.

US has made a comment on the situation in Tunisia ... but only when Ben Ali was 30,000 feet in the air did White House spokesman Mike Hammer issue a statement which read: “We condemn the ongoing violence against civilians in Tunisia, and call on the Tunisian authorities to fulfil the important commitments … including respect for basic human rights and a process of much-needed political reform.”

When US condemnation finally came though the tyrant had fled leaving behind more than 60 civilian martyrs and countless more injured.

Courtesy: counterpunch.com

The writer is a British journalist and a patron of the London-based NGO Cageprisoners. Email: yvonne@yvonneridley. org

Arab world Tyrants

Tunisians have sent a message to the Arab world, warning leaders they are no longer immune to popular anger.
The Tunisian uprising, which succeeded in toppling Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, has brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalisation, thus restoring the Arab peoples' faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny.

It is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.

It is true that Ben Ali's flight from the country is just the beginning of an arduous path towards freedom. It is equally true that the achievements of the Tunisian people could still be contained or confiscated by the country's ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power.

But the Tunisian intifada has placed the Arab world at a crossroads. If it fully succeeds in bringing real change to Tunis it will push the door wide open to freedom in Arab word. If it suffers a setback we shall witness unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power.

Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed.

A model of tyranny

Tunis may have been an extreme example, but all Arab regimes are variations on the same model, which obediently follows Western-instructed economic 'liberalisation' while strangling human rights and civil liberties.

The West has long admired the Tunisian system, praising its "secularism" and "liberal economic policies", and, in its quest to open world markets and maximise profit, has turned a blind eye to human rights violations and the gagging of the media - two functions at which the Ben Ali regime excelled.

But Tunis, under Ben Ali, was not a model of secularism but a shameless model of tyranny. It turned "secularism" into an ideology of terror - not merely in the name of countering Islamic extremism but in an attempt to crush the spirit of opposition - Islamic, secular, liberal and socialist alike.

As with previous examples of countries it deemed to have embraced 'successful economic models', like Chile under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, the West, particularly the US and France, backed the Ben Ali regime - prioritising forced stability over democracy.

But even when such governments remain in power for decades, thanks to Western support and a security apparatus that suppresses the people with immunity, it is only a matter of time before they come to a humiliating end.

The West, and the US in particular, has always abandoned its allies - a memorable example is the way in which Washington dropped Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the late shah of Iran, when popular anger threatened the country's stability.

The Arabs are listening

The people of Tunisia have spoken and, most significantly, the Arab people are listening.

The Tunisian protests have already triggered peaceful demonstrations in Jordan, where people have protested over inflation and government efforts to undermine political liberties and press freedoms and have demanded the departure of Samir al-Rifai, the prime minister.

The government, seemingly concerned by the unfolding developments, sought to appease popular discontent by reversing what had been the ninth increase in fuel prices since 1989. But it was too little, too late, particularly as food prices continue to rise, and Jordanians are expected to continue their demonstrations over the coming weeks.

The government would do well to learn from Tunis that repression by the security forces can no longer solve its problems and guarantee the consent of its citizens.

In Egypt, the opposition Movement for Change appears to have been reinvigorated by the events in Tunisia. And in Arab capitals, from Sana'a to Cairo, the people are sending a message to their own governments, as well as expressing their support for the Tunisian people, by organising sit-ins in front of Tunisian embassies.

Arabs of all generations are also expressing their sentiments online - not only congratulating Tunisians but also calling for similar movements in their own countries. And on Facebook, many have replaced their profile pictures with images of the Tunisian flag, as though draping themselves in the colours of an Arab revolution.

Fear and jubilation

The failure of one of the Arab world's most repressive security forces to quell people power has been met with jubilation. Bloggers have compared the event to the fall of the Berlin wall, suggesting that it will usher in a new era in which the Arab people will have a greater say in determining their future.

Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire in protest against unemployment and poverty, has become a symbol of Tunisian sacrifices for freedom.

Activists across the region have called for the "Tunisation" of the Arab street - taking Tunis as a model for the assertion of people power and aspirations for social justice, the eradication of corruption and democratisation.

But the celebratory atmosphere dominating the blogosphere and wide sectors of Arab society is tainted by a prevailing sense of caution and fear: Caution because the situation in Tunis remains unclear and fear that there may be a coup d'état, which would impose security but stifle popular aspirations.

Whether the Tunisian uprising will succeed in bringing about radical reforms or be partially aborted by the ruling elite remains to be seen. But it has already empowered people across the Arab world to expose the fallacy of regimes that believe adopting a pro-Western agenda will enable them to fool their people and guarantee their longevity.

History has shown that security forces can silence people but can never crush the simmering revolt that lies beneath the ashes. Or in the words of the beloved Tunisian poet Abul-Qasim al-Shabi in his poem To the Tyrants of the World:

Wait, don't let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you ...
Because the darkness, the thunder's rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you
from the horizon
Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash

Tunisia riots: Reform or be overthrown, US tells Arab states amid fresh riots

Riots by youths protesting against Tunisia's 50-year dictatorship clashed with police in the country's capital as the United States warned its Middle Eastern allies to reform or be overthrown.

Hillary Clinton ended a tour of the Gulf with a warning that leaders who failed to carry out political and economic reform risked being cast aside.
"In too many places, in too many ways, the region's foundations are sinking into the sand," she said.
"Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries' problems for a little while, but not forever.
"If leaders don't offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum."
Protests over unemployment and food prices have also broken out in Algeria, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, all countries with a high proportion of young people, many well-educated but jobless.
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, has been hit by sectarian violence while also facing a growing Islamist opposition.
While Mr Ben Ali has not only supported the United States and implemented free market reforms, opposition activists complain that the only people to benefit have been Mr Ben Ali's family and cronies.
Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks gave an American assessment that corruption was getting worse.
"Whether it's cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali's family is rumoured to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants," said Robert Godec, the ambassador.
Recent violence began after a young graduate, Mohamed Bouazizi, killed himself by setting himself alight in the town of Sidi Bouzid last month. He had been forced to become a fruit and vegetable seller through lack of work, but his stall was confiscated as he did not have a licence.
After another young man killed himself by touching an electric cable while shouting "no for misery, no for unemployment", youths took to the streets, smashing shops and setting fire to cars. The protests spread across the country encouraged by Facebook sites and Twitter accounts dedicated to the men's memory.
Youtube videos show young men tearing down some of the huge posters of Mr Ben Ali that adorn public buildings and setting light to them.
Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak has ruled for 30 years, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, governed by monarchies, and Yemen, whose president has been in power since 1978, are all central to US policies in the Middle East. But they have also faced recent protests from overwhelmingly young populations.
Lahcen Achy, an economist with the Carnegie Endowment, said Tunisia was a special case because the high level of education it had given its young was at such odds with the lack of political and economic opportunity.
But he said neighbours faced their own problems. "The risk for Egypt and other countries might come from rising food prices," he said. "I think that all the governments in the region are thinking about what kind of announcements to make. They will try to make concessions before it is too late."

Tunisian former president's wife 'fled country with £38 million in gold'

Tunisian protesters were goaded to new pinnacles of indignation on Monday as it emerged that the former president's wife, Leila Trabelsi, spirited 1.5 tonnes of the central bank's gold onto the aircraft that flew her and her family to Dubai.Intelligence officials in Paris told Le Monde, the French newspaper, that Mrs Trabelsi visited the bank last month, when protests were gathering momentum, and instructed the governor to hand over gold ingots worth £38 million.
Although he initially refused to comply, the personal intervention of the former president ensured that the gold was handed over.

The disclosure of Mrs Trabelsi's final act of avarice has enraged Tunisians, but not surprised them. The first lady's love of showy opulence and reputation for grasping corruption made her and her equally unpopular nephews the country's principle hate figures.
Three days after they ousted their president, Tunisian protesters returned to the battle-scarred streets of Tunis yesterday to demand the complete purge of former regime loyalists from government positions.
Demonstrators massed in the capital city's Independence Square, defying emergency laws forbidding public gatherings in an effort to complete the job begun last Friday when they forced Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, their president for 23 years, to flee the country.Over the past few days, Tunisians have vented their anger by looting and burning Trabelsi villas across the country. Imed Trabelsi, one of the most notorious members of what Tunisians called "The Family" was stabbed to death over the weekend.
Desperate to quell the people's anger, Mohammed Ghannounchi, the prime minister and an unquestioning servant of Mr Ben Ali for over a decade, announced he was bringing three opposition figures into a new government of national unity.
He also promised to release all political prisoners, give "total freedom" to the media and lift a ban on the main human rights group.
But with the new cabinet, particularly the senior positions, still dominated by members of Mr Ben Ali's ruling party, the RCD, many Tunisians remained unconvinced.
Moncef Marzouki, one of Tunisia's best known opposition leaders, denounced the unity government as a "masquerade".
"Tunisia deserved much more" he said. "Ninety dead, four weeks of real revolution, only for it to come to this? A unity government in name only because, in reality, it is made up of members of the party of dictatorship, the RCD." As exultation at the fall of the dictator has given way to worries about the future, many Tunisians fear that, although they have removed a hated leader, his lieutenants will ensure that the tyrannical system he created will remain in place.
The demonstrators in Independence Square said they would not be satisfied until every RCD official, from the prime minister and acting president down, are stripped of their posts.
"Liberty, democracy and justice: these are the three main principles we want," said Tuoufi Towil, a mergers & acquisitions manager. "We do not think that the government chosen by the prime minister will apply these principles."
Tunis has experienced days of near anarchy as looters burned shops and members of the presidential guard still loyal to Mr Ben Ali opened fire on civilians and soldiers alike from passing cars and rooftops in the city. A night-time curfew remains in place across the capital.
Yet the danger to the demonstrators ultimately came not from snipers, as many had feared, but from the riot police, whose loyalties remain ambiguous.
As the marchers, who numbered under 1,000, peacefully chanted slogans and sang the national anthem the police fired tear gas and smoke bombs.
One officer fired a rubber bullet at the backs of fleeing protesters, a vivid example of how much Tunisia has to learn in the ways of democracy.
That fact is readily acknowledged by many Tunisians who welcome the departure of Mr Ben Ali but worry that a purge of his supporters will only cause greater instability and play into the hands of the outlawed Islamist party.
"This is not the time for demonstrations," said Amele Bejayou, a woman jostled by angry protesters after she tried to remonstrate with them.
"After 34 years of dictatorship, you cannot build a democracy in 38 hours. What we need now is consensus."

Egyptian sets himself on fire

An Egyptian man apparently inspired by events in Tunisia set himself on fire Tuesday outside the prime minister's office in central Cairo — the second such incident in the capital in as many days and the latest in a series of self-immolations across three nations, security officials said.
They said the fire engulfing the man, identified as lawyer Mohammed Farouq Mohammed el-Sayed, was quickly extinguished. Initial reports said he was protesting what he claimed to be the failure of police to find his long missing teenage daughter, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Tuesday's incident comes one day after protesters in Mauritania and Algeria set themselves alight in apparent attempts to copycat the fatal self-immolation of a Tunisian man. That event helped inspire the protests that toppled Tunisia's authoritarian president.
It also follows the self-immolation of an Egyptian man on Monday, who set himself on fire outside Egypt's parliament to protest the authorities' denying him cheap subsidized bread to resell to patrons of his small restaurant east of Cairo. The typical Egyptian flatbread sells for the equivalent of 1 US cent apiece, but restaurant owners must pay five times that much. The man survived with burns to his neck, face and legs.
While isolated, the incidents in Egypt, Mauritania and Algeria reflect the growing despair among the public of many Arab regimes resisting reform. They are deeply symbolic means of protest in a region that has little or no tolerance for dissent.
It was the self-immolation of a 26-year-old unemployed man in Tunisia last month that sparked the tidal wave of protests that toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Friday.
Ben Ali ruled with an iron fist for 23 years. Similarly authoritarian rulers across much of the Arab world have been in power as long or longer than Ben Ali, like Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, in power since 1969; Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, in office since 1981; and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled that impoverished nation since he seized power more than 30 years ago.
The stunning collapse of the Tunisian leader drew a litany of calls for change elsewhere in the Arab world, but activists faced the reality of vast security forces heavily vested in the status quo and hard-line regimes that crack down on dissent.
The men who have set themselves alight in recent days appeared to be inspired by the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate whose fruits and vegetables stand was confiscated by police because he had no permit. His death touched a nerve with educated, unemployed youths in the North African country, prompting the mass protests that toppled Ben Ali.
Self-immolation as a method of protest is uncommon in the Arab world, where many associate it with protesters in the Far East or the Indian subcontinent. But Egyptian women in rural or poor urban areas have been known to set themselves on fire to protest violent husbands, abusive parents or an unwanted suitor.
"It is clear that Tunisia and its events had an impact on Egypt as well as Algeria," said veteran Egyptian columnist Salama Ahmed Salama. The attempted self-immolation in Cairo on Monday, he added, will be a "worrying element to the government."
But Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit ruled out the possibility that Tunisia's political uprising will spread.
"This is pure nonsense," he told reporters over the weekend. "Those who are promoting fantasies and trying to ignite the situation will not achieve their goals and will only harm themselves."