Sunday, July 3, 2011

Get ready for next polls, Gilani tells Nawaz

Nawaz Sharif gave party positions to opportunists: Saranjam

Senior Pakistan Muslim League leader from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Saranjam Khan has blamed the PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif for awarding important offices of the party to opportunists, hardliners and those having soft corner for extremists.

Talking to a private TV channel here on Sunday, Saranjam Khan said that reason behind his resignation from party’s basic membership was the discriminatory attitude of the leadership towards senior office bearers and activists.

It is worth mentioning that Saranjam Khan remained associated with Muslim League for almost half a century and served as Central Secretary General and Provincial Chief.

He announced to resign from the basic membership of the party last week.

Mr. Khan said that he was not satisfied with the Nawaz Sharif’s decision to prefer new faces over his recommendations from Mardan district therefore he in protest against the decision resigned.

However, he said that he could rejoin the party if his nominees were appointed for party posts in Mardan. Saranjam Khan blamed that Nawaz Sharif was misguided by Sardar Mehtab Abbasi and Iqbal Zafar Jhagra.

The PML leader said that he had stood by Nawaz Sharif during critical times when his close associates were seeking patchup with the rulers to save their skin. He regretted that now the party Quaid, misled by party leaders was giving no importance to his recommendations.

Mr Khan said that he would unveil his future plans on Monday July 04. Meanwhile PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Salim Saifullah and Amir Muqam have reportedly contacted the disgruntled PML leader to persuade him to join their ranks.

Pakistani Military Still Cultivates Militant Groups

The Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbors and American forces in Afghanistan, but now some of the fighters it trained are questioning that strategy, a prominent former militant commander says.

The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.

Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said.

The former commander’s account belies years of assurances by Pakistan to American officials since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that it has ceased supporting militant groups in its territory. The United States has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid over the past decade for its help with counterterrorism operations. Still, the former commander said, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has not abandoned its policy of supporting the militant groups as tools in Pakistan’s dispute with India over the border territory of Kashmir and in Afghanistan to drive out American and NATO forces.

“There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals,” he said. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals. “These people have a very big role still,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi, a former intelligence officer who was convicted of attempting a coup against the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995 and who is now dead, was one of the most active supporters of the militant groups in the years after Sept. 11, the former commander said.

He said he saw General Abbasi several times: once at a meeting of Taliban and Pakistani militant leaders in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province as they planned how to confront the American military in Afghanistan; and twice in Mir Ali, which became the center for foreign militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including members of Al Qaeda.

There were about 60 people at the Taliban meeting in late 2001, soon after the Taliban government fell, the former commander said. Pakistani militant leaders were present, as were the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Muhammad Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani network.

Several retired officials of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were also there, he said, including a man known as Colonel Imam but who was actually Brig. Sultan Amir, a well-known trainer and mentor of militants, and General Abbasi. The militant groups divided Afghanistan into separate areas of operations and discussed how to “trip up America,” he said.

The Pakistani military still supports the Afghan Taliban in their fight to force out American and NATO forces from Afghanistan, he said, adding that he thought they would be successful.

The ISI also still supports other Pakistani militant groups, even some of those that have turned against the government, because the military still wants to keep them as tools for use against its archrival, India, he said. The military used a strategy of divide and rule, encouraging splits in the militant groups to weaken and control them, he said.

Although the military has lost control of many of the firebrand fighters, and has little influence over the foreign fighters in the tribal areas who belong to Al Qaeda — some of whom openly oppose the Pakistani government — it was reluctant to move against them, he said. Pakistan could easily kill the notoriously vicious militant leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, but chose not to, he said. “If someone gave me 20,000 rupees, I would do it,” he said, citing a price of about $235.

“The government is not interested in eliminating them permanently,” he said. “The Pakistani military establishment has become habituated to using proxies.” He added that there were many sympathizers in the military who still supported the use of militants.

Pakistan has 12,000 to 14,000 fully trained Kashmiri fighters, scattered throughout various camps in Pakistan, and is holding them in reserve to use if needed in a war against India, he said.

Yet Pakistan has been losing the fight for Kashmir, and most Kashmiris now want independence and not to be part of Pakistan or India, he said. Since Sept. 11, Pakistan has redirected much of its attention away from Kashmir to Afghanistan, and many Kashmiri fighters are not interested in that fight and have taken up India’s offer of an amnesty to go home.

Others, like the former commander, have gotten out because of their disillusionment over the way they were being used to fight Osama bin Laden’s war, or used for the aims of a few top generals who had allied Pakistan with the United States to gain access to its military and financial aid. “There are a lot of people who do not think they are doing the right thing,” he said of the military.

“This is extremely wrong to sacrifice 16,000 people for a single person,” he said, referring to Bin Laden. “A person should sacrifice himself for 16,000 people.” He said he was using the figure of 16,000 just as an example.

“The Taliban lost a whole government for one person,” he said, again referring to Bin Laden. “And Pakistan went to war just for a few generals and now for President Zardari,” he said, referring to Asif Ali Zardari. “A real war is for a country.”

Many of the thousands of trained Pakistani fighters turned against the military because it treated them so carelessly, he said. “Pakistan used them and then, like a paper tissue, threw them away,” he said. “Look at me, I am a very well-trained fighter and I have no other option in life, except to fight and take revenge.”

Indeed, he was first trained for a year by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba at a camp in Kunar Province, in Afghanistan, in the early 1990s. The war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan was over, and Pakistan turned to training fighters for an insurgency in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.

He became skilled at firing Russian-made rocket-propelled grenades, and he was sent to fight, and train others, in Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. Over the years he worked with different militant groups, and he estimated that he personally trained up to 4,000 fighters.

The entire enterprise was supported by the Pakistani military and executed by Pakistani militant groups, he said. He was paid by a wing of the ISI, which is an integral part of the army.

Fighters were paid about $50 a month, he said, and commanders about $500.

But now, he said, Pakistan and the United States would be much better able to counter terrorism if they could redirect the legions of militants toward the correct path of Islam to rebuild and educate communities, he said.

“Pakistan, and especially America, needs to understand the true spirit of Islam, and they need to project the true spirit of Islam,” he said. “That would be a good strategy to stop them.”

U.S. turns to other routes to supply Afghan war as relations with Pakistan fray

The U.S. military is rapidly expanding its aerial and Central Asian supply routes to the war in
Afghanistan, fearing that Pakistan could cut off the main means of providing American and NATO forces with fuel, food and equipment.

Although Pakistan has not explicitly threatened to sever the supply lines, Pentagon officials said they are concerned the routes could be endangered by the deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan relations, partly fed by ill will from the cross-border raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Memories are fresh of Pakistan’s temporary closure of a major crossing into Afghanistan in September, resulting in a logjam of hundreds of supply trucks and fuel tankers, dozens of which were destroyed in attacks by insurgents.

While reducing the shipment of cargo through Pakistan would address a strategic weakness that U.S. military officials have long considered an Achilles’ heel, shifting supply lines elsewhere would substantially increase the cost of the war and make the United States more dependent on authoritarian countries in Central Asia.

A senior U.S. defense official said the military wants to keep using Pakistan, which offers the most direct and the cheapest routes to Afghanistan. But the Pentagon also wants the ability to bypass the country if necessary.

With landlocked Afghanistan lacking seaports, and hostile Iran blocking access from the west, Pentagon logisticians have limited alternatives.

“It’s either Central Asia or Pakistan — those are the two choices. We’d like to have both,” the defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid alienating Pakistan. “We’d like to have a balance between them, and not be dependent on either one, but always have the possibility of switching.”

U.S. military officials said they have emergency backup plans in case the Pakistan routes became unavailable.

“We will be on time, all the time,” said Vice Adm. Mark D. Harnitchek, deputy commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees the movement of supplies and equipment.

In such an event, however, the military would have to deliver the bulk of its cargo by air, a method that might not be sustainable; it costs up to 10 times as much as shipping via Pakistan.

“We’d have to be a little bit more mindful of what we put in the pipe,” Harnitchek said.

The Defense Department is already boosting the amount of cargo it sends to Afghanistan by air. To save on costs, the military is shipping as many of those supplies as possible to seaports in the Persian Gulf before loading them on planes bound for the war zone.

As recently as 2009, the U.S. military moved 90 percent of its surface cargo through Pakistan, arriving by ship at the port in Karachi and then snaking through mountain passes, deserts and remote tribal areas before crossing the border into Afghanistan. The Pakistan supply lines are served entirely by contractors instead of U.S. military convoys and are vulnerable to bandits, insurgents and natural disasters.

Today, almost 40 percent of surface cargo arrives in Afghanistan from the north, along a patchwork of Central Asian rail and road routes that the Pentagon calls the Northern Distribution Network. Military planners said they are pushing to raise the northern network’s share to as much as 75 percent by the end of this year.

Obama administration officials said they are negotiating expanded agreements with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and other countries that would allow for the delivery of additional supplies to the Afghan war zone. Washington also wants permission to withdraw vehicles and other equipment from Afghanistan as the U.S. military prepares to pull out one-third of its forces by September 2012.

By shifting the burden to Central Asia, however, the U.S. military has become increasingly reliant on authoritarian countries, prompting criticism from human rights groups that the Obama administration is cozying up to dictators.

For instance, more than one-third of the northern-route cargo passes through tiny Azerbaijan, a country saddled by “pervasive corruption,” according to the State Department’s annual human rights report. U.S. defense officials also say the northern supply lines would not be possible without the cooperation of Russia. One new route runs through Siberia.

The biggest potential choke point, however, lies in Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic that borders northern Afghanistan. It previously had kicked the U.S. military out of the country after Washington complained about the killing of hundreds of protesters in 2005.

But as the United States has deepened its involvement in Afghanistan, relations with Uzbekistan have warmed up again. Today, more than 80 percent of supplies shipped along the Northern Distribution Network pass through the country.

Expanded supply lines

The northern routes were developed in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration. Since then, the U.S. government has expanded the network into a spiderweb of supply lines.

Some start at Baltic seaports and run through Russia and Central Asia by rail. Another key line picks up traffic on the Black Sea and funnels it through the Caucasus region. One winding truck route begins at a U.S. Army depot at Germersheim, Germany, and ends, an average of 60 days later, at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. As with the Pakistan routes, the deliveries are all made by contractors.

“If you look at what we’ve done there in the last two years, we look at it more or less as a logistics miracle,” said Alan F. Estevez, the Pentagon’s principal deputy assistant secretary for logistics.

There are two big limitations, however, on what the Pentagon can ship through Central Asia. First, supplies are generally restricted to food, water and construction material; ammunition, weapons and other “lethal” cargo are prohibited.

Also, the routes are strictly one-way. Nothing can be shipped back out of the war zone.

U.S. officials said they are trying to negotiate deals with several countries to remove those restrictions. That will be crucial as the United States withdraws 33,000 troops from Afghanistan over the next 15 months, military leaders said.

Perhaps the most vital section in the northern network is a rail line that crosses south through Uzbekistan and over the Amu Darya river to reach Hairaton, Afghanistan. About five out of every six cargo containers travel this route.

“In reality, Uzbekistan is really at the center of all these routes,” said Alexander Cooley, a Barnard College professor and an expert on U.S. military relations in Central Asia. “They’re certainly in the catbird seat. And they know it.”

The final leg of the Uzbek rail line, from the city of Karshi to the Afghan border, underscores how the U.S. military has been forced to rely on rickety routes to sustain its troops.

In November 2009, U.S. embassy officials in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, were warned by a confidential source that the tracks were brittle and at risk of fracturing if trains carried more than half their usual loads. On top of that, the Soviet-era locomotives carrying U.S. cargo were not designed to cross steep mountains; engineers had to apply the brakes almost constantly as they moved downhill.

“By the time the trains have descended from the mountains, the wheels are glowing red hot,” the embassy reported in a diplomatic cable. The source, an engineer, said he was “appalled by how long it takes to transport anything by rail in Uzbekistan” and that he refused to take the train for fear of a crash.

The cable, titled “Uzbek Rail: Red Hot Wheels to Afghanistan” and obtained by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, concluded that “a train wreck is possible in the literal sense.”

U.S. military officials said they knew of no accidents or safety problems on the 200-mile rail segment. In February, Uzbekistan announced it had obtained a $218 million loan from Japan to upgrade the line to the Afghan border.

Human rights concerns

Uzbekistan has been assailed by human rights groups for repression under President Islam Karimov, who has ruled the country since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Freedom House, a Washington-based advocacy group, ranks it as one of the nine worst countries in the world for civil liberties and political rights.

From 2001 to 2005, the U.S. military relied on an Uzbek air base as a hub for combat and supply missions to Afghanistan. U.S. forces were evicted from the base after Washington pressured Karimov to allow an international probe into the deaths of hundreds of anti-government protesters in the province of Andijan.

Since 2008, however, Washington has steadily worked to repair relations. A stream of U.S. military leaders and diplomats has visited Tashkent, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December and Denis McDonough, the deputy national security adviser, in late May. Uzbekistan, in turn, has reopened its railroads, highways and airspace for U.S. cargo.

Thomas M. Sanderson, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the Obama administration has continued to raise human rights concerns with Uzbekistan but that the Afghan supply routes usually take precedence.

“There is no doubt about it. We are there for one primary reason, and that is to enable our operations in Afghanistan,” said Sanderson, who has studied the Northern Distribution Network.

State Department officials said they do not hesitate to press Uzbekistan to improve its human rights record. When Clinton visited Tashkent, they noted, she made a point of meeting activists and calling for the release of jailed journalists.

“We’ve made a real effort to try to engage Uzbekistan on human rights and in trafficking persons, and in some cases there’s been some progress,” said Robert O. Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia. “This is something that’s in their own interest to do, to allow greater freedom of religion and greater freedom of expression.”

Diplomatic cables, however, show Uzbek officials have not hesitated to demand U.S. restraint on human rights in exchange for cooperation on the supply routes.

In March 2009, shortly after the State Department gave an award to an Uzbek human rights activist, Foreign Minister Vladi­mir Norov made an “implicit threat” to suspend deliveries to Afghanistan, according to a cable signed by Richard B. Norland, the U.S. ambassador in Tashkent at the time.

An angry Karimov also complained to Norland personally.

“Put yourself in my place,” Karimov told the ambassador, according to the cable. “Would you trust me if I had done this?”

In that cable and others to Washington, Norland counseled the Obama administration to check its public criticism of Karimov to maintain the viability of the supply lines. In advance of a visit to Tashkent by a senior State Department official, Norland advised using “private, but frank diplomacy” to cajole Uzbekistan rather than “more openly coercive measures.”

“Uzbek pride often gets the better of rationality and officials here will think nothing of cutting off their nose to spite their face,” Norland added in a July 2009 cable.

Kashmiris not to accept dictation from Raiwind

President Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain Saturday said that when Kashmiris never accepted dictation from India how they could accept dictation from Raiwind.

“Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif stayed in Azad Kashmiri for 5 days and wherever they addressed rallies, their candidates lost election,” he said while talking to the Newsmen here Saturday after holding a meeting along with Senior Minister Chaudhry Parvaiz Elahi with AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan.

During the meeting post-election political situation in the AJK was discussed.

Talking to newsmen after the meeting, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said it was the right of Kashmiris to elect their representatives without any outside interference. “The intervention of Raiwind in the politics in Kashmir should be ended and elections in AJK should be held without any outside interference,” he said. Chaudhry Shujaat said the personal politics would cause damages to the Kashmir cause. He said Nawaz Sharif’s interference in the politics of Kashmir for his personal agenda has negated Quaid-e-Azam view on Kashmir.

Senior Federal Minister Parvaiz Elahi said Kashmir is ours and will remain with Pakistan and it is time that all political parties should leave their political difference to stand united on one point agenda on Kashmir.

Cameron should not lecture China on human rights

British Prime Minister David Cameron should not lecture China

on human rights as he attempts to win over the emerging power in a bid to get Britain's economy back on track, says Hamish McRae in an op-ed piece in The Independent on June 29, 2011.

Britain's economic relationships with China are hugely important both as an inward investor and as an exporter, notes McRae, associate editor of The Independent. But he also points out that there are may be other relationships that are just as important. "There are more students from China in Britain than in any other country, more even than the United States. We have the historic link with China through Hong Kong, which became a model for the Chinese mainland free trade and enterprise zones, which in turn triggered the country's astounding economic take-off."

Additionally, all experience of Chinese economic relations reflects that politics is not allowed to intervene in economics, McRae opines. The Chinese will pursue what they believe is their self-interest. "So it is not really a question of our damaging trade relations with them; it is more a question of our still not quite grasping the scale of what is happening in China – or how unimportant our views are to the Chinese."

As China's economic growth is becoming more generally appreciated, two things are worthy of attention, says the piece. One has been "the gradual, relentless overhauling of the West by China, passing France, Britain, Germany and last year, Japan in economic size". The other has been "the way the recession has speeded up the shift". China kept growing, its banks did not need rescuing and its living standards kept on rising. And now as the West stumbles out of recession, China's debts are lower than those of any G7 economy.

Actually, Western views on human rights might be inconsistent, according to McRae. Colonel Gaddafi was once feted by, among other countries, Britain, and now is reviled. And they are also seen as patronizing in their relationship with Africa, with African leaders telling Chinese investors that they find it much easier to deal with them, the Chinese, than with the coordinators of Western aid programs.

The relative economic failure has diminished the political influence of the West, believes McRae. "It does not matter what we say or think, not so much because we might lose trade opportunities if we speak our mind, but because we are not respected any more. The West's judgment on how to run economies has been proved wrong, so why should anyone listen to our judgment on how to run societies?"

Shelling, militant raids dog thaw with Afghanistan

Days ahead of the start of a drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, Islamabad and Kabul are locked in fresh acrimony and tension over cross-border raids by militants into Pakistan and firing of mortar rounds.

The friction is threatening to undermine the recent improvement in relations between the two countries achieved after years of hostility, something that was being billed as this year’s only positive story on the foreign relations front other than revival of peace talks with India, which too have lately run into problems.

President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omar, talking to Dawn from Kabul, accused the Pakistan government of not responding to his country’s concerns about incidents of shelling of Afghan border areas.

He said the matter had been raised by President Karzai with President Asif Zardari, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir over the past few days, but “there has been no response on Pakistan’s part”.

Pakistan army had earlier this week said that the mortar rounds could have “accidentally crossed the border” and denied that the shelling was intentional.

However, the issue got complicated with the Afghan National Army (ANA) firing rounds into Pakistani territory.

The Karzai administration has come under increased pressure from the eastern Afghan provinces and several public protests have been held against the mortar firing incidents in Kabul, Jalalabad and other cities.

Omar said the shelling from Pakistan “has caused a lot of public anger”.

He said the Afghan government was seeking to convey the message to Islamabad through diplomatic channels and did not want to “destroy the trust”.

A journalist from Kabul seconded the spokesman’s view about the pressure, but said the Afghan president was likely to show a lot of restraint because of his compulsions.

Pakistani military commanders say the root of the problem lies in Afghanistan where militants have sanctuaries in areas bordering Pakistan from where they “launch attacks on our posts”.

There have been five major raids by militants based in eastern Afghanistan. The militants, many of whom had fled operations in Bajaur, Mohmand and Swat, are occupying an area between River Kunar and the border because of a void created by withdrawal of Isaf forces from the area.

“They attack the Pakistani areas to regain the territory lost because of army operations,” a military official said. Pakistan has protested over militant attacks with the Afghan government, Isaf and ANA.

Military officials say when Pakistani forces retaliate against the militant attacks some rounds possibly land in Afghan territory.

“We have told Isaf and the ANA about the presence of Swati Taliban and militants led by Faqir Mohammad (Bajaur) and Abdul Wali (Mohmand),” a military official said, adding no action was being taken against their sanctuaries.

Another official said there was no doubt that they had tacit support of regional leaders and some elements within the Afghan government.

“There could be no other explanation for groups of 200-300 militants moving in Kunar to launch attacks on Pakistani posts. They have a continuous supply line of arms and finances in addition to logistical support.”

He expressed fear that a ‘game’ was being played at the behest of some regional stakeholders who were averse to Pakistan-Afghan rapprochement.

During a recent operation against militants, the army seized a large quantity of Indian, American, Russian and Chinese weapons and ammunition.

Clinton to Obama: Don't blink on debt-ceiling showdown

Former President Bill Clinton urged the Obama White House to remain steadfast over its pledge to increase the federal debt ceiling by August 2.
"This is the political equivalent of the government shutdown when I was president," Clinton said. "The White House could blink. I hope not."
Clinton made his argument in front of a large crowd at the left-leaning Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado Saturday. Should the United States default on its payments, the country's credit ratings will decline, Clinton said, and interest rates could rise.
Growing anti-government forces like the Tea Party are truly affecting healthy government reform, Clinton said. "It's astonishingly good politics," he admitted, "but poor economic policy."An economic recovery will require both a healthy private sector and an effective government, Clinton said.
To prove that point, President Barack Obama and the Democrats should immediately accept previously agreed-upon spending cuts with Republicans that would allow the government to continue to run for another six to eight months. Then both parties must work together toward serious budget reform, which cannot possibly happen by August 2, he added.
Republicans have done the right thing by conceding on defense cuts and reducing ethanol subsidies, Clinton said. Still, both parties must accept many of the recommendations of a bipartisan commission led by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton Administration Budget Director Erskine Bowles. Among these proposals, tax loopholes would be eliminated and Medicare reformed.
Clinton went a step further and proposed that corporate tax rates be reduced to 25% from the current range of 35%-23%, depending on filing. Then, with tax loopholes eliminated, revenues could rise $1 trillion, as indicated by the Bowles-Simpson report.
Still, no budget plan can be passed without focusing on rising health care premiums in the private sector, Clinton said. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's proposal is serious, he said, but it's wrong because it blames government for rising health care costs.
Medicare premiums are based the costs of private-industry premiums, Clinton explained. Thus, the Ryan plan could actually increase Medicare expenditures. "This country cannot afford to mess up this debate," Clinton passionately said. "There's a lot of stuff out there that is pure bull."
Clinton also handicapped the upcoming 2012 Republican contest, lauding former Utah governors Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is "a much better candidate than I thought," Clinton admitted. "I don't agree with anything she says, but she's got a lot of juice and she appeals to the anti-government crowd."
Regardless of the Republican field, however, Clinton believes Obama will be re-elected in 2012. Under Obama's leadership, Wall Street has been salvaged, and the automotive industry has been saved, Clinton said. Also, manufacturing jobs have increased with the United States now building 20% of the solar batteries globally -- up from 2%. That could go up as high as 40% by 2014, the former president added.
Obama has also delivered on national security with the killing of Osama bin Laden and increased drone activity in terrorist countries, Clinton said. Domestically, he has offered laudable education and health care reforms, as well as student loan reforms that allow borrowers longer time to pay back their debts, Clinton said.
Clinton also said Obama has been very good on gay rights -- a serious sticking point for the Clinton presidency, which created the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
And, at a time when European multiculturalism is apparently failing, Obama's been able to speak to the diverse sectors of the U.S. population, Clinton said.

Nawaz Sharif: Not words but deeds.

Editorial:The Frontier Post

Nawaz Sharif, lifelong-anointed head honcho of his own faction of Pakistan Muslim League, is being quoted saying only stronger “democratic” political parties could guarantee Pakistan’s security, prosperity and its stability as a federation.

Well said certainly; but unarguably not even understood by him himself, and definitely standing little prospects of being materialised practically at his own hands, let alone anyone else. Just look around, and can you say honestly if any of the parties occupying the national centre-stage is democratic even remotely. Aren’t they almost all the fiefdoms of dynasties and overbearing individuals? His own is in the grab of family siblings and scions. Political parties become strong and grow stronger if they are democratic internally. And that means if they apply the recognised democratic principles to their working and functioning. Can you say of this about the outfits parading on our national political landscape as political parties? Except for Jamaat-e-Islami, none holds even true party elections. They all go through a fake ritual just to meet certain legal requirements. In reality, it is just nomination, no election at all. When these parties are so spurning of electing their leaders and office bearers, how can you expect they would be giving full play to democratic norms, principles and practices in their running? Truly, these parties are nothing more than principalities of princes and princesses where their word is the writ and final. And these eminences’ pretences of leading democratic outfits are a huge charade, which indeed sits perpetually banefully at the nation’s democracy project. For the founding, nurturing and promoting of a democratic polity, democratic parties are of essence. But never ever we have had them. It is only the dynasty or individual dominated entities that have become our eternal companions. And that has stifled the process of constant infusion of fresh blood, fresh vigour and fresh vitality in the political parties, so essential for the growth and advancement of democracy in a country.

Change is indeed palpably an anathema to this nation’s political parties, in any event. Ironically, at this point in time when certain political “leaders” are asking for the heads of the services’ chiefs for some recent military collapses, none from amongst them ever steps down after their parties’ electoral humiliating defeats. Instead, they go out yelling they had been cheated out of victory.But this is quite a norm in established democracies the world over; as for one, in Britain, which our self-styled democratic leaders of their spurious democratic parties hold up as their model of democracy and democratic practices. There, a party’s defeat is owned up by the leader who lays down the baton at once for the election of a new leader. This is just unimaginable here. And so are the intensive internal party debates to evolve party policies and lines on national issues that the British political parties undertake, as do their peers everywhere in established democracies. Here it is the party “leader” who has the first and the final say. And in Britain their political parties are the ladders for talented and promising commoners to get atop in political prominence, party stewardship and national leadership. Here, the parties are the crushers of talent, promoters of mediocrity and pushers of servile obeisance and fealty. In his own PML (N), where are those strong-willed brave leaders who had kept the party afloat in the teeth of a dictator’s tyranny while Nawaz himself was luxuriating abroad on a bargained-exile to escape the torture of imprisoned life?

All thrown out of the party’s inner counsels; isn’t it? In any case, now that he has spoken of stronger democratic parties for the country’s wellbeing, will he set the pace? For now being quite a frequent resident of Britain, he would know after the Labour party’s defeat in the last British election, two Miliband brothers contested the party poll for its new leader, with the younger sibling clinching the post. Expecting of Nawaz to open up his party to a leadership from outside the dynasty is expecting too much. But for the strength of his party and for the strength of democracy in the country, would he set a party poll in which the two Sharif brothers like the Miliband siblings would contest for the party leadership in the true sense to make it a little bit democratic? Will pigs fly? Let’s see.