Thursday, January 12, 2012

President Zardari cuts short Dubai visit returns home

President Asif Ali Zardari has returned home after cutting his Dubai visit short, Geo News reported.

According to Presidency spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, President had reached Pakistan after finishing his private business in Duabi.

Earlier, President Asif Ali Zardari left for Dubai on a scheduled one-day trip on Thursday amid growing tension over the ‘memo’ seeking US help in warding off a probable coup.

Foreign media quoted Gulf-based sources as saying that Zardari would make the trip for a medical check-up. "This trip will be for a follow-up medical check-up and then he'll be returning right away," another source said.

However, reports were also doing rounds that President went to Dubai to attend a wedding.

ANP To Support Government

No constitutional provisoin for new provinces

ANP Senior Vice President and Parliamentary Leader in Senate Haji Muhammad Adeel said that despite enactment of 18th and 19th amendment; there was no provision in the constitution to create new provinces in the country.

While talking to party workers in Peshawar on Wednesday, Haji Adeel said that it was clearly mentioned in Article 1 of the constitution about the province and areas that fall into the country or may be added at any time to this effect.

Creation of new provinces would not only be possible through Article 239 (4) or presenting a bill in the parliament, adding that for this purpose drastic changes would have to be made in the constitution and dozens of articles would have to be reframed which was not possible in the present political divide.

Haji Adeel said that MQM formerly known as Mohajir Qoomi Mahaz, in order to create rift among Pakhtoons was trying to pit the tribal Pakhtoon against those of the settle areas.

He said that MQM was also trying to set Hazara Pakhtoon against non Hazara Pakhtoon and MQM started working on these lines in Karachi. He told his party workers that MQM was doing so because Pakhtoon have very successfully challenged MQM in its former no go areas in Karachi. He said that MQM with the help of Martial law Governments had created an environment of terror in Karachi and murdered thousands of innocent people, kidnapped countless for ransom and extracted money from Karachiets through the use of force. He said that Pakhtuns have very bravely fought against the tyranny of MQM in Karachi and this was evident from the success of Pakhtuns in the recent elections in which they grabbed two seats.

They also raised the flag of ANP in Karachi and held a historic public meeting at the bank of the river in Karachi. They also exhibited their strength while the Chief Justice was blocked by MQM in Karachi and on this occasion 50 Pakhtoons laid their lives. For these reasons the MQM was trying to sow the seed of contention among Pakhtoon of Hazara and FATA adding that they would not succeed in their nefarious designs.

President Zardari to return home Friday

President Asif Ali Zardari will return to Pakistan on Friday from a trip to Dubai, Geo News reported Thursday.

According to presidential spokesman, President Zardari would return to Pakistan between Thursday and Friday night.

Babar slams PML-N for criticising govt

Daily Times

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Vice President Babar Awan on Wednesday asked the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif to tell the nation about the meeting of its party leader Sartaj Aziz with Mansoor Ijaz.

“The nation also wants to know that why PML-N is avoiding the disclosure of the meetings between Nawaz Sharif, Sartaj Aziz and Mansoor Ijaz, and why it remained silent in front of the media,” he said.

Talking to the media at the Supreme Court building, he said that pioneer of military courts (Nawaz Sharif) would soon regret, and would not only cry on his petitions filed in the Supreme Court on memogate but would also announce his disassociation with those applications.

Talking about the return of former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf, he said the government would never let the dictator land in any province. “However, if he lands at the Chaklala airport, it would be a golden opportunity for PML-N President Nawaz Sharif to arrest him, as it was in Punjab,” he said.

Babar Awan further said that existing parliament had taken many concrete decisions. “For those who term parliament as a rubber stamp, [I ask] why they did not comment on former president Rafique Tarrar who remained president under Pervez Musharraf for more then 18 months”.

He said that those passing comments against President Asif Ali Zardari took oath as ministers by the same president in 2008.

He said the PPP was the only party that represented the federation, and got mandate in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and the Centre.

He said the government of allied parties was doing its job very successfully.

Babar Awan further said that Nawaz Sharif had already denied his agreement with former president Pervez Musharraf regarding his ‘escaping’ to Saudi Arabia.

He regretted that those who attacked the Supreme Court were now asking the government to respect the judiciary.

U.S. peace talks with Taliban to resume

The Obama administration will resume peace talks with the Taliban as soon as Afghan President Hamid Karzai formally blesses the negotiations, according to senior administration officials who indicated that the process could be underway within weeks.

Marc Grossman, the senior U.S. diplomat who shepherded a series of secret U.S. meetings with the insurgents last year, will meet with Karzai late next week to ensure that he is on board, officials said.“If Karzai were to tell [the Obama administration] to go ahead, then we’d start talking again,” said one of two officials who discussed the secret negotiations on the condition of anonymity.

A tentative U.S.-Taliban deal, including the transfer of five Afghan detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Qatar and an insurgent renunciation of international terrorism, collapsed in December when Karzai refused to go along with it.

There have been no meetings with the insurgents since then. Although all parties have publicly said that they agree to one element of the deal — the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar — “we need now to make it real,” one official said.

Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, for the first time acknowledging Qatar’s support for the arrangement, said Wednesday that his government welcomed “any opportunity” to defuse tension in the region. Thani spoke after a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The administration, which has said that negotiations must be “Afghan-led,” insists that its talks with the Taliban are only a preliminary effort to build confidence before actual negotiations over Afghanistan’s future can begin between the insurgents and the Karzai government.

One hurdle is that the Taliban prefers to talk to the United States and is “not willing to sit down with the Afghan government’,” one official said. “Our job is to see if we can break through that door.” Karzai has been under pressure from domestic opponents of negotiations to stand firm against the talks.

The officials provided an overview of how the talks have proceeded and where they go now.

Officials remain far from certain that the Taliban leadership is seriously interested in a political settlement. “There is an increasing number of Taliban who are tired of having the hell beat out of them,” one said. “I think they want to stop.” But, at the same time, “I imagine there are going to be splits,” the official said. “Some are going to want to talk, some are going to want to fight.”

Late last year, the U.S. intelligence community assessed that both military and diplomatic success were unlikely before December 2014, the date that President Obama and NATO allies have set for withdrawal of all combat troops from Afghanistan.

Marine Gen. John Allen, the top coalition commander in Afghanistan, was said to be so angered by the recent National Intelligence Estimate that he wrote a blistering formal dissent.

The officials said combat against the insurgents would continue and described what they called a “holistic” approach in which diplomatic progress was not possible without gains on the civilian and military fronts.

Karzai leads wave of condemnation over video of urination on corpses

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has led a chorus of condemnation of US marines filmed urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans as "inhumane" and called for them to be severely punished.

Karzai was joined by the leaders of foreign coalition forces in Kabul and Senator John McCain, a navy veteran, in denouncing the latest in a series of abuses by American soldiers, who have yet to be identified, which is likely to further inflame hostility to Nato troops in Afghanistan and reinforce the perception that there is an institutional problem in the US military.

US defence secretary Leon Panetta also condemned the video on Thursday, promising to punish those involved.

"I have seen the footage, and I find the behaviour depicted in it utterly deplorable," Panetta said in a statement, saying he had ordered the Marine Corps and the commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan to investigate the incident. "Those found to have engaged in such conduct will be held accountable to the fullest extent."

The Pentaton said it had no information so far that casts doubt on the authenticity of the video. "We don't have any indication that it's not authentic," spokesman Captain John Kirby said. "It certainly appears to us to be what it appears to be to you guys... troops urinating on corpses. But there's an investigation process ongoing. We need to let that work its way through to determine all the facts of the case."

A leading negotiator in Karzai's peace council, Arsala Rahmani, said that the film of the four marines laughing and making snide comments as they urinate on the bloodied corpses will have a "very, very bad impact on peace efforts".

"Looking at such action, the Taliban can easily recruit young people and tell them that their country has been attacked by Christians and Jews and they must defend it," he said.

But the Taliban, while criticising the actions of the marines as "shameful", said the latest revelations of abuse by US forces will not block attempts to get talks started to bring an end to the Afghan conflict.

In the graphic video, a soldier films four other marines as they take out their penises and urinate on three bloodied corpses. They sigh with relief, laugh and make comments including "have a great day, buddy" and "golden, like a shower".

The soldiers in the video appear to be members of Scout Sniper Team 4, a US marines unit that served in Afghanistan as recently as last year.

It is not clear who the dead Afghans are. They are possibly Taliban fighters, but their corpses are not shown with weapons.

Karzai said in a statement that he was "deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans".

"This act by American soldiers is completely inhumane and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the US government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime," he said.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said it "strongly condemns the actions depicted in the video, which appear to have been conducted by a small group of US individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan".

"This disrespectful act is inexplicable and not in keeping with the high moral standards we expect of coalition forces," it said.

The US military said it is "deeply troubled" by the film but added that its authenticity has yet to be confirmed. However, the condemnation from Isaf and the Afghan leadership suggested that there is little doubt the video is genuine.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, told the BBC that it is not the first time Americans had carried out such a "wild action". But another different Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the video "is not a political process, so the video will not harm our talks and prisoner exchange because they are at the preliminary stage".

The exposure of the video, widely viewed on the web, comes as the Obama administration attempts to fire up peace talks with the Taliban before the US begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan.

Marc Grossman, the White House special representative, will meet Karzai in Kabul this weekend as well as officials in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, the Taliban announced it would to set up a political office in Qatar which appears to be an important step toward negotiations. Washington is considering reciprocating by releasing several Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo jail as a confidence-building measure.

While the latest revelation of abuses does not appear likely to derail the latest peace effort it again raises questions about whether there is a culture of abuse in US forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last year, 11 soldiers were convicted over the murders of three Afghan civilians by a "kill squad" and the subsequent cover up. It was revealed that some of them collected body parts, including fingers and skull parts, as trophies, and posed for photographs over the corpses of their victims.

This week, a US marine went on trial over the killing of 24 Iraqis, including women and children, in their homes. Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich faces charges of manslaughter over the killings as he commanded a group of soldiers who burst into the victims' homes in Haditha in search of combatants. Seven other soldiers also charged were either acquitted or had the case against them dropped.

The US military is also still grappling with the legacy of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and its role in the torture of alleged terrorists.

Clinton welcomes Sherry Rahman as Pakistan ambassador to US

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has welcomed Pakistan's ambassador designate to the US Sherry Rehman as they held their first meeting and discussed various bilateral issues.

"The Secretary (of State) was pleased to welcome Pakistan's appointed Ambassador, Sherry Rehman, to Washington. They discussed the importance of our two countries recommitting to working together on areas of common interest," State Department spokesperson Laura Lucas said.

"The Department looks forward to further interactions with the appointed ambassador after she presents her credentials at the White House," Lucas said after the Clinton-Rahman meeting at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

Rehman, whose appointment comes at a time when Pakistan-US relations are at an all-time low, is expected to present her credential to US President Barack Obama on January 18.

On Tuesday, Rehman met the Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan Marc Grossman. She also presented her ambassadorial credentials to the State Department's Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

A confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, she replaces Husain Haqqani, who had to resign following the revelation of the "memo gate" scandal.

This will be the first time that the two top diplomats from India and Pakistan to the US are women. Nirupama Rao is the Indian Ambassador to the US.

Earlier in the day, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the issue of Haqqani might come up during the meeting.

"I would guess that she (Clinton) probably will make some of the same points that you've heard us make here, that we expect him to be treated in a manner that is consistent with the Pakistani constitution, with international standards of jurisprudence. She may also make clear we expect him to be safe and secure during this process," Nuland said.

Pakistan’s Besieged Government


Pakistan’s civilian governments are typically short-lived and cast aside by military coups. This disastrous pattern could be repeating itself as the current civilian government comes under increasing pressure from the army and the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, the standoff hardened when Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani fired his defense secretary, Naeem Khalid Lodhi — a retired general and confidante of the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — and replaced him with a civilian, Nargis Sethi. Infuriated military officials said they might refuse to work with the new secretary and warned vaguely of “serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences” after Mr. Gilani publicly criticized them in an interview.

This sort of byzantine infighting is hardly uncommon in Pakistan. But a stable Pakistan is critical to America’s interests in the region. The army should focus on what it can do best: fight the militants working to bring down the state and destabilize the region. For its part, the civilian government needs to deal with Pakistan’s severe economic troubles and repair a political culture in which voices of moderation are increasingly snuffed out.

Tensions have built steadily ever since Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, was accused in October of drafting an anonymous memo that purportedly warned of a coup and sought Washington’s help in preventing it.

Mr. Haqqani is now under a Supreme Court investigation instigated by the country’s top generals. Mr. Haqqani denies writing the memo but has never made secret his distaste for the iron rule of Pakistan’s generals, who already felt humiliated by the surprise American raid on Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Haqqani’s passport has been confiscated, and he has taken refuge in Mr. Gilani’s home. The State Department has called for fair and transparent treatment of Mr. Haqqani in line with Pakistani and international law, and it must continue to press that point.

Two Pakistani officials and a journalist were assassinated last year — evidence of the country’s instability and a chilling warning to the few still brave enough to speak up for a tolerant and democratic society.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court is causing further trouble for the prime minister, threatening to remove him from office for failing to comply with court orders to reopen long-ago corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, himself a fierce adversary of the military. According to a report in The Times, many Pakistani officials suspect the military is using the judiciary to weaken — even topple — the government before the March election for the Senate, which Mr. Zardari’s party is expected to win.

No civilian government in Pakistan has ever finished its term. This one has survived longer than the others and is up for re-election by 2013. Every effort must be made to have that vote go forward so another — and, one hopes, more competent — civilian government can succeed it. The court needs to stay out of politics and focus on building a fair, unbiased legal system. Likewise the military. The generals say they don’t want to govern, but no civilian will ever be able to do a competent job if the military keeps pulling the strings. Although relations with Pakistan are at an all-time low, the United States should keep engaging the country’s civilian leaders and encouraging its civil society whenever possible.

Occupy Wall Street Plans New York Marches Over Weekend
Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York plan marches and a candlelight vigil over the coming weekend to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

Demonstrators plan to assemble on Jan. 15 on the steps of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, organizers said today in a statement. From there, they’ll march to nearby Riverside Church for a candlelight vigil to “honor the spirit” of King, who was born on that day in 1929, according to the statement.

The vigil at Riverside Church, where King spoke in 1967, will feature performances by musicians Patti Smith and Steve Earle as well as speeches by Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons. The next morning, protesters plan a march in lower Manhattan from the African Burial Ground National Monument to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Federal and state offices will be closed to honor King’s birthday.

The marches were announced the day after metal barricades surrounding the protest’s original home in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan were removed following a request by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The groups wrote Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri, urging him to ensure that the park is “open and accessible to all members of the public,” according to a statement from the NYCLU.

Demonstrators’ Eviction

The barriers went up after police evicted demonstrators from the park in November.

Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department, said in an e-mail that the removal was “unrelated to the letter,” and the barriers could be restored any time they’re needed.

The demonstrations began on Sept. 17 when several dozen protesters took up residence in the park to highlight the plight of average Americans who have suffered from home foreclosures and soaring unemployment while the largest U.S. banks have recovered from the 2008 financial crisis.

The protests attracted thousands to Zuccotti Park and spread to U.S. cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as overseas to London, Rome and Tokyo.

The demonstrators refer to themselves as “the 99 percent,” a reference to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the richest 1 percent of the population control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.

More than 1,800 people have been charged in connection with the protests in New York since they began in September, according to Browne.

No constitutional provisoin for new provinces

ANP Senior Vice President and Parliamentary Leader in Senate Haji Muhammad Adeel said that despite enactment of 18th and 19th amendment; there was no provision in the constitution to create new provinces in the country.

While talking to party workers in Peshawar on Wednesday, Haji Adeel said that it was clearly mentioned in Article 1 of the constitution about the province and areas that fall into the country or may be added at any time to this effect.

Creation of new provinces would not only be possible through Article 239 (4) or presenting a bill in the parliament, adding that for this purpose drastic changes would have to be made in the constitution and dozens of articles would have to be reframed which was not possible in the present political divide.

Haji Adeel said that MQM formerly known as Mohajir Qoomi Mahaz, in order to create rift among Pakhtoons was trying to pit the tribal Pakhtoon against those of the settle areas.

He said that MQM was also trying to set Hazara Pakhtoon against non Hazara Pakhtoon and MQM started working on these lines in Karachi. He told his party workers that MQM was doing so because Pakhtoon have very successfully challenged MQM in its former no go areas in Karachi. He said that MQM with the help of Martial law Governments had created an environment of terror in Karachi and murdered thousands of innocent people, kidnapped countless for ransom and extracted money from Karachiets through the use of force. He said that Pakhtuns have very bravely fought against the tyranny of MQM in Karachi and this was evident from the success of Pakhtuns in the recent elections in which they grabbed two seats.

They also raised the flag of ANP in Karachi and held a historic public meeting at the bank of the river in Karachi. They also exhibited their strength while the Chief Justice was blocked by MQM in Karachi and on this occasion 50 Pakhtoons laid their lives. For these reasons the MQM was trying to sow the seed of contention among Pakhtoon of Hazara and FATA adding that they would not succeed in their nefarious designs.

Diplomatic enclave in Peshawar

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has asked the Foreign Office to approach diplomatic missions and United Nations agencies for setting up an enclave in Peshawar to cope with the security situation, according to sources.

It is learnt that the provincial government has serious reservations over offices of foreign missions, UN and other donor agencies, working in rented buildings in the residential colonies.

According to an official communiqué the provincial government explained that terrorists were targeting every sensitive installation including infrastructure and personnel of diplomatic missions to create atmosphere of fear.

An official source said that it was a complex issue. It was becoming very difficult for the law enforcement agencies to provide security to scattered offices of foreign missions and donor agencies in residential areas, he added.Three countries Afghanistan, America and Iran have diplomatic missions in the Cantonment and University Town while British High Commission has taken a bungalow on rent whereas various UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other donor organisations have also rented out houses in the University Town.

The law enforcement agencies had closed roads and streets in the provincial capital for the last few years in those areas where foreign missions and other offices exist. The closure of roads has been causing inconvenience for general public.

Official sources said that there was no specified area in the provincial capital to accommodate all foreign missions while the existing arrangements had visible location disadvantages that had been exploited by terrorists.

They said that the matter had been discussed with the representatives of foreign missions and donor agencies and it was decided to establish a diplomatic enclave atan appropriate area in the city.

Sources said that a site was identified for the proposed diplomatic enclave near motorway and all terms and conditions were discussed at a high level meeting.

However, they said, the matter was put in cold storage.

`We have asked Foreign Office to approach foreign missions and UN agencies to work out modalities with the provincial government,` said an official.The official pointed out that local people had also reservations over opening of foreign missions in residential colonies. People had taken the matter to the court, he added. The apex court had also issued directives about shifting of those offices from residential areas.

Officials said that offices of foreign missions and UN agencies operating in residential areas had been secured by blocking main thoroughfares. Once those blockades were lifted pursuant to court orders it would be very difficult to provide proper security to those offices, they added.

Veena Malik won't bare for Hollywood

After all the hue and cry surrounding the nude picture of Veena Malik on the cover page of the FHM magazine, rumours were widespread that the Pakistani model-actor will be shedding clothes for international magazines like Playboy or for Hollywood filmmakers. Now the buzz has it that Malik, who aspires to make a career for herself in Bollywood, has rubbished the reports saying that she will not get carried away by lucrative offers and go nude onscreen. In a statement from Dubai where she presently is Malik said that she has been misquoted by a media agency.

Outrage over Indian islands 'human zoo' video

Rights campaigners and politicians Wednesday condemned a video showing women from a protected and primitive tribe dancing for tourists reportedly in exchange for food on India's Andaman Islands.

British newspaper The Observer released the undated video showing Jarawa tribal women -- some of them naked -- being lured to dance and sing after a bribe was allegedly paid to a policeman to produce them.

Under Indian laws designed to protect ancient tribal groups susceptible to outside influence and disease, photographing or coming into contact with the Jarawa and some of the Andaman aborigines is banned.

The tribe, thought to have been among the first people to migrate successfully from Africa to Asia, lives a nomadic existence in the lush, tropical forests of the Andamans in the Indian Ocean.

India's Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo on Wednesday said an investigation had been ordered.

"An inquiry has been ordered and it is being headed by the chief secretary and director-general of police of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands," Deo told the Press Trust of India news agency.

"It's deplorable. You cannot treat human beings like beasts for the sake of money. Whatever kind of tourism is that, I totally disapprove of that and it is being banned also," the minister added.

Survival International, which lobbies on behalf of tribal groups worldwide, said the video showed tourists apparently enjoying "human zoos."

"Quite clearly, some people's attitudes towards tribal peoples haven't moved on a jot. The Jarawa are not circus ponies bound to dance at anyone's bidding," said Stephen Corry, the group's director, in a press release.

But state anthropologist A. Justin, who works on the Andaman islands, questioned whether the scenes were recent.

"Before the 2004 tsunami, people might have forced them to dance and there may have been some much smaller violations since then," Justin said by telephone from the capital Port Blair.

"Since the tsunami, a policy of maximum autonomy with minimum intervention has been put in place. Things are being taken care of these days. There is a lot of (security) coverage there now."

Justin said the video appeared to be several years old, while police in Port Blair also suggested it was taken some time ago.

"The video appears to be six to seven years old when Jarawas remained unclothed but now they wear dresses in public," Director-General of Police Samsher Deol said.

"Nonetheless we have launched a probe because we want to know who is the videographer who has committed an offence and we also want to know who bribed and who has been bribed," Deol said.

The Observer report said its journalist had recently seen tourists throw bananas and biscuits to tribespeople on the roadside, and had been told by local traders how much to bribe the police to spend a day out with the Jarawa.

In June last year, Survival International accused eight Indian travel companies of running "human safari tours" so tourists could see and photograph the Jarawa.

The London-based group called for tourists to boycott the road used to enter the reserve of the Jarawa tribe, who number just 403 and are in danger of dying out.

The Andaman and Nicobar tropical island chain is home to four other rare tribes -- Onge, the Great Andamanese, the Sentinelese and the Shompens -- each numbering fewer than 350 members.

Another tribe called Bo died out in January 2010.

ANP to back government: Asfandyar

ANP leader Asfandyar Wali has said that his party would continue to back the government and fully oppose any undemocratic move, Geo News reported.

Talking to media, Asfandyar Wali said ANP would not support any confrontation. Democratic set up is vital for stability Pakistan, he said and added that Pakistan could not bear any instability.

'There is no point of no-return in politics', he said.

Jamrud attack

TUESDAY`S bomb attack in Jamrud in Khyber Agency was yet another incident that pointed to the risks of the government`s use of lashkarstokeepthe peace in parts of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The blast, in which at least 30 people are reported to have died, appears to have targeted members of the pro-government Zakakhel tribe, which has long been in conflict with Mangal Bagh`s Lashkar-i-Islam.

Despite denials by the Taliban, it may also have been carried out in retaliation for recent military action in Khyber Agency in which Tehrik-i-Taliban operatives were killed.

The lack of clarity about where responsibility lies points to the multiple fault lines that have emerged in Khyber, partly as a result of the lashkar concept.

Regardless of who was behind the blast, the victims were members of a tribe seen as an enemy because it supports the state. And despite the reduction in the number of terrorist attacks last year, this was not an isolated event. The last major terrorist incident before it an attack on a funeral in Lower Dir in September 2011 alsotargeted members of an anti-Taliban militia.

Tuesday`s blast raises the same questions that large-scale attacks on lashkars in places like Adezai outside Peshawar and Orakzai and Bajaur agencies have in the past: government-backed militias worsen tribal rivalries and leave local populations vulnerable, especially when security forces withdraw after short-term gains. Given that they consist of area residents who have a stake in peace in their areas, they can be useful, as when they were revived in 2008 to fight the Taliban insurgency. But once government forces leave after initial successes they are left at the mercy of better-equipped and more ruthless militants, as was seen in Malakand where, when the military had withdrawn, citizens were killed for backing the government. Tuesday`s attack demonstrates, once again, that in areas where militants are still able to act, lashkars need to be replaced by security forces. At the same time, while in principle we oppose the concept of raising lashkars, until the security forces are able to take over they should be given better protection.

Pakistan Cabinet backs Zardari, Gilani

Reposing full confidence in the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Federal Cabinet Wednesday decided that the government would continue struggle to strengthen national institutions.

Minister for Information and Broadcasting Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Wednesday that PPP believes in supremacy of Parliament and National Assembly session has been summoned to find a way forward.

Addressing a news conference after Cabinet meeting, she ruled out all the rumours regarding the resignation of Prime Minister, saying that the rumour mills were spreading lot of disinformation but personal wishes cannot become news. The upcoming National Assembly session (38th session) would not result in confrontation, she added.

Government, she said, is not in favour of confrontation between the State institutions.

She further said that the National Assembly session was being summoned on the advice of allied political parties.

She said that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has been unanimously elected Leader of the House and it is for sure as he cannot be sent home on someone’s wishes.

Firdous further said that it would be better for the Opposition if they move apex court for registering a case under Article-6 of the Constitution against the dictator (Pervez Musharraf).

To a question, she said that the coalition partners had advised the PPP-government not to adopt a confrontational way with State institutions and this opinion would not be set aside rather all decisions will be taken with the consultation of the allies.

She also made it clear that PPP leadership did not need to become political martyrs as it has history of sacrifices for democracy.

To a question about the resignation of PPP legislator from Muzaffargarh Jamshed Dasti, she was hopeful that PPP leadership would address his (Dasti) grievances.

To another question, she said that the government would submit its reply in the Supreme Court (SC) in NRO case and the Attorney General has been given this task to prepare reply.

Meanwhile, sources privy to the Cabinet meeting informed that the Federal Cabinet has decided to use Parliament forum to give their strong response.

Prime Minister also received nod from almost all Cabinet members on its stance.

Why a Coup Is Unlikely in Pakistan

Is there a coup in the offing in Pakistan?

Not likely, say former Pakistan military and intelligence officials.

There’s a lot of speculation of a military takeover amid rising tensions between army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The tensions have their roots in the U.S. raid on a Pakistani garrison town in May, which lead to the death of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan’s army was not forewarned about the raid and was deeply embarrassed.

The emergence in October of a memo allegedly sent by Mr. Gilani’s Pakistan People’s Party-led administration to Washington in the wake of the raid, asking for U.S. help in forestalling a coup by an angered military, was the start of the current troubles.

Mr. Gilani, under army pressure, fired Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, for his alleged involvement in the affair. Mr. Haqqani denies the allegations. His removal was supposed to be the end of the affair, Pakistani military and civilian officials say.

But Nawaz Sharif, leader of Pakistan’s main opposition party, demanded a Supreme Court investigation of the memo.

The court’s probe, which is underway, has escalated tensions between the civilian government and army. Mr. Gilani says the investigation is politically motivated, and has blamed the military for bypassing the government in answering the court’s questions.

The army said in a statement Wednesday it had responded to the court through the Defense Ministry and warned Mr. Gilani his accusations could have “grievous consequences.” Mr. Gilani responded later Wednesday by firing the country’s military-backed senior defense bureaucrat.

The army’s tone set alarm bells ringing that a coup might be in the offing. Pakistan media reported President Asif Ali Zardari traveled to Dubai Thursday on a one-day private visit. The president underwent medical tests in Dubai last month after suffering a mini-stroke and his absence again has led to jitters about the stability of the government.

It’s true the army does not like the current administration, which it views as corrupt and incompetent. Pakistan’s generals, who have ruled the country for half its 65-year history, openly state their belief that civilian leaders are incapable of running the country.

But there are many reasons why the military won’t want to take the reins of power right now, defense analysts say.

First, Pakistan is beset by almost insoluble challenges, ranging from a major Taliban militant insurgency that has taken the lives of thousands of people to runaway inflation and hours of daily power outages, which make being in control an unenviable task.

“There are so many problems,” says Asad Munir, a former Peshawar station chief for the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the army’s spy agency. “I’m 95% certain they wouldn’t want to come into power at the moment.”

Second, Pakistan’s military already exerts huge powers beyond the role of a traditional army in a democracy and does not need to formally usurp power. It controls foreign and defense policy. Gen. Kayani often leads delegations of government ministers to Washington.

In pressuring Mr. Gilani’s administration over the “Memogate” scandal, the army is likely trying to salvage its pride, hurt by the bin Laden raid, and ensure control over their spheres of influence, says Talat Masood, a former army general and security analyst.

“They want to protect their image and keep a hold on policy,” he says.

Third, the army has insufficient political support to mount a coup. While the army in Pakistan has seized power in the past unilaterally, it often has looked to Parliament to support its action. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down as president in 2008, used a coalition of Islamist parties to legitimize his rule.

Today, the Islamist parties are weak, and the army is on equally poor terms with Mr. Sharif’s opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, as it is with the Pakistan People’s Party.

So what will happen?

It looks like this kind of sparring will continue and Mr. Gilani’s government will bumble along, exerting more effort on political bickering than solving the country’s economic and security challenges. The army will continue to run foreign and defense policy.

The instability is likely to complicate the U.S.’s goal of nudging Pakistan to help bring an end to the war in Afghanistan. Washington wants Pakistan’s army to deliver Taliban militants who shelter on its soil to take part in peace talks. A distracted military, only partially focused on the militant threat, is less likely to play a fruitful role here.

But the U.S., which supports a democratic Pakistan, could take some comfort in the resilience of Mr. Gilani’s administration.

Many commentators now expect the government to call elections, which must be held before March 2013, sometime in the fall of this year.

If the government survives until then, it will be the first democratically-elected administration in Pakistan’s history to complete a full term.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari leaves for Dubai amid coup fears

President Asif Ali Zardari has left for Dubai, a media report said on Thursday. His departure took place amid a stand-off between the political leadership and the powerful military.

Geo News reported that Zardari left for Dubai on one-day private visit.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Wednesday asserted his authority by dismissing defence secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired lieutenant general widely seen to be close to army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Gilani also accused the army chief and ISI chief Lt.Gen. Shuja Pasha of violating the constitution by submitting their replies to the Supreme Court without the government approval in the case over a memo sent to Washington that said President Zardari feared a military take-over following last year's killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The Inter-Services Public Relations, the military's media arm, said: "There can be no allegation more serious than what the prime minister has levelled against (Kayani and Pasha) and has unfortunately charged the officers (with) violation of the constitution."

"This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country," it warned.

A month back, Zardari had abruptly left for Dubai from where he returned Dec 18 last year, putting to rest rumours of a coup in Pakistan.

The 56-year-old president arrived at the port city of Karachi after he spent nearly two weeks in Dubai.

Zardari's sudden departure then had led to intense speculation with Gilani telling the Senate that an ailing president feared for his life in Pakistan hospitals.

There had been a lot of confusion over Zardari's health.

Initial reports said he had flown out of Pakistan Dec 6 over a heart ailment. While Pakistan Army doctors had declared him fit, a US-based magazine said he had suffered a minor heart attack.

Later, some media reports said Zardari had suffered a stroke that caused bleeding in the brain and facial paralysis.