Sunday, February 19, 2012

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Dazzling emeralds of Swat

The Express Tribune

Swat valley is not just famous for her dazzling beauty, its emeralds rank amongst the best in the world. With a pure verdant hue and a high degree of transparency, their colour is comparable high-quality Muzo or Columbian emeralds.

Discovered in 1958 when the valley was ruled by the Wali-i-Swat, emerald mines in Mingora, are a source of livelihood for thousands of people. “I would see people on the banks of Swat River and other streams searching for emeralds from the mines, said Rahim Dad Khan. I began to buy leftovers from trucks coming from the mines to search for emeralds. I got lucky very often.”

A business in emeralds is very profitable. “I have been dealing in emeralds for 25 years and we have customers from around the world,” said Amanullah Khan, an emerald merchant in Mingora.

The business of gemstones depends upon luck. “Sometimes we earn millions in a day and sometimes we get nothing for weeks, but overall it is a profitable and clean business,” he added.

Due to the absence of modern equipment for cutting and polishing gemstones, the majority are sent to India for value addition, where the process is cheaper than in other countries.

If we had cutting machines, we would save time and money, Amanullah said. “We appeal to the government to install modern machinery and training schools in Swat,” he added.

During the mayhem in Swat, Taliban carried out large-scale excavation of emeralds with unskilled methods.

“They not only plundered the precious stones but also the iron bars used to fence the mine. They collected a colossal amount from emeralds but harmed the mine,” said an official of the mineral department requesting anonymity.

The mine has been leased to a contractor in an open bid for Rs100 million for ten years but local dealers seemed unhappy with the decision and say that gemstones should be auctioned locally.

“As the mines belong to Swat, the jewels should be auctioned in the valley because thousands of people are connected with this business. The present contractor auctions only low-quality emeralds and the best quality is auctioned in international markets. If auctions are held here, it will bring in foreign exchange and boost the local business,” said Noor Nawab, an emerald dealer in Mingora.

However, according to the mineral department, the contractor is not bound to hold local auctions. “There is no law to compel contractors to auction the gemstones locally but I am in favour of local auctions,” said Nadir Khan, Assistant Director Mines.

He said no one was ready to apply for a lease after the militancy. “We advertised three times for a bid but no contractor was ready to come forward. He agreed that a training institute should be set up so that locals can learn the skill and gemstones are processed in the valley.

Just five per cent of the revenue goes to the local government for social uplift but the mineral department is unaware of the amount of royalty. Most dealers are of the opinion that Rs100 million is too little for a 10-year contract as the emeralds are highly prized in international markets.

Passion for fashion sweeps Afghanistan

A passion for fashion is not the first image that springs to mind when most people think of Afghan men, usually pictured in war reports wearing beards, turbans and carrying AK47s as accessories.

But male beauty salons in downtown Kabul now hum with activity as young men update their hair and beards in the latest Western styles – indulgences that would have got them beaten or jailed just 10 years ago.

Then, religious police from the “vice and virtue” department of the Taliban regime patrolled the streets in pick-up trucks seizing or whipping men and women whose appearance was considered a sin against Islam.

But since the Taliban fell from power in the 2001 US-led invasion, men in Kabul in particular have seized on a new freedom to be stylish or trendy.

“Kabul boys have grown very passionate about their looks in recent years,” says a smiling 25-year-old Ali Reza as he sprays blonde highlights on the hair of The Saloon’s smartly dressed first customer of the day.

Reza was among hundreds of thousands of Afghans who fled to neighbouring countries when the Taliban took over in 1996. He learned hairdressing in India and returned to Kabul when the Taliban were toppled.

“Some media portray Afghan men as angry people with long beards and shoulder-length hair,” he says.

“I decided to become a stylist to show that is not always the case, and Afghan men are beautiful, have a passion for modern fashion and are very stylish.”

An interest in popular Hollywood and Bollywood styles is not new to Afghanistan – once a highlight of overland travel for young Westerners – it has simply been suppressed by more than three decades of war.

An invasion by the Soviet Union in 1979 led to a 10-year occupation followed by civil war — and then came the Taliban with their brutal campaign against anything that did not fit with their idea of religious purity.

Now, while women may show high-heeled boots and jeans beneath their coats and dress stylishly in private, in public they remain well-covered – with some still wearing the all-enveloping burqa.

But on the streets of Kabul – and to a lesser extent in other cities – it is the men who are strutting their stuff, parading their skinny or ripped jeans and spiky haircuts.

“Young men come here, bringing the photos of popular European, American and Indian movie or sport stars and ask us to style their hair or beard accordingly,” says Sayed Mehdi, 22, a stylist at Skin Deep fashion salon.

“We also provide fashion magazines to help them choose a hair or beard style that they favour,” he says.

Mujtaba, 27, who is wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans with rips, says he was beaten by Taliban police when he had a modestly styled haircut.

“Then they forced me to wear a black turban even when I was still a kid,” says Mujtaba, who like many Afghans uses just one name.

He has come to The Saloon looking for the latest style in men’s beards.

“I want my beard in Wali style,” he says, referring to a famous expat Afghan pop star who wears a thin chin-strap style beard.

“We dont want to be less than Europeans and Americans when it comes to fashion.”

While the southern and eastern parts of the country remain gripped by a Taliban-led insurgency, the Afghan capital and major cities in the north or west enjoy relative security – and a boom in the fashion business.

Sayed Abdulla, who owns a trendy clothing store in Kabul, says he has to import the latest fashion trends to keep hundreds of customers satisfied.

“Every day young men and women come looking for the latest brands of jeans, shirts and dresses,” he says while displaying a tight pair of jeans for a group of men in his store.

Abdulla says he owned a clothing shop during the Taliban regime but was only allowed to sell the traditional Perahan Tenban, a loose trouser and shirt outfit, and turbans.

“There has been a huge change in fashion and style since,” he says.

In 2009, Afghanistan also witnessed its first TV modelling show – “Afghan Model” – which aimed to find the top model in the war-ravaged country, emulating “America’s Next Top Model”.

“We asked for whoever wanted to participate in the programme to show their clothes, their looks, and their styles,” says Naseer Ahmad Noori, 25, who along with his wife Setara Noori was one of the judges.

Naseer says he was amazed by the response — “thousands showed up, most of them men”.

The resulting show was opposed by the country’s clerics, which led to a lull in the series but it is expected to resume this year, he says.

“This is embarrassing when you see our men dressing themselves like Americans and other infidels,” says an angry, turbanned, Mullah Naqibullah, drinking tea in a shop across from the The Saloon.

“This kind of dressing is totally un-Islamic and against Afghan values. These people should be punished to remember they are Afghans and Muslims,” he says, pausing for a sip of green tea.

“The Taliban would know how to deal with them!”

But despite the backlash from conservatives, people like Reza and Mehdi remain upbeat as a new generation grows up with an interest in accessories a little more chic than the old AK47 that has brought so much woe to the country.

KPK, Fata governments order deportation of 185 Afghan refugees


The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) government and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Secretariat has ordered 185 Afghan refugees in Pakistan working for the Afghan government to leave the country within a month, DawnNews reported on Sunday.

According to sources, family members of Afghan-government employed refugees are settled in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Peshawar, Lower Dir, Upper Dir, and several other towns and cities.

A list of Afghan refugees working for different institutions of the Afghan government had been earlier sent by the FATA Secretariat and the KPK government to the interior and foreign ministries, after which it was decided that the refugees should be deported from the country.

Following the orders of the federal and provincial governments, political agents and District Coordination Officers (DCO) had issued notices to the refugees according to which legal action would be taken if they do not leave the country within a month.

Hundreds of thousands march in Spain against reforms

Hundreds of thousands of people protested across Spain Sunday against reforms to the labor market they fear will destroy workers' rights and spending cuts they say are destroying the welfare state.

Organizers, including the two largest unions Comisiones Obreras and UGT, said as many as half a million people joined the protest in 57 towns and cities, although Spanish police gave no official estimate.

In Madrid, one of the largest protests since the economic crisis began almost five years ago filled the wide boulevards from the Atocha train station up to the central Sol square with loud but peaceful marchers of all ages.

"Contracts are getting worse every year. They say they want to invest in the future while cutting research budgets. They're not looking to the future but to the next election with cuts dictated from Brussels," university researcher Nacho Foche, 27, said.

Spain's new conservative government began its four-year term in December with tax hikes and spending cuts worth around 15 billion euros ($19.74 billion) and must cut another around 40 billion to meet tough deficit targets set by the EU.

It has also passed reforms in the financial sector, which force banks to recognize property sector losses, and the labor market, which grant companies greater hiring and firing power, in an effort to appease nervous markets.The euro zone's fourth largest economy has been in the eye of storm of the debt crisis since the Socialist government racked up one of the bloc's largest budget deficits, leaving investors concerned it had lost control of its finances.


The Socialists, trounced in November's election over their perceived mishandling of the crisis, made sweeping cuts and reforms while the economy reeled from the fallout of a burst property bubble and collapsed domestic demand.

The conservative party says its own labor market reform, passed February 10, will give struggling companies more room to recover from the economic crisis and create jobs in a country where almost half of all young people are unemployed.

The reform has abolished severance pay worth 45 days for each year worked, a legal requirement that companies said made it prohibitively expensive to reduce the workforce in times of economic difficulties.

"When we designed this reform we were thinking in the people who are out of work, who see no future," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a party conference Sunday.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the developed world at 23 percent and many Spaniards fear granting businesses greater powers to lay off workers will prompt a wave of redundancies and new contracts without rights.

Rajoy was caught on camera in Brussels last month saying to his Finnish counterpart that he believed the labor reform would cause a general strike and, although the unions have not called for industrial action, many at the march in Madrid thought more should be done.

"There has to be a general strike. They said they were cutting workers rights to create more work. They've cut rights, but not said how they plan to create jobs," teacher Alberto Carrillo, 48, said.

"Before we were privileged, but now we're having trouble even paying our gas bills."

Harsh Afghan winter kills 40 children

A harsh winter has killed almost 40 children in Afghanistan in the past month, most of them in refugee camps in Kabul with aid groups warning Sunday of more deaths as temperatures keep falling.

Twenty-four children lost their lives in camps on the outskirts of the capital which houses thousands of Afghans fleeing war and Taliban intimidation in southern Afghanistan.

Others died from cold in the central highlands, public health ministry spokesman Ghulam Sakhi Kargar Noorughli told AFP.

"Over this past one month we have 40 deaths recorded. All have died from cold and are mostly children," he said.

Afghanistan, a landlocked and mountainous country, has suffered its coldest winter in 15 years.

International children's charity Save the Children warned on Sunday that weather conditions were expected to worsen, threatening the lives of more children in the camps.

"Save the Children is warning that even more could die from cold in what is Afghanistan's worst winter for 15 years," the charity group said in a statement, adding that temperatures were expected to drop as low as -17 degrees centigrade.

"This has been a brutal winter and children have little to protect them from the biting cold," Bob Grabman, Save the Children's country director in Afghanistan, said.

"Many are trying to survive without decent shelter or blankets, without fuel, food, warm clothes or shoes," he added.

"At night the temperature falls dangerously low, threatening the lives of newborns and small children. It?s crucial we get urgent help to families so children are protected," Grabman added.

According to the charity about 20,000 people, fleeing insecurity caused by a Taliban-led insurgency, are living in more than 30 informal settlements in Kabul under extreme hardship. Most live in flimsy tents.

Despite the flood of billions of dollars in aid from the international community after the collapse of the Taliban Afghanistan remains among the poorest nations in the world.

China's vote against Syria resolution shows responsibility

People's Daily

China's "No" vote on a proposed Syria resolution at the UN General Assembly shows it can assume greater responsibility in international affairs, an expert says.

It (casting a "No" vote) conforms to China's foreign policy of maintaining world peace and stability and principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states, Moustapha Saphariny, director of the Arab Information Center, told Xinhua on Saturday.

The UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution supporting political transition in Syria, which has been plagued by 11 months of violent protests against the government and calls for the appointment of a UN special envoy to the Middle East country.

China voted against the resolution, saying it opposes armed intervention or forcing a so-called "regime change" in Syria.

The resolution was similar to a draft vetoed in the UN Security Council on Feb. 4 by Russia and China, two permanent members of the 15-nation body. The killed draft asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his deputy.

Saphariny said China shows no partiality to either side on the Syria issue and has been playing a positive, concrete and constructive role in solving the crisis.

China has asked the Syrian government to respond to its people's reasonable needs and begin a national dialogue and start a "tolerant" political process that includes an end to the violence, he said.Saphariny said China's stance on Syria can be considered a great diplomatic accomplishment.

He said China has not only cast "No" votes on irrational resolutions, but has also proposed concrete plans including a roadmap to solve the Syria crisis.

More importantly, Saphariny said, China has put its advice into practice. Wu Sike, the Chinese special envoy to the Middle East, visited Syria recently and exchanged views with Syrian officials and opposition groups.

China also received a Syrian opposition delegation on Feb. 6-9. Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, a special envoy of the Chinese government, is now in the Syrian capital of Damascus to discuss the situation, Saphariny said.

He said casting a "No" vote is not supporting the Assad regime. Instead, China is adopting a responsible attitude given the complex impact of the Syria issue on the Middle East.

The vote will not negatively affect the relations between China and Arab countries. On the contrary, it may play a positive role on bilateral relationship, Saphariny said.

At present, some may say China's stance supports the Syrian regime, but time will prove that the position benefits both the Syrian government and people as well as the Middle East, he said.

President Obama delivers victory for women's health

BY:Bev Hollingworth

Thanks to a recent ruling by the Obama administration, most health insurance plans will now be required to cover women's preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible.

This new law will save money for millions of Americans, and more importantly, it will ensure women have access to the high-quality care they deserve.

I'm not alone in my support for increased access to contraception. Scientists and medical experts agree contraception is important for women's health. Organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend contraception as an important preventive service for women.

Thousands of doctors prescribe contraception for medical and health reasons. Contraception helps reduce the risk of some cancers, serious infections and cysts. Women using contraception reduce their risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers to about half the rate of the rest of the population, and many women use this prescription to help with their transition to menopause.

In addition to the health benefits, the president's decision will reduce out-of-pocket health costs to women. Many women skip contraceptive care because of cost, even though the medical research is clear, and for employers, the savings of providing contraceptive coverage more than balance the cost. In fact, the National Business Group on Health estimated it would cost employers 15 percent to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide it. Providing coverage without cost-sharing helps women make family planning decisions based on what's right for them, not on how much it costs.

The president put forward this commonsense rule in a way that is fair to all religious groups and respects everyone's religious freedom. Under this policy, there is no requirement for churches or houses of worship to provide insurance covering contraception. Additionally, no doctor will be forced to write a prescription for contraception. This rule serves to increase options for women across the country but absolutely no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.

The facts are clear: 99 percent of all women — including 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control. A survey by Hart Research found 71 percent of Americans, including 77 percent of Catholic women, support covering prescription birth control at no cost. It's clear American women and health professionals support President Obama's initiative to broaden access to contraception for women.

The president's decision builds on his strong record of protecting women's health. As a result of health care legislation, insurance companies must cover critical women's preventive care like mammograms, cannot deny insurance to women with pre-existing conditions like breast cancer and are barred from charging women 50 percent more than men for the same coverage. These are real accomplishments that will help women across the country lead stronger, healthier lives, and that is something we can all appreciate.

The bottom line is President Obama stands up for American women. The Affordable Care Act and the president's decision to require health insurance providers to cover preventive services such as contraception is a victory for all women.

Putin Supporters Hold Rallies All Over Russia

Thousands supporters of Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin participated on Saturday in demonstrations supporting the sustainable development of Russia. People went out to streets in Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Volgograd, etc.

In Khabarovsk Putin supporters went to the streets with the slogan “We have something to protect!” The demonstration, organized by the All-Russia People's Front was attended by 12,000 people. The slogan “Orange Revolution Leads to a Banana Republic” drew a lot of attention. Speakers at the demonstration claimed that Khabarovsk region felt the support of Russian government: there one could see reconstruction of plants, construction of social housing and establishing of new businesses.

In Irkutsk the demonstration “Angara Region for a Stable and Strong Russia” gathered about 7,000 people. Teachers, athletes, military men, employees of industrial enterprises of the region spoke in support of the current policy, presidential candidate Vladimir Putin and against the revolutionary changes in the country.

In Novosibirsk a meeting “for strong Russia” in support of Vladimir Putin gathered 7,500 people. Organizers of the demonstration, All-Russia People's Front, reported about 10,000 participants. Novosibirsk mayor Vladimir Gorodetsky, famous sportsman Alexander Karelin, representatives of public organizations and trade unions came to the rally.

The demonstration in Vladivostok, organized by the Trade Unions of Primorye, was held with the slogn “Primorye for Stability.” According to the police, the rally gathered about 4,000 people. Many of participants put vests with colors of Russian flag and signs on the back “I am for Putin.” Participants of the meeting adopted a resolution addressing the presidential candidate saying that if he wins the election he will give priority to the improvement of federal labor laws and social guarantees.

Tyumen regional council of trade unions organized a meeting “For Decent Election”. According to the council, the meeting was attended by about 5,000 people. According to the city administration, more than 4,000 people participated in the event. Those who came to the rally were holding Russian flags and posters with slogans “Teachers of Tyumen Region for Putin,” “Everything will be ok,” “We believe in Putin,” “Where Putin is, there is victory,” “We are for stable tomorrow,” “Evolution not revolution.”

According to the police, demonstration in support of Putin in Volgograd with the slogan “Great country needs a strong leader”, gathered about 10,000 people. The rally was organized by trade unions of Volgograd and All-Russia People's Front. Among those who came to the demonstration was the Governor of Volgograd Region Sergei Bozhenov. Despite the freezing weather, the rally lasted more than 2 hours.

In Lipetsk demonstration “For stable Russia” organized by local trade unions was held on a central square. The speakers expressed their support for presidential candidate Vladimir Putin. The participants were holding posters “We will not let destroy Russia,” “We do not want to return back to 1990s,” “We're on the right way.” The rally ended with a concert of local music groups.

Over 8,500 people attended a demonstration in Nizhny Novgorod in support of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin. The rally was held on the square of Narodnogo Yedinstva [People's Unity] at the monument to Minin and Pozharsky, near the very Church of St. John the Baptist, where 400 years ago Nizhny Novgorod mayor Kozma Minin called the locals to stand up for their country.

In St. Petersburg the demonstration gathered about 60,000 people. Participants of the rally for political stability and support for Putin called to vote in presidential elections for the current prime minister and to prevent the revolution in Russia. At the end of the rally participants adopted a resolution stating that, despite the fact that everyone has their own beliefs and demands “all of us united by one desire to have confidence in future.”

As for Moscow supporters of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are planning to organize a car rally in central Moscow on Saturday. Up to 1,500 people are expected to take part in the demonstration planned for Saturday evening. A remix of Putin's vocals of the popular jazz song Blueberry Hill will become the symbol of the rally, the organizers said, adding that CDs with the song will be distributed among rally participants.

Russia: Putin tops early voting for presidency

On Friday, voters from several remote areas in Russia begin advanced voting in the 2012 Russian election, which will last until March 3rd. Only about 1 percent of all registered voters are expected to cast their votes on Friday.

According to the latest polls, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s support rate has been on the rise and is the highest of the presidency candidates at 55%. The leader of Russia’s Communist Party has seen his support rate decline slightly from 10% last week to 9%. Meanwhile, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party has mainted an 8% support rate.

And, the only independent candidate, Mikhal Prokhorov’s support rate has also increased from 4% to 5%. As well, the leader of the party A Just Russia, has also seen a support increase over the last week from 3% to 5%. The Russian presidential election will formally begin on March 4th.

Mansoor Ijaz: New York court ruled against Ijaz in fraud case

A New York court ordered Mansoor Ijaz to pay $1.4 million to a European bank after the bank accused the man who initiated memogate of breach of contract, fraud and “unjust enrichment,” according to the court documents.

The revelation raises new questions about the credibility of the American national of Pakistani origin whose claims about a secret memo being sent by civilian Pakistani leaders to US officials are currently being examined by a judicial commission set up by the Supreme Court. Ijaz is to testify before the commission by video link on 22nd February.

Supreme Court of the State of New York judge Charles E Ramos issued the judgment against Mansoor Ijaz on 25th September 2010 after Banca Sammarinese di Investimento (BSI) of San Marino filed a suit for the recovery of a loan obtained by Ijaz. According to documents filed by BSI in court, the bank opened credit lines in favour of Ijaz and his companies, The Ijaz Group Inc. and Aquarius in 2007and 2008 with shares of Mansoor Ijaz’s companies as security. Ijaz stopped paying the interest and failed to return the principal of the loans after October 2008.

BSI’s filing in the court on 6th June 2010 said, “Ijaz owes BSI Euros 661,972.16 plus interest from October 1, 2008. The Ijaz Group Inc. owes BSI $873,692.46 on account No 470 and Euros 1,942.80 on account No 469 plus interest from October 1, 2008. Aquarius owes to BSI Euros 214,068.23 on account No 471 and Euros 130.36 on account No 798 for a total of Euros 214,198.59 plus interest from October 1, 2008.”

Court documents show that Mansoor Ijaz acknowledged that he borrowed from and owed BSI Bank Euros 648,130 plus interest from 8th August 2008. He also acknowledged that the balance due by himself, The Ijaz Group Inc and Aquarius was Euros 1 million 460,000 plus interest from 8th August 2008. According to BSI, Mansoor Ijaz was the “alter ego” of The Ijaz Group and Aquarius as he fully controlled these entities. “Ijaz exercised such dominion and control over the Ijaz Group and Aquarius and the monies plaintiff loaned to those entities in order to commit a fraud against the plaintiff.”

The Banca Sammarinese di Investimento (BSI) of San Marino detailed before the New York court how Mansoor Ijaz’s companies The Ijaz Group and Aquarius were only a cover for him and did not really have any ongoing business that the bank could identify or recover money against. “Defendants Ijaz Group and Aquarius ignored all corporate formalities in the formation and operation of such entities. Ijaz was the only officer and director of the Ijaz Group. Ijaz transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars borrowed by the Ijaz Group from plaintiff (the bank) to himself. Ijaz considered the Ijaz Group’s credit line his personal line of credit,” it said.

BSI’s lawyers Herzfeld and Rubin PC, also alleged that “Ijaz used the lines of credit plaintiff had extended to Ijaz Group and Aquarius for his personal needs, including payment of mortgages and brokerage account fees and used said lines of credit after his personal line of credit had reached its final limit.” Challenging Mansoor Ijaz’s extensive description of his business, BSI’s lawyers told the New York state court that “Ijaz was the only shareholder, officer and director of Aquarius. Aquarius never entered into any contracts nor did it have any employees. Aquarius never filed tax returns.”

The charge that most hurt Mansoor Ijaz’s credibility was that “Ijaz used control and domination over the Ijaz Group and Aquarius to (1) commit fraud and (2) to breach his legal duty and the legal duty of the controlled corporations to repay all monies due to the bank by such corporations.” The bank, located in the tax haven of San Marino in Europe, said that Mansoor Ijaz’s representation to the bank was “false, wilful, fraudulent and intended for BSI to rely on it.”

Judge Charles Ramos ordered in favour of the plaintiffs after the parties “agreed to entry of judgement in favour of plaintiff” and ordered Mansoor Ijaz to pay $1,474,000 to BSI whose address is Via Consiglio Dei Sessanta n99, Dogana, Republic of San Marino. Interestingly, the address of Mansoor Ijaz’s companies is the same as his residential address in the United States, 100 United Nations Plaza, New York. Ijaz’s ex-wife and daughter currently reside at that address.

In the course of negotiating the loans in 2008, Mansoor Ijaz had laid out grand plans for the investments of The Ijaz Group and Aquarius, which by 2010 had proved to be non-starters. In an email to Antonio Perrini, CEO of BSI, dated March 10, 2008, Ijaz claimed, that he was in the process of launching a $50 million project called Aquarius Towers Las Vegas even though just two years later he had not even paid back the $1.4 million he owed to BSI.

In his email, Mansoor Ijaz wrote, “Definitive contracts to fund phase 1 of the project (USD 50 million) were signed in Las Vegas on February 20, 2008. The investor is a large Indian family that has real estate investments around the world, including over 40 apartment units in Las Vegas’ newest condominium towers, Dubai and India. The head of the family is an important political personality from the state where the family resides. My partner is the family representative. The investor’s funds are resident in Switzerland and we are presently going through the necessary due diligence phase with our bank.”

He also claimed that the Indian partner had signed contracts with Ijaz’s Eco-Drive Technologies. “The same investor, due to its close ties with Tata Motors in India, has chosen to invest $10 million in our planned launch of a company to develop the world’s most energy efficient power trains. Definitive contracts for this deal were signed on February 25, 2008 in Orange County, California.”

In the same email Ijaz included a message for the bank’s board of directors, asserting his supposed political clout. “No one could have foreseen the outcome of events that led from the positive outlook on which Perrini made his decisions to lend to us to the negative circumstances we are presently facing,” he wrote. “My representations to Perrini were accurate at the time they were made, but intervening events changed these representations — in some cases dramatically so. Much hard work has gone into correcting the situation, above all to protect my political reputation and future role in American politics.”

According to the attorney for Banca Sammarinese di Investimento (BSI) Peter Kurshan, Mansoor Ijaz has not yet paid the $1.47 million awarded by the court. The bank is now about to start collection enforcement proceedings though Ijaz has no assets in New York except his flat. Several other creditors also have liens against Mansoor Ijaz. Citibank also has a judgment against him for a relatively small amount of $16,021. Aurora Loan Services also filed a motion in New York Supreme court for an unidentified amount in 2007.

In 2002, Ijaz had similar financial difficulties: American Express Travel Services had sued him for $166,880. After New York Supreme Court decided in the favour of the creditor, Ijaz subsequently paid off his debt and a Civil Judgment Release was filed as an acknowledgment by American Express Travel Services that it had been paid. But this lien still shows up in public records. Bank of New York also got a judgement from the New York Supreme Court against Mansoor Ijaz in 2002 to recover $58,698 but no release was filed, implying there may have been no payment.

On 29th April 1997, the Washington Post published an article by David B Ottaway titled ‘Democratic Fund-Raiser Pursues Agenda on Sudan,’ which spoke of Mansoor Ijaz touting his political connections and covert role as intermediary between the US and a foreign government. “Ijaz, who displays photographs in his New York office of himself with Clinton and Gore, acknowledged during six hours of interviews the leverage his fund-raising provided in gaining ‘political prominence’ in Washington for the advancement of his causes,” said the article. It quoted Mansoor Ijaz as saying, “Everybody knows who I am,” adding “Ijaz also acknowledged his commercial interests in effecting reconciliation between the United States and Sudan. As chairman of Crescent Investment Management, a New York firm that he said handles a $2.7 billion investment portfolio — much of it on behalf of Middle East governments — Ijaz said he is particularly interested in new oil field development. Sudan, with moderate reserves estimated at 3.5 billion barrels, is expected to become a petroleum exporter soon and Ijaz said he hopes to manage some of Khartoum’s foreign investment of oil profits.”

Crescent Investment Management does not appear to be active now and despite his much publicised claims about his role in backdoor diplomacy between the US and Sudan, the two countries did not come any closer. Mansoor Ijaz and his company did not emerge as major beneficiaries of Sudan’s oil business and it is not known if Crescent Investment underwent similar issues as Aquarius and The Ijaz Group in relation to their bank borrowings.

Questions about Mansoor Ijaz’s financial dealings in the aftermath of the BSI judgment in New York are part of many issues relating to his credibility that have surfaced since he became the principal figure in the memogate controversy in Pakistan. Last month, it was widely reported that Mansoor Ijaz had acted as commentator in a video titled ‘Junior Jack Stupidisco’ featuring nude women’s wrestling.

Saudi women banned from London Olympics

An international human-rights organization said Saudi Arabia has reversed its decision to allow women to participate in the London 2012 Olympics.

Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia, which announced three months ago it would permit women to participate in the Games, is now barring female athletes from joining the Saudi team, Bikya Masr reported Friday.

The organization said Saudi Arabia is violating the Olympic Charter by engaging in gender discrimination and called on the International Olympic Committee to bar Saudi Arabia from the Olympics unless it allows female athletes to participate.

"Human Rights Watch urges the International Olympic Committee to uphold the values of the Olympic Charter and condition Saudi Arabia's participation in the London 2012 Olympics on the country taking steps to end discrimination against women in sports," the group said in a statement.

Anita DeFrantz, the IOC's women's chair, said in 2010 the country could be banned from the Olympics if women are not allowed to be a part of the Saudi team.

Kabul gives soldiers with ties to Pakistan an ultimatum

daily times

In an effort to rid their army of Taliban infiltrators, Afghan officials have begun ordering soldiers with families in Pakistan to either move their relatives to Afghanistan or leave the military, the Washington Post reports.

Afghan defence officials told the newspaper that the policy was crafted in response to a recent spate of incidents in which soldiers who were secretly working for the Taliban carried out attacks against NATO or Afghan troops. According to the army’s counterintelligence findings, those men often have ties to insurgent havens in Pakistan. But the ultimatum could force painful choices for thousands of Afghan troops, and it is likely to stoke ethnic tensions just as the country’s leadership is seeking a negotiated end to the war, the Post said, adding that purging members of the military with family in Pakistan also has the potential to aggravate long-troubled relations between Afghanistan and its eastern neighbour.

The policy has not yet received final approval from the Defence Ministry, and Afghan officials are still weighing whether to apply it nationwide, even as implementation begins in some areas. Mere consideration of the policy reflects the depth of anxiety in Afghanistan – both among Afghan officials and Western powers – over sleeper agents within the military, according to the newspaper.

US officials have expressed concern about the Taliban’s ability to penetrate Afghan security forces but have not publicly proposed concrete remedies. Afghan commanders say that the connection between sleeper agents and time spent in Pakistan has been well documented and that there is consensus on the need to act.

“When they’re in Pakistan, they can be influenced and intimidated by the enemy,” said Lt Gen Sher Muhammad Karimi, the army chief of staff. “It’s a big concern, and it’s something we’re trying to change,” he told the Post.

According to the newspaper, Afghan counterintelligence officials have already compiled lists of soldiers with ties to Pakistan. In some parts of the country, such as the battle-scarred south, soldiers on the list have been told to move or leave the army. “We’ve told them, ‘If you can’t move your families, you’ll be kicked out’,” said Col Abdul Shokor, the top Afghan counterintelligence official in the Afghan army’s Kandahar-based 205th Corps. No deadline has yet been set for the families to move, he said. If the new rule is implemented nationally, it could affect several thousand soldiers, the Post said.

After an infiltrator’s attack last month on French troops north of Kabul, France announced its troops would depart a year earlier than expected. The assailant probably had a contact with the Taliban in Pakistan, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said.

Shortly after the incident, the Afghan Defence Ministry sent top Afghan military officials a memo titled “Keeping the Enemy Out of the Army”, the newspaper reported, adding that the memo highlighted the urgency of the infiltration problem and the need to make changes.

A report commissioned by the US military said at least 58 Western military personnel were killed in 26 attacks by Afghan soldiers or police between May 2007 and May 2011, when the report was finished.

In Kandahar alone, four rogue Afghan soldiers have killed three American and two Australian soldiers in the past year. Shokor said that in each of those cases, “upon investigation, we found a relationship with Pakistan”.

A senior Pentagon official played down the threat from Afghans with Pakistani relatives. “Our strong sense is that the insider threat isn’t an organised effort. Insurgents are probably to blame in some cases, but sometimes it’s simply disaffected members of the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces]. And it’s worth noting that instances of Afghan-on-Afghan violence inside the ANSF are more frequent than ANSF-on-NATO attacks,” the official told the Post on condition of anonymity.

Pashto poet, fiction writer Murad Shinwari passes away

PESHAWAR: Noted Pashto poet and short story writer Murad Shinwari passed away at 85 after protracted illness in Landikotal here Saturday.

He was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard the same day. Large number of people including poets, writers, tribal elders and political officials attend his Nimaze-Janaza. Murad Shinwari, the only son of Baba-e-Pashto ghazal Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, was one of the pioneers who introduced new trends to the modern Pashto poem. He was born in 1928 at Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency.

He was a year old when his mother died. He received his early education from Govt. High School No.1, Peshawar and passed middle standard examination from there.

Murad Shinwari took up a job with Rahat Zakheli a prominent Pashto writer as an assistant Editor 'Afghan' a representative newspaper of Pakhtuns at that time. During the same time, he wrote Palwashey a collection of short stories which unfortunately is not available in the market.

It bore him a wide appreciation and gave him a prestigious place as a fiction writer in the domain of Pashto literature. His thirst for further education took him once again to get employment in the Khyber Rifles as an instructor from where he was sent to Army School of Education, Murree.

There, he received the necessary army training and passed all the education corps examinations with distinction and was awarded the degree of B.T by the University of Punjab.

He did his master's in Pashto literature as a private candidate from University of Peshawar and received gold medal for his outstanding performance. He joined Pashto Academy in 1958 as Librarian but he also worked as lexicographer and translator there, the atmosphere of the academy was more suitable for his literary pursuits. Mohammad Wali Babar a resident of Nangarhar and newscaster of All India, Radio Peshawar was the main source of inspiration and a moving force, responsible for moulding the progressive ideas of Murad Shinwari. Babar introduced him to many literary giants of the time and would often bring him literary magazines, books and newspaper clippings carrying or having contents on progressive literature and trends.

It was during the same that Murad exhausted the Urdu classics, along with Saadat Hassan Manto, Krishan Chander and many other fiction writers.

At Pashto Academy, he exhibited his skill as an excellent translator, lexicographer, and editor of 40 rare manuscripts and compiler of dictionary. He translated the Merchant of Vince by Shakespeare, and The lady of Shallot by Alfred Tennyson in Pashto free verse.

In 1958 he compiled Da Khyber Adab -an anthology of 41 Pashto poets, the book contains critical commentary and a brief introduction of each poet.

After developing some differences with Maulana Abdul Qadir, the founder director of Pashto Academy, Murad Shinwari switched over to Radio Pakistan, Peshawar as a staff artist.

This was a major breakthrough in the world of Pashto literary criticism. It received a huge applause from all the literary circles. Da Khyber Adab is still considered a historical document, which is more often, consulted by research scholars.

The atmosphere of radio was also encouraging for displaying his literary talent. He wrote some memorable features like Hujra, Maraka highlighting social evils which continued for many years and he wrote also a few dramas, the record of which, unfortunately, has been lost. If Murad Shinwari could produce the copy of Quetta-based Pashto monthly magazine 'Pakhto' in which according to him Bara the firstever Pashto Azad nazm (free verse) was published, would acclaim Murad the pioneer of this genre in Pashto literature.

Even if that happens, still Murad did not consider himself a pioneer, but a revivalist of the genre because he thought; Pashto language had not borrowed Azad nazm from English, Urdu or French. "Because many of our own folk songs are in free verse" he used to argue. His other famous poems Daulat Kaka, Khyber, Tatara, Rahman Baba, Dost Mohammad Kamil, Hamza Baba, Khatir Afridi and Shaheed Ta Khitab are considered by critics as sublime, creative and reflective of the literary talent of Murad.

The literary stature of his legendary father could not eclipse his unique style and he emerged as an innovative poet, fiction writer, journalist, and critic. He plunged into the world of Pashto films; this was the beginning of the golden era of Pashto movies in early 70s.

He wrote dialogues, scenarios, and songs for more than hundred films including the hits Urbal, Bangree Au Hatkarrey, Juram Auo Saza, Naway Da Yawe Shpey, and Multan Khan Afridi. He even directed and added music to some of these films. He left it forever, it when some vested interests tried to present a distorted image of the Pakhtun's culture.

Murad Shinwari used to contribute his poetry and articles on different, social, political and literary magazines to Laar, Qand, Szuand, Pakhto, Ghuncha and Pashto newspapers Hiwad and Wahdat. He got retirement from Radio Pakistan, Peshawar in 1989. His maiden poetry collection 'Ayena' published a day before his death under auspices of Pak Amaraat Adabi Tolana is expected to gain widespread popularity among literary circles due to its unique way of expression.

USAID rehabilitates 130 schools in Malakand

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is committed to carry out developmental initiatives under its long term commitment and interventions in various sectors of militancy affected Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.

The agency had initiated different schemes for development of education, health, and infrastructure, and revival of tourism, fishery, hotel industry, said Paul Mc Dermott, USAID deputy director KP/FATA while briefing a group of media persons here at US consulate on Friday.

He informed that USAID had rehabilitated more than 130 educational institutions in six districts of province, including Swat, Buner, Upper and Lower Dir, Malakand and Shangla. He further added that around 24 schools would be rehabilitated by end of this year.

Dermott said that the agency has also extended financial assistance for construction of dams and recovery of agriculture and livelihood sectors badly affected in flash floods in the province.

He informed that about US $ 47 million funds had been provided for provision of better health facilities and instruments at different basic health units and hospitals.

The agency Deputy Director said that the health delivery system had upgraded in Malakand agency, saying that the USAID also extended funds for improvement of water and sanitation system in the province.

"We want Pakistan to succeed, to be more stable and have a more prosperous economy," he said.

Under the SME recovery program, he further informed that the agency had already spent US $ 0.8 million for revival of hotel industry and fishery sector in scenic valley of Swat.

"Our top priority is to revive agriculture, fishery, tourism, and hotel industry to recovery war-affected economy of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," he maintained.

He said the agency would also extend funds for hydel generation projects to meet the growing energy demand of the country.

To reply a query, Dermott said that the USAID has kept check on its funding agencies and assessment of overall activities to avoid corruption and maladministration in the funds. He said they had taken serious action against those who were involved in corruption.

He urged that media to highlight development work carried by USAID for the last decades in Pakistan under a long term commitment.

Regarding the FATA development programme, he said that the agency had initiated different schemes in infrastructure development and reconstruction and rehabilitation road network in tribal region.

He informed that about 215 kilometer long roads had reconstructed in different areas of Warizistan agency.

He further informed that the steps are being taken for revival of marble and gem stone sectors in tribal agencies. He said that USAID would launch a livelihood programme very shortly in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Conflict in FATA: Girls’ schools are still a casualty of war

The Express Tribune

If the first casualty of war is truth, the second is often women. Years of conflict in Fata have been no different. The systematic dismantling of educational opportunities for women has perhaps had more of a long-term impact than direct violence.

Gul Ghutai Rehman, 18, who lives in a small village in the Bajaur Agency bordering Afghanistan, certainly feels this way. Gul was denied a secondary education due to continuous threats to female schools from Tehreek-e-Taliban. She also complains that those women who did get an education have now fled.

“We, the illiterate women, have been left vulnerable and marginalised, not only by our men but also by women who, fortunately for them, got an opportunity to get a quality education, but prefer to serve in the cities instead of the tribal area,” she says.

“It was a terrible morning for us when almost 300 Taliban attacked three villages almost six months ago. They destroyed our schools before leaving the area with a message: absolutely no education for women is allowed.”

For Gul, the consequences are beyond just her own dreams being quashed. “My father is broad-minded and wanted me to become a good doctor who could serve the women of the town. We are still waiting for a lady doctor who could treat females in parda, but unfortunately 11 years of terrorism put an end to my education.”

Brigadier (retd) Mehmood Shah, who has also served as the government’s security secretary in Fata, echoed Gul’s words. His views, however, seem somewhat idealistic as Shah believes that all societies pass through an evolutionary process to transform from a tribal society to “individual economic interest-based groups” which then reform their own value systems.

Keeping mum about the Punjabi Taliban

The Express Tribune
By Khaled Ahmed

I was surprised a fortnight ago to receive a note from Lahore’s General Post Office saying I had imported a banned book which the Post Office had duly confiscated. The book was Punjabi Taliban by Mujahid Hussain (Pentagon Press, India, 2011) which is available in Pakistan too and advertised by a Karachi bookseller on the internet.

The terrorists are angry at the book. Punjab government has now joined them. The terrorists are scary enough — because the author, who now lives abroad, was once attacked by them. Some years ago, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah denied that south Punjab was a haven of the Punjabi Taliban. South Punjab contains 13 districts with a population of 27 million: Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Bhakkar, DG Khan, Jhang, Khanewal, Layyah, Lodhran, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, and Vehari.

Ex-editor Shireen Mazari who hails from DG Khan in south Punjab wrote in The News (April 29, 2009) “Why military action is not the answer” about the dominance of jihadi madrassas in DG Khan, significantly pointing to the “foreign funding” they were receiving: “In DG Khan, there are 185 registered madrassas of which 90 are Deobandi (with a total of 324 teachers), 84 are Barelvi (with a total of 212 teachers), six are Ahle Hadith (107 teachers) and five are Fiqh-e-Jafaria (10 teachers)”.

She continued: “Of the Deobandi madrassas, Jamia Ataul-Ulum, with 200 boarders and 20 day-students ranging from 5-25 years, and eight teachers, receives donations from Kuwait. Jamia Darul Rehmania offers education up to class eight and has 350 boarders plus 230 day-students and 28 teachers…The total number of Deobandi madrassa students in the DG Khan district is 11,535. Interestingly, in this category, it is the large madrassas… linked to the JUI… that receive foreign funding… almost solely from Kuwait”.

On 10 December 2009, a PPP MNA Jamshed Dasti from DG Khan challenged the claim made by the law minister that there were no terrorist havens in south Punjab and that Barelvi madrassas outnumbered the violent Deobandi ones. He said south Punjab was the main source of the Taliban-linked terrorists and that DG Khan was in the grip of violence encouraged by the state itself. He said the hills of DG Khan were still the training grounds for jihadis patronised by the state.

Bahawalpur division is dominated by the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Sipah-e-Sahaba. The other two forces in the territory, the feudals and the state, have developed a modus vivendi with them, the latter frequently acting as a bodyguard threatening anyone trying to investigate their activities. The districts have supplied nearly 5,000 warriors to the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan, Waziristan and Swat.

Leader of the Jaish-e-Muhammad Masood Azhar was running a training camp of warriors in Cholistan, receiving financial aid from al Qaeda, also protected by the deep state. Thousands of Jaish militants were living in Bahawalpur where Masood Azhar too secretly resided. He frequently visited the Taliban and al Qaeda leaders on the Afghan border. Malik Ishaq, once in jail for killing dozens of people, belongs to Rahim Yar Khan and is leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He used to rule the territory from jail, even talking from prison to the political leaders of Punjab. The case against him was wrecked after witnesses against him got killed and the living ones resiled.

The mastermind of the Mumbai attack Hamid Amin belonged to Rahim Yar Khan. In Bahawalpur, thousands have gone to join the war in the Tribal Areas from Madrassa Usman-o-Ali established by Masood Azhar.

Former governor Salmaan Taseer’s son was kidnapped from Lahore allegedly by Punjabi Taliban and taken to North Waziristan and is being reportedly kept — right in front of the Haqqani camp — by them and their Uzbek cohorts.

Published in The Express Tribune

Afghanistan's toxic cocktail of drugs, graft, mafia

It's below freezing, but the Afghan lies rigid in the snow of Kabul. He doesn't move. His arms and legs are bare. He has overdosed on heroin. He only lives to see another day because of a charity.

"Every night I feel I'm going to die. I sleep in the cold. I suffer," said Zaman, whose clear blue eyes stand out from his bony, filthy face as he stands shivering in the snow near the fallen addict.

"After taking heroin, I feel good. It doesn't take away the pain, but it reduces it. It's like medicine. I'm ill."

He was a policeman in southern Helmand province, a Taliban flashpoint, when he got hooked on opium. From there, it was a quick descent into heroin and after three years in Iran, he's back in Kabul "where drugs are easier to find".

A team from international charity Doctors of the World revive the man lying in the snow, but have no choice but to leave him to fend for himself down by Pul-i-Sokhta bridge, where the heroin addicts flock in their hundreds.

"Every morning we find one or two bodies," says Abdul Raheem from the charity. The pitiful state of the men seen and questioned by AFP leaves little doubt about their inability to survive through several such harsh winters.

Between 2005 and 2009, the number of Afghan heroin addicts tripled to 150,000, according to the United Nations, with 230,000 people now using opium.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Afghanistan to make fighting drug trafficking a priority, as opium harvests soared last year by 61 percent and ministries are at loggerheads over how best to contain the crisis.

The top drugs official at the health ministry openly accuses the counter-narcotics ministry of corruption, while the counter-narcotics ministry accuses of the health ministry of failing to appreciate the bigger picture.

Trapped in the middle is Doctors of the World, which in 2010 started a pilot methadone programme for 200 patients, only for the counter-narcotics ministry to block it six months later.

Still responsible for 71 patients, the charity now has to fight on a daily basis just to get permission to import methadone.

"A lot of research has been done in Afghanistan. There are no reasons why they should refuse, apart from the linkage between the drug mafia and the ministry for counter-narcotics," said health ministry official Sayed Habib.

In an interview with AFP, he said that the illegal drug trade is worth $3.5 million a day in Kabul alone.

"If we distribute methadone for free, there won't be any need for heroin and the market in Afghanistan will collapse," he said.

Organised criminals "are ready to do anything" to stop this happening and buy off the Afghan authorities responsible for the war against drug production and trafficking, suggests Habib, offering to provide tape-recorded evidence.

But Abdul Qayyum Samer, spokesman for the counter-narcotics ministry, hit back: "There is no evidence of such a claim."

Afghanistan grows about 90 percent of the world's opium, says the UN drugs and crime office UNODC. It estimates that export earnings last year from Afghan opiates were worth $2.4 billion -- equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP.

Those who fled abroad to escape war, poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan are particularly vulnerable to drug abuse and becoming addicts, said UNODC Doctor Mohammad Raza.

UNODC says the answer is more and varied drug treatments, in which methadone should be part of a package available for drug users.

But the health ministry official insists methadone is the best way to treat addicts, particularly intravenous users with HIV now his biggest concern.

"By stopping drug use, you stop HIV transmission in our community. It's the most important issue for us," said Habib.

Last year, 636 HIV positive people were registered from around the country. This year, the number has doubled to about 1,200, he said.

"Those are only people registered. We expect to have more than 5,000 HIV positive people, who will not come to our health facilities because of discrimination and they will spread HIV," he said.

Doctors of the World said it was pleased with the methadone programme.

"What is great," said Ernst Wisse, one of those running the programme "is to see them arriving in a terrible state at the centre and then several days later, they're already playing volleyball!"

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, confronted with Pakistani officials in tough tone, reports say.

Extremism in Afghanistan, Pakistan is Major Threat to Region.

Growing extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is endangering the region, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told students at the National Defence University of Pakistan on Friday night, his office said in a statement.

In his address, Mr Karzai stressed that the two countries should co-operate to fight terrorism together to bring stability to the region.

"Extremism is growing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly [along] the two sides of the border," Mr Karzai told the assembled students. "It endangers the region and the two countries."

He said that a well-educated youth was vital in tackling extremism.

Mr Karzai added that despite some achievements, there are still obstacles and problems ahead that the two countries must address. He said it was necessary for the two countries to put their misunderstandings behind them and move forward.

"It's the two countries' duty to get rid of misunderstandings. Afghanistan should not be afraid of Pakistan, and Pakistan should not be afraid of Afghanistan," President Karzai said.

The president said business and trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan have vastly improved. He also said that the leaders' visits to each other's country had increased in frequency, another sign of improved relations.

Expanding trade and transportation links are vital to strengthening relations between the two countries, he added.

For a stable Pakistan, an educated Afghanistan with a strong economy and army is important, the president added.

President Karzai was in Pakistan for a trilateral meeting with Pakistan and Iran. He also held discussions with senior Pakistani civilian and military leaders. He also met the leader of Pakistan's Muslim League Party, Nawaz Sharif.

Hina Rabbani Khar: Strange ‘diplomacy’


All the efforts of the trilateral summit for mutual cooperation appear to have soured because of the inherent sharp differences between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Iran can take away from the summit the satisfaction of President Zardari’s assurance that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against Iran and will pursue its relationship with Tehran irrespective of US or other external pressures, President Karzai must be scratching his head after Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s extraordinary press conference. For a start, the language Ms Khar used for President Karzai’s request to bring Kabul and the Afghan Taliban together hardly qualifies as ‘diplomatic’. “Ridiculous”, “preposterous” and “unrealistic” are ‘new’ ways to address the concerns of a visiting head of state, no matter how unpalatable to us. Ms Khar’s approach raises questions about her brief, which appeared contradictory to the apparent atmosphere of friendship and bonhomie amongst the three heads of state and which was reflected in the final communiqué.

One explanation for the unprecedented pique underlying Ms Khar’s diatribe may lie in the reports that Karzai and COAS General Kayani’s and ISI chief General Pasha’s interaction was full of sound and fury. Did the worthy foreign minister feel compelled in the light of this exchange to reiterate forcefully the views of the Pakistani military? Even more serious, how is the demand that Pakistan facilitate contacts with the Afghan Taliban and their leader Mullah Omar ‘preposterous’? Is this not the thrust of the halting peace process seeking an end to hostilities in Afghanistan? Is this not also what the US had been demanding from Pakistan before tiring of its prevarication and embarking on a unilateral effort to talk to the Taliban? Does Ms Khar seriously expect the world to swallow the obvious playing with the truth that the Afghan Taliban are based on and enjoy safe havens on Pakistani soil? Not only that, they enjoy the backing of the Pakistani military establishment as proxies? Even President Zardari tried a feeble defence of the military by denying any links with the Afghan insurgents, repeating the foreign office mantra that such links are by now ‘history’. The fact of the matter is that the civilian government has considered discretion the better part of valour since it came to power and surrendered Afghan policy to the military. That is why the expressions of solidarity and cooperation in the summit communiqué, at least as far as Pak-Afghan relations are concerned, can only be treated with scepticism.

Ms Khar, in answer to a question at her press conference, made no effort to paper over what appear to have been acrimonious exchanges between the Pakistani and Afghan sides. In fact she justified the atmospherics by saying both sides needed “hard talks”. With due respect, what is on offer from Islamabad is less ‘hard talk’ and more ‘hard policy’. Ms Khar and her government seem to be playing to the tune of the military establishment’s obsession with India and the inroads it has made by projecting ‘soft’ power in Afghanistan. That has allowed New Delhi to re-establish the historical friendship with Kabul, a development that has hardened the Pakistani GHQ’s approach to supporting Taliban proxies to control Afghanistan.

So long as the Pakistani military’s policy on proxy control of Afghanistan is adhered to, there appears no early end to the ongoing war in our neighbouring country. Even post-withdrawal of US/NATO forces from the theatre, a new or continuing civil war in Afghanistan looms, the effects of which will inevitably spill over into Pakistan and render all the good wishes for peace, stability and progress for the region a non-starter.

PIC scam: Commission visits Efroze pharma

The investigation commission regarding spurious drugs issue visited Efroz pharmaceutical company.The investigation commission visited Efroz pharmacetical company in Korangi that manufactured Isotab pills. The commission recorded statements of some company employees to investigate the issue.
The change in formula of the pills claimed several lives of cardiac patients at Punjab.