Thursday, April 26, 2012

France election: Hollande and Sarkozy questioned on TV

The two candidates in France's presidential run-off have appeared on television, 10 days before the vote. Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist challenger Francois Hollande took turns answering reporters' questions, many of which focused on economic issues. Mr Hollande, who won most most votes in last Sunday's first round, polling more than 28%, said France needed "growth", not more austerity. Mr Sarkozy - who scored 27% - stressed the need to restore public finances. "You don't think growth is achieved by spending freely," Mr Sarkozy said.He promised to bring France's large budget deficit down of 3% of GDP by next year, and to eliminate it by 2016. Mr Hollande, for his part, said: "There can be no return to balance without growth." He also called for "Eurobonds" backed by all eurozone members to help indebted countries. About Germany's opposition to the idea he said: "(Chancellor Angela) Merkel will probably contest these demands - this will be a subject for negotiation. "It's not Germany that's going to decide for all of Europe." Mr Hollande and Mr Sarkozy answered questions on a range of issues, including education, housing, policing, and immigration. Unemployment woes The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says it has not been a particularly good day for Mr Sarkozy. New figures put unemployment at almost, 2.9m - the 11th consecutive monthly rise and the highest level since 1999. And in spite his overtures to voters supporters of far-right leader Marine le Pen - who came third with 18% of the vote in the first round - Mr Sarkozy remains eight to 10 points behind his challenger in opinion polls. The two are to face off each other in a direct televised debate next Wednesday. With Mr Hollande within touching distance of the presidency, a convincing performance will be crucial, our correspondent adds. Mr Sarkozy had accepted a proposal to hold three debate, but Mr Hollande refused to take part in more than one. Wages, pensions, taxation, and unemployment have been topping the list of voters' concerns. President Sarkozy has promised to tackle the budget deficit and tax people who leave the country for tax reasons. Mr Hollande has promised to raise taxes on big corporations and people earning more than 1m euros a year. He also wants to raise the minimum wage, hire 60,000 more teachers and lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers. If elected, Mr Hollande would be France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterrand, who completed two seven-year terms between 1981 and 1995. If Mr Sarkozy loses he will become the first president not to win a second term since Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1981.

Shabnam visits the city of lights

The Express Tribune
The star whose on-screen chemistry with Nadeem was probably the only thing to give youngsters their Mills & Boons fix back in the 60s, is back. Lollywood actor Shabnam, who is also referred to as the Queen of Lollywood, is visiting Pakistan with her music composer-husband Robin Ghosh. The way the media is chasing the duo is testimony enough to the fact that time has not been able to corrode their popularity in Pakistan. The couple shot to fame as they gave hit after hit back in the days when film and television were the prime source of entertainment. Shabnam’s trip, which has been sponsored by state-run television network PTV, came as a pleasant surprise to her fans who had lost all hope of her return to Pakistan. Nonetheless, she is here to attend an event being held in her honour by PTV in Lahore. On her way to Lahore the actor also planned a short trip to Karachi. During her brief two-day stay, the starlet made sure she paid a visit to the ailing comedian Lehri, visited the Governor House and met actor Garaj Babu. A friendly reunion Shabnam visited Lehri at his residence that is secretly tucked away in the residential area near National Institute of Public Administration (Nipa). The veteran claimed with a nostalgic tone, “This meeting is like a flashback for me. Lehri’s face reminds me of all the good times we spent together and I thank Allah for fulfilling my wish of meeting him.” The actor reminisced the good old days that marked the boom of Lollywood and shared how Lehri turned her shooting experiences into memories. “Lehri saab was a very serious person but he still used to crack jokes and bring comedic lightness on to the sets.” Shabnam consoled the frail-looking comedian, who complained about his depreciating health and about his unfavourable state of living and said she’d take his matter to the Governor’s house. “Lehri is a dear friend and I pray sincerely for his fast recuperation. He should not lose hope so easily.” The visit to The Governor House During her meeting with the Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad and while talking to the press within the premises of the Governor House she said, “I feel really happy after talking to the Governor. He expressed his desire to see collaborations between Pakistan and Bangladesh on the grounds of film-making.” While talking about political and social affiliations with Bangladesh, the Pakistani media quoted the irony that the Bangladesh Cricket Team has been stopped from coming to Pakistan but the duo was given a green signal. To which Ghosh replied, “We believe in the decision making capabilities of the court. The court’s decision must have been in the team’s best interest.” Pakistan then and now When asked if the couple felt secure in Pakistan Shabnam stated, “We came here and saw that things are very normal here. Everything is working in sync and I must say the media has grown tremendously since I last came to Pakistan 14 years ago.” Shabnam also added that she “can’t believe this is the same country. If truth be told, for a second I thought I was in some foreign country.” The actor said that it’s sad that Lollywood did not progress at the speed the rest of the Pakistan did. When asked if she’d ever consider coming back on the silver screen the star said, “I haven’t been offered yet but yes the revival of Lollywood should take place and I will try my best to contribute something to it.” Her husband Ghosh added, “I think other industries within Pakistan should come forward and help in the revival of Lollywood.” When asked if she is planning to meet Nadeem, the actor said that she in contact with her old friend and will meet him as soon as he gets time.

Rafiq Shinwari’s widow struggling to buy back her past

The 75-year old widow of the known Pashto singer, musician and composer Rafiq Shinwari is living a miserable life in almost a century-old house in Peshawar. In an interview, this correspondent found that Ashoora Bibi, who is suffering from tuberculosis (TB), skin disease and high blood pressure, had no money to pay her medical bills. The septuagenarian said she had a happy family life when her husband Rafiq Shinwari was alive. She said her husband served the government and private television channels and radio stations for 50 years and entertained the public but her fate was sealed when he died on January 3, 1991. “I was living like a queen of the family when Rafiq Shinwari was alive,” Ashoora Bibi remarked, hastening to add that she is now struggling to make both ends meet. The house where she is living with her son-in-law is located a few feet from the Sattar Shah Bacha Colony graveyard in Dabgari Gardens. Bed-ridden and too weak to work, Ashoora Bibi said she did not like to leave the Dabgari Gardens as her husband and two sons were buried at the nearby Sattar Shah Bacha graveyard. She said her two sons, Shafiq Shinwari and Ghulam Ali Shinwari died at a young age. “My younger son Ghulam Ali died three months before his father’s death while Shafiq Shinwari was killed in a car accident a few months after the death of his father,” she added. Ashoora Bibi said she used to go to the graveyard and kiss graves of her sons and husband on a daily basis for her satisfaction, but now she has become too weak to do that. Ashoora Bibi broke into tears when she was asked who was supporting her. She said her daughter Husna Shinwari and her husband Niamat Gul Shinwari were taking care of her after the death of Rafiq Shinwari. “No government official visited me after my husband’s death. Only my son-in-law is supporting me,” she said. In a corner of the house several national awards including the presidential award that Rafiq Shinwari received on August 12, 1985 from Gen Ziaul Haq were kept but all were covered in dust. “What will I do with these medals, certificates and awards?” she asked, adding that the government failed to help her after her husband passed away. She criticised the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for making tall claims of helping the artistes and said she made several applications to the chief minister and governor but no action was taken to assist her. She said she was counting her days and wanted to return the awards to the government before her death. Recollecting the memories of her life, Ashoora Bibi said she was living a happy life in Alam Khani village of Landikotal subdivision, Khyber Agency, about 50 years ago. She said later they moved to Peshawar as her husband used to go to radio stations and other functions in the city. To a question, she said her husband Rafiq Shinwari was a humble man and a caring husband and father. “He never exchanged harsh words with us or anyone else,” she recalled. “I sold my gold ornaments and other valuables for my medical treatment but I have nothing more to sell to buy medicines,” Ashoora Bibi said. Her son-in-law Niamat Gul Shinwari said he also struggled to get some compensation for his mother-in-law but to no avail. He said he had a tea stall but could not continue the business as he had to look after his mother-in-law. Rafiq Shinwari’s daughter Husna Shinwari, who has graduated from the University of Peshawar, said her father was a legend. “He wasn’t merely an artiste of Pashto music but played the role of an institution for Pashto singers and composers. My father polished the skills of singers like Khayal Muhammad who is now famous all over the world,” she opined. Rafiq Shinwari sang the first national song of Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, known as Hamza Baba, from Radio Pakistan Peshawar.During the 1965 war, Rafiq Shinwari sang patriotic songs. His efforts were appreciated by the authorities and he was awarded commendation certificates and prizes. Among others, he composed songs for the melody queen Noor Jehan, Shaukat Ali, Iqbal Bano and Nighat Seema.

No reason for PM to resign

The federal cabinet on Thursday decided to wait for the detailed verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) in Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's contempt of court case. It was decided that the case was of political nature and there was no justification for PM Gilani to resign on moral grounds. The prime minister who was found guilty in a contempt of court case, chaired the emergency meeting of the federal cabinet to review implications of the court verdict. The bench found him guilty in the contempt of court case for failing to act on its directives to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. During the meeting, Gilani thanked members of the federal cabinet for their support and said that it would not have been possible for him to perform his duties without it. He said that the complete verdict had not been given yet, adding that further details would be provided by the law minister. “Politics has lots of ups and downs. It has a lot of problems. It is a long way and a hard way,” said Gilani. He likened politics to a “horror movie” that only adults could watch and not the weak. He said that if one opts for this role (politics), then struggle and problems become a part of the role. “Working with coal will make your hands black too” he said. Federal Law Minister Farooq Naek and Attorney General Irfan Qadir briefed the cabinet. The ministers welcomed the premier with desk thumping. PM Gilani told cabinet members that he has never insulted the courts. Except Punjab's Shahbaz Sharif all the chief ministers of Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, provincial governors and PM Azad Kashmir participated in the meeting. The cabinet reiterated solidarity with the prime minister. The prime minister said speaker National Assembly has the authority to decide about the fate of public representatives. Hailing the support of coalition partners, the PM said the allies have backed the government in trying times.

Pakistan PM convicted of contempt, receives no jail time

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday found Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against the president, but gave him only a symbolic sentence of a few minutes' detention in the courtroom. It was unclear if the token sentence would defuse political uncertainty in Pakistan, where the president and prime minister have jousted with the military and judiciary. Despite the light sentence, Gilani could still come under pressure to quit. "For reasons to be recorded later, the prime minister is found guilty of contempt for willfully flouting the direction of the Supreme Court," said Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk. Gilani is the first serving prime minister in Pakistan's history to be convicted by a court, but his sentence - detention lasting just a few minutes until the session was adjourned - was symbolic. He could have faced up to six months in jail and the loss of office. "I think what they've done is taken it from the legal arena and chucked it into the political arena," said Cyril Almeida, a prominent columnist for the Dawn daily newspaper. He said opposition members of parliament now might move to expel Gilani from office. "There will be massive pressure from the opposition, the media, from civil society, saying 'He's been convicted for flouting the letter of the law and he should go home,'" Almeida said. "There will be a lot of pressure for him to resign." MONEY-LAUNDERING CASES A throng of supporters surrounded Gilani as he walked into the court in Islamabad, showering him with rose petals. Security was tight, with about 1,000 police officers standing by in riot gear and helicopters circling the Supreme Court building. Gilani's lawyers had said before the verdict that he would not automatically be disqualified from office if convicted, and at any rate he would be able to appeal against the verdict. The case stems from what many observers say is a political battle between the government and the military, which has held the whip hand in Pakistan's political arena for most of the country's 64 years of independence. Many say the army is using the court to keep the government on the back foot. Thousands of corruption cases were thrown out in 2007 by an amnesty law passed under former military president Pervez Musharraf, which paved the way for a return to civilian rule. Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that agreement illegal and ordered cases involving Swiss banks against President Asif Ali Zardari re-opened. Gilani and his government have refused to obey the court's order to write to Swiss authorities asking them to re-open money laundering cases against Zardari. The government argues that Zardari has immunity as the head of state. "This is a historic day. The court has declared a lawmaker a lawbreaker. This is weakening democracy in Pakistan," said Firdous Ashiq Awan, former information minister.