Saturday, May 5, 2012
http://www.cbsnews.comPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's support in Iran's parliament crumbled as final results released Saturday showed conservative rivals consolidating their hold on the legislative body in a runoff vote. Iran has touted a robust turnout for Friday's vote as a show of support for the country's religious leadership in its confrontation with the West over the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program. The result is also a new humiliation for Ahmadinejad, whose political decline started last year with his bold but failed challenge of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the choice of intelligence chief. While usually in agreement with the conservatives on foreign policy and many other issues, he had tried to change the rules of the political game in Iran, where the president and legislature are subordinate to religious figures like Khamenei. Ahmadinejad's opponents had already won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in the first round of voting in March. Of 65 seats up for grabs in Friday's runoff election, Ahmadinejad's opponents won 41 while the president's supporters got only 13 seats. Independents won 11, according to final results reported Saturday by state media. There were no claims of irregularities — which touched off the huge protests in 2009 after accusations the results were rigged. But the ruling system vets the candidates in advance which eliminates the harshest critics. Iran's major reformist parties, which oppose both Ahmadinejad and the conservatives, mostly did not field candidates. The president's supporters had their best showing in the capital Tehran. Ahmadinejad's conservatives critics won 16 seats while his supporters took nine. The new parliament will begin its sessions in late May. It has no direct control over key foreign and security policy matters like Iran's nuclear program, but it can influence those issues and economic policies as well as the run-up to the election of Ahmadinejad's successor. Ahmadinejad is constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive four-year term. The results suggest Ahmadinejad will face a more belligerent parliament in the remaining time of his second four-year term in office that ends August 2013. His allies are likely to be ousted from key posts, and his plan to cut economic subsidies challenged. No final figures were released, but Iran's media has claimed that the turnout Saturday matched that of the initial round of voting on March 2, when 64 percent of voters reportedly cast ballots. "Mass turnout in runoff parliamentary elections," declared a front-page headline in the government-run Iran Daily. Iranian leaders have showcased the high voter turnout as a sign of trust in the clerical-led system and rejection of Western pressure over the nuclear issue. The West suspects Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and is demanding that Iran stop uranium enrichment. Iran has refused, saying its program is aimed at power generation and cancer treatment. "The vote is support for the ruling system as it faces the U.S. and its allies over the nuclear program ... The vote also means that tensions will increase between Ahmadinejad and his opponents in the incoming parliament," political analyst Ali Reza Khamesian said. Khamesian said Ahmadinejad was gradually fading from Iran's political scene but could still stir up conflict with parliament. "Ahmadinejad is the losing party. So, he will try to create tensions in the hope of getting concessions," he said. The outgoing parliament and Ahmadinejad are at loggerheads over how quickly to slash food and energy subsidies. The president favors dramatic cuts to boost Iran's ailing economy by reducing the massive drain on the state budget from the subsidies. The government implemented a first phase of slashing subsidies in December 2010. Gasoline prices quadrupled and bread prices tripled after the cuts came into effect. Prices have also increased in recent months, partly as a result of sanctions over Iran's nuclear program, as well as news that the government is considering ending subsidies altogether. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, one of Ahmadinejad's opponents, said the parliament won't allow him to quickly end the remaining subsidies because it would cause wild inflation and public dissatisfaction.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers on Saturday clashed with the security guards of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif during his visit here. The clash broke out when police stopped local MNA Abid Sher Ali from boarding a newly opened CNG bus. Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah were already present in the bus. Angry PML-N workers stood in front of the bus in protest against stopping Abid Sher Ali from riding the bus. However, as the situation became tense, the chief minister left the bus. Earlier, Shahbaz reached Faisalabad to open a new CNG bus service in the city.
Daily TimesCoalition partners of the PPP said the PML-N’s announcement of holding a long march was an “irresponsible decision” in the present political situation. Speaking to the media, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said on Saturday PML-N President Nawaz Sharif should get rid of his confusion about the politics of long march and avoid destabilising the democratic process. He said Nawaz Sharif should wait for the detailed judgement of the Supreme Court in the contempt of court case against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. MQM leader Haidar Abbas also said the prime minister still had the right to appeal in the case. Rizvi told a private news channel that democracy gave every political party the right to protest to highlight its stance, but responsibilities should be taken into consideration and assembly sessions should not be halted. Slamming the PML-N’s decision of holding a long march, the ANP’s Afrasiab Khattak told a news channel that if any party was considering a change in the country, it should be brought through a democratic and constitutional way.
latimes.comBy Amina Khan, Los Angeles Time
Mike Hapgood, who studies solar events, says the world isn't prepared for a truly damaging storm. And one could happen soon.
http://rt.comBahraini authorities have arrested Nabeel Rajab, the rights activist and foremost critic of the Al Khalifa regime. It comes as the country’s military continues its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was detained at Bahrain’s international airport on his return from Lebanon. The authorities have not commented on the reasons behind the arrest. Rajab has played a significant role in anti-regime demonstrations over the past months. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has been focused on attracting attention to the crackdowns on demonstrators and abuses by Bahraini security forces. Rajab also was affiliated with international groups such as Human Rights Watch. For fourteen months Al Khalifa forces have been using stun grenades, tear-gas and pepper-spray on protesters, though this was not enough to draw the attention of Western media. It only came into the spotlight because of the protests surrounding the prestigious F1 Grand Prix event. To say the least, the events in Bahrain have received way less coverage than other Arab protests. Some point out the main reason for this is that the country hosts the US Fifth Fleet. On Tuesday RT will broadcast Julian Assange’s show “The World Tomorrow” featuring Nabeel Rajab. Strikingly, the activist told Assange he has already been detained, kidnapped and beaten due to his sharp criticism of the regime. “I was just detained for almost half a day and then before that I was beaten up in the street. A few months ago, I was kidnapped from my home by masked security persons and taken to an unknown place. After being blindfolded and handcuffed I was tortured, then I was thrown back home,” he told RT earlier this week. The program was recorded last week. During the interview Rajab said that on the same day he announced his intention to appear on RT his house was surrounded by almost 100 policemen armed with machine guns – but luckily he was not there. One of Rajab’s aims is to attract international attention to the situation in Bahrain. “This is something the whole world has to speak out [about] and to condemn what happened, but we've seen the invasion of Saudis to my country with complete silence. The same governments [were] sending troops to Libya to fight the regime and now they are against the Syrian Assad. But when it comes to Bahrain they were [keeping] complete silence,” he told Assange. The activist has criticized the US many times for arming the Bahrain authorities and turning a blind eye on the violence. “They [the US] want Bahrain stable as the Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. They want Bahrain to be very quiet and stable,” he said. All the more outrageous then, Rajab says, that the US is assuring everyone that the situation in Bahrain is improving. “America’s representative in the Human Rights Council is saying 'We will not talk about Bahrain this session because Bahrain is improving itself and it is doing better' when people are dying on a daily basis.” The anti-regime protests in Bahrain began in February 2011. Official reports say around 85 civilians have been killed during the 14 months of the crackdown, but activists claim that the figure exceeds this number many times.
http://www.bostonherald.comPresident Barack Obama says his goal of defeating al-Qaida is within reach and that it’s time to turn the country’s attention to domestic concerns. Just four days after his trip to Afghanistan, Obama said that money saved from ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should help pay down the national debt and go to health care, education and infrastructure."After more than a decade of war, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home," he said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. The president took note of the agreement he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday that shifts security to the Afghan people. He reminded the American public, once again, of the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago. But he said the nation now should concentrate on economic issues such as tax disparities and government spending. Without mentioning Republicans, he cast the GOP view as one that promotes more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting spending "that built a strong middle class." "That’s why I’ve called on Congress to take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt and use the other half to rebuild America," he said. The partisan subtext of the address was clear. Obama is portraying Republicans as the party of the wealthy as he seeks to demonstrate action in the face of a slow economic recovery. The address came as he went out on his first official campaign trip Saturday, visiting college campuses in Ohio and Virginia. In the Republican address, Sen. Bob Corker accused the administration and the Senate’s Democratic leadership of fiscal mismanagement, saying they have put off difficult decisions that would tame government spending. "The president punts on almost every tough decision," Corker said. The Senate’s failure to adopt a budget has helped create an atmosphere of uncertainty that is hurting businesses and impeding job creation, the Tennessee Republican said. He called for an overhaul of the tax code that eliminates most of the $1.2 trillion in loopholes and tax breaks, and lowers rates and broadens the tax base.
onlinenews.com.pkThe Representative Lawyers Organizations rejected the standpoint of Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) in the premier’s resignation. Talking to the media Pakistan Bar’s vice-chairman Akhtar Hussain said that the stance of PML-N was delusive on the Supreme Court’s verdict against Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. He is the constitutional prime minister of the country, he added. He said that the president with consultation of the prime minister can appoint add hoc judges in the Supreme Court. It may create a deadlock between judiciary and executive if these appointments are made in the apex court. He further said that the Pakistan Bar Council opposes the appointments of add hoc judges in the Supreme Court, terming it contrary to the independency of judiciary. If the prime minister appeals in Supreme Court, the eight-member bench would conduct his hearing and there is no need of appointing adds hoc judges. All the institutions should function in its bounds, he said. Chairman legal advisory committee of the Pakistan Bar Council, Ramzan Chaudhary on the occasion said that ‘until a detailed decision does not come from the apex court, the premier’s appeal is not expelled as well as his disqualification process according to the constitution is not determined. Gilani is the prime minister of the country and it will be unconstitutional to demand for his resignation, he asserted.
Editorial:THE FRONTIER POSTIs that repulsive era of the 1990s staging its loathsome comeback, when the PPP and the PML (N) were perpetually at loggerheads like two sworn enemies to the great consternation and revulsion of the masses? Evidently, yes, it is. Like then, both are flying at each other's throat rashly and recklessly, with no-holds-barred. Wildly are they trading accusations of sleaze and corruption. Point-scoring of every sort is at its peak. Stridency is being matched with stridency equally. Notorious witch-hunts of yore too seemingly are not far off. Worse, the filthy shows of rowdyism and scuffles on the parliamentary floors have ensued. More worryingly, street agitation against each other is being planned by both that could potentially plunge the country into chaos and turmoil. And this is what the nation can least afford at this point in time. By every consideration, the country is in far worse condition in every manner than what it was in the 1990s. Then, at least it was not so direly placed economically. Nor was it so challengingly positioned internationally. It was not in the vortex of alien conspiracies either to harm it so viciously as is it now. Furthermore, its national cohesion, solidarity and stability were not so tattered as are they now. Nor was it then being battered woefully by stalking terrorism, militancy or low-intensity insurgency as now. The country was for the most part at peace, which at present it is not so visibly. A confrontation between the two could thus hurt the nation and the country irreparably. And the worst victims will again be none else but the masses whose woes and problems would now go doubly unaddressed and unattended. There indeed is no cause for the two to get into a brawl. The prime minister's continued incumbency is certainly problematic. Had he laid down the baton after his court conviction for contempt, he would have gained morally. But he has a legitimate right to legal remedies, which the PML (N) should not grudge him. It should let him exercise that right and wait for the outcome. By trying to force him out with street action, the PML (N) is in effect going after setting a precedent which could potentially boomerang on it some day. In any case, this country is no wrestling ring of the PPP and the PML (N) to test their muscle powers nor is it their personal property. It belongs to its 180 million people who actually own it and want it to be run exclusively for their wellbeing and betterment. It was with abhorrence that they viewed their self-centred political fracas when they were battling like two fighting cocks all through the 1990s for political supremacy and one-upmanship. And, again, they are looking with disdain at their antics to do down each other. The media or civil society may be partisans, but the people certainly are no part of their fracas or confrontation. Too overwhelmed as they are by the untold grief both have inflicted on them in their respective domains, the people have no heart whatsoever to be on the either's side. Both may rent crowds for their marches and rallies, but the real people's participation definitely will not be there. So, even now both may do well to give way to sanity, sobriety and sense, and pull back. If for their madness and stupidity, the country does hit a rock, which in all probability it would, the nation will never forgive them. And both will stand condemned in the eye of the posterity for good. Their cheerleaders in the media, civil society and chattering classes also must take rest. The enterprise they are so blindly embarked upon is too dangerous. They too must understand this. The baneful consequences of the confrontations of the PPP and the PML (N) of the 1990s still haunt this nation one way or the other. They all must bear this in mind.
The Express TribuneThe far-flung hamlets across the Swat River are in dire need of bridges to connect them with the rest of the valley. While lower Swat has somewhat recovered from the havoc wrecked by the 2010 floods, the upper parts of the valley seem to be awaiting a miracle for restoration of lost infrastructure. The floods washed away more than 45 major bridges in addition to hundreds of small ones, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded. Although a few makeshift bridges and cable cars have been installed, most hamlets remain cut off from the rest of the world. “We have knocked at every door seeking help in installing a bridge to our hamlet but all our requests fell on deaf ears,” said Gul Nabi, who belongs to a remote village in Mankyal valley. Due to absence of a bridge, he has to cover a distance of 10 kilometres to get things of daily use. At many places, local businessmen have installed manually-run cable cars to cross the Swat River. These rides have their own risks, with almost no safety measures. “The cable cars have solved our problem to a great extent but the ride is certainly unsafe and many people have fallen in the river in darkness,” said Attaur Rehman, a resident of Kalam. In addition, manual operation doesn’t allow cable cars to be used for transportation of goods, which specially affects rural women. Zareena, 55, said, “The biggest problem is taking goods to the other side of the river. I have no men at home so I have to ask other people for help. “If there was a bridge instead, it would be much easier for people to conduct their businesses and I wouldn’t be dependent on others.” Moreover, the unreliability of cable cars poses a serious risk in dealing with an emergency situation. “Every time an emergency occurs it feels as if we are dealing with a disaster. Taking patients on the cable car isn’t possible and we have to take a four-hour route to get to the other side of the river,” said Subhan Ali, a resident of a village near Kalam. The people also appealed to the non-governmental organisations working in the area to provide assistance in installing small bridges to bring an end to their miseries.
The Express TribuneThe Punjab government has decided to sue Dunya News anchor Mubashir Lucman over his programme on the provincial government’s laptop distribution scheme. According to an official handout, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif have asked the Special Assistant on Education to Punjab chief minister Zaeem Qadri, to send a legal notice to Lucman. The legal notice was sent for damages of Rs1 billion to Lucman for leveling allegations in a programme against the scheme without any proof. Qadri said that Lucman had levelled baseless, unfounded and misleading allegations against the transparent procedure of the distribution programme, and did not bother to take the Punjab government’s point of view, which he said was against journalistic values.
The lawyers have dismissed the demand of PML-N to sack PM Gilani from his post. Addressing media after a session in Lahore, vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Akhtar Hussain said that Gilani still enjoys the position under the constitution.He said appointment of adhoc judges in Supreme Court is in contrast to the freedom of judiciary.Akhtar Hussain further explained that the appointment of adhoc judges in Supreme Court can only be made after a consultation with Prime Ministerthe and approval of president. The vice chairman Akhtar Hussian said that an eight-member bench can hear the case if PM Gilani appeals in court against the verdict.