Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pakistan: Virtual judicial coup

The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) verdict on the petitions challenging the ruling of the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) that rejected the argument that Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani stood disqualified after being convicted and sentenced for contempt of court has pronounced that he does stand disqualified, not only from the premiership, but from membership of parliament as well. Not just that, the SC in its short order has laid down that he cannot stand for election for five years. To that end, the SC has sent instructions to the Election Commission (EC) to issue a notification to that effect. Meantime the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), which happened to be meeting when the verdict was announced, revealed its decisions on the crisis through a press conference by PPP leaders. The gist of the CEC’s decisions was that despite having reservations about the SC’s verdict, they had accepted the court’s finding that the conviction and sentencing till the rising of the court of Gilani for contempt on April 26 meant that he was no longer the PM, and with retrospective effect, had been removed on and since that date. The PPP has appealed to its workers and supporters to remain calm and restrained, despite the fact that the verdict is bound to inflame opinion in the PPP and allied camp. The CEC has empowered party Co-chairperson President Asif Ali Zardari to take whatever decisions he thinks fit regarding a replacement for Gilani. The intriguing question of course is whether the new PM will suffer the same pressure from the SC to write the letter to the Swiss authorities regarding President Asif Ali Zardari that the court was insisting on Gilani writing, and refusal to comply with which had attracted the contempt conviction for the former PM. In that case, the looming confrontation between state institutions, which began as a confrontation between the judiciary and the executive, could expand to now a confrontation between the judiciary and parliament as well. After all, the SC’s verdict overruling the Speaker of the NA too has set an unprecedented example, one that will reverberate in our jurisprudence for a long time to come. Questions have also been raised whether all the decisions and acts of the former PM since April 26 to date stand. The most important of these acts was the passing of the budget. It is possible that the detailed judgement may throw more light on this matter. Normally, courts are mindful that retrospective judgements should not disrupt things done and transactions closed to an extent that causes greater difficulties. Yousaf Raza Gilani was unanimously elected PM after the 2008 elections, arguably in the context of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in end 2007, a tragedy that led to widespread unrest and riots, especially in Sindh. The sympathy factor had a great deal to do with the results of the 2008 elections in which, despite garnering only a plurality, the PPP was the only party in a position to form a coalition government. The other factor that worked in favour of the consensus that surrounded Gilani’s election as PM was the relatively good relations at the time between the PPP and the main opposition party the PML-N. By 2009, those relations had already soured to the point where the coalition saw the departure of the PML-N and its open opposition to the seeming reluctance of the PPP to restore Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the deposed superior judiciary. Since then, the impression has been unmistakable that the SC has tilted more against the incumbent PPP than in any other direction, even resorting to picking and choosing which cases to hear on a priority or fast track basis. This has invited criticism of the judiciary for alleged bias. True or not, such criticism may well find a fresh lease of life after the SC, in an unprecedented verdict, has deposed a sitting PM. Such ‘treatment’ at the hands of the judiciary is likely to resurrect the party’s memory of past injustices at the hands of the judiciary, the most poignant example being the case of Z A Bhutto. This verdict will have legal as well as political implications. Whether our nascent democratic system will survive these fresh storms can only be left to the imagination at this point

Afghanistan:Students treated in latest Afghan fainting incident

More than 100 Afghan students, most of them girls, were treated in hospital on Tuesday following the latest in a series of mass fainting incidents in schools in the war-torn country, officials told AFP. The students, aged between nine and 17, felt weak and dizzy after smelling a strange odour at their high school in the central city of Bamyan, and many fainted, the head of the provincial hospital Mohammad Hamid Nazim told AFP. "There is no life-threatening case among the students -- most of them have been discharged from the hospital, and eight others are still being treated," Hamid said. The incident was confirmed by the deputy provincial governor of Bamyan, Mohammad Asif Mobalegh, who said 116 school children, most of them girls, fell ill. Hamid said he thought there were signs of poisoning, but he did not have the equipment needed to confirm this. Afghan officials regularly accuse Taliban insurgents, who banned schooling for girls while in power from 1996 to 2001, of poisoning school wells or using "gas" or "toxic powder" against the girls. None have died, however, and no traces of poison have been found in blood samples, officials say. Experts suggest that a phenomenon known as mass hysteria -- against a background of conflict -- could be behind the episodes.

Coalition partners entrust Zardari to nominate next PM

The Express Tribune
All coalition partners of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) met under the chairmanship of President Asif Ali Zardari and handed him the mandate to decide on a candidate for election as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Express News reported. The emergency meeting was called after the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani ineligible to hold office. Gilani will not be a member of parliament following the verdict, and his name was also removed from the Press Information Department website. “The Election Commission shall issue a notice of disqualification and the president is required to take necessary steps to ensure continuation of democratic process,” said Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The election commission subsequently issued a notification declaring Gilani’s membership of the National Assembly as null and void. The coalition partners said that since the previous Prime Minister belonged to the PPP, the next one too should be from the PPP. Disqualified Prime Minsiter Gilani too attended the meeting. Earlier, Express News reported that Senior PPP leader Ahmed Mukhtar said that he heard the party may be nominate him for the post of prime minister. “I’m not sure about the party’s decision but if the party considers me for the position of prime minister, I would duly serve the country,” he said.

Babar Awan criticizes PM's advisers

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Babar Awan said on Tuesday that the people responsible for advising Prime Minister Gilani to not appeal against the conviction in the contempt of court case would be soon unveiled, Geo News reported. He was speaking to the media after a case hearing outside the Islamabad High Court. Babar Awan said after the chief executive case ruling, no client would forget the lawyer who charged Rs100. He said that in this amount, it is only possible to purchase petrol to reach the Adiala Jail. He further said that it appears as if there would be a huge upset in the Supreme Court Bar elections this time around. The Senator added that he is more interested in advocacy rather than politics.

President Zardari cancels Russia visit to consult allies

The Pakistan People’s Party on Tuesday said that, though it has reservations on the Supreme Court’s ruling disqualifying Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister, it will announce its future strategy after consulting its coalition partners. “Though we have reservations about this judgement, we will take advice from the allied parties and legal experts and will then chalk out a strategy for the future,” PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters following a meeting of the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) held in at the Presidency. President Asif Ali Zardari has also cancelled his visit to Russia in a bid to contain the domestic crisis sparked by the apex court’s disqualification of his prime minister, said his spokesman. The president summoned coalition parties to meet later Tuesday to decide how to respond after holding emergency talks with leaders in his party. Zardari was due to attend the June 20-22 St Petersburg International Economic Forum but would now hold talks with coalition partners “to consider the situation (at home) and formulate a course of action,” his spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. No pardon for Gilani Senior PPP members appealed for calm as isolated protests were held around the country, in a sign that the party was perhaps most likely to decide on electing an alternative prime minister rather than contesting the court ruling. “The central executive committee has advised all party workers to remain calm and show patience and not to protest against the verdict,” Kaira told reporters after the emergency CEC meeting. Asked whether the PPP was considering a presidential pardon for Gilani, the information minister said “no such suggestion is under consideration”. PPP secretary general Jehangir Bader said the party executive committee had given Zardari “complete authority… to take any decisions after taking advice from the allied parties”.

Britain: 7mn working adults struggle to survive

A recent study has revealed that almost seven million adults of working age in Britain “face money woes” finding it difficult to feed themselves and their families. An Experian study for The Guardian has revealed that about 3.6 million households are not able to live on their income and are struggling to feed themselves because they have no assets or savings to fall back on. “What's shocking about this is that these are people who want to work and are working but who, despite putting their faith in the politicians' mantra, find themselves in another cul-de-sac. Recent welfare cuts and policy changes make it difficult to advise these people where they should turn to get out of it - it really is genuinely shocking”, said Frank Field, Britain’s former welfare minister. The research study revealed that 2.2 million children live in families which are financially struggling while one or both parents work in a low or middle-income job. “What is clear and this research shows, is that the existing system doesn't help those families who strive to do the right thing”, said a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions. This comes as the research only investigated those who fell outside the most deprived. Moreover, another study by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that long-term youth unemployment in Britain increased by 78 percent over the past decade.

Obama immigration shift a hit with voters

President Barack Obama's high-profile shift on immigration last week — announcing plans to grant temporary legal status to as many as 800,000 undocumented people brought to American soil as children — has the overwhelming support of likely voters in a new Bloomberg poll released Tuesday. Sixty-four percent of them — and 66% of independents, the frequently up-for-grabs voters thought to decide elections — support the president's decision. The White House has forcefully (and rather implausibly) denied that Obama sought political gain from his announcement. But as recently as March 2011, he had said publicly that he lacked the power to halt such deportations. The Bloomberg survey found that just 30 percent of likely voters disagreed with the president's plan. Fifty-six percent of likely Republican voters opposed it, while 86% of Democrats supported it. Just 26% of independents sided with the Republican majority in the poll. The results surely cheered Obama's reelection campaign, which has been working to reassemble the victorious coalition that powered his history-making 2008 win — but faces an uphill fight in the face of deep pessimism about the economy. The poll, which had an error margin of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, also showed that immigration was the top issue of just four percent of voters — the sputtering recovery tops that list in every survey of public opinion.Obama enjoys a lopsided advantage over Republican rival Mitt Romney among Latinos. But while they are the fastest-growing voting bloc, and could decide the outcome in pivotal battleground states like Colorado, Florida and Nevada, Latinos have the lowest voter registration numbers of any major ethnic group in the United States. That means the president must energize them enough to register — and then encourage them to show up on November 6. The challenge — and the stakes — are evident in Florida. A whopping 638,000 Latinos there are eligible to vote but have not registered, according to a recent report by the Obama-aligned Center for American Progress think tank in Washington. That's enough to make the difference in the Sunshine State. Both Romney and Obama are due to visit Florida this week to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) at the group's annual conference. The former Massachusetts governor will speak Thursday, followed by Obama on Friday.

Gilani no more Prime Minister

Yousaf Raza Gilani left PM House in a car without flag after he was disqualified as PM by the SC. The picture of Yusaf Raza Gilani has been removed from the website of the National Assembly of Pakistan while PM s and ministers profiles have also been removed from PID website. Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan received the copy of detailed verdict of the SC. The Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from office Tuesday in a stunning move throwing the country into fresh turmoil just months before expected general elections. The Supreme Court made the move after convicting Gilani on April 26 of contempt in a highly politicised case for refusing to ask Switzerland to reopen a multi-million-dollar graft investigation into President Asif Ali Zardari. Although the ruling itself is unlikely to bring down the government, it could hasten the date of the next election unless the Pakistan People s Party and its fractious coalition members can agree on a consensus, interim prime minister. "Yousuf Raza Gilani has become disqualified from being member of the parliament," said the order read by chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. "He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan with effect from the same date (April 26) and office of the prime minister shall be deemed to be vacant accordingly," it said. "The president of Pakistan is required to take necessary steps under the constitution to ensure continuation of the democratic process through parliamentary system of government in the country," Chaudhry read. Zardari immediately convened emergency talks among top leaders in his main ruling Pakistan People s Party (PPP) and then summoned heads of coalition parties to the presidency for further talks on Tuesday night. Officials were tight-lipped on how the president would respond, saying only that the series of meetings was being called to "assess the situation". Gilani, Pakistan s first sitting prime minister to be convicted, has faced down widespread calls from the opposition to quit while he has been insisting that only parliament can remove him from office. Members of his government have been accusing judges of over-stepping their reach and of trying to bring down Gilani and Zardari before February 2013, when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year term. Under the constitution, anyone convicted of defaming or ridiculing the judiciary is barred from being an MP. The matter of disqualification fell first to the speaker of parliament, Fehmida Mirza, a member of the PPP who on May 24 said conviction for contempt was not a charge that meant he should be disqualified under the constitution. Gilani subsequently decided not to appeal against his conviction in a move interpreted as an effort not to antagonise the court into disqualifying him. But senior opposition politicians, including cricket legend Imran Khan and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, challenged the ruling. The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss banks to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts. The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became president. Gilani has always insisted Zardari has full immunity as head of state and last month said that writing to the Swiss would be a violation of the constitution.

Kabul accuses Pakistan over suicide attack

Afghan authorities on Tuesday said “regional spy agencies” were behind a rare suicide attack targeting Shia Muslims that killed more than 80 people in a veiled reference to Pakistani intelligence. Attorney General Eshaq Aloko said two men had been arrested over the December attack, which struck a crowd of worshippers on Ashura in Kabul. President Hamid Karzai blamed Pakistani sectarian extremist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for the atrocity, which was unprecedented on such a holy day, and urged Islamabad to act. Aloko said the attack was planned in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar, by “regional spy agencies” aimed at “provoking sectarian violence”. “Although the Jhangvi group claimed responsibility, it was masterminded by some spy agencies in our neighbouring countries,” Aloko said. Afghans blame Pakistan for fuelling much of the violence in their country, where the Taliban are leading a 10-year insurgency against the government and 130,000 Western troops. The prosecutor said one of those arrested came from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal belt, and was paid 10,000 Pakistani rupees ($100) to bring two suicide attackers to Kabul. “One attacker blew himself up, the second fled the area,” Aloko said. He said the two arrested men both confessed over the plot and the case was now closed. The explosion happened at the entrance to a riverside shrine, where hundreds of Shias had gathered. The Taliban denied responsibility for the attack, the deadliest in the Afghan capital in three years. “The case is closed for us now. We have completed our investigation, and the case will be sent to the court,” Aloko said.

Polio vaccination ban: Militants put thousands of children at risk

The Express Tribune
Over 16,000 children below the age of five will miss their polio vaccines in the North Waziristan tribal region following a ban announced by a powerful local warlord on vaccination campaigns in the region. Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the alleged host of the deadly Haqqani network of Afghan Taliban, said last week that the top shura of militants has decided to ban the vaccination drive which, they believe, was a cover for US spies. The move will seriously impact polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, which is among the three countries where polio is still prevelant, with 197 fresh cases reported last year. Health officials believe that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or Fata, has become the reservoir of the disease because of its difficult terrain and reservations of local tribesmen about the vaccine. A three-day vaccination drive kicked off on Monday in ‘high-risk’ agencies of Fata, which include Khyber, Bajaur, Mohmand and lower and central subdivisions of Kurram agencies. The target is to immunise 777,012 children below the age of five against the crippling disease. A health official confirmed that North Waziristan Agency will be skipped. “North Waziristan was on the list until today. But now we have taken it off due to the threat from Hafiz Gul Bahadur,” Shahibzada Khalid, the deputy director of Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Fata cell, told The Express Tribune. Khalid categorised North Waziristan as a ‘high-risk’ area and said that if the ongoing vaccination drive was not carried out in the region, thousands of children will be at risk. “The virus may also spread to other agencies and neighbouring districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” he added. Health officials, however, believe they might find a way out of the dilemma. “All stakeholders, including the government, World Health Organisation (WHO) , NRDF and UNICEF are trying to find a safe way to vaccinate children in North Waziristan,” said Dr Muhammad Azam, the focal person for the Fata polio monitoring cell. The tribal regions of South Waziristan, Orakzai and Upper Kurram are ‘low-risk’ areas and hence not on the list of regions to be covered during the ongoing campaign. Health authorities have formed 2, 451 mobile, 195 sedentary and 79 transit teams to undertake the task. So far this year, 22 fresh polio cases have been confirmed in the country – nine in Khyber Agency and one each in North and South Waziristan agencies. In March this year, the WHO had warned that if the polio virus was not contained, Pakistan could face serious consequences, including travel and visa restrictions, from the international community.

President Zardari invites Presidents of Russia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan for summit

President Asif Ali Zardari has invited the Presidents of Russian Federation, Afghanistan and Tajikistan to participate in the 4th Quadrilateral Summit which would be hosted by Pakistan. The 4th Quadrilateral Summit between Russia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan will be held in Islamabad on September 26-27 2012. Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the President has also invited the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin to undertake a bilateral visit on the eve of the Quadrilateral Summit.


It is a matter of serious concern that more than 750 people lost their lives in target killing in Karachi during the first few months of the current year. To be precise, the gangs are known to the Government and its security agencies and still the Government is unmoved to stop the senseless killing of innocent citizens in the streets of Karachi. More than ten people are being killed in a day in r3ecent days in Karachi and the police and the security agencies are not chasing the killers for unknown reasons. Recently, the people are kidnapped at gunpoint and taken hostage, tortured and killed and their bodies thrown to the public places. It is a serious trend that different communities are at war and they allowed escalating the tension to all areas of Karachi. Even, footballer players are not allow to undergo routine practice in playground and they are chased away by the armed thugs wielding guns at the public place and the state agencies are turning a blind eye to this trend. Similarly, the business activities had come to a complete halt following a murder of a MQM activist and in revenge dozens of people from a particularly killed spread scare in all parts of Karachi to suspend the routine business and trade. The only solution to the problems of killings and particularly ethnic cleansing of non-Mohajir communities is that all the armed groups should be disarmed and they be deprived of their weapons collected since the 1985 trouble in Nazimabad. MQM is the dominating group and it should be disarmed first. If the leaders do it voluntarily, it is better. Otherwise, the security agencies should do the job disarming the MQM gangs first and others will automatically surrender their weapons voluntarily, it is hoped. More than 90 percent terrorists and target killers caught by the police and other security agencies belonged to the MQM indicating the love for violence by the MQM top brass to keep Karachi and its people hostage at gun point. In the ultimate analysis, it is not in the interest of MQM and its Urdu speaking people to continue violence against the other communities as a final united front will demolish their military might. Thus, it is advised the MQM should disarm all its militants and gangs, mainly target killers first and show the way to others to disarm later. The Government in power should use its influence on MQM to disarm the armed gangs and target killers in the larger interest of peace in Karachi and rest of Pakistan.

Punjab rulers responsible for loss of life, says Kaira

Frontier Post
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said on Monday that the Punjab rulers were instigating the people against the federation and they were personally responsible for the loss of life and damage to the public and Pakistan People's Party leaders and workers' property. He was talking to media persons at Faisal Mosque after attending funeral prayers in absentia for Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who died on Saturday. While replying to a question, he said no doubt that loadshedding during past couple of days had increased, but that was no justification for attacking the public property and property of the PPP leaders. "Loadshedding is being done in all four provinces, but violent protest demonstrations are being held only in the Punjab. The Punjab police has become silent spectator, and the provincial rulers and the administration are not only part of the protest but they are instigating the people". Kaira said that the PPP through the 18th Amendment has tried to end the sense of deprivation among the smaller provinces but the rulers in the Punjab are fanning hatred to get petty political gains. He said that there was 800 mw low head hydro power potential in the Punjab but not a single mega watt has been produced so far. The minister said that 200 mega watt electricity will be added in the system from wind sector and 600 mw will be added from the same sector next year. He said that some Independent Power Plants (IPPs) are commissioned only on gas and their closure due to shortage of gas has added to loadshedding problem. He said that the incumbent govern was paying the price of the decisions of its predecessors which could not prepare proper energy policy and diverted gas towards CNG sector. Replying questions about the deceased Saudi crown prince he said the entire nation was praying for his soul. Kaira said that Saudi Arabia is brotherly country of Pakistan which has always supported Pakistan on all forums of the world. The minister said that the Saudi Arabia and Pakistan enjoy historic relations and the place where we have offered the funeral prayer is also a gift of the Saudi government to the people of Pakistan. To a question, he said that Fauzia Wahab was central leader of the PPP whose services would be remembered for long. He said that the PPP has lost a hard working parliamentarian and the National Assembly has lost a dedicated member. He said that the deceased PPP leader fought the case of the party and the poor masses in a very efficient manner. Replying to a question, Kaira said that the doctors belong to noble profession and work in unusually difficult conditions, however, if their negligence proved in the death of Fauzia Wahab, action will be taken against the responsible.

Pashto singer Ghazala Javed gunned down in Peshawar

Prominent Pashto singer Ghazala Javed and her father were gunned down by unidentified persons at Dabgari area here on Monday night. Family members of the deceased told police that Ms Javed had gone to a beauty parlour along with her father Mohammad Javed. Unidentified motorcyclists sprayed them with bullets when they came out of the parlour, they said. The bodies were shifted to mortuary for autopsy from where they were taken to a police station by police and Farhat Bibi, a sister of Ms Javed. An official of Shah Qabool police station told Dawn that they were collecting details of the occurrence and could not say anything with accuracy as to who was behind the crime. He said that Farhat Bibi might be complainant in the case and it was not known as to who she would charge. Hailing from the scenic Swat valley, Ms Javed married around two years ago Jehangir Khan, a native of Peshawar. However, last year, differences emerged between the couple following which she left residence of her husband and started living with her father. The singer had also filed a suit for dissolution of her marriage in Swat. She got fame few years ago and her audio and video CDs and cassettes were selling like hot cake not only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also in Middle East where Pashtuns work in large number. Following her marriage, Ms Javed had stopped singing, but recently she resumed attending private functions.