Thursday, July 12, 2012

Strong earthquake hits Pakistan

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck large swathes of Pakistan, including Punjab,Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Northwsestern tribal region on Thursday. According to reports, the tremors shook the areas around 30 seconds, spreading panic among the people. Residents came out of their houses, reciting verses from the holy Quran. Chief Meteorologist Muhammad Riaz told that the quake was recorded 6.1 magnitude on the Richter scale while it was centered in Hindu Kush region about 357 kilometers from Islamabad . TV reports said the tremors were felt in Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodah, Dera Ismail Khan, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Mardan, North Waziristan, Swat, Hangu, Battagram, Nowshera an Hazara division. No loss of life and property have been reported from the affected areas so far. The tremors were also felt in parts of Afghanistan, media reports said. According to the met office the quake was centered at Hindu Kush region some 350 milometers north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city.

Pakistan hockey team leaves for London Olympics
Pakistan hockey team left for London Olympics on Thursday. The players will be joining a training camp in Birmingham, prior to the Olympic contests. The 18-member national team, until July, 22 will be training itself at the Cannock hockey club and will play practice matches against the host club and Scotland teams. “We have made good preparation for the Olympics. We are hopeful for better contest in the event,” Akhtar Rasool, the head coach of the team told reporter at Lahore airport. Skipper Sohaib Abbas said that the event would be tough task, adding that their first target would be to qualify for the semi-final. Pakistan squad: Sohail Abbas (skipper), Imran Shah, Imran Butt (Goal Keeper), Mohammad Irfan, Syed Kashif Shah, Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Rizwan Junior, Fareed Ahmed, Rashid Mahmood, Mohammad Tauseeq, Waseem Ahmed, Shafqat Rasool, Rehan Butt, Mohammad Rizwan Senior, Mohammad Umer Bhatta.

Acute Malnutrition among Children in Balochistan

The Baloch Hal
by Yousaf Ajab
The people of Balochistan suffer because of disasters either brought by the nature or human beings. The absence of planning for disasters risk reduction or emergency based support ratifies lack of interests of authorities. It seems the official functionaries are only interested in Balochistan’s resources, not the Baloch people. The monsoon rain and floods in 2011caused not only loss of agriculture, livestock but the high death toll also shocked the local population. Thousands of people became internally displaced. Though the torrential rains are over now, their impact is still too strong. The impact of the floods is writ large on the faces of women and children. One year has passed since the heavy torrential rains broke all the past records, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. In February 2012, the United Nations and Pakistan appealed for additional $440 million for flood affected-areas of Sindh and Balochistan. The monsoon flood and rainfall in 2011 also caused great disaster in Kalat. The rains washed away thousands of houses or partially damaged a large number of populations over there. . Forty-five percent of the population in Kalat was struck where rains severely devastated 145 villages. The rains also played havoc with livestock, agriculture, and infrastructure. In this situation, women and children are suffering from extreme malnutrition. Pregnant women and children receive inadequate food. A nongovernmental organization, the Human Prosperity Organization (H.P.O) implemented the project of Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (C.M.A.M) in six union councils (U.Cs) of Kalat District. In March, with the partnership of the World Food Program (W.F.P), the project provided food assistance to flood affected families especially to improve the nutritional status of moderately malnourished mothers and children through public health system. This project also included static and mobile facilities at community locations.The project objective is to stabilize and improve the nutritional status of malnourished pregnant and lactating women and children (6-59 months) in flood-affected areas of District Kalat. Currently, H.P.O. is facilitating 937 Pregnant and Lactating Women (P.L.W), 1135 Moderate Acute Malnourished (M.A.M) children and 341 Sever Acute Malnourished (S.A.M) children. The High Energy Biscuits (H.E.B), are provided for the siblings of The S.A.M children. The P.LWs are provided oil after every two month and Wheat Soya Blend W.S.B on monthly basis. The M.A.M. children are being distributed H.E.B and Supplementary Plumpy after every fifteen day. The provision of food to the poor and acute malnourished children and women is somehow resulting prolific and the registered beneficiaries are curing. The project coordinator CMAM program Mr. Mujeeb says that in the flood affected areas we have registered thousands of children and women who are malnourished, however due to limited quantity commodities .we are unable to facilitate every one. “No doubt, the affected people of flood and rain belong to poor families, the children and women rely on the oil, H.E.B, and W.S.B” said C.M.A.M’s Project Coordinator. It is need of the time to continue the above mentioned projects to overcome hunger and the catastrophic impact of disasters in Balochistan. We can find thousands of affected people who need to be facilitated in health, education, agriculture and livestock. The international and national N.G.O.s can play a significant role in this regard.Though the flood by now seems to be a part of the history, the impact it has left behind will remain there for coming years. The role of nongovernmental organizations in flood relief activities can never be underestimated. They reduced the chances of a bigger humanitarian crisis in Balochistan during the floods. Yet, they still have to play a more proactive role in flood affected districts of Kalat, Khuzdar, Naseerabd, Sibi, and Jaferabbd and in other parts of Balochistan .To work for sustainable results in health, education and development sectors, it is necessary for international organization to work with local organizations because experience proves that local organization have deep roots and reliable linkages with the communities. They have a better understanding of the local problems and also demonstrate a stronger commitment with the area and the people.

Pakistan judges order new PM to reopen graft cases, risking conflict

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to re-open corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, the latest twist in a long-running confrontation between the judiciary and the government. Pakistan's previous prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, was disqualified from his job by the Supreme Court last month after he was convicted of contempt of court for failing to restart work on the cases against the president, who also heads the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). The Supreme Court asked Ashraf, who replaced Gilani, to submit a report on compliance with its orders by July 25. "Failing which, the court may initiate any appropriate action in accordance with the law," Justice Asif Khosa said, reading out the court's order. Another showdown between judges and politicians could lead to further instability in Pakistan, which can ill afford more crises in the face of myriad challenges including a Taliban insurgency, a struggling economy, and widespread poverty. Thousands of corruption cases were thrown out in 2007 under an amnesty law passed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, paving the way for a return to civilian rule. Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled that agreement illegal, and ordered the re-opening of money laundering cases against Zardari. The government has refused to obey that order, arguing that Zardari has immunity as the head of state. Zardari denies any wrongdoing, and says the cases were politically motivated. Earlier on Thursday, hours before the Supreme Court was due to resume proceedings in the case, Zardari signed into law a controversial bill exempting senior officials from contempt of court charges, in an apparent attempt to shield Prime Minister Ashraf from the charges faced by his predecessor. Opposition parties have threatened to challenge the new law, saying it is against the spirit of the constitution.

Bahrain urged to free imprisoned activist
Bahrain must immediately release a prominent human rights activist and prisoner of conscience sentenced to three-month’s in prison following his conviction for libel, after the authorities took exception to a post he made on
Twitter, Amnesty International said today. Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was arrested on 9 July, just hours after a court in the capital Manama sentenced him for libel following a complaint made against him by the people of al-Muharraq area, north of Bahrain, for “publicly vilifying the al-Muharraq people and questioning their patriotism with disgraceful expressions posted via social networking websites”. “Nabeel Rajab’s imprisonment is the latest example of how, despite government promises to introduce reforms following its violent crackdown on protesters in 2011, few improvements have been seen on the ground. It’s clear that repression of freedom of expression is continuing with impunity in Bahrain,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Programme Director. “Like many others in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab is a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He should be released immediately and all other charges or convictions against him dropped or overturned. The authorities must also act to ensure that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal.” The charges against Rajab related to a 2 June tweet addressing the Prime Minister, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, following his visit to the area. Rajab wrote: “Khalifa: Leave the al-Muharraq alley ways, their sheikhs and their elderly, everyone knows that you have no popularity there; and if it was not for their need for money they would not have come out to welcome you – when will you bow out?” Rajab was arrested on 6 June following complaints about the tweet from several people of al-Muharraq. He was charged with libel on 14 June and released on bail on 27 June. Rajab is now held in al-Jaw prison, in Manama. He has already served 21 days of his three-month sentence. His lawyer has lodged an appeal which is scheduled to be heard on 18 July. Rajab still faces three further court cases. In November 2011, a report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), set up by the king, Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, concluded that the authorities had committed gross human rights violations with impunity, including excessive use of force against protesters, widespread torture and other ill-treatment of protesters, unfair trials and unlawful killings. The report urged the government to establish an independent body to oversee the implementation of the BICI’s recommendations; to usher in legislative reforms to ensure laws are in line with international human rights standards; to bring to account those responsible for abuses; to release all prisoners of conscience and to conduct investigations into allegations of torture. So far the government has done very little. Reforms have been piecemeal and have failed to provide real accountability and justice for the victims. Violations continue to be committed against those who oppose the Al Khalifa family’s rule. Several demonstrations in June were reportedly suppressed by excessive force. On 27 June, another activist, Zainab al-Khawaja was hit on her thigh by a tear gas canister shot at very close range while she was documenting incidents during a demonstration in Buri village, south-west of Manama calling for greater respect for the right to peaceful protest. She told Amnesty International the injury left her with a fractured bone and 17 stitches. Fellow activist Said Yousif Almuhafdah, who works for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and who was also present during the attack, filed a complaint in a police station and was told an investigation into the incident would be launched. Meanwhile, the government is refusing to release scores of prisoners who are incarcerated simply because they called for meaningful political reforms, and is also failing to address the Shi’a majority’s deep sense of discrimination and political marginalization. Last month, during an official visit to the UK, Bahrain’s Minister of Interior Lt-General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, insisted that there were no detainees held in Bahrain on account of their opinions but only people “who had committed acts punishable under the law”. The Bahraini Penal Code contains vaguely worded provisions that can be used to criminalize the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly. Rajab is facing trial on charges of taking part in an “illegal gathering” and “disturbing public order’ during an anti-government protest in Manama on 6 February. The next hearing for this case is scheduled for 26 September 2012. Another ongoing trial relates to charges of “illegal gathering” brought against him on 6 June. The next session of this hearing is due to take place on 16 July. Rajab is also appealing against his 28 June conviction of “insulting a national institution” (the Ministry of Interior) in his tweets. The appeal is due to be heard on 27 November.

Jailed for tweeting in Bahrain

More than a dozen security officials, their faces covered with black ski masks, converged on human rights activist Nabeel Rajab’s Manama home on Monday and forcibly placed him under arrest, according to his family. Police cars surrounded the house while a helicopter hovered overhead. His arrest came after the 5th lower criminal court convicted Rajab of libel and sentenced him to three months in prison. “They want to stop him from talking – they are really arresting him for criticizing the prime minister,” Nabeel’s wife Sumayya Rajab told The Media Line. “This is not fair. Killers are left outside the jail, and he is being jailed for a tweet.” She said Nabeel was allowed a short telephone conversation from jail. He asked for a blanket, clothes and toiletries, but when they arrived at the prison, guards refused to accept the items. Rajab heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He has a popular Twitter account with more than 158,000 followers. On June 2, Rajab posted six tweets criticizing Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who has been the unelected Prime Minister of Bahrain since 1971, accusing Al Khalifa of corruption and calling on him to step down. Several members of the government, including Adel Dlaifle, the former officer of the national security apparatus, who is accused of allegedly torturing political activists and has threatened Rajab personally, accused Rajab of libel. The punishment for libel is almost always a fine and Rajab’s lawyer appealed the sentence. Rajab has already been detained twice: for three weeks last month, and for more than three weeks in May. “It’s bad to have my Dad in prison, but we are proud of him,” his son Adam Rajab, 14, told The Media Line. “We want a good government and we want democracy. The prime minister has been here for 42 years. It’s time for him to leave.” Rajab’s wife Sumayya said that even her 10-year old daughter, Malak, tried to confront the security officers who came to arrest her father. “We are not afraid of you or your gun,” she told them, according to Sumayya. “But you must be afraid if you are covering your face.” Last year, there were large demonstrations in Bahrain against the ruling government, similar to popular demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia. Activists called it the “Pearl Revolution,” since it centered around the Pearl roundabout in Bahrain’s capital Manama. Rajab has been a key activist in the demonstrations in which 50 people were killed. Saudi Arabia sent in troops to help the Bahraini government quash the uprising. There are also growing sectarian tensions in Bahrain, where King Hamad bin Khalifa, and his uncle the prime minister are Sunni Muslims, while the majority of the populace are Shi’ite. The split dates back to a feud over who would succeed the Prophet Mohammed in the 7th century. Shi’ites in Bahrain say they face widespread discrimination. They are not allowed to work in the police or serve in the army, and pro-Shi’ite websites are blocked by the government. “In my office, only Sunnis are promoted, even if they don’t have any qualifications,” Rajab’s wife Sumaya, who works as a secretary in the Ministry of Transportation said. “Three months ago I stopped going to work in protest and now I have a case with a lawyer.” The international community has failed to intervene, or even criticize, the government of Bahrain. The King is seen as an important Western ally, and the US Fifth Fleet makes its home in Bahrain. Rajab’s colleagues say his arrest is meant as a message to other activists. “They arrested him to send a message to all activists that you will get arrested like him if you talk to the media,’ Sa’id Yousif, the head of documentation at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights told The Media Line. “Every day we have protests but journalists are banned from entering Bahrain.” He said that although martial law has not been officially imposed by the government, security forces act as if it has been. “Every night they raid homes without warning and set up checkpoints,” he said. “They are trying to round up activists and anyone who speaks to the media is interrogated.” The Bahrain Center for Human Rights strongly condemned Rajab’s arrest. “We believe strongly that his arrest is part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment against him in order to prevent him from continuing his legitimate and peaceful human rights work,” the Center said in a statement. Nabil Rajab’s family says they know he will survive the ordeal of prison and emerge even stronger. “He is very strong and can manage himself in any situation,” said Sumayya. “We just want freedom.”

Al Saud regime kills Shia protesters to scare Sunnis: Analyst

The oppressive regime of Al Saud believes that if it kills one Shia, then ten Sunnis will consequently be scared to join the popular uprising in the kingdom, a political analyst tells Press TV. “The Saudi government is trying to escalate the clashes or the killings in Qatif in Eastern Province because they believe in their minds that if we kill one Shia, we scare 10 Sunnis,” said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for [Persian] Gulf Affairs, in an interview with Press TV on Wednesday. “This is making history that thousands of people are protesting in Saudi Arabia,” Ahmed stated. He added that the people of Saudi Arabia are “revolting and the revolt is spreading very soon across the country.” The political analyst made the comments a few days after Saudi security forces opened fire on demonstrators in the Qatif region of Eastern Province, killing three people and injuring several others on July 8. “The absence of international condemnation of their (Saudi regime) killing of young people is sick.” Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. However, the demonstrations have turned into protests against the Al Saud regime, especially since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province. Similar demonstrations have also been held in the capital, Riyadh, and the holy city of Medina over the past few weeks.

Afghan president calls on Taliban to drop weapons

Afghanistan's president
called on the Taliban Thursday to relinquish their weapons, saying that the group and its leader should join the political process. The call by Hamid Karzai was the latest peace appeal to the Taliban and Mullah Mohammed Omar. All past requests have been ignored by the insurgency — which refuses to directly engage the government. "Mullah Mohammad Omar can come to any part of Afghanistan he wants to. He can open political office for himself but he should drop the gun," Karzai said at a nationally televised news conference held at the presidential palace. Mullah Omar has been on the run since the U.S. invasion in late 2001, and his Taliban have been fighting the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan government for more than a decade. The militant group has refused peace talks with Karzai, calling him a puppet of the United States. Instead, they have held talks directly with American officials. They broke off talks earlier this year, saying the U.S. reneged on a promise to release Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. The talks have so far shown no signs of restarting.

New polio case emerges in Quetta

The Express Tribune
A new case of polio emerged from the Sabzal Road area of Muslimabad in Quetta after family of a twenty three-month-old girl refused to administer her with anti-virus drops citing religious reservations — raising the number of affected children in the province to three this year. UNICEF Media Officer Massoma Qurban told The Express Tribune that the baby identified as Mehrma, daughter of Agha Abdul Karim, was infected with the polio virus. “The virus has been detected from a child and she had never been vaccinated in her life,” he said. Qurban revealed that the child did not receive polio vaccines because her family refused to administer the drops citing religious reservations. The last polio case from Quetta was detected on January 6, 2012 — with 14 polio cases having been reported from the areas in 2011. Balochistan, in total, identified 18 polio cases during the same period last year compared to three this year. According to sources, the child’s uncle Abdul Qayum Agha, prayer leader of a local mosque, denied polio vaccines to his niece. “At least 20 houses of the colony are obeying him and denying polio vaccines to their children,” sources said. They added that polio teams were not being allowed to operate in the colony – Sabzal Road is one of the largest slum localities of Quetta – for the last four years on religious grounds. Meanwhile, Balochistan’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) head Dr Yusuf Bizenjo said that at least 200 children of the nearest areas will be affected because of ineffective administration of the anti-virus drops. “Denying polio vaccines to the children will cause many problems very soon,” Dr Bizenjo said.

Zardari signs contempt of court amendment bill

The Express Tribune
President Asif Ali Zardari gave his consent to the controversial contempt of court amendment bill on Thursday, Express News has reported. The bill will provide immunity from contempt proceedings to high office holders, including the prime minister, president, chief ministers, federal and provincial ministers as well as governors. It had earlier been passed by the National Assembly on Monday and the Senate on Wednesday. The move is key given that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s reply is due on whether he would be following the court directives on writing a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The cases had been closed earlier under the controversial NRO, which was struck down by the court as void ab initio in 2009.

Husain Haqqani’s life in grave danger
The Supreme Court on Thursday heard the memo case, DawnNews reported. A nine-judge bench, headed by Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, heard the case on the controversy after the Memo Commission held that Pakistan’s former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani was the architect of the memo sent to former US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen seeking US intervention to avert a possible overthrow of the government by the military. During the hearing, petitioner Barrister Zafarullah said Haqqani was still in the United States and had not returned to Pakistan to appear before the bench despite being summoned. Moreover, the court inquired Haqqani’s counsel Asma Jahangir as to why her client had not appeared for the hearing. Asma said the court’s directives had been delivered to Haqqani, adding that her client’s life was in “grave danger”.The counsel should request the government and not the court to provide security to Haqqani, Justice Tariq Pervez said. “Haqqani was being provided security when he was useful…we contacted the government regarding his security but have not been given a reply,” Asma said. She moreover said she had received a letter from Haqqani which she later read out to the court. The letter said that sections of the media had portrayed Haqqani as a turncoat and that PTI chairman Imran Khan and Sheikh Rasheed had labelled him as a traitor to the country. On that, Justice Pervez inquired as to why the counsel was making public the correspondence between herself and her client. Making this letter public is what my client wants, Asma told the bench. Asma moreover requested the court to review its directive of summoning Haqqani in the given circumstances. Allowing Haqqani three days to file an application for exemption from appearing before the court, the bench adjourned the hearing to an unspecified date. Earlier on June 29, the court had asked Haqqani and US businessman of Pakistani origin Mansoor Ijaz, a central character in the scandal, to appear before it on Thursday. “I will not risk my life until the circumstances that have put my life in jeopardy have changed,” Haqqani said in the letter addressed to the Supreme Court.

ANP not to tolerate violation of women's rights

The Provincial President ANP, Senator Afrasiab Khan Khattak said that the party has protected rights of women on every platform in every era and will continue efforts for the purpose in future. He expressed these views while addressing a meeting of women vice presidents from different districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa here in Chief Minister's House on Wednesday. Provincial general secretary ANP, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Arbab Mohammad Tahir Khan Khalil, provincial secretary information, Malik Ghulam Mustafa and member provincial assembly, Yasmin Zia were also present on the occasion. Women office bearers briefed the provincial president on problems faced by them at district level. Senator Afrasiab Khattak vowed that violation of the rights of women would not be tolerated in any circumstances. He said that the rights of women will be provided full protection both at organizational and government levels and directed all districts presidents to ensure the participation of women in their district level meetings and giving weigh to their opinion both in the utilization of developmental funds and activities of social welfare to remove the sense of deprivation amongst them. He told all women office bearers of ANP to come to Bacha Khan Markaz incase of any complaint or grievance through letters. For the redressal of their grievances, he said they will contact district office bearers. The provincial president ANP said that women are more than half of the national population and they cannot be kept out of the political process. He said the resolution of the problems faced by the women pre-requisite for guaranteeing their participation in political process.

Pakistan: The judges are no caliphs

Daily Times
BY:Dr Mohammad Taqi
The religiously charged sermons, heavy doses of Persian poetry and anecdotes about figures and events from Islamic history have become a staple of the Supreme Court judges A few days ago the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) expressed its intention to revisit the policy of handing out plots to judges and bureaucrats and to scrutinise the accounts of the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC). The PAC made public lists containing names of those who had obtained one or more plot. The lists included names of several judges and the current registrar of the SC. Even if nothing else comes out of it, the PAC and its chairperson Nadeem Afzal Gondal, MNA, have successfully flayed the last shreds of the caliphs of Islam pretence that the apex court has adopted of late. The religiously charged sermons, heavy doses of Persian poetry and anecdotes about figures and events from Islamic history have become a staple of the Supreme Court judges in their assorted judgments in high profile. Nowhere was this attempt to present themselves as the reincarnation of the greats of Islamic history more evident than the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry’s initial attempt to preside over the case against his son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, who was facing charges of mega-corruption. Thankfully, CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry did eventually recuse himself from the case but not before making a dramatic appearance in court with the Holy Quran reportedly displayed on his rostrum. The idea ostensibly was to invoke the imagery of the justice of the second rightly guided caliph of Islam, Syedna Umar Farooq (RA), who had not only presided over a judgment against his son, Abu Shahma, but punished him with lashes. Abu Shahma is said to have died during the punishment and the remaining lashes were delivered on his grave per Syedna Umar Farooq (RA)’s orders. However, it seems that the honourable judges of the Supreme Court only wish to invoke Hazrat Umar (RA) as their role model when they are firmly in command of the proceedings — whether against their family or others. When it comes to emulating Hazrat Umar (RA) in offering themselves for public accountability, the judges would rather remain lesser mortals like us, relying on the law supposedly shielding them from scrutiny by the PAC. The Supreme Court refused to send its registrar to appear before the PAC, saying per media reports: “The Supreme Court is not part of the government and the rules only empower the PAC to examine accounts showing misappropriation of money granted by the National Assembly. Since the sum allocated to the SC is charged expenditure on federal consolidated funds, it is not in principle granted by the assembly.” The SC was alluding to the Article 68 of the constitution, which states, “No discussion shall take place in Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with respect to the conduct of any Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties.” But receiving residential plots beyond one’s employment or retirement remuneration package can hardly be categorised as something done in the line of duty. The inimitable attorney-writer Saroop Ijaz has dealt deftly and in detail with the legal and constitutional problems with the SC’s flimsy plea in his column, ‘Our right to know’, in an English contemporary. But as our honorable judges are immensely fond of Islamic history and poetry, let me paraphrase for them an episode from Syedna Umar (RA)’s era recorded by his biographer and poet, Shibli Naumani, in the poem Adl-e-Farooqui ka aik waqia (an episode of Umar Farooque’s justice). One day, Hazrat Umar, while giving a sermon in the mosque, asked the congregation if they would obey him if he ordered them. A common man got up and said he refused to obey because he had plundered from the war bounty and was not fit to be the caliph thus. The man alleged that Caliph Umar (RA), who was a tall man, had taken for himself two pieces of cloth from the bounty to make the dress he was wearing that day, while everyone else has received just one piece. Now Syedna Umar (RA) had the option of shutting the man up under some pretext or other but instead opted not do so. Instead, he asked his son to stand up and bear witness. The son informed the congregation that indeed one sheet of cloth would not have been enough to make his father’s dress and that was why he gifted his share of the bounty, i.e. his sheet of cloth, to Hazrat Umar (RA). The accuser withdrew his allegation and renewed his allegiance to Caliph Umar (RA). The honourable judges of the superior judiciary wielding the false shield of Article 68 are clearly no caliphs!

SWAT: Saidu Sharif airport ready to become operational

The Express Tribune
After almost six years, the Saidu Sharif Airport in Swat has been renovated and is ready to re-open. Established in 1978, the airport, which handled two daily flights from Islamabad and Peshawar, was closed during militancy in Swat valley. “The airport has been renovated and we have informed PIA. The service will resume as soon as they provide us a flight schedule,” Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Public Relations Officer Pervez George told The Express Tribune on Wednesday. Authorities say about 1,000 people from Swat travel abroad every day. Most of them used to take a flight from Saidu Sharif to catch their international flights. Ahmad Shah, a travel agent, explained that travelling via road is cumbersome because of the high number of check points. “The passengers end up missing their flights. So to avoid such a situation, they normally leave ahead of time and stay at hotels. This not only wastes time but also costs more.” Majority of the business commodities, he added, are imported to Swat from Punjab. For this, traders and business communities have to travel 12 hours by road, which is both time-consuming and risky. “As many as 14 buses carrying businessmen and traders daily travel to Lahore. But often, they get robbed on the way. The business community is facing a tough time due to the grim situation of security and delay in transportation,” he added. The owner of another travel agency, Zahir Shah, said, “There is dire need of air services from Swat to Lahore.” He said that as Lahore has an international airport, other business communities working abroad will prefer the route for foreign travel. Tourism is considered to be the backbone of the economy in Swat, but deteriorating roads and issues of insecurity has reduced the number of tourists to half. “Majority of tourists visit Swat from Punjab and Sindh. They have to travel on rough roads. The airport will ease their burden and boost tourism in the region,” Shah added. The valley is one of the largest producers of fruit but according to Fruit and Vegetables Association Swat, half of their harvest goes to waste owing to slow transportation. “As we have no freezing facilities for storing fresh fruit, half of the stocks get wasted. An air cargo service will benefit local farmers and dealers,” Zamin Khan, a fruit dealer, said.

Terrorist attack kills 9 in Lahore

Gunmen shot dead nine police and prison staff as they slept on Thursday, the second attack on security forces since Islamabad reopened a NATO supply corridor. Police said the dawn attack, in which 10 gunmen stormed a residential property housing officers from the northwest who were in the city for training, bore the hallmarks of a similar assault on an army camp on Monday. The killings raise fears of a fresh wave of violence in Punjab that will be vital in upcoming general elections, and which for the past year had seen a lull in attacks blamed on Taliban-linked insurgents. Punjab police chief Habibur Rehman said the attackers came on three motorcycles and one car, armed with Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades. They then stormed the building in the densely populated area of Ichra, where up to 35 police and prison staff were sleeping early Thursday. "Nine people have died so far in this attack," Rehman told reporters at the scene. Rescue workers wrapped bodies in white sheets and survivors sobbed over the deaths of their colleagues as bullet casings lay discarded outside the two-storey grey building, television footage showed. Lahore city police chief Aslam Tareen told AFP that nine people were also wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police blamed the "same gang" who killed seven security personnel at an army camp in Punjab's district of Gujrat, 150 kilometres (100 miles) southeast of Islamabad, on Monday. "All defunct organisations are working in close cooperation with each other" to attack security forces, Rehman told reporters. A senior security official told AFP that in Monday's attack it was "highly likely" that the gunmen belonged to a banned organisation in league with the Taliban. Considered Pakistan's cultural capital and close to the Indian border, Lahore is a city of eight million that in 2010 suffered a string of high-profile bombings blamed on Taliban and Al-Qaeda.