Friday, July 20, 2012

Afghanistan Becomes First Country To Have Minerals Mapped
Afghanistan has become the first country in the world to have its surface minerals mapped from the air. The U.S. Geographical Survey (USGS) mapped some 70 percent of the country using an advanced technique known as “hyperspectral imaging,” which involves using a camera to capture sunlight reflected from the ground. Specific colors on the mineral map reflect different natural minerals as well as man-made minerals, vegetation, and snow. USGS spokesman Alex Demas maintains that the map will make it easier to identify and estimate mineral deposits for international mining companies looking to invest in Afghanistan, which is known to have vast reserves of oil, gas, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium. “This imagery allows us to identify with very good accuracy where certain types of materials are," he says. "And this is very useful, especially for the mining industry. In fact, the USGS and the Afghan Geological Survey have already identified, using this information, 24 areas of high-profile mining interests.” Demas adds the survey did not include regions inside Afghanistan that bordered its neighbors—Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan-- in order to avoid any concerns over airspace. International mining companies have made huge investments in Afghan mining in recent years. In 2008, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation made a successful bid of $3 billion for mineral rights to the Mes Aynak site, which geologists believe has the second-largest copper reserves in the world. That was followed by a bid from a group of Indian companies in 2011, when a deal was signed to begin mining Hajigak, the country’s largest iron ore deposit, located in the central Bamiyan Province. The numbers being used to describe Afghanistan's potential wealth are staggering. In 2010, the Afghan Ministry of Mines estimated that the country’s reserves could amount to some one trillion dollars. According to Demas, from the data the USGS has received, the minerals that have been discovered by the mineral map seem to be the real deal. “We do believe these to be world-class mineral deposits," he says. "We don’t know for certain what the tonnage of mineral ore will be. We won’t know for sure, though, until a company actually goers there and develops it.” The USGS gathered the data over the space of 43 days from aircrafts travelling at a height of 15,000 meters. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations as well as by the Afghan government.

Outcome of Multan by-elections and establishment’s next move

Let Us Build Pakistan
by Shaheryar Ali
According to news reports, Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Abdul Qadir Gilani has won the NA-151 Multan by-elections with 64,628 votes (19 July 2012). Independent candidate Shaukat Hayat Bosan, who was supported by all right wing parties including PML-N, PTI, Jamaat-e-Islami, Sipah-e-Sahaba etc lost the elections with 60,532 votes, according to unofficial results. This is a big set back, not only to Nawaz Sharif-led PML-N and Imran Khan-led PTI but to the almighty military establishment in the grand scheme of things. Despite every effort of Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab Police, Abdul Qadir Gilani defeated the candidate supported by every political paty of right wing, media, army and judiciary. That’s the power of PPP. It can take on all thugs together and defeat them! The judges should “pity the nation” and resign if there is any thing called “morality” left in them. Wounded by the loss of bye-election in Multan (NA-151), it won’t be wrong to assumed that Pakistan’s military establishment is now looking forward to reincarnate the anti-PPP alliance PNA of 1977 or IJI of 1990s! I am sure we will soon see the revolutionary PTI joining hands with PML-N. There is no otherway they (Pakistan army) will let the election take place. Five years of constant, uninterrupted, unilateral media trial of PPP plus its governance failures fail to shake its mass support to the extent that candidate enjoying support of Punjab government, all right wing, militant sectarian organizations, and also Election Commission of Pakistan, which by banning cadidate sponsered transport tried to inflict the fatal blow to PPP whose base lies in rural areas and in poor people, failed to win. This makes the establishment very uncomfortable. They will now try to repeat the 1977 scenerio. Pan right alliance and then a movement against alleged election rigging (under evil Zardari), today Rana Sanaullah of PMLN-ASWJ already started laying the ground work by saying “huge responsibility lies on Justice Fakhruddin G. Ibhahim, only “words” are not enough for “fair” elections”, no one should think that “we will accept “any results” given to us”. It is interesting to note that Justice Ibrahim is PML-N’s nomination not PPP’s.

Demo against PML-N MNA

A violent protest demonstration was held by Joint Christian Action Committee (JCAC) on Thursday outside the Rescue-15 office at Benazir Bhutto Road (BBR) against PML-N MNA Malik Abrar Ahmed for allegedly occupying with the connivance of high-ups of City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) and officers of Land Revenue Department, on the land reserved for the construction of Church and Saint Joseph Free Hospital at IJ Principal Road. Holding banners and placards against the MNA the angry protestors, including women and old aged men, blocked BBR for more than three hours for traffic posing hardships for commuters in sizzling heat. The protestors also raised slogans against PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Saqib Zafar, MNA Malik Abrar Ahmed, Tehsildar Rawalpindi and other big wigs of Punjab government. Some protestors stripped off their shirts and laid in the middle of the road to vent their anger against the ruling party in the province. Addressing the protestors, JCAC Rawalpindi/Islamabad Akram Waqar Gill said that the land mafia has made their lives a hell as they were illegally occupying their worship places and hospitals with out any fear. He alleged that PML-N MNA Malik Abrar Ahmed grabbed a piece of land at the IJP Road, which was allocated for the construction of a Church and free hospital. He also alleged that in this crime, MNA enjoying the support of DCO, City Police Officer (CPO), Tehsildar Rawalpindi and some influential of the Land Revenue Department. When contacted Malik Abrar Ahmed by this scribe, he denied all the allegations levelled against him saying, “All the office bearers of JCAC are fraudsters and falsely implicating him in the land grabbing case”. He said that a person Zaman Cheema and JCAC President Akram Gill had purchased land documents of 5-kanal land from some party in Misrial and later approached him for helping them to occupy on the land. He said that the aforementioned persons had only papers while the land existed nowhere. “I have not favoured them, that is why they are on roads and leveling baseless allegations against me. I have nothing to do with the land grabbing case” MNA said categorically,” he asserted. Abrar claimed that Zaman Chema is notorious land grabber as he had also grabbed over the land of Church in Government Gordon College and later used his (MNA) name. “Now again Gill and Cheema are on the road for damaging my credibility. By doing so, JCAC wanted to grab the land, which neither exist anywhere nor in their name. I will file a defamation suit against JCAC soon,” Malik Abrar added.

Violence against women:Lahore the most violent city for women

The Express Tribune
The year 2011 remained unfortunate for women in Pakistan as violence against them increased by 6.74 per cent compared to the year 2010, a report released by Aurat Foundation on Friday revealed. The report titled ‘Violence Against Women in Pakistan: A qualitative Review of Statistics 2011’ states that 8,539 cases of violence were reported against women in 2011 as compared to 8,000 cases in 2010. According to the statistics presented in the report, abduction was the most prevalent in 2011 with 2089 cases reported across the country. The incident of murders was the second most prevalent form of violence against women. As many as 1575 women were murdered during 2011. However, this does not include women killed on the pretext of family ‘honour. The report segregated murders and cases of honour killings under which it classified 705 cases throughout the country. Categories of crime Out of 8,539 case of violence against women in Pakistan, 2089 cases of kidnapping, 1575 or murder, 610 of domestic violence, 758 of suicide, 705 of honour killing, 827 of rape and gang rape, 110 of sexual assault, 44 of acid throwing, 29 of burning and 1792 under miscellaneous. The category miscellaneous includes cases of child marriages, trafficking, attempted rapes and other forms of violence. Territorial distribution of violence Along with a breakdown of the form of violence recorded, the report attempted to map the violence as well. According to the report, most cases of violence against women in all categories were reported from Punjab with 6188 cases. Sindh accounted for 1316 cases of violence, while Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa reported 694 cases, 193 cases in Balochistan and 148 cases in the Islamabad territory. The report attempted to explain the number of cases reported from Punjab show that reporting mechanism is better than that in other provinces and the fact that Punjab makes up more than 54 per cent of the entire population of the country. The report raised alarm that Sindh accounted for a disproportionately high number in honour Killings, with Karo Kari in Sindh. The report said that 37.73 per cent of all cases (266 out of 705) of honuor killing tabulated were from Sindh. On the other hand, a disproportionately high rate of murder of women, 21.65per cent (341 of 897)of the total were reported from KP. Lahore the most violent city for women The report states that the highest number of overall violence against women cases were reported from Lahore with 754 cases. Faisalabad came in second with 667, Rawalpindi 459, Sargodha 381 and Multan 365. Districts in the list with the most reports include Chakwal, Okara, Vehari, Peshawar, Khanewal, Sheikhupura, Muzaffargarh, Sahiwal, Lodhran and Rahim Yar Khan. Additional Secretary Law and Parliamentary Affairs Syed Mohsin Raza said legal system needed to be made remedial in Pakistan to lower these numbers. He said that even if those who did indulge in violence on women were punished, there wasn’t any way to get remedy for the victim. “Often women are beaten up by the husbands or family members and have to live in the same house with them. This is linked with financial independence. If women are empowered financially then violence against them will automatically drop. This is what Punjab government is working on and also given Women Empowerment Package 2012,” he added.

French female minister wolf-whistled in parliament
Cecile Duflot, the country’s 37-year-old housing minister, was subjected to the barrage of abuse while wearing a flowery summer dress in the National Assembly in Paris. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ said Ms Duflot, adding: ‘Obviously, more gentlemen than ladies’. Leering and shouting accompanied her every word, along with ‘phwoooaarr…’ noises. Ms Duflot infamously wore jeans at a cabinet meeting earlier this year, but her dress was a conservative one. She said after her ordeal: ‘I have worked in the building trade and I have never seen something like that. This tells you something about some MPs. I think of their wives.’embers of the Union for Popular Movement, the party whose president Nicolas Sarkozy ran France until May, were widely blamed for Tuesday’s abuse. Now a video of the incident has caused further outrage across France, with many saying the incident highlights the misogyny of the country’s political class. Anger increased when Patrick Balkany, a UMP politician and close personal friend of Mr Sarkozy, said he was only ‘admiring’ Duflot, who had probably ‘put on that dress so that we wouldn’t listen to what she was saying.’ And Jacques Myard, another UMP veteran, meanwhile said the wolf whistles were ‘in tribute to the beauty of this woman’. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Women’s Rights Minister, said: ‘I realise more and more that sexism has no frontiers. We politicians should set a better example.’ Francois Hollande, the new Socialist president, has introduced gender parity into his cabinet, ensuring 17 women and 17 men ministers. Despite this, many of the new women in government have been referred to as ‘Hollande’s Hunnies’ and featured in glossy magazine spreads. Only 27 per cent of the National Assembly are women, and ‘a kind of paternalism and infantilisation of women reigns’, said Paris MP Sandrine Mazetier.

Spanish Police clash with anti-austerity protesters

Spanish police fired rubber bullets and charged protestors in central Madrid early Friday at the end of a huge demonstration against economic crisis measures. The protest was one of over 80 demonstrations called by unions across the county against civil servant pay cuts and tax hikes which drew tens of thousands of people, including police and firefighters wearing their helmets. "Hands up, this is a robbery!" protesters bellowed as they marched through the streets of the Spanish capital. At the end of the peaceful protest dozens of protestors lingered at the Puerta del Sol, a large square in the heart of Madrid where the demonstration wound up late on Thursday. Some threw bottles at police and set up barriers made up of plastic bins and cardboard boxes in the middle of side streets leading to the square and set them on fire, sending plumes of thick smoke into the air. Riot police then charged some of the protestors, striking them with batons when they tried to reach the heavily-guarded parliament building. The approach of the riot police sent protestors running through the streets of the Spanish capital as tourists sitting on outdoor patios looked on. A police official told AFP that officers arrested seven people while six people were injured. The protests held Thursday were the latest and biggest in an almost daily series of demonstrations that erupted last week when Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced measures to save 65 billion euros ($80 billion) and slash the public deficit. Among the steps is a cut to the Christmas bonus paid to civil servants, equivalent to a seven-percent reduction in annual pay. This came on top of a pay cut in 2010, which was followed by a salary freeze. "There's nothing we can do but take to the street. We have lost between 10 and 15 percent of our pay in the past four years," said Sara Alvera, 51, a worker in the justice sector, demonstrating in Madrid. "These measures won't help end the crisis." Spain is struggling with its second recession in four years and an unemployment rate of more than 24 percent. Under pressure from the European Union to stabilise Spain's public finances, the conservative government also cut unemployment benefits and increased sales tax, with the upper limit rising from 18 to 21 percent. As Rajoy's conservative Popular Party passed the measures with its majority in parliament Thursday, Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro defended them, insisting they were needed to lower Spain's borrowing costs. "There is no money in the coffers to pay for public services. We are making reforms that will allow us to better finance ourselves," he said. Protestors angrily rejected this claim. "There isn't a shortage of money -- there are too many thieves," read one sign hoisted in the Madrid crowd. Critics say the government's new austerity measures will worsen economic conditions for ordinary people. Cristina Blesa, a 55-year-old teacher, said she and her husband would struggle to pay their son's university tuition fees because of the cuts and tax hikes. "We're earning less and less and at the same time the price of everything is going up," she said at the Madrid protest. "Now with the rise in VAT everything is going to be even more expensive. It's more and more difficult at the end of the month." Spain is due this month to become the fourth eurozone country, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, to get bailout funds in the current crisis, when it receives the first loan from a 100-billion-euro credit line for its banks. Eurozone leaders were expected to finalise the deal in a telephone conference on Friday. Spain had to offer investors sharply higher interest rates in a bond sale on Thursday, suggesting investors remain worried over the country's ability to repay its debts. Protestors complained that they were being made to pay for the financial crisis while banks and the rich were let off. "We have to all come out into the street, firefighters, street-sweepers, nurses, to say: enough," said Manuel Amaro, a 38-year-old fireman in Madrid holding his black helmet by his side.

U.S. : Democrats Gain the Upper Hand

It’s only been a year since Congressional Republicans, bent on cutting spending, manufactured a financial crisis by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. Now, apparently thinking the public has forgotten that debacle, they’re furious that Democrats have figured out a way to turn the tables. Senator Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the Democratic leadership, said Monday that her party was prepared to let all the Bush-era tax cuts expire on Jan. 1 if Republicans refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy. The same holds true, she said, for the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts that begin at the same time, which Republicans demanded in the debt crisis but now oppose after realizing that the cuts affect more than social welfare programs. Republican leaders quickly voiced horror at these tactics. “Has it come to this?” said Speaker John Boehner, accusing Democrats of holding the economy hostage for the sake of high-end tax increases. Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, called it “an entirely avoidable high-stakes game of chicken with the single-minded goal of taking more money from those who earn it.” Taking hostages has unfortunately become the default method of exercising power in Washington, after Republicans decided that conventional compromise with Democrats was unpalatable. But the Democrats’ proposal would have nowhere near the same outcome as the Republicans’ debt ceiling threat last year. Had Republicans forced the government into an unprecedented default last August, the worldwide impact on credit markets and economic growth would have been “catastrophic,” in the words of Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman. By contrast, the combined impact of the tax-cut expiration and the spending cuts — the so-called fiscal cliff — would only push the economy into a shallow recession next year, he told a Senate panel Tuesday morning. That would be a painful outcome for millions of people, but it is not comparable to a default, and would not happen instantly, instead building slowly over time. It could also be prevented from happening altogether, as early as January, and Senator Murray has the right plan to do so. By letting all the tax cuts expire on schedule, Republicans can then join Democrats in restoring the cuts only for income up to $250,000. No vote need be taken on raising taxes for the rich, and thus Republicans won’t have to remove their no-tax-increase straitjacket. She is right in refusing Republican demands to end the half of the sequester that cuts $500 billion from defense over a decade, the only leverage Democrats have in preventing much bigger and more painful domestic cuts. If Republicans want to limit the recessionary impact of the sequester they initiated and supported, they will have to reduce it in a balanced way, now that Democrats have learned a painful lesson from Republican power games.

Obama ready to fight back against Romney’s ‘You didn’t build that’ attack

Eager not to cede ground in the debate over the economy, President Obama will offer his first direct response Friday to rival Mitt Romney’s escalating assault on his commitment to business and free enterprise, a senior campaign official said. Obama will use speeches in Fort Myers and Orlando to fight back against the presumptive Republican nominee, who for several days has lambasted the president for using the phrase “you didn’t build that” during a campaign event last week, while talking about business owners. “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive,” Obama said during a rally in Virginia on Friday. “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” Republicans have seized on the phrase to make the case that Obama prefers big government to free-market capitalism and entrepreneurship. Romney’s campaign released a Web video mocking the president, and the presumptive GOP nominee chided Obama again Thursday during an appearance in Roxbury, Mass. But the fuller context of the remarks make it appear that the president was arguing that the government helps the private sector by building the roads, bridges and education system that businesses rely on. Until now, the president has been content to let his aides rebut the Republican criticism, but aides said he is ready to fight back, perhaps an indication that the GOP attacks are starting to worry the Obama campaign. “Expect President Obama to counterpunch Mitt Romney’s out-of-context attack on businesses tomorrow,” said the campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy. The official added that Obama also will highlight ways in which Romney’s economic agenda, which the president has equated to trickle-down economics, would be “devastating for small businesses.” Obama will “talk about his longtime belief in the drive and ingenuity of the American worker and his ongoing commitment to ensuring entrepreneurs and small businesses have the tools they need to succeed,” the official said.

Russia slams western criticism over Syria veto

Russia has condemned as “unacceptable” Western criticisms of its decision to veto the draft resolution against the Syrian government at the United Nations Security Council.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that some Western countries are trying to lay the blame for the escalating Syrian violence on Russia’s refusal to support a resolution threatening sanctions against the authorities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Friday. "Instead of being involved in crude insinuations about the policies of Russia, which never stopped searching for a political solution, our Western partners should do at least something to make the militant opposition enter negotiations,” he also said. On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed the third anti-Syria resolution, sparkling anger among Western countries that had demanded further sanctions against the Arab country. The United States considered the decision as "highly regrettable," with the country’s UN envoy Susan Rice claiming that the resolution was not aimed at military intervention in Syria but to provide support for diplomatic efforts. "We will increase our work outside Security Council," she added. Britain’s UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant also said that the UK was “appalled” at the China and Russia veto. Lukashevich, however, reiterated Moscow’s opposition against foreign intervention in Syria, saying that the settlement of the unrest in the Arab nation could not be “reached through an escalation of violence and terrorist attacks." Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov also said on Friday that Moscow would support a draft resolution by Pakistan on the extension of the UN observer mission in Syria for 45 days. "We will support it since we were involved in drawing up (the draft resolution) together with our Pakistani colleagues," Gatilov said.

Attempts at Syrian regime change

Yesterday’s attack on the meeting at the National Security Headquarters in Damascus dealt a severe blow to the Ba’athist regime’s morale. The attack killed important people like the Defence Minister Daoud Rajha, Bashar al Assad’’s brother-in-law Assef Shaukat, and the head of the regime’s crisis cell, General Hassan Trukmani. These three were believed to be the power hub that has been directing the crackdown in Syria. The killing of Assef Shaukat, who was considered the key man behind the suppression of the opposition, was the most celebrated event for the rebels. The attacker, who some say was wearing an explosives jacket, could not be anyone but an insider. The opposition Free Syrian Army and Brigade of Islam both have both claimed responsibility for the attack. Whosoever be the source of the attack, it has brought joy to the opposing forces. The killing of the trio is believed in the opposition’s western backers to be the end of Assad’s tenacity and hold on power, and therefore the moment to deliver the coup de grace. The west, led by the US, hopes that the opposition forces that have entered Damascus four days ago would compel Assad to give in. That may be why, in a rush of anticipation, the western countries decided to move their long delayed UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Syria. Predictably, it was vetoed by Russia and China, wary of a repeat of the regime change wrought by western support to rebels fighting against Moammar Gaddafi in Libya under the ‘right to protect’ doctrine. This leaves Kofi Annan’s peace plan that he had put forward in April calling for a political solution rather than overthrowing the regime. However, the emerging pattern in the Libyan and Syrian case suggests something sinister. It seems western-backed pressure is being applied from different sides. The invasion of Damascus, the attack on the military crisis cell’s meeting, the visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to China to persuade Beijing to soften its opposition to the west-sponsored regime change project, all appear part of a concerted effort to overthrow the Assad-led Ba’athist regime in Syria. That the rebels are equipped with the latest weaponry has already raised questions about the covert involvement of the west in the Syrian civil war. This seems to confirm the western ploy of ending those Arab regimes that have so for not fallen in line under western control, hence removing barriers to the realisation of a greater Israel.

First word from Syria's Assad emerges after attack

Bashar Assad attended the swearing-in of his new defense minister Thursday, according to footage shown on Syrian state TV, the first sign of the president since an audacious rebel attack the day before struck at the heart of his regime and killed three senior officials.
Government forces struck back against rebels with attack helicopters and shelling in a fifth straight day of clashes in Damascus. The inability of the military to control the clashes in the capital against lightly armed rebel forces and the deadly bombing of a high-level security meeting a day earlier made Assad's hold on power look increasingly tenuous. The whereabouts of Assad, his wife and their three young children have been a mystery since the attack that killed his brother-in-law and his defense minister. Assad does not appear in public frequently, and his absence was notable following such a serious blow his inner circle. The state TV announcement appeared aimed at sending the message that Assad is alive and well. It said Assad, dressed in a blue suit and tie, wished the new defense minister good luck but it did not say where the swearing-in took place. Thousands of Syrians streamed across the Syrian border into Lebanon, fleeing as fighting in the capital entered its fifth straight day, witnesses said. Residents near the Masnaa crossing point — about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Damascus — said hundreds of private cars as well as taxis and buses were ferrying people across. Wednesday's rebel bomb attack struck the harshest blow yet to Assad's regime. The White House said it showed Assad was "losing control" of Syria. Syrian TV confirmed the deaths of Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha, 65, a former army general and the most senior government official to be killed in the rebels' battle to oust Assad; Gen. Assef Shawkat, 62, the deputy defense minister who is married to Assad's elder sister, Bushra, and is one of the most feared figures in the inner circle; and Hassan Turkmani, 77, a former defense minister who died of his wounds in the hospital. Also wounded were Interior Minister Mohammed Shaar and Maj. Gen. Hisham Ikhtiar, who heads the National Security Department. State TV said both were in stable condition. Rebels claimed responsibility, saying they targeted the room where the top government security officials in charge of crushing the revolt were meeting. Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, the Norwegian head of nearly 300 unarmed U.N. observers in Syria, condemned the violence and encouraged a diplomatic solution, which appears increasingly out of reach. "It pains me to say, but we are not on the track for peace in Syria," Mood said in Damascus. Hours later, China and Russia vetoed a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria's crisis — reflecting divisions between them and the West on who is responsible for Syria's crisis and how to stop it. The resolution would have imposed non-military sanctions against Assad's government if it didn't withdraw troops and heavy weapons from populated areas within 10 days. It was tied to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which could eventually allow the use of force to end the conflict. Russia and China have long opposed any moves that put the blame exclusively on Damascus or could pave the way for foreign military intervention in Syria. The 11-2 vote, with two abstentions, leaves in limbo the future of the 300-person U.N. monitoring team in Syria, whose mandate expires Friday. The latest fighting in Damascus, government forces fired heavy machine guns and mortars in battles with rebels in a number of neighborhoods in the capital, the Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Adding to the confusion, Syria's state-run TV warned citizens that gunmen were disguising themselves in military uniforms to carry out attacks. "Gunmen are wearing Republican Guard uniforms in the neighborhoods of Tadamon, Midan, Qaa and Nahr Aisha, proving that they are planning attacks and crimes," SANA said. Many residents were fleeing Damascus' Mezzeh neighborhood after troops surrounded it and posted snipers on rooftops while exchanging gunfire with opposition forces. The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, said rebels damaged one helicopter and disabled three military vehicles. Rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades at a police station in the Jdeidet Artouz area, killing at least five officers, the group said. Activist claims could not be independently verified. The Syrian government bars most media from working independently in the country. The unarmed observers were authorized for 90 days to monitor a cease-fire and implementation of Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, but the truce never took hold and the monitors have found themselves largely locked down because of the persistent violence. Mood said the observers "will become relevant when the political process takes off." Syria's 16-month crisis began with protests inspired by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions, but it has evolved into a civil war, with rebels fighting to topple Assad. Activists say more than 17,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011, most of them civilians. The Syrian government says more than 4,000 security officers have been killed. It does not given numbers of civilian dead. ___

Political solution in Syria hard to achieve amid escalating violence

The long-lasting violence in Syria is gaining momentum recently as severe military showdown is now taking place in several areas in the heart of the capital Damascus, a snub to all political solutions as each party of the conflict is determined to demolish the other by force. The showdown started Sunday afternoon between regular troops and armed rebels in several neighborhoods of Damascus, which has relatively kept a distance from the violence elsewhere. The military confrontation came as the armed rebels announced the commencement of the "great battle of Damascus" in a bid to bring down the government's stronghold. The intensity of the clashes ramped up Wednesday after the rebels managed to blast a meeting room grouping top Syrian officials and cronies to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The killed officials are defense minister, his deputy and assistant vice-president. The meeting was also attended by many other figures, some of whom were injured, including the interior minister. The defense ministry pledged to hit back hard and cut the hands of those who dare to undermine the security of the country, as the armed rebels Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the blast and vowed to stage more assaults. Moreover, the rebels said they will not back down, buoyed by their success in hitting many officials in one hit.Media reports said dozens have been killed over the five-day deadly conflict in and around the capital. While the military confrontation is on the rise, calls for dialogue sound like a sweet but far fetched dream given the gravity and the volatility of the situation, which has been complex from the very beginning of the national upheaval. Moreover, the West-backed Syrian opposition in exile refused to accept the concept of dialogue, damping all efforts in that regard. The broad-based opposition contended that a dialogue with a “criminal regime" is of no avail, saying the dialogue would be plausible if it only discussed the way of handing the power over to the revolutionaries. The anti-government movement has gained momentum after the United States and its Western allies lined up behind the opposition, promising them support and emboldening them to refuse dialogue with the current leadership. The United States has slapped Syria with many rounds of sanctions and called repeatedly on Assad to renounce power, while at the same time rendering support to the opposition, a tactic which has met discontent by Russia, which called on the West to practice pressure on the opposition to hold talks with the Assad administration to iron out differences and craft a political solution to end the crisis.On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed a West-backed resolution in the UN Security Council, which called on the Syria government to pull out troops from populated areas within 10 days or face non- military sanctions. However, the draft resolution were to be adopted under chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which would open doors for a military response if the Syrian government failed to implement the resolution. Thursday's meeting of the UN Security Council left the future of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) unclear as the mission's mandate ends on July 20. The head of the mission, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, left Syria on Thursday and headed back to Geneva. Before his departure, Mood stressed that the situation in Syria is not on track for peace given the escalation of violence over the past few days. "It pains me to say, but we are not on the track for peace in Syria and the escalation of violence we have witnessed in Damascus over the past few days is a testimony to that," Mood said. Mood lambasted the military confrontation as it would only increase the suffering of the Syrian people and would not be conducive in ending the conflict. "I, as a soldier, know more than many that the decision in favor of peace is harder than that of war," Mood said, adding that "it is the fabric of a society that will be deeply damaged by war, and greatly enhanced by the prevalence of peace." Mood said the government and opposition must make concessions, otherwise the there will be days of suffering for the Syrians, an appeal that seems difficult to take place in the near future.

Western efforts to force Syria resolution through UNSC is doomed and dangerous

The UN Security Council failed, for the third time, to adopt a Western resolution on Syria on Thursday after a double veto from Russia and China, further exposing the profound divisions among key council members on how to end the escalating violence in the Middle East country. China's stance on the Syria issue is consistent and clear. The country has long called for an immediate end to all kinds of violence and worked hard with other countries to pave the way for a political solution to the 16-month long crisis. The latest draft, backed by Britain, the United States and some other countries, threatens to impose sanctions against the Syrian government without exerting enough pressure on the increasingly violent opposition groups. Given to the unbalanced nature of the draft and the Western envoys' intransigence in the negotiations, no one has really expected the document to get anywhere. It is doomed from the very beginning. Unfortunately, some Western countries hastily pushed for a vote on the immature draft, which, if adopted, will only lead to more violence in Syria. Western diplomats rushed to point fingers at Russia and China after the resolution was defeated, but they have only themselves to blame for trying to force such an ill-considered draft through the Council. Besides, the Western diplomats displayed arrogance and inflexibility when responding to other Council members' concerns during the negotiations, ultimately leading to the failure of their efforts. It is safe to say the resolution is dead, but the damage has been done. The West, by pushing for sanctions against the Syrian government, sent a clear signal to the armed opposition groups that politicians in London and Washington are only interested in tieing the hands of Damascus, while the violent operations of the anti-government forces would be tolerated and even encouraged. For the UN Security Council, its credibility has been further damaged as major powers are locked in fierce internal bickering. The Western attempt to force the draft resolution through the Council has also poisoned the atmosphere among key council members. Instead of taking up a confrontational approach, major Western powers should work with Russia and China to support the peace-making efforts of UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan. The mandate of the U.N Supervision Mission in Syria, which expires on Friday, should be renewed as soon as possible to give peace efforts another chance. Council members should also enhance coordination and display flexibility so as to convey an unified message to all concerned parties in Syria. Only through this way can the Council find an effective resolution to the crisis and secure its own credibility. The future of Syria should only be decided by the Syrian people. Any outside intervention, if driven by geopolitical ambitions, will only further complicate the situation and lead to more bloodshed in the conflicts-torn country.

World remains divided on Syria as UNSC fails to pass resolution again

• Russia and China on Thursday, for the third time, vetoed a Western-proposed draft resolution. • Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, told the UNSC that it "utterly failed" on Syria. • Ban Ki-moon said that he is disappointed at the UNSC's failure to adopt the resolution.
The world seems to be still clogged up in their divide on how to solve the chronic and tumult crisis in Syria as a UN draft resolution was killed again on Thursday. Russia and China on Thursday, for the third time, vetoed a Western-proposed draft resolution, which threatens non-military sanctions by quoting Chapter VII of the UN Charter if the Syrian government fails to pull out troops and heavy weapons from populated areas.
The two countries explained after the vote that the resolution was "biased" and "seriously problematic," and went against the consensus that was reached by the Action Group members at a meeting in Geneva late last month. China's permanent representative to the UN Li Baodong said on Thursday the resolution "would not help resolve the Syrian issue, but instead would only derail the issue from the track of political settlement...undermine regional peace and stability, and ultimately impair the interests of the people in Syria and the region at large." He said UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan's mediation work is "an important and realistic way" to achieve for the political solution to the Syrian issue, yet the vetoed text has seriously disrupted Annan's efforts. Li slammed the draft's sponsoring countries for being too rigid and arrogant to listen to other nations' reasonable concerns, and revise the document. China has all along been trying to play a "positive and constructive" part on the Syrian crisis in terms of supporting a smooth extension of the mandate of UNSMIS (the UN Supervision Mission in Syria), and Annan's mediation efforts. Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin also believed that resolution has targeted "exclusively at the Syrian government, counter the spirit of Geneva's document and does not reflect the reality in the country today." Churkin noted Moscow has also drafted a resolution to bring the UNSC members together, back Annan's work and to extend the mandate of UNSMIS. "We believe that the continued confrontation in the Security Council to be useless and counterproductive," said Churkin, adding that for this reason Russia would not submit its own draft for a vote. Churkin also suggested the Council adopt a brief, depoliticized resolution on a technical extension of UNSMIS' mandate for a specific period of time with a view to "preserving the useful potential" of the mission. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, told the UNSC that it "utterly failed" on Syria. "We will intensify our work with a diverse range of partners outside the Security Council to bring pressure to bear on Assad regime and to deliver assistance to those in need," she said. British foreign secretary William Hague on Thursday warned of increasing violence in Syria after the draft resolution was vetoed, saying the situation on the ground is "desperately serious" and "getting worse by the day." "What is happening in Syria is a tragedy for its entire people and a threat to international peace and security," Hague said. Also on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he is disappointed at the UNSC's failure to adopt the resolution. It said that the vote was disappointing as it comes at a time when more resolve and pressure were needed to achieve the goals endorsed by the Council, of a full cessation of violence to protect civilians and of facilitating a Syrian-led political transition leading to a democratic political system. "The hour is grave. The international community has a collective responsibility to the Syrian people," said the statement. The statement also noted that the secretary-general, together with the the international envoy Kofi Annan and the UN as a whole, will spare no efforts in the search to end the violence and human rights violations, and to bring about a peaceful and democratic transition headed by the Syrians. "The secretary-general reiterates his urgent call upon all sides to cease violence in all its forms, and move toward a peaceful, Syrian-led political transition," it added. Annan on Thursday also expressed his disappointment over the Security Council's failure to reach a new agreement on Syria. His spokesperson Ahmad Fawzi said the the envoy is disappointed that at this critical stage the UNSC could not unite and take the strong and concerted action he had urged and hoped for. "He believes that the voice of the Council is much more powerful when its members act as one," Fawzi said.

Swat University joins hands with two UK institutes

The Express Tribune
A Pakistani and two British universities have joined hands to benefit from each other’s experiences, exchange knowledge and promote understanding. The University of Swat has signed a memorandum of understanding with Leicester and Brunel universities to enable the exchange of faculty staff and students for academic and training purposes, said a press release issued by the university on Thursday. University of Swat Vice-Chancellor Dr Muhammad Jahanzeb Khan signed both the MoUs during his official visit to the United Kingdom. “Such linkage are no doubt, essential for university students and create a conducive environment for collaborative work in the field of higher education,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune. “The step will go a long way in the field of higher education and for the economic growth for the country,” he added. The academic circles in the valley have appreciated the move, dubbing it a positive step for the future of the newly-born university. “Exchange programmes are not only essential for students’ development but also indispensible for their intellectual growth and maturity,” commented Murad Ali, an educational expert. He opined that local students will benefit from orientation and exposure at foreign universities. “Such exchanges are instrumental in personality development. As students learn about traditional values and diversity of other countries, they get motivated,” Abdul Qayum, a professor at Jahanzeb College told The Express Tribune. “People learn from one another by human contact, they engage in discussions on various topics which change perceptions. This lends them an opportunity to widen their vision about different cultures and viewpoints of people.

Afghan forces take over security of Kandahar

Afghan security forces on Wednesday (July 18) officially took over security of Kandahar City and three districts of Kandahar province from foreign forces in the third phase of security transfer. In this connection a ceremony was held inside the base of 205th Attal Corps in Kandahar which was attended by Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak, Head of Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) Abdul Khaliq Farahi, Governor Kandahar Toryalay Wessa, provincial police chief, members of parliament and provincial council, tribal elders and a large number of government officials. Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said on the occasion that the government had proposed security transfer to Afghan forces long ago, however, the proposal was accepted three years back and the process of transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces started. Had this proposal been accepted at that them, the whole country would now be in the control of Afghans, he said. Head of IDLG Abdul Khaliq Farahi also addressed the ceremony and urged foreigners not stop assistance to civilian sector and help the government in raising capacity of the government departments and officials. Governor Toryalay Wessa and other participants emphasized on strengthening intelligence agencies, equipping and training of Afghan forces. Security of Uruzgan province was also transferred to Afghan forces yesterday.

Tribesmen rise up against Afghan Taliban

About 200 tribesmen gathered in an eastern Afghan town this week to mark what they said was an uprising against Taliban insurgents -- the latest in a series of such moves, officials say.
Analysts caution that the so-called uprisings could be attempts by local militia leaders to reassert their authority ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai. Or they could be orchestrated as part of a government strategy, they say. But on Wednesday, in the central bazaar of Alishing, a farming district in eastern Laghman province, the tribesmen -- some carrying AK-47 rifles or rocket-propelled grenades -- made their intentions clear. "We're fed up with the Taliban and their brutal aggressions against our people," a tribal elder among the protesters, Ghulam Rasoul, told AFP at the scene. "We're standing up against them and will not allow them to oppress our people and kill our people," the turbaned elder said. Laghman provincial administration spokesman Sarhadi Zwak told AFP that Alishing's revolt was the latest in a series of similar moves across the province northeast of Kabul. And since mid-May, self-armed tribal militia have secured several villages in Ghazni province's Andar district south of the capital, a senior interior ministry source told AFP. They were keeping the Taliban at bay and helped reopen dozens of schools the insurgents had closed, he said on condition of anonymity. Although at an early stage, the revolts have worried the insurgents. "Taliban fighters used to control most of the provinces, but now they are losing ground in areas like Helmand, Kunduz and more recently Kandahar, Zabul and Ghazni," a mid-level Taliban source told AFP in Pakistan. "They lost ground to tribal militias because they don't let people access basic services, especially school," said the source, who belongs to the militants' political wing and travels regularly between Pakistan and Afghanistan. "That is what happened in Ghazni two months ago," he said. At the demonstration in Alishing, tribal elder Noor Zaman told AFP: "The Taliban are insulting our elders, they are killing our elders, we decided to end this. "Today we have gathered to tell the Taliban that they are no longer welcome in our village. If they try to enter our village again we will kill them," Zaman said. The Taliban Islamists, who were in power between 1996 and 2001, are waging an insurgency they call "jihad", or holy war, to bring down the Western-backed Kabul government, which is supported by some 130,000 NATO troops. But the US-led coalition is gradually withdrawing troops and increasingly handing responsibility for security to Afghans ahead of 2014. "As the NATO troops are preparing to withdraw, the Taliban have started to expand their activities in the country," said analyst and author Waheed Mujda, a former official in the Taliban regime. "The more they expand the more it becomes difficult for them to control their commanders and they and their soldiers have in some areas harassed and angered local communities. "The uprisings are not purely by [ordinary] people -- in most parts they are being led by some former jihadi commanders who see this as a chance for themselves to come back to power." Abdul Waheed Wafa, the director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University, said it was too early to call the moves an uprising. "It's too early to give it a name. We don't yet know if it's really an uprising by the people or an intelligence strategy or a government project," Wafa said. "But whatever it is, if it's not managed properly, it could turn into anything: it could turn into a popular revolution against the Taliban or a crisis within the crisis. It needs to be managed by the government," Wafa said. The interior ministry official agreed that the uprisings were on a small scale so far, but said the government hoped they would expand.

Pakistan: The curse of July ’77

Written by Lal Khan
This year July 5 marked the 35th anniversary of the military coup in Pakistan that toppled the democratic government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the pitch darkness of the night. This coup was led by General Ziaul Haq who deposed the first PPP government and imposed the most vicious and tyrannous military dictatorship in the country’s history. During the 11 nightmarish years of martial law, the masses of Pakistan suffered the torments and brutalities inflicted in the name of Islam. Thousands were publically lashed and incarcerated in prisons and notorious torture cells. Hundreds were hung on the gallows and innumerable perished in several massacres. In Sindh, the army killed thousands to crush the movement of 1983. In the Colony Textile Mills, in Multan, 133 workers were gruesomely slaughtered by direct firing. Zia was enjoying a wedding feast of the owner’s daughter in a plush villa nearby. Women were specially targeted with draconian Islamic laws like the Hadood Ordinance in which the rape victims were to be flogged for adultery. This barbaric dictatorship was imposed in connivance with US imperialism and was supported by them throughout its vindictive rule. Domestically, the religious parties and the conservative right wing supported it. Jamaat-e-Islami was part of the regime and shared power with Ziaul Haq. Pakistan in this period was transformed into a frightful society where relentless state repression and ruthless obscurantism crushed the masses. The state and the religious vigilantes monstrously intruded into the private lives of citizens. Hypocrisy, deceit, selfishness, treachery and malice became social norms. Islamic fundamentalism was propped up by the state and supported by the US to crush the resistance against the dictatorship. However, there were heroic and determined struggles launched against this despotic dictatorship by the workers and youth. Enormous sacrifices were made. But since its fall not much has changed for the masses. Instead, the social and economic conditions have worsened in many ways. There are important lessons to be learnt from this traumatic experience the oppressed classes had to endure for more than a decade of suffering and gloom. The late 1960s witnessed one revolutionary movement after another. The revolutionary movement of 1968-69 in Pakistan had not only challenged Ayub’s military dictatorship but also the system and state it was protecting. The masses wanted jobs, food, education, healthcare, housing – in other words, an end to their misery and exploitation. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the PPP provided an answer in the form of a programme of revolutionary socialism as opposed to “national or people’s democratic revolution” offered by our brothers and sisters of the left. This programme was synonymous with the fundamental aspirations of the masses in revolt. The intensity of the upheaval was so severe that it threatened the existence of capitalism itself. The region’s ruling classes initially tried to diffuse it through the elections of December 1970 and then even had to instigate a war and the breakup of Pakistan to quell the revolution. The pressure of the uprising and the fear of the revolution were still there and the military had to hand power to Bhutto at the end of 1971 who immediately initiated a rapid programme of the most radical reforms in the history of the country. Unfortunately, the PPP was not a Bolshevik party and hence, it lacked the cadre network and structures to replace the institutions of the bourgeoisie state. In spite of widespread nationalizations, the foreign corporate sector and several other sections of the commanding heights of the economy were left in private hands. The left within the party was slowly purged, land reforms were jeopardised by the bureaucracy of the bourgeois state and, instead, landlords penetrated the party. The old state apparatus remained intact and began to revive its despotic role. This was seen in the aggression of the army in Baluchistan in1974 under the PPP government. In the last analysis, capitalism was not abolished and its burgeoning crisis exploded in hyper-inflation that destabilised and ultimately led to the demise of the PPP government. It culminated in the assassination of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on the gallows in April 1979. The ruling classes who had been bruised by Bhutto’s reforms struck back with a bloody vengeance. In his last book, written in his death cell, If I am assassinated, which has acquired the status of his last testament, Bhutto wrote, “I am suffering this ordeal because I sought an honourable and equitable via media [middle road] of conflicting interests... the lesson of this coup d’état is that a via media, a modus vivendi, a compromise is a utopian dream. The coup d’état demonstrates the class struggle is irreconcilable and it must result in the victory of one class over the other. Obviously, whatever the temporary setbacks, the struggle can lead only to the victory of one class.” Paradoxically, the PPP leaders that emerged in the aftermath of Z A Bhutto’s assassination rebuked the founding chairperson’s last testament and the lessons he had drawn in life and death. The regimes of bourgeoisie democracy that followed after Zia’s demise did not change the fundamental policies and the capitalist/feudal system. To preserve and protect this system the ruling classes had imposed the Zia dictatorship that inflicted horrendous atrocities upon the toiling masses. It is not just his odious legacy that prevails in today’s Pakistan but the majority of politicians are former protégés of Ziaul Haq. The irony is that the PPP’s former prime minister, foreign minister and numerous other turncoats imposed in the hierarchy of today’s PPP are products of the nefarious Zia regime. This has resulted in the crushing of society. While the rich accumulate obscene quantities of wealth, thousands of working people fall below the poverty line every day. Corruption, nepotism and crime dominate the political spectrum. The military that became a mercenary force in waging imperialist wars during the Zia era is now indulged in the process of primitive accumulation. Zia initiated religious bigotry and terrorism has become a festering wound on the body politic of Pakistan. This bestial frenzy is being financed by the black capital generated by the narcotics trade that had an income of $30 billion this year, according to UNICEF. Hence, even after his physical elimination, the basic characteristics of Zia’s policies are very much intact. This reflects the real nature of Pakistani capitalism. In these excruciating times, the ruling class through the media is trying to restrict mass consciousness in the conflicts between different sections of the elite and various forms of bourgeois political superstructures. The most destructive feature of a military dictatorship is that it pushes mass consciousness backwards and illusions in a democratic setup of the elite develop in society that undermine the class struggle. Exploitation and agony persists. The harrowing conditions that are tormenting society can only be eradicated when this appalling system is abolished by the redemption of the 1968-69 revolution through a socialist victory, otherwise these revolutions cannot be victorious. The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at

A.Qadir Gilani's victory assertion of people's final verdict
President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the electoral victory of Abdul Qadir Gilani in the sandy land of the saints will reverberate in the annals of time as a stark reminder to everyone that it is the people and people alone who pronounce the final verdict and are not afraid of overturning all other judgments. This he said in his felicitation message to Abdul Qadir Gilani, son of former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, on his victory in the bye-election in NA 151 Multan. According to unofficial results, Abdul Qadir Gilani secured 64628 votes and won the election with a lead of over four thousand votes. In his message, the President termed the victory as vindication of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and the PPP and recognition of the sacrifices of Gilanis for upholding the constitution, democracy, and the Party and their services to the people of the area. The President termed the peoples verdict as ultimate in this world transcending all other judgments. The President also felicitated former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani saying that the Party joined him in celebrating his personal vindication. The President said that he was confident that as a member of the National Assembly, Abdul Qadir Gilani following in the footsteps of his father and the Party's leaders will uphold the constitution, serve the cause of democracy and Party and serve the masses.

President Zardari: Parliament is supreme, has mandate to legislate

President Asif Ali Zardari
on Thursday said the president is part of parliament under the Constitution and he (as president) interacts and meets parliamentarians since parliament is his constituency. He added that no law barred the president from meeting his constituents. He also declared that he would not quit on the wishes of the conspirators and that parliament was sovereign and had the mandate to legislate. President Zardari said this while addressing a reception hosted by the Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah at the CM House here. Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also present. It was a grand party meeting and members of the PPP central committee belonging to Sindh, federal and provincial ministers, members of the national and provincial assemblies, members of the PPP Sindh executive committee and executive committee members of all the districts were invited to attend the meeting. The president asked the party leaders and workers to fear no one, as he is the symbol of the federation while the PPP is the largest political party and believes in serving the people. President Zardari said he has nominated a PPP worker as prime minister of the country and it was his policy to selecthard working and dedicated workers to serve the nation and the people. He said parliament is sovereign and has the mandate to legislate while 1,500 elected members of the assemblies have elected him as president. The party, he said, is ready for elections, which will be held as per schedule. The president said he is the follower of the late ZA Bhutto and the PPP is a revolutionary party. He said anti-people forces were spending money for their projection in the media but they could not weaken the PPP. Zardari said some elements were trying to blackmail him like they blackmailed the late Benazir Bhutto but they will fail in their attempts. He said Bilawal Bhutto is now leading the party and he will soon actively participate in politics. He directed the party workers to start their election campaign and contact the masses. President Zardari declared that all political forces are with the PPP and claimed that Punjab, southern Punjab in particular, is the PPP’s bastion. He said the population of Karachi is 30 million and people from all over the country have come to the city. He said gangs of criminals also reside in this mega city and the government is trying to strengthen the police and the law enforcement agencies to control law and order. The president said that Karachi, being the hub of economic activity, is also suffering because of the fast changing situation at the international level.He told the workers that neither the PPP nor its leadership is weak and the party is bringing in new cadres for a better future. He concluded his speech with slogans of ‘Jeay Bhutto’ and ‘Pakistan Khappe’.Earlier Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah told the gathering that the PPP is not afraid of any long march and declared that party can launch a train march under the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari. Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Agha Siraj and others also spoke on the occasion and expressed full confidence in the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari. Agencies add: The president said that for the stability and smoothness of the system, it was necessary that every state institution respected the mandate of other institutions. He said that in developing democracies some institutions might at times appear to be overstepping their mandate but this was part of the evolutionary process and should not be a matter of concern. The president said that the Pakistan People’s Party had pursued the politics of reconciliation and had always been taking along other political forces. He said no conspiracies or propaganda could weaken or deter the PPP from pursuing the people-oriented agenda. The president said, “Our detractors cannot even understand the basics of the philosophy of Quaid-e-Awam.” He has read and learnt the entire philosophy of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and has the courage to follow his path, he added. “I have lived in all those cells where Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was confined. I have seen him in my childhood and I still remember all of his speeches and whatever conspiracies were hatched against him,” the president said. He said that the conspiracies that were hatched against Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto are being hatched against him. The president said that those who wanted to restrict the political forces would not succeed. He asked the Sindh chief minister to create more employment opportunities in the province on an urgent basis as people were asking for jobs. The president said the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a success story and has earned worldwide acclaim for its transparency and objectivity. He said he has advised the BISP chairperson to adopt an innovative approach to make the programme more effective.

PPP braces for two momentous days next week

With the Supreme Court scheduled to take up a number of petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act of 2012 on July 23 and the NRO implementation case on July 25, PPP leaders are busy contemplating their response to the two cases. Sources close to some senior PPP leaders said a debate was going on in the party over whether to adopt a hard line or follow its policy of going by the book and let the judiciary keep on issuing anti-PPP judgments. In the recent past the party has held more than one sitting to discuss its future course of action. The latest one was held on Tuesday at the presidency, co-chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. The PPP sources said that while the party hawks wanted a direct confrontation with the judiciary and protests against any future court judgment against the PPP and its leaders both in and outside parliament. But the likes of Senator Raza Rabbani are cautioning the party against any confrontation with the judiciary. The sources said President Zardari was yet to give his opinion on the issue. But, according to them, the dominant mood in the party was aggressive and some leaders were not happy that the ouster of Yousuf Raza Gilani was accepted without putting up a fight. “When everyone of us sitting in the party believes that the courts are not impartial when it comes to the cases involving the PPP and its leaders, there is nothing wrong in protesting against court decisions on the streets,” said a PPP leader. The Tuesday meeting was informed that there was every possibility the SC would strike down some provisions of the Contempt of Court Act which provided immunity to the president and the prime minister against contempt charges and the right to appeal for a convict or one accused of contempt. Senior Lawyer Salman Akram Raja told Dawn that if the court chose to strike down some provisions or the whole law the government would have to accept the decision. However, if the court only interpreted it the PPP could take it back to parliament and get its own interpretation passed by amending the law. He said the PPP government actually wanted to drag its feet on the NRO implementation case “and I believe the government after passing the new law will manage to do so.” Barrister Zafarullh Khan said if the government and the judiciary had a difference of opinion on interpretation of a law, parliament could go for its amendment to explain the way it wanted. However, he said, under the Constitution it was only the SC which had the right to interpret a law. According to a senior PPP office-bearer, by passing the new law on contempt of court, the government had sent its message loud and clear that it did not want the apex court to touch the president and prime minister on contempt charges. Now, he said, the ball was in the SC court and let the judges decide on the law. The PPP sources said that in the first place the party believed this time the court would not send the new prime minister packing and give him time. Otherwise, he said, “this time party’s response will be different”. Talking to reporters, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said the contempt of court cases could not add to the respect and dignity of the judiciary. He argued that whenever judges would issue wrong decisions they would be ridiculed because the judiciary was not above the law. He said the court decisions should be acceptable to both parties. He said the SC should refer the matter to parliament with its interpretation and parliament would accept its positive recommendations. He warned that there would be a crisis in the country if the court annulled the Contempt of Court Act. Mr Qadir said there should be harmony among institutions for smooth functioning of the system. The PPP sources said the government intended to invoke the new law in its response to the SC on the NRO implementation case.

‘Nawaz promotes politics of provincialism’

Daily Times
Sindh Revenue Minister Jam Mahtab Hussain Dahar has said that Nawaz Sharif has conservative approach and his politics revolves around provincialism while Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is a federal party that has deep roots in all provinces, including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. This he said while talking to various delegations here at his office on Thursday. Dahar said that whenever Nawaz visited Sindh, he did nothing but increased the problems of the people and did only verbosity. He advised Sharif Brothers to learn politics from a common worker of PPP who never left party in lurch. Dahar said: “People of Pakistan will never support those so-called politicians who enter into secret pacts and leave the country. The history of PPP is a history of martyrs and we believe in serving the masses in all circumstances.” He said that the workers and leaders of PPP are the backbone of the party and the people of Pakistan have elected us. “Our first priority is to provide basic facilities to the people,” he added. The minister said that the four and half years of our government were a clear proof that we had provided relief to the people in our tenure. “Thousands young men were given jobs on merit. More than one lakh young men had been provided technical training skills in order to enable them to earn respectable livelihood in the society,” Dahar added. On this occasion members of the delegations informed the provincial minister about their problems and he assured them that the problems would be solved soon.

Pakistan: KILLED... 'Because they were Shia’
14 Shia passengers killed in a roadside bomb attack in Orakzai Agency point to a new pattern of sectarian killings across the tribal Agencies, which is cause for serious concern. The Parachinar Shia tribes of Kurram Agency are no strangers to long-standing sectarian differences that often erupt in episodes of violence, but the latest round of attacks, particularly this Orazkai incident, indicates an unprecedented blueprint, one that betrays logistical improvisation. Historically, Kurram has been the ideal staging post for all sorts of covert operations into Afghanistan. Its strategic ‘Parrot’s Beak’ enclave provides by far the most convenient infiltration point into Afghan territory. Hence its tactical significance, be it for mujahideen waging holy war against the Soviets, or al Qaeda/Taliban elements crossing over to disrupt NATO/ISAF forces. And whenever indoctrinated jihadists have passed through there, their Salafist tendencies have sought fit to engage in genocidal pogroms against the native Shia tribes. Of course, crushing a community they so openly oppose also serves to intimidate other potential pockets of resistance. Should continuing signs of unrest in Kurram, and now the obvious spillover in neighbouring Orakzai, be a fallout of the same proxy-sponsoring tendencies of the intelligence agencies, then there is an extremely disturbing, potentially existential, problem confronting Pakistan that the country ignores at its peril. Furthermore, intelligence chatter indicates that renewed attacks might spring from the move of the Haqqani network to the area, which is even more disturbing. Apparently no longer able to deflect pressing US demands for an offensive in North Waziristan to pursue the Haqqanis, elements in military intelligence saw fit to move them to Kurram and Orakzai, fearing a unilateral external hit. That their presence would embolden indigenous Taliban elements is natural, as the sectarian flare-up in normally non-controversial Orakzai seems to indicate. It may well be that the Haqqani hand in the recent violence is indirect, with those strengthened by their presence seeing fit to carry out their own agenda. Still, the responsibility must first be placed on the Haqqani network, then, and more seriously, on the sponsors that got him there. On an even more alarming note, with the US House of Representatives now urging the State Department to officially declare the Haqqanis terrorists, Pakistan may not be far from being sanctioned for failure to dismantle this network specialising in IEDs, targeted killings and genocide. As things stand, Islamabad must urgently undertake a number of steps to bring a semblance of normalcy to the situation. One, it must take official notice of targeted victimisation and murder of the Shia minority, especially in the tribal Agencies. This must include ending their isolation and ensuring protection along the Kurram-Kohat highway, which has been the target of Shia slaughter for far too long. Two, it must immediately order a detailed investigation into the present situation in Orazkai-Kurram, especially with regard to Haqqani’s movements. Three, it must investigate, expose and eliminate all forms of official clandestine help to elements like the Haqqanis, who are in violent revolt against secular society and should have no place in a progressive state. Four, it must brush up its own information outreach. Militants seem to leverage the media muscle far more effectively, be it the Mulla-FM of Swat, use of the internet or serious publications and fliers. Even in Orakzai, the Taliban openly took responsibility for the attack that killed, among others, two eleven-year-old and one three-year-old children, “because they were Shia”. They also vowed more attacks, with the government mum as usual. Eager elements in our security establishment are reminded that sheltering forces that, directly or indirectly, facilitate pitiless slaughter on our home soil for some sort of strategic gambit amounts to cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. Already sectarian violence has spread from its more usual centres to the Agencies. This is a self-defeating strategy that must be abandoned.

Nawaz's hypocrisy

Who can quibble with Mian Nawaz Sharif's pronouncement that for democracy strong political parties are a must? But strength and vibrancy come to political parties from their representative character and internal democracy. Can he in all honesty say this of even his own party? Aren't political parties that we have the fiefdoms of dynasties or personalities? Apart from admirable exception of Jamaat-e-Islami, isn't nomination not election their rule? Even the rising political star is as yet to establish if it is going to be any different with his political formation. So with what face could MNS speak of strong political parties when he is keeping his own under his thumb so autocratically? Can indeed he cite even one example from any world democracy where a non-elected politician could become the leader of his legislative party? Yet, after the 2008 election, he anointed himself the leader of the PML (N) parliamentary party, even though he was not even an elected member of the National Assembly, and appointed his younger sibling Shahbaz Sharif leader of the party in the Punjab Assembly, though he too was not yet elected to that legislative house. This much for his belief in strong political parties for the sustenance of a democratic order. But, then, we are no democracy in reality. It is just charlatans of his ilk who are branding democracy what actually is plutocracy pure and simple. A rule of the people for the people and by the people we definitely are not. A rule of the elite for the elite and by the elite we verifiably are. It is a clutch of elites that holds the nation's entire politics in its hands as its captive. They dominate the political parties, over which they rule and reign as little emperors. To hoi polloi, these are closed preserves. They can enter them, at best, as errand boys and foot soldiers, to beef up their political monarchs' public rallies and have their heads smashed by police lathi charge in protest processions and demonstrations their moguls stir up. The ladder to go up in the party hierarchy is just out of bounds to them. It is only in a real democracy that a grocer's daughter, an ordinary school teacher and a small-town lawyer can rise to pinnacles in the party as well as in the state. Not here. It is only some scion, sibling or lackey of the party supremo who alone can perform that feat in our plutocracy. And MNS is further advised to his own good not to dwell too much on his past. Our people may be an enslaved citizenry for the most part. But no nincompoops they are. They know what is what. He cannot mislead them into believing that his past was glorious when they know from one to all that it was all fraught, stinking unbearably foul. His was no institution-building era. It was a period of institution-demolition. He brawled with the nation's top judge, toyed with the terrible idea of throwing him behind the bars even if for an overnight, instigated revolt against him and saw him being ousted from his office. More horribly, in a case quite fit to go down in the Guinness Book of World Records, he scored a first-ever hit with his party goons physically attacking the Supreme Court, the nation's highest seat of justice, and driving the panicked honourable judges to run for their lives. That sigma he cannot wash off even with the oceanic waters of the Atlantic, what to talk of his self-touted pivotal role in the dysfunctional judges' restoration, particularly when his talk is all sham. All the credit of that restoration indisputably goes to the dysfunctional judges' own steadfastness of as well as the courageous protest campaign of the lawyers. Indeed, when the judges and the black coats were braving the wrath of the military dictator and the lawyers were having their heads broken by his ferocious lathi-wielding cops, MNS was nowhere on the scene. He was then cooling his heels in the cool climes of London, mounting such spurious political shows as the All Parties Democratic Movement, which of course he ditched later on by participating in the 2008 under the dictator's rule, contrary to his staged jamboree's vow. Little wonder, none in the legal fraternity seems endorsing his self-professed pivotal role in dysfunctional judges' reinstatement. Indeed, his second stint "of heavy mandate" in power was a saga of a parliament having been turned into mere rubber-stamp and a cabinet into a sheer formality. It was a select kitchen cabinet of ministers and bureaucrats, on whose shoulders he rode to rule autocratically. And had he had his way, he would have transformed this country into a theocracy, with himself perched on it as its lifelong Amirul Momineen, a law unto himself. There in fact is so much foul about his past that one is dissuaded away from buying even his mantra of being a reinvented democrat and a lover of judiciary and the rule of law.