Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Video: Presidential Debate 2012: Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama


No ‘adventurism’ will be allowed in Waziristan

Masood Kousar says Imran Khan lives in dreams and govt cannot allow any adventurism in Waziristan. Talking to Aneeq Naji, host of Dunya News programme Talash, the governor said army had restored peace in Waziristan with great difficulty and no one can be allowed to disrupt the peace process. ”Imran is an ignorant person, unaware of the ground realities. There is no infrastructure in Waziristan and Imran Khan is talking about taking one lakh people there,” Masood said. He said no authority in Waziristan was ready to take the responsibility for the security of rally. Imran must realise that it is an unwise step on his part, the governor added.

Russian Foreign Minister arrives in Islamabad

The Russian Foreign Minister will hold talks with the Pakistani leadership on promotion of cooperation in diverse fields Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday evening on a two day visit to Pakistan. He was greeted at the airport by senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Russian Foreign Minister will hold formal talks with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on different aspects of bilateral relations with focus on strengthening economic ties. Both the foreign ministers will address a joint news conference after their talks tomorrow. He is also expected to call on Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf.

US Presidential elections: Obama-Romney face off today

In the US, the race for the White House is heating up and President Barack Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney are all set to spar with each other in a debate over domestic and foreign policies on Wednesday. While Obama is likely to lead on issues of healthcare, Romney would renew his attack on Obama's economic policies and outsourcing jobs.

2012 Presidential Debates Begin

The major US presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, will hold their first campaign debate on Wednesday evening in Denver, Colorado. Carolyn Presutti reviews the history of U.S. presidential debates and explains how some may have changed the course of the election.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to face off in Presidential debate
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will on Wednesday clash head-to-head for the first time, in a high-stakes live televised debate that could transform the US presidential election campaign.
From a stage in Colorado, the President and his Republican challenger will each tell tens of millions of viewers that he is the man who can revive the stagnant American economy. For Mr Romney, a former Massachusetts governor who trails in polls with just 34 days remaining until election day, the debate may mark the last opportunity to dramatically alter his prospects. For Mr Obama, amid a relentless jobs crisis and a Washington in gridlock, it offers a late chance to promise struggling voters that he still embodies hope and can deliver change. As the first public meeting of two men who are known to personally dislike one another, and who have each spent hundreds of millions of dollars to destroy the other's career, the debate is the most tensely-anticipated moment of the campaign for the White House so far. Arriving in Denver, Mr Romney said that at stake was the future of a country still reeling from the effects of a financial crisis that struck amid the last presidential campaign in 2008."In my view it's not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves, the president and myself," he told supporters. "It's about something bigger than that." With 23 million people jobless or seeking more work, Mr Romney attacked Mr Obama for prioritising health care reform, adding: "Jobs is job one under my administration." The Republican vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, told a radio interview: "We're entering the phase where we get to frame the choice of this election." The debate, the first of three over the coming three weeks, centres on the economy – the issue to which Mr Romney had pledged to devote his entire campaign before his ailing ratings forced him to reach elsewhere. In an interview with Colorado's main regional newspaper yesterday, he announced that as president he would honour the temporary work permits granted to young illegal immigrants under a controversial action by Mr Obama earlier this year. The western state is one of 10 key battlegrounds in which Mr Romney is behind, according to RealClearPolitics. Its large Hispanic population sharply favours Mr Obama after Mr Romney took hard-line stances on immigration during his party primary contest. Moving to protect Mr Obama's 35-point lead among Latinos, the White House said he would make the home of the late labour leader Cesar Chavez a national monument next week. The president enjoys an average national lead of three points. Mr Romney is expected to stress in the debate that as president he would represent "100 per cent of Americans", in an effort to reduce the damage caused by secretly-recorded footage of him telling wealthy donors that 47 per cent of people were feckless "victims". While he was yesterday locked in a hotel outside Denver for last-minute coaching from top aides, Mr Obama was holed up in a resort in neighbouring Nevada making up the "debate prep" he claims to have skipped due to the middle-east crisis. Both camps have sought to lower expectations of their candidates' performances, in a ritual dance repeated every four years. Aides to Mr Obama have claimed he is "familiar with his own loquaciousness and his tendency to give long, substantive answers" and is working on seeming less professorial. "We expect Mitt Romney to be a prepared, disciplined and aggressive debater," said David Axelrod, the President's top strategist. Advisers to Mr Romney, meanwhile, stress that he is facing one of the "most talented political communicators in modern history" and that a draw would effectively be a win. Yet Chris Christie, the straight-talking Republican New Jersey governor, gave an unvarnished view of what he and other Romney allies are hoping for. "Mitt Romney is going to be standing on the same stage as the president of the United States," he told NBC. "Come Thursday morning, the entire narrative of this race is going to change". Polls show that only about 30 per cent of Americans expect a Romney win.

What do the Amish think of a Mormon presidential candidate?

AS WAS predicted by local political bosses, Pennsylvania's tough voter ID law was put on hold today. To the dismay of local conservative talk-show hosts, who were roaring on Lexington's hire car radio about "Judge Chickenhawk" permitting the dead to vote in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia, Judge Robert Simpson ordered that a new requirement to show a valid identity card with photograph and expiry date before voting should not take effect before the elections on November 6th, for fear that legitimate voters might not be able to secure the right ID cards in time. Your reporter, who is in Pennsylvania again researching a couple of pieces, can report that the ruling—while angering many Republicans—will be greeted with relief within at least one staunchly conservative voter block: the Amish of Lancaster County. There are about 70,000 Amish in the state of Pennsylvania, some 28,000 of them scattered on small farms in the rolling green hills of Lancaster. With horse-drawn buggies, scooters and their own feet as their most common means of transport, the Amish have no need of drivers' licences, though many have special state ID cards bearing the inscription "Valid without Photo", reflecting their church's prohibition against photographs and other graven images. Those cards meet the new voter ID law's requirements, but are fiddly to obtain, requiring a letter from an Amish bishop and a special visit to a government office. Though only a minority of the Amish vote, those who do intend to cast ballots next month were anxious that the voter ID laws would diminish their already low turnout. Back in 2004, when I was last posted to America, the Amish found themselves singled out for special attention by George Bush, who flew in to Lancaster County to deliver a campaign speech, attended by a fair number of straw-hatted, buggy-driving Amish. As pacifists they did not greatly care for the Iraq war, but they strongly supported the then president's conservative views on social and religious issues, as well as on gun rights (many Amish are keen hunters, especially with bows). I went to that 2004 rally as the guest of a veterinary surgeon from Kinzers in Lancaster County, Dr Willard Stoltzfus, who tends to many Amish horses and cows in the villages near his practice. Dr Stoltzfus, a rock-ribbed Republican who is of part Pennsylvanian German heritage through his father, a Mennonite, has spent years encouraging his Amish neighbours to register to vote. Eight years ago he kindly allowed me to join him in his battered four-wheel drive when he gave a lift to some Amish clients who wanted to attend the Bush rally. Long before dawn, we wove our way at speed through darkened country lanes to pick them up, narrowly missing several black buggies illuminated only by small red flashing safety lights. It was a memorable day, during which I learned that even rather conservative Amish often have telephones in out-houses or in special boxes mounted on poles some way from their homes (a loud bell is also fitted) and—when my British homeland came up for discussion—that the Amish are fans of the rural novels of James Herriott, a Yorkshire vet. Passing through Lancaster County this week, two election cycles later, I contacted Dr Stoltzfus again, to ask how the 2012 election was shaping up. The Amish are not impressed by Barack Obama's policies on gay marriage, or by the state of the national debt, he reported. As before, he had let it be known locally that he would give lifts to the polls to any Amish that wanted one, and would also try to help any who might need new ID cards. What do the Amish make of Mitt Romney's Mormonism, I asked the doctor in a phone call? Do they have theological objections to the unorthodox beliefs of the Republican candidate's church, or does their own status as a rather misunderstood minority make them sympathetic to the Mormons? Neither, the vet suggested: I think they like anyone who is a Christian conservative, so they like Mormons. He suggested that if I dropped in at his animal hospital, he might be able to take me on an Amish farm visit, so I could put my questions directly. Thus it was that I spent time yesterday afternoon in the autumn sunshine at a local Amish farm, chatting about national politics with the family patriarch, sniffing the sweet smell of cattle, hearing the sound of hammering in the family carpentry shop, and being shyly greeted by various grandchildren as they returned home from school on large-wheeled scooters, their dark, homespun trousers, smocks and straw hats offset by fluorescent safety waistcoats. I was asked not to use my Amish host's name, and he was the only member of his church whom I interviewed: the meeting lasted an hour, while Dr Stoltzfus inspected the family's dairy cows. So this is an anecdotal blog posting, rather than a news article. But it seemed to me that some readers might like to hear even this partial account. To start with the Mormon question. Mormons do not have the same Biblical principles as believers from other Christian churches, my host said firmly. But the Amish know Mormons as "fair and square businessmen", and have no problem with them. "They're solid conservatives." The two groups share an interest in genealogy, he added, and local Mormons had in their day helped Amish families to consult family records encoded on computer databases back in Utah. Turnout among the Amish of Lancaster County has varied greatly over the years. "The bishops preach against it, they don't think we should vote," my host said. Then again, there were lots of things of which bishops disapproved, and not all of them were equally forbidden. Do you drive, he asked? Yes, I said. Do you absolutely always obey the speed limit, he demanded to know? Um, mostly, I replied. But not always? Well, no, I confessed. Well it is like that, he said. Some things are like speeding: they are not allowed, but the bishops are not going to bawl you out for them. The Amish, I was told, voted in their thousands in the 1954 governor's race, when the Democratic candidate, George Leader, promised to allow Amish children to leave school at 14 to work on their family's farms: a promise that governor kept when re-elected, earning him the lasting gratitude of the community, who from time to time go to sing for him at his retirement home (Mr Leader, who is 94, still lives locally). Local businessmen, "feed merchants and so on", encouraged their Amish clients to vote against John F Kennedy in 1960, in a bid to ward off what they saw as the threat of a Catholic president. But voting dwindled in the late 1960s, partly in reaction to the divisive public debate around the Vietnam War (which saw the Amish claim the status of conscientious objectors, causing some local anger towards their community). In part, once the Amish were allowed their own schools, there was also a sense that it was no longer their business to vote in the elections of a country that they kept at arms' length. The Amish do follow the news, but indirectly. They meet fellow Old Order members at church and while working, and much information is spread informally. Some Amish work at local businesses, such as carpentry shops or buggy repair shops, and hear the radio while there. The more liberal listen to news headlines via a special 411 telephone number that can be reached via their outhouse telephones. Some Amish active in business are said to have mobile smartphones, and may listen to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and other talkshow hosts on them, though my host frowned at such extravagant rule-bending. The community has its own newspapers, such as Die Botschaft, a weekly, but this carries its news in the form of letters from readers, and tidings of family reunions, social occasions and church meetings are given more weight than world events. "If somebody bought a farm, or had a barn fire, it gets around real quick," my host said. He is definitely going to vote this year. "I will vote for somebody who wants to abolish gay rights," he said. He is also pleased that Mitt Romney dislikes federal rules mandating that lots of corn be turned into ethanol: a rule that he blames for high corn prices. Though his homestead is surrounded by cornfields, and bearded, straw-hatted neighbours could be seen and heard harvesting the crop with clattering, horse-drawn harvesting machines, few Amish grow enough to feed all their own cows and chickens, so on balance they are vulnerable to high market prices. My host called himself "disgusted" by Obamacare. "We don't generally like to get involved with the government," he noted. There is no Amish prohibition against modern medicine when lives are at stake. Members of the community have their own system of insurance-like mutual risk-sharing, known as church aid, to cover big bills, which has been in place for a couple of decades in its current form. Mr Romney, who is trailing in the polls in Pennsylvania, should not perhaps pin too much hope on the Amish vote, though. Perhaps a thousand are registered to vote, I was told. Though I have only met a handful of Amish, they have all been good at giving the impression that they find non-Amish visitors rather comical. Taking a business card, my host noted that it lacked my home address. I wrote this on the card. "So I can come and stay when I am next in DC?" my host asked, deadpan. He also asked whether I was paid as much as a congressman, and how people became columnists for The Economist. The foreign reporter suitably disconcerted, the meeting was at an end, and my host returned to work in his carpentry shop.

Michelle Obama rallies supporters as early voting opens in Ohio

First lady Michelle Obama rallied supporters to back her husband as early voting began on Tuesday in the key electoral swing state of Ohio where the Democrats hope to take advantage of a lead in opinion polls. "Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we worked for and fought for just slip away?" she asked a boisterous crowd of 6,800 in downtown Cincinnati. With President Barack Obama focused on Wednesday's debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the first lady led the Democrats' charge in Ohio, directing supporters to march to a local election office and cast ballots 35 days before the main voting day of November 6. "All of our hard work, all the progress that we made, it is all on the line this November," she said. "Here in Ohio, it is already Election Day." Urging voters to cast their ballots early in person or through mailed-in absentee forms has become a major part of the Obama campaign's strategy in Ohio and other swing states. People who vote early tend to rally friends and relatives among groups that are less frequent voters such as the young, low-income people and ethnic minorities. Those groups are generally more likely to vote Democrat. The Obama campaign is peppering less enthusiastic supporters with phone calls, home visits, and direct mail pleas. In 2008, roughly 30 percent of all ballots cast were early. Of those, nearly 60 percent favored Obama. The Obama campaign seeks to persuade at least half of likely supporters to cast early ballots in Ohio and elsewhere, a campaign official said. Voters backing both campaigns streamed into polling locations on Tuesday across 88 counties and requested more than 920,000 absentee ballots, election officials said. After months essentially tied with Romney in Ohio, Obama is now leading by roughly 5 percentage points in Ohio, according to aggregator RealClearPolitics. Some 7.8 million Ohioans are registered to vote in the state, compared with 8.2 million at this point in 2008, according to an election official. Daunte Thomas, 18, walked with fellow students from Cleveland State University to cast their first votes for Obama. "I didn't know today was the first day to vote before but we got (campaign) emails and there were people ... this week on campus and they told us," Thomas said. HURDLES FOR OBAMA The Obama team's Ohio infrastructure faces hurdles. An appeals court could overturn a judge's decision to keep polling places open the three days before Election Day, a window during which some 105,000 ballots were cast in 2008, a campaign spokeswoman said. But perhaps its biggest obstacle is the Romney team, which has some 40 offices in the state and is fortified by powerful "Super PAC" allies paying for negative television advertisements that hammered Obama's stewardship of a frail economic recovery and his healthcare law. Romney's team will have knocked on one million doors by the end of the week and it has made three million phone calls since May - more than in any other swing state, Romney officials said. An early voting event for the former Massachusetts governor on Tuesday in downtown Cincinnati drew roughly 45 supporters, among them was John McHugh, a 60-year-old former auto worker. McHugh, who joined other volunteers distributing campaign fliers at the voting location, said Obama is "tone deaf" on the economy and "a failure" on lowering joblessness. "I don't think he is working towards the same America I am."

INDIA: The 70,000-crore scam

When Ajit Pawar resigned as Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra a week ago, he said he was being maligned by allegations that a 70,000-crore scam played out during his term as the state's Irrigation Minister. NDTV has accessed information that suggests Mr Pawar sanctioned major violations of the guidelines of his own department. Mr Pawar, who was Irrigation Minister since 1999-2009, authorised "mobilisation advances" to contractors who were hired for irrigation projects - usually dams and canals - in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra. In 2000, the Irrigation Department had said these advances would be discontinued as a practice. A report by the state's auditor or CAG this year has criticised the government - it found that "payment of mobilisation and machinery advances had resulted in undue benefit to the contractors." Despite its own policy, the Irrigation Department released advances to four contractors between 2008 and 2009. The orders authorising the payment were signed by Mr Pawar, and copies of these have been accessed by NDTV. Activists who have been a driving force in exhuming the irrigation scam allege that these advances were actually kickbacks - the contractors allegedly used these to pay politicians and officials who had hired them. Further fuelling charges of cronyism is that a majority of these contractors have direct political links, or are close to politicians of the ruling NCP-Congress coalition. The four projects which received advances were: 1. The Dhapewada Barrage: Soma Enterprises was hired, its promoter was Avinash Bhosale, a builder from Pune known to be close to the Pawar family. He asked for and received 20 per cent as an advance in June 2008. This was allowed in a letter signed by Mr Pawar. 2. The Purna Barrage in Vidarbha: Here, the company hired was SMS Infrastructure, owned by BJP MP Ajay Sancheti, and Thakkar Constructions, owned by D Thakkar. The cost of the project escalated from 164 crores to 189 crores; consequently, the advance to the company was increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent in an order in March 2009. Once again, Mr Pawar's signature is on the document. Mr Sancheti is alleged to be close to BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who yesterday sued Congress leader Digvijaya Singh for declaring that he is Mr Sancheti's business partner. SMS Infra in a statement said these advances were required to begin work - "The mobilisation advance was granted for the speedy construction of project, and it is for the early benefit of the farmers, so that corporation, secondly the mobilisation advance was given on bank guarantee and it was interest bearing, though it was not in tender, but for the early completion of project, it was granted by corporation." 3. Waghadi Barrage in Vidarbha: In this case, the contractor was Bajoriya Construction, owned by the family of Sandeep Bajoriya, a politician from Mr Pawar's party. The cost of the project was increased from 38 to 45 crores, and the advance was increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent; the final papers were signed in 2009 by Mr Pawar. Mr Bajoriya told NDTV that he has never misused his political connections to help his family's company land contracts. He also said that the advance that was cleared for this project was eventually not utilised by Bajoriya Construction. 4. Lower Pedhi, Vidarbha: D Thakkar was hired as the contractor, the cost of the project escalated from 128 crores to 147 crores. Mr Thakkar was cleared for a 20 per cent advance in documents signed by Mr Pawar in September 2009.

Chinese surveillance ships patrol Diaoyu Islands waters

Four Chinese marine surveillance ships patrolled in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands on Tuesday after the Japanese right-winger's intrusion, the Foreign Ministry confirmed. China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposes the Japanese right-wingers' illegal entrance into the waters off the Diaoyu Islands and is keeping high vigilance to their intention and purpose, FM spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday at a regular press briefing. The provocation of this kind will make the situation more complicated if not stopped, said Hong Lei. The patrol team -- composed of Haijian 50, Haijian 15, Haijian 26 and Haijian 27 -- are carrying out normal rights-safeguarding activities around the Diaoyu Islands, according to a statement from the State Oceanic Administration.

Seoul suicide bridge seeks new image

West and Islam: Xenophobia, fascism and power

A wave of indignation runs throughout the Muslim world and has ceased as a consequence of the death of an American ambassador and several others. The video presentation of a virtually unknown author entitled "Innocent Muslims" savagely mocking the Prophet Muhammad and his ideas, has sparked multiple protests across the Middle East and other areas of Muslim presence. This has served to give rise again to review the array of Islamic intolerance and fanaticism, reflected by the chains of the corporate media. The truth is that the progressive drift towards the right of the western powers, mainly caused by the deepening economic crisis, the repeated military failures, the growing social problems in the developed countries, always find a good scapegoat in Islam, with which to distract its citizens from growing everyday problems. Added to that this justifies the constant aggressions on this area of strategic ​​geopolitical importance and natural energy resources of the Middle East and bordering. The gradual rise of the far right, that is assuming increasing power within the crisis, and that is always xenophobic, encourages such actions. The video referred to has been supplemented these days with a series of mocking cartoons edited by the French press, which only further exacerbate the process, so much so the French government, anticipating the reaction, has already closed consulates and embassies in Islamic countries.This produces an acceleration of the spiral of hatred, the indignant reactions of Islamic populations (these provocations reach deep making them forget their internal differences and reacting homogeneously) again serve as a "test" of intolerance of fanatics who understand neither "democracy" or "freedom of expression" and the responses stimulate new hostility on the part of the right in the west. Arnold Toynbee, the late English historian, devoted most of his work to study the civilizations in human history. Included within these studies are examples of clashes between civilizations. In regard to the conflict between the west and Islam, we heard him say at a conference back in the early sixties of the previous century, that it was still too early to know how the confrontation would be elucidated. He said that in the last few centuries the west had subjugated Islam, and that when that happened in history between two civilizations, there were several possible alternatives. One was that Islam would disappear against the onslaught of the west. Another was that it was adapting itself and culturally influencing its aggressor. And another was that it had finally recovered from the ashes developed and was preparing an unusual response force. Samuel Phillips Huntington, from the totally ideological right perspective, was considered as a disciple of Toynbee and developed the model now known as the "clash of civilizations," calling the conflict as inevitable and providing a theoretical model to justify the need for the west to finish not only with Islam, but with the rest of the other civilizations that still exist (including our "peripheral" cultures . He was developing a modern theoretical justification for imperial expansion (not coincidentally, he has always worked for the U.S. government, becoming a presidential advisor to Lyndon Johnson and advocating the bombing of rural areas of Vietnam). Ultimately, these events are a product of what seems almost an inevitable crisis, the power and progressive ascent of barbarism to a large powerful level, when they see their hegemony stumbling. The balance cannot be other than negative. On the one hand, the violence increases from the side of Islam, thus leading to the most radical and protective response under the provocation of lack of respect for their beliefs. On the other hand, western rights will continue to provide the justification for ncreasing combat with Islam (using the policy of that old French proverb that says "This animal really is irrelevant, one attacks and they defend themselvess"). More fuel to the fire of a troubled and chaotic global picture. We are living in times of great change. We can only hope that all will eventually end up being for the good of all, despite its fierce face.

Moscow warns NATO on itchy trigger finger in Syria
The Foreign Ministry has called on NATO and Middle East countries not to devise pretexts for military intervention in Syria. Russia has expressed concern that some provocation could occur at the Turkish-Syrian border that may give NATO the green light to intervene in Syria. "In our contacts with our partners both in NATO and in the region, including on international forums, we have called on them not to look for pretexts in order to carry out a [military] operation," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters on Tuesday in Moscow. In such a scenario, NATO would be obliged to intervene in the conflict to defend Turkey, a NATO member. Gatilov said Russia is equally wary of establishing any sort of “humanitarian corridors or buffer zones,” which may be used to draw NATO and other regional powers into the conflict. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been struggling to maintain its grip on power amid a militant challenge by the political opposition. While many Western countries have disavowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and taken sides with the rebels, Moscow is calling for both sides of the conflict to accept the Kofi Annan Plan, recognize a ceasefire and enter into peace talks. This is not the first time Moscow has warned its NATO partners against interfering militarily in the affairs of sovereign states. Last year, Russia, which was among five countries that abstained from a UN Security Council vote for the enforcement of a no-fly zone in Libya. Moscow said such action would lead to large-scale military involvement in the country. These concerns were eventually validated when it became obvious that NATO was targeting forces loyal to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was murdered at the hands of a mob immediately after being found. Last month, the violence returned full circle to Libya when the US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed following a wave of anti-American protests triggered by the release of an anti-Islam film. Russia is concerned that by interfering in the affairs of foreign states, NATO is forced to build alliances with motley groups whose affiliation is largely unknown. In Syria, there is evidence that Al-Qaeda has hijacked the opposition movement, and this is a scenario that could lead to disastrous consequences in the event of a NATO military operation.

Gen Kayani leaves for 3-day Russia tour

Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani has left for a three-day official Russia tour on Wednesday here, Geo News reported. While the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov expected to visit Pakistan this week will be holding broad-based discussions with the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad at the same time. Gen Kayani’s trip as part of the new efforts launched by the former cold war rivals to open a new chapter in their ties would be holding talks with his Russian counterpart besides meeting with other Russian leadership in Moscow. The Afghan endgame is believed to be a major factor behind the apparent rapprochement between Islamabad and Moscow. Pakistan and Russia are increasingly concerned about the future of Afghanistan and that is why they intend to expand their cooperation, said analysts. A statement issued by the foreign ministry also hinted at this assessment by suggesting that Pakistan and Russia “share the common objective of peace and stability” in the region. “We attach importance to regional connectivity both in terms of trade and energy cooperation,” the statement added. Recently, the two countries also held their second Inter-Governmental Commission (IGC) on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation in Islamabad and discussed concrete proposals on various areas of cooperation including energy, industries and production, bilateral trade and investment, scientific and technical cooperation, agriculture, etc.

Russia for good relations with Pakistan

INDEED postponement of the much-awaited and high profile visit of the Russian President, which could not materialize for unexplained reasons, caused some dismay to circles in Pakistan that wanted to develop good relations with the erstwhile super power. There are, however, rumours that the postponement had something to do with Pakistan’s inability to do necessary homework for agreements with Russian Federation on some important economic projects and plans. As abrupt cancellation of the visit was seen by observers as a setback, it is somewhat satisfying that Moscow decided to send its Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov on a two day visit around the same dates his boss was supposed to be in the Pakistani capital. His visit was preceded by fruitful talks between a Russian delegation and its Pakistani counterparts leading to signing of three MoUs for cooperation for expansion of Pakistan Steel Mills, collaboration in Railway and energy sector of Pakistan. Hopefully, the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister would help sort out irritants, if any, at political level, paving the way for more meaningful economic and commercial ties between the two countries. It is rightly believed that ever since inception of Pakistan, Russia has been expressing its keen desire to establish and maintain close and mutually beneficial relations with Pakistan but there are reasons to believe that our rulers and policy-makers did not respond in the same spirit. It was, perhaps, due to some genuine security concerns that Pakistan put its weight in the Western block but with the passage of time it transpired that the country’s security and defence interests were instead paralysed by joining the Western camp. As for economic assistance and cooperation, American help did not provide any basis for sustainable development, rather it made the country permanently dependent on foreign aid. As against this, Russians have been willing to undertake projects of economic significance as witnessed in cooperation for establishment of Pakistan Steel and now interest for IP and TAPI gas pipeline projects. There is, therefore, every reason to promote relationship with Russia on sound footing and it is time we shun the past attitude and put this relationship on right track.

Russian Foreign Minister arrives in Islamabad

Radio Pakistan
Russian FM Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov arrives in Islamabad this evening on a two-day visit for consultations with Pakistani leadership on various issues In an interview‚ Foreign Office Spokesperson Moazzam Khan said the visit would provide an opportunity to further expand and intensify the existing mutually beneficial bilateral ties. He said‚ the two countries also share common objective of peace and stability in the region and attach importance to regional connectivity both in terms of trade and energy cooperation. The Spokesman said Russia can cooperate in agriculture‚ energy‚ science and technology sector.

Pakistani women drive retail boom

A perfectly coiffed model, draped in diamonds, shoots a sultry gaze from the cover of a glossy in-room magazine at a luxury hotel chain in downtown Lahore. The cover line on the ad-packed issue screams: “Wow! World of Women.” And with good reason. Economists say that, in recent years, Pakistani women have fueled a retail boom in name-brand shopping as they move from a traditional homebound life into the working world. “You can go into any shopping mall or any cafe, and you will see young girls sitting, having lunch, chatting away,” said Rashid Amjad, vice chancellor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad. “Despite all this conservatism that has been growing at the same time, you have a change.” In many urban centers, the days when girls were forced to abandon education and eschew employment in favor of remaining within the walls of their homes seem to be mostly a memory. Traditionally, men here bear the burden of sustaining the household, so for many middle-class women, their paychecks are entirely their own to spend — a boon for the newly booming retail industry. “I can afford to spend whatever I like,” said Rabiya Bajwa, 37, a lawyer. “My income is roughly 20 percent more than what it was five years ago.” Bajwa does contribute to the household budget, but her two-income family enjoys a comfortable “cushion,” and she splurges on expensive designer clothes. But this good fortune is not evenly distributed, said Hafiz Pasha, a noted economist at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. Pakistan, he said, is still far behind other countries in terms of women’s economic contribution. “This growth is witnessed in urban centers where middle-class working women are found,” Pasha said. “In rural areas, although the participation of women in the economy is more than the urban centers, they are not well-paid, and their share in the economy is much less.” Although women have long been underpaid and subject to discrimination in the Pakistani workforce, they are coming into their own at a surprising rate. Since about 2002, Amjad said, participation by women, traditionally low, has been rising. Many men left agriculture jobs, so work was being generated and women readily moved in, Amjad noted. Now, somewhere between 28 percent and 36 percent of women work in Pakistan, he said, but many work in home-based businesses, so their numbers are not easily ascertained. In schools and colleges, young women study side by side with their male counterparts. “They seem to be very easy together, they talk very easily, and they discuss issues quite comfortably,”Amjad said, “so in a way higher education has increased female confidence to work with men, and that has helped.” Three retail store owners surveyed in Lahore said most of their customers are working women, and they credited them with increasing their business. “We started from a small store, but now we have five outlets in various parts of the city,” said Hasan Ali, manager of Bareeze, a leading brand of women’s clothing. “We have been in the market for the last 10 years, and roughly the business has expanded 40 percent in that period. . . . There are those out there who don’t even ask the price, and pay.” Rukhsana Anjum, 47, a senior instructor at the Government College of Technology in Lahore, said she earns about 100,000 rupees, or $1,054, a month. “Gradually in the last five years I have become brand-conscious,” she said. “Today, definitely I spend more on my clothes and jewelry.”

Pakistan: Breast cancer kills 40,000 women annually

Noted chest oncologist, Dr Pokraj said Tuesday about 40,000 patients died due to breast cancer every year in the country. He said that if they detected and treated early, 90 percent women could survive and live a simple life. "Breast cancer can be cured upon very early detection and patients have around 90 per cent chance of survival," she said while addressing women awareness campaign about breast cancer here on Tuesday. She said it is important to focus on prevention rather than cure. She said the campaign aims to sensitize girls and women by arranging events and activities that create a direct interaction. Dr Pokraj said that since daughters are close to their mothers, they should motivate their mothers for regular breast self-examination and medical check-ups. She asked women to continuously feeding their children as it create resistance among children against fatal virus and make them healthy besides reducing risk of breast cancer. She said breast cancer is the most common cancer in women around the world. Unfortunately, Pakistan has the highest incidence of breast cancer in Asia. She said the causes of breast cancer are not yet known with certainty and research into this continues. They urged media and civil society to create awareness against this fatal disease. The function was also addressed by RA Khan and HA Naheed on the topic.

PPP rules out electoral alliance with ANP

The Pakistan People’s Party, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Tuesday announced to contest next elections without making an alliance with the Awami National Party. The announcement was made by the new PPP president in the province, Anwar Saifullah Khan, during a news conference at the house of senior provincial minister Rahimdad Khan here. He was accompanied by PPP leaders, including National Assembly deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi, provincial assembly speaker Kiramatullah Khan Chagharmatti and provincial ministers Hamayun Khan, Mehmood Zeb and Qalb-i-Hassan. Mr Saifullah, who replaced Senator Sardar Ali, said the option of seat-to-seat adjustment in different districts with likeminded political parties possible would remain open. He said he would re-organise the party in the province and redress grievances of workers across the province. The provincial PPP president said the party’s organisational structure would be completed next week as he had a very short time to carry out his plans. He said names of the party’s new office-bearers would be announced at a news conference.“We can go to any extent for strengthening the party so that we’ll work as a team and ensure the winning of the maximum seats in the next elections,” he said. Mr Saifullah said currently, PPP was working as a ‘B’ team of Awami National Party in the province and similarly, ANP was supporting PPP in the centre but in future, his party would be in the position to form its own government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said senior PPP leaders would be made office-bearers in Malakand division, Hazara division and southern districts to organise the party across the province. “I have decided to shift from Islamabad to Peshawar to run the People’s Secretariat on a regular basis where ministers, MNAs and MPAs will be assigned duties to serve workers on rotation basis,” he said. The provincial PPP president said his party would award tickets for next elections purely on merit and the sitting MNAs and MPAs, who didn’t deliver, wouldn’t be fielded. He said a meeting of all elected representatives and office-bearers of PPP, including former lawmakers and divisional presidents, would be convened next week to review the party’s organisational structure in the province. “My aim is to re-group the party in all 25 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before general elections. I will visit each district to learn about problems of our workers,” he said. Mr Saifullah expressed the hope that people would elect PPP to power in the province for their service, especially relief against militancy, loadshedding and unemployment. APP adds: The provincial PPP chief thanked party co-chairman Asif Zardari, chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and women wing president Faryal Talpur over his nomination for the office. He said he would prepare the party in such a way that it could sweep next elections. Mr Saifullah said PPP believed in the federation and always struggled for the rights of the people, democracy and stronger democratic institutions. He said his was a disciplined party and it would make no compromise on discipline. The provincial PPP president said ANP was in the driving seat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and running the affairs of the government on its own. He said PPP would review the performance of the PPP ministers, MNAs and MPAs before taking a decision about award of tickets to them. Earlier, Mr Rahimdad praised Saifullah family for their services to the country and province and said leaders and workers would help him strengthen party in the province.

Peshawar and German university ink agreement

In order to extend the existent effective and mutually beneficial cooperation, and develop, academic, cultural exchange and research, University of Peshawar and the University of Erfurt Germany have reached a formal agreement for internationalisation of higher education. In this connection a formal agreement was signed between Vice Chancellor UoP Prof. Dr. Qibla Ayaz and Prof. Dr. Jamal Malik of Erfurt University, who represented Prof. Dr. Kai Brodersen, President, Erfurt University Germany the other day. The extended cooperation would include inclusion of Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies and Regional Studies for the exchange of faculty, students, publication of researches and joint research projects with Erfurt University. It is worth mentioning that the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science are already working with the German University under the same agreement and up till now around twenty five students and ten teachers of these departments have benefited from the exchange programme. The agreement would remain effective for a period of three years and would be valid till September 30, 2015. This will be automatically renewable on the same terms and condition for another three years, the extended MoU reveals. Meanwhile, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication University of Peshawar is all set to establish its own television studio and from this year the students would be offered internships in Television. This was revealed by former Chairman and Executive Director of Campus Radio University of Peshawar Prof. Dr. Shahjehan Syed while addressing the inaugural ceremony of the newly refurbished studios for the Campus Radio. The studio renovated at a cost of one million rupees from the funds provided by Internews Pakistan, was jointly inaugurated by President Peshawar University Teachers Association Jamil Ahmed Chitrali and representative of Internews Gohar Ali. Dr. Shahejehan Syed said equipment for the establishment of a TV studio has been provided by Deutsche Welle Germany while GiZ is also helping us in training of faculty. We are well on our way to set up a Television Station at University of Peshawar, through their help, which will go a long way in imparting training to the students and making of quality academic programs documentaries in the future. With the inaugural ceremony, the broadcasting of Campus Radio has restarted which will send it transmission on airways from 11am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm respectively. A one thousand watt transmitter has also been installed at the channel which will enhance our broadcasting to around Peshawar City, he informed. Department of Journalism is perhaps the only one in Pakistan to have focused much on applied side of the profession, said Jamil Ahmed Chitrali. That is why you see our students in key radio channels in the country, he added. The ceremony was attended by faculty members Inam ur Rehman, Bakhtzaman, Naeem Gul and students of JMC.


With the every passing day, tension is mounting on the Afghan border as Kabul deployed thousands of additional troops in Nangarhar Province following the allegations the Pakistani security forces are constantly shelling the civilian population causing death and destruction. Pakistan had denied the charge of any incursion on Afghan territory and instead blamed Kabul for sheltering Pakistani Taliban carrying out incursions and killing security forces in deadly raids while the Afghan and ISAF forces are not taking any action. Tension had increased following the allegations from the Nangarhar Provincial Governor accusing Pakistan of constantly shelling and bombing the Afghan territories causing death of civilians and destruction to the property. He threatened Afghan retaliation bombing and shelling the Pakistani territory if the Pakistani shelling did not stop. The Provincial Governor Gul Agha claimed that he had informed the Afghan President about the shelling on Afghan territories by the Pakistani security forces and apprised him about the extent of damage and its deadly effects on the civilian population. He had also taken up the issue with the Pakistani diplomats based in Jalalabad Consulate and registered his protest over the shelling. In any case, the claim made by the Provincial Governor is one side of the picture and he did not mention that the free hand given to the Pakistani Taliban by the Afghan Government and Afghan National Army to carry out incursions on the Pakistani territories, attack the security forces and the installations and killing dozens of soldiers in many raids. Some of the Pakistani soldiers were slaughtered and beheaded and the Afghan Government took no notice to the brutal killings on the border regions. It is in the interest of peace and stability in the area that the Afghan Government should check the military incursions of the Pakistani Taliban who took refuge in the border regions after they were dislodged and chased away from Swat and Dir. The ISAF should play a role in this regard as the Pakistani Army Chief had taken up the issue with the ISAF Commanders during their bilateral meetings. The issue was also raised at the trilateral security meeting in the border region in which commanders from Pakistan, Afghanistan and ISAF also participated and there was no progress on this issue. In the backdrop of these facts, the threat to use force by the Afghan Provincial Governor is totally misplaced. It is unfortunate that the Afghan Government had deployed thousands of troops on the Pakistan-Afghan border region to carry out military incursions and attack civilian targets inside Pakistan. It will further heighten tension between the two neighbours.

Stop delaying Neelum-Jehlum project

Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Economic Affairs Division (EAD) the other day, chief of the Neelum-Jehlum Hydro Electric Project, Lieutenant General Zubair Ahmed (Retd) sought EAD's help in getting funds worth Rs 83 billion released for hydropower projects. He said that if Rs 2 billion of outstanding dues were released on a monthly basis work on the 969MW Neelum-Jehlum project could begin without further delay. Work remains stalled, causing substantial cost overruns because the money required to get such a vital project off ground is unavailable. Regrettably, the reason, once again, is the government's failure to get its priorities right. It seems not to have pushed hard enough China's State Council for an expeditious approval of $448 million loan agreement with the Exim Bank. Also, in a situation somewhat similar to the problem of circular debt - the root cause of the current power crisis - the Letter of Credit worth $113 million for equipment could not be opened because a $100 million loan agreement with Abu Dhabi Fund is pending as the Fund has linked it with the issue of Etisalat payments from PTCL privatisation. Delay on Pakistan's part to build the project has already cost it dearly. As per the Indus Water Treaty, India could use the Kishanganga (which becomes Neelum upon entering Pakistani side of Kashmir) water for hydroelectric power generation without any storage facilities. While Pakistan procrastinated, India took advantage and went ahead to start construction of a power generation project. It has created a diversion in Kishanganga through a 22-km tunnel rerouting the water via Wuller Lake to fall into River Jehlum, changing the course of Neelum by about 100-km and badly impacting Neelum Valley's ecology. The long diversion will reduce the force of water flow as well; consequently, the Neelum-Jehlum power project's electricity generation potential will drop by about 27 percent. General Ahmad also told the NA committee that if India succeeds in building the Kishanganga dam on River Jehlum, Pakistan is likely to face a 13 percent shortage in its share of water. Approach to the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the Kishanganga project promises little success. Some design changes have been recommended but the more controversial diversion channel will continue to hurt Pakistan. The manner in which the dispute was pursued in the PCA is another sordid affair. Former water commissioner Jamaat Ali Shah fled the country following allegations of having deliberately damaged Pakistan's case. It remains to be settled though as to whether he had acted on purpose or out of lack of expert legal assistance. Clearly, complacency and negligence have characterised government policy regarding the water issue - life blood of Pakistan agrarian economy. As for the hydropower project, the NA committee has asked the finance ministry to release Rs 2 billion, as required, on a monthly basis for its timely completion. The ministry, hopefully, will offer no excuse for further postponement.

Huge Russian investment expected in Pakistan

Daily Times
Russian Federation to assist Pakistan for revival of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), Pakistan Railways (PR) and help in enhancing power generation, the Minister of State and Chairman Board of Investment (BoI) Saleem Mandviwalla said on Tuesday. At a joint briefing along with the Russian delegation he said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding the expansion and rehabilitation of PSM was signed. It dealt mainly the cooperation in the project of modernisation, reconstruction and expansion of the production capacity of PSM up to 1.5 million tonnes. The Russian Company Tyazhpromexport helped Pakistan to establish PSM. After the signing of MoU, the technical audit of the PSM by the Russian company Tyazhpromexport would be carried out, he informed. Another MoU was signed for the up gradation of PR. A delegation of the Transmashholding visited Pakistan and held meetings with the Secretary Railways in Islamabad on April 25-26, wherein they were informed about the upcoming tenders for supply of passenger carriages for PR and further on exploring opportunities to cooperate with Pakistani manufacturers in order to create a joint venture for passenger carriages co-production. In this regard Transmashholding had also invited PR to visit their facilities in Russia. The third MoU was signed for cooperation in the water and power sector, in which Russia was interested to invest in many projects keeping in view the power deficiency in Pakistan. Mandviwalla reiterated the signing of MoUs in PSM, PR, power and science and technology sectors would definitely be a milestone in the bilateral relations of both the countries.

Pakistan: Reconnecting with Russia

Pitching for a new chapter in their relations, Pakistan and Russia have signed important Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in Islamabad to improve the state of things in three areas that have so far not only burdened the national exchequer but have been the cause of social and economic upheavals in Pakistan. The reference is to Pakistan Steel Mills, Pakistan Railways and the energy crisis of Pakistan. Each one of these has by now assumed breakdown proportions due to mismanagement and lack of political will to make right and timely decisions. The best part of the renewed Pak-Russia relations is the reaching out of Russia to make things workable for Pakistan in areas that have rendered the country unmanageable. Now it is on Pakistan to respond and get down to work with its giant neighbour to the north. Russia has promised to modernise, reconstruct and expand the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). So far PSM has suffered a cumulative loss of Rs 71.4 billion over the last four years. PSM is operating at only 14 percent of its capacity. Usually taken as a white elephant because of its drain on the national exchequer and its inability to generate profits, the decision to hand over the upgrading project to Russia carries two benefits: one, the the fact that Russia originally built PSM; second, they have the required technical know how to resurrect the project. For Pakistan Railways, another sore amongst Pakistan’s state-owned enterprises and running into an annual loss of Rs 96 billion, Russia would contribute in two areas. It will enter into a joint venture and develop a carriages workshop in Pakistan, or supply the extra demand from Russia. In this regard, a better option would be to upgrade the existing railways manufacturing facilities in Pakistan. An immediate focus on the carriage manufacturing unit in Islamabad and the locomotive manufacturing facility in Risalpur could turn things around with significant job creation and revenue generation. Pakistan Railways (PR) is a tale of the descent into complete chaos, with 55 percent overage tracks, 70 percent freight wagons running at low capacity, and out of 520 only 76 locomotives in operational condition. Things are so bad in PR that people avoid using the railroad for fear of sudden breakdowns, unreliable departure and arrival schedules, and shabby infrastructure both at the stations and on board. In order to improve things, PR needs to look at its virtually defunct freight operations, since the bulk of its revenue could be generated from this source. On the energy front, the Russians have extended cooperation in converting the Jamshoro and Muzaffarabad thermal power plants from furnace oil to coal. What would be a better idea than the coal underground gasification project still in its nascent stage after a decade into it, is digging the coal out and using it for energy generation. Russia could also help us in reviving depleted or dormant gas wells. And why not accept Russia’s proposal to grant it the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project without an international tendering process. Will not Russia expose itself to greater hostility from the US by going into this project? And what makes us think that any country would bid for the project under the prevailing circumstances? Financially, Pakistan is surviving on the edge. We need to make some tough and urgent policy decisions to get through this difficult economic spell. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Vikorovich is due in Pakistan today. His trip is being taken as a substitute for Putin’s cancelled trip to Pakistan. Now it is our turn to address Russia’s concerns and move on from the desired security and political association to an economic cooperation relationship without wasting any more time.

Arsalan Iftikhar case

The Supreme Court has rejected business tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain’s plea to issue stay order against one-man commission of Dr Shoaib Suddle, which is probing an alleged business deal between Malik Riaz and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. A two-member bench consisting of Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, hearing the review petition of Malik Riaz, also issued notices to all respondents in this case. During the hearing, Malik Riaz’s counsel Zahid Bukhari contended that forming a commission for a case between two individuals was unprecedented in the judicial history. He also said his client had appealed to the apex court because he felt the court orders were not being implemented properly. Bukhari also said investigations were not changed in the case of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Ali Musa Gilani and others. Praying for a stay order on Dr Suddle’s appointment in the matter, Zahid Bukhari said a stay order should be issued over the commission’s proceeding as the court had stopped the National Accountability Bureau’s joint investigating team to probe the matter on the plea of Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. The apex court said it could not issue a stay order without listening to point of view of other parties to the case. Hearing of the case was adjourned until October 30. Malik Riaz Hussain on September 11, under Article 188 of the constitution read with Order XXVI of Supreme Court Rules, filed a review petition challenging the Supreme Court’s judgement of August 30 and alleged that the impugned judgement amounted to giving preferential treatment to Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. In the said judgement the court constituted a one-man commission comprising Dr Shoaib Suddle to investigate an alleged business deal worth Rs 342 million between Dr Arsalan Iftikhar and Malik Riaz Hussain. According to the review petition, the August 30 verdict had been passed without lawful authority and jurisdiction as the order does not depict under what law the one-man commission was constituted. It said Dr Shoaib Suddle and CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry enjoyed close relations as both had attended each other’s family weddings. Bukhari said Dr Shoaib Suddle’s close ties with Dr Arsalan Iftikhar and his family would be a hurdle in conducting a fair inquiry.

President Zardari arrives in Karachi

President Asif Ali Zardri has arrived in Karachi after a foreign tour. President Zardari participated in United Nations (UN) General Assembly session in New York besides meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, British PM David Cameron and leaders and officials of others countries.

Pakistan reach World T20 semis

Good news for Pakistan cricket fans: the Greenshirts have qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20. Pakistan did what they needed to do earlier in the day when they defeated Australia by a big margin of 32 runs here at the R Premadasa Cricket Stadium. They then had to wait for the result of Tuesday’s second game in Group 2 between India and South Africa. Although India beat South Africa in a thrilling match by just one run and finished tied with Australia and Pakistan with four points each, it went out of the tournament because of an inferior net run-rate. Australia finished their Group 2 engagements with a net run-rate of +0.464, Pakistan had a net run-rate of +0.273 while India’s net run-rate after three matches was -0.274. The semi-finalists from Group 1 were decided on Monday. Pakistan will meet Sri Lanka in the first semi-final tomorrow (Thursday) while the second semi-final will be played between Australia and the West Indies on October 5. The final is slated for October 7. India needed to win by at least 31 runs against South Africa to edge out Pakistan from the semi-final race. Batting first, MS Dhoni’s team scored 152-6 in 20 overs and South Africa replied with 151 all out in 19.5 overs. All the members of the Pakistan team watched the India-South Africa match in batches in their hotel rooms. The Pakistan team supporters, who are here in Colombo in great numbers, stayed on at the R Premadasa Stadium to watch the second match and as soon as South Africa scored the 122nd run of their innings, there was a loud cheer from them. Pakistan is one of the most consistent teams in the short history of the ICC World Twenty20. The Greenshirts were the losing finalists in the first edition held in South Africa in 2007. Under Younis Khan’s captaincy, Pakistan lifted the title in England in 2009 while they were the losing semi-finalists in the West Indies in 2010.

Civilians struggle to check Pakistan army's power

Associated Press Writer Donna Cassata
The footage was startling: A group of what appeared to be Pakistani soldiers gunning down several blindfolded men in a forested area. As the clips circulated online and the U.S. threatened to cut aid, Pakistan's army chief promised a full investigation and punishment for any wrongdoers. Two years later: Silence. What has the inquiry found? The army won't say. Was anyone punished? Not a word. Some rights activists question whether an investigation even took place. Pakistan has spent nearly five years under civilian rule, an unusually long stretch for a 65-year-old country prone to military coups. But as the firing squad footage and several other prominent scandals suggest, the army remains largely unwilling to hold itself accountable to the public. This despite some pressure from more active media and judiciary and despite hopes that the military would rethink its ways after the humiliation it suffered following the unilateral U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The army's lack of transparency and resistance to civilian oversight could cripple Pakistan's transition to a healthy democracy, something the United States says the country needs. But the Americans can't protest too much: Washington needs the Pakistani army's cooperation as the war in Afghanistan winds down and it already struggles to balance a strained relationship as it presses the army to root out anti-U.S. insurgents hiding in Pakistan. "It's important to understand that generally the Pakistani military is very careful about not hurting its own people," especially as they fight Islamists trying to overthrow the state, said Ayesha Siddiqa, a prominent Pakistani defense analyst. Most ordinary Pakistanis feel powerless to take on the army, and when it comes to reining in the men in uniform, the still-weak civilian government "can't do anything," she said. The two video clips that spawned the supposed inquiry fueled allegations that the military carried out numerous extrajudicial killings in the Swat Valley during a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in 2009. Bloodied corpses of suspected militants were found dumped on the streets for months after the army retook the valley from the Taliban. The army denied those killings. The grainy footage, which came to light in September 2010, is believed to have been recorded in Swat. A nearly six-minute clip shows men in Pakistani military uniforms lining up six blindfolded men in civilian clothes, then shooting them. After a voice says "finish them one by one," one apparent soldier walks over to the men and shoots them again. The other, 53-second clip shows only the executions. On Oct. 8, 2010, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced an inquiry into the matter. He noted the probe would consider if the footage was even real, but also said, "It is not expected of a professional army to engage in excesses against the people whom it is trying to guard against the scourge of terrorism." In the two years since, The Associated Press has repeatedly asked the army about the status of the probe. At most, the answer has been that it's under way. Attempts to get army comment for this story led nowhere. Other cases further illustrate the difficulty in holding the army accountable. A year before the execution videos surfaced, a clip on YouTube and Facebook appeared to show Pakistani soldiers beating and whipping four militant suspects. The army promised to investigate but has never released any findings. In mid-September, Kayani announced that the military would take over the investigation and prosecution of three retired generals accused in a financial scam that was being probed by a parliamentary committee. The three were "recalled" into the army, apparently so they could be shielded from civilian courts. And then there's the "Abbottabad commission," the panel tasked with finding out what bin Laden was doing in Pakistan and what led to the May 2011 U.S. raid that killed him. The panel's creation was hailed because it was technically independent of the military. But its report has been repeatedly delayed, and if it is ever released, many doubt anyone in the security establishment will be held to account — at least not in public. The United States is legally bound to cut aid to foreign military units that violate human rights, and American officials have said the execution clips prompted a cutoff of funding to multiple Pakistani army units whose identities are classified. That doesn't mean net funding for Pakistan goes down, however — the money can simply be shifted to other Pakistani units. The nuclear-armed country is of such strategic importance that American leaders say it is difficult to withhold funds. In total, Pakistan receives roughly $1 billion in economic aid and $1 billion in military assistance each year. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who spearheaded the legislation that imposed the human rights requirement on foreign aid, is said to have had trouble getting answers on the execution videos. The senator "has repeatedly requested information from representatives of the Pakistani government on the status of the promised investigation of this war crime, but so far has received nothing," said his spokesman, David Carle. Ali Dayan Hasan, head of Human Rights Watch in Pakistan, is not convinced the military even pursued a proper probe. Pakistan's civilian government, led by the party of President Asif Ali Zardari, remains far too weak to take the army head on over accountability. At this point, the government is focused on surviving, and it has to tread carefully around the generals. Analysts said army leaders are reluctant to be more transparent to civilian authorities largely because of concerns about morale amid the fight against militants, who are themselves notorious for ruthless tactics. The Pakistani military says thousands of its soldiers have died in the conflict since 2001. It's entirely possible soldiers are punished in private for abuses, but to publicize that would, again, undermine morale. The army also doesn't necessarily trust the civilian institutions. The military often prefers to hold alleged insurgents indefinitely, even secretly, for fear civilian courts, which rarely convict terrorism suspects, would set them free. Still, a more assertive judiciary and a more technologically advanced media landscape are bringing signs of change. In August last year, an anti-terror court sentenced to death a soldier who shot and killed an unarmed youth as he begged for mercy in the southern port city of Karachi. The incident was caught on videotape and repeatedly broadcast by TV stations, triggering enough public anger the military could not ignore it. In January, a government-appointed commission released a report on the death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, who was killed after telling friends he was threatened by the country's premier intelligence agency, the military-led Inter-Services Intelligence. The report said it did not have enough evidence to blame the ISI in the killing but that the agency should be more "law-abiding." The mere issuing of a report was seen by rights advocates as a mini-victory. The judiciary has also increasingly demanded the army and intelligence agencies account for suspects allegedly held in secret, believed to number in the thousands. Some have even been freed due to the court's demands, though no one in the security establishment is known to have been punished. Sustained protests by victims' relatives helped in pushing for the release of some of the missing, said Hasan. But so far there isn't a widespread public outcry for accountability from the military as the fight against Islamic militants continues. Even liberals "don't want too much focus on human rights in a situation like Swat," said Babar Sattar, a legal expert. "There is that sense that if you put too much focus on those issues it'll make it harder for the army to fight."