Monday, October 22, 2012

Bahrain security forces fire tear gas to keep protesters out of tense village
Authorities in Bahrain have fired tear gas to disperse more than 200 protesters trying to enter a village under a security clampdown following a bombing last week that killed a policeman. Monday’s confrontation marks the second consecutive day that demonstrators have tried to enter Eker, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the capital Manama. Authorities say a policeman died in Eker from wounds after a homemade explosive was detonated late Thursday.An Associated Press photographer says the marchers fled when the tear gas was fired. On Sunday, police outside Eker detained three activists, including the daughter of jailed opposition figure Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Authorities say seven suspects are held for last week’s blast. A government statement says checkpoints have been set up in the search for other possible suspects.

Saudi's turn to Twitter for 'revolution'

It is not exactly the Arab Spring that many countries in the middle east have experienced over the last couple of years, but a form of revolution is growing in popularity as Saudi's turn to Twitter to voice their criticism of the royal family. Open criticism of the government and the royal family has long since been considered taboo in Saudi Arabia. Over the last several months however, criticism of the royal family and other topics has become commonplace. According to an Economic Times report, the king has come under attack and prominent lawyers and judges are posting fierce criticisms about social neglect and large-scale corruption within the government. Clerics are also posting their views, as are Saudi women upset with the cleric's who "limit their freedoms". An anonymous Twitter account user known as @mujtahidd has been posting information regarding the "internal workings and private scandals" of the Saudi royal family for the past year. An Albawaba report calls the postings "the Saudi Arabian WikiLeaks". There are approximately 2.9 million twitter users in Saudi Arabia according to a New York Times report, and @mujtahidd has nearly 700,000 followers. On Oct 13th, he made several tweets outlining the thought processes and various succession plans made by senior royal family members for when King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud leaves the throne. The question of who will succeed the king has been on the mind of Saudi's and the international community because of the role the country plays in the region. Twitter allows @mujtahidd and other Saudi's to cross social boundaries and discuss subjects in that were once off limits, collectively and in real time. Saudi authorities seem to have become resigned to the fact that not much can be done about the growing trend, thus allowing Twitter users to post under their real names. According to the Economic Times report, Faisal Abdullah, a 31 year-old lawyer, stated: "Twitter for us is like a parliament, but not the kind of parliament that exists in this region,. It's a true parliament, where people from all political sides meet and speak freely." Cleric Salman al-Awda, who was jailed for several years in the 1990s for his attacks on the government, said: "Twitter has revealed a great frustration and a popular refusal of the current situation. There is a complete gap between the rulers and the ruled. Even those who are in charge of security do not know what the people really think, and this is not good." An AFP report earlier this month says Twitter is even being used as a platform for Saudi's to express their displeasure over the rising price of poultry in the country. "Let it Rot" and "Poultry Boycott" are two of the the campaigns that sprang up on Twitter after the price of chicken began to rise. Both campaigns urged Saudis to stop buying chicken. Since protests are banned in Saudi Arabia, Twitter appears to be a logical alternative for Saudi citizens to voice their opinions, and have those opinions heard by Saudi authorities. The New York Times quotes Abdullah as saying: “This is increasing the culture of rights here. And it matters. Yesterday, I wrote a tweet about the court system, accusing the judges of arrogance. The judiciary minister himself called me to talk about it. So you see, they read it.” Read more: Read more:

Syrian Conflict Part of Mideast 'Geopolitical Game' – Lavrov

Some countries are apparently interested in fueling violence in Syria as part of a “geopolitical remapping” of the Middle East, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “It appears that every time the hope for progress in the Syrian situation arises, somebody attempts to prevent it from calming down and deliberately fuels the continuation of the bloodshed and civil war in Syria,” Lavrov said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Monday. Lavrov cited some unspecified opposition groups as telling Russia that Western countries urge them to continue the resistance, “to fight for their rights with arms until [President Bashar al-Assad’s] regime falls.” The minister was especially critical of the terrorist tactics used by the opposition as a wave of attacks targeting senior government officials and pro-Assad forces had recently swept through the country. The Syrian conflict has claimed up to 30,000 lives since March 2011, according to latest US estimates. The West and some Arab countries are pushing for Assad’s ouster while Russia and China are trying to prevent outside interference in Syria, saying that the Assad regime and the opposition are both to blame for the bloodshed. According to Lavrov, the Syrian conflict is “part of geopolitical remapping of the Middle East, where various players attempt to safeguard their interests.” Assad, who is widely viewed as a close ally of Iran, has been unfairly made “a scapegoat” in this “big geopolitical game,” Lavrov said. He defended Assad by calling him “a guarantor of the security of national minorities, among them Christians, who have been living in Syria for centuries.” "By the most conservative estimates our Western partners quote in confidential contacts, he still enjoys support of at least a third of citizens as a man who vowed to prevent Syria's transformation into a state where minorities will be simply unable to live and exist," the Russian minister said. Lavrov reiterated that foreign “recipes” would never provide a long-lasting and reliable solution to the Syrian conflict, and expressed hope that the visit of UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to Russia next week would help outline steps toward dialogue between warring parties in Syria. Brahimi, who held talks with Assad in Damascus on Sunday, has urged the Syrian government and the opposition to cease fire for the duration of the Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts on Friday.

U.S. presidential debate finale expected to draw wide attention

In a few hours, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney are due to start their third and last presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, which will be focused on the U. S. foreign policy. Analysts expected the debate finale to draw wide attention from both the American voters and the media, given the neck-to-neck presidential race right now. FINALE OF PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE In the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Obama's lame performance shocked most people, in sharp contrast with Romney's commanding delivery. The rather surprising development wiped away Obama's once comfortable lead in the presidential race and shifted the momentum to the side of Romney. In a bid to alter the dynamics, Obama, in the second debate, took to the combat mode, launching aggressive attacks on Romney. The strategy seemed to have worked, with most observers agreeing that Obama, more or less, outperformed his rival. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday, Obama is now tied with his challenger Romney on public support, as they will head into the third and final presidential debate. Among likely voters, the candidates are now tied at 47 percent for both in a race that appears on track to be one of the closest in U.S. history, said the Wall Street Journal. Traditionally, foreign policy is low on Americans' list of concerns. However, given the dead-heat presidential race, both candidates are under enormous pressure to secure a triumph in the debate finale. Kevin Ross, president of the debate host Lynn University, told Xinhua in an interview that because this debate will be the last face-to-face exchange between the two candidates before the Nov. 6 election, it is bound to draw unprecedented attention. The students of his university are "thrilled" to watch the debate on Monday night, he said. Indeed, every presidential debate has also been a media war, and this time is surely no exception. A team of Xinhua reporters immediately felt the air of tension after arriving in Lynn University on Sunday. In the news filing center, hundreds of seats have been neatly set up for reporters, while Romney and Obama campaigns were busying installing their respective media spin room designed for their strategists to opine after the debate. Max Rose, a media official of the debate's organizing committee, told Xinhua that there are about 3,500 credentialed members of media to cover the third debate, with nearly 800 foreign reporters. Both numbers are the biggest of the three debate. FOCUS OF FOREIGN POLICY DEBATE The moderator of the debate is Bob Schieffer, the 75-year-old veteran anchor of CBS News. He has outlined a number of topics: America's role in the world, the war in Afghanistan, the changing Middle East, the Iranian nuclear crisis, and how to deal with the rise of China. Undoubtedly, the two candidates will spar again on the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, which killed U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Romney is expected to continue his relentless attack on Obama for his controversial response to the assault. It will be interesting to watch how Obama rebutted his opponent's accusations. Foreign policy is generally considered a strong area for Obama, given his first-hand experience in policy-making and his achievements including the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. However, Romney who is reportedly under intense preparation with his foreign policy advisors, also should not be under- estimated. Despite the common prediction that the debate will see some fierce clashing, many analysts argued that the foreign policy agendas put forward by Obama and Romney are not that different in essence. Of course, Romney as the presidential challenger with few strings attached, is generally considered and also be able to be more hard-line on foreign policy. But the incumbent Obama has to be reasonably more cautious as he needs to take into consideration of the potential consequences of his campaign rhetoric on the real world. Furthermore, some experts believed the more important thing for both candidates is scoring points with viewers on presentation, rather than the substances of their foreign policy.

Video: Malala thanks supporters,able to stand, write

Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai continues to recover in the UK. Doctors say that the young activist is now able to stand up with help and can communicate by writing. Malala was shot in the head and shoulder earlier this month by the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking out against them. Malala was flown to the UK last Monday to receive specialized medical care and protection from further attacks.

“Another school girl from Swat threatened by Taliban”

Following the deadly attack on activist Malala Yousafzai a few weeks ago, another schoolgirl from Swat, Hina Khan who was a pioneer in raising her voice publicly against Taliban atrocities in the Malakand Valley, is now also claiming to be on the Taliban’s hit list. What has been further worrisome for her family is that despite repeated requests for security, they claim no steps have been taken to provide protection to them after they fled from Swat and moved to Islamabad.

Deteriorating human rights situation in Pakistan

Pakistan Director of Human Rights Watch, Ali Dayan Hasan spoke to The Express Tribune on the state's appeasement of sectarian violence, lack of transparency in military's involvement in alleged extrajudicial killings and crisis of criminal justice system in the country.

Thousands of girls named after Malala

Thousands of newborn girls during the last 10 days were named after Malala in Lahore and other parts of Punjab. According to an official of Lady Atichison Hospital and sources in other hospitals, Malala was the most popular name for baby girls born at hospitals across Punjab. “Malala has become a symbol of courage, an icon for promotion of education and other leadership qualities due to which parents are naming their girls after her,” the source said.

Malala Yousafzai status updates Monday 22 October 2012

Malala continues to make steady progress and is in a stable condition at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. She has now been in the hospital for one week, under the care of a specialist team from both the Queen Elizabeth and Birmingham Children’s hospitals.

Malala Of Swat Becomes Malala Of Pakistan And The Wider World

So where do all the security measures and the claims of victory against the Taliban in Swat stand following the attack on Malala Yousafzai? Is the attack, triumphantly claimed by the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a slap in the face for the civilian and military leadership? And how might religious apologists tailor their statements vis-a-vis Taliban attacks on innocent civilians? The answers are clear. Calm has been returned to Swat, but that's a far cry from peace. The country's powerful military establishment still appears to be pinning its hopes on so-called strategic assets, and it seems confused about the good and the bad among the Taliban. And religious apologists are campaigning for general elections and hence less likely to offend the Taliban. So innocent Pakistani civilians -- particularly those who want Pakistan a modern, developing and peaceful country -- are the victims. Fourteen-year-old Malala is one of them. While the Taliban boldly claimed responsibility for the attack on Malala and warned of another if she survives, religious apologists either stayed silent or issued face-saving statements. After much foot-dragging, bland generalizations like "we condemn terrorism" and "whoever is responsible for the attack must be punished" were issued by leaders and officials of political and religious parties like Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), Jamat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), and various factions of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). Hardly two days before the attack on Malala, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan led a rally of his party workers and activists toward Waziristan to drum up sentiment against drone strikes targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets and demanded an end to military operations. There, at the periphery of Waziristan in the district of Tank, Khan called for talks with the Taliban. "But how can we hold talks with people who are out to kill even our children and boldly claim responsibility for such attacks?" Bashir Ahmad Bilour, a minister in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, demanded to know hours after Malala was shot. Bashir Bilour's question casts a pall over the Pakistani government's past negotiations and peace deals with Taliban in Swat, Waziristan, and Khyber. All of those deals fell apart within few months and, in the eyes of their most strident critics, further emboldened and strengthened the militants, leading to more bloodshed in those areas. Accounts from locals in Swat suggest that the military has a vast network of informers across the valley and that even once-powerful men -- khans or landlords -- can't so much as cough without the security forces' knowledge. How Taliban militants enter Swat and carry out occasional attacks like the one on Malala raises major questions for the people of Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the rest of Pakistan. While prayers are being directed and praise poured on Malala and her father, Ziauddin, both of whom were on the Taliban hit-list as a result of their battle to ensure girls' education, young Malala has revived the history of Malalai of Mewand, popularly known as Malalai Anna, who rallied Pashtuns against the British during the second Anglo-Afghan war in 1880 at Maiwand, in Afghanistan. While the Malalai of Maiwand played a heroic role in winning the battle by tending the injured Pashtuns and supplying water and weapons, the Malala of Swat fought with her pen and tongue to encourage her countrymen to send their children to school despite threats from the Taliban. Born in 1998, Malala was only 11 years old when she started her jihad (holy war) against ignorance and oppression. The power of her unarmed jihad instilled so much fear among the so-called armed jihadists that they tried to kill her, an act both forbidden in Islam and considered a shameful and dishonorable act in Pashtun culture and tradition. Malala's attackers perhaps did not know that the attempt to silence her would produce such a serious repercussion. Malala's rallying cry has proven stronger and more lasting than the gunshots from her would-be assassin and is resounding in every corner of Pakistan, inspiring her countrymen to stand up and emancipate themselves from the thugs who are out to steal the future of coming generations and snatch their individual and collective freedoms. Yesterday's Malala of Swat has become the Malala of Pakistan and the Malala of the wider civilized world.

Afghan Roadside Bombs Claiming More Civilian Victims
The UN says that civilian casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan have increased by almost a third in the first nine months of this year. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement on October 20 that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) "killed 340 civilians and injured a further 599 over the past nine months, an increase of almost 30 per cent compared to the same period last year." It added that "IEDs are by far the biggest killer of civilians in Afghanistan's armed conflict." The agency called on the Taliban leadership "to publicly reiterate a ban on these weapons and to stop their use."

Karzai Meets With U.S. Envoy About Pakistan Visit
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met in Kabul with U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman.
Karzai’s office said in a statement that during the October 21 meeting Grossman spoke to Karzai about his recent visit to Pakistan and talks with Pakistani officials about the Afghan peace process and moves to counter terrorism and extremism. Officials say Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants use Pakistan’s northwest tribal region as a base to prepare for attacks on U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in Afghanistan. The Afghan presidential statement said the meeting was also attended by Douglas Lute, U.S. deputy national security adviser; U.S. General John Allen, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan; and James Cunningham, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

EU to provide 80m euros for restoration of infrastructure in Malakand Division

PESHAWAR: Minister for Finance and PPP Provincial General Secretary, Engr Humayun Khan said Sunday that European Union (EU) will provide 80 million euros for restoration/repair of infrastructure in militancy affected Malakand division and capacity building of health and education institutions. "In this regard, an agreement between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government and EU would hopefully be reached this month," he told APP during an interview. He said the confidence of EU and other donors have been enhanced on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government referring to the assistance received in the past comprises 84 percent loan and only 16 percent grant while at present it is more than 80 percent grant. This reflects the confidence of the donor agencies in our growth oriented policies, relief programms and good performance, he added. He said the government has constructed and repaired schools, additional class rooms besides providing medicines and machines to hospitals in DI Khan and Buner districts by utilising the conditional funds received from donors. This year, he said, development work would be carried out in six districts of the province under the conditional fund and later would be expended to others districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The minister said the donor agencies and friends of Pakistan during Donors Conference held in Islamabad under the aegis of KP Government, had hinted investment in relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation projects in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which is welcome and good omen. He highly commended the assistance and support of international donor's organisations and expressed optimism that they would honour their aid pledges and will continue assistance for socio-economic emancipation of people affected by militancy and terrorism. Humayun said that financial position of KP Government is strong and stable and a record three percent increase has been made in the total outlay of Annual Development Programme 2012-13 of the province. Despite the grave challenges of terrorism and militancy, he said the total ADP outlay of KP Government that was only Rs. 33 billion in first year has jumped to record Rs. 97billion. He said increasing the share of province from 43 percent to 57.5 percent in federal divisible pool was highly commendable effort of the present government and a major step towards provincial autonomy. He said the government has presented growth oriented and friendly budget for current fiscal year with no new tax which was appreciated by opponents as well. He said relief is being provided to people affected by terrorism and militancy referring to Bacha Khan Alleviation Programme, waving of small loans in Malakand Division, stars of Khyber Pakthunkhwa programme etc. He said that annual installment of capped amount of Rs. 6 billion under the net hydel profits of Rs. 110 billion is being regularly received while negotiation with the provincial and federal governments are underway for increasing the annual profit under electricity head to KP government and the people would soon hear good news, adding interest of the province would be protected at all cost. Regarding load-shedding, the minister said work on several hydropower projects including Darar Khwar, Khan Khwar and Mataltan have been started to address this issue are permanent basis and increase the province income. He said development and peace are interlinked and the government was spending maximum amount for improving law and order and strengthening of law enforcement agency. He said law and order situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in general and Malakand in particular improved.

Asghar Khan case verdict: Governor Khosa takes a swipe at PML-N

The Express Tribune
If the Asghar Khan case is pursued to its logical end, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership will vanish from politics, claims Punjab Governor Sardar Latif Khosa. Addressing a ceremony at Chand Rai village near Chongi Amar Sidhu on Sunday, Khosa said that the distributers and recipients of cash handouts have committed treason. He was referring to the then-ISI and army chiefs and the politicians who formed the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) at their behest in the run-up to the 1990 general elections. Khosa added that those who “usurped the rights of the people” should be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution. In a veiled reference to the PML-N chief, Khosa alleged that some politicians were groomed during [Gen Ziaul Haq] martial law and rose to power through undemocratic means. “Such politicians have been unmasked – they are not interested in the democratic process,” he alleged. In an indirect criticism of the judiciary, Khosa said while the apex court decided cases involving the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) it should also ensure a speedy trial of the case against Shahbaz Sharif who “took over the province unconstitutionally, four years back”. Khosa urged the Supreme Court to decide the judicial murder of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) so that “character assassination of the creator of the country’s Constitution” could be stopped once and for all. For the PPP, politics is like a religious obligation (ibaadat),” Khosa said. “It is a party of martyrs like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto.” Later, Governor Khosa also visited the residence of late advocate Shakir Ali Rizvi to offer condolences to his family. Rizvi was shot dead by unidentified gunmen last week in Lahore.

PPP demands compensation for 1990 election victims

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) General Secretary Senator Jahangir Badr has said that his party was fully satisfied and also appreciates the Supreme Court’s (SC) short decision in the Asghar Khan case. Addressing a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Sunday, Badr termed the SC decision as historical, saying it would give a new direction to make things better. Badr said that the PPP-led coalition government would not intervene in the court matter in the Asghar Khan case. However, he appealed to the court that it should not only uncover the names of responsible persons in its detailed decision but also order them to return with interest the actual amount they received as bribe. The PPP leader also asked the SC to impose fines on those who took money and ask them to compensate the direct victims of the (IJI) case. Explaining the compensation for politicians who faced defeat due to manipulation in the 1990 elections, he said that these “defeated-cum-victimised politicians” of PPP should be declared winners along with some monetary compensation.

A significant verdict by Pakistan Supreme Court
By ruling against an Army-ISI-Nawaz Sharif nexus in 1990, the pitch has been raised for greater political transparency
A landmark verdict by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Friday may have cleared a historical grey area, but has not left the country’s present-day ruling structure unscathed. The ruling in question relates to allegations surrounding Pakistan’s elections in 1990, suggesting that general Aslam Beg, the army’s chief-of-staff at the time, along with lieutenant general Asad Durrani, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had teamed up with a group of politicians. As a result of this partnership, the parliamentary elections were allegedly rigged. Those elections had brought former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to power in Islamabad for the first time, while conclusively defeating former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, just months after her government’s dismissal on allegations of corruption. More than two decades later, Pakistan has fortunately reconciled itself with one of the many dark chapters in its political history. Though belatedly for the late Benazir, the Supreme Court’s verdict marks a much needed vindication of her oft-repeated claim that she had been unjustly dismissed from office, just 20 months after becoming the Muslim world’s first woman to head a government. The verdict now also sets the pace for a more restrained role in politics by the army and/or intelligence services. Not unexpectedly, the verdict has been widely hailed by leaders of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), now led by President Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir’s widower. However, the verdict also sets in motion a series of challenging questions for Pakistan’s ruling class. On the one hand, there are profoundly difficult questions for Sharif who, according to Supreme Court documents, received a hefty sum of money as leader of his ‘Islami Jamhoori Ittehad’ or Islamic Democratic Alliance. He went on to replace Benazir as the prime minister and now continues as the leader of Pakistan’s main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). Aspiring to become Pakistan’s prime minister for a third time, following his two terms of office in the 1990s, Sharif must be confronted with extremely uneasy questions over his past conduct. The Supreme Court ruling sets in motion some difficult and challenging questions for Sharif’s ability to continue claiming a high moral ground unless he can first clear his own past. While Pakistan’s main federal investigation body, known as the Federal Investigation Agency or FIA, has been assigned to investigate the matter, the issue is more political than legal. Going forward, the outcome of this investigation will only underscore a vital point which is essentially that Pakistan’s democracy deserves to progress freely without any curbs. At the same time, the verdict must also be an important eye-opener for the way Pakistan’s politics seems to be progressing under President Zardari. His decision to carry on as the head-of-state, while also effectively running the PPP from the well-protected environment of Islamabad’s presidential high palace, needs to be scrutinised aggressively. For years, critics have argued that Zardari’s position as Pakistan’s head-of-state — a neutral office — has been badly compromised through his choice of turning his official residence into effectively the highest office of the PPP. At the heart of the Supreme Court’s verdict lies the powerfully argued case against the use of the highest office for partisan purposes and thereby compromising its integrity and neutrality. Going forward, while the FIA investigates individuals named in the Supreme Court’s ruling, the move must also underscore the degree to which there needs to be an aggressive scrutiny too of the use of Pakistan’s presidency for political purposes. While a historical wrong may have been rectified by the Supreme Court’s verdict, the matter will fail to rest there conclusively unless it is immediately related to Pakistan’s present-day environment. Following the Supreme Court’s verdict, it is now essential for Pakistan’s PPP led ruling structure to work aggressively towards reviewing a full range of vital political questions. A new page must be turned in Pakistan’s politics, where the Supreme Court has indeed allowed the opportunity for the first vital step to be taken. However, to ensure that a sorry tale in Pakistan’s past politics must never be repeated, there is an urgent need to ensure that political choices for the future are devoid of controversy. Though the PPP and Zardari in the first instance may have celebrated the Supreme Court’s verdict, the burden of responsibility falls as much on their shoulders as on other players across the board, in overseeing a badly needed maturity in Pakistan’s politics.

'Why Nawaz Sharif not accepting court verdict'

Addressing a reception arranged in honour of visiting Indian lawyers in Islamabad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Pakistani judicial commission not allowed to cross examine accused involved in Mumbai attacks. He once again said that Pakistan was not behind these attacks. Talking to media after the reception, Rahman Malik came hard on Nawaz Sharif and asked him to respect court’s verdict. He said that why the PML-N leader not accepting court verdictHe also challenged opposition leader in the National Assembly for a debate on Asghar Khan case. He said that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has committed court contempt by expressing no trust in FIA.

Pakistan: Immature politics

THE Supreme Court dropped the bombshell, now the political parties are fighting over the fallout. The open secret that the presidency and the security establishment colluded to rig the 1990 elections received an official imprimatur last week — predictably leading to all manner of political attacks and counter-attacks in present-day Pakistan, where a general election is around the corner. Rather than say mea culpa and focus on its more recent record of robustly supporting the democratic process, the PML-N has tried to dredge up allegations of electoral manipulation and partisanship in 1993. For its part, the PPP is enjoying the discomfiture of the PML-N and taking liberal pot shots at its rival for national power. None of it is edifying or becoming of a mature political process. Of course, with elections on the horizon in a fractured polity, few will be thinking about the long-term interests of the democratic project. Survival is the name of the game at the moment. However, this is precisely the kind of political moment in which leadership can make a difference. President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif carry a heavy burden today, much like the one Benazir Bhutto and Mr Sharif tried to shoulder in the 1990s but failed. The burden is to carry the democratic project forward and away from the interference and interventions of the army. Slanging matches and throwing fistfuls of mud at one another is not the way forward. Yes, Nawaz Sharif benefited from the patronage and tutelage of the security establishment. But since his return from exile, he has steadfastly and very believably maintained that the army’s influence in politics must be pushed back against. And for all the PPP’s schadenfreude at the moment, those with longer memories will remember that the PPP’s founder cut his political teeth in the country’s first military government. The central challenge, then, is the same for all political parties: to strengthen the democratic project against military intervention. The PPP, the PML-N, indeed all political parties, will benefit from rolling back the army’s internal predominance. But how to do it? A truth and reconciliation commission, occasionally mentioned by the PML-N, would be a good idea. So was the Charter of Democracy, and a reincarnation of that platform today would be helpful too. Ultimately, though, the political class will only truly be able to exert control if it learns to govern better and challenge the army’s formulation of the national interest and national security in a more intelligent manner. But will self-interest prevail over the common interest?

Supreme Court verdict: historical change is like an avalanche

The apex court's landmark verdict on Asghar Khan's 16-year-old petition against abuse of constitutional high offices has finally come, and as it comes it brings in its train not only possibility of ushering in Pakistan a new political culture but also poses serious challenges to political actors now on the national stage. It's a broad, inclusive verdict on how the so-called Establishment had been subverting the people's will expressed through the ballot, earning over time a bad name for the country and impeding growth of truly democratic culture and forces. Had the predecessors of the present Supreme Court acted courageously in defence of the laws and constitution of the day, by now Pakistan would have a strong vibrant democracy, envy of others in the region and beyond. But the apex court judges can do only as much; it's for others in government, politics, civil society and general public to see that this historic judgement is implemented in letter and in spirit. This certainly was the noble mission of a noble air marshal. What looked like a shot in the dark by a lonely man tends to turn the page on the lingering saga of palace intrigues, misuse of authority and power of money in politics. How this verdict will play out we would know in the light of the detailed judgement that is expected anytime soon because without that in the field, a follow-up action cannot be initiated in earnest. What an irony of time that president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, one man who had earned the reputation of being a man of the book and a constitutional stickler to forbidding limits, has been declared a violator of his oath of office by the Supreme Court. He dismissed two successive governments because he had no other choice after he concluded they violated Article 58 2(b), then an integral but highly controversial part of the constitution. He 'played' into the hands of military top brass, perhaps he had no choice as he had been ushered into the high office at their behest. What constituted national security is always a preserve of the GHQ. To think he could have refused to go along it would be a crass naivety; after all how often others who followed him in elected offices had succeeded in putting across and implementing their contrasting security perspectives, one would like to know. Had Ghulam Ishaq Khan been really enthused by the touted good of military take-overs and generals' peccadilloes he would not have pre-empted General Beg's political ambitions by nominating the next army chief well ahead of expected time. The undeniable fact is that the civilian outfits including the apex courts of the day had always condoned military interventions, sometimes under the dubious cover of doctrine of necessity. That the Supreme Court has put its foot down, saying no more misuse of high military offices in pursuance of crooked objectives is indeed a great moment in our history. But that was in the past, and history cannot be rewritten. Looking to the future, the court verdict poses two critical challenges, one each to civilian and military set-ups. For the government the challenge is to ensure that President Asif Ali Zardari stays clear of his political activities, as envisaged under Article 41 of the constitution. The court expects of him to quit the political office as PPP co-chairman - which he may not, given the Attorney General's insistence that the apex court is 'not mandated to regulate political functions which the president as of right can pursue', a position drawing substance from 18th Constitutional Amendment which permits the president to remain party head. For the military set-up the challenge is trial of its former army chief and ex-MI-ISI bosses. May be the detailed judgement offers some guidance on both these challenges, but we do not see anything really happening given the recent track records of both the setups. Then, the Chief Executive, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, too is not very clear on how to go about the implementation of the court order. Of course, in his welcoming speech he was quite categorical about bring the rigging culprits to book, but is there any organisation under him which can do it. The political opposition has already questioned the integrity and competence of the FIA, entrusted by the court to investigate and fix responsibility. But that said, the fact cannot be denied that a historical wrong has been righted, vindicating the PPP's longstanding stance on the 1990 election. And in larger context the court has set a crucial precedent by declaring military intervention in civilian affairs illegal, unconstitutional and high treason, a heroic performance and a huge step towards obtaining ambience of rule of law in Pakistan. Last but not least. A leaf out of acclaimed European historian Norman Davies (an excerpt from his talk with Financial Times carried by it on October 19, 2012): "Historical change is like an avalanche. The starting point is snow-covered mountainside that looks solid. All the changes take place under the surface and are rather invisible. But something is coming. What is impossible is to say when."

Imran urges Zardari to act against Sharifs

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan said on Sunday that after the decision of Supreme Court (SC) in Asghar Khan case, the president has the “opportunity to take strict action against the Sharif brothers who had taken money to establish IJI”. “In light of SC’s verdict, neutral investigation should be launched against those who had taken money from secret agencies so that malign, corrupted elements could be eliminated,” Imran said in a statement. The PTI chief said that it has been proved that money was given to establish IJI and it is also “clear that so-called politicians had received the amount”. He said that the government should implement decision of the SC “at once” and disqualify those people who had received money. “Today, corruption is common in all over the country. Punjab has become defaulter because of corruption and worst performance of its leaders,” Imran said. “Zardari should take strict action against these people so that no body could dare to change the decision of public in the future,” he said. “Corrupt Sharif brothers should not only be disqualified, they should also be held accountable,” the PTI chief said.

Asghar Khan case fallout

The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) long delayed verdict in the Asghar Khan case has put the cat among the pigeons in terms of its fallout for the politics of the country, now and in the future. The former COAS General (retd) Aslam Beg, former head of ISI Lieutenant-General (retd) Asad Durrani, some prominent politicians alleged to have received funds from the Rs 60 million out of the Rs 140 million given by former Habib Bank and Mehran Bank head Younis Habib, have all been put in the dock by the verdict. Although the detailed judgement is to follow, the short order of the SC has directed the government to take action against the generals and the politicians, as also Younis Habib for manipulating the 1990 elections through the formation of the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) with the help of these secretly distributed funds, which were also aimed at helping anti-PPP politicians and parties to win the 1990 elections. Late president Ghulam Ishaq Khan has been found to be the main culprit in this shoddy business. An election cell operating within his presidency ordered the COAS and ISI chief to distribute these funds, facilitate the formation of the anti-PPP IJI and ensure the mandate of the electorate did not go in favour of the PPP, then led by Benazir Bhutto. Certain questions have arisen in the wake of the court judgement, a judgement that cannot be considered anything but historic, given the history of manipulated elections in the country, and arguably a game-changer, provided the investigations ordered by the court are conducted thoroughly and no one, no matter how prominent, spared the long arm of the law. As far as the errant generals are concerned, the question of what law or legal regime to try them under remains unresolved. One view is that they should be court martialled. Recently, in a case of embezzlement of funds, retired generals have been ‘reinstated’ in order to be court martialled. Although that has set a new precedent, it is not clear whether the present military leadership would be wiling to extend this precedent to two such prominent past generals. The other view is that the two have attracted the provisions of Article 6 of the constitution, dealing with treason and violations of the constitution. That would be an explosive departure, given the continuing dominance of the military in national affairs and the high profile of the two accused generals. This could prove a ticklish matter for both the army high command as well as the government. As far as the politicians named as beneficiaries of the ‘largesse’ of the ISI/military establishment in General Durrani’s affidavit in the SC are concerned, the court has ordered the FIA to investigate the charges and take legal action against all those found guilty of accepting these ‘gifts’. How long such an investigation might take is another concern. The FIA thinks it can complete it within two months, Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira thinks it can be done fairly quickly and before the caretaker setup takes over to conduct the general elections after the PPP-led government’s tenure expires on March 18, 2013. It certainly looks, despite these confident assertions, that this might be a race against time. If the investigation is not completed before the present government departs, it would remain a matter of conjecture what might transpire in the tenure of the caretaker government: continuation without break of the investigation, or its getting lost in a cloud of uncertainty amidst the political changes taking place then. Another cloud of uncertainty kicked up by the verdict are the strictures in the verdict against the president’s office transcending its constitutional role to intervene in politics, that too in a malign manner. The SC has ordered all election cells in the presidency and the intelligence agencies abolished, and reiterated the politically neutral role of the presidency according to the constitutional construct. That inevitably has implications for the present incumbent, who is both president and co-chairperson of the ruling PPP. Mr Qaira has manfully risen to the defence of the president’s political role, arguing that the president’s office is inherently political, part of parliament, and therefore inherently allowed to conduct politics, albeit in a neutral manner. This is a questionable line of argument, if measured against the conventions of parliamentary democracy in mature democracies. The head of state in a parliamentary democracy is by convention supposed to abjure involvement in politics, except at moments when after elections governments are to be formed, and then too, he or she is supposed to exercise their minds by reference to guidance from the party claiming a majority in parliament. Only if no party enjoys a clear majority does the president ask the party enjoying a plurality or the next largest party in parliament whether it is in a position to form the government in coalition with other parties. Other than that, parliamentary conventions enjoin the president to refrain from intervention in politics. Pakistan’s peculiar history of dictatorial or autocratic regimes, with intermittent and weak bouts of ‘democracy’ has meant that such well established parliamentary democratic norms and conventions have not taken root. An added complication is the co-chairpersonship of President Zardari. How these two roles are to be reconciled in the light of the SC verdict (and the case in the Lahore High Court on this very issue) will test the political acumen of the ruling party in days to come. Those politicians named as beneficiaries of the illegal funds in the SC’s verdict, particularly the leaders of the PML-N, are trying to kick up as much dust as possible to obfuscate the implications of the judgement. If a transparent and thorough investigation is undertaken by the FIA on a war footing, time being short, no amount of ‘dust storms’ can obscure the fact that past misdemeanours have to be accounted for (including the generals) and a clean break made with this sordid past, that continued up to and including the rigged 2002 elections under Musharraf. This is a test of political will, one that will determine for years to come the shape and character of the democratic system and help roll back the malign influence of any person or institution interfering in the genuine exercise of the people’s will to elect the representatives they want, not GHQ, ISI, or an overbearing president, as happened in the past all too often. This could be a genuine turning point in the political history of the country, provided the thrust of the SC judgement is implemented in its true sprit and without shrinking in the face of the admitted difficulties in its path.

Shahbaz’s funny mendacity

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, says that education in the province on his watch has acquired international standards. Really? We didn’t know. But do those standards include state-run schools functioning in graveyards and on city streets, as in Punjab? And do they also have schools in the countryside in Britain that have no buildings at all and where classes are held under the shade of trees and students sit on the bare ground? Do they have schools in France, too, with not even a boundary wall? Do they have schools also in Italy where separate teachers take two or three classes simultaneously in a single room with not even a dividing screen? And in Germany do they too have schools where there is no teacher to teach science and no science laboratory for the students for practical exercises? Do they have schools in the Scandinavian countries as well with no toilets, not even drinking-water facility? In Norway, do they also have schools where the teachers in battalions do not turn up to teach? And in the United States, do they have colleges that function in vacated jails where classes are held in the prisoners’ cells and the students throng on the doors and the corridors to attend the lectures, as in Punjab? And which banana republic as it where not even a single secondary board could produce undisputed results as in Punjab? What kind of mendacity indeed is it that this chief minister has so funnily blurted out? So exasperating it is. And so untruthful too. It only demonstrates that he is absolutely ignorant of the stinking thick rot the state-run schooling is in Punjab. Nor does he seem to know in what a dismal shape is the college education in his domain on his watch. By building a clutch of daanish schools, he appears thinking he has done an education miracle to Punjab, which in reality it is not. With this ostentatious adventure, he may have enlivened the hope for the better of a few thousands of “talented” poor students. But by letting the vast network of state-run schools to rot, he has darkened the future of millions of poor students, many innately talented, on the rolls of this system which alone is accessible to the deprived and denied classes of the citizenry in his province too. With his populist laptop contrivance, he may have added a bit of fat to his vote-bank and may even garner a few votes in the other province where too he now plans to distribute laptops. But he has done a great disservice to the cause of education in the province by taking to this patently politically-motivated but prohibitively exorbitant trick. The precious billions of the taxpayer’s money he has squandered on this political venture so recklessly, he could have utilised for promotion of science education in the state-run schools, particularly in the countryside. And that predictably would have been quite profitable to him politically as well. An indebted public for his uplift of the rotting sate-run school system would have possibly returned the compliment by rallying behind him in strength at the ballot box. But such things could hardly come to him, so swayed is he by his populist daanish schools and laptops forays. He wouldn’t even know that the people in Punjab would do without the international standards and be quite content if what they already have is built up into a delivering system where the state-run schools are run competently and professionally. Where the schools have their proper buildings with boundary walls, adequate furniture and electric fittings, and amenities like toilets and drinking water. Where the teachers turn up regularly and punctually to teach. Where the facilities for science teaching, including teachers and laboratories, are all available readily. Where the inspectors visit the schools regularly as well as in surprise to inspect their upkeep and keep an eye on their educational standards. Where the secondary education boards produce correct and credible results. And where the colleges maintain full teaching faculties and ask not the students to hire out a private tuition in the subject they have no lecturer on payrolls to teach and they would send up their admission forms to the university for examination in the subject. Shahbaz must know that Punjab too suffers from deficiencies in almost every department of education, which instead of diminishing have only increased on his watch. And the people of the province are crying for no education miracles. They are screaming for an education system fit enough for their children to send to for learning and education. This he has spectacularly failed to give them.

PML-N should leave dual standards

Interior Minsiter says PML-N should accept the Supreme Court verdict in Asghar Khan case. Minister for Interior Rehman Malik has said Pakistan Muslim League-N should give up hypocritical attitude and accept the Supreme Court verdict in Asghar Khan case instead of terming the verdict as "injustice". Talking to newsmen in Islamabad at a dinner he hosted for the visitng delegation of Indian Supreme Court Bar Association‚ he said whenever there is a court decision against Pakistan Peoples Party‚ PML-N leaders praise and talk about independence of judiciary‚ but they do not accept any decision if it is against them. While commenting on the statement of PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan‚ Rehman Malik said it exposes the double standards being pursued by the PML-N. He expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would take sou moto notice and issue contempt notice to Ch. Nisar Ali Khan. Earlier‚ addressing the dinner‚ he said basic problem of both India and Pakistan is poverty and called for more efforts from both sides to ensure development and prosperity of the two peoples. The Minister said at the same time that the other core issues such as Kashmir and water should also be addressed to establish a lasting friendship between the two South Asian neighbours.

World looks different from Oval Office

Bill Clinton, while on the campaign trail in 1992, attacked the George H.W. Bush administration for collaborating with "the butchers of Beijing." If he won the White House, Clinton promised, he would put human rights first when dealing with the People's Republic of China. But six months after assuming the Oval Office, Clinton tossed those promises out the window, and dealing with China returned to "business as usual," according to William Galston, a former Clinton policy adviser. Clinton isn't alone. Candidates, once elected, usually struggle to live up to their rhetoric on foreign policy. The reason is simple, according to a cadre of international affairs experts: The view from inside the Oval Office is much different from the view from outside. "It is very difficult for presidential candidates to know even a fraction of the facts and the texture of diplomatic relations between the United States and other countries," said Galston. "Once you get inside the White House, the world looks very different." With foreign policy about to take center stage on Monday during the last presidential debate of the 2012 cycle, experts say Republican challenger Mitt Romney should be cautious about over-promising. But some say he already has. In Romney's October 8 foreign policy address, the Republican candidate promised to increase sanctions on Iran, help arm Syrian rebels who "share our values," and close the "daylight" between Israel and the United States. Robert Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University and a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, said Romney joins a long line of candidates who promise too much."He will have to wake up if he were elected," Pastor said. "It would be irresponsible for him to implement" some of those promises, and "I suspect his new secretary of state would tell him that." If Romney wants proof of the pitfalls of foreign policy promises, all he has to do is look across the table at Monday's debate at the man he is trying to unseat. During the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Barack Obama advocated for regional conferences with Syria and Iran, said his administration would enter diplomatic talks with governments that his predecessor, President George W. Bush, would not, and pledged to eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Syria has fallen into a long civil war, Iran continues to be a provocateur in the Middle East, and North Korea is still developing its nuclear program. Possibly Obama's biggest broken promise is the one to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that," Obama told CBS News' Steve Kroft in 2008. Guantanamo remains open, even though Obama signed an executive order to have it closed two days after he took office in 2009. The issue has largely been put on the back burner in light of issues on the economy. Governing on foreign policy is more difficult than talking tough on it, Galston said, because it hinges on the instability of the globe and can change in the blink of an eye. "I think this is the reality of political campaigns," Galston said. "You can say things (on the campaign trail) in good faith, based on consulting with experts -- and it is rarely the case that candidates say things about foreign policy that they know not to be the case. The issue is once you get inside the White House, the world looks very different." Pastor, the former Carter adviser, says these unmet foreign policy promises can be broken up into three distinct groups. There are the promises that are sincere but difficult -- or impossible -- to meet because they require action from other governments. "Secondly, there are promises that are sincere but cannot be implemented because the political opposition makes it impossible," Pastor said. Lastly, according to Pastor, are promises that are made because they are political expedient but prove irresponsible once the ramifications are understood. Presidential history is littered with promises that fall into these categories. During the 2000 campaign, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush promised to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a promise that many of his predecessors had also made. The embassy, however, to this day remains in Tel Aviv. Upon assuming office in 1981, Ronald Reagan promised to get tough and stop the Sandinistas, a left-wing Nicaraguan political party that swept across Central America. The Sandinistas were still around when Reagan left office in 1989 and to this day continue to hold political power in Nicaragua. In 1960, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy used soaring foreign policy rhetoric to help catapult him to the White House at the young age of 43. According to the State Department's Office of the Historian, Kennedy failed to live up to his rhetoric on international affairs. "The execution of Kennedy's foreign policy did not quite live up to the stirring rhetoric of his inaugural speech. ... In fact, his foreign policy was marred by a string of failures," reads the State Department website. In April of 1961, Kennedy had only been in office for a short three months when he called for a meeting with Dwight D. Eisenhower, his predecessor in the office. The Bay of Pigs invasion, a carryover from the Eisenhower administration, had been a massive failure that month and an early blunder by the Kennedy presidency -- even though many attributed the failure to Eisenhower. The Kennedy-Eisenhower relationship had been frosty, at best, after the young senator defeated the former general's vice president, Richard Nixon, in the 1960 campaign. Even though Eisenhower had long viewed Kennedy as naive -- he referred to Kennedy as "Little Boy Blue" -- the two put their chilly relationship aside and the sitting president invited the former general to Camp David to review the mistakes in Cuba. According to Eisenhower's notes from the meeting and a number of media reports, the conversation between the new and former president previewed the pitfalls of foreign policy campaign promises: Kennedy: "No one knows how tough this job is until he's been in it a few months." Eisenhower: "Mr. President. If you will forgive me, I think I mentioned that to you three months ago."

How the Obama-Romney foreign policy debate could determine the election

With turmoil increasing in world hot spots, foreign policy and national security have become major presidential campaign issues. From China to Israel, Iran to Syria, stateless terrorists to struggling alliances, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will have plenty to debate Monday night.
How important is Monday night’s foreign policy debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? The way things stand right now, it could determine the outcome on Election Day. Nobody would have predicted that just a few weeks ago. But with Mr. Romney’s late-in-the-day insurgency in the polls, the race has become dead even. And momentum – what George H. W. Bush called “the Big Mo” – seems to be on Romney’s side. Two main reasons: First, Romney clearly won the first debate against President Obama, who even jokes now about “the nice long nap I had in the first debate.” In their second set-to, Obama was much more engaged, even animated. But aside from Romney’s gaffe about “binders full of women,” the challenger pretty much held his own against the incumbent president. Second, most voting Americans may worry about the economy first, but foreign policy and national security have become much more important as well. Israel’s security, Iran’s nuclear program, China’s currency, violent revolution in Syria, and certainly Libya since the US ambassador was killed in a terrorist attack there – all have become major campaign issues and therefore debating points. Also, while Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan have no foreign policy experience, and that can be seen as a weakness in the GOP ticket, Obama has a mixed record to defend. Think you know the Middle East? Take our geography quiz. You can be sure Romney will try to paint that as adding up to weakness and indecision – “leading from behind” is sure to be brought up – not to mention what he claims is a certain distancing from Israel. “Unfortunately, this president’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East,” Romney said in his speech at the Virginia Military Institute earlier this month. “When we look at the Middle East today, with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region and with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead – likely at the hands of al-Qaida affiliates – it’s clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office.” The terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya – which came on the anniversary of 9/11 at a time when much of the region was in turmoil over a crude anti-Islam YouTube video made in the United States – is particularly troublesome for Obama. Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius reports that initial CIA “talking points,” provided by a senior US intelligence official, supported UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s early contention that the attack in Benghazi was tied to protests against the YouTube video. But Republicans in Congress (and Romney) have jumped all over the Obama administration’s subsequent remarks on the episode, particularly statements regarding “terrorism” and “terrorists.” It’s all of a piece, Romney charges. “Our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them,” he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column. Still, Obama can rightly claim to have decimated Al Qaeda’s leadership, including Osama bin Laden. And it’s unlikely that Romney as president – despite his buddy-buddy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – could do any more than Obama has done to tighten the economic screws on Iran. Meanwhile, the debate over who’s toughest on Iran took a new twist when the New York Times (citing “administration officials”) reported Saturday that the United States and Iran “have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program … setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran.” Was this some sort of “October surprise?” Not so, insisted administration officials, who denied the report. But the Romney camp was quick to label it “another example of a national security leak from the White House,” as Sen. Rob Portman, who played Obama in Romney's debate preparations, did Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Obama spokesmen were just as quick to defend administration policy on Iran. "For two years, the president traveled the world putting together a withering international coalition. And now the sanctions that they agreed on are bringing the Iranian economy to its knees," said David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, also speaking on NBC. "They're feeling the heat. And that's what the sanctions were meant to do." Both Obama and Romney are preparing to the hilt for Monday night’s encounter. The last thing either wants to do is have the post-debate discussion focus on a “binders” kind of gaffe – the kind that helped deny Gerald Ford re-election in 1976 when he declared in a debate with Jimmy Carter, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” "I think the stakes are pretty high for both candidates," Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday. "If we are lucky, we, the voters, we will come out of it at the end thinking, 'I actually know something of Mitt Romney's philosophy as he looks at the world and America's place in it. I understand better what President Obama wants to do and how he sees things.'"