Tuesday, November 6, 2012

President Barack Obama wins re-election

President Barack Obama has been re-elected to a second term, defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney. With results in from most states, America's first black president has secured the 270 votes in the electoral college needed to win the race.
Mr Obama prevailed despite lingering dissatisfaction with the economy and a well-funded challenge by Mr Romney. Many states are still reporting results, and Mr Obama's margin of victory was not yet certain. The president won solid Democratic states and a number of swing states. His narrow victory in Ohio, a critical Mid-Western swing state, sealed the victory. Mr Romney won North Carolina and Indiana, two states Mr Obama won in 2008, as well as the solid Republican states. But he was unable to win in Ohio or other states needed to breach the 270 threshold. Several swing states, including Florida and Virginia, have yet to report results.

As first polls close, the counting begins in 2012 presidential race

As voters drift out of polling stations Tuesday night, America will get a little closer to knowing whether Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama will be in the White House come January. After countless stump speeches, three debates and historic levels of advertising—it's estimated that $2.6 billion was spent in the presidential race—tens of millions of Americans, some of whom had to stand in line for hours, are casting their ballots. Tonight's winner will most likely inherit at least one crucial Supreme Court nomination, plus messy Congressional negotiations about whether to let the Bush tax cuts expire, and an unpopular 10-year war in Afghanistan. So, when will we know who won? The earliest polls close is at 6 p.m. ET in Indiana, with five more states shutting their polling stations at 7 p.m. At the earliest, the race would be called at 11 p.m., when the West Coast polling stations close and elections officials will have had time to tabulate ballots in other states. But if the race ends up extremely close in a few states, it could take days, or even weeks, to declare a winner. A shrinking electoral battleground this year means that only 11 states are really seen as in play, and their results are the ones political junkies—and the campaigns—will anxiously be awaiting. Though national polls show the two candidates in a dead heat, Obama leads in most of these battleground states' recent polls. The president could get to 270 electoral vote—which is the number need to win—by taking only four battleground states: Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Romney needs at least five of the states, including Ohio, to get to victory. Additionally, the swing states of Virginia and Florida, which finish voting at 7 p.m. ET, are seen as must wins for Romney if he is to garner 270 votes. Another state crucial to both Obama and Romney's path to victory, Ohio, closes its polls down just half an hour later, at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Buckeye State tends to vote a bit more Republican than the nation as a whole, but polling there suggests that Obama has been able to reverse that trend and hold an edge there over Romney, perhaps due to the president's support of the auto bailout three years ago. But some have suggested the state polling in Ohio has underestimated Republican voters' enthusiasm and overestimated turnout among groups that tend to vote Democratic. By 8 p.m. ET, the polls will have closed in nine of the 11 swing states. Colorado's and Nevada's polls close at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively. Both campaigns demonstrated how important Ohio was to their campaigns on Tuesday. Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan spent Tuesday campaigning in the Cleveland area, while Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced trip to the state to make a last-minute appeal to its voters.

Tight US Election Now in Voters' Hands

There were long lines at polling places across the United States as Americans vote on whether to re-elect President Barack Obama or to select Republican challenger Mitt Romney as their new leader. Sporadic problems were reported. Both candidates have legions of lawyers monitoring the voting for any irregularities. The U.S. Department of Justice has dispatched nearly 800 observers to polling places in 23 states to respond to any allegations of fraud. The outcome of the election is uncertain.Nationwide surveys show the two candidates in a virtual deadlock. However, the surveys do give Obama a slight edge in a handful of key battleground states which will likely determine the outcome of the election. U.S. presidential election campaigns are not decided by the national popular vote, but rather by a two-century-old electoral college system in which each of the 50 states' influence on the outcome is roughly equivalent to its population. Each candidate needs at least 270 of the available 538 electoral votes to win the election.

Beyonce Pens A Short And Sweet Handwritten Letter To President Obama


Christie Says ‘Know-Nothing’ Romney Aides Spread Reports

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said “know-nothing” campaign staffers are the sources of reports of tension between him and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. “When you get to the end of a campaign and it’s unsure of the results, those who fear they may be blamed if things don’t go well will try to look for other people to blame,” Christie, a 50-year-old Republican, told reporters today in Westwood. “That’s the way it goes.”Americans today are deciding the presidential race. The website Politico reported Nov. 3 that “some Romney friends and donors” were irritated that Christie had praised President Barack Obama after the two toured the devastated New Jersey shore aboard Marine One on Oct. 31. The Huffington Post reported yesterday that Christie, who had traveled the country as a campaign surrogate, declined Romney’s invitation to appear alongside him at a rally Nov. 4 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River from Trenton, the New Jersey capital. “It’s completely untrue,” Christie referring to The Huffington Post report, told reporters today. He said he spoke to Romney on Oct. 28, the night before Hurricane Sandy made landfall at the New Jersey coast. “I told him: ‘Listen, Mitt, if the storm hits the way they think it’s going to, I’m off the campaign trail at least through Election Day,’” Christie said. “He said: ‘Chris, do what you have to do. Do your job and don’t worry.’” Christie said he expects Romney to clinch the election. “All this noise is coming from know-nothing, disgruntled Romney staffers who are mad at the fact I said nice things about the president,” Christie said. “That’s too bad for them.” Christie praised Obama after he and the president toured the most devastated areas Oct. 31. At a news conference that night in West Trenton, Christie said the president “couldn’t have been better.”

Obama congratulates Romney on "spirited campaign"

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Republican rival Mitt Romney on Tuesday for running a hard-fought race for the White House and expressed confidence he would win re-election during a stop at a local campaign office to thank volunteers. "I ... want to say to Governor Romney congratulations on a spirited campaign. I know that his supporters are just as engaged and just as enthusiastic and working just as hard today," Obama said as volunteers made phone calls encouraging supporters to get to the polls.
"We feel confident we've got the votes to win, but it's going to depend ultimately on whether those votes turn out. And so I would encourage everybody on all sides just to make sure that you exercise this precious right that we have that people fought so hard for us to have." Obama made calls to volunteers from the campaign office to thank them for working for his re-election. "I expect that we'll have a good night, but no matter what happens, I just want to say how much I appreciate everybody who supported me, everybody who's worked so hard on my behalf," he said. Opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, although the Democratic incumbent has a slight advantage in several vital swing states that could give him the 270 electoral votes needed to win the state-by-state contest. Traditionally presidential candidates get media attention on Election Day by going to vote. But Obama cast his ballot in Chicago last month - part of his campaign's push to get its supporters to vote early. So the president's visit to the office gave him a chance to get in front of the cameras, generate news coverage and encourage turnout. Obama and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and private equity executive, have fought a largely negative campaign. Obama's team attacked Romney for his business record, and Romney's team criticized the president for presiding over high unemployment and a slow economic recovery. Obama's conciliatory comments represent the close of the bitter campaign and could appeal to last-minute undecided voters, who are turned off by the lack of bipartisanship in Washington. In addition to his campaign office stop, Obama is doing a round of interviews and is expected to play basketball with friends, a tradition for the sports-loving president on Election Day.

VIDEO: President Obama's Final Rally with First Lady Michelle Obama with Bruce Springsteen

U.S: ''Why Election Day won't be postponed''

With Superstorm Sandy leaving communities under water, stranding millions without power and consuming public resources in several states, could next Tuesday's vote for president be moved to a later date? No, it can't. Without passage of a new federal law, voting for president is required to take place on Tuesday, November 6, as planned. But, partial postponements of voting in some affected areas are possible, consistent with the laws governing the election of the president and vice president. Here's why: When people go to the polls on Election Day, they aren't voting directly for their choice for president or vice president. Instead, they are voting to select representatives -- or "electors" -- to the Electoral College, the body that actually determines who will be president and vice president. Candidates, voters forced to navigate Sandy The Constitution gives Congress the authority to determine "time" of choosing those electors. In 1845, Congress passed a law that set the Tuesday immediately following the first Monday in November of every election year as Election Day across the country. The same law also gives states some leeway in picking electors to the Electoral College. But to exercise that leeway, a state must have "held an election for the purpose of choosing electors," and "failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law." When that happens, the law says "the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such manner as the legislature of such state may direct." Based on this, the Congressional Research Service, a federal agency that provides legislative research support to Congress, concluded in a 2004 report that a state could probably hold presidential voting on Election Day in places unaffected by a natural disaster but postpone it until a later date in affected areas without violating federal law so long as the state met other legal requirements relating to electing the president and vice president. But the law passed by Congress setting Election Day only allows a state to pick its electors on a later date if it has already held an election on Election Day and "failed to make a choice" on that day. So a complete statewide postponement would arguably violate the 1845 law, the 2004 report suggested. But the report also pointed out that the Supreme Court has emphasized the role states play in selecting the presidential electors, so a state might be allowed to postpone an entire statewide vote for president in emergency circumstances like a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Obama Expected to Easily Win NY, State Senate Control Could Shift

The 2012 election in New York state is expected to deliver few surprises, but one could be control of the state Senate. Senate Republicans have a 33-29 advantage over Democrats, their only base of power in the state where every statewide official is a Democrat. But a handful of races that could swing the majority are still up in the air. President Barack Obama is expected to easily capture the state's 29 electoral votes in his contest against Mitt Romney. In 2008, he won 62 percent of the state against John McCain.

Obama and Romney wrap up campaigns, voting begins

Americans are going to the polls to elect a new president. Opinion polls show President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney in a virtual dead heat in a race that is expected to be decided in key swing states. On election eve Monday night, President Obama and Romney, his Republican challenger, made their final campaign pitches to American voters. "I've come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote. I came back to ask you to help us finish what we've started, because this is where our movement for change began," Obama told a crowd of 20,000 people in Des Moines.Romney wrapped up his campaign with a late night rally in an indoor sports arena in Manchester, New Hampshire. "Tomorrow is a moment to look into the future and imagine what we can do, to put that past four years behind us and build a new future," Romney said. "Walk with me. Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow." At least 120 million Americans are expected to vote on Tuesday and their decision will set the country's course for the next four years. National opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, although Obama has a slight advantage in several vital swing states - most notably Ohio - that could give him the 270 electoral votes he needs to win.Most states tend to vote the same way but swing states are tossups because they do not lean in any particular direction and can change sides in any given election cycle. The US election is not decided by the popular vote but rather state-by-state. Winning the popular vote in a state, even by a small margin, usually affords a candidate all of that state's votes in the Electoral College. A candidate needs 270 of these votes - allocated to states based on their population - to take the presidency. Romney is scheduled to vote at home in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning before a final trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obama, who voted in October, will spend the day at his home in Chicago. The race is on The first ballots of the 2012 election were cast in the tiny New Hampshire town of Dixville Notch, Tuesday with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each receiving five votes. The traditional first-in-the-nation vote, held shortly after midnight, was tied for the first time in its history. The split reflects the partisan divide that has Obama and Romney neck and neck. The close presidential race raises concerns of disputed results similar to the 2000 election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, which was decided by the US Supreme Court. Both campaigns have assembled legal teams to deal with possible voting problems, challenges or recounts. Romney, the multimillionaire former head of a private equity fund, would be the first Mormon president and one of the wealthiest Americans to occupy the White House. Obama, the first black president, is vying for a second term.

In Iowa, Obama gets emotional in final campaign rally

President Obama bid an emotional farewell to the campaign trail here Monday night, returning on the eve of the 2012 election to the Midwest town that launched his first run to the White House. “This is where our movement for change began. Right here,” Obama told the crowd of 20,000 standing outside on a cold, clear evening on Locust Street a few blocks from the state capitol.
It was a night when stump speeches were revised for personal reflections, when attacks on Republican nominee Mitt Romney were scrapped for heartwarming anecdotes. Obama and wife Michelle had returned to ask for the townspeople’s votes, but also to pay thanks to the people who helped them during the 2008 campaign when Obama upset Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses. Michelle recalled house parties in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids and celebrating daughter Malia’s birthday on the trail in Pella. And she added she would never forget the time she saw her husband’s face carved in butter at a holiday celebration. “Believe me, we still talk about that at Christmas,” the first lady said with a laugh. “You welcomed me and Michelle into your homes and you picked us up when we needed a lift,” the president said, after embracing his wife upon taking the stage after her remarks. “To all of you who have lived and breathed the hard work of change, I want to thank you.” The crowd, chilled to the bone after standing outdoors for hours, enjoyed the moment. They held blue signs with Obama’s campaign slogan “Forward!” and special posters with his picture and the words “Final grassroots rally. Finish what we started.” But the president seemed to relish the night even more. Wearing a black windbreaker and dark slacks, sans tie, Obama told the crowd that he had paid a visit to his first-ever campaign field office, a one-story, red-brick building behind the stage where he was speaking. “It brought back a whole lot of memories,” Obama said “You know, when the heat didn’t work for the first week or so, some of you brought hats and gloves for the staff.” He appeared to tear up briefly. The president has largely shied away from direct comparisons to 2008 in his 2012 stump speech. Four years after promising “hope and change,” Obama has acknowledged that his supporters are frustrated with “the pace of change.” But on Monday night, he wrapped up his remarks with a lengthy final anecdote about the origin of his 2008 campaign rallying cry, “Fired up! Ready to go!” He explained that he took the phrase from a South Carolina city councilwoman named Edith Childs whom he had endorsed four years ago. Obama added that he had called Childs and asked her to appear with him in Des Moines to rehash their old call and response routine. But she demurred, Obama said, because she wanted to campaign for him in North Carolina, a swing state where Republican nominee Mitt Romney holds a small lead over Obama. Obama said Childs told him: “I’ve got to knock on some doors. I’ve got to turn out the vote. I’m still fired up but I’ve got work to do.” He continued: “She’s pretty sure we’ll win this election. And she just had one question for you and that is are you fired up?” “Ready to go!” the audience responded. And soon the president and his wife were walking the stage and waving to their supporters one last time.

President Obama Pulls Ahead in New Washington Post Poll

U.S: The Battle for the Senate

For Republicans intent on unraveling President Obama’s accomplishments, electing Mitt Romney has been only one part of the equation. Almost as important was installing a Republican majority in the United States Senate, where 50 votes (plus the vice president) would be necessary to repeal much of health care reform, roll back tax increases on the rich and gut social welfare programs. The party’s hopes, however, have been severely damaged in recent weeks. Republican candidates who are crucial to regaining a majority in the Senate have tumbled, according to a variety of polls, and Democrats are now considered likely to retain control. The reason for this is clear: Primary voters chose several unappealing or ideologically driven candidates who repelled general-election voters once they began speaking their minds. In a country facing enormous economic and international challenges, for example, it is stunning that two Midwestern Democrats are leading their races solely because their Republican opponents explained in shocking detail why they oppose a rape exception to a ban on abortion. Neither Richard Mourdock of Indiana nor Representative Todd Akin of Missouri felt any need to hold back, because their beliefs are central to why they were nominated. Mr. Akin, who is running against Senator Claire McCaskill, has long opposed abortion in all cases, and, in August, he announced that it was not really an issue because, in cases of “legitimate rape,” the female body shuts down the conception process. Mr. Mourdock, who is running against Representative Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, said last month that pregnancy resulting from rape was “something that God intended to happen.” Both candidates could still win in their conservative states, but, for now, their insensitive rigidity has left them behind. In Wisconsin, Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, has benefited from the comments of her opponent, former Gov. Tommy Thompson. He said he would come up with programs “to do away with Medicaid and Medicare.” Josh Mandel, a Republican who is challenging Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, has a tissue-thin résumé and no fixed position on a variety of issues. In Florida, Representative Connie Mack IV, a Republican who is challenging Senator Bill Nelson, has been crippled by revelations that he did marketing work on behalf of Hooter’s and has a history of barroom brawling and road rage. Republicans in two relatively liberal northeastern states are fighting a huge Democratic headwind stirred up by the presidential race. Most polls in Massachusetts have shown Senator Scott Brown either tied with his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, or behind. (Ms. Warren’s solid agenda on behalf of consumers and against economic inequality has won her enthusiastic support.) In Connecticut, Linda McMahon’s enormously expensive, self-financed Republican campaign has not bought her a lead in the polls against Representative Christopher Murphy, so now she is committing a laughable party heresy by urging voters to support both her and Mr. Obama. The House is likely to remain in Republican hands, so keeping Democrats in control of the Senate is the best way to fight off savage budget cuts like those endorsed by Mr. Romney and Representative Paul Ryan. That effort has been made a lot easier by Republican Senate candidates displaying their true colors.

Malala Yousufzai status updates-06 November 2012

Malala remains in a stable condition and continues to make good progress with her treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.

Voters to render verdict in close White House race

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney face the verdict of voters on Tuesday after a long and bitter White House campaign, with polls showing them deadlocked in a race that will be decided in a handful of states where it is extraordinarily close. At least 120 million Americans are expected to vote on giving Obama a second term or replacing him with Romney. Their decision will set the country's course for four years on spending, taxes, healthcare and foreign policy challenges like the rise of China and Iran's nuclear ambitions. National opinion polls show Obama and Romney in a virtual dead heat, although the Democratic incumbent has a slight advantage in several vital swing states - most notably Ohio - that could give him the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. Romney, the multimillionaire former head of a private equity fund, would be the first Mormon president and one of the wealthiest Americans to occupy the White House. Obama, the first black president, is vying to be the first Democrat to win a second term since Bill Clinton in 1996. Fueled by record spending on negative ads, the battle between the two men was focused primarily on the lagging economic recovery and persistent high unemployment, but at times it turned personal. Polls will begin to close in Indiana and Kentucky at 6 p.m. ESTon Tuesday, with voting ending across the country over the next six hours. The first results, by tradition, were tallied in Dixville Notch and Hart's Location, New Hampshire, shortly after midnight . Obama and Romney each received five votes in Dixville Notch. In Hart's Location, Obama got 23 votes to 9 votes for Romney and two votes for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. The close presidential race raises fears of a disputed outcome similar to the 2000 election, which was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Both campaigns have assembled legal teams to deal with possible voting problems, challenges or recounts. The balance of power in the U.S. Congress will also be at stake in Senate and House of Representatives races that could impact the outcome of "fiscal cliff" negotiations on spending cuts and tax increases, which kick in at the end of the year unless a deal is reached. Obama's Democrats are now expected to narrowly hold their Senate majority, while Romney's Republicans are favored to retain House control. Despite the weak economy, Obama appeared in September to be cruising to a relatively easy win after a strong party convention and a series of stumbles by Romney, including a secretly recorded video showing the Republican writing off 47 percent of the electorate as government-dependent victims. But Romney rebounded in the first debate on October 3 in Denver, where his sure-footed criticism of the president and Obama's listless response started a slow rise for Romney in polls. Obama seemed to regain his footing in recent days at the head of federal relief efforts for victims of the storm Sandy. The presidential contest is now likely to be determined by voter turnout - specifically, what combination of Republicans, Democrats, white, minority, young, old and independent voters shows up at polling stations. Obama and Romney raced through seven battleground states on the final day of campaigning to hammer home their final themes, urge supporters to get to the polls and woo the last remaining undecided voters. 'WE KNOW WHAT CHANGE LOOKS LIKE' Obama focused on Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, the three Midwestern swing states that, barring surprises elsewhere, would give him 270 electoral votes. Romney visited the must-win states of Florida, Virginia and Ohio before finishing in New Hampshire, where he launched his presidential run in June 2011. After two days of nearly round-the-clock travel, Obama wrapped up his final campaign tour in Des Moines, Iowa, with a speech that hearkened back to his 2008 campaign. "I've come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote. I came back to ask you to help us finish what we've started, because this is where our movement for change began," he told a crowd of some 20,000 people. Obama's voice broke and he wiped away tears from his eyes as he reflected on those who had helped his campaign. Romney's final day included stops in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. The former governor of Massachusetts ended the day at a raucous "Final Victory" rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, the city where he launched his campaign last year. "We're one day away from a fresh start. We're one day away from a new beginning," the candidate, sounding hoarse at his fifth rally of the day, told the crowd of 12,000 at a sports arena in the center of the city. Obama ridiculed Romney's claims to be the candidate of change and said the challenger would be a rubber stamp for a conservative Tea Party agenda. "We know what change looks like, and what he's selling ain't it," he said in Columbus, Ohio. Romney argued he was the candidate who could break the partisan gridlock in Washington, and said four more years of Obama could mean another economic recession. "His plan for the next four years is to take all the ideas from the first term - the stimulus, the borrowing, Obamacare, all the rest - and do them over again," he said in Lynchburg, Virginia. The common denominator for both candidates was Ohio, the most critical of the battlegrounds, particularly for Romney. Without the state's 18 electoral votes, the path to victory becomes very narrow for the Republican. Polls have shown Obama with a small but steady lead in the state for months, sparked in part by his support for a federal bailout of the auto industry, which accounts for one of every eight jobs in Ohio, and by a strong state economy with an unemployment rate lower than the 7.9 percent national rate. That undercut the central argument of Romney's campaign - that his business experience made him uniquely qualified to create jobs and lead an economic recovery. Obama fought back through the summer with ads criticizing Romney's experience at the equity fund Bain Capital and portraying him as out of touch with ordinary Americans. That was part of a steady barrage of advertising in the most heavily contested battleground states from both candidates and their party allies, who raised a combined $2 billion. The rise of "Super PACs," unaffiliated outside groups that can spend unlimited sums on behalf of candidates, also helped fuel the record spending on political ads that swamped swing-state voters. Romney planned to vote at home in Massachusetts on Tuesday morning before a final trip to Ohio and Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state that he has tried to put in play in recent weeks. Obama, who voted in October, will spend the day at his home in Chicago. The two candidates took a break from campaign rallies to tape interviews that aired during halftime of Monday Night Football, a U.S. television institution. Romney said the New England Patriots were his favorite football team and jokingly said that, as a former Massachusetts governor, he took credit for the team's Super Bowl victories. Obama expressed faith that his hometown team, the Chicago Bears, can make it to the Super Bowl championship in January because they have the "best defense in the league."

Sexual assault: Over 100 children being molested every month in Pakistan

Around 100 children become victims of molestation every month in Pakistan and normally their teachers and relatives are involved in such incidents, a report said on Tuesday. According to a research, the ratio of the sexual harassment victims comprises 68 percent girls and 32 percent boys. Dr. Aamina Fakhri, a lecturer at Karachi University’s Psychology Department, says after being harassed a number of children are hushed forcibly due to which they don’t tell it to their parents but later on these incidents create anxiety in them and as the days pass they also become the victim of different metal diseases. “The children fear telling it to their parents and thus that particular incident starts developing panic in them…hence they confine themselves to their places,” local Urdu daily quoted Fakhri as saying. “Such incidents also urge children to commit suicide.”

Pak-Afghan peace important for world peace

Rehman Malik has said that peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan was indispensable for world peace. Addressing the Pakistani community in Italy at Pakistani embassy on Monday, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik was of the view that the country is at war, as hundreds of girls like Malala Yousafzai have been victimised by terrorism. Making of the blasphemous movies against Islam is intolerable, Federal Interior minister Rehman Malik noted, adding that immediate legislation is required to prevent such incidents in future. Rehman Malik is in Rome, Italy, to represent Pakistan in 81st Interpol General Assembly Ministerial Conference. He will address 81st Interpol General Assembly Ministerial Conference at Rome, Italy. The overarching theme of this Ministerial Conference will be Challenges for Police facing Contemporary Criminal Violence.

Tough guy 'Taliban Khan' (IMRAN (fake) KHAN)

The question was simple: If Imran Khan was elected as the country’s prime minister, what would be the fate of religious minorities in Pakistan, such as Hindus and Ahmadis? Twenty-seven-year old journalism student Kazim Rizvi and his camera-carrying colleague had managed to conduct a coveted interview (after waiting 18 hours) with Khan as his car drove to the airport, where the Pakistani politician was to board a flight to the U.S. Rizvi says Khan got visibly irritated at his question. “He tried giving a half-sentence platitude to equality, but I persisted and popped a question no Pakistani reporter dares ask: ‘What about gays’?” This infuriated Khan, Rizvi said. “Ok now, end of the interview, finish, I don’t want to talk to you,” he is heard on the tape telling the two students. Rizvi says after the camera was turned off, he got a tongue-lashing and Khan’s handlers aggressively threw the camera at his colleague. He added: “Khan was furious… he told me to scrap this ‘stupid interview’ … these are western issues,’ what have they got to do with Pakistan?” At the airport, Khan’s handlers asked the students to “hand over the tape,” Rizvi said, but the two were able to get lost in the crowd of a last-minute photo op with Khan. “I was just doing my job and didn’t deserve to be bullied and insulted,” says Rizvi. But soon after, Khan received a tongue lashing of his own. As Khan strutted towards the departure gates and approached U.S. Immigration, an officer asked him the customary questions about the purpose of his trip to the United States. His answers were noted and he was given back his passport and told to proceed. In the meantime, behind a one-way mirror overlooking the immigration booths, U.S. Homeland Security officials were tracking Khan’s movement, as they already knew he was going to enter the U.S. after his visit to Canada. Instead of creating a scene at passport control, they allowed Khan and his entourage to board the aircraft and only when all the passengers were seated, did they go in and haul him back. This time it wasn’t a young Pakistani student journalist asking the questions; it was no-nonsense officials of a U.S. and Canada task force, including representatives from Homeland Security. An official who observed the interrogation process told me Khan sat timidly with his head lowered and hands clasped while he received a “dressing down” about potentially violating the limitations of his visitor’s visa to the U.S. He said there was no talk about Khan’s opposition to U.S. attack drones, as the politician later claimed after the fact. My source, tells me the real concern was that Khan had told passport control he was coming to the U.S. to visit family and friends, without specifying his planned fundraising and political activities. (Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Hoagland, later tweeted about the incident, as cited by Pakistan’s International News , saying Khan’s detention had: “Nothing to do with drones — he brought it up.”) Stuck in detention, Khan requested help from the Pakistani government to intervene and calls were made to the U.S. State Department. Khan was then asked to give assurances that he would not use his visa for political purposes, to which he promptly agreed and was allowed to go on his way. Apparently, he’s not as tough with Homeland Security officials as he is with young journalists.

Editorial: ''Gen Kayani’s statement ''

Ever since the Supreme Court held a former army chief and a former DG ISI responsible for adversely affecting the 1990 election by illegally distributing funds among anti-PPP politicians, we have all been waiting for the army’s response. But despite provocations from TV anchors and endless media chatter about the SC’s rare challenge, the army has maintained silence. Now, however, seemingly unhappy with the disparagement directed at the army in the aftermath of the SC verdict – and perhaps the subsequent summoning by NAB of three retired generals in the Royal Palm Golf Course case – Gen Kayani has finally broken his silence. Speaking to a group of officers at GHQ, the army chief has said that “any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and the Armed Forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest. While constructive criticism is well understood, conspiracy theories based on rumours which create doubts about the very intent, are unacceptable.” In what is being called a clear reference to the Asghar Khan case and the two senior-most army officers who have been named and shamed in it, the chief says that “while individual mistakes might have been made by all of us … Let us not pre judge anyone, be it a civilian or a military person and not extend it, unnecessarily, to undermine respective institutions.” This March 14, the same day that an SC bench headed by the chief justice suggested that intelligence agencies were transgressing their constitutional domain and the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution calling for new laws to control their functioning, Gen Kayani was quoted in a section of the press as saying that the morale of the troops was being affected by this undue criticism. This time, too, most analysts who appeared on news channels soon after the latest statement was released were in agreement that it was a veiled reference to criticism following the Asghar Khan verdict and a warning – some even called it a ‘threat’ – to the loud voices to restrain themselves. To the extent that Gen Kayani said Pakistanis have a right to express their opinions and conspiracy theorising based on rumours is detrimental to the national interest, he has a point and is right to call on detractors and pundits to exercise caution. It is a genuine demand that media trials should not be held. However, it is also clear that legitimate criticism of the army and its intelligence arm in recent days – on the issue of missing persons, the ISI’s illegal meddling in politics and the army’s highhandedness in Balochistan – have combined to upset the army high command. Indeed, since the Raymond Davis affair and the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the army’s operations have come under unusual scrutiny. While the general refrain of the statement is meant for all institutions, it is unfortunate that the army’s response is to spurn criticism. Gen Kayani has been commended many times over for being a pro-democracy general who has proactively withdrawn the army from a direct role in politics. Indeed, the media and the judiciary have been first in line in praising him for this. However, when the army leadership exceeds its limits and its members – serving or former – violate the law, it is right to hold them answerable. Indeed, such efforts at accountability should not be read as an attempt to undermine the army or the national interest but be seen as a defence of the democratic system and the constitution itself. The media, the public and the judiciary always have and always will salute the army when it does what it is constitutionally mandated to do. But when its officers step into domains constitutionally and legally outside their jurisdiction, they will rightly be questioned for redefining the national interest according to their own whims, as opposed to the law of the land. Still the collective response of the army sets a conciliatory tone, at least for the moment, and the stress that all institutions should stay within their domains is a welcome point to begin the process of building a national consensus.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa runs out of polio vaccine

Unavailability of oral polio vaccine is hampering the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department’s plan to carry out special immunisation campaigns in the province, it is learnt. Officials of the health department fear that the government’s failure to ensure smooth supply of OPV could put the health of scores of children at risk. They told Dawn on Saturday that the department had to postpone the Nov 4 three-day special vaccination campaign in the province due to lack of preparedness. Officials said alarmed by the reporting of fresh polio cases in the province over the last one and a half months, a high-level meeting chaired by the provincial chief secretary had decided to run special campaigns every two week to contain polio, but currently, OPV wasn’t available. According to them, another campaign has been planned for Nov 11 subject to supply of OPV from the centre. The special campaigns are aimed at giving additional doses of OPV to children to safeguard them against polio. Officials said at the request of the provincial health department for OPV supply, the centre had asked Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for vaccine management and prevention of its waste. They said a letter sent last week by the federal government in this respect suggested that the best quality immunisation campaigns with 95 per cent coverage be conducted instead of several low quality drives. A health department official said the federal government, too, faced OPV shortage as it had to keep certain stock to be rushed to any of the districts that recorded polio case in the country. He said the government was also required to supply OPV to fixed centres established by the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) at its countrywide hospitals. “The centre will supply the vaccines keeping view the available stock with the health department,” he said. When contacted, provincial EPI deputy director Dr Jan Baz Afridi said his department required vaccines to run the special campaign and stop circulation of virsus for which they awaited vaccines. “We have sent to the centre the request for OPV we need. We don’t have its stock for special campaigns at present because these activities were planned lately,” he said. Technical focal person at Chief Minister’s Secretariat Dr Imtiaz Ali Shah told Dawn that the province could get OPV for the December immunisation campaign under the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication but didn’t have the vaccine to run special campaigns meant to administer additional doses to children in short intervals and stop circulation of poliovirus. “Now after postponement of one special campaign, another will be conducted soon. The federal government has indicated that vaccines have been procured and will be provided to the province soon,” he said. Dr Shah said 19 of the current year’s 47 countrywide polio case were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the province required vaccine to immunise children because poliovirus remained active until December, while the threat of infection lowered between January and May as the virus got inactive. “After receiving desired stock of OPV from the centre, we will plan another immunisation campaign. It will depend on the availability of the vaccine whether we run the drive throughout the province to vaccinate all five million targeted children below five years of age or keep it only to vaccination of children in high-risk union councils,” he said.

Pakistan: Country hit by a ‘youth bomb’

“This is just a trailer of the horror that awaits us,” says noted demographer Farid Midhet, referring to Pakistan’s bulging population and the possibly corresponding link to rising crime, including murders, robberies, rioting and extremist activity, according to a report by the IPS. According to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 1,257 people, including 64 children, have been murdered in different parts of Karachi alone, since the beginning of the year. Karachi, Pakistan’s financial capital and the world’s fifth largest city, has an estimated population of 20 million, which is increasing at the rate of six percent per year. Regarded also as one of the world’s most dangerous cities, 40 percent of Karachi’s population lives in squalid shanty towns. Data maintained by the Citizens Police Liaison Committee suggest that an average of 82 persons were kidnapped in Karachi per year between 2008 and 2010. Between 1997 and 2007, the average was 27 cases per year. By the year 2020, Pakistan’s population is projected to reach 200 million and by 2050, in a business as usual scenario, the country will have 309 million people. “If we start making efforts today, we may be able to apply brakes to the population in the next 30 to 40 years,” said Midhet, founder of Safe Motherhood Alliance. “The threat is the biggest ever in the history of mankind.” “If population growth is slowed down to replacement level and concomitant investment made in the social sector, we could deal with this youth bomb,” says Zulfiqar Bhutta, member of the independent expert review group for maternal and child health for the United Nations Secretary-General. Bhutta, co-chair of ‘Countdown to 2015’, a global scientific and advocacy group tracking progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goal Five pertaining to maternal health, told IPS that the fact that population growth would inevitably outstrip resources for education, employment and development, was always well recognised. “It is just that the mismatch has become became apparent over time,” Bhutta told IPS. “Our current resources and investments cannot deal with a fresh birth cohort of 4.5 million every year and the proportion of people who are uneducated, unemployable and uncared for continues to grow,” he said. Midhet said the plethora of donor-driven and country-cultivated family planning (FP) programmes had failed to significantly increase the use of modern methods of contraception. But if the facts and problems are known; solutions seem obvious and resources available and there is an infrastructure on the ground, why cannot couples limit family size? “We (Pakistan) are doing a lot of things, but we are probably not doing them right,” Midhet explains. Between 2005 and 2010, many South Asian countries, including Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, India and Nepal, brought their total fertility rates, or the average number of children a woman bears in her lifetime, from 3.2 to 1.5, but Pakistan remained stuck at four. As contraceptive prevalence picked up to 74 percent in adjacent Iran between 2005 and 2010, it stayed stuck at a dismal 30 percent in Pakistan during the same period. Only half of Pakistan’s couples are using a modern temporary method (condom, pill or intrauterine device), while 7.7 percent couples are still opting for the traditional FP methods, which are far less effective than the modern methods. “If in the last five decades we had implemented the FP programmes sincerely and efficiently, made education compulsory and provided technical skills, today we would have been ahead of South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and even India, due to our demographic dividend,” said Midhet. The main problem seems to be lack of political will says Bhutta. “None of the political parties backed it ever.” A ‘lady health workers programme’ launched in 1994 held out the promise of delivering both FP and basic healthcare at the doorstep, but quickly fell into the doldrums because of overstretched staff. Dr. Ayesha Khan, who heads Research and Development Solutions, a non-governmental organisation that focuses on public health issues, told IPS that the programme ended up providing a rushed four minutes to every woman client. “The workers’ time and energy is expended on other programmes, including campaigns on TB, malaria and polio,” she said. The only way out of the present stagnation in FP is for the ministries of population and health to completely merge their field operations and give the programme the primary task of providing modern contraceptives to couples, says Midhet. “Pakistan could have achieved less than one percent population growth and today the population would have been less than 100 million had Pakistan invested in FP and education of its population,” says Midhet. “In addition, the secondary school education rate could have reached 100 percent and the higher education rate could have surpassed 50 percent among youth and young adults,” he added. Of Pakistan’s 180 million, 20.6 percent are between the ages of 15 and 24. Of these, 32 percent are uneducated with no vocational and life skills. Pakistan’s youth bulge consists of disgruntled and unhappy young people. At a seminar organised by the National Vocational and Technical Training Centre (NVTTC) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in June, to find ways to get youth into technical education, NVTTC chairman Mumtaz Akhtar Kahloon termed the youth bulge “a window of opportunity.” “But, if we are to turn this youth bulge into a demographic dividend, they must be equipped with marketable skills,” Kahloon added. “If youth are not put to productive use, they pose a threat to peace,” Bhutta said at the seminar. “Small wonder that some see employment options in these (extremist) outfits.”

Karachi will always matter

While targeted killings have gone on unabated, and extortion and abduction for ransom have increased manifold in Karachi, the attitude of provincial government and police on display during the Supreme Court rehearing of the Karachi law and order situation case has either been one of indifference or denial. The Sindh Advocate-General told the court that between January 1 and October 20 as many as 1,800 people were killed in the city of teeming millions. When asked what measures the government had taken to curb violence he had no answer but to delve into his sports vocabulary to say that "the score for today's killings was six." Apparently, he had tried to prove that the situation was improving since the average rate of daily 'targeted' killings reported by the media is ten. To further rationalise the appalling law and order conditions in Karachi, the AG and the Home Secretary reasoned that the situation in Balochistan was worse than Karachi, and that the murder rate in that city and Lahore was almost the same. The comparison makes little sense. Balochistan's is a completely different story. What is going on there is a full-blown insurgency. And the apex court is fully focused on preventing extra-judicial killings and disappearances in that restive province. As for Lahore, law and order may be a lot less than satisfactory, yet the nature and level of crime there has no commonality with Karachi. Since the cause of trouble in the Sindh capital and other parts of the country are different, so would be solutions. It may be recalled that during last year's hearing of the Karachi case, the provincial police chief had told the court that 40 percent of officers in his department had been recruited on political grounds and, therefore, he was reluctant to act decisively. In its judgement on October 6 of last year, the court had also noted intelligence agencies' reports that some criminal groups operating in the city either enjoyed political backing or were part of political parties, which included MQM, ANP, PPP, Jamaat-e-Islami as well as some banned religious outfits. It is obvious that only when it is free of political influence can the police perform its duties in an impartial and effective manner. The PPP, which leads the coalition governments both in the province and at the Centre, has the primary responsibility to stop political interference in the police affairs. So far they have shown no inclination to do the needful. The recommendations the SC bench made in its last year's judgement were ignored completely. Considerations of coalition politics in the province keep coming in the way. Earlier this year when the city's business community observed a shutter-down strike to protest the increasing incidents of extortion, Interior Minister Rehman Malik threw up his hands, telling business people to fight the extortionists themselves, for which he said he would ensure a quick and easy arms licensing process. He had offered the same advice to journalists. This is a recipe for more trouble in a city already bristling with all sorts of weapons. Besides, the offer amounts to admission on the government's part that it has failed to do its constitutional duty to protect the citizens' life and property. Before things totally spin out of the government's control, it must pay attention to the SC's latest recommendations that call for de-politicisation of the police force and cancellation of all non-computerised arms licences within six months. And to address the usual complaint that courts tend to release criminals arrested by law enforcement agencies, the police must improve its investigation reports so they can stand scrutiny in the courts. Law must also cover all the existing lacunae. It is worthwhile to note here that the Sindh Additional Home Secretary grumbled before the SC bench that more than 8,000 people arrested for possession of illegal weapons were being released on bail by courts. To which the SC bench pointed out that the offence is bailable. Clearly, fresh legislation is required on the subject. More importantly, a sound witness protection system is in order to strengthen the prosecution system. But before everything, a strong political will to act is needed.

PPP Punjab demands reference against Shahbaz

PPP Punjab Parliamentary Party has demanded of Shahbaz Sharif to resign as the chief minister after the Supreme Court verdict in the Asghar Khan case. The committee has written a letter to the Punjab Assembly speaker and asked him to send a reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan against Shahbaz Sharif for getting money from the ISI in the past. A meeting, chaired by the opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz Ahmad, was held here on Monday. The PPP members also passed a resolution stating that after the SC verdict in Asghar Khan case, the status of CM Shahbaz had become controversial under Article 63 of the Constitution. They added that now he should resign immediately and appear before the FIA team for investigation. Meanwhile, Raja Riaz Ahmad briefed the media after the meeting and said the court proceedings have proved that Sharifs have not only plundered the mandate of the people but also embezzled national exchequer. He alleged that Shahbaz Sharif was using steel of his foundries on metro bus road project and a committee should be constituted to probe the matter. He said the PPP would not accept Shahbaz as CM for the interim setup. He said the PPP would move the Lahore High Court on metro bus corruption issue after the party decision in this regard. Pakistan Muslim League-N leadership, however, has rejected the demand of Raja Riaz. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said in a statement that before holding a press conference over the issue, the opposition leader should have gone through the SC verdict.

Sad realities of Balochistan

By Kiyya Qadir Baloch and Safiullah
Balochistan has become a hotbed of insurgency, sectarian killings, kidnapping for ransom and tribal feuds, which require vigilant reporting and communication to the world. The first news I heard when I reached Balochistan was that there had been a bomb blast on FC convey on Sariab Road which killed five officials and injuring four others. In Quetta, I was informed that 11 people were abducted in Gwadar and Turbat in three days. Journalists told me that the province has become the most dangerous place for journalists. Shahzada Zulfiqar, resident chief of an English daily, considered Balochistan one of the most insecure places in the country for journalists, saying that various groups and militant organisations want to practically take over the media. “They want to dictate us and say the pen should be yours, but worlds ours and they use various derogatory words for their opponents which, they insist, should be published without change which is not possible for journalists since they have to take into consideration the ethical code of journalism,” Zulfiqar said, adding that law and order in Khuzdar was unwelcoming for journalists where two sons of the Khuzdar Press Club president were killed, he said. He also informed us about the closure of the Khuzdar Press Club. He said it was all due to insecurity where existence of government could not be felt. He said 40 people have been killed in Khuzdar during last month. When asked if the Supreme Court’s interim order multiplied the issues of journalists, he said that being a citizen of Pakistan, journalists were bound to respect court orders and added that journalists too are responsible for certain mistakes. “However, I would definitely say that al Qaeda is a banned organisation and their statements were aired by BBC, CNN and other international organisations and even today any reporter comes to know about Mullah Umar, they will definitely want to interview him but will air his comments cautiously and our friends are also doing their jobs but in a careful way where sometimes they give space in two or four lines to banned outfits statements despite court orders in place.” Zulfiqar said the government had not compensated the families of journalists who lost their lives in the line of their duties neither their families had been paid any social security. Syed Ali Shah, bureau chief of a private TV channel, commenting on the issues of the journalists in Balochistan said, “The hazards have grown for the mediamen in Balochistan in proportion to the rapid growth of media as the journalists with little or no experience can not better evaluate the risks within the profession.” Essa Tareen, bureau chief of an international TV channel in Balochistan and the Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) president, said that journalists in Balochistan faced dual issues, which included economic issues at the first place and life threats. Tareen seemed unhappy with the remunerations paid to the journalists in Balochistan by local newspaper owners, saying that the owners of newspapers pleaded that their organizations depended on the advertisements, which were insufficient to meet their expanses. Noor Elahi Bugti, a senior journalist who also survived a bomb blast, said that Balochistan journalists had faced more dangers than that of ones working in FATA as journalists here faced threats from both insurgents and banned outfits. “They do not understand our role and position and every person thinks his statement to be important but they do not understand our journalistic compulsions,” Bugti said. Bari Baloch, a correspondent of an English daily, said that the journalists in Balochistan did not have basic and safety training. When I reached in Turbat, the second largest city of Balochistan having a population of almost 350,000, I was informed about more scary details. Asad Baloch, information secretary of Turbat Press Club told Daily Times that roughly 80 youths belonging to different political organisations from Mekran division were abducted in two years and killed ruthlessly while two journalists were ambushed in target killing in one year. When asked reason behind the abduction and killings, he said their political activities in different political organisations seeking secession from Pakistan made them unpopular in the eyes of establishment. Most of the people from Turbat believe that security agencies were picking the political activists for their alleged involvement in heinous crimes. When I was in Turbat I was further told that more than 14,000 individuals have gone missing, from different areas of Balochistan and an additional 500 tortured, bullet-ridden bodies have been discovered from different areas of Balochistan. The Voice For Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) vice chairman claimed that security agencies were behind atrocities and bullet-riddled bodies. I continue to travel to the most restive part of Balochistan – Mekran division – in order to meet with key Baloch politicians and government officials. Mekran Additional DC Javed Anwar Shahwani said that due to the ongoing violence in the province people from both sides have been disappeared or have been killed in a large number. In Gwadar, I was informed that because of the current wave of violence more than 10,000 settlers have left the town while 40 people from both sides reportedly were ambushed in target killings in two months, I was further informed that most often there would be rocket attacks on the navy camp and cost guard from Balochistan Liberation front (BLF), that’s headed by Doctor Allah Nazar Baloch. No proper roads, no bridges, no industry and no development work were seen from Lasbela to Jiwani. The helpless people of District Panjgur, Turbat, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Washuk, Karan, Awaran and Mastung were searching for dry wood to light their burners while the youth of costal town were wandering here and there aimlessly in search of jobs. The national anthem was not recited in schools of 11 districts of Balochistan while the national flag was not hoisted at any governmental institutions of Mekran division. I was informed that Pakistan studies was not being taught in colleges and schools while governmental offices like PTCL, NADRA, National Bank of Pakistan and DC office couldn’t be operated without the protection of security forces in Mekran division and Khuzdar. Key Baloch politicians and journalists from Mekran division told Daily Times that the situation in Balochistan could have never been so painful if the people of Balochistan were treated on the basis of justice and equality and given the same rights as given to the people of other provinces.

Top Pakistani Generals and Judges Trade Barbs

Simmering tensions between Pakistan’s top generals and judges bubbled into public view on Monday when the powerful army chief and the country’s crusading chief justice issued hard-hitting statements that suggested an unusual degree of friction between them. First the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, published a statement that was widely interpreted as a pointed attack on the Supreme Court, which in recent weeks has been sharply critical of the military’s long history of meddling in public affairs. Without directly referring to the court, General Kayani said the country was passing through a “defining phase,” and he issued a veiled warning of “negative consequences” if the ruling institutions failed to work in harmony. “No individual or institution has the monopoly to decide what is right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest,” General Kayani was quoted as saying in a speech to officers at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. A couple of hours later, the office of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry released a nine-page speech that he had made to a group of visiting bureaucrats but that seemed timed to counter the criticisms made by General Kayani. In it, Mr. Chaudhry noted that his court’s paramount authority was enshrined in the Constitution. “Gone are the days when stability and security of the country was defined in terms of number of missiles and tanks as a manifestation of hard power available at the disposal of the state,” he added — a pointed reference to the military, which has ruled Pakistan directly for just under half of the country’s 65-year history, and indirectly much of the rest of the time. The tussle between the military and judiciary has, for now at least, eclipsed the more traditional struggle between Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders. Analysts said it was unlikely to lead to a direct military coup but, with elections due to take place by next spring, it pushed the fluctuating dynamic between Pakistan’s power brokers in a new direction. “Kayani is seeking to establish red lines for the activist Supreme Court.” said Arif Rafiq, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, based in Washington. “The army has historically seen itself as the guardian of Pakistan’s stability and as a cleansing force in politics. The Supreme Court has in many ways usurped that role.” The tension appeared to stem from a long-running court case involving some of the country’s most senior retired generals. Last month, the Supreme Court ordered the government to begin criminal proceedings against former army and spy chiefs in an election-rigging case that dated to the 1990s. During the hearings, Gen. Aslam Beg, a former army chief, and Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, a former chief of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, were accused of distributing public money to an alliance of right-wing political parties that opposed Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party. At least nine retired generals are facing judicial scrutiny for financial irregularities in different cases. The court has also put pressure on military intelligence agencies in the cases of “enforced disappearances” — the illegal abduction, torture and sometimes extrajudicial execution of suspected militants and nationalist rebels, especially in the restive southwestern Baluchistan Province. In his speech Monday, General Kayani seemed to offer backhanded support to the retired generals who had been accused of meddling in politics. “As we all are striving for the rule of law, the fundamental principle that no one is guilty until proven, should not be forgotten,” he said. “Let us not prejudge anyone, be it a civilian or a military person and extend it, unnecessarily, to undermine respective institutions.” General Kayani added that “any effort which wittingly or unwittingly draws a wedge between the people and Armed Forces of Pakistan undermines the larger national interest.”

Surprising trend in Pakistani stocks

Although inflation has come down for the first time since 2002 to the long cherished single digit of 8.8 per cent from 27 per cent in 2007, more other indicators of economic activity show a waning economy and investors’ confidence seems deteriorating. Still there has of late been a rising trend in the country’s stock market and fotrein investment in floor trading also came. What is perplexing, however, is why the stock market alone is the major gainer when overall economy remains in a limbo? There is no indication either that investment by the corporate sector will grow even after the State Bank of Pakistan reduced its key policy rate since August 2011 by 400bps to 10 per cent and directed the banking sector to open its window on corporations and companies in the private sector. It is more than one year now that banks have only started considering the corporate lending. Still the surprise came when the Karachi Stock Exchange-100 index reached new heights during the last week, posting a weekly gain of 288.83 points with a turnover of over 601.5 million shares. However, trading value stood at Rs17 trillion, a trillion lower over the previous week. Tuesday was the first trading day after the Eid-ul-Azha, and began on a dull note with the index losing 16.79 points, on lower trading volumes. The repercussions of hurricane Sandy were felt globally with the closure of New York’s financial markets, and traders were cautious of taking any positions. The Lahore High Court’s decision regarding international calling rates pulled down PTCL shares, with the suspension of the International Clearing Mechanism which had been in place. However, the market saw accumulation of shares in the cement, banking, and fertilizer sector. Foreign investors, despite Sandy, bought shares worth $2.11 million, while companies were the largest sellers of equity with shares worth $1.75 million sold. Wednesday was more buoyant for the market with a gain of 111.51 points, and another historic high with the index closing at 15910.11 points. Volumes rose significantly and trading value had doubled on the same day. Higher international crude prices helped advance energy stocks, along with bullish sentiments in the cement sector. Foreign investors were once again active with equity purchases worth $2.78 million, bringing in the monthly figure to $38.5 million. The index rose to 15,962.37 points on Thursday, gaining over 52 points from the previous day, crossing 16,000 points on an intra-day high. Expectations of lower inflation leading to an interest rate cut kept market morale high, with foreign investors seen purchasing shares worth $6.1 million. The cement and energy sectors, along with other blue-chip scripts, raised the index to a new record. Stocks closed at a record-breaking high on Friday, with the index reaching 16,101 points, gaining over 139 points and over 191 million shares traded. Investors were bullish with consumer price index being reported at 7.66 per cent, raising hopes for a further cut in the State Bank’s discount rate. The cement sector remained in the limelight, while blue-chip stocks also helped in the market advance. Foreign buying was witnessed at $1.62 million, bringing the week’s net foreign inflows $12.6 million. Pakistan Oilfields was the most significant gainer, with a price increase of Rs24.17 over the week and turnover of 2.459 million shares. Another group subsidiary, Attock Petroleum, also gained Rs14.86 to reach price of Rs499.60 per share though it lost Rs9.81 with 6.87 million shares traded. This spectacular but surprise rise of the stock market is the first since the Pakistan People’s Party-led government assumed the charge in March 2008. The outgoing week also saw rupee gaining modestly in dollar-rupee parity. It is, however, yet to be evaluated if the weeklong upward spiral of the market was being driven by corporate earnings and to what extent is it speculative buying in the context of a declining interest rate environment. Ever since the State Bank started cutting interest rates, the only measure of economic activity has been the stock market, with values and volumes both registering increases. Corporate earnings in the listed companies are encouraging, but investment is still more or less nothing in value. Why the stock market increase against all economic odds, it is important to understand. Certainly, the hike needs to examined and the Security Exchange Commission may be asked to examine the whole episode.