Sunday, February 10, 2013
The Express TribunePresident Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday reaffirmed the government’s resolve to conduct elections on time, adding that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) would record a resounding victory in Punjab. He said this while discussing several issues, including the present political situation, with Law Minister Farooq H Naek at Bilawal House, Lahore. The president also discussed the removal of governor’s rule in Balochistan, the Swiss authorities response to the government’s letter and other important cases before the Supreme Court, including Minhajul Quran International chief Tahirul Qadri’s petition for dissolving the election commission. Naek congratulated President Zardari on the Swiss authorities’ decision against reinstating graft cases against him and maintained that this endorsed the ruling party’s stance in this regard. He termed it a victory for PPP. They also discussed the proposed candidates for the caretaker prime minister. The law minister also briefed the president about his meetings with the leaders of the coalition partners. He informed him about efforts to end governor’s rule in Balochistan. Interior Minister Rehman Malik also called on President Zardari on Sunday, informing him on the overall law and order situation in the country. Punjab Governor Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood and PPP’s Punjab chapter president Manzoor Wattoo held meetings with the president as well, discussing a range of issues. Later, President Zardari and his son, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, attended a dinner arranged by the party’s Lahore chapter president, federal minister Samina Khalid Ghurki at her residence. Speaking at the dinner, Bilawal too reiterated the party’s resolve to not let anyone disrupt the elections. He claimed the present government had achieved more with a simple majority than most others did with the ‘heavy mandate’ of a two-thirds majority. Bilawal added that the Constitution had been purified of the ‘nonsense’ of dictators as well. At dinner, the proposal of fielding Khalid Ghurki’s son Sufyan from Lahore was considered. Party officials also briefed Bilawal on the political and organizational situation in Lahore. Meanwhile, Samina Ghurki assured that PPP would win at least six seats for the National Assembly from Lahore. The PPP chairman is scheduled to meet party representatives and parliamentarians for Faisalabad today. According to Sana News, Bilawal has decided that as PPP chairman, he will handle all party issues himself and keep President Zardari away from them.
Agence France PresseThe rebels France is battling in northern Mali are some of the very same fighters it helped arm in Libya, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday. "In Mali, France is fighting against those it armed in Libya against (Moammar) Gadhafi's regime in violation of the U.N. Security Council (arms) embargo," Lavrov said in extracts of a television interview published by Russian news agencies. Lavrov has previously criticized French arms drops to rebels fighting Gadhafi's regime, denouncing France's interpretations of a U.N. resolution allowing the use of force to protect the civilian population. He also claimed that other veterans of the Libyan civil war are now fighting in Syria against the regime of President Bashar Assad. "I'm baffled by our partners' inability" to see the bigger picture, he added. Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, abstained from a March 2011 vote allowing international strikes against Gadhafi's forces, leading to the fall of his regime. Moscow has frequently said the NATO response in Libya exceeded the resolution. France last month intervened in Mali at the request of Bamako authorities after Islamists rebels began advancing southward towards the capital. The rebels had taken over the north of the country following a March 2012 coup in Bamako and the region had become a haven for Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
http://www.gulf-times.comQatar should set out a timetable “as soon as practically possible to abolish the sponsorship system and militate against the serious threat of trafficking and forced labour,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged. “We understand change cannot be brought forth overnight in a country with over a million migrant workers,” Jan Egeland, deputy executive director, told Gulf Times yesterday after announcing the key observations from HRW’s World Report 2013. HRW, one of the world’s leading independent organisations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, has urged Qatari authorities to impose sanctions on violators of laws designed to protect migrant workers’ rights. HRW has called upon the Qatari authorities “to ensure migrant workers have not paid illegal recruitment fees, and prohibit companies from doing business with recruitment agencies and subcontractors, in Qatar and abroad, that impose illegal charges on workers.” “The 2022 World Cup presents Qatar with an unprecedented opportunity to take the lead on migrant workers’ rights in the Gulf region, and to leave a positive and lasting legacy,” Egeland stated. “We are calling for a great games and not a boycott. It is a great thing that the World Cup is coming to the Arab world,” he said. Nicholas McGeehan, a Middle East researcher with HRW, was of the view that “Qatar cannot afford to run a 21st century World Cup with a 19th century labour system.” “We have had discussions with the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee and are impressed by their commitment. But there is a lack of reforms in key areas,” he said. HRW, which also spoke to Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hopes to work together in partnership, according to McGeehan. Egeland believes that Qatar has plans for positive change. “We will monitor this each and every year until 2022,” he declared. McGeehan urged that “Qatar ought to enforce the good laws, repeal the bad laws and sanction the violators.” “We have seen the beginnings of some political will, but it has to go forward further,” he said. The HRW officials recounted that migrant workers reported “‘extensive violations of labour law in Qatar.” “Common complaints included late or unpaid wages. Some lived in overcrowded and unsanitary labour camps, with no access to potable water, were not properly ventilated, and not furnished with functioning air-condition units.” McGeehan asserted that the “findings of our report are representative of the situation in Qatar.” “Qatar’s increasing prominence on the international stage should not divert attention from its domestic rights record,” Egeland said.
http://gulfnews.com/Protesters call on authorities to release prisoners who haven’t been charged,Residents of the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh say more than 100 people have demonstrated to call for the release of people detained without charge. Saudi security officials say they arrested at least five people. They spoke anonymously in line with police regulations. Dozens of security vehicles blocked the intersections of two streets on Saturday where the demonstrations were taking place. North of Riyadh in the city of Buraydah, around 30 people — mostly women related to the prisoners — held a similar rally.In past years, a small number of Saudis have demonstrated in Riyadh to demand the release of thousands of people detained without charge or trial on suspicion of involvement in militant activity. Some have been held for up to 15 years. Protests are rare in the conservative kingdom.
http://www.usatoday.comPresident Obama has spent this year talking about debt reduction, gun control, climate change, and immigration, but Tuesday's State of the Union address is expected to focus on the issues that brought him to power: Jobs and the economy. "I'm going to be talking about making sure that we're focused on job creation here in the United States of America," Obama told House Democrats last week. Obama and aides say he will also discuss upcoming budget disputes, including the March 1 deadline for automatic defense and domestic cuts totaling $85 billion, known as "the sequester." The president, elected in 2008 in the midst of an economic crisis, said he will again call for a debt reduction agreement that includes targeted budget cuts as well as new tax revenues to be garnered by ending certain loopholes and deductions. The nation not only needs to reduce its $16 trillion-plus debt, Obama has said, but it needs money to invest in things that can create jobs and build the middle class, including education, infrastructure and clean energy programs. The president's annual State of Union address to a joint session of Congress is on Tuesday night. The event comes less than two weeks after the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate had ticked back up to 7.9%. Obama will also likely use the speech to put political pressure on Republicans over the budget. In his Saturday radio address, Obama said current GOP plans to avoid the sequester focus on cuts that affect mainly "seniors and middle-class families. They would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy." Republicans said Obama got higher taxes -- in the form of higher income tax rates -- as part of the "fiscal cliff" deal in early January; now the emphasis should be on spending cuts. "The president accepted no spending cuts back in the fiscal cliff deal 45 days ago," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., speaking on ABC's This Week. "So you get no spending cuts back then, then you're going to get no revenue now." In his State of the Union address, Obama also plans to discuss the aforementioned topic of gun control, climate change and immigration, and talk about how many of those items can help rebuild the economy and promote jobs. Investment in the clean energy industry, for example, will help address climate change, Obama and aides have said. A legislative package to address gun violence is designed to protect young people, Obama told last week's House Democratic retreat. While regional differences on gun control should be respected, Obama said "the majority of responsible gun owners recognize we cannot have a situation in which 20 more of our children, or a 100 more of our children, or a 1,000 more of our children are shot and killed in a senseless fashion, and that there are some common-sense steps that we can take and build a consensus around." Revamping the immigration system -- including a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants -- will also help the economy, Obama said. "Obviously economic growth is a priority," he said. "But making sure that we're opening up opportunity for everybody is also important. And that's why immigration reform is so critical."
http://www.hrw.orgThe Afghan government should take urgent steps to ensure that rape and sexual abuse of children leads to prosecution of the abusers – not of victims, Human Rights Watch said today. In Afghanistan’s western Herat province, in an October 2012 case that only recently came to light, a court convicted a 13-year-old boy on moral crimes charges, and sentenced him to one year in juvenile detention after he was accused of having sex with two adult men in a public park. Afghan law prohibits “pederasty,” commonly understood to mean sex between a man and a boy, and makes it a crime punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. “Moral crimes” charges, which under Afghan law include not only pederasty but also all sexual relations between people who are not married to each other, have frequently been used to punish the victim of a criminal offense. “When a man has sex with a 13-year-old child, the child is a victim of rape, not a criminal offender,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The Afghan government should never have victimized this boy a second time, but instead should have released him immediately with urgent protection and assistance.” A prosecutor involved in the case told Human Rights Watch that the boy was prosecuted because he said he had consented to engaging in sexual relations with several adult men. The decision in the case is under appeal. The authorities also arrested the men and charged them with moral crimes, but the outcome of their case is unknown. There is no age of consent for sex under Afghan law. Children under age 19 convicted of crimes are entitled to reduced sentences under the 2005 Juvenile Code. United Nations bodies responsible for protecting the rights of children have said that countries should have an age of consent sufficiently high to protect children. In spite of Afghanistan’s strict prohibitions on sex outside of marriage, the United Nations and other organizations have documented numerous instances of sexual abuse of boys through a practice known as “bacha bazi.” The phrase, which translates as “boy play,” refers to boys who work as dancers, performing at parties attended by men, and typically living under the protection of a military commander or other patron. Afghan culture typically prohibits women or girls from dancing for a male audience. While their role as entertainers can be innocent, in many instances these boys are also the victims of sexual assault and abuse. “The Afghan government needs to take urgent steps to protect children from sexual assault, including boys who are abused through the practice of bacha bazi,” Adams said. “Treating boys who have been raped as criminals undermines all government efforts to protect children from abuse.” In 2009, Afghanistan enacted the Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women, which for the first time introduced the term “rape” as a criminal offense under Afghan law. The law imposed sentences similar to the 5-to-15-year sentences for pederasty and sex between people who are not married to each other. Although some alleged rapists have been prosecuted under this law, in 2012, Human Rights Watch documented repeated incidents in which prosecutors pursued criminal charges against alleged rape victims for engaging in extramarital sex. Prosecutors told Human Rights Watch that they had pursued criminal charges in such cases because they did not believe victims who said they had been raped, or they believed the victims were of “bad character.” Since the law’s passage, specialized units responsible for prosecuting crimes against women and children have been established in several Afghan provinces with support from international donors. The UN in 2012 documented numerous cases of sexual assault of boys and girls, including sexual assault of boys by armed men and in detention centers. A major limitation of the 2009 law is that it refers only to the rape of women or girls. There is no comparable specific prohibition on rape of men and boys. A wide-ranging revision of Afghanistan's penal code has been planned for several years, but there has been little progress in drafting a new law. “Afghan lawmakers should move forward promptly in revising the Penal Code to provide better protection for both victims and criminal suspects,”Adams said. “The revision should ensure that rape is seen as a serious crime, whether committed against men and boys or women and girls, and that victims are not treated as criminals.”
The first phase of NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan began Sunday with 25 containers containing military equipment entering Pakistan, media reports said. Dawn News said the convoy of 25 containers was provided with routine security for its journey from Torkham to Karachi. According to Xinhua, the containers were heading to the port city of Karachi for shipment. Fawad Khan, who works for private company Bilal Associates responsible for shipment of US cargo from Afghanistan, said his company cleared the US defence equipment at the Torkham border point. 'The convoy left for Karachi after customs clearance,' he was quoted as saying. The US, which currently has more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, plans to withdraw several thousands of troops this year. The NATO has set 2014 for a complete withdrawal. It has around 150,000 troops.
http://www.rferl.orgThe Swiss government has formally decided not to reopen corruption investigations against Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. According to the media reports, Swiss prosecutors notified the Pakistani government of the decision in a letter received on February 10. Senior Law Ministry official Yasmin Abbasey confirmed the reports in an interview with AFP. The letter came in response to a request in November by Pakistan's government seeking a renewal of a probe into persistent allegations that Zardari stole millions of dollars in state funds and deposited them in Swiss bank accounts controlled by his wife. Swiss authorities reportedly responded that the statute of limitations in the affair has expired. The case against Zardari was opened in the 1990s but was halted as a result of a 2007 amnesty. In 2009, the Pakistani Supreme Court ordered the government to reopen the investigation, sparking a domestic political crisis.
The Express TribuneTribesmen in North and South Waziristan have become collateral damage in the war on polio. While Taliban commanders have banned immunisation drives in both agencies, the political administration has refused to give residents government documents, including national identity cards (CNIC) and passports, if any child in their family is found unvaccinated. Criticising the new policy, chief of the Uthmanzai tribe in North Waziristan, Malik Qadar Khan, said that despite the fact that polio workers were killed in Karachi and Peshawar, the government did not impose such restrictions there. “We are Pakistanis too, so why has the government resorted to this?” Qadir said, adding that they have held jirgas with political officials to look into their concerns, but no progress has been made so far. South Waziristan Political Agent (PA) Shahidullah Khan, however, insisted that documents will only be issued after a person shows an authentication paper signed by a doctor verifying that his children have been administered polio drops. “The restriction is only for those people who intend to apply for fresh domiciles, CNIC and passports,” he added. All efforts to persuade people to administer polio drops to their children have failed, he said, adding that polio cases are rising in the tribal areas. On June 15 last year, Taliban commander in North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, banned anti-polio drives in the agency “unless drone strikes ended.” He also said that anyone who disobeyed these orders would be “held responsible for their actions.” Following this decision, the Mullah Nazir group in South Waziristan also banned anti-polio vaccination in its agency on June 25. After several unsuccessful negotiations with tribal elders, the political administration on directions of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Secretariat on December 17, 2012 banned issuance of official documents to Wazir and Dawar tribes across the agencies. Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has said it will set up a protest in Islamabad if a ban on issuing official documents by the North and South Waziristan administrations is not lifted. PTI Chief Organiser Dr Bashir Ahmad Khan said the party will hold a hunger strike camp outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan and also hold rallies against the decision of linking the provision of obtaining CNICs and passports with polio vaccination. The issue has been taken up with the Election Commission of Pakistan, which has requested the Fata additional chief secretary to explain the matter, Bashir said. No response has been given as yet, however. “If the issue remains unresolved, our only option is to approach the Supreme Court against this injustice,” he said, adding “If the tribesmen are unable to get CNICs, how are they supposed to cast their vote?”
EDITORIAL:DAILY TIMESThe Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) continues to remain in the news. As demands from certain quarters for its reconstitution continue, it is business as usual for the institution that is in charge of ensuring that all election mechanisms are in order and loopholes covered. From the authenticity of voters’ lists, to proper submission of nomination papers, to verification of data provided by potential candidates, to strategising the elimination of pre- and during polls rigging, the ECP has a body of work that is not just time consuming but also requires a great amount of transparency of action. One important step taken by the ECP was the ban it imposed on any new recruitments/hiring of personnel for any government departments that could be seen as an attempt to curry favour with the voters before the elections. The ECP directive of January 22, 2013, ordered a complete ban on new jobs before the elections. It also said that foreign donor funds could not be diverted from the projects for which they were originally intended. After the review of the directive requested by the federal law and justice ministry, the ECP in a revised decree has retained the ban on any fresh recruitment excluding those announced before August 31, 2012. The prohibition against diverting foreign donor funds has also been retained, with the concession that any such request would be looked at on a case-by-case basis. The ban on jobs excludes certain constitutional institutions such as the superior judiciary as well as recruitment through the public service commissions, federal and provincial. This decision is the ECP’s answer to the government’s contention that it has a mandate to govern until the assemblies are dissolved, and the complete ban on recruitments would disrupt the work of many ministries and departments. The ECP’s reviewed decision should be taken as a positive since it ensures that no undeserved favour is bestowed on anyone that may be classified as an incentive to tilt the vote in the upcoming elections in anyone’s favour. The government’s incumbency factor, combined with its power to authorise any position to be filled in any ministry, division, department and institution, puts it in the questionable position where it could be tacitly or otherwise using the official paraphernalia to promote its agenda for the purpose of gain in the elections. The ECP, within the parameters of its power, has presented a framework that would limit, if not eliminate, the misuse of power by the federal or any provincial government. The directive vis-à-vis diversion of funds is another positive step that would minimise any attempt at the abuse of donor funds for partisan political advantage. Any foreign donor’s request will be given due consideration, but no parliamentarian or high governmental official will be authorised to take large amounts of money that may be utilised to undertake a project in a particular area, where the rival group/s may not be in a position to do the same. This would be another step in establishing the incumbent government’s promise to ensure an unbiased environment where the populace would cast its vote as per its discretion, evaluating each candidate’s performance record, and not as a token of gratitude for a favour. The 2013 general elections will be a watershed moment in the troubled history of Pakistan, where the democratic system of governance has never been given a chance to establish a foothold. The ECP’s decisions provide a chance to divest the system of some of the anomalies that have been the trademark characteristics of the pre-election modus operandi of parties in power. Let the ECP, the institution in charge of overseeing the elections, fulfil its responsibilities in a fair and transparent manner. That would be a very important step in solidifying the democratic system of governance in Pakistan.