Monday, February 11, 2013
Bangladesh to be hard hitCollapse of the US sub-prime mortgage system resulting in global financial crises has not only engulfed the entire US and European financial and banking system but also affected the global economy. The crux of the problem is that banks and financial institutions have, for many different reasons, gone bankrupt and had to be bailed out by States such as the US government pumping in US$ 700 million into the system and the UK government nationalizing banks and other financial institutions. Other countries like Russia are bailing out their banks through guarantees of millions of dollars and atleast one country, Iceland has gone bankrupt and has to take credits of millions from Russia to survive. The effect of banks and financial institutions going bankrupt is that there is no money available as credits or loans to run businesses and so businesses in all the major economies in USA, Europe and Russia are either closing down altogether or retrenching leading to massive job losses and unemployment. The common people in all these economies long habituated to consumerism that is, buying everything from food to houses, on credit are now forced to return the money which they cannot do because they have lived way beyond their incomes. Incomes too have either decreased or are unavailable as businesses, factories and manufacturing have closed down or retrenched. Many things. For one, our exports of garments and all the other consumer goods are going to slow down drastically as USA and Europe who are the major importers of these goods will not import as much as they did because now their consumers do not have enough cash or credit to buy these goods. So our industries too will have to retrench leading to job losses. Since imports will reduce, so government will have less revenue and less money to push into "development and social safety" resulting in an increase in poverty. Banks and financial institutions too will have less money to give as credits to businesses, factories and manufacturing, if they at all want this money. Next, remittances will also reduce drastically as expatriate Bangladeshis will be the first ones to get the chop in the foreign countries where they are working particularly in the Middle-eastern countries whose economies are entirely dependent on oil exports, the price of which is falling drastically. Again, international financial institutions and development agencies such as the World Bank, the IMF and ADB, the UN will not dole out credits and grants like they did in the past because their major financiers in USA, Europe, Japan and Middle-east are all either going bankrupt or are bailing out their own economies. So, the global financial crisis is going to have a severe impact on Bangladesh sooner rather than later and the global financial crisis is here to stay for at least the next 5 years. Our governments and politicians need to take stock of this immediately and take steps at the earliest.
It's widely predicted that North Korea will soon conduct another nuclear test. Sino-North Korean relations now face a new challenge. It's unlikely China would punish North Korea as harshly as countries like the US, Japan and South Korea would prefer, and the friendship between the two sides is not going to end. The West should understand this clearly. However, if North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price. The assistance it will be able to receive from China should be reduced. The Chinese government should make this clear beforehand to shatter any illusions Pyongyang may have. Some Chinese scholars believe that China will face a diplomatic challenge if North Korea carries out a third nuclear test. They worry that Pyongyang will turn against China because of China's participation in some international sanctions against it. In the worst case scenario, the rupture that occurred in relations between China and the Soviet Union will be repeated. Such concerns are driven by a lack of confidence in China's national strength, and they exaggerate North Korea's diplomatic irrationality. The nuclear issue complicates Sino-North Korean relations, adding strategic difficulties to China in Northeast Asia. China has many misgivings when handling relations with Pyongyang, but there is a general principle: China is never afraid of Pyongyang. Pyongyang's diplomacy is characterized with toughness. But if Pyongyang gets tough with China, China should strike back hard, even at the cost of deteriorating bilateral relations. Some believe the US, Japan and South Korea are attempting to foment discord between China and North Korea. Such a trap may be real, but China shouldn't be taken hostage by North Korea's extreme actions in order to avoid such a trap. Pyongyang is important to China, but not important enough to make China give up its diplomatic principles. China maintains that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is necessary and insists relevant parties solve problems through negotiations. China is willing to maintain the Sino-North Korean friendship, but Pyongyang should do the same. The two should have same concerns over the possibility the relationship might break down, which would be of no benefit to Pyongyang. North Korea would face an even worse situation, but China could find some ways to compensate for geopolitical losses. Some worry Pyongyang would completely turn to the US if it fell out with China. Such concerns are unfounded. The political gap between Washington and Pyongyang is impassable. Even if the whole Korean Peninsula moved closer to the US, there would be no serious ramifications. With China's increasing strength, being close to the US doesn't equal being hostile to China. We are not advocating giving up the Sino-North Korean friendship. Instead, we believe the strategic significance of a friendly relationship is special. But Pyongyang shouldn't misread China. China won't put its relations with Pyongyang above other strategic interests. China must not fear disputes with Pyongyang if it is to maintain the traditional bonds of friendship.
BY TAREK FATAHI am flattered. Pakistan’s infamous military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has taken exception to my columns in this newspaper and ordered the blocking of the Toronto Sun website in Pakistan. In a recent column, I had written about reports that the Pakistan army was behind a Canadian cleric who threatened to storm the parliament building in Islamabad to pave the way for yet another military takeover. The next day, all access to torontosun.com was shut down across Pakistan. What is the Pakistan Military and the ISI afraid of? I asked a number of prominent Pakistani journalists, parliamentarians and senior officials in Islamabad. Every one of them was scared of the ISI and begged not to be quoted. On condition of anonymity, one gave a blunt reason: “Your criticism and exposure of the Fauji-Jihadi shenanigans. Decision (to shut down Toronto Sun came) from Aabpara.” (Fauji is the Urdu word for Army while Aabpara is the Islamabad neighbourhood housing the ISI headquarters.) What most Canadians don’t know is Canada is home to many “retired” Pakistan military generals, brigadiers and colonels with close ties to the ISI. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has now raised concerns of the links between the Pakistan Army and international Islamic terrorists. HRW has asked Islamabad to “actively investigate allegations of collusion” between Islamic terrorists and the Pakistan military intelligence. These terror groups include the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The LeT operates not just in India, Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh, but right here in Canada. We learned of LeT’s Canadian presence during the trial in Chicago of Pakistani-American David Headley and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana for their role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack as well as the plot to blow up the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. Interestingly, Rana turned out to be a former Pakistan military officer. Then there is the question of my column about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Some of Pakistan’s 200 nukes may be directed at India, but that is not who the Islamists wish to target. Rather, it is the West and our allies in NATO who Pakistan’s jihadi generals see as “Islam’s enemies.” Pakistan’s leading nuclear physicist, MIT-educated Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy has this to say on the subject in his new book Confronting the Bomb: “The fear of loose (nuclear) weapons comes from the fact that Pakistan’s armed forces harbour a hidden enemy within their ranks. Those wearing the cloak of religion freely walk in and out of top security nuclear installations every day.” Hoodbhoy describes the Pakistani army as “a heavily Islamicised rank-and-file brimming with seditious thoughts … It is difficult to find another example where the defence apparatus of a modern state has been rendered so vulnerable by the threat posed by military insiders.” But loose nukes aside, it seems the unpardonable sin I committed in the eyes of the ISI is my column on the taboo subject of Pakistan Army’s atrocities in Balochistan, where thousands of young men have simply disappeared from the face of the earth. HRW has accused Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies of “continued enforced disappearances and killings” of Baloch opposition activists who want an end to Pakistani occupation. In 2012 at least eight journalists were killed in Pakistan. HRW talks of “a climate of fear” that impedes media coverage of the state security forces so journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military. And the Pakistani government can block the Toronto Sun all they want, it is not going to deter me from exposing them.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Associated PressAn Afghan government panel acknowledged Monday that detainees face widespread torture but denied there is systematic abuse in government-run prisons. The panel's findings were the result of a two-week fact-finding mission following a U.N. report last month that said Afghan authorities are still torturing prisoners despite promises of reforms. The country's intelligence service earlier had denied any torture in its detention facilities. The complaints have prompted NATO to stop many transfers of detainees to the Afghans as concerns about torture raise questions about the government's commitment to human rights. The U.N. report said more than half of the 635 detainees interviewed had been tortured — about the same ratio found in its first report in 2011. It cited brutal tactics including hanging detainees from the ceiling by their wrists, beating them with cables and administering electric shocks. Many rights activists have expressed concern that such abuses could become more common as international forces draw down and the country's Western allies become less watchful over a government that so far has taken few concrete actions to reform the system. The Afghan panel also denied the allegation in the U.N. report that the government appeared to be trying to hide the mistreatment by hiding detainees in secret locations during inspections by international observers. Commission head Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwa told reporters that torture and beatings occur in the first stages of the arrest "but not while they are in prison." The delegation visited both male and female prisons as well as juvenile detention facilities. Adalatkhwa said 148 of 284 prisoners interviewed in the provinces of Kabul, Kandahar and Herat complained of torture and misbehavior at the time of their arrest and during the interrogation period. Of those 136 cases were confirmed, he said. The panel also interviewed 23 female detainees and found no confirmed allegations of rape and abuses. He also said more than 66 percent of those interviewed also had no access to defense lawyers. The government-appointed commission plans to discuss the findings during a meeting with judicial officials and President Hamid Karzai later this week at the presidential palace, Adalatkhwa said. "There is no systematic torture in Afghan detention centers," he said. In a letter responding to the U.N. report, Gen. John Allen, the then-commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said his staff had written letters to Afghan ministers urging them to investigate more than 80 separate allegations of detainee abuse during the past 18 months. "To date, Afghan officials have acted in only one instance," Allen said in the letter. In that case Afghan authorities did not fire the official in question, but transferred him from Kandahar province to Sar-e-Pul in the north. The letter said the NATO military alliance had responded to the U.N. report by stopping transfers of detainees to seven facilities in Kabul, Laghman, Herat, Khost and Kunduz provinces — most of them the same facilities that were flagged a year ago. The transfers were halted in October, when the U.N. shared its preliminary findings with the military coalition. "We have only stopped transferring some detainees to certain Afghan facilities," Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the international military alliance in Kabul. "The Afghan government has stated its commitment to upholding its human rights obligations and we remain committed to working together with the International Community to support them in their efforts to tackle this difficult problem. "
EDITORIAL: DAILY TIMESAs predicted in this space innumerable times since the issue of writing a letter to the Swiss authorities blew up, the latter have responded to the Pakistan government’s missive by saying categorically that the case against President Asif Ali Zardari cannot be reopened because he enjoys immunity while in office under Pakistani and international law, and that the case has in any case been closed under the statute of limitations under Swiss law since 15 years have elapsed since the case was instituted. It may be instructive to do a brief recap of the whole affair in order to understand the diversionary journey the country has been subjected to over many years. In 2007, when General Musharraf began to lose his grip on events unfolding in the country, he reached out to Benazir Bhutto’s PPP for a political bailout. The deal struck between the two sides after protracted negotiations resulted in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which withdrew corruption, etc, cases against Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari and many others, cases the PPP always held were politically motivated. The Cotecna case involving Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari led to a presumption of guilt in the Swiss magistracy’s investigation, which was overturned on appeal in 2003. Since then, the issue lay relatively dormant, until in 2008, then Attorney General Justice (retd) Malik Mohammad Qayyum wrote to the Swiss authorities withdrawing the request for assistance in the case, i.e. closing it. In 2009, the Supreme Court (SC) struck down the NRO as discriminatory, and ordered the reopening of all closed cases benefiting from it. This led to a three plus years standoff between the PPP government and the SC on the latter’s insistence that the government write to the Swiss authorities to reopen the Cotecna case. The government dragged its feet, arguing that such a step would be tantamount to an insult to the country’s sitting head of state, as well as fruitless since the president enjoyed immunity under our constitution as well as international law. The reluctance and refusal of the government to write the letter seems to have provoked more fury than judicial sense from the SC, which insisted on the implementation of its judgement by writing the letter. Many legal luminaries and analysts were also of the view that the president enjoyed immunity, but the SC insisted immunity was not automatic (despite the fact it is in the constitution) and would have to be applied for. The government was reluctant, given the state of virtual confrontation between it and the SC, fearing the immunity clause may be struck down. This prolonged standoff cost the PPP government a prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, convicted of contempt of court for refusing to write the letter and thereby losing office and being debarred from elected office for five years. His replacement, Raja Pervez Ashraf, after fresh government deliberations, agreed to write the letter. The result is now before us. The valid question to be asked is why the country was subjected to three plus years of time, resources, judiciary-executive confrontational tension and its destabilising effect on the democratic system when the outcome was staring everyone in the face. The only conclusion is that the superior judiciary failed to exercise its mind judiciously on the issue. If the country has lessons to learn from the whole affair, so, it must be said, has the judiciary. Some legal luminaries believe the Swiss response does not preclude the reopening of the case against President Zardari once he leaves office. They are of course entitled to their views and may even have legal precedent on their side, but Pakistan needs to lay the issue to rest for the moment and get back on track to more urgent and weightier questions, chief among them currently being to ensure the elections are held, on time, and in a free, fair and transparent manner. We need no more red herrings to distract us from this supreme national task.
Pakistan today conducted a successful test fire of short-range surface-to-surface missile Hatf IX (NASR). The test fire was conducted with successive launches of two missiles from a state of the art multi tube launcher. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf have felicitated the scientists and engineers on the successful test of short-range missile Hatf-9 Nasr. NASR‚ with a range of 60 km‚ and in-flight maneuver capability can carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yield‚ with high accuracy. This quick response system‚ which can fire a four missile salvo ensures deterrence against threats in view of evolving scenarios. Additionally‚ NASR has been specially designed to defeat all known anti tactical missile defence systems. The test was witnessed by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Khalid Shameem Wynne‚ Director General Strategic Plans Division Lieutenant General (Retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai‚ Chairman NESCOM Muhammad Irfan Burney‚ Commander Army Strategic Forces Command Lieutenant General Triq Nadeem Gilani‚ senior officers from the armed forces and scientists and engineers of strategic organizations. Addressing the scientists‚ engineers and military officers of strategic organizations‚ Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee congratulated them on displaying a high standard of proficiency in handling and operating the state of the art weapon system. He said Pakistan's armed forces are fully capable of safeguarding Pakistan's security against all kinds of aggression.