Monday, February 18, 2013
timesofindiaStanding before the towering statue of a seated Lincoln at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, one is inexorably drawn towards the stirring speech of the second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln inscribed on its walls. The simple , soulful opening lines of his final paragraph, “ With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right……” seem to define Lincoln’s spiritual dimension as much as his political vision for America. Those words seemed to reach out to me; way beyond the historical and political contexts, for here was a man laying down the best humanist primer ever, though he found himself in the middle of the most turbulent crisis of his nation. In exhorting all to replace enmity and retribution with forgiveness and charity, Lincoln reaches out to all with his spiritual envisioning of how life ought to be lived best. In underscoring that America’s greatness will lie only in how it responds to the moral challenges of his time, Lincoln went beyond the political context. Deliberating all his life on the issues of slavery and inequality, he responded to this central moral challenge by asserting the humanistic ideal of every human born free and equal, an ideal which had been forged by his own working class background and trials. Lincoln’s personal spiritual faith triggered his political purpose as well, as he began to see himself as a catalyst, almost an instrument of God and destiny, in his endeavour to erase slavery and inequality. He envisioned a similar role for his country as well, wanting America to re-establish itself in the league of nations on the basis of its moral character. It was a tortuous spiritual and political journey , kept alive by his inner faith and efforts. He said, “...It is not a question that God is on our side, but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that this nation and I are on God’s side...” . The same heady mix of moral clarity and grounded pragmatism is seen in his oft-quoted letter to his son’s headmaster “…that all men are not just, all men are not true, but teach him (Lincoln’s son) also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; for every selfish politician , there is a dedicated leader; teach him to learn to lose, and teach him also to enjoy winning…”. It is a realist view of life, and at the same time, Lincoln holds up the high moral ideal as uncompromisingly as the one all should aspire to. He continues, “…teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidder, but to never put a price tag on his heart and soul,” It is this aspirational idealism of Lincoln’s that is truly inspiring. Despite grappling with issues of faith and spirit, with no easy answers, he still saw himself as an ‘active” instrument of Providence, not a passive spectator or victim of life’s injustice. It is said that he had a melancholic spirit but if anything, his melancholia seemed to arouse in him, a call to action, imbuing him with a tremendous sense of a spiritual resolve towards his duty, with a dispassionate determination to do the right thing in public office and in life in general. Modern leadership has much to learn from Lincoln’s sense of duty and destiny wherein he tried to walk the Middle Path keeping intact the spirit of humanity and that of universal justice while executing his duties both as leader and father.
Cabinet approved change of names of various governmental buildings‚ educational institutions & sports stadiums: Mian IftikharCondemning the Quetta blast‚ Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has announced one-day mourning in the province on Tuesday to express solidarity with bereaved families. Provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain addressing a news conference in Peshawar said the Cabinet in its meeting took various important decisions for implementation of various laws in the light of 18th constitutional amendment. He said that the cabinet approved change of names of various governmental buildings and educational institutions and sports stadiums. Meanwhile‚ families of victims of the Kirani road blast continue their sit-in on Alamdar road. Participants of the sit-in which include a large number of women are protesting against the bombing and have refused to bury the bodies of their loved ones. The Hazara community is demanding that they be provided security and the army should be called into Quetta for this purpose. Sit in by Shia Ulema Council and Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen at Faizabad‚ Rawalpindi is also continuing. Traffic flow between Islamabad and Rawalpindi has been badly affected.
http://www.thedailystar.netThe murder of Ahmed Rajib Haidar is once more a sign of the darkness that is yet to lift in its totality in this free country. It sends out a message, loud and clear and necessary, of what needs to be done to overpower the descendants of the local collaborators and quislings who once killed and helped to kill three million Bangalees in 1971. To suggest that the war criminals of 42 years ago, ageing and perhaps physically weakening, have acknowledged the reality of the existence of this people's republic, would be a mistaken assumption. Quader Mollah's notorious flash of that victory sign on the day the judgement was pronounced was just one of the brazen ways in which the stooges of the Pakistan occupation army have continued to demonstrate their contempt for this land they so happily molested all those years ago. It is a sinister thought these old Pakistani collaborators have passed on to the generation of fanatics that came after them. In the 1980s and 1990s, activists of the Islami Chhatra Shibir went around displaying the new methods they had come to learn as a way of advancing their macabre politics. And then they informed a horrified country that they were ready to apply that learning in all its ferocity. A long process of cutting off veins and slicing away tendons -- of those they considered their enemies -- followed. The law was powerless to haul them to the citadels of justice, for they were protected by men and women too keen on holding on to power and too indifferent to the damage that was being done to the nation. Their mentors in the party, both those who helped Pakistan's soldiers in their mission of killing Bangalees and those who came of age in the darkness following the tragedy of August-November 1975, saw little reason to discourage such outrage committed in the name of faith. In time, these friends of the Pakistan army came to share the political dais with men and women in a political party whose founder had caused something of a turning back of the clock in his five-year dictatorial moment. He helped these collaborators in their rehabilitation. His spouse took them right into her government. No one in that family-led dispensation cared to remember the three million dead of 1971, the scores of Bangalee intellectuals murdered on the eve of Liberation. The Nazis never came back after the fall of Hitler. The men of the Vichy regime went to the gallows after the liberation of France in 1944. Japanese prime ministers have been excoriated over their visits to Yasukuni, where Tokyo's war criminals lie buried. Ironically for Bangladesh, all the collaborators of Pakistan not only survived but came back to deliver the ultimate insult to Bangalees-- through becoming ministers and members of parliament, through refusing to admit their crimes. And today, it is their political descendants who pounce on the police, set vehicles afire and brazenly demand that the men now on trial for war crimes be freed and the trials abandoned altogether. That they can kill, in the manner of the generation of criminals preceding theirs, is a warning they have now sounded through the murder of Ahmed Rajib Haidar. Rajib's death only reinforces the national feeling that these war criminals and their followers must be steadily and forcefully marginalised if this country means to keep its self-esteem intact. This murder is a call to everyone who remembers the War of Liberation, who believes in Bangladesh, to come together in a decisive struggle against the enemies of the state. The exigencies are simple to understand: not partisan politics, not the sophistry over Joy Bangla (and that is our eternal slogan), not the narrow interests of the present but the broad future of this nation which is at peril. It is that future we need to save, across our differences on the political plane. And we can save the future through repudiating, once and for all, the dark forces which did everything they could to prevent our rise as a free people and which have been doing all they can to turn us away from our glorious past and back into the medievalism where fanaticism scars the beauty of faith, where killing men and women in the name of God is sport. The moment for resistance is upon us. Remember the three million dead, remember the bodies of our illustrious fellow citizens in the brickfields of Rayerbazar, remember the steady manner in which all our liberation heroes, from our founding fathers to our brave freedom fighters, were pushed to their deaths in the horrible mid-1970s to early 1980s. And when you remember, you will know what needs to be done. Those tens of thousands of our young are out there at Projonmo Chottor, in homage to Rajib. Join them in raising once more the militant Joy Bangla slogan and purge this country of the enemies lurking within its sacred territory.
Black flags were hoisted across the country on Monday and people wore black badges mourning the death of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider as the congregation at Shahbagh began their 14th day of vigil. Thousands of people continued to pour into the square to express solidarity with the movement. Among those present were finance minister AMA Muhith and other political and cultural personalities.Condemning the politics of Jamaat-e-Islami, Muhith urged people to join hands and put up resistance against the activities of Jamaat. Expressing satisfaction over the amendment of the International Crimes Tribunal Act, the participants said it was a great success for the nation. Citing the machinations of the Jamaat activists, they stressed the need of closing the ranks and fight the Jamaat with all their might.At 11am, the bloggers hoisted the black flag to pay tribute to Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was killed by unidentified persons on Friday. A large procession, led by Awami League, and with supporters of Left-leaning student groups like Chhatra Union, Biplobi Chhatra Maitry and other political parties and people from all walks of life joined the youths at the Shahbagh square.Security was tightened with police and security personnel in plainclothes guarding the square and its entry points.Speaking to The Independent, Asaduzzaman Nur, MP, said the Jamaat-e-Islami is an evil force and people must be united to destroy them politically. He also said that people’s spontaneous participation has proved that there is a strong feeling of hatred against those who committed crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.Raisul Islam Asad, an eminent actor and a freedom fighter, said during the 1971 war they had given back their arms but they hadn’t forgotten their skill. “If it is needed again we will use our training as we had used during the war,” he said.The Eden College students also expressed solidarity with the movement. At 3pm, a large number of showbiz personalities and technical personnel joined the assembly. Expressing solidarity with the youths, film actress Nipun said: “We are the new generation who haven’t seen the Liberation War, but could feel the pulse of it by joining this movement.” She also said that all over the world those who committed crimes against humanity have been punished and this should happen in Bangladesh too.Nirab, a model, said, “We would not be able to respect the martyrs and the people who suffered during the Liberation War, if we cannot ensure capital punishment for those who committed crimes against humanity during the war”.
In the business of presidential medals, reciprocity is the name of the game. President Shimon Peres will honor US President Barack Obama with Israel’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Distinction, just as Obama conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, on Peres at a presidential dinner in Washington in June. Peres will present the medal to Obama next month at a state dinner in Jerusalem to be attended by senior Israeli public figures and representatives of the US administration. It was more or less on the cards that, if and when Obama visited the country during his second term, Israel would find a way of showing its appreciation for his contribution to the Jewish state’s national security. This sentiment will be emphasized in the citation accompanying the medal. Peres frequently notes Obama’s “unique and significant contribution to strengthening the State of Israel and the security of its citizens.” He did so on Sunday at his meeting with US senators and congressmen and last week said something similar at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations gathering in Jerusalem. In fact no one sings Obama’s praises louder and with greater frequency than Peres. Only a few days after receiving his own medal from Obama last year, Peres awarded the Medal of Distinction to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the opening in Jerusalem of the President’s Conference, which is traditionally held in June. The president met on Monday with his advisory committee to discuss this year’s awards, and it was unanimous in recommending Obama. The reasons for the choice were outlined in an official statement issued by the president’s spokesperson’s department. “Barack Obama is a true friend of the State of Israel, and has been since the beginning of his public life. As president of the United States of America, he has stood with Israel in times of crisis. During his time as president, he has made a unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel, both through further strengthening of the strategic cooperation between the two countries and through the joint development of technology to defend Israel against rockets and terrorism.” The Presidential Medal of Distinction, which came into being at Peres’s initiative, was awarded for the first time last year. Among the people on the advisory committee is Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon, who in addition to his former role, is one of Peres’s lifelong friends, and, like the president, is a devoted disciple of David Ben-Gurion. The Presidential Medal of Distinction is awarded to individuals and organizations that have made unique and outstanding contributions toward tikkun olam, a concept in Jewish tradition that embodies the idea of improving the world, as well as efforts for bettering Israeli society and the State of Israel’s image around the world by setting examples of initiative, innovation, creativity and vision. In addition to Kissinger, the recipients of the 2012 award were Zubin Mehta, musical director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Uri Slonim, who worked with the organization Variety to improve the lives of children with special needs; human rights activist Judy Feld Carr; Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and The Rashi Foundation. Last year when Peres received the Medal of Freedom, there were many voices raised in Israel and the United States urging him to decline it until such time as convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who has spent more than quarter of a century in an American prison, is released. After Peres accepted the medal, there were those who urged him to give it back for the same reason. Now advocates for Pollard are protesting the awarding of a medal to Obama at a time when Pollard’s period of incarceration is approaching 10,000 days.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the blast killing of over 80 Hazara Shias in Quetta on Saturday and slammed the authorities for failure to crack down on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the militant outfit openly claiming responsibility for attacking the persecuted community. In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: "the HRCP is at a loss for words at this latest catastrophe to befall the long-suffering Hazaras of Balochistan. How often have we witnessed carnage targeting the Hazaras over the last few months that the media has labelled the Quetta tragedy or Hazara massacre? What happened in Quetta on Saturday highlights the consequences of the government's failure to crack down on known militant outfits. That ought to be enough for any society that puts a premium on human life to hang its head in shame. In such a society, heads would have rolled. Not so in Pakistan. The people have been informed that this latest massacre was the result of an intelligence failure. Neither the victims' families nor civil society can care less about the claptrap being fed to the media to deflect criticism. The people are entitled to ask what steps, if any, had been taken after the deadly attack against Quetta's Hazaras last month in order to bring to justice the ruthless killers who have the audacity to claim responsibility again and again for their ghastly actions. The government should explain how governor's rule has contributed to protecting the Hazaras or improving the law and order in Balochistan in general. It is heart rendering that the victims' families are once again refusing to bury their dead until someone in a position of authority promises that the killings would stop. They believe that that is the only way they can get the authorities' attention. They want to know what action is being taken against those who failed to protect the citizens in Quetta this time around and why they should believe that the government's tough talk and promises of action are genuine. The HRCP extends heartfelt condolences to the Hazara community and salutes their unwavering resolve even in the face of heart wrenching loss to pursue peaceful means for seeking an end to their suffering. The people of Pakistan have the expectation, however misplaced it might seem today, that the government safeguard their lives from those who perpetuate violence in the name of faith. The Hazaras of Quetta have retreated to just a couple of localities in Quetta to avoid being targeted. But today they cannot retreat any further.
Recently, Japan has raised an increasingly fierce scandal about the "fire control radar targeting" incident in a preemptive attempt to shift the blame. Such behavior does not make sense in the following three aspects. First, it reflects the lack of military knowledge on Japanese military and political officials. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera claimed "Chinese navy frigate directed its fire control radar at destroyer 'Yudachi' of Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) in the East China Sea at around 10 a.m. on Jan. 30" and that "the two ships were three kilometers apart at that time." However, three kilometers would mean within visual distance, which indicates the ship borne artillery would be able to hit the target without being guided by the radar. It would be unnecessary for China to use the fire control radar. Say the radar is directing the target for the missile; people with the slightest military common sense would know that such short distance represents a blind corner for missile firing. The boosting device would have just fallen off within 1-2 kilometers after the missile was launched. The missile would be in the accelerating phase. The wing surface or the homing head would not yet have played their role. Even if the fire control radar had been used, it would be impossible for the missile to effectively find the target, let alone posing any threat. Japan should have found a professional prior to slandering others. If the Americans were to believe this set of lies, it would be laughable for professional theorists. Second, if the military aircrafts and warships were confronting in such close distance, China warship would have been neglecting its duty if it did not start alert and warning. Note that the reconnaissance and surveillance radar and the fire control radar are not the same thing. The former are used for comprehensive, long-distance, and large area search; the latter to carry out accurate designated lockdown on the basis of broad target provided by the former. These two have different radar wavelength and different lobes. The Japanese military should know this only too well since it have been carrying out electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering on China forces for a long time.Moreover, if Japanese military aircrafts and warships come close for surveillance near China vessel formation, how can China warships sit quite and let it happen? How can China wait to be struck without even turning on the search and surveillance radar? Note that Japan has just threatened to shoot a warning bomb against China. Who knows whether the shot would turn out to be live ammunition or only a warning bomb? China has no choice but to be prepared. Even if Japan only fired a warning bomb, it would still be a physical threat; and even if China was targeting with searching radar, it would only be a photoelectric warning. It is not difficult to tell which case poses a greater danger. Third, which party should be responsibility in case of an accidental discharge event? Undoubtedly it is the Japanese side. China vessel formation was carrying out normal training in the international waters. Why should Japan get close to reconnoiter and interfere with our normal navigation? Besides, such interference has not only happened once or twice. According to incomplete statistics, Japanese aircrafts came close for surveillance on China force for about 500 times every year, and interfered with our training far more often than that. Japanese warships often shadowed China vessel formation on our route with the snake-like interference and even vertical interference. Any country's army will regard such behavior as a military provocation. Japanese military aircrafts are also used to play some dangerous moves. Lately, its F-15J fighter flew by China Transport-8 patrol with only 5 meters distance from its wing. A little astray would have resulted in ruin of the plane and death of people. Provisions only allowing Japan to provoke and not allowing China for self-defense cannot happen. In fact, Japan should know that the fact China did not use the fire control radar means China has let Japan off lightly. Although we did use the radar this time, it does not mean we are never going to use it. Once Japan poses a threat within short distance (but not the fabricated three kilometers distance which is a blind corner), China will have to send out warning and repel, and further, directly lock with the fire control radar. Any dangerous move from the counterpart, we will resolutely carry out self-defense leaving no room for negotiation, because passive means beaten with the life and death struggle on the battlefield. The game rules in the East China Sea unilaterally raised by Japan have no ground. Japan should be aware that setting up air defense identification zone or firing warning bomb is not Japanese privilege. China can do the same. In the East China Sea, China should have the right to impose legislative rules on Japan and Japan should stay away from the safety range of China!
THE FRONTIER POSTHanif-ur-Rahman The appointment of Engineer Shaukatullah Khan as governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a good omen for the terrorism-stricken people of Tribal Areas. The Pakistan People Party has done an-other favor to its dwellers particularly to Bajaur Agency which is really lagging far behind as compared to the rest of Tribal Agencies. His appointment sent a wave of jubilation in Bajaur which was witnessed in the Ariel firing by the trigger-happy people. The very status of separate Agency was given to it by the PPP government in 1973. Many of the developmental works and infrastructure all over Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) owe its existence to the dynamic policies of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. PPP has also got the distinction of amending the century-old British-imposed Frontier Crimes Regulations two year ago. No doubt, the Frontier as it was then known has been holding a key position for the British due to its competition with its nemeses the Tsarist Russia and then the Communists Russia after the Communists Revolution in 1917. The British Government appointed the best of its mind as governors to deal not only with its great rival Russia but also to deal with the unfriendly rulers of Afghanistan and the refractory Pakhtun tribes. Same was done by the imperialists Mughals. During the cold war era the area has been of special concern to the successor of British, the United States. And without any exaggeration Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa played a decisive role in bringing an end to the Cold war polities with heavy losses in every walk of life. The current terrorism has much to do with the past politics. Today once again the area is in the eye of the storm and passing through the worst kind of violence and terrorism. For US it has the potential of carrying another 9/11 like attacks. It has been the nerve-center of Pakistan Tahreek-i-Taliban (TTP) and other Islamic forces with the dreaded Haqqani Network headquartered in North Waziristan. In every aspect of life the successive regimes have not done much for the FATA and that is why the deprivation gathered over years has turned it into a veritable ground for the current wave of militancy. By appointing Engineer Shaukatullah Khan as the Governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, who is himself a tribesman and has a vast experience of the local politics and knowledge of local customs and traditions, is really a meritorious job by President Zardari. He has been with his father who has not only been twice a Member of the National Assembly but is a skilled and veteran Jargamar (an elder having the skill of conflict resolution). By appointing him as governor at this point of time when the National Awami Party (ANP) and PPP contemplate to hold dialogue with the Taliban to put an end to the decade of violence is step in the right direction. He might be acceptable to all as he has expressly stated his neutral position. He having previously served as Minister of State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) is well aware of the problems faced by the Tribesmen. The people of FATA are crossed-fingered over his appointment as new Governor. They have pinned down a lot of hopes and expectations on him. It is hoped that he will focus on education and health problems of FATA. Currently there is no State-of-the-art hospital in the whole of FATA, which not only adds to the misery of the local people but also put an extra burden on the hospitals in Peshawar. FATA being a vast area of 2720 sq kilometers has only one university which has very recently announced by his predecessor, Masood Kausar, in the Frontier Region of Darra Adam Khel. It is hoped that he would upgrade colleges in all Tribal Agencies and will do his best to strive for the establishment of new universities. Electricity though is problem of the whole country but it is a rare commodity in FATA. This should also be on his priority list as well. What he does for the poor and militancy-hit Tribal Area is a matter of time. Whether he takes on the challenges head on and comes out successful of these challenges or become part of history? Whether he vindicates the trust reposed on him by the PPP leadership is to be seen in days to come.
Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said on Sunday that billions of rupees belonging to the poor people of Punjab had been frittered away on ‘ill-conceived and useless schemes’ by the Shahbaz Sharif government. Addressing a big public meeting at the Talagang Government Degree College, the provincial PML-Q chief, who is set to contest election for the National Assembly constituency NA-61 (Chakwal II), mentioned the major development projects launched when he was the chief minister and said he would change the fate of the people of the area after coming into power. The public meeting, apparently held in an attempt to regain PML-Q’s lost ground in the district and woo the voters for the general election, was attended by local leaders of the party as well as the PPP. Hurling at the Punjab government allegations of wrongdoing in the affairs of the Metro Bus Service, he said: “Such massive corruption has been done for the first time.” Mr Elahi said that Rs70 billion from the public exchequer had been squandered on a small, 27km road in Lahore. “Rules and regulations have also been violated in this major scam,” he alleged. “The chief minister has four bullet-proof vehicles and has appointed a number of police personnel for his own and his family’s security and yet he does not hesitate to describe himself as ‘Khadim-i-Aala’ (the grand servant).” Referring to the PML-N’s ongoing bid to bring politicians of rival parties into its fold, he said in a comic way that the Sharif brothers could not digest their food “unless they took a few ‘lotay’ (turncoats) at breakfast”. “The PML-N has turned Punjab into a quagmire of problems,” he said. He said he had left Rs100bn in the provincial exchequer but now it had been rendered empty because of poor policies and the government was hardly able to pay salary to its employees.
At least 15,000 Shiite Muslims took to the streets in southwest Pakistan on Monday in a second day of protests following a bombing that killed 89 people. Relatives of the victims refused to bury their loved ones until the army takes action against the militants targeting the minority sect. Meanwhile, militants wearing suicide vests and disguised as policemen attacked the office of a senior political official in northwest Pakistan, killing six people, police said. Pakistan has been besieged by militant attacks in recent years, many of them carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government. Radical Sunni militant groups have also increasingly targeted the country's Shiites because they do not view them as real Muslims. Many of these sectarian attacks have occurred in southwest Baluchistan province, which has the largest concentration of Shiites in Pakistan. Many are Hazaras, an ethnic group that migrated from Afghanistan over a century ago. The bomb that ripped through a produce market Saturday in Baluchistan's provincial capital of Quetta was the second mass-casualty attack targeting Shiites in the city in a little over a month. A double bombing of a billiards hall in January killed 86 people. The death toll from the most recent blast, which was caused by a bomb hidden in a water tank, rose to 89 on Monday after eight people died of their wounds, said Baluchistan's home secretary, Akbar Hussain Durrani. Outrage over the attacks has grown in Pakistan, and protests were held in over a half dozen cities Monday in addition to Quetta. But it's unclear whether the demonstrations will spark action that will make the Shiites any safer. Rights groups have criticized the government for not doing enough to crack down on the attacks. They explain this apathy by pointing to past connections between the country's military and anti-Shiite militants, and also allege the sectarian groups are seen as less of a threat than the Taliban because they are not targeting the state. Despite this criticism, the Shiites in Quetta see the Pakistani army as their only potential savior and are demanding the generals be given control of the city. They blame the provincial government and police for failing to protect them and want the army to take targeted action against sectarian militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which claimed responsibility for both the recent bombings in the city. "We will not bury our martyrs until our demands are fulfilled," a top Shiite leader in the country, Amin Shaheedi, told reporters Monday at the site of the protest in Quetta. Saumbal, the police officer, estimated that the crowd of protesters numbered at least 15,000. Some poured into the streets near the attack site carrying signs and chanting slogans against terrorism. Others remained inside a mosque beside the bodies of their relatives, which were covered with white sheets. One young girl wrote on her face, "Don't kill me. I am Shia." After the bombing in January that killed 86 people, Shiites camped out in the street for four days alongside the coffins of their loved ones. Eventually the country's prime minister ordered a shake-up in the regional administration, putting the local governor in charge of the whole province. But the governor has expressed frustration, saying the recent bombing was the result of a failure of the provincial security and intelligence services. Durrani, the home secretary, said the government has no plans to call in the army and will continue to rely on the 3,000 members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps who are deployed in Quetta, as well as the police. The most significant protests outside Quetta on Monday occurred in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, located on the country's southern coast. Hundreds of protesting Shiites paralyzed key areas of the city by blocking major roads, including the one that leads to the airport. Violence in Karachi risked exacerbating sectarian tensions. Gunmen opened fire on a restaurant in the city, killing two people, said police spokesman Imran Shaukat. A spokesman for a Sunni extremist group, Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat, said two of its activists were killed in the attack. Members of the group clashed with police following the shooting, he said. In the eastern city of Lahore, gunmen on a motorcycle shot to death a Shiite doctor and his 12-year-old son, but it was unclear whether the attack was sectarian in nature, said senior police officer Malik Ovais. The target of Monday's attack in the northwestern city of Peshawar was the office of the top political official for the Khyber tribal area, a major militant sanctuary in the country. The militants were disguised in the same type of uniform worn by the tribal policemen who protect the compound. At least five militants attacked policemen protecting the compound with assault rifles and hand grenades, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister for surrounding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Some managed to slip inside the compound, and two blew themselves up. Officials are trying to determine what happened to the other attackers, he said. Six people were killed in the attack, including four tribal policemen and two civilians, said senior police officer Shafqat Malik. Thirteen people were wounded, including some who were inside an office that collapsed from the force of the explosions.Associated Press
In a country where Western accusations of corruption have been lobbed at high-ranking officials and public institutions, the malfeasance that drives Afghans against their own government happens every day on a much smaller scale. Forget special investigations and glossy reports on misspent funds and insider dealings, many Afghans say. Try renewing your driver’s license. Afghanistan’s traffic department might be the most bloated of the country’s nascent bureaucracies. Want a vehicle registration? You’ll need 27 separate signatures. A new driver’s license? You’ll need about a dozen stamps from ministries, agencies and banks. Those processes are so painstaking and time-consuming that an entire underworld has emerged to bribe public officials into expediting traffic documents. It’s corruption in $30 or $40 bites — far from the millions allegedly stolen here every year. But those small bribes shape the way many Afghans think about their country’s experiment in democracy. When complaining about corruption, many Afghans say that despite the horrors of the Taliban regime, there was less graft under its government. At a time when the United States is starting to withdraw tens of thousands of troops, a process President Obama highlighted in last week’s State of the Union speech, some Afghans say the return of Taliban rule would at least yield a more honest crop of government officials. Munir, a 37-year-old former police officer, stood last week in front of the traffic department, railing against corruption and malfeasance. The Afghan government has never been so paralyzed by greed and crime, he said. “The system is broken,” he said. He sounded like thousands of Afghans whose experiences with corrupt officials have left them dispirited. Except Munir, who like many Afghans uses only one name, admitted that he is part of the dysfunction. Every morning, he takes a pile of clients’ license and registration applications to contacts at the traffic department. He slips the officials between $10 and $20, and a document that could take weeks to obtain is finalized in a fraction of the time. Munir pockets between $20 and $40. This is how he makes $10,000 a year, twice what he earned as a police officer. But his job comes with the awareness that he is now a part of what is broken. “It’s painful for me,” he said. “I hate the corruption, and I am a part of the corruption.” ‘Like links in a chain’ Munir is one of the “dealers” who work in ministries across Afghanistan, expediting what can be exasperating bureaucratic processes, such as paying taxes and securing business licenses and other documentation. In a country far more modern than it was 10 years ago — with more drivers and more businesses — there’s also more room for graft. “Any government document you need, I can get it for you,” said Abdul Hadi, another dealer who works mostly out of the traffic department. When asked about the ethics of his profession, he was blunt: “It is not honorable.” Last year, according to a report released this month by the United Nations and the Afghan government’s anti-graft agency, half of Afghan adults paid bribes while requesting public services, and together those Afghans handed over a total of $3.9 billion. That figure is twice as large as Afghanistan’s domestic revenue, the report said. With average annual income in Afghanistan standing at less than $1,000, many cannot afford to pay bribes. At the traffic department, where between 1,000 and 2,000 people come every day, a line of men attempting to renew their licenses and registrations without bribes forms next to the line of dealers. Those in the legitimate line are forced to put up with days or weeks of waiting and watching as dealers slip ahead of them. “We don’t have the money to pay anyone, so we wait and wait on our own,” said Abdul Basir, who had spent 10 days in line to renew his vehicle registration. “It’s like links in a chain. One person accepts bribes to make enough money to bribe someone else. This is Afghanistan,” said Sher Mohammed, who waited for more than a week to renew his driver’s license. At the traffic department, whose red-tape hurdles have earned it a popular reputation as the most bribe-sucking government office, about 200 dealers spend their days greasing officials’ palms. Some clients get dealers’ phone numbers from friends and relatives. Others simply approach them outside the department, hand them forms and cash, and disappear. The dealers then make their way inside the sprawling department to the offices of their contacts. Many administrative employees in Afghanistan, including at the traffic department, are said to have paid for their positions — an investment that is recouped by accepting dozens of bribes orchestrated largely through dealers. Munir’s connections were passed down from his uncle, who worked at the traffic department for more than a decade. He learned whom to bribe, how much to pay and how much to charge for the service. Blame and punishment Criticism of the Afghan government is often articulated in terms of what people here call “petty corruption.” Accusations of multimillion-dollar graft involving ministers and governors occasionally grab local headlines, but for many, those stories are less personal and less offensive. “The petty corruption is something tangible. It’s how people see the government in their daily life, and it is a great source of anger,” said Shafiq Hamdam, director of the Afghan Anti-Corruption Network, an independent research organization. “This makes it easier for insurgents to give a bad name to the government.” President Hamid Karzai has long been a public critic of corruption, despite the many accusations pinned on his government. In recent speeches, he has blamed Western donors for exacerbating the problem by putting money in the wrong hands. Karzai created the anti-graft government task force, called the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, in 2008. But its director, Azizullah Ludin, likened his agency last year to a “lion without teeth.” Even within ministries, views differ on how to deal with the practice of granular corruption — the kind of bribery that corrodes public confidence. “I’ve made it a top priority to arrest all of the dealers,” said Alhaj Nizamudin Badkhan, the head of the country’s traffic department, who said he has sent 20 dealers to prison. But in an office just down the hall is Gen. Asadullah, the director of the Kabul traffic department, who said he saw it differently. “The dealers pose no problem. What they do is legal,” said Asadullah, who uses only one name. Munir treats his position in Kabul’s illicit economy the same way he did his job in the police force. He works at least five days a week. He prides himself on being effective — in this case, by turning around documents as quickly as he can. But he knows how he is viewed by many of the people in line, who endure the arduous process of obtaining driver’s licenses and automobile registrations legally. “When I voted in our elections, I thought our system would improve. But now there is even more disorder,” he said. “Without making bribes, it is impossible to get anything done in this country.”
Pakistan's all-powerful military intelligence services have been on the receiving end of unusually harsh public criticism for being "scared to take action" against militant groups in the wake of a bomb attack that killed 85 members of the Hazara ethnic minority. A senior politician and the country's highest-profile television journalist have lashed out at the military Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency (ISI) after Saturday's mass killings in the troubled city of Quetta, which sparked countrywide protests. Hamid Mir, who present's Pakistan's most popular news show, said the ISI had ignored a tide of sectarian bloodshed after deliberately creating "private death squads" to fight a war against separatists in the country's troubled Baluchistan province. Mir's remarks came after the governor of Baluchistan said the huge blast in a crowded market showed a "failure of our intelligence agencies". The security forces are either "scared or cannot take action against" militant groups, governor Zulfiqar Magsi said. Human rights groups that have previously dared to make similar claims – usually couched in far more diplomatic language – have been vilified by the army. Mir spoke out, both to the Guardian and in a column in the country's biggest Urdu language newspaper, amid continued outrage over the bombing, which used nearly a tonne of explosives hidden in a water tanker. Demonstrations took place across the country on Monday in protest at the attack, which was claimed by the banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Karachi was almost completely shut down by a one-day strike. Nadeem Paracha, a columnist for the Dawn newspaper, said a "sense of horror and tragedy is being felt by all Pakistanis … It's very noticeable that this is the first time the people are not just blaming the government, but asking what exactly the intelligence agencies that are paid millions of rupees up to?" Quetta's Hazara community, which is overwhelmingly drawn from the minority Shia sect of Islam, mounted a powerful protest by ignoring the Islamic burial custom of quickly burying the dead. Community leaders vowed the bodies of 71 victims would remain on public display in a prayer hall until their demands for action were met. "We want concrete actions," said Abdul Khaliq Hazara, the president of the Hazara Democratic party said. "They are killing our women, our young people and even young children aged three to five." It was the second time in five weeks that the Hazaras had taken the drastic step. In January, nearly 100 victims of a vicious double bombing at a snooker hall were laid out on the streets. The prime minister responded by flying to Quetta and sacking the provincial government. But rule by a governor directly appointed by Islamabad has not been able to stop what has been termed a "Shia genocide" in Pakistan. Many Shias are demanding the army take direct control of Baluchistan, something critics of military policy in the province say misses the point. "The fact is that the military and paramilitary forces have been in control of the province all the time," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director of Human Rights Watch. "When protesters demand army rule in Quetta in effect what they are doing is calling the army's bluff, asking it to take responsibility for what it has in fact been in charge of all along." But it is criticism from popular journalists like Mir, who was once thought to be close to the army, that will most sting the ISI. "Some of these people who go by the name of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are part of the same private death squads created by the security agencies against Baluch militants," Mir told the Guardian hours before he prepared to repeat his claims on his hugely popular programme Capital Talk. "Yes, sometimes they oblige the security agencies by taking action against the Baluch militants, but on the other hand they quietly organise their own actions against the Shia community. "Every Pakistani is aware that this is a complete failure by the intelligence agencies. Now we want to know, what action has the governor of the province, or the president, or the army chief, taken against these failed intelligence operators?" Violence by Sunni fundamentalists against Shias, who they regard as apostates, is a growing problem in Pakistan. There have been attacks in every major city and murderous ambushes of buses carrying Shia passengers in the mountainous north. The outlook for Quetta's 500,000 Hazaras is especially bleak. As an ethnic group, they have distinctive features that make them easy to target and also speak a dialect of Persian.
President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari telephoned Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi on Monday and discussed situation prevailing in the province after Quetta tragedy, Geo News reported. According to sources, President Zardari inquired about the situation that emerged after Quetta tragedy from the Governor and gets himself aware of steps being taken to arrest the culprits. The President asked the Governor to take all necessary measures for the security of the Hazara community and personally monitor the relief operation and provide all possible help to the victims and their family.
A loud explosion has been heard near Karachi’s Share Faisal, news reports suggest explosion was heard from far distances as rescue and security services are rushing to the scene, DawnNews reported. Earlier, eight people lost their lives in different incidents of violence in the restive southern metropolis of Pakistan on Monday. Enraged mobs took to the streets and blocked roads after setting ablaze several motorcycles when unidentified gunmen killed three people in the city’s Patel Para neighbourhood.
Deutsche WelleLeaders of Pakistan's minority Shiite community hold the government and security agencies responsible for the sectarian killings in the southwestern city of Quetta in which over 80 people lost their lives. Pakistan's unpopular civilian government is facing criticism over its inaction against the militant Sunni organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has claimed responsibility for the attack on ethnic Hazara Shiites on Saturday, February 16. Hazara Shiites have begun their protest in Quetta. They say they will not bury the dead until a "decisive" military action is taken against the culprits. Of late, Pakistan's militant Sunni extremists with links to al Qaeda have intensified their attacks on minority Shiites, whom they do not recognize as Muslims. Similar attacks on Hazara Shiites in January killed at least 86 people after which Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf dismissed the Balochistan government and sacked former Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani. The federal government also imposed governor's rule in the province. Experts say the imposition of governor's rule has not improved the security situation there.On Sunday, February 17, leaders of the Hazara community called on the government to take decisive action against LeJ and other militants organizations. "The government is responsible for terrorist attacks and killings of the members of the Hazara community because its security forces have not conducted operations against extremist groups," Aziz Hazara, vice president of the Hazara Democratic Party, told the media. "We are giving the government 48 hours to arrest the culprits and after that we will launch protests." Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi, governor of Balochistan province, also blamed security agencies for the attacks: "The terrorist attack on the Hazara Shiite community in Quetta is a failure of the intelligence and security forces." 'Sectarian cleansing' 2012 was one of the deadliest years for Pakistan's Shiites. Human rights groups say that more than 300 Shiites were killed in Pakistan last year in sectarian conflict. One of the attacks on an imambargah, a Shiite place of worship, in the garrison city of Rawalpindi near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, killed at least 23 people and wounded 62 in November. On February 17, a suicide bomber killed 31 Shiites in the restive northwestern Kurram region, one of the seven semi-governed tribal agencies bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani experts say that although the lives of Shiite Muslims are under threat all over Pakistan, those living in Balochistan and the northwestern Gilgit-Baltistan region face a systematic onslaught by the Taliban and other militant groups. Some experts have gone so far as to call it a "sectarian cleansing" of Shiites. In August last year, several gunmen, who were in the guise of Pakistani security officials, stopped a bus traveling from Rawalpindi to the northwestern Gilgit region and dragged the passengers off the bus. The gunmen asked the passengers to show their identity cards to ensure they belonged to the minority Shiite community, after which they brutally killed 22 of them at point blank range. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. Pakistani human rights groups accuse the country's security agencies of backing Sunni militants and failing to protect the minority groups of the country. No action against terrorists Shiite and civil society activists had welcomed the imposition of governor's rule in Balochistan, but experts warned that sacking the elected civilian government and calling in the army to control security matters could prove to be a double-edged sword for the insurgency-marred province. "The imposition of governor's rule is extremely disappointing and despicable," said Malik Siraj Akbar, editor of the liberal "Baloch Hal" online newspaper. "The way a democratic government - although corrupt and incompetent - has been dismissed clearly shows that Islamabad treats Balochistan as a colony where it does not respect the public mandate." Akbar said governor's rule would not solve any problems until the government went after the militants. However, Sikandar Hayat Janjua, member of the socialist Awami Workers Party, told DW in an interview from Karachi that it would be foolish to expect the government to launch an operation against the Sunni militants. "Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a militant wing of the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], and no organization would like to act against its own wing," Janjua said. Failure of the state Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is facing a protracted separatist movement Pakistani analysts say that the Quetta killings have again exposed the risks the Pakistani state has been confronting for many years. If the government is seen as losing further control, it may risk disintegration. Ali Chishti, a security and political analyst in Karachi, argues that the Pakistani state has failed to protect not just the Shiites but most of its citizens. "Pakistan is headed in a completely wrong direction and faces an existential threat due to its policies," Chishti said. Many Pakistani analysts trace the origins of sectarian violence in Pakistan to the Afghan War of the 1980s. They say that Pakistan's former military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq made it a state policy to fund and arm extremist Wahhabi groups in the 1980s, using these organizations against the Shiites to kill Iran's support in Pakistan and to increase Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan. London-based Pakistani journalist and scholar Amin Mughal said that the policy of supporting groups like the Taliban had backfired and that the Pakistani state was no longer in a position to control the situation. "It is a logical consequence of state policies which are based on religion," Mughal told DW, adding that the only way out of the crisis was for "true secular parties" to come to power and change the course of state affairs.
Hours after Saturday’s deadly bomb blast which killed more than 80 people in Quetta city, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), an underground Sunni extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The LeJ has also issued a fresh warning saying that is currently capable of carrying out at least twenty more attacks similar to the one conducted in Quetta’s Hazara Town on Saturday. The Lashkar also says that it does not fear the governor’s rule or the military control of Quetta city as it says it has “Allah’s full support” in its operations against the Shias. All senior government officials and opposition leaders have strongly condemned the attack on the Hazaras except for the Baloch nationalist leadership. There is not one single leader or political entity that could be described as the sole representative or spokesman of the Baloch nationalists. However, the term “Baloch nationalist” implies to all individuals, political parties or armed groups who either call for Balochistan’s freedom or demand maximum autonomy for the Baloch people. In the midst of countrywide protests and vocal condemnation of the Lashkar operations, the Baloch condemnation is barely audible and this is a matter of serious concern for us. Lack of public protest and condemnation on the part of the Baloch nationalists against the killing of Hazaras is either intentional indifference or a clear lack of political vision. Balochistan is the land of all ethnic, sectarian and religious communities and Baloch nationalists, as the genuine representatives of the majority ethnic group, should play a more active role in speaking up against repeated attacks on Balochistan’s Hazaras. On January 10, 2013, when a major terrorist attack, carried out by a Sunni militant group, struck Quetta killing more than 100 people, we expected the Baloch nationalist leaders such as Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Dr. Abdul Malik Baloch, Hasil Khan Bizenjo (who are relatively moderate as compared to those who ask for freedom and face more security threats inside Pakistan), to go to the Hazara towns and offer condolences. The Baloch leadership, regrettably, took much time to issue a statement of condemnation of the Lashkar’s barbaric act. Even Prime Minister Ashraf and opposition leader Imran Khan played a more significant role in the aftermath of the blast as they visited Quetta to show support for the victims of the tragedy . The Baloch leadership cannot and must not remain indifferent to whatever is happening in Quetta city. They have to follow these developments more closely because, after the Hazaras, they are going to be the next victim of Lashkar’s operations. After all, all religious groups view ethnic nationalism as un-Islamic. The Lashkar has emerged as our version of the Pakistani Taliban. They also have serious problems with educated and democratic people. Also, the attacks on the Shais are going to determine the future of Balochistan. Who knows these attacks would be used by the federal government as a pretext to bring the army in Balochistan. There was insufficient Baloch condemnation of the January 10th blasts and almost no reaction over the imposition of the governor’s rule in the province. The nationalists should know that neither Hazaras are the last on the list of the Lashkar’s hit-list nor is the governor’s rule the final option the federal government is left with. If these attacks continue and the army is called to take control of the province, this is going to have destructive consequences for the Baloch people. The Hazara Democratic Party has always stood by the Baloch people for their rights. It is the time the Baloch leadership also cared for the Hazaras suffering in the hands of the religious extremists. This should not be limited to mere issuing newspaper statements of condemnation. The Baloch leaders should practically go to the Hazara towns and meet their leaders to express unconditional solidarity. Apologists among the nationalists may say that they are already caught up in the middle of their own war with the federal government but that is not an acceptable excuse. It does not require much time and effort to call a press conference or visit the families of those who have been killed in terrorist attacks. It is deeply disappointing that none of the top Baloch leaders addressed a press conference or visited the Hazaras at the time of distress. The ordinary Baloch citizen is deeply outraged over these killings and they are also speaking up angrily on social media. The Baloch youths oppose religious extremism and they know it is simply the time to unconditionally condemn the killing of the Hazaras without necessarily bringing up the Baloch issue at the same time. What is happening in Quetta is not an ethnic or religious problem alone. It is a serious humanitarian crisis and we all have to keep aside our religious, political and ethnic differences while standing by the brave Hazaras who have suffered more than their share of hardship. The Baloch nationalists have to assume a more proactive and responsible role in order to lead the province. They should stop only complaining about their problems. As the leaders of Balochistan, they should speak for the rights of all communities. By doing so, they are going to benefit their own political movement as this will help them draw more national and international attention to the Balochistan situation. The Baloch and the Hazaras raise their fingers toward almost the same elements responsible for the injustices committed to them. Unity among Baloch and Hazaras and other oppressed communities is in everyone’s interest.Editorial: The Baloch Hal
Life remained paralysed in Quetta on Sunday to mourn the loss of 85 Hazaras who became victims of a deadly suicide blast and the authorities’ inaction to nab sectarian killers operating with impunity. A complete shutterdown strike was observed throughout Quetta on the call of the Malis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM) and the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP). As protests spread to different parts of the country, including Lahore, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Karachi and Multan among other cities, mass graves were dug up in Hazara town for the burial of those killed in the blast. Emotionally drained, the Hazara community however denied to bury their dear ones who were killed in the Saturday’s Kirani Road blast. Thousands of protesting Hazaras staged a sit-in at Alamdar Road and in Hazara town along with 65 dead bodies in order to urge the government to accept their demands, including a targeted operation, under the supervision of the Army, against the perpetrators. The death toll from the blast has reached 85 as more than 190 injured were being treated in Quetta, while some had been shifted to Karachi. Earlier, 65 dead bodies were shifted to Hazara town from different hospitals where they were to be buried and all arrangements were in place. However, on Sunday night, the MWM said that the deceased would not be buried until the demand of army action is met. The same demand they had made after a double suicide bombing on a snooker club in the city on January 10 had killed at least 92 people. At that time, Balochitan was put under the governor’s rule, while the demand of army action was not met. MWM’s Syed Hadi said that the dead would not be buried until three demands are accepted; the other two demands being the arrest of two leaders of Ahle Sunnat wal-jamat and provision of security to citizens of Quetta. Syed Daud Agha said that they had presented ten demands after the Alamdar Road incident but only one demand was met. “Governor rule was imposed. Still 9 demands are yet to be honoured,” he said, adding that they had demanded dismissal of incompetent government because some ministers were involved in murder of the Hazara community. He said that they had no doubt in the sincerity and personality of Balochistan Governor Magsi, though a handful of sincere officers could not ensure peace. The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) has given a 48-hour deadline to the Balochistan government to start a ‘targeted operation’ and hunt down the culprits of the deadly Kirani Road blast. Banned religious outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the Saturday’s explosion. The same group had claimed double suicide bombing on a snooker club in the city on January 10 that had killed at least 92 people. The strike was also supported by the other political parties, including Pashtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party, National Party and Awami National Party. All business centres, shopping malls and markets located on Jinnah Road, Sharha-e-Iqbal, Brewery Road, Abdul Sattar Road, Double Road and Kirani Road remained shut throughout the day. City roads presented a deserted look as most of people preferred to stay home owing to the stressed atmosphere, while the links leading to Kirani Road were closed. The people from the Hazara community blocked Brewery Road by burning tyres. The national flag was hoisted at half-mast as the Balochistan government had announced official mourning against the barbaric incident. Police backed by Frontier Corps were deployed across the city to avert any untoward incidents and mobile teams of law and enforcement agencies kept patrolling throughout the day. Addressing a news conference, HDP Vice Chairman Azizullah Hazara called upon the Balochistan governor to order an operation “otherwise protest will be held outside the Balochistan High Court on a daily basis”. He said that the Hazara community is being massacred in a well-planned way and if this didn’t stop they would be vindicated in taking any step. “This terror incident in Quetta would not have taken place had the government unmasked culprits of last month’s killings,” he added. The HDP leader said that besides Quetta, the HDP would also hold protest demonstrations in other parts of the world, including Europe, America, Australia and Canada; outside Pakistani embassies to register their protest. Also, the Hazara Students Federation (HSF) staged a demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club. When contacted, Balochista Home Secretary Captain (r) Akbar Hussain Durrani however gave a different toll. He said at least 79 people were killed and 179 sustained injures in the blast. He said that the suicide attacker was driving the water tanker that hit the main bazaar of Hazara town in Kirani Road. Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob said that the compensation announced for victims would soon be paid. Meanwhile, on the call of the Shia Ulema Council, strike would be observed in Karachi on Monday (today). Transports will remain off road while markets would be shut. Also, Bars across the country, including the Pakistan Bar Council, the Karachi Bar, the Rawalpindi Bar, the Punjab Bar and the Balochistan Bar, have announced boycott of courts. Punjab will hoist national flag half-mast to observe a day of mourning. Mourning has also been announced in Gilgit Baltistan.
Four levies personnel were among five killed while seven others were injured here on Monday after suicide bombers wearing Levies uniforms raided and opened fire at the office of a political agent, officials said. One of the suicide bombers was able to enter the office after he opened fire at Levies personnel deployed at the main door. The bomber was injured when Levies forces retaliated and he later detonated the bomb. An exchange of fire which lasted for twenty minutes took place between the Levies forces and the second suicide bomber. Three Levies personnel were killed during this exchange while another personal of the force and a civilian succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. The suicide bomber detonated himself near the office of the political and assistant political agent. The roof of the control room collapsed due to the blast in which the political agent of Landi Kotal and seven others were injured and rushed to the Lady Reading Hospital. According to eyewitnesses, tribal officials and members of political parties had gathered at the office to hold talks at the time of the explosion. "We were holding a meeting and some others were joining us when firing started inside the political office, and then there was a loud blast, and again heavy firing began," said tribal politician Niaz Ahmad Khan. Officials said the attackers had come to spring prisoners brought to the political agents office. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Tax collections continue to show sings of stagnating despite a lot of efforts generally claimed by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). According to the latest available data, it had collected Rs 1,027 billion during July-January, 2013 as against Rs 974 billion in the same period last year, showing an increase of mere Rs 53 billion or about 5 percent. This means a substantial decline in real terms because of rate of inflation of around 8 percent. Tax collection effort was also found to be dismal compared to the earlier target of Rs 2,381 billion and subsequent slashed target of Rs 2,190 billion fixed later due to a continuous fall in tax collection during the course of the year. Simply put, FBR has to collect Rs 1,163 billion in the remaining part of 2012-13 even to reach the revised target on a monthly average of Rs 232.6 billion as against the monthly average of only Rs 146.8 billion in the earlier part of the year, which appears to be an extremely difficult, if not an impossible, task. With so much shortfall in revenue collection, it is certain that the tax-to-GDP ratio would be much lower than 10 percent projected in the beginning of the year. Last year, it was only 9.1 percent, much below 15 percent or so which is the norm in comparable economies. It would be interesting to remember that the FBR usually has a set of excuses for the shortfall and pins its hopes on certain initiatives to accelerate the flow of tax revenue receipts during the remainder part of the year. A "rather convincing" argument could easily be made this year that tax receipts had fallen short of the target because of frequent holidays, law and order situation and a slowdown in manufacturing activity, etc. Of course, economic analysts cannot buy such an argument because nominal GDP would grow by about 12 percent during FY13 despite all these odds which means that it was mainly the lack of proper efforts by the FBR which had contributed to a slowdown in tax revenues. There is also no shortage of initiatives to pretend that many measures could still be taken and the situation is not out of control, at least as yet. For instance, the FBR is still reported to believe that tax amnesty scheme could be introduced, probably through a presidential ordinance sometime in March, 2013, despite the refusal of the government's two coalition partners to support it. FBR has also evolved "plan B" which includes issuing notices to the large group of non-filers identified for the tax year 2012. Similarly, FBR has worked out other administrative and revenue measures which are expected to increase tax revenues by a substantial margin. These include amendments to Alternate Dispute Resolution Laws and other administrative arrangements. Although, we would very much like the FBR to succeed in its efforts but past experience suggests that such initiatives do not usually yield the desired results and prove a kind of smoke-screen for the prevailing inefficiency in the FBR. The expected shortfall in tax revenues and that too by a big margin would have very negative consequences for the economy. With rising expenditures in an election year and lower-than-expected external inflows for budgetary support, overall fiscal deficit of the country could reach or even surpass last year's level of 8.5 percent of GDP, which would certainly be unsustainable. Price pressures in the economy would accentuate, PKR would continue to depreciate in the foreign exchange market, external sector would come under renewed pressure, indebtedness of the country would increase to almost unmanageable levels and private sector credit would be further crowded out to accommodate the budgetary requirements of the government sector. Lower tax receipts could also destabilise other areas of the economy. As such, there is an urgent need for broad-based tax regime, removing exemptions etc and deepen the tax net in order to ensure equity and uniformity in the tax system. With such a regime in place, people would be encouraged to pay their due taxes. While the political leadership should provide the necessary support for such an effort, the FBR needs to remain on its reform course. This involves unwinding of the presumptive tax regime and moving to a regime of determination of tax liability after filing of returns, eliminating exemptions in sales tax and strengthening enforcement and audit of sales tax as well as in withholding tax. Both are significant areas of tax leakage. Refunds and under-invoicing and mis-declaration need to be undertaken by a third party-prescribed automation solutions. Tax compliance has to be improved at all levels through greater use of technology. Capturing expenditures and then examining carefully or at length the citizens to substantiate their lifestyle if not conforming to their returns field lie at the core. Nobody pays taxes willingly. They pay out of fear of being caught - penalised and shamed. While the process of shaming has begun with elected officials - one hopes that penalising them by banning them from participating in elections will follow. Public focus on its leaders is important. However, the needs of the economy requires a tax policy built around the principle of all sources of income be taxed without discrimination. This needs a rethink about constitutional provisions and removing anomalies in the tax structure. Manufacturing sector's contribution is 20 percent of GDP while it pays 66 percent of taxes. Service sector contributes 56 percent of GDP and pays 33 percent of taxes, while agriculture contributes 24 percent towards GDP and pays less than one percent in taxes. Provinces tax collection is only 0.52 percent. Without facing these facts and adopting a corrective course and the political leadership showing a demonstrating effect Pakistan is destined to lag behind in tax collection.
EDITORIAL: THE FRONTIER POSTYet another massive bomb explosion on Saturday rips through Quetta, the provincial capital of restive Balochistan. The latest attack has claimed lives of another 83 persons including scores of innocent women and school-going children and left 200 persons injured. Initial investigation suggests that the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), the terrorists planted in a water-tank was armed with around 800-1000 kilograms of high-grade detonable material. The bang of the blast was so heavy that windows of the nearby buildings were broken, and the site of the explosion wore a look of the human slaughter-house having worst massacre. The genocide, though not the first of its kind in the immediate past, is yet another classic example of a total breakdown of administrative control of the rulers. The rulers are supposed to provide security to life and property with the help of a strong network of the security agencies across the country that they have failed to do. It has been said earlier and is being said again here that the rulers are incompetent. There is no doubt about that but the way, religious extremists, militants and terrorists foxed the local administration particularly the police and the intelligence agencies so frequently points fingers at the total incompetence of the police, military and civil intelligence agencies especially of their heads. It will be sufficed to say that the security agencies are now non-existent in that province. The infrastructure of the security has crumbled and the staff working there has taken refuge in their safe havens to save themselves from the terror regime prevailing over the restive Balochistan and Quetta has fallen to the terrorists who have become de facto rulers and the governor has been reduced to a spectator of the federal government witnessing mass murder of his countrymen. The political leadership, no matter good or bad, will step down in a little less than a month. Subsequently their competency and their sincerity to the cause of the masses will be held accountable by the people in the upcoming elections. Contrarily, the security institutions and personnel working in there will hold the ground. Bad performance rather heart-breaking failure of the security agencies to discharge their national duty will come under the scan, threatening their very survival. The surprise is that terrorists roaming around on the streets and roads of the provincial capital with loads of explosive remained unnoticed till their mission of blasting the masses was accomplished. The terrorists have once again shattered the so-called red alert put in place by the government. What a joke it is! The huge blast has made mockery of the security measures of the security agencies raised for safety of the city, already battered and bruised. Ironically, even such a massive bang of the blast cannot awake the intelligence staff from the deep slumber they are in. Pakistan has already witnessed such breakdown of the administration and the intelligence in 1971 when the then East Pakistan was subsequently dismembered- believe it! The situation in Balochistan is not so different today. It warrants immediate attention of the power corridors. Once again, Minority Shia community was targeted by militants of the banned sectarian group Lashker-e-Jhangvi that has claimed the responsibility of the attack. Each and every man working in the intelligence network of Pakistan knows and many of them firmly believe Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has become a major security threat but the point is who is going to act against the banned outfit. Why political leadership and heads of the security agencies are shamelessly failing short of giving a matching response to the strength and myth of the banned group for a long time. Yet another simple condemnation of the blast comes from the President Zardari. Like him the premier too has issued rhetoric that terrorists will not be able to subdue 'our will through such dastardly acts'. The fact is the will to fight out terror remained a missing link throughout the term of the incumbent rulers hence today Balochistan has become a flashpoint for sectarian violence. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is banned though but now it seems it is banned only in papers. Practically the banned outfit has outsmarted well-trained and well-equipped army of Pakistan and its intelligence wings, the FC and the police, and is maintaining its strong operational capability to strike any where at will. Fresh explosion is, by all means, Pakistan's worst sectarian bombing that has exposed the country's weakness around the globe. Extremists have become a prime threat to the existence of the people and the country alike. The present rulers are certain to end their regime on a sad note. The civil and military bureaucracy should wake up to uphold the system, showing professionalism, some degree of commitment and sincerity to the national duty before it is too late. Clouds hovering over the survival of the country need to do away with. Pakistan is not a failed state but it for sure carries a failed administration. The rulers have plunged the country into no-hope situation yet they should put an interim setup in place to give the nation a chance to elect sincere leadership.
Radio PakistanAn agreement regarding Transfer of Concession Rights of Gwadar Port Operations to a Chinese company was signed in Islamabad. Speaking on the occasion‚ President Asif Ali Zardari expressed the confidence that the award of the contract will open new opportunities particularly for the people of Balochistan. He said it will give new impetus to Pakistan-China relations and take a step further our political cooperation into the realm of economic cooperation. The President said handing over of the operation of Gwadar Port to China is manifestation of our growing ties and also shows the trust Pakistan has in the Chinese ability to deliver on our infrastructure projects. He said development of a trade corridor linking Xinjiang to the Middle East through Gwadar Port will enhance trade and commerce not only between the two countries but also in the region. He said the port also has strategic importance for China as around sixty percent of China's crude oil comes from the Gulf countries that are close to Gwadar. Asif Ali Zardari recalled that both Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had a great vision for developing Gwadar Port and taking Pak-China relations to new heights. He said Gwadar is now a potential hub of trade and commerce in the region. It also holds the key to bring together the countries of Central Asia. Referring to the tragic bomb blast in Quetta‚ the President said we cannot be terrorized. In his speech on the occasion‚ Ambassador of China Liu Jian said the transfer of Gwadar Port to China will bring tangible benefits to the two countries and contribute to peace‚ stability and development of the region. He said Gwadar Port is part of greater framework of economic cooperation between Pakistan and China.