Afghan Tax – GDP Ratio 11%, Pakistan 9%

Afghans warned: the taxman is coming after you

By Katharine Houreld

KABUL (Reuters) – One of Afghanistan’s most surprising success stories lies tucked away on a potholed street notorious for suicide bombings and lined with rusting construction equipment.

The work of the country’s top tax collector is more inspiring than the view from his office in Kabul. Taxes and customs raised $1.64 billion last financial year, a 14-fold increase on 10 years ago. That means, now, the government can pay just over half of its recurrent costs such as salaries.

Thanks to tougher enforcement procedures, Afghanistan’s tax to GDP ratio today stands above 11 percent – ahead of neighboring Pakistan’s dismal 9 percent.

Continue reading Afghan Tax – GDP Ratio 11%, Pakistan 9%

Shoe hurled at Pervez Musharraf as he appears before Sindh High Court

The Sindh High Court on Friday extended the protective bail of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf by 15 days. Mr Musharraf appeared before the High Court in Karachi earlier today to seek the extension in a series of cases, including the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Read  more » NDTV
http://www.ndtv.com/video/player/news/shoe-hurled-at-pervez-musharraf-as-he-appears-before-sindh-high-court/269856?v_also_see

Talbanisation of Pakistan and plight of Christians and Ahmadiya Muslims

Pakistan seems to be on the brink of religious anarchy. Talbanization of the country has turned Punjab province into a hell for the Christian and Ahmadiya religious minorities. Does country intend to adopt the path of harmony? Silence is the only answer, for now!

On the pretext of blasphemy, around two hundred houses of innocent Christians were set on fire a couple of weeks ago by a fanatic mob led by extremist organizations in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province of Pakistan. This has recently been followed by insurrecting Ahmadiya Muslim minority’s houses in the province. Violence against religious minorities has been on the increase in the most populous province of the country.

Fear and fury has gripped Pakistani Christians and Ahmadiya Muslims; some of them have fled the province while others are considering fleeing Pakistan. The issue has raised the concerns of international community, particularly the western governments.

The shadow of continuous Hindu exodus has already created fury in Sindh province. Blazing a couple hundred houses of Christians has not only jolted the country, emotionally, but has also pointed towards insensitivity of liberal middle class towards minorities. In fact, the eastern-Indus Pakistan has lurched in the psychological chaos. Needless to mention, the western-Indus is already undergoing Taliban and Baloch insurgencies.

Continue reading Talbanisation of Pakistan and plight of Christians and Ahmadiya Muslims

For Zardari, five years of lost opportunities

The PPP regime huffs and puffs past the finish line, leaving behind a toxic legacy

By Ayesha Siddiqa

BUT DON’T you think we are getting over-excited about the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) government and the Parliament completing its tenure?” It is almost as if every journalist who calls to seek comments on the state of democracy in Pakistan wants you to be sceptical. They would rather have people talk about all the unfulfilled dreams and promises of what was once Benazir Bhutto’s party. However, it is positive to see a transition from one civilian government to another taking place for the first time in the country’s history. The critics perhaps forget that the censure the ruling party has received is the real beauty of democratic rule. If you are unhappy with a party, you can seek to replace it with another. At least, the government is not being booted out. Yet, it would be too quick to call this the perfect run to the finish line because of two reasons.

First, the Parliament has completed its tenure but not the Cabinet. Prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was sacked through extra-political manipulation. This makes it similar to the fate of the 2002 Parliament that completed its term but saw three prime ministers. Such changes indicate pressures on the civilian government and the fact that it is still not free to operate. Moreover, the PPP government was unlucky due to the media being unleashed on it from very early on, giving it the reputation of the most corrupt party in the country. It is said about the PPP that it “drinks less than it spills”. It is far less adept in hiding its mismanagement than other parties in Pakistan, especially the urban-based Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif ). The inability to think strategically in hiding its corruption does not bode well when the media is trained to target one particular party or group.

Recently, in response to whether I could write an opinion piece that may be slightly critical of the ethnic party, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the editor of an English daily told me that it was their policy not to criticise the MQM, the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz and the PML-N. This basically leaves out the Pakistan Army and the PPP. While the armed forces are not really affected by criticism, the PPP definitely is.

Second, the end of the government has left people feeling that the PPP lost out also because of its inherent inefficiency and lack of personalities who have Benazir’s natural capacity to lead the party. Asif Ali Zardari may be a past master at brokering deals and saving a moment, but he may be unable to save the party from collapse or becoming an entity of the past rather than the future.

Indubitably, things were not on the side of Benazir’s party, which is suspected much more than any other political party by the army. Things were not easy in the past five years because Zardari had changed the top leadership and brought in people of his own choice, a development that created more sceptics and enemies. In the past five years, Zardari certainly earned the reputation of being a great survivor. He resisted and circumvented all pressures that might have materialised in greater military intervention. However, this survival was done at the cost of inaction in many areas, starting from the inability to manage the party and market it properly. His media team proved fairly ineffective in selling policies for which the government could take credit, such as the passing of the 18th amendment to the 1973 Constitution, allowing for greater provincial autonomy.

Continue reading For Zardari, five years of lost opportunities

Democracy Military Style

By

The army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, recently invited a team of journalists for a briefing, ostensibly to dispel rumours about the military standing in the way of the next elections. But alongside, he took the opportunity to seriously question the capacity of the politicians to handle affairs of the state, particularly their inability to resettle Swat after the army operation, the Hazara killings in Balochistan and the issue of terrorism in the country. The general also took a dig at the Chief Election Commissioner, Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim for failing to recognise the COAS after a two-hour-long meeting with him. The incident was clearly intended as a comment on the mental capacity of the CEC.

The meeting generated a lot of excitement. Some prominent journalists immediately eulogised the military commander’s sincerity in letting democracy thrive in the country. How serious the general is about democracy, however, remains to be seen. What this dialogue portends for the future of politics and the security of Pakistanis is a moot point.

If it were another country, the meeting would not even have taken place, let alone been reported on. One would like to remind the good general that in decent states, people usually do not remember the face or even the name of the army chief. And more importantly, the army chief calling journalists for a private, ‘chamber orchestra’ kind of meeting is a fairly sinister tool for intervention in politics. This is one of the many methods for derailing the democratic process. It started with General Musharraf, who was extremely fond of talking and would very often invite journalists and academics to “enlighten” them with his perspective on various national issues. General Kayani operates differently. He invites journalists and, reportedly, he sits there strategically dropping pearls of wisdom to set the tone for a debate. He launches an idea and then goes quiet. The moments of silence are filled allegedly by some of the “planted” minions in the meetings who then give interpretations of what they believe are Kayani’s thoughts. He offers no comments; he only runs rings of cigarette smoke around his captive audience.

Interestingly, he is not the only one who meets with journalists. The ISPR and the ISI have always had their own lines of communication with the media. This is not to trade any secrets, but to create a certain discourse that helps boost the army’s image vis-à-vis the politicians.’

Continue reading Democracy Military Style

Committee agrees on Najam Sethi as Punjab caretaker CM

LAHORE: The parliamentary committee of the Punjab Assembly has agreed on veteran journalist Najam Sethi as the caretaker chief minister of Punjab province, committee head Rana Sanaullah announced Tuesday.

“We have selected Najam Sethi, an opposition candidate, for the post of caretaker chief minister of Punjab,” Sanaullah, told reporters in Lahore.

Sethi has earlier served as a federal minister in the caretaker set-up led by Malik Meraj Khalid in 1996.

Continue reading Committee agrees on Najam Sethi as Punjab caretaker CM

Bilawal leaves Pakistan, not to lead PPP election campaign: officials

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will not be leading the party’s election campaign as party officials confirmed his departure for Dubai on Tuesday, days before the party launches its official campaign on April 4.

Speaking to Dawn.com, PPP leader Sharmila Farooqi confirmed that Bilawal had departed for Dubai. She also confirmed that the young Bhutto would not be ‘physically’ taking part in the party’s election campaign; however, she cited “security concerns” as the reason behind the decision.

The news comes as the Press Trust of India reported that the PPP chairman had left after an argument with his father, President Asif Ali Zardari.

Continue reading Bilawal leaves Pakistan, not to lead PPP election campaign: officials

Clerics attack Ahmadi house, torture family in Punjab

By Rana Tanveer

KASUR: Local clerics attacked a house belonging to an Ahmadi family in the Kasur district of Punjab on Tuesday and subjected the family members to violence allegedly over their religious belief, The Express Tribune has learnt.

A mob led by a local cleric chanted slogans against Ahmadi families, their religious beliefs and their community before breaking into Mansoor’s* house in the Shamsabad area. The five members of Mansoor’s family tried to take refuge in a room but the mob broke into the room as well. Police personnel were reportedly present at the spot but did not take any action against the mob. Mansoor was severely tortured after which he lost consciousness, while his wife and his 70-year-old uncle were also beaten. Mansoor was shifted to a hospital where authorities claimed that he is in critical condition.

Continue reading Clerics attack Ahmadi house, torture family in Punjab

Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

A state of emergency has been imposed in the Burmese town of Meiktila following three days of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

A statement announcing the decision on behalf of President Thein Sein was broadcast on state television.

He said that the move would enable the military to help restore order in the riot-hit town, south of Mandalay.

At least 20 people are reported to have been killed since the violence began, but exact figures are unclear.

A BBC reporter who has just returned from the town said he saw about 20 Muslim bodies, which local men were trying to destroy by burning.

Meiktila MP Win Thein told the BBC Burmese service that scores of mostly Buddhist people accused of being involved in the violence had been arrested by police.

He said that he saw the bodies of eight people who had been killed in violence in the town on Friday morning. Many Muslims had fled gangs of Buddhist youths, he said, while other Muslims were in hiding.

Mr Win said that that violence that recurred on Friday morning has now receded, although the atmosphere in Meiktila remains tense.

Police say that at least 15 Buddhist monks on Friday burnt down a house belonging to a Muslim family on the outskirts of the town. There are no reports of any injuries.

The disturbances began on Wednesday when an argument in a gold shop escalated quickly, with mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings alight, including some mosques.

Continue reading Burma: State of emergency imposed in Meiktila

Fisherfolk Rally Against Sale of Twin Islands of Sindh

Fisher folk protest against deal to sell islands

* PFF threatens to block port channels if projects not cancelled

KARACHI: Fishermen of Karachi coast on Friday threatened to block the channels of major Karachi Port and Port Bin Qasim if the government did not cancel the deal to hand over twin islands located near Ibrahim Hydri to Bahria Town.

A large number of people from the fishing community, both men and women, staged a protest demonstration, which started at the Sindh Assembly building and culminated at the Karachi Press Club.

The people, hailing from different coastal villages along the 129-kilometre long coastline, also staged a sit-in and demanded the government to realise that these islands are traditional fishing routes to the open sea. Hence, any development may harm their sources of livelihoods.

Chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Mohamed Ali Shah, Saeed Baloch, Majid Motani, Tahira Ali, Yousif Kadani and Shujauddin Qureshi of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) were leading the procession.

Continue reading Fisherfolk Rally Against Sale of Twin Islands of Sindh

Pouring oil over raging fires

By Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

When a person, in his opening lines, terms the May 28, 1998 Chaghai nuclear explosion as historic, it creates misgivings about the purpose of that write up. Mr Usama Nizamani in his article “Gwadar: an emerging paradigm for Pakistan and the region” (Daily Times, March 19, 2013) did just that. Celebrating any nuclear explosion as historic is a downright insult to the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s victims. It is analogous to celebrating ‘small pox’ and ‘Black Death’ as a blessing for mankind. A nuclear explosion that killed a mountain and adversely affects those living there can only be trumpeted as historic by those bent on destroying the world.

Nizamani then lauds the “subsequent development of various precise, improved and successful delivery systems — in order to deter immediate and inter-continental conventional military threats to the country.” Deployment systems, especially in the hands of trigger-happy persons and institutions only make nuclear weapons exponentially dangerous. Giving fancy names like Strategic Command and Control Support System (SCCSS) does not make nuclear weapons any more attractive than Vanity Fair ads would make Black Death or small pox.

The writer considers handing of Gwadar to China as “better late than never” and hopes that the “economic and strategic window of opportunity created by handing over of Gwadar port to China” will unfold new “strategic and economic horizons.” He conveniently overlooks Baloch resentment but then the Baloch concerns are of no consequence to those who see Balochistan as terra nullius. Support for Gwadar’s exploitation amounts to subscribing to the establishment’s approach of the systematic elimination of the Baloch. It also helps empower those who abet and collude in atrocities against the Baloch people.

Continue reading Pouring oil over raging fires

Chinese company places dome on Pakistan’s Chasma 3 Nuclear Reactor

The first of two reactors being constructed in the Punjab region of Pakistan by Chinese companies has passed a significant milestone with the emplacement of its dome.

The operation to fit the dome was completed on 6 March, China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC) reported. Two 340 MWe pressurised water reactors (PWRs) are under construction at the site, which has China Zhongyuan Engineering as the general contractor and China Nuclear Industry No.5 Construction Company as installer. The reactor design was provided by the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering and Research Design Institute.

Chashma 3 and Chashma 4 are expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and 2017 respectively, although SNPTC said that the unit 3 dome lift was carried out ahead of schedule. The new units will add to the generation already provided by Chashma 1 and 2 – 300 MWe PWRs also supplied by China. Only one other power reactor operates in the country, a 125 MWe pressurised heavy water reactor at Karachi (Kanupp). All units are owned and operated by the state-owned Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.

Continue reading Chinese company places dome on Pakistan’s Chasma 3 Nuclear Reactor

UN adopts landmark resolution on protection of human rights defenders

(21 March 2013 – Geneva) The use and abuse of national law to impair, restrict and criminalise the work of human rights defenders is a contravention of international law and must end, according to a landmark resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council today.

The resolution, which was led by Norway and adopted by consensus, calls on all states to support the work of human rights defenders and to protect them from harassment, threats and attacks.

‘The work of human rights defenders is essential to uphold democracy and the rule of law,’ said Michael Ineichen of the International Service for Human Rights.

Continue reading UN adopts landmark resolution on protection of human rights defenders

U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

Bye, Bye American Dream! U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

Analysis of two decades of income tax trends also find the rich consume more.

By Steven Rosenfeld

A new study by a team of economists in academia and the government has concluded that economic inequality is a permanent—not temporary—feature in the United States, based on an analysis of 350,000 federal income tax returns between 1987 and 2009.

“For household income, both before and after taxes, the increase in inequality over this period was predominantly, although not entirely, permanent,” the highly technical report concluded. “We also find evidence that the U.S. federal tax system helped reduce the increase in household income inequality; but this attenuating effect was insufficient to significantly alter the broad trend toward rising inequality.”

Continue reading U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

US should dump Islamabad, Pakistan diplomat says

WASHINGTON: Washington and Islamabad should give up the fiction of being allies and acknowledge that their interests simply do not converge enough to make them strong partners, Pakistan’s recent envoy to the US, who is now a hunted man in his home country, has advised both sides in a searing examination of tortured relationship between the two countries.

Instead, says Hussain Haqqani, till recently Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Washington should leave Pakistan to its own devices so that it can discover for itself how weak it is without American aid and support, eventually enabling it to return to the mainstream suitably chastened about its limitations.

“By coming to terms with this reality, Washington would be freer to explore new ways of pressuring Pakistan and achieving its own goals in the region. Islamabad, meanwhile, could finally pursue its regional ambitions, which would either succeed once and for all or, more likely, teach Pakistani officials the limitations of their country’s power,” Haqqani writes about the broken relationship in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs journal.

“Once Pakistan’s national security elites recognize the limits of their power, the country might eventually seek a renewed partnership with the United States — but this time with greater humility and an awareness of what it can and cannot get,” says Haqqani who was ousted by Pakistan’s security establishment because he was seen to be working with Washington to contain the overarching influence of the military on Pakistan.

Taking a distinctly dim view of Pakistan’s prospects without US support, Haqqani acknowledges that “it is also possible, although less likely,” that Pakistani leaders could decide that they are able to do quite well on their own, without relying heavily on the United States, as they have come to do over the last several decades. In that case, too, the mutual frustrations resulting from Pakistan’s reluctant dependency on the United States would come to an end.

“Even if the breakup of the alliance did not lead to such a dramatic denouement, it would still leave both countries free to make the tough strategic decisions about dealing with the other that each has been avoiding,” Haqqani writes. “Pakistan could find out whether its regional policy objectives of competing with and containing India are attainable without US support. The United States would be able to deal with issues such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation without the burden of Pakistani allegations of betrayal.”

Continue reading US should dump Islamabad, Pakistan diplomat says

Canadians losing confidence in Harper Govt.

The Nanos Number

By CBC News

Each Wednesday, Nik Nanos of Nanos Research digs beneath the numbers with Power & Politics host Evan Solomon to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives.

Recognized as one of Canada’s top research experts, Nik Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, a research associate professor with SUNY (Buffalo) and a 2013 public policy scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC.

Tune in for the Nanos Number, Wednesdays on Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, 5 to 7 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

View past episodes below:

March 14: More Canadians see the economy getting weaker

The Nanos Number: 27, the percentage of Canadians who think the economy is getting weaker — a five-point increase in February over January. Read more and watch the full episode

March 6: Conservatives losing support

The Nanos Number: 32, the percentage national support for the Conservatives according to the latest Nanos tracking poll — the party’s lowest level in the tracking poll since August, 2009. Read more and watch the episode

Feb. 27: Canadian firms see drop in net profits

The Nanos Number: 29. That’s the percentage drop in net profits for Canadian companies over the past year, according to Statistics Canada. Should Canadians be worried? Read more and watch the episode

Read more » CBC News
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/05/28/pol-the-nanos-number.html

Sharia law comes to rebel-held areas of Syria. Western powers are facilitating the Jihadi takeover of yet another country.

Islamic law comes to rebel-held Syria

ALEPPO, Syria — The evidence was incontrovertible, captured on video and posted on YouTube for all the world to see. During a demonstration against the Syrian regime, Wael Ibrahim, a veteran activist, had tossed aside a banner inscribed with the Muslim declaration of faith.

And that, decreed the officers of the newly established Sharia Authority set up to administer rebel-held Aleppo, constitutes a crime under Islamic law, punishable in this instance by 10 strokes of a metal pipe.

The beating administered last month offered a vivid illustration of the extent to which the Syrian revolution has strayed from its roots as a largely spontaneous uprising against four decades of Assad family rule. After mutating last year into a full-scale war, it is moving toward what appears to be an organized effort to institute Islamic law in areas that have fallen under rebel control.

Building on the reputation they have earned in recent months as the rebellion’s most accomplished fighters, Islamist units are seeking to assert their authority over civilian life, imposing Islamic codes and punishments and administering day-to-day matters such as divorce, marriage and vehicle licensing.

Numerous Islamist groups are involved, representing a wide spectrum of views. But, increasingly, the dominant role is falling to Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States for suspected ties to al-Qaeda but is widely respected by many ordinary Syrians for its battlefield prowess and the assistance it has provided to needy civilians.

Across the northeastern provinces of Deir al-Zour and Raqqah, where the rebels have been making rapid advances in recent weeks, Jabhat al-Nusra has taken the lead both in the fighting and in setting out to replace toppled administrations. It has assumed control of bakeries and the distribution of flour and fuel, and in some instances it has sparked tensions with local fighters by trying to stop people from smoking in the streets.

Here in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, more than half of which has been under rebel control since July, Jabhat al-Nusra is also widely identified as the leading force behind the Hayaa al-Sharia, which loosely translates as the Sharia Authority and is known simply as the Hayaa.

Based out of the city’s former Eye Hospital, which was damaged during the fighting and then occupied by Jabhat al-Nusra as its headquarters, the Hayaa is also backed by other rebel units, including the Tawhid Brigade, the city’s biggest fighting force, and the Ahrar al-Sham, a homegrown Islamist force that has played a relatively minor role in Aleppo but is powerful in several other provinces.

Islamic administration

These days, the bomb-scarred former hospital has taken on the semblance of a wartime city hall, with people milling in and out seeking permits to carry a gun or transport fuel through checkpoints, complaining about neighbors, reporting thefts and informing on people suspected to be regime loyalists.

Courtesy: Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/islamic-law-comes-to-rebel-held-syria/2013/03/19/b310532e-90af-11e2-bdea-e32ad90da239_story.html

BlackBerry inventor starts quantum technology fund aiming to turn “Star Trek” devices into reality

BlackBerry Inventor Starts Fund to Make Star Trek Device Reality

By Hugo Miller & Jon Erlichman

Mike Lazaridis, inventor of the BlackBerry smartphone, is starting a C$100 million ($97 million) quantum technology fund that’s aiming to turn devices like the medical tricorder from “Star Trek” into reality.

The fund, called Quantum Valley Investments, is being financed exclusively by Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, an old friend and co-founder of Research In Motion Ltd. (BB), the company behind the BlackBerry. The goal is to commercialize technologies from a cluster of research labs that have been bankrolled by Lazaridis. At least one startup has signed up with the fund and the first products may emerge in the next two to three years, he said.

“What we’re excited about is these little gems coming out,” Lazaridis said in an interview in Toronto. “The medical tricorder would be astounding, the whole idea of blood tests, MRIs — imagine if you could do that with a single device. That may be possible and possible only because of the sensitivity, selectivity and resolution we can get from quantum sensors made with these quantum breakthroughs.”

Lazaridis, who stepped down as RIM’s co-chief executive officer 14 months ago, is putting his time and fortune into quantum computing and nanotechnology — sometimes referred to as the “science of the small” — which uses atomic-sized technology in fields ranging from medicine to cryptography.

Quantum Computing

He opened the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre in his hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, last September, financing the effort with a $100 million donation. That lab complements the Institute for Quantum Computing and the more-than-decade-old Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, both founded with more than $250 million of Lazaridis’s own money and additional funds he helped raise.

The Quantum Valley fund will probably focus on one to two dozen companies, he said. It may take a few years to make the investments, said Lazaridis, who declined to name the startups that are under consideration.

“We’re being very strategic with the funds,” he said. “This is not a venture capital fund that we’re all used to.”

Noninvasive medical-testing equipment — the real-life versions of the scanning devices used by “Star Trek” medics — will probably be a focus of the fund.

Continue reading BlackBerry inventor starts quantum technology fund aiming to turn “Star Trek” devices into reality

An ‘Open Letter’ by Dr. Allah Nazar of the Balochistan Liberation Front to Pakistan TV anchor, Hamid Mir

March 15, 2013

Dear Hamid Mir,

I am writing you this letter with the hope that perhaps the historians of the next century – standing in the witness box of history – will reveal the truth about the oppressed Baloch nation, hold the colonial powers and occupying rulers of the day accountable and examine the role and discourse of its advocates and intelligentsia. It should not be the case that today’s columnists and intellectuals are restrained by the fear of the ruler or its lust for conquest.

A century ago, British Lord B. Fell said, “We know and understand the history of Egypt far better than the Egyptians do.” Even one hundred and 25 years later these contemptuous words remain on the pages of history.

Similarly, the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, when in Garhi Khuda Baksh said, “Baloch should learn politics from us.”

His implication was that the Baloch are ignorant, illiterate and unfamiliar with statecraft–born to be slaves. There is only the gap of a century between the words of Lord B. Fell and President Zardari, but the subject and message is the same: the lesson of slavery.

Mr. Hamid Mir, you hold the leading position among contemporary intellectuals belonging to the colonial state’s electronic and print media. Many of the policies of the state are devised and executed with the counsel of your community.

But knowledge and consciousness demand to be on the side of truth. Jean-Paul Sartre, who despite being French, supported the Algerian freedom movement against the colonial system with his pen and wrote a golden chapter of history.

Like Sartre, Mr. Hamid Mir, you are an intellectual. Yet you not only support the inhumane, immoral and terrorizing conduct of the occupying state in Balochistan, you have also actively advised the state regarding how to eliminate the Baloch freedom fighters and how to perpetuate its occupation over Baloch land.

Continue reading An ‘Open Letter’ by Dr. Allah Nazar of the Balochistan Liberation Front to Pakistan TV anchor, Hamid Mir

Russia accuses Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons in Aleppo attack

U.S. looking into allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria

Syrian state TV blames rebel ‘terrorists’ for the attack near Aleppo, in which around 25 people were killed, but rebels blame Assad regime; Russia says rebels to blame for attack.

By Reuters, The Associated Press and Amos Harel

Israeli security sources said on Tuesday that the reported use of chemical weapons in an attack near Syria’s Aleppo looks reliable, but stopped short of confirming the incident.

The Syrian government and rebels accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack near the northern city of Aleppo, in which at least 25 people were killed early on Tuesday.

The United States said on it was evaluating allegations of chemical weapons use in the attack but dismissed charges that the opposition had used such weapons in the two-year-old conflict.

“We are looking carefully at allegations of … chemical weapons use, we are evaluating them,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

“We have no evidence to substantiate the charge that the opposition has used chemical weapons,” he said.

“We are deeply skeptical of a regime that has lost all credibility and we would also warn the regime against making these kinds of charges as any kind of pretext or cover for its use of chemical weapons.”

The State Department echoed those comments and the Pentagon said it was monitoring the situation.

“I have no information at this time to corroborate any claims that chemical weapons have been used in Syria,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. “The use of chemical weapons in Syria would be deplorable.”

Carney reiterated that President Barack Obama has said there would be consequences and the government of President Bashar al-Assad would be held accountable if chemical weapons were used. Carney would not say what those consequences would entail.The United States has been concerned that the Assad government would consider using chemical weapons as it becomes “increasingly beleaguered and finds its escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate,” Carney said. “This is a serious concern.”

He said the U.S. position is still that it is supplying only non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. “Our position is and remains that we are not supplying lethal assistance to the opposition,” Carney said.

Earlier Tuesday, Russia accused Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons in the morning attack, and said it was an extremely alarming and dangerous development.

“A case of the use of chemical weapons by the armed opposition was recorded early in the morning of March 19 in Aleppo province,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said after President Bashar Assad’s government and rebels accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack.

“We are very seriously concerned by the fact that weapons of mass destruction are falling into the hands of the rebels, which further worsens the situation in Syria and elevates the confrontation in the country to a new level,” the ministry said in a statement.

Russia has been the main ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime since the start of the uprising, in which more than 70,000 have died.

Moscow has warned Assad’s government not to use chemical weapons and said in December that Damascus had taken steps to ensure that chemical agents were secure by concentrating them at a smaller number of sites.

Syria’s state news agency accused rebels earlier Tuesday of using chemical weapons in the attack.

“Terrorists fired a rocket containing chemical substances in the Khan al-Assal area of rural Aleppo and initial reports indicate that around 15 people were killed, most of them civilians,” SANA news agency said in an initial report.

A Syrian rebel commander denied reports that the opposition forces were behind the chemical weapon attack in Aleppo, saying the government had fired a rocket with chemical agents on the town of Khan al-Assal.

Continue reading Russia accuses Syrian rebels of using chemical weapons in Aleppo attack

Humorously close to reality!

Daddy?

Yes, son.

Are we going to have a war with India?

Perhaps.

Oh, goody. We will thrash them, right? Like we did in 1857!

It wasn’t in 1857, son.

Oh, okay. But whom did we thrash in 1857?

The British, son…

And the Hindus too, right?

Well…

Did Quaid-i-Azam fight in that war along with Muhammad bin Qasim and Imran Khan?

No, son. The Quaid and Imran were born much later and Muhammad bin Qasim died many years before.

Then who ruled Pakistan in those days?

There was no Pakistan in those days, son.

But there was always a Pakistan! It has been there for 5,000 years!

Who have you been talking to, son?

No one. I’ve just been watching TV.

It figures.

Daddy, why are all these people against us Arabs?

Arabs? But we aren’t Arabs, son.

Of course we are because our ancestors were Arabs!

No, son. Our ancestors were of the subcontinental stock.

Sub-what?

Never mind.You seem to like wars, son.

Yes. I like to watch them on TV.

But real wars are fought outside the TV, son.

Really? How is that possible? What sort of a war is that?

Never mind.

Daddy, you look worried.

Of course, I am, you little warmongering punk!

Daddy! Why are you scolding me?

Because TV is talking rot and so are you!

Daddy, are you supporting Hindus?

No!

Daddy, have you become a kafir?

Keep quiet! No more TV for you! Go watch a movie on DVD or listen to a CD.

Can’t do that.

But we have so many DVDs and CDs, son.

Not any more.

What do you mean?

I burned them all.

What?!

I burned them all.

I heard that! But why?

They spread obscenity.

Oh, God. Son, go do your homework. What happened to that science project you were working on?

It’s almost complete.

Good boy. What are you making?

A bomb.

What?!

A bomb.

I heard that! But why?

Because I am a true Muslim who hates America.

But only last week you wanted to go to Disney Land.

That’s different.

How come?

Mickey Mouse is Muslim.

No, he isn’t.

Is so. He converted when he heard azaan on the moon.

On the moon?

Yes. Because the earth is flat and…

What??

The earth is…

I heard that!

Daddy, do you want to see my science project, or not?

Gosh, that bomb? But your science teacher will fail you.

No, she wont.

Really?

Yes. I plan to blow her up as well.

God, what is wrong with you? Go call your mother!

She can’t come.

Why not?

I’ve locked her in the kitchen.

But what for?

A woman’s place is in the kitchen. I will not let her out until she covers herself up peoperly!

But she’s your mother!

She’s also a woman!

So?

So she should be hidden.

Hidden from whom?

The whole world and Tony.

Tony?

Yes, Tony.

But Tony’s a cat.

Yes. But he’s male.

Son, have you gone mad?

No. By the way, I’ve made sure Kitto starts covering up as well.

Kitto?

Yes, Kittto.

But Kitto’s a cat!

Yes. But a female cat.

But she’ll suffocate.

Oh, she’s already dead.

What?

She’s already dead.

I heard that! But how?

I buried her alive.

You what?

Yes. To avenge Tony’s honour. But now I will behead Tony.

But why?

To save mom’s honour!

Oh, God!

Don’t say that. Always say Allah.

What’s the difference?

Daddy, do you want to be beheaded too?

No!

Do you want to be stoned to death?

No!

Do you want to be flogged?

No!

Do you want to get your arms chopped off?

No!

Then stop asking silly questions. By the way, I won’t call you daddy anymore.

What will you call me then?

Whatever that is Arabic for daddy.

I don’t know any Arabic, son.

That’s because you are a kafir.

Who the heck are you to tell me who I am, you little fascist twit!

What’s a fascist?

An irrational, violent, self-righteous mad man!

W… aaaaaaa…

Why are you crying?

You scolded me.

Okay, I’m sorry. You have to be tolerant and rational, son. Now be a good boy and go read a book instead of watching TV.

I have no books.

Of course, you do. I bought you so many books.

I burned them.

What?

I burned them.

But why?

They were all in English.

So?

It’s a non-Muslim language!

But we are speaking English, aren’t we?

W… aaaaaaa…

What now?

Zionists made me forget my Arabic.

But you never knew any Arabic, son.

W… aaaa… yes, I did until you and mommy gave me the polio drops… aaaaa…

Okay, tell me, can you do me a favour?

Sure, dad.

Can you blow up something for me?

Oh, goody! Of course, dad. What should I blow? A CD shop, a hotel, a school…?

No, no, something a lot more sinister.

Mom?

No, no…

What then?

The TV set!

What?

Blow the TV set.

I heard that! But why?

Just do it!

I see. Dad?

Yes.

You’re so unconstitutional! – (author unknown)

Courtesy: Pakistani e-lists/ e-groups, March 18, 2013.

One bride for five brothers

Grooms’ sex-rota in one-room shack

By EMILY NASH

A YOUNG mum told last night how she has five husbands — who are all BROTHERS. Rajo Verma, 21, lives in a one-room shack with all five, sleeping with a different one each night on a rota. The housewife has no idea which one is the father of her toddler son. She said: “Initially it felt a bit awkward. But I don’t favour one over the other.” Husband Guddu, 21 — the first to make her his bride — insisted: “We all have sex with her but I’m not jealous. We’re one big happy family.” The couple got hitched in an arranged Hindu marriage four years ago and he remains her only official spouse.

But the custom in their village is she had to take as husbands his brothers Bajju, 32, Sant Ram, 28, Gopal, 26, and Dinesh — who married her last year when he turned 18.

Eldest brother Bajju said: “I consider her my wife and sleep with her like my brothers.” Rajo cooks, cleans and looks after 18-month-old Jay while her hubbies go out to work in Dehradun, northern India.

She said of the ancient tradition, called polyandry: “My mother was also married to three brothers so when I got wed I knew I had to accept all of them as my husbands.

Continue reading One bride for five brothers

Shahbaz speaks in Sindhi

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif spoke in Sindhi with a delegation of some senior journalists from Sindh visiting Lahore.

According to a handout, the journalists were pleasantly surprised by the chief minister’s fluent Sindhi. The chief minister exchanged views with the Sindhi journalists over the national situation and development projects in the Punjab.

Talking about Karachi, Shahbaz Sharif said Karachi was a beautiful city back in the 1960s when he was a student and used to visit the city frequently. However, he said he felt extremely sad to see the situation in Karachi when he visited the city some time back.

Courtesy: http://www.pmln.org/shahbaz-speaks-in-sindhi/

The great game

Western World’s opposition to Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline is seen as a reiteration of its economic interests and geopolitical hegemonic designs in the region

By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

In the face of threats of sanctions from the United States, President Asif Ali Zardari and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on March 11, 2013 launched the groundbreaking work on the 781-kilometre-long pipeline on the Pakistani side of the border. The Iran-Pakistan (IP) Gas Pipeline Project, initialed in 1995, has been facing perpetual opposition from the United States and its allies. Heads of both the countries, in their speeches at the occasion, reaffirmed their commitment to go ahead with the project “despite threats from the world powers”.

President Zardari said that the project would promote peace, security and progress in the region besides improving economic, political and security ties between the two neighbouring states. Stressing that the project was not against any country, President Zardari said such steps forging better understanding would also help fight terrorism and extremism.

President Ahmadinejad, while pointing towards foreign states and criticising what he called “their unjustified opposition to the project under the excuse of Iran’s nuclear issue”, said: “They are against Iran and Pakistan’s progress and have used the nuclear issue as an excuse”. He added, “We never expected [Western] companies to make an investment in this pipeline which guarantees progress, prosperity and peace in the region; if they don’t want to join this project for any given reason, they are not entitled to rock the boat and disturb the project”.

Pakistan on the completion of IP is to receive 21.5 million cubic meters of natural gas on daily basis. Faced with extraordinary energy crisis, Pakistan needs natural gas badly — its shortage has caused miseries to millions of Pakistanis and closure of industries. Iran has already constructed more than 900 kilometres of the pipeline on its side. The Tehran-based Tadbir energy development group has undertaken all the engineering procurement and construction work for the first segment of the project. It will also carry out the second segment of the project and also extend the financing of $500 million to Pakistan. Iran and Pakistani are optimistic to complete the project by December 2014.

Continue reading The great game

Winds from Sindh – Sindhi Music Festival in Delhi, India.

The Sindhi [Secular] Sufi Music Festival this weekend focuses on an example of shared heritage of India and Pakistan

The Delhi Government has become known for promoting art and culture with a number of festivals throughout the year. To brighten up this weekend is the Sindhi Sufi Music Festival organised by the Department of Art, Culture and Languages. Here, singers from India and Pakistan come together to sing Sufi compositions.

Two leading singers from Pakistan — Sanam Marvi and Tufail Sanjrani — will join their Indian counterparts — Ghansham Vaswani, Kajal Chandiramani and Uma Lalla — to showcase the shared culture of Sindhis through the poetry of Sufis like Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Kathak dancer Namrata Pamnani will also perform at the festival. March 16 and 17, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) from 5 p.m.

Courtesy: The Hindu
http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/winds-from-sindh/article4512921.ece

China to provide support in constructing a regional railway hub

By Imaduddin

PESHAWAR: China is to provide all kind of financial and technical support in the construction of a regional railway hub for Pakistan, said Director Pakistan Study Centre Sichuan University Chengdu China Dr Chen Jidong.

Speaking as a key note speaker at the one day seminar on prospects of Pak China Relations at University of Peshawar (UoP), Dr Chen Jidong said the active promotion of construction of the railway project will connect Pakistan with Xinjiang region in China and will enhance the capacity of transportation between two countries not only by land but also add to a new outbound transportation line for western China.

He said that the project is the greatest advantage of Pakistan, and will build trade and transport corridors by connecting South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and Western China owing to the country’s geographical advantages.

Dr Chen said that Pakistan has a railway network not younger than the year 1861, aging by the day and needs arduous upgrading.

Some external powers are creating serious law and order situation in Balochistan, with the evil design to halt the expected development of the area through Gwadar port operations, said the Chinese strategic analyst Prof. Zhon Rong.

He added the taking over of operations of Gwadar Port by a Chinese company in the recent past to go with the railway project, can transform Pakistan into economic giant of the 21st Century. Let me tell the Pakistani people that Gwadar Port is first for the development of Pakistan and then any other country, he added.

Continue reading China to provide support in constructing a regional railway hub

Malik Riaz ‘nabbed’ ? Dream Island crashes-X

zardari saleBy Amir Mateen

The good news is that the NAB finally woke up to stop Port Qasim Authority from giving further concessions to Malik Riaz of Bahria Town to build, if at all he plans to do that, the alleged Island City, 3.5 km off the Karachi coast.

Of course, Malik will continue to publish ads showing fabulous pictures of Dubai’s man-made islands besides announcements about building the world’s biggest Mall and the tallest building. No explanation is given about the equity; who will put in how much money and how. And this is about a whopping sum of $ 45 billion. But Malik Riaz keeps changing his figures as pennies in his pocket. After the Abu Dhabi Group backed out, Malik Riaz brought the figure down to Rs 15 billion investment through a news report from his ‘chosen’ editor and newspaper.

The figure was ballooned to $ 15 billion in six hours and then to $ 20 within 24 hours–interestingly propagated by the same media groups. Bahria rose the figure back to its original claim of raising $ 45 billion in its ads published by almost all mainstream newspaper. Only this time there was no name and face of the investor, except the promise that a consortium of Arab and Europeans will descend upon Pakistan soon to pledge the $ 45 billion just because “Bahria commits, Bahria delivers.”

Thousands of cases exist where Bahria has not delivered at all with people running from pillar to post to recover their life-savings– Awami Villas (DHA phase-2 extension), Bahria Town Phase 9, DHA Valley, REHC, just to name a few.

What we have on the table is the grand arrival of controversial US investor, Thomas Kramer, whose net worth is $ 90 million. How will he bring in the promised money is yet to be seen. Malik Riaz shows a loss of Rs 107 million in his personal income declaration for the last three years (2010-12). He owes another Rs 107 billion in taxes as documented by the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) and much more to investors whom he is yet to ‘deliver’ despite taking billions in advance illegally. Yet he keeps buying jet planes, the latest being a $ 20 million worth hawker Beech craft that he bought last month, perhaps to facilitate the electoral candidates that he is supposed to ‘deliver’ from every political party. The likelihood is that he may not declare this as he has not declared the Rs 850 million that he declared on TV to have spent on Shahbaz Sharif’s Ashiana Scheme or the Rs 2 billion that he claims to spend on feeding people.

So the only concrete thing on ground is the dubiously acquired State land for which he invites investors.

The NAB, we are told, took notice of complaints under the Prevention of Corruption Initiatives regarding the award of contract by the PQA. This was done after several complaints from Transparency International, consumer watchdogs and nationalists. The Sindh Assembly opposition lodged explosive protest against the sale of the ‘motherland.’ It got provoked because nobody consulted the Assembly about giving the project, which, among other things, entails building the world’s tallest building on its soil. Sindhi nationalists got incensed over Prime Minister Pervaiz Ashraf receiving the US tycoon who is accused of rape, child-molestation and many other traits that he shares with his hosts here.

He was also received by the MQM contingent including Governor Ishratul Ibad, who went a step forward by offering him 4500 acres over and above the 1200 acres ‘delivered’ by the PQA. Malik seems everybody in his pocket. Who else can bring an alleged rapist and make the high and the mighty of this land receive him without any notice. “What is going on here?,” asked Sindhi activist Zulfiqar Halipoto who led a protest rally in Islamabad. A placard in the rally asked: “How stupid can we become?”

Endlessly, we think. The NAB surprised everybody by advising “the PQA not to sign any concession agreement in violation of RFP, government rules and regulations.” It bragged that it has made mandatory for the PQA to get the contract vetted by a panel of experts also “give a presentation regarding compliance of all terms and conditions of agreement by the Bahria Town.”

The bad news is that nobody trusts the NAB, which is accused as “Bahria’s laundry shop” where they like to take their difficult cases to get a tag of piety. NAB Chairman Fasih Bokhari had his daughter working for Bahria Town earlier. Bokhari, who served in Pakistan Navy when Bahria was in partnership with it, was accused of having clandestine arrangements with Malik Riaz in a court of law. Many think that the NAB shows the interest to take the charge and give a clean chit t Malik Riaz. Only in movies, you might say.

Interestingly, Malik Riaz identifies himself with movie characters. His web site actually shows a long note in his own writing comparing his life with the hero of Bollywoods movie Guru (Abhishek Bachan). He writes, the chapter is titled “Guru or king-maker,” that as Guru he also grew against all odds. He particularly mentions the climax, where Guru thunders before an inquiry board that “I tried to play it straight but I was obstructed because nothing happened without bribery and corruption.” He goes on to describe that, as Guru, Malik Riaz also had to “open the doors” whatever it took from ‘sifarish’ to bribery to violence. In the process, he says, he made himself rich and everybody else. The crux is that, as Guru, that the ordinary courts could not judge him as it is for the people to decide.

Continue reading Malik Riaz ‘nabbed’ ? Dream Island crashes-X

SINDH – Class struggle vs national movement

By Khalique Junejo

Ideologically as well as strategically, the socialist movement and the struggles for national independence are considered to be natural allies against imperialism

Daily Times of March 3, 2013 carried an article “Bangladesh: past haunts the future” written by Lal Khan. The writer while discussing the current situation of Bangladesh arising out of the court verdicts against Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for war crimes of 1971, brings to the fore the old (though not obsolete) debate over the class question and nationalist movements, particularly in Pakistan. He links the roots of the current agitation with the bourgeois character and capitalist connections of the nationalist movement of Bengalis, particularly its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and concludes that “the real motive of these trials at this stage is to subvert the rising wave of a renewed class struggle.”

The article needs serious discussion. First we analyse the subject matter from a historical perspective and then apply it to the political progress of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The terms capitalism, secularism, nationalism and class struggle referred to in the article are the product of (Western) Europe. So let us have a look at the matter from that angle.

One thousand years (fifth to 15th century) of Europe’s history are described as the ‘Dark Ages’. During this period European society was dominated by three factors: feudalism, religion (Church) and the kingdoms established through military power. During the Renaissance these factors were challenged, and later on replaced, by three other facts, i.e. capitalism, secularism and nationalism (nation states). These factors put Europe on the path of progress that made it the leader of the world. This shows that capitalism accompanied by secularism and nationalism is a progressive phenomenon in comparison to the feudalism-dominated society and an unavoidable stage in the progress of human society.

Continue reading SINDH – Class struggle vs national movement

Making energy from waste : 25 MW Rachna Power Plant on the cards

LAHORE: National Industrial Parks (NIP) Development and Management Company has decided to establish a 25 megawatt (MW) power generation plant based on municipal and agro waste besides local coal or combination of these fuels for the electricity requirement of the industries at the Rachna Industrial Park on the main Lahore-Sheikhupura Road.

The Rachna Power Plant will be the first-ever power unit to be developed on the basis of waste as a source of energy. The plant’s primary fuel will be Refused Derive Fuel (RDF) prepared from a mixture of municipal solid wastes and agro wastes, while the coal would be used as a backup fuel.

The technology of an integrated recovery of recyclable materials and production of the refused derive fuel will be adopted for this power plant.

The concept of the modern waste to energy plant has been proposed for the Rachna Power Plant, which is very different from the old incinerators due to the technological progress of the last decade.

Chief Executive Officer Mohsin Syed at NIP meeting in which investors of the Rechna Industrial Park were also present said the municipal solid waste of Lahore and surrounding area and the agro wastes, which including rice husk, corn and wood waste of the adjoining areas would be collected and transported to recycle it into a real fuel that could be easily stored, transported and efficiently burned at the plant site within the premises of the Rachna Industrial Park.

He said the power generation complex was proposed to consist of one unit of 6 MW and two units of 11 MW each with total gross capacity of the 28 MW and the net capacity at site would be 25.5 MW to provide operational flexibility and reliability in case of shut down of one or more units.

The power generation facility would be located within the premises of the Rachna Industrial Park located at 7.5 kilometers (km) Lahore-Sheikhupura Road on the Upper Chenab Canal. The site is at the distance of 18 km from the

Lahore-Shekhupura Motorway Interchange, 24 km from the Lahore city centre and 40 km from the Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore and an area of 10 acres has already been earmarked for the power generation complex at the Rachna Industrial Park, the NIP chief explained.

Continue reading Making energy from waste : 25 MW Rachna Power Plant on the cards

Pakistan’s exports to India rise 27%

By India Blooms News Service

Delivering a key-note address at the two-day annual conference on ‘Normalising India-Pakistan trade’ being organised by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) here, Bansal said: “Consequent to the trade liberalisation measures, bilateral trade between the two countries increased from US$ 0.6 billion in 2004-05 to US$ 1.9 billion in 2011-12.”

“Between 2010-11 and 2011-12, Pakistan’s exports to India rose by 27% from US$ 333 million to US$ 422 million. Further, Pakistan’s exports to India during April 2012 to January 2013 registered a 50% increase over the same period in the previous year – to US$ 475 million from US$ 320 million,” he said.

The important items imported from Pakistan include dates, cement, woven cotton fabrics, petroleum oil, organic chemicals, and plastics.

Bansal said: “We are very happy to note that Pakistan’s market access to India has improved considerably- indicating that there are no non-tariff barriers. India has also reduced its sensitive list by 30%.

“There should not, however, be any room for complacency- we will have to continue to take trade facilitating measures that will increase imports from Pakistan to much greater heights.”

Bansal said as India and Pakistan move towards normalizing their bilateral trading regimes, there will be new trading opportunities for both countries.

“There is a large untapped trade potential between the two countries, and various estimates suggest that potential trade could vary between 0.5 to 20 times of actual trade.

“A large part of this has been taking place through informal channels – largely through third countries- and goes unaccounted for. But I am sure that as both countries move towards normal trade relations, with the removal of the trade barriers and the subsequent reduction of trade costs, a significant part of informal trade will shift to formal trade channels,” he said.

Continue reading Pakistan’s exports to India rise 27%