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Pakistan’s economy Plugging leaks, poking holes – Who will pay for Pakistan’s state?

PAKISTAN’S national poet, Muhammad Iqbal, believed the subcontinent’s Muslims needed to unite if they were to prosper. Without a strong sense of nationhood, he wrote, “mountains become straw and are blown away in the wind”.

Poetry and taxes do not often mix. But those melancholy lines grace an analysis of Pakistan’s fiscal plight by Ehtisham Ahmad of the London School of Economics. The country’s tax revenues have collapsed. Its debt is almost certainly unsustainable without outside help. And yet Pakistan does not pull together. “Textile lobbies, the urban gentry, traders and agriculturists, all point to the other and say: Tax that group first, but do not tax me,” Mr Ahmad writes.

The tax authorities can identify a mere 768,000 individuals who paid income tax last year. Even fewer—just 270,000—have paid something in each of the past three years. That is one reason why Pakistan’s tax revenues amounted to only 9.1% of GDP in the latest fiscal year, one of the lowest ratios in the world (see chart). These are exceedingly narrow shoulders on which to rest a nuclear-armed state of 180m people. The culture of cheating starts at the top. Most members of parliament, many of them conspicuously affluent, do not file tax returns.

In the months before an election, due by May, the government of President Asif Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is proposing a controversial remedy: an amnesty for evaders. They will be invited to wipe the slate clean with a one-off payment of only 40,000 rupees ($400). The government says it is a quick way to resuscitate the public finances and expand the tax net. Its critics see the amnesty as a boon for politically connected crooks.

Continue reading Pakistan’s economy Plugging leaks, poking holes – Who will pay for Pakistan’s state?

Forced Convergence and Killing of Hindus in Pakistan

– By Zulfiqar Halepoto, on behalf of the entire team of Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF)

We strongly condemn the brutal murder of 4 Sindhi Hindu doctors in their clinic in Chak town close to district Shikarpur, Sindh, Pakistan. Shikarpur by armed men of Bhayo tribe, a beradari. The head of Bhayo beradari is district president of PPP. First they tried to kidnap Sindhi Hindu girls and tried to forcibly convert them into Islam and when the Sindhi Hindu community took strong notice then the Bhayo tribe people did an ambush at the clinic and Dr Ashok, Dr Naresh, Dr Ajeet and Dr Satia Paul were killed by armed assailants while working in their clinic even on Eid day.

This is an inhuman, immoral and illegal brutality against those who serve the people as doctors and savors. This act is a black dot on the face of secular, progressive and tolerant identity of Sindhi society.

This is not the first time such an incident has taken place where members of Sindhi Hindu community have been targeted. What is of concern is that the law enforcement agencies tend to support the criminals involved in such acts.

Religious minorities, vulnerable groups and women are the victim of an ANTI-HUMAN mindset comprised of local feudals, tribal chief, religious extremists and local agencies. They collaborate with each other to weaken the state writ and to develop their own hegemony.

Their being in power have collapsed the entire law and order and justice systems and paralyzed the administrative institutions to demonstrate their duties. And subsequently there is no state writ in these areas. We appeal to the government, political parties and civil society to take notice of this brutality and religious fascism and specially government to make arrangements to protect the citizens.

First we appeal to President Asif Ali Zardari to immediately suspend PPP district Shikarpur president so-called sardar Bhayo, orders must immediately be issued to arrest him and all other culprits, who are exploiting local administration. We appeal Chief Justice of Pakistan to take Suo Motto of the targeting of Hindus in parts of Sindh.

Courtesy » Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, November 8, 2011.

Who is Aafia Siddiqui? Guantánamo files reveal her as top al-Qaida operative

Guantánamo files paint Aafia Siddiqui as top al-Qaida operative

Documents claim neuroscientist – jailed in US for attempted murder – aided al-Qaida bombing, poisoning and hijacking plots

by Declan Walsh in Islamabad

Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose case has become a flashpoint of Pakistani-American tensions, plotted to smuggle explosives into America and offered to manufacture biological weapons, according to the Guantánamo files.

The allegations are a combination of US intelligence analysis and direct testimony by at least three senior al-Qaida figures, including the 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. They cannot be independently corroborated and the testimonies were likely to have been extracted under conditions of torture.

Muhammad, known as KSM in intelligence circles, was waterboarded 183 times in the month after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003.

But several of the accounts do overlap, linking Siddiqui, a diminutive 39-year-old mother of three, with some of Osama bin Laden’s most senior lieutenants. They help explain why the FBI placed her on a list of the world’s seven most wanted al-Qaida fugitives in 2004.

Siddiqui disappeared from Karachi in March 2003 only to reappear five years later amid murky circumstances in Ghazni, central Afghanistan. There was an altercation in a police station and the US accused Siddiqui of trying to shoot two soldiers and two FBI agents.

She was sent to the US, tried and last year sentenced to 86 years’ jail. At home in Pakistan she became a cause célèbre widely viewed as an innocent victim of American injustice.

During the recent stand-off over Raymond Davis, the CIA spy who shot two people in Lahore, a chorus of Pakistani politicians demanded the US repatriate Siddiqui in exchange for the American.

The Guántanamo files offer a murky perspective, placing Siddiqui at the heart of an al-Qaida cell based in Karachi between 2002 and 2003. Emboldened by the success of the 9/11 attacks and led by KSM, the cell conspired to mount fresh attacks in the US, on Heathrow airport and inside Pakistan.

According to the files, the cell planned to smuggle explosives into America under the cover of textile exports – 20 and 40ft foot containers filled with women’s and children’s clothes. The explosives would be used to attack “economic targets” inside the US, according to KSM.

The operation would take place through an import-export business run by Saifullah Paracha, a Pakistani businessman who worked as a New York travel agent for 13 years before developing ties to Osama bin Laden. Paracha, 64, is currently in Guantánamo Bay.

According to Paracha’s file, Siddiqui’s role was to “rent houses and provide administrative support for the operation”. As part of this brief she travelled from Pakistan to the US in January 2003 to help renew the American travel papers of Majid Khan, a co-conspirator who had been ordered to bomb petrol stations and water treatment facilities in America.

According to Khan, he provided Siddiqui with money, photos and a completed application for an “asylum travel form” that “looked and functioned like a passport”.

Then, according to Khan’s file, “Siddiqui returned to the US and opened a post office box in detainee’s name, using her driver’s licence information”.

The plot collapsed after Khan was picked up in Pakistan and sent to Guantánamo. A co-conspirator in America, Uzair Paracha, was arrested in possession of the post box key.

Paracha, son of Saifullah Paracha, was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment in 2006; details of Siddiqui’s role in the plot surfaced during his trial.

Continue reading Who is Aafia Siddiqui? Guantánamo files reveal her as top al-Qaida operative

Capitalism’s tough reality for many Russians

By Rupert Wingfield Hayes, BBC News, Moscow

When the Soviet Union collapsed nearly 20 years ago, Russia emerged as an independent country that embraced capitalism but what has this meant for its citizens?

More than half a century ago Winston Churchill famously described Russia as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

It is an old cliche but not without truth. To this day, outsiders still find Russia very confusing.

I remember the day the Soviet Union began to fall apart.

By a strange twist of fate, I was sitting in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport waiting for a flight to London.

The terminal at Sheremetyevo said a lot about Russia then. It had been built for the 1980 Olympics but it was one of the most uninviting places I had ever been.

It was dark brown and smelled of industrial detergent. The officials wore granite expressions and ridiculous, oversized hats.

Of course I had no idea there had been a coup. It was a secret. Only when we touched down in London did I find out what was happening.

‘Forbidding’

It would be another 15 years before I would return to Moscow.

On a cold and wet November day, my wife and I drove through the streets of what was about to become our new home.

In those 15 years, Russia had changed enormously. …

Read more : BBC