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Friday, February 24, 2012

PTA likely to delay auction of 3G licences

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is expected to delay the auction of 3G licences after obtaining input of a consultant hired by the Authority to offer services for the auction of these licences.

A senior official of PTA on the condition of anonymity told this scribe that delay of the auction of 3 G licences, scheduled for March 29, is expected.

He said that the decision regarding the increase in the base price of 3 G licences for bidding from $210 to $291 million as per the recommendation of Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT) is not dependent on PTA alone.

An auction supervising committee was established by the government headed by Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance.
Federal Minister for Water and Power, Naveed Qamar and the Federal minister for Privatisation, Ghous Bux Khan Mahar are also members of this committee.

Any decision regarding the up-coming auction of 3G licences would be taken up by this committee in collaboration with PTA.
Senator Pervez Rashid, PML (N) while talking exclusively to Business Recorder said, "PTA has gone through strong criticism from some members of the Upper House on modalities of 3G auction.

It was the need of hour to hire a consultant to monitor the whole process of the action of 3G licences because the whole process needs to be transparent and free of corruption".
He maintained that the opposition wants a transparent auction of the 3G licences because it is a matter of national interest.

"During the recent meeting of the Standing Committee of IT, we have recommended the PTA to go for the auction of 3G licences only and the word or terms like 4G/LTE should not be used.

PTA should be limited to the auction of 3G only and the auction of 4G technology should be brought forward at any other time to make more money", the Senator said.
He added that the committee has also recommended the PTA to increase the base price of 3G licences from $210 million to $291 million to add maximum amount in the national exchequer.

"It has also been recommended in the committee that no defaulter will be able to participate in the bidding and the amount that would be received through auction should be in foreign currency not in Pakistani rupees.

All amount will be received within a period of 60 days", the Senator disclosed.
Pervez Rashid said that the 2G licences were being awarded under the base price of $290 million and according to PTA, the broadband capacity of 2G was more than the broadband capacity of 3 G.

That is why the base price of 3 G for bidding is less than that of 2 G.
Senator Haroon Akhtar Khan, PML (Like-minded) told this scribe that it was decided on the floor of the Upper House that all those senators who have already disapproved the government's plan to auction new telecom licences including 3G through bidding with base price of USD 210 million, would be invited in the Standing Committee of IT to discuss the issue of the auction of 3G licences but the committee did not invite him (Haroon Akhtar Khan) which is contrary to the decision taken by the Senate.
It is learnt that if any of the current mobile networks like Mobilink, Telenor and Warid etc would be awarded the 3G licence, it would be able to offer services immediately.

New entrants will not be allowed into the market until March 2013 due to an agreement not to offer any new radio spectrum when the government sold a 26% stake in the state-owned Pakistan Telecommunications Company in 2006 to Etisalat.

Source Business Recorder

Behind the buxom beauties and macho men

LAHORE: “Whatever the past had, it’s gone; the best is always yet to come,” states director Syed Noor. Despite having faced a slump last year due to box office failures coupled with regular bouts of illness, he says there is no looking back as he announced his upcoming films on the occasion of his 61st birthday at the Metropole cinema. Express

“People keep telling me to stop making Punjabi films,” said Noor, who revealed he has three films in the pipeline for the coming year. “I always say why shouldn’t I make Punjabi films?”

Noor, considered one of the best film-makers in Pakistan, has super-hits like Choorian, Jeeva and Deewane Tere Pyar Ke to his credit. However, with a slump in the overall film industry and the economy in general, the director faced many failures as well. Unswayed by these setbacks, he held on to his determination of keeping the Punjabi cinema alive and continued making films. “We had many problems and failures in the industry. I feel that made me sick in some ways,” said Noor, whose film Dane Pe Dane failed at the box-office in 2011. “After thinking long and hard about the issues the industry faces, I came to the conclusion that it’s important to show the industry in a positive light and until that happens, even good work will be overlooked.”


Shareeka, which will be directed and written by Noor, will star Shaan and Noor’s wife Saima, while Tariq Tafu will be doing the songwriting for the film. The story, which will revolve around six families, will be shot in Punjab. Without sharing too many details, the director said that the film, which he claims is a “fun comedy”, will be relatable to all families in the province. Noor further stated that aside from the two confirmed stars, he also plans to feature some new actors.

Meri Shaadi Karao

Speaking about his other venture, Meri Shaadi Karao, the director confirmed it will include Indian Punjabi Daler Mehndi’s son Gurdeep Singh in the lead role. The film, which is a co-production of Noor and Mehndi, is scheduled to be released in June this year. Noor is of the opinion that the Indian industry could be a good starting point and one can learn a lot from it. Shot in Dubai, the story will revolve around six characters: three Pakistani and three Indian. Also, the music will be produced by the likes of Arif Lohar amongst some Indian musicians. The director, however, has received mounting criticism for calling a ban of Indian films, while being involved in a Pak-Indian co-production. “As long as Indian films don’t damage our industry, I’m okay with them,” said Noor. However, he added, “Film exhibitors decide which film to play in their cinema and many refuse to play Pakistani films, which is unfair.”

Price of Honour

Additionally, the director confirmed that the private screenings of the issue-based film Price of Honour have started. The film, which he hopes to release in June, explores the issue of honour killings and violence faced by women in Pakistani society. “The subject of the film is sensitive so we are privately screening it to get a good idea of how people will react,” said Noor.
Popular Punjabi films

Majajan is a Pakistani Punjabi film directed by Syed Noor which was released across theatres in Pakistan in 2006. Majajan is a love story, inspired by the life of Baba Bulleh Shah and his ‘ishq’ with his ‘murshad’.

Maula Jatt
This is one of the most popular films in the history of Pakistani cinema. It is a Punjabi film starring actor Sultan Rahi in the lead role with Aasia and Mustafa Qureshi as the villain Noori Natt. Maula Jatt is a classic, a film that reached cult status in Pakistan.

Choorian is a Pakistani Punjabi film produced by Chaudhary Shahzad Ali and directed by Syed Noor. It’s a story about a city boy Bakhtu (Moammar Rana) who is in love with his uncle’s daughter Billo (Saima).


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Balochistan unrest created by Pakistan, not India

LAHORE: Condemning the Pakistani government for accusing India of creating unrest in Balochistan, Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) provincial president Shahzain Bugti said it was Pakistani intelligence agencies who were responsible for killings and kidnappings in the province. He said the government should name the Indians involved if it have any solid proof and if it had no proof it should stop “repeating India’s name like a parrot”. Express Talking to the media at Jamia Naeemia, where he reached to meet its head Dr Raghib Naeemi, Bugti gave eight-point demands to develop trust between Balochistan and Islamabad. He said without removing the trust deficit, there should be no All Parties Conference or any package for Balochistan. He said the federal government can restore the trust of Balochis within 72 hours. To achieve this, Bugti said General (r) Pervez Musharraf should be arrested in the Akbar Bugti murder case; military operation should be stopped and all forces should be withdrawn from Balochistan; controversial security posts should be abolished from Balochistan; the killing of innocent people should end; 13,000 missing persons of Balochistan should be traced; the role of intelligence agencies in Balochistan should come to a close; any Baloch being prevented from returning to their homes by intelligence agencies should be allowed to go back, and the responsible officials of intelligence agencies who carried out the attack on Chief of Baloch Republican Party Barahmdagh Bugti’s sister and niece on January 31 in Karachi should be arrested. Responding to a question, Bugti said his party had already rejected the ‘so called’ Balochistan package announced by the federal government. He said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had lied in saying that 80 per cent of work on the package had been completed. He added that he was not astonished at the passage of a resolution by US congress for the separation of Balochistan. Bugti said the Baloch rejected the APC as there is trust deficit between Balochistan and Islamabad. He said the media and the people of Pakistan should become aware of why Brahamdagh Bugti and other Baloch leaders are demanding a separate Balochistan. Bugti further said that no Baloch was involved in the killing of Punjabis in the province. He claimed the establishment was carrying out the killings in the province. He said an official of the intelligence agencies was arrested for attacking a Punjabi professor, but officials of Frontier Corps had him freed. He added that the federal government had established its plea to carry on its operation in the province by accusing India of creating the ongoing unrest. Regarding elections in the province, Bugti said the environement for fair elections did not exist in Balochistan. The role of agencies should be curtailed before the elections in Balochistan, he said. Jamia Naeemia head Dr Raghib Naeemi welcomed Bugti at his seminary. He said he had invited Bugti to express solidarity with Baloch in these trying times. He said he wanted to tell the Baloch that Punjabis are with them and they should struggle together towards resolving violence in Balochistan. On the other hand, soon after, The Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik offered to withdraw cases against Brahamdagh Bugti, Harbiyar Marri and other Baloch leaders if they were willing to return back to the country. Speaking to the media after a meeting on Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan, Malik said that there has to be a political solution to the Balochistan issue and that action needs to be taken to save the country. He added that he had asked Balochistan, Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) provincial president Shahzain Bugti and Bilal Bugti to choose their leaders whom the government would talk to, but nothing had transpired in this regard. Showing his discontent for those “who were never satisfied with the government” he said, “Where do we go? We are criticised whether we call an All Parties Conference (APC) or if we don’t”. “The APC, which is being called for the resolution of the Balochistan issue is now being opposed.”

India debates Tendulkar's one-day future

NEW DELHI: India’s cricket greats have begun talking about a topic that was considered unthinkable a year ago — Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from the sport. Express Or, at least, the need for the record-breaking batsman to quit one-day international cricket to prolong his Test career. The debate has intensified after Tendulkar’s contemporary Ricky Ponting was forced by Australia’s selectors to bow out of ODIs this week. Ponting retired from the shorter format after being dumped from the ongoing tri-series, but vowed to fight on in the Test side. Some want the Indian selectors to be just as ruthless and end Tendulkar’s one-day career. The Hindustan Times, discussing Ponting’s axeing, hoped that Indian cricket chiefs would learn from the “no-nonsense approach” shown by the Australian management. “Indian cricket set-up needs to take a cue from its Australian counterparts when it comes to pushing the seniors out,” the paper wrote. “If they have to take a tough call looking at the future of the team, the time is now.” Former World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev agrees that it is time to ponder hard choices for Tendulkar, despite the adulation the “Little Master” still commands across India. “Maybe his time has come,” Kapil said on the Headlines Today news channel. “Every player has his time. Age is not on his side as it was earlier.” Tendulkar, who turns 39 in April, is not only the world’s leading batsman in both the Test and one-day formats, but also the longest-serving international cricketer, having made his debut in 1989. Fans have been left on tenterhooks as Tendulkar, who has scored a record 51 Test and 48 one-day centuries, struggles to reach the unprecedented milestone of 100 international hundreds. His form has turned indifferent in the tri-series in Australia, where he has managed just 90 runs in five games at an average of 18. Former captain Sourav Ganguly, who played alongside Tendulkar from 1992 to 2008, said his old teammate’s decision to pick and choose one-day matches was costing India dear. “Sachin has to ask himself whether it’s helping him as a one-day player or if it’s helping the Indian team,” Ganguly told Headlines Today. “If Sachin can’t get an answer to these questions, he has to go.” Tendulkar, who has played a record 458 one-day internationals, has turned out in just 18 ODI matches in the past two years, including nine in India’s triumphant World Cup campaign in February-April 2011. He still managed to record the first double-century in ODIs — 200 not out against South Africa in February 2010 — and was the star in India’s World Cup win with 482 runs, second only to Sri Lankan Tillakaratne Dilshan’s 500. Ganguly dismissed batting legend Sunil Gavaskar’s suggestion that the selectors should talk to Tendulkar about his one-day future. “I don’t see any of the selectors stepping in,” Ganguly said. “They are not going to stand in front of Sachin Tendulkar and say ‘Listen little champ, you need to go’. That is never going to happen.” But the Hindu newspaper urged former players to lay off Tendulkar, saying the decision to quit or not should be left to him. “A lot has been said — especially by former sportspersons who themselves stayed on well beyond their use-by date — about Tendulkar’s ODI career,” it said. “Whatever the intentions, these gems of seemingly timely advice are clearly uncalled for. Sachin has served the country with exceptional pride and genius for far too long and he deserves the right to choose his own time of departure.” A poll published by the Times of India on Thursday said that 57 percent of 47,000 respondents wanted Tendulkar to quit one-day cricket and 41 percent urged him to continue. In the immediate future, Tendulkar has two opportunities to silence his critics — against Australia on Sunday and Sri Lanka next Tuesday — plus a possible best-of-three-finals, should India qualify.

Standings: Pakistan players slip up

The latest International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings do not present good news for Pakistan players with Umar Akmal dropping out of the top-10, falling to 13th position, while Misbahul Haq slipped three places to 29th. Express According to information provided by the ICC, the only Pakistan batsman to improve his ranking is Asad Shafiq who gained nine places to end 70th. Pakistan bowlers to drop their rankings include Mohammad Hafeez, who slipped from second to sixth position, and Afridi, who has dropped from 11th to 15th. In the team rankings Pakistan have slipped to sixth position, while England have moved into fifth.

Tribesmen in Miranshah protest US drone strikes

MIRANSHAH: Hundreds of armed tribesmen on Thursday rallied against US drone attacks in Miranshah, demanding compensation for damage and losses, witnesses said. AFP/Express Markets remained closed during the rally in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, the tribal district most frequently targeted by drone strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda militants. Up to 2,000 tribesmen gathered in Miranshah bazaar shouting “Death to America” and “Stop drone attacks in Pakistan” at the rally organised by Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI), witnesses said. “The United Nations should take notice of American drone strikes,” cleric Maulana Abul Rehman told the gathering. The crowd demanded an immediate end to drone attacks and compensation for those who lost relatives or property, as well as condemning this week’s burning of the Holy Quran at a US-run base in neighbouring Afghanistan. President Barack Obama last month confirmed for the first time that US drones target Taliban and al Qaeda militants on Pakistani soil, but American officials do not discuss details of the covert programme. According to an AFP tally, 45 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan’s tribal belt in 2009, the year Obama took office, 101 in 2010 and 64 in 2011. The programme has dramatically increased as the Obama administration looks to withdraw all foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Authored first draft of memo myself, says Mansoor Ijaz

ISLAMABAD: The judicial commission probing the Memogate scandal continued recording Mansoor Ijaz’s testimony today at Pakistan’s High Commission in London, DawnNews reported on Thursday. DawnNews During his testimony today, Ijaz admitted that he had prepared the first draft of the controversial memo himself without former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani’s consent. Former US General James Jones had asked for the message to be in written form, said Ijaz, adding that he had to author the first draft himself after he was unable to get hold of Haqqani. Claiming that he was a Muslim and reciting the first ‘kalma’ as evidence, Ijaz said that he was clearing any ambiguity Haqqani’s lawyer had raised on his religious background. Zahid Bukhari, counsel of former ambassador to US Husain Haqqani, said that media had misreported the statement regarding seeking US help for COAS removal. The court ordered the media to show responsibility in the matter and also instructed the media not to broadcast footage of the commission’s proceedings. The Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court, Justice Faiz Essa is leading the Memo Commission while Chief Justice Sindh High Court Mushir Alam and Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court, Hameed-ur-Rehman are the other two members of the commission.

Iran to buy Pakistani wheat: Iranian Minister

KARACHI: Iran will buy a large quantity of wheat from Pakistani for re-export to Central Asian countries after value addition. APP/DawnNews This was stated by the Deputy Commerce Minister of Iran, Abbas Qobadi while talking to President and members of Karachi Chamber of Commerce at a hurriedly convened meeting here Wednesday. Iranian Consul General Abbas Ali Abdollahi, Commercial Counsellor Syed Hasan Alavi, chairman Businessmen Group and former president KCCI Siraj Kassem Teli were also present on the occasion. He said that the decision to import wheat from Pakistan has been made at the meeting between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad this week. “I have come here to meet wheat exporters in private sector and buy large quantity of wheat from Pakistan. This will serve as the starting point for the beginning of large scale bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan”, he added. Qobadi said this wheat will be imported under private sector set up and payment will be settled either in local currency, through barter trade or using banking channels between the two countries. He said Iranian bank branches will be opened in Pakistan while Pakistani banks will establish their branches in Iran for boosting bilateral trade. “We can also buy this wheat and supply electricity or petroleum products to Pakistan under barter trade”, he added. Iranian Minister said that third option will be payment in local currencies instead of using the currencies of other countries. He said that the wheat milling capacity in Iran about 25 million metric tons per annum and only half of the capacity is utilized. “We will use Pakistani wheat to make quality floor, biscuits and other product for re-export to Central Asian countries”, he added. Responding to a suggestion, he said that other procedures including customs, quarantine and inspection of merchandise will be completed on urgent basis in the due course to facilitate bilateral trade through borders. He pointed out that Iran has shifted its focus in trade from west to regional and Islamic countries. “Iran can import agriculture products including food items and fruits from Pakistan while it can export energy, petroleum products and other items to Pakistan”, he noted. Qobadi said that sanctions could not affect Iranian international trade as its major trade partners in the world were European Union, Canada and USA. He said that top leadership of Iran and Pakistan has decided to expand bilateral trade in a big way during Islamabad meeting. We want to have a large trade block between Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan, he opined. In his welcome address KCCI president Mian Abrar Ahmed urged the Iranian minister to focus on regional trade and suggested to establish banking channels between Iran and Pakistan to boost bilateral trade between the two brotherly countries. Siraj Kassem Teli suggested constituting a body consisting private sector of Pakistan and Iran to expand trade.

Alleged WikiLeaks source Manning to be charged

FORT MEADE: Bradley Manning, the US soldier suspected of leaking a trove of secret military and diplomatic documents to the WikiLeaks website, was to be formally charged in a military court on Thursday. AFP/DawnNews The 24-year-old will be charged with 22 counts, the most serious being aiding the enemy, in a military hearing at a base north of Washington, DC. The judge will also set a date for the trial, expected in May. The baby-faced soldier is accused of passing hundreds of thousands of military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks between November 2009 and May 2010, when he was serving in Iraq. The leak of the military documents shed light on civilian deaths, while the diplomatic cables sparked a firestorm by disclosing the private remarks of heads of state and candid observations by senior US officials. The US government slammed the disclosure of the documents by WikiLeaks, saying it threatened national security and the lives of foreigners working with the military and US embassies. WikiLeaks supporters view the site as a whistleblower that exposed US wrongdoing and see Manning as a political prisoner. Manning faces life in prison if convicted in the military court-martial, he is expected to plead not guilty. Army investigators told last month’s hearing that contact information for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, military reports, cables and other classified material had been found on computers and storage devices used by Manning. Manning’s defense attorneys have portrayed him as suffering during his deployment near Baghdad from emotional problems stemming from his homosexuality, which his superiors did nothing to remedy. Jailed for more than a year and a half, Manning has complained of being placed in solitary confinement, of bullying by guards, and of being subjected to an overly restrictive regime at a US military prison near Washington. The Bradley Manning Support Network said earlier this month that Manning had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Icelandic parliament. It is not possible to verify who has been nominated for the awards. Assange has meanwhile been in Britain fighting an extradition order from authorities in Sweden, where he faces rape and sexual assault accusations. He has denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.

Plane crash in Lahore leaves two dead

LAHORE: A private two-seater plane apparently on a training flight, crashed into a house in Lahore on Thursday, killing the pilot and co-pilot, officials said. DawnNews Police said the aircraft came down in Lahore’s wealthy Model Town neighbourhood but that no one on the ground was hurt. Television footage showed the mangled wreck of a small white plane marked Hybrid Aviation. “A two-seater, private plane crashed. Two people were on board. We think one was the pilot and the second the co-pilot, both of them have died,” police official Maroof Safdar Wala told AFP. “It crashed on a house, but the residents are safe,” he added. Local resident Tahir Kardar, a retired colonel, told a local television channel that the pilot and co-pilot died. “Rescue people are here and they are trying to cut the bodies out of the plane,” he said.

War, neglect leave 500,000 Afghans homeless: Amnesty

KABUL: Half a million Afghans displaced by war have been left homeless and struggling to survive because of government and international neglect, Amnesty International said Thursday. AFP/DawnNews Around 400 people join makeshift shelters around the country every day, Amnesty said in a report entitled “Fleeing war, finding misery”, based on three years of research. The Afghan government estimates that more than 40 people froze to death this winter, the harshest in 15 years, with at least 28 children dying in camps around Kabul. The government is “not only looking the other way but even preventing help from reaching them” in an attempt to avoid making the settlements permanent, Amnesty researcher Horia Mosadiq said. “Local officials restrict aid efforts because they want to pretend that these people are going to go away. This is a largely hidden but horrific humanitarian and human rights crisis,” she said. The report calls on the government to remove conditions placed on humanitarian aid and on international donors to “ensure that their humanitarian assistance addresses the needs of internally displaced people”. Kabul alone houses up to 35,000 displaced persons in 30 slum areas around the city, according to the report. Slum residents told Amnesty that they had fled their homes to escape the escalating war which has seen the number of civilian deaths rise steadily to a record of more than 3,000 in 2011, according to UN figures. Most of the casualties are caused by Taliban insurgents, but many displaced Afghans told Amnesty that they fled their homes in fear of NATO bombardment and to avoid being used as human shields by the militants. NATO has some 130,000 troops in Afghanistan supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai against an insurgency led by remnants of the Islamist Taliban regime overthrown by a US-led invasion in 2001. “Afghans have real grounds to feel less secure now than at any point in the last 10 years,” said Mosadiq. “International and Afghan forces should address the impact of conflict on civilians, including displacement. The Taliban must also look to protect civilians, by ensuring humanitarian access to the areas they control.” Food is scarce in the camps and children in slum communities have little access to education, according to the report. “Since we came there is no assistance or anything; the family has not eaten anything for the past two days,” a camp dweller named Zarin told Amnesty. Most women give birth in difficult and unsanitary conditions without skilled attendants, increasing the risk of maternal and infant death in a country ranked among the world’s worst places for maternal health, the report said. With housing scarce and expensive in the main cities, families who flee the war construct makeshift dwellings from mud, poles, plywood and plastic sheeting that give them little protection from the cold in winter and heat in summer. “I don’t know which problem I should talk about, school, unemployment, not having proper housing, food, health, when my children are getting sick and I have to pay for the doctor, it’s everything,” said Fatima, a woman in her 20s living in a Kabul camp. The report calls on the government to protect displaced people against forced eviction, guarantee their children access to primary education and allow them to be issued with identity cards so they can exercise their legal rights. The head of the UN refugee agency Antonio Guterres told AFP this month that UNHCR was overhauling its strategy in a bid to stop returning Afghans from becoming destitute, and to focus on sustainable reintegration.

Talks on ties after parliamentary review, says US

WASHINGTON: The United States has once again stressed the need for Pakistan to conclude a parliamentary review of bilateral ties, publicly expressing its exasperation over the delay in finalising the process. DawnNews “We.. await the conclusion of that process so that we can have a consultation on the results with the Pakistani government,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said when asked if the US knew when the Pakistanis were going to conclude the review. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman, who left Washington on Tuesday to brief Pakistani officials and lawmakers on US views on the issue, is believed to have assured the Americans that this would be the first item on the parliament’s agenda after the Senate elections. “Both sides understand that parliamentary recommendations will set the parameters for rebuilding the ties and both wait for those recommendations before making any commitment,” Ms Rehman told Dawn before her departure. The Pakistani government plans to hold a joint parliamentary session for endorsing the recommendations soon after the Senate elections. A parliamentary committee, tasked with drafting the new strategy, is believed to have completed its recommendations. The recommendations will now be presented before a joint parliamentary session for endorsement and will then be sent to the Americans. Events in Pakistan pushed back efforts to finalise the recommendations by at least a month as Islamabad seemed reluctant to make any major move before the Senate elections. “Our sense from our contacts with the Pakistan government is that they are still trying to work through the issues, and we will be patient as they work through these things,” said Ms Nuland. Pakistan launched a parliamentary review of its relations with the United States after the Nov 26 Nato attack on military posts that killed 24 Pakistani personnel. The delay, however, has had a negative impact in Washington where US officials and lawmakers are both waiting eagerly to hear from Pakistan about its plans to rebuild ties with the United States. They have expressed their indignation in almost every meeting Pakistani officials and diplomats have had with them since the Nov 26 air strikes. By last week, they seemed so upset that they were reluctant to accept Pakistan’s request for a meeting between Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of a London conference, which begins on Thursday. Ms Rehman, who would assist the foreign minister at this meeting, had to work “very hard” to convince the Americans that the meeting would be useful for building a future relationship. The Americans, however, seem more interested in the parliamentary recommendations and that’s why diplomatic observers in Washington do not expect a major breakthrough in London. Meanwhile, Pakistan is expected to request Secretary Clinton to reconsider the use of drones for targeting militants in Fata because the strikes also kill a large number of innocent civilians. While the Americans may not agree to discontinue the drone attacks, the two sides may agree on giving Pakistan a greater say in operational matters. The Americans also have shown interest in sending a military officer and a civilian official, probably Ambassador Marc Grossman, with reconciliatory messages to Islamabad once both sides agree on an expected US apology. Mr Grossman, who postponed a visit to Islamabad last month on Pakistan’s request, is willing to make the visit this month but the delay in finalising the recommendations is also delaying his trip. “We fear that all these delays and postponements could do a damage that would be difficult to repair,” said a Pakistani diplomat who has accompanied Ms Rehman on more than two dozen visits she has made to Capitol Hill since coming to Washington. “The lawmakers are really upset. And further delays could really harm us,” said the diplomat, adding that “on each visit, we felt their positions had hardened a little more”. While the London meeting will allow both sides to sound each other on major issues, no major decision is expected in London as both sides are waiting for parliamentary recommendations.

Pakistan jets kill 15 Taliban militants

PESHAWAR: Pakistani jets bombed militant hideouts in a northwestern tribal area early Thursday, killing at least 15 Taliban insurgents, officials said. Reuters/DawnNews The jets targeted hideouts in the Upper Orakzai area and destroyed four compounds in the rugged terrain near the Afghan border. “Two war planes were sent to the area early this morning after reports from local intelligence sources that militants from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were hiding in the mountainous region,” a senior military officer told AFP. “The bombings targeted Khadizai, Samarbazar and Bermela areas and destroyed four hideouts,” he said adding that at least 15 militants were killed. Local security officials confirmed the air strikes and the casualties. Independent confirmation of the death toll was not immediately possible as the lawless tribal region is barred for journalists. Most of Upper Orakzai is in Taliban hands and is the scene of frequent clashes between security forces and Islamist militants while government troops are in control of its lower reaches. A similar air strike early this month left 20 militants dead, officials said. Pakistan’s seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with homegrown insurgents and are strongholds of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives. Militants have killed more than 4,800 people across Pakistan since government troops raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.

Iran forces kill four Jundallah members

TEHRAN: Security forces in Iran have killed four members of an armed militant group, Jundallah, in the southeast, the official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday. Four senior members of the group were killed in an ambush overseen by the intelligence ministry in Sistan-Baluchestan province, IRNA said. It added that a policeman was also killed in the gunfight. It did not provide further details. Jundallah (Army of God), whose leader Abdolmalek Rigi was hanged in June 2010, has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Iran for almost a decade. It has claimed a number of attacks against civilians and officials in the region. Overwhelmingly Shia, Iran has a significant Sunni ethnic Baloch population in Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iranian officials claim the group has received support from the intelligence services of the United States, Britain and Pakistan.

49 dead, hundreds injured in Argentina train crash

BUENOS AIRES: A packed commuter train slammed into a retaining wall at a railway terminus in Buenos Aires during rush hour on Wednesday, leaving at least 49 dead, 550 injured, and dozens trapped in the wreckage. “The train was full and the impact was tremendous,” a passenger identified only as Ezequiel told local television, adding that medics at the scene appeared overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. Witnesses said passengers were hurled on top of each other and knocked to the floor “in the blink of an eye”, some losing consciousness and others seriously injured. “Unfortunately, we must report that there are 49 dead in the accident,” including a child, police spokesman Nestor Rodriguez told a news conference. Civil defence officials said at least 550 people were injured in the crash, which witnesses said occurred after the train’s breaks failed as it was arriving at a station on the western outskirts of Buenos Aires. The toll surpassed the city’s last major rail disaster just five months ago when two trains and bus collided during rush hour, killing 11 people and injuring more than 200. A dozen ambulances were dispatched to the scene, and officials said many passengers had suffered multiple fractures and abrasions. At least 30 people were trapped in the twisted wreckage of the first and second cars of the train, Alberto Crescenti, the head of the city’s emergency services office, said. Transportation Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said the train entered the station at a speed of 20 kilometres (12 miles) an hour, and failed to stop, crashing into a retaining wall at the end of the track. “It was a very serious accident,” he said at a news conference. “Cars piled up on top of each other and one of them went six meters (yards) inside another car.” “People suffered contusions, but there are much more complex cases involving traumas of the thorax. There are people trapped alive in the cars.” Fire-fighters and rescue workers had to break through skylights in the train’s roofs to open a path to those trapped inside. “I felt the explosion of the crash. It was very loud. The train did not brake, I saw people hurt in their necks, arms, legs,” said Pedro Fuentes, a passenger. An investigation into the crash has been opened.

US pushed ahead with drone strikes despite Pakistani resistance

WASHINGTON: Shortly before the United States ended a two-month pause in missile strikes on militants in Pakistan last month, senior US officials telephoned their Pakistani counterparts and told them Washington would be resuming its covert drone program despite mounting objections in Islamabad. Reuters/Express Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who spoke with Pakistani officials shortly before the eight-week pause in the drone program ended, sources familiar with the issue said. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to his Pakistani counterpart General Ashfaq Kayani around the same time, the sources said, but a US defense official said the two men did not discuss drone strikes. The strike that followed on January 10, when US aircraft fired missiles at a home in the North Waziristan tribal area, was the first such attack since US aircraft, in a mishap that plunged bilateral ties into a tailspin, killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along remote border with Afghanistan. The November 26 border incident infuriated a vulnerable government in Islamabad and prompted Pakistani officials to signal, in more emphatic terms than they had previously, that they would no longer accept US drone strikes. That set the Obama administration up for yet another potential collision with Pakistan as it continues a controversial drone program that has become a centerpiece of US efforts to quash militancy there. The Pakistani border deaths, which Nato deemed an accident and a tragedy, prompted Pakistan to shut down an overland supply route that is key for Nato troops in Afghanistan and to force US personnel off an air base in southwest Pakistan that had been used to launch drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. In public, the US missile strikes are a frequent target of criticism for Pakistani politicians, who decry them as a violation of the country’s sovereignty. But in private, Pakistani leaders have long supported and even encouraged the strikes provided they steer clear of certain areas and targets. Yet even as both governments try to put the relationship back together, current and former US officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the Obama administration will not hesitate to continue the aerial strikes when targets and intelligence are sufficiently compelling. Trust deficit But the US officials also said they are unlikely to give Pakistan advance notice about drone strikes for the time being, given the lack of trust on both sides and what American officials describe as a track record in Pakistan of intelligence leaks allowing militants to get away before planned attacks are launched. However, drone operators might still use information from Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI to locate targets. The strikes have become central to President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy in Pakistan, where the United States has failed to persuade Islamabad to take stronger action against militants that have long stoked violence in Afghanistan. Many US officials complain that messages from Pakistan’s top leadership have been – and continue to be – inconsistent. There was no immediate comment from the White House or the State Department on the resumption of the strikes. The strikes may take on additional importance as the United States rushes to make military progress ahead of a looming deadline to withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan. Yet the drone program has also fueled simmering anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, heaping additional pressure on the weak civilian government and even on its powerful military, already buffeted by unusual public criticism after the unilateral US raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year. Following the November border incident, US officials insisted there was no formal decision to suspend drone strikes. Other strikes have followed the initial January 10 attack, including several reported to have killed senior militants including some reportedly affiliated with al Qaeda or the Pakistani Taliban. But US officials acknowledged that the strikes are likely to proceed at a lower rate in the immediate future, in part because of bilateral tensions and in part because launching the flights from neighboring Afghanistan has posed logistical and operational obstacles. While officials in Islamabad have signalled they are ready to repair ties to a certain extent, the drone strikes will be a major consideration as Pakistani lawmakers conclude a parliamentary review of ties with the United States. Sherry Rehman, the former information minister and human rights campaigner who last month became Islamabad’s new ambassador to the United States, suggested in her first address in Washington that the review and the low point following the border deaths offered a chance to improve US-Pakistani cooperation. “Critics of a strong US-Pakistan relationship are questioning its viability in both nations, yet I feel we can use this opportunity to re-set our relationship on a clearer, more stable footing,” she said last week during a speech at the US Institute of Peace. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who will meet Clinton in London on Thursday to try to repair damaged ties, said parliament was looking at “terms of re-engagement.” Rehman said better communication and more consistent messages from public officials was needed on both sides.

Gilani reaffirms commitment to peace with New Delhi

ISLAMABAD: Lauding the Indian prime minister’s peace efforts, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed hope that the ongoing peace process between Pakistan and India would lead to a resolution of issues that have bedevilled the relationship between the two neighbours. Express Speaking at a reception hosted in honour of an Indian parliamentary delegation headed by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar here at the Prime Minister House, Gilani added that Pakistan is committed to “result-oriented, constructive and productive engagement with India.” The Indian speaker, along with members of Indian parliament, is currently on a five-day visit to Pakistan on the invitation of her Pakistani counterpart Dr Fehmida Mirza. A statement issued by the PM House said that the Indian Lok Sabha speaker endorsed the view that all contentious issues between the two countries must be settled through dialogue. Separately, in an interview with a private television channel, Lok Sabha Speaker Kumar pointed out that “war is no solution to any problem and the two countries must shun the path of violence”. In his remarks, Gilani lauded Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his efforts to seek peace between the two countries. “I respect Dr Manmohan Singh from the bottom of my heart and I share his desire for peace,” said Gilani. He emphasised the need for India and Pakistan to work together to eliminate hunger, disease and poverty in the two countries. “We should think about the future of the people so they can have drinking water, health and education,” he said, adding that strong relations between parliaments of the two countries can prove to be vital. “Governments come and go but love of people remains and your visit will pave the way for strengthening relations between the people,” he told Kumar. In her other engagements of the day, the Indian speaker along with her delegation met the Pakistan-Indian Parliamentary Friendship Group (PFG). The maiden meeting of the Pakistan-India PFG with Indian parliamentarians was jointly chaired by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira and Indian Speaker Kumar herself. It was agreed that dialogue was the only way forward in addressing the contentious issues between the archrivals and peace was the only way to regional prosperity and harmony. In a gesture of goodwill, Kumar also planted a sapling of Mangolia Grandiflora in the lawn of the Parliament House along with National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida.

Brahamdagh solicits foreign intervention

QUETTA: Welcoming a recently tabled bill on Balochistan in the United States’ House of Representatives, Baloch Republican Party’s self-exiled chief Brahamdagh Bugti expressed his support on Wednesday for any and all foreign intervention in the province whether it be by the US, Nato or India. Express “America must intervene in Balochistan and stop the ethnic cleansing of Baloch people,” said thirty-year-old Brahamdagh, as reporters listened to his telephonic address at the Quetta Press Club. “We know that foreign countries have their personal interest but we must think of our greater interest.” A resolution was introduced on February 17 by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and co-sponsored by two other congressmen in the US House of Representatives, calling upon Pakistan to recognise the right to self-determination for the people of Balochistan. “The American resolution and committee formed for Balochistan is not against the sovereignty of Pakistan. Every country has the right to interfere or intervene [in another’s affairs] if there are state-sponsored human rights violations,” Brahamdagh said. He went on to highlight how Baloch women, political leaders, activists and students had been subjected to enforced disappearances and tortured for years, and how under such circumstances, any support from any foreign country would be welcomed. “We have been accused of getting support from India but the Baloch movement does not have any foreign support. However, we will welcome any support for independence.” Sceptical of mainstream politicians’ and media attention to Balochistan’s affairs, Brahamdagh who now lives in Switzerland said the change of heart was rooted in apprehensions over Punjab’s sovereignty. “Pakistani politicians like Nawaz Sharif are now visiting Balochistan and inquiring about the plight of Baloch people. There are discussions and talks on TV channels and print media in recent days about Balochistan. Because they are now worried about the sovereignty of Punjab and [want] to protect Punjab’s interest.” ‘No negotiations’ When asked about the All Parties Conference (APC) called by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani over the crisis in Balochistan, Brahamdagh said that Baloch nationalist leaders will not join negotiations. “On the one hand, they are calling an APC, while on the other they continue to brutally kill Baloch people and throw their bullet-riddled, mutilated bodies,” he said. He went on to call on Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi and Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani to also join the Baloch movement, leaving behind their “temporary” and “personal” interest. “If they do not want to join the movement, they should resign from office and sit quietly because the Baloch movement is nearing its destination. Efforts are being made to unify the rank of Baloch leaders.” When asked about the recent killing of his sister and niece in Karachi, Brahamdagh said that such brutalities will not compel him to withdraw or surrender from the struggle to a free Balochistan. He also lashed out at the ultra-conservative Difa-e-Pakistan Council, which has announced a public gathering on February 27 in solidarity with the Baloch people. “Where were they when Baloch women, children and youth were being picked up and brutally killed by security forces? There is no influence of Jihadi elements in Balochistan. These religious parties are backed by security agencies.” Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Balochistan chapter carried out a procession on Wednesday to protest against the US resolution on Balochistan. The rally led by PPP Provincial Minister Ali Madad Jatak culminated outside the Quetta Press Club.

Elusive Ijaz begins testimony from London

ISLAMABAD: Amidst vociferous opposition from former ambassador Husain Haqqani’s counsel, the elusive self-proclaimed whistle-blower in the Memogate scandal Mansoor Ijaz finally recorded his statement with a judicial commission on Wednesday, via a video link from the Pakistan High Commission in London. Reuters/Express Tribune Haqqani had offered the United States to conduct raids on Pakistani soil to capture or kill al Qaeda leadership – including Mullah Omer and Ayman al Zawahiri and Sirajuddin Haqqani – if the army and intelligence chiefs, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, were forced by the US to step down, Ijaz told the judicial commission. Haqqani had also offered full cooperation with the Indian government in capturing culprits involved in Mumbai attacks under a new national security team palatable to the US, Ijaz told the commission chaired by Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The other two members of the commission – Sindh High Court Chief Justice Musheer Alam and Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman – were also present at the virtual hearing. Counsel’s objections Haqqani’s counsel, Zahid Bukhari, objected to the video link, saying he wanted to be in London to cross-examine Ijaz during the process of recording his statement. Since the British High Commission returned his passport late Tuesday evening, Bukhari said he could not depart for London. The commission, however, dismissed the objection and asked Bukhari to travel to London whenever he wishes to. Bukhari then objected to Ijaz reading his witness statement, at which the commission asked the latter to deliver it verbally. I cannot recollect the exact dates and BlackBerry messages without the testimony in front of me, Ijaz said. Justice Isa asked him to state whatever was in his mind, and that he would be allowed to consult his testimony for accurate answers at the stage of cross examination. Bukhari, however, was relentless. “Look at him playing with his phone set. This is no way to record a witness statement,” he exclaimed. The commission’s head then asked the secretary in London, Raja Jawad Abbas, to sit next to Ijaz and verify the messages on his mobile phone. Ijaz’s testimony Ijaz said that Haqqani first contacted him via SMS on May 3, a day after the Abbottabad raid, but that message had no relevance to the memo that eventually became the cause of the controversy. Haqqani subsequently messaged him again on May 9. When he called Haqqani after an exchange of a series of BlackBerry messages, Ijaz said the former envoy to the US was stressed, nervous, and sought his help to deliver a message to the then US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen to force the army and ISI chiefs to step down. “The Army wants to bring the government down,” Ijaz quoted Haqqani as saying. Why did Haqqani need Ijaz to do this for him? The former said it was impossible, in his official position, to get such a message to the Americans without risking the possibility of detection by ISI or military officers at the embassy in Washington, Ijaz said. Haqqani believed Ijaz was “plausibly deniable” as a channel, and that no one would believe it if the exchange was made public. Ijaz said he subsequently contacted General James Jones on Haqqani’s request. Gen Jones said he would not consider taking any message to Admiral Mullen if it was not in writing, and insisted on having a higher political authority than Haqqani, Ijaz added. He continued but the commission adjourned hearing until 11 am on Thursday (today). The commission will first decide three applications, filed by Haqqani’s counsel, against Ijaz’s right to record his statement. The hearing will resume at 2 pm. Retrieving the data Before the hearing was adjourned, Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq informed the commission that BlackBerry’s manufacturer, Research in Motion (RiM), has turned down the request to provide Ijaz and Haqqani’s data once again. Despite giving a waiver, RiM cannot provide the data because it only maintains record for three months, Ijaz said. The data can only be retrieved forensically from his handsets and he is willing to hand them over to a forensic expert appointed by the commission, Ijaz added.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Imran denounced US resolution on Balochistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday condemned the resolution on Balochistan presented in the House of Representatives in the United States and termed it as a breach on Pakistan’s sovereignty, DawnNews reported. “The All party conference (APC) on the issue of Balochistan would turn out to be as futile as the other APCs have been in the past,” PTI press release stated. Khan further said that if baloch leaders are also part of this conference then his party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) would decide about attending the conference. “The present government is neither able nor willing to solve the Balochistan issue,” PTI chairman added.

Navy receives US surveillance aircraft

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani navy took delivery Tuesday of two state-of-the-art, US-made surveillance aircraft nine months after militants destroyed two similar planes, officials said. DawnNews Pakistan said the P3C aircraft, modified with the latest avionics, are designed to improve surveillance in the North Arabian sea, one of the world’s most important shipping routes deeply troubled by Somali piracy. “The two aircraft have been delivered to the Pakistan navy. These aircraft have been provided under the foreign military funding programme,” a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad, told AFP. The navy said the aircraft would help “maintain requisite vigil in our vital area of interest in the North Arabian Sea”, which it said was “home to intense maritime activity both legal and illegal and thus warrants continuous guard”. Pakistan is to receive six P3C aircraft from the United States in three batches. The first two, received in 2010, were destroyed during a 17-hour siege of a key naval base in Karachi last May blamed on the Taliban.

Japan wants to cement trade ties, says envoy

PESHAWAR: Japanese Ambassador to Pakistan Hiroshi Oe said that his government intends to boost trade ties with Pakistan, while talking to the media at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KPCCI). Express On the occasion, the envoy stressed that his perceptions about Peshawar had changed completely after visiting the city. “Japanese companies were not investing in K-P due to security concerns; however, things seem to have improved now,” he said. Hiroshi thanked the Pakistani government for having extended valuable help during the recent Tsunami disaster in Japan. He asserted that the Japanese government will ensure that the process of issuance of business visas for Pakistani traders is made more convenient. The ambassador added that his government intends to carry out rural development projects worth Rs1 million in the province.

Hashmi calls for judicial activism in Balochistan case

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Javed Hashmi said on Tuesday said that security and intelligence agencies are responsible for the deteriorating situation of Balochistan, DawnNews reported. DawnNews Addressing the families of the missing persons, who have set up the camps outside the parliament house, Hashmi said that societies cannot be governed through violence. “If security and intelligence agencies co operate and release the missing people, only then, this country could be saved, “PTI leader said. “Now that the human rights issue in Pakistan is being raised internationally, a judicial activism should be launched to deal with this case.” Hashmi added. He also announced that PTI chief Imran Khan would visit the camps very soon.

NGO partners with Japanese on vocational training

KARACHI: The Consulate General of Japan, Karachi, has extended a grant worth $101,007 (Rs8.6 million) to an NGO, Starfish Karachi, to help it construct the Starfish Vocational Training Centre at SITE town. PPI/Express Consul General Masaharu Sato and Starfish Karachi chairman Anser Javed completed the formalities at the Japan Culture Center on Monday. The proposed vocational centre will provide training courses in seven different areas and is expected to train 210 people every year. Sato said that after completing these courses, graduates will be able to find proper technical jobs, which will in turn improve their livelihoods.
KARACHI: It seems as though not much has been achieved in the Benazir Bhutto murder case as Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Tuesday not only admitted that planners of the murder are still at large, but also insisted that more time is required to collect further evidence. DawnNews Malik shared this and other details of the investigation of the former prime minister and Pakistan People’s Party chairperson’s murder case while briefing the Sindh Assembly session. He blamed Baitullah Mehsud, the Haqqani network and the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for planning the murder and said 27 terrorist groups helped in executing the plan. Malik and the Chief of Joint Investigation Team Khalid Qureshi gave a detail presentation with the help of audio/video footage, showing the suspects involved in the case. The Sindh lawmakers were told that the conspiracy was hatched in Fata and funds for the purpose also came from the same region. The session was told that al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations had made Bhutto their target since a long time. Malik said several suspects were arrested during the investigation and 13 were being prosecuted. He accused former president Pervez Musharraf for not providing adequate security to the former prime minister He said that the government had decided to bring back Musharraf to the country and for this purpose red warrants would be issued through the Interpol. A legal expert said Interpol, an international police organisation, has the right to detain Musharraf and hand him over to Pakistan if it chooses to issue a warrant. The interior minister further revealed that Khalid Shiekh Mohammad and his brother conspired to assassinate Ms Bhutto. “The government is trying hard to reach the bottom of the case,” he said, expressing hope that the culprits will be brought to justice soon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

PTI calls for early elections

MULTAN: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) has once again called for an early general elections, alleging that the PPP-led government had completely failed in running the system. DawnNews Leaders of the PTI Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jawed Hashmi held a combined press conference here on Monday. Qureshi termed the resolution on Balochistan tabled in the US congress this week a conspiracy against Pakistan and said that it could damage the country if not fully encountered. Meanwhile, Hashmi said that people are supporting the PTI and time has come to bring change in the country. He said that all opposition parties had assured him their full support in the last presidential election but Nawaz Sharif was not in favour of nominating him as a presidential candidate against Zardari Ali Zardari.

The 82-year-old Olympian who drives a rickshaw

LAHORE: Former cyclist Mohammad Ashiq has shaken hands with prime ministers, competed at two Olympic Games and won several medals at home and abroad, including a silver medal at the Asian Games. He now drives a rickshaw and struggles to keep the wheels of his life turning. A message is plastered across the canopy of his vehicle: “Those nations that do not respect their heroes never prosper.” Ashiq’s international career started in 1958 when he won a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Tokyo. After that he was selected twice for the Olympics and then the Asian games again, where he won a silver medal. “I used to be a boxer and took part in many national tournaments but one day my wife complained to me about the constant bruises I had due to my sports, and asked me to leave that and do something else. I decided to go into cycling,” he says. How different the 1950s were: Ashiq bought a cycle for twenty rupees. He started practicing on his own but one day his employers, Pakistan Railways, asked him to represent them in a national championship and he won. From then onwards, he was invited to many cycling events in Pakistan and later around the world. Even though his cycling career was successful, his professional career came to a halt when he was let go by Pakistan Railways. “My manager wanted me to lose an event because his nephew was competing in it,” he says. He refused and was then fired, and since he was not a permanent employee, he did not get a pension, despite serving for the organisation for more than twenty years. Even after he lost his job, he went on to participate in many games. In Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure, he was invited by the prime minister to receive an award. He shows a picture of this, one which is also printed on the back of his rickshaw. However, after Ashiq stopped participating, the invites stopped coming. He thought he could get a job as a trainer but says he did not have the right connections. Nevertheless with the little money he had saved over the years, he bought himself a bus and hired a driver for it. Luckily he had a home back then but that was sold after his bus had an accident. “I had to sell my house to meet my expenses, and get my daughters married, and the only thing I own now is this rickshaw,” Ashiq says. He bought the rickshaw ten years ago through a bank loan which he only paid off recently. Ashiq, now 82, lives with his wife and his grandson in a rented house in Samanabad, a neighborhood that has a labyrinth of homes stacked too close for comfort. His son died recently of dengue, and the mother left the child with them. “I have to take care of another child at this age; people of my age are either bed-ridden or have died. But I continue to work to earn a living, even though I cannot walk properly.” He shows his legs which he oils everyday and wraps in bandages to give him some respite from pain. “I hand-delivered letters at the Chief Minister House, and have even posted numerous letters to the prime minister to help me, but no one ever responds,” he says while showing the copies of the letters he has sent, which include simple demands. “All I want from the government is to give me a pension at least from the Railways if nothing else. They keep announcing housing schemes for the poor … can’t I get a house to live in too? I was a national hero for this country,” he says, more in hope than expectation. Courtesy by Express Tribune.

Afghans say 41 child suicide bombers rescued

KABUL: The Afghan government said Monday that police had rescued 41 children from becoming suicide bombers as they were about to be smuggled across the mountains into Pakistan. DawnNews Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a news conference that the children aged six to 11 had been released on February 15 from the clutches of four insurgents in eastern Kunar province. He told AFP their families “were fooled by terrorists”, who promised to send them to seminaries in Pakistan where they would be “brainwashed” and “prepared for suicide bombings against Afghan and international troops in Afghanistan”. Police arrested the four suspects and the children were returned to their families, the spokesman said. On February 12, Afghan authorities announced the arrest of two 10-year-old would-be suicide bombers allegedly planning to attack Afghan and international forces in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace. They had been reportedly released last August, along with 18 other children, after receiving a pardon from Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

FO summons acting US ambassador over Balochistan bill

ISLAMABAD: US Charge d’ Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoaglan was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday and a strong protest was lodged with him with regard to the tabling of a resolution on Balochistan in the US Congress. Express Ambassador Hoagland was told in clear terms that the move in the US Congress was contrary to the spirit of friendly relations and violates the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the recognised norms of inter-state conduct. He was asked to convey the serious concern of the Government of Pakistan to the US Administration, said a statement of the Foreign Office. The motion, which had been moved by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and co-sponsored by House Representatives Louie Gohmert and Steve King, highlights Balochistan’s troubled past with the centre after the creation of Pakistan and calls upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right to self determination. Today, a resolution was also filed in the Punjab Assembly secretariat to condemn the US bill on Balochistan and demanded that US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter be summoned in the house for an explanation.

Senior ISI official ordered to appear in missing person case

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Monday, directed the Inter Services Intelligence (IS) chief to ensure presence of an army major before it on next hearing in a missing person case. DawnNews Justice Anwarul Haq Qureshi wanted Major Tariq to appear before the court in a case of two missing doctors, who were said to be associated with a banned outfit. Families of Doctor Qayyum and Doctor Waheed had filed a petition with the court and said the two went missing from Rahim Yar Khan last August. The major had allegedly kept the two under detention in the intelligence agency’s office located in Sector G-9 in Islamabad. The court had adjourned the hearing of the case until March 14

French development agency to assist construction of Munda Dam

LAHORE: A three-member delegation of French development agency – Agence Francaise de Development (AFD), headed by Country Director Nicolas Fomage visited Munda Dam project site on Monday. Express The site is located in Mohmand Agency of the Federally Administered Area (FATA). Speaking on the occasion, the AFD Country Director said that Munda Dam Project would go a long way for socio-economic uplift of the country, particularly Mohmand Agency and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. He said that AFD was exploring ways to join the project and become a partner. The delegation also exchanged views with the local tribesmen, who hosted the guests at the site. Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) Project General Manager (North) Rashid Ali Khan Bangash, Planning and Design General Manager Irshad Ahmad, Mohmand Agency political agent Adil Siddiq accompanied Fomage during the visit. AFD has shown interest in providing financial assistance for design as well as construction of the project, and the case was forwarded to AFD Board of Directors for formal approval. Wapda has prioritised Munda Dam construction in the wake of devastation caused by recent floods in the country. Around Rs611.5 million worth consultancy agreement for preparation of detailed engineering design and tender documents was signed recently and after the completion of detailed engineering design in two years time, the project will enter its construction phase. Munda Dam will be a multipurpose project that would help control floods, ensure availability of water for agriculture and provide low-cost hydel electricity. The project, on completion, will store 1.29 million acre feet of water and generate 740 megawatt hydropower, thus contributing 2400 million units of low-cost electricity to the national grid annually. Most importantly, the project is vital to protect Charsadda and Nowshera from floods. The dam will store 300 million cubic meter water of River Swat, restricting its flow to River Kabul.

Lawyers, lawmakers break laws at toll plaza

LAHORE: The National Logistic Cell management is facing lots of problems in collecting toll tax from motorists, particularly lawyers and politicians, at Kala Shah Kaku Toll Plaza inaugurated by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Feb 3 after winding up the Ravi Toll Plaza. DawnNews Officials told Dawn on Sunday that the inadequate administrative and logistic arrangements made by the contractor were also causing problems for the staff in collecting tax from commuters. “Although we have made the new toll plaza functional, motorists, mainly lawyers, are giving a tough time to the staff deputed for getting toll tax,” NLC official Gulzar Hussain Shah told Dawn. He said most of the politicians passing through the toll plaza also refused to pay the tax. He said the lawyers’ community had also dragged the contractor and the NLC management in a civil suit, challenging the establishment of the toll plaza at Kala Shah Kaku. He said the shifting of the Ravi Toll Plaza to Kala Shah Kaku had inflicted a heavy financial loss to the contractor because of diversion of various roads from a stretch of Ravi bridge to Kala Shah Kaku. “Previously the daily revenue at Ravi Toll Plaza was around Rs1.5 million which has reduced to Rs1 million. The drastic cut in the revenue and denial of toll tax by certain groups has disappointed the contractor. The situation has forced the contractor to avoid making further investment in ensuring sufficient logistic and administrative arrangements,” the official said. He said the Ravi toll plaza was shifted in haste without completing the required arrangements which was causing difficulties for the authorities concerned.The official sought government’s help in convincing the lawyers and politicians to pay the tax regularly at the newly-established toll plaza.

No talks unless military kicked out, say Baloch leaders

LAHORE: There’s an increasing sense of urgency about Balochistan on the political stage, and as the violence continues, the conditions for negotiations continue to get more stringent. Express In a recent meeting with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan, Baloch nationalist leaders sent out a clear message. It’s a zero sum game now: Unless the military is kicked out of the province and abductions of Baloch people allegedly by the intelligence agencies come to an end, all other measures to address the province’s concerns will fall flat. The PTI chief met former Balochistan Chief Minister Sardar Akhtar Mengal and exiled Baloch nationalist Harbiyar Marri in a bid to appease the province’s leaders and formulate a strategy to address Balochistan’s grievances. After the meeting, Khan said such a strategy would be outlined soon. The nationalist leaders, however, remain understandably cautious. “Baloch leaders told Imran Khan that, in the presence of military and intelligence agencies on the soil of Balochistan, there cannot be any meaningful dialogue or discussion on the issue,” said a source privy to the meetings. On the other hand, it appears that Imran remains one of the few political leaders that the nationalist leaders are still willing to talk to. “Mengal, Marri and other leaders conveyed to Imran that … the PTI chairman was amongst those leaders where the trust deficit was at a minimum,” the source added. The meeting also seems to have spurred Imran to switch his party’s focus from corruption to the Balochistan issue. It is important to note that PTI’s next rally is scheduled to take place in Quetta. Taking his party members into confidence over his meeting with the Baloch leaders, Imran is quoted to have said that the matter should become the number one priority for PTI, adding that the issue is seriously threatening national integrity. He directed the party’s think-tank to come up with meaningful proposals on Balochistan, which will be made part of the PTI’s upcoming manifesto. One of the more radical proposals on the table is to shift the federal capital and government to Quetta in order to enable massive and quick development. However, the source added a caveat. According to the source, Imran could not assure the Baloch leaders if he could a play a role in addressing the grievances raised by them at the meeting. In April, the source added, the PTI will hold a public meeting in Quetta where it will announce “complete solidarity with the Baloch people and unveil their strategy on the issue of Balochistan”. “The party is gearing up for the rally and it will be a symbol of national integration as many Baloch leaders will be invited,” said the source. Imran, however, will be addressing a crowd tough to please. “At the moment, even moderate Pashtun like Mahmood Achakzai are hard to convince. (The leaders) want to talk to Imran Khan but only if he can guarantee the withdrawal of troops from Balochistan,” the source emphasised once again.

Karzai tells Americans: don’t talk to Taliban ‘on our behalf’

ISLAMABAD: Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have struggled in Pakistan to get the desired support for reconciliation with the Taliban, but his trip revealed that he was not on the same page with the Americans about their peace efforts despite having endorsed the establishment of group’s office in Qatar. DawnNews “Americans cannot negotiate on our behalf with the Taliban and with us on behalf of the Taliban,” President Karzai, who was visibly uneasy with the Qatar initiative, told a group of journalists. He was quick to clarify his government’s withdrawal of objection to the Taliban setting up their liaison office. “We only and only agreed to the establishment of office of the Taliban in Qatar. … Venue of talks, actual talks between us and Taliban, should be something we decide. Our preference is Saudi Arabia or Turkey.” Mr Karzai’s statement and what he portrayed as “intellectually candid” discussion with the Pakistani delegation at the bilateral meeting (that was seen by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as “hard talk”) reflect a serious disconnect between the stakeholders in the Afghan peace process and growing frustration in Kabul about not being meaningfully involved by the US in the process and Pakistan supposedly not delivering the Taliban leaders for peace talks. The Taliban, meanwhile, haven’t unambiguously indicated their willingness to participate in the peace process. Apparently the scenario looks confusing and it’s unclear how the process would go ahead despite the excitement about Qatar office. President Karzai’s vision of an Afghan led reconciliation is one in which his government and the Taliban sit face to face and “talk in an environment of clear and absolute transparency where the entire Afghan nation can see the process unfolding and where Afghanistan can have certain conditions”. But, at the same time he sees a “negotiation table on which US and Pakistan are also present” alongside the Taliban and his government. Pakistan has all along held that it would support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. And the same sense came out from the trilateral summit where presidents of Pakistan and Iran while reiterating their support for reconciliation underscored that “any initiative in this regard must have authentic Afghan ownership”. The question that drove most of the onlookers hazy was that what is the problem with Pakistan when Karzai is talking about an Afghan-owned process in which he is ready to guarantee a role for it. Foreign Minister Hina Khar had earlier dismissed Afghanistan’s expectations of delivering top Taliban leadership for talks as ridiculous and unrealistic. Pakistan has always rejected the claim that Mullah Omar or other senior insurgency leaders are based in its territory. A senior foreign ministry official, speaking on the background with Dawn, provided an insight into Pakistan’s approach towards the reconciliation process. “Our commitment is for the process, it is for Afghanistan, but definitely not for an individual per se,” the official said and added that President Karzai’s personal ambitions can become problem. He said that Karzai was striving to remain relevant to the process through his statements and actions. It appears that Pakistan has its eyes fixed on post-2014 situation whereby Nato would, as per its commitment, have completed its drawdown and an unclear future for Mr Karzai, who wouldn’t be able to run for another term after completing two tenures. Under this emerging setting Mr Karzai has expanded his contacts beyond the government in Islamabad and has engaged with political and religious leaders, who he thinks could be helpful to him. Starting with meetings with Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-F and PML-N after his arrival, the Afghan president stayed for an extra day after the conclusion of the trilateral summit and met with JUI-S chief and Taliban’s ‘spiritual leader’ Maulana Samiul Haq, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain, ANP delegation led by Haji Adeel, PPP-S leader Aftab Sherpao and PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai. The common strand in all these meetings was a plea for support to the reconciliation efforts and stopping Taliban insurgents from using Pakistani soil for attacks against Afghanistan. “He asked us to assist him in his peace efforts and emphasised that forces creating problems should be controlled,” ANP’s Haji Adeel said after the meeting. Maulana Samiul Haq, from whose seminary most of the Taliban leaders have graduated, said Mr Karzai asked him to mediate. He said he asked him to put up concrete plan and serious agenda for peace.

‘Most Favoured Nation’ not same as ‘most friendly’ nation

PIR JO GOTH: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday said that granting a country the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) status was not the same as declaring it the most “friendly” nation, DawnNews reported. DawnNews Speaking to reporters after condoling with Pir Pagara VIII upon the demise of his father, PM Gilani said that many other countries had also been declared most favoured nations in the past. Gilani said that the government would consider Pakistan’s interests while trading with India, as it is a step towards better trade relations with the neighbouring country. The prime minister said that, in his opinion, the government should be given a chance to complete its tenure. He further said that Afghan people hold the solution for the Afghan crisis. When asked a question about the contempt of court case against him, he declined to give an answer, saying that only his lawyer could answer questions related to the case. Gilani added that the government had decided to call an ‘All Parties Conference’ to dicsuss the Balochistan issue.

Top US commander says attacking Iran would be ‘premature’

WASHINGTON: The top US military commander said he believed it would be “premature” to take military action against Iran in response to its nuclear program in an interview to be aired Sunday. AFP/DawnNews General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program that economic sanctions have to be given a chance to work, and the United States and its allies should be better prepared for a military option. “I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us,” Dempsey said, according to excerpts of the interview released by CNN. “I think that the economic sanctions and the international cooperation that we’ve been able to gather around sanctions is beginning to have an effect,” he added. In recent weeks, there has been feverish speculation that Israel was getting closer to mounting a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but Israel has denied reaching such a decision. Tensions between Iran and Israel have also been simmering with Iranian warships entering the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in a show of “might”, a move Israel said it would closely monitor. The United States, other Western powers and Israel believe that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran denies the charge, insisting its atomic program is for purely peaceful purposes. Iran said last week it was ready to resume stalled talks on its nuclear drive, prompting a cautious welcome from the United States and the European Union. Dempsey said he believed that “diplomacy is having an effect” and suggested that even if the West opted for a military solution, it had to be better prepared for such a step. “I mean, fundamentally, we have to be prepared,” he said. “And that includes, for the most part, at this point, being prepared defensively.” Asked if Iranian leader were acting rationally, the US military commander said: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. And it’s for that reason, I think, that we think the current path we’re on is the most prudent path at this point.”

ECP mulls using EVMs to ensure transparency in elections

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to explore the possibility of using electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the elections to make the poll process more transparent, an official of the ECP said. APP/DawnNews Talking to APP, he said the EVMs system will be introduced initially in any by elections as a pilot project. The system would be expanded gradually. For general elections around 150,000 EVMs are needed. Around 175,000 polling booths currently required for general elections in the country. In the election reforms recommendations, he said some political parties had suggested to the ECP to introduce an electronic voting system in the country to make the voting process more transparent and easier. He said, over the last two years, the ECP has been working in assessing the feasibility of introducing EVMs in country and significant progress has been made on feasibility study as compared to India where it took 22 years to be finalized. He claimed that major political parties, including Pakistan Peoples Party and some civil society organisations are working on ensuring transparency in the electoral process. An EVM Committee have also been constituted with the objective of conducting a feasibility study on the use of new technologies for voting and the counting, in order to determine whether these technologies are suitable for introduction Pakistan, he said.

11 accomplices of Dr Afridi suspended from duties

At least 11 accomplices of Dr Shakil Afridi, who was accused of helping the US track down former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, were suspended from their duties on Sunday, reported Express News. Express The suspended people include a medical officer and some lady health workers. Details of the names’ list is being kept secret, according to the Express News correspondent. Last year, British newspaper The Guardian reported that the CIA launched a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad to gather the DNA information of Bin Laden’s family. It said that Khyber Agency Surgeon Dr Afridi, under the pretext of a private polio vaccination campaign, launched a CIA programme to trace the al Qaeda leader in Abbottabad. Action was initiated against him and some other provincial health department officials for running a fake polio vaccine campaign.