Posts Tagged ‘ Yousuf Raza Gilani ’

Weeping Relatives Demand Pakistan Crash Answers

As Reported by Agence France Presse

Dozens of coffins lined a hallway at Islamabad’s main hospital on Saturday as weeping relatives of the victims of the Bhoja Air plane crash slammed the authorities for the disaster.

All 127 people on board perished when the Boeing 737 from Karachi crashed and burst into flames as it attempted to land at Islamabad airport in bad weather on Friday evening.

The plane was smashed to pieces by the impact of the crash, with wreckage and human limbs strewn over a wide area of farmland on the outskirts of the Pakistani capital.

Staff at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), their faces covered with masks, sprayed air freshener to mask the smell of burnt flesh in the room where the remains lay.

Some remains were no more than body parts, kept on stretchers and covered by white sheets.

The disaster is the city’s second major plane crash in less than two years — an Airblue plane came down in bad weather in July 2010, killing 152 — and victims’ families voiced fury at the authorities.

A visibly dejected woman identifying herself as Mrs Hassan, 45, said she had come to collect the body of her 45-year old cousin Mohammad Yunus, a Muslim scholar who had been running a madrassa (Islamic seminary) in Karachi.

“We could not get the full body. We recognized his hand and hair along with his jacket,” she said.

“It’s sheer incompetence of the government. This is the second major accident here in less than two years but the president and the prime minister remain unmoved.

“If the weather was bad why they did not warn the pilot. Why did they allow the plane to land?”

Abdul Raoof, 55, said he had come for the body of his cousin Ghulam Farooq, 45, who worked for the State Life Insurance Corporation in Islamabad.

“We have been roaming here since early morning. We go inside the mortuary and return in depression after seeing body parts and severed limbs lying there.

“We wait, get impatient and then go inside again only to return disappointed. We are traumatized. We want to get the body and leave this place as early as possible.”

Raoof blamed the airport control tower for negligence.

“If the weather was bad the plane should have been turned away,” he said.

“It is also a mistake of the airline. They sacrificed 127 lives just to save some fuel.”

Many of the family members flown from Karachi on a special Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight were inconsolable, too overwhelmed with grief to speak.

One young man wept bitterly for the cousin and aunt he lost in the crash, who were returning from pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t want to talk, please leave us alone,” he told journalists.

Hospital staff sprinkled rose petals on some of the coffins as a gesture of compassion, while police and soldiers consoled relatives.

At the scene of the crash, sniffer dogs joined rescue workers as they resumed the operation to recover bodies.

Debris was scattered over a two-kilometer (one-mile) area, with torn fragments of the fuselage, including a large section bearing the Bhoja Air logo, littering the fields around the village of Hussain Abad.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters a judicial commission would investigate the crash

Pakistan PM Prefers Jail to Writing to Swiss

As Reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday he would rather go to jail than obey a court order and ask Switzerland to re-open graft cases against the president.

Gilani’s remarks revive speculation that he would rather risk losing his job than capitulate in a two-year showdown with the judiciary that culminated last month with him being charged with contempt by the Supreme Court.

He has always insisted that President Asif Ali Zardari is immune from prosecution as president and says the cases against him are politically motivated.

“If I write a letter it will be a violation of the constitution, which is treason and which carries the death sentence,” Gilani told PhD students in central Punjab province, with a few in the audience shouting “do not write, do not write”.

“If I don’t write, I will be convicted for contempt, the punishment for which is six months’ imprisonment,” Gilani said. “It’s better to face six months’ imprisonment than face the death sentence.”

Pakistan’s top court last week ordered Gilani to ask Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against Zardari by March 21.

It was the first time the court asked Gilani personally to write to the Swiss. It previously addressed repeated demands to the government since revoking in 2009 an amnesty freezing legal proceedings against key politicians.

Zardari and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.

Playing to the gallery, Gilani asked the students in Bahawalpur district whether he should write the letter, to which the audience shouted: “No, no.”

“Ok, we will send your message to the court and tell them that they should charge parliament with contempt of court because parliament has given immunity to the president. All heads of state all over the world have this immunity.”

Zardari is so tainted by corruption allegations that he is nicknamed “Mr 10 Percent”. He has already spent 11 years in jail in Pakistan on charges ranging from corruption to murder although he has never been convicted.

Pakistan High Court Launches Contempt Case Against Prime Minister

By Alex Rodriguez for The Los Angeles Times

Dealing a heavy blow to Pakistan’s embattled government, the Supreme Court on Monday initiated contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for refusing to revive a long-standing corruption case against the nation’s president.

Gilani, a top ally of President Asif Ali Zardari in the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, must appear before the court Thursday, when the justices will listen to his explanation for not going ahead with the case.

If the court moves forward with the contempt proceedings and Gilani is convicted, he could be disqualified from office and forced to step down. He also could be forced to serve up to six months in jail.

Zardari’s government is locked in battles with the Supreme Court and Pakistan’s powerful military, both of which have had an acrimonious relationship with the president since he took office in 2008. The crisis has stirred talk of the government’s possible ouster, though experts say it probably would happen through legal action taken by the high court rather than a military coup.

The military has ousted civilian leaders in coups four times in Pakistan’s 65-year history, but military generals have said they have no plans to mount a takeover.

Nevertheless, they were deeply angered by an unsigned memo that a Pakistani American businessman contends was engineered by a top Zardari ally to seek Washington’s help in preventing a military coup last spring. In exchange, the memo offered several concessions, including the elimination of a wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency that maintains links with Afghan insurgent groups.

The businessman, Mansoor Ijaz, says the then-ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, approached him with the idea. Haqqani, who was forced to resign after the allegations surfaced, denies any involvement in the creation or conveyance of the memo. A Supreme Court commission is investigating the case, and on Monday it ordered Ijaz to come to Pakistan and appear before the panel Jan. 24.

The high court’s move to start contempt proceedings against Gilani involves money-laundering charges in Switzerland that Zardari was convicted of in absentia in 2003. The case was appealed by Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and was later dropped at the request of the Pakistani government in 2008.

Since 2009, Pakistan’s high court has repeatedly ordered the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking that the case be reopened. Gilani and government lawyers have refused, arguing that as president, Zardari enjoys constitutional immunity from prosecution.

Last week, the court warned Gilani that it could remove him from office if he did not abide by its demand. Government lawyers were supposed to appear in court Monday and explain why Gilani’s administration had ignored the court.

Instead, Atty. Gen. Maulvi Anwarul Haq appeared before a packed courtroom and told a high court panel that the government had not given him any instructions about what to say in court. The head of the panel, Justice Nasir Mulk, said Gilani’s inaction gave the court no recourse but to pursue a contempt case against him.

Outside the courtroom, Haq said that if the court eventually issues a contempt finding against Gilani, “this conviction has ramifications…. Under the constitution, with a conviction it’s disqualification from office.”

Before the court issues its findings, it probably would hold evidentiary hearings, Haq said. If Gilani on Thursday tells the court he will ask Swiss authorities to reopen the corruption case, the justices probably would consider dropping the contempt proceeding, said Tariq Mehmood, a lawyer and retired judge.

Gilani has given no indication he plans to give in. He will, however, appear in court Thursday to explain the government’s rationale, he told parliament late Monday. “We have always respected the courts,” he said. “The court has summoned me, and in respect of the court I will go there on Jan. 19.”

Zardari’s administration hopes to become the first civilian government to finish out its term, which ends in 2013. The political turmoil may thwart that plan, as opposition leaders increasingly push harder for early elections. Though Zardari is widely criticized in Pakistan for failing to revive the country’s moribund economy and tackle corruption, his party remains confident that it can weather the storm and retain power for a second term.

Even if Gilani is removed from office, Zardari continues to hold together a coalition that controls parliament’s lower house, which elects the prime minister. On Monday, however, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a staunch ally of the president, doubted it would come to that.

“The prime minister will stay,” Malik told reporters outside parliament. “The government is in command. Our flight may be a little bumpy, but God willing, we will have a smooth landing in 2013.”

Early Elections Seen as Possible Solution to Pakistan’s Political Crisis

By Saeed Shah for The Miami Herald

Pakistan’s political crisis, which pits its president against determined opponents in foes in Parliament, the Supreme Court and the military, is likely to reach fever pitch on Monday with a confidence vote scheduled in Parliament and hearings scheduled in two critical court cases.

The crisis is so intense that President Asif Zardari’s administration may be willing to call elections for as soon as October, according to members of his ruling coalition and its advisers. But that may not be enough to mollify the opposition, which wants earlier elections, or the country’s powerful military establishment, which is believed to be trying to force a so-called “soft coup,” under which Zardari, a critic of the military’s traditional dominance of Pakistan, would be forced out by Parliament or the courts.

The threat of an outright coup also hangs over the crisis, if the politicians cannot find a way out or the court proceedings reach absolute stalemate.

Whether the government can reach agreement with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is unclear. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party doesn’t want to announce elections until after voting in March for a new Senate, which the PPP is widely expected to win. But Sharif would like the new elections to be in the summer, perhaps June, which would require an earlier announcement.

“There is no other option for the government to come out of the current crisis without elections,” said an adviser to the PPP leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, as did the other coalition members. “It is in the interests of the PPP to reach an agreement with Nawaz.”

The PPP rules with three major coalition partners, but the alliance is looking shaky. Two of the parties, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, have distanced themselves somewhat from the government.

A senior member of the coalition said the parties so far have agreed internally only to a general election to be held in October. That would be just a few months before the February 2013 date when Parliament would complete its five-year term and elections would have to be held anyway.

An early election should also placate the courts and the military. A supposedly neutral caretaker government would have to be installed to oversee a three-month electioneering period.

Another coalition member said: “It is 100 percent certain that there will be elections in 2012. The only solution is elections. It doesn’t matter whether they are held in June or October.”

Zardari’s coalition itself brought Monday’s confidence vote resolution to Parliament, cleverly wording it so that it asks for support not for the prime minister or even the government, but for democracy. That makes it difficult to oppose.

But the PPP’s troubles in Parliament are only one of the fronts in its battle for survival. The courts and the military are both maneuvering against the party’s leaders, with two explosive cases coming up for hearings Monday.

The first stems from a 2007 decree by President Pervez Musharraf that granted immunity from prosecution to Zardari and other exiled PPP politicians in an effort to persuade them to return to Pakistan to participate in elections that Musharraf was being pressured by the United States to hold.

The Supreme Court later ruled, however, that the decree was illegal and demanded that the government reopen corruption charges against Zardari stemming from the time when his wife, the assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.

The government declined, however, and now the court has summoned the government to explain its actions. The court could declare Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in contempt of court, which would in effect remove him from office.

The other case involves the the scandal in which a judicial commission is investigating allegations that Husain Haqqani, a close Zardari adviser and former ambassador to the U.S., wrote a memo that was passed to U.S. officials in May. That memo offered to replace the Pakistan military’s top officials in return for U.S. support should the military attempt to push Zardari aside.

Haqqani, who was forced to resign, says he had nothing to do with the memo, which the military has said amounted to treason.

The judicial commission may take testimony this week from an American businessman, and occasional news commentator, Mansoor Ijaz, who claimed that he had delivered the memo to U.S. officials, in a column that appeared in the British newspaper the Financial Times in October. Ijaz has said he will show up as a witness, though he apparently has yet to receive a visa to enter Pakistan.

World’s Youngest Microsoft Prodigy Arfa Laid to Rest

By Tariq Butt for The Gulf Today

Funeral prayers of the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) Arfa Karim Randhawa, who passed away on Saturday night after protracted illness, were held in Lahore on Sunday.

The prayers, held in Cavalry Ground, were attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and her close family members. Her coffin was draped in the national flag. She was 16. The teenage genius suffered an attack.

She got recognition and became her a source of inspiration for young and old across Pakistan. Arfa had an epileptic attack on Dec.22 and had been in a coma since.

Well-wishers prayed and watched her progress closely.

On Dec.29, doctors said there was no hope for her survival, and that her life support could be switched off any time. However, she had then miraculously responded to certain stimuli, as recently as Jan.13.

Two more funeral prayers will be held for Arfa, one in Faislabad and another in her ancestral village where she is to be buried.

As Pakistanis mourned the loss of the child prodigy, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also expressed their grief and sorrow over the sad demise of Arfa. They prayed to Allah Almighty to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage to the bereaved family to bear the loss with fortitude.

Jamaat-e-Islami head Syed Munawar Hasan expressed grief at the death.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain said that Pakistan has lost “precious talent” in Arfa. He expressed grief at Arfa’s demise and has sympathised with the bereaved family members and prayed for Arfa’s soul.

Arfa became the world’s youngest Microsoft certified professional in 2004 at the age of nine. She was also invited to the Microsoft headquarters in the US by Bill Gates for being the world’s youngest MCP.

Gates had also offered to conduct the child legend’s treatment in the US, but the doctors advised against transporting her to the US due to the risk involved. However, the doctors continued her treatment in consultation with specialists in the United States.

Arfa had earned the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal in the field of science and technology and the Salam Pakistan Youth Award in 2005 for her achievements. She is also the youngest recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance.

She earned her first flight certificate by flying a plane at a flying club in Dubai at the age of 10, and was invited by Microsoft in 2006 to be a keynote speaker at the Tech-Ed Developers Conference, where she was the only Pakistani among over 5,000 developers.

Arfa represented her country Pakistan on a variety of international forum. She was also included as the honourable guest by IT Professionals of Dubai for two weeks stay in Dubai. During that trip, Arfa was awarded by a number of medals and awards from various tech societies and computer companies working in Dubai.

Arfa was a genius who had left an indelible mark on the international IT scene, winning millions of hearts in Pakistan and abroad for her excellence. The death of the child sensation had left millions of people, along with her family, relatives and friends, grieved over this national tragedy.

Pakistan’s alleged ‘Washington lackey’ fears for life

By Aamir Qureshi for MSNBC

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States fears he will be murdered if he leaves the sanctuary of the prime minister’s official residence after he was branded a “Washington lackey” and a “traitor,” according to a new interview.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Husain Haqqani said that “certain powerful quarters” in Pakistan — the paper said this was a reference to the country’s ISI intelligence agency — were behind the claims against him.

Haqqani is at the center of a scandal that threatens to topple Pakistan’s government over an alleged request to the U.S. to help stop a coup by the army, following the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In October, a U.S. businessman of Pakistani origin, Mansoor Ijaz, wrote an article for the Financial Times newspaper claiming Haqqani had written a memo to U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, who was then chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, supposedly promising to replace Pakistan’s national security hierarchy with people favorable to the U.S. in exchange for help in reining in the military.

Ijaz, who claimed he had been asked to convey the message to Mullen, further alleged that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari supported the move. The Financial Times operates behind a paywall, but Ijaz also wrote an article for Pakistan’s The News in November describing his allegations.

‘Hysteria’
Both Zardari and Haqqani denied Ijaz’s claims, but Haqqani subsequently resigned.

“I’m a guest of the prime minister (Yousuf Raza Gilani) with whom I have had a long-standing political association. There are clear security concerns given the hysteria generated against me. Staying at the prime minister’s house is the safest option,” Haqqani told the Telegraph in an interview published Wednesday.

“My good friend Salman Taseer (the late governor of Punjab) was killed by a security guard because he heard in the media that the governor had blasphemed. I’m being called a traitor and an American lackey in the media with the clear encouragement of certain powerful quarters even though I’ve not been charged legally with anything,” he added.

He said that he had left the prime minister’s house twice, once to go to court and another time to visit the dentist because he had toothache.

“The president and prime minister are firmly standing behind me and the government is not going anywhere. This is psychological warfare against the government,” he told the Telegraph.

In December, Zardari, who was married to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, said people should pay tribute to her memory by guarding against anti-democratic conspiracies, an apparent reference to tensions over the memo scandal.

He said his wife’s death was also a conspiracy against Pakistani democracy.

“I therefore urge all the democratic forces and the patriotic Pakistanis to foil all conspiracies against democracy and democratic institutions,” said Zardari in a statement sent to reporters.

Pakistan PM Seeks to Dispel Rumors of Army Rift

By Chris Brummitt for Boston.com

Pakistan’s prime minister dismissed speculation of a rift between the government and the military over a secret memo sent to Washington seeking its help in averting a supposed military coup, saying the country was committed to democracy.

Political tensions have soared in recent days as the Supreme Court begins a hearing into the circumstance surrounding the memo. The absence of President Asif Ali Zardari, recovering from a likely “mini stroke” in his Dubai home with no word on his return, has only added to rumors that the current civilian administration is in possible fatal trouble.

Zardari’s plentiful critics are hoping the scandal will lead to his ouster, and delighted in portraying his trip to Dubai on Dec. 6 as a flight from the fallout from the memo. The president’s aides have denied that, and most independent analysts believe the veteran politician, who has outlasted numerous predictions of his demise since taking office in 2008, will ride it out.

Late Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to discuss the memo.

Gilani said in a statement he rejected the nation of a “standoff” between the army and the government.

“The government of Pakistan and its institutions remain committed to their constitutional roles and obligations to a democratic and prosperous future for Pakistan,” he said.

Tensions between the army and the government could complicate American attempts to rebuild ties with a country seen by many U.S. officials as key to shepherding peace in Afghanistan. A raid by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan in late November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, hammering relations already strained by American suspicions that Islamabad is playing both sides in the Afghan war and virulent anti-U.S. sentiments inside Pakistan.

Pakistan has a long history of army coups or behind the scenes meddling by the generals to engineer pliant regimes, often with the support of the judiciary. That has left the country’s 180 million people specially receptive to the idea that the collapse of the government is just around the corner.

Trust Deficit with Pakistan Shrinking: Singh

As Reported by The Express-Tribune via AFP

 

 

The leaders of India and Pakistan will meet on the sidelines of a regional summit this week, as the nuclear-armed rivals seek to push a tentative rapprochement in their fractious relationship.

Talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will take place at the summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations that opens Thursday in the Maldives.

India’s foreign minister said Wednesday that a “trust deficit” with Pakistan was shrinking as he headed for a regional summit, in a clear sign of warming relations between the neighbours.

“The trust deficit with Pakistan is shrinking,” S.M. Krishna said on board his flight to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in the Maldives, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

He also said that it was necessary for Pakistan and India to develop a joint strategy to fight terror in the region, the agency reported.

Their meeting follows what Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai described as “positive indicators” from Pakistan in recent weeks that it is serious about reducing tensions.

An Indian military helicopter which strayed into Pakistani territory last month was promptly released along with its crew and returned to India, avoiding what in the past could easily have escalated into a diplomatic row.

And last week the Pakistani cabinet approved a proposal to grant India the status of “most favoured nation” in a move towards normalising trade relations.

“These are I would say indications of forward movement,” Mathai said, adding that “all aspects” of the India-Pakistan relationship would be discussed during the Singh-Gilani talks.

The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final. They last held formal talks at the 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.

Talks between the neighbours’ foreign ministers in July failed to produce a major breakthrough, but both sides signalled a warming of ties, with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani speaking of a “new era of cooperation.”

But efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by the increasing influence of Afghanistan in the bilateral equation.

Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard. Islamabad’s suspicions were fuelled when Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership pact last month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will also attend the SAARC summit, along with the leaders of other member nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Previous summits of the regional body have been largely overshadowed by the India-Pakistan dynamic — a fact that Mathai acknowledged with regret.

“We would like the focus to remain essentially on the common business of SAARC … and hope that the focus will not be diverted to one single event,” he said. The summit is being held in Addu, on the southern Maldives’ island of Gan.

Pakistan Leans Toward Talks With Taliban, Not Battle

By Karin Brulliard and Haq Nawaz Khan for The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD — Amid growing American frustration with Pakistan’s handling of Islamic militancy, the government here appears less willing than ever to challenge insurgent groups and is more inclined to make peace with them.

In a series of recent statements, Pakistani officials have rejected the notion of robust military action against insurgents based in its tribal belt and instead called for truces. At a recent summit, political leaders issued a resolution that did not condemn terrorism but said their policy is dialogue. The decree was widely viewed as having been rubber-stamped by the powerful military, whose top two figures briefed the conference.

The approach has puzzled U.S. officials and renewed debate in Pakistan about how to handle insurgents who have killed thousands in attacks nationwide.

Much remains unclear about the potential for peacemaking, including which militant groups would be included or willing. But some analysts say Pakistan has lost the resolve to battle homegrown insurgents who many here view as disgruntled brethren.

“Everyone went along with what the army wanted” at the recent political summit, said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani journalist and expert on militancy in the northwest. “It became obvious that the military has no appetite for military operations.”

Many here express skepticism about talks, arguing that such efforts had failed in the past. But the idea is backed by Islamic parties and other political leaders.

In interviews, politicians and security officials said Pakistan views the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella insurgent group that is an offshoot of the Afghan movement, as splintered enough to be open to peace deals mediated through tribal elders or clerics. And the United States, they note, is supporting a similar approach in Afghanistan.

“If by giving a chance to peace, any terror is eliminated, it’s the best option,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a leading ruling party figure, said in an interview. He added that he had received armistice offers from militants: “They want to talk.”

Pakistan’s fragile civilian government regularly condemns terrorism, and the army has executed several operations in the country’s northwest, including against Pakistani Taliban factions in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan. The battles have scattered some militant leaders, leaving the organization weakened but still capable of carrying out deadly attacks. But there is little public enthusiasm for large-scale military action, which could displace millions of people.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is jockeying for inclusion in any Afghan political settlement, which security officials here believe will bring Afghan Taliban representatives into the government. The army therefore sees little incentive to antagonize Pakistan insurgents, who commingle with their Afghan counterparts, security analysts said.

‘A focus on peace’

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called last month’s political conference as tensions with the United States soared over American allegations of Pakistani state support for the Haqqani network, an Afghan group based in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Participants, in a rare show of unity, unanimously rejected the U.S. claims and called for a “new direction and policy with a focus on peace and reconciliation” with “our own people in the tribal areas.”

Two days later, Gilani told local media that a parliamentary committee would monitor talks that could include all Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network, but warned that failure could prompt military action. Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, however, suggested otherwise to reporters, saying: “Military operation is not a solution to every problem. We’re done with those operations where we had to.”

An American official said the United States was unsure what to make of the resolution. “We’ll be watching, of course, and asking through military channels what the [Pakistanis] have in mind,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive relationship.

The United States has stepped up a campaign of drone strikes against the Haqqani network, targeting the group with several strikes in recent days.

Taliban reaction to the Pakistani overture has been wary. One top commander, Faqir Mohammed, was quoted by local media as saying he welcomed talks — but that they must lead to the establishment of Islamic law. Mohammed later denied willingness to talk.

“There have been contacts between the government and militants through indirect channels,” said a tribal elder from the Waziristan region. “Both sides are seeking guarantees before starting.”

A Pakistani intelligence official pointed to the recent defection of one Pakistani Taliban commander, Fazal Saeed Haqqani, as an argument for truces, which he said exploit insurgent infighting. Pakistan, the official said, “met Haqqani’s demands,” including by releasing some of Haqqani’s imprisoned relatives.

Others bemoan the idea of talks as surrender, though many critics remain enthusiastic about reconciliation in Afghanistan. Javed Ashraf Qazi, a senator and former intelligence chief, said the Afghan Taliban is fighting a foreign occupation, while the Pakistani Taliban seeks to create an Islamic caliphate.

“These are our own citizens who have revolted against the state . . . and therefore they should be subjected to the law,” Qazi said. “They have the blood of innocent people on their hands.”

Pakistan’s numerous past attempts at peacemaking with domestic insurgent groups provide ample reason for doubt. Some analysts say a 2006 deal in North Waziristan helped create a haven in the area, from which the Haqqani network and other fighters now operate freely.

The Pakistani army has maintained truces with a few factions, including one led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose North Waziristan-based forces attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan and are closely allied with the Haqqani network. Some analysts speculate that the army has struck other secret deals that it wants to avoid jeopardizing.

The military and the Taliban are “ happy nowadays because there are fewer attacks — on both sides,” Yousafzai said.

Special correspondent Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

U.S. Refrains From Declaring Haqqani Terrorist Group on Pakistan Concerns

By John Walcott and Viola Gienger for Bloomberg News

The Obama administration isn’t ready to declare the Haqqani group in Pakistan a “foreign terrorist organization” even after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group attacked the U.S. embassy and American troops in Afghanistan.

“We are continuing to review whether to designate” the Haqqani organization, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday.
Mullen’s declaration in Senate testimony last week that Haqqani operatives acted as a “proxy” for Pakistan’s intelligence service may have further complicated the question.

Taking the first step — adding the Haqqani group to the list of terrorist organizations — would lead to demands that Pakistan be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. That would put at risk Pakistan’s cooperation as the U.S. tries to snuff out al-Qaeda’s core and other militants in the country’s tribal areas.

For now, the U.S. has designated the Haqqani network’s founder and other leaders. It has made clear to Pakistan that clamping down on the group “is job one, that we want to do it together, and that’s the conversation that we’re having now,” Nuland said.
Designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism would put it in the company of only four other countries — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and might trigger a nationalist backlash in Pakistan. It would require halting U.S. aid to Pakistan, force the U.S. to oppose World Bank loans to Pakistan, and end cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism and trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pariah State

Naming Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism “would turn it into a pariah state,” Robert Lamb, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “That would complicate a lot of aspects of the relationship, which is complicated enough already. It’s ugly, but it’s not unsalvageable.”

The administration is under new pressure to designate the Haqqanis a terrorist organization alongside 49 others, including al-Qaeda, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

After Mullen testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Haqqani group “meets the standards for designation” as a terrorist organization. So far, said congressional officials, Clinton hasn’t responded.

Congressional Pressure

“I think there’s going to be increasing congressional pressure on them to list the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization,” said Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and now a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation policy group in Washington.
“If we know that the Haqqani network is behind these major attacks on U.S. interests and we fail to confront them, that is a signal of weakness and it simply invites more attacks,” she said.

Nuland and other administration and military officials signaled a reluctance to sanction Pakistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said yesterday that the U.S. wants to “maintain a relationship with Pakistan that’s grounded in common interests, to include going after terrorists that threaten both countries.”
“There are differences from time to time,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon. “Those differences have been made public, and we continue to discuss those differences in private. We look forward to working with the Pakistanis to try to resolve them.”

Stretched Thin

Pakistani military officials told reporters in Islamabad on Sept. 25 that they had decided not to take action against the Haqqani group because their forces are stretched too thin.

If tensions escalated, Pakistan might again, as it did in a previous diplomatic confrontation, cut supply lines to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan from its port city of Karachi. Alternative land or air routes are more costly and difficult.
The Pakistanis, said two U.S. intelligence officials, also might abandon secret agreements that permit unmanned U.S. drones to collect intelligence and attack targets in designated areas of Pakistan.

The U.S. already is restricted from operating over the Haqqanis’ suspected base in North Waziristan or the border city of Quetta, home to the main Afghan Taliban group. They also might expel some or all of the classified number of U.S. intelligence officers and special operations forces who are training Pakistani troops and helping target drone attacks, the officials said.

ISI Role

Designating the Haqqani network a terrorist organization would do little to stop the group, said Curtis of the Heritage Foundation. The Haqqanis, she said, probably still would be able to garner financial support from their allies in the Persian Gulf region and backing from the Pakistan spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, known as ISI.
A U.S. designation of the Haqqanis isn’t likely to change Pakistani policy either, said Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

The ISI and the Pakistani military regard the Haqqani network and other militants as allies in their campaign to maintain Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and prevent arch- rival India from getting a toehold on Pakistan’s western border, said Fair and other specialists.
“They believe that the Haqqanis would protect Pakistan’s interest in any future setup in Afghanistan,” Curtis said.
Rejecting the charges that his government uses the Haqqanis as a proxy, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a Sept. 25 statement that U.S. policy on Afghanistan shows “confusion and policy disarray.”

“We may just let this ride,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a former Afghanistan and Pakistan intelligence analyst at the State Department and director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “We know what direction the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is going, and now we have no idea what the bottom looks like.”

Pakistani Commanders Meet After US Criticism

By Sebastian Abbot for The Asssociated Press

Pakistan’s army chief convened a special meeting of senior commanders Sunday following U.S. allegations that the military’s spy agency helped militants attack American targets in Afghanistan, the army said.

The government also summoned home the country’s foreign minister early from a trip to the United States to attend a meeting of all major political parties to discuss the American allegations of support for the militant Haqqani network.

Senior Pakistani officials have lashed out against the allegations, accusing the U.S. of trying to make Pakistan a scapegoat for its troubled war in Afghanistan. The public confrontation has plunged the already troubled U.S.-Pakistan alliance to new lows.

Pakistan’s leaders have shown no indication they plan to act on renewed American demands to attack the Haqqani network in its main base in Pakistan, even at the risk of further conflict with Washington, which has given the country billions in aid.

U.S. officials have implied that American forces could carry out unilateral raids inside Pakistan against the Haqqani network, operations that could have explosive implications in a country where anti-American sentiment is widespread.

Pakistanis were outraged by the covert U.S. commando raid that killed al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in a garrison town not far from Islamabad in May. The U.S. did not tell the Pakistani government about the operation beforehand for fear bin Laden would be tipped off.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik warned the U.S. on Sunday against sending troops into Pakistan.

“Any aggression will not be tolerated,” Malik told reporters in Islamabad. “The nation is standing united behind the armed forces, which is the front line of Pakistan’s defense.”

The top U.S. military officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, last week accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of supporting Haqqani insurgents in planning and executing a 22-hour assault on the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on Sept. 13 as well as a truck bomb that wounded 77 American soldiers days earlier.

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, widely considered the most powerful man in Pakistan, has dismissed the allegations, saying they were baseless and part of a public “blame game” detrimental to peace in Afghanistan.

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Kayani presided over Sunday’s commanders meeting but would not provide detail on the discussions.

Later in the day, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s office issued a statement saying Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was summoned back to attend a meeting of all major political parties on “threats emanating from outside the country.”

Gilani slapped down the U.S. allegations in a separate statement issued late Saturday.

“We strongly reject assertions of complicity with the Haqqanis or of proxy war,” Gilani said in a statement. “The allegations betray a confusion and policy disarray within the U.S. establishment on the way forward in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan claimed to have severed its ties with Afghan militants after the 9/11 attacks and supported America’s campaign in Afghanistan, but U.S. officials have long suspected it maintained links. The comments by Mullen, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were the most serious yet accusing Pakistan of militant ties, although he didn’t cite any specific evidence.

Despite the seriousness of the U.S. claims, which appear to accuse Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism, Mullen and other U.S. officials have said Washington needs to keep engaging with Islamabad, a reflection of its limited options in dealing with the country. Washington is also concerned about the danger of further instability in the nuclear-armed state.

The head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, called for continued cooperation after a meeting with Kayani in Islamabad. In a statement issued Sunday by the U.S. Embassy, Mattis emphasized “the need for persistent engagement among the militaries of the U.S., Pakistan and other states in the region.”

Mattis also met with the Pakistani military’s chief of staff, Gen. Khalid Wynne, who expressed his concern about “negative statements emanating from the U.S.” and stressed the need to address “the irritants in the relationship,” according to a statement issued by the military.

Around half of the U.S. war supplies to Afghanistan are trucked over Pakistani soil, and even as it accuses Islamabad of complicity with Afghan insurgents, Washington knows that it will likely need Islamabad’s cooperation in bringing them to the negotiating table.

Gilani also called for greater cooperation.

“Let’s avoid mutual recrimination and recommit ourselves to working together for eliminating terrorism and for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

Pakistan Attractive as Growth Outweighs Violence, Atlas Says

By Naween A Mangi for Bloomberg

Atlas Asset Management Ltd., manager of Pakistan’s best-performing equity fund, said Asia’s cheapest stock market offers “attractive returns” as the economy grows even with mounting terrorist attacks and political violence.

“I really don’t spend any time worrying about law and order,” said Muhammad Abdul Samad, 40, who oversees $77 million in Pakistani stocks and bonds as chief investment officer at Atlas Asset in Karachi. “If you want to make returns, you have to look at the positives: we have a huge market of 180 million people and the economy is still growing.”

Gains in National Refinery Ltd. (NRL), the second-biggest oil processor, and Attock Petroleum Ltd. (APL), a fuel retailer, boosted Atlas’s top fund in the year ended June, Samad said. For the fiscal year starting July, it’s seeking investments in banks, oil and gas, and fertilizer industries, he said.

Pakistan’s benchmark stock index, which trades at 6.4 times estimated earnings, the lowest in Asia, has fallen 9 percent since the end of June as escalating violence hurt business confidence. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s government aims to boost economic growth to 4.2 percent in the year to June 30, 2012, from 2.4 percent in the previous 12 months.

Turmoil on global stock markets may prompt the fund to change its asset allocation, increasing cash holdings or preferring defensive stocks with higher dividend yields, Samad said on Aug. 5, when the MSCI Asia Pacific Index tumbled more than 4 percent to cap its worst week since October 2008.

“Selling from foreign portfolio investors is affecting the local market,” Samad said.
Last year, global funds bought $344 million worth of Pakistani stocks compared with net sales of $65 million, according to central bank data. More than 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks since 2006 as Taliban militants retaliate against military offensives in the northwest, according to the government.

Samad’s 650 million rupee ($7.5 million) Atlas Stock Market Fund outperformed all Pakistan’s 30 equity funds, according to Invest Capital Markets Ltd. The fund returned 40 percent in the 12 months ended June 30 and beat the 29 percent return of the benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange 100 Index.
His top five holdings as of June 30 were Nishat Mills Ltd., MCB Bank Ltd., Pakistan Oilfields Ltd., United Bank Ltd. and Allied Bank Ltd.

“Banks are going to post attractive earnings because if interest rates come down, they will lend more to the private sector and if they don’t, they will invest in high-yielding government securities,” said Samad, adding that the three banks are among his top picks this fiscal year. “Banks are in a comfortable position either way.” Pakistan’s central bank unexpectedly cut the benchmark interest rate to 13.5 percent on July 30, after holding it at 14 percent, one of the world’s highest, for four straight reviews.

In the oil and gas sector, Samad likes Pakistan Oilfields, Pakistan Petroleum Ltd., and Attock Petroleum. Pakistan, which imports 80 percent of its fuel needs, is increasing production to reduce reliance on shipments from overseas. He also favors Fauji Fertilizer Ltd., the biggest urea maker, and Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Ltd. (FFBL), a fertilizer producer.

Samad said investors who “select carefully” can make a return of as much as 30 percent this year because Pakistani stocks are “heavily undervalued.” Samad said he keeps about 4 percent of his fund “active” and may sell if a stock rises by 10 percent to 15 percent.
“We don’t go for speculation or price momentum and we don’t churn the mix too much,” said Samad, who has an MBA from Southeastern University in London and has been at the fund management firm since 2005. “If the company is fundamentally strong, it will definitely outperform the market.”

There are 137 funds in Pakistan overseeing 250 billion rupees as of June 30, up 25 percent from a year ago, according to Invest Capital, equivalent to 4 percent of the 5.9 trillion rupees sitting in the nation’s bank deposits.
“Active fund management, timely investment and divestment, as well as the performance of some stocks like Attock Petroleum were main reasons for Atlas’s outperformance,” said Mazhar Sabir, an analyst at Invest Capital Markets in Karachi.
Samad said Atlas may introduce a government bond fund this year targeting investments of three to five years and is considering a dividend-yield equity fund and a sector-specific stock fund next year.
“In the short run, law and order problems definitely hurt investors,” Samad said. “But in the long run, there’s no impact. And we’re here for the long run.”

Afridi Asks Zardari For Help

As Reported by The AFP

Former captain Shahid Afridi appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari for help on Wednesday after his central contract was suspended when he announced his retirement from international cricket. “I have appealed to the president to intervene urgently, also deal with other issues and save the game from getting into more crises,” Afridi told AFP by telephone from Southampton.

Afridi confirmed that the England and Wales Cricket Board stopped him from playing after the PCB revoked its permission.
“The captaincy was not an issue as I have already played under senior players, but it was a matter of self respect and honour which was hurt,” said Afridi who refused to speak about the PCB sanctions.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party has already submitted an adjournment motion in the national assembly against Afridi’s punishment.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who now heads his own opposition party, said the PCB was not run professionally.
“The board is not run like an institution,” Khan told a television channel. “Afridi feels injustice is done so he has taken a decision and you don’t change four-five captains in a year.”

“Just recently everyone was praising Afridi after he led Pakistan to the semi-final of the World Cup and then suddenly this happened,” said Khan. “The board is also run on ad-hoc basis like the country,” he added.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which belongs to the coalition government headed by Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, also objected to the sanctions on Afridi. “President Zardari should take notice of the biased attitude of the board,” said MQM leader Farooq Sattar. “You don’t treat national heroes like this.”

Sports Minister Shaukatullah Khan lashed out at PCB chairman Ijaz Butt over the “injustice” and said he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who heads the sports committee in the upper house of parliament, demanded Butt’s sacking.
“A change in the PCB is imperative,” said Qureshi. “Butt has not allowed any captain to settle so it will be better to sack him.”

The 31-year-old all-rounder, dumped as one-day captain following a row with coach Waqar Younis last month, quit international cricket in protest at his treatment by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In response, the PCB suspended his central contract and revoked all his no-objection certificates, meaning he will not be officially permitted to play overseas.

The move will stop him from playing for Hampshire in England’s Twenty20 league and in next month’s Sri Lankan Premier League.
Afridi said that he came to know about his removal from the team’s captaincy through media and the board did not bother to inform him about that decision.

U.S., Pakistan, Through Thick and Thin

By Gerald F Seib for The Wall Street Journal

One diplomat long involved in the tempestuous U.S.-Pakistan relationship likens it to a Catholic marriage: There may be problems, but divorce isn’t an option.

And so it is that, almost a month after U.S. Navy SEALs entered Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, the two troubled partners find themselves not in divorce court but in an awkward but unmistakable process of reconciliation.

Signs of healing are popping up. Despite its anger and embarrassment at being left in the dark about the bin Laden raid, Pakistan’s intelligence service has begun cooperating again on a series of sensitive matters. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen have just held the obligatory kiss-and-make-up talks in Pakistan, which U.S. officials describe as blunt but useful in moving forward.

And despite widespread anger in Congress over Pakistan’s harboring, either willfully or unknowingly, the world’s leading terrorist, Obama administration officials seem to be squelching the desire to extract revenge by cutting Pakistan’s aid.

There remains the danger of a rupture, and there still could be long-term damage. Street-level anger on both sides means the relationship can’t stand too many more shocks just now.

In particular, it seems likely that one result of the trauma will be a scaling back of the drone wars—America’s use of armed drones to launch strikes inside Pakistan to attack operatives of the Taliban movement fighting U.S. forces next door in Afghanistan.

The drones likely will continue to be used against top Taliban leaders when found, but less often against lower-priority targets, and probably under new and clearer rules of cooperation with the Pakistanis, say those familiar with the effort.

Still, the reality is that the two countries don’t have much choice but to move on. Regardless of how much love is flowing at any moment, they simply need each other.

The American war against al Qaeda globally and against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan simply can’t be won without the cooperation of Pakistan. Much as Americans are infuriated by the way elements of Pakistan’s government and intelligence service hedge their bets by playing both sides in the struggle against extremism, there’s no doubt that Pakistani intelligence has been crucial in the fight.

For its part, Pakistan has, in its fit of pique over the bin Laden raid, made its best show of playing the China card to demonstrate to the U.S. that Pakistanis can find good, powerful friends in Beijing if Americans don’t treat them better. By coincidence, this has been proclaimed, officially by the two countries, the year of China-Pakistan friendship, which is a useful card for Pakistan to play right now.

But Pakistan’s post-raid overture showed the limits of the China option as much as anything else. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made a four-day trip to China soon after the bin Laden operation, and came away with a Chinese pledge to speed up delivery of some previously promised fighter jets.

Mr. Gilani’s other takeaway from his visit promptly proved dubious. His defense minister announced that Pakistan had invited China to take over management of a big Pakistani port at Gwadar, and to build a new naval base there. In response, the Chinese said, essentially, “We have no idea what you’re talking about.” Whatever was discussed, it appears to be less than originally advertised.

Pakistanis as well as Americans know China has its limits as an alternative big-power friend for Islamabad. American aid can’t easily be replaced, and China doesn’t tend to dole out assistance easily. Meanwhile, the U.S. is the top market for Pakistani exports, while China ranks fifth. China’s big textile industry actually is a key international competitor to Pakistan’s own textile sector.

Ultimately, the Chinese are less likely to be helpful to Pakistan in the war against extremism than will the U.S. China tends to use partnerships abroad to solve its problems, not to help friends solve theirs.

In the meantime, real and meaningful steps have resumed in the U.S.-Pakistani intelligence relationship. Pakistan has allowed American officials to speak with the bin Laden wives found in his compound. It has returned the tail section of a U.S. helicopter lost in the raid; there was stealth technology embedded in it—technology the U.S. feared an angry Pakistan might instead share with China.

And Pakistan has agreed to allow American officials into the bin Laden compound to search for more intelligence on al Qaeda operations run from there.

The U.S. now seeks more help in fighting the Taliban inside Pakistan, and there will be a three-way American-Afghan-Pakistani meeting to discuss Afghanistan next month.

All isn’t bliss between Washington and Islamabad—not by a long shot—but those aren’t the actions of partners headed their separate ways.

India and Pakistan Discuss Demilitarisation of Siachen

As Reported by The Economic Times

India and Pakistan today discussed demilitarisation of Siachen, a mountainous region where borderline is not demarcated, in a “constructive framework”, picking up the threads of the issue after a gap of three years.

The issue came up for discussion during the 12th round of two-day Defence Secretary level talks between the two sides.

“The talks were held in a constructive framework. Both sides apprised each other of their perception about the Siachen issue and also discussed the surrounding issues,” Defence Ministry officials said.

Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar led the Indian delegation at the talks with his Pakistani counterpart Lt General (Retd) Syed Ather Ali.

The decision to resume the talks between the two countries was taken last year during the meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Thimpu when they decided to take forward the dialogue process.

While the Pakistani delegation has two civilian officials and four military officers, the Indian side includes Special Secretary R K Mathur, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt General A M Verma and Surveyor General S Subha Rao.

The Pakistani Defence Secretary met Defence Minister A K Antony in the afternoon for over 20 minutes.

The two sides may come up with a joint statement tomorrow after the talks, the officials said.

Pakistan has been asking for demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier and raised the issue of climate change there due to presence of troops from both sides and its effects on the environment.

Siachen, with an area of over 2500 sq km, the world’s highest militarised zone, has been a long pending issue between India and Pakistan over differences on the location of the 110-km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) which passes through the Soltoro Ridge and Siachen Glacier.

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