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Posts from — February 2016

Four Es of PML (N): By M M Ashraf in The News, February 29, 2016

Manifestos of the political parties are statements of intents and action plans for promoting socio-economic development and dealing with challenges confronting the country that they present before the masses at the time of elections to win their franchise. The performance of the party winning the mandate of the people is judged by the extent to which the party has been able to implement the promises made in its manifesto. The PML (N) manifesto among host of other issues, particularly laid emphasis on extremism, revival of the economy, surmounting energy crisis and improving the state of affairs in the education sector; the priority list generally known as four Es of PML (N).

An honest appraisal of the performance of the PML (N) government from the usual politicking by the opposition parties and the fulminations of the essential detractors of the government reveals that though the challenges inherited by it have not been fully surmounted but a substantial headway has been made in almost all the areas, especially the domain of Es.

A decisive battle was initiated against quelling religious extremism as manifested by the wave of terrorism gripping the country. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been a tremendous success and almost all the areas of North Waziristan have been cleared. Almost all the areas of North Waziristan except far flung areas have been cleared. The final phase of the operation to clear the remaining areas has been ordered by the COAS on 25th of February during his visit to North Waziristan Agency. The success of this operation has also created space for intelligence based operations against the supporter and sleeping cell of terrorists throughout the country which are successfully being carried out. Situation in Karachi and Balochistan has also improved. The PML (N) leadership and the military establishment are determined to take this fight to its logical end and judging by the successes achieved so far no body can take an issue with their resolve in this regard.

Economy which was in complete mess and languishing at the ebb of a precipice has been put on the path of a sustained economic development, with all economic indicators showing encouraging results, which have also been endorsed by the international lending and rating agencies as well as the international media, corroborating the authenticity of the government claims. The Transparency International in its three successive reports on corruption index has indicated a nosedive in corruption in Pakistan.

Energy situation is quite satisfactory as compared to when the government assumed power. Nearly 3000MW of electricity have been added to the system and new plans to generate 21000MW of electricity have already been initiated and some of these projects are scheduled to become operative during 2017-18 ending the current energy crisis. Out of this projected production, 10640MW will be produced through projects under CPEC with Chinese investment.

The government is also striving to change the energy production mix with greater emphasis on coal-based power generating units and the ones based on hydel power and renewable energy that will facilitate production of power on cheaper rates. The government has recently signed LNG deal with Qatar and prospects of IP gas pipeline becoming a reality in the near future have also re-emerged with the lifting of sanctions against Iran by US, UN and Pakistan. These are all verifiable facts and even the diehard critics of the government and its political opponents cannot challenge their veracity. The country surely is poised to achieve energy security in the near future.

As regards the fourth E i.e. education, the government has been blamed for showing less commitment to it during the last two and half years by its critics. Nevertheless the criticism was devoid of contextual relevance and conveniently neglected the compulsions in prioritisation of the Es.

Nobody in his right mind can deny the importance of education in the socio-economic development of a country and the responsibility of the government to give top priority to this sector. In our situation the priority perforce had to be given to curbing extremis, revival of the economy and surmounting the energy crisis. It was absolutely imperative to nudge process of development which entirely depended on these three Es and the generation of resources for initiating reforms and restructuring in other areas of the national life, especially education as well as defraying the expenses on operation Zarb-e-Azb. The government was caught in a situation of whether to put the horse before the cart or cart before the horse. The choice naturally had to go to horse before the cart to provide mobility to the cart. The top priority given to the other three Es needs to be viewed in the backdrop of the prevailing situation and the unavoidable compulsions. That however did not mean that the government did nothing in the domain of education.

The PML (N) is committed to increase the budgetary allocation for education to 4% of GDP by 2018 (as per Unesco target) as against the dismally low 2.6% of GDP spent on education by successive governments. In consultation with the provinces it is working on initiating a legislation to provide a roadmap for achieving 80% enrolment up to the middle level and 80% universal literacy. There are also plans to reform the curricula and upgrading the existing educational institutions. Setting up of Danish schools in Punjab, institution of Education Endowment Funds in all the provinces, award of scholarships to needy students for higher education are indicative of the commitment of the government to bring a revolution in education sector in the country.

As part of prime minister’s educational reforms scheme 422 schools of Islamabad are being revamped. The project is spear-headed by Maryam Nawaz, a lady known for her impeccable knack for excellence and commitment to the cause of education. She has already accomplished the revamping 22 schools in Islamabad in a short span of time and the work on rest of schools is likely to be completed by the end of the year. The scheme in addition to revamping and upgrading the facilities at these schools also envisages establishment of state of the art Montessori classes in these institutions. The beginning has been made with the inauguration of the Montessori class in Azan Shaheed Model High School Islamabad by the prime minister on 19th February. The foregoing facts establish beyond an iota of doubt that the government was pretty mindful of its commitment to change the landscape of education in Pakistan and was working with full devotion in this regard notwithstanding the resource constraint attributable to host of convoluted variables inherited by it. www.thenews.com.pk/print/101742-Four-Es-of-PML-N

February 29, 2016   No Comments

57 affidavits submitted by PTI proved bogus By Ahmad Noorani in The News, February 29, 2016

ISLAMABAD: At least 49 affidavits submitted by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in NA-122 vote transfer case have been proved fake which has made it a unique case in Pakistan’s legal history with the highest number of fake documents submitted along with one single petition.

The case along with all these fake affidavits now lies in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The PTI, on the other hand, insists in its official reaction to The News that all documents are genuine and no forgery or tampering has been made.

Contrary to its public claims that thousands of votes have been transferred out of NA-122 after 2013 general elections and before October 2015 by-polls and that it has collected 2,000 affidavits verifying this fact, PTI has submitted only 49 such affidavits with its petition before Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and with an election petition filed before Election Tribunal of Lahore. All these 49 affidavits have been proved as fake as ECP and Nadra record as well as the final voting lists of 2013 general elections, still present in official records and also available with different political parties, show that all of them were either voters of other constituencies or were not voters at all. The election tribunal has already dismissed the PTI petition filed by its candidate, Aleem Khan, who has challenged the tribunal decision before the apex court. Now the petition filed in election tribunal will be shifted to the apex court along with all affidavits. ECP has also dismissed a petition filed by Aleem Khan alleging massive vote transfer from the constituency. ECP also held that some of the affidavits submitted by Aleem Khan were apparently bogus and that commission reserves the right to proceed against him. However, commission hasn’t issued details of the number and nature of the fake affidavits. Also the words used by ECP that ‘some of the affidavits were bogus’ gave an impression as if some were genuine.

In fact, PTI has submitted some 500 affidavits, out of which 353 were not even alleging anything wrong and the text of these affidavits merely state that signatory of affidavits were residents of NA-122 while their votes were registered in other constituencies. It was a true statement and there are hundreds of thousands of people residing or doing jobs in some constituency and their votes are registered in other constituencies. It is alleged in case of only 49 affidavits that signatories of affidavits were registered voters of NA-122, polled their votes in NA-122 but later their votes were transferred to other constituencies before October 2015 elections.http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/101764-57-affidavits-submitted-by-PTI-proved-bogus

February 29, 2016   No Comments

JUI-F to start movement for husbands’ rights: Fazl

KARACHI: The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Sunday said his party will initiate a movement for the protection of husbands’ rights in protest against the passage of the women’s protection bill in the Punjab Assembly. Addressing a ceremony conducted for the JUI-F’s newly elected local bodies representatives, Fazlur Rehman termed the bill unconstitutional and a humiliation of husbands. He also raised a question on the point where a court recording of the husband can be made on the request of the wife.

The Maulana said the party will extend its support if anyone challenged the bill in court. The JUI-F leader said the courts are unable to provide justice, therefore, departments like the accountability commission should be established. He also stated that according to the authorities all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are religious.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/101757-JUI-F-to-start-movement-for-husbands-rights-Fazl

February 29, 2016   No Comments

Altaf seeks apology, wants to mend fences with military: Sattar

KARACHI: Senior Deputy Convener of MQM and Member National Assembly Farooq Sattar said Sunday that there is a deep relationship of love and cooperation between Pakistan Army and Mohajirs who migrated from India after the creation of Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi on Sunday, Sattar said during Supreme Council and Coordination committees’ meeting it was specially stated on behalf of MQM Chief Altaf Hussain “I apologise to any military institution, or its head or any other officer if they were hurt by any of his speech.”

He said that some misunderstanding have emerged between MQM and Pakistan Army in their relationship for last some years. He said that Altaf Hussain ordered MQM supreme council and coordination committees that they should remove all these misunderstandings forthwith. He said that MQM was ready to extend all kinds of cooperation with military leadership in national interest.

He said that Altaf Hussain had decided during Supreme Council and Coordination committees’ meeting the MQM should work for the integrity, survival, security and stability of Pakistan. Sattar said by keeping such things in mind they should build the future of Pakistan with new zeal by burying the hatchet and play role in stabilising Pakistan. http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/101769-Altaf-seeks-apology-wants-to-mend-fences-with-military-Sattar

 

February 29, 2016   No Comments

The clergy’s power: by Yasser Latif Hamdani in Daily Times, Feb 29, 2016

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality
In the last two weeks, the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) chief Maulana Sherani has declared that a woman cannot seek khula from her husband without his permission. Jamia Binoria’s Mufti Naeem has called Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy a fahashi aurat (immoral woman) on television. Maulana Fazlur Rahman has re-emerged as the foremost champion of the country’s constitution and ideology. The Maulana has called the pro-women law passed by the Punjab Assembly as being against Islam and the constitution.

Despite their past failures at the polls, the politico-religious parties and their allies have managed to gradually tighten their grip around Pakistan’s neck. It is always the mainstream and ostensibly secular elite, both political and military, that has entertained their demands, right from Liaquat Ali Khan’s time. Pakistan’s first military ruler, Field Marshall Ayub Khan, deployed the clergy against Fatima Jinnah by getting them to issue fatwas against a woman being elected head of the state. General Yahya Khan, well known for his rambunctious lifestyle, had no qualms about co-opting Maulana Maududi and his Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), amongst the doughtiest opponents of Pakistan’s creation in 1947, for his ideology of the Pakistan project in wake of Bengali demands for autonomy. Next it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who — in his bid to be the Islamic Napoleon- unnecessarily fattened up both Maulana Maududi and Mufti Mahmood, Fazlur Rahman’s father, by giving them a say in the Islamic provisions of the constitution in 1973.

The following year when Bhutto took the unprecedented step of conflating Pakistan’s National Assembly (NA) with the Islamic equivalent of Council of Nicaea in deciding that Ahmadis were Non-Muslim, he was joined in the act by the secular National Awami Party (NAP) led by Wali Khan. Contrary to the myth held on to by some on our left, the record shows that Wali Khan and his party wholeheartedly voted for the second amendment to the Constitution. In those days Mufti Mahmood was an ally of the secular NAP. In 1977, NAP, reborn as Awami National Party (ANP), joined the coalition called the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) against Bhutto and raised the slogan of Nizam-e-Mustafa i.e. implementation of an Islamic system in Pakistan. For 11 years General Zia played on that slogan, mutilating the laws and the constitution of the country beyond recognition. It was Nawaz Sharif’s government that refused to appeal the Federal Shariat Court’s decision on the death penalty under the blasphemy law. It was again Nawaz Sharif who tried to pass the notorious 15th Amendment to the Constitution which would have made the country an outright theocracy. General Musharraf, who many thought was going to be Pakistan’s Ataturk, retreated in the face of every challenge from clergymen, from their opposition to any reform of the blasphemy laws to their insistence on having the religion column on the passport. It was, however, the PPP government that presented the CII to Maulana Sherani and JUI-F on a platter, leading to the present craziness.

The clergy, say whatever you may about it, is actually ideologically committed to the goal of enforcing its own brand of Islam on the country. Unlike the ostensibly secular politicians, it is not power but ideology that concerns the clergy. It is happy to remain outside the halls of power, so long as the political and military elite do its bidding. The state gets nervous every time the clergy starts speaking of Islam. Obsessed with maintaining power status quo, the political and military elite will bend over backwards to ensure that clergy is kept mollified. This means passing bad laws and sacrificing the fundamental rights of ordinary citizens where necessary. This also means tolerating Maulana Abdul Aziz in Islamabad even if it means shutting down all communication systems in the capital city during Friday prayers for several weeks.

The problem is that such a state of affairs is unsustainable for a modern democratic state in this century. It is not simply a question of survival of the elites but a question of the survival of the country. If our religious divines are able to transform Pakistan into a medieval theocracy, the state will not last 24 hours, descending into bloodshed and chaos. Ghulam Abbas’ short story Hotel Mohenjodaro predicted the demise of the state at the hands of the clergy. It is the only possible end for a country so divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. Nor will such dissolution of the state produce any viable successors. The whole country will become a jungle, a dystopic nightmare for its citizens. The political and military elites, who are enablers of the clergy today, will be nowhere. The powerful military will be consumed by the conflict. In the end what would be left would be factions, some armed with weapons of mass destruction. Tens of millions will perish. Imagine Somalia, only 20 times bigger and with nuclear weapons

There are marginal baby steps to reverse the trend. Legislation by the Punjab Assembly to protect women is one such step. The ruling elites need to grow a backbone and learn to put their foot down when blackmailed in the name of religion. It is important to reclaim our narrative also. Pakistan was a Muslim modernist project with true ideological roots in the hallowed halls of Sir Syed’s Aligarh University. It was not meant to be a theocracy to be run by priests with a divine mission. If there must be a CII, it must be populated by modernists, progressive Muslim scholars, enlightened jurists and renaissance men and women, not reactionary Mullahs who want to turn back the clock. Only then can we ensure that our future generations will live in a truly free and progressive state, and not some medieval dystopia which both our clergy and our many enemies outside want us to become. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/29-Feb-2016/the-clergy-s-power

February 29, 2016   No Comments

Sixth round of ministerial level Pakistan-US strategic dialogue today By Maqbool Malik in The Nation,February 29, 2016

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan and the United States will try to sort out differences over the key issues relating to their future cooperation when top diplomats of the two countries meet in Washington today.
Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will lead Pakistani delegation at the sixth round of ministerial level Pakistan-US strategic dialogue while Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the US side.
According to the Foreign Office, this is the third annual meeting since the present government came into power and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the United States in October last had given necessary impetus to the dialogue mechanism.
Senior diplomats said Pakistan will try to persuade the United States to take major future-making initiatives to enhance bilateral cooperation in areas both sides have been discussing over last three years.
Among these areas both sides are trying to enhance bilateral cooperation are economy and finance; energy; education, science and technology; law enforcement and counterterrorism; security, strategic stability and non-proliferation and defence.
Analysts and experts are looking at the sixth round as most crucial as it calls for major decisions now Pakistan and the United States have to take about the future of their bilateral relationship.
They believe that both sides still have differences over the key strategic issues including security, strategic stability and non-proliferation and defence and hope both sides will resolve sticking points to set a roadmap for their bilateral relations.
Pakistan with a robust command and control system of its nuclear assets is seeking to join the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and wants to secure support of the United States for a criteria-based civil nuclear deal to drive maximum benefits for its population in the energy and other sectors in the civil domain. Pakistan has been warning the international community about the dangers of the Indian build-up which it insists would eventually disturb the strategic balance in South Asia.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, scheduled to participate in the fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit being hosted by the United States in Washington next month, is also expected to raise these crucial issues.
Zahir Kazmi, a director at the Strategic Plans Division, said the NSS commitments should remain political and voluntary in nature, because nuclear security remained fundamentally a national responsibility.
“There should be no parallel or new initiatives because the IAEA has a central and leading role in taking forward the NSS-related commitments,” he pointed out.
According to Pakistan’s former ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summits (NSS) process has helped neutralise or balance out the efforts that could have specifically targeted the country on the pretext of nuclear security.
“We were particularly successful in emphasising that the process has to be voluntary; should cover only the civilian programme; and that there should be no international mechanism involved in enforcing a nuclear security order. It helped Pakistan highlight its achievements and the measures taken for greater security,” he added.
Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President of the Institute of Strategic Vision, an Islamabad-based think tank said the country’s participation in the summits helped in improving “its image and interaction with the international community”.
Dr Cheema criticised the 2016 Nuclear Security Index issued by the Nuclear Threat Initiative which claims to work for global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of biological, chemical and N-weapons. He said the ranking was not compatible with Pakistan’s nuclear reality.
“The IAEA has conceded that not an ounce of Pakistan’s fissile material is unaccounted for, yet Pakistan has been placed lower in ranking, which is baseless,” he said.
The ranking ignored the efforts made by the country with regard to its weapons’ security and control measures; compliance with global norms; capacity to keep them safe and their risk environments, he said.http://nation.com.pk/national/29-Feb-2016/sixth-round-of-ministerial-level-pakistan-us-strategic-dialogue-today

February 29, 2016   No Comments

Party democracy: EDITORIAL in Dawn, February 24th, 2016

COMMITTED to the tough job of prodding the system forward they may be, but these democracy-monitoring organisations can be very generous at times. Pildat has come up with a rating of political parties according to the extent of democracy in their ranks.  At the top, as usual, is the reluctant democrat, the Jamaat-i-Islami. The PTI trails JI and the National Party at number three, which may be a bit of a let-down given the new emphasis on having a party that is more than a family enterprise. The more fancied and avowedly democratic entities such as the PML-N and the MQM languish at the bottom of the pack — a tribute to the success of a centralised, uncomplicated infrastructure that allows the leaders at the top to control these parties without too much fuss. The formula took into account a 12-point framework to measure the degree of democracy in eight selected parties which showed a general deterioration.
The good old PPP is somewhere in the middle with a 36pc approval rate. This is a familiar figure for the PPP. That’s the number around where its popularity hovered in its heyday.
Maybe it should be a cause of some satisfaction for the PPP that it has retained the figure at least in some estimates. Most parties should actually consider themselves lucky to have made the cut. Given that many of them don’t deem any election, other than provincial and national polls, as worth their while, they could have suffered an altogether more devastating snub had the monitor chosen a less charitable formulation of the question. It could have simply asked whether there was any democracy left in the party. Having been saved the pain of the obvious answer, Pakistanis might be only too relieved to ask about the tools that helped trace the flourishing germs of pluralism and diversity and democracy within these ostensibly family outfits. Only if all family members had an equal say would these parties appear to be more democratic.
http://www.dawn.com/news/1241460/party-democracy

February 24, 2016   No Comments

JI’s countrywide campaign against corruption from March 1 Report in the News, February 24, 2016

LAHORE: Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Senator Sirajul Haq Tuesday announced a countrywide campaign against corruption in all forms, namely economic, political, moral and electoral, from March 1, adding the campaign would continue till the country was cleansed of corruption.

The main target of the campaign would be the corrupt system and the corrupt elite, and all patriotic, God fearing and noble people and parties are invited to lead and join the drive, Sirajul Haq said while addressing a press conference at Mansoora along with the four provincial heads of the party.

Siraj said corruption had swept over to all walks of life including politicians, bureaucrats, land mafia, contractors, capitalists, and even retired military officers had been accused of corruption. Sirajul Haq said the government was upset over the opening of corruption cases against its leaders and favourites. Around 150 mega corruption cases were pending with the NAB as everyone wanted accountability of the other. The auditor general had raised objection over the spending of Rs 4.2 trillion that had remained unsettled for years.

The JI chief said financial corruption to the tune of Rs 4230 billion was taking place in the country annually and corrupt politicians and bureaucracy were protecting corruption and the corrupt system. He said feudal lords and capitalists reached assemblies by spending billions to make trillions. The election had become a game of wealth and a mockery of articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. Adulteration was a countrywide problem and nothing pure was available. As for moral corruption, major national institutions were promoting vulgarity and nudity as a policy which would only earn divine wrath. The distinction of Halal and Haram had disappeared.

Sirajul Haq said in order to control corruption rulers would have to become a model by themselves because the government was the root cause of all evils. He said if the government officials minted money in Hajj and Umrah schemes, common vendor could not be expected to be honest. There had been bungling in the Zakar and Ushr funds as well.

He said a former minister had stated that his party too had a right to do corruption. Billions had been plundered in Yellow cab and Rozgar schemes, “Parha Likha Punjab” and oil and gas projects. Prestigious national institutions were being sold on throw away prices under a pre-planned manner.

The JI chief said all past rulers, right from Ayub khan up to Mian Nawaz Sharif had pledged ruthless accountability before they came to power. Several organisations were also set up to wipe out corruption. Huge budget was spent on anti-corruption, FIA, PRODA, PODO, EBDO, Public Accounts Committee, Ehtesab Commission, and NAB. These institutions were used only to harass the opponents and to bring them around.

Sirajul Haq said no doubt, war and terrorism demolished infrastructure, but corruption would stop the take-off of infrastructure and social progress and large scale plunder of public money left no funds for education, health, and other welfare spheres. To a question, he said the efficiency of a government was now being gauged through the amount of loan it managed to secure from international donors.  www.thenews.com.pk/print/100578-JIs-countrywide-campaign-against-corruption-from-March-1

February 24, 2016   No Comments

PPP feels the heat of Uzair Baloch’s arrest By Tariq Butt in the News, February 24, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Is former Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza the first important figure from a fairly sizable number of politicians to be called by the Rangers for ‘interviews’ in connection with the ‘revelations’, relating to criminal activities, made by alleged Lyari gang war don Uzair Baloch during his custody with the Rangers?

The summoning of Dr Mirza by the Rangers is confirmed. But its spokesman, when approached by The News, would not talk about any other prominent politician, named by Uzair Baloch, who would also be confronted like him.

However, it is believed that the paramilitary force that has the accused in custody for 90 days for questioning will disclose at the time of its choosing the names of political stalwarts in instalments when they would be called for similar sessions.

Whatever has been repeatedly made public by ‘informed sources’ through media outlets before and after the arrest of Uzair Baloch has been pointing fingers at a few frontline Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders, who have been coming out with their usual rebuttals. In the light of these claims, it was widely expected that the process of interviews would start from some PPP leader.

Dr Mirza, who has been on the right side of the powers that be after he rebelled against Zardari, was hardly ever mentioned in this list although his support and sympathy for Uzair Baloch now and before has been an open secret. Even while the accused was shown to have been arrested from the outskirts of Karachi a few weeks back, the former minister had called him his brother and skipped talk about his alleged offence. He was thrilled over his arrest in the sense that Uzair Baloch will now tell the whole story about the ‘crimes’ committed by Zardari and other PPP leaders.

The highly aggressive way Dr Mirza has been undertaking his political activities, targeting Zardari and his close aides, has been music to the ears of many people, who want the PPP to be further marginalized even in Sindh. Anybody in his place would have earned the long arms of law quickly. Because of his connections in the right quarters, he is unlikely to spurn his summoning. Rather he will welcome it, knowing that he will not face any serious trouble or discomfort.

It appears that the Rangers have kicked off the process from Dr Mirza of calling political personalities to react to the ‘disclosures’ of Uzair Baloch. Another politician, who revolted against the PPP and joined another political party to leave it later, is also likely to be interviewed by the Rangers.

This process will not end here; it is just a beginning. Finally, some PPP leaders, who have been often alluded to in the alleged video statement, spanning several hours, recorded by the accused in custody, will be called by the Rangers.

In the light of their responses to the allegations leveled by Uzair Baloch, the paramilitary force will proceed further in formally implicating them in the criminal cases. The accused has some 50 cases of murder, extortion and kidnapping for ransom etc., against him.

The PPP was deeply disturbed for obvious reasons when Uzair Baloch’s arrest was publicised. Its leaders insisted that they have nothing to do with his criminal acts. But they smelled a rat in the announcement of his arrest and said efforts were being made to link his crimes with some of them.

On one side are the denials of the PPP leaders having any link with the accused while on the other is the persistent declaration of Dr Mirza to have close connections with him all the time. The former home minister has already admitted that he had issued 300,000 arm licences while holding this portfolio. He has always been a great supporter of the People’s Peace Committee of Lyari that used to be headed by Uzair Baloch before it was banned by the previous Sindh government of the PPP.

It is generally known that Uzair Baloch was quietly brought back from Dubai at least nine months before his arrest was made public. He is believed to have been in the custody of some agency during this time. His fleeing from Pakistan after the launch of the Rangers’ targeted operation in September 2013, his sudden arrest in Dubai, the efforts to transport him back to Pakistan, their failure, his arrest from the outskirts of Karachi etc., are all shrouded in mystery. Nobody has ever bothered to give a plausible explanation to these questions.http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/100568-PPP-feels-the-heat-of-Uzair-Balochs-arrest

February 24, 2016   No Comments

PM visits parliament, but finds no opposition HASSAN BELAL ZAIDI in Dawn, February 24th, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Drawn back to the house by relentless prodding from his opponents, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s long-awaited return to parliament on Tuesday turned out to be a damp squib as he was greeted by empty opposition benches and left without making a statement.

True to their word, the opposition parties stayed away from the house as long as Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi was presiding.

The prime minister arrived in the National Assembly after inaugurating the ‘Green Parliament’ solar power project with Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, but the speaker – who never misses a session where the PM is in attendance – was conspicuous by his absence from the house.

This detail did not escape the eagle-eyed opposition leader, Syed Khursheed Shah. Returning to the house after Chaudhry Bashir Virk took over presiding duties, he railed against both the PM and the speaker, accusing them of orchestrating this pantomime-like routine.

“The PM should’ve felt our absence. If someone else were PM, he may have personally tried to bring the opposition back. This would have added to his political stature. We wanted to say some things in the PM’s presence but the government deliberately kept the opposition out of the house so they won’t have to answer tough questions,” he contended.

He then trained his guns on Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, saying that the speaker knew that the opposition would not come if the deputy speaker was presiding. “You have set this precedent, not us. Next time, we won’t show up either,” he said, pointedly.

When asked about the engagements that kept the speaker away from the session, NA Director Media Mohammad Mohsin Iqbal told Dawn that after inaugurating the solar power project, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq met envoys from Iran and Uzbekistan, and was busy preparing to receive a delegation from Afghanistan later in the evening.

The seeds of these tensions were sown on Monday when Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi cast the deciding vote in the otherwise mundane matter of the president’s vote of thanks.

Mr Shah maintained that the opposition had more numbers than the treasury, but the final count had remained 34-34, allowing the deputy speaker to cast a “partisan” deciding vote.

“We wanted to change something that would have added to the president’s stature, but [the deputy speaker] went and made that controversial. It was a vote of thanks, not a constitutional amendment for God’s sake,” Mr Shah said.

It was the presiding officer, however, who got the last word. Appreciating Mr Shah’s remarks, Chaudhry Bashir Virk maintained that by staying away from the house while the PM was in attendance, the opposition had lost the chance to convey their point of view to him.

During his brief visit, the PM was mostly mobbed by lawmakers wanting a photo-op with the first-among-equals. He also rose on his seat to vote on a number of amendments and resolutions. Thanks to his presence, the treasury benches also showed signs of life, with senior ministers such as Ishaq Dar, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Khawaja Asif and Pervaiz Rashid also attending.

But the numbers waned as soon as the leader of the house left the building. http://www.dawn.com/news/1241573/pm-visits-parliament-but-finds-no-opposition

February 24, 2016   No Comments