Archive for ‘Pakistan News’

June 30, 2011

Punjab govt decides to expand provincial cabinet

Chief minister Shahbaz Sharif chaired the Punjab cabinet meeting.

LAHORE: The Punjab government on Wednesday decided to expand the provincial cabinet and include new ministries.

According to sources, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the coalition members of the assembly will be given ministries – while the PML-Q’s unification bloc will not be given any ministry.

The expected new ministers in the Punjab cabinet are Yawar Zaman from Okara, Chaudhry Ayaz from Rawalpindi, Chaudhry Shafique from Rahim Yar Khan and Shahzadi Umer Tiwana from Sargodha. The cabinet may also include Zaeem Qadri from Lahore, Rana Afzal from Faisalabad and Ali Haider Noor Niazi from Mianwali.

The Punjab government also demanded the federal government to convene a session of the Council of Common Interests within a week and shift powers to the provinces, warning that it would move the Supreme Court if this did not happen.

This demand was raised during the meeting of the Punjab cabinet held in Lahore on Wednesday with chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in the chair.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters after the meeting that provinces have been handed over ordinary subjects and that the federal government has kept to itself all billion-rupee funds. Sanaullah said the government should also give other rights to the provinces besides ministries under the Concurrent List, otherwise the PML-N has every right to move the court. The provincial minister said the PML-N will also challenge the AJK elections in High Court and demand new elections with correct voters’ lists.

June 30, 2011

Post-election scenario: PP unification, opposition split pays off

Chaudhry formed the People’s Muslim League after his removal from the party a few months prior to the 2006 election.

MUZAFFARABAD: 

The timely reunification of People’s Party factions coupled with a split within the ruling Muslim Conference (MC) before the election led the latter to a humiliating defeat in the polls at the hands of the former.

The situation faced by the MC just a month before election was also similar to that faced by the PP before the 2006 elections, after its split into two following then  party president Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry’s decision to nominate a close friend for a Kashmir Council seat, against Benazir Bhutto’s nominee.

Chaudhry formed the People’s Muslim League after his removal from the party a few months prior to the 2006 election. As a result, the PP vote bank was divided between the two candidates and the MC, which kept itself intact, witnessed a landslide victory, with the PP only winning eight seats.

History repeats itself

The merger of Chaudhry’s party with the PP and taking former Prime Minister Sardar Yaqub into the party fold made the PP a strong contender against the Muslim League-Nawaz (ML-N) and MC.

The MC’s split into two sealed its fate. Notably, the lopsided number of seats won by the PP does not reflect the fact that the ML-N and MC candidates combined got more votes than the winning PP candidates.

This also paralleled the situation in 2006, with the PP and People’s Muslim League candidates getting far more votes between them than the winning Muslim Conference candidates.

PP also lost a few seats in this election again because the PP divided itself during the Kashmir Council elections and certain rebelling candidates contested as independents against the party’s own nominees after refusal of party ticket.

The results of the elections were in line with expectations, keeping in mind that the birth of the ML-N from the MC’s ranks, and it was also expected that the ML-N would win more seats than the MC owing to the political scenario in Pakistan and hectic electioneering by the Sharif brothers.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.

June 30, 2011

Improve governance or create more provinces 18th Amendment

Speakers urge for creation of provinces on the basis of economic and administrative viability.

ISLAMABAD: 

Creation of more provinces on the basis of economic and administrative viability will strengthen the federation and make governance easier for the respective provincial governments.

This proposal was put forward by a majority of speakers at the concluding day of a seminar on “Revisiting the 18th Constitutional Amendment”, held here on Wednesday. However, at least one of the speakers opposed the idea, asking the government to improve governance instead.

Academics, lawyers and bureaucrats gave their opinion on different aspects of the 18th Amendment at the seminar, organised by Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and Hanns Siedel Foundation.

“Creation of new provinces would strengthen the federation but can only be done with the consent of the units,”  Professor Razia Mussarat from Islamia University Bahawalpur said.

She added that the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have already demonstrated that they will not tolerate creation of Hazara province on the basis of Hindko language. Similarly Sindhis would not accept ethno-linguistic division of the province. In Punjab, where Bahawalpur claims provincial status — on the basis of the promise that after dissolution of the one unit its former status would be restored — could substitute the demand for separate province which was ethnic based.

She proposed that Lahore and Multan could be made provinces on the basis of their economic and administrative viability.

Quaid-i-Azam University’s Distinguished Professor of Linguistics Dr Tariq Rehman supported Prof. Mussarat’s views and said, “As long as they stay within the federation, there was nothing wrong with creating new provinces.” New provinces are being demanded to secure power, justice and equitable share in resources, he added.

However, Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy of Peshawar University opposed the creation of new provinces. He said ethnic and linguistic forces were essential elements in the provincial integration and new provinces could not be carved out merely on the basis of economic and administrative viability. “Renaming Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on ethnic basis was a blunder, as it would inspire similar aspirations in other parts of the country,” he maintained.

Suharwardy insisted that demand for new provinces was a result of poor governance. “People need easy access to atta, ghee and pulses, not new provinces.”

Barrister Shahid Hamid said, “In structuring a local government system the principle of devolution to the lowest level must be followed,” He noted that local governments have not been allowed to work. He criticized the local government systems introduced by both military dictators Zia and Musharraf as they aimed to strengthen the centre.

“A local school should be administered by a local council,” said Hamid, adding that non-party based elections of local bodies lead toward polarization and promote elite control over governance.

In his concluding remarks, Barrister Hamid also noted that among other good things that came with the 18th amendment of the constitution, the term “freely” after “minorities’ rights to exercise their religion” has been reinstated, which was deliberately omitted from the constitution by the military ruler General Ziaul Haq.

Political analyst Zafarullah Khan said, “One unit and the principle of parity is a cruel constitutional jokes for which the country had paid dearly”. He said that it was wrong to say that provinces were not ready to handle new responsibilities as this transition must be facilitated through creating a federal culture, reforming parties and strengthening provincial civil services. He said that only those projects should be undertaken at the federal level, which are supported by more than one province.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.

June 30, 2011

federal government notification for devolution of 7 ministries

The federal cabinet had earlier approved the devolution of seven ministries to the provinces but had decided to retain the ministers in an apparent move to keep the ruling coalition intact. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday issued a notification for the devolution of seven ministries to provinces, with the government retaining a number of employees from the devolved ministries.

The ministries being devolved are women development, minority affairs, sports, environment, health, food and agriculture, and labour and manpower.

The notification says the transfer will come into effect from July 1. It also states that all development projects and relevant staff have been shifted to the provinces.

A number of departments of the transferred ministries will be merged with other ministries and divisions.

The Planning & Development division has been assigned to devise a national policy for environmental pollution and change, ecology, forestry, wildlife, biodiversity and desertification.

The federal cabinet had earlier approved the devolution of seven ministries to the provinces but had decided to retain the ministers in an apparent move to keep the ruling coalition intact. The devolution marks the third and final phase of the implementation of the 18th amendment and brings the total number of devolved ministries to 17.

Ten federal ministries were earlier devolved to the provinces in two separate phases on the recommendation of a high-powered parliamentary commission to ensure the implementation of the 18th amendment that envisaged more administrative and financial autonomy for the federating units.

June 30, 2011

ZA Bhutto case: AG asked not to repeat Awan’s arguments

Despite being eight hours apart, death warrantsCJP advises attorney general to present the constitutional and legal rationales. were issued in Lahore same day the SC dismissed appeal, says Awan.

ISLAMABAD: 

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday asked Attorney General of Pakistan (AG) Maulvi Anwarul Haq not to repeat Advocate Babar Awan’s arguments in the presidential reference seeking to revisit the death sentence awarded to ex-premier and founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Anwarul Haq, while opening his arguments before an 11-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, submitted that Bhutto was hanged in haste as the death sentence is usually executed from seven to 21 days after the issuance of black warrants, whereas Bhutto was hanged within 12 hours after he was awarded capital punishment.

He contended that contrary to the law and decisions of the Supreme Court, the Lahore High Court played the role of a trial court in Bhutto’s case, whereas it should have played the role of an appellate court.

The CJP advised the AG to present the constitutional and legal rationales and refrain from repeating the arguments that Awan had already made.

The court adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period on the request of the AG that more time was needed to prepare arguments with reference to questions of laws.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.

June 30, 2011

Naval base raid: Finally, report admits inside job in Mehran attack

Standing Committee on Defence told that evidence of “inside help” has been found in the PNS Mehran Base attack.

ISLAMABAD: 

It took more than a month after heavily-armed terrorists mounted a brazen attack on Pakistan’s biggest naval airbase in Karachi, but investigators have finally concluded that the attackers had support from within the Pakistan Navy.


The terrorists sneaked into Pakistan Navy’s airbase PNS Mehran on May 22, destroying two P3-C Orion surveillance aircraft and holding off military commandos for 15 hours before they were killed in a final predawn assault the next morning. At least 10 security personnel were killed in the attack.


According to a preliminary investigation report tabled before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence on Wednesday, some navy officials were in custody for questioning over their possible links with the attackers.


Senior officials briefed the committee about the investigations into the PNS Mehran attack – one of the most potent terrorist attacks on the country’s security installations.


The briefing was confidential, but some participants speaking on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the navy officials admitted that  the terrorists received help from people working at the airbase.


The report indicates that some people had conducted reconnaissance of the base before the attack. It also points out that closed-circuit TV cameras installed at the base were not working, making it easier for the attackers to slip through.


However, navy officials would not comment on the report. Briefing reporters after the meeting, Dr Azhra Fazal Pechuhu, head of the defence committee, said that the naval authorities had completed their internal investigations into the PNS Mehran attack.


“According to investigations, four terrorists were involved in the attack,” she said, adding that the mastermind would be brought to book after the completion of the probe.


She said the investigators were now looking into the external aspects of the probe where they would also try to ascertain if there was any foreign hand involved.


The May 22 attack on the well-guarded base raised questions about the ability of the security forces to protect their key installations from terrorist raids. And security analysts said it wasn’t possible for terrorists to launch such an attack without inside help.


Despite the briefing, committee members from the PML-N expressed dissatisfaction over the findings of the report. “What we have been told is nothing new as lots of information has already appeared in the media,” said an opposition member, who requested not to be named.


June 30, 2011

ZAB case: Bhutto was hanged in haste, says AG

AG Anwarul Haq said the PPP founder was hanged in haste and that SC needs to re-examine his murder trial. PHOTO: PID.GOV.PK

ISLAMABAD: 

The Attorney General of Pakistan Maulvi Anwarul Haq said on Wednesday that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in haste and that the Supreme Court needs to re-examine his murder trial.


An eleven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is hearing the Bhutto reference case, where this request was made.


The attorney general said that Bhutto was hanged within 12 hours of the issuance of a black warrant against him. However, he said, the high court rules state that no sentence can be implemented within seven days of the issuance of a black warrant.


The chief justice observed that the case was not presented clearly in court and that the AG’s arguments were in the same line as that of PPP lawyer Babar Awan.


The court also told the AG to mention which laws had been violated in Bhutto’s murder trial.


The hearing has been adjourned till July and the date will be announced later after considering the availability of the bench.


Updated from print edition (below)


SC asks Awan to present proof of judges’ bias


The Supreme Court may refer the high-profile reference filed by President Zardari to revisit the death penalty awarded to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for the murder of a political opponent to a trial court for review if the counsel succeeds in convincing the bench that the judges were biased.


Concluding his arguments, the president’s counsel Dr Babar Awan contended that he only wants to prove three points before the court. First, legal requirements were not fulfilled in Bhutto’s case, second, the judges were biased and finally, fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed in the Constitution were violated. The apex court awarded the wrong sentence to Bhutto which was a ratification of the high court’s decision. Presiding over an 11-member bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary asked Awan to present concrete arguments instead of just maligning the judges who had pronounced the verdict.


The court asked the counsel to point out instances of bias in the judgment. Awan said former chief justice Anwarul Haq gave benefit of doubt to the Lahore High Court, whereas in principle if there was an iota of doubt, it should have gone in favour of the convict. Maulvi Mushtaq had submitted an application to the police in which he had stated that Bhutto was to be held responsible in the event of his death, he added. Awan questioned how a judge who was a complainant against an under-trial prisoner could have been neutral. He said Justice Durab Patel, one of three dissenting judges, had said that there was no case against Bhutto.


The bench observed the case would be referred to a trial court for a review because the counsel has failed to present new evidence before the court. It is the trial court’s jurisdiction to review evidence. State approvers will also have to appear before the court. Awan said the government would like to restrict itself to the reference since the president has raised questions of law under Article 186 which authorises him to solicit the Supreme Court for its opinion on a case. He referred to cases in various countries where the judiciary, the parliament and the executive pardoned convicts after their execution. “The cases you are referring to were reopened on the basis of new evidence whereas that is not true in this instance,” remarked Justice Javed Iqbal. “It is not appropriate to seek ‘pardon’ for ZA Bhutto,” the chief justice observed. “Neither Bhutto nor his family had asked for pardon when he was on death row,” said Awan and clarified he was reading from the record.


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June 30, 2011

Airblue Crash: Defence Ministry refuses to submit report to NA committee

Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar said that the government had given a four-page detail of defence expenditures instead of a one- liner.

ISLAMABAD: The Defence Ministry refused to submit the inquiry report into the Air Blue crash accident to the National Assembly’s (NA) Standing Committee on Human Rights, on Wednesday.

Ministry officials briefed the standing committee about the investigations’ progress and admitted that they have all facts and figures regarding the accident but are not authorized to forward information to the committee, citing some legal issues which will be resolved soon, after which the report will be forwarded to Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and made public afterwards.

The NA Committee, however, expressed its reservations on the non- payment of compensation to the crash affectees and directed it to be paid within four months.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar had said that officials know the reason behind the Air Blue crash in 2010, but details could not be made public at this time.

Speaking during a press briefing, Mukhtar also said that some important details regarding the attack on the PNS Mehran base had been uncovered, but these too could not be made public at this time.

These details have however been shared with the national assembly standing committee on defence in private.

Relations with the US

The Defence Minister said that Pakistan is reviewing its relations with the US on the war on terror.

During a meeting of the national assembly standing committee on defence, Mukhtar said Pakistan is spending its own money in the war on terror as the coalition support funds are halted.

He further said that losses continue to mount for Pakistan, in human and financial terms.

The defence minister denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and said that after the Bin Laden raid, even if he were here, he would have fled Pakistan.

Pakistan was expecting $500 million (Rs43 billion) in the last tranche of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which was set up by the US Congress after the 9/11 attacks to reimburse allies for costs in supporting the US-led war on militancy. On April 25, Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh had announced after a visit to the US that the Obama administration was “firmly committed” to releasing at least $500 to $600 million by June 30.

A finance ministry official said that the US Congress is yet to clear the transaction.

US bases in Pakistan

Mukhtar said that Pakistan told the United States to leave Shamsi air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone attacks.

“We have told them (US officials) to leave the air base,” national news agency APP quoted Mukhtar as telling a group of journalists in his office.

The air strip is 900 kilometres southwest of the capital Islamabad in Baluchistan province.

A US embassy spokeswoman told AFP there were no US military personnel at the Shamsi base.

CNN reported in April that US military personnel had left the base, said to be a key hub for American drone operations, in the fallout over public killings by a CIA contractor in Lahore and his subsequent detention.

Reports said operations at the base, which Washington has not publicly acknowledged, were conducted with tacit Pakistani military consent.

Mukhtar also denied the presence of American troops at Ghazi base in Tarbela, stating that it is being operated by Pakistan.

June 30, 2011

Benazir assassination case: FIA awaits details of Musharraf’s assets

ATC has ordered confiscation of former president’s property. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: 

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is still waiting for revenue officials to submit details of movable and immovable assets of former military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, who has been declared proclaimed offender by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in the Benazir Bhutto murder case, despite court orders to confiscate his property, The Express Tribune has learnt.


Request for details of Musharraf’s property was forwarded to the members of boards of revenue of all the four provinces by the counter-terrorism wing of the FIA which had asked that the information be compiled on a priority basis.


The ATC had given the FIA until June 25 to comply with its orders and seize the former president’s property.


The FIA prosecutors had requested the court to issue orders to confiscate Musharraf’s moveable and immovable property after he failed to appear before the court on the previous hearing.


The ATC special judge had directed the SHO City, Rawalpindi and collector, Islamabad, to submit the record.


Investigators have alleged that the Musharraf regime had failed to provide adequate security to former premier Benazir Bhutto upon her return to Pakistan from self-exile. She was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack minutes after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, on December 27, 2007.


June 30, 2011

State of human rights: Security forces calling the shots in Balochistan, says HRCP

Gas pipeline blown up in Dera Bugti. PHOTO: FILE/ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: 

Security forces are calling the shots in Balochistan while the provincial government “seems non-existent”, according the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday.


Releasing a report titled ‘Balochistan: Blinkered Slide into Chaos’ at a press conference, the HRCP painted an alarming picture of the situation in the restive province, warning that it could get even worse if immediate steps were not taken.


The report accused the security forces of being behind enforced disappearances in the province, and said that the bodies of 140 missing persons had been found, while 71 people were still missing in the province since July 2010 to May this year


“The Balochistan government seems non-existent…


They have surrendered their authority to security forces and they (forces) are calling the shots,” said HRCP Chairperson Zohra Yusuf at the press conference, which was also addressed by HRCP Secretary-General IA Rehman, President Supreme Court Bar Association and former chairperson of HRCP Asma Jehangir, Council member Hina Jillani and Saleema Hashmi.


The report says that 18 people were murdered in target killings, while five innocent citizens became victims of sectarian killings during 2011 in Balochistan.


The mission observed that there were credible allegations of the involvement of security forces, particularly the Frontier Constabulary (FC), in the cases of enforced disappearances. “There was material on record to substantiate claims of the families that the victims were disappeared by the FC or had been killed while in custody,” says the report.


The mission learnt that agents of the state as well as the insurgents and extremists operating in the province share a common disregard for rights of the citizens. “The insurgents have murdered ‘settlers’ in target killings with impunity, while the extremists have treated the members of religious minorities as fair game,” the commission further observed.


“Enforced disappearances continue to be reported from all parts of the province and little headway has been made in ensuring the release of a large number of missing persons from unacknowledged custody of security agencies,” Jahangir said while quoting the findings of the report.


The HRCP chairperson said that there was a sense of alienation among the people of Balochistan.  Yusuf added that there is a disturbing trend of bodies of missing persons being found with signs of torture.


Hina Jilani said that there was an imbalance between civil-military relations in the province, adding that there is no political space. “There is no mechanism of accountability of security forces and they do not interact with the public,” she said.


IA Rehman said that they should make it clear that the issue of Balochistan is not one of law and order, but a political issue.


The report says that the FIRs registered against personnel of security forces in enforced disappearances remained uninvestigated without exception and courts had failed to ensure compliance with their orders.


The fact-finding commission says that at least 78 organised gangs were reported to be involved in abduction for ransom in the province and there was a widespread perception that criminal gangs and individuals involved in heinous crime enjoyed support of politicians and security forces.


The commission observed that ‘Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances’ set up to investigate the cases of the missing persons had been largely ineffective, leading to people’s frustration.


The fact-finding commission says that use of forces rather than political engagement remained the preferred approach in Balochistan and the promises made in the Balochistan Package remained little more than promises.


The commission has recommended that the illegal practice of enforced disappearances stop and all security forces in the province be brought under civilian control. It recommended that the powers of decision making and governance must be restored to civilian political authorities in the province.


A detained person must be promptly informed about the charges against him and in accordance with the constitutional guarantees, should be produced in court within 24 hours and his due process rights should be respected and facilitated, the commission said.



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