Adrift amidst the ‘fragile’ few

The government of Pakistan, comprising 80-odd self-adulators who serve but themselves, has been rated as ‘very fragile’ by the president of the sole superpower, Barack Obama.

Fragile: “Liable to break or be broken; brittle; easily destroyed.” Such is the condition of a government cobbled together with the participation of our friends and well-wishers, a compilation and combination of political parties out to do in those of us in the cold.

Fragile: Of persons: ‘Liable to err or fall into sin.’ Such are the 80-odd chosen few who form the fragile cabinet presided over by a fragile Asif Ali Zardari, our accidental president, who, it must never be forgotten, rules and misrules courtesy of the ghost of his assassinated wife to whom the Pakistani crown had been bequeathed by the 2007 government of the USA, the puppet master of the world. This new US government, it seems, is now unhappy with the George W. Bush-backed Zardari, which does not bode well for the president as when the US decided it had had enough of Gen Pervez Musharraf he was swiftly ‘eliminated’.

The sole institution of the country that functions with a good deal of freedom and to which we, the people, should be indebted as whatever we know about what may be happening in the country emanates from it, is the media, both press and electronic. Given the fragility that afflicts those selected by the ballot box to govern, the media must zealously guard itself against breaking or being broken — it is our lifeline to reality — or to as near reality as anything in this country can be.

And for this freedom, we must thank the man termed a dictator, Musharraf, who did what his preceding ‘democrats’ could or would not do. He gave the press as much freedom as it could digest and his media policies have allowed us as many channels on our televisions as we have ministers in our fragile government. That the freedom allowed to the electronic media is misused on occasion by certain eccentric unthinking commentators must not be a deterrent as it is up to the channel moguls to learn to exercise self-control rather than have control imposed upon them.

At a recent seminar there was discussion as to how the Pakistani media can be made ‘good,’ in other words, how it can be controlled. Luckily, many amongst us agreed that there must not be any restrictions imposed, give the media time, and it will settle itself. Obviously viewers are taking exception to the wild views aired by the wild and woolly, which is a good thing, as it will hasten the sorting out process. Freedom is all very well, but it must be tempered by good sense, particularly when it reaches a largely illiterate public liable to be easily influenced by outrageously rabid utterances spewed forth by brainwashed twits.

The press, at least as far as the English-language newspapers are concerned, is in control and provides us with enough news coverage for us not to have to rush to the Internet to find out what is happening within our midst and in the outer world. Few holds are barred when reporting on how we are perceived by commentators from abroad, whether such comments be realistic or unrealistic. Our homegrown commentators express their divergent views, with which we may or may not agree — we have the luxury of being able to sift out for ourselves what can be taken as the truth when it comes to news reporting or as valid comment when it comes to commentators.

There was not much sifting to be done when perusing the reports on what the world’s strongest man had to say about his grave concerns about the state of Pakistan, concerns centred on the fragility of the ‘civilian government’ which can neither deliver what it is supposed to deliver nor ‘gain the support and loyalty of their people”. We can only hope that he knows something that we do not know as he praised the “military side’ for having finally come round to the realisation that the danger to Pakistan lurks not on its borders with India but within its own country.

If this be a fact, full marks to the military for finally latching on to the reality of the situation and for deciding to take part in the civil war now being waged up north, on the borders with Afghanistan and further down towards the country’s capital. The question still exists, though, that after 60-plus years of indoctrination of both men and officers about the threat of the traditional enemy, India, has the army really seen the light, or is it merely succumbing to some very serious pressure being exerted upon it by the US, which pressure Obama referred to as “encouragement” which he said will be continued? Is it capable of such a swift change of mindset? Can it wage a sustained civil war opposing its own people, admittedly fanatics who give no quarter?

For those who have been wondering aloud whether President Obama has sent out signals that the US may be well thinking of cutting its losses and handing over the country once more to the army, this can only be wishful thinking. Under the present circumstances with a civil war on its hands, how can it be expected to run the country? It has more than enough to swallow, motivating itself to take on the Taliban and to wipe out of its mind the old belief that India is about to pounce at any moment.

There is little doubt that the nation as a whole has lost whatever patience it may have had with the Zardari dispensation, and that the sympathy vote that brought him and his party into power has evaporated. Then we have the economy. The government and its spokespeople may tell us at length that things are improving that we are on the up, but all signs are that we are on the down. The ‘friends’ of Pakistan, to whom the begging bowl has been held out, are all wary of those known as Pakistan’s ‘leaders’; they are not fools, they know well their reputations and their murky backgrounds. They are not going to easily hand out the goodies — what they give are but commitments. American money is naturally given for America’s own purposes.

Zardari will be in Washington soon. All he can do is hope he can hold his own when he and his fellow travellers face the American president and his tough-talking team.

Source: Dawn News


Protests against fees hike, student killing in Swat and Lahore

SWAT: The students of Jahanzeb College of Swat hold protest demonstration against increment in fees and blocked Syedo Sharif Road.

They were carrying placards and chanted slogans against fees increment. Meanwhile, students of a private university protest killing of fellow student who was hit by a car in Defence area. Two out of three persons traveling in the car that hit the student were arrested whereas third one was managed to flee from the scene.

The students of LUMS said they would continue protest till the arrest of third accused.

The negotiations between police and students in this connection ended at failure till the last reports came in.

IRSA says enough water available for Rabi season

ISLAMABAD: Enough water is available for the Rabi season especially for the crops of sugarcane, cotton and rice beside others as the water level is improving at Tarbela and Mangla ay by day, a senior official of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) said on Monday.

Water level at Mangla, the second largest water reservoir of the country, will cross 100 feet above the dead level in a couple of days as it reached 97 feet on Monday according to expected water inflow.

Water level is improving specially in both the major reservoirs of the country Tarbela and Mangla besides in Kabul river day by day due to impact of snow melting.

According to data released by Indus River System Authority (IRSA), water level at Mangla, the second largest water reservoir of the country was recorded 1136.90 feet which was about 97 feet higher than the dead level which is 1040 feet.

Mangla Dam received total inflow 56, 627 cusecs water on Monday morning and only 35,000 cusecs water was released according to the official data.

However, 1408.80 feet water level was recorded at Tarbela, the largest water reservoir of the country which was more than 40 feet higher than the dead level 1369 at the dam.

Tarbela Dam received a total inflow 42,200 cusecs and only 15,000 cusecs water was released from the Dam.

Water inflow 45,000 cusecs was recorded in the River Kabul and18, 086 cusecs inflow was recorded at Marala of Chenab River.

British boy dies in Venezuela plane crash

CARACAS: A 6-year-old British boy was killed when a small plane carrying British tourists crashed shortly after takeoff from an airstrip near Venezuela’s Angel Falls.

The boy was traveling with eight other British tourists, including his parents, civil protection director Luis Diaz told on Saturday.

He said all 10 survivors on board, including a Venezuelan pilot and co-pilot, were flown to nearby Ciudad Bolivar and were being treated for injures at a hospital. The boy’s aunt, June Holman, said the dead child was 6-year-old Thomas Horne.

The single-engine plane, a Cessna 208 Caravan, crashed Friday afternoon near the runway in the popular tourist destination of Canaima, a national park where they went to visit Venezuela’s famed Angel Falls, Diaz said.

Situation in Swat returning to normal: PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Monday that the situation in Swat was returning to normal and no one including the US should be worried about that.

Talking in Geo news program ‘Capital Talk’, Prime Minister Gilani said that he was not concerned at all with TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad’s statements. To a question, the prime minister said Pakistan knows well how to safeguard its national interests and the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke should not be worried about situation in Swat.

On lawyers’ long march, Gilani said that the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani phoned Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan with his prior approval.

US plans to stop use of radio stations by Taliban: WSJ

NEW YORK: The Obama administration has begun a broad-based effort to prevent the Taliban from using radio stations and Web sites in Pakistan and Afghanistan to intimidate and threaten civilians.

A report in the Wall Street Journal Saturday says: ‘As part of the classified effort, American military and intelligence personnel are working to jam the unlicensed radio stations in Pakistan’s lawless regions on the Afghanistan border that Taliban fighters use to broadcast threats and decrees.’

The Taliban and other armed groups have carried out a wave of attacks in the two countries. US officials believe the
Taliban enjoy an advantage by being able to freely communicate threats and decrees.

In Pakistan, Taliban leaders use unlicensed FM stations to recite the names of local Pakistani government officials, police officers and other figures who have been marked for death by the group. Hundreds of people named in the broadcasts have later been killed, WSJ said citing US and Pakistani officials.

‘The Taliban aren’t just winning the information war —we’re not even putting up that much of a fight,’ a senior US official in Afghanistan told WSJ. ‘We need to make it harder for them to keep telling the population that they’re in control and can strike at any time.’

A new push to contain the Taliban reflects the influence of Gen. David Petraeus, who runs the military’s Central Command and has long been a major proponent of using psychological operations to reduce popular support for armed Islamist groups.

Besides, the WSJ pointed out Richard Holbrooke, the administration’s special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, publicly alluded to the new program late last month. He told reporters there were 150 illegal FM radio stations in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, which allowed militants to go ‘around every night broadcasting the names of people they’re going to behead or they’ve beheaded.’

Mr. Holbrooke likened the Taliban radio stations to Rwanda’s Radio Mille Collines, a virulently sectarian broadcaster widely believed to have helped fuel the Rwandan genocide. The US considered jamming the station in the 1990s, but ultimately chose not to.

‘Nothing has been done so far’ about impeding the Taliban communications, Mr. Holbrooke said. ‘We have identified the information issue … as a major, major gap to be filled.’

Psychological operations can be controversial. In Iraq, the US personnel are also trying to block the Pakistani chat rooms and Web sites that are part of the country’s burgeoning extremist underground. The Web sites frequently contain videos of attacks and inflammatory religious material that attempts to justify acts of violence, the newspaper said.

The push takes the administration deeper into ‘psychological operations,’ which attempt to influence how people see the US, its allies and its enemies. Officials involved with the new program argue that psychological operations are a necessary part of reversing the deterioration of stability in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Psychological operations have long been a part of war, famously in World War II when ‘Tokyo Rose’ broadcast English-language propaganda to Allied troops. More recently, some militaries have used high-tech methods. During the December-January war in Gaza, Israeli forces sent cellphone text messages to alert Palestinian civilians to impending strikes and encourage them to turn against the militant group Hamas.

The Obama administration’s recently released strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan calls for sending 4,000 US military trainers to Afghanistan and sharply expanding economic aid to Pakistan. The US may also provide radio-jamming equipment to the Pakistani government, according to officials familiar with the plans.

Henry A. Crumpton, a former State Department counterterrorism chief who led the CIA’s Afghanistan campaign in 2001 and 2002, warned against relying too heavily on high-tech solutions such as disrupting militant radio broadcasts.

‘Those can be very effective, but they’re —underscore —short-term tactics,’ he told WSJ.

Still, many military officials believe that stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan requires gradually diminishing the Taliban’s public standing while simultaneously building popular support for more moderate local political and religious institutions allied with the US

‘It’s not an issue of trying to persuade your average Pakistani farmer to love the US,’ a US official told W SJ. ‘The idea, frankly, is to muddy the water a bit.’

As part of this push, the US has started US-funded radio stations in many rural parts of Afghanistan.

In one example, Army Special Forces teams in eastern Paktia, a restive Afghan province that abuts the Pakistani frontier, put on air a radio station late last year called ‘the Voice of Chamkani,’ referring to the village where the US base is located, and distributed hundreds of radio receivers.

Bomber eliminates 23 troops in Hangu attack

KOHAT: The country’s security apparatus suffered a devastating blow on Saturday when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a military checkpost in Hangu, eliminating 23 soldiers.

Seven policemen, 10 security personnel and nine civilians were injured in the blast.

‘A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into our check-post close to a police station in Doaba,’ a security official said. ‘We suffered the most casualties.’

Some officials said the bomber had rammed his vehicle into a Thall-bound military convoy in Doaba, on Hangu-Parachinar highway.

They said 11 vehicles, which were part of the convoy, had been destroyed in the attack, which happened not far from the army camp. The military, however, denied its convoy had been hit.

Eyewitnesses said security forces cordoned off the area and blocked the Kohat-Parachinar highway at Doaba and nobody was allowed to go near the scene of the explosion.

The army called its own bomb disposal squad from Thall Garrison. The check-post was located on the Hangu-Parachinar road, which remained closed for more than a year when militants blocked the artery to stop food and fuel supplies from reaching Parachinar, the Kurram Agency’s headquarters.

In another incident earlier on Saturday morning, one person was killed and three were injured in a blast in Malikabad area of Hangu bazaar.

The SHO of Doaba police station, Ammal Khan, and constable Asal Murad, who were sitting in a mobile van close to the army camp, were injured.

Police said the bomber had used 100kg of explosives. They blamed the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan for the strike, but the banned militant outfit did not claim responsibility for the bombing.

The dead and the seriously injured were taken to the civil hospital in Hangu and the Combined Military Hospital in Thall, a police spokesman for the Kohat region said.

Preliminary reports suggested that the suicide bomber had come to the area on Friday and took up residence in Hangu. ‘It was in the knowledge of the terrorists that a convoy would pass through the camp on Saturday afternoon,’ a local said.

Hangu has seen bloodletting bred by sectarianism over the past two years. A total of 48 people had died in sectarian clashes during Muharram last year.

The military had carried out a major clean-up operation in Doaba in August last year to flush out militants who had infiltrated from nearby Kurram and Orakzai regions.

Helicopter gunships have been attacking suspected militant hideouts in Orakzai during the last couple of weeks. ‘Most of the casualties are security forces and some policemen have also been killed,’ a security official said.

‘The bomber was driving a pick-up truck which he rammed into a convoy passing by a security checkpost,’ senior police officer Fareed Khan said in Kohat.

President Asif Ali Zardari, who is in China attending an international economic conference, ‘condemned the attack and vowed to root out terrorism and extremism from the country’, the presidency said in a statement.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ‘strongly condemned’ the incident, describing the suicide attack as ‘a cowardly act of terrorism’, his office said in a statement.

Obama urged not to interfere in Pakistan politics

WASHINGTON: The US administration should not interfere in the domestic politics of Afghanistan and Pakistan despite the temptation to do so, the Washington Post said on Saturday.

A senior Post columnist Jim Hoagland noted that one of US President Barack Obama’s senior analysts had been telling think-tanks that ‘President Asif Ali Zardari should step aside and let Nawaz Sharif, his chief rival, take power’.

Mr Hoagland also noted that ‘muttering about ditching Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai was rampant at the White House’ while the administration was reviewing its policies for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the writer advises Mr Obama to resist such temptations and not to ‘play power chess on a global scale, bypassing or replacing national leaders who balk at grand US designs’.

The journalist warns that such intervention would be particularly disastrous for Pakistan as it ‘would open Pandora’s box for the rest of your presidency —especially since Mr Sharif seems no more capable or honest than Mr Zardari.’

He urges President Obama not to emulate John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in South Vietnam, or Jimmy Carter in Iran.

‘Micromanaging leadership changes abroad becomes all-consuming,’ he adds. ‘So be economical with your personal investment in volatile situations. You have a capable secretary of state in Hillary Clinton. Give her more of the spotlight and the authority.’

The comments followed newspaper reports that Admiral Mike Mullen and Richard Holbrooke met Mr Sharif last week and assured him that he would be acceptable to the US as a future president or prime minister.

Swat deal to remain intact if peace lasts: Gilani

KARACHI: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Saturday that Pakistan would coordinate with the United States on its policy to combat terrorism during talks in Washington next month.

The prime minister told a press conference here, after chairing a meeting of the Sindh cabinet, that it was wrong to think that Pakistan did not have a policy on the war on terror. ‘Our policy is ready and President Asif Ali Zardari, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the ISI chief will share it with the US administration.’

In reply to a question about the acrimony between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party following the Swat accord, the prime minister said the two parties had different agenda, but it was his government’s endeavour to defuse the tension.

He said the Swat deal was linked to restoration of peace in the valley. ‘The agreement will remain intact if peace endures,’ he said, adding that the president had signed the Nizam-i-Adl regulation only after 80 per cent peace was restored to Swat.

He said the new accord was an improved version of the agreements signed in 1994 and 1999. He said the government’s reconciliation efforts would strengthen the country’s economy and its institutions and urged political forces to show maturity because the people had voted for a change.

Mr Gilani said Pakistan wanted good relations with neighbouring countries, including Iran, Afghanistan and India.

However, he admitted that the composite dialogue with India had been affected after the Mumbai attacks, but added that efforts were being made to revive the dialogue.

In reply to a question about Sindh government’s demand for announcing the NFC Award before the budget and resolving the issue of GST, Prime Minister Gilani said he would discuss the matter with his Finance Adviser Shaukat Tarin.

The Sindh government has said that GST is provincial matter and it should be distributed on the basis of collection or else the provincial governments should be allowed to collect the tax at their own level. It also sough reimbursement of Rs11.374 billion accumulated since 2000 and resolution of the GST issue on services (Central Excise Mode).

The Sindh Sales Tax Ordinance 2000 empowers the federal government to collect the GST on services on behalf of the province. However, proceeds of the tax are being transferred on the basis of population, resulting in transfer of proceeds collected from one province to another.

According to sources, the ordinance did not empower the federal government to transfer proceeds collected from Sindh to other provinces.

Earlier speaking at the Sindh cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Gilani said the federal government would support infrastructure and social sector development projects in Sindh.

Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, federal Food Minister Nazar Mohammad Gondal, provincial ministers, advisers and special assistance to the chief minister attended the meeting.

According to sources, the prime minister said his government was working to restore the 1973 Constitution and implement the Charter of Democracy singed by the PPP and the PML-N.

He said the country’s economy was showing a positive trend because of measures taken by the government.

About the unannounced loadshedding by the KESC, he said the issue would be resolved soon and the people of Karachi would get rid of the
loadshedding with the help of better management and improved efficiency.

The prime minister expressed satisfaction over the law and order situation in Sindh. The chief minister briefed the prime minister about law and order, development schemes and other matters.

Three dead in suspected US strike in Pakistan: officials

PESHAWAR: Three people were killed Sunday in a suspected US missile attack targeting a militant hideout in Pakistan’s tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said.

‘It was a drone attack,’ local administration official Shahab Ali Shah told AFP. He said two missiles hit a house in Gangi Khel town in the tribal South Waziristan district.

Another official speaking on condition of anonymity said the attack targeted a militant hideout where three people were killed. He gave no details.

A security official confirmed that death toll, saying that five other people were wounded. The targeted house, belonging to a local tribesman, was ‘destroyed in the strike,’ he said.

Three people were killed in a similar attack in the area earlier this month