Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gilani to unveil 100-day relief, reform package on 29th

By Mubarak Zeb Khan
(Courtesy DAWN)

ISLAMABAD, March 26: The new coalition government is expected to announce on March 29 a 100-day reforms package to offset the effects of unprecedented price hike and high cost of energy and to ensure macro-economic stability, Dawn has learnt. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani will announce the plan after taking a vote of confidence from the National Assembly on the day.
A committee is working out details of the package for reforms in various sectors, including steps to bring down prices of essential kitchen items.
A PPP leader told Dawn that various proposals were under consideration. He said the package was expected to be finalised soon. PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, however, said he had no knowledge of such a package. But another PML-N leader Khwaja Asif confirmed that the plan was on the anvil. He refused to give details, but said it would be announced by the prime minister.“The prime minister will announce the package and I am not supposed to divulge any information,” he stressed.
Informed sources in the two parties said the committee was working on a sector-wise basis to identify areas for reforms to be introduced in the first 100 days. The plan envisaged a small cabinet to reduce expenditures.
The sources said that for consumers, severely hit by the monster of food inflation and energy crisis, there would be relief in prices of essential goods. The plan would also focus on ensuring macro-economic stability.
The sources said the committee would also propose short-term measures for ensuring stability in the country and coping with problems like suicide bombings and unrest in tribal areas and Swat.
The committee is also considering measures for good governance. These will include the smooth functioning of various ministries, improvement in local bodies’ system and general administration. The sources said that efforts would also be made to reduce expenditures of various ministries, particularly the Prime Minister Secretariat.
The sources said that more than 500 new utility stores would be set up across the country to provide subsidised wheat, cooking oil, tea and sugar to the poor segment of society.

The CJ Release - Pictures

U.S. steps up missile strikes in Pakistan - WPost

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) - The United States has escalated air strikes against al-Qaeda fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas fearing that support from Islamabad may slip away, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. U.S. officials, who were not identified, said Washington wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al Qaeda's network now because Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf may not be able to offer much help in the months ahead.

Over the past two months, U.S.-controlled Predator aircraft have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives, the Post reported. About 45 Arab, Afghan and other foreign fighters have been killed in the attacks, all near the Afghan border, U.S. and Pakistani officials were cited as saying. Neither U.S. nor Pakistani authorities officially confirm U.S. missile attacks on Pakistani territory, which would be an infringement of Pakistani sovereignty. Many al Qaeda members, including Uzbeks and Arabs, and Taliban militants took refuge in North and South Waziristan, as well as in other areas on the Pakistani side of the border after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.

According to the Post, the goal was partly to try to get information on senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, by forcing them to move in ways that U.S. intelligence analysts can detect. Citing an administration official, the report said the campaign was not specifically designed to capture bin Laden before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January. “It's not a blitz to close this chapter,” a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the newspaper. “If we find the leadership, then we'll go after it. But nothing can be done to put al-Qaeda away in the next nine or 10 months. In the long haul, it's an issue that extends beyond this administration.”

Facing charges of terrorism

Farooq Tariq
Labour Party Pakistan

Today on 25 March, by the time, Yousaf Raza Gilani was taking oath as prime minister of Pakistan from General Musharaf; I was appearing in an Anti Terrorist Court in Lahore alongside with 11 more comrades. Ourtrial began on 7 March 2008 and during the last 15 days; we have appeared in the court five times.

Our advocate was brilliant today. She is Rabia Bajwa, one of the main activists of advocate movement. While cross-examining the police witnesses against us, she confronted several times the lies of the police officers. She exposed them in very clear terms.

For example, she asked one police officer what time he wrote the first police report. He replied, at 11am, while another police officer had told the court earlier that he had arrested us at 11am. When she asked another police officer if he knows the names of all those arrested on 27th September, his reply was in negative, while another said that he only knows two of us.

She asked if the advocate demonstration was going at the same time, to which they said yes. Then she asked why they had not arrested the advocates and why Labour Party activists were arrested. They had no answer. She asked one of them if we were raising slogans at the time of the demonstration; he said yes, we were raising slogans before the police stopped us. He had earlier stated in his recorded statement that we started raising slogans only after the police stopped us.

12 of us were arrested on 27 September 2007 after our participation in an advocate demonstration. Police booked us under terrorist charges. The maximum sentence is death. They lied that we had attacked the police and injured some of them while tearing apart their police uniforms and that we were armed with sticks.

Asma Jahangir and Rabia Bajwa along with 10 more advocates appeared on our behalf in the Anti Terrorist Court after our arrest and got us released on bail after a few days. The Anti Terrorist Court has now begun the hearing of the case. I am sure that we will be cleared of chargesin the next hearing on 27 March.

However, the point is that only political activists have to appear in the courts for the crimes of being part of the lawyers movement. The new government has to take up this important issue and we have demanded that all these cases registered during the advocate movement should be withdrawn unconditionally. The police officers who have acted illegally should face charges and not us.

I personally know Yousaf Raza Gilani, the new prime minister of Pakistan very well. We both have studied in the same university atthe same time in the seventies. He was a student of Journalism and I studied Applied Psychology. We lived in the same student hostel and I was elected as Hall secretary of Hostel 19 of University of Punjab, Lahore. However, I will not ask any personal favor of withdrawing cases against me and other friends. Our demand is to withdraw allp olitical cases against the activists during the last one year.

'Take my gun and deliver it to General Sahib'

Story of a brave FC soldier who died fighting in Swat

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: "I am dying, take my gun and deliver it to General sahib," were the last words of Sepoy Gul Farosh as he lay critically injured near Manglawar village in Swat on October 28, 2007.

His surviving colleagues from the Frontier Corps conveyed his words and delivered his gun to their officers. Maj General Mohammad Alam Khattak, Inspector General of the Frontier Corps, was subsequently informed about Sepoy Gul Farosh's dying words. In his meetings with FC soldiers and visitors, the general often mentions the brave Jawan as someone who fought till the end and didn't lose control of his gun even after being fatally wounded.
There was a background as to why Gul Farosh uttered those memorable last words. He had heard Maj General Alam Khattak, himself a Pashtun from Nowshera, telling a darbar, or soldiers� meeting, that losing one's gun amounted to abandoning one�s wife. There cannot be a greater insult to a Pashtun than to lose his wife. And it is common to hear the Pashtuns telling each other that abandoning one's gun was just as dishonourable as losing a wife.
Gul Farosh, a typical Pashto name meaning flower seller, later succumbed to his injuries. It took time to retrieve his body and transport it to his village, Shamozai, in Mardan district for burial. Three days after his death, the young bearded soldier was buried in his ancestral graveyard.
His death shocked his old father, Dervesh Khan. The tragedy made him ill and one could see that life was slowly ebbing away from this frail and poor farmer. He had spent almost all his life tilling other people's land as tenant and fetching firewood from the mountains to sell to villagers. Like his name, he was a Dervesh in the real life. Simple and honest, he couldn't even properly count the currency notes. And even though he was desperately poor, Dervesh Khan always carried sweets in his pocket to give to children. One does come across sweet persons in life and he definitely was amongst them.
About two and a half months after Gul Farosh's death, Dervesh Khan quietly bid farewell to the world. On January 10, 2008 he was buried close to the grave of his dear son. It was a double tragedy, which deprived the family of its breadwinners.
Gul Farosh's mother and wife would have coped better with the grief of his death if he had children. The couple remained issueless during the seven years of marriage. In August 2007, Gul Farosh was injured in action in Thall. But he recovered and continued to serve the FC with distinction. He had also qualified an anti-terrorism course at the FC training centre at Mir Ali in North Waziristan.
After his recruitment in FC Khyber Rifles wing on April 1, 1997, he served at a number of places, including Ali Masjid in Khyber Agency, Ghallanai in Mohmand Agency, Thall, Regi Lalma, Peshawar and Torkham. He also took part in rescue and rehabilitation activities for the earthquake-affected communities at Battagram in Hazara. That was the kind of work in which the deeply religious and kind-hearted Gul Farosh found satisfaction.

The Release of the Chief Justice - As it happened

The new PM Yusuf Reza Gillani ordered released of all detained judges on March 24, 2008. Right after that, people started reaching the judges enclave to get a glimpse of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. This video is a collage of how the media covered the evening. The video ends with the word of thanks from CJ to the crowd gathered at his residence and the people of Pakistan.