Archive | October 18th, 2009

With Waziristan Op launched; Kerry arrives in I’bad; Clinton to follow

By Irshad Salim

Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Kayani alongwith ISI Chief Gen Pasha met Friday evening with government leaders and political heads in Islamabad to brief them on launching the military operation in South Waziristan.

While the meet at the PM House did give the go ahead to the army top brass and lent it full support for taking on the militants and their foreign supporters in the tribal area, conspicuously absent from the one of the most important historical meetings of the country were PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif and JUI Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Both leaders have been underastandably luke-warm on the issue of taking on the extremists. Therefore, while elder Sharif sent in his younger brother Shahbaz to represent him at the meet, Maluna Fazl was represented by a second-level leadership belonging to JUI(F).

President Asif Zardari, who had earlier himself chaired two similar meetings attended by Gen Kayani prior to launching of such operation in Buner in April and Swat, did not chair it this time. In fact PM Gilani chaired the meeting who was reportedly miffed at elder Sharif’s no-show. Whether elder Sharif’s absence was out of political convenience or due to some genuine reason only time will tell.

According to reports, the army top brass wanted to brief the ‘government’ and the politicians. The government is led by PM Gilani - not Zardari. Also, sources say there are unusual no-love-lost between Zardari and the army top brass - after KLB fiasco, Haqqani chicanaries and post JLB fiasco explanatory statement issued by Sen Kerry - which is a washout according to many and a ’shooting in the wind’ attempt according to some.

Imran Khan of PTI and Syed Munawar Hasan of Jamaat were also absent from the meet- in fact they were not invited.

PPP Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim who is the head of the PPPP — the formal legally recognized arm of PPP which won the 2008 elections, was also not invited to the meet and according to news reports was quite upset about it.

Meanwhile, the South Waziristan operation was expectedly launched in the wee hours of Saturday October 17 - a day before Senator John Kerry, who authored the Jerry-Lugar Bill in the US Senate, is to arrive in Islamabad.

Sen Kerry will reach Islamabad Sunday and attempt to assuage the top military brass’ apprehensions and concerns on security-specific conditionalities of his Bill and will also take stock of Islamabad’s efforts to take on the Taliban and the al Qaeda group across the Afghan border in Pakistan tribal areas.

Kerry’s trip shall be followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Islamabad - a trip Clinton promised when she visited Delhi this summer in order to delink the two neighboring countires and establish a more profound, holistic, Pakistan-independent long-term strategic relationship with ‘regional power’ India.

The passage of KLB on the other end of the US-policy spectrum establishes the need for an ‘enhanced partnership’ with Pakistan and the Pakistani people.

Interestingly however, Indian lobbyists and India Caucus in the US Congress were said to be instrumental in the embedding of highly intrusive conditions in the KLB - conditions which may eventually establish a new social contract and a new troika contract unless clock stops and life goes back full circle in Pakistan!

According to many Pakistan observers, such a nightmare may not ever happen but then in a country which has made two full unthinkable U-Turns on its ideological manifestations and doctrine in less than 30 years - anything is plausible and can be made to happen - if the price is right, says one Pakistani-American.

Also read: Is Kerry-Lugar Bill a Nawaz-Zardari Bill?

RAUF KLASRA of The News reports from Islamabad that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reportedly felt fairly miffed when informed at the eleventh hour that the until recently extremely healthy Mian Nawaz Sharif would be missing out on the COAS security briefing ‘due to bad health’. It may be recalled that the Chief of the Army Staff, General Parvez Kayani had been invited by the prime minister on Friday to give a detailed in-camera briefing to the entire parliamentary political leadership on the overall security situation and the pending Waziristan operation in particular.

The rather implausible ‘bad health condition’ excuse was said to have found no takers because only a day before this critical security briefing by top military bosses to the top political leadership of the country, a smiling and cheerful Nawaz Sharif had come all the way from Lahore to address a press conference at the Punjab House Islamabad to convey his “serious reservations” over the Kerry-Lugar Bill. However, the PML-N Quaid went back to Lahore the same evening even though he had been invited to attend the extremely important briefing.

One source said that PM Gilani who has always taken pride in bringing together both politicians and khakis on critical national issues was extremely disappointed by the inexplicable absence of Nawaz Sharif.

Knowledgeable sources claimed that Nawaz Sharif probably did not want to be viewed as having personally and directly endorsed full military action against the Taliban in a particular operation such as the Waziristan operation and particularly so at a time when the Taliban had already started vengeful strikes in different parts of the country.

The sources said JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman was also found missing from the briefing almost on the same grounds, as he had taken a flight to Turkey a day before this meeting, so as he too was not seen on television cameras listening to the briefing by the chief of army staff getting approval to launch attacks on Taliban in Waziristan.

The sources said the absence of Nawaz was felt acutely because in the past at least on two similar occasions when the top military leadership was invited to give briefing to the politicians, PML-N leader had ensured his presence in the Prime Minister House to interact with the military command. Though Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Nisar Ali Khan were present in the meeting, their top leader’s absence was viewed by relevant circles in a different light.

Talking to Klasra, Imran Gardezi, the press secretary to prime minister, confirmed that Nawaz Sharif had been invited to the briefing but he did not come. “We were told that Nawaz Sharif was not well”, Imran said. However, he refused to give replies to some other questions.

Meanwhile, giving the background information forcing Nawaz to go “under ground” for a few months, the sources said, these days Nawaz was passing through difficult times and was trying to avoid many important issues and situations for obvious reasons. The illness of Shahbaz Sharif was also a cause of serious worry for Nawaz as he was once again summoned by his doctors in London to get serious about his medication and treatment for a long time. Earlier, scarred by the embarrassing fact of him accepting funds from ISI, he was then reportedly told by the Saudi King Abdullah to not to participate in the bye elections in Pakistan, as a part of his deal with Musharraf and not to take part in politics for ten years.

In his absence, Shahbaz Sharif-led Punjab government hurriedly moved a petition in the court to get the elections delayed to give a valid excuse to Nawaz for not contesting the elections. The court stay order saved Sharif from embarrassment. However, this move further gave currency to the reports that Nawaz was put under pressure by his mighty Saudi benefactors not to contest the elections. Nawaz then had to come all the way from Lahore to address the media speculations over his long silence over Kerry-Lugar Bill.

The sources said Nawaz was also unhappy when he faced a hostile question during his press conference at Punjab House that on the one hand he had been championing the cause of the Charter of Democracy and on the other his brother Shabaz and opposition leader Nisar Ali Khan had been holding late night secret meetings with the Chief of Army Staff General Kayani. However, a smart politician in Nawaz instantly gave a new spin to this troubling question by making a comment that “if the meeting with COAS was held to discuss the security issues, then it should have been held in day light.”

His reply to the media persons gave an idea to the listener as both Shahbaz and Nisar had held the secret meeting with COAS without his knowledge and consent and Nawaz Sharif like all of us too came to know about this late night meeting through the media. But, a PML-N source said this was not true as Nawaz Sharif was properly consulted before the meeting with COAS even about the timing of the meeting and only after his nod, Shahbaz and Nisar had gone all the way to GHQ to hold a late night meeting with the chief of army staff.

Talking to The News, Senator Pervez Rashid said that PML-N leader was not feeling well because of shoulder pain so he stayed away from this briefing. He said Nawaz Sharif wanted to attend the briefing but the pain forced him to send his regrets. Pervez Rashid further clarified that we needed to understand that there was no major difference in the policies and approaches of top PML-N leaders Shahbaz Sharif, Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Nawaz Sharif, so if they attended the meeting, it meant that the whole party leadership was represented there.

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Gen Petraeus coming to Pak for consultation

Gen David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), leaves for Islamabad on Monday for talks with Pakistani commanders who are conducting a major operation against the extremists in South Waziristan.

The decision to send Gen Petraeus, who was treated for prostrate cancer last week, shows the importance Washington attaches to this operation in an area it describes as an Al Qaeda safe haven.

Pentagon officials also said that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had spoken to Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to emphasise continued US support.

At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recent military offensives had forced her to change her views about Pakistan’s ability to confront the militants.

Commenting on the Waziristan operation, she said the Pakistani military was ‘very much focused on also going into the heartland of where the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are located and where these plots and these attacks are planned and directed.’

The army on Saturday launched a three-pronged attack against Taliban stronghold in South Waziristan with housands of troops, backed by jet fighters and helicopter gunships, and started advancing on the Mehsud tribe’s heartland at Makin from three points at first light.

The operation, code-named Rah-i-Nijat (path to deliverance), seems to be almost a replay of the one last year against Baitullah Mehsud.

The action was called off all of a sudden, perplexing some observers as they felt the forces were close to achieving the objective.

This had drawn criticism from independent observers and contributed to fresh allegations that the militants were the military’s surrogates and it would never take decisive action against them.

Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack on Aug 5. The operation, believed to be the most difficult of all against militants in a treacherous terrain in the tribal regions, followed a spate of terrorist attacks, including the one at the General Headquarters, that have left over 150 people dead.

Military and intelligence officials blame militants based in the Mehsud redoubt of South Waziristan for eighty per cent of terrorist attacks in the country.

Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani briefed the political leadership on Friday on the ‘imperative’ of a military operation against the Mehsuds.

The military has been bracing for an operation for the past three months, putting in place 30,000 troops and enforcing a crippling blockade that forced thousands of people to flee their homes for safety.

Military officials said they had undertaken extensive studies to make the operation a success.

The three previous operations in South Waziristan, — in 2004, 2005 and early last year — all ended up with the government suing for peace.

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South Waziristan clashes kill 60 militants

Security forces pounded Taliban bases from the air and bore down on their leader’s hometown on Sunday, intensifying a major offensive against the militants which it said had killed 60 militants.

More than 100,000 people have fled South Waziristan, part of the tribal belt on the Afghan border that US officials call the most dangerous place on earth, staying with relatives or renting accommodation to escape the fighting.

Thousands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters are holed up in the tribal belt, where the army says the offensive is concentrated on strongholds of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) movement.

On the second day of the offensive, Taliban armed with rockets and heavy weapons put up strong resistance at Sharwangi, an area of impenetrable forest high in the mountains as fighter jets bombed positions, officials said.

The military said 60 Taliban followers had been killed, although the region is cut off from the outside world and information on militant casualties is impossible to independently verify.

‘In last 24 hours, reportedly 60 terrorists have been killed in operation Rah-e-Nijat,’ the military said in a statement.

‘Casualties of security forces are five soldiers (dead) and 11 are injured.’

Ground forces launched the three-pronged push on Saturday, starting a much-anticipated assault in a bid to crush networks blamed for some of the worst attacks that have killed more than 2,250 people over the past two years.

‘The resistance is not as stiff as we were expecting, maybe because we are still moving and not yet reached the strongholds of the Taliban like Kotkai, Makin, Ladha and Kanigurram,’ one military official told AFP.

About 20,000 to 25,000 troops headed into action after Pakistan vowed to act after attacks left more than 170 people dead in less than two weeks.

Jets carried out fresh air strikes on Sunday at Ladha and Makeen in the north, backing up troops who encountered resistance on the ground, a military official told AFP in the northwest on condition of anonymity.

He said five Taliban hideouts were destroyed. Another official said the army captured militant-held village Spinkai Raghzai, erecting a checkpoint en route to Kotkai, the home town of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Numerous offensives against militants in the tribal belt have met with limited success, costing the lives of 2,000 troops and ending generally with peace agreements that critics say simply gave the enemy a chance to re-arm.

‘The operation will continue until the objectives are achieved. The army has blocked all entry and exit points of Waziristan,’ said army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.

Commanders have outlined an offensive lasting six to eight weeks, with the goal of finishing before the onset of harsh winter snows.

There are an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 TTP fighters in South Waziristan and up to 25,000 across Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt, which has a history of fierce independence and a powerful culture of revenge.

Its tribesmen famously resisted the British in the 19th century and its mountain terrain is pockmarked with goat tracks, caves and thick forest.

‘War in Waziristan will not be a simple one. Waziristan is like a black hole,’ Rahimullah Yusufzai, a tribal affairs expert, told AFP.

US officials say al-Qaeda fled into the tribal areas after US-led operations toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and is now using the area as a base for plotting attacks on the west and the region.

The offensive by security forces was accompanied by an indefinite curfew slapped on parts of South Waziristan, officials said.

Since August, more than 100,000 civilians have been registered by local authorities after fleeing South Waziristan, normally home to 600,000 people, said a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Ariane Rummery.

‘Over the last five days, 3,065 families (around 21,000 people) registered… before this latest influx there had been about 80,500 people or 11,000 families,’ she told AFP.

Pakistani officials say the number of displaced could rise to 200,000 people, who are staying mostly with relatives or renting rooms in the neighbouring districts of Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.

{Source: AFP}

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It’s no way to fight a war

By Casey Jones
Salt Lake Tribune Columnist

Prayers have been said. The kids are in bed. You’re just settling down with a plate of papadum to watch “Pakistani Idol.” Then some jerk fires a Hellfire missile from a pilotless aircraft through your window and your whole family is dead because the stupid CIA mistook your home for a terrorist safe house.

That jerk, if you checked the chain of command of the country that killed you, would be Barack Obama, who has picked up the pace of attacks by drones that patrol Pakistani and Afghan airspace and fire at will at suspected terrorists, a tactic that has been called into question for killing civilians.

Foreign Policy magazine has estimated that more than 600 innocent Pakistani citizens have been sent to their death by drones in recent years. But nobody can say with certainty how many of those innocents have perished under Obama’s watch; or how many loved ones of the wrongly departed went directly from the funeral to the Taliban or al-Qaida recruiting center. Plenty of both, I am sure.

Ah, blessed are the peacemakers — Colt, Marlin, Winchester, and now Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, brought to you by Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and smokeless gun powder, son of the man who taught the world to mine harbors and shipping channels. Crazy, huh?

But even for an award bequeathed by one of the founding fathers of the military-industrial complex, Obama is unworthy. Other than keeping the peace between Sasha and Malia, what has he done?

Did he shine his blessed countenance upon the Israelis and Palestinians and give them peace? Nope.

Did he step up the laborious withdrawal timetable in Iraq, and begin the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan? Nope.

Did he win over Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Rush Limbaugh or any other political leader who wants the U.S. to fail? Nope.

In fact, Obama is the first peace prize recipient to preside over four wars at once — Iraq, Afghanistan, energy and health care. And he’s the first recipient caught committing a senseless act of violence on camera.

When I think of a Nobel prize winner, I think of Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa, or Jimmy Carter. I think of a person who wouldn’t harm a fly, or, in the case of Carter, a person who would build a habitat house for a fly.

But Obama swatted a fly to death during a CNBC interview just last summer. “Got that sucker,” the president said, calling the camera in for a close-up of poor little Musca Domestica , dead on the floor. (PETA sent the executioner-in-chief a trap so he can catch and release the next “sucker.”)

If Obama was killing flies to feed his starving family, or even his starving frog, he could be forgiven. And if he was killing them and covering them in chocolate and selling them on the open market, he would be given a tax break. But to kill for no reason other than the fly was invading your airspace when you yourself authorize the invasion of the airspace of a sovereign nation with pilotless aircraft each and every day seems a tad hypocritical.

You can’t blame Obama for the mess we’re in. He didn’t start the wars.

But, by condoning the use of robotic warfare, where nothing is ventured, nothing is risked, where “pilots” sit in an air-conditioned office and rain death on noncombatants thousands of miles away, Obama is making war too easy to wage, and too likely to happen again. Kind of like Nobel did with dynamite.

(Casey Jones is a member of the Tribune editorial board. E-mail him at [email protected].)

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India wants to deny Pakistan ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan: US report

A new United States report has revealed India’s expanding involvement in Afghanistan, and said New Delhi’s goal is to deny Pakistan “strategic depth” in the war-torn country.

The report by Congressional Research Service (CRS), which works exclusively for the US Congress, said India is the fifth largest single country donor to Afghan reconstruction, funding projects worth about $1.2 billion.

CRS provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation.

However, the report, citing US observers, said, “India’s role in Afghanistan is constructive, and some would support an Indian decision to deploy more security forces in Afghanistan to protect its construction workers, diplomats, and installations. “India reportedly decided in August 2008 to improve security for its officials and workers in Afghanistan, but not to send actual troops there.”

It pointed out that India supported the US-backed Northern Alliance against the Taliban in the mid-1990s. “Tajikistan allows India to use one of its airbases; Tajikistan supports the mostly Tajik Northern Alliance, the report said.

“Many of the families of Afghan leaders have lived in India at one time or another and, as noted above, (President Hamid) Karzai studied there. India saw the Taliban’s hosting of Al-Qaeda as a major threat to India itself because of Al-Qaeda’s association with radical organisations in Pakistan dedicated to ending Indian control of parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Some of these groups have committed major acts of terrorism in India, and there might be connections to the militants who carried out the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008″.

Pakistan says India is using its enlarged presence to promoter insurgency in Balochistan.

But the report said, “Indian officials assert that all their projects are focused on civilian, not military, development and are in line with the development priorities set by the Afghan government. India, along with the Asian Development Bank, financed a $300 million project … to bring electricity from Central Asia to Afghanistan. It has also renovated the well-known Habibia High School in Kabul and committed to a $25 million renovation of Darulaman Palace as the permanent house for Afghanistan’s parliament.

“India financed the construction of a road to the Iranian border in remote Nimruz province… and it provides 1,000 scholarships per year for Afghans to undergo higher education in India”.

{Source: The Nation}

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Nawaz objects to NRO in Parliament

PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has asked the Parliament not to approve the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as its endorsement would not only be a stigma to the Parliament but its Members as well.

Talking to media men at the residence of former MPA Suhail Zia Butt on Saturday, Nawaz said NRO was a major test of the Parliament and he would urge the Parliamentarians and the government not to get it through as it would not only be a stigma to the forum but to its members also for legitimising corruption in the country through legislation.

He also asked the government not to put the parliamentarians in a test by presenting the Ordinance before the House.

Nawaz also opposed the Unite State assistance through the Kerry-Lugar Bill and called for making the country self-sufficient and independent.

He said economic independence was a must for the country and the people were fully capable of making Pakistan a developed nation.

He said, “We must break the beggar’s bowl and commit to make the country economically independent”.

He opined that Pakistanis were contributing to the economic growth of other countries and they had full potential to make their own nation prosperous provided the nation show determination and will.

He said Pervez Musharraf went around the world, carrying beggar’s bowl, but failed in even generating power according to the domestic needs.

He remarked, “He who gives aid, also dictates his own terms.”

He said after the nuclear tests during his government, he had committed not to accept aid but to enable the nation stand on its feet so that it could live with honour and dignity.

Claiming the Pakistan was passing through a downhill path, Nawaz proposed cut in govt expenditure and honest and full payment of taxes as major means to boost national economy.

He said, “China secured independence after Pakistan but unlike us, it is a lender today because of a developed economy as the Chinese had chosen not to rely on foreign aid.”

On the occasion condoled, he condoled with Suhail Zia Butt the death of his father and prayed may Allah Almighty rest the departed soul in eternal peace.

{Source: The Nation}

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The road to Punjab

Altaf Hussain’s announcement that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement is poised to make a ‘vigorous’ entry into Punjab will give the people of that province a political choice that they truly need and have been waiting for.

At present, they have only the PPP and a fractious Muslim League to choose from, which is hardly a choice as both parties have similar policies, programmes and outlooks on life — only their rhetoric differs.

The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) is different but its following remains small and it refuses to grow for it appeals to only a certain class of people. That is also true of the MQM.

If the vote bank of the JI has always remained confined to a particular religious persuasion (and so, it seems, it will remain), that of the MQM doesn’t go beyond an ethnic group. The Shia community hardly votes for the JI but then neither do the Pakhtuns ever vote for the MQM and representing them in the legislature is a far cry.

The point to drive home is that if the MQM is serious about mustering electoral support in Punjab it has to shed its ethnic image. The fact that the first ‘M’ in MQM now stands for ‘Muttahida’ instead of ‘Mohajir’ hasn’t changed its image in Sindh, nor will it do so in Punjab. As a first step towards that change the party will have to have a new name signifying a national character.

A break from its ethnic past can come about only when the party leadership and cadres change their mindsets. It is for Altaf Hussain to consider that if after 25 years of existence his party has not been able to find acceptance among ethnic Sindhis and other linguistic groups of Sindh, how can it manage in Punjab where there are not many Mohajirs and those who are have been fully integrated with the original inhabitants.

The MQM has neither a base nor a hardcore following in Punjab’s educational institutions or in the urban middle class, which are its bastions in urban Sindh. In the rural backwaters of the province the party is hardly known.

A grand convention with rousing rhetoric from London at Lahore’s Mochi Gate may be useful in making a start, but to carve out a place in the politics of Punjab the MQM must commit itself to a long, hard slog. Aspiring to bring about a revolution would be wholly unrealistic. Punjab is not ready for a radical systemic change. Neither is the rest of the country.

The culture of politics in Punjab is no longer feudal as the MQM leadership imagines. Feudal lords as a species are on their way out. Now business tycoons and professionals — lawyers in particular — predominate. Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhry Shujaat both made money through industry, and live in Lahore.

Their land holdings are small. If the Chaudhries own 100 acres the Sharifs perhaps do not own even that much. They draw their political strength more from their urban acolytes than the serfs. This is truer of the PPP. The councils of both parties, however, largely go by what their moneyed chiefs say. The party cadres owe loyalty to leaders, not councillors.

Asghar Khan, despite his integrity and mass appeal, and Imran Khan, despite his cricket and philanthropy, have not been able to make any headway because they cannot spare the money to raise cadres. A government quota holder once told this writer that the money he made through favours done to him all went into financing meetings, entertainment and travel of the party councillors and workers, and that he was earning quite a big sum.

The MQM stands no chance of winning over the remnants of the feudal gentry (in the current context the latter signifies nothing more than landlords and gaddi nashins). Mobilising the urban middle class, traditionally averse to active politics, is not an easy job. Organising cadres, conventions and elections also needs money.

In Karachi the MQM is believed to have an organised system of collecting small sums by knocking at doors and larger amounts by intimidating traders and factory owners. Or so its detractors allege.

This is not to challenge Altaf Hussain’s philosophy (as he calls it) but only to emphasise that he should not expect to bring about a revolution. Instead, he should organise his party and convey its message to Punjab in a manner that is different than in Sindh. Karachi dominates the economy and politics of Sindh; in Punjab small towns and villages matter more.

To find a foothold in Punjab’s crowded politics the MQM will have to rely primarily on its one distinctive asset, which is not to exploit religion to promote politics nor succumb to the blackmail of the obscurantists. The people of Punjab are experiencing, for the first time, the rigours and tragedy of terror originating from extremist politics. Sporadic violent outbursts were familiar to them only in the sectarian sense. Now they pine for a tolerant culture.

If the MQM ever feels persuaded to abandon the basic principle of keeping religion out of politics, it will find no place in Punjab’s politics as the Oxford-educated modernist Imran Khan did not when he paraded around as a devout Muslim who stood for Islamic rule. Punjab already has many of that variety with more convincing political backgrounds.

For a successful debut in Punjab the MQM has to fall back on Jinnah’s view of statecraft that was overtaken by the Objectives Resolution. More overt attempts later to bring the faith of individuals and communities into the humdrum of politics transformed the nation into an intolerant society. Now extremism threatens its very existence.

Altaf Hussain stands a chance of becoming a national leader only if he sheds the ethnic image of his party, does not engage in harangues and, above all, doesn’t abandon his secularism for passing political gain as other leaders have done. He has to be patient though. It took Jinnah seven years to win over Punjab — and without that Pakistan would not have come into being.

{Source: Dawn}

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NED to have high standard sports facilities

The NED University of Engineering and Technology will become the first government-run educational institution in the city to have exemplary multi-million rupees sporting facilities when it will be commissioned next month.

‘Almost ninety five per cent work of the HEC funded project to the tune of Rs 59.796 million has been completed while the remaining in is in the final phase of completion,’ a visit to the site by this reporter on Thursday revealed.

When complete, the facilities would cater to the needs of some 7,500 undergraduates including womenfolk, apart from going a long way in promoting sports in the metropolis.

The new facilities comprises a girls gymnasium (Rs27.720 million), fitness centre (Rs5.999 million), basketball courts (Rs8.906 million), tennis courts (Rs1.800 million), squash courts (Rs12.146 million) and football ground (Rs3.225 million).

These facilities are in addition to existing boys’ gymnasium, cricket field and athletic track. In addition, equipments worth Rs0.8 million have been acquired for the fitness centre.

‘The work that commenced last year is near completion as per schedule,’ director Planning and Projects, NED University, Engr. Ashfaq Ahmed Khan, told Dawn.

People connected with sports have attributed the creation of facilities to the vision of the vice chancellor of the NED University, Engr. Abul Kalam.

The VC has also revived the sports quota in admission policy to the NED University two years back. The University has an annual sports fund of Rs1.3 million and it is mandatory for every student to pay Rs375 sports fee annually.

{Source: Dawn}

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Flirting with colors

Hanif Shahzad is arguably one of the most prolific artists in Pakistan, now that some of the others have pegged down from natural causes. His journey of discovery started in 1986, when he bagged first prize in a competition at the Karachi School of Art. After that he never looked back, coming up with a major exhibition almost every year.

If it wasn’t a solo effort, it was participation in a group exhibition. Be it in Taipei, Seoul, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Birmingham, Beirut or Berlin, he gave it his best shot and jolly well tried to ensure that his was the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.

His paintings adorn the walls of quite a few collectors, and the offices of a number of private corporations. They can also be seen in unlikely places like the Sindh governor’s house, the ministry of foreign affairs and army headquarters in Islamabad.

The very first time I attended an exhibition by this enterprising painter was in 1991. I was struck by the fresh informality and directness of his art. He had presented a cheerful collection of collages executed in the representational style. Tiny bits of paper in graded hues had been stuck on the canvas. The surface textures were quite intriguing and the overall effect of the mosaics was generally pleasing.

However, in a note published at the time I stated that while he was able to portray a material solidity of figure, surface and space through what the photographer would have referred to as ‘accidental spontaneity,’ he was not able to achieve a proper sense of perspective, as the subject was always plunked dead centre in the frame, disturbing the spatial harmony.

In his next exhibition in which he had overcome the perception problem, he made numerous forays into the rich historical hinterland of the country, drenched by dark references of a bygone era, and into the distant past, to the very roots of our civilisation.

And then there was that exhibition at the Clifton Art Gallery in 2001 when critics and collectors sat up and took notice. In 20 large canvases Shahzad provided a visual allegory for his contemporaries to ponder. He painted everyday scenes from Karachi life — not as one would have liked to see them, but as they actually were. There were fretted structures of earlier generations, buildings with their shingle tortured mansards, red-brick minarets of hulking old houses, solid turn-of-the-century structures in magnificent red sandstone, and workshops with stingy and sooty windows. There were wooden tenements coloured like mud, toppled bill boards dipping down into chaotic traffic and the odd donkey, a picture of somnolent and dejected resignation.

Shahzad started off as a watercolour colour artist, and stuck to watercolours for some considerable period. Then, all of a sudden, he switched to oils and clung to this medium for eight years. However, whatever the media he experimented in, he remained a realist painter and stuck to the straight and narrow, eschewing the modern stuff for solid traditionalism. His favourite foreign artist is William Turner, and on the local scene he greatly admires the work of the late Gulgee.

And now, a year after his last exhibition, he surfaced once again a couple of weeks ago at the Citiart Gallery But this time he had made a radical departure from the past, both in style and subject matter. ‘Rich tones’, the title he gave to his latest exhibition, consisted of 41 watercolours, and they were all abstract compositions — something that he had never done before. The tones were certainly rich, though I couldn’t help getting the feeling that the greens didn’t blend quite as well as the blues.

When I asked Shahzad how many canvases he had destroyed before he made his final selection, he said he had spoilt at least 150 pictures. Watercolours permit few, if any, mistakes, and the medium should be avoided if the artist lacks confidence and directness. But Shahzad has a reservoir of confidence and perseveres and fully exploits all the qualities inherent in the medium, not least its transparency, its saturated colours and potential for spontaneous handling. He derives immense pleasure from what he describes as “controlling the intensity in watercolours.”

Non-figurative watercolours are scarcely new. I am, of course, thinking of the pioneer of abstraction Wasily Kandinsky, whose geometric compositions done in watercolours in the 1920s surely are the best things he ever did; or his friend Paul Klee whose influence on later artists has largely been anything but benign.

Saturated transparent colours can be achieved on a large scale and in the much more modest format favoured by most watercolourists, Shahzad included. The only danger in a series of abstractions is that the pictures often tend to succeed one another with a dull predictability, and in the cosy repetition there is often an absence of surprises.

In Shahzad’s case there were a few surprises, and pleasant ones to boot, and the way the colours blended was marvellously involving. One just wonders what he will come up with next year!

{Source: Dawn}

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Popular Pakistani Comedy Show hosted by Saba Qamar lampoons Kerry-Lugar Bill, Zardari’s foreign trips, NRO in parliament, women members in parliament, etc.

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FRONTLINE with Kamran Shahid: OCT 17

Ayaz Wazir (Analyst) discusses most recent terror attacks in country and launching of South Waziristan operation. Will this Op finish completely the terror camps?

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CHORAHA with Hassan Nisar: OCT 17

Hassan Nisar interviews a ‘DEENI COMMANDO’; 30 crorers by UNICEF to restore Shalimar Garden; Traffic violations and accidents. Guests: Maulana Hanif Jallandhri, Wajahat Masood and Dr. Ahmed Abbasi

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DOTOK with Mazhar Abbas on ARY: OCT 17

Mir Hasil Bizenjo, son of Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and Senior VP of Balochistan’s National Party (NP) - a moderate Baloch leader committed to integration of Pakistan, discusses history and present situation of Balochistan crisis.

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MERAY MUTABIQ with Dr Shahid Masood: OCT 17

Launching of Waziristan Operation after suspension of debate on Kerr-Lugar Bill in the Parliament and the tabling of NRO in parliament for discussion. Guests: Imran Khan (Chairman Pakistan Tehri-i-Insaf) and Shaheen Sehbai (Washington-based Group Editor of The News)

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DUNYA TODAY with Moeed Pirzada: OCT 17

Launching of Waziristan operation and its ramifications short and long-term. Guests: Syed Talat Hussain (AAJ Anchorman), Rustam Shah Mohammad (Specialist on Afghanistan), Brig. (R) Muhmeed Shah (Former Sec. Fata)

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SAWAL YEH HAI with Dr Danish: OCT 17

Part 2 of discussion on: MCB wants to buy Royal Bank of Scotland but NBP refuses to give NOC. Guests: Shaukat Tareen (Min Finance), Shahid Hasan Siddiqui (Economist), Justice (R) Anwar Mansoor Khan (Ex AG Sindh), Syed Ali Raza (Pres NBP), Muhammad Saleem Rathore, Salim Ansari (Legal Advisor NBP), Fazl-e-Karim (Outsource Researcher)

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Najam Sethi discusses recently launched military operation in South Waziristan and its implication in terms of politics, economics, internal security of the country. NRO tabled in parliament is another issue discussed.

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Muslim Singles, Matrimonial, Shaadi and Marriage Introductions Online -

Talk Shows

    October 22, 2009 | 2:06 am

    NRO and level of corruption among political leaders specially PPP and PML-N leaders. Guests: Syed Talat Hussain (Anchorman), Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (PML-N) and Fouzia Wahab (PPP)

    October 22, 2009 | 1:26 am

    A MUST WATCH: Attack on Islamic University in Islamabad; Was Indo-Israeli axis behind it?; Guests: Qazi Hussain Ahmed (Ex-Ameer JI), Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali (PPP), Sen Zahid Khan (ANP)

    October 21, 2009 | 9:28 am

    A MUST WATCH: How intrusive are the conditions and clauses of Kerry-Lugar Bill. Who will implement the reforms mandated in it? Guests: Imran Khan (Chairman PTI), Qamaruzzama Kaira (PPP), Maria Sultan (Defense Analyst), Ishaq Dar (PML-N)

  • OFF THE RECORD with Kashif Abbasi on ARY: OCT 20
    October 21, 2009 | 8:55 am

    NRO and Transparency Intl’s latest report on Corruption in Pakistan which has increased by 600 pct. Guests: Syed Khurshid Shah (PPP), Javed Hashmi (PML-N) and Ahmad Bilal Mehboob (PILDAT)

    October 21, 2009 | 8:32 am

    Runoff polls in Afghanistan; Af-PAk affairs; South Waziristan Operation; War on Terror and its toll on PAkistan. Guests: Rustam Shah (Ex-Amb to Afghanistan), Syed Saleem Shahzad (Asia Times Online Analyst) and Sadiq Al Farooq (PML-N)

    October 21, 2009 | 2:51 am

    Twin suicide blasts at Islamic Univeristy in Islamabad. Guests: AVM (R) Shahzad Chaudhry (Analyst), Rauf Klasra (The News Journalist) and Abdul Hafeez Pirzada (Renowned Attorney and ex-PPP leader)

    October 21, 2009 | 2:32 am

    Twin suicide bombings in Islamic University in Islamabad and its repurcussions vis-a-vis South Waziristan operation. Guests: Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi (PPPP), Makhdoom Javed Hashmi (PML-N) and Sen Muhammad Ibrahim Khan (Jamaat Islami)

    October 21, 2009 | 1:15 am

    Rehman Malik’s unusual media-hogging appetite and Talat Hussain’s demand that Rehman Malik be sacked. Media performance on twin suicide blasts at Islamic University in Islamabad.

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