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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Spot fixing scandal: Salman Butt to be freed early, says father

Disgraced former Test captain Salman Butt is to be released early from prison in Britain, his father claimed on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old was jailed for 30 months last November on charges of accepting illegal
payments during the Lord’s Test against England in August 2010.

Butt, team mates Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, and agent Mazhar Majeed were accused of contriving deliberate no-balls in return for money.

Aamer was released in February after serving half his six-month sentence while Asif, jailed for 12 months, was freed in May.

Butt’s father Zulfiqar said his son was being released early. “We expect him to be released tonight,” he told a private news channel.

“My son’s good behaviour has led to the decision and he will be in Pakistan in the next three to four days,” Zulfiqar added.

Butt’s wife and elder son visited him in jail last month.

Rupee hits life-time low against dollar

The rupee opened weak on Thursday morning at 56.35 to the dollar and touched a life-time low in morning trade.

It had closed at 56.15 on Wednesday evening.

The rupee has been testing new lows this week. Today, it touched a low of 56.48 before pulling back a bit and was trading at 56.39 to the dollar at 11.35 am.

The domestic unit has depreciated 25 per cent over the past year.

Three weeks ago, there were indications that policy tools would be used to keep the rupee close to Rs 53 to 54 to the dollar.

There have been a spate of bad news for the economy recently. Rating agency Fitch Ratings had yesterday cut its outlook to negative on top Indian banks and financial institutions.

PTCL to provide free wi-fi modem

Islamabad—The Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) has decided to provide free wi-fi modems to its valued customers with every new connection. The new offer allows PTCL landline customers to avail free wi-fi modem by ordering a PTCL Broadband Pakistan Internet connection. These free wi-fi modems will be provided without any monthly recurring charges to new customers of all packages, excluding 256Kbps and 1Mbps Student Package, says press release.

All existing wired modem subscribers of 1Mbps regular and above will be charged Rs 750 as modem up-gradation charges on opt-in basis. The ever increasing proliferation of wi-fi enabled tabs, mobile phones and gadgets makes it essential to have a wi-fi modem for connectivity needs, so PTCL is now offering wi-fi modems to its Broadband customers instead of the regular wired modem.

“PTCL is determined to bring the most cutting-edge innovative solutions and technologies to its customers,” said Senior Executive Vice President Commercial, Naveed Saeed. “Free Wi-Fi modem is another step towards our vision to provide our customers with the most advanced mobility solutions.” Last month, PTCL achieved Pakistan’s first ever One Million Broadband Customers mark, and its free wi-fi modem offer is a reward for all its devoted customers.

“PTCL has specially taken this initiative keeping in mind the uninterrupted connectivity needs of our valued customers,” said PTCL EVP Wire-line Business, Asif Inam.

Next loan programme: High defence spending to come under spotlight

Pakistan’s defence budget will come under scrutiny in any future arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, as it will be difficult for the IMF to present a case in its board where defence spending is higher than development expenses, says a former IMF official.
Giving a lecture on ‘the IMF and Pakistan, a road to nowhere’, Dr Meekal Ahmed, former senior adviser to IMF executive director, said in Pakistan’s present security environment, the IMF stayed away from suggesting cuts in defence spending (under the previous $11.3 billion programme). The lecture was arranged by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.
Ahmed’s comments came in the midst of reports that Pakistan and the IMF have been secretly negotiating a new programme as the country’s external financial position has deteriorated significantly. In 11 months of the outgoing fiscal year, the current account deficit – the gap between external receipts and payments – widened to $3.7 billion, $2.3 billion higher than original estimate for the whole year.
Ahmed said in any future programme the IMF will focus on cutting spending, particularly on defence, which must fall as a percentage of total size of economy over time. How the IMF staff will present a programme to their board when defence spending is higher than development spending, he asked.
For the next year, the defence budget has been set at Rs545 billion, which is 2.4% of GDP but actual spending is expected to be Rs913 billion or 3.9% of GDP. Contrary to that, Rs360 billion has been earmarked for development budget.
“No country turns to the Fund when its economy is doing well. We need to reflect on why we are unable to get out of their clutches and stay out like other successful developing countries have done.”
He said programme ownership is a critical ingredient in successful implementation, adding the early end of the last programme was a collective failure and the result of lack of ownership. Failure to impose reformed GST was last nail in the coffin of the IMF programme, he commented.
The 25-month arrangement for $11.3 billion loan ended prematurely in May 2011 as the government failed to push through key reforms.
No fresh funds
Former State Bank of Pakistan governor Shahid Kardar, while presiding over the lecture, said the IMF will not offer fresh funds in the next programme. Rather, it will prefer to roll over outstanding debt and enter into a formal arrangement only after Pakistan takes certain prior steps like application of reformed GST.
Kardar believed that the next programme will be tough and this time Pakistan may not have US support.
Stressing the need for undertaking reforms, Kardar said there was no constituency for reforms in the country. “Bureaucracy will not bother as their salaries have doubled since 2008 despite difficult times. Farmers do not want to pay tax but are receiving subsidy on imported fertiliser and the business community will never like to have reformed GST,” he elaborated.
“We are holding guns to our heads and saying to the world give us money, otherwise, we will blow ourselves,” said Kardar.
To a question about the timing of the next IMF programme, Kardar said a lot will depend on how oil prices move in the international market. Pakistan’s biggest worry should not be the size of current account deficit, but the real issue is financing the deficit, he said.
However, he suspected that the IMF will negotiate the loan programme with an interim government.

Textile exports likely to drop 30%

Lahore Pakistan: With the number of days a factory staying shut rising due to ever-increasing energy outages, textile exports are likely to dip 30%.
The drop in May will take overall exports to hardly $12 billion against the projected $16 billion, says All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) Chairman Mohsin Aziz.
The huge spike in outage has dropped the revenue to $800-900 million from an average of more than a billion dollars posted in the last two months, said Aziz.
He said that persistent electricity and gas cut to the industry has plummeted production levels to minimal levels.
Minor improvement in the energy crisis during the last two months jacked up exports to $1.1 billion per month but it was still not enough to recover the annual shortfall.
Non Performing Loans (NPLs) of the industry have also reached more than 30% of its portfolio, which is quite alarming and the prime cause of drop in local sales and exports, said Aziz. The industry would not come out of sluggish mode until and unless its issues are properly addressed by the government, he added.
“Five days a week gas supply to the textile industry is imperative for the sector to function properly,” said Aziz.
Pakistan is losing exports while regional competitor Bangladesh has almost doubled its exports in the last two years to $23 billion annually.

US Federal Reserve extends stocks mostly lower

United States (US) stocks closed mostly lower Wednesday after the Federal Reserve extended its bond-swapping programme, known as 'Operation Twist', for six months to help boost the flagging economy.

The programme, scheduled to expire at the end of June, was extended through the end of the year, the central bank's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee announced after a two-day meeting.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the session down 12.94 points, or 0.10 per cent, at 12,824.39.

The S&P 500-stock index fell 2.29 (0.17 per cent) to 1,355.69, while the tech-rich Nasdaq rose a meager 0.69 (0.02 per cent) to 2,930.45.

LAHORE: Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial of the Lahore High Court (LHC), on demand of lawyers’ organisations, released a grant of Rs 16.6 million for all bar associations of the province. A cheque of Rs 16.6 million will be handed over to Punjab Bar Council vice chairman. The vice chairman or any other authorised person will distribute the allocated amount for each bar association through its president or general secretary as per rules. All bar associations are required to ensure that financial grants are utilised for the purchase of law books only. After expenditure, intimation with support of vouchers of purchase shall be sent to the LHC.

20/06/12  Protest demonstrations in various areas of Punjab continued. Hundreds of protestors booked. 

Hundreds of residents took to the streets Wednesday on the third consecutive day of violent protests against widespread power cuts that have plagued the country during the hottest part of the year. 

After years of underinvestment and bad management in the energy sector, many residents receive only a few hours of electricity a day during the sweltering summer months. 

Many in the country s Punjab province, which is controlled by the opposition and has seen the most violent protests, feel their region shoulders an unfairly large portion of the rolling blackouts. 

A complete shutter-down strike was being observed across the Mianwali city while a protest rally was also carried out against prolonged power outages and unscheduled electricity load shedding. 

Heavy contingents of police were deployed outside banks, fuel stations and markets to protect public property from rioters. 

Special prayers were offered for a 14-year-old boy who was killed on Tuesday when guards of MNA Riaz Fatyana of the PML-Q opened fire on a mob attacking his house in Kamalia. 

In Khanewal, a complete shutter-down strike is being observed and lawyers have continued their strike to boycott court proceedings. 

On the other hand, police in Kamalia, Khanewal, Mianwala, Jalalpur Bhatian and other areas have registered cases against the violent protestors over damaging national assets, arson, vandalism and other violations

Lawyers get Rs 16.6m funds

LAHORE: Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial of the Lahore High Court (LHC), on demand of lawyers’ organisations, released a grant of Rs 16.6 million for all bar associations of the province.

A cheque of Rs 16.6 million will be handed over to Punjab Bar Council vice chairman. The vice chairman or any other authorised person will distribute the allocated amount for each bar association through its president or general secretary as per rules. All bar associations are required to ensure that financial grants are utilised for the purchase of law books only. After expenditure, intimation with support of vouchers of purchase shall be sent to the LHC.

It’s shoe for everyone in Punjab Assembly

The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday turned into a fish market after members from the treasury and the opposition hurled shoes at one another and exchanged objectionable remarks which had to be expunged from the assembly proceedings.

The Opposition woman member hurled a shoe at Sheikh Alla ud Din of PML-Q (unification bloc) after they passed objectionable comments against them.

The Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Mohammed Iqbal warned the members to avoid resorting to such an act otherwise, he warned, their members could be suspended.

Despite the Punjab Assembly warning, the opposition staged a walk out and didn’t participate in the assembly business and the treasury approved all the 43 demands for grant amid the opposition boycott.

The situation in the assembly got tense when Abdul Razzaq Dhillon, while responding to the protest of the opposition women members against the ruling party, passed remarks against Seemal Kamran, Majida Zaidi and other opposition members who had been active in the protest against the chief minister during his presence in the House the other day.

After the remarks by Dhillon, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q woman MPA sent a chit to the Speaker to take notice of, what they termed, ‘objectionable’ remarks and bar the member from using such language. Nevertheless, when the said member continued his abusive tirade, it provoked the other opposition members as well who stood up on their seats and started protesting against it.

The situation worsened after Sheikh Alla ud Din – who had indulged in verbal duels with women members on a number of times during last four years, stood up on his seat and continued using objectionable remarks against the women members.

During his brief speech, he also termed the opposition women members ‘circus dancers’ who, he said, were not aware of their abode.

The remarks added fuel to fire and Alla ud Din became the focus of criticism by the opposition members. During the exchange of heated arguments, a woman member from the treasury benches threw a shoe towards opposition members. In retaliation, women member Seemal Kamran hurled a shoe at Alla ud Din but missed the target. Rather the shoe hit an elderly MPA from Sheikhupura sitting on the bench next to Sheikh.

A Pakistan Muslim League-Q (unification bloc) member asked the chair to take notice of the occurrence and reminded him of a motion that was submitted by him two years ago. Had the chair paid attention towards the privilege motion, the situation of the House would have been much better, he regretted. The Punjab Assembly Speaker expressed resentment over the shoe hurling incident and announced suspending anyone who had had indulged in the act. Interestingly, he did not mention any name. During his speech, Pakistan Muslim League-Q Parliamentary leader Chaudhry Zaheer also demanded apology from Sheikh.

After the latter did not ‘oblige’ him, the opposition walked out of the assembly.

The provincial law minister, Rana Sana Ullah Khan, requested the chair to take notice of the incident and demanded apology from Chaudhry Zaheer for having no control on three women members who had made the House hostage. After the Opposition staged walkout, the treasury approved demands for grants amid its absence. This is noteworthy that, nearly two years ago, Sheikh Alla ud Din had exchanged hot words with Pakistan Muslim League-Q MPA Samina Khawar Hayat who had used the word ‘Lota’ (turncoat) for him.

Missing persons: AGP tells Supreme Court about steps taken by body

Expressing displeasure over slow pace of progress to recover missing persons, Supreme Court on Wednesday asked federal secretary defence, chief secretary, home secretary, inspectors general police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) Balochistan to recover missing persons without further loss of time. 

Attorney-General for Pakistan (AGP) Irfan Qadir submitted a report to the court regarding measures taken by a committee formed by the then prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry expressed dissatisfaction over committee's report, saying that no practical steps were taken for the recovery of missing persons. According to Justice Chaudhry, missing persons are Pakistani citizens and it is the duty of the state to recover and produce them before the court of law. "This is not an excuse that they [missing persons] are terrorists or criminals...whatever they are they should be given a fair trial under the constitution," he added. 

Home Secretary Balochistan Naseemullah Bazai informed the court that Balochistan government had framed a policy to pay Rs 0.4 million to the relatives of a dead person, as compensation and district committees had been directed to complete formalities. Justice Chaudhry told him that it was a meagre amount and directed him to give at least Rs 1 million to the legal heirs of a missing person in case of death. He also said that the amount should be paid within three days. 

The court also directed Home Minister Balochistan Mir Zafarullah Zehri to appear before the court on July 09 for his alleged involvement in kidnapping of two men in the province. The court was informed that the provincial home minister was on bail for the last eight years. This news came as a shock to the court. The Chief Justice issued directives to Registrar Supreme Court to get report from the concerned session judge on grant of bail to an accused [Zehri] involved in several cases of kidnapping of innocent people. 

The bench noted that the Balochistan police were also involved in arrest and release of missing persons as it was found out that in disappearance of Naseer Ahmed and Akhtar Hussain. When the police were pressured, not only the missing persons were recovered but the police also found out their car parked at a desolate place. The interior secretary Balochistan complained that there was no check on issuance of SIMs by mobile phone companies. He claimed that he bought as many as 1435 activated SIMs from the open market, which was a violation of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) rules. The mobile phone companies were directed to submit a report regarding issuance of SIMs to PTA, with directives to PTA to take stern action against the violators of law. The hearing was adjourned till July 09. The next hearing would be held at Supreme Court Registry in Quetta. 

MQM chief assures Asma Jahangir of full cooperation

KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has telephoned the noted human rights activist Asma Jahangir and assured her of full co-operation, stating that MQM would stand by her in the difficult times and in her struggle for democracy and human rights in the country.

During the conversation on Wednesday, the MQM chief said that it was highly unfortunate to call the people, who were struggling for the stability of the country, survival of democracy and the basic human rights of the deprived people, traitors. He expressed sorrow on Jahangir being called a traitor by certain elements, adding that MQM was also called a disloyal party for raising its voice for the rights of deprived people. Lately, Hussain Haqqani was also called a traitor and now the same allegation was being levelled against Jahangir. He termed it highly unfortunate for the country.

Referring to the death threats being given to Jahangir and banning her entry in the bar by some associations, he said that it was both undemocratic and unfortunate. More so for a lady who had offered immense sacrifices for human rights, independence of judiciary and civil liberties in the country and had suffered incarceration because of her selfless struggle.

Jahangir thanked Hussain for expressing sympathy and solidarity in difficult times and said that she was greatly encouraged by MQM’s support. 

No secret agreement signed with US on drone strikes, PHC told

PESHAWAR: The Ministry of Defence through an affidavit submitted in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) claimed that neither the federal government nor the top brass of the armed forces had inked any secret agreement with the United States to allow drones attacks in the tribal areas.

Deputy Attorney General (DAG), Muhammad Iqbal Mohmand submitted the written reply of the Ministry of Defence in the division bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth. During the previous hearing the bench had directed the DAG to explain whether they had allowed the US to carry out drone attacks in the country’s tribal areas.

The DAG told the bench there was no secret deal between the federal government and US and this was the reason it had opposed the drone strikes, taken up the matter with the US government and passed resolution in the National Assembly against these attacks.

He argued that the drone strikes in the tribal areas were in violation of the country’s sovereignty and international conventions and the government was even ready to pursue the case in the International Court of Justice.

To a query, he said the US started the drone strikes during former president Pervez Musharraf’s rule and the court should summon him and ask about any verbal or written deal on drone strikes with the US. The court had already made Musharraf a party in the petitions filed against the drone strikes and given 15 days to his lawyer Mauzzam Butt to get power of attorney from him to submit his written reply about the drone strikes.

The chief justice also directed petitioners’ counsels to study the drone attacks issue in depth both under the national and international laws as the court would be able to pass a comprehensive judgement in the US drone attacks on next hearing.

He hinted that the UN high commissioner could also be made party in the case to explain its position about the drone attacks as it was silent over the attacks and killings of innocent people.

During the previous hearing, the chief justice had observed that according to international reports, except for a few cases, innocent people were mostly being killed in drone strikes.

He had remarked that drone strikes should be stopped in response to the repeated demands by Pakistan’s top leaders, including the president, prime minister, chief of army staff and the Parliament.

The bench was hearing two petitions including one filed by PML-N’s FM Sabir and the other by the Defence of Pakistan Council and six others.

Shahabuddin's name finalised for new PM

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has finalized the name of Makhdoom Shahabuddin for the next Prime Minister, sources said.

Meanwhile, Raja Pervez Ashraf will file nomination papers in the Election Commission before 2 pm on Thursday as a covering candidate for the PM slot, sources said.

Presently a member of the National Assembly (February 2008 onwards) and textiles minister, Shahabuddin has earlier held the portfolios of federal minister for finance and health in the Gilani-led government.

Coming from Punjab province's Rahim Yar Khan city, Shahabuddin has been politically affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

Pakistan plagued by economic problems

Pakistan's president has asked parliament to meet on Friday to elect a new prime minister.

The dismissal of Yusuf Raza Gilani by the Supreme Court on Tuesday has added to the political instability in Pakistan.

It is not rare for people to take to the streets to vent their anger at the chronic and prolonged power outages that plague Pakistan, particularly during hot summer months. The most recent protests appear different, however, as rarely has Pakistan seen the property destruction and violence that has erupted in several cities across the Punjab and in parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 

People are furious at the electricity cuts, known as "loadshedding", which can last for up to 20 hours a day in some parts.

Gilani had taken notice of the current turmoil, but people have had little faith he or his government could improve the situation.

Since taking office in 2008, the ruling coalition has done little to fix the country’s energy shortfall and many argue the situation is now far worse than before.

Pakistan has a population of 180 million people, with the vast majority affected by the outages. Living without electricity for prolonged periods not only makes life miserable in areas where temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, but it cripples business and industry.

Nawaz says PML-N to bring country out of present crisis; says masses had not voted PPP to clash with SC

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Mian Nawaz Sharif has said that the PML-N would bring out the country from the present crisis, adding that the masses had not voted PPP to clash with Supreme Court of Pakistan.

While addressing a mammoth public gathering at the Grassy Ground in Swat, Nawaz Sharif said that the vigor of the Swat masses shows that the PML-N will achieve victory in next elections as it had used to win in past, adding that I congratulate Engineer Amir Muqam over holding a mammoth gathering, who never served PML-N earlier, adding that I have made him the team member and I am hopeful that the PML-N will win again all seats in the next elections and will serve the Swat masses.

Nawaz Sharif said those who are saying that they will change the fate of country in 90 days are lying because these people have no repute, adding that there is nothing in their credit. He said that PML-N has the track record of serving the masses of the country, adding that during the past floods it was the PML-N’s Punjab government which daily had used to send the necessary items for the flood affectees of Khyaber Pakhtoonkhawa. He said that PML-N faced allegations of friendly opposition, adding that even the PML-N had lost the Punjab government.

He said that Nawaz Sharif daily used to visit Swat and other areas to provide support to flood affectees, adding that we consider the politics as service of masses.

He said that the PML-N will change the fate of the masses after coming into power, adding that the masses had not voted for PPP to clash with the judiciary, adding that the result is in front of us that Yousuf Raza Gilani had to go home, adding that the Supreme Court has rectified the stance of the PML-N that Gilani was not prime minister from 26th of April. He said that “I was the first person who had said that Gilani was no more prime minister of country after the Supreme Court verdict”. He said that this is not time of politics instead this is time of serving the masses.

He said that Zardari Sahib you should have to serve the masses instead of clashing with Supreme Court and increasing the worries of the masses, adding that the billion were corrupted in past four years, adding that the money was recovered from the ministers and their wives on the orders of the Supreme Court. He said that the government even did not spared the Hujjaj in present era, adding that today the people are present who want to highjack the youth of country. He said that the rulers have nothing to give the masses. He said that the government faced the consequences of its attitude with the judges.

He said that the masses of the country knows that who increased the honor of the country in past, adding that six nuclear tests were carried out in response to India. He said that the electricity load shedding has disturbed the lives of the masses, adding that 20 hours load shedding of electricity is being done today in country.

He said that even one minute load shedding of electrify was not done in Nawaz Sharif era, adding that kids of people were going to schools and flour was very cheap and motorways were being constructed in country. He said that if the PML-N will be given chance in future it would construct motorway from Charsadda to Swat and Swat to Malakand and other areas of the country. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Amir Muqam and others also addressed the public gathering.

Pakistan trader hails holding Chinese building material fair in UAE‎

BEIJING: A Pakistani trader welcomed holding of Guangdong Build United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2012, the first fair and exhibition on building materials by companies from China's Guangdong province in the Gulf state, started on Monday in Dubai's neighbouring sheikhdom Sharjah, reports local media here.

The visiting Mohamed Sharif, a Pakistani businessman who runs his own General Trading company in Sharjah, was impressed by the assortment at the fair.

"China and Pakistan have always been close trading partners and my company has distribution agreements with a number of Chinese producers of building materials. This is why my company welcomes the growing influx of Chinese products to the UAE, "the English language China Daily quoted Sharif as saying.

"I think we should have such fairs on a regular basis, with exhibiting firms from different provinces in China." he asserted.

The three-day fair, which hosts some 30 companies from Guangdong province specialized on building materials, was officially opened by Sheikh Faisal Bin Khalid Mohamed Al Qassimi, Chairman of Faisal Aviation and nephew of Sharjah's ruler Dr Sheikh Sultan Al-Qassimi, in the presence of Chinese officials from Guangdong province in Southeast China, the Chinese General Consulate in Dubai and businessmen from both sides.

Zhang Yi, Economic and Commercial Counselor at China's General Consulate in Dubai, who advises Chinese firms how to enter the market of the Gulf state, said that bilateral trade between the UAE and China hit a whopping 35.1 billion US dollars in 2011, representing an annual growth of 35 percent in the last decade.

Sharif will not be disappointed. According to Ms Zhang Yi, "every year, there are a dozen of China-UAE trade fairs like the Guangdong Build United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2012, and we constantly hear of new initiatives coming up in the future."

Organised by the China Town Building Material Center, "the objective of the fair is to promote companies from Guangdong Province, which is China's leading region in relation to ceramics and building material products," said Zhang Qinwei, President of the Guangdong Business Council in the UAE.

Extremism can be eliminated by creating opportunities in Pakistan: Cameron Munter

ISLAMABAD: Ambassador of United States to Pakistan, Cameron Munter said Wednesday that extremism in Pakistan can be appeased by creating opportunities for the people of the country.

Speaking here at a farewell party given in his honour by Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), the US Ambassador termed extremism as the biggest hindrance in way of foreign investment in the country saying the extremism can be stopped by creating business opportunities to the people in the country.

Secretary Commerce Zafar Mehmood was also present on the occasion.

"Pakistan is a country of over 180 million population with huge business potentials. The business leaders in Pakistan can help mitigate extremism by making opportunities for the people", Cameron Munter remarked.

Munter expressed the hope that businessmen can help improving the political relationship of the two countries. He said the business relationship still exists between Pakistan and US.

"Businessmen of the two countries are going to be the backbone of Pakistan-US relationship", he remarked.

He said the commercial relationships are already strong as in 2011 volume of trade between the two countries remained over $ 5 billion.

He said currently US businessmen are engaged in doing business in

Pakistan in energy, construction, aerospace, information and food processing sectors.

"We have much more to offer and there is great room for other areas such as Information Technology and other service areas.

He added that efforts of being made to enhance market access to Pakistani products in US markets to further boost the trade relations between the two country.

He maintained that his country wanted to connect US business with Pakistan business "but US image in Pakistan is very negative, people here are extremely skeptical whether Americans are sincere with Pakistanis".

He said Pakistan should also encourage women and youth of the country to come forward and involve in small and medium entrepreneurship.

Earlier in his welcome address, Asad Farid, acting President of ICCI said during his tenure, Cameroon Munter had played very dynamic and energetic role in improving bilateral relations.

He urged the US investors to find public-private partnership between the two countries to improve bilateral trade ties.

PTCL revamps its VMS with new features

KARACHI: Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL) has revamped its Voice Mail Service (VMS) platform with enhanced new features of voice mail, fax-to-email, voice-to-email, Kehdo SMS, remote log-in, missed call alert service and advanced features of remote access under one umbrella.

PTCL customers can access their VMS 24/7-even in power outages and if their answering machines stop working. Never letting a call go unattended, PTCL VMS allows callers to leave voice message for a VMS subscriber, which can be retrieved by dialing 1277 IVR (locally or remotely). Alternatively, system notifies the intended recipient through out-dial notification, SMS or email service, in case of fax-to-email or voice-to-email service.

For their ease to receive messages and important updates from their family and friends while on the move, customers can also receive fax and voice messages in the form of an image or Wav file attachment through email by subscribing to PTCL fax-to-email or voice-to-email service.

SEVP Commercial PTCL, Naveed Saeed said, “PTCL's unique VMS is specifically designed to bring convenience to our landline customers.”

PTCL is continuously striving to create value-addition for its home phone services,” said EVP Wireline Business, Asif Inam.

‘US supports Pakistan’s growing pharma industry’

ISLAMABAD: Pharmaceutical sector offers invaluable benefits-health care for the Pakistani people and the growth of industry and economy, said United States (US) embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Hoagland on Tuesday. 

The US values its relationships with Pakistani business leaders and will continue to support Pakistan’s growing pharmaceutical industry, he said.

Meeting with pharmaceutical manufacturers to discuss American support for the growing industry and health sector in Pakistan, he said US has partnered with Pakistan to support investment in the public health and pharmaceutical sector and to encourage policy reforms that would improve health care for the Pakistani people. 

Economic partnership is a key element of the enduring relationship between the US and Pakistan and both countries share the goal of spurring growth in the pharmaceutical industry and in improving public health in Pakistan.

Pakistan termed good investment destination‎

LAHORE: Pakistan is a good destination for investment as it offers an excellent platform to UK businessmen for being a gateway to landlocked Central Asian states and the Middle East in supply of goods and services.
These views were expressed by Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh while speaking at a seminar on “Business prospects in Pakistan”, arranged by the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday.
The LCCI president, who was leading a 37-strong business delegation, said Pakistan being situated in the heart of Asia provided a gateway for businesses looking to expand into the Middle East and South Asian markets.
Sheikh said Pakistan was open for business and entrepreneurs and investors could play a major role in its economic recovery as the government was committed to ensuring that the country became an attractive destination for them.
He underlined the need for collaboration among dynamic institutions for exploring business opportunities, which would go a long way in bringing much-needed positive turnaround in Pakistan’s economy.
The LCCI delegation expressed interest in collaboration and joint ventures with UK-based companies.
“We are here to play our due role to explore ways to promote investment and support businesses. We believe that our efforts will contribute to increasing trade between Pakistan and the UK to £2.5 billion by 2015, which is the vision of prime ministers of Pakistan and UK,” Sheikh said.
“Our economy is growing at around 3.5% to 4%, exports have increased to the record level of $25 billion, law and order situation has significantly improved and inflation has been checked,” Sheikh said.

PML-N to serve people as it did in past: Nawaz

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif has said that government’s injudicious behaviour towards judiciary backfired at last. Addressing a large gathering here in Swat, he said that PML-N had been demanding that Yusuf Raza Gilani quit as prime minister right after he was convicted. “He should have had gone home, but he brazenly refused to do so, which was a shame”, he said. “PML-N will change things here and serve the people as it has done in the past,” he stressed. Criticizing the incumbent Pakistan Peoples Party-led government, the PML-N chief said that the people had not voted them into power to create trouble for the country. “Everyone can see what has happened to Pakistan under their leadership,” he said pointedly. He also added that despite PPP’s arrogance, their prime minister had to go home in the end. Defending against accusations levelled against the PML-N for being a friendly opposition to the PPP, Nawaz said his party has only focused on serving the people and ignored allegations. Addressing youngsters present in the rally, Nawaz said that there are some politicians who are trying to hijack the youth. “The young people are aware of the fact that who is honest to Pakistan and who will serve the country better,” he said, adding that PML-N during its days in power brought great pride to the green passport. PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, while speaking to the rally, too criticised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan without taking his name. “Those who talk about tsunami all the time are not aware of real politics,” he said, adding that Imran always talk about cricket but he does not know that politics is about serving people and not about ‘bowling politicians out’. Nisar said that Nawaz is the only leader who does not make hollow statements and honour his promises.

Zardari cancels Russia visit amid Pakistan turmoil

President Asif Ali Zardari has cancelled his visit to Russia in order to minimize the domestic crisis set off by a Supreme Court decision to disqualify his prime minister. Zardari was planning to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday cancelled a visit to Russia in a bid to contain a domestic crisis sparked by the Supreme Court disqualifying his prime minister, a spokesman said.

Zardari was due to attend the June 20-22 St Petersburg International Economic Forum but would now hold talks with coalition partners "to consider the situation (at home) and formulate a course of action," his spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.

The president held emergency talks with leaders in his main ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and summoned coalition parties to meet later Tuesday to decide how to respond, officials said.

Senior PPP members appealed for calm as isolated protests were held around the country, in a sign that the party was perhaps most likely to decide on electing an alternative prime minister rather than contesting the court ruling.

"Though we have reservations about this judgment, we will take advice from the allied parties and legal experts and will then chalk out a strategy for the future," Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told reporters.

"The central executive committee has advised all party workers to remain calm and show patience and not to protest against the verdict," he added.

Asked whether the PPP was considering a presidential pardon for Gilani, the information minister said "no such suggestion is under consideration".

PPP secretary general Jehangir Bader said the party executive committee had given Zardari "complete authority... to take any decisions after taking advice from the allied parties".

The History of Swiss Case of Zardari

Contrary to the views of many in Pakistan, June 19, 2012 was one of the bleakest days for democracy in the country. An elected prime minister was disqualified by the highest bench of the judiciary on charges of contempt of court. The case made history as it remains the only case in Pakistan which resulted in the termination and disqualification of an elected representative of the parliament.

The contempt of court case was initiated against Yousuf Raza Gilani when he refused to correspond with the Swiss authorities to reopen money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari

The history of the case can be traced back to the first term of Benazir Bhutto. It all began when the constitutional order was amended which empowered the president and restricted the prime minister’s powers. Ghulam Ishaq Khan was elected as the president of the country in 1988 and appointed Benazir Bhutto as the prime minister of Pakistan. However, the power struggle between them was evident from the beginning which came to an end when Khan in August 1990 dissolved the national assembly and dismissed Bhutto on charges pertaining to corruption as well as failure to maintain law and order.

Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was elected as the prime minister on November 1, 1990. However, in 1993, Khan again exercised his power through the eighth amendment of the Constitution and dismissed Sharif. The Supreme Court intervened and reinstated Sharif which eventually forced Khan to resign but Sharif’s term ended in the same year.

In 1993 Bhutto was re-elected as the prime minister of the country. Bhutto’s second tenure marked many controversial events including the assassination of Mir Murtaza Bhutto which sabotaged her political career significantly. The then president, Farooq Laghari, dismissed her government after three years over charges of corruption and mismanagement.

Asif Ali Zardari, although never convicted, was in prison from 1997 to 2004 on charges pertaining to money laundering, corruption and murder.

Sharif was re-elected as the prime minister of Pakistan and initiated the case in Switzerland in 1998 which accused Benazir and Asif Zardari to have embezzled $60 million in kickbacks in Swiss bank accounts. In August 2003, both, Benazir and Zardari were found guilty of the scam. However the penalties that summed up to a fine of $100‚000‚ and the order that they return some $2 million to the Government of Pakistan‚ were suspended on appeal.

In 2007, Benazir and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) allegedly negotiated a deal with Pervez Musharraf who issued an amnesty law under which the corruption cases were considered closed. However, in 2009, soon after his reinstatement, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who was suspended by Musharraf in 2007, ordered to reopen the Swiss case. However, Daniel Zappelli‚ Switzerland’s prosecutor-general said that head of the state cannot be prosecuted as he enjoys immunity and if Pakistani authorities decide to lift the immunity then he should be tried in his own country.

In the latter half of 2010, Saif-ur-Rehman, who served as the interior minister during Sharif’s second term, revealed the fact that Sharif coerced the judgement on Swiss case against Bhutto and Zardari. The proceedings of the Swiss case were expedited on Sharif’s demands and the penalty was also influenced by him.

The proceedings and the verdict, as revealed by Saif-ur-Rehman, cast doubt on the authenticity and transparency of the same.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ordered Gilani to send a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen the graft case against the head of the state. However, Gilani did not comply with court’s orders because he was of the view that Zardari enjoys immunity being the head of state. The Supreme Court charged the former prime minister with contempt of court and declared him convicted of the same on April 26, 2012. Gilani was formally disqualified on June 19, 2012.

General elections to be held in eight months, says Zardari

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari discussed the country’s current political crisis at a meeting of the Pakistan People’s Party’s leadership here Wednesday, following the Supreme Court’s verdict disqualifying his prime minister.

Addressing the meeting of the PPP’s Parliamentary Party members at the Presidency, the president said that the decision to nominate a new leader of the House would be taken in consultation with the coalition partners and in the larger national interest.

The president said that the PPP had temporarily accepted the court’s judgment, despite its reservations on the ruling, for the sake of democracy.

Moreover, he said that the next general elections would be held in eight months time.

Former prime minister and the party’s vice chairman, Yousuf Raza Gilani, who also attended the meeting, said he had worked according to the constitution and the law.

“I would continue to serve the masses and the country to the best of my capacity. I remained loyal to the party,” said Gilani.

The apex court on Tuesday had declared Yousuf Raza Gilani disqualified from holding a seat in the parliament for refusing to reopen graft cases against President Zardari.

The PPP’s Parliamentary Party members have reposed their confidence in President Zardari, authorizing him to nominate a new prime minister.

During today’s meeting, the president also briefed members on his consultations with coalition party leaders for election of a new premier.

Zardari said that the PPP did not want confrontation among state institutions, and that it would ensure that the democratic process continues without any disruption.

MQM's token walkout against killing of its members

KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a token walkout from the Sindh Assembly (SA) session here on Tuesday to protest against the killing of its members and sympathisers. Before walkout, MQM Deputy Parliamentary Leader Faisal Sabzwari said that the series of gunny bag-packed bodies founding was continued and if it continued for more time, then people would loose their patience and made their decisions on their own, which would turn the situation from bad to worst. He demanded that culprit should be considered as culprit. He further said people were stating that raids were being conducted at selected areas in the city. He made it clear that a large number of raids were conducted around the MQM headquarter and two decades ago, a raid had also been conducted at Nine Zero. He raised the question what should they reply people over killing of innocents. MQM legislator Raza Haroon also backed Sabzwari and said that they couldn’t receive corpses on daily basis and also could not sustain the situation any more. He said a number of people and even law enforcement agencies were held hostage by criminal elements. He expressed his disappointment and said that their protests and walkouts went in vain and now they couldn’t tolerate the situation any more. Later, talking to media outside SA, Sabzwari said that they were protesting against the series of MQM workers killing. He said that they had walked out from the assembly on June 14 against killing of a brother of MQM legislator, wrote a letter to Sindh chief minister over killing of traders and extortion menace in the city on June 15, registered our protest on June 18 before interior department against terrorism incident in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and now today they walked out in protest against abduction and then killing of our three activists by Lyari gang-war. He aid that despite all their protests, their abducted workers were not recovered and they received their bullet riddled bodies. He said that though they were with the government, they were also responsible before masses. He said now people ask us if it was punishment of democracy. To a question, he said that they only demand from the government for peace, but not for any ministry. He warned that such token strikes would be converted into strong protest, if situation remained same. staff report

Tradition of accusing people of treason should end: Altaf Hussain

The tradition of accusing people of treason just because they follow a different ideology should end, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain said on Wednesday.
Speaking to human rights activist Asma Jahangir over the phone, Hussain expressed sorrow over Jahangir being called a traitor and being prevented from entering the bar association.
The MQM chief said that his party had been labelled as traitor earlier and now Husain Haqqani and Jahangir along with other known names are accused of disloyalty.
Hussain assured Jahangir of his support in these difficult times.
While appreciating Hussain’s assistance, Jahangir said democratic environment can only survive if everyone has patience to tolerate opposing opinions.

CM reviews monsoon arrangements; calls on depts to work collectively

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif has directed authorities concerned to complete necessary arrangements before onset of monsoon and all departments to work in a coordinated manner so that people would not have to face any inconvenience.

He said that any preventive model adopted for the monsoon in the metropolis should be replicated in all cities of the province. He said that instead of relying on electricity, alternative sources should be utilised for uninterrupted supply of drinking water to the citizens. He said that all necessary resources would be provided for this purpose so that there is no shortage of water in any area. He directed elected representatives and government officers to pay regular visits to different areas in order to personally ensure availability of drinking water. He ordered that every method be adopted for smooth supply of potable water to the masses. 

The CM was presiding over a meeting regarding pre-monsoon arrangements in his camp office at Minar-e-Pakistan. 

MNA Mian Marghoob Ahmed, MPAs Ramzan Siddique Bhatti, Mehr Ishtiaq Ahmed, secretaries of Housing and Planning departments and heads of development authorities were present on the occasion. Addressing the meeting, Shahbaz said that an electronic monitoring system had been evolved to monitor arrangements for the rainy season and a complaint cell had also been set up at the WASA headquarters to facilitate the masses. He said that people could contact on Helpline 1334 in case of shortage of drinking water or any other complaint concerning WASA. 

Talking about arrangements for the monsoon, the CM directed that effective arrangements be made for the drainage of rainwater from low-lying areas during monsoon season, while de-silting of drains and rainwater channels should also be completed before the start of the rainy season. 

He said that availability of generators and staff at all disposal stations should be ensured. The CM granted approval to recruitment of 600 work-charge employees in WASA on emergency basis. 

He directed the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) chairman to devise an effective online system for receiving public feedback regarding pre-monsoon arrangements in order to ascertain the factual position.

Earlier, heads of development agencies informed the meeting about the measures being taken for monsoon and uninterrupted supply of potable water to the citizens. Solid Waste Management’s managing director (MD) informed that 80 percent work of de-silting of drains and rainwater channels had been completed and third-party validation had also been conducted. Meanwhile, the WASA MD informed that a tracking system was being installed on WASA vehicles for better monitoring. 

The PITB chairman said that the complaint cell was fully operational and 3,629 complaints had so far been received which had been sent to the departments concerned for necessary action.

Democratic process will continue, says PPP

Back in the Eighth Amendment days of yore, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was often called upon to determine whether a president or governor’s dismissal of the national or provincial assembly was constitutional. The Court didn’t swing the axe itself; it merely decided whether the blow was justified.
With June 19’s Supreme Court ruling that Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani ceased to hold office from April 26 on account of his conviction for contempt of court, the Court has, for the first time, dismissed a government.
I don’t know Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani. I have heard many stories about him and his family. But I don’t put stock in such stories, mostly because one can hardly trust what they read or hear nowadays. I do know him as the democratically-elected prime minister of Pakistan responsible for overseeing — some would say badly — the huge and impossibly complex job of governing this country. I also know that his removal, while legally justified, will disrupt many of the policies — whether I agree with them or not — his government was attempting to implement.
From an administrative standpoint, his removal means a change in momentum in the implementation of policy. It means uncertainty. Uncertainty is a cancer for any administration. These are entities that demand focus and direction, else the wheels spin but no one gets anywhere. On the other hand, there is the possibility that a new government may bring the focus and attention that our administration demands. Stranger things have been known to happen.
There are many reasons to dismiss an elected representative. But they must be good, as the will of the people is not something to be taken lightly. A representative may be corrupt, in which case they have lost the moral authority to represent their constituency. A prime minister may be removed on a vote of no confidence, which means he has lost the ability to govern parliament.
In the present case, the prime minister has been removed because — as some see it — he has refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s direction to write a letter that may initiate criminal proceedings against the sitting president. Some argue that a convicted person cannot be prime minister.
Some of the petitions and applications upon which the Supreme Court made its decision were filed after the prime minister’s conviction. They were ably argued by, amongst others, AK Dogar and Mohammad Azhar Siddique (who brought CP 40 of 2012 titled Mohammad Azhar Siddique vs Federation of Pakistan in his own name). Some will recall AK Dogar as the advocate who represents Hafiz Saeed before the Lahore High Court. And who can forget Azhar Siddique, the lawyer behind the petition seeking a ban on Facebook and founder of the alternative social media website Millat Facebook.
I congratulate all counsel for the swiftness with which they were able to obtain disposal of their petitions for their clients. By way of contrast, I know of a litigant before the Supreme Court who is claiming compensation for the state’s acquisition of his family’s property in 1948 and for which litigation commenced in 1988. To date, he has not received his compensation. Our Constitution directs that no person be deprived of their property without compensation. Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947, said that the first duty of the State was to protect the life and property of its citizens.
But by far the most troubling activity in the Court this past week was the brouhaha that sparked up between the attorney general of Pakistan and senior lawyers when the latter employed what can best be described as an ultra vires hand gesture during arguments. Such scenes have hitherto been the domain of the district courts and evening news reporting. Nevertheless, it is often said that violence begins when sane men lose their ability to reason. The fact that reason is lost on the courtroom floor is a dark omen for us all.

China to finance 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum project

LAHORE - CDWP approves revised PC-I of Rs 274.88 billion for the project
Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) Chairman Shakil Durrani on Tuesday said that the China EXIM Bank would provide US $448 million to help complete the strategically important 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project (NJHP).
He presided over a meeting to review progress on the project being constructed on Neelum river in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), where he also informed that the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) had also approved revised PC-I of the project amounting to Rs 274.882 billion. The meeting was attended by members of the Authority, NJHP Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and other officials concerned.
Briefing the meeting, NJHP CEO said that assembling of the two German-manufactured sate-of-the-art tunnel boring machines (TBMs) at the project site was in progress. “The first TBM is expected to be operational in August, while the second one in September 2012,” he said. The use of TBMs would enhance the progress, thereby reducing construction period of the project by 18 months. “This would result in an estimated benefit of Rs 60 billion,” he added.
The meeting was also told that the construction work at all sites including main dam, de-sander, tunnels, and underground power house and transformers hall was in full swing. About 23 kilometers main and access tunnels had so far been excavated. “The overall progress on the project stands at 35%,” the meeting was further informed.
Later, WAPDA Chairman said that NJHP was a vital project in view of the ever increasing needs of electricity in the country. Expressing satisfaction over the pace of work, he directed that every effort be made to complete the project as per schedule.

Chairman CNG demands suspension of gas to Captive Power

Islamabad—Chairman All Pakistan CNG Association Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha has demanded that gas supply to Captive Power should be immediately cut of for urgent relief from energy crises and electricity shortage as its 344 Mmcfd gas could be transferred to power stations to produce 1720 MW electricity.

While giving suggestions to the Prime Minister’s Energy Committee Ghiyas Paracha said that Industry is getting enough gas for processing,. To stop wastage ,gas load shedding should be equalized to CNG which will resolve the the electricity crisis by 50%.

Ghiyas Paracha said that Govt. should impose complete ban on use of gas generators. The generators in factories, CNG stations , Petrol Pumps, high rise buildings, Commercial Plazas and Houses are consuming much gas which can produce 2000 MW electricity. He assured full support to government in this regard.

Ghiyas Piracha said some people in government are defying the facts to target CNG sector. The closure of CNG will lead new crisis as Government can not provide petrol to millions of vehicles.

“Country does not have enough resources and government does not have enough foreign reserves” to meet the cost of imported oil, he cautioned.

Japan May trade deficit jumps on soaring energy costs

TOKYO — Japan logged a bigger-than-expected trade deficit of $11.5 billion in May, hit by soaring energy costs and weakening demand from struggling Europe, official data showed on Wednesday.

The figures, which showed a 907.3-billion-yen shortfall in May from a year earlier, revealed that Japan had its first monthly trade deficit with the European Union since records started in 1979.

Demand from the continent, a major market for Japanese products, continues to suffer with Tokyo repeatedly warning that the eurozone debt crisis was the biggest risk for Japan's economy, the world's third largest.

Tokyo's trade deficit with the EU came to 11.1 billion yen in May, reversing a year-earlier surplus of 25.6 billion as exports of microchips and other electronic parts tumbled.

There was, however, contrasting news in the form of exports overall rising 10.0 percent to 5.23 trillion yen as shipments of automobiles and auto parts soared, mainly driven by demand in the United States.

"Europe's debt problem is affecting international trade," said Daiwa Institute of Research economist Satoshi Osanai, noting Europe-bound exports from the United States and China were also slowing.

"If the European situation worsens, trade figures would worsen further. We have to watch the European problem closely."

Japan's overall May trade deficit was a record for the month and 5.4 percent higher than the 860.7-billion-yen deficit in May 2011.

It was also well above the 520-billion-yen deficit expected by economists.

Overall, imports jumped 9.3 percent to 6.14-trillion yen from a year earlier, largely due to rising purchases of foreign oil and gas.

Japan is struggling to meet its energy needs, turning to pricey fossil fuel alternatives after its nuclear reactors were switched off in the wake of last year's atomic crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Imports rose in volume as well as in value, as power companies stepped up fuel purchases to prepare for heavy summer demand.

"The bigger-than-expected deficit increases uncertainty", Osanai said.

"(But) considering it was a seasonal surge, we may not have to be overly pessimistic" about the fate of Japan's economy, he added.

Mizuho Research and Consulting senior economist Norio Miyagawa said Japan's trade balance "is likely to remain in a deficit at least for the rest of this fiscal year", which ends in March 2013.

"Imports will probably keep rising due to energy-related items, while any improvement in exports should remain subdued due to not-so-robust Asian and European economies," he told Dow Jones

Gas supply to fertilizer sector stopped

The government has directed the Sui Northern Company to stop supplying gas to the fertilizer sector due to the ongoing power crisis in the country. The government has directed the Sui Northern Company to stop supplying gas to the fertilizer sector due to the ongoing power crisis in the country.

The government has directed the Sui Southern to cut supply to fertilizer manufacturing companies and instead ensure supplying maximum quantity of gas to power producers to help produce as much electricity as possible.

The fertifitizer companies have intimated this development to the Karachi Stock exchange. These include Engro Fertilizers and Dawood Hercules.

According to Sui Northern Company this measures is being taken on the government directive and gas supply to the fertilizer companies would be restored as soon as the sitaution improves.

Pakistan in crisis talks to find new PM

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's president was forced into a second day of crisis talks to find a new premier acceptable to his fractious coalition on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ousted the incumbent for contempt.

The nuclear-armed country - facing a Taliban insurgency and the object of US wrath over havens for Al-Qaeda-linked militants fighting the Americans in Afghanistan - has been plunged into political chaos by Tuesday's court ruling.

Yousuf Raza Gilani, who became prime minister following the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) election win in 2008, was dismissed after being convicted of contempt for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

He moved out of the prime minister's house overnight, leaving Zardari to embark on intense horse trading in order to set up a new executive and stave off early general elections.

Zardari chaired talks overnight with coalition leaders and was to meet PPP MPs at around 4pm (1100 GMT), when officials had said he hoped to nominate a new premier.

Ahmed Mukhtar, minister for water and power, and textiles minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, appear to have emerged as the front runners.

"The next prime minister will be elected by the national assembly. He will be a member of parliament. He will be a nice person and loyal to the party," Gilani's lawyer and PPP member Aitzaz Ahsan told reporters Wednesday.

He confirmed the new premier will immediately face court demands to write to the Swiss, which is why analysts say Zardari will only countenance a loyalist.

"We accept this verdict," Ahsan said. "The prime minister has left the prime minister's house, though we have reservations about this verdict."

The US State Department expressed hope that Pakistan would resolve the crisis in accordance with the constitution.

Washington and Islamabad are locked in a stalemate over Pakistan's seven-month blockade on NATO supplies into Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, reactions were mixed, but editorial writers praised the PPP for accepting the verdict and calling for calm.

"Contrary to the claims by many, the ouster of the prime minister and his cabinet has not shaken the democratic system. Parliament is intact and a new leader of the house may soon be in place," wrote The News.

It said the court had been right and urged Zardari to act quickly to find a cabinet capable of dealing with the huge problems facing ordinary Pakistanis - crushing power cuts, rioting, violence, inflation and insecurity.

But the country's oldest English daily, Dawn, criticised the court for its "extraordinary - and unfortunate - step", calling it disruptive to nascent democracy.

"What is critical now is that elections are held, whether early or on time and as free and fair as possible, so that the final judgement can be left to the people's court," it wrote.

The liberal Express Tribune advised the court to show the same assertiveness towards Pakistan's powerful military, repeatedly accused of human rights abuses.

Gilani's disqualification was the culmination of a showdown between the judiciary led by a popular chief justice, and a weak, ineffective government that critics say has been politicised at best, or vendetta-driven at worst.

Zardari prevaricated for months on restoring the independent judiciary after the PPP won general elections in February 2008, only doing so in March 2009 to stave off a threatened opposition march on Islamabad.

In December 2009, the Supreme Court annulled a controversial amnesty that had allowed Zardari and his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, back into politics in exchange for a moratorium on corruption cases.

But the government refused to request the Swiss reopen investigations. The court's patience finally ran out in January and on April 26 it convicted Gilani of contempt.

Gilani always insisted Zardari had immunity as head of state and that writing to the Swiss would be a violation of Pakistan's constitution.

PPP supporters accuse the court, in collusion with the army and the opposition, of trying to bring down Zardari before February 2013, when the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full five-year term.

The cases against Zardari date to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss banks to launder $12 million allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs contracts.

The Swiss shelved the cases in 2008 when Zardari became president.

UN calls for U.S. to justify deaths by drone attacks

GENEVA — A UN investigator has called on the Obama administration to justify its policy of assassinating rather than capturing al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects, increasingly by using unmanned drone aircraft that also kill civilians.

Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged Washington to clarify the basis under international law of the policy, in a 28-page report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.

The U.S. military has conducted drone attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, said Mr. Heyns, a South African jurist. “Disclosure of these killings is critical to ensure accountability, justice and reparation for victims or their families.

“The [U.S.] government should clarify the procedures in place to ensure that any targeted killing complies with international humanitarian law and human rights and indicate the measures or strategies applied to prevent casualties, as well as the measures in place to provide prompt, thorough, effective and independent public investigation of alleged violations.”

Citing figures from the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, he said U.S. drone strikes killed at least 957 people in Pakistan in 2010 alone. Thousands have been killed in 300 drone strikes there since 2004, 20% of whom are believed to be civilians.

Last week, Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, defended Washington’s use of drone strikes, days after one killed one of al-Qaeda’s most powerful figures in Pakistan, the Libyan-born Abu Yahya al-Libi.

“Although figures vary widely with regard to drone attack estimates, all studies concur on one important point: there has been a dramatic increase in their use over the past three years,” Mr. Heyns said.

“While these attacks are directed at individuals believed to be leaders or active members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, in the context of armed conflict (e.g. in Afghanistan), in other instances, civilians have allegedly also perished in the attacks in regions where it is unclear whether there was an armed conflict or not (e.g. in Pakistan).”

Human rights law requires every effort be made to arrest a suspect, in line with the “principles of necessity and proportionality on the use of force,” he added.

There had been no official or satisfactory response to concerns laid out by his predecessor, Philip Alston, an Australian expert, in a 2009 report on his investigation a year earlier.

“The Special Rapporteur again requests the Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings … [and] reiterates his predecessor’s recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture ‘human targets’ and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent,” Mr. Heyns said.

Zamir Akram, the Pakistani ambassador to the HRC, said Monday his country consistently maintained the use of drones was illegal and violated its sovereignty, “not to mention being counter-productive.”

“Thousands of innocent people, including women and children, have been murdered in these indiscriminate attacks,” he said.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who made an official visit to Pakistan this month, said it was “unclear that all persons targeted are combatants or directly participating in hostilities.”

States have an international obligation to ensure that attacks comply with international law and to conduct transparent, credible inquiries, she added.


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