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WORLD IN FOCUS June ‘ July 2011

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

CIA chief leaves without deal: Leon Panetta, chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), left Islamabad on June 11 after a meeting with Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI head Gen Shuja Pasha, but without a deal on resetting the relationship between the spy agencies.

Mr Panetta, did not meet anyone other than the Kayani-Pasha duo who he met at the Army House over dinner and discussed what was described by the ISPR as framework for future intelligence sharing.

Declaration signed: Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a 23-point declaration on June 11.

Through the declaration, the two countries agreed to improve connectivity and infrastructure development, initiate cooperation in energy, mines and mineral sectors and significantly increase cultural, parliamentary, student, youths and people-to-people contacts.

Rs 249b budget for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Keeping in view the next general election, the coalition government of Khyber Pakhtun-khwa presented on June 11 a Rs.249.151 billion balanced budget for 2011-12, one-third of which is to be spent on the Annual Development Programme (ADP). Finance Minister Muhammad Humayun Khan presented the budget in the provincial assembly amid an unusual calm as the opposition did not cause any problem.

The budget proposed no new levy, but an increase in the rates of taxes and water cess and bringing private professional colleges into the tax net will increase the cost of different services.

Relief in penalties on late registration of vehicles and reduction in sales tax on services from 17 to 16 per cent in line with the federal budget are part of the budgetary proposals.

Move to amend law of evidence: The military authorities have expressed serious concern over what they call dismally low rate of terrorists’ conviction by courts throughout the country and have asked the government to see if some necessary changes could be made in relevant laws.

At a recent meeting between top civilian and military leadership, the sources said, the issue of increasing number of terrorists securing easy acquittals from courts, mainly in the absence of adequate evidence, came up and it was decided to have a complete review of the law of evidence.

72.9m under the poverty line: The government of Pakistan is shying away from disclosing figures on poverty. The government has plenty of reasons to do just that.

On March 25, 2008, the day Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was taking oath of office, there were an estimated 47.1 million Pakistanis living in extreme poverty. Over the past three years an average of 25,000 Pakistanis per day – every single day of the past three years – have been driven into extreme poverty. The total now stands at an estimated 72.9 million under the poverty line,
meaning that three years of the PPP-led government has shown an additional 25.7 million into abject poverty.

Four Pakistanis among 22 set free by pirates: Four Pakistani and six Indian seamen and 12 other hostages have been released by Somali pirates after payment of $2.1 million ransom.

Besides Capt Syed Wasi Hasan, Muzzamil, Mohammed Alam and Ali Rehman of Pakistan and six Indians, 11 Egyptians and a Sri Lankan citizen have been freed, a spokesperson for the Sindh Governor’s House and an NGO official said in a statement.

Focus on energy and market access: Continuing to work on their rocky bilateral relationship, Pakistan and the United States agreed on June 13 to prune the strategic dialogue to make it more ‘focused and result-oriented’.

US Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Thomas Nides, who heads the State Department’s policy planning and civilian assistance for Pakistan and Afghanistan, discussed with his Pakistani interlocutors the resumption of bilateral strategic dialogue, currently stalled because of tense ties and future of Kerry-Lugar assistance.

Four EC members take oath: Four members of the Election Commission (EC) took oath on June 13, making it fully functional after almost a year.

Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Hamid Ali Mirza administered oath to Justice (retd) Fazalur Rehman from Balochistan, Justice (retd) Shahzad Akbar Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Justice (retd) Riaz Kiyani from Punjab and Justice (retd) Muhammad Roshan Essani from Sindh.

AJK Assembly passes Rs 44.5 b budget: Within hours of its presentation, the AJK budget for 2011-12 was passed by the Legislative Assembly because more than half of its members were busy in electioneering.

Finance Minister Abdul Rashid Abbasi presented a deficit budget with an outlay of Rs 44.549 billion. It proposed Rs 36.265 billion for recurring expenditure and Rs 8.284 billion for development.

US panel proposes 75pc aid for Pakistan withheld: A US defence bill approved on June 14 proposes withholding 75 per cent of the $1.1 billion aid to Pakistan for the next fiscal year until the Obama administration reports to Congress on how it would spend the money.

The House Appropriations Committee also gave additional power to Congress to review US assistance to Pakistan. This would ensure that Islamabad cooperates with the Americans in the war against terror, as stipulated in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill.

Cabinet approves draft of 20th amendment: The federal cabinet on June 14 approved the draft of the 20th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2011, which has been prepared in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court after the formation of the Election Commission (EC) and the appointment of four new EC members.

Sindh chiefs of Rangers, police removed: The government removed the Director General of Sindh Rangers and police chief of the province on June 15 in
compliance with an order issued by the Supreme Court after the cold-blooded killing of a young man in Karachi.

IPPs invokes sovereign guarantees for dues: The cash-starved government struggling to cope with the stifling inter-corporate circular debt crisis in the power sector received a fresh jolt on June 15 when four Independent Power Producers (IPPs) called sovereign guarantees for the recovery of their dues of over Rs 10 billion outstanding against the NTDC/Pepco.

It is the second time in the country’s history that private power producers have invoked sovereign guarantees for recovering their dues, the price of electricity sold to the NTDC/Pepco, Hubco, the country’s largest private power company, had decided to do so in 1998, but the matter was resolved after the government paid off the money.

Pakistan to work with SCO for peace, says Zardari: President Asif Ali Zardari said Pakistan would work with member states of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) for maintaining peace, spreading prosperity and defeating terrorism in the region.

The president said Pakistan looked forward to enhancing its cooperation with SCO member countries to eliminate the menace.

President Zardari expressed the hope that Pakistan’s application for full membership of SCO would be processed expeditiously.

Shahbaz richest member of Punjab Assembly: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is the richest member of the Punjab Assembly with assets of Rs 489.64 million in the country and abroad.

According to statements of assets and liabilities for 2010 submitted to the Election Commission by members of the provincial assembly, Mr Sharif has declared the value of his four properties in the United Kingdom at Rs 175.6 million.

His assets in Pakistan include a property in Murree worth Rs 16.60 million and agricultural property of Rs 6.9 million. He has shown an investment of Rs 20.85 million in sugar, textile and paper mills. He owns a gifted Land Cruiser worth Rs 20.81 million. He has secured mortgages of Rs 146.25 million and has liabilities of over Rs 6 million. He has Rs 5.75 million in bank account.

PNS Babur rescues crew: The crew of the ill-fated MV Suez has been shifted to PNS Babur on the orders of Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir.
A press release issued by the Public Relations Directorate of Pakistan Navy said the evacuation of MV Suez crew had been completed and all 22 members, 11 Egyptians, six Indians, four Pakistanis and one Sri Lankan, were safely onboard PNS Babur.
The Egyptian owner of the ship abandoned the crew and the ship and Admiral Bashir ordered the transfer of the crew to the naval ship on humanitarian grounds.

Rs 164.45b budget for Balochistan:
The Balochistan government unveiled a Rs 164.45 billion budget for the next financial year, with a development programme of Rs 31.24 billion and deficit of Rs 6.73 billion.

Finance Minister Mir Asim Kurd presented the budget in the provincial assembly with the consolidated revenue and capital receipts estimated at Rs 157.84 billion.

Marvi quits NA in protest against her leaders, govt:
In a dramatic and a rare move, PML-Q MNA Marvi Memon, set a new moral precedent by resigning from National Assembly after voting against the finance bill and presenting a long charge sheet against the government and her party.

Punjab PA approves budget: The Punjab Assembly approved with a majority vote the 2011-12 budget with the passage of 43 demands for grants worth Rs 653 billion, rejecting the cut motions moved by the opposition.

Unemployment, GDP growth figures contradictory: The country’s statistics methodology again came under scrutiny after the government claimed that the unemployment rate declined to 5.6 per cent in 2010-11, a year in which the country achieved growth of just 2.4 per cent.

MQM walks out of coalition: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said on June 26 that it had decided to part ways with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and sit on opposition benches in the National Assembly, Senate and Sindh Assembly in protest against the postponement of election on two Karachi seats of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly.

But the most surprising announcement that MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar made at a press conference was of the resignation of Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan.

Cabinet approves devolution of seven ministries: The federal cabinet approved the devolution of seven ministries to the provinces, completing the process two days before the deadline under the 18th Amendment adopted by parliament in April last year.

As proposed by the implementation commission, the functions and staff of the ministries of food and agriculture, sports, women development, minorities’ affairs, labour and manpower, environment and health, with certain exceptions, will be transferred to the provinces from July 1.

With that 17 federal ministries and the Concurrent List of subjects will stand dissolved.

Action recommended against FC, policemen: The judicial tribunal on the Kharotabad incident has found Col Faisal Shahzad of Frontier Corps (FC), former Quetta police chief Daud Junejo and other FC and police personnel guilty of killing five foreigners and recommended legal action against them.

The tribunal submitted its report to Chief Minister Aslam Raisani who has ordered that the report be made public and its recommendations implemented.

US rejects demand to vacate Shamsi base: The US is rejecting demands from Pakistan that American personnel abandon a military base used by the CIA to stage drone strikes against militants, US officials told Reuters.

US personnel have not left the Shamsi air base and there is no plan for them to do so, said a US official familiar with the matter.

SC suspends FIA official’s transfer notification: The Supreme Court on June 30 suspended the transfer notification of Zafar Qureshi, who was probing the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) scam. A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim, was hearing a contempt of court case against three federal secretaries for transferring FIA officer Zafar Qureshi, who was probing the NICL scam.

SC rejects reference against 5 PCO judges: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has rejected President Asif Ali Zardari’s reference sent to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against five PCO judges, saying that the president should be told the reference had no legal status.

Pak-UK resolve to eradicate militancy: President Asif Ali Zardari and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed that their countries would continue to work together in the fight against militancy and for promoting peace.

The President Asif Ali Zardari praised the role played by Britain in seeking a trade package for Pakistan from the European Union. Pakistan wants to start negotiations for a free trade agreement with the EU.

Mr Cameron said Britain’s four-year education programme for Pakistan would help get more than four million children into school and recruit and train 90,000 teachers.

PAC calls for action against 3 retired generals: In what appeared to be a move to assert its authority, the Public Accounts Committee formally held three retired military generals responsible for causing a loss of Rs. 1.82 billion to the pubic exchequer after the GHQ failed to provide its report on a scam in the National Logistic Cell.

In its final decision, the committee held the three retired generals guilty of lapse of discipline, lack of transparency and blatant violation of government rules and regulation during their tenure.

NLC officers Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Munir Khan, Lt Gen (retd) Mohammad Afzal Muzaffar and Maj Gen (retd) Khalid Zaheer Akhtar have been held responsible in the Hamid Hassan report and the AGP’s audit report for corruption to the tune of billions of rupees in the NLC because of illegal and unauthorised loans of Rs. 4.3 billion taken by its management between 2004 and 2008 for investment in the stock exchanges that caused losses of Rs. 1.84 billion.

Operation launched in central Kurram: A military offensive has been launched against militants in central tehsil of Kurram Agency and families have started fleeing the conflict zone.

Solution to energy crisis lies in tapping Thar coal: Renowned scientist and member Science and Technology, Planning Commission of Pakistan Dr Samar Mubarakmand said the development of Thar coal was the only viable long-term solution to energy crisis prevailing in the country.

He said the electricity generated through integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants would cost Rs. 7 per KWH.

He said that the 41 per cent electricity of the world was being produced from the coal, adding that India was producing 64.6 per cent electricity from the coal, whereas Pakistan was only producing 2.27 per cent electricity from coal. He said that 95 per cent natural wealth was not being utilised, whereas not a single kg of coal was mined.

He said that the current energy crisis was causing loss of Rs. 230 billion and rendering 400,000 people jobless. Current dependable power supply hovers around 14,000MW in summer though it drops in the winter.

On the other hand, power demand in 2030 would be more than 100,000MW, he added.

SC stops disciplinary action against FIA officer: The Supreme Court suspended FIA’s disciplinary action against Additional Director General Zafar Qureshi over his television interview and criticised political intervention aimed at halting the court’s functioning.

Mr Qureshi was suspended on July 4 despite directives issued by the court on July 1 to reinstate him so that he could continue an investigation into the National Insurance Company (NICL) scam that also implicated Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, son of former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

90pc district courts’ staff corrupt: Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry has shown deep concern over the rampant corruption in Punjab district judiciary, saying it is lagging well behind the targets set under the National Judicial Policy. Addressing all the judges of the LHC sessions courts at a meeting, he said 90 per cent staff of the district judiciary in Punjab was corrupt and they were the main impediment to the dispensation of speedy and inexpensive justice as litigants had to deal with them on a daily basis.

US withholds $800m of Pak military aid: The White House said on July 10 that it’s withholding some $800 million in military aid to Pakistan while the Pentagon said that Islamabad was cutting back its ties to the US defence establishment.

The $800 million is about a third of the annual US security aid to Pakistan. In the 2010-11 budget, Pakistan set aside $6.41 billion for defence expenditure, an increase of $1.27 billion from the previous year.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Russia protests arrival of US Navy cruiser in Black Sea: Russia on June 12 protested the arrival of a US Navy cruiser equipped with a ballistic missile defence system in the Black Sea to take part in naval exercises with neighbouring Ukraine, saying it was a threat to its national security.

We have a number of questions regarding the arrival in the Black Sea of the US Navy cruiser Monterey equipped with the Aegis anti-missile system to participate in the Ukrainian-US Sea Breeze 2011 exercises, the Russian foreign ministry said.

Hezbollah, allies dominate new Lebanon govt: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati insisted in an interview on June 13 that there would be no radical shift in policy as he announced the formation of a new government in which Hezbollah and its allies hold the majority.

The billionaire businessman reve-aled his line-up following arduous negotiations over key portfolios including justice and telecommunications, now controlled by the Syrian-and Iranian-backed Hezbollah alliance.

Zawahiri named to succeed Osama: Al-Qaeda named Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri to succeed slain leader Osama bin Laden and vowed no let-up in its deadly ‘jihad’ against the United States and Israel.

King of Bahrain’s son marries Saudi king’s daughter: Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the fifth son of Bahraini King Hamad bin Eisa Al Khalifa married the daughter of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

UNSC recommends Ban for second term: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution on June 17 endorsing a second term for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and recommended his candidacy for approval by the 192-member general assembly.

The 15-nation council adopted the resolution during a closed-door session, recommending that Ban be appointed for a second, five-year term starting Jan 1, 2012, The Council President for June, Ambassador Nelson Messone of Gabon, confirmed the decision to reporters after the meeting.

Karzai confirms US-Taliban talks: The United States is holding talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said, in the first official confirmation of such contacts after nearly 10 years of war.

Although diplomats and officials say talks are at a very early stage, Karzai’s remarks highlight the increasing focus on finding a political solution in Afghanistan as foreign combat troops prepare to pull out by 2014.

N-energy still important: Nuclear power is still a viable source of global energy despite the crisis in Japan, the OECD chief said.

Angel Gurria, head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said nuclear power remains necessary to meet growing energy needs but also voiced support for fuel sources such as solar and water power.

30,000 US troops to quit Afghanistan by 2012 end: As President Barack Obama finalises his plan to withdraw up to 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, the Pentagon indicated that its top commander in that country would also leave earlier than expected.

Germany, China agree to increase trade: German and Chinese leaders on June 28 pledged a big increase in trade between their countries, the biggest economies of Europe and Asia, while China’s premier underlined his support for the eurozone amid its debt crisis.

Germany and China want to increase their annual bilateral trade volume to (euro) 200 billion ($284 billion) by 2015, Angela Merkel said. Wen voiced hopes that the countries could even double their trade volume over five years.

Trade between China and Germany totalled just over (euro) 130 billion last year, a 38.5 per cent increase compared with 2009. China was the No. 7 buyer of German exports, at (euro) 53.6 billion; and it led the list of importers to Germany, which bought Chinese goods and services worth (euro) 76.5 billion.

Qadhafi threatens attacks in Europe: A defiant Muammar Qadhafi threatened to carry out attacks in Europe against “homes, offices, families,” unless Nato halts its campaign of airstrikes against his regime in Libya.

The Libyan leader, sought by the International Criminal Court for brutally crushing an uprising against him, delivered the warning in an audio message played to thousands of supporters gathered in the main square of the capital Tripoli.

Ousted Thai PM’s sister leads party to victory: Thailand’s opposition won a landslide election victory on July 3, led by the sister of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a triumph for red-shirt protesters.

Ocean floor muddies China’s grip on ’21st-century gold’: China’s monopoly over rare-earth metals could be challenged by the discovery of massive deposits of these hi-tech minerals in mud on the Pacific floor, a study suggests.

China accounts for 97 per cent of the world’s production of 17 rare earth elements, which are essential for electric cars, flat-screen TVs, iPods, superconducting magnets, lasers, missiles, night-vision goggles, wind turbines and many other advanced products.

US expands C. Asia supply routes: The US military is expanding its Central Asian supply routes to the war in Afghanistan, fearing that the routes going through Pakistan could be endangered by deteriorating US-Pakistani relations, The Washington Post reported.

Citing unnamed Pentagon officials, the newspaper said that in 2009, the United States moved 90 per cent of its military surface cargo through Karachi port and then through mountain passes into Afghanistan.

Ousted Tunisian president gets 15 years jail: A Tunis court on July 4 sentenced ousted Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in his absence to 15 years in jail for possession of arms, drugs and archaeological artefacts.

In his second trial since fleeing to Saudi Arabia following a popular uprising in January, Ben Ali was also given a fine of 54,000 euros ($78,500).

Iran and Iraq sign accords, vow to put past behind: Baghdad and Tehran pledged on July 6 to strengthen ties and put the past behind them, even as Washington accuses Iran of supplying new and more lethal weapons to anti-US militias.

Iran and Iraq, which fought a 1980-1988 war that was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the past century, killing an estimated one million people, have drawn closer since the US-led invasion of 2003.

China likely to export drones: China is leading the world community in a global race to match US drone capabilities. The country has dozens of models under development, and has shown willingness to share it with other countries, daily Mail and online blogs said.

About 50 countries have bought surveillance drones, and many have begun programmes to develop armed versions. The United States is selling weaponised drones to only a handful of close allies. China has a greater interest in selling the technology. News reports claimed that Pakistan has placed order for about 50 drones.

US House approves $649b for defence in 2012: A $649 billion defence spending bill for next year easily passed the US House of Representatives after four
days of debate in which war-weary lawmakers sought to curb President Barack Obama’s combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

SPORTS

Aisam, Bopanna win Gerry Weber Open doubles title: Top seeds Aisamul Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna lived up to their billing and won their first ATP title of the season, overcoming Robin Haase and Milos Raonic 7-6 (8), 3-6, 11-9 in the summit clash of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany.

Murray crowned king at Queen’s again: Britain’s Andy Murray clinched his second Queen’s title with a 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 victory over French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.

It was also Murray’s first ATP title since beating Roger Federer at the Shanghai Masters in October and earned the Scot a cheque for 77,500 euros ($112,000).

Vinci wins fifth career title: Italian seventh seed Roberta Vinci saw off Australian Jelena Dokic 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 7-5 to win the WTA tournament at Rosmalen, adding the crown to an earlier success this season in Barcelona.

Record-breaking McIlroy cruises to first major title: Rory McIlroy won the US Open by eight shots in record style, confirming his rich promise as a potential golfing great by becoming the chamionship’s youngest winner since 1923.

Eight strokes in front overnight, the 22-year-old Briton maintained ice-cool composure while carding a two-under-par 69 on a humid and overcast day at Congressional Country Club to claim his first major title.

Djokovic outguns Nadal to win Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic outplayed Rafa Nadal to win the Wimbledon title with an emphatic 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory in the final on July 3. The Serbian second seed saw off the defending champion to claim his first Wimbledon crown and confirm his status as the new world No 1.

OBITUARIES IN NEWS

National
Renowned songwriter and poet Khawaja Pervaiz died on June 20. He was 76.

International
Ustad Asad Ali, India’s last legendary exponent of the Rudra Veena, died on June 14. He was 74.

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