Current Pakistan National Affairs
Agreement reached on Tapi gas pipeline: The leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Turkmenistan agreed on December 11 to move forward with a complicated and risky plan to build a natural gas pipeline across rugged territory plagued by war and terrorism.
The pipeline, which would terminate in India, would bring huge amounts of gas to underdeveloped regions and could earn impoverished Afghanistan hundreds of millions of dollars in transit fees.
The route for the 1,700-kilometre Tapi (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) pipeline from gas-rich Turkmenistan would cross Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, where the Taliban and international forces are locked in battle, as well as some of Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas. Concerns about security for the pipeline itself and for the workers who construct it have cast doubt on the project’s near-term feasibility, but proponents say it would calm the chaotic region.
Car sales rise by 12 per cent in July-Nov: The auto sector showed a mixed performance in July-November 2010 with rise in sales of cars, two/three wheelers and pick-ups by 12.27 per cent, 9.6 per cent and 7.65 per cent, respectively, while trucks, buses, tractors and jeeps sales plunged by 1.86 per cent, 6.08 per cent, 8 per cent, and 13.24 per cent compared to same period of 2009.
NCA rules out signing of treaty on N-material: The National Command Authority (NCA), which comprises the country’s top political and military leadership, declared that Pakistan would never accept any compromise on its nuclear deterrence and ruled out signing the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).
Haj scam strikes double blow: On a day of drama in high places, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sacked the two warring federal ministers at the centre of the Haj affair and asked a federal secretary facing corruption charges to report to the Establishment Division, while Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F, a coalition partner, set off speculations about the future of the ruling coalition by quitting the government.
PPP bid to woo back Fazl draws a blank: The first formal bid by the Pakistan People’s Party to bring the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam back in to the government’s fold remained unsuccessful on December 15 as JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman told a PPP team that his party’s decision to quit the coalition was ‘final and irreversible.
Indus water commissioner removed: In the middle of a high-profile case involving India (over the construction of Kishanganga hydropower project) pending before the International Court of Arbitration (COA), the government removed its Permanent Indus Water Commissioner, Jamaat Ali Shah. Mr Sheraz Jamil Memon will work as Pakistan’s Commissioner at the (Pak’ India) Permanent Indus Commission.
First drone attack in Khyber kills seven: In an apparent expansion of the covert drone campaign, a US unmanned aircraft killed on December 16 seven suspected militants in the remote Tirah valley of Khyber Agency.
Obama repeats ‘do more’ Mantra: Although conceding that Pakistan’s cooperation has allowed them to place militants in a ‘ meat in the sandwich’ situation, US President Barack Obama and his senior aides have once again urged Islamabad to do still more.
Progress has not come fast enough, so we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with’
Mr Obama said at the White House while launching his first review of the US strategy for Afghanistan.
CIA recalls spy from Pakistan: The CIA’s top spy in Pakistan, who helps oversee drone strikes against militants, has been forced to leave the country amid threats to his life, a US intelligence official said.
SECP inks accord with Chinese regulator: The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) have signed on December 18 a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to further enhance regulatory cooperation and information sharing between the regulatory agencies of the two countries.
Chinese PM vows to stand by Pakistan in tough times: Describing the two nations as ‘brothers for ever, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao assured Pakistan his country would ‘stand firm with you’ to tide over tough times.
In the first ever address by a Chinese leader to a joint session of Pakistan’s Parliament, Mr Wen also called for cementing what he called ‘all-weather strategic partnership’ that he said served the ‘fundamental interests of both countries’.
Pakistan carries out training launch of ballistic missile: Pakistan on December 21 successfully carried out the training launch of a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads. The missile has a range of 1300 kilometres.
The launch of Hatf V (Ghauri), a liquid fuel missile conducted by the Strategic Missile Group of the Army Strategic Force Command at an undisclosed location, marked the culmination of a field training exercise aimed at putting to test the operational readiness of the Strategic Force.
Shahzain Bugti held with illegal arms: In a development with far-reaching implications, paramilitary troops arrested Nawabzada Shahzain Bugti, a grandson of the late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and president of the Balochistan chapter of Jamhoori Watan Party, along with several personal guards, after finding a huge quantity of illegal arms and ammunition in vehicles of his convoy coming from the border town of Chaman.
Consensus at work; NA adopts 19th Amendment: Relying on the consensus of an all-party parliamentary committee, the National Assembly on December 22 made a quick work of a constitution amendment bill that meets most of the Supreme Court’s concerns over a new mode of appointing superior judiciary, but was denied unanimity in approving it with a single negative vote cast in an apparent punishable party defiance.
Musarrat Hilali made first ombudswoman: Addressing a working women’s gathering, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced the appointment of Musarrat Hilali from the backward Malakand region as the first Ombudswoman to provide a legal forum to women to lodge complaints about sexual harassment.
Ring made in Lahore enters Guinness Book: A local goldsmith has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for crafting a 71.68 kg silver ring.
Muhammad Amin Saleem of Lahore’s old city completed the ring with an inner diameter of 85cm in August this year. It is made of 97.83 per cent pure silver.
The Guinness Book of World Records has issued a certificate to Mr Saleem.
Surface-to-air missiles tested by navy: Pakistan Navy successfully tested its air defence capability in Sonmiani. All missiles successfully hit their targets.
IMF loan facility extended to ease RGST pressure: The executive board of the International Monetary Fund on December 27 approved a nine-month extension of Pakistan’s standby loan arrangement to September 30, 2011.
No monetary support for Pakistan till June 2011: The government of Pakistan would have to run the country’s financial affairs without the monetary support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at least till June 30, 2011, the time for the fifth review to ensure compliance of performance criteria, the fund said.
Govt takes exception to US case against ISI: The government said it would strongly contest’ the lawsuit filed against the ISI and its present and former chiefs in a New York court accusing the country’s premier spy agency of complicity in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The Government of Pakistan has taken a firm decision to strongly contest the suit filed against the ISI, its present and past Directors General, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
Senate adopts amendment with all ayes: In a big show of sanity amid a wave of political insanity outside parliament, the Senate unanimously passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, completing the parliamentary approval of the bill designed to meet most of Supreme Court’s concerns over a new mode of appointing the superior judiciary.
US will ultimately stop drone attacks, says Gilani: Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on January 1 took a swipe at critics of the government who advocate a tit-for-tat reply to US drone attacks, explaining ‘we are trying to convince Washington that these strikes will eventually prove counter-productive’.
State Bank tightens rules for microfinance banks: Pakistan’s central bank has tightened regulations for microfinance banks by increasing checks against money-laundering and terrorism financing, a statement said.
The State Bank of Pakistan directed microfinance banks to keep customer record for at least five years after termination of business. The prudential regulations in this regard have been amended. Banks obtain identification data of a customer through the customers due diligence process, account files and business correspondence.
Sui cantonment turned into military college: The Pakistan Army has formally abandoned the newly-constructed controversial army cantonment in Sui and converted it into a military college.
Magsi asks Kayani to help trace the missing: On January 3 Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi has requested Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to take steps for resolving the issue of missing people.
It is a very serious and important issue of Balochistan and should be resolved without any delay.
Economic reforms in serious trouble: With the government facing a battle for survival, the federal budget, and economic reforms are in serious trouble.
Although officials of the finance ministry insist there is no stepping back from economic reforms given the international commitments and rapidly growing fiscal deficit and inflation, independent analysts believe the reform agenda may already have been shelved.
Fuel price hike reversed in bid to prop up govt: In an unprecedented move, the government on January 6 announced withdrawal of the recent increase in prices of petroleum products following a sustained protest by almost all political parties and general public across the country.
Afghanistan, Pakistan agree on joint peace body: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to establish a high powered Joint Consultative Commission to pursue the peace process in Afghanistan.
BoI to pursue MoUs signed with China: President Asif Zardari has delegated authority on January 7 to the Board of Investment chairman Salim Mandviwalla to pursue implementation of MoUs signed with China during the recent visit of Premier Wen Jiabao.
Current Pakistan International Affairs
N. Korea sends top diplomat to Russia amid tensions: North Korea on December 11 warned that it is ready for an all-out war even as it dispatched its top diplomat to Russia amid a flurry of regional diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions over the North’s deadly artillery attack on South Korea.
Ahmadinejad sacks FM over policy differences: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and replaced him with his atomic chief, in an apparent falling out over policy as Iran holds talks with world powers over its nuclear programme.
Accord on green fund at Cancun: The UN Climate Change Conference ended with the adoption of a balanced package of decisions that aims to set up a ‘Green Climate Fund, protect tropical forests and encourage nations to share clean energy technologies.
Berlusconi scrapes through trust vote: Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi scraped through a crucial confidence vote in parliament by three votes, as anger against his rule boiled over in the streets of Rome.
China, India not rivals: Wen: China and India’s future prosperity lies in partnership not rivalry, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said on December 15, promising to redress a yawning trade imbalance between the fast-growing Asian giants.
Attack on procession kills 39 in Iran: A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Muharram procession in the Iranian city of Chabahar, killing 39 people in an attack claimed by Sunni rebel group Jundallah.
Time names Facebook CE person of the year: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of the Facebook social networking site that has more than half a billion users, was named Time magazine’s 2010 person of the year.
US and China sign trade deals: The United States and China agreed on December 16 to pursue free trade in areas from agriculture to technology, but Beijing insisted that Washington needed to loosen its own export controls.
UAE eases sponsor system for workers: The United Arab Emirates has eased its tough rules for foreign workers who want to change employer, loosening the sponsor system in force in the Arab states of the Gulf.
An employee with an expired contract can obtain a new work permit and shift to another employer’ without having to wait six months and have his sponsor’s consent, the labour ministry said.
North says won’t react to S. Korea drill: North Korea said it would not react to reckless military drills by the South, despite an earlier threat to retaliate, and CNN reported that Pyongyang had agreed to the return of nuclear inspectors.
Don’t tinker with new START, Russia warns US: Russia on December 20 warned US lawmakers debating a landmark nuclear arms control treaty that any changes would kill the accord, which faced a critical US Senate test vote on the uncertain path to approval.
US President Barack Obama, who signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, was courting swing-vote senators by telephone, the White House said.
Russia, India ink defence, nuclear deals: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev clinched agreements on December 21 with cold war-era ally India to deepen nuclear energy cooperation and develop a supersonic fighter to rival a US stealth jet.
US population growth slowest since 1930s: The US population stood at 308.7 million this year, up 9.7 per cent from 10 years ago in the slowest growth since the 1930s, the Census Bureau said in long-awaited findings. The Census Bureau put the US population at 308,745,538 as of April 1, 2010, with a steady shift toward southern states such as Arizona, Nevada and Taxes.
US Senate ratifies N-treaty with Russia: The US Senate on December 22 approved a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, handing President Barack Obama a major foreign policy victory in his drive to improve ties with Moscow and curb the spread of atomic weapons to other nations.
US to detain 50 Gitmo inmates indefinitely: The Obama administration is preparing to detain indefinitely nearly 50 alleged terrorists now held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, US officials said.
S. Korea holds massive military drills: South Korean tanks fired artillery and fighter jets zoomed by to drop bombs in the military’s largest air-and-ground firing drills of the year’ a show of force a month after a deadly North Korean artillery attack.
India destroys rocket carrying satellite: An Indian space rocket carrying an advanced communications satellite was destroyed by mission control following a malfunction after lift-off, official said.
US for more coordinated operations along border: As US President Barack Obama pledged to support Pakistan in dealing with suicide bombers, his chief commander in Afghanistan said that Nato, Afghan and Pakistani forces would conduct more coordinated operations against the insurgents.
India blamed for Nepal king’s assassination: Nine years after the assassination of Nepal’s King Birendra, a former royal aide Gen Bibek Shah has dropped a book bombshell alleging India could have possibly incited the killing.
Kazakh parliament backs controversial plan to extend Nazarbayev’s term till 2020: The Kazakh parliament on December 29 backed a controversial plan for a referendum to extend the mandate of strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev to 2020 and skip two presidential elections. The central election commission unexpectedly announced this week it had received a petition to hold a referendum which if agreed whould mean its first and only post-independence president would serve for another decade.
Russia begins exporting oil to China via Siberian pipeline: Russia, the world’s top crude exporter, said it had begun scheduled oil shipments to China via an East Siberian link as the Kremlin cements ties with its energy-hungry neighbour.
Spain bans smoking in bars, clubs, restaurants: Smokers stubbed out their cigarettes in tapas bars and restaurants across Spain as one of Europe’s strictest anti-tobacco laws came into effect.
Iran claims downing two ‘spy’ drones: Iran has shot down two unmanned western reconnaissance drone aircraft in the Gulf, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
Qatar, US sign security accord: US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and her Qatari counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani signed a bilateral security accord to boost bilateral cooperation.
Natural disasters killed 295,000 in 2010: The Haiti earthquake and floods in Pakistan and China helped make 2010 an exceptional year for natural disasters, killing 295,000 and costing 130 billion dollars, the world’s top reinsurer said.
Iran invites Russia, China to N-sites, leaves out US: Iran said on January 4 it will open its atomic sites to some world powers, in a rare move swiftly dismissed as ‘antics by the Untied States, which along with Britain, France and Germany, is not invited.
India launches research centre for warships: India launched a new naval research centre for warships Institute for Research and Development in Shipbuilding (NIRDESH), part of efforts by the South Asian giant to build its sea defences and counter the perceived threat of China in the Indian Ocean.
New blood test may detect Alzheimer: US scientists may have found a new way to use a blood test to search for clues of Alzheimer’s disease, a discovery that if proven could extend to other ailments, said a study.
Germany closes 4,700 farms after dioxin scare: A food crisis in Germany on January 7 deepened as around 4,700 farms were closed after tests showed animal feed contaminated by a cancer-causing chemical, with officials saying they suspected foul play.
China moving fast on new weapons, says Gates: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates on January 9 says China’s rapidly developing defence capabilities are worrisome to the United States.
China has made strides in building a new stealth fighter jet and Washington is also concerned about a new ballistic missile that could theoretically explode a US aircraft carrier nearly 2,000 miles out to sea. China has also apparently beaten US estimates to develop that weapon.
Tendulkar scores 50th Test century: Indian batting star Sachin Tendulkar became the first player to hit 50 centuries in Test cricket when he played a defiant innings on the fourth day of the first Test against South Africa at Super Sport Park in Centurion, South Africa.
Southee hat-trick derails Pakistan in first T20: Tim Southee claimed a hat-trick and Martin Guptill scored a rapid half-century as New Zealand beat Pakistan by five wickets in the first Twenty20 International at Eden Park in Auckland.
OBITUARIES IN NEWS
Veteran journalist M.A. Zuberi, the founder of Business Recorder, died. He was 90.
He was born in Merehra (UP), India, on July 2, 1920. He began his career in journalism in December 1945 with Dawn, Delhi, to honour the wishes of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Mir Jamil-ur-Rehman, the younger brother of the founder-chairman and founder editor-in-chief of Jang Group, Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman, intellectual, noted journalist and analyst died.
Veteran social worker and former president of All Pakistan Women’s Association (Apwa) Begum Tazeen Faridi died. She was 90.
Salman Taseer, the flamboyant and high-profile Governor of Punjab, was gunned down by one of his security guards in Islamabad.
Richard Holbrooke, a US diplomat known around the world as a ‘bulldozer’ for his tough negotiating skills, died in a Washington hospital after a short but hard struggle to stay alive. He was 69.
Mr Holbrooke’s career spanned over five decades, from the Vietnam era to the Afghan conflict. But his most notable achievement was brokering the 1995 Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian war.
A woman whose family inspired the movie, ‘The Sound of Music’ has died. Agathe von Trapp was 97.