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WORLD IN FOCUS February 2011 – March 2011

Current Pakistan National Affairs

PIA strike ends with Haroon’s resignation: A four-day-long strike by Pakistan International Airlines employees, which had collapsed domestic and international flights schedule, ended after the government removed the Managing Director of the national flag carrier Aijaz Haroon on their demand.

Some heavyweights left out of 22-member new cabinet: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on February 11 inducted into his new cabinet ministers and one minister of state as the first batch to see his coalition government through the remaining two years. Five new faces were introduced.

Warrants issued for Musharraf: Before the excitement over the new cabinet had died down, Islamabad was abuzz with the decision of the anti-terrorism court to issue non-bailable arrest warrants for former president Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.

Washington puts trilateral talks on ice: The United States on February 12 postponed a trilateral dialogue with Pakistan and Afghanistan amid acrimony over the arrest of a US embassy employee for killing two Pakistanis.

Differences stall enforcement of new Afghan trade accord: Pakistan has offered to delay the implementation of a new transit trade agreement for at least four months, while politely turning down Afghanistan’s demand to withdraw a clause about bank guarantee aimed at curbing smuggling and pilferage of containers in Pakistani markets.

Qureshi affirms loyalty; PPP says he faces no action: In what appeared to be a patch-up, former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi affirmed his loyalty to Pakistan People’s Party and the party said that no disciplinary action had been planned against him.

Reko Diq wealth only 20ft below surface, SC told: A senior government official said in the Supreme Court that gold and copper deposits in some areas of Reko Diq lay only 20 feet below the surface.

Accord to boost economic, defence ties with Japan: President Asif Ali Zardari and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on February 22 signed a joint statement that promises to take bilateral ties to new heights by deciding upon ‘a comprehensive partnership for peace and development through multifaceted economic cooperation’ on the one hand and ‘strengthening cooperation in the field of defence’ on the other.

Visa policy softened for Pakistanis: The British government has softened its visa policy for Pakistan to give more opportunities to Pakistani nationals and businessmen to visit the United Kingdom.
Minister for Immigration Mr Damian Green said that business visas would be issued in five days and normal visas would be granted between eight and 10 days.

54pc Pakistanis face multi-dimensional deprivation: UNDP: About 54 per cent of Pakistani population is facing a multi-dimensional deprivation lack of basic necessities like education, health and good standard of living as the country fell two steps down to the 125th position on the world index of human development compiled by the United Nations.

A report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) released said that 54 per cent of the population was facing intense deprivation of basic necessities of life, while another 11.8 per cent was at the risk of ‘multi-dimensional poverty.

The report said that Pakistan’s ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI) dropped from 123rd position last year to 125th position this year. The report was launched to mark the 20th anniversary of Human Development Report ‘The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Development’ to commemorate the contribution of late Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq to the concept of human development.

Out of scores from 1 to 5 for gauging human rights violations, the report said, Pakistan ranked 4th. In terms of democracy-related scores from 0 to 2, Pakistan stood at 1 number.

The report said that 51.2 per cent population was deprived of education, 29.2 per cent of health and 42.9 per cent of good standard of living.
The report said that 10 per cent population had no access to water and 55 per cent was without sanitation. It reported 896 deaths per million due to indoor and outdoor air and water pollution, while 8,953 people per million had been affected by natural disaster.

Nawaz League, People’s Party part in political divorce: Pakistan’s most famous political marriage of convenience ended in a divorce as Mian Nawaz Sharif signalled the ouster of the PPP from the PML-N’s Punjab government and both sides contradicted each other over the implementation of a 10-point agenda, raising fears of future tensions.

PML-N’s 10-point reforms agenda

  1. The recent raise in prices of petroleum products be withdrawn. A mechanism be devised under which prices of petrol, diesel and kerosene are changed without adversely affecting the common man. Immediate steps be taken for eliminating electricity and gas loadshedding and a national policy on the issue be announced.
  2. Government ministers and functionaries facing corruption charges be sacked and competent and honest people be appointed in their place in a transparent manner.
  3. Loan waivers granted on political basis be withdrawn.
  4. To lessen the burden on the masses, a policy be formulated for fixing prices of items of daily use. A mechanism be devised to control prices of such items.
  5. All court judgments be implemented, including the one on the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
  6. Election Commission be reconstituted to ensure fair elections.
  7. Government expenditures be reduced by 30 per cent and the number of ministers be reduced.
  8. Government-run organisations such as PIA, Steel Mills, OGDC, PSO, NHA and CDA be restructured so that the nation is rid of corruption and losses of billions. Management boards comprising competent and honest officials be appointed in a transparent manner to run these national institutions. Immediate measures be taken to eliminate leakages in Federal Board of Revenue.
  9. People behind the Haj, NILC, Agosta submarine, Steel Mills, Bank of Punjab, NLC and other scams be put in the dock.
  10. An independent accountability commission be set up.

Lahore gets rare hailstorm: A rare hailstorm gave parts of Lahore a feel of a hill station afternoon, leading them to ignore a massive traffic breakdown that followed.

The storm struck the city at 4.45pm, concentrating its intensity downtown and in areas around Gulberg. Hailstones the size of small strawberries soon carpeted streets and rooftops.

Govt wakes up to India’s hydel projects: The government has ordered three investigations into delays in raising timely objections over India’s efforts to secure international credit incentives to construct hydropower projects in violation of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960.

A senior government official told that the ministry of water and power had taken up with the ministry of environment as to how New Delhi secured carbon credits from the United Nations for two hydropower projects Chutak and Nimoo-Bazgo being built by India in violation of the treaty.

Govt falls back on taxpayer for funds: The government on March 1 decided to impose a 15 per cent flood surcharge on income tax and increase special excise duty by 150 per cent through a presidential order soon after the prorogation of the National Assembly session.

The decision was given finishing touches at a meeting presided over by the finance secretary and attended by the FBR chairman after its approval by the top political leadership.

Justice Dogar apologises for PCO oath: Former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar threw himself at the mercy of the Supreme Court by saying sorry and showing repentance for having taken oath under the Provisional Constitution Order promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf in 2007.

Ten killed in terror attack on mosque-shrine: At least 10 people were killed and 37 injured when a powerful bomb exploded in a mosque in Akbarpura Nowshera after Friday prayers. The mosque is adjacent to the historic shrine of Akhun Panjo Baba.

Minister get more portfolios; cabinet expansion put off: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on March 5 allotted additional portfolios to seven ministers, indicating he will take some more time to expand his recently reconstituted 22-strong cabinet.
According to an official announcement, Inter-Provincial Coordination Minister Raza Rabbani got the addition charge of human rights, Privatisation Minister Naveed Qamar that of water and power, and Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmad Shah labour and manpower.

Textile Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin has been given the additional portfolio of housing and works, Kashmir Affairs Minister Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo of defence production, Environment Minister Samina Khalid Ghurki of Women Development and States and Frontier Regions Minster Engineer Shaukatullah of Sports.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar gets the additional charge, in the same capacity, for Finance and Economic Affairs.
PM says parliament alone can amend Constitution: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said that no institution other than parliament could rewrite the Constitution.

The Constitution clearly determines the role of all state institutions which work within their ambit and are bound to follow the Constitution’ he said while talking to senior columnists at his residence in Lahore.

Provinces told to levy tax on farm income: With provinces getting 22 per cent lower revenue share than allocated in the 7th National Finance Commission award, the federal government formally asked them to effectively tax agricultural income, real estate and wealth and curtail their expenditures by 30 per cent.

First Pakistani firm to list ADRs on Wall Street: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the watchdog of Corporate America, gave a go ahead, for the Depository Receipts (ADR) of Fatima Fertilizer Company Limited (FFCL) ‘an Arif Habib group company’ to be listed on the Over-the-Counter (OTC) market in New York.

Musharraf warrant sent to Britain: The government sent to the British authorities the arrest warrant of former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.

Supreme Court asks NAB chief Deedar Shah to pack up: On March 10, the Supreme Court has ruled the appointment of Justice (retd) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) illegal, accepting a challenge from the PML-N. The court ordered Justice (retd) Shah to immediately relinquish the office.

Walking away from Pakistan to have dire results: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that the consequences of walking away from Pakistan were always disastrous.

Current Pakistan International Affairs

US, Israel to exit Middle East, says Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on February 11 said that a new Middle East is being created which would be free of the United States and Israel, as he backed the Arab uprising but warned Egyptians to be watchful of America’s ‘friendly face.

People power overthrows Mubarak: A pillar of the old order came crashing down, as a youth-led protest movement against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak achieved a monumental victory that will reverberate through the Middle East and beyond.

At 6pm local time, a somber Vice President Omar Suleiman appeared on state television to announce Mr Mubarak’s resignation. ‘In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency’ Mr Suleiman said.

Palestinian election plan runs into Hamas opposition: The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank announced plans to hold elections by September, running into immediate opposition from its Hamas rivals in Gaza. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee’s call for presidential and legislative polls comes amid stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian talks and the political upheaval in Egypt, a key player in peace efforts.
Egypt’s parliament dissolved, constitution suspended: Egypt’s military leaders dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution, meeting two key demands of protesters who have been keeping up pressure for immediate steps to transition to democratic, civilian rule after forcing Hosni Mubarak out of power.

Palestinian cabinet resigns ahead of polls: The Palestinian cabinet resigned ahead of summer polls, as the leadership sought to boost its legitimacy after the collapse of peace talks and two Arab uprisings.

Thousands seeks regime change in Bahrain: Thousands of Bahrainis on February 15 demonstrated in the capital Manama demanding regime change in the Gulf kingdom like that in Egypt and Tunisia after two protesters were killed in clashes with police.

Obama joins pressure team, wants Davis treated as diplomat: Hours after police in Lahore submitted a preliminary investigation report on February 15 in a court accusing American national Raymond Davis of killing two Pakistanis on a street in Lahore on January 27, US President Barack Obama urged Pakistan to abide by the Vienna Convention, treat Davis as a diplomat and release him.

Army seeks six months to hand over power: Egypt’s military on February 15 said it hoped to hand over to an elected government in six months, while the Muslim Brotherhood said emergency law should be lifted and political prisoners freed now.

Yemen president struggles to quell protests: Yemen’s embattled president sought a way out of the political crisis gripping his impoverished Arab nation, offering to oversee a dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition to defuse the standoff with protesters demanding his ouster. The offer by the US-backed Ali Abdullah Saleh ‘which opposition groups swiftly rejected’ came as protests calling for his ouster continued in at least four cities around the country for the 11th straight day.

Morocco on the boil as Arab revolt spreads: Anti-regime protests in Libya spread as a brutal crackdown killed scores of demonstrators, while thousands rallied for change in Morocco and Bahrain came under fresh pressure to introduce reforms.

Libyan govt clamps down on protesters; toll tops 80: Unrest flared anew in the Arab world as reports emerged of more than 80 killed in a bloody crackdown in Libya and protesters again seized a main square in Bahrain’s capital after security forces withdrew.

Egypt grants recognition to moderate Islamic party: A moderate Islamic party Al-Wasat Al Jadid or the New Centre outlawed for 15 years was granted official recognition by an Egyptian court in a sign of increasing political openness after the fall of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

UN unveils vision for global green economy: The United Nations on February 21 unveiled a strategy to ensure a sustainable future for the planet by investing two per cent of wealth generated by the global economy, or some $1.3 trillion annually in ten key sectors.

This paradigm shift toward a ‘green economy’ would also help alleviate chronic poverty, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a report, released as more than 100 environment ministers meet in Nairobi.

Risk of $10b loss in arms sales: Russia risks losing up to $10 billion in arms sales from the wave of unrest currently sweeping north Africa and the Middle East, a weapons industry official said.

The figure is equivalent to Russia’s total arms sales for 2010 and would represent a massive setback to the country’s efforts to maintain its Soviet-era clients in the Middle East.

Quake kills 65 on New Zealand’s darkest day: On February 22 Rescuers searched for survivors after a powerful quake killed at least 65 people in New Zealand’s second city Christchurch, crushing building and vehicles.

We may be witnessing New Zealand’s darkest day’ Prime Minister John Key said after the 6.3 magnitude quake pummelled the city, six months after buildings were weakened by a 7.0 quake that miraculously claimed no victim.

US Senate report cautions against water war in South Asia: The Indus Water Treaty may fail to avert water wars between India and Pakistan, warns a US Senate report released, acknowledging that dams India is building in occupied Kashmir will limit supply of water to Pakistan at crucial moments.

Oldest sub-Arctic human remains found: Scientists announced they had discovered the oldest human remains ever found in sub-Arctic North America, offering a new window into the lives of the continent’s earliest inhabitants.

The discovery of the partially-cremated skeletal remains was made at a fire pit within an ancient dwelling at Alaska’s Upward Sun River site, according to an article appearing in the latest edition of the journal Science.

UN drops Qadhafi’s daughter as goodwill envoy: On February 24 the UN Development Programme has dropped Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s daughter as a goodwill ambassador.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said that UNDP’s agreement with Aisha Qadhafi had been terminated following recent events in Libya that include a crackdown by Col Qadhafi on anti-government protesters.

EU slaps tough sanctions against Qadhafi: The European Union imposed the toughest international sanctions yet on Muammar Qadhafi’s crumbling regime, ordering an asset freeze and visa ban against the Libyan leader and 25 others for brutalising civilians.

List of The 83rd Academy Awards winners: The 83rd Academy Awards belonged to The Kingâ’s Speech, which won four Oscars from its 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Director (Tom Hooper), and Original Screnplay (David Seidler). The complete winners list below:

BEST PICTURE
WINNER: The King’s Speech

BEST ACTOR
WINNER: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

BEST ACTRESS
WINNER: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

BEST DIRECTOR
WINNER: Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

BEST SONG
WINNER: We Belong Together, Toy Story 3, Randy Newman

BEST EDITING
WINNER: The Social Network, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
WINNER: Inception, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

BEST DOCUMENTARY
WINNER: Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
WINNER: God of Love, Luke Matheny

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
WINNER: Strangers No More, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
WINNER: Alice in Wonderland, Colleen Atwood

BEST MAKEUP
WINNER: The Wolfman, Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

BEST SOUND EDITING
WINNER: Inception, Richard King

BEST SOUND MIXING
WINNER: Inception, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, and Ed Novick

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
WINNER: The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
WINNER: Christian Bale, The Fighter

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
WINNER: In a Better World (Denmark)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
WINNER: The King’s Speech, Screenplay by David Seidler

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
WINNER: The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin

BEST ANIMATED FILM
WINNER: Toy Story 3

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
WINNER: The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
WINNER: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
WINNER: Inception, Wally Pfister

BEST ART DIRECTION
WINNER: Alice in Wonderland, Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara

Tunisia ends 20-year ban on Islamist party: A Tunisian Islamist party Ennahdha Party banned for more than 20 years was legalised, while the country’s most prominent opposition figure quit the unity government amid renewed uncertainty about where Tunisia is headed.

Yunus removed as Grameen Bank MD: Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has been removed from his position as head of microlender Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s central bank said, following allegations of irregularities in its operations.

Yemen president offered smooth exit: Yemen’s opposition and clerics have offered President Ali Abdullah Saleh a smooth exit from power this year, but protesters staged new demonstrations to demand his immediate ouster.

Bahraini opposition bloc sets conditions for dialogue: Six Bahraini opposition groups, including the largest Shia parliamentary bloc, set conditions for dialogue which include electing a constitutional assembly to form a new constitution.

India successfully tests interceptor missile: India’s defence ministry on March 6 said it successfully shot down a missile in a test of a home-grown missile interception system.

Egypt names new FM: Egypt on March 6 named its former ambassador to the United Nations, Nabil al-Arabi, as foreign minister in the latest move to purge the cabinet of members of toppled president Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

Saudi FM says dialogue needed, not protest: Dialogue, not protest, is the best way to bring about change in Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said as the country braced for possible protests in the world’s top oil exporter.

2010 deadliest year for Afghan non-combatants: Targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan doubled last year, the United Nations said, as an expanding militancy hit at Western efforts to build up the Afghan government and security forces.

In an annual report, the United Nations said 2010 marked the most lethal year for non-combatants in the nearly decade-old war, with a 15 per cent increase in the number of civilians killed to 2,777 — continuing a steady rise over the past four years.

Militants were responsible for 75 per cent of those death.

Discovery lands, ends flying career: Discovery ended its career as the world’s most flown spaceship, returning from orbit for the last time and taking off in a new direction as a museum piece.

Discovery-NASA’s oldest and most travelled shuttle:
30 August 1984
Inaugural flight
1990
Carries the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit
1995
First shuttle to be piloted by a woman (Eileen Collins). Carries first African-American spacewalker (Bernard Harris) and first sitting member of Congress into space (Senator Jake Garn)
November 2010
Planned launch postponed after cracks emerge upon fuelling
March 2011
Ageing shuttle due to be first of the fleet to retire following its final Earth landing after more than 30 successful missions.
No fly zone to expose ‘West’s aims, says Qadhafi: Muammar Qadhafi on March 9 accused the West of wanting to seize Libya’s oil and warned a no-fly zone would backfire as his forces pounded rebel lines and a top aide jetted into Cairo.
he colonialist countries are hatching a plot to humiliate the Libyan people, reduce them to slavery and control the oil, Qadhafi said on state television.

UN watchdog approves N-fuel assurance proposal: The UN atomic watchdog on March 10 approved a British proposal seeking to ensure the continued supply of nuclear fuel for energy to a country should its supply be disrupted for political reasons.

SPORTS
Fastest one-day centuries: (Tabulated under: runs, balls, 6s, 4s, player, contesting teams, venue, year)
102    37    11    6    Shahid Afridi    Pakistan v Sri Lanka    Nairobi    1996
147*    44    10    8    M Boucher     South Africa v Zimbabwe    Potchefstroom    2006
117    45    4    18    B Lara    West Indies v Bangladesh    Dhaka    1999
102    45    9    10    Shahid Afridi    Pakistan v India    Kanpur    2005
134    48    11    11    S Jayasuriya     Sri Lanka v Pakistan    Singapore    1996
113    50    6    13    K O’Brien    Ireland v England    Bangalore    2011
124    53    4    17    Shahid Afridi    Pakistan v Bangladesh    Dambulla     2010
130    55    6    16    S. Jayasuriya     Sri Lanka v Bangladesh    Karachi    2008
102    58    3    11    A. de Villiers    South Africa v India    Ahmedabad    2010
125*    60    6    14    V. Sehwag    India v New Zealand    Hamilton    2009

OBITUARIES IN NEWS

National
Yusuf A. Haroon, veteran politician and former governor of West Pakistan, died. He was 95. He was mayor of Karachi before independence (May 1944 ‘May 1945), chief minister of Sindh (February 1949 ‘May 1950).
Noted writer and broadcaster Murad Ali Mirza died in Tando Agha. He was 81. He also served as secretary to the Sindhi Adabi Board and Sindhi Language Authority.

International
Jane Russell, a stunning beauty whose eye-popping curves made her the screen siren of choice for a generation of American troops at war, died at the age of 89.

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