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WORLD IN FOCUS May- June 2011

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

India set to squeeze Pak waters while officials sleep; military takes notice: Pakistan’s Armed Forces were alarmed when Sheraz Memon, Commissioner of Pakistan’s Indus Water Commission (PICW) submitted to the Senate Committee on Water secret documents pertaining to the mishandling of projects constructed or being erected by India on Pakistan’s rivers. These include Baglihar, Uri-11, Nimmu Bazgo, Chutak and Kishanganga Hydro-power projects.

The documents submitted to the Senate Committee show that Pakistan cleared the Uri-II project of 240 MW, part and parcel of the Kishenganga project.

The clearing of the Uri-II project by PCIW and top officials at Ministry of Water and Power has provided ease and justification to India to build the Kishenganga project. Though Pakistan has initiated a legal battle against India in the court of arbitration, experts are of the opinion that Pakistan has a weak case as it has already okayed Uri-II project, a part of the Kishenganga project.

Pakistani institutions not involved in hiding Osama: The head of a congressional intelligence panel Congressman Mike Rogers said on May 11 that the information so far collected by US officials showed that no Pakistani institution or senior official was involved in hiding Osama bin Laden.

The statement comes as a pleasant change from a din of anti-Pakistan rhetoric that has dominated Capitol Hill since May 2, when US commandos killed Osama in a hideout in Abbottabad.

Today, from all the information I have seen, we can’t conclusively say that somebody senior knew and promoted safe haven, said Congressman Mike Rogers, who chairs the US House Intelligence Committee.

Defence allocation not to exceed 3 per cent of GDP: Pakistan’s defence authorities informed a parliamentary committee that the US still owed about $3.5 billion out of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Islamabad for services provided by it to coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Ms Fauzia Wahab, told journalists after a closed-door meeting that of the total amount of $12 billion under the Coalition Support Fund, about $8.4 billion had been paid to Islamabad while about Rs 3.5 billion was outstanding.

Baltistan climber conquers Everest: Hassan Sadpara, a climber from Baltistan, scaled Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak on May 12, becoming only the second Pakistani to do so.

According to a statement issued by the Alpine Club of Pakistan, Sadpara did not have an oxygen kit with him when he made it to Everest peak.

Nazir Sabir was the first Pakistani who climbed Everest in 2000.

By climbing Everest Sadpara has become the first Pakistani to have climbed six peaks rising above 8,000 metres. He has to his credit K-2 (8,611m), Nanga Parbat (8,125m), Gasherbrum-I (8,068m), Broad Peak (8,048m) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035m).

Around 3,000 people have made it to the top of Everest since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first conquered the peak in 1953.

Military offers itself for accountability: In an unprecedented move, the country’s military offered itself to parliament on May 13 for accountability over the intelligence failure and deficiencies that came to light in the wake of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s killing in a covert US commando raid in Abbottabad.

In an in-camera briefing to a joint session of the two houses of parliament, top military officials admitted intelligence failure in not being able to locate that world’s most wanted fugitive taking up residence in Abbottabad for about five years and inability of Pakistani radars to track four US helicopters that carried out the May 2 operation, according to participants of the joint session.

Nawaz Sharif urges nation to stop treating India as ‘biggest enemy’: Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif has said the nation must stop treating India as the country’s biggest enemy, calling for a reappraisal of ties with New Delhi ‘if we want to go forward and progress’.

He said if the government cut down all expenditures by 50 per cent, a handsome amount could be set aside for debt servicing.

The PML-N chief said the army budget and that of the ISI be placed before the parliament for scrutiny in line with the practice in democracies.

Mr Sharif described the decision to set up an independent commission to investigate the Abbottabad fiasco as a first step to making parliament sovereign.

Dr Khan says N-bomb saved Pakistan: The father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb has vigorously defended the programme as sparing his country the fate of Iraq or Libya, amid signs that Islamabad is ramping up its weapons capacities.

Writing in Newsweek magazine, Abdul Qadeer Khan said that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons had prevented war with India, which he accused of pursuing a ‘massive programme’ due to ambitions of superpower status.

He also argued that Bangladesh would not have won independence in 1971 if Pakistan had nuclear weapons.

Law amended to reschedule LG polls in Balochistan: The Balochistan Assembly adopted the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2011, tabled by Minister for Fisheries Ammal Kalmati.

The amendment allows the provincial government to put off the local government (LG) elections until next year. The polls were scheduled to be held in the current month.

Accord on economic, fiscal measures reached with IMF: Pakistan and International Monetary Fund (IMF) reached a broad agreement on fiscal and economic measures whose successful implementation in the coming budget will be a precondition for disbursement of $1.7 billion tranche in July.

There were indications at the end of week-long (May 11 to 17) talks in Dubai that the government had given up plans to introduce Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and instead withdraw all general sales tax exemptions to increase tax collection.that somebody senior knew and promoted safe haven’ said Congressman Mike Rogers, who chairs the US House Intelligence Committee.

Defence allocation not to exceed 3 per cent of GDP: Pakistan’s defence authorities informed a parliamentary committee that the US still owed about $3.5 billion out of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Islamabad for services provided by it to coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Ms Fauzia Wahab, told journalists after a closed-door meeting that of the total amount of $12 billion under the Coalition Support Fund, about $8.4 billion had been paid to Islamabad while about Rs 3.5 billion was outstanding.

Navy regains control of base after 16 hours: Commandos regained control of the Navy’s Mehran base from a team of militants on May 23 after a siege lasting 16 hours ‘ an exceptionally audacious act at a high-security facility that once again threw up embarrassing questions across the world about the military’s capability to safeguard the country’s defence assets.

The attackers ‘thought to number six’ destroyed two US-supplied P-3C Orion surveillance planes and killed 10 security officers ‘eight navy personnel and two Rangers. At least four of the attackers were eliminated, and two others may have escaped, said a Pakistan Navy official.

Highlights
Eight navy personnel and two Rangers killed
Five security personnel injured
Two US-supplied P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft destroyed
At least four of six attackers eliminated
Six American and 11 Chinese personnel were present in the base; all escorted out unharmed
No foreigner killed or taken hostage
Siege lasted 16 hours
Naval commandos’ response time three minutes
Militants armed with grenades, rockets and automatic weapons, used ladders and wire  cutters to enter base

Intense US monitoring of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile progrmmes: Despite Pakistan’s repeated assurances that its history as a nuclear scofflaw was firmly behind it, the US has continued to intensely monitor Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes, according to a survey of US diplomatic cables.

Dozens of cables ‘some confidential, others secret’ from US embassies around the world are seen inquiring into purchases by Pakistan’s nuclear and missile complexes on the international market.

For example, at the start of 2008, the US Deputy Chief of Mission Nancy McEldowney at the US embassy in Ankara details her discussions with Turkish authorities about the US desire to see action taken against a suspicious shipment to Pakistan.

Not the time to turn away from Pakistan: British Prime Minister David Cameron said on May 25 this is not the time to turn away from alliance with Pakistan.

Cameron said allies must work with Pakistan more closely than ever before instead of turning away from it. He said Pakistan had suffered mightily in the fight against extremism. ‘Their enemy is our enemy’  he said.

Pakistan ‘very important’ due to Afghanistan, nukes: Defence Secretary Robert Gates defended the US assistance for Pakistan, as he underscored the importance of continued engagement with key regional country amid strains in the bilateral relationship.

I do not think that the money that we have spent in Pakistan has been a waste. The reality is that Pakistan now has 140,000 troops on the border.

Technology helps rescuers save lives: The France made rescue and search equipment helped to save the lives of five policemen, who were deeply buried under the rubble when a suicide bomber targeted a compound of Crimes Investigation Department (CID) in Peshawar on May 25.

I believe the investment we made in procuring equipment and making the manpower able to use them has

paid back in this single disaster’ Khushal Khan, the director general of Rescue 1122, told Dawn, while sharing details about one of the longest search and rescue operation this newly raised department had to deal with.

Bilawal to become Zardari tribe chief: President Asif Ali Zardari has decided not to become chief of the Zardari tribe, passing on the title to his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari instead.

President Zardari has decided not to become the chief of his tribe’ president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said on May 27. He has decided to pass on the mantle of tribal leadership to his son and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Rs. 730b proposed for PSDP: Amid abstention by the Punjab chief minister and protests by the Balochistan government, the National Economic Council (NEC) raised the next financial year’s Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) to Rs. 300 billion Rs. 10 billion higher than the figure recommended by the Planning Commission.

Air strikes to precede ground attack: The US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, said on May 30 that the Pakistani government would launch a major offensive on militants in North Waziristan.

The US has long demanded the operation to eliminate the Haqqani network, which Washington claims is protected by Pakistanis.

Pakistan maintains about 140,000 troops in the tribal region but military experts in Washington say it will have to bring in more troops for the operation to succeed.

Pakistan Navy’s sacked commando, brother arrested: Intelligence agencies have detained a former Navy commando Kamran Ahmad and his brother in connection with the May 22 terror attack on the PNS Mehran base in Karachi.

While in Navy, Kamran served at the PNS Mehran and PNS Iqbal. He was sacked about 10 years ago after he had been court-martialled for assaulting a senior officer. The military court was reported to have declared him unfit for the job.

Agency officials said they suspected that Kamran was involved in the communication network of terrorists who attacked the Mehran base.

Musharraf a proclaimed offender: An anti-terrorism court declared former President Pervez Musharraf a proclaimed offender on May 30 in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case and directed the Federal Investigation Agency to publish the order in British newspapers.

President amends Income Tax Ord 2001, imposing 15pc more surcharge: Through promulgation, President Asif Zardari has further amended the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, whereby 15 per cent surcharge would be payable by every taxpayer of the income tax payable under the Ordinance.

Unemployment figures termed questionable: The unemployment rate in the country is reported to have surged close to eight per cent this fiscal year ‘the highest since 2002’ but a statistical sleight of hand would bring it down to about 5.6 per cent in the Economic Survey for 2010-11, only a fraction higher than last year’s rate.

An official said that on comparison with previous labour force surveys, the overall joblessness had gone beyond 7.8 per cent.

In 2002, the unemployment rate stood at about 8.27 per cent in the aftermath of economic sanctions imposed by the West to penalise the country for nuclear tests but it has since been falling by an average 0.5 per cent a year to touch 5.5 per cent last year.

Economic survey uncovers pathetic picture of education: More than half of all rural children in class five in Pakistan are at least three levels behind their grade in reading English and Urdu texts in schools, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11.

‘Overall percentage of rural children in class 5 reading a class 2 text in Urdu/Sindhi was 52 per cent while for the English text it was 42 per cent. This meant that more than half of all rural children in class 5 in Pakistan were at least three grade levels behind’

 said one of the survey’s main findings on education.

Despite the fact that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) endeavoured in reshaping human capital with better skills and expertise, the government had reduced its development budget to Rs. 9.2 billion in 2011-11 compared to Rs. 11.3 billion in 2009-10 from Rs. 16.4 billion in 2008-09 due to continued financial vulnerabilities, the survey said.

According to the survey, the overall literacy rate (age 10 years and above) was 57.7 per cent (69.5 per cent for male and 45.2 per cent for female)

compared to 57.4 per cent (69.3 per cent for male and 44.7 per cent for female) for 2009-10. Literacy remained higher in urban areas (73.2 per cent) than in rural areas (49.2 per cent), and was more prevalent among men (80.2 per cent) compared to women (65.5 per cent) in rural areas.

Terror war hampering investment, job creation: The investment-to-GDP ratio has nosedived to 13.4 per cent in 2010-11 from 22.5 per cent in 2006-07 with serious consequences for job creating ability of the economy, the Economic Survey 2010-11 showed.

During the last 10 years, the direct and indirect cost of war on terror incurred by Pakistan amounted to $67.93 billion or Rs. 5.037 trillion, estimates the survey.

Ambitious tax target and sops: With Rs. 300 billion revenue adjustment through reduction in subsidies and withdrawal of tax exemptions, sweetened with relief to government servants and pensioners, Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh announced the PPP-led coalition government’s fourth budget which envisaged a federal expenditure outlay of Rs. 2.504 trillion and budget deficit of Rs. 975 billion (4.6 per cent of GDP).

Budget Highlights

  • Budget outlay 14.2 per cent higher than last year at Rs. 2.767 trillion
  • FBR targets Rs. 1,952b collection, tax-to-GDP ratio set at 9.3 per cent
  • Four per cent fiscal deficit target for FY2011/12, long-run target 3 per cent
  • Gradual withdrawal of untar-geted subsidies
  • GST brought down to 16 per cent from 17 per cent
  • Minimum tax slab raised to Rs. 350,000 from Rs. 300,000
  • Inflation to be lowered to single digit
  • Govt to retire SBP debt in eight years
  • Benazir Income Support Programme to get Rs. 50b, may go up to Rs. 65b
  • 12 per cent of PSDP for water sector projects
  •  Rs. 32.5b to reduce electricity shortage
  • Mass transit projects in Karachi, Lahore this year
  • 15 per cent increase in govt employees’ salary
  • 15 per cent to 20 per cent hike in pension
  • Excise duty on cement to be phased out in three years
  • Duty on soft drinks slashed to six per cent to be abolished next year
  • Withholding tax on cash withdrawal brought down to 0.2 per cent from 0.3 per cent

Drone strike kills Ilyas Kashmiri: Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, the commander of Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI), who was believed to have masterminded the attack on the naval base in Karachi, was killed in a US drone attack near Wana, South Waziristan on June 3 night, officials said.

Five-year tax holiday offered on loan-free investments: The Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh announced on June 4 a five-year tax holiday on loan-free equity investments, called for checks and oversight of defence expenditures and identified the rising debt servicing as a major challenge for the country.

FBR hopes to net 700,000 taxpayers, collect Rs. 70b: The tax machinery has prepared a plan for collecting at least Rs. 70 billion next year from 700,000 wealthy people who contribute nothing to the national exchequer, according to Federal Board of Revenue’s Chairman Salman Siddique.

Upper Indus flow highest in 500 years’: The year-to-year data collected with the help of tree-ring chronologies from the main upper Indus basin has shown that the river flow has considerably increased over the last 21 years, possibly the highest sustained flow period of the past 500 years.

‘Average temperature to rise by 2.8°C by 2050’: The average temperature of Pakistan will increase from 1.3 to 1.5 degree Celsius by 2020 and 2.5 to 2.8 degree Celsius by 2050 because of increasing pollution that will lead to melting of glaciers.

Vice-Chancellor University of Agricultural, Faisalabad, Dr Iqrar Ahmad said the average annual temperature in Pakistan had increased by 0.6 degrees Celsius during the last century.

Iran accuses US of planning to sabotage Pakistan N-facilities: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Washington, Tehran’s arch-foe, of planning to sabotage Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

The United States would then use the UN Security Council ‘and some other international bodies as levers to prepare the ground for a massive presence (in Pakistan) and weaken the sovereignty of Pakistan, ‘Ahmadinejad added, without elaborating.

SC orders removal of Sindh Rangers chief, IG police: The Supreme Court ordered on June 10 removal of Sindh Rangers’ Director General Maj. Gen. Ejaz Chaudhry and Inspector General of Police Fayyaz Leghari over the cold-blooded killing of an unarmed youth by Rangers personnel in Karachi.

It was perhaps for the first time in the judicial history of the country that a serving army general appeared before a civilian court on summons and was ordered removed from an important position.

Punjab presents Rs. 655b ‘election’ budget: The Shahbaz Sharif government unveiled on June 10 a liberal and bountiful budget for Punjab, with a total outlay of Rs. 654.7 billion which includes an annual development programme of Rs. 220 billion for 2011-12.

The development budget for the next fiscal is up by 16 per cent, while the non-development expenditures show a jump of 12.5 per cent.

Rs. 457b surplus budget for Sindh: The Sindh government unveiled on June 10 a tax-free Rs. 457.5 billion budget for 2011-12 with total estimated revenue receipts of Rs. 458.4 billion, showing an estimated surplus of Rs. 882 million.

Provincial levies are estimated to bring in Rs. 79.9 billion, including Rs. 25 billion to be collected in sales tax on services.

Some clauses of Afghan transit trade treaty softened: Pakistan has softened some clauses of the new Afghan transit trade agreement which were originally meant to curb smuggling and diversion of goods into domestic markets.

The US-sponsored agreement was signed on October 28 last year and it was to become operational on Feb 12, but was delayed because of differences over the issue of bank guarantee.

Rs. 64b education budget has many initiatives: The Punjab government has allocated Rs. 36.9 billion development budget for the education sector for the financial year 2011-12 raising it by only 6.034 per cent against the current financial year development allocation of Rs.34.8 billion.

However, the revised allocations for the fiscal 2010-11 shows that the government spent only Rs. 23.328 billion while it left almost Rs. 9.472 billion unspent, a sum allocated for the mainstream education sector.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Italy leads charge against G4 drive for permanent UNSC seats: Italy has taken its challenge to a higher level in a bid to offset the intensified drive of the G-4 countries (India, Brazil, German and Japan) for permanent seats in an expanded Security Council.

With the G-4 claiming that they would accomplish their objective during the current session of UN General Assembly ending in September, the Italian Foreign Ministry has invited more than 100 countries to a political level meeting ‘not ambassadorial’ in Rome to discuss the reform of the 15-member body and to uphold the need for consensus in making decisions to achieve the objective.

Osama compound becomes an election issue in US: Osama bin Laden’s discovery in a compound in Abbottabad has become an election issue in the United States where at least one candidate for the 2012 presidential election emphasied the need to reassess America’s relations with Pakistan after the discovery.

Former Alaska governor and another 2012 possible candidate, Sarah Palin, raised ‘serious questions that demand answers’ about Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan.

N. Korea, Iran share ballistic missile technology: North Korea and Iran shared ballistic missile technology, according to a UN sanctions report which China has sought to block, diplomats said on May 15.

A Chinese representatives on the UN panel of expert on North Korea nuclear sanctions refused to sign off on the report, which said prohibited material was moved through a ‘neighbouring third country’.

The country is not named in the report, but diplomats said it was China, the isolated north’s closest ally.

The UN Security Council imposed sanctions against North Korea after two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. It is banned from dealing in nuclear and ballistic material.

‘Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air’ the report said.

Air Koryo and Iran Air are the national airlines of North Korea and Iran.

Both countries face UN sanctions over their nuclear programmes.

Egypt’s Elaraby elected Arab League chief: After a last minute change of candidates, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby was elected the new secretary-general of the Arab League.

The 22-memebr Arab organisation chose Elaraby to replace Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister who has said he will run for the office of president in Egypt. Moussa, who is 73, has held the post for a decade.

Egypt had nominated a member of the party of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in February in a popular uprising. It substituted Elaraby, 76, a popular diplomat who backed the uprising that ousted Mubarak’s regime.

After the change of candidates was disclosed, Qatar withdrew its candidate, effectively giving the job of Elaraby.

Qadhafi offers truce with Nato: Muammar Qadhafi’s regime offered a truce in return for an immediate Nato ceasefire a day before the International Criminal Court considers arrest warrants for rights abuses in Libya.

UK military commitment in Iraq ends on 22nd: Britain’s eight years of military commitment in Iraq will finally and formally come to an end, when the remaining forces in the south of the country will withdraw.

In total, the UK still has about 170 mostly naval personnel in Iraq, helping to train the fledgling Iraqi navy from the port of Umm Qasr. The contingent includes a few Royal Marines.

That compares with the 46,000 British troops and other military personnel that were committed to the first phase of Operation Telic, the name given to the campaign to remove Saddam Hussein.

UK combat forces, primarily based in the southern city of Basra, withdrew in July 2009 but since then the Royal Navy has continued working alongside US forces to train 1,800 Iraqis.

In his statement, Fox said that the UK-Iraq training and maritime support agreement will conclude on May 22.

US slaps sanctions on Assad for abuses: The US slapped sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad and six senior Syrian officials for human rights abuses over their brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, for the first time personally penalising the Syrian leader for actions of his security forces.

China never intends to challenge US, says general: China ‘never intends to challenge the US and welcomes its role maintaining peace in the Asia-Pacific region, People’s Liberation Army Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde told US military officers on May 18.

While the Chinese military has improved considerably in the past years, there is still a large gap between them and US military might, Chen told officers at the National Defence University in Washington.

China ‘never intends to challenge the US’ Chen told the officers, speaking through an interpreter.

China ‘welcomes a constructive US

China never intends to challenge US, says general: China ‘never intends to challenge the USâ’ and welcomes its role maintaining peace in the Asia-Pacific region, People’s Liberation Army Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde told US military officers on May 18.

While the Chinese military has improved considerably in the past years, there is still a large gap between them and US military might, Chen told officers at the National Defence University in Washington.

SPORTS

Nadal tames Federer to equal Borg’s French Open landmark:
Rafael Nadal won a 10th Grand Slam crown and equalled Bjorn Borg’s record of six French Open titles when he defeated Roger Federer 7-5, 7-6 (73), 5-7, 6-1 on June 5 in the rivals’ latest epic duel.

OBITUARIES IN NEWS

National
Hakim Ali Zardari, a veteran politician and father of President Asif Ali Zardari, died on May 24. He was 81.
Veteran TV actor Jamil Fakhri passed away on June 9. He was 65.

International
Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Samuel Wanjiru plunged to his death from the first-floor balcony of his home after the athlete’s wife found him in bed with another woman, police told Reuters.

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