Imran sets Nov 20 deadline on drones

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THE NATION, ISLAMABAD, 05th NOVEMBER 2013:- The National Assembly on the first day of its 6th session, on Monday, witnessed unity between treasury and opposition benches as government clearly expressed its resolve to continue its efforts for dialogue with the Taliban.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan softened somewhat his stance on blocking the Nato supplies giving the PML-N federal government an opportunity to act. But he warned that his party’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will block the supplies on its own, if the central government failed in resolving the drone strikes issue.
They would assess government’s action on this matter as well as the progress in peace process, Imran said in his speech, after the interior minister’s clear indication to keep the dialogue process alive. “(But) if drone strikes continued then we will block Nato supplies after November 20 and go to the UN Security Council,” he added.
The session of the House, started after a delayed of over two hours, on first day suspending all other agenda items and reserved it for debate over emerging situation in the aftermath of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing.
PTI chief said it was a ‘defining moment’ for Pakistan so all the political parties should express unity to face this challenge. “Our nation wants peace… There is need for adopting a united stance,” he said, adding that they have been condemning strikes for nine years but mere “condemnation will never bring any change”. He said he was ready to reconcile with everyone including Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Fazlur Rehman for the good of the nation.
Imran asked those in favour of military operation that what they would do if that option failed to bear fruit. Imran paid a tribute to interior minister for his effort for peace dialogue. However, he expressed his displeasure asking why Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his recent visit did not press the US for stopping drone strikes. “It should have been top priority of his visit agenda,” he said.
PTI chief raised a volley of questions about the timing of killing of Hakimullah Mehsud. He said it destroyed chances for peace, adding, “Whatever the interior minister did now, it would be extremely difficult for any new TTP chief to come back to the table.” He asked what guarantee the government have that the Americans won’t hit the peace process again.
Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in his policy statement said that the government wants to keep the dialogue process alive. He informed that a three-member Ulema delegation was ready to go for talks with Taliban but US attack sabotaged it.
PML-N government, he said, would continue its efforts for peace in the same manner in consultations with all parties. Lauding the political parties support, he said there was a need for greater unity on the national stance on drone strikes as this was the best way to resolve this matter.
About restarting the talks process, he said, “This would only be possible after the militant outfit chooses a new chief… Situation is more gruesome than the point from where we had initiated peace efforts in September this year. But, we need to have consensus and proceed as success of dialogue will be success of all stakeholders.”

Consultations today on ties with US

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet Gen Kayani at a reception to be hosted by the Bahawalpur corps commander in Bahawalpur. — File Photo by AP

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet Gen Kayani at a reception to be hosted by the Bahawalpur corps commander in Bahawalpur. — File Photo by AP

DAWN, ISLAMABAD, 04th NEVEMBER 2013: Pakistan is to review its relationship with the United States, the prime minister’s office said on Sunday, following the killing of Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.

But a top-level meeting to examine relations scheduled for Sunday was postponed at the last minute without explanation.

Hakeemullah Mehsud, who had a $5 million US bounty on his head, was killed on Friday in the militant stronghold of North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office said he would chair a meeting on the consequences for ties with Washington. There was no indication when it might take place.

The prime minister, who arrived in Lahore on Sunday after a three-day visit to the UK, will meet Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Monday and attend a briefing at the Foreign Office.

He will meet Gen Kayani at a reception to be hosted by the Bahawalpur corps commander in Bahawalpur, according to sources. The prime minister and the army chief will be given a briefing on national security affairs.

Then Mr Sharif will go to Islamabad where the Foreign Office has arranged the briefing.

Another source said that the prime minister was expected to make a policy statement on the situation arising out of the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud in the National Assembly on Monday.

A statement issued on behalf of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on late Sunday evening termed the attack a violation of the guarantee given by a high US official that drone attacks would not take place while Pakistan was holding peace talks with the militants.

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak told a public meeting in Mansehra that a session of the provincial assembly had been summoned on Monday in which a resolution calling for the blockade of Nato supplies would be adopted.

He said that before the session they would take into confidence leaders of other political parties represented in the assembly. “People of the province want Nato supply lines to be cut off and we will come up to their expectations,” he said.

The KP government would implement the resolution, the chief minister said.

A single drone strike had sabotaged the proposed talks needed to end bloodshed in tribal areas and KP, he said.

The Sindh Assembly is also likely to discuss the drone attack and the killing of Hakeemullah Mehsud on Monday.

You’re on your own, Pakistan…what are you going to do?

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THE NATION, LAHORE, 04th NOVEMBER 2013:- We’re on our own. Nobody will help. Nobody will hurt. They throw up their hands and say, “The Pakistani Taliban are home-grown, there is no interest in taking them on. It is a problem for Pakistan to solve.” The argument that the insurgency found footing in Pakistan with the start of the Afghan war, finds no takers at NATO, which heads the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan. The participation in the war was Pakistan’s sovereign decision, “…and no country should fight a war for an international community.” In short: sovereignty means nothing is compulsory – you made the decision, now own it. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, “It’s not our war”, remains the rallying cry. The feeling among the very nervous international community watching the region, is that if Pakistan cleans up its ‘domestic’ mess: great. Cigars all round. If it doesn’t, there’s always a place on the emerging threats list; and that is a list that precipitates serious preparation and a plan for action. Not the paralysis we are accustomed to for similarly themed lists here at home.
At NATO, for example, not one, but two strategic commands are dedicated to transformation, to deal with “emerging, asymmetrical threats”, as one official put it. Where it took a tear-jerker briefing by the UNHCR to convince NATO members to contribute troops for a historic first, “boots-on-ground” relief operation in the aftermath of the devastating 2005 earthquake; it is hard to imagine a military alliance such as NATO having much trouble convincing 28 members to unanimously agree to noting rising, uncontrolled Islamic militancy in a nuclear-armed country as an “emerging threat”.
But, Pakistan is a NATO partner. We have problems, yes; surely we’re not the enemy?
Quite so. But it’s “types of global trends” that are “threatening”, not countries per se. If your country is a (perhaps, even reluctant) host to one or more of these “emerging threats”…well, the rest of the world must protect itself. Take the example of the development of a missile defence system to protect airspace over NATO countries. With over 30 countries actively pursuing missile technology – many of them well-lauded NATO partners in various capacities – it’s not, for example, the Russians, that NATO allies worry about.
Pakistan’s relationship with the US finds expected reflection in its perception by NATO allies. Surprisingly, the Raymond Davis episode left quite an impression on member states of the Alliance, other than the Americans. The Raymond Davis case “added to the discomfort” after Salala (facts about which are still, reportedly, “disputed”), say officials, and “fuelled distrust between Pakistan and the West”. Then again, in Pakistan, the NATO alliance and the US are rarely differentiated between. The last time there was a “review of US-Pakistan relations”, it was following the death of 26 soldiers, after NATO helicopters fired at a checkpost in Salala.
It so happens, another review of US-Pakistan relations is imminent, if Chaudhry Nisar has his way. The reason is highly unlikely to inspire confidence in Pakistan’s ability and seriousness to fight a menace that poses more danger to its own people, than to any other country’s. The review is being demanded after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, a man wanted in Pakistan, with a Rs 50 million reward on his head. Bizarre? Yes. But Chaudhry Nisar and Imran Khan don’t think so. From their speeches, it would seem Pakistan has come to see no difference in the deaths of those who fight for it, and those who fight against it. It seems that every death in this war is to be equally mourned. Those buried in flag-draped coffins, and the ones they fought against, treated without distinction.
Meanwhile, the world watches: Pakistan tying itself in knots, unable to recognise the ills that ail it, desperately trying to preserve a disease wrongly labelled a cure, drowning in self-pity, public sentiment deliberately driven quite, quite mad. Our place on the emerging threats list is waiting. And one day, and one mishandled crisis at a time, we inch closer to accepting the unspoken invitation.

Arrival in Washington: PM Nawaz kicks off four-day US trip

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his wife arrive at Andrews airbase in Washington. PHOTO: PID

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his wife arrive at Andrews airbase in Washington. PHOTO: PID

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, WASHINGTON, 21st OCTOBER 2013: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed in Washington late Sunday night, kicking off his four-day trip to the United States, the highlights of which will include a much-hyped meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The premier will also meet US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of his meeting with the American president.

“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received a warm, red-carpet welcome from US diplomats upon reaching Washington today (Sunday),” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told Daily Expressin the US capital.

“He [the prime minister] will hold a one-on-one meeting with President Obama to discuss a host of issues, including regional security and energy matters,” he said. The two heads of state will particularly focus on the situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the 2014 withdrawal of US forces from the war torn country, he added.

Jilani termed Prime Minister Nawaz’s meeting with the President Obama of ‘utmost importance’ given that both countries were key partners in the global war on terror.

Political observers in Washington are optimistic that Pakistan-US ties will head towards improvement once the two heads of state sit down together. The two countries will still have to deal with a range of contentious issues, such as the CIA-led drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas, allegations of cross-border militancy and concerns about post-2014 Afghanistan.

Both Pakistani and US experts on South Asia say the two sides must build trust as they enter a new phase in their relationship. Islamabad’s support for the Afghan reconciliation process and the availability of its overland routes are considered crucial for the smooth withdrawal of American combat troops from landlocked Afghanistan.

In order to reflect and encourage the improvement in relations, the Obama administration has recently moved to expedite the release of more than $1 billion in previously approved military and economic assistance. Washington has also promised to reimburse the Pakistani military’s counterterrorism expenses.

Both countries have their own concerns regarding Afghanistan. Pakistan, in particular, worries whether post-war Afghanistan will be stable enough to prosper.

According to various estimates, 1.5 million to 3 million Afghan refugees currently live in Pakistan. Already struggling with billions of dollars in debt and a stagnant economy, Pakistan is ill-equipped to handle a new refugee crisis.

If security tops Obama’s agenda, the economy is Nawaz’s biggest worry.

Pakistan-India tensions: Top military officials to meet face-to-face

Indian PM Manmohan Singh (R) and PM Nawaz Sharif (L). PHOTO: AFP

Indian PM Manmohan Singh (R) and PM Nawaz Sharif (L). PHOTO: AFP

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, ISLAMABAD, 14th OCTOBER 2013: Amidst soaring tensions, senior military officials from Pakistan and India are expected to meet next month to come up with a clear plan to restore ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC), officials told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

The decision to lower the ongoing tensions at the LoC was taken during a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York last month.

The two premiers instructed their respective directors general military operations (DGMOs) to evolve a mechanism to avoid a repeat of ceasefire violations at the LoC.

A senior government official said that under the existing mechanism, the DGMOs talked to each other through a hotline every Tuesday.

“But at the New York summit the two prime ministers agreed that they [DGMOs] should have face-to-face talks,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He said the mechanism and venue for the meeting between the top military officials had yet to be worked out.

When contacted, a military official said it was not yet clear whether the talks would take place at the level of DGMOs or as part of the overall dialogue.

A foreign ministry official separately said the situation was still uncertain because New Delhi was not receptive to Islamabad’s peace overtures for now.

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Saturday painted a grim picture about the prospects of resuming stalled peace talks with Pakistan. He said the two nuclear-armed neighbours still had not reached a stage where they could resume the process.

“I must make it very clear that we have not reached a stage where we can do something like resuming talks [with Pakistan],” he said after returning to India following a trip with Singh to Indonesia. He also termed the recent incidents along the LoC ‘upsetting’ and not conducive to the normalisation of ties.

Tensions along the LoC have flared in recent months. The Indian military has accused Pakistani forces of helping militants infiltrate Indian-administered Kashmir.

The ongoing tensions prompted army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to break his silence and term the Indian allegations as ‘unfortunate, unfounded and provocative’.

He insisted that the Pakistan Army was exercising restraint but the same should in no way be used as a pretext for levelling such “baseless allegations that vitiate prospects of regional peace.”

Going the distance: Dar meets US officials on sidelines of WB-IMF moot

Finance minister Ishaq Dar with US deputy Secretary of State Williams J Burns, along with Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins. PHOTO: PID

Finance minister Ishaq Dar with US deputy Secretary of State Williams J Burns, along with Special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins. PHOTO: PID

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, WASHINGTON, 11th OCTOBER 2013: Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar met with the United States (US) Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the State Department to discuss mutual cooperation between the two countries.

The finance minister, who is heading a Pakistani delegation to Washington for World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meetings, was accompanied by Governor State Bank, Yaseen Anwar, Secretary Economic Affairs Divsion, Nargis Sethi and Charge d’ Affaires at Pakistani embassy Dr Asad Majeed Khan.

On the US side, the deputy secretary of state was assisted by Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins and Deputy Special Representative Daniel Feldman.

During the meeting, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar informed the US officials about the steps taken by the new government to put economy back on track. The finance minister informed Burns of the politically tough decisions by the government like increasing tariff on electricity and reducing subsidies in the sector.

Senator Dar highlighted that the new government had inherited empty coffers as the tax revenue was barely Rs1,936 billion against the target of Rs2,380 billion. He said that Islamabad had set an ambitious target of increasing Tax Revenue by 28%. The finance minister said the new government is coming up with a proactive energy policy to invite new investment in energy sector with a special emphasis on the renewable and cheap energy sources.

Deputy Secretary Burns appreciated the bold decisions taken by the Government and expressed hope that the American investors would benefit from the investor friendly policies of the government.

Earlier, Finance Minister Dar visited the US Treasury Department and had a meeting with the Under Secretary David Cohen. During the meeting Senator Dar briefed the American officials about the actions taken by the new government to improve the documentation of economy and control illegal transfer of money which could be used for terrorist activities.

The finance minister informed Cohen that the government was giving incentives to promote transfer of money through official means.

Cohen appreciated that the government was making serious efforts to control terrorist financing and expected that there would be positive outcomes from the next visit of Financial Action Task Force team next week.

Dedicated public servant: First female ASP from lower Sindh ready to clean house

My parents' dedication to my educational pursuits paid off, says ASP Suhai Aziz Talpur .

My parents’ dedication to my educational pursuits paid off, says ASP Suhai Aziz Talpur .

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, KARACHI, 11th OCTOBER 2013: 

ASP Suhai Aziz Talpur, the first woman from lower Sindh to join the police at this rank, was once shunned by her relatives. And only because her parents thought she deserved to be educated.

“When my parents decided to enroll me at a school, most of our relatives started taunting my family. So much so, that my family had to leave our village and move to a nearby town,” she recalled. “But the moment I cleared my Central Superior Services (CSS) exams and was told that I’d be joining the police department as an assistant superintendant police (ASP), the same people started approaching me by claiming to be my long-lost relatives. This is the power of education and being a female, I am proud to have this power.”

At the age of 25, Suhai will be the first woman from lower Sindh [Thatta, Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar districts] to join the police in November. “My first preference was district management group and the police force was second. My percentage in the exams, however, qualifies me to join the police force. I know the uniform has its own power and I will try my best to use it for good.”

Strong roots

Suhai belongs to a lower middle class family of Bhai Khan Talpur village in Tando Muhammad Khan district. Her father Aziz Talpur, a political activist and writer, always dreamt big for his daughter. “My relatives cut off ties with me because I wanted Suhai to study as they were only in favour of religious education,” Aziz told The Express Tribune. “But I vowed to provide my daughter quality education. Now I know my efforts were successful.”

Suhai started her primary education at a private school in Tando Muhammad Khan and joined Bahria Foundation for her intermediate studies.

Her educational path then led her to pursue BCom from the Zubaida Girls College, Hyderabad. “My family wanted me to become a chartered accountant but I found the job to be very dull as it had no social value,” she said. “That is when I appeared for CSS and cleared it in first attempt.”

She credited her success to hard work and her upbringing. “My parents are nationalists. As a child, they used to emphasise that I memorise Sindhi poetry. This developed my interest in literature and history, leading me to secure top marks in both the subjects in the CSS exams.”

(Un)suitable candidates

Although small in number, female officers have managed to make it to the top on their own.

Earlier, only two women in Sindh cleared the CSS and were working in the police department on senior posts – ASP Irum Awan and Shehla Qureshi.

Awan was the first female ASP to be posted in Ghotki, a district known for tribal clashes and dacoit culture. “I worked hard to stop honour killings as I could understand the plight of the victims,” she said.

Three other female officers enjoy senior positions but they joined through the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) or were political appointees. Naseem Ara Panhwar, from Mirpurkhas, serves as the SSP in the driving licence branch. She was appointed in 1995 when the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government had directly recruited DSPs in the police through the SPSC. “It’s a tough but appealing job,” she said. “More young and vibrant women should come forward because not only do they have equal potential as their male counterparts but they would also be in a better position to solve women’s issues.”

SP Traffic Jalees Fatima and Establishment ADIG Noushaba Kausar are two other female officers who have been given high ranks in the department.