March 2009

A Pakistani marriage —Rafia Zakaria

Marriages are routinely and unapologetically arranged to solidify business interests, land disputes and old vendettas. The woman, then, with the maligning spectre of divorce hanging over her, is left to endure whatever abuse her husband or in-laws may heap on her

Recently, Mukhtar Mai’s married Nasir Abbas Gabol in her low-key hometown of Meerwala. The publicity and the debate generated by the event, however, resonated across the globe, garnering attention from international newspapers and television channels.
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Now what? By Ikram Sehgal

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Overcoming its reservations about getting involved in the political process in counselling wisdom to Zardari quietly, the US kept up a drumbeat of pressure, culminating in Hillary Clinton’s late-night calls to the main State and non-State actors concerned. The lawyers’ protest turned ugly with the police violence in Karachi, displaying far more venom a la Taseer in Lahore a day later. As Mian Nawaz Sharif boldly forced his way through the police barriers outside his home the police melted, a “silent” rebellion consequently swept through its rank and file. The manifestation of political force in the streets finally removed all roadblocks to constitutional sanity. The snowflakes of change became a snowball, and then gathering momentum, turned into a landslide.

Salmaan Taseer made a laughingstock of himself by his contemptuous dismissing of the long march “as being lucky to gather even 100 people,” the streets swelled to several hundred thousand protestors. By the time Mian Sahib crossed the Ravi Bridge the endgame was clearly near. When late in the evening of the Ides of March Gen Kayani advised the president the Army would not fire on the protestors, the PM finally mustered the necessary courage to get off the political failsafe line and do what he had been promising for sometime, his duty to the nation as the executive head of government. Persuaded that discretion was the better part of valour, the president lived to fight another day in his presidential bunker.Read More »Now what? By Ikram Sehgal

Pause or turning point? By Dr Maleeha Lodhi

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Even in the annals of Pakistan’s turbulent history, the high political drama that played out over the weekend was an extraordinary one. After an intense display of brinkmanship and an impending political meltdown, President Asif Zardari stepped back from the precipice by conceding to the opposition’s and lawyers’ demand to reinstate Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry as chief justice.

This defused a dangerous and potentially destructive confrontation between the government and the opposition, ending a stand off that had paralysed and pulverised the country. The spectacular retreat left an embattled Presidency weakened. It enhanced Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s credentials as a consensus builder, and established Mian Nawaz Sharif as a leader who correctly read and represented the public mood, strengthening his position as the country’s most popular leader. Read More »Pause or turning point? By Dr Maleeha Lodhi

Hillary’s hat-trick-By Anjum Niaz

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has scored her first international hat-trick. She delivered googlies that sent the three back to the pavilion. The lady walked off with the ‘man of the match’ award from President Obama. The three batting were President Asif Ali Zardari; Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Mian Nawaz Sharif. Zardari was clean bowled; Gilani was caught behind the wicket; and Sharif was run out. The ball used in the match was no ordinary made-in-Sialkot glob. It was a multi-million-dollar musket ball made-in-USA. Her words, not exact, were: “Now you listen to me Mr President” hectored Hillary “either you yield to Mr Sharif’s demands or we cancel your next aid instalment.” The threat worked. Next to be bowled out was our prime minister. “Mr Prime Minister, get before the TV camera pronto and make the announcement or else…” Gilani straightaway went to work on the speech dictated from DC. With three dry runs on the teleprompter – cut, paste and edit – several hours later when the muezzin had already called the faithful for morning prayers and daylight had arrived, the PM made his ‘historic’ speech stumblingly to millions of bleary eyed Pakistanis. Last but not the least was the phone call to Nawaz Sharif. “Mr Sharif, call off the long march” said madam secretary. “President Zardari has accepted all your demands.”Read More »Hillary’s hat-trick-By Anjum Niaz

The only people I care for in Pakistan are dead, says Sanam Bhutto

By Daphne Barak

“ I don’t care about HIM, about anybody in Pakistan. There is no one person I would call right now…Everybody I care about is dead.” These were the words of an extremely bitter Sanam Bhutto on Sunday afternoon.

I was shocked so I repeated once again how bad the political situation under controversial president Asif Ali Zardari is. I briefly told her the trouble is escalating by the minute and may turn into bloodshed. This didn’t change the uncaring manner of Sanam Bhutto. She simply reiterated that the only people she would care to help are dead.Read More »The only people I care for in Pakistan are dead, says Sanam Bhutto

A March story —Sarah Humayun

The price of street politics has become high, perhaps unbearably so. I’m not sure if this judgement is wrong, but after the events of the last week, it should at least be up for debate

Reactions to the bloodless and coupless conclusion to the long march show just how nerve wracking the last week was, especially for the Pakistani commentariat. Nawaz Sharif opened a Pandora’s box, and, big surprise, hope is the main thing that seems to have come out of it. Politicians courted ‘instability’, recklessly and selfishly (said last week’s received wisdom), and got away with it. Read More »A March story —Sarah Humayun

New student immigration system set to launch in the UK on 31st March 2009

The UK Government today announced the go-live date for the student tier of its new points-based system for migration.

From 31st March, students looking to study in the UK can apply for their visa through the new points-based system which will streamline the Student visa application process.

Under the new transparent system, students will need to prove that they have been accepted onto a course run by a UK Border Agency (UKBA) licensed education institution, prove that they have the means to support themselves and supply their biometric details at their local visa application centre.Read More »New student immigration system set to launch in the UK on 31st March 2009

Dell unveils world’s thinnest laptop

SAN FRANCISCO: Dell Inc unveiled its ‘luxury’ Adamo laptop on Tuesday, calling it the world’s thinnest notebook as it seeks to compete in the high-end ultraportable market defined by Apple Inc’s MacBook Air. The sleek, aluminum-encased notebook is 0.65-inches thick and comes with a 13.4-inch screen and a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive. Shipping begins on Tuesday. Starting at $1,999, the Adamo is positioned as Dell’s new high-end brand. Another configuration will sell for $2,699. The device comes packed in a clear case along with an optional branded sleeve or tote bag from designer luggage and handbag label Tumi. The Adamo is meant “to make a design statement, to surprise people that this is a Dell,” said marketing executive John New. Read More »Dell unveils world’s thinnest laptop

World’s cheapest car due next week

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MUMBAI: The world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano, will be launched next week with backers hoping its troubled birth and the global economic crisis will not put off buyers from India’s emerging middle-classes.

The sporty, jellybean-shaped car has attracted world headlines thanks to its price tag of just 100,000 rupees ($2,000) for the basic model, which is cheaper than some laptop computers. But although marketed as the affordable car for millions of Indians, analysts said the Nano and its manufacturer Tata Motors could be in for a bumpy ride because of production problems, a dip in demand and global economic woes. Only 30,000 to 50,000 Nanos are likely to be sold in the first year because of limited production capacity, auto sector experts said. “Nano’s sales will be production-led, and not demand-led,” Mahantesh Sabarad, an analyst with Centrum Broking in Mumbai, said ahead of its unveiling on Monday and its appearance in car showrooms in April.

The Nano is being rolled out from two manufacturing plants in what Tata group chief Ratan Tata has described as a “makeshift kind of operation.” “This is a hurried launch. The main manufacturing plant in Gujarat is not even ready,” Sabarad told AFP. In October last year, Tata Motors pulled the Nano car project out of West Bengal state in east India, even though the plant near the state capital Kolkota was 90 percent completed. The retreat followed a month of violent demonstrations by activists and farmers evicted from their land that raised wider fears about India’s attractiveness for foreign investors. Tata Motors’ new plant in Gujarat state, western India, is not expected to be ready until the end of 2009.Read More »World’s cheapest car due next week

Alarming Poverty and Pakistan

Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan
Poverty is curse. It is on the rise around the globe. According to the latest report of the World Bank (2009), global poverty ratio is on the rise and Pakistan is not any exemption. The ongoing global financial and banking crisis especially in the USA and the EU has already pushed the millions of people into deeper poverty. According to the latest estimates of the World Bank, almost 40 percent of 107 developing countries are highly exposed to the poverty effects of the crisis. Pakistan is ranked among the 43 countries most exposed to poverty risks. United Nation study (January 2009) says that due to alarming global poverty levels the death ratios of thousands of children and women would be increased throughout the world.

A World Bank report titled ‘Sparing lives, better reproductive health for poor women in South Asia’ has revealed that Pakistan’s 37.4 per cent children under the age of five are malnourished and poor women and children’s nutritional status may worsen if food prices continue to climb out of reach of the poor in the South Asian region. According to the latest report of the World Bank (2009), South Asia region still has nearly 400 million poor people out of a population of 1.42 billion. Poverty is not just endemic; it is increasingly becoming concentrated with the passage of time. In absolute terms, people living below the poverty line (based on $2-a-day criterion) account for more than 80 percent of the population in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, 73.6 percent in Pakistan, and 41.6 percent in Sri Lanka. A high poverty ratio has decreased Pakistan’s spending on social sector further. According to the State of the World Children Report, 2009, the per capita healthcare spending in Pakistan stands at 18 dollars out of which only four dollars are spent in the public sector per annum, while by minimum international standard we need to increase per capita healthcare spending to at least $45 per annum. The UN study says that poverty ratios in sub-Saharan Africa and developing countries would be increased. Moreover, the current worldwide economic meltdown would badly affect the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The report highlighted that infant mortality and child malnutrition would be increased.Read More »Alarming Poverty and Pakistan