April 2009

Pakistan’s neo-Taliban

By I.A. Rehman

THE militants’ tactical retreat from Buner, an armed operation against them in Dir and some formal assurances by the army top brass have given most Pakistanis a sense of respite. It should now be possible to comprehend the neo-Taliban phenomenon without which they cannot be overcome.

The armed bands engaged in terrorist activities in the northern parts of Pakistan are called neo-Taliban because it is necessary to distinguish them from the Taliban that overran Afghanistan in the 1990s and about whom conservative Pakistanis entertain some wholesome notions. They condone the Afghan Taliban’s excesses against women and their animalistic hostility to arts and culture, because they want to see the same done in Pakistan. At the same time these elements still praise the Afghan Taliban for unifying their country, for checking violent disorder and for disarming non-state militias. And, latterly, they are hailed for resisting foreign intrusion. Read More »Pakistan’s neo-Taliban

Balochistan on the brink-Kamila Hyat

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

Far away from Quetta, or Khuzdar or Naushki, it is often impossible to gauge the sentiments and feelings that swirl with the dusts of Balochistan.

But it is obvious that the ill-judged comments of the adviser on interior, Rehman Malik, while winding up a debate in the Senate on Balochistan, have created a storm that makes the sands fly still more fiercely. The remarks have, of course, added to the tensions that spur on the nationalist struggle in Balochistan, and made many people within the country’s largest province still more determined to break away from what they see as the oppressive hold of Pakistan.

Mr Malik could not have done a greater service to the nationalist cause had he been hired by one of the groups that has waged a struggle for autonomy in the province for decades.Read More »Balochistan on the brink-Kamila Hyat

Clear and present danger from the Taliban-Ikram Sehgal

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The nine years’ delay in agreeing upon a Constitution for Pakistan was because of ambiguity about what role Islam would play in governance, and how this role could be incorporated into the Constitution. Deciding this in a Muslim-majority state was unprecedented, complicated by 79 members forming the Constituent Assembly coming from different walks of life. Their understanding about what Islam was and how it should be practiced differed substantially.

Detailed discussions resulted in the “Objectives Resolution” being agreed to in 1949. This resolution never attracted criticism or rejection because its understanding of Islam is very broad and inclusive. It was later incorporated into successive Constitutions. It reads: “Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and authority which he has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust; This Constitution Assembly representing the people of Pakistan resolves to frame a Constitution wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people; Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed; Wherein the Muslims shall be fully enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.”Read More »Clear and present danger from the Taliban-Ikram Sehgal

Islamabad: Kiosk that adds to attraction of Margalla hills

With too much progress on the capital scene there had been a conscience effort to well preserve its natural characteristics in order to maintain its tranquillity and beauty.

The construction of a wooden kiosk on Margalla hills would definitely be a treat for the nature lovers who often found criticising the massive development at the cost of cutting trees.

After the Saidpur Village, a village named Shah Allah Ditta is going to be the next major attraction for the tourists not only because of its historic background but an extremely natural setting.Read More »Islamabad: Kiosk that adds to attraction of Margalla hills

Ice study has good and bad news for planet

A study of Greenland’s icesheet has revealed that a vast store of planet-warming methane appears to be more stable than thought, easing fears of a rapid rise in temperatures, a scientist has said.

Methane is about 25 times more powerful at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) and vast amounts of the compound are trapped in permafrost in the far northern hemisphere or in seabed deposits called clathrates.

Scientists have feared climate change could trigger a huge release of methane from the clathrate reservoir, sending global warming spiralling out of control. Read More »Ice study has good and bad news for planet

Vitamin deficiency raises asthma risk

A low intake of vitamins A and C could raise the risk of asthma, a team which reviewed 40 studies carried out over the past 30 years has said.

A Nottingham University-led team found people with a low intake of vitamin C had a 12% increased risk of asthma, the Thorax journal reported.

For vitamin A the raised risk was less clear cut, the team said, but there was still a significant association.

Asthma UK and the Medical Research Council said more research was needed.

There has been a lot of confusion over the link between vitamins and the condition, which affects five million people in the UK. Read More »Vitamin deficiency raises asthma risk

4th Quarter Monetary Policy Statement. Hopes and Fears

Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan

The governor State Bank of Pakistan announced the fourth quarterly Monetary Policy Statement. The SBP reduced the discount rate by 100 basis points to 14 per after a recorded/ reported sharp fall in inflation. According to the statement economy had made a steady progress towards macroeconomic stability.

The SBP adopted tight monetary stance in July 2007 aiming to curb inflation and shrink liquidity in the market and since then has raised its policy rate by 550 basis points to take it 15 percent. Last year November the IMF forced the SBP to increase the discount rate by 200 basis points to 15 per cent. Furthermore, the projected average consumer price index inflation for 2008-09 is around 21 per cent. The SBP hoped that said inflation was expected to decline to around 14 per cent in the April-June quarter of 2008-09 and to 8 per cent in the next financial year. Read More »4th Quarter Monetary Policy Statement. Hopes and Fears

Friends of Pakistan Donor Conference: Perceptions and Realities

Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan
The government of Japan and the World Bank were the co-host of a Pakistan Donors Conference held in Tokyo. Friends of Democratic Pakistan Group Ministerial Meeting was chaired by Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi the foreign minister of Pakistan. He said that Friends of Pakistan (FoDP) have pledged up to 5.28 billion US dollars to help stabilise Pakistan in Tokyo ministerial meeting. He thanked all donor countries who extended their support to Pakistan to meet countryâ€s economic challenges and effectively address the issue of terrorism. Qureshi also thanked the government of Japan in organising the donors†conference. He said Iranian foreign minister announced to launch Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and promised 330 million dollars which would help Pakistan meet its energy requirements.Read More »Friends of Pakistan Donor Conference: Perceptions and Realities

Where is the Pakistan army?

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Dr Farrukh Saleem

Five thousand square kilometres of Swat are now under Taliban control — de jure. Chitral (14,850 sq km), Dir (5,280 sq km), Shangla (1,586 sq km), Hangu (1,097 sq km), Lakki Marwat (3,164 sq km), Bannu (1,227 sq km), Tank (1,679 sq km), Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand, Orkzai, North Waziristan and South Waziristan are all under Taliban control — de facto. That’s a total of 56,103 square kilometres of Pakistan under Taliban control — de facto.

Six thousand square kilometres of Dera Ismail Khan are being contested. Also under ‘contested control’ are Karak (3,372 sq km), Kohat (2,545 sq km), Peshawar (2,257 sq km), Charsada (996 sq km) and Mardan (1,632 sq km). That’s a total of 16,802 square kilometres of Pakistan under ‘contested control’ — de facto. Seven thousand five hundred square kilometres of Kohistan are under ‘Taliban influence’. Additionally, Mansehra (4,579 sq km), Battagram (1,301 sq km), Swabi (1,543 sq km) and Nowshera (1,748 sq km) are all under ‘Taliban influence’. That’s a total of 16,663 square kilometres of Pakistan under ‘Taliban influence’ — de facto. All put together, 89,568 square kilometres of Pakistani territory is either under complete ‘Taliban control’, ‘contested control’ or ‘Taliban influenced’; that’s 11 per cent of Pakistan’s landmass. Read More »Where is the Pakistan army?