ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the General Headquarters on Tuesday where he was briefed by the top military leadership on the current security situation in the country.
In his first visit to the GHQ after assuming office, the prime minister lay a floral wreath at the memorial of martyrs and held a one-on-one meeting with the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The meeting was followed by a detailed briefing by the military's top brass.
Many pressing issues, including talks with the Taliban and appointment of a new army chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee — the post currently held by Gen Kayani after the retirement of Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne in the first week of October — are likely to have come under discussion.
Prime Minister Sharif has said before and after his election that the next army chief will be appointed on merit and the most senior general will get the charge.
Haroon Aslam is the most senior general after Gen Kayani.
The prime minister was also briefed by the military leadership on the pros and cons of contacting new Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Maulana Fazlullah, a sworn enemy of the army. Following the TTP’s latest threat to carry out attacks on the military and government installations and functionaries, the government is virtually in a bind as far as the proposed peace talks with the Taliban are concerned.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamd Al-Sabah held formal talks here on Monday aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries.
The meeting held at the Prime Minister House focused on enhancing cooperation in diverse areas, especially trade and energy.
Prime Minister Sharif said the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber would give a fresh impetus to the efforts to further carry forward the multifaceted bilateral relations with Kuwait.
He mentioned that Pakistan's relations with Kuwait were rooted in historical links and enriched by the great warmth and goodwill between their people.
In the delegation-level talks, Prime Minister Sharif was assisted by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid, Special Assistant to PM on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi, State Minister for Petroleum Jam Kamal and State Minister for Privatization Khurram Dastagir.
Kuwait's ministers for Petroleum, Trade and Chamber of Commerce participated in the talks.
On Sunday. President Mamnoon Hussain underscored the need for Pakistani and Kuwaiti governments to take their bilateral relations to new heights by focussing on trade and investment.
During his meeting with Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah at the Presidency, the president said Pakistan had huge potential for investors in various sectors, including defence and energy, and invited Kuwaiti businessmen to avail the attractive incentives offered by its government.
Mr Hussain said the Kuwaiti prime minister’s visit to Pakistan demonstrated the special bonds of friendship and brotherhood between the two countries and expressed confidence that it would add momentum to the existing close ties between them.
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has said that Pakistan attaches special importance to its relations with the Kingdom of Kuwait. He said this while meeting His Highness Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, who met the Prime Minister here in Islamabad today.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani private schools associations office bearers said on Sunday that they have banned teenage activist Malala Yousafzai's book from private schools across the country, claiming it doesn't show enough respect for Islam and calling her a tool of the West.
Malala attracted global attention last year when the Taliban shot her in the head in northwest Pakistan for criticizing the group's interpretation of Islam, which limits girls' access to education.
Her profile has risen steadily since then, and she released a memoir in October, ''I Am Malala,'' that was co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb.
While Malala has become a hero to many across the world for opposing the Taliban and standing up for girls' education, conspiracy theories have flourished in Pakistan that her shooting was staged to create a hero for the West to embrace.
Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said his group banned Malala's book from the libraries of its 40,000 affiliated schools and called on the government to bar it from school curriculums.
''Everything about Malala is now becoming clear,'' Javedani said. ''To me, she is representing the West, not us.''
Kashif Mirza, the chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, said his group also has banned Malala's book in its affiliated schools.
Malala ''was a role model for children, but this book has made her controversial,'' Mirza said. ''Through this book, she became a tool in the hands of the Western powers.''
He said the book did not show enough respect for Islam because it mentioned Prophet Muhammad's name without using the abbreviation PBUH ''peace be upon him'' as is customary in many parts of the Muslim world.
He also said it spoke favorably of author Salman Rushdie, who angered many Muslims with his book ''The Satanic Verses,'' and Ahmadis, members of a minority sect that have been declared non-Muslims under Pakistani law.
In her reference to Rushdie, Malala said in the book that her father saw ''The Satanic Verses'' as ''offensive to Islam but believes strongly in the freedom of speech.''
''First, let's read the book and then why not respond with our own book,'' the book quoted her father as saying.
Malala mentioned in the book that Pakistan's population of 180 million people includes more than 2 million Ahmadis, ''who say they are Muslim though our government says they are not.''
''Sadly those minority communities are often attacked,'' the book said, referring also to Pakistan's 2 million Christians.
The conspiracy theories around Malala reflect the level of influence that right-wing sympathisers to the Taliban have in Pakistan. They also reflect the poor state of education in Pakistan, where fewer than half the country's children ever complete a basic, primary education.
Millions of children attend private school throughout the country because of the poor state of the public system.
The Taliban blew up scores of schools and discouraged girls from getting an education when they took over the Swat Valley, where Malala lived, several years ago.
The army staged a large ground offensive in Swat in 2009 that pushed many militants out of the valley, but periodic attacks still occur.
The mastermind of the attack on Malala, Mullah Fazlullah, recently was appointed the new head of the Pakistani Taliban after the former chief was killed in a US drone strike.
PAKISTAN: The government’s strategy on the IP pipeline has been dominated by the issue offinancing the Pakistani leg of the pipeline, public pressurestemming out of acute power shortages and a political consensus that demandsstanding up to the threat of US sanctions. However, an overemphasis on these three factors should not hamper our ability to analyse other important dynamics involved in this project.
Indeed, the price at which Pakistan would contractually purchase Iranian gas is linked to international crude oil prices. Iran itself imports gas from Turkmenistan at USD 4/MMBtu while the price at which it would export to Pakistan is an exorbitant figure of USD 14/MMBtu. According to a recent report by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), this would bring about a “death sentence” for Pakistan’s economy. Thus, if the pipeline project was to continue, Pakistan might end up having surplus supply of gas that consumers and local industry cannot even afford.
Moreover, Turkey, a current importer of Iranian gas still faces trouble getting adequate supply of gas from Iran during winter months, a time when Iran’s own domestic demand for gas peaks. On October 1, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh himself raised concern about Iran facing serious gas shortage because of slow progress in raising levels of production from South Pars – the field that is supposed to fill the IP pipeline. If such factors were seriously taken into account, the pipeline agreement would likely have never been signed at the first place.
In addition to exploring other options from Pakistan’s indigenous resources and renewable energy sector, the question that policymakers should now be asking is how the IP pipeline project can best come to an end so that Pakistan’s international standing is not damaged. It is thus important to explore the various exit strategies Pakistan could adopt and what implications each of them entails.
First, as Pakistan seems to do with other problems, politicians might be comfortable blaming the potential pullout on US pressure. However, this will not only prove unfavorable for the goal of reviving Pakistani-US ties, but will also seriously hamper the approval ratings of the new Pakistani government.
The second way out is to blame the previous government. While this option might be easy to digest, it has serious long-term repercussions. Holding the previous administration accountable for the failure creates a precedent in which a new Pakistani government can arbitrarily scrap an international agreement. This in turn creates a lack of trust among potential regional and international partners in Pakistan’s ability to see its agreements through from one administration to another.
The third possibility is to keep the project lingering. This will attract more energy aid projects from the United States and cheaper oil offers from Saudi Arabia. However, given that Pakistan will be liable to pay a $3 million per day penalty to Iran if its side of the pipeline is not completed by the end of 2014; this option is also not plausible.
The fourth possibility is to renegotiate the gas prices and the terms of the agreement with Iran. Though this option might be successful in de-linking gas prices from those of international crude oil, it would neither solve the financing issue nor the security concerns in regard to Balochistan.
These flawed options make the situation seem discouraging, in this conundrum lies a tremendous diplomatic opportunity which if articulated well could provide Pakistan with a win-win outcome.
Instead of provoking Iran’s anger by scrapping the gas pipeline deal without offering anything against it, Pakistan should replace it with another contract to import more Iranian-produced electricity. Pakistan is already importing Iranian electricity at Rs.10/unit and could enhance its import to the efficient levels of the current transmission capacity. Even increasing this capacity by building more transmission lines is a cheaper and a more viable option than to proceed with the IP pipeline project. Furthermore, it will also be in Iran’s interests to establish more power plants within the country which could be used for both, its domestic production and as well as for importing gas to Pakistan.
Meanwhile, pulling out of the project will also give Pakistan greater leverage with the United States and Saudi Arabia – the two staunchest opponents of the pipeline. Pakistan could use this leverage to procure favorable oil prices from Saudi Arabia, as well as assurances of heavy investment from the United States and other international partners to exploit shale gas and renewable energy such as solar, biomass, and tidal energy – sectors that are estimated to have tremendous potential. This will also improve Pakistan’s energy diversity and, in so doing, strengthen its energy security in the long run.
This exit strategy will allow the Pakistani government to save face without having to compromise its relations with either Iran or the United States. Additionally, it will increase the government’s ability to proceed with other necessary yet unpopular steps to put the economy on track. Even Iran will experience no short-term loss as a result of this plan; the 900 km pipeline it has completed on its side of the border is still necessary for its own domestic supply of gas.
KARACHI: Expressing satisfaction over the ongoing targeted operation of the security forces against criminals and terrorists in Karachi, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Friday said law and order situation in the metropolis has improved due to efforts of Rangers and police.
He was chairing a high level meeting at Pakistan Rangers’ Headquarters, said a press release issued here.
Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other senior officials also attended the meeting.
The prime minister was briefed in detail about the achievements and the modus operandi adopted by the Rangers for a “successful, across the board operation against criminals and anti-social elements.”
Sharif expressed confidence in Rangers saying improvement in law and order situation of the port city is a testimony of the effectiveness and potential of the force.
He urged the high command of the paramilitary force to continue with the targeted operations and enhance the tempo to get rid of the menace of lawlessness and ensure an enduring peace.
The premier was received by DG Rangers Sindh Maj-Gen Rizwan Akhtar upon his arrival at the headquarters and was introduced to the sector commanders and senior staff officers.
Karachi, the largest metropolitan city and economic capital of Pakistan, is riddled with targeted killings, gang wars, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorism.
Targeted operations led by Rangers’ forces with the support of police are ongoing in the city under a directive issued by the federal government against criminals already identified by the federal government and military and civilian agencies.
Karachi operation to continue till complete restoration of peace
The prime minister categorically stated that the ongoing operation will continue till peace and tranquility is fully restored in Karachi.
Speaking to the media following his visit to the Rangers headquarters, he said there was absolutely no deadline for the operation’s conclusion.
“We want to restore writ of the government,” said the premier adding that the operation was being conducted across the board without any consideration, political or otherwise.
Sharing details of the briefing given to him by the Rangers, he said 6,780 arrests were reported to him to have been made during the exercise.
Three of the accused have been convicted while cases of 1,408 are ready for trial as are already referred to the courts with 635 of them acquitted and 49 released on bail, he added.
He said the government in the province with absolute support of the federal government was fully committed to bring the criminals and terrorists to task and completely restore normalcy, a prerequisite for restoration of trade and industrial activity in the commercial hub.
“Peace and normalcy in Karachi is directly linked to progress and development of the country,” he said.
On business activities in Karachi and Taliban talks
Speaking to Karachi’s business community earlier, Sharif said criminal elements will be dealt with an iron hand and without any discrimination, to ensure peace in Karachi.
“There will be no politics on this issue, as this operation is against criminal elements....criminals will be dealt indiscriminately and according to law regardless of their political affiliation.”
Without naming anyone or party, he said, “the government will not let anyone exploit the situation and will in no way be blackmailed on this issue.”
He sought the cooperation of businessmen and media to address the issue.
About the issue of terrorism, Prime Minister Sharif recalled that the government had finalised the programme to initiate dialogue with Taliban and a delegation was also scheduled to leave next day when the process was impeded.
The government has accused the United States for sabotaging the peace process by killing Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud through a drone strike last week.
The premier reiterated the government's desire to have dialogue with Taliban for making Pakistan a peaceful country.
“We have made efforts in the past, and we will continue to make more efforts to hold talks with all those involved in militant activities,” he said. “At the moment this looks like the best way to ensure peace, and my sincere desire is that violence ends in all those areas which have been badly hit by violence in the past few years.”
The prime minister said he will have a detailed meeting with the business community soon.
“I have some economic reforms in my mind which I want to discuss with you people to ensure their implementation. Either I will call you in Islamabad or have an exclusive session on economy here very soon,” he said while making an apology for lack of time.
APP quoted the prime minister as saying said that the PML-N government with massive public mandate is determined to make strong and long-lasting decisions critical for pulling the country out of the present difficult situation. This, he added, included the energy crisis, which is as important as restoration of law and order.
“For the very purpose we at the very outset adopted a pragmatic approach and successfully addressed the circular debt issue via payment of Rs500 billion,” he said.
Moreover, an energy policy has been formulated under which a series of power plants, mainly hydro and coal based, are to be built.
“These are time consuming and are major projects which, however, have low running cost as compared to solar, wind-mill and other categories of power plants,” he said.
The envisaged hydro and coal power projects were scheduled to be completed in three years time, he said.
Mr Sharif said that the crisis be it energy or of any other type had no short-cut solutions and the entire country would have to share the responsibility in meeting the challenges.
“Instead of giving false hope we, besides adopting a pragmatic approach, have… attempted to bring on board the masses about the factual situation and interventions adopted by us.”
In reply to a question about the fate of Pak-Iran gas pipeline, he said issues of funds were involved besides chances of sanctions. “Yet we are keen to address our energy crisis and would look for every opportunity in the larger national interest.”