Rohit Kumar's Views

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Posts Tagged ‘Islamabad

Decision Time

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This week in Islamabad, the Government of Pakistan and the international community came together for the first meeting of the Pakistan Development Forum in two years. Just over three months since Pakistan’s devastating monsoon floods, it was a chance for the Government of Pakistan and the international community to take stock of the challenges facing Pakistan. And to set the direction for both Pakistan’s government and the international community in helping Pakistan overcome those challenges and reach its full economic potential.

Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell took part in the Forum in Islamabad. It was his third visit to Pakistan since Britain’s new coalition government took office six months ago, and his fourth visit this year. Britain has been speedy and generous in its support for Pakistan. The UK has been at the forefront of the flood response, committing a total of £134 million to provide emergency shelter, food packages and safe water and to help start the reconstruction process with support for farmers and for getting children back to school. The British public has made its support for Pakistan clear, donating a further £64m (Rs 8.5bn) to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.

The Forum highlighted the massive scale of the challenge that Pakistan faces after this summer’s devastating monsoon floods. The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank presented their damage needs assessment. Their conclusions were sobering. They estimated that this summer’s floods had caused a total of $10bn worth of damage across Pakistan. A minimum of $6.8bn is needed for repair, recovery and reconstruction across all sectors. Most affected are Pakistan’s agriculture and housing sectors. Agriculture and housing losses are estimated at $5bn and $1bn respectively.

Pakistan’s challenge was great enough before this summer’s floods. Pakistan’s population is expected to increase by 85 million by 2030. Pakistan’s working age population is increasing by nearly 10,000 people every day. That is 4 million people every year. For Pakistan to create enough jobs for these people, the economy needs to grow at 8% per annum. Over the past five years, growth has averaged just 4%.

The UK stands ready to increase its support to help Pakistan secure the vibrant, properous and strong future its people deserve. But, as Andrew Mitchell told the Pakistan Development Forum this week, an exceptional package of reforms by the Government of Pakistan is essential to securing this future. Without reforms to increase tax revenue and control public spending, the risks posed by large and persistent deficits – financed through ever greater levels of borrowing – are considerable and debilitating. Inflation is likely to keep rising, and investor confidence – which has fallen 25% this year – will continue to be shaky. All of which would destroy rather than create jobs.

The Government of Pakistan is making some tough decisions and beginning to make progress towards reform. The Reformed General Sales Tax Bill tabled in the National Assembly last week is part of the right approach. Pakistan’s politicians need now to move to agreement and implementation. To build public confidence, it needs to be accompanied by continued measures to tackle corruption and improve the effectiveness of public spending. In order to stay on a positive path to long-term development Pakistan needs to take some tough choices to reform the economy to ensure sustainable economic growth which will reduce poverty and inequality and allow Pakistan to realise its potential.

Finally, at this time of Eid-ul-Azha let me wish you and your families Eid Mubarak.

EU concerned over violence

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By: Kamran Yousaf

ISLAMABAD: The European Union (EU) has expressed grave concerns over the violence in Indian Kashmir, calling for an early resolution for the decades-old problem of poisoned relations between Pakistan and India.


Kashmiri people shout anti-India slogans during the funeral of a Kashmiri youth, Fayaz Ahmad, in Srinagar September 18, 2010.

“We are very concerned about the violence in Kashmir and we have conveyed this to India through diplomatic channels,” the EU Ambassador to Pakistan Jan De Kok told reporters here on Wednesday.

The EU, for the first time, publicly aired its concern since the beginning of anti-India demonstrations in June this year in Kashmir, which have already killed over 100 people.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Belgian Ambassador Hans Christian Kint, the EU envoy urged the two countries to find peaceful ways to resolve the Kashmir problem. However, he made it clear that the 27-nation bloc did not intend to mediate between Pakistan and India on Kashmir issue.

Pakistan also stepped up diplomatic efforts to put pressure on India.

On Tuesday Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the United States to pressure India over Kashmir, saying that recent unrest showed that New Delhi, and not Islamabad, was to blame for trouble in the Himalayan territory.

He is likely to meet his Indian counterpart SM Krishna later this month in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Foreign office officials say the foreign minister will certainly take up the issue of renewed violence in Kashmir with his Indian counterpart.

Meanwhile, the Belgian Ambassador, whose country currently holds the EU Presidency, said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will attend the Asia-Europe summit to be held in Brussels on October 4 and 5. The summit will be attended by 48 heads of states and governments to discuss a host of issues confronting the two regions and the world at large, the ambassador added.

He said the meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan will also take place in Brussels on October 14 and 15 to discuss the country’s needs in the wake of devastating floods.

Delay in sugar import to benefit Dubai-based company

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Official denies former senator’s interest, says procedural matters caused delay

By Aftab Maken

ISLAMABAD: With enough sugar stocks available in the country for three months, the top guns in the ministries of finance and industries have finalised a deal in hurry with a Dubai-based company for procurement of sugar, The News learnt reliably on Sunday.

“They are pushing a deal by giving the impression that the sugar stocks in the country are not comfortable and only government-to-government procurement will ensure the smooth supply of the commodity in the coming months,” claimed a sugar importer from Karachi pleading anonymity.

He further alleged that the authorities concerned have turned a deaf ear to pleas of importing sugar from India at affordable price. Secretary Finance Salman Siddique while briefing journalists after the last ECC had skipped the question about his alleged involvement in the dubious government-to-government sugar import from Dubai. Despite repeated attempts to know his viewpoint, this correspondent failed to contact him, as he did not pick up his cell phone.

“This whole game is aimed at favouring the Dubai-based Dubai Export Development Corporation (DEDC). A former PPP senator is also interested in the deal,” the same importer claimed. The PPP senator has assured the company of importing at least 700,000 tons of sugar purchased at the price of its choice, he added.

Secretary Commerce Zafar Mehmud told The News that the ministry of commerce and its attached department, the TCP, are abiding by the ECC decisions for the import of commodities. They will carry out what the ECC has conveyed to them, he added.

Answering a question about the TCP’s failure to ensure import of 1.2 million tons of sugar before June 30, the secretary commerce said: “They tried their best to procure the said quantity before the deadline but some procedural matters caused delay in the import of sugar.” However, he said, the TCP has enough stock to meet the USC demand.

According to an official document, the overall stock position of sugar with the TCP as well as with the private sector as reported by the respective cane commissioners and the TCP officials stood at 12,01,000 tonnes with 7,06,022 tonnes with Punjab, 2,97,481 tonnes with Sindh. KP had 49,701 tons while imported balance with the TCP is 1,48,000 tonnes.

Chairman TCP Sheikh Anjum Bashir could not be reached for his views as to why the TCP could not ensure timely import of the commodity before June 30, 2010. The companies, which failed to supply 250,000 tonnes of sugar to the TCP as per schedule, were actually acting on behalf of the Dubai-based company, said an official of the TCP but requested not to be named.

“These fake suppliers made sure that the TCP could not procure the required amount of sugar at low price, thus leaving it and the government of Pakistan with no option but to approach the powerful Dubai-based company for the supply of sugar a price of its choice,” he added. When asked about the interest of the former PPP senator in the deal, he rejected the claim and said no former senator has any interest in the deal.

HEC chief ‘unwilling’ to continue in office

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ISLAMABAD: Higher Education Commission chairman Javed Leghari on Tuesday met President Asif Ali Zardari and updated him on the fake degree issue, sources in the Presidency told Dawn.


Javed Laghari had called on PM Gilani at Prime Minister’s House on Monday and presented him the report.-Photo by Online

No official press release was issued because it was said to be a one-on-one meeting for which media coverage was not allowed.

Like other events from which the Presidency tried to keep media away, the meeting between the president and the HEC chief took place inside the president’s residence.

Insiders said Mr Leghari presented a report on fake degrees and the names of politicians whose cases might be sent to the Election Commission for further action.

The HEC chairman had called on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Prime Minister’s House on Monday and presented him the report.

It has been learnt that the HEC chief has expressed his inability to work for the commission because of reported pressures and threats he had been receiving since he had started scrutiny of education degrees of lawmakers on a Supreme Court order.

However, President Zardari asked him to continue for some time because his resignation would generate a new controversy and ultimately the government would be blamed for it.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said he could not comment because it was a one-to-one meeting.

Meanwhile, a leader of Pakistan Muslim League-N, Abid Sher Ali, told a private TV channel that the HEC chairman was being harassed by Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza to keep the issue under wraps.

US reluctant to help Pakistan in execution of mega projects

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By Mehtab Haider

ISLAMABAD: Although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to unveil here today (Monday) those projects which will be funded under $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar Law over the next five years but Washington is not ready to help Islamabad in execution of mega projects in the most prioritised areas and funding will be made available largely to minor and medium size projects, it is learnt.

A senior official of the government told The News on Sunday that the US seemed reluctant to provide financial assistance for much needed construction of Bhasha Dam in order to remove woes of the energy deficient country. “Why the US does not help us for establishing thermal power plant as one million dollar could translate into generating one megawatt electricity and by spending $1.5 billion per annum Washington can provide a gift of 1,500MW power,” the official questioned.

In case US raised the issue of transparency in procurement then they should purchase thermal power plant by themselves and install it anywhere feasible for adding electricity into the main grid of the country, the official said.

The official said that US should help Pakistan for building Bhasha Dam, but so far no interest was shown by it to finance this project.

The consultants were hired for conducting studies so the consultant mafia that provided cut paste solution will be the major beneficiaries of upcoming US funding. There is need to evolve such a mechanism through which money could be utilized for providing benefits to the poor masses rather than benefiting few hundreds. The provision of benefit to large segment of society will help curbing anti-America sentiments in Pakistan.

A senior official of Planning Commission told this scribe that several meetings were held between the both sides to finalise the projects that would be financed under Kerry-Lugar Law but every time differences of opinion existed over them in terms of priorities set by Pakistan.

If USA wants to award contracts to its own companies and individuals and then they would hire services of Pakistanis at second stage, in such scenario the administrative cost will be much higher for utilizing these funds, the official said.

Is Farooq Leghari the only corrupt man in Sindh?

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By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The case of Farooq Leghari, the detained brother of Prof Javed Leghari who heads the Higher Education Commission, is becoming a classic example of the repressive ways of a mighty administration that has no regard or respect for the rule of law.

Farooq Leghari’s only crime is that he is the brother of Dr Javed Leghari, who has courageously resisted the government’s pressure to surrender and relent on verifying the degrees of MPs. The elder Leghari is braving all pressures but his brother has become the victim.

Otherwise reputed as corruption friendly like the federal government and showing no interest to curb the menace during the last two- and-a-half years of its tenure, the Sindh government has suddenly and vigorously started pursuing the alleged corruption of one of its Grade 19 officer – Farooq Leghari.

The junior Leghari was granted bail by the anti-corruption court on Thursday but he was neither released nor does his family have any clue about his whereabouts. His family sources say that a new case of car theft is being now framed against the officer.

Thanks to an independent judiciary, which has found the earlier case of corruption framed against the officer as “weak” and granted the officer bail, those pulling the strings of the Sindh administration are too clever to let the Legharis off the hook so easily. “You get bail one after the other, we will continue to make more and more cases,” a family member of the Legharis claimed to have received the message from rulers.

Is this not what Asif Ali Zardari used to complain when he was on the receiving end? When he got acquitted in one case, another was ready. Is he taking revenge for what happened to him?

However, it is yet to be seen if the superior judiciary would allow this ‘Tamasha’ going on in a similar fashion in this blatant case of arm-twisting by those who are mandated to rule while remaining within the parameters of law and the Constitution.

The high court, it is said, has the powers to order, while granting bail in a case to any accused, that it should be first informed before taking the concerned person into custody on any other charge and he should not be arrested unless allowed by it.

The case of Farooq Leghari is not much complex to understand as to why he has suddenly become the high-profile example of corruption in Sindh. Will he be in a similar position had his brother followed the orders of the Sindh rulers and not performed the duties assigned to him under the law?

Why is the PPP leadership so scared? There is no other reason except that it has many skeletons hidden in its cupboard. It wants all the cheats in its ranks to be occupying important positions who decide the destiny of the nation. Farooq’s arrest, moments after he was granted bail by the Sindh High Court, reminded many of us of tactics of oppressive dictatorial regimes.

According to the Leghari family sources, the most powerful man in Sindh, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, personally held a meeting with the Hyderabad superintendent of police at the latter’s residence in Latifabad on Wednesday to discuss this unique case of “corruption” in the Sindh government. It is claimed that Farooq Leghari has been moved to Badin despite his bail whereas the anti-corruption department authorities, when contacted on Thursday by the family, denied that the officer was with them.

These are such a strange testing times for Dr Javed Leghari that instead of being rewarded and praised for doing his job honestly and fairly, he and his family are at the receiving end where the corrupt are having a field day. His family members, friends and acquaintances are also worried about the safety and security of Dr Javed Leghari, who remains undeterred and is determined to complete the job assigned to him.

Will the courts, the politicians, the assemblies, the media and the civil society support this great exception in the present ruling elite during these testing times or would he be left alone to face all these excesses and become history? Will corruption and the corrupt rule? Will anyone stand up to stop them?

Degrees of all civil servants to be verified

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Abid Sher Ali says Army, private sector may also be checked

By Usman Manzoor

ISLAMABAD: As parliamentarians face the fake degrees scam, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education has announced he will get degrees of all government servants verified to cleanse the civil services as well.

PML-N MNA Abid Sher Ali has vowed to verify the degrees of all the civil servants, from Grade 17 and above, including doctors, engineers and educationists of both the government and private sectors.

Analysts, however, said it was not clear whether the MNA could verify degrees of people working in the private sector, as it was basically the responsibility of the private company managements to ensure that they hired genuine professionals.

Talking to The News from London, Abid Sher Ali said he had initiated the process of verifying all the degrees and had started with parliament but it would not stop until the degree of every responsible person in the country was verified.

He mentioned that the judiciary was an independent institution, therefore, the verification of degrees of the judiciary would be left to the judiciary itself, However, he would write to the Ministry of Defence to get the degrees of army men verified.

It is worth mentioning here that Abid outsmarted the Election Commission and parliament, including his own party the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, in which many fake-degree holders were sitting, by initiating the battle against the fake degree holders on his own. He was criticised not only by the government but also by his own party members. Even one powerful federal minister threatened Abid of severe consequences if he did not stop the verification process of the degrees of parliamentarians.

“I am returning on July 22 and as soon as I reach Pakistan, I will take the task of verifying the degrees of all the civil servants of Grade 17 and above wherever they are posted,” said Abid, adding: “We will also verify the degrees of doctors, engineers, employees of the National Assembly and the Senate, all commissions and of educational institutions.” He also mentioned that his visit to the UK was planned much before he initiated the process of verification of degrees and there was no other reason behind his tour.

He held that the NA body would ask the Higher Education Commission to verify the degrees of all the educationalists, from vice-chancellors to lecturers, and of public and private sectors both.

While talking about the verification of the degrees of parliamentarians Abid Sher Ali said that the duty of NA committee had finished and now it was up to the HEC and the Election Commission. “We have finished our job and the HEC will compile the report of fake degrees by 18-19 July,” Adid added.

He once again intimated that he would countercheck the verification of degrees and if any university was found verifying a fake degree, its vice chancellor and Registrar would be sent to jail for cheating the nation. “We (parliamentarians) are the role models and should present ourselves as role models, therefore, there is no room for those who have cheated the nation by submitting fake degrees and we have initiated this process ourselves as we should not leave all the things to the judiciary,” said Abid Sher Ali.