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Sunday, 23 June 2013

From Today's Papers - 23 Jun 2013
Will Sharif’s capacity match his resolve?
The public is now demanding the ‘promised peace’ from Nawaz Sharif and the provincial governments. This has thrown open the question of the role of civil and military security agencies, especially for their repeated failure to prevent terror attacks.
Nasim Zehra

That winning the elections, either at the Centre or in the provinces, was never going to be an unadulterated achievement was always clear. So great are the challenges every government has to face that the period of rejoicing was never going to be an extended one. In fact, Pakistan’s vibrant and independent media, combined with social media and the emerging phenomenon of political parties competing on issues of governance and security, has created a highly demanding context in which elected governments are expected to deliver what they promise. On the democratic track, Pakistan’s politicians recognise that the margin of error now is zero.
And if anyone had any doubts, the problems have mounted in no time. On the key issues of security and economy, at least four governments are already under pressure. The first budget presented by Nawaz Sharif’s ace man, Finance Minister Ishaque Dar, has received more than just harsh criticism. If the public and opinion makers appreciate that it’s a tough economic scene, they also insist that it’s merely a rich man’s budget. But the real sting has come from the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took suo motu notice of the 1 percentage point increase in the GST from 16 to 17. He said it was illegal and burdened the inflation-hit ordinary Pakistani. Implementing it without approval of Parliament was illegal. The Finance Minister, despite initial protestations, had to withdraw the tax. In his third term, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif already realises other institutions and an independent judiciary curtail power constitutionally.

The curse of terrorism too hit Pakistan’s three provinces within the first two weeks. Over 75 people, including university students, nurses, mosque-goers and policemen, have been killed. Parliamentarians from Imran Khan’s PTI and the MQM too have been killed. In Balochistan, the Balochistan Liberation Army burnt down the Founding Father’s residency. The gauntlet is thrown from all fronts — the TTP has owned responsibility for the Karachi attacks and the LeJ is likely behind the Quetta attacks. The public is now demanding the ‘promised peace’ from the Sharif and provincial governments. This has thrown open the question of the role of civil and military security agencies, especially for their failure to prevent the attacks or nab the terrorists.

With the spike in terrorism, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has been forced to take up the question of who controls the security agencies and the coordination between civil-military intelligence agencies and the Law Enforcement Agencies. The voters are not in a mood to spare those elected. The Interior Minister has now promised to devise, with civilian and military input, the first ever ‘security policy’ of Pakistan.

Sharif’s wise political moves, including conceding to Imran Khan — with maximum seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the right to form government and invite Baloch nationalist parties to fill the positions of Chief Minister and Governor in Balochistan, are praiseworthy, but insufficient to tackle the security and governance crisis.

Sharif, who has a penchant for committees, has set up several, including one on energy and another on the economy. He has pulled in individuals from the private sector to get advice. On the energy sector, the circular loan of Rs 530 billion owed to companies is expected to bring down considerably the 18-hour daily load shedding within the promised 60 days. The committee on economy is to guide him on a regular basis. According to the government’s own Economic Survey, all fiscal targets set for 2012-2013 have been missed.

The Prime Minister has come determined, his team claims to have staved off all criticism of nepotism, corruption and incompetence. For starters, the posts of CEO of public sector corporations are to be filled through advertisements managed by head-hunters.

However, bringing in men like his friend Mian Mohammad Mansha, an accomplished business tycoon with interests in energy, banks, etc, does raise the question of conflict of interest. Hiring his friend, who owns an international airport services company, as the head of the Civil Aviation Authority too is questionable. Any move compromising on transparency and credibility is unlikely to be sustainable.

Sharif comes as a man determined on reform. For any economic and security reform, the Ministry of Defence and the army itself are relevant, as is the related Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister has retained both the portfolios and appointed as his advisor and assistant in the Foreign Ministry two experienced hands, Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatimi. These were key men during the Kargil crisis of 1999, and share the Prime Minister’s views on peace with the neighbouring countries, especially India and Afghanistan.

On national security and defence, the Prime Minister has plans to boast the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) by setting up an independent secretariat which can provide serious input in policy making. Some institutional reforms are also on the cards. Sharif has removed the national airline and the CAA from the control of the Ministry of Defence. Contrary to expectations, the move went without any reaction.

Sharif is building allies on government reform, Balochistan reconciliation initiative, the US drone issue, counter-terrorism and economic reforms. His early moves suggest he understands that the military leadership and the intelligence community must essentially be allies. So far, so good. The meetings with the army and ISI chiefs have been good on issues like dialogue with the Taliban and the drones. The government plans more consultative initiatives with the political opposition and the military leadership in the coming weeks.

The effort notwithstanding, the country finally looks to the country’s ‘chief executive’ to pull Pakistan out of its multiple problems — Nawaz Sharif means business, but will he have the capacity to pull through with his resolve is the million dollar question Pakistanis want an answer to.
Trade, defence, security on talks table as Kerry arrives today
KV Prasad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22
United States Secretary of State John Kerry would arrive here on Sunday for the fourth India-US Strategic Dialogue that would have components of bilateral trade, defence and security cooperation, energy and higher education.

Kerry, who is on a whirlwind multi-nation tour, would be flying in from Qatar. Before coming to India, Kerry will meet US Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbin in Oman. The US State Department has clearly said there was no timeline for a potential dialogue with Taliban.

The US dignitary will meet External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and review progress in bilateral relations besides exchanging views on regional and international issues.

Briefing about the contours of the Strategic Dialogue, Joint Secretary (Americas) Vikram Doraiswami said: "We will look at having a detailed conversation on various thematic pillars. One would be bilateral relations which will cover the matter of economy, security aspects of our relations. It would also cover energy.” "The other would be the detailed political consultations that we have with the US on regional and other issues. The third major pillar would be global issues...including the evolution of regional architecture in Asia. That is the broad format in which we would have these discussions," Doraiswami said.

India will also put across its viewpoint on the H1B and L category visas that has raised concerns among the Indian industry, especially the IT sector.

India-US strategic dialogue

The US dignitary will meet External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and review progress in bilateral relations besides exchanging views on regional and international issues

India will also put across its viewpoint on the H1B and L category visas that has raised concerns among the Indian industry, especially the IT sector.
Ahead of PM’s J-K visit, Hizb men kill 2 cops
Majid Jahangir
Tribune news service

Srinagar, June 22
Days ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s June 25 visit to the state, Hizbul Mujahideen militants struck in the heart of the city shooting two policemen dead from point blank range.

The attack took place near one of the two bridges that connect the city’s commercial hub and is less than 1 km from the heavily-fortified government headquarters. Pistol-borne militants, believed to be two in number, shot the policemen from point blank range near Amira Kadal Bridge around 2 pm, officials said.

“The policemen and a woman pedestrian were injured in the shootout. The three were rushed to hospital where the policemen were declared dead,” Kashmir Inspector General of Police Abdul Ghani Mir said. “The militants fired from point blank range and took advantage of the heavy rush to escape from the spot,” another police officer said.

The slain policemen have been identified as head constable Mohammad Maqbool Mir and constable Nazir Ahmad Hajam. Both were residents of south Kashmir and were posted at Shaheed Gunj police station.

The girl, identified as Ishrat of Ganderbal, is being treated at the City Hospital where her condition is stated to be stable.

Hizbul Mujahideen’s Muzzaffarabad-based spokesperson Baleeg-ud-Din called up a local news agency in Srinagar and claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attack comes days ahead of the Prime Minister’s scheduled two-day Kashmir visit from June 25 during which he will inaugurate the railway section between Banihal and Qazigund. Security around major towns has been beefed up in recent days and the police have intensified random checking of pedestrians and vehicles in the city.

Soon after the attack, panic gripped the entire area as shopkeepers and pedestrians fled. The police also fired a shot in the air to disperse a crowd that had assembled in an adjoining lane.

The IGP, however, said initial investigation revealed that militants of Hizbul Mujahideen were responsible for the attack. "The attack in Srinagar is not related to the PM's visit. It is not the first such kind of incident has happened. Such incidents have been taking place in Srinagar in the past. We have solved all such cases in past and we will also this one," Mir said.

This is the first major attack in Srinagar since March. On March 21, a BSF man was killed and two others injured in a militant ambush near Nowgam on the Srinagar- Jammu bypass highway. On March 13, in the first suicide attack after nearly three years in the Valley, five CRPF personnel and two militants were killed in Bemina.
Uphill task ahead for forces
Hundreds still trapped; damaged road network a major concern
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service
Gauchar (Chamoli), June 22
Silence in this sleepy Himalayan hamlet and its nearby village of Guptkashi is broken intermittently by the whirl of helicopters flying in and out like they would at a busy airport. Located between Rudraprayag and Joshimath, these are the biggest launchpads for helicopters engaged in rescue operations in Uttarakhand.

The June-16 floods have affected an area of around 40,000 sq km. Right from Gangotri in the west to Pithoragarh along the Indo-Nepal Border in the east, valleys separated by the Himalayas are ravaged and rendered inaccessible, leaving thousands stranded.

This has resulted in one of the biggest rescue operations launched collectively by the Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

Around 45 helicopters are making sorties to rescue those marooned, carry the injured and ferry medicine, water, food packets, blankets, tarpaulins.

On the ground, the Army has sent in around 7,000 men, including doctors, engineers and paramedics. Around 4,000 men of the ITBP are engaged in the operation.

At least 50 satellite phones have been engaged for faster communications as thousands still await evacuation.

While Army and IAF pilots continue to fly non-stop, with refuel breaks in between, in Gauchar, 300 km to its west, the IAF created history by landing its special operations plane, the C-130J Super Hercules, on a 1,300-foot-long runway at Dharasu, close to the Harsil-Gangotri axis.

The plane carried fuel for helicopters. On its return trip, it picked up 100 stranded pilgrims rescued from Gangotri yesterday. An AN-32 aircraft later brought in equipment for bridges.

Agencies admit helicopter sorties may not be enough to rescue thousands still stuck at Joshimath, Badrinath, Harsil or Guarikund. They say a firm road connection is needed. The roads are breached at 110 places and 13 bridges have been washed away.

The real work will start when the Armed Forces complete the evacuation. Roads will have to built, and religious shrines such Kedarnath, Hemkund Sahib and Gangotri temple will need repairs.

The decaying bodies and carcasses will have to given a resting ground as the threat of epidemic looms.

Several organisations have stepped in to feed the hungry. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has sent vehicles up a mountain route to set up "langars" (community kitchens). Its member Samardeep Singh, who was on his way to Joshimath, said: "We have hired 70 vehicles to ferry pilgrims."

Sunil Gulati and Pawan Bittu from Jagadhri have driven a truck with supplies of rice and potato for the victims.

At Badrinath, located north of Joshimath, Army helicopters ferried pilgrims from one bank of the fast-flowing Alaknanda to the other.

The ITBP joined in and made a rope bridge at Lambagad. This route was also damaged at Hanumanchati and Pandukeswar.

Those stranded on the Gangotri axis have been evacuated. The road is now open for light vehicles from Gangotri to Harsil. The Army rescue teams today reached Yamunotri and will try to rescue 700 stranded people there.

In numbers

    45 helicopters are making sorties to rescue those stranded, ferry the injured and carry essential items
    7,000 Army men and 4,000 ITBP personnel are engaged in the operation
    50 satellite phones are being used for faster communication
Army To Withdraw Officers

By Camelia Nathaniel

The Sri Lankan military has decided to withdraw the two officers sent to Tamil Nadu to follow the Defence Services Staff Course (DSSC), due to opposition from the Tamil Nadu government.

Several other trainees were relocated to Bangalore some time ago, and according to military sources, it was possible as similar courses were available there. However there is no alternative course available for these two officers elsewhere in India and although the one proposed by the Indian government is a better course, it is more suitable for senior officers and not suitable for these officers.  Therefore the Secretary of Defence had made the decision to withdraw them and send them for a similar course elsewhere.

When contacted, military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya told The Sunday Leader that the Indian Armed Forces are key partners in the professional career development of officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.

“This valuable training engagement has a history of over four decades and has seen progressive improvement in the recent past.  In view of local political developments in the State of Tamil Nadu the Indian Government has been facing numerous difficulties in training Sri Lankan military personnel in training facilities located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu,” he said.

He added that the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington is one such institute and the Indian Government as an alternative has offered to transfer two officers undergoing DSSC course to the Higher Defence Management Course in the College of Defence Management, Secundrabad.

The Higher Defence Management Course normally followed by senior officers in the rank of Colonel is a higher course in scope, and he said that the Sri Lankan authorities appreciate this offer, he said.

“However, it is observed that the two officers following DSSC are not senior enough to follow the Higher Defence Management Course.

Moreover, a higher course with an entirely different scope will not benefit these officers or the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their immediate future employment.

Hence, the Sri Lankan Government wishes to withdraw the two officers from DSSC.   It is further reiterated that this does not in any way hamper the growing relationship between the Armed Forces of India and Sri Lanka,” he added.
Amarnath Yatra: Prepared to thwart terror design, says Army chief General Bikram Singh
Acknowledging that terror threat exists to the Amarnath Yatra, Army chief General Bikram Singh today said the Army has the "operational plans" in place to prevent any such eventuality.

"This kind of threat has always been there. But we have our operational plans in place. We carry out deployment along with the state police and Central paramilitary forces for the (Amarnath) route and along the route, and it will be our endeavour to preclude any such incident," Singh said.

He was speaking to reporters after reviewing the Combined Graduation Parade at the Air Force Academy at Dundigal near here wherein 185 flight cadets, including 21 women, got inducted into the mainstream of Air Force.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde recently said that there was a terror threat to the annual pilgrimage and the government was taking precaution and sending additional forces to ensure safety and security of all pilgrims visiting the cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir.

Nearly two-month-long annual Amarnath Yatra is scheduled to begin on June 28.

Asked on the proposal to raise 'strike corps' in the North-east bordering China, Singh replied, "The case is in very advanced stages of finalisation/consideration of Government of India."

On the defence preparedness of the country in the current scenario, the army chief said, "We are fully prepared. Country's defence is well-honed and we are fully geared to safeguard the national interest".

Responding to a query on differential budgetary allocations for the Army and Air Force, the General said, "We have been assured by the Government that we will be given funds as and when needed".

Earlier, the chief of the army staff reviewed the parade and conferred President's Commission to the flight cadets.

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