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Pakistan Hobbles Towards May 11 Polls

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      Pakistan Hobbles Towards May 11 Polls


Pakistan Hobbles Towards May 11 Polls

Islamabad: Pakistan, which has seen its first full-term civilian government, is headed for an election which has drawn a former military strongman back home, will test a former cricket icon’s political agility and see a large number of eager first-time voters – all under the shadow of terror.

Pakistan’s elected government completed its full five-year term March 17, an unprecedented development in a country that has seen four military dictators, the last of whom was Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The country of 180 million is headed to general elections May 11 that will see 84 million voters, including 36 million women, exercising their franchise.

But, there are only 36 women candidates for the 272 National Assembly general seats, prompting a Pakistani daily to note that parties had once again relegated women’s participation in the transition of power to the sidelines.

“Now that tickets have been awarded for the May 11 polls, it’s clear that while political parties may court the female vote for its strategic value, they cannot bring themselves to consider women as viable candidates for general seats,” Dawn said in an editorial.

The elections are going to be held under a caretaker government with Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, a former judge of the country’s top court, being made the caretaker prime minister.

The past five years have seen political uncertainty with Yousuf Raza Gilani being forced to step down as prime minister and Pervez Ashraf succeeding him over the issue of writing to the Swiss courts to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan’s parliament, according to the 1973 constitution, is bicameral. It consists of the president and two houses – the National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly has 342 seats, including 60 reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims.

The youth will be the driving force of this election, figures released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) show.
A significant proportion of the electorate is made up of people under the age of 35. Nearly half of the 84 million registered voters – 47.8 per cent – are aged between 18 and 35, while 19.77 percent, or 16.88 million voters, are under the age of 26.

The youth of Pakistan will be the deciding force in the elections, experts say. “And much of the rising popularity enjoyed in the last year or so by Imran Khan, a cricket hero who until recently was a politician of little note, is due to support by urban youths,” strategic analyst David J. Karl wrote in the foreign policy blogs.

Imran Khan, who leads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, held a mammoth rally in Lahore in 2011 that stunned foes and admirers alike.

The parties battling it out include the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party. There are others too like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Awami Muslim League and the Pakistan Muslim League (Q).

The ever-lengthening shadow of terror is a cause of concern for the caretaker government.

Security should have ranked higher in the government’s priority list, a Pakistani daily said as the country witnessed a string of bombings ahead of the general elections. “We seem to be seeing another security failure – right when we needed it least,” said an editorial in the News International.

On April 22, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off near an election office of the MQM in Karachi as people gathered around to look at a torn campaign poster. At least two people died and dozens were injured. The same day saw four blasts in different parts of Quetta. A day later, another bomb went off in the city.

The general elections saw Musharraf returning to Pakistan March 23, after over four years of self-imposed exile. Though he was keen to contest the elections, his nomination papers were rejected from four constituencies. He was subsequently arrested on graft charges and is under guard at his luxurious country villa just outside Islamabad, which has been declared a sub-jail.

There could be worry ahead for Pakistan as a group of military officers Friday protested before a parliamentary panel about the treatment being meted out to Musharraf. The delegation of 75 officers from Command and Staff College, Quetta, led by Col. Saqib Ali Cheema, met the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production Mushahid Hussain Sayed at the parliament house to express concern over Musharraf’s arrest.

That may not be good news in a country where the military is all-powerful. The army is currently in the barracks, but for how long, is the question.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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