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    Court, not government can find a middle way: Aitzaz    

ISLAMABAD: Former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said on Tuesday that the government will not opt for any middle way to but the court can choose to do so, Geo News reported.

While talking to the reporters here in Islamabad, Aitzaz Ahsan said that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf would meet the same fate as former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani if he opted not to write the letter to the Swiss authorities. The former PM was disqualified from premiership as well as the National Assembly membership this June.

Aitzaz said there was no middle path in connection with the Swiss letter as the seven judges of the original bench had not given any flexibility of options and thus the five-member implementation bench couldn’t find a new pathway. “A new premier will come if the incumbent one is sent packing. And the same string of events will continue till March 2013.”

Aitzaz Ahsan, who was the counsel for former PM Gilani in the contempt case which saw his client disqualified from office, reaffirmed his stance that there was no precedent whereby a state produced its president to the court of another state; hence, the apex court, of its own accord, should give a second thought to its verdict in this regard.

Terming it a welcome development that Pervaiz Ashraf was given a 22-day breathing space in the NRO implementation case, Aitzaz underscored that the court had not manifested such magnanimity when he was arguing during the contempt proceedings against Gilani. “The court may have realised that the Gilani verdict was delivered in haste.

Replying to a query, Aitzaz said President Asif Ali Zardari enjoyed immunity not as a person but as an incumbent president, and the court was bound to respect this immunity.

“I am quite satisfied with the reinstatement of the independent judiciary as a result of the lawyers’ movement; otherwise, former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf would have been sitting as a uniformed president even today,” he remarked.

Seeing no imminent threat of Parliament’s dissolution, he asserted that it is only the premier who could advice the president. “Raja Ashraf did not approach me to plead his case as I have already lost the case once,” Aitzaz said, meekly urging the premier to hire a counsel.

    Ephedrine case: Interior Ministry fails to place Ali Musa, others on ECL    

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has summoned a written complaint from the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) over the failure of the Interior Ministry (IM) to place known personalities under investigation in the Ephedrine case on the Exit Control List (ECL).

During Monday’s proceedings, the investigating officer of the case Brigadier Fahim informed the court that Ali Musa Gilani, Khushnood Lashari and others had not been placed on the ECL despite a request being sent to the Interior Ministry eight months ago.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Myhammad Chaudhry remarked during proceedings that the entire world was awaiting the outcome of this case.

The court also approved a one week extension in the bail of Ali Musa Gilani and Makhdoom Shahabuddin.

The hearing of the case has been adjourned till August 8.

    NASA successfully lands rover on Mars    

PASADENA: NASA on Sunday successfully landed its $2.5 billion Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover on the surface of the Red Planet, marking the most ambitious attempt to reach Mars in history.

"Touchdown confirmed," said a member of mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the room erupted in cheers. "We are wheels down on Mars. Oh, my God." A dusty image of the rover's wheel on the surface, taken from a rear camera on the vehicle, confirmed the arrival of the car-sized rover and its sophisticated toolkit designed to hunt for signs that life once existed there.

A second image arrived within seconds, showing the shadow of the rover on Mars. When the landing was announced after a tense, seven minute process known as entry, descent and landing, the room filled with jubilation as chief scientists distributed Mars chocolate bars to the NASA staff members.

However, success was anything but certain with this first-of-its-kind attempt to drop a six-wheeled chemistry lab by rocket-powered sky crane on an alien planet. NASA's more recent rover dropoffs were done with the help of airbags. In the final moments, the spacecraft accelerated with the pull of gravity as it nears Mars' atmosphere, making a fiery entry at a speed of 13,200 miles (21,240 kilometers) per hour and then slowing down with the help of a supersonic parachute. After that, an elaborate sky crane powered by rocket blasters kicked in, and the rover was lowered down by nylon tethers, apparently landing upright on all six wheels.

Scientists do not expect Curiosity to find aliens or living creatures. Rather they hope to use it to analyze soil and rocks for signs that the building blocks of life are present and may have supported life in the past. The project also aims to study the Martian environment to prepare for a possible human mission there in the coming years. It has already been collecting data on radiation during its eight and a half month journey following launch in November 2011 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Earlier on Sunday, Mars program director Doug McCuistion called the science "absolutely crucial" to finding out if Earthlings are alone, how Mars evolved from a wet to a dry planet and how accessible Mars may be for human explorers in the future. "If we succeed, it will be one of the greatest feats in planetary exploration ever," he told reporters. "Our success rate has been pretty darn good recently." However, he cautioned that "these things are really hard to do" and admitted that "we may not be successful." Attempts by global space agencies since 1960 have resulted in a near 40 percent success rate in sending landers, orbiters or other spacecraft for flybys to Mars. NASA has the best record.

    Keep Welfare Institutions Out of Politics!    

There is a lot to play for in Pakistani politics since the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Pakistani and US officials. This has opened gates for the transfer of approx $1.1 billion from the US to its counterparts. One only understands that since the news of the transfer, Pakistan’s interior political scene has seen high volumes of activity. The strong opposition party (Pakistan Muslim League – Nawazs; PML-N) has jumped to land corruption charges against the young and vibrant political party of once Pakistani cricketing hero Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or Pakistan’s movement of Justice; PTI).


This time the later has been charged for investing the people’s charitable donations for his cancer hospital in foreign real estate markets. Although these forms of allegations are nothing new, certainly not before the upcoming elections but for once the timing and nature of these allegations could not be any worse.

A young Khan riding on Pakistan’s cricket world cup victory launched a charity drive in the early nineties to create Shaukat Khanam Memorial Hospital. The hospital is one of the finest institutes in research and treatment for cancer patients and is the only hospital of such nature in the highly populated Pakistan. The hospital offers need-blind aid to its patients and the poor cancer patients foresee it as a beacon of hope.

In a country where medical infrastructure lacks basic necessities, Shaukat Khanam is one of the most technologically advanced and systematically managed hospitals in the country. A lot of the costs of the hospitals infrastructure and management are covered through donations by local and oversea Pakistani’s. A high spike in these donations could be noticed particularly in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan where in accordance to the Islamic pillars of belief; each Muslim is asked to pay Zakat (Charity) in equivalence to a portion of their income. It is very similar to the concept of tithing seen across various religions.


Unfortunately, a few years ago I had the opportunity to visit Shaukat Khanam hospital to visit my cousin Usman, who was suffering from blood cancer. Usman was there for his initial check-up. As we waited in a room for his visit, I couldn’t help notice how systematically the place was run. Each patient was given token numbers on arrival and everything was run in accordance to the numbers. No favors were shown based on wealth, influential powers or social status. This was my first time experiencing such equality laws and procedures in any institute in Pakistan.


During Usman’s treatment I made various visits to this hospital, each time being more impressed than the last. The doctors were highly educated individuals who had foregone lucrative foreign positions to be able to be part of this vision to help their own people. The nurses created bonds with their patients as if they were family. Usman finally lost his long battle with cancer on 8th of October 2011; he was only twenty-one years old.


 This experience taught me how lucky Pakistan was to have an institute as special as Shaukat Khanam to be able to provide people with a realistic chance in the fight against cancer. How the locals who couldn’t afford travel to other countries for medical treatment could rely on Shaukat Khanam to provide them with the best, most of the time at no cost.


China \'regrets\' Syria envoy Annan\'s resignation

EIJING: China expressed regret Friday over former UN chief Kofi Annan\'s resignation as international envoy for Syria and said it would continue to \"work for a political resolution\" to the conflict.

Beijing, which along with Moscow has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, also said it wanted the United Nations to play an important role in trying to solve the deadly 17-month conflict.


\"China expresses regret at Annan\'s resignation. We understand the difficulty of Annan\'s mediation work, and respect his decision,\" said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei in a statement.


\"China supports the UN playing an important role in the appropriate resolution of the Syrian issue.\"


Annan announced on Thursday that he was quitting his role as the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, complaining that his April peace plan had not received the support it deserved from major powers.


Misfire or Strategic Move?


Pakistani drawing rooms and talk shows are resounding with N-League’s onslaught on Imran Khan. As usual, talk shows are only serving a mere purpose of bringing opponents in the wrestling ring. However, the nation is interested to know why N-League has chosen this time to attack Imran.

 There could be two main reasons of this onslaught:

1)  N-League is scared of PTI’s success in the general elections. This may be true but the timing of assault was incorrect. The accusations of mishandling SKMH funds and tax evasion might be the only weapon that N-League could have used few days before the elections. And then, Khan would not have enough time to justify his position, and PTI election campaign could have been seriously impacted. Where it is a fact that N-League has an experience in conducting mud-slinging campaigns against their opponents, which have quite worked in the past. N-League’s politics revolves around maligning others and portraying themselves as ‘Sharifs’. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that N-League mistimed its best shot against the fast bowler.


2) N-League is quite convinced that PTI is their biggest competitor in the next elections. They might have also sensed the reality that mere allegations would not damage PTI image much. Unfortunately, they are up against a blue-eyed boy of media, army, and the educated class of Pakistan. They are not pitched against the PPP this time, which has been bashed and maligned in the past with the help of army, biased judiciary, and intellectually corrupt intelligentsia. Therefore, the only option is to facilitate defections in the ranks of PTI. Because, it will be difficult, morally and politically, for first rank leaders of PTI to desert their party right now without any real excuse.


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) resumed hearing of various identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act 2012 Thursday where the attorney general objected over four out of five judges included in the bench, Geo News reported.

 A five-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, resumed hearing 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.


During today’s proceedings, Attorney General Irfan Qadir objected over the four judges who are included in the bench hearing the contempt petitions. He was of the view that apparently four judges appear to be biased. On this, the chief justice remarked that he was trying to defame the judiciary and this was not the first time that he attempted to do so.


The federation’s counsel in the contempt law case, Abdul Shakoor Paracha, while arguing before the court on Tuesday, admitted that the Contempt of Court Act, 2012 might have been promulgated to protect the second prime minister from disqualification, submitting that everybody knew that law was never made in isolation or without motive.


Meanwhile, remarking that legislation is parliament’s job and the SC has the constitutional right to interpret the law during adjudication of matters placed before it, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry observed that the Contempt of Court Act, 2012 violated the principle of equity and equality and had been made only to save the new prime minister.


The chief justice observed that the government’s claim that the new contempt law was without flaws was incorrect and all matters of public interest could be taken up in courts.


Expressing concern over non-implementation of Article 9, 24 and 25, the chief justice asked the government through its counsel to ensure enforcement of the relevant provisions of the Constitution to protect the life and property of citizens.


The federation’s counsel contended that the instant petitions were based on speculations and apprehensions, adding that the petitioners had failed to identify which Islamic injunction was violated through the enactment of the new contempt of court law.

    India allows direct investment from Pakistan    

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday overturned its ban on foreign investment from Pakistan in a move designed to build goodwill amid a renewed push for a peace settlement of various issues between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“The government of India has reviewed the policy... and decided to permit a citizen of Pakistan or an entity incorporated in Pakistan to make investments in India,” said a statement from the Indian commerce ministry.
India and Pakistan are channeling their peace efforts into “trade diplomacy”. The aim is to build enough trust to tackle the more troublesome issues that divide them, such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
“We welcome this decision,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Moazzam Khan told AFP. “It will definitely benefit Pakistani investors and industrialists. We hope this decision will be fruitful for the people of both the countries,” he said.
Pakistani businessmen also welcomed the move. “We do appreciate this action by the government of India, but what will be more interesting for me is when the Indian authorities lift its ban on Indian investors investing in Pakistan,” said Majyd Aziz, involved in the import and export of minerals and in shipping. “For a better economic future in South Asia, it will be a huge step when businessmen from both the countries can freely invest in each other’s country,” he commented.
Zubair Motiwala, Chairman of the Board of Investment in Sindh, said that it was the right decision taken at the right time. “Allowing our country to invest in India is a great confidence booster and will pave the way for more cordial bilateral relations,” he said.
The warming commercial ties underline the new relevance of the private sector in the peace process, analysts said. However, a ban on investments in defence, space and atomic energy will remain and all propositions must come via the Indian government.
The decision to accept foreign direct investment from Pakistan was taken in April when the trade ministers of the South Asian rivals met in New Delhi. They also discussed ways to ease visa curbs on business travel and the possibility of allowing banks from both countries to open cross-border branches.
The improved relations between the rivals stem from Pakistan’s decision to grant India “Most Favoured Nation (MFN)” status by year end, meaning Indian exports will be treated the same as those from other nations. The MFN status will mean India can export 6,800 items to Pakistan, up from around 2,000 at present, and the countries aim to lift bilateral trade to $6 billion within three years, officials have said.
Official bilateral trade is just $2.7 billion and heavily tilted in New Delhi’s favour, according to most recent figures, but unofficial trade routed through third countries is estimated at up to $10 billion.
In further progress, the neighbours opened a second trading gate in April along their heavily militarised border, increasing the number of trucks able to cross daily to 600 from 150.
Pakistan has called for a “new era” in economic collaboration with India to build “a legacy of peace and prosperity for our future generations”.
The two countries have said there are many sectors with huge trade potential, from information technology to engineering, education and health. The two nations have voiced hopes that boosting trade can help peace talks which India warily resumed last year after suspending them after the 2008 attack by gunmen on Mumbai that killed 166 people.
“Commerce is an excellent way to bring countries together,” Indian strategic analyst Uday Bhaskar told AFP recently. “Once you institutionalise trade, it becomes hard to slow the momentum for cross-border exchanges


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