Islamabad's Talks With US Collapse Over Apology Issue
The latest high-level talks on ending a diplomatic deadlock between the US and Pakistan ended in failure as Pakistan demanded for an unconditional apology from the Obama administration for an air strike. The White House, angered by the recent spectacular Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, refuses to apologise.
The Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, left the Pakistan capital with no agreement after two days of discussions aimed at patching up the damage caused by the US air strikes last November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghanistan border. Both sides insist that they are now ready to make up and restore an uneasy alliance that at its best offers support for US efforts in Afghanistan as well as the battle against some extremist groups operating from Pakistan. The administration had been seriously debating whether to say "I'm sorry" to the Pakistanis' satisfaction – until April 15, when multiple, simultaneous attacks struck Kabul and other Afghan cities.
"What changed was the 15th of April," said a senior administration official. US military and intelligence officials concluded the attacks came at the direction of a group working from a base in North Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal belt: the Haqqani network. That confirmed long-standing US mistrust about Pakistani intentions. That swung the raging debate on whether President Barack Obama or another senior American should apologise.
The negotiations are complicated by a complex web of interlocking demands from both sides. Without the apology, Pakistani officials say they cannot reopen Nato supply routes into Afghanistan that have been closed since November.
The Americans, in turn, are withholding between $1.18 billion and $3 billion of promised military aid – the exact figure depending on which side is speaking.
NA Adopts Resolution On Seraiki Province
The National Assembly adopted a Pakistan People's Party (PPP)-sponsored resolution demanding the creation of a separate province in southern Punjab. Law Minister Farooq H. Naek introduced the new resolution at the behest of the PPP amidst full-throated sloganeering from agitated PML-N members who had encircled the Prime Minister's seat as well as the space in front of the Speaker's chair. PML-N legislators also refused to participate in voting on the new resolution.
Adopted with a majority vote despite vociferous protests by the opposition, the resolution called upon the Punjab government to legislate under the Constitution to ask the federal government for an amendment that would enable the creation of a new province for the people of southern Punjab.
The PPP resolution resolved that in order to address the grievances and to secure the political, administrative and economic interests of the people of the southern region of Punjab and to empower them in this regard, it was expedient that a new province — known as "Province of Janoobi Punjab" — be created from the present Punjab province.
NA, Senate Repose Trust In Gilani
The National Assembly and the Senate in their separate resolutions adopted reposed full confidence in the 'democratically and unanimously elected' Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a move seen as PPP's response to the PML-N's vociferous protest in the National Assembly asking the Prime Minister to step down following his conviction in the contempt of court case.
The passage of the resolution in the National Assembly amid raucous PML-N protests drew a clear line between the PPP and its allies and the PML-N, with one side reposing confidence in him and the other declaring that he was no longer member of parliament after being convicted by the Supreme Court.
The resolution, introduced by law minister Farooq H. Naek, said the House reposes complete confidence in Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as the constitutional and democratically elected Prime Minister and unanimously elected chief executive of this country. "This House commends the Prime Minister for upholding the majesty of law by personally appearing thrice on being summoned by the Honourable Supreme Court, and showing great humility and respect to the Apex Court," the resolution said.
The resolution further stated that the House also appreciates the firmness and dignity displayed by Prime Minster Gilani in upholding the constitution and the parliamentary democracy in the country.
President Zardari Signs Two More Bills
President Asif Ali Zardari, on the advice of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, acquiesced to two more bills – the Delimitation of Constituencies Amendment Bill, 2012 as well as the Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Bill, 2012.
The Delimitation of Constituencies Amendment Bill seeks to bring the provisions of the Delimitation of Constituencies Act 1974 in conformity with Articles 51, 106 and 218 of the Constitution as amended under the 18th Amendment. The said bill was finally passed by the parliament under Clause (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution in the joint sitting held on March 30, 2012.
The Pakistan Trade Control of Wild Fauna and Flora Bill seeks to bring into effect the United Convention on International Trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora. The National Assembly passed the bill on December 29, 2010, while Parliament in its joint sitting held on April 5, 2012 passed it under Clause (3) of Article 70 of the Constitution.
Sarkozy Bites The Dust
Francois Hollande was elected France's first Socialist President in nearly two decades, dealing a humiliating defeat to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and shaking up European politics.
The result will have major implications for Europe as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis and for France, the Eurozone's second-largest economy and a nuclear-armed permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Hollande won the vote with about 52 per cent, according to several estimates from polling firms based on ballot samples, becoming France's first Socialist President since Francois Mitterrand left office in 1995.
Sarkozy quickly conceded defeat and signalled that he intends to step back from frontline politics. "The French people have made their choice. Francois Hollande is President of France and he must be respected," the outgoing leader told an emotional crowd of supporters, adding that he wished his successor well.
Babar Awan Sacked From Top PPP Post
Babar Awan finally tasted the sour grapes of his refusal to appear as a witness for Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in the contempt of court case regarding the non-implementation of NRO, and was removed from the office of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Secretary Finance as well as a party Vice President.
As a consequence of his removal as finance secretary, Babar Awan automatically lost his seat in the PPP Central Executive Committee (CEC). Once a part of the party's top brass, he has now been reduced to a mere ex-officio member of the PPP policy making body.
The PPP issued a formal notification for the removal of Babar Awan from his official post.
You Are Going To Kill Us In Court: 9/11 Suspects
The arraignment of five Guantanamo prisoners accused of plotting the Sept 11 attacks got off to a chaotic start when all the defendants defiantly refused to answer the judge's questions and one made outbursts in court.
Defence lawyers answered routine questions about their resumes with complaints that the proceedings were unfair and the defendants had been abused. The judge struggled to keep the proceedings in the death penalty case on track. "Why is this so hard?" asked the exasperated judge, Army Colonel James Pohl.
Star defendant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed refused to respond to the judge's questions about whether he was satisfied with his US military and civilian lawyers.
Yemeni defendant Ramzi Binalshibh knelt on the gray-carpeted courtroom floor and prayed as a row of burly guards in camouflage uniforms kept a close watch but did not interfere. Later he stood and shouted, and seemed to be saying that the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was being held at Guantanamo. He said tricks were being played on the defendants inside the prison camp and that "maybe they are going to kill us at the camp ... and say that we are committing suicide."
Pakistan Govt, Military Had A Hand In Osama Killing: Mukhtar
A year after Pakistan was left embarrassed by the unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said the Pakistani government and the armed forces "had a hand" in his killing.
In an interview with BBC on the occasion of the first death anniversary of Osama, Mukhtar said the Al-Qaeda chief was located via a mobile phone SIM. Mukhtar claimed the SIM which led to Osama bin Laden was discovered by an intelligence official. According to Mukhtar, the SIM would not be used for several days and when used would be closed after a brief conversation.
The defence minister revealed that that there was an agreement between Pakistan and US in which Islamabad was bound to give evidence in English or Arabic to Washington, while they (US) would provide Pakistan with evidence in Urdu if found.
Mukhtar added that the evidence recovered from the compound of bin Laden was with the army and it would take time to decode the CDs.