Gilani Charged With
Contempt Of Court
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been charged with contempt of court by the Supreme Court, pleading not guilty to charges that could see him jailed for six months and disqualified from office.
Summoned over the government's two-year refusal to write to authorities in Switzerland asking them to re-open corruption cases against the President, Yousuf Raza Gilani is Pakistan's first premier ever to be charged in office.
Gilani, who swept into court dressed in a dark suit, grey tie, white shirt and cufflinks, was charged within minutes of appearing. Reading out the charge sheet, Judge Nasir-ul-Mulk said the Prime Minister had 'wilfully flouted, disregarded and disobeyed' orders from the Supreme Court over re-opening alleged laundered money cases.
"Do you plead guilty?" asked Mulk.
"No," Gilani replied, adding that he would respond further in writing.
The court ordered the attorney general to prosecute the case, giving him until February 16 to file documents, which the court will examine on February 22, and the defence until February 27 to file documents and a list of witnesses.
Evidence from Gilani's lawyer will then be recorded on February 28, three days before March 2 Senate elections, at which the ruling Pakistan People's Party is expected to win a near-majority of seats.
Gilani was exempted from appearing in court until further notice. The Prime Minister has always insisted that Zardari is immune from prosecution as President and says the cases are politically motivated. In an interview, he said if convicted, he would lose his seat in parliament and would automatically be removed as Prime Minister.
"Certainly then there is no need to step down if I am convicted, I am not supposed to be even the member of the parliament," he said.
Members of the government accuse judges of overstepping their reach and of trying to bring down the Prime Minister and President, a year before the administration would become the first in Pakistan to complete a full elected term. But aides dismissed speculation that Gilani would soon need to be replaced.
"Comments about a new prime minister are premature. The President has immunity," Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.
Other allies criticised the indictment. "For the first time the Prime Minister has been charged. It's a sad day in the history of Pakistan," said Qamar Zaman Kaira, a senior member of the PPP.
Dr Qaiser Takes Over As 16th VC Of KU
There was a change of faces at the University of Karachi (KU) on February 10 when Dr Muhammad Qaiser took over as the 16th Vice Chancellor of the institution, replacing Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui who remained the VC for eight years from 2004 to 2012.
Talking about his plans to manage the affairs of Karachi University where political intervention in academic and administrative matters has reached alarming levels, Dr Qaiser said that problems arise when the authorities let their personal preferences come in while deciding matters and start neglecting what is best in the interest of institution. "I will see that merit will be ensured in all matters and this is the only way to curb political interference," he said.
Born in 1946, Dr Qaiser did his MSc from University of Karachi in 1967 and started his career as a lecturer of botany. After doing PhD in 1976, he joined Freie Universität in Berlin where he did research in the field of botany. He was promoted to professorship in 1985 and served as Chairman of the Department of Botany from October 2001 to 2004. In May 2004 he was appointed as Dean Faculty of Science. He also served as registrar of KU from August 1999 to August 2001 and again for six months from January 2004 to July 2004. In January 2008, he took over as Vice Chancellor of Federal Urdu University replacing Dr Pirzada Qasim who left the post as its first VC.
Seven Missing Persons Produced Before Court
Seven men allegedly held by intelligence services appeared in court on February 13, an unprecedented development following orders from Supreme Court.
The seven men appeared frail, weak, unable to talk and unable to walk properly when they appeared before Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, more than a year and a half after being allegedly arrested.
Intelligence agencies last month handed over the men to the custody of the provincial government in the northwest, after the Supreme Court took up the case.
"I have severe pain in my chest, my shoulders are itching. I am still shocked and unwell," one of the detainees told reporters. Four of the men were reportedly held in Peshawar and three in Parachinar near the Afghan border.
The Chief Justice expressed resentment on agencies counsel for not producing all the prisoners.
Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa told the court these prisoners were brought to Parachinar centre on January 26, adding that he did not know where these were prior to this.
"There should be proper medical treatment and they shall not be shifted to internment centre in Parachinar, so long as the matter is pending before the court," Chief Justice said.
Justice Khilji Arif in his remarks said, "Was the detention of these people not the violation of article 10 of the constitution?
Lawyer Tariq Asad, who represented the detainees, said the court ordered the ISI and Military Intelligence to submit details at the next hearing on March 1 about their detention and under which law they were held.
"The report will contain details about what happened to them during their detention over one year and a half and whether any trial took place," he said.
Abdul Qadoos, brother of two of the detainees, Abdul Basit and Abdul Majid, described how they were held in deprivation, having met them briefly inside the court in the company of officials.
"My brothers and others lived in detention under very difficult circumstances. They were never given enough food and there was no water available for them to take bath," he said. He said the pair were originally detained in 2008 and acquitted in 2010, then re-arrested by the local administration for 120 days. When the court ordered their release, intelligence agents picked them up in May, he said. "We have no link whatsoever with Al-Qaeda or Taliban. We have a business
of publishing the Holy Quran,"
US Has Good Fix On Iranian Nuclear Programme: Obama
President Barack Obama said the United States had a good fix on the progress of Iran's nuclear programme and had long prepared a military response in the Gulf should it become necessary. Obama made his latest attempt to calm speculation about a possible Israeli or US strike on Iran in the short-term in an interview, but said it was tough to figure out political dynamics inside the Islamic republic. "We do have a pretty good bead on what is happening with their nuclear programme," Obama said. "Do we know all the dynamics inside of Iran? Absolutely not!"
"One of the difficulties is Iran itself is a lot more divided now than it was, knowing who is making decisions at any given time inside of Iran is tough. Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has accused Obama of not sufficiently laying the groundwork for any military action against Iran's nuclear program, but Obama disagreed. "We have done extensive planning over the last several years about all our various options... we are prepared to exercise these options should the need arise," he said, but stressed he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the showdown. When asked if Washington would be consulted first should Israel move ahead with those plans, he said he could not go into specifics but added that the two allies had "closer intelligence and military consultations" than ever before. "My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States. But also, the security of Israel."
Iran Says Will Attack Any Country Used To Strike Its Soil
Iran will attack any country whose territory is used by 'enemies' of the Islamic state to launch a military strike against its soil, the deputy head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said.
"Any spot used by the enemy for hostile operations against Iran, will be subjected to retaliatory aggression by our armed forces," Hossein Salami said, during military manoeuvres.
The Revolutionary Guards began the two-day ground exercises as a show of military might as tension rises between Tehran and the West over Iran's disputed nuclear programme.
Wajid Rana Appointed New Finance Secretary
In an important bureaucratic job switch, the portfolios of federal secretary finance and secretary Economic Affairs Division (EAD) were interchanged on February 11. Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood was posted out and appointed secretary EAD while former Secretary Economic Affairs Division Wajid Rana is now the new finance secretary. The change in portfolio comes at a critical time with the federal budget 2012 due in another 14-22 weeks. Wajid Rana is the sixth secretary finance to assume office over a span of fours years.