US Administration Seeks $2.4B For
Pakistan In 2013 Budget
The State Department of US has requested Congress to approve $2.4 billion in allocation for Pakistan for the fiscal year 2013. The Pakistan support and expenditure request is part of the overall budget request the Obama administration forwarded to Congress for the new fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2012. The request says the assistance to Pakistan is aimed at strengthening democratic and civil institutions that provide a bulwark against extremism, and support joint security and counterterrorism efforts, including $800 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund. Of the total request for Pakistan $197 million supports the US government's civilian presence, as well as programs for engagement with civil society. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton forwarding the Department's budget request noted that building a stable Afghanistan depends on effective cooperation with Pakistan.
Pentagon Used 2005 Quake To Send Spies To Pakistan
The Pentagon used the devastating Kashmir earthquake of 2005 as a pretext and cover to send in operatives from their Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) into Pakistan, reveals a new book. D.B Grady and Marc Ambinder, in their newly-published e-Book 'The Command: Deep Inside the President's Secret Army', write that the JSOC have proven to be the most lethal weapon in the US president's arsenal. In fighting the War in Afghanistan and launching covert raids in Pakistani tribal areas, President Obama and the Pentagon leadership have increasingly made Navy SEALs from the JSOC their military tool of choice. The JSOC's counter-terrorism units are credited with capturing or killing many of the world's most wanted terrorists and insurgent leaders, including Saddam Hussein and most recently Osama bin Laden. The book credits the secretive JSOC, which functions in an administrative 'grey-area', as having done more to degrade the capacity of terrorists to attack the United States than any other single entity. Counter-terrorism is only one of its many missions. It is only because of high-profile missions such as Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 that the JSOC, otherwise shrouded in secrecy, has attracted much media hype and public attention. The authors of 'The Command' say that the US intelligence community "took advantage of the chaos to spread resources of its own" into Pakistan. Using valid US passports and posing as construction and aid workers, dozens of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives and contractors flooded in without the requisite background checks from ISI.
Overseas Pakistanis Granted Right To Vote
In a landmark decision, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) gave the right to vote to over 3.7 million overseas Pakistanis. In a meeting chaired by ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan, the Commission decided that all Pakistanis who possessed the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) would be registered as voters in the electoral lists and would be part of future electoral exercises. The development will enable expatriates, scattered in various countries, to take part in the electoral process back home. A bulk of overseas Pakistanis live in Middle Eastern countries and Europe. Apart from ECP officials, the meeting was also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Law, who presented proposals on how to effectively ensure the participation of overseas Pakistanis in the general election. The meeting also pondered over a possible mechanism of voting, including postal balloting, setting up of polling booths in Pakistani embassies and several other options. However, it was decided that another meeting would be held shortly to finalise proposals on how overseas Pakistanis could take part in voting.
President's Role In Caretaker Set-Up Eliminated
Even a minor role for President Asif Ali Zardari in appointing the caretaker prime minister to hold general elections has been eliminated by the 20th Constitutional Amendment, the draft of which has been approved by the federal cabinet. The President has been left with only the function of administering oath of office to the caretaker premier and his cabinet members. Thus, a major demand of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that the President would not have a major say in putting up the federal and provincial caretaker set-ups has been accepted. Now, a workable institutionalised mechanism has been put in place instead of letting the power vest in one individual.
Increase In Gas Tariff By Rs. 8.87-13.16
Sui Northern and Sui Southern have again sought an increase in gas tariff by Rs. 8.87-13.16 per MMBTU with effect from July 1, 2012. The government has already increased the gas tariff by 14 percent from January 1, 2012. In their separate petitions submitted to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), Sui Northern has asked for Rs. 13.16 per MMBTU tariff hike while Sui Southern has demanded Rs. 8.87 per MMBTU increase. The regulator will hear their petitions in Karachi and Lahore in the last week of March. The most shocking aspect of their petitions is that the consumers will have to pay for the gas theft and losses, which account for Rs. 29 billion. Both these utilities have asked Ogra to charge from consumers seven percent UFG (Unaccounted For Gas).
Pakistan Won't Give US Bases To Attack Iran
A clear message has been given to the United States through the trilateral summit that Pakistan will support Iran in case of any possible aggression against it. Moreover, Pakistan has clearly affirmed that the US will not be allowed to set up any airbases in Pakistan with the purpose of attacking Iran. The joint declaration further reflects this message as it says: "Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan will ensure respect of territorial sovereignty of each other and would not allow any threat emanating from their respective territories against each other". Experts say that the US has been demanding facilities in Pakistan against the nuclear programme of Iran for the last several years. The trilateral summit between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan has several distinctive features as this meeting is being held at a time when both Pakistan and Iran are under considerable pressure from the US.
German President Quits Over Move To End Immunity
In a major setback for the German chancellor in the midst of an increasingly problematic euro zone debt crisis, Angela Merkel's hand-picked choice for the ceremonial post of president resigned in a scandal over political favours. In a curt five-minute statement at the Bellevue Presidential Palace, Christian Wulff acknowledged that he had lost the trust of the German people, making it impossible for him to continue in a role that was meant to serve as a moral compass for the nation.
"For this reason it is no longer possible for me to exercise the Office of President at home and abroad as required," said Wulff.