Archive for February 11th, 2011
Pakistan announced a new, slimline cabinet on Friday, cutting its number from 54 to 22 but retaining many members of the previous lineup with the notable exception of the foreign minister.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani assembled the smaller cabinet to reduce government expenditure and meet opposition demands, part of a 10-point economic agenda.
President Asif Ali Zardari swore in the 22 federal ministers and one state minister into office at the Presidency in Islamabad.
The former cabinet, one of the largest in the world, was seen as a major hurdle in cutting state spending and carrying out economic reforms at a time when Pakistan is struggling to pay its bills and is dependent on an International Monetary Fund loan to run its economy.
Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh retained his post, providing continuity in Pakistan’s dealings with international donors. Interior Minister Rehman Malik also kept his place.
Gilani named five new ministers to his team. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was not included in the lineup, announced a day after India and Pakistan said they were resuming peace talks, broken off after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
But his removal was not believed to be connected to the peace process and no change in foreign policy is expected. Analysts say the move is aimed at garnering support for the economic reforms.
Others absent included Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Water and Power Minister Pervaiz Ashraf.
List of portfolios announced:
- Ahmed Mukhtar – Defence Minister
- Arbab Alamgir – Communication Minister
- Babar Awan – Law Minister
- Firdous Ashiq Awan – Minister for Information
- Ghulam Ahmad Bilour – Railways Minister
- Hafeez Sheikh – Finance Minister
- Hina Rabbani Khar – State Minister for Foreign Affairs
- Khurshid Shah Minister – of Religious Affairs
- Makhdoom Amin Fahim – Minister for Commerce & Trade
- Makhdoom Shahabud Din – Textile Minister
- Manzoor Wattoo – Minister for Kashmir Affairs
- Mir Changez Jamali – Minister for Science & Technology
- Naveed Qamar – Minister for Privatisation
- Raza Rabbani – Minister for Inter-Provincial Co-Ordination
- Samina Khalid Ghurki – Environment Minister
- Shahbaz Bhatti – Minister for Minority Affairs
CAIRO: Hosni Mubarak stepped down as Egypt’s president on Friday, handing over to the army and ending three decades of autocratic rule, bowing to escalating pressure from the military and protesters demanding that he go.
Vice President Omar Suleiman said a military council would run the affairs of the Arab world’s most populous nation. A free and fair presidential election has been promised for September.
A speaker made the announcement in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where hundreds of thousands broke down in tears, celebrated and hugged each other chanting: “The people have brought down the regime.” Others shouted: “Allahu Akbar (God is great).
The 82-year-old Mubarak’s downfall after 18 days of unprecedented mass protests was a momentous victory for people power and was sure to rock autocrats throughout the Arab world and beyond.
Egypt’s powerful military gave guarantees earlier on Friday that promised democratic reforms would be carried out but angry protesters intensified an uprising against Mubarak, marching on the presidential palace and the state television tower.
It was an effort by the army to defuse the revolt but, in disregarding protesters’ key demand for Mubarak’s ouster now, it failed to calm the turmoil that has disrupted the economy and rattled the entire Middle East.
The military’s intervention was not enough.
The tumult over Mubarak’s refusal to resign had tested the loyalties of the armed forces, which had to choose whether to protect their supreme commander or ditch him.
The sharpening confrontation had raised fear of uncontrolled violence in the most populous Arab nation, a key US ally in an oil-rich region where the chance of chaos spreading to other long stable but repressive states troubles the West.
Washington has called for a prompt democratic transition to restore stability in Egypt, a rare Arab state no longer hostile to Israel, guardian of the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia and a major force against militant Islam in the region.
The army statement noted that Mubarak had handed powers to govern the country of 80 million people to his deputy the previous day — perhaps signalling that this should satisfy demonstrators, reformists and opposition figures.
“This is not our demand,” one protester said, after relaying the contents of the army statement to the crowd in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. “We have one demand, that Mubarak step down.” He has said he will stay until September elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition group, urged protesters to keep up mass nationwide street protests, describing Mubarak’s concessions as a trick to stay in power.
Reforms too little too late
Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied across Egypt, including in the industrial city of Suez, earlier the scene of some of the fiercest violence in the crisis, and the second city of Alexandria, as well as in Tanta and other Nile Delta centres.
The army also said it “confirms the lifting of the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances end”, a pledge that would remove a law imposed after Mubarak became president following Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981 and that protesters say has long been used to stifle dissent.
It further promised to guarantee free and fair elections and other concessions made by Mubarak to protesters that would have been unthinkable before January 25, when the revolt began.
But none of this was enough for many hundreds of thousands of mistrustful protesters who rallied in cities across the Arab world’s most populous and influential country on Friday, fed up with high unemployment, a corrupt elite and police repression.
Since the fall of Tunisia’s long-time leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, which triggered protests around the region, Egyptians have been demonstrating in huge numbers against rising prices, poverty, unemployment and their authoritarian regime.
World powers had increasingly pressured Mubarak to organise an orderly transition of power since the protests erupted on January 28 setting off an earthquake that has shaken Egypt sending shock waves around the Middle East.
Mubarak, 82, was thrust into office when his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was gunned down at a military parade in 1981.
The burly former air force commander has proved a far more durable leader than anyone imagined at the time, governing under emergency laws protesters say were used to crush dissent.
The president has long promoted peace abroad and more recently backed economic reforms at home led by his cabinet under Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif. But he always kept a tight lid on political opposition.
Mubarak resisted any significant political change even under pressure from the United States, which has poured billions of dollars of military and other aid into Egypt since it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, signing a treaty in 1979.
Irfan Siddiqui is the Urdu columnist, known to be the great supporter of former prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. He started writing his columns on Nawaiwaqt. In July 2008, Irfan Siddiqui left Nawaiwaqt and joined Jang. He has been found criticizing Pervez Musharraf and his regime in Pakistan, very bluntly. He was also unhappy with the late Benazir Bhutto and her Pakistan Peoples Party, and wrote the same in the columns. He is currently serving the Jang group of newspapers.
Nayar was born at Sialkot, Undivided India on 14 August 1923 in a Sikh Khatri family. His parents were Gurbaksh Singh and Pooran Devi. He had his early schooling at the Ganda Singh High School with his sister Kirsten Harcus, who is known for marrying English entrepreneur Jack Cole, in Sialkot. After school, he studied at a number of institutes including Murray College(Sialkot), Medill School of Journalism (Evanston, Illinois, U.S.). His degrees include B.A.(Hons.), LL.B., M.Sc. (in Journalism) and Ph.D. (Philosophy). After independence he came to Delhi. One Day when he sat sadly in Chandni chowk Delhi, Lok Sabha MP Moulana Hasrat Mohani spotted him. Nayyar introduce himself as an Urdu Journalist. Moulna Mohani however, suggested him to write in English since Urdu was a rather neglected language in India then.
Amjad Islam Amjad (Urdu: امجد اسلام امجد) (born August 4, 1944 in Sialkot) is a famous Urdu poet, drama writer and lyricist from Pakistan.He received his education in Lahore. He graduated from Islamia College Civil Lines, Lahore. His career started as a lecturer in M.A.O College Lahore. From 1975 to 1979 he worked as a director at Pakistan Television Corporation before returning to the College.In 1989 he was appointed as Director General of Urdu Science Board. Currently he is the project director of the Children Library Complex. He is the author of over 40 books and received several national and PTV awards.Amjad Islam Amjad is the writer of many drama series for Pakistan Television Corporation including the very popular “Waaris”. He has written many columns, translation, criticism and essays whereas his main focus is writing Nazms. Among his most famous dramas are Waris, Dehleez, Samandar, Raat, Waqt and Apnay Loug.In June, 2008 he joined Urdu newspaper Daily Express.
We take for granted that certain corrupt practices and injustices are ingrained in our system and will never be eliminated, so we let them be. As a nation, we all witness or hear about many injustices through our media, but we don’t react strongly enough. A few of us react, but that reaction is so little and so late that the systemic faults remain.
Society as a whole does not react. If it were to react with enough pressure, the issue would not only be resolved immediately but would also not occur again. Vibrant societies keep their governments on track. They do not wait for ineffective parliaments to continue debating issues indefinitely. Vibrant societies keep a check on the parliament and the executive by forcing them to fix issues. They realise that relying on a parliament that plays by the elitist standards of ‘you cover my corruption and I will cover yours’, is not the way forward.
There is a lot of talk of looking at the Middle East, and how the people there have awoken. The issue in Pakistan is that we are told we have a functional parliamentary democracy and thus the Middle Eastern awakening won’t happen here. There is a false sense of hope that, since parliament exists, there is space to let the steam off. Whilst this is technically true, it is, in fact, very misleading. A parliament which protects the interests of the corrupt across political parties cannot give justice.
What will it take for people to come out on the roads? In January, when I stood with lady health workers outside the Governor House in Karachi, I saw 300 women fighting for their rights, accompanied by the faithful Pakistani media. As I sat with them, I thought about how they served their country, but when their salaries were not paid, nobody showed up in their support. Had the people of Karachi joined these workers, their issue could have been resolved.
The conclusion is that in Pakistan only the directly affected come out on the streets. Were civil society to join them, and share their pain, their struggle would be far more productive.
I have taken part in a lot of protests in my three years in politics. They have been painfully slow at getting the desired results. I often reflect on the small number of people who turned up at these protests. Even in the long march from Quetta to Islamabad, which was meant to address the issue of government employees emoluments, only a fraction of the affected people showed up to protest.
Why doesn’t a greater majority turn up to protest on the streets? Perhaps because we have become used to living in the midst of injustice. Perhaps because we have become used to our fate not changing. We need to believe that a fellow Pakistani’s pain is our pain and we need to react jointly. Only unity gets results. What will it take for you to react? When injustice strikes at your own doorstep?