Dec 01

Pakistani panel calls for ban on ads with Indian models

Islamabad: A Pakistani parliamentary panel called for a ban on advertisements featuring Indian models and suggested that it should be mandatory for female anchors on news channels to cover their heads with a dupatta.Indian adds

The suggestion was made by the Standing Committee for Information and Broadcasting of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament during a meeting attended by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira.

Reacting to the panel’s call to ban advertisements featuring Indian models, Kaira said the issue was in court and it would be better to wait for the judiciary’s decision. He agreed with the panel’s members that local culture should be promoted as Pakistan has a rich heritage.

Indian stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Kajol, Shilpa Shetty and Kareena Kapoor appear in advertisements for various products beamed on Pakistani channels.

Jul 30

Kaira accuses PML-N of politicising power crisis

Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, while speaking to the media on Monday, said that the government will not let Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) play politics on power crisis.Kaira AFP

“[Punjab Chief Minister] Shahbaz Sharif is blaming the federation without revealing the facts to the people,” he said, adding that Punjab gets 66% of electricity and 45% of Sui gas from the total energy output but the provincial government wants to take away the quota assigned to other provinces too.

Kaira added that PML-N workers were behind the attacks on offices of power companies. “PML-N should not destroy Pakistan in this manner,” he said.

Responding to the Punjab CM’s accusation against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for exporting 700MW electricity, Kaira said the mentioned amount of energy was not given to any other country but to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

“With his statement, Shahbaz Sharif has proven that he does not consider K-P as a part of Pakistan. He only wants power supply for Punjab,” Kaira said, adding that the PML-N should know that Punjab is not Pakistan but it is a part of Pakistan.

Bashing Punjab government officials for leading energy protests and carrying weapons, Kaira said that the common people cannot be blamed for the loss of billions of rupees they cause due to such protests as the leaders and parliamentarians of this country are themselves violently protesting.

He further accused PML-N of playing politics solely for power and without caring about the loss incurred by the people and the government of Pakistan.

“PML-N has been fooling the people of Punjab with their political rhetoric against the PPP. It has not added a single megawatt of electricity to the national power output,” Kaira said.

No unscheduled loadshedding

The Information Minister, on behalf of the government, also assured the people of Pakistan that no unscheduled, prolonged loadshedding will take place as the hurdles in electricity production have been cleared out.

Kaira said that it was a natural disaster which damaged a 6km-long oil supply line to power plants which in turn caused an “acute shortage” of electricity. “It was in a far-flung area. Even taking the labour and the required material took a lot of time,” said Kaira while appreciating Wapda for the maintenance work.

“I assure you all power plants running on oil are now being fully supplied with oil. The daily supply of oil to these plants has also been increased to 25,000 metric tons from 12,000 metric tons.”

The information minister added that the government knows about the people’s problems and is always trying to help them. “We are using all our resources to bring the country out of the energy crisis but our solution would be a permanent one. There will be no temporary solutions like those given by previous governments,” he said.

Apr 26

Contempt case: Supreme Court convicts PM Gilani

Supreme Court has ruled that Prime Minister Gilani is guilty of contempt.

Supreme Court of Pakistan convicted the prime minister of contempt on Thursday but gave him only a symbolic few minutes of detention inside the court, leaving the premier in power but weakened and facing fresh calls to resign.

The ruling against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sharpened political uncertainty and tensions between the government and the court that have effectively crippled an administration struggling to tackle enormous economic and security challenges.

The court had the power to sentence the prime minister to prison and order his immediate dismissal from office. It chose not to, delivering instead a symbolic punishment but one that could be used as the basis to push Gilani from power in the months to come.

The parliamentary speaker and election commission must now decide whether the conviction is reason to dismiss Gilani as a lawmaker, and hence as prime minister.

This could take up to four months and be contested legally every step of the way, meaning Gilani could remain prime minister until elections this year or early next. That may be taken as an achievement in itself in a country with a history of repeated coups and judicial machinations against elected governments.

Gilani s resignation was out of the question, said Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira. “The prime minister has not been convicted of any moral crime. No one needs to give us a lesson in morality.”

Gilani is the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Pakistan, where civilian governments have repeatedly been toppled by the country s powerful military, often with the support of the Supreme Court, which critics allege is heavily politicized. Corruption charges have routinely been used to target those in power, or seeking to return.

The prime minister arrived at the court house flanked by government ministers and in a shower of rose petals tossed by supporters.

The ruling said he was guilty of contempt but would serve a sentence only “until the rising of the court,” or by the time the judges left the chamber. That happened about three minutes after the verdict was handed down.

Thursday s verdict was the culmination of a process that began in a Supreme Court decision in 2009 ordering the government to ask authorities in Switzerland to reopen a long dormant corruption probe against President Asif Ali Zardari dating back to the 1990s. Gilani refused, saying the president had immunity from prosecution, and in January the court ordered contempt proceedings against him.

Outside the court, government loyalists fumed at Thursday s ruling.

“With utmost respect, I have to say this court order is absolutely illegal,” said Attorney General Arfan Qadir.

Nawaz Sharif, chief of the largest opposition party, said his party thinks Gilani should go. “He would be causing insult to the Parliament by continuing,” he said “He should resign to avoid any further crisis.”

Political analysts said members of Gilani s party and his coalition partners may well also pressure him to step down, figuring it s time to ditch a leader who has been convicted in a court of law. The ruling Pakistan s Peoples Party should have the numbers in parliament to elect a replacement, but it may not be smooth.

“It s a political decision now,” said Cyril Almeida, a political commentator. “Is the damage they sustain having Gilani continue in office less than the benefits of having a martyr at the helm?”

The graft case in the Swiss court involves millions of dollars in kickbacks Zardari and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, allegedly received from Swiss companies when Bhutto was in power in the 1990s. They were found guilty in absentia in a Swiss court in 2003. Zardari appealed, but Swiss prosecutors ended up dropping the case in 2008 after the Pakistani government approved an ordinance giving the president and others immunity from old corruption cases that many agreed were politically motivated.

The court has repeatedly ordered the government to send a letter to Swiss authorities asking the case be reopened.

It is far from clear whether Swiss authorities would pay any attention to such a letter. A Swiss prosecutor said last year that Zardari had immunity, and there are also statute of limitations issues. The refusal by the government to send the “Swiss letter” is in large part political. It doesn t want to be seen initiating a graft case against Zardari, especially one that involves his ex-wife, Bhutto.

Government loyalists have acccused the chief of the Supreme Court of having a feud against Zardari. Supporters of the judiciary say it is trying to uphold the law in a country where the country s politicians have engaged in massive corruption for years.