Tuesday, December 8, 2009

China to help Kyrgyzstan join Pakistan via Karakoram Highaway !

ISLAMABAD (APP) - Kyrgyzstan is working on possibility to establish direct road links with Pakistan through Karakoram Highway to further improve bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries.
Negotiations to this regard are in process with China, said Bektur Asanov, Ambassador of Kyrgyz Republic during his visit to ICCI. He expressed the hope that with the development of direct communication channels, bilateral trade will increase by 10 times between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan .
He said both countries have signed a Total Taxation Agreement to protect mutual investments and expected that it will boost the confidence of investors and enhance bilateral business and investment activities between the two countries.
He said Pakistani textile products were very popular in Kyrgyz Republic and called upon Pakistani businessmen to look for setting up textile industries in Kyrgyzstan .
He said Kyrgyzstan has now shifted its focus from Western world to South Asia as it perceives for itself great business and trade potential in this region.
He said that in a bid to promote two-way trade, an exhibition dedicated to Pakistani products is being arranged in Bishkek in January and invited Pakistani businessmen to ensure their maximum participation in that exhibition.
The concept of this exhibition is to attract attention of Kyrgyz customers to the high quality and vast variety Pakistani products, he added.
Zahid Maqbool, President ICCI said that although Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan enjoy friendly and cordial relations and are tied together under the umbrella of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), but the business and economic relations between the two countries do not correspond to their respective potentials.
He said that joints efforts were needed to improve trade relations between the tow countries to exploit the existing potential for mutual benefits.
He said Pakistan was a highly profitable investment destination as it offers unlimited investment potential in different sectors of its economy which he said are supported by good incentives for investors including a liberal trade regime, full protection of investments, unlimited repatriation of profits, an educated workforce and direct access to state authorities.
To take advantage of these opportunities, Kyrgyz businessmen should redouble their efforts to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan , he emphasized. He identified textiles, oil and gas exploration, hydropower generation, light engineering and financial sectors as potential areas for mutual cooperation between the two countries.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dubai or Debtai ? The rise and fall of Dubai ! Will Dubai Allow Vegas Style Gambling ?

All that glitters is not Gold. The country built on loans ! Dubai or as I call it Debtai has its image tarnished after the country defaults on its $87 billion loan. Governments can run commercial operations (as is the case in Dubai). They can bail out commercial operations (as we've seen in the West). But who bails out the governments themselves when they go bankrupt like what has happened in Dubai ?

Rumours are afloat that the Rulers of Dubai are considering allowing gambling in the debt ridden State. Dubai has all the ingredients of becoming a Middle Eastern version of Las Vegas ? Lets watch as the rulers of Dubai are shoved into a corner. Watch for the ads -Atlantis Dubai - Casino and Hotel !

Even though Dubai is on the brink of collapse its still expecting 8 million tourists a year. Dubai has become a tourist heaven because of its bargains and deals. Desperate for business Dubai is advertising 24/7/365 sunny days and Five Star hotels on half the price. Its the number destination for Europeans in the Winter.

From the pinnacle of the world economic boom to the brink of bankruptcy, Christopher Davidson of Durham University explains some of the background to the glittering city in the desert.

The inability of the government of Dubai to refinance the massive debts incurred by its largest state-owned company, Dubai World, has sent shockwaves throughout the world prompting many observers to ask not only how severe the economic crisis is, but also what exactly is Dubai and who is in control of it?

This time last year, Dubai was making headlines for entirely different reasons.
It was the opening party of the non-Casino version of Atlantis hotel, the star attraction of the city's man-made palm-shaped island. Organisers spent millions on the fireworks and even more on the celebrities.

As the sky exploded overhead, broadcast live around the globe, it was Dubai's message to the world that it had arrived. But as Dubai's elite sipped their champagne, the financial crisis was already beginning to take its toll in the West. For Dubai, this was the last night of extravagance before the credit crunch came knocking. And so, 12 months on, the headlines are very different. But who spoiled the party, and how?


Observers looking at the whole Dubai crisis smell a rat. The rulers took loans for everything they were building in Dubai. Offering builders free land or sea as down payment the rulers got $87 billion of loans from banks all over the world.

The banks invested heavily in real estate projects. The rulers kept most of the money and hoarded all the income from these investments.

Some insiders believe that the rulers are setting the stage to allow gambling in Dubai. Staging themselves by defaulting on their debt they are looking for a reason to allow 'limited' gambling in Dubai on in the hotels that are off shore. Most hotels built in Dubai are on artificial islands and are not on mainland Dubai, UAE. The rulers are trying to follow the example of Mississippi in the US. The conservative State of Mississippi in the US also allowed gambling on hotels that were offshore. These hotels were built on reclaimed land in the Gulf of Mexico and were off the mainland US.

The critics are sceptical the way this debt default has folded. All of a sudden the rulers of Dubai do not have $87 billion ? The critics smell a rat and most believe they need a reason to allow gambling in this Islamic nation. Gambling is banned in Islam and the elders in the ruling family are against allowing gambling in Dubai.


Dubai does not have the enormous oil wealth enjoyed by its neighbours such as Abu Dhabi. Its main source of wealth has historically been as a port.

Although frequently described as a city state or even as a country in its own right, Dubai is a constituent member of the federation of United Arab Emirates along with six other emirates.

The main share indexes in the UK, France and Germany had all fallen by more than 3% on Thursday. But after falling further in early trade on Friday, the UK's FTSE 100 closed up 1%, and both Germany's Dax index and France's Cac 40 ended more than 1% higher.

Certain London-based hedge funds who had bet on Dubai World being bailed out could have an uncomfortable few weeks ahead. Those close to the company have suggested that various refinancing options have been on the table for at least a month, although details have not been revealed until now.
A six-month suspension on interest payments is believed to be the most likely option.
David Buik, senior partner at BGC Partners, said: "You can't just say to the world: 'I don't want to pay my debts'. There is no income coming in from any of these properties. I think this is shocking PR."

The news shook markets that are recovering from the collapse of the US housing market and contagion that threatened to rupture the global financial system last year.
It was the timing of the announcement as much as the lack of clear information that heightened nerves. The first news emerged late on Wednesday, as the Muslim world was preparing for its Eid celebrations.
It also coincided with the closedown of the world's most important share market, with US markets winding down for Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday.
Uncertainty of the scale of banks' exposure to Dubai hit banking shares at first. However, bank shares recovered strongly throughout Friday morning.
Threat to confidence. The biggest underlying fear is that Dubai's problems could reignite the international financial turmoil of the credit crisis.

The emirate's flag bearer in global investments
Has a central role in the direction of Dubai's economy
Assets include DP World, which caused a storm when trying to take over six US ports
Property arm Nakheel built The Palm Islands and The World developments

Chris Skinner, chairman of the Financial Services Club, said: "We're very heavily interlinked. Dubai is the key financial centre in the Middle East."
Any knock to economic confidence could lower global demand for a whole range of commodities, including oil.

Dubai, which has less oil money than many of its neighbours, became a trading and tourism hub with global ambitions. Dubai World, the conglomerate that led the emirate's expansion, had $59bn (£36bn) of liabilities as of August, a large proportion of Dubai's total debt of $80bn. Its subsidiary Nakheel was the builder of the landmark palm tree-shaped island developments off Dubai.

Atlantis Hotel Dubai:

Will the Atlantis in Dubai remain the non-casino kosher version of the Atlantis Hotel ? Critics do not believe that ! Look what Atlantis Dubai has to offer !

Atlantis's the latest word in Gulf excess - a sprawling $US1.5 billion ($A1.8 billion) resort boasting a $US25,000 ($A30,044.50)-a-night suite and dolphins flown in from the South Pacific, all atop a palm tree-shaped island.

Inspired by the legend of the lost continent, the resort offers "experiences that are new to the Middle East," said its president and managing director Alan Leibman, in line with the emirate's penchant for superlatives and drive to become a top tourist destination.

At Atlantis, this includes water thrills, a marine habitat and more than a dozen restaurants run by world-class chefs including Japanese sushi mogul Nobu Matsuhisa and Michel Rostang of France.

The first guests were welcomed this past week at the site on Palm Jumeirah, one of three palm tree-shaped man-made islands emerging off the coast of Dubai.

The opening even as construction work continues on Palm Jumeirah underscores Dubai's race to more than double the number of visitors to 15 million by 2015.

One of seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai already hosts one of the world's most exclusive hotels, the sail-shaped Burj al-Arab, dozens of other luxurious seafront hotels, and the "Burj Dubai," Arabic for Dubai Tower, the world's tallest skyscraper.

With a distinct desire to offer the tallest and biggest, Dubai will also have the world's largest shopping mall.

And the Atlantis fits right into the picture, as "an entertainment destination that is truly different to anything that exists in the resort category in the region," aid Leibman.

But that might not be for long. Scores of other ambitious ventures are underway or in the pipeline, including Dubailand, a series of billion-dollars entertainment and leisure projects touted as the Middle East's very own Orlando, which will include a Universal Studios theme park.

The "Palm" islands face competition on their own turf from "The World", a cluster of some 300 artificial islands looking like a blurred vision of the planet's nations.

Developed by Kerzner International as only the second such resort after the Atlantis-Paradise Island in the Bahamas, Atlantis-The Palm cost 1.5 billion dollars and has 1539 rooms at rates ranging from US$700 dollars to a staggering US$25,000 for some suites.

The hotel opened on schedule despite a recent fire which ravaged its lobby, though the pomp and ceremony have been put off until the formal inauguration in November.

According to the management, the hotel is nearly fully booked. But although Dubai has become a regional business and tourist hub, promoters said they are targeting the US, European and Asian markets and do not expect clients from the Middle East to fill up more than a quarter of the establishment.

"Aquaventure", a water playground of over 18 million litres of water, is accessible to visitors for prices ranging from A$64 for children to A$75 for adults. The waterscape features water slides with names such as "Leap of Faith", including two which catapult riders through shark-filled lagoons.

Atlantis' marine habitat will be stocked with thousands of marine animals and include a "Dolphin Bay".

But one of the main attractions which promoters are counting on to draw crowds faced with a wide choice of entertainment in Dubai are the resort's top-end restaurants run by world-class chefs.

"What I'm offering here is authentic French cuisine, not a bit of everything. I am a champion of tradition" in French cuisine, said the two-star Michelin chef Rostang of his French Brasserie.

Environmentalists have long criticized both Palm Jumeirah island and some of the features of the Atlantis hotel. And analysts wonder if global financial turmoil will crimp Dubai's big hopes for tourists.

Dubai is not blinking. The 113-acre resort on the artificial island off the coast is among the city-state's biggest bets that tourism can help sustain its economy once regional oil profits stop flowing.

"You don't build a billion-and-a-half dollar project just anywhere in the world," said Leibman.

With its own oil reserves running dry, Dubai hopes to woo those eager to make money and those who know how to spend it - even as much of the global economy sours.

For years, the emirate - one of seven semi-independent states that make up the United Arab Emirates - has been feverishly building skyscrapers and luxury hotels.

A key piece of the strategy has been to cultivate an image in the West as a sun-kissed tourist destination despite its intense summer heat, conservative Muslim society and dearth of historic sites.

Among the daring projects are an indoor ski slope, the as-yet-incomplete world's tallest skyscraper and a growing archipelago of man-made islands such as Palm Jumeirah - the smallest of three such projects planned.

Much of the focus at the Atlantis, modeled on a sister resort in the Bahamas, is on ocean-themed family entertainment. The resort has a giant, open-air tank with 65,000 fish, stingrays and other sea creatures and a dolphinarium with more than two dozen bottlenose dolphins flown in from the Solomon Islands.

The hotel's top floor aims squarely at the ultra-wealthy. A three-bedroom, three-bathroom suite complete with gold-leaf, 18-seat dining table is on offer for $25,000 (A$30,000) a night.

Environmental groups and some people in the Solomons protested the sale of the dolphins to the resort as well as the 30-hour plane flight to get them to Dubai.

Dubai's development has long been criticized by environmental activists, who say the construction of artificial islands hurts coral reefs and even shifts water currents. They also point to growing water and electricity consumption.

Developers seem undaunted. For the moment, the Atlantis shares the island only with rows of high-end houses and construction sites. But other international names are set to move in.

Donald Trump plans a hotel straddling the center of the tree-shaped island's "palm," and the storied QE2 ocean liner will become a hotel and a tourist attraction docked alongside its "trunk." An 1,800-seat theater nearby will house a permanent Cirque du Soleil show beginning in summer 2011.

"Palm Jumeirah in and of itself will become one of Dubai's major tourist attractions," said Joe Cita, chief executive of Nakheel's hotel division.

Boosting the number of attractions on the island will not only entice more visitors, but also persuade them to spend more time and money in the city, he said.

By 2010, Dubai aims to attract 10 million hotel visitors annually, up from about seven million in 2007. Atlantis alone will increase the city's hotel capacity by three per cent.

So far, demand appears strong. The Middle East had the highest hotel occupancy rates in the world during the first half of the year, with Dubai leading the region at 85.3 per cent, according to professional services firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

Dubai also had the highest room rates in the region, although revenue growth is slowing, Deloitte noted.

Atlantis' backers are optimistic they can fill its 1539 rooms despite the economic uncertainty wracking some of the world's richest economies. Their focus is on well-heeled travelers from Europe, Russia, Asia and elsewhere in the Middle East.

"People will still take family holidays," Leibman said. "Dubai is still good value when you're paying in pounds, (or) you're paying in euros."

Nakheel, the developer, and Kerzner, the hotel operator, are both privately held companies and do not release sales data. Leibman said demand from tour groups looks strong well into the first part of next year.

Yet Marios Maratheftis, head of regional research for the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan at Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai, said there is "good reason" to be concerned that global financial problems could hit Dubai's tourism industry. Nevertheless, he said, the city's long-term outlook remains positive.

Kerzner has grown increasingly close to Dubai in recent years. In 2006, the company took itself private in a $3.8 billion deal partially bankrolled by a division of Nakheel's state-owned parent, Dubai World. Nakheel retains a large stake in the company.

Nakheel's hotel division has expanded rapidly. The company's holdings include New York's Mandarin Oriental, the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, and the W Hotel in Washington.

Its parent also owns a minority stake in MGM Mirage Inc. and is teaming with that casino operator and Kerzner to build a multibillion-dollar casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

But don't expect to find roulette wheels at Dubai's Atlantis. Islamic prohibitions against gambling ensure casinos remain off limits.

Millions of dollars have been invested in Sheikh Mohammed's passion: thoroughbred racehorses. In Newmarket, he owns Dalham Hall stud farm and Godolphin stables. The sheikh's 4,000 acres in Ireland make him the largest farmer in the country. He also owns 7,000 acres of paddocks in Britain and 5,000 acres of farmland. Other assets owned by Dubai investors include:

* The QE2, currently moored in Cape Town

* The Adelphi on the Strand and the Grand Buildings in Trafalgar Square

* A 20 per cent stake in Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus troupe

* Budget hotel chain Travelodge

* A stake in Merlin Entertainments, which runs Alton Towers, Madame Tussauds and the London Eye

* Scottish golf course Turnberry

* Chris Evert tennis clubs in the US

* A ski resort in Aspen, Colorado

* A 21 per cent stake in the London Stock Exchange

* Ports and ferries group P&O

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan ! Pakistanis look the other way !

Conservative Newspaper blows the whistle on Blackwater's presence in Pakistan ! The whistle got louder and louder but Pakistanis look the other way sending a clear message 'go get then all'. Without a doubt Blackwater has raised eyebrows in Pakistan but the silent majority in Pakistan are happy and wish that Blackwater gets the job done !

There is funny side to Blackwater's presence in Pakistan. Home owners in Pakistan are running after the real estate agents who are the authorized by Blackwater to rent their homes. Its a stampede to rent their houses. There have been instances where owners have moved out to rent the houses they are living in !

Blackwater's presence in Islamabad shows Pakistan's resolve on destroying the Taliban. Pakistan is persuing a much supported policy of - Do whatever it takes to destroy the Taliban. 120 million Pakistani voters demonstrated this desire by voting for secular parties in the last election. Left Leaning PPP and secular MQM and ANP won hands down. Religious parties won in less then 15 seats. The message was clear - 200,000 gun trotting Taliban cannot hold the 7th largest Nation in the world on ransom.

Jeremy Scahill, independent journalist, Democracy Now correspondent, and author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” His latest piece for the Nation magazine is “Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan.”

"Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan" (The Nation)
AMY GOODMAN: Writing in The Nation Magazine, journalist Jeremy Scahill, Democracy Now! correspondent has revealed Blackwater is secretly operating in Pakistan under a covert program that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. Blackwater operatives have been working under a covert program run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the military’s top covert operations force. The previously undisclosed JSOC operations would mark the first known confirmation of U.S. military activity inside Pakistan.

A military intelligence source said Blackwater operatives are effectively running the drone bombings for both JSOC and the CIA. The CIA drone program is already public knowledge. But the military source says some of the deadliest drone attacks in attributed to the CIA were actually carried out by JSOC. The article also reveals Blackwater operatives have taken part in ground operations with Pakistani forces under a subcontract with a local security firm. The operations have included house raids and border interdictions in northwest Pakistan and other areas.

Blackwater has also been given responsibility for planning JSOC operations in Uzbekistan. The Nation reports the program has become so secretive the top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. Independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill broke the story for The Nation Magazine. He joins us in our New York studio for its first television interview since the article’s publication last night. Jeremy, welcome to “Democracy Now!” Lay out what you have learned so far.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well Amy, just by way of background, we do know that beginning in 2006, the Bush administration struck a deal with the Pakistani government that would allow U.S. Special Operations forces from the Joint Special Operations Command to enter Pakistan with the understanding that there were, "Following the target, " the target being Osama bin Laden and his top deputies. As part of that agreement, the Pakistani government insisted they have the right to A, deny that the United States had permission to enter the country and B, be able to condemn U.S. actions in their country as a sort of a violation of their sovereignty. But the understanding was struck in 2006. What I understand now from the military intelligence source and another U.S. military source that confirmed what I was initially told by the military intelligence source, is that in fact there are active covert operations on an ongoing basis that are not just about targeting Osama bin laden. What we understand now is the Joint Special Operations Command, which from 2003-2008 was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, who has now been promoted and is the head of all US forces and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and is pushing for a very large troop increase, he ran that program from 2003-2008. Now its being headed by Admiral William Craven, who is the head of all JSOC operations. So, you have on the one hand the allegation from these military sources that JSOC has coverts bases throughout Pakistan, that they are running a drone bombing campaign runs parallel to that of the CIA, and that Blackwater forces have been at the center of this operation, according to my sources, since at least 2007. And as part of the work they’re doing for JSOC and Pakistan, I am told they are essentially an intelligence cell, if you will, that is planning strikes, gathering intelligence, as well as planning operations inside of Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

My sources said when they are working, when Blackwater guys are working for an elite division of the company that is been known as Blackwater Select, that they’re not doing the actual killing in these operations, but rather they are doing the planning of these operations. And Amy, what this really is, is an outgrowth of a trend that we saw very early on in the Bush administration following September 11th, where the Vice President Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the military chain of command, went directly into JSOC, and essentially separated JSOC from the military and started using JSOC to commit what my source said were some of the “darkest acts.” They also set up a parallel agency to the CIA was called the Strategic Support Branch, the SSB. The SSB called information resources from the CIA and the DIA, but for the first time, took the realm of covert operations out of the exclusive hands of the CIA, and essentially created a parallel, clandestine force that would report directly to Rumsfeld, and directly to Dick Cheney. And this Blackwater program is an outgrowth of that separating of JSOC from the broader military chain of command, and that is why my sources say there are senior figures within the military and the a administration right now that may be unaware of it because as he said, “They are not in the circle of love.”

AMY GOODMAN: “Not in the circle of love?”

JEREMY SCAHILL: That is the phrase that was used twice by the military intelligence source that I spoke to. What we are seeing now, and I also talked to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who was the Chief of Staff to then Secretary of State Colin Powell. And he described, he first of all, when I talked about this, said the program would not surprise him, and that he was very disturbed when he sees execute orders the coming out ,saying that JSOC is essentially above the Special Operations Command and the Special Operations Command is essentially in a support role for these JSOC teams. So, what I am told is that this program is so compartmentalized, that there are probably very top-level people that are unaware of it, and in fact, what my military intelligence source says, is that Blackwater personnel that are working as part of this program, and have worked as part of this program, have been given rolling security clearances above their actual security clearance. Let me break that down a minute. You have guys that can work on these operations that maybe have a low-level of security clearance in terms of the amount of intelligence that they are able to see. What this program allows for is that these individuals are given temporary security clearance to of access to very sensitive intelligence, intelligence and even members of Congress that oversee intelligence matters don’t have access to. That was one of the things that concerned the individuals that spoke with me for this story.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill what has been the response of Blackwater? What has been the response of U.S. military, the White House, to your investigation?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Blackwater said to me in a statement, and I had several back and forths with Blackwater, spokesperson Mark Corallo. And what Blackwater told me is that Xe Services, which is one of the new iterations of Blackwater has only one quote “employee" in Pakistan. And as I kept writing them back and said, “What about contractors, subcontractors, affiliates, other names that I wouldn’t be aware of,” they said we have no operations whatsoever inside of Pakistan. My sources say that is not true. I also received a call yesterday, as I was going to press, from individuals I had not called. I received a call from Admiral Mike Mullen’s office, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a bit surprising to me, because I had not called Admiral Mullen’s office, so when a U.S. citizen gets a call from the military, especially from the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, its a bit jolting. And they would not tell me how they got wind of the fact I was doing the story, or how they got my number. But I spoke to the spokesperson for Admiral Mullen, who told me they do not comment on current operations one way or the other. I was also told by a defense official that on background, not for attribution of the name of the individual, that this is not true, that there is no current arrangement with Blackwater for these types of services, and that there never has been. The White House did not return e-mails or phone calls in the process of doing the story.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, you point out in your article that the U.S. corporate media has largely ignored the fear and mistrust that Blackwater has generated in Pakistan. Earlier this month, the Taliban played on those fears when it denied responsibility for several bombings and in fact accused Blackwater of carrying them out. This is Azam Tariq, a spokesman of the Tehreek e-Taliban.

Azam Tariq: I want to tell the people of Pakistan and the Muslim nations, that the Tehreek e-Taliban are not responsible for the bombings. But Blackwater and Pakistan’s spy agency are behind them. Those who fight with the Americans are against the Tehreek e-Taliban and have blood on their hands, and we will fight them to the end.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, your response?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean you always have to take these kinds of declarations with a grain of salt, thereis incredible propaganda, and I do not have any evidence to suggest what that man is saying is true. I will say this, the Pakistan Intelligence Services have long had a reputation for using proxy forces to carry out actions that are ultimately are sanctioned by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. So, there certainly is a history in Pakistan of false flag operations. But, I don’t have any actual information or intelligence on the claims of the Taliban. But, certainly people that have closely monitored and followed Pakistani politics, particularly the history of the ISI and other organizations, they are regularly involved with unsavory organizations, that they are classified by many individuals as a terrorist organization. So, what we are in Pakistan right now certainly is a situation where the Pakistani intelligence services are playing multiple sides of the equation. I think would be very difficult to rule out Pakistani intelligence from much of anything in Pakistan these days.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, talk about who Blackwater is working for, or working with in Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan a country the United States has not declared war on.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. One interesting thing that happened in the course of this story, I talked to a former Blackwater executive that is familiar with Blackwater’s operations in the region. And when I asked them to confirm for me what the military intelligence sources said, namely that the Blackwater guys are not doing the actual killing in Pakistan, he told “That is not entirely accurate,” then proceeded to tell me about an arrangement that Blackwater had made with a Pakistani company called Kestral, that is headed by a man named Ali Bagg. The Blackwater executive told me, that Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, is close with the owner of this Pakistan firm that is sort of like a Blackwater and logistical firm wrapped up into one. This is a company the works for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Pakistan the government and does a very robust business in war contracting and servicing the war in Afghanistan as well.

And my understanding is that Blackwater is working for this company on a subcontract in a configuration that has Blackwater operatives going out technically as advisers with these paramilitary style forces from this company, and that they are doing as you said in the intro, border interdictions in the Northwest frontier province and elsewhere and the former Blackwater executive told me the line often gets blurred and that you do have Blackwater guys and other westerners that act the participate in operations that are the portrayed in the international media as Pakistan forces carrying them out.

And the agency that Blackwater forces are supporting is a federal paramilitary force in Pakistan that’s under the Ministry of the Interior there, called the Frontier Corp. The military intelligence official confirmed the Blackwater executives account ,or at least the specific allegation that Blackwater is working with the Frontier Corps. The benefit of this is it allows the Pakistani government to say, “We’re not using any Western forces to do these things,” because the technicality is that there subcontracted by a Pakistani firm that is working with the official Pakistan forces.

AMY GOODMAN: The lobbyist for Kestrel you report?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I’m sorry Amy, I didn’t hear you.

AMY GOODMAN: The lobbyist for Kestrel you report?

JEREMY SCAHILL: You’ve actually done shows on this individual, he’s sort of a famed neocon and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, who is well known to Democracy Now! listeners. In October, Roger Noriega was hired as a lobbyist by this Pakistani company. They paid his firm Vision Americas $15,000, they paid another from that appears to be little more than an affiliate of Roger Noriega’s firm, called Fire Creek Limited, an equal amount of money to lobby the State Department, US-AID, the Congress, on defense and foreign-policy issues and on services that Kestrel could provide that are of interest to the U.S. government.

Another player at Roger Noriega’s firm Vision Americas is Christina Rocca, who for years during the Bush administration was one of the top people shaping Pakistan and Afghanistan policies. She is a former CIA operations official. So, this company has hired some pretty powerhouse figures that have a long history, in the case of Christina Rocca’s affiliation with Vision Americas, with Pakistan directly. So it all sort of leads towards this continued neoconservative view of US foreign policy and they picked some of the top people in that world to become their K-Street lobbyists.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, explain who is behind the drone attacks in Pakistan, who has been killed, and talk about legality here.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. The CIA of course has been running a drone campaign in Pakistan going back years into the Bush administration. When President Obama took office on January 23, he ordered his first drone strike inside of Pakistan. There were two strikes in North and South Waziristan, and has bombed Pakistan regularly ever since. In fact, Vice-President Joe Biden, part of his strategy reportedly is calling for escalation of these drone strikes. This has caused some controversy because there of a large numbers of civilian deaths as a result of these bombings.

And technically, the operations of the CIA need to be reported to Senator Dianne Feinstein and others on the intelligence committee. and there was a controversy this summer because Leon Panetta ran up the hill and said he had cancelled the CIA assassination program and that sort of put the drones in an intense focus on the hill. What I am told now though, is that there is actually and has been for some time, a parallel drone strike program that is being run by the Joint Special Operations Command and that these JSOC drone strikes are sometimes done with very little regard for how many civilians may die in the pursuit of one quote unquote "Bad guy,”

In fact, my military intelligence source said to me if there’s one guy we’re trying to hit and there are 34 other people in the building, 35 people are going to die that day. And he said part of the reason why these strikes are happening is because JSOC works on a classified mandate and they really don’t care because they are not going to go to the Hill and talk to Congress about it and they are not going to face consequences, and its an open secret no one wants to talk about.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy, you say Blackwater employees maybe posing as USAID workers?

JEREMY SCAHILL: I said they may be posting as aid workers, I didn’t specify any organization. I think that we have a situation right now in Pakistan where it is very dangerous for people that actually are there to aid in humanitarian projects, and this has long been a history. When you have non-civilian forces that pose in any way as aid workers of any kind, I think you create a dangerous situation for the well-meaning individuals that go to very difficult and dangerous countries in an effort to help local populations that are suffering tremendously as a result of war and poverty. My understanding from the military intelligence source is Blackwater personnel have at times posed as aid workers.

AMY GOODMAN: Word is President Obama is now going to be announcing the expansion of war in Afghanistan. Over 30,000 U.S. troops. Can you put this all, your expose, in a broader context?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well of course, right now you have the top two figures running, prosecuting the Afghan war from the military side are both from the Joint Special Operations Command and I think what we are seeing is essentially an incredible rise of the power of JSOC within the official military command structure. You--I think what we are seeing is, the beginning, of what is one of the much more dramatic escalation of forces in Afghanistan, because my understanding is that part of the president’s plan he’s authorizing, there’s essentially going to be an equal number of contractors that are deployed along those thirty thousand or so troops that we now understand the president is going to be announcing.

Of great concern to everyone in that region is that Pakistan is increasingly, the war in Afghanistan is increasingly bleeding over into Pakistan. And, now with the revelation that the U.S. has actual covert operations there, these operations could be viewed in the words of my military intelligence source, as a, “Lilly pad,” a jump-off point. He called it the Jamestown of the new millennium, in Pakistan and predicted there’s going to be more intense involvement of U.S. military within the borders of a country that we have not declared war against.

AMY GOODMAN:Jeremy Scahill, I want to thank you for being with us, for breaking this in the national broadcast on “Democracy Now!” Your piece came out in The Nation Magazine last night online, and of course we will link to it. Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, Democracy Now! correspondent, and is a Puffin Fellow at the Nation Magazine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pakistan's First Fashion Week Changes Headlines on Pakistan !

Western reporters try to stereo type Pakistan on Pakistan's First Fashion Show !

Click here to Watch on Youtube !


Pictures on Youtube on the Fashion Show !

Dawn Morning Show on The fashion Week !

Conan O'Brien Comments on Pakistan Fashion Week enrages Pakistani Designers :
Response to Conan O'Brien comments about Pakistan Fashion Week by Fifi Haroon.

Pakistan Fashion Week :
Dear Mr O'Brien, I have watched your show for several years in Pakistan and now tune in to see the Tonight Show on CNBC in London . I think you're an extremely funny man; there is always something to be said for an unexpected mix of wry humour and a cockatoo haircut. A few days ago, while watching your monologue on the Tonight Show I caught a reference to the first ever Pakistan Fashion Week, followed by much laughter from the audience (A Fashion Week in Pakistan?). You wondered aloud what we could possibly show at this surprising event, and speculated that this was probably a catwalk of the latest "Burqas." While I hate to disillusion you - and those of a more Taliban disposition - it was quite the opposite. Short sassy skirts using traditional embroidery inventively, revealing evening gowns with bare midriffs and a fashion faux pas here and there - yes. But sorry, no burqas! For a change, most of the western Press seems to have realised what was going on. "Pakistan fashion week defies Taliban with non-Islamic dress," claimed The Telegraph, "Organizers soldiered on to show the world that, despite the violence all around them, they can and will have fashion beyond burqas and go about life as usual," said NY Mag and CNN reported that the "heavy cloak of security" in a country where bombings and Taliban rants are de rigeur helped make Pakistan fashion week a success. Pakistan's fashion industry may be small compared to its huge garment and textiles industry (guess where your Calvin Klein underwear really comes from?) but it is influential, often iconoclastic and thriving. And it manages to do that in a country where showing bare arms and your navel can often be as much of a political stance as a fashion statement. It is also an industy I have worked in as a stylist and Fashion show organizer for over two decades, so trust me when I say that while you can accuse us of being elitist (not everyone can afford high fashion or indeed have the inclination/daring to wear it), and ocassionaly self absorbed like Fashion people anywhere, please never throw allegations of Burqa wear our way. We wouldn't wear them without our Manolos in any case. So while we would readily laugh at your burqa punch line, and understand that humour must be given licence, it is important for us to object to yet another stereotypical image of Pakistan being thrown out an an unsuspecting American public. Perhaps this email may at least help you get the slant right in time for next year's Pakistan Fashion Week. Regards, Fahimeh Fifi Haroon
By:Fifi Haroon

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sofitel Hotels to Build 27 Storey 5 start hotel and Mall in Karachi !

New five-star hotel to be established in Karachi

KARACHI: Karachi city is soon to have another five star hotel named Sofitel which is upgrading its status in the destination lists of business and leisure travelers, the under construction hotel has already started attracting new foreign investments.

Sofitel Towers and Shopping Mall, a hotel chain managed by Accor the European leader in hotel and tourism industry, is expected to complete by 2011.

“Pakistan is potential hub of foreign direct investment and there is dire need to cater future demands of prestigious and luxurious five star hotels,” said Abdul Rehman Naqi, managing partner, Sofitel.

He said it was after a long time that a new international hotel chain was being introduced in Karachi.

Sofitel Tower and Shopping Mall Karachi, a 110m (361 ft) high building with 27 floors will have a food court, a five-story shopping mall and a four-story basement car parking with a capacity of over 500 cars.

For the first time in Pakistan, very high quality construction material is being used and every aspect of the construction is being undertaken according to international standards, even details like location of Karachi with reference to Seismic Zone has been taken into consideration and the hotel will be earthquake proof as concrete pillar and steel reinforcements have been used even in bricks construction for the first time in Pakistan on such a high scale. staff report

Monday, November 9, 2009

Election : Gilgit-Baltistan - 8 Languages, 10 Ethnic Groups, 6 Districts, 4 Religious sects - 24 National Assembly Seats !

With almost 2 million inhabitants Gilgit-Baltistan is a very diverse region of Pakistan. The population of this new autonomous region is divided in 4 of the Islamic faith - Shia's constitute 35%, Sunnis 35%, Ismailis 25% and Noorbukshies are 5%. Gilgit Baltistan will have 24 constituents seats in the National Assembly plus 6 Women seats and 3 Technocrat seats.

Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu.

Gilgit-Baltistan :

On September 7, 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan signed what was called the Gilgit- Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed "Gilgit-Baltistan," by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly

Gilgit :
Gilgit which is known as Dardistan and it includes 4 Districts Astore, Diamer,Gilgit and Ghizar. Major cities are Gilgit, Chilas, Hunza and Gahkuch

Baltistan :
Baltistan includes the districts of Skardu and Ghanche. Major cities are Skardu and Kaplu.

People in Gilgit :

The people belong to the Dardic race and are closely connected with Chitralis in race, culture and language. They are mostly followers of Ismaili sect headed by the Agha Khan (Muslims).

History :
This region was conquered by Maharaja Gulab Singh’s son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh between 1846 and 1860. Thousands of Dogra soldiers lost their lives in the campaigns that led to the conquest of this inhospitable but strategically very important region. The whole Dardistan including Gilgit has been merged with Pakistan and is governed by the Pakistani Central Government. This area has not been included even in the so called “Azad-Kashmir” (literally means Free/Liberated Kashmir)

Neighbours :
Gilgit-Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.

Population :
Gilgit-Baltistan population is very diverse. 35 per cent Shias, 35 per cent are Sunnis, 25 per cent Ismailis, and 5% Noorbukshies .

Elections :

The Legislative Assembly will have 24 members, who will be elected directly and in addition, there will be six women and three technocrat seats. In order to empower the Council and the Assembly on financial matters there would be a consolidated fund.The budget of the area would be presented and approved by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Voting Pattern :
The voting pattern is yet to be determined but Sunnis, Shias and Ismailis have divergent voting trends. None of them are in allied to each other in any way.
Shias generally support the PPP and Ismailis in Karachi support the MQM. 35% Sunnis with this diverse of a group might vote in all directions including the PML-N, MQM, PPP and maybe PML-Q. Its yet to be seen where Noorbukshies would swing towards. 25% of Baltistan constitutes of Noorbukshies.

Judges :

The Chief Judge of the Appellate Court will be appointed by the Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council on the advice of the Governor, and other judges will be appointed by the Chairman on the advice of the Governor after seeking the views of the Chief Judge. The number of judges will be increased from three to five. A Gilgit-Baltistan Public Service Commission, a separate Auditor-General and an Election Commissioner will be appointed.

The judiciary of the Northern Areas consists of district courts and a chief court, whose decisions are final.

Gilgit-Baltistan Districts and Division :

The Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu. These districts are grouped into three agencies or Divisions called Diamir with headquarters at Chilas, Gilgit with headquarters in Gilgit Town and Baltistan with headquarters in Skardu Town.

Population (2008) 1,800,000 (Estimate) Density 20.7/km² Area 72496 km²

Ethnic Groups :
There are eight ethnic groups : Baltis, Yashkuns, Moghal, Kashmiris, Pathans, Laddakis and Turks.

Languages :
The Shina language (with several dialects) is the language of 40% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer.
Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of Tibetan language group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan.
Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer.
Khowar is the major language of Ghizer.
Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal.
Domaaki is spoken by the musician clans in the region.
Pashto is also spoken by a small minority.

People who live in Gilgit Baltistan, despite that region's being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.

Sects and Religious diversity :
The four major religious sects are Sunnies, Shias, Ismailies and Noorbukshies. Sunnies are mostly in Daimer, Astore and Gilgit districts. The majority of Shias are in Skardu. Ganche Division has majority Nurbakhshi (80%), Sunnis and Shias are evenly divided with 10%. The Ismalies are mostly in Ghizer district and in Hunza sub-division of Gilgit district.

The sect-wise breakdown of population :

Population Demographics :

Gilgit District :
Gilgit Capital :

Gilgit city and division – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni;,
Nagar II : 100% Ismaili
Nagar I : 100% Shia
Gojal : Sunni, Shia and Ismailis
Aliabad : Sunni, Shia and Ismailis

Ghizar :
Capital : Gahkuch

Hunza –100% Ismaili; ,
Punial – 100% Ismaili;
Yasin – 100% Ismaili;
Ishkoman –100% Ismaili;
Gupis – 100% Ismaili;

District Daimer :
Capital Chilas :

Chilas – 100% Sunni;
Darel/Tangir – 100% Sunni;

District Astore :

Astor – 90%Sunni, 10% Shia;

Baltistan – 55% Shia,20% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshies
Divisions :

Shigar (Captial Skardu)
Gultari : 45% Shias, 30% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshie
Kharmang : 45% Shias, 30% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshie

District Ganche :
Kaplu : 80 % Noorbukshies, 10% Sunnis, 10% Shias
Mashabrum : 80 % Noorbukshies, 10% Sunnis, 10% Shias

Ethnic Run Down of the Gilgit-Baltistan area :
There are eight ethnic groups:
Laddakis and

Interesting Facts :
Demographics of Baltis as an ethnic group: Shia' denomination (13%), Nurbakhshi (80%) and Sunnis (7%).

Noorbakshi : An order of Islamic Sufism. The core message of Nurbakhshism are complete elimination of all evil desires and immoralities of human nature from one’s self; total submission of one’s wills before God (by following the Qur'an Sunnah and Ahlibeit) and finally love and peace for the whole mankind. Nurbakhshis inhabit Baltistan and Ladakh regions of J&K, as well as a large number of Noorbakshis are native to Iran, Kurdistan and Central Asia.

Terrain :
Each district can boast of at least one lofty peak. Out of 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on earth, 4 occupy an amphitheater at the head of Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram range in Northern Pakistan. These are; K-2 or Mount Godowin Austin (8,611 m, world's second highest), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 m), Broad Peak (8,047 m) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 m). There is yet another which is equally great, Nanga Parbat (8,126 m), located at the western most end of the Himalayas. In addition to these mountains, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 m and hundreds others of over 6,000 meters.

The Northern Pakistan has some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 km), Hispar (61 km), Biafo (60 km), Baltoro (60 km) and Batura (64 km)

Geography :
Division- Baltistan :
District, Ghanche, Area (km²) 9,400 ,Headquarters Khaplu.
District, Skardu ,Area (km²) 18,000 ,Headquarters Skardu

Division - Gilgit :
District, Astore, Area (km²) 8,657, Headquarters Gorikot. Gorikot lies on the historic junction where roads link to Rattu axis and Tarisheng Base camp-Nanga Perbat and other axis leads to Gudai - Chilum & Deosai Plains linking Astore to Skardu.
District , Diamir, Area (km²) 10,936, Headquarters Chilas
District , Ghizar, Area (km²) 9,635 ,Headquarters Gahkuch
District, Gilgit ,Area (km²) 39,300 ,Headquarters Gilgit.

Books and Resources :
Sectarian War: Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Violence and its links to the Middle East.
Demographics of Pakistan.
Languages of Pakistan.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Italy to provide $10bn credit line ! Korean companies to Invest in Pakistan !

Pakistan has raised eyebrows again. Even with terrorism concerns the 7th largest country in the world brings in more foreign investment from Asia and Italy !

Italian government has agreed to provide a credit line equivalent to $10 billion for Italian investors willing to invest in Pakistan.

This was stated by the chairman, Board of Investment (BoI), Saleem H Mandviwalla, at a press conference here on Saturday.

BoI chairman, who accompanied President Asif Ali Zardari during his recent official visit to Italy, said talks with Italian Embassy for materialising this credit line have now been initiated.

He expressed the hope that the fund would be ready in the next six months.

He said that this credit line has been promised by the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in response to the request of President Asif Ali Zardari during a bilateral meeting in Rome.

Mandviwalla said this request was well received by the Italian premier and Mr Berlusconi also promised that he would bring a large delegation of leading Italian investors to Pakistan.

He hoped that this fund will help boost Italian investment in Pakistan in a big way.

The BoI chairman said that leading Italian companies have shown keen interest in having joint ventures in Pakistan during a meeting with the President of Pakistan.

He pointed out that Pakistan-Italy Chamber would be established in the next two years.

Talking of his meetings with leading South Korean firms, including Daewoo, Hyundai, LOTTE and K Water, he said they are keen to invest in Pakistan.

The chief executive of LOTTE has indicated that his company was willing to invest at least $10 billion in Pakistan by way of acquisitions in the next five years.

They have already purchased Pak PTA and planning to invest another $300 million to acquire food and raw material companies in Pakistan, he added.

Similarly, the BoI chairman said that K Water was willing to construct dams in Pakistan and Korean Electric Power Company was interested in power generation and distribution in Pakistan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pakistan gets New F-16's from the US !

The latest F-16's can carry a heavier and larger payload of weaponary and would increase Pakistan's capability to haul Nuclear weapons !

The US has unveiled the first of 18 new F-16s being produced for Islamabad amidst a furore in Pakistan over the tough anti-terror conditions attached to a bill to provide $7.5 billion worth of non-military aid over the next five years.

Officials including the chiefs of staff of the US and Pakistan air forces were on hand to witness the event at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth, Texas, facility Tuesday.

Air Chief Marshal Rao Quamar Suleman, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force (PAF), accepted the first F-16 Block 52 aircraft on behalf of Islamabad. Also present were Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, and other senior officials.

Suleman said the roll out shows that the programme is 'on track' despite it experiencing many ups and downs.

The US government was represented by Kay Granger, a House member from Texas and Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

'Peace Drive is the flagship of modernisation for Pakistan's Air Force. It is the latest configuration of the best fourth generation multirole fighter available in the world today,' said John Larson, vice president of F-16 programmes for Lockheed Martin.

The aircraft order is designated as 'Peace Drive I', continuing a long tradition of naming F-16 international sales programmes with the word Peace.

The programme raises the total number of F-16s ordered by Pakistan to 54.

The Pakistan Air Force received its first F-16, in the Block 15 F-16A/B configuration, in 1982. Pakistan has been operating Lockheed Martin aircraft since 1963, when it received C-130B airlifters.

The Peace Drive I order is for 12 F-16Cs and six F-16Ds, all powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine.

The first aircraft - a two-seat F-16D model - will be delivered to the US government (as agent for Pakistan in the Foreign Military Sales process) in December, with the remainder following in 2010.

Pakistan 'No 1' among emerging markets peers !

Pakistan stands at number one position for providing highest equity returns and dividends to local and foreign companies on their reported earnings and profitability within emerging markets of Asia, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Latin America, The Nation deduced from IMF report on Monday.
This report further indicates that Pakistan equity market has been put on the sustainable path of growth and stability since the beginning of the first quarter of calendar year, 2009.
IMF statistical output on emerging markets’ dividend-yield ratios revealed that despite witnessing slowdown in FDI and other investment inflows particularly portfolio investment, the domestic financial market is performing well in terms of offering better profits and dividends.
The divided-yield ratio in Pakistan is still stayed at 9.1 per cent since January 2009, which is most attractive and highly profitable for the local and foreign blue chip companies, operating in oil & gas exploration, petroleum refining, fertilizer and financial sectors of economy as compared to its emerging and regional markets’ peers.
IMF Global Financial Satiability Report said Czech Republic and Egypt are runners up with providing 7.4 per cent and 6.3 per cent rate of return on equities respectively.
Meanwhile, report found out that the solvency and adequacy of the banking system is somehow remaining intact. As per the financial soundness indicators compiled by report, Pakistan’s scheduled banks non-performing loans (NPLs) to total loans grew by 11.5 per cent by end-March 2009, which is number 4 amongst its emerging markets financial business counterparts of the Middle east and Central Asian regions.
Earlier, report said the immediate outlook for the financial system has improved markedly since the April 2009.
Financial markets have rebounded, emerging market risks have eased, banks have raised capital, and wholesale funding markets have reopened. Even so, credit channels are still impaired and the economic recovery is likely to be slow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cunning Musharraf Siphoned US Military Aid into the Pakistan Economy !

Pakistan Economy went on an over drive during the Musharraf Era ! Even though critics of Musharraf are quick to shrug off the economic growth part of the 9 years of his rule but the graphs speak louder then the shrugs !

News report coming in from the West and Pakistani military reveal more about the nine years of Musharraf rule. Statements from ex-generals and the Pentagon sum up on what went on in Pakistan in the last decade.

After taking over the helm in Pakistan Musharraf strategized and siphoned Billions of Dollars of US Military aid into the ailing Pakistan Economy ! Ex-Generals authenticate news reports which claim that Military aid was funneled for mega projects in Pakistan. The claims that the diversion of money hurt the military but helped the Economy tremendously which grew at a staggering 8%.

In a related development Pentagon said that there is no mechanism to track money sent to Pakistan and US aid funds were used to buy weapons better suited to fighting India then the Taliban !

Its widely suspected that these stories have been circulated by former President Musharraf himself. Analysts say that fearing corruption Musharraf has tipped the US on how to give 'Project specific' aid to Pakistan. Relying on these reports US has mandated that all projects be audited every three months.

On the sidelines of this development Black Water with its new name Xe (pronounced Zee) has moved into Pakistan and is sub-contracting infrastructure projects all over Pakistan.

Although the above caption is bad news for US but for Pakistan its a sigh of relief that the army did not just get billions of dollars of aid. US aid was pumped into the economy and Pakistan went through an era of 8% growth during the last 6 years of Musharraf's rule.

Mega projects like the Gwadar Port, Karachi-Makran Highway, Khushab Nuclear Plant which produced a new generation of lighter fuel plutonium-based weapons, Islamabad-Peshawar Highway, Upgrading of Indus highway, Buying of land for Basha Dam, Chashma I and II Nuclear Plants etc. were all commenced. It was amazing that Pakistan's debt remained at $38 billion and dollar stood fast at Rs. 60 during the 9 years of Musharraf rule.

The US has long suspected that a majority of the billions of dollars it has sent to Pakistan to battle the Taliban has been diverted to the domestic economy and other causes, such as fighting India. However, the scope and longevity of the misuse has become clear after two army generals have claimed that between 2002 and 2008, while Al Qaeda regrouped, only $500 million of the $6.6 billion in American aid actually made it to the Pakistani military.

The generals, who spoke on condition of anonymity, had their accounts corroborated by retired and active generals, former bureaucrats and government ministers. They said former president Pervez Musharraf had served as both chief of staff and president at the time of the siphoning, making it easier to divert money to help Pakistan economically.

“The army itself got very little,” said General (r) Mahmud Durrani, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to the US under Musharraf. The military was financing the war on terror out of its own budget", which again is good news for Pakistan but bad for the US. The money was used for supporting Pakistan budget deficit and lowered Pakistan staggering $38 billion debt. Pakistan debt servicing decreased during the 9 years from 55% of the budget to 35%.

Its ironic that the details on misuse of American aid comes as Washington again promises Pakistan money. Analysts are suspecting that these stories are being implanted at this time to make sure that money is invested directly into Pakistan's infrastructure development programs. There has been talk of bypassing the Federal Government and funding the infrastructure projects directly. Legislation to triple general aid to Pakistan cleared Congress last week. The legislation also authorises “such sums as are necessary” for military assistance to Pakistan, upon several conditions, including certification that Pakistan is cooperating in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The US is also insisting on more accountability for reimbursing money spent.

Analysts are also suspecting that the former President on the sidelines of his 'lecture tours' in the US is supporting direct funding of the projects bypassing Zardari's Government. Former President has been lecturing Think Tanks in the US, Europe, India and the Far-East discussing the war on terrorism and Pakistan.

No mechanism: But the US still cannot follow what happens to the money it doles out. “We don’t have a mechanism for tracking the money after we have given it to them,” Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Mark Wright said in a telephone interview.

Pakistan has received more money from the US’ war fund than any other nation. It is also the least expensive warfront. The amount the US spends per soldier per month is just $928, compared with $76,870 in Afghanistan. Yet by 2008, the US had provided Pakistan with $8.6 billion in military money, and more than $12 billion in all. “The army was sending in the bills,” said one general. “The army was taking from its coffers to pay for the war effort — the access roads construction, the fuel, everything.”

Indian war: Former General Durrani alleged that some of the money from the US went to buying weapons better suited to fighting India than in the border regions of Afghanistan — armour-piercing tow missiles, sophisticated surveillance equipment, air-to-air missiles, maritime patrol aircraft, anti-ship missiles and F-16 fighter aircraft. This allegation again implies that the money did get spent and there are no allegation of corruptions just siphoning the money - again a sigh of relief to Pakistanis.

Meanwhile, military spokesman General Athar Abbas said the US gave nothing to offset the cost of Pakistan’s dead and wounded in the war on terror. The hospital and rehabilitation costs for the wounded have come to more than $25 million, he said - costs that the US does not compensate Pakistan for. Another allegation talks about an hospital built with the US aid and did not end up in anyones Swiss account !

Musharraf’s spokesman, General (r) Rashid Qureshi, flatly denied that his former boss had shortchanged the army. “He has answered these questions. He has answered all the questions,” he added.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pakistan to set up MI5 type counter Intelligence unit !

Pakistan has been insisting on getting material help on new intelligence gathering techniques from the West plus UAV Drones and Night Goggles! This is major coup in its plan to reformulate a new counter intelligence agency on the pattern of MI5.

Britain will assist Pakistan to set up a counter-intelligence agency on the line of British secret service, MI5.

BBC's Richard Watson quoted senior British and Pakistani counter-terrorism officials as saying that British training and funding will be made available to the new security authority.

In the first phase, 200 experts will be employed in Pakistan, covering extremism and religious affairs, he said.

One of these will examine the alleged role in religious schools and radicalisation.

He added that there will be a new counter-terrorism strategy within six months, and research projects will be launched.

British intelligence has estimated that almost three quarters of terrorist attacks in Britain have their origins in Pakistan.

British experts fear that Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI could block progress, as it would want to remain in charge of terrorist investigations.

However, Pakistani sources insisted that the ISI is fully on board.

The Home Office in UK declined to comment on funding, but said it strongly supported the move.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Yamaha to set up Motor Cycle plant in Pakistan !

Hundred's of generic Pakistani motor cycle companies making motor cycle parts makes it very cheap for Yamaha to manufacture motor bikes in Pakistan.

TOKYO: Yamaha, a leading Japanese company, has prepared a plan to make an investment of $150 million in motorcycle manufacturing on a large-scale in Pakistan.

This was stated by President of Yamaha Takashi Kajikawa in a meeting with Pakistan’s Ambassador to Japan Noor Mohammad Jadmani at the company’s headquarters at Hamamatsu.

President Takashi said that the plant would be established in National Industrial Park at Bin Qasim, Karachi.

Giving salient features of the project, Takashi informed Ambassador Noor Jadmani that the company in the first phase would assemble around 22,000 motorcycles by 2012, after that it would manufacture the motorcycles by using various domestically manufactured parts in Pakistan.

In the final phase, the company would start manufacturing motorcycle engines in Pakistan by 2017.

‘The company intends to make Pakistan a base for exports to neighbouring Asian and African countries,’ Takashi informed the Pakistani Ambassador.

The plant, he said, would provide job opportunities to about 25,000 Pakistan engineers, technicians and labourers.

The company has already submitted its proposals to the Board of Investment in Islamabad, he noted.

Ambassador Noor Jadmani, speaking on the occasion, greatly appreciated the initiative from Yamaha Motorcycle Company and briefed Takashi on the investment friendly policies of the present democratic government of Pakistan.

The Pakistan envoy also informed privileges, facilities and tax concessions offered in Exclusive Japanese Special Economic Zone being established in Pakistan.

He thanked and encouraged the Japanese to make investment in Pakistan in a big way and assured government’s complete support, assistance and patronage in this respect, according to Iftikhar Babar, Economic Minister in Pakistan Embassy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Swine flu milder then earlier Estimates !

WASHINGTON - The death rate from the pandemic H1N1 swine flu is likely lower than earlier estimates, an expert in infectious diseases said on Wednesday.

New estimates suggest that the death rate compares to a moderate year of seasonal influenza, said Dr. Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University.

"It's mildest in kids. That's one of the really good pieces of news in this pandemic," Lipsitch told a meeting of flu experts being held by the U.S. Institute of Medicine.

"Barring any changes in the virus, I think we can say we are in a category 1 pandemic. This has not become clear until fairly recently."

The Pandemic Severity Index set by the U.S. government has five categories of pandemic, with a category 1 being comparable to a seasonal flu epidemic.

Seasonal flu has a death rate of less than 0.1 percent — but still manages to kill 250,000 to 500,000 people globally every year.

A category 5 pandemic would compare to the 1918 flu pandemic, which had an estimated death rate of 2 percent or more, and would kill tens of million of people.

Lipsitch took information from around the world on how many people had reported they had influenza-like illness, which may or may not actually be influenza; government reports of actual hospitalizations and confirmed deaths.

He came up with a range of mortality from swine flu, from 0.007 percent to 0.045 percent.

Either way, having new information about how many people were infected and did not become severely ill or die makes the pandemic look very mild, he said.

"The news is certainly better than it was in May and even better than it was at the beginning of August," Lipsitch said.

H1N1 swine flu was declared a pandemic in June after flashing around the world in six weeks. Experts all said a true death rate would not be clear for weeks because it is impossible to test every patient and because people with mild cases may never be diagnosed.

This lack of information made the epidemics in various countries and cities look worse at first than they actually were, Lipsitch said. People sick enough to be hospitalized are almost always tested first.

"Yes, there's been hype, but I don't think it's been an outrageous amount of hype," Lipsitch said.

Seasonal flu is usually far worse among the elderly, who make up 90 percent of the deaths every year. In contrast, this flu is attacking younger adults and older children, but they are not dying of it at the same rate as the elderly, Lipsitch said.

US map and rate of Infections on MSNBC :

World map and rate of Infections on MSNBC :


17,000 Chinese workers from the Three Gorges Dam Project would build Daimer-Bhasha dam in Pakistan

China to help build the Daimer-Basha dam after World Bank's refusal to fund the project. It would be constructed near Chilas, on the border of the North Western Frontier Province and Gilgit-Baltistan autonomous region.

Pakistan is considering another big dam project the Diamer-Bhasha Dam on the Indus River in northern Pakistan comes with an astounding price tag of over US$8.5 billion. The 200-square-kilometer reservoir would flood 100 kilometers of the Karakoram highway.

The project, after an eight-year construction period, would provide 4500 MW of electricity for the national grid, but it would not address the far more pressing issue that half of Pakistan's population (around 80 million people) have no electricity access whatsoever. Diamer-Bhasha is a costly project that would only benefit industries and wealthy Pakistanis.

Officials from the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) of Pakistan have revealed that China will most likely fund the bulk of project costs, as well as provide 17,000 workers from the Three Gorges Dam Project. It is also likely that a Chinese company will be in charge of construction, as one source from WAPDA noted that China's policy is to take responsibility for the construction of any dam project that it finances. The poor environmental and social record of China's global dam industry doubly raises concerns that impacts that would result from the Diamer-Bhasha dam might not be adequately assessed or mitigated.

The carvings that will be destroyed by the reservoir represent the great cultural flourishing and exchange of the Indus Valley region's portion of the Silk Road. The project is located in a mountainous, earthquake-prone area and there are many engineering challenges, including relocating 100 kilometers of the Karakorum highway. These factors contribute to the project's hefty price tag.

Pakistan Government Approval :

The Executive Committee of Pakistan's National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Thursday formally approved the construction of Bhasha Diamir Dam at a cost of Rs 894 billion (US$10.758396 billion).

The meeting presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin also approved 25 other development projects. Later addressing a joint news conference, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Minister for Water and Power, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the project to be completed in eight to ten years will generate four thousand five hundred megawatt electricity.

Work of land acquisition will start within three months while construction work on the project will begun in October next year. The Information Minister said the concerned provincial agencies and departments have been asked to remove all obstacles to complete Diamir Bhasha Dam project on priority basis. Qamar Zaman Kaira assured the people of Northern Areas that affectees of the Dam will be compensated without delay.

Preference will be given to local skilled persons for employment in the project.

The Minister said the cost of Diamer-Basha dam is Rs 894 billion with generation capacity of 4500 MW electricity. "This would prove to be a lifeline project for the country and would meet agricultural as well as power requirements of our energy starved country," he added. The Minister congratulated the entire nation including people of Northern Areas on the approval of this mega project of national importance which would usher in a new era of socio-economic prosperity in the country.

Minister for Water and Power, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Secretary Information, Ashfaq Ahmad Gondal and higher officials of concerned ministries were present on the occasion. Kaira said in the meeting total 44 projects costing Rs. 1200 billion were presented before the ECNEC for approval, out of which 26 were accorded approval. The remaining projects would be considered and approved during the next meeting scheduled to be held within next two weeks, he added.

Giving further information about the Diamer-Basha Dam, Information Minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira said the credit of approval goes to the present democratic government which has not only approved the project but also allocated funds for its implementation.

He said Rs. 15 billion have already been allocated in the current budget for the land acquisition and compensation to the affectees of the area. Kaira, who is also holding a portfolio of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas, appreciated the cooperation and sacrifices of people of Areas during the process of approval of project.

Not a single voice was raised from the people of Northern Areas against this project and I assure them that their genuine demands regarding compensation and settlement would be addressed on a priority basis," he said while responding to a question. The Minister further assured them that first their problems would be resolved and then the work on the project would be started, adding that the priority would be given to the local people in term of employment.

Speaking on the occasion, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the Dam will have the capacity to store 6.4 million acre water for irrigation purposes. It will irrigate additional three million acres of land and it will also help stop sediments to Tarbela Dam. He said the civil work on the project is expected to be started in October next year while work on land acquisition would be started within next three months. It would also generate 19 billion unit electricity at the rate of Rs.2.90 unit.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

India matches Pakistan in violence against Women !

India and Pakistan continue to laugh at each at their statistics on violence against women, child molestation and child kidnappings. Intead of forming a common task force to fight these common enemies they are involved in constant mud slinging.

Sanity should prevail and they should hit a common ground and start a plan to stop these acts of violence. Someone needs to play knock knock at Arundati Roy, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Ansar Burney and Asma Jehangir so we can atleast start as a team ?

Pakistan echos India's statistics and Bangladesh should not be any any differant. In India violence against women has also increased, according to national statistics. Between 2003 and 2007, rape cases rose by more than 30 percent, kidnapping or abduction cases rose by more than 50 percent, while torture and molestation also jumped sharply.

Pakistan : Statistics compiled by a leading women’s rights NGO show that as many as 7,733 cases of violence against women were reported by the print media in Pakistan in 2008. Murders (19.60%) and honour killings (6.10%) combined made up over a quarter of the reported cases, i.e. a total of 1,988 Pakistani women were killed. Another 22.79 per cent of the incidents were kidnappings/abductions.

Punjab, Pakistan had the highest number of overall reported cases, 4,360, in accordance with its position as the province with the largest population. Sindh, however, had the most known honour killings, 220, despite having a much smaller population.

As the morning commuter train rattled down the track, Chinu Sharma, an office worker, enjoyed the absence of men. Some of them pinch and grope women on trains, or shout insults and catcalls, she said. Her friend Vandana Rohile agreed and widened her eyes in mock imitation.

“Sometimes they just stare at you,” said Ms. Rohile, 27.

Up and down the jostling train, women repeated the same theme: As millions of women have poured into the Indian work force over the last decade, they have met with different obstacles in a tradition-bound, patriarchal culture, but few are more annoying than the basic task of getting to work.

The problems of taunting and harassment, known as eve teasing, are so persistent that in recent months the government has decided to simply remove men altogether. In a pilot program, eight new commuter trains exclusively for female passengers have been introduced in India’s four largest cities: New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta.

The trains are known as Ladies Specials, and on one recent round trip in which a male reporter got permission to board, the women commuting between the industrial town of Palwal and New Delhi were very pleased.

“It’s so nice here,” said a teacher, Kiran Khas, who has commuted by train for 17 years. Ms. Khas said the regular trains were thronged with vegetable sellers, pickpockets, beggars and lots of men. “Here on this train,” she said, as if describing a miracle, “you can board anywhere and sit freely.”

India would seem to be a country where women have shattered the glass ceiling. The country’s most powerful politician, Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, is a woman. The country’s current president, a somewhat ceremonial position, is a woman. So are the foreign secretary and the chief minister of the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, and the new minister of railways. India’s Constitution guarantees equal rights for women, while Indian law stipulates equal pay and punishment for sexual harassment.

But the reality is very different for the average working woman, many analysts say.

Since India began economic reforms in the early 1990s, women have entered the urban work force, initially as government office workers, but now increasingly as employees in the booming services sector or in professional jobs. Over all, the number of working women has roughly doubled in 15 years.

But violence against women has also increased, according to national statistics. Between 2003 and 2007, rape cases rose by more than 30 percent, kidnapping or abduction cases rose by more than 50 percent, while torture and molestation also jumped sharply.

Mala Bhandari, who runs an organization focused on women and children, said the influx of women into the workplace had eroded the traditional separation between public space (the workplace) and private space (the home). “Now that women have started occupying public spaces, issues will always arise,” she said. “And the first issue is security.”

India’s newspapers are filled with accounts of the frictions wrought by so much social change.

Last week, a husband in Noida was brought in by the police and accused of beating his wife because she had cut her hair in a Western style. In June, four colleges in Kanpur tried to bar female students from wearing blue jeans, saying that they were “indecent” and that they contributed to rising cases of sexual harassment. After protests from female students, state officials ordered the colleges to drop the restriction.

For many years, women traveling by train sat with men, until crowding and security concerns prompted the railroad to reserve two compartments per train for women. But with trains badly overcrowded, men would break into cars for women and claim seats. Mumbai started operating two women-only trains in 1992, yet the program was never expanded. Then, with complaints rising from female passengers, Mamata Banerjee, the new minister of railways, announced the eight new Ladies Specials trains.

“It speaks of their coming of age and assertiveness,” said Mukesh Nigam, a high-ranking railway official.

Many men are not thrilled. Several female passengers said eve teasing was worse here in northern India than elsewhere in the country. As the Ladies Special idled on Track 7 at the station in Palwal, a few men glared from the platform. The Ladies Special was far less crowded, with clean, padded benches and electric fans, compared with the dirty, darkened train on Track 6 filled with sullen men. Vandals sometimes write profanities on the Ladies Special, or worse.

“The local boys will come and use the bathroom on the train,” said Meena Kumari, one of the female ticket collectors in flowing blue saris who patrol the train along with female security officers. “They do it out of contempt. They do not want the train to run.”

As the train began moving, one woman sat meditating. Nearby, an accountant read a Hindu prayer book, while college students gossiped a few rows away.

“If you go to work, then you are independent, you earn some money and can help the family,” said Archana Gahlot, 25. “And if something happens to the marriage, you have something.”

“Even on this train,” Ms. Gahlot continued, “men sometimes board and try to harass the women. Sometimes they openly say, ‘Please close the Ladies Special.’

“Maybe they think the government is helping out women and not men,” she added.

The eight new trains represent a tiny fraction of the nation’s commuter trains. Only one Ladies Special serves New Delhi, though the Railway Ministry has announced future Ladies Special service. Dr. Ranjari Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research, said the service was a politically astute move, if not a long-term solution.

“You really need to make every train as safe as the Ladies Specials,” Dr. Kumari said.

Men are hardly the only ones unnerved by the changing role of women in Indian society. Namita Sharma, 39, remembers that her mother advised her to become a teacher to balance between work and family; instead, she chose a career in fashion. Now that Ms. Sharma has a 14-year-old daughter with ideas of her own, she worries about crime.

“She has her own point of view, and I have my own point of view for her,” she said, smiling. “Let’s see who wins. She talks of independence. I am independent.”

But, she added, “Let’s talk of a secure kind of independence.”

Then the train stopped, and Ms. Sharma stood up. Asked what more the government could do for women, she laughed.

“Oh my God, it is a long list,” she said. “But I’m sorry, this is my station.”

Israelis, Palestinians present peace blueprint

About time !

TEL AVIV, Israel – Jerusalem divided by a series of fences, trenches and walls. The West Bank and Gaza linked by a sunken highway. Palestinians and Israelis trading land that would require 100,000 Jewish settlers to move.
These proposals are part of a 424-page blueprint for Mideast peace presented Tuesday — the most detailed description yet of what an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal could look like.
The plan was released as a new U.S. diplomatic effort was under way to restart peace talks and ahead of meetings next week at the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Created by teams of Israeli and Palestinian experts and former negotiators, the blueprint is meant to show it's still possible to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel, despite many setbacks, said those involved in the drafting.
"If you want to resolve the conflict, here is the recipe," said Gadi Baltiansky, a leader of the Israeli team.
The core of the plan is a Palestinian state in nearly 98 percent of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip and the Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem. By going into the tiniest details, it highlights the staggering challenges and expense of implementing any peace deal.
The blueprint was presented Tuesday by Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli peace negotiator, and by Baltiansky, who served as an aide to former prime minister Ehud Barak.
The Palestinian participants kept a low profile. The most senior, Yasser Abed Rabbo, now a high-ranking aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, declined comment and did not attend the plan's unveiling in Tel Aviv.
Israeli officials said the Palestinians planned their own presentation later, but it appeared the Palestinians also wanted to avoid giving the impression their government endorses the plan. Israeli government officials also declined comment.
The blueprint highlights how complex and expensive peace will be.
It had to resort to flow charts to describe a multilayered bureaucracy of thousands of international troops and monitors who would serve as referees. The partition of Jerusalem would require building border terminals inside the city and dividing a major thoroughfare between the two states.
A sunken four-lane highway with bridges and tunnels would be built through Israel to link the West Bank and Gaza, administered by the Palestinians but under Israeli sovereignty. Israeli motorists would have to carry tracking devices on designated transit routes through Palestine to make sure they didn't go astray.
The document builds on the 50-page outline of a peace deal published in 2003 by the same group, known as the Geneva Initiative. It is also close to the terms of a failed agreement suggested in late 2000 by then-President Bill Clinton.
The blueprint goes into detail on issues that were only dealt with in broad strokes in the earlier efforts.
For example, the 2003 plan said the West Bank and Gaza, which flank Israel, should be connected by a corridor running through the Jewish state. The expanded proposal describes a sunken four-lane highway with bridges and tunnels; it would also give the Palestinians the option of adding train tracks, underground fuel pipes and communications cables.
The partition of Jerusalem required perhaps the most creativity.
Earlier efforts called for Jewish neighborhoods to join Israel and Arab ones to become part of Palestine. However, traditionally Arab east Jerusalem has become a patchwork of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods since Israel captured it in the 1967 Mideast war and moved nearly 200,000 Israelis there.
As a result, the border on the blueprint snakes around neighborhoods, divvying them between Israel and Palestine. A major thoroughfare that bisects the city would become a binational road, with Israeli and Palestinian motorists divided by a series of fences, trenches, walls and greenery.
A pedestrian overpass in the downtown area, near the famed American Colony Hotel, would link the Palestinian part of Jerusalem with the Israeli sector, passing through a border checkpoint.
Huge multilevel border terminals would be built in the northern and southern areas of the city, and planners included detailed architectural drawings of the crossings.
Both sides would have access to the walled Old City with its major religious shrines, but from separate gates. The border puts the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, in Israel, while the Palestinians would get the adjacent Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest shrine.
The document does not have a detailed chapter on the fate of Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants, one of the toughest issues facing peacemakers. The Palestinian team leader, Nidal Foqaha, said the issue was still too sensitive.
The security annex was the most difficult to put together, Baltiansky said. He said the involvement of senior former Israeli military officials ensured the document addresses Israel's security concerns.
Israel fears Palestinian militants would overrun the West Bank after a withdrawal and launch rockets at Israel. Gaza was seized by Hamas in 2007, two years after Israel's withdrawal, and militants there have fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants a future Palestinian state to be demilitarized, and the security annex lists weapons the Palestinian security forces would be banned from having, including tanks, artillery, rockets, heavy machine guns and weapons of mass destruction.
The plan also stipulates that an Israeli infantry battalion of 800 soldiers would remain in the Jordan Valley, on the West Bank's border with Jordan, for three years after all other Israeli troops have left the Palestinian territory.
"When Netanyahu speaks about a non-militarized Palestine, in this book we write exactly what it means," Baltiansky said. "We translate it into a detailed reality."
The manual is being presented to Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as top diplomats in the U.S., Europe and Egypt in hopes they will use it as a reference once peace talks resume, organizers said.

$150 Million Gift to Children's Aims to Revolutionize Surgery

D.C. Philanthropist Arranges Abu Dhabi Largess

In one of the largest philanthropic donations ever made to a U.S. pediatric hospital, Children's National Medical Center will receive $150 million from the government of Abu Dhabi -- a gift that the hospital hopes to use to dramatically change pediatric surgery.

The donation, which will be announced Wednesday morning, has the potential to transform Children's Hospital, enabling it to hire more than 100 surgeons, researchers and staff members over the next few years, hospital officials said. Its arrival amid a recession has created palpable excitement at the Northwest Washington hospital, which treats thousands of children and performs 15,000 surgeries each year.

Edwin K. Zechman Jr., president and chief executive of Children's, said the money could revolutionize not just his hospital, but also the entire field of pediatric surgery. "Pediatric surgery could look 100 percent different in five to 10 years," he said.

The money comes from the government of Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates. The Persian Gulf country has given large sums to Johns Hopkins Medicine and other U.S. institutions. But the gift was arranged by Joseph E. Robert Jr., a prominent Washington philanthropist with deep ties to Children's and personal connections to wealthy members of the UAE's royal family.

Doctors at what will be called the Sheik Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation will collaborate across disciplines to improve surgery for children. That could mean advances such as using genetic research to personalize surgeries and pain management, bringing imaging technology directly into the operating room to guide procedures with greater precision, using nanoparticles to target tumors and, in some cases, eliminating the need for surgery altogether.

"Wow!" said Richard Redett, director of pediatric plastic surgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, marveling at the size of the donation and the targeting of one specialty. "This kind of gift almost never happens."

The gift, to be paid over five years, will dedicate $60 million to research and programs, $40 million to improving research facilities, $25 million for a surgical institute endowment and $25 million for other needs at the medical center. The hospital will add $100 million to $120 million of its money for doctors' salaries, new operating theaters and other expenses, bringing the amount committed to the project to more than $250 million.

The scope and ambition of the plan are the brainchild of Robert, 57, a major donor to Children's who is battling brain cancer. About a decade ago, Robert's son underwent a nearly 10-hour surgery at Children's to rebuild his chest wall. The complicated procedure, performed by Kurt Newman, was amazingly successful, Robert said. His son, now 29 and a student at American University, was strong enough to serve in the Marines.

Robert, who has made a fortune in real estate investment and asset management and has given away a fortune to local charities, donated $25 million to Children's and led a fundraising campaign for a new surgical center, which is named after him.

About four years ago, he invited Newman, Zechman and others to his home for breakfast and asked them how to turn the hospital into the premiere pediatric surgical center in the world.

"I said to Kurt specifically: 'Forget everything you've known and been taught and used in terms of the way an operating room is set up and people work together. Take a clean sheet of paper . . . think in the future perfect tense. What's it going to look like in 10 years or 30 years, and how do we speed up to get there faster?' "

Newman, senior vice president of the surgical center, said his first ideas "were pretty lame." He thought of hiring the best people. But Robert kept pushing him and others to come up with something that could transform pediatric surgery.

At one meeting, Julia Finkel, a pediatric anesthesiologist, startled everyone when she stood and demanded a dramatic overhaul of the way doctors measure and treat pain.

"She said, 'I don't want to walk into any more rooms where the children are crying and the parents are full of anxiety,' " recalled Pam King Sams, executive vice president and chief development officer of the Children's Hospital Foundation. "We need to eliminate it. And we can eliminate it."

Pain is difficult to gauge in any patient, but it's especially difficult in infants and children. Managing pain is tricky, too, because the dosing in children is far more precise than in adults. Infants seem to process pain differently, and narcotics and other treatments have different effects on people.

But by drawing on experts, Newman said, they can attack that in new ways. Finkel and others have been developing a device that measures pain. And once they can measure pain effectively, they can develop drugs to target it more effectively.

"I see that as one of the biggest potential breakthroughs here," Newman said. "I think it's achievable within the next five to 10 years" to have a hospital where pain is not inevitable. "We can eliminate that, wipe that out."

"Boy, I haven't heard anyone talk about eliminating pain," Redett said. "I've heard a lot of people talking about easing pain and suffering in health care. I don't know if that's an attainable goal or not," especially within a short time frame.

Newman still has a piece of paper on which he and Robert diagrammed some of the changes they could make to deliver care more effectively and collaborate across specialties. Robert loved the idea -- and after a presentation from Newman and others, he sent them back to draw up a detailed business plan.

Robert turned to Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whom he had met about five years ago on a business trip when the crown prince held a dinner in Abu Dhabi for executives working on national security. They hit it off, became friends and now go on hunting trips together.

Robert pitched the idea of the surgical innovation center at the prince's home one night while they were watching TV and eating dinner.

The Abu Dhabi leader did not consent to an interview -- he has rarely spoken with Western media, a spokesman said. But Robert said the idea appealed to him immediately because he could see that it could have a major effect on children's treatment and that it could happen quickly.

"What really impressed us about Children's was their vision of a significant leap forward and rethinking pediatric care," said Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE's ambassador to the United States. "This isn't going toward buildings, to bricks and mortar and a big sign on a building -- it's going toward research in pediatric care."

The gift was made in honor of the prince's father, the late Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who founded the UAE. In addition to creating the Sheik Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, the medical center will name its campus the Sheik Zayed Campus for Advanced Pediatric Medicine at Children's National Medical Center.

Children's is also working toward a partnership to build and operate a pediatric hospital in Abu Dhabi.

For Robert, the gift represents a triumph. Recently he received a diagnosis of the same type of brain cancer that afflicted Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). After giving away millions and raising millions more for charity, he compares his current philanthropic efforts to playing basketball at an arcade.

"I'm trying to get as many scores, put the ball through the hoop as many times as I can with the limited time I have left," he said.

At the hospital Wednesday, when the ambassador, the executives and the doctors gather to talk about how much the institute will change pediatric medicine, Robert said he will be thinking, "What needs to get done next?"