Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beginning of the End for Zardari Presidency !

The countdown to the post-Zardari era begins

A poster and reputation in tattersTHE Supreme Court of Pakistan has made its intention clear. It wants to turf Asif Zardari from the presidency and compel him to return the wealth that he has allegedly looted and stashed away in Switzerland. In a 287-page judgment released late on January 19th the court explained why it had ruled the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) unconstitutional. The NRO, promulgated by the ousted dictator, Pervez Musharraf, in 2007, cleared Mr Zardari and his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, of all corruption cases against them. The court’s lengthy arguments pave the way for challenges to Mr Zardari’s right to sit in parliament.

Morality, said the court, cannot be divorced from the constitution. In order to be a member of parliament, a person must be of “good character”. So anyone commonly known to be disreputable can be chucked out even if there is no conviction against him. Mr Zardari ’s reputation, fairly or not, is that of a “Mr 10%”.

The Supreme Court cited at length the successful legal battles fought by the governments of Nigeria and the Philippines with the Swiss authorities in their bids to get back the billions looted by Sani Abacha and Ferdinand Marcos. It has ordered Mr Zardari’s government to apply to the Swiss authorities to reopen the money-laundering case against Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto.

Political pundits foresee the end of Mr Zardari’s presidency. He has thundered about a conspiracy against his “people’s government”, alluding to a nexus between the army, the judiciary and a section of the press. The army resents him as too soft towards both America and India. His efforts to bring the generals under civilian control have earned their hostility. The judges are on the warpath. And the opposition is fanning the conflict, hoping for a mid-term election and the rout of Mr Zardari’s party.

The court battles ahead are going to be nasty. Sooner rather than later, the army is likely to step in try to break the deadlock between the judiciary and the executive. Pakistan’s enduring tragedy, however, is that its record is no better than that of the civilians.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Turkey to build $20 billion Turkey-Pakistan Rail Link !

Turkey interested in building Diamer-Bhasha Dam

Pakistan and Turkey agreed on Monday to undertake a $20 billion project to upgrade a railway link from Islamabad to Istanbul, basically to speedily transport cargo from Pakistan to Turkey and ultimately to Europe.

This was decided in a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul. The meeting continued for over an hour as President Abdullah Gul said three companies of his country were interested in constructing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam in Pakistan.

President Zardari is on a four-day visit to Turkey to attend the Trilateral Summit as well as the Istanbul Summit on the Afghan issue, besides discussing bilateral matters with Turkish leaders.

The five-year rail project envisages to curtail travel time between Islamabad and Istanbul, via Tehran, from the current 11 days to ultimately three-four days, as a track between the two cities already existed, but the facilities available requires an upgrade.

Emphasising that Pakistan and Turkey needed to intensify cooperation in various fields, with a focus on economic ties, President Zardari said the rail link of Pakistan with Turkey, via Tehran, would play a crucial role in achieving these objectives.

“Transportation of cargo by air has become expensive, while sea trade is normally slow,” President Zardari said. “So, the cargo rail link could provide a quick option to expand economic ties between the two countries as well as with Iran.”

A comprehensive presentation was given to the Pakistani and Turkish presidents on the 6,566-kilometre rail project from Islamabad to Istanbul, via Tehran, with 1,990-kilometre track situated in Pakistan, 2,570-kilometre track in Iran and 2,006-kilometre track in Turkey.

“This rail link will strengthen Pakistan’s economic as well as people-to-people contacts with not only brotherly Muslim countries, but also with the European countries,” said President Zardari, who floated the Islamabad-Istanbul cargo train idea last year when an experimental train was run on the route on August 14.

He stressed that the areas around the rail track should also be developed, so that benefits of increased trade could be passed on to the respective people. Zardari stressed the business community of Turkey to not only enhance trade ties with Pakistan, but also to take advantage of the lucrative investment opportunities in his country.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that besides constructing the Diamar-Bhasha Dam through its private sector, Turkey also planned to open a branch of a Turkish bank in Pakistan, probably in Islamabad.