Pakistan News

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Sunday denounced treason charges against him as a “vendetta”, and said he had the backing of the country's powerful army.

The 70-year-old told reporters the “whole army” was upset with the treason allegations, in his first comments to international media since he was put under house arrest in April.

The treason claims are the latest and potentially most serious in a flurry of criminal cases relating to Musharraf's nine-year rule that he has faced since returning to Pakistan in March.

The case puts the government on a possible collision course with the all-powerful army, which is seen as being reluctant to witness its former chief suffer the indignity of being tried by a civilian court.

“I would say the whole army is upset. I have led the army from the front,” Musharraf told reporters.

“I have no doubt with the feedback that I received that the whole army is... Totally with me on this issue.”

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 66-year history and still wields great influence, has not made any clear public comment on Musharraf's legal woes.

The treason charges relate to Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule in November 2007, and if found guilty he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

An initial hearing in the case, being heard by a special tribunal, was halted on December 24 after explosives were found along the route Musharraf was to take to court.

The case is due to resume on January 1, but Musharraf said he had not yet decided whether or not he would attend.

“The way this tribunal was formed, which involved the prime minister and the ex-chief justice, this itself smacks a little bit of a vendetta,” he said Sunday.

Musharraf's lawyers have dismissed the charges as an attempt by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who Musharraf ousted in a coup in 1999, to settle old scores through the courts. Legal barrage

Musharraf returned to Pakistan to run in May's general election -- won by Sharif -- but his homecoming proved to be disastrous.

He was barred from running for office almost immediately and then hit with a series of serious criminal allegations dating back to his time in power, which ended in 2008.

These include murder charges over the assassination in late 2007 of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, as well as the death of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, a deadly military raid on a radical mosque and the detention of judges.

Musharraf's tribulations represent a dramatic change in fortunes for the man who led Pakistan into its alliance with Washington's “war on terror” and was a staunch ally of then-US president George W. Bush.

To add to the former commando's humiliation, in April he was placed under house arrest -- an unprecedented move against a former army chief in Pakistan.

He has now been granted bail in all of the cases against him and is technically a free man, but threats to his life mean he lives under heavy guard in his farmhouse on the edge of Islamabad.

The cases have ground through the country’s notoriously slow legal system, moving from adjournment to adjournment with little clear progress made apart from the granting of bail.

There have been persistent rumours that a deal would be struck to let him leave the country before facing the courts to avoid a clash between the army and government.

But no deal has been forthcoming and last week, speaking publicly for the first time since his house arrest began, Musharraf vowed to stay and fight to clear his name.

As the treason case has drawn closer, Musharraf's team have stepped up their media campaign in an effort to enlist international support.

At a press conference in London last week, his British lawyers said they had written to urge the UN to intervene in what they called a “stage-managed show trial”.

They also urged London and Washington to support Musharraf to “repay their debt” for his support in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

 

RAWALPINDI: Director General, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa Tuesday said that meeting between Director Generals Military Operations (DGMOs) of Pakistan Army and Indian Army was held in a cordial atmosphere and remained positive.

DGMO Pakistan Army Major General Aamer Riaz and his Indian counterpart, Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia met at Wagha Border towards Pakistan side, in the context of situation along Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary (WB), he said while talking to mediapersons.

Pakistan Army DGMOs was assisted by two Brigadiers and two colonels while Indian DGMO was assisted by two Bridagier and three colonels.

He said both the sides discussed to further reinforce the ceasefire agreement, concluded between Pakistan and India in 2003 to reduce tensions along the LOC and Working boundary.

The DGMO of Pakistan Army had extended invitation to the DGMO of Indian Army for this meeting.

Earlier, Major General Aamer Riaz welcomed the Indian delegation led by Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia at Wagha Border.

The Indian delegation left for New Delhi after the talks.

ISLAMABAD: The special court formed to try former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution on Tuesday adjourned its hearing until Jan 1 whereas the former military failed to appear in court after a bomb scare earlier during the day, DawnNews reported.

The start of former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf's trial for treason was delayed over security fears Tuesday after explosives were found near the road he was to take to court.

Lawyer Anwar Mansoor Khan told the special treason tribunal that the former general would not be able to attend, after police found five kilograms (11 pounds) of explosives and detonators.

Justice Faisal Arab, heading the three member bench, said he understood the “gravity” of Musharraf's situation and that treason was a non-bailable offense.

He asked the former military strongman's lawyers to file an application to exempt their client from appearing in person.

Moreover, Musharraf's senior counsel Barrister Sharifuddin Pirzada raised objections to the formation and appointment of judges for the bench hearing the case.

Justice Arab remarked that such objections should be submitted in writing.

The prosecuting lawyer requested the court to order Musharraf to appear in court adding that non-bailable warrants be issued upon failure to appear in court.

Advocate Ahmed Raza Kasuri, another lawyer for Musharraf, emphasised before the court, the threats faced by his client citing two previous attacks and other intelligence reports of possible attacks on him.

Justice Yawar, at this point, granted exemption to the former president from appearing for today's hearing.

The court decided to adjourn the hearing until January 1.

The government had on Nov 17 announced its decision to formally prosecute former president General Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court had already given a ruling in the case in October 2012 and then in July this year disposed off all petitions against the ruling giving the government a green signal to continue proceedings.

In the ‘high treason’ case against the former president, the government has charged him with abrogating, subverting, suspending, holding in abeyance and attempting to conspire against the 1973 Constitution by declaring emergency and overthrowing the superior judiciary in November 2007.

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani doctor won a $1 million grant on Tuesday to fight early child mortality in a small fishing village in southern Pakistan in a contest financed by an American entrepreneur to find innovative ways to save lives, The Caplow Children's Prize said.

A proposal by Anita Zaidi, who heads the pediatrics department at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, beat out more than 550 other applications from more than 70 countries.

The prize was founded and funded by entrepreneur Ted Caplow to find impactful and cost-effective ways to save children's lives, according to a press release announcing the results.

Zaidi said in a telephone interview that her project will focus on reducing child mortality rates in Rehri Goth, on the outskirts of Karachi.

According to Zaidi, 106 out of 1,000 children born in the town die before the age of five. That is almost double the worldwide under-five child mortality rate of 51 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011, according to Unicef.

Few of the women in the area of roughly 40,000 people have access to medical care during pregnancy or money to pay for things like multivitamins, said Zaidi.

There is no nearby hospital, and women usually give birth accompanied by a birthing attendant with little or no formal training.

When women do run into complications giving birth, the babies often die while the women seek medical care, the doctor said.

The money will be used in Rehri Goth to eliminate malnutrition among expectant and new mothers and their babies, ensure that children have access to primary health care and immunisations and train a group of local women at Aga Khan University to become midwives.

Women taking part in the program would get two medical checkups to monitor their pregnancy, multivitamins to promote a healthy fetus and food if they are malnourished, she said.

Zaidi has been working in the area for the last ten years on various health-related research projects carried out by the university so she was familiar with its needs.

''I know this community. I know what its problems are,'' Zaidi said. ''It's a really good match between what the community needed and what this prize was offering.''

Caplow said Zaidi ''really gave reassurance that she would be able to do exactly what she said she would do and it would have the impact that she said it would have.''

He added that he and his wife conceived of the prize after they gave birth to triplets who spent a month in an intensive care unit.

The prize, which Caplow said would continue next year, was a way to address the disparities in medical technology available around the world.

KARACHI: Two more relatively new aircrafts, Boeing 737-800, were inducted into the Pakistan International Airlines fleet on Thursday, bringing to four the total of new entrants over the past 10 days.

At a press briefing, PIA chairman Mohammad Ali Gardezi said that with four newer aircraft obtained on damp lease, the revenue base of the airline would become strong and make the organisation profitable shortly.

He said that with the help of new aircraft the PIA was not only saving fuel but also improving the flight schedule, adding that the airline was also refurbishing its aircraft and new cabin crew uniforms were being introduced. He said the PIA was also in the process of inducting 10 latest technology fuel-efficient Airbus A310 and A319 aircraft, for which the board of directors had given its approval.

He said that the induction of these 10 aircraft would begin in April 2014 and conclude within 10 months.

The PIA chairman said that the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority Rules had been followed in the entire process, which had been carried out in a transparent manner.

He said that these two aircraft had been obtained on lease from Travel Services of the Republic of Czech while two aircraft inducted on Nov 21, 2013, had been obtained from Corendon Airlines of Turkey.

The PIA managing director present on the occasion said that the PIA was utilising Boeing 737 and Boeing 800 on domestic routes — Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, etc — as well as on Gulf routes such as Dubai, Kuwait, Dammam, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Muscat. He said that the airline would operate 64 domestic and 27 international flights per week with the induction of four Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

He said that PIA flights on profitable routes had been increased and flights on loss-making routes had been closed down. He said that the airline had recently stopped operating the flight to Hong Kong and would restart its operations with the induction of new aircraft in the fleet.

He said that with the induction of fuel-efficient A320 family aircraft PIA would save on fuel as well as improve flight frequencies, introduce new flights, flight timings and offer better services to its passengers.

ISLAMABAD: After weeks of intense speculation in the media, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has finally made the selection of two senior army officers as Chief of Army Staff and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee.

Career infantry officer Lt Gen Raheel Sharif has been appointed as the new COAS, while Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood has been appointed the CJCSC.

According to a notification issued by the ministry of defence, Lt Gen Raheel Sharif and Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood have been promoted to the rank of four-star general with effect from Thursday, Nov 28.

Both generals would take up their new posts from Friday, the day the current Army chief Kayani retires.

Lt Gen Raheel is currently serving as Inspector General Training and Evaluation whereas Lt Gen Mahmood is serving as Chief of General Staff.

Raheel Sharif holds the Hilal-i-Imtiaz military award, and is the younger brother of late Major Shabbir Sharif, who received the Nishan-i-Haider for his bravery in the 1971 war.

Both senior military officials met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier today where the premier conveyed them the decision. The two meetings were viewed as immensely significant as they came a day before General Kayani’s retirement from his post of army chief.

The prime minister had sent to the president, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, a summary to promote the two generals and approve their appointments. The summary was approved, following which the notification was issued by the defence ministry.

“On the advice of the Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and in pursuance of Article 243/4(a) and 243/4(b) of the Constitution of Pakistan, President of Pakistan and Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, Mamnoon Hussain has been pleased to promote and appoint Gen. Rashid Mehmood as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and Gen. Raheel Sharif as Chief of the Army Staff,” said a statement from the PM House.

Raheel’s selection as army chief selection implies that frontrunner and the senior most military officer Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently serving as Chief of Logistic Staff, was ignored for the elevation.

The post of army chief is arguably the most powerful in Pakistan and anxiety prevailed on who will replace the taciturn, chain-smoking General Kayani, who will step down on Friday after six years at the helm.

General Kayani’s retirement from the post comes after rules were relaxed to grant him an extension in July 2010 by the PPP-led coalition government in what then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said was in the interest of continuity at a time when the war on terror was successfully continuing against elements who wanted to impose a system of their choice on the country.

Ottoman Turks never expanded their empire as far as today's Pakistan, but some here fear their descendants are now launching a cultural invasion — via popular soap operas that Pakistani artists and politicians say threaten the local TV industry and the country's conservative Islamic values.

Some of the Turkish shows feature actresses wearing miniskirts and showing cleavage, a far cry from the billowing shalwar kameez garments worn by most Pakistani women that hardly reveal skin.

The shows, which have taken Pakistan by storm over the last year, are attractive to local TV operators because they are much cheaper to buy than Pakistani dramas are to produce, and also feature more elaborate costumes and sets.

"It is a big challenge," said Abid Ali, a veteran Pakistani TV star, while filming his latest show, Mere Apne, or My Loved Ones, in Karachi. "Turkish shows have very expensive productions our industry can't afford."

The spartan set of Ali's show, which chronicles the sad life of a young girl after her parents die, helped prove his point. The entire episode was filmed in the living room and driveway of a small rented house in an upscale area of Karachi. The actresses used the only bedroom on the ground floor to apply their makeup, and the kids who lived in the house were scolded for making too much noise while they were filming. Since there was only one camera, they had to shoot each scene three times from different angles.

One of the most popular Turkish shows in Pakistan right now is Mera Sultan, or My Sultan, a period drama about the powerful Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent. The show is no Game of Thrones, but it does feature ornate Ottoman-style sets, scenes with horses and archery and beautifully designed costumes.

"There are multiple reasons behind the success of Turkish drama serials," said Athar Waqar Azeem, a senior vice president at Hum TV, one of Pakistan's leading entertainment channels. "Freshness, better and beautiful locations and new faces attract Pakistanis."

One episode of a Turkish drama costs a Pakistani TV station about $2,500 to broadcast, while the production of a Pakistani show can be four times that amount, Azeem said.

The popularity of the Turkish shows has sparked concern from Pakistani politicians. The Senate committee responsible for information and broadcasting said at the end of last year that it was worried the shows would harm Pakistan's TV industry and featured content that ran counter to local cultural norms.

Pakistani TV star Javeria Abbasi, who co-stars with Ali in Mere Apne, agreed, saying "if a Pakistani actress wears a miniskirt, nobody accepts it, but Turkish actresses are gaining popularity in these costumes."

Turkey is also a majority Muslim country but is generally more liberal than Pakistan. Sometimes Pakistani TV channels blur miniskirts and low-cut tops worn by women in the Turkish shows in the name of propriety.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads an Islamic-based party, has expressed concern about the content of Turkish shows. Last year, he accused the producers of Mera Sultan, which is called Magnificent Century in Turkey, and others of "playing with the nation's values."

The Supreme Court of Pakistan also expressed concern last year about "obscenity" shown on local TV. The court specifically mentioned shows made in India, Pakistan's neighbor and archenemy. Indian shows have been popular in Pakistan for much longer than Turkish ones, and have sparked many of the same concerns. The popularity of Bollywood movies has also harmed Pakistan's local cinema industry.

Pakistan is far from the only country to experience the growing influence of Turkish TV shows. Turkey earned more than $60 million in 2011 from exporting over 100 TV series to more than 20 countries, according to the Oxford Business Group.

The shows have also sparked concern in the Middle East, where Muslim preachers have accused them of being un-Islamic and urged the faithful to change channels.

The popularity of Turkish shows in Pakistan has benefited at least one group in the media industry: voice-over artists who translate the dramas from Turkish into Urdu. The pay isn't great — $20 to $40 per episode, which takes about eight hours to dub — but it's enough to make a living.

"For the first time in the history of the voice-over industry, there is enough work for an artist because of Urdu dubbing of Turkish serials and soaps," said Tasleem Ansari, a veteran voice-over artist, who was working out of a cheap apartment in Karachi. "Before this trend, voice-over artists could only perform in commercials."

Ansari said she wasn't persuaded by those who argue that the Turkish shows threatened Pakistani cultural norms.

"Local actresses and models also wear miniskirts on television programs and at award functions," Ansari said. "I agree that these costumes do not match Pakistani culture, but Turkish drama is all about Turkish culture, and people like it and have accepted it."

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