|Friday, March 31, 2000,
rules out quick return to democracy
visit: India impressed him
pleads for return of democracy
|Sharifs life may be spared:
JAKARTA, March 30 Saying he was not a vindictive man, Pakistans military leader Gen Pervez Musharraf indicated today that he may spare the life of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
backs US policy on Asia
|Chandrika reviews security
COLOMBO, March 30 Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has held an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to review the scale of the latest LTTE counter offensive to re-capture northern Jaffna.
Musharraf rules out quick return to democracy
SINGAPORE, March 30 (Reuters) Pakistan military leader Gen Pervez Musharraf today ruled out a quick return to civilian rule and defended the slow pace of his governments economic and political reform.
General Musharraf, who came to power in October when he overthrew Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup, also said he would not engage in an arms race with India.
I want a return to civil government as soon as possible, but I dont want to bring a system that is going to do away with whatever good we have done, he told a gathering of the Pakistani community on the second day of a two-day visit here.
His comment brought loud applause from the crowd, mostly businessmen.
He said his government was involved in a structural overhaul of the economy and society which would take a long time, and until then, plans for national elections would have to be put on hold.
There is no lack of resolve and commitment (to reform) but we have a lack of resources to do it, he said.
General Musharraf said the army would be conscripted to help track down commercial criminals and to help audit the economy to strengthen the tax net.
He said his March 23 announcement of local elections was a first step.
...Then we will go to the provinces and national. Then well bring back civil government. But no dates, no dates will be given, he said.
According to the local elections timetable, polls for a three-tier system of local bodies will be held between December and August 14, 2001.
General Musharraf, citing growing Press freedom, said there was more democracy in Pakistan now than during civilian rule.
The revival of the moribund economy was a priority and efforts were being made on numerous fronts, including correcting trade and budget deficits, he said.
The government was keeping up its privatisation programmes and would use 90 per cent of proceeds to retire its crippling $ 38 billion national debt.
Steps were also taken to turn bulky state enterprises and government bodies into efficient entities, he said.
General Musharraf said although spending 19 per cent of the budget on defence was high it was necessary because Pakistan faces very serious security concerns.
But he said Pakistan would not enter an arms race with India.
We are not entering an arms race. India has raised its defence budget but weve not. A minimum level of deterrence has to be maintained, he said.
Turning to Kashmir, General Musharraf said it was an internationally recognised issue.
A nation has its
dignity and pride to protect, to stand by. Im not
one of those who will compromise on national dignity just
like I wont compromise on my own personal
dignity...our dignity shall never be dented, he
Clintons visit: India impressed him
WASHINGTON, March 30 (PTI) The recently-concluded India visit seems to have left a significant positive impact on US President Bill Clinton, who has highlighted democracy and progress in the South Asian countrys villages and cities and predicted that this is going to be a very different world in the next 10 years.
Making impromptu remarks at a fund-raiser here on Monday evening, the text of which was released yesterday, Clinton addressed the gathering by saying you know, I just got back from India and Bangladesh and Pakistan... Ill tell you an interesting story.
I was in this little village in India, one of the hundreds of thousands of little villages in a country with over 900 million people, with a per capita income of $ 450 a year. One of the poorest places on earth, he said.
So I go to this little village, and I meet the local government. And it is required now that all the different tribes and castes have an opportunity to be represented, and 30 per cent of all the local governments are women elected officials. And I meet the womens dairy cooperative.
And these women took over the milk business because they got a little machine that tested the fat content of milk. So they werent cheating anybody out of good money anymore.
And now keep in mind I am in one of hundreds of thousands of villages, right, in a country with a rich and diverse texture, but a low per capita income.
Every single transaction that the dairy cooperative made was recorded on a computer. Everyone that bought milk in there got a computer print-out of what the fat content was, what the price was that day then got an accounting out of the same computer on who bought the milk and when she got her money, Clinton said.
He added that then I go into the local government in this tiny village. And I see there the computer in the community centre. And every person can come in and get on that computer in English or Hindi. And many of the things you can find, you can get even if you cannot read.
Poor village women can come in and see how they are supposed to care for their newborn babies in their first year of life. They pull it up on the screen and then they had a printer, and they got it out.
And it is just as good information as you can get here or in any other place in America, in the finest doctors office in the land. This is going to be a very different world in the next five or 10 years.
I went to Hyderabad in India, which is sort of
their high-tech capital, and the head of the state
government there now offers 18 different government
services on the Internet, including getting your
Clinton defends Chelseas trip
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UNI) US President Bill Clinton has defended his decision to take his daughter along with him during his state visit to India, by saying that Ms Chelsea was taken aback by the attention she got there.
I dont think that she sought it out in any way. I think it was because she had been there with her mother (Ms Hillary Rodham Clinton) before and they both made a very favourable impression in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. I think she was quite surprised by (the attention), he told media persons yesterday. Mr Clinton made these observations when a correspondent suggested that though not unprecedented in the history, it is unusual for a Presidents child to have such limelight as Ms Chelsea had during his state visit.
Mr Clinton explained:
When your child grows up, I think any parent with a
grown child can identify with this. You are always
surprised when they still want to hang around with you a
little, and, it is a wonderful thing. So, for me, it is
just a personal things and I can be with her at any time
I want to be.
Sharif pleads for return of democracy
KARACHI, March 30 (AFP) Ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pleaded for the return of democracy to the country as he awaits the verdict of his hijack trial.
Mr Sharif, who could face the death penalty if found guilty of charges including, hijacking, kidnapping, attempted murder and terrorism, made his call in notes from his jail cell following the end of his trial late yesterday.
The ousted leader is on trial with his brother Shahbaz and five senior officials, on charges relating to the night of last years military coup in Pakistan.
The court has set April 6 for the announcement of the verdict.
In the notes made available to AFP late yesterday, Mr Sharif lashed out at Pakistans military regime, saying he feared for my country and democracy in Pakistan.
Pakistan cannot afford adventures and experiments. Today Pakistan is isolated, the investment climate has been destroyed, our borders are threatened by aggressor, the law and order situation has worsened, Sharif wrote.
Mr Sharif added the only answer to protect the institutions in Pakistan is an immediate return to democracy.
Mr Sharif said he is being kept in solitary confinement in Landi jail on the outskirts of Karachi, and spends his time reading, writing and praying.
Although he mainly reads the Koran, he has also read Nelson Mandelas epic autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.
In the notes he again said charges against him were concocted.
Mr Sharif was ousted in a military coup on October 12, when General Pervez Musharraf seized power and detained him and several of his colleagues.
Mr Sharif is allowed to meet only immediate family members and lawyers while in prison.
His wife Kulsoom Nawaz told AFP it was painful to see her husband confined in prison. It is always painful to see my innocent husband inside the prison. My heart bleeds as I know that he has not committed any crime, she said.
Sharifs life may be spared: Gen
JAKARTA, March 30 (AP) Saying he was not a vindictive man, Pakistans military leader Gen Pervez Musharraf indicated today that he may spare the life of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif is on trial on charges of hijacking, treason and attempted murder. The verdict and sentencing are expected on April 6. If Mr Sharif is found guilty by a special anti-terrorism court, he is likely to be sentenced to death.
General Musharraf arrived in Jakarta earlier today for a two-day visit aimed at improving the military regimes image and advancing economic ties with Indonesia, the worlds largest Muslim nation.
He met President Abdurrahman Wahid at the presidential palace.
Asked at a joint press
conference whether he would commute Mr Sharifs
sentence if sentenced to death, General Musharraf said:
I wouldnt like to put the cart before the
horse. Let the sentence come.
Window on Pakistan
WHEN Pakistans army ruler, Gen Parvez Musharraf was touring Malaysia and Singapore to test his look-east policy, 39 Indian women students, artists, filmmakers, lawyers and social activists sat with their Pakistani counterparts in Lahore. They were seeking alternative ways and means for civil society to intervene and bring peace.
Mr Nirmala Deshpande, leader of the Womens Initiative for peace in South Asia (Wipsa), who led the busload of these well-meaning women was aware of the failure of the bus diplomacy between the two Prime Ministers, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Nawaz Sharif. She thought of the abject failure of the political leadership in the two countries to sort out the jumbled issues and come to terms with reality and establish peace. This peace is essential if the two countries are to remove poverty and ignorance in the Indian subcontinent. It was a mission for goli nahi boli that established fast rapport. Once again the desire for peace seemed to sway the day at the seminar in Lahore on March 29.
Bonhomie was clear and established. Mrs Deshpande wanted the Pakistani counterparts, human right activist Asma Jahangir and Friday Times Executive Editor Jugnu Moshin (Remember the lady who fought valiantly to seek the release of husband, Mr Najm Sethi, Editor of Friday Times who was arrested by the ousted Prime Minister) to come to India in double the number. It was immediately responded and within 30 days, two busloads of Pakistani women will be in Delhi. They will be again trying to intervene and save the two countries from plunging into a war.
The mood in Pakistan, if the mainline newspapers are any guide, is chastened after the visit of the American President, Mr Bill Clinton, and his frank words. While a section of the Pakistani intelligentsia is keen to turn towards other Muslim countries and China for support, there is also a great desire for peace with India.
This very sentiment prevailed at the seminar. As journalists observed, relations between the two nuclear neighbours are bad, yet this kind of effort was not considered a waste. Given the current attitude of the two governments, this kind of public pressure was considered the only way out to bring the governments and the people together, was one such observation.
Amidst tight security at a Lahore hotel where these women met for a full day, some of the speakers did not mince words to put across their frank but candid opinions. It is worth reproducing what the well known human right activist and fighter for public causes, Ms Jahangir said. Hostility between India and Pakistan and the nuclearisation of these two adversaries has made the region unsafe, diverted national resources, and distorted national priorities and the national self-image. Rather than seeing the poverty and dirt surrounding us, many of us are deluded by a hollow image of national greatness.
A chaotic Pakistan will hamper progress in India. A ruthless, strong India will divide South Asia and hurt the interests of the entire region. More than ever before, the people of the South Asian region have common interests.... Our efforts have to be focused on issues that can be resolved through the intervention of civil society... on the Pak-India front we need to pursue renewed dialogue and an end to the Siachen problem. The policies of the two countries must shift from concerns of security to the development and respect of people, Ms Jehangir argued.
Ms Shobhana Bhattacharya, one of the Indian participants, referred to the problem of fundamentalism that posed common danger to both countries. Calling for a rational response to the problem, she said reactions determined by fear would not yield dividends. Ms Bhattacharya argued that people should use knowledge as a weapon to counter fundamentalism.
Ms Meera Aggarwal, Deputy Mayor of Delhi, stressed the need for women to come forward in the policy making arena and referred to the common problems faced by both India and Pakistan.
According to Ms Jugnu Moshin, there was a need for the concerned citizen in India to challenge the consensus on foreign policy.
She said This conference will prove useful in bringing gaps, cementing common thoughts, and giving the urge for peace new impetus. But that is not enough. We must change minds in our respective countries, where prejudice parades as consensus. Until both Indians and Pakistanis begin to think differently, peace will remain elusive,
And back to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore where General Musharraf was clearly told that democracy had to be restored if he wished to have a meaningful economic partnership on a long term basis. The present atmosphere of uncertainty would not help the Pakistani people to come out of economic morass General Musharraf sought trade and economic help and said Pakistan had a geostrategic location and was a gateway for central, southern and western segments of Asia. He wanted Pakistan to become a full-time dialogue member of the Asean. He was looking towards east for a long lasting economic relationship.
It is good that the new
Pakistani ruler is aware of the acute economic situation.
But this visit would make him aware of the need to have a
democratic Pakistan to have any lasting and meaningful
relationship. Malaysian Foreign Minister Hamid Alber made
things very clear for the Pakistani leader. There was no
joint communiqué as the visit sought by Gen Musharraf
was purely a working visit. Evidently, the General has to
travel a long way to impress his legitimacy. Meanwhile,
it would be more useful to listen to these women whose
yearning for peace was totally sincere.
Pallone backs US policy on Asia
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UNI) US Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone has made out a strong case for upgrading Indias profile in the United States South Asia policy in view of the growing understanding between the two countries as manifested during President Bill Clintons visit to the region last week.
In a speech in the House of Representatives, he said that the widely disparate reactions from India and Pakistan to the issues raised by the President should force US policy makers to reassess their priorities in the region.
Mr Pallone said that Mr
Clintons trip, sent a message to the US
Administration and State Depart-ment about which South
Asian nation can be relied upon to be an effective
partner for the USA in the years to come namely, India,
and which South Asian nation stands in direct opposition
to Americas interests and values namely, Pakistan.
Indian student rescued
MOSCOW, March 30 (PTI) An Indian student, Satyanarayan Raghunath Mishra, kidnapped by Chechen rebels in late 1998, has been rescued by the Russian army, Itar-Tass news agency reported.
Mishra, who hails from Cuttack, was rescued on March 24, the agency said.
Mishra arrived in October 1995, for studying medicine in the neighbouring Daghestans capital Makhachkala. He was kidnapped in November, 1998, from Kizlyar town by the militants of infamous field commander Arbi Barayev and was taken to Chechnya.
Barayev is reported to have asked for $ 1 million from the parents of the boy and the Indian Embassy in exchange for his release.
Chandrika reviews security
COLOMBO, March 30 (PTI) Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has held an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to review the scale of the latest LTTE counter offensive to re-capture northern Jaffna.
Mrs Chandrika yesterday held a prolonged meeting with the commanders of the three services and other officials of the National Security Council after the army announced that it had withdrawn from Maruthankerny area, which formed the core of the armys defences.
The escalation of fighting in the thickly populated peninsula has cast serious doubts over the proposed peace talks between the government and the LTTE under the Norwegian facilitation.
Reports from Jaffna said the LTTE had pressed in over 1,500 heavily armed cadre, mostly women from its suicide units, to capture the beach heads on the eastern side of the peninsula.
The army has withdrawn from the coast and readjusted its defences on the opposite side of the lagoon to prevent the guerrillas from entering into the peninsula.
Army spokesman Brigadier
Palitha Fernando said it was tactical withdrawal to beef
up the defences. Nevertheless, the LTTE appeared to have
succeeded in gaining a foothold on the beach front where
it reportedly landed many vehicles and armoury, reports
case threat against novelist
fascination for Islam
Schools to allow
Rubies found in
polo stud farm
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