Pak’s thumbs up to US aid
US counting on AfPak policy to divide Taliban
Extra horror of Italy’s Fritzl
Wordsworth made his rival’s words worthier
Lankan troops kill 31 Tamil Tigers
‘Zardari needs to give up dictatorial powers’
Pak’s thumbs up to US aid
Pakistan President Asif Zardari has welcomed US President Barack Obama’s initiatives for Pakistan to strengthen democracy and his call to US Congress to pass a bill for $1.5 billion aid to Pakistan every year. He has also hoped that these moves would further strengthen bilateral ties.
Zardari said the assistance for reconstruction plans in tribal areas conformed Pakistan’s belief that without going into the root cause, the menace of terrorism could not be overcome and that was only possible by providing the people there with employment opportunities.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the US had endorsed Pakistan’s view that force alone could not bring piece to the trouble regions along Afghanistan. He told reporters that the US has accepted Pakistan’s demand not to undertake drone attacks in Balochistan and Swat areas. He, however, did not refer to the Fata or tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where these attacks are actually made on a regular basis.
President Obama also disappointed Pakistani people by conveniently bypassing the issue of drone assaults that are widely condemned in the country.
Most analysts highlighted many positive elements in Obama’s speech for Pakistan. When speaking of Pakistan, the US President chose his words with care. “Compared to the Bush administration’s blame game and harsh stricture on Pakistan’s performance, there was distinct shift in tone toward Pakistan. Obama spoke with respect and kept in view public sensibilities,” former information minister Mushahid Hussain Sayed said.
“There is emphasis on ties with people rather than autocratic individuals. He has praised people of Pakistan for their commitment to rule of law and democracy,” defence analyst Gen (retd) Talaat Masud said. He said Obama also appreciated the sacrifices made by Pakistani people, the army and the country in the fight against terror. Without being condescending, he has urged Pakistan to take more responsibility for fighting insurgents and building lasting political institutions.
The new strategy underpins a clear shift away from the Bush administration's concentration on Iraq and to focus on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. It seems that the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas is set to become “Obama’s War”, leading English daily The Dawn commented.
The US President also urged Congress to pass the Kerry-Lugar bill, which will give Pakistan $1.5 billion a year in non-military aid for five years, and RoZ legislation intended to provide economic opportunities in areas affected by militancy. This much was already expected. New was the president’s hint that more money could be expected from the IMF, World Bank and the friends of Pakistan forum scheduled to meet in Tokyo on April 17.
In the context of aid, several analysts felt offended by President Obama’s assertion that it was not a ‘blank cheque’ and that Pakistan would have to demonstrate its commitment to combat Al-Qaida to justify it. He reiterated his election campaign stance that the US would have to take appropriate measures on its own if Pakistan failed to act on intelligence information shared by the US.
On India-Pakistan relations, Obama’s intention to pirsie “constructive diplomacy” with the two nuclear nations for reducing their tensions was appreciated by most observers. However, it was pointed out that India has consistently rejected any third party mediation and Obama may not be able to press India sufficiently to give up that resistance.
US counting on AfPak policy to divide Taliban
President Barack Obama's administration is counting on its AfPak policy to produce a rift in the Taliban resulting in those not ideologically wedded to the extremist group to break rank and join hands with the government in Kabul.
The unveiling of Obama's plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan prompted a sharp rebuke from the Taliban, which accused the United States of repeating the same mistakes made by the Russians in Afghanistan. Bruce Riedel, who served as chairman of the interagency policy review, said the Taliban's response was "no surprise."
"We know that the core Taliban leadership, led by Mullah Omar, is determined not to negotiate with anybody. They want to take Afghanistan back to the medieval hell that they created in the 1990s," said Riedel, a former CIA official.
However, US officials admitted in briefings on Friday that they had yet to establish benchmarks to ensure that this aid was producing results.
"The benchmarks is a process that's just beginning. We have not established them," Riedel said. He said the strategic policy review was "a road map for moving forward; it's a strategy. It's not intended to be a campaign plan or a straitjacket."
Riedel said the US would set up benchmarks across the board. "Some of these are fairly obvious, like levels of violence, levels of casualties, periodicity of suicide bombings both in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- those kind of benchmarks that you measure any conflict by. Those are some that are pretty obvious," he said.
"There are going to be other ones about moving against corruption; there will be other ones about the speed with which we build up the Afghan army and the success rate of building the Afghan army," he added.
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who went up against Obama in the 2008 presidential election, in an interview with The Washington Times, said, "The president talked about how tough it is, but I would have begun and ended this speech with how difficult it's going to be and that things are going to get worse before they get better," McCain said.
Another Republican, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, while commending Obama's plan, said: "We know that this fight comes at a high price, both in blood and treasure, and we have a fundamental duty and responsibility to provide them with every resource necessary for their safety and success.”
Many in Washington are concerned about corruption in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and want full accountability of taxpayer money sent to both countries. The new benchmarks are likely to include periodic evaluations.
Riedel said Obama wanted the strategy to be "flexible and adaptable, and that to the extent possible, we develop metrics -- and you heard him use that word in the speech -- that give you an idea of our success rate. He wants to reevaluate periodically how we're doing, what's working, what's not working, make mid-course corrections and adjustments."
He predicted a long and difficult road ahead. "The theme of this process is to be flexible, adaptable and comprehensive, and self-regulating with periodic reviews," he said.
At a separate briefing, when asked whether the United States would play a role in resolving the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan so that Pakistan can focus its resources on its western border, National Security Adviser, Gen James L Jones, said, "We don’t intend to get involved in that issue, but we do intend to help both countries build more trust and confidence so that Pakistan can address the issues that it confronts on the western side of the nation. But no, Kashmir is a separate issue."
Riedel noted: "Thus far, our policy sees Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries, but one theatre of operations for our diplomacy, and one challenge for our overall policy."
He said the US would engage intensively with the Pakistani government and while concrete proposals for increasing economic assistance to Pakistan have already been put forward by the Congress, the US would also be looking to see what it can do on the military side.
New York Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman said former President George W Bush's administration never recognised that the true central front in the struggle to secure America was Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated, not Iraq. "It's been clear for years that the Bush Administration took its eye off the ball and allowed Al-Qaida and the Taliban to regroup and rearm in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan,” he said.
In a case which is being described as “Italy’s Fritzl”, a 64-year-old man allegedly imprisoned and sexually abused his daughter for 25 years.
He is said to have instigated his son Giovanni also, who imprisoned and raped four daughters of his own in the same apartment. The two men have been charged with rape, family abuse and obscene acts. The case, in some respects worse than the Austrian horrors, was only revealed to the media by prosecutors in Turin this week and has caused widespread shock in Italy.
The accused, a scrap metal dealer whom the police identified as “Marcello”, a migrant to the north of Italy, had bought a large flat with the compensation he received after a traffic accident and lived there with his 10 children.
With the apparent silent complicity of his wife and other children, Marcello’s abuse of his daughter, referred to as “Laura” in the Italian media, is alleged to have begun when she was only nine, and continued until she was 34.
“It seems that in this family there was a sort of right of droit de seigneur (feudal lord) of the father over the daughter,” a Turin judge, Piero Forno, told journalists.
Laura never had a life of her own, she had no friends and only attended school till she was in her early teens after which she was permanently locked up at home.
She tried to escape twice. The first time was in 1994, when she managed to flee and seek shelter with an uncle and aunt. But her father tracked her down and took her back, reporting the relatives to the police and claiming falsely that they had abused her. Laura’s story of abuse at her father’s hands was rejected.
“The prosecutor appointed a psychiatrist to check the truth of what she had said. The psychiatrist pointed out her limited intelligence and concluded that she had invented everything,” Judge Forno continued.
After another 15 years of captivity, she found herself back in the police station, this time with her father, to tell the police that her brother Giovanni had locked her up and abused her for 15 days.
The extra horror of “Italy’s Fritzl” is that it was not only the father who is alleged to have raped and tormented his daughter, but his son, too, allegedly aped his behaviour with daughters of his own. The case has five alleged female victims. Besides 34-year-old Laura, they are aged 20, 18, nine and six.
The police discovered this additional dimension to the case after they concluded that Laura’s story of being locked up by her brother did not ring true. They installed bugging equipment in the family’s flat and discovered that Giovanni was routinely abusing his four daughters. — The Independent
London, March 28
In fact, the 169-year-old letter to Robert Southey, a friend of Wordsworth’s, advises him to change the wording in his poem ‘My Days Among the Dead are Passed’ to make it more simple as well as appealing, ‘The Times’ reported.
However, Southey, then in his 60s and suffering from dementia, had ignored the advice, as later editions of his collected works contain the poem in its original form.
The letter, written in 1840, was sent via the second wife of “dear Southey”, Caroline Bowles. Although the poem had only recently been published, it was actually composed in 1818 when Southey was still at the height of his powers.
Wordsworth described the poem as “so profoundly fine and so beautifully characteristic of its author, that I should like the words to be as perfect as care could make them”, the British newspaper said. — PTI
When art conservators joined hands to restore two rare portraits of Shakespeare they thought they were removing paint daubed on the canvases beneath.
Now it has emerged they were, in fact, wiping away priceless insights into the changing appearance of Britain’s greatest playwright.
The images which had been superimposed on both paintings had actually been painted in Shakespeare’s own lifetime, the Art Newspaper will reveal next week, and showed how he looked as he aged. The so-called “restoration” could now go down in art history as one of the biggest blunders on record.
A newly discovered picture of Shakespeare called the Cobbe portrait (painted when he was still living) and another version called the Folger portrait were both irreversibly “cleaned up” in this way.
New research has revealed both portraits were probably altered during Shakespeare’s lifetime, or within a decade or so of his death in 1616, while his friends and associates were still alive. In the Cobbe portrait, the sitter was given a bouffant hairstyle, whereas in the Folger portrait, his hair at the front was replaced by a bald forehead.
But why the changes? The Cobbe work is believed to have been painted for the Earl of Southampton.
Shakespeare expert Professor Stanley Wells suggests the Bard had dedicated his erotic sonnets to him. It is possible the Earl may have wanted a more flattering image.
The Folger portrait, on the other hand, may have been altered to reflect Shakespeare’s appearance at the time of his death, six years after the original painting. The original represented Shakespeare aged 46.
Rupert Featherstone, director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge, which undertook technical investigations into the Cobbe portrait, admitted that in hindsight, it was unfortunate conservators had removed the overpaint.
“We can no longer peer down a microscope to look at the physical evidence of the overpaint,” he said.
When the overpaint was removed from the two portraits, in 1988 and 2002, it was not thought that either depicted Shakespeare. Some critics doubted that the Bard sat for either portrait.
The Cobbe portrait was restored in 2002 as part of ongoing conservation work of the Cobbe family’s pictures. It was then thought that it depicted an unknown sitter by an anonymous artist.
The Folger painting, which was conserved in 1988, is in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. It was acquired in 1932 as an image of Shakespeare, but subsequently downgraded to an anonymous portrait.— The Independent
Lankan troops kill 31 Tamil Tigers
Colombo, March 28 Successive bids by the LTTE to launch concentrated assaults at the military forward defences north of Iranapalai and east of Puthukudiyirippu were comprehensively neutralised, the Defence Ministry said citing battlefront sources. Meanwhile, ground sources, quoting intercepted LTTE communication and civilian escapees from the ‘No Fire Zone’, said the LTTE had conducted funerals for a few of its senior cadres killed in recent fighting. The ministry said sporadic fighting and small-scale door-to-door operations are continuing in the area targeting enemy pockets and resistance positions. “Despite its successive setbacks at the Mullaittivu battlefront, the LTTE is continuing shelling artillery barrages and mortar from the government-declared No Fire Zone,” the ministry said. This has also increased the number of injuries among the civilians fleeing the LTTE areas, it said.
Colombo, March 28
Successive bids by the LTTE to launch concentrated assaults at the military forward defences north of Iranapalai and east of Puthukudiyirippu were comprehensively neutralised, the Defence Ministry said citing battlefront sources.
Meanwhile, ground sources, quoting intercepted LTTE communication and civilian escapees from the ‘No Fire Zone’, said the LTTE had conducted funerals for a few of its senior cadres killed in recent fighting.
The ministry said sporadic fighting and small-scale door-to-door operations are continuing in the area targeting enemy pockets and resistance positions.
“Despite its successive setbacks at the Mullaittivu battlefront, the LTTE is continuing shelling artillery barrages and mortar from the government-declared No Fire Zone,” the ministry said. This has also increased the number of injuries among the civilians fleeing the LTTE areas, it said. — PTI
London, March 28
“We have conveyed to the Prime Minister that future relations will be based on the understanding that those dictatorial powers be repealed,” The Telegraph quoted Sharif, as saying.
Zardari, who had previously failed to honour the pledge that was part of a pro-democracy agreement between his late wife Benazir Bhutto and Sharif, is expected to announce his intention to curb some of his own powers on Saturday in his parliamentary address. “Zardari should accept that Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system. It (the future) all depends on how democratically he conducts his role,” said Sharif.
The political situation in Pakistan has altered dramatically in Sharif's favour since last week when he defied house arrest and led a victorious protest that forced the government to restore deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Sharif frowned at reports that he had wanted to name himself as amir-ul-momin, Commander-of-the-Faithful, as “absolutely a joke,” and described reports of his closeness to religious conservatives as propaganda started by his political adversaries. Sharif's critics say that he has been silent on the Taliban insurgency when leadership is desperately required to galvanise popular opinion.
“I condemn every bomb blast and suicide attack,” he said. “What more can I do?” Sharif conceded that militants now control Swat Valley, but said he did not want to comment further for fear of embarrassing the provincial government. — ANI
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