Witness protection

IT is no surprise that over the past few months several witnesses in cases of sectarian murders and extortion being tried in Karachi’s anti-terrorism courts have turned hostile. Others have failed to show up in court. In the absence of a proper witness protection programme in the country, when faced with having to testify against hardened religious or political militants, it is understandable that people will not put their lives on the line, knowing the state will do nothing for their protection. Last year, Sindh’s home minister at the time had announced that a witness protection unit would be set up in the province. Yet the provincial government has taken no practical steps to set up such a unit. Moreover, judges and prosecutors connected to terrorism cases have expressed concern about the lack of security provided to them. And despite the fact that the Supreme Court had instructed the Sindh government last year to provide adequate security to anti-terrorism court judges, the provincial authorities have shown no inclination to act upon these orders. In the past judges have received death threats while some have been murdered.

As we have argued before, until there is an effective countrywide system in place that protects witnesses as well as judges and prosecutors, the legal battle against militants and terrorists cannot be won. It is also unsurprising that in an atmosphere where witnesses and judicial authorities can be openly threatened and intimidated, the conviction rate is appallingly low and notorious suspects often walk free. What is needed is a strong prosecution which builds cases on solid evidence, an effective witness protection programme to assure those who testify that their lives and those of their families will be protected, as well as courageous judges who can pass sentences without feeling threatened if terrorism suspects are to be brought to justice.

The way forward

PAKISTAN no longer has a chief executive, and the most urgent issue now is to have one in place as soon as possible and reactivate the cabinet. Aside from the legal and constitutional vacuum created by a missing prime minister, this is not a country that can afford to muddle along without a set of people monitoring it constantly. Accepting the Supreme Court’s judgment, having Mr Gilani step down quickly and calling a National Assembly session for Friday were the right steps for the ruling coalition to take, paving the way for quickly putting a new government in place.

But the matter doesn’t end there. The new executive then needs to focus on whatever governance is possible over the next few months. Disturbing as it has been to watch the judiciary unseat an elected prime minister, the reaction to this development should be a sobering moment for the ruling coalition. The bad-to-worse trajectory of the country over the last four years has meant the man on the street was more than happy to see the prime minister go. Bad governance is not, of course, any justification for disqualification by the judiciary, nor was it made out to be — that is a judgment that can only be made in the people’s court. Which is all the more reason the country’s reaction is a warning to the ruling coalition that if it manages to spend the next few months in power, it will need to do whatever it can to at least try to improve the state of the nation. Playing the martyrdom or victim card will only go so far in the face of problems that range from loadshedding and economic mismanagement to poor law and order and limited success in counterterrorism.

Overshadowing all of this is the question of whether the SC will give the new prime minister a chance. This will not be easy to do, given how far the judiciary pursued the matter of the letter to the Swiss authorities during Mr Gilani’s tenure. But it is also important for the SC to consider what going after the issue again will realistically achieve. Institutional and legal concerns have their place, but should not be focused on to the exclusion of the country’s broader needs at a given time, in this case political stability and the need to strengthen the democratic process. At this point, so close to the end of the election cycle, it is best to let the people themselves determine whether or not the ruling coalition deserves to continue in office.

Quetta horrors

Quetta’s descent into a hell zone where there is no peace continues. Will the city ever find the calm that once existed there and which its people yearn for? We simply do not know. Certainly, there is no sign that this is going to happen any time soon. In yet another sectarian attack on Monday, claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a bomber targeted a bus carrying students of an IT institute of the city. Five were killed and at least 70 injured. Many of the students were Hazarwals. A large number of the injured are still in a critical condition. Tuesday saw protests in Quetta after a teacher said to be close to veteran Baloch politician Nawab Khair Bukhsh Marri was target-killed by ‘unknown’ persons. The blame and suspicions in this case have been directed towards the security agencies. Over the last few weeks we have had many meetings and conferences on the Balochistan issue and the collapse of law and order in the province. The matter also lies before the Supreme Court. There were talks of a conference involving all stakeholders in Balochistan. But nothing concrete has been done so far in this regard. The killings continue; blood spills again and again.

The police appear unsure if the bus was hit by a suicide bomber or by explosives planted along the road. In many ways this is irrelevant. The fact is that the groups behind the various kinds of violence need to be tracked down and their leaders brought to justice. There is no evidence at all that this is being done. Because of this negligence feelings of anger among the Baloch have risen to the extreme. Hazara and other nationalist parties in Balochistan have staged — understandably so — angry protests in the city. The Hazara community, targeted on both sectarian and ethnic bases, has strong grounds for complaint. Can anyone solve the maze that is leading Balochistan towards greater and greater chaos? Once more we have heard the usual words of regret from key officials. But such expressions will not bring back lives or halt the terrorists in their tracks. We keep hearing from the government that a plan for Balochistan has been worked out. We wonder why this is being kept a secret. Each day a new terror hits the province and makes matters even more difficult to manage while the government appears unmoved. This is the most frightening element of all.

Gas wars: Govt to press ahead with energy-efficiency audit

Setting aside concerns of fertiliser companies, the government has decided to press ahead with plans to conduct an energy-efficiency audit in order to provide gas to efficient units on a priority basis.
The decision came in a high-level meeting, held here on Wednesday and chaired by Petroleum Secretary Ijaz Chaudhry, which discussed modalities for energy-efficiency audit of fertiliser plants. The meeting was attended by representatives of fertiliser manufacturers and gas companies.
Earlier in a meeting on December 15, 2011, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved a summary relating to energy-efficiency audit of fertiliser plants.
In Wednesday’s meeting, the petroleum secretary announced that 70 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd), which was allocated to Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim, was being diverted to the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC).
This step would help the KESC increase power production by 350 megawatts, he said, adding Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) had been prevented from exporting 350 megawatts to the KESC, which would be given to Punjab to overcome power crisis.
The meeting was told that the National Productivity Organisation (NPO) had been appointed auditor for the programme, but it was pointed out that the NPO lacked audit expertise, therefore, it hired a consultant.
Some questions remained unanswered including who would bear expenses of the auditor and how fertiliser firms having efficient and inefficient units would be treated.
The Ministry of Petroleum wants fertiliser companies to bear the cost of energy audit, but they refuse to pay.
A participant of the meeting told The Express Tribune that some major players opposed the energy-efficiency audit plan. Disconnection of gas supply to inefficient plants also came up for discussion, but it would be difficult to cut off gas supply to fertiliser firms, which have gas supply agreements with state-owned companies.
Fertiliser companies also opposed the audit programme, arguing that there was no such provision in the gas sale agreements inked with gas suppliers.
“If the government wants to conduct energy-efficiency audit of fertiliser companies, it should also undertake audit of other sectors, like the textile industry,” a source said quoting representatives of fertiliser companies.
Substantiating their arguments, the fertiliser companies pointed out that the government had allowed import of old plants in the past and that made it illogical to conduct the audit. “It is unfair to compare energy efficiency of old and new fertiliser plants,” they stressed.
The petroleum ministry has also given guidelines to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) to conduct an audit of captive power plants (CPPs) and independent power plants (IPPs).
The efficiency benchmark has been set at 50% to 60% for the plants operating on gas. But no benchmark had been set for the fertiliser plants so far, a government official said, adding terms of reference for the audit were yet to be finalised.
The energy audit of those fertiliser plants, which had not been operated at 100% capacity for the last two years, could not give accurate results.
Under the audit programme, the fertiliser plants operating at low capacity will be penalised and their share of gas will be reduced and diverted to the most efficient plants. An efficient fertiliser plant produces 42 tons of urea by utilising one million cubic feet of gas per day. However, some plants are producing less than 38 tons with the same gas supply.

Why has power shortage soared?

ISLAMABAD: The irrational electricity rationing has triggered countrywide protests as mobs angered by daily blackouts – 22 hours a day in some cases – have rampaged, burning buildings and offices.
This has happened consistently over the past five years in sweltering summers. A myriad of problems are to blame for the country’s chronic electricity crisis.
These include inefficient governance, lack of forward planning, ad-hocism and failure to implement policies.
The electricity shortage, which has ballooned into a gruelling crisis, resulted mainly from a shortage of fuel – furnace oil and gas. The government failed to ensure adequate, uninterrupted supply of fuel to gas-powered generation units.
Gas was sold to CNG stations and fertiliser units, bringing power plants either to a grinding halt or forcing them to generate less than their capacity. This resulted in an energy crisis and sent tariffs spiralling upwards.
The power sector was receiving 750 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of gas in 2000 that has now come down to 300 mmcfd. Now most thermal plants are powered by expensive furnace oil — compelling the government to operate plants at a low capacity to avoid billion of rupees subsidy for power consumers.
Power plants can generate 15,600 megawatts (MW) of electricity if water is available to tap the maximum hydropower potential. But the generation remains low as part of the government’s strategy to maintain low volume of subsidy for power consumers.
Power capacity
Several other factors have also perpetuated this crisis. Low power availability out of the total capacity is also one of the main reasons. The government has claimed to have added new installed capacity of 3,394 MW between March 2008 and March 2012 with 400 MW power output by rental power plants (RPPs). Despite the total installed capacity reaching 23,000 MW, the country is still able to generate a maximum of 15,600 MW due to the poor rate of power availability out of the total capacity.
According to international standards, power availability out of the total installed capacity is usually about 80% whereas in Pakistan the system availability is only 65% due to inefficiencies.
Recovery of bills
Another reason that contributed to the power crisis is outstanding dues. The government faces losses worth Rs7 billion every month due to non-recovery of electricity bills. Non-cooperation on part of the provinces and government departments is not helping improve matters — Sindh owes Rs51 billion and Punjab is yet to pay Rs15.6 billion in bills. The billing collection was 104% in year 2010 and in 2011 the situation worsened with the collection rate plunging down to 83%.
Poor energy mix
Poor energy mix plays a crucial role in this equation. Power costs have increased significantly owing to a gradual shift from hydel to thermal (share of hydel has fallen from 70% in the 1980s to 30%) and the recent shift from natural gas to furnace oil owing to gas shortages. Due to oil-powered expensive power production, the government intentionally switches to operating thermal plants at low capacity to avoid the subsidy leading to load shedding.
False promises
The incumbent government pledged to bring reforms in the power sector to plug the holes but failed to achieve much. Since 2008, the government has increased power tariffs by 94% in addition to the massive price hikes on account of fuel adjustment. The major purpose of these reforms was to efficiently manage the power sector to end subsidies which continue to spiral upwards. It had allocated a subsidy amounting to Rs122.7 billion for the power sector in the ongoing financial year which swelled to Rs419.018 billion due to inefficiency in the power sector.
Under the reform programme, the government was to dissolve the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco), reconstitute the board of directors of power companies and hire new professionals from the private sector and appoint chief executive officers (CEOs).
Pepco has not been completely dissolved so far. Board of directors were reconstituted in 2009-10 but the power distribution companies (Discos) are still being run through ad-hoc arrangements.

Oil import bill surges to $13.94 billion

KARACHI: Pakistan’s oil import bill sharply increased by 33.15 percent to $13.94 billion during first eleven months of the current fiscal year as against $10.46 billion in the corresponding period of last year, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported on Wednesday.

Analysts said that the high international oil prices during the current fiscal year resulted in significant rise in Pakistan oil import bill.

The import of petroleum products surged by 51.71 percent to $9.36 billion during July-May 2011-12 as against $6.17 billion in the corresponding period last fiscal year.

“The rise in finished products was mainly high demand for energy generation,” said Ahsan Mehanti, Director at Arif Habib Corp.

The value of crude oil import despite fall in quantity by 20.32 has increased by 6.49 percent to $4.57 billion as against $4.29 billion.

Experts said that the low quantity of crude import reflected that country’s refineries were not running on full capacity.

“The circular debt issue hampered refineries generation capacity,” Mehanti added.

The oil import bill for May 2012, however, came down by 20.34 percent mainly recent decline of international oil prices on worries over European debt crisis. Experts also said that the rupee depreciation at home prevented heavy purchases from the international markets.

During the last month, the country spent foreign exchange reserves worth $1.35 billion as against $1.69 billion in the same month last year.

The other components of oil import bill also registered decline during the month as petroleum products fell by 19.49 percent and crude oil down by 22.7 percent when compared with May 2011.

The oil import bill constitutes about 34 percent of total import bill during July-May 2011-12 worth $40.93 billion. The high imports and comparatively lower exports resulted in huge trade deficit amounting $19.43 billion during first eleven months of current fiscal year as against deficit of $14.163 billion in the corresponding period of last fiscal year.

The widening in trade deficit and lack of external resources the current account deficit posted a huge $3.77 billion during the period under review.

Textile exports fall by over 9 percent

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani textiles exports have by about a tenth during July-May 2011-12 percent and also its share has declined considerably in the country’s overall total exports, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported on Wednesday.

The negative effect of the energy shortage domestically and slowdown of global demand are visible in the decline in quantity of exports despite the increase in the unit values of the majority of items.

Due to this phenomenon, the quantum exports of ‘high value-added’ items such as knitwear, bed wear, towels and readymade garments have shown negative growth during the period under review.

During the period under review, textiles group cumulative exports in dollars terms declined by 9.6 percent to $11.27 billion during these eleven months.

Besides, the share of the textile sector in overall exports declined from about 56 percent in July-May 2010-11 to 52.4 percent during July-May 2011-12 and on absolute term it fell by $1.2 billion during the period.

Cotton-based textiles contributes over 60 percent to country’s total exports, accounts for 46 percent of the total manufacturing and provide employment to about 38 percent manufacturing labour force.

In its sub-groups, raw cotton exports increased by 31 percent to $458.4 million and tents, canvas & tarpaulin by 101.7 percent to $86.9 million while other products exports in textiles which involve value addition and need energy, all have reduced in the range of 7-62 percent.

Cotton yarn exports down by 19.9 percent to $1.633 billion, cotton cloth 3.1 percent to $2.24 billion, knitwear 13.2 percent to $1.79 billion, bed wear 15 percent to $1.6 billion, readymade garments 6.4 percent to $1.47 billion, art, silk & synthetic textiles by 15.9 percent to $497.5 billion and made-up articles (excluding towels and bed wear) exports dip by 7.5 percent to $530 million over last year.

Food items exports during July-May 2011-12 reduced by 3.37 percent to $3.91 billion.

Rice export down by 3.6 percent to $1.91 billion in which basmati rice exports declined by 13.6 percent to $745.7 million, wheat by 73 percent to $124.2 million and vegetables down by 34 percent to $162.7 million over same period last year.

Fish and fish preparations export up by 10.9 percent to $296.7 million, fruits 27.4 percent to $340.5 million, meat and meat preparations 15 percent to $157.7 million and tobacco exports up by 3.1 percent to $26.6 million.

Petroleum and coal exports also dip by huge 29.6 percent to $877.3 million, carpets, rugs and mats by 7.3 percent to $113.26 million, leather tanned 4.9 percent to $401.9 million, leather manufacturers down by 4.5 percent to $472 million over the corresponding period of last year.

Besides, sports goods exports up by three percent to$302.2 million, surgical good and medical instruments 17 percent to $273.6 million, chemical and pharmaceutical products 23 percent to $1 billion and engineering goods exports up by 12 percent to $256.7 million over corresponding period of last year.

Jewellery exports increased by 105 percent to $715.3 million during the period under review while gems exports were down by three percent to $3.4 million.

Furniture exports down by 4.1 percent to $12.26 million, cement exports up by 7.7 percent to $446.8 million and pharmaceutical exports up by 7.5 percent to $142 million over same period last year.

Shahbaz takes notice of burning of women

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the saddening incident in Muzaffargarh where three women were set on fire after sprinkling of petrol on them.

The chief minister directed the police authorities concerned to take strict action against the culprits involved in the heinous act.

monsoon arrangements: Shahbaz Sharif said Wednesday that the provision of the best facilities and services to the people was the foremost responsibility of the Punjab government and all possible steps were being taken in this regard.

The chief minister was presiding over a meeting held at his tent office at Minar-e-Pakistan here to review monsoon arrangements, drains de-silting campaign and provision of potable water to the citizens. The meeting was attended by provincial ministers Ch. Abdul Ghafoor, Mian Mujtaba-Shuja-ur-Rehman, Members of National and Provincial Assemblies from Lahore, heads of development authorities, the commissioner and the district coordination officer, Lahore and other senior officers.

Addressing the review meeting, Shahbaz Sharif asked government officials to serve the citizens with dedication and commitment. Issuing directions to ensure the provision of potable water to the citizens, he warned the officials concerned that no complaint should come from any house, locality or area about paucity of water.

In view of monsoon season in the sacred month of Ramzan ul Mubarik, he ordered foolproof arrangements for the rainy season and issued directions to submit an effective plan for monsoon and provision of drinkable water within next three days. He also asked elected representatives to conduct regular visits to their constituencies for personally monitoring the arrangements made in this regard.

The chief minister said that all departments concerned should be geared to meet any emergent situation during rainy season and directed them to work in a coordinated manner. He ordered the authorities concerned to take effective steps to ensure provision of drinkable water on regular basis during the holy month of Ramzan. For the purpose, he also ordered installation of additional generators and pumps. He warned that no complaint of non-availability of water should come from any mosque, street or an area, even for a moment.

Shahbaz Sharif also issued directions to accelerate the de-silting of drains and rainwater channels and ensure that no sediment remained on roads. He said that de-silting work, being carried out at drains and rainwater channels, should be audited through a third-party validation.

He also stressed the need of evolving mechanism for taking immediate remedial steps on complaints received by the complaint cell so that problems of the citizens could be resolved to their satisfaction.

jewelers’ delegation: A representative delegation of Ferozepur Road jewelers called on the chief minister at his tent office.

The delegation was led by Anjuman-e-Tajran Punjab president Mehboob Ali Sirki.

Provincial Minister Ch. Abdul Ghafoor, Member Provincial Assembly Hafiz Mian Nauman, the IG Punjab, the Home Secretary and the Jewelers Association chairman Rana Mazhar Hussain were also present in the meeting.

Gilani faced disgraceful ouster for defying SC: Nawaz Sharif

MINGORA: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said had the convicted prime minister respected the verdict of the Supreme Court he would not have seen his disgraceful ouster from power.

Addressing a big public meeting at the Grassy Ground in Mingora city, Nawaz said he had no personal vendetta against former prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, adding he was opposed to the concept of “might is right” in politics.

He said the only concern of the PML-N was to stop the government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from making fun of the Constitution and the superior courts. “The rulers would not have been humiliated like this if they upheld the constitution,” he said.

Nawaz pointed out that during his first press conference after the prime minister’s conviction he had asked him to follow the honourable course and step down, but Gilani refused to accept the Supreme Court’s verdict. He asserted that the verdict of the Supreme Court had established the supremacy of the rule of law.

He said the PPP government gave nothing to the masses except backbreaking price hike, joblessness, poverty and loadshedding.Reminding the people of Swat of the Punjab government support during the IDPs crisis in the Malakand region, he said he had a lot of reverence for them. He announced that the Punjab government would establish a kidney hospital within one year in Sangota near Mingora in Swat at a cost of Rs760 million.

He said the PML-N would construct Motorway to the scenic Kalam valley and the Islamabad-Peshawar Motorway from the Charsadda Interchange would be connected with Swat.Nawaz Sharif termed former federal minister Amir Muqam who organised the public meeting as his brother and said his decision to join the PML-N had reinvigorated the party in the province.

It may be recalled that military ruler General Pervez Musharraf had also termed Amir Muqam as his brother.He said the politics of the PML-N was people-centric and the party had the ability to steer the country out of the prevailing crisis. He said his party would develop Pakistan by working for the welfare of the people.

The PML-N leaders, including Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pir Sabir Shah, Sardar Mehtab Khan, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Syed Muhammad Ali Shah Bacha, Mian Sheharyar Amirzeb and Shazia Aurangzeb were also present on the occasion. Amir Muqam, who recently quit the PML-Q as its provincial president to join the PML-N, also spoke on the occasion along with other party leaders.The journalists covering the public meeting sustained minor injuries at the Grassy Ground as the stage established for them broke down under heavy load.

Supreme Court orders speedy recovery of missing persons

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the Balochistan Government to provide Rs1 million each as compensation to the heirs of 381 people whose bodies were found in the restive province and directed that the compliance report be submitted to the court by July 9. The court also directed the federal and provincial governments to take speedy measures for the recovery of missing people.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard a petition of the Balochsitan High Court Bar Association president against target killings, kidnappings for ransom and missing persons cases in Balochistan province.

During the hearing, Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Fateh Yaqoob informed the court that 381 bodies found during the past three years had been identified. He submitted that the District Compensation Committee (DCC) was deliberating upon giving compensation of Rs400,000 each to the heirs of these 381 victims.

The chief justice, however, ordered the chief secretary to ensure compensation to the heirs of the victims and said this process must be completed within three days. Meanwhile, the federal investigation committee submitted a report before the apex court regarding missing persons, on which the court noted that no practical measures were taken in this regard.

Attorney General Irfan Qadir also submitted a report pertaining to the committee, constituted by the prime minister on the law and order situation of Balochistan. The AG contended that the focus of attention of the said committee was on the recovery of missing persons and bodies being found in the province as well as reviewing the incidents of kidnapping for ransom.

The court observed that besides providing security to the citizens, protection of basic fundamental rights was the responsibility of the government.

The CJ observed that in order to recover the missing people, an investigation committee was constituted but it never gave fruitful results. He further noted that the government had the support of FC, Levis and police; hence, it should not have any problem recovering missing people.

The court directed the chief secretary, defence secretary, interior secretary, IG FC and IG Police to take effective measures for the recovery of missing people.The court observed that if any one was found involved in criminal activities or acts of terrorism, he should be dealt with in accordance with the law and his record should be produced before the court.

The court also directed Defence Secretay Nargis Sethi to convene a meeting of the law enforcement agencies at her office and resolve the issue of missing people.The defence secretary, however, informed the court that they have prepared a list of 93 people who went missing in Balochistan, and the same has been dispatched to the Interior Ministry for taking action. She further said the missing people are not in the custody of ISI or other agencies.

Attorney General Irfan Qadir told the court that the law enforcement agencies are doing its work for the recovery of missing people. The chief justice, however, observed that the matter is of a serious nature, adding that they would summon Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Sardar Akhtar Mengal for resolving the issue in the province.

The chief justice further said that if the prevailing situation remained the same, the court would ask the session’s judge to monitor the process of recovery of missing people.Aman Ullah Kanrani, Advocate General, Balochistan, told the court that they have recovered 10 to 11 missing people, adding that the the law and order situation in the province was improving and assured that soon all the missing people would be recovered.

DIG Investigation, Quetta, Hamid Shakeel, and home secretary also appeared before the court.Meanwhile, the court directed the federal and provincial set up to speed up the process of recovery of missing people and submit the report by July 9.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing and announced that the hearing into the case will be resumed at the Branch Registry, Quetta.

INP adds: The Supreme Court, in its interim order in Balochistan law and order case, held the Frontier Corps (FC) responsible for the disappearances in the province.

The SC stated that it is the government’s responsibility to protect life and property of its people and ordered to recover the missing persons at any cost.The order further stated that the helplessness of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) is against the expectations while it was also found that the agencies, especially FC, are involved in disappearances.