Pakistan, US to hold defence talks

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates (C) talks to Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani as Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar listens. — File Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani defence delegation arrives in Washington on Sunday for talks on a five-year plan for meeting the country's defence needs, diplomatic sources told Dawn.

Also this week, a US delegation goes to Islamabad for trilateral talks with Afghan and Pakistani officials, which begin on May 3.

Defence secretary Athar Ali Khan will lead the Pakistani delegation, which will include representatives from all three forces as well as the ministry of foreign affairs.

The talks are part of the US-Pakistan Defence Consultative Group, which may now be merged with the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, also slated in Islamabad in late May.

Issues to be discussed include expected purchases by the three services, military training programmes, military contracts
and the next year's funding from the Coalition Support Fund.

About $1.8 billon of arrears from the claims that Pakistan has submitted in the years 2010 and 2011 will also be discussed. These claims are for reimbursement of the funds Pakistan has spent in fighting insurgents in Fata.

Defence purchases may include ships for the Pakistan Navy and weapons for the army and the air force.

A reported offer that the US will provide 85 drones to Pakistan may also come up for discussion, although it's not part of the agenda, diplomatic sources said.

"We have never received a concrete offer," said a Pakistani diplomatic source. "Besides, the drones being offered do not meet our needs. We already produce such drones at home."

Meanwhile, the US-Pakistan-Afghanistan meeting — which was postponed after the arrest in Lahore of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in a double murder case — is now being held as well.

Visa-free travel between Pakistan, Afghanistan sought

PESHAWAR, April 30: The participants of World Pashto Peace Conference here on Saturday called upon the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to make travelling between the two countries convenient by ending visa condition and setting up only four registration points on the border.

Through a unanimously adopted resolution, they demanded that instead of visa, only the names of travellers should be registered at the said four points to be established by both the governments.

The participants of the concluding session of the two-day conference, organised by World Pashto Congress at Nishtar Hall, also asked the neighbouring countries to immediately stop interference in Afghanistan and make sincere efforts for its development.

"The neighbouring countries should treat Afghanistan as an independent and sovereign state and abandon pitting its people against each other," they demanded. They also demanded pulling out of international forces from Afghanistan.

A joint commission of Pakistan and Afghanistan should be established ascertain causes of terrorism and make efforts for restoration of peace in the region, the participants added.

They also demanded of the government to extend the Political Parties Order 2002 to Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Earlier, gloomy silence prevailed in the hall when Noora Jan, a young poet from Afghanistan, presented his poem about devastation of war and its impact on the lives of people.

"Don't be silent spectators to funerals of Pakhtuns, rather take practical steps, understand the political scenario and decide about your own future," he conveyed his message through his poetry.

The acting vice-chancellor of Kohat University, Dr Nasir Jamal said that under a conspiracy, traditional games of Pakhtuns had been diminished to pave the way for imposition of Arab culture. "Religion and culture are two different things," he added.

He said that according to history Pakhtuns were peace loving nation but a myth was created that weapon was an ornament of Pakhtun youth that was totally wrong.

The chairman of International Relations department, University of Peshawar, Dr Ijaz Khattak said that international forces turned Pakhtun's land into a battlefield for their vested interests. Unaware of its nature, the youth of the region played pivotal role in the war of others, he said.

He suggested that a movement for peace of all political parties and civil society should be launched to inform masses regarding the real players of the continued war against terrorism.

Chief of his own fiction PPP Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said that terrorism badly affected economy and culture of Pakhtuns. He urged the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to end mistrust and take practical steps for restoration of peace.

He said that two brotherly countries should develop contacts on different levels. He said that Nato stayed in Afghanistan for more then a decade but it failed to control the country, which proved the war was not solution to problems.

Restoration of peace was not sufficient rather efforts should be made to develop the war affected areas, he said. All the political parties and civil society of the both countries should sit together and evolve a joint plan of revival of economic and social development, he said. He added that under the plan, international donors should be urged to help them implement the development plan.

"Gone are the days when a country used to be captured by force," said Aimal Khattak, an expert on Pak-Afghan relations. He demanded of different countries to stop interference in Afghanistan to restore peace there.

"Pakistan has done nothing to improve its image in Afghanistan rather it safeguarded its interest through people having guns," he added. On the other side, he said, Iran and India launched many development schemes to gain sympathies of Afghans.

The Pakistani establishment should reframe its policy and stop supporting some fictions of militants, he said, adding most of Taliban had got their training in Mansehra.

One hurt as Nato tanker blown up

PESHAWAR, April 30: Suspected militants blew up an oil tanker supplying fuel to Nato forces in Afghanistan near Karkhano Market here early on Saturday morning.

"A transporter also received burn injuries while trying to extinguish the fire," an official of Hayatabad police station told Dawn. He said that the oil tanker was parked along the main Jamrud Road after developed some technical fault when militants blew it up with a magnet bomb at about 4am.

He said that another trailer passing near the oil tanker also caught fire. The trailer carrying about 900 bags of sugar to Afghanistan was completely gutted.

The fire also engulfed the nearby market and damaged at least 15 cabins and a branch of Khyber Bank. He said that militants also fired at the tanker and then disappeared. "We searched the area soon after the incident but could not arrest the culprits," the official said.

A spokesman for Rescue 1122 said that they reached the spot soon after getting information and succeeded in extinguishing fire and saving the nearby markets and shopping centres.

Police said that more than 44,000 litres patrol were burnt in the oil tanker. He said that police and locals also helped the rescuers and tried their best to save the shops inside the markets.

About 33 tankers have been blown up and four persons killed so far during the current year in the limits of Peshawar.

Meanwhile, reacting to killing of a driver at a checkpost in Khyber Agency allegedly by a khasadar, the transporters
supplying goods and fuel to Nato forces have threatened to observer wheel jam strike.

Sarhad Goods Transport Federation president Haji Ashraf Khan Khalil told Dawn that the driver had been killed by the law enforcer when he did not pay extortion money.

"We have called a meeting in Mardan on Sunday to devise future line of action," he said and added that the best solution to get rid of problems was to stop supply to Nato forces.

He said that police and Khasadar Force had made lives of transporters miserable as they had set up checkpoints at very short distance and extorted money from the drivers for no fault of theirs.

"We set a deadline for acceptance of our demands and in the meantime the drivers will transport goods as per agreements," he said and added that after the deadline no transporter would supply goods to Afghanistan.

3 militants killed in Darra

KOHAT, April 30: At least three militants were killed in exchange of fire with security forces after attacking a checkpost in Tora Chinna area of Darra Adamkhel on Saturday, sources said.

The checkpost in Tora Chinna area, which links Darra Adamkhel to Orakzai Agency, came under attack around 2am on Friday night. The army, which summoned additional force, exchanged firing with the attackers till Saturday morning.

Later, during search operation security forces sighted a group of militants and traded fire with it. According to sources three militants were shot dead in the clash.

BOMBER HELD: Security forces and tribal lashkar claimed to have arrested a suicide bomber in Ara Khel area of Frontier Region of Kohat.

Sources said that the would-be bomber was arrested in the mountains, which were jointly patrolled by the lashkar and army. He crossed from Tor Chappar area of Darra Adamkhel into Jawa ki to inspect his target in Ara Khel village.

The 16-year-old would-be bomber was identified as Noor Mohammad. He was taken to an unknown place by security forces for interrogation.

Security forces recovered Rs4,000 from his pocket, which had been given to him for travelling and staying expenses. He belonged to Tappi village of Kohat and was associated with Taliban, sources said.

He had been given some kind of sleep inducing tablets and was not in his senses at the time of his arrest, they added.

A suspected militant was also arrested by the local lashkar from an examination centre in government higher secondary school Ara Khel.

He was also handed over to army for interrogation. Although a dweller of Kohat district, he was giving examination of intermediate in tribal areas that made him suspicious, sources said.

TRAFFIC TIMINGS: Authorities have issued traffic timings for various transports, which will be using hilly track during the closu re of Kohat tunnel from May 3 to May 10.

Commissioner Kahlid Khan Umerzai said on Saturday that heavy and light vehicles would be allowed through the hilly track known as Kotal Pass from 6am to 6pm.

The trucks would be allowed from 8pm to 6am to ensure unhindered flow of traffic on the narrow 11 kilometres long Kotal Pass. He said that there would be complete ban on overloaded trucks.

Names of two PSC members finalised

PESHAWAR, April 30: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to appoint two new members of provincial Public Service Commission (PSC) after premature expiry of tenure of its chairman and six members.

"Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti has approved induction of Sahibzada Mohammad Khalid and Dr Fazal-i-Ahmad as members into the PSC in line with the recommendations of a search committee headed by chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," official sources told Dawn.

Sahibzada Mohammad Khalid, a grade 22 officer, is currently serving as chairman of Pakistan Tobacco Board. He had applied for early retirement and is in transitional phase, as according to sources "the moment the provincial government issues his notification to PSC, he will be considered out of active civil service."

Likewise, Dr Fazal, a senior pathologist, had served as principal of Khyber Medical College apart from remaining on the faculty for a long time before getting retired a few years ago.

The provincial government in Oct last year had constituted the search committee under chief secretary with secretaries of higher education, elementary and secondary education and establishment as its members.

Moreover, a retired civil servant, a vice-chancellor of a public university and an MPA nominated by the chief minister are also members of the committee.

Sources said that committee had short listed a panel of six prospective members of PSC. The panel was submitted to the chief minister, the competent authority for their appointment, for approval, they added.

Of these six, mostly retired civil servants, the chief minister approved induction of Mr Khalid and Dr Ahmad. As per the procedure, the chief minister had sent an advice to the governor, who had also awarded his assent to the proposal.

The establishment department will now issue a notification of their appointment the moment, existing chairman and six members get completed their tenure, which has now been trimmed from five to three years.

The provincial assembly had adopted on Friday a bill amending the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Public Service Commission Ordinance 1978, enabling the government to cut short the tenure of the chairman and members of PSC.

As a result of the amendment, which is likely to come into force within 10 days, the incumbent chairman Gulzar Khan and members Mian Sahib Jan, Brig (retired) Manzoor Iqbal Bangash, Jamshed Ali Khan, Shala Khan Afridi, Mohammad Younas Marwat and Col (retired) Alamzeb were going to lose their jobs.

Except Mr Alamzeb, the chairman and the five members had already served for three to five years against their actual tenure of five years. Mr Alamzeb, who was supposed to serve till 2015, would lose the job on the basis of age because he had crossed the required limit of 65 years for the post, sources said.

The establishment department will issue notification of the fresh two appointments, the moment governor signs the bill adopted by the provincial assembly after which it will become a law.

‘I stand by Three Cups’

I MET Greg Mortenson for the second time in October 2010 at a fundraiser in Dallas. As a recipient of an award I sat at his table and found him to be courteous, disarmingly shy and self-effacing.

He was the last to make a presentation and as he spoke, I was alarmed by the way he intermittently fought for breath and paused between sentences. It was obvious he was exhausted and ill.

I am shocked that he continued his gruelling speaking schedule for almost six months after that — visiting schools and addressing fundraisers on a daily basis. I know now that he has a hole in his heart and is due for surgery. The way in which 60 Minutes ambushed him at a book-signing for children in Atlanta was not only a bullying tactic but also dangerous in view of his health.

"If you're looking for truth, read fiction; if you're in the mood for fiction read autobiography."

I have heard something to this effect repeated so often that it has become a truism — and, paradoxically, the axiom is often dismissed as a witticism. But there is more accuracy in these words than first meets the eye.

As a writer I know there are many ways of arriving at a truth, and fiction, with its accruements of imagination, intuition and arsenal of complex trajectories, can help a writer to express her or his thoughts as exactly and completely as is possible, and in doing so arrive at the truth. Hard autobiography and biography, with their insistence on fact, appear to demand only one-dimensional slivers of truth, and whenever I've attempted autobiography I've sat frozen before my computer — wall-eyed with writer's block.

In autobiography there's a tendency to speak well of oneself and to embellish that self with virtues. Also, mindful of the consequence of portraying one's family and friends in an unflattering light one dissembles — who doesn't prefer to appear in a better light?

While the 'truth' is frequently a casualty of autobiography and of biography, one has to make allowances for those who would bend it somewhat to arrive at a larger truth. However, as one committed to a lifetime of writing fiction, I'd like to point out that it makes for a much more honest and interesting story if the author inserts his or her own disguised self, warts and all, into a fictional narration, as I've done in my novels and short stories, and no one is ever the wiser for it.

That is why shaping a story is so necessary to a biographer, or as in Mortenson's case, to his co-author. Greg Mortenson has not professed to be a writer and he shares equal credit with David Oliver Relin as co-author on the cover of Three Cups of Tea.

Relin makes free use of dialogue as if he were present when the dialogue took place.

I don't fault Relin for moulding events to suit the necessities and niceties required of storytelling. Anecdotes need to be amalgamated and woven together and require a trajectory that includes a beginning, middle and an end. A larger truth is served by this means. That is why it is patently deceiving for 60 Minutes to paint a distorted picture by using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on a few points in Three Cups of Tea and to criticise events that occurred almost 18 years ago.

"I stand by the story of Three Cups of Tea," Mortenson said in a written statement, but added, "The time about our final days on K2 and ongoing journey to Korphe village and Skardu is a compressed version of events that took place in the fall of 1993.

"As the co-author of the book, along with David Oliver Relin, I am responsible for the content in the book. There were many people involved in the story and also those who produced the manuscript. What was done was to simplify the sequence of events for the purposes of telling what was, at times, a complicated story."

It is a complicated story because its characters live in the configuration of mountains at the 'roof of the world'. My novel, A Pakistani Bride, is based on a true story I heard on my honeymoon at a remote military camp in the tumult of the Karakoram Himalayas in northern Pakistan, bordering on Afghanistan. It covers the same terrain as Mortenson's in his books and its beauty and grandeur stamp themselves indelibly on one's psyche.

Although A Pakistani Bride was my first novel and I had never visited the US, I instinctively knew that the world I was describing would be incomprehensible to people in the West. Halfway through the novel I decided to introduce Carol, an American woman and I tried to make this alien culture accessible to my western readers through Carol's interpretation of it.

It appears there are to be more allegations — for once blood is scented the poor guy will be hounded by the pack: and the pack is disposed to attack the countries and communities befriended by Mortenson. It will take time to refute the allegations and fabrications, but the truth in Three Cups of Tea speaks for itself and will continue to impress its truth upon its readers.

The writer is a novelist.

Balochistan govt plans to approach nationalist leaders through jirga

Chief Minister Balochistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani. – File Photo

QUETTA: The Balochistan government has decided to approach angry Baloch nationalist leaders through a grand tribal jirga and invite them to negotiations aimed at ending unrest in the province.

The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting presided over by Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani on Saturday.

The meeting, held in line with the Supreme Court`s recent orders to trace the whereabouts of missing people, was attended by Home Minister Mir Zafarullah Zehri, Communications Minister Mir Sadiq Ali Umrani, Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, Inspector-General of Police and other senior officials.

Sources said the grand jirga would comprise Baloch, Pakhtun and Sindhi tribal elders who would meet all the Baloch nationalist leaders, living in Pakistan or abroad. The sources said that Mr Raisani expressed serious concerns over the issue of missing persons, targeted killings and finding of decomposed and bullet-riddled bodies from different parts of the province.

Discussing the issue of missing persons, the meeting vowed to find the solution to the seemingly tough problem.

Advocate General Amanullah Kanrani informed the meeting of the instructions of the apex court regarding the missing persons. The meeting resolved that government officials and tribal elders would call on nationalist leaders to find the solution to the problems faced by the province.

PSO accounts restored

The PSO officials asked the FBR to give some breathing space to the company since its receivables of Rs 170 billion had tied its hands. – File Photo by AFP

KARACHI: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) restored the frozen bank accounts of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) on Saturday.

The FBR had frozen the bank accounts after the PSO failed to meet its tax obligations, but reversed the decision in the wake of negotiations during  which the company took the tax men into confidence over the financial straits it was in.

The PSO officials asked the FBR to give some breathing space to the company since its receivables of Rs 170 billion  had tied its hands.

The tax authorities were apprised that their decision to freeze the accounts of PSO would dissuade the international suppliers from doing business with Pakistani companies.

"While the receivables continue to tower, PSO has a responsibility to make payments to international suppliers in order to ensure an uninterrupted fuel supply to the nation. Currently the local refineries are not giving any product to PS0.

"Therefore the company's reliance on imports has increased. The company has urged the power sector to make immediate payments so that the company is in a better position to fulfill its international commitments and meet its tax obligations," a press release said.

Villagers forcibly stop work on gas pipeline

KARAK, April 30: The residents of Alwargi and adjacent villages forcibly stopped work on laying pipeline from Noshpa gas field to dehydration plant here on Saturday as a protest against non-provision of natural gas to the area.

The Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) sought help of government in resuming work when locals, led by members of Alwargi Welfare Committee, stopped them from laying gas pipeline from Noshpa Well II gas field to dehydration plant.

However, the enraged villagers threatened that they would let the company to resume work on about one-and-a-half kilometre long gas pipeline till acceptance of their demands.

District Coordination Officer Javed Ahmad Khan, Assistant Coordination Officer Manzoor and Tehsildar Arif Khattak along with police visited the area and resumed work on the gas pipeline for some time but locals again stopped it by force.

The villagers, led by president of Alwargi Islahi Committee Isam Gul and Maulana Maqsood Gul, gathered at the main road leading to the rigs sites and said that government should honour its promise about provision of natural gas to 18 villages, falling under the radius of five kilometres of gas fields. "Work on the pipeline will remain suspended till acceptance of our demands," they said.

They alleged that both federal and provincial governments were not interested in resolution of their problems. The committee members said that on April 10 provincial government negotiated with them through elected representative from the district, Mian Nisar Gul, and promised that their demands would be accepted.

But the government failed to honour its promise so far, they said.

They said that the cold shoulder response of government to their demands compelled them to stop work on the gas pipeline. They appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan to take notice of the injustices of the oil and gas companies with the local people.

The regional coordinator of OGDCL, Mushfiq Hameed Paracha, told this scribe that they made agreements with the landowners and alleged that some outsiders, allegedly backed by MPA Mian Nisar Gul, were creating problems for the company.

He said that he had already written a letter to Karak DCO to provide security to the company for resuming work and take action against the outsiders, who had no support of the landowners.

Mr Paracha added that main demand of locals was provision of gas and the issue had already been discussed with secretary petroleum during a meeting of the elected representatives of the district with him.

He said that the elected representatives of Kohat division would also meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to update him about the problems faced by locals. He said that work on the separate gas pipeline from Noshpa Well II to dehydration plant should be resumed as early as possible. ACCIDENT:

A schoolteacher was killed in a road accident and another person was seriously injured here on Saturday.

Police said that the motorcycle of the teacher identified as Farid collided head-on with another motorbike at Alikhel Chowk and both the motorcyclists were seriously injured.

They were immediately shifted to district headquarters hospital where Farid succumbed to his injuries and the other injured Amjad was referred to Peshawar in precarious condition.

Japan mulls tsunami lessons for reconstruction

TOKYO: Constructing taller buildings and moving towns to higher ground may be the key to rebuilding Japan`s devastated northeast coast, experts say, as the threat of future tsunamis shapes ideas for reconstruction.

It was the monster wall of water, rather than March 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake that spawned it, which tore through towns, destroying 300,000 homes and leaving 26,000 dead and missing.

"What we agreed with Prime Minister Naoto Kan is that it is not simply enough to restore things as they were before," said Makoto Iokibe, chairman of the Council of Reconstruction, established by Kan.

The daunting task of removing millions of tonnes of debris from destroyed homes and factories is the starting point for the remodelling of coastal towns in a region with an ageing population and fragile economy.

But the concept of relocating towns is a sensitive issue for those whose livelihoods revolve around them.

"It`s actually a rather fundamental and philosophical question: where should people settle down? The sea is often the source of all their resources, so it`s difficult to settle down away from it," said Yukio Nishimura, vice president of the University of Tokyo.

"When you talk to those who were affected by the tsunami, some want to settle down to higher places or even move to a bigger town but others want to stay put," he said.

The level of damage masks large regional disparities. The mountainous northernmost area paid the heaviest price, with numerous houses built on the narrow strip of land sandwiched between the sea and the mountains swept away.

"Topographically, these areas are very vulnerable to tsunamis so we need to completely re-think town planning," said Jun Iio, who chairs a group of experts that submits proposals to the reconstruction council.

Many specialists say detailed analysis of the topography of the 300 kilometres of devastated coastline on Honshu island should encourage rebuilding in higher places and further back from the sea.

Another recommendation for schools, hospitals and town halls is to construct buildings that are at least four or five storeys tall to offer refuge from the giant waves when a tsunami strikes.

Iokibe suggested the vast amount of rubble that forms the legacy of the March 11 disasters could be turned into landscaped hills.

"In normal times people would able to use these parks for recreation," he said. "During disasters, they would be used as evacuation zones."Some fishing-related facilities will have to be relocated, he said.

Experts point out that while the huge concrete walls facing the sea seen in many coastal towns and villages can help, they cannot guarantee safety.

Several of the tsunami defences gave way under the force of the monster wave triggered by the earthquake, including the one that was supposed to protect the small fishing village of Taro, north of the city of Miyako, or they were simply not high enough.Based on experience gained after the earthquake that hit the western port city of Kobe in 1995, Iokibe estimates it will take 10 years to rebuild the devastated northeast.—AFP

Gold extends record run higher, oil rises

LONDON, April 30:Gold prices nailed fresh record highs, silver struck an all-time peak and crude oil futures climbed as the dollar faltered during a shortened trading week for commodity investors.

The dollar stumbled further on Friday as official data showed US economic growth slowed sharply in the first quarter to a 1.8 per cent pace. The euro struck 16 month highs close to $1.49, also after the US Federal Reserve held its easy monetary policy.

A weak US currency makes commodities priced in dollars cheaper for holders of rival currencies, pushing up the demand for
the raw materials.

Commodities trading was meanwhile shortened this week, and last owing to the Easter celebrations and britain's extra break on Friday due to its royal wedding.

Trading will resume on Tuesday, after Britain's traditional May Day bank holiday.

PRECIOUS METALS: Gold struck an all-time peak above $1,538 an ounce as investors continued to scoop up the traditional safe-haven precious metal, while sister metal silver also hit a record high.

Gold reached a historic $1,538.48 on the London Bullion Market on Thursday, after silver knocked up a best ever $49.79 an ounce at the start of the week.

Analysts said the Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to hold US interest rates at 0-0.25 per cent "for an extended period" benefited gold.

The prospect of the highly expansionary monetary course being adhered to brought the dollar under strong pressure, and precious metals were the main beneficiaries, analysts at Commerzbank wrote in a note to clients.

Demand for these as a store of value was substantial. Gold in particular is seen as a safe store of value in troubled economic and political times and has been smashing records in recent weeks in response to rising global inflation.

By late Thursday on the London Bullion Market, gold jumped to $1,535.50 an ounce from $1,504 the previous Thursday.

Silver rallied to $48.70 an ounce from $46.02.

On the London Platinum and Palladium Market, platinum increased to $1,835 an ounce from $1,812.

Palladium gained to $777 an ounce from $765.

OIL: World oil prices gained, with New York crude reaching 2.5-year highs, as traders tracked the cloudy economic picture in
the United States, the biggest crude-consuming nation.

Crude oil prices began rising strongly on Wednesday on the back of the Federal Reserve's decision to continue pursuing an exceptionally supportive monetary policy.

Citing the economy's "moderate" recovery, the central bank kept the door open for more economic stimulus, while saying its current $600 billion programme would be allowed to run its forecast course through June.

By late Thursday on London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June climbed to $125.35 a barrel from $123.47 the previous Thursday.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) or light sweet crude for June grew to $112.64 a barrel from $111.71.

BASE METALS: Industrial metals prices mostly fell amid rising stockpiles.

By late Thursday on the London Metal Exchange (LME), copper for delivery in three months dropped to $9,384 a ton $9,648 on Thursday the previous week.

Three-month aluminium rose to $2,770 a ton from $2,747.

Three-month lead dropped to $2,493 a ton from $2,626.

Three-month tin retreated to $32,150 a ton from $32,625.

Three-month zinc slipped to $2,238 a ton from $2,366.

Three-month nickel declined to $26,613 a ton from $26,651.

COCOA: Prices rebounded as the market tracked the situation in leading producer Ivory Coast.

The country's new President Alassane Ouattara made his first visit to the presidential palace Thursday since taking power after the toppling of strongman Laurent Gbagbo.

Not only is the weather outlook shaping up to be more favourable for healthy cocoa harvests in Ivory Coast… the country confirmed that the first cocoa shipment has left the port since the seizure of its incumbent president,said Barclays Capital analyst Shiyang Wang.

COFFEE: Coffee prices struck 34-year highs for a second week running on tight supplies, reaching 303.40 cents a pound in New York.

A weak US dollar and tightening Arabica supplies provided a boost for the market," said commodities publication Public Ledger.

By Thursday on NYBOT-ICE, Arabica for July advanced to 301.95 US cents a pound from 298.20 cents the previous Thursday.

On LIFFE, Robusta for delivery in July stood at $2,560 a ton compared with $2,426 for the May contract.

SUGAR: Sugar prices retreated on the prospect of increased supplies.

India is considering releasing further sugar exports as soon as final sugar production figures are available, said Commerzbank

Couple delay honeymoon amid speculations

LONDON: Following a spectacular Royal wedding that dazzled the world, Prince William will go back to work as a search-and-rescue pilot next week before taking his new wife on honeymoon abroad.

The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, looking fresh after partying into the early hours in the wake of Friday`s wedding, boarded a helicopter in the Buckingham Palace gardens on Saturday for a weekend break at a secret location in Britain.

The prince will resume his job as a search and rescue pilot next week before the honeymoon starts at an undisclosed date, the royal family said in a statement.

"The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have chosen not to depart for a honeymoon immediately," it said, using the new titles bestowed on Prince William, 28, and the former Kate Middleton, 29, by Queen Elizabeth.

"The locations of both their private weekend before the Duke returns to work and their future honeymoon, which will be overseas, will not be disclosed in advance," it said, pointedly ignoring feverish speculation as to where the couple will go.

After a relationship of almost a decade, they married in London`s towering 13th-century Westminster Abbey on Friday as a million cheering supporters lined the capital`s streets.

Worldwide, estimates put the global television and online audience at 2.4 billion people — more than one in three of the global population if the figure is accurate.

Commentators praised the royal family for striking a balance between choreographed pomp — military bands in black bearskin hats and household cavalrymen in shining breastplates — and personal spontaneity at the wedding.

"The British still know how to combine pageantry, solemnity, romance (and wild hats) better than anyone else in the world," wrote Sarah Lyall in the New York Times.

William drove his bride the short journey from Buckingham Palace to St James`s Palace in his father`s open-top Aston Martin with the licence plate.

Like other details of the wedding, including the designer of Middleton`s dress, the honeymoon venue was a secret.

Suggestions have included the Seychelles, Kenya, the Caribbean island of Mustique, an island on Australia`s Great Barrier Reef, the Greek island of Corfu and the Scilly Isles off England`s southwest coast.

The intense speculation over the couple`s every move underlines the pressure they will face as the future British king and queen living in the full glare of the media spotlight.

Uncomfortable parallels have been drawn between Middleton and William`s hugely popular mother Princess Diana, who was hounded by paparazzi right up to her death in a Paris car crash in 1997 aged just 36.

Her death, and divorce from heir to the throne Prince Charles the year before, marked a low point for the royal family, which has also been embroiled in scandal and is seen by many as being out of touch with the British public, particularly during austere economic times.

But Middleton`s background — she is the first commoner to marry a prince close to the British throne in over 350 years — and William`s personable style have helped reverse the monarchy`s rating in recent opinion polls, at least for now.—Reuters

Air India pilots` strike enters fourth day

NEW DELHI: Flagship carrier Air India`s woes deepened as it was forced to cancel most of its domestic flights by a pilots` strike over pay that entered its fourth day Saturday.

The financially ailing state-run carrier, which says it has lost $6 million in revenues so far due to the strike, said it was operating just 39 domestic flights out of its regular 320, according to the Press Trust of India.

The airline is "operating on only trunk routes" to major Indian cities, an Air India spokesman said.

The airline, which at the start of the strike had been able to operate most flights, has also scaled back international operations.

More than 800 pilots were on strike, defying management warnings of dismissal, while non-unionised pilots, asked by management to fill in for the strikers, have begun calling in sick in support of their colleagues.

The airline, which has condemned the strike as "illegal, unfortunate and most irresponsible," has already sacked nine pilots and suspended six others.—AFP

Karachi Port operations

KARACHI, April 30: Six ships carrying phosphate, containers and jet oil are due to arrive at the outer anchorage on Sunday, according to KPT sources.

Berthing activity at the wharves was maintained on the higher side where five ships, Ital Oceano, S.C.L Ride, and APL Sokhna, with containers, and Primo Stealth, and Nord Optimiser, tankers were accommodated on berths.

Four ships, Abdul Aziz Arab, Al-Shuwaukh, Wan Hai-603 and Yossa Bhum departed on Saturday, while Ital Oceano, Positano, C.S.L Ride, Primo Stealth, Kota Harum, m.t. Lahore, Invicta, King Feast, and Nord Optimiser, are due to sail out on Sunday.

A total tonnage of 90,293 tons comprising 30,454 tons of export cargo, and 59,839 tons of imports was handled on Saturday.

The following ships are due on Sunday: Star Island-H, with 21,571 tons of phosphate, APL ShenZhen, Sima Singapore, Cosco Kawasaki, and Hyundai Confidence, with containers, and Risanger, with jet oil.

The following ships are due on Monday: Chenroad Vega, to load 15,000 tons of ethanol, Parimis and Salis, with containers.

Cotton market resists fresh fall in prices

KARACHI, April 30: The cotton market on Saturday resisted fresh fall after having tumbled by over Rs1,000 per maund over the last couple of sessions but in physical trading most of the deals were finalised below the official spot rates, floor brokers said.

They said smart recovery staged by the New York cotton futures on the revival of speculative support at the lower levels may be one of the major resistance factors behind the status quo.

The New York cotton futures, which had fallen during the last couple of weeks from the all-time peak level of 214 and 210 cents per lb to 172.82 and 152.02 cents per lb for both the ruling May and forward July contracts recovered by 5.96 and 6 cents at 178.78 and 158.02 cents, respectively, they said.

They, however, ruled out the possibility of any sympathetic rise in local prices as the unsold stock of lint with ginners is mostly of inferior type and may not find willing buyers at the higher pri ces.

But if the current rebound in global prices is sustained in the coming weeks, it would certainly have a bullish impact on new crop rates, market sources said.

The other factor, which is expected to determine new crop prices in late August or early September, will be the size of the crop in the major growing areas including India, the US and Pakistan, they said.

Meanwhile, ginners remained busy in clearing backlog of stray lots as some of the low-mix lots were traded as low as Rs7,500 per maund. An exporter also sold 800 bales at Rs9,000 owing to falling foreign demand and lower prices.

According to reports reaching here from the interior, the harvesting of the wheat crop in the major growing areas is in the final stages as growers are trying to be well in time for the sowing of new cotton crop in the wheat-harvested fields.

Official spot rates resisted fresh fall and were quoted unchanged at Rs9,500 per maund for an average quality lint.

The following are details of some of the deals, which had gone through on Saturday evening: 100 bales, Sultanabad at Rs7,500, 400 bales, Tonsa Sharif at Rs7,850, 400 bales, Garma Raja at Rs8,000, 200 bales, Qaboola on credit at Rs8,800 and 800 bales, sold by an exporter at Rs9,000.

S. Arabia tightens media restrictions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia`s King Abdullah has imposed new media restrictions and threatened hefty fines and closure of news organisations allegedly undermining national security, press reports said on Saturday.

Under a decree issued on Friday, the media will be prohibited from reporting anything that contradicts the strict Islamic sharia law or serves "foreign interests and undermines national security".

The decree requires publishers to stick "to objective and constructive criticism that serves the general interest," media reports said, adding that violators face fines of up to 500,000 riyals ($133,000).

In addition to a threat to close publishers who violate the decree, the authorities can also ban a writer for life from contributing to any media organisation.

The Saudi media is tightly supervised by the government, and the most prominent newspapers are owned by people who are a part of or closely linked to the ruling Al-Saud dynasty.

The new restrictions come as the authorities aim to quell any uprisings inspired by the recent popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and trouble elsewhere in the region.

Over the past week, police arrested 20 to 30 Shias, including two bloggers, accused of taking part in demonstrations in the oil-rich Eastern Province, according to activists and a Shia website.—AFP

With all on board

THE multi-tier Afghanistan-Pakistan joint commission for reconciliation is a commendable step towards promoting peace in Afghanistan. However, for sceptical Afghans, Pakistan is too late to play a tangible role in the resolution of the Afghan conflict.

Not so long ago, the Afghans — across the ethnic divide — were of the firm opinion that Pakistan was the only country holding the key to peace and stability in Afghanistan. There were few actors directly involved in the Afghan theatre, offering a more conducive environment for Pakistan to play a leading role.

That is the past. Today, in the eyes of independent Afghans thinkers, Pakistan has not only lost that opportunity but also the stature. The scene has been taken over by more powerful and influential actors, both regional and international, who have deeply rooted political, economic and strategic interests and are pushing Pakistan into the background.

Last month, speaking to newsmen in Kabul, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that the war in Afghanistan was destabilising Pakistan. For those who have been watching the Afghan scene since the beginning, this realisation on Islamabad`s part is too little, too late. The Afghan conflict has been threatening global peace and, realistically speaking, Pakistan is facing a threat to its existence.

Apparently, Pakistan`s political and military leadership is taking a simple view of a complex Afghan situation which is evident from the importance Islamabad is giving to the proposed peace commission. Pakistan considers it a big success of its Afghan policy, one which will boost the country`s repositioning strategy post 2014 when the bulk of US and other coalition forces have left Afghanistan. From Pakistan`s perspective Islamabad and Kabul must take ownership of the peace process to end the war, and exclude not only regional actors like Iran, Russia and India but also the US — a party to the conflict — from the process.

This is another slip-up which Pakistan is going to commit simply on the basis of overrating its role, not realising the importance of other neighbours of Afghanistan having political and strategic interests in the conflict. Like Pakistan, with the approach of 2014 when the drawdown of the US-led coalition starts, Iran, India and Russia are also jockeying for influence and repositioning themselves for a post-America era to safeguard their `national` interests.

Prior to ensconcing itself in the driving seat in the Afghan peace wagon, Pakistan needs to assess its own credibility in the eyes of the Afghans and other neighbours. This is essential for the success of the reconciliation process. On the demand of Hamid Karzai, Mr Gilani did the right thing by taking the top military bosses to Kabul to allay Afghan fears regarding differences between Pakistan`s military and its political leadership on the Afghan issue.

The Afghans still believe that Pakistan is part of the problem and the distrust of the security establishment is the product of Islamabad`s flawed Afghan policies pursued for decades particularly during military-led regimes. The policy of insisting on excluding others, particularly its Afghan neighbours, from the peace process is being perceived in Afghanistan as Pakistan`s move to impose its own brand of a solution. If the past is any guide, such unilateral moves not only fail but, in most cases, backfire, inviting more trouble for the people. Pakistan, no doubt, has stakes in the Afghan conflict but it does not mean that others do not.

The peace and reconciliation process initiated by the Afghan president last September is already facing failure — during the last eight months the Burhanuddin Rabbani-led High Council for Peace failed to establish tangible contacts with the Taliban insurgents. It lacks the support and confidence of the people and is poised to face the same fate as that of an earlier commission headed by ex-Afghan president Sibghatullah Mujadadi.

Besides, the trust of the people is essential for the success of any peace process. Pakistan also lacks the trust of Afghan ethnic groups. An Afghan, irrespective of his being a Pakhtun, Hazara, Tajik or Uzbek, still perceives Pakistan, particularly its military establishment, as a major contributor to the Afghan problem.

Like the 49 countries, whose forces are currently fighting the Afghan insurgency, everyone is convinced — whether it is true or not — that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are launching attacks on the coalition and the Afghan forces from their hideouts across the border in Pakistan.

If Pakistan wants to seriously make a positive contribution, it needs to adopt and support an all-inclusive-approach that involves regional and international stakeholders. Iran, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, Britain, the US and Nato all have stakes and established proxies inside Afghanistan. Each one has the ability to scuttle any peace process if not taken into confidence.

In the current scenario, it would be naïve of Pakistan to shoulder the entire responsibility of reaching out to the Taliban. Instead, to avoid any humiliation in future, Pakistan should campaign for engaging all the stakeholders including India in the process of forming any set-up in Afghanistan. Ideally, Pakistan and Afghanistan must convince the UN to take the front seat in the reconciliation process. Here the international body needs to adopt a realistic all-inclusive-approach.

To date, most of the debate regarding the future of Afghanistan is hovering around the Taliban`s anticipated demands, based on presumptions, forecasting major changes in the Afghan constitution, and power-sharing with the Taliban in case the insurgents agree to reconcile.

The Taliban are exclusively a body of fighters — they have no political wing to conduct peace negotiations. Prior to working on engaging the Taliban in the process, which definitely will take time, the international community must catch the other end of the rope and finalise a package in case the Taliban show willingness to join the peace process in the future. This will serve as seriousness of purpose on the part of the international community and send a strong and positive signal to the Taliban insurgents.

The UN needs to convene a purpose-oriented meeting of all stakeholders including the US, Pakistan, Iran, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Nato, etc and evolve a common agenda for approaching the Taliban insurgents. It will lead to the wrapping up of all the outlets opened by individual states or stakeholders and pool all efforts for a major impact, both moral and political, on the peace process.

The writer is the director of news and current affairs for Khyber TV.


Art of the possible

THE PPP had been gesturing for help for some time. But if the largesse offered to his saviours in the PML-Q is something to go by, then President Zardari`s was no less than a May Day call. Short of creating the post of vice president for Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Mr Zardari appears to be in a mood to fulfil all PML-Q demands. He has reportedly promised the new coalition partners the seat of deputy prime minister, to be occupied by Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, and some of the choicest ministries. Health is slated to go to the Q-League, as well as trade and commerce, industries, agriculture and information technology, plus six ministries of state and three posts of advisers to the prime minister.

In the coming days, Prime Minister Gilani is going to be surrounded by the very men whose policies his party had sought to replace — even though PPP spokesmen are going to hail this new development as further proof of the party`s politics of reconciliation. These spokesmen will be right but in an unflattering sense; the alliance means the PPP has now forged an indiscriminate formal partnership with all the parties that entered the National Assembly as a result of the 2008 election. The PML-N, the MQM and the JUI-F have all shared power with the party during the current term, along with the ANP which has been a steadfast ally. PPP apologists may argue that the group they have no intention of entertaining is the one comprising Musharraf loyalists who have since broken away from the Q-League. In the interest of their embrace-all reputation, perhaps the point they should be making, instead, is that they were Gen Musharraf`s associates in government when he was the president. That could well qualify the PPP as the greatest exponent of the art of the possible in the history of Pakistan.

Mr Zardari`s party has often been given the benefit of the doubt as coalitions have been described as a way of life all parties should reconcile themselves to. Coalitions in government also give birth to larger political alliances; in this way the PPP and the Q-League have taken the next logical step. It is said the two parties are going to fight the next polls from a joint platform. This will facilitate the making of the opposite group and could eventually lead to the maturing of a third option that has been stressed upon in recent days. A house where anyone can be allied to anyone can easily be dubbed as one bereft of ideology and can help justify the arrival of the alternative.

Karachi market rates

KARACHI, April 30: The following are Saturday's commodity market rates in rupees.


RAPESEED (per 40 kg): Dadulane 1,320 to 1,360; Mirpurlane 1,720 to 1,760; Nawabshah 1,750 to 1,800;  Castor Seed (Sindh) 1,420 to 1,500.

EDIBLE OILS (per 40 kg): Coconut oil 9,200 to 10,300; Rapeseed and Mustard oil 5,400 to 5,800; Ghee Vanaspati (per 16 kg) 2,562 to 2,618.

Oil seed Cakes Cotton seed with bag (50kg) 1,000 to 1,100 Rapeseed Mustard Oil (40kg) 1,050 to 1,150.


BARELY (per 40 kg): 1,050 to 1,120; Bajra 1,160 to 1,340; Maize 1,010 to 1,090; Jowar 770 to 840; Wheat Maxi Pak 1,040 to 1,080; Maida (40 kg) 1,280 to 1,320; Suji 1,300 to 1,320; Atta 1,080 to 1,120.

RICE (per 40 kg): Basmati Karnel 3,560 to 3,640; Basmati Saila 3,500 to 3,750; (386) Basmati 1,920 to 1,980; Basmati (385) Saila 1,900 to 1,940; Basmati Broken 1,300 to 1,360; Basmati Super 3,500 to 3,700; Irri-6 Sindh 1,280 to 1,360; Irri-9 Sindh 1,320 to 1,360.


WHOLE (per 40 kg): Mash (Imported) 4,000 to 4,200; Masur (Imported) 2,800 to 3,200; Moong (Punjab) 4,100 to 4,300; Gram Yellow 1,480 to 1,520; Gram White (Kabli) 3,200 to 3,600; Gram Black 1,900 to 2,100; Arhar 3,400 to 3,600.

WASHED (per 40 kg): Mash 4,300 to 4,600; Moong 4,800 to 4,900; Masoor 3,200 to 3,300; Arhar 3,900 to 4,100; Gram (40 kg) 2,300 to 2,400.

SUGAR (per 40 kg): 2,400 to 2,500; Gur 2,300 to 2,400.


WHOLE (per 40 kg): Kunri (dandicut) 7,800 to 8,200; Cumminseed white Zeera 10,000 to 11,000. Cumminseed black Zeera 12,000 to 14,000.

Ajwan 3,200 to 3,800; Turmeric Gantha 8000 to 9000; Turmeric Lambi 9,000 to 10,000.

Corianderseed (No I) 5,000 to 5,400. Corianderseed (No II) 4,000 to 5,000; Fenugreek (Methi) 3,000 to 3,400; Tamarind 1,850 to 2,150; Garlic 5,600 to 5,800; Plum Dry 10,500 to 12,000.

Dry fruits

Almond (Katha) (per 40 kg):  5,500 to 6,000; Almond (Girdi) 22,000 to 32,000; Almond Kagzi (No 1) 5,500 to 7,000; Almond Kagzi (No 2) 4,500 to 5,500.

Walnut in Shell (No 1) 7,200 to 8,000; (No 2) 6,500 to 7,000; Walnut (Kernel) 7,000 to 8,000.

Raisin Sunderkhani (No 1) 9,500 to 10,000; (No 2) 7,000 to 8,000; (No 3) 3,600 to 4,000; Apricot (No 1) 7,000 to 8,000; Apricot (No 2) 6,000 to 7,000; Chilgoza (Roasted) 40,000 to 55,000; Pistachio (Peshawari) 52,000 to 60,000; Pistachio (Kandhari) 4,500 to 5,500; Coconut (FMS) 5,200 to 7,000; Dates Khajoor 3,800 to 5,000; Dates (chohara) 3,200 to 5,200.


EGGS: Rs1,770 to Rs1,775 per crate of 30 dozens, Broiler (Live): Rs136 per kilo; Culled Bird (Live): Rs68 per kilo.

The following are the maximum retail rates for Sunday.

EGGS: Rs62 per dozen, Broiler (Live): Rs138 per kilo, Cull Bird (Live): Rs70 per kilo.—APP

Karachi market rates

Power behind the throne

POWER changed hands in the third living generation of Britain`s House of Windsor through the touch of a finger.

It happened during the most dramatic part of a wedding ceremony, when Prince William began to place the ring on the finger of Kate Middleton, a beautiful young lady of common rather than aristocratic birth.

Either the jeweller who fashioned the ring is an ass who couldn`t get the measurement right, or the very happy Kate had put on weight since her meeting with the jeweller. Since the latter is unlikely, the first must be true. The groom struggled to get the ring onto his bride`s finger while a breathless world watched on television cameras.

There is not much distance between awe and farce; a few more seconds of struggle and the magic would have begun to peel. Judging the dilemma perfectly, and without losing an iota of composure, Kate deftly took William`s hand and brought the ring home to what s hould be, if all goes well, its final resting place.

We know now who will be in charge when Kate and William become queen and king of Britain and those former bits of the old British Empire that will have them.

There are at least three firsts in these Windsor nuptials. This is the first British royal wedding in which 50 per cent of the union is not royal. This is the first time that the bride is older than the groom: William`s mother, Diana, was only 20 when she married the much older Charles.

And, unlike in the case of Diana, no one is interested in whether Kate is a virgin, or indeed whether she lost her virginity to William. The British royal family has joined the egalitarian spirit of its 21st century subjects.

The extraordinary, and even moving, success of the British royal family lies in its unique ability to step back in order to move forward. If their remaining peers around the world understood just this much they would not be in the trouble t hey are now. No period in history has seen as much change, evolution, war and upheaval as the last century.

The Windsor genius has enabled this dynasty to change before they were changed by tides outside their control. They stepped away from supreme, `divinely-sanctioned` authority, in gradual stages, without any fuss, and blossomed into an imperturbable institution that is a magnet for national social cohesion. No elected British prime minister would be so foolish as to test his will against theirs.

There is something about this royal, even majestic, aura that supersedes reality. Would anyone be caught wearing trousers with a sergeant-major`s red vertical slash running down the side from waist to shoe? But there they were, William and daddy Charles, at the wedding dressed in what is surely the very opposite of a pinstripe, and managed to look elegant.

So much of British royal procedure, from decor to decorum, not excluding the faux haughtiness of underling s who populate the palace, is the stuff of potential cartoons that, from a distance, it looks immensely fragile. But it is as strong as silk.

If you or I tried a display of pomp, we would merely look pompous. On Friday, the Windsors turned out all the pomp in the world and it seemed totally befitting. The one area that they might want to tweak towards modernity could be in their names. It is still all Henry Arthur Louis Witherspoon-Cutlery in the guest lists. Research reveals that one of William`s pre-Kate girlfriends was called Davina Duckworth-Chad. No judgment on the girl, but it is a relief to the rest of us that he didn`t marry a surname which was a combination of a publishing firm and African nation.

Some leeway is possible in titles, of course. The moment that the heir but one got married, William became, thanks to the gracious generosity of his grandmother, the Duke of Cambridge, the Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. The Cambridge bit is quite n ice; after all it has a great university. But by the time you descend to the Barony of Carrickfergus you are competing with limericks.

A marriage is an occasion for tradition and sentiment, and one`s first wish is of course that the marriage is blessed with happiness. The track record of Queen Elizabeth`s children, or her sister, is not a triumph of marital bliss.

William is a child of a family that broke in the glare of a merciless media. His mother Diana took revenge against real or imagined slights with a ferocity, and a succession of bizarre boyfriends, that became the subject of relentless gossip.

But tradition, the plasma of this bloodline, is not about mistakes but about recovery. Kate, it seems to me, is steely and level-headed enough to nourish a functional family as her contribution to the Windsors. Thank God she comes from `common` stock. She has, thereby, common sense.

The writer is editor of The Sunday Guardian , published from Delhi, I ndia on Sunday , published from London and editorial director, India Today and Headlines Today .

Law to woo investors

THE president signed the Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Bill, 2011 into law the other day. It is aimed at giving a sense of security to foreign investors and bringing transparency in the settlement of investment disputes. It also changes domestic laws protecting foreign investments in accordance with the provisions of the international convention on the settlement of investment disputes between states and foreign nationals. Islamabad has already ratified the convention that sets up an international centre for the settlement of investment disputes under the aegis of the World Bank and constitutes a conciliation commission and an arbitral tribunal. While the new law should help raise the comfort level of foreign investors interested in bringing their money to this country in future, it is not right to expect the move to open the floodgates of investment from abroad. The safety of investment is not the only issue that influences investment decisions in a given country. If that were the case Pakistan would not have attracted a record foreign direct investment of more than $5.5bn in 2007 when foreign investment did not have the protection it will after this new law. Other factors — political and economic stability, peace and profitability — play a major role in convincing foreigners to bring their money into a country.

Given that Pakistan was never a favourite destination for foreign investors the government is required to do some extra homework to improve investor confidence. Economic stabilisation must be the first step in this direction. Experts agree that the economy could plunge into serious crisis some two years from now, or perhaps even earlier, if a range of fiscal, economic and governance reforms is not implemented to stabilise the country`s finances and put them back on the road to growth. Indeed, the sustained availability of energy will also have to be ensured and security improved. Delay in the implementation of re- forms and improvement in security and energy supply will not attract foreign investment. It will, in fact, lead to the flight of capital. If this happens, the new law would hardly have been of any help.

Avoiding debate

THAT the Public Accounts Committee, which is examining the loss to the exchequer in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, would split along party lines was expected. But the attempts by members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance to discredit and dump the entire draft PAC report have gone beyond tolerable levels of political partisanship — and now threaten parliamentary procedures and established norms. While some of the concerns about "factual discrepancies" in the report merited consideration, nothing could possibly justify the desperate methods adopted by the ruling coalition members at the PAC meeting. After committee chairman Murli Manohar Joshi had `adjourned` the meeting, the UPA members elected Congressman Saifuddin Soz to the chair and organised a `vote` to reject the draft wholesale. The UPA just about had numbers, after winning over the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which support the government from outside.

The `vote` rejecting the report was carried 11 to none, after Dr Joshi and other opposition members of parliament walked out. But the appropriateness of the vote itself is in question, as Dr Joshi says he adjourned the meeting seeking time to examine the allegations of discrepancies in the report. The proper course would have been to thoroughly debate the draft report, rectify discrepancies and errors, and then decide on submitting it to the Lok Sabha speaker. Instead, chaos was engineered at the PAC meeting to avoid any discussion on the inconvenient issues raised by the draft report on the acts of commission and omission by the former communications minister A. Raja, and on the failure of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Prime Minister`s Office to prevent the defrauding of the exchequer through the manipulation of an already flawed `first-come first-served` policy.

Questions about the leak of the draft should not be allowed to divert attention from the work of the PAC, which succeeded in raising key issues in the 2G scam. It is just as well that the document is in the public domain, enabling people to read it and make up their mind on the contentious issues. The UPA, which shamelessly stonewalled demands for a joint parliamentary committee probe by pointing to the PAC`s work on the same issue, cannot be allowed to undermine the PAC in the name of an ongoing JPC probe.

If the 21-member PAC is unable to agree on the report, Dr Joshi might feel compelled to submit it directly to the speaker, who will have the final call on its adoption. The ruling coalition members would be well-advised to discuss all the facts and issues brought up by the draft report, rather than seek to use its thin majority in the PAC to politically shield those involved in, or accountable for, India`s biggest corruption scandal. — (April 30)

Monarchy and the public

WHAT memory will live on? For those who lined the Mall, painting their faces red, white and blue, or who just stayed home watching on television — what will they remember?

The kiss on the balcony will be the image replayed in perpetuity, just as it was when William`s mother and father married 30 years ago — the difference being that this time they looked like a couple genuinely in love.

Others will talk about the pageantry, a show no one lays on quite like the British. It`s a fair bet that almost no one will remember the words. Even the eyes of the wedding couple wandered during the spoken bits. Yet when the Dean of Westminster invoked a "mystical union", he surely got close to the essence both of the royal wedding and of something much larger.

The literal reference was to the bond between Christ and the church, but he could just as easily have been describing the "mystical union" that exists, and was reinforced in spectacular style on Friday, between Britain and the royal family. For what we witnessed was the mysterious alchemy that somehow converts love of country into affection for the House of Windsor.

The emblem of it was the banner waved by many in the crowds, the same one that has been on display in shop windows throughout the land: a union flag, with a portrait of William and Kate at its centre.

The scale of the crowds, like the fervour of the broadcasters, was a reminder of just how rare such displays are in Britain. We have no national day, no Fourth of July. World Cup victories are rarer than coronations and, besides, sporting events are complicated: the teams often represent England or Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland alone rather than Britain.

As for the union flag, that too can be fraught — residually associated with a nasty strain of nationalism rather than simple, sentimental patriotism.

Royal occasions sidestep all these difficulties. They are all-encompassingly British — note the Scottish titles handed to William and Kate, as well as the one that makes the prince sound like a pub: the Duke of Cambridge. But they are also unthreatening, the union flag rendered utterly benign once there`s a smiling young couple in the middle of it.

This, then, is how Britain does patriotism. Too ironic and embarrassed to make the "Is this a great country or what?" declarations of the Americans, we channel our feelings through the outlet of a single family, praising them rather than ourselves. Note our national anthem. Not a song about us at all, it is entirely focused on them. We don`t ask God to save Britain — but to save the Queen.  —The Guardian, London

Plight of children

CHILDREN, together with women, are at the bottom rung of the ladder in Pakistan`s peculiar societal structure. The fact that both society and the state have failed to take care of this country`s children has been highlighted in a recent report released by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. The NGO`s report, The State of Pakistan`s Children 2010 , says that children are principally threatened by abuse and militancy; last year 92 children died while 118 were seriously injured due to militancy-related violence. Education — an already neglected sector — took a further hit with 126 public schools destroyed by militants in 2010. Minors were also susceptible to violence at home and in the criminal justice system. The torture of children remains an issue. Apart from man-made disasters, last summer`s floods had a particularly devastating effect on children, with millions of under-fives in need of food, the report observes.

That the political will to improve children`s lot is missing is clear from the fact that the federal and provincial governments were quite passive when it came to making and enforcing laws to protect children. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the notable exception as its Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010 has been viewed as a step in the right direction. The centre as well as the provinces would do well to emulate Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in this regard. The current situation can change if the state enacts progressive legislation and has the will to enforce it, while society must root out the evil customs and attitudes that make the lives of this country`s children miserable. Giving the children of Pakistan hope for a better tomorrow by creating a more caring and compassionate society is incumbent on all of us. The next generation will not forgive their elders if the latter fail in this crucial area.

Taliban`s offensive to target negotiators

KABUL, April 30: Afghanistan`s Taliban militants on Saturday announced the launch of their spring offensive as international troops gear up for a transition process to hand control of security to home-grown forces.

Referring to itself as "the leading council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" — as it did during its 1996-2001 rule — the group said it "wants to declare the launching of the spring military operations christened as `Badar` to be waged against the invading Americans and their foreign allies".

Spring and summer are Afghanistan`s traditional fighting season.

In a statement in English as well as local languages Pashto and Dari, the Taliban said its offensive against Nato-led troops and the Afghan government would begin on May 1.

It would "focus on attacks against US military centres, places of gatherings, airbases, ammunition and logistical military convoys of the foreign invaders in all parts of the country", the Taliban militants said.

They would also target members of the High Council For Peace, a government body that seeks to negotiate with the Taliban, the statement said, along with government, intelligence services and contractors working for Nato-led forces.

"Strict attention must be paid to the protection and safety of civilians during the spring operations by working out a meticulous military plan," said the Taliban statement.

The Pentagon on Friday claimed "tangible progress" in the war being fought by about 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, along with local forces, but warned gains made in the past six months were "fragile".—AFP

Nato rejects Qadhafi`s ceasefire offer

TRIPOLI, April 30: Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi said on Saturday he was ready for a ceasefire and negotiations provided Nato "stop its planes", but he refused to give up power as rebels and western powers demand.

The rebels and Nato rejected Qadhafi's offer, saying it lacked credibility. A spokesman for the insurgents said the time for compromise had passed and Nato said air strikes would go on as long as Libyan civilians were being threatened.

Weeks of western air strikes have failed to dislodge the Libyan leader, instead imposing a stalemate on a war Qadhafi looked to have been winning, with government forces held at bay in the east and around the besieged city of Misrata while fighting for control of the western mountains.With neither side apparently able to gain the upper hand, Qadhafi struck a more conciliatory
tone in an 80-minute televised address to the nation in the early hours of Saturday.

"(Libya) is ready until now to enter a ceasefire," said Qadhafi, speaking from behind a desk and aided by reams of paper covered in what appeared to be hand-written notes.

"We were the first to welcome a ceasefire and we were the first to accept a ceasefire … but the Crusader v Nato attack has not stopped," he said. "The gate to peace is open."Qadhafi denied mass attacks on civilians and challenged Nato to find him 1,000 people who had been killed in the conflict, kindled by pro-democracy uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.

"We did not attack them or cross the sea … why are they attacking us?" asked Qadhafi, referring to European countries involved in the air strikes. "Let us negotiate with you, the countries that attack us. Let us negotiate."

But as he spoke, Nato warplanes hit three targets close to the television building in Tripoli in what state media said was an attempt to kill Qadhafi who has ruled since a 1969 coup.

The air strikes left a large crater outside the attorney general's office but did not damage the building. It hit two other government offices housed in colonial-era buildings. It was not clear if there were any casualties.

The rebels' transitional national council dismissed Qadhafi's gesture, saying the Libyan leader had repeatedly offered ceasefires only to continue violating human rights.

"Qadhafi's regime has lost all credibility," council spokesman Abdel Hafiz Ghoga said in a statement.—Reuters

Judge among 13 dead in Iraq

BAGHDAD, April 30: Insurgents bombed an Iraqi judge`s home, killing him and at least one of his children on Saturday, while a suicide blast in the north of the country killed seven people, including four soldiers.

Nationwide violence left at least 13 people dead, including an industry ministry official, in a third consecutive day of double-digit fatalities just months before a deadline for US forces to withdraw from Iraq completely.

In the deadliest incident, a suicide bomber blew himself up close to a passing army patrol, killing at least seven people, including four soldiers, security and medical officials said.

Another 15 people were wounded, two of them soldiers, in the attack at the entrance to a popular market in the main northern city of Mosul at 7:30 pm (1630 GMT), a security official and a doctor at Mosul`s main hospital said

Earlier on Saturday, Judge Tuama al-Tamimi and one of his children were killed when insurgents planted bombs around Tamimi`s home in the town of Taji, 25 kms north of Baghdad, and blew it up.

There were conflicting reports on whether any of Tamimi`s other relatives also died in the blast. One of the judge`s bodyguards was shot dead earlier.

"The judge was killed along with his wife and daughter," police Captain Ahmed Fahd al-Khalidi said. "The insurgents put jerry cans of explosive materials in two or three locations around his house and blew it up at around 5:00 am (0200 GMT)." "The house collapsed," he added.

Judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Birakdar said Tamimi was killed along with three of his children, with the judge`s wife and another child being treated in hospital.

Near the judge`s home, gunmen also entered the house of one of Tamimi`s police bodyguards early on Saturday and shot him dead, an interior ministry official said.

Judges in Iraq have frequently been targeted by insurgents for assassination, and many have bodyguards.

Also in Taji, gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms stormed the home of an industry ministry official and killed him and his daughter, the interior ministry official said.

On hearing the attack, neighbours came out of their homes and clashes ensued with the attackers, leaving one insurgent dead and two civilians wounded. The remaining gunmen managed to flee the scene.

And in Baghdad, army Colonel Mustafa Hassan was shot dead by gunmen using silenced pistols while in his car along a main road in the centre of the capital, according to the interior ministry official.

Hassan`s wife and two policemen were wounded when the car he was driving careened out of control into a nearby checkpoint. The gunmen managed to flee the scene.

The killings of Tamimi, Hassan and the industry ministry official were the latest in an apparent trend of targeting senior Iraqi officials, in a spate of attacks that have been blamed on Al Qaeda.

Four other officials have been killed in less than two weeks, and at least three have narrowly escaped being murdered.

The Islamic State of Iraq, Al Qaeda`s front group in the country, posted a statement on the Internet jihadist forum Honein last week, claiming to have carried out 62 "operations" between the start of March and April 5.—AFP

No ground operation without UN approval: Russia

MOSCOW: Russia is ready to discuss a potential ground operation in Libya, but only within the context of the UN Security Council, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

"I go on the principle that the ground operation has not been authorised by the UN Security Council. If someone wants to call for such a mandate, then be my guest, come to the UN Security Council and we'll discuss it," Lavrov said in an interview on the TVTs
Russian television channel.

"We are receiving information, according to which, such projects are being drawn up within Nato and the EU," he said.

Russia, which has a veto in the Security Council, abstained in the March 17 vote Libya no-fly zone resolution.

It has accused the West several times of violating the spirit of the resolution.—AFP

Putin criticises Japan’s nuclear industry

MOSCOW, April 30: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticised Japan's nuclear industry on Saturday, questioning the building of plants in seismic zones and its response to the Fukushima disaster.

"The Japanese have a unique situation. I don't know why — it's their choice — they build their plants in seismic zones. The whole of Japan is a seismic zone," Putin said during a meeting of physicists in Penza, south of Moscow.

The premier said he thought that the Japanese authorities should have quickly supplied the Fukushima plant with extra power in order to pump water and cool it down.

"They should have brought in new power generators from other areas of the country in time, but they did not and that's what caused problems," Putin said in a speech published on his official site.—AFP

Chopper carrying Indian state chief minister missing

GAUHATI, April 30: A helicopter carrying the chief minister of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh went missing on Saturday in bad weather during what should have been a 75-minute flight, officials said.

Indian air force helicopters will resume their search at daylight on Sunday after finding no trace of the missing aircraft in the rugged mountains where it lost radio contact, said the country`s home secretary, G.K. Pillai.

Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu — the state`s highest elected official — had been travelling with two other passengers and two pilots from the Buddhist mountain retreat of Tawang to the state capital of Itanagar. Skies were clear as the helicopter took off, but conditions became cloudy and rainy as it neared the Sella Pass over the Himalayas.

There was confusion about the helicopter`s fate on Saturday as some officials quoting local sources said it had been forced by bad weather to land in a forest in the neighbouring country of Bhutan.

However, Bhutan`s police chief said no Indian helicopters had landed in the country. "We have alerted our police and local villagers to look for any helicopter making an emergency landing in Bhutan," but there had been no sightings, Kitshu Namgyal said by telephone from the country`s capital of Thimphu.—AP

Bahrainis slam death sentences

MANAMA, April 30: Thousands of Bahrainis gathered before a revered cleric on Saturday and denounced death sentences given to protesters over anti-government rallies crushed in March.

The verdict, handed down by a military court on Thursday to four men accused of killing two policemen in the violent protests, could intensify sectarian tension in the state that hosts the US navy`s Fifth Fleet.

"It`s not true that they killed them," said a man who identified himself only as Moussa, after praying at the mosque of Sheikh Issa Qassim, as a helicopter circled overhead.—Reuters

Brotherhood forms `non-theocratic` party

CAIRO, Egypt, April 30: The formerly banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt`s best-organised movement, said on Saturday it formed a non-theocratic party that will contest up to half of parliament`s seats in September elections.

Mohammed Hussein, the group`s secretary general, told a news conference the movement`s council had decided to form the Freedom and Justice Party.

"We have adopted the measures taken by the guidance council regarding the Freedom and Justice Party and adopted its programme," he said.

He added that the party will contest 45-50 per cent of parliament`s 508 elected seats in the September polls, the first since a revolt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February. He did not say why the group had settled on that number.

The party, headed by Brotherhood politburo member Mohammed al-Mursi, will be "independent from the Brotherhood but will coordinate with it," he said

Mursi, who had run the Brotherhood`s previous parliamentary campaigns, said the party was not "theocratic." "It is not an Islamist party in the old understanding; it is not theocratic. It is a civil party." Egypt`s constitution bans parties based on religion, class or regionalism.

The Brotherhood has sought to allay fears that an Islamist parliamentary majority might emerge from the polls and said it would be willing to cooperate with secular groups in the September election.

It has also pledged not to field a candidate in a presidential election, to be held in November.

A tentative party programme leaked to the press in 2008 said that only an Egyptian Muslim male could be president of the country, causing a fire storm of criticism at the time.—AFP

Prices for petroleum products increased by 10 rupees

A ten rupees increase in prices for petroleum products will be in effect from May 1. - AFP (File Photo)

ISLAMABAD: Prices for petroleum products were increased by 10 rupees per liter on Saturday, the new prices will be in effect from May 1, DawnNews reported.

According to the notification issued by Oil and Gas Regulation Authority (Ogra) the new price for petrol will be Rs 88.41 after an increase of Rs 4.85 per liter.

The price for high-speed diesel was increased by Rs 4.42, light diesel by Rs 9.32, kerosene oil by Rs 5.60, where as the price high-octane was increased by Rs 1.80 per liter.

The new price for high-speed diesel will be Rs 97.31, for light-diesel Rs 88. 30, for kerosene oil Rs 89.70, and for high-octane Rs 99.92 per liter.

Suicide bomber kills eight, wounds 19 in Iraq

Nineveh province police Lieutenant Colonel Mahmoud al-Jibouri said the dead included five soldiers, while two soldiers were amongst the wounded. -AP File Photo

MOSUL: At least eight people were killed and 19 others wounded on Saturday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Iraqi army checkpoint next to a market in the northern city of Mosul, a police official said.

Nineveh province police Lieutenant Colonel Mahmoud al-Jibouri said the dead included five soldiers, while two soldiers were amongst the wounded.

Mosul is 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.

Malik directs implementation of SC order on missing persons

Rehman Malik

Federal Minister for Interior, Senator A. Rehman Malik chairing a high level meeting on missing persons at Ministry of Interior. – File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister A Rehman Malik on Saturday directed the concerned officials to implement the order of Supreme Court regarding missing persons.

He issued this direction while chairing a high level meeting to discuss issue of missing persons.

The meeting was attended by Federal Secretary Interior, four provinces Inspector Generals, Home Secretaries, Chief Commissioner Islamabad, I.G ISlamabad, DG National Crisis Management Cell and Intelligence representatives.

Interior minister asked the provincial authorities to present detailed report regarding steps being taken by them in their respective provinces regarding missing persons.

He lauded the performance of Judicial Commission for resolving several cases of missing persons.

Revolution-seeking Blatter wins support from South America

"We had a really good relationship and he supported my election in 1998. We worked together but I wouldn't say it was a friendship." Blatter on his election rival Mohamed Bin Hammam —File photo

ASUNCION: South America's football federation has thrown its support behind FIFA president Joseph Blatter, who is facing an election challenge from Asian football confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam.

In a statement, the governing body CONMEBOL said it was giving its "united and full" support to Blatter. The statement was issued during CONMEBOL's executive committee meetings, which are being attended by Blatter.

Blatter faces a vote on June 1 and is seeking his fourth term, which he says will be his last. He has led FIFA since 1998.

The support was expected and announced in a statement by 79-year-old Julio Grondona, who is a high-ranking FIFA vice president and the president of the Argentine Football Association.

"South America is united and fully committed in its support for Blatter's candidacy," CONMEBOL said, quoting Grondona. "There is no doubt about this."

Blatter, who has been widely criticized for the way World Cup hosts are chosen, has promised wide-ranging changes as he campaigns for re-election.
Future World Cup hosts should be selected in a way similar to how the International Olympic Committee chooses Olympic venues, Blatter told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

FIFA was criticized for the process that led its executive to give Russia the 2018 World Cup and choose Qatar as host of the 2022 tournament.

Both decisions were made at the same time, with two executive committee members barred from voting by FIFA's ethics panel due to corruption allegations. Four other senior officials were also suspended from duty.

"It's a project I've had at the back of my mind. I would like to (follow) the example of the IOC, to prevent what happened," Blatter told the paper. "The executive (would) receive 10 or 12 bids, look at them, pick the best and give (them) to the full congress to choose."

The full congress includes 208 FIFA members – each representing a national association – who would all have one vote. Until now, World Cup hosts have been chosen by the 24-member Executive Committee.

Blatter said he wanted to introduce a body designed to help repair FIFA's credibility. He said he already knew who he wanted to head the body, but didn't name them.

"I can't tell you the name yet. He will choose the other members," Blatter said. "They should be familiar with football but their priority will be to restore credibility."

The members would not come from within football, Blatter said.

The 75-year-old Swiss, who is seeking a fourth term of office on June 1, also criticized his Qatari opponent in the presidential election, the Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam, for his decision to stand.

"I don't know why Bin Hammam became so aggressive suddenly. He repeatedly told the executive he would not run against me and now he is doing it," Blatter said.

"We had a really good relationship and he supported my election in 1998. We worked together but I wouldn't say it was a friendship."

Blatter revealed his presidential salary was "1 million dollars. Perhaps a bit more. I'm not ashamed by that."

He said he was also willing to publish the salaries of FIFA officials, "if the congress so decides."

"Compared with international companies listed on the stock exchange, we are school kids as far as salaries are concerned," Blatter said.

At the FIFA Congress in Zurich, the winning candidate needs a two-thirds majority in the first ballot or a simple majority in the second round.

"I imagine that I have about the half votes from Asia and Africa and surely a majority in the rest of the world," Blatter said.

PPP, PML-Q alliance to guarantee stability: Qasim Shah

President, Asif Ali Zardari in meeting with Delegation of Muslim League-Q headed by its President, Ch.Shujaat Hussain at Aiwan-e-Sadr in Islamabad. - File Photo

MANSEHRA: Former federal minister Syed Qasim Shah has welcomed the alliance between PPP and PML-Q and said that it will guarantee political stability in the country in general and of Hazara in particular.

Talking to APP here on Saturday, he said that the political alliance and power sharing between the political parties is part of the democratic process. He criticized the hue and cry created by some politicians over the alliance saying political differences should not be considered as personal enmity.

< p>He said that the prevailing grave situation of the country requires unity amongst the political parties. He said that political forces which are sincere in pulling the country out of the current crises should be happy over the alliance.

In reply to a query, he said that the PPP government has initiated several mega projects in Hazara and only this political party is capable for announcement of Hazara province and resolution of other problems in the region.

Slow, steady but rising

After winning the memorable Asian Games gold. —Photo by AFP

After winning the memorable Asian Games gold. —Photo by AFP

They may have been away from the news after their gold-medal-winning performance at last year's Asian Games, but Pakistan's women's cricket team have been slowly plotting a comeback into the limelight.

The on-field success at Guangzhou was followed by another breakthrough moment in women's cricket, when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) awarded central contracts to the women's team in the following month (December 2010). While the number of contracted players or the remuneration they received was not revealed by the board, the move was welcomed by national captain Sana Mir, who said "the PCB has acknowledged that we can play the game professionally and this will spur us on for more achievements."

The team's five-month hiatus from international cricket came to end with a tour of Sri Lanka, prior to which, they underwent a training regimen in Lahore. During the eleven-day training camp, the players worked towards improving their batting and fielding skills after a series of batting failures in earlier tournaments. Mir, then, showed faith in her team's hard work and expected it to pay dividends during the series.

Pakistan completed a series sweep on Friday, when they beat Ireland in their final ODI and won the quadrangular one-day international (ODI) series on the basis of superior points. They had earlier won the Twenty20 quadrangular series, which included the same teams as the ODI version, Sri Lanka, Ireland and Netherlands.

While the captain's faith was not entirely repaid during the tour, the batting did show major signs of improvement in the three Twenty20 and four ODI matches. Opening batter Javeria Wadood Khan was particularly impressive during the tour as she averaged 29 in the Twenty20 series and raked up 110 runs in four ODIs, with two unbeaten, match-winning knocks of 43* and 67*. The 22-year-old's success was one of the mainstays of Pakistan's success on the tour, as reiterated by Mir.

"I am very happy with the way Javeria performed throughout the series, her batting was one of the key factors behind our series victories," Mir told Dawn.com on Friday.

The captain, however, was quick to recognise the failure of the middle-order batters to score runs as was evident by their batting collapse in the low-scoring match against Sri Lanka (68, all out), which Pakistan won by two wickets and not a ball to spare.

"Winning both series has been a great achievement but our middle order has to improve if we are to compete against the better-ranked teams."

Pakistan's bowling remained consistently good during the tour as experienced swing bowler Qanita Jalil and leg-break bowler Bisma Maroof led the way with six wickets each. Masooma Junaid, who opened the bowling with Jalil, was also among the wickets with five in the four ODIs.

Mir, herself a leg-break bowler and a lower-middle-order batswoman, was not far from the action as she contributed to the wickets (four in four matches) and scored 21 runs in her two outings. These figures, however, did not prove satisfactory to the captain as she scrutinized her performance.

"I am quite satisfied with my contribution with the ball but my batting needs improvement as I come in at a crucial position in the line-up."

Pakistan left for Sri Lanka without experienced all-rounder Asmavia Iqbal and top-order batter Nain Fatima Abidi, who are both key members of the squad but were forced out of the tour due to injuries. The fact that team still managed to remain unbeaten and lift two trophies did not go missing as Mir hailed her team's achievements in what she termed an important series.

"We are going to face the same teams in our World Cup (2013) qualifiers in October-November this year, so it was important that we do well here (in Sri Lanka) under difficult conditions and take that experience to Bangladesh for the qualifying matches."

While the women's team is not officially scheduled to play any international matches before heading to Bangladesh for the World Cup qualifiers, officials of the PCB Women's Wing have been in talks to play series against the West Indies and neighbours China.

A 'friendly' bilateral series against the Indian 'A' team also remains a possibility as the two countries are in talks for the revival of bilateral sporting ties.

Whether or not these international matches are materialized before the team embarks on World Cup qualification campaign, it will come as a surprise if the women in green fail to qualify. After all, they made ripples with their sixth-place finish at the 2009 World Cup, where Mir was Pakistan's vice-captain and leading wicket-taker. Since that outing in Australia, Mir has come a long way with a two-year learning curve. So has Pakistan women's cricket team.