WORLD IN FOCUS November – December 2010

Current Pakistan National Affairs

Remittances reach $3.5b in 4 months: Remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis are growing at a faster pace as these reached $3.5 billion in the first four months of the current fiscal year, giving hope for cumulative $10 billion inflows by the end of this year.

EU approves trade aid package for Pakistan: On Nov 11, European Union governments have approved a raft of trade concessions for Pakistan, diplomats said, a move to help the country rebound from July floods which caused nearly $10 billion of damage.

Afghan diplomat set free after two years: Abdul Khaliq Farahi, the Afghan consul general in Peshawar who had been kidnapped two years ago, was released by his captors.

Pakistan seeks $50b foreign debt waiver: As federal and provincial economic teams assured the international community of their resolve to introduce wide-ranging taxation measures, including Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) and taxes on agriculture and real estate, Interior Minister Rehman Malik made a plea for waiving the $50 billion foreign debt to help Pakistan move ahead with the war against terrorism.

Hafeez disowns call for debt write-off: Downplaying a call for writing off Pakistan’s debt, the country’s economic team presented to international lenders a revised budgetary framework for the current financial year, envisaging a higher fiscal deficit of 4.7 per cent, substantial reduction in development outlays and additional taxation and reform measures.

Pakistan agrees to expand CIA presence in Quetta: On Nov 20, the United States has one again exerted pressure on Pakistan to expand the areas where CIA drones can operate inside the country, reflecting concern that the US war efforts in Afghanistan are being undermined by insurgents’ continued ability to take sanctuary across the border, US and Pakistani officials said.

Sherdil to head Bank of Punjab: The Punjab government has appointed former chief secretary A. Z. K. Sherdil as Bank of Punjab’s (BoP) chairman.
EU revises rules of origin for imports: The European Commission (EC) has adopted on Nov 25 regulation revising rules of origin for products imported under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

The new regulation to be enforced from Jan. 1, 2011, would immensely benefit Pakistan and other developing countries on their exports to least developed countries.

 The commission through a notification on Nov. 18, 2010, stated that the new regulation relaxes and simplifies rules and procedures for developing countries wishing to access the EU’s preferential trade arrangements.

Trademark office linked with WIPO: The Trademark Registry Office has been linked electronically with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva.

US trying to remove enriched Pak uranium: US diplomatic cables released on Nov 28 show that since 2007 the United States has been engaged in a secret effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani research reactor. According to the documents released by a whistle-blowing website called Wiki-Leaks, the US administration authorised this effort because American officials feared the material could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.

640 killed this year in 37 suicide attacks: At least 640 people have been killed and 1,800 injured in 37 suicide bomb attacks in the country during the current year.

Of the 37 attacks, 25 took place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seven in Punjab, two each in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Balochistan and one in Sindh, official sources said.

Accords with Lanka on visa, customs: Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Nov 28 signed agreements on waiving visa requirements for officials and diplomats, cooperation in customs-related matters and augmenting cultural exchange and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in agriculture.

2 new ministers inducted in federal cabinet: Two new ministers ‘one federal minister Haji Khuda Buksh Rajar PML(F) and one minister of state Istiqbal Khan (ANP) ‘took oath hiking the strength of the federal cabinet to 58 members.

5 ministries devolved: The federal government on Dec 1 devolved the functions of five ministries to the provinces, in a significant step towards the implementation of the 18th Amendment.

Govt withdraws amended accountability ordinance: A surprised Supreme Court was informed that the government was withdrawing the amended National Accountability Ordinance, only a day after having defended the law which empowers the federation to transfer corruption references from one accountability court to the other.

Concern over damage done by leaks: The Defence Committee of the Cabinet decided on Dec 3 to convey to the US authorities the government’s reservations over the disclosure of confidential and secret information by WikiLeaks, reliable sources said.

MoU with Sri Lanka to cooperate in farm sector: On Dec 4, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in agriculture and promoting trade and industrial relations.

Accord to knock out militant sanctuaries: Pakistan and Afghanistan renewed their commitment to eliminate militant sanctuaries in their territories, which could have been used for acts of subversion in either country.

US urged Pakistan to sign security pact with India: The United States urged Pakistan to sign a new security pact with India if it wanted a civilian nuclear deal with Washington, according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

EU delays trade relief for Pakistan: Faced with strong resistance from India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Geneva, the European Union has delayed duty-free concessions for 67 products from Pakistan till March 2011.

18 die in Kohat suicide blast: On Dec 8, Eighteen people were killed and 32 others injured when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger van at a bus stand in the busy Teerah bazaar in Kohat.

SC stays transfer of Gwadar Port land: The Supreme Court stayed transfer to any private party land reportedly allotted to a Singapore company for developing the strategic deep-water Gwadar Shipping Port in Balochistan.

100 amendments to RGST agreed: Federal and provincial finance secretaries on Dec 8 agreed to make about 100 amendments to the proposed Reformed General Sales Tax, but major issue relating to inter-provincial tax collection and the rate of tax remained unresolved.

Indian hand evident in Balochistan, Waziristan: A cable from US Embassy in Islamabad leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks disclosed that there were enough evidences of Indian involvement in Waziristan and other tribal areas of Pakistan as well as Balochistan.

State Bank forms special panel for agri credit growth: State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Shahid H. Kardar on Dec 8 constituted a special committee to devise a strategy in consultation with federal and provincial governments and other stakeholders for the growth of agriculture credit in the country.

11 missing men in agency custody, face terror charge, court told: The mystery of 11 prisoners, who had been missing from Adiyala jail since their acquittal on terrorism charges in May this year, was finally solved, with two premier spy agencies claiming that they had ‘recovered’ the men from terror camps and were now questioning them for masterminding terror campaigns after which they would be tried under the 1952 Army Act.

Import of old vehicles allowed: Ostensibly to send a strong message to car manufacturers and assemblers, who have been refusing to lower automobile prices, the government has announced its decision to allow import of vehicles that are up to five years old.

Current Pakistan International Affairs

Rivals in Iraq seal power-sharing deal: Iraq’s deeply divided political factions have sealed a power-sharing deal more than eight months after an inconclusive general election, paving the way for MPs to elect a speaker.

The deal, clinched after three days of high pressure talks, see Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia, set return for a second term, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, likely to retain the presidency and a Suni Arab MP poised to be elected as parliament speaker.

G20 agrees on fresh approach to promote growth: The Group of 20 on Nov 12 agreed to take a fresh approach to international development focused on promoting growth, but recommitted to aid pledges after warnings from charities and the UN.

Scanners at US airports may be dangerous: US scientists on Nov 12 warned that the full-body, graphic-image X-ray scanners that are being used to screen passengers and airline crews at airports around the country may be unsafe.

Suu Kyi comes out of 7-year detention: Myanmars’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi walked free after more than seven years as a prisoner in her own home, calling on a sea of jubilant supporters to unite in the face of repression.

EU accepts Iran talks offer, suggests venue: EU diplomacy chief Catherine Ashton on Nov 13 agreed to resume long-stalled nuclear talks between world powers and Iran on Dec 5, and suggested they be held in Austria or Switzerland.

Terrorism forbidden in Islam: Terrorism is forbidden in Islam and such acts should not be reciprocated at any cost, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah said in his Haj sermon at Mount Arafat.

Physicists set sights on ‘hiding time: Jewellery robbers, magicians, exam cheats and practical jokers everywhere will have an interest in an offbeat idea being launched by physicists to make the passage of time invisible.

The scientists have conceived of a ‘space-time cloak’ which manipulates light and, in essence, conceals whole events from a viewer.

The theory is based on censoring the flow of events, which we perceive as a stream of light particles, also called photons, which strike the photons, which strike the retina.

No gap with Karzai on Afghan war strategy: US: The United States rejected suggestions it was increasingly at odds with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over war strategy but acknowledged his frustration with the long-running conflict.

Military action won’t stop Iran N-plan: Gates: US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates said on Nov 16 that military action would not stop Iran’s nuclear programme and instead would only make it ‘deeper and more covert. Gates told a conference that military action would offer only a ‘short-term solution’ to the thorny issue of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Kashmir issue remains part of agenda, says UN spokesman: The United Nations Security Council continues to be ‘seized of Kashmir issue’ as it is part of its agenda item, a spokesman for the UN Secretary General said.

French cuisine named a world intangible heritage: Unesco declared French cuisine a ‘world intangible heritage’ the first time gastronomy is added to a list aiming to protect cultural practices.

Experts from the UN cultural organization Unesco, gathered in the Kenyan capital, said France’s multi-course gastronomic meal, with its rites and its presentation, fulfilled the conditions for feather on the list.

No plan to send troops into Pakistan: Gates: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that the United States does not want to send its troops inside Pakistan in pursuit of religious extremists and would prefer that Pakistani soldiers do the job.

Nato to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014: The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on Nov 20 signalled to unspecified regional players and the Taliban to stop daydreaming about an impending exit from Afghanistan, emphatically insisting instead that the allies were in for the long haul.

Nato agrees on Europe-wide missile system: US President Barack Obama and his Nato allies agreed to shield Europe’s peoples from rogue rocket attacks with a screen of interceptor missiles, and to invite Russia to take part.

Pope elevates 24 new cardinals to elect his successor: On Nov 20, Pope Benedict XVI elevated 24 new cardinals from around the world, brining them into an elite club which will eventually elect his successor.

339 die in Cambodia festival stampede: A stampede on a bridge in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh killed at least 339 people and wounded nearly as many after thousands panicked on the last day of a water festival, authorities and state media said.

N. Korea pounds S. Korean island: On Nov 23, North Korea fired a deadly barrage of artillery shells onto a South Korean island in one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-1953 war, inciting global condemnation.

South Korea’s military went top alert, its troops fired back with cannon and the government met in an underground war room, officials said, in response to what Seoul called an atrocity against civilians.

UK unveils tough immigration rules: Britain said it would cut the number of work visas issued to non-EU migrants by a fifth to a maximum of 21,700 a year, as it seeks to radically slash immigration levels.

Nato allowed to use Russian soil for transit: Russia will let Nato take armoured vehicles to Afghanistan through its territory under an expanded transit deal that would reduce reliance on Pakistan, its Foreign Minister Sergei Lawrov said.

Zapatero ‘absolutely’ rules out economic rescue for Spain: Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ‘absolutely’ ruled out on Nov 26 an Irish-style rescue for Spain even as markets cranked Spain’s debt risk premium up to record highs.

The prospect of a rescue for Spain’s economy, which is twice the size of that of Ireland, Greece and Portugal combined, is sowing deep concern in world financial markets.

First N-plant begins operating in Iran: Iran said its first atomic power plant built by Russia in Bushehr has begun operations, ahead of a new round of talks with western powers over the country’s controversial nuclear drive.

US failed to secure settlement freeze: The United States on Dec 2 admitted it has failed to win a new Israeli settlement freeze, a Palestinian official said, in a potential knockout blow to stalled peace talks.

Focus on Israel, not us, Syria tells IAEA: Syria dismissed calls to grant UN nuclear inspectors prompt access to the remains of a suspected nuclear site bombed to rubble by Israel, saying they should focus their investigation on the Jewish state instead.

No deal with Taliban, US assured India: As the Afghan government engaged the Taliban in talks, the United States assured India that it would not support a power-sharing arrangement between Kabul and the militants.

Iran accuses IAEA of sending spies, not inspectors: On Dec 4, Iran’s intelligence chief accused the UN nuclear watchdog agency of sending spies in the guise of inspectors to gather information about Iran’s nuclear activities.

Iran claims achieving nuclear self-sufficiency: Iran said it has produced a first batch of uranium yellowcake, the raw material for enrichment, insisting the new step ‘strengthens’ its position in upcoming nuclear talks with world powers.

Israel must ‘clear blood’ to mend ties: Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Dec 5 insisted on an Israeli apology and compensation over a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in May as the only way to mend bilateral ties, Anatolia news agency reported.

Scientists on track to solving anti-matter mystery: European scientists on Dec 6 reported the creation and capture of anti-hydrogen atoms in a novel magnetic trap and said it put them on track to solving one of the great cosmic mysteries ‘the make-up of anti-matter.

Russia, US sign deal to reduce nuclear risk: Russia and the United States agreed to study the possibility of making Russian research reactors less of a nuclear proliferation risk by converting them to use low-enriched uranium fuel.

Assange arrested; bail refused: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has angered US authorities by publishing secret diplomatic cables, was remanded in custody by a British court on remanded in custody by a British court over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, had earlier handed himself in to British police after Sweden had issued a European Arrest Warrant for him. Assange, who denies the allegations, will remain behind bars until a fresh hearing on Dec 14.

Cameron eyes pullout in 2011: British Prime Minister David Cameron said that next year must show ‘irreversible’ progress in the anti-Taliban war, expressing hope that British troops could start leaving Afghanistan in 2011.

Israel snubs US over settlement freeze: The Middle East peace process lay in tatters after Washington admitted defeat in its efforts to secure an Israeli freeze on settlement building, the Palestinians’ condition for resuming talks.


Women’s cricket team bags gold in Asiad: Pakistan’s women team created history by winning the inaugural cricket event of the Asian Games, bringing the first gold medal for the country in the present Asiad.

Double delight at Asian Games: Pakistan on Nov 25 enjoyed double success at the Asian Games as they outplayed Malaysia in hockey and squash finals to clinch back-to-back gold medals on a memorable day in the country’s sporting history.

Asian Games 2010:
Final medals table

Country                                  Gold           Silver      Bronze    Total

China 199 119 98 416
South Korea 76 65 91 232
Japan 48 74 94 216
Iran 20 14 25 59
Kazakhstan 18 23 38 79
India 14 17 33 64
Taiwan 13 16 38 67
Uzbekistan 11 22 23 56
Thailand 11 9 32 52
Malaysia 9 18 14 41
Hong Kong 8 15 17 40
North Korea 6 10 20 36
Saudi Arabia 5 3 5 13
Bahrain 5 0 4 9
Indonesia 4 9 13 26
Singapore 4 7 6 17
Kuwait 4 6 1 11
Qatar 4 5 7 16
Philippines 3 4 9 16
Pakistan 3 2 3 8
Mongolia 2 5 9 16
Myanmar 2 5 3 10
Jordan 2 2 2 6
Vietnam 1 17 15 33
Kyrgyzstan 1 2 2 5
Macau 1 1 4 6
Bangladesh 1 1 1 3
Tajikistan 1 0 3 4
Syria 1 0 1 2
UAE 0 4 1 5
Afghanistan 0 2 1 3
Iraq 0 1 2 3
Lebanon 0 1 2 3
Laos 0 0 2 2
Nepal 0 0 1 1
Oman 0 0 1 1

Federer outguns Nadal for record-equalling fifth title: Roger Federer on Nov 29 sent a timely reminder to Rafael Nadal, outgunning the year’s dominant player to win the ATP World Tour Finals with an irresistible barrage of attacking tennis.

Clinical England whip Australia in Adelaide: England crushed Australia by an innings and 71 runs after a spectacular collapse of wickets early on the final day in the second Ashes Test at the Adelaide Oval.

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