Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rs 150m price tag for Senate seat?

Daily Times


 Rs 150m price tag for Senate seat?

* Tribal candidate claims it is easy to win polls if aspirants have this much money

By Iqbal Khattak

PESHAWAR: Some FATA aspirants for the Senate are willing to 'pay as much as Rs 150 million' for a single seat in the Upper House, a tribal parliamentarian heading a nine-member group of MNAs from the Tribal Areas told Daily Times on Friday, but denied that seats are being sold.

"There are candidates who have money and are willing to pay as much as Rs 150 million for a single Senate seat," said MNA Munir Orakzai. Allegations over the purchase of Senate votes by tribal candidates is not anything new, but the difference this year is the outrageously high money being offered. There are 12 National Assembly (NA) seats for seven tribal districts and six frontier regions, but elections for NA-41 have not yet been held because of security problems – leaving behind 11 votes for the Senate polls.

'Simple': A tribal candidate for Senate elections from Khyber Agency told Daily Times, "It is simple to win a seat in the Senate if you have that much money." With a total of 34 tribesmen from Khyber, Kurram, Orakzai and North Waziristan contesting the polls for four Senate seats, 11 FATA MNAs will vote four candidates into the Upper House on March 4. Sources close to the FATA MNAs said that 'serious and strong Senate candidates' were to deposit 'a substantial sum in advance' and the remaining after the elections. "If a candidate who deposits money with the MNAs loses the elections, the original sum will be doubled and given back."

'Acknowledgement': MNA Sajid Hussain Toori also acknowledged that Senate seats were being sold, but said the 'price tag of Rs 150 million' this year was outrageously high.

"During the last Senate elections, a winning candidate did not have to spend more than Rs 30 million," the MNA from Kurram Agency told Daily Times. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chairman of the NA Standing Committee on Kashmir, asked President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to take serious notice of the 'horse trading'. Sources said Fazl also asked the president at a meeting to discourage the alleged use of money in the Senate elections by FATA candidates. He said that the MNAs should vote to elect the four senators from FATA.

The Munir Orakzai-led tribal parliamentarians, however, rejected that seats were being sold. "We know why Fazl is saying this … we will disclose the details after the Senate polls," the group said without elaborating. Relatives of seven FATA MNAs are also among the 34 candidates. "Will we vote for our own relatives or for those who are ready to pay the money? Obviously, we want our relatives to win the Senate elections," Munir argued.



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Taliban kills Shia school children in Pakistan

Taliban kills Shia school children in Pakistan
Fri, 27 Feb 2009 07:55:58 GMT
Moderate Sunni groups and political activists protest against Shia blockade and killings in Parachinar
The Taliban insurgents in northwestern Pakistan ambush a minibus carrying Shia children to school, killing three and injuring several others.

At least eight other Shia Muslim children appear to have been kidnapped by the attackers.

The incident happened on Friday morning outside the town of Hangu in the troubled North West Frontier Province, state-run television PTV reported.

The driver of the minibus was also killed in the lethal attack.

The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured children are said to be in critical condition, according to medics.

Hangu is located about 175 kilometers (110 miles) west of the capital Islamabad.

Taliban-linked militants in Parachinar, Hangu towns and the other areas of the Kurram tribal agency have killed 25 to 30 people on a daily basis during the last six months, local media reports say.

Some reports have cited grave human rights abuses against Shias in the northwestern Pakistani city of Parachinar.

Taliban has established its rule in the restive Swat valley and its influence is also rapidly increasing its grip on the major cities and even the so-called settled areas of the country.

Shia sources say that the community makes up one-third of Pakistan's 160 million-strong population. Since the 1980s, thousands of people have been killed in violence-related incidents in Pakistan by extremist groups.

Moderate Pakistani Sunni groups believe that leaving Shias at the mercy of the Taliban is a conspiracy against the country.

Earlier, Tehran cautioned Islamabad over the 'silent massacre' of its Shia community by the Taliban in the country.

"The incidents that have occurred against Pakistan's Shia community are a plot to create conflict between the region's Sunni and Shia population," said Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

"We have warned Islamabad over the incidents and we will pursue the matter," he added.