President Pervez Musharraf flies home from what's being called a measurably successful overseas tour this week into a worsening political deadlock, with speculation rife that tough action against the rebellious parliament is high on his agenda. \n"The prospects of dissolution are more finely balanced than many people think," an Islamabad-based diplomat said. \n"Musharraf is facing ridiculous opposition from all over the place. He's getting bogged down in detail. \n"His vision is evaporating. He's spending all his time running trench warfare." \nOther analysts say Musharraf is more likely to use the courts to curb the opposition, pointing to a challenge in the supreme court against the academic qualifications of mainly Islamist opposition member of parliaments (MPs) that could see them unseated. \nSince October elections, which restored the first parliament since Musharraf's 1999 coup and were supposed to end his three-year military rule, only one piece of legislation has been passed: the national budget. \nA loose alliance of secular and Islamic opposition parties are waging a bitter campaign to force him to surrender self-appointed power and his simultaneous post as army chief. \nMost sessions of the 342-seat parliament, in which the pro-Musharraf coalition holds a slender majority, have descended into theatrics of shouts, slow chants, desk-slapping and foot-stomping by opposition MPs, forcing countless sessions to be abandoned. \nThe budget was only tabled on June 7 over a din of cantankerous opposition protests. \nTwice last month the chamber was beset with hours of pandemonium, and the opposition is even pushing ahead with a no-confidence motion this Saturday on the parliament's deputy speaker after boycotting their own earlier motion against the chief speaker. \n"He's more likely thinking of dissolution than he was a month ago. The budget session underscored that parliament is not working," the diplomat said. \n"Musharraf is now staring down the barrel of an eight-month-old parliament, with no legislation passed except budget and no bills in progress. \n"He's becoming increasingly frustrated, he can't do anything with his reform agenda ... he's being forced to trade off a lot of what he wants to do in terms of modernizing and moderating Islam," the diplomat said. \nThe Supreme Court challenge, sponsored privately by a lawyer, is most widely considered Musharraf's best alternative to avoiding the trauma of sacking the parliament, and the most effective means of wrenching compromise from Islamic parties, the most serious opposition force. \nThe lawyer has asked the court to unseat the MPs because they do not hold a university bachelor degree, which Musharraf made a prerequisite in a controversial decree just three months before the October polls. \nRetired Lieutenant General Talat Masood stressed dissolution would be a last resort. \n"If the paralysis of government continues, you can't rule out the scenario," he said. \n"But it's the worst-case scenario," he said. \nDissolution would be close to political suicide, as even the army would have to reconsider its support of Musharraf, Masood said. \n"He'll lose more than anyone else because it will mean he's failed, and it would mean his end, because in that scenario it would be difficult to last as army chief," he said. \nSeveral observers believe Musharraf may have sounded out officials in the US on how they would view dissolution. \n"He'll say `It's not working, parliament is in a state of complete gridlock,'" the diplomat speculated before Musharraf's departure. \nPolitical analyst Aqil Shah believed Musharraf was seeking a "carte-blanche licence" from the US during his nine-day trip there to deal sternly with the opposition. \n"Once he has a pat on the back from them he can come back and deal with the opposition more firmly," Shah said.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference