Five news stories that appeared in Urdu newspapers Translated in English

News Story No. 1

The Network for Consumer Protection has expressed concern at the dramatic increase in sugar price and alleged that sugar barons having clout in the government have created an artificial shortage.

Sugar price has surged to an all-time high of Rs120 per kg in a week from Rs85 on Oct 31, proving that the government has miserably failed to keep a check on food prices and provide relief to consumers, a press release issued by the organisation said on Tuesday.

Its executive coordinator, Dr Arif Azad, said roots of the problem lay in the sugar lobby’s political clout in determining sugar output, timing of import and scaremongering about rises in prices.

“For the sake of protecting consumers from artificially inflated sugar price rises, the government has to bring in regulatory measures to rein in the power of sugar lobby,” he said.

He called for an investigation to fix responsibility for a ‘criminal’ delay in sugar import which, he said, had given a chance to mill owners to sell the commodity at high prices.

Dr Azad rejected the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association’s claim that damage to sugarcane crop in recent floods was the main cause of the surge in price.

“While this may be partly true, the real reason has been collusive price-fixing behaviours which have been highlighted by the Competition Commission.”

If sugar tycoons and the government departments concerned had taken measures to import sugar in time, the commodity would have been available in the market at not more than Rs70 per kg, he said.

Dr Azad wondered as to why no policy statement had been given on the artificial sugar crisis and even the main opposition parties were not exerting pressure on the government to control the price.

However, the CCP is of the view that the crisis has evolved because of hoarding.

The commission’s chairperson, Rahat Kaunain Hassan, said it was closely monitoring the crisis and would intervene only when it found a violation of the Competition Act.

An investigation by the CCP last year had found that sugar mills were violating the rules of open market competition. The investigation was carried out after mills unilaterally raised the prices, compelling the Supreme Court to fix a rate.

Ms Hassan said the CCP was not a price regulatory authority, but it believed in the principles of free import and free market where prices were fixed on the basis of availability.

“It’s purely an issue of hoarding, and not pricing,” she said, adding that strict measures by the provinces were required to eliminate hoarding.

In reply to a question, the CCP chief said there must have been some faults in the government’s import policy.

She said the Trading Corporation should develop a mechanism under which the stocks of sugar should go to retailers instead of hoarders. The issue will not be resolved by merely opening tenders.

She said the provincial governments should launch a campaign to impound the commodity from hoarders and make it available in the market.

In India, sugar is being retailed at Rs55, in Brazil at Rs60 and in the US at Rs117 per kg.

 

News Story No-2

The entire Hazara division continued to simmer in anger and resentment on Tuesday with mobs having almost taken over Haripur, Abbottabad and Mansehra, blocking roads and damaging public and private property during protests against Monday’s violence in which seven people were killed and scores of others were injured.

As the deceased were laid is to rest processions taken out in different areas added to the tension. Abbottabad was paralysed with a complete strike for the second day.

The protesters raised slogans against police and the renaming of NWFP as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and demanded that Hazara be declared a separate province.

Haider Zaman, chairman of the Anti-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Action Committee, reiterated his stance for a separate province and appealed to his followers to remain peaceful and refrain from damaging property.

News Story No.3

The committee has declared three-day mourning in Abbottabad.

Talking to newsmen, Mr Zaman called upon the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court to take suo motu notice of police firing on peaceful protesters.

The Karakoram Highway and all link roads in the town remained blocked as protesters burned tyres and pelted vehicles with stones.

They pulled down billboards, looted an arms shop at Fawara Chowk, ransacked the district office of PML-N and smashed windows of the DCO office.

They also demonstrated outside the DIG and Commissioner’s offices. Police fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters, injuring four of them.

Four protesters received electric shock while pulling down a billboard at Mandian Chowk.

The Frontier Constabulary was deployed in various areas to prevent the situation for deteriorating any further.

All government and private offices and banks remained closed. The district administration had earlier closed educational institutions for an indefinite period.

Lawyers boycotted courts and condemned police brutality. They demanded an immediate removal of divisional administration officials.

Abbottabad DCO Munir Azam expressed grief over Monday’s incidents and appealed to the people not to damage property.

In Haripur, protesters ransacked and set on fire the office of PML-N MNA Sardar Mushtaq Khan and pelted the house of ANP’s provincial minister Qazi Asad with stones.

The traders observed a complete strike and all bazaars, markets and shops were closed. Transporters kept all bus and vans off the road.

Lawyers boycotted courts and attended the gaibana namaz-i-janaza of the seven victims of Monday’s violence.

Former foreign minister Goher Ayub Khan, former minister of state Omar Ayub Khan, former provincial minister Ejaz Ali Durrani and former district nazim Yusuf Ayub also took part in the protest and sit-in.

A complete strike was also observed across the Mansehra district. Rallies and protest demonstrations were held in Mansehra, Oghi, Balakot and Garhi Habibullah.

The protesters burned tyres on roads and blocked traffic. They attacked NGO offices in Ghazikot. Police used tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse them.

A group of protesters attacked shops and banks on the Abbottabad road and one of them was injured in firing

Story No.4

A cross-border marriage stripped of romance

The subcontinent’s biggest tabloid story in a long time has finally ended. Hopefully. Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik have married after what resembled a fast-paced pulp thriller involving a spurned woman he was alleged to have married and then divorced amid bitter recriminations. As if this was not enough, there was a high-pitched jingoistic media debate about who owns Mirza now – would she turn out to play tennis for Pakistan? (Mirza, who is currently ranked a lowly 92 in the world, insists she will continue to play for India.) This was the kind of tabloid frenzy to which the usually staid and conservative media in India and Pakistan are unaccustomed.

The Mirza-Malik wedding was the “romance that gripped two nations”, according to The Guardian. In reality, the treatment given the story completely stripped it of its romance. News networks vied with each other to dig up dirt about Malik and his alleged ex-wife, Ayesha Siddiqui. “Your jaw drops at the performance the stand-up anchors put up,” wrote media critic Sevanti Ninan. “Grown men and women paid to harangue, and to sell the proposition that this is and can be the only matter of earthshaking importance for a large country of a billion-plus people.”

Things appeared to be no better across the border with the story dominating the Pakistani news networks. “What we saw on our screens was tabloid journalism of the sort usually purveyed by the dregs of the profession,” fumed the Dawn newspaper. “In a country racked by militancy and terrorism, should a celebrity marriage dominate the news on a day when dozens are killed in suicide attacks?”

News stories No 5.

Crime

When Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old, a man entered her bedroom in her family’s home in Salt Lake City on June 5, 2002, held a knife to her throat and told her he would kill her if she did not come with him.

 

The case captured headlines around the nation: a blond girl with an angelic face kidnapped from her own home in a good neighborhood, while her little sister lay in the bed next to her. Nine months later, on March 12, 2003, Smart was found alive in the company of self-proclaimed prophet Brian David Mitchell and his wife.

 

The wife, Wanda Barzee, eventually pleaded guilty and is serving a 15-year-prison sentence. But Mitchell, a street preacher who called himself “Immanuel,” evaded justice for years until he was finally declared competent and went on trial this fall in federal court.

 

The defense maintained that Mitchell was delusional and could not be held responsible for his crimes. With his long beard, Mitchell, 57, certainly looked less than sane as he was brought into the courtroom, singing hymns at the top of his lungs every day.

But the true star of the trial was Elizabeth Smart herself. Now 23, she took the stand for three days and described in excruciating detail how Mitchell terrorized her over “nine months of hell.” He threatened repeatedly to kill her and her family. He raped her every day, forced her to drink alcohol and use drugs, and tethered her to a tree at night so she could not escape.

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