Erdogen in Pakistan
In his October 18 column, Hamid Mir contrasts Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, with Pakistan’s own leaders.  Unlike many Pakistani leaders, Mr. Erdogan, the writer says, wasn’t educated in U.S. or British universities, but educated in Istanbul.  Mr. Mir argues that Recep Erdogan is not just Turkey’s leader, but also one of the great leaders of the Islamic world.  He applauds the prime minister’s leadership and efforts made to help those displaced by floods in Pakistan.  Mr. Mir, who accompanied the prime minister on his visits to the most affected areas, says that Mr. Erdogan reminded him that Pakistan had stood by Turkey during the 1999 earthquake, and that Turkey would stand by Pakistan in its time of need.  Mr. Erdogan, the writer says, appealed for Pakistan’s leaders to unite to tackle Pakistan’s problems.  Mr. Erdogan, in conversation with the writer, said that his government chose to challenge the supreme court because of laws that had been put in place by Turkey’s past military dictators.  Mr. Mir is struck by the contrast in Pakistan, where Mr. Gilani’s government is fighting to keep accountability out of government (a reference to the NRO controversy).  The writer suggests that Mr. Erdogan was able to challenge the supreme court, because he had the backing of the people of Turkey, while Mr. Gilani will likely not be able to do so, because his government chooses to support Musharraf-era NRO laws, which give immunity from criminal proceedings to leaders like President Zardari.

Elections in Egypt
Essam el-Erian, a leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, writes in al-Akhbar about the soon-to-be-held parliamentary elections in Egypt and the controversies surrounding the elections.  He is pessimistic about the chances of opposition parties to pose a serious challenge to the president Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party for several reasons. Mr. al-Erian believes that the opposition is composed of elites and independents, which has made it difficult for them to present a united front against the ruling government.  This, he believes, is pushing the country to a standstill and poses a real danger to undo the gains of the 2005 election, which saw a united opposition’s demand for free and fair, judicial-supervised elections held in Egypt.  He urges opposition parties to set aside their differences and agree on a clear vision to bring Egypt out of the current impasse.  Mr. al-Erian strongly criticises the ruling government for “terrorising” Egypt’s news media and journalists and for silencing voices that were critical of the government.  Mr. el-Erian uses the case of Ibrahim Eissa, who was terminated as editor of  al-Dostour for refusing to tow the NDP’s line.  He says opposition parties and citizens have a responsibility in ensuring that free and fair elections are held in Egypt.

Taxing NATO supplies
In its October 11 editorial, the Jang asks for a conditions-based agreement with the U.S. on reopening Torkham border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan (which was closed after NATO helicopters across the border resulted in the death of three Pakistani FC personnel).  The editorial argues that the Pakistan-Afghanistan transit agreement has always been more favourable to Afghanistan.  It suggests that commodities transported across the border including diesel, petrol, meat and vegetables, are smuggled back to Pakistan and sold at inflated rates.  Similarly, the editorial states that while Pakistan sells diesel to NATO/ISAF forces at Rs. 20, it is considerably more expensive to ordinary Pakistanis.  The editorial criticises former president Parves Musharraf for not taxing NATO trucks and tankers that travel through Pakistan.  It suggests that at any time, between 2,500 — 3,000 NATO trucks travel back and forth in the Afghanistan — Pakistan border areas, which have significantly damaged road infrastructure.  The editorial therefore recommends that Pakistan levy a heavy tax on NATO trucks and tankers that travel through Pakistan, for the upkeep and maintenance of Pakistan’s roads.  It also suggests that supplies of commodities for ordinary citizens have been affected at having to support NATO and ISAF forces, which has given rise to a smuggling industry and inflated commodity prices.  It draws attention to the fact that suicide rates have increased in the border areas, because people are unable to afford commodities at such inflated rates.  The editorial also recommends that Pakistan should provide meat, vegetables, fruit and other commodities, only after the needs of its citizens are first met.

HRW’s haste
Maysa Ghadeer criticises Human Rights Watch (HRW) in her October 22 op-ed in UAE’s al-Bayan for bringing to notice the UAE Supreme Court’s ruling that a man was entitled to “discipline” his children and wife so long as it does not “leave marks” on them.  Ms. Ghadeer says that the ruling of the Supreme Court, which took up the case from a Sharjah court, had only been announced two days prior to HRW’s report, which she feels, isn’t sufficient time for HRW to have read and understood the Supreme Court’s ruling.  She accuses HRW for being hasty in its criticism and reminds readers that the UAE ranks first among Arab countries in the global index for equality among men and women.  The UAE, Ms. Ghadeer argues, has initiated several projects for women’s empowerment and has opened shelters for victims of domestic abuse.  She suggests that HRW’s report is painting with very broad strokes and that such organisations do not have any right to comment on judicial decisions within countries.