- - Sunday, January 15, 2012

PAKISTAN

Government faces critical day in court

ISLAMABAD | A political crisis gripping Pakistan could take a decisive turn Monday, when its embattled government appears before the Supreme Court, which is ordering it to reopen a stalled graft probe against the president or face dismissal.

The hearing represents one front in what amounts to an assault on the government by the military, opposition politicians and the Supreme Court.

The showdown has all but paralyzed decision-making in the nuclear-armed country, and it threatens fresh turmoil just as the U.S. wants Islamabad’s help in negotiating an end to the war with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

The fault line is the same one that has plagued Pakistan since its creation in 1947: an army that can’t stomach taking orders from elected politicians and has seized power three times in coups.

President Asif Ali Zardari's government has given the generals control over foreign and security policy, but the civilian leadership and the top brass have never seen eye-to-eye since Mr. Zardari took office in 2008.

Tensions spiked last week over an unsigned memo delivered to Washington last year offering the U.S. a raft of favorable security policies in exchange for its help in thwarting a supposed army coup.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani criticized the army for cooperating with a Supreme Court probe into the affair, and has said the standoff is nothing less than a choice between “democracy and dictatorship.”

Mr. Gilani’s comments followed a warning from the generals of possible “grievous consequences” ahead.

EGYPT

Rare tomb of woman found in Valley of the Kings

CAIRO | In a rare find, Egyptian and Swiss archaeologists have unearthed a roughly 1,100-year-old tomb of a female singer in the Valley of the Kings, an antiquities official said Sunday.

It is the only tomb of a woman not related to the ancient Egyptian royal families ever found in the Valley of the Kings, said Mansour Boraiq, the top government official for the Antiquities’ Ministry in the city of Luxor.

The Valley of the Kings in Luxor is a major tourist attraction. In 1922, archaeologists there unearthed the gold funerary mask of Tutankhamun and other stunning items in the tomb of the king who ruled more than 3,000 years ago.

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