Friday, December 11, 2009

Accepting Peace Prize, Obama Offers ‘Hard Truth’

NYT.COM
OSLO — President Obama used his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday to defend the idea that some wars were necessary and just, remind the world of the burden the United States had borne in the fight against oppression and appeal for greater international efforts for peace.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: we will not eradicate violent conflicts in our lifetimes,” Mr. Obama said, addressing the paradox of receiving an award for peace as commander in chief of a nation that is escalating the war in Afghanistan as it continues to fight in Iraq. “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

He delivered a mix of realism and idealism, implicitly criticizing both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as inadequately appreciating the dangers of the world, and President George W. Bush as too quick to set aside fundamental American values in pursuit of security. And he embraced the concept of American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States has a special role as a defender of liberty, even as he promoted multilateralism.

In that way, he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.

The address — delivered at once to a European audience that has grown skeptical about American power and to a domestic audience watching closely to see how he would handle the acceptance of an award that even he acknowledged he did not yet deserve — represented one of the broadest declarations of his foreign policy doctrine. He said that others deserved the award more, noting that his “accomplishments are slight,” but he accepted the prize with a strong endorsement of America’s place in the world.

“Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.”

The Nobel lecture, a 36-minute address that the president and his aides completed on an overnight flight from Washington, carried echoes of several American presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Mr. Bush, but Mr. Obama singled out one above all: John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Obama cited Mr. Kennedy’s focus on “not a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

Mr. Obama called for more robust international sanctions against nations like Iran and North Korea that defy demands for them to curtail their nuclear programs.

Weeks after being criticized for not speaking out more publicly in defense of human rights while in China, he suggested that quiet diplomacy was sometimes the most productive path, even if it “lacks the satisfying purity of indignation.”

The ceremony was the focal point of a series of events celebrating Mr. Obama’s entry into the ranks of Nobel laureates. On Thursday night, the president and his wife, Michelle, appeared in a window of the Grand Hotel, waving to thousands of people below who had gathered for a torch-light parade.

Trumpets sounded when Mr. Obama walked down the long aisle of a soaring auditorium to deliver his address. He escorted his wife, who took her seat in the front row, before he assumed his position on the stage and faced the king and queen of Norway.

The Nobel chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, opened the ceremony by explaining how the committee came to its decision two months ago. He said Mr. Obama’s leadership had been a “call to action for all of us.” As he invoked the story of Dr. King, the winner of the prize in 1964, he turned to Mr. Obama, saying, “Dr. King’s dream has come true.”

Mr. Obama pursed his lips and nodded gently as the audience applauded loudly. When he was presented his gold medal and Nobel diploma, he received a standing ovation that stretched for more than a minute. The crowd did not rise again until the conclusion of his remarks.

Mr. Obama’s speech was sober, with his remarks only sparingly interrupted by applause. He was applauded when he renewed his pledge to ban torture and close the prison at the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend,” Mr. Obama said. “And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it is easy, but when it is hard.”

To a European audience of academics, diplomats and Nobel laureates, he said there was “a deep ambivalence about military action today,” which he said he suspected was rooted in “a reflexive suspicion of America.” But he offered a forceful defense of the United States, saying the lessons of history should ease those suspicions. And he urged his audience to envision a hopeful future.

“Let us reach for the world that ought to be,” he said, “that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls.”

He did not dwell on the specifics of his announcement last week that he would send 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan. But that decision, which attracted scores of peaceful demonstrators here, set the framework that Mr. Obama returned to again and again as he sought to explain his policy as an extension of the post-World War II system that contained the cold war.

“A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats,” Mr. Obama said. “The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsize rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.”

Mr. Obama, who is scheduled to stay in Oslo for about 26 hours, miffed some Norwegians by not participating in some of the traditional events surrounding the peace prize ceremony, including a luncheon and a concert.

Mr. Obama, sensitive to the criticism, explained the brevity of his visit. “I only wish that my family could stay longer in this wonderful country,” he told reporters, “but I still have a lot of work to do back in Washington, D.C., before the year is done.”

The president is scheduled to return to Washington on Friday.

Japan, UN sign agreement on NWFP development

ISLAMABAD: The Government of Japan signed an agreement today with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide $12 million for peace building, governance and economic recovery for the conflict-affected areas of NWFP and parts of FATA.

Official Exchange of Notes to this effect were signed and exchanged between His Excellency Chihiro ATSUMI, Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan, and Toshihiro TANAKA, Country Director, UNDP, Pakistan.

Sibtain Fazal Halim, Secretary of the Economics Affairs Division, the Government of Pakistan, and Shakeel Qadir Khan, Director General of the Provincial Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA), NWFP were also present.

Speaking on the occasion the Japanese Ambassador Chihiro Atsumi stated, 'This development programme by the UNDP will support the rehabilitation and resettlement of the persons wishing to return to a peaceful and secure community. As Pakistan strives to rebuild infrastructure, empower women and bring smiles and hope on the faces of the youth, I hope the region will soon regain the strength that it deserves to have.'

Appreciating UNDP’s effort in this regard, he further stated 'We appreciate the role that the UNDP has been playing in the development of Pakistan, and trust that the ongoing efforts by Pakistan and the UNDP will be a step to bring peace and stability in the area.'

The three-year programme will help IDPs reconstruct their lives as they return home. The conflict in NWFP and FATA resulted in the displacement of 2.7 million people. As peace was restored, 1.6 million people have returned so far.

Many of these return to a life of uncertainty. 53-year-old Khanum Bibi from Malakand is one of them. ‘prior to the conflict, I had managed to support my eight grand children and their widowed mother through some livestock farming and by selling embroidery. The money I saved has been spent on the displacement, my husband and son are dead, I need help to restart my business’. The much-needed and generous support of the Japanese Government will help many like Khanum Bibi.

Early recovery activities will be undertaken. These are essential to bridge the gap between relief which is immediate and rebuilding and rehabilitation which is long term.

Specifically, these early recovery activities include restoring livelihoods through cash for work on rubble removal (estimated at 2,282,500 tons) and involving the community in micro infrastructure projects such as water pumps, water pipelines, footpaths, culverts etc., which have been destroyed.

People will also be trained in different skills and supported financially to undertake small projects or businesses in the farm (agriculture, horticulture) and non-farm sectors (marble quarrying, gem and jewelry, carpentry, tourism) sectors.

This programme will also help the provincial and local authorities to have a coordinated response to the needs of the returnees.

At a more strategic level, UNDP will also work towards gaining a better understating of its structural causes of the conflict while addressing them in a comprehensive manner. For this purpose, peace committees and alternate dispute resolution mechanisms will be established.

The programme will focus on the conflict affected population with a special emphasis on the vulnerable, especially women-headed households; families with disabled members; families that have 10 members and an income of Rs. 7000.

Commenting on the commitment of the Japanese Government towards supporting key early recovery interventions at the time of crisis, Toshihiro Tanaka, Country Director, UNDP stated, 'UNDP and Japan have had a fruitful partnership through which Japan provided support to the national elections in 2008 and made a substantial contribution after the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

'We were able to provide the critically needed transitional housing for the affectees and undertake rubble removal that lead the way to reconstruction in the affected areas.

'Japan’s timely contribution to help the IDPs will contribute significantly not only towards restoring livelihoods and micro community infrastructure but towards governance support for long-term peace and development of the conflict-affected communities'

Pakistanis mark rights day as abuses reach peak


The International Human Rights Day of 2009 falls amidst the cruel realities being faced by Pakistanis.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is perturbed at the suffering of people in Pakistan owing to the brutality unleashed by militants as well as the destruction caused by internal conflicts in many parts of the country.

A series of bomb attacks carried out by militants killing thousands of civilians as well as members of the security forces has been devastating. Children and women have been most vulnerable to the accesses of militants. Schools have not been spared and women living in the conflict zones are totally immobilised. Pakistan is facing one of its worst challenges to protect the rights of its citizens.

HRCP recognises that it is the primary obligation of the government to protect the lives of civilians against the inhuman accesses of militant groups, yet, it calls for respect for human dignity during any armed operation carried out by government forces. Regrettably, credible reports indicate that the security forces too have committed human rights violations during operations.

The so-called counter-insurgency operations carried out by the military and paramilitary forces have used heavy artillery, killing an unknown number of civilians. Access to independent observers and the press is denied by the security forces. According to government sources, several hundred people have involuntarily disappeared and a large number of families of the missing individuals accuse the security forces and intelligence agencies of perpetrating the crime.

Torture is used by the security forces as a matter of routine. Reports received by HRCP reveal inhuman methods of torture employed by the security establishment in Balochistan. People are blindfolded, hung upside down,
burnt, given electric shocks, whipped, beaten with iron rods, kept under extreme glare of lights and their heads doused in water. Despite, several reports issued by the press, accounts by the victims in courts and to the media and incidents reported by national and international human rights bodies, the government has never responded to these allegations in any constructive or coherent manner. A bland denial is no response – on the contrary it only adds salt to the wounds of the victims.

HRCP is equally concerned about army operations carried out in areas of Fata and Malakand Division. Independent sources have complained about reprisals from armed militias operating under the patronage of security forces. There are verified reports of extrajudicial killings of suspected militants and their family members and arbitrary arrests of several individuals. Mass graves have been identified but the government has failed to investigate these allegations and has not been able to establish the identity of the dead.

It is imperative that in these trying days human rights concerns be expressed in an unambiguous and impartial manner and watchdog bodies orient themselves with the international humanitarian and human rights law during armed conflicts. It is essential that everyone remains entitled to the enjoyment of human rights, whether in time of peace or armed conflicts.

It is important to give particular attention to the education of all members of security and other armed forces, and of all law enforcement agencies, in the international law of human rights and international humanitarian law applicable to armed conflicts. There are limitations on the use of force even during conflict and on opposing forces too. It is prohibited to launch attacks on civilian populations and the use of weapons which cause unnecessary suffering to combatants or which endanger civilian populations in the area of conflict is restricted and in some cases even prohibited.

Finally, HRCP would like to draw the attention of the government that they are obliged, as soon as circumstances permit, to report the number of those killed, injured or missing owing to the conflict. It is essential that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be given access to prisoners of the conflict, the UNHCR and relief workers get free and unimpeded access to those in need of humanitarian assistance and that independent journalists be allowed to visit areas of conflict without being followed or directed by government agents.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

General amnesty for Baloch leaders

ISLAMABAD: Baloch leaders are “true patriots” and the government is considering granting general amnesty to aggrieved elements in Balochistan, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Thursday.

Addressing a gathering in connection with World Human Rights Day, Gilani said all “Baloch leaders are patriots and no one can doubt their patriotism. We have offered Baloch leaders an opportunity for negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues and expect a positive reply”.

The prime minister said the government was ready to talk to all Baloch leaders to bring them into the national mainstream. He said the government had released 93 detained Baloch leaders and if the need arose, the government would grant a general amnesty to Baloch leaders to normalise the province’s situation.

Progress: Gilani said the government had made progress in recovering the missing Baloch persons, a number of whom had returned home.

Gilani said Pakistan was against drone attacks as they had proved counterproductive in curbing terrorism.

Pakistan hopes: The prime minister said the country has taken up the issue with the US through all possible channels, and hoped that the government’s efforts to convince Washington to halt drone attacks would bear fruit.

To a question regarding India’s involvement in Balochistan via Afghanistan, Gilani said the issue had been brought up during his meeting with the Indian prime minister in Sharm El Sheikh.

He said the joint statement issued after the meeting clearly mentioned that all issues would be taken up in bilateral dialogues.

“Therefore, it proves that Indians themselves have agreed to talk about their involvement in Afghanistan,” he said.

The prime minister said the democratic government was stable and “there is no danger to democratic system”.

“The political leadership is very mature ... some have remained in exile and others have been behind bars for years,” he said, adding the government would complete its five-year tenure.

Gilani said the government was committed to creating a society free of exploitation and deprivation. He said the Pakistan People’s Party had an unflinching commitment to the cause of human rights. “To translate this commitment into reality, the party had established the Ministry of Human Rights in its previous tenure to provide an institutional framework for the implementation of the policies enshrined in the party’s manifesto,” Gilani said

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Growing number of IDPs

PESHAWAR: Authorities acquired 7,800 kanals of land to expand the Jalozai camp for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to cope with the continuing influx of uprooted families from the troubled tribal agencies.

The existing camp is full to capacity forcing the authorities to suspend registration for the time being. Besides acquiring more land for the expansion of the camp, officials are exploring other avenues to accommodate the displaced people.

In-charge Jalozai IDP camp, Zahir Shah, told The News they had capped registration at the facility due to lack of space. He said 119,000 individuals of 17,000 families from Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies had been registered in 15 phases of Jalozai camp. An additional 7,000 families, he added, had been registered as host families. “These families are not willing to stay here due to several reasons,” he said and added they were being provided with relief items.

The camp has 10,900 families from Bajaur, 2,400 from Mohmand and 3,700 from Khyber Agency. Zahir Shah said IDPs from Khyber and Bajaur agencies were still streaming into the camp to take shelter, but they were cramped for space. The military continues operation in parts of Bajaur Agency where warplanes were reported to have pounded suspected positions of militants in Mamond area during the last several days.

People uprooted from Bajaur are also being registered in a camp in Wali Kandao area of Lower Dir district. Another 2,000 displaced families are living in Katcha Garhi camp in Peshawar. The security forces are also engaged in an operation codenamed “Khwakh Ba De Sham” (I will fix you!) in Khyber Agency to clobber fugitive non-Taliban militant commander Mangal Bagh and his supporters.

Military action is also in progress in South Waziristan from where around 59,000 families have been displaced. However, Nadra verified some 36,000 families to have been affected by operation Rah-e-Nijat against the leadership of banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. No camp has been established for the IDPs from Waziristan and they are living with host families or in rented homes.

Camp in-charge Zahir Shah said they had acquired 6,000 kanals of land in Jalozai but most of it was unusable because it is uneven and full of ditches. He said they could make use of only 1,900 kanal of land where tents could be pitched. Work for levelling the area was underway, he added. He said they had obtained 1,800 kanals of land in addition to 6,000 kanals and also received orders from the district coordination officer to billet IDPs in Industrial Estate. It was learnt the authorities would resume registration only after finding out as to how many families could be accommodated in the new portion.

Zahir Shah said the IDPs in Jalozai were being provided with food and non-food relief items and all other facilities. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has been giving tents, quilts, blankets, mats, buckets and jerry cans as non-food items and atta, biscuits, sugar, pulses and ghee as food items. However, he said due to winter cold they needed more blankets to protect the IDPs, particularly elderly persons, from cold.

Six schools have also been established in the camp in which double shift was being run. “Twelve hundred students read in a single shift,” Shah said. Moreover, the Pakistan Army has set up a 50-bedded hospital with different specialist doctors and all other facilities. “The treatment here is free of cost. Patients are admitted to it and kept for several days but serious ones are referred to LRH and Pabbi hospital,” he said. This facility, he claimed, was in addition to six basic health units established at the camp.

Pakistan continues to execute children

NEW YORK: Five countries, led by Iran, account for all executions of children in the world, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, urging an end to the practice.

Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are the only countries that continue to impose the death penalty on people younger than 18 when they committed a crime. The United States outlawed execution of juvenile offenders in 2005.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the United Nations, which holds its annual General Assembly next week, to pressure for greater protections for children.

'We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty,' said HRW's Clarisa Bencomo. 'These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child.' All states have ratified or acceded to treaties ensuring that children are not sentenced to death, HRW said, but the five in question allow the punishment in certain cases.

According to the HRW website, in Pakistan, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance of 2000 bans the death penalty for crimes committed by persons under 18 at the time of the offense, but authorities have yet to implement it in all territories. With only 29.5 percent of births registered, juvenile offenders can find it impossible to convince a judge they were children at the time of the crime. Pakistan executed one such juvenile offender, Mutabar Khan, on June 13, 2006.

According to AFP, Iran executed 26 of the 32 juveniles put to death since January 2005. Iranian law allows such penalties for girls of at least nine and boys of 15 or older, the report said. Six juvenile offenders have been executed there this year, the report said.

Boys’ school blown up in Bara



BARA/PESHAWAR: Unidentified men blew up a boys’ school in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency late on Tuesday, sources said on Wednesday.
They said the men arrived at the Government High School for Boys at Shlobar and kidnapped the school watchman. Later the men blew up the school. No deaths were reported as the blast occurred late at night, they added.

According to AFP, Taliban blew up two schools in Khyber Agency, officials said. They said most of the buildings were reduced to rubble but no one was injured.
“Both main school buildings were completely destroyed,” said Shafeerullah Wazir, the top administrative official of the district, adding only two classrooms remained standing in the two adjacent schools. Wazir said the Taliban had buried large quantities of dynamite around the outer walls of the schools. “Both Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam are involved in this act,” he said.

Getting Tough With Pakistan

President Obama seems ready to deliver on a threat Candidate Obama made over two years ago–that, if Pakistan doesn’t go after its terrorists, he will.

The Surge in Afghanistan, according to White House leaks, comes with “a fairly bald warning that unless Pakistan moved quickly to act against two Taliban groups they have so far refused to attack, the United States was prepared to take unilateral action to expand Predator drone attacks beyond the tribal areas and, if needed, to resume raids by Special Operations forces into the country against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”

In August 2007, then-Sen. Obama took flak for saying what the Bush White House was dancing around in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas:

“There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Pervez Musharraf, who bilked Bush for American billions without delivering on promises to go after those terrorists, is gone now, but the Pakistani military is still playing the same shell game, and one element of the new Afghanistan policy is to squeeze them into delivering more results for the new $7.5 billion they will be getting over the next five years.

Ever since bin Laden escaped into Pakistan eight years ago, the US has pursued a so-called “hammer and anvil” strategy to crush militants in the border areas.

U.S. men arrested in Pakistan, says embassy



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five American men were arrested in Pakistan this week and are being investigated for alleged links to extremist groups, the Pakistani embassy in Washington said on Wednesday.

The five men, students in their 20s from northern Virginia, were picked up from Sargodha in Punjab province in Pakistan on Tuesday, said embassy spokesman Imran Gardezi.

He did not give further details on the circumstances of their arrest, their names or where they were being held.

"The reasons for their visit to Pakistan are being investigated," said Gardezi. "They are being investigated for alleged links to extremist groups."

The FBI said in a statement it was in contact with the families of the five as well as law-enforcement authorities in Pakistan.

"We are working with Pakistan authorities to determine their identities and the nature of their business there, if indeed these are the students who had gone missing. Because this is an ongoing investigation, we will not be able to provide further details at this time," the FBI said.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was also seeking information about the five.

"If they are American citizens, we of course are going to be very interested in the charges that they've been detained on and what sort of circumstances they're being held," said Kelly.

Asked about the five, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined comment but reiterated the United States was concerned about the work of extremist groups in Pakistan, particularly in the border areas with Afghanistan.

"We know we've got to work more closely with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to try to root out the infrastructure of terrorism that continues to recruit and train people," she said.

News of the five students came as a Chicago man with Pakistani roots, accused of scouting targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday at his first court appearance since his October arrest.

Peshawar, epicenter of jihad

(Reuters)
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani provincial minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti spends much of his time handing out envelopes containing checks. Some people suffering from shrapnel wounds limp to collect them.
Others weep and hug him after the names of their deceased sons are read out as dozens await their turn.
It has become a ritual in Peshawar, where those devastated by bombings -- the worst in the country in a militant campaign against the government -- receive compensation from authorities.
"We are facing an insurgency at its best. It's natural that I have to give maximum time for these activities," Hoti, Chief Minister for the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) , told Reuters. "If we lose this war. God forbid. This country will go to the dogs."
Peshawar and its surrounding areas near the border with Afghanistan are the epicenter of the battle against militants, who recently raised security alarm bells with a suicide bombing and gun attack near Pakistan's military headquarters, 30 minutes from the capital.
Failure to contain violence in Peshawar could mean more operations like that one because it would make it easier for militants to get to large cities and strategic areas, spreading more chaos and fear in the nuclear-armed country.
Authorities seem well aware of that, judging by Peshawar's siege atmosphere. Military and state police check vehicles for weapons and bombs at checkpoints. Behind them soldiers with machineguns keep an eye out for suicide bombers.
Sandbags have been placed in front of vital businesses. School children are taught drills to follow in the event of a bomb.
DASHED HOPES, FEAR OF DEATH
But tight security may only produce short-term success in Peshawar, a run-down city 105 miles northwest of Islamabad, once home to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Militants often exploit poverty and unemployment, enticing impressionable young men with promises of glorious holy war. Winning long-term trust in the state is half the battle.
"It's not only the military operations. Military operations are to be followed by relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation," said Hoti.
"The space that was exploited by these (militant) elements. We need to fill that space. Administrative issues, political issues. The social sector. Poverty. You name it. A system of good governance."
Two students in a market area reinforced that view. Taliban fighters in their village paid other young men "good" money to join the group and take up arms, they said. At first Peshawar had offered high hopes. Until the bombings killed more and more people, hundreds since October.
They spend their time hanging out in a hunting gun shop and making small talk with its owner. The ripple economic effects of violence has cut his sales to a rifle a month.
"I am afraid I am going to die," said one of the students, Azhar Farooq.
During the 1980s, Peshawar became a den of spies and jihadis when the United States and Saudi Arabia covertly funded a mujahideen guerrilla war to expel Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Pakistan also supported the effort. It's a bitter irony.
Nowadays, Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan sits at his desk explaining how Taliban, al Qaeda and criminal elements are coordinating in a shadowy network trying to terrorize the city.
Khan is a confident hard-nosed man who says he has no doubts the police will emerge victorious, perhaps in a few months. But his description of the police force's resources, and the methods of the enemy, highlighted the magnitude of the task.
The police force needs highly sophisticated bomb and weapon detectors. They only own a handful to improve the safety of a city of 1.5 million.
Militants, on the other hand, are brainwashing boys as young as 14, or threatening to blow up their homes and families, to force them to become suicide bombers, said Khan.
For now, he must rely on police officers like Inspector Khaista Khan, whose picture hangs on a wall outside the police chief's office. On Saturday, he was killed after pouncing on a suicide bomber outside a Peshawar court who killed nine people. The act may have prevented a much higher death toll.
"A suicide bomber comes and the policeman goes and hugs him and takes all the blast for himself and protects the public. I think this needs motivation, devotion to duty and courage," Khan told Reuters. "This you can only find in the Peshawar police."

PM orders army pullout from seven checkpoints

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday reached out to disgruntled exiled Baloch leaders offering talks and announcing the abolishment of several check-posts and replacement of army with the FC as a goodwill gesture.

The prime minister also ordered the handing over of Sui to FC forces, following an earlier announcement of handing over a military cantonment in Kohlu.

Offering an olive branch, Gilani promised to personally visit veteran Baloch leaders to carry forward the process of reconciliation. ‘We have never shied from meeting any stakeholder,’ said Gilani.

The prime minister’s statements came as he winded up a debate on the Balochistan Package in the joint session of Parliament. During the session Gilani said that out of nearly a thousand missing people, 262 had returned while assuring that the rest would return soon.

The check posts that have been ordered to close by PM Gilani include Othal, Lehri, Dera Allah Yar, Sheikh Wasil, Gawal, Zero Point and Islamzai.

He said on his directive, the FC was now replacing the army and as a first step, the army had been withdrawn from Kohlu cantonment. He said measures were being taken to place the FC under the direct control of the Chief Minister of Balochistan.

Announcing a series of measures, Gilani said orders for payment of dues amounting to Rs120 billion for Balochistan have been issued.

The premier said that his government wanted to convert all B-areas of Balochistan into A-areas, which would restore the writ of normal law enforcement agencies across the province.

He announced Rs1 billion each for the flood victims of Balochistan and for the development of Dera Bugti.

PML-N MNAs, on the other hand, alleged that the Balochistan package was an agreement between Islamabad and Quetta which ignored the demands of the underprivileged population.

Nawaz Sharif seeks accountability


Editorial: www.thefrontierpost.com/
PML-N leader and former two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday advised the party’s committee of legal experts preparing recommendations for the forthcoming accountability law that such a law should be so enacted as not to spare the corrupt from penalty nor should it allow exemption to anyone on any ground. Mr Sharif’s assertion can not be disputed because the application of law must be indiscriminate and no person, no matter how influential he or she may be, should escape accountability. Nevertheless, Mr Sharif must also have heard about the golden principle of Islam, which he always claims to be adhering to as part of his faith, that whosoever talks of the other’s accountability, must offer himself for the same first of all. If he does so or has a political will to do so, he will certainly be asked questions as to how had he and his family, including younger brother and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, have been able to acquire so huge a wealth as to be reckoned the fourth wealthiest family of Pakistan. This is no secret that the Sharifs total asset was one Ittefaq Foundry when he was appointed as Punjab finance minister by Gen Ziaul Haq’s military regime in 1981. Ayub Khan’s period produced a new class of industrialists and notorious 22 families. But when Gen Zia’s era ended in an air crash, this notoriety was well wedded to “The Gang of Four” and the Sharifs were its leaders with a wealth accumulated to Rs12 billion. Others were the Chaudhries from Gujrat (Rs 3.5 billion), the Saifullahs, in-laws of Ghulam Ishaq Khan, (Rs2 billion) and Dr Basharat Elahi, brother-in-law of Gen Zia, (Rs1.7 billion). All their money came from borrowings from banks and developmental financial institutions and this scam still reverberates minds. Also still in the memory is an ordinance that Punjab governor promulgated in Dec 1988 raising the chief minister’s discretionary fund (then Nawaz Sharif) from Rs100,000 to “any reasonable limit” and that was effective retrospectively (from Dec 1985) because the ordinance was issued to give legal cover to Mr Sharif doling out Rs40 million to journalists, political leaders and others as political bribery. It was not a miracle but a handiwork of the Sharifs that that the House of Ittefaq gave birth to some 30 odd companies within less than a decade to top the list of rich families which later expanded its industrial empire beyond Pakistan to become the fourth business family of Pakistan with assets accumulating to $4billion as against $50 million in the 1990s and merely 10 per cent of it when he became a provincial minister. How more money was added to his huge kitty had a certain link to schemes like the Motorway, the Iqra funds “Apna Ghar” and “Mulk Sanwaro”. Nawaz Sharif certainly owes an explanation for obtaining loans amounting to Rs1.365 billion for Itteafq Foundry, Ittefaq and Brothers sugar mills, from banks and DFIs within six months in his first stint as the country’s chief executive. Besides, he must also take the people in confidence about the purchase of 500 acres of land at Raiwind, naming it Jati Umra, the village the family left in India upon partition. This land was purchased very cheap after the Zia regime, in mid 1990s, declared the area a duty-free industrial zone. Subsequently, this vast residence was so built as to have a helipad, zoo, pastures, agricultural and fruit and vegetable farms. Of late, the house of Hamza Shahbaz, the latest of the family’s political debutant, around Murree is also under the shadow of a scandal of supplying gas at the expense of 16 villages. All this must stand trial soon after the accountability law is enacted.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Peshawar sealed again to avert terror threat

PESHAWAR: The Saddar and Qissa Khwani bazaars remained completely sealed again on Tuesday to avert any terrorist attack. Motorists were diverted to other routes and only pedestrians were allowed to enter Saddar Road and Qissa Khwani, causing hardships to customers, commuters and traders.

The offices of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on the Arbab Road in Saddar were closed Tuesday morning on the instructions of the police. There were reports that the PIA premises could be targetted by the terrorists. The offices were got vacated and security tightened to avert an attack. Way back in 1986, the PIA offices were bombed killing five people, including the airlines staffers and visitors, and injuring many others.

Police contingents have been deployed at over 100 check points to search vehicles entering the city limits. There are checkposts along the Ring Road, in the suburbs and within the urban limits.

Despite all precautionary measures, a suicide bomber once again succeeded in hitting his target in the most sensitive part of Peshawar where the Sessions Courts, the Home Department, MPAs Hostel, the Governor’s House, Civil Secretariat and the Central Prison are located.

“Why hundreds of policemen are posted at such a large number of security checkpoints when they could not stop the entry of suicide bombers due to absence of sophisticated gadgetry. Amid this so-called strictest security that only bothers the public, bombers have succeeded in striking targets thrice on Khyber Road, once in Meena Bazaar and once outside the Sessions Courts causing a huge loss of precious lives,” said Mohammad Idrees Bacha, a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz from Sakhakot who is running his business in Peshawar.

A senior officer of the police disclosed the force had only six detectors and 12 sniffers for the entire provincial metropolis that was why the terrorists succeeded in their designs.A detector can find explosives within a 100 meters radius when the cops handling the machine continue walking all over.

“We have requested for explosive detectors for at least half of the over 100 security checkpoints to ensure foolproof security. The lower quality of explosive-detector costs Rs2.2 million while a scanner costs Rs130 million,” the official said.

He admitted majority of the cops even don’t know how to handle explosive detectors and sniffers. “We are looking for other modern gadgetry and have talked to people abroad to look for more sophisticated scanners,” he added.

The Frontier Police chief Malik Naveed Khan told The News they had ordered explosive-detectors and other gadgets but import of the devices takes time. “We will soon be able to detect explosives in a car by getting the required gadgetry. We are looking for devices that can detect explosives even from 500 metres,” he said.

People are concerned over the hollow claims of senior government officials and security officials about improvement in the situation. “They just make these claims to get media coverage. Nothing really has been done to improve the situation,” said Engineer Suleman.

Peshawar Police foil terror bid

Peshawar police on Tuesday foiled a terror bid in Bakhshupul area of the city when they defused four bombs weighing 40 kilogrammes each, a private TV channel reported.The channel said police, after receiving a tip off about a possible terror bid in Bakhshupul area, dispatched the Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) to the area, which defused all four bombs planted in the area.BDS Inspector General Shafqat Malik said the bombs could have destroyed everything within a 100-kilometre radius had they not been defused.

Editorial: Countrywide threat

Daily Times
Pakistan is the target of terrorist attacks almost every day now. The spread and range of attacks seems to be widening with each passing day. On December 7 we saw two major cities — Peshawar and Lahore — being targeted and the very next day the office of a sensitive agency in Multan was also rocked by blasts. A suicide bomber blew himself up at the Peshawar Sessions Court while the twin blasts in Lahore occurred at the Moon Market, which is considered one of the busiest markets in the city.

Attacks in three major cities of Pakistan highlight the reach of the militants. The terrorist network seems not only to be strengthening, its choice of targets too is widening. In Peshawar they targeted the judiciary; in Lahore they targeted civilians, including women and children, while in Multan they targeted the security agencies. The militants have targeted the security forces time and again; the GHQ attack proved that they have the means to target one of the best guarded places in the country. Security checkposts, offices of intelligence agencies, the Naval Complex, police academies, etc., have been the target of the militants. To execute attacks against the high-profile security apparatus takes more time and planning while targeting civilians is a far easier task. Now there is a generalised terror campaign against the public. This is a serious threat for the entire country.

The government and the security agencies need to take stock of the situation and come up with new strategies to counter this rise in terrorist activity. They also need to stop living in denial about certain things. For terrorist attacks in Peshawar and surrounding areas, it can be said that there is an involvement of the local people or militants from FATA, but can the same thing be said about Lahore or Multan? For a long time now the authorities have not been very forthright about the seminaries in south Punjab. There is a strong presence of jihadi outfits in south Punjab and if we do not take steps to deal with them immediately, it would be too late and there might be another ‘South Waziristan’ on our hands very soon. It seems as if the nexus between other jihadi organisations and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is getting stronger. Intelligence reports have also warned of terrorist attacks in Karachi at the airport, hospitals, and against foreigners. Karachi is already a tinderbox waiting to explode. The ethnic divide in the city has led to many casualties in the past and if the terrorists manage to give an ethnic colouring to the attacks, the situation could become serious. After the Lahore attack, the authorities said that since it is a large city, it is hard to monitor activities citywide. These remarks apply with greater force in Karachi.

One of the inherent difficulties in countering terrorism is devising a mechanism to prevent these attacks. For that we need good intelligence and police work so that pre-emptive action could be taken. Only then can a terrorist attack be stopped. Once the attack is launched, it is very difficult to stop it. The terrorists have launched a campaign to paralyse state institutions and intimidate the public. There is a dire need to launch a public awareness campaign about suspicious characters, vehicles and objects and to persuade the public to report these to the concerned authorities. The state’s security agencies cannot be present everywhere. In order to prevent catastrophes, the state needs to mobilise the public. The public can be the eyes and ears of the state. A political consensus is needed to launch this campaign. Rehman Malik’s efforts to bring the ulema on board are commendable, but now it is time that all political parties come together and launch a countrywide campaign against terrorism.

Peace rally denounces terrorism in country

PESHAWAR: A protest rally organised by Amn Tehreek (AT) against terrorism was held here on Tuesday. Large number of people from all walks of life participated in the rally to condemn recent wave of terrorism in the country. The rally demanded of the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. The rally was led by Convener Amn Tehreek Muhammad Idrees Kamal. Other who participated in the rally included Peshawar Press Club President Shamim Shahid, Dr. Syed Alam Mehsood, member of Tajir Itehad Khalid Ayub, members of Women Action Forum Rakhshanda Naaz, Samina Afridi, Nusrat Bibi. The participants of the rally were holding placards and banners inscribed with slogans 'no to suicide attacks, no to terrorism'. The rally started from Peshawar Press Club and peacefully ended at Sessions Court's gate where a huge suicide explosion occurred on Monday last. They laid down floral wreath at the gate of sessions court to express solidarity with the members of bereaved families and paid tribute to the martyrs. The participants chanted slogans against suicide bomb blasts and demanded for exposing elements behind these coward acts of terrorism. They urged Ulema and Masaik-e-Kiram to openly speak up against suicide attacks and supported the government’s stance in fight against militancy and terrorism. The protestors demanded the government to arrest real culprits and award exemplary punishment to masterminds of the suicide and bomb blasts to avoid such attacks in future.

No room for false moves in Pakistan

www.guardian.co.uk
Immensely problematic though Afghanistan has become, Pakistan is emerging as a far bigger, potentially more dangerous challenge to western security interests, officials and analysts in Kabul say. The west's central dilemma is how to obtain Islamabad's full support in "degrading" al-Qaida, Taliban and other militant Islamist groups on both sides of the Durand line – the British-designated de facto Afghan-Pakistani border – without fatally undermining the Pakistani government's legitimacy in the eyes of its own people.

"Pakistan is the big coming problem," one analyst here said. "The US and Nato countries have to convince the Pakistanis that they are not going to cut and run in Afghanistan [as happened after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989 and again, arguably, after the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001].

"Three-quarters of Pakistan's borders are contested, by the Iranians in the west, along the Durand line, by India in Kashmir, by China. Pakistan would prefer an unstable Afghanistan to a hostile one. It worries what India might do there. If we want their help, we have to be able to offer Pakistan geopolitical stability," the analyst said.

Speaking before Barack Obama unveiled his revamped Af-Pak strategy last week, US officials described Pakistani co-operation as essential to achieving western objectives. "We can't succeed [in Afghanistan] without Pakistan," one official said. "And if you don't win in Afghanistan, then Pakistan will automatically be imperilled, and that will make Afghanistan look like child's play."

Yet Obama's speech was notable for its vagueness about Pakistan's role. "We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists," he said.

Obama gave no new indications as to how this might be achieved, beyond the additional economic and development aid and intelligence assistance already offered, or what the US would do if its wishes were ignored.

Washington is ostensibly worried that public admonitions or hectoring could backfire. But General James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, reportedly exhibited no such inhibitions during a private visit to Islamabad last month. Jones is said to have warned that if Pakistan did not deliver, the US might be impelled to use "any means at its disposal" to secure the border region. This implied a threatening escalation in a country that already feels its sovereignty is under assault from American drone attacks.

The area in question, known historically as Pashtunistan, was deliberately divided by Henry Durand and the British in 1893. It is home to about 15 million Pashtuns on the Afghan side and 28 million on the Pakistan side. They do not see themselves as belonging to either state; nearly all the Taliban forces come from there. It is the quintessential "ungoverned space".

Yet despite all this, western officials say Pakistani leaders, preoccupied with the strategic challenge posed by their old enemy, India, have still to make a "strategic shift" away from the Afghan Taliban, who it sponsored in the 1990s.

In particular, tougher Pakistani action is sought against the so-called Quetta shura, the Taliban's ideological headquarters, and militant groups bent on provoking confrontation with India.

"For the Pakistanis, the Afghan Taliban are still an insurance policy. We have to persuade them that the Taliban are a threat, not an ally, and that the result of [the US-led surge] will be stable, friendly Afghanistan," one official said. Trying to provide such reassurance, Obama has offered to facilitate an India-Pakistan rapprochement, a demarche that has met with a deafening silence on both sides.

One possible consequence, should the US over-reach, could be the collapse of President Asif Ali Zardari's weak and unpopular administration. Conspiracy theorists say this may be Washington's intention; that it may prefer to deal with the Pakistani military, as during the era of former strongman General Pervez Musharraf.

Maleeha Lodhi, a Pakistani former diplomat and influential columnist, says frenetic western cajoling is fraught with risks for Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment is widespread and extremists are pursuing a daily campaign of terror attacks to destabilise the country.

"Intensified fighting in Afghanistan, far from diminishing the threat of more instability in Pakistan, will enhance it. The military escalation on Pakistan's border could produce a spillover of militants," Lodhi said. "It will enhance the vulnerability of US-Nato ground supply routes … Protecting these supply lines will overstretch Pakistani forces at present engaged in quashing the Pakistani Taliban.

"The surge could also lead to an influx of more Afghan refugees. It could also provoke a spike in violent reprisals in Pakistan … It is therefore imperative for Islamabad to try to persuade the US to modify its strategy," she said.

Trouble is, Obama, like Gordon Brown, is a man in a hurry with a war to win. One political shove too hard, one cross-border drone attack too many, or another Mumbai-style attack by Pakistani-based groups on an Indian target, and Pakistan could swiftly join the descent into chaos.

MQM observes black day across Pakistan


KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Chief Altaf Hussain on Tuesday said each and every citizen of Pakistan must come out and play a role in telling the world that we are brave and oppose all types of terrorism.

The MQM chief said that disappointment was not the cure for terrorism and the nation must struggle against it with courage.

Altaf Hussain was addressing, via telephone from London, participants of rallies, protests and meetings arranged by the MQM in different parts of the country including Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore and other districts of Punjab.

Hussain said that terrorists were enemies of the country and innocent citizens were losing their lives in acts of terror.

The MQM chief called upon the people to constitute committees against terrorism in their respective areas and convey reports about suspicious activities to security agencies.

He also repeated his suggestion about the formulation of a National Counter Terrorism Policy (NCTP) and the establishment of a permanent institution to stop militancy.

He called upon the electronic media to present effective programs against terrorism and boycott all those who provide direct or indirect support to the Taliban.

Altaf Hussain saluted personnel of the security forces who were sacrificing their lives in the fight against terrorism. He also paid tributes to the mothers of the martyred personnel of the security forces.

He also called for settlement of the Balochistan situation in accordance with the aspiration of the people of the province. He was of the opinion that it was the need of the hour that the people of Balochistan are awarded their due rights.

The MQM chief said that he will come back to Pakistan if the people give him permission to return to the country.

Fear grips Pakistan’s cultural capital after attacks


LAHORE: ‘Nobody knows whether they will come home alive or not,’ said Khalid Mahmood, a 52-year-old taxi driver in Lahore, after the latest bloody strike on Pakistan’s once peaceful cultural capital.

Residents are living in fear after the deadliest attack yet on Lahore — twin bomb blasts on a busy market in the heart of the city at nightfall on Monday that left 49 people dead and scores more wounded.

Home to ancient Mughal monuments and grand colonial buildings, Lahore residents like to think their city is a cut above the rest of Pakistan — a hallowed centre of education, intellectual thought and a cultural bellwether.

Students mill around cafes and galleries and flock to the theatre at night, but Pakistan’s second biggest city had recently found itself in the Taliban’s cross-hairs, with six militant strikes this year killing about 133 people.

‘Bloodshed is spreading in the city, people are afraid and worry about their future,’ Mahmood said.

‘Life is becoming miserable, there is fear and threats to our life everywhere... We are very worried about our children — we feel restless until they come back from school.’

On Monday, two bombs planted 30 metres (yards) apart blew up within seconds of each other at the bustling Moon Market in central Lahore, engulfing the area in flames as people were milling around the shops and restaurants.

Police and rescue officials have put the death toll at 49 with 150 others injured, and government officials have blamed Taliban militants avenging a military offensive against them in the northwest.

‘You never know when the curse, the terror will hit and where. I lost several friends in the Moon Market bombing. Just 15 minutes before the blasts, I passed through that market,’ said Suhail Iqbal, a 48-year-old filmmaker.

‘Now the militants are targetting women and children. They want to destroy our families and it makes me more worry, everybody is worried.’

Residents have watched in recent months as road blocks, sand bags and blast walls have sprung up around the city, backing up already congested traffic where land cruisers compete for space with horse-and-carts.

Tahir Kamran, who heads the history department at Lahore’s Government College University, told AFP in an interview last month that militants wanted to destabilise Pakistan, and thus targeted Lahore.

‘Lahore is very, very important. In many ways it’s more important than Islamabad and Karachi because of culture, because now it has become the knowledge centre — opinion is formed mostly from Lahore,’ he said.

Many of the nation’s senior military figures also hail from Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital.

In March, masked gunmen opened fire on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, killing eight people, wounding six players and destroying Pakistan’s hopes of hosting international cricket.

Similar commando-style assaults hit three police centres on October 15. Forty people were killed after gunmen attacked with suicide vests and grenades.

Although most Taliban attacks hit the northwest and are plotted in the tribal belt near Afghanistan, analysts say extremism has taken root in Punjab, the most populous province in Pakistan.

Its residents are taking no chances. Taxi driver Mahmood has already lost a friend and a relative in bombings, and he says he must protect his family.

‘My wife and family members are avoiding bazaars and markets. We are living a restless life, a life of fear,’

Peshawarites live in fear of attacks

PESHAWAR: The provincial capital has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world to live in due to regular suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent people in recent weeks.
The latest attack killed at least 11 people outside sessions courts here Monday.
Talking to BBC, dwellers of the city were of the view that those who have been living in the provincial metropolis for past many years are reluctant to leave the city despite uncertain security situation.
"Those who are financially strong enough are migrating from here. I am staying because I have to. I am unmarried and depend on my brothers.
I worry about the violence," said Rehana Saman.
"Once, on a Friday, I was walking to the bus stop on my own. I heard the noise of a blast and that sound was terrible. I almost fell down and was scared. I went home and asked my brother to accompany me to the bus stop. While we were waiting for the bus, we heard news that there was another blast so we had to go back home. Now, I avoid going out. We cannot plan to visit our relatives because there are so many uncertainties all around us," she maintained.
The residents said the recent spate of terrorism has completely changed life in the city where people avoid visiting bazaars owing to fear of suicide attacks.
"We have all changed our way of life in the city. Everyone is trying to avoid going to the bazaars. After every blast, we have to inform our relatives that we are safe and sound," said Majeed, a local trader.
Even some of the locals who witnessed blasts with their own eyes said that they have been finding it hard to come out of the trauma caused after seeing horrific scenes at the site of the incidents.
"It is a risky type of life in the city. I have witnessed many blasts and the scenes of blood and charred bodies still haunt me", said Muhammad Arif Afridi, a local student.
Once, I was studying in my room at about midday. I heard a huge blast. I went to the spot where the security forces had cordoned off the whole area. I looked around and there were many casualties there. After that, I went to the hospital to donate blood, he added.
Every person living in the city is psychologically in depression.

No Talks with Terrorists.......Bilour

PESHAWAR: NWFP Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour on Tuesday ruled out talks with terrorists and militants and said the government is committed to establishing durable peace in the province’s restive areas.

Talking to reporters the ANP leader said there was no question of holding talks with the terrorists.

He said the ANP government after coming into power had brokered an agreement with the sole objective to establish peace in Swat. However, the militants did not reciprocate the goodwill gesture, he added.

Bilour said involvement of foreign hands in terror incidents could not be ruled out.

He said that Pakistani nation and government were united against terrorism, adding that, negotiations can only be possible if militants lay down their arms and accept the government’s writ.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates in Kabul to meet with Karzai

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates flew into Kabul on Tuesday for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and commanders about Washington's new strategy to send 30,000 extra troops to fight the Taliban.

His arrival marks the first official visit by the US administration since President Barack Obama last week announced he would raise to 100,000 the US deployment in Afghanistan to counter a rising Taliban insurgency.

The Pentagon has announced the first wave of 1,500 extra US Marines will begin arriving in southern Afghanistan next week as the top military officer said they had a short window to seize back the initiative from the Taliban.

"We want to talk with President Karzai and (defence) Minister Wardak about the president's decision and the implementation of that decision, how we will use our troops and the additional troops from our allies in partnership with the Afghan national security forces," Gates told journalists on the plane.

The Pentagon chief said he would also raise the issue of stepping up the training and retention of Afghanistan's fledgling army and police, a cornerstone of Obama's strategy which hopes to bring a quick end to the war.

In an interview with CNN, Karzai said Afghans wanted to be in charge of security "sooner, rather than later" but said it would take two years to train Afghan forces to the point where they can lead operations in many areas.

Gates said he was seeking to reassure Kabul of the United States' long-term commitment, despite Obama's plan to start drawing down US troops in July 2011, which has raised concerns in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.

"Another major message will be the importance of a long-term relationship between the United States, ISAF (the NATO-run multinational force based in the country) and Afghanistan," he told reporters.

With Karzai poised to unveil his cabinet after a fraud-tainted re-election, under Western pressure to crack down on graft, Gates emphasised "the importance for us of capable, honest ministers in areas that are critical for our success, such as defence and interior".

He said both the current defence minister and Interior Minister Hanif Atmar "are very capable people".

Gates will also hold talks with top US and NATO commanders, but not the overall commander on the ground, US General Stanley McChrystal, who is due to testify before Congress in Washington later Tuesday.

With military commanders Gates is due to discuss the logistical challenges facing the influx of reinforcements after signing deployment orders for the first wave of 17,000 more US troops that will arrive early next year.

"It's going to require a lot of efforts," Gates told reporters.

He will also meet US troops to "tell them we're in this to win".

Speaking to young Marines preparing to head off to war, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the clock was ticking and that US-led forces had to break the momentum of the Islamist insurgents.

"We've got about 18 to 24 months," Mullen told a gathering of Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Gates' visit to Kabul comes four days after more than 1,000 US Marines, British troops and Afghan forces launched a major offensive in the southern province of Helmand, a Taliban heartland and primary opium-growing area.

Most of the first wave of extra US troops will be going to Helmand and neighbouring province Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban and the scene of the worst fighting eight years after the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban.

Soaring violence has made this year the deadliest since the Taliban fell from power, killing record numbers of civilians, Afghan and foreign troops.

Bomb blast in Multan leaves 12 dead

MULTAN: A bomb explosion at a security check post in Multan Tuesday killed at least 12 people and injured 18 others.
The explosion took place at the security post in the Qasim Bela area of Multan cantonment and damaged several buildings.

‘We have recovered 12 dead bodies and more than 18 injured. Most of the dead are civilians,’ said emergency services official doctor Kaleemullah, who was at the site of the blast.

‘There were also some security men among the dead. This building belongs to the army. It's badly damaged.’

Multan's police chief Saood Aziz told AFP the explosives appeared to have been planted in a small pick-up truck, but it was not immediately clear if it was a suicide attack, while the exact target was also unknown.

Multan is in Punjab province, which is still reeling from twin bomb blasts in its capital Lahore on Monday that killed at least 49 people and wounded 150 more at a busy market in the centre of the city.

This is also the first time Multan has been hit during a surge of violence that began in October and has already killed more than 400 people.

Pakistan Told to Ratchet Up Fight Against the Taliban

NEWYORKTIMES

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban inside its borders, warning that if it does not act more aggressively the United States will use considerably more force on the Pakistani side of the border to shut down Taliban attacks on American forces in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said.

The blunt message was delivered in a tense encounter in Pakistan last month, before President Obama announced his new war strategy, when Gen. James L. Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief, met with the heads of Pakistan’s military and its intelligence service.

United States officials said the message did not amount to an ultimatum, but rather it was intended to prod a reluctant Pakistani military to go after Taliban insurgents in Pakistan who are directing attacks in Afghanistan.

For their part the Pakistanis interpreted the message as a fairly bald warning that unless Pakistan moved quickly to act against two Taliban groups they have so far refused to attack, the United States was prepared to take unilateral action to expand Predator drone attacks beyond the tribal areas and, if needed, to resume raids by Special Operations forces into the country against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

A senior administration official, asked about the encounter, declined to go into details but added quickly, “I think they read our intentions accurately.”

A Pakistani official who has been briefed on the meetings said, “Jones’s message was if that Pakistani help wasn’t forthcoming, the United States would have to do it themselves.”

American commanders said earlier this year that they were considering expanding drone strikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, but General Jones’s comments marked the first time that the United States bluntly told Pakistan it would have to choose between leading attacks against the insurgents inside the country’s borders or stepping aside to let the Americans do it.

The recent security demands followed an offer of a broader strategic relationship and expanded intelligence sharing and nonmilitary economic aid from the United States. Pakistan’s politically weakened president, Asif Ali Zardari, replied in writing to a two-page letter that General Jones delivered from Mr. Obama. But Mr. Zardari gave no indication of how Pakistan would respond to the incentives, which were linked to the demands for greatly stepped-up counterterrorism actions.

“We’ve offered them a strategic choice,” one administration official said, describing the private communications. “And we’ve heard back almost nothing.” Another administration official said, “Our patience is wearing thin.”

Asked Monday about the exchange, Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said, “We have no comment on private diplomatic correspondence. As the president has said repeatedly, we will continue to partner with Pakistan and the international community to enhance the military, governance and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The implicit threat of not only ratcheting up the drone strikes but also launching more covert American ground raids would mark a substantial escalation of the administration’s counterterrorism campaign.

American Special Operations forces attacked Qaeda militants in a Pakistani village near the border with Afghanistan in early September 2008, in the first publicly acknowledged case of United States forces conducting a ground raid on Pakistani soil.

But the raid caused a political furor in Pakistan, with the country’s top generals condemning the attack, and the United States backed off what had been a planned series of such strikes.

During his intensive review of Pakistan and Afghanistan strategy, officials say, Mr. Obama concluded that no amount of additional troops in Afghanistan would succeed in their new mission if the Taliban could retreat over the Pakistani border to regroup and resupply. But the administration has said little about the Pakistani part of the strategy.

“We concluded early on that whatever you do with Pakistan, you don’t want to talk about it much,” a senior presidential aide said last week. “All it does is get backs up in Islamabad.”

During his speech at West Point last week, Mr. Obama said that “our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.” But for the rest of the speech he referred to the country in the past tense, talking about how “there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence.”

He never quite said how his administration views the Pakistanis today, and two officials said that Mr. Obama used that construction in an effort not to alienate the current government or the army, led by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Even before Mr. Obama announced his decision last week, the White House had approved an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. A missile strike from what was said to be a United States drone in the tribal areas killed at least three people early Tuesday, according to Pakistani intelligence officials, The Associated Press reported.

Pakistani officials, wary of civilian casualties and the appearance of further infringement of national sovereignty, are still in discussions with American officials over whether to allow the C.I.A. to expand its missile strikes into Baluchistan for the first time — a politically delicate move because it is outside the tribal areas. American commanders say this is necessary because Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who ran Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion, and other Taliban leaders are hiding in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province.

Pakistani officials also voice concern that if the Pakistani Army were to aggressively attack the two groups that most concern the United States — the Afghan Taliban leaders and the Haqqani network based in North Waziristan — the militants would respond with waves of retaliatory bombings, further undermining the weak civilian government.

Publicly, senior American officials and commanders take note of that concern. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Pakistan in late October with offers of a strategic partnership. But General Jones followed Mrs. Clinton two weeks later carrying more sticks than carrots, American officials said.

Pakistan Told to Ratchet Up Fight Against the Taliban

NEWYORKTIMES

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is turning up the pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban inside its borders, warning that if it does not act more aggressively the United States will use considerably more force on the Pakistani side of the border to shut down Taliban attacks on American forces in Afghanistan, American and Pakistani officials said.

The blunt message was delivered in a tense encounter in Pakistan last month, before President Obama announced his new war strategy, when Gen. James L. Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief, met with the heads of Pakistan’s military and its intelligence service.

United States officials said the message did not amount to an ultimatum, but rather it was intended to prod a reluctant Pakistani military to go after Taliban insurgents in Pakistan who are directing attacks in Afghanistan.

For their part the Pakistanis interpreted the message as a fairly bald warning that unless Pakistan moved quickly to act against two Taliban groups they have so far refused to attack, the United States was prepared to take unilateral action to expand Predator drone attacks beyond the tribal areas and, if needed, to resume raids by Special Operations forces into the country against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

A senior administration official, asked about the encounter, declined to go into details but added quickly, “I think they read our intentions accurately.”

A Pakistani official who has been briefed on the meetings said, “Jones’s message was if that Pakistani help wasn’t forthcoming, the United States would have to do it themselves.”

American commanders said earlier this year that they were considering expanding drone strikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, but General Jones’s comments marked the first time that the United States bluntly told Pakistan it would have to choose between leading attacks against the insurgents inside the country’s borders or stepping aside to let the Americans do it.

The recent security demands followed an offer of a broader strategic relationship and expanded intelligence sharing and nonmilitary economic aid from the United States. Pakistan’s politically weakened president, Asif Ali Zardari, replied in writing to a two-page letter that General Jones delivered from Mr. Obama. But Mr. Zardari gave no indication of how Pakistan would respond to the incentives, which were linked to the demands for greatly stepped-up counterterrorism actions.

“We’ve offered them a strategic choice,” one administration official said, describing the private communications. “And we’ve heard back almost nothing.” Another administration official said, “Our patience is wearing thin.”

Asked Monday about the exchange, Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, said, “We have no comment on private diplomatic correspondence. As the president has said repeatedly, we will continue to partner with Pakistan and the international community to enhance the military, governance and economic capacity of Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

The implicit threat of not only ratcheting up the drone strikes but also launching more covert American ground raids would mark a substantial escalation of the administration’s counterterrorism campaign.

American Special Operations forces attacked Qaeda militants in a Pakistani village near the border with Afghanistan in early September 2008, in the first publicly acknowledged case of United States forces conducting a ground raid on Pakistani soil.

But the raid caused a political furor in Pakistan, with the country’s top generals condemning the attack, and the United States backed off what had been a planned series of such strikes.

During his intensive review of Pakistan and Afghanistan strategy, officials say, Mr. Obama concluded that no amount of additional troops in Afghanistan would succeed in their new mission if the Taliban could retreat over the Pakistani border to regroup and resupply. But the administration has said little about the Pakistani part of the strategy.

“We concluded early on that whatever you do with Pakistan, you don’t want to talk about it much,” a senior presidential aide said last week. “All it does is get backs up in Islamabad.”

During his speech at West Point last week, Mr. Obama said that “our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan.” But for the rest of the speech he referred to the country in the past tense, talking about how “there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence.”

He never quite said how his administration views the Pakistanis today, and two officials said that Mr. Obama used that construction in an effort not to alienate the current government or the army, led by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Even before Mr. Obama announced his decision last week, the White House had approved an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. A missile strike from what was said to be a United States drone in the tribal areas killed at least three people early Tuesday, according to Pakistani intelligence officials, The Associated Press reported.

Pakistani officials, wary of civilian casualties and the appearance of further infringement of national sovereignty, are still in discussions with American officials over whether to allow the C.I.A. to expand its missile strikes into Baluchistan for the first time — a politically delicate move because it is outside the tribal areas. American commanders say this is necessary because Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader who ran Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion, and other Taliban leaders are hiding in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province.

Pakistani officials also voice concern that if the Pakistani Army were to aggressively attack the two groups that most concern the United States — the Afghan Taliban leaders and the Haqqani network based in North Waziristan — the militants would respond with waves of retaliatory bombings, further undermining the weak civilian government.

Publicly, senior American officials and commanders take note of that concern. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Pakistan in late October with offers of a strategic partnership. But General Jones followed Mrs. Clinton two weeks later carrying more sticks than carrots, American officials said.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Europe turns on US and China over weak emission targets



The European Union has rejected the new carbon emission targets tabled by the United States and China and said they were much too weak to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The dispute between the three main players at the Copenhagen climate change summit overshadowed the first day of negotiations and dashed hopes that a deal on emissions was imminent.

The EU called on President Obama to announce a more ambitious target next week, when he arrives in Copenhagen for the last day of the conference on December 18.

But the US insisted that the provisional offer made 10 days ago by Mr Obama was “remarkable” and in line with what scientists had recommended.

Mr Obama has proposed to cut its emissions by 4 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, although he has said this is subject to getting the approval of Congress. The EU has made a legally binding commitment to cut its emissions by 20 per cent over the same period. It has also said it would increase the cut to 30 per cent if other countries committed to “comparable action”.

Washington tonight attempted to demonstrate that it was serious about fighting climate change by formally announcing that green house gases were a danger to American health and paving the way for new regulations to control them. This would technically allow Mr Obama to override Congress and impose carbon cuts but, in practice, he is more likely to use the prospect of regulations as a bargaining chip to persuade enough senators to pass a Bill enforcing the 4 per cent target.

Andreas Carlgren, Sweden’s environment minister and the EU’s main negotiator under the rotating presidency, said the targets proposed by the US and China were too low to qualify as comparable action and therefore the EU would not strengthen its 20 per cent target.

“If you analyse the bids they are not going to deliver the emissions reductions that would be keeping the Earth’s temperature [increase] below 2C. The US and China cover half the world’s emissions so it will be absolutely decisive what they deliver.

“It would be astonishing if President Obama arrived here next week and just delivered what was in last week’s press release. I would rather expect the US President will deliver something further.”

Mr Carlgren also dismissed China’s offer to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 per cent by 2020. He said the target would result in a huge increase in emissions because of China’s predicted 8 per cent annual economic growth.

Mr Carlgren dismissed the recommendation from Lord Stern of Brentford that the EU should take the lead at the summit by making an unconditional commitment to cut its emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.

“The EU wants to go to 30 per cent but other parties must also deliver and it mostly depends on the US and China.

“We must keep the pressure until the end . We have said 30 per cent as a lever to put pressure on other parties.

“If we were to weaken that pressure by already delivering we would lose that endgame and we would risk having an agreement of too low an ambition level."

Jonathan Pershing, the US chief negotiator at Copenhagen, tried to downplay America’s contribution to climate change.

He said: “The US is responsible for one fifth of emissions which means four fifths come from the rest of the world.” He suggested that the US was making up for its weak short term target by offering an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050. Most other countries argue that promising reductions in 40 years time is a political fudge and no substitute for firm action in the next decade.

But Mr Pershing hinted that Mr Obama might be willing to offer more short-term action, possibly in the form of a substantial contribution to a global fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

“The president has put a remarkable number on the table. What we need to now do is see how these negotiations proceed and we look forward to his coming and engaging in the discussion.”

Karzai poised to name new Government line-up

www.timesonline.co.uk
President Karzai is expected to name a new Cabinet today after weeks of pressure from Western capitals linking future support to reform of the Afghan Government.

Mr Karzai has been pondering the new line-up of his Government since he was declared the winner of the widely discredited presidential elections in August. In his inauguration speech last month he promised to end the country’s “culture of impunity”.

Afghan government sources and Western diplomats have both told The Times that the new Cabinet is expected to retain those ministers regarded as competent and non-corrupt by the West. However, Afghan government sources said that changes to the final line-up were still being formulated last night ahead of this morning’s expected announcement.

“There is a lot uncertainty, a lot of deal making,” said one senior Afghan official, who declined to be identified. “There will certainly be a lot of technocrats in the final list, there will also be some middlemen for warlords. It will not be a perfect cabinet but it will be acceptable to Brussels.”

One senior Western diplomat told The Times that the final list was expected to be “fairly responsible” and to retain the handful of ministers who had won Western backing for competence and relative incorruptibility in the last administration.

Among those expected to appear in the final list are the respected current Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, former Interior Minister Ali Jalali and Agriculture Minister Asif Rahimi.

Another name widely tipped is Gul Agha Sherzai, the energetic governor of Nangahar province who is known as “The Bulldozer”. His warlord past has not prevented him winning popularity with US officials.

Traditionally all Afghan Cabinets are a balancing act of the country’s competing ethnicities and interest groups.

Mr Karzai caused deep gloom in the international community before the elections when he named two prominent warlords, Karim Khalili and Marshal Mohammad Fahim, as his running mates. Both are accused of war crimes by human rights groups. He was also widely reported to have made a number of deals with different ethnic warlords, in exchange for promised votes.

The most notorious figures, such as General Rashid Dostum and Mohammad Mohaqeq, do not appear to be in the running for a Cabinet post. However, Mr Karzai is known to have met the Northern Alliance warlord Doctor Burhanuddin Rabbani in the past week and there are persistent claims that he has demanded a Cabinet position for his son.

The Afghan parliament yesterday demanded that it be allowed to exercise its Constitutional right under to refuse any member of the cabinet. In the past some ministers were able to take up their posts even though they were barred by parliamentary vote.

In the first sign of a discernible crackdown on corruption the Mayor of Kabul, Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi, was sentenced to four years of imprisonment on charges relating to the misappropriation of £9,800 of public money. The sum is small change compared to the millions suspected to have been embezzled by government officials.

'Corrupt' Mayor of Kabul sentenced

A court has sentenced the Afghan capital's Mayor, Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi,to four years in jail for corruption and ordered him to return £9,800 of public money which it said he had "wasted" in awarding a contract without following proper procedures.It is the first serious corruption conviction since Hamid Karzai's re-election. Mr Sahebi, who has denied the charges, was not in court and his whereabouts are unknown.

NFC: Punjab still opposes war subvention to NWFP




PESHAWAR: Punjab is not willing to concede to the NWFP demand of even 2.5 per cent subvention from the federal divisible pool as compensation for its suffering from acts of terrorism and militancy in the 7th award of the National Finance Commission (NFC).

The sources told The News that the NWFP has given up its earlier claim of 10 per cent from the divisible pool for the “war on terror” being fought on its soil and has brought down its demand to only 2.5 per cent as “war on terror” subvention. They claimed that at the Karachi meeting of the NFC all other federating units, including finance minister of the Punjab, agreed to the NWFP demand, but technical member of the Punjab, former secretary finance Mirza Abdul Ghafoor, opposed it and told the meeting that he would consult his “elders” on the issue.

The sources privy to the NFC meetings also said that the federal government had shown willingness to pay one per cent of the total divisible pool to the NWFP as “war on terror” subvention, but the Frontier has yet to accept it.

When contacted, the acting central president of Awami National Party (ANP) and provincial member on the NFC, Haji Mohammad Adeel conceded difficulties in getting “war on terror” subvention and said that the province’s team had girded up to pursue the matter vigorously at the Lahore meeting being held on the December 9-10.

He said the NWFP was in a state of war and it had suffered hundreds of billions rupees losses in the ongoing militancy and subsequent operations, besides the loss of hundreds of precious lives, but it was now being promised only one per cent of the total divisible pool as war subvention. It is just a few billions rupees, which are not even sufficient for the compensations to the heirs of the victims of the militancy, he added.

He hoped that the Lahore meeting would prove to be a fresh start for the NWFP and other provinces, including Punjab, would feel the pain the NWFP had been going through. Haji Adeel said that presently Punjab was getting 80 per cent of the divisible pool on account of population and “we hope the Punjab would agree to 70-75 per cent weightage for the population in order to contain other provinces’ demands such as backwardness, area, etc.” He said the rest 25-30 per cent of the provincial share would be divided on the basis of poverty, backwardness and Human Development Index (HDI), areas and revenue collection.

About the pre-NFC demands of the province, he said they have already brought the “go-slow” on the matter into the notice of President Zardari and asked him to act on the demands of the NWFP the federal government has acknowledged earlier. He said that in their last week meeting with the president they urged Zardari to issue presidential order for the payment of Rs100 billion of the net hydel power profit arrears.

“We also asked the federal government to form a technical committee for determining the modus operandi for the payment of the remaining Rs180 billion of the net hydel power profit,” Muhammad Adeel said.

The ANP leader said the president assured them that the committee would meet soon after the Lahore meeting of the NFC to take up the matter. He said they also reminded the president of the federal government’s pledge to withdraw all cases and urged him to direct the Wapda to take back all the cases it instituted against the net hydel power profit payment in the courts.

Torkham border closed





PESHAWAR: Pakistan on Monday closed Torkham border crossing in Khyber Agency for the people entering from Afghanistan without valid documents.

The border was closed on orders of the government amidst growing insurgency-related incidents in the country, especially in Peshawar city. It was believed that mostly Afghan nationals, living illegally or entering Pakistan without passports and visas, were allegedly involved in the rising incidents of terrorism, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people so far.

A huge number of people mostly Afghans with no valid immigration documents were seen waiting on the Afghanistan side of the border to enter Pakistan. This busy border crossing had also been closed for several times in the past but was reopened after talks between the Afghan and Pakistan governments.

The move would increase the problems of two million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Unlike the Pakistanis, majority of the Afghans frequently cross into Pakistan without valid documents to meet their near and dear ones.

Afghan Womens’ plight getting worse



Womens’ plight getting worse
KABUL (Agencies): A leading rights group Monday accused the Afghan government of failing to protect women from endemic violence such as rape and murder and from discrimination, warning that their plight risks getting worse. The US-based Human Rights Watch urged world powers to stay focused on women’s rights in Afghanistan as President Barack Obama deploys an extra 30,000 US troops as part of a revamped strategy to fight the resurgent Taliban. “Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, women and girls suffer high levels of violence and discrimination, and have poor access to justice and education,” HRW said in a 96-page report. “The Afghan government has also failed to bring killers of prominent women in public life to justice, creating an environment of impunity for those who target women,” it said. Banned from public life under the iron-fisted Taliban regime from 1996 until the 2001 US-led invasion, women still struggle for their rights in the impoverished, deeply conservative and war-torn country. HRW said gains made since 2001 in areas such as education, work and freedom of movement are under serious threat as the Taliban insurgency gains ground and fundamentalist factions in government strengthen. “The situation for Afghan women and girls is dire and could deteriorate,” said Rachel Reid, Afghanistan researcher at HRW. The rights group highlighted a catalogue of abuse of women — death threats and intimidation, murders of several high-profile figures, gang rape and young girls being forced into marriage. But it said the attitude of the courts or police was often hostile towards women, with the government failing to prosecute the perpetrators of attacks. In addition, it said, “studies suggest that more than half the women and girls in detention are being held for ‘moral crimes’, such as adultery or running away from home”.

11 die as blast rocks Peshawar

PESHAWAR: After a comparative calm 20 days the provincial metropolis once again became the target of barbaric act of terrorists when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the main gate of Sessions Courts killing at least 11 people and injuring 45 others here on Monday. Two policemen are among the dead. The bomber disembarked from an auto rickshaw in front of the main gate of Sessions Courts. But as he walked towards the court building the on-duty policeman told him to remove his shawl. After his refusal the cop opened fire at him. Upon this the bomber pulled the trigger of his explosive-filled jacket killing the innocents. Two policemen who embraced martyrdom in the incident were identified as Roohullah (ASI) and Nasir (constable). The auto rickshaw (C-7848), which was used by the suicide bomber as a transport, was completely destroyed while three vehicles PRD-3959, PRM 6987 and PRW 87 were also destroyed after catching fire soon after the blast. The Sessions Courts are located at a short distance from a MPAs' Hostel, the provincial Home Department, Peshawar Museum and Governor's House. The police found parts of suicide vest, nut bolts, and bearings from the site of blast. The police also found the head of the suicide bomber while parts of his flesh were scattered. According to Bomb Disposal Squad officials about six to seven kilograms of explosive along with ball bearings were used in the blast. The injured were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital while fire brigade was also called to extinguish the fire. Peshawar has been on receiving end from the militants for almost three months as the rebels try to avenge military operation going on against them in different parts of the NWFP province and in tribal areas. No one has accepted the responsibility of the blast till the filing of the report. This was the second time a court complex in Peshawar was targeted by a suicide bomber. On Nov 19, a suicide attacker had struck the Judicial Complex, killing 19 people and injuring 50 others. An eye witness Ali Akbar who was at the filling station on the opposite side of the courts said he saw a bearded man wearing a shawl who reached the courts in an auto rickshaw and approached the gate of the Sessions Courts. An employee of the filling station said the blast was so huge that he lost his hearing power for almost 20 minutes due to the bang of the explosion.