Sunday, May 31, 2009

Continuous curfew, power suspension

PESHAWAR: People stranded in Mingora city said they were living without food, water and medicines for the previous two days. Asking for emergency assistance, particularly food and water, the besieged people said the continuous disruption of power supply had rendered them without drinking water.

Engr Siddiq Akbar is head of one of the trapped families, who managed to establish a contact with his family members who left Mingora 15 days ago to take refuge with relatives in Mardan. He said the people were under virtual siege and they could not come out of their houses because of the continuous curfew.

Requesting for immediate assistance from the government to ensure their survival, Engr Akbar said the militants had fled and they could be seen nowhere in the city now. He said the hospitals were closed because the staff had already left and the sick and injured people were facing serious problems in getting treatment. “We’re applying homemade medications to cure our sick children and elderly people,” he said.

About the provincial government’s claims regarding sending truckloads of food items to Mingora, the stranded person said not a single morsel of food had reached the people stuck up in the city. “We tried to offer the Juma prayers at the Allah-o-Akbar Mosque in our mohallah, but we were not allowed to go there because of the curfew,” said the man, whose half family had migrated to Mardan and put on with a relative.

He said they could not leave their houses to get food or water because three people had so far been killed for violating the curfew. “I request the elected representatives from Swat as to when would they visit us and extend a helping hand in this hour of trial. We’re awaiting a silent death, but those elected to the assemblies by the people of this unfortunate land can’t move from their offices or fortified houses to bail us out,” said the aggrieved man.

People from Islampura village, also known as the craft village for its unique handicrafts, also complained about the acute shortage of food items, medicines and potable water. Located in the neighbourhood of Saidu Sharif, dwellers of Islampura village said they were without food, water, medicines and electricity. The villagers had even run out of fodder for cattle and many animals had so far died.

Both the villagers and their animals would die if emergency assistance were not provided, said the villagers in a telephonic conversation. They said their children were extremely terrified and could not sleep all the night.

The villagers asked the government to relax the curfew and allow transportation of food items and medicines to avoid an eminent human catastrophe in the city of Mingora and adjacent villages.

Security forces had launched operation in Swat on May 8 while curfew was imposed in the city of Mingora and other parts of the restive valley on May 4. More than 500,000 people managed to flee the valley, but thousands are still stuck up or stayed back to guard their houses.

Soldiers hunt Taliban fighters as Pakistan says victory near
PESHAWAR: Pakistan's defence secretary said on Sunday that a month-long offensive to crush Taliban fighters in northwest Swat could end within days, as fierce fighting spilled into a nearby tribal area.

Swat valley's main town Mingora is back in government hands, the military announced on Saturday, and security officials said they were now pursuing the top leadership of the hardline Taliban movement into the nearby mountains.

Secretary of Defence Syed Athar Ali told a security forum in Singapore that three targeted northwest districts were almost clear of Taliban rebels.

"Operations in Swat, Buner and adjoining areas have almost met complete success," he said.

"Only five to ten percent of the job is remaining and hopefully within the next two to three days these pockets of resistance will be cleared."

However, chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP that it was impossible to estimate when the offensive would end.

"The operation is continuing in all of the areas and at this stage we cannot give any timeframe," he said.

The army remains locked in battle in some areas, but the fall of Mingora was a critical milestone in an offensive launched after the Taliban thrust to within 100 kilometres of Islamabad in April.

Pakistan's military also reported that 25 militants and seven soldiers were killed in clashes in South Waziristan near the Afghan border, a bolt-hole for Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants south of the current army bombardment.

"Miscreants attacked a security forces checkpost last night (Saturday) in Spinkai Raghzai, South Waziristan agency. The attack was repulsed successfully, inflicting heavy casualties on militants," it said in a statement.

Fifteen militants and three soldiers died in the clash in Spinkai Raghzai, while elsewhere in the semi-autonomous tribal area 10 insurgents and four troops including a lieutenant died when rebels attacked a military convoy.

Civilians have started fleeing the area fearing a fresh military onslaught, but the army has denied an imminent assault on Waziristan, where militants branded by Washington as the greatest terror threat to the West are holed up.

The United States, which is firmly backing the current military drive, had warned that the rebels threaten Pakistan's very existence.

Officials have said that lower-ranking Taliban leaders had been killed but it was harder to get to the top leaders, who had a network of hardcore militants around them and had slipped into the rugged mountain terrain.

"They will be eliminated wherever we find them," said one military official, who did not wish to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, adding: "We believe that they are somewhere in the mountains."

Pakistan has slapped a 600,000-dollar price on the head of firebrand Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah for masterminding the nearly two-year uprising in the valley to enforce sharia law.

The government has also offered rewards for 21 rebel chiefs - wanted dead or alive - from Swat. The military claims to have killed 1,244 militants since the offensive began, although the numbers are impossible to verify.

As the government ups its campaign to stamp out the militants, fears are growing of a wave of revenge attacks.

The northwestern capital Peshawar and the eastern cultural centre of Lahore have both been rocked by deadly explosions in the last five days, killing a total of 39 people and wounding hundreds more.

A spokesman for Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud has claimed Wednesday's suicide bombing on a police building in Lahore, and warned of more "massive attacks" to avenge the Swat military operation.

Nearly 2.4 million people have fled the current offensive, and the military relaxed a curfew Sunday in most parts of the northwest including Mingora to allow people trapped on the roads to return home or leave the region.

Senior Red Cross officials said Sunday they were "gravely concerned" over the situation in Swat Valley, after an ICRC team reported problems with running water, food, electricity and communications.

"The people of Swat need greater humanitarian protection and assistance immediately," said Pascal Cuttat, head of the organisation's delegation in Pakistan.

"Given what we have already seen on the ground, we are mobilising additional resources, but safe and unimpeded access to the area remains essential for our teams to deliver."

Obama Sends Envoy to Pakistan Refugee Camps

WASHINGTON — President Obama is dispatching his Afghanistan-Pakistan adviser, Richard C. Holbrooke, to Pakistan this week to visit the refugee camps in the northeast region of the country, where thousands of people have flooded to escape the conflict areas where government troops have been battling Taliban insurgents.

Mr. Holbrooke will be taking an inter-agency team of American officials from the Pentagon, the State Department and Usaid to look for ways to speed up the relief effort, and to help mobilize international support, a senior administration official said. The team will also hold talks with the Pakistani government on ways to help solve the growing refugee problem in the country.

More than one million Pakistanis are believed to have fled the conflict areas of Swat, Buner and Lower Dir since tensions exploded in recent months. The mass migration of Pakistanis is now the largest since the country was partitioned from India more than 60 years ago, and it has added to concerns over security and the government’s capacity to provide immediate relief to the displaced.

The American team will leave on Tuesday morning, the official said.(NYT)

US weapons in TTP hands

The Frontier Post
In an interview with the CNN army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas has claimed that many of the Pakistan Taliban’s arms are coming from Afghanistan. He replied in the affirmative when asked whether that included NATO weapons as suggested in recent reports. He said Washington was too focused on the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal whereas the US should stop worrying about the nukes and start worrying about the weapons lost in Afghanistan. A US government report last month warned that the Pentagon did not have “complete records” for about one-third of the 242,000 weapons the United States had provided to the Afghan army, or for a further 135,000 weapons other countries sent. “The Afghan army cannot fully safeguard and account for weapons”, the Government Accountability Office had stated. The US has to understand that those weapons are landing in the hands of Pakistani Taliban, and it is happening under the US/NATO watch. It is in fact their responsibility to stop smuggling of arms to Pakistan. ISPR spokesman Athar Abbas also stated that Taliban fighters in Pakistan were getting weapons and support from foreign intelligence agencies; he however did not mention the names of the countries. People of Pakistan do not understand that despite Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting the war on terror and having lost many members of the security forces the US and India are accusing Pakistan of aiding and abetting Taliban. On the other hand, Pakistan government has at number of times claimed that it has incontrovertible evidence that India is funding and supplying arms to Balochistan rebels and militants in FATA but it does not expose India and its strategic partner the US. Recently, Times of India reported that Baitullah Mehsud is working for the ISI, which is travesty of the truth. In fact, he is in cahoots with India and the US, which is why the US has not seriously tried to take him out. In a recent report, the ISI had provided information to the military commanders about Baitullah Mehsud’s exact location but CIA-operated drones refrained to knock him down. This is reflective of CIA/RAW’s involvement in creating disturbances in Pakistan with the help of people like Baitullah Mehsud. Unfortuately, Pakistan is feeling shy in exposing both India and the US. On the other hand, India concocts stories to malign Pakistan. Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor has alleged that women terrorists are being trained at camps inside Pakistan and along the border with Afghanistan for executing subversive activities. Given the social set up and structure of Pakistani society, can any one even imagine that Pakistan would indulge in such activities? In fact it is India and Israel that can stoop so low to achieve their pernicious designs. After the army started Swat operation, the US has taken some ‘respite’ in accusing Pakistan that it has links with the militants, otherwise earlier the CIA has been trying to make Pakistan/ISI a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan. Now, US generals and other government functionaries are appreciating military operation in Malakand division, which they should not do because that conveys an impression that Pakistan has taken the decision at the US’ behest. Whatever the reasons behind the increase in insurgency and whose war it was, the fact of the matter is that now it is very much Pakistan’s war and it has to be won to rid the people of thugs and their thuggish activities.

Venezuela's Chavez shifts gears in leftist revolution

CARACAS (Reuters) - Undaunted by a slowing economy, Venezuela's still popular President Hugo Chavez is picking up the pace of his left-wing revolution with a relentless raft of nationalizations and an offensive against opponents.

Hot on the heels of nationalizing dozens of oil service companies in the OPEC nation earlier this month, Chavez ordered the takeover of several large iron makers last week, then snapped up a large bank and vowed to further limit the private sector.

"We are not subordinated to the bourgeoise elite but to the interests of the people," Chavez said on Saturday. "We are proceeding and will continue to proceed with nationalizations of strategic sectors."

In separate moves that erode democratic credentials earned with a string of election victories since he first won office a decade ago, Chavez has also stripped power from opposition mayors and governors this year and harassed an opposition TV station.

His government has already taken over oil projects, along with telecoms, power and steel companies, and there are numerous sectors including food, health and education that could yet feel his hand through tight regulation or nationalizations.

Oil drillers including Halliburton are also potential targets of Chavez's push to build what he dubs "21st Century Socialism" in one of the most Americanized corners of Latin America, where he is popular for spending on the poor.

Despite record oil prices, 2008 was a tough year for the anti-American leader, who lost support following the defeat of a proposed new constitution that would have given him broader powers.

But Chavez has found his stride again this year, winning a referendum that lets him stay in power as long as he wins elections. He has 60 percent approval ratings even as the economy slows and his government struggles to pay bills in the vital oil sector where income has fallen.

He is operating on two fronts, increasing state control of business through takeovers and heavier scrutiny while battering critics with everything from tough policing of marches to threats to punish the fiercely critical Globovision television station.

The government has opened a number of corruption probes, including one against leading opposition voice Manuel Rosales, who fled charges and was granted asylum in Peru.

"I've said it before and I repeat, we must keep up the offensive, bulldozing the counter-revolution," Chavez told party activists in April. "We can no longer be the idiots we were."


Chavez started his nationalization drive in 2007 during a five year oil boom, when bulging state coffers allowed him to buy majority stakes in oil projects run by foreign companies such as Total and worth billions of dollars.

With oil revenues so far this year at half what they were in 2008, Chavez has warned companies that he may pay for new takeovers with government bonds.

Putting profitable ventures in state hands is a way to bolster financing for social projects, and Chavez recently said his government has recovered its investment in telephone company CANTV two years after buying a $572 million stake from U.S.-based Verizon Communications.

The government agreed last week to pay $1 billion for a unit of Spanish bank Santander, and intends to use its purchase to facilitate credits to farmers and poor families.

Major oil service companies such as Halliburton and Schlumberger Ltd are perhaps the largest interests now at risk of takeovers, since state oil company PDVSA has fallen behind in payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Chavez's critics accuse him of trying to establish himself as a dictator, although he has repeatedly won elections and some of his opponents' own democratic credentials are poor after trying to oust him in a 2002 coup. They also closed down the oil industry for months, and then sidelined themselves by boycotting legislative elections.

Still, Chavez has clearly clamped down following opposition wins in major cities and states in regional elections last year, stripping Caracas's new mayor of power over half the capital and naming his own unelected representative.

Chavez, who has a taste for fiery rhetoric and military uniforms, first tried to take office in a 1992 coup, but he denies he is power hungry.

"The bourgeoise accuses me of accumulating power. I am not accumulating power, I want nothing for me, everything is for the Venezuelan people," he said.

Swat operation to conclude in 2 to 3 days: official

The counterinsurgency operation in Swat valley will be completed within two to three days, Pakistani defence official said. Federal Secretary of Defence Syet Athar Ali speaking at Asian defence officials moot here said that the militancy has been flushed out mostly in Swat except a few groups adding that the remaining militants will be wiped out within two to three days. “The operation will conclude with eradication of remaining five to 10 percent militants,” the secretary defence said.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The IDP issue

During a visit to a camp in Swabi on May 29, President Asif Ali Zardari has made it clear he sees the IDPs as people who deserve the attention of the entire nation. The comments come at a time when controversy over the entry of the displaced persons into Sindh continues. In cities of Punjab too, vague allegations that unemployed young men from Swat and elsewhere may be involved in armed crime has led to hesitation on the part of people regarding their attitudes towards the IDPs. The entire situation needs to be looked at rationally and realistically. There is every possibility that some of the IDPs may not be able to return home for several months. Meanwhile there is also a distinct likelihood of further displacements as fighting continues and its arena is expanded to Waziristan and other stretches of the northern areas such as the Kurram Agency.

There can be no doubt at all that the IDPs deserve all possible help and the support of other citizens. The UN has termed the displacements, which the Pakistan government says has brought three million people out of their homes, one of the largest and most rapid in recent times.. Health experts visiting camps have stressed the need for immediate measures to stem the rapid onslaught of disease and to improve the living conditions. Reports say many IDPs continue to live in abject misery, often with host families, and have little awareness about the benefits of registering themselves. Others at Jallozai complain about long delays holding up the registration process. In short, there seems to be little doubt that there is still a great deal that needs to be done. The immediate requirement is for better sanitation at camps and more facilities for people who may be forced to live in their inhospitable environs for months. This alone will help lessen the sense of trauma.

But we need also to think about the question of the relationship between the IDPs and local communities. The generosity of ordinary people in Mardan and elsewhere has been immense. But is it fair to continue to count on it to sustain the IDPs? Beyond relief, we also need to think of providing some kind of income generation or work facilities for those in camps. The need for cash is said to be acute. It is also unrealistic to expect so many people to sit idle week after week without some occupation. Specialized NGOs and micro-credit institutions may be able to assist in this. We need innovative thinking combined with solid implementation. In the absence of this there is a real risk that the IDP issue will become more and more complicated and create a new spectrum of problems. The government then needs to anticipate the problems and work to avert them.

Experts warn against prolonged action in Malakand

PESHAWAR: Experts at a seminar Saturday demanded a targeted, precise and decisive operation in Malakand division, as a prolonged military action would have negative consequences.

The Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Islamia College Peshawar, had organised the one-day seminar on the current situation in the NWFP. Besides others, the day-long seminar was addressed by former NWFP governor Lt General (R) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, former ambassador to Afghanistan and ex-chief secretary Rustam Shah Mohmand, Brig (R) Mehmood Shah and Dr Sarfaraz of Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar.

Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai said the present militancy was the output of Afghan Jihad, which he said was fought by the United States for its own interests in Afghanistan. He said that the US had promoted and financed terrorism and militancy during Afghan war, adding that the presence of US troops in Afghanistan was still the main cause of violence and unrest in the region.

The former governor said the imperialist forces were trying to safeguard their interests in the region by engaging their so-called enemies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The other speakers blamed the present and past rulers for pushing the country into crises by joining the so-called war on terror. They said the killing and displacement of innocent people in Malakand division would enhance militancy in the affected areas. They stressed for keeping the national interest supreme while fighting against terrorism and militancy in the country.

They said the displacement of more than three million people from Malakand division was one of the biggest dilemmas in the history of Pakistan. They asked the government to provide all possible facilities to the internally displaced families in each and every corner of the country.

Swat’s wanted Taliban commander is already in jail!

PESHAWAR: Following its mistake in publishing the picture of a banker instead of a wanted Taliban commander from Swat, another blunder by the NWFP government has come to light as it included the name of an already jailed militant in its list of the 21 most wanted militants’ commanders.

A Swati Taliban commander Liaqat is already in prison in Dera Ismail Khan but the ANP-PPP coalition government was unaware of his arrest. His name was thus included in the list that was published in the form of a half-page newspaper advertisement two days ago to lure informers with the promise of monetary reward for those able to assist in the capture of the 21 Taliban leaders and commanders from Swat.

In the advertisement released and paid for by the NWFP government, Liaqat is identified as a local Taliban commander in Swat’s Khwazakhela area. Head-money of Rs 2 million for him is also mentioned. In the picture published in the advertisement, Liaqat is wearing a white Chitrali cap and has a grey beard with a sprinkling of black hair.

But the same man is imprisoned in the Central Prison, Dera Ismail Khan, where he was shifted last year from the Timergara jail in Lower Dir district. He was among five Swati Taliban prisoners who were moved to Dera Ismail Khan following incidents of violence in the Timergara prison. Another 15 Taliban prisoners from Timergara were first shifted to the Haripur jail and then brought to Dera Ismail Khan. Seven Swati Taliban prisoners are still being held in the sprawling, largely mud-built prison at Dera Ismail Khan. Others were freed following the peace deal in Swat or shifted to different prisons.

Officials at the Central Prison, Dera Ismail Khan, told The News that the jail superintendent, Khalid Abbas, was intrigued when he saw Liaqat’s picture in the newspapers. He and his deputy superintendent, Binyamin, quickly probed the matter and their doubts were confirmed when it turned out that Liaqat was already imprisoned at the Dera Ismail Khan prison. Khalid Abbas promptly reported the matter to the Inspector General of Prisons, Akbar Khan, in Peshawar.

Taliban commander Liaqat, whose year of birth in his national identity card is 1950, belongs to Langar village in Swat’s Khwazakhela tehsil. Seven cases are pending against him in Anti-Terrorism Court but he hasn’t been produced in any court thus far.

The ignorance of the NWFP government about Liaqat’s arrest is the second instance of faulty intelligence regarding the whereabouts of the Taliban commanders. In the advertisement that was published by the provincial government to announce head-money for the 21 top Taliban commanders from Swat, the picture of the wrong person was used and he was identified as militants’ commander Qari Mushtaq belonging to Gulibagh area. A monetary reward of Rs 3 million was offered for his capture.

Instead of the real Qari Mushtaq, the photo of Mohammad Mushtaq, a 29-year old bearded man from Mingora, Swat employed as a research officer in the Sharia department of the Bank of Khyber in Peshawar, was published. It alarmed Mushtaq and his family as the provincial government had offered the reward money to anyone who could apprehend the wanted men alive or dead. He went into hiding and then approached the police to clear his name. It was the second time that he had fallen into trouble for having the same name as Taliban commander Qari Mushtaq and also for hailing from Swat. In March 2008, sleuths from an intelligence agency had nabbed him after mistaking him for Qari Mushtaq.

Pakistan secures key Swat Valley city

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistani military says security forces have taken back the city of Mingora from the Taliban, calling it a significant victory in its offensive against the Taliban.

Mingora is the largest city in Pakistan's Swat Valley where security forces have been fighting the Taliban in a month-long offensive.

"It is a great accomplishment," said Pakistani Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. "This is the largest city in Swat and for all practical purposes, Mingora has been secured."

Abbas said militants put up a stiff resistance, but their resistance weakened as troops moved in. Abbas told CNN pockets of militants remain just outside Mingora.

The fighting has uprooted about 2.4 million Pakistanis from their homes in the northwestern region of the country, according to the latest data from the United Nations. Of those displaced, about 10 percent -- or 240,000 -- are living in refugee camps, according to the U.N.

The announcement that the military has pushed the Taliban out of Mingora comes after days of Taliban attacks in other areas in the country.

The military issued a press release on Saturday saying that 25 militants and a soldier were killed in fighting across the region over the last 24 hours.

Pakistani authorities increased security throughout Islamabad on Friday after a string of deadly bombings in Lahore and Peshawar, and a threat by the Taliban to carry out further attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for Wednesday's suicide attack in Lahore on a building housing police, intelligence and emergency offices that killed 27 people.

The militant group also threatened to continue attacking cities in Pakistan until the military ends its operations against Taliban militants in the country's northwest.

Facebook Pakistanis unite against terror

From The Sunday Times
Christina Lamb in Lahore
THE first thing Sadaffe Abid did when she heard Wednesday’s massive bomb rattling the windows in her office four miles away was, like most residents of Lahore, to telephone to check on family and friends. However, what she did next was more surprising.

“I told them we should come out on to the streets to protest against these militants,” she said. “This bomb was meant to turn public opinion against the army operation to clear the Taliban from Swat, and we shouldn’t give in.”

The stylishly dressed Abid, 35, is chief executive of a foundation providing microfinance for rural women, and says until recently she never thought the Taliban were anything to do with her.

Yet twice in the past two months she and many of her friends have gathered for rallies in the Mall in central Lahore, holding placards declaring “No to terrorism”, after spreading the word through Facebook and text messages.

Outraged by a video showing the Taliban flogging a young girl in Swat, in North West Frontier Province, they were shocked to see part of the country ceded to extremists. When, even in cosmopolitan Lahore, warnings were sent to colleges for girls to cover their heads and not to wear jeans, they began a letter-writing campaign to tell the government and army chief not to give in to militants.

Among the letter-writers was Abid’s brother Farhan Rao, who left his job at Islamabad’s Marriott hotel last year only weeks before it was bombed and now runs his own business. “None of us ever got involved in politics before, but we feel the whole future of our country is at stake,” he said.

After years of turning a collective blind eye to the Taliban, while intelligence agencies groomed militants to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir, Pakistanis seem determined to take on the extremists. Almost the entire nation has rallied behind a military operation that has seen more than 2m people flee the mountainous region of Swat.

A series of bomb attacks last week seemed to strengthen public resolve. On Thursday, when the Taliban commander Hak-imullah Mehsud warned that residents should evacuate the cities of Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Multan or face further attacks, most stayed put.

Some kept children home from school, shops stayed closed and public places and hotels were largely deserted, but the mood was one of defiance. “It’s our war,” said one of the country’s biggest textile manufacturers. “We’re the ones who have to live here.”

Inspired by the lawyers’ movement, which had the country’s chief justice restored last March after an unprecedented two-year campaign, citizens’ groups in Peshawar are planning a march against terrorism. “We can no longer just stand by,” said Maryam Bibi, one of the organisers, who runs a women’s group in Waziristan, near the troubled Afghan border.

Such moves may be small but represent a shift of attitude in a country which has often blamed its problems on outsiders, usually Indians, rather than recognise its own failings.

“It’s a huge change,” said Pakistan’s leading human rights activist, Asma Jahangir. “For a long time it felt like we were the only ones raising voices against these militants while the rest of country remained silent and we were labelled anti-Pakistan. I just hope it’s not too late.”

Last week the Taliban showed they can hit anywhere, with two bombs in Peshawar and one in Lahore. On Friday a man wearing a suicide vest was arrested entering Islamabad, the capital.

In Lahore the area around the police headquarters was still sealed off yesterday after the powerful car bomb that killed at least 24 and injured 200 on Wednesday. That section of Mall Road was heavily guarded but gunmen shot at police before driving in and detonating the bomb.

That blast was the third big attack in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, in three months. In March a raid on the police training centre led to an eight-hour siege in which 18 died, just weeks after gunmen attacked Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team, killing six police guards and a bus driver.

“Lahore is now the real prize for militants,” said an intelligence official.

As chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif is charged with holding off the insurgents and protecting its 82m people. Staff say he works from 7am to midnight. He looks exhausted.

“There’s no doubt that one of their aims is to penetrate into Punjab as well as to stop the operation in Swat,” he said. “But I think finally the whole nation is behind the concept of not allowing the insurgency to cripple our society.”

In his view Pakistan is paying the price for years of oppression of its poor and needs a social revolution. Pointing out that the Taliban won public support in Swat by demanding an Islamic justice system, he said: “To think in a society thirsting for justice that people will look away from such a movement is fooling ourselves.”

Sharif, a member of the main opposition party run by his elder brother Nawaz, added: “If we don’t all work together, then we are doomed and, God forbid, this country will fall apart.”

His own efforts in Punjab have focused on improving intelligence-gathering and ensuring police, who have borne the brunt of attacks, are better equipped and paid. A believer in zero tolerance, he has proscribed all local militant organisations and kept their leaders under house arrest.

“We’re doing everything we can to stop their activities,” he said. “But just as it did not come overnight, it will not go overnight.”

Almost all suicide bombers who have been identified or arrested in Punjab have been aged between 14 and 22, so much of his focus is on youth. “Education is a key factor to curb this militancy,” he added.

Many here see Nawaz Sharif, 59, as the best hope for the future. On Friday the former prime minister was hosting his weekly Meet the People day at his farm, just outside Lahore, providing a free lunch to 3,000 supporters.

Known as the Lion of Punjab, Sharif is by far the most popular politician in Pakistan since the assassination of the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

Intensive lobbying by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, has persuaded Washington to overcome America’s reluctance to deal with him, based on concern that he is too close to the religious parties.

Last week a Supreme Court ban on Sharif taking office was reversed, leading to speculation that he might use his strong public support to force a mid-term election.

Inside his white colonnaded mansion, where deer, black buck and peacocks roam the lawns outside, and two stuffed lions guard his drawing room filled with crystal and gold, Sharif insists Pakistan must set about righting its decades of inequality.

“These insurgents might have been created by dictatorship, but it’s democracy which must now deliver,” he said. “If we don’t do anything we’re at very great risk. Today they are in Swat and Malakand, tomorrow they are in the rest of the country.”

This week he has called a party meeting where it is expected that one of his MPs will agree to step down, allowing him to contest a seat, and take his place in parliament as leader of the opposition.

Sharif insists he has no intention of trying to bring down the government. “I firmly believe the issues are so grave that no single party can deal with this alone. We all have to deal with them together,” he said.

Army fillip

Yesterday Pakistani forces recaptured Mingora, the largest city in the Swat valley, which had been under Taliban control for a month.

“It’s very good that Mingora city has come under the full control of the security forces,” said Major-General Athar Abbas, an army spokesman.

He added that 1,217 militants had died since fighting began in late April; 81 soldiers had been killed and 250 wounded.

Most of the 300,000 residents fled after the Islamic fundamentalists seized control. Local authorities hope that many will be able to return home soon but the army warned that it may take a fortnight to restore electricity and other amenities.

Security forces were placed on alert for suicide bomb attacks after the Taliban vowed retaliation for the operation in Swat.

Mingora 'almost' secured, claims army

ISLAMABAD: Troops have retaken the largest town in the Swat Valley from the Taliban as the army presses its offensive against militants in the country's northwest, the army spokesman said Saturday.

Government forces had full control of Mingora, though they were still meeting pockets of resistance from fighters on the outskirts of the town, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press.

The military launched a major offensive one month ago in the Swat Valley and neighbouring areas to oust Taliban who were extending their control over the northwestern region.

The campaign is strongly backed by Washington and the government's other Western allies, who see it as a test of the government's resolve to fight extremism in the country.

'As far as Mingora city, security forces have taken over,’ Abbas said. ‘There are still pockets of resistance. They are on the periphery of Mingora city.’

Government troops have been advancing steadily into the Swat region, bombarding towns from the air and fighting house-to-house with Taliban gunmen.

The fighting has caused more than 2 million people to flee the region, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.

More than 160,000 people are taking refuge in sweltering refugee camps south of the battle zone, while the rest are staying with relatives or relying on goodwill from local residents

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mayhem in our midst

Editorial:The News
Within two days of the Lahore blast, they have struck again – multiple times, in Peshawar and DI Khan. At least 14 people have died; hundreds have been injured. The trauma in terms of the panic that hit Qissa Khwani bazaar in Peshawar, where two of the blasts took place, followed by a gun-battle in the alleys of the city's biggest market is immeasurable. There is a limit to what we can do to safeguard ourselves. Measures announced, such as the checking of all trucks as they enter cities, will be effective only if they are properly implemented. In the past this has not happened even in Islamabad. There is also a need to seek public vigilance and ask citizens too to keep a watch out for potential bombers. It has been seen that in the aftermath of every attack, as blood stains streets, there is chaos first at the site of the incident and later at hospitals. This is an area that can be corrected. Rescue services can be bolstered and given better training, as can hospital staff. Trauma care is a specialized sphere. Our allies overseas can help us improve the limited expertise we currently have.

The war being fought in the north has entered our cities as well. The militants have in the past used their ability to strike here as a tactic of blackmail. This time round there can be no question of giving in to them. The COAS has stated Pakistan will not give in to terror. The resolve is a welcome one. But we must also face up to the fact that the fighting will continue for some time; that the Taliban will not simply disappear. Even now, though we hear that they have 'retreated' from a specific area, one wonders where they have gone – and whether they are hoping to save men so they can one day, strike again. Until they are finally vanquished, we will see more mayhem in our cities. We must do all that is possible to secure them, and take measures, like any nation caught up in war, to minimize casualties and ensuring victims of bomb attacks receive the best possible care.

‘It’s a do or die for nation and security forces’

PESHAWAR: Asking the security agencies to fulfill their part of responsibility by eliminating the Taliban in Swat, the NWFP government Friday claimed it had won the war on the political front.

“We’ve entered a decisive phase. Either the nation and its security agencies will emerge successful by eliminating the terrorists, or the latter will prevail,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister and spokesman for the NWFP government.

Speaking at a news conference here on Friday, Mian Iftikhar said the whole Pakistani nation supported the operation against Taliban with one voice and they wanted their elimination. “Now it is the responsibility of the country’s security agencies to get rid of the rogue elements.”

He said network of militants had been dismantled and they were targeting civilians in utter frustration after receiving a serious blow in Malakand division. Attacks like the ones carried out in Qissa Khwani were meant to force the government to stop the military operation. “However, it is our firm resolve that the government can’t be intimidated through such dastardly and cowardly acts,” said the minister.

He said the militants were changing their strategy and techniques now. Tactics similar to those of Lahore were used in Peshawar. However, the government had also prepared its own strategy to thwart the ill designs of the militants.

He said the people and the government were now sailing in the same boat. “No other option, except the military action, was left with the government to root out the scourge of terrorism,” said the minister.

At the same time, he said there might be civilian casualties as the whole country was passing through a war-like situation. “But we are prepared for all kinds of sacrifices to secure the future of our coming generations,” he vowed.

Expressing satisfaction over the role of the security agencies, Mian Iftikhar said they were rendering greater services to secure the people and the blast at the Sra Khawra Police Post in Matani area was a proof of that.

To a question about the killing of Taliban commander Fazlullah, Mian Iftikhar said there were rumours, but the government had no authentic information to share with the media. However, the minister confirmed the arrest of militants from IDP camps on the basis of information provided by the dwellers of the makeshift villages. “We’ve 90 per cent proof of their being militants,” he added.

Asked why the government not sending back the Buner people into their areas after the return of normalcy there, Mian Iftikahr said the government had to restore facilities like electricity, provide edibles, water, medicines and re-organise the district administration before sending them back. He said 30 trucks full of edibles and other items had reached Buner district for the stranded people.

About the camps for IDPs, the minister said arrangements had been finalised to establish a new camp at Kund area of Nowshera district. The area had been selected because of its closeness to the river and moderate temperature, said Mian Iftikhar.

Releasing the fresh figures about the IDPs, he said a total of 19,596 families with 115,166 individuals were living in camps with another 360,963 families with 2,678,695 individuals outside camps.

Obama sure Sotomayor would restate 2001 comment

Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday personally sought to deflect criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. "I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama flatly told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.
The quote in question from Sotomayor has emerged as a rallying call for conservative critics who fear she will offer opinions from the bench based less on the rule of law and more on her life experience, ethnicity and gender. That issue is likely to play a central role in her Senate confirmation process.
Obama also defended his nominee, saying her message was on target even if her exact wording was not.
"I think that when she's appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is," Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate.
The president's damage control underscored how the White House is eager to stay on message as the battle to publicly define Sotomayor picks up.
Obama's top spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told reporters about Sotomayor: "I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor."
Gibbs, however, said he did not hear that from Sotomayor directly. He said he learned it from people who had talked to her, and he did not identify who those people were. Sotomayor herself has made no public statements since her nomination became official Tuesday and was not reachable for comment.
A veteran federal judge, Sotomayor is poised to be the first Hispanic, and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court.
She said in 2001: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The remark was in the context her saying that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."
Sotomayor's comments came in a lecture, titled "A Latina Judge's Voice," that she gave in 2001 at the law school of the University of California, Berkeley.
After three days of suggesting that reporters and critics should not dwell on one sentence from a speech, the White House had a different message Friday.
"If you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what's clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge," Obama said in the broadcast interview.
Sotomayor appears headed for confirmation, needing a majority vote in a Senate, where Democrats have 59 votes. But beyond the final vote, White House officials are pushing for a smooth confirmation, not one that bogs down them or their nominee. Plus, Obama wants a strong win, not a slim one.
Obama told NBC that part of the job of a Supreme Court justice is to stand in somebody else's shoes and that Sotomayor will do that. "That breadth of experience, that knowledge of how the world works, is part of what we want for a justice who's going be effective," Obama said.
More than one line in the 2001 speech has helped drive the debate over Sotomayor's judgment.
She also said, for example: "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."
"My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas in which I am unfamiliar," she said. "I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."
At the time Sotomayor gave the speech, she was in the same job she is now, a federal appeals court judge. She said then she was reminded daily that her decisions affect people and that she owes them "complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives."
"I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage," she added, "but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate."
In announcing Sotomayor as his choice, Obama said he wanted a judge who would "approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice." But he also called her life experience essential, saying she had an understanding of "how ordinary people live."
Next week, Sotomayor will begin face-to-face meetings with senators as the confirmation process begins to take shape.

Blast victims laid to rest as city mourns F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: After Thursday's deadly twin blasts which rocked Qissa Khawani Bazaar, business hub of the provincial capital, DCO Peshawar Sahibzadah Anees on Friday has announced imposition of Section-144 in City for one month. According to official notification, after imposition of the Section-144 no person will carry any sort of arms and ammunition or any other articles which is capable of being used for physical violence or carrying of any explosive substance or any other instrument which is danger to human life and public property and no vehicle with tainted glasses shall enter and drive in the territorial limit of Peshawar District for the sake of security. Any one found violating this order shall be liable to beproceeded against under section 188 PPC. Meanwhile, the city's main bazaars and shopping centers gave a deserted look as people mourn the deaths in the blasts. People opted to stay inside their houses as threats of more deadly attacks hovered over their heads. The Qissa Khawani and adjacent markets, Saddar bazaar, Shafi Market and other main business centers were completely closed as the funerals of the blast victims were held on Friday. Even the number of people in the mosques for the Friday prayer was less than what have been in normal days. Earlier, a tea-dealer Rafeeq Baba also succumbed to injuries, raising the death toll in Qissa Khawni Bazaar to seven including a small child. The police on Friday gathered more clues from the blast sites including Kabari Bazaar to reach any conclusion in the investigation as police claim to have arrested two injured terrorists. Heavy financial loss have been feared to the business community as it will take some time to rebuilt the area after the damage that was done by the blasts. The relief activities continued in Kabari and Qissa Khawni Bazaar as shopkeepers returned to collect the rubble and search for the valuables from the gutted and damaged shops. Meanwhile, the security beefed up in the city and all the entry and exit points were sealed. Police contingent were deployed at sensitive and busy areas of the city. The sense of insecurity prevailed among citizen and city was giving a look of fear and panic where the people preferred to stay at home. Moreover, all the private schools in the city were closed for indefinite period after the threats of attacks. The students were sent back to their homes and the ongoing examinations were cancelled. It is pertinent to mention here that the provincial government had already closed all the government educational institutions in the province for early summer vacation from 16th of this month. Similarly, the United Nation has also closed its offices in the City for three days as there was a threat of more attacks.

More information needed

Dawn Editorial

Evaluating the success or otherwise of Operation Rah-i-Raast in Malakand division up to now has been difficult because of the lack of independent reports from the area.

Every day the public relations arm of the Pakistan Army has issued statements listing the number of casualties on both sides, the areas where battles have been fought and the neighbourhoods which have been retaken. But owing to the curfew imposed in the areas where the fighting has been the fiercest, the difficulty in establishing contact with the outside world for locals and the lack of reporters on the ground, it has not been possible to develop a reliable, independent picture of the situation in Malakand.

On Wednesday, journalists were given a tour of some parts of Mingora in Swat, 70 per cent of which the army claims has been secured, but as is the nature of such supervised visits, a full picture of the situation in the area could not be gleaned.

No doubt that while the fighting continues the safety and security of reporters must be kept in mind. And there is no reason to believe the press statements of the army are exaggerated or untrue. But equally there is a need to verify the government’s and the army’s claims and that will only be possible if reporters are given more access to Malakand. There are two main issues at stake here. One, the actions of the state must be open to scrutiny wherever possible. Fighting a counter-insurgency is by definition a messy business, but the state must necessarily be held to a higher standard than the militants.

Every care must be taken to ensure that it is the militants who are bearing the brunt of the military operation and not the local population, and determining whether that is indeed what is happening must not be left to the state to decide for itself. Second, more access for reporters and greater transparency can help defeat the propaganda and misinformation being spread by the militants. For example, there are reports that the militants remove weapons and ammunition from the bodies of militants killed in battle to make it appear that civilians have been killed instead.

Without independent verification of such reports, the issue becomes one of the state’s word against the militants’ and in such circumstances disproving such rumours becomes impossible, with damaging consequences for public support for the military operation. The bottom line: more information from independent sources is necessary and beneficial.

Task force being set up to register IDPs

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that the provincial government has set up relief camps in Hyderabad and Karachi, besides Kandhkot and Ubaro, for thousands of internally displaced persons arriving here from the federally administered tribal areas and Swat, Buner and other parts of Malakand division.

Mr Shah was talking to a three-member delegation from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which called on him at the Chief Minister’s House on Friday. They discussed at length issues related to the registration and care of the IDPs.

The chief minister informed the delegates that a task force comprising two ministers, members of the provincial assembly, five senior officers, representatives of a few non-governmental organisations, and officials of the National Database Registration Authority was being set up for IDPs’ registration. The task force would also ensure provision of food, water, medicines and other basic facilities at the relief camps, he said.

Mr Shah said that the government was not only establishing camps for the IDPs arriving here in huge numbers, but also sending food and relief goods to the NWFP on a daily basis.

UNHCR representative in Pakistan Guenet Guerr-Chiristos, who headed the delegation, along with deputy representative Michael Zwack, apprised the chief minister of their relief efforts for the IDPs in the NWFP.

She said that the UNCHR had received contributions from the governments of Australia, Japan, Sweden, the USA, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, France and the European Union in response to the UN Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan for IDPs.

The meeting was also attended by Secretary to the Chief Minister Syed Sohail Akbar Shah, Home Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan and Agriculture Secretary Agha Jan Akhtar.

Gilani, Zardari discuss IDPs, ongoing operation

ISLAMABAD :Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani called on President Asif Ali Zardari here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Friday. During the meeting matters relating to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Malakand division, the fight against terrorism and militancy as well as the overall political situation in the country were discussed.

With regard to the people displaced in the wake of on-going military operation in Malakand Division, the President and the Prime Minister discussed the matters about the proper care of IDPs as well as their rehabilitation.

During the meeting, the two leaders reiterated the government’s resolve to root out the menace of terrorism and militancy from the country.


Kavya Shivashankar win this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

US weapons being used against Pak forces: Military

ISLAMABAD: The military on Friday said US weapons stolen from Afghanistan were being used against security forces in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

While speaking to Dawn, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the terrorists in FATA and Swat were getting material and financial support through the Afghan border and alleged that some hostile foreign agencies were abetting them.

Answering a question about the assertions over the security of strategic assets of Pakistan, he said the United States should stop worrying about the nukes and start thinking about the weapons lost in Afghanistan.

'We are not surprised if these weapons slip out from Afghanistan and many of them are found in Swat and are being used against our troops', he remarked.

Giving details on the progress of operation Rahe Rast, he said security forces have recovered a huge quantity of looted and stolen food items and a cache of arms including 12.7 mm guns from four tunnels discovered during search and cordon operations in Peochar.

He said that the food items recovered from tunnels were apparently stolen and looted as these were otherwise not locally available.

He said the packing of the food items also shows that they were part of relief goods meant to reach the people stranded in the areas where the military operation against militants was taking place.

General Athar Abbas said the security forces continued with cordon and search operation and successfully cleared the stronghold of miscreants at Peochar village.

He said that forces have secured Bahrain and the area was under their complete control.

General Athar Abbas also said that 28 miscreants were killed and seven were apprehended in various areas of Swat during exchange of fire, while five soldiers and two civilians were injured.

The military spokesman said cordon and search operations were still continuing in Mingora.

Govt realizes prolems of IDP’s, says Zardari

SWABI :President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that the government realizes the troubles of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Malakand division, assuring them that they would be rehabilitated ‘better than before’.

Addressing the IDPs during his visit to Swabi’s Shah Mansoor Relief Camp here Friday, President asked the people of the affected areas to keep trust in Allah, Pakistani nation and the government, saying that the whole nation is standing with them in these hours of need.

Bombs seen stiffening Pakistan resolve on militants

By Robert Birsel
ISLAMABAD, May 29 (Reuters) - A series of militant bomb attacks in Pakistan aims to undermine the country's resolve to fight the Taliban but is likely only to strengthen determination to defeat the militants, analysts say.

Pakistan has undertaken its most concerted effort to roll back an expanding Taliban insurgency that has raised fears for the important U.S. ally's stability, and for the safety of its nuclear weapons.

The army late last month went into action against Taliban who had seized a district only 100 km (60 miles) from the capital after the United States criticised a peace pact as tantamount to abdicating to the militants.

This month, the military launched a full-scale offensive to root out the Taliban from their stronghold in nearby Swat.

But the militants have responded with eight bomb attacks in towns and cities since late April, three on Thursday in the northwest, a day after 24 people were killed in a suicide gun and bomb attack in the eastern city of Lahore.

The militants are trying to undermine the state's determination to fight them, and the broad public support the army's campaign enjoys, analysts told Reuters on Friday.

"This is exactly what the militants are trying to do because they have done it successfully in the past. But things have changed substantially," security analyst Ikram Sehgal said.

"I don't think it will undermine the resolve of either the public or the government. They realise that this sort of thing will only escalate if they vacillate any further," he said.

Pakistan signed up to the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States but at best ambivalently.

Pakistan had used Islamist fighters to oppose Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s and later backed the Afghan Taliban. Militants were also used to oppose India in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pursuit of strategic interests apparently at odds with U.S. aims and mixed messages from the state and media brought muddle.

But not any more.


The Taliban overplayed their hand when, under cover of a controversial peace pact, they denounced the constitution and pushed out of the former tourist valley of Swat towards the capital.

"The Taliban attempt to make their presence felt in an area that a large number of Pakistanis are familiar with, and the way they went about it, the brutality, exposed them and changed opinion," said Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group think-tank.

"They are no longer considered alienated, disaffected Pakistanis who need to be brought into the fold. They're looked upon much more as criminals who should be brought to justice."

The violence the militants have unleashed demonstrated the extent of the threat they posed and is steeling opposition, Ahmed said.

"It strengthens the government's position that the terrorists pose a major threat ... It's no longer a remote conflict being fought in FATA," she said, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border.

The state now had to show it can finish the offensive in Swat quickly and wind up the militant networks.

"Their main aim is to weaken public opinion, especially in Punjab," said retired Brigadier Asad Munir, a former intelligence agency officer, referring to Pakistan's most prosperous and politically important province, of which Lahore is capital.

"You won't see this now but if the operation is prolonged then things will start changing. They have got to do it in a week or 10 days," he said of the Swat operation.

Wavering at this stage would dash the hopes of the public and be disastrous, he said.

"If they stop the operation now then prepare yourself for a Taliban state," he said.

Fazlulah head-money raised to Rs50m

KARACHI: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the relief camps are being searched for the suspected people and various people have been arrested.He said Taliban used to take youth and give them $60, adding it was Taliban who are responsible for taking the people out of their houses.Malik said the head money for Maulana Fazlulah has been increased to Rs50 million, adding 2.5 million people had to leave their house only because of Taliban.The security of all the major cities has been beefed up, the minister said adding the terrorists are quite nervous and panicked.He continued that some dangerous Taliban have been arrested from IDP’s camps.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lack of coordination affecting

NOWSHERA: Lack of coordination among different health outlets at Jalozai camp for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) has affected the health delivery system, lessening relief to the homeless families.

The Jalozai camp, which was established in 80s for Afghan refugees and subsequently dismantled, had to be re-established but this time for the natives from the strife-stricken area of Bajaur tribal agency. However, for Afghan refugees, mud-houses were built at the site that protected them from the sweltering heat, besides providing them some sort of security.

Now the huge tent city has been divided into different phases for administrative purposes. The influx from different districts of Malakand division due to military operations added a new phase to the tent city now named “Benazir Relief Camp”.

In the Benazir Camp, both the private and public sectors have established health facilities, including President’s Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI), LHWs Programme, Hamza Foundation, Ummah Welfare Trust, army field hospital, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Marlin camp, Benazir Health camp, Lady Reading Hospital camp, etc.

Talking to The News, a doctor on duty said acute respiratory infection was on top among the displaced persons, closely followed by diarrhea perhaps due to poor sanitation and unclean drinking water. He said that diarrhea and scabies were recording a surge and needed urgent containment steps.

It was observed that there were a lot of medical camps but they had no coordination at all. There is overlapping of services. Also, people feign illness to receive drugs, only to sell them in the market.

“There should be a centralised medical assistance system in which a patient should be issued a health card through which he could get access to healthcare facility. It will also help end overlapping,” said a senior doctor at the camp while pointing to cases where one patient avails the facility simultaneously from different outlets.

The PIMS and Pakistan Army have established field hospitals providing almost all indoor hospital facilities. However, emergencies are referred to Pabbi Satellite Hospital.

After visiting the other phases of Jalozai camp, it was observed that Phase-I and II were comparatively more structured and organised. In these phases, the IDPs were being provided all basic health facilities, including EPI Programme and anti-TB services while in the newly established Benazir Relief Camp for the displaced people of Swat, Dir and Buner things were still disorganized.

Makers of nuclear weapons know ’how to protect it’: Qadeer

ISLAMABAD: Renowned nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has said that the countries that are making nuclear weapons know how to protect it.Talking to a private TV channel here on Thursday, he declared that: "Pakistan’s nuclear nukes are safe and there is no question of falling it into wrong hands".He said that Pakistan was passing through a critical juncture but, however, we should not be disappointed from Allah because it is an examination and we would succeed in it.He said that Pakistan changed impossible into possible and knows how to take care of its nukes, adding, West and US do not want Pakistan have nuclear weapons, therefore, they were deceiving the world by making baseless propaganda.Qadeer said that West and US like to have nuclear weapons for themselves but do not like it for Muslim world.He said our nuclear assets are safe and there is no question of falling it into Taliban hands.

China quarantines U.S. school group over flu concerns

A group of students and teachers from a Maryland private school have been quarantined in China because of swine flu concerns, a school spokeswoman said Thursday.

The Chinese government has confined 21 students and three teachers to their hotel rooms in Kaili, China, because a passenger on their plane to China was suspected of having swine flu, or H1N1, said Vicky Temple, director of communications for the Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Temple said the students and teachers are occupying two floors of a four-star hotel in the Guizhou province city in southern China.

The quarantine will end Friday, and the students are scheduled to return to the United States on Sunday, Temple said.

Mike Kennedy, the head of Barrie School, said U.S. consular officials have since told the school that the plane passenger does not have swine flu, or H1N1.

"So now our question has been for the last 24 hours, can this quarantine be lifted even sooner than sometime on Friday so these kids can get out and enjoy a little bit of China," he said.

"Since about noon on Monday, they have been in their hotel rooms," he said. "They've missed the lion's share of the itinerary."

China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported that the Guizhou province's health bureau announced this week that it had discovered two dozen Americans who had been within four rows of the suspected swine flu case on the plane.

The plane had departed Friday from San Francisco, California.

Kennedy said the students and teachers are permitted to speak to one another through the open doors of their hotel rooms, but are not allowed to leave. "They're being well taken care of, but they are in their hotel rooms," he said.

"It's very frustrating," he said, but added, "I understand and I'd like to say that the Chinese officials have been as kind and friendly to our kids and chaperones as they can be."

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a Thursday afternoon briefing that he was aware of the report but said he didn't have any details on the circumstances or what the U.S. officials might be doing about it.

Obama reiterates call for Israel to halt West Bank settlement activity

Obama meets with Abbas
President Obama says he and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas talked about peace in the Middle East.

Islamabad security beefed up after Peshawar bombings

PESHAWAR: Following the twin blasts in North West Frontier Province (NWFP)’s provincial capital Peshawar, the security have been put on high alert in federal capital Islamabad while red zone has been completely sealed up late on Thursday, according to the report of Geo news.As per police sources, no trespassing is allowed in red zone area here coupled with the strict monitoring of the vehicles entering the city.The vehicles of the diplomatic personnel are also being checked up through trained dogs in Diplomatic Enclave, sources said adding that the security at the hotels, guesthouses and sensitive buildings across capital has been stringent.

Obama says health care a must this year _ or never

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama warned Thursday that if Congress doesn't deliver health care legislation by the end of the year the opportunity will be lost, a plea to political supporters to pressure lawmakers to act.
"If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done," Obama told supporters by phone as he flew home on Air Force One from a West Coast fundraising trip.
Obama's political organization, Organizing for America, invited campaign volunteers to a midday conference call to describe a nationwide June 6 kickoff for its health care campaign. The president's message to his re-election campaign-in-waiting was simple: If volunteers don't pressure lawmakers to support the White House's goal on health care, Washington would drag its feet and nothing would change.
"The election in November, it didn't bring about change. It gave us an opportunity for change," Obama said.
The presidential plea came as lawmakers prepare for an aggressive schedule of work aimed at producing comprehensive health care overhaul bills in the House and Senate by August.
Committee hearings — and soon thereafter votes — will start next week, as soon as lawmakers return to Washington from a weeklong recess. Many members of Congress spent the break holding town hall meetings and other forums with their constituents about health care, even as opponents and supporters of Obama's plans ramped up television and radio ads for and against.
"I think the status quo is unacceptable and that we've got to get it done this year," Obama repeated, ginning up his supporters for a door-to-door and phone-to-phone canvass similar to his presidential campaign.
Obama's top aides, including former campaign manager David Plouffe, told the supporters that they have a challenge ahead of them.
"If the country stands with the president and if the country is demanding health care reform than we'll get it done; Washington will not have any option but to follow us," Plouffe said on the call, which was not announced on the White House's official schedule.
The president's conversation with his supporters was part pep talk and part a nod to political reality. Obama is looking to use his network of supporters to deliver a campaign promise, and if he seeks a second term in 2012 — an almost certainty — he hopes to keep many of those volunteers engaged in person and online.
The president said the costs of the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system are crushing families and businesses and pose the largest threat to the economy.
The White House is leaving it to lawmakers to work out the details of a health care plan, but Obama has said it should ensure choice and lower costs, while extending coverage to the 50 million Americans now uninsured. The cost of accomplishing that has been estimated around $1.5 trillion, and figuring out how to pay is emerging as a major challenge for Congress and the White House.
The Republican National Committee said Obama's approach was not the right path, arguing that Democrats are pushing for a government-run health care system that will take away individual choice.

Four blasts kill at least 10, hurt over 80 in northwest

PESHAWAR: Two bombs exploded in a market in the Frontier capital of Peshawar on Thursday, killing six people, and gunmen on rooftops ambushed police as they arrived at the scene, police said.

A short while later, a suicide bomber attacked a paramilitary checkpost in another part of the city, killing two soldiers and wounding three.

‘He was on foot and as we saw him, he ran and blew himself up when he got close to us,’ Wasiullah, a paramilitary soldier wounded in the attack, told Reuters as he arrived at a hospital.

The attack was soon followed by a huge bomb blast and gunfire was heard on the streets of Dera Ismail Khan, police said.

Three were killed and seven injured after a bomb planted in the city’s town hall exploded, police told DawnNews.

Peshawar bazaar attack

The first two bombs were planted on motorbikes in the vicinity of Qissa Khwani (Storytellers) Bazaar in Peshawar’s old city and caused extensive damage.

Six people were killed and about 70 wounded, provincial government minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour told Reuters.

The first blast triggered a huge fire in Kabari Bazaar, which lies in a narrow lane and destroyed at least seven cars, witnesses said.

Minutes later a second bomb went off in another market across the road sparking another fire and gutting up to 18 electronics shops, AFP reported.

‘Two separate timed bombs were planted on motorbikes, which exploded in quick succession,’ said Shafqat Malik, a senior police investigator.

Soon afterwards, gunmen on rooftops began firing at police in lanes below.

Television showed policemen firing back while colleagues strapped on bullet-proof vests.

Police later said two gunmen had been killed and two suspects detained.

‘We’re carrying out searches as others could be hiding,’ city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur told reporters.

PESHAWAR: Two bombs exploded in a market in the Frontier capital of Peshawar on Thursday, killing six people, and gunmen on rooftops ambushed police as they arrived at the scene, police said.
PESHAWAR: Two bombs exploded in a market in the Frontier capital of Peshawar on Thursday, killing six people, and gunmen on rooftops ambushed police as they arrived at the scene, police said.

A short while later, a suicide bomber attacked a paramilitary checkpost in another part of the city, killing two soldiers and wounding three.

‘He was on foot and as we saw him, he ran and blew himself up when he got close to us,’ Wasiullah, a paramilitary soldier wounded in the attack, told Reuters as he arrived at a hospital.

The attack was soon followed by a huge bomb blast and gunfire was heard on the streets of Dera Ismail Khan, police said.

Three were killed and seven injured after a bomb planted in the city’s town hall exploded, police told DawnNews.

Peshawar bazaar attack

The first two bombs were planted on motorbikes in the vicinity of Qissa Khwani (Storytellers) Bazaar in Peshawar’s old city and caused extensive damage.

Six people were killed and about 70 wounded, provincial government minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour told Reuters.

The first blast triggered a huge fire in Kabari Bazaar, which lies in a narrow lane and destroyed at least seven cars, witnesses said.

Minutes later a second bomb went off in another market across the road sparking another fire and gutting up to 18 electronics shops, AFP reported.

‘Two separate timed bombs were planted on motorbikes, which exploded in quick succession,’ said Shafqat Malik, a senior police investigator.

Soon afterwards, gunmen on rooftops began firing at police in lanes below.

Television showed policemen firing back while colleagues strapped on bullet-proof vests.

Police later said two gunmen had been killed and two suspects detained.

‘We’re carrying out searches as others could be hiding,’ city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur told reporters.

A short while later, a suicide bomber attacked a paramilitary checkpost in another part of the city, killing two soldiers and wounding three.

‘He was on foot and as we saw him, he ran and blew himself up when he got close to us,’ Wasiullah, a paramilitary soldier wounded in the attack, told Reuters as he arrived at a hospital.

The attack was soon followed by a huge bomb blast and gunfire was heard on the streets of Dera Ismail Khan, police said.

Three were killed and seven injured after a bomb planted in the city’s town hall exploded, police told DawnNews.

Peshawar bazaar attack

The first two bombs were planted on motorbikes in the vicinity of Qissa Khwani (Storytellers) Bazaar in Peshawar’s old city and caused extensive damage.

Six people were killed and about 70 wounded, provincial government minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour told Reuters.

The first blast triggered a huge fire in Kabari Bazaar, which lies in a narrow lane and destroyed at least seven cars, witnesses said.

Minutes later a second bomb went off in another market across the road sparking another fire and gutting up to 18 electronics shops, AFP reported.

‘Two separate timed bombs were planted on motorbikes, which exploded in quick succession,’ said Shafqat Malik, a senior police investigator.

Soon afterwards, gunmen on rooftops began firing at police in lanes below.

Television showed policemen firing back while colleagues strapped on bullet-proof vests.

Police later said two gunmen had been killed and two suspects detained.

‘We’re carrying out searches as others could be hiding,’ city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur told reporters.

Peshawar twin blasts kill six, injure dozens

PESHAWAR :Two bomb blasts ripped through Qissa Khuwani Bazar has killed at least six people and injured dozens in Peshawar, Aaj News reported.

According to the channel, one policeman, five civilians were killed in the blasts.

Ambulances were rushing to the scene, police has cordoned off the area. Emergency has been declared in all hospitals.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

World Agenda: Tehran summit could be a turning point

Though it attracted little attention, the meeting on Sunday between the leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan could prove to be a turning point in international efforts to control drug smuggling, defeat the Taleban and stabilise one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

President Karzai of Afghanistan joined President Zardari of Pakistan in Tehran for a one-day meeting hosted by President Ahmadinejad. It came at a critical time for all three countries, beset by armed uprisings, domestic political struggles and the growing menace of drug smuggling and addiction.

It is the first time that the radical Iranian leader has held a joint meeting with his two neighbours, which are both battling Taleban insurgencies.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are heavily dependent on Western support in their fight against Sunni Islamist extremism. Iran, which is mainly Shia, is an enemy of the Taleban, who regard regard Shia Muslims as apostates. But Tehran has given covert support to the Taleban to encourage their opposition to Nato forces in Afghanistan and to prevent Nato determining a settlement on Iran’s eastern flank.

Until now, the three countries have had strained relations and very different strategic aims. Afghanistan has been intensely suspicious of Pakistan, which it accuses of harbouring Taleban leaders and failing to halt the movement of weapons and fighters across the border.

Pakistan, both under President Musharraf and President Zardari, is wary of the huge Nato presence in Afghanistan and hostile to the growing Indian influence in Kabul. And Iran has long been obsessed by the presence of American troops on both its eastern and western borders, which it has seen as a greater threat than either the instability in Iraq or the Taleban in the east.

Their joint commitment to “eradicating extremism, terrorism and drugs” is therefore deliberately bland, with no detail of the talks or hints of any changes in policy. But it marks a significant shift in Iran at a time when President Ahmadinejad is facing a tough fight for re-election in June and when Iranian hardliners have been put on the spot by President Obama’s conciliatory tone.

For Iran, the immediate threat is the vast drug smuggling operation based in Afghanistan, which supplies 90 per cent of the world’s heroin. Iranian troops have fought battles along the eastern border against well-armed smugglers, sometimes suffering heavy casualties. Within Iran the incidence of drug use and addiction is growing alarmingly.

With the drug trade now controlled by the Taleban, Iran is ready to make common cause with Kabul in halting the trade. At the same time, Pakistan, increasingly alarmed by the groundswell of anti-American opinion in the wake of drone strikes on Taleban hideouts, is looking for regional support in its fight with extremists in the Swat Valley and along its tribal northwest frontier.

Pakistan also has an important economic interest in securing energy from Iran, and at the summit reached broad agreement on a multibillion-dollar pipeline to bring Iranian natural gas to Pakistan within four years. The deal is vital to Iran, which is suffering from Western sanctions on energy investment and is falling behind in exploiting its huge oil and gas reserves.

For all these reasons, President Ahmadinejad is under pressure to improve relations with his two neighbours. The danger for him is that this will be welcomed in the West and will be seen as a sign of a pragmatic moderation of the anti-Americanism that has been Iran’s driving policy.

Iran tried to use the summit to bolster anti-American feeling by insisting that the presence of foreign forces had not stabilised Afghanistan. Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran’s supreme leader, told the two visiting presidents that “the United States is hated by the peoples of the region because it is considered responsible for these problems”. That appears to have cut little ice with either man, however: neither has any reason to alienate the United States at the moment.

Nevertheless, the three leaders declared that they would hold regular future meetings, and create a mechanism for joint consultation. That can only help Washington in its attempt to focus regional efforts on defeating the Taleban, rebuilding Afghanistan and drawing Iran out of its self-imposed isolation. And that could be the first step in Washington’s long and difficult talk of re-establishing a working relationship with Iran. The Tehran summit could be more significant than the headlines suggested.

OPEC set to hold output steady, hopes for price rise

VIENNA- OPEC ministers set their sights on oil prices above $70 a barrel as they gathered for talks in Vienna, but they were expected to hold output steady and rely instead on economic recovery to push the market up.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Wednesday the world was ready to cope with oil at $75-$80 a barrel, the price range the leading oil exporter considers enough to sustain energy investment for the long term.

He said it could be reached before the end of this year.

Previously, Saudi Arabia signaled it could live with oil around $50 to help nurse the economy back to health.

Oil has already climbed from a low of $32.40 last December to six-month highs above $63 a barrel on Wednesday.

"The price rise is a function of optimism better things are coming in the future," Naimi told reporters.

"We see offshoots of recovery," he added. "There are a lot of positives in what I say because I am seeing a recovery."

Representing the world's biggest fuel consumer, the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration said too high an oil price could damage a fragile economy.

"I certainly would think that we are still in some pretty thick economic woods and that it would make sense to not push things with respect to the oil market," Howard Gruenspecht, acting head of the EIA, said on Wednesday.

"Keeping oil markets well supplied is pretty important."

U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah were expected to discuss oil prices at a meeting next week in Riyadh.

Naimi said Thursday's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna did not need to change the group's output policy.

Saudi Arabia has always been regarded as a moderate and ally of the United States. Venezuela, by contrast, which has big social spending plans to finance, has typically been among the first to seek higher prices.

On arriving in Vienna on Wednesday, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said he hoped oil would reach $75 in the fourth quarter, but was concerned about "very, very high" levels of inventory.

He did not expect OPEC to change its supply targets, but said it should focus on stronger output discipline.


When OPEC last met in March, oil was below $50.

Citing the need to restore the economy, which in turn would boost oil demand, the group then called only for tighter adherence to existing output curbs, rather than making new ones.

Since September last year, OPEC has lowered output by 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) and has implemented around 80 percent of the promised cuts.

The historically high compliance has helped to drive the oil price rally, which has also been sustained by expectations across financial markets that the worst is over economically.

Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil predicted oil prices would be around $60-$65 by the end of the year, rising to $65-$70 next year and said fundamentals of supply and demand did not justify the current price.

"Normally we shouldn't have these kind of prices, but we have them so we are happy with them and I hope they will continue going up," he said.

Some analysts said Naimi could be better placed than many to gather evidence of a recovery in fuel demand.

"I think Naimi's comments are very significant indeed," said Mike Wittner of Societe Generale.

"Nobody on the planet sells more crude to more refineries than Saudi Aramco. So when Ali al-Naimi says that he is seeing demand picking up in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, you have to believe him because he has the facts."

Provided energy demand indeed recovers, Naimi said oil inventories would shrink back to the equivalent of 52-54 days of forward cover, a measure closely monitored by OPEC.

The International Energy Agency, which represents consumer countries, said in a report this month oil inventories in developed countries had risen to the equivalent of 62.4 days of forward cover, the most since 1993.

While stating fundamentals are bearish in the near term, the IEA has also argued any recovery in demand could be accompanied by a rally back to the record levels of nearly $150 hit last year because cheaper oil has stymied investment in new supply.

Naimi too has said that is a risk and the difficulty was to keep prices in a range, fair to producers, but that does not destroy demand.

"That is the biggest challenge," he said when asked how to contain any price rise. "It's very difficult. There are too many players in the market. It's impossible with so many players."

Hypocrite leaders

The Frontier Post
Commitment to Journalism
Hypocrite leaders
M Waqar New York
Hypocrites of religious parties had a protest against military operation in Swat, its really amazing that leadership of these so-called religious parties never made any statement what Taliban did and doing to the nation, country as well as innocent people, where were their protest rallies when cruel, criminal, thug Taliban were beheading innocent people, hanging dead bodies on trees and poles? While Army is locked with Taliban in fierce battle in the Malakand Agency, especially in the Swat region, some of the hypocrites like Imran Khan and religious parties have started raising hell just to demoralize the nation and to show their inner filth and to just blackmail the government to get more attention and the perks and privileges. Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the ex-chief of Jamaat-e-Islami has announced a three-day sit-in in the Melody Chowk, Islamabad, against the military operation in Swat. Where was he and his clowns, when there was no military operation and government was trying to appease the Taliban by dialogues, deals and accords? Not even once Qazi or his people went to Swat or talked with Sufi Muhammad or Fazlullah. They remained silent. Now just to record their attention they are raising hell. This is the time when they should be helping the IDPs and not creating fissures and fuss. But they have always disappointed the nation. Does our religion propagate this type of politics?. No, never.... These religious leaders actions have nothing to do with religion. This is sheer hypocrisy. These people are using religion and their religious attire to fool the masses who are illiterate, religious minded and tend to fall prey to any religious gimmick. We must not allow these people to take control of our lives and affairs of our country. We need a totally different band of able political leaders who are sincere, honest, dedicated and work with a vision. We must look around, pick such people and encourage them to come forward. We must get rid of these stale feudal and maulvis who only play dirty politics for their interest. Why did not JI leadership go to Swat and talk to those ignorant mullahs Sufi and company, why JI did not say anything when Taliban were destroying schools and harassing girls if they were going to schools. Why did not they protest when Taliban were killing innocent people, sending suicide bombers across the country, destroying music centres and internet café, what Taliban are doing that was encouraged during MMA Govt in Pakhtunkhwa, nation should realise that JI is supporting Taliban. Imran Khan and JI leadership is deaf, dumb and blind, Imran Khan has forgotten when he used to party and clubbing in Europe , he forgets about his playboy past but now he talks about Islam and supports Taliban. Jamaat-e-Islami’s Munawar Hasan is criticisng those politicians who are supporting military operation but why did not Qazi Hussain or he himself go to Taliban and ask them to stop thei barbarian activities and stop killing innocent people. Extremism is death of sanity and a tricky shrewd extremist in high place has potential to ruin the nation. Unfortunately in Pakistani political chess board still some religious extremists command the events. These are the people who exploit the conflict and get benefits from every side. Let’s not forget that Maulana Fazlur Rehman who is the leader of Pakistan’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam or JUI is a person who benefits from every situation and every government. JI also opposed the creation of Pakistan. It supported Gul Badin Hikmatyar during so-called Afghan Jihad. Its leadership is vocal critic of army operations against extremists and spreading bitter propaganda against Army and forces fighting Taliban. Fazlur Rehman is “ideological mentor” of the Taliban. JI also opposed the creation of Pakistan. It has deep connections with international Islamist Parties like Akhwan ul Muslimeen of Egypt. Leaders of these religious parties supported every military dictator in Pakistan. Gen Zia and the so-called Afghan war in 1980 played an important role in the growth of religious parties. Several new parties were formed. One more Political party who is trying to exploit the situation is PML-N. Taliban are involved in crimes against humanity and they must be punished. Army has full support of educated civil society and the gains in Swat will be useless if we don’t act against the real bases of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal areas. Better suffer some casualties now, and suffer collateral damage, than see the whole country become Taliban’s playground. Salute to martyres of Rah-e-Rast and all those police officials who sacrificed their lives for Pakistan.
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Dated: Thursday, May 28, 2009, Jamadi-us-Sani 03, 1430 A.H.