Friday, January 9, 2009

Declare FATA part of Afghan war theatre: CSIS

LAHORE: The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan have been ranked among the ‘most dangerous’ places in the world, according to the Press Trust of India that cited a report by a US think-tank – which has called on the incoming Obama administration to declare the area part of the ‘Afghan war theatre’.

Observing that a “nuclear Pakistan as a base for international terrorism is a prospect that the world cannot afford”, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) asked the US government to redefine the territory of war in the region to include FATA.

It said this would help the US Central Command (CENTCOM) cooperate with the Pakistan Army in both military and economic development efforts as needed and agreed on by both the countries.

The observations were part of a report titled ‘FATA: A Most Dangerous Place’, authored by Shuja Nawaz – a Pakistani journalist who has just been appointed the first director of the South Asia Centre at the Atlantic Council of the US.

“FATA remains a most dangerous place, with the failure of governance and the rise of militancy affecting Afghanistan and Pakistan not only individually and separately but also jointly,” Nawaz was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India in his concluding observations. daily times monitor

Biden assures Pakistan of support against terrorism

Biden told Zardari that the new U.S. administration would also help Pakistan "meet its socio-economic requirements and capacity building," the ministry said in a written statement.The vice president-elect "assured the Pakistani leadership" of the United States' "continued assistance to Pakistan," the statement said.No additional details were provided.Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, accompanied Biden on the trip.Biden "described Pakistan as an incredibly valued U.S. ally and said that the U.S. recognized Pakistan's important contribution and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism," the ministry said.Zardari, who took office in September, said "Pakistan needed the support and understanding of the international community in this effort," according to the statement.Pakistan's government is waging a bloody battle against Taliban and al Qaeda militants in its tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan. The United States has provided Pakistan with billions of dollars in aid for those counterterrorism activities.Last year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill authorizing $7.5 billion in non-military aid over the next five years.The measure is sponsored by committee chairman Biden and the ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. It would provide money for developments such as schools, roads and medical clinics, and it conditions security aid on State Department certification that Pakistan is making efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda.The bill has not come before the full Senate.Biden also said he was hopeful that India and Pakistan could resolve their conflicts, according the ministry."The U.S. vice president-elect expressed the hope that both Pakistan and India will be able to overcome the current tensions and would resolve their differences peacefully," the ministry's statement said.November's attacks in Mumbai, India, fueled tensions between Pakistan and India, longtime rivals that have fought three wars since independence and conducted tit-for-tat nuclear weapons tests in 1998.India has said Islamic militants trained in Pakistan were behind the three-day siege of India's financial capital. Pakistani officials have promised to cooperate with the investigation but have insisted that India show it the evidence supporting its case.On Wednesday, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the sole surviving suspect in the Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 160 people, is a Pakistani national, state-run media reported.

Peace campaign launched in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Citizens for Peace Peshawar (CPP), part of Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC), launched a signature campaign on Friday against terrorism, war posturing and to promote cooperation and peace between Pakistan and India. The signature campaign launched simultaneously from Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and other cities and India’s major cities and towns is sponsored by South Asia Partnership Pakistan. The campaign would continue from January 8 to February 8. zakir hassnain

Five blasts in Lahore, no loss of life reported

Five blasts in Lahore, no loss of life reported
Friday, January 09, 2009
LAHORE: Five blasts occurred in Lahore on Friday, however, no casualties were reported.

The fifth blast occurred at Mazang Chungee near Tamaseel Theatre here today.

Rescue teams sent to the blast site immediately.

The blast damaged a gas pipeline, causing the gas to leak in the area.

According to an eye-witness, a man was seen running away after throwing a hand grenade at the site of the blast.

Earlier, four blasts occurred in quick succession near Al-falah theatre on Mall Road in Lahore on Friday, however, no loss of life was reported.

Two persons were arrested from the blasts site.

According to the bomb disposal squad, the blasts could have been caused by RDX or C-3 which only caused minor damage to buildings. However, CCPO Lahore said that the initial investigation indicates that the blasts were carried out by fire-crackers.

Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif directed the Home Secretary to submit report regarding the blasts in 24 hours.

Biden Reaffirms Alliance with Pakistan in Visit to Islamabad

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan, late Friday, just 11 days before he is scheduled to be sworn in as the U.S. vice-president. Biden, who is traveling with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (Tex.), told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that the United States regards Pakistan as an "important ally and partner" in the war on terrorism.

Pakistan is embroiled in a tense confrontation with neighboring India, also a major U.S. ally, over allegations that a Pakistan-based Islamist group was behind the three-day siege in the Indian city of Mumbai in November that left more than 170 people dead. India has suggested that Pakistani state agencies were involved, which Zardari and other officials have vehemently denied.

Biden and Graham are expected to travel to Afghanistan in the next several days. In recent months, Biden has publicly expressed frustration with the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, which is widely regarded as weak and corrupt. Karzai, in turn, has grown increasingly critical of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

The two senators are expected to press both Pakistani and Afghan authorities for tougher commitments to the battle against Islamist extremism as the United States prepares to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to bolster the protracted war against Taliban insurgents. The number would nearly double the current U.S. troop presence.

Bomb hits U.S. patrol in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber kills at least two soldiers in Kandahar province in the south. The Taliban claims responsibility.
Associated Press

January 9, 2009

Kabul, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber struck U.S. troops patrolling on foot Thursday in southern Afghanistan, killing at least two soldiers and three civilians and wounding at least nine civilians, officials said.

The bomber hit the U.S. patrol on a busy street in Kandahar province's Maywand district, said district chief Naimatullah Khan. American victims were taken away by helicopter, Khan said, but he could not provide a number.

Army Col. Jerry O'Hara, a U.S. military spokesman, confirmed that U.S. casualties occurred but said he could not give further details.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said two of its soldiers died in the blast, but it did not provide nationalities. U.S. soldiers serve as part of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to an Associated Press reporter in southern Afghanistan.

The blast came at a time when the U.S. is rushing 20,000 American troops into Afghanistan to combat a Taliban insurgency that has sent violence to record levels.

U.S. officials have warned that the violence will probably intensify. More U.S. troops died in the Afghan conflict in 2008 than in any other year since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.

The independent website puts the number last year at 157.

The attack also followed an allegation from Afghan President Hamid Karzai that clashes between U.S.-led troops and insurgents left 17 civilians dead this week.

The U.S. military says all 32 people killed in the fighting were militants.

In a statement Thursday, Karzai said the civilians were killed during clashes between U.S.-led troops and insurgents in the eastern province of Laghman on Tuesday.

Karzai accused the insurgents of using civilians as human shields but also criticized international forces.

The U.S. military, however, said all those killed were militants involved with a bomb-making cell.

"We held [a meeting] with local government officials after the operation, and all local Afghan leaders confirmed that all 32 killed in this operation were hostile militants," said O'Hara, the spokesman.