Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama urges 'perseverance' during train ride

WASHINGTON — Buoyed all day by thousands of cheering onlookers, President-elect Barack Obama brought his whistle-stop journey to the nation's capital Saturday to kick off a weekend of festivities before his inauguration as the 44th U.S. president.
The "Obama Express" carrying the 47-year-old former Illinois senator pulled into Union Station at nightfall, ending a day-long 137-mile trip from Philadelphia along the same route that Abraham Lincoln traveled before his own inauguration 147 years ago.

The train, carrying Obama, his wife, Michelle, their daughters Malia and Sasha left this morning from Philadelphia's historic 30th Street Station, and made a stop in Wilmington, Del., to pick up Vice-President Joe Biden, and his wife Jill.

It also stopped in Baltimore, where Obama spoke to a crowd that Deputy Fire Chief Raymond O'Brocki estimated at 40,000 people.

Obama, who trumpeted a call for "change" throughout his campaign, called on Americans to have patience and perseverance in the face of economic challenges.

"Let's make sure this election is not the end of what we do to change America, but the beginning," he told a crowd bundled up against the bitter cold.

Many African-Americans among the crowd wept as Obama, who will become the nation's first black president, addressed the audience.

As in Philadelphia, the Democrat referred to the founding fathers who overcame great difficulties in giving birth to a new nation.

"The trials we face are very different now, but severe in their own right," he said, noting the challenge of an economic crisis and two wars. "Only a handful of times in our history has a generation been confronted with challenges so vast. "

"And yet while our problems may be new, what is required to overcome them is not," Obama said. "What is required is the same perseverance and idealism that those first patriots displayed."

He called for a "new declaration of independence, not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels."

The president-elect warned, however, that the enormous challenges will not be solved quickly and that there will be "false starts, and setbacks, frustrations and disappointments."

The train made two "slow rolls" through small train stations in Delaware and Maryland as it wound its way south to Washington.

As it slowed in Claymont, Del., crowds ignored the biting cold to cheer as Obama — smiling broadly — waved from an open-air platform decorated in red, white and blue bunting.

Likewise, crowds jammed into the small station in Edgewood, Md., shouted "yes, we can" as train moved slowly past, with Obama and Biden waving from the last car.

The president-elect and his family rode in style aboard a chartered 1930 Pullman train decked out with brass lamps, a bedroom and dining room. The plush, privately owned car has been used in many presidential campaigns, including by George H.W. Bush in 1992.

On board are special guests, including former Army officer Matt Kuntz of Helena, Mont., who began promoting better mental health services and screening for soldiers returning from Iraq after his stepbrother committed suicide; Case Western Reserve University history professor Lisa Hazirjian, who worked for the campaign recruiting gay and lesbian volunteers in Ohio and Pennsylvania; and Lilly Ledbetter of Jacksonville, Ala., who sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., for sex discrimination.

The Obamas made a low-key entry into Washington. No public events were planned, although about a hundred people showed up in hopes of getting a glimpse of the president-elect. They left in a motorcade shortly after the train pulled into Union Station and left for Blair House, the official residence where they will live until they moved into the White House on Tuesday.

While the train replicated part of Lincoln's pre-White House railroad journey to Washington from Illinois in 1861, and security was high, the Obama trip was absent the emotions that raged in the country in the lead up to the Civil War.

The fears of a possible assassination plot against the incoming 14th president were so high that Lincoln eventually agreed to change his plans and travel the last leg through Baltimore incognito and on a different train to the capital.

The only major problems thus far for the Obama inaugural events is a forecast of freezing temperatures for Tuesday's ceremony and the expected crush of visitors to the nation's capital.

Somewhere between 1 million and 2 million people are expected to make their way to Washington for the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade. Some 240,000 tickets have been issued for the festivities at the Capitol, with 28,000 seats.

On Sunday, Obama will attend a star-studded concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and on Tuesday, he will be sworn into office with his hand on Lincoln's bible.

In his weekly Saturday radio and Internet address, Obama said his inauguration Tuesday is a rite of passage that the country marks every four years as a testament to its democratic ideals. He cautioned that its tradition should not be taken for granted.

"We must remember that our nation was founded at a time of kings and queens, and even today billions of people around the world cannot imagine their leaders giving up power without strife or bloodshed," Obama said.

He noted that peaceful transfers between U.S. presidents have come regardless of circumstance.

"Inaugurations have taken place during times of war and peace; in Depression and prosperity," Obama said. "Our democracy has undergone many changes, and our people have taken many steps in pursuit of a more perfect union. What has always endured is this peaceful and orderly transition of power."

While the inauguration ceremonies are taking center stage, the Obama team is also moving along on the governing track.

On Friday, the Senate agreed to give him access to the second half of last fall's $700 billion financial industry bailout and House Democrats unveiled an $825 billion stimulus package.

One of the largest bills ever to make its way through Congress, it calls for federal spending of roughly $550 billion and tax cuts of $275 billion over the next two years to revive the sickly economy. It also focuses heavily on energy, education, health care and jobs-producing highway construction.

Seeking to counter critics' claims of excessive spending and too few tax cuts, Obama cast the package as necessary to create long-lasting, well-paying jobs in industries such as alternative energy, and help hard-hit industrial states such as Ohio now and in the future.

Also Friday, two U.S. officials said Obama was preparing to prohibit the use of waterboarding and harsh interrogation techniques by ordering the CIA to follow military rules for questioning prisoners.

The proposal Obama is considering would require all CIA interrogators to follow conduct outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the officials said. The plans would also have the effect of shutting down secret "black site" prisons around the world, they said.

The new rules would abandon a part of outgoing President George W. Bush's counterterrorism policy that has been condemned internationally.

Good reasons for progress in U.S.-Russian relations

This statement promises progress in U.S.-Russian relations regarding strategic offensive weapons and in ensuring global stability. Clinton put forth the foreign policy goals of the administration of Barack Obama, who is to be inaugurated as the 44th U.S. President on January 20, at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing this week.
The "lady in a pantsuit" said the President-Elect and she "believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology, on facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice."

This sounds great, and, judging by the U.S. media, the American public hopes the U.S. is coming back, meaning that it will be able to overcome the negative consequences of Bush's presidency.

Relations with the U.S. remain one of the main foreign policy priorities for Russia, which has had a new president since last year.

Cooperation entails mutual advantage and a balance of interests. The new U.S. administration is definitely aware of this. If its foreign policy is indeed based on principles and pragmatism, it should logically opt for full-scale relations with Russia.

Russia has been heartened by Washington's intention to develop dialogue with it pragmatically, on the basis of respect for each other's interests. The Russian Foreign Ministry thinks this intention should be supported, and that contacts with the new U.S. administration should be developed as soon as possible.

Clinton said they would "work with Russia to secure their agreement to extend essential monitoring and verification provisions of the START Treaty before it expires in December 2009, and we will work toward agreements for further reductions in nuclear weapons."

Analysts think the new U.S. administration will try to avoid tensions in bilateral relations in view of the domestic problems it has inherited from the Bush presidency (the Iraq and Afghanistan wars) and recent international problems, such as the Palestinian-Israeli fighting over Gaza and the Horn of Africa piracy.

Russian diplomats say relations with the U.S. should be developed on the principles sealed in the U.S.-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration signed in Sochi on April 6, 2008. According to it, "the foundation for the U.S. and Russian relationship should be based on the core principles of friendship, cooperation, openness, and predictability."

Russia is ready to work energetically towards this goal, Russian diplomats say, adding that dialogue with the U.S. should be "based on respect, and be honest and open."

Russia has voiced several fundamental ideas on key international issues, including a new vision of trans-Atlantic security and ways to improve the global financial system.

Moscow had put forth its proposals on military-strategic and economic issues of U.S.-Russian relations and is prepared to move ahead, hoping for reciprocal moves from the new U.S. administration.

Taliban sets Pakistani school on fire'

Taliban militants have destroyed a public school building and damaged two other houses in restive Swat valley in northwest Pakistan. Police officials said unknown militants exploded a state boy's high school in Mingora city in Swat valley on Saturday. The blast also damaged two houses situated close to the school building, police sources added. Taliban militants had earlier warned the state-run and private educational institutions not to enroll girls in schools, setting January 15 as the deadline for the ban in Swat valley. Hundreds of schools in Pakistani northwestern region have shut the doors to girls to comply with the Taliban edict banning girls' education.

Mubarak calls for IDF to leave Gaza

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday demanded that Israel immediately end its military operations in the Gaza Strip and withdraw its forces, even as the Jewish State was contemplating a unilateral cease-fire that would keep its soldiers in Gaza.

Mubarak's call came on the same day that Hamas leaders maintained that fighting with Israel would continue if their demands for an Israeli withdrawal were not met.

Egypt has been a key interlocutor in the weeks of negotiation to bring about an end to Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip to stop Hamas rocket fire. More than 1,100 Palestinians have died since the strikes began December 27.

"I demand Israel today stop its military operations immediately. I demand from its leaders an immediate and unconditional cease-fire and I demand from them a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Strip," he said.

Unlike the widespread condemnation of Israel elsewhere in the Arab world, the Egyptian government has blamed Hamas for provoking the fighting and has worked closely with Israeli officials on the crisis.

Egypt put forward a proposal for a temporary cease-fire followed by a more lasting agreement to end arms smuggling to Hamas and open the crossings into the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has been adamant, however, that any international force monitoring the borders or the Gaza Strip could not be based on Egyptian territory.

"Egypt will never accept any foreign presence of monitors on its land. I say this is a red line I have not and will not allow to be crossed," he said.

Mubarak said once a cease-fire had been agreed on, Egypt would work to lift the blockade of Gaza and reopen the crossings - a key Palestinian demand.

"The Rafah crossing will remain open to the international, Arab and Egyptian humanitarian aid and humanitarian cases until there are arrangements in place to reopen the crossing," he said, adding that they would be based on a 2005 agreement between Israel, the EU and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel's decision to pursue a unilateral cease-fire seemed to be at least partly driven by a deal signed with the United States on Friday aimed at cutting off the supply of smuggled weapons to Hamas in Gaza.

The document signed in Washington outlines a framework under which the US will provide military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training would be used for monitoring Gaza's land and sea borders.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, however, said Saturday his country was not bound by the agreement.

The US and Israel can "do what they wish with regard to the sea or any other country in Africa, but when it comes to Egyptian land, we are not bound by anything except the safety and national security of the Egyptian people and Egypt's ability to protect its borders," Aboul Gheit told reporters.

He also denied any weapons were smuggled into Gaza from Egypt, saying they are all transported to the territory by sea.

Olmert announces Gaza ceasefire

Israel's offensive has killed at least 400 children according to the UN [AFP]
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, has announced a unilateral truce in the Gaza Strip.Israel will halt its offensive in Gaza at 0000 GMT on Sunday but troops will remain in the enclave for the time being and will respond to Hamas fire, Olmert said on Saturday.The announcement came after a meeting of Israel's security council on Saturday evening and halts the 22-day offensive which has left more than 1200 Palestinians dead, more than 400 of them children.
Mission accomplished
"We have reached all the goals of the war, and beyond," Olmert said.
"If our enemies decide to strike and want to carry on then the Israeli army will regard itself as free to respond with force," he added.Olmert said the war boosted Israel's deterrence and that Hamas's actions would decide when the military would withdraw."This operation strengthened the deterrence of the State of Israel in the face of all those who threaten us."If Hamas completely stops its attacks, we will judge at what moment we will leave the Gaza Strip," he said.
Hamas defiant
Hamas, however, said it would continue fighting in Gaza as long as Israeli troops remained in the Hamas-ruled Strip."If the Israeli military continues its existence in the Gaza Strip, that is a wide door for the resistance against the occupation forces," Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official in Lebanon told Al Jazeera.Fawzi Barhum, a Hamas spokesman, said: "The Zionist enemy must stop all its aggression, completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip, lift the blockade, and open the crossings. We will not accept the presence of a single soldier in Gaza."The enemy's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire confirms that this is a unilateral war launched in one direction, from the enemy upon our people," Barhum, who is in Gaza, said in a statement.Speaking at a forum in Beirut, Hamdan called on Arab leaders to stand by the Palestinian "resistance" and urged European nations to cut ties with Israel for its "crimes" in Gaza.
Uncertainty prevails
Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera's correspondent on the Gaza-Israel border, said: "What the Israelis are doing by this unilateral declaration is taking all the power into their own hands and they will almost dictate now what happens, and when.

"Israel could almost go it alone now because of the role Egypt is playing in talking to Hamas and this deal, as Israel sees it, isn't with Hamas - it is something they are doing on their own," he said.
Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said: "There are many questions that remain unanswered and what this announcement will mean for the Palestinians on the ground remains unclear because there was no clarity in that announcement."
Dr Azzam Tamimi, from the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, told Al Jazeera: "After the Israelis have managed to kill as many of the children and women of Gaza I doubt that people of Gaza will believe them. Ehud Olmert is a compulsive liar.
"The main objective of this operation right from the start was to turn the people of Gaza against Hamas and pave the way for Mahmoud Abbas [the Palestinian president] to return to Gaza. That is why the civilians were deliberately attacked and their lives shattered."This objective has failed, it hasn't been achieved and now Israel is declaring a unilateral truce. It is a defeat for the real objectives of this operation," Tamimi said.Rami Khouri, the Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, told Al Jazeera: "This unilateral ceasefire has no chance of being a durable ceasefire.
"Israel has tried many unilateral approaches and each one of them has simply made the situation worse for Israel.
"There is no chance of any unilateral move by Israel having any success. It has to be a negotiated agreement that responds to the basic legitimate needs of both sides," he said.

Sharm summit

A summit aimed at giving international backing to the ceasefire will be held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

It is to be attended by the leaders of Germany, France, Spain, Britain, Italy, Turkey, Jordan and the Czech Republic - which holds the rotating EU presidency - as well as presidents Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

It was not immediately clear whether Israel would send a representative, and Hamas has not been invited.

Reduce rocket fire

About 1,230 Gazans have been killed in Gaza since the offensive began, according to UN and Palestinian medical sources.

UN officials say two children were killed when Israeli tank fire hit a UN school [AFP] At least 13 Israelis have died, three of them civilians.
Israel decided on a unilateral ceasefire in preference to entering into an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, analysts said.

The unilateral truce allows Israel to avoid agreeing concessions with the Palestinian group, such as easing the 18-month-old blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has prevented medical aid and basic supplies from reaching the Palestinians.

Egypt has been pushing Israel and the rival Palestinian factions to reach an agreement. A Hamas delegation had returned to Cairo on Friday for a second round of talks.

Israel's stated aim of the war, which it dubbed Operation Cast Lead, has been to reduce Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.

On the first day of the offensive up to 100 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. In the past few days up to 20 have hit Israel on a daily basis.
Taliban threats close Pakistan schools

PESHAWAR — In a dark echo of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, violent religious extremists in Pakistan are moving to restrict girls' education as they seek to impose a draconian version of Islamic law on a beleaguered population.
In a northern valley where Taliban guerrillas have been waging a bloody war against security forces for more than a year, hard-liners have blown up or burned down some 170 schools, most of them for girls. Then in December, a warning by militants in a pirate radio broadcast: All schools for girls should close by Jan. 15.
This week, an association representing 400 private schools for boys and girls in the Swat valley said they would all remain closed after the winter break because of the threat.
"Since the Taliban's warning, attendance in our schools has reduced by almost half" to some 20,000 students, association president Ziauddin Yousufzai told The Associated Press on Friday.
"From today, we have closed our schools as we cannot run our education system in this insecure environment," he said.
Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan in the 1990s banned education for girls and forced most working women to return to their homes.
Since their 2001 ouster, the hardline Islamist movement's followers have been blamed for scores of arson attacks on schools in Afghanistan, many of them built with Western aid. An acid attack by Taliban insurgents last year maimed several girls.
The rise of Taliban groups in neighboring Pakistan has brought similar violence, especially in Swat, a relatively progressive area that until recently drew tourists from across Pakistan with its fine Alpine scenery.
The valley lies close to, but outside, Pakistan's tribally governed belt along the Afghan border where the West worries that al-Qaida leaders have found refuge.
Residents complain that the local administration, including the police force, has collapsed over recent months as officials and lawmakers flee in fear. Relief workers say thousands of residents also have moved out of militant-held areas.
Those who remain find themselves with little choice but to comply with the demands of the militants, who have exploited long-nurtured local grievances with Pakistan's snail-paced justice system.
Muslim Khan, the militants' spokesman, said they would not allow any girls' schools to operate until the army withdraws from the valley and Islamic law is imposed.
"These schools are being run under a system introduced by the British and promote obscenity and vulgarity in society," Khan told AP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Khan said a system of girls education would be developed in line with the teaching of Islam.
All schools in the Swat valley, including some 1,600 government-run establishments with a quarter-million students, are closed for the winter vacation until the end of February.
Provincial education minister Sardar Hussain Babek said the government was trying to improve security by then so that they could reopen.
"If some people have grudges or complaints with the government they should not target the students and they should not snatch the right of education from them," he said.
But another senior provincial official, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, suggested the schools issue was secondary.
"People are being killed, they are being hanged there, so why are we talking about schools? Are schools open in Gaza?" Bilour said.
Administrators and teachers are scared.
Yousufzai worried that militants might even be more likely to target schools provided with security guards, putting students and teachers in greater peril.
"We appeal to both (militants and the government) to spare education and health institutions in this crisis," said Yousufzai.
Jahan Ara, a teacher in Swat's main town of Mingora, said she had taught in a private school for the last four years since her father died but had decided to quit.
"This job was enabling me to feed my widowed mother and three sisters but now I cannot take the risk," she said.

Afghan Foreign Minister Unhappy With Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton's use of the term "narco state" to describe Afghanistan in a recent Senate testimony has caught the attention of her Afghan counterpart.Foreign Ministry Rangin Dadfar Spanta said Saturday that it is "absolutely wrong" to classify Afghanistan as such, though the minister readily admitted that Afghanistan is a major producer of drugs.Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium, the main ingredient in heroin."Madame Clinton is a good friend of Afghanistan, a close friend of ours," Spanta told The Associated Press in an interview arranged to rebut Clinton's classification of Afghanistan."But if somebody believes that our government, the government of President (Hamid) Karzai is involved as a government entity in the production of drugs, this is absolutely wrong."Spanta was reacting to a report in the Financial Times on Friday that quoted Clinton as calling Afghanistan a "narco state" whose government was "plagued by limited capacity and widespread corruption." The comments appeared in Clinton's written Senate testimony for her nomination as Secretary of State.But Spanta also made a startling admission: that the Afghan government controls perhaps only 90 percent of Helmand, the largest drug-producing province and one of the country's most violent."The main production center of drugs is Helmand, and we are not in charge. Helmand (is) not under control of my government," Spanta said. "If the international community is serious about fighting drug production and drug trafficking, they have to bring Helmand under our control."Spanta said the government controls only the capital of Helmand, Lashkar Gah, along with "some islands" of territory around the rest of the province.The U.S. plans to send up to 30,000 new forces into Afghanistan this year, and several thousands of those troops are likely to go to Helmand, which produces more than 50 percent of Afghanistan's opium poppies.Spanta called Helmand "the main threat" and said al-Qaida and Taliban militants as well as criminal drug organizations operate there.He said corruption was a problem the Afghan government still needed to address but that it was actively working on the drug problem. He said the government has arrested more than 700 people involved in the drug trade in recent years.Despite the irritation over the narco state label, Spanta called the United States a key alley and said he was sure President-elect Barack Obama would continue President George W. Bush's policy of strong support for Afghanistan.Spanta called Obama a "strong president with vision for his country and the world."

Five die in Kabul suicide attack

A suicide car bomber has struck in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing four civilians and an American soldier.Nearly 20 others were injured in the blast near a US base and the German embassy. A number of German nationals are said to be among the wounded.A witness told the BBC the blast had set fire to several cars and a tanker.In a later attack in eastern Nangarhar province a civilian died and six people were hurt, including three policemen. The Taleban claimed both attacks.A child was among the dead in Saturday's first bombing on a small road between an American base, Camp Eggers, and the German embassy in the central Kabul district of Wazir Akbar Khan.
There was confusion earlier over casualty figures as the US military said two soldiers had been killed.It then said five US soldiers and an American civilian had been injured and that one of the wounded personnel died later.
A spokesman for the German foreign ministry in Berlin said several embassy workers had been hurt.German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the suicide attack - the first to hit Kabul this year - was a "cowardly act" that would not deter Berlin.Germany has 3,200 troops in Afghanistan, mainly in the country's north.The heavily-guarded US base is the headquarters for soldiers training Afghan police and army forces.Reuters news agency reported that Afghan relatives of the dead had gathered screaming and crying outside a nearby hospital.Despite the heavy security in the district, which houses many embassies and offices of international organisations, the district has been attacked before.In November four Afghans were killed by a suicide bomber outside the US embassy.In Saturday's second attack, a suicide bomber killed a civilian while attempting to ram his vehicle into a convoy of Nato troops and Afghan police in Chaparhar district, Nangarhar province.A Taleban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, told AP news agency a suicide bomber had carried out the Kabul attack in a Toyota Corolla. The militant group later claimed the second blast too.
The militants' influence has spread from their traditional heartlands in the south and east to areas closer to the capital.But the BBC's Martin Patience says that with increased police checkpoints throughout the city, there were fewer attacks inside Kabul in 2008 than in the previous year.US President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to make Afghanistan a foreign policy priority after he comes to office on Tuesday and is expected to approve the doubling of US troops in the country from the 30,000 at present.

One million kids to miss anti-polio drive in NWFP

One million kids to miss anti-polio drive in NWFP

PESHAWAR: Around one million children would miss the upcoming anti-polio campaign in militancy-ridden and snow-bound areas of the NWFP, officials said here Saturday.

An estimated 5.5 million children would be vaccinated in various districts and tribal regions during the campaign that would commence tomorrow (Monday). The drive, inaugurated at Peshawar Public School here Saturday, would continue for three days.

Speaking on the occasion, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Director Dr Syed Mujahid Hussain Shah said children from public sector schools would assist the teams during the campaign. “About one million schoolchildren and 16,000 polio teams will participate,” he said, adding that the decision to include schoolchildren in the drive would help persuade parents get their children immunised against the disease.

The official said that Kurram, Bajaur, Mohmand agencies and Dir Lower, Hangu, Swat and Shabqadar (in Charsadda) had been excluded from the campaign because of law and order problem. Apart from the troubled regions, the immunisation has also been postponed in the snow-bound districts of Kohistan, Dir Lower and Mansehra. Around one million children in these areas, he said, would miss the polio drops.

On the occasion, Provincial Minister for Education Sardar Hussain Babak said the executive district officers and principals of public sector schools had been directed to participate in the drive. “All civil society organisations and government departments should participate in such programmes of public interest,” Babak said.

The minister said the Education Ministry would participate in the immunisation drive to ensure every child in the province gets vaccinated against the disease. “Hopefully, there will be no poliovirus-affected child in the current year in NWFP,” he remarked.

Minister for Industries Ahmad Hussain Shah criticised the EPI role and said that the Health Department authorities were not justified in their claims. He said the polio cases were repeatedly emerging in the province because of the failure of vaccination drives on account of the security concerns.

The number of polio-hit children is on the rise, as there were only five polio victims in 2005 as compared to 118 in 2008.

700 Afghan families expelled from Khyber: PA

LANDIKOTAL: Political Agent Khyber Agency Saturday said that 700 Afghan families were expelled from Jamrud tehsil besides demolishing encroachments in the main bazaar.

Addressing local media here, the political agent, Capt (R) Tariq Hayat, said the operation was aimed at purging the area of anti-social elements, criminals and militants.

The PA made it clear that the security forces and administration demolished the houses of those people who had refused to surrender and added that they would be brought to justice. He lauded the people for supporting the administration to continue operation and assured

them restoration of the government’s writ.

The security forces had also arrested a Taliban commander Murad Shiwnari and demolished two houses three days back.

The political administration officials imprisoned Murad Shinwari in the Landikotal lockup. The soldiers also dynamited homes of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan commanders in Landikotal named Hazrat Ali and Murad Shinwari, while Mufti Ejaz Shinwari, an alleged supporter of militants, reportedly surrendered to the law-enforcers.