Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Raw Video: Clinton, 2 Journalists Depart NKorea

Main I-Day function to be held in Swat

Main I-Day function to be held in Swat
PESHAWAR: This year main function of Independence Day will be held at District Swat instead of Peshawar in which prominent and important personalities will also participate. This was stated by the Pukhtoonkhwa Minister for Information, Transport and Inter-Provincial Coordination Mian Iftikhar Hussain while chairing a meeting regarding the preparation of the upcoming Independence Day at PTV Centre Peshawar on Tuesday. It was decided in a meeting that the Independence Day will be celebrated with full national zeal and fervor and with a pledge that terrorism and militancy will be eradicated for the integrity and solidarity of the country and Pakistan will be made a land of peace by defeating the enemies of the country. It was also decided, besides main function of the Day, national and folk songs and traditional dance will also be displayed and prominent singers and general people participate in large number. The meeting also reviewed the establishment of Pashto TV channel Abaseen and informed that prompt preparation for on airing of the said channel is underway and the government had already earmarked Rs. 40 million for the purpose. The meeting was told as and when more required funds are provided it would be on aired without any delay. Briefly speaking on the occasion, Mian Iftikhar said that holding of Independence Day at Swat was meant to promote national harmony and unity and give realization to the people of restive areas that in this critical moment they are not alone but the whole nation is with them. Referring to the establishment of Abaseen Pashto channel, the Information Minister said that in the present circumstances, setting up of Pashto TV channel and FM Radio Station is need of the hour as distance from cultural activities is also one of the main reason of terrorism and militancy. That is why the provincial government want the promotion of maximum cultural activities and each and every body have to play its due role in this regard, he concluded.

“Black Day” by Pakistani Christians in America

New York: Pakistani Christian in USA have announced here today to hold Press Conference on August 10, at Washington DC and on August 12, 2009,
to protest and observe “Black Day” in front of United Nation UN offices in New York.

President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC, President of Pakistani Christian Association in America PCA and Editor of Pakistan Christian Post PCP shall address a Press Conference at Press Club Washington DC, on August 10, 2009, to condemn atrocities on Pakistani Christian Nation and to observe “Black Day” as solidarity with August 11, 2009, Black Day in Pakistani Christians.

The Pakistani Christian Association in America PCA have announced to hold protest rally in front UN Offices New York on August 12, 2009.

The PCA will host a meeting to constitute an “Organizing Committee” for August 12, 2009, protest in front of UNO on Saturday in which Pastors, Church elders, Bangladesh Christian Association, Indian Christian representatives, Pakistani Muslim organizations shall participate to finalize memorandum for UNO Secretary General.

Punjab Government blamed for Gojra incident

Holding the provincial government responsible for the gory incidents in Gojra, opposition leader Ch Zaheer has strongly condemned the torture on and burning of the Christians.
In a joint press conference with Engineer Shahzad Elahi here on Tuesday, Ch Zaheer said the incident took place because of the indifference and inefficiency of the Punjab government. He alleged that the incident took place on July 30 and the situation got worse on August 3 but the provincial government failed to preempt the situation.
He said the government was making the DCO and the DPO scapegoats just to hide its inefficiency. He said the CM should have visited Gojra immediately after the incident, bringing those responsible to the book.
He said the president had ordered judicial enquiry into the incident while the Prime Minister had deployed Rangers for the security which reflected the complete failure of the provincial government.
Engineer Shahzad Elahi from the PML-Q said that the members of Christian community had not desecrated the Holy Quran. He said that the allegation against the community was an excuse to occupy a piece of land to construct a graveyard. He alleged that local PML-N president was involved in the incident and that was why the provincial government was hesitating to take action.
a conspiracy: Senior vice president Pakistan Muslim League and former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kusuri has said the Gojra incident is a conspiracy against Pakistan and the Islamic world.
The former foreign minister said the internal and external enemies of Pakistan were bent on defaming the country in the international community. He said this incident should not be taken as a local conflict but should be treated as an attack on the true religious harmony prevailing in Pakistan and the whole nation should unite to confront this malicious intent of defiling the country’s image.
He said such incidents had emerged in the past but when they were thoroughly investigated it was revealed that some elements played such dramas to seek wealth and their own selfish interests. He condemned the Gojra incident in the strongest possible way and said such elements could not bring any harm to Islam and the religious harmony in Pakistan. planned action: Last week’s attacks targeting the Christian community at Gojra were not a spontaneous reaction to allegations of blasphemy but were planned in advance, a fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) revealed. The mission’s report, released on Tuesday, said announcements made from mosques in Gojra on July 31 urged the Muslims to gather and “make mincemeat of the Christians.” Witnesses told the HRCP that when they informed the police about the announcements, the police officials had also confirmed hearing the announcements.On the following day, August 1, around 1,000 people gathered in the town and marched towards the Christian Colony. A police contingent present in the neighbourhood did not try to stop the mob, which included a number of masked men. The witnesses said the attackers went about destroying Christians’ houses in a very professional manner, and seemed to be trained for carrying out such activities.

Gojra attacks were pre-planned: HRCP


LAHORE: Last week’s attacks on the Christian community in Gojra were not a spontaneous reaction to allegations of blasphemy but planned in advance, a fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Tuesday.

The mission’s report said announcements made from mosques in Gojra on July 31 urged Muslims to gather and “make mincemeat of the Christians” over allegation of desecration of the Holy Quran a week earlier. Witnesses told HRCP that when they informed the police about the announcements, the police officials also confirmed hearing the announcements.

On August 1, around 1,000 people gathered in the area and marched towards Christian Colony the HRCP said, adding that a police contingent present in the neighbourhood did not try to stop the mob, which included a number of masked men.

Witnesses said the attackers appeared trained for rioting and arson, the commission reported.

The protesters carried inflammable substances and torched more than 40 houses of Christian families in less than half an hour, with many houses looted before being set on fire.

They claimed that a number of attackers belonged to the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and other extremist organisations.

The regional police officer told HRCP that many of the attackers had come from outside the district, possibly Jhang.

It said the local administration’s inaction was intriguing, adding that the tragic incidents were a “comprehensive failure” by the government to protect minorities.

Amid the assaults, the commission also noted that some Muslims in the neighbourhood provided shelter to Christian women fleeing the violence.

Home | Main

1.3mn IDPs entered Sindh; only 1,300 returned

DADU: Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party (STP) chairman Dr Qadir Magsi has claimed that 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Malakand and Fata had entered Sindh, but only 1,300 returned home.

Speaking at a rally in Mehar town on Tuesday, Dr Magsi said the Sindh government had registered only 1,300 IDPs who had been sent back.

Dr Magsi accused the Sindh government of turning a blind eye to the ‘influx of people’. ‘A large number of immigrants had entered the province from South Asian countries, including Burma and Bangladesh after 1954. They should be sent back.’

He alleged that the People’s Party government had betrayed Sindhis after winning votes in the name of Benazir Bhutto. ‘The PPP has given a free hand to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement for occupying government plots,’ he added.

Dr Magsi said the PPP had reneged on its pledge to repeal the 17th Amendment.

He said Sindhis had been turned into slaves after ‘usurpation of their resources’.

HUNGER STRIKE AGAINST OIL COMPANY: Some 50 people including growers, socials workers and jobless youths continued their hunger strike unto death on eighth day near Zamzama camp of the BHP oil company on Tuesday, demanding both skilled and unskilled jobs. A demonstration was also held near the main camp office of the company.

Leader of the Organising Committee, Jobless Youths Association, Mujeebur Rehman Panhwar alleged that a few days back 20 people belonging to Punjab and Karachi were appointed at the Zamzama gas field without advertising the posts. He said that even the cook and watchmen at the BHP camp belong to Punjab, while locals were neglected.

He said that recently 13 local employees were sacked and feared that more would be removed and replaced by people from other provinces.

Another leader, Dr Abdul Jabbar Babar alleged that handful officials had occupied main positions in the BHP company who were preparing policies against the local people.

Ayaz Ahmed, a leader of locals said that skin diseases were spreading among the villagers surrounding the Zamzama Gas Field, Johi because of the chemicals.

He alleged the major portion of the budget was used in other parts of country while these areas were neglected in the development projects.

Locals Waseem Ahmed, Ghulam Nabi, Aslam appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to take notice otherwise they will observe hunger strike in Garhi Khuda Bux.

Pakistanis in Swat fear Taliban come back

MINGORA, Pakistan — Frightened civilians fear the Taliban will pounce again on Pakistan's Swat as residents try to rebuild shattered lives in the mountain valley once likened to Switzerland.
Pakistan claims the military has "eliminated" the extremists, two years after they rose up under an militant cleric to enforce repressive Islamic laws and more than two months after launching a new offensive under US pressure.
But stringent security checks, unexploded ordnance and ruined homes lie in wait for some of Pakistan's nearly two million people displaced by fighting between government forces and Taliban militants across the northwest.
"I can smell them. I'm still afraid of them," said Badar Gul on the outskirts of Mingora, where his bus stalled in a snarl of vehicles carrying home people encouraged by the government to think the worst is over.
The 65-year-old Gul was headed with his five-member family to the northern town of Charbagh, desperate to leave his refugee camp but uncertain about the future in Swat, whose rich tourist industry was decimated by the Taliban.
"The Taliban may come back and the Taliban still have hideouts in the hilly areas," said Gul, whose bus was laid on by the government to repatriate families from Jalozai camp on the sweltering lowland plains.
Voluntary returns have been going on for weeks. An army spokesman claimed Tuesday that nearly 100,000 families have returned to Swat.
Pakistan launched its latest offensive to dislodge Taliban guerrillas from districts in and around the valley last April after rebels flouted a peace deal and advanced into new territory further south towards Islamabad.
Commanders say more than 1,800 militants and 166 security personnel have died but none of the most-wanted Taliban leadership in Swat have been killed or captured. Neither is there any independent confirmation of the death tolls.
"A year ago the government promised us that Swat was clear but Taliban rule returned. Now the government announced the same thing again. It's a total drama," said Gul.
Despite upbeat assessments from the military, skirmishes have continued and bodies can still be found dumped near roadsides. On Monday, fighter jets bombed Taliban hideouts killing at least five militants near Swat, officials said.
Homes in Gul's northern town were in ruins. Two mosques were destroyed, their roofs and walls reduced to rubble, said an AFP reporter.
Local police operated from a tent, their original building destroyed by militants. A school commandeered by the Taliban was razed.
"Only 10 percent of Charbagh residents have come back. It is the worst affected town," said Ghulam Nabbi, a 34-year-old local shopkeeper.
No women were seen walking the streets, even in the main Swat town of Mingora. Fear of Taliban reprisals for "inappropriate" dress or going out unaccompanied by a male relative have effectively confined most to their homes.
Militia destroyed hundreds of schools. Sadiqa Salih calls the Taliban her "big enemy" because her school on the outskirts of Mingora was one of those destroyed simply for teaching girls subjects deemed un-Islamic.
"I am sure they will come back. My father told me they are hiding in the mountains," the 18-year-old student told AFP from her family home.
A Mingora juice bar owner lacked all faith in the army, fed up with stringent security checks to and from work everyday.
"I cross seven checkpoints to get to my shop and the same when I return in the evening," said 35-year-old Amir Hamad.
"Twice they slapped me in the face," he told AFP in the main Mingora bazaar. Soldiers hit him first for not having an ID card and a second time accusing him of jumping the queue, he said.
Along the main road leading north through Swat from Mingora to Khwazakhela, soldiers were seen blasting confiscated ordnance at different places. The road was littered with empty shells and metal pieces, and myriad checkpoints.
"Taliban buried a lot of IEDs and mines in various places, especially on the roadside," administration official Attif Ur Rahman told AFP.
Security forces also demolished dozens of homes of militants and their supporters, and scores of shops were bulldozed or torched, Rahman said.

Pakistan army says Taliban training boys to fight

MINGORA, Pakistan — In a voice barely above a whisper, I.H. stared at his feet as he recounted haltingly how the Taliban kidnapped him and a classmate as they played in the street. They cleaned dishes for a few days in a militant training camp in northern Pakistan before escaping during Friday prayers, he said.
The Pakistani army says it has so far found 20 boys like I.H., who is only being identified by his initials for his safety, in the battle-scarred Swat Valley, scene of a major offensive against the Taliban this spring.
They believe the Taliban hoped to turn the boys into informants, fighters or even suicide bombers. Some escaped, others were rescued by authorities. Maj. Nasir Khan said many more are believed to be in the hands of militants.
Eleven such boys — the youngest only about 7 years old — were presented to journalists Monday at a military base in Swat's main town of Mingora.
The Taliban have been known to use children as fighters before in Afghanistan, and the army seems keen to capitalize on the boys' capture, hoping their stories will help turn public opinion against the militants.
The spring offensive in Swat — to clear the region of militants after they flouted a peace deal and expanded their area of control — was relatively popular in Pakistan. The government now hopes to extend its grip on Swat to prevent the Taliban fighters likely hiding in the mountains from mounting their own counteroffensive to regain control of the strategic area.
The U.S. sees Pakistan's ability to take on the Taliban as key to its own troops' success across the border in Afghanistan. But some Pakistanis support the Taliban, especially in the lawless tribal areas that border Afghanistan, and the army's military campaign against them also has involved public relations battles.
Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar could not be reached for comment on the militants' use of children.
The boys on Monday said they had spent time in training camps — though how long was unclear. They themselves mostly said just a few days, but the army said they were probably with the Taliban for a month or more.
Three of the boys appeared to be younger than 10 and were visibly traumatized, occasionally breaking down in tears. The others were mostly in their mid-teens. Of the six who spoke to the AP, most said they were made to clean dishes or undergo rigorous physical training. None said he had been trained to carry out a suicide attack.
Feriha Peracha, a clinical neuropsychologist called in by the army to assess the boys, said some of them were clearly depressed and traumatized. However, she said it was unlikely all had been kidnapped as they claimed.
"It's only one or two maximum out of this group that I would say was probably actually taken by force," Peracha said.
The Taliban have been known to persuade boys to join their ranks or even paid impoverished families to hand over a young future fighter, Khan said.
"They are like the Mafia. Some children are inspired by them. They command respect because people are afraid of them," he said.
Peracha said most of the boys she interviewed tested below average on intelligence tests and came from poor families, which may have made them easy targets for the militants. One displayed psychotic symptoms.
I.H., who said he's 12 but looks much younger, said he was snatched off the streets and driven to a training camp.
"We were just playing" in the village when a car drove up, he said. "They blindfolded us."
B.K., a 15-year-old from Mingora, said he was lured into a car.
"They took me to a mountain place that was a training center" where he and other boys were woken before dawn for prayers, followed by strenuous physical exercise, he said.
"I was told that I would be trained for jihad to fight against the army and to kill soldiers," he said, adding that there were another 50 to 60 boys at the camp. He said an uncle managed to negotiate his release.
M.K., a 16-year-old who already had some gray hair, said he was returning home after buying groceries when a car pulled up and offered him a lift. But when they reached the turn for his house, the bearded men in the car gagged and blindfolded him, and drove him to a training camp where there were about 250 other boys, aged between 12 and 18.
"They told us jihad (holy war) is the duty of every Muslim," M.K. said. He said he was told it was OK to kill your parents if they disagreed.
"I was shocked. I was thinking, how can someone kill their parents?" the boy said, his voice barely audible.
Khan said that once the boys are picked up by the army, they are questioned before they are allowed to return home.
Army officials took blood and hair samples from the boys Monday, to run DNA tests and to check whether any of them had been drugged while they were in the training camps.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Akthar Abbas said it's clear some of the boys were being trained as fighters or worse.
"They were being trained as suicide bombers. There is fear still at the back of their minds," he said.
Abbas said they are setting up a rehabilitation program for the boys to provide them with education and psychotherapy.
"We will try to convert them as useful society members."

Pakistan hurt by killing of Christians-church head

LONDON (Reuters) - The death of eight Christians burned alive in clashes with majority Muslims has diminished Pakistan and injured the Muslim faith, the spiritual head of the world's 77 million Anglicans said on Tuesday.

Four women and a child were among those killed in the violence which broke out in Punjab province, central Pakistan, on Saturday, after Muslims torched Christians' homes following allegations one had desecrated the Koran.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican church, called on the Pakistan government to protect the "small and vulnerable" Christian minority.

"The recent atrocities against Christians in Pakistan will sear the imaginations of countless people of all faiths throughout the world," he said in a statement.

"As the minister of law in the Punjab has already said, such actions are not the work of true Muslims: they are an abuse of real faith and an injury to its reputation as well as an outrage against common humanity, and deserve forthright condemnation.

"Those of us who love Pakistan and its people, whatever their faith, feel that the whole country is injured and diminished by the violence that has occurred."

Pope Benedict has said he was "deeply grieved" by the killings and has sent his condolences to Pakistani Christians.

A senior Pakistan government official said on Tuesday Islamist militants from groups linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban were suspected of being behind the mob violence in which 40 homes were burned.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country and religious minorities, including Christians, account for about 4 percent of the 170 million population.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said Christians needed to be assured they lived in a "just and peaceful society."

"They are disproportionately affected by the draconian laws against blasphemy, which in recent years have frequently been abused in order to settle local and personal grievances," he said.

Clinton Leaves N. Korea After 2 Journalists Are Pardoned

SEOUL, South Korea — Former President Bill Clinton left North Korea early Wednesday, the state news agency reported, after securing a pardon for two jailed American journalists from the reclusive North Korean president, Kim Jong-il. It was not immediately known whether the journalists were allowed to leave as well.

The official Korean Central News Agency issued a brief dispatch, news agencies reported, saying that Mr. Clinton and his party had left by plane.

The two journalists, Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, had been held by North Korea since being detained by North Korean soldiers along the Chinese border on March 17. They were on a reporting assignment from Current TV, a San Francisco-based media company co-founded by Al Gore, the former vice president.

They were eventually convicted and sentenced to 12 years at hard labor for “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry.” But they were held near Pyongyang rather than sent to a labor camp after the sentencing, raising hopes that North Korea might be willing to pardon them. The administration, which had initially said the charges were “baseless,” began discussing a possible “amnesty” for the women, signaling a readiness to acknowledge some degree of culpability in return for their freedom.

On Tuesday, the Ling and Lee families issued a joint statement on their Web site in which they thanked the Obama administration, President Clinton and “all the people who have supported our families through this ordeal.” They added that they were “counting the seconds to hold Laura and Euna in our arms.”

The pardon added to speculation among analysts in Seoul that North Korea, after months of raising tensions and hostile rhetoric towards Washington, may be ready to return to dialogue with Washington.

Tensions have been high since a nuclear test by the North on May 25 and the subsequent American-led effort to impose international sanctions against the North.

Administration officials sought to temper suggestions that Mr. Clinton would engage in sweeping discussions with Mr. Kim about North Korea’s nuclear program. His brief, one official said, was strictly limited to the imprisoned journalists.

Since its last short-range missile tests in early July, North Korea has refrained from taking any provocative actions, setting the stage for a possible return to dialogue. In recent weeks, it has indicated that it wanted one-on-one talks with Washington. The United States insists that such discussions are possible only within the six-nation talks involving other regional powers, a multilateral forum the North has declared “dead.”

Accompanying Mr. Clinton was John Podesta, who was his last chief of staff at the White House and is now an informal adviser to the Obama administration. Mr. Podesta, the president of the Center for American Progress, a research organization in Washington, is an influential player in Democratic policy circles. Mr. Clinton also brought longtime personal aides, including Douglas Band.

Kang Sok-ju, the first vice foreign minister and Mr. Kim’s most trusted adviser on Pyongyang’s relations with Washington, attended the meeting, and later in the evening the North’s National Defense Commission, the country’s top governing agency chaired by Mr. Kim, hosted a dinner party for Mr. Clinton, state media reported.

Mr. Clinton flew into Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, in an unmarked jet early Tuesday morning local time, Central TV, a North Korean station, reported. The White House confirmed the visit on Tuesday, but said it was a private mission.

“While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment,” Mr. Gibbs said in a statement. “We do not want to jeopardize the success of former President Clinton’s mission.”

It was widely assumed that Mr. Clinton would not have undertaken the mission without specific assurances that Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee would be released.

The last time an American official met with Mr. Kim was in October 2000, when Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Mr. Clinton’s top envoy, traveled to Pyongyang. Mr. Kim reportedly suffered a stroke last August, raising uncertainty about his health and the future of his regime.

Television footage from Pyongyang showed Mr. Clinton being greeted at the airport by North Korean officials including the chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan and Yang Hyong-sop, the vice parliamentary speaker. The footage showed him smiling and bowing as a young girl presented him with flowers. Photographs released by North Korea showed Mr. Clinton sitting next to a thin, though not sickly looking, Mr. Kim.

The Obama administration had been considering for weeks whether to send a special envoy to North Korea. The visit by Mr. Clinton, even if officially a private effort, was clearly undertaken with the blessings of the White House, and marked his first diplomatic mission abroad on behalf of the administration. Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been deeply involved in the journalists’ case.

Mr. Clinton is the first former American president to travel to North Korea since 1994, when Jimmy Carter went to Pyongyang — with Mr. Clinton’s half-hearted blessing — to try to strike a deal to suspend the North’s nuclear work in return for concessions from the United States. Ultimately that led to a 1994 nuclear accord, which froze North Korea’s production of plutonium until the deal fell apart in 2002.

As president, Mr. Clinton was initially ambivalent about Mr. Carter’s intervention. But Mr. Carter’s trip also proved that a former president could break a logjam, and Mr. Clinton has some cards to play with the North. In December, 2000, the last days of his presidency, he came close to traveling to the country in hopes of striking a deal to contain North Korea’s missiles. Mr. Clinton ultimately decided not to go because the deal was not pre-cooked, and his advisers feared he would be appearing desperate for an end-of-presidency deal.

Relations with the North deteriorated rapidly under the Bush administration, with the North renouncing the 1994 nuclear agreement, harvesting enough plutonium for approximately eight nuclear weapons and conducting a nuclear test. Mr. Obama never had time to get talks off the ground with the North before it conducted a second nuclear test and terminated the one significant deal it struck with the Bush administration. It is in the process of restarting its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon.

It is not clear whether the timing is propitious for Mr. Clinton to revive the broader relationship, with Mr. Kim in failing health after a stroke last summer and the North Korean leadership facing an apparent succession struggle.

In fact, the jailing of Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee came amid a period of heightened tensions following the second nuclear device in May and the subsequent launchings of several ballistic missiles.

In recent months, the White House has marshaled support at the United Nations for strict sanctions against the North Korean government, including a halt to all weapons sales and a crackdown on its financial ties.

But the administration has tried to keep its diplomatic campaign separate from this case, which American officials have portrayed as a humanitarian issue, appealing to North Korea to return the women to their families.

“Their detainment is not something that we’ve linked to other issues, and we hope the North Koreans don’t do that, either,” Mr. Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said to reporters in June.

Bill Clinton in N. Korea for journalists

(CNN) -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton landed in North Korea early Tuesday on a mission to negotiate the release of two American journalists imprisoned there since March, according to the country's state news agency and a CNN source.
The North Korean news agency KCNA did not disclose the purpose of the visit in its three-line dispatch. But a source with detailed knowledge of the former president's movements told CNN late Monday that Clinton was going to seek the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, both reporters for California-based Current TV -- media venture launched by Clinton's former vice president, Al Gore.

Meeting Clinton were the vice president of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, Yang Hyong Sop, and Kim Kye Gwan, the vice foreign minister, KCNA reported, adding that "a little girl presented a bouquet to Bill Clinton."

The women were arrested while reporting on the border between North Korea and China and sentenced in June to 12 years in prison on charges of entering the country illegally to conduct a smear campaign.

Since the United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, efforts to resolve the issue so far have been handled through Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in the reclusive communist state.
Last month, Clinton's wife -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- said the Obama administration had dropped its request for Ling and Lee to be released on humanitarian grounds and instead was seeking amnesty, which implies forgiveness for an offense.

This change in language is an important distinction that could move North Korea to release the women without feeling that its legal system has been slighted, according to analyst Mike Chinoy.
"I suspect that it was made pretty clear in advance that Bill Clinton would be able to return with these two women otherwise it would be a terrible loss of face for him," said Chinoy, an Edgerton Senior Fellow on Asia at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles. "The bigger, broader and more important question is what else could be on the agenda. Will Clinton be carrying a letter from Barack Obama for the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il? Will he meet Kim Jong Il?"

Clinton's mission comes as the United States and its allies in the region are trying to push North Korea back into stalled nuclear disarmament talks. North Korea conducted a nuclear bomb test, its second, in May, and has conducted several missile tests since then. The United Nations responded by tightening and expanding sanctions on the North.The two nations were on opposite sides in the 1950-1953 Korean War and had no regular contacts before a 1994 crisis over North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea agreed at that time to halt the development of nuclear weapons, but abandoned that accord and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.

Clinton had considered visiting North Korea in 2000 near the end of his second term as president. His secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, had gone to Pyongyang in early 2000 to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il -- now widely reported to be ill.

Rocket attack on Afghan capital, two hurt

Eight rockets struck the Afghan capital Tuesday, including one that landed near the US embassy, wounding a man and a child, the government said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the dawn attacks, saying its fighters targeted Afghan soldiers and the Kabul international airport. Eight rockets landed in various parts of the city, at least one of them in the US embassy's neighbourhood and others near the airport and in the east, the interior ministry said.

Four soldiers killed in Miramshah clash

MIRAMSHAH: At least four security officials and three civilians were killed in a clash between security forces and militants in Miramshah, official sources told DawnNews.

Sources say the clash erupted after suspected militants attacked a security forces check post late Monday, killing four security officials and injuring six.

After a battle that lasted for nearly two hours, security forces retaliated and pounded militant hideouts.

Three civilians were killed and four others were injured in the clash.

Shahbaz Sharif visits Gojra on Tuesday

GOJRA: After eight people lost their lives and hundreds were injured, on the fourth day of the Gojra riots, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif visited the city and consoled the families of the deceased.