Friday, August 14, 2009

Rockets hit Peshawar

PESHAWAR: A young girl was injured as one of the six rockets fired at the city hit her on Friday. The rockets, which were fired at the provincial capital from an unknown place in the early hours of Friday, landed in various areas. The incident is second in less than a week period.“A rocket hit the house of a prayer leader, Noorul Haq, inside Masjid Aqsa in Gulberg. The projectile damaged a part of the house and mosque and injured minor daughter of the prayer leader.Another rocket landed in the Postal Colony, a public sector residential area on Kohat Road, while one fell near a dump in Amin Colony. “Both the devices did not cause any casualty or damage,” stated Syed Atiq Shah, the station house officer of Bhanamari Police Station. A shell landed near the Peshawar International Airport in Pishtakhara, while two others fell in the jurisdiction of the Badaber Police Station. There were reports that one rocket landed on the airport’s runway. Another also hit the runway but didn’t explode.

Battle to continue until militants eliminated: Hoti

PESHAWAR: The Independence Day was celebrated across the Frontier(PUKHTUNKHWA) province with national zeal and fervour on Friday.In Peshawar various colourful functions were held. The main flag hoisting ceremony was held at Malik Saad Khan Shaheed Police Lines where NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti was chief guest.
Throwing light on importance of the day, he recalled the sacrifices rendered by the people for creation of the country and said that the credit went to those who fought against the British Raj.‘Our province is playing as frontline region against terrorism. Terrorists are trying to snatch our independence but we will never let them do so and continue to fight them till complete elimination of anti-state elements,’ he vowed.In order to defeat the extremists and militants, he said it was need of the hour that people irrespective of their political affiliation, colour, creed and region should take a united stand and come forward and support the government.Referring to the sufferings of the people of Malakand, he said the provincial government faced serious challenges including financial constraints but did not bow to the terrorists and managed to facilitate the internally displace persons.He said Pakhtuns revived the country’s history by supporting the displaced people. He appreciated the people of Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshera and other host districts.

North Korea’s “Dear Leader” opens umbrella boom

Kim Jong-il may be at the forefront of a fashion trend that has just hit the streets of Pyongyang: Using oversized umbrellas as parasols.The North Korean leader started travelling this year with a soldier whose job is to carry a large black umbrella to protect him from the sun.Kim, called the “Dear Leader” by his state’s official media, has been trailed by his umbrella bearer on many occasions since he returned to the public scene earlier this year after suffering a suspected stroke a year ago.The iconic traffic ladies of Pyongyang have been swept up in the trend inspired by Kim.
Visitors to the North Korean capital have a hard time forgetting the young women who stand at major intersections in uniforms and direct the few cars on the road with gestures that seem inspired by military drill sergeants and professional boxers. Pyongyang does not have traffic lights. One of the few state secrets that residents of the North Korean capital will share with foreign visitors is that these women are often selected for their looks.It appears Kim, who is also greatly concerned about their access to make-up, was behind the umbrella proliferation:“The traffic controllers are moved by the warm affection shown for them by General Secretary Kim Jong-il who saw to it that the platforms with umbrellas are being set up this time after raincoats, rain boots, sunglasses, gloves and cosmetics as well as seasonal uniforms were provided to them,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said on Thursday.
(PIcture at top: North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visits the Yeonsa district revolution battlefield at an undisclosed place in North Korea, in an undated photo released by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency May 24, 2009. The photo of the traffic policewoman was released on August 13, 2009.)

Karzai leading ahead of Afghan election

KABUL – President Hamid Karzai holds a strong lead in the Afghan presidential race but is still short of the majority he needs for a first-round victory, according to a poll released Friday with less than a week to go before the balloting.
The poll by a U.S. government-funded group suggests turnout will be crucial, especially in the Pashtun south — the president's support base where Taliban fighters have been warning voters to stay away from the polls.
Ahead of next Thursday's vote, there are fears that election tension could boil over into street violence if presidential losers allege massive fraud. Opposition candidates have been accusing Karzai and his team of using state resources to ensure re-election. Local and international monitors are convinced there will be voter irregularities.
According to the latest poll, Karzai remains the leading candidate in a crowded field of three dozen contenders with about 44 percent support, a rise of 13 percentage points from a poll conducted in May.
Karzai's main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, trailed at 26 percent — a dramatic increase over the 7 percent he received in the May poll.
If no candidate wins over 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will face a run-off in early October. That could lead to a coalition uniting around a single candidate to try to defeat Karzai.
The poll, based on face-to-face interviews with 2,400 people between July 16 and 26, was funded by the International Republican Institute, a non-governmental group that receives money from USAID, the U.S. government aid arm. The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
Karzai, meanwhile, took his campaign Friday to the western city of Herat, where he won the public endorsement of Energy Minister Ismail Khan, the political czar of the region.
Karzai told a crowd of several thousand that if re-elected, his first priority would be to initiate talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
About 90 percent of the respondents in the latest poll said they planned to vote, despite Taliban threats to disrupt the balloting. Election authorities have said about 10 percent of nearly 7,000 polling centers will likely remain shut, most of them because of bad security.
The threat is the greatest in the south and east, where the country's ethnic Pashtuns live. Karzai, himself a Pashtun, could see his totals lowered if insurgent violence keeps Afghans there from voting.
In an effort to encourage voting, village elders in the south are trying to broker election day cease-fire agreements with Taliban commanders, according to Karzai's brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai.
"Local elders in some of the far-flung villages are just meeting with some small group commanders to not bother people during elections and let them vote," he told The Associated Press.
However, a Taliban spokesman denied any talks were under way.
"We are denying any deals with anyone," Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmedi told the AP by telephone. "Don't listen to those liars. There is no truth to any talk of a cease-fire. People should not go to vote. The Taliban has no agreement with the government."
In the southern province of Helmand, U.S. Marines have been trying to secure the strategic town of Dahaneh to cut Taliban supply lines and enable the government to open a polling station there.
After two days of fighting, Marines helped Afghan officers raise the Afghan flag over the town Friday after tribal elders assured the Americans there were no Taliban left there.
Soon after the flag-raising ceremony, the Marine base in the town came under small arms, machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, sending Marines running for cover.
A patrol was sent out to find the gunmen and ended up locked in a lengthy gunfight which continued into the night.
Elsewhere, a suicide bomber attacked an Afghan army base in southern Afghanistan on Friday, killing a soldier and wounding four other people, an official said. The bomber rammed his vehicle into the base's gate in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, the provincial governor's spokesman. Three civilians and a soldier were among the wounded, he said.
In the capital, meanwhile, two rockets were fired at Kabul's airport Friday but caused no damage or casualties, said U.S. military spokesman Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo. It was the second rocket attack on the capital this month.
Taliban militants took responsibility for the previous attack.
Kabul is heavily guarded by Afghan security forces, and authorities say rockets fired from a distance are the only weapon insurgents can use against the capital.

Marines try a woman's touch to reach Afghan hearts

KHAWJA JAMAL, Afghanistan – Put on body armor, check weapons, cover head and shoulders with a scarf.
That was the drill for female American Marines who set out on patrol this week with a mission to make friends with Afghan women in a war zone by showing respect for Muslim standards of modesty.
The all-female unit of 46 Marines is the military's latest innovation in its rivalry with the Taliban for the populace's loyalty. Afghan women are viewed as good intelligence sources, and more open to the basics of the military's hearts-and-minds effort — hygiene, education and an end to the violence.
"It's part of the effort to show we're sensitive to local culture," said Capt. Jennifer Gregoire, of East Strasburg, Pa. She leads the Female Engagement Team in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.
"If you show your hair, its kind of like seeing a nude picture here, because women are very covered up," she said.
Women are technically barred from combat units in the Marines, and some infantrymen have been surprised to see them in brightly colored head scarves under their helmets, deployed in the most intense combat zones in the country.
"But ... I think they understand that what we're doing is vital to operations and vital to the counterinsurgency program they want to run," said Gregoire.
Women soldiers were assigned to search women at checkpoints in Iraq, and the experience fed into the Afghan effort, said Cpl. Sarah Furrer, from Colorado Springs, Colo., who served in both war zones.
"I'm not married and I don't have children, so they think that's awkward because I'm 24," Furrer said of her Iraq experience. But as a result, "we're not so much afraid of engaging the women" in Afghanistan, she said.
"I've found you get great intel from the female population," said Capt. Zachary Martin, who commands the Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, stationed in Now Zad. "The women don't want their men out there conducting jihad and getting killed."
Martin said units have frequently received tips from women about weapons caches or hidden bombs.
But just to find the women is a challenge. There were none in sight as Gregoire's team entered Khwaja Jamal, a village of mud brick homes with no electricity or government presence.
While heavily armed Marines fanned out, the four women started by trying to strike up conversations with the few old men and young children who ventured outdoors.
The several hundred villagers grow wheat and opium poppies in the crossfire between Marines and Taliban fighters who are in the woods less than a mile away.
"They look at us through binoculars. They'll kill anybody who talks to the Americans," said Abdul Gayom to explain why the villagers were so wary of meeting the patrol.
1st Lt. Victoria Sherwood was undaunted, talking to him through her Afghan translator. She gave him painkillers for his back, and small presents for the children timidly clustering around. Some of them begged to try on her sunglasses, and promptly made off with them.
Sherwood, from Woodbury, Conn., got Gayom to promise he might let her into his compound to meet his wife, who he said with a shrug is "so old, the Taliban probably won't care."
But there was a snag: The translator was male. Could he be in the wife's presence? "No way," said Gayom, then asked the Marines for more medicine and goods.
Deeper in the village, an elderly woman eventually appeared on a doorstep. Gusha Halam claimed she was 120 — so old she could do what she pleased. Her black head scarf left her wrinkled face uncovered and revealed some hair, dyed bright orange with henna.
"The Taliban took everything from us. Make them leave," Halam said, before her sons and grandsons arrived, stopped the conversation and hustled her indoors.

Britons defend their health care from US criticism

LONDON – Britons reacted with outrage Friday at American criticism of the country's health care system and defended their cradle-to-grave medical coverage on Twitter, television and in the tabloids.
Right-wing attacks on President Barack Obama's health reform plans have struck a nerve in Britain, where residents broadly take for granted their universal coverage under the state-funded National Health Service — and look askance at the millions of Americans without insurance.
"Land of the Fee," declared the Daily Mirror in reference to the United States' high-charging health model. The London newspaper called the "lies and distortions" being circulated in the United States about the National Health Service "truly sickening."
"Jaw droppingly untruthful," said the British Medical Association's chairman, Hamish Meldrum.
"NHS often makes the difference between pain and comfort, despair and hope, life and death," Prime Minister Gordon Brown tweeted. "Thanks for always being there."
Even British health campaigner Kate Spall — who criticizes NHS failings in U.S. television ads produced by Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a lobby group that opposes Obama's plans — declared that the group had misled her and was distorting her true views. Spall's mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment.
"There are failings in the system but I'm not anti-NHS at all," Spall told the British Broadcasting Corp.
"I help the vulnerable patients in our country that come to me for help, those that have been denied treatment," she said. "So the irony is, the people that are falling through the net in the U.S. are patients that I would support anyway."
Britain's opposition Conservative Party is distancing itself from its maverick member of European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, who has criticized the NHS on U.S. news programs.
Conservative leader David Cameron dismissed Hannan as having "eccentric views."
In an e-mail to Conservative Party workers published on his blog, Cameron said millions, including his own family, were grateful for NHS-provided care.
"Just look at all the support which the NHS has received on Twitter over the last couple of days," he wrote. "It is a reminder — if one were needed — of how proud we in Britain are of the NHS."
The NHS, founded in 1948, is the cornerstone of the United Kingdom's welfare state.
About 12 percent of the UK's 61 million residents have private insurance, but the vast majority rely on state-funded emergency care, surgery and access to family doctors. Even those who complain about the system say they want it improved, not dismantled.
British officials acknowledge that their system has been struggling to cope and faces a 15 billion pound ($24 billion) deficit. Hospitals are often overcrowded, dirty and understaffed, which means some patients do not get the care they are promised.

Dil Se Pakistani

Festivities in full swing to celebrate independence

Festivities are in full swing across the country, as nation celebrates the 63rd Independence Day with traditional zeal and national enthusiasm.Various programs were organized in the Federal Capital as well as provincial capitals of the country to mark the event.The day dawned with 31 gun salutes in the Capital and 21 each in the four provinces, followed by special prayers in mosques across the country for the progress, prosperity and stability of Pakistan.A smartly turned out contingent of the Pakistan Naval Academycadets mounted guard at the Quaid's Mausoleum. Representatives of three services laid Inter Services FloralWreath at the Mazar of quaid-e-Azam and offered dua.The central flag hoisting ceremony was organized at Convention Centre Islamabad where Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani hoisted the national flag. Members of the Federal Cabinet, Army Chief, Speaker National Assembly, Chiefs of Armed Forces and other dignitaries attended the program.Flag hoisting ceremonies were also held in all the big and small cities of the country including the four provincial capitals – Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta – besides Muzafarabad, capital of Azad Kashmir.
Sindh Governor Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah hoisted the national flag in Karachi.Similar ceremony was held at Huzuri Bagh in Lahore where Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was the chief guest.The Malakand affectees also took active part in the independence day celebrations, as an atmosphere of festivities was witnessed in the relief camps.The IDPs who returned to Swat are also celebrating the countries freedom with passion.

Obama visits Mountain West, knowing vulnerability

DENVER – Perhaps no region of the country better illustrates Barack Obama's political vulnerabilities than the mountain West.
He's hoping to ease some of those concerns in a Western swing blending town hall appearances and visits to national parks beginning Friday.
Democrats have made recent election inroads in the region by successfully courting independents, Republican crossovers and conservative-to-moderate loyalists in their own party. But it's these very voters — gun owners, civil libertarians, private property advocates — who seem to be turning away from the president across the country because of deep-seated concerns about expanding government and soaring budget deficits.
They are people who bristle at big business bailouts and decry government's reach into their own lives. They don't see Obama's stimulus plan jump-starting the economy or boosting employment. They fret about the enormous price tags of his sweeping proposals to overhaul health care and revamp energy policy.
"People are ready to see him move beyond the rhetoric. People want to see jobs come back. We want to see the economy recover. So we're still, I think, waiting to see that," says Chris Lawson, 30, who voted for Obama last fall and says he doesn't regret it. The Littleton, Colo., resident expressed worries about health care in particular, saying: "We are clearly moving toward more government in more people's lives. ... That's not a good thing, more government."
Another Obama voter, Eric Schreiber, 44, of Denver argued it's too early to judge the president. But, he added, Obama definitely hasn't sold him on the health care overhaul. "It's a good idea to do health reform, but I think everybody wants to know more about how it will work," Schreiber said.
Obama is hoping he can allay such worries as he promotes his plan at town hall-style events in reliably Republican areas: Friday in Belgrade, Mont., and Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., near the Utah state line. The first family also plans to visit Yellowstone and Grand Canyon to highlight the country's national parks.
In a nod to his surroundings, the president plans to try out the classic Western sport of fly-fishing for the first time Friday, using a new reel that was a birthday present from some avid fishermen on his staff and accompanied by a guide — but not any media.
Just eight months ago, the president took office with sky-high job approval ratings, the first Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson to win the White House with more than 50 percent of the popular vote. He did it by cobbling together support that spanned the ideological spectrum. He pulled new voters — particularly left-leaning young people and minorities — into the process and turned out his Democratic base in droves. And independents, disaffected Republicans and middle-of-the-road Democrats put him over the top.
That coalition — coupled with a national desire for change after years of Republican George W. Bush — made it possible for Obama to win a slew of states that hadn't voted for a Democrat in years, Colorado and Nevada, among them. He also won New Mexico, a perennial swing state, came very close to winning Montana, and lost by just 9 percentage points in Republican John McCain's home state of Arizona. Still, Obama lost badly in ultraconservative Republican bastions, including Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.
Since his inauguration, Obama has watched his support slide nationally. It hovered at 55 percent in a recent AP-GfK poll, though other surveys show him under 50 percent.
Out-of-power Republicans have tagged Obama as a classic big-spending, big-government liberal, and those gripes may have resonated with independents and centrists who polls show have turned away from Obama or whose support is soft. The GOP's message may be particularly well-received in the mountain West, a region traditionally wary of the federal government.
"Democrats had some success last year. Since then, I think the president has slipped not just a little but a great deal," said Dave Hansen, head of the Utah GOP who once held the same position in Montana. "He's a charming, charismatic guy, but all of a sudden the issues are taking over, and it's not going over well."
Tracking polls by Gallup from January through June show that of the 10 states where Obama's approval rating was the lowest, five are in the mountain West. They include the two states Obama is visiting this weekend as well as Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
Those findings raise the question: Will the recent Democratic successes in the region last?
"I don't think we can say that yet," said Bob Loevy, a political scientist at Colorado College.
Certainly Obama's successful nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court will help with the region's rapidly growing Hispanic communities, a pivotal Democratic-leaning constituency. And future trips to the West are certain between now and midterm elections next fall.
For its part, the GOP in the mountain West has its work cut out for it.
The party can't seem to even field strong candidates to challenge incumbent Democrats. Most recently, Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., decided against challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year in Nevada, even though the Democrat's job performance numbers are dismal.

Pakistan's tribal areas to get parliamentary reps

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan lifted a ban on political activities in its tribal regions on Friday, granting the areas close to Afghan border parliamentary representation for the first time in the hopes it would reduce the grip of the Taliban there.
Pakistan's seven semiautonomous agencies have never been politically and administratively integrated into the rest of the country — a vacuum that observers say has allowed lawlessness and an al-Qaida- and Taliban-led militancy to thrive there.
"This breaks the monopoly of clerics to play politics from the pulpit of the mosque to the exclusion of major secular political parties," said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for President Asif Ali Zardari "It empowers the locals and weakens the extremists."
Since the days of British colonial rule, the region's 4 million people have been ruled by government-appointed agents in concert with tribal leaders. They are subject to tribal laws that allow for detention without trial and communal punishment among other unpopular measures.
Babar said Friday's announcement did not reduce the powers of the political agent or modify the laws, but would mean that political parties could campaign there and represent the region in the national parliament after the next elections in 2013.
Since 2001, the border region has become a haven for militants behind surging violence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Visiting Western officials have called on Islamabad to integrate it with the rest of the nuclear-armed country as a means of reducing militancy there.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik appealed to the militants to surrender to the government, urging them to "say goodbye to terrorism and start a new life" in televised comments to the media.
The call could be a sign the government is seeking to exploit any potential weaknesses in the militant movement since Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was reportedly killed in a CIA missile strike on Aug. 5. U.S. and Pakistani officials believe he is dead, though his followers contend he is still alive.
Pakistani officials have called on the militants to surrender before, but with little success. The level of behind-the-scenes contact between the two sides is unknown.
U.S. and Western officials have said reaching out to moderate Taliban will likely be a major part of any solution to the raging insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan, but have been concentrating on urging Pakistan to fight the extremists, not talk with them.
Pakistan launched an operation against militants close to the border in the Swat Valley earlier this year after they violated the terms of a peace deal. It claims to have killed more than 1,200 extremists there and brought the region under government control.

Pakistan marks 62nd Independence Day

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 14 -- Pakistan Friday celebrated its 62nd Independence Day with traditional zeal and fervor and firm determination to safeguard security and solidarity of the country in the face of diverse challenges, local TV channels reported.President Asif Ali Zardari in a message to the nation on Independence day urged the nation to adhere to principles of democracy and human rights to banish dictatorship, militancy and extremism and provide economic opportunities for all in the country. He said "we should also rededicate ourselves to uphold the principles for which Pakistan was created."Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani unfurled the national flag in Jinnah Convention Center in Islamabad. When addressing the gathering, he said terrorism and extremism are the biggest challenges to Pakistan, and the country also faces economy and energy crisis. Gilani said the government's priority is economic growth and there is a need to create harmony in Pakistani society.It is a public holiday. With the dawn of this day, special prayers were held in mosques for the progress and prosperity of the country. Celebrations began with a 31-gun salute in the Federal Capital Islamabad and 21-gun salute in all the four provincial capitals. At 0158 GMT, all vehicular traffic stopped for two minutes with the sounding of sirens and national anthem played at 0200GMT.A change of the guard ceremony at the mausoleum of Pakistan's founder Quaid-e-Mohammed Ali Jinnah also took place in southern Pakistan's city of Karachi, where a contingent of Pakistan Naval Academy assumed charge of the guard. Later, the Naval Academy Commandant laid wreath on the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan and offered "Fateha" for the salvation of the soul of the great leader of Muslims of sub-continent.The Independence Day celebrations, which kicked off midnight Thursday rose to it height this morning, which would continue for the whole day, as the ruling Pakistan People's Party as well as other major political parties are all set to celebrate the historic day in a dignified manner by hoisting national and party flags, while the electronic and print media have planned comprehensive programs.Keeping alive previous traditions, all the government and private buildings have been illuminated. People, all over the country have decorated their houses, shopping centers and offices with national flags, banners, lightings, paintings and balloons, particularly in green and white colors. Pakistani police and other law-enforcement agencies put security on high alert to avert any terror strike on the independence day. Police sources said a heavy contingent of security officials had been deployed at sensitive points in cantonment areas and international hotels in the capital of Islamabad and the garrison city Rawalpindi.Pakistan's Independence Day is observed on Aug. 14, the day on which Pakistan became independent from the British rule in 1947.

U.S. Detains Journalist Fleeing Pakistan Threats

U.S. immigration officials have detained a Pakistani journalist employed by the U.S.-sponsored Voice of America news service who was hoping to find refuge in the United States after Islamic militants in Pakistan destroyed his house and threatened his life.

Rahman Bunairee, 33, was taken into custody Sunday afternoon upon arriving at Dulles International Airport, according to VOA officials.

It is not clear why Bunairee was detained.

Joan Mower, a spokeswoman for VOA, declined to comment on the particulars of Bunairee's detention other than to say: "VOA is obviously extremely concerned. We're really upset about what's happened to this guy."

Cori Bassett, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed that Bunairee is in the agency's custody but said she could not release further details because of privacy reasons.

Bunairee, in addition to filing reports for VOA's Pashto-language radio service, is a popular reporter with the privately owned Pakistani broadcaster Khyber TV. He is usually based in the southern port city of Karachi, but he is originally from the Buner district of Pakistan's embattled North-West Frontier Province near the Afghanistan border, where the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups are active. He recently returned to that region to cover a series of major offensives against the militants by the Pakistani military.

In the past, the militants enjoyed a measure of support, or at least tolerance, among many Pakistanis. But the public mood shifted markedly against the militants this spring, partly because of local media reports about their cruel practices in Buner and other districts then under their control.

On July 7, Bunairee participated in a VOA call-in radio show in which he discussed the Taliban's continued presence in Buner despite a major campaign by the Pakistani military to oust them last May, Mower said.

Two nights later, several dozen armed militants went to Bunairee's family compound in Buner.

Bunairee was not there. The militants told his father that because Bunairee was "speaking against them," they had orders to destroy the house. The men allowed Bunairee's family, including his wife and four children, to leave, then ransacked the house and leveled it with explosives.

That night in the Buner district, militants bombed the home of another journalist, Behroz Khan, a reporter for Pakistan's English daily, the News.

Most recently, Taliban militants flattened the houses of at least six journalists in the neighboring district of Swat before fleeing advancing Pakistani forces, according to Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Soon after Bunairee's home was destroyed, gunmen scaled the wall surrounding Khyber TV's bureau in Karachi, several hundred miles south of Buner, and announced that they were looking for him, Dietz said.

Alarmed, officials at VOA arranged to bring Bunairee to the United States on a J-1 visa, often used by research institutions to bring in scholars and experts on temporary visits.

"We're expanding our Pashto broadcasting, and he was going to be working on that," Mower said.

Dietz stressed that Bunairee was not seeking to relocate to the United States but wanted to spend some time outside Pakistan until matters cooled.

He added that he was particularly concerned about the message that Bunairee's detention sends.

"It's mortifying," he said. "Here's a journalist who has performed a valuable service by reporting from an area critical to U.S. security. And our country is slamming the door in his face."

Zardari unveils Pakistan tribal belt reform

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari unveiled political reforms in the country's tribal belt Friday in a bid to extricate the lawless region from the grip of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.
Pakistan's seven federally administered tribal areas (FATA) have become a stronghold for hundreds of extremists who fled after the US-led invasion toppled the hardline Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan in late 2001.
"From today political activities will be started and be allowed in FATA," Zardari told senior politicians in a speech marking the 62nd independence day since Pakistan was created out of the Indian sub-continent.
Political activities were previously banned in FATA, where politicians were subject to arrest. Zardari's announcement was seen as an effort to draw the lawless region closer into national politics.
"In the long run we must defeat the militant mindset to defend our country, our democracy, our institutions and our way of life," Zardari was quoted as saying by state news agency APP during his overnight address.
Although his civilian government is weak, Zardari is a key ally in US President Barack Obama's strategy to defeat Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where 100,000 US and NATO troops are deployed.
Pakistani and US officials believe that Pakistan's public enemy number one, Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, was killed last week during a US spy plane attack on his South Waziristan tribal stronghold.
Mehsud's Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan movement appears to have been thrown into turmoil following his presumed death and analysts have urged Pakistan to now bolster efforts to eliminate militants in tribal strongholds.
Pakistan has waged countless military operations in the tribal belt, most recently a six-month offensive that killed hundreds of people in Bajaur, which the military announced in February was secure.