Monday, August 24, 2009

Pakistan briefs ‘friends’ on Malakand rehabilitation project

ISTANBUL: Pakistani officials on Monday briefed senior officials from the Friends of Pakistan forum on the ‘Malakand Pilot Project’, a report on the next summit of the forum and public-private partnerships to boost trade in Pakistan.

Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar, US special envoy Richard Holbrooke and representatives of 20 countries and six international organisations participated in the meeting.

After the first session, Pakistan tabled the Malakand project. The participants were also briefed on a business leaders’ meeting held on the sidelines of the senior officials’ meeting.

Complete rehabilitation: Following the first session, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said that Pakistan was trying to engage the private sector of “friends” for a greater inflow of investment and to boost trade activities.

“We presented the Malakand project at the meeting, and told the member countries that the complete rehabilitation of internally displaced persons would take five years,” he said.

He said that socio-economic development was sustainable in Pakistan, and “we have made a comprehensive project which has drawn considerable support from the forum friends”.

Replying to a question, the spokesman said the current meeting was not aimed at raising funds, but to attract investment in short, medium and long term projects for the reconstruction of infrastructure in Malakand.

About investment opportunities, he said hundreds companies from the US, China, the UK, Turkey and several other countries were working in Pakistan and earning “huge profits”. He said not a single company has left Pakistan because of security concerns, as “the overall security situation has improved greatly”.

The spokesman said the meeting of business leaders had shown great interest in Pakistan’s energy sector.

Senior officials attending the meeting praised Pakistan’s strategy to overcome security and development challenges.

The meeting agreed that public-private partnerships would be strengthened within the framework of the forum.

Hamid Karzai 're-elected' by landslide, poll data shows
Early figures from campaign team observers suggest Mr Karzai won 72 per cent of the vote with his closest rival Abdullah Abdullah gaining 23 per cent.
A further 2 million votes from southern Afghanistan have yet to be tallied, but they are in areas where Mr Karzai was predicted to have a strong showing.
The figures were obtained by the The Daily Telegraph from a campaign team which had observers at polling stations. An analyst confirmed: "That's in line with what we are hearing."
If confirmed, the scale of the win will provoke accusations of vote-rigging and electoral officials said yesterday they were already investigating dozens of complaints of fraud on a scale profound enough to sway the result.
The first provisional results are not expected until Tuesday, with final results following weeks later after complaint rulings. Early figures could change as suspect ballot boxes or polling stations are disallowed.
Mr Karzai had needed more than 50 per cent of the vote to avoid a second round run off against his former foreign minister.
One analyst said the scale of the apparent landslide raised the possibility Mr Karzai had legitimately swung large numbers of voters in the north after deals with strongmen including the militia leader General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
However it will be hotly contested after the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) said it had received 225 complaints since polls opened on Thursday for the presidential and provincial council elections.
Grant Kippen, head of the commission, said some allegations were of irregularities on a scale large enough to alter the outcome of the poll.
He said: "Thirty five have been assigned a high priority and these are ones that we had to deem to be material to the outcome of the election results."
He said the most common complaint among the high priority cases was ballot box tampering and the number was still rising as reports arrived from remote areas.
Mr Karzai and Dr Abdullah both said they were headed for an outright victory the day after polling.
Afghan electoral officials called on candidates and the media not to report on estimated results.
Dr Abdullah, the former foreign minister, said his campaign team had received alarming reports of irregularity.
He said: "There might have been thousands of violations throughout the country, no doubt about it.".
His allegations were dismissed by a spokesman for the Karzai campaign, who said it had also filed complaints about Dr Abdullah's supporters' activities.
Waheed Omer said unsuccessful campaigns would file complaints to "try to justify their loss".
The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan said on Saturday that it had recorded instances of multiple voting and underage voting.
But international observer missions including the European Union and International Republican Institute, said despite reports of irregularities, the vote had been "credible" and "generally fair".
Richard Holbrooke, United States envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said complaints of vote rigging were to be expected.
He said: "We have disputed elections in the United States. There may be some questions here.
"That wouldn't surprise me at all. I expect it. But let's not get out ahead of the situation."

Vote fraud allegations increase in Afghanistan

KABUL — Afghan presidential candidate Ramazan Bashardost jumped out of his chair Sunday when he saw the news photographers and started yelling at election officials who were tallying votes in a warehouse."Some documents have no serial numbers," he shouted, pointing at a stack of papers.Soon representatives of another candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, and of President Hamid Karzai entered the fray, screaming and gesturing. Startled workers kept their heads down and continued to examine documents.
There are no hanging chads, but Afghanistan's electoral process is starting to resemble the Florida recount effort in 2000 even before preliminary results are announced Tuesday. Afghanistan's second presidential election since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001 has created political uncertainty as officials attempt to count the votes amid fraud allegations from all sides.Election officials say it will take weeks to sort through the ballots and investigate the allegations before knowing who the next president is.About 225 complaints have been filed with Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commission, including 35 serious enough to sway the results if confirmed, the commission announced Sunday. The serious allegations concern intimidation and stuffing of ballot boxes. Many more complaints, from voters and campaigns, are likely to be filed as ballot boxes come in from around the country."We anticipate hundreds, if not thousands, of complaints," Scott Worden, an electoral complaints commissioner, said in an interview Sunday. In the 2005 parliamentary elections, there were 1,500 complaints.Election officials caution that the vote tally and investigation into possible fraud will take time. "What we don't want is there to be confusion," Worden said.Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, said allegations of vote rigging and fraud are to be expected, but it's too soon to question the legitimacy of the vote."We have disputed elections in the United States. There may be some questions here. That wouldn't surprise me at all. I expect it," Holbrooke told AP Television News in the western city of Herat. "But let's not get out ahead of the situation."He said the U.S. and other countries "will respect the process set up by Afghanistan itself."Mohammad Farid Afghanzai, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, said he could not estimate what percentage of the vote would be known by Tuesday when the commission starts releasing results. Some voting materials have yet to arrive in Kabul from remote mountain villages, where donkeys were used to deliver ballots before the election. On Sunday, trucks with tally sheets and ballot boxes rolled into an elections commission compound outside Kabul.In the warehouse, workers entered numbers from handwritten tally sheets into computers. Candidates or their representatives could watch the process but were not allowed to interfere.Complete, unofficial results should be announced in about two weeks, with the vote being certified around Sept. 17 after the commission completes investigating fraud allegations. If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, the top two contenders will be in a runoff.Karzai's main challenger, Abdullah, continued to level fraud charges at Karzai's government and said he will use the next several weeks to press his claims with the complaints commission."I'll fight until the last vote," Abdullah told USA TODAY.Turnout was low in many parts of the country, particularly in the south, where the U.S. military is mounting a major offensive against Taliban strongholds.Gen. Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry, said the Taliban spent millions of dollars to disrupt Thursday's vote. He said there were about 135 security incidents on election day, about three times the usual level.Azimi acknowledged that the violence and threats dampened turnout. "But it wasn't at the level to undermine the legitimacy of the election," he said.

Pakistan Police Say Arrest of 13 Militants Prevents Terror Attacks

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Police arrested 13 suspected militants in Pakistan on Monday in two separate raids that they said foiled several terrorist attacks.The police chief in the city of Sargodha, Usman Anwar, said the arrest of six militants there prevented strikes that were to take place next week on foreign targets, politicians and two places of worship, The Associated Press reported.In Karachi, police acting on a tip from intelligence sources about an imminent terrorist attack arrested seven suspected militants from the outlawed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, security officials said Monday.Saud Mirza, a senior Karachi police official, said the raid in Karachi recovered 3 suicide jackets; 4 Kalashnikov automatic rifles; 2 gas masks; 15 kilograms, or 33 pounds, of explosives; and 2 kilograms of heroin. One of the men arrested in a police raid in Karachi on Sunday, Muhammad Shahzad, whose nom de guerre is Phelavan, or the Wrestler, is believed by Pakistani intelligence to have been a close associate of Amjad Hussain Farooqi, a well-known militant leader involved in an assassination attempt against the former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf.
Mr. Farooqi, who was killed in a shootout in southern Pakistan in 2004, also was implicated in the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Mr. Mirza said the men were involved in drug trafficking to finance their terrorist activities.Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian group founded in the mid-1990s with close ties to Al Qaeda, has often targeted Shiite Muslims using suicide attacks. More recently, it has been active in the recruiting of suicide bombers in Pakistan and Central Asia. The group was placed on the U.S. State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2003.A report this month from Jane’s intelligence group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi “perhaps the country’s most extreme and feared militant group.”“LeJ members have traditionally assumed new identities and operated in small cells that disperse after completing their missions, making it difficult for the Pakistani authorities to completely eradicate the group,” the Jane’s report said. “However, many of its leaders and members have been killed or jailed in recent years and there is little evidence that it remains a coherent organization with centralized structures.”In a separate incident on Monday, gunmen killed an Afghan television journalist and severely wounded another on Monday in northwestern Pakistan, The A.P. reported. Janullah Hashim Zada, who worked for the Afghanistan-based Shamshad TV, was gunned down as he traveled on a public minibus from Torkham in the Khyber tribal region to the northwestern frontier city of Peshawar, The A.P. reported, citing a Khyber Agency official, Omair Khan.Salman Masood reported from Islamabad.