Friday, October 2, 2009

Pakistan army ready for Waziristan offensive

Pakistan's army is ready to launch a major offensive in the al Qaida and Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, but is waiting approval from the government and first wants to reach deals with local warlords to support the operation, intelligence officials said on Friday. Earlier this week, scores of people fled the mountainous region close to the Afghan border amid speculation an operation was imminent.

The army said months ago that it was planning an offensive but did not confirm Friday a newspaper report that it would begin within days. Pakistan has won praise in the West over the last year for moving against militants in the frontier region blamed for stoking the Afghan insurgency, but has so far stuck to limited, intelligence-led ground and air strikes in South Waziristan, where local and foreign militants are well dug-in.

Also Friday, intelligence officials said the al Qaida-linked leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is believed to have been killed by a US missile strike in South Waziristan. The Taliban denied the claim. Tahir Yuldash's death would be a significant blow to the militant groups that have wreaked havoc along the Afghan-Pakistan border and the latest victory for the covert American missile program.

Waziristan in three army bases in the region. They said they were awaiting final approval from the government before moving in. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. Intelligence officials in Waziristan and the nearby town of Dera Ismail Khan said the government was still negotiating with warlords Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur. "What the Pakistan army is working on is that if they both do not announce their support, then they should remain impartial," one said.

Ease loadshedding or we cut off supply:(PUKHTUNKHWA) NWFP PA

PESHAWAR - Both treasury and opposition benches in the Frontier Assembly were unanimous on Friday to
cut-off electricity supply mainly produced by the NWFP to the rest of the country, if hours-long unscheduled
load-shedding was not halted in the province forthwith.
Through an adjournment motion, the attention of the provincial lawmakers was brought to the ongoing merciless
load-shedding, and both treasury and opposition members were one to criticise Wapda for carrying out more
load-shedding in NWFP than its share.
The PPP Parliamentary leader, Abdul Akbar Khan moved the adjournment motion to discuss hours-long
load-shedding and price hike in the province during third day session of the provincial assembly meeting here
with acting speaker Khushdil Khan Advocate in the chair.
The mover informed the house that electricity supply mostly suspended from five to six and 15 to 16 hours in
urban and rural areas respectively, which he termed an injustice and accused the authorities concerned of
carrying out excessive load-shedding in the NWFP - far beyond its share. He suggested discussing the matter
with federal government without any further delay.
Taking part in the debate, opposition leader in the assembly and ex-chief minister Akram Khan Durrani
supported the mover and questioned why there was no loadshedding in the whole month of Ramazan and why it
was now being carried out again. The department concerned couldn’t control losses and that’s why deliberately
disconnected electricity to its consumers for no reason.
He asked the ANP-PPP led provincial government to take a firm stand like it had on the issue of moon sighting
and Eid and hoped it would help to get the desired results, saying the opposition would fully back the
government. “Once I had warned Wapda officials that police would not be deployed at grid stations and other
installations, if it did not co-operate with provincial government and ultimately they came on the track” he
recalled. He said that opposition would outrightly support the provincial government if it decided to cut-off power
supply to the rest of the country.
The PML (N) MPA Javid Abbasi and ANP MPA Saqibullah Khan Chamkani in their turn supported and called for
a unanimous resolution and a meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Federal Minister for Wapda
Raja Pervez Ashraf over the issue.
The ANP Parliamentary leader Bashir Ahmad Bilour said, “Our province has been producing cheaper electricity.
But unfortunately, it has been sold on expensive rate especially in the NWFP, which is regrettable”. Over 4000
megawatts electricity is being produced in the NWFP, while its total need is just 1000 megawatts, but still we are
facing a severe load-shedding.”
He maintained that Wapda had become a white elephant. Thus, it was demanded of the government to abolish it
soon and must hand over its control to the Frontier province, like it was under its control prior to one-unit. He
appealed to the MNAs and Senators representing the NWFP in the Parliament to raise voice for provincial
rights. He said that electricity should be a provincial subject adding they might have severed power supply to
other parts of the country if it had been in their control.
On his turn, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, provincial Information Minister said that in order to minimise people’s
hardships, the government would have to take certain hard steps, saying that first right on electricity was of the
dwellers of this province. He said that federal government must accept the demands of the people of this
province. He, however, said that if their demands were not met then they would act what was decided by the
provincial lawmakers, he warned.
The PPP Senior Minister Rahim Dad Khan informed the house that at present total electricity shortage in the
province was almost 500 megawatts while about 3500 megawatts in the whole country. Ironically, people of our
province are experiencing more loadshedding as compared to other provinces. PML(Q) MPA Qalandar Khan
Lodi stressed the need for taking the load shedding issues up with federal government and minister concerned.
On this occasion, acting Speaker Khushdil Khan Advocate directed Rahim Dad Khan to wire a letter to the
federal government to discuss the matter and get resolved it on permanent basis.

Bara operation loses intensity as most militants still at large

PESHAWAR: The operation in Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency has lost its intensity with almost all militants and their leadership still at large though the unsettling curfew is in place to the dismay of many dwellers.

The anti-militant swoop was launched with trumpet blast on September 1 by razing houses of those accused of lending military, financial or moral support to militants in the area being controlled by Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), the outlawed group led by Mangal Bagh, over the past several years.

Unofficial figures suggest that nearly 50 houses have been razed, 35 people killed and over 100 arrested by the security forces in the past month. The authorities, however, failed to net or eliminate any of the wanted militants or senior commanders including chief Mangal Bagh who has been recently added to the list of wanted men carrying bounty on their heads.

Official figures released to media over the past one month, however, claimed the killing of nearly 100 militants besides destruction of their several centres and bunkers both in Bara and the remote Tirah Valley where most of the banned LI leaders are believed to be hiding to evade arrest.

Large-scale migration of people, fearing intense fighting between security forces and outlawed LI volunteers and the continued curfew in Bara, are the most disturbing aspects of the Operation ‘Bia Daraghlam’ (Here I Come Again), which is the second against LI since June 2008.

The first operation codenamed ‘Daraghlam’ (Here I Come) was launched in June last year with a promise to root out the militants and secure Bara as well as Peshawar. The action was, however, halted after a few days by pushing the militants, who returned with more force and vigour days after troop withdrawal from the area.

The current operation, launched with much fanfare by the army and Frontier Corps (FC), is going to meet fate of the previous one as army troops were withdrawn from Bara less than 10 days after the launch of the operation wherein the security forces focused more on demolition of houses instead of going after and chasing the militants in their mountainous hideouts outside Bara.

Although the LI is yet to offer any armed resistance, the previous threats from Mangal Bagh on his illegal FM channel terrified the residents to the extent that they started fleeing the area for safer locations in the suburban villages and houses with some even going to the Jalozai makeshift settlement established to house displaced from Bajaur and Swat.

According to locals and some relief organisations, 50,000 to 80,000 people have migrated from Bara after the threat from Mangal Bagh who asked the people to reach to safer locations within three days after Eid.

Locals said they were the ultimate victims both in fighting between LI and Ansarul Islam (AI) and the anti-militant operation by the security forces. “Our businesses have been destroyed due to the curfew for the past one month,” says Said Ayaz, president of the Traders’ Association in Bara bazaar.

First there was fighting between the two groups (LI and AI) and the civilians suffered. “We are again facing the brunt as the security forces are conducting operation in our area,” grumbled the retailer, claiming that majority of those killed in the month-long operation were civilians.

Ayaz said more than 10,000 shops had been closed over the past one month, incurring huge losses on the traders and businessmen. Earlier, some shop owners shifted the merchandise to their houses following relaxation in curfew hours during Eid, he added.

Another resident, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said the LI people had returned to some areas after the pulling out of army from Bara. “We are sandwiched between the government and the militants each time the two sides come face to face,” he lamented.

Talking to reporters, the former political agent of Khyber Agency Tariq Hayat had claimed the operation would be taken to its logical end. He was, however, removed from the office without seeing his pledge fulfilled. Incumbent Political Agent Shafeerullah Khan was contacted both on his office and cell phone numbers, but he was not available for comments.

Nawaz failed to fight terrorism effectively: Milam

Daily Times
LAHORE: Former American ambassador to Pakistan William B Milam has said that Nawaz Sharif “failed” to effectively fight terrorism during his second tenure as prime minister, while Pervez Musharraf’s government was “reluctant and unwilling” to root out terrorism.

In an appearance on Daily Times Editor-in-Chief Najam Sethi’s programme ‘Tonight with Najam Sethi’ – aired on Dunaya TV on Friday – the former ambassador said the Kargil war was “a foolish move” that disrupted peace dialogue with India.

Replying to a question, Milam said although Musharraf came to power through unconstitutional means, he was sincere in his efforts to resolve Pakistan’s issues.

Milam said Pakistan was not a failed state, but was facing “national identity problems”. He said former US president Bill Clinton pressured Musharraf to provide a roadmap for returning to a democratic set-up and sign CTBT.

Five rockets hit Peshawar

PESHAWAR : Five rockets were fired from Khyber Agency here on late Friday, while, according to Aaj News no casualties has been reported initially.According to details, rockets were fired from Khyber agency which hit Peshawar city and nearby areas. Two rockets hit Nawe Kalayi and two other near Peshawar airport while one rocket hit a school in Pushta Khara.

Gates leaning towards more troops for Afghanistan, sources say

WASHINGTON-- Defense Secretary Robert Gates is leaning toward the view that a significant number of additional combat forces will be needed for the war in Afghanistan, sources tell CNN.Gates is inclined to back Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, in pursuing a counterinsurgency strategy, defense and administration officials said Thursday.Both officials stressed that Gates does not necessarily support sending all the additional forces McChrystal would want, which sources have said could be as many as 40,000 troops.But they said Gates will likely agree with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen, who told Congress last week that he expects more troops will be needed.

Another senior military official separately told CNN any final strategy Gates endorses may not be solely a counterinsurgency plan.
President Obama met for 25 minutes Friday with McChrystal aboard Air Force One in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to reporters traveling with the president.
The president wanted to continue the conversation with McChrystal that began Wednesday with a three-hour meeting with his national security team in the White House Situation Room, White House officials saidWhite House spokesman Robert Gibbs described the discussion as "robust," with the president hearing from 17 different people."We had an opportunity to get a fairly in-depth intelligence assessment on what's going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to assess individually where we are in each and what's changed since March" when the president decided to send an additional 21,000 troops, Gibbs said.One senior administration official who attended said the discussions ran the gamut of scenarios. The source did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record about the meeting.
There was not a lot of "sniping," the source said, describing it as a "good meeting."
The source said different strategies were aired and participants were able to "shine some daylight" on different plans' assumptions and viability.Vice President Joe Biden's suggestion to pull back from a counterinsurgency strategy of protecting the Afghan population and instead focus on using drones to go after al Qaeda was scrutinized, the source said. Opponents explained their opposition to that strategy, while proponents detailed their support. It was illuminating to see that it was not quite so simple to just pull back and send drones, said the source.McChrystal and others explained their counterinsurgency strategy and answered questions about how additional troops might change the mission and where those additional numbers might be found.In addition, several sources said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was concerned with having enough troops present in Afghanistan to support the Obama administration's civilian efforts, suggesting she may be leaning toward more additional troops as well. But, the sources said, Clinton made clear that she favors a more detailed examination of the mission before a decision on troop levels is made.
In London on Thursday, McChrystal said he believes the situation in Afghanistan is "serious" and "deteriorating." McChrystal suggested that focusing on al Qaeda would not be enough."I absolutely believe that al Qaeda and the threat of al Qaeda and Taliban senior leadership are critical to stability in the region," McChrystal said in a speech to London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. "But I also believe that a strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a shortsighted strategy."Gen. David Petraeus, who as head of U.S. Central Command will make the final military decision on McChrystal's request, said that the strategy is being reassessed and no decision on additional troops has been made.
"I have not yet endorsed the resources" requested by McChrystal, Petraeus said while speaking at an event in Washington.

Suspected US Drone Kills Top Militant in Pakistan

Pakistani authorities say a suspected U.S. drone attack along the Afghan border is believed to have killed an Uzbek militant leader with links to al-Qaida.Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. missile strike in South Waziristan in late August wounded Tahir Yuldashev and that he reportedly died a few days later.Yuldashev was the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. He began fighting in the 1990s to topple Uzbekistan's government.A Taliban spokesman has denied the report of Yuldashev's death.The Taliban gave him refuge in northern Afghanistan, but after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, analysts believe Yuldashev and his fighters fled east into Pakistan's tribal regions.Yuldashev had been involved in insurgencies in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan with the goal of creating an Islamist state across Central Asia.If authorities are able to confirm Yuldashev's death, security analyst Khalid Aziz tells VOA that this would be a major blow to the militants operating in Pakistan's tribal regions.Aziz says the power vacuum left by Yuldashev's death would provide a good opportunity to strike at his men and those of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, whose stronghold is believed to be in South Waziristan."For the last two months, there has been a blockade of this territory and obviously the Mehsouds are feeling the pinch," said Khalid Aziz.
The Pakistani military has already seen success in its prior campaign in and around Swat Valley targeting militants. But Aziz says he expects the military to change its strategy in the mountainous and isolated region of South Waziristan.
"We are going to see the first snowfall in that region, and it becomes even more difficult to fight there," he said. "So one foresees counter-terrorist operations rather than large-scale military operations as in Swat."
He says that type of strategy would drain the militants of their resources and put the military in a better position to respond to any threats that might arise elsewhere in the country.
The government insists it is not launching any major operation in South Waziristan at the moment. But U.N. officials say about 80,000 civilians have fled the tribal area in anticipation of a new military offensive.

Gold tola price rises to Rs32600 in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: The per tola price of gold mounted to Rs32,600 in Peshawar, Geo News reported Friday.According to Sarrafa Association, the gold prices burgeoned in the city, as it was Rs32,200 per tola one week ago here, which went up now by Rs400.
According to Sarrafa Association, the gold prices are expected to further rise in the coming days.

Chicago, Tokyo out of Olympics running

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CNN) -- The International Olympic Committee on Friday eliminated Chicago and Tokyo as contenders to host the 2016 Games.

Still under consideration to host the two-week sporting spectacle are Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Madrid, Spain.

After the cities made their presentations to the IOC on Friday, the IOC members sat down to cast their votes in a secret ballot.

Ninety-seven of the IOC's 106 members are eligible to vote in the first round; seven must sit out that round because they represent one of the countries bidding for the Games.

A city must receive a majority of votes in order to win. If no city receives a majority, voting moves on to a second round, with the city receiving the lowest number of votes being eliminated, an IOC spokeswoman said.

Friday morning, President Obama urged the IOC to pick his hometown of Chicago, saying the city represents the American dream as well as the Olympic spirit.

Obama's address to the 106 IOC members was the highlight of the Chicago bid committee's final presentation before the vote to choose the host city.

"Chicago is a place where we strive to celebrate what makes us different, just as we celebrate what we have in common," Obama said. Watch Obama makes his pitch to IOC

He pointed out that from hosting the World's Fair in 1893 to hosting World Cup events in 1994, the Illinois city has the experience needed to put on an Olympic Games.
Other cities also have their country's leaders attending the meeting to support their bids.
Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero are planning to push the case for Madrid, according to the Madrid 2016 bid committee.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was expected to be joined by soccer legend and Brazilian native Pele as they advertise the benefits of a Rio Games.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, just two weeks into the job, also planned to be at the vote to demonstrate the government's full backing of the Tokyo bid, the bid committee said.
"It's not a requirement for heads of state to come to our session," said the IOC spokeswoman, who asked not to be named. "We are obviously very honored if they decide to come, but there's no particular requirement."

Chicago Pleads Its Case to Host Olympic Games in 2016

COPENHAGEN — Delivering a final presentation that was heavy on emotion and light on technical issues Friday morning, officials from Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics have only one thing left to do: wait.

A 10-person team, led by President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, were the first of four bid delegations — including Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Chicago and Tokyo — to address the International Olympic Committee, which will vote on a host city for the Summer Games this evening in Denmark, or about lunchtime in Chicago.

“To host athletes and visitors from every corner of the globe is a high honor and a great responsibility,” said Mr. Obama, whose Chicago home is just a short walk from the prospective Olympic Stadium. “And America is ready and eager to assume that sacred trust.”

“So I’ve come here today to urge you to choose Chicago for the same reasons I chose Chicago nearly twenty-five years ago — the reasons I fell in love with the city I still call home,” he said.

Mr. Obama is the first American president to attend the I.O.C. vote to promote a bid.

As the last speaker for the United States, Mr. Obama emphasized Chicago’s diversity, looking out into the crowd of I.O.C. members and saying, “This could be a meeting in Chicago. Because we look like the world.”

Chicago, which spent nearly $50 million preparing its bid, is trying to bring the Summer Games to the United States for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The last time a United States city hosted any Olympics was in 2002, when Salt Lake City had the Winter Games.

Madrid is bidding on it fourth consecutive Summer Games after losing out to London for the 2012 Games. They were voted out of the competition in the third round after gathering the most votes in the previous round. This will be the fourth consecutive time Spain has submitted a bid for the Summer Games.

Tokyo is hoping to win the bid and host the first Summer Games there since the 1964 Summer Games. Rio de Janeiro is pushing to host the Games in South America for the first time.

“The final word we want to take to the I.O.C. members is that we want to talk about the future of Brazil and Rio,” President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told reporters here this week. “Brazil today is experiencing a much more favorable situation than many developed countries. Brazil is experiencing a magical moment in terms of growth.”

“The only thing I’m upset about is that they arranged me to follow Michelle. That’s always bad,” he said afterward, smiling as he waved to the crowd.

The United States Olympic Committee chairman, Larry Probst, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and two athletes — Olympic champion decathlete Bryan Clay and former Paralympian Linda Mastandrea — also spoke during the 45-minute presentation that was designed not to be too flashy.

““Our intent was to demonstrate to them we will be good partners and that we are people they could trust,” Doug Arnot, director of sports and operations for Chicago 2016.

The delegation’s presentation started with a video montage of the Chicago — including bikini-wearing volleyball players on Lake Michigan beaches. The song, “Sweet Home Chicago” played in the background.

“It made me miss home,” Mr. Obama said of the videos, as he left the convention center outside of downtown. “I think Chicago couldn’t have made a better presentation. Obviously, now it’s up to the I.O.C. members.”

By dinner time in Copenhagen, and 12:30 in New York, , the world will know whether Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo will host the 2016 Games. Olympic insiders have said Rio and Chicago are the front runners. Tokyo’s presentation went next, followed by Rio de Janeiro and then Madrid. At 10 a.m., Eastern time, the I.O.C. will meet to vote. The eligible voters will cast their votes electronically – and secretly — by pressing a button. The members from a country with a city in the vote must sit out until that country is eliminated. (The United States has two I.O.C. members.)

If no city receives a majority of the votes in the first round, the city with the lowest number of votes is dropped from the ballot. If there is a tie in the final round, I.O.C. President Jacques Rogge steps in to vote or asks the I.O.C. executive board to break the deadlock. The United States does not have a member on that board.

The last time around, in the competition to become host city for the 2012 Games, London beat Paris by the slim margin of 54-50. New York City’s bid was eliminated in the second round of voting.

At 12:30 p.m., Eastern time — 6:30 p.m. here — a winner will be announced and one city will begin its celebration. Three other teams will leave here in disappointment.

The Brazilian bid — thought to be a frontrunner with Chicago — has been the target of criticism over the last few days, causing tension among the delegations as the vote grew near.

Mayor Daley raised the ire of the Rio de Janeiro bid when he said that hosting the 2014 World Cup was not the same as hosting the Games. Bid leader Patrick G. Ryan said Mr. Daley’s remarks were misinterpreted.

The Spanish Olympic Committee vice president, José María Odriozola, who is not an official member of the Madrid bid team, called Rio de Janeiro’s bid “the worst bid” and said it had security issues.

Because I.O.C rules forbid bid teams from criticizing one another, Brazil lodged a formal complaint with the he I.O.C. ethics commission against Mr. Odriozola.

After the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, I.O.C. members were barred from meeting with bid officials of cities in the running to host the Games. So over the past several years, those bid cities have reached out to I.O.C. members as much as they could — especially in the final few days before the vote.

Every bid team brought distinguished leaders, including King Juan Carlos for Spain and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for Japan.

Dozens of Olympians have flooded the city to lobby for their city’s cause, including the Brazilian soccer legend Pelé.

“In these last few days, it’s all about momentum,” one I.O.C. member, Dick Pound, of Canada, said. “Every city knows that.”

With Mrs. Obama and Oprah Winfrey headlining the delegation, the Chicago team met has been reminding I.O.C. members of their Olympic plan, which would hold the Games along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and in century-old city parks, with Chicago’s dramatic skyline as the backdrop. The Chicago City Council also voted 49-0 to cover any financial shortfalls, which is a first for a U.S. bid.

“Some of what the I.O.C. considers has nothing to do with the strength of the bids themselves,” said Frank Lavin, the former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, who worked on New York City’s failed bid to host the 2012 Games.

“A lot of it is political and that encompasses different levels: international politics, personalities, internal I.O.C. politics,” he said. “Inside the I.O.C., they’re saying, ‘Look can we snub the U.S. because they haven’t had the Games since Atlanta? Can we risk losing some of the television audience if we go somewhere else?’ The process is complicated.”

But every city has its potential downsides. Rio de Janeiro’s high crime rate could damage its chances. The country has secured rights to host the 2014 World Cup, which may mean advertisers might not have enough money to spread between the two events.

Madrid’s geography works against it. Awarding the Games to Madrid would mean that back-to-back Summer Games would be held in Europe, and the I.O.C. often seeks to hold the Games in different parts of the world.

Tokyo’s bid has the same problem, with the 2008 Beijing Games still fresh in people’s minds.

Pakistan amends anti-terror laws

The government of Pakistan has amended its anti-terrorism laws to increase the remand period for the interrogation of terror suspects from 30 to 90 days.
Correspondents say that the move is one of the conditions of a recent bill passed by the US Congress which triples non-military aid to Pakistan.
The Kerry-Lugar bill provides an annual outlay of $1.5bn for five years.
Under the bill, the US will certify that Pakistan is working to dismantle its nuclear proliferation networks.
According to Pakistani media reports, several conditions were imposed on Pakistan to ensure the aid goes where it is intended - including a stipulation that Pakistan strengthen its counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws.