Sunday, October 25, 2009

Waziristan Operation vital for anti-terror war: Kayani

WANA: Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited South Waziristan Agency (SWA), Geo News reported Sunday. The COAS inspected the operation in the SWA and met jawans and officers engaged in the operation and lauded them for their high morale.
The tribal veterans also called on the Army Chief and assured him of their complete cooperation in the Pak Army operation against the terrorism.Speaking on this occasion, he stressed the success in Waziristan Operation is indispensable to win the war against terrorism, adding the operation would be completed on time.

Pukhtunkhwa's Education sector hit hard

PESHAWAR: The militancy and military operations in parts of the Frontier province and adjacent tribal areas have badly affected the already neglected education sector the most. An evidence of this was the NWFP government’s decision to keep all the educational institutions closed for another week.

After a pause of about seven days, educational activities in almost the entire country are being resumed today, but students across NWFP and the tribal areas would not attend their classes as per the directives of the provincial government.

The NWFP government at first was reluctant to close down the schools despite announcements by other provinces to pause educational activities for some days due to the wave of terrorist activities across the country. However, the suicide blasts at International Islamic University, Islamabad followed by defusing of two bombs at a girls’ school in a suburban locality of the provincial metropolis forced the government to close all the public and private sector schools.

And now when the Inter-Services Public Relations, federal government and other provinces have announced reopening of the school, the Frontier government has decided to extend the unusual vacation for another week for security threats.

Education has certainly been affected the most by the specific law and order situation in the province and tribal areas for the last more than one year. With the surge of militant activities in Swat and elsewhere in the province, schools, particularly the girls’ schools have become the targets of the militants who continue with torching and blowing up sprees.

Around 200 educational institutions have been blown up in Swat alone. Similarly scores of schools were damaged in the twin districts of Dir, Bajaur Agency, elsewhere in the province and tribal areas.

Then came the military operation due to which the students and their teachers along with their families had to shift to the safer districts in search of peace, depriving them of studies for about four long months. The government offered some relaxation to the students by awarding them one-step promotion, but this cannot compensate for the loss of their precious time and studies.

The higher secondary education students had to miss their examinations. Though the board declared all of the intermediate students of Malakand division qualified and awarded them marks equivalent to the marks they had obtained in their previous class, many students were not happy with it, as they thought that they failed to acquire seats in the professional — medical and engineering — institutions for not appearing in the examinations.

Not only the students of the militancy and military-operation-affected areas, but those of the non-affected district also suffered loss of time, as their schools and colleges were used to house the internally displaced people for several months and they had not been able to attend their studies.

The most interesting is the sufferings of the students of the remote Chitral district where there exists no law and order problem. But with the announcement of the government about closure of education institutions, educational activities came to a halt in Chitral as well.

The two-week closure of schools would affect the cold regions of the province the most, as the management of educational institutions are planning for long winter vacations there and the teachers and students want to cover the specified portion of their courses before the winter vacations.

In Peshawar and other central districts, where the studies of the students are being affected due to the closure of their institutions, many of them will have to face a delay in examinations and admissions.

The Board of Intermediate & Secondary Education Peshawar has postponed its practical tests of the ongoing secondary school certificate examinations. Khyber Law College University of Peshawar has delayed its exam. The University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar has also suspended its B Tech examinations. The University of Peshawar cancelled its tests for admissions to the MA/MSc. New dates for the examinations have not been fixed yet.

Peshawar turns into battlefield

PESHAWAR: Like the cops in the southern districts of NWFP and Malakand Division, the police force in Peshawar is now literally at war with the militants.

It is a warlike situation as schools, colleges and universities have been closed to avoid any act of sabotage. The educational institutions in the province would remain closed for another week until November 2 now because of terror threat.

Restaurants and hotels have also been shut because of threats. A few people visit parks, bazaars and recreational spots these days, fearing bomb blasts and suicide attacks.Peshawar neither witnessed such a situation in its history nor was it ever expected by the present generation. Scare and fear prevail at the public places and offices while terrorism and risk to the lives and properties of commoners is ever-present.

Every sphere of life, including business activities, industry sector, sports, etc, has severely suffered because of the worsening law and order and several threats. This has triggered psychological disorders among civilians and law-enforcers.

For the past several years, militants have been making all-out efforts to strike throughout the provincial capital, while the Frontier Police with lesser resources and meagre salaries are thwarting their bids to protect the public.

With bomb blasts and rocket attacks, militants have succeeded on a few occasions during the past few weeks but on the other hand the police force has done well by foiling their designs. The force has defused scores of planted bombs and has arrested several terrorists, including suspected suicide bombers, on their way to hit their targets.

This needs to be admitted that the provincial capital is going through a critical phase. For being surrounded by the troubled tribal areas from three sides, the city has been the easiest target for the terrorists.

The police are doing the maximum that a civilian force can do in this volatile situation. The police have erected a circle around the city, with blocking all the entry routes by deploying additional cops across Peshawar.

Even smaller routes leading to Landi Arbab, Landi Akhun Mohammad, Tor Baba, Phandu Road, Gulbahar, Kamboh and several other insignificant points have been covered by erecting wooden barriers and deploying two or three policemen to check the vehicles, entering the urban limits of the district. They perform duty till late at night.

“This is not an easy job. We are lacking the force to be positioned at these points; we had no option but to withdraw policemen from other places to be deployed on these points,” a police official told this scribe.

The negative side of the extraordinary security arrangements is that the barriers and manning every entry point have been bothering commuters. “We have stopped going to bazaars to avoid being checked at almost half a dozen barricades every time,” said Israr Bacha, a resident of Dora Road.

Bashir Khan of Kamboh appreciated the policemen for doing a great job while putting their lives at risk on these exposed and vulnerable makeshift posts, but complained that an ordinary commuter suffered a lot at these barricades in case of not having the original documents of the vehicle, national identity card or other documents.

While police have circled the city with additional deployment of cops alongside the Ring Road, even then terrorists have succeeded on some occasions to break into the urban limits. The five major bomb blasts in the city since September 26 and entry of several miscreants into the city limits speak volumes about the loopholes in the security system. The planting of landmines by some miscreants on Sunday near Canal Road, close to the Peshawar International Airport, is an example of that.

Karzai rules out sharing power

KABUL -- President Hamid Karzai's team shifted aggressively into campaign mode Saturday and ruled out any possibility of a power-sharing deal with challenger Abdullah Abdullah ahead of a runoff election in two weeks.

"In our view there is no alternative to a second round. This is the only constitutional way to establish a new government" and "put an end to the current crisis," said Karzai's campaign spokesman, Wahid Omar, at a news conference. "All our energy is now focused on preparations for the second round."

Abdullah, however, has renewed concerns about the credibility of the Independent Election Commission and wants its leadership replaced before the Nov. 7 vote, according to officials in his campaign. He does not want a repeat of the rampant electoral fraud found in the August first round -- much of it favoring Karzai. Abdullah fears nothing will change unless officials he considers loyal to Karzai are removed, the sources said.

"We want to go to the second round, but provided that there are some conditions, especially to remove some of these figures from the so-called Independent Election Commission," said Ahmad Wali Massoud, a close ally of Abdullah's. "So long as these people are not being removed from the commission, I don't think we are going to have a free and fair election, because they were the main ones responsible for the rigging and fraud."

Abdullah is seeking the removal of the commission's president, Azizullah Lodin, along with two members of the commission's secretariat. Lodin and other election-commission officials have denied they were partial toward Karzai and brushed aside Abdullah's concerns as the complaints of a sore loser.

At the news conference Saturday, Omar said Karzai's team had "no specific opinion" about Abdullah's demands, but that Karzai wants the second round to be "more transparent and responsive" than the first. To that end, he said, "we will support all measures . . . whatever it takes will be acceptable to us."

Omar said a variety of groups that endorsed Karzai the first time have renewed their commitment. He said there would be no large public campaign rallies, but that an aggressive media campaign would encourage people to vote. Karzai was considering a public debate with Abdullah, as proposed by the election commission, he said.

But the potential for a standoff over the election commission could further complicate a vote that will be difficult to execute even under the best circumstances. The Taliban issued a statement Saturday threatening more violence and warning Afghans not to vote in the runoff, which they called "a failed, American process," according to the Associated Press.

Snow and freezing weather could make voting impossible in some parts of the country. And many people say there is not enough time to replace and vet election officials to prevent fraud. Karzai initially received 54 percent of the vote, but nearly one-third of his votes were considered rigged and he finished with 49 percent.

"When you have a million-odd votes thrown out, you've got to ask yourself, what was the IEC doing and who is going to be held accountable?" said Saad Mohseni, an owner of a prominent media company in Afghanistan.

Election officials plan to reduce the number of polling places from about 6,300 to about 5,800 in an attempt to prevent fraud in volatile areas where votes were recorded at stations that never opened.

One senior Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media by name, said there was "way over a 50-50 chance" that the runoff would be held despite the potential problems.

The diplomat said many of Karzai's top aides think he is unable to make an advantageous deal because he is too weak politically and needs to first win the runoff to "enhance his stature." He also said the international community had been strongly united in its demand for Karzai to complete the legal election process and was not pushing him to make a pre-polling deal.

Diplomatic sources said Karzai hated the idea of a coalition government, in which he would have to share power with Abdullah. But Karzai left the door open to a "government of unity," formed after he presumably wins the runoff, in which he would still be president but with figures from Abdullah's camp and other factions playing major roles in the administration, the sources said.

"Karzai detests the idea of a solution like Kenya or Zimbabwe, with two drivers sharing the same car. What he does seem open to is a situation where he would still be top dog but there would significant changes below," said a United Nations official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "There is a subtle but important difference between the two things."

Sources said that if Abdullah were seeking a deal, he would demand substantive and structural changes in the government, perhaps over time. One of Abdullah's main campaign platforms was to change the government from a presidential system to a more decentralized parliamentary system, with governors and mayors elected rather than appointed, and with elections based on political party tickets rather than individuals.

But diplomats and other observers here said the runoff was now probably both inevitable and necessary to restore legitimacy to the election process before any deals can be struck.

"A coalition government might seem like a quick solution, but it's not in the constitution and it would never work politically. It would be like having a cart with two horses pulling in opposite directions," said Ahmad Nader Nadery, president of the Foundation for Free and Fair Elections. "Instead of a functioning government, it would produce a stalemate."

Feet from suicide blast, student survives

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- His legs and arms are wrapped in bandages. His face, shrouded in a mask of cotton.

Waqar Khalid is one of the latest victims of a war that has now spread to Pakistan's schools. The 24-year-old university student lies in a hospital bed, beneath a small printed sign on the wall that lists his name, age and injury. Sixty percent of his body is covered in burns.

One afternoon last week, Khalid walked out of a classroom straight into the fireball of an exploding suicide bomber.

"I saw a man wearing a sky-blue colored suit. Very close. Maybe the distance [was] two feet ... but I didn't think that it will be a terrorist," Khalid says. "When he pushed the button, right at that time, I saw fire. Very high fire. Very much high fire."

Two suicide bombers were involved in Tuesday's attack on Islamabad's International Islamic University. The first bomber hit the cafeteria on the women's side of the campus, killing a cafeteria worker and four students, and wounding 17 other female students.

Khalid and his classmates heard that blast but assumed it was a car tire bursting.

Moments later, the second bomber self-detonated in the hallway on the second floor of the Sharia law department, directly in front of the department chairman's office.

The blast sprayed the walls and ceiling with ball bearings and left two male students dead.

"I thought now I will go to Allah," Khalid says. "But after five minutes I saw that I'm completely -- all parts of my body is with me."

Though horrifically burned, Khalid somehow survived the inferno and stumbled down the stairs.

Five days after the attack, workers were covering up the blood-stained, pock-marked walls at the Sharia law department with mortar and paint. In a few weeks, the building may look as good as new.

Khalid, meanwhile, is battling for his life.

"He's critical at the moment," says Serva Javed, a doctor at the burn center in Islamabad where Khalid is being treated. "We're trying our level best to save his life."

Before the attack, Khalid studied Arabic and English, and dreamed of becoming an interpreter or a teacher working overseas. He also was an active member of the United Students of Islam, a student association that publicly condemned the Taliban.

"We say openly, these are terrorists which are responsible for the Pakistani condition now. These are killing the persons without any reason," Khalid says.

At the Islamic University, professors teach a moderate interpretation of Islam, which challenges the Taliban's policy of violent jihad.

Still, many teachers and students are stunned that their school would become a target of the militants.

"We never expected it," says Parveen Qadia Agha, the vice president of the university. "The reason could be to create chaos and to create psychological warfare," she said, adding that attacking "the least expected places creates more havoc."

In recent weeks, militants have stepped up attacks in Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore. Targets have included police stations, the headquarters of the Pakistani military, a high-ranking Pakistani army officer, and the office of the U.N. World Food Program.

The waves of suicide bombers come as the Pakistani military's offensive into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan enters its second week.

Khalid's eyes flash with anger when asked about the army's campaign against the militants in the mountains.

"They should kill them," he says. "They should kill them, those terrorists who are killing innocent people."

Khalid's mother Rokhsana, dressed in a flowing purple dress and scarf, holds an agonizing vigil by her son's side. She is worried that her husband, a police officer, may be caught up in the escalating violence around Pakistan.

"No one is safe anywhere, neither at home or in the bazaar or at the hospital," she says.

Despite the horrific extent of his injuries, Khalid is animated, often cracking jokes and waving his bandaged arm in his hospital bed.

"I will join my university when I recover from this injury," he declares.

But he sobers after glimpsing his own reflection in the lens of a camera. It is the first time he has seen his face since the attack.

"I have no courage, no patience to see myself," Khalid says. "This explosion will give me many side effects in the future. But what can I do?... I have to face those things."

Punjabi Taliban

Dawn Editorial
As a global terror network, Al Qaeda is attracting an alarmingly high number of militants to operate its ‘franchises’ in Punjab under the Taliban brand name. Some of these franchises are already out on a rampage. Through a series of recent attacks on civilian and security targets, they have shown that they are as ruthless as their Pakhtun counterparts and as resourceful as their Al Qaeda mentors. Almost all the terror attacks in Punjab over the last two weeks, including the one on GHQ in Rawalpindi, carry their mark. Even in incidents where they are not the main attackers, they are believed to have put together all the logistics by supplying weapons, procuring transport and arranging board and lodging for the assailants. Reports that two of their top commanders have been arrested should, therefore, mean that they have suffered a setback. The arrests come in the wake of the nabbing of another Punjabi Taliban commander, Aqeel alias Dr Usman, who is said to have masterminded the GHQ attack.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that they have been dealt a fatal blow. The tentacles of the Punjabi Taliban have spread across the province through the activists of banned sectarian organisations and the veterans of jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The arrest of a few leaders cannot render their network ineffective. From Kahuta in north Punjab to Rahimyar Khan in the south, the entire province is strewn with radicalised individuals whose ranks appear to swell, even as they lose some of their leaders. One wonders what strategy the state has in mind to curtail the terror tactics of these militants and to neutralise their organisations. If the government and its law-enforcement agencies fail to act promptly, they may soon find that it is too late to root out the menace.

Helicopter crash in Pakistan kills 3

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Three people were killed Saturday when hostile fire caused a Pakistani military transport helicopter to crash, Pakistani officials said.

The incident occurred in northwestern Pakistan, where Pakistani troops have been fighting Taliban militants.

Senior Pakistani military officials say two pilots were injured in the crash, which occurred around sunset and was under investigation, a military spokesman said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an intelligence source and a local political official said the helicopter was brought down by hostile fire.

The aircraft was traveling to the northwestern city of Peshawar from the border district of Bajaur, where at least 25 people were killed in a suspected drone strike on Friday.

A local official told CNN the missile attack killed the nephew and son-in-law of Mawlanna Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban commander in Bajaur. Mohammed, himself, appears to have escaped the assault.

7 explosive mines diffused near Peshawar Airport

PESHAWAR: Seven explosive landmines have been recovered under a Canal Bridge in the jurisdiction of Pasta Khara Police Station here on Sunday.According to a private TV channel, miscreants planted seven explosive mines under a Canal Bridge near Peshawar airport. After the information from locals, the bomb disposal squad was called which diffused these explosive mines.Officials of bomb disposal squad said that these mines weighted seven Kilograms have been diffused. After the incident, police started a search operation in the area and security has been enhanced.

Jundullah is common enemy of Iran and Pakistan: Zardari

Tehran Times
TEHRAN -– Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari stated that the terrorist group Jundullah is the common enemy of Iran and Pakistan.

Zardari made the remarks in a meeting with the visiting Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar on Sunday.

Commenting on the recent terror attacks in the southeastern Province of Sistan-Balouchestan by Jundullah which is also known as the Rigi group, because it is led by Abdul-Malek Rigi, the Pakistani president pointed out “Such terror acts cannot disturb the close and friendly ties between Tehran and Islamabad.”

Zardari added, “Islamabad is completely ready to uproot terrorism in the region and especially to detain the members of the Rigi group.”

On Sunday October 18, a terrorist attack killed over 40 people, including five senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, in Sistan-Balouchestan.

Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack, which was carried out in the city of Pishin, near the border with Pakistan.

The IRGC commanders were on their way to a meeting with local elders of the Shia and Sunni communities when the terrorists carried out the attack.

IRGC Ground Forces Deputy Commander Nour-Ali Shoushtari and Sistan-Baluchestan Province IRGC Commander Rajab-Ali Mohammadzadeh were among those who lost their lives in the attack.

“Extremism is a serious impediment in the way of the expansion of regional cooperation between countries because the enemies cannot tolerate the close ties among the nations and the governments,” the Pakistani president noted.

He also expressed his gratitude to the Islamic Republic of Iran for the $330 million aid to Pakistan.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Pakistani president stated that Pakistan is seriously pursuing the case of the Iranian diplomat Heshmatollah Attarzadeh who was kidnapped in Peshawar in February 2008.

The Iranian interior minister, for his part, stated Iranian officials are determined to strengthen bilateral ties with Pakistan, adding, “We seriously urge the Pakistani president and administration to detect and detain the terrorist elements who travel back and forth to Pakistan and carry out terror acts against Iran.”

Najjar added that the borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have always been stable and highly secure for Pakistan and that Iran mutually has higher expectations from Islamabad in this regard.

He also expressed hope that agreements of the negotiations between the Pakistani officials and the Iranian delegation are materialized soon.

At the end of his three-day visit, the Iranian interior minister and the accompanying delegation returned home on Sunday