Wednesday, October 28, 2009

U.S. Expands Aid for Pakistani Drives on Taliban

WASHINGTON — Even as the Pakistani government plays down the American role in its military operations in Taliban-controlled areas along the border with Afghanistan, the United States has quietly rushed hundreds of millions of dollars in arms, equipment and sophisticated sensors to Pakistani forces in recent months, said senior American and Pakistani officials.

During preparations this spring for the Pakistani campaigns in Swat and South Waziristan, President Obama personally intervened at the request of Pakistan’s top army general to speed the delivery of 10 Mi-17 troop transport helicopters. Senior Pentagon officials have also hurried spare parts for Cobra helicopter gunships, night vision goggles, body armor and eavesdropping equipment to the fight.

American military surveillance drones are feeding video images and target information to Pakistani ground commanders, and the Pentagon has quietly provided the Pakistani Air Force with high-resolution, infrared sensors for F-16 warplanes, which Pakistan is using to guide bomb attacks on militants’ strongholds in South Waziristan.

In addition, the number of American Special Forces soldiers and support personnel who are training and advising Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops has doubled in the past eight months, to as many as 150, an American adviser said. The Americans do not conduct combat operations.

The increasing American role in shoring up the Pakistani military’s counterinsurgency abilities comes as the Obama administration debates how much of a troop commitment to make in neighboring Afghanistan. It also takes place as Taliban attacks are spreading into Pakistani cities. It is unclear whether Pakistani authorities are using any of the sophisticated surveillance equipment to combat the urban terrorism.

Underscoring the complexity of the relationship between the allies, Pakistani officials are loath to publicize the aid because of the deep-seated anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. And they privately express frustration about the pace and types of aid, which totals about $1.5 billion this year.

At a military briefing on Saturday, the Pakistani Army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the fight in South Waziristan was a purely Pakistani enterprise, unaided by the United States or anyone else. “Let us finish the job on our own,” he told reporters.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore, said that publicly acknowledging the military aid — an open secret in Pakistan — could hand militants fresh ammunition for propaganda attacks. “The Pakistan military would not like to talk about the U.S. assistance,” he said, “so that the Islamists, most of whom are opposed to military operations, do not get additional reason to criticize the military and the government.”

American officials in Pakistan — whom the Pakistani government directed earlier this year not to discuss the United States role in providing humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes by the fighting in Swat — said the same edict applied to war assistance.

“The Pakistanis insist on ‘no American face’ on their war. Period,” said one senior American military officer in Southwest Asia, who would speak only anonymously because he did not want to jeopardize his relationship with his Pakistani counterparts.

Given the reluctance of Pakistani and American officials to speak openly about the assistance, it is difficult to assess how effective the American aid has been in the current combat operations.

Beneath their official silence, many senior Pakistani military officials seethe at the months, or even years, of delay by the Pentagon in delivering promised hardware and troop reimbursements. They also gripe that the United States is denying them the best technology, like Predator drones or Apache helicopter gunships.

“We are grateful for the generosity but believe that we have now learned to fight with what all we possess and not what has been promised,” said one senior Pakistani officer, who was granted anonymity to provide a candid assessment.

Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council, a nonprofit policy and research group, sharply criticized the Obama administration in an essay on the organization’s Web site last week. “Pakistan still does not have all the weapons or assistance that it needs to do the job right,” he wrote.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged the frustrations in an interview this week with Dawn, a Pakistani daily newspaper, before arriving on a trip to Pakistan.

“We both have bureaucracies,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We know how it is sometimes that things get delayed or they’re slower than we want, but we’re really trying to accelerate everything we can to help the Pakistani military.” Mrs. Clinton did not provide any details.

An American adviser in Pakistan, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal United States policy, said, “U.S. current military assistance either demonstrates U.S. resolve and offsets anti-Americanism, or is deliberately underplayed to boost Pakistani military and political credibility, and the latter meets our policy objectives more closely.”

The United States has provided Pakistan with about $12 billion in military assistance and payments since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Pentagon reimburses Pakistan about $1 billion a year to cover its costs of fielding more than 100,000 troops along the Afghan border in counterinsurgency operations.

But in the past year, the Defense Department has significantly increased the shipment of military equipment to Pakistan to combat the increasingly violent insurgency.

Most significant was Mr. Obama’s involvement in speeding the delivery of the 10 Russian-built Mi-17s, at the request of the Pakistani army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Four of the transport helicopters were leased to Pakistan in June, and the rest were provided under different authorities to move Pakistani Army soldiers in the border region near Afghanistan.

“The president was engaged on this issue in the spring,” said a White House official, who spoke anonymously because he was discussing Mr. Obama’s involvement.

Also involved was Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who repeatedly pressed his staff to find the Mi-17s in American inventories and to figure out a way to provide them to Pakistan.

This year alone, the Pentagon is sending more than $500 million in arms, equipment and training assistance to Pakistan, to help train and equip the Pakistani military for counterinsurgency operations.

Included in that package is nearly $13 million in electronic eavesdropping equipment to intercept militants’ cellphone calls. In July, the Pentagon supplied Pakistan with 200 night vision goggles, 100 day/night scopes, more than 600 radios and 9,475 sets of body armor.

The Pentagon has also sharply increased programs to bring Pakistani officers to the United States for training, particularly in counterterrorism.

“We’ve put military assistance to Pakistan on a wartime footing, as up to now it has been in a peacetime process,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman. “We are doing everything within our power to assist Pakistan in improving its counterinsurgency capabilities.”

UN, US, UK outraged at Peshawar blast

UNITED NATIONS/WASHINGTON/LONDON: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said he was outraged by the “appalling” bomb attack in Peshawar. Ban condemned the “appalling bomb attack in Peshawar today” and said, “I want to express my outrage at the loss of so many innocent lives.” Around 100 people died when a huge car bomb ripped through a crowded market in the city, tearing down buildings. The attack occurred shortly after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country to bolster the two countries’ alliance against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Underscoring the challenge, terrorists also stormed a UN compound in the Afghan capital Kabul, killing at least five employees of the world body. Separately, the White House condemned the terrorist attack in Peshawar and expressed condolences to the victims, Reuters reported. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the bombing showed the extent to which terrorists were willing to go and the type of threat they posed for both Pakistan and the US. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the attack in Peshawar “despicable”. “We utterly condemn this despicable and indiscriminate attack against the Pakistani people. Our thoughts and condolences go to the victims and their families,” Miliband said in a statement, AFP reported. “The UK will continue to support Pakistan in its efforts to counter the threat it faces from violent extremism,” he added.

Afghan Runoff Stirs Concern of Repeat Fraud

Afghanistan is scheduled to hold its runoff presidential election November 7. But can an electoral process that was so deeply marred by fraud the first time around be fixed in a short time? There is concern the second round of voting will prove to be as flawed as the first.

The runoff election between incumbent President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah faces multiple challenges: Taliban intimidation, voter apathy and cynicism, increasingly harsh winter weather, and, most of all, a turnaround time of only two weeks.

U.S. Special Envoy on Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke believes the second round of voting will be cleaner than the first.

"It is reasonable to hope that there will be less irregularities this time for several reasons," said Richard Holbrooke. "One, there are only two candidates; two, there is the experience factor; three, the international community, including the forces under General McChrystal's command, are going to go all out to help make this a success."

The United States wants a relatively clean election while it considers whether to send more troops and resources to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.

But International Crisis Group senior analyst Candace Rondeaux says a hastily planned election will in all likelihood be just as fraud-filled as the initial Aug. 20 vote.

"The question has to be asked, why go forward? Legally speaking, the runoff has to take place," said Candace Rondeaux. "You have to satisfy the legal processes that are in place in the constitution. However, I do not think that you can expect any great new thunderbolts of just and fair elections because we still have the same machinery in place that has not been fixed at all."

In the first round, more than a million ballots, most of them for Mr. Karzai, were declared fraudulent by the U.N.-run Election Complaints Commission, depriving Mr. Karzai of what he claimed was an outright electoral victory. According to media reports, he only reluctantly bowed to international pressure for a runoff between him and Dr. Abdullah.

Former EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, tells VOA the widespread fraud only served to feed cynicism among Afghan voters, who he says are already disillusioned about the lack of peace and security.

"Over the last four years, ever since the parliamentary elections - which were not as fair as people thought - I think there has been a decreasing faith on the part of the Afghans in their government, in the kind of quote, unquote, democratic process that we had encouraged and that they would have been very happy to adopt," said Francesc Vendrell. "I think their faith in the current setup has already been very badly shaken. And so this will only come as confirmation."

A just-released nationwide survey of Afghans finds them more optimistic than expected, but still concerned about corruption and insecurity. A just-released International Crisis Group report says the fraudulent first round and continuing political uncertainty have been a boon for the Taliban insurgency.

Analysts say part of the problem of electoral credibility stems from the widespread belief that the Afghan Independent Election Commission is not truly independent and that it is partisan for Mr. Karzai. There is standing tension between the Afghan-run Election Commission, which counted the ballots, and the U.N.-backed Complaints Commission, which invalidated the fraudulent ballots.

Candace Rondeaux says that unless the Election Commission is cleaned up the likelihood of repeated massive fraud is high.

"In order to really correct the flaws in this process you need a major overhaul. Not only do you have to remove, I think, the chairman of the IEC, the Independent Election Commission, you then have to look at reconstituting the entire IEC secretariat," she said. "The leadership of this body has been so abysmal that it does not make sense to think that you would get different results by having the same people review ballots again."

Mr. Karzai has rebuffed a request by Dr. Abdullah for the dismissal of Election Commission chief Azizullah Ludin. U.N. officials have said many of the polling stations that recorded fraudulent votes in the first round would not be open for the second, but Ludin has contended they will be. He is also resisting calls to get rid of some of the electoral officials the United Nations has found to be corrupt.

Hillary Clinton speaks in Pakistan after massive bomb blast

Bloodbath in Peshawar: at least 105 killed, 200 injured in Meena Bazaar car bombing

Cowards target women and children
* 19 women, 11 children among dead, 25 in critical condition
* 150 kgs of explosives used in attack
* Mosque, several other buildings collapse

PESHAWAR: A remote-controlled car bomb killed at least 105 people – including women and children – and injured around 200 others at the provincial capital’s Meena Bazaar on Wednesday, said officials, hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan to bolster the two countries’ alliance against Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“We have received 92 bodies and some parts of bodies and 200 injured people – including 70 women and children,” said Haider Afridi, chief executive of the Lady Reading Hospital. He said around 25 people – mostly women – were in critical condition, while only 25 bodies had so far been identified.

“Nineteen of the dead are women and 11 are children. All the dead are civilians,” Dr Zafar Iqbal told the AFP news agency as staff declared an emergency and called for blood donations.

NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain, however, said, “More than 80 people were killed ... around 200, mostly women and children, were injured in the car bomb blast.”

Bomb disposal squad chief Shafqat Malik told reporters that 150 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the remote-controlled blast. He said that some people were still trapped under the rubble.

Addressing reporters at the Lady Reading Hospital, Iftikhar linked the Meena Bazaar blast with the ongoing military operation in South Waziristan against the Taliban, saying, “foreign terrorists – including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks – stationed in Waziristan are carrying out attacks in Pashtun areas”.

In a message to foreign and local Taliban, the minister said, “We (civilians and the army) have won the war in Malakand division ... the fight against terrorism will continue and we will eliminate terrorists even if we have to pay with our lives.”

Although nobody claimed responsibility, suspicion immediately fell on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Sunia – a 14-year-old girl who was badly injured in her right leg – told Daily Times she had come to Meena Bazaar for shopping, as her sister was getting married next week. “It was a powerful blast... I saw smoke and dust everywhere. I saw body parts and people dying or screaming on the road,” another witness told Daily Times.

According to the AFP news agency, the explosion brought down buildings. Flames reached out of burning wreckage and smoke billowed over the collapsed rubble of a mosque and three buildings, where rescue workers picked charred bodies out of smouldering debris and gathered human flesh in plastic bags.

Crying for help, men tried to pull survivors from beneath wreckage. One man carried away a baby with a bloody face and a group of men rescued a young boy covered in dust, but others found only bodies of the dead.

In a bid to disperse the crowd that gathered after the blast, police fired in the air and baton charged people standing near the blast site.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Liaqat Ali told reporters that terrorists were “confused” because of the security in the city, and were – therefore – targeting public places. He said, “There was information that an explosives-laden car had entered the city.”

Mohammad Faqir, a shopkeeper at Meena Bazaar, said although people – mostly women – from the entire province and FATA visited the bazaar for shopping, there were no proper security arrangements.

According to the APP news agency, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has strongly condemned the attack, and said the government would not rest until all terrorists had been eliminated. The prime minister said the government had launched a full-scale operation against the Taliban in South Waziristan, and “we will not be cowed down by such attacks”. He said the government was fully aware of its responsibility of protecting the lives and property of civilians, and was taking necessary measures in this context. He directed provincial authorities to investigate the matter and submit a report.

APP also reported that Senior NWFP Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour had ruled out a security lapse as the cause of the blast at the market.

Three bomb attacks have been launched in Peshawar this month, including one that killed more than 50 people. They are part of at least 10 major attacks in Pakistan.


Once again Peshawar has been wracked by a terrorist bomb, this time detonated in the crowded Meena bazaar, a maze of narrow streets and alleys and multi-storey buildings. The explosion gutted dozens of houses and shops, started a large fire and led to the later collapse of several buildings. Rescue services found it difficult to access the site because of the level of destruction and the congestion caused by debris and the narrowness of the approaches. The blast was in all likelihood a car bomb containing up to 150kgs of explosives though there is no definitive report as to whether it was a suicide or a remote-controlled explosion. At the time of writing there are around 89 dead, most of them reportedly women and children, as well as 150 injured and medical services in Peshawar are buckling under the sheer volume of casualties. Live reporting from the scene of the massacre captured the sense of chaos and confusion that always accompanies the immediate aftermath of such events, as well the later determined – and brave – attempts by fire and rescue services to bring the situation under control. The live visuals were eerily reminiscent of pictures of the bombed cities of Dresden and London in World War Two, and evoked that dreadful word that has come to embody lightning-fast and devastating attacks on civilian populations – blitz. As the Meena bazaar was bombed there were reports of another incident, this time in Kabul, which had come to an end. In an early morning raid on the UN hostel in the city six UN workers were killed, their three attackers shot by security forces and two other unidentified persons died. There is no obvious causal linkage between the two events, carried out by separate groups hundreds of miles apart in two different countries. No causal linkage perhaps, but a linkage in terms of the perpetrators of both being willing to sacrifice the lives of women and children as well as humanitarians, and a linkage in that both countries are cursed by a malaise that has grown over three decades or more.

Extremism, whatever the historical reasons that are bent around trying to understand it and place it in our national and cultural context, now envelops all of us in a deadly and debilitating cloud. There will be the usual cries that 'those who did this are not Muslims'…but of course they were. This was not some plot hatched and executed by mad Hindus or Sikhs, this is a plot that will have been hatched within a few miles of where the blast occurred, by men who believe that their piety and vision of a Muslim future world, wherein their own paradigm will rule supreme, is best achieved by shredding the bodies of their fellow Muslims. There are groups of extremists in every province, not all coordinated by any means nor sharing the same agenda, which are steadily eroding the national morale. The government is standing fast and firm in Waziristan, but the blowback is there for us all to see every day. The forces of law and order, especially the police, are nowadays stretched beyond reasonable limits, and we should refrain from laying the blame at their door seconds after every blast or atrocity. Simply, the police are a finite resource – in every country – and those that we have here in Pakistan are poorly paid, badly equipped and often indifferently led. (We will leave aside issues relating to corruption for today.) Given that the police forces of every town and city across the land are just beginning to get to grips with the demands of securing the nations schools, their scant resources cannot be spread much thinner to provide security to every bazaar and shopping mall nationwide. There will be other blasts in the future, as there have been today and in the past. Some terrorists we will intercept, but it only needs one to get through. The blitz they inflict on us may be awful but we must show our resolve, our unwillingness to be cowed, and say 'No, you shall not pass, neither shall we give you relief….now get you hence, Beast, because this is our land, not yours.'

Living hell of trapped bodies after blast

PESHAWAR: As the wounded tried to flee, they were engulfed in flames and buried alive by falling masonry. With one deafening boom, a congested Pakistan street full of women and children was transformed into hell.

“It was like a massive earthquake. Everything in my shop fell on me. There was so much smoke. When everything fell on me I passed out,” clothes shop owner Ali Akhbar told AFP from his hospital bed in the city Peshawar.

Rescue workers fished out charred bodies from the debris where a woman was buried in the rubble near a mosque, three buildings and five cars that were destroyed in scenes of armageddon, an AFP reporter said.

Bodies were trapped under huge slabs of concrete and crumbling bricks, the slow rescue heavily constrained by the collapsed buildings, pushing the death toll ever higher as cranes were mobilised to pluck survivors to safety.

The smouldering wreckage was devastating testament to a routine shopping trip or a pleasurable day out turned into bloody carnage for scores of ordinary families in the historic city of Peshawar and the largest northwest.

“I saw a flash of blue and white light and I was thrown to the other side of the street. I’m surprised I’m alive,” said Shahid Khan, 15, who was standing with a popcorn cart on the side of the road when the bomb went off.

“My entire shop fell on me. Smoke filled my face,” said Raza Ali, 30, a grocery store owner whose face was badly burnt.Crowds ran screaming down alleys in the market place, desperate to get away from the congested Meena market, fearing that a second bomb could explode. Others lifted out the casualties, their clothes splattered with blood.

“I was inside my shop. All of a sudden, there was a huge blast. It was dark everywhere. The roof of my shop fell on me, trapping me in the debris. Then I don’t know what happened,” said another survivor in hospital.

Television footage showed harrowing images. A young man was seen biting his fingers in disgust watching his shop and livelihood go up in flames.Another person in the crowd repeatedly shouted out name of a loved one, his panic rising with the passing silence. Some were seen rushing out with bundles of their belongings loaded on their backs.

The agony of loss was overwhelming at the hospital, where survivors wept over dead loved ones, crying into mobile phones, with staff struggling to cope with each new consignment of casualties as a state of emergency was declared.

Pakistan not alone in terror war: Clinton

ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Pakistan was not alone in fight against terrorism and the United States would extend help to the country to achieve goals to defeat terrorism. “Pakistan is not alone in this fight as this is our struggle as well,” Hillary Clinton said at a press conference along with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi after their bilateral talks. Ms. Hillary Clinton arrived on a three-day visit, her first to Pakistan since she assumed the office as Secretary of State. “Pakistan and the United States are facing the security issue and Pakistan is currently engaged in the struggle to fight terrorists,” she said. She commended Pakistan military for their courageous fight and said the United States stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistani people in their fight for peace and security. The US Secretary of State said the relationship between the two countries goes far beyond security and in today’s talks both sides agreed to work closely as Pakistan continues its journey towards an effective, responsive and enduring democracy. “The United States wants to provide help to Pakistanwhich its people think best for the country”. The US Secretary of State said the United States seeks to turn the page to a new partnership not only with the Government but people of democratic Pakistan. She said during talks they agreed to resume and intensify US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, as we want comprehensive dialogue which is result-oriented. “The United States wants to help Pakistan in economic arena, create jobs, develop infrastructure, create investment opportunities and more access to education and healthcare”. The Secretary of State said special envoy Richard Holbrooke and the US Ambassador in Islamabad are working closely with Pakistan to find ways and means to help overcome the country’s energy crisis. She announced the first phase of an energy programme for Pakistan, which would help repair power facilities and promote energy efficiency. The projects designed in close collaboration with Pakistan Government will repair and upgrade key power stations across the country, which are currently operating well below the capacity. She said the United States would help install better equipment at Tarbela dam power station and help repair or replace more than 10,000 tubewells across the country, which would save energy and increase agricultural productivity. She said this first phase is only beginning and there would be more intensive cooperation in this sector. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi emphasized the need for building a relationship based on trust, mutual respect and shared objectives. He said in today’s talks the two countries discussed how to re-enforce the trust and how to understand sensitivities of each other’s concerns and identify and align our objectives and strategic interests. The Foreign Minister pointed out that democracies could not be oblivious of public opinion. He said we need to address fears and concerns of both sides. He said we now have a mechanism in place and leadership of the two countries are willing to address these fears and concerns. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said as a new review of Afghan policy is taking place in the United States, Pakistan asked the Secretary of State to share her views on it and take Pakistan’s input for it. “There is a policy shift in the US approach - moving from individuals to people as the United States want to have a people-centric relationship”. He said the United States is a democracy and it has supported transition to democracy in Pakistan. He said democracies have to re-draw terms of engagement and today we sat to analyze the way forward. “We have to build relationship for the future. We have to regain each other’s confidence and Obama administration is taking steps that indicate it understands the importance of confidence in each other,” Qureshi said. He said defeating terrorism is our shared goal but the relationship has to go beyond terrorism. Qureshi said Pakistan is a resource rich country and it needs US support in using its resources. He said Pakistan needs greater market access as the country prefers trade than aid. He said during talks they also talked about the importance of building capacity of institutions that can deliver and improve the quality of life of ordinary citizens, provide better health education, sanitation and pulling people out of poverty. He said they also discussed how we can be sensitive to each other’s core interests. He said Pakistan and United States have agreed to build a strong relationship based on mutual respect and shared responsibilities.

Terrorists getting over $5 billion from ATT: ISPR

ISLAMABAD : Terrorists are getting over $5 billion from Afghan Transit Trade, besides funding from local and foreign organisations who want to fulfil their agendas, said Major General Athar Abbas, Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) here on Wednesday.

"We could not get evidence regarding any link of terrorists operating in South Waziristan Agency (SWA) with al Qaeda", Athar Abbas said during a joint briefing held here with Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira. Abbas said that majority of the terrorists operating in SWA is of foreign origin mostly from Uzbeks, while some of them are Arab nationals.

Abbas told media that the security forces have tightened the grip over Maulvi Fazalullah and Qari Hussain and they will be taken to task very soon. Waliur Rehman is present in South Waziristan Agency (SWA) while the whereabouts of Hakimullah Mehsud are not known, time is not far when these hardcore terrorists will be dead or in chains, he added.

He said that terrorists are now using small children for suicide attacks as they have prepared a large number of children for suicide attacks in different parts of the country. Condemning the deadly Peshawar blast resulting in death of over 100 people, the ISPR chief said it was a cowardly act of terrorists who are facing utter frustration due to military assault in Waziristan and Swat. "Forces are in operation and very shortly whole Pakistan will be cleared from terrorists," He added.

Sharing the details of the on-going military assault titled as 'Operation Rah e Nijat' ISPR chief said that during last 24 hours 25 terrorists have been killed and five security forces men were injured. He said that huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives including three 12.7 mm guns, 500 RPG-7 rockets, 100, 82 mm mortar bombs, 20, rockets, 12000 rounds of SMG and medical equipment's were recovered.

The Pakistan Army has successfully achieved substantial success on all three axes in the SWA and important stronghold of Kaniguram has been surrounded from three directions and forces have made good progress on Jandola-Saroragha axis along with securing important heights in Nawazkot area on Razmak-Makeen Axis.

On Jandola- Sararogha Axis security forces are progressing well and securing heights along the main road Kotkai -Sararogha that are overlooking Sararogha, he said.

Security forces secured important road Nullah Junction 2 kms north of Ganrakas along with important height point 1233 west of road Kotkai-Sararogha. During engagements 8 terrorists were killed while 3 soldiers were injured. Sanitization of Inzar Kalay has been completed.During sanitization of Murghabund, 3 x Training Complexes have been discovered and destroyed along with number of 82 mm mortar and Single Barrel Rocket Launchers (SBRL) Rockets. During sanitization of Kotkai, a total of 25 training centres have been destroyed along with 9 caves.

The important feature Karwan Manza located 2 kms east of Kaniguram has been secured. This feature effectively dominates Kaniguram from the east. The feature also over looks the town of Karama towards south east on road Kaniguram-Kotkai. Karama is a stronghold and training centre of foreign terrorists. During engagements 5 terrorists have been killed while 1 soldier was injured. Towards west the important feature of point 2120 has also been successfully secured dominating Kaniguram from the west.

On Razmak-Maheen Axis security forces are consolidating their positions at Shaga, point 6813 Tip-Ghar Top, Lagar Narai and Sharakai Sar and conducting search and cordon operations at Nawazkot area. During clearance operations 15 bunkers and Sanghars have been destroyed along with 37 rockets.

During clearance of Zar e Sar, 1 solider got injured while 12 terrorists have been killed and weapon was recovered. Speaking on the occasion Kaira condemned the Peshawar blast and said that this coward act can not demoralise our Pakistan army fighting in South Waziristan to safe the country from the terrorist and also of our nation.

He said that the security forces with full spirit are moving ahead of their planned schedule. Kaira asked media to stop broadcasting the live coverage of the terrorist activities as it is putting bad impact on the minds of general masses. Kaira said that Rs 133 million has been deposited in the accounts of IDPs and 11, 80 accounts of IDPs have been opened and are operational.

Donors throng blood bank after Peshawar blast

PESHAWAR: Unprecedented rush of donors in Lady Reading Hospital’s blood bank after the deadly car bombing showed Peshawarites’ love and respect for the humanity.

People from all walks of life, even women, were seen waiting in front of the blood bank offering themselves for donation of blood.

Volunteers closed their businesses in Saddar bazaar and other parts of the city and rushed to the hospital to give blood to seriously-wounded people.

Tariq Gul, a blood bank technician, said over 90 bags were collected in less than two hours. ‘We are short of space and facing difficulties to create space for donors,’ he said.

Due to lack of facilities and space in the blood bank, two donors had to share one bed.

Technicians confronted hard time in accommodating donors waiting patiently in long queues for their turn. Others also played their roles by offering juices and milk to the donors.

Mohammad Bilal and his brother Mohammad Akbar who reached the hospital for donating blood said: ‘We are here just for the sack of humanity. Soon after the blast we pulled shutter down and reached the hospital.’

It was a rare occasion when a number of women reached the bank and donated blood. In normal circumstances, women stay away from donating blood.

The problem of space has been continuously haunting the people, staff as well as blood donors in the province’s biggest 1200-bed hospital, which has not only been receiving victims of every blast taking place in Peshawar but also in other cities.

‘Donating blood by the local community is not a problem as it used to be in the past. Most of the people earlier hesitated from donating blood but now things have changed for the better,’ said an official, adding after every bomb blast donors immediately thronged the blood bank for donation of blood.

He said blood donation had become a culture and that was why hospitals had no problem in blood collection.

Participation of the common people in rescue work and shifting of the wounded from the blast site to the hospital also showcased the increasing spirit of voluntarism among the masses.

Local people shifted wounded people on motorbikes and in rickshaws to the Lady Reading Hospital as ambulances could not be promptly utilised due to narrowness of the streets and roads at the blast site.

Terrorists this time selected a more congested locality for the fulfilment of their evil plan. Charwi Koban, where the blast occurred, is a confluence of Meena and Kochi bazaars and is one of the most populated areas of the city.

It was the worst man-made disaster in the history of Peshawar that left nearly 90 people, including women and children, dead and over 160 wounded. Most of the shops in these two bazaars deal in female-related items. That is why a majority of the victims were women and children.

Innocent civilians always bear the brunt of terrorist activities. But this time terrorists showed their ugliest faces by targeting women and children in Peshawar. Doctors said around 70 women and children were killed and 25 suffered injuries.

Meena and Kochi are considered most favourite bazaars for women across the region where they can move and shop in a relax mood.

These places were considered shopping paradise for people from urban and rural areas, but they may not be that attractive for shoppers after Wednesday’s blast.

Peshawar blast tally climbs to 105

PESHAWAR: The total death toll from Peshawar blast has mounted to 105 while rescue sources say that more people could still be buried under the debris. Over 150 people sustained injuries in the blast.

Hospital sources have confirmed that 160 were brought there, and a list of 136 of these injured has been made visible inside the hospital premises.

According to details, the powerful blast occurred at Peepal Mandi ripped near Meena Bazar, Peshawar. The explosion triggered fire in nearby shops while an old building came to ground with the heavy impact which also caused damage to other surrounding buildings.

Most of the buildings in the area had already been declared to be in poor condition.

AIG Bomb Disposal Unit Shafqatullah Malik said that explosives, weighing 150 kilograms, were planted in a vehicle.

DCO Peshawar Sahibzada Anees has confirmed 95 deaths in the tragic incident while the hospital sources confirmed 89 people dead, majority of them are women and children.

Condition of many injured is said to be serious and the toll is feared to rise further.

Frontier CM must resign

A blazing inferno and a heart-rending holocaust it was, with some 92 people, including 11 innocent children and 22 women lying dead on the spot and many more writhing in pain with wounds in this Wednesday's brutal terrorist car-bombing on ladies' shopping bazaar of Peshawar metropolis. Perhaps the deadliest-ever so far, the strike unmasked evil faces of perpetrators, showing them up for what they really are: mercenary murderers who slaughter their own innocent people for money on their foreign paymasters' bidding, wearing deceptive masks of religiosity and jihad. They are, contemptibly, outright infidels and traitors of the worst kind. But couldn't their thuggery be preempted or prevented? The day earlier, local law-enforcement authorities had been issuing warnings that two explosives-laden vehicles had entered the metropolis for terrorism. Then, why had they left undefended this shopping bazaar, always a bustling place, crowded with women shoppers and their accompanying children. The bazaar was potentially a target, needing to be protected impregnably. Yet it was found left totally unsecured, with not even a single duty cop in sight. Why? Had cops been withdrawn from all over to mount redoubled security on ministers, bureaucrats and other VIPs, while ordinary citizens were simply thrown out to be mowed down and devoured up by terrorist wolves? Chief Minister Amir Haidar Hoti must now admit his incompetence and failure and resign, so conclusively has he demonstrated his ineptness and unfitness for the job. The Frontier's residents give a damn to brave talk he and his ministers ooze out so churlishly after every terrorist strike in the province. They have heard him and them churning out the bunk nauseam that terrorist cannot break their resolve to face up to them unbendingly. But seen him they have not doing anything practical to secure their lives and properties. For months, he has been telling them he would recruit tens of thousands cops to beef up the province's police force. But, appalling, he is still to move beyond talk to concretize that recruitment, even as prowling terrorists are on the rampage increasingly bloodily. Maybe, he is awaiting lists from his ANP flocks to recruit political favourites, not right meritorious candidates, to the force. So incompetent has indeed he been that, leave alone the rest of the province, he has spectacularly failed even securing the provincial metropolis. In these very days, terrorists have come again and again, have struck Peshawar lethally and fatally again and again, and he has shown nothing else to confront them except his puerile talk. Verily, he has shown in every manner not be the man capable of steering a troubled province as is the Frontier presently. He must now spare the province's distressed people the atrocity of his inept and incompetent stewardship to make way for some able hand to handle its critical security situation, sparing himself thereby too all the time for dancing and frolicking at wedding parties and other festivities of his kith and kin in garrison clubs and their mansions. He indeed can save some shame to his disgraced face by emulating the example of chief minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra, who owned up moral responsibility and stepped down when terrorists struck his state's capital, Mumbai. Certainly, this Wednesday terrorist assault on Peshawar is no lesser horrific. It indeed was more deadly. The Mumbai terrorism also saw Indian home minister quitting. And this Peshawar carnage must set our interior minister Rehman Malik thinking too of following a precedent that comes natural to responsible people with a sense of honour and dignity in such tragic calamitous events. Heads must also roll in the provincial police hierarchy, particularly for its horrendous failure in averting a thuggish strike when it knew before hand that terrorists had entered the city for their wicked act. The provincial top cop, who holds his court in the city, and Peshawar city police chief have to go forthwith, in any case. Their incompetence in the given conditions is obvious and just indefensible. Punitive actions must also come against the rest found derelict in an inquiry into the carnage, which must be quick so as to prevent recurrence of such an intolerable holocaust. And to hell with CoD, 17th Amendment and all such-like forays, keeping the country's top leadership engrossed. The people can do without these adventures. They need security of life at least, first and foremost. The president and the prime minister must take a pause, sit down earnestly and work vigorously into implementing the action plan that the high-level inter-provincial security meeting had worked out in Islamabad. Terrorist thugs are visibly getting viler, bolder and deadlier. They have to be curbed and crushed quickly and at every cost.

Peshawar bomb targets women, children

PESHAWAR: At least 101 people, mostly women and children, were killed and over 150 injured when a huge car bomb ripped through a crowded market here on Wednesday.

The blast triggered a huge fire which engulfed a number of buildings near the Meena Bazaar. A plume of dust and smoke billowed from narrow lanes of the market situated in the old part of the city.

A senior intelligence official blamed terrorists based in Darra Adamkhel for the attack. ‘We intercepted a call last week in which militants were talking about a ‘heart-rending’ attack in Peshawar,’ he said.

A representative of the shopkeepers’ association said threats had been received in recent days with militants demanding that women be forbidden from going to the market.

The blast took place in two narrow lanes between Meena Bazaar and Kochi Bazaar frequented by women.

A cotton warehouse in the market caught fire which spread to several buildings on the Cheri Koban road. A number of shops along the narrow road, vehicles and carts were gutted.

Most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and till late night only 25 of them had been identified.

Hospital sources said the death toll could rise because scores of badly burnt and injured people were in a critical condition.

‘It was a car bomb blast and over 150 kilograms of explosives were used,’ in-charge of the bomb disposal unit AIG Malik Shafqar Mahmud said.

He said that an initial investigation suggested that explosives had been detonated by remote control. The blast caused massive losses because it had taken place in a narrow and busy market, he added.

‘About 70 of the dead are women and children. Scores of the injured are in a critical condition,’ said Dr Sahib Gul, the in-charge of Trauma Centre at the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar.

‘The blast was so huge that it jolted the entire area and within seconds plumes of smoke and dust started emitting out of a building near Al-Falah Mosque,’ Karim Khan, a shopkeeper, said.

Ezat Khan, another shopkeeper, said that parking of vehicles outside shops was not allowed, but it could not be ascertained how the driver of the explosives-laden car had managed to park it there.

Fire-engines, ambulances and other rescue vehicles faced difficulty in reaching the scene because of congestion and narrow lanes. People were seen taking the bodies and the injured to hospitals in cars, rickshaws and even on motorcycles.

A fire-fighter said that many children and women trapped in the debris of several buildings were crying for help, but rescue workers could not reach them because of huge flames.

A group of men trapped under the roof of a nearby mosque were rescued.

Rescue work was in progress till late night and workers were finding it difficult to remove the debris.

It was feared that some people were still trapped in the rubble because rescue personnel had heard them wailing and crying.

All shops in the area were closed after the blast and people started searching for their relatives.

A crowd of people inside the trauma room and emergency hall of the Lady Reading Hospital made it difficult for medical staff to perform their duty.

Distressed people, including women, were seen searching for relatives in the hospital, but recognising them was difficult because most of the bodies were mutilated. Stench of blood and human flesh hung in the air in the hospital.

NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftkhar Hussain told reporters that the blast was a reaction to the military operation in South Waziristan which had become a safe haven for terrorists of various countries.

‘Terrorism cannot be described as jihad as our religion does not allow taking lives of innocent people,’ he said, adding that the government would not bow to pressure and continue its fight against saboteurs.

Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour said it was difficult to deploy policemen at all places because of shortage of manpower.

The provincial government, he said, had already decided to recruit 1,000 retired personnel of the armed forces to help police.

Mr Bilour urged all political and religious parties to join hands and take a unified stand against terrorists.

Survivors recount narrow escape from deadly Peshawar market bombing

87 killed in Peshawar blast: hospital sources

PESHAWAR: The death toll of the blast occurred in Meena Bazar Peshawar has climbed to 87, hospital sources said. More then 200 people injured in the blast.According to reports, three persons have been rescued from the rubbles of the buildings collapsed after the explosion. The injured have been shifted to Lady Reading Hospital and other hospitals where emergency has been announced. The children and women are also among the wounded. Some of the injured reported in a critical condition. The administration of Lady Reading Hospital has appealed for blood donation. The blast shattered windowpanes of nearby buildings and created panic among the people. The charred bodies have been recovered from the blast site as several persons still trapped under the rubbles. A nearby mosque Umme Habiba has been destroyed in the explosion. Police have cordoned off the area as rescue operation is on the blast site. President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his heartfelt grief over the loss of innocent lives in Peshawar bomb blast, while denouncing the incident, Prime Minister (PM) Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani directed concerned officials to provide the injured with all the possible medical relief. NWFP Chief Minister (CM), Amir Hyder Khan Hoti has ordered inquiry of the blast. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif, CM Punjab Shehbaz Sharif, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Quaid Altaf Hussain, Governor Punjab Salman Taseer, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Qamar Zaman Kaira, NWFP CM Amir Hyder Hoti, Governor NWFP Owais Ahmed Ghani, CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Governor Sindh Dr Ishrat-ul-Ibad, CM Balochistan Aslam Raisani, Governor Balochistan Zulfiqar Magsi, Federal Ministers Farooq Sattar and Babar Ghauri, Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Syed Munawar Hassan and Qazi Husain Ahmed have strongly condemned the blas

Blast rocks Peshawar in Pakistan

Car bomb blast kills more than 80 in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: A car bomb blast killed more than 80 people and wounded about 100 on Wednesday in a crowded market in Peshawar, a doctor and officials said, the latest in a series of bloody militant attacks.

The blast, the deadliest in Pakistan this year, came hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Pakistan pledging a fresh start in ties with an increasingly embattled and sceptical partner in the struggle against militancy.

The bomb went off in Peshawar’s busy Peepal Mandi market street in the old city, sparking a fire that engulfed several buildings.

‘The figure is rising. We have more than 80 dead including women and children,’ Sahib Gul, a doctor at the city's main hospital, told Reuters.

Pakistan is on high alert amid fears of retaliatory strikes by Taliban militants as the army attacks their strongholds in South Waziristan on the Afghan border.

The blast was caused by a car bomb, a senior city official said.

‘The car was parked outside a market frequented mostly by women,’ Azam Khan told Reuters.

The offensive against in South Waziristan came after a series of brazen attacks on the United Nations, army headquarters, police and general public, in which more than 150 people were killed.

There have been several bomb attacks since the offensive began.

Wednesday's blast caused serious damage in the neighbourhood of old wood and brick buildings, busy streets and narrow lanes.

‘Several buildings and a mosque have been badly damaged while a fire has engulfed a building,’ witness Aqueel-ur-Rehman told Reuters from the scene.

‘I can see three bodies lying under the debris,’ he said.

The army launched the offensive on October 17 and says it is making steady progress as soldiers push towards the al Qaeda-linked militants' bases in the region's rocky mountains and patchy forests.