Monday, April 19, 2010

2 bombs hit northwestern Pakistani city; 22 dead

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Two bombs, hours apart, exploded in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, killing 22 people and underscoring the reach of militants despite successive military offensives close to the Afghan border, police said.

The first blast exploded outside a school run by a police welfare foundation in the northwestern city, killing a young boy and wounding 10 people. Just before dusk, a second bomb went off close to a police station in a busy market area, killing 21 and wounding around 30, said police officer Zahid Khan.

Some of the victims were supporters of a hardline Islamist party holding a rally close to the station, said Khan.

Taliban and al-Qaida militants based in the Afghan border region — who are fighting Pakistani security forces — have carried hundreds of attacks over the last three years. Two blasts over the weekend in the nearby Kohat tribal region killed around 50 people, most of them refugees lining up to register for food and other aid.

The Police Public School was in session when the bomb went off, said police official Shafiullah Khan. The school is run by a foundation that raises money to help families of police officers.

The dead boy was aged between 5 and 7, Khan said. Five of the wounded were children.

Also Monday, suspected Taliban militants in the northwest detonated two bombs that destroyed a pair of oil tankers along a vital route used to supply NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

No one was wounded, but the fire also engulfed a flatbed truck and nearby shops in the Takhta Beg area of the Khyber tribal region, local official Iqbal Khan said.

Taliban militants and ordinary criminals frequently attack vehicles along the supply route that runs through the famed Khyber Pass into Afghanistan. The U.S. and NATO say their Afghan operations have felt limited impact, but they are establishing alternate routes.

Second blast in Peshawar, 21 killed

A bomb exploded at a crowded market in Peshawar on Monday, killing 21 people in the second attack on the city in a day, police said.A Jamaat-e-Islami rally was being taken out to protest against load shedding in Qissa Khawani Bazaar when the explosion occurred.Earlier today, a blast killed one child and wounded ten others outside a public school in the city.

Zardari signs 18th Amendment Bill into law

President Asif Ali Zardari signed the Bill of Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment today, after which it became part of the Constitution, Geo News reported.

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, cabinet members, PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif, Chairman Constitutional Reforms Committee of the Parliament Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Chief Ministers and governors of the provinces attended the ceremony held at the Presidential House.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani congratulation to all the members of parliament and the entire nation on the occasion of signing of the 18th amendment bill.

“This crowning achievement will be remembered for all times to come,” he said. Let’s uphold the democratic values, he added.

The government is making every possible effort to overcome the challenges such as power shortage, poverty, rural and urban backwardness and unemployment.

He said presence of the President, Prime Minister, Parliamentarians, chief ministers and the entire opposition at one place is unprecedented in the history of Pakistan.

Senator and Chairman Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Reforms (PCCR) Raza Rabbani paid tributes to all the members of the committee for what he said their “political maturity, political sagacity and rising above interest” for making possible the finalization of the 18th amendment.

He also paid tributes to the political leaders, saying without their guidance the Parliamentary Committee could not move ahead with the kind of open mindedness that was required for the uphill task.

Raza Rabbani said the 18th amendment bill is unique in three ways. First, it is for the first time that a duly elected president is giving his powers willingly to the prime minister and the parliament.

The constitution was mutilated by the dictators who aimed to perpetuate their power. The power does away with the name of Zia-ul-Haq; it does away with the wastages of Musharraf by repealing the 17th amendment bill.

The question of provincial autonomy ‘to some extent’ has been solved, Raza Rabbani said.

The PCCR knew that it cannot amend the basic fundamentals of the Constitution. We have maintained its Islamic character and that it continues remain a democratic constitution in a true sense, he said.

The 18th amendment bill has been passed without a dissenting note, which, he said, shows that institutions are strong.

“The Constitution returns as nearly as possible to the principles of the 1973 constitution,” Raza Rabbani announced with satisfaction.

Afghan police arrest 9 in plot for Kabul attacks

Afghan security forces arrested nine members of a terrorist cell and seized nearly a quarter-ton of explosives, foiling a plot to stage suicide bombings and other attacks in Kabul, the country's intelligence service said Monday.
The arrests mark the second time in recent weeks that the security services claim to have prevented major attacks on the capital, a result they say of better training and use of informants.
Intelligence service spokesman Saeed Ansari said four of the suspects were arrested while traveling in a vehicle in the city's eastern district, while five others were picked up at an Islamic school in Kabul.He said security forces also confiscated six rifles, two machine guns, two rocket-propelled grenades, 440 pounds (200 kilograms) of explosives, six suicide bomb vests and a vehicle. The dates of the arrests were not disclosed.
The suspects, one of whom was a Pakistani citizen, ranged in age from 16 to 55 and had been given specific responsibilities within the group such as for arranging accommodation or transporting arms, Ansari said. Three of the group were identified as would-be suicide bombers, although Ansari said the cell possessed enough explosives and vests to equip up to six suicide attackers.
He said the group was acting under orders from a Pakistan-based Taliban faction, which had rented a house in eastern Kabul, shipped weapons across the border and provided funds for the purchase of a vehicle to be used in suicide attacks.
The arrests follow the interception of a vehicle on April 8 on the outskirts of Kabul carrying what police said were five would-be suicide bombers on their way to carry out a major attack in the city — the largest such team ever detained in the capital.
Police said at the time that the bombers were sent by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group based in Pakistan, and their capture follows widespread rumors that militants were planning attacks in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul.
The last major attack within Kabul took place Feb. 26 when suicide bombers struck two small hotels in the center of the city, killing at least 16 people, including six Indians. Afghan authorities blamed the attack on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same Pakistan-based Islamist militia that India blames for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 166 people.
Also Monday, Afghanistan's defense ministry said an explosion, possibly involving land mines or mortars, killed one Afghan army soldier and wounded three during a military training exercise in Kabul.
The Taliban said the blast was a suicide attack, though the insurgents have been known to make false or exaggerated claims.
In the north of the country, Afghan and international forces were continuing an offensive to drive the Taliban away from population centers and a key supply route. As of Sunday, at least 29 militants, including two commanders, had been killed over four days of intense fighting, the Interior Ministry said.
Meanwhile, a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in mountains north of Afghanistan's capital early Monday, killing at least seven people and injuring 30, officials said.
The temblor hit in Samangan province, about halfway between Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, according to the province's deputy governor, Kulam Sakhi Baghlani.
Roads and communications are sparse in the area, and casualty reports take time to reach authorities. The quake was felt in Kabul as well as the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Baghlani said three districts of scattered mud-walled villages were affected, with more than 300 homes damaged and dozens of head of livestock killed. Landslides sparked by the quake had blocked roads, making even more arduous what was already an eight-hour drive along winding mountain trails from the provincial capital of Aybak.

Israeli defense minister says occupation must end

Israel must recognize that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people, the country's defense minister said in unusually frank remarks Monday.

Ehud Barak's comments came against the backdrop of severe friction between the U.S. and Israel's hawkish government over an impasse in peacemaking.

Last week, President Barack Obama issued a surprisingly pessimistic assessment of peacemaking prospects, saying the U.S. couldn't force its will on Israelis and Palestinians if they weren't interested in making the compromises necessary to end their decades-old conflict.

Barak spoke to Israel Radio on the occasion of Israel's Memorial Day, dedicated to the nearly 23,000 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terror attacks. The day is observed with a two-minute nationwide siren when people stand at attention, traffic is halted and everyday activities come briefly to a standstill.

At midnight Monday, the somber Memorial Day runs into Israel's 62nd Independence Day celebrations.

Both dates are traditionally a time for introspection. This year, Israelis are dwelling on issues such as the country's growing isolation over its policies toward the Palestinians, the growing rift with the U.S. and the failure to relaunch peace talks.

Barak told Israel Radio that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has "done things that didn't come naturally to it," such as adopting the vision of two states for two peoples and curtailing settlement construction.

"But we also shouldn't delude ourselves," he added. "The growing alienation between us and the United States is not good for the state of Israel."

The way to narrow that gap is to embark on an Israeli diplomatic initiative "that doesn't shy from dealing with all the core issues" dividing Israelis and Palestinians, he said. Chief among these are the status of contested Jerusalem, final borders and a solution for Palestinian refugees from the war around Israel's 1948 independence.

Barak dismissed talk of an imposed U.S. solution — an idea fielded recently in Washington. But he warned that while Israel is militarily strong, it needs international legitimacy as well.

"The world isn't willing to accept — and we won't change that in 2010 — the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more," he said. "It's something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world."

Palestinians aspire to a state of their own, he said, and "there is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let them rule themselves."

Barak heads the Labor Party, the most moderate member of Netanyahu's government.

But as defense minister in the country's past two governments, Barak has not even taken down the two dozen settlement satellites that Israel promised the U.S. to dismantle in 2003. Dovish critics have accused him of making Labor a fig leaf for the Netanyahu government's hawkish policies.

It wasn't clear whether Barak's statements reflected government policy, his own personal opinion or a desire to reach out to Labor voters. Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment.

Later Monday, Netanyahu told the audience at the national cemetery that Israel is eager for peace, but is ready to confront its enemies.

"We extend one hand in peace to all our neighbors who wish for peace," Netanyahu said. "Our other hand grasps the sword of David in order to defend our people against those who seek to kill us."

The Obama administration has been pushing to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks but despite shuttle diplomacy and unusual pressure on ally Israel, it hasn't even been able to launch the indirect talks it had hoped would start last month.

Netanyahu's government derailed the talks and precipitated the worst crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations in years by announcing plans for new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem.

Palestinians claim that sector of the city as the capital of a future state, and have refused to sit down for talks until Israel agrees to freeze all construction there — something it has refused to do.

Netanyahu has yet to provide promised proposals to the U.S. for getting the talks back on track. In the meantime, he has defended his government's plans for new housing in the disputed holy city, calling them part of a long-standing Israeli policy.

Ash cloud flights ban extended further

Hopes that flights in and out of the UK could recommence soon have been dashed when it was decided that the flights ban would stay in place until at least 1am on Tuesday.
Making the ruling, air traffic control company Nats said conditions around the movement of the layers of the volcanic ash cloud over the UK "remained dynamic".
Nats said it was maintaining close dialogue with the Met Office and with the Civil Aviation Authority and that its next flight update would be made around 3pm.
Travel association Abta estimate around 150,000 Britons have been stranded abroad because of flight restrictions.Britain sent Royal Navy warships on Monday to rescue those stranded across the Channel by the volcanic ash cloud, and the aviation industry blasted European transport officials, claiming there was "no coordination and no leadership" in the crisis that shut down most European airports for a fifth day.
Airline industry group IATA criticized Europe's response to a volcanic ash cloud and called on Monday for urgent steps to reopen airspace after five days of closures that have cost airlines $250 million a day.
ATA head Giovanni Bisignani said authorities in Europe had "missed opportunities to fly safely".

"This volcano has crippled the aviation sector, firstly in Europe and is now having worldwide implications. The scale of the economic impact (on aviation) is now greater than 9/11 when U.S. airspace was closed for three days," Bisignani said, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

"We must move away from this blanket closure and find ways to flexibly open air space, step by step," he told a news briefing in Paris.

European transport ministers are due to discuss the airspace crisis at 9 a.m. ET after a meeting of the European aviation control agency Eurocontrol, which said on Monday it expected between 8,000 and 9,000 flights to operate in Europe.

That would represent just 30 percent of normal flight traffic, and marks only a modest increase from Saturday and Sunday, when less than 25 percent of flights operated. Since Thursday at least 63,000 flights have been canceled.

Austria opened its airports on Monday but other countries kept no-fly decrees in place. Italy closed its northern airspace after briefly opening it on Monday.

The closure of most of Europe's airspace because of a huge cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano stranded millions of passengers, and importers and exporters have been hit.

The crisis has had a knock-on effect across the world and its impact on everyday life in Europe has deepened. In Britain, companies reported staff had been unable to get back from Easter holidays abroad and hospitals said they were cancelling some operations because surgeons were stuck in far off places.

Britain's official weather forecaster the Met Office released a graphic predicting little movement of the ash plume over Europe on Monday, but saw it spreading toward the eastern seaboard of North America.

"The wind flow is staying very much the same through the day. Probably for the next three of four days the wind regime is not going to change terribly much," a Met Office spokesman said.

Bisignani called for urgent action to safely re-open airspace and called for a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations aviation body.

"We have to make decisions based on the real situation and not on theoretical models. They (the authorities) have missed opportunities to fly safely," he said.

A senior European Union official said on Sunday the current situation was not sustainable, as airlines called for a review of no-fly decrees after conducting test flights at the weekend without any apparent problems from the ash cloud.

"We cannot wait until the ash flows just disappear," said EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, adding he hoped 50 percent of European airspace would be risk-free on Monday.

Dutch airline KLM, which has flown several test flights, said most European airspace was safe despite the plume of ash, and dispatched two commercial freight flights to Asia on Sunday.

Volcanic ash is abrasive and can strip off aerodynamic surfaces and paralyze an aircraft engine. Aircraft electronics and windshields can also be damaged.


Senior Eurocontrol official Brian Flynn said the International Civil Aviation Organization published rules that needed to be adhered to worldwide, and guidelines to interpret at continental level.

"One could say that the guidelines are interpreted slightly more rigorously in Europe than in the United States, when it comes to responsibilities of air traffic control agencies and pilots," he told Reuters.

Iceland's Meteorological Office said the erupting volcano sent further strong tremors throughout the surrounding area on Monday but the ash plume which has caused air traffic chaos has descended to an altitude of about 2 km (1.2 miles). It was as high as 11 km when it began erupting on Wednesday from below the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.

Businesses dependent on fast air freight, have felt the impact of the disruption. Kenya's flower exporters said they were already losing up to $2 million a day. Kenya accounts for about a third of flower imports into the European Union.

In export-reliant Taiwan, the island's two major international carriers China Airlines and Eva Air said they had canceled a total of 14 cargo flights to four European airports since Thursday.

Britain said it was considering using the navy and requisitioning merchant ships to ferry home citizens stranded abroad. The response to the crisis is threatening to become an issue in the campaign for Britain's May 6 election.

The British travel agents' association ABTA said it had a rough estimate that about 150,000 Britons were stranded abroad.

"At no time in living memory has British airspace been shut down and affected this many people," said a spokeswoman.

The crisis is having an impact on international diplomacy, with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani becoming the latest leader to abandon a visit to Europe. A joint IMF and European Union mission to Greece was also delayed.

For travelers, businesses and financial markets, the biggest problem is the unpredictability of the situation.

Economists say they stand by their predictions for European growth, hoping normal air travel can resume this week.

But if European airspace were closed for months, one economist estimated lost travel and tourism revenue alone could knock 1-2 percentage points off regional growth. European growth had been predicted at 1-1.5 percent for 2010.

"That would mean a lot of European countries wouldn't get any growth this year," said Chatham House senior economic fellow Vanessa Rossi. "But the problem is it is incredibly hard to predict what will happen. Even the geologists can't tell us."

Disruption spread to Asia, where dozens of Europe-bound flights were canceled and hotels from Beijing to Singapore strained to accommodate stranded passengers. In Tokyo, Japan Airlines said it had canceled 44 European flights so far and All Nippon Airways put its cancellations at 27.

Many U.S. airline flights to and from Europe were canceled.

Russian airports remained open, routing planes to North America over the North Pole to avoid the ash cloud.

Swat, Roots of Taliban conflict fester .
MINGORA: A year after Pakistan launched a major operation to evict the Taliban from Swat Valley, markets are bustling and girls are back at school, but the root causes of the conflict still fester.
For two years the Taliban paralysed much of the valley by promoting a repressive brand of Islamic law, opposing secular girls' education and beheading opponents until the government ordered in thousands of troops.At only 125 kilometres (80 miles) northwest of Islamabad, its mountains were once a weekend getaway and ski resort.As the offensive began, around two million people fled the district but a year later many are back, trying to rebuild their lives.“Normalcy has returned... All segments of society are open and functioning,” said Qazi Jamil, the new chief of 15,000 police serving three million people in the wider Malakand region, which includes Swat.Girls in white headscarves walk to school, laden with books. Markets are cluttered with chickens, oranges and vegetables. Shutters are painted with the green and white Pakistani flag to signal opposition to the Taliban.
But threats and tensions remain. On February 22, the same day Jamil arrived to take up his new job, a suicide bomber killed nine people.
“The element of threat is still there unfortunately,” said Jamil.
“There are so many different small groups, alleys and streets it's extremely difficult to plug each and every loop. They are trying to sneak in.”
Keen to address the causes of the insurgency, the civil administration wants international donors to accelerate reconstruction and rehabilitation, and for police to take over from the army as quickly as possible.“There is a need for a new social contract between the haves and the have-nots. There is a new friction on the rise,” said Naseem Akhtar, a senior official in the civil administration.Without adequate services and reconstruction, the roots of what he calls the Taliban's “class war” - a product of Pakistan's feudal system, the huge disparity in wealth between the landowners and peasants - will continue to grow.“We have a Herculean task of reconstruction and rehabilitation,” said Akhtar.
Police need to be recruited and trained. Jobs need to be created.Conditions need to be made conducive to business. Out of 1,576 schools in Swat, the United Nations says 175 were destroyed and 226 damaged.“Right now the donors' response is poor. The international community should concentrate on providing funds,” Akhtar told AFP.Under army supervision, schools are being repaired but none of those razed has been rebuilt, officials said.Akhtar's former school, Government High School 1, is a lunar scape of rubble bulldozed by the army with 10 tent classrooms offering boys an education that would enable them to work as clerks and businessmen.Caretaker Saif-ur-Rehman says he no longer sleeps on the premises at night, despite his faith in the army, because he is too frightened after the night the militants came, blowing up the building and pointing a gun at his head.“There are still some rumours that the Taliban might come and again capture the entire area,” he said.Robert Wilson, USAID director in Pakistan, said the agency had set aside 36 million dollars for Swat, including 25 million to rebuild around 50 schools but conceded that not a single school had yet been fully rebuilt.The perception that the displaced had already returned, plus earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, means less donor money is available, said Caitlin Brady, chairwoman of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, a group of 35 leading international aid organisations.“There are still 1.3 million people displaced (in the northwest) and people who have gone home still need assistance. We're concerned that Pakistan is becoming a forgotten crisis,” said Brady.The Central Hospital Saidu Sharif lacks equipment, specialised surgical staff, beds, updated X-ray and CT scanners, ventilators and a defibrillator.“I was expecting so much, but so far it (the response) has not been very encouraging and there has not been much contribution as far as this hospital is concerned,” said Dr Lal Noor Afridi.A few victims of the February attack are still on the surgical ward, like rickshaw driver Obeidullah who unwittingly drove himself and three passengers into the path of the suicide bomber, and is now looking for a new life.“It was a warning to leave the rickshaw thing. I want no more risk,” said the 35-year-old, bandages layered over his chest

Peshawar blast kills one, injures 11

A child was killed and 11 people were injured on Monday as an explosion hit a police public school in northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, police and hospital sources said.The remote-controlled bomb blast took place outside the main gate of the state-run Police Public School at the Khyber road in Peshawar, where a large number of people were present to pick up their children, police said.
The dead was a student of 7 to 8 years old and the injured including six children have been rushed to the Khyber Teaching Hospital in the city.
Eyewitness said two vehicles were destroyed and one nearby shop was damaged partially. "Two vehicles were completely destroyed with its parts splintered around," an eyewitness Iyas Khan Shinwari told reporters.
Some analysts believe that the moderate intensity blast was designed to frighten people but the details of the blast could not be ascertained.
Most of the school's students are children of police personnel. The bathrooms of the school was damaged by a cracker blast in 2009.
The busy Khyber road, where Peshawar University and other educational institutions are situated, has been closed for traffic and the entire area was hit by panic.
The heavy police contingent arrived on the spot along with the Bomb Disposal Squad. No groups claimed responsibility for the attack so far but militants outfits including the Pakistani Taliban launched a string of bomb strikes in recent weeks in the country's restive northwest near the border with Afghanistan.

1 Goal: Education for All’ begins

The people all around the world will be participating in an international campaign ‘1 Goal: Education for All’ from April 19-26, 2010 with the purpose of giving every child and adult the opportunity to get education by 2015.
The campaign has been launched to coincide with the FIFA Football World Cup. The aim of Global Action Week (GAW) is to give priority to education financing even in the face of the economic downturn. This year, the theme is ‘Education Financing.’ The suggested slogan worldwide for the Action Week 2010 is ‘1 Goal: Education for All’.
To join the international community in this campaign, Pakistan Coalition of Education (PCE) as a member of Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is organising activities across the country. Civil society organisations, teacher associations, child rights campaigners, teachers, parents and students will join together in these activities to demand free and quality education as a basic human right and an essential factor for overcoming poverty. There are 774 million adults and 75 million children, who cannot read and write globally with majority of them in developing countries. Two thirds of the adults who cannot read and write are women and girls.
The PCE is organising GAW 2010 in 45 districts across the country. Different activities to be carried out during whole week include classroom activities, discussion sessions with students, public gatherings, sports activities, politicians go back to school campaign, displaying of banners at public places, walks, debate and drawing competitions, message collection from students and teachers on importance of public financing in education etc. In addition to that, signature campaign on joining 1 Goal for enhancing education financing, talk shows on electronic media and radio stations, message campaigns, awareness raising campaign through bill boards, interviews and collection of messages from across the country will also be part of the campaign.
All these activities would culminate in a dialogue on education financing, which would be organised in capital. The idea of this seminar is to share the importance of education public financing, sharing the budgetary trends in education financing, highlighting the role of parliamentarians, media, ministry of education and finance.
The event would also put forward the demands, messages and suggestions gathered during the global action week with the policy makers to influence them to generate a debate in the parliament and ensure that education sector gets its due share in the upcoming budget in June.

Pro-Pukhtunkhwa rally staged in Oghi

MANSEHRA: A rally was staged in Oghi Sunday to celebrate the renaming of the province as Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa.
Oghi is an important town in Mansehra district, where protests against Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa have been regularly held. The participants of the rally marched through various roads and gathered at main square of the town for the public meeting.
Addressing the rally, Roshan Khan, Rafique Khankhel, Imtiaz Ahmad and others said that the Pukhtuns struggled hard to get their identity. “If Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan could be named on ethnic lines, what is the harm if the NWFP is renamed after Pukhtuns,” argued one of the speakers. They said that they were not against the demand for separate province for Hazara people but constitutional and legal path should be followed for creation of a separate province. They also prayed for the protesters, who lost their lives in Abbottabad, saying that those who were inciting poor and innocent people for their vested interests should be brought to justice.

Kohat blast's victims in miserable condition

PESHAWAR: Recollecting the twin suicide bombings at a registration centre for IDPs in Kohat that left 41 persons dead, desperate attendants of the injured persons at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) said life and death had lost its meaning in the tribal region.

A visit to the LRH on Sunday revealed that a number of the wounded including a boy were struggling for life in various wards. The 13-year-old boy, Minhad, having sustained critical injuries in one of the blasts, was in such a critical state that he was shifted to the general intensive care unit. Minhad went to the registration point established in the Kacha Pakha Union Council on the outskirts of Kohat for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) along with his mother.

He was near the spot when the first bomber detonated suicide vest near the queues of the IDPs waiting for registration, his cousin Ashfaq Ali said. He added that the mother of Minhad remained unhurt but he received fatal injuries.

He said most of the blast victims belonged to the Manikhel tribe displaced from lower part of Orakzai Agency and now settled in Hangu district. Expressing grief over the incident, he said: “The blood of innocent tribesmen has become the cheapest thing in the tribal areas as we do not know the reason and our fault for which we are killed.”

When asked about the condition of Minhad, Dr Mustafa in the ward said he was still in a critical state. In the Neurosurgery Trauma ward, there were two other victims identified as Ashfaq, a schoolteacher, and Kamran Ali, a wage earner.

Tending to Ashfaq lying unconscious on the hospital bed, his relative Shahadat Ali said: “When the first blast ripped through the crowd of IDPs, Ashfaq along with his 18-year-old son Mussadiq rushed to the spot. They started retrieving the bodies and the injured. But after seven minutes there was another suicide attack, killing Mussadiq on the spot and injuring his father.” He added that Mussadiq was a student of intermediate at a local college. He said Ashfaq had not yet been informed about his son’s death.

In the surgical ward, Taj Muhammad, Syed Shakeel Hussain and Niqab Ali were under-treatment. Niqab Ali, a schoolteacher, said he was passing through the area when he was caught in the blast.

Recalling the incident, he said the policemen deployed for security were inside the building of the Kacha Pakha Union Council and there were no security arrangements for queues of IDPs waiting outside. He said the tragedy that claimed the precious lives could have been averted with proper security arrangements.

The patients and their attendants claimed nobody from the government had yet visited them at the hospital to console them and enquire after their health. “Taliban are punishing because we are pro-government but the government functionaries are oblivious of our plight,” one of them said.

Majority of Americans distrust the government: survey

Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they do not trust the U.S. government to do what is right, expressing the highest level of distrust in Washington in half a century, according to a public opinion survey.
Only 22 percent of Americans say they trust the government "just about always" or "most of the time," according to the Pew Research Center survey released on Sunday.
Americans' trust in the federal government has been on a steady decline from a high of 73 percent during the Eisenhower administration in 1958, when the "trust" question was first posed in a national survey, the research center said.
Economic uncertainty, a highly partisan environment and overwhelming discontent with Congress and elected officials were all factors contributing to the current wave of public distrust, the report said.
The long, bitter debate over the healthcare law that U.S. President Barack Obama signed last month made negative feeling about government, particularly Congress, even worse, according to the report based on a series of surveys of some 5,000 people.
About 25 percent had a favorable opinion of Congress, the lowest in 25 years of surveying, and less than half (40%) said the Obama administration was doing an excellent or good job, Pew said.
Americans were found to be more frustrated than angry, with 56 percent expressing frustration with the federal government, compared with 21 percent who said they were angry.
Forty-three percent of Republicans, 50 percent of independents who lean Republican and 57 percent of those who agree with the Tea Party movement said the government presents a major threat to their personal freedom.
That compares with 18 percent of Democrats, 21 percent of independents who lean Democratic and 9 percent of those who disagree with the Tea Party movement.
The main survey of 2,505 adults was conducted March 11-21. Three other surveys of about 1,000 adults each were conducted March 18-21, April 1-5 and April 8-11. The margin of sampling error for the surveys is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Quake kills seven in Afghanistan's north

At least seven people are dead and 30 injured after a magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck in mountains north of Kabul, Afghan officials say.
Kulam Sakhi Baghlani, the deputy governor of Saragan province, said the quake hit just before 1am on Monday (0630 AEST) in the province, about halfway between Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Roads and communications are sparse in the area and casualty reports take time to reach authorities.
The quake was felt in Kabul as well as the neighbouring countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The region is capable of producing large earthquakes along fault lines where India slammed against the Asian continent millions of years ago.

Safe to fly now? 'No consensus' over ash

Major airlines that sent test flights into European air space found no damage Sunday from the volcanic ash that has paralyzed aviation over the continent, raising pressure on governments to ease restrictions that have thrown global travel and commerce into chaos.Is it safe to fly yet? Airline officials and some pilots say the passengerless test flights show that it is. Meteorologists warn that the skies over Europe remain unstable from an Icelandic volcano that continues to spew ash capable of knocking out jet engines.European Union officials said air traffic could return to half its normal level on Monday if the dense cloud begins to dissipate. Germany allowed some flights to resume.Eighty percent of European airspace remained closed for a devastating fourth day on Sunday, with only 4,000 of the normal 20,000-flight schedule in the air, said Brian Flynn, deputy head of operations for Eurocontrol, which supports the air traffic control network across the European Union's 27 states.
"Today it has been, I would say, the worst situation so far," Flynn said.
The test flights highlighted a lack of consensus on when to reopen the skies. The microscopic but potentially menacing volcanic grit began closing airports from Ireland to Bulgaria on Thursday, stranding countless passengers and leaving cargo rotting in warehouses."It is clear that this is not sustainable. We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates," EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas told reporters at the European capital in Brussels.
KLM Royal Dutch airlines, the national German carrier Lufthansa, Air France and several regional airlines sent up test flights, probing altitudes where the cloud of ash has wafted over Europe since the volcano turned active on Wednesday. British Airways planned an evening flight over the Atlantic from Heathrow, one of Europe's busiest hubs.None of the pilots reported problems, and the aircraft underwent detailed inspections for damage to the engines and frame."Not the slightest scratch was found" on any of the 10 empty long-haul planes Lufthansa flew Saturday to Frankfurt from Munich, spokesman Wolfgang Weber said. The planes flew at low altitude, between 3,000 and 8,000 meters (9800 and 26000 feet), under so-called visual flight rules, in which pilots don't have to rely on their instruments.
Steven Verhagen, vice president of the Dutch Airline Pilots Association, said he would not hesitate to fly an aircraft today carrying his own family.
"With the weather we are encountering now — clear blue skies and obviously no dense ash cloud to be seen, in our opinion there is absolutely no reason to worry about resuming flights," said Verhagen, a pilot of Boeing 737s for KLM. "We are asking the authorities to really have a good look at the situation, because 100 percent safety does not exist."
Each country decides
Civil aviation authorities in each country must decide whether to resume commercial traffic, but the 27-nation EU said if weather forecasts are correct it expected half its flights to operate normally on Monday. While it was still unclear how the dust would affect jet engines, the EU said it was encouraged by promising weather predictions, at least for the next 24 hours.
"Probably tomorrow one half of EU territory will be influenced. This means that half of the flights may be operating," said Diego Lopez Garrido, state secretary for EU affairs for Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency. He did not provide details about which flights might resume.France's transport minister, Dominique Bussereau, said there will be a meeting on Monday of European ministers affected by the crisis to coordinate efforts to reopen airspace.
Meteorologists warned that the situation above Europe was constantly changing because of varying winds and the continuing, irregular eruptions from the Icelandic volcano. That uncertainty is bumping up against Europe's need to resume flights.
"There is currently no consensus as to what consists an acceptable level of ash in the atmosphere," said Daniel Hoeltgen, a spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency. "This is what we are concerned about and this is what we want to bring about so that we can start operating aircraft again in Europe."

Kohat Tragedy!!!

Editorial: Daily Times

Kohat was struck with tragedy on Saturday as two suicide bombers attacked an IDP camp as a group of internally displaced persons (IDP) were waiting to get themselves registered and receive aid handouts. More than 40 people were killed, including a journalist, and dozens more injured. After the first suicide attack, a large crowd gathered at the site of the blast and within minutes the second blast took place. The bombers were clad in burqas. At least 210,000 people have been displaced from the tribal districts of Orakzai and Kurram. Most of them have registered in Kohat and Hangu. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s Al-Aalmi group, an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has reportedly claimed responsibility for the bombings. Being a sectarian organisation, Al-Aalmi has cited the presence of Shias at the IDP camp as the reason for the attack. After the sectarian attack in Quetta on Friday and a day after in Kohat, it seems as if the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its offshoots are hell bent on spreading sectarian terror all over the country. Why the government has not taken any action against these sectarian outfits is beyond comprehension. Pakistan already has a lot on its hands what with the Taliban and other terrorist outfits. The resurgence of sectarian terrorism, which flourished under the Zia regime, is something to worry about. The failure to quell sectarianism is a failure of political will.

The government has to take strict measures against terror groups to save the country from going up in flames. The government’s inconsistency in cracking down on militant outfits, especially the banned organisations, shows that there is a lack of requisite political will in curbing extremism. The extremists’ hate literature and cassettes are easily available across the country and obviously violate the law of the land, but seldom invite sanctions. The government has to reconsider its policy and stop treating these militant outfits with kid gloves, and launch a heavy crackdown born of a well thought out strategy. The ease with which the terrorists have recently operated exposes the inefficiency of the security agencies. Now that such attacks have targeted not only the security forces and government officials but citizens as well in the length and breadth of the country, this has certainly thrown up a bigger challenge to the security agencies. No doubt ensuring complete security against suicide attacks is difficult because of the nature of these attacks and the level of determination of a suicide bomber, but pre-emptive measures have to be taken.

Recent terrorist attacks have shown that large gatherings are at risk and present an easy target. To attack an IDP camp is atrocious but to expect any kind of sensitivity from the terrorists is unthinkable. They are out to create panic and kill whosoever they can. Precautionary measures have to be taken by the public as well. When one blast occurs, instead of rushing to the site of the blast, the public must wait for some time before going there as there is a great danger of another blast to inflict more damage. The media has to exercise caution as well. Journalists reporting in conflict areas should be trained properly and should report from a distance when an attack takes place. Media organisations should provide life insurance for their employees who are working in sensitive areas. Having said that, the security agencies and the government must take stringent measures against all militant outfits. It is time to act.