Friday, July 2, 2010

Fighting terrorism

The Frontier Post If the deadly suicide strike on Data Darbar shows vexatiously how vulnerably is caught Lahore in the vortex of a prowling terrorism, it also exposes worryingly how terribly wanting is the state apparatus in fighting this monstrosity. Now for pretty long, the provincial metropolis is being soaked with innocent blood by this stalking terrorism. Not just vulnerable civilian targets has it struck lethally. It has murderously attacked seemingly impenetrable security establishments and defence facilities in the city, too. Yet appallingly no methodical or systematic strategy or effort is in evidence to curb this monstrosity. After every strike, the city administrators and law-enforcers promptly come out to tell cheekily that the head or the legs of the thuggish striker have been found as if they have done a marvellous job of their responsibility to protect the citizens’ lives and safeguard their properties and the state establishments. Little do they realise that their prank to cover up their inexcusable failure grates sourly on a harried citizenry yearning to hear of no heads or legs found but of having busted the lairs of these thugs of death and destruction, of having hobbled them on their legs, and of having defanged them and decapitated them from perpetrating their vile acts. Indeed, there is perturbing hiatus to the act of the state in fighting this vicious monstrosity. Presently, Lahore may be in its bloody grip. But no other part of the province as also of the country is immune from its wickedness. Terrorists strike wherever they want and whenever they will. And if in the past they had Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in their evil sights with its metropolis of Peshawar bearing the brunt of their evilness quite too often, it appears now they have shifted their thuggery to Punjab to drown its capital city in particular in bloodbath. That smacks of a systematic coordinated scheming. But the state deplorably shows no such methodical endeavour to smash their conspiracy and finish off their cruel bloodletting business. Months ago, the prime minister had convened a top-level inter-provincial security conference to formulate a counter-terrorism strategy. And it did hammer out quite an impressive comprehensive plan involving a coordinated effort at the federal, provincial and local levels to take on this monstrosity with full state might. But either that plan has fallen a prey to the crusher of the official rut or is being pursued at best half-heartedly. Its envisaged coordination at various official tiers, so essential in fighting a war against an invisible monstrosity like terrorism, is nowhere perceivable. In fact, a tiff over the putative wellsprings of terrorism in Punjab keeps the provincial top political and administrative hierarchies at loggerheads with the federal interior ministry, with the latter insisting that the province’s southern parts have become a lair of fanatical extremists and terrorists and the former stubbornly in denial of this and seeing only politics in this federal assertion. It really is so shocking and exasperating that something so grave as a matter of life and death should become political football so churlishly and insanely between the state’s two centres of power. Curiously, as the monster of terrorism is perceptibly baring still lethal fangs to kill and maim our people to wipe out all their sense of safety and security and so destabilise our polity, there is no evident effort on the official corridors even to understand this monstrosity which is increasing becoming intricately complex to tackle. Believably, it is no more a one-dimensional phenomenon. It is an evil complex of motivated terrorists, plain mercenary murderers, criminal gangs, mafia syndicates, sectarian fanatics, and proxies and agent provocateurs of inimical foreign powers and agencies. And if not tackled now, this evil complex will surely become all the more intricate and hence intractable and very hard to overcome, even by the army which already is too overstretched with fighting militancy in tribal and settled areas. The prime minister must therefore reconvene the top-level inter-provincial security conference to review the working of the counter-terrorism strategy and rectify its shortcomings to make it effective and result-oriented. The participants, too, must come to the conference with open minds all shorn of political inhibitions and reservations. A secure and safe Pakistan free from all terrorism, militancy, criminality and rabid religiosity is in the interest of all, the political strands included. Saved from:

Little Obama' Movie Opens in Indonesia

A new movie titled Little Obama (Obama Anak Mentang), chronicling the time President Barack Obama lived in Indonesia as a boy, has opened in Jakarta. The director says the film shows a young Barack Obama becoming the leader he is today. At the premier of the movie Little Obama in Jakarta, children from the school President Obama attended when he lived in Indonesia as a child, sang and danced. Invited guests also had their pictures taken with a look-alike of the adult president. But the main event was the screening of the film about the lessons a young Barry Obama, as he was then known, learned while living in Jakarta in the early 1970s. From his Indonesian stepfather young Barry learned to fight when he must. From his mother he learned to forgive. In the movie there is action and a touch of romance.The film's director, Damien Dematra, says Little Obama is based on actual events but it is also a movie with a message. "The importance of differences, of pluralism. That it is okay to be different, you know. When we are different it does not mean we have to fight and number two do not use violence, that violence will not only solve the problem," he said. The part of young Barry Obama was played by 12-year-old American Hasan Faruq Ali, who had never acted in a movie before. Like President Obama, he is the son of a mixed-race couple and moved from the United States to Indonesia as a toddler. "I feel really lucky because the first movie I play at, I get to play someone I am really a fan of and the number one person in the world right now, the most powerful man in the world right now," Ali said. The guest list for the premier included many supporters of President Obama, including political analyst Wimar Witoelar. He hopes the film will strengthen the cultural connection between the United States and Indonesia. "Say it was shown in America that Obama was in Indonesia, that Indonesia is an acceptable country to live in," Witoelar says, "for Indonesians it shows that this American president is one of us, so it is a very useful movie." The movie, however, did present a few concerns. Before its release, a scene showing the young Barry Obama, who is a Christian, praying like a Muslim was dropped because producers deemed it too political.

Chelsea Clinton wedding speculation.

The former first daughter is engaged and preparing for a summer wedding to fellow political spawn Marc Mezvinsky. But following the current privacy protocols for celebrity nuptials, the family has not publicly announced where and when the happy event will occur. Even invited guests won't likely get the word on the locale until the last possible minute -- all in an effort to stem any leaks that would draw gawkers and paparazzi. But speculation is running rampant, and late Thursday, the Hudson Valley News and the Associated Press cited sources saying the wedding will happen in scenic Rhinebeck, N.Y. The AP story, citing a single anonymous source ("a local resident... [who] isn't authorized to divulge the information") simply says the wedding will happen at a "private mansion just outside the town." This may or may not dovetail with the Hudson Valley paper's claim that the ceremony is set for an estate built by turn-of-the-century titan John Jacob Astor IV. True? The stories sound credible; but they also sound like a lot of credible-sounding media reports from last summer, based on knowledgeable sources, that Chelsea was going to wed on Martha's Vineyard in August 2009. A rep for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to comment about the new stories. (Last year, Clinton reps strongly denied the rampant reports of a 2009 wedding; this year they have been open in acknowledging a wedding is soon to occur, but stingy with the details.) Experts agree: Astor Courts, also known as Ferncliff Casino, would be a great place for a couple of VIPs to get hitched. "It's a wonderful place for something like that," said Village Mayor James Reardon, who like other local officials said he has no knowledge of the Clintons planning an event there. The 1902 Beaux-Arts mansion, designed by Stanford White, sits on a secluded 50 acres, on top of a bluff with river views -- the kind of place where you could easily, say, land a helicopter but also keep the media at a distance. Six years ago, it was purchased and meticulously renovated by Kathleen Hammer, a retired executive with Oxygen Media, and developer husband Arthur Seelbinder. She's a plugged-in contributor to Democratic causes, who has hosted a number of fundraising events there. Hammer has told friends that she's hosting a big event there in July, cloaked in some secrecy. We asked her directly if she's hosting a Clinton wedding. "Like the family, we really have no comment," she said. Some local officials expressed chagrin that they hadn't been looped in on an event that -- assuming it's actually happening there -- could put heavy demands on the region. But a law enforcement official said that if the wedding is on the date we've been hearing -- July 31, still four weeks away -- it's not unreasonable that they wouldn't have been briefed on it yet. Meanwhile, it's not impossible that all this Rhinebeck talk is just a dodge to distract us from the real wedding location -- or that it's all just some big misunderstanding. The big Martha's Vineyard event preparations that had everyone in a tizzy of speculation? Turned out to be for a birthday party for Bill Clinton at the home of Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.

In Kandahar, Looking To Petraeus On Rules Of Fire

At a combat outpost north of Kandahar city, Army Capt. Jeffrey McKinnon peers over a wall of sandbags and points to a location 100 yards away, a tangle of grapevines, trees and brush. "We found an enemy fighting position there about three days ago. They shot at our tower — very brief. I think they were actually test-firing one of their weapons," says McKinnon of the 101st Airborne Division. But the Americans didn't return fire. "We actually didn't see it, that's why we went and patrolled over there" to find the source of the gunfire, McKinnon says. By the time they got there, the Taliban and their weapons were gone. In another incident, taking fire from another Taliban position at a crumbling mud compound, the Americans were able to shoot back. We can't engage until fired upon, and it's not really giving us a fair chance, I don't think. - Spc. Jeffrey Cole "That contact was pretty sustained, a good 10 or 15 minutes. And we fought them off of that," McKinnon says. The difference in the two situations? In the latter, McKinnon says, his forces could "see all the way through that thing," making sure there were no women and children in the compound. The rules of engagement — when and under what circumstances troops can fire on an enemy position — require that soldiers see the enemy, or innocent civilians, before they decide to shoot. The rules are strongly debated among U.S. soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan. The man recently ousted as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, tightened the rules a year ago because U.S. bullets and bombs were causing a high number of civilian casualties.

Lahore shrine bombings, nothing seems sacred After last night's bombings in Lahore, an ancient sanctuary, which for centuries was a place for prayer and meditation, has been rudely introduced to Pakistan's very modern conflict. Nothing short of a shift in national culture will rescue the soul of Pakistan's Islamic traditions. In these troubled times of bombings, heatwaves and chronic power shortages, millions have flocked to the shrines of the mystic saints, trying to cajole good fortune out of arguably the most unfortunate period in our country's history. No saint is more venerated than Dhata Ganj Baksh, the great mystical Muslim saint of the 11th century, who is buried in Lahore. When twin blasts exploded in his mausoleum they destroyed more than just the lives of 43 people and their families. A Muslim believes his or her fate is already written. Many will now be wondering what they have done to deserve this punishment. Others, including the Taliban, have immediately blamed foreign powers. Many blame the US for bringing conflict to their region. This is not entirely misplaced – terrorism has increased, not abated, ever since the Obama administration escalated the "AfPak" conflict against al-Qaida and the Taliban by ramping up troop numbers and drone strikes. But, even so, this latest massacre will make even more Pakistanis abdicate responsibility for reforming our society. Dhata's shrine has not changed much since I first visited it as a child three decades ago, only now the pacific ambience has been somewhat ruined by the security guards and metal detectors, which did disturbingly little to prevent the attacks. Like the Haj pilgrimage, a visit to Dhata's shrine is a humbling experience. Rich and poor, men and women, all mingle amid the crowded mass. Sadly, this also made it the perfect target for a suicide bombing. It cannot be a coincidence that the attacks came just over a month after the slaughter of about 90 people in two mosques belonging to the Ahmadi minority sect. Although there has been far greater coverage and condemnation this time around than back in May, the fact that both a minority sect and mainstream Sufi Muslims have been targeted proves that our shared Islamic heritage is a threat to those behind the violence. Hitherto reluctant to expand the military conflict to Punjab, Pakistan's army will feel the pressure of local and international demands to do precisely that. But any response dominated by military means would be a disaster, creating even greater instability and, as more civilians are killed by the army's rough anvil, undoubtedly create more insurgents and leading to more bombings. This is a matter for civil authorities – the provincial and federal government, the police and the courts – to take the lead. Now more than ever, Pakistan must institute a clear and effective system for the regulation of its religious seminaries, mosques and Islamic welfare organisations. A recent government proposal to restrict coverage of the violence and criticism of the state is a backward step. True, Punjab has become saturated with welfare fronts for jihadist groups involved in violence here and in neighbouring India. But part of the problem is that Islamic welfare organisations with links to jihadists have stepped in where the state has been absent, providing meals, education and medical services to poor citizens who would otherwise go without. This does not mean that we are a population of jihadists; rather, that the state has either sat idle or aided Islamists as they deliberately blurred the line between legitimate civil society and militancy. The state must proactively begin the long, slow and difficult process of rolling this back. As I've argued before, one of the key reasons the public has rallied against the militants is a sense that those behind the attacks are not Islamists or even Pakistanis, but foreigners. This mindset creates a dangerous conspiracy theory culture, but it does have one clear advantage. It is difficult for most to be critical of something that is sacred to them, such as their faith. But in blaming outsiders for the violence, people demonstrate their rejection of violence, which they consider antithetical to Islam. Of course, that rejection is at times somewhat hypocritical. Consider, for instance, those who blamed India for the anti-Ahmadi attack in May while giant religious banners openly called the Ahmadi apostates worthy of death. Lahore has been filled with protests from religious parties, shopkeepers and others throughout today. As it is Friday, the mosques have been crowded with worshippers listening to their local imams railing against the violence with varying degrees of hyperbole and prescience. Then there is the voice of Dhata Ganj Baksh, a preacher born in Persia, who went on an astonishing lifelong journey through the Middle East and central Asia before ending his days in Lahore. Dhata's lyrical poetry, laced heavily with notions of love, the ephemeral beauty and power of God, and the necessity of humility in worldly affairs, transformed him into a legend for well over 10 centuries. We would do well to honour the spirit behind the verse.

Pakistan minister seeks death penalty for terrorists

Pakistan's judiciary is under an obligation to root out the scourge of extremism and should award the death penalty to persons convicted for acts of terrorism, a provincial minister said on Friday. Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Information Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, said "the heads of several banned groups have claimed responsibility for masterminding acts of sabotage in mosques and bazars and (attacks) on security forces". "Therefore, in view of the serious nature of these acts, the judiciary should impose the death penalty on terrorists," he said. Addressing a seminar on violence against journalists organised by the South Asia Free Media Association at Peshawar Press Club, he said when terrorists are killed, "they are termed as extra-judicial killings and when innocent people die, nobody bothers about them." "When we arrest terrorists, they are freed due to lack of authentic proof," the minister said. Hussain said that terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for various terrorist attacks across the country but the judiciary continued to ask the government to produce viable proof against terrorists. The network of terrorists has been weakened in areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa bordering the tribal belt, he said. "Earlier it was the war of our survival, whereas it is now the war of the terrorists' survival," he added. "This is a guerrilla war and it will continue till the interests of superpowers clashed with each other. Unless these differences are resolved, the war cannot be taken to its logical conclusion," Hussain said. The US, Pakistan and Afghanistan should share intelligence with each other as these countries are the major forces in the war on terror, he noted. Any clash in the policies of these countries could impact the results of the war, he said. Iran, Russia, India and China have their own interests in the region and unless they find a viable solution to their problems, the war against terror could not be won completely, Hussain cautioned. Terrorists were made into hero-like figures by certain sections of the media but the government's political policies turned the tide, he said. The suicide blasts at Data Darbar shrine in Lahore were an indication of the presence of the Taliban in Punjab, he said. Senior journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai, Peshawar Press Club president Shamim Shahid and a large number of media persons were present on the occasion.

Peshawar Police deputed at mosques, imambargahs

In Peshawar, thick police contingents have been deployed at religious buildings including mosques, imambargahs and other sensitive places for stepping up security measures, keeping in view the suicide blasts at Data Darbar occurred on late Thursday. Security around mosques, imambargahs has been made stern on Friday. More police parties are now patrolling bazaars, offices, government buildings and other places, he added.

PML-N MPA Khawaja Muhammad Islam holds fake degree

Intermediate certificate of PML-N MPA, Khawaja Muhammad Islam from PP-72 (Faisalabad-XXII) has been proven bogus, sources in Higher Education Commission told Geo News. According to the sources, MPA submitted Intermediate certificate of Faisalabad Board for admission in University of East Hyderabad. The degree he submitted was of 1987 while the Board was established in 1988. On this reason his degree proved fake. Khawaja Muhammad Islam defeated Sujjah Ullah Khan of PPPP. He has won provincial assembly seat in 1993 and 1997 elections and has been the City President of the party since 1993.

Lahore shrine toll reaches to 43

Death toll of suicide attacks in Data Darbar has reached to 43 among which 28 martyrs have been identified, Geo News reported on Friday. Cultural capital Lahore was on high alert Friday after two suicide bombers blew themselves up at Data Darbar packed with devotees, killing more than 40 people and wounding 175. "The first blast occurred in the basement followed by another one with a deafening sound," said one witness. On Friday, large numbers of police and other security personnel were patrolling all busy and sensitive areas in Lahore, a city of around 10 million people. Police sources said heads of two suicide bombers have been found. Security was particularly tight around mosques ahead of weekly Muslim prayers, senior police officer Mohammad Faisal Rana told media. A senior investigating officer told media that the bomber in the basement set off his vest after he was intercepted by a group of worshippers and that police were combing the scene for forensic clues. The entire country is in state of shock and mourning on Data Darbar tragedy whereas several religious parties and traders of Lahore announced ‘Youm-e-Sog’ Friday. Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has announced compensation of Rs. 0.5 million each for martyrs and Rs.75, 000 for wounded.