Monday, June 27, 2011

US to provide technical assistance for FM radios

The US government will provide technical assistance for establishment of FM Radio stations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and improvement in their managerial, operational and production capabilities under an agreement signed here at the Chief Minster`s House on Monday.

In this regard, Acting US Consul General Ms Constance C. Arvis and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Director Information Shoaibuddin Khan signed the letter of agreement in the presence of the chief minister, Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Secretary Information Azmat Haneef.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Hoti said that his government was well aware of the importance and outreach of radio broadcast and that was why they had allocated funds in annual development programme for establishment of as many as 24 FM Radio stations throughout the province, says a handout.

He said that these radio stations would be run with the involvement of local communities so as to bring their problems to light. The chief minister said that were fully aware of the genuine needs of the people at grass-roots level and committed to solution of their problems.

The provincial government, he said, had also planned the establishment of its own television station, for the feasibility study was under way.

The chief minister said that the provincial government had evolved a communication strategy to reach the people and the establishment of FM Radio stations and the TV channel was part of it.

He said that radio was an effective medium among the mass communication channels through which a large portion of population could easily be accessed.

Ms Arvis assured the chief minister that the US government would fully support the development of local media in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Kayani in Kabul: Pakistan comes under fire for cross border shelling

Fighting across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border will overshadow talks when the two countries meet along with the United States on Tuesday to map-out plans for reconciliation with the Taliban.
Pakistan on Monday rejected Afghan allegations it had fired 470 rockets into Afghanistan over the past three weeks, saying only that “a few accidental rounds” may have crossed the border when it pursued militants who had attacked its security forces. Afghanistan voiced its anger as Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, met with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his presidential palace in Kabul on Monday.
Kayani is in Afghanistan to attend a tripartite commission comprising him, Chief of the Afghan General Staff, General Sher Mahammed Karimi, and General David H. Petreaus Chief of the Afghan General Staff, General Sher Mahammed Karimi, and General David H. Petreaus.
The escalation of fighting on the border between Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun tribal areas and Afghanistan has underscored the difficulties the three countries face in working together to reach a political settlement to the 10-year Afghan war.
“I think the main thing on the agenda this time may be the situation on the border,” said Waheed Mujhda, political analyst at the Afghan Analytical and Advisory Centre in Kabul.
The meeting, between US envoy Marc Grossman and top diplomats and military commanders from Afghanistan and Pakistan including,, follows President Barack Obama’s announcement last week of a faster-than-expected troop withdrawal, accompanied by talks with the Taliban.
“It’s a way to coordinate efforts on reconciliation but also a way for Afghanistan and the US to state clearly to the government of Pakistan … to end the support by Pakistan of safe havens,” Grossman told a news conference.
Pakistan blames Afghanistan for giving refuge to militants on its side of the border, particularly in eastern Kunar province, leaving it vulnerable to counter-attack when it chases them out of its own tribal areas.
Top military commanders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States met in Kabul on Monday to review the situation on the border, a Pakistan army statement said.
Generals Ashfaq Kayani, Sher Mohammad Karimi and David Petraeus looked at ways of improving the effectiveness of operations, the statement said.
“Steps for better coordination and enhanced cooperation to avoid misunderstandings as regard to the border security were also discussed,” it said.
Pakistan badly bruised after US forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on May 2, is keen to show it has a constructive role to play in helping the United States to bring stability to Afghanistan.
It has long wanted the United States to hold talks with the Taliban to seek a political settlement to the Afghan conflict which it says is fuelling its own domestic Islamist insurgency.
The United States has come some way towards sharing that view, opening its own preliminary talks with the Taliban.
It has also softened its stance on talks by saying its demands that insurgents renounce violence, sever ties with al Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution are outcomes rather than preconditions for negotiations — a suggestion made last year by Pakistan.
“Strategically the two countries are on same page,” a senior military official said last month. “There are issues on operational and tactical levels.”
Karzai has also been pushing for reconciliation with the Taliban and for the first time in the 10-year war, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States all share — in theory at least — a commitment to seek a political settlement.
Distrust on all sides
But deep distrust remains, both between the United States and Pakistan and between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan has so far been excluded from Washington’s early contacts with the Taliban, Grossman told a news conference in Kabul. “Up to now, the government of Pakistan has not been involved in that particular process at all, as yet.”
Kabul accuses Pakistan of continuing to support the Afghan Taliban, whom it openly backed when they were in power from 1996 to 2001, to maintain its influence in Afghanistan.
It also says Islamabad is trying to manipulate peace talks to its advantage, to the point of sabotaging them if they do not go in the direction it wants.
“We expect practical steps from Pakistan in the weeks and months ahead to help sustain the peace process,” a senior Afghan government official said. “The ball is in Pakistan’s court.”
With the Taliban talks still at a preliminary stage, and vulnerable to ethnic and regional rivalries which could plunge Afghanistan deeper into civil war as US troops withdraw, the cross-border shelling has added another complication to a fragile situation.
The Afghan government said on Sunday that “it strongly condemned the firing of 470 rockets over the past three weeks from the Pakistan side of the border in the eastern provinces of Kunar and Nangahar provinces”.
President Hamid Karzai expressed his deep concern, it said, and asked Pakistan to immediately stop firing into Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Karzai said on Monday Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul had been summoned over the issue, adding: “We are sure it can be resolved.”
Pakistan army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said no rounds had been intentionally fired into Afghanistan.
In the last month, there had been five major attacks from the Afghan side of the border in which 55 men in the Pakistani security forces had been killed and 80 wounded. “The fleeing militants were engaged by the security forces and a few accidental rounds going across cannot be ruled out,” he said.
Pakistan says militants, including Pakistani Taliban commanders, have taken refuge on the Afghan side after it launched military operations to drive them out of its Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
It was angered by a US decision to thin out its troops in eastern Afghanistan, including the Korengal valley in Kunar province, when Washington decided to concentrate on population centres in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban heartland.
“For quite some time we have been highlighting that there are safe havens across the border,” Abbas said. “Something should be done about these.”
Before the killing of bin Laden, the United States had been talking about improving coordination of military operations on both sides of the border so that they could work with, rather than against, each other, in fighting insurgents.
That cooperation may have deteriorated in the breakdown of trust which followed the unilateral US raid to get bin Laden, perhaps explaining the escalation in cross-border shelling.
It is impossible to verify independently exactly what is happening on the remote mountainous border.

PPP wins AJK polls

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)

won a majority of seats in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) elections amid incidents of violence claiming three lives.

Those who were declared successful included former AJK prime ministers Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry, Farooq Haider, Sardar Yaqoob and Sardar Attique.

Senior politicians like Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, Sardar Qamaruz Zaman, Siyab Khalid, Chaudhry Ismail and Tariq Farooq also won their seats.

According to the unofficial results announced late on Sunday, elections were postponed in three constituencies after the death of three people in the violence.

Elections were held on 37 seats of the AJK Legislative Assembly and according to the last unconfirmed reports, Pakistan People’s Party was ahead of other contestants with 19 seats, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) bagged seven, Muslim Conference (MC) four while two independent candidates were also declared successful.

The unofficial results revealed that in LA-1, Mirpur 1, PPP candidate Afsar Shahid succeeded with 10,152 votes. Masood Khalid, an independent candidate, was the runner up.

PPP’s Arshad Hussain succeeded from LA-4, Mirpur 4, another PPP candidate Chaudhry Pervaiz Ashraf secured his seat for Legislative Assembly from LA-5, Bhimber 1. From LA-6, Bhimber 2, independent candidate Ali Khan Swati was declared successful. In LA-7, Bhimber 3, PML-N candidate Chaudhry Tariq Farooq was the successful candidate, LA-8, Kotli 1 went to Muslim Conference candidate Malik Muhammad Nawaz. Voters elected PML-N candidate Rao Naseer LA-10 Kotli 3 and Chaudhry Yasin of the PPP from LA-11.

PPP’s Matloob Inqalabi, Muslim Conference’s Sardar Attique, and PPP’s Qamar Zaman succeeded in their respective constituencies.

The polling for the AJK elections in Lahore had been suspended after a scuffle between supporters of the PPP and the PML-N candidates. The PPP claimed that PPP workers Afzal Butt, Khalid Usman and PPP Punjab General Secretary Samiullah Khan were injured by the PML-N attackers. The polling started at 8am but the atmosphere soon became charged and Presiding Officer Malik Tahir Iqbal decided to suspend the polling.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani talked to AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan over telephone and discussed the overall political situation in AJK.

Both the leaders agreed to work for the development, progress and prosperity of the people of AJK.

The Gujranwala police have registered cases against 100 PML-N and PPP workers after a clash during polling at LA-31 Jammu-II on Sunday.

Nawaz Sharif following Taliban line against Army: Sharmila

Pakistan Peoples’ Party Sindh Women Wing Secretary Information

Sharmila Faruqui has said that PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has been working on agenda of Taliban and anti-Pakistan forces by propagating against the Pakistan Army.

In a statement issued here on Sunday, she said: “Nawaz Sharif was meeting a hidden agenda to defame the Pakistan Army and destabilize the country on the instructions of his foreign bosses”.

She said the stability of the country is in civil-military mutual cooperation adding that but Mr. Sharif wanted to damage the interests of the country at national and international level by leveling false allegations on the Pakistan Army and the democratic government.

“Maulvi Nawaz Sharif having a specific “Jihadi mindset” wanted to meet nefarious designs of Taliban and extremist forces while such mindset could not be taken as a peaceful religion of Islam,” she said.

She said that it was the PPP led democratic government which fully supported the Pakistan Army to secure peace in Swat, FATA and Wazirstan and to foil conspiracies against the country. “Pakistan Flag is being hoisted in Swat once gain due to mutual cooperation of the PPP government and the Pakistan Army,” she said adding that we could not allow any one to try to weak our defense by launching negative propaganda against our armed forces.

She said the PPP government would continue fully backing the armed forces to maintain peace in the restive parts of the country.

She said that one person ‘Maulvi Mushtaq’ damaged democracy by awarding death sentence to an elected and popular Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was completely innocent in the case adding that now another Maulvi Nawaz Sharif was showing his frustration by leveling false accusations against the democratic government and the Pakistan Army.She said that Mr. Sharif has been continuing negative propaganda campaign against the Pakistan Army as he was suffering from frustration due to not being in power.She said that Mr. Sharif should not damage the interests of the 18 karore people of the country because of his frustration.

“Nawaz Sharif should play role of a politician and not as Maulvi Mushtaq,” she said. She further said that law minister of the Punjab government; Rana Sanaullah was not a law minister but minister for terrorism.

She said that statements of Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore had exposed him and proved that he and his brother Nawaz Sharif was meeting hidden agenda of Taliban and anti-Pakistan elements.She said that how the Taliban could be taken as peaceful while they were carrying out attacks on mosques, Imambargahs, girls’ schools and public places.

World Food Program cuts Afghan food assistance

The U.N. World Food Program announced Monday it will cut food assistance to more than 3 million Afghans in about half the country's 34 provinces because of a shortage of money from donor nations.
The U.N. agency said it had planned to help feed more than 7 million people in Afghanistan this year, but a shortage of donor funds means 3.8 million people will be helped through meals provided at schools and training and work programs. The program said it needed an additional $220 million to continue its work in Afghanistan at the level originally planned.
The program will focus food assistance on helping the most needy Afghans, especially women and children, said Bradley Guerrant, the agency's deputy country director.
"We are working hard to raise the funds needed to restart these activities as soon as we can," he said.
Two roadside bomb blasts killed seven civilians Monday in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said. A vehicle struck one of the bombs in Qarabagh district, killing four civilians, including two children, the ministry said. Another vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Ghazni city, killing three civilians.