Saturday, October 1, 2011

NATO captures senior Haqqani leader in Afghanistan

NATO says it has captured a senior leader of the al-Qaida- and Taliban-allied Haqqani terror network operating inside Afghanistan.
NATO announced on Saturday that the coalition forces seized Haji Mali Khan during an operation in eastern Paktia province, which borders Pakistan.
The alliance called it a significant milestone in the fight against the terror group.
NATO identified Khan as an uncle of Siraj and Badruddin Haqqani, two of the son's of the network's aging leader Jalaludin Haqqani.
The Pakistan-based network is affiliated to both the Taliban and al-Qaida and has been described as the most serious security threat in Afghanistan.

Jailed Bahrain doctors tell of plight

Karzai says Pakistan key to peace talks with insurgency

Afghan President Hamid Karzai dismissed calls for negotiations with the Taliban, saying neighboring Pakistan is the key to peace talks with the insurgency, the presidential press service said in a statement Saturday.
"The people of Afghanistan say 'president, you have called for peace but peace with who?'" according to the statement. "I don't have another answer for them, except to say that it is Pakistan we have to approach. We cannot find Mullah Omar. Where is he? We don't know where the Taliban Shura is."
The comments came the same day Afghanistan's intelligence service said it provided evidence that the assassination of former Afghan President Berhanuddin Rabbani was planned by the Taliban council in Quetta, Pakistan.
Rabbani, who was spearheading the reconciliation process with the Taliban, was killed in a suicide bomb attack at his home on September 20. Police said the bomber claimed to be a Taliban member who had come for the talks about peace and reconciliation and detonated the explosives as he entered the home.
"We have given the evidence to the Pakistan Embassy in Afghanistan to cooperate with us," Lutfullah Mashal, Afghanistan's intelligence service spokesman, told reporters.
"We have concrete evidence that (Taliban council in Quetta) was responsible for killing the head of the peace council."
Among the evidence turned over to Pakistani officials were photographs, documents, maps and the location where Rabbani's killing was planned, Mashal said.
Long an enemy of the Taliban, Rabbani was a controversial choice when appointed by Karzai as chairman of the High Peace Council a year ago. He was forced to flee Kabul when the Taliban took over in 1996, but he continued to lead resistance to the regime from his stronghold in Faizabad in northern Afghanistan.
Rabbani's death shocked the war-torn country, undermined the fledgling peace initiative and stoked fears of renewed ethnic conflict between Pashtuns and others, such as Rabbani's ethnic group of Tajiks.
Karzai believes any negotiations must be conducted with Pakistan since the enemy "sanctuaries and operating places" are there, the statement said.
In the statement, Karzai condemned insurgent attacks launched from Pakistan's volatile tribal area that borders Afghanistan.
"We also condemn the attacks on Nuristan and Kunar from Pakistan, and have asked the Foreign Ministry to use emergency diplomacy and contacts to stop these attacks," the statement said.
The comments by the Afghan president follow ones made by U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who said last week that the Haqqani network -- which has carried out a number of high profile terror attacks in Afghanistan -- acted "as a veritable arm of Pakistan's intelligence."
Pakistan's prime minister has rejected Mullen's accusations.
Western counterterrorism officials believe that contrary to Pakistan's assertions, the Haqqanis rely on Pakistani territory -- specifically the tribal areas of North Waziristan and the Khurram agency -- to organize, resupply and raise funds.

Killer of governor of Pakistan's Punjab sentenced to death

A Pakistani court sentenced to death on Saturday the killer of the governor of Pakistan's largest province after he had called for reform of a law against blasphemy, a defense lawyer and state-run media said.
Mumtaz Qadri was a bodyguard for Punjab province Governor

Salman Taseer and shot him dead in the capital, Islamabad, on January 4.
Taseer was an outspoken critic of predominantly Muslim Pakistan's blasphemy law

and Qadri is viewed as a hero by many people who thought Taseer himself was a blasphemer by calling for the law's reform.
Qadri had said he was enforcing divine law by murdering a blasphemer.
The killing highlighted a growing gulf between conservatives and more liberal elements in society.
Qadri's supporters took to the streets to denounce the sentence soon after it was handed down at a hearing in a jail where he is being held in the city of Rawalpindi.
"By punishing one Mumtaz Qadri, you will produce a thousand Mumtaz Qadris!" one man shouted through a megaphone outside the jail.
The court handed down two death sentences for murder and terrorism to Qadri, who has seven days to file an appeal, state television reported.
Reporters and other members of the public were not allowed in to the hearing and it was not known if Qadri attended.
Pakistan's blasphemy law mandates the death penalty and is often used in poor, rural areas to settle personal scores.
Taseer had championed the cause of a Christian woman sentenced to death in a blasphemy case, which arose out of a dispute. Taseer had said the law was being misused and should be reformed.
Several hundred supporters of Qadri blocked a road outside the jail and chanted slogans. Some recited verses from the Koran while members of the hardline Sunni Tehreek religious group waved their party's green and yellow flags.
A Qadri supporter, wiping tears from his face, said: "We don't accept this. We don't accept this."
Police were deployed at the jail gate to prevent any break-in. After Qadri was sentenced, the judge left through the back door.
In Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh area, where former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007, about 1,000 angry Qadri supporters blocked a main road with burning tires.
Shouting slogans against the government and the judge who sentenced Qadri, they forced shops to shut down. Stick-wielding protesters attacked passing vehicles.
"This decision was made to please the Jewish lobby," said Sahibzada Ata-ur-Rehman, a leader of the Sunni Tehreek.
Two months after Taseer's murder, Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, was murdered by the Taliban on March 2 for demanding changes to the blasphemy law.
After the Bhatti assassination, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said Pakistan was "poisoned by extremism."
Liberal Pakistanis and rights groups believe the law is discriminatory against the country's tiny minority groups, and its vague terminology has led to misuse.
A 13-year-old Christian girl was recently accused of blasphemy after she misspelled a religious word in a school test. She was expelled from school in the town of Havelian in northwestern Pakistan.

Tackle Haqqani problem, Obama tells Pakistan

US President Barack Obama said on Friday Pakistan's relationship to the Haqqani network is unclear, but he urged Islamabad to curb any active or passive support for that Taliban faction.

"The intelligence is not as clear as we might like in terms of what exactly that relationship is," Obama said in a radio interview, when asked about an issue at the heart of a bitter row between Washington and Islamabad.

"But my attitude is, whether there is active engagement with Haqqani on the part of the Pakistanis or rather just passively allowing them to operate with impunity in some of these border regions, they've got to take care of this problem," he told radio host Michael Smerconish.

The United States and Pakistan have been bickering publicly during the last week after outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said a violent Taliban faction was a 'veritable arm' of the Pakistani spy service.

Asked if Mullen was correct, Obama said: "I think Mike's testimony expressed frustration over the fact that safe havens exist, including the al Haqqani network safe haven, inside of Pakistan."

Obama said Washington would remain firm with Pakistan on the safe haven issue, "but we've tried to also preserve the intelligence cooperation that we've obtained that's allowed us to go after al Qaeda in a very effective way."

The US president credited Pakistan with "outstanding cooperation in going after al Qaeda" and vowed to keep working with Islamabad on the militant issue.

"There's no doubt that the relationship is not where it needs to be and we are going to keep on pressing them to recognize that it is in their interest - not just ours - to make sure that extremists are not operating within their borders," Obama added.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the US wants to work with Pakistan towards stronger bilateral ties but insisted that Washington wants to see an end to any militant safe havens on the Pakistani side of Afghan border.

Toning down recent rhetoric, Clinton also sought to explain contextually Mike Mullen's remarks.

"I would certainly urge people to look at the entirety of Admiral Mullen's testimony. He did raise serious questions, which our government has raised with the Pakistanis - but Mullen also said that this is a very critical consequential relationship."

Meanwhile, the top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said Friday there can be no solution to the conflict in Afghanistan without Pakistan.

"I continue to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership," Mullen said at a ceremony to handover to the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.

"I urged Marty to remember the importance of Pakistan to all of this, to try and do a better job than I did with that vexing and yet vital relationship."

Senate body demands APC on Balochistan

Another All Parties Conference (APC) may be convened to deliberate the problems of Baluchistan and recommend their solutions.All the stakeholders should be called to attend the conference and the issues confronting the province must be discusses at length, recommended the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights in its meeting held at Parliament House here on Friday.The Chairman of the committee Afrasiab Khattak recommended to enact law to punish the responsible persons for missing the persons. The pending Anti Terrorist law should also be enacted by removing its anomalies and improving it.The lacunea in the law must be removed so that the terrorists could not escape punishment, the chairman said.The committee urged for establishing High Security Prisons and separating terrorists and common prisoners. The education of prisoners must be ensured in prisons.Earlier, a representative of Baluchistan government said the bodies of 102 persons have been recovered during the last one year in the province. No killer has so far been arrested. Balochistan government has decided to register FIR of the each dead person and investigate the matter thoroughly.Regarding the murder of settler teachers, he said no case has so far been reported during this year.He said law enforcers including FC has been deployed at National Highway to ensure the safety of passengers. A sum of Rs 2 million was being paid to each murdered policemen besides providing a job to close relative or sibling.Inspector General Prisoners Baluchistan said Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) should be directed to issue No Objection Certificate (NOC) for installing jammers in various prisons of the province.He said Wapda should be directed to end night loadshedding in Baluchistan prisons.In Baluchistan there are 2400 prisoners confined in various jails.Another jail has been approved Kala Saifullah. While district jail Zhob and Sibbi are being upgraded. IG said he has requested for approving the posts of five medical officers in various jails of Baluchistan but the provincial government had approved only one post of a doctor for entire province which is insufficient to provide medical treatment to over 2400 prisoners. Some 11 posts of lab assistants has been approved for various jails of the province. Leader of the Opposition in Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri urged the provincial government to improve law and order situation. Police officers should be granted powers and political interference must be eliminated in the province. Senator Sardar Ali Khan, Mrs Suriya Amiruddin, Mrs Farhat Abbas, Hafiz Rashid Ahmed and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, officials of Baluchistan, misintry of interior and Human Rights attended the meeting.

Pakistan's All-Parties Conference


An exercise in futility

An All-Parties Conference (APC) was held on Thursday at Prime Minister Gilani’s call to discuss Pak-US relations in view of recent events. Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement against the ISI irked Pakistan to such an extent that it led to war hysteria in the media. Mr Mullen openly blamed the ISI for supporting the Haqqani network. Pragmatically, the White House did not endorse Mr Mullen’s statement, which helped restore Pak-US relations to some extent. There were hardly any expectations from the APC given that our politicians had already resorted to ‘tough’ statements and warnings to the US in case of an attack. It was as if the civilian leadership wanted to give a stamp of approval to the military’s strategy. The APC was attended by at least 56 political leaders and the army top brass, including army chief General Kayani. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Director General (DG) ISI, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha briefed the APC participants. “There are other intelligence networks supporting groups that operate inside Afghanistan. We have never paid a penny or provided even a single bullet to the Haqqani network,” said General Pasha. After hours of deliberations, the APC was able to come up with a 13-point joint declaration. ‘Give peace a chance’, most likely inspired by John Lennon’s famous song, was declared to be “the guiding central principle henceforth” in the unanimously passed resolution. The APC “rejected the recent assertions and baseless allegations made against Pakistan” and affirmed the nation’s “full solidarity and support for the armed forces of Pakistan in defeating any threat to national security”. This is quite interesting given that the armed forces’ flawed security and foreign policies have landed Pakistan in the current mess.

While most of the APC participants were there only to pay lip service to the so-called ‘consensus’, there were a few dissenting voices at the APC. PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif reportedly asked some tough questions and pointed out that there is no smoke without fire. Mian sahib addressed a press conference yesterday confirming those reports. “I talked in the moot about our internal weaknesses and called for introspection. We must ask ourselves whether we are at fault...we should admit our mistakes,” Mr Sharif told the media. He also said the government should reveal the terms of engagement between the US and Pakistan. Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Mehmood Achakzai reportedly told General Pasha that peace can be achieved in Afghanistan within a month if the ISI wanted.

Barring Mr Sharif and Mr Achakzai, the performance of our political leadership at the APC was shameful. What was even more shameful was how representatives of the minorities were not even invited to the APC. The boycott of the APC by the Baloch nationalists made the exercise seem less credible. The APC resolution smacks of an ostrich-like approach. The political class let the army and its intelligence agencies off the hook once again. Disastrous policies adopted by the military top brass for decades have created problems for Pakistan internally and externally. Thus Mr Sharif and Mr Achakzai’s remarks were lauded by the saner voices in Pakistan. We must stop pretending as if everything is hunky-dory with our policies and the fault only lies with others. Pakistan’s India-centric security and foreign policies have not deterred India’s influence in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In fact, it has risen due to our self-defeating policies. If we really want to give peace a chance, we should stop interfering in Afghanistan through proxies and let the Afghans take care of their own problems. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent statement should be given due consideration: “I think Pakistan is paying a heavy price for the mistakes of the 1970s by linking religion with politics and developing religious schools which are, in some cases, dangerous sources of extremism.” It is indeed time for serious introspection.

All bones, little meat

On one plane, the all-parties conclave was an impressive show of national unity in the face of threats coming out to us from the outside. Quite a host of political and religious parties participated. The Baloch political leaders’ boycott is really unfortunate. Instead, they should have come and made their say. That would have served better the Balochs’ interest. And it is dismaying that nationalists were not invited. Whatever their ideologies, they are part of us and our political life’s. Their participation would have made the conclave more inclusive and more impressive, giving a stronger message of our unity to the world. But this much definitely cannot be said of the conclave’s message. The charter it has drawn up to face up to the challenges confronting the nation so direly, both internally and externally, is all bare bones and very little meat. It is all generalities, no specifics which indeed were the imperative need of the hour. Even this omnibus message was dented with the motivated leaks by some eminences while the conclave was still in session. One leak reported an eminence having clamoured in the hall that if the world was making so much of noise against Pakistan there must be some reason to it. His gibe’s thrust and target is not hard to discern. But if his memory is not so short, he would know in the run-up to Iraq’s invasion, the Bush administration, together with its likeminded foreign allies and collusive western media and commentariat, dished up such a deafening shrill about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda links that it downed all dissenting voices. Even the two top UN inspectors’, with the one on nuclear weapons stating categorically of having stumbled on no smoking gun while the other on chemical weapons saying the same, though with circumlocution. Subsequent events proved them right and the Bush war gang sinfully criminal. Perhaps our eminence could have held back on inflicting his own personal grouse on the conclave’s discourse when the issues under its deliberations were so urgent and important to the nation’s security and stability. And so could have eschewed another grandee from his drivel rooted in his self-serving fixations. He statedly asserted if it so desired the ISI could restore peace to Afghanistan within a month; with this, demonstrating himself a dude absolutely ignorant of the rabid domestic ethnicities and big power games in play in that country. But certain eminences swaggering on the national political landscape are congenitally so self-centred irredeemably that national imperatives’ niceties do not come any compellingly at all to them even in the nation’s gravest hours; it is the self that drives them overridingly even in such conditions. But let that pass. For the moment, it is the conclave’s charter that matters. Bluntly, the people had expected that the leaders would come up with roadmaps, action plans and specific measures to pull the nation out of the quagmire it is stuck up so irretrievably. But on that score they have disappointed the people dismayingly. Their charter is long on pious vows but very short on actionable ideas. They have spoken wisely, for instance, for negotiating peace with our own people in our tribal areas, for which they have called for putting in place a mechanism, whereas they should have themselves spelled out this mechanism, keeping in view the experiences of the peace accords that the state struck with the militants in Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan, each coming apart in the end, primarily for the militants’ intransigence. They indeed should have laid down the parameters for this negotiating process in rather detail. The same goes for their covenant to make Pakistan comprehensively self-reliant economically. Unarguably, they should have been very elaborative on this point, as a nation dependent on others even for budgetary support cannot even contemplate self-reliance, what to speak of achieving it. Given the complexity of the issue that the neglect of national economy and lifting it up from the broken state it has been in over the past so may years, they should have done a hard brainstorming how to fix it and evolved a roadmap meticulously to this purpose. They have not. And yet they want a parliamentary committee to oversee the implementation of this charter and the earlier resolutions, which too were rich in verbosity and destitute in action plans. So what has the committee to supervise? Mere slogans? At least, the leaders could have outlined the level of the committee’s authority, its functional purview and mechanisms at its command to discharge its responsibility. They have not. They have not set even a deadline for its formation. Indeed, they appear to have been swayed by a craze for sloganeering. So much so, they have gone for the charming slogan of giving peace a chance, apparently without understanding the project’s enormity, when the plug cannot be in some sole hand, particularly in the inter-state relations where the other party is very much an active and no lesser decisive actor. Still one hopes some good from this charter. The nation is really in urgent need of salvage.

Afghans give Pakistan evidence in Rabbani killing

Afghanistan’s intelligence service says it has handed Pakistani authorities evidence showing former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s assassination was planned in Pakistan.

Lutifullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, says the plot originated near Quetta.

Mashal told reporters on Saturday that investigators provided addresses, photos and maps to the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.

Rabbani was trying to broker peace with the Taliban when he was killed by a suicide bomber.

At the UN last week, Afghan officials said the killing was plotted for four months by the Afghan Taliban’s governing council, the Quetta Shura.

The Taliban have not claimed responsibility for Rabbani’s death.

Salman Taseer murder case: Mumtaz Qadri gets death sentence

The anti-terrorism court of Rawalpindi on Saturday found Mumtaz Qadri guilty of murdering and sentenced him to death for killing former governor Punjab Salman Taseer who had urged reform of a blasphemy law, Geo News reported Saturday.

The court during final proceedings said that no one could be given the license to kill someone on any condition. Therefore, the killer cannot be pardoned as he has committed a heinous crime by murdering the former governor.

Mumtaz Qadri has the right to appeal against the verdict in the high court within seven days, his lawyers said.

The case was heard by judge Pervez Ali Shah in Adiala Jail.

Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, one of Taseer's bodyguards, was charged with terrorism and murdering the governor on an Islamabad street on January 4, 2011.

Qadri confessed to killing Taseer, saying he objected to the politician's calls to amend the blasphemy law, which mandates the death penalty for those convicted of defaming the Prophet Mohammad .