Monday, December 19, 2011

North Korea official news agency mourns for Kim Jong Il

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s official news agency KCNA issued an article on Monday to mourn the death of DPRK top leader Kim Jong Il.

The DPRK is overcome with bitter sorrow at the demise of Kim Jong Il who had energetically worked day and night for prosperity of the country and the happiness of people all his life, the KCNA said in the article entitled "Kim Jong Il will always live" .

"Its army and people's loyalty and sense of obligation to him are now growing higher than ever before," the article said.

"They are resolutely rising up to change their sorrow into great strength and courage with the noble sense of moral obligation and immovable faith and will to hold Kim Jong Il in high esteem forever and glorify his feats for all ages," the article said.

Though the DPRK has suffered the great loss, the people are decisively rising up as they have Kim Jong Un, great successor to the revolutionary cause and prominent leader of the party and the army and people of the DPRK, the article stressed.

No force on earth can block the revolutionary advance of the DPRK party, army and people led by Kim Jong Un, the article added.

Kim Jong Il, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), passed away from a great mental and physical strain at 08:30 on Dec.17 (2330 GMT Friday), on a train during a field guidance tour, the KCNA reported Monday.

China expresses "deep condolences" on death of Kim Jong Il

China on Monday offered its "deep condolences" on the death of Kim Jong Il, top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"We are shocked to learn that DPRK top leader comrade Kim Jong Il passed away and we hereby express our deep condolences on his demise and send sincere regards to the DPRK people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement when responding to a question about media reports on Kim's death last Saturday.

Ma said that comrade Kim Jong Il was the great leader of the DPRK people, and an intimate friend of the Chinese people, and he had made important contribution to developing the DPRK's socialist cause and promoting good-neighborly and cooperative relations between China and the DPRK.

"We believe the DPRK people will definitely be able to turn sorrow into strength and remain united as one to continuously push forward the socialist cause of the DPRK," he added.

"China and the DPRK will work together to continue to make positive contribution to consolidating and developing traditional party-to-party, state-to-state and people-to-people friendship between the two sides and maintaining peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region," said the spokesman.

According to media reports, Kim, who was general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), chairman of the DPRK National Defence Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), died from a great mental and physical strain at 08:30 on Dec. 17 (2330 GMT Friday), on the train during a field guidance tour.

Zardari to address Garhi Khuda Bux gathering on Dec27

Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wasan on Monday said that President Asif Ali Zardari’s return had silenced the country’s political pundits.
Speaking to media representatives at the Sindh Assembly, Wasan said Zardari would also be addressing a gathering at Garhi Khuda Bux on Dec 27.
Responding to a question regarding MQM-H Chairman Afaq Ahmed, Wasan said that all political leaders in Sindh, including Afaq, were free to partake in political activities.
He said that the current government believed in political freedoms and that restrictions were only imposed in previous regimes.

President Zardari meets Governor and Chief Minister Sindh

After his return to Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari has resumed political activity at the Bilawal House, Geo News reported.

President Zardari has held meetings with Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat ul Ebad and Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has also arrived at the Bilawal House.

President Zardari returned to Pakistan late on Sunday night after receiving medical treatment in Dubai for 12 days.

DG ISI should have resigned after Abbottabad operation: Asma

Asma Jahangir, counsel for Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, said on Monday that Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Ahmed Shuja Pasha should have resigned when Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad, DawnNews reported.

Speaking to media representatives outside the Supreme Court, Asma said appropriate methods should be adopted to criticise the court’s decisions and a lawyer should especially be very careful in this regard.

Asma said she was disappointed that copies of Mansoor Ijaz’s reply, which was sent through an email, was immediately distributed to others but was provided after a delay to her.

Asma said she was satisfied with today’s hearing and that she was prepared to defend her client to her utmost capabilities.

NATO will continue Afghan night raids
NATO says night time raids that target suspected insurgents will continue, despite repeated protests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said on Monday that Afghan special forces, however, take part in nearly all night raids and their participation is increasing.

The kill-and-capture raids have become a flashpoint for anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan and whether detention operations will be run by the Afghans or Americans. Karzai has demanded that foreign troops stop entering Afghan homes.
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Coalition officials counter that the raids remain the safest form of operation to take out insurgent leaders. Jacobson says they account for less than one per cent of civilian casualties, and in 85 per cent of cases no shots are fired.

Exclusive: Secret U.S., Taliban talks reach turning point

After 10 months of secret dialogue with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents, senior U.S. officials say the talks have reached a critical juncture and they will soon know whether a breakthrough is possible, leading to peace talks whose ultimate goal is to end the Afghan war.

As part of the accelerating, high-stakes diplomacy, Reuters has learned, the United States is considering the transfer of an unspecified number of Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay military prison into Afghan government custody.

It has asked representatives of the Taliban to match that confidence-building measure with some of their own. Those could include a denunciation of international terrorism and a public willingness to enter formal political talks with the government headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The officials acknowledged that the Afghanistan diplomacy, which has reached a delicate stage in recent weeks, remains a long shot. Among the complications: U.S. troops are drawing down and will be mostly gone by the end of 2014, potentially reducing the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate.

Still, the senior officials, all of whom insisted on anonymity to share new details of the mostly secret effort, suggested it has been a much larger piece of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy than is publicly known.

U.S. officials have held about half a dozen meetings with their insurgent contacts, mostly in Germany and Doha with representatives of Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban's Quetta Shura, the officials said.

The stakes in the diplomatic effort could not be higher.

Failure would likely condemn Afghanistan to continued conflict, perhaps even civil war, after NATO troops finish turning security over to Karzai's weak government by the end of 2014.

Success would mean a political end to the war and the possibility that parts of the Taliban - some hardliners seem likely to reject the talks - could be reconciled.

The effort is now at a pivot point.

"We imagine that we're on the edge of passing into the next phase. Which is actually deciding that we've got a viable channel and being in a position to deliver" on mutual confidence-building measures, said a senior U.S. official.

While some U.S.-Taliban contacts have been previously reported, the extent of the underlying diplomacy and the possible prisoner transfer have not been made public until now.

There are slightly fewer that 20 Afghan citizens at Guantanamo, according to various accountings. It is not known which ones might be transferred, nor what assurances the White House has that the Karzai government would keep them in its custody.

Guantanamo detainees have been released to foreign governments - and sometimes set free by them - before. But the transfer as part of a diplomatic negotiation appears unprecedented.

The reconciliation effort, which has already faced setbacks including a supposed Taliban envoy who turned out to be an imposter, faces hurdles on multiple fronts, the U.S. officials acknowledged.

They include splits within the Taliban; suspicion from Karzai and his advisers; and Pakistan's insistence on playing a major, even dominating, role in Afghanistan's future.

Obama will likely face criticism, including from Republican presidential candidates, for dealing with an insurgent group that has killed U.S. soldiers and advocates a strict Islamic form of government.

But U.S. officials say that the Afghan war, like others before it, will ultimately end in a negotiated settlement.

"The challenges are enormous," a second senior U.S. official acknowledged. "But if you're where we are ... you can't not try. You have to find out what's out there."


If the effort advances, one of the next steps would be more public, unequivocal U.S. support for establishing a Taliban office outside of Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said they have told the Taliban they must not use that office for fundraising, propaganda or constructing a shadow government, but only to facilitate future negotiations that could eventually set the stage for the Taliban to reenter Afghan governance.

On Sunday, a senior member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council said the Taliban had indicated it was willing to open an office in an Islamic country. [ID:nL3E7NI2GF]

But underscoring the fragile nature of the multi-sided diplomacy, Karzai last week announced he was recalling Afghanistan's ambassador to Qatar, after reports that nation was readying the opening of the Taliban office. Afghan officials complained they were left out of the loop.

On a possible transfer of Taliban prisoners long held at Guantanamo, U.S. officials stressed the move would be a 'national decision' made in consultation with the U.S. Congress.

Obama is expected to soon sign into law the 2011 defense authorization bill, including changes that would broaden the military's power over terror detainees and require the Pentagon to certify in most cases that certain security conditions will be met before Guantanamo prisoners can be sent home.

Ten years after the repressive Taliban government was toppled, a hoped-for political resolution has become central to U.S. strategy to end a war that has killed nearly 3,000 foreign troops and cost the Pentagon alone $330 billion.

While Obama's decision to deploy an extra 30,000 troops in 2009-10 helped push the Taliban out of much of its southern heartland, the war is far from over. Militants remain able to slip in and out of lawless areas of Pakistan, where the Taliban's senior leadership is located.

Bold attacks from the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network have undermined the narrative of improving security and raised questions about how well an inexperienced Afghan military will be able to cope when foreign troops go home.

In that uncertain context, officials say that initial contacts with insurgent representatives since U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly embraced a diplomatic strategy in a February 18, 2011, speech have centered on establishing whether the Taliban was open to reconciliation, despite its pledge to continue its 'sacred jihad' against NATO and U.S. soldiers.

"The question has been to the Taliban, 'You have got a choice to make. Life's moving on," the second U.S. official said. "There's a substantial military campaign out there that will continue to do you substantial damage ... Are you prepared to go forward with some kind of reconciliation process?"

U.S. officials have met with Tayeb Agha, who was a secretary to Mullah Omar, and they have held one meeting arranged by Pakistan with Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of the Haqqani network's founder. They have not shut the door to further meetings with the Haqqani group, which is blamed for a brazen attack this fall on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and which U.S. officials link closely to Pakistan's intelligence agency.

U.S. officials say they have kept Karzai informed of the process and have met with him before and after each encounter, but they declined to confirm whether representatives of his government are present at those meetings.


Officials now see themselves on the verge of reaching a second phase in the peace process that, if successful, would clinch the confidence-building measures and allow them to move to a third stage in which the Afghan government and the Taliban would sit down in talks facilitated by the United States.

"That's why it's especially delicate -- because if we don't deliver the second phase, we don't get to the pay-dirt," the first senior U.S. official said.

Senior administration officials say that confidence-building measures must be implemented, not merely agreed to, before full-fledged political talks can begin. The sequence of such measures has not been determined, and they will ultimately be announced by Afghans, they say.

Underlying the efforts of U.S. negotiators are fundamental questions about whether - and why - the Taliban would want to strike a deal with the Western-backed Karzai government.

U.S. officials stress that the 'end conditions' they want the Taliban to embrace - renouncing violence, breaking with al Qaeda, and respecting the Afghan constitution - are not preconditions to starting talks.

Encouraging trends on the Afghan battlefield - declining militant attacks and a thinning of the Taliban's mid-level leadership - are one reason why U.S. officials believe the Taliban may be more likely now to engage in substantive talks.

They also cite what they see as an overlooked, subtle shift in the Taliban's position, based in part on statements this year from Mullah Omar that, despite fiery rhetoric, indicate some openness to talks. They also condemn civilian deaths and advocate development of Afghanistan's economy.

In July, the Taliban reiterated its long-standing position of rejecting talks as long as foreign troops remain. In October, a senior Haqqani commander said the United States was insincere about peace.

But U.S. officials say the Taliban no longer wants to be the global pariah it was in the 1990s. Some elements have suggested flexibility on issues of priority for the West, such as protecting rights for women and girls.

"That's one of the reasons why we think this is serious," a third senior U.S. official said.


Yet as it moves ahead the peace initiative is fraught with challenge.

At least one purported insurgent representative has turned out to be a fraud, highlighting the difficulty of vetting potential brokers in the shadowy world of the militants.

And it as dealt a major blow in September when former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who headed Karzai's peace efforts, was assassinated in an attack Afghanistan said originated in neighboring Pakistan.

Since then, Karzai has been more ambivalent, ruling out an early resumption in talks. He said Afghanistan would talk only to Pakistan 'until we have an address for the Taliban.'

The dust-up over the unofficial Taliban office in Qatar, with a spokesman for Karzai stressing that Afghanistan must lead peace negotiations to end the war, suggests tensions in the U.S. and Afghan approaches to the peace process.

Speaking in an interview with CNN aired on Sunday, Karzai counseled caution in making sure that Taliban interlocutors are authentic -- and authentically seeking peace. The Rabbani killing, he said, "brought us in a shock to the recognition that we were actually talking to nobody."

Critics of Obama's peace initiative are deeply skeptical of the Taliban's willingness to negotiate given that the West's intent to pull out most troops after 2014 would give insurgents a chance to reclaim lost territory or nudge the weak Kabul government toward collapse.

While the United States is expected to keep a modest military presence in Afghanistan beyond then, all of Obama's 'surge' troops will be home by next fall and the administration - looking to refocus on domestic priorities -- is already exploring further reductions.

Another reason to be circumspect is the potential spoiler role of Pakistan, which has so far resisted U.S. pressure to crack down on militants fueling violence in Afghanistan.

Such considerations make for a divisive initiative within the Obama administration. Few officials describe themselves as optimists about the peace initiative; at the State Department, formally leading the talks, senior officials see the odds of brokering a successful agreement at only around 30 percent.

"There's a very real likelihood that these guys aren't serious ... which is why are continuing to prosecute all of the lines of effort here," the third senior U.S. official said.

While NATO commanders promise they will keep up pressure on militants as the troop force shrinks, they are facing a tenacious insurgency in eastern Afghanistan that may prove even more challenging than the south.

Still, with Obama committed to withdrawing from Afghanistan, as the United States did last week from Iraq, the administration has few alternatives but to pursue what may well prove to be a quixotic quest for a deal.

"Wars end, and the end of wars have political consequences," the second official said. "You can either try to shape those, or someone does it to you."

Govt can’t set up commission on every issue, says Hina Rabbani Khar

Foreign Minister

Hina Rabbani Khar on Sunday said that it was not possible to constitute commissions for every issue and neither Supreme Court could be contacted for each and every issue.

“Unity is the need of the hour and we showed unity after NATO attack and shut down the NATO supply,” she said.

Talking to the media at the prize distribution ceremony of the 27th National Women Hockey Championship at National Hockey Stadium on Sunday, she said that parliament would take decisions on ties with the US in the larger interest of the country and the nation.

Khar said that breaking off diplomatic ties with other countries was not in the national interest.

“We must dispel the impression that an issue created on the whims of an unreliable individual can force us to demand constitution of a national commission or a Supreme Court bench,” she responded.

Earlier, Khar announced a grant of Rs 50 million on behalf of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and gave away prizes among successful teams of the national hockey championship.

ANP comes down hard on JI chief

Awami National Party (ANP) Sindh President Shahi Syed said on Sunday the nation did not forget the 17th Amendment revolution of Munawar Hassan’s mullah-military alliance.
He said that failed politicians would not get attention of the people by raising the issues of corruption and revolution in the country, saying the masses were suffering because of the US’s war against terror.
He alleged that the purpose of revolutionary slogans of the JI chief was merely to get power in Islamabad.
He said the WikiLeaks had exposed the so-called enmity of Mullah-Military alliance with America.
Shahi Syed urged leaders of politico-religious parties to tender apology in front of the graves of Bacha Khan and Khan Abdul Wali Khan for using the Pukhtoon community in the war between two superpowers.

Militancy in Khyber Agency: Three children injured in girls school explosion

The Express Tribune

Three children were injured when militants blew up a government-run girls high school in Khyber agency’s Jamrud area on Sunday.

According to sources, militants placed a bomb at the back of a school in Malik Khan Wali Sikandar Kalay. As a result, four rooms and the outer portion of the school were completely destroyed. The watchman Baaz Muhammad, whose house is located near the school, told The Express Tribune he was guarding the front gate of the school when the massive explosion took place. “There was dust everywhere, when I ran towards my house I saw that the roof had collapsed, three of my children were injured,” he said.

Noor Khan Afridi, a resident of the area, said that the explosion took place around 1:30pm. When he ran outside on hearing the blast, he saw that the building was destroyed. Baaz Muhammad said that apart from the four rooms, there were two other rooms that were partially destroyed.

Eight-year-old student Ghazala told The Express Tribune that if the government re-constructs the school she would continue to study there. “Otherwise, I will have to take admission somewhere else,” she said, “because I want to continue my education”.

When contacted, local education officer Hashim Khan Afridi said that most of the schools in Khyber Agency which had been targeted were located in Bara, but that the number was steadily on the rise, reaching 61 in total with Sunday’s attack.

Published in The Express Tribune

N Korean leader Kim Jong-il dies


North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has died at the age of 69, state-run television has announced.

Mr Kim, who has led the communist nation since the death of his father in 1994, died on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said.

He suffered a stroke in 2008 and was absent from public view for months.

His designated successor is believed to be his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s.

North Korea's state-run news agency, KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim.

"All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public," the news agency said. State media also referred to him as the "great successor to the revolutionary cause" in what appeared to be the first such reference.

A funeral for Kim Jong-il will be held in Pyongyang on 28 December and Kim Jong-un will head the funeral committee, KCNA reports. A period of national mourning has been declared from 17 to 29 December

Zardari's return proves rumor-mongers wrong

President Zardari's return to the country from Dubai has proved rumor-mongers wrong, said Information Minister on Monday.
Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said that those who were making speculations about the President Zardari's trip to Dubai for medical treatment should apologize.
Rumors arose following Zardari's sudden leave for Dubai for medical treatment about two weeks ago. There were reports saying that President Zardari would resign due to the Memogate issue in which President Zardari was allegedly involved in seeking the U.S. help in reining in the Pakistani army following the May 2 raid by the U.S. special task forces, which killed the former al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's northwest city of Abbottabad.
Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said that President Zardari would consult his legal team for submission of reply in the Supreme Court on memogate issue.
She said that everyone would be informed about the best outcome of the discussion of the president and the legal team.
The minister also said the government, in the leadership of President Asif Ali Zardari, is ready to face any challenge.
President Zardari returned to Pakistan on Monday after nearly two-week-long medical treatment in Dubai. He arrived by a special plane at a Pakistan Air Force base in Karachi in the wee hours of Monday.
Prior to Zardari's return, media quoted the Presidential spokesman as saying that Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had phoned Zardari and during the conversation the army chief had inquired about the health of the President.
A spokesman for Bilawal House, Zardari's official residence in Karachi, said that President Zardari would resume political activities and meet party leaders from Monday.
The spokesman also said that the president will leave for Islamabad after spending some days in Karachi.