Sunday, June 16, 2013

UK spied on G20 delegates at London meetings

Britain intercepted phone calls and monitored computers used by officials taking part in two high-level international finance meetings in London in 2009, a British newspaper said on Sunday. The Guardian said some delegates from countries in the Group of 20 - which comprises top economies around the world - used Internet cafes that had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their emails. The report was published hours before leaders of the Group of Eight countries - all of which are in the G20 - start a two-day summit in Northern Ireland. The Guardian said it had seen classified documents that detailed secret monitoring by British intelligence of officials at a G20 leaders summit and a finance ministers' meeting in 2009 and suggested it had been sanctioned at a senior level by the government of former prime minister Gordon Brown.

Putin warns U.S., West against arming organ-eating Syrian rebels

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West on Sunday against arming Syrian rebels "who kill their enemies and eat their organs," referencing a widely circulated video that purports to show a rebel fighter eating the heart of a dead soldier. Putin's comments signaled a clear disapproval of a U.S. plan to increase military support to Syrian rebels, and his warning came just one day before he was to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama for talks at the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland where Syria is expected to top the agenda. "I believe you will not deny that one should hardly back those who kill their enemies and eat their organs. ... Do you want to support these people? Do you want to supply arms to these people?" Putin asked, speaking to reporters in London after meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron.The video referenced by Putin first surfaced online in May and generated outrage. The video, which was posted by a group loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, also raised questions abut the credibility of the rebels despite widespread condemnation of the act by the opposition. Putin said those actions do not represent the "humanitarian and cultural values" of Europe or Russia."If we speak calmly, in a businesslike fashion, let me draw your attention to the fact that Russia supplies arms to the legitimate government of Syria in full compliance with the norms of international law," he said. "We are not breaching any rules and norms. Let me emphasize that: we are not breaching any rules and norms, and we call on all our partners to act in the same fashion." Russia has been at odds with the United States, the UK and others over how to bring an end to the bloodshed in the civil war that has raged in Syria for more than two years, a conflict that the United Nations estimates has left more than 92,000 people dead and millions displaced. Russia and Syria have an alliance dating back to the Cold War, and Moscow has been one of the leading weapons suppliers for al-Assad's government. Obama is expected during his meeting with Putin to make his case for increasing support to the rebels. Obama's administration announced the move last week after it said Syria crossed a "red line" with the use of chemical weapons, including sarin gas, against the opposition. Obama has not detailed the increased military support, but Washington officials told CNN that the plan includes providing small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons to the rebels. World leaders have put enormous pressure on al-Assad to end the war and step down, and U.N. Security Council efforts to take action have been repeatedly blocked by Russia and China. Cameron, meanwhile, told reporters that Britain had not decided whether to provide weapons to rebels but was providing technical assistance and training alongside the United States, France and its other allies. "I'm in no doubt that responsibility lies with President Assad. It is the onslaught that he is inflicted on his own people which is the primary cause of the suffering, the humanitarian catastrophe and the deaths we have seen," he said. Putin told reporters that he hoped the G8 summit would provide an avenue that would allow him to help broker a peace deal to end the Syrian conflict. He said he believed both sides were responsible for the bloodshed.Cameron acknowledged that he and Putin have deep differences on the issue of Syria but said they agree that it will take political and diplomatic efforts to help end the carnage. Putin did not address Russian concerns that the United States may attempt to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria, using F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles based in Jordan. On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the United States against taking such action, saying it would be a violation of international law, according to Russian state broadcaster Russia Today. Russian television reported that Lavrov's comments followed speculation in the media that a no-fly zone could be imposed through the deployment of the missile systems and fighter jets sent by the United States to global military drills in Jordan. Those reports followed news that the United States had approved a Jordanian request to keep the fighter jets and missiles in the country after the conclusion of a joint military exercise. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has dismissed media accounts that Obama has decided on establishing a no-fly zone. Those reports are incorrect, she told reporters on Friday. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes also addressed the matter Friday when he was asked how difficult it would be to establish a no-fly zone. "In Syria, when you have the situation where regime forces are intermingled with opposition forces, they're fighting in some instances block by block in cities. That's not a problem you can solve from the air," he said. Syrian rebels have pleaded for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, saying they are outgunned by al-Assad's miltary. In recent weeks, the rebels have suffered a series of devastating setbacks, including the loss of the stronghold of Qusayr near the Syria-Lebanon border, that coincide with the arrival of Hezbollah fighters who have been reinforcing government troops. In recent days, al-Assad's military and the Hezbollah fighters, backed by Lebanon and Iran, have been battling rebels for control of Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

Sporadic clashes in Turkey as Erdogan asserts authority

Sporadic clashes between police and protesters flared up in Istanbul overnight after a weekend in which Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sought to steal back the agenda, rallying his supporters and expelling demonstrators from an Istanbul park. Two union federations called a nationwide strike for Monday over the forced eviction of protesters from Gezi Park, a leafy corner of Istanbul's central Taksim Square and the focus of two weeks of fierce anti-government demonstrations that have spread to other big cities. Labour groups representing doctors, engineers and dentists said they too would take part. Hundreds of thousands of Erdogan supporters gathered to hear the prime minister speak at an Istanbul parade ground on Sunday as riot police fired teargas a few kilometres away in the city center to disperse protesters. A defiant Erdogan told a sea of flag-waving supporters that two weeks of unrest had been manipulated by "terrorists" and dismissed suggestions that he was behaving like a dictator, a constant refrain from those who have taken to the streets. "They say 'you are too tough', they say 'dictator'. What kind of a dictator is this who met the Gezi Park occupiers and honest environmentalists? Is there such a dictator?" Erdogan said to roars of approval from the crowd. He dismissed the demonstrations as "nothing more than the minority's attempt to dominate the majority ... We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it."
Riot police backed by a helicopter, some in plain clothes and carrying batons, fired teargas and chased gangs of rock-throwing youths into side streets around Taksim late on Sunday, trying to prevent them from regrouping. There were also disturbances in other parts of the city that had so far largely been spared the violence, including around the Galata bridge, which crosses to the historic Sultanahmet district, and the upmarket Nisantasi neighbourhood. A small-scale environmental protest quickly spread into a much larger movement involving people from all walks of life who dislike what they say is Erdogan's domineering leadership style and his government's unnecessary meddling in people's lives. The clashes pose no immediate threat to Erdogan's leadership, but they have tarnished Turkey's image as an oasis of stability on the fringes of the volatile Middle East, and presented him with the greatest challenge of his 10-year rule. The blunt-talking prime minister has long been Turkey's most popular politician, overseeing a decade of unprecedented prosperity, and his AK Party has won an increasing share of the vote in three successive election victories. Erdogan, who also addressed supporters of his ruling AK Party in Ankara on Saturday, said the rallies were to kick off campaigning for local elections next year and not related to the unrest, but they were widely seen as a show of strength. The crowds who packed Istanbul's Kazlicesme festival ground, many of whom walked for kilometres, turned out to support a leader who they feel has been under siege. "We are the silent majority, not the riff-raff who are trying to frighten us," said Ruveyda Alkan, 32, her head covered in a black veil and waving a red Turkish flag. The two weeks of unrest have left four people dead and about 5,000 injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

Balochistan: Sisters in Coffins; Brothers in Blood; The Lashkar At Large

EDITORIAL: The Baloch Hal
In one of the ugliest terrorist attacks in Balochistan’s history, Sunni militant group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, killed at least 24 people, mostly female university students in coordinated attacks in the provincial capital Quetta on Saturday. In the first assault, a bus carrying the students of the women-only Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University was blown up which was subsequently followed by a second explosion at the Bolan Medical College (B.M.C.) where doctors and paramedics were busy in rescue and relief operation. The attackers even did not spare the hospital management as they besieged the B.M.C., opened indiscriminate fire for several hours, killing at least four nurses and the Deputy Commissioner of Quetta District. At the time of writing this editorial, it is still too early to fully measure the magnitude of human and material loss caused by Saturday’s attack. The unprecedented attack on female students immediately became a global headline while the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called upon Islamabad to do all possible to bring the perpetrators to justice. Mr. Ki-moon has rightly feared that such attacks could further disrupt and discourage women’s education in Pakistan’s least educated province of Balochistan. The LeJ, which is a terrorist organization based in Pakistan’s South Punjab, says it carried out the assault in order to avenge the killing of six of its members by the security forces on June 9 in Quetta. The government should have taken all precautionary measures as Abu Bakar Siddiq, a spokesman for the underground LeJ, implicitly threatened that his organization would “teach the government [officials] such a lesson that their coming generations would not forget.” The spokesman had also said, “our [newspaper] statements should not taken as mere warnings. We practically do whatever we threaten to do.” Unfortunately, there was a great communication gap between the LeJ, the government and the general public. The Balochistan High Court is strictly against the publication of any news material from the LeJ because the court believes the publication of LeJ statements amounts to glorifying violence, providing the terrorists a platform to propagate their mission and also scare the public. Hence, the Balochistan government has registered cases under the Terrorism Act against a number of Quetta-based Urdu newspapers that published the LeJ statements on the recommendation of the B.H.C. So, such official restrictions and pressure on the media have in fact kept the government and the masses in alarming oblivion about the policies and intentions of terrorist groups. What the government should have read from LeJ’s last policy statement was the description of several “women who were ready to sacrifice their lives in order to revive the memories of Hazrat Samia, the first female martyr of Islam.” It means the LeJ has already started recruiting women to carry out attacks on girls who attend school and work at different offices. Based on the LeJ’s own claims and warnings, it is not absolutely irrelevant to presume that some indoctrinated female students within the university could have collaborated in fixing the bomb in the bus. What is laudable from the government’s side is the candid admission by Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan that no “foreign hand” was involved in the attack. He said those who carried out this barbaric act of terror seemed to be homegrown terrorists and the government was investigating the matter. Unlike his controversial predecessor, Rehman Malik, the new interior minister is at least not shying away from acknowledging that fact that sectarian violence is a domestic product of the Pakistani state’s flawed policies and no other foreign country can be blamed for this. So, a critical question for investigators of Saturday’s attacks is to find out how much support the LeJ enjoys among the women folk and how serious the claim is that many women are ‘ready to sacrifice themselves’ for the glory of Islam. If LeJ actually has female recruits then we should, unfortunately, expect more Saturday-like tragedies at least expected places, including commercial centers where women go shopping. Repeated recovery of dead bodies of Baloch political activists, the destruction of the Quaid-e-Azam Residency in Ziarat and Saturday’s coordinated attacks have absolutely shaken the confidence of Balochistan’s new coalition government. There are already signs of discontent among the coalition partners over the dramatic surge in violence. They have started blaming each other for not being able to properly manage the situation in the province. For instance, federal minister for information Pervaiz Rasheed of the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Nawaz) reminded that his party had given “nationalists a chance to lessen the anger of the youth. But even after this they continue this politics of gun.” It is absurd to believe that Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch has got magical powers to end sectarian and nationalistic violence overnight. While the C.M. endeavors to reach out to the Baloch insurgents, the people of Balochistan from all ethnic and sectarian communities have a clear message for Islamabad and the Punjab: We have paid a very heavy price for Islamabad’s romance with Islamic terrorist organizations. One terrorist group (read LeJ) based in the Punjab province routinely attacks our places of worship, students, universities and even hospitals in the name of Islam and then enjoys absolute impunity. The people of Balochistan are jaded with and outraged at Pakistan’s disastrous love affair with radical Islamist groups. The attack on our female students is the most shocking assault we have ever witnessed. What worse can happen in Balochistan in the name of religion? Nearly 14 young innocent girls were instantly killed in the explosion and the perpetrators brazenly yet confidently accepted responsibility for the attack because they were certain about the Pakistani state’s inability of unwillingness to punish them or dismantle their networks located in the Punjab province. Balochistan bleeds almost every single day because of Pakistan’s fanatical romance with Islamic terrorist groups such as the LeJ. No matter what ‘national interests” of Pakistan are attached to the promotion of radical Islam, Balochistan should categorically refuse to be used as a ground for such a self-defeating scheme in the name of religion. Today, the Balochs have stood up against Islamabad, tomorrow it could be the Hazaras and the Pashtuns as well because the State’s continued ties with radical groups have disfigured our secular lifestyle. The religious madness is increasing day by day whereas the people of Balochistan are rapidly running out of patience with Pakistan’s blackmail in the name of religion. Our citizens, no matter what religion, sect and ethnic group they come from, deserve the protection, not the terror, of the central government. And the government should do whatever it takes to ensure that it remains committed to every citizens’ fundamental rights, including the most important right to life.

Imran Khan damaged Pakistan cricket

The Express Tribune
A day after Pakistan suffered a loss against India, former Pakistani cricketer Aamir Sohail claimed that World Cup-winning former captain, Imran Khan is responsible for the current abysmal state of the sport in the country, Times of India reported. “I want to say clearly here and for once we must face the truth that Imran is responsible for the state of affairs in our cricket,” Sohail said. Sohail was addressing Pakistan’s latest defeat to India in a Champions Trophy match on a news channel, with fellow guests Zaheer Abbas and Younus Khan. “Imran damaged Pakistan cricket by encouraging our bowlers to tamper with the ball. This has led to a culture where we can’t produce good new ball bowlers or quality openers,” Sohail added.

Turkey: Operation to Gezi Park is a crime against humanity

The police’s brutal operation against the Gezi Park protesters is a crime against humanity, the main opposition party’s leader has said, accusing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of intending “to kill Turkey”. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) called on all civil servants not to obey Erdoğan’s unlawful orders. “Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is intending to kill Turkey because of his dictator mentality and personal ambition. Enforcing the orders of a prime minister who would not hesitate to drag these people into war, constitute a crime according to international norms,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a written statement he made at 11 p.m. The police’s operation is the reflection of inhuman and systematic torture on the streets, Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that Saturday’s move by the police was not only a crime of democracy but a crime against humanity. “Those who committed this crime will never be forgiven by the people, the history and humanity’s conscience,” he said, and urged civil servants to be aware that they would be counted as Erdoğan’s partners in crime and would one day be taken before the court. “I call my people: The most important power you have in this resistance is your rightness and peacefulness. You are right and strong. You should know that the world’s common humanity conscience is proud of you.” Police had intervened in the Taksim Square earlier today, entering Gezi Park for the first time after two weeks.

It was a woman who herself blew up to kill 14 girls and nurses in Quetta
The death toll in the devastating attacks on a women's university bus and a hospital in the Pakistani city of Quetta rose to 25 on Sunday even as reports emerged of the involvement of a woman suicide bomber in one of the incidents. The banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for Saturday's attacks, saying they were carried out in retaliation for a raid against the group by security forces. Fourteen students of the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women's University and four nurses of the Bolan Medical Complex were among the dead. The attack on the women's university bus was carried out by a woman suicide bomber, Express News channel quoted security sources as saying. About 40 students and teachers were in the bus, waiting to go home after classes. Twenty-two women were injured by the powerful blast. Reports said the bus was assigned for students from a nearby neighbourhood dominated by the Shia Hazara community, which has been the target of several attacks by the LeJ. When the victims of the attack were taken to the nearby Bolan Medical Complex, the hospital was stormed by a group of heavily armed militants. One militant blew himself up near an operation theatre while the others fired indiscriminately and took people hostage. The militants targeted the hospital as several senior police and civil officials, including the police chief and Chief Secretary of Balochistan, were leaving the building after enquiring about the victims of the first attack. Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Kakar, Shabbir Magsi, the medico-legal officer of the hospital, four nurses and as many Frontier Corps personnel were killed in the second attack. Four militants were either killed or blew themselves up while one was captured by security forces, who also freed 35 hostages. Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad confirmed 25 people had died and about 50 were injured in both attacks.

Turkey: Protesters Gather at Istanbul Bridge

Turkish protesters set up barricades in the streets and appeared to regroup at a bridge in Istanbul Sunday, hours after security forces uprooted them from their demonstration hub in a central Istanbul square. On Saturday, Turkish riot police stormed Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park, firing tear gas and water cannon after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that security forces would clear the area. Panicked protesters fled to the side streets but pledged to return. The prime minister lashed out at what he called the "plot'' behind the biggest street protests in his 10 years in power. He has called for a pro-government rally in Istanbul later Sunday. The protests began over the prime minister's plan to turn the park into a mall. They have evolved into anti-government demonstrations that have spread across the country. Thousands in Ankara and Izmir also protested against the Erdogan's ruling AK Party on Saturday. On Friday, the prime minister told protesters he would put redevelopment plans for the park on hold until a court rules on them, and hold a referendum if the court rules in the government's favor.

2 Polio Workers Killed in Pakistan

Two volunteers who were assisting in a polio immunization campaign were shot to death on Sunday in the northeastern district of Swabi, the police said. The incident occurred in the northeast fringes of the district in the hilly Pebani village, when the two volunteers, one a local schoolteacher were killed by two gunmen, the district police officer, Dr. Mian Saeed said. “The gunmen were on foot. They shot dead the two workers from close range and escaped”, he said. “Four suspects have been rounded up for questioning.” This is the second attack on polio workers in the district. A police constable accompanying the polio team was killed in January. Polio teams have come under attacks from militants, who believe that polio vaccination goes against Islamic law. But the attacks escalated after it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had used fake teams to collect blood samples from a compound in the northern district of Abbottabad, inhibited by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The government decided to provide police escort to polio teams after growing number of attacks but there is no evidence if the security measure has worked. Increasingly, health workers are refusing to take police escort, fearing the police presence could expose them further to threats. “We asked the health workers to take police escort but they refused,” “, Dr. Saeed said.. “Since they were locals, probably they were confident that they could carry out their task without police escort.” “We are considering to ask health workers to carry weapons with them. We can issue them weapon permits”, he said. The district head of the immunization program said he was not aware of the police had provided security escort to the teams. " I don’t know if there was police escort but I do think it would be impossible to carry out vaccination in such circumstances”, said Dr. Muhammad Yaqub, head of the district immunization program..

Pakistani Sunni militants claim responsibility for bus, hospital attacks in Pakistan

Deutsche Welle
A group behind assaults on Shiites in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for tandem attacks on a university bus and a hospital that killed at least 24. The Sunni extremist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi announced on Sunday that it had sent a female suicide bomber to strike the bus in Quetta, capital of the restive Balochistan province, killing 14 students from a women's university near a Shiite neighborhood on Saturday. About 90 minutes later, a follow-up attack on the hospital treating survivors left at least 11 dead and led to a prolonged gun battle between security forces and militants occupying part of the building. "The suicide attack on the bus was carried out by one of our sisters," said Abubakar Siddiq, a spokesman for Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. "She boarded the student bus and blew herself up. Then we carried out a second suicide attack at the hospital and our fighters killed several people. We did this because security forces killed our fighters and their wives in Kharotabad."Troops fought gunmen who seized parts of the Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta after the initial explosion. The standoff lasted for several hours and ended when security forces stormed the building, freeing 35 people who had been taken hostage, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told reporters on Saturday. Quetta's head of police operations, Fayaz Sumbal, said those killed in the hospital explosion included a senior government official who had arrived to assess the situation. Attack on historic building Earlier on Saturday, suspected separatists killed a policeman and gutted a historic summer retreat once used by Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in a hill town in the province. Saturday's attacks were the heaviest since bombings in Quetta at the start of the year claimed almost 200 lives and came only a week after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took office. Baluchistan is a vast province bordering Iran and Afghanistan and home to large deposits of copper and gold.

Balochistan: Weeping families identify Pakistan victims

Weeping relatives gathered Sunday to identify the charred remains of loved ones killed in a double attack in Pakistan's troubled southwest claimed by a banned Sunni militant group. At least 25 people were killed on Saturday when militants blew up a bus carrying female students in Quetta, capital of restive Baluchistan province, and then stormed a hospital where survivors had been taken for treatment. The extremist sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), responsible for a string of outrages against Pakistan's Shiite Muslim minority, said it was behind both attacks. An LeJ spokesman said a female suicide bomber struck the bus -- a rare tactic in Pakistan -- before gunmen attacked the hospital, claiming the strikes were revenge for an operation by security forces earlier this month. Militants occupied parts of the Bolan Medical Complex in a standoff that lasted several hours and ended when security forces stormed the building, freeing 35 hostages. Authorities shut down the hospital on Sunday, moving patients to another facility, as investigators combed the grisly aftermath of the violence. "All patients were shifted from here overnight. Inside I have seen blood and small pieces of human flesh," a security official at the locked gates told AFP. The intensity of the blast and subsequent fire reduced the student bus to a blackened skeleton, and outside the mortuary of the Provincial Sandeman Hospital on Sunday, weeping relatives gathered to identify bodies amid a strong stench of burnt human flesh. The state of the bodies added confusion to the relatives' burden of grief as some were given contradictory information about their loved ones. Mohammad Hamza, 19, said that on Saturday he had been given the body of his student sister, only to be told a mistake had been made. "I came here after someone had given us the information that we had taken the wrong body and my sister's body was still here at hospital, but it is not true," Hamza told AFP. It appeared the body he was given on Saturday was indeed his sister. Mohammad Yasir, deputy registrar of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women's University, said DNA testing may be needed to identify many body parts. LeJ spokesman Abubakar Siddiq called newspaper offices in Quetta late Saturday to claim the killings. "The suicide attack on the bus was carried out by one of our sisters. She boarded the student bus and blew herself up," Siddiq said. "Then we carried out a second suicide attack at the hospital and our fighters killed several people. We did this because security forces killed our fighters and their wives in Kharotabad." Pakistani security forces on June 6 killed at least three militants and two women during a raid at a house in the Kharotabad neighbourhood of Quetta. Officials said they belonged to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, with whom LeJ has links. The attacks came hours after a national monument linked to Pakistan's founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah was destroyed by separatist militants in Ziarat town, 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Quetta. Quetta is a flashpoint for sectarian violence between majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shiites, who account for 20 percent of Pakistan's 180 million population, and the city saw the country's two bloodiest attacks so far this year. A giant bomb planted in a water tanker being towed by a tractor killed 90 Shiite Hazaras in February, while another suicide bombing at a snooker club in January killed 92 others. Both were claimed by LeJ. There was fury in the Pakistani press on Sunday, both at the perpetrators and the security forces for failing to prevent the third major atrocity in Quetta in six months. Dawn, the country's leading English-language newspaper, said the state's shortcomings had been shown once again. "That the state has again failed both at the level of intelligence-gathering and preventing a terrorist attack from succeeding is also obvious," it said in an editorial. "Unhappily, the more obvious these truths, the less likely it seems that anything will be done to address them." Sardar Bahadur Khan Women's University is located close to a Shiite Hazara neighbourhood in Quetta, and many Hazaras are students. Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, is rife with Islamist militancy and a regional insurgency waged by separatists demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region's natural resources.

Quetta explodes

On Saturday Balochistan came under vicious terrorist attacks. Even if by different groups and actors, they were well-planned assaults with a visible streak of vengeance against Pakistan. The attacks began with the residency of the Quaid-e-Azam in Ziarat, where the historical building and its precious contents were destroyed. The message was clear – the nation as a whole was the target. As the details of Ziarat were still emerging, Quetta faced one of the most organised and determined assaults it has ever faced, beginning with a bomb blast in a students’ bus, killing more than 10 girls. The terrorists followed up on the attack inside the emergency rooms of the Bolan Medical Complex where the high-ups of the administration had gone to visit the injured. The deputy commissioner was killed and his deputy was seriously hurt. The IGP, other officials and media personnel barely managed to escape. But determined to fight it out, the terrorists took positions, holding many people hostage and fighting a pitched battle. After several hours, the battle was over with four security people dead besides the deputy commissioner, many attackers killed and one captured alive, according to Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. The attacks come when the new Balochistan government led by Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has just taken oath of office. Abdul Malik has expressed his determination to serve the Baloch people and end the unrest fermenting in his homeland. We will now need to see quite how he intends to go about this uphill task. It will also be a test for the Nawaz Sharif-led government in the centre to move against the sectarian outfits that have shed innocent blood. The PM was quick to get involved and talked to the Balochistan chief minister, offering all-out federal support. Steps must be taken to avoid further turmoil in Balochistan and ensure that some stability and order can be reestablished. Efforts to pull the troubled province back into the mainstream of our country must not be stopped or delayed because of these attacks. A much higher level of coordination and cooperation between the state security agencies and the new political players is an imperative. They must come on the same page to counter this elevated level of terrorism. While a better analysis and opinion on this on-going battle will be possible later – when the picture becomes clear – for now it is a challenge that has been posed to the whole nation, the state agencies, the elected governments and the people at large. Some heads must sit down to evolve effective strategies. There is no shortage of sane minds, but political will and a sense of urgency is what is needed now.

Peshawar on high alert after Quetta terror incidents

Khyber Pukhtunkhaw provincial capital city has been put on high security alert, following yesterday’s Quetta terror incidents, Geo News reported on Sunday. Police said that all the sensitive places in the city are being heavily guarded. Surveillance in Fata and bordering areas of Peshawar has been beefed up and the strength of the security force has been increased at entry/exit checkpoints of the city, while search operations after Badaber checkpost attack is in progress.

Pakistan: New polio victim appears in Punjab

A fresh polio case came to the forefront in a Punjab village, once again striking down tall claims of the Punjab Health Department in coping with the menace, despite billions of rupees spent by international donors, Pakistan Today has learnt. Eight-year-old Noorun Nisa of Bhalwal, Sargodha is the new victim of the virus which is now found in only three third world countries including Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation earmarked billions of rupees for bringing polio to an end in Pakistan, which remains far behind in performance. India, with its large population, only had one reported polio case last year. However, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this is the second polio case appearing in Punjab, the other one reported in Mianwali. A representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif only a few days ago, reiterating the resolve to eradicate polio. According to initial medical reports of the patient, Nisa was administered around eight to 10 doses of polio, yet she was found to be carrying the disease. This also raises a lot of questions on the efficacy of the vaccination being procured, besides reflecting on the routine expanded programme for immunisation (EPI). In a province already hit by measles, another consequence of flawed immunisation campaign, a fresh polio case is definitely not good news for the health department. Health Director General (DG) Dr Tanwir confirmed that a case had been reported and that teams had been set to investigate the matter. “Polio drops are administered only till five years of age and she is an eight-year-old. It only indicates that the immune system in the child was not strong enough and bares no reflection on the efficacy of the medicine. The disease is very rare after 5 years of age. The case is still being investigated. A report will also be furnished,” he said. Responding to a question, he said per WHO guidelines, the government will take all measures and more than one million children will be administered vaccination surrounding this district in the coming days. Health Secretary Hassan Iqbal said the government is investigating the matter since the case was reported only a couple of days ago. “Now that a case has appeared, we can only investigate the matter and evaluate possible causes,” he added. - See more at:

President Zardari strongly condemns terrorist attacks in Quetta

President Asif Ali Zardari
Saturday strongly condemned the bomb blast in a university bus and a terrorist attack at the Bolan Medical Complex. The attack on the bus of Sardar Bahadar Khan Women University killed scores of innocent students while many were injured. In another related terrorist attack Deputy Commissioner Quetta Abdul Mansoor Kakar, para medical staff and security personnel at Bolan Medical Complex were killed. President Zardari said that such terrorist attacks will not weaken the resolve of the Pakistani nation to defeat the evil once for all. The President paid tribute to the martyred DC Abdul Mansoor Kakar and other personnel who sacrificed their lives while performing their duties. The President reiterated that such dastardly acts cannot weaken the resolve of the nation to continue struggle against extremism and militancy till its logical conclusion. He termed the blasts and attack as "cowardly and inhuman acts" and expressed his heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families. He also directed the authorities concerned to provide best possible medical assistance to the injured. The President prayed for the departed souls and also for courage to the bereaved families to bear these losses with fortitude.

Pakistan: Female suicide bomber carried out Quetta attack: Security sources

The Express Tribune
The bomb attack on Sardar Bahadur Khan University, Quetta – which killed 14 female students – was carried out by a female suicide bomber, Express News reported, quoting security sources on Sunday. On June 15, a bomb was detonated in the parking lot of the university, killing 14 female students and injuring as many as 19 other students. When these victims were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex, a second blast took place and as many as 14 terrorists stormed the hospice. They killed four FC personnel and the deputy commissioner who responded to the attack. Security forces surrounded the hospice before commandoes stormed the complex and killed the attackers. At least four attackers were killed while one suspect was arrested. The outlawed sectarian extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), claimed credit for the grisly attacks.

Pakistan _ Nuclear-Armed but Short of Electricity

A woman named Rehana Yasmin struggles to keep her sick 2-year-old granddaughter cool in a sweltering hospital where working air conditioners are rare and electric fans are idle for much of the day. Elsewhere, households can't rely on their refrigerators, and at textile factories, factory workers say they can't operate their machines for enough hours to earn their daily bread. All are victims of Pakistan's biggest problem, one that recently brought down a government — not the U.S. drone war in its backyard, not its permanent confrontation with India, but its inability to generate enough electricity. Pakistan, nuclear-armed, can't deliver a reliable power supply to its 180 million citizens. "Power, power, power is the problem. It's power at home, in the workplace, on the streets," said Rizwana Kauser, head nurse at the hospital in the city of Gujar Khan, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the capital, Islamabad. Power can be out for up to 20 hours a day in the summer. TV coverage may be lost in the middle of a cliffhanger cricket match. Office meetings are scheduled around anticipated power cuts. Without electric fans, mosquitoes proliferate. People get stuck in elevators. Meat rots in refrigerators. The shortfalls that became the top issue in the recent election are estimated at 3,500 to 6,000 megawatts — up to a third of total demand.It is a struggle simply to maintain basic sanitation, said Kauser, the head nurse. Wounds take longer to heal. And "When there is no water, there is no cleaning," she said. "How can you wash the sheets?" In the past, power cuts ("load-shedding" in Pakistani bureaucratese) used to be much shorter and followed patterns that allowed people to plan such routine activities as scheduling an office meeting or taking a shower. But it was the newer phenomenon of "unscheduled load-shedding" and the much longer outages that raised tempers to the level of an election issue. Dr. Ashraf Nizami of the Pakistan Medical Association said that doctors are seeing more psychological effects of load-shedding, such as stress and depression. "It is a torture for the medical community and the patients," he said. It's also bad for business. The looms in one of Waheed Raamay's workshops are silent and soon to be sold as scrap metal. This workshop, a graveyard as Raamay calls it, is a sign of how the electricity crisis hurts Pakistan's economy. "This is not just the story of this single factory. There are dozens of factories in this particular area, and there are hundreds of factories in this city that have closed down due to this power crisis," said Raamay. Faisalabad, the third-largest city in Pakistan with a population of about 2.6 million inhabitants, is known for its textiles. But from the low-end workshops that produce for the domestic market to the warehouse-sized factories that export sheets and pillowcases to international chains, that industry is hurting — badly — as a result of the electricity crisis, say workers and factory owners. Analysts and government officials estimate that Pakistan loses about two percent of its GDP every year due to the electricity crisis. The Pakistan Textile Exporters Association estimates about 150,000 jobs lost in Faisalabad and surrounding Punjab province over the last five years. In the part of the city where fabric is made for local consumption, the clicking and clacking of the machines rises and falls with the load-shedding. Workers show up hoping for a day's work, knowing they are hostages to power cuts. A show of hands indicates all the workers are deeply in debt to their grocery stores or the factory owners. Angry job-seekers have taken to the streets in protest. "We don't have money to bury our dead," said Mohammed Haneef, who was missing part of one finger from a loom accident. "My mother died and I had no money so I had to borrow money from the owners. A year later my father died, and I had to borrow money. ... The situation is bad." Kurram Mukhtar, head of Sadaqat Limited, one of Pakistan's leading textile manufacturers, said that from 2006 to 2010 many companies in the city and surrounding area were bankrupted by the power crisis. Owners who survived decided they needed energy independence. Now, at Mukhtar's factory, piles of coal sit next to a massive generator that keeps the workers stitching, cutting and dying fabrics through the load-shedding. But Mukhtar said that the cost has cut deeply into his profits, leaving no money to invest in new technologies. He doesn't have the option chosen by Aurangzeb Khan in the northwestern town of Mathra when his power was cut off last year over unpaid bills: Khan resorted to the tactic Pakistanis call "kunda," the hook slung over a convenient electricity pole.He said he did it because it pained him to see his kids suffering through the August heat. "I am not stealing electricity just for fun or pleasure but I don't have any other option," he said. Such non-payment is rampant. Even government agencies are known to default on bills. And customers can always go to court to obtain a "stay-order" that forces the power company to keep supplying electricity. "There is no concept of paying the bill," said Ashfaque Khan, the dean of the business school at the Islamabad-based National University of Sciences and Technology. A report in March commissioned by the Planning Commission of Pakistan estimated that the delinquencies added up to about 86 billion rupees (about $870 million) in lost revenues. The Peshawar Electric Supply Company, whose coverage area includes Khan's home, was said to be one of the worst at bill-collecting, though it suffers the added problem of being a target for violence. In April, militants attacked a grid station outside of Peshawar, killing eight policemen and electric company officials. The new government says it wants to increase bill collection but has given few specifics about how they'll go about it. People like Aurangzeb Khan say they want to see improved service before they pay up. "I know stealing is not good," he said, "but if we get uninterrupted supply of electricity at a reasonable price we shall pay the bills."

Pakistan: Military, govt machinery locked in blame game
The military and civilian security setups have been apparently locked in the blame game following stark security lapses in Quetta and Ziarat resulting in the loss of several lives. While the military-led paramilitary force Frontier Corps (FC) passes the buck on the district administrations concerned and the Balochistan government for the security failure to cause the three deadly attacks in the two districts, the military officials here support the FC's version, which is categorically denied by the governmental machinery on the grounds that the maintenance of security and law and order in the province is completely assigned to the FC. Talking to The Nation from Quetta, Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesman to the Chief Minister Balochistan, said that the FC was primarily assigned the responsibility for maintaining security in Balochistan. "The maintenance of law and order mainly rests with the FC as well as the local police and other paramilitary forces and the security arrangements concerning the counterinsurgency drive are completely the FC's job." Asked if the FC was to be blamed for the major terrorist attacks, the spokesman said that an inquiry had been launched into the incidents and responsibility would be fixed in the light of the probe findings. "Nothing can be said as of now. At this point, our foremost priority is to crush the terrorists and get the hospital cleared of them. Once this is done, we'll find out who's to be blamed for the attacks and we'll proceed against the responsible elements accordingly," he said referring to the severe exchange of gunfire between the security forces and the militants at the Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) till Saturday evening. This was followed by bomb blasts. District Commissioner Quetta Abdul Mansoor along with others lost his life in the attack while senior government officials sustained serious injuries. On the other hand, the FC Spokesman Murtaza Baig appeared to have passed the buck on the provincial government as well as the civilian authorities concerned. He said that Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a Baloch nationalist militant outfit, had conducted the attacks in Ziarat and Quetta. "The FC is there to act in aid of the government on its directives. It's basically the government's job to use the paramilitary force where required," he said. Asked to comment on the view that the FC had the frontline role in the maintenance of law and order and security in Balochistan and the security lapses pointed to the paramilitary force's negligence, Baig said, "I don't want to get into any controversy or argument. As I said, the FC is there in aid of government. No more comments." Apparently following the FC's line, the military officials here also held the provincial government and the district administrations responsible for the attacks. About attack on Quaid's residency, they said, "There were no security persons deployed at the residency at the time of attack. The DC Ziarat is responsible for security and maintenance of the residency." The DC Ziarat Tahir Nadeem rejected this version. He said that FC was not under his administrative control. "It's the FC's job to deal with the militants. The paramilitary force is not under my control and I have no authority to call it in any given situation. I can only call the police, not FC to respond to any untoward situation. The FC has an extraordinary role in Balochistan. It's responsible for everything related to security here," he said, when approached. The military officials claimed that 50 FC personnel of Loralai Scouts rushed to Quaid-e-Azam residency site after Saturday attack in Ziarat, but only after the damage had been done. The miscreants during the pre-dawn hours of Saturday attacked the Quaid's residency with rockets, resulting in the destruction of the historical site and killing of a policeman. This was followed by two deadly attacks in Quetta at a university as well as a hospital. Reports suggested that over a dozen female students were killed in a bomb blast in Women University followed by an attack on BMC where the uninjured victims of the university attack were brought.

Pakistan: Day of bloodshed: Killing hope and history

Balochistan bleeds once again. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi massacred 28 people in the long-suffering city of Quetta in what is the first major terror attack after the new government took power. And hours before this latest outrage came a blow at the country’s very heritage, this time by the BLA, who destroyed Quaid-e-Azam’s residency in Ziarat Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s new government faced its first major security challenge on Saturday when sectarian terrorists went on a bloody rampage in the capital of Balochistan. At least 28 people — among them 14 students of the lone women’s university of the province — were killed when terrorists bombed a bus and then seized parts of a hospital treating survivors of their attack. The outlawed sectarian extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), claimed credit for the grisly attacks. The siege lasted for several hours and ended when police commandos stormed the building, freeing 35 people who had been taken hostage, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told reporters in Islamabad. According to police, terrorists remotely detonated a bomb on the bus carrying students from Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University, which is located close to a neighbourhood of the Shia Hazara community. Officials, however, said the attack wasn’t targeted at any particular community or ethnicity, adding that students from all ethnic and communal backgrounds study in the university. “The bomb exploded minutes after students boarded the bus around 2pm,” Mir Zubair Mehmood, the capital city police officer (CCPO), told journalists. “Twelve students were killed on the spot and 22 wounded,” he said. Another two students died at hospital, raising the death toll to 14, sources added. Interior Minister Nisar also confirmed 14 fatalities. The injured students were rushed to the Bolan Medical College Teaching Hospital where LeJ terrorists had already seized parts of the building, taking dozens of people hostage, including government officials, relatives of the victims, doctors and paramedics. “As casualties were being brought to the hospital terrorists had taken position inside the hospital building,” Nisar said. “They opened fire on administration and police officials who arrived at the hospital. One suicide bomber blew himself up in the hospital,” he added. Top government officials – including provincial chief secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad, IGP Mushtaq Sukhera, Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Kakar and Assistant Commissioner Anwer Ali Shar – were leaving the hospital after reviewing the situation when the suicide bomber detonated his explosive jacket near the operation theatre (OT). The blast was immediately followed by heavy firing. “Over six armed men barged into the Emergency Ward and the people present inside started running outside in panic,” Dr Abu Bakar, who was also injured in the blast, told The Express Tribune. “The attackers were armed with AK 47 assault rifles and wore suicide vests,” he added. Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Khan Kakar, Medico-Legal Officer of BMCTH Dr Shabbir Magsi, four FC personnel and as many nurses were killed and several others injured in the suicide blast and subsequent firing. The casualties, including Assistant Commissioner Anwer Ali Shar, an FC captain, a senior police officer and a news channel reporter, were driven to the Civil Hospital and the Combined Military Hospital. Policemen and FC troops surrounded the complex and engaged the terrorists in a firefight. “The terrorists fired randomly at any movement from their vantage point,” CCPO Mehmood said. Journalists and some senior police officials ducked behind vehicles in the parking lot overlooking the Emergency Ward of the hospital. Around 7pm police and FC commandoes were called in. They secured most parts of the building and pinned down the terrorists in a room where government officials, doctors and relatives of the victims were held hostage. Just as they were closing in on the terrorists, another suicide bomber detonated the explosives strapped to his body. Helicopters flew overhead as commandos stormed the building. Personnel from FC, anti-terrorist police force and Balochistan Levies had virtually sealed off all entry and exit points of the building by then. “The siege continued for about four hours and ended when three of the terrorists blew themselves up,” said FC spokesperson Abdul Wasay. Interior Minister Nisar said that four terrorists were killed during the operation while one was captured alive. “He has been shifted to an undisclosed location for interrogation,” Nisar added. It was not immediately clear if any of the terrorists managed to escape.

Iran issues ultimatum on IP gas pipeline

Islamabad should expedite gas pipeline project with Iran or it should wait for impending financial punishments, an Iranian source said. “If Pakistan doesn’t revise its behaviour on construction of the peace pipeline, it will be fined based on the bilateral agreement (with Iran),” an informed source, who asked to remain unnamed, told FNA on Saturday. He further complained about the slow trend of the pipeline construction, lamenting that the project had not had tangible progress in the last four months. “In the same respect, we have decided to issue an ultimatum to Pakistani energy officials warning that if they don’t revise the slow trend of the pipeline construction, we will put into effect the paragraph in the agreement which pertains to financial penalties,” the informed source said. Asked about the reason for Pakistan’s delay in constructing the pipeline, the source said that Islamabad claims to be waiting for the results of Iran’s June 14 presidential election, but the delay is a result of the US pressures. Iran and Pakistan in March officially inaugurated the construction phase of the pipeline project on the Pakistani side. The project kicked off in a ceremony attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari at the two countries’ shared border region in Iran’s Southeastern city of Chabahar. The 2700-kilometer long pipeline was to supply gas for Pakistan and India which are suffering a lack of energy sources, but India has evaded talks. In 2011, Iran and Pakistan declared they would finalize the agreement bilaterally if India continued to be absent in the meeting. According to the project poposal, the pipeline will begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh Energy Zone in the south and stretch over 1,100 km through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Balochistan and Sindh but officials now say the route may be changed if China agrees to the project.