Friday, November 1, 2013

US drone strike kills head of Pakistani Taliban

The head of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a US drone strike on Friday, Pakistani intelligence officials told Reuters anonymously. Senior sources within the militant group confirmed the death. “We can confirm, Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the drone strike,” one senior security official told Reuters. Agents sent to the site of the attack in North Waziristan region identified Hakimullah Mehsud as one of the killed, said the sources, who wished to remain unnamed as they were not authorized to talk to the media. According to another intelligence source, the Taliban leader’s funeral has already been scheduled for Saturday, and will take place in the main regional city of Miranshah. At least three people were killed in what is believed to be a US drone strike on the tribal region’s village of Dande Derpa Khel, AP reported quoting intelligence officials. Reuters sources have, however, put the number of drone strike victims at 25, saying that the chief’s closest men were also killed. “Among the dead, who are in large numbers, are Hakimullah’s personal bodyguard, Tariq Mehsud, and his driver, Abdullah Mehsud, two of his closest people,” the agency was told. A house was destroyed by the strike in the village, which is said to be the stronghold of the Haqqani network. The Islamist insurgent network is known for routinely targeting NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan. Mehsud, one of Pakistan’s most wanted men believed to be in his mid-30s, has been reported dead several times before. He took over the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009 after a drone strike killed the previous militant leader, his mentor.

Reema, "Mujhay Pagal Kar Diya"

Drone strike kills Pakistani Taliban chief,Hakimullah Mehsud

The head of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on Friday, several security sources told Reuters, the latest in a series of blows to the country's most feared militant group. Hakimullah Mehsud, who was believed to be in his mid-30s and was one of Pakistan's most wanted men, has been reported dead several times before. But late on Friday, several intelligence, army and militant sources across Pakistan confirmed he had been killed in the drone strike in the lawless North Waziristan region. "We can confirm Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in the drone strike," said one senior security official. Mehsud's Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella of militant groups separate to but allied to the Afghan Taliban. Mehsud took over the Pakistani Taliban in August 2009 after a drone strike killed the previous leader, his mentor. Four security officials confirmed his death to Reuters. His bodyguard and driver were also among the dead, they said. "Among the dead, who are in large numbers, are Hakimullah's personal bodyguard Tariq Mehsud and his driver Abdullah Mehsud, two of his closest people," said one intelligence source, adding at least 25 people were killed in the strike. There was no official comment from the government or from the Taliban. Earlier, regional sources said drones had fired four missiles at a compound in Danda Darpa Khel, a village about 5 km (3 miles) from the regional capital of Miran Shah, killing at least four people. North Waziristan is the stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and shares a border with Afghanistan. The U.S. offered $5 million for Mehsud's capture after he appeared in a farewell video with the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan in 2009. U.S. prosecutors have charged him with involvement in the attack. The killing is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Pakistani Taliban. A drone strike killed Mehsud's number two in May and one of his most trusted lieutenants was captured in Afghanistan last month. The death follows months of debate over potential peace talks between the Taliban and the new government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who swept to a landslide victory in May elections.

Laili - Watandar Qataghani Afghan Music 2013

Afghanistan: BSA essential for post-2014 presence

In the absence of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the United States would have difficulties in keeping its troops in Afghanistan and providing financial assistance, a top American senator said on Friday.
But Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, exuded confidence during a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) -- a Washington based think-tank -- that the much-awaited agreement would be signed soon. "We can't stay if there is no BSA. We can’t put our forces to risk. It is likely that we will get the BSA. There are a couple of issues that still need to be resolved. If it does not happen and if we fall back, there is a greater chance that we fall back on a society that we don’t want," he cautioned. Fresh from a recent visit to Afghanistan, Levin stressed it is essential to sign the deal before President Hamid Karzai left office. The US did not want it to be an issue during the upcoming Afghan presidential election campaign, he remarked. The lawmaker expected a US-NATO presence of 8,000 to 12,000 troops after 2014, when foreign combat soldiers would leave the country. President Obama had not decided yet on the troop number, he explained, saying there was no chances of keeping 20,000 troops in Afghanistan. "We need a BSA for our troops to be able to stay. We hope to be able to do that, reach that soon. This is important. We do not want to go back to an Afghanistan controlled and ruled by Taliban," the senator continued. The security situation from the military perspective had significantly improved and US commanders were surprised how well the Afghan forces had done, Levin said as he stressed Washington's goal should be to train Afghan forces and leave the country. Highly critical of Karzai's recent statements on US and NATO forces allegedly colliding with the Taliban, Levin said the president seemed to be isolated in his own country. Appreciative of the progress made in Afghanistan, he said things had significantly improved, changed for the better in the last 10-year period. Changes were particularly striking and the country more secure, he noted. While praising the growth and strength of the Afghan army and police, he admitted: "Taliban are a resilient force and should not be underestimated."

Pakistan: Baloch protesters march against government kidnappings

Baloch men and women have taken to the road in a protest over apparent kidnappings. They are demanding the Pakistani government locate and return hundreds of Balochs allegedly abducted by security agents.Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, a small group of Baloch nationalists have been in conflict with the federal government.
The 700-kilometer (430-mile) march, from Quetta to Karachi began on Monday and was expected to take two weeks. Local rights groups have the details of 8,000 people who they say were disappeared over the past ten years and have not been seen since. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), 23 bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in January 2012. From August 2011 to January 2012, 56 Baloch people are known to have been murdered and dumped on roadsides, according to AHRC. The Voice for the Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) indicates the number is much higher. The armed struggle for Baloch independence intensified after the killing of influential Baloch leader Akbar Bugti in 2006 in a military operation. Rebel Baloch fractions like the Balochistan Liberation Army have repeatedly attacked security forces and state installations. Most of the rebel leadership is thought to be abroad in the UK, Afghanistan and Dubai.
Disappeared, even in the media
The issue of missing persons remains highly sensitive as far as its media coverage is concerned. Baloch journalist Saeed Sarbazi considers himself lucky to be alive. He was had been advocating for the rights of Baloch people before he was abducted last year by "unknown" men.
Talking to DW he said:
"They blind-folded me and kept me in a locked cell. They interrogated and tortured and forced me to stand all the time. I told them that I don't have any links with any terrorist or militant groups working in Balochistan. I'm just a journalist. I used to help missing persons' families who come and sit in the camp." Sarbazi was released after a month. Despite vast natural mineral reserves in Balochistan, its inhibitors remain the poorest in Pakistan. The prolonged insecurity has left its marks on the socio-economic aspects of the Baloch community, which makes less than five percent of Pakistan's total population. Usually the tribal chiefs and highly influential figures have been ruling the Balochistan government. But for the first time in the history of Balochistan government, a working-class politician was elected as the chief minister in June this year. The appointment of Dr. Abdul Malik raised some hopes for many, but this first-non tribal leader admits his limitations when it comes to the issue of missing persons and federal security agencies. "I admit my failure on the issue of missing persons. I have repeatedly raised this issue and highlighted that without resolving it, we cannot proceed any step further towards peace dialogues [with rebels]. But unfortunately there has been no progress." Malik said talking to journalists in Karachi this week.
Betrayal of trust
Sources say the matter is directly linked to Pakistan's security establishment and that politicians do not have much say in such matters. The separatist forces on the other hand rules out any dialogue. A separatist leader Abdul Hakim Lehri told DW said that the Pakistani establishment has "betrayed" the Baloch people on various occasions and they can therefore no longer be trusted. The marching Balochs crossed Mastung district on Thursday en-route to Karachi. According to the VBMP founder Abdul Qadeer Baloch, participants of the long march will be travelling for 15 days from Quetta to Karachi. Family members of missing persons from other districts will join the march along the way. "We are coming to Karachi to register our protest and highlight our issue," he said speaking via telephone.

Mothers Of Czech Hostages In Pakistan Make Plea For Mercy

The mothers of Antonie Chrastecka, 25, and Hana Humpalova, 24, Czech women who were kidnapped in southern Pakistan seven months ago, have released a video message in which they ask their daughters' captors for mercy.

Pakistan: Another Ahmadi gunned down in Karachi's Orangi Town area

Ahmadiyya Times
An Ahmadi Muslim is shot dead for his faith in Orangi Town area of Karachi, a southern port city in Sind Provence of Pakistan. According to the local reports, approximately 70 years old victim, Bashir Kiyani, was on his way to offer Friday prayers when he was killed by unknown assailant(s). A 10 years old boy accompanying Bashir Kiyani was also struck with bullet(s) to his leg and the injury is being described as serious. Bashir Kiyani is the third member of a family to be target-killed, all in the same area. Mr. Saleemud Din, national spokesperson of Jamā'at Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, noted that the victim’s son Ijaz Kiyani and son-in-law Zahoor Kiyani were also murdered in separate incident in the recent past at the same location. Ahmadis are regularly targeted in Pakistan because of their faith and many have lost their lives, while Ahmadi properties are routinely looted, places of worship defaced, and graveyards vandalized.
Pakistani government's biased laws against Ahmadis encourage extremists to carry out hate crimes against Ahmadis with impunity.

Pak-Iran gas pipeline: End of the line?

The Pak-Iran gas pipeline, long presented as the best hope for overcoming our energy crisis, now appears to be dead. And with this devastating development we need to bury all the loud talk, repeated promises, tall claims of sovereignty and freedom to take decisions in our national interest, especially coming from our old and new rulers. The writing had been on the wall for some time. The US was particularly vociferous in warning Pakistan against going through with the project and international sanctions against Iran made it difficult for us to raise the $2 billion needed to build our portion of the pipeline. We had earlier requested Iran to fund us in this endeavour but, now that their oil minister has said that the contract for supplying gas to Pakistan will likely be annulled, that means the certain end of the pipeline. Iran had already constructed the pipeline on their side of the border but the added expense of paying for Pakistan’s part of the pipeline and the fear that we would abandon the project under US pressure has forced the Iranians to take this drastic step. As recently as last week, Nawaz Sharif was making the case for the pipeline at international forums and vowing not to bow down to international pressure. But Pakistan’s past of meek subservience to the superpower obviously weighed heavy on Iran’s mind. Let us be clear though: that the pipeline will not be pursued is because of the US, which wants to isolate Iran for its nuclear programme. Some doubts had recently been raised about the efficacy of the pipeline. One organisation, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), claimed that Iran would have sold gas to Pakistan at many times the price of domestic gas. This, according to the institute, would have spelled an economic disaster for the country. That did not necessarily have to be the case. The price of domestic gas is indeed quite low right now but that is only because the government heavily subsidises its use. As we begin to run out of gas, those subsidies are gradually being reduced and we will most likely be paying the market price of gas within a few years. The SDPI also ignored how quickly our gas supplies are being depleted. Moving away from gas is simply not an option for us after the Musharraf government made switching to CNG such a priority. Our gas addiction will have to be fed, and Iran was the best option for that. Now the only available alternative is the Tapi pipeline, which comes with an American seal of approval. Constructing the Tapi pipeline will be fraught with risk though since it will run through Taliban-infested parts of Afghanistan. Still, now that the US has scuttled the Iranian pipeline, we have been forced into a corner and left with no other choice.

Pakistan: Inter-provincial inequality

The minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal, reportedly expressed concern over the inequality in development between the provinces - an inequality which, he maintained, would be dangerous for the federation. There is no doubt that Sindh and Punjab are relatively affluent provinces, with many economists labelling them as middle income, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and tailed by the resource-rich Balochistan considered as the least developed province comparable to the least developed countries that include conflict-ridden Afghanistan. There was nothing astute about Ahsan Iqbal's conclusion with respect to inter-provincial inequality and its resulting danger to the federation. The rise of fundamentalism in KPK is considered an outcome of economic deprivation and lack of job opportunities in rural/tribal areas - conditions that account for the successful recruitment drive by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan that, in turn, has led to the escalation in vicious terror attacks throughout the country. Need one add that the origin of the Punjabi Taliban, mainly from the economically-deprived South, simply strengthen the linkage between economic deprivation and fundamentalism/terrorism. The growing rural, urban divide must therefore be summarily addressed by even the relatively affluent provinces with the objective of providing an environment not conducive to either the rise of fundamentalism or militarism and to deter migration from rural to urban areas in search of jobs that leads to greater socio-economic problems facing the already over-crowded Pakistani cities. The case of Balochistan is different as the Sardars have done little to share their enormous natural resource wealth, including gas and minerals, with the Baloch people. However, while political constraints require to be tackled, yet here too economic constraints do augment the cultural compulsion for the continuing hold of the Sardars over the hearts and minds of their people. In short, Pakistan has already reached the danger zone with respect to the federation as a direct outcome of developmental inequality between the provinces. Ahsan Iqbal also pointed out that subsequent to the 18th Constitutional Amendment the provinces have a greater share of the resources relative to the federation and the onus of development would therefore increasingly rest with the provinces. Be that as it may, the federation cannot and must not absolve itself of the responsibility of ensuring that basic physical and social infrastructure is provided to the country's backward areas for in that way alone lies its ability to effectively and permanently deal with terrorism, a national as opposed to a provincial subject, which remains the main impediment to economic growth. The 2010 landmark National Finance Commission award agreement led to a rise in weightage of poverty or backwardness to 10.3 percent raising allocations from the divisible pool to 9.09 percent for Balochistan and 14.62 percent to KPK. This is certainly not enough for the poor provinces to make a difference to their people and it needs to be supplemented by federal government injections. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms can, of course, play a role in preparing province-specific development plans that would help narrow the stark gap between the provinces within a stipulated time period. For this to materialise, the Finance Ministry would need to make additional releases to ensure that this inequality is tackled and the road to end militancy, terrorism and inter-provincial disharmony in Pakistan is embarked upon.

'If polio drops are harmful, why would Saudi Arabia allow them?'

The Express Tribune
Receiving polio drops is a major issue among the Pashtun community. However, the views of some in the community are changing. Fazal Jan, a Hajji from Mohammad Agency expresses the change in the way he thinks with regards to polio drops after his visit to Saudi Arabia.
Polio - Haji Camp by BlackBoxSounds In his interview he said “We were told we would receive polio drops at Jeddah Airport.” Further commenting on his views he added, “Had polio drops been harmful or dangerous why would Saudi Arabia being a Muslim country allow them?” He also stated, “We used to think that the foreigners were deceiving us with polio drops. We would wonder why they would spend so much money on us.We thought our children would die from these drops and that they were trying to erase Pakistan’s future generations. But that’s not the case. Had that been true, Pakistan’s population would have decreased instead of increasing at the rate it is.” While talking about the perspective of the Pashtun community regarding polio drops Medical Officer, Health Department Dr Assadullah Khan stated that “The pashtun community is of the view that on one hand the West is bombing its northern areas and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and on the other they are providing polio drops to keep our children safe — so they wonder about these conflicting policies.” He also mentioned, “We have to clarify to them the fact that those dropping bombs are not involved in the health sector, just like the health sector doesn’t go fight wars in battlefields, nor are they part of any army.”

Pakistan: Another drone strike kills 3 in North Waziristan

A drone strike killed three people in North Waziristan on Friday, Express News reported. Two missiles were fired on a house in Danda Darpakhel Miranshah, with casualties expected to rise. This is the second drone attack in two days, after Wednesday’s strike killed three people in the same town.

Pakistan: Opposition moves privilege motion against Nisar in Senate

The members of opposition parties in the Senate on Friday submitted a privilege motion against Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Geo News reported. Speaking to media outside the parliament here, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani said the Senate had been made hostage. Rabbani said opposition was not taken into confidence over peace talks with Taliban. The row between the government and opposition has intensified in the Senate over the statistics provided by Chaudhry Nisar on terrorism. The opposition termed the statistics incorrect regarding deaths in terrorism related incidents and asked the interior minister to withdraw his statement, however, the latter refused to do so. Following this, the opposition senators not only boycotted the Senate proceedings but also submitted the privilege motion.