Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nelson Mandela to be buried in Qunu ancestral home

Nelson Mandela is to be buried in his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, ending a week of commemorations for South Africa's first black leader.
Some 4,500 people - including foreign dignitaries - will be attending the funeral, which will blend state ceremonial with traditional rituals. Members of his family are attending an overnight vigil, with a traditional praise singer believed to be chanting details of his long journey and life.
He died on 5 December aged 95.
Tutu to attend
The state funeral is expected to start at 06:00 GMT, when the coffin will be taken from Mr Mandela's house to a giant white marquee that has been specially erected. Mr Mandela's Thembu community will conduct a traditional Xhosa ceremony - including songs and poems about Mr Mandela's life and his achievements. An ox will be slaughtered. A family elder will stay near the coffin, which has been draped with a lion's skin, to talk "to the body's spirit". Presidents from Africa, several prime ministers, the Iranian vice-president and the Prince of Wales are expected to attend the funeral. Archbishop Desmond Tutu - a long-time friend of Nelson Mandela - has confirmed he will be present, having earlier said he had cancelled his flight as he had not received an invitation. The South African government had earlier said the archbishop was accredited, but that no formal invitations had been sent out.
'Sad but happy'
On Saturday, Mr Mandela's coffin was flown from Waterkloof airbase in Pretoria on a C130 military aircraft, escorted by two fighter jets. It later landed at Mthatha airport, some 700km (450 miles) away. In line with tribal custom, Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla accompanied him on the journey, speaking to his coffin to tell him he was on his way home to rest. To solemn music, the coffin draped in a South African flag was moved by a military guard of honour and placed in a hearse to begin the 32km journey to Qunu, where Mr Mandela had wanted to spend his final days. People waving flags and cheering and singing - in places 10 to 12 deep - lined the route taken by the cortege through Mthatha town to pay their last respects. Tears as well as smiles could be seen on the faces of onlookers. "He is finally coming home to rest, I can't even begin to describe the feeling I have inside," 31-year-old Bongani Zibi told AFP news agency. "Part of me is sad but I'm also happy that he has found peace." However, some people expressed their frustration that the convoy did not stop, so they had no chance to view the coffin as people in Pretoria had. The cortege then drove through the gates of the Mandela homestead in Qunu. Ahead of the flight to the Eastern Cape, members of the African National Congress paid final tributes to Nelson Mandela at a ceremony in Pretoria. President Jacob Zuma, other ANC leaders and more than 1,000 members of the organisation which Mr Mandela once led, attended the event at the Waterkloof air base. It included a multi-faith service and a musical tribute. Mourners heard President Zuma pay his own tribute to Nelson Mandela, calling him a "towering figure", "a man of action" and a "democrat who understood the world." "Yes, we will miss him... He was our father, he was our guardian. He was something special." "We'll always keep you in our hearts," Mr Zuma said. At least 100,000 people saw the former president's body lying in state during the week in Pretoria, but some had to be turned away.

China becomes third country to land on moon

China landed an unmanned spacecraft on the moon on Saturday, according to state media. The event marks the first soft-landing on the moon in three decades, joining the USA and former USSR in achieving the feat.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the spacecraft touched down in the Sinus Iridum, known as the Bay of Rainbows, at 9:11 p.m. after hovering over the moon’s surface for an unspecified few minutes, scouting out a suitable place to land. The subsequent soft-landing did not damage the craft, unlike a previous mission in 2007 when China sent a lunar probe to conduct a controlled crash into the moon’s surface.A telescope is on board the landing craft, known as the Chang'e-3 probe, which will likely stay in place and operate for a year. The telescope is designed to survey space from the moon’s surface. The landing craft also houses an ultraviolet camera which will study the Earth and its plasmasphere. A solar-powered rover, known as Yutu, is also on board. It will traverse the area for three months, analyzing topsoil and collecting information on the moon at a depth of 100 yards.The Bay of Rainbows has yet to be studied, but Xinhua stated that it was chosen because of its ample sunlight and convenience for long-distance communications. The Chang'e-3 probe was launched on December 2. It carried the solar-powered Yutu, which will dig and survey both the moon’s geological structure and surface substances, as well as look for natural resources. China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast images from the probe on Saturday and announced that the lunar probe and the rover will snap photographs of one another on Sunday.
This is the first time that China has sent a spacecraft to the surface of an extraterrestrial body, and the first time one has landed on such a surface since 1976. “It's still a significant technological challenge to land on another world,” Peter Bond, consultant editor for Jane's Space Systems and Industry, told AP. “Especially somewhere like the moon, which doesn't have an atmosphere so you can't use parachutes or anything like that. You have to use rocket motors for the descent and you have to make sure you go down at the right angle and the right rate of descent and you don't end up in a crater on top of a large rock.” The probe comes after Chang'e-1’s lunar orbit mission in 2007 and Chang'e-2 ‘s Chang'e-1 made a complete picture of the moon – China’s first – by orbiting for 494 days and then intentionally crashing onto the lunar surface. Chang'e-2’s mission tested new technologies being used in the current lunar exploration and researched the landing area. China plans to launch another lunar probe in 2017, with the intention to land the probe on the moon, release the rover, and return the probe back to Earth. Beijing also has plans to build a working space station by 2020. China sees its space program as a symbol of national pride, rising global influence, and growing technical expertise. Beijing began its manned space program in 1992. In 2003, China successfully sent Yang Liwei, the country's first taikonaut, into orbit aboard the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft.mission in 2010. Both missions helped prepare for Monday’s launch. The crafts are named after Chang’e, goddess of the moon.

Bahrain Trouble ahead: The government is poisoning the well

SOON there will be no empty walls in the villages west of Manama, capital of the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain. Graffiti calling for the king’s overthrow are crossed out by the authorities every day, only to reappear somewhere else, until the walls are entirely covered by black splodges. Police vehicles sit at the entrance to every village. Even in the shiny, built-up areas of Manama many residents grumble. “There is no freedom, no justice and no democracy,” complains one man.
Bahrain, where a Sunni monarchy has long ruled over a Shia majority, saw a brief flickering of Arab spring protests in February 2011. The biggest were brutally put down with the help of troops from neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Yet smaller protests have continued. Violent clashes erupted on December 6th when the government hosted a jamboree of security and military officials from the region (Bahrain’s 40-person delegation included people close to the Shia opposition). Youths in several villages threw stones and Molotov cocktails; security forces lobbed back tear gas and sound bombs.
Human-rights organisations warn that the situation is deteriorating. Two years after an even-handed report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry—a laudable effort by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa—few of its recommendations have been implemented. Opposition activists are harassed and imprisoned; many want to leave the country. Foreign journalists are rarely granted visas.
The trial of Khalil al-Marzooq, a former parliamentarian and prominent figure in al-Wefaq, the leading opposition block, has caused much upset. Mr Marzooq may have been foolish in posing with a flag of the February 14th Coalition, an opposition group that has some violent members, but that hardly warrants charges for inciting “terrorist crimes”. The opposition has suspended its involvement in a national dialogue in response, and political reconciliation has stalled. Both sides say they are keen to make progress, but trust is in short supply.
The government has pushed the protest movement into a more radical direction by depicting its uprising as a sectarian struggle rather than a call for democracy. Bashar Assad, the Syrian president fighting a Sunni-majority population, follows a similarly divisive strategy. By calling the opposition an Iranian proxy, Bahrain’s rulers have managed to rally fellow Sunnis around them, overcoming grumbles on all sides about the rising cost of living and a lack of say in the country’s politics.
Shia opinion is far from united. Al-Wefaq says it is not seeking the government’s overthrow, and indeed recommends a constitutional monarchy. But it struggles to convince parts of the opposition. Some are locked in a stand-off with the police.
Even moderates are angry that 38 mosques were destroyed during raids and few have been rebuilt, says Maytham al-Salman, a Shia cleric, though the government had agreed to do this last year. “Politics is one thing but to attack religion is another”, says a rights activist.
Protesters are especially resentful that the government employs many non-Bahrainis in the police. The ranks of the well-paid security forces include many Yemenis and Pakistanis; Shia applicants for police jobs are usually turned away. The extensive use of tear gas has become another bone of contention; a document leaked in October exposed plans by the interior ministry to buy 1.6m additional rounds of the stuff.
So far the Khalifas have been able to keep the protests under control, helped by the Saudis and reassured by the presence of America’s Fifth Fleet, permanently based here. The economy has not gone under, as some feared in 2011. Growth next year is expected to be 3.3%. Despite jitters, few firms have left Bahrain, a regional financial centre, partly to avoid offending Saudi Arabia, the islands’ godfather.
Moderate protesters pin their hopes for reform on Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the 44-year-old crown prince. However, the untested ruler-in-waiting must contend with hardliners in his own family. For the foreseeable future, Bahrain’s Shias can expect more tear gas.

Qatar seeks Wahhabization of world: Academic

Qatar is using the war on Syria in order to pursue the systematic and gradual Wahhabization of the world, an academic tells Press TV. In an article published by Press TV, Iranian author and Middle East expert Dr. Ismail Salami said Qatar is sowing a “bad seed in the fertile soil of the world--a systematic and gradual Wahhabization of the world.” Raising the question about why Qatar is spending money and resources on fueling the crisis in Syria by providing financial and military support for groups affiliated to al-Qaeda, Salami said Doha encourages a corrupt ideology known as Wahhabism “which may gradually inflame and subdue the entire world.” “Informed sources have recently exposed that in the heart of Doha stand centers for training assassins of different nationalities who are dispatched to Syria to fight against the government of Bashar al-Assad,” the Iranian academic wrote. Salami added that Qatar is conducting an extensive and intensive recruitment program in improvised countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Chechnya. The author said Al Thani is a ruler who ascended to the throne through staging a bloodless coup against his own father in 1995 and apparently encourages a corrupt ideology known as Wahhabism which is being promoted through a political mouthpiece known as Al Jazeera. Salami added that militants trained by Qatar, which has been fighting a proxy war in Syria, are dispatched to Libya, Turkey and Jordan and infiltrated Syria through these countries. “The tiny, oil- and gas-rich emirate has been shipping arms to the Syrian militants fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad since 2011,” Salami noted, adding that the Qatari government has so far spent over USD 3 billion on war with Syria. Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies - namely Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - are supporting militants operating inside Syria. More than 100,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011.

Women arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia
Recent news reported about the relaxation about women not allowed to drive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This seems to have changed.
Yesterday two Saudi Arabian ladies were detained at a police station for driving a car in the capital Riyadh and refusing afterwards to call their male custodians to take them home. Azza Al Shamsi and Baria Al Zubaidi were caught by the police as they were driving the car near a shopping complex. Azza was behind the steering wheel and Baria was filming her. When they were taken to the police station, they refused to call their male relatives as is customary in the kingdom, arguing that they were legally responsible for their acts and did not need custodianship, Saudi news site Khabar 24 reported. The security sources cited by the site said that the two women seemed to have deliberately sought to be detained to prove their right to drive. Although no legal text or rule bans women from driving in Saudi Arabia, the practice is not allowed. Women drivers are detained for driving without a Saudi licence and they are invariably allowed to go home after they sign a pledge not to drive again. News of the decision by Azza and Baria to drive in Riyadh sparked a new heated online debate that indicated the widening chasm between those who supported and opposed women driving in the kingdom. Both sides have been using social, economic and religious arguments to prove their points and undermine the claims made by the others.

Saudi Arabia migrant expulsions: 'They beat us. I want to warn others not to go'

Elissa Jobson
More than 100,000 Ethiopian men, women and children have been expelled from the kingdom as labour rules tighten
Abdulla Shahmola trudges up the road leading from Addis Ababa airport to the outskirts of the city, his battered black suitcase balanced precariously on his head. Weariness and relief are etched into his delicate features as he heaves his heavy bag to the floor. "I have so many possessions that I had to leave behind in Saudi Arabia – a television, a bed, a fridge," he laments, adding that he is thankful to be back in Ethiopia.
Abdulla is one of hundreds of men, women and children steadily streaming from the airport cargo terminal, where up to 20 flights have been arriving daily from Jeddah and Riyadh since 13 November. A kilometre's walk from the hastily erected transit centre, which has been processing some 7,000 returning migrants each day, a small crowd, held back by federal police officers in blue military fatigues, waits anxiously for a glimpse of a loved one.
As of 8 December, 115,465 Ethiopians – 72,780 men, 37,092 women and 5,593 children, 202 of whom were unaccompanied – had returned from Saudi Arabia, according to government figures. The migrants, most of whom were in Saudi Arabia without work permits, were expelled after a tightening of labour regulations in March and the expiration of an amnesty for illegal workers on 4 November.
More than a million migrant workers from across Asia have been expelled from the kingdom as part of the crackdown, which is designed to get more Saudis into jobs and reduce the high unemployment rate. The crackdown has triggered clashes in the capital, Riyadh, in which three Ethiopians were reportedly killed, sparking outrage in Ethiopia.
"They beat us," alleges Abdulla. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out his mobile phone and opens images of badly beaten Ethiopians, singling out one man whose throat appears to have been slit. His friends do the same, thrusting forward their mobiles. "I saw people killed. They are murderers," he hisses.
He says he has spent the past month in an overcrowded Saudi prison. "There were 900 people in one place. After 24 hours they gave us small things – water, a little food. They called the embassy." He claims the detainees had to buy their own food and water at great expense. Hawa Gizawi, 20, who worked as a domestic servant in Oman and Saudi Arabia for the past four years, also maintains that she was mistreated while in custody awaiting repatriation. "I spent 15 days in prison in Jeddah – no food, no toilet, no hospital. They don't respect our human rights," she says, adding that her employers withheld her wages for a year. "I don't want to go back to Saudi Arabia and I want to warn others not to go." The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is supporting the Ethiopian government in dealing with the unexpected influx of returnees, has expressed concern about the physical and mental condition of the returnees, describing them as being "traumatised, anxious and seriously sick". Merenasch Selfu, a nurse at one of the seven transit centres in Addis Ababa receiving repatriates, says many of her patients have upper respiratory tract infections. "The women say there were held in places with no latrines, poor sanitation and no air conditioning, and that is why they developed a cough," she explains.
She has also treated women with newborn babies as well as those in the late stages of pregnancy. "The day before yesterday one women arrived at the centre showing the early signs of labour," Merenasch says. She estimates that some 2%-3% of those treated at the centre show symptoms of depression or psychosis and confirms she has examined women who claim to have suffered sexual abuse.
The Ethiopian government is providing additional medical and psychological support for the migrants who need it. However, officials admit to being ill-prepared for the massive influx of returnees. "Frankly speaking, we organised ourselves for very few people – up to 25,000," says Tadesse Bekele, deputy director of the ministry of agriculture's disaster risk management and food security directorate. "Reception and transit centres may not have facilities equal to the number of people being accommodated so for that we are organising alternatives. For example, we are deploying mobile latrines in places where we may have only two or three [toilets] to serve a thousand people." That said, the government – with assistance from UN agencies and NGOs, as well as contributions from the private sector – seems to be managing the emergency efficiently. Negussie Kefeni, co-ordinator of a transit centre in the heart of Addis Ababa, says the previous night the facility housed 1,399 women and 80 children – more than double the number it was intended to serve. All traces of that inundation have vanished, however. Clean mattresses and blankets have been neatly laid out, the floors swept and washed, the bathrooms disinfected and the water tanks replenished.
"This kind of operation is not the first exercise of its kind in Ethiopia. We have been working with refugees from Asmara [capital of Eritrea] in three cities in Afar," says Negussie.
Rows of chairs are set up under the trees, injera and wot are ready to be served, and hundreds of dignity kits – containing basic hygiene necessities – have been assembled, and a 900birr ($47) travel allowance awaits the new arrivals. As the first bus pulls up outside the transit centre, and the burka-clad women disembark, volunteers and staff from the Red Cross, International Rescue, IOM and various government departments welcome the disoriented returnees to the penultimate stop on their traumatic journey home.

Why Is Saudi Arabia Buying 15,000 U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles for a War It Will Never Fight?

No one is expecting a tank invasion of Saudi Arabia anytime soon, but the kingdom just put in a huge order for U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that has Saudi-watchers scratching their heads and wondering whether the deal is related to Riyadh's support for the Syrian rebels.
The proposed weapons deal, which the Pentagon notified Congress of in early December, would provide Riyadh with more than 15,000 Raytheon anti-tank missiles at a cost of over $1 billion. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Military Balance report, Saudi Arabia's total stockpile this year amounted to slightly more than 4,000 anti-tank missiles. In the past decade, the Pentagon has notified Congress of only one other sale of anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia -- a 2009 deal that shipped roughly 5,000 missiles to the kingdom.
It's a very large number of missiles, including the most advanced version of the TOWs [tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided missiles]," said Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "The problem is: What's the threat?" That's a tough question to answer. A military engagement with Iran, the most immediate potential threat faced by Riyadh, would be largely a naval and air engagement over the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia has fought a series of deadly skirmishes with insurgents in northern Yemen over the years, but those groups have no more than a handful of military vehicles. And Iraq, which posed a real threat during Saddam Hussein's day, is far too consumed by its internal demons and the fallout from the war in Syria to ponder such foreign adventurism.
But one Saudi ally could desperately use anti-tank weapons -- the Syrian rebels. In the past, Riyadh has been happy to oblige: It previously purchased anti-tank weapons from Croatia and funneled them to anti-Assad fighters, and it is now training and arming Syrian rebels in Jordan. Charles Lister, a London-based terrorism and insurgency analyst, said that rebels have also received as many as 100 Chinese HJ-8 anti-tank missiles from across the border with Jordan -- and indeed, many videos show Syrian rebels using this weapon against Bashar al-Assad's tanks. While most of the rebels' anti-tank weapons were seized from Assad's armories, Lister also believes that several dozen 9M113 Konkurs missiles, an old Soviet weapon, were provided to Islamist rebels in northern Syria this summer. And when these missiles have found their way to the battlefield, they've helped the rebels break through the belts of armor Assad uses to protect strategic areas: "Neutralizing these external defenses has proven key to opening the gates for ground assaults," Lister said. The Saudis can't send U.S. anti-tank missiles directly to the rebels -- Washington has strict laws against that. Recipients of U.S. arms are not allowed to transfer weapons to a third party without the explicit approval of the U.S. government, which in the case of Saudi Arabia has not been granted. Given Washington's heightened concern over radical Islamist forces seizing control over the conflict -- which resulted in the suspension of nonlethal aid to Syrian rebels on Dec. 12 -- that approval will almost certainly never be given. If Riyadh went ahead and transferred the weapons anyway, it "would be a serious breach of U.S. law," said Aram Nerguizian, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that would "all but certainly lead to a suspension of existing arms sales agreements." So far, only one American anti-tank missile has been identified in Syria -- an older model that Lister speculates may have been sold to Shah-era Iran, transferred to the Assad regime, and then captured by the rebels.
But while the latest American anti-tank weapons might not be showing up in Aleppo anytime soon, that doesn't mean the deal is totally disconnected from Saudi efforts to arm the Syrian rebels. What may be happening, analysts say, is that the Saudis are sending their stockpiles of anti-tank weapons bought from elsewhere to Syria and are purchasing U.S. missiles to replenish their own stockpiles. "I would speculate that with an order of this size, the Saudis were flushing their current stocks in the direction of the opposition and replacing them with new munitions," said Charles Freeman, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Regardless of how this purchase of anti-tank missiles relates to Syria, it's undoubtedly part of a larger Saudi arms buildup that has been going on for nearly a decade. From 2004 to 2011, according to a 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, Riyadh signed $75.7 billion worth of arms transfer agreements -- by far the most of any developing nation. The United States was the major benefactor of this Saudi largesse, as the deals bumped up U.S. arms sales to a record $66 billion in 2011 alone. How the Saudis plan to use many of these weapons is a mystery. And it's not just the anti-tank missiles whose purpose remains unclear. Riyadh recently bought advanced fighter jets from the United States for a whopping $30 billion -- but the Saudis' lack of pilots and ability to maintain them means that it's an open question how long they can keep them airborne, said William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. But purchasing the weapons, rather than any intent to use them, may be the point for the Saudis. At a time when they are at odds with Washington over the Obama administration's diplomacy with Iran and nonintervention in Syria, the kingdom's deep pockets can at least make sure their ties to the Pentagon remain as strong as ever. "There was a [Washington] lobbyist who used to say, 'When you buy U.S. weapons, you're not just buying the weapon -- you're buying a relationship with the United States,'" said Hartung. "I think that's kind of the concept."
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Iran cancels Pakistan gas pipeline loan
IRAN has cancelled a planned $US500 million ($A562.49 million) loan to Pakistan to build part of a pipeline to bring natural gas from the Islamic Republic.
Deputy Oil Minister Ali Majedi said Iran has no obligation to finance the Pakistani side of the project and also doesn't have the money. Iran has already invested more than $US2 billion to construct the Iranian side of the pipeline but there are serious doubts about how Pakistan could finance the $US2 billion needed to construct the pipeline on its territory. Iran's former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had pledged the loan. Pakistan has welcomed an Iranian offer to approach third parties, including European companies, to finance the project. "Pakistani officials were told in recent talks that, given the sanctions, Iran is not able to finance construction of the pipeline (in Pakistan) and has no obligation to do so," he said. His comments were posted on the oil ministry's website,, Saturday. Majedi complained that Pakistan has done little to construct its own section of the project. Under a valid contract, Pakistan is required to finish construction of the pipeline on its territory by the end of 2014. "If a contractor is chosen today and pipeline construction begins today, it will take four years to complete it. Should Pakistan fail to take gas by the end of next year, Iran will demand compensation under the terms of the contract," he said. The Iran-Pakistan pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its mushrooming energy needs. Pakistanis experience frequent blackouts. The US has opposed the project but leaders of both Iran and Pakistan have vowed to implement what they refer to as the "peace pipeline."

Obamas mark Newtown anniversary with moment of silence

President Obama and the First Lady lit 26 candles in a moment of silence to honor the 26 victims of the Newtown shootings.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Marking the One-Year Anniversary of the Tragic Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut

Probe launched over $500M spent on Afghanistan planes now sitting idle

The U.S. military spent nearly a half-billion dollars on providing refurbished aircraft to the Afghan Air Force, only to abandon the contract and leave the planes collecting dust on airfields in Kabul and Germany.
With the planes potentially heading for the trash heap of the Afghanistan war, the chief military watchdog overseeing Afghanistan spending is launching a review into the terminated program.
"I'm very troubled with the fact we may have wasted a half-billion dollars on planes that don't work, will never be flown and will probably be scrapped," Special Inspector General John F. Sopko told in a statement. "We intend to get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable."
Sopko wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military officials on Dec. 5 informing them of his office's review. Sopko said the planes are "currently sitting unused" at the Kabul International Airport and Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He stressed the need to "ensure that the U.S. government does not repeat the mistakes made throughout this nearly half billion dollar program." Sopko has been on the warpath over military resources wasted in Afghanistan, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw most its troops from the country. He recently reopened an investigation into a $34 million military facility in southwestern Afghanistan that he's described as entirely unnecessary.
The story of the G222 aircraft program bares similar themes.
According to the inspector general's office, the Defense Department in 2008 launched a program to give 20 G222s (C-27A) -- military transport aircraft built in Italy -- to the Afghans. The department contracted with Alenia Aermacchi North America. But despite spending at least $486 million on the program, officials determined that those in charge did a poor job getting the spare parts needed to keep the planes working.
Further, a Pentagon watchdog reported that the planes flew only 234 of the 4,500 "required hours" between January and September of last year, and another $200 million potentially would be needed to buy the outstanding spare parts. Some of those parts were described as "unavailable."
In December 2012, the Air Force ended the contract. Several months later, officials ended the program altogether and opted to go with an "alternate aircraft" in the long term. The IG's latest investigation will examine the decision to provide the aircraft to the Afghans as well as what might happen to the 20 planes idling in airfields, including the possibility of "disposal." Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, top acquisition official in the U.S. Air Force, recently told Bloomberg that the planes themselves just weren't right for the environment, and probably will be "destroyed and moved out of the country." Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick, though, said the fate of the planes is contingent on a pending 2014 defense bill which would allow the Pentagon to effectively take over the aircraft from the Afghan security forces.
"With this authority, DoD could undertake final disposition of the equipment, including reuse, sale, transfer, or disposal," he told in an email.
As for the contract, he said the military did not renew the program because Alenia "struggled to consistently meet contractual obligations." But the contractor claimed to Bloomberg that the company was "proud of its work." According to the contractor's website, the aircraft were meant to be the "backbone" of the Afghan Air Force, expanding their ability to provide aid and security. The planes are able to carry up to 10 tons of cargo.

Afghanistan: Reserved seat for minorities: MPs reject decree
The Wolesi Jirga on Saturday rejected a presidential decree, reserving a seat for the Hindu and Sikh minority in the lower house of parliament. On September 4, President Hamid Karzai signed the legislative decree in accordance with Article 79 of the constitution and the electoral law.
The article says: “During the recess of the House of Representatives, the government shall, in case of an immediate need, issue legislative decrees, except in matters related to budget and financial affairs…” Legislative decrees, after their endorsement by the president, have to be presented to the National Assembly within 30 days of its first session. If rejected by the National Assembly, they become void. On Saturday, the Wolesi Jirga Legislative Commission placed the decree before the house for endorsement after it was thoroughly debated by different parliamentary panels.
Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, the commission head, said 13 of the 18 permanent house panels had opposed the decree. He claimed the orders were in conflict with Articles 22 and 83 of the constitution. Article 22 prohibits any kind of discrimination and privilege between the citizens of Afghanistan. All citizens -- whether man or woman -- have equal rights and duties before the law. Similarly, Article 83 says members of the Wolesi Jirga are elected by the people through free, general, secret and direct elections. The election shall be held within 30 to 60 days before the expiry of the term of the Wolesi Jirga. Hanafi said the Commission for Supervision of the Implementation of Constitution had also found the decree in violation of the basic law.
Several members suggested that Sikhs and Hindus, just like other citizens, should try to find their way to the parliament by contesting elections. They voiced aversion to constitutional exceptions in this regard. But Health Commission chief, Naqibullah Faiq, favoured a reserved seat for the Hindu and Sikh minority. “If we don’t give them this constitutional privilege, the minorities will never reach the parliament.”
Faiq’s view was supported by lawmaker from Kabul Ramazan Bashardost, who believed that there was nothing wrong in setting aside a parliamentary seat for the minorities. Of the 130 legislators present, 73 raised their red cards in rejection of the presidential decree. On July 31, the Council of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan had warned of leaving the country if they were not given proper representation in the lower house of the parliament. Flanked by civil society representatives, Rail Singh, the council’s deputy head, asked the government to take effective measures to address the problems being faced by the minorities.
In the original draft election law, a seat had been reserved for the Hindus and Sikh, he told a news conference. But the parliament deleted the clause, he regretted.
“We are very much concerned about the abolition of the reserved seat,” remarked Singh, whose community has no representation in parliament. No parliamentarian bothered to discuss the problems being faced by the minority, he deplored.

Afghan president says U.S. indulging in brinkmanship over security deal

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday shrugged off U.S. talk of a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan if he didn't sign a security agreement as brinkmanship and said he wouldn't back down on his conditions for the deal. Karzai was in New Delhi in a burst of regional diplomacy as his ties with Washington have come under renewed strain over his refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will shape U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 when most international troops will leave.
He told reporters that the United States would have to stop the practice of raiding Afghan homes and help restart a peace process with the Taliban as necessary conditions for the security pact.
"We do believe that the BSA is in the interest of Afghanistan and the Afghan people have given their approval. But we also believe that protection of Afghan homes and the launch of a peace process are absolute pre-requisites," he said.
If Karzai doesn't sign the deal, Washington says it will have to withdraw its entire force of some 44,500 troops by the end of 2014. Other NATO nations could follow suit leaving Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency on their own. The complete withdrawal, called the "zero option", would be similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from Iraq two years ago. Violence there is now at its highest level in at least five years, and more than 8,000 people have been killed this year, the United Nations says.
"I don't think America is thinking of the zero option , its brinkmanship they play with us, and even if they did, then come what may," the Afghan leader said.
U.S. officials have appeared exasperated by Karzai's stance on the security agreement, which they say is needed to help them plan a future mission that will assist Afghan forces fight militants and that will allow for future aid crucial for the impoverished nation. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that the delay in finalizing the deal - which U.S. officials had hoped Karzai would sign weeks ago - would impose "damages and costs" on Afghans. But he added that the Obama administration was not on the verge of abandoning its effort to extend its troop presence in the country. The security agreement would allow for the presence of nearly 15,000 U.S. and other NATO troops at nine locations around the country, Karzai said. The agreement includes a provision allowing military raids on Afghan homes in exceptional circumstances - when an American life is directly under threat - but it would not take effect until 2015. The issue is particularly sensitive among Afghans after a dozen years of war between Afghan and foreign forces and Taliban militants. Karzai said he also wanted the United States to help him start an open and public peace process with the Taliban, rather than the secret diplomacy it had engaged in the past.
"Secret talks won't help. U.S. and Pakistan have enough influence over the Taliban to relaunch the peace process."
Karzai, who discussed the U.S. security deal with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has also held talks with the leaders of Iran and Pakistan this month.

Pakistan's Shia under attack: Anti-Shia witch-hunt of Pindi police, scores held, sanctity of privacy violated
Biased Rawalpindi police have raided several houses of Shiites violating the sanctity of chadar and char divari and rounded up several innocent Shia Muslims to implicate them in false case.
Shiite News Correspondent reported that Pindi police raided several houses in Chor Harpal area and misbehaved with the women during search and raid operation. Finally, they took with them several innocent Shiites.
Some of those taken into custody by the police were: Syed Saghir Hussain Shah, Azad Hussain Shah, Imran son of Qurban Hussain Shah, his brother Aun Hussain Shah. Syed Ammaar Ali Shah and Syed Nisar Ali Shah son of Safdar Shah who were held and released earlier, were retaken into custody.
Tahir Hussain son of Muhammad Hussain, Syed Qamar Ali Shah son of Syed Shah Kazmi offered themselves for arrest.
Shia parties and leaders and relatives of the rounded up innocent Shiites complained that the Punjab government sided with the outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba (renamed as Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat) and is trying to implicate innocent Shiites who fell victims of terrorist attacks on the day of Ashura in Pindi. They demanded Supreme Court to take suo motu notice against the biased Punjab government and Rawalpindi police.

Pakistan: Suspected US drone strike; casualties feared

A suspected US drone targeted a boat in the waters of the Kabul river on Saturday, DawnNews reported. Sources said five people may have died in the attack. Pakistan condemns drone attacks and says the attacks violate Pakistan’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”. Pakistan moreover maintains that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications apart from setting dangerous precedents in inter-state relations. The attack comes days after the US warned Pakistan that coalition support reimbursements and security assistance could be held up if land routes remained closed for movement of US and Nato cargo to and from Afghanistan.
The warning came in US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel’s Monday visit to Pakistan during which he met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif. Hagel’s trip, which is also the first by an American defence secretary to Pakistan in four years, followed US decision to suspend the use of land routes through Pakistani territory in the wake of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf’s protests against drone attacks.

Workers refuse to participate in polio campaign in Khyber Agency

The workers have refused to discharge their duties as polio vaccinators in Khyber Agency following the fresh killing of a polio worker in Jamrud on Friday, Geo News reported Saturday.
According to the health department sources, the polio workers have denied to continue the vaccination process throughout the Agency until adequate security is provided to them.
The announcement came after a polio worker was shot dead in Jamrud on Friday.
It may be mentioned that gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead the anti-polio worker, identified as Yousuf, outside his home in Jamrud. The armed men called out his name and opened fire on him, killing him on the spot. The killers fled after committing the murder, the sources told.
Assistant Political Agent of Jamrud Jahangir Azam Wazir claimed the killing of the anti-polio worker was not an act of terrorism, rather it was the result of personal rivalry.
Meanwhile, the political administration arrested 27 suspected persons, including 12 motorcyclists, during a search operation after the killing. The detainees were taken to the Jamrud lock-up for questioning.
It may be mentioned that the anti-polio campaign in the Khyber Agency was launched 10 days behind schedule.
Also in another incident, the armed men killed two cops near the district headquarters in Swabi when they were on their way to escort the anti-polio vaccinators. The policemen were deputed to escort the anti-polio team in Topi Tehsil, but they came under attack in the Ghaziabad area on the Swabi-Topi Road.
It was planned that the campaign would not be carried out in the entire district on the same day, rather it would be launched in the four tehsils, including Swabi, Chota Lahor, Razaar and Topi, on alternate days in order to provide adequate security to polio vaccinators.

The State Bank of Pakistan is on the brink of bankruptcy

The State Bank of Pakistan is on the brink of bankruptcy, as the country’s foreign debt has increased to Rs 403 billion ($3.63 billion) due to depreciation of the rupee in the last few months. “Yesterday the foreign reserves figure published by SBP stood at $2.963 billion. SBP’s net forward book number is $2.925 billion, which is basically dollars that are sold to banks to help intervene/stabilise cashflows. So essentially SBP reserves are at $38 million,” informed sources told Pakistan Today. By end of the last fiscal year, the federal government’s total debt was Rs 14 trillion, which increased to Rs 15 trillion by September — an increase of Rs 1 trillion, according to the State Bank of Pakistan figures. A Finance Ministry official informed the National Assembly on Friday that the public and publicly-guaranteed foreign debt, including the money owed to the International Monetary Fund has increased to $3.63 billion as a result of depreciation of rupee during the present government.” Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker Nafisa Shah had raised the issue in parliament. To her question, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Afzal Khan raised points on the devaluation of rupee, saying that initiatives like building up of reserves and enhancing exports were required to strengthen the rupee. “We have planned substantial foreign exchange inflows, loans from multi-lateral and bilateral sources,” he said. Foreign exchange reserves held by the SBP have declined to a 12-year low of $2.9 billion, hitting its lowest level since November 2001, according to fresh data. DAR COMES UP WITH OWN FIGURES: Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the foreign exchange reserves have risen to $3.4 billion dollars, witnessing an increase of $500 million this week. He said Pakistan was also hoping for a $550 million tranche from IMF after the December 19 meeting. “The country is also expected to get $350 million of Coalition Support Funds (CSF) and about $600 million from Etisalat, for which a meeting will be held next week. We want to take our reserves to $20 billion in future as Pakistani economy is moving in the right direction," said Dar, the prime minister’s finance guru. Dar said Pakistan is also planning to make its 3G auction in February and it was expecting to receive $1.2 billion and even more from it. The minister hoped that the government would be able to bring the dollar rupee rate close to Rs 100.
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Some more thoughts on Bangladesh

By D Asghar
Let us focus on the term 'conspiracy', our pet word, for the moment. We wrap all our shortcomings in this one word and absolve ourselves of any criticism or accountability
People often ask me on social media why I am digging into the past, especially about a chapter like Bangladesh, which we want to overlook. I simply say that you can never gauge your future unless you reconcile with your past. If one looks they will see that one of the major reasons for our disarray is our inability to truthfully face, accept and learn from our past. I am not an academic, historian or a scholar but my observations as a completely lay person and an observer lead me to believe that we as a nation failed miserably in creating a cohesive national identity and fabric, which created a sense of dejection and discrimination within our Bengali brethren. I was a child but saw the condition of the hired help brought into western Pakistani households from the eastern wing. Those poor people were treated like slaves and of course like sub-standard humans. I still remember my parents explaining to me what was happening in our Eastern wing back then, and how our archrival, India, was conspiring by training guerillas called ‘Mukti Bahini’ (liberation army) and so on and so forth. I must admit, until I was in Pakistan, I believed the narrative that was fed to us by the state controlled media. My moment of shock came when a friend here was doing a research paper on Bangladesh during our school days and brought a plethora of information on microfiche from the public library. It was an eye opening experience. Besides the facts, what was just too hard to swallow was the Muslim on Muslim violence. The level of atrocities unleashed on the downtrodden people of Bangladesh is just heart wrenching.
Let us focus on the term ‘conspiracy’, our pet word, for the moment. We wrap all our shortcomings in this one word and absolve ourselves of any criticism or accountability. If you have a window in your house with a crack in it and you do not fix it, any external force such as the wind will eventually impact it and bring dirt and dust inside your house. If you still neglect it, eventually one day, the window will break and you cannot blame the wind to conspire against you. The popular discontent within East Pakistan had been growing for years. Had there been equality, harmony and plurality from the get go, no matter how hard India would have tried, the breakup would have been impossible.
Next, our delusional and completely out of touch with reality General Yahya Khan can be Googled for some more clarity. His addresses to the nation at the initial launch of the 1971 war and at the quick surrender can provide some glaring insight into his state of mind. His speeches are full of rhetoric and fictitious bravado. If you listen closely, his speeches are full of religious clichés and if you compare his speeches to our modern day right-wingers, you will find some glaring similarities. When people blame India for the break up, I laugh. To me that is the stupidest reason and the easiest cop out. We are raised on fictitious narratives. Remember how the British conspired against the Mughals? I always ask, these were the Mughals who supposedly created the wonders of the world and they were so naïve that they were not able to detect a conspiracy? The same logic is applicable to us in this episode as well. The facts are quite shameful. To encapsulate, our rulers were perhaps in some ‘Mughliya delusion’ when it came to East Pakistan. It is said that Mujib had planned the secession way back in 1967. Alright, let me ask: what was the intelligence doing at that point and what kind of political maturity was demonstrated at that juncture? But wait, that was 1967 — back then we were back-pedalling from Operation Gibraltar’ in Tashkent.
Only a defeatist mentality invents conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Mukti Bahinis are viewed as backstabbers at our end. Alright, let me ask the same question I raised on Twitter the other day: if Mukti Bahinis had a sinister plot in their minds then why did it not continue the pattern in West Pakistan, post-independence of Bangladesh? I know some overly patriotic reader will send me a scornful e-mail and remind me of RAW’s involvement ever since in all the upheaval in Pakistan. I always say: do not start a fire in your back yard with the intent to harm your neighbour as the neighbour can ignite a much bigger one, both in his front and back yard to give you a befitting response. Agreed, India supported the Mukti Bahini but the objective was to liberate Bangladesh. I always ask, why did India not annex what was formerly known as East Bengal when it was victorious? To all the hyper patriots, just ponder on that thought for a little while.
To add a bit further, we were the ones who gave the concept of Mukti Bahinis to India in the first place. I know it is painful to face but who raised tribal lashkars (militias) for the liberation of Kashmir in 1947-48? The same blunder was repeated in the form of Operation Gibraltar in 1965 with our infiltration. I know we have learned zero from this shameful episode because we created the world-renowned mujahideen (holy warriros) for the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. I can go on and on but, hopefully, people who use their brains more often than their tongues probably get the picture.

No change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , at all

Uncertainty prevails on the results of action taken by the PTI-led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
People read and hear of laws drafted, postings and transfers made and actions taken against corrupt officials and criminals but the positive results of these actions are nowhere to be seen. People are not sure whether the KP government is just going through motions or will they see the changes promised by PTI.
The head of the biggest hospital in the province was changed just on Saturday after he had served only for two months. In other government hospital the changes seems to be getting new chiefs. Nobody has objected to any particular posting and transfer in the provincial government; however, the frequency of changes on top posts is worrisome. The quick recurrence of removal of secretaries' from one ministry to another has become a common feature of the provincial government; no department, in spite of that, is showing any improvement.
Police officials are fired, suspended but the illegalities of the law enforcement personnel continue and with as much intensity.
Nobody is objecting to the removal of these corrupt cops but the people want improvement not just punishments for the sake of punishments. Serving for a couple of months of appointees on their top positions has become the norm. It raises the question whether any serious consideration is given to the past record, qualifications and personal traits of those posted or transferred before the changes are made.
The frequency of these instances would suggest that with the PTI government it is a hit or miss situation. The KPK government probably thinks it will ultimately find the right man for the right job after a few inappropriate placements. In more than one ways, the uncertainty shrouding the frequent orders for reshuffling in the top bureaucracy and choosing of professionals to high positions is understandable; It takes time to form a reliable team to one's liking. It, however, should not take more than a month.
The PTI government is now over six months old. By now it should have been able to make things visibly better just through administrative measures. While most of the members of the KP cabinet are new to the job, Chief Minister Parvez Khattak and Senior Minister Siraj ul Haq are experienced and should have been able to guide the team of ministers.
Two aspects, it seems, are missing in the PTI government. First, the PTI cabinet, it seems, doesn't investigate the candidates' past thoroughly before putting anyone of them on any particular post. Second, the ministers rarely go to the field to check the progress made by the individuals appointed on high positions.
The people of KP, nevertheless, want positive changes and these are what they are not getting. The ruling party and its allies should rethink their strategy to cater to the wishes of the people; instead of sticking to the corporate method of running government.

Militancy inspires fear in Pakistan's FATA region

By Ashrafuddin Pirzada
In Landi Kotal Bazaar, a 27-year-old vendor pushes his cart through the streets of his Khyber Agency community in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas near the Afghanistan border, selling nail polish, pocket mirrors, lipstick, toothpaste and toothbrushes, face cream and other cosmetics.
He used to earn $5 to $8 a day selling cellphones and ringtones in his shop, but now he said he attracts two to five customers a day and takes home just $1.50 to $2. The father of four, ages 1 to 7, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he closed his shop five years ago after threats from unknown militants.
"I was compelled to abandon the education of two of my children, as we have no money to pay school fees," he said.
FATA militancy has forced hundreds of tribal people to change jobs or even flee the country, fearing for their lives.
From singers to tribal police officers, about 500 people have been injured or killed, or have lost property to militancy in the last 10 years, local government records and media reports show.
Doctors, journalists, barbers, artists, electronics dealers and members of minorities, including Christians and Sikhs, are among those who say they have sacrificed money and property to appease militants from groups like the Taliban. Dozens of others have suffered injuries in explosions and target killings.
Many professionals have escaped to safer zones in Pakistan and abroad. In some cases, militants forced them to change their professions or go underground. Under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, Pakistan's Constitution does not apply to FATA residents. So, by law, Muslims and non-Muslims alike do not enjoy full citizenship and other privileges, including basic rights.
Mutahir Zeb, the Khyber Agency political agent, a senior local official, told UPI Next more than 200 government employees, including health workers, teachers and tribal police in FATA, were not performing their jobs because of threats and have hired proxies. Data collected in Khyber Agency by the Community Appraisal and Motivation Program, an Islamabad-based organization, suggests that dozens of barbers have changed jobs or moved from the Bara, Landikotal and Jamrud administrative areas of the agency, where militancy has reached its peak, to Peshawar and other Pakistani cities.
A 34-year-old barber, speaking on condition of anonymity, told UPI Next he used to have a shop in a Bara bazaar but moved to China in 2009 with the help of a rich man from Peshawar after threats from militants, whom he refused to identify out of fear. "I came to Pakistan to see my parents and other family members and will leave soon to avoid any mishaps," he said during a visit back to Peshawar, during which he also renewed his visa.
Seven blind brothers in Landikotal, who used to perform as a band, stopped performing 10 years ago when militancy increased in FATA and they lost their sole source of income. The brothers remember playing in men's guesthouses in nearby villages. One of the brothers, now 40, told UPI Next on condition of anonymity that growing militancy in the area after the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan forced them to dismantle the band. "I hope peace will soon be restored in FATA and people will again start arranging musical nights celebrating cultural and traditional events," he said.
A tribal police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told UPI Next several tribal police officers had been killed in attacks that drove many others underground. Gunmen assassinated two officers Sept. 22 in separate incidents in Khyber Agency, the official said. There have been several other cases of threatening lives and kidnapping for ransom, he said. Similarly, a former tribal police employee, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told UPI Next he had received many phone calls threatening that he would be targeted if he did not resign. He quit after two years and now drives a taxi to support his family. Many members of the Khasadars and Levies forces, tribal police directly under the control of the political agent, the top administrative officer, have died and many were kidnapped in militancy-related incidents.
In a single incident in 2009, when the Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency was under the control of Mangal Bagh, head of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, 600 Bara Khasadar personnel collectively refused to perform their duties after Lashkar-e-Islam warned Khasadar personnel to resign or face dire consequences. The government fired them for negligence, although some were reinstated.
Thirteen journalists have been killed since 2001 while reporting on FATA militancy, the Tribal Union of Journalists says.
Mehboob Shah Afridi, the organization's general secretary, told UPI Next 25 journalists from Khyber Agency and 50 others from elsewhere in FATA had migrated to Peshawar and other safer areas of Pakistan. He said militancy peaked between 2005 and 2012, making it a hard time for journalists. His colleague Nasrullah Afridi, a Bara-based reporter, was killed in a car bomb attack in Peshawar Saddar on May 11, 2011.
"Nasrullah Afridi was a brave and experienced reporter who never bowed down," Mehboob Afridi said.
After he was killed, "international media and journalists' safety organizations advised FATA journalists to shift to Peshawar and elsewhere to ensure security for some time," Mehboob Afridi said. Nasrullah Afridi left behind three children, two of whom are disabled. His family now lives in a small rented home in Peshawar. His only healthy son, Ihsanullah, 18, told UPI Next tearfully his mother "stopped me from adopting the profession that took my father from us and left us helpless." Pakistan's former army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Perviz Kayani, invited Ihsanullah Afridi to Islamabad on Yaom-e-Shahadat, the Day of Martyrdom, and praised his father's contributions to journalism. Mehboob Afridi said the loss of the 13 tribal journalists has been a loss not only for journalists, but also for the tribal people. Their deaths have been protested with processions, sit-ins, boycotts and seminars across the FATA and Pakistan, with participants demanding the government provide foolproof security for all tribal people, including journalists. Tribal journalists Shams-ur-Rehman and Muheb Ali left the country after threats to their lives. Shams was once kidnapped, and Muheb Ali escaped a shooting. Shams, a cameraman with a private television channel, said he had been forced to cover the stories militants wanted to show their dominance over security forces. Jahangir Azam Wazir, a senior administrative official in Khyber Agency, told UPI Next that since he was posted there as assistant political agent in Jamrud Khyber Agency he has developed a security plan and started raiding suspected militants' hideouts. He said 200 people had been arrested in the Jamrud area. Wazir said the administration had tightened security in Khyber and was checking all individuals and vehicles at entrances and exits to Jamrud to ensure safety and security.
"An organized intelligence setup has been established to ensure long-lasting peace in Jamrud," Wazir said. He noted the recent arrest of Javid Iqbal, who is suspected in many murders and kidnappings for ransom.
Wazir said he tells people that peace has been restored and they should not delay starting activities such as sports, debates and cultural celebrations in Khyber Agency. Meanwhile, tribal people say they appreciate government and security forces' efforts and hope for lasting peace that will allow them to return to their home towns in Bara and the Tirah Valley soon. "The dark days have gone as security forces have flushed out militancy," said Khalid Khan, an engineer with a mobile telecommunication company in Peshawar. "And now we will again be able to have a peaceful and prosperous life, reinstating the culture and traditions we had before."
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