Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Terrorists wants to destabilize country


KARACHI: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said terrorists’ want to destablise the country as they are facing defeat in Swat and FATA.

Talking to media here, Malik said after extremists after facing defeat in Swat and FATA, militants are dispersing in the cities. Baitullah Mehsud had threatened to carryout the blast.

He said investigations of Lahore blast underway and it is difficult to reach conclusion at the moment. Bajuaur Agency has been cleared and other areas would also be cleared soon.

Interior minister has warned the militants to lay down their arms otherwise they will be eradicated. Operation will be continued till the elimination of last terrorist.

About displaced persons, Malik said the people of Swat and Mingora are Pakistanis and they are free to go wherever they want across the country. The situation in troubled areas will soon bring under control inshallah. Malik has praised the security arrangements made by Sindh and Punjab forces.

Lahore suicide blast


LAHORE: The suicide car bomb blast at Rescue-15 building adjacent to CCPO Office killed 23 people and injured over 300 others here in Civil Line area on Wednesday.

The injured have been shifted to different hospitals of the city where medical aid is being provided to them.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has strongly condemned the blast.

According to sources, gunshots were being heard near the blast site for minutes before a speeding red van laden with explosives broke the barriers outside the Rescue-15 building and blew up with a loud blast, bringing down the entire building.

The suicide bomber intended to target the office of the CCPO, sources added.

Explosives weighing 100 kilograms were used in the explosion which was followed by gunshots in the area with intervals while four suspects were arrested from the blast site.

Windowpanes of the nearby buildings and houses were shattered and 15 vehicles were destroyed as thick smoke clouded the blast site.


Rescue activities were kick-started after the blast and the injured were whisked away by ambulances to Meo, Gangaram and Services hospitals.

Machines are being used to recover people trapped under the debris. Six of the ten bodies brought to Meo Hospital were of policemen while two bodies are beyond recognition.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kayani visits SWAT

Two militants and as many villagers were killed in a clash between Taliban fighters and residents in the Kalam Valley of Swat while the military claimed killing ìa number of terrorists, including a commanderî during the last 24 hours.

Security forces have retaken this town, also the district headquarters, during the current operation.

The Army chief met the commanders and troops taking part in the operation and reviewed progress made in military foray into Buner. In Swat, security forces continued operation against the Maulana Fazlullah-led militants in Peuchar, Kanju, Takhtaband, Barikot and Odigram.

A few militants were killed and three soldiers were injured during clashes in the area. Gunfire was still taking place between the troops and militants. Security forces have secured the area up to Shahid Khapa.

The Taliban sources insisted that Muslim Khan was alive. Seven suspected militants were also arrested on Thursday.

Fierce fighting took place in Kanju and Takhtaband in which, the ISPR said, a number of militants were killed while five soldiers were also killed and four others were injured. Security forces were strengthening their positions around Takhtaband Bridge in Barikot, Gokdara and Odigram areas of the valley. Moreover, there were reports of clashes between the militants and villagers in Kalam, a beautiful valley north of the Mingora city. The residents refused to do so which led to clashes between the villagers and militants, in which two militants and as many villagers were killed.

SANA adds: With security forces making big gains on the ground and seizing control of more strongholds, the TTP Swat is reaching out for Uzbek and Tajik militants, operating from North and South Waziristan, for help.

ìWe have traced conversation between the Taliban commanders in which the commander of the Swat Taliban is appealing to his counterpart in Waziristan to send Uzbek and Tajik fighters as Army is rapidly gaining ground in traditional strongholds of the Taliban in Swat,î a senior intelligence official told IslamOnline, wishing not to be named.

The intelligence official claimed the help appeal was made by Ibne Aqeel, the operational commander of the Swat Taliban.ì(In conversation), Ibne Aqeel admitted that the militants have conceded severe losses at the hands of security forces and have gone on a defensive position,î he said.

ìWe cannot say with authority at the moment that if these foreign militants will join the Taliban fighting in Swat, but we are fully prepared,î he said, adding ìAdditional troops have been sent to the bordering areas of South and North Waziristan to tackle the foreign militants if they try to move towards Swat.î

Donors moot

Pakistan on Thursday received pledges of $224 million for relief and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IPDs) during a donors’ meeting.

However, the United Nations is to flash on Friday an appeal to the world, seeking about $500-600 million, said Minister of State for Economic Affairs Division Hina Rabbani Khar, who was accompanied by Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, at a press briefing.

To a question, she said aid for the IDPs from the western countries would land in Pakistan through the UN agencies. However, Muslim countries would extend their help under bilateral arrangements.

Right now the biggest challenge the government is facing was to provide relief, manage camps and simultaneously work on rehabilitation and reconstruction issues. Qamar Zaman Kaira disclosed the government will continue to provide services to the IDPs if the materialisation of pledges gets delayed and to this effect, as the president and the prime minister have asked the finance ministry to cut the development budget and even the budgetary allocation on important ongoing projects as the government priority is to provide solace to the displaced persons.

He said the biggest challenge is to target those displaced persons who are living with their relatives, as the government wants to register them and provide required food relief and cash of Rs25,000 per family. To a question, he denied the US troops would take part in the military operation against the militants. Earlier, in the donors’ meeting, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani urged the international and local donors to help the government for effective rehabilitation of the IDPs. In his opening remarks, the prime minister said the government was cognizant of the problems being faced by the displaced persons and was taking steps for their rehabilitation on a war-footing. Gilani assured full security to the international aid workers working in the affected areas and relief camps.

Slaying of SSG commandos

By Rauf Klasra

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has ordered a high-level inquiry into the allegations against former Malakand commissioner Muhammad Javed for facilitating the alleged beheading of four SSG commandos in Swat.

Gilani made the announcement during his interaction with senior journalists and anchorpersons at the PM House the other night. Muhammad Javed, nicknamed the “godfather” of Swat Taliban, was said to be acting as the key adviser to the “Taliban state”. Even the people of Buner had accused him of cheating them by telling lies in a bid to facilitate the fall of their city to Tajiks and Uzbeks last month when the local people had formed a Lashkar of 400 people to fight the invaders.

“Let me assure you that notice of the reports about the role of the former Malakand commissioner into the beheading of four SSG commandos has been taken at the highest level and he would be punished in the light of the report,” Gilani told journalists.

Gilani was told the family members of one SSG commando, Anjum Riaz, had pointed out in the presence of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Babar Awan the involvement of the former Malakand commissioner in the slaying of the commandos. Even the father of one of the slain commandos had demanded of Dr Babar Awan to ask the government to take action against the former Malakand commissioner as his son was beheaded because of this official.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Russia alarmed over new EU pact


Mr Medvedev was speaking at the end of a Russia-EU summit held against a background of deep divisions over security, trade and energy supplies.
He also signalled a new gas crisis may lie ahead, suggesting Ukraine lacks the money to pay for gas Russia provides.
A row over prices severely affected supplies to Europe in January.
The BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow says divisions between Russia and the European Union seem to be growing ever wider, and this latest summit, held in the far east of Russia, made that abundantly clear, with little sign of progress on any significant topic.
"We would not want the Eastern Partnership to turn into partnership against Russia. Moscow has accused the 27-member bloc of creating new dividing lines in Europe by offering closer ties to six former Soviet republics.
The Eastern Partnership Initiative aims to forge close political and economic ties in exchange for democratic reforms.
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have signed up to the initiative, which seeks to bolster stability in the region.
On the divisive issue of energy supplies, President Medvedev raised questions about whether Ukraine can afford billions of dollars to top up its gas stocks.
Ukraine has denied there is any problem.
Russia supplies 42% of EU gas imports. Its decision to cut all gas to Ukraine - a vital transit country - meant that many EU member states also lost their supplies of gas for two weeks in January.
Speaking in Khabarovsk, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned there should be no more disruptions to gas supplies from Russia

Pakistan stresses ‘comprehensive approach’ to fight terrorism

NEW YORK: Reaffirming his government’s commitment to combating terrorism, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon has said a comprehensive approach that includes political, legal, developmental, human rights and operational measures would ensure the eradication of the menace.

In line with Islamabad’s continuing commitment to global counter-terrorism measures, ambassador Haroon announced at an event in Washington that Pakistan would ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism in September next.

The 1999 Convention is aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of global criminal prohibitions on terrorist financing and helps prevent terrorist organisations obtaining resources to support their activities.

Against this backdrop, ambassador Haroon said President Asif Ali Zardari was pursuing a three D’s approach—dialogue, development and deterrence.

The event was jointly organized by two Washington-based think-tanks—the Center for Global Counterterrorism Cooperation and International Peace Institute (IPI).

Pakistan stresses ‘comprehensive approach’ to fight terrorism

NEW YORK: Reaffirming his government’s commitment to combating terrorism, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon has said a comprehensive approach that includes political, legal, developmental, human rights and operational measures would ensure the eradication of the menace.

In line with Islamabad’s continuing commitment to global counter-terrorism measures, ambassador Haroon announced at an event in Washington that Pakistan would ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism in September next.

The 1999 Convention is aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of global criminal prohibitions on terrorist financing and helps prevent terrorist organisations obtaining resources to support their activities.

Against this backdrop, ambassador Haroon said President Asif Ali Zardari was pursuing a three D’s approach—dialogue, development and deterrence.

The event was jointly organized by two Washington-based think-tanks—the Center for Global Counterterrorism Cooperation and International Peace Institute (IPI).

Britain announces 10 mln pounds more for displaced

LONDON: Britain announced Friday an extra 10 million pounds (15.9 million dollars, 11.4 million euros) in aid to help huge numbers of people displaced by a military offensive in northwest Pakistan.

The new money brings Britain's contribution to 22 million pounds, and will be distributed via UN agencies working in the affected areas, said international development minister Douglas Alexander.

"The UK is deeply concerned for the wellbeing of over two million people displaced by this conflict. A mass movement of people of this scale poses huge humanitarian challenges," he said.

The announcement came after the United Nations appealed for a total of 543 million dollars to help, as people continue to stream out of the conflict zone into camps set up in different parts of the North West Frontier Province.

The UN puts the number of displaced people at 1.7 million.

The British minister said aid agencies were doing "heroic" work under extremely difficult conditions," adding that Britain remained determined to support their efforts.

"This extra money will help the UN manage a coordinated and effective international response to this crisis to allow those affected by the fighting (to) take the first steps towards rebuilding their lives," said Alexander.

"The UK stands ready to assist the government of Pakistan to combat the shared threat of violent extremism and we remain strongly committed to our partnership with the people of Pakistan," he added.

UN in $543m Pakistan aid appeal


The UN has appealed for a total of $543m in humanitarian aid to help more than 1.6 million people displaced by fighting in north-west Pakistan.
The UN said the "extraordinary" exodus had caused "incredible suffering".
Tens of thousands of people are being housed in camps south of the main fighting zone in the Swat valley.
Separately, the top US military commander, Adm Michael Mullen, has warned that the US troop build-up in Afghanistan could push Taliban fighters deeper into Pakistan, further destabilising it. Martin Mogwanja, acting UN humanitarian coordinator, said: "The scale of this displacement is extraordinary in terms of size and speed and has caused incredible suffering.
On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani chaired a donor conference in Islamabad and officials said the international community had so far responded with pledges of $224m. In Swat, the army says that about 15,000 members of the security forces are fighting between 4,000 and 5,000 militants.
Meanwhile Adm Mullen admitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington that successes against the Taliban in Afghanistan could push militants further into Pakistan.
Adm Mullen's comments come as US President Barack Obama's administration prepares to send thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Indian cabinet to be sworn in


Mr Singh will be taking charge fora second term, only the second PM after Jawaharlal Nehru to be returned to power after a full five-year term. The Congress party won a decisive mandate in the recent polls and Mr Singh has emerged politically stronger. However, a key ally of the Congress has left the governing alliance after disagreements over ministerial posts. The Tamil Nadu-based DMK party said its 18 members of parliament would not serve in the government but would still support the coalition in the house.

The move is seen as the first setback to the coalition, but analysts say it is unlikely to pose a serious threat to the government. The Congress party and its allies swept back to power when votes from the marathon five-phase general election were counted last weekend. Mr Singh and a 19-member cabinet will take the oath of office from Indian President Pratibha Patil at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, in Delhi on Friday evening. Mr Singh has displayed an ability to stand firm and outlast his most trenchant critics.

Security forces operation against militants continues


SWAT: Security forces operation against militants in different districts of Malakand division continued.

District Swat remained under curfew for seventh consecutive day whereas relaxation in curfew has been announced from 7 am to 4 pm in tehsil Maidan of Lower Dir.

Security forces action continued overnight in Kambar, Takhtaband, Shamozai, tehisl Matta and upper areas of Char Bagh. Periodic shelling carried out at militants positions. The supply of gas, water and power to district Swat remained suspended.

Meanwhile, security forces from Lower Dir headquarters Timergira pounded the suspect hideouts of militants.

Zardari-Altaf's telephonic talk

LONDON: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Quaid, Altaf Hussain talking to President Asif Ali Zardari on telephone said that MQM was all out with Pakistan Army and the government in fight against terrorism.

Both the leaders deliberated in detail on matters relating to the war against terror in Malakand and the situation emanating thereafter.

Altaf Hussain said that the registration of all the displaced persons must be undertaken in all the provinces and they should be restrained within the camps.

President Asif Ali Zardari on this occasion said that the government would not rest until relieving the country of the terrorists. He apprised of that registration of the migrants was being ensured.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reducing spread of nukes a high priority: Obama


WASHINGTON: Satellite photos released show Pakistan has expanded two sites crucial to its nuclear program as part of an effort to bolster the destructive power of its atomic arsenal, a US arms control institute said. US President Barack Obama said it is "absolutely imperative" that the United States take the lead in reducing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"It is absolutely imperative that America takes leadership working with, not just our Russian counterparts, but countries all around the world to reduce and ultimately eliminate the dangers that are posed by nuclear weapons," the president said after an Oval Office meeting with former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia.

Obama mentioned possible steps to "lock down loose nuclear weapons," including revitalizing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, making progress on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and working with Russia to reduce dependence on nuclear weapons.

Russia and the U.S. have the world's largest nuclear stockpiles.

"We are going to be pushing this as one of our highest priorities, to take specific steps, measurable steps, verifiable steps, to make progress on this issue, even as we keep a long-term perspective and a long-term vision about what can be achieved," Obama told reporters. "And we can think of no better advisers, counselors, and partners in this process than the four gentlemen who joined us here today."

US aid proof of support to Pakistan

WASHINGTON: Pakistan ambassador in the United States Hussain Haqqani has welcomed the announcement of emergency aid of 100 million dollars from America for the affected people of Swat operation.

In a statement issued from Washington, Hussain Haqqani said that this aid is another proof of the full support to the Pakistani people by the United States but more aid is needed from the international community for rehabilitation of the affected people of Swat.

Hussain Haqqani said that Pakistan needs aid for rehabilitation of the people affected by the war on terror and the elimination of human crisis.

He said we expect from the US people to help generously and they can participate in the mission by typing Swat to 20222 on their cell phones.

Arms from U.S. may be falling into Taliban hands


NEW YORK: Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.

Weapons from a police post linked to an attack on Americans. Most rifles were the kind issued by the United States. Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

The presence of this ammunition among the dead in the Korangal Valley, an area of often fierce fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, strongly suggests that munitions procured by the Pentagon have leaked from Afghan forces for use against American troops.

The scope of that diversion remains unknown, and the 30 magazines represented a single sampling of fewer than 1,000 cartridges. But military officials, arms analysts and dealers say it points to a worrisome possibility: With only spotty American and Afghan controls on the vast inventory of weapons and ammunition sent into Afghanistan during an eight-year conflict, poor discipline and outright corruption among Afghan forces may have helped insurgents stay supplied.

Pakistan expanding nuclear sites


Satellite photos released show Pakistan has expanded two sites crucial to its nuclear program as part of an effort to bolster the destructive power of its atomic arsenal, a US arms control institute said. The commercial images reveal a major expansion of a chemical plant complex near Dera Ghazi Khan that produces uranium hexalfuoride and uranium metal, materials used to produce nuclear weapons, said analysts at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). At a site near Rawalpindi, photos suggest the Pakistanis "have added a second plutonium separation plant adjacent to the old one," the ISIS report said. Pakistan in recent years also has been building two new plutonium production reactors.

"All together, these recent expansion activities indicate that Pakistan is indeed progressing in a strategic plan to improve the destructiveness and deliverability of its nuclear arsenal" .

The expansion would enable Pakistan to build smaller, lighter plutonium-fission weapons and thermonuclear weapons that employ "plutonium as the nuclear trigger and enriched and natural enriched uranium in the secondary”.

The report urged the US government to persuade Pakistan to halt production of fissile material and join talks for a treaty that would ban the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.

Pak, Australia agreed to boost anti-terror cooperation


Pakistan and Australia have agreed to boost cooperation for curbing terrorism. Pakistan will send 70 military personnel to Australia to get counter insurgency training training. This was decided during a meeting between Australian Minister for Defence Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon and General Tariq Majid, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr Fitzgibbon and General Tariq Majid discussed the significant military operations currently being conducted against militants in the North West Frontier region of Pakistan. Mr Fitzgibbon expressed his sorrow for the losses suffered by the Pakistan Armed Forces in the fight against terrorism, and for the suffering of the civilian populations as a result of the recent fighting.

“Pakistan’s success in its conflict with Taliban extremists on its soil is critical to regional and global security, as well as Australia’s own national interest.
Australia also recognises the complex challenges that Pakistan faces and appreciates the efforts of Pakistan towards maintaining security. He announced a significant increase in access to Defence Cooperation Program training courses in Australia for Pakistan Military personnel. “The Australian Defence Force is working with the Pakistan Military on a number of counter insurgency training initiatives both in Australia and Pakistan. “We appreciate that the Pakistan military has significant expertise in confronting the extremist and terrorist threat. Our increased engagement is focused on providing training to assist Pakistan in this task.”

Mr Fitzgibbon emphasised that Australia was developing the engagement program in close consultation with Pakistan, and he expressed the desire to explore options to increase this assistance further.

General Tariq Majid said that Pakistan appreciates the role played by Australia as part of the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, and emphasised that Pakistan and Australia have common interests and shared objectives in promoting peace and stability in the region.

Holbrooke calls for strong backing of Pakistani government

Veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke also dismissed rumors that the Obama administration is backing away from its support for embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari as he is tested by Taliban and al Qaeda extremists. We have not distanced ourself from President Zardari."

Holbrooke testified before the committee on a day when concerns over recent Taliban gains in Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated the agenda in Washington.
Holbrooke argued that questions about Pakistan's stability do not indicate a withdrawal of American support. We do not think Pakistan is a failed state. Holbrooke's testimony came the day after two leading members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation tripling nonmilitary aid to Pakistan.
The legislation also would separate military from nonmilitary aid, promising that economic aid "is no longer the poor cousin to military aid."

Holbrooke reiterated the administration's support for such legislation, while urging Congress to find a "sweet spot" in terms of requirements made on Pakistan's government. Meanwhile, Pakistan's military continued an assault on militants in Taliban-held areas after they seized territory in violation of an agreement signed this year by Zardari. The recent operations are part of the Pakistani army's intensified drive against the Taliban in its restive tribal regions. The Pakistani government has been criticized for not cracking down on militants along its border with Afghanistan. "Pakistan is a nation that is committed to rooting out extremism and Talibanization in our region, Pakistan's U.S. ambassador Husain Haqqani said Tuesday on CNN's "American Morning."

"As partners, (the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) can certainly contain the Taliban. Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called Taliban gains in Pakistan an "existential threat" to the country.

Taliban in Pakistan threaten peace in Afghanistan


Afghanistan's president Tuesday praised U.S. plans to provide more civilian help to his country, and expressed hope that the country become less dependent on international partners in coming years. Hamid Karzai departs after registering as a candidate for August presidential elections in Kabul on Monday.
Addressing the re-emergence of Taliban militants, who were ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition after the September 11 attacks on the United States, Karzai said, "We did not address the question of sanctuaries in time," a reality, he said, that hurts Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will continue to suffer," Karzai said.
Taliban gains in Pakistan are a major theme this week in Washington, where Karzai and Zardari will be visiting key congressional leaders and policymakers before meeting with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Karzai, who made his remarks as Holbrooke testified about the problems in the region before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, touched on Obama's strategy, announced in March, to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Obama said sending "agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers" to Afghanistan will help "advance security, opportunity and justice" across the country. Karzai said the program will work if it is carried out "with the requirements of Afghanistan, with the plans of Afghanistan shared and supported by and agreed with by the United States, and in a manner that will add to Afghan capacity building."
It's important, he said, that Afghans see the war bringing them "safety and security," and improved security forces that can defend the country.
Karzai is running for re-election and has announced two running mates: current Vice President Kamil Khallili and a controversial former warlord, Mohamed Fahim.
Human Rights Watch was quick to criticize Karzai's decision to add him to the ticket.
Karzai defended Fahim, saying he "will be a factor of stability and unity for the Afghan people," noting that he has "contributed immensely in the war against terrorism, shoulder to shoulder with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan."
The president said he looks forward to a proper race.

Iran 'Test Launches' Medium-range Missile


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Sajjil-2 missile used "advanced technology" and had "landed exactly" on the unspecified target. He was speaking in Semnan, from where the missile, with a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles), was reportedly launched.
Correspondents say the test may be seen as provocative by Iran's Arab neighbours and its enemies in the West.
"The defence minister [Mohammed Najjar] told me today that we launched a Sajjil-2 missile, which is a two-stage missile and it has reached the intended target," Mr Ahmadinejad told a crowd in the northern town. Solid-fuel missiles are reputedly more accurate than liquid-fuel missiles, which make up the majority of Iran's long-range arsenal.

Iran tested a Sajjil missile in November last year, described by officials at the time as a highly accurate "defensive" weapon.
Iran says its missile development programme is solely for defensive and scientific purposes, but critics say the rockets could one day be used to nuclear weapons, although Iran denies its nuclear programme has any military dimension.
The announcement of the launch came shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was confirmed as one of the four candidates cleared to stand in Iran 12 June presidential elections. He will run against two leading reformists - former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi - and Mohsen Rezai, former chief of the Revolutionary Guards.

Pakistan Parliament to address Musharraf Impeachment


Pakistan's lower house of parliament convenes Monday evening with the task of removing President Pervez Musharraf from office high on its to-do list. President Pervez Musharraf stepped down as the chief of military last November. The first step towards impeachment will involve compiling a list of charges against Musharraf.
Sherry Rehman, spokeswoman for the ruling Pakistan People's Party, told reporters that lawmakers are preparing a charge-sheet that is "strong, voluminous and (a) powerful indictment of his systematic misrule and usurpation of parliament's powers."
The document will charge Musharraf with corruption, economic mismanagement and violating the constitution, among other malfeasance, she said. Once lawmakers submit charges, the National Assembly -- the lower house of parliament -- will vote on whether to move forward with impeachment. Next would come an actual vote on impeaching Musharraf.
Members of the National Assembly and Senate would cast ballots. Two-thirds of lawmakers would have to vote 'yes' for Musharraf to be impeached. The parties opposed to Musharraf have 274 members in the National Assembly and the Senate. In the meantime, the four provincial assemblies are expected to ask to cast votes of confidence on Musharraf this week. Musharraf can decide not to call for such a vote. Even if he does -- and lawmakers agree that they have lost confidence in the president -- the vote is non-binding. But symbolically, it might add pressure on Musharraf to step down. "There are no grounds for a resignation or an impeachment," Qureshi said.
For his part, Musharraf has several options:
No president has been impeached in the country's history. He can hope that the vote to impeach him falls short. He can dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency. Musharraf stepped down as the chief of military last November. "We have consistently said the internal politics of Pakistan are an issue for the Pakistani people to decide," said U.S. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos last week.
For many Pakistanis, the political machinations take a back seat to far bigger problems in the country: shortage of essential food items, power cuts, and a skyrocketing inflation.

U.S. aid to Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The United States is rushing emergency aid to Pakistan an initial $5 million to help people uprooted by the fighting against extremists, according to the State Department.

The State Department said Tuesday the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development were evaluating the needs of civilians fleeing the Swat valley and surrounding regions in northwest Pakistan.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, praised the new military offensive by the Pakistan military.
"In recent days we have seen encouraging signs that Pakistan's army is finally taking the fight to enemy, but much remains to be done," Kerry said in his opening to a hearing on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kerry and the senior Republican on the committee, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, have introduced legislation to triple non-military U.S. aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, for five years.

The Obama administration envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan policy, long-time diplomat Richard Holbrooke, spoke to the Senate committee Tuesday about what the U.S. has at stake in Pakistan. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, said Congress should slow down consideration of new aid to Pakistan. "Ultimately the true decision makers are the people and leaders of Pakistan."
We are losing that war," Holbrooke told the committee.

An Indonesian military transport plane crashed on the island of Java


At least two people died on the ground as the plane hit houses before skidding into a rice field where it caught fire. The plane, en route from Jakarta to eastern Java, came down not far from an air base where it was heading. Visibility appears to have been good and there is no indication yet of what caused the crash. The C-130 Hercules had been carrying about 110 passengers and crew. Ten children were reported to have been on board. Fifteen passengers - some with bad burns - survived, officials said.

The plane was due to land at Iswahyudi air force base and struck houses in the village of Geplak, a few kilometres away, at about 0630 local time (2330 GMT).
The aircraft was almost completely destroyed in the crash; wreckage was strewn across rice fields and only the tail was left intact.
Rescue teams have been pulling the dead and injured from the smoking debris.
Eyewitnesses spoke of a big explosion before the plane came down near the town of Madiun.

A local villager, quoted by Kompas newspaper's website, said some aircraft parts including nuts and bolts fell from the sky. "One of the wings fell off... Then the plane nose-dived into the houses." A survivor said it felt like the plane's engines just stopped and then the aircraft began to break apart in mid-air. The man, who was interviewed on local TV, was thrown clear of the plane as it came down

Federal cabinet reviews situation in Swat


ISLAMABAD: An important Federal Cabinet meeting is underway here with Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in chair.

The participants are discussing the law and order situation in tribal areas, ongoing military operation in Swat and Malakand and the rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In the federal cabinet meeting, the participants also reviewed post operation situation in Swat and steps being taken by the government to provide relief to the displaced people.

Finance Advisor Shaukat Tareen briefed the federal cabinet on country’s economic situation and preparation of new budget.

Swat is still Burning


MORE than 40,000 people this week fled the Swat valley in north-west Pakistan, as an onslaught against Taliban militants intensified. Pakistan’s army, which fought in Swat from 2007 until it struck peace in February, says it will now finish off the Taliban in the valley. The peace deal has been unraveling since the Taliban last month moved from Swat into the districts of Lower Dir and Buner, 100km (63 miles) from Islamabad, the capital. The army attacked them, after senior American officials voiced their alarm at its “abdication” to the Taliban. Under the peace agreement, covering Malakand division, which includes Swat, the government is to implement Islamic law in the district. The Taliban call the government and army American stooges. On May 3rd militants beheaded two government officials in Swat, in revenge for the killing of two Taliban commanders in Dir and Buner. The next day they ambushed an army convoy in Swat.
On May 6th Pakistani helicopter-gunships and ground troops attacked the Taliban in the valley.
Officials claim that by setting up sharia courts they have drawn local support away from the Taliban. The army claims to have killed over 30 militants in Swat and 100 in Buner. Militants have recruited young men, broadcast anti-government propaganda, dug trenches and laid mines throughout Mingora.
American officials had raised concerns about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, as well as its zeal for fighting the Taliban. Mr Obama called the talks “extraordinarily productive”

Kayani chairs high-level meeting


RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani today arrived from France and immediately on arrival; COAS presided over a high level meeting in General Headquarters to review the progress of ongoing military operations in Malakand and Swat.

Kayani appreciated the conduct of operations and high morale of troops. He stressed upon the need to provide relief to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) through an aggressive management system.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Iran summit with Afghan, Pakistan presidents postponed

Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday that a planned summit to be hosted by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad with his Afghanistan and Pakistan counterparts has been postponed.

The summit, scheduled for Tuesday, was put off due to the busy programme of President Asif Ali Zardari, foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi told reporters. He did not give any new date for the summit, but said it will be fixed after ìco-ordinationî with the offices of the two other presidents.

The Tuesday meeting had been expected to discuss the rebuilding of war-shattered Afghanistan. The three leaders met less than three months ago in Tehran for a regional economic summit, along with leaders of other neighbouring states. That summit pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, and also the Gaza Strip after Israel’s devastating offensive at the turn of the year.

Pakistan has not diverted US aid to N-weapons: Mullen

Chairman US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on Monday said Pakistan had not diverted any US assistance to advance its nuclear programme. His remarks quashed the apprehensions cited in an American newspaper report.
The US State Department also categorically stated that there was no linkage between the US aid and Pakistan’s nuclear programme. Mullen’s comments came after a story in The New York Times claimed that the members of US Congress were concerned that Islamabad might divert the US aid to its nuclear programme. Mullen also refused to rule out strikes from drones. Mullen, who spoke on wide-ranging security issues at a leading Washington think tank, rejected the characterisations that the key anti-terrorism partner somehow might near a failure.
He said both the civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan were conscious of the extremism threat to their country and advocated a long-term US relationship with Pakistan. At the State Department, spokesman Ian Kelly advised against drawing “any links between the issues of our assistance package and their nuclear capability.” Meanwhile, the US on Monday expressed the hope that the Indian and Pakistani political leaderships would work to reduce tensions on their border to focus on addressing the common threat from violent extremism.
“India is not just positioned in the theatre, but India’s security is also tied to improved stability in the region, particularly with Pakistan and Afghanistan. And I recognise that there is still great focus on the border between Pakistan and India,” Mullen told a gathering of experts at the Brookings Institution here. Mullen, who spoke on “The Future of Global Engagement,” underscored in reply to a question that Afghanistan, Pakistan and India “are very much linked” in the regional security perspective.

Zardari changed world’s misperceptions about Pakistan

The fear must have compounded when US President Barack Obama said a few days before the visit that “situation in the nuclear-armed Muslim state warrants grave concern”. Few in Pakistan disputed Obama’s concern. Few people gave credit to President Zardari for the remedial measures and a hostile media was on the top. Other political leadership was briefed about the military operation at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani where Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was also present.

The late Bhutto took Parliament into confidence before his all-important visit to India and the people saw that he succeeded in concluding an accord at Shimla which resulted in the retrieving of about 5,000 square kilometres area to Pakistan from the Indian occupation and safe return of about 100,000 prisoners of war, including 95 senior army officers whom India wanted to try for war crimes. This, too, was an important visit and the government preferred to take the political leadership into confidence

Another meaningful outcome of the visit is that the western states have, besides throwing their weight behind Pakistan without hitherto conditional support and thus making a common cause with the people and the government of Pakistan, have softened their stance over how Pakistan should put up its fight against militants and terrorists. The traditional western stress of “do more” has given way to ‘do better’ as has been observed during President Zardari’s meeting with President Obama.

The west’s will for the economic development of the areas producing the Taliban also surfaced during the visit, which saw Pakistan and Afghanistan signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the presence of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington. The MoU, it is generally believed, promises improvement in trade and economic ties between the two hitherto hostile south Asian states and benefit the two people in the future. As for the US economic assistance for Pakistan, the House of Representatives approved on May 15, a few days after President Zardari had left, an aid of $1.9 billion, over and above the request made by Obama’s administration, for economic stability and fighting militants. The House measures include $597 million in economic assistance, agricultural development, educational uplift, food scarcity and helping around 1.5 million internally displaced people. The government of the United Kingdom has also, besides, economic assistance, committed itself to work out a political and military strategy focusing on the war on terror in a way as to ensure the UK’s military presence on insurgent elements. President Zardari also said after his meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the British leadership now “fully shares our perceptions about the war against militants and terrorists”.

In the third leg of his tour, President Zardari reached Paris where France agreed (on May 15) to a wide-ranging civilian nuclear deal on the US-India pattern which promises transfer of nuclear technology to Pakistan and help it purchase nuclear equipment for peaceful purposes. Further talks on this issue will be held in July and France president Nicolas Sarkozy is likely to visit Pakistan in September this year.

However, President Zardari did not take pains in meeting the Republican Party leadership while his stay in the US. Although, former president George W Bush called Zardari on telephone expressing his belief that Pakistan would ultimately defeat militancy in the region, the impact of taking the Republican leadership being formally taken into confidence would have made a greater impact.

It may be pertinent to understand that President Zardari took on the US and European leadership at a time when western states had suffered a shock over the potential of the militants rising to scare the world as a whole. One passing reference before the end may be an interesting reading, although no parallels should be drawn between this visit and the visit of the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to India in 1972. When Bhutto was proceeding to India, he, too, had more fears than hopes. Similarly, it may also be interesting to state that the late Bhutto took his daughter, Benazir Bhutto, with him to Shimla as part of her political training and the world is witness to the fact how successfully she was trained in the political culture of Pakistan. Zardari took with him his son Bilawal, the chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party, to the US and Europe and only he future will tell how he will fair in the country’s politics.

Agencies under fire

Top politicians questioned the poor performance of the intelligence agencies during the all parties conference (APC) for failing to pinpoint and take out the main leaders and targets of the Taliban in the troubled areas of Malakand and Swat.
Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and a few others also faced criticism for their opposition to the Army action against the Taliban. According to sources, role of the intelligence agencies came under question when Nawaz Sharif, Sahibzada Fazal Karim, Munir Orakzai and Maulana Fazlur Rehman wondered what our agencies were doing in the current situation as they had failed to find out the main targets to eliminate them.
MNA Munir Orakzai was not reluctant to name the secret agencies. He told the participants that he had raised this issue with the Army chief during the briefing by the military command last week. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was also criticised by some of the participants. Haji Hanif Tayyab, Ejaz Sarwat Qadri of the Sunni Tehrik and Maulana Fazlur Rehman spoke against him in the meeting. Imran, Maulana Fazl and others observed that the operation was launched in a hurry.
Asfandyar Wali and NWFP Chief Minister Hoti replied to questions put up by Imran which greatly helped him make up his mind to sign the joint declaration. PkMAP chief Mehmud Khan Achakzai, however, delivered a different speech in the meeting. Dr Babar Awan and Raza Rabbani had prepared the draft of the resolution which was later fine-tuned by Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Mushahid Hussain, Khurshid Shah, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Liaquat Baloch. The participants of the meeting even clashed during the debate on the current situation. At one stage, a furious Ghafoor Haideri after exchanging hot words with MNA Sahibzada Fazal Karim tried to walk out. But intervention by Gilani and Dr Babar Awan saved the situation.
Babar Ghauri and Ghafoor Haideri desperately wanted to rebut some of the criticism directed at their leaders during the meeting but Babar Awan informed them about the decision that only top leadership could clarify the situation.

Inside accounts

The All Parties Conference (APC), held here on Monday, remained divided on the issue of endorsing the ongoing military operation in Swat, but was unanimous in condemning the US drone attacks.
Differences on the question of military operation led to the dropping of certain draft articles from the proposed resolution to pave the way for the adoption of a unanimous resolution. Dr Shireen Mazari, who attended the APC as part of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf delegation, told The News that the APC neither supported the military operation nor expressed any such thing in the unanimously adopted resolution.
The amended resolution, unanimously approved, does not use the word “military operation” even once or says anywhere that the military offensive in Swat has been endorsed or supported by the APC.
“All parties unanimously approved a resolution in favour of the Swat operation,” Kaira said.
A government source also confirmed to this correspondent that two proposed articles that were part of the draft resolution concerning the military operation were deleted and amended to reach a consensus.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who dry their tears?

It does not take long before tears start to stream down the faces of the displaced people gathered at the Shahzad Town camp, now a tented village located on the outskirts of Mardan.
Parwez Khan, 26, recalls how his family started their journey in three trucks from Babaji Kandau, a village near Ambela in Buner District. People have to line up at different points to meet their requirements. On Saturday, PML-N leader Zafar Iqbal Jhagra visited the camp. Aurangzeb Khan arrived from Pir Baba village in Buner four days back after three days of constant bombardment. People talk of the wheat crop ripe for harvest left in the fields. Sardar Ali from Mingora, who fled along with his wife and five children, blames the Taliban for the state in which Swat is today. “Our problems started after the Taliban came. Till then, Swat was peaceful. It is a misconception that the people of Swat and Buner support the Taliban, confirmed many. In all this, there is a feeling amongst the people here of being abandoned by the people and the government of Pakistan.

SC asks Govt to reduce oil price

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the government to reduce the prices of petroleum products or the court itself would issue orders in this regard.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed and Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed, was hearing a case of overcharging on petroleum products by the government.
The court issued these directions after receiving an interim report on the POL (Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants) prices submitted by the judicial commission, headed by Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwandas.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had constituted the commission to probe into oil pricing and profits earned by the government since 2001. Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, counsel for Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, read out the report submitted by the commission. The chief justice observed that if the government failed to slash the prices of petroleum products, then the court itself would have to pass an order.
The court was surprised to know that local refineries were producing HSD containing 1 pc sulphur (inferior quality) but were charging the price of high quality diesel, which contains 0.5 pc sulphur (superior quality).

COAS advise to ensure local population safety


Chief Of Army Staff(COAS) General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani has instructed the Army to ensure minimum collateral damage even at the expense of taking risks, by resorting to precision strikes. According to statement issued by ISPR, Pakistan Army is acutely aware of the nature of ongoing operations in Swat and elsewhere, and their likely fallouts. Consequent to any military operation in populated areas, collateral damage and IDP issues are always a natural outcome. In fact the overall success of operations in such areas is a sum total of the three efforts i.e conduct of military operations, minimizing collateral damage and correctly managing IDPs.

COAS said that management of IDPs is as important as military operation in Swat. It has been decided to provide all out support to Government and International Agencies in the management and rehabilitation of IDPs. For the first time in its history, Pakistan Army has taken a decision to give part of its daily ration items of daily food; Atta, Sugar, Ghee and Dhall to these IDPs. This exemplifies the Army’s spirit of sacrifice.

The food items so provided will be able to daily feed about 80,000 adults. Furthermore, Army is deploying its medical resources in all the IDPs camps. These medical camps will have adequate medicines for 90 days. Local Military Hospitals will also go on surge to treat patients.

Friday, May 8, 2009

PM declares all-out war against militants

Gilani orders armed forces to launch operation; says govt not to bow before terrorists; seeks nation’s support; announces Rs 1 bn for IDPs

By Asim Yasin

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday ordered the armed forces to launch an operation against the militants and terrorists so as to flush them out completely from Swat and Malakand in order to ensure security, restore honour and dignity of the homeland and for the protection of the people.

“The government will not bow before the militants and terrorists but will force them to lay down their weapons and will not compromise with them,” he said in his 20-minute televised address to the nation on Thursday night.

The prime minister, before addressing the nation, had an extensive discussion with the civil and military leadership. On Wednesday, he held a lengthy meeting with Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani while on Thursday he held crucial meetings with Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman and parliamentarians belonging to Swat and Malakand division. Following these hectic meetings, PM Gilani addressed the nation, announcing the launching of the operation against the militants and terrorists.

In his 20-minute speech, the prime minister also appealed to the nation, political leadership, civil society, religious leaders and all the institutions of the country to lend their complete support to the government and the armed forces for the cause of Pakistan.

The prime minister said the time had come to show unity in our ranks and stand up against those who wanted to make Pakistan of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal hostage on gunpoint. “The nation should get united and support the armed forces and the government to foil their designs,” he appealed to the nation.

The prime minister also said that one billion rupees had been provided for the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). He said employment would be given to one member of each family that had lost any of its members at the hands of terrorists.

The premier also talked about his government’s seriousness to implement the Nizam-e-Adl agreement, saying that since the day one the government took seriously the situation in Swat and made efforts to resolve the issue through dialogue. “The federal government even respected the agreement signed by provincial government of the NWFP and took this agreement to parliament. “We got a consensus from parliament and after it, the president signed it without any delay,” he said.

The prime minister said for the peace in swat, the government had sustained internal and external pressure but stuck to the agreement. “There was criticism on the government that it took an internal decision on external pressures but the peace deal in Swat proved that it was taken in the best national interest and according to the wishes of people of Pakistan,” he added.

The prime minister said the accord envisaged that after the enforcement of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, militants would lay down arms for the sake of complete peace in the Malakand division. However, he said the militants continued violating the accord, attacked security forces and targeted government installations and buildings. “They started taking hostile actions against the constitution, parliament, democracy and judiciary, which amounted to challenging the writ of the government, necessitating the decisive action,” he added.

He said the militants misconstrued the government’s desire for peace as its weakness. He said the government had decided not to bow down before the terrorists and extremists and would force them to lay down their arms.

He said the government was determined to protect life and property of the people at all costs and there could be no compromise on it. He said aggressive activities of the militants had forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate from their homes and they deserved our fullest attention.

The prime minister said the country was facing security and economic challenges and both were interlinked. He asked the people to come forward to safeguard the sovereignty of Pakistan. “We would not allow anyone to disrupt peace,” he said and added, “We would not hesitate to offer any sacrifice in eliminating those who are bent upon disturbing peace of the nation.”

He urged the Ulema and Mashaikh to help project Islam’s true spirit. “We have to highlight before the world that there is no place in Islam for suicide attacks and that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood,” he maintained. He said it was a baseless propaganda that Islam was spread through the force of sword.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Talibans agenda is terrorism, not Islam

NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain has said that militants have outrightly rejected the peace offer of the government, security forces and the people. He said the Taliban want to spread terror and Islam or Shariah is not their agenda.

Addressing a ceremony at Peshawar Law College, Mian Iftikhar said no military operation is underway in Swat. He said the security forces are only reacting against the militants. He said the TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad wanted the government to yield to the agenda of militants and not willing to acknowledge people’s aspirations. He said the DPO Buner and his security personnel were martyred in cold blood by militants who also occupied Shal Bandai, Pir Baba shrine and other areas.

The provincial minister said the government remains committed to implementing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation in Malakand division; he demanded that militants should hand over perpetrators of Hari Chand suicide blast to the government.

Holbrooke's strong backing of Pakistani government

Veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke dismissed rumors that the Obama administration is backing away from its support for embattled Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari as he is tested by Taliban and al Qaeda extremists. We have not distanced ourself from President Zardari, he said.
Holbrooke testified before the committee on a day when concerns over recent Taliban gains in Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated the agenda in Washington. Holbrooke argued that questions about Pakistan's stability do not indicate a withdrawal of American support. We do not think Pakistan is a failed state. Holbrooke's testimony came the day after two leading members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee introduced legislation tripling nonmilitary aid to Pakistan.
The legislation also would separate military from nonmilitary aid, promising that economic aid "is no longer the poor cousin to military aid."
He reiterated the administration's support for such legislation, while urging Congress to find a "sweet spot" in terms of requirements made on Pakistan's government.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's military continued an assault on militants in Taliban-held areas after they seized territory in violation of an agreement signed this year by Zardari. The recent operations are part of the Pakistani army's intensified drive against the Taliban in its restive tribal regions. The Pakistani government has been criticized for not cracking down on militants along its border with Afghanistan. "Pakistan is a nation that is committed to rooting out extremism and Talibanization in our region, Pakistan's U.S. ambassador Husain Haqqani said Tuesday on CNN's "American Morning."
"As partners, (the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) can certainly contain the Taliban.
Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called Taliban gains in Pakistan an "existential threat" to the country.

Operation in Swat


Security forces launched operation in Swat after militants seized key government offices in the area. Forces started operation in Mingora early today to regain the control of government buildings. Militants and security forces exchanging fire with light and heavy weapons. No causality was reported.

Indefinite curfew has been imposed in Swat. Migration of local residents towards safer places from troubled areas has been halted due to curfew. Meanwhile, power supply remained suspended in the district for the second day, as Mingora grid station that was blown up two days ago by militants had not been repaired. Unknown persons blew up a shrine in lower Orakzai