Pakistan airports 'on high alert
Pakistan airports 'on high alert'
Pakistan's airports have been placed on highest alert, with the threat of a terror attack imminent, officials say.
The government has also banned gatherings of five or more people near Rawalpindi's international airport.
The moves come days before exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has a residence in Rawalpindi, is expected to return to the country.
Meanwhile, Lebanese and Saudi officials have urged Mr Sharif to honour a deal not to return to Pakistan until 2010.
Mr Sharif, leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party, insisted he would return home on Monday despite the Arab leaders' appeals.
The Federal Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, Syed Kamal Shah, told the BBC that Pakistan's airports had been alerted to the terror warning, but did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.
I will go back to Pakistan on 10 September with my brother because my country needs me
Preparing for confrontation
Mr Sharif is expected to fly into the Rawalpindi airport on Monday from London, after being exiled from the country following a bloodless coup in 1999 by President Pervez Musharraf.
Hundreds of Sharif supporters have been detained across the country ahead of his return.
Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz and Lebanese MP Saad Hariri called on Mr Sharif to postpone his return after meeting Gen Musharraf.
In 2000, Mr Sharif was exiled to Saudi Arabia after being sentenced to life in jail on charges of hijacking and terrorism.
Mr Hariri's father - assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri - helped negotiate the Saudi deal, under which Mr Sharif was to remain in exile for 10 years.
But Saad Hariri was unable to convince Mr Sharif to stay out of Pakistan when the two met on Friday.
"We are trying to convince him not to do so," Mr Hariri said.
"I can assure you that Saudi Arabia truly cares about Pakistan and its security and the agreement should be honoured."
Mr Sharif has denied the deal was made and insists he will return with his brother, Shahbaz, also a politician.
"I will go back to Pakistan on 10 September with my brother because my country needs me," he said at a news conference in London.
Gen Musharraf's faltering government has continued to use the Arab connection in a last bid to prevent Mr Sharif's potentially explosive political comeback, says the BBC's Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad.
But the country's supreme court ruled in August that no law could prevent Mr Sharif's return.
MUSHARRAF UNDER PRESSURE
9 March: Musharraf suspends chief justice for "abuse of power". Lawyers protest
April: Protests grow, amid clashes with police
12 May: 34 people die as rival political groups clash in Karachi
11 July: 102 people die when army storms radical Red Mosque in Islamabad
July-Aug: Sharp rise in suicide attacks by pro-Taleban militants
20 July: Supreme Court reinstates chief justice
9 Aug: Musharraf rejects emergency rule
23 Aug: Supreme Court says exiled ex-PM Nawaz Sharif can return
Pakistan 'deports' ex-PM Sharif
On Sunday, the party said more than 2,000 supporters had been arrested by the Pakistan authorities, while almost its entire leadership had been detained.
Supporters planned to launch a legal challenge to the deportation, which was "a violation of the court order under which Nawaz Sharif was allowed to arrive and stay in Pakistan," his aide, Sadique ul-Farooq, told the Associated Press.
Mr Sharif was exiled to Saudi Arabia in 2000 after being deposed, under what the government says was an agreement that he stay in exile for 10 years.
The former prime minister has denied there was ever such a deal.
Mr Sharif had planned to lead a triumphal motorcade from Islamabad to Lahore, his political power base, but he was aware he might not be allowed the opportunity.
He decided at the last moment to leave his brother Shahbaz, also a politician, behind in the UK "to hold the fort" in case he were jailed or deported.
Mr Musharraf has made no secret of his contempt for Mr Sharif, describing him as corrupt and incompetent.
But for the army, a decision to arrest him is as much a political as a legal decision, says the BBC's M Ilyas Khan.
The military does not want to make Mr Sharif into a political martyr but it also does not want to see him campaigning for power, he says.
General Musharraf has been struggling to contain protests that have grown in strength since he tried to remove the head of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
The president plans to seek a new five-year term in office in an election due in the next month.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrives at Islamabad airport 10/9/07
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been arrested and deported within hours of returning to Pakistan from exile, officials say.
After landing in Islamabad he was charged and put on board a plane, reportedly bound for Saudi Arabia.
Mr Sharif says he wants to challenge President Pervez Musharraf, who ousted him in a 1999 coup, ahead of elections.
Mr Sharif arrived home weeks after Pakistan's Supreme Court affirmed his right to return.
On board the plane which flew him home from London, Mr Sharif told the BBC he wanted to help restore the rule of law.
"It's democracy versus dictatorship," he said.
I have a duty, I have a responsibility, I have a national obligation to fulfil at all costs and that is democracy
Once the plane arrived in Islamabad, paramilitary troops surrounded it and there was a stand-off on board as Mr Sharif refused to hand over his passport to immigration officials for nearly two hours.
Eventually he agreed to leave the plane and was escorted to the airport's VIP lounge.
But shortly afterwards, he was separated from his entourage, returned to the tarmac and put on board a helicopter. Later, he was apparently transferred to a plane bound for Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
Large numbers of police had set up barricades on roads to prevent Mr Sharif's supporters from reaching the airport, while all domestic flights from Islamabad on Monday were listed as cancelled.
There were reports of clashes between police and crowds of Mr Sharif's supporters in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Attok, where shots were fired and several people were said to have been injured.
One worker from Mr Sharif's Muslim League party (PML-N) told the BBC he and about 20 others had been badly beaten by police outside the airport.
14 Sept: Date Ex-PM Benazir Bhutto will announce details of her homecoming
15 Sep-15 Oct: Timeframe Gen Musharraf has set for his re-election as president by parliament
October: Parliament expires and general election must be held
Am in love with the art of madness..
Pakistan troops battle militants
Pakistan troops battle militants
Scores of soldiers have been kidnapped in recent days
Fierce fighting raged overnight between Pakistani troops and pro-Taleban militants near the Afghan border.
The army says up to 30 militants may have been killed in the clashes around Nawazkot just inside the border of the South Waziristan tribal area.
A local official told the BBC that 10 troops had also been killed. The army says they were injured.
Violence has soared since troops were sent in to oust radical Islamists from Islamabad's Red Mosque in July.
More than 100 people died in the operation.
The Nawazkot area is close to Ramzak, an important military town across the border in North Waziristan.
The militants are reported to have attacked a military post manned by 16 soldiers, sparking a battle in which the military called in army helicopter gunships.
"There were repeated attacks, which were repelled... We are hearing from local sources that militants suffered massive casualties," military spokesman Gen Waheed Arshad told the Associated Press news agency.
He says troops were only injured, not killed.
But a local official confirmed to the BBC that 10 soldiers had been killed, and nine troops injured in the clashes.
He said eight pro-Taleban militants were also killed.
The latest fighting coincides with a visit to Pakistan by the American deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte.
The United States is pressing Pakistan to take stronger action against Taleban and al-Qaeda militants operating from its border areas.
There has been a spate of kidnappings in and around the tribal areas in recent weeks.
Scores of soldiers abducted a fortnight ago are still being held in South Waziristan. The rebels say they are holding about 300 troops.
On Wednesday, 12 more soldiers were abducted outside the town of Bannu, just over the border from North Waziristan in North West Frontier Province.
The militants have demanded the release of a number of prisoners and an end to military deployment in their area.
Last month, militants beheaded a kidnapped soldier and videotaped the killing.
Correspondents say that the kidnapping of so many soldiers, apparently without a fight, has been a major embarrassment for the authorities.
Am in love with the art of madness..
Police target Pakistan opposition
Police target Pakistan opposition
Police in Pakistan have detained key opposition figures who vowed to disrupt President Pervez Musharraf's bid for re-election, officials say.
Dozens of warrants for preventative custody had been issued, officials say.
Two of the key targeted groups are the PML-N party of former PM Nawaz Sharif and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, an alliance of hardline Islamist parties.
"These are preventative detentions for the maintenance of public order," a senior police official told AFP agency.
"We have detained these people to prevent the holding of a protest rally in front of the Supreme Court, which would invite trouble because of the prevailing security threat," he said.
Among those arrested was Javed Hashmi, acting leader of the PML-N, the party of exiled former PM Sharif.
Mr Hashmi said Gen Musharraf's Western backers should press the military-led government to uphold the same democratic standards that they enjoy.
"They are ruling the country with a gun in hand," Mr Hashmi said at his apartment, where four armed police stood guard outside.
"They think that the [military] uniform, not the people of Pakistan, are the source of power."
Also detained was Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, from the radical Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.
Opposition parties have vowed to disrupt Gen Musharraf's attempt to be re-elected by federal and provincial assemblies for a fresh term in office.
Among the tactics included are resignations from the assemblies, mass demonstrations and an attempt to blockade the Election Commission to prevent Gen Musharraf from filing his nomination papers.
Am in love with the art of madness..
Interim government next month: Durrani LAHORE, Oct 16 (AFP):
A caretaker government will be installed next month in a major commitment to holding general elections in early 2008, the information minister announced on Tuesday. The national parliament will be dissolved on November 15 and an interim government formed by President Pervez Musharraf in the run-up to the polls, scheduled for early January, said Mohammad Ali Durrani. “The interim government will be formed after consultation with opposition parties.” he said. The provincial assemblies would also be dissolved and caretaker chief ministers appointed, Durrani said
Curfew lifted in Miram Shah after fighting eases MIRAM SHAH, Oct 16 (Reuters):
The army on Tuesday lifted a curfew imposed in the area, a week after about 250 people were killed in fighting with militant tribesmen, tribal elders and officials said. Tribal leaders said the situation was returning to normal after talks between a council of elders and the militants. “There is now peace in the area,” said Maulana Faizullah, a tribal leader who was involved in the negotiations.
Former NWFP chief minister passes away PESHAWAR, Oct 16:
Former Chief Minister of Frontier Arbab Mohammad Jahangir passed away here Tuesday morning. He was admitted in Rehman Institute due to heart trouble where he passed away. His funeral prayers would be offered at 50 pm in Tahqal area here
Am in love with the art of madness..
Bomb targets Pakistani minister
A suicide attack at the house of a Pakistani government minister has killed at least two people, police say.
Amir Muqam, federal minister for political affairs, escaped unhurt. Mr Muqam is a senior member of the governing PML-Q party.
The blast took place at his home in the western city of Peshawar.
Mr Muqam is from the district of Swat where Islamist militants demanding the introduction of Sharia law are fighting the military.
Two security officials were killed and the attacker also died in the blast, police say.
"Police tried to stop the suicide bomber but he blew himself up," Peshawar police chief Abdul Majid Marwat said, Reuters news agency reports.
Mr Muqam said: "I saw two, three bodies on my veranda."
No group has said it carried out the attack.
Correspondents say suspicion will fall on militants in the northern district of Swat. Mr Muqam has been vocal in his criticism of the militants there.
Gen Musharraf justified the introduction of emergency rule last Saturday on the need to combat militants and rein in the judiciary.
Am in love with the art of madness..
Bhutto house arrest order lifted
Roadblocks and barbed wire were set up around Ms Bhutto's home
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been released from house arrest in the capital, Islamabad.
The order was imposed early on Friday, blocking Ms Bhutto's attempt to lead a rally against the emergency rule declared by President Pervez Musharraf.
The United States had criticised the move saying that she must be "permitted freedom of movement."
Ms Bhutto has vowed to wage a campaign aimed at forcing General Musharraf to stand down as head of the army.
A three-day detention order was served on the former prime minister after she tried to cross the heavy police cordon set up outside her home on Friday.
Police had surrounded the house early in the morning with roadblocks and coils of barbed wire to prevent her from addressing a rally in the neighbouring city of Rawalpindi.
Under emergency rule announced last week, such public gatherings have been banned.
Am in love with the art of madness..
Court Endroses Musharraf Election
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A Supreme Court hand-picked by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf swiftly dismissed legal challenges to his continued rule on Monday, opening the way for him to serve another five-year term — this time solely as a civilian president.
The opposition has denounced the new court, saying any decisions by a tribunal stripped of independent voices had no credibility. Musharraf purged the court on Nov. 3 when he declared emergency rule, days before the tribunal was expected to rule on his eligibility to serve as president.
The United States has put immense pressure on Musharraf to restore the constitution and free thousands of political opponents jailed under the emergency before Pakistan's critical parliamentary election on Jan. 8.
Monday's court ruling could hasten Musharraf's decision to take off his army uniform. The general has said he would quit as armed forces commander by the end of the month, assuming he was given the legal go-ahead by the court to remain as president.
Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar dismissed three opposition petitions challenging Musharraf's victory in a disputed presidential election last month, saying two had been "withdrawn" because opposition lawyers were not present in court.
The third was withdrawn by a lawyer for the party of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who suggested the court was illegitimate.
"We asked for (the case) to be postponed because we said there is no constitution," she told reporters in Karachi after a meeting with the U.S. ambassador. She said she had no plans to revive power-sharing negotiations with Musharraf, broken off after the general's decision to declare emergency rule.
"We are not going back to the former track," Bhutto said. "We are interested in a roadmap for democracy, but we do not have the confidence that Gen. Musharraf's regime could give us that road map."
One of Musharraf's first acts after seizing extraordinary powers was to purge the Supreme Court of independent-minded judges. Opponents had argued that he ought to be disqualified under a constitutional ban on public servants running for elected office, which they said applied because Musharraf was still army chief.
The military ruler told The Associated Press last week that he expected the retooled court to quickly endorse his re-election, and he was right. Deliberations lasted less then a day on the most serious cases challenging Musharraf.
The court said it would rule Thursday on another petition from a man whose candidacy for the Oct. 6 presidential election was rejected by the election commission. Only then can it authorize the election commission to announce Musharraf the winner of the vote.
An official in Musharraf's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said Monday's ruling kept the general on track to quit the army by the end of November.
With pressure mounting to get the country on a path to democracy, the government on Monday set Jan. 8 as the date for the parliamentary elections.
The opposition has threatened to boycott, saying a vote held while its members are detained and its freedom to assemble blocked would have no validity. They also have questioned the neutrality of a caretaker government installed by Musharraf last week.
Despite an outcry both here and in Washington, there were no indications Musharraf intended to lift his state of emergency before the vote.
In his first public comments since a sit-down with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Musharraf vowed that the elections would be fair, but also defended the emergency, which has seen thousands of the general's opponents jailed, the judiciary purged and independent media muzzled.
"I took this decision in the best interest of Pakistan," Musharraf said at a ceremony late Sunday to inaugurate a bridge in the southern port city of Karachi.
"I could have said thank you and walked away," he told the state news agency. "But this was not the right approach because I cannot watch this country go down in front of me after so many achievements and such an economic turnaround."
Musharraf urged the opposition not to boycott the vote, saying that any who do would be acting because they feel they cannot win — not because the playing field is unfair.
Negroponte, Washington's No. 2 diplomat, was blunt in comments Sunday after his meetings with Musharraf and other senior military and political figures, saying the emergency rule was "not compatible with free, fair and credible elections."
But Pakistan was quick to dismiss those concerns, saying the senior American diplomat brought no new proposals on his weekend visit, and received no assurances after urging Musharraf to restore the constitution.
The face-off leaves the Bush administration with limited options in steering its nuclear-armed ally back toward democracy. Senior Bush Administration officials have said publicly that they have no plans to cut off the billions of dollars in military aid that Pakistan receives each year.
" Woods are lovely dark and deep But i have promises to keep And miles to go before i sleep "
Last edited by amy; Monday, November 19, 2007 at 06:18 PM.
Musharraf 'to quit army by end of the week'
November 19, 2007
President Musharraf of Pakistan has decided to resign as Army chief by the end of the week, it emerged today.
Sources close to the Pakistani President indicated that he wanted to stand down almost immediately if a Supreme Court newly packed with his supporters decides, as expected, to reject the final legal challenge to his victory in last month's election on Thursday.
Today, the court rejected the first five of six legal challenges to his continued rule. After sustained domestic and international pressure, General Musharraf has already said he will quit as Army chief once the court gives him the green light to serve a second term.
Speaking after the court decision today, Mohammed ali-Saif, a member of the President's legal team, said that a decision in his favour next Thursday would be decisive.
"The court ruling has cleared the way for General Musharraf to continue in power for another five-year term," he said.
Zahid Hussain, the Times correspondent in Islamabad, said sources close to the President gave clear indications that General Musharraf intended to stand down as Army chief almost as soon as the court decision was finalised.
"The indications are that he will take off his uniform either by Thursday or by the end of the week," he said.
Critics of the Pakistani President claim that he engineered the Supreme Court's decision today by sacking a number of independently-minded judges who had been due to consider the case when the state of emergency was called.
However despite today's verdict, and the pledge to take off his uniform, the internal friction caused by the President's hardline crackdown continued.
It has been claimed that General Musharraf's aides contacted those close to the exiled opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, with the intention of meeting him when the President visits Saudi Arabia tomorrow. Aides to Mr Sharif, however, say he rejected the offer, and is believed to be continuing talks with Benazir Bhutto, another opposition leader, to form a united front against him.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Imran Khan, the former cricketer jailed last week for protesting against emergency rule, has started a hunger strike today. Mr Khan, who leads a small opposition party, is in a high-security prison in Lahore usually reserved for major terrorist suspects.
Pressure from Pakistan's key ally, the United States, also showed no sign of easing today as General Musharraf refused to bow to American requests to call an immediate end to the state of emergency, or to release thousands of political opponents, lawyers and judges who were arrested when it was declared.
Yesterday, John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State, urged the military ruler to restore democratic rights before parliamentary elections and stop emergency rule.
"Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair and credible elections," Mr Negroponte told reporters at the end of his visit to Pakistan.
General Musharraf, however, retorted that the state of emergency would be lifted only if security improved, indicating that this was unlikely before the elections to be held on January 9.
He did however order the release from house arrest of Ms Bhutto, a former prime minister, and the authorities freed a number of other political prisoners before Mr Negroponte’s visit. But thousands remain in prison and restrictions on the media continue. At the weekend the Government blocked Geo and ARY, leading private television channels that transmit from nearby Dubai.
Mr Negroponte telephoned Ms Bhutto soon after she was released, telling her that America was keen to see opposition figures take part in Pakistani politics. He urged Ms Bhutto resume talks with General Musharraf, underscoring America’s hopes of salvaging the fractious relationship between the two pro-Western leaders. Mr Negroponte asked them to restart talks and ease the atmosphere of brinkmanship and political confrontation.
But there seemed to be little hope that the power-sharing deal could be revived, with Ms Bhutto taking a collision path demanding that General Musharraf quit power.
Ms Bhutto has already ruled out negotiating with the President to form a coalition government to end the country's political crisis regardless of the Supreme Court's verdict, vowing to form an alliance with other opposition parties including that of Mr Sharif to defeat him.
General Musharraf had cited growing Islamic militancy as the main reason for imposing the state of emergency on November 3. But analysts and human rights activists said that most of those targeted were political moderates, not extremists, who were concerned at the way the President had ridden rough-shod over the constitution.
There is concern in Washington over the repercussions that political instability in Pakistan could have for the War on Terror and regional security. General Musharraf, who seized power in 1999, has been a key Western ally in the region.
Yesterday Mr Negroponte praised General Musharraf’s efforts in the fight against terrorism. "President Musharraf has been and continues to be a strong voice against extremism," he said. "We value our partnership with the Government of Pakistan under the leadership of President Musharraf."
Three days of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims have left 91 people dead in a northwestern Pakistan town. Both sides fired mortars and weapons at each other in the town of Parachinar, targeting residential areas and hitting mosques. The military said that 80 civilians and 11 security personnel were killed.
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Handpicked Bench Rejects Challenges...
In Pakistan, Court Backs Musharraf's Reelection
Handpicked Bench Rejects Challenges
By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; Page A12
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 19 -- Pakistan's Supreme Court, newly stacked with allies of President Pervez Musharraf, on Monday dismissed most of the challenges to his reelection. Opposition leaders rejected the ruling as engineered and illegitimate, in the latest controversy in the country's ongoing political crisis.
Deliberating for just under three hours, the judges, many of them handpicked by Musharraf, struck down the five main challenges to his reelection. The sixth and final petition will be heard Thursday, though analysts expect it also will be dismissed.
Pakistani opposition parties had asserted that Musharraf was ineligible to stand for reelection last month while also serving as chief of the army. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear challenges in the case when Musharraf fired several justices and proclaimed emergency rule Nov. 3.
Musharraf has said that once the court clears all the challenges to his reelection, he will shed his uniform and become a civilian president.
On Monday, the president also said he was asking the country's electoral commission to call parliamentary elections for Jan. 8. Opposition leaders have said the elections will be deeply flawed and unfair if conducted during a state of emergency. Hundreds of political leaders remain jailed, and independent TV news stations have been blacked out.
In a rare public appearance Monday, Musharraf insisted he was the only leader who could safeguard the country as Islamic extremists increase their attacks in the northwest.
"I could have said thank you and walked away," he said at a ceremony to break ground for a highway and bridge project in the southern city of Karachi. "But this was not the right approach, because I cannot watch this country go down in front of me after so many achievements and such an economic turnaround."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte held talks with Musharraf over the weekend in an attempt to press him to end emergency rule, restore the constitution and free political opponents. But there was no indication that Musharraf would bend to the growing pressure from Washington.
In Karachi, U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson met with opposition leader and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who has aborted U.S.-backed plans to form a political alliance with Musharraf. Bhutto and Musharraf are no longer speaking.
"I am meeting the former prime minister and other political leaders to confirm American interest in free, fair and transparent elections and to assure her and all others that we will do everything possible to ensure that the electoral process takes place," Patterson told reporters.
Bhutto said she was frustrated that the Bush administration had not made lifting the emergency a condition for the continued disbursement of U.S. aid. The United States has delivered more than $10 billion in aid to Musharraf's government since 2001, saying the money helps train and arm the Pakistani military in its fight against extremism.
"If the United States gives him $10 billion and does not get him to do what it wants, how is it going to expect us to make him do what he does not want to do?" Bhutto said.
In a separate development, opposition leader Imran Khan, who was jailed by the government last week, began a hunger strike to protest emergency rule. Khan, of the Pakistan Justice Movement, is a former cricket star and an icon for students opposed to Musharraf's government. Members of his party said they hoped his hunger strike would encourage young people to keep protesting emergency rule.
"This is the only tool Khan has left to tell the world about the suffering of Pakistan," Hafeez Niazi, Khan's brother-in-law, said in a telephone interview from Lahore. "He feels this is the only way to bring attention to the issue now."
Political opposition leaders have also said they are considering a boycott of the elections. "The elections will be a ruse and a joke all over the world," said Farid Ahmad Paracha, deputy secretary general of Pakistan's most popular Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami. "The U.S. has been cheated, and the Pakistani people will suffer yet again."
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