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Old Tuesday, September 16, 2008
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Why US has opted for direct strikes

* Report says US is convinced Pakistan is neither able nor willing to fight terrorists
* Former US presidents had also authorised attacks on terrorist havens

WASHINGTON: President George W Bush’s orders authorising military strikes inside Pakistan mean that the US military will no longer need a presidential finding for each operation, while the responsibility for carrying them out will shift from the CIA to Pentagon.

According to intelligence sources, reports the Christian Science Monitor, officials from the National Intelligence Council recently briefed the Bush administration’s national security team on the potentially dire consequences of US actions that could destabilise the government of a country with nuclear weapons. Even before Bush’s July green light, the Congress had authorised the use of force against terrorist organisations and countries that harbour or support them, while Pakistan’s leaders had been warned of the dire consequences their country would face if they did not unequivocally enlist in the fight against radical Islamist terrorism.

Fighting terrorists: The Monitor report argues that Bush’s July orders signify that after seven years of encouraging Pakistan to take on extremists harboured in remote areas along its Afghan border and subsidising the Pakistani military for it, the US has become convinced that Pakistan is neither able nor willing to fight Taliban and Al Qaeda elements. Recent events appear to have convinced at least some in the administration that parts of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service are actually aiding the extremists. Even before the July order, the US had undertaken covert operations in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas, while the CIA had stepped up Predator missile attacks.

Authorisation: “Precedence for the orders authorising the attacks on terrorist havens can be found in President Bill Clinton’s authorisation of retaliatory attacks in 1993 (against Iraqi intelligence facilities) and in 1998 (against terrorist camps in Afghanistan and Sudan), and in President Ronald Reagan’s bombing of Libya, legal scholars say,” the report notes. While commando raids into Pakistan have been debated for years, the tipping point came after the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul and the one by the Taliban on an outpost in eastern Afghanistan that killed nine US soldiers. That was when the US decided that “enough was enough”. The new orders reflect flagging confidence in Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to liquidate Taliban and terrorist safe havens in FATA.

According to one expert, one of the primary reasons the US has stepped up cross-border operations is because the Pakistanis are unable or unwilling to root out the terrorists. The US Defence Department’s General Counsel has interpreted international law to authorise unilateral action under these circumstances. A 1999 General Counsel assessment of legal issues in information operations states, “If a neutral nation is unable or unwilling to halt the use of its territory by one of the belligerents in a manner that gives it a military advantage, the other belligerent may have a right to attack its enemy in the neutral’s territory.”

India suggests Pakistani hand in Delhi blasts

NEW DELHI: India’s defence minister on Monday suggested that Pakistan might have aided those responsible for a series of blasts in New Delhi over the weekend that killed 21 people.

“Militants are being supported from across the border and it is a fact,” Indian Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters in New Delhi, adding, “It is a matter of serious concern.”

Pakistan has denied the accusations and issued a strong statement condemning the attacks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq declined to comment on India’s claim, adding that he had not seen the full report of Antony’s comments.

The Anti-Terror Squad in Mumbai said it was searching for a suspected Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activist, identified as Tauqeer. He is believed to have sent e-mails claiming responsibility for Saturday’s attacks. Tauqeer, a former software company employee, went missing in 2001, apparently joining SIMI and going underground.

Swat Taliban free 25 security personnel

PESHAWAR: Swat-based Taliban freed 25 troops as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ on Monday, of the 38 they had earlier kidnapped.

The release followed a Taliban executive council meeting chaired by rebel cleric Mullah Fazlullah at an undisclosed location in Swat, sources privy to the meeting told Daily Times.

Taliban had captured 38 security personnel during a siege of a post in the Dewlay area of Kabal tehsil on July 30. They had killed one of the captives, Taj Muhammad, last week.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told Daily Times by telephone the remaining 13 would be freed “in two or three days” after another meeting.

“We have freed them in respect of the holy month of Ramazan, therefore, we did not [make any demands],” said the spokesman. He said the men had assured the Taliban they would not return to their jobs as soldiers after being released.

Petrol price down by Rs 5 per litre, diesel up by Rs 3.5

* Government still paying Rs 9.5 per litre subsidy on diesel

ISLAMABAD: The government revised petroleum prices on Monday, reducing the petrol price by Rs 5 per litre and increasing the prices of high-speed diesel (HSD) and kerosene oil by Rs 3.50 a litre.

The revision follows a decline in the global crude oil price, which plunged to $91 a barrel on Monday – the lowest since February.

The Petroleum Ministry presented a summery to Prime Minster Yousuf Raza Gilani, recommending a reduction in the petrol price by Rs 5 to Rs 7 a litre and an increase in the HSD and kerosene oil prices by Rs 5.

The new per litre petroleum prices will be: petrol Rs 81.66, HSD Rs 68.14, and kerosene oil Rs 61.87. The prices for the current fortnight will be effective from Tuesday (today).

Sources in the ministry said the government was still paying a subsidy of Rs 9.50 per litre on diesel despite the current hike. Earlier, the government was paying a subsidy of Rs 13 a litre on diesel.

The sources added the Finance Ministry had opposed the reduction in the petrol price because, according to the ministry, the national exchequer was still burdened by the subsidy.

They said the ministry had informed the government that it owed Rs 60 billion in price differential claims to oil marketing companies (OMCs), which had warned the country could face oil shortage if they were not paid differential claims to place orders for oil import.

The ministry owes Rs 30 billion in differential claims to the Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Rs 10 billion to Shell and Rs 20 billion to other small OMCs.

Nothing can stop army from defending Pakistan: COAS

RAWALPINDI: Nothing can stop the army from defending Pakistan, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Kayani said on Monday.

He was making an informal address to soldiers during a visit to forward posts on the Line of Control and the Line of Actual Contact with India in the Northern Areas.

“No odds [can] deter [the army] from pursuing its obligations towards national defence,” Kayani said.

He said the Pakistani nation honoured its army and “this national support is crucial in synergising a national effort”. Gen Kayani met troops on duty at Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.

He said there was a national consensus on the Kashmir issue in Pakistan.

Zardari-Brown to discuss US attacks today

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet today (Tuesday) to discuss ways to diffuse the prevailing tensions in the Tribal Areas, exacerbated by unprovoked United States attacks. Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik left for London on Monday to assist Zardari during the talks. Today’s meeting will be the first between Brown and Zardari, who is on a private visit to the United Kingdom. During his visit, Zardari will also meet Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain. The two leaders are expected to discuss the MQM’s possible joining of the federal cabinet.

Gilani wants diplomatic solution of raids

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is trying to solve the issue of American attacks inside its Tribal Areas diplomatically, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Monday. He said Pakistan was a responsible country and would not act hastily in retaliation to the US attacks. “We do not jump to conclusions and will solve the issue through talks,” he said. Gilani said National Security Adviser Mehmud Ali Durrani had already written a letter to his US counterpart Stephen Hadley and had urged him to desist from taking unilateral action against Pakistan and to solve the issue through dialogue.

US helicopters abort mission in Waziristan

* Firing from ground reported after alleged incursion attempt near Angoor Adda
* ISPR, US-led coalition and Pentagon deny reports

PESHAWAR: Two United States military helicopters turned back to Afghanistan from the border early on Monday after shots were fired from the ground, but there were conflicting accounts of the incident.

Security officials and tribal elders said the threat of an incursion led Pakistani troops and tribesmen to fire, but the Pakistan Army spokesman, the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and the Pentagon denied the report.

A senior administration official in Wana told Daily Times the US forces took off from the Macha Dad Kot base in Afghanistan’s Paktika province.

“The US choppers came into Pakistan by just 100 to 150 metres at Angoor Adda. Even then our troops did not spare them, opened fire on them and they turned away,” a security official told Reuters.

A second security official told AFP that tribesmen joined in the firing after Pakistani soldiers played bugles to alert them.

ISPR: But ISPR spokesman Major General Athar Abbas denied there had been any such incident. “These reports are not correct,” he said. “We have checked, there is an FC (Frontier Corps) post in the area. No helicopter came inside our side of the border, nor did our troops fire at any,” Abbas added.

US-led coalition: The US-led coalition, based in Bagram, said they were not aware of the incident. “Our helicopters do fly close to the border conducting routine missions, but none have attempted to cross into Pakistan. We have no reports of such events,” an official in the media office said.

Pentagon: “I’ve checked into that and find it to be a spurious report,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. “I’ve checked all the places that would know about something like that and it doesn’t appear to be accurate.”

Meanwhile, the Ahmedzai Wazir tribes have summoned a grand jirga to devise a strategy against possible US incursions, a tribal elder told Daily Times.

Source: Daily Times.
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France wants Europe to lift Afghan troop restrictions

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CANBERRA: France on Wednesday asked its European allies to relax restrictions on troop deployment and operations in Afghanistan just a month after losing 10 soldiers in a Taliban ambush.

Limits on troop operations and years of military underspending in Europe outside the United Kingdom and France were damaging the coalition war effort, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said on a visit to Australia. “Most of Europe has made NATO responsible for their security. Therefore, the weakness of Europe is typified by what you see in Afghanistan,” Morin told journalists.

NATO has struggled to get major nations to contribute more to its Afghan force, and as the death toll rises the challenge only gets greater. Last month was the deadliest for foreign troops since the conflict began, according to independent website Forty-three troops were killed, including the 10 French soldiers hit in a single Taliban ambush.

Many NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan have “national caveats” that restrict how their troops may be used, limiting their flexibility. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year compared the problem to a chess game in which one side enjoyed full freedom of movement and the other could only move a single space in a single direction.

Australia and the United States, both close allies, have been critical of European countries for not doing enough to combat the Taliban in their mountain havens. Australia, an original member of the U.S-led coalition that arrived in 2001 to topple the Taliban, still has around 1,000 troops in the restive Oruzgan province, including special forces.

Morin said “not a cigarette paper in width” separated his own views from those of his Australian counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon after 10 French troops were killed and 21 wounded by the Taliban on August 18. “We share the point of view that the effectiveness of the forces in place in Afghanistan depends very heavily on the conditions that are applied for their use. Caveats prevent the best possible application of the forces,” he said.

Morin said he and Fitzgibbon, and German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung, hoped to visit Afghanistan in December to inspect security for themselves

US to work with Pakistan against Taliban sanctuaries’

Thursday, September 18, 2008

KABUL: Washington will work with Islamabad to address the problem of Taliban safe havens in the Tribal Areas, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday. Speaking to reporters at the Bagram Air Base, Gates said he was encouraged by recent Pakistani military operations against the Taliban. Gates voiced “sincere condolences ... over the recent loss of innocent lives in coalition airstrikes”, and announced a joint probe with Afghanistan into civilian deaths in a recent airstrike.

NATO commander for joint terror war strategy

Thursday, September 18, 2008

LAHORE: All the concerned parties should adopt a joint strategy in the war on terror, Afghanistan NATO chief David McKiernan said on Wednesday. McKiernan met Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen Tariq Majeed and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani at the Rawalpindi GHQ. According to ARY One World, the Pakistani officials informed McKiernan of Pakistan’s concerns about cross-border attacks by US-led forces. McKiernan said NATO forces were not mandated to operate inside Pakistan. daily times monitor

US sees signs of Al Qaeda in attack

Thursday, September 18, 2008

WASHINGTON: Explosions outside the US embassy in Yemen bear “all the hallmarks” of an Al Qaeda attack, the US State Department said on Wednesday, but did not blame a particular organisation for the attack. “After talking to the security personnel, the attack bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda attack where you have multiple vehicle-borne devices,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack when asked which group was suspected in the attack. Yemen, the ancestral home of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, has grappled with a spate of Al Qaeda attacks this year. An Al Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility in March for a mortar attack that missed the US embassy but wounded 13 girls at a nearby school

Gilani and Zardari discuss missile attack

Thursday, September 18, 2008

LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met President Asif Ali Zardari at the President’s House on Wednesday and discussed a missile attack by suspected United States drones on Angoor Adda. According to Dawn News, Gilani briefed the president about his meeting with US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen and US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson. According to the channel, the prime minister is expected to make a policy statement on the cross-border incursions into Pakistan on Thursday. Gilani condemned the latest attack by the US-led coalition forces that left six people dead

Source : Daily Times
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‘Pakistan, US agree on alternative training site’: US army trainers coming in weeks
* Mullen says US has no desire to get into engagement with Pak military
* LAT says Islamabad initially resisted trainers

LAHORE: A long-delayed plan to send dozens of US military advisers to Pakistan to train the Pakistan Army in counter-insurgency could begin in a matter of weeks under a new agreement on a training base, a Los Angeles Times (LAT) report said.

The LAT quoted Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen as saying the US and Pakistan had cleared the remaining obstacles to the arrival of the advisers.

Washington has been urging the Pakistani military to accept the training team for months, the report said. However, Pakistan has resisted such advice, and asked for additional weaponry and equipment that the paper said “some US officials believe is best suited for its standoff with regional rival India”.

Mullen said in an interview that the primary stumbling block had been the fact that Pakistan could not build the training site, near Peshawar, quickly enough, and the two sideas had now agrred to use an alternative base north of the capital.

“We’re still going through some administrative delays, but I do see it happening,” Mullen was quoted as saying. “I think it’s in the next few weeks.”

Mullen said he had made his latest visit to Pakistan because of accusations that the US had violated Pakistan’s sovereignty in a raid this month near the Afghan border. The attacks made Pakistani officials issue a warning that they might open fire on foreign troops crossing into Pakistani territory.

Mullen believed Pakistani officials were insisting on their right “to defend their country, which I understand, which anybody understands”, the LAT said. The paper also quoted Mullen as saying, “Clearly, we have no desire to get into any kind of engagement with the Pakistani military.”

US military in contact with Pak leaders: Gates

LONDON: American military chiefs are in close contact with the new Pakistani leadership and the ‘most productive path’ in dealing with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other insurgents is co-operation with the country, United States Defence Secretary Robert Gates said, a report in The Guardian said on Friday. Gates was in London for the NATO defence ministers’ meeting in which the United States is seeking $20 billion from its allies to help stabilise Afghanistan by sending more troops to confront the growing insurgency.

US, Pakistan close to deal on border strikes: Brown
LONDON: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown voiced opposition on Friday to US strikes against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan but said the two sides were close to reaching a deal on the issue. He was asked about US drones striking targets in the Tribal Areas. Brown told Sky news television, “We’ve made it absolutely clear that is not what we would do…I believe America and Pakistan will reach an agreement about the best way forward.” He added, “We, of course respect the territorial integrity of Pakistan.”

5 killed in JUI madrassa blast
* Witnesses claim suicide bomber blew himself up at madrassa gate

QUETTA: A bomb exploded at a madrassa (religious school) run by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in Quetta on Friday, killing five people and injuring 10 more.

Television footage showed a gaping whole in the external wall around the seminary on the outskirts of the city of Quetta and one partly demolished adjacent room.

“The madrassa people say that someone threw explosives into the madrassa, but we are investigating,” police official Wazir Khan Nasir told Reuters.

But police officer Raja Ishtiaq told AP the blast occurred inside the room and that police were investigating how the bomb got there.

The walls had fallen outwards, another police official said, suggesting there could be some explosives inside the room. “We are looking into all possibilities including whether they were preparing some explosives.”

A witness who identified himself as Shahbaz Ahmad said students had been scuffling with a man who tried to push past them after they asked him why he wanted to enter the compound.

“When they barred his way, he blew himself up,” Ahmad, a young man with a black beard, told reporters at a city hospital.

Ahmad had no visible wounds, but moments later, he collapsed unconscious and doctors rushed to revive him. The madrassa is situated about 15 kilometres north of Quetta. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the explosion so far.

Later on Friday, unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle fired at a police patrol vehicle in Quetta, killing one officer and wounding a policeman and a passer-by, Ishtiaq said. It was unclear if the two incidents were related. Two men were wounded after unidentified attackers lobbed a hand grenade into a house here at Killi Chashma Achozai area of Balochistan in another incident, police said. The motive behind the incident could not be ascertained. Area police have registered a case.

Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, has a history of sectarian violence. The province has been the scene of a low-level insurgency waged by ethnic Baloch nationalists seeking more autonomy. Hundreds of people have died in violence in the province since the insurgency flared in late 2004. The province has also been hit by attacks blamed on Taliban militants. agencies

Four more judges reappointed to SC
ISLAMABAD: The government reappointed two sacked judges of the Supreme Court (SC) and promoted one sacked and one serving judge of the Sindh High Court (SHC) to the SC on Friday. Two separate notifications by the Law and Justice Division said sacked SC judges Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Justice Nasirul Mulk have been reappointed, and sacked SHC chief justice Sabihuddin Ahmad and serving Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany have been promoted to the SC.

President, PM and COAS hold first meeting: Troika denounces US raids
* Meeting decides to defend Pakistan’s sovereignty at all costs
* Army chief briefs meeting on security along Pak-Afghan border

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani met at the President’s House on Friday and said they would defend Pakistan’s sovereignty at all costs.

The maiden meeting between the country’s three most powerful leaders discussed the prevailing security situation and reiterated Pakistan would not allow military action by United States-led forces inside the Tribal Areas. The rules of engagement were clear, they said, and all partners must respect them.

Sources privy to the meeting said the army chief briefed the president and the prime minister on the security situation along the Pak-Afghan border.

The three leaders also discussed the presidential address to a joint session of parliament, and agreed that the president should discuss the US incursions with the parliament, and give a clear policy statement.

“Matters of national and international interest came under discussion during the meeting,” an official press release said.

Militancy and US frustration to dominate Zardari’s address
PESHAWAR: Increasing home-grown militancy, mounting American frustration at the continued Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and alleged militant ‘safe havens’ in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas will dominate President Asif Ali Zardari’s maiden address to the joint session of parliament in Islamabad today (Saturday), according to analysts and coalition government sources. “I think the president should give the nation a new direction,” said Asfandyar Wali Khan, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman and Awami National Party central president. He said the new direction did not mean moving away from the international coalition, but reinventing Pakistan’s role in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. iqbal khattak

Pakistan says no to IMF assistance
* Govt announces macro-economic stabilisation package
* Oil subsidy abolished, power subsidy to go by July 2009

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Naveed Qamar unveiled a policy package on Friday to restore economic stability, ruling out seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

The package includes elimination of subsidies, reduction in development expenditures, financing through non-inflationary instruments and arranging foreign exchange through privatisation of oil, gas and power sector entities.

“The package will bring down the fiscal deficit and current account deficit and protect our reserves,” Naveed Qamar told a news conference.

He said the measures had been decided by the government, and hoped the IMF would endorse them.

Elimination of subsidies: Qamar said elimination of subsidies on fuel and electricity was a key element in the package.

“I can safely announce today ... [that] we have eliminated the entire fuel subsidy and there is no additional subsidy today,” he said.

Qamar said the government would do away with the subsidy on electricity by the end of the 2008/09 (July-June) fiscal year, but the bulk had already been phased out.

State Bank Governor Dr Shamshad Akhtar said the immediate target of the package was to increase foreign exchange reserves to provide an import cover two to three months.

Rupee unlikely to stabilise soon’ KARACHI: The Pakistani rupee fell to a new record low against the dollar on Friday, on weak economic fundamentals and the global financial crisis. Brokers said it was unlikely to stabilise soon. They said the rupee was traded at 78.25 rupees to the dollar but was quoted closing at 77.60/80. The previous record low was 78.15, in early trade on Friday. The brokers said the market was short of dollars because of the State Bank of Pakistan’s buy and swap operations.

Efforts on for economic stability, says Zardari

ISLAMABAD: The country’s economy will be managed in accordance with sound economic principles, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Friday. Talking to International Monetary Fund Middle East and Central Asia Department Director Mohsin S Khan at President House, President Zardari said Pakistan both needed and welcomed development partners but was capable of managing its economy on sound principles. The meeting discussed the country’s economic situation.

Singh, Zardari to discuss terror, infiltration

NEW DELHI: President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh are expected to discuss cross-border terrorism in an upcoming meeting in New York.

In what will be their first meeting after Zardari’s accession to the Presidency, the two leaders are also expected to discuss cross-Line of Control confidence building measures, including announcing the dates for lunching trade on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route.

Officials said Singh was likely to underline cross-border terrorism and infiltration needed to cease to ensure a conducive atmosphere for continuing the dialogue process. Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon on Friday emphasised that an environment free from terrorism was necessary for the normalisation of relations with Pakistan. “We want an end to cross-border terrorism and ceasefire violations, and would like Pakistan to abide by its commitments,” he said.

Menon hoped that the upcoming meeting between Singh and President Zardari would help normalise relations. Singh is leaving for the United States on Monday to address the UN General Assembly in New York and to sign a nuclear agreement with George W Bush administration. iftikhar gilani

Delhi bombing suspects killed in shoot-out
NEW DELHI: Indian police killed two militants during fierce shooting in a Muslim-dominated area of New Delhi on Friday, it said.

The encounter took place near the Jamia Milia Islamia University after police raided an apartment in which five militants were hiding. One was injured and two escaped through the narrow streets in the area.

One of the dead named as, Atif, was an explosive expert and senior leader of militant organisation Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for attacks in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and New Delhi, Delhi Police Commissioner YS Dadwal told reporters.

The commissioner said Atif had visited Ahmedabad and Jaipur just before the serial blasts, adding an operation had begun to arrest militants at large.

Businessmen closed shops in protest at what they claimed was a ‘fake encounter’. They allege the deceased were arrested from their apartment at midnight, and police killed them later after returning them.

The commissioner however rejected the claim, and said the militants first attacked the police, adding three policemen were wounded during the encounter. iftikhar gilani

Pakistan considers buying N-power plants
* Prime minister approves satellite communications project, forms committee to formulate purchase modalities

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday met senior officials to discuss the possibility of buying nuclear plants to meet the country’s energy shortages.

Project: Sources told Daily Times that Gilani approved a satellite communications project and set up a committee to work out the modalities regarding the purchase of nuclear plants. The Reuters news agency quoted an official as saying that the committee would also decide on “the financial arrangements before a formal decision is made on the purchase of nuclear energy plants”.

The Planning Commission deputy chairman, the finance, foreign affairs and water and power secretaries and the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) director general comprise the committee that will execute financial arrangements before a formal decision is made regarding the purchase of nuclear energy plants and satellite communications system.

The prime minister was earlier briefed on nuclear energy and satellite communications projects by Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Gen Tariq Majeed, the Planning Commission deputy chairman and the SPD director at the Prime Minster’s House.

Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, Finance Minister Naveed Qamar, federal secretaries and senior government officials also attended the meeting.
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Muslim support for suicide attacks, Osama down
* Support for suicide bombings has fallen by 28 percent to five percent in last six years in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The number of Muslims globally supporting suicide attacks and Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden has fallen sharply in the past six years, a survey by a US think-tank showed on Thursday.

The Pew Research Centre however warned in its Global Attitudes Project that significant Muslim minorities in eight countries continue to endorse suicide bombings and support the Al Qaeda chief.

In Lebanon, the number of Muslims who said suicide attacks can be justified often or sometimes in defence of Islam fell from 74 percent to 32 percent between 2002 and 2008, the study showed.

Suicide bombings: In Pakistan, support for suicide bombings has fallen by 28 percent to five percent in the past six years.

In Jordan, support has dropped 18 percent since 2002, but a quarter of Jordanian Muslims still support suicide attacks.

Even though numbers have fallen by 15 percent in six years in Indonesia, around 10 percent continue to support suicide attacks.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, where around half the population is Muslim, also saw a 15 percent decline in support, but that left nearly one-third still supporting suicide bombings.

Turkey and Tanzania saw declines in support for suicide bombings by 10 and six percent, respectively.

Support in Turkey was the lowest of any of the countries surveyed, with only three percent telling Pew pollsters in March and April that they back suicide bombings.

Large numbers of Muslims in the eight countries also said they had lost confidence in Bin Laden in terms of world affairs, although support for the Al Qaeda leader remained high in some countries.

In Nigeria, support for Bin Laden is at 60 percent, the same as it was five years ago.

Support for Bin Laden fell from nearly six in 10 Indonesian Muslims, and from nearly half in Pakistan in 2003 to one-third today.

The most dramatic drop in support for Bin Laden was seen in Jordan, where around 19 percent of Muslims expressed confidence in him this year, down from 60 percent just three years ago.

More than 24,000 people in 24 countries were surveyed this year for the project, including just under 8,000 in the eight countries asked for their views on suicide bombings and Bin Laden.

Bush says US government role needed to ease crisis
Updated at: 0153 PST, Saturday, September 20, 2008
Bush says US government role needed to ease crisis WASHINGTON: U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday that U.S. government intervention in financial markets is not only warranted but “it is essential'' to calm nervous consumers and to halt the worst financial crisis in decades.

“America's economy is facing unprecedented challenges. We're responding with unprecedented measures,'' Bush said in a Rose Garden statement. Standing alongside were Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"This is a pivotal moment for America's economy,'' Bush said. He said that a financial contagion that began with sub-prime home mortgages has “spread throughout our financial system'' and "led to an erosion of confidence that has frozen many financial transactions,'' including ones to ordinary consumers and small businesses.

"We must act now to protect our nation's health from serious risk,'' he said.

He said steps being envisioned by the administration, which Paulson said earlier Friday could entail "hundreds of billions'' of dollars were not without risk.

“Significant amounts of taxpayer dollars are on the line,'' Bush said. Even so, he added, “We expect this money will eventually be paid back.''

It was the third time this week that Bush has spoken on the financial crisis in an effort to calm jittery consumers and markets.

He pledged to work in a bipartisan way with the Democratic-controlled Congress on a system wide proposal to improve the health of U.S. financial institutions.

No one allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan: President Zardari
Updated at: 1553 PST, Saturday, September 20, 2008
No one allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan: President Zardari ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari has said that no country would be allowed to violate territorial integrity of Pakistan in the name of curbing terrorism.

Addressing his maiden Joint Parliamentary session here, the President said that he was grateful to Almighty Allah over his election as President of Pakistan. He said that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto laid her life for the cause of democracy.

President Zardari urged the parliament to form an all parties committee to remove distortions in the constitution and ‘revisit’ the 17th Amendment and Article 58(2)B. “Never before in the history of this country has a President stood here and given away his powers”, Zardari said in his maiden address to the joint sitting of the parliament since taking oath as President on September 9.

He said it was the responsibility of the elected representatives to remove these distortions in the Constitution made by the successive dictators to prolong their rule.

The President in his address touched all issues of national importance as well as the challenges facing the country including the war against terrorism, regional situation, economic downturn, foreign policy and the relations with the neighboring countries.

“My dream is to free this great country from the shackles of poverty, hunger, terrorism and disunity.”

President Zardari said a heavy national agenda challenges the government, and “It is the agenda of moving quickly to heal the wounds of the past and restore the trust in the federation.”

He said successive blows have weakened the federation, which needs to be strengthened.

“For this, the bitterness of the past must give way to reconciliation and harmony. I believe that the 1973 constitution is the only consensus document that can fashion such a social contract”, he added.

The President asked the government to start consensus-building process on provincial autonomy and the allocation of resources through a new formula that meets the needs of a united federation.

Referring to the past excesses against Baloch people, the President said tendering an apology to the people of Balochistan was a long overdue step.

The release from captivity of former Chief Minister Balochistan is also a positive move, he said adding the resolution recently, of a longstanding dispute and payment of billions of rupees to Balochistan is a step in the right direction.

“But much more needs to be done”, he stressed.

Similarly, the President said the people of the Northern Areas must also get their basic rights, representative rule and an independent judiciary.

“We believe in the independence of the judiciary and all matters concerning the judiciary shall be resolved in accordance with the constitution and law”, he added.

President Zardari said his address to the joint session of the Parliament, in less than two weeks after his election as President shows that the coalition holds the parliament in the highest esteem.

It also shows that the government accords the highest priority to the fulfillment of its obligations under the Constitution and law, he added.

“Under dictatorship, the Parliament was stripped of its powers, and not given due respect.”

He regretted that despite the constitutional requirement the head of the state in the last eight years only once addressed the joint sitting of the parliament.

President Zardari assured the legislators that parliament would never be bypassed in matters of national importance.

“The days of constitutional deviation and bypassing the Parliament while taking decisions of national importance are over.”

He made it clear that the President and the government must always seek guidance from the Parliament in carrying out their duties.

“We are committed to upholding the sanctity of the Constitution, supremacy of the Parliament, and, rule of law.

“The cardinal principle of our governance is respect for the mandate of the people as manifested in the February 18 elections.”

About the menace of terrorism and extremism, the President said, “We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they may rear their ugly heads.”

Reforming the tribal areas and bringing them into the mainstream of national life can no longer be delayed, he said and added they must be treated at par with the rest of their Pakistani brethren.

The President also spoke of the government’s three-pronged strategy to meet the challenge posed by the extremist and terrorist elements in the Tribal Areas and the adjoining regions.

He said the strategy comprises: firstly to make peace with those who are willing to keep the peace and renounce violence; secondly to invest in the development and social uplift of the local people.

The use force will only be a last resort against those who refuse to surrender their arms, take the law into their hands, challenge the writ of the Government and attack security forces, he added.

The President said he would request the government to hold a national security briefing for an in-camera joint session of Parliament, so that all stakeholders have ownership of this policy.

“Let everyone have an opportunity to make an informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility and clarity of vision.”

He said the government should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil for carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country.

The President however stated in categorical terms that Pakistan would not tolerate the violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism.

Zardari said, as the world has become a dangerous place for nations with conflict on their borders, Pakistan needs peace not only within but also in its neighborhood.

“At all times, we must keep our national interest in mind”, he said and added “this means understanding the limits of confrontation.”

Under this strategy, Zardari said, President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai was especially invited to his oath taking ceremony.

It was as a mark of Pakistan’s sincere desire and consistent efforts to promote close relations and strengthen cooperation with the brotherly country of Afghanistan, he added.

On relations with India, he said, the government believes that relations between the two countries can and should be creatively reinvented.

He recalled that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had said, “It is time for new ideas. It is time for bold commitment. And it is time for honesty, both among people and between people. There has been enough pain. It is time for reconciliation.”

The President said for these ideas and for seeking peaceful relations in the region, “we were once called, a “security risk” by our critics. “But ideas cannot be killed by repression.”

He said the Charter of Democracy binds the government to a framework of peace and justice for the people of Pakistan and peace and friendship with India.

Pakistan has decided to resume the composite-dialogue process with India, driving its relations through enhanced trade, he added.

He expressed complete commitment to the Kashmiri people in their just struggle for their fundamental rights.

“We will continue to seek the settlement of all outstanding disputes, including the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir so that the main hurdle in the way towards peace and full normalization of relations between Pakistan and India is removed.”

President Zardari said as a new initiative a cross-LoC trade as a pioneering CBM in Kashmir will be started.

He also proposed a more liberal visa regime to further expand people-to-people contacts and friendly exchanges, and establish new facilities for the visiting Sikh and Hindu pilgrims.

He urged the Parliament to form a bipartisan caucus for the purpose of resolving outstanding disputes relating to Kashmir and the Indus Water head works.

“All parties must be represented on this caucus so that the nation is united on this key issue and draws strength by speaking in one voice.”

Foreigners among 40 killed in Islamabad suicide attack

Updated at: 2046 PST, Saturday, September 20, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Foreigners among 40 killed in Islamabad suicide attack ISLAMABAD.At least 40 people were killed, including foreigners and over 70 others injured when an explosives laden truck rammed into a five star hotel here on Saturday.

The wounded, many of them critically, have been brought the local hospitals.

The powerful explosion caused fire in many parts of the hotel besides shattering the windowpanes of the buildings around the hotel.

Rescue operation is underway to bring out the people trapped inside the hotel.

Emergency has been declared in the hospitals of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

About 50 to 60 kilograms of explosive material was used in the deadly explosion, sources said.

This hotel in Islamabad is a favorite place for foreigners to stay and gather, and it has previously been targeted by militants.

Ambulances rushed to the scene, where a fire also burned, smoke hovered and the carcasses of vehicles were scattered.

According to senior correspondent of Geo News, Hamid Mir, about 100 people are feared dead in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, and its exact cause was unclear. But Pakistan, a U.S. ally in the war on terror, has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border
regions, though the capital has avoided most of the bloodshed.

Source: Daily Times, GEO
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We must eliminate ‘ugly heads of terror’: Zardari

* Pakistan in critical phase, president tells parliament
* Seeks in-camera ‘national security briefing’ for parliament
* Says Pakistan will defend sovereignty, won’t allow terrorists to operate from its soil

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is passing through a critical phase and must root out all forms of terrorism and extremism from its soil, President Asif Ali Zardari told a joint session of parliament on Saturday.

“We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they may rear their ugly heads,” he said in his maiden address to the parliament.

Briefing for parliament: The president said he would ask the government to hold a national security briefing for an in-camera joint session of parliament.

“Let everyone have an opportunity to make an informed judgment about the risks to our beloved country and about how we should move forward with responsibility and clarity of vision.”

Sovereignty: “We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism,” Zardari said, without naming the United States.

But at the same time, Pakistan must stop militants from using its territory for attacks on other countries, he said. Reforming the Tribal Areas and bringing them into the mainstream could no longer be delayed, he said.

‘We will not be deterred’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis will not be deterred by ‘cowardly acts of terrorism’ and will purge their country of ‘this cancer’, President Asif Zardari said in a television address late on Saturday. He said he was aggrieved by the losses in the massive bomb attack earlier on Saturday and that he knew how it felt to lose a loved one. He asked Pakistanis to ‘turn their grief into power’. Zardari said the country would not forget the sacrifice the victims had made, and the terrorists would bow before Pakistan one day. Those who had carried out the attack in the holy month of Ramazan were not Muslims, he said. The president said the terrorists had turned the happy moment of the restoration of democracy into that of grief, and asked all political parties to unite against terrorism.

Here is what happened

* Suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden truck into the main gate of Marriott Hotel around 8pm

* The explosion left a 25-foot deep and 30-foot wide crater

* Entire area turned to rubble

* Gas pipeline burst keeping the hotel building ablaze for hours

* Buildings within a 3-km radius were damaged, including Frontier House and PTV building

* Powerful explosion heard as far as 30 kilometres away

Eyewitness account

ISLAMABAD: We had just begun our Iftar when the bomb went off. Around 300 people had just begun their dinner. Along with dozens of panic-stricken Pakistanis and foreigners, we waded through the devastated building. We could only imagine the damage’s extent on finally finding our way out through the back of the hotel – the front walls of the hotel, dozens of concrete blocks, and about two dozen cars, including mine, were destroyed and charred beyond recognition.

‘Pakistan’s 9/11’ kills 60, injures 200; Nation mourns; Terrorists hit back hours after Zardari’s warning

This is Pakistan's War

* Explosives-laden truck rammed into Marriott Hotel
* US national among the dead, several foreigners injured
* Nearby Frontier House, Chief Justice’s House, IT Towers and PTV building damaged
* Rehman Malik says government received intelligence reports two days ago
* 14-year-old suspect arrested from the scene

ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with explosives at the Marriott Hotel in a brazen attack in the heart of Islamabad on Saturday, killing at least 60 people.

At least 200 people, including a PPP legislator, were injured in the massive explosion, which ruptured a gas pipeline and triggered a huge blaze.

A US national was killed and several foreigners were injured, hospital officials told AFP. Many victims leapt to their deaths from the upper floors of the hotel to escape the fire, a senior security official said. Officials were worried that the hotel, a key meeting place for foreigners, would collapse.

Nearby buildings: The explosion was heard throughout Islamabad and left a 25-foot crater. Some of the victims were in the adjacent Frontier House, Chief Justice’s House, IT Towers and the PTV building, which were severely damaged.

Sixteen US nationals were inside the hotel at the time of the attack, an official said, adding they included diplomats. The PIMS spokesman said four Germans, two Saudis and two British nationals were injured. Hotel owner Sadruddin Hashwani told Geo News most of the foreigners were rescued through the rear exit.

President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack.

Intelligence reports: “We had intelligence reports two days ago that some incident might take place,” Interior Adviser Rehman Malik told reporters.

Suspect: ARY One World said police arrested a 14-year-old suspect outside the hotel.

Source: Daily Times.

‘Pakistan won’t tolerate incursions’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not tolerate infringement of its territory in the name of the fight against militancy while the biggest challenge facing the government is the economy, President Asif Ali Zardari said yesterday.

In his first address to the joint session of the Parliament President Asif Ali Zardari called for peace with neighboring countries, end of terrorism and reiterated that his government was committed to the supremacy of Parliament and complete restoration of democracy.

Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, also said in his first address to a joint sitting of Parliament Pakistan needed peace with its neighbors and relations with old rival India should be “creatively reinvented.”

Zardari won a presidential election this month to replace firm US ally Pervez Musharraf who stepped down in August under threat of impeachment.

He said in order to eradicate terrorism his government would adopt a threepronged strategy — to negotiate with those militants who intend to surrender and wish to live in peace, to provide sufficient funds for the development of tribal areas and establishment of education and health care and to use force against those who do not wish to live in peace.

Frustrated by an intensifying Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan, the United States has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistan with six missile attacks by pilotless drones and a helicopter-borne ground assault this month.

The US attacks have infuriated many in Pakistan, which is also battling militants, and the army has vowed to stand up to aggression across the border.

But a senior Pakistani official told Reuters earlier the latest missile strike, which killed five militants on Wednesday, was the result of better US-Pakistani intelligence sharing.

Zardari did not refer to the US strikes but said territorial violations were unacceptable. “We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism,” Zardari told Parliament. At the same time, Pakistan must stop militants from using its territory for attacks on other countries, he said.

Zardari said the biggest challenge for the government, which is led by his party, was the economy. The most urgent task was food security for the poor burdened by rising prices, he said, but added that would not be enough.

Acting Finance Minister Naveed Qamar unveiled a package on Friday that included eliminating fuel subsidies, cut its development budget, more privatization and slashing net borrowing from the central bank to zero.

Pakistan’s current account deficit widened to $2.57 billion in July and August, the first two months of the 2008/09 fiscal year. That is equivalent to about 1.6 percent of gross domestic product, compared with a full-year target of 6.0 percent.

Foreign reserves have fallen below $9 billion, having hit a record high of $16.5 billion in October last year, while inflation is more than 25 percent. Pakistani stocks have fallen 35 percent this year and the rupee has weakened by 20 percent.

Source: Arab News.

Huge Blast Strikes Pakistan Capital

ISLAMABAD -- Over 50 people were killed and hundreds wounded when a massive truck bomb devastated the Marriott hotel in a high-security neighborhood of the Pakistani capital Saturday, engulfing the building in flames.

The terrorist attack, one of the worst in Pakistan's history, occurred just a few blocks away from the prime minister's residence, where the country's top civil and military leaders were attending a dinner after President Asif Ali Zardari addressed a joint session of parliament. With many people trapped inside the hotel, the death toll is expected to rise. Three Americans were among the wounded.

Pakistan Taliban Movement, a little-known Islamist militant outfit, claimed responsibility. The attack came as Pakistani forces stepped up an operation against militants in Pakistan's tribal region and areas in northwestern Pakistan.

The hotel was a popular place for foreign tourists, journalists and businesspeople, as well as with well-heeled Pakistanis. It has been the target of less devastating attacks in the past. Anti-American sentiments are running high in Pakistan after an increase U.S. missile attacks from pilotless drones against suspected militant hideouts inside Pakistan's tribal region. The attacks also have killed civilians. And there was widespread outrage, among Pakistani civilians as well as politicians and military leaders, at a U.S. commando raid across the border on a suspected militant hideout.

Witnesses and police said the bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the front gate of the hotel; the bomb left a crater about 30 feet deep and 15 feet wide. The hotel has tight security for vehicles.

"The bomber fired several shots in the air when his entry inside the gate was blocked," said Mohammed Ismail, a security guard who was on duty at the hotel. "There was a massive explosion shaking the entire structure. Several guards were blown to pieces."

A driver standing in the hotel parking said people rushed out from the building crying for help. Many more were trapped inside at the hotel burst into flame to the point where police warned that the building could collapse. "The entire area was enveloped under heavy smoke. Bodies were scattered all around," said Mohammed Farooq, the driver. "Scores of people, including foreigners, were running out, some of them stained with blood."

Senior police official Asghar Raza Gardaizi estimated the bomb carried more than 2,200 pounds of explosives. He said in the midst of the rescue operation that at least 40 people were killed and many more feared buried in the rubble.

However, Kamal Shah, a senior Interior Ministry official, said early Sunday he knew of only 38 confirmed deaths.

The five-story hotel is blocks away from parliament, the president's house and the prime minister's house.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Zardari said the government's was determined to combat tackle the increasing terrorist problem. He also said Pakistan would not tolerate any infringements of its sovereignty, a reference to the recent U.S. incursion. And he outlined a series of measures the government would take shortly to shore up Pakistan's ailing economy. There has been a sharp rise in capital flight from the country because of the deteriorating security situation.

"We will start a new beginning and effective measures will be taken soon to redress the economic woes," Mr. Zardari said.

Pakistan's fiscal deficit has ballooned because of higher oil subsidies and an increase in defense spending. Inflation has also shot up while growth is slowing, prompting nervous investors to dump local stocks and in turn punish the Pakistani rupee, which is currently trading near all-time lows against the U.S. dollar.

The government has removed all subsidies on oil and plans to introduce steps to restore the confidence of domestic and foreign investors in the local financial markets, Mr. Zardari said, without elaborating. The federal government will also take steps to improve agricultural output and crop acreage to protect the interests of farmers, he said.

Islamabad has seen a series of terrorist attacks over the last year, targeting security forces and foreign nationals. In July, a suicide bombing killed at least 18 people, most of them members of the security forces. In June, a suicide car bomber killed at least six people near the Danish Embassy. A statement attributed to al Qaeda took responsibility for that blast. In mid-March, a bomb exploded at an Italian restaurant, killing a Turkish woman.

Mr. Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the attack, saying the bombing will strengthen the government resolve to fight terrorism.

Source: The Wall Street Journal.
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US to help Pakistan in fighting terrorism

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NEW YORK: The United States is going to work with Pakistan to strengthen its ability to fight terrorism, according to a State Department spokesman. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Monday, “If you look at what happened on Saturday, this is an example of why we, the Pakistanis, the Afghans, need to work and redouble our efforts to counter extremism in this region. We’ll continue to work with the Pakistanis on trying to deal with the Taliban and Al Qaeda threat,” he said. Adviser on Interior to the Prime Minister Rehman Malik, was meanwhile quoted in the US as saying, “We do not need help. We are competent. We reject it.”

Pakistan, Afghanistan mull joint border force

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

WASHINGTON/KABUL: Pakistan and Afghanistan are discussing a possible joint force to combat militants along the their common border, Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said on Monday.

He told reporters at the Pentagon that Afghanistan had proposed a joint military task force to operate on both sides of the border.

“We should have a combined joint task force of coalition, Afghans and Pakistanis to be able to operate on the both sides of the border,” he said.

The proposal was sent to Islamabad about a month ago, he said. Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AP no formal proposal for a multinational cross-border force had been received by the army and that he was unaware of any discussion of the idea within the tripartite commission.

Co-operation:Also, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to have “widespread and honest co-operation” against terrorism, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office said, following a massive suicide attack outside the Marriott Hotel, Islamabad.

Karzai telephoned Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani late on Sunday to offer condolences for Saturday’s suicide attack, AFP quoted the Afghan presidential office as saying in a statement.

The statement quoted Gilani as saying that “now the need for a joint strategy in the war against terror is felt more than ever”.

Investigators hunt Qaeda cell after blast

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Investigators on Monday scrambled to track down an Islamabad-based Al Qaeda cell believed to have carried out the devastating bombing of the Marriott Hotel, security officials said.

Investigators said they believed the attackers constructed the massive 600-kilogramme truck bomb at a safe house in the capital, since most lorries entering the heavily guarded city are searched at checkpoints.

“Our focus at the moment is to track down the network in Islamabad which must have facilitated the movement and construction of the bomb,” a senior official involved in the investigation told AFP.

It was likely, however, that the explosives were smuggled into Islamabad in small consignments from militant strongholds in the Tribal Areas, the official added.

Explosives used in the bombing were like those used in two other major militant attacks, including one on the Danish embassy in Islamabad in June.

“We are collecting evidence. The explosives were similar to those used in the Danish embassy, which was claimed by Al Qaeda, and the attack on the ISI camp in Rawalpindi last year,” the official said.

The intelligence agencies and not the police would arrest the suspects, an intelligence official told Daily Times.

Forensic report: Sources privy to the developments said the forensic report was likely to be delayed as experts determine the nature of the explosives used in the attack, and that might create problems for the investigation team. The team might submit a report in two days however, they said.

US team: A three-member team of US experts visited the crime scene along with Pakistani investigators on Monday, and took photographs and collected samples.

Meanwhile, a team completed the search and rescue operation in the hotel and said the building was not likely to collapse.

Govt, KESC mull partnership on power projects

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has made an offer to the KESC’s new management that the government can become a partner in its power generation projects if the utility is ready to install coal-based power plants to overcome the power shortage in the city.

He made this offer during a meeting with the KESC’s new management held at the Chief Minister House on Monday, where the utility’s officials briefed the CM on the power situation in the Karachi. Shah advised them to set up power plants at Jhirrk and Sonda in district Thatta, where coal is abundantly available, an official handout said.

“WAPDA and the Sindh government can also become partners in some projects aimed at raising power generation capacity,” the chief minister said. He asked the KESC management to make adequate arrangements to minimize load shedding, while proper publicity of the load-shedding schedule should also be arranged so that people can arrange appropriate alternatives.

The chief minister said that there is general shortage of electricity in the country, particularly in Karachi. As a result, the development process affected on the one hand and domestic supply continues to be interrupted on the other and the people are being provoked. He stressed on the need to overcome the problems by enhancing power generation capacity and minimizing load shedding. He said that the government will fully support the new management in its endeavors, commitments and programs to improve production, supply and distribution of electricity to consumers of the city.

Senior advisor to Abraj Brigadier Mazharul Haq and KESC CEO Naveed Ismail informed the chief minister that there is shortage of around 400 MW and that the new management is making efforts to overcome the shortages, lapses and deficiencies. They said that KESC faces many problems, particularly theft by various means, including the kunda system. According to them, at least 180 MW power will be added by next summer, while 50 MW more may be added by burning natural gas.

The KESC management said that a 10-year plan has been chalked out to overcome power shortages and make the utility self-sufficient for power generation, so as to fulfill the power requirement in the Karachi.

Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri presented the aspirations of the people of Karachi, who face much hardship due to load shedding. She stressed on the need for proper and timely release of information, achievements and load shedding schedules through the electronic media and newspapers. She commented that that an appropriate strategy should be evolved to meet the challenges and needs of power consumption in the future
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IAEA: North Korea Plans to Reinsert Nuclear Material in Reactor

VIENNA -- The U.N. nuclear agency says North Korea plans to reinsert nuclear material into its Yongbyon reactor.

The move is a further sign that the North is making good on threats to restart the nuclear program that allowed it to conduct a test explosion two years ago.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA board on Wednesday that IAEA inspectors removed agency seals from the reactor earlier in the day, according to an IAEA statement.

He said the North said it would reintroduce the nuclear material within a week.

Copyright © 2008 Associated Press
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Khyber Agency: militants’ hideouts eradicated

Updated at: 1557 PST, Thursday, September 25, 2008 Khyber Agency: militants’ hideouts eradicated

PESHAWAR: Armed tribal lashkhar burnt down most of the militants’ centers situated in Khyber Agency here on Thursday.

Militants’ hideouts were set on fire by the tribal lashkar in Malagori area of Khyber Agency, forcing them to vacate the area.

The decision to burn down militants’ positions was taken in a jirga headed by Haji Abdul Manan. Jirga was also attended by member of Malagori areas. The armed tribal army set ablaze center of local militants.

Lashkar bombed militants’ hideouts with artillery and took the area under control. Some militants were also arrested in the attack while rest of the insurgents managed to flee from the area.

Talking to Geo News, leaders of Malagori tribe confirmed that militants’ hideouts have been eliminated and vowed to continue attacks as well.

Bajaur: four militants killed in air strikes

Updated at: 1500 PST, Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bajaur: four militants killed in air strikes KHAR: Pakistan military’s gunship helicopter shot dead four militants in fresh shelling as security forces continued operation against militants in Bajaur Agency on Thursday.

Security forces bombed militants’ hideouts in Gung area of Salarzai in Bajaur Agency in which four militants and one civilian were killed. According to sources, death toll may rise.

Meanwhile, mortars were fired at militants’ positions in Loisam and Mamond while choppers bombed their hideouts in Salarzai.

Source: Geo News

US has right to hit targets inside Pakistan: Gates

* US defence secretary says crossing border in pursuance of terrorists not against UN charter
* Hopes for stronger partnership with Zardari

WASHINGTON: The United States has a right to act against terrorist targets in Pakistan, but the new civilian government in Islamabad has to be ‘a willing partner’, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday.

“I think it is essential for Pakistan to be a willing partner in any strategy we have to deal with the threat coming out of its western part and the eastern part of Afghanistan,” Gates said at a hearing of Senate Armed Services Committee.

UN charter: Gates said that in his view, the United Nations charter allowed the US to act in self-defence against international terrorists in Pakistan if the government was unable, or unwilling to deal with them.

“I will say to you, though, we will do what is necessary to protect our troops, but it is very important to engage the Pakistani government. I think the threat that they are seeing, threats to themselves, creates the opportunity where we can work together and there is no necessity for us to take any actions to protect our troops along those lines,” he said.

Partnership: Gates said that the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad clearly showed that the US and Pakistan faced a common threat, and expressed hope for ‘an even stronger partnership’ with President Asif Ali Zardari than with his predecessor, General (r) Pervez Musharraf.

However, stepped up unilateral US missile strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas have strained relations between the two countries.

President Zardari on Saturday vowed that Pakistan would not tolerate violations of its sovereignty.

Gates said there were signs of improved co-operation with the Pakistanis despite the frictions.

Fidayeen-e-Islam threatens to attack ‘US facilitators’

LAHORE: The Fidayeen-e-Islam (FI), a terrorist outfit that claimed responsibility for the Marriott Hotel suicide blast in Islamabad, has threatened to target every person facilitating the United States Army in Pakistan, Geo News reported on Wednesday. In a message to an Arab TV office in Islamabad, the FI rejected the Pentagon’s claim that only two US marines had been killed in the Marriott blast, the channel said. A large number of US marines, FBI officials and European diplomats was staying at the upper three storeys of the hotel, the channel quoted the FI as saying. However, the message did not mention the number of US officials the militant organisation believed died in the bombing, it added.

Pakistan will not tolerate violation of sovereignty: Gilani

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will not tolerate violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity by anyone in the name of fighting terrorism, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said on Wednesday. “I want to declare categorically that we will not tolerate violation of our sovereignty by anyone in the name of combating terrorism,” Gilani said at the Iftar reception hosted for the media at Prime Minister’s House. “We need peace not only in Pakistan but also in the region. This requires your (media) co-operation and collaboration.” Gilani reiterated the government’s resolve to fight terrorism, and urged the media to co-operate with the government in facing the challenges of terrorism and extremism.

Pentagon says crashed ‘drone’ not from US

ISLAMABAD/NEW YORK: The Pakistani military said on Wednesday a pilotless aircraft that crashed in South Waziristan had been recovered, but the Pentagon denied any US drone had been lost in the area. Separately, the US military said one of its aerial vehicles had gone down with engine problems in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, but US forces had immediately recovered the aircraft. National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani told Daily Times however that the drone had crashed due to malfunction. He said military authorities had informed him the Pakistan Army had secured the site where the aircraft crashed and the US had been informed. But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters on Wednesday: “We have no reports of any downed unmanned aerial vehicles.” Asked if that included unmanned aircraft operated by other agencies of the US government, Whitman stressed he had no reports of any missing drones. Shortly afterward, however, a US military spokesman in Afghanistan said a drone had crashed there. The Pakistani military confirmed that a pilotless aircraft had crashed but did not identify it as American. Other countries with forces in Afghanistan have not been known to operate drones over Pakistani territory. “A surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle while flying over Pak-Afghan border yesterday night crash landed, on this side of the border ... apparently due to malfunctioning,” the Pakistan Army said in a statement.

Suicide bomber targets FC convoy in Quetta

QUETTA: A teenaged female student was killed and 22 people were injured in a suicide blast aimed at a Frontier Corps (FC) convoy in Quetta cantonment on Wednesday afternoon.

“It was a suicide bomb. A young man aged 22 to 24 years with light beard, set off his explosives near a convoy of FC vans,” said Mohammad Akbar Arain, the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO).

“We are investigating the matter and will let the media and the public know once the investigation process is complete,” Arain said.

The blast that occurred in front of the Pakistan Army-maintained Askari Petrol Pump and Askari Park damaged two FC vans. A school van, passing by the site of the blast, was also damaged. A 19-year-old female student, Shahida, was killed.

“The FC team was the actual target,” said FC Inspector General Maj Gen Saleem Nawaz, adding, “Luckily, no one has been killed among the FC personnel.” Thirteen FC personnel were injured in the attack. No group has accepted responsibility for the blast.

AP quoted provincial police chief Asif Nawaz Warraich as telling Dawn News that 13 people including 11 FC personnel were injured in the blast. Raja Ishtiaq, another senior police official told AP that the girl who died was an 11-year old.

Meanwhile, APP reported that President Asif Ali Zardari and Acting President Mohammadmian Soomro condemned the blast, and hoped for the early recovery of the injured.

Zardari favours bilateral solution of Kashmir dispute with India

* President says US and Pakistan will rectify past mistakes

NEW YORK: If the people of India and Pakistan stand together, the Kashmir issue can be resolved, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday. But he refrained from confirming, despite a correspondent’s question, whether Pakistan’s position on Kashmir was still anchored in United Nations resolutions.

“If need be, we can always go back to the United Nations,” he added, but it was clear that he was keen to de-emphasise the role of the UN and felt that the issue of Kashmir should rather be dealt with bilaterally, a position India has long preferred and advocated.

Zardari said in answer to a question that he will take up the issue of water in his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later in the day.

Asked if in his meeting with President George Bush, he had been given the assurance that there will be no more physical incursions or attacks into Pakistani territory, the president replied that the US president’s statements on the subject were indicative of his ‘mindset’. It was clear that without being specific, the Pakistani leader was satisfied that there would not be a repetition of such attacks. He said the two sides were in ‘constant dialogue’ and Pakistan considers such attacks to be ‘counter-productive’ and not likely to win ‘hearts and minds’.

Asked to elaborate on one of his first statements that there would be ‘good news’ on Kashmir, Zardari answered that Kashmir remains the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan and every Pakistani government has viewed it so. The Pakistani position is well known. The current uprising is indigenous. However, the problem can be resolved through a ‘people to people dialogue’.

He said that his government would like to settle outstanding issues with its neighbours bilaterally and by talking to them.

In reply to a question about the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Zardari said market forces would need to be brought in to make the project a reality since as much as $6 billion is required to put it on the ground. When a reporter said the US assurances extended to Pakistan vis-à-vis the war on terrorism were ‘no good’, he replied that there were weaknesses indeed but “we are trying to turn those weaknesses into strengths”.

He also said that “they have made mistakes and we have made mistakes but we are going to revisit those mistakes and correct them”.

He said although he hoped for the best, “hope is not a plan”. He denied that the ISI had come up for discussion during his meeting with Bush.

Asked if the ‘parting of the ways’ with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is permanent, he said he has a lot of respect for Nawaz Sharif and considers him his elder brother but there are ‘some hawks’ in Nawaz’s party and there has been talk of fresh elections.

“They are not advising their leader properly,” he added. As to what he was doing to introduce a ‘culture of austerity’ in Pakistan, he replied that he would lead by example and cited his travel by a commercial airline as an example of how he would set the austerity campaign into motion.

Zardari made several references to how he would like to go down in history. He said he would like to be remembered as someone who had abided by the struggle for democracy carried out by the PPP. He also made many references to his wife and leader Benazir Bhutto whose legacy he was committed to carrying forward.

To a question regarding his meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Zardari spoke about a ‘new chapter in our relations’, adding, “I am the new face of democracy in Pakistan.”

He also reiterated his strong desire to improve relations with India. As for the proposal that there should be joint patrolling of the Pak-Afghan border, he said if the proposal was brought up formally, it would be considered. As for Pakistan’s difficult economic situation, he said, “We are getting a sympathetic hearing.”

When honour killings in Pakistan, in particular, his own province of Sindh were brought to his notice, Zardari replied in an emotional tone that he is the father of two daughters and the brother of three sisters and this issue is very close to his heart.

He said Benazir Bhutto is always by his side and he is guided by her principles and is inspired by her ideals. He also noted that those responsible for the murder of five Baloch women, who were seen to have defied tribal custom, had been arrested.

About the UN investigation into Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Zardari replied that it had been taken up and the UN itself had condemned it in a resolution.

US should hold talks with Mullah Omar: Ghani
* Says militant leaders ‘a power group that has to be preserved to seek political solutions’

LAHORE: The United States needs to talk to Mullah Omar to negotiate peace in Afghanistan, NWFP Governor Owais Ghani has said.

In an interview to The Daily Telegraph in Peshawar, Ghani urged the US to ‘talk’ to militant commanders in Afghanistan to establish peace. “They have to talk to Mullah Omar, certainly – not maybe, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Jalaluddin Haqqani group,” Ghani said.

“The solution, the bottom line, is that political stability will only come to Afghanistan when all political power groups, irrespective of the length of their beard, are given their just due share in the political dispensation in Afghanistan,” the governor said.

The paper expected Ghani’s remarks to ‘cause controversy’ among Pakistan’s allies in the war on terror. Ghani said that all three militant commanders were in Afghanistan.

Power group: “They are a power group that has to be preserved to seek political solutions. We would not destroy them because then you are contributing to further instability,” he said.

He denied that Pakistan “wants the Taliban back”, and went on to say Pakistan had ‘no favourites’ in Afghanistan.

The NWFP governor urged the West to accept that the “Mullah is a political reality”.

However, he denied that Pakistan was supporting them, by pointing out that it had handed over key Taliban ground commanders operating in Helmand.

He said the West must hold talks with the Taliban as Al Qaeda was regrouping from Iraq to Afghanistan. He alleged that Russia had begun to supply weapons to militants and that the Afghans were intolerant of foreigners on their soil and so were staging ‘a national uprising’.

“To eliminate the Taliban you have to slaughter half the Afghan nation,” Ghani said. The governor said Afghan President Hamid Karzai “does not represent any power group – tribal, religious or political and therefore, like the people in his government, he is dependant on foreign power. He is therefore an obstacle to dialogue and peace.”

Ghani described Pakistan’s military strategy as one of containment. “We are not looking for quick fixes,” he said.

Asked about allegations that Pakistan used Taliban to retain its influence in Afghanistan, Ghani replied: “We could counter by saying India uses the Northern Alliance.”

Source: Daily Times
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Post Pakistan: 2 suicide bombers blow themselves up

Pakistan: 2 suicide bombers blow themselves up

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Police say two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a key southern Pakistani city during an intense shootout with officers.

Provincial police chief Babar Khattak says the clash began Friday morning in Karachi's Baldia Town neighborhood when police tried to raid a suspected militant hideout.

He says the raid was launched after officers arrested a militant leader from the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi extremist group. The man said three suicide bombers were at the home.

Officers suspect the third man was buried in the debris. Pakistan is experiencing escalating violence amid military offensives in its northwest.

Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, is considered a militant hub.
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Senate body for promoting value-oriented education

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Education has called upon the government to appoint the federal minister for education without further delay so that matters in this vital sector could be streamlined.

The committee, which met at the Parliament House on Friday under the chairpersonship of Senator Mrs Razina Alam Khan, also urged the government to accord priority to providing better training to the teachers and to undertake constant periodic review of the curriculum in order to keep pace with the developments being made in the rest of the world.

While endorsing the plea for merit-based recruitment of teachers, the committee called for enhancement of their salary structure and social status.

Merit-based recruitment of teachers must be ensured and ways and means be explored to find dedicated teachers as ëonly inspired teachers could produce inspired studentsí.

It directed the federal education ministry to accord the highest priority to the training of teachers at all levels. The committee took strong exception to political interference in the recruitment/appointment and posting and transfers of teachers, particularly in the provinces and remote areas of the country. It called for an immediate end to this unhealthy practice, which is undermining the cause of education in the country.

The committee observed that the teachersí training should be a continuous process as "illiterate nations cannot make any progress in the present day world".

The committee also asked the federal education ministry to prepare a new draft of education policy in a manner that it must address the core national problems. It said that our education system must be value-oriented and its purpose should be enlightenment of hearts and minds.

A number of members of the committee expressed reservations on the new system of starting the education year from September every year, apprehending that the new system may provide very short time to the students to complete their courses of study.

It urged that due considerations be made for the weather conditions, harvesting of crops etc and other ground realities to make new policy more realistic and effective.

The committee hoped that the issue of appointment of the new DG, FDE would be resolved amicably and only the best and most suitable candidate be offered the slot.

Earlier, Secretary Education Jahangir Bashar apprised the committee of the broad contours of the teachersí training programme being launched by the education ministry in the federal capital and various provinces.

The News

Bomb scare at Faisal Mosque

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Police and a bomb disposal squad were called to Faisal Mosque on Friday night after a bomb was reported to have been planted in the main prayer hall. Security officials cordoned off the area and vacated the mosque. The main roads leading to the mosque were closed and explosives experts carried out a thorough search of the area. The fire brigade and ambulances also attended the scene as police searched the mosque and the nearby International Islamic University. No explosives were found. Those staying in the Faisal Mosque as part of the ten-day ‘Aitekaf’ practice were also evacuated. The scare comes a day after police and security officials evacuated and searched Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto Airport following reports a suicide bomber had entered the area.

China, Pakistan to enhance military ties

Saturday, September 27, 2008

BEIJING: Pakistan is ready to work with China to enhance bilateral strategic co-operation, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani said on Friday.

General Kayani was talking to Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, the Xinhua news agency reported. General Kayani said Pakistan would continue to push forward bilateral ties and relationship between the armed forces of the two countries.

Liang said China and Pakistan enjoyed an all-weather friendship, “China attaches great importance to its friendship with Pakistan, and will further strengthen Sino-Pakistani ties and relations between the two armed forces.”

Pakistan-US clash not seen escalating

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Neither the United States nor Pakistan will let a clash between their forces on the Afghan border escalate, as both countries depend on each other, analysts said on Friday. “Don’t expect Pakistan and the US to go to war, that is not likely to happen,” said political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi. “Pakistan needs the United States for economic reasons and the US needs Pakistan for conducting its war on terror in Afghanistan. Both recognise the need, but both are also trying to maximise their gain by building pressure on the other,” he added.

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