Handful of Taliban can’t dismiss state writ: Rehman

Handful of Taliban can’t dismiss state writ: Rehman

ISLAMABAD: Advisor to Prime Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik Sunday said operation in Lower Dir is not being carried out on pressure from the US administration and that a handful of Taliban cannot set aside government writ.

Talking to Geo News, Malik said that the operation was initiated in Lower Dir on the request of NWFP government and that in it many militants have so far been killed.

“The aim of the deal with Sufi Muhammad was to establish peace in the area and if this objective is not achieved then it is of no use,” the Advisor said adding “it was later felt that the agreement was not for peace.”

“The militants have shown their hideous face and now they will not be forgiven,” he vowed.

He said in the beginning the terrorists used youngsters for executing suicide attacks and now they are killing children by handing them toy bombs. It seems the militants have their own subversive agenda, he observed.

The Advisor said the Taliban have no other option left than to lay down arms. If they fail to disarm themselves we will take action, he warned.

Pakistan battles Taliban near Swat

Pakistan battles Taliban near Swat

Fighters from Swat briefly took over the
district of Buner and pulled out later [EPA]

Pakistan’s military has launched an operation against Taliban fighters in a district adjoining the Swat valley, threatening a truce  between the government and  anti-government fighters in the troubled region.

The army said in a statement on Sunday that they had killed “scores” of fighters in the operation in Lower Dir, and that at least one soldier had been killed.

There was no way to immediately verify the military statement but the Reuters news agency quoted a military spokesman as saying an “intense exchange of fire is going on in Lower Dir”.

But officials said that the Swat peace deal was still intact, despite the operation.

“The peace deal is intact – the government has not revoked the peace deal,” Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, said.

“At the same time the government is determined to root out the militants hell-bent on destroying the law and order situation.”

Military operation

The government agreed a deal with the Taliban in Swat in February that has seen an end to fighting there in return for the enforcement of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law.

In depth

Video: Turning to the Taliban
Media vacuum in Swat valley

Swat: Pakistan’s lost paradise
Talking to the Taliban

Pakistan’s war

Babar said that the government would fulfil its pledge under the peace deal – which covers the Swat valley and the surrounding districts that make up Malakand division –  to establish Islamic courts in the area.But he said that the government would not permit the fighters to spread their area of influence.

In recent days, fighters from Swat began entering another district, Buner, which lies just just 100km from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

Later reports suggested that the fighters had begun to pull out after military action was threatened.

“The operation that got under way this morning got under way in an area called Dir, which is adjacent to Swat,” Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s Pakistan correspondent, said.

“The military moved in, but they have of course been using maximum restraint because they want this peace deal [in Swat] to work.

“We also got reports today that the military arrested at least five Taliban who were violating the accord – they were toting weapons in an area of Swat.”

‘Syndicated extremists’

Critics of Pakistan’s deal with fighters in Swat say that it has only emboldened the Taliban and  in recent days, the US has increased pressure on Pakistan to confront fighters on its soil.

General David Petraeus, the head of US central command, said Pakistan’s leaders should focus on the looming threat posed by fighters within their borders.

“The most important, most pressing threat to the very existence of their country is the threat posed by the internal extremists and groups such as the Taliban and the syndicated extremists,” he said.

Across Pakistan, more than 1,800 people have been killed in a wave of al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked attacks since July 2007.

Alien spy agency tasks terrorist group to hit Peshawar

Alien spy agency tasks terrorist group to hit Peshawar

Three rockets fired at airport

Sunday, April 26, 2009
Javed Aziz Khan

PESHAWAR: A terrorist group based in adjacent tribal area has been tasked by the intelligence agency of a neighbouring country to hit the Peshawar International Airport and other key installations in the Cantonment area with multi-barrel rockets, a reliable source confided to The News.

Probably first of the attacks was made on Saturday when three rockets were fired at the Peshawar airport in the wee hours of the day.

Two of the rockets landed inside in the airport, while another went off in Pishtakhara. No casualty or damage to the property was reported in the rocket attack.

“We have got a lead to the gang based in Darra Adamkhel having mmen in Bara and Michni areas. A committee has been constituted to bust the network and nab its leader, known as Omar,” a senior security official revealed while referring to the investigation being carried out into the fresh rocket barrage on the provincial metropolis.

The official said the group is being provided rockets, missiles as well as huge amount to money by the spy agency of a neighbouring country to target the Peshawar International Airport, military and civilian installations in the cantonment area.

These rockets are being fired from the tribal areas in south, west and north of Peshawar.

The Peshawar airport has come under attack for almost two dozen times during the past few years with rockets and missiles from different sides. Some of them landed near the runway while a few others even hit the building of the airport.

Several other military buildings, Peshawar Police Lines, headquarters of the Frontier Corps in Balahisar Fort, Garrison Colony at Warsak Road and other buildings have also been targeted in several rocket attacks, carried out frequently since 2006 from Matani and Badaber towns in south, Michni and Mahtra in the north and Bara, Sarband and Pishtakhara in the west.

“The rockets fired on Saturday were MBR-12 type, which were fired from Bara. The projectiles used in the attack could hit a target from 15 to 20 kilometer,” an investigator disclosed.

The security officials of the airport, it was learnt, did not even let the policemen visit the site of rocket attack when they rushed to probe the rocket salvo.

Police had to register the FIR of the airport attack on the basis of another rocket, which landed in fields of Pishtakhara village.

Amnesty, disarming of Taliban being discussed

Amnesty, disarming of Taliban being discussed

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The Frontier government and the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) are negotiating the option of announcing general amnesty for the Swat Taliban in return for their complete disarming.

Sources said the TNSM was seeking the release of 200 Taliban prisoners and, at the same time, it was willing to issue a joint religious edict of its top Ulema, asking for the disarmament of the Swat Taliban.

The two sides are negotiating the details to ensure the success of the peace deal and the smooth implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation. The details of the edict are being finalised for achieving the major objective of disarming the Taliban.

The provincial government is clear that it has done its work to restore peace in Swat and now it is the turn of Maulana Sufi Muhammad and the TNSM to deliver.

A source involved in these discussions revealed that the draft of the edict was being prepared to the satisfaction of both the sides. Once agreed, it is said, it would be signed by four to five top TNSM scholars, including Maulana Sufi Muhammad, Sheikh Waliullah and others. The edict would demand from all the Taliban to lay down their arms, respect the rule of law and help the government in maintaining its writ in Swat and the Malakand Division.

Once the religious edict is issued, the source said, several Taliban would lay down their arms before a Qazi in front of the media. This would follow the voluntary disarming of Maulana Fazlullahís private militia.

There is also a demand for the release of 200 Taliban prisoners, most of them said to be ìinnocentî, who were arrested during the military operation.

Although, these sources do admit that things are proceeding optimistically, they blame the media for blowing things out of proportion and thus contributing to the derailment of the peace process. ìYou people seem to be playing the same role that you had played on the Lal Masjid issue,î one of these sources said, adding that the media had first prompted the then ruler, General Musharraf, to launch a military operation against the Lal Masjid Maulanas and then, after it ended up in a massacre, the media started criticising the general.

The sources admitted that Maulana Sufi Muhammad had issued some irresponsible statements but had been asked to show restraint and avoid giving remarks that might derail the peace process. It is said that both the federal and provincial governments are keen to make the peace deal a success or there would be no option but to go for a military operation.

Military operation was under way in Swat before the Feb 16 peace deal but it did not work as the Fazlullah-led militants had full control of the area.

Two Army brigades being moved to Swat?

Two Army brigades being moved to Swat?

By Delawar Jan

PESHAWAR: Two brigades of the Pakistan Army were moved to the Swat Valley to deal a decisive blow to the militants advancing towards other districts of Malakand Division in violation of the February 15 peace accord, official sources told The News here on Saturday. However, the military denied any such move.

A Bajaur-style operation had been planned to eliminate the militants’ top leadership and destroy their hideouts. “The population will be asked to leave their areas and shift to down districts where camps will be established for them. This is being done to allow security forces to use effective force against the militants and avoid civilian casualties as Taliban fighters use the population as shield to protect themselves,” official sources claimed.

In the Bajaur operation, all roadside houses were flattened and several hundred thousand people were forced to leave their native areas. The operation was declared a success in which more than 1,500 militants were claimed to have been killed. Internally displaced persons from Bajaur are still living in Katcha Garhi and other camps.

Military spokesman, Maj General Athar Abbas, denied sending troops and any plan to launch an operation in Swat or Buner districts. “There is no Army troops’ movement into Swat Valley. We have no such plan at the moment,” he said when reached by The News. However, he admitted that Frontier Constabulary officials had been sent to Buner.

Official sources told The News that two brigades — 7,000-8,000 soldiers — were on their way to the valley to take part in the operation. These sources said that recent statements by Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who was assigned the role of a peacemaker, about the superior courts and democracy shattered all hopes for peace in the region, particularly Swat. “His controversial remarks were unwarranted and provocative, which brought the opposition and the ruling parties on the same boat,” one of the sources explained.

Sufi Muhammad, while addressing a big public rally in Mingora on April 19, declared superior courts and democracy un-Islamic, which generated a new debate in the country. The federal and provincial governments were expecting of him to ask militants to stop their activities and lay down arms. However, his old mantra at a time when peace restoration was the demand of the day shocked the government as it contributed to escalation of tension. He also disappointed the government by remaining silent over the Taliban advances to Buner and Shangla districts.

“The militants have been making advances to new areas such as strategically located Buner and Shangla. If they are not stopped at this stage, they could advance to Hazara, which will bring Islamabad and several key sites under threat,” a source said.

It was also learnt that the security forces had got orders from the high command to immediately launch action against the militants who had blocked a logistic convoy of the security forces at Qambar on Saturday. “Today the forces had to take action but the NWFP government requested for postponing the operation,” a source said. After the Qambar incident, military helicopters flew over parts of the valley, causing panic among the conflict-weary people.

Official sources said continued violations of the peace accord by the militants and their expansionist designs forced the military and the government to change their mind and send reinforcements to Swat. They said an operation could also be launched in Buner to secure its control from the militants, who were reported to have withdrawn.

“The militants have crossed all limits by continuing operating private courts, kidnapping people, armed patrolling and road blockades,” another source said about the change of mind of military and political leadership.

These sources said the decision to launch a decisive operation had been taken but the provincial government had sought some time to use peaceful means for the restoration of the government writ. “The decision will only be changed when Taliban fully abide by the peace agreement and abandon their activities,” one of the sources said.

U.S. to Pakistan: Stop the Taliban, or We Will

U.S. to Pakistan: Stop the Taliban, or We Will

LONDON: America made clear last week that it would attack Taliban forces in their Swat valley stronghold unless the Pakistan government stopped the militants’ advance towards Islamabad.

London Times report quoted a senior Pakistani official saying the Obama administration intervened after Taliban forces expanded from Swat into the adjacent district of Buner, 60 miles from the capital.

The Pakistani Taliban’s inroads raised international concern, particularly in Washington, where officials feared that the nuclear-armed country, which is pivotal to the U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda, was rapidly succumbing to Islamist extremists.

“The implicit threat – if you don’t do it, we may have to – was always there,” said the Pakistani official. He said that under American pressure, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency told the Taliban to withdraw from Buner on Friday.  [Does this confirm the suspicion that the Taliban still take orders from ISI?]

However, reports Saturday indicated that the Taliban withdrawal was less than total. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people in the district were still at the mercy of armed militants and their restrictive interpretation of Islamic law.

American military and intelligence forces already run limited ground and air operations on Pakistani soil along the border with Afghanistan. But an overt military operation such as that threatened in Swat, away from the border, would mark a major escalation.

The official said last week’s outspoken remarks by Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, were “calculated to ramp up the pressure on Pakistan” to take action. Clinton warned that the terrorists’ advance had created a “mortal threat” to world security.

She was one of several American political and military leaders to use unusually strong language about Pakistan’s failure to curb the Taliban. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who visited Pakistan, said he was “extremely concerned” about the developments and that the situation was “definitely worse” than two weeks ago.

General David Petraeus, of US Central Command, which oversees Afghanistan – to which America is about to commit 17,000 more troops – said Al Qaeda and Taliban extremists in Pakistan posed an “ever more serious threat to Pakistan’s very existence.”

Israeli Colonizers Plan More Land Theft

Israeli committee recommends enlarging West Bank settlement

JERUSALEM: An Israeli interior ministry committee has recommended expanding one of the largest settlements in the occupied West Bank, army radio reported on Sunday.

Israeli settlements are viewed as one of the main stumbling blocks in the tortured Middle East peace process and if the committee’s recommendations are approved, the move is certain to spark criticism from the United States and the Palestinians.

In its report the committee said that the small settlement of Qedar should be integrated into the giant colony of Maale Adumim, along with the lands that lie between the two. The move would expand Maale Adumim, one of the largest West Bank settlements in terms of population and area, by another 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) and add another 800 people to its current 34,500 residents.

Commissioner Malakand transferred over close relations with Taliban

Commissioner Malakand transferred over close relations with Taliban

MALAKAND: Commissioner Malakand Division Syed Mohammad Javed has been transferred while Fazal Karim Khattak has been appointed as new Commissioner. He has been asked to report to Peshawar.
Private TV Channel quoted an official source as saying he has been transferred after reservation of some circles about his soft corner towards Taliban and militants. The military circle had also expressed concern over his close links with those who were challenging writ of Government in Swat, sources added.
Commander of Banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Moulvi Faqir had also close relations with Commissioner Malakand division, sources said. Non action against militants after abduction of 4 security Personnel in Swat was also the main reason behind his transfer, source said, adding that, the decision to transfer him was taken in the high level meeting.
Syed Mohammad Javed was appointed as Commissioner Malakand Division on demands of Chief Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi Moulana Sufi Muhammad soon after his release.
On the other hand, Chief Secretary has suspended Deputy Commissioner Establishment Division NWFP Haji Abdul Jalil for leaking transfer information in the media with regard to transfer of Commissioner Malakand Syed Mohammad Javed before issuing of notification, source said.
President Awami National Party (ANP) Haji Adeel talking to Private TV Channel denied relations between outgoing Commissioner Malakand Division Syed Mohammad Javed and Taliban militants. Provincial government has right to transfer any officer, he said, adding that, Fazal Karim Khattak was on three-week course and now is going to take charge of his office as commissioner Malakand division.
Haji Adeel President ANP expressed hope Taliban and TNSM would not react over transfer of Commissioner Malakand Syed Mohammad Javed.

Work on Pak-Iran gas pipeline project shortly: SNGPL

Work on Pak-Iran gas pipeline project shortly: SNGPL

SIALKOT: Development work on Pak-Iran gas pipeline project would be undertaken shortly, said Managing Director Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) Abdul Rashid.

Talking to a news agency he disclosed that the Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline project would be accomplished at a cost of US 2.5 billion dollars in four years. “The laying of 765 KM long pipeline would be undertaken by SNGPL for linking the existing network and necessary arrangement were being given final shape for the purpose”, he said.

The MD SNGPL said that natural gas reservoirs near Kohat were discovered and the work on laying 24 inches pipeline from Kohat to Peshawar was in full swing. He was hopeful that the country would be able to get additional natural gas by the end of the year.

“Sui Northern Gas Pipelines had already initiated work on 20 different sites to explore more natural gas in the country and hopefully more gas reservoirs would be traced in next two years”, he stated.

About the provision Sui gas in NA-111, MD SNGPL disclosed that 180 km long pipeline would be laid at a cost of Rs320 million for providing the facility in Gondal, Saidpur, Chaprar and Head Marala areas. Some 55,000 people of 67 villages would benefit, he said. In the country there are 3,190,181 consumers out of whom 50,000 are commercial, 31 lakh domestic and 54442 are industrial consumers.

Secretary of State of Denial and Iraqi Disintegration

Hillary Clinton downplays Iraq security concerns in surprise visit

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a surprise visit to Iraq in a week that saw a spike in deadly suicide bombings and concerns of a return to widespread violence.

McClatchy News Service

In an unannounced visit to Iraq on Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton downplayed concerns that the country’s hard-won security gains may be deteriorating and said a recent spike in deadly attacks will not derail U.S. plans for withdrawal.

The one-day visit, Clinton’s first as secretary of state, came amid renewed fears that widespread violence is returning to Iraq. A string of suicide bombings killed at least 150 people on Thursday and Friday. Attacks have been on the rise since March.

”These are tragic, terrible events, but they do not reflect any diversion from the security progress that has been made,” Clinton said during a joint news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. “Reaction from the Iraqi people and from Iraqi leaders has been firm and united in rejecting violence.”

Clinton flew to Iraq from Kuwait on Saturday morning aboard a C-17 military cargo jet. She was scheduled to return to Kuwait the same day.

Her visit included meetings with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander here, and several Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Tariq al Hashimi, the State Department said.

Accompanying Clinton for much of the day was Christopher Hill, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq who arrived here Friday.

Clinton said that she and Odierno discussed the recent spate of attacks and he agrees they should not change U.S. strategy in Iraq.

Zebari agreed that the violence is not an indication that Iraq’s security gains are beginning to reverse. ”I personally don’t believe these deadly attacks will derail the government’s plans to stabilize the country,” he told reporters.

Besides sit-downs with top U.S. military and Iraqi leaders, Clinton’s schedule included an hourlong town hall meeting with about 200 Iraqis selected by American officials.

During the meeting, held under heavy security inside the new U.S. Embassy, Clinton vowed that America would not abandon Iraq and its struggle for peace. But she said the time has come for Iraqis to take charge of their own destiny.

”Let me assure you and repeat what President Obama has said: We are committed to Iraq,” Clinton said. “But the nature of our commitment may look somewhat different because we’re going to be withdrawing our combat troops over the next few years.”

Under an agreement signed last year between Washington and Baghdad, American troops must leave Iraqi cities by the end of June. President Barack Obama, who also visited Iraq this month, has pledged to withdraw most Americans from the country altogether by late 2010.

But the renewed violence has raised concern about what might happen here as the U.S. military shifts its focus to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

During the town hall meeting, one Iraqi asked Clinton whether the United States is convinced that Iraq’s security forces are prepared to take over as Americans leave.

”Everybody knows that the U.S. intends to withdraw its forces from Iraq and frankly some people are afraid,” he said. “There are so many people here who don’t have trust and confidence in the Iraqi [security] forces.”

Clinton responded that the U.S. forces will continue to train and support Iraq’s army and national police. But she said the ultimate responsibility lies with Iraqis to “demand a strong, non-sectarian security force.”

Sabah al Janabi, a civil engineer who was asked to attend the meeting, said afterward that he appreciated Clinton’s willingness to engage with Iraqis, though he questioned whether it will translate into any tangible improvements. ”This shows the U.S. is interested in solving the problems of Iraq, but we need to see something practical,” he said.

Clinton also met briefly Saturday with Staffan de Mistura, who heads the U.N.’s mission in Iraq. She said they discussed a U.N. report issued last week that outlines possible solutions to Kurdish-Arab disputes over Iraq’s internal boundaries, including a disagreement over who should control Kirkuk, a northern Iraqi city estimated to be sitting on as much as 4 percent of the world’s oil.

Clinton also attended a short meeting with a group of Iraqi war widows to discuss ways the U.S. and Iraqi governments can help ease their suffering, she said.

Bomb kills 12 kids in Dir

Bomb kills 12 kids in Dir

Published: April 26, 2009

Bomb kills 12 kids in Dir

PESHAWAR – At least 12 school children, including eight of a family, were killed and six others injured when a toy bomb exploded in Luqman Banda, Lower Dir, on Saturday.
The children were coming home from their school while playing with the bomb, which they had found from a place close to the school.
When the children reached a house owned by Safdar, the bomb exploded with big bangs and resultantly killed 12 children and injured six others.
All the killed were under 13. As a result the incident, the house of Safdar and adjacent houses were also damaged.
Soon after the tragic incident, the rescuers rushed towards the site and shifted the injured persons to DHQ Hospital.
The killed children have been identified as Hazrat Hussain, Akhtar Hussain, Inayat Rahman, Adanan, Wasif, Yousaf, Khudeja, Tahira, Saweera and Saifullah. The names of other two have not been ascertained.
The residents of Luqman Banda have expressed concern over the tragic incident and strongly condemned the militants, who, they think, were responsible for placing the bomb near the school.
Agencies add: “The children had found the bomb outside a girls’ primary school,” local police official Sultan Mehmood told AFP.
“We have sent police officials to the site to collect more information including the type of the bomb,” Mehmood said.
He said: “According to preliminary information the explosion took place while the children were even unable to ascertain that it was a bomb.”
Another local police official, Zahid Jan also confirmed the incident and said he feared the death toll would rise.