Nato supplies going to Afghanistan under garb of Commercial Cargo

Nato supplies going to Afghanistan under garb of Commercial Cargo

ISMAIL DILAWAR
natoconvoy133555051pk

KARACHI – The Nato-led international security forces, fighting militancy in the landlocked Afghanistan, have signed agreements with the Afghan importers for the transportation of supplies through transit country, Pakistan, under the cover of commercial cargo, it emerged on Tuesday. Further, according to well-paced sources, the Afghan importers have signed separate agreements with Pakistani logistic firms for the supply of thousands of containers under commercial cargo that, they said, would in fact go to the multinational military alliance in Afghanistan.

NOV-26 BLOCKADE

Post-Nov 26 blockade by Islamabad on the transit of Nato cargo through Pakistan had made the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ink these agreements with the Afghan importers under which the latter would ensure cargo supplies to the former up to 2014, said the sources.
The agreements’ timeframe stands important, strategically, if viewed in the backdrop of Washington’s 2014 deadline for completing its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. “At least five Afghan companies are in agreement with Nato,” the sources linked to Pak-Afghan Transit Trade confided to Profit without naming the firms.

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

They said the Nato, perhaps anticipating such a ban, had already been importing some cargo through a couple of Afghan importers for quite some time. “Those imports used to be once in a blue moon, but the things have been formalised after November 26,” the sources added. Detailing the transportation of Nato-cargo as commercial cargo, the sources said after November 26 Pakistan Customs had blocked the clearance of Nato’s non-commercial cargo including essential items like food, cables, infra and other equipment used for setting up the communication network.
Nato supplies, they said, used to be cleared by customs authorities on the basis of a sort of exemption letter called “Mafi Nama” whereas the commercial goods are cleared on the basis of a license called “Jawaz Nama”. Mafi Nama and Jawaz Nama are Afghan terminologies with the former meaning that the imported goods were destined for Nato or diplomatic staff in the American embassy in Afghanistan.
“The Nato and Afghan importers, after clinching the supply deal, have replaced Mafi Nama with the Jawaz Nama that allows them to get the non-commercial cargo cleared as commercial one,” the sources claimed.
THREE CONTAINER TERMINALS

They said Nato cargo was being transported through Pakistan’s three container terminals, QICT, KICT and PICT. Officials at the container terminals also doubt that Nato supplies were going to Afghanistan under the garb of commercial cargo. “We suspect this is happening as the volume of commercial cargo has increased sharply,” said an official at PICT. “But we have no proof in hand to prove this,” the official added.
Asked if customs authorities in Pakistan had ever sensed the irregularity, the sources said the customs officials, tending to act as per law, take into account three things: the manifest of cargo, the consignee of cargo and the original documents.
“When suspicious they (customs officers) refer the documents to the Afghan embassy in Pakistan which certify the same,” the sources said claiming that the diplomatic staff at Afghan embassy was also aware of the entire situation.
To cater to Nato’s demand, the sources said, Afghan importers had signed separate agreements with Pakistani logistic companies.

PAK-US DIPLOMATIC TUSSLE

“The Pakistani logistic firms presently have huge demand from Afghanistan for the transportation of commercial cargo,” they said adding this increased demand had created congestion at Pakistani seaports already chock-a-block with hundreds of stranded containers destined for Nato. “The current congestion at ports is partly because of increased demand for commercial cargo from Afghanistan,” the sources said.
The ongoing Pak-US stratego-diplomatic tussle proved to be a kind of blessing in disguise for the Afghan importers who, the sources said, are pocketing handsome amounts out of supply orders from the Nato. “They are happily keeping huge security deposits amounting to five to six lac rupees with the shipping lines,” the sources claimed.

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CNN and Pak Media Are Cooking-Up A New Batch of “Taliban Split” Fake News

[SEE:  Collaboration Between Pak Army, US Army and TTP Pakistani Taliban]

[Below you will see CNN change the title of an article right before your eyes, both titles below lead to the same article.  The first title changed as I was posting it.  Something new is going on in the murky shadows between the CIA and the ISI.  A new, big plot is shaping-up between them, so that they can continue to play their old games, using their mutual plaything, the TTP.  As the Pakistani and Western media play tag team liars, first one tells a whopper about the Pakistani Taliban, then the other tells an opposite lie.  This is the old “Pakistani split” game being revived, once again. 

You know that they are working on a little mass insanity when they dredge-up these guys, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade.  The so-called “Abdullah Azzam Brigade” is one of those fake, all-purpose phantom “terrorist” groups.  This name has been used by Israel in Palestine and Lebanon, probably by the US in Iraq, as well as by the Pakistanis, who blamed the bombing of the CIA nest in Peshawar at the Pearl Continental hotel bombing on them.  In all probability, this is a generic name that is used to cover irregular warfare operations by any military or intelligence agency looking for a scapegoat.  Look for Pakistan to reopen the NATO transit any day now, since everybody is jumping through hoops to re-brand Hakeemullah’s criminals as “public enemy number one.”  The Mehsud serve shadowy interests on both sides of the Durand Line.]   

NEW: Pakistan Taliban claims responsibility for two of the blasts

Police: 3 blasts rock Pakistan; appear to be unrelated

By the CNN Wire Staff

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — Blasts in three cities across Pakistan occurred within minutes of each other on Tuesday, killing at least five people and wounding dozens, officials said.

In the first incident, a suspected suicide bomber detonated himself on a deserted road on the outskirts of the northeastern city of Gujrat, police said.

“It seems like he may have set the bomb off by mistake,” said police official Mudassar Ali.

Minutes later, a second blast went off in a bustling market area in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan. The bomb was placed on a motorcycle in the basement of a commercial building, police said. It killed one and injured 23.

In the third incident, a car bomb exploded in a busy market area in a Landi Kotal, a town in Pakistan’s tribal Khyber Agency, said Abdul Nabi, a government official.

Four people died and eight were injured in the explosion, said Nabi.

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the blasts in Peshawar and Landi Kotal, a spokesman for the group, Insanullah Ihsan, told CNN.

A militant group called the Abdullah Azzam Bridgade worked with the Pakistan Taliban on the Landi Kotal attack, Ihsan said.

Journalists Saboor Khattak and Shaan Khan contributed to this report.

Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Fight May Reignite

[Blast from the past (it’s a real shame that it wasn’t true)]– 

Pakistani news agencies, including the state-run TV channel, PTV, reported that Hakimullah Mehsud had been shot by Wali-ur-Rehman, or one of his supporters, following disagreements regarding the leadership succession”

Top Pakistan Taliban commanders ‘at each other’s throats’

Any division within the TTP could hinder the Afghan Taliban, al Qaeda’s struggle in Afghanistan against the US. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani militants have held a series of meetings aimed at containing what could soon be open warfare between the two most powerful Pakistani Taliban leaders, militant sources have said.

Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP), and his deputy, Waliur Rehman, were at each other’s throats, the sources said.

“You will soon hear that one of them has eliminated the other, though hectic efforts are going on by other commanders and common friends to resolve differences between the two,” one TTP commander said.

Any division within the TTP could hinder the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda’s struggle in Afghanistan against the United States and its allies, making it more difficult to recruit young fighters and disrupting safe havens in Pakistan used by the Afghan militants.

Despite multiple reports of the Rehman-Mehsud split, Rehman told Reuters on Tuesday there was no problem between the two.

“There are no differences between us,” Rehman said.

The TTP, formed in 2007, is an umbrella group of various Pakistani militant factions operating in Pakistan’s unruly northwestern tribal areas along the porous border with Afghanistan.

It has long struggled with its choice of targets. Some factions are at war with the Pakistani state while others concentrate on the fight against the United States and its allies in Afghanistan.

There has been a noticeable decrease in militant attacks in Pakistan, but there continue to be random acts of violence across the country.

Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban commanders are asking the TTP to provide more men for the fight in Afghanistan and are looking to smooth over the dispute between Mehsud and Rehman.

Long-standing feuds

Taliban sources said Rehman had ordered his fighters to kill Mehsud because of his increasing closeness with al Qaeda and its Arab contingent.

Mehsud’s former deputy has also alleged the TTP chief received money from Pakistan’s arch-rival, India, to kill a former Pakistan spy agency official acting as a mediator between the Pakistani Taliban, Afghan insurgents and the Pakistani government.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Pakistani Taliban Killing “Col. Imam”, posted with vodpod

The reported enmity between Mehsud and Rehman is not the only conflict within the TTP ranks.

Mehsud has a long-standing feud with militant commanders Maulvi Nazeer in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan, both of whom have non-aggression agreements with the Pakistani military.

Mehsud’s men have also fought with the militia under the control of Fazal Saeed Haqqani, the former TTP head in the Kurram tribal region. He has accused Mehsud of killing his commanders and innocent people and kidnapping for ransom.

Haqqani, who is close to the militant Afghan Haqqani network, broke away from the TTP last year.

A pamphlet distributed by militants in North Waziristan this week announced the formation of a council to try to resolve the conflicts.

“All jihadi forces have jointly, on the recommendation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, formed a five-member commission which will be known as the Shura Muraqba,” the pamphlet said, using the term by which the Afghan Taliban describe themselves.

“The Shura Muraqba will be working to resolve differences and problems between mujahideen.”

It said that any “mujahideen” found to have committed an “unlawful” killing or kidnapping would be punished under Islamic law. It is likely any attack on a fellow “mujahideen” commander would be considered “unlawful”.

“All mujahideen should respect the decisions of the council that has been set up,” a senior commander of the Haqqani faction in Kurram said.

“If people continue to do as they like, the situation will not improve. Things will instead get much worse.”

 

 

The Rogun juggernaut

The Rogun juggernaut


By Fozil Mashrab

TASHKENT – Although Tajikistan’s Rogun dam and hydro-power project has not yet been cleared by the World Bank-sponsored technical and environmental assessments, Tajikistan, seemingly with the bank’s tacit approval, is continuing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year for its construction and is also trying to link the construction of this gigantic and controversial dam to the international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

The Tajikistan government has agreed in the past to halt all construction works at the controversial Rogun dam except for what officials mysteriously call “repair works” until the assessments are completed in return for possible World Bank financial assistance in the event the assessment clears the project in terms of technical and environmental security.

However, Tajikistan’s down-stream neighbor Uzbekistan, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with Tajikistan over the dam, claims that Tajikistan is not honoring its pledge made to the World Bank by continuing to allocate funds for the so-called “repair works”.

Tajikistan allocates more than US$200 million annually for the dam, apparently far exceeding the simple maintenance costs of undertaking “repair work”. Uzbekistan further maintains that the World Bank has not put in place stringent oversight mechanisms that would ensure the Tajik government’s full and verifiable compliance to its pledge made to the bank.

Meanwhile, Tajikistan’s tireless attempts to promote the CASA1000 trans-regional electricity transmission line project to export Tajik electricity to Pakistan via Afghanistan, which the Tajik government links to the Rogun dam, has further increased Uzbekistan’s suspicion that all along Tajikistan has not been genuinely committed to the World Bank’s technical and environmental assessments and only agreed to the bank’s proposal on a calculated gamble that these might eventually come up with surprise positive findings for the dam while it can easily dismiss any negative outcome.

This observation does indeed seem to be the case given that Tajik officials starting from President Emomali Rahmon down to Tajik members of parliament and rank and file civil servants are regularly put on record vowing to complete the Rogun dam at any cost and regardless of what may come to pass.

Recently, while attending two international conferences dedicated to normalizing Afghanistan, which took place in Istanbul and Bonn in early November and December in an effort to win the international community’s support for his government’s controversial plan to construct what would be the world’s tallest dam, Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi claimed that the CASA1000 project would help to “fundamentally reverse” the existing situation in Afghanistan.

According to Zarifi, CASA1000 would help Afghanistan to wean its farmers from cultivating opium to cultivating what he called “peaceful” crops by supplying water to Afghanistan and helping it to recover its irrigation system.

Though the foreign minister did not openly mention Rogun dam in his address to the Bonn II Conference participants, it was clear to many Central Asia observers that CASA1000 for Tajikistan means Rogun dam, as it has been the only game in town in Dushanbe for the past decade or so – and more importantly, though the World Bank prefers not to mention it, the CASA1000 project would not be economically viable without the dam’s construction.

Any tourist visiting this mountainous Central Asian country’s capital and other large cities will hardly fail to notice that Rogun has already become an idee fixe for the Tajik government and its leadership. Billboards with Rahmon at the Rogun construction site with patriotic slogans such as “Rogun – a matter of life and death” or “Rogun – the light at the end of the dark tunnel” decorate all main streets in Tajikistan.

In order to prove its resolve and to demonstrate to Uzbekistan that it will not swerve from its chosen path, the Tajik government has already taken the decisive step of forcefully selling “golden Rogun shares” to its population in order to raise US$1.2 billion, which is necessary to complete the first section of the dam.

If the World Bank/International Monetary Fund had not interfered, the government would have continued selling Rogun shares to its impoverished population to the extent that most of its people would have to choose between buying Rogun shares and buying basic food items to survive.

Uzbekistan is not letting up in its opposition to the Rogun dam. Basically, the Uzbek government and its scientists argue against the project by claiming:

  • It is a relic of the former Soviet Union, whose water-related policies in Central Asia have already led to the near complete disappearance of the Aral Sea – once one of the world’s biggest fresh-water inland lakes. Construction of the dam might further endanger the already fragile environmental balance in the region;
  • The dam will limit the flow of water in the Amudarya River as it will be diverted to the Rogun dam reservoir. According to most conservative estimates, Tajikistan will have to divert substantial amounts of river water for at least eight to 10 years in order to fill the reservoir. They say that, contrary to Tajik claims, dams to be built in Tajikistan are not really meant to supply water to neighbors but to divert and hoard water to generate electricity;
  • The Uzbek government is also afraid that, if completed, the Rogun dam will make it possible for the Tajik government to use the water issue for powerful negotiating leverage in any future dispute with Uzbekistan;
  • That a completed dam would be a disaster in waiting of “Biblical proportions”. The Rogun dam, designed to be at least a record 336 meters tall, is modelled on the Soviet-era Sajano-Shushenskaya dam in Siberia, which collapsed in 2009. If anything similar goes wrong for this “feat of Tajik-Soviet engineering”, or if a strong earthquake hits Tajikistan (the whole Central Asian region is on a permanently active seismic zone) then a “monster tsunami” could be unleashed on adjacent territories including heavily populated territories of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan;
  • Climatic changes attributed to global warming are already being acutely felt in Central Asia, with unusually extreme hot summers and shortages of water during harvesting seasons taking their toll on agriculture in downstream countries such as Uzbekistan and also in Tajikistan this year. Thousands of hectares of wheat and other crops were allowed to perish because of a shortage of water for irrigation. Agriculture is a crucial sector for all Central Asian countries, whether involving cotton or vegetables, fruits and meat in demand by growing populations.

    Uzbek and international experts say Tajikistan should build small- and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations (provided they meet technical and environmental safety safeguards) to harness the energy potential of the rivers that cross its territory.

    That would benefit it economically, helping it fully meet its energy needs throughout the year while still allowing it to become a net exporter of electricity to the likes of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – for which last there is even no need to construct costly transmission lines similar to CASA1000 since energy grids linking Uzbekistan to Tajikistan and its other Central Asian neighbors are already in place.

    The growth in population and demand for food items suggest Uzbekistan’s claims are more than self-serving fear-mongering. Its population will reach 35 million people by 2020 from the present 29 million – a trend seen in all other Central Asian countries, whose combined population barely equals that of Uzbekistan.

    None of the Central Asian countries can boast complete or near-complete self-sufficiency in food, while Tajikistan is the region’s biggest importer per capita of food items as its government pays far less attention to its heavily indebted farmers than to its epic struggle to complete the Rogun dam.

    The government uses administrative measures such as artificial and largely ineffective price caps on various food items rather than stimulating and creating favorable conditions for its farmers to improve their output.

    Tajik forecasts of the potential miraculous benefits of the country’s dams on Afghanistan are not accepted by George Gavrilis, among others, who in a recent Foreign Affairs analysis of regional solutions to the war in Afghanistan said: “Tajikistan’s ability to collect lucrative international development aid is greatly owed to its proximity to dysfunctional Afghanistan. Tajik officials regularly present international donors with long list of ‘win-win’ cross-border development projects that, they insist, must be built on their side of the border. This means that Afghanistan accrues no benefit until much later, if at all.”

    Linking CASA1000 to international efforts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan will imperil rather than facilitate efforts to normalize the country by complicating regional disputes and Kabul into them.

    With the Tajik government’s present interpretation of CASA1000 project linked to Rogun, any support by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia or the US for the transmission line project will by default also be extended to Rogun, only fueling the already bitter dispute over the dam – it is no coincidence that Uzbekistan declined to send a high-level delegation to attend the latest Istanbul and Bonn II conferences on Afghanistan and did not subscribe to the joint statements of these two conferences.

    Normalization of life in Afghanistan, including persuading Afghan farmers to switch to “peaceful” crops, requires the resolution of far more complex issues and processes than the construction of Rogun or any other dam in Tajikistan.

    That raises the question why the World Bank continues to pretend not to notice the Tajik government’s shenanigans over so-called “repair works” while pledging $1 billion for the erection of electricity transmission lines as part of the CASA1000 project with the full knowledge that it would not be economically viable without the Rogun hydro-power project.

    Last month, the World Bank announced plans to provide around $1 billion to fund the CASA1000 power lines project, which will also carry elecricity from Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Alexander Kremer, who heads the World Bank office in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, told reporters $200 million would be invested in Kyrgyzstan and $250 million in neighboring Tajikistan, while Afghanistan would need around $350 million in loans and Pakistan another $200 million, the Kyrgyzstan Newswire reported on December 19.

    Discrepancies in World Bank pronouncements and actions over the projects will not only undermine the credibility of the technical and environmental assessments on the Rogun dam but also erode the bank’s standing as a self-appointed but well-meaning “neutral mediator” between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

    Fozil Mashrab is a pseudonym used by an independent analyst based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

    (Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online

Putin Is Playing Poker, Not Chess–Does He Have A Winning Hand?

By Steve LeVine

Russian leader Vladimir Putin urges an end to absurdist doubt regarding his political longevity, and a focus on reality — such as the triumphant energy deals with which he closed out 2011. Putin is referring to a surprising, double-flanking maneuver in Turkey and Ukraine that gives Russia the apparent advantage in the late stages of a contest for energy market — and, some fear, geopolitical — domination in Europe. But Putin’s tenor also suggests a decided shift to the past in Russia’s relationship with the world — the “reset” of relations with the U.S. is over, writes theFinancial Times’ Charles Clover. Putin — whose administration last week issued a formal reportaccusing the U.S. of “mass and flagrant abuses of human rights” — is clearly prepared for the type of fisticuffs last seen during the depths of the George W. Bush Administration.

Can one write off this clutch of anti-Western activity to domestic politics — Putin singing a tune that he thinks plays well with Russian voters ahead of the March 4 election, in which he is seeking a return to the Kremlin for a third term? It seems more complicated than that — Putin is playing to the gallery, but events outside Russia also are motivating him to behave at turns opportunistically; other times, they are causing him to lash out apprehensively.

Putin’s energy gambit is an example of him acting on the opportunistic side, specifically in the realm where Russian politics frequently find animation — in the construction, or blockage, of energy pipelines. In the current case, Putin has managed to seriously out-maneuver U.S. and European political leaders by advancing the prospects of South Stream, a proposed $21 billion natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, crossing underneath the Black Sea.

First, Putin last Wednesday got Turkey — which since the mid-1990s has played only for the Western team when it comes to pipeline politics — to cross over just this once, and allow South Stream to occupy its territorial waters in the Black Sea. Then on Friday, he followed up the coup with an orchestrated television appearance in which he casually agreed to a suggestion by Alexei Miller, the head of natural gas giant Gazprom, to accelerate South Stream by a year, and begin to build it by the end of 2012.

If this actually happens, it could mean that South Stream would be ready in 2014, and not 2015 as previously reckoned. That would gravely impact Western proposals for Nabucco, a rival natural gas pipeline intended also to serve Europe, but transport only non-Russian gas. Nabucco’s proponents advocate it as a way to reduce Europe’s reliance on Moscow, and hence a feared danger of gas-fueled Russian political advantage on the continent.

All of this happens while the U.S. and Europe are preoccupied by their own set of financial crises. Here, the Wall Street Journal’s Charles Forelle sums up Europe’s in a highly recommended 23-minute documentary:

Yet, as suggested, this is a big if. When it comes to pipeline politics, little is how it appears on the surface. In this case, there is much speculation that Putin actually has little interest in actually building South Stream. Rather his objective is dual, in this view of events — to thwart Nabucco, and to frighten neighboring Ukraine — through which almost all Russian gas currently travels to Europe — into signing a highly favorable (to Russia) gas deal.

Ukraine certainly perceives Putin’s most recent moves as political hardball. Putin’s aim formerly seemed to be to get a high price for gas. But in the last couple of years, his appetite has grown to owning pipelines and other energy infrastructure in the countries where Gazprom operates. In the case of Ukraine, he wants a large share of the state pipeline company.

Given nationalist Ukrainian politics, such a move could be politically fatal to President Viktor Yanukovich. Putin’s moves so startled Ukraine that Prime Minister Mykola Azarov went onto Facebook and threatened to sue Russia. It is not clear what grounds there would be for a suit, yet the sentiment is notable.

As regards price, the sides are astonishingly far apart. The picture is a mirror into the old era of natural gas — one undergoing an utter transformation because of new supplies of shale gas and the invention of efficient, ocean-going liquefied natural gas supertankers — in which little pockets of the world charge wildly different prices for the same commodity. In this case, Russia is asking Ukraine for roughly $11.42 for 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, or almost four times the U.S. price of about $3. For its part, Ukraine says it may be willing to do a pipeline deal — if it can pay $7.14 per 1,000 cubic feet, or 2.3 times the U.S. price (in the language the Europeans speak, Russia wishes to charge Ukraine $400 per 1,000 cubic meters; Ukraine wants to pay $250. The conversion of cubic feet to cubic meters is roughly 1:35).

This set of circumstances has to have Putin gloating. Until recently, Russia’s prospects had been clouded by the challenge of shale gas, which Poland, Hungary and other European countries may start producing, and the arrival in Europe of LNG from Qatar. Such new supplies could undermine Russia because Gazprom’s tax payments account for some 20 percent of total state revenue.

But at once Gazprom’s — and thus Russia’s — prospects are reversed. Last year’s nuclear disaster in Japan, by reverberating in Europe in the form of the ordered shut-down of German and other nuclear power plants, increases demand for Russian natural gas. Nabucco — the Western pipeline champion — has badly stumbled by failing to find sufficient gas to transport.

The Obama Administration — as politically preoccupied as the Europeans — has not even managed to get its political opponents in the U.S. Senate to formally confirm its choice as ambassador to critical Azerbaijan, a diplomat named Matthew Bryza. And now Putin has put Russia in the catbird seat with the deal with Turkey.

Yet all is not well for Putin. The Arab Spring makes him nervous. Already, opponents fired up over his sense of political entitlement — Putin and his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, casually announced in September that they would swap positions; they regarded the nod of Russian voters as a formality — have been in the streets (pictured above, Moscow street scene on Friday).

The latter is what has most likely caused Putin to lash out at the U.S. The problem is that the Arab Spring is not going away soon, and the street politics it has propagated in Russia may not either.

Ukrainian gas transmission system may cost more than South Stream construction

Ukrainian gas transmission system may cost more than South Stream construction

Monday, Jan 02, 2012

Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee reported today to Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation on the negotiations with Ukraine in the gas sector and, in this regard, on the South Stream project implementation.

According to Alexey Miller, Ukrainian partners estimate that the Ukrainian gas transmission system will cost USD 20 billion. In addition, the GTS upgrade, according to various estimates, will require another EUR 2–3 to 7–8 billion. Moreover, the Ukrainian party insists on the Russian gas price discount, which will cost Gazprom some USD 9 billion a year.

While the South Stream project is estimated to cost EUR 16.5 billion, EUR 10 billion out of this amount will be spent on the offshore section and EUR 6.5 billion – the onshore section.

Vladimir Putin ordered to continue negotiations with Ukrainian partners, “on the assumption that Ukraine has always been, it is and, I hope, will remain a strategic partner of ours”, yet to speed up the South Stream project execution. And to start constructing it as early as in 2012, instead of 2013.

Source: Gazprom

You Cannot Believe Pakistani Reports About the Alleged “Pakistani Taliban”

[The Pakistani Taliban have no connection to the Afghan Taliban, no allegiance to Mullah Omar.  Proof of this is Hakeemullah’s execution of Col. Imam, against the pleas of Omar.  The Pakistani press keeps feeding the rumors that the two groups are one (SEE:  Taliban Groups Unite Against Us).  Hakeemullah Mehsud and the gang that works for him are criminals, murderers and assorted thugs, all of whom should be put down like mad dogs.]

No halt to fight against Pakistani forces: TTP

PESHAWAR: The Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Monday confirmed that militant organisations had agreed to avoid killing innocent people and kidnapping for ransom in Pakistan, but at the same time vowed to continue carrying out suicide attacks and fighting against Pakistan’s security forces.

“Yes, we signed an accord with three other major Taliban groups of Maulvi Nazeer, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and an Afghan Taliban faction to avoid killing of innocent people and kidnapping for ransom, but we did not agree with them to stop suicide attacks and our fight against Pakistani security forces,” TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told this correspondent from somewhere in the tribal areas on the phone.

The TTP, he said, had not announced any ceasefire and had no plans to do so in the near future. He warned that their fighters would continue their operations in Pakistan. He said the TTP would extend cooperation to the five-member Taliban Shura, having members from the militant groups such as Maulvi Nazeer, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Haqqani network.

Ihsanullah Ihsan argued that the joint Taliban Shura or council had, in fact, been formed for tackling two major issues to put an end to the frequent incidents of kidnapping for ransom and killing of innocent people, especially those picked up by unknown people in the tribal areas and executed on charges of spying for the US forces.

About reports attributed to the Afghan Taliban supreme leader, Mulla Mohammad Omar, urging Pakistani Taliban to stop their fight in Pakistan and instead support them in liberating Afghanistan from the “occupation forces”, he declined to offer comment and only said that they would operate both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Look, for us Pakistan is as important as Afghanistan, and, therefore, we cannot stop our activities here,” he insisted.

The TTP spokesman also denied differences between the TTP leadership, saying Hakimullah Mahsud was still leader of the Pakistani Taliban and Maulana Waliur Rahman was his deputy.