Saturday, February 28, 2009

Naval chief denies Kasab entered India from Pakistan

* Admiral Bashir says ‘if Kasab did go from here, when he entered Indian waters, where was the Indian Navy?’
* India rejects claim

KARACHI: Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Nauman Bashir said on Friday he had no proof that Ajmal Kasab – the lone surviving gunman arrested after the Mumbai attacks –used Pakistani waters to reach India.

“I do not have any proof, so I cannot confirm that claim,” said Nauman while addressing a press conference on upcoming multinational naval exercises, to be hosted by Pakistan. “The Indian navy is much larger than ours, and if Ajmal Kasab had gone from here, then what were their coastguards doing and why they did not stop the terrorists?” the naval commander was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency. Nauman declined further comment on the Mumbai attacks. “There are many questions about the Mumbai attacks which need to be answered and until then, we cannot make any comment.”

Indian rejection: According to the Times of India, New Delhi on Friday rubbished the Pakistan Navy chief’s claim. “The dossier handed over to Pakistan was irrefutable and solid on facts,” Home Minister P Chidambaram was quoted as saying at a press conference.

According to AFP, India’s junior foreign minister, Anand Sharma, also rejected the naval chief’s claim, and said Pakistan was engaging in ‘multiple speak, duplicity and denial’ and had ‘created this confusion’.

Indian police have charged Kasab with murder and ‘waging war’ against India.

Friday, February 27, 2009

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani honored at US Army College

WASHINGTON: Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani who is on an official visit to USA, today visited Command and General Staff College at Fort Leaven Worth, Kansas.

On arrival Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell, IV Commandant US Army Command and General Staff College received him. Later a simple and graceful “International Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony” was held.

In this prestigious ceremony, photograph of COAS was placed in US Army International Hall of Fame. General Kayani is the 4th Pakistani graduate of US Army Command and General Staff College who has been conferred upon this honour on obtaining 4 star rank. At the end of the ceremony National Anthem of Pakistan was also played.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fire Erupts in Marriott Hotel Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Fire erupted in two floors of five-star Marriott Hotel here in capital, A Pakistan news reported on Thursday.

Four fire brigades of Capital Development Authority (CDA) immediately reached the scene.

Fire fighters are tackling the blaze which firstly erupted at basement and then moving to upper floors and basement. The hotel has been evacuated after the fire.

No motive behind the fire eruption has been ascertained as yet, however reportedly there was wooden work underway at the basement.

Three persons were injured while tackling the blaze, later they were rushed to hospital.

No active system to tackle the blaze has been witnessed during the incident even after the deadly fire of September 2008 which fully destroyed the five-star hotel.

The hotel was opened a month back after its renovation and rebuilding.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sharif brothers declared ineligible, Shahbaz no more Punjab CM

ISLAMABAD: The three-member Bench of Supreme Court has disposed off Sharif brothers’ electoral eligibility case by declaring them ineligible for contesting elections in its two-line short order announced here.

Shahbaz Sharif under this verdict has lost his seat in the provincial assembly and being no longer member of the Punjab House, he is no more Punjab chief minister, as SC has annulled the earlier notification about his being chief minister.

This case was under hearing of the SC three-member Bench headed by Justice Musa K. Laghari for the last eight months, in which, the Attorney General of Pakistan, Latif Khosa giving his arguments said that Punjab chief secretary and speaker were not the party in the case. Attorney General said that all the judges have taken oaths under the constitution and talking about the oath of the interim constitution was irrelevant.

He said that Nawaz Sharif’s proposer and seconder could become parties in the case if the court permits them and their becoming parties was not necessary. He further said that it was the discretion of the judge to withdraw from the Bench and no one could direct him to pull out.

On conclusion of the arguments, after a short break, the Bench disposing off the Sharif brothers’ eligibility case declared them ineligible.

Following the verdict, Sharif brothers’ lawyer, Akram Sheikh told media that the decision was as expected, as the government was giving dictation to the judges. He said that Sharif brothers were declared ineligible on the orders of President Zardari. He said that the judges would be made accountable on the Day of Judgement. Akram Shiekh said that now it was up to the people to decide if the verdict was on merit. He said that he couldn’t comment on the incomplete two-line judgment. This decision would be presented as bouquet to President Asif Zardari on his return from the China tour.

ML-N workers in sizable number were present on the occasion of the announcement of verdict raising slogans in favour of long march and Sharif brothers. Security arrangement remain tightened in the capital city here. (The News)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nawaz claims to have taken Kargil war blame to save army image

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League (N) Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has revealed that the Kargil operation was planned and executed by the army under the then COAS General Parvez Musharraf’s leadership without his knowledge.

Addressing PML (N) General Council meeting at Raiwind on Saturday, Nawaz Sharif said Musharraf launched the Kargil operation soon after the visit of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Lahore.

Nawaz said he established contact with the then United States President Bill Clinton when Indian PM Vajpayee informed him of the Kargil operation. He said despite his busy schedule, Clinton met wit me (Nawaz). Nawaz said he claimed the blame of Kargil war to save army’s image.

PML (N) chief said he was fortunate to have loyal workers in the party. On lawyers’ movement, Nawaz said success of this movement would ensure prosperity and security of Pakistan.

Bid to bomb Karachi bank foiled

KARACHI: Security guards of a bank foiled a suicide attack in New Sabzi Mandi area of the city here.
The suicide bomber wanted to enter into the bank but the security guards gunned him down. According to DIG East Zafar Bokhari, the suspected bomber was killed in a police encounter.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Google Earth Exposes Secret U.S. Drones at Pakistan Base in 2006

Despite denials from Washington and Pakistan, satellite imagery captures what appear to be three U.S. Predator drones outside a hangar at the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan's southwest.

The U.S. was secretly flying unmanned drones from the Shamsi airbase in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan as early as 2006, according to an image of the base from Google Earth, the Times of London reported Thursday.

The image -- that is no longer on the site but which was obtained by The News, Pakistan's English language daily newspaper -- shows what appear to be three Predator drones outside a hangar at the end of the runway.

The Times also obtained a copy of the image, whose coordinates confirm that it is the Shamsi airfield, also known as Bandari, about 200 miles southwest of the Pakistani city of Quetta.

The Times reported yesterday that the CIA was secretly using Shamsi to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack Al Qaeda and Taliban militants around Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

U.S. special forces used the airbase during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, but the Pakistani Government said in 2006 that the Americans had left and both sides have since denied repeatedly that Washington was using Pakistani bases.

Two senior U.S. defense officials told FOX News that no Predator unmanned aerial vehicles are currently or have recently been based on Pakistani territory, despite a statement by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, at a recent Congressional intelligence hearing.

However, they could use the Shamsi air base if they needed to. The base is well known to the U.S. military and was used by the Americans in 2001 and 2002 at the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.

One U.S. official told FOX News the U.S. has been flying "Predators or UAVs" in Pakistan since 2002.

There have been 30 strikes since August with 11 top leaders of Al Qaeda taken out, according to intelligence reports.

Senior officials also confirm that Pakistan has been aiding the U.S. in its Predator unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, despite its leaders very public protests that they see the strikes as a breach of sovereignty.

Both President Asif Ali Zardari and General Ashraf Kayani, the head of Pakistan's army, have turned a blind eye to the strikes. According to the officials, these two leaders have launched no protests behind the scenes to U.S. officials about the strikes.

Any public protests have been for public consumption inside Pakistan. One official, however, says that not all elements of the Pakistani government are aware of this cooperation or support it - suggesting other civilian leaders may not be onboard.

(Fox News Report)

Monday, February 16, 2009

NWFP govt., TNSM ink Nizam-e-Adal Accord

PESHAWAR: The North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi, after finalization of an accord for the enforcement of Nizam-e-Adal in Malakand, have inked a Nizam-e-Adal accord at the end of the Jirga here on Monday.

Following the Jirga, NWFP Chief Minister, Amir Haider Khan Hoti, who was presiding over the Jirga, told the media that the enforcement of Nizam-e-Adal was a historic moment and it would come in force forthwith.

"Today an agreement has been signed between the government of NWFP and Maulana Sufi Mohammed," provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters here.

"All laws against sharia will be abolished and sharia will be enforced under this justice system," he added.

The agreement will cover Malakand area, one of the districts of NWFP, which includes the Swat valley.

"It is my hope that the armed people will disarm themselves, give up the path of violence and work for restoration of peace in Swat," NWFP chief minister, Amir Haider Hoti said.

Twenty-nine delegates from the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Sharia, led by Maulana Muhammad Alam, attended the meeting today.

US, NATO and Afghan officials have criticised previous peace deals in Pakistan, saying that they have led to an increase in suicide attacks on international and Afghan forces across the border in Afghanistan.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Despite 26/11, cross border marriages are taking place

Vivek Shukla

New Delhi—Even after gory Mumbai attack of 26/11, the cross border marriages between Indian boys and Pakistani girls or vice-versa are still taking place. The divided Muslim families of cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Rampur, Mordabad, Aligarh, Amroha, Ujjain still don’t mind marrying their kids in Pakistan.

According to M. Ahmad of Khuda Rafiq Trust who knows the affairs of Muslims from both Delhi and UP as back of his right hand, says that even though getting citizenship for both Indians and Pakistanis in each other’s country is a huge task, still divided families are marrying their kids across the border. “ I can safely say that around 10 cross-border marriages took place during the last two months or so in Delhi, Meerut and Saharnpur alone,” says Ahmad. President of the prestigious Delhi based Indian Islamic Centre, Mr. Sirajuddin Qureshi says that as marriages between cousins are very much permitted in Islam, the divided families of the partition happily marry their kids across the border. “ Such marriages were very common after a few years of partition.

However, the number of cross border marriages have come down over the years due to various factors.

It may be recalled that when an ex-career Pakistani diplomat and former President of Pakistan Cricket Board married his son Ali to a girl from Bhopal a few years ago lots of eyebrows were raised. Many people in both India and Pakistan questioned his wisdom to find match for his son in India.

Qureshi, whose many cousin sisters are married in Pakistan, says those who question the wisdom of Khan should know that these people are doing yeoman service in their own way in order to cement the relations between the two bitter neighbours. It is said that the number of such marriages were reduced as whenever there is a chill in the relations. When things normalize, marriages start taking place with all the fanfare. Known educationist of Delhi, Maulana Umer Ilaysi says that it is true that cross border marriages are still on, but their number has gone as down compared to yesteryears. Reason? He feels that there are two major reasons for this thing to happen. First, the fast dwindling population of those elders who were divided across the border in the wake of partition. Till they were alive they used to ensure that their kids marry with each-other. As the number of those people reduced, the frequency of such marriages came down. Second, the governments in both Delhi and Islamabad are very choosy in granting citizenship to the nationals of these two countries. That is the major reason that people avoid marrying their kids across the border.

Pashtun influx fuels Karachi tensions

By Syed Shoaib Hasan

BBC News, Karachi

"We are doing our best to prevent them from taking over," says Mohammad Rafiq earnestly as he sits in the crowded room in Karachi.

He is referring to Taleban militants who have come to the city from Pakistan's tribal areas such as North and South Waziristan who "want to take over Karachi".

Rafiq, a primary school teacher, is a resident of Baldia town, a suburb of Karachi.

He is also a member of a neighbourhood, or sector, office of the MQM (United National Movement) political party for his area.

'Bully and kill'

Karachi, on the coast of Pakistan's southern Sindh province, is the country's largest city.

It is also the South Asian nation's financial capital and main port.

The MQM, which is allied to Pakistan's ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), is politically in control of Karachi.

The party draws its strength from a mainly middle class electorate, made up of Urdu-speaking people, descendants of migrants from India after partition in 1947.

Its detractors have often complained that it has used its political strength to bully and even kill opponents.

The MQM, however, strongly denies this allegations.

"Our job is to find solutions for neighbourhood problems at the local level," says Farooq Sattar, a central government minister and senior MQM leader.

"We also inform the top leadership if there are matters here that are beyond our control."

Of late these have been primarily to do with what the MQM has called the "Talebanisation" of Karachi.

It says that more and more people are migrating to Karachi from different parts of Pakistan, especially from the tribal areas.

"The Taleban don't want to be concentrated in the northern areas and are looking for other options," says Dr Sattar.

De facto rulers

Urban experts agree, pointing out that there has also been a substantial rise in migrants into Karachi from the North West Frontier Province's Pashtun community.

It is perhaps this fact which is most galling for the MQM, which stormed into control of Karachi following ethnic riots which began in the mid-1980s.

At that time, disagreements over the identity question led to clashes between the Urdu-speaking and Pashtun-speaking communities.

The MQM rose to power on the back of these riots which left hundreds of people dead and established the party's position in Karachi.

But critics have accused the party of using the "ethnic card" to keep control over Karachi.

Ethnicity remains a touchy topic in the metropolis and since 2007 there have been rumblings of a return to the problems of before.

In November, more than 40 people were killed in two days of ethnic-related killings.

"Riots and violence did take place between 1985 and 1988, but our leaders met and reached a conclusive peace accord," says Aminullah Khattak, secretary general of the Sindh chapter of the mostly Pashtun Awami National Party (ANP).

"We wanted to end it, and it did end at that time."

'Menial activities'

But Mr Khattak now says that the issue has once again reared its head, this times he feels because of economic factors.

"The thing that has started it again is that the Pashtuns living over here have progressed economically," he says.

"Some people believe that they will remain watchmen or labourers, or remain engaged in menial economic activities all their lives.

"But they've become well educated, they've progressed economically, they want to get better jobs."

The ANP argues that "Talebanisation" is not a problem in Karachi, but just a ruse for a movement against upwardly-mobile Pashtuns.

Evidence of that movement is all too clear to Azmatullah Khan, a pharmacy student, as he stands on the ruins of his family business which was burnt to the ground in December.

"Four armed men came to the back of the market on two bikes," he says.

"They threw some kind of chemicals... and started a fire which spread if water was thrown on it.

"You can see yourselves, they only targeted Pashtun businesses," he says while bitterly pointing to nearby timber shops which remain intact and open.

"If you look at the situation in Karachi now, it is the Pashtun community which is facing the brunt of the problems," says Ismail Khan, a member of the ANP provincial executive committee.

"Pashtun areas are the least developed in terms of basic amenities, as well as facilities such as hospitals and schools.

"In addition, Pashtuns are said to be the root of all troubles."

'Taleban ideas'

Ismail Khan believes that the MQM is behind this, and its principal motive is to get Pashtuns to give up the land they hold in Karachi.

There has been a substantial rise in migrant numbers

"We are the only threat to their power, and that is why they have used the spectre of Talebanisation."

But Mohammad Rafiq and many others believe that it is the realities on the ground which have forced the MQM to move matters.

"We had no problems with the Pashtun community which has been settled here for a long time," he says.

"But we do have a problem with those who are extremists and have come here to spread Taleban ideas."

There seems little outward signs that the fundamentalist movement is taking over this most cosmopolitan of cities.

Karachi's problems remain largely ethnic despite claims by the MQM.

Pakistan's current debilitating security scenario however means that this is no less of a threat.

"Karachi remains Pakistan's jugular vein and its microcosm," says Aminullah Khattak.

"Any descent into violence here could cripple the country economically, and have grave consequences for national unity."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Failure to nab perpetrators of Shia killings worries HRCP

Lahore: The recent string of target-killing of Shias in Balochistan and the government’s failure to bring any of the perpetrators to justice is a cause for growing alarm, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

A press statement issued by the Commission said: “The killing of Shia notables in Quetta has sadly become a frequent occurrence. Some of the killings have been owned by an extremist organization flying a religious standard. The number of the Shia community members killed there over the recent years has exceeded 300. The government’s failure to track down the culprits has understandably enraged the targeted community, and it has also emboldened the perpetrators to kill with impunity. Besides religious figures, liberal politicians, businessmen and government officials have been targeted.

The government must surely now know that the community is exasperated with the government’s inability to perform one of its basic functions, that of ensuring that the lives of the people are protected. The Sunni population also fears that unhindered killings of the Shias might cause sectarian strife in an area where the sects have generally coexisted peacefully for centuries.

HRCP fears that the state agencies’ consistent failure to track down the killers may prompt the targeted community to retaliate against members of other sects, which is perhaps the sort of violence those behind the target-killings want to trigger.

The province, which has been in the grip of an insurgency for many years and now faces a growing threat from the Taliban, cannot afford that. The government must act decisively to investigate the killings in an efficient manner before the situation slips into further chaos.”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Part of Mumbai conspiracy took place in Pakistan: Rehman Malik

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has registered a case that could lead to prosecution of the people behind the killing of 179 people in the Indian city of Mumbai last November, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik said on Thursday.

"Some part of the conspiracy has taken place in Pakistan," Malik told a news conference here.

"We have lodged an FIR into the case," he said, referring to a police complaint, generally known as a first information report (FIR). Malik said Pakistan had assured India of its full cooperation in the investigations of Mumbai attacks and that Pakistan had been a victim of terrorism since long.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

7 female hostages freed from hotel in Lahore: police

LAHORE: Lahore Police claimed recovering seven girls from a hotel located in Loyair Mal area in Lahore on Monday, police sources said.

According to sources, as many as seven girls were seized in a hotel in Lahore whom police freed following a raid on the hotel. Police sources added, they have sealed the hotel.

Police conducted a raid along with Geo News media team and found hotel owner and administration missing from there meanwhile, they heard girls scream from a locked room of hotel. Police broke the door and took girls under their custody.

Police informed media, several abduction cases had been registered against the hotel owners in past and added, two brothers of hotel owner work in police.

Sexual harassment charges leveled against lady FBI officer

NEW DELHI: The FBI probe into the Mumbai terror attack took an unusual twist with Faheem Ansari, one of the accused, leveling sexual harassment allegations against a lady officer of the American agency who had reportedly interrogated him here.

Faheem has moved the court with his lawyer Ejaz Naqvi filing an application before an Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate alleging that a lady FBI officer, who had interrogated the accused, had "sexually harrassed him all through the night." The court issued a notice today to the city police's crime branch and directed it to file their reply to the application by February 26.

The application also made a plea for Faheem to be sent for medical check-up as he has developed "itches and wounds in his private parts and all over his body".

"Faheem had been interrogated by three FBI officers out of which one of them, a lady officer, had sexually abused him," Naqvi told the court.

Monday, February 9, 2009

‘Internal hand involved in Mumbai attacks’

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Singh Modi criticises ruling Congress for not taking action against any local group

NAGPUR: Indian Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Singh Modi hinted on Sunday that the Mumbai terror attacks could not have been carried out without internal help – comments that are in sharp contrast with claims by other Indian officials who hold Pakistan solely responsible for the attacks.

The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said, “If we single out that one incident (Mumbai attacks) and ask any person in this country ... with basic information and knowledge, they will say that such a big terror attack on India cannot take place without any internal help from the nation itself.”

Criticism: He criticised the Congress-led coalition government for not taking action against any local groups involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Modi’s new theory contradicts India’s official position, and came just hours ahead of Pakistan’s reply to an Indian dossier of information given to Islamabad.

Addressing a BJP convention here, the Gujarat chief minister also slammed the policies of the ruling Congress party.

According to Hindustan times, Modi also made a scathing attack on the Gandhi-Nehru family, alleging that a conspiracy had been hatched to promote the family, posing a danger to the future of the country.

“A conspiracy to promote one family’s past is posing a danger for the future of the country,” Modi said without directly naming the Gandhi-Nehru family, but the indication was obvious.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dubai real estate collapse

Pakistani investors suffer losses

By Mansoor Ahmad

LAHORE: The real estate industry’s collapse in Dubai has caused more damage to the Pakistani elite than the losses they are facing in their industries in Pakistan. Around $72.35 billion worth of property projects are stated to have stalled in Dubai.

Rumours are ripe in Dubai that these projects, undertaken by some renowned real estate developers, have been put to an indefinite hold. There is no official word from the developers about the stoppage of work but those who visit Dubai could see that work on over 50 building projects costing $3.8 million to $70 million has come to a standstill. Out of this, cancellation of work on real estate projects worth $3.275 billion has been confirmed.

Investors from around the globe had booked apartments in these projects by paying advance payments to the developers. They do not know whether they would get back their investment. Most of the capital flight from Pakistan in the recent past landed in Dubai for investment in real estate. The flight of capital during the past 12 months has been admitted even by the Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance, Shaukat Tarin.

There is no real figure about the exact investment by Pakistani entrepreneurs in Dubai’s real estate. The money was sent through back channels and the Federal Investigation Agency estimates a minimum outflow of over $3 billion during the first few months of the current government, which sent the rupee to over Rs83 against the dollar. The recovery of the rupee started after International Monetary Fund’s standby arrangement in November last year.

Dubai has remained a favoured destination for Pakistani investors. However, until a year ago only the richest invested their resources in the most enterprising Gulf state. Last year, even medium-sized entrepreneurs panicked by deteriorating economic conditions in the country rushed to invest in real estate in Dubai which was booming at that time.

The Dubai government then introduced the condition of one apartment for one family. Under this rule, the definition of family was husband, wife and children. Sisters, brothers or other relatives were not permitted to stay in the same apartment. This caused turmoil in the real estate business in Dubai as these apartments were occupied by a large number of workers who shared high rent. Individual workers could not afford to pay for separate apartments and vacated them causing a sharp decline in rents and real estate prices.

The investors are in a fix. Those who got possession of their property find the rent very low but cannot dispose of the property because prices are very low. However, most of them who invested in real estate during the last one year have not even got possession of their property and now construction of most of the projects is on hold with real possibility that these would be abandoned.

The cancelled projects in Dubai include $1.3 billion Nad El Sheeba race course which was being built by Mayden LLC. The $680 million Falcon City of Wonders undertaken by ETA Star has also been scrapped. The Dubai Exhibition City project worth $450 million has also been cancelled. Desert Gate Hotels and Towers being built at an estimated cost of $350 million by Bawadi LLC has been abandoned. Pikington Emirates has announced cancellation of its $200 million Float Glass Factory project. Walter’s Edge (Business Bay), a $125 million project of Damac Properties, has also been called off. The same builder has stopped a $100 million Dolphin Tower project. Nadra Tower (Business Bay), a project of Tanweel, has also been cancelled. It was to be built at an estimated cost of $70 million. (The News)

Cantt Station on candid camera

By Asadullah

The Pakistan Railways has introduced a much-needed security feature to the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station, and the close circuit television (CCTV) network has been made functional with the proper installation of 26 cameras.

The Karachi Cantonment Railway Station, which also enjoys heritage status, has been equipped with a CCTV network after having a control room established within the police help centre at the station. The Railway Police have been tasked with monitoring the eight platforms of the station, hosting arrival and departure of 48 trains every 24 hours.

“The CCTV franchise operation has been under way since January 17 under railway police supervision,” a senior railway police officer told The News. “We are now monitoring the station with 26 cameras, including a high-speed dome camera installed in the parking lot of the station.”

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Railway Minister, had told the media that CCTV cameras would be installed at the Karachi, Rohri and Lahore railway stations in the first phase.

Pakistan Railway authorities, however, took time to come up with an authentic answer to the CCTV project when they finalised the bids for installing cameras. They managed to fit cameras at different points, but these remained idle due to the paucity of trained hands in the control room.

Sources said that twelve police constables and six female constables have undergone a six-month training period to work in the CCTV control room in eight-hour shifts round the clock. “We have enough memory for 25 days of video footage,” explained a police officer. “The 26th day will automatically erase the first day’s memory and record over it.”

Sources said that the installation of CCTV cameras in Karachi, Lahore and Rohri at an accumulative cost of Rs10.5 million is part of a greater security and surveillance project, which will also cover railway workshops, to have a check on theft and employees’ presence. Walk-through security gates have already been installed at the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station.

Sources informed The News that the Pakistan Railway headquarters in Lahore have finalised the CCTV Network at three railway stations, including Karachi Cantonment, in the first phase of the security measures to be taken at railway stations and trains across the country. Lahore-based Champions Traders has installed the cameras at Karachi, too.

“The high-speed dome camera installed at the parking lot of Karachi Cantonment Railway Station is unique amongst the cameras installed to cover eight platforms,” observed a police officer. “This particular camera can be rotated as per your requirement, enabling you to keep a watchful eye on the huge open space around the parking area.”

According to Baqar Gilani, the Station House Officer of the Karachi Cantonment Railway Police Station, the establishment of CCTV control room under the railway police’s supervision is indeed a right step toward improved policing at the century-old railway station where 90 percent of the up-country railroading originates.

Within the Cantonment Railway Police Station’s limits, the theft of railway material and property tops the incidents of crime, followed by pick pocketing and luggage-lifting.

“Another most serious crime that we deal with is poisoning of people in a bid to rob them,” said Gilani.

No official, including Muzzafar Ali Sheikh, Railway Police SP, could confirm the cost of the cameras and other necessary arrangements that have been made to finalise the CCTV network. Mir Mohammed Khaskheli, Divisional Superintendent Railway Karachi, appeared ignorant as far as the actual cost of the CCTV Network at Karachi alone was concerned. (The News)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Obama says Pakistan must not be destabilised

WASHINGTON, Feb 3: Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are the main cause of concern for US President Barack Obama and his military chiefs who have vowed not to allow the destabilisation of Pakistan because that will allow the militants access to weapons of mass destruction.

“What we can do is make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for Al Qaeda. What we can do is make sure that it is not destabilising neighbouring Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons,” said Mr Obama in an interview to NBC television.

His military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, went a step ahead and pledged not to allow Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas either.

“We cannot accept that Al Qaeda leadership which continues to plan against us every single day — and I mean us, here in America — to have that safe haven in Pakistan nor could resume one in Afghanistan,” Admiral Mullen said.

The two statements coincided with a Pentagon report, partly made available to the media on Tuesday, which recommended a broader effort to train and equip Pakistani security forces to conduct counter-insurgency operations in the tribal areas.

The report also urges the Obama administration to lower its goals in Afghanistan. The report by the joint services chiefs seeks to apply pressure on Pakistan’s military and intelligence services to sever their ties with militants.

Amid growing concern about the stability of Pakistan, the report calls for putting renewed focus by the US government on ensuring that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons remain under its government’s control. Though that has long been a US aim, the report suggests a way to focus new attention on the problem in case militant groups threaten Pakistan’s stability.

The report concedes that the United States cannot establish a “lasting democracy” and a “thriving economy” in Afghanistan — the two objectives touted vociferously by the Bush administration. Instead, the Pentagon urges the Obama administration to focus on ensuring regional stability and eliminating Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan.

The recommendations will soon be shown to President Obama as part of a review of Afghanistan strategy announced by the new administration. The report is one of several that Mr Obama is expected to review before finalising his strategy.

Gen David Petraeus, Commander US Central Command, and Richard Holbrooke, special US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, are also preparing similar reports.

The chiefs’ recommendations have been approved by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and seen by Defence Secretary Robert Gates. The report reflects the Pentagon’s concern that sending thousands of additional American troops to fight could lead to a lengthy conflict in Afghanistan.

While Mr Obama is sending three additional brigades, the chiefs’ report rejected the recommendation for an even larger “surge” for Afghanistan.

In their report, the chiefs concluded that the existing American goals in Afghanistan, established by the Bush administration, were overly broad and ambitious.

With insurgent violence in Afghanistan worsening significantly during the last year, the report argues for setting more concrete objectives that are achievable and realistic in the short-term.

In a separate quarterly report to Congress on security conditions in Afghanistan, the Pentagon reports that “the spring and summer of 2008 saw the highest levels of violence” since the US invasion in 2001. “The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and has coalesced into a resilient and evolving insurgency.”

Between January and December 10, 2008, 132 US personnel in Afghanistan died as the result of hostile action, up from 82 in 2007.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dozens killed in Pakistan army raid

At least 35 opposition fighters have been killed in a fresh raid by the Pakistani military in the Swat valley, the army has said in a statement.

The military operation on several hideouts took place in the Khawazakhela district overnight, according to the statement released on Tuesday.

The Pakistani military has been battling fighters loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a religious leader considered to be close to the Taliban, in recent months.

More than 20,000 people across the Swat valley are believed to have fled their homes to escape the fighting.

Targeted attacks

Wajid Ali Khan, a provincial minister, has said "the fighting in the valley has made it almost impossible for civilians to stay there".

Government forces and other state employees are bearing the brunt of many attacks by Fazlullah loyalists, Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, said.

The decapitated bodies of policemen - complete with notes warning the authorities of further such attacks - have become a common sight on streets in Swat, Hyder said.

The raids came after Yusuf Reza Giliani, the Pakistani prime minister, pledged to restore peace to the Swat valley.

"We are finding a way out. We do not want to disclose the strategy right now, but soon Swat will be peaceful, like the rest of the country," Gilani said on Monday.

Bridge destroyed

Hours after the latest raids in Swat valley, suspected Taliban-linked fighters blew up a bridge in Pakistan's Khyber Pass, severing the main route for supplies to Western troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan government officials said.

The 30-metre iron bridge, which lies about 23km from the city of the northwestern city of Peshawar, was destroyed shortly after midnight, Rahat Gul, a government official, said.

"Militants blew up the bridge and it's going to take some time to fix it," he said on Tuesday.

There has been an increase over the last year in attacks on the Khyber Pass road, with most of them aimed at preventing international forces fighting the Taliban of receiving supplies.

The road through Pakistan's mountainous border territory into Afghanistan has been briefly closed twice since September due to attacks.

The US military and Nato's force in Afghanistan have tried to find alternative supply routes in the face of the attacks on the Khyber Pass.

About 75 per cent of supplies to the US military in Afghanistan come through or over Pakistan, including 40 per cent of the fuel for its troops.

The attacks on the Khyber Pass come as the US military prepares to send about 60,000 extra soldiers to Afghanistan in the next few months.

General David Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command, said last month that agreements had been reached for new routes into northern Afghanistan through Central Asian states and Russia. (Al Jazeera. net)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gunmen kidnap UN official in southwestern Pakistan

Militants in southwestern Pakistan kidnapped a UN official on Monday, killing his driver in the process, local police said.

Khalid Masood, a senior police official, identified the kidnapped man as John Solecki, an American who is the regional head of a United Nations refugee office — the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He was abducted as he headed to work in Quetta, Masood said.

"Solecki has been serving in Quetta for more than two years," Masood told the Associated Press. "We cannot speculate on the motive behind the crime."

Solecki did not have a police escort while he was travelling, Masood said.

"We have learned that he usually did not like to have an escort with him on his way to the office," Masood said.

A UN official in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, later confirmed Solecki had been abducted.

The gunmen reportedly opened fire on his vehicle, and the driver died later in hospital. Video footage from the scene showed a UNHCR vehicle crumpled into a brick wall and with at least one bullet hole in it.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Kidnappings in southwest rare
Quetta is the capital of Baluchistan, a province that shares a border with Afghanistan. Southwestern Pakistan is the scene of a low-level insurgency driven by nationalist groups wanting more autonomy for Baluchistan province.

But unlike Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in the northwest, the Baluch groups are not known to target foreigners, and three police officials said they could not recall another foreigner being kidnapped in Quetta.

Abductions are more common in northwest tribal areas that border Afghanistan.

In November, web publisher Khadija Abdul Qahaar of West Vancouver was kidnapped in the northwest Bannu district. Her kidnappers have reportedly asked for a $150,000 ransom and the release of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan.

The Taliban are believed to be responsible for the abduction months ago of two Afghan diplomats and two engineers, one Chinese and the other Polish. They were all kidnapped in the northwest and are still believed to be in custody. (CBC News)

3 women ‘dupe, kidnap, rape’ man in Karachi

* Case registered, police looking for alleged rapists
* Police say man sexually assaulted over four days

KARACHI: Karachi police have registered a case against three unidentified women who allegedly kidnapped a man and raped him over four consecutive days and then threw him near Qayyumabad River in an unconscious state. The case has been registered on a complaint by the victim, identified only as Khalil (23) – who recently arrived in Karachi from Rahimyar Khan and works as a waiter at a restaurant in Neelum Colony, Clifton.

On the night of January 27, an identified man ordered Khalil to deliver food to women sitting in a car parked outside the restaurant where he works. “After giving me the order, the man went towards the car. I took the order to the car where the women – two of whom were young and the third was middle-aged – told me that they had recently shifted to the area,” said Khalil. He said the women asked him to deliver food to their house every day, and he agreed. “They asked me to go along with them in the car ... they said they wanted to show me where their house was.” Khalil said the women gave him a ‘glazed sweet’ and once they got to the house, “they gave me milk that had some drug mixed in it ... I fell unconscious after drinking it”. Khalil said when he gained consciousness, he found that the women had undressed him, “and they were forcing themselves onto me”.

ASP Asad Raza said the women assaulted Khalil sexually for the next four days, and then threw him near Qayyumabad River. Khalil managed to stop a passing motorist – who took him to Civil Hospital. “His condition is really bad ... his genitals are bleeding and he cannot walk properly,” said Raza. Raza said the women belonged to rich families of Karachi’s Clifton area. “It’s a complicated case ... but we are hoping that we will solve it soon,” he added. faraz khan