Tuesday, March 24, 2009

20 Uzbek terrorists reportedly enter Punjab

LAHORE: It has been reliably learnt that 20 Uzbek terrorists have entered Punjab, Geo news reported on Tuesday.

According to Regional Police Officer (RPO) Sargodha region, Mukhtar Gondal, nearly 20 suspected Uzbek terrorists have entered Punjab who could target Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Bhakkar and Sargodha.

Gondal said that security has been beefed up following the tip-off and search operation is underway. He said Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsood has dispatched the Uzbeks.

Guard killed in suicide attack at Police station

By Saad Saud

ISLAMABAD—At least two persons including a police constable and suicide bomber were killed and five others injured in a powerful blast at the gate of Special Branch of Police station in Sector G-7 near Sitara Market here on Monday, police and eye witnesses said.
A suspected bomber around 8:00 P.M tried to enter into the Special Branch of Police where he was barred by guards at a checkpoint at the gate as a result he blew himself up, killing one police constable on the spot, witnesses said. The police constable who was killed in the suicide bombing was identified as Faisal. The blast was so loud that it shattered the window panes of the surrounding buildings.
Ambulances and rescue teams reached the scene and initiated rescue operations soon after the attack and collected scattered limbs for forensics and other evidences from the scene. The injured were shifted to Government Services Hospital and Pakistan Institute of Medical sciences were emergency have been declared. “So far only one person had been brought to the Polyclinic hospital whose name is said to be Muhammad Karim”, said doctors engaged with his medical treatment. He, however, said that Karim is out of danger.”
Injured Muhammad Karim is stated to be a computer operator in the building where usually 100 to 150 officers work Advisor Interior Rehman Malik who reached at the scene confirmed that it was suicide attack. He said there were authentic reports of carrying out subversive activities to the intelligence agencies in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The police Cop Faisal, he said scarified his life but he averted a big loss had the suicide bomber entered into the building, Malik added. Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani condemned the suicide bomb attack on the offices of special branch police at Sitara Market in Islamabad.In their statements, the President and the Prime Minister said the perpetrators of the heinous terrorist attack will not go unpunished.They ordered the Interior Ministry to hold immediate inquiry into the incident.They directed the hospital authorities to provide best possible medical care to the injured.
Advisor to Prime Minister on Interior Rehman A Malik said the suicide blast at a police station near Sitara Market was carried out by one among the `series of bombers’ who sneaked into the Capital before Long March. “We had a very authentic information that some 15-20 Uzbek suicide bombers were sent by Baitullah Mehsud following a meeting of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),” the Interior Advisor told media on Monday. Malik said a police constable named Faisal embraced martyrdom while trying to stop the suicide bomber who tried to force his way into the premises. “I salute this brave policeman for showing such an act of gallantry,” Malik said. Meanwhile, five other persons were reported wounded in the blast.
The Interior Advisor said security in Islamabad was put on high alert as they had information of today’s attack. Asked as to how could the suicide bomber could make it if elaborate security cover was in place, he said “no effective mechanism has so far been developed anywhere in the world to preempt suicide bombing” (Daily Mail)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Balcohistan PA passes motion against potential drone attacks

QUETTA: Balochistan Assembly on Saturday unanimously passed a motion against probable U.S. drone attacks.

According to sources, the resolution presented by Jamiat Ulema Islam (F) urged federal government and other institutions to play their due role against possible U.S. drone attacks in Balochistan.

Senior Minister of JUI (F) Maulana Abdul Wasaay said federal government and other bodies should brief United Stated and Nato forces about efforts made against terrorism and tell them that their reservations are baseless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Attorney general Latif Khosa directs deputy to file review petition

ISLAMABAD: Attorney General Latif Khosa has directed deputy attorney general to file a review petition in Sharif brothers’ eligibility case.

According to sources, Khosa said petition would be filed soon after the detail decision. Deputy Attorney General Agha Tariq will file the petition.

Agha Tariq said he got the message of attorney general regarding petition, which will be filed after reviewing the legal points of previous decision.

Friday, March 13, 2009

India hands over replies to Pakistan

NEW DELHI: In a major development, India has handed over its reply to the 30 questions raised by Pakistan after studying the 26/11 dossier. The Indian dossier runs in 401 pages.

The reply includes CDs and voice intercepts of terrorists.

Speaking on the issue, Home Minister P Chidambaram said, "All of Pakistan's 30 questions related to Mumbai terror attacks have been answered. These replies have been backed with evidence like forensic reports."

Chidambaram also said that if Pakistan is serious, these answers provide them solid base to prosecute.

The Home Minister handed over the replies to Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee who in turn handed it over to Pakistan.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bilawal Bhutto, son of the late Benazir, is said to be planning to run for treasurer in the student elections

News arrives that the Oxford Union Society is indulging in its second favourite pastime Bilawal Bhutto, the 20-year-old son of the late Benazir, is said to be planning to run for treasurer in the student elections next week. His mother was, of course, the first Asian female president of the society in 1976.

“The fact his mother was president is certainly a factor,” a student mole reports. “Bilawal, who’s in his second year reading history at Christ Church, wants to emulate her and there’s a sense of a dynasty. They say his father wanted him to run when he first came to Oxford, but he’s always said he’s going on to do serious work later in life, so he might as well enjoy himself first.”

And what does Bhutto himself say? When cornered at a student party, he offered an enigmatic “Maybe.” Apparently he is wary about the society’s reputation for being brutal and bitchy. If he is hoping to follow in his Mum’s footsteps and become prime minister of Pakistan, you’d think dealing with a few braying undergraduates would be a doddle. (Times online)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pakistan arrests 3 people on attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team

ISLAMABAD, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani police have arrested three people in connection with the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team in eastern city of Lahore, local television reported on Wednesday.

The three people have been arrested for providing assistance in the attacks, private Geo TV channel said.

Habibur Rehman, a police officer in Lahore, also told reporters that the raids to capture the suspects are underway and good news will be revealed soon.

At least seven persons including five policemen were killed and 19 others including seven Sri Lankan cricket players were injured in the terrorist attacks.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pakistan Attack Puts 2011 Cricket World Cup Matches in Jeopardy

March 3 (Bloomberg) -- Cricket’s run of near misses with terrorists ended today when gunmen injured Sri Lanka players and killed at least five policemen in Pakistan, casting doubt over future matches in the region including the 2011 World Cup.

“This is the first time that cricketers have been attacked,” said N. Srinivasan, secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, in an interview.

Two players received gunshot wounds as 12 terrorists carrying rocket launchers and grenades targeted a team bus 500 yards from the Qaddafi stadium in Lahore, where Sri Lanka was due to face Pakistan today. None of the players was seriously injured, team officials said.

Sri Lanka was only playing after India scrapped a visit because of security fears following the Mumbai attacks in November. Terrorists then targeted foreigners, including a hotel used by England’s team weeks earlier. The 2011 World Cup is scheduled for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“That tournament is now in jeopardy,” said Ramachandra Guha, a cricket historian, in a telephone interview from Bangalore. “No one will agree to go to Pakistan. That will be a massive blow to cricket in the entire subcontinent.”

Sri Lanka canceled its tour after today’s attack and President Mahinda Rajapaksa berated a “cowardly” act on “goodwill ambassadors.” Nations including Australia have refused to play in Pakistan in recent years and the International Cricket Council first postponed and then took away its Champions Trophy from Pakistan originally scheduled for last September.

‘Death of Cricket’

“It’s the death of cricket in Pakistan,” said Shaukat Qadir, a security analyst and retired Pakistani army brigadier general, in an interview. “Only Sri Lanka had the courage to come and play here.”

Sri Lanka was contesting the first Test series to take place in Pakistan since South Africa’s visit in October 2007. New Zealand quit a 2002 series after a bomb near the team hotel in Karachi killed 11 people.

ICC Chief Executive Officer Haroon Lorgat told the BBC no World Cup games will take place in Pakistan without “dramatic changes” in security. He will hold a news conference in London.

“There obviously have been breaches and the security has not been good enough,” Lorgat told Times Now.

The next team scheduled to visit Pakistan is New Zealand, in December, while England is due to travel to the Asian nation in February 2010. Pakistan was awarded one of the semifinals at the Cricket World Cup in two years’ time.

‘Saddest Day’

“This is the saddest day for all sportsmen,” former Pakistani cricket captain Javed Miandad told GEO TV. “The future of cricket in Pakistan doesn’t look good.”

The attack won’t alter plans to hold the Indian Premier League from next month, Srinivasan said. During last year’s event, players sought assurances after bombs in the northern Indian city of Jaipur killed as many as 60 people in a market frequented by cricketers.

England’s cricket team flew home from India immediately after the November attacks in Mumbai before later returning. The inaugural Champions League Twenty20 competition was postponed because of those attacks.

“Every part of the world has to learn to deal with terrorism,” Srinivasan said. “We had concerns about safety (in Pakistan) and also it was after the Bombay attacks so we decided to scrap the tour.”

Pakistan won’t host international teams for at least a year, said cricket historian Guha, while former Australia player Brendon Julian predicted an impasse lasting two years when speaking on Fox Sports today.

‘Rebuild Confidence’

“It is a big dent,” Pakistan’s Sports Minister Pir Aftab Shah Jilani said in an interview. “It will take a coordinated effort to rebuild confidence.”

India and Pakistan used cricket to improve relations when they resumed playing each other in 2004 in the so-called Friendship Series, two years after being on the brink of war. Further matches look unlikely any time soon, former Pakistan cricket captain Asif Iqbal said.

India blamed terrorist “elements” from Pakistan for the Mumbai assault that killed 164 people. It presented a dossier on its evidence to Pakistan in January. After studying the document, the government in Islamabad asked India to answer 30 questions on the findings.

“Nobody can give any assurances when people are prepared to go to these extremes,” Asif said on NDTV from London.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fallout of the verdict

By Talat Masood

The way events are unfolding in Pakistan it appears our national failure has been programmed and the political software written by our leaders, whether it was the erstwhile military regime or the current civilian leadership, leaves little scope for recovery. In the face of multiple challenges that the country is confronted with, the need is to develop a broad consensus. Instead President Zardari regrettably is pursuing, the politics of “winner takes all” and Nawaz Sharif is taking his fight to the streets. When the country is facing an expanding insurgency in FATA and parts of NWFP, a nationalist uprising in Baluchistan, an economy in deep distress, increasing tensions with India and acute problems of governance it is mind boggling why any leader should try to destabilize Punjab.

The implications of the court decision are going to be far reaching on the body politic and economy of the country. First, in the short term it would deflect the attention of the government from combating insurgency and counter terrorism. For the government to place reliance on the recent peace deals in Swat and elsewhere would be premature and misleading, as the situation is still tenuous and uncertainClearly, PML-N is the most important political force in Punjab and the second largest national party and it is imprudent to antagonize them at this juncture, when owning the fight against insurgents and mobilizing public opinion against them is crucial. Moreover, PML-N has been taking a moderate and balanced approach toward fighting insurgency in FATA and advocating a firm policy of controlling militants that are destabilizing Pakistan and creating serious problems with India.

It is likely that political expediency may push PML-N in a close alliance with rightist and hard line parties and fight against militancy will weaken. The opposition cannot be expected to remain silent in the face of President Zardari’s effort to impose PPP rule throughout the country. What is more politically significant is that PML-N joining the lawyers’ movement will give a new momentum to it! And as other opposition elements join the band wagon it may result in building a critical mass sufficient to unhinge the government that already is so weak.

PPP regrettably, ever since the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto has been factionalized, its democratic character marred by the authoritarian style of its new leadership and is unlikely to provide the motivation to resist the emerging countervailing political forces. The opposition parties may also succeed in driving a wedge between Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari. Their relationship is already under stress as most of the government powers rest with the prime minister but are being exercised by President Zardari.

Lack of credibility and popular perception about the legitimacy of the higher courts and of President Zardari, makes the court’s decision to disqualify the Sharif brothers and the imposition of governor’s rule difficult to stick. In any case disqualification of Sharif brothers has been a great setback to democracy and pluralism.

If confrontation is not avoided soon the economic problems will get compounded and political instability will increase. Domestic and external investments will further dry up and overall productivity will fall. Our dependence on IMF, international donor agencies and US assistance which is already high will increase. US influence which is pervasive could become overwhelming. Poverty levels will rise, causing hardship to large cross sections of people. It has been experienced that financially and bureaucratically weak governments create an environment that favours militant recruitment and poorer countries suffer longer insurgencies.

For democracy to endure in a poor country as ours, economic growth is essential. Economic development allows middle class to gain economic and political power as private business and civil society gains strength. All these possibilities would be lost if the political foes do not reconcile their differences.

India will take full advantage of Pakistan’s internal dissensions and will step up its diplomatic pressure.

Military leadership so far has been trying to stay away from politics, but may be constrained to intervene if conditions deteriorate to prevent country’s slide into chaos. And politicians have to remind themselves that every military intervention has been berthed in gratitude albeit the honeymoon has been short lived as they too have failed miserably in solving the country’s myriad problems.

The way to prevent the country from a downward spiral is for President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif to move from confrontation to reconciliation and develop a framework for coexistence and tolerance for each other. Punjab must return to PML-N, just as the PPP government at the centre should be allowed to complete its full term. Any unjust dispensation of political power will accelerate the downslide. We have the experience of 90’s in front of us and President Musharraf’s blunders fresh in our memory. His lack of understanding of the value of institutions be it judiciary, parliament, political parties or bureaucracy brought the country to the brink of a chasm.

Similarly, PPP and PML leaders in the 90’s tried to undermine each other and weakened democratic institutions. It seems they have not learnt from their past mistakes despite the assurances they were giving to the electorate before the elections. It is time that the political leaders diverted their energies toward building the country and wrapping up their convoluted ambitions. They have to draw strength from the people and be accountable to them if they have to stay in power and ensure an enduring democracy.

The writer is a retired lieutenant-general. Email: talat@comsats.net.pk
(The News)