Friday, January 16, 2009

UNHCR to accommodate 5,000 IDPs at Jalozai

UNHCR to accommodate 5,000 IDPs at Jalozai
PESHAWAR: United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has decided to accommodate 5,000 families of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Jalozai site.
The UNHCR is also providing extra plastic sheets and winterised tents to help the families get through winter, says a press release issued on Friday.
Jalozai site has providing a safe environment more than 1,00,000 Afghan refugees fleeing conflict in their homeland over the years, it is now home to over 11,000 IDPs who recently escaped the fighting in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
An average of 100 additional families are being accommodated everyday.
"Jalozai is an organised camp which meets international standards and where adequate infrastructure is provided. IDPs families can be better assisted and protected," says the press release.
The UNHCR will also pay Rs500 to every family to establish home kitchens.
Agencies like the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and International Rescue Committee (IRC) are trying their best to normalise conditions for the displaced children in Jalozai.
Child-friendly spaces have been created and a tent school set up with large classrooms.
To provide basic healthcare, World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partner are running a clinic in the camp staffed by 10 male and female doctors

Cells set up to monitor schools performance

PESHAWAR: The Education Department has set up monitoring cells at government schools over unsatisfactory annual results and regular absence of teachers from the schools.
On the directive of Education Minister Sardar Hussain Babak, monitoring cells have been set up in state-run schools.
Each cell comprises of section officers who will make a sudden visit to schools after every five months.
They will also inquire about the problems and difficulties faced by the students.
According to the education department, hundreds of teachers remain absent from the schools.
While some teachers who are regularly taking their classes could not cover the syllabus due to which the course of the students remain incomplete.
It merits a mention here that most of teachers in state-run schools have opened private schools and remain absent from their duties in government schools due to which government schools of the province are showing a very poor results continuously.
Keeping in view the poor performance most of the parents are reluctant to enroll their children in government schools affecting the enrollment process in these schools badly across the province.
Parents says that schoolteachers have a totally different approach to school education, which could affect the students’ performance.
It is hoped that setting up monitoring cells would ensure teachers' attendance in the schools.

Pakistan must move faster against extremists, says British FM

ISLAMABAD : British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Friday stepped up the pressure on Pakistan to act more quickly against extremist networks operating on its soil in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

His visit here comes on the heels of a high-profile trip to India, during which he called on Islamabad to show "zero tolerance" toward militant groups blamed by India for the attacks, which left 174 dead including nine gunmen.

"The whole international community want Pakistan to go further and go faster," Miliband told a press conference in Islamabad after meetings with key Pakistani leaders including Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

"I want the Pakistan government to take action because British people have been hurt... because terrorism from Pakistan is a threat to the stability of the whole region."

Miliband however said he believed the government in Islamabad was "serious in its commitment to prosecute those associated with the Mumbai attacks. Steps have been taken."

New Delhi has blamed the banned Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is fighting Indian rule in divided Kashmir, for the November bloodbath in Mumbai.

Islamabad has said it is doing all it can to crack down on militant groups, announcing Thursday that it had so far detained more than 70 members of an Islamic charity linked to LeT and placed 124 others under surveillance.

Pakistan has also confirmed that the lone surviving Mumbai gunman is one of its citizens.

Earlier, an aide to Gilani told AFP the prime minister "reiterated that his government would do whatever it can (on Mumbai) and would move fast in acting against those who are proven to be involved".

"We are conducting our investigation in the light of the information provided by India. We are acting on our side," the aide said.

Miliband's visit comes one month after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged six million pounds (nine million dollars) to help Pakistan tackle militancy during his own visit to Islamabad.

Both Brown and Miliband have said that London has a vested interest in coming to Islamabad's aid, as the majority of terror plots investigated by British authorities in London have links back to Pakistan.

The British foreign secretary earlier met with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi for nearly two hours on a range of issues including Islamabad's relations with India.

Qureshi said Pakistan had appreciated Miliband's "balanced and rational statements" during his stay in India, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.

Miliband was expected to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani before departing Saturday, Pakistani officials said.

In a speech Thursday at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, one of the locations targeted in the attacks, Miliband called on Pakistan to show no mercy towards militant groups like LeT.

"We know the attacks were carried out by Lashkar-e-Taiba operating from the territory of Pakistan," Miliband said. "There must be zero tolerance towards such organisations."

On Tuesday in New Delhi, he also restated London's view that the government in Islamabad did not direct the attacks, despite Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's claim that the militants had the support of "some official agencies".

India and Pakistan have engaged in a series of tit-for-tat accusations since the attacks, with each side saying the other is guilty of whipping up "war hysteria".

India's army chief said Wednesday that he regarded war as a "last resort" but reiterated that New Delhi was keeping open all of its options, including military action.

India asked to exploit FATA, Balochistan situations

PESHAWAR: The Indian government has been advised to exploit the situation in the Tribal Areas and the insurgency-hit Balochistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, according to a 72-page white paper handed over to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

“Exploit the divisions within Pakistan and expose its weaknesses in Balochistan, FATA and Azad Kashmir,” says the white paper – titled ‘War on Terror: The Agenda for Action’ and posted on the website of India Today – but does not elaborate. The Balochistan government already believes India is fuelling militancy in the province.

The suggestion is one of several proposals to prevent future attacks against India. The white paper was prepared as part of the Indian civil society’s effort to bring to the public domain an agenda for action, and “not to apportion blame for the failures that led to the Mumbai attacks”, according to the publication house – linked to India Today – that floated the idea to press the government to declare war on terror.

The white paper also asks the government: “Mount a sustained diplomatic campaign to build international pressure, especially from the US, with the message that if such efforts fail, India is ready for war. Set a timeline for Pakistan to dismantle terror infrastructure.”

The report refers to the Kashmir issue as a cause for attacks like the ones in Mumbai, and suggests, “India needs to tackle the (Indian-held Kashmir) valley discontent by deciding how much autonomy Kashmir requires and working out a way to negotiate with Pakistan.”

India blames Pakistan for the Mumbai terror attacks, but Islamabad and certain Western countries such as Britain deny the charge.

The Indian prime minister recently alleged that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were involved in the attack, and India has handed over Pakistan a so-called “dossier of evidence linking elements in Pakistan to the Mumbai attacks”.

But Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says the dossier contains information, not evidence.

Pakistan: Taliban forces closure of girls' schools in north

Mingora - Around 400 private girls' schools in Pakistan's restive northwestern Swat district have closed to comply with a Taliban deadline which expired on Thursday. Some parents have even begun moving to other parts of the country where their girls can attend school, Pakistan's Geo News reported on Friday. The closure of the private schools will deprive more than 40,000 students of their basic right to education. In addition, 84,248 girls students in state-run schools are unlikely to attend class because of fear of attacks by militants.Private school owners in Swat say the schools will not reopen until the unrest in the picturesque valley ends or the Taliban revokes the ban.School owners in Mingora, Swat's central administrative district, say that even if they kept the schools open, parents would be unlikely to send their children there.There are over 350 privately-owned schools in Swat, each with separate sections for boys and girls, according to data available from a local association of schools.Over the past year, the Taliban has ordered most of the schools to close and destroyed nearly 150 schools.Pakistani daily The News reported that following appeals to the Taliban, it has softened its stance, allowing girls to attain education up to the fourth grade. However, local militant leader Maulana Fazlullah has renewed the Taliban's threat to bomb educational institutions including 20 colleges, if any school continues to provide secondary education for the girls.The Taliban's central spokesman, Maulvi Omar, has distanced his movement from Taliban militants in Swat over their ban on girls' schooling and urged Fazullah to withdraw the ban, The News reported.Private schools also urged to the militants to withdraw the ultimatum in the interests of hundreds of female teachers, most of them lone breadwinners, as well as those of many thousands of female students affected by the ban.

Israel 'set to halt war on Gaza'

Israel's security cabinet is expected to decide to halt the war on Gaza at a meeting on Saturday, Israeli sources have said.The move would be seen as being preferable to entering an Egyptian-brokered formal ceasefire with Hamas, unnamed sources told the AFP and Reuters news agencies.The 21-day-old conflict has left more than 1,150 Palestinians dead, at least a third of them children, and devastated infrastructure within the densely populated territory."The security cabinet will convene and that is where a decision will be made," Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, told Israel's Channel 10 television when asked if the government would end the conflict."I have said the end doesn't have to be in agreement with Hamas, but rather in arrangements against Hamas."A unilateral ceasefire would allow Israel to avoid agreeing concessions with Hamas, such as easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has prevented medical aid and basic supplies reaching the Palestinians.ptian efforts

Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from the Israel-Gaza border, said that a unilateral truce would play well to the domestic audience as parliamentary elections approach.


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"The Israeli government can say there was no deal with Hamas, they are not doing this as part of any negotiations with what they regard as a 'terrorist' group," he said.

An unnamed Israeli official reportedly told the AFP news agency that Israeli troops would remain in Gaza in the event of any such ceasefire being called.

"If they [Hamas] decide to open fire, we will not hesitate to respond and continue the offensive," the official was quoted as saying.

Israel's stated aim of the war, which it dubbed Operation Cast Lead, was to halt Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Egypt has been pushing Israel and the rival Palestinian factions to reach a deal that was expected to see an immediate ceasefire and an agreement over security arrangements for Gaza's crossings.

A Hamas delegation from the Syrian capital Damascus arrived to Cairo on Friday for a second round of talks on a ceasefire proposal.

Their return followed a meeting between Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli envoy, and Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief.

Earlier this week, Hamas proposed a one-year renewable ceasefire in return for an end to the Israeli blockade, which has been in place since the group seized full control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

"We want guarantees that the crossings will remain open. If Israel accepts the principle of guarantees, then we will start talking about their details," Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official in Beirut, said.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said: "We have seen unilateral moves by Israel, whether it be in Lebanon in 2006 or Gaza in 2005

"Those unilateral decisions simply compound the problem, simply delay the problem, but they never resolve the problem.

"I think this is because Israel has run out of options. It realises Israel couldn't deliver what it needs, Hamas wouldn't agree to its conditions and it realises more of the same, the same shelling, the same bombardment ... is making people in Israel think twice about how to continue."

Israeli bombardment

However, as reports of the possible ceasefire emerged, the Israeli military continued to pound targets across the Gaza Strip.

At least 10 people attending a funeral wake died when Israeli forces destroyed a house in Gaza City.

At least 1,155 Palestinians have been killed during the 21 days of Israel's offensive [AFP] Earlier, a woman and her five children, all under the age of 13, were killed when an air raid destroyed their house in Jabaliya, north of Gaza City, according to medics.

Hatem Shurrab, a Gaza resident living near Tar al-Hawa in Gaza City, which has experienced some of the heaviest fighting, told Al Jazeera that regular explosions could still be heard.
"I have my sister's family who came to our home to shelter. It's very difficult to describe how we feel. It's very scary. The next target is not known. Who will be killed next, we don't know.

"I can hear explosions going around and a couple of hundreds of metres away a home was burnt close to the explosions.

"What is really painful for me is that I see every day people who are being displaced. Mass internal displacement. Women running in the street trying to find a place."

Meanwhile, a funeral was held for Said Siam, the interior minister in Hamas's government, who was assassinated on Thursday along with one of his sons and a brother in an air raid in Jabaliya refugee camp.

PM announces to set up varsity in FATA

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Friday announced the setting up of a university in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and also gave directions for immediate settlement of internally displaced persons of FATA.He was talking to a delegation of Parliamentarians from FATA, led by Minister for Environment Hamidullah Jan Afridi and Minister for Zakat and Ushr Noor ul Haq Qadri here at the PM House. The Prime Minister urged the FATA parliamentarians to participate in and associate themselves with the government’s efforts to improve law and order in the area which is vital for the socio-economic well being of its residents.

Federal govt to cooperate with NWFP for protection of female schools in Swat

ISLAMABAD, Jan 16 (APP): Minister for Information and Broadcasting Sherry Rehman said on Friday that the government would cooperate with the provincial government in its steps for protection of female educational institutions in Swat and some other parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Responding to some points of order raised by some opposition MNAs regarding attacks on female schools in Swat, the minister said that the President and Prime Minister have taken serious notice of these attacks.

She said that the Pakistan Peoples Party has always tried to create consensus against the menace of terrorism.” Our great leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto sacrificed her life during struggle against dictatorship and terrorism and the PPP got February 18 mandate for its anti-terrorism stance”, said the minister.

She said that empowerment of women and protection of women’s rights was an important part of the PPP manifesto. She said that the Awami National Party also has empowerment of women part of its manifesto. The NWFP government has already taken several steps for protection of girl students and female educational institutions and more steps would be taken to ensure that no attacks are carried out on the female schools.

Sherry Rehman said that the women caucus in the National Assembly would present a resolution in the House against the attacks on female schools in Swat and some other parts of the NWFP.

The minister however said that the government has to take in to consideration the collateral damage and migration of the innocent people from the area.

Earlier PML-N MNA Ayaz Amir raised the issue on a point of order stating that it was unfortunate that girl students in Swat were deprived of right to education in the name of Islam.

Amir Muqam of PML-Q said that most of the schools in Swat have been destroyed in Swat. He also pointed out that no compensation has been paid to over one thousand persons who lost their lives in Swat unrest.

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal said that it was wrong interpretation of Islam to ban girl students education. Some people are imposing their tribal values and traditions in the name of Islam which would defame the religion in the eyes of the world.

Miliband begins key Pakistan trip

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband has arrived in Islamabad on a two-day visit as part of international efforts to diffuse India-Pakistan tension.

Relations between the South Asian neighbours have been under severe strain since November's Mumbai attacks.

More than 170 people died in the attacks, which India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

On Thursday, Mr Miliband visited Mumbai where he urged Islamabad to show "zero tolerance" towards militant groups.

Mr Miliband has held talks with Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

He is also due to meet President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani before flying out on Saturday, Pakistani officials say.

Taj Palace speech

Delhi has blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the attacks on India's financial capital and believes "official agencies" played a part.

Both Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani government have denied any involvement.

On Thursday, Pakistan said it had so far arrested 71 people in a crackdown on groups allegedly linked to Mumbai.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said officials had also shut several schools run by a charity linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mr Malik said the authorities had so far closed down 87 institutions - including seven madrassas (religious schools) - belonging to the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa Islamic charity.

The organisation is widely seen as a political front for Lashkar-e-Taiba. A number of publications and websites had also been blocked.

The camps closed down include the main Lashkar-e-Taiba base in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, which was shut in December.

The group's main commander, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who has been named in India as being linked to the Mumbai attacks, was one of those arrested at that time.

India has repeatedly said that Pakistan is failing to take action despite evidence of Lashkar's involvement in the attacks.

On Thursday, Mr Miliband gave a speech at the Taj Palace hotel, one of the sites of the attacks in Mumbai.

He said: "We know the attacks were carried out by Laskhar-e-Taiba operating from the territory of Pakistan.

"There must be zero tolerance towards such organisations."

But he has said he does not believe the Pakistani government was directly involved.