Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama gets to work

WASHINGTON — President Obama opened his White House term with a flurry of activity Wednesday, from new ethics rules to steps designed to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
During his first morning in the Oval Office, Obama called four Middle East leaders to promise early engagement in the peace process.

Obama started his day with 10 minutes alone in the Oval Office, reading a note left to him by former president George W. Bush in an envelope marked "To: #44, From: #43."

After a briefing with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel at 8:45 a.m., first lady Michelle Obama joined the president in the Oval Office.

US 'agrees Afghan supply route'

The US says a new supply path to Afghanistan has been agreed with Central Asian states and Russia as an option to the troubled Pakistan route.

US Central Command chief Gen David Petraeus made the announcement on a visit to Islamabad.

The route through the Khyber Pass has been closed several times in recent months after militants attacks.

Gen David Petraeus met President Asif Ali Zardari and other leading figures on his one-day trip.

Meanwhile, Pakistani security forces say they have killed 60 militants in the past 24 hours in an operation in the tribal agency of Mohmand near the Afghan border.

There is no independent confirmation of the casualty figures.

Public anger

Gen Petraeus's visit came after a week-long tour of Central Asian states.

He said the Pakistan route had been flowing "generally freely" in recent weeks but that the US and Nato had sought "additional logistical routes from the north".

He added: "There have been agreements reached and there are transit lines now and transit agreements for commercial goods and services in particular that include several countries in the Central Asian states and also Russia."

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says most of Nato's supplies are transported overland through Pakistan, but support for the Nato war effort in Afghanistan is unpopular in Pakistan and supply trucks have increasingly been attacked by local militants.

She says reports from the meetings also suggest that Pakistan expressed concern about US missile strikes against suspected Taleban and al-Qaeda militants in its border region.

The attacks have been blamed for many civilian casualties.

Islamabad says this triggers public anger, which undermines its own counter-terrorism efforts.

Our correspondent says there has been no formal indication that this policy might change under the new US administration, although a senior official of Barack Obama's Democratic party has questioned whether the missile strikes are counterproductive.

At his press conference, Gen Petraeus said the US would continue to help Pakistan tackle terrorism and militancy in the tribal areas.

"It is clearly in the interest of all countries involved that Pakistan succeed in dealing with its internal problems," he said.

Pakistan's actions and arrests following the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks were also discussed.

The general said the US and the international community would continue to support Pakistan, but Pakistan must also put its house in order on the issue of militants.


Gen Petraeus is a key advocate of a major US troop surge in Afghanistan.

The US has said it is sending up to 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan this year to take on a resurgent Taleban. They will join 33,000 US and 32,000 other Nato troops already in the country.

This is Gen Petraeus's second visit to Pakistan since taking up his new position.

He was until recently commander of the US military in Iraq.

He was widely credited with improving security there through the "surge" plan, which saw nearly 30,000 US troops deployed to trouble spots.

However, Afghanistan's ambassador to the US, Said Jawad, recently said that a plan similar to the one in Iraq that formed local tribal groups to help combat the insurgency was "very risky".

Rankers replace PSPs to improve Peshawar law, order

PESHAWAR: The officers of the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) and Provincial Civil Service (PCS) serving in the capital city police were replaced with seasoned cops promoted from the lower ranks in yet another experiment to improve the law and order situation in this troubled provincial capital.

The capital city police used to have majority of the superintendents of police (SPs) from the PSP or on some occasions from the PCS cadre till the recent past. On occasions, the entire administration, comprising the capital city police officer (CCPO), SSP operations, SSP investigation, SPs in Rural, Cantt and City Circles, SP headquarter and SP traffic, were from the PSP group. In some set-ups, the PCS officers assisted the PSPs to run affairs of the city police.

The same city police force was giving a completely different look Wednesday as a number of cops promoted from lower ranks were posted against senior positions. Many of these officers were given shoulder promotion to qualify requirement for the positions they were posted on. All these policemen replaced officers from the elite PSP cadre who till recent past were ruling the provincial metropolis and the rest of the Frontier.

The share of PCS officers and rankers has already been increased in other districts of the province for the past few years against PSPs after the latter preferred to be transferred out of the NWFP.

According to the Wednesday’s notification, Nasirul Mulk Bangash was made SSP traffic while Chaudhry Ashraf was posted vice SSP, a brand new position in the city police administration. Furthermore, Nisar Marwat was appointed SP Cantt, Ijaz Abid was posted SP City, Bashirullah SP Rural and Rasheed Marwat was posted as SP traffic.

A source said that the newly created post of vice SSP would also cover the Nowshera and Charsadda districts. Another position of SSP coordination was also created recently. Nisar, Rasheed Marwat and Bashirullah are DSPs serving in Grade 17, but were given shoulder promotion to take charge of their new offices on acting basis. There was no mention as to where previous SP Traffic Waqas and SP Cantt Abdul Qadir Qamar were posted. Both the officers were from the PSP cadre.

Except the senior command positions, CCPO, SSP operations and SP headquarters, the rankers have occupied the rest of the key offices of the city police in the new set up. PCS hardly occupy a few positions in Peshawar in the new set-up.

Search is on for a seasoned officer to replace SSP operations, who has been serving in the city for almost six months. The new CCPO, according to sources, feels more comfortable with experienced officers from the lower ranks and that was why they were preferred to the young PSPs to improve the law and order in the provincial metropolis.

The reason could be that all the newly posted officers have served in many of the local police stations for years in different capacities. A number of rankers were recently posted as SDPOs and on other key positions after the new city police chief took over in November last. However, the force is still struggling against innumerable rings of kidnappers, robbers and other criminals that are playing havoc with the peace of the town.