Friday, May 29, 2009

Mayhem in our midst

Editorial:The News
Within two days of the Lahore blast, they have struck again – multiple times, in Peshawar and DI Khan. At least 14 people have died; hundreds have been injured. The trauma in terms of the panic that hit Qissa Khwani bazaar in Peshawar, where two of the blasts took place, followed by a gun-battle in the alleys of the city's biggest market is immeasurable. There is a limit to what we can do to safeguard ourselves. Measures announced, such as the checking of all trucks as they enter cities, will be effective only if they are properly implemented. In the past this has not happened even in Islamabad. There is also a need to seek public vigilance and ask citizens too to keep a watch out for potential bombers. It has been seen that in the aftermath of every attack, as blood stains streets, there is chaos first at the site of the incident and later at hospitals. This is an area that can be corrected. Rescue services can be bolstered and given better training, as can hospital staff. Trauma care is a specialized sphere. Our allies overseas can help us improve the limited expertise we currently have.

The war being fought in the north has entered our cities as well. The militants have in the past used their ability to strike here as a tactic of blackmail. This time round there can be no question of giving in to them. The COAS has stated Pakistan will not give in to terror. The resolve is a welcome one. But we must also face up to the fact that the fighting will continue for some time; that the Taliban will not simply disappear. Even now, though we hear that they have 'retreated' from a specific area, one wonders where they have gone – and whether they are hoping to save men so they can one day, strike again. Until they are finally vanquished, we will see more mayhem in our cities. We must do all that is possible to secure them, and take measures, like any nation caught up in war, to minimize casualties and ensuring victims of bomb attacks receive the best possible care.

‘It’s a do or die for nation and security forces’

PESHAWAR: Asking the security agencies to fulfill their part of responsibility by eliminating the Taliban in Swat, the NWFP government Friday claimed it had won the war on the political front.

“We’ve entered a decisive phase. Either the nation and its security agencies will emerge successful by eliminating the terrorists, or the latter will prevail,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister and spokesman for the NWFP government.

Speaking at a news conference here on Friday, Mian Iftikhar said the whole Pakistani nation supported the operation against Taliban with one voice and they wanted their elimination. “Now it is the responsibility of the country’s security agencies to get rid of the rogue elements.”

He said network of militants had been dismantled and they were targeting civilians in utter frustration after receiving a serious blow in Malakand division. Attacks like the ones carried out in Qissa Khwani were meant to force the government to stop the military operation. “However, it is our firm resolve that the government can’t be intimidated through such dastardly and cowardly acts,” said the minister.

He said the militants were changing their strategy and techniques now. Tactics similar to those of Lahore were used in Peshawar. However, the government had also prepared its own strategy to thwart the ill designs of the militants.

He said the people and the government were now sailing in the same boat. “No other option, except the military action, was left with the government to root out the scourge of terrorism,” said the minister.

At the same time, he said there might be civilian casualties as the whole country was passing through a war-like situation. “But we are prepared for all kinds of sacrifices to secure the future of our coming generations,” he vowed.

Expressing satisfaction over the role of the security agencies, Mian Iftikhar said they were rendering greater services to secure the people and the blast at the Sra Khawra Police Post in Matani area was a proof of that.

To a question about the killing of Taliban commander Fazlullah, Mian Iftikhar said there were rumours, but the government had no authentic information to share with the media. However, the minister confirmed the arrest of militants from IDP camps on the basis of information provided by the dwellers of the makeshift villages. “We’ve 90 per cent proof of their being militants,” he added.

Asked why the government not sending back the Buner people into their areas after the return of normalcy there, Mian Iftikahr said the government had to restore facilities like electricity, provide edibles, water, medicines and re-organise the district administration before sending them back. He said 30 trucks full of edibles and other items had reached Buner district for the stranded people.

About the camps for IDPs, the minister said arrangements had been finalised to establish a new camp at Kund area of Nowshera district. The area had been selected because of its closeness to the river and moderate temperature, said Mian Iftikhar.

Releasing the fresh figures about the IDPs, he said a total of 19,596 families with 115,166 individuals were living in camps with another 360,963 families with 2,678,695 individuals outside camps.

Obama sure Sotomayor would restate 2001 comment

Associated Press
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday personally sought to deflect criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. "I'm sure she would have restated it," Obama flatly told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.
The quote in question from Sotomayor has emerged as a rallying call for conservative critics who fear she will offer opinions from the bench based less on the rule of law and more on her life experience, ethnicity and gender. That issue is likely to play a central role in her Senate confirmation process.
Obama also defended his nominee, saying her message was on target even if her exact wording was not.
"I think that when she's appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is," Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate.
The president's damage control underscored how the White House is eager to stay on message as the battle to publicly define Sotomayor picks up.
Obama's top spokesman, Robert Gibbs, told reporters about Sotomayor: "I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor."
Gibbs, however, said he did not hear that from Sotomayor directly. He said he learned it from people who had talked to her, and he did not identify who those people were. Sotomayor herself has made no public statements since her nomination became official Tuesday and was not reachable for comment.
A veteran federal judge, Sotomayor is poised to be the first Hispanic, and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court.
She said in 2001: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The remark was in the context her saying that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."
Sotomayor's comments came in a lecture, titled "A Latina Judge's Voice," that she gave in 2001 at the law school of the University of California, Berkeley.
After three days of suggesting that reporters and critics should not dwell on one sentence from a speech, the White House had a different message Friday.
"If you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what's clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge," Obama said in the broadcast interview.
Sotomayor appears headed for confirmation, needing a majority vote in a Senate, where Democrats have 59 votes. But beyond the final vote, White House officials are pushing for a smooth confirmation, not one that bogs down them or their nominee. Plus, Obama wants a strong win, not a slim one.
Obama told NBC that part of the job of a Supreme Court justice is to stand in somebody else's shoes and that Sotomayor will do that. "That breadth of experience, that knowledge of how the world works, is part of what we want for a justice who's going be effective," Obama said.
More than one line in the 2001 speech has helped drive the debate over Sotomayor's judgment.
She also said, for example: "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."
"My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas in which I am unfamiliar," she said. "I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."
At the time Sotomayor gave the speech, she was in the same job she is now, a federal appeals court judge. She said then she was reminded daily that her decisions affect people and that she owes them "complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives."
"I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage," she added, "but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate."
In announcing Sotomayor as his choice, Obama said he wanted a judge who would "approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice." But he also called her life experience essential, saying she had an understanding of "how ordinary people live."
Next week, Sotomayor will begin face-to-face meetings with senators as the confirmation process begins to take shape.

Blast victims laid to rest as city mourns F.P. Report

PESHAWAR: After Thursday's deadly twin blasts which rocked Qissa Khawani Bazaar, business hub of the provincial capital, DCO Peshawar Sahibzadah Anees on Friday has announced imposition of Section-144 in City for one month. According to official notification, after imposition of the Section-144 no person will carry any sort of arms and ammunition or any other articles which is capable of being used for physical violence or carrying of any explosive substance or any other instrument which is danger to human life and public property and no vehicle with tainted glasses shall enter and drive in the territorial limit of Peshawar District for the sake of security. Any one found violating this order shall be liable to beproceeded against under section 188 PPC. Meanwhile, the city's main bazaars and shopping centers gave a deserted look as people mourn the deaths in the blasts. People opted to stay inside their houses as threats of more deadly attacks hovered over their heads. The Qissa Khawani and adjacent markets, Saddar bazaar, Shafi Market and other main business centers were completely closed as the funerals of the blast victims were held on Friday. Even the number of people in the mosques for the Friday prayer was less than what have been in normal days. Earlier, a tea-dealer Rafeeq Baba also succumbed to injuries, raising the death toll in Qissa Khawni Bazaar to seven including a small child. The police on Friday gathered more clues from the blast sites including Kabari Bazaar to reach any conclusion in the investigation as police claim to have arrested two injured terrorists. Heavy financial loss have been feared to the business community as it will take some time to rebuilt the area after the damage that was done by the blasts. The relief activities continued in Kabari and Qissa Khawni Bazaar as shopkeepers returned to collect the rubble and search for the valuables from the gutted and damaged shops. Meanwhile, the security beefed up in the city and all the entry and exit points were sealed. Police contingent were deployed at sensitive and busy areas of the city. The sense of insecurity prevailed among citizen and city was giving a look of fear and panic where the people preferred to stay at home. Moreover, all the private schools in the city were closed for indefinite period after the threats of attacks. The students were sent back to their homes and the ongoing examinations were cancelled. It is pertinent to mention here that the provincial government had already closed all the government educational institutions in the province for early summer vacation from 16th of this month. Similarly, the United Nation has also closed its offices in the City for three days as there was a threat of more attacks.

More information needed

Dawn Editorial

Evaluating the success or otherwise of Operation Rah-i-Raast in Malakand division up to now has been difficult because of the lack of independent reports from the area.

Every day the public relations arm of the Pakistan Army has issued statements listing the number of casualties on both sides, the areas where battles have been fought and the neighbourhoods which have been retaken. But owing to the curfew imposed in the areas where the fighting has been the fiercest, the difficulty in establishing contact with the outside world for locals and the lack of reporters on the ground, it has not been possible to develop a reliable, independent picture of the situation in Malakand.

On Wednesday, journalists were given a tour of some parts of Mingora in Swat, 70 per cent of which the army claims has been secured, but as is the nature of such supervised visits, a full picture of the situation in the area could not be gleaned.

No doubt that while the fighting continues the safety and security of reporters must be kept in mind. And there is no reason to believe the press statements of the army are exaggerated or untrue. But equally there is a need to verify the government’s and the army’s claims and that will only be possible if reporters are given more access to Malakand. There are two main issues at stake here. One, the actions of the state must be open to scrutiny wherever possible. Fighting a counter-insurgency is by definition a messy business, but the state must necessarily be held to a higher standard than the militants.

Every care must be taken to ensure that it is the militants who are bearing the brunt of the military operation and not the local population, and determining whether that is indeed what is happening must not be left to the state to decide for itself. Second, more access for reporters and greater transparency can help defeat the propaganda and misinformation being spread by the militants. For example, there are reports that the militants remove weapons and ammunition from the bodies of militants killed in battle to make it appear that civilians have been killed instead.

Without independent verification of such reports, the issue becomes one of the state’s word against the militants’ and in such circumstances disproving such rumours becomes impossible, with damaging consequences for public support for the military operation. The bottom line: more information from independent sources is necessary and beneficial.

Task force being set up to register IDPs

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has said that the provincial government has set up relief camps in Hyderabad and Karachi, besides Kandhkot and Ubaro, for thousands of internally displaced persons arriving here from the federally administered tribal areas and Swat, Buner and other parts of Malakand division.

Mr Shah was talking to a three-member delegation from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which called on him at the Chief Minister’s House on Friday. They discussed at length issues related to the registration and care of the IDPs.

The chief minister informed the delegates that a task force comprising two ministers, members of the provincial assembly, five senior officers, representatives of a few non-governmental organisations, and officials of the National Database Registration Authority was being set up for IDPs’ registration. The task force would also ensure provision of food, water, medicines and other basic facilities at the relief camps, he said.

Mr Shah said that the government was not only establishing camps for the IDPs arriving here in huge numbers, but also sending food and relief goods to the NWFP on a daily basis.

UNHCR representative in Pakistan Guenet Guerr-Chiristos, who headed the delegation, along with deputy representative Michael Zwack, apprised the chief minister of their relief efforts for the IDPs in the NWFP.

She said that the UNCHR had received contributions from the governments of Australia, Japan, Sweden, the USA, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, France and the European Union in response to the UN Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan for IDPs.

The meeting was also attended by Secretary to the Chief Minister Syed Sohail Akbar Shah, Home Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan and Agriculture Secretary Agha Jan Akhtar.

Gilani, Zardari discuss IDPs, ongoing operation

ISLAMABAD :Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani called on President Asif Ali Zardari here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Friday. During the meeting matters relating to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Malakand division, the fight against terrorism and militancy as well as the overall political situation in the country were discussed.

With regard to the people displaced in the wake of on-going military operation in Malakand Division, the President and the Prime Minister discussed the matters about the proper care of IDPs as well as their rehabilitation.

During the meeting, the two leaders reiterated the government’s resolve to root out the menace of terrorism and militancy from the country.


Kavya Shivashankar win this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

US weapons being used against Pak forces: Military

ISLAMABAD: The military on Friday said US weapons stolen from Afghanistan were being used against security forces in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

While speaking to Dawn, military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the terrorists in FATA and Swat were getting material and financial support through the Afghan border and alleged that some hostile foreign agencies were abetting them.

Answering a question about the assertions over the security of strategic assets of Pakistan, he said the United States should stop worrying about the nukes and start thinking about the weapons lost in Afghanistan.

'We are not surprised if these weapons slip out from Afghanistan and many of them are found in Swat and are being used against our troops', he remarked.

Giving details on the progress of operation Rahe Rast, he said security forces have recovered a huge quantity of looted and stolen food items and a cache of arms including 12.7 mm guns from four tunnels discovered during search and cordon operations in Peochar.

He said that the food items recovered from tunnels were apparently stolen and looted as these were otherwise not locally available.

He said the packing of the food items also shows that they were part of relief goods meant to reach the people stranded in the areas where the military operation against militants was taking place.

General Athar Abbas said the security forces continued with cordon and search operation and successfully cleared the stronghold of miscreants at Peochar village.

He said that forces have secured Bahrain and the area was under their complete control.

General Athar Abbas also said that 28 miscreants were killed and seven were apprehended in various areas of Swat during exchange of fire, while five soldiers and two civilians were injured.

The military spokesman said cordon and search operations were still continuing in Mingora.

Govt realizes prolems of IDP’s, says Zardari

SWABI :President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday said that the government realizes the troubles of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of Malakand division, assuring them that they would be rehabilitated ‘better than before’.

Addressing the IDPs during his visit to Swabi’s Shah Mansoor Relief Camp here Friday, President asked the people of the affected areas to keep trust in Allah, Pakistani nation and the government, saying that the whole nation is standing with them in these hours of need.

Bombs seen stiffening Pakistan resolve on militants

By Robert Birsel
ISLAMABAD, May 29 (Reuters) - A series of militant bomb attacks in Pakistan aims to undermine the country's resolve to fight the Taliban but is likely only to strengthen determination to defeat the militants, analysts say.

Pakistan has undertaken its most concerted effort to roll back an expanding Taliban insurgency that has raised fears for the important U.S. ally's stability, and for the safety of its nuclear weapons.

The army late last month went into action against Taliban who had seized a district only 100 km (60 miles) from the capital after the United States criticised a peace pact as tantamount to abdicating to the militants.

This month, the military launched a full-scale offensive to root out the Taliban from their stronghold in nearby Swat.

But the militants have responded with eight bomb attacks in towns and cities since late April, three on Thursday in the northwest, a day after 24 people were killed in a suicide gun and bomb attack in the eastern city of Lahore.

The militants are trying to undermine the state's determination to fight them, and the broad public support the army's campaign enjoys, analysts told Reuters on Friday.

"This is exactly what the militants are trying to do because they have done it successfully in the past. But things have changed substantially," security analyst Ikram Sehgal said.

"I don't think it will undermine the resolve of either the public or the government. They realise that this sort of thing will only escalate if they vacillate any further," he said.

Pakistan signed up to the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States but at best ambivalently.

Pakistan had used Islamist fighters to oppose Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s and later backed the Afghan Taliban. Militants were also used to oppose India in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pursuit of strategic interests apparently at odds with U.S. aims and mixed messages from the state and media brought muddle.

But not any more.


The Taliban overplayed their hand when, under cover of a controversial peace pact, they denounced the constitution and pushed out of the former tourist valley of Swat towards the capital.

"The Taliban attempt to make their presence felt in an area that a large number of Pakistanis are familiar with, and the way they went about it, the brutality, exposed them and changed opinion," said Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group think-tank.

"They are no longer considered alienated, disaffected Pakistanis who need to be brought into the fold. They're looked upon much more as criminals who should be brought to justice."

The violence the militants have unleashed demonstrated the extent of the threat they posed and is steeling opposition, Ahmed said.

"It strengthens the government's position that the terrorists pose a major threat ... It's no longer a remote conflict being fought in FATA," she said, referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the Afghan border.

The state now had to show it can finish the offensive in Swat quickly and wind up the militant networks.

"Their main aim is to weaken public opinion, especially in Punjab," said retired Brigadier Asad Munir, a former intelligence agency officer, referring to Pakistan's most prosperous and politically important province, of which Lahore is capital.

"You won't see this now but if the operation is prolonged then things will start changing. They have got to do it in a week or 10 days," he said of the Swat operation.

Wavering at this stage would dash the hopes of the public and be disastrous, he said.

"If they stop the operation now then prepare yourself for a Taliban state," he said.

Fazlulah head-money raised to Rs50m

KARACHI: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the relief camps are being searched for the suspected people and various people have been arrested.He said Taliban used to take youth and give them $60, adding it was Taliban who are responsible for taking the people out of their houses.Malik said the head money for Maulana Fazlulah has been increased to Rs50 million, adding 2.5 million people had to leave their house only because of Taliban.The security of all the major cities has been beefed up, the minister said adding the terrorists are quite nervous and panicked.He continued that some dangerous Taliban have been arrested from IDP’s camps.