Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shifting of Razmak College opposed

PESHAWAR: After recent kidnapping of students and teachers of Cadet College, Razmak by Taliban militants from Frontier Region (FR) Bakkakhel in Bannu district, certain government functionaries and politicians are pondering over the possibility of shifting the college out of the restive North Waziristan tribal region to a relatively safer district of the NWFP, however, the Utmanzai tribes in North Waziristan saw the incident as a conspiracy hatched by certain elements to shift the college and thus deprive the people of the area of quality education.

The Torikhel tribespeople, who live in the scenic Razmak town - located on the border between North and South Waziristan tribal regions - suspect the recent kidnapping of the students and teachers part of a conspiracy to dissuade the students and teachers from coming again to Razmak for their studies.

Some teachers have also reportedly refused to continue with their jobs in Razmak due to threats to their lives.

Parents of students kidnapped by the Taliban militants and then released due to the efforts of Torikhel and Utmanzai tribal jirgas were also concerned about the safety of their sons and were reluctant to send them back to Razmak for studies.

The college was built in 1978 by the then prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Due to its natural beauty and pleasant weather, Razmak is often called ‘Chota London’ or mini-London.

Five seats were reserved for Torikhel tribe and five for rest of Utmanzai tribes in the college. Besides, students from Azad Kashmir and Punjab are also given admission in the college.

Official sources told ‘The News’ that some government functionaries and politicians have started lobbying for shifting the college from Razmak to the southern districts including Bannu, Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan.

Former NWFP chief minister Akram Khan Durrani was reported to be lobbying for relocating the college to the building of Durrani College in Bannu. His party leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman would be happy if the college is shifted to his hometown Dera Ismail Khan. Some influential politicians wanted Lakki Marwat to be the new home of the college.

The Torikhel tribal elders told The News that they would oppose attempts to deprive them of the prestigious educational institution.

A noted Torikhel tribal elder-cum-militant commander of Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led Taliban militants, Abdul Halim Khan, said he would never allow shifting of the college from his area. He had raised a tribal lashkar of 300 armed-men that raided a village in the adjoining South Waziristan and recovered vehicles and baggage of the kidnapped students and then challenged the Mahsud tribe to release the students or face the consequences.

Officials in North Waziristan admitted it was Halim Khan and his tribe’s pressure that helped secure the release of the students and teachers.

The NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani had ordered an inquiry against the college officials, who closed it and then shifted the students to Peshawar without proper security arrangements, however, Additional Chief Secretary Fata, Habibullah Khan denied any proposal about the shifting of the college from Razmak to some other city.

“Let me assure the people of North Waziristan, there is no proposal for relocating the college. Rather, the government under the directive of the prime minister would open cadet colleges in all the seven tribal regions,” he added.

Habibullah said the government would improve security of the students and their teachers at Razmak so that such incidents don’t happen again. He said two cadet colleges would be commissioned in Mohmand and South Waziristan tribal regions with support from donors.

Suicide Bomber Hits Islamabad Emergency Call Center

A suicide bomber has attacked a police emergency call center in the capital of Islamabad, killing two police officers and wounding others.

Pakistani police say the bomber approached the building late Saturday and detonated explosives when security officers opened fire.

The bombing is the latest in a string of attacks on Pakistani cities that officials say are retaliation for the military's campaign against the Taliban in the country's northwest.

Earlier Saturday, two high-ranking prisoners were killed in a bomb and gunfire attack on a military convoy that was transporting detainees.

Pakistani officials identified the prisoners as Muhammad Alam and Ameer Izzat. The two men were arrested Thursday and were senior members of the militant group Tehrik-e-Nifaz-i-Shariat-e-Muhammadi. Alam was a deputy while Izzat was the group's spokesman.

Major-General Athar Abbas says the men were being taken from Malakand to the city of Peshawar for interrogation. He said it was possible they were the target of the attack.

The group's leader, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, helped negotiate the failed peace deal in the Swat Valley that required militants to disarm in exchange for the establishment of strict Islamic (Sharia) law there.

Pakistani officials say one soldier was killed and five others wounded in Saturday's attack on the military convoy.

A political scientist at Lahore University (Rasul Bahksh Rais) told a Pakistani television network (Express 24/7) the killings may have been deliberate to prevent Alam and Izzat from giving the military information about militant leaders' whereabouts.

The Pakistani military has been battling Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley area for more than a month. Pakistan says more than 1,300 militants and more than 100 soldiers have been killed during the offensive. A Pakistani military spokesman says government forces have killed 17 militants in the past 24 hours.

Afghanistan-like situation if IDPs not helped: Tarakai

PESHAWAR: Lauding Richard Holbrooke’s statement in which he praised the people of Swabi for looking after the IDPs, a leading politician and philanthropist from the district, Liaqat Tarakai, cautioned Friday that an Afghanistan-like situation could develop in the NWFP if the displaced families were not assisted and rehabilitated.

Tarakai, who is chairman of the Liaqat Tarakai Welfare Trust (LTWT), said: “We are pleased with what Richard Holbrooke said about the people of Swabi with respect to their help and feelings for the IDPs from Malakand division. But I want to convey to the US and other powers that if proper attention was not given to the rehabilitation and honourable return of the IDPs to their homes, the situation can worsen like that of Afghanistan.”

He expressed concern over the administrative expenses of NGOs working for the IDPs and over the sale of food items, fans, water coolers and other stuff meant for the displaced people in the local markets. He was of the view that as the infrastructure was destroyed in Malakand and return of the IDPs would take time to their homes, they must be provided all basic facilities at the camps.

“We are grateful to Mark Pearson of the Shelter Box, Dr Pervez Ahsan of Rotary International, Sharif Khan of NRSP and doctors of Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad for providing tents and other facilities at Amn Camps established by our trust,” he added.

Liaqat Tarakai, along with local and Arab partners, is investing $1.3 billion in Suki Kanari Hydel Project in Kalam, which will generate 844 megawatts of power. “I am a Pakistani by birth and I will die on my own land. Apart from helping IDPs, I ask my well-off brothers and sisters of Pakistan to invest in their own country to boost its economy and ensure its stability,” he said.

His family was the first to vacate its sprawling house spread over hundreds of kanals for the IDPs. The Taraki family is also hosting over 15,000 individuals in state-of-the-art tents, having solar system to protect inhabitants from heat and provide them with proper lighting, etc.

TNSM leaders Amir Izzat and Alam Khan killed: ISPR

ISLAMABAD: Spokesman of the religious outfit Tehrik-e-Nifaz-Shariate-Mohammadi (TNSM) Ameer Izzat and senior leader Muhammad Alam Khan were killed in clash with security forces, ISPR reported on Saturday.

The two leaders were travelling in a prisoner van, which was a part of the security convoy transporting them to prison.

According to the ISPR statement, militants attacked the convoy, which lead to a clash and resulted in the death of both leaders as well as one soldier.

‘The convoy was attacked by an improvised explosive device (IED) followed by firing by terrorists at 5:10 am at Sakhakot,’ the statement said.

It added that ‘a non-commissioned officer embraced shahadat (martyrdom) while five others were injured.’

Five soldiers were also injured in the clash.

The military convoy was attacked near Sakhakot town in Malakand, the army said.

The militants ambushed the convoy of security forces carrying prisoners from Malakand town to Peshawar in the northwest of the country.

The dead aides were arrested on Thursday along with three Afghan nationals.

The deal in February to put three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace in the Swat valley fell apart when Taliban fighters advanced to within 100 kilometres of Islamabad in April.