Friday, June 12, 2009

Pakistan to overpower extremism, hopes US

Updated at: 0500 PST, Saturday, June 13, 2009
WASHINGTON: US state department has hoped that Pakistan will overpower terrorism while international community will continue to extend their support for Pakistan’s internally displaced persons (IDPs) left out by military offensive in Swat and the other areas of NWFP.

During routine briefing here, the spokesmen to US state department Philip J. Crowley, to a question in regard to reports on the possibility of imposition of Martial Law in restive areas of Pakistan, said US concentrates on the relief and rehabilitation of displaced persons in Pakistan.

Pakistan is giving its hundred person to win its war on terror, which is commendable; he quoted Richard Holbrooke (US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan) as saying.

Reports have reached here that Pakistan army has entered Waziristan besides continuous army action to curb militancy in Swat and Malakand Divisions, he divulged.

Pakistan will soon abolish militancy as well as violence within this week US state department spokesman hoped.

Would-be suicide bomber arrested in Torkhum

LANDI KOTAL: Security forces at Torkhum arrested on Friday a would-be suicide bomber along with a suicide jacket and a hand grenade, officials said.

Hailing from the Zakhakhel tribe of Landi Kotal tehsil, the teenage suicide bomber Sulaiman son of Laeeq Khan was later presented before the media at Khyber House, the office of the Khyber Agency Political Agent.

Political Agent Tariq Hayat told journalists that Sulaiman was given training by the activists of Tehrik-e-Taliban in Afghanistan and was send to Pakistan via the Torkhum border to carry out a suicide attack.

The boy, he said was not yet assigned any target before he was nabbed.

The would-be suicide bomber was carrying a jacket filled with seven to eight kilograms of explosives along with a hand grenade.

Friday prayers in Nowshera hit by blast

NOWSHERA: Four people were killed and over a hundred injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the wall of a military-run mosque in Nowshera during Friday prayers.

The explosion smashed windowpanes of several nearby houses and gouged cracks in walls and floors. Several children and women were injured. The army and police carried out rescue work.

Law enforcement personnel cordoned off the area and started search operation. Bodies and injured people were retrieved from the rubble hours after the explosion.

A worshipper told Dawn the explosion took place at the moment when the Pesh Imam was reciting last Rakat of the prayer.

The deceased were identified as sepoy Abdul Hameed of Multan, Jawad, Ahmed Gul and contractor Allauddin.

The injured were taken to the Cantonment Hospital, DHQ Hospital and Peshawar CMH. A doctor at the DHQ hospital said 90 injured, 15 of them critical, were brought to the hospital.

Body parts, including the head and legs of the suicide bomber, recovered from the site of the blast and were sent for DNA test. Witnesses said blood stains and body parts were scattered all over the floor.

Several vehicles parked in front of the mosque were also damaged.

Suicide bomber kills anti-Taliban cleric Allama Naeemi

LAHORE: Allama Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, a renowned religious scholar of the country and principal of the Jamia Naeemia, was killed, in what police believe was a targeted suicide attack at his seminary’s office in Garhi Shaho on Friday.

His close aide, Maulana Khalilur Rehman, Abdul Rehman, an ex-student and a journalist, and two students were also killed while five others suffered injuries in the attack which destroyed furniture and religious books lying in the single room office and smashed all the windowpanes of madrassa-cum-mosque where over 1,000 students are receiving religious education.

A series of protests broke out outside Jamia Naeemia and other parts of the city following the attack on Mr Naeemi, who was the son of the ex-chairman of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and founder of Jamia Naeemia, Mufti Muhammad Husain Naeemi.

Capital City Police Officer Pervez Rathore said Dr Sarfraz had supported military action against Taliban militants and also issued a decree calling suicide attacks ‘Haram’ in Islam.

He told Dawn that Mr Naeemi had also arranged an Anti-Taliban seminar in his madrassa two weeks ago.

Senior Superintendent of Police (operations) Chaudhry Shafeeq believed Mr Naeemi was targeted by a suicide bomber, saying Mr Naeemi, however, did not inform the police about any immediate life threat to him.

‘We had asked him many times for the security but he did not accept it,’ he said.
The blast, which was carried out by a suicide bomber with approximately 12 kg explosives, shook students and staff present in the madrassa and residents of adjacent localities.

All adjacent markets and shops were closed following the incident and the police barricaded all roads leading to the Jamia Naeemia.

Some rangers also patrolled the spot.

The angry mob smashed in the windowpanes of the Alahsaan Welfare Trust ambulance.

Ambulances of Rescue 1122 and Edhi rushed to the spot and shifted the injured to Mayo, Sir Ganga Ram Services and Jinnah Hospital.

Mr Naeemi, after Friday prayer, was sitting in his room to see visitors when a young man, thought to be in his 20s, entered from the main gate, turned left and detonated an explosive device after entering Mr Naeemi’s office, witnesses said.

Most of the people had left the madrassa cum mosque after Friday prayers, and only students were present in their rooms and in other premises when the blast took place.

‘I had just started lunch after Friday prayer when an explosion took place and I initially thought that some structure had collapsed. I along other fellows came downstairs and saw smoke arising from the office of Mr Naeemi and screams,’ a student, who was in his room situated on the first floor, told Dawn.

He said he, along with others found Mr Naeemi with multiple injuries and shifted him to the nearby Railway Cairen Hospital.

Police rounded up a few students and took them to an unidentified location for interrogation.

Muhammad Ali Naqashbandi of Jamia Naeemia complained to the police took three students including Wajahat, son of Samiullah.

He said it had become police practice to pick up innocent people soon after any terrorist act in the name of security but not to act on intelligence in a timely manner.

A police official, however, said some people were detained who were found making videos of the spot.

Meanwhile, the police seized the complete face and legs of the alleged suicide bomber, and shifted the remains to an undisclosed location for identification process.

A suspect identified as Shahbaz was also taken from the spot and was shifted to an unidentified location for interrogation.

Civil Lines division SP Investigation Dr Hyder Ashraf told Dawn the bomber used a suicide belt which contained pellets, but that he was yet to be identified.

The SP said the bomber could not enter into the madrassa during prayer timings because of security checking by four policemen and madrassa volunteers.

However, he said that as the police left the venue after the departure of people, the bomber made his entry and blew himself up.

He said Mr Naeemi had recently refused to receive police guards when he was contacted for the purpose.

Zardari says cantonment to be set up in Swat

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari vowed late on Friday night to continue war against terrorism till its logical end, announced the establishment of a cantonment in Swat and an increase in the salary of armed forces personnel equivalent to their one-month basic salary.

In his brief address, Mr Zardari commended security personnel fighting militants in Malakand for rendering invaluable sacrifices and said those who ‘are engaged in military operation in Malakand will get immediate increase. Others … will avail this facility from July 1.’

Denouncing Taliban for sowing terror, the president said: ‘Killing religious scholars like Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi, blowing up schools, killing doctors administering anti-polio drops and desecrating graves is not Islamic at all,’ he said.

He said the nation had now waken up to the Taliban threat and accused them of invoking Islam to take over the country. ‘We will, however, win the war against militants with the support of the people, political parties and parliament.’

Mr Zardari praised displaced people for showing courage and assured them that things would soon improve soon enough to make their return to Malakand possible.

The president said that the government had decided to set up a pay commission for government servants.

Iran rivals dispute poll victory

Both Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, and Mir Hossein Mousavi, his main election rival have claimed victory in the country's election.

The conflicting claims came just hours after polls officially closed on Friday.

Mousavi called a news conference in Tehran to claim victory soon after voting came to an end.

"In line with the information we have received, I am the winner of this election by a substantial margin," he said.

Only minutes earlier, close Mousavi aide Ali Akbar Mohatshemi-Pour was reported by the AFP news agency as saying his candidate had won 65 per cent of the vote.

But IRNA, Iran's official news agency, soon afterwards announced that Ahmadinejad had won re-eleection.

"Doctor Ahmadinejad, by getting a majority of the votes, has become the definite winner of the 10th presidential election," the news agency said.

Ahmadinejad received 3,462,548 votes, according to Kamran Daneshjoo, chairman of the electoral commission at the interior ministry.

That compared to 1,425,678 for Mousavi, Daneshjoo said.

The figures from the interior ministry give gave Ahmadinejad 69.04 per cent of the vote and Mousavi 28.42 per cent.

According to the interior minstry figures, the elections two other candidates Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Mehdi Karroubi, an ex-parliament speaker - came distant third and fourth with 81,509 votes and 45,453 votes respectively.

Turnout heavy in Iranian election

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Long lines of voters massed at many Iranian polling stations early Friday in an heavy turnout believed to be unprecedented for the hotly contested presidential election.Voters were lining up, standing in the blistering sun, even before the polls opened at 8 a.m.The polling stations were to stay open for 12 hours after officials extended the polling time to accommodate the high turnout.
The election is pitting incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against reformist Mir Hossein Moussavi, and two other candidates.
Kamran Daneshjoo, head of the election office, said the turnout was unprecedented, and that several polling places had already requested to stay open for two more hours.
But text messaging was not working in Iran on Friday, an issue that could affect Moussavi, who has used technology to inform his supporters.

In addition to Moussavi, two other challengers -- former parliament Speaker Mehdi Karrubi, another reformist, and hard-liner Mohsen Rezaie, secretary of Iran's Expediency Council -- hope to unseat Ahmadinejad in the election.

If no single candidate reaches a simple majority, a runoff election will be held on Friday, June 19.

Raucous, lively political rallies filled the streets of Tehran as the campaign season ended Thursday.

The streets were quiet late Thursday as posters bearing the faces of the top candidates were torn down, and graffiti proclaiming "Change, Change, Change" was washed away.

It was a strange contrast to the scene in Tehran a day before, when tens of thousands of Iranians took part in the final rallies Wednesday. Most of the rallies were in support of Moussavi.

As far as the eye could see, people walked for hours from east of the city to the west, converging on Tehran's Freedom Square, which became the symbol of the Islamic revolution that swept this country back in 1979.

Some Ahmadinejad supporters were taking part in the rallies, but most were wearing the color green, the symbol of Moussavi's campaign. The Moussavi supporters stayed out well past the midnight deadline, dancing, chanting, driving and honking their horns. The rallies were largely peaceful. At one point, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd, but the situation did not get out of control.

People who are old enough to remember the Islamic revolution 30 years ago say this week's rallies in the capital were the largest they had seen since then.

Moussavi has energized Iran's women and young people, and his supporters hope that will be enough to sweep him into victory.

But much of his support is coming from those frustrated with Ahmadinejad's four years in office, during which prices of goods have skyrocketed and personal freedoms have plummeted.

"Thirty years of frustration is exploding," said Mohamed, a mechanical engineer student who took part in Wednesday's march to Freedom Square. "Even if Ahmadinejad wins, we are here just to express our opposition."

The Iranian president still has staunch support, especially among the poor in the provinces to whom he has doled out money, benefits and favors.

"Honestly we have never seen anyone as courageous as Ahmadinejad," said one of Ahmadinejad's supporters, who took part in this week's rallies.

Moussavi's supporters hope that he follows in the same footsteps as Mohammed Khatami, a reformist candidate who overwhelmingly won the presidency in 1997, raising hopes that the reformist movement would bring religious and democratic freedoms to the Islamic republic. But the real power in Iran rests in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

By the time Khatami left office in 2005, he was unable to make major changes because of the opposition of hardline elements in Iran's clerical establishment.

No matter who wins Friday's election, analysts say it is unlikely that any of the candidates would change Iran's position on its nuclear program, which the Islamic republic insists is for civilian purposes but the United States and other Western powers believe may be a cover for a weapons program.

Iranian-American analyst and scholar Reza Aslan said that while Moussavi is "a little bit more of a moderate when it comes to the nuclear issue ... all four candidates agreement with Iran's right to develop nuclear."

Nevertheless, Aslan said that all four candidates also "recognize it's time to open up to America and to the international community because there's no other option with regard to the economy."

"But I think with Moussavi, you have someone that I think would be more palatable for a Barack Obama to sit down next to," he told CNN's "American Morning."

The U.S. president has indicated his willingness to open dialogue with Iran -- something his predecessor was unwilling to do. But talks with the incumbent Iranian president are more likely to trigger criticism because of Ahmadinejad's repeated denial of the Holocaust and his comments about wiping Israel off the map.

Aslan predicted that Moussavi will emerge victorious after Friday's vote because of his ability to energize key segments of Iran's population.

"He's finally got the young people in Iran to care about politics again," Aslan said. "They really dropped out four years ago and they're back in full force now."