Thursday, July 9, 2009

ANP Chief for bringing FATA within NWFP

PESHAWAR: Awami National Party (ANP) Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan has demanded of the government to make Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) part of NWFP.Briefing the media here on Thursday, Asfandyar Wali said government’s writ has to established in FATA to ensure normalcy in NWFP.He demanded of the Federal Government to stretch NWFP’s boundaries to cover the tribal areas and in this connection its representation should be made in the provincial assembly.The ANP Chief said the annulment of 17th amendment cannot guarantee resolution to the country’s problems. The issues be resolved through ensuring supremacy of the Parliament instead, he added.

Obama says looking forward to visiting China later this year

L'AQUILA, July 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he was looking forward to visiting China later this year.

Obama made the remarks when meeting with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who was here to attend the leaders' meeting of the Group of Eight (G8) and five leading emerging economies (G5) on behalf of Chinese President Hu Jintao.

During the meeting, Obama said the U.S. side attached importance to the U.S.-China relations, and he hoped that the upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue could generate fruitful results, according to a press release issued by the Chinese delegation.

It is important for the United States and China to enhance cooperation on major international issues, Obama said, adding that it benefits both countries and both people.

The two also exchanged views on bilateral relations and other major international and regional issues, said the press release.

Dai conveyed Hu's greetings to Obama while Obama asked Dai to pass on his greetings and good wishes to Hu.

Hu cut short his stay in Italy and skipped the G8 meeting due to the situation in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He returned to Beijing Wednesday.

Nato not to conquer Afghanistan: Admiral Giampaolo

ISLAMABAD :Chairman Nato Military Committee Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola here Thursday said that Nato forces in Afghanistan are not there to conquer the country. He denied of providing arms to Afghan Taliban to use against Pakistani security forces. "We do not want to conquer but help to restore peace in Afghanistan," he told a press conference.

He said achieving peace in Afghanistan was not only in the interest of the people of Afghanistan but the region in particular and the whole world in general. He said that Nato was in Afghanistan on the request of the Afghan Government and "we will not stay one day more if the government doesn't want us to be there."

He said he couldn't give any time frame for the pull out of Nato troops from Afghanistan. "We are there in rebuilding state of Afghanistan," he said adding, "we are not there to kill Taliban but to protect people of Afghanistan." Admiral Paola was highly appreciative of Pakistan's role in fight against terror and expressed the desire to expand and build enduring relationship with the Pakistan. When his comments on the drone attacks were sought, the Chairman of

Nato Committee said that this subject was not in his domain. However, he advocated that sanctity of the jurisdiction of a country should be maintained. Answering a question regarding alleged theft of arms from Nato depot in Afghanistan and some of them being subsequently used against Pakistan security forces by the terrorists, he said, "we are not providing arms to terrorists in Afghanistan or Pakistan."

The theft of arms in the international market was on and global network of terrorists uses these weapons. "May be I don't have specific details about the theft of Nato weapons," he added.

He said that the government and armed forces of Pakistan were sincerely engaged in dealing with the scourge of terrorism in effective manner. The Admiral thanked Pakistan for its support to Nato forces employed in Afghanistan and lauded the role and sacrifices made by Pakistan Armed Forces and other Law Enforcement Agencies in striving to bring stability in the disturbed tribal regions.

Iran Security Forces Move to Crush Renewed Protests

CAIRO — Thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran on Thursday, clapping, chanting, almost mocking the authorities as they once again turned out in large numbers in defiance of the government’s threat to crush their protests with violence.

As tear gas canisters cracked and hissed in the middle of crowds, and baton-wielding police officers chased up and down sidewalks, young people, some bloodied, ran for cover, and there was an almost festive feeling on the streets of Tehran, witnesses reported.

A young woman, her clothing covered in blood, ran up Kagar Street, paused for a minute and said, “I am not scared because we are in this together.”

The protesters lighted trash on fire in the street, and shopkeepers locked their gates, then let demonstrators in to escape the wrath of the police. Hotels also served as safe havens, letting in protesters and locking out the authorities. It has been almost four weeks since the polls closed and the government announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won re-election in a landslide.

And it has been almost four weeks of defiance, in the face of the government’s repeated, uncompromising and violent efforts to restore the status quo. The government did succeed in keeping people off the streets the last 11 days, leaving many to simmer on their own as political insiders and clerical heavyweights slugged it out behind the scenes.

But there was an opening to take to the streets again on Thursday, in a collective show of defiance, and many protesters seized it, even though the principal opposition leaders stayed away. Mir Hussein Moussavi, who claims he won the election, Mehdi Karroubi and the former president Mohammad Khatami have agreed to pursue their complaints through the legal system, and to protest only when a permit is issued.

But the mood of the street never calmed. One witness said that if it had not been for the overwhelming show of force, it appeared that tens of thousands were prepared to turn out.

The day was supercharged from the start, with a protest called for 4 p.m. to honor the students who 10 years earlier were bloodied and jailed during a violent confrontation with the police. Under a hot summer sun, police officers in riot gear patrolled the streets in roving bands of about 50. Then the crowds started to form, men, women and children packing the sidewalks. Traffic stopped and drivers honked or stepped from their cars in solidarity. The people chanted “Down with the Dictator,” “God is Great” and “Mouss-a-vi “ as they walked along Enghelab Street.

It was almost festive.

“Tell the world what is happening here,” one 26-year-old engineering student said. “This is our revolution. We will not give up.”

Asked what he wanted, he said: “We want democracy.”

One witness gave this account: “The crowds are too huge to contain. Riot police running up and down Fatemi Street, beating people, barely got out of the way. The crowds just get out of their way and come back.”

There were scenes like that reported all over the city, though the main skirmishes seemed to have occurred near Tehran University and at Enghelab Square. Police shot tear gas into Laleh Park. As night fell, the scene grew more severe. The air filled with acrid smoke and soot, and police officers and Basij militia members ran along the streets.

A man in a business suit pulled out a collapsible baton and beat a person with a camera until the baton broke. A middle-aged woman ran through the crowd, her coat covered with blood stains. Protesters hurled rocks at security officers. Two men held a huge floral arrangement of yellow and purple flowers on green leaves in commemoration of those killed last month and in 1999, a witness said.

But still, no matter who stopped to talk, witnesses said, there was a sense of mission and unity that seemed almost validated by the brutal government response. A 55-year-old woman on the streets in support of the marchers said: “This is Iran. We are all together.”

The security forces did not fire on protesters, witnesses said, and it was unclear how many people were injured or arrested. Until now, the government has relied on three main tactics to try to put the turbulence of the presidential race behind it: detentions; the violent suppression of street protests; and shifting blame to “meddling” foreign nations, primarily Britain and the United States, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia, for fomenting the unrest.

The nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has sanctified the election, and the powerful Guardian Council has certified the results. But the opposition has continued to insist that there were widespread irregularities rendering the vote and the results invalid. They have refused to concede, which has served to keep the conflict from fading .

Cell phone messaging was disconnected Thursday for a third consecutive day, apparently to prevent communication between protesters. The government also closed the universities and declared an official holiday Tuesday and Wednesday, ostensibly because Tehran has been shrouded in a cloud of heavy dust and pollution.

But neither the announced holiday nor the murky air seemed to thin the crowds.

Many people thrust their hands into the air, making the vee sign for victory. Even as they watched, and sometimes tried to stop, police officers and militia as they beat unarmed women and men — and there were a lot of women on the street as there have been throughout the crisis — the crowds remained mostly peaceful, an eyewitness said.

A crowd chanted “please stop” and chased two Basij away.

The streets burned with garbage fires. Tear gas settled all around. And on one street thousands of people pushed on, proclaiming their solidarity and defiance. “We don’t want war,” said one 27-year-old man in a black shirt. “We just want freedoms.”

Gulf countries suspend flights to Peshawar

LAHORE: Airlines of Gulf countries have suspended flights to Peshawar due to “security reasons”, a private TV channel quoted Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials as saying on Thursday. The airlines are Qatar Airways, Gulf Airways and Etihad Airways, the channel said. The Peshawar airport was closed for all air traffic on June 17 due to the volatile law and order situation in the province and all Peshawar-bound flights were re-routed to Islamabad.

U.S. resumes surveillance flights over Pakistan

WASHINGTON - U.S. military surveillance drones have resumed tracking militants in Pakistan to support Pakistani operations against Taliban insurgents in the South Waziristan region, officials said on Thursday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the drones provide Pakistan with video images, communications intercepts and other information from border areas controlled by Pakistani Taliban leader and al Qaeda ally Baitullah Mehsud.

The flights are not connected with U.S. missile attacks from CIA drones, which the Pakistan government has condemned. Suspected U.S. missile strikes killed more than 40 fighters in South Waziristan on Wednesday, according to security officials.

The U.S. military began surveillance flights over Pakistani territory in mid-March but ceased a month later when Pakistan abruptly stopped requesting the intelligence. Officials said the missions resumed early last month.

The Pakistani army is preparing an offensive against Mehsud, who Pakistani officials blame for 90 percent of terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan already has taken some action, including air strikes against Mehsud targets last month.

U.S. military officials accuse Mehsud of providing suicide bombers for insurgent attacks against U.S., NATO and Afghan targets in Afghanistan.

The militant leader also is accused in the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

U.S. military officials first confirmed the drone surveillance program's existence in May. The Pentagon views the missions as a way to aid Pakistan while extending its own surveillance of militant safe havens that threaten U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan

'Double failure' at USA's hospitals

Too many people die needlessly at U.S. hospitals, according to a sweeping new Medicare analysis showing wide variation in death rates between the best hospitals and the worst.
The analysis examined death rates for heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia at more than 4,600 hospitals across the USA. At 5.9% of hospitals, patients with pneumonia died at rates significantly higher than the national average. With heart failure, 3.4% of hospitals had death rates higher than the average, and 1.2% of hospitals were higher when it came to heart attack.

BEST: Baylor leads the way to lower heart failure readmission rates
Researchers also found that the majority of U.S. hospitals operate the equivalent of revolving doors for their patients. One of every four heart failure patients and slightly less than one in five heart attack and pneumonia patients land back in the hospital within 30 days, data show.

"We have double failure in our health system," says John Rumsfeld of the Denver VA Medical Center and chief science officer for the American College of Cardiology's National Data Registry.

The analysis by U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) comes as the White House and Congress debate ways to cut costs and improve quality in the nation's health system. One idea on the table is to reward doctors and hospitals not just for how many procedures they perform but how well their patients fare. More than 200 hospitals have death rates better than the national average, and hundreds fare better on readmission rates.

The findings are based on more than 1 million deaths and readmissions among Medicare patients from 2005 to 2008. A separate USA TODAY analysis of the data found that patients have higher death rates at hospitals in the nation's poorest and smallest counties, compared with those in larger, more affluent areas. Death rates in hospitals in counties with fewer than 50,000 people rank 1 to 2 percentage points higher than their most-populated counterparts, a significant difference. A similar pattern emerges at hospitals in counties where the median household income falls below $35,000 a year.

Barry Straube, director of CMS' office of standards and quality, says the agency aims to intensify competition between hospitals by giving patients the information they need to seek out higher-quality care and by giving hospitals a way to measure their performance against their competitors. It also provides a tool that government and private health plans can use to determine which hospitals merit higher pay for better performance.

"This kind of information is absolutely the backbone of many of our efforts to reform the health system," Janet Corrigan, head of the National Quality Forum, a consortium of government agencies, insurers, hospitals and doctors' groups that approved the methods used in the analysis.

"Based on what we see here, we have our work cut out for us."

SAFMA screens ‘Zargul’ to expose political corruption

ISLAMABAD: Portraying political corruption and oppression in society, Salmaan Pirzada’s film titled ‘Zargul’ was screened by South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) on Wednesday.

Scripted and directed by Pirzada, the art movie was a serious effort to revive Pakistani cinema. The film is in four languages - Urdu, Punjabi, Pushto and English – and was shot all over Pakistan.

It is about a young Pathan who becomes a robber yet hero for the poor after a crooked politician killed his father. Since the film highlights corruption in politics and police, its screening remained banned for some time in Pakistan. It also exposes child labour in Pakistan.

It is on a par with Hollywood and European films as far as the technical side is concerned. ‘Zargul’ is in sharp contrast to run-of-the-mill Lollywood movies.

The film took five years to complete, partly due to problems sustaining its $1.7 million budget, and partly because of Pirzada’s commitment to quality.

The movie proved a hit and was screened at the biggest independent festival in the US, in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The story, the acting, the direction are all as per international standards. Pakistani drama actors Talat Hussain, Faryal Gohar, and Imran Pirzada played leading roles.

Al-Qaeda leadership resides in Pak tribal areas: Mullen

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the al-Qaeda leadership resides in the federally-administered tribal areas (FATA) of Pakistan and the United States is determined to defeat them. "The top priority, with respect to that strategy, is to defeat al-Qaeda, whose leadership resides in the FATA — in the federal areas, the tribal areas — in Western Pakistan," Adm. Mullen said in his remarks at a luncheon held at the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday. Referring to the recent developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Adm. Mullen said things are now moving in the right direction and the United States now needs to remain engaged in both the countries. "A year ago, not many people would have said that the Pakistani military could pull that (Swat) off, and yet they have made an awful lot of progress," he said. "Then that kind of both effort and the cooperation that we're trying to generate through our engagement in the long run, I think, with the development of the Afghan security forces and the Pakistani security forces, puts growing and continued pressure on that threat that I talked about earlier," Adm. Mullen said. "It is not perfect. We still are working our way. We have ways to go in terms of those relationships, which are between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And that's, I think, historically known, and obviously we've got a ways to go with our own relationships for those two countries. But I think we need to stay engaged, and overall, we're moving in the right direction," Adm. Mullen said.

President Hu holds key meeting on Xinjiang riot

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday night convened a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to discuss issues relating to the Xinjiang riot.

The meeting was told that stability in Xinjiang is the "most important and pressing task," according to a statement issued Thursday. The meeting also vowed "severe punishment" on culprits in accordance with the law.

Hu, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, cut short his trip in Europe and skipped the G-8 meeting due to the situations in Xinjiang. He arrived in Beijing Wednesday afternoon.

The government will "firmly crack down on serious crimes including assaults, vandalism, looting and arson" to maintain social stability and safeguard people's fundamental interests in Xinjiang, according to the statement.

The Standing Committee told relevant authorities to "isolate and crack down on the tiny few" and "unify and educate the majority of masses".

"Instigators, organizers, culprits and violent criminals in the unrest shall be severely punished in accordance with the law," it said. "Those taking part in the riot due to provocation and deceit from by separatists, should be given education."

The deadly July 5 unrest in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has "profound" political background, the statement said.

It was a serious violent crime which was masterminded and organized by the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism at home and abroad, it said. The unrest has resulted in great losses to people and done great harm to local order and stability, it said.

The Standing Committee asked local government to visit bereaved families, innocent people injured, and those with property losses, to offer necessary support and aid.

In the July 5 riot at least 156 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured.

Security forces wind up operation in Swat, Buner

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira on Wednesday said that security forces have successfully completed military operations in Swat and Buner, clearing out militants and making the area safe for return of the displaced local population.

Speaking at a press conference with military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas here, he said the possibility of isolated incidents of terrorism in the areas cannot be ruled out, as such individual acts can take place even in the settled areas despite all security arrangements.

He said the final schedule for the return of internally displaced persons would be announced in couple of days. He said the repatriation will take place in phases. He said 280,237 IDP families had got themselves registered and over 100,000 have been issued visa cards to withdraw a one time cash grant of Rs 25,000. He said an amount of around 1.5 billion has so far been withdrawn by the affected people through the cards.

Kaira said the returnees will be provided transport facility and one month ration and will be entitled to food support till December.

The Military spokesman however came out with a slightly different version saying that the operation Rah-e-Raast had entered into a final phase, creating conditions for safe return of the dislocated population of Malakand Division including Swat.

He said a high level meeting held at General Headquarters with Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani reviewed the process of return of IDPs to their homes. The meeting was attended by senior military officials involved in the Malakand Operations.

The meeting was told that the area had been cleared of the terrorists and some limited pockets of resistance were in the process of being eliminated. Major population centers and main roads leading to Swat valley and most other areas of the division stand cleared, while top leadership of Malakand based terrorists is being pursued relentlessly, terrorists command and control, logistics and training infrastructure has been destroyed and substantial middle and low level leadership has been killed or apprehended.

General Athar Abbas said the provincial government, with active support of Army’s special support group has ensured restoration of maximum essential services like electricity, gas, water, roads, fuel stations and banking system. Civil administrative set up and local police services are now adequately functional.

He said the Army will stay in Swat adding that the size and location will depend upon operational requirements for conducting search and destroy operations where required. He said the hideouts of the terrorists will remain target of the security forces. These will be intelligence led operations, which will fully involve the local community in identifying hiding terrorists in their respective areas.

He said the provincial government has made a comprehensive plan for return of the dislocated population. Army Special Support Group, humanitarian organizations and Non Governmental Organizations are fully involved in preparation of this plan and will be pro active partners in its execution. The security of the displaced during their return, and during reconstruction and rehabilitation will remain a high priority for the Army as well as the civilian administration.
He said 158 Army personnel laid down their lives and 548 individuals were injured during these operations. He said some 1,600 terrorists were killed and another 700 apprehended during the operation.

Answering a question, the Information Minister said the terrorists apprehended during the operation were currently in the custody of intelligence agencies. He said they will be handed over to the civil law enforcement agencies and produced before the court of law. ‘We will not resort to any ultra constitutional step,’ he assured.

Drone attacks:

Responding to another questions, he said the government’s policy on drone attacks was very clear. He said these counter-productive attacks were a clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. ‘We reserve the right to retaliate and will do it when we deem it appropriate,’ he remarked.

He said the US does not have the right to target criminals inside Pakistan and should share credible intelligence with Pakistan.

Kaira said the doors of dialogue were open for those who lay down the arms and accept the writ of the state.

General Athhar Abbas told a questioner that most of the terrorists’ leadership was in the valley and only a few of them had moved out. He assured the media that there was no possibility of a return of the leadership to regroup and operate in the valley. He said the local leadership had been eliminated and the terrorists had lost the organized ability to face the security forces now.

He confirmed that Maulana Fazlullah was seriously injured and Abu Jandal was dead. He said Shah Daraun was also reportedly killed.

He said the success of the operation was evident from the fact that certain no-go areas including the Peochar, Sakhara and Bhia valleys had been secured.

He said the operation in South Waziristan was against a specific group. He said the unprovoked incident in North Waziristan was highly regrettable, but said there was no plan on the cards to extend the focussed operation to North Waziristan.

Answering a question, he said the number of civilians casualties during the operation will be assessed while working with the civil administration, which was now in place.

He said he regretted civilian casualties but said the civilian killings were minimal as there were clear instructions of the Army Chief to avoid collateral damage even if the operation was compromised. He said this was one of the reasons the operation remained slow.

Responding to another question, the military spokesman said the Lashkars raised by locals cannot be a permanent feature and disperse after the mission was over. He said the lashkars use their own weapons and were provided ammunition by the army.

Kaira said there was however a plan to raise community police, which will be armed by the Government.

Protest against loadshedding in Peshawar, Charsadda

PESHAWAR: People took to the streets in different areas of the city against unannounced loadshedding on Wednesday.

Protest demonstrations were held in Garhi Khana, Mohala Muhtasiban, Shah Masoom, Ganj and other adjacent areas of the old city and link roads were blocked.

The protesters were chanting slogans against the government and the Peshawar Electric Supply Company for failing to ensure smooth supply of electricity.

They said electricity was supplied to their areas only for a few hours in a day.

They said during the past some days the temperature had reached 40 degree Celsius and a majority of the people were living in small houses, who could not stay in their homes during power breakdowns.

A Pesco spokesman, when contacted, told Dawn that official loadshedding time was from six to eight hours, but ‘forced loadshedding’ was also observed from Islamabad, which was from two to three hours.

He said it was a compulsion of the company because the system could not bear the load continuously.

He said Pesco planned to erect two pylons carrying 500KV Tarbela-Peshawar transmission line, which would increase the duration of loadshedding to 12 hours, from 7am to 7pm, on July 9, 10 and 11.

Our Charsadda Correspondent adds: A protest procession was taken out in a local bazaar under the banner of the Muttahida Shopkeepers Federation and the Mardan-Peshawar road was blocked in protest against loadshedding.

The protesters staged a sit-in outside the office of the Pesco executive engineer and chanted slogans against high-ups of the company.

They said excessive power breakdowns had badly affected business activities and they were unable even to open shops in such a situation when electricity remained suspended for most of the time.

The speakers announced to hold a meeting at Farooq Azam Chowk to devise a strategy against Pesco, saying if smooth power supply was not ensured the shopkeepers would be compelled to stage demonstrations daily.

Protest demonstrations against loadshedding were also held in Tangi, Utmanzai, Sherpao and Umerzai areas.

The protesters said the worst affected were internally displaced persons who were residing in camps.