Saturday, July 11, 2009

US president sets Afghan target

The increasingly deadly conflict in Afghanistan is a "serious fight" but one essential for the future stability of the country, the US president says.
Insisting that US and allied troops have pushed back the Taliban, Barack Obama said the immediate target was to steer Afghanistan through elections.
The country is due to hold a presidential vote in August.
Mr Obama spoke to Sky News as concern grew in the UK at the rising British death toll in Afghanistan.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was also forced on Saturday to justify British involvement in Afghanistan.
Mr Brown said the UK's military deployment there was aimed at preventing terrorism in the UK.
Fifteen British troops have died in the past 10 days, pushing the country's number of deaths in Afghanistan past the number killed in action in Iraq.
'Extraordinary role'
Speaking during a day-long visit to Africa, Mr Obama also told Sky News that the battle in Afghanistan was a vital element in the battle against terrorism.
He said the continued involvement of British troops in the conflict was necessary, right and was a vital contribution to UK national security.
Speaking during a day-long visit to Africa, Mr Obama also told Sky News that the battle in Afghanistan was a vital element in the battle against terrorism.
He said the continued involvement of British troops in the conflict was necessary, right and was a vital contribution to UK national security.

Barack Obama has boosted troop levels and is hoping for tangible results
"This is not an American mission," Mr Obama said.
"The mission in Afghanistan is one that the Europeans have as much if not more of a stake in than we do.
"The likelihood of a terrorist attack in London is at least as high, if not higher, than it is in the United States."
He praised the efforts of all troops currently fighting the Taleban in gruelling summer heat, singling out British forces for praise when asked if their role was still important.
"Great Britain has played an extraordinary role in this coalition, understanding that we can not allow either Afghanistan or Pakistan to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda, those who with impunity blow up train stations in London or buildings in New York.
"We knew that this summer was going to be tough fighting. They [the Taliban] have, I think, been pushed back but we still have a long way to go. We've got to get through elections." Speaking to Sky News, Mr Obama said although forces were currently engaged in heavy fighting, new strategies for building bridges with Afghan society would be considered once the country had held its presidential election.

Afghan civilians often bear the brunt of the conflict with the Taliban
Afghanistan needed its own army, its own police and the ability to control its own security, Mr Obama said - a strategy currently being implemented in Iraq, where security is being handed over to Iraqi forces.
"All of us are going to have to do an evaluation after the Afghan election to see what more we can do," the president said.
"It may not be on the military side, it might be on the development side providing Afghan farmers alternatives to poppy crops, making sure that we are effectively training a judiciary system and a rule of law in Afghanistan that people trust."
"We've got a core mission that we have to accomplish."

Brown's secret plan to cut Afghanistan force by 1,500
In Britain, Ministers are secretly planning to cut the number of British troops in Afghanistan, at a time when defence chiefs are appealing for thousands more reinforcements to meet the deadly threat from the resurgent Taliban.

Hours after the death toll of UK forces in Afghanistan rose above the number killed in Iraq, The Independent on Sunday established that Gordon Brown wants to bring up to 1,500 service personnel home from the war-torn country after its elections next month, seemingly on grounds of cost.

Astonished former military chiefs condemned the "disastrous" move, which emerged at the end of one of the bloodiest weeks in the recent history of the British military.
General Sir Hugh Beach, a former deputy commander of British land forces, said: "They ought to be sending the extra 2,000 men the generals have asked for because it's quite obvious that if we're going to get anywhere with this campaign it's troops on the ground that are going to cut the mustard. To reduce numbers now seems to be crazy... and [makes] nonsense of everything the Army has tried to do so far."

Colonel Bob Stewart, who commanded UK forces in Bosnia, said: "The Army apparently asked for 2,500 men and was given 750. The real resource in Afghanistan is manpower, and they ain't got it."

The deepening crisis in Afghanistan has dominated the political agenda in recent days, as the number of British military killed in the conflict rose to 184 – five more than the total lost by UK forces in Iraq. Ferocious fighting during Operation Panther's Claw, the offensive aimed at clearing the Taliban from central Helmand Province, has claimed the lives of 15 British soldiers in 10 days. Eight died in 24 hours at the end of last week.

Senior ministers, including Mr Brown, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and the Secretary of State for Defence, Bob Ainsworth, have striven to justify the mission amid growing doubts over the reasons for remaining in Afghanistan and over the Government's ability to give UK forces the tools they need to do the job.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, last week fractured the cross-party consensus over the eight-year Afghan campaign by questioning the Government's commitment to the forces, and challenging the Prime Minister to show that the sacrifices of troops "have not been in vain".

Amid growing frustration over the death toll, Tory leader, David Cameron, yesterday said it was a "scandal" that British forces lacked vital equipment, including helicopters.

Mr Miliband reinforced the Government's commitment to the conflict, claiming it was essential to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming an "incubator for terrorism" that serves as a launching pad for attacks on the West.

"This is about the future of Britain because we know that the badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan – that border area – have been used to launch terrible attacks, not just on the United States, but on Britain as well," he said.

"We know that until we can ensure there is a modicum of stability and security provided by Afghan forces for their own people, we are not going to be able to be secure in our own country."

In a letter to senior MPs yesterday Mr Brown stoutly defended his Afghan policy, saying the global terror threat that sparked the invasion in 2001 remained a danger. Mr Brown also told the liaison committee, in advance of his appearance before them this week: "We will, of course, continue to review force levels, based on the advice of our commanders and discussions with allies."

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, also emphasised Britain's commitment to provide whatever equipment British troops might need, and pointed to the extra troops sent in preparation for the elections, but said the figures were being constantly reviewed.

But a senior MoD source yesterday said the Prime Minister wanted up to 1,500 personnel – troops and support staff – pulled out of Afghanistan once the election campaign is concluded. The decision conflicts with demands for an Obama-style surge to defeat the Taliban threat, and comes only weeks after Mr Brown rejected a request from defence chiefs for 2,000 more troops.

An MoD spokesman confirmed yesterday that hundreds of troops would be returning after the election – although he said any withdrawal would involve 700 troops sent in "temporarily" in April to help maintain security ahead of the elections. He added: "This is an international mission to which the UK is the second largest troop contributor. UK forces are doing a large part of the heavy lifting in Afghanistan, having provided the vast majority of international forces in the most difficult province in the country for the past three years.

"While we will continue to keep the position under review, there is no plan to reduce troop numbers by 1,500 from their current levels."

But critics said the rising death toll demanded an increase in troop numbers beyond the current 9,000 – not a reduction – and warned that, failing a change of plan under political pressure following last week's deaths, the military was falling victim to government cuts.

The shadow Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, said: "Commanders have been telling us that they need more boots on the ground. To be reducing the numbers seems to fly in the face of military need. It would be a disaster if Labour were to make decisions on deployment based on political interest and not the safety and welfare of our armed forces."

Colonel Clive Fairweather, a former SAS commander, said there were also rumours about cuts in infantry battalions in the years ahead. He added: "This surge is for 20 August, but it's no good just to have it for then. You've got to have it permanently, you've got to be able to hold the ground and at the moment the Afghan army is not big enough to hold the ground. If there were 2,000 more troops there now the casualties would probably be lighter.

"I think it would be a terrible mistake to take troops away in October, both from an operational point of view and a morale point of view – it's disastrous when in fact there should be 2,000 more actually there now. Frankly, any talk of bringing troops back would leave a very bitter taste in the mouth all round."

The US President, Barack Obama, last night said that coalition partners would consider increasing their contribution to Afghanistan after the election on 20 August. He also signalled that the move would not necessarily mean more troops.

He added: "My heart goes out to the families of those [fallen] British soldiers. Great Britain has played an extraordinary role in this coalition, understanding that we cannot allow either Afghanistan or Pakistan to be a safe haven for al-Qa'ida."

Unveiled Rebiya Kadeer: a Uighur Dalai Lama or female osama bin laden

By Li Hongmei
People's Daily Online

Rebiya Kadeer, presiding over the 'World Uighur Congress' and the 'Uighur American Association,' denied the accusation of masterminding the July 5th Urumqi bloody riots. But what she did, in her so-called exile since 2005, has manifested as clear as daylight that she is an ironclad separatist colluding with terrorists and Islamic extremists and an instigator unceasingly fanning unrest among her followers within and outside of China.

The 58-year-old Kadeer is likened to the Dalai Lama, and the comparison grew more apt when she strived for Nobel Peace Prize, following in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama, who has been revered by Kadeer as the spiritual tutor. Like the Dalai Lama, Ms. Kadeer is also fully cognizant of the importance of P.R. endeavors in a bid to rally the international support. For all these years, she has devoted herself to globe-trotting and lobbying around for the 'rights and interests of the Uighurs.' And in the process, like the Dalai Lama, she is also clad in the religious garment in an attempt to convince others she is just decrying the 'stricture' carried out by the Chinese central government upon the Uighurs and their religion, but whatever she is pushing for, she insisted, is strictly confined to 'peaceful demonstration.'

Most ridiculously, the so-called 'peaceful demonstration' was staged on the Urumqi streets in the form of the most inhumane atrocities too horrible to look at. However, the Kadeer group abroad quickly washed clean themselves pleading ignorance of the beating, smashing, looting and burning incidents which have so far claimed 156 innocent civilian lives, and even recalibrated their gun muzzle toward the Chinese government chiding it for using the same template of accusations as it did in the Mar.14th Lhasa riots. Perhaps, it is none other than Rebiya Kadeer herself who knows fully well why it is so-- simply because she did as much, or more than, as the Dalai Lama and his clique to sow resentment among the ethnic Uighur people and instigate their discontent and hatred toward the government and other ethnic groups, while disregarding the fact that China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region enjoys a time-honored history as a civilized settlement with different ethnic groups living in a compact community and harmony.

Mud is mud, as the old saying goes. When Kadeer made a sensational phone call to her followers in Xinjiang on the very bloody day instructing them to mobilize the local outlaws to launch 'something more courageous and even bigger,' and when she drew upon the Internet in the days gone by to wide spread her separatist ideas and encourage sacrifice of the Uighurs for the 'Independence of East Turkistan,' the true color of a separatist has been thoroughly unveiled. And when, on July 5th and in the apparently preempted and premeditated plot which quickly spiraled into a tragic riot, a baby boy was witnessed smashed to death by a stray brick in his mother's arms, innocent passers-by were mutilated by choppers and swards wielded by the outlaws, and a lot more people were put out of business as their premises and lifework were destroyed within the horrifying three hours, the ferocious terrorist nature of Rebiya Kadeer group has been completely unmasked.

Rebiya Kadeer, in the pursuit of her dream of Nobel Prize, used to hire a shooter keeping a detailed record of her 'colorful personal experiences' and 'epic-like heroic legends.' The so-called autobiography was later published with the title 'Dragon Fighter', and with the foreword written by her much admired tutor, the Dalai Lama. The book has also been labeled by some anti-China political observers abroad as a living force in a fierce defiance of the Chinese government and its policies governing autonomous regions and ethnic minority groups, and Kadeer herself a fearless fighter for human rights and independence of China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region, 1/3 of China's territory. Unfortunately, Ms. Kadeer's deeds always betray the 'lofty goal' she is seeking after for dear life.

Before 1999, she was among the galaxy of the 'happy few' who benefited from China's achievements by adopting the reform and opening up policy, and was listed within the then top 10 richest persons in the country, and ranked No.1 in Xinjiang with a hoard of individual wealth worth over 100 million yuan. Rebiya, a mother of 11 children from two marriages, rose to fame rapidly as a shrewd businesswoman, and later was elected a member of the 8th National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and meanwhile she was also put in charge of the Chamber of Commerce in Xinjiang. But in 1999, she ended up her glorious days in prison with the charges of tax evasion and criminal acts endangering state secrets. Nevertheless, she did not see through her seven-year term and was released in 2005 for the consideration of her health. The same year, Rebiya applied for a chance to go to the U.S. and join her second husband, a veteran separatist, and gained approval from the government on the conditions that she would never involve in any plot fanning independence of Xinjiang, and subversive activity against the Chinese government, as Rebiya herself pledged repeatedly before her departure.

Obviously, she went back on her word. Since the notorious 'East Turkistan Islamic Movement' was blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the international community after the 9/11 terrorist attack, Rebiya changed her identity with no time to spare and into new forms of 'World Uighur Congress' and 'Uighur American Association,' but what remains unchanged under the bewildering disguise of the assorted names is the core essence of terrorism and violence, and the 'desperate fulfillment' of all her ambitions at the cost of civilians' life and property.

Nobel Prize will lose its luster if it were meted out to the hands stained with innocent blood. No government would have the tolerance when seeing its people are living in the dread of killing and looting. Physical damage could be measured in terms of money, but the trauma will linger on like a ghost. Rebiya, as well as those with the mentality marked by antipathy and gloom, might intend to dislocate the Chinese society and split China, but will be hoisted by their own petard.

Xinjiang people donate money, blood for riot victims

URUMQI, -- The Xinjiang branch of China Charity Federation said Saturday it had received 2.03 million yuan (297,218 U.S. dollars) in donation from all walks of life for victims in the Urumqi riot.

The single largest donation is 200,000 yuan from the Xinjiang company of China Pacific Life Insurance Co., Ltd., said the federation.

Wu Jie, an employee of the insurance company, said she would like to do something for the dead and injured people. "We need to comfort the families of the dead and help the people who need medical treatment."

Maolaxifu Rishat, a businessman of the Tartar ethnic group who was the first to propose a comfort fund for riot victims, donated 5,200 yuan on behalf of 14 donators from 14 different ethnic groups.

"We pray for national unity in Xinjiang, so that we can have a peaceful and harmonious environment," he said.

Urumqi Public Transport Group, which suffered 37.6 million yuan as hundreds of its buses were torched or smashed, received 3.38 million yuan in donation from enterprises in the city. Five bus drivers of the group were killed by mobs and 57 others injured.

The riot in Xinjiang on July 5, the worst in six decades, caused a severe shortage of blood at local hospitals where more than 1,000 injured people were rushed in.

Shortly after the shortage was reported, many citizens rolled up their sleeves to donate blood.

On Friday, Urumqi's blood center announced the shortage had been eased, but donors continued to pour in.

A total of 1,315 people from 13 ethnic groups had come to the blood collection stations to donate 400,000 milliliters of blood as of 10 p.m. Friday. More than 1,000 other people have made appointments with blood collection centers to donate blood in the coming days.

Senior leader calls to build "steel wall" in Xinjiang for stability

HOTAN, Xinjiang, (Xinhua) -- Government and Communist Party departments at all levels in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region should rely on the people of all ethnic groups to build a "steel wall" for the region's stability to safeguard the interests of the people, senior Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang said here Saturday.Zhou, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the remarks on the third day of his visit to Xinjiang. He is the first member of the Political Bureau Standing Committee to visit the region after the July 5 riot in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, which caused at least 184 deaths and injured over 1,000 others.During his visit to Hotan and Kashgar, both in the southern part of Xinjiang, Zhou said the current situation in the region was "heading in a good direction."But he warned that hostile forces from home and abroad would not give up easily. "They are attempting to stage more sabotage," he said. Zhou urged government and Party departments, troops on duty in the region and public security authorities to stay on high alert, nip all hidden dangers in the bud and focus on ethnic unity education, to foil all sabotage attempts by the hostile forces. When talking with Uygur farmers during his visit, Zhou said the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have always attached great importance to the development of southern Xinjiang. He promised that more efforts would be made to improve the living standards of people in southern Xinjiang and infrastructure in the region.

Rebiya Kadeer behind Xinjiang riot: Chinese gov't

BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- The separatist World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer was behind the deadly July 5 Xinjiang riot, in which at least 156 people died and more than 1000 were injured, sources with the government said.
Evidence showed the riot was organized. It was instigated and masterminded by the World Uyghur Congress led by Kadeer, the sources said.
The Congress used the June 26 factory brawl between Uygur and Han ethnic workers in Guangdong Province, in which two Uygurs died, to create chaos.
On July 1, the Congress held a special meeting, plotting to instigate unrest by sending messages via the Internet, telephones and mobile phones.
On July 4, some people inside the country began to send out a flood of online posts encouraging people to go to the Renmin Square in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to protest on July 5 to support separatists abroad.
At 1:06 a.m. July 5, police in Urumqi were tipped off that some people were putting out illegal information calling for an illegal gathering at Renmin Square at 7 p.m. July 5.
According to recordings of calls, at 11 a.m. July 5, Kadeer said, as she called her younger brother in Urumqi, "A lot of things have happened, and we all know something might happen in Urumqi tomorrow night."
On July 6, Kadeer held an emergency meeting with some senior members of the Congress to make plans to further stir up both domestic and overseas demonstrations and to call for intervention from foreign governments and human rights institutions.

Obama in Ghana: War a 'millstone around Africa's neck'

CNN.COM: President Obama reached out to Africa in a speech in Ghana on Saturday, praising the continent's achievements but condemning persistent wars, calling them the "millstone around Africa's neck.""Despite the progress that has been made -- and there has been considerable progress in parts of Africa -- we also know that much of that promise has yet to be fulfilled," Obama said in a speech to the parliament of Ghana, a West African nation seen as a model of democracy and growth for the rest of the continent.

Obama's visit,the third by a sitting American president, highlighted the stability, political strides and painstaking economic progress that Ghana made in being the first sub-Saharan nation to gain independence, in 1957.
This is in sharp contrast to conditions in other continent hot spots cited by Obama -- Zimbabwe, where the society is in economic and political turmoil; Sudan, where fighting rages in the Darfur region, and Somalia, site of civil warfare. Congo and Liberia have also been in the throes of war.
"Here in Ghana, you show us a face of Africa that is too often overlooked by a world that sees only tragedy or the need for charity," Obama said.
"The people of Ghana have worked hard to put democracy on a firmer footing, with peaceful transfers of power even in the wake of closely contested elections. And with improved governance and an emerging civil society, Ghana's economy has shown impressive rates of growth.
After his speech, Obama toured Cape Coast Castle, the notorious fort used in the transatlantic slave trade.After viewing the castle, a visibly moved Obama, who was accompanied by his wife and two daughters, said that the site held special significance for him.
"As Americans, as African-Americans obviously, there's a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness, on the other hand," he said, "it is here where the journey of much of the African-American experience began," he said.
Earlier in the day, Obama in his speech to the country's lawmakers said the kind of nation-building exemplified by Ghana doesn't have the "drama of the 20th century's liberation struggles," but he believes "it will ultimately be more significant."
"We must first recognize a fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana: Development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long," he said. "That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans."
Obama pointed to Kenya -- where his father was born -- as an example of unmet potential.
"Countries like Kenya, which had a per-capita economy larger than South Korea's when I was born, have been badly outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my father's generation gave way to cynicism, even despair," he said.
"History shows that countries thrive when they invest in their people and infrastructure, when they promote multiple export industries, develop a skilled workforce, and create space for small and medium-sized businesses that create jobs."
Obama said the United States has committed $63 billion to a global, comprehensive health strategy.
"Building on the strong efforts of President [George W.] Bush, we will carry forward the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will pursue the goal of ending deaths from malaria and tuberculosis, and we will work to eradicate polio.
"We will fight neglected tropical disease. And we won't confront illnesses in isolation -- we will invest in public health systems that promote wellness, and focus on the health of mothers and children," Obama said.
The visit by the first African-American president in the United States sparked a frenzy in the country as street vendors sold miniature U.S. flags, and massive billboards with pictures of a smiling Obama and "akwaaba, " the local word for welcome, were set up in the capital city.
"People in Ghana are printing clothes for this occasion," said Adrian Landry, general manager of a beach hotel in Accra.
"The fact that his father is African and he picked us makes us special," he said. "He is endorsing our strong democracy in Ghana. This is historic."
Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president to visit Ghana in 1998 as part of a six-nation Africa tour. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, stopped there as part of a four-nation Africa tour during his last year of office.
Obama, who recently attended the G-8 summit in Italy, will not visit any other country in the continent during the trip.

Another Insurgency Gains in Pakistan

New York Times
TURBAT, Pakistan — Three local political leaders were seized from a small legal office here in April, handcuffed, blindfolded and hustled into a waiting pickup truck in front of their lawyer and neighboring shopkeepers. Their bodies, riddled with bullets and badly decomposed in the scorching heat, were found in a date palm grove five days later.

Local residents are convinced that the killings were the work of the Pakistani intelligence agencies, and the deaths have provided a new spark for revolt across Baluchistan, a vast and restless province in Pakistan’s southwest where the government faces yet another insurgency.

Although not on the same scale as the Taliban insurgency in the northwest, the conflict in Baluchistan is steadily gaining ground. Politicians and analysts warn that it presents a distracting second front for the authorities, drawing off resources, like helicopters, that the United States provided Pakistan to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Baluch nationalists and some Pakistani politicians say the Baluch conflict holds the potential to break the country apart — Baluchistan makes up a third of Pakistan’s territory — unless the government urgently deals with years of pent up grievances and stays the hand of the military and security services.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Baluch were rounded up in a harsh regime of secret detentions and torture under President Pervez Musharraf, who left office last year. Human rights groups and Baluch activists say those abuses have continued under President Asif Ali Zardari, despite promises to heal tensions.

“It’s pretty volatile,” said Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, the governor of Baluchistan. “When you try to forcibly pacify people, you will get a reaction.”

The discovery of the men’s bodies on April 8 set off days of rioting and weeks of strikes, demonstrations and civil resistance. In schools and colleges, students pulled down the Pakistani flag and put up the pale blue, red and green Baluch nationalist flag.

Schoolchildren still refuse to sing the national anthem at assemblies, instead breaking into a nationalist Baluch song championing the armed struggle for independence, teachers and parents said.

For the first time, women, traditionally secluded in Baluch society, have joined street protests against the continuing detentions of nationalist figures. Graffiti daubed on walls around this town call for independence and guerrilla war, which persists in large parts of the province.

The nationalist opposition stems from what it sees as the forcible annexation of Baluchistan by Pakistan 62 years ago at Pakistan’s creation. But much of the popular resentment stems from years of economic and political marginalization, something President Zardari promised to remedy but has done little to actually address.

In interviews, people in and around Turbat said the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies were still doggedly pursuing nationalist sympathizers.

A case in point, they say, is that of the three political figures who were killed: Gul Muhammad, Lala Munir and Sher Muhammad, all prominent in the nationalist movement.

Government officials say the men were being prosecuted for activities against the state but deny any involvement in their deaths. People are not convinced and say that while the men supported independence, they were not involved in the armed struggle.

Mir Kachkol Ali, the men’s lawyer, who witnessed their abduction, said the killings represented a deepening of the campaign by the Pakistani military to crush the Baluch nationalist movement. “Their tactics are not only to torture and detain, but to eliminate,” he said.

The insurgents, who say they are led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army, have escalated their tactics, too. A prominent example was the kidnapping in February of an American citizen, John Solecki, the head of the United Nations refugee organization in the provincial capital, Quetta.

The abduction was carried out by a breakaway group of young radicals who wanted to draw international attention to their cause and to exchange their captive for Baluch being held by the security services.

Mr. Solecki was released in April after the intervention of Baluch leaders, including Gul Muhammad. Baluch leaders speculate that the intelligence agencies may have killed Mr. Muhammad and his colleagues to provoke the kidnappers into murdering the American, which would have branded the Baluch nationalists as terrorists.

Instead, “the killing of these three has centralized the national movement of Baluchistan,” Mr. Ali, the lawyer, said.

He and others said they had no doubt that the intelligence services were responsible.

The three men were in his office on April 3 when a half-dozen armed men seized them, he said.

“They were persons of the agencies,” Mr. Ali said. “They were in plain clothes, but from their hairstyles, their language, we know them.” Mr. Ali has lodged a case with the police against the intelligence agencies for the abduction and murder of the three.

Nisar Ahmed, a shopkeeper and friend of the political leaders, said he saw them pushed into a pickup truck. He also said that the armed men appeared to be intelligence agents and that they were escorted by a second vehicle with 10 more armed men, also in plain clothes, who looked to be from the Frontier Corps paramilitary force.

While the insurgency remains strong in other parts of Baluchistan, the military has largely crushed the resistance around Turbat since March 2007, yet armed men are still in the hills and continue to be rounded up, residents here said.

Yousuf Muhammad, the brother of Gul Muhammad, one of the slain political leaders, said that in February he was hung by his hands from the ceiling for 48 hours in a Pakistani military camp.

“They came to arrest Gul Muhammad but they found me,” he said. Another brother, Obeidullah, said Gul Muhammad had received threats from people in the intelligence agencies warning him to stop his work. The latest came 10 days before his death, he said.

A group of students in the nearby town of Tump said they were rounded up and held in various army camps without charge for seven months in 2007. Some said they were suspended by their hands or their feet until they passed out, were beaten and were held in solitary confinement. Each showed a blackened mark where a toenail had been pulled out.

The arrests and disappearances have hardened attitudes, townspeople said, particularly among the young.

Even the governor, who is the president’s representative in the province, expressed exasperation at the Zardari government’s inaction in addressing the needs of the population. Many Baluch are increasingly cynical about the government’s ability to change things.

Sayed Hassan Shah, the minister for industry and commerce in Baluchistan, said his party was now demanding provincial autonomy.

“This is our last option,” he said. “If we fail, then maybe we have to think of liberation or separation.”

Tribal region poses harsh test for Pakistan army

ISLAMABAD (AP) — After relative success against Islamic extremists elsewhere, Pakistan's military faces its toughest test yet — a surgical operation against the country's most dangerous militant in a region of harsh terrain and fierce tribal rivalries.
The target of the air and ground offensive now in its early phases is Baitullah Mehsud, the top commander of Pakistan's Taliban who has ties to al-Qaida. Mehsud is believed responsible for scores of suicide attacks — possibly including the December 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Pakistan considers Mehsud its greatest domestic threat. The U.S. views him as a danger to its war effort in Afghanistan because his base in South Waziristan harbors militants fleeing across the border.
The Obama administration fears that a destabilized, nuclear-armed Pakistan could endanger the entire region. In recent months, U.S. missile strikes have increasingly focused on Mehsud-linked targets.
For years, Washington has pressed Pakistan to go beyond halfhearted offensives and fragile peace deals to root out militants from its northwest, especially the lawless tribal belt where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden may be hiding.
Now it appears Pakistan may be heeding the call following major ground operations against Taliban fighters in the Bajur tribal region and the Swat Valley. But taking on Mehsud and his force of up to 10,000 fighters in South Waziristan will likely prove tougher.
Roughly half the size of Connecticut, South Waziristan is a mountainous, underdeveloped territory. It has a leaky border with Afghanistan, barely any government infrastructure and fiercely independent, heavily armed Pashtun tribes hostile to interference by outsiders, including Pakistan's Punjabi-dominated army.
Already, army officials are stressing that the operation will be limited — focusing on capturing or killing Mehsud and destroying his terror infrastructure rather than targeting other militant groups.
Mehsud "is the main center of gravity. He is a leader who has declared himself the emir, the ruler of the other factions, also. He has been the main source of terrorism in Pakistan," Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army's chief spokesman, told The Associated Press.
As it ramps up its offensive, the military is trying to choke off sections of South Waziristan under Mehsud's control. Major roads are being cleared and potential escape routes sealed off to isolate the militants before the army's campaign takes off, Abbas said.
"We want to create certain effects in the area, like softening the targets, targeting their training centers, their suicide-bombing centers, and also hit hard their logistics. That will reduce their force capability," Abbas said.
By limiting the scope of the operation, the Pakistanis hope to avoid alienating other tribes, whose support — or at least neutrality — would be crucial to eliminating Mehsud.
Key to that effort is to cut deals with other militant leaders such as Maulvi Nazir, who recently agreed to a cease-fire. Nazir's fighters maintain a significant presence along the Afghan border and could help restrict movements of pro-Mehsud Taliban to and from Afghanistan.
"They cannot afford to alienate every single militant," said Kamran Bokhari of STRATFOR, a private security think-tank in Austin, Texas. "The tribes, the militia leaders, they are adjusting day by day. It's an issue of sorting out the baddies from the ones who aren't fighting the Pakistani state."
In February, Pakistan said it had defeated militants in Bajur after a six-month offensive, and it is now winding down a nearly three-month battle in the Swat Valley. But violence occasionally flares in Bajur, which, while also a rugged border area, is smaller than South Waziristan. And in Swat, many insurgents are believed to have fled to the hills.
Other differences add to the South Waziristan challenge.
Swat does not have as strong a tribal structure and legally it was a full-fledged part of Pakistan with government presence. Bajur's tribes are not as well off as those in Waziristan and appear more willing to work with the military, even setting up their own militias to take on the Taliban.
Aside from the porous border, South Waziristan's terrain poses other problems.
Pakistan's army is organized and trained to fight its traditional rival, India, on the eastern plains rather than guerrillas entrenched in mountains. The army, with U.S. assistance, is improving its counterinsurgency capabilities but is far from being as nimble enough.
Several factors have contributed to growing public anger against the Taliban, including their foray into a district just 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the capital, Islamabad, and a video showing militants flogging a young woman.
Whether the support would survive a long and bloody fight in South Waziristan is unclear.
Some analysts suspect the U.S. and Pakistani governments have a secret deal allowing the U.S. missile strikes, even though Pakistan publicly protests them, saying they anger the tribes.
Bokhari said the Pakistani military has weeks, not months, to make an impact in South Waziristan because public support for the operation could fade. Even if it never captures or kills Mehsud, the army needs to be able to say it has destroyed his network.
"Now you have momentum," Bokhari said. "You don't want to drag it out too long."

Former Xinjiang chairman: Rebiya Kadeer not entitled to represent Uygur people

A citizen donates blood for the wounded of the July 5 riot in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, July 10, 2009. (Xinhua/He Jun)
URUMQI, July 11 (Xinhua) -- A former chairman of the Xinjiang regional government said here Saturday that Rebiya Kadeer was "not entitled to represent the Uygur people." Ismail Amat, a Uygur who headed Xinjiang's regional government from 1979 to 1985, said the "spiritual mother of Uygur people" touted by East Turkestan terrorists was the "scum" of the Uygur community. "It's widely known that Kadeer sold intelligence information to foreigners and she herself pled guilty in jail," he said. "How can such a person represent the Uygur people?" Ismail Amat, who was also a vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top lawmaking body, said that by referring to Xinjiang as "East Turkestan" in her bylined article on the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, Kadeer exposed her separatist mentality as well as her ignorance, or rather, vicious distortion of Xinjiang's history. "East Turkestan" was a term cooked up by foreign invaders more than 200 years ago. he said. "The invaders had wanted, in vain, for all the Chinese people, the Uygur people included, to accept this name." Xinjiang has been under the jurisdiction of China's central government since 60 B.C. and the Uygur people have always taken pride in their Chinese nationality, he added.

"In the 19th century, the Xinjiang people fought courageously against the Tsarist Russian invaders and foiled the British attempt to colonize the region," he said. "They contributed greatly to China's unification and prosperity."

"It's grieving indeed to see a handful of mobs damaged the reputation of the Uygur people in last Sunday's riot, but they do not represent all the Uygurs either," he said. "These people blaspheme Islam, which insists killing is a crime."

The riot has so far caused 184 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries, left hundreds of vehicles burnt, shops looted and other public facilities destroyed.

"If Kadeer and the separatist 'World Uygur Congress' wanted to take ethnic relations as an excuse to sabotage China's unification, we must be vigilant and firmly crush their plot," he said.

Kadeer was jailed in 1999 on charges of harming national security. She left for the United States shortly after she was released on bail in 2005. She is now leader of the World Uygur Congress, which has close contact with terrorist organizations.

She was once the richest woman in Xinjiang and was named by Forbes in 1995 as the eighth richest on the Chinese mainland.

World Population Day today

ISLAMABAD :World Population Day is being observed across the country like other parts of the world on Saturday with a focus on women empowerment and economic crisis.

The theme for 2009 is ‘fight poverty, educate girls’. The World Population Day brings to light population issues. Population Welfare Ministry is scheduled to organise a convention in the capital while seminars, rallies and other awareness activities have been planned by provincial population departments in different cities.

Population Welfare Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, in her message, said the day had more significant this year when it focused on investment in the women.