Tuesday, July 21, 2009

solar eclipse today,July 22nd.

The longest full solar eclipse of this century will blot out the sun today (Wednesday) as it passes over Pakistan and other countries.

According to a private TV channel, the eclipse would begin when the moon blocks out the sun at about 5:58am and would end approximately five hours later at 11:12am.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit moves between the Earth and the Sun so that the Sun is fully or partially obstructed.

According to the Met department, the solar eclipse will be witnessed in some parts of Pakistan, northern India, eastern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, Bhutan, northern parts of Myanmar and central China. Tomorrow’s eclipse is benefiting the tourism industries in

China and India that have had fewer visitors because of the global recession and the swine flu threat.

The Park Hyatt Hotel on the 91st floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre, China’s tallest building, has fully booked its 2,830 yuan ($414) package for watching the eclipse that includes a night’s stay and champagne breakfast for two.

The eclipse will first be visible at about 5:28am Indian local time on the western coast of India, before the shadow crosses the eastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the shadow of the eclipse would pass over the cities of Surat, Indore, Bhopal, Varanasi and Patna.

Thousands of people from across China and overseas are expected to travel long distances to gaze at the once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse of the sun tomorrow which is best visible along the Yangtze River.

Protests against power outages intensify in NWFP

PESHAWAR: Protests against electricity loadshedding continued as angry consumers blocked Grand Trunk Road near Nishtarabad, Shabistan Cinema and Kohat Road on Ring Road Chowk here Tuesday.

The protesters burnt old tyres to block the roads and vehicular traffic for more than an hour at the three places. The residents of Gulbahar Colony and Bilal Colony also staged a protest against power breakdown. They chanted slogans against Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) and government for their failure to ensure electricity supply. The protesters said they remained without power supply for more than 18 hours against the declared schedule of six to eight hours. The power breakdowns, they said, besides creating water shortage, was causing numerous problems for them in this biting heat.

They said not only load-shedding but constant breakdowns and fluctuation had been damaging their electric appliances. Electricity hide and seek continues for the whole day and its voltage remains too low to operate even a fan when supply is restored, they complained.

Our correspondent adds from Swabi: The residents blocked the Swabi-Jehangira Road in Tordher area for six hours against the unscheduled loadshedding. The protesters led by Muqarab Khan took out a protest procession against the 14-hour long loadshedding in the district. They were chanting slogans against the local Pesco authorities.

When the protesters dispersed, the police raided the house of Muqarab Khan and arrested him. After the incident, the villagers gathered again and blocked the Jehangira-Swabi Road, protesting the arrest of Muqarab Khan.

They also proceeded to the local Pesco office and damaged the furniture. The deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and Pesco officials reached the site and on their assurance the protesters opened the road and dispersed peacefully.

Our correspondent adds from Karak: The residents of Banda Daud Shah tehsil Tuesday extended a five-day ultimatum to the government and threatened to block the Indus Highway if smooth supply of power was not ensured to the area.

Hundreds of area’s residents took to the street to condemn the hours-long power breakdowns and gave five-day ultimatum to the government to end the loadshedding or else they would block the Indus Highway for traffic.

Reports of protests against power outages were also received from other parts of the province, where load-shedding duration was greater than that of the urban areas. Our correspondent adds from Kohat: The doctors and patients in the District Headquarters Hospital staged a protest demonstration against the unscheduled loadshedding on Tuesday.

Sources said a team of doctors was carrying out an eye surgery in the operation theatre when all of a sudden the power supply was disrupted. Taking an exception to the loadshedding, the doctors, patients and attendants staged a protest demonstration in the hospital. They chanted slogans against the local Pesco authorities and provincial government for their alleged failure to overcome the electricity crisis.

When contacted, Medical Superintendent of DHQ Hospital Dr Abdur Rasheed said, “There is a separate connection line of 11KV to the hospital but the authorities have resorted to unscheduled loadshedding to the hospital for the last three days,” adding, a generator provided to the hospital was ‘short of fuel’.

When contacted, the Pesco authorities said loadshedding was being carried out on the directives of Islamabad. Meanwhile, members of Kohat Doctors Association, including Dr Farid Afridi, Dr Younas Nadeem, Dr Irfanullah and Dr Mehr Ali, threatened to launch a protest demonstration if the government did not stop unnecessary and unscheduled loadshedding in the hospital.

Barbers back in business in Swat

PESHAWAR: As the security forces cleared Mingora city of militants and chasing the escaping miscreants and their leaders in Swat Valley, the barbers felt a sense of security and resumed shaving off beards on Tuesday.

The resumption of shaving off beards by barbers is an encouraging development at a time when the internally displaced families are returning to Swat Valley.

The militants had forcefully implemented the ban on shaving off beards by barbers and nobody could dare to oppose them. Defiance of the militants’ decree could risk the life of a poor barber, who had previously displayed pamphlets of having banned shaves to avoid the same.

“I am doing so as other barbers restarted shaving off beards in Mingora. I shaved beards of five or six persons during the last several hours,” a pleased barber in Banr Mohallah of Mingora told The News by phone.

The barber, who wished not to be named, said he saw three persons removing their long beards, not in his own shop, but at his counterpart’s saloon. He said after the military operation, security situation had improved and militants had run away. “Now we have no fear of militants who had forced us for the last eight months to ban shaving off beards,” he said.

Barbers in all the Taliban infested areas, particularly in Swat valley, were the worst hit of Taliban barbarity as they had been driven to near starvation. Such bans were enforced in Bajaur, South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Mohmand Agency and other volatile areas.

The new development after the military operation suggests that the offensive against Taliban in Swat had ended the environment of terror, at least, in Mingora city. Being the district headquarters and largest city in the valley, Mingora is a hub of economic activities and the administrative seat of Swat.

The removal of Taliban fear from the hearts of the terrified people of Mingora is a great success of military, but locals said it should not rest on its laurels and completely eliminate the militants.

The military pushed back Taliban from Mingora city into mountains where they are being chased in a bid to defeat them once and for all.

Locals said the barbers in Banr, Usmanabad, Tahirabad, Marghazar, Shahdara, Malukabad and other areas resumed shaving off beards. “I saw myself barbers shaving off beards of customers in parts of Mingora,” a resident of Mingora, requesting anonymity for his protection, said. “Taliban fear is no longer in people’s hearts,” he said.

The barber, who talked to The News, said his shop remained shut for three months during the military operation and he along with his family was in Rang Mohallah camp for internally displaced persons in Malakand Agency. “Previously, I was earning 1,000 to 1,500 a day, but after the ban, I could hardly earn 300-500,” he added.

Pakistan Military: 56 Militants Killed in Northwest

Security forces in Pakistan are said to have killed more than 56 Taliban militants in clashes this week in one of the several northwestern districts where a major anti-insurgency operation is underway.

Local military commanders say that the militants were killed during, what they describe as, a major search and cordon operation in several villages of the Lower Dir district. They say the clashes also left three soldiers dead.

The northwestern region borders the Swat valley and several other districts where Pakistani troops are said to be wrapping up an anti-Taliban offensive they launched more than two months ago.

The military claims the offensive has killed more than 1,700 militants, but it has not reported killing of any top Taliban commanders and it is difficult to independently verify the casualty figures.

Yahya Akhunzada is a top government administrator in the war-hit district, Bunner, just 100 kilometers from the Pakistani capital.

"We have some pockets where some splinter groups of miscreants [official reference to Taliban militants] are in some mountains here and there," he said. "But they are now unable to carry out any attacks, but definitely they come to some villages for sometime and whenever we get that information our police and military authorities cordon those areas and search those areas."

The arrival of Taliban militants in Buner in late April had led to criticism within and outside Pakistan of the government's effort to rein in extremist forces. The pressure prompted the government to launch the Swat military operation, a move widely praised by the United States and Pakistan's other allies in the war against terrorism.

Early this month, the Pakistani military declared certain districts safe and clear of militants. A government-sponsored repatriation process is underway to send hundreds of thousands of displaced families back to their homes. Thousands of families have returned to their home towns, but the latest clashes between security forces and Taliban militants in some of the insurgency-hit districts have raised questions about the security conditions.

The United Nations says that the Swat military operation has dislocated nearly two million people, who have taken refugee either with their relatives or in temporary camps in major cities of the North West Frontier Province.

The provincial government says that the repatriation process is progressing smoothly and that several camps near Mardan are being closed because most of the families residing there have returned to their homes.

US diplomat to hold talks in Pakistan, Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan is traveling to those countries this week for talks.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that Richard Holbrooke will be in Islamabad from Tuesday through Thursday. Holbrooke will then travel to Afghanistan; his schedule there is not yet settled.
Wood says Holbrooke is scheduled to meet with Pakistan's leaders and top generals and with citizens from Swat, Buner, Malakand, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and South Waziristan, where Pakistani forces are mounting an offensive against insurgents.

US to add 22,000 troops to army

The US Army will "temporarily" increase its size by 22,000 soldiers for the next three years, Defence Secretary Robert Gates has announced.
The additional troops are intended to ease the strain of the US's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Gates said.The extra manpower will raise the total number of active US soldiers from 547,000 to 569,000.Mr Gates's defence budget, unveiled in April, set aside $11bn (£6.7bn) to fund increases in military personnel.
"The army faces a period where its ability to deploy combat brigades at acceptable fill rates is at risk," Mr Gates said.
"This is a temporary challenge which will peak in the coming year and abate over the course of the next three years."
Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed an increase of 30,000.
Mr Gates's budget plans have faced fierce opposition from US lawmakers, who oppose his proposal to cease production of the F-22 fighter jet.
The defence secretary argued that the F-22, which was designed in the 1980s, was no longer strategically useful.

Human trafficking through marriages among IDPs feared

PESHAWAR : Representatives of civil societies, while expressing grave apprehension of human trafficking from different camps set up for displaced families of Malakand division, have stressed upon the departments concerned to hold probe into marriages held during stay of IDPs at the relief camps. "A complete scrutiny of nuptial ceremonies held at the camps of IDPs should be held for ensuring that distressed and suffering displaced families are not exploited by any one," remarked Said Afzal Shinwari, Programme Officer CAMP, an NGO working against human trafficking. A number of unconfirmed reports have been received about trafficking of girls through arranging fake marriages at the camps, he added. Afzal said some of the displaced families were passing through such a difficult situation that they openly expressed willingness for marrying of their daughters to any one. He said reports about missing of children and girls during displacement of people from Malakand to safer places is not hidden from any one. He said apart from mass marriages which were arranged through the permission of camp incharges and other concerned officials, people involved in this heinous crime have used touts for arranging weddings of poor girls with fake grooms. Afzal Shinwari said government should take notice of the issue and order probe into marriages held at camps and for saving people from being sold out. Similarly, immediate measures should be taken for recovery of missing people from Malakand division. He also appreciated government decision of putting ban on child adoption from camps as a result of which displaced children were saved from human traffickers. He also informed that CAMP has set up a Counter Trafficking Technical Working Group, comprising of NGOs, lawyers, law enforcers, media persons and government officials, with the objective of developing a stronger and institutionalized role towards the elimination of human trafficking. Similarly, he added, FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) has also been approached for taking action against human trafficking. He said though the IDPs from Malakand have returned to their homes, but the camps in Tank and D.I.Khan are filled with migrants from South Waziristan Agency.