Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hoti directs action against hoarders

PESHAWAR: NWFP(PUKHTUNKHWA) Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti on Saturday took notice of artificial shortage of some commodities, including sugar, and directed that stern action should be taken against hoarders.

Hoti also directed all the commissioners and DCOs of the province to closely monitor increase in prices of edible items and implementation of the government-approved price list.

He said his government was aware of the difficulties the public was facing due to the price hike.

The chief minister directed district administrations to form special teams that would ensure observance of the government-approved price list. He said legal action would be taken against the violators.

Meanwhile, Hoti took notice of the news published in various newspapers of shortage of facilities and poor arrangements of cleanliness in the District Hospital, Mardan, and directed the Mardan commissioner to take necessary steps and submit a report to him in this regard.

In the meantime, Hoti directed the SNGPL authorities to ensure provision of Sui gas to different villages on the Charsadda Road in Mardan.

Restrictions, curfew irk residents of Dargai

PESHAWAR: Frequent restrictions on businesses and curfews for security reasons continue to cause problems for the people of Dargai, a town in Malakand Agency, despite the conclusion of major anti-Taliban military operations in Swat and return of most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their areas.

A number of people in Dargai said their routine activities were widely affected by the restrictions although some relaxation has now been given in the curfew hours. They said the elected representatives of the area never turned up to provide relief to the people whose businesses were affected during the last three months.

Shergarh, Dargai, Sakhakot and Batkhela towns are part of Malakand Agency, which is a provincially administered tribal area (Pata). These towns mostly remained under curfew during the past three months to ensure safety of both military and civilian convoys coming from and going back to Swat.

Traffic usually would stop on the road passing through Dargai bazaar after 5pm till 10am in the morning. The markets used to remain closed in Dargai, Sakhakot and Batkhela, affecting the economic conditions of the businessmen and the labour attached to their businesses.

Khalid Mahmood, assistant relief officer with International Committee of the Red Cross in Malakand Agency, told The News that the people of these areas were equally affected by the trouble in Swat and Dir.

He said he had received Rs16,000 electricity bill for the past three months. “I can pay it as I have a job, but what about a labourer or a shopkeeper who did not work and whose business remained closed for most of the time over the past three months,” argued Khalid Mahmood.

Apart from business and labour community, students were also affected and many of them lost time to prepare for the examinations.

Clinton Ends Africa Tour, Vowing to Stay Involved

SANTA MARIA, Cape Verde — After a grueling seven-nation, 11-day trip, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrapped up her Africa tour on Friday by reaffirming her promise to renovate American relations with the continent.

“I leave Africa after this remarkable trip even more committed,” Mrs. Clinton said before leaving Cape Verde.

“I have seen the joy and energy Africans have, evidenced not just by the boogieing, but by the hard work and perseverance,” she said, referring to a recent comment from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, that she knew how to “boogie” with African dancers.

“And we’ve seen the worst humanity can do to itself,” she added, presumably referring to Congo, where Mrs. Clinton met victims of a brutal civil war that just does not seem to end.

Mrs. Clinton seemed satisfied that she had accomplished her mission: strengthening American relations with crucial allies on the continent, like Nigeria and South Africa, and sending a message of “tough love,” as she called it, to nations like Kenya and Congo.

Over all, she said, the United States wants to work more closely with African nations as a partner, not simply as a patron or dispenser of aid. In exchange, she said, African leaders must deliver democracy and good government.

Mrs. Clinton vowed to stay on top of Africa, even after she gets back to Washington, closely monitoring the issues she addressed on her tour. She also pointed to Cape Verde, a set of palm-studded islands best known for their beaches and enormous tourist hotels, as an example of what good leadership can do.

“This is possible,” she said. “You create not just economic growth but a sense of human dignity and possibility.”

Kenya. South Africa. Angola. Congo. Nigeria. Liberia. And finally Cape Verde. Mrs. Clinton saw with her own eyes some of Africa’s most promising countries — and some of its most troubled ones. In Kenya, she pushed for the government to prosecute perpetrators of the postelection violence last year. In South Africa, the big issue was Zimbabwe and how the South African government should do more to help ease the crisis there.

In Angola, the theme was good governing practices and oil, a strategic concern of the United States given the many inroads China has made there and elsewhere in Africa in its hunger for natural resources. In Congo, Mrs. Clinton was passionate about the need to end the nation’s rape epidemic.

“The secretary’s visit to the heart of the world’s deadliest war zone in eastern Congo was a potential game-changer for that conflict,” said John Prendergast, a founder of the Washington-based Enough project. “Her commitment to addressing root causes such as the conflict minerals that power our electronics industry was a refreshing contrast to the usual disaster sympathy tourism of visiting dignitaries.”

“Now,” he added, “comes the hard part: making good on the promises and living up to the high expectations engendered by her visit.”

In Nigeria, Mrs. Clinton pressed for electoral changes. In Liberia, she praised the country’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the only woman in Africa to be elected head of state.

The Liberian visit had a special warmth, almost like a meeting of long-lost cousins. Liberia was founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves, and the country’s flag, the people’s names and even the police uniforms with plastic-brimmed hats were all reminiscent of the American versions. Mrs. Clinton received possibly her most exuberant welcome there, and a Liberian man with a long wooden horn followed her around most of the visit, blowing out loud funny noises whenever she said something striking.

“I love that — the horn — I want to take that guy with me wherever I go,” she said.

In Cape Verde, Mrs. Clinton seemed to have few bones to pick. For once, she said, she had a cheat sheet on a country that included a list of far more positives than negatives. The country has fewer than 500,000 people and has escaped the turmoil that has engulfed so much of Africa. The all-inclusive, poolside buffet resorts here feel like something found in Cancún or the Bahamas.

Mrs. Clinton called Cape Verde “a model of democracy and economic progress in Africa.”

On Friday, just as she had at every stop, she started her speech by saying, “I bring you greetings from President Obama.”

She called him a “son of Africa” and said that under the Obama administration, the United States was determined to help Africa reach its promise.

Blast in Kabul kills 7, injures dozens

A suicide bomber in the Afghan capital, Kabul, blew up a car in a heavily fortified section of the city. At least seven people were killed and 91 others wounded, including children in an attack that comes five days before Afghanistan's presidential election.Afghan and NATO authorities say the car exploded on the road in front of the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force, near the U.S. Embassy and the Presidential Palace. NATO says some ISAF soldiers are among the wounded. But most of the casualties appear to be Afghan civilians, including children who congregate in the area to sell chewing gum to passersby. An ambulance driver told VOA he saw numerous dead and injured. He says all of the people he transported were civilians, including women. Bloodied and dazed wounded stood near firemen who extinguished the flames coming from the vehicle that had detonated. Windows of nearby shops were shattered. The force of the blast rattled windows several kilometers away and sent a plume of smoke into the Saturday morning sky. It is the first such attack in Kabul in six months, although this month a barrage of rockets was launched at the capital, most landing harmlessly. Kabul police criminal investigations director, Brigadier-General Sayed Abdul Ghaffar, tells reporters at the scene this is obviously a suicide car bombing. General Ghaffar says the identity of the bomber will be difficult to ascertain because he blew himself into many pieces, but investigators hope to arrest his accomplices.
Taliban claims responsibility
The Taliban, in phone calls to news agencies, claimed responsibility for the car bomb, saying it contained 500 kilograms of explosives and the intended target was the U.S. Embassy. Embassy spokesperson Fleur Cowen says the American diplomatic compound was not hit. Cowan said, "I was in my office when a blast occurred a little after 8:30 a.m. and I certainly heard it but I didn't feel anything. We're still gathering information, however, to the best of our knowledge all U.S. Embassy personnel have been accounted for and there has been no damage to the Embassy."
General Ghaffar acknowledges the attackers were able to penetrate an area of the capital that is supposed to be heavily secure, less than a week before Afghans go to the polls for the first national election since 2004.
Officials urge Afghans to vote
The police official says this suicide bombing should not deter Afghans from voting or derail the election.President Hamid Karzai, running for re-election, earlier in the week urged citizens not to be intimidated by Taliban threats to attack voting sites and disrupt balloting.A successful election is considered as a key test for this country's fledgling democracy and the ability of the joint Afghan and international forces to provide adequate security.

Five killed in suicide blast in Swat

MINGORA : A suicide car-bomber blew himself up at a security post in the Swat valley on Saturday killing five soldiers in the most serious attack in the area for weeks.

The bomb attack in Khawazakhela town, about 14 km (9 miles) north of Swat's main town of Mingora, raised concern that the Taliban could make a comeback, especially as no top insurgent leaders in the former tourist valley were killed or captured.

"The bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the post," said a senior military official in the region who declined to be identified. Five men were killed and four were wounded.

The attack came a day after hundreds of people, including many women, attended a music and dance show to celebrate Independence Day in the valley, where the Taliban had banned music and girls' education.

"We celebrated August 14 with great enthusiasm and it appeared as if it was all over," Mingora market vendor Akbar Hussain said of the violence. "Today has again brought fear that the Taliban could return."

Pakistan's efforts to suppress militants on its side of the border are vital for a US-led bid to stabilise Afghanistan, where Taliban have threatened to disrupt an Aug. 20 presidential election.