Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Growing number of IDPs

PESHAWAR: Authorities acquired 7,800 kanals of land to expand the Jalozai camp for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to cope with the continuing influx of uprooted families from the troubled tribal agencies.

The existing camp is full to capacity forcing the authorities to suspend registration for the time being. Besides acquiring more land for the expansion of the camp, officials are exploring other avenues to accommodate the displaced people.

In-charge Jalozai IDP camp, Zahir Shah, told The News they had capped registration at the facility due to lack of space. He said 119,000 individuals of 17,000 families from Khyber, Bajaur and Mohmand tribal agencies had been registered in 15 phases of Jalozai camp. An additional 7,000 families, he added, had been registered as host families. “These families are not willing to stay here due to several reasons,” he said and added they were being provided with relief items.

The camp has 10,900 families from Bajaur, 2,400 from Mohmand and 3,700 from Khyber Agency. Zahir Shah said IDPs from Khyber and Bajaur agencies were still streaming into the camp to take shelter, but they were cramped for space. The military continues operation in parts of Bajaur Agency where warplanes were reported to have pounded suspected positions of militants in Mamond area during the last several days.

People uprooted from Bajaur are also being registered in a camp in Wali Kandao area of Lower Dir district. Another 2,000 displaced families are living in Katcha Garhi camp in Peshawar. The security forces are also engaged in an operation codenamed “Khwakh Ba De Sham” (I will fix you!) in Khyber Agency to clobber fugitive non-Taliban militant commander Mangal Bagh and his supporters.

Military action is also in progress in South Waziristan from where around 59,000 families have been displaced. However, Nadra verified some 36,000 families to have been affected by operation Rah-e-Nijat against the leadership of banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. No camp has been established for the IDPs from Waziristan and they are living with host families or in rented homes.

Camp in-charge Zahir Shah said they had acquired 6,000 kanals of land in Jalozai but most of it was unusable because it is uneven and full of ditches. He said they could make use of only 1,900 kanal of land where tents could be pitched. Work for levelling the area was underway, he added. He said they had obtained 1,800 kanals of land in addition to 6,000 kanals and also received orders from the district coordination officer to billet IDPs in Industrial Estate. It was learnt the authorities would resume registration only after finding out as to how many families could be accommodated in the new portion.

Zahir Shah said the IDPs in Jalozai were being provided with food and non-food relief items and all other facilities. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has been giving tents, quilts, blankets, mats, buckets and jerry cans as non-food items and atta, biscuits, sugar, pulses and ghee as food items. However, he said due to winter cold they needed more blankets to protect the IDPs, particularly elderly persons, from cold.

Six schools have also been established in the camp in which double shift was being run. “Twelve hundred students read in a single shift,” Shah said. Moreover, the Pakistan Army has set up a 50-bedded hospital with different specialist doctors and all other facilities. “The treatment here is free of cost. Patients are admitted to it and kept for several days but serious ones are referred to LRH and Pabbi hospital,” he said. This facility, he claimed, was in addition to six basic health units established at the camp.

Pakistan continues to execute children

NEW YORK: Five countries, led by Iran, account for all executions of children in the world, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, urging an end to the practice.

Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen are the only countries that continue to impose the death penalty on people younger than 18 when they committed a crime. The United States outlawed execution of juvenile offenders in 2005.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the United Nations, which holds its annual General Assembly next week, to pressure for greater protections for children.

'We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty,' said HRW's Clarisa Bencomo. 'These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child.' All states have ratified or acceded to treaties ensuring that children are not sentenced to death, HRW said, but the five in question allow the punishment in certain cases.

According to the HRW website, in Pakistan, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance of 2000 bans the death penalty for crimes committed by persons under 18 at the time of the offense, but authorities have yet to implement it in all territories. With only 29.5 percent of births registered, juvenile offenders can find it impossible to convince a judge they were children at the time of the crime. Pakistan executed one such juvenile offender, Mutabar Khan, on June 13, 2006.

According to AFP, Iran executed 26 of the 32 juveniles put to death since January 2005. Iranian law allows such penalties for girls of at least nine and boys of 15 or older, the report said. Six juvenile offenders have been executed there this year, the report said.

Boys’ school blown up in Bara

BARA/PESHAWAR: Unidentified men blew up a boys’ school in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency late on Tuesday, sources said on Wednesday.
They said the men arrived at the Government High School for Boys at Shlobar and kidnapped the school watchman. Later the men blew up the school. No deaths were reported as the blast occurred late at night, they added.

According to AFP, Taliban blew up two schools in Khyber Agency, officials said. They said most of the buildings were reduced to rubble but no one was injured.
“Both main school buildings were completely destroyed,” said Shafeerullah Wazir, the top administrative official of the district, adding only two classrooms remained standing in the two adjacent schools. Wazir said the Taliban had buried large quantities of dynamite around the outer walls of the schools. “Both Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam are involved in this act,” he said.

Getting Tough With Pakistan

President Obama seems ready to deliver on a threat Candidate Obama made over two years ago–that, if Pakistan doesn’t go after its terrorists, he will.

The Surge in Afghanistan, according to White House leaks, comes with “a fairly bald warning that unless Pakistan moved quickly to act against two Taliban groups they have so far refused to attack, the United States was prepared to take unilateral action to expand Predator drone attacks beyond the tribal areas and, if needed, to resume raids by Special Operations forces into the country against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”

In August 2007, then-Sen. Obama took flak for saying what the Bush White House was dancing around in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas:

“There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Pervez Musharraf, who bilked Bush for American billions without delivering on promises to go after those terrorists, is gone now, but the Pakistani military is still playing the same shell game, and one element of the new Afghanistan policy is to squeeze them into delivering more results for the new $7.5 billion they will be getting over the next five years.

Ever since bin Laden escaped into Pakistan eight years ago, the US has pursued a so-called “hammer and anvil” strategy to crush militants in the border areas.

U.S. men arrested in Pakistan, says embassy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five American men were arrested in Pakistan this week and are being investigated for alleged links to extremist groups, the Pakistani embassy in Washington said on Wednesday.

The five men, students in their 20s from northern Virginia, were picked up from Sargodha in Punjab province in Pakistan on Tuesday, said embassy spokesman Imran Gardezi.

He did not give further details on the circumstances of their arrest, their names or where they were being held.

"The reasons for their visit to Pakistan are being investigated," said Gardezi. "They are being investigated for alleged links to extremist groups."

The FBI said in a statement it was in contact with the families of the five as well as law-enforcement authorities in Pakistan.

"We are working with Pakistan authorities to determine their identities and the nature of their business there, if indeed these are the students who had gone missing. Because this is an ongoing investigation, we will not be able to provide further details at this time," the FBI said.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the U.S. embassy in Islamabad was also seeking information about the five.

"If they are American citizens, we of course are going to be very interested in the charges that they've been detained on and what sort of circumstances they're being held," said Kelly.

Asked about the five, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined comment but reiterated the United States was concerned about the work of extremist groups in Pakistan, particularly in the border areas with Afghanistan.

"We know we've got to work more closely with both Afghanistan and Pakistan to try to root out the infrastructure of terrorism that continues to recruit and train people," she said.

News of the five students came as a Chicago man with Pakistani roots, accused of scouting targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday at his first court appearance since his October arrest.

Peshawar, epicenter of jihad

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani provincial minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti spends much of his time handing out envelopes containing checks. Some people suffering from shrapnel wounds limp to collect them.
Others weep and hug him after the names of their deceased sons are read out as dozens await their turn.
It has become a ritual in Peshawar, where those devastated by bombings -- the worst in the country in a militant campaign against the government -- receive compensation from authorities.
"We are facing an insurgency at its best. It's natural that I have to give maximum time for these activities," Hoti, Chief Minister for the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) , told Reuters. "If we lose this war. God forbid. This country will go to the dogs."
Peshawar and its surrounding areas near the border with Afghanistan are the epicenter of the battle against militants, who recently raised security alarm bells with a suicide bombing and gun attack near Pakistan's military headquarters, 30 minutes from the capital.
Failure to contain violence in Peshawar could mean more operations like that one because it would make it easier for militants to get to large cities and strategic areas, spreading more chaos and fear in the nuclear-armed country.
Authorities seem well aware of that, judging by Peshawar's siege atmosphere. Military and state police check vehicles for weapons and bombs at checkpoints. Behind them soldiers with machineguns keep an eye out for suicide bombers.
Sandbags have been placed in front of vital businesses. School children are taught drills to follow in the event of a bomb.
But tight security may only produce short-term success in Peshawar, a run-down city 105 miles northwest of Islamabad, once home to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Militants often exploit poverty and unemployment, enticing impressionable young men with promises of glorious holy war. Winning long-term trust in the state is half the battle.
"It's not only the military operations. Military operations are to be followed by relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation," said Hoti.
"The space that was exploited by these (militant) elements. We need to fill that space. Administrative issues, political issues. The social sector. Poverty. You name it. A system of good governance."
Two students in a market area reinforced that view. Taliban fighters in their village paid other young men "good" money to join the group and take up arms, they said. At first Peshawar had offered high hopes. Until the bombings killed more and more people, hundreds since October.
They spend their time hanging out in a hunting gun shop and making small talk with its owner. The ripple economic effects of violence has cut his sales to a rifle a month.
"I am afraid I am going to die," said one of the students, Azhar Farooq.
During the 1980s, Peshawar became a den of spies and jihadis when the United States and Saudi Arabia covertly funded a mujahideen guerrilla war to expel Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Pakistan also supported the effort. It's a bitter irony.
Nowadays, Peshawar police chief Liaquat Ali Khan sits at his desk explaining how Taliban, al Qaeda and criminal elements are coordinating in a shadowy network trying to terrorize the city.
Khan is a confident hard-nosed man who says he has no doubts the police will emerge victorious, perhaps in a few months. But his description of the police force's resources, and the methods of the enemy, highlighted the magnitude of the task.
The police force needs highly sophisticated bomb and weapon detectors. They only own a handful to improve the safety of a city of 1.5 million.
Militants, on the other hand, are brainwashing boys as young as 14, or threatening to blow up their homes and families, to force them to become suicide bombers, said Khan.
For now, he must rely on police officers like Inspector Khaista Khan, whose picture hangs on a wall outside the police chief's office. On Saturday, he was killed after pouncing on a suicide bomber outside a Peshawar court who killed nine people. The act may have prevented a much higher death toll.
"A suicide bomber comes and the policeman goes and hugs him and takes all the blast for himself and protects the public. I think this needs motivation, devotion to duty and courage," Khan told Reuters. "This you can only find in the Peshawar police."

PM orders army pullout from seven checkpoints

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday reached out to disgruntled exiled Baloch leaders offering talks and announcing the abolishment of several check-posts and replacement of army with the FC as a goodwill gesture.

The prime minister also ordered the handing over of Sui to FC forces, following an earlier announcement of handing over a military cantonment in Kohlu.

Offering an olive branch, Gilani promised to personally visit veteran Baloch leaders to carry forward the process of reconciliation. ‘We have never shied from meeting any stakeholder,’ said Gilani.

The prime minister’s statements came as he winded up a debate on the Balochistan Package in the joint session of Parliament. During the session Gilani said that out of nearly a thousand missing people, 262 had returned while assuring that the rest would return soon.

The check posts that have been ordered to close by PM Gilani include Othal, Lehri, Dera Allah Yar, Sheikh Wasil, Gawal, Zero Point and Islamzai.

He said on his directive, the FC was now replacing the army and as a first step, the army had been withdrawn from Kohlu cantonment. He said measures were being taken to place the FC under the direct control of the Chief Minister of Balochistan.

Announcing a series of measures, Gilani said orders for payment of dues amounting to Rs120 billion for Balochistan have been issued.

The premier said that his government wanted to convert all B-areas of Balochistan into A-areas, which would restore the writ of normal law enforcement agencies across the province.

He announced Rs1 billion each for the flood victims of Balochistan and for the development of Dera Bugti.

PML-N MNAs, on the other hand, alleged that the Balochistan package was an agreement between Islamabad and Quetta which ignored the demands of the underprivileged population.

Nawaz Sharif seeks accountability

PML-N leader and former two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday advised the party’s committee of legal experts preparing recommendations for the forthcoming accountability law that such a law should be so enacted as not to spare the corrupt from penalty nor should it allow exemption to anyone on any ground. Mr Sharif’s assertion can not be disputed because the application of law must be indiscriminate and no person, no matter how influential he or she may be, should escape accountability. Nevertheless, Mr Sharif must also have heard about the golden principle of Islam, which he always claims to be adhering to as part of his faith, that whosoever talks of the other’s accountability, must offer himself for the same first of all. If he does so or has a political will to do so, he will certainly be asked questions as to how had he and his family, including younger brother and Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, have been able to acquire so huge a wealth as to be reckoned the fourth wealthiest family of Pakistan. This is no secret that the Sharifs total asset was one Ittefaq Foundry when he was appointed as Punjab finance minister by Gen Ziaul Haq’s military regime in 1981. Ayub Khan’s period produced a new class of industrialists and notorious 22 families. But when Gen Zia’s era ended in an air crash, this notoriety was well wedded to “The Gang of Four” and the Sharifs were its leaders with a wealth accumulated to Rs12 billion. Others were the Chaudhries from Gujrat (Rs 3.5 billion), the Saifullahs, in-laws of Ghulam Ishaq Khan, (Rs2 billion) and Dr Basharat Elahi, brother-in-law of Gen Zia, (Rs1.7 billion). All their money came from borrowings from banks and developmental financial institutions and this scam still reverberates minds. Also still in the memory is an ordinance that Punjab governor promulgated in Dec 1988 raising the chief minister’s discretionary fund (then Nawaz Sharif) from Rs100,000 to “any reasonable limit” and that was effective retrospectively (from Dec 1985) because the ordinance was issued to give legal cover to Mr Sharif doling out Rs40 million to journalists, political leaders and others as political bribery. It was not a miracle but a handiwork of the Sharifs that that the House of Ittefaq gave birth to some 30 odd companies within less than a decade to top the list of rich families which later expanded its industrial empire beyond Pakistan to become the fourth business family of Pakistan with assets accumulating to $4billion as against $50 million in the 1990s and merely 10 per cent of it when he became a provincial minister. How more money was added to his huge kitty had a certain link to schemes like the Motorway, the Iqra funds “Apna Ghar” and “Mulk Sanwaro”. Nawaz Sharif certainly owes an explanation for obtaining loans amounting to Rs1.365 billion for Itteafq Foundry, Ittefaq and Brothers sugar mills, from banks and DFIs within six months in his first stint as the country’s chief executive. Besides, he must also take the people in confidence about the purchase of 500 acres of land at Raiwind, naming it Jati Umra, the village the family left in India upon partition. This land was purchased very cheap after the Zia regime, in mid 1990s, declared the area a duty-free industrial zone. Subsequently, this vast residence was so built as to have a helipad, zoo, pastures, agricultural and fruit and vegetable farms. Of late, the house of Hamza Shahbaz, the latest of the family’s political debutant, around Murree is also under the shadow of a scandal of supplying gas at the expense of 16 villages. All this must stand trial soon after the accountability law is enacted.