Friday, October 1, 2010

US in talks with Pakistan over closed supply route: Pentagon

The Pentagon expressed hope that Pakistan would reopen a key supply route for US-led forces in Afghanistan, which Islamabad closed after NATO aircraft staged cross-border raids.

US officials were holding talks with the Pakistanis after Islamabad accused NATO of killing Pakistani troops in the fourth cross-border attack this week, prompting the closure of the main land route for coalition troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

"We are in discussions with the Pakistani government and hope we can resolve the issue through discussion," Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters when asked about the route.

He said it was "too soon" to assess the effect of suspending supply convoys along the Khyber Pass route, which links Peshawar in Pakistan with Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan.

"As you all know we have many different capabilities, routes, ways to resupply, so there's no immediate impact," Lapan said.

US officials were also discussing if procedures and protocols were followed correctly in the recent cross-border incidents, he said.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley also played down the closing of the supply route and said the border incident was being examined.

"There has been an incident along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. We take seriously our responsibilities as a partner, there's a review ongoing," Crowley told reporters.

NATO said its aircraft entered Pakistani airspace early Thursday in self defense and killed "several armed individuals" after air crews believed they had been fired at from the ground.

But a Pakistan military spokesman in a statement said two helicopters from Afghanistan used cannon fire against an outpost of the Frontier Corps located 200 meters (650 feet) inside Pakistan.

Troops present at the post manned by six soldiers "retaliated through rifle fire to indicate that the helicopters were crossing into our territory," the spokesman said.

ISAF said it had been informed by Pakistani military officials that members of their border forces had been hit by coalition aircraft and said a review was underway "to verify the exact location of the two engagements and the facts".

Lapan said that any rifle fire at the aircraft would likely have been treated as "hostile" fire by the allied forces.

PPP hijacked after killing of Benazir

PESHAWAR: Criticising the policies of the Pakistan People’s Party-led federal government, PPP leader Arbab Khizer Hayat on Thursday said certain “self-centred” people had hijacked the party and the ideological workers were being ignored.
Addressing a press conference, he said after the death of Benazir Bhutto the party lost its real leader and now it had been made a toy in the hands of a few self-centred people. He said that owing to the corrupt leadership of the PPP, Pakistan’s image had been damaged in the world and other countries did not trust the rulers while considering the economic assistance to Pakistan.
Arbab Khizer lamented that the PPP government did not trade the killers of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto despite spending millions of rupees on investigation. “If the PPP rulers have no power to identify the elements involved in the killing of Benazir Bhutto, the party government has no right to remain in power,” he stressed.
The PPP leader regretted that those “who escaped from the site of the attack on Benazir Bhutto at Liaqat Bagh were made ministers.” He said the PPP founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had raised the slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra Aur Makan’ (Bread, Clothing and Shelter) but now the masses have been deprived of bread, clothing and shelter during the rule of his party. He said the real PPP workers had rendered numerous sacrifices for the cause of the party but now they were being ignored.

Nato tankers torched in Pakistan

Suspected militants in southern Pakistan have destroyed at least 27 tankers carrying fuel for Nato forces in Afghanistan, officials said.

There have been many similar ambushes in Pakistan in recent years, but this is the first one in this part of the southern province of Sindh.

It is not clear if it is linked to a cross-border air strike by Nato that killed three Pakistani troops.

Pakistan has blocked supply routes to Afghanistan after Thursday's air raid.No-one has claimed responsibility for Friday morning's raid in the town of Shikarpur, which is in the north of Sindh province.

The town's district police chief, Abdul Hameed Khosa, told the BBC the oil tankers - which picked up their load from the southern port of Karachi - were parked in a petrol station at the time of the attack.

Up to 15 gunmen armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles opened fire to scare away the drivers, before setting the vehicles ablaze, said witnesses.

Attacks on Nato supply convoys are rare in southern and central Pakistan, so security forces do not provide the escort that is routine in the north-west of the country.

While these tankers have been targeted several times in the city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, such incidents have never occured elsewhere in the province.

"This is the first major attack on Nato trucks in Sindh," Sindh provincial government spokesman Jamil Soomro told the news agency AFP.

The ambushes have mainly happened in the north-western Khyber tribal region or in the south-western province of Balochistan. The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in the Pakistani capital says the latest attack will certainly be seen as a reaction to Thursday's killing of three Pakistani border guards in a missile strike by Nato helicopters.

Nato said its aircraft had hit back after coming under small-arms fire from what it thought were insurgents.

But the Pakistani military said its soldiers had fired shots to warn the helicopters that they had crossed into Pakistani airspace.

Islamabad has instructed its ambassador to Brussels to lodge a strong protest at Nato headquarters over the missile strike.

It was the third time in less than a week that Nato helicopters had pursued militants over the Pakistani border and fired on targets.

Numerous protests over the deaths are expected across Pakistan later to coincide with Friday prayers.

A long queue of Nato vehicles is now waiting to drive over the border at the shut Torkham border crossing in Khyber tribal agency.

The other main Nato crossing from Pakistan to Afghanistan - Chaman in Balochistan - remains open.

It is not clear whether the tanker convoy attacked on Friday was heading for Torkham or Chaman.

Nato says the trucks passing through Pakistan carry fuel, military vehicles, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan.

The alliance and the US have other supply routes into Afghanistan, but the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.