Monday, October 17, 2011

Tensions Flare as G.I.’s Take Fire Out of Pakistan

American and Afghan soldiers near the border with Pakistan have faced a sharply increased volume of rocket fire from Pakistani territory in the past six months, putting them at greater risk even as worries over the disintegrating relationship between the United States and Pakistan constrain how they can strike back.

Ground-to-ground rockets fired within Pakistan have landed on or near American military outposts in one Afghan border province at least 55 times since May, according to interviews with multiple American officers and data released in the past week. Last year, during the same period, there were two such attacks.

May is also when members of a Navy Seals team killed Osama bin Laden in the house where he lived near a Pakistani military academy, plunging American-Pakistani relations to a new low. Since then, the escalation in cross-border barrages has fueled frustration among officers and anger among soldiers at front-line positions who suspect, but cannot prove, a Pakistani government role.

The government’s relations with the United States frayed further after senior American officials publicly accused Pakistan of harboring and helping guerrillas and terrorists. Last month, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, called the insurgents who attacked the American Embassy in the Afghan capital “a veritable arm” of the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.

Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied aiding fighters for the Taliban and the Haqqani militant network, who operate on both sides of the border. They insist they try to prevent cross-border incursions or violence.

In this climate, American officers were in a difficult position when describing the attacks. Many, especially those who might be identified, painstakingly tried not to blame Pakistan directly.

“I don’t have the smoking gun,” said Col. Edward T. Bohnemann, who commands the 172nd Infantry Brigade, which has hundreds of American soldiers in outposts near the border. “Do I have my thoughts, just because it happens so often? Yes, I have my thoughts. But there isn’t a smoking gun.”

But other officers viscerally rejected Pakistan’s official position, and said elements of the Pakistani military or intelligence service were most likely involved.

“The level of command and control, and the level of sophistication of the IDF, is showing that there is some type of expertise being employed,” said one American officer, using the acronym for indirect fire, the term the military uses for mortar, artillery and rocket attacks. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic tensions.

The precise reasons for the increase in rocket fire are unclear. Whether the surge in attacks indicates Pakistani military retaliation, an emboldened insurgency, some degree of both or some other factors cannot be determined from the data alone.

The attacks covered by the military’s data included those on three American-Afghan outposts — Forward Operating Base Tillman, Combat Outpost Boris and Combat Outpost Margah — and usually involved two to four rockets each, officers said. The incoming fire has continued through recent days, including an attack last Friday that set buildings ablaze at Forward Operating Base Tillman.

The data release does not include attacks against American military positions in provinces other than Paktika or against Forward Operating Base Lilley, in the same province, which is used by the C.I.A.

But it does include attacks from several insurgent positions just inside Afghanistan, some within 200 yards of the border, from where rocket crews fire and then rush to Pakistan.

There were at least 102 of these so-called close-border attacks against the same outposts since May, including one on Oct. 7 that the American military called the largest and most coordinated insurgent operation in the province since 2009. Last year, during the same period in the same places, there were 13 close-border attacks. Most of the indirect-fire attacks, officers said, have been with 107-millimeter rockets, which have a range of about five miles. They were designed in China in the 1960s but have been reproduced by several nations. The exact source of the rockets was not immediately clear. Chunks of expended munitions examined by The New York Times had minimal markings, preventing a ready identification.

The perils and sensitivities surrounding the rocket fire starkly underscored the longstanding difficulties faced by the latest rotation of soldiers in the Afghan war, who are in front-line positions built by previous units, under fire, but with restrictions on firing back or when planning operations to deter more attacks.

Another officer, who analyzed each incident, said attacks often come from positions next to Pakistani military or Frontier Corps border posts. He said there has been no sign of Pakistani units trying to stop the firing, or of willingness to help American units identify who is shooting at them.

He offered a commonly held assessment: “They are getting help,” the officer said of the insurgents. “It’s PakMil,” he added, using the acronym for Pakistani military.

Asked what evidence supported this claim, he said: “Contact with the PakMil when these incidents are going on is often nonexistent. We usually can’t get a hold of these guys. When we do get a hold of these guys, they say they are not aware or can’t see it. Looking at the terrain, it is very hard to believe.”

The officer pointed on a map to several frequently used firing sites. Then he pointed to Pakistani military positions. Some Pakistani military positions were less than a mile from insurgent firing positions — and had clear line of sight. The officer asked not to be identified.

Other officers added that the Americans have been lucky so far. None of the rockets have wounded an American soldier since July 1, roughly when the current unit began to arrive in the province. A 107-millimeter rocket that struck Forward Operating Base Tillman on July 27, however, wounded 18 Afghan guards, three of them fatally. The rocket was fired from Pakistan, officers said.

Several officers said that a rocket could strike an American building any day, to similar effect. “Eventually we’re going to get hit, and we’re going to lose soldiers,” one said.

This officer was especially frustrated, he said, because an operation planned for early October, in which soldiers intended to sweep on foot through a firing position on Afghan soil beside the border, was canceled by senior officers in Bagram, where the regional American command is located.

The general who soldiers said had canceled that mission did not reply to a written request to be interviewed.

The day after the cancellation, journalists at Forward Operating Base Tillman observed rockets fired from that position onto the base. Enlisted soldiers there seethed.

The soldiers explained the usual practices.

When taking fire from Afghanistan, they said, they return fire with barrages of high-explosive and white phosphorus artillery rounds. (The burning effects of white phosphorus, they said, can detonate rockets waiting on launchers; for this reason, white phosphorus falls within rules guiding the soldiers’ use of force.)

When receiving fire from Pakistan, they said, they do not return fire with white phosphorus and fire far fewer high-explosive rounds. Attack helicopters and aircraft are also less likely to fire ordnance the closer the firing position is to the border, they said, even if it is on the Afghan side.

Several soldiers complained of what they called the “politics” limiting their choices. “We’re just sitting out here taking fire,” one soldier said. “If they want us to do our jobs, let us do our jobs.”

Senior officers described a tactical and strategic puzzle.

On one hand, soldiers said a principle of any modern military defense is that they patrol to and beyond the range of weapons systems that can menace them, and, in this case, at least to the border of the nation that the United States, in essence, has underwritten. On the other, heavy return fire against the firing positions inside Afghanistan has not prevented the attacks from continuing, so it is not clear that more fire into Pakistan would stop the cross-border firing, either.

And Colonel Bohnemann noted a complicated history. Afghan units have patrolled to the border, he said, and then been fired on by Pakistani military units who claimed they mistook the Afghans for insurgents. That fighting included Pakistani artillery fire.

The risk of having an American patrol face similar fire has been reasonable grounds for caution when planning sweeps near the border, and when returning fire over it, he said.

“Am I frustrated?” he asked. “Yes. Would I like to fire more? Yes. But do I want to be sure not to escalate out of frustration? Absolutely.”

One recent attack — which both marked an escalation from Pakistan and hinted at the coordination and expertise behind it — occurred on Oct. 3, when four 122-millimeter rockets were fired at one of the outposts.

These rockets, known as Grads, are larger, more lethal and have a greater range than 107-millimeter rockets. They had not been fired at the American outposts here in recent memory, officers said, and perhaps had not been fired before.

Each round struck closer than the previous one, which indicated, four military officers said, that whoever fired them from Pakistan was communicating with a forward observer near the outpost, and adjusting the fire.

The Americans’ counterbattery radar indicated that the firing position was less than 100 feet from a Pakistani Frontier Corps border post, several officers said.

The Americans contacted a Pakistani military officer who lives on Forward Operating Base Tillman and serves as a liaison between the two militaries. His answer cast the episode into gray.

“He called me back a few minutes later and said that border position is unoccupied and empty, and has been for years,” Colonel Bohnemann said. “That may be an absolutely true statement,” he added. “I don’t know.”

Population could hit 10 billion

Just 12 years after the arrival of the 6 billionth individual on the planet in 1999, humanity will greet the 7 billionth arrival this month. The world population continues its rapid ascent, with roughly 75 million more births than deaths each year. The consequences of a world crowded with 7 billion people are enormous. And unless the world population stabilizes during the 21st century, the consequences for humanity could be grim.

A rising population puts enormous pressures on a planet already plunging into environmental catastrophe. Providing food, clothing, shelter, and energy for 7 billion people is a task of startling complexity.

The world's agricultural systems are already dangerously overstretched. Rainforests are being cut down to make way for new farms; groundwater used for irrigation is being depleted; greenhouse gases emitted from agricultural activities are a major factor in global climate change; fertilizers are poisoning estuaries; and countless species are threatened with extinction as we grab their land and water and destroy their habitats.

The economic challenges are equally huge. Population is growing most rapidly in the world's poorest countries -- often the places with the most fragile ecological conditions. Poor people tend to have many more children, for several reasons. Many live on farms, where children can be engaged in farm chores.

Poor societies generally suffer from high rates of child mortality, leading parents to have more children as "insurance" against the possible deaths of children. Girls rarely make it to high school, and are often married at a very young age, leading to early childbearing. And modern methods of contraception may be unavailable or unaffordable.hen poor families have six or eight children, many or most of them are virtually condemned to a lifetime of poverty. Too often, parents lack the wherewithal to provide decent nutrition, health care and education to most of them. Illiteracy and ill health end up being passed from generation to generation. Governments in poor countries are unable to keep up, their budgets overmatched by the need for new schools, roads and other infrastructure.

So the arrival of the 7 billionth person is cause for profound global concern. It carries a challenge: What will it take to maintain a planet in which each person has a chance for a full, productive and prosperous life, and in which the planet's resources are sustained for future generations? How, in short, can we enjoy "sustainable development" on a very crowded planet?

The answer has two parts, and each portends a difficult journey over several decades. The first part requires a change of technologies -- in farming, energy, industry, transport and building -- so that each of us on average is putting less environmental stress on the planet. We will have to make a worldwide transition, for example, from today's fossil-fuel era, dependent on coal, oil and gas, to an era powered by low-carbon energies such as the sun and wind. That will require an unprecedented degree of global cooperation.

The second key to sustainable development is the stabilization of the global population. This is already occurring in high-income and even some middle-income countries, as families choose to have one or two children on average. The reduction of fertility rates should be encouraged in the poorer countries as well. Rapid and wholly voluntary reductions of fertility have been and can be achieved in poor countries. Success at reducing high fertility rates depends on keeping girls in school, ensuring that children survive, and providing access to modern family planning and contraceptives.

Two centuries ago, the British thinker Thomas Robert Malthus famously warned that excessive population growth would cut short economic progress. That is a threat still with us today, but it is a warning, not an inevitable outcome.

We face an urgent task: to adopt more sustainable technologies and lifestyles, and work harder to achieve a stable population of some 8 billion or so by mid-century, rather than the current path, which could easily carry the world to more than 10 billion people by 2100.

Indian Film Industry Mourns Jagjit Singh's Demise

The evergreen singer 'Jagjit Singh' is no longer amongst us, but his songs and contribution to the Music Industry will always remain alive in our hearts & soul !

Jagjit Singh: A singer for all ages

Daily Times

Last week, the legendary ‘Ghazal King’, Jagjit Singh, died at the age of 70 across the border in India. Having being hospitalised after suffering a brain hemorrhage, he breathed his last at the Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai.

Jagjit spent decades entertaining music lovers across the world and had a wide fan following in Pakistan. Born on February 8, 1941, he was a singer, composer, activist and entrepreneur. He sung in several languages, including Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and Nepali. Several bureaucrats, politicians, students, artists and people from all walks of life appreciate his ghazals and have been deeply grieved by his demise.

Jagjit’s fans say that his voice has a certain stability that is rare among ghazal singers, and the world will always remember him. Considered the pioneers of modern ghazal singing, Jagjit Singh and his wife Chitra Singh recorded a number of hits that are matchless in composition and melody. There are millions around the globe that enjoy listening to his ghazals, and his listeners included people of all ages.

“Artists respect their fans because listening to a song or a ghazal itself means that the listener is paying tribute to the singer,” a bureaucrat, who requested anonymity, told Daily Times. I enjoy his ghazals whenever I have time, most of which are hits from the 80s and 90s,” he said, adding, “Such material is hard to find these days.”

Jagjit’s music became popular in mass media through films such as ‘Prem Geet’, ‘Arth’ and ‘Saath Saath’, and TV serials ‘Mirza Ghalib’, and Kahkashan. He is considered to be the most popular ghazal singer and composer of all time in terms of commercial success. With a career spanning five decades and comprising 80 albums, the range and breadth of his work has been regarded as genre-defining.

In the 90s, Singh and his wife were struck by grief when their only son, Vivek, died in a road accident at the age of 19. He accidentally drove into a stationary truck, the impact of the crash killing him. Released after their son’s death, the duo’s album ‘Someone Somewhere’ was the with ghazals sung by both, after which Chitra Singh quit singing.

Jagjit would often sing “Mitti Da Bawa”, which was originally sung by Chitra in a Punjabi film, which relates to his own story of losing a loved one at a young age. Experienced artists and musicians often say that grief is the essential element to bring out an original art piece. And it is grief that every listener relates to subconsciously, whether it is in the form of a painting, poem or a music track.

Baloch missing persons: Relatives receive threats to end strike


The relatives of Baloch missing persons have been threatened to end their hunger strike camp set up outside the Quetta Press Club, confirmed Qadir Baloch, father of missing Baloch Republican Party (BRP) leader Jaleel Raiki.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Qadir accused the government functionaries and a pro-government organisation of sending him threats through cell phone and by visiting his residence and hunger strike camps.

“We had set up this camp about one and half year ago which is the sole platform for the relatives of missing persons to raise their voice. Families from far-flung areas come to register their protest,” he said.

He said that two men had visited the camp and asked to him to end the strike. “He told me if I want my son alive then I must end the strike. I argued that if you people release all the missing persons then we will end our strike.”

Qadir said he had a list of those missing persons whose relatives are on strike.

“We have been on token hunger strike for the past 522 days and are demanding immediate release of our missing relatives. Our voice has been heard by international humanitarian organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others; and now some elements are threatening us to end the strike,” he added.

Qadir, who was sitting alone at the camp, said he realises the pain that a family feels after losing a loved one. “I informed the HRCP and other organizations about these threats.”

The relatives of the missing persons said they observed hunger strike outside Supreme Court, National Press Club and in Karachi but to no avail.

According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VFBM), an organisation striving for the recovery of missing persons, over 8,000 people are missing from Balochistan and they have complete information or data about 1,300 missing persons. They said the mutilated and bullet riddled bodies of over 200 Baloch missing persons were found dumped.

Kharotabad: A Taliban safe haven

People in Kharotabad are living in constant fear of possible drone attacks in their neighbourhood, considering that over the past six months, the Afghan and local Taliban seemed to covet this part of Quetta as a veritable ‘vacation spot’.

Every four months,

Taliban fighters return from war fronts in Afghanistan and rent out dozens of residential accommodations in this vicinity, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Their presence is becoming a major concern for people living in adjoining areas, especially because this is the same area where the US alleges the Quetta Shura is hiding out.

A few madrassahs in Kharotabad are also providing ‘free’ accommodation to these militants.

They move freely as if to defy invisible observers, who they think are keeping a watch over them, making it obvious to them that Kharotabad is a safe haven for the Taliban.

Creating an army

Students from religious seminaries in the province are being recruited for the Afghan Taliban movement, a dime a dozen. They are reportedly ‘trained for jihad’ in Afghanistan by Afghan ‘commanders’, before they are sent on designated terror missions.

At least six to eight new, unarmed recruits leave Kuchlak Bazar, located near Quetta, on brand new 75CC motorbikes every morning, headed towards Afghanistan.

They are, it is learnt, told to avoid travelling on main highways to dodge security forces and instead take lesser known mountainous routes via Kuchlak to Qamar Din Karez town on the Pak-Afghan border.

They also avoid travelling in groups – two persons per motorbike. They are also given Rs5,000 each, in addition to sufficient money for fuel.

A majority of these boys join Taliban with their parent’s consent, while many others embark on this ‘holy mission’ without the knowledge of their guardians.

The ideology faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), led by MNA Maulana Esmatullah and his party members, is a motivating force for these young students of Balochistan.

Mullah Omar’s messages to people in Pakistan and other parts of the world are also sent through Kandahar to Quetta.

Free medical care for war-wounded Taliban

The Afghan and local Taliban who are wounded during their missions in Afghanistan, are reportedly receiving free medical treatment at five prominent private hospitals, a majority of which are situated on the Airport Road.

The administration at these hospitals told The Express Tribune that an international NGO of world repute, funds their medical care.”We are being paid by this NGO for the medical care being provided to the wounded or sick Taliban militants,” the administrator at Dr Abdul Khaliq Memorial Hospital alleged.

The NGO does not allow the police or intelligence agencies access to these “under-treatment” Taliban. The NGO puts up a ‘don’t know’ front “We have not set up any field hospitals in Balochistan to provide medical assistance to the Afghan Taliban or other militants,” the NGO’s head of sub-delegation told The Express Tribune.

However, he said, the NGO is supporting three private hospitals in Quetta for providing medical assistance to wounded people. “Doctors at Ikram Hospital and Imdad Hospital are providing medical assistance to people injured in bomb blasts, firing incidents and other forms of violence.”

Hundreds of patients, mostly Afghans, receive treatment at these private hospitals in the provincial capital, he added.

Qaeda plotting to kidnap Bilawal Bhutto

The National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) has revealed that al-Qaeda has been planning to abduct Pakistan People’s Party’s Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari from Karachi, DawnNews reported on Monday.

Intelligence agencies sent a report to the interior ministry stating that al-Qaeda was planning to abduct Mr Bhutto-Zardari and that other officials could also be targeted by the organisation, sources said.

After receiving the report, the NCMC informed the provincial interior department, Inspector-General Police Sindh and Director-General Sindh Rangers of the plot and recommended strict measures to ensure the security of the PPP chairman.

Sources moreover said that a high-level meeting at the provincial interior department on October 14 had alerted the police and had also decided to launch searches to apprehend al-Qaeda members.

Pakistan badlands inspire belated literary success

A retired Pakistani civil servant nearing 80 may not sound like the most obvious debut author to take the international publishing world by storm, but

Jamil Ahmad has done precisely that.

Over a cup of tea and a glass of lime juice, he talks about a career as an administrator along Pakistan's desolate borders with Afghanistan and Iran, and how he turned those memories into a book that has earned rave reviews.

"The Wandering Falcon"

, published by Riverhead Books in the United States this month, captures the raw romance of Pakistan's wildest terrain -- associated today in the West with Taliban lairs and Al-Qaeda terror plots.

Seduced by tales of 'cowboys and Indians' as a schoolboy, Ahmad quickly developed a lifelong passion for the tribal way of life in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan and the tribal areas along the Afghan border in the northwest.

He joined the civil service in 1954 and later became commissioner of Swat, a northwestern district where Pakistan in 2009 led a major operation against a Taliban insurgency, and of Waziristan, today the focus of the CIA's most active drone war against Taliban fighters.

He served at the embassy in Kabul from 1978 to 1980, a crucial time for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, coinciding with the Soviet invasion of the former.

When he showed his German wife Helga some poetry, she dismissed it as "rubbish" and told him to write about something he knew -- namely, the tribal way of life.

The result was a manuscript finished in 1974 and tucked away in a drawer. Helga, "like a bulldog", kept showing it to people over 20 years.

Then Ahmad's brother heard a short story competition on the radio, called up Helga for a photocopy and submitted the draft, which attracted local attention and ultimately wound its way to the publishers.

The book is a collection of gently interlinking short stories, all but one featuring Tor Baz, a boy born to a couple who elope. He becomes the "Wandering Falcon" after his parents are killed.

Contemporaries have queued up to pay homage to Ahmad for what Kashmir writer Basharat Peer described as "one of the finest collections of short stories to come out of South Asia in decades".

With the United States fighting a covert war against militants in Pakistan and locked into the 10-year conflict in Afghanistan, Ahmad's US editor hopes the book will shed light on a region isolated from the outside world.

Laura Perciasepe says it is a "clear and powerful story" set in an area "of great interest and importance to American readers, but so little understood".

Ahmad's age and background clearly set him apart from the urbane group of young writers responsible for a renaissance in Pakistani literature that has found a captive audience in the West following the 9/11 attacks.

For one thing, Ahmad has never been fond of cities. For another, he doesn't like to travel. He turned down invitations to book launches in India and the United States "because of all that checking in at airports and hotels".

Something of a "wandering falcon" himself, he moved constantly as a child around India with a father who worked in the judiciary. "There was no anchor point. We moved all the time."

Today he lives in Islamabad largely for practical reasons because as Helga said, what would they do about doctors and dentists in Chitral, up in the Hindu Kush mountains where he originally wanted to retire.

Sipping a blend of Earl Grey and Darjeeling, and lighting up one cigarette after another, he chuckles over fond memories of Baluchistan, training in Britain and even a brief stint at the Irish Peat Board.

He sees tribes as the earliest building blocks of humanity, which functioned for centuries until they started clashing with nation states and empires.

"There's a tribal gene, as I said, somewhere embedded in each one of us," he says.

But Ahmad writes also of a lost world.

It is difficult to imagine today, for example, a civil servant living with his German wife on a hill miles from anywhere with only a militia post for company.

In Baluchistan, Helga was frequently left alone, having to look after three children under five without electricity or running water.

Once, Ahmad got a message saying "the tap is leaking". He thought "silly girl, what do I do, sitting on the Iranian border?".

"So I came back after 10 days and I find the message she sent was 'the baby is seriously ill' and the militia has transmitted the other side of the paper, which was her personal note that the tap was leaking," he said.

By then, the crisis was over and the baby had recovered -- doused in olive oil, the only remedy to hand.

Ahmad is reluctant to be drawn into politics, but he is angry about what he sees as the destruction of the tribal leadership as a result of Pakistan and the United States sponsoring the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet occupation.

"I'm angry about it. I could call them Frankensteins, these monsters who were created and they stood by and watched the tribes being decimated."

For the moment, he has no clear plans for another book.

But a consummate storyteller, he is captivated by the quirky characters and tragic incidents that helped set the mood for his book, and says perhaps he could write more about the background of tribal life.

For example, there was one of his seniors so bored living in the middle of nowhere that he submitted fortnightly reports on the number of flies killed in the office -- a practice that head office promptly demanded of others.

Then there was a colleague who always dressed for dinner, gently mocked by the others for donning a cummerbund in the wilderness.

And the day that a group of pretty models came looking for help when their bus from Tehran to Mumbai broke down. Ahmad was sitting under a tree, in his pyjamas.

Today, he passes the time smoking, reading and playing cards. No snob, one book on the go is a bestselling crime thriller.

"I love reading trash," he smiles.

Prime Minister Gilani advises media to favour educational issues over political

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday asked media to expand their “sole craving for political issues” and focus more on highlighting educational and health issues. “You shouldn’t focus only on politicians, or when there will be new election, or who will be the new prime minister, or whether army chief will take over or not. Instead you should promote educational issues,” Gilani said while addressing the award-distribution ceremony of PM’s Entrepreneurial Challenge, at National University of Science and Technology here. The Prime Minister said education and health are the government’s top most priorities.
“It is immaterial that I remain here or not. It is our new generation which you should project and encourage,” he said directing to the media persons present on the occasion.
He hoped that in view of his advice, tomorrow’s newspapers would give prominence to the news of “my very own brilliant students” rather than highlighting the prime minister, opposition or the army chief.

Millions of Pakistanis face food insecurity

Millions of Pakistanis were facing food insecurity due to high food prices, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said and added that the government was aware of the challenge.

"The food insecurity caused by high food prices is an issue that, unfortunately, is faced by millions in Pakistan," Gilani said in his message on the occasion of World Food Day observed every year Oct 16.

He said the day "highlights the growing trends of high food prices and its impact on the most vulnerable".

Pakistan has a population of about 180 million.

"Pakistan has experienced high volatility in food prices, particularly in the last two years, after the devastating floods that have washed away standing crops, eroded thousands of acres of agricultural land and critically impacted the farming community in the country," Associated Press of Pakistan quoted him as saying.

The prime minister said: "In such critical times, the objective of achieving food security assumes greater importance and urgency."

"It is absolutely essential that at the national and provincial level, sensitivity and awareness about food security gets translated into implementation of policies that would address shortage of food, particularly in the more vulnerable segments of the population where women and children in the rural areas suffer the most from malnutrition," he added.

Obama unveils Martin Luther King statue in Washington

US President Barack Obama has dedicated a new memorial to the assassinated civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, at a ceremony in Washington.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Obama said that Dr King was now among the founders of the American nation.

The 30 ft (9m) granite statue lies near the spot where Dr King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech in 1963.

The ceremony had been due to take place in August but was postponed due to Hurricane Irene.
'Draw strength'

President Obama toured the monument with his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters.

Speaking to an audience of tens of thousands, he said Americans were right to celebrate Dr King's dream, and vision of unity.

"On this day, in which we celebrate a man and a movement that did so much for this country, let us draw strength from those earlier struggles," he told the crowd on the National Mall in the US capital.

"When met with hardship, when confronting disappointment, Dr. King refused to accept what he called the 'is-ness' of today. He kept pushing for the 'ought-ness' of tomorrow," Mr Obama said.

"In this place, he will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it."

The statue is situated between the memorials for Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, Martin Luther King was a clergyman and leading figure in the US civil rights movement.

He was assassinated in 1968 during a visit to Memphis, Tennessee, aged 39.

Occupy Wall Street: China says protests time for 'reflection'

China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday global protests sparked by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States were a cause for "reflection", but the reflection should be focused on ensuring the world's healthy economic growth.

Anti-greed protesters rallied globally on Saturday, denouncing bankers and politicians over the international economic crisis, with violence rocking Rome where cars were torched and bank windows smashed.

"We have noticed the media has reported a lot about this issue recently. We think that there are many issues here which people ought to think about," ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular news briefing.

"We have noticed that in the media there has been comment, discussion and reflection about these activities. But all these reflections ought to be conducive towards maintaining the stable and healthy development of the global economy," he added.

Galvanised by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests began in New Zealand, touched parts of Asia, spread to Europe, and resumed at their starting point in New York with 5,000 marchers decrying corporate greed and economic inequality.

But online calls for similar protests in mainland China over the weekend fizzled, in a country whose leaders are wary of any kind of demonstrations.China's ruling Communist Party earlier this year came down hard on dissidents and rights activists after calls circulated on the internet for Chinese people to follow the lead of the Arab Spring and rise up to against their government.

The Global Times, a widely read Chinese tabloid published by Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, noted in an editorial that "western countries can withstand street demonstrations better, since their governments are elected".

"The conflicts may be minor or serious, but it will not bring significant change," it added. "China needs to stay calm and observe how the street movements in the Western world develop and to make the rights choices for its own good."

Shahbaz Taseer being kept near Pak-Afghan border

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Monday that Shahbaz Taseer was alive and being kept near the Pak-Afghan border, Geo News reported.The Interior Minister while speaking to the media said there were no further details available about Shahbaz Taseer.Shahbaz Taseer the son of former governor Punjab Salman Taseer was kidnapped on August 26, 2011 from the Gulberg area of Lahore while oh his way to work.

Occupy Wall Street reaches 1-month birthday

The month-old Occupy Wall Street movement continues to grow, with nearly $300,000 in the bank and participants finding satisfaction in the widening impact they hope will counter the influence on society by those who hold the purse strings of the world's economies.

The expanding occupation of land once limited to a small Manhattan park in the shadow of the rising World Trade Center complex continued through the weekend, with hundreds of thousands of people rallying around the world and numerous encampments springing up in cities large and small.

For the most part, the protest action remained loosely organized and there were no specific demands, something Legba Carrefour, a participant in the Occupy D.C. protest, found comforting on Sunday.

"When movements come up with specific demands, they cease to be movements and transform into political campaign rallies," said Carrefour, who works as a coat check attendant despite holding a master's degree in cultural studies. "It's compelling a lot of people to come out for their own reasons rather than the reasons that someone else has given to them."

The demonstrations worldwide have emboldened those camped out at Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, the epicenter of the movement that began a month ago Monday. But there is conflict too. Some protesters eventually want the movement to rally around a goal, while others insist that isn't the point.

"We're moving fast, without a hierarchical structure and lots of gears turning," said Justin Strekal, a college student and political organizer who traveled from Cleveland to New York to help. "... Egos are clashing, but this is participatory democracy in a little park."

Even if the protesters were barred from camping in Zuccotti Park, as the property owner and the city briefly threatened to do last week, the movement would continue, Strekal said.

Wall Street protesters are intent on building on momentum gained from Saturday's worldwide demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in the U.S. and Europe.

Nearly $300,000 in cash has been donated through the movement's website and by visitors to the park, said Bill Dobbs, a press liaison for Occupy Wall Street. The movement has an account at Amalgamated Bank, which bills itself as "the only 100 percent union-owned bank in the United States."

Donated goods ranging from blankets and sleeping bags to cans of food and medical and hygienic supplies are being stored in a cavernous space donated by the United Federation of Teachers, which has offices in the building a block from Wall Street near the private park protesters occupy.

Among the items are 20 pairs of swimming goggles (to shield protesters from pepper-spray attacks). Supporters are shipping about 300 boxes a day, many with notes and letters, Strekal said.

"Some are heartwrenching, beautiful," and come from people who have lost jobs and houses, he said. "So they send what they can, even if it's small."

Strekal said donated goods, stored for a "long-term occupation," have been used to create "Jail Support" kits consisting of a blanket, a granola bar and sanitary wipes for arrested protesters to receive when they are freed.

The movement has become an issue in the Republican presidential primary race and beyond, with politicians from both parties under pressure to weigh in.

President Barack Obama referred to the protests at Sunday's dedication of a monument for Martin Luther King Jr., saying the civil rights leader "would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there."

Many of the largest of Saturday's protests were in Europe, where those involved in long-running demonstrations against austerity measures declared common cause with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In Rome, hundreds of rioters infiltrated a march by tens of thousands of demonstrators, causing what the mayor estimated was at least 𔚹 million ($1.4 million) in damage to city property.

U.S. cities large and small were "occupied" over the weekend: Washington, D.C., Fairbanks, Alaska, Burlington, Vt., Rapid City, S.D., and Cheyenne, Wyo. were just a few. In Cincinnati, protesters were even invited to take pictures with a couple getting married; the bride and groom are Occupied Cincinnati supporters.

More than 70 New York protesters were arrested Saturday, more than 40 of them in Times Square. About 175 people were arrested in Chicago after they refused to leave a park where they were camped late Saturday, and there were about 100 arrests in Arizona — 53 in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix — after protesters refused police orders to disperse. About two dozen people were arrested in Denver, and in Sacramento, Calif., anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was among about 20 people arrested after failing to follow police orders to disperse.

Activists around the country said Saturday's protests energized their movement.

"It's an upward trajectory," said John St. Lawrence, a Florida real estate lawyer who took part in Saturday's Occupy Orlando protest, which drew more than 1,500 people. "It's catching people's imagination and also, knock on wood, nothing sort of negative or discrediting has happened."

St. Lawrence is among those unconcerned that the movement has not rallied around any particular proposal.

"I don't think the underlying theme is a mystery," he said. "We saw what the banks and financial institutions did to the economy. We bailed them out. And then they went about evicting people from their homes," he said.

In Richmond, Va., about 75 people gathered Sunday for one of the "general assembly" meetings that are a key part of the movement's consensus-building process. Protester Whitney Whiting, a video editor, said the process has helped "gather voices" about Americans' discontent.

"In regards to a singular issue or a singular focus, I think that will come eventually. But right now we have to set up a space for that to happen," Whiting said.

Some U.S. protesters, like those in Europe, have their own causes. Unions that have joined forces with the movement have demands of their own, and on Sunday members of the newly formed Occupy Pittsburgh group demanded that Bank of New York Mellon Corp. pay back money they allege it overcharged public pension funds around the country.

New York's attorney general and New York City sued BNY Mellon this month, accusing it of defrauding clients in foreign currency exchange transactions that generated nearly $2 billion over 10 years. The company has vowed to fight the lawsuit and had no comment about the protesters' allegation about pensions.

Lisa Deaton, a tea party leader from southern Indiana, said she sees similarities between how the tea party movement and the Wall Street protests began: "We got up and we wanted to vent."

But the critical step, she said, was taking that emotion and focusing it toward changing government.

The first rally she organized drew more than 2,500 people, but afterward, "it was like, 'What do we do?'" she said. "You can't have a concert every weekend."


'NYPD uses intimidation against OWS'

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has so far resorted to 'intimidation' in its attempts to quell the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests, an American journalist tells Press TV.

“The NYPD has so far reacted by intimidation and instigation and has continued to treat the protesters like criminals and reacted in some cases quite violently to them,” he said, adding that, “Each time they do so, it only strengthens the movement,” Nathan Schneider, editor of the website Waging Nonviolence said on Sunday.

“With every passing day over the course of these protests, I've just been amazed and wondering what the NYPD is thinking, because every action it takes seems to only hurt their image in the public eye and improve that of the protests,” he added.

He pointed out that that the ongoing anti-corporatism protests have ended the US media blackout over “the incredible influence of corporations, especially financial institutions, on our politics and society.”

The movement has achieved “an incredible victory,” as it has been successful to get its message across, Schneider added.

The OWS movement was initiated on September 17, when a group of people began rallying in New York's financial district to protest 'corporate greed' and top-level corruption among other instances of social inequality in the United States.

The campaign has now spread to tens of major US cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Boston, as well as hundreds of communities across the nation, with more Americans joining the demonstrations each day.

Meanwhile, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal are also some of the countries that have recently seen huge OWS-inspired protest rallies.

2,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters nabbed in US

The US police have arrested nearly two thousand Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters since the outbreak of the anti-corporatism and -corruption movement in New York in mid-September

Fresh arrests come as the movement is spreading across the globe.

The police have come up with various charges against the demonstrators in order to clear the streets filled with protest tents.

Chicago police say they have made 175 arrests on Saturday after protesters refused to obey orders to leave public areas and as more than 2,000 people marched from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to Grant Park.

Also on Saturday, nearly 90 demonstrators were detained in New York, while police forces apprehended over 70 people in Phoenix and Colorado.

Protesters have, however, pledged to remain on the streets, despite the heavy-handed clampdown.

The OWS movement was initiated on September 17, when a group of people began rallying in New York's financial district to protest 'corporate greed' and top-level among other instances of social inequality in the United States.

The campaign has now spread to tens of major cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Boston, as well as hundreds of communities across the nation.

More and more Americans are, meanwhile, joining the demonstrations each day.

According to a Press TV survey published on Saturday, many believe that the American Awakening -- represented by the OWS movement -- stems from misguided financial policies of the US establishment, thought to be behind the country's current economic crisis.

Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal were also some of the countries that saw huge OWS-inspired protest rallies on Saturday.

About 175 arrested early Sunday in Chicago protest

Police arrested around 175 demonstrators at a nascent protest camp in a downtown Chicago park early on Sunday, hauling them away in vans and buses even as protesters vowed to carry on their campaign against economic inequality.

The Chicago protests, linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement that sparked weekend demonstrations around the world, drew more than 2,000 people on Saturday and into the early hours of Sunday. Marches in New York and Los Angeles attracted about 5,000 people each on Saturday.

But the predawn arrests scuttled, at least for now, plans by the Chicago protesters to build a protest camp similar to that in New York's Zuccotti Park, the Manhattan hub of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began last month.

After the arrests, demonstrators in Chicago said they were plotting a way forward, grappling with issues including trespassing laws barring occupation of public spaces, organizing challenges and dropping temperatures.

The arrests happened after protesters marched on Saturday from Chicago's financial district, where some have spent the night on sidewalks, to Grant Park where they hoped to set up camp despite a law barring the public from city parks after 11 p.m.

"We went in knowing that we were going to occupy," said Kyle Miskell, a 24-year-old computer technician, adding he was among those arrested. "We were hoping the city would say, 'OK, let them occupy here.' But it didn't work out that way."

Police warned them to leave. But some protesters linked arms around the tents, saying they were willing to be arrested. Others stood across the street to chant and sing on the sidewalk in a gesture of solidarity.

"They were given warnings, advised of the statute and that they were in violation, and they chose to stay," Chicago Police spokesman Daniel O'Brien said.

Police took down close to 30 tents after hauling away the last of the arrested protesters early on Sunday, protesters said. At least one protester said the police acted "humanely."

Miskell said the protesters "definitely need a more permanent residence" more comfortable than the financial district sidewalk they currently occupy.

"Sleeping on the streets in November and December in Chicago is not a good idea," he said.

Another Chicago protester, an intensive care nurse, said that as the Chicago movement grew it needed a "more visible, yet safe" place to call home.

"There has been talk about people trying to reoccupy Grant Park tonight. When the police were tearing down the tents, there was a chant of 'We have more tents,'" said the woman, 31-year-old Heather Fallon.


In New York, where the movement began when protesters set up camp on September 17, 92 demonstrators were arrested on Saturday and early on Sunday for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, police said.

More than a dozen were demonstrators arrested in Washington Square Park for violating the park's midnight curfew.

Another roughly 20 protesters were arrested late on Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina, and about 50 were arrested in Phoenix.

In addition to the U.S. protests, demonstrations stretched into Sunday in London, where about 250 people set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, vowing to occupy the site indefinitely to show their anger at bankers and politicians over the global economic crisis.

The protests, in Asia and Europe as well on Saturday, were mostly peaceful apart from in Rome, where the demonstration sparked riots.

American protesters are angry that U.S. banks are enjoying booming profits after getting bailouts in 2008, while many ordinary Americans are struggling to stay afloat in a difficult economy with more than 9 percent unemployment.

They also believe the richest 1 percent of Americans do not pay their fair share in taxes and want a more equitable economic system.

Some protesters said they were pleased with the weekend's turnout, although some marches were smaller than organizers had expected and it was unclear if the movement, largely driven by social media, would sustain its momentum. Critics have accused it of lacking clear goals.

Occupy LA organizer Clark Davis was exuberant over the 5,000 people who marched through the streets of Los Angeles and gathered peacefully outside City Hall.

"Wow, they really showed up," he said.

In New York, Troy Simmons, production manager for a health food business, said he was surprised turnout was not larger.

"People don't want to get involved. They'd rather watch on TV," he said.

President Barack Obama goes on the road to promote jobs

cnnAfter his jobs bill sputtered in the Senate, President Barack Obama will use a three-day bus tour to North Carolina and Virginia this week to push lawmakers to pass every element of it in multiple bills.

On the first day of the tour Monday, the President will make stops in the Asheville area of North Carolina.

During the trip, "the president will challenge Congress to get to work this week passing every element of the American Jobs Act piece by piece," Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

The first part Obama will focus on is a proposal to prevent teacher layoffs, as well as saving jobs of police officers and firefighters, Earnest said.

A similar trip to the area last year also focused on jobs, when Obama visited Forsyth Tech in December 2010 to highlight the school's biotechnology program.

Jobs, or rather the lack of them, is issue number one in North Carolina's Triad area -- bound by Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.

Many in the area commute to Winston-Salem and beyond for work as jobs in the surrounding Piedmont communities have dried up.

While the two states are key battlegrounds in the presidential race, the trip is "an official trip," and no part of it is paid for by the re-election campaign, Earnest said.

He rejected suggestions of a political motive for the choice of states, saying the president has been "traveling across the country to make the case" for his plan.

Obama's senior strategist David Axelrod vowed Sunday that every part of the bill will reach a vote.

"The American people support every single plank of that bill, and we're going to vote on every single one of them," Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week."

Despite saying last month that it was "not an a la carte menu," Axelrod said Sunday that "we hope to assemble the entire plan, and we're going to take votes on each one of them."

He would not say which part of the $447 billion plan would come first.

Obama announced that the broad initiative would be broken into smaller, separate bills.

"In the coming days, members of Congress will have to take a stand on whether they believe we should put teachers, construction workers, police officers and firefighters back on the job," he said in a statement Tuesday.

"They'll get a vote on whether they believe we should protect tax breaks for small business owners and middle-class Americans, or whether we should protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires."

On Monday, demonstrators in Southern California say they'll gather outside the Pelican Hill Golf Club to protest the GOP's stance on the president's jobs bill. House Speaker John Boehner and Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce will be there for a fund-raising event.

"Members of the Courage Campaign, teachers and healthcare workers will deliver a petition to Speaker Boehner signed by 25,000 Courage Campaign members ... demanding that he hold a vote on President Obama's American Jobs Act," a statement from the group said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, meanwhile, indicated there could be agreement on some elements.

"Let's work together. Let's find some of the things in his plan that we agree with and let's go ahead and do that for the American people," he told "Fox News Sunday."

The past week was an indication that "we can come together," Cantor told "Fox News Sunday," citing the passage of three trade bills.

Cantor did not make clear exactly where areas of agreement may be. But he cited the need to help small businesses find capital, unemployment insurance reform, and infrastructure spending as broad ideas for which both sides have expressed support.

Cantor insisted a plan the GOP has put forward is "for America's job creators."

"We're not going to be for tax increases on small businesses," he said of the president's plan.

Republicans filibustered the Senate version of the jobs bill last week, though a handful of Democrats had said they would have opposed the measure if it had made it to the chamber's floor.

Speaking to a conference in Las Vegas on Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the GOP to "get off of this kick of saying that the only thing that will create jobs is to lower taxes."

"I say to my other friends on the other side of the aisle, if you don't like what we're trying to do, give us something that is constructive that we can do to create jobs," said Reid, D-Nevada.

"If lower taxes was a way to a great a economy, during the George Bush years, we would have been on fire economically, but we weren't," he added.

Obama last week called on Republicans to show a plan that independent economists say would "actually put people back to work."

Independent analysts who looked at the president's proposals in September estimated they could produce between 750,000 and 1.9 million jobs.

Asked whether Republicans have any such analysis for their jobs proposal, Cantor responded that the plan "is taking pieces of our overall vision for this country and saying, you know what? We've got to provide incentive for the private sector to grow."

Earnest, in a telephone news conference, noted that Cantor did not cite an independent analysis suggesting the Republican plan would create jobs. And on Fox, Cantor challenged a report by Moody's Analytics that suggests the president's plan would add 1.9 million jobs next year.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said, "Polling shows overwhelming support for Congress to pass the entire bill. It's absolutely critical."

Obama says the bill would be fully paid for. It includes a so-called "millionaire's surtax," increasing the taxes on income over $1 million.

Pakistan leans toward talks with Taliban, not battle

Amid growing American frustration with Pakistan’s handling of Islamic militancy, the government here appears less willing than ever to challenge insurgent groups and is more inclined to make peace with them.

In a series of recent statements, Pakistani officials have rejected the notion of robust military action against insurgents based in its tribal belt and instead called for truces. At a recent summit, political leaders issued a resolution that did not condemn terrorism but said their policy is dialogue. The decree was widely viewed as having been rubber-stamped by the powerful military, whose top two figures briefed the conference.

The approach has puzzled U.S. officials and renewed debate in Pakistan about how to handle insurgents who have killed thousands in attacks nationwide.

Much remains unclear about the potential for peacemaking, including which militant groups would be included or willing. But some analysts say Pakistan has lost the resolve to battle homegrown insurgents who many here view as disgruntled brethren.

“Everyone went along with what the army wanted” at the recent political summit, said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani journalist and expert on militancy in the northwest. “It became obvious that the military has no appetite for military operations.”

Many here express skepticism about talks, arguing that such efforts had failed in the past. But the idea is backed by Islamic parties and other political leaders.

In interviews, politicians and security officials said Pakistan views the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella insurgent group that is an offshoot of the Afghan movement, as splintered enough to be open to peace deals mediated through tribal elders or clerics. And the United States, they note, is supporting a similar approach in Afghanistan.

“If by giving a chance to peace, any terror is eliminated, it’s the best option,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a leading ruling party figure, said in an interview. He added that he had received armistice offers from militants: “They want to talk.”

Pakistan’s fragile civilian government regularly condemns terrorism, and the army has executed several operations in the country’s northwest, including against Pakistani Taliban factions in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan. The battles have scattered some militant leaders, leaving the organization weakened but still capable of carrying out deadly attacks. But there is little public enthusiasm for large-scale military action, which could displace millions of people.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is jockeying for inclusion in any Afghan political settlement, which security officials here believe will bring Afghan Taliban representatives into the government. The army therefore sees little incentive to antagonize Pakistan insurgents, who commingle with their Afghan counterparts, security analysts said.

‘A focus on peace’

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called last month’s political conference as tensions with the United States soared over American allegations of Pakistani state support for the Haqqani network, an Afghan group based in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Participants, in a rare show of unity, unanimously rejected the U.S. claims and called for a “new direction and policy with a focus on peace and reconciliation” with “our own people in the tribal areas.”

Two days later, Gilani told local media that a parliamentary committee would monitor talks that could include all Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network, but warned that failure could prompt military action. Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, however, suggested otherwise to reporters, saying: “Military operation is not a solution to every problem. We’re done with those operations where we had to.”

An American official said the United States was unsure what to make of the resolution. “We’ll be watching, of course, and asking through military channels what the [Pakistanis] have in mind,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive relationship.

The United States has stepped up a campaign of drone strikes against the Haqqani network, targeting the group with several strikes in recent days.

Taliban reaction to the Pakistani overture has been wary. One top commander, Faqir Mohammed, was quoted by local media as saying he welcomed talks — but that they must lead to the establishment of Islamic law. Mohammed later denied willingness to talk.

“There have been contacts between the government and militants through indirect channels,” said a tribal elder from the Waziristan region. “Both sides are seeking guarantees before starting.”

A Pakistani intelligence official pointed to the recent defection of one Pakistani Taliban commander, Fazal Saeed Haqqani, as an argument for truces, which he said exploit insurgent infighting. Pakistan, the official said, “met Haqqani’s demands,” including by releasing some of Haqqani’s imprisoned relatives.

Others bemoan the idea of talks as surrender, though many critics remain enthusiastic about reconciliation in Afghanistan. Javed Ashraf Qazi, a senator and former intelligence chief, said the Afghan Taliban is fighting a foreign occupation, while the Pakistani Taliban seeks to create an Islamic caliphate.

“These are our own citizens who have revolted against the state . . . and therefore they should be subjected to the law,” Qazi said. “They have the blood of innocent people on their hands.”

Pakistan’s numerous past attempts at peacemaking with domestic insurgent groups provide ample reason for doubt. Some analysts say a 2006 deal in North Waziristan helped create a haven in the area, from which the Haqqani network and other fighters now operate freely.

The Pakistani army has maintained truces with a few factions, including one led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose North Waziristan-based forces attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan and are closely allied with the Haqqani network. Some analysts speculate that the army has struck other secret deals that it wants to avoid jeopardizing.

The military and the Taliban are “ happy nowadays because there are fewer attacks — on both sides,” Yousafzai said.

Pakistan wants Afghan action on Taliban cleric

Pakistan repeatedly urged Afghanistan and US-led forces there to go after notorious Taliban cleric Maulvi Fazlullah, whose fighters took part in cross-border raids that killed about 100 members of Pakistan’s security forces in recent months, but no action was taken, an army spokesman said on Monday.“The problem refuses to go away,” the Pakistani spokesman, Major-General Athar Abbas, told Reuters.
The complaint could deepen tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan over cross-border attacks by militants on targets in both countries.

People won't elect PML-N in next elections

PPP leader and former federal law minister, Senator Dr Babar Awan, on Sunday said the people would not elect the PML-N in the next general election because of their animosity towards democracy and said the PPP would complete its five-year constitutional term and form the government after the 2013 general polls.

Addressing a public meeting at Dhanda near New Muree, he strongly criticised the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Punjab government, saying their leadership was upset due to an imminent defeat in the Senate and general elections and were thus talking about the dissolution of the provincial assembly.

Awan said leaders of the "Naraz League," which held a sit-in against the democratic government, had gone to Jeddah under a deal with Musharraf and remained silent during his regime. He said the princes of Takht-i-Lahore would once again leave for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after their defeat in the 2013 election.

Awan asked why the so-called lovers of democracy had not staged a single sit-in during the nine-year-long tenure of Musharraf. He added that the Senate election would be held in March next year and no assembly would be dissolved before then.

Awan said the talk of dissolving the assembly was "mere propaganda by the loyalists of PML-N leaders to hoodwink the people," but they would not succeed in their designs. Awan said the PML-N had cheated the parties of the APDM (All Parties Democratic Movement) by contesting the election in 2008. "The PML-N leadership backed away from its words and left Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i-Islami and Mahmood Achakzai in the lurch," Awan said.

"Sharifs' plan to dissolve the Punjab Assembly is a bid to break the electoral college of Senate but this plan has miserably failed. "The people will not elect them in the next general election because of their animosity towards democracy."

Babar Awan said that the rulers of Takhat-i-Lahore had created a number of problems in the Punjab province and embezzled huge funds in the name of 'Sasti Roti', development, Ashiana Housing Scheme and anti-dengue spray. "This entire drama is being staged to loot public money and the government's financial resources," he added.

Pakistanis spurn polio vaccines

Pakistan is one of four countries where polio is deemed endemic. Eradication of the disease is made more difficult by rumors linking vaccination campaigns to Western plots.

Whenever Safa sees her father readying the brace, she fidgets and sobs. It's not very comfortable and already too small, but without it the 2-year-old Pakistani girl would crumple to the floor.

Safa's right leg is paralyzed, and Tahir Wali now realizes his daughter's plight was wholly avoidable. The girl's grandmother repeatedly turned away polio vaccination teams from the family's front door, convinced that the vaccine sterilizes girls. Like many Pakistanis, she bought into rumors spun by fundamentalist imams who denounce polio vaccination campaigns as a Western plot.

"My mother believed there was a conspiracy to use polio vaccines to keep population growth down by suppressing the fertility rate," Wali says, cradling Safa in his arms inside his family's tiny two-room house in the northwestern city of Peshawar. "I should have intervened, but I didn't."

In the Western world, polio is largely a forgotten disease, an anachronism that conjures up images of iron lungs and March of Dimes posters. In Pakistan, however, polio remains a scourge that international health organizations have failed to eradicate.

As of Oct. 13, 111 cases of polio had been recorded this year in Pakistan — second only to the African nation of Chad, where 114 cases have been reported this year. Last year, Pakistan logged 144 cases of polio. Today, Pakistan is one of just four countries where polio is deemed endemic; the other three are Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.

Several factors have stood in the way of eradication. In the country's volatile tribal areas along the Afghan border, the war against Islamic militants has made it difficult for vaccination teams to make the rounds in villages and towns, where cases of polio continue to spread. The migration of Pakistanis from the country's northwest to densely populated cities such as Karachi and Quetta has further spread the disease.

Underlying those factors, however, is an intense mistrust among some Pakistanis for the vaccines and the people who supply and administer them. Radical clerics seed rumors that vaccines are un-Islamic because they are made from substances derived from pigs, or that they cause infertility. Some clerics try to convince parents that polio vaccines are made from the urine of Satan.

The reluctance by some Pakistanis to trust polio vaccination programs is also driven by a belief that the U.S. is behind the campaigns. Anti-American sentiments are more fervent than ever in the country, stoked this year by the case of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot to death two Pakistanis in Lahore in January, as well as by President Obama's decision to not inform Pakistani leaders in advance about the U.S. operation against Osama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad in May.

Parents' fears about polio immunization drives were compounded by a CIA-orchestrated phony vaccination campaign aimed at obtaining DNA evidence from Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in the weeks before the U.S. commando raid that killed him.

"People were already suspicious of the objectives of these polio vaccination drives," says Zaid Khan, 33, a shopkeeper who sells tea leaves in the Peshawar neighborhood of Rashid Garhi, where the refusal rate is high. "The fake campaign in Abbottabad strengthened parents' resolve against the polio drives. It gave them proof that America's intentions are bad."

Most Pakistanis recognize the value of vaccination and allow their children to be immunized. But a stubborn minority of parents, most of them impoverished and poorly educated, refuse to permit immunization teams to step into their house.

"Pakistan used to have numbers in the thousands in the 1990s, but because we are in eradication mode, even one case is too many for us," says Elias Durry, senior coordinator for the World Health Organization's polio eradication effort in Pakistan. "So having more than 100 cases doesn't help.... Our aim is not just to do things better. Our aim is to finish the job."

Up until the mid-20th century, polio had been one of the world's most feared diseases. In the early 1950s, the highly communicable virus, which attacks the nervous system, paralyzed 22,000 Americans each year. The development of a vaccine brought the disease under control in the industrialized world, and in recent decades about $8.2 billion, with significant donations from Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has been spent on immunizing 2.5 billion children throughout the developing world.

In Pakistan, however, eradication is faltering. Peshawar city officials have threatened to arrest parents who consistently bar their children from being vaccinated.

"We try to tell them there's nothing wrong with the vaccines, that they're good for their children," says Irfan Ali Shah, a senior Peshawar health official.

Peshawar shopkeeper Raza Farooq explains why he won't allow local health workers to vaccinate his 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. "I believe God has given me my children and that God will protect them — I don't trust these vaccinators. They give me assurances, but they can't prove these drops are good for health or that they aren't expired, or that they won't produce any side effects."

Wali, Safa's father, says the girl's grandmother has changed her mind about the value of polio vaccinations — though it took the sight of her granddaughter's lifeless leg to bring her to that realization. Since Safa contracted polio, other children in the family have been immunized.

"She admits what she did was wrong, but she also knows she can't do anything about it," Wali says. "Now she doesn't refuse the drops."

U.S. steps up drone strikes in Pakistan against Haqqani network

A U.S. drone strike left four people dead Friday in northwestern Pakistan a day after a similar attack killed the most senior figure struck to date in an escalating campaign against Afghanistan’s Haqqani network.

The four, whose identities were not immediately known, were riding in a car near Miran Shah, the capital of the North Waziristan region and the main base of the Haqqani network. Pakistani officials said the vehicle was struck by two missiles from a U.S. drone, the Associated Press reported.
On Thursday, a CIA drone strike killed Janbaz Zadran, a trusted deputy of network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani and a “close aide” to Haqqani’s brother Badruddin, the group’s top operational commander, a U.S. official said. Zadran “played key roles in resupplying the Haqqani network and insuring the fighters in Afghanistan had access” to the group’s Pakistan-based leadership, the official said.

“It’s probably the most senior death of any Haqqani network member in Pakistan to date, if it’s true,” said Jeffrey Dressler of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “He’s on everybody’s radar.” Dressler and other experts said Zadran was not an active fighter but was in charge of group’s finances and arms shipments.

Before Friday’s drone strike, two militants killed alongside Zadran were buried in the town of Lakki Marwat, AP reported. The funeral of one of the men, Maulana Iftikhar, the head of an Islamic school in Miran Shah, drew 2,000 mourners, including Arab militants and Munawar Khan, a Pakistani lawmaker from the opposition party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the news agency said.

The strikes followed several tense weeks in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, as the Obama administration publicly alleged direct ties between the Haqqani network and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

The United States has said that the Haqqani network is the most significant threat to U.S. and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan and has warned of increasingly direct action against the militant group’s haven in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan if Pakistan does not move against it.

Pakistani officials said the Thursday attack occurred in Dande Darpa Khel, an area just west of Miran Shah.

The area was the site of several earlier drone strikes, including one in September 2008 that reportedly killed the wife, sister and eight grandchildren of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder and patriarch of the group. A drone attack in February 2010 killed Jalaluddin’s youngest son, Mohammad, reportedly a student of religion with no direct involvement in the Afghanistan war.

U.S. officials confirmed that a second drone-fired missile Thursday struck a border town in neighboring South Waziristan. A Pakistani official in the area said the strike killed four militants who were planting explosives.

The strikes came as the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, arrived in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to try to calm rising tensions.

“We tried to think about the future,” Grossman said at a joint news conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. “We also talked about how we can continue in a systematic way to identify the interests we share with Pakistan — and they are many — and then find ways to act on them jointly.”

Pakistan’s relationship with the Haqqanis stretches back to the 1980s, when Islamabad and Washington aided the Afghan group as it fought against the Soviet Union’s military occupation of Afghanistan. Jalaluddin Haqqani became an official in the Taliban government that took over Afghanistan in 1996, and he fled to the Pakistani tribal region, along with al-Qaeda, after the Taliban was overthrown with U.S. assistance in 2001.

Haqqani fighters regrouped and began fighting U.S. and coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies U.S. charges that it helps the group but has repeatedly refused to take military action against it. The Haqqani network is separate from, but claims allegiance to, the broader Afghan Taliban movement that is based in Quetta, in southern Pakistan.

In reporting the drone strike early Thursday, a Pakistani intelligence official initially said that the target killed, along with two unnamed Haqqani fighters, was a guard named Jalil Haqqani. The official described him as a “trusted” member of the organization not directly related to the Haqqani family.

But U.S. officials, who were not authorized to discuss intelligence matters, said later that Zadran was the target of the drone strike in North Waziristan and confirmed that he was killed. One official said the apparent confusion may have arisen because Zadran was sometimes known as “Jamil.”

Pakistan’s tribal region, where a stew of militant groups are based, is off-limits to foreigners and dangerous for outsiders, making it difficult to independently verify the details of CIA drone strikes in the area.