Saturday, September 1, 2012
FAMOUSLY, and to much acclaim from his devoted fans, Imran Khan has declared that he will end corruption in either 19 or 90 days, depending on which version you believe. But in either case, he is sure he will root out this evil in a very short period. In this desire, he is in good company: Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia and Musharraf all promised to clean up the system. We all know how that went for them and for us. It’s not that I doubt Imran Khan’s intentions, or that I would like to see him fail should the improbable happen, and he actually comes to power. As a Pakistani, there’s nothing I would rather like to see than a country free of corruption. But as somebody who has spent most of his working life in the bureaucracy, I can say with some authority that the whole system is now so steeped in venality that I doubt any one ruler has the power to eradicate it in a single lifetime. And this is not the cynic in me speaking, but the practical ex-civil servant. I know Imran Khan is surrounded by many bright advisers, but this column is intended as a free input into his ongoing policymaking exercise. Let me start with a personal example. After I took early retirement from the civil service to head a private university whose lovely campus was nearing completion on the outskirts of Karachi, the electrical contractor complained that a provincial inspector was demanding a bribe to issue a certificate. Without this piece of paper, we could not get power from the grid. I happened to have a friend who was a provincial minister, so I called her to report this complaint. In a couple of days, she rang back to say that she had had the inspector transferred to Thatta, and I passed on the good news to the contractor. A day later, he came to me in a state of great distress, and asked me to have the transfer cancelled. When I asked him why, he replied that the inspector’s successor and friends in other departments would make it impossible for him to work in the area. “The bureaucracy’s a mafia,” he explained. “You target one member, and the rest of the gang goes for you.” In the event, I refused to call my friend again, and have no idea how things worked out for the contractor. Here’s another example: when I took over as accountant general Sindh in the mid-1980s, I was aware the office had a reputation for corruption, especially in its pension section. After immediately changing the entire staff there, I put an ad in the newspapers announcing that an officer would record any complaints between 11 and 12 every day. Often I would join the officer as we waited for complaints to come pouring in. In one month, not a single person came forward. Disappointed and puzzled, I discussed this failure with colleagues. One of them explained, as though to a naïve child, that people knew that if they complained against an official, they would incur the ire of all his colleagues. They would then settle scores after my tenure ended. These are only some of the realities of corruption. Our businessmen are fond of sitting in their drawing rooms and cursing crooked officials. What they leave unsaid is that mostly, they benefit from this system as they pay bribes to either speed up their cases, or cut corners that allow them to make greater profits. In short, they are partners in crime with the officials they bribe. And corruption is not restricted to the state sector. Senior executives of large corporations are well aware of how their procurement staff skim off a percentage on the items they buy. Bank managers are not above charging clients a percentage of the loans they disburse. Elected members of well-known clubs are known to make money on contracts and kitchen expenses. The military is Pakistan’s biggest department in terms of money spent, and given the size of defence contracts, the alleged bribes in this area are huge. But the opaque nature of these transactions, and the clout of those in charge, makes it difficult to quantify the extent of the graft. At the field level, I have heard of at least one commanding officer of a battalion who regularly siphoned off a part of his unit’s food allowance. Turning to political corruption, the rules of business make it difficult for ministers to accept payoffs without the connivance of the bureaucrats reporting to them. Thus, if a minister demands (or is offered) a bribe for a contract, it is his underlings who will have to make the case and sign the agreement. Thus, politicians have every incentive to ensure they have pliable officers in their departments. It is this deepening corruption, as well as its social acceptance, that has caused such demoralisation in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. Incidentally, when Imran Khan says he will clean up the system when he comes to power, does he think his party will win at the centre and the provinces simultaneously? He needs to remember that the sprawling provincial bureaucracies do not fall under Islamabad’s control. One problem Imran Khan and his team do not seem to have grasped is that low government salaries are one of the prime factors behind the widespread corruption. If I am honest, I will have to concede that I was easily able to resist temptation because I had only one child to educate, and my parents did not need my financial support. Also, my writing brought in a little extra income to pay for books. Most civil servants do not fall into this narrow category. None of this is to suggest that it is impossible to at least reduce corruption, but it needs a sustained effort, not just empty slogans. Over the years, we have heard plenty of those. Somehow, the bureaucracy needs to be trimmed as it is far larger than our needs. And pay scales need to be brought into step with financial and social reality. Above all, we must realise that corruption is a fact of life in the developing world. Even industrialised countries have their share of it. So a sense of proportion is needed while tackling this ancient evil.
The writer is the author of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West.
EDITORIALThe Supreme Court (SC) two-member bench hearing the Arsalan Iftikhar versus Malik Riaz Hussain case has come up with a most surprising judgement regarding the investigation into the alleged Rs 342 million business deal between the two parties. It may be recalled that when these allegations against the son of Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry surfaced some months ago, and the SC, taking suo motu notice, constituted a three-member bench headed by none other than the CJ himself to hear the case, this caused considerable consternation amongst legal circles and the public regarding the appropriateness of the CJ heading a bench in a case involving his own son. Wisdom mercifully quickly set in when adverse opinion was voiced against this decision, and the CJ wisely, albeit belatedly, decided to recuse himself from said bench. On June 14 the residual two-member bench had announced a reserved judgement referring the matter to the Attorney General (AG) to set the state machinery in motion for an investigation into the matter. The AG then wrote to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to initiate the investigation. NAB constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for the purpose. Prima facie this seems perfectly reasonable, legal, and within the rules. The SC however, in its latest judgement on August 30 has found grave flaws in the procedure adopted by the AG. He has been put on notice by the bench to explain his handling of the matter, which in the court’s opinion went far beyond the scope of its June 14 order. The SC has also castigated the AG for not revealing before the bench that he had at some point represented Malik Riaz Hussain in his professional capacity as a lawyer. It should also be recalled that the SC had stopped the JIT from proceeding in the case on the grounds that the senior police officers who had been inducted into the JIT, SP Faisal Bashir Memon and DSP Tahir Malik, stood accused by the court of in one case providing undue ‘protocol’ to Malik Riaz Hussain on the occasion of his appearance before the SC, and generally of submitting false, dishonest or deliberately misleading statements during the proceedings or inquiries ordered by the court. On this basis, the SC wants disciplinary action taken against these officers. Not only that, the SC labels NAB ‘biased’, therefore unable to conduct the probe free of the perception of partiality or lack of competence. The case investigation has therefore, including all the record in NAB’s possession, been transferred by the SC to a one-man commission comprising Dr Shoaib Suddle. Now issue can be taken with this judgement at a number of levels and on a number of contentious decisions contained therein. First and foremost, the SC seems to have taken recourse to speculative opinion about NAB’s bias or competence before the fact has been established in any reasonable manner. The AG’s representing one party professionally is hardly conclusive proof of bias. The judgement’s castigation of the police officers in question seems to be based purely on behaviour or ‘body language’ evident in video evidence placed before the court by Arsalan’s lawyers taken from the SC’s CCTV cameras. The placing of this video evidence by a party to the case aroused a great deal of concern even then as to how one party could get hold of internal SC footage not normally available to any member of the public. Second, did the footage establish beyond reasonable doubt or at least contention that the police officers betrayed bias or sympathy towards the other party, Malik Riaz Hussain? Could it not be argued, for example, that they were simply showing courtesy to one of the litigants or even ensuring their safety? On the other hand, the setting up of another (one-man this time) commission to investigate will again become controversial just as the setting up of the Memo Commission by the SC troubled many legal minds. Fingers may now be pointed that this is another case of the SC assuming to itself the powers of an investigation agency, which it is not mandated to do, and which is the exclusive preserve of the executive. Such commissions of inquiry are normally set up by the government under the Commissions of Inquiry Act. This new ‘jurisprudence' by the apex court is bound to arouse controversy, possibly face legal challenges, and reinforce the opinion that holds that the SC is either unable, or seen to be unable, to do impartial justice in a case involving the CJ’s son. For this negative perception, the SC has no one to blame but itself.
RADIO PAKISTANFormer diplomats say the President effectively highlighted Pakistan's viewpoint on regional and international issues Former diplomats appreciating President Zardari's speech at NAM Summit said the President effectively highlighted Pakistan's viewpoint on regional and international issues. Talking to PTV‚ they said NAM summit provided an opportunity to Pakistani leadership to interact with international community‚ which will definitely help the country to further promote trade and economic ties. Ex-ambassador Iqbal Ahmad Khan said Pakistan invited world leaders for investment and trade to help cope with the issue of poverty‚ which is root cause of terrorism in the region. Ex-ambassador Shahid Amin said that NAM Summit provided an opportunity to Pakistani leadership to hold meetings with world leaders to further improve relations. He said meeting between Indian and Pakistani leadership in Tehran on the sidelines of NAM is significant for bilateral relations. Replying to a question‚ he said Pakistan reiterated its viewpoint that it wants stable and peaceful Afghanistan in its neighborhood and supports diplomatic efforts for durable and peaceful solution to Afghan issue.
Provincial Minister for Information Sharjeel Inam Memon has said that judiciary can do nothing without democracy. Constitution and judiciary are performing their role because of democracy, if there is not democracy in the country, there may not be independent judiciary and it would never be restored. This is wrong perception that democracy exists because of judiciary. This he said in a statement issued here on Friday. He said Pervaiz Musharraf took off his uniform after NRO and Nawaz Sharif's return to Pakistan was the out come of NRO and he was getting benefit of NRO. Although in agreement there was a condition that Nawaz Sharif would not be able to come in Pakistan before ten years but he came because of NRO. He also said that followers of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gave the country constitution in its original shape. PCO Judges took oath to be loyal with Parvaiz Musharraf now they should be loyal with constitution of Pakistan. PCO Judges have become stigmatized for the country. Supreme Court Bench have given a verdict with objectionable remarks regarding deputation but they have forgotten a person named Arsalan Iftikhar Choudhry son of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaundhry who was a medical officer and he got deputation in home department then FIA and then got training in Police. This is a point of lament and it should be considered by those who believed in true democratic norms and wanted justice irrespective of status. He added. He said, 'PML (N) has isolated itself politically, the reason of this isolation is that PML (N) has negative approach towards issue, while Pakistan Peoples Party is the Political Party which respects the masses and follow democratic ethics. Provincial Minister said that Nawaz Sharif was working on anti democratic agenda. He should work to strengthen the democracy in the country and avoid to criticise the government for nothing. Sharjeel Memon requested all democracy loving forces to take notice of anti democratic behaviour of Sharif brothers.FRONTIER POST
www.pakistantoday.comDeputy Prime Minister Parvez Elahi said that the government is struggling for the creation of a Southern Punjab province on an administrative basis. He said this while talking to the National Assembly Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi who called on him at his residence on Friday. The two leaders exchanged views regarding the prevailing political situation in the country and the next general elections. Parvez said that in order to remove backwardness and a sense of deprivation in the people of Southern Punjab, they had provided record funds during their tenure and powers were devolved down to the lowest level. He said that theirs was the first national party which had approved the resolution for the Southern Punjab province and then on May 5, 2010 a grand rally under his leadership was carried out in Multan. He said that with the creation of the new province, problems of the people of Southern Punjab would be resolved immediately and effectively. He said that along with the Southern Punjab province, they were also in favor of making a Hazara province and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid would continue its efforts in this regard.
Associated PressU.S. drones fired a barrage of missiles at a vehicle and a house in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan Saturday, killing at least five suspected militants, Pakistani officials said. The strikes in the North Waziristan tribal area were the first since news that a top commander of the powerful Haqqani militant network was killed in a drone strike late last month, also in the tribal region. Two intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media, said U.S. drones fired seven missiles at targets in the village of Degan in an area of North Waziristan close to the Afghan border. They said the area is dominated by anti-American militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, but they did not know whether the men killed belonged to his group. Bahadur's faction is alleged to have been involved in frequent attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but generally shies away from carrying out operations inside Pakistan. Several recent drone strikes have killed militants affiliated with Bahadur's group. The CIA-run drone program is controversial in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis call it an infringement on the nation's sovereignty and maintain that it causes a high number of civilian casualties, a charge the U.S. denies. Washington maintains the program is a necessary and effective tool in combatting militants. A drone strike a week ago in North Waziristan killed Badruddin Haqqani, one of the sons of the founder of the Haqqani network. The U.S. has blamed the group for a number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan and considers it one of the key factors in undermining security there. Badruddin was considered the organization's day-to-day operations commander, and was labeled as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department, along with his father and two of his brothers. The presence of the mostly Afghan Haqqani network in North Waziristan has been a major source of friction between Pakistan and the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan prevent the group from using its territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan, but Islamabad has refused — a stance many analysts believe is driven by the country's strong historical ties to the Haqqani network's founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani. North Waziristan, where many of the U.S. drone strikes occur, is the one tribal area where Pakistani forces have yet to carry out a military offensive against militants. The U.S. has been pushing Islamabad to move against militants in the area but so far, there's been no sign the Pakistani military is preparing to launch a major offensive. Meanwhile, a group of gunmen on motorcycles in the southwestern province of Baluchistan killed seven Shiite Muslims, as violence against the minority sect continues to escalate. Senior police officer Wazir Khan Nasir said four gunmen riding two motorcycles stopped a local bus near the central vegetable market of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. The gunmen identified seven people belong to the Shiite Hazara community, forced them off the bus and shot five of them dead. Two tried to run away but the gunmen chased them down and killed them in a nearby street, Nasir said. Hazaras are an ethnic group found in Afghanistan and Pakistan and are predominantly Shiite. They've often been persecuted by Sunni hardliners who consider Shiites to be heretics. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Baluchistan is the scene of an insurgency by nationalist groups who demand more rights and a greater share of the income generated through natural gas and minerals extracted from the province. Islamist militants and the al-Qaida-affiliated sectarian group Lashker-e-Jhangvi is also operating in the province.
AFPA young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy must wait until at least Monday to learn if she will be given bail, after a judge adjourned her case on Saturday amid doubts over legal paperwork. Rimsha has been in custody since she was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb more than two weeks ago accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran, in breach of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws. Judge Muhammad Azam Khan adjourned the case to Monday and asked police to investigate a bail application made on Rimsha's behalf after prosecutors claimed paperwork had not been signed by the girl or her mother. Speaking to reporters outside the court, Rimsha's lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry accused prosecutors and lawyers for her accuser of delaying tactics. "The medical report has declared her an underage person with low IQ. How can she commit blasphemy? She is innocent and should be released," he said. A medical report earlier this week said Rimsha appeared to be around 14 years old, which would make her a minor, and had a mental age below her true age, but the court has yet to decide whether to accept the assessment. Some reports have said Rimsha has Down's Syndrome and her case has prompted concern from Western governments and anger from rights groups, who warn the blasphemy legislation is often abused to settle personal vendettas. Blasphemy is a very sensitive subject in the Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims, and allegations of insulting Islam or the prophet Mohammad often prompt a furious public reaction.
http://news.yahoo.comFor Rafia Margaret, the case of a young Pakistani Christian girl accused of blasphemy rekindled horrifying memories of the day a furious mob smashed through her front door and torched her house. On August 1, 2009 Margaret, then aged 28, had just finished breakfast at home in the Punjab town of Gojra when she heard the announcements over the mosque loudspeakers urging Muslims to attack the Christian quarter. Minutes later an angry crowd massed outside her modest one-storey house in the Korian area of the town baying for revenge after rumours spread that Christians had desecrated a Koran. As the pack swelled still further and violence erupted, she ran to her roof to judge the seriousness of the situation while her mother and ailing father sought refuge in a Muslim neighbour's house. The sight of the tall, elegant girl on the roof enraged the mob still further and they began attacking her door. "I was terrified, so frightened I couldn't think. I thought I was going to lose everything. I don't know how I did it, but I managed to climb over to the Muslim neighbour's house where my parents were hiding," she said. "Just as I got there, they entered our home and set it on fire. My father had had heart surgery a few days earlier and when he went back and saw his house burned down, he died," she told AFP, weeping. The Muslim mobs razed a total of 77 houses in Gojra, which lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the industrial hub of Faisalabad and had never before seen tensions between its 495,000 Muslims and 35,000 Christians. Seven members of a family were killed in the violence. The terror of that day came flooding back to Margaret two weeks ago when angry crowds massed in a poor Islamabad suburb to demand punishment for Rimsha, a young Christian girl accused of burning papers containing verses from the Koran. Rimsha, aged 14 and mentally subnormal according to a medical report, was arrested on blasphemy charges on August 16 and has been held in prison ever since. "When I heard a Christian girl had burnt the Koran in Islamabad, I felt unsafe in my home. I thought they might come to attack us again," said Margaret. "Whenever something happens between Muslims and Christians across the country, I'm frightened that somebody might attack my house and our colony to take revenge," she said. Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where 97 percent of the 180 million population are Muslims. Even unproven allegations of insulting Islam or desecrating the Koran can prompt anger and even violence. Last month a 2,000-strong mob stormed a police station in central Pakistan to seize a mentally disturbed man accused of burning the Koran and beat him to death before burning his body. And last year two leading politicians were assassinated after raising their voices against the blasphemy legislation, which includes the death penalty for insulting the prophet Mohammad. In Korian, the focal point of the violence in 2009, newly built red-brick houses with freshly painted walls and street lights have turned the village into a model town. But Shamaun Masih's children, who witnessed the rampage in 2009, are still traumatised. "They always start weeping whenever they see something unusual. They still remember that violence. When they heard about Rimsha's case, they reacted as if it happened here... and they were scared of a fresh attack," he said. Three years on from the Gojra carnage, Margaret's house has been rebuilt along with 75 others. Compensation of 500,000 rupees ($5,200) was paid to the families of the dead and 100,000 rupees to those who lost their homes, but the people responsible for the bloody rampage went free. The main witness of the case, Almas Hameed, who lost seven relatives and reported the case to police, fled the country with the rest of the family. His house was the only one of those torched in the violence that has not been rebuilt, and notices summoning him to court as a witness remain pasted to his front door. Christians are among Pakistan's most marginalised minorities, with many impoverished and trapped in dirty, menial jobs. The new houses built for Christians in Korian have created further jealousy among Muslims in the area. "They mock us now, saying we have got new houses but one day they will also be destroyed," said Khaliq Barkat, the priest of the local church. As Rimsha goes into her third week in prison and her family hide for fear of violent reprisals, Margaret doubts Pakistan's Christians and Muslims will ever live in true harmony. "I don't think it will ever come to an end. There is lack of wisdom and knowledge among our people. We need to learn to tolerate each other," she said, wiping away tears.
AFPUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she will meet an obligation to decide in coming days whether the Pakistan-linked Haqqani network should be considered terrorists. US lawmakers have pressed Clinton to blacklist the group, which is blamed for grisly attacks in Afghanistan, but some US officials have warned such a step could dramatically set back already fraught ties with Pakistan. Clinton, visiting the Cook Islands for a Pacific island summit, said that she would abide by legislation by Congress that requires her to state by September 9 whether the Haqqani network met the criteria of a terrorist group. "I'm aware that I have an obligation to report to Congress. Of course we will meet that commitment," Clinton told a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. Clinton declined comment on which way she is leaning but said that the United States was already "putting steady pressure" on the Haqqani network. "That is part of what our military does every single day along with our ISAF partners," she said, referring to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan. "We are drying up their resources, we are targetting their military and intelligence personnel, we are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts," she said. Before stepping down as the top US military officer last year, Admiral Mike Mullen said that the Haqqani network had become a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The State Department has designated certain members of the Haqqani network as terrorists but has resisted blacklisting the entire group. The United States has slowly been rebuilding cooperation with Pakistan, which was severely set back after US forces found and killed Osama bin Laden living last year near the military's main academy. The Senate and House of Representatives in resolutions have both urged the State Department to blacklist the group, which would make it a crime in the United States to provide any financial or other support to the Haqqani network. Technically, however, Clinton is only asked to declare whether the Haqqani network meets the criteria of a terrorist group and is not being forced to make an actual decision on the designation. US officials have linked the Haqqani network to some of the most sensational attacks in Afghanistan including a June assault on a hotel near Kabul that killed 18 people and a siege last year of the US embassy.
http://www.dw.deExperts agree that NATO has to learn and understand the history of the Afghanistan conflict to find a solution to the country's problems. If not, they will only go from being the hunters to the hunted. Who are our friends and who are our enemies? These questions seem to be of vital importance at the moment in NATO's Afghanistan strategy. This year so far, there have been attacks nearly every week on international troops by Afghan security forces. By the end of August, 45 soldiers had died in such attacks. The radical Islamist Taliban and their helpers have been planning for around three years to infiltrate the Afghan army and police – apparently with success, South Asia expert Konrad Schetter told DW. "Their main strategy is to destroy communication and interaction between the international forces - the representatives of NATO - and the Afghans, and thus destroy the trust between Afghan and international security forces." Damage control Damaged cooperation between Afghan security forces and their international allies would make the formation of a stable security apparatus impossible in the country. The Afghan army and police are still in the process of reconstruction. From 2014 onward, after international troops have left Afghanistan, they are supposed to entirely take over responsibility for the country's security. But before it can do that, Afghan security forces have to receive intensive training from their NATO partners. Joint operations against insurgents can be seen as one part of the training. But this so-called "partnering strategy" don't seem to be possible, according to Schetter. "The training of Afghan soldiers is now being conducted with wooden rifles. They are trying to demilitarize Afghan soldiers on all levels. But training on wooden rifles can only get you so far - it is more difficult to re-enact serious situations than with real weapons and ammunition." NATO countries are faced with a dilemma: "they know that they have to train and build up Afghan security forces but up to now, they have not had a strategy for minimizing the influence of insurgents on them," Schetter explained. 'Ungrateful partners' In addition, the Afghan government did not seem to have understanding for current problems the international forces are facing in Afghanistan, Afghan military expert Assadullah Walwalgi told DW. "President Hamid Karsai and the Afghan government are not helping their partners one bit with their anti-American strategy. The President himself has been blaming the country's problems on the US and international security forces for years. You don't even need the Taliban to create anti-Western sentiment among the Afghan security forces and population." President Hamid Karzai likes to refer to the radical Islamist Taliban as his "brothers." He feels deserted and humiliated by the Obama administration. Afghanistan's friends in Washington were, to put it mildly, very reserved, after Karzai was reelected in 2009. The difference of opinion, according to Walwalgi, is the best ammunition for the insurgents. "The insurgents and their helpers know that the citizens of the NATO states are definitely not ready to sacrifice their soldiers and an endless amount of money for a state that does not show any gratitude." Learning from mistakes Walwalgi also criticized the governments of NATO countries. He accused them of acting like armatures even after over 10 years of war. He said they had to understand that the conflict was taking place on three levels: the national, regional and international levels. And only a solution that represented all three could bring lasting peace to Afghanistan. He also said that NATO had only itself to blame if it did not want to learn from the history of the country and it should not be surprised if it failed. Schetter said ignorance would have drastic consequences. "There are a number of instances in which the history of Afghanistan is ignored. Instead examples are taken from the war in Kosovo. That shows how little NATO and the entire international intervention does not really understand Afghanistan."
AFPA suicide bombing at a large NATO military base in central Afghanistan killed at least six Afghan civilians around dawn Saturday, officials said. A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance force said there were no ISAF casualties. "A suicide bomber on foot detonated near the gate of the base in Sayedabad, Wardak province, opening the way for a truck suicide bombing that followed him," provincial government spokesman Shahiddullah Shahid told AFP. "Together they have killed six local civilians, wounded four civilians and two intelligence personnel. There might be other casualties as well but I don't have information about them," he said. A witness said a small bazaar near the base was "totally destroyed" by the huge explosion. Many civilians work on or near NATO bases and bazaars often spring up to cater for them. A spokesman for Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to AFP. The United Nations says 1,145 civilians were killed and 1,954 wounded in the war in the first six months of this year, with the United Nations blaming 80 percent of the deaths on insurgents. NATO has some 130,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting the insurgents alongside government forces.
http://news.yahoo.comRussia needs a "leap forward" to rejuvenate its sprawling defense industry, President Vladimir Putin