Wednesday, January 1, 2014
http://dunyanews.tv/At least two people were killed and several others injured when a bus carrying pilgrims was hit by a roadside blast in Akhtarabad town in Quetta, Dunya News reported. The bus, carrying at least 50 Shia pilgrims, was travelling from Iran to the city of Quetta in Balochistan when the attack happened near Qambrani Road. Rescue officials arrived at the scene and shifted the injured including several policemen to Bolan Medical Complex. No group has admitted carrying out the attack but police say they believe the motive was sectarian. Buses leave Quetta every day to carry pilgrims to the Shia holy sites in western Iran and parts of southern Iraq.
Pakistan has voiced its aversion to the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan, saying the so-called zero option is not a desirable move. Pakistan's new ambassador to the United States said: "Even talk of (a total) pullout has started having its impact. Pakistan has started to receive more Afghan refugees than before." On his first day in office, Jalil Abbas Jilani told a Pakistani newspaper that the Afghans leaving their country reflected their fears of uncertainty post 2014. If the bulk of foreign troops pulled out of Afghanistan, a huge responsibility would fall on Pakistan's shoulders, he said, adding it would be a big challenge. About a recent US intelligence assessment, Jilani called the Taliban an important factor in Afghanistan and. "From our assessment, they will continue to play a very important role and that’s why Pakistan feels that this process of reconciliation is key to stability in Afghanistan."
The United States wants Afghanistan to halt the release of 88 prisoners from an Afghan jail because they pose a serious threat to security, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, adding to strains between the two sides. The United States only recently transferred the prison at Bagram to Afghan control after it had become a serious source of tension with the government in Afghanistan which is fighting a Taliban-led insurgency. Relations with Afghanistan have grown particularly strained over President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security deal that would keep around 8,000 U.S. troops in the country after 2014, when most foreign forces are due to leave.A U.S. army official said the release of the 88 contravened a presidential decree to complete investigations at the prison and prosecute individuals when required. "The Afghan Review Board has exceeded its mandate and ordered the release of a number of dangerous individuals who are legitimate threats and for whom there is strong evidence supporting prosecution or further investigation," said Colonel Dave Lapan, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The United States long resisted handing over the facility - because it feared individuals it considered dangerous would be released - but ultimately reached a deal with the Afghan government in early 2013. About 40 percent of the prisoners were directly responsible for wounding or killing 57 Afghan civilians and security forces, and 30 percent had participated in direct attacks that killed or wounded 60 U.S. and coalition troops, a U.S. official said. The head of the Afghan commission charged with reviewing the cases denied that the 88 posed a threat. "In many cases, detainees were wrongly linked to certain incidents they were not involved in," said Abdul Shakor Dadras. The planned release will however alarm many senior Afghan security sources, who often see released prisoners return to the battlefield. The bilateral security deal has to be signed for the United States and its allies to provide billions more dollars in aid. Without a deal, the United States could pull all of its troops out, the so-called zero option, leaving Afghan forces to battle the Taliban on their own. Karzai however has said the deal can wait until after presidential elections, scheduled for April, and that the "zero option" is an empty threat.
Two policemen have been killed while guarding an Imambargah in Rawalpindi on Monday. Four terrorists riding motorcycles shot the officers on duty with ease since the officers neither had any weapons to defend themselves nor were they alert to face an ambush. So much for the security of a place of worship that had already been attacked in November last year, killing 15 people. It seems that the sensitivity of Imambargahs has failed to sink in to the administration. Rawalpindi has witnessed some of the worst episodes of sectarian crimes since the start of Muharram yet complacency refuses to leave the policy makers, so far living in a world of their own. It is indeed unfortunate that terrorism has badly hit the law enforcement agencies of the country. We are losing our officers and men from the army, paramilitaries and police like sacrificial lambs. The police is perhaps the worst hit because of multiple issues, the major one being the incapability of the government to build the force into a potent institution, laced with new and appropriate training and equipment. The officers on duty at the Imambargah belonged to the Punjab Constabulary and had been called in to aid the Rawalpindi police during Muharram. They were not trained to counter terrorism. The shooters managed to escape as easily as they had entered the security zone of the Imambargah. Interestingly, the Closed Circuit Television was of no use since it was not working due to loadshedding. Where all this would land us is a question nagging every thinking mind in Pakistan today. Realistically speaking, it is the domain of the police to combat urban terror-related incidents. It is the police with their entrenched linkages in cities that help them get into the terrorists’ sleeper, intelligence and active cells. Unfortunately the police in Pakistan has been developed and sustained for political purposes. The fault is deeper than what appears on the surface. The recruitment policies whereby illiterate and unsuitable persons are hired at the SHO and ASI level have made matters worse. The result is that the police remains a force to be feared and not to be depended upon. Almost every fortnight a statement from the prime minister comes out showing his resolve to counter terrorism and instructing his team to develop a new road map to that effect. On the ground nothing tangible worth the name is visible. It is time to practically redefine Pakistan’s security polices through a change in the policing format and security paradigm.
The looming threat of terrorism dampened the spirits of citizens on New Year eve as pillion riding was banned and routes leading to Sea View - traditional celebration haunt - were sealed. Major traffic jams were witnessed across the metropolis despite a shutdown of fuel stations. A large number of youth were playing with fireworks on the streets and roads, cheering slogans 'Pakistan Zinabad and Happy New Year', while dancing and making merry. People across the city held various ceremonies to mark the arrival of New Year with a hope that it will bring more cheers compared to the previous year, 2013. In the evening, Sindh government wished New Year to citizens by imposing a one-day ban on pillion ridding on motorcycles and scooters. According to an official government handout, the ban will continue until Thursday, January 3, 2014. Ban on pillion ridding has been observed for the second consecutive New Year eve in Karachi due to the security concerns as per relevant authorities. However, citizens seem unhappy due to the decision. Talking to Daily Times, Usama Mubarak said, "Present provincial government throughout its last tenure and ongoing term has not succeeded in controlling terrorism or deteriorating law and order situation. And by resorting to tactics such as banning pillion riding, shutting down cell phone services and strikes on important occasions has merely teased the general populace." Mubarak said that by banning pillion ridding, government spoilt New Year eve for thousands of people, who were now forced to spend 2014 at home. Day before New Year night, law enforcement agencies also took part in spoiling new year plans by announcing traffic arrangements for the eve, that resulted in getting people stuck in massive traffic jams on different arteries. Citizens were also not allowed to visit Sea View because law enforcement agencies sealed all routes leading to the said place. Sea View is one of the most visited places in the metropolis on all occasions, as it is the cheapest and convenient for people belonging to all classes and backgrounds. In this regard, Danish Ali stated that he used to visit Sea View with family on every occasion but this time he along with his family would stay at home. "Concerned authorities must answer why they closed traffic routes leading to Sea View?" he asked angrily. If security is the reason, authorities should have sealed all routes leading to any place where public had the chances of enjoyment, Ali said. Imran Shiekh said that so-called traffic arrangement of authorities put public in massive traffic jams. Departments and law enforcement agencies were providing security to only some people, who were sitting in government, he said. Sheikh further asserted, "Government does not have any concern with the nation, as high-ups put people in problems for their own security rather than providing security and ease to people." Day before, Sindh Government announced to hold strict security measures on said eve and said that stern action will be taken against people using arms on eve. However, some people were also found resorting to aerial firing, reckless motorcycle riding and other unlawful acts, while no police personnel were present to stop or nab them. Nonetheless, people remain hopefully and welcomed 2014 with great enthusiasm, wishing this New Year would bring happiness and betterment on the whole.
From Sydney to London to San Francisco, revelers welcomed 2014 with extravagant fireworks displays, giant street parties and, in a new departure, fruit-flavored mist.