Friday, March 7, 2014
Judge Rafqat Awan’s death: Guard rejects Ch Nisar’s allegations, says terrorists’ firing caused Awan’s death
Judge Rafqat Awan’s death: Guard rejects Ch Nisar’s allegations, says terrorists’ firing caused Awan’s death
The Express TribuneThe army will not become part of the new government peace committee, which is set to be formed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to hold direct talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), according to officials. “In a democratic dispensation, civilian authorities should take the lead,” said a top security official following the crucial corps commanders’ meeting at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Friday. The meeting chaired by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif was held against the backdrop of reports that the government is in the process of forming a new committee for talks with TTP and its affiliates. The inclusion of the army in the fragile peace process was proposed by both the government and Taliban peace committees during their meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday. According to the military’s media wing, the corps commanders’ conference held at the General Headquarters was part of ‘routine monthly’ meetings. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in its statement said the forum dwelt at length on several professional matters. The participants also undertook a comprehensive review of prevalent internal and external security situation of the country, it added. The security official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told The Express Tribune that the army chief consulted his top commanders on whether to become a direct part of the government’s ongoing peace process with TTP. The official said top commanders arrived at a conclusion that there was no need for the army to hold face-to-face talks with TTP or their representatives. He maintained that the army leadership would be “available for assistance and consultations with the government” but civilian authorities should take charge as far as the talks are concerned. The official said the prime minister had not asked the army to nominate its representative for the proposed committee. The army’s reluctance to join the proposed committee is attributed to the likely fallout from such an exercise. Already, Opposition Leader Khursheed Shah had cautioned against the move, insisting that the army would be blamed if talks failed. However, the government and Taliban peace committees were of the view that the army’s participation would be crucial for ‘tangible’ progress. This notion has its roots in Pakistan’s history as matters of security have always been dealt with by the military, with practically no say of the civilian government. Many experts believe that the country’s security establishment still holds the key for any future course of action. “There is a general impression that the army is not onboard with the talks,” said a government committee member, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue. “In order to dispel that impression, we have suggested that the prime minister include the army in the process,” the member added.However, he said the army probably was still assessing the situation. Another military official said the top commanders voiced concern over the recent terrorist attacks at Islamabad’s district courts and Khyber Agency. The official disclosed that the corps commanders were briefed about the ‘successes’ achieved in the surgical strikes against the militant strongholds in the tribal areas. He said the army was ready to hit back if any terrorist attacks take place in future.
Pakistan People's Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said "cavemen living in hills" should not be allowed to decide the fate of Pakistan and India's foreign policy. "We should not allow non-state actors, these cavemen living in hills, to decide Pakistan and India's foreign policy. Otherwise ceding to them at that level how do you expect us to go back to the people and expect them to fight them at all the other levels," the 25-year-old Bhutto family scion said.
Asked about whether there was a commitment from PPP's side to address India's concern on terrorism after the Mumbai attacks, Bilawal said, "Not only myself, the PPP is committed to peace with India and working out all disputes. "We are not addressing terrorism because its India's concern, we are addressing terrorism because its our concern. And the PPP has and the government of the country has been addressing the issue of terrorism. The issue of terrorism, on either side must be addressed, law and order must be addressed," he said in an interview to a TV news channel. Pakistan blames non-state actors for terror strikes in India, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks that claimed 166 lives. Bilawal has been increasingly voicing his views on various issues in recent weeks and has announced that he and his sisters, Aseefa and Bakhtawar, would become part of mainstream politics before the next general election in 2018. Asked why another member of the Bhutto family is needed in politics, Bilawal said, "It's the incomplete missions and visions of the assassinated leaders that must be completed and I think upon that emotional moment you take it upon yourself and you continue to take it upon yourself and try to achieve what they were not allowed to. "So to that extent...there is nothing more motivating in a son's life in particular than making his mother's dream come true," he said. Bilawal said he had learnt most things including politics from his mother ( Benazir Bhutto) as she "raised her three innocent children with one hand and with the other she challenged dictatorships". Bilawal completed his graduation with honours in contemporary history and international politics from Oxford University last year. He is now busy learning Urdu and Sindhi. He did not led the PPP's campaign in the May 11 general election last year despite calls from candidates, particularly from Punjab, to address rallies, sparking reports of differences with his father former President Asif Ali Zardari and his aunt Faryal Talpur over running the party's affairs.
The Express TribuneThe All-Pakistan Alliance of Katchi Abadis and the Awami Workers Party (AWP) have protested the ongoing propaganda against slum dwellers of the federal capital.
Pakistan Today Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Parvez Khattak has undermined all claims of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), about the simplicity and eliminating the VIP culture, by taking allotments of three official residents for personal use, a private news channel reported on Friday. Parvez Khattak had announced, at time of taking over post of the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that he would quit luxury life style and not stay in the CM House. Despite tall claims of the PTI and his own announcement of adopting simple life style, KP’s CM Khattak is enjoying occupation of three official residences, revealed the official record of KP Assembly. CM Khattak is not only residing in the annexe of CM House, he has also taken allotment of two more official bungalows for personal use, revealed Nighat Orakzaiin KP Assembly. Opposition’s female member Nighat Orakzai revealed during session of the KP Assembly that PTI’s simplicity claiming ministers are living in four, four Kanals’ official residences. The opposition members started loud agitation, over Nighat Orakzai’s revelation about the official residences, and made it difficult for the Speaker to continue the session. Information Minister Shah Farman tried to clear position of the CM Khattak before the house but the opposition members refused to hear any explanation.
shiapost.comThe main opposition party in Pakistani National Assembly has called on the country’s government to take immediate measures for completing a multi-billion-dollar pipeline project that would take natural gas from Iran to Pakistan. In a statement which was released on Wednesday, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab President Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo urged the federal government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to honor its commitments with regard to the gas pipeline and not submit to foreign pressure. Wattoo stressed that the pipeline project between the two neighboring countries is the fastest solution to the energy problem in Pakistan, urging the government to take a proactive approach with regard to the construction of the pipeline. The Iran-Pakistan pipeline aims to help Pakistan overcome its growing energy needs at a time when the country of over 180 million people is grappling with serious energy shortages. He also described the project as critical for Pakistan’s economy and went on to say that the PPP leadership would be fully behind the government if it takes measures to build the pipeline and confront internal and external pressures against the project. Wattoo’s comments come one day after Sartaj Aziz, a senior adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national security and foreign affairs, said issues like US sanctions against Iran and the 18-month deadline given to Pakistan to build its side of the pipeline as the main obstacles in the way for completing the project. The US has long been threatening Islamabad with economic sanctions if it goes ahead with the plan. Under the original agreement sealed between Iran and Pakistan, the first Iranian gas delivery to Pakistan was to start by December 31, 2014. On February 27, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs Ali Majedi cautioned Islamabad over falling behind schedule in fulfilling its obligations with regard to the project, saying, it would be imprudent for Pakistan to link the failure to abide by its commitments to the sanctions imposed on Iran. Iran has already built 900 kilometers of the pipeline on its own soil and is waiting for the 700-kilometer Pakistani side of the pipeline to be constructed. Iran and Pakistan clinched the deal in 1995. Later, Iran made a proposal to extend the pipeline from Pakistan into India. In February 1999, an accord between Iran and India was signed. Nevertheless, India withdrew from the project in 2009 under US pressure.
Opposition leader, Khursheed Shah on Friday, expressed his concerns over the statement of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan relating to the Islamabad court attack. Shah questioned if the interior minister was trying to shield terrorists. Highly perturbed Khursheed Shah addressing the National Assembly lamented that those responsible for mass massacre were being called patriots. He said he was not opposed to talks, however, he wanted that the Pakistan Army not be dragged into it and added if the talks fail, then the blame would be shifted to the army.
Reports originating from Lahore say that during a 'grand operation' comprising 9244 raids against sellers of unwholesome and unstamped meat. As many as 394 shopkeepers were booked, 81 FIRs were registered, a total of Rs195,100 fines were imposed and 2935 KG unhygienic meat was recovered. Were the news and the nonchalant attitude of officials regarding the health of masses and its consequences not so dire, the report would have been shunned without a second look just for the sheer insolence of the staff that prepared such an impossible-to-believe report! Nevertheless, the unhesitant way the provincial Additional Chief Secretary of Punjab read the report before the Price Control Cabinet Committee, made one to believe that he must have thought everyone was in the loop that the report was a grand fictional piece or huge joke rather than a tale of an actual 'grand operation'. For if the report were based on facts, it would have meant that the raiding food inspectors could have taken action against at least fifty thousand meat shop owners in the 9244 raids carried out during the grand operation. The inspectors could have taken at least a hundred thousand samples of meat to the laboratories and received reports regarding these. Even by the municipal committee or town and cantonment board laws of the British Era, all food shops, especially meat shops, were required to have at least a screen on the front, including the door. Did the additional chief secretary, or his food inspectors, never see during the raids the thousands of screen-less and glassless shops on open roads and streets with skinned carcasses of goats and cows hanging from hooks with flies buzzing on them and collecting dust from passing traffic. Isn't such meat unhealthy and unwholesome! Shouldn't the thousands of owners of all such shops have been fined or arrested! There are laws against such shops. Since the inception of Pakistan, all governments have been playing with the health of the nation. Health is not serious issue with either the politicians or bureaucrats. There are virtually hundreds of thousands of shops selling raw and packed food items; thousands of hotels, restaurants, cafes and fast food joints selling cooked food in the country and for all these there are hardly thousand or so food inspectors, most of them ill-trained; and a few dozen laboratories to test samples but most of these are ill-equipped. Had the governments been serious, there would have been many more food inspectors, very many harsh laws and large fines and long jail times for selling unwholesome food. In the current situation, most of the shop owners booked will pay paltry fines and keep on selling unhealthy meat.
A series of high level discussions point to the imminent demise of the peace process as it stands, and the reorganisation of negotiations between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) directly. Major (retd) Amir from the government negotiating committee has said he believes the government should negotiate directly with the TTP, perhaps because from the start it was unclear what his mandate was and what a negotiated settlement would look like. Irfan Siddiqui, another government negotiator, believes the current mechanism still might work. This may be a case of enjoying his brief fame a little too much. The upbeat statements by Mr Siddiqui that the negotiations are making ‘satisfactory’ progress are in stark contrast to the ground reality, which shows increasing amounts of civilian blood being spilt while ‘talks’ continue. How satisfactory the deaths of 110 people in a month are is a question for the TTP, who are attacking with impunity again, despite announcing a ceasefire. Yesterday a roadside bomb killed six soldiers in Kurram Agency. The attack was claimed by Ansar-ul-Mujahideen, a familiar name from the TTP roster of militant groups. This past December the same Ansar-ul-Mujahideen attacked a checkpost in Mir Ali killing five soldiers, reportedly in revenge for the killing of TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in November last year. The group’s spokesperson told news agencies that Wednesday’s attack was in revenge for ‘drone victims’ and claimed that, like Ahrar-ul-Hind, they aren’t part of the Pakistani Taliban and are not bound by the ceasefire. Is this some kind of bad joke, or do the TTP genuinely believe the Pakistani people can’t see thorugh this sham? It appears now that the TTP have cut loose a number of their more vicious subordinates to act as they please while the core of the TTP shura claims protection under the ceasefire. All of these ‘splinter’ groups have parted ways with the TTP in the last month, leading to two lines of speculation. If it is not in control of them, then the TTP are irrelevant and can be treated like common criminals. If they are aware and in control of these groups, or have cut them loose to create havoc while they continue to play at talking, then the TTP can’t be trusted and are looking to bend the government to their will through sheer bloodlust and butchery. The government appears keen that the heartland of Punjab remain untouched by violence. However, as the attack in Islamabad shows, no part of the country is safe and if the government are naive enough to believe that the TTP or their affiliates will show them mercy when the time comes, they will be rudely disabused of the notion. The TTP is clearly trying to drive a wedge between the government and the military, since the latter won’t strike until the former gives them the go ahead to do so. The TTP are also buying time and digging in while creating confusion and fear; eventually, when they feel secure enough in their tribal area hideouts, they will range out across the country with the benefit of rest and recuperation behind them. Will government officials then flee the country, because past events show that politicians and their families are high on the list of TTP targets? If the government possesses knowledge that contradicts public sentiments, it should share it with the public, who have paid in blood for the right to know what their representatives are basing their decisions on. More importantly, the government should be aware of two facts: the first is that militants use fear to appear more powerful than they are, operating out of the shadows, striking defenceless civilians; remove the smokescreen and they are a cowering bunch of cowardss, as their earlier pleas for mercy showed. The second is that while the Pakistani people may not love war, war is already here and the terrorists are not going to stop until they achieve their objectives. We may not care for war, but the Pakistani people have proved they have the determination to fight; the government must now show the same.
The Express Tribune NewsThe Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were “anti-Islam” and against the country, former interior minister Rehman Malik told media in Islamabad. “If there are 2000 TTP members and if even 15 of them or 100 of them are anti-Pakistan, then I think they are all against Pakistan,” Malik stated. He said that while he does not doubt the intentions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, he feels that the TTP will continue to support dialogue but not fully commit to ceasefire. “I’m saying openly that I do not see terror in Pakistan coming to an end,” Malik stated, advising the government to keep strict security measures in place during dialogue with the Taliban. He also appealed to the government and the media to “stop the glorification of terrorists.” Bring Fazlullah back Malik said that the first thing Nawaz should do is meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai and negotiate the return of TTP leader Mullah Fazlullah back into Pakistan. If Fazlullah is brought back terrorism in the country will be halved, he stated. Islamabad attack The interior minister asked what Fizza Malik - one of the victims of the katcheri attack that left 12 dead and 29 injured - had done to deserve death. Two of the men who attacked the court fled after the incident, he stated, adding that they would launch an attack elsewhere. “I think Islamabad is not safe until they are caught,” Malik said, appealing to security forces to use all their resources to bring them into custody.
GUL BUKHARI The government has once again resumed peace talks, more commonly known as ‘surrender talks’ on social media, with the Taliban after the attack carried out by militants in the heart of Islamabad. It appears the district court judge who threw out a case filed by Abdul Rasheed Ghazi’s son was targeted in the attack that took twelve lives at least. The connection of this attack with Laal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz and his nephew is all too apparent. This attack that killed the judge who threw out their murder case against Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for ordering the Lal Masjid operation crystallizes the very reason these terrorists successfully got acquitted in over twenty cases of terrorism against them. Yet there is no action or news of apprehending or investigating these gentlemen. Instead, the federal interior minister has asked the TTP to condemn the attack and identify the group that perpetrated the attack. Even if TTP, with which the Lal Masjid clerics are closely aligned, does ‘condemn’ the attack while at the same time keep executing attacks in names of groups it publicly disowns, would that bring peace? Does the minister think this is a game? Does he, and indeed the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have any inkling of their responsibilities to the citizens of this country? Indeed, asking TTP to tell them who carried out the Islamabad attack appears to be a facile attempt at divide and rule, supposedly their strategy for dealing with militancy. They more than anyone else know that various militant groups in fact came together after the Lal Masjid operation under the TTP umbrella; that for years this very strategy of making ‘peace deals’ by the military over the years has failed miserably. If previously various groups had different aims, they now have a very clear, unified agenda. They have coalesced more than ever before. The only side which is being divided and ruled at this point is the state and people of Pakistan. If there were indeed any ‘reconcilables’ (which is hard to believe without any evidence), they would have at least once tried a political struggle, put forward political demands. Yet, the ‘demands’, whether from the TTP or any splinter groups actually translate to the state compromising its sovereignty: they ask for terrorists to be released, they ask for the army to withdraw from areas, they ask for the constitution and law of the land to subverted and or replaced. Every peace deal of the past has benefitted the terrorists, allowing them to regroup and re-strengthen in more ways than one. Over time, these ‘peace agreements’ have allowed the TTP to not only spread its physical tentacles into all the major cities of Pakistan, but to also construct the narrative based on which this death-wish is being executed by the government. Political parties that front the TTP and its narrative first completely misled people about drones and deaths of innocents being responsible for terrorism in Pakistan – a patent lie. Islamist insurgency in Pakistan predates the drones by about a decade. The TTP and Al Qaeda successfully mainstreamed the narrative of drones killing innocents through political parties such as the PTI and Jamat-e-Islami, with the latest party to join that being the current ruling party, PML-N – as if the TTP cared about innocent lives! But the most damaging false narrative was of ten years of operations against terrorism having failed. Brig (retd) Asad Munir has written in detail of the success of operations. However, the real issue is that no sustained offensive against extremism, militancy and terrorism has in actuality ever been carried out. ‘Peace deals’ and active collusion with ‘good terrorists’ throughout these years have meant that the state of Pakistan has never really tried to rout this problem with any sincerity. Thus, the bone-headed pursuit of ‘peace talks’ is nothing but a repeat of utterly failed policies of the past. The absurdity of calling military offensives a failure, and trying to sell the actual failed strategies in a new packaging, is beyond criminal. If single minded, comprehensive and sustained efforts at crushing extremism and terrorism are not made now, it may spell the end not only of the ruling government, but of the country as we know it as well.