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QUETTA: The Hindu community in Lasbela disrict has expressed its reservations over construction of a dam near their historic temple Hinglaj Mata.
Chairman Wapda Shakeel Durrani assured the community members that Hingol dam would be constructed only after removing all their reservations.
A high powered delegation comprising Chairman Wapda, Speaker Balochistan Assembly Aslam Bhootani, Chief Secretary Nasir Mehmood Khosa and representatives of Hindu community in Sindh and Balochistan visited the site of the proposed Hingol dam on Sunday.
The representatives of the Hindu community had expressed their reservations that with the Hingol dam planned to be built along the costal highwa would submerge their historic temple ‘Hinglaj Mata’ and worshippers would have no way of accessing it.
The Balochistan Assembly had also adopted a resolution unanimously in this regard demanding that the plan of construction of hingal dam should be abandoned.
However, Chairman Wapda decided to visit the site of the dam along with representatives of the Hindu community to brief them about the ways and means to save the historic temple in the area.
Wapda engineers and experts informed the members of the delegation through maps that Wapda was making all possible efforts to built Hingol dam adopting measures to save the temple. ‘Hingol dam would be not being constructed until apprehension and reservations of Hindu community about Hingal Mata are removed,’ Chairman Wapda said. He said that he was also aware about the importance of the Hinglaj Mata temple.
He informed that with the construction of Hingol dam around 90,000 acres of land would be irrigated in Lasbela district and the dam would also generate electricity that would be enough to meet the power requirements of the area. The dam would be have the
capacity of storing around 210,0000 acres feet water.
Speaker Balochistan Assembly Mohammad Aslam Bhootani said: ‘We respect the worship places of minorities but on the other hand we cannot ignore the importance and benefits of the Hingol dam’.
He said that government would take steps to remove the reservations of the Hindu community. He claimed that the construction of the dam would bring a green revolution in the Lasbela district.
Source : Dawn News
WASHINGTON: The next few weeks would be pivotal for Pakistan’s future, a top US general warned on Sunday, noting that the Pakistanis also realised this and had galvanised to protect their country from the militants.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Gen David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, pointed to Pakistan’s intensifying offensive against the Taliban in Swat as a sign its political leaders, people and military were united against the militants.
‘The actions of the Pakistani Taliban seem to have galvanised all of Pakistan,’ he said. ‘There is a degree of unanimity that there must be swift and effective action taken against the Taliban.’
The Obama administration has strongly backed the offensive launched last week when President Asif Ali Zardari was in Washington seeking support for fighting the militancy, which he said was a threat to the entire international community.
‘The next few weeks would be very important and, to a degree, pivotal in the future for Pakistan,’ said Gen Petraeus.
‘Certainly the next few weeks will be very important in this effort to roll back, if you will, this existential threat — a true threat to Pakistan’s very existence that has been posed by the Pakistani Taliban,’ he added.
The general dismissed the suggestion that if the fight against the Taliban intensified, it could also endanger Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
‘With respect to the nuclear weapons and sites that are controlled by Pakistan, as President Obama mentioned the other day, we have confidence in their security procedures and elements and believe that the security of those sites is adequate,’ he said.
The US general said the trilateral talks in Washington last week enabled him to have ‘some good conversations’ with Pakistani leaders and officials.
‘It was very clear in discussions with everyone, from President Zardari through the other members of the delegation that there’s an understanding that this does have to be a whole-of-government approach,’ he said.
‘In other words, not just the military but all the rest of the elements of government (are) supporting the military,’ the general said.
Gen Petraeus noted that besides the military offensive, Pakistani authorities were also trying to re-establish basic services, repair the damage done by the bombardment of these areas in which the Taliban were located, and to take care of the internally displaced persons.
The US, he said, was also backing an ‘enormous effort’ to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons.
Various US agencies, he said, were working with the government of Pakistan to help them deal with this problem while UN agencies also were playing a frontline role in helping the refugees.
‘This is not a US assurance that matters,’ said the general when asked if the US government could assure the success of Pakistan’s offensive against the militants. ‘This is a Pakistani assurance. This is not a US fight … this is a Pakistani fight, a Pakistani battle, with elements that, as we’ve mentioned, threaten the very existence of the Pakistani state.’
Al Qaeda leaders: ‘There’s no question that Al Qaeda’s senior leadership has been there and has been in operation for years,’ said the general when asked if he knew where they were hiding. ‘We had to contend with its reach as it sought to facilitate the flow of foreign fighters, resources, explosives, leaders and expertise into Iraq, as you’ll recall, through Syria.
‘We see tentacles of Al Qaeda that connect to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, the elements Al-Shabab in Somalia, elements in north central Africa, and that strive to reach all the way, of course, into Europe and into the United States.’
The general said it was not possible to determine the accurate location for Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri other than a general description of where that might be.
‘Certainly, they surface periodically. We see communications that they send out. And of course, they periodically send out videos in which they try to exhort people and to inspire individuals to carry out extremist activities.’
Source: Dawn News
SINCE the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation, the status of which has now been rendered uncertain, Pakistani citizens have been trying to organise against the Talibanisation of the tribal and northern areas.
There has been a flurry of meetings, lectures, candlelit vigils, protest marches and letter-writing campaigns in all major cities. And yet, read through the discussions on local blogs or peruse letters to the editor in various newspapers, and the sense that Pakistanis are doing nothing about the crisis prevails.
When comparisons are drawn between civil society’s emphatic response to the deposition of Pakistan’s chief justice in 2007, its reaction to the virtual colonisation of part of the country by militants seems apathetic. In many quarters, the silence of Pakistanis is being perceived as complicity. As an open conflict between the military and militants rages in the Frontier province, it is worth deconstructing why civil society has not been able to articulate a united stance towards the Taliban.
What becomes apparent is that the Pakistani public is faced with a hydra-headed monster, and it is unable to agree on which is the greatest of all evils. Do we, the people, react to the lack of governance at the centre and the occupation of our territories by an ideological group? Do we, as a Muslim majority, protest the perversion of Islam at the hands of violent, suicide-bombing militants? Do we, as feminists, decry the violation of women’s rights? Or do we, as humanists, focus on the plight of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who for too long have been written off as collateral damage? Indeed, understanding the paralysis of civil society in the face of the Taliban onslaught lies at the heart of the identity crisis that Pakistan has faced since its inception.
Many Pakistanis direct their outrage at the government. Brought to power in a memorable election, the government was tasked by the electorate with strengthening Pakistan’s democratic credentials. Instead, we have seen shabby power plays as the PPP and PML-N have wrestled like incorrigible schoolboys over the past year. These political intrigues have distracted the government from what should be its major concerns at the present: reviving the Pakistan economy and dealing a decisive blow to what was a militant threat in February 2008, but is now a full-scale invasion. For this reason, some citizens are arguing that the first step in addressing Pakistan’s problems is calling for mid-term elections and asking President Asif Zardari to step down.
But this is not the rallying cry of the people at large. For many, the government and the army’s lack of vision in dealing with the Taliban has been the top complaint. They criticise erratic policies that have the government and militants negotiating one day, and warring the next. This crowd is calling for a consistent strategy against the militants, with no clear consensus on whether that should be martial or diplomatic. As such, it remains unclear if public protest is directed against the government or the army (or do Pakistanis still treat those entities as if they are the same thing?). Meanwhile, there is a subset that is opposed to the Nizam-i-Adl for it threatens the integrity of the state. ‘One constitution for one country’ is their rallying cry.
On the other hand, in some civic circles, the major concern is that the government and army have failed to protect basic human rights. There is outrage at the blowing up of girls’ schools and CD shops in Swat, the flogging of women, and the displacement of thousands of people from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Malakand. Skipping over the essential existential crisis posed by Taliban dominance in the northern and tribal areas, many citizens are simply demanding that the government and/or army provide adequate protection and compensation to IDPs, ensure development in the form of schools, roads and hospitals, and bring peace (at whatever cost) to conflict-ridden areas.
In some quarters, the human rights argument has been spun as a women’s issue. Many public protests were launched in response to the infamous flogging video. Posters and graffiti in urban centres decry the victimisation of women and their abuse in the name of Islam. In this construction, women parliamentarians who did not oppose the controversial Nizam-i-Adl are the ultimate nemesis and the call is for safeguarding women’s rights, not suppressing the Taliban.
That said, there are many Pakistanis who openly describe themselves as anti-Taliban. But what exactly does that mean? Opposition to Talibanisation has been interpreted in myriad ways: anti-violence, pro-education, pro-nationalism, anti-sectarianism, pro-democracy and more.
Reframe the question in a religious context and the debate is endless. Some Pakistanis are outraged at extremist interpretations of Islam. Others are advocating that democracy be upheld and a separation of church, rather, mosque and state be enshrined in the constitution once and for all.
Still others are protesting the revival of sectarianism, arguing that Pakistan should define itself as a country where Sunni and Shia, Sufi and Salafi, Deobandi and Barelvi can all live together in peace.
Then there’s the camp that is championing that most nebulous notion, ‘moderate’ Islam. Worryingly, there are also those civil groups who are reluctant to have religious overtones cloud their anti-Taliban protests. But can you speak out against the Taliban without, at some level, speaking about religion?
If complaints against the government, military and Taliban weren’t enough, many Pakistanis are also organising around the America factor. Cooperation with the US in the war against terror has long been framed as a test of Pakistani sovereignty. As a result, Pakistanis are torn about what level of intervention they’re willing to live with. Some want to protest the drone attacks, others want to ensure greater transparency in the distribution of American aid. At a recent meeting of concerned citizens, I heard one hapless woman ask her friend, ‘is it alright if I’m both anti-Taliban and against the drone attacks?’
To this mix, add the voices that are less heard: Swatis who demand efficient justice systems, but do not want to live at the edge of the Taliban sword; Bajauris who want to keep their women in purdah, but send their sons to secular schools; religious minorities, including Sikhs and Christians, who want the government to protect their right to worship.
It is this lack of consensus as to what’s at stake that makes a unified civic response impossible. Pakistanis are able to mobilise when they knew what they are asking for, e.g. the restoration of the chief justice. But they’re in disarray when it comes to pinpointing why they object to Talibanisation.
In any other circumstance, I would celebrate Pakistan’s political and ideological diversity, pointing out that it is what distinguishes Pakistan from Iran or Saudi Arabia. But in the face of the Taliban, our plurality is proving to be our Achilles’ heel. The fact is, in organising against the Taliban, Pakistan is going to be forced to tackle its longstanding identity crisis. The first step to overcoming militancy is knowing ourselves. So before we can take to the streets with a single, articulate demand, we’re going to have to answer the question that we’ve been avoiding for over 60 years: who are we?
Source: Dawn News
LAHORE: Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Amir, Syed Munawwar Hasan has predicted armed struggle against United States in the days to come.
Speaking at a ‘Go-America-Go’ rally on The Mall here on Sunday, he asked JI activists: ‘Announcement for the big jihad may be made during the coming days, so make preparations about it.’
Fearing that the United States would soon announce invasion of Pakistan on the excuse that Pak army had failed to eliminate terrorists’ bases in the country, Munawwar urged the people to step up their efforts to safeguarding solidarity and nuclear programme of the country and pushing the Americans back into Afghanistan.
Opposing the ongoing army operation in Swat and Buner, the JI amir warned the political leadership that such operations in the past had proved to be first step towards martial law.
Referring to the failure of armed forces in operation against their own people in former East Pakistan, he urged the authorities to desist from taking up arms against their own people.
Chiding the government claim that it was establishing its writ, he asked where was the so-called writ when scores of citizens were shot dead in Karachi on May 12, 2007 or when hundreds of citizens were kidnapped by the American agencies?Alleging that India was involved in the Lahore attacks and in Balochistan uprising, the JI amir demanded the government activate its foreign missions to expose New Delhi.He said either the United States itself was massacring Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan or was patronising other powers — Israel and India — engaged in anti-Muslim actions.
He said the United States had always tried to destabilise Pakistan and make India a mini-superpower of the region. He said it was for this reason that Washington was pressing Islamabad to withdraw its forces from the Indian border.
Despite being the first public event of the new JI amir, attendance at the rally was not impressive though it was not restricted to Lahore-based workers only and activists from nearby districts had also been transported to the show.
The party leadership had claimed that the strength of the rally would run into hundreds of thousands to give a strong message to the United States and Pakistani government that the masses were against the army operation alleged to be launched at the behest of Washington.
The rally also lacked spirit, enthusiasm and zeal, which has usually been the hallmark of the events organised by religious parties.
Source: Dawn News
ISLAMABAD: The operation in Swat and adjoining areas was intensified and nearly 200 militants and two security personnel were killed in clashes on Saturday and Sunday, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations.
Indiscriminate mortar firing and improvised explosive devices planted on streets and roads by terrorists in populated areas of Thana, Malakand and Mingora caused civilian casualties, said the ISPR.
In Swat, suspected locations of militants were attacked in Kanju, Mingora, Venaibaba, Namal, Qambar, Peochar, Fizagath, Tiligram and Chamtalai areas and 50 to 60 militants were killed.
Security forces urged citizens to remain vigilant and said that the terrorists had planted explosive devices in various areas of Mingora and Swat to put the blame of civilian deaths on security forces.
There are reports that militants destroyed two schools one in Barikot and the other in Maniar.
Terrorist activities continued in Swat where Zahid Khan, Imam of a mosque at Nishtar Chowk was killed.
Military authorities said that they had secured a large area in Shangla up to Biladram and advancing troops detected IEDs on the Chamtalai bridge where an intense exchange of fire took place.
In Shangla, security forces resumed operation from the important heights of 2,245 and 2,266 which had been captured on Saturday and secured the area up to Shalwal Kandao. One soldier died during the operation.
Troops found a number of bodies of militants and weapons left by them near Ramotai Loe Sar.
One soldier who was injured on May 8, died during evacuation.
The ISPR said a training camp of militants in Banai Baba was destroyed and 140 to 150 militants were killed. Troops secured the Shangla Top.
The Shangla DCO confirmed that 140 to 150 terrorists had been killed.
In Dir, troops secured the area from Kala Dag to Haya Sarai and during a clash with militants at Musa Jan and Sarai Kot, five militants were killed and one soldier was injured.
In a separate incident, militants kidnapped a reporter of a private TV channel from Chakdara.
Military authorities said that ground forces continued to consolidate positions on Gulabad heights and the area between Chakdara Bridge at Landakai had been secured by ground forces. Troops detected and defused three IEDs.
The militants suffered heavy casualties when helicopters attacked their hideouts in Barwada Char, destroying six bunkers and two ammunition dumps.
Troops secured the ridges around Sultanwas and the militants there were surrounded, the ISPR claimed.
The militants resumed their activities in South Waziristan and on Saturday night attacked a security forces convoy in Spin area South of Tanai.
During the ensuing clash 18 militants and an officer, Capt Muneeb, were killed and two soldiers were injured.
Later, the militants fled the area leaving behind bodies of their men. One injured militant was arrested.
Source: Dawn News
MUMBAI: The trial of the only surviving gunman in the bloody Mumbai siege began Friday with the prosecutor calling the attacks ‘a criminal conspiracy hatched in Pakistan to attack India,’ AP reported.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said at least one Pakistani military officer was involved in the attack and its sophistication suggested the involvement of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.
Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani, is charged with 12 criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India. Prosecutors say Kasab and nine other gunmen who were killed during the siege are responsible for the deaths of 166 people and injuring 304 more.
‘There was a criminal conspiracy hatched in Pakistan to attack India,’ Nikam said, with the ‘ultimate target of capturing Jammu and Kashmir, which is part and parcel of India.’
The Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistani but claimed by both, has long been at the center of the bitterness between the two South Asian rivals.
The prosecutor vowed to get to ‘the root of terror’ and said the identity of all those involved would be revealed through the ongoing investigation.
Nikam alleged the November attacks were masterminded by the Muslim militant group Lashkar-i-Taiba with the help of at least one Pakistani military officer. He said the plot was made possible by a ‘terrorist culture’ that had taken root in Pakistan.
Lashkar-i-Taiba is widely believed to have been created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.
Pakistani officials have acknowledged that the November attacks were partly plotted on their soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects. They have also acknowledged that Kasab is Pakistani but have repeatedly denied their intelligence agencies were involved in the attack.
The prosecution began after the judge dismissed a motion from Kasab’s defense lawyer, Abbas Kazmi, to move the trial to a juvenile court. Kazmi, who had been appointed Kasab’s attorney just the day before, said his client was 16 years old — and legally a minor — at the time of the attack.
Kasab told Indian investigators he was born in September 1987, which would have made him 21 when the siege took place.
Kasab’s two co-defendants, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, are Indian nationals charged with helping plot the attacks. Their lawyer maintains that they are innocent.
Meanwhile, Kasab’s defence counsel said his client wished to retract his confession, claiming it was obtained under duress.
‘On his instruction, a retraction application has been filed, retracting the so-called alleged confession,’ said Abbas Kazmi.
‘He’s going to plead not guilty,’ he added.
The lawyer told reporters that Kasab claimed the confession, made to a local magistrate while he was in police custody, was ‘extracted out of coercion and force and it was not a voluntary confession.’ He quoted Kasab as claiming he had been ‘physically tortured.’
Court officials say they hope the case will be finished in six months to a year — which would be extremely fast by the standards of major Indian trials.
The trial for India’s deadliest terror attack, the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people, took 14 years to complete.
LONDON, April 17: One of the Pakistani students arrested in last week’s anti-terrorism raids, Janas Khan, has sought Pakistan High Commission’s consular service.
Meanwhile, the high commission has also obtained the names of four solicitors who are representing seven of the arrested students who have refused the offer of consular services. The commission is trying to contact the students through their solicitors.
Sources in the high commission said that the remaining two Pakistani students had refused consular services and have also requested authorities not to involve their families in the matter.All 12 persons were arrested on April 8 on suspicion of being involved in hatching plots to stage terrorist acts in the UK.
One, whose identity is yet to be established but believed to be a Bangladeshi, was released on the very second day, and of the remaining 11 still in custody, one is said to be Afghan national.
The UK authorities have so far not shared with Pakistani authorities even preliminary information about the students like their names, home addresses and the names of the institutions where these students were studying and the subjects they were studying; when they arrived in the UK and when do their visas expire.
Ignoring Pakistan’s request to either put those arrested on trial, or to allow them to remain in the country to continue their studies, the UK authorities are said to have decided to let the police continue their investigation.
There has also been talk of deporting some of the arrested students against whom actionable evidence is not likely to be found.
Under the law, police could keep the suspects in custody for 28 days. So, police has 18 days more to marshal the required evidence to charge them.
Sighatullah Kadri, QC, a British lawyer of Pakistani origin, answered in the affirmative when asked if the UK authorities could deport the students even if the charges under which they were arrested were not found valid.
He said perhaps the police had arrested these students only on the basis of taped ‘incriminating’ conversation, but since taped conversation is not admissible in the court of law and also the MI5 itself would not like to use this evidence in the court fearing exposing its methods of investigations, the police is finding itself in a fix. “They do not want to let the suspects go scot-free because of what evidence they have but they cannot also keep them under detention beyond 28 days without coming up with actionable evidence.”
WASHINGTON, April 17: President Barack Obama on Thursday blew the lid on harsh CIA terror interrogations approved by ex-president George W. Bush, including the use of insects, simulated drowning, and sleep deprivation.
But despite releasing four partially blacked-out memos detailing the tactics, Mr Obama said operatives who carried out the interrogations would not be prosecuted, saying they acted on orders and were defending their country.
The memos offered a stunning glimpse inside the covert interrogation programme introduced after the September 11 attacks in 2001, which critics say equated to torture, and Mr Obama said undermined America’s moral authority.
The memos were written by the then Bush administration’s legal officials and made the case that a long list of coercive techniques did not equal torture as they did not amount to the infliction of severe mental or physical pain.
Detailing methods used to question Al Qaeda terror suspects, the memos reveal the use of dietary manipulation, forced nudity, facial and abdominal slaps, and the use of confined or “stress positions” for suspects.
In one technique known as “walling,” interrogators could push a suspect against a false wall, so his shoulder blades hit the wall with a loud noise, to make him think the impact is greater than in reality.
The memos also show interrogators asked for a ruling on whether the placing of a harmless insect in a cramped box with Al Qaeda terror suspect Abu Zubaida equated to torture.
The technique “certainly does not cause physical pain” and therefore could not be termed as torture and should be permissible, one of the memos said.
Similarly, techniques included waterboarding or simulated drowning, walling and sleep deprivation also fell short of torture, the memos said.
Another memo details a ‘prototypical interrogation,’ which begins with a detainee stripped of his clothes, shackled, and hooded, “with the walling collar over his head and around his neck.”
“The interrogators remove the hood and explain that the detainee can improve his situation by cooperating and may say that the interrogators will do what it takes to get important information,” the document said.
“As soon as the detainee does anything inconsistent with the interrogators’
instructions, the interrogators use an insult slap or abdominal slap.
“They employ walling if it becomes clear that the detainee is not cooperating in the interrogation.”
In a statement, Mr Obama said the tactics adopted by the administration of his predecessor George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks in 2001 “undermine our moral authority and do not make us safer.”
He said he was releasing the documents to avoid “an inaccurate accounting of the past,” which would “fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.”
Mr Obama stressed that the interrogators would not be prosecuted for their work.“In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” he said.
“The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world,” he said. “We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.”
Attorney-General Eric Holder, meanwhile, said that the government would provide legal representation to any CIA employee involved in the interrogations in any state or federal court case brought against them.
The memos were authored by Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, who at the time were lawyers for Mr Bush’s Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that intense debate was under way within the new administration over whether to release the memos.
The report said Attorney-General Holder and others in the Justice Department had argued aggressively in favour of release, but the CIA countered that disclosure of such secrets would undermine its credibility and effectiveness.
The day after taking office, Mr Obama ordered the closing of the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay within a year and the immediate cessation of the special interrogation regime used by the CIA.—AFP