Gilani, Fazal meet President

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman met President Asif Ali Zardari here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr on Friday.

In a brief statement issued here by the President House today, Prime Minister discussed with President the country’s prevailing situation.

JUI-F chief was also present in the meeting which lasted for about 45 minutes.

Geo news sources told that Mumbai report, war against terror, security situation in Swat, next Senate polls and performance of the government came under discussion in the meeting.

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54th Filmfare Awards on Feb 28 in Mumbai

MUMBAI: The 54th Idea Filmfare Awards 2008 function will be held at Yash Raj Studios in Andheri on February 28.

The announcement, which has film fans in a tizzy already, was made at a press conference in a five-star hotel in Mumbai on Friday. Introducing the new sponsor, Idea Cellular, Tarun Rai, CEO of Worldwide Media Pvt Ltd, said that for the first time the awards were being taken across the mobile platform.

Thanks to this partnership, the Filmfare Awards Contest will now be available on SMS, voice and WAP portals. Mobile users can also win free passes to the awards ceremony and access Filmfare award clips, wallpapers and trivia on their cellphones.

They will also be able to participate in the voting process. Meanwhile, at the press interaction, the media made the most of the opportunity to quiz all those associated with the awards. While Filmfare editor Jitesh Pillai sportingly fended off accusations of manipulations, guest Deepika Padukone underwent an inquisition on almost everything — from her love life to this year’s winners.

The organisers also patiently explained the logistical reasons behind showing a deferred live telecast of the awards and why some of the entertainment acts were pre-recorded.

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Report on Mumbai attacks on Monday: PM

LAHORE: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday said he will receive the report on investigation into the Mumbai attacks on Monday and its findings will be made public thereafter.

The findings of the report will be shared with India and the world community, the PM told reporters at the airport after arriving here from Islamabad.

He said the facts will not be kept concealed.

Regarding Kashmir standoff, the Premier said Pakistan is not silent on the issue and wants it to be resolved in accordance with the “wishes” of the Kashmiri people.

He said it is Nawaz Sharif’s own view that he is being declared ineligible under a conspiracy. The government cannot interfere in judicial matters, he added.

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Sanjay Dutt to contest in Lok Sabha polls

NEW DELHI: Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted in connection with India’s worst-ever bombing in 1993, has been offered a ticket by the regional Samajwadi Party to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The Samajwadi Party, a key ally of the ruling Congress, announced on Thursday Dutt would be fielded from Lucknow.

Dutt, 49, was not immediately available for comment, but an aide told Reuters the actor was shooting for a film in Kashmir and could make a statement next week.

The beefy action hero was convicted in 2007 for taking an AK-56 rifle and a pistol from gangsters linked to the 1993 bombings in Mumbai in which 257 people were killed.

Dutt, who was sentenced to six years in prison, challenged the conviction and is currently out on bail.

The actor is best known for his turn in “Lage Raho Munnabhai,” a comedy about a gangster espousing Gandhian values that was adjudged the best popular film at the National Film Awards for 2006.

“Sanjay Dutt has a great contribution towards popularising Gandhi’s philosophy among the new generation,” Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh told reporters on Thursday.

Political parties have often fielded Bollywood actors in elections, hoping to cash in on their popular appeal.

Singh said his party would move the Supreme Court and the country’s election commission seeking permission to allow Dutt to contest the polls.

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Ajmal remanded to police custody till Jan 19

MUMBAI: Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested for his involvement in the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks, was on Tuesday remanded to police custody till January 19 by a Magistrate court here.

Ajmal was remanded for his involvement in the Cama hospital firing registered in the Azad Maidan police station at south Mumbai. However, Ajmal, who had no legal representation, was not produced in the court citing security reasons.

“We argued that we (police) have to investigate about the incident at Cama hospital where the firing took place,” Additional Public Prosecutor E B Dhamal told reporters.

Seven persons, including two police personnel, were killed in the shooting at Cama hospital on November 26. Ajmal is presently in judicial custody in three other cases.

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Richard Boucher arrives in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher has arrived in here on Monday.

The top American diplomat for South Asia will meet Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and other officials to

The regional tension, South Asian affairs, the war against terror, Pak-India tension and other issues will come under discussion.

Boucher was also due in New Delhi for talks likely on ongoing investigation into the attacks on Mumbai, Indian media reported.

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No state institution involved in terrorism: FO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday hit out strongly at the criticism that some elements in the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were involved in acts of terrorism and were not in control of the government.

“Pakistan’s government and state institutions are committed to the war against terror. Therefore, vilifying Pakistan or for that matter any of its state institutions on this score is unwarranted and unacceptable. In Pakistan’s view, in the given situation, what is needed is more accurate alignment in the perception and interests of Afghanistan, Pakistan, US/Nato and countries in the region that have stakes in the struggle against terrorism.
It will be helpful to win the war against terror besides dispelling mutual misgivings among them. We have enhanced our engagement with all concerned,” said the spokesman at the Foreign Office at an online media briefing.

The spokesman took exception to charges of any terrorist infrastructure on the Pakistani soil. “There is no terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. Terrorism is a global issue. Terrorist elements are found in every society and religion. Pakistan, India and other countries of the region need to follow a cooperative, and not accusatory, approach to jointly deal with this menace,” he said.

The spokesman said Pakistan as a responsible state was taking all requisite steps to counter terrorism. The international community recognises and appreciates the sacrifices made by Pakistan in combating terrorism.

“As for the reprehensible Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistan is ready to cooperate with India in investigating the incident. We are awaiting a response from the Indian side to our proposals. Both countries should work together to prevent acts of terrorism in the region. This pernicious phenomenon requires international cooperation at every level,” he pointed out.

The spokesman, in reply to a query, said it would be unfortunate if a military confrontation took place. “War or any level of military confrontation can have disastrous consequences for the region. Pakistan will not accept political or military coercion.

Although we have made it clear that Pakistan stands ready to take every possible step to defend itself, we have counselled and exercised restraint and responsibility,” he replied. Referring to the recent visit of Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei, the special envoy of his government, the spokesman said he conveyed China’s commitment to working towards reducing tension between Pakistan and India and resolving the outstanding issues through consultation and cooperation.

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Pakistan moves troops toward Indian border

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan began moving thousands of troops to the Indian border Friday, intelligence officials said, sharply raising tensions triggered by the Mumbai terror attacks.

India has blamed Pakistani-based militants for last month’s siege on its financial capital, which killed 164 people and has provoked an increasingly bitter war of words between nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in 60 years.

The troops headed to the Indian border were being diverted away from tribal areas near Afghanistan, officials said, and the move was expected to frustrate the United States, which has been pushing Pakistan to step up its fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants near the Afghan border.

Two intelligence officials said the army’s 14th Division was being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. They said some 20,000 troops were on the move. Earlier Friday, a security official said all troop leave had been canceled.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Both countries have said they want to avoid military conflict over the attacks. But India has not ruled out the use of force as it presses its neighbor to crack down on the Pakistani-based terrorist group it blames for the attack.

Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has promised to respond aggressively if attacked but reassured India Friday that Pakistan would not strike first.

“We will not take any action on our own,” Gilani told reporters. “There will be no aggression from our side.”

Meanwhile, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee accused Pakistan of trying to divert attention away from its struggle to rein in homegrown terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which Delhi accuses of masterminding the Mumbai attacks.

“They should concentrate on the real issue: how to fight against terrorists and how to fight against and bring to book the perpetrators of (the) Bombay terrorist attack,” he said.

Pakistan has arrested several senior members of the banned group and cracked down on a charity the U.S. and UN say was a front for Lashkar. India has demanded greater action, but Pakistan says it needs to share evidence backing up its claims.

Mukherjee responded Friday by saying India had provided more than enough evidence about the militants, who infiltrated Mumbai by sea.

“We have indicated to them that there are ample evidences from the log book of the captured ship, from the information available from satellite telephones and various others that elements from Pakistan were responsible for this attack,” Mukherjee told reporters.

Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Friday with the chiefs of the army, navy and air force to discuss “the prevailing security situation,” according to an official statement.

An Associated Press reporter in Dera Ismail Khan, a district that borders Pakistan’s militant-infested South Waziristan tribal area, said he saw around 40 trucks loaded with soldiers heading away from the Afghan border Friday.

A senior security official confirmed that soldiers were being moved out of the border area, but said it was “a limited number from areas where they were not engaged in any operation.”

He declined further comment and asked his name not be used, citing the sensitivity of the situation.

The White House said it was discussing the reported troop movements with U.S. embassies in the region and was urging both countries to cooperate in investigating the attacks and fighting terrorism.

“We hope that both sides will avoid taking steps that will unnecessarily raise tensions during these already tense times,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Analysts said the redeployment was likely meant as a warning to India not to launch missile strikes against militant targets on its territory, a response that some have speculated is possible.

“It is a message to India that if you think you can get away with strikes, you are sadly mistaken,” said Talat Masood, a retired general and military analyst based in Islamabad.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, two over Kashmir, a Muslim majority region in the Himalayas claimed by both countries.

They came close to a fourth after suspected Pakistani militants attacked India’s parliament in 2001. Both countries massed hundreds of thousands of troops to the disputed Kashmir region, but tensions cooled after intensive international diplomacy.

News of the buildup comes as Indian officials say militant activity in Indian Kashmir has fallen to its lowest levels since an anti-India militant movement began there in 1989.

The number of militant attacks fell 40 percent from 2007-2008, reaching 709 this year from roughly 1,100 last year, Kuldeep Khoda, a senior police official, said in a statement.

Police say there are 850 militants fighting in the region, including followers of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is widely believed to be a creation of Pakistani intelligence in the 1980s and used to fight Indian-rule in Kashmir.

Indian authorities say the decrease in attacks is the result of an experienced security apparatus that has struck at the heart of many militant groups — Khoda said Indian forces have killed about 350 militants this year, including some top-ranking commanders. But they also say that the militants have scaled back their attacks as a large public protest movement gained momentum since last summer.

Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 soldiers in Waziristan and other northwestern regions to fight Islamic militants blamed for surging violence against Western troops in Afghanistan as well as suicide attacks in Pakistan.

Security officials have previously said the country would be forced to withdraw troops from the Afghan border if tensions with India — whose army is twice as large — escalated.

“This is a serious blow to the war on terror in the sense that the whole focus is now shifting toward the eastern border,” said Masood. “It will give more leeway to the militants and increased space to operate.”

The United States wants Pakistan to stay focused on the fight against militants in the border region, where Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders are believed to be hiding.

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India Travel Alert: Department of State travel advisory for India

WASHINGTON: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens that there is a high threat of terrorism throughout India, and advises U.S. citizens traveling to or already in India to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, especially during the end-of-year holidays until India’s Republic Day, January 26. This Travel Alert expires on January 31, 2009 and replaces that issued on December 4 to provide updated information regarding the security situation.

The November 26 terrorist attack in Mumbai was carried out at venues frequented by Americans. That attack killed 170 persons (including six Americans and 16 other non-Indians) and injured 300. Future attacks may also target public places frequented by Westerners, including in large cities and tourist areas. The State government in Goa has warned against beach parties and large gatherings on beaches and “open spaces” between December 23 and January 5.

The U.S. Mission is concerned that increased political tension between Pakistan and India may further complicate travel in areas near their already-sensitive border. In addition, the Department of Defense has increased its security requirements for all its employees visiting India.

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Mullen in Pakistan, meets Kayani

Islamabad, Dec 22 (IANS) Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Monday met Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on his second visit to Islamabad in less than 20 days to discuss the situation arising after the Mumbai terrorist attacks.Officials said Mullen’s visit came after Pakistan told the US that any threats from India can destabilise Islamabad’s efforts against terrorism as the Pakistan Army engaged on western borders would be shifted to the eastern borders.

According to television channels quoting unnamed officials, General Kayani told Admiral Mullen that Pakistan was capable of meeting any aggression and will “give India a befitting reply if it attacked Pakistan”.

Both military officials in their meeting exchanged views on the Pakistan-India situation, war on terror, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border situation and overall security in the region.

Earlier, Admiral Mullen called on National Security Advisor Mehmood Ali Durrani.

Mullen will meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Kayani met Zardari and briefed him on the security situation and preparedness of the army.