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Posts Tagged ‘South Waziristan

Forces, jet fighters kill 42 Taliban in Orakzai

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HANGU: Security forces backed by fighter jets killed 42 terrorists and injured another 13 in various parts of Orakzai Agency on Sunday.

Fighter jets bombed terrorist hideouts in Ghuz Garh, Ghalju, Tali, Tore Kandi and Kasha areas, killing 20 and injuring 13 Taliban.

Sources said five hideouts were also destroyed in the attacks.

Also, Swat Scouts killed 22 Taliban in a six-hour battle in Mulla Khel, Rangi Kandu, Mir Garh, Drai Choti and Sumpag and consolidated their position in the areas.

The security forces also destroyed 12 terrorist hideouts in these areas.

The military launched the ongoing offensive in Orakzai in mid-March to flush out Taliban who last year fled an army offensive in the nearby South Waziristan.

Continuous artillery and air attacks have killed hundreds of insurgents over the past two months, the military says.

On Friday, security forces backed by fighter jets and helicopters gunships had killed at least 80 Taliban and injured another 60 in the agency.

The forces had took control of Arha Guld, Knadao, Threy Sotay, Supaka Kandoi and Khatango Ghar areas of Upper Orakzai and consolidated their potions in the reclaimed areas.

Ball has begun to roll in favour of Pakistan

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By Asif Haroon Raja

When Pak Army troops moved into South Waziristan in 2002 for the first time at the behest of Washington to hunt and flush out foreign elements, it offended the militant tribesmen living peacefully and they decided to confront the Army.

The ensuing clash led to organized resistance resulting in inflaming all seven agencies of FATA, greater part of NWFP and even Punjab. Balochistan was also lit up by sowing seeds of separatism among the Baloch. Pak Army thus got engaged in fighting its own people and both sides started to bleed each other as a result of which centre of gravity of terrorism shifted from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

Hundreds of terrorist attacks, suicide and bomb attacks have taken place resulting in phenomenal human and material losses. Fighting US dictated war on terror made Musharraf popular in USA, western world and India but he became unpopular in Pakistan since he was seen as a puppet of Bush. This factor together with lawyers’ movement paved the way for his expulsion from power. One big favour he bestowed upon Pakistan was to hand over Army Chief’s hat to Gen Ashfaq Kayani.

Different people proudly lay claim on ouster of Gen Musharraf. Some say it was lawyers’ movement which forced him to quit while others maintain that it was defiance of chief justice Iftikhar which set the ball rolling. PPP claim that sagacity and adroitness of Benazir forced him to shed his second hat of army chief and to announce elections. Others say that it was Zardari who played his cards shrewdly to make him abdicate power. Notwithstanding the genuineness of these claims since each one did play a part in weakening the dictator, the fact of the matter is that the US played a role in his elevation to the rank of COAS. He also captured total power with tacit blessing of US. He remained in power for nine years since he served the American interests faithfully. He could have easily continued to stay in power for another five years if the US had not lost interest in him after he became reluctant and less obliging to fulfill certain sensitive demands of USA which tended to cross the red line.

He was with them as long as the war was confined to terrorists and extremists. When he realized that the US was more friendly with India and was giving very less and demanding much more and had sinister designs against core interests of Pakistan he became cautious. When pressed to open up nuclear program for IAEA inspection, hand over Dr. AQ Khan for interrogation and rollback nuclear program he regretted that it was not within his capability to oblige. He knew that it could not only compromise the position of Army leadership but also evoke public wrath. He took effective measures to defang AQ Khan Network and to safeguard nuclear assets. He avoided going full hog against extremists in FATA and Swat and believed in policy of peace deals.

When he was asked to stop military operation in Balochistan, cancel Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, oust China from Gwadar development, and shift bulk of troops towards western border, he started to drag his feet to buy time. He expressed his inability to meet their requirements under the plea of strong backlash within armed forces and cautioned them that it would make his position untenable. Earlier on, he had expressed his reluctance to allow Benazir to return to Pakistan but gave in to US demand only when he came under increasing pressure of lawyers’ movement. He was therefore forced by circumstances to team up with Benazir to fill the political void and jointly perform the final act of denuclearization and de-Islamisation of Pakistan.

To the horror of plot makers, they found Benazir on whom they had hinged high hopes playing a shrewd game. A sudden change had come in her disposition once she landed at Karachi airport on 18 October 2007 and saw unprecedented rousing reception accorded to her by her fans. The tears she shed were genuine. Whatever understanding she had given to her sponsors during her exile were set aside after the gory blasts in her caravan on the same night in which hundreds of Jyalas were cut to pieces. The schemers had planned the attack with the objective of swaying public opinion against the Taliban and build sympathy for her but it backfired since she learnt that the blasts, claimed as suicide attacks, were not executed by Baitullah’s men.

She cooked her goose when she locked horns with Musharraf in November and raised slogans in favor of deposed chief justice. Return of Sharif brothers from forced exile and assassination of Benazir on 27 December scuttled US plan to carve out a dream team of liberal parties only.

Plan Bravo was put into motion and Zardari brought on the centre stage from nowhere to do US bidding. Musharraf was shown the door and Zardari brought in his place. National Assembly was again turned into a rubber stamp and all powers were concentrated in hands of NRO cleansed Zardari and US appointed persons holding key appointments. With his tail firmly in the hands of Washington, he was pressed to do what Musharraf could not do.

The period from 2008 till early 2010 was extremely onerous because of worsening state of security, collapsing economy and messy political situation. The challenging moments were: (1) When the US came out with its wish to place ISI under Ministry of Interior; in other words under direct control of Washington. Its fault was that it had hampered CIA- RAW’s activities. (2) Joint control of nuclear assets so as to determine secret locations of nukes and to take them under control. (3) Pakistan pressured to allow India to carryout surgical strikes on suspected targets inside Pakistan territory after Mumbai carnage and to hand over suspects to India. Air strikes from the east together with drone attacks from the west would have enabled India and USA to destroy nuclear plants. (4) Threat from Indian forces along eastern front, pressures from turbulent western border and resurgent local militants. Multiple external and internal threats posed a serious dilemma to military. (5) Dismissal of Punjab Ministry and imposition of governor rule. Idea was to destabilize the only province which was relatively stable. (6) Reinstatement of deposed judges blocked so as to keep US handpicked rulers in power. (7) Desire by US-NATO troops to barge into FATA and carryout joint operations with Pak troops. As a minimum, carryout air strikes in addition to drone strikes and ground raids. Intention was to gain a toehold and then keep creeping forward. (8) Kerry Lugar Bill, which virtually meant to rob Pakistan of its honor and sovereignty. (9) Settlement of Kashmir dispute on Indian terms. (10) Convincing Pakistan to accept India as a harmless friend posing no threat. (11) Forcing Pak Army to thin out troops from eastern border and launch simultaneous operations in Swat, South and North Waziristan. (12) Confronting foreign aided militants in Malakand Division, Swat and South Waziristan. It would have been catastrophic if these battles had turned into a stalemate. (13) Intense Indo-US-western propaganda to undermine Pakistan.

Much to the chagrin and frustration of plot makers, the Army under Kayani together with air force pilots, ISI under Lt Gen Shuja Pasha, judiciary under Chief Justice Iftikhar, lawyers community, vibrant civil society and independent media came in the way of those inclined to barter away national interests. These institutions blocked each and every menacing move impinging upon national security and managed to take the country out of turbulent waters.

Their combined efforts helped in frustrating evil designs of adversaries of Pakistan and in bringing a positive change in the attitudes of US leaders.

Notwithstanding that no dramatic breakthroughs were achieved on any of the major points concerning Kashmir and water disputes with India and civil nuclear energy deal similar to Indo-US deal in the recently concluded strategic dialogue, however, a good beginning has been made. Master coordinator has been compelled by circumstances to take its hands off Pakistan.

The US is now trying to restrain India, Afghanistan and Israel to put on hold its subversive activities against Pakistan for the time being. Although Pakistan is not completely off the hook, worst seems to be over and the ball has begun to roll in favor of Pakistan.

Turkey keen to cooperate with Pakistan in all fields

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Both countries to upgrade strategic ties, jointly defeat terrorism; Zardari, Gul have heart-to-heart meeting

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Turkey on Wednesday expressed resolve to upgrade their strategic partnership and intensify political and economic cooperation besides jointly defeating militancy and terrorism that continue to claim scores of innocent lives in Pakistan and Turkey.

The understanding came at a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Turkish President Abdullah Gul here at the Presidency which reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations.
The one-on-one meeting between the two presidents was followed by a delegation level formal talks which were attended on the Pakistan side by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Food & Agriculture Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Interior Minister Rehman A Malik, Railways Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, Finance Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh besides other senior officials.

On Turkish side, Minister of State Prof Mehmet Aydin, Minister for Health Prof Recap Akdag, Minister for Agricultural & Rural Affairs M Mehdi Eker, were present besides Turkish Ambassador Babar Hizlan, members of parliament and other senior officials.

During the meeting, President Zardari said the public-private partnership model of development adopted by Pakistan could open new horizons of cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey and lend greater depth and substance to the existing cordial ties between the two countries and transform it into a strategic partnership.

Briefing the media on the meeting, Spokesperson for the President Farhatullah Babar said during talks President Asif Ali Zardari emphasised the need for upgrading communication links to further boost trade, commerce and people-to-people contacts. He said the existing rail link needed to be upgraded so as to open up and connect vast European and Asian markets to the benefit of not only Pakistan and Turkey but also of all people in the region. He suggested that the train may be named after the Turkish President as ìGul Trainî.

The president said the proposed 6,500 km Islamabad-Istanbul rail link would vastly improve regional connectivity. It may be mentioned that as per the decision taken during the ECO Ministerial meeting in Tehran in March last year, the demonstration run of the Islamabad-Tehran-Istanbul container train was launched on August 14 last year.

During President Zardari’s January visit to Istanbul, the Turkish railway authorities also gave a detailed briefing on the prospects of the Islamabad-Istanbul container train. Turkey also offered to assist Pakistan in upgrading its railway network to facilitate operationalisation of the Islamabad-Istanbul container train.

Farhatullah Babar said the two presidents also witnessed the signing of three bilateral agreements between the two countries in the Presidency at the conclusion of the delegation level talks.

The bilateral agreements signed on Wednesday pertained to MoU for collaboration in the fields of agro-based industries, MoU between the Board of Investment of GOP and Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency (ISPAT) and MoU on cooperation in Planning between the Government of Pakistan and Government of the Republic of Turkey.

After the signing ceremony, the two presidents read out their respective statements to the press. In a joint press talk, President Zardari said Pakistan greatly values its strategic partnership with Turkey which is rooted in shared interests, common concerns and convergence of perceptions on regional and global issues.

“Pakistan is an important country of the region and the world because of its flourishing democracy and strategic location and our bilateral relations are also an example for the entire world,” said Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

President Zardari said Pakistan and Turkey have reiterated the commitment to boost relations in the diverse fields, including economy, trade, investment, agriculture, infrastructure development, defence and people-to-people contacts.

“Keeping in view the huge potential, we have decided to pay special attention to re-energise our trade relations for the mutual benefit of our people and meet the agreed targets,” he added.

President Zardari said the private sector plays a pivotal role in trade enhancement and economic development and to harness potential of the private sector, the two countries had launched Pak-Turk CEO’s forum during the visit of the Turkish prime minister to Pakistan last October.

He said the second meeting of the CEO forum is being held in Islamabad on Wednesday afternoon and in Lahore Thursday. The president said both Pakistan and Turkey condemn terrorism and extremism and “we have reiterated our staunch resolve to jointly defeat this menace”.

He said during talks with President Abdullah Gul, he briefed him on Pakistan’s campaign against extremism and militancy which enjoyed full support of the people. He said the remarkable success of the military operations in Swat, Malakand and South Waziristan are a result of national unity and immense sacrifices of the people and armed forces.

President Zardari said Pakistan and Turkey hold identical views on Afghanistan and “we will continue to lend our support to Kabul’s national efforts to achieve durable peace, prosperity and sustainable development”.

In his remarks, Turkish President Abdullah said Turkey has long standing and historical relations with Pakistan and efforts will be made to further strengthen these relations in future. He said there should be more delegation level visits and meetings to take the relations to new heights.

Appreciating Pakistan’s role in the war against terror, he said the prevailing environment of reconciliation and harmony in Pakistan will guarantee the success of Pakistan in the fight against the menace of militancy and extremism.

The Turkish president also urged the international community to help Pakistan in the fight against this menace. Responding to a question for promoting trade relations between the two countries, the Turkish president said Pakistan and Turkey enjoy excellent brotherly relations but these have not been translated in the fields of economy, commerce and trade.

He said efforts will be made to take the trade between the two countries to the tune of five billion dollars in the shortest possible time. He described his visit to Pakistan as very important and expressed the confidence that it will give new dimensions to relations between the two countries.

He said the Wednesdayís talks will result in concrete outcome and both the countries will enhance their cooperation in economy, trade and energy. He appreciated Pakistan for its contribution to war on terror and also commended the political parties for joining in to root out the menace.

He urged the international community to express solidarity with Pakistan to win the war. He emphasised the need for improving rail link between the two countries and enhanced trade through train service.

President Gul said the energy cooperation is another important field where both the countries can cooperate to overcome Pakistan’s power crisis. He said during his visit to Lahore on Thursday he looked forward to further promoting cultural relations with Pakistan besides people-to-people contacts.

President Zardari thanked Turkey for cooperating with Pakistan, especially in hosting bilateral meetings with Afghanistan, to bring peace and stability in the region. He said Pakistan enjoys excellent relations with Afghanistan and is cooperating to bring peace in that country.

Answering a question, President Abdullah Gul said both the countries have great potential for economic and trade relations but it is unfortunate that it has not yet enhanced properly.He hoped that his current visit would lead to enhanced trade and economic relations. He was confident that the bilateral trade would touch $2 billion mark in a year or two and ultimately swell to $5 billion a year.

US kills FBI-wanted terrorist in Pakistan strike

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Associated Press

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan – A U.S. missile strike in Pakistan killed one of the FBI’s most-wanted terrorists, a man suspected in a deadly 1986 plane hijacking with a $5 million bounty on his head, three Pakistani intelligence officials said Friday.

The death would be the latest victory for the CIA-led missile campaign against militant targets in Pakistan’s insurgent-riddled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, a campaign that has recently escalated. One Thursday is believed to have missed Pakistan’s Taliban chief.

The intelligence officials said a Jan. 9 missile strike in the North Waziristan tribal region killed Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim. The FBI’s Web site lists him as a Palestinian with possible Lebanese citizenship. The Pakistani officials called him an al-Qaida member, but the FBI site says he was a member of the Abu Nidal Palestinian terrorist group.

Rahim is wanted for his alleged role in the Sept. 5, 1986, hijacking of Pan American World Airways Flight 73 during a stop in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, according to the FBI site.

The hijackers demanded that 1,500 prisoners in Cyprus and Israel be released and that they be flown out of Pakistan. At one point, the hijackers shot and threw hand grenades at passengers and crew in one part of the plane. Some 20 people, including two Americans, died during the hijacking.

Rahim had been tried and convicted by Pakistan, but he and three suspected accomplices were apparently released in January 2008. All four were added to the FBI list late last year.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The three Pakistani intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they lacked authority to speak to media on the record. They cited field informants and sources in militant ranks.

But the information is nearly impossible to verify independently because access to Pakistan’s tribal regions is restricted.

North Waziristan is considered a key sanctuary for a range of militant groups, including al-Qaida and factions focused on battling the U.S. in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been resisting mounting U.S. pressure to wage an army offensive in the region.

In the meantime, the U.S. has been pounding it with missiles. A pair of missiles hit a house in the Mishta area of South Waziristan on Friday, the 10th such attack in roughly two weeks in Pakistan’s tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Two intelligence officials told The Associated Press that the two people killed were suspected militants. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not have the authority to make such disclosures to the press.

Four of the drone-fired missiles landed Friday in the Zarniri area of North Waziristan, killing three people. The area is near where a strike Thursday killed 12 people but is thought to have missed its apparent target, Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

A purported audiotape of Mehsud denying his death emerged Friday but contained no specific reference to the missile strike.

The lack of a reference to Thursday’s strike means the tape could have been recorded prior, possibly to keep the Pakistani Taliban united in case Mehsud was incapacitated. Militants have in the past given misleading information about who lived and who died.

“Propaganda is spreading through the media that Hakimullah has been martyred, and propaganda is spreading that the operation in South Waziristan has successfully concluded. It can never happen,” Mehsud said in the Pashto language on the audio recording.

Another Pakistani Taliban militant played the audiotape for the AP reporter in a landline phone call, which the reporter recorded. The reporter recognized the voice as Mehsud’s.

Intelligence officials have said Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud appeared to have escaped the strike, while a local Taliban commander also denied rising speculation Friday that Mehsud was wounded.

“I can confirm that our emir, Hakimullah Mehsud, is alive. He is not wounded. He is leading the fighters in South Waziristan,” said the commander, Omar Khatab, in a walkie-talkie conversation with an Associated Press reporter.

Killing Mehsud would be a major victory for both Washington and Islamabad.

Under the 28-year-old’s watch, militant attacks in Pakistan have soared since October, even as the army has waged an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan tribal region. Mehsud also appeared on a recent video with the Jordanian militant who killed seven CIA employees in a December suicide attack in Afghanistan.

Mehsud’s predecessor, fellow tribesman Baitullah Mehsud, died in a missile strike last August in South Waziristan. For nearly three weeks, militants denied his death even as U.S. and Pakistani officials said they were increasingly confident of it.

The Pakistani Taliban appeared in disarray for those initial weeks following Baitullah Mehsud’s death, with several reports emerging of a power struggle between Hakimullah Mehsud and the man who eventually became his deputy, Waliur Rehman.

In public, Pakistani government officials criticize the missile strikes and say the United States is violating their country’s sovereignty. But there is little doubt Islamabad agrees to at least some of the attacks and provides targeting information for them.