Tag Archive | "taliban"

Militants blow themselves up in Azad Kashmir

MUZAFFARABAD: Three suspected Taliban militants blew themselves up on Saturday as police chased them in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, police said.

Militants have carried out a series of bomb attacks across Pakistan in recent weeks in retaliation for a military offensive in the northwest, but there have been no attacks in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The Saturday incident will revive concern that the militants are trying to expand their campaign of violence to distract the military as it makes progress in an offensive in South Waziristan on the Afghan border.

Police said they launched a hunt in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, after residents reported that three men had dumped a bag of weapons on a road in the centre of the town.

‘They ran towards the mountains when our men chased them and blew themselves as we got close,’ Tariq Qayyum, a senior police official, told Reuters.

‘Their bodies have blown apart. We have found two heads and a torso.’

Kashmir is at the core of a decades-old dispute between Pakistan and India and the cause of two of their three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947.

Separatist insurgents allegedly backed by Pakistan have been fighting Indian security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir for the past 20 years, but Pakistani-administered Kashmir had been largely peaceful.

Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in the first suicide attack in Pakistani-administered Kashmir in June.

That raised concern that the militants were expanding their attacks into new areas to divert the security forces.

(News sourced from: Dawn)

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US strike ‘kills eight militants’

A suspected US missile strike has killed at least eight militants in north-western Pakistan, officials said, the second attack this week in an area believed to hold many insurgents who fled from an army offensive elsewhere in the Afghan border region.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told visiting CIA director Leon Panetta that any new US strategy for Afghanistan must take into account Pakistan’s concerns, especially fears that more troops could push militants across the border into Pakistan, according to a statement by Gilani.

The CIA is believed to be behind the more than 40 missile strikes to have hit suspected al-Qaida and Taliban targets over the last year close to the border region.

American officials do not generally acknowledge the attacks, which are unpopular among many in the region.

A US drone fired two missiles at a compound being used by suspected Taliban militants in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, according to two intelligence officials.

The compound was destroyed and eight bodies were pulled from the rubble, the officials said, adding that two other suspected militants were wounded.

The targeted compound in the village of Shakhwadi was owned by two brothers, and Taliban militants were frequently seen visiting the building, which was cordoned off after the missile strike, the officials said.

Ahmed Nawaz Dawar, a local tribesman, said Taliban militants buried those killed and took the wounded to a hospital. Another suspected US missile strike killed three militants and wounded four just after midnight on Thursday in Shana Khuwara village in North Waziristan, officials said.

Anti-American sentiment is pervasive throughout Pakistan. The Pakistani government publicly condemns the US strikes as violations of its sovereignty, but many analysts believe the two countries have a secret deal allowing them.

The US Embassy declined to comment on the CIA director’s visit to the country. American security and government leaders have frequently visited Pakistan in recent weeks to discuss its role in stabilizing Afghanistan as President Barack Obama prepares to announce his decision on strategy and troop levels in the country.

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ANALYSIS-Pakistan worries over new U.S. Afghan strategy

ISLAMABAD, Nov 20  - As the United States ponders its Afghan strategy, Pakistan is waiting nervously, worried that a U.S. troops surge would widen the war but also keen to see a robust U.S. commitment that would convince the Taliban to talk.

U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on Wednesday to end the Afghan war before he leaves office.

He said he would announce the results of his long-awaited review soon and it would include an exit strategy to avoid “a multi-year occupation that won’t serve the interests of the United States”.

There are nearly 110,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including 68,000 Americans, more than half of whom have arrived since Obama took office. He is now deciding whether to fulfil his commander’s request for tens of thousands more.

That has raised worry in Pakistan of a spike of Afghan violence spilling over the ill-defined border into Pakistan where its army is battling its own version of the Taliban.

Those fears were raised recently in talks in Islamabad with visiting U.S. national security adviser General James Jones, a senior Pakistani government official said.

“We have concerns that Taliban may try to cross into Pakistan if violence increased after the new deployment,” said the official who is involved in Afghan policy.

“Such a situation will definitely complicate issues for us particularly at a time when we’re involved in the offensive in Waziristan,” he said, referring to a month-long offensive in South Waziristan on the Afghan border.

The army has seized most main Pakistani Taliban bases in the region of barren mountains and patchy scrub. The militants have retaliated with a barrage of bombs in towns and cities.

Responding to Pakistani concerns of a spill-over, U.S. officials said reinforcements would not open new fronts but would focus on securing populated areas, the official said.

While worried about the arrival of more U.S soldiers, Pakistan is probably more vexed about the possibility of their hasty departure.

Memories of the United States walking away from Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and leaving the country in chaos are still raw in Pakistan.

“They have always felt that the United States would run away and they would be left with the mess — just like they were in the 1990s,” said former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel.

“It is very hard to dispel that image,” said Riedel, who was in charge of Obama’s review of policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan last March. He is now with the Brookings Institution.


Obama’s talk of an exit before he leaves office is likely to compound fears of a U.S. rush to the door. The U.S. president comes to the end of his first term in just over three years. A second and final term would end in seven years.

“An exit strategy should be staggered over six to seven years .. They shouldn’t repeat the mistake made after the Soviet withdrawal,” said the Pakistani official, who declined to be identified.

Pakistan wants to see an orderly U.S. withdrawal after a negotiated settlement including elements of the Taliban.

The Taliban will seize on any sign of U.S. vacillating as weakness and will only be dragged into talks if they are convinced of U.S. commitment backed by troops, an analyst said.

“It’s very important that they should increase their numerical strength and give an impression to the Taliban that they aren’t going away. Tilt the balance in their favour to a point at least that some decent negotiations can go on,” said retired Pakistani general and analyst Talat Masood.

But any show of force to convince the Taliban of U.S. commitment must be accompanied by political reform to win over ethnic Pashtuns, another Pakistani official said.

The Taliban draw most of their support and recruits from Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic group, many of whom feel alienated by a Kabul government seen as dominated by ethnic Tajiks even though President Hamid Karzai is Pashtun.

“Military strategy alone can’t correct policy-level errors,” said a senior Pakistani security official. “They have to help create a system of governance that has broader acceptability and legitimacy by getting the larger Pashtun population on board.”

The United States also wanted Pakistan to be a conduit for talks with the Taliban, the official said. Pakistan officially cut contacts with their former allies after the Sept. 11 attacks.

(News sourced from: Reuters)

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Afghan minister’s $30m bribery allegations worsens Karzai’s corruption woes

Kabul, Nov. 18 : A minister in Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet has been accused of accepting roughly 30-million-dollar bribe to award the country’s largest development project to a Chinese mining firm, a US official has claimed.

The Washington Post quoted the US official as saying that there is a “high degree of certainty” that the minister of mines, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel, received the alleged payment in Dubai within a month of December 2007, when the state-run China Metallurgical Group Corp. received the contract for a 2.9 billion dollar project to extract copper from the Aynak deposit in Logar province.

Adel has denied receiving bribes or illicit payments during his three-year-old tenure as minister and said that MCC won the contract after a fair review process.

“I am responsible for the revenue and benefit of our people. All the time I”m following the law and the legislation for the benefit of the people,” he said.

The allegation, if proved true, would only add to Karzai’s worries who is already under intense international pressure to clear his cabinet of ministers who have reaped huge profits through bribery and kickback schemes.

Although he announced a new anti-corruption unit this week, the president has been reluctant to fire scandal-tainted ministers in the past, and it is unclear whether he is ready to do so now.

Meanwhile, Afghans perceptions that they are ruled by a thieving class have weakened support for the government and bolstered sympathy for the Taliban insurgency. (ANI)

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Experts question Pak military’s success in South Waziristan

The Pakistan Army has claimed massive success in the offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, establishing control over Sararogha, the town which the militants referred to as their capital, but both US and Pakistani experts have  questioned the army’s efforts and fear the extremists would bounce back.

Many are surprised by the unexpectedly light resistance that the troops have faced in the region, which is considered as the Taliban’s stronghold.

US officials believe that the insurgents have shifted to the rough terrains along the Afghan border, while the military penetrates deeper into the region.

“That’s what bothers me. Where are they?” questioned an American intelligence officer.

“They are fleeing in all directions. The Uzbeks are fleeing to Afghanistan and the north, and the Mehsuds are fleeing to any possible place they can think of,” The New York Times quoted a Pakistani security official, on conditions of anonymity, as saying.

Success in this region could have a direct bearing on how many more American troops are ultimately sent to Afghanistan, and how long they must stay, the newspaper said.

For the Pakistan Army, the bigger question is for how long it would be able to hold on to the region.

Experts see the militants coming back once again as the security forces lack have failed to win people’s confidence in the region.

“Are they really winning the people - this is the big question. They have weakened the Taliban tactically, but have they really won the area if the people are not with them?” said Talat Masood, a military analyst.

Citing American abandonment after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in 1989, a Pakistani intelligence official pointed that the terrorist would definitely return to wreack havoc once the military retreats.

“If they leave in haste, like they left in the past, we will be back to the bad old days.Our jihadis would head back to Afghanistan, reopen training camps, and it will be business as usual,” he said. 

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Fazlullah safe, sound in Afghanistan: Self-claim

Wednesday, November 18 PESHAWAR: Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah on Tuesday claimed that he had safely crossed over to Afghanistan.

The BBC Urdu Service said the Maulana phoned its Peshawar reporter Abdul Hai Kakar to claim that he was in Afghanistan and that his fighters would soon start guerrilla attacks against security forces in Swat.

The report said Fazlullah read a written statement while speaking from a mobile phone having Afghanistan code. The signal wasn’t clear, probably due to the fact the he was in some remote mountainous area.

Fazlullah threatened that NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who is in the forefront in condemning the Taliban, would meet the same fate as late Afghan president Dr Najibullah. It may be recalled that Dr Najibullah was shot dead and then hanged, along with his younger brother Ahmadzai, in Kabul’s Aryana Square by the Afghan Taliban on September 27, 1996 on the day they captured the city.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain on his part said the provincial government would probe the circumstances in which Fazlullah escaped from Swat.

The ANP-PPP government and the federal government functionaries as well as military authorities have been claiming that Fazlullah had been cornered in a small area in Swat after being injured in an Army action.

“It’s next to impossible to take a crippled man, if we are to believe the government version, from Swat to Afghanistan. Even if he hasn’t lost any of his limbs, crossing over to Afghanistan for a person like Fazlullah is difficult because he would have to go through Dir and Bajaur’s Momand area to enter the neighbouring country. He can be spotted, particularly when escorted by a group of people,” former ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand told The News.

Rustam Shah said it would be considered a defeat for both the Taliban and security forces. “Actually, the massive military operation that resulted in huge displacement was launched to kill or capture this man. If he covers such a long distance in a hard area to escape, it’s the failure of security forces,” he argued.

On the other hand, Rustam Shah said it was an utter defeat for the Taliban as their movement in the area was no more and the leadership fled because it was convinced they could not survive in the valley. He believed it was difficult for Fazlullah to cross over to Afghanistan but he might have gone there. “It could also be a tactic to distract security forcesí attention from him and make them believe to stop a search for him,” he added.

Former secretary security Fata Brig (retd) Mahmood Shah said his escape to Afghanistan was the failure of security forces. “It would be a great embarrassment for Pakistani and Afghan security forces if Fazlullah has crossed over,” he said.

However, he doubted that whether he had gone to the neighbouring country. “Some mobile SIMs of Afghanistan work in border areas of Pakistan so it doesn’t prove he is on other side of the border,” he said. He also questioned as to whether the person who talked to the BBC was really Fazlullah. Mahmood Shah said he didn’t think Fazlullah had gone to Afghanistan and argued he might have orchestrated this drama to find an excuse for their failure to continue their activities in Swat.

“Neither Fazlullah could run an organisation from Afghanistan nor the Afghan Taliban will allow him to do so,” Rustam Shah said and hastened to add that Fazlullah might be asked to either fight against the Nato forces or peacefully live in the southern part of that country.

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Taliban claims some attacks, denies others in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Taliban leaders have claimed responsibility for a wave of suicide bombings that have battered the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The militants also vow to carry out more attacks in the future.

But a Taliban spokesman also denied responsibility for some of the deadliest suicide bombings in recent history, saying they were staged by Pakistani intelligence agencies to sap support for the militants.

On Monday morning, a suicide bomber in a car loaded with hundreds of kilograms of explosives self-detonated outside a police station in Peshawar, killing at least six people and wounding 25.

It was the sixth suicide bomb attack in and around the provincial capital in eight days.

“These are religiously legitimate targets,” Azam Tariq, the spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan), said in a videotaped statement released over the Internet this weekend.
“The targets of the Tehrik-i-Taliban have always been clear: those state organizations who at the behest of the Americans target the Tehrik-i-Taliban and have the blood of our martyrs on their hands.”

He went on to deny responsibility for the twin suicide bombings at the International Islamic University in Islamabad and for the October 28 car bombing of a crowded Peshawar market, which killed more then 100 people.

“I want to make it clear to the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, that the bomb blasts targeting civilians are not the work of the mujahedeen,” Tariq said. “Instead, it is the work of Pakistan’s sinister secret organizations and Blackwater.”

He was referring to the controversial American security company formerly known as Blackwater, now Xe Services LLC.

Reports about the alleged and often unsubstantiated activities of U.S. security contractors have become the focus of much speculation and anger in the Pakistani media in recent weeks.

In response to such claims, Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke said last week, “We have no contracts in Pakistan. Our competitor holds that WPPS (worldwide personal protection services) contract.

“We’ve been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there.”

DeLuke added: “Just as Kleenex has become the generic name for all tissues, we’ve become the generic name for all private contractors, regardless of truth or validity.”

In making his claims, Tariq read his statement before the camera, seated with his back to a tree in a mountainous area.

IRAQ14_CARBOMB_KK_136.jpgIn recent days, Taliban officials have called news organizations to contradict battlefield claims by the Pakistani military. More then four weeks ago, the Pakistani army mounted an offensive against the remote Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan. The army says it has killed hundreds of militants, a claim that cannot be independently verified. Pakistani authorities have banned foreign observers from the conflict zone.

More then 160,000 civilians have fled the fighting.

In a call to CNN on Saturday, Qari Hussein, the man thought to have masterminded the Taliban’s suicide bombing campaign, said only 14 militants had been killed in the four-week operation.

He claimed responsibility for a massive car bombing last Friday, which destroyed the entrance to the Pakistan spy agency’s headquarters in Peshawar. Hussein also vowed to carry out more bomb attacks, and to add Pakistani political parties that criticize the Taliban to his list of targets.

“Only time will tell who the real ruler of Waziristan will be,” Hussein said. “The government, the army or the Taliban.”

(News Sourced from: CNN)

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Kayani asks US to stop drone attacks

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani on Friday again demanded from US to stop drone attacks and provide drone technology to Pakistan.

Sources said that the Chief of the Army Staff expressed these views during his meeting with the US advisor on National Security, James Jones on Friday at the GHQ.

A host of issues came under discussion like Pak-US Defense ties, the war against terrorism, situation in Afghanistan, internal and regional security and others.

During the meeting, the COAS briefed James Jones about the ongoing operation in South Waziristan. He expressed his concern on eliminating check posts at the Afghan side on the Pakistani border.

Pakistan, he said, has paid a heavy price in the war against terrorism, adding that the drone attacks must be halted immediately.

The issues relating to the new Afghan government and others were discussed with James Jones.

James Jones said that US will keep on cooperating with Pakistan thick and thin, urging that the ongoing SWA Operation is of utmost importance, adding that the National Security is most vital.

(News Sourced from: Regional Times)

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No plan for Pakistan - By Rafia Zakaria

By Rafia Zakaria

Since the release of Gen Stanley McChrystal’s report on the US effort in Afghanistan a few weeks ago, pundits and policymakers in Washington D.C. have been waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the war room briefings that have been taking place in the White House.

It was rumoured that the much-awaited decision regarding the provision of an additional 40,000 troops requested by Gen McChrystal, who is the top US commander in Afghanistan, would come in the footsteps of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s acquiescence to holding run-off elections in early November. Yet even as Mr Karzai announced his support for the run-off elections, there was no sign of a decision from President Barack Obama’s camp regarding an increase in troop levels in Afghanistan.

Yet while administration officials ponder the onerous decision of whether to commit thousands of more troops to Afghanistan, there is little sign that anyone in the Obama administration has even been charged with the task of coming up with a strategy for Pakistan. While there has been applause in Washington for the Pakistani military following its recent offensive in Waziristan, there seems to be scant consensus as to what sort of national security dividends the United States expects to reap from the offensive.

One central source of confusion and division in Washington pivots on whether security objectives in the region must be directed towards the Taliban or Al Qaeda. The confusion between the two and the consequent paralysis it has instigated among those constructing Obama’s policy harks back to the fateful campaign slogans that painted Al Qaeda and not the militants among the Iraqis or the Afghans as America’s ‘real’ enemy.

As the Pakistan Army continues its offensive against the Taliban, it is thus this lingering question that once again haunts both the White House and Congress. The perplexity of their dilemma was highlighted at a congressional hearing held last week where military analyst Frederick Kagan insisted that the war against Al Qaeda also meant a war against its allies and proxies (the Taliban) while across town White House press secretary Robert Gibbs played down the threat posed by the Taliban saying: “Their capability is somewhat different (from that of Al Qaeda) on the continuum of transnational threats.”

The uncertainty of how to proceed on Pakistan is compounded by the inability of US analysts to distinguish between its nation-building efforts in Afghanistan — a relatively desolate land that has been ravaged by 30 years of war — and Pakistan, an increasingly urban nation of nearly 170 million, which has elements openly scoffing at US aid. The theme of ‘inter-connection’ of ‘AfPak’ has often misled officials with little geographical or socio-cultural understanding of the difference between the two countries into believing that they are crude extensions of each other.

Hence the assumption that throwing aid towards Pakistan would accomplish similar nation-building goals as has been pursued in Afghanistan and simultaneously buy the goodwill of the people. The vacuity of this superficial recipe was exposed by the public outcry in Pakistan following the Kerry-Lugar bill, when the intractability of buying hearts and minds with aid disbursements came into sharp focus.

Strategic complexities in arriving at a plan for Pakistan are compounded by political complications that arise from President Obama’s core constituency: the American left. Traditionally anti-war, they spent the campaign revelling in the fact that Obama — their dream candidate — had never supported the Iraq war. They thus remain ambivalent regarding the troop build-up in Afghanistan and utterly confounded as to where they should stand on Pakistan.

While some have admittedly come out against the drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed civilians, others are vexed at the possibility that their anti-war president may be dragged to a third front. Their current paralysis and the possibility that they may vehemently oppose an increased troop presence in the region suggest untold political costs for the Obama administration in the upcoming mid-term elections and could lead to further indecision on Pakistan.

In essence, the ongoing military operation launched by the Pakistan Army against the Taliban has effectively exposed a gaping chasm in US policy towards the region. In the months leading up to the recent offensive US officials such as Defence Secretary Robert Gates and even Centcom chief Gen David Petraeus presented a series of cataclysmic pronouncements urging the Pakistan military to take the Taliban threat seriously.

Yet now that the Pakistan Army has done exactly that it seems unclear what the US expects as the end-game of this battle. Its dithering on the issue of whether or not it will choose to have a stronger troop presence in Afghanistan and the confusion regarding whether its efforts will be directed against the Taliban or Al Qaeda represent deepening divisions and unclear objectives.

The conundrum is exacerbated further by the diminishing influence of Obama’s special envoys to the region on policy discussions regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. The sidelining of special envoy Richard Holbrooke from discussions with President Karzai on the issue of run-off elections is yet another example of the fact that those actually negotiating with players in the region are losing crucial ground.

Ultimately, the absence of a cohesive US strategy towards Pakistan beyond urgings

to take the threat of the Taliban seriously is reflective of an omission that is likely to impose both political and strategic costs on the United States. For Pakistan, the war against the Taliban is territorial and directed specifically at gaining back control of specific regions. For the US, the connections drawn between its national security concerns and fighting territorial wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan are far more complex.

The evasive logic of these connections has become especially problematic when US policy towards Pakistan is exposed as a lurid hodgepodge of drone attacks, aid packages and diplomatic urgings to fight the Taliban. Given the already fragile relationship between the US and Pakistan, the absence of a comprehensive and clear plan towards the region does little to reassure Pakistanis that their status as American allies will continue in the years to come.

- The writer is an attorney and director at Amnesty International, USA. [email protected]

{Source: Dawn}

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Indian PM makes fresh offer of dialogue to Pak

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered to talk on all issues to rival Pakistan provided it cracks down on terror groups based in the country. The Indian leader, who is visiting Indian Kashmir, also called on separatist groups in the region to join a dialogue with his government.

Inaugurating a rail link in Indian Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India and Pakistan can talk on a range of issues such as trade, and easing of travel procedures for families living across the Himalayan region’s divided border.

But Mr. Singh says for a productive dialogue, it is vital for Pakistan to destroy militant groups, their camps and infrastructure on its soil.

The Indian Prime Minister says if Pakistan takes action on this, New Delhi will not be found wanting in its response.

The offer of talks comes nearly a year after New Delhi virtually put on hold a peace dialogue between the two countries following last year’s terror attacks in Mumbai, which India blamed on terrorists based in Pakistan.

Mr. Singh said the five-year-old peace process has been repeatedly setback by terror attacks in India.

The peace dialogue had lowered tensions between the rivals, but has flagged amid repeated Indian accusations that Pakistan is not doing enough to clamp down on terror groups operating from the country.

Kashmir is split between the two countries, which have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.

Speaking amid tight security, the Indian leader said an era of violence in Kashmir has come to an end, and called on separatist leaders in Kashmir to engage in a dialogue with his government.

Mr. Singh says his government is willing to talk to all people and groups who support the return of peace and development in the state.

Indian Kashmir has been wracked by a two-decade-long separatist insurgency, although levels of violence have sharply dropped in the lpast five years.

A dialogue held in 2006 with separatist leaders opposed to Indian rule failed to produce a breakthrough. But earlier this month, the Indian government said it will launch a new round of “quiet diplomacy” with Kashmiri separatists.

Moderate separatist leaders have welcomed the initiative, but hardline Kashmiri leaders are unlikely to join the dialogue. This was clear on Wednesday - hardline separatists called a general strike to protest the Indian leader’s two day visit to the region.

{Source: VOA}

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Suicide terror keeps Pakistanis at home

After summer’s paralysing heat, most Pakistanis look forward to autumn’s balmy weather as a traditional time for picnics, leisurely meals and going out.

But the recent wave of suicide attacks and terror alerts is making families and shopkeepers nervous that their next visit to a restaurant or market in Pakistan’s capital could end in carnage.

‘We don’t go anywhere, this is not a situation for moving around or going to markets and other public places,’ said Bushra Tayyeb, a housewife in Islamabad.

‘We can’t go out to eat, to the cinema or for a picnic. My kids are getting bored at home, we’re thinking of moving abroad,’ she said.

While her 12-year-old son Danish is attending classes again after schools closed for almost a week following the suicide attack on an Islamabad university, he has been upset by the disruption. Meanwhile, thousands of children at private schools are still at home.

‘I can’t study well. I can’t go watch a movie or play in the park, I don’t know what is happening with me and this country,’ Danish said.

‘I want to enjoy my life like before. I want to move freely. I can’t sit at home,’ he said, urging the government to provide protection.

Most Pakistanis mock Islamabad as an entertainment desert compared with Karachi, which never sleeps, and Lahore, feted for its cultural sophistication, and the fear has hit restaurant and shop staff with a new malaise.

‘We were busy working until 1:00 am a few weeks back, but now we hardly make our bread and butter because people are not going out these days,’ said Haseeb Abbasi, a waiter at a roadside burger stand.

The shopping complex over the road was once a crowded hangout for youngsters but, Abbasi says, few linger there now.

Western fast-food outlets in particular fear that their US connections make them more susceptible to attack by militants.

The military’s 12-day ground and air offensive against sanctuaries of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which has claimed responsibility for most of the recent attacks, has only compounded fears.

‘We have lost 50 to 60 per cent of our customers in the last few days. It is all because of suicide attacks and the South Wazirstan operation,’ said Muhammad Shabbir, manager of Islamabad’s KFC.

Attacks are nothing new in Islamabad. The most spectacular — a truck bomb killed at least 60 people at the Marriott Hotel in September 2008 — led to an exodus of many foreigners.

Pakistanis have steered clear of fast-food chains for months and the metal scanners manned by guards at restaurant doors fail to reassure them.

‘We’re going to deploy more security guards and install hidden cameras but this doesn’t guarantee that nothing will happen. If a suicide bomber decides to strike here, nothing can stop him,’ Shabbir said.

Frightened shopkeepers say they feel like sitting ducks.

‘Not only are customers staying away due to security fears but we face the same threat. Anybody looking like a customer can come and explode inside our shop,’ said Mansoor Nazir, a salesman at a clothing store.

Anger is rising against the government and the security services who fail to provide adequate protection.

‘Their duty is to protect us but they can’t even place barriers and security pickets in the right places,’ said Nazir.

Policemen, who are poorly paid and lack training, liken their task to trying to find a needle in a haystack.

‘We’re here to search for terrorists and suicide bombers but it is hard to check thousands of passengers and their cars,’ said Muhammad Hamraz, a police constable in charge of a checkpoint on a major thoroughfare.

‘A suicide bomber can strike the middle of this queue, but we come to work fully prepared for death because there is no alternative,’ he said.

{Source: Dawn}

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‘Ammi told me that the Taliban can bomb the school’

Although schools have been opened after a lapse of one week, children are mostly tense, fearful and pretty confused as to what is going on in their surroundings.

Despite their tender ages, students of secondary classes have a better perception about the Taliban and terrorism and have plenty of opinions regarding this issue.

Shahzeb, 6, a student of Class-II at Beacon House, Gulistan-e-Jauhar Campus, said that the schools were closed because there was danger of a bomb blast.

“Ammi (mother) told me that the Taliban can bomb the school. We had a drill at the school and everyday we are sent out one by one,” he told The News.

Obviously it’s something new for him that after the school shift comes to an end, children do not move out in groups but are sent out one at time with the school guard calling out their names and informing them that their parents have arrived to pick them.

Shahzeb’s elder brother Shehryar, 12, a student of Class-VI at City School, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Campus, is well aware about the looming threat.

“The schools were closed because the Taliban can strike at the schools. There is uncertainty in the city that has led to this. There was a suicide bombing at Islamic University, Islamabad, and there was a threat that something similar can happen in schools in Karachi as well,” he explained.

“Children say that since the Taliban are illiterate, therefore, they want us to be illiterate too! They also say that elite schools are more vulnerable,” he added as an after thought.

The awareness about terrorist threat amongst children is very much there despite the fact that teachers are doing their best to keep their minds and souls free from tension and anxiety.

“We don’t talk to the children about any threats or terror attacks,” said Tahira Riasat, a teacher of Class-II at Foundation Public School, Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

“However, we are being trained to cope with any emergency. During our drills, we take the kids out of backdoor staircases within two minutes,” she said.

“If the children ask why they are being taken out from the backdoor staircases, we tell them there is a traffic jam,” she added.

Meanwhile, psychiatrists say that children need parental guidance especially when it comes to watching or not watching what is being aired on TV channels. “Parents should switch off a channel or change it if they are viewing a terror act and children are sitting with them,” said Dr Syed Ali Wasif, a senior psychiatrist in the city.

“However, adopting an ostrich-like approach will be equally counter productive as it induces helplessness and more fear. Ultimately, it transforms into terror psychosis (post traumatic stress disorder) that is capable of breaking down an individual and the targeted community,” he explained.

Talking about the important steps that need to be taken, he said that first aid training should be imparted to teachers and senior school students. “People need to be taught not to panic because it will generate anxiety, impair attention, concentration and hamper cognitive functioning and decision-making,” he added.

There are tens of thousands of schools in Karachi catering to the needs of every strata of society but all children are equally prone to continuous visual bombardment of gory news by the electronic media.

“Despite the fact that children play war games in their leisure time, their personality is damaged when they view grotesque incidents of terrorism on their TV screens,” Dr Wasif said.

{Source: The News}

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  • DO TOK with Mazhar Abbas on ARY: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 2:55 am

    History of corruption and political revenge, NRO, etc. Guests: Faisal Raza Abidi (PPP), Siddiq-ul-Farooq (PML-N), Khalid Ranjha (PML-Q) and Justice (R) Tariq Mahmood.

  • MERAY MUTABIQ with Dr. Shahid Masood: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 2:18 am

    A MUST WATCH: Govt publishes NRO beneficiary list as Nov 28 approaches when NRO will expire. Guests: Roedad Khan (Ex-Bureaucrat), Ansar Abbasi (Analyst), Md Saleh Zafir (Analyst)

  • SAWAL YEH HAI with Dr. Danish: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 1:47 am

    Govt published list of NRO beneficiaries. Guests: Syed Naveed Qamar (PPP), Haidar Abbas Rizvi (MQM), Mushahid ullah Khan (PML-N) and Marvi Memon (PML-Q)

  • DUNYA TODAY with Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 1:30 am

    A MUST WATCH: Dr Maleeha Lodhi’s interview on Gen James Jones (Natl Security Advisor to Obama) delivery of Obama’s special letter to President Zardari asking Pakistan to take on the Afghan Taliban who attack US forces inside Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal areas.

  • TONIGHT with Najam Sethi: Nov 21
    November 22, 2009 | 1:19 am

    A MUST WATCH: Najam Sethi holds a no-holds-barred discussion with Gen. (R) Rashid Qureshi (Ex-DG ISPR) who later became spokesman of Gen (R) Musharraf until the end.

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