Taleban Government Appoints Two New Ministers



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The jirga had been called by tribal elders after Taliban militants attacked and killed two chiefs, or maliks, and a Muslim priest just days before. One of the slain maliks was Shah Zarin Khan and it was his supporters who addressed the jirga first.
For centuries, the system of jirgas - which women are not permitted to attend - have been used by the Pashtun tribes to decide important issues and make rulings. On this morning, the meeting had been called to discuss setting up a defence force or lashkar, to take on the Taliban, who had increasingly been vying for power with the tribal elders.
Syed Akhunzada Chattan, the local MP, was among those subsequently called to speak. He told the people, sitting on stones that have for decades been used as seats: "The sanctuary that we gave the Taliban was because we thought they were good people, because they had established peace in Afghanistan, because they fought against a superpower in the form of America. Then the Taliban started hurting us. These people are the enemy of Pakistan, they want a weak Pakistan. We cannot surrender our area to these people. We have to throw them out."
As Chattan spoke, the villagers raised their fists in a show of solidarity. There and then it was decided to set up the defence force and to target the Taliban leaders. An announcement went out that anyone with information about a Taliban fighter would receive a reward of 10,000 rupees. On the other hand, anyone found harbouring such fighters would be fined 1m rupees and their home burned down. Within a week, claims Chattan, the Taliban had been driven from the area.
Against the backdrop of rising militant violence, the establishment of traditional lashkars has been promoted by the military and the government as a homegrown means of confronting the Taliban. While some reports suggest the tribes are acting against the Taliban's efforts to impose the strictest of moral codes, there appears to be more evidence that the tribes object mainly to the militants' efforts to seize control in the areas and to criminal elements and "miscreants" who use the cloak of the Taliban to behave like mafia.
The military insists it provides the lashkars with "moral support" and encouragement but denies reports that it has supplied them with weapons or money. But the emergence of the lashkars at a time when the military is also increasing its operations, suggests at the very least a degree of central planning.
* * *
Understandably the setting-up of the lashkars remains a perilous task. The Taliban has persistently targeted tribal elders believed to be working against them. Earlier this month in the Orakzai area, more than 30 such elders from the Alizai tribe were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a meeting in the village of Ghiljo. As in the meeting in Bajaur, hundreds of people had gathered to discuss the establishment of an anti-Taliban force.
Indeed, a second meeting called by the tribal elders in Salarzai was also targeted by a suicide bomber sent by the Taliban. "He was caught, stripped of his explosive vest and then shot dead," said Chattan, the MP.
The combination of lashkars and the increasingly heavy military operations in places such as Bajaur and Swat, appears to he having some results. Last week, Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the coalition of around 40 Taliban groups operating in the tribal areas, announced that it was prepared for unconditional talks with the government if the military halted its current actions. It also offered to help oust "foreign fighters" from the tribal areas.
"We are willing to negotiate with the government without any conditions," he told the BBC's Urdu service. "We are also willing to lay down our arms, once the military ceases operations against us."
The Pakistani government the offer. Its decision indicated either that the army believes it has the upper hand over the militants or that there is ongoing pressure from Washington to continue its military strikes. Either way, it was the first time the authorities had turned down such an offer of talks.
* * *
Inside out the bombed-out interior there is a frenzy activity. Electricians, plasterers, metal workers and general labourers are furiously at work while all around them is the evidence of destruction. There is rubble, there is twisted metal, there are bombed out windows, but there is also a determination to have the Marriott Hotel ready for a grand reopening party on New Years Eve.
On the evening of September 20, a massive truck bomb was detonated at the gates of this Islamabad landmark, creating a huge crater and doing extensive damage to the building. At least 54 people were killed, including 17 security guards on duty at the gates and doors of the building. In the aftermath of the blast, a fire raged here for hours, sending up huge plumes of smoke and delivering the chillingly clear message that no-one was safe from militant violence.
While it is not entirely clear who was responsible for the blast - one Taliban spokesman denied responsibility and there are many in Pakistan who will gladly proffer the most Byzantine of conspiracy theories - most observers believe this was another militant strike on a highly visible target. The hotel was centre stage in the working and social lives of the city's political and diplomatic elite. And while Pakistanis made up the overwhelming majority of the blast's victims, it was also clearly interpreted as an attack on a Western target.
"There were 2,000 people inside the hotel at the time. A lot of lives were saved," says Maj Tahir Qureshi, the hotel's head of security, leading a way past the flurry of labourers and clouds of cement dust. "The only thing we could do was to stop them at the entry gates. Those security guards gave their lives to stop it."
There had been deadlier bomb attacks before the Marriott blast and there have been others subsequently, but it this attack that forced a wider audience to take notice of what was going on in Pakistan. A conflict that had largely been confined to the tribal areas or else bomb attacks on military and police targets, was now taking place against a Five Star backdrop. President Asif Ali Zardari, while in New York, described the event as Pakistan's 9/11.
In the aftermath, Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated last December, vowed to continue the effort against militants. "Make this pain your strength," he said. "This is a menace, a cancer in Pakistan that we will eliminate. We will not be scared of these cowards."
The attack has also forced a wider debate about how best to confront the militant threat emanating from the tribal areas. Whether militarily or else through negotiation - as the West is now attempting with the Taliban in Afghanistan - Pakistan's recently-elected civilian leaders and its military have been forced to find a solution.
With so many people killed by the violence - one recent report suggested that in the first eight months of this year suicide bombings in Pakistan had killed more people than such attacks in Iraq or Afghanistan - there has also been endless soul-searching about the nature of the enemy. Noticeably this has emerged from within Pakistani society - commentators, politicians as well as ordinary people. Religious leaders have also spoken out against what is happening. Two groups of clerics have issued fatwas or religious orders against what now totals for than 100 suicide bombings since July 2007. they have killed around 1,200 people.
Peshawar sits on the very edge of the tribal areas. In the mid-80s Usama Bin Ladin had moved his family here from Saudi Arabia and developed his reputation as a patron of humanitarian and Arab causes and a supporter of the jihad. Today, for all its modernity and amenities, there is still a hint of the city's position as a frontier town.
The crenellated sandstone walls of a British-built fort now serve as the headquarters of the Frontier Corps. Meanwhile it along the historic trade route leading from Peshawar through the Khyber Pass and on to Kabul, that 85 per cent of the fuel used by Western forces in Afghanistan is transported. Last month the crossing point on this road into Afghanistan was temporarily closed by the Pakistani authorities because of what they said was poor security.
On a recent evening, the soft golden light of South Asia is slipping away as the faithful arrive to pray at the city's Sunehri mosque. In a large, airy upstairs classroom, the imam, Khan Mohammed Saeed, sits overseeing a group of young boys, hard at their study. The imam is no liberal; his view that Pakistan should be run according to Islamic law would alarm many both inside the country and abroad.
But asked about the militants located just miles from where he sat, he does not hesitate. "There are people in the tribal areas and the NWFP who have come to do bomb blasts and destroy our religion," he says. "Our religion does not give us permission to do these things? In none of our teachings or texts or what our learned scholars have taught, is there any permission to do these things."
WHO'S FIGHTING WHO
Military/government
Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan president, widely known as "Mr 10 Per Cent" over numerous corruption cases. He became leader of the main opposition party, the People's Party of Pakistan, after his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated last year, and became president following elections. Army chief of staff General Ashfaq Kayani says the army should remain out of politics but could yet change his mind.
Pakistani Taliban
The Taliban leaders in the wild and woolly tribal areas include former gym fanatic Baitullah Mehsud, wanted for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Maulana Fazlullah, the leader in the picturesque Swat valley (which was formerly a tourist destination) has his own clandestine FM radio station. Faqir Mohammed, in Bajaur, leads a religious group that forcibly imposed Sharia in the tribal areas during the 1990s.
Al-Qa'ida
Al-Qa'ida leader Usama Bin Ladin, and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be hiding in the border regions of Pakistan while senior Taliban leaders may be living in the Pakistani city of Quetta.
Tribal leader
Anwar Kamal, a former minister, was the first to rally his tribesmen and form a lashkar, or tribal militia, to beat back the Taliban more than a year ago. Mr Kamal's success in clearing the town of Lakki Marwat, adjoining the tribal areas, has recently been replicated elsewhere.
Faultlines of history
1947 Muslim Pakistan is created out of the partition of India at the end of British rule. More than half a million Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus are killed in riots and massacres following the largest mass migration in history.
1980 After Soviet forces intervene in Afghanistan, the US gives Pakistan military support as they join forces with Saudi Arabia to fund the Islamic mujahedin.
1998 The country explodes five nuclear devices.
1999 General Pervez Musharraf leads a military coup. After 9/11 Pakistan becomes a key US ally in the "war on terror". But as turmoil mounts he is forced to quit.

[Description of Source: London The Independent in English -- leftist daily; has been consistently opposed to the Iraq war, often adopting a strong anti-US stance; known for its distinctive front page; URL: www.independent.co.uk]


AFP: Security Officials Say Suspected US Strike Killed 11 in Pakistan
JPP20081023055012 Hong Kong AFP in English 1418 GMT 23 Oct 08
[By Hasbanullah Khan]
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, Oct 23, 2008 (AFP) - Suspected US spy drones fired missiles early Thursday into a school set up by a top Taliban commander in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing 11 people, security officials said.
The air strike apparently targeting veteran militant Jalaluddin Haqqani, a major target for US forces, was the latest in a string of attacks on Pakistani soil that have raised tensions between Islamabad and Washington.
It came hours after parliament passed a special resolution calling for an urgent review of Pakistan's anti-terror policy, including more talks with militants and a vow to defend Pakistan's territorial sovereignty.
Security officials said the madrassa, or religious school, near Miranshah, the main town in troubled North Waziristan region, was set up by Haqqani during the 1980s "jihad" against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
It was currently run by one of Haqqani's own commanders, Mullah Mansoor, and was recently used as a guest house for "international and local students traveling from other areas".
"At 2:25 am, two spy drones fired three missiles at the madrassa of Mullah Mansoor. Eleven people have been killed in the missile strike," a security official told AFP.
A similar missile strike targeting another house owned by Haqqani on September 8 killed 23 people, including members of Haqqani's extended family, security officials said.
Haqqani was one of the most prominent Afghan commanders who fought the Red Army between 1978 and 1989. He subsequently became close to Mullah Omar, the leader of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Since the fall of the Taliban, Haqqani has become one of the most active Taliban commanders launching attacks on international forces in Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan, security officials said.
His son Sirajuddin, also a leading Taliban commander, was an occasional visitor at the madrassa that was hit on Thursday, a senior security official handling tribal unrest told AFP.
The Pakistani army said it was gathering details about an "incident" in North Waziristan. "Details are being gathered about the exact number of casualties," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
Residents said that all of the victims were local tribesmen, adding that locals had fired at two suspected US drones hovering above.
Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan.
Pakistani lawmakers passed a unanimous resolution during a closed-doors joint session of parliament demanding that the government do more to put an end to US military action on Pakistani soil.
"The nation stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively," it said.
But it also said that talks with insurgents were vital, adding: "Dialogue must now be the highest priority, as a principal instrument of conflict management and resolution."
The United States has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistani tribal areas since a new civilian government came to power in Islamabad in March.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has vowed zero tolerance against violations of his country's sovereignty amid the strikes, which have stoked anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.
US and Afghan officials say northwest Pakistan is a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who sneaked in from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Taliban militants Thursday killed eight pro-government tribesmen in an ambush. The victims were returning from a gathering held to discuss ways to combat militants in the Orakzai tribal region, local official Ahmed Khan said.
"Armed Taliban stopped their vehicle, ordered the tribesmen to come out and shot them dead one by one," Khan said.
Security officials Thursday revised upward the toll from an air strike, a day earlier, at a militant compound in northwestern Bajaur tribal district to 33 rebels killed. Officials said Wednesday 10 insurgents were killed. There was no independent confirmation of the latest claim.

[Description of Source: Hong Kong AFP in English -- Hong Kong service of the independent French press agency Agence France-Presse]


Pakistan: Suspected US Missile Strike Kills 8 Alleged Militants in N Waziristan
SAP20081024098002 Lahore Daily Times Online in English 24 Oct 08
[Report by staff reporter: "Suspected US strike kills 8 near Miranshah"]
[Text disseminated as received without OSC editorial intervention]
MIRANSHAH: Suspected US drones fired missiles early on Thursday into a madrassa near Miranshah set up by veteran pro-Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, killing eight people and wounding six, security officials said.
The airstrike apparently targeted Haqqani - once known as a US ally and now a major target for US forces - hours after parliament passed a special resolution calling for an urgent review of Pakistan's anti-terror policy, including more talks with the Taliban and a vow to defend Pakistan's territorial sovereignty.
Security officials said the Madrassa Sirajul Uloom - three kilometres from Miranshah near Danday Darpa Khel on the Miranshah-Afghanistan road - was set up by Haqqani during the 1980s 'jihad' against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
It was currently run by one of Haqqani's commanders, Mullah Mansoor, and was recently used as a guesthouse for 'international and local students travelling from other areas', they told AFP.
"At 2:25am, two spy drones fired three missiles at the madrassa of Mullah Mansoor," a security official said. "Locals are still looking for more people in the rubble."
"Eight militants were sleeping in the courtyard. All of them were killed. They were local militants," a villager standing at the scene of the strike told Reuters on condition he not be identified.
A September 8 missile strike targeting another house owned by Haqqani killed 23 people, including members of Haqqani's extended family, security officials said. ISPR Spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the army was gathering details about the incident. "Details are being gathered about the exact number of casualties."

[Description of Source: Lahore Daily Times Online in English -- Website of the independent, moderate daily, run by veteran journalist Najam Sethi and published by the Friday Times group. Strong critic of radical and jihadi elements. Provides extensive coverage of activities of jihadi/militant groups. Caters to the educated middle class, with an estimated hardcopy circulation of 20,000; URL: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk]


Pakistani, US Strikes Kill 46 Taliban in Northwest
FEA20081024790554 - OSC Feature - OSC Summary 23 Oct 08 - 24 Oct 08
[This product contains links to video on OSC video server; For a video of this program, contact GSG_GVP_VideoOps@rccb.osis.gov or, if you do not have e-mail, the OSC Customer Center at (800) 205-8615.]
Suspected US missile strikes into a school set up by a top Taliban commander in a North Waziristan killed 11 people on Thursday [23 October]. Meanwhile, Pakistani security forces also carried out ground and air strikes in Bajaur Agency on Thursday, killing at least 35 Taliban.
An AFP report on Thursday said that "suspected" US drones fired missiles early Thursday [23 October] into a school set up by a top Taliban commander in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing 11 people, security officials said.
The air strike apparently targeting veteran militant Jalaluddin Haqqani, a major target for US forces, was the latest in a string of attacks on Pakistani soil that have raised tensions between Islamabad and Washington.
It came hours after parliament passed a special resolution calling for an urgent review of Pakistan's anti-terror policy, including more talks with militants and a vow to defend Pakistan's territorial sovereignty.
Security officials said the madrassa, or religious school, near Miram Shah, the main town in troubled North Waziristan region, was set up by Haqqani during the 1980s "jihad" against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It was currently run by one of Haqqani's own commanders, Mullah Mansoor, and was recently used as a guest house for "international and local students traveling from other areas".
"At 2:25 a.m., two spy drones fired three missiles at the madrassa of Mullah Mansoor. Eleven people have been killed in the missile strike," a security official told AFP.
A similar missile strike targeting another house owned by Haqqani on September 8 killed 23 people, including members of Haqqani's extended family, security officials said.
Haqqani was one of the most prominent Afghan commanders who fought the Red Army between 1978 and 1989. He subsequently became close to Mullah Omar, the leader of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Since the fall of the Taliban, Haqqani has become one of the most active Taliban commanders launching attacks on international forces in Afghanistan from safe havens in Pakistan, security officials said.
His son Sirajuddin, also a leading Taliban commander, was an occasional visitor at the madrassa that was hit on Thursday, a senior security official handling tribal unrest told AFP.
The Pakistani army said it was gathering details about an "incident" in North Waziristan. "Details are being gathered about the exact number of casualties," chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told AFP.
Residents said that all of the victims were local tribesmen, adding that locals had fired at two suspected US drones hovering above.
Pakistani lawmakers passed a unanimous resolution during a closed-doors joint session of parliament demanding that the government do more to put an end to US military action on Pakistani soil.
"The nation stands united against any incursions and invasions of the homeland, and calls upon the government to deal with it effectively," it said.
Pakistani Troops Kill 35 Taliban in Ground, Air Strikes
Pakistani security forces carried out ground and air strikes in Bajaur Agency on Thursday, killing at least 35 Taliban, Frontier Constabulary (FC) sources told Associated Press of Pakistan, APP.
Jet fighters continued targeting suspected Taliban hideouts in Loisam and Charmang, they said, and eight associates of Taliban commander Maulvi Omar were killed in an attack on a hideout in Badan. Omar's house had been destroyed in an earlier operation.
Ground forces pounded Taliban positions with artillery late on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, curfew was imposed in Sadiqabad, Sunday Morr and Nawakaly areas of the agency headquarters Khar.
Security forces 'are constantly making advancements' the FC officials said, and had 'strengthened their positions' in the strategically important Loisam town establishing checkpoints.
A Salarzai tribal militia burned down houses of Taliban men, including commander Qari Gulrez.
The tribe has banned the entry of relatives of Taliban in the areas it controls and has said it would expel, fine, and burn houses of those who sheltered Taliban.
The political administration razed the house of an unidentified Taliban commander in the Sidiqabad locality (Daily Times).
Taliban Kill 8 Pro-Government Tribesmen in Ambush
Taliban militants Thursday killed eight pro-government tribesmen in an ambush. The victims were returning from a gathering held to discuss ways to combat militants in the Orakzai tribal region, local official Ahmed Khan said.
"Armed Taliban stopped their vehicle, ordered the tribesmen to come out and shot them dead one by one," Khan said(Daily Times).

India gives Pakistan evidence of intelligence body role in Kabul embassy blast


SAP20081025950003 New Delhi PTI News Agency in English 0909 GMT 24 Oct 08

C:
Text of report by Indian news agency PTI


New Delhi, 24 October: India Friday [24 October] confronted Pakistan with evidence regarding involvement of ISI in the 7 July Kabul Embassy bombing, an incident that had threatened to derail the peace process between the two countries.
At the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism (JATM) meeting here, New Delhi also provided Islamabad with information regarding a number of terrorists and criminals hiding in Pakistan as it pressed for concrete cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism emanating from the neighbouring country.
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