Peshawar blast death toll rises

8 03 2009

Source: Al jazeera

The bodies of more victims were uncovered on Saturday from the wreckage of the blast [AFP]

The death toll from a car-bomb attack on a crowded market in northwest Pakistan has risen to 27.

Police found six more bodies among the wreckage on Saturday, a day after the blast which went off close to a market in Peshawar called Qissakahani bazaar.

About 100 people were wounded when the car bomb went off on Friday, wrecking a Shia mosque, a hotel and setting a string of vehicles and shops ablaze, Mohammed Khan, a local police official, said.

A 12-year-old boy was among the victims of the explosion, which hit the city as crowds of people were out shopping in the run-up to the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

“We found six bodies buried under the debris of two destroyed hotels and one adjoining house. Among the dead was a 12-year-old boy and a woman,” Noor Mohammad, another local police official, said.

“The powerful blast brought down several buildings and destroyed over 50 vehicles.”

Deadly explosion

Television footage showed survivors frantically carrying bloodied victims through the rubble to private cars and ambulances as firefighters sought to douse the flames.

Some witnesses said the explosion ripped open a natural gas pipeline, creating a blaze that spread to nearby buildings and shops.

In Video

Peshawar after the blast

“The fire broke out again Saturday morning and firefighters were called in to put it down,” said Mohammad Khalil, whose shop was gutted by the flames.

Neither the motive nor the culprits behind the blast were clear, but Haider Khan Hoti, the head of the NWFP government, said it was possible that “external forces” could be to blame.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reporting from Peshawar, said that the phrase could refer to Indian involvement.

Zaffar Abbas, the Islamabad editor of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, told Al Jazeera: “This was different in the sense that it was carried out in a public place, rather than any of the security forces being the target.

“That is where the speculation is that it could be external forces.”

‘External forces’

“The reason for that is that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have a major fight on their hands in Afghanistan and therefore more and more people here are inclined to believe that what is happening on the Pakistan side has a foreign dimension to it,” he said.

Some witnesses said the explosion ripped open a natural gas pipeline starting a blaze [AFP]

“There is also a considerable anger in this city – as well as the country – after allegations were hurled at Pakistan for what happened in Mumbai.”

The Peshawar bombing was the second blast in a Shia area in the northwest of the country on Friday.

Further adding to concerns about “external forces”, a suspected US missile attack reportedly killed three people in a stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaeda near the border with Afghanistan.

There have been more than 30 suspected US missile attacks inside Pakistani territory since August

In another development, Pakistan’s Dawn daily reported on Saturday that the country’s security forces had been put on high alert after a hoax caller pretending to be India’s foreign minister contacted Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president.

High alert

The incident occurred on November 28, two days after the co-ordinated attacks on Mumbai, the Indian financial capital.

The caller ignored Zardari’s conciliatory language and directly threatened to take military action if Pakistan failed to act immediately against the supposed perpetrators of the slaughter in Mumbai.

Throughout the next 24 hours Pakistan’s air force was put on “highest alert” as the military watched anxiously for any sign of Indian aggression, the report said.

Dawn’s Abbas told Al Jazeera: “To some extent there was an escalation in tension. There was a bit of panic in Islamabad. The security forces started to assess the whole situation and some drills were carried out.

“But to say the war was imminent is a bit of a exaggeration because there are still two lines of communication between the two countries.

“So, no, nobody was going to war. But the alarming thing is that this kind of phone call can create this kind of panic.”

Pakistani officials said the caller ID was a New Delhi number, and some believe the call was made from India’s external affair’s ministry.

But Indian officials have denied this to US counterparts and maintained that the number could have been manipulated, Dawn reported.

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Srilankan Team attacked in Lahore

3 03 2009

New Delhi: Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricket team as they were on their way to Gaddafi stadium in Lahore on Tuesday morning, Dawn news channel reported.

The channel showed footage of two gunmen opening fire using Kalashnikovs. At least 12 gunmen were involved in the attack.

According to the Pakistan Cricket Board seven players have been reported injured.

Many of them are seriously injured – Thilan Samaraweera, Kumar Sangakkara, Ajantha Mendis, Thilan Thushara, Tharanga Paranavithana and Chaminda Vaas.

Pacer Chaminda Vaas was carried off in a stretcher.

Five security personnel are reported dead, three more are seriously injured and have been rushed to the hospital.

The attackers – who came in a white car – lobbed two grenades at the van and the men then started firing at a police van which was providing security to the Lankan team.

The gunmen, reportedly surrounded the team van and opened fire indiscriminately. They reportedly continuously for two to three minutes.

Rocket launchers used in the attack as well and the Sri Lankan team bus has been completely destroyed. The incident happened at Liberty Chowk in Lahore.

The tour has been officially cancelled.





Window on Pak Press: ‘Swat deal not sign of weakness’

18 02 2009

Source: Indiatoday

As the liberals inside Pakistan and the Western governments felt that the Zardari-Gilani government has fallen into the deadly Taliban trap by signing the deal with the militants to allow Sharia law to be imposed in the Swat Valley, the two leaders clarified that it (the deal) should not be seen as a ‘sign of weakness’. The newspapers on Wednesday splashed the meeting between President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to review the Swat peace deal and hoped it would pave the way for permanent peace in the whole country.

The Dawn, Daily Times among others said that the two leaders were of the view that the deal signed with Tehrik Nifaz Shriat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) should not be construed as a ‘weakness’ as it was inked to restore peace for benefit of local people.

Daily Times quoting President Asif Ali Zardari said the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 in Malakand division will not affect the government’s policy on the war against terror, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday. During a meeting with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, he said the agreement between the Taliban and the NWFP government was one part of an overall strategy for peace, a private TV channel reported.

Dawn explained that there have been mixed reactions from different quarters within the country and the international community over the deal. Some have termed it a ray of hope in restive Malakand Division and eventually in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) but some consider it a defeat for the government and security forces who. They say, are bowing their heads before militants and allowing them to implement their self-styled Shariat (Islamic laws) in the area.

According to Dawn, the President told Chinese newsmen that the government was pursuing a multi-dimensional policy in the war against terrorism and using economic, political and military options to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism. However, he added that, limited resources were compounding problems for the government.

He was of the view that force alone could not win the war against terrorism. “Maintenance of peace in Fata and the NWFP is the foremost responsibility of the government and providing protection to people is a challenge,” Zardari said.

But the Daily Times said Pakistan has gambled that an offer to implement Sharia in parts of the northwest will bring peace to the troubled Swat Valley, but analysts fear any lull won’t last long and appeasement is likely to embolden the Taliban.

Western officials fear Pakistan is taking a slippery road that would only benefit Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistani authorities believe the alternative of using overwhelming force on people who are, after all, Pakistanis poses a greater danger. The central government has said the Sharai Nizam-e-Adl – or the judicial system governed by Sharia – would be implemented in the Malakand division of NWFP, which includes Swat, unless the guns fall silent.

Islamic Law – Part of Constitution: Dawn also reported that the US State Department said on Tuesday that there’s provision for the Islamic law in the Pakistani constitution and the government’s decision to introduce religious laws in the Swat Valley was not an issue for anyone outside Pakistan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was equally careful when asked to comment on an agreement between Pakistani authorities and the Swat militants that allows for the implementation of sharia in the valley.

She told reporters in Tokyo that the United States was studying the agreement and was trying to understand the Pakistani government’s ‘intention and the actual agreed-upon language. But the secretary warned that ‘activity by the extremist elements in Pakistan poses a direct threat to the government of Pakistan as well as to the security of the United States, Afghanistan and a number of other nations not only in the immediate region.’

The News on the other hand said the US State Department spokesman said, “We are in touch with the government in Pakistan, we are discussing the issue, but that is all I have for you at the moment.”

The News also reported that NATO too has expressed concern on Tuesday after Pakistan signed a pact with TNSM to introduce Islamic law in the Swat valley. “We would all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have safe haven,” Nato spokesman James Appathurai told a news briefing. Nato heads an international force battling Taliban militants in Pakistan’s neighbour Afghanistan and Appathurai said he did not know if the pact would make its task more difficult. However, he added: “It is certainly reason for concern.”

But peace was still elusive in the militancy-ravaged valley. The Nation reported as many as eight people including two assailants were killed and 17 others got injured, many of them critically, when a bomb planted in a car blew up outside the house of Union Nazim Bazid Khel, Faheemur Rehman, in Badabair area here Tuesday, police said. As many as eight people including two assailants were killed and 17 others got injured, many of them critically, when a bomb planted in a car blew up outside the house of Union Nazim Bazid Khel, Faheemur Rehman, in Badabair area on Tuesday, police said.

The blast occurred a day after the NWFP government signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in Swat. The blast damaged outer walls of the Nazim’s house and two neighbouring homes, besides two other cars, however, the nazim remain unhurt.

The deceased included Zar Muhammad, Ali and Qari Khalid, while the names of the killed attackers could not be confirmed till the filing of the report. The attackers were killed when people sitting in the residence of Faheemur Rehman opened fire at them.

The police the local people had apprehended three suspected persons who were being interrogated. The police also said that no one had claimed the responsibility for the attack so far. Around 15 to 20 kg explosive had been used in the blast, he added.

The other side of the story: Meanwhile, Dawn headlined an Associated Press story as “Pakistani Taliban militants publicly flog an alleged narcotic smuggler in Charbagh in Pakistan’s troubled Swat valley”

The story said: Pakistan has gambled that an offer to introduce Islamic law to parts of the northwest will bring peace to the troubled Swat valley, but analysts fear any lull won’t last long and appeasement will embolden the Taliban. Western officials fear Pakistan is taking a slippery road that will only benefit al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistani authorities believe the alternative of using overwhelming force on people who are, after all, Pakistani posed a greater danger.

The central government has said the Sharia Nizam-i-Adl, or the judicial system governed by Islamic sharia law, won’t be implemented in the Malakand division of North West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, unless the guns fall silent.

The Taliban announced a 10-day ceasefire on Sunday, while the NWFP government has said that while the military will remain deployed in Swat, there won’t be any offensives, only reactive actions.

Amnesty International estimates that between 250,000 and 500,000 people have fled their homes since late 2007, when the Taliban revolt began in Swat, an alpine region 130 km northwest of Islamabad. Tens of thousands have fled since August last year after an earlier peace deal broke down.

Public Beheadings: Known as Pakistan’s ‘Switzerland’ and once a popular tourist destination, Swat has become associated with sickening sights.

People in the scenic valley witnessed public beheadings and summary executions by Taliban fighters administering their brand of justice.

Bombs have targeted security forces, schools have been torched as part of a campaign against female education, and aid workers running immunisation programmes for children have been chased away by militants.

“If peace comes through this agreement, then we wholeheartedly accept it. After all, we’re Muslims and want Islamic system,” said Mohammad Naeem, a teacher in Mingora, the main town in Swat, whose own school was destroyed.

Analysts, however, see the pact as little more than a tactic to buy time, as the government seeks a firmer foothold in a region over which it had lost control.

They fear reluctance to permanently deal with reactionary forces will lead to greater problems later on. That has certainly been Swat’s history in the last two decades.

“I think this is going to be another blunder by the government,” said Khadim Hussain of the private Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. “There may be a lull for awhile, but I think the government will again be trapped in more fighting. There will be more violence.”

Monday’s agreement was the third such pact signed by Pakistani authorities with Sufi Mohammad, a radical cleric who began a violent campaign for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in the region in the 1990s.

The first agreement provided for the appointment of a Qazi, or an Islamic jurist, to assist a judge in deciding disputes in line with Islamic injunctions, though the jurist’s advice was non-binding.

In the second pact signed in 1999, the advice of the jurist was made binding though it was never enforced.

The latest accord, sets time limits on how long a court can take to decide a case, and establishes a designated appellate bench, meeting two key desires by the people for better justice.

Analysts say the government may be trying to drive a wedge between hardline followers of the elderly Mohammad and even more radical militants led by his young son-in-law, Fazlullah.

Bad precedent? They said: It is a risk.

Even if the laws being brought are far softer interpretation of sharia than the harsh Taliban version, giving ground to religious hardliners would set a ‘bad precedent,’ analysts said.

It could convince the most irreconcilable militants that their violent campaign was working.

“The present Talibanisation is not just a movement for enforcement of sharia,” Asad Munir, a former military intelligence official who served in NWFP and adjoining tribal areas wrote in a Pakistani daily. “The mullahs want power, authority and a defined role in decision-making in the social system of Pashtun society.”

Pakistani authorities have struck a number of deals in the past with militants in the tribal areas, known sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Generally, the violence dies down for awhile and then flares again. Analysts didn’t foresee Fazlullah and his fighters staying quiet for long.

“The militants are not going to give up their control…They will be getting more capability to launch more strikes, more violence if the agreement does not work,” Hussain said.





Violence in Indian Kashmir lowest in 2 decades

29 12 2008
Source: DAWN Associated press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Militant activity in the disputed region of Kashmir has fallen to its lowest levels since an anti-India rebellion began nearly two decades ago, police said Friday.

The number of militant attacks in 2008 fell 40 percent to 709 — the first time the number of attacks dropped below 1,000 — said Kuldeep Khoda, senior police official of Jammu-Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state.

In 2007, roughly 1,100 militant incidents were recorded in Indian Kashmir, he said.

Civilian casualties also fell to less than 100 for the first time since 1989 when militants began fighting Indian rule, Khoda said in a statement.

More than 68,000 people have died in the two decades violence, most of them civilians.

Police said there are 850 militants fighting in the region, including followers of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group India blames for the deadly Mumbai attacks last month. The largest militant group in the region is Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, Khoda said.

Khoda said government forces this year killed about “350 militants including some top ranking rebel commanders in anti-militancy operations across the state.”

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety.

Meanwhile on Friday, government forces clashed with hundreds of rock-throwing protesters after the main mosque in Srinagar, the region’s biggest city, opened for Friday prayers after seven weeks.

The mosque had been closed as Indian troops enforced strict restrictions following separatists’ demands for a protest and boycott of state elections, the last phase of which was completed on Wednesday.

At least 10 protesters were injured in the Friday clashes, said a police officer on condition of anonymity in keeping with department policy.

“India calls it a democracy and conducts elections under curfews, arrests and military crackdown,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a key separatist leader, told worshippers at the Jamia Masjid. “Let India know that domination is never victory and our fight for freedom will continue.”





Dara shikoh A life sketch in brief

5 11 2007

Darashikoh:

Picture : Dara Shikoh Cured

Source: allaboutsikhs.com

Source from “A daydream By Khurram Ali Shafique. DAWN:
The Review, March 15-21, 2001″

Dara was born on 20 March, 1615. He was the eldest son of Prince Khurram (later Shahjehan), the heir apparent of the emperor Jehangir.

He was, however, about twelve years old when along with Aurangzeb (three years younger) he was sent as a hostage to his grandfather after the failure of Shahjehan’s revolt.

When Shahjehan took over the throne in 1628, he made no secret of his desire for Dara to inherit the throne from him.

he got married in 1637, he immediately developed an obsession for his wife that was to last till her death shortly before his own.

He was formally initiated in to Qadiriyya ?ufi silsila by Mulla Shah into the Qadiriyya silsila sometime in 1639 or 1640.

In 1640 he initiated formally into the Qadiri Order of Sufism, and the same year he came up with his first book, Sakinatul Auliya. It was a collection of biographical sketches of notable Muslim saints.

Dara’s intellectual pursuits took a steep turn upon his meeting Baba Lal Bairagi, a Hindu Gnostic. Dara has recorded his conversations with Baba Lal in a short book titled, Mukalama Bab Lal wa Dara Shikoh.

FAiled attempt invasion of Qandahar in 1655, where Shahjehan finally agreed to allow Dara to lead an army.

in 1657, Dara Shikoh came out with his greatest masterpiece: Sirr-e-Akbar (The great secret), a translation of the Upanishads into Persian. Completed in 1657 with the help of several pandits from Veranasi Dara Shikoh’s translation of Upanishads is usually regarded in high esteem by the scholars in that field. It is also suggested by some historians that the Persian translation of Upanishad probably made it most accessible to the Europeans of the time as they were more familiar with the Persian language than they were with Sanskrit.

In 1657, Dara Shikoh was 43, Shah Shuja 41, Aurangzeb 39 and Murad 33. All of them were governors of various provinces: Dara was the governor of Punjab, Murad of Gujarat, Aurangzeb of the Deccan and Shah Shuja of Bengal. Two of them emerged as clear frontrunners in the race: Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.

In 1658, Shahjehan fell ill and Dara took over as the acting emperor, just as was expected of him. Aurangzeb quickly made a coalition with Murad and defeated Dara Shikoh at the famous Battle of Samogarh.

Once, Dara Shikoh (the eldest son of emperor Shah Jahan), came to Guru Har Rai asking for help in the war of succession with his brother the Murderous Aurangzeb. The Guru had promised his grandfather to use the Sikh Cavalry only in defense. He, never the less,helped him to escape safely from the bloody hands of Aurangzeb’s armed forces by having his Sikh warriors hide all the ferry boats at the river crossing used by Dara Shikoh in his escape.

Two months after his coronation in June 1659, Aurangzeb enacted a speedy trial of Dara Shikoh where the judges declared him a heretic and the unfortunate prince was condemned to death in August 1659.

It is said that when Dara saw his executioners approaching him he declared that a prince must never die without putting up a brave fight. A kitchen knife was all he could lay his hands on, and he went ahead fighting the swords of his aggressors with this pitful weapon. He was eventually assassinated and it is said that the city of Delhi was shrouded in official mourning when the body of Dara Shikoh was displayed in its streets. He was later laid at rest, quite aptly, inside the premises of Humayun mausoleum.

the elder son of Emperor Shãhjahan( r. 1627-1658 AD.) fell ill. Inspite of the best efforts of Hakims. he could not be cured. The rare medicine needed for his ailment was nowhere available. Information reached the Royal Hakim that required medicine was available with Guru Har Râi (1630-1661 A.D.). He came personally to the Guru Sahib and requestcd for the medicine. Guru Sahib gave him the rare medicine required for the treatment and also sent a pearl which was to be ground into fine powder and taken with the medicine.