Jun 23, 2009

Why US interference?

The winds of American military rhetoric have shifted again. Last week, Gen David Petraeus repeatedly hammered home the idea that the US army had little do with the Pakistan military’s war against militants in the Frontier province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Although the US has delivered 100,000 rounds of ammunition and four cargo helicopters to Pakistan, allocated $700m dollars for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF), and millions more in humanitarian aid, Gen Petraeus insists that the ongoing military operation is ‘a Pakistani operation’.
Speaking at the headquarters of the US Central Command, the general said that Rah-i-Rast was the Pakistan Army’s ‘fight against extremism that they assess poses a threat against their very existence…. It’s not them fighting our global war on terror’. He went on to clarify that the US was assisting Pakistan, but not providing direct tactical or operational support or, more importantly, direct combat assistance. Ergo, Gen Petraeus reasoned, the US was not involved with or interfering in Pakistan’s struggle against militancy.
On a trip to Mardan earlier this month to visit people displaced by the military operation, US special envoy Richard Holbrooke toed a similar line. When asked about the US role in Pakistan’s humanitarian crisis, Holbrooke insisted that the US was merely donating money to the UN and other international aid agencies to boost their capability to address the plight of refugees in Pakistan. The US, he claimed, had no direct role in Pakistan’s problems.
This new line of rhetoric indicates that the US has finally realised that their explicit involvement in the affairs of other countries is counterproductive. Rather than reconfiguring Americans as heroes and saviours, the beneficiaries of US aid, intelligence and military supplies become subsumed in nationalist rhetoric. Again and again, US interference in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and, of course, Pakistan has sparked concerns about the integrity of national sovereignty and the pitfalls of neo-imperialism. Local governments who deal with the Americans find themselves on the defensive, perceived by their polity as impotent and easily manipulated.
In this context, the recent performances in semantics by Petraeus and Holbrooke are to be welcomed. By leaving aside the language of global wars, cooperation, joint intelligence, strategic partnerships and geo-politics, the Americans are giving our government space in which to claim the fight against the Taliban as their own.
Sadly, actions speak louder than words. Even while the US Central Command was washing its hands off Pakistan’s military operation, the US State Department placed a telling phone call to NTT America, the company that runs the servers that host Twitter, a popular online micro-messaging system. Last week, in the midst of tumultuous, post-election street protests in Iran, the Obama administration asked Twitter to delay a temporary shutdown for maintenance purposes to ensure that Iranian supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossain Mousavi could continue using the service to share news and spread information about protest rallies. The messaging system became a vital logistical tool for protesters once the Iranian government blocked websites, YouTube and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. As such, the US government’s request to Twitter was a show of support for Iranians who rejected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
Not surprisingly, the Iranian government perceived the US’s action as an example of ‘intolerable’ meddling in the country’s internal affairs. Mousavi supporters, too, felt that the perceived US involvement in their protests, no matter how remote or indirect, had weakened the legitimacy of their demand for a recount and electoral accountability. Indeed, the Twitter debacle jeopardised President Barack Obama’s careful handling of the Iran election crisis — until the State Department picked up the phone, Obama had remained reticent on Tehran, pointing out that post-election turmoil was part of an important debate within Iran on the future of its leadership. The American veneer of indifference was shattered.Iran’s strong reaction to the news that the US State Department had in fact contacted Twitter should serve as a reminder to Pakistan that our government must clarify what constitutes American interference in Pakistani affairs. If the US is going to publicly distance itself from Pakistan’s fight against the Taliban, then the Pakistan government should set the terms for what entails sufficient distance, and what can be termed interference or involvement.
Clearly, few Pakistanis think that American cash alone is a form of ‘intolerable’ meddling. No one yet has raised objections to copious amounts of American aid, particularly the announcement of an additional $707m to address economic stability and help the IDPs.
The PCCF, however, raises different questions. Some of the money aimed at improving the Pakistan Army’s counter-terrorism tactics will go towards buying equipment such as night-vision goggles. But the fund also makes provisions for on-the-ground training, and US Special Forces are already honing the counter-insurgency skills of some Frontier Corps personnel in Balochistan. Does the physical presence of US troops on Pakistani soil constitute ‘direct’ or ‘combat’ assistance of the variety that Gen Petraeus insists the US is not providing Pakistan?
Or will the boundaries of US involvement be determined in the media sphere, as happened in Iran last week? The US is currently executing plans to jam illegal FM radio stations run by extremist clerics across the Frontier province and Fata. While in Mardan, Holbrooke argued that these illegal stations should be replaced by independent, Pushto-language radio stations — supported and funded entirely by the Pakistan government or licensed private sector companies. He rejected the idea of American media in the Frontier.
At the same time, the Pushto-language service of Voice of America was getting slammed in the US for airing interviews with Taliban commanders over the past few years. The radio service argued that the interviews were part of an effort to remain unbiased and disseminate news information. But American policy wonks and media analysts retorted that the station was obliged to win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of Pakistanis, even at the risk of coming off as an American propaganda outfit.
These debates indicate that although the US is cognisant of the pitfalls of backseat driving, it doesn’t know how to stay silent and let Pakistan — or Iran or Afghanistan — take the wheel. The only way we can dictate the extent to which US interference is appropriate is by charting our own course.

Feel-good gift for the nation

Pakistan won their first major title in 17 years when they stunned Sri Lanka by eight wickets in the World Twenty20 final at a sell-out Lord's here on Sunday.
Seamer Abdur Razzaq claimed three wickets as Pakistan bowled and fielded aggressively to restrict Sri Lanka to 138-6, then coasted home easily with eight deliveries to spare.
Shahid Afridi hit an unbeaten 54 off 40 balls, his second consecutive half-century, and former captain Shoaib Malik made 24 not out during a match-winning partnership of 76 for the undefeated third wicket.
Pakistan, runners-up to India in the final of the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa two years ago, ended Sri Lanka's unbeaten run in the tournament with style.
Pakistan last won an offical multi-nation tournament in 1992 when Imran Khan's team lifted the World Cup by beating England in the final at the Melbourne cricket ground in Australia.
The win by Younus Khan's team gave Pakistanis back home reason to cheer as the cricket-mad nation has been deprived of international tours due to security concerns in the volatile nation.
The International Cricket Council has already ruled out holding World Cup matches in Pakistan in 2011 following the militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore on March 3.
Afridi paid tribute to skipper Younus. ‘Younus gave me great confidence,’ said Afridi.
‘I told him that I wanted to bat at number three in the order and he said OK, if you're confident just go and play. Don't worry about anything.’
Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara said: ‘I'm proud of the way we competed. I believe we can go forward from here,’ he said.
‘We'll take this and come back stronger in next year's tournament. We have the best bowling unit in the world.’ Pakistani openers Kamran Akmal and Shahzaib Hasan ensured there were no early scares as they put on 48 for the first wicket in seven overs.
Sanath Jayasuriya broke through with his first delivery in the next over when he beat Akmal in the air with his left-arm spin and had him stumped for 37 off 28 balls.
Jayasuriya then took a catch to get rid of Shahzaib off Muttiah Muralitharan for 19, but Afridi and Malik took Pakistan home amid loud celebrations from their fans in the stands.
Sri Lanka were dealt quick blows after Sangakkara won the toss and elected to take first strike on a slow wicket.
The Lankans slumped to 2-2 in the first nine balls and that became 34-4 before Sangakkara himself led the rescue act with a defiant unbeaten 64 from 52 balls.
Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews put on 68 runs for the unbroken seventh wicket as Sri Lanka plundered 59 runs in the final five overs. Mathews returned unbeaten on 35 off 24 balls.
Pakistan got off to a sensational start when teenage fast bowler Mohammad Aamir sent back the in-form Tillekaratne Dilshan with the fifth ball of the match.
Dilshan, the tournament's leading scorer with 317 runs, miscued a pull shot off the speedy left-armer and was caught at backward square-leg by Shahzaib Hasan for zero.
Four balls later, Shahzaib grabbed his second catch at mid-off as Jehan Mubarak skied a leading edge off Razzaq, who shared the new ball with Aamir.
Jayasuriya counter-attacked with a six and four in Razzaq's second over, but the bowler hit back two balls later as the left-handed veteran edged a ball on to his stumps after making 17.
Razzaq, who replaced the injured Yasir Arafat after ending his links with the rebel Indian Cricket League, struck again in his third over when Misbah-ul Haq dived to his right at slip to remove Mahela Jayawardene for one.—AFP

Passion’s power

The skipper of the underdogs summed it up nicely after winning the semi-final. There is little to celebrate in Pakistan these days, said the man from Mardan, but the nation’s cricketers are determined to bring a smile to people’s faces. And that the Pakistan team certainly did with sterling back-to-back performances after a lacklustre start to the Twenty20 World Cup. For a while it seemed that the nation’s joy would be confined to seeing India exit the tournament at the Super Eights stage.

The clinically efficient South Africans lay ahead in the first of the two semi-finals, a contest Pakistan was tipped to lose. How could so mercurial a side prevail over a machine programmed to win? Never mind, Pakistan did it anyway. And on Sunday, it was Sri Lanka’s turn to be reminded that Pakistan can put in a crackerjack performance when it counts most.
An unpredictable side, of course, but also most sublimely, sweetly brilliant when it matters. As one commentator, former England player David Lloyd, put it: 'It’s Pakistan. And yes, you might say fittingly.'
Fittingly indeed. Pakistan’s victory in the T20 World Cup final sends a clear message that we will not be written off, come what may. Yes, it is perfectly understandable that foreign teams are unwilling to play in Pakistan. After all, the Sri Lankan side, which alone stood by us in our time of trial, came close to dying on Pakistani soil. We are now resigned to the fact that we will either have to play our ‘home series’ at offshore venues or not play at all. So how are things any different now? Pakistan’s victory tells the world that we can win wherever we might have to play.

Even in India, which with its deep pockets now virtually controls the ICC. It will take some doing to crush Pakistan’s spirit. We will not simply go away and sulk. We can triumph in the face of adversity.
Besides the cup, the best thing this slam-bang version of cricket delivered was a sense of self-belief. Also, this Pakistan side seems to enjoy itself on the field; it’s not just another day at the office for men who once liked playing cricket for its own sake. Gone too for the most part are those pumped up ‘I would be a serial killer if I weren’t a bowler’ celebrations that some subcontinental players had picked up in recent years from Caucasian teams. Why be angry when you take a wicket? That’s not our style. This team smiles and exults when it gets a batsman out, like the West Indians did in their heyday. If there is any friction behind closed doors — and it could well be that for a change there isn’t — it doesn’t show on the field and that’s what counts. This Pakistan side has done us proud.

Jun 15, 2009

Report: Sites for possible NKorea nuke tests found

By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press Writer – 57 mins ago
SEOUL, South Korea – The U.S. and South Korea have pinpointed 11 underground sites in North Korea where it could conduct a third nuclear test, a newspaper reported Monday ahead of a summit between the two allies on the communist regime's growing atomic threat.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak departed on a trip to Washington for summit talks Tuesday with President Barack Obama, which are expected to be dominated by the North's nuclear and missile programs.
Tension on the Korean peninsula spiked after North Korea declared Saturday it would step up its nuclear bomb-making program by producing more plutonium and uranium, two key ingredients.
The North also threatened war with any country that tries to stop its ships on the high seas as part of new U.N. Security Council sanctions passed in response to Pyongyang's May 25 nuclear test.
North Korea is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs, and a U.S. government official said last week that Pyongyang may be preparing for another nuclear test, its third.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the unreleased information and provided no details.
U.S. and South Korean intelligence were keeping a close eye on signs of an impending test.
"South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities have spotted 11 key underground facilities in North Korea and embarked on an intensive lookout," South Korea's mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported.
It quoted an unnamed government intelligence official as saying the allies have mobilized spy satellites and human intelligence networks to check for vehicle movements and other unusual activity.
The mobilization is based on "intelligence that North Korea can conduct a third nuclear test in protest against the U.N. Security Council sanctions," the paper quoted the official as saying.
Also Monday, Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying the North may have already built two to three underground test sites near its known Punggye-ri site in the remote northeast, where it conducted its first and second tests.
South Korea's Defense Ministry and National Intelligence Service said they could not confirm the reports.
A news report from Moscow quoted an official in the Russian military general staff as saying there has been a decrease in visible activity around North Korea's nuclear facilities in recent days.
This could either indicate that the North has prepared for a new underground nuclear test or is taking a break, according to the state-owned RIA-Novosti news agency. It did not name the official, and the general staff could not immediately be reached for comment.
North Korea has also been preparing to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States. It says the nuclear and missile programs are a deterrent against the United States.
However, Washington fears that cash-strapped North Korea will sell its nuclear technology to rogue nations, spreading the atomic threat.
The regime has also warned it cannot guarantee the safety of South Korean and U.S. navy ships sailing near the disputed western sea border, raising the specter for a maritime confrontation. The area is the scene of two bloody maritime skirmishes between the Koreas in 1999 and 2002.
South Korea's navy chief of staff said a maritime skirmish could occur "at any time" and that his forces were prepared.
"We will cut off the enemy's wrist even if they touch the tip of our finger," Jung Ok-keun said at a ceremony marking a deadly naval clash with North Korea in 1999.
The strong ties between South Korea and the United States are a thorn in the side of wartime foe North Korea, which accuses the two countries of plotting an attack to topple the communist regime. The allies deny harboring any such intention.
But President Lee of South Korea said his country's ties with the United States are "key" at a time of "intensifying" security crisis because of North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.
"I will use this summit to reconfirm the strong Korea-U.S. alliance," Lee said in a radio speech before his departure.
The two Koreas remain technically at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953, and they remain divided by a heavily fortified border. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea.
The two Koreas signed an accord to ease military tensions and promote economic cooperation nine years ago Monday. However, ties have significantly frayed since Lee, a conservative who advocates a hard-line approach, took office last year. The North responded by cutting off ties and halting joint business projects.
Their last major symbol of cooperation — a joint industrial complex in the North — also faces an uncertain future after the North demanded a 3,000 percent increase in rent for the site and a fourfold hike in wages for North Korean workers last week.
The Unification Ministry said Monday that South Korean firms operating in the zone have requested 61 billion won ($48 million) in state subsidies to compensate them for dwindling business.
On Monday, a group of South Korean conservative activists sent about 100,000 leaflets by balloons across the border into the North, to criticize its nuclear and missile programs. Later in the day, about 16,000 conservative activists, retired military officers and others staged an anti-North Korea rally in Seoul with some holding placards that reads "Kim Jong Il should blow himself up."
There were no immediate reports of violence, police said.
Associated Press photographer Young-joon Ahn contributed to this report from Imjingak, South Korea.

Iran supreme leader orders probe of vote fraud

By ANNA JOHNSON and ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writers Anna Johnson And Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writers – 4 mins ago
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's supreme leader ordered Monday an investigation into allegations of election fraud, marking a stunning turnaround by the country's most powerful figure and offering hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
State television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directing a high-level clerical panel, the Guardian Council, to look into charges by pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has said he is the rightful winner of Friday's presidential election.
The decision comes after Mousavi wrote a letter appealing to the Guardian Council and met Sunday with Khamenei, who holds almost limitless power over Iranian affairs. Such an election probe by the 12-member council is uncharted territory and it not immediately clear how it would proceed or how long it would take.
Election results must be authorized by the council, composed of clerics closely allied with the unelected supreme leader. All three of Ahmadinejad's challengers in the election — Mousavi and two others — have made public allegations of fraud after results showed the president winning by a 2-to-1 margin.
"Issues must be pursued through a legal channel," state TV quoted Khamenei as saying. The supreme leader said he has "insisted that the Guardian Council carefully probe this letter."
The day after the election, Khamenei urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad and called the result a "divine assessment."
The results touched off three days of clashes — the worst unrest in Tehran in a decade. Protesters set fires and battled anti-riot police, including a clash overnight at Tehran University after 3,000 students gathered to oppose the election results.
One of Mousavi's Web sites said a student protester was killed early Monday during clashes with plainclothes hard-liners in Shiraz, southern Iran. But there was no independent confirmation of the report. There also have been unconfirmed reports of unrest breaking out in other cities across Iran.
Security forces also have struck back with targeted arrests of pro-reform activists and blocks on text messaging and pro-Mousavi Web sites used to rally his supporters.
A top Mousavi aide, Ali Reza Adeli, told The Associated Press that a rally planned for later Monday was delayed. Iran's Interior Ministry rejected a request from Mousavi to hold the rally and warned any defiance would be "illegal," state radio said.
But one of Mousavi's Web sites still accessible in Iran said Mousavi and another candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, planned to walk through Tehran streets to appeal for calm. A third candidate, the conservative Mohsen Rezaei, has also alleged irregularities in the voting.
State TV quoted Khamenei urging Mousavi to try to keep the violence from escalating and saying "it is necessary that activities are done with dignity."
Mousavi, who served as prime minister during the 1980s, has also threatened to hold a sit-in protest at the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Such an act would place authorities in a difficult spot: embarrassed by a demonstration at the sprawling shrine south of Tehran, but possibly unwilling to risk clashes at the hallowed site.
Overnight, police and hard-line militia stormed the campus at the city's biggest university, ransacking dormitories and arresting dozens of students angry over what they say was mass election fraud.
The nighttime gathering of about 3,000 students at dormitories of Tehran University started with students chanting "Death to the dictator." But it quickly erupted into clashes as students threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, who fought back with tear gas and plastic bullets, a 25-year-old student who witnessed the fighting told The Associated Press. He would only give one name, Akbar, out of fears for his safety.
The students set a truck and other vehicles on fire and hurled stones and bricks at the police, he said. Hard-line militia volunteers loyal to the Revolutionary Guard stormed the dormitories, ransacking student rooms and smashing computers and furniture with axes and wooden sticks, Akbar said.
Before leaving around 4 a.m., the police took away memory cards and computer software material, Akbar said, adding that dozens of students were arrested.
He said many students suffered bruises, cuts and broken bones in the scuffling and that there was still smoldering garbage on the campus by midmorning but that the situation had calmed down.
"Many students are now leaving to go home to their families, they are scared," he said. "But others are staying. The police and militia say they will be back and arrest any students they see."
"I want to stay because they beat us and we won't retreat," he added.
Tehran University was the site of serious clashes against student-led protests in 1999 and is one of the nerve centers of the pro-reform movement.
After dark Sunday, Ahmadinejad opponents shouted their opposition from Tehran's rooftops. Cries of "Death to the dictator!" and "Allahu Akbar!" — God is great — echoed across the capital. The protest bore deep historic resonance — it was how the leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini asked the country to unite against the Western-backed shah 30 years earlier.
Amnesty International criticized Iran Sunday for blocking media and Internet sites. It said on Saturday, access to social networking sites was blocked, as was access to a range of online news services. Many of these outlets carried reports which raised concerns that the conduct of the election was flawed and results had been rigged, Amnesty said.
"Instead of instituting an information clampdown, including by blocking video sharing social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook; along with a handful of online news sites, the authorities should openly address the concerns and criticisms clearly expressed by so many," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Program.
Amnesty called on Iranian authorities to ensure that newspapers linked to other presidential candidates are permitted to carry the statements of those candidates.
In Moscow, the Iranian Embassy said Ahmadinejad has put off a visit to Russia, and it is unclear whether he will come at all. Ahmadinejad had been expected to travel to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and meet on Monday with President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of a regional summit.

Arise, Sir Dracula! Queen knights Christopher Lee

The Lord of the Undead is now a knight of the British Empire. Christopher Lee, whose sonorous voice and burning black eyes made him a memorable arch-villain in films from 'Dracula' to 'Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,' was given one of Britain's highest honors Saturday by Queen Elizabeth II.
Golfer Nick Faldo, captain of Europe's 2008 Ryder Cup team, was also promoted to 'sir.' He can add the title to his six major championship wins.
Among the others receiving royal honors: Tony-award winning actor Alan Cumming, for his work in films such as 'X2: X-Men United' and his gay rights advocacy; celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, who lent his name to a worldwide brand of shampoos and salons; and US economist David Blanchflower, who accurately predicted Britain's recession during his tenure on the interest rate-setting committee at the Bank of England.
Celebrity chef Delia Smith, whose recipe books adorn kitchens around the world, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, for her help in teaching the country how to cook.
Poetry also got a boost, with Andrew Motion and Christopher Ricks both awarded knighthoods. Motion was Britain's Poet Laureate for a decade until he was replaced by Carol Ann Duffy earlier this year. Ricks steps down from his post of Oxford Professor of Poetry later this year.
Lee, who made his name in Britain's low-budget Hammer Studios horror films, is one of cinema's consummate bad-guys, appearing as everything from Bond villain Scaramanga in 'The Man With the Golden Gun' to the disreputable Russian mystic in 'Rasputin, the Mad Monk.'
More recent turns include the evil wizard Saruman in 'The Lord of the Rings' movies and fallen Jedi Count Dooku in two of George Lucas' 'Star Wars' prequels.
Faldo first picked up a golf club at age 14 and has gone on to win more than 40 tournaments. His six major victories include a triumph at the US Masters in 1996 and the Nissan Open in 1997.
The 51-year-old has since made a series of entrepreneurial moves, into fairground design and television commentary, among others.
Cumming was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE; Blanchflower and Sassoon were both made CBE.
Lee, Faldo, and the rest are among 984 people honored in Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honors list.
In descending order, the main honors are knighthoods, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and Officer of the Order of the British Empire, OBE, and Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE.
Knights are addressed as 'sir' or 'dame,' while recipients of CBEs, OBEs and MBEs have no title but can put the letters after their names.
The honors are bestowed twice a year by the monarch, but recipients are selected by committees of civil servants from nominations made by the government and the public.
Although sportsmen, politicians, and artists regularly top the list, more than two-thirds of the honors go to people out of the limelight, especially civil servants and those with long service to their communities.
This year's recipients include a former elementary school janitor from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and an information desk assistant at Belfast International Airport in Northern Ireland.

English city of Bradford named UN City of Film

The magic of the movies sparkles on sunny Hollywood, glamorous Cannes — and now, gritty Bradford.
The northern English city best known for rain, shuttered textile mills and inexpensive curry restaurants has been named the United Nations' first-ever City of Film.
Bradford received the designation this week from UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, after a campaign by local officials for recognition of the city's cinema heritage and plans to use film as part of urban regeneration plans.
Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who was born near Bradford and won an Academy Award this year for ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ said Friday the designation ‘is superb news for Bradford and is testimony to the city's dedication to the film and media industry.’
Bradford has long-standing — but often overlooked — links to the movie business. It is home to an international film festival and the National Media Museum, which includes displays on film, television and photography and is one of the most popular museums in Britain outside London.
Bradford has been the location for films including kitchen-sink dramas ‘Billy Liar’ and ‘Room at the Top’ and World War II-set drama ‘Yanks,’ as well as the recent television crime series ‘Red Riding.’
The surrounding Yorkshire countryside has featured in movies including ‘The Railway Children’ and ‘Wuthering Heights.’
There is no material benefit to the City of Film designation, but supporters hope the title will bring film industry business, tourists and a touch of celluloid stardust to the region.
‘There is nothing more invigorating and exciting than a red-carpet premiere, and it doesn't matter whether that premiere is in Los Angeles, or Cannes, or Berlin — or Bradford,’ said cinema historian Tony Earnshaw, head of film programming at Bradford's National Media Museum.
Bradford joins UNESCO's Creative Cities Network, a program launched in 2004 to promote cultural industries with links to cities around the globe. The network of 19 urban centres includes cities of literature, music, folk art, design, media arts and gastronomy, as well as film.
A Victorian boom town whose imposing woollen mills were at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, Bradford — set in the Yorkshire region some 175 miles north of London — has been hit hard by the collapse of British manufacturing over the last few decades. Unemployment is high, and in 2001 the city saw riots between white and South Asian youths.
The city retains some fine Victorian architecture, a plethora of curry houses operated by members of the large south Asian community — and often-overlooked links with the movie business.
The neighbouring city of Leeds can credibly claim to be the location of the world's first motion pictures — ‘Roundhay Garden Scene’ and ‘Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge,’ filmed in 1888 by French inventor Louis Le Prince.
‘The moves were actually born in Yorkshire,’ said Earnshaw. ‘The first film came to Bradford in 1896. So Bradford predated Hollywood.’
Earnshaw said Bradford and its environs offered almost everything filmmakers could want in a location.
‘Aside from coastline, we have everything — urban landscape, the Dales the moors,’ he said. ‘The only thing we don't have is a seaside.’
Even that might not be an insurmountable obstacle, he said.
‘Yorkshire people can do anything.’

Review: According to Che...

The Oxford Companion to Military History distinguishes guerrilla war from regular war, pointing out that ‘regular armies concentrate force to achieve a decision with maximum speed’ while the ‘guerrilla conduct small-scale operations over an indefinite period.’ But, of course, guerrillas can finally win only if they gain enough strength to become a regular force and defeat the enemy as such.
The method of combat is important, but only small part of the guerrilla struggle. Its main content is its political aspect, the winning over of the masses.
This was noted by Clausewitz himself. Recognising that the French Revolution had transformed the conduct of war, he treated war as a total phenomenon whose relationship to the social and the political world had to be understood. He illustrated his thesis by the example of the Spanish resistance to the French occupation.
The hey-day of the guerrilla was after the Second World War when the liberation struggle of the colonies was allied to the high tide of the socialist movement, glowing in the light of the Soviet Union’s victory over fascism. Many countries in Eastern Europe turned socialist as a result of their armed resistance to the Nazi occupation.
Guerrilla war is often confused with terrorism, especially when the movement is weak and takes to anarchist methods. However, there is a qualitative difference between the two. Whereas anarchism hopes to unleash a change through shock, the guerrilla seeks to lead the masses in the struggle to transform their weakness into strength. It must, however, be granted that the urban guerrilla fighter sometimes becomes a terrorist.
‘Che’ Guevara’s book Guerrilla Warfare adds little to the literature on the subject, compared to, for example, the writings of Mao and Giap. However, it pays attention to the details of the organisation and operations of warfare (‘a guerrilla needs good boots’) which makes it a valuable handbook for the rebel.
His main contribution to the theory of revolutionary war is his article of 1963, titled ‘Guerrilla Warfare: A Method’. He says guerrilla warfare without population’s support leads to disaster and adds that the Cuban Revolution had made three fundamental contributions to the theory of revolution in the Americas. First, people’s forces could win a war against the army. Second, it was not necessary to wait for all conditions favourable for revolution to be present; the insurrection itself could create them. And third, in the underdeveloped parts of Latin America the battleground for armed struggle should, in the main, be the countryside.
He quotes the Second Declaration of Havana to say that, since 70 per cent of the continent’s population lives in the countryside and most of it consists of extremely low-paid farm workers. The rural proletariat constitutes a tremendous revolutionary force and Latin American armies, trained for conventional warfare, are powerless against them.
Another characteristic of Latin America is that its ruling classes are fused into an oligarchy which is ‘the reactionary alliance between the bourgeoisie and the land-owning class of each country in which feudalism remains.’
Here the national bourgeoisie is not ready to fight feudalism or imperialism because it is paralysed by fear of a social revolution. Its majority has united with the US instead. As a result there is polarisation on the continent with a clear-cut division between the exploiters and the exploited.
As to the use of violence by the revolutionaries, the oligarchy itself routinely tears off its democratic mask to resort to it against the masses. That necessitates the destruction of the oppressor army and the creation of a people’s army, making the guerrilla action the axis of the struggle.
‘Violence is not the monopoly of the exploiters’— the exploited use it when the moment arises. As an African revolutionary put it: ‘La violence c’est notre devoir sacre’ (Violence is our sacred duty).
The US tends to intervene on the side of the oligarchy and crush every revolution. Therefore victory cannot be achieved on a national scale. It has to be continental. ‘The unity of the repressive forces must be confronted with the unity of the popular forces.’
Guevara’s main contribution to the theory of the revolution was the concept of the ‘foco’. The peasants oppose the oligarchy and imperialism but, being scattered, need to be led by the working class from the towns.
The revolutionaries can therefore start with establishing rural bases which will themselves contribute to creating such pre-conditions of a revolutionary situation as may still be lacking.
Guevara attempted to apply this theory to Bolivia and failed. Of course there were many reasons for the failure, an important one being that the peasants there had already received land in the land reforms and so lost interest in a further re-distribution. Another was the rapidity of the US military intervention.
Latin America threw up a large number of rebel leaders and revolutionaries after the Second World War. Among them, only Che became an authentic hero on the global scale. Sartre called him ‘a complete man of our time’. It seems that he stepped on the stage of history when the whole world demanded a hero.
It was his courage, the clarity of his thought, his burning desire for a just order but, above all, his commitment to what he considered to be just that made him a hero.
Now, wherever there is protest against injustice or rebellion against oppression and exploitation, it is his portrait that is held up by those who say no to tyranny.
History forgets his tactical shortcomings and immortalises his legacy of advancing directly to take the oppression by the throat.

Review: The empire’s soldier

While no longer the household name it was a generation ago, Wavell continues to resonate with students of military history in the UK, and with students of the freedom movement in the subcontinent. But few now remember him for his delightful poems.
After the First World War he emerged as a visionary military planner who was at the cutting edge of the emerging concept of mobile warfare, with tanks, troops and aircraft co-ordinated into a fast-flowing offensive. This, in fact, was the basis of the German Blitzkrieg tactic that saw Panzer divisions cutting through enemy defences like a knife through butter.
Adrian Fort’s recent biography of the British soldier and statesman brings to life a man who served his country with great distinction through the two world wars of the last century. A brilliant student, Wavell won scholarships to Winchester and then to Oxford. Highly gifted, he could have succeeded in any profession he chose, but his father decreed that his son should follow him into the army. Thus began a career that spanned over four decades and sent Wavell to fight on three continents.
From the very beginning Wavell’s career prospered: he entered the trenches of France in the First World War as a captain, and after being severely wounded, was sent to Palestine where he made his mark as a first-rate staff officer. When the war ended Wavell was a brigadier general, and faced the possibility of redundancy in an army that was swiftly trimmed to peacetime requirements.
But as a result of his intellectual interests and his recent wartime experiences, he began writing about the concepts of a mechanised army. He thus came to the notice of Basil Liddell Hart, the foremost military thinker of his generation. This association was to serve Wavell well when the next gigantic conflict in Europe broke out in 1939.
As commander of the British forces in the Middle East and East Africa, Wavell faced a formidable Italian challenge based in Libya and Ethiopia. On paper, Mussolini’s armies outnumbered the British by a wide margin. But as Wavell began his initially tentative advance he discovered that the Italians were demolarised and reluctant to fight. Soon, large numbers of enemy soldiers were surrendering and Wavell’s forces were victorious across large swathes of North Africa. This came as a ray of hope to anti-Axis forces and Churchill was able to finally give his beleaguered countrymen some good news.
However, the victorious campaign also exposed Wavell’s innate caution. Where a bolder commander might have sent his forces to take Libya before German forces landed there, Wavell, fearing being over-extended, faltered.
Once the Afrika Korps under Rommel was entrenched the British Empire faced a different calibre of enemy. In a series of brilliant moves Rommel soon had Wavell’s troops retreating to Egypt.
By now Churchill was getting impatient with the stream of bad news from the Middle East. A taciturn man, Wavell had never been able to establish a good rapport with the prime minister. Churchill preferred articulate, inspirational generals, while Wavell would often sit silently in meetings, expecting his written reports to speak for him. Time and again Churchill expressed his annoyance to others.
When Wavell was moved to take over the Indian and Far East command, the Japanese launched their attacks on Singapore, Malaya and Burma, sweeping all before them. Once again Wavell was forced to retreat, with Churchill — and this time also the Americans — breathing down his neck. Although Wavell had strengthened the empire’s defences, he was seen as too lacklustre to continue, and a decision was taken in London to appoint him Viceroy of India to succeed Linlithgow.
This was to be Wavell’s last and most taxing assignment. Caught up in the no-win situation caused by the ‘Quit India’ movement, the new Viceroy had to recommend from among the least harmful options. The British were faced with the dilemma of keeping order in their colony on the one hand, while they needed to continue talking to their opponents in the Congress Party and the Muslim League.
India had supplied nearly two million officers and troops to the war effort, and could not be held down at the point of a bayonet. And yet, under Churchill, there was great reluctance to walk out.
The problem was compounded by the demand for Pakistan and rights for the princely states. While Wavell negotiated the complex cross-currents of the approaching end of empire, the struggle against the Japanese raged on. And yet Wavell remained unflustered and continued talking and listening. Despite his lack of political experience, he had the patience required to deal with the strong-willed and wily politicians who opposed him at every turn.
Had he been allowed to stay on till the end, the history of the subcontinent might well have been different. But Mountbatten’s arrival in 1946 quickened the tempo, and his indifference to detail was part of the reason for the bloodbath that attended Partition.
Fort has researched his subject with great diligence, and has placed Wavell’s life in the context of his times. His own army background has helped him analyse Wavell’s campaigns; but more importantly, he has described the interplay of political compulsions and military issues with a great feel for history. Above all, Fort is gifted with a fluent style that makes this long biography a pleasure to read.

Mixed-marriage love story sweeps ‘Bollywood Oscars’

A tale of the love between a Muslim emperor and his Hindu wife swept the ‘Bollywood Oscars’ at the weekend, earning a clutch of awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Ashutosh Gowariker.

‘Jodhaa Akbar’ traces the rise of the Mughal emperor Akbar The Great and his love affair with his Hindu wife, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Gowariker said some people had suggested he drop plans to make the movie, given the sensitivity of Hindu-Muslim relations in India.

‘When I started this movie I was advised by all my friends not to make this film,’ Gowariker explained at the annual International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA), being held this year in the southern Chinese territory of Macau.

But Gowariker said the film’s massive popularity had ‘reinstated my faith that we do need a Hindu-Muslim alliance.’ Jodhaa Akbar saw off ‘Ghajini,’ ‘Rock On,’ ‘A Wednesday,’ ‘Dostana,’ and ‘Race’ to take the Best Picture gong.

The movie’s lead man, Hrithik Roshan, took Best Performance in a Lead Role (Male), urging his fans among the 8,000 gathered at the Venetian Macau Resort-Hotel to ‘have the courage to live free and live the truth.’

Former Miss World Priyanka Chopra, whose effort as a model dealing with the seedy side of the business in ‘Fashion’ won her Best Performance in a Lead Role (Female), thanked the audience for sitting through the nearly seven-hour ceremony.

‘We Indians are everywhere,’ she added. ‘The film industry is like one big family and the fans really feel a part of that.’ Earlier in the evening, the powerful Bachchan clan had again threatened to steal the limelight.

Family patriarch Amitabh Bachchan was feted by the event’s hosts all night, while Rai picked up awards for Star of the Decade (female) and Outstanding Achievement by an Indian in International Cinema.

Rai’s husband Abhishek then picked up a gong for Best Performance in a Comedy Role (Male) for his turn in ‘Dostana,’ and the couple delighted the audiences with separate song and dance numbers.

Former Miss World Rai provided the night’s most poignant moment when rewarded for her work over the past decade.

‘It is never a singular effort,’ she said, before turning her attention to her father, who has recently been battling cancer.

‘My father is still here,’ she said, thanking him for his ‘sacrifice and grace.’

In contrast, Abhishek screamed for joy once on stage and — in reference to questions being raised in the tabloid press about his sexuality — yelled, ‘well, I am gay tonight!’

Organisers estimated that the awards would be watched by 500 million TV viewers worldwide, while hundreds of fans gathered outside the Cotai Arena before the event, singing the names of their favourite actors as they took to the carpet.

The extravaganza, now in its 10th year, is staged outside India every year in an effort to increase the international profile of Bollywood films. It features premieres, media sessions, trade forums, and a fashion show.

Sabbas Joseph, director of IIFA, told AFP that this year’s awards marked a ‘golden decade’ of achievement for Bollywood.

The triumph of ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ which grabbed eight awards at this year’s Oscars, had been just one of the many examples of the industry’s achievement in recent years, he said.

The event is being held in the aftermath of a damaging row between producers and multiplex cinemas over how box office receipts are split, a dispute finally settled last week after a two-month stand-off.

But even before the row, India’s 2.3-billion-dollar film industry was feeling the pinch from the global economic slowdown, reining in budgets and actors’ fees as audience numbers dwindled.— AFP

India’s isolated HIV victims find solace in marriage

Taking medicines on time is a big part of a successful marriage for Ravi and Nima — an HIV-positive couple who met as a direct result of the enduring stigma attached to AIDS in India.
They met through a non-profit marriage bureau in India's western state of Gujarat that caters exclusively to HIV-infected people, setting up introductions and helping with legal issues for couples who choose to marry.
The UNAIDS agency says some 2.5 million Indians are living with HIV — many of them ostracised by their communities.
‘My father disowned me when I told him about my disease. I was lonely and needed a companion to live and enjoy the last few years of my life,’ said 38-year-old Ravi, a shopkeeper who contracted the infection from a sex worker.
His wife Nima tested HIV positive in 2004 when she went for a medical check-up to confirm a pregnancy. She contracted the virus from her first husband who died in 2006.
‘I felt cheated and wanted to commit suicide after my husband died but I decided to marry again and work for the widows of HIV patients,’ Nima said.
The Gujarat Marriage Bureau for People Living with AIDS was the first of its kind when it set up in 2005, but there are now eight similar agencies across India, most of them established by people living with HIV.
In the past four years, the Gujarat agency has arranged marriages for around 300 people.
Those who register are required to make a full disclosure, including family details, complete medical history and economic status.
‘Everything should be crystal clear before the wedding. We provide counselling sessions to ensure that the couple is mature enough to handle health-related problems,’ said coordinator Rasik Bhua.
For many who register, marriage with a fellow HIV carrier provides not just companionship, but also a practical base for dealing with the illness, including mutual monitoring of medication and sharing the cost of treatment.
Bhua said the number of successful matches would be much higher but for the large gender imbalance among those who register.
In 2008, Bhua signed up 1,200 infected men, but only 76 women — a disparity he attributed to the greater stigma attached to women with HIV which often prevents them doing anything that might bring attention to their condition.
NGOs working in AIDS prevention in India have logged countless cases of families rejecting members with HIV, doctors refusing to treat HIV-positive patients and infected children being expelled from schools.
According to Radhika Samant, a doctor who provides medical support to people with AIDS in India's commercial capital, Mumbai, marriage between those infected with HIV can help prevent the spread of the virus.
‘The government should be promoting this,’ Samant said.
In a country where the pressure to marry is very strong, a number of young, HIV-positive people agree to their parents' wishes even though they are aware of the risks of infecting their future spouses and passing the virus to their future children.
‘This chain of infection has to end,’ said Daksha Patel, a social worker who was infected by her husband and decided to terminate her pregnancy to avoid passing on the virus.
‘India needs more marriage bureaux for HIV positive (people) to control the spread of the disease,’ Patel said. — AFP

A plea to the Lord Chief Justice By Ardeshir Cowasjee

We request Your Lordship to right the wrong, and come to the aid of these children of a lesser god who cannot stand up to the juggernaut of corruption and the ‘Milbus’ empire. — APP/File Photo ACCUSATIONS are often made against me and fellow commentators that we are pessimistic, that we do not give solutions.

Well, it is impossible to exude optimism with the national scenario fraught with multiple potential dangers, with the millions of lives that have been wrecked, and the hundreds being killed each day that passes. There is nothing we perceive, nothing we can foresee, that can cheer us up — a black hole yawns ahead. As for solutions, one that comes to mind is demolish all we have and start anew.

President Barack Obama in his inaugural address aimed well: 'To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history'.

Karachi is no stranger to corruption and deceit — as these days it is no stranger to death, with the daily gunning down of political opponents. Less dangerous is the land-grabbing that continues, without let-up, which is having a disastrous effect on the city and endangering its future.

Through the columns of this newspaper, I am yet again making an appeal to the good Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, to come to the aid of an endangered playground and the children of a deprived area of Karachi. It seems he is the only one who can now help. The citizens of Karachi are not requesting Your Lordship to adjudicate on the merits of the case. Our petition to you is that you adjudicate on the manner in which the case was dismissed arbitrarily and ex-parte.

Webb Ground (Plot 148) in Tunisia Lines was a 4.98-acre playground that catered to the children of the low-income residents of this area. Ownership rests with the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) through Lines Area Re-Development Project (LARP)

(Sir Montague de Pomeroy Webb, after whom the playground is named, was a contemporary of my grandfather Fakirjee Cowasjee and was above all a gentleman and a benefactor of those in want. He was a governor of the Grammar School, he founded the KESC and the Daily Gazette — the list is long.)

The brief facts are as follows: the army, realising the value of this large plot in the city centre, put the ownership claim into dispute and in December 2002 forcibly occupied the plot, depriving the low-income area residents of their playground. The Ministry of Defence then leased out the plot to the Army Welfare Trust (AWT), which in 2006 further sub-leased it to Makro-Habib to establish a commercial ‘hyper-store’.

In August 2007, Mr Mehfooz-un-Nabi Khan, an area resident and an ex-councillor of the KMC, filed CP D-1740/2007 in the High Court of Sindh against Makro-Habib, AWT, CDGK, LARP & Ors. On 22-08-07 the case was heard and an ad-interim stay against further construction was given. However, the honourable judges, Sarmad Usmany and Ali Sain Dino Metlo, realising that Mr Mehfooz-un-Nabi Khan is a person of limited financial resources and legal experience, also issued notice to the NGO Shehri-CBE to assist the court in the proper adjudication of the matter.

From the next hearing onwards, Shehri attended each hearing and submitted five written statements together with various maps and documents establishing the ownership of the plot with LARP and its status as a playground. Shehri was present at the Nazir’s inspection, and submitted objections to his report.

When the owners of Makro-Habib continued construction in violation of the status-quo order, Shehri took photographs, at considerable risk to its members, to bring the violations to the court’s notice. The documents and photos are part of the case record. On 26-09-07, contempt application CMA 7498/07 was listed for hearing.

Through an order of 19-09-07, the court itself confirmed the status of Shehri as a co-petitioner. Twelve hearings were held from 04-09-2007 through 03-11-2007, up to 24-01-08.

From 24-01-08 no hearing of the case was held. It was discharged before it could come up for hearing, as it was always listed low on the serial list. After a passage of almost eight months, without the case being heard during the intervening period, it was listed for hearing on 19-08-08 without giving notice to the petitioners. The judges gave an ex-parte order dismissing the petition. This was highly unusual as Civil Miscellaneous Applications for contempt and a stay order (CMA 6375/07 & 7498/07) filed by the petitioner were already listed for hearing. The judges acted in undue haste.

This would seem to be unfair play and undue favour to the legal team of Makro-Habib headed by lead counsel Justice (retd) Mushtaq Memon. Since both petitioners, Mr Mehfooz-un-Nabi and Shehri, were appearing without the benefit of legal counsel, they were not aware of the case being fixed for hearing as only advocates and counsels are sent daily court lists. Taking advantage of their absence through no fault of theirs, the legal team of Makro-Habib managed to extract an ex-parte order.

Shehri was never a party to the case. It was the court itself that had decided that Shehri should be made a co-petitioner, as it would be able to assist the court in the proper adjudication of the controversy. So, should the court not have issued notices on 19-08-08 to both the petitioners? They were not aware of the listing of the case after a passage of eight months as both were appearing without the benefit of counsel.

The various written statements, objections, and stay and contempt applications were listed for hearing and should have been heard with prior notice.

As Shehri was present at each hearing prior to the last hearing, should the judges not have sent notice to Shehri before dismissing the case, since it was the court itself that had called in Shehri in the first place, and it was Shehri that had provided all the evidence against Makro-Habib and AWT? Shehri was not even made aware of the case being dismissed ex-parte. It was only after the passage of a few months that it learnt of what had transpired.

In light of the above, and after perusal of the order sheet, Your Lordship will realise that justice has not been served, and that it was deliberately manipulated to suppress the facts and favour the rich and mighty at the expense of the poor and illiterate slum dwellers of the Lines Area, rightly referred to as children of a lesser god.

We request Your Lordship to right the wrong, and come to the aid of these children of a lesser god who cannot stand up to the juggernaut of corruption and the ‘Milbus’ empire.

Freedom to speak

President Asif Zardari doesn’t address the people too often; and when he does the end hardly ever justifies the suspenseful build-up. This is what happened on Friday night at the end of an unfortunate day which had seen suicide attacks in Lahore and Nowshera. By late afternoon on Friday, we learnt on the authority of a presidential aide that Mr Zardari was to address the nation. By the evening, it was clear that the PPP was bent on adding another episode to its famous television-blues series. As uncertain beginnings go, Mr Zardari’s first televised address as president last year was disrupted by an unwanted ‘insertion’ midway.
The incident led to a serious inquiry at the host channel, PTV. Initially, the ‘tentative’ time given for this latest address on Friday was 'around 10 pm'. But then the president mysteriously went missing from the airwaves. The address finally made it to people’s homes at one in the morning on Saturday — and most of the ‘news’ it delivered had already been divulged piecemeal by television channels apparently friendly with Mr Zardari’s speech-writer. The people already knew that President Zardari was going to announce the setting up of a cantonment in Swat, which he did, in due time.
Setting up a cantonment in Swat was an important announcement but did it merit a post-midnight presidential address lasting no more than a few minutes? Couldn’t a simple press statement have sufficed? From the people’s perspective, Mr Zardari has had little worthwhile to say in his rare televised presidential addresses, which makes it even more incumbent on him to first build his reputation through a series of substantive statements before he actually speaks to the nation. He can learn a bit from how his fellow party man Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani chose to act before announcing the restoration of the chief justice in March this year. Mr Gilani assiduously built the image of a democrat and a parliamentarian before he, quite literally, signalled a new dawn by making the announcement in the early hours of March 16.
These are trying times and/but Mr Zardari must invent ways of being in the midst of the people. In the aftermath of Bloody Friday, he once again postponed a visit to Lahore that he was to undertake on Saturday. It would be good for everyone’s morale if he could find a way of not only reaching Lahore but also Swat and other areas where the army is fighting the rebels.

Decisive offensive’ ordered against Baitullah Mehsud

The government announced on Sunday that a ‘decisive offensive’ will be launched against Baitullah Mehsud, chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and his associates.
‘The government has decided to launch an operation against militants in Fata. It has been decided that a comprehensive and decisive operation will be launched to eliminate Baitullah Mehsud and dismantle his network,’ NWFP Governor Owais Ghani said at a press conference here on Sunday night. He said the Taliban’s actions did not match their words.
‘We have repeatedly warned the Mehsud tribe through tribal elders to give up their miscreant activities and advised them not to shelter foreign militants. The government will not tolerate any act against the security of the people’s lives and property at any cost,’ he said.
‘They kept on their miscreant activities and continued to harbour terrorists. As a result, many people have lost their lives in suicide attacks in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and today in Dera Ismail Khan,’ the governor said.
He said the Taliban had committed a reprehensible act by kidnapping students of the Razmak Cadet College and training innocent teenagers for carrying out suicide attacks.
Governor Ghani said the army had been ordered to launch a crackdown on militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
‘Details and the strategy of the operation will be decided by the army,’ he said. He said Baitullah was the root of the problem and suicide bombers were being trained by him.
He said it was the responsibility of every government to establish its writ, protect people’s lives and property and maintain law and order.
‘Taliban are tarnishing the image of Pakistan and maligning Islam with such actions. They are enemies of Islam and Pakistan who want to destabilise the country,’ he added.
The governor said the terrorists were spending about Rs4 billion a year on ration, communication, transport, weapons and salaries of militants. Answering a question about the situation in Malakand division, he said terrorists had been defeated and they were on the run. He claimed that many areas in the region had been cleared after which caravans of displaced people comprising more than 100 trucks had returned to their villages in Kalam over the past few days. He said supply of water, electricity and other basic amenities had been restored in Swat and other areas.
AP adds: Army spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said: ‘The government has made the announcement. We will give a comment after evaluating the orders.’
In recent weeks, militants and security personnel have repeatedly skirmished in South Waziristan, though the army has insisted that it is merely responding to attacks, not pursuing a new offensive.
A Taliban ‘commander’, Qari Hussain Ahmad, blamed the intelligence agencies for a blast that took place in Dera Ismail Khan on Sunday, saying the government was indulging in such acts to legitimise an operation in Waziristan. ‘They want to malign us. They want to use killings of innocent citizens against us.’