Pakistan is sending a top official to the Afghan capital this weekend to try to mend fences with its uneasy neighbor, and hanging in the balance are U.S. efforts to arrange peace talks with the Taliban.
The trip comes roughly two weeks after the Taliban closed their newly opened political office in the Gulf state of Qatar following angry complaints from Afghanistan that the Islamic militant movement had set it up as a virtual rival embassy, with a flag and sign harkening back to the days they ruled the country.
The political office was part of a U.S. plan to launch peace talks with the Taliban to end the protracted war, with American and other NATO combat troops scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year. But the talks ended before they could even begin amid the uproar last month.
Pakistan, which had helped persuade Taliban to agree to sit down with the Americans — and possibly with the Afghans after that — now contends that intransigence, suspicion and Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reluctance to invite his political opponents at home to the negotiating table in Qatar is hobbling efforts to start the talks.
“They (Taliban) listen to us. We have some influence but we can’t control them,” Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s special adviser on national security and foreign affairs, told The Associated Press in advance of his trip to Kabul on Saturday.
“But they (Taliban) also say that the High Peace Council is not fully representative,” Aziz said, referring to Karzai’s 80-member negotiating team. “President Karzai should invite other people to join them.”
Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a senior member of the Afghan High Peace Council, told the AP that if the Taliban were making wider representation on the negotiating team a condition to restarting talks, then it “would be worth considering.” But he was suspicious of Pakistan, wanting assurances first that the demand was from the Taliban and not Pakistan.
Rancor and suspicion between Pakistan and Afghanistan run deep. Kabul blames Islamabad for not cracking down on Taliban militants who use the border area as a base to carry out attacks on Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan. For its part, Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of sabotaging peace efforts with its provocative statements, overtures to India and refusal to acknowledge the bloody war Islamabad is waging in its border regions.
One …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Pakistan’s lawmakers will elect a new president on August 6, the election commission said Tuesday, to replace Asif Ali Zardari who will not stand for a second term.
None of the main parties — the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — have so far announced their candidates for the election.
The PMLN won a majority in May’s parliamentary election and their nominee is expected to win the presidential poll, voted on by members of the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies.
Zardari, who came to power in 2008 on a wave of public support after the assassination of his wife Benazir Bhutto, had already announced his intention not to stand again, and given the PMLN’s power he stood little chance of re-election in any case.
Following constitutional amendments brought in by the last PPP government, the Pakistani president has a largely symbolic role with little real power, though Zardari was often seen as a sharp political operator behind the scenes.
“Candidates will file nomination papers on July 24 followed by scrutiny of papers on July 26,” according to the schedule for presidential election, released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday.
Polling will be held on August 6 at parliament house in Islamabad and in the four provincial assembly buildings.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)– The Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed an appeal against the decision of the Islamabad High Court to revoke the First Information Report formerly lodged against Rimsha Masih under Section 295 B and C of the Pakistani Penal Code, finally putting a legal end to her controversial blasphemy case.
During the hearing, Justices Tasaduq Hussain Gillani and Nasir ul Malik dismissed the application filed by Malik Ammad to reopen the blasphemy case against Masih.
Abdul Hameed Rana, Masih's counsel, said now that the High Court has declared that Masih — a 14-year-old Christian girl who suffers from Down Syndrome — is innocent, there's no longer a case pending against her.
Masih was first arrested in the Mehrabad colony of Islamabad after Ammad had lodged a complaint with the Ramna police accusing her of burning pages of the Quran. When word of this got out, Muslim mobs attacked her home and other Christian homes in Meherabad, so the Masih family was secretly moved to an undisclosed location in Pakistan.
Masih and her family were apparently granted asylum in Canada after local Canadian news recently spotted them and then broke the story.
Source: Worthy News
A US drone strike in Pakistan’s troubled northwestern tribal belt late Saturday killed two militants on a motorcycle and damaged nearby houses, officials said.
The attack took place in the Mir Ali area, some 35 kilometres (21 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district, a stronghold of Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants along the Afghan border.
Local security officials said both the militants were believed to be from Turkmenistan but their exact nationalities are yet to be ascertained.
“The target of the drone was the militants on (the) motorcycle, some nearby houses were also damaged,” a local security official told AFP in Miranshah.
Another security official in Miranshah added they were “verifying the reports that both the militants” were from Turkmenistan.
Attacks by unmanned American aircraft are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, but Washington views them as a vital tool in the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in the lawless tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan has repeatedly protested against these strikes and has also summoned US diplomats in Islamabad to condemn the drone strikes, which it says are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected American drone has killed two alleged militants in the country’s northwest.
The two officials said the militants were riding on a motorcycle Saturday when two missiles hit them.
The incident happened in the village of Musaki outside of Mir Ali, one of the main towns in North Waziristan province.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
It was the second strike in Pakistan this month. An earlier attack killed 16 suspected militants in North Waziristan.
U.S. drone strikes have become a serious source of tension between Washington and Islamabad. The Pakistani government regularly denounces the strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
The general who ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade before being forced to step down appeared on Saturday in front of an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad in connection with charges linked to his 2007 sacking and detention of a number of judges.
The hearing — the latest act in the drama surrounding Pervez Musharraf that erupted earlier this week — was to decide where he would be held while his case goes through the legal system.
Musharraf’s lawyer, Malik Qamar Afzal, said the judge ruled that he would be given judicial remand, which means that he would be held in jail until the next hearing in the case on May 4. That was confirmed by a court official who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Musharraf’s legal team has been pushing for his estate on the edge of the capital to be declared a sub-jail under the Pakistani legal system, which would mean that he would essentially be held under house arrest.
On Saturday, Musharraf was brought to the Islamabad courthouse surrounded by heavy security as supporters and opponents gathered outside the court.
He was arrested the day before in a case related to his decision, while in power, to sack and detain the judges, including the country’s chief justice, after declaring a state of emergency and suspending the constitution. The decision sparked widespread protests that eventually weakened his government so much that he was forced to call new elections and eventually step down.
A judge has said that decision amounts to terrorism, which is why the case was sent to an anti-terrorism court. Such courts are closed to the media and the public.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month from four years in self-imposed exile to make a political comeback and contest the May 11 election. But he was greeted with little popular support and was disqualified from running in the election. A judge on Thursday ordered his arrest.
That sparked a dramatic escape by Musharraf from court in a speeding vehicle after which he holed up in his heavily guarded house on the outskirts of Islamabad until he was taken into custody Friday morning.
Musharraf seized control of Pakistan in a coup in 1999 when he was army
Police say they have arrested former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf in connection with a case involving his decision to fire senior judges while in power.
Police officer Mohammed Khalid said Friday that authorities arrested Musharraf overnight from his home on the outskirts of Islamabad. He fled there from court Thursday after an Islamabad High Court judge rejected his bail and ordered his arrest.
Khalid said Musharraf was presented before a judge at Islamabad District Court on Friday who will decide whether he will be taken to jail or held under house arrest.
Local TV footage showed Musharraf entering the court in Islamabad amid high security.
Musharraf’s lawyer Malik Qamar Afzal says the judge asked police to keep Musharraf in their custody.
Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has lashed out at his accusers following his arrest in a case involving his decision to fire senior judges while in power.
Police arrested Musharraf overnight following his dramatic escape from a court in Islamabad Thursday after a judge rejected his bail and ordered his detention.
Musharraf called the allegations against him “politically motivated” in a message posted on his Facebook page after his arrest.
Police presented Musharraf before a different court in the capital on Friday morning, where the judge ordered the police to keep him in custody for two days and then present him before an anti-terrorism court.
Police returned him to his home on the outskirts of Islamabad, where he holed up after his escape, and held him under house arrest.
Police say former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has sped away from a court in the country’s capital to avoid arrest after his bail was revoked.
Police officer Ali Asghar says policemen were deployed at the court building in Islamabad on Thursday, but Musharraf’s security team rushed him out and put him in a black SUV before they could detain him.
Asghar says the court rejected his bail in a case related to his decision to suspend the constitution and declare a state of emergency in 2007.
A spokeswoman for Musharraf, Saima Ali Dada, says his legal time is trying to decide the next move.
A close aide to Pakistan‘s former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf says elections officials have approved his candidacy for parliament in a remote northern district after it was rejected in two other parts of the country.
Rashid Qureshi said officials in Chitral near the Afghan border accepted Musharraf’s nomination papers on Sunday.
Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 but was forced to step down nearly a decade later. He returned to Pakistan from exile last month to run for the National Assembly in May 11 elections.
Two other applications for southern and central Pakistani districts were rejected while a third in Islamabad is pending. Opponents have filed objections on based on actions he took while ruling Pakistan.
Chitral officials could not be reached for comment.
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Afghanistan accused Pakistan on Thursday of placing unacceptable conditions on efforts to bring peace to the country after nearly 12 years of war, the latest in a series of barbed exchanges that has sunk relations between the two neighbors to a new low.
A breakdown in ties threatens to hinder — or even paralyze — attempts to lure the Taliban to the negotiating table. That’s a key goal of the United States and its allies as they work for a peaceful solution in Afghanistan ahead of the final pullout of foreign combat forces in 20 months.
Afghanistan and its international backers consider Pakistan a critical player in bringing the Taliban and other militant groups into peace talks. Pakistan holds dozens of Taliban prisoners and has been accused of backing the insurgents in an effort to be able to exert influence in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave.
A senior Pakistan official said, however, that Islamabad remained committed to reconciliation.
That’s why Pakistan recently released 26 Afghan Taliban prisoners from its jails, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Pakistan remains in contact with members of the Taliban who have been empowered to talk about reconciliation, he said.
A failure to bring peace could endanger the stability of Afghanistan and much of the region, including Pakistan, which is fighting its own domestic Taliban insurgency.
“We have told the Pakistanis that they should support peace in Afghanistan not only for the sake of the Afghan people, but for their own sake,” Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai told The Associated Press in an interview on Thursday.
He said Afghanistan wants a close, broad, strategic relationship with Pakistan, “but one between two equal independent sovereign states, nothing less.”
Pakistan, Mosazai said, is constantly shifting its position. Islamabad should be “supporting the Afghan peace process in a more meaningful way and having an independent bilateral relationship that is not based on a delusional desire to control Afghanistan.”
So far, Afghanistan has been unsuccessful in getting militants to negotiate peace and needs Pakistan‘s help. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged the Taliban to work out a political resolution to the war and has backed a plan for the Taliban to open an office in the Gulf …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Awsad al-Barassi says the women were part of an overland aid convoy bound for Gaza. The women were traveling with two male companions when they were kidnapped Tuesday on their way to the Benghazi airport after deciding return to Britain.
Al-Barassi told Libya al-Hurra TV late Thursday that he has met with the women and they are in “very bad shape.”
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry condemned the incident and said Islamabad is in contact with Libyan authorities.
Britain’s Foreign Office said it is aware of an incident involving British nationals who were part of an aid convoy. It did not elaborate.
A New York man has been convicted of lying to the FBI about plans to team up with the Taliban or al-Qaida.
A jury on Monday found Abdel Hameed Shehadeh (shuh-HAH‘-deh) guilty in federal court in Brooklyn.
Friends of Shehadeh testified that he spoke of wanting to die while waging violent jihad, or holy war, abroad against the U.S. military. They said the former Staten Island resident had hoped to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
He faces up to 21 years in prison at sentencing. No date has been set.
A bomb hidden in a rickshaw exploded outside a bus terminal near a busy bazar in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least nine people and wounding 40, officials said.
The explosion came hours after a U.S. drone targeted a vehicle in northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border, killing three suspected militants, two intelligence officials said.
The rickshaw bomb struck in the town of Jafarabad, about 180 miles east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. It also destroyed several shops, said senior government official Syed Zafar Bukhari.
Bukhari said the motive for the attack was not clear. He said the victims were taken to a hospital, where some of the injured were listed in critical condition.
“I can only confirm that the bomb killed nine people,” Bukhari told The Associated Press by phone. “It would be premature to say who orchestrated the attack.”
Although no group claimed responsibility, suspicion fell on Bluch nationalists who have waged a decades-long insurgency against the government in Baluchistan for greater autonomy and a larger share of the province’s natural resources. The province is also home to many radical Islamist militants.
In the drone strike, a pair of missiles fired from the unmanned aircraft hit a vehicle in a bazar near the Datta Khel village of North Waziristan tribal region at about midnight Thursday, the two intelligence officials said.
The suspects were traveling from the border town of Shawal to Datta Khel, a stronghold of local Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the officials added, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. They said the nationalities and identities of the slain men were not immediately known. Pakistani government and army spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
Drone strikes often cause tension between Washington and Islamabad. They are extremely unpopular in this Islamic nation, where many people believe the drone attacks mostly kill civilians, an allegation disputed by U.S. officials.
The CIA drone strikes have killed scores of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban men in Pakistan‘s tribal region over the past few years. The secret nature of the program makes it difficult to determine how many civilians are being killed.
By Maha Atal, Contributor Political stalemate continues in Islamabad, where government and opposition leaders have failed to reach a deal on an interim government. While a parliamentary committee meets to resolve the issue, the outgoing Prime Minister is governing the country without a cabinet or parliamentary oversight. Lucky him. …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest
A bus carrying Pakistani soldiers slid off a mountainous road and fell into a deep ravine in the country’s northwest on Saturday, killing 24 and injuring five others, officials said.
Senior government official Aqil Badshah said the bus was going from the garrison city of Rawalpindi to the northern town of Gilgit when the accident happened in the Kohistan district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
He said the dead and injured were taken to a nearby hospital, and authorities were making arrangements to transport the bodies to Rawalpindi city near the capital Islamabad.
In a statement, the military said the dead and injured soldiers were originally from Gilgit, and were on leave traveling there from their base in the scenic valley of Swat.
Road accidents are common in Pakistan because of poor infrastructure and routine disregard of traffic laws.
On February 23, a bus carrying a wedding party plunged into a canal in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 17 people.
Most among the dead were women and children, and authorities at the time had said the driver’s negligence caused the tragedy.
Hundreds of Christians protesting the burning of their homes by a Muslim mob over alleged blasphemous remarks made against the Islam’s Prophet Muhammad clashed with police on Sunday in eastern and southern Pakistan.
Around 150 people have been arrested for setting dozens of Christian houses on fire in the eastern city of Lahore after a non-Muslim was accused of making offensive comments about the prophet, police said.
Christians across the country rallied against the incident, but the main demonstrations were in Lahore, the southern port city of Karachi, the capital, Islamabad, and the adjoining city of Rawalpindi.
The Christian demonstrators blocked a main highway in Lahore and police fired tear gas shells to disperse the protesters who demanded assistance from the government, said police official Malik Awais. He said the protesters damaged several vehicles, uprooted a fence along the road and burned an electricity generator.
Seven policemen were injured when the protesters pelted them with stones, he said. He said the police, who used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd, detained six of the protesters.
“I have been robbed of all of my life’s savings,” Yousuf Masih said, standing close to his burned house. He said the government‘s announcement that it would give 200,000 rupees ($2,000) compensation to each family was a joke.
Awais, the police officer said, the protesters demanded the government raise the compensation amount from 200,000 rupees ($2,000) to 1 million rupees ($10,000).
In Karachi, more than 1,000 protesters blocked a road in a main market and damaged about 25 vehicles, said police officer Ali Raza. He said some of the protesters also attacked 10 shops and looted valuables and cash. He said the police beat back the protesters and fired tear gas shells to disperse them. At least two protesters were taken into custody, he said.
The protests are a response to an incident that began on Friday after a Muslim accused a Christian man of blasphemy — an offense that in Pakistan is punished by life in prison or death. On Saturday, a mob of angry Muslims rampaged through the Christian neighborhood in Lahore, burning about 170 houses.
The Christian man is in police custody pending an investigation into the allegations. Those who rioted are being investigated for alleged arson, robbery, theft, and terrorism, said police officer Abdur Rehman.
The Pakistani police usually arrest rioters to tamp down public anger, but those accused are rarely convicted and the law is often misused to settle personal disputes and rivalries.
Akram Gill, a local bishop in the Lahore Christian community, said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between two men — one Christian and one Muslim — than blasphemy. He said the men got into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the Muslim man made up the blasphemy story as …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News
Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was in India on Saturday on a daylong private visit to a Muslim shrine.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid hosted a lunch for Ashraf in the western city of Jaipur. Khurshid told reporters that no substantive issues were discussed at the lunch.
Ashraf later traveled by helicopter to visit the shrine of the Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in the nearby town of Ajmer. Sufism is a more mystical form of Islam that is practiced in many parts of South Asia.
Ashraf and members of his family offered prayers at the shrine amid tight security.
Three Pakistani soldiers and two Indian soldiers were killed in the violence in January. India said one of its soldiers was beheaded.
Ashraf was scheduled to fly back to Islamabad later Saturday.
By Sib Kaifee
Pakistan says it is determined to build a gas pipeline with Iran despite the threat of U.S. sanctions for the move — with a top Pakistani official suggesting the uncertainty in U.S.-Iran relations is a deciding factor.
“Can America guarantee us that they will never make friends with Iran?” Asim Hussain, adviser to the Pakistan prime minister on petroleum and natural resources, told Fox News. “Will Iran never come to terms with the world order? And if someone can give us that guarantee then we will not [build] that infrastructure.”
However, with the window still open — though barely open — for improvement in Iran‘s diplomatic standing, Pakistan presumably isn’t willing to stop laying the infrastructure for the gas pipeline, as officials claim Pakistan is a depleted nation facing a chronic energy crisis.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and his Iranian counterpart, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are scheduled to inaugurate the gas pipeline project near the Pakistani border town of Gabd, Baluchistan, on Monday. Many head of states and foreign ministers have been invited to attend the ground-breaking ceremony, but Iranian diplomats and Pakistani officials in Islamabad declined to share the names of the dignitaries.
Both countries also will sign a memorandum of understanding to build Pakistan‘s largest oil refinery at the southwestern port city of Gwadar costing $4 billion. Pakistan hopes that this may prompt China, which was granted a contract last month to run the port through a state-owned company, to join the gas pipeline project and partner in building the refinery.
Pakistan‘s Foreign Office spokesman told Fox News that China hasn’t shown interest in the gas pipeline project, however Iran agreed to provide Pakistan with $500 million for construction of a third of the total length of the pipeline, which an Iranian company will undertake.
Washington strongly opposes the project, as it tries to cripple Iran economically for continuing its controversial nuclear program, suspected of developing atomic weapons. Though Tehran disputes that charge, the U.S. and its allies say Iran hasn’t provided sufficient evidence that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The U.S. State Departments says it has made it absolutely clear to the Pakistanis that if the pipeline deal is finalized, it would raise serious concerns under the Iran Sanctions Act.
“Pakistan has a lot of energy requirements. We are working with them in close partnership on other, better ways to meet those needs,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday, responding to Fox News at a press briefing. She added that Iran has proven to be an unreliable partner again and again, suggesting Pakistan should discard the project.
The United States has been aiding and assisting Pakistan to overcome its energy deficit by supporting large-scale turnkey projects through renovation and modernization of power plants and building new dams.
But Pakistan says what its getting is not enough. According to the Ministry of Petroleum, the projects haven’t taken off and the completion time frame is not suitable to them.