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Monday, 8 December 2008

From Today's Papers - 08 Dec

From Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack has caused great anguish amongst the people of India. The feeling amongst Muslim community is special. They have been target of attack like any other community. Their sufferings are the same as others but the name tag of terrorists puts them in to defensive. They have gone out of their way to convey that the perpetrators of such heinous attack cannot belong to their religion for Islam does not permit killing of innocent people. All eminent personalities amongst the Muslims have been very vocal in expressing their anguish and solidarity with the targets of attack The Muslim clerics have gone to the extent of not even permitting terrorists' burial in their sights. They could not have done more in being with the rest of the country. The other communities need to feel their pains and convey it so in no uncertain terms. The feeling of hurt is common to all and all of them are together in facing the threat of terrorism. Majority community has a special responsibility. They need to take lead in reassuring mutual love for each other irrespective their religion. Displaying such sentiments may not be termed as blessing in Mumbai tragedy for the loss has been too heavy and painful but this can definitely be an opportunity in tragedy. So, let us all resolve to forget all our differences and be one and united against our enemy.

Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

Mumbai Heat
Pak denies deadline
Handing over of LeT men to India

Islamabad, December 7
Pakistan today dismissed reports that it had agreed to a 48-hour deadline set by India and the US to take action against the LeT, as international pressure mounted on Islamabad to act against elements linked to the Mumbai attack.

"We do not have to respond to each and every provocative statement or comment in the media," presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told PTI when asked about the report in the Washington Post that Pakistan had agreed to a 48-hour deadline imposed by the US and India to act against the LeT and to arrest at least three Pakistanis who Indian authorities say are linked to the attacks.

Adding to Islamabad's discomfiture was another report in British newspaper The Observer which said the lone surviving gunman arrested during the terror attacks came from Okara district of Punjab in Pakistan. Islamabad has denied that the arrested terrorist is its national.

The daily claimed to have obtained electoral lists for Faridkot showing 478 registered voters including that of Mohammad Amir, married to Noor Elahi.

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, the terrorist who is being interrogated by the Mumbai police, has stated that he hails from Faridkot and is the son of Amir and Noor. Their village is believed to be an active recruiting ground for the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The daily quoted an unidentified villager as saying that Ajmal has not lived in Faridkot for about four years but would see his family once a year and frequently talked about "freeing Kashmir from Indian rule.

The Washington Post quoted an unnamed Pakistani official as saying that India had asked Pakistan to arrest and hand over LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhwi and former Inter-Services Intelligence agency chief Lt Gen (retired) Hamid Gul in connection with the probe into the attacks that killed 183 people. Gul rubbished the report.

Faced with increasing international pressure to act against the LeT and domestic compulsions, Pakistan's civil and military leadership asked India to provide "solid evidence" before levelling "baseless allegations" against it.

This was decided during two meetings yesterday that were chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and attended by senior ministers, military officials and opposition leaders. The meetings reviewed the security situation on Pakistan's eastern and western borders and the fallout of the Mumbai attacks.

The first meeting, at which opposition leaders were not present, decided to confront "negative propaganda by the Indian media" by explaining Pakistan's position to the world, the pro-establishment The News daily reported. — PTI

ULFA vying for base in China: DGP
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 7
Apprehending crackdown by Bangladesh authorities to flush out Indian militants taking shelter on its soil, the proscribed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is trying to set up another base at Yunan province of China.

Assam's newly-appointed director-general of police, G M Srivastava, who was instrumental in bringing the marauding ULFA to its knee during the late 1990s in the capacity of IGP (Law and Order), informed the media here that a group of ULFA cadres were now taking shelter in Yunan province of China as part of the outfit's effort to set up a base there.

The Yunan province in China could be reached from eastern Assam through Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring Myanmar, a route which is under strict vigil of the Indian Army to check cross-border movement of ULFA militants.

The ULFA has old connection with Yunan province in China given that a group of ULFA cadres had gone to that area for training at the initial stage after the formation of the outfit in 1979.

Now, under threat in Bangladesh because of increasing global campaign against terrorism, the ULFA is trying to revive its old contacts in Yunan province in China.

The senior police official further informed that the banned ULFA was still having some training camps in Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) in Bangladesh while a section of senior leaders of the outfit including its commander in chief Paresh Barua and outfit's foreign secretary, Sashadhar Choudhury, are believed to be in the neighbouring country.

The Army and police operating against insurgents in Assam have been maintaining that it would not be possible to wipe out insurgency in Assam through use of force till the militants continue to have bases in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi has said that the state government is totally dependent on the Centre for facilitating eviction of the militants belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom and other militants groups based in Bangladesh by the Bangladesh authorities.

Calm Hand Missing at Pakistani Helm: Dawn

The manner in which Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari fell for a "prank" call threatening action by India in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks reveals the lack of a calm hand at the helm and calls for urgently reviewing the government's communications procedures, an editorial in a leading daily said Sunday.

"Statecraft demands a calm hand at the helm in moments of crisis. It is not clear if such a hand exists in Islamabad at the moment," the Dawn said in an editorial headlined "A dangerous prank".

The newspaper reported Saturday that a prankster posing as Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was patched through to Zardari Nov 28 and threatened military action by India if Pakistan did not act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

In a knee-jerk reaction, Pakistan put its armed forces on alert and threatened to remove its troops from the border with Afghanistan and send them to the border with India.

It was only after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Mukherjee, who denied telephoning Zardari, "did it become clear that the presidency had been the victim of a prank and the tension in the region began to lower", the Dawn editorial said.

In New Delhi Sunday, Mukherjee turned the tables on the incident, saying such stories were being spread by those seeking to "divert attention from the fact of an attack on India from Pakistani territory by elements in Pakistan".

Mukherjee clarified that the only Pakistani leader he spoke to after the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks was his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Mukherjee spoke to Qureshi on the evening of Nov 28 and told him about India's suspicion of the involvement of "elements in Pakistan" in the Mumbai attacks.

Mukherjee also cautioned those in Pakistan who sought to "confuse the public by releasing the story in part".

According to the Dawn editorial, the caller "should never have been allowed to speak to the president".

"Pakistan is long used to its officials abdicating their responsibilities and never paying the price, but this is surely an occasion when tradition must be broken and the culprits identified and punished," it said.

"As the incident demonstrates, checks and procedures bypassed on the occasion exist precisely to ensure reliable communications between the Pakistani head of state and world leaders. Only an amateur would place a premium on speed over reliability, and there is no room for amateurs in a crisis," the editorial contended.

After the incident, "the dim view that world capitals take of Pakistan will only have grown dimmer now that it has been revealed that a major non-NATO ally of the US, a nuclear-armed nation and a country flush with militants and weapons and with the world's seventh largest standing army nearly catastrophically raised tensions in South Asia in reaction to a prank call," the newspaper said in a strongly worded editorial.

Pakistan also needed to "urgently review its procedures for communications both internal and external.

"The officials handling such communications must be career professionals who are well-trained and have up-to-date knowledge about safety procedures and possible threats. Political appointees, if any, must be shown the door," Dawn said.

"Making the mistake was bad enough; not learning from it would be even worse - with potential consequences we do not even want to contemplate," it added.

Pakistan forces takes over Lashkar camp: Witnesses


Islamabad: Pakistani security forces took over a camp used by Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in Pakistani Kashmir on Sunday, a witness and an official from a charity linked to Lashkar said.

"This happened this afternoon, security forces took over the camp," said an official with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity.

The charity official said security forces arrested some fighters from Lashkar, the prime suspect in the attacks on Mumbai that killed at least 171 people.

Local man Nisar Ali said the raid began in the afternoon in Shawai on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani side of disputed Kashmir region.

"I don't know details as the entire area was sealed off but I heard two loud blasts in the evening after a military helicopter landed there," Ali said.

Pakistan banned Lashkar after it was blamed for the December, 2001, attack on India's parliament, which brought the two countries on the brink of a fourth war.

Pakistan also put Jamaat-ud-Dawa on a watch-list and was added several years later the list of terrorist organisations by the United States.

Lashkar founder, Hafiz Saeed, one of the most wanted men in India, quit the group in 2001 but remained head of the charity.

India says the only gunman captured alive during the attacks on Mumbai told investigators he underwent months of training in guerrilla warfare organised by Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan.

Maj Sandeep's father accepts compensation
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 7
Unnikrishnan Nair, father of slain commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan, said he would accept the money offered by the Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa today as compensation to the family.

Talking to The Tribune, Nair said, "I shall accept the money. What I do with it is a different thing". "Karnataka is my state, you see. It does not look good if I refuse the compensation offered by the Chief Minister", Nair said. He said the deputy commissioner had come to his residence yesterday to ask him if he would accept if a cash grant was made by the Chief Minister.

Earlier, Chief Minister Yeddyurappa announced that Rs 30 lakh would be given to the Unnikrishnan family as a mark of respect to the memory of the Army officer who died recently in an encounter with the terrorists in Mumbai's Taj Hotel.

Unnikrishnan said his son was a soldier and died a death befitting a soldier. On the incident involving him and Kerala Chief Minister Achuthanandan, Nair said it resulted from a misunderstanding for which a reporter was responsible. "The Kerala Chief Minister is a fatherly figure," Nair, who originally hails from Kerala, said. He said he did not have any grudge against Achuthanandan for paying a delayed visit to his house. "After all, he stays in a distant location," Nair said.

Another Bangalore-based Malayali Army officer, Col Jojan Thomas, was killed in an encounter with terrorists in Kashmir in August. At that time the Kerala government had sent a representative in Bangalore to offer condolences to the family. While the Kerala Chief Minister came to Sandeep's home, nobody from Kerala government attended the funeral. At least, Unnikrishnan Nair could not recall any Kerala government representative being present at the funeral of his son.

Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa had attended the service held after Jojan Thomas's death and also announced that the expenditure on the education of the elder of the two children left behind by Thomas would be taken care of. The CM, however, did not announce any cash grant for the family.

Ex-ISI chief Gul terms reports as nonsense

PTI | December 07, 2008 | 16:50 IST

Former Inter-Services-Inetlligence chief Hamid Gul on Sunday dismissed as "nonsense" reports that Pakistan has agreed to arrest and hand him over to India in connection with the probe into the Mumbai terror attacks.

"It is nonsense, it is disinformation because (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and America want my name to be
included," Gul told a private Indian channel from Rawalpindi.

He was reacting to a Washington Post report that said Pakistan has agreed to a 48-hour timetable set by India and US
to take action against Lashkar-e-Toiba and arrest at least three Pakistanis believed to be linked to the Mumbai attacks.

Citing a top unnamed Pakistani official, the Post said among the people India asked Islamabad to arrest and hand
over is the former ISI Director Gul.
"The US doesn't like this loud voice in which I condemn them, their aggression, their oppression, their invasion over Afghanistan and lies in Iraq. I expose them, their 9/11 was a fraud, it was an inside job," he told NDTV.

"I want to say to the Indian public and the Indian leadership please don't fall into their trap, look at what they have done to us, they are deceitful and they will use you for their own purpose," he said.
On his links with the Pakistani spy agency, Gul said: "I left the ISI 20 years ago ... I have no contact with ISI."The former ISI head claimed that the US now wanted Indian troops to be "committed" to Afghanistan "because they have run short of their own troops and NATO is pulling out."

Asked whether he will cooperate with India in probe into the deadly attacks, Gul said he is ready to help if his government tells him to do so. However, he said New Delhi should show "more sagacity" in dealing with Islamabad.

3 killed, NATO vehicles torched in Pak

Press Trust of India

Sunday, December 07, 2008 (Islamabad)

Three persons were killed and over 150 vehicles being sent to US-led forces in Afghanistan were destroyed when scores of heavily armed pro-Taliban militants stormed two storage facilities in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday, officials and witnesses said.

In a pre-dawn raid, militants armed with rockets and heavy weapons blasted through the gates of Al-Faisal depot and Portward Logistic Terminal and torched trucks, tankers loaded with fuel and Humvee armoured vehicles.

The militants fired up to 10 rockets during the attack and used petrol and kerosene to set the vehicles on fire. A watchman and two other persons were killed in the attack, Geo News channel reported.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack but authorities usually blame local Taliban for such strikes.

Over 100 vehicles, a majority of them Humvees, were destroyed at the Portward Logistic Terminal while more than 50 vehicles were destroyed at the Al-Faisal depot.

Officials said it was the biggest attack yet on supplies being sent through Pakistan to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In recent months, Taliban militants have carried out several attacks on NATO supply convoys in the restive Khyber Agency and Landi Kotal town near the Afghan border.

It was also the second attack within a week on storage facilities in Peshawar used by NATO supply convoys. On December 1, two persons were killed and over two dozen trucks were damaged when militants attacked the Al-Faisal depot.

Reports said more than 100 militants were involved in Sunday's attack.

Militants torch 150 NATO trucks in Pakistan, kill guard


Islamabad: Some 300 heavily-armed rebels attacked two parking bays in north-western Pakistan full of vehicles used by US and NATO contractors for making deliveries to Afghanistan, killing a guard and torching dozens of trucks, the police said Sunday.

The attack took place in the early hours at Al-Faisal International and Port World Logistics terminals on the outskirts of Peshawar city, where the trucks are parked at night.

"Around at 3.10 am (2210 GMT) more than 300 Taliban armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles surrounded the area where half a dozen terminals are located," Sarmad Khan, a local police investigator, told DPA.

"They killed a guard named Salman and set fire to around 150 trucks and containers in two terminals." he added. "Had the police not come and fought with them, they would have gone to other terminals and torched everything."

Imran Qureshi, the manager of the Al-Faisal terminal, said the lorries were used to carry supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"I think around two dozen armoured vehicles, Humvees, were also destroyed in the attacks," Qureshi said. "We are planning to close down the business because the government is unable to provide us security."

Pakistani authorities have asked hauling contractors to make the journey through the Khyber Pass, located 18 km from Peshawar, only during daytime and under security cover, since last month's attack on a NATO supply caravan by Taliban.

Militants seized 12 trucks and abducted 26 crew members in that ambush, which halted supply deliveries for several days.

The 35-km mountain track passing through the lawless tribal region serves as a major supply route to land-locked Afghanistan.

But the latest attack took place in Peshawar before the truck caravan start its journey through the dangerous route.

Militants holed up in the volatile north-west have repeatedly threatened to cut the supply line if US forces in Afghanistan continue air strikes on their hideouts with unmanned flying drones.

The move would greatly hamper the operations of international forces against Taliban in Afghanistan.

The attack on the Al-Faisal and World Port terminals was the second this week. On Monday, rebels killed two drivers and destroyed at least a dozen lorries loaded with NATO supplies in a pre-dawn attack.

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