PESHAWAR: Seventy-six suspected militants were killed in North Waziristan and 16 in Khyber Agency when planes pounded their hideouts in the two volatile regions on Tuesday, the military said.
“In a precise aerial strike in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan in the afternoon, 53 militants, including 12 foreigners, were killed. Six hideouts, an ammunition dump and seven explosives-laden vehicles were destroyed,” said an ISPR statement.
The jet fighters targeted militants’ positions in Kharh Tangi, some 35km west of the agency headquarters of Miramshah. Most of the foreigners killed were Uzbeks, military sources said.
In another strike in the same area later, 23 militants were killed, the ISPR claimed.
Since the area is off-limits to journalists, it is difficult to independently verify the number and identity of the dead.
The jets continued shelling for about one hour, inflicting heavy losses on the militants, sources said.
TIRAH VALLEY: In Khyber Agency, at least 16 suspected militants were killed and 12 others injured when military planes pounded their hideouts in Tirah valley, according to security officials.
The air strikes were carried out in Therkho Kas, Wacha Wana, Sra Vella and Nakai areas, near the Afghan border. The officials claimed that those killed belonged to the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-i-Islam. Six militant hideouts were destroyed in the strikes.
On Monday security officials had claimed that eight militants were killed in the same region.
KARACHI: The Afghan ambassador to Pakistan said on Saturday that his government was taking measures for the return of 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan in the shortest possible time.
“There is a three-way agreement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and all three signatories agree on voluntary, dignified and gradual return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan,” Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai told a group of journalists at the Afghan Consulate General in Karachi.
He said that his country was ‘incomplete in its essence’ without the homecoming of its people, who had to leave the country decades ago because of security conditions.
He said the Afghan government had welcomed five million of its refugees from Pakistan and Iran since 2002, which he described as the ‘largest return of refugees to their homeland in history’.
“It [refugees’ arrival] has slowed down for some time, but this issue is our key priority on which we fully focus. The fabric of the Afghan society is not complete without our refugee brothers and sisters. We are improving our environment to encourage their return so that they see no uncertain future and no shortage of basic amenities,” said Ambassador Mosazai.
He said he had met Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Friday and thanked him for hosting a large number of Afghans with generosity for so many decades. “Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah gave us the assurance that his government in Sindh will treat Afghan refugees in a dignified and respectable manner until their full return home.”
He praised the leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement with whom he said he held a detailed discussion on economy, extremism and terrorism.
He said at present 1.6m registered Afghan refugees were residing in Pakistan, most of whom lived in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan while their number in Sindh was 65,000.
He, however, was not sure about the number of unregistered Afghan refugees, which he guessed might be between 400,000 and one million.
‘We don’t discriminate between good and bad terrorist’
He said that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan were focused on cooperation to forge a common narrative against extremism and terrorism.
“There is a close engagement between the two countries to counter this menace and we are hopeful that our efforts will bear fruit in the coming months,” he said.
He said his government was engaged in the war against terrorism and made no distinction between militants.
“Afghan forces began their fight against militants in Kunar province four weeks ago and so far they have killed 200 militants. That proves the government’s clear and consistent policy that we don’t discriminate between good and bad terrorist. A terrorist is a terrorist.”
“We want to enhance cooperation between the two governments to forge a multi-faceted effort against terrorism. People of Afghanistan are the biggest victims of terrorism, so we welcome any measures to eradicate this menace,” said Ambassador Mosazai.
He complained that the Pakistani media accorded sparse coverage to terrorism in Afghanistan unlike the Afghan media, which broadly highlighted violent events in Pakistan. “It is in our own advantage not to go for a split narrative. The narrative of the two countries — the biggest victims of terrorism — should be single and common to fight it out successfully.”
Ambassador Mosazai said he held extensive meetings with the business leaders in Pakistan and discussed wide-ranging issues relating to trade cooperation between the two neighbouring countries.
He said during the recent visit of President Ashraf Ghani to Pakistan substantive decisions were agreed upon in Islamabad.
He said Kabul would establish free economic zones in northern Afghanistan where Pakistani investors could set up their factories and industries.
He said his government desired full-scale increase in trade with Pakistan and hoped it could swell up from the current over $2 billion to $5bn.
ISLAMABAD: Federal Secretary of Water and Power Younus Thakkar on Sunday claimed the country-wide power breakdown was caused by militants who had blown up two transmission towers in Balochistan.
“Two transmission towers were blown up by miscreants in Sibi late on Saturday,” Thakkar said.
Early on Sunday, Pakistan had been plunged into darkness after a key power transmission line broke down. The power failure, one of the worst the country has experienced, caused electricity to be cut in major cities, including the capital Islamabad.
This was the fourth major breakdown of the system within the past one month plunging countless cities, towns and villages in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan into darkness. A substantial area in Sindh was affected, too.
The federal secretary said over 7,000MW of power had been restored and further work was underway to end the breakdown, which still extended into parts of Pakistan. He said the country was currently facing 4,000MW power shortage, and it was expected that the situation would normalise tomorrow (Monday).
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Thakkar admitted there had been a security lapse. He did however argue that it was impossible for the state to monitor transmission lines spread over thousands of kilometers.
Thakkar said it was time consuming to restore technical problems in the system as there was a single national grid station to supply power. He said steps were being taken to establish at least two alternate grid stations in the country.
Clarifying rumours about an acute shortage of furnace oil, Thakkar claimed an additional six days of stock was present and there was no fear of any power crisis at present.
KARACHI: Unexplained disappearances of child corpses from a local graveyard in Karachi created panic on Saturday.
Residents of a neighbourhood in Manghopir were shocked to to learn that five corpses have gone missing from the Afridi Goth graveyard, with two cases having taken place in the last 15 days.
According to residents, police suspect that an animal is stealing the corpses of children. While five corpses have gone missing in the last few months, some graves were dug up and left open.
“The graves were unpaved,” said Station House Officer (SHO) Manghopir Ghulam Hussain Korai. “An animal dug its way to the bottom and consumed the child corpses; they did not 'disappear'. Flesh and bones were also found.”
Police officials have been deployed at the graveyard to monitor the situation.
Residents say this is the first time in the 30 years since the graveyard was built that such an incident has taken place and demanded that authorities act quickly to put an end to the disappearances.
“Riz, you have a phone call,” were the first words I heard as I entered the air-crew room after a mission.
I grabbed a mug of coffee and walked to the land line, hardly expecting it to be my 10-year-old baby sister on the other end. It was a surprise; she had never called me at my squadron before.
I tried recalling if I had forgotten anything she had asked for but nothing strikes my mind. Before I could even say anything, I heard loud erratic breathing. In her trembling voice she said:
“You’re going to kill each and every one of the bad guys out there, right?”
I was stunned. I said, yes, of course, that’s what I am here for.
She replied only with a “thank you” and hung up.
“A school in Peshawar has just been attacked,” I learnt, and for a moment I thought I had heard wrong.
How could someone attack a school, I asked myself. Even taking the perverse exploitation of religion by pseudo cults into account, how could someone think of targeting innocent children who would not even know why were they being targeted?
The unimaginable had happened.
The Army Public School in Peshawar had been attacked by seven terrorists who stormed in and opened fire indiscriminately and killed scores of our innocent angels – it was Armageddon.
Children were killed after confirmations of being sons of armed forces personnel. They were shot in the head. They were shot in the face. They were dragged out from under chairs, under tables and shot. At point blank.
Their offense? They were the children of those who have dedicated their lives to defend their countrymen.
Nine hundred and sixty students and staff members were evacuated safely by Pakistan’s Special Services Group’s, Zarrar Company, which is specialised in anti-terrorism and hostage evacuation aided by the Pakistan Air Force’s airborne surveillance aircraft.
One hundred and forty one of our countrymen died on one of the blackest days in the history of humanity.
One hundred and thirty three children aged between 5-18 years were killed with questioning eyes that asked, “What is our fault?”
A teacher was set alight alive, and students were made to watch. Humanity died 141 deaths that day.
My mother called me last night:
“Fight them. Kill them. They’ve hurt your mothers.”
Never had I heard my mother so enraged before.
“Even my life for vengeance,” I reassured her.
Armed Forces personnel are known to be emotionally distant and strong. My best friend gave his life for the motherland in my arms. I held his hands in mine and the last look on his face was of satisfaction; entreating me to continue the mission of safeguarding the country.
The blood from his chest spilled onto my hands, and sealed the deal.
Perhaps it is the military in us that stays our emotional pendulum from swinging back and forth wildly. We do not mourn our martyrs, we take pride in them.
Even so, it took me days to be able to write this, one is just short on words about this kind of savagery.
I’ve never heard such pin-drop silence in our fighter crew rooms, ever.
Even on losing our comrades in action, we get together and reiterate our resolve to continue the mission.
Thirty days today and no one has spoken a word since, just the exchange of silent reassurances between fighter pilots to avenge our children.
And avenge we will.
The nation has been shaken to its core by this vicious incident. People are eager to play their part in avenging the animals who took away our children.
Every heart in the country goes out to our mothers and wants to take away their pain, however possible.
The international media needs to align its true North too. These innocent children were not targeted because they were going to school; they were targeted because they were the children of the armed forces personnel who are fighting against terrorism.
Today, I visited Army Public School Peshawar.
As desolated as any place ever could be, I could visualise our traumatised children uncertain of what was coming at them in that blood streaked auditorium, I could hear them running in the destructed corridors amidst the gunshots. I could read their last messages on their bloodied books grabbed in pain.
I could hear them all around asking me if I would continue their mission and I inevitably, inadvertently, kept nodding in affirmation throughout.
Every step I took in those corridors strengthened my resolve to get back and fight back stronger than ever, but there was something I had to do first.
I visited the Combined Military and Lady Reading Hospitals in Peshawar to meet the injured children and their families and to visit the great mothers, who we as a nation are indebted to.
Every child I met in the hospital was an epitome of courage and resilience and could not wait to get better and get back to the same classrooms their friends had been shot in.
“I will go back and complete my studies in the same school and join our armed forces to fight all the enemies,” a 10-year-old injured student told me.
What a resolve, what a nation.
I then went to meet the mother of a 14-year-old victim. Believe me, fighting a war, bombing the enemy, facing bullets and missiles is a lot easier than facing a mother who has lost her child.
I walked in, the father of the student embraced me. I could hear his heart beat and his lips quiver as he took me to the child’s mother.
“He’s going to avenge our son,” he said, and suddenly, I felt the entire weight of the world descend upon my shoulders.
The mother looked up at me and all she could do was extend her hand towards me. I knelt down, took her hand in my hands and kissed it:
“Ma, I will avenge every single one of our children.”
A tear fell from her eye, rolled down on her cheek, dropped on our hands, and sealed the deal.
“What can we, as Pakistanis in the civil, do to help?” a very dear friend asked me.
First things first, we as fighter pilots and soldiers only need two things that boost our morale in the field infinite folds: national unity, and motivation.
All we need right now is motivation. There is no denial that this barbaric incident shook all of us. As the saner voices out there, we have all the more responsibility to get out, walk our people through these toughest of the times.
Our children will most likely develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; we have to talk them through this, motivate them, and give them a reason to believe. We have to give our people the hope they need to cling onto.
Help us, those who are at the front and build the nation.
This won’t be easy let me tell you but we will do it.
I will not mourn, I will not express my anger. I want to remember this incident as it is when I fight our enemies. I want to remember every face of every child as I destroy all the terrorists and turn their bodies to ashes. I will not sit back. I have written off my life in my oath to my nation, I am indebted to her a 141 times more now.
We shall avenge every last breath, every last drop of blood.
Every bomb that we target these hell bound terrorists with, will convey a message from the children of Pakistan, that they will not bend, and that they will stand up again. We shall rise.
May the Lord give me the strength to uphold the promise I made to my mothers.
LAHORE: Ikramul Haq, an activist of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was hanged at Kot Lakhpat Central Jail, Lahore, on Saturday morning for the 2001 killing of a man at an imambargah in Jhang.
Haq;s execution was scheduled earlier on January 8, 2014 but was delayed at the eleventh hour after an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant was produced before the magistrate.
Later the condemned prisoner and the plaintiff parties were asked to approach the anti-terrorism court for confirmation of the agreement pardoning Haq.
Out of eight family members of the deceased Abbas, only his two brothers and a sister appeared before the judge, hence the court refused to accept the agreement and upheld its decision of death sentence to the convict.
Earlier in 2004 an anti-terrorism court in Faisalabad had awarded the death sentence to Ikramul Haq in connection with killing a man Nayyar Abbas, who was a guard of Altaf Shah of the banned Sipah-i-Muhammad at an imambargah in Shorkot, Jhang in 2001.
The ATC had issued his (Haq's) death warrants on January 6, 2014. President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain had also turned down his mercy appeal.
The Faisalabad anti-terrorism court had also reissued black warrant for Haq's execution. Council for the convict had challenged the warrants before the Lahore High Court but the petition was dismissed by a bench of the LHC.
Strict security measures were in place in and around Kot Lakhpat Central Jail. Heavy contingent of police, besides army and rangers personnel were deployed in and outside the jail premises.
Family members of Ikramul Haq held last meeting with him on Wednesday. After carrying out the execution, authorities handed over Haq's body to his brother.
So far 20 convicts have been hanged since the lifting of a moratorium on death penalty by the government after the Peshawar school carnage.
On Dec 17, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had lifted the moratorium on death penalty after the attack on Peshawar's Army Public School that killed more than 140 people — including 134 school children.
The moratorium was enforced during the tenure of the Pakistan Peoples Party government in 2008.
“Ladies and gentlemen"
Thank you very much for being here this morning.
Let me begin by welcoming Secretary Kerry and his team to Islamabad for this Ministerial Review of the Strategic Dialogue.
We had a very useful and productive exchange of views on a wide range of bilateral issues. Relations with the US are a vital component of our foreign policy. The Strategic Dialogue provides us with a forum to discuss all aspects of our bilateral relationship. In our discussion today we took stock of the progress made in the six Working Groups within the Strategic Dialogue process since the last review in January 2014 and to identify areas for future collaboration and cooperation.
The Working Groups cover a wide range of issues including cooperation in economy, energy, defence cooperation, nuclear issue, counter-terrorism and law enforcement and the recently-established Working Group that focuses on education and science & technology.
We also discussed the regional situation. Pakistan wants peaceful relations with all its neighbours, both on our eastern and western borders. With India, we want a constructive, sustained and result-oriented dialogue on all issues of mutual concern. The cancellation of Foreign Secretary level talks by India, followed by the recent incidents of unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on the LoC and Working boundary are a source of serious concern to us. We hope that the US, as an influential member of the international community, can prevail upon India to work with Pakistan towards regional peace and economic prosperity
I also briefed Secretary Kerry about several positive developments in the past 3 months that have helped to improve Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and emphasized the importance of larger assistance from the global community for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. We agreed that peace and stability in Afghanistan was an essential pre-requisite for stability in Pakistan and the Region.
Secretary Kerry welcomed the resolute steps initiated by Pakistan to counter the menace of terrorism through the National Action Plan and related measures.
We agreed on the importance of expanding trade between the two countries. I urged Secretary Kerry to consider various proposals to provide greater market access to Pakistan and said Pakistan is eagerly awaiting the joint US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference in Islamabad in March 2015.
With these brief remarks I invite Secretary Kerry for his comments.”