Posts tagged ‘Pakistan’

July 7, 2011

Pakistan ‘behind reporter’s murder’

 Saleem Shahzad Saleem Shahzad had complained of ISI threats Pakistan “sanctioned” the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad, the highest-ranking officer in the US military, Admiral Mike Mullen, has said.


But he said he could not confirm if the country’s powerful intelligence agency, the ISI, was involved.


The Pakistani government called the statement “extremely irresponsible”. The ISI has denied any involvement.


Mr Shahzad was kidnapped near his home in Islamabad in May. His body was found two days later in Punjab province.


At the time, many in the Pakistani media blamed the Pakistani intelligence agency for the murder, despite its denial.


An inquiry set up by the government to investigate the killing began work last month.


“I have not seen anything that would disabuse that report that the government knew about this,” Adm Mullen told journalists in Washington on Thursday.


“It was sanctioned by the government, yeah,” he said.


Adm Mullen added that he did not have a “string of evidence” linking the death to the ISI.

Downward spiral

Pakistan had set up an independent commission into the killing and Adm Mullen’s statement would not help that investigation, a government spokesman said. This point was repeated by Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.


“Any evidence that our American friends have should be shared with that commission,” Mr Haqqani told the New York Times newspaper.


“We are as interested in getting to the bottom of this matter as anyone else in the world, given our concern about human rights,” he said.


Nevertheless, correspondents say, the remarks will further worsen ties between Washington and its ally, Islamabad.


The relationship has been on a downward spiral for many months. Tensions worsened after the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden by US commandos in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.


Last month Adm Mullen publicly acknowledged that there would be substantial cuts to US military numbers in Pakistan.


He said that US-Pakistan ties needed time to heal but added that it would be dangerous to abandon Islamabad.


“I think the worst thing we could do would be cut them off,” he said. If that happened, he said, “10 years from now, 20 years from now, we go back and it’s much more intense and it’s much more dangerous”.


Adm Mullen steps down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff later this year.

Journalist ‘danger’

Mr Shahzad, who worked for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and the Italian news agency Adnkronos International, had made a career writing about various Islamist militant networks operating in Pakistan.


Shortly before his death he had written an article about al-Qaeda infiltration in Pakistan’s navy.


He reported that the militant group was behind a recent deadly assault on the Mehran base in Karachi because talks had failed over the release of several naval personnel arrested on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda affiliates.


Human rights groups have called Pakistan the most dangerous place in the world for journalists to operate, saying they were under threat from Islamist militants but also Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.

July 4, 2011

Computer Science research in Pakistan

Lahore: 30 June: IEEE Computer Society (Lahore Section) & UCP SACS organized a panel Discussion on “Computer Science Research in Pakistan – State of the Art & Future Directions” at UCP Auditorium on Saturday, June 11, 2011. Renowned computer science researchers and members of IEEE graced the occasion with their presence.
The panel comprised four renowned computer science researchers i.e. Dr. Sarmad Hussain (Professor, KICS UET), Dr. Fakhar Lodhi (Professor, FAST-NU Lahore), Dr. Sohaib Khan (Head of CS Department, LUMS), and Dr. Zulfiqar Habib (Head of CS Department, COMSATS Lahore). The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Ali Afzal Malik (Head of CS Department, UCP).
The discussion began with each panelist saying a few words about the research activities going on in their respective research institutes/departments. Some panelists also gave an overview of the research output of their labs.
Dr. Sohaib Khan emphasized the importance for conducting computer science research that is beneficial to the common man on the street. He underscored the need to find the sweet-spot between problem-based research and quality publications that may not be relevant to current local problems. Commenting on the role of funding available from foreign sources (e.g. Microsoft, CISCO, etc.), he stated that such funding is limited and extremely competitive.
Commenting on the availability of funding for research, Dr. Sarmad Hussain stated that Pakistan is lucky with respect to funding available for computer science research from both large (e.g. National ICT R&D fund) and small (e.g. HEC) organizations. He stressed the need for having an efficient review and audit process for funding proposals and the need of defining an appropriate salary structure for researchers.
Addressing the issue of academia-industry collaboration, Dr. Fakhar Lodhi mentioned that the local software industry is young and it needs to synchronize its activities with the academia. The academia, on the other hand, needs to focus on future problems instead of current problems. Dr. Lodhi emphasized the importance of hiring faculty members with lots of industrial experience and the need of having “teaching software houses”. He also commented briefly on the utility of undertaking open source projects vis-à-vis industrial projects.
Dr. Zulfiqar Habib highlighted the importance of choosing the right faculty advisor for students considering taking up research. The right advisor, he stated, is the one with expertise in the area of the student’s interest.
In addition to UCP students a number of faculty members also attended the event. Some faculty members and students posed relevant questions to panelists to increase their knowledge and understanding of particular computer science research areas.
University mementos were presented to the panelists by the Dr. Tabrez A. Shami, Dean Faculty of Engineering and Dr. Farooq Ahmad , Dean of Faculty of Information Technology at the conclusion of the panel discussion.
…………….

July 2, 2011

Special Olympics Summer Games 2011: Day five: Pakistan reach impressive heights

Pakistan have bagged medals in a number of event including bocce, cycling, badminton and table tennis and are certain to at least win a silver in the basketball event. PHOTO: SAIMA MOHSIN

KARACHI: 

Pakistan athletes reached unprecedented heights on an impressive fifth day of the Special Olympics Summer Games 2011 in Athens when Bakhtawar Gul and Ayesha Iftikhar bagged the top two positions at the girls’ 100-metre race, while Adeel Ameer secured a gold medal in the high jump event and Ali Sakhawat grabbed a silver medal in the men’s 200-metre race.

Rabia Saeed won the badminton women’s singles title and Mehwish Iftikhar won gold in the women’s singles table tennis event.

Eleven-year-old Gul covered the distance in 17.37 seconds while nine-year-old Ayesha followed her squad-member to bag a silver medal with 17.90 seconds to finish second. The athletes outran five other competitors in their division, as Bahrain’s Nayla H Aalathem came third with 18.12 seconds.

Meanwhile, Ameer won the gold medal in the high jump event when he covered 1.35 metres to outplay Switzerland’s Alfio Lorenzetti (1.25 metres), and Argentina’s Dario machuca (1.20 metres).

Similarly, 22-year-old Sakhawat Ali won the silver medal when he covered the distance of 200-metres in 25.53 seconds, losing the first place to China’s Bayaer Haosi with the difference of 11 seconds. Jmaica’s Owen Reitchie finished third with 25.72 seconds on the clock.

“We had an exciting day here with a lot of celebration and a major disappointment as well,” athletics coach Javad Arshad told The Express Tribune.

“Rahimullah Baig had almost won a silver medal in the 800-metre race today, but he got disqualified. We couldn’t believe it. The officials said that he entered into the race from a wrong position and ran before the signal.”

On the other hand, Saeed defeated South Korea’s Han Ui Lim 2-0 in the women’s badminton singles final. She had outplayed Netherlands’ Celine van Parijs 2-0 and China’s Chenxue 2-1 earlier in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, cyclists Billawal Aslam and Mohammad Nazeer Ahmed grabbed bronze medals in the five-kilometre men’s time trial event.

Aslam covered the distance in nine minutes and 5.62 seconds outrunning seven other competitors, losing to Colombia’s Carlos Gonzales (eight minutes and 39.89 seconds) and Greece’s Panagiotis Kontos (nine minutes and 4.84 seconds). Ahmed finished third in his division with 10 minutes and 17.69 seconds.

Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team continued with their winning streak when they defeated the UAE 31-10 in the semi-final.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2011.

July 1, 2011

‘Huge ransom paid in Pakistan’ for French hostages

The French government denied paying any ransom, but Western experts say cash for hostages is routine policy in Europe and interpret the public remarks merely as an attempt to discourage future hostage taking. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

KABUL: New details have emerged of how two French hostages in Afghanistan were freed in exchange for a hefty ransom paid in Pakistan and the release of two brothers from a mafia-style, Taliban-linked group.

French journalists Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, whose 18-month ordeal made them the longest-held Western hostages in Afghanistan, were released in a painstakingly brokered deal, say experts and Taliban sources.

The French government denied paying any ransom, but Western experts say cash for hostages is routine policy in Europe and interpret the public remarks merely as an attempt to discourage future hostage taking.

The Taliban announced from their fiefdom in southern Afghanistan that there was a prisoner swap for reporter Ghesquiere and cameraman Taponier, but sources close to the case say it was only ever about the money.

“A ransom was paid, an enormous amount, millions of dollars. The money was handed over in Pakistan,” a Taliban member close to central command told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The kidnappers were identified as loyalists of Qari Baryal, one of the main Taliban leaders in Kapisa province where the Frenchmen were kidnapped on December 30, 2009, and also seen as close to criminals.

“The Qari Baryal group is very organised and has a good reputation among the Taliban, but sometimes they go against their ideals, such as taking hostages for ransom,” the Taliban member said.

Afghanistan’s former deputy interior minister General Abdul Hadi Khalid said criminal groups gravitated around Baryal.

A Western expert went further, describing the network as “pure mafia” when talking to AFP on condition of anonymity.

“If you take into account the profile of these ‘Taliban’, it clearly wasn’t a political release and it is highly likely that the ransom was several millions of dollars,” the expert said.

Ghesquiere himself told the BBC that he believed that a deal involving money and prisoners secured his release.

In Paris, an official who dealt with the crisis sought to play down talk of a multi-million dollar ransom, but said “apparently hundreds of thousands of euros rather than millions” had exchanged hands.

According to several Taliban sources contacted by AFP, at least two commanders in the Qari Baryal group, identified as brothers Noor Ullah and Abdullah Haq, were released.

One of these sources said 15 other Taliban fighters from different areas were also released in exchange for the two journalists.

Insurgents never publicly admit to taking cash for hostages, which could alienate their sympathisers and harm their propaganda campaign.

But a number of Western hostage takings have ended with wads of cash being handed over, say foreign and Afghan officials.

One source close to the Taliban told AFP that the money was handed over in the infamous Karkhano smugglers market on the edge of Peshawar, gateway to the tribal belt on the Afghan border.

The tribal belt, which lies outside direct government control, is awash with Taliban strongholds and groups affiliated to al Qaeda.

The guarantor received the money about 10 days before handing it over to the kidnappers when the hostages and their Afghan colleague were released, according to another source very close to the Taliban.

“Qari Baryal always had the upper hand in negotiations,” said the Taliban source.

Everyone interviewed by AFP said that the central Taliban command of supreme leader Mullah Omar, called the Quetta shura, tried to take over, but in vain.

“Kapisa isn’t his area of influence. At the end of the day, the Quetta shura didn’t get its way,” said the Western expert.

“It is the perfect illustration of centralised Taliban command being an illusion,” the expert added.

So if everyone agrees that a sum of money was paid, why did Foreign Minister Alain Juppe insist that France does not pay ransoms?

“No country will ever admit to paying for hostages and especially how much they paid because if the figure gets out, it fixes the price for other hostages,” said the Western expert.

“In Europe, practically everone pays for hostages, but not the British, for example,” said one of his colleagues.

July 1, 2011

Afghan district governor accuses Pakistan of stoking war on border

fghan Border police aims his AK-47 rifle towards the Gorbuz highway from a guarding tower as he monitors trucks loaded with goods coming from Pakistan’s border to Khost province. PHOTO: AFP

KABUL: At the last military post before the Pakistan border, Afghan district governor Wali Shah explains why the insurgents seem untouchable. “The Pakistan government protects them,” he said.

Shah has daily experience of a key problem threatening any future peace deal in Afghanistan, namely that Taliban rebels fighting US troops and the Kabul government live and operate in safety from Pakistan.

“When Pakistan says it will crack down on them, it is just pretending,” he told AFP at Bowri Tana, a US and Afghan army post in the eastern province of Khost, 11 kilometres (seven miles) from the border.

“The Taliban are trained by the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency) and come into Afghanistan to launch attacks. Pakistan doesn’t want the violence here to stop. It doesn’t want Afghanistan to develop.”

For years, Afghans and Pakistanis have traded accusations of blame over the insurgents who pose a threat to security in both countries and seemingly criss-cross the porous border with impunity.

Pakistan was a key ally of the Taliban until joining the US-led “war on terror” after the September 11, 2001 attacks but has been accused by friend and foe alike of tacitly or, worse still, actively supporting Afghan insurgents.

Officials vigorously deny the allegations and point out there are 140,000 Pakistani troops committed in the northwest fighting a Pakistani Taliban insurgency — leaving them too overstretched to do more.

But rebel safe havens in Pakistan infuriate Afghan President Hamid Karzai and remain a major obstacle to peace as the United States prepares to start withdrawing 33,000 troops by the end of summer 2012.

A diplomatic spat has also flared recently amid accusations from Kabul that Pakistani rocket attacks have killed dozens this month. The Afghan government says this may damage “improving trust and cooperation” between the two.

Pakistan says its security forces may have fired only a few accidental rounds while pursuing militants but also claims that insurgents from Afghanistan have crossed the border to attack security checkpoints.

Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Pearson, US commander along 120 kilometres of the border in Khost, does not duck the issue of Pakistan sheltering the Taliban and other groups such as the Haqqani network.

“Most attacks are commanded from Miranshah (in Pakistan),” he said during a meeting this week with Shah at Bowri Tana. “That is frustrating as we want to go after the enemy but we can’t go across the border.

“Despite their advantage, it doesn’t mean that we can’t win. Indeed, it is clear to me that we are winning this war.”

Pearson said he believed Afghanistan was reaching a “tipping point where the people reject terrorists and look to the government to provide a brighter future for their children.”

Many Afghans are not so sure as 10 years after the fall of the Taliban regime, US President Barack Obama starts to cut troop numbers ahead of a 2014 deadline for all coalition combat forces to leave the country.

“If I am honest, things were better between 2001 and 2005 than today,” said Shah, the governor of Khost’s Gorbuz district. “I don’t believe we can handle security by ourselves. Improvements are being made, but 2014? We will see.”

US military officers in Khost admit that Afghan security forces are below standard and that Taliban infiltrators exist within the ranks who live and work with US troops.

“All ANSF (Afghan national security forces) are penetrated to some level,” said Pearson after one IED was found near Bowri Tana in a spot that suggested inside knowledge of gaps in the military’s surveillance capability.

“Senior police and army leaders know the issue, and are ready to compartmentalise operations so that not all their men have access to all information.”

For district governor Shah, the best hope lies in increasing cross-border commerce which he believes would bring greater wealth to the area, as well as stability.

His district includes Ghulam Khan Gate, a road crossing similar to the famous Khyber Pass between northwest Pakistan and Kabul.

“The road is going to be improved and a new customs house will be built. We want to boost traffic from 80-100 trucks a day to 1,000,” he said.

“I am optimistic we can hit that target within two years. It would change a lot of things.”

July 1, 2011

Pakistan bag gold, silver medals Special Olympics Day four:

Pakistan athletes at the Special Olympics find another reason to smile. PHOTO: SAIMA MOHSIN

KARACHI: 

Pakistan’s medal count increased on the fourth day of the Special Olympics Summer Games 2011 when Shumail Rubab bagged a gold at the women’s singles bocce event, Husnain Abbas Zaidi secured silver in the men’s 25-metre backstroke competition and Tahir Siddique ended as runner-up in the shotput event.

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July 1, 2011

President Cup Boxing Tournament Pakistan boxers depart today for President Cup

Squad comprises five pugilists including Commonwealth Games medalist.

KARACHI: 

Pakistan pugilists will depart today for Jakarta, Indonesia to compete in the 21st edition of the President Cup Boxing Tournament that starts tomorrow.

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July 1, 2011

Pakistan and England fight out thrilling draw

Sohail, Shakeel score for Greenshirts in 4-Nation tournament. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

AMSTERDAM: 

In a fast and furious last six minutes, Pakistan lost the lead, regained and settled for a 2-2 draw with England at the Rabo 4-Nation Cup.

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July 1, 2011

HEC Foreign Funded Scholarship IUHW Japan scholarhsip Program

International University of Healt & Welfare (IUHW) Japan scholarhsip Program for Eligible students from Asian Countries and Regions 2012

Introduction:

International University of Health and Welfare (IUHW), Japan has announced the Scholarship Program for Asian students, in the fields of health care and welfare service, to study at IUHW from the session beginning in April, 2012. The applications are to be routed / sent through Higher Education Commission, Pakistan. The details of the scholarship announced by IUHW are as under:

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July 1, 2011

Pak-India working committee Petroleum committee fails to make progress

Indian companies keen to export oil to Pakistan.

KARACHI: 

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