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Pashtun institutions under attack
The ‘kula’ (a traditional Pashtun cap made of straw) means everything to Malik Waris Khan Afridi, and the front-page photo of a ‘kula’ lying in the dirt in the Monday editions of several national dailies has shaken him.

The photo shows the ‘kula’ - a symbol of respect for Pashtuns – lying on the ground while tribesmen look on after a suicide attack on a jirga in Darra Adam Khel on Sunday. Many of the dead tribal elders were wearing the ‘kula’ when the attack happened.

The cap, which is worn by tribes in Mohmand, Bajaur, Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber agencies, is seen as a symbol of the Pashtun institution of jirga.

On Sunday, the leading elders of fives tribes in Darra Adam Khel were to draft a ‘peace treaty’ when a young suicide bomber stepped in and killed 40 people. The attack came two days after a suicide bombing at the funeral of a slain police officer, which left more than 50 dead.

Threatened: “The jirga and the mosque are two institutions of Pashtun society and both are under attack,” Afridi told Daily Times. He said the attack “is a conspiracy to destroy peace”. “Peace will never return to Pashtun areas if jirgas are abolished,” Afridi said, adding, “The jirga and mosque represent peace in Pashtun society and their absence will endanger the very concept of peace.” He said he did not think the Taliban were behind the attacks.

Syed Wazir of the Qaumi Tehreek in Darra Adam Khel said that the attack had left “the Pashtun nation wounded, its leadership martyred and its people senseless”. He said the delay in acting against militants in the region had shown negligence on the part of the tribal people.

Total humiliation: Tribal elder Muhammad Ali Halimzai of Mohmand Agency expressed concern at the deteriorating security situation in Pashtun areas. However, he said he had high hopes that the Awami National Party would save the Pashtun institutions from “total humiliation”. “I think it is ANP’s responsibility to come to the rescue of the Pashtun nation at a time when the ‘Great Game’ is being played on our soil,” he said by phone from Mohmand Agency’s Ghalanai.

However, a senior researcher at the Area Study Centre of the University of Peshawar said Sunday’s attack would not undermine the institution of the jirga. “The Pashtuns cannot be bogged down by attacks such as the one on Sunday,” said Azmat Hayat, director of the centre. He said the mastermind behind the attacks needed to be found, as this was an “organised (wave of) attacks”.

Caretaker Federal Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said in a TV interview that the perception that the US, India and Afghanistan were “involved in suicide attacks in Pakistan was fast gaining momentum in the country”.

Sherpao attack accused killed
Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan on Wednesday said a tribal militant commander and mastermind of two suicide attacks on former interior minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao and killer of a serving Intelligence Bureau (IB) official was killed in an encounter with security agencies on Tuesday.

“Abdul Siar, head of Siar group in the Tribal Areas, was killed on Tuesday in an encounter between security agencies and his men between Charsada and Mohmand Agency,” Hamid told reporters after attending a National Public Safety Commission meeting. Nawaz said almost 116 innocent people had died in various terrorist attacks by Siar and his men in various parts of the country. He said security agencies had also arrested two of Siar’s men during the encounter, who divulged important information after which the government had increased security of prominent politicians and important public buildings across Pakistan.

Qari Saifullah Arrested in Bhutto Parade Bombing
A suspected Al Qaeda militant has been arrested in connection with the October homicide bombing in Karachi that narrowly missed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto but killed about 150 others, a top government official said Wednesday.

Qari Saifullah Akhtar, who has been in Pakistani custody before, was arrested on Monday in Lahore in connection with the bombing that hit Bhutto's homecoming parade when she returned from exile, before her killing in a second homicide attack Dec. 27, Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said. "He is involved in the blasts in Karsaz. Therefore he has been arrested," Nawaz told The Associated Press, referring to the Karachi neighborhood where the October bombing happened.

A bit more, from Pak Daily Times...
Saifullah was arrested from an under-construction mosque in Ferozwala, intelligence sources told Daily Times. They said his three sons had also been arrested.
Law-enforcement officials arrested on Monday a militant connected to the October 18, 2007, assassination attempt on slain former premier Benazir Bhutto. Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz told AFP that Benazir had accused Qari Saifullah Akhtar of plotting against her in her posthumously published memoirs. A close ally of Al Qaeda’s Mullah Omar, Saifullah was arrested from an under-construction mosque in Ferozwala, intelligence sources told Daily Times. They said his three sons had also been arrested.

Bomb Kills 25 at Pakistan Election Rally
A suicide bomber blasted a political gathering Saturday in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 25 people, wounding dozens and stoking fears about security surrounding this month's parliamentary election.
If they don't claim credit then it doesn't violate the hudna.
The blast occurred inside a hall where about 200 people had assembled for a political rally in the town of Charsadda in turbulent North West Frontier province, where Islamic extremists have been battling government forces. The rally was organized by the Awami National Party — a secular organization which competes against Islamist parties for support among the ethnic Pashtun community.

Abdul Waheed, 22, who suffered burns from the blast, said the bomber struck as a member of the party was reciting verses from Islam's holy book, the Quran. "I only heard the blast and cries and then something hit me and I fell down," Waheed told The Associated Press from his hospital bed in nearby Peshawar.

Television footage from the blast site, located in the sprawling residence of a party activist, showed the meeting hall littered with bloodstained clothes, police caps and overturned chairs. Policeman Mohammed Khan said two policemen were among the dead, and several children had been killed or injured. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Islamic militants with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida. Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said the militants are threatening all political parties in the northwest. "They are against everyone," Nawaz told Dawn News TV.
"But we do have a ceasefire with them, so there's nothing to worry about."
Tensions have been running high across Pakistan since the charismatic Bhutto was killed in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi. Nowhere is the tension higher than in the North West Frontier Province, a lawless region bordering Afghanistan where Islamic militants threaten government control. Candidates have shied away from large outdoor rallies in favor of small gatherings of party stalwarts inside homes or high-walled compounds. Saturday's bombing showed even those tightly controlled gatherings are unsafe.

Nevertheless, about 100,000 people gathered Saturday in a sports stadium in the southern city of Thatta as Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party resumed its election campaigning — suspended for the traditional 40 days of mourning after her death. In an emotional speech, Bhutto's husband, Gomez Asif Ali Zardari asked the crowd to "give me strength so that we can serve the country." He vowed to carry on his slain wife's mission. "I have the responsibility to save Pakistan," Zardari said. "This is our country and we have to save it."

Zardari claimed his wife had been murdered by an establishment that she wanted to change. "That is why they were against us," Zardari said. "If they try to stop me, I will destroy them and I hope you people will support me."

The government has rejected allegations that intelligence agents or members of the ruling party allied to Musharraf plotted to kill Bhutto. The People's Party is widely expected to benefit from a sympathy vote. But it remains unclear whether Zardari can unite the party and dispel public doubts over allegations that he pilfered government funds and demanded kickbacks during Bhutto's two administrations in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Pir Bakhsh, a 24-year old laborer, said that Zardari's reputation was not good but that love for Bhutto "compels us to attend this rally."

"We will avenge the blood of Benazir. We don't have bombs. We are not terrorists, but we have political power and we will capitalize on this political power to avenge the death of Benazir," said Haji Jaffar, 75, a retired teacher. "The passion and love for (her party) has increased after Benazir's assassination."

'Secret contacts in Tribal Areas led to ceasefire'
Government officials held secret talks with militants and tribal elders as part of a dialogue that produced a ceasefire announced by Taliban militants who have been fighting Pakistani forces near the Afghan border, AP quoted two unnamed officials as saying on Thursday.

Few details have emerged about terms of the ceasefire, announced on Wednesday by a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, a militant umbrella group, after weeks of heavy fighting.

The government did not confirm a truce, but Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said the national leadership was ready for a dialogue with the Taliban. “There is no announced ceasefire, there is a de facto ceasefire between militants and government troops. Both sides are currently holding the fire,” Nawaz told AFP. He said a tribal council, or jirga “comprising representatives of the government and tribal elders will be formed to negotiate peace but I cannot give you any timeframe in this regard”.

“Talks between tribal elders and militants had been in progress for the past several days,” a government official in the region told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Militant spokesman Maulvi Mohammed Umar told AP that the truce would include the tribal belt along the Afghan border and the restive Swat region to the east where the army has also battled pro-Taliban fighters.

The two officials AP talked with were familiar with the talks. They said the talks took place at an undisclosed location in South Waziristan. But they would not say who represented the government side.

Haqqani: Militant representatives included Siraj Haqqani, one official said. A ceasefire in North Waziristan in September 2006, which collapsed in July, was widely seen as a setback in the war against terror because it gave the Taliban and Al Qaeda a freer hand to stage cross-border attacks into Afghanistan and extend their control of areas within Pakistan.

Deal possible with Mehsud: Hamid
Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz on Wednesday indicated possibility of a truce between the government and militant leader Baitullah Mehsud. He told reporters a jirga had been formed to negotiate a truce. “Mehsud has no choice but to agree on the peace deal,” he said. “It’s a matter of his survival.”
Right. We knew this was coming, and not because it's a matter of Baitullah's survival. It doesn't matter how many prime ministerial candidates he kills, how many heroic Pak troops he kidnaps and beheads. He can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants, as long as he's not actively overthrowing the generals and their nuzzers.

10 killed, 27 hurt as bomber strikes army bus
Ten people were killed and 27 injured on Monday when a suicide bomber crashed his bike into an armed forces bus carrying students and officials of Army Medical College, near the General Headquarters (GHQ) at around 7.25am, sources in military hospitals said.

An eyewitness said the suicide bomber hit the 30-seater bus in front of National Logistic Cell (NLC) offices close to the GHQ, blowing away the roof, windows and doors of the bus. Several other vehicles were also damaged. A van carrying schoolchildren was also partially damaged, but the children remained unhurt.

RA Bazaar police Station House Officer (SHO) Raja Basharat Abbasi told Daily Times at the crime scene that it was a suicide attack. According to him, it was yet to be established if the suicide bomber had been riding a bike.

He said three civilians and two armed forces personnel were killed and 10 military officials seriously injured, adding that an FIR had been registered and investigations started.

According to ISPR, four security forces personnel were killed in the blast. The dead included four members of the security forces, according to a military statement, reported AP. They included a colonel from the army’s medical corps, according to a military official and a police officer, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity. A female major was among the injured, the military official said.

Troops seal: Reportedly, troops sealed off the entire area around the GHQ following the blast, and police were not allowed access to the spot. Tents were erected at the crime scene to cover the remains of the blast and newsmen were asked to vacate the place immediately.

Similarly, private and Rescue 1122 ambulances were not allowed to shift the injured and the dead to the military hospitals and only army ambulances shifted them to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) and the Military Hospital (MH).

District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) officials told Daily Times that the body of an unknown person had been shifted to the hospital but later military personnel shifted it to the CMH. They said none of the injured persons were admitted to the hospital.

City Police Officer (CPO) Saud Aziz told Daily Times that at least five people were killed and 25 hurt in the incident. He said law-enforcement agencies had collected evidence from the scene of the attack, including the suicide’s bomber’s head. The bomber’s face was being reconstructed at the CMH, he added.

Aziz said a special investigation team led by SSP (Operations) Yasin Farooq was investigating the incident. When asked about the exact death toll of military officials and civilians, the CPO said, “It’s a sensitive issue.”

Baitullah Mehsud: Caretaker Federal Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz told reporters in Islamabad on Monday that Baitullah Mehsud may be involved in the Rawalpindi suicide attack as only he had the ability to carry out such attack, Online reported. The interior minister said that security agencies of the country were being targeted as police and army were taking effective action against the militants, NNI reported.

Fazl unhurt as grenade lobbed at his house
A hand grenade was lobbed at the residence of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on DI Khan-Bannu road at around 9pm on Tuesday. Rehman remained unharmed.
Wotta surprise.
Rehman’s servant, Muhammad, told Daily Times that the explosion caused no damage as the grenade exploded outside the residence’s boundary wall. The JUI-F chief was at home at the time of the explosion, having just arrived from Saudi Arabia after performing Umrah. Local police chased the attacker, but he escaped into the darkness after firing shots at the police party.
Who'da ever expected such a thing?
He was last seen going in the direction of Shorkot area. Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz had earlier stated that Maulana Fazlur Rehman was under threat of attacks from militants.

U.S. diplomat dies in Pakistan; suicide suspected
Pakistani authorities found the body of a U.S. diplomat with a bullet wound in his head at his home in Islamabad on Monday and were investigating a suspected case of suicide, police and the Interior Minister said.

The U.S. embassy named the dead man as 37-year-old Keith Ryan, an immigration and customs enforcement attache from the Department of Homeland Security. "There will be a full investigation; however, there does not appear to have been any foul play," the embassy said in a brief statement. The embassy said Ryan had "passed away" on Monday morning, and his family had been informed. Ryan's body was found in his residence on a leafy avenue close to the diplomatic enclave in the Pakistani capital.

Kaleem Imam, a Senior Superintendent of police in Islamabad, said the diplomat had been in Pakistan for a year and had been due to return to the United States on Monday, having finished his assignment. "But, he did not come out of the home and was found dead in the bathroom. There is a bullet wound in his head," Imam said.

"We expect it is suicide, but we are investigating," Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz told Reuters.

The United States does not let diplomats posted to Pakistan take their families, because of the security threat posed by Islamist militants.

More suspects in Benazir Bhutto's assassination arrested
(Xinhua) -- The Pakistani authorities have arrested more suspects in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on a tip from a detained suspect, a senior official said on Saturday.

A 15-year-old boy Aitzaz Shah was arrested from the northwestern city of Dera Islamil Khan earlier this week, who had reportedly told the investigators that he was part of a back-up group who attacked Benazir Bhutto. Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said that on the indication of suspect Aitzaz Shah, the authorities had taken into custody more suspects allegedly involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. However, he did not disclose more details.

Hamid Nawaz said the Scotland Yard team investigated the assassination quickly and had got certain clues. He said some members of the team would return to Pakistan within the next few days. The government had changed the strategy to quell militancy, Hamid Nawaz said, "Militants targeting the security forces will be crushed." He also voiced the concern that the lives of prominent politicians were in danger. He said, "but we are taking tangible steps for their security."

Hamid Nawaz said that operation in the tribal region of Darra Adamkhel would continue till the militancy was wiped out from the area.

'Orakzai removed due to peace deal failure'
Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan said on Saturday that former NWFP governor Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai was removed from office because of the failure of a peace agreement with militants in the Tribal Areas.

He told reporters at the National Police Bureau here that following the change of the provincial governor, the government had changed its policy on the ongoing operation in the Tribal Areas, reported AFP. Hamid said that the military operation in Darra Adam Khel would continue till miscreants were eliminated from the area. “We have achieved some level of success, however, the operation in Darra will continue till the elimination of miscreants there,” Hamid said. About the interrogation of Aitezaz Shah, the 15-year-old arrested in connection with former premier Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Hamid said many arrests had been made on Shah’s information. Hamid said his ministry had already issued an advisory for the protection of key politicians.

Worsening situation: He said the law and order situation could worsen in FATA, Swat and Kurram Agency during the elections, reported Online.

Soldier killed, three injured in Wana clash
Clashes between security forces and militants in South Waziristan left one soldier dead and three others injured on Tuesday, Online reported. Unidentified miscreants opened fire on checkposts at Tayyarza Force and Chaghmalai Force.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad confirmed the casualties. Armed men fired rockets and opened fire with automatic weapons at a security forces fort, an official told NNI. Separately, political agents said miscreants also targeted checkposts at Omar Adda, but no loss of life and property had been reported, Online said. Police in nearby Tank city said unidentified men fired several rockets at the city last night, but there was no casualties, NNI added.

Kidnapped: Three soldiers were also kidnapped from the Sarokey area of South Waziristan, according to locals. The soldiers from the Waziristan Scouts Force were kidnapped while travelling in a private car, local officials said. Masked armed men stopped the car, forced the soldiers out and took them to an undisclosed location, reported NNI.

Authorities blocked all traffic on the road to stop the militants from shifting the soldiers out of the tribal region, locals said.

Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz Khan says security forces have planned a major operation against Baitullah Mehsud, the linchpin militant commander in South Waziristan. President Pervez Musharraf has blamed Mehsood for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and accused him of recruiting suicide bombers. One of Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesmen, however, has denied any involvement in Benazir’s assassination.

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