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Thursday, 9 April 2009

His own independence day

Freed after 2 months as a hostage, John Solecki is a grateful man
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Star-Ledger Staff

After being held hostage for 61 days by Pakistani militants, his hands and feet bound and his life under constant threat, John Solecki found himself taking a familiar walk around his parents' South Orange home yesterday afternoon.

"It's great to be free and it's great to be home," said Solecki, 49. "I would like to thank all the people who made my release possible."

Solecki was in good spirits, making a brief statement to reporters yesterday, but declined further comment. He directed inquiries to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He said he had no immediate plans other than to relax and spend time with his family.

"I'm just resting at this point," he said, but when asked if he would be returning to his work at the U.N., he replied "Of course."

Solecki was taken captive at gunpoint on Feb. 2 and held by the Baluchistan Liberation United Front, a little-known, Pakistani militant group.

On April 4 he was discovered by a local restaurant owner on a mountain road with his hands and feet still bound. After spending a night in the Combined Military Hospital, in Quetta, Pakistan, Solecki began the 7,678-mile journey home. He was greeted by his parents and brother at Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday night.

Solecki's brother William, 47, a professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, said the family was relieved and grateful for Solecki's return. "I feel great, the family's great, and we appreciate all the work that so many have done," he said.

Solecki, who has worked for the U.N. agency since 1991, had been running the commissioner's office in Quetta for several years before he was abducted.

His kidnappers attempted to use Solecki to negotiate the release of political prisoners allegedly being held in Pakistan, according to reports by the Associated Press. The group threatened to behead him at one point and issued a video on Feb. 13 that showed him pleading for help.

"This is a message to the United Nations," he said in the video. "I'm not feeling well. I'm sick and in trouble. Please help solve the problems soon so I can gain my release."

"I think he may have charmed the kidnappers at some point," said Christopher Stockwell, 48, a friend of Solecki's since the sixth grade. "He wasn't the kind of guy who wanted to fight or get angry or upset."

Stockwell and Solecki graduated in 1978 from North Valley Regional High School in Demarest, Bergen County, but lost touch in recent years. Stockwell said Solecki's work with refugees was in keeping with the man he knew.

"It didn't surprise me that he was overseas working for the U.N.," Stockwell said yesterday. "He wouldn't be afraid to go out and do something to try and help."

Solecki's father, Ralph, is a renowned anthropologist, known mostly for his study of early man and discoveries at the Neanderthal cave in Iraq. Friends of the family said his family's global awareness helped foster Solecki's interest in foreign cultures.

"They had traveled a lot in the Middle East when the kids were young," said Karen Strickholm, 50, who grew up with Solecki in Demarest. "The Soleckis were always very humanitarian," she said. "They were a family that our family always really admired."

Strickholm, who works in public relations in New Mexico, helped to organize outreach during Solecki's captivity, along with several of his childhood friends. She said the reaction has been overwhelming.

"All over the country, people who never met him formed prayer groups," Strickholm said yesterday. "He had prayers, meditations, chanting and positive visualization from tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people."

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) personally intervened to speed Solecki's release, making repeated calls to embassy officials here and in Pakistan, as well as U.N. officials.

"I'm thrilled for him and his family, who remained strong and steadfast throughout," Menendez said yesterday.

In a prepared statement, the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres described Solecki as having endured his ordeal "with lots of courage and determination and we can all be very proud of him. And I think the same can be said about his family."

Swat Peace Pact

Kashmir Watch, April 9

By Zaheerul Hassan

Swat which remained on international focus due to turmoil brought out by the Taliban Insurgency since 2007, has now heading towards calm and peace slowly and gradually. General masses of Pakistan, particularly Swati population have welcomed the accord concluded between Sufi Muhmmad of the banned TNSM and the government.   But some of western countries, US and India authorities did not endorse the pact since the said deal is not as per their design. There are some   external and internal   forces which are basically anti accord elements and now making efforts to defeat the peace. Anti Pakistan internal and external forces has adopted the multidimensional approach to sabotage the revealed deal while: using black sheep of FATA by slaughtering of government officials, abducting and shooting down of innocent people, destructing private and public properties, challenging government writ   , negative propaganda against law enforcement agencies, media campaign against Islam and condemning Pak government policy of carrying out negotiations with local Taliban. Sufi Muhammad and Fazalullah if  serious in establishment of permanent peace then they have to find out the culprits using their platforms for creating instability in the country . Thus, foreign sponsored groups, pact opposing western countries, US and Particular India are real detriments to Swat Peace Pact.

On 29 March district Lower Dir, miscreants while kidnapping Muhammad Shoaib (Manager MCB Peshawar) was chased by locals under Alamzeb Khan (ex District Nazim/JI). During exchange of fire, Alamzeb Khan and his relative Mehmood lost their lives. Later Khurshid Khan (DPO) along with police contingent reached to the site (village Haya Serai) and in an ensuing gun battle, the DPO and the two police constables got killed. However miscreants managed to escape with the kidnapees.”  The local sources alleged that the Kidnapping and killing of DPO and innocent people have been done on the instructions of so called Taliban spoke’s man. The local population has now started realizing that these Taliban are interested to enforce their own agenda which is totally away from the Islam. For example lashing of 17 year old young girl for no fault has further fueled the sentiments of the general public.  Though, Taliban leadership has declared the video as factious one, but these two recent incidents on one hand has flared up the locals who are adamant to form a Lashkar and physically attack the miscreants hideouts along with protest processions to pressurize the government for the recovery of abductees and on the other hand the incident has created a concern in the ranks and files of miscreants due to the up rise of locals against the Talibans. . All these events taking place one after the other pointing towards the malicious aims of the rival intelligence agencies to destabilize Pakistan. The intelligence agencies like RAW and CIA are sponsoring such brutality in Swat to cause adverse effects on the peace deal between the government and the Taliban. The drone attacks  is another issue which is being cashed by  anti Pakistan Taliban because of some obvious reasons like: not targeting  the actual culprit like Baitullah Mehsood .Now it become an open secret that  Washington is not interested to hit  some covert Taliban but  only victimize innocent people. Whatever the case may be, the increase in drone attacks in FATA area is undermining the sovereignty of Pakistan and damaging the peaceful efforts. Once the peace deal gets influenced by such ruthless activities, the involved players will be able to achieve their vested interests. Apart from their efforts to contemplate the name of Pakistani intelligence agencies, the RAW sponsored and trained miscreants are now concerned over the growing restlessness among the people regarding their ruthless episodes. Thus in order to create pressure among the common public and to provoke hatred in their minds against the government and the agencies, they (Planted Talibans) are carrying out such incidents as quoted above.

 Now it is the tone of the tongue that   external forces are involved in causing unrest in Baluchistan too. Bugti Mari tribes have secular / nationalist out lock and have no religious motives. Baluchistan Liberation Army is being supported by RAW and CIA with the overall aim of weakening Pakistan.  As regards to FATA some forces are supporting terrorists to take political control of the area, defeat coalition efforts of the government and peaceful locals. The government is following three pronged strategy which encompasses dialogue with the locals, development of the area and use of force as deterrence. Pakistan has deployed over 120,000 troops along the Pak � Afghan border and setting up of nearly 850 border security posts, development works in the affected areas, registrations of madrassas,   enforcing of Islamic laws in Swat.  But even then Pak government is facing problems due to malicious activities of foreign hands in FATA.

In short, as the strategic significance of Pakistan has always overawed the rival and competing intelligence agencies. The masters of these foreign agencies are working on five points agenda to eliminate Pakistan from the world map or declared her a failed state. The five points agenda encompasses  “ (one) target Pakistan nuclear programme,  (two)  separation of Baluchistan and FATA area, ( three)  Maligning Armed Forces and ISI , (four ) create political instability and economical disorder , last but not the least , sabotaging peace deals of government and  locals.  Thus, All possible measures are being taken to prove Pakistan a failed and irresponsible state. For a long time, RAW has been carrying out subversive acts with in the territorial boundaries of Pakistan. Now, terrorists’ intentions are as clear as crystal, the government and public of Pakistan should act responsibly and maturely. Steps should be taken to safeguard the sovereignty of Pakistan. The swat pact needs to be protected at all costs as the prosperity and stability of Pakistan hinges upon the success of this peace deal. Further more, in every organization be it a terrorist organization, there are some anti state elements and  black sheeps. The need of the hour is to highlight such miscreants within Talibans and others organizations. Their elimination be carried out by respective loyal local leadership and respective head of the organization. This conspiracy theory against Pakistan has to be dealt tactfully and intelligently.  Only then we can ensure the sovereignty and peaceful existence of our beloved country. The great game against Pakistan launched by India supported by US and Israel has to be defeated. This is not a war of bayonets rather it is a war of minds. Thus deployment of army or drone attacks is not the solution of the problem. The resolution to the problem is to look up for the root causes and then eliminate the same for better future of Pakistan.

The Author can be reached at zameer36@gmail.com

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi activists arrested

By Faraz Khan 

KARACHI: The police have arrested five activists belonging to banned religious outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), and seized a huge cache of explosives, ammunition and weapons from their possession, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Wasim Ahmed disclosed on Wednesday. 

Speaking at a press conference at the Central Police Office, Ahmed revealed that the raid was conducted on a tip-off. The suspects are accused of having strong links with the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, (SSP), Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Their arrests were made near the Super Market area of Sohrab Goth on Tuesday night. According to police officials, the arrested men were plotting suicide attacks on various sensitive installations including the home minister’s office, police head office, Criminal Investigation Department, offices of intelligence agencies, imambargahs, mosques. Moreover, high-ranking police officials, including SSP Farooq Awan, SSP Fayyaz Khan, SSP Raja Omer Khattab, SSP Choudhry Mohammad Aslam and others, are also said to be on their hit-list. 

The arrested men are Mohammad Akbar alias Ibrahim alias Abdullah, Sarfaraz alias Asadullah, Farid Ahmed alias Furqan, Faisal Sheikh alias Kamran and Dur Mohammad Baloch alias Bilal Baloch. The confiscated weapons include three Kalashnikovs, three TT pistols, one 7mm rifle, four hand grenades, large amounts of materials used in the making of explosives including two kilograms of ball bearing and hundreds of bullets, while hashish, a stolen motorcycle and a car were also recovered. 

The CCPO revealed that during interrogation, the suspects have also confessed to involvement in attacks on security forces and NATO suppliers in northern areas. He added that the men are associated with the faction of Taliban that selects prospective fighters from the city and trains them in Waziristan and Miranshah for combating security forces. 

“The citizens of Karachi should not fear such elements anymore, as law enforcers are working round the clock for their elimination and have made a lot of inroads,” the CCPO said. He added that a special force for the city, comprising of 1,000 personnel, has been formed in light of the Manawan attack in Lahore. 

Ahmed said that the cooperation of each and every citizen is needed in such efforts and in this regard, real estate agents have been asked to provide transaction copies of every deal to their area police so that tabs can be kept on all new tenants, as such terrorists usually prefer rented houses. 

He stated that strict surveillance measures are also being taken in katchi abadies, as after the move to curb the availability of rented houses, the terrorists are most likely to move to such areas. Replying to a question, Ahmed said that the possibility of the presence of such elements in the city cannot be ruled out, citing the attacks on SSP Khattab and SSP Awan as prime examples. 

During the press conference, the CCPO also introduced family members of four police officials who have been martyred in separate incidents during the past 15 days. Ahmed announced compensation of Rs 2 million and a plot each to the bereaved families. 

Profiles of the arrested militants

Sarfaraz is an auto mechanic involved in the smuggling of explosive materials from Balochistan. He had been associated with the Harkatul Mujahideen and Al Qaeda since 2005. He is accused of providing shelter to various militants in Karachi and is said to be an administrator of a religious madrassah in Lyari from where he recruits prospective militants.

Faisal has been involved in numerous attacks on security forces in Waziristan. He has been associated with the Taliban after entering a militant network under the influence of Dr Arshad Waheed, who was killed in Wana. The accused confessed that he was planning to kidnap people from Karachi, Sukkur and other interior cities for ransom.

Muhammad Akbar, a resident of Lyari, specialises in making explosives. He joined the Harkatul Mujahideen in 2002 and apart from being trained in Afghanistan, he has served there on two occasions as well. Akbar is also accused of providing fighters to the LJ and Taliban.

Farid, who has been associated with the Hizbul Mujahideen since 1999, received training in Waziristan. In 2002, he joined another banned outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and after fighting security forces in Waziristan on the behest of the Taliban, came to Karachi. He is accused of brainwashing numerous people into taking up arms.

Dur Muhammad Baloch, a resident of Lyari, was also trained in Waziristan. He, with the assistance of Akbar, had brought a explosives-laden vehicle to Karachi from Waziristan to target the office of the CID and other intelligence agencies. Three of his close associates, namely Tahir, Asghar and Tauseef, are currently engaged in training militants in Waziristan.