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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Zardari's China connection sees him receiving 'unprecedented' protocol

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari seems to share a special relationship with China, as he receives an extra ordinary welcome in Beijing that no other leader of any state enjoys during his visit to the communist country.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari

During his recent China visit, Zardari received an unprecedented protocol and Beijing also acknowledged that no head of state is ever given such a protocol if he is on a working visit to cities other than Beijing.

"This is rare. When dignitaries from other countries are there in Chinese provinces, they are received by an official of the Chinese foreign ministry. No one outside Beijing gets protocol which President Zardari receives during his working visits," Chinese ambassador to Islamabad Lou Zhaohui said.

Interacting with media person at the Chinese embassy here, Zhaohui said Zardari, during his first official visit to China last October, had committed to come there every three months and visit a new province each time.

He praised Zardari for keeping his promise for visiting China thrice in the recent past to take note of the Chinese model of development, which he (Zardari) wants to implement in Pakistan.

Zhaohui also informed that Chinese President Hu Jintao would meet his Pakistani counterpart in New York later this month on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

He said the meeting will focus on strengthening bilateral ties of the two nations.

"The focus would be on a wide range of regional and international issues, but of course the emphasis would be on bilateral relations. The interaction will further deepen friendship with China," Zhaohui said.

"It is important for the leaderships to establish personal friendship," he added.

China expresses concern over US embassys expansion plans in Islamabad

China has expressed concerns over reports of a massive expansion of the US embassy in Islamabad.

Addressing a press conference here, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui said that theexpansion of the American embassy should be in accordance with the rules and regulations of Pakistan and should respect its sovereignty.

Beijing says Pakistan saved it from embarrassment on Xinjiang violence

China has concerns over expansion of US embassy in Islamabad and the United States should expand itsembassy by materializing rules and regulations of Pakistan, Zhaohui said.

Responding to a question, Zhaohui said Beijing has no plans to station its security forces in the Chinese embassyin Islamabad, as it is satisfied with the security cover being provided by the Pakistan government.

We have no plan to deploy Chinese Army in our consulate, The Nation quoted Zhaohui, as saying.

Zhaohui also raised questions over the US AFPAK policy, and said that Pakistan should not be linked with Afghanistan, as it is a sovereign state unlike its neighbour where the US led allied forces are engaged in a brutal battle against extremism for the last eight years.

China is against using the term Af-Pak for Pakistan, as it is a sovereign state which should not be compared with Afghanistan where the US and allied forces are battling against insurgency, he said.

Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had rejected media reports that the US is planning to send more Marines to Pakistan.

Malik said the news that US has hired 300 houses in Islamabad was baseless.

US, China and Turkey have applied for extra land for extension of their embassies. Pakistan is a sovereign country, who ever come to Pakistan should have to obey the laws and regulations of this country, Malik said.

He also rebutted reports regarding the presence of controversial US firm Blackwater inside the countrys territory.

Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan-we have our own system, rules and regulations-we will not allow any body to operate from here, Malik said.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Luo Zhaohui has expressed concern over expansion of US embassy in Federal Capital and asked US to expand its embassy keeping in view the security rules and regulation of Pakistan.

China has concern over expansion of US embassy in Islamabad and US should expand its embassy by materializing rules and regulations of Pakistan, he said this while addressing the news conference here on Friday.

Answering to a question, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan expressed satisfaction over security being given to Chinese citizens in Pakistan saying we have no plan to deploy Chinese army in our consulate.

Answering to a question, he said, Chain is against AF-PAK term of US for Pakistan. Pakistan is a sovereign state and it should not be compared with Afghanistan where US and allied forces are battling against insurgency, he said.

Commenting on relations between Pakistan and China, Chinese envoy said his country would continue to assist its all weather friend to overcome sugar and energy crises. We are collaborating with Pakistan in various fields, he said.

When asked about President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to China after every 3 months, he said, the visit of Pakistani President was aimed to boost working relationship with China. When President Asif Ali Zardari comes China at official visit then we would provide full protocol to him, he said.

Pakistan and China have people to contact, he said.

China to extend aid for Pakistan’s space mission

China, the trusted friend of Pakistan, has announced its decision to provide funds to Pakistan for its space research operations. The country will provide aid for the launch of Pakistan's first ever satellite and space mission.

Both countries would sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the deal next week, as stated by Lou Zhaohui, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan. Zhaohui said that Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Pakistan counterpart AA Jardari will hold bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York. Both leaders will discuss various issues of mutual cooperation, in a bid to strengthen their bilateral ties.

Zhaohui's statement, as appeared in Pakistani daily - The Dawn - states, "The focus would be on a wide range of regional and international issues, but of course the emphasis would be on bilateral relations. The interaction will further deepen friendship with China."

The Chinese ambassador asked for the need to establish personal and concrete cooperation for improving existing ties. The country has already supported Pakistan on many fronts, including $1 billion funds the country had released for improving Pakistan'sforeign exchange reserves.

China said on Friday that it would provide financial assistance to Pakistan for launching its first satellite and a memorandum of understanding in this connection would be signed next week.

Addressing a press conference, Chinese Ambassador Lou Zhaohui said President Asif Ali Zardari and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao would meet in New York this month on the sidelines of UN General Assembly.

He said talks between the two leaders would cover bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues. He said that Pakistan’s economy had improved over the last one year and security situation too was improving.

He said China had already given $1 billion to help improve Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.

Pakistan saved China from embarrassment on Xinjiang violence

Pakistan played a key role in dissuading certain Muslim countries from taking the issue of violence in China’s Xinjiang region to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and saved Beijing from embarrassment, Chinese Ambassador Lou Zhaohui said on Friday.
“Yes, Pakistan played its role in doing so,” the ambassador said in response to a question, adding that certain western countries were fanning the Muslim Uighurs’ issue to incite violence.

Addressing reporters at the Chinese embassy highlight the importance of President Asif Ali Zardari’s frequent visits to China, he said they had been instrumental in transforming the relations from political to
Xinjiang is officially an autonomous region but in practice it is tightly controlled by Beijing. It is sparsely populated but has large reserves of oil, gas and minerals.

The region's Turkic speaking Uighur population number around eight million.

Uighur activists say migration from other parts of China is part of official effort to dilute and suppress Uighur culture in their own land.

Uighurs say they face repression on a range of fronts, including bans on the teaching of their language.

Uighur separatists have staged series of low-level attacks since early 1990s.

China says Uighur separatists are terrorists and linked to al-Qaeda.

Zhaohui said Pakistan had been helpful in dealing with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) militants and curbing violence in Xinjiang where nearly 20 million Muslims lived.

Political ties: On comparison between China’s relations with India and Pakistan, the ambassador said China and India were moving towards improving economic relations despite political differences and the border issue, but Pakistan and China had not fully exploited the depth of their political ties for economic gains.

Zhaohui said China had provided $1.5 billion to Pakistan since 1998, which was unprecedented in Chinese history. He said the development of the Gwadar Port was the only project undertaken by China in another country.

He said China was presently involved in 120 projects in Pakistan and over 1,000 Chinese engineers were working on these projects. He expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements of the Chinese nationals.

Zhaohui said both the countries had been already cooperating in the energy sector and President Zardari’s resent visits were also aimed at increasing cooperation in the hydropower and agriculture sectors.

Embassy: To a question, he said China was building a new embassy in Islamabad, which was different from the expansion of the US embassy. He said China would not bring in its security officials to guard the embassy as it had full confidence in Pakistan’s security system.

He said Pakistan had made considerable progress in the economic recovery and security situation since the present government assumed office. He expressed full support for the government in bringing peace and stability in the region.

The ambassador added that peace in Afghanistan was vital for peace in the region, adding China was playing its role in this regard

Kunduz airstrike: US "concerned" over civilian casualties in Afghanistan

Nato has launched an investigation into an air attack that killed and injured scores of civilians in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province.

A 10-member team flew has flown over the site on the Kunduz river where the attack took place on Friday.

As the investigation began, witnesses said prayers for the dead were heard in nearly a dozen villages in a charged atmosphere on Saturday.

The Nato team, led by US Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, Nato's director of communications in Kabul, reportedly spoke to two injured villagers in the Kunduz hospital, including a boy and a farmer with shrapnel wounds.

"We don't yet know how many civilians" were at the site of the blast, Smith said. "Unfortunately, we can't get to every village."

Yet, danger continues to lurk for international forces in Kunduz. A bomb blast hit a German military convoy, injuring at least three soldiers, the news agency DPA reported.

Abdullah Razaq Yaqoobi, the Kunduz police chief, said a suicide car bomb caused Saturday's blast, though German military officials blamed a roadside bomb.
The UN mission in Afghanistan, headed by Peter Galbraith, also dispatched its own investigation, emphasising that "the families of the victims must receive all the help they need''.

Brigadier-General Eric Tremblay, spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, told Al Jazeera that Isaf would "do whatever is needed to be done to investigate and provide as much support as is needed".

Friday's incident has raised serious questions about how Nato and US troops engage with their enemy, James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Afghanistan, said.

Reporting from the bomb site, about 7km southwest of Kunduz city, he said it was impossible to count the dead - some bodies had completely disappeared while others were burnt beyond recognition.

He quoted a hospital source as putting the toll at 56 killed and 13 injured.

"But it is clear that many who died here were not fighters, some were children. The mood of many of the people here is sorrow and great anger," our correspondent said.

"People here say they are losing confidence in both the Afghan governmnent and the international forces, now the loss of so many lives will only increase that unease."

Strained relations

Civilian casualties are increasingly straining relations between Afghans and international forces.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, told Al Jazeera in a first interview since Barack Obama came to power, that poor relations would make troop increases unlikely.

"I've had a number of reservations about significant additional US troops ... if our forces should come to be seen at some point as occupiers rather than partners", he said.

The Kunduz attack occurred at around 2am local time on Friday, 40 minutes after German and Afghan forces called in air support.

They reported the two tankers had been hijacked by fighters as they travelled from Tajikistan to supply Nato forces in Kabul. The Taliban tried to transport the tankers across a river to villages in Angorbagh.

They managed to take one of the tankers over the river. The second got stuck, so the fighters apparently opened valves to lighten the load and called in villages to help themselves to fuel, according to witnesses.

At this point, the Nato bombs hit the tankers. Nato insists its commanders believed only fighters were present, but now accepts that this was not the case.

Declining support

Afghan anger over civilian deaths caused by international forces compounds the problems being faced by the US administration over rising military casualties.

Many Democrats are unhappy with President Obama's decision to send 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan.

Others want the administration to scale down US military involvement in the country.

But Gates told Al Jazeera that he opposed the very idea of starting preparations for troop withdrawal.

He said he would not talk about victory or defeat but rather about achieving goals.

The issue is not only related to the US, but also to the Afghan government, the Afghan people and numerous governmental and non-government organisations operating in the country, Gates said.

The Kunduz airstrike took place on Friday 4 September 2009 at 02.00 local time (21.30 Thursday GMT) , 7 km south-west of Kunduz City, Kunduz province in northernAfghanistan, near the hamlets of Omar Kheil by the border of the Chahar Dara and Ali Abad districts.

An American jetfighter, called in by German forces on the ground, hit two fuel tankershijacked by Taliban insurgents, killing at least 90 people, with at least 40 of those being civilians. The strike occured as villagers gathered to collect fuel from the tankers. The governor of Kunduz province has said that Taliban leaders are among the killed. NATO has said its commanders believed that only insurgents were in the vicinity.

BBC News reported receiving Taliban confirmation that they had hijacked the tankers; according to the Taliban version of events, they opened the tankers up to locals to siphon fuel only after one tanker became immobilized in a river crossing. It wasGerman forces, who called in the plane, and they state that the strike took place after an unmanned surveillance aircraft had determined that there were no civilians in the area. German officials said the strike took place 40 minutes after the commanders requested it. It is unclear whether civilians began to assemble during that time.

The fuel tankers were transporting fuel from Tajikistan to NATO forces. Kunduz province was largely peaceful until Taliban militants started infiltrating the area in 2009.

General Kiyani vows to root out militancy

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said that the operation Rah-i-Raast will continue till the last militant in Malakand division is eliminated.

Addressing a gathering of elders and army personnel in Kalam, he said security forces had broken the back of the Taliban in Swat and other troubled areas of the region.

Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Masud Aslam, Swat GOC Maj-Gen Ashfaq Nadeem and GOC for Shangla and Upper Swat Maj-Gen Sajjad Ghani were present on the occasion.

The COAS said militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah had split into small groups and were fleeing the region, adding that troops were chasing them. Militancy would soon be eliminated from the region, Gen Kayani said.

He lauded soldiers for their valour in the operation to crush militancy and said peace had been restored because of sacrifices rendered by troops.

He said protecting people’s life and property was responsibility of the armed forces and the people of Swat would not be left at the mercy of militants.

He said that besides their combat duty the troops also supported displaced people of Malakand and would continue to do so till peace was restored and all people returned to their homes.

Our Malakand correspondent adds: Gen Kayani inaugurated an army public school named ‘Sabawoon’ (new dawn) in Rangmala area.

At the school, military officials will educate children rescued from militants’ training camps during the operation.

Elaborate security arrangements were made for Gen Kayani’s visit to the area. Traffic on the Peran-Rangmala and Dheri- Rangmala roads were stopped.

Up to 200 rescued children aged between nine and 17 years will be admitted to the school. Meanwhile, security forces killed one militant in Peochar area of Matta tehsil.

Twenty-six suspected militants were captured in different parts of the district and eight militants laid down their arms. According to ISPR, six militants surrendered in Salhand and two in Shah Dehri.

Troops arrested seven militants in Dheri and Damghar and two suspects in Mingora. Eight suspects were arrested in Kabal, seven in Delai and two in Kokarai.

Bangladesh officials told not to wear suits

Bangladesh has told government officials to avoid wearing suits, jackets and ties during the summer to save electricity used on air conditioning.

The cabinet announced its decision recently, saying officials should wear open-necked shirts and trousers — changing a dress code that had been in place since 1982. The code was adhered to, at least by mid- and senior -level officials, who would don a suit even in the March-Nov summer months, when temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius.

The change is the latest in a series of government steps to try to save power in Bangladesh, which suffers chronic power shortages even though only 45 per cent of its 150 million people have access to electricity. It produces about 3,800 megawatts a day, far short of its demand of about 5,000MW.

In June, the government set clocks forward by an hour in its daylight savings effort.

The government also said this week it would distribute for free 26.5 million energy-saving bulbs from February with aid from the World Bank. Mohammad Enamul Haq, junior minister for power and energy, said the measure should save about 350 megawatts of electricity a day.

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