A suicide bomber in Pakistan killed at least 95 people at a volleyball match in a village near South Waziristan, DPA reported Friday.[1]  --  The day before the U.N. announced that it was temporarily withdrawing one third of staff from Pakistan "because of the deteriorating security situation," the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.[2]  --  Pakistan needs U.N. help because it is suffering from a major humanitarian crisis due to the U.S.-induced war on the Taliban in the autonomous territories:  "Some two million people fled their homes during fighting in and around the Swat Valley in the spring, and about 350,000 people are currently homeless because of an offensive against the militants in the South Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border."  --  Matthew Rosenburg called it "the latest sign of plummeting international confidence in Pakistan's ability secure its big cities.  U.S. diplomats already travel in cars with ordinary license plates -- as opposed to the more conspicuous diplomatic plates.  Most Western embassies have in the past few years moved out families of diplomats and officials based in Pakistan."  --  Meanwhile, the CIA-conducted drone war continued:  there were new attacks from U.S. drones on Friday, killing at least five, Press TV reported.[3]  --  Citing unnamed "authorities," the Pakistan paper Dawn reported Saturday that only 11% of the U.S. drone attacks were successful in 2009, and that "For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by U.S. drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die.  Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities."[4]  --  But according to others, such claims are propaganda.  --  A Norway-based Pashtun woman academic, writing in another Pakistani paper, the Daily Times, Farhat Taj, defended the drone attacks on Saturday:  "[N]o one is in a position to give a correct estimate of how many individuals have been killed so far in drone attacks," wrote Farhat Taj.[5]  --  "The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda," she wrote.  "It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians, or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and al Qaeda.  Therefore, they welcome the drone attacks." ...

1.

SUICIDE BOMBING AT VOLLEYBALL MATCH KILLS 95 IN PAKISTAN


Deutsche Presse-Agentur
January 1, 2010

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/southasia/news/article_1522773.php/Suicide-bombing-at-volleyball-match-kills-95-in-Pakistan-4th-Roundup


ISLAMABAD -- At least 95 people were killed in a New Year's Day suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), with many children feared to be among the victims.

More than 100 people were injured in Friday's attack, which took place at a volleyball match in Shah Hassan Khan village, some 30 kilometers south of Lakki Marwat town.

Mohammad Ayub Khan, the district police chief, said the bomber detonated his explosives-laden car near the sporting field where hundreds of people had gathered to watch the match.

Pakistan's The Nation newspaper reported Saturday morning that the death toll had risen to at least 95 people.  Miian Iftikhar hussain, the information minister in NWFP, said earlier that at least 50 people died.

Security forces blamed radical Islamistic extremists for the attack.  No one has so far claimed responsibility.

Residents in Lakki Marwat said the suicide bombing may be retaliation for the local efforts to expel Taliban militants from the district.

'Our people have successfully pushed Taliban out of the area and therefore we were receiving threats from the militants,' said Mushtaq Marwat, a member of a local pro-government militia.  He vowed not to be cowed by such 'barbarian acts.'

Marwat said the bombing also demolished eight houses and three nearby shops.

The district is located near the semi-autonomous tribal district South Waziristan, where Pakistani troops have been conducting a major offensive against Islamist insurgents since mid-October, killing at least 600 militants.

The insurgents have responded with frequent deadly attacks against civilian and official targets, killing around 600 people in the last 10 weeks.

2.

Asia news

U.N. PULLS PART OF STAFF FROM PAKISTAN ON SAFETY CONCERNS

By Matthew Rosenberg

Wall Street Journal

December 31, 2009

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126225425345211459.html?mod=googlenews_wsj


The United Nations is temporarily pulling about a third of its international staff from Pakistan because of the deteriorating security situation, despite Pakistani objections to the move, U.N. and Pakistani officials said.

U.N. officials said only "nonessential" staff were being moved out and the withdrawal would not affect operations to aid people displaced by fighting between Pakistan's army and the Taliban in the country's northwestern mountains, and refugees who have fled three decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

"Our main priority is to continue all critical operations and to ensure that all our staff in Pakistan can operate in a safe manner," U.N. headquarters in New York said in a written response to questions about the withdrawal.  "We are also in the process of relocating a limited number of international staff for an interim period, many of whom will continue to support our operations in Pakistan from other locations."

The withdrawal is the latest sign of plummeting international confidence in Pakistan's ability secure its big cities.  U.S. diplomats already travel in cars with ordinary license plates -- as opposed to the more conspicuous diplomatic plates.  Most Western embassies have in the past few years moved out families of diplomats and officials based in Pakistan.

The war against the Taliban is largely restricted to the northwest, and the cities like Islamabad, the capital, and Lahore in the east were until recently only subjected to sporadic terror attacks.  But the tempo of attacks on cities has steadily increased over the past 18 months and terror strikes have become a regular occurrence since the Oct. 5 suicide bombing of a U.N. World Food Program office in Islamabad.

That attack killed five U.N. workers, bringing the organization's total death toll in Pakistan to 11 in 2009, and prompted the U.N. to begin reviewing its security arrangements, said a U.N. official in New York.  The U.N. also scaled back long-term aid efforts in northwestern Pakistan soon after that.

A gun-and-grenade attack later in October on a U.N. guesthouse in neighboring Afghanistan, which left another five people dead, added to the urgency of the review, the officials said.  The U.N. pulled about half of its foreign staff from Afghanistan following the Kabul attack.

The U.N. declined to provide specific numbers of how many staffers were being moved from Pakistan, saying only that "any relocations will be of a gradual nature and only for a limited period, pending additional security measures and a review of the evolving situation."

The official in New York and two staffers who work in Pakistan said about 30% of the 250 foreigners working in Pakistan were being moved.  The withdrawals are already underway and are expected to affect all the U.N. agencies working in Pakistan, such as WFP, UNICEF, and UNHCR, the refugee agency, said the staffers in Pakistan.

The most of the people being moved are administrative workers or involved in programs deemed "non-essential," such as HIV prevention, they said.  Most will go to nearby Dubai in the United Arab Emirates

One of the U.N. staffers in Pakistan, who is among those being moved, said they had been told the relocation measures would last at least six months.  In the meantime, the staffer is going to spend between a week and two weeks a month in Pakistan and the rest of the time in a third country.

The roughly 2,500 Pakistanis who work for the U.N. will not be affected by the decision.

A spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry said Islamabad had asked the U.N. to reconsider its decision, arguing that security has improved since the October attack on the WFP office.  He said Pakistan has been assured at the highest levels in New York that the U.N. would revisit the plan.

"We have been informed by the U.N. that it is considering relocating some of its international staff because of security reasons.  But no details have been given about the number," the spokesman said.

The U.N. has provided crucial support this year for Pakistan, which has faced serious and costly refugee crises as it's moved to more aggressively combat the Pakistan Taliban.

Some two million people fled their homes during fighting in and around the Swat Valley in the spring, and about 350,000 people are currently homeless because of an offensive against the militants in the South Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border.

--Zahid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this article.

Write to Matthew Rosenberg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


3.

Asia Pacific

Pakistan

U.S. BLITZ CONTINUES TO CLAIM LIVES IN PAKISTAN


Press TV
January 1, 2010

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=115099§ionid=351020401


At least five people have been killed and several others injured in two separate U.S. drone strikes in the troubled northwestern region of Pakistan.

According to Pakistani officials, the Friday morning attack took place some 15 kilometers east of Miramshah, the main town of North Waziristan.

Missiles fired by an unmanned U.S. drone killed at least three people traveling in a car.

"The bodies were burned beyond recognition.  We are trying to determine their identity," Reuters quoted a regional security official as saying.

On Thursday night, a drone strike killed at least two people and wounded many others in the same region.

The drone targeted a house where “militants” were believed to be hiding.

Pakistani officials have said that it's not clear whether any high-value target was in the area at the time of the attacks.

The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured were said to be in critical condition.

Hundreds of people, many of them civilians, have been killed since 2006 in CIA-operated drone strikes in Pakistan, according to local media.

Although Islamabad has long said the U.S. attacks are counter-productive and violate Pakistan's sovereignty, there are reports that U.S. drones take off from bases inside the Pakistani territory.

4.

Pakistan

OVER 700 KILLED IN 44 DRONE STRIKES IN 2009


Dawn (Pakistan)
January 2, 2010

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/18-over-700-killed-in-44-drone-strikes-in-2009-am-01


PESHAWAR -- Of the 44 predator strikes carried out by U.S. drones in the tribal areas of Pakistan over the past 12 months, only five were able to hit their actual targets, killing five key Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but at the cost of over 700 innocent civilians.

According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based U.S. drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009.

For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by U.S. drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die.  Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.

The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 was hardly 11 per cent.  On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day.  Most of the attacks were carried out on the basis of human intelligence, reportedly provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen, who are spying for the U.S.-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

Of the five successful predator attacks carried out in 2009, the first one came on January 1, which reportedly killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders -- Usama al-Kin and Sheikh Ahmed Salim -- both wanted by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Kin was the chief operational commander of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and had replaced Abu Faraj Al Libi after his arrest in 2004.

The second successful drone attack was conducted on August 5 in South Waziristan that killed the most wanted fugitive chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Baitullah Mehsud along with his wife.

The U.S. State Department had announced a $5million head money for information leading to Baitullah, making him the only Pakistani fugitive with the head money separately announced by Islamabad and Washington.

5.

Analysis

DRONE ATTACKS: CHALLENGING SOME FABRICATIONS

By Farhat Taj

** The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda. Therefore, they welcome the drone attacks **

Daily Times
(Pakistan)
January 2, 2009

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\02\story_2-1-2010_pg3_5


There is a deep abyss between the perceptions of the people of Waziristan, the most drone-hit area, and the wider Pakistani society on the other side of the River Indus.  For the latter, the U.S. drone attacks on Waziristan are a violation of Pakistani’s sovereignty.  Politicians, religious leaders, media analysts, and anchorpersons express sensational clamor over the supposed ‘civilian casualties’ in the drone attacks.  I have been discussing the issue of drone attacks with hundreds of people of Waziristan.  They see the U.S. drone attacks as their liberators from the clutches of the terrorists into which, they say, their state has wilfully thrown them.  The purpose of today’s column is, one, to challenge the Pakistani and U.S. media reports about the civilian casualties in the drone attacks and, two, to express the view of the people of Waziristan, who are equally terrified by the Taliban and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan.  I personally met these people in the Pakhtunkhwa province, where they live as internally displaced persons (IDPs), and in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

I would challenge both the U.S. and Pakistani media to provide verifiable evidence of civilian ‘casualties’ because of drone attacks on Waziristan, i.e. names of the people killed, names of their villages, dates, and locations of the strikes and, above all, the methodology of the information that they collected.  If they can’t meet the challenge, I would request them to stop throwing around fabricated figures of ‘civilian casualties’ that confuse people around the world and provide propaganda material to the pro-Taliban and al Qaeda forces in the politics and media of Pakistan.

I pose that challenge because no one is in a position to give a correct estimate of how many individuals have been killed so far in drone attacks.  On the basis of American media estimates, 600 to 700 ‘civilian population’ have been killed.  The Pakistani government, pro-Taliban political parties like Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, Tehrik-e-Insaf, and the media are quoting the same figure.  Neither the government of Pakistan nor the media have any access to the area and no system is in place to arrive at precise estimates.  The Pakistani government and media take the figure appearing in the American media as an admission by the American government.  The U.S. media too do not have access to the area.  Moreover, the area is simply not accessible for any kind of independent journalistic or scholarly work on drone attacks.  The Taliban simply kill anyone doing so.

The reason why these estimates about civilian ‘casualties’ in the U.S. and Pakistani media are wrong is that after every attack the terrorists cordon off the area and no one, including the local villagers, is allowed to come even near the targeted place.  The militants themselves collect the bodies, bury the dead, and then issue the statement that all of them were innocent civilians.  This has been part of their propaganda to provide excuses to the pro-Taliban and al Qaeda media persons and political forces in Pakistan to generate public sympathies for the terrorists.  The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or other militants have never admitted to the killing of any important figure of al Qaeda or the TTP.  One exception is the killing of Baitullah Mehsud that the TTP reluctantly admitted several days after his death.  According to the people of Waziristan, the only civilians who have been killed so far in the drone attacks are women or children of the militants in whose houses/compounds they hold meetings.  But that, too, used to happen in the past.  Now they don’t hold meetings at places where women and children of the al Qaeda and TTP militants reside.  Moreover, in this case too no one is in a position to give even an approximate number of the women and children of the terrorists killed in drone attacks.

The people of Waziristan are suffering a brutal kind of occupation under the Taliban and al Qaeda.  It is in this context that they would welcome anyone, Americans, Israelis, Indians, or even the devil, to rid them of the Taliban and al Qaeda.  Therefore, they welcome the drone attacks.  Secondly, the people feel comfortable with the drones because of their precision and targeted strikes.  People usually appreciate drone attacks when they compare it with the Pakistan Army’s attacks, which always result in collateral damage.  Especially the people of Waziristan have been terrified by the use of long-range artillery and air strikes of the Pakistan Army and Air Force.  People complain that not a single TTP or al Qaeda member has been killed so far by the Pakistan Army, whereas a lot of collateral damage has taken place.  Thousands of houses have been destroyed and hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed by the Pakistan Army.  On the other hand, drone attacks have never targeted the civilian population except, they informed, in one case when the funeral procession of Khwazh Wali, a TTP commander, was hit.  In that attack too, many TTP militants were killed including Bilal (the TTP commander of Zangara area) and two Arab members of al Qaeda.  But some civilians were also killed.  After the attack people got the excuse of not attending the funeral of slain TTP militants or offering them food, which they used to do out of compulsion in order to put themselves in the TTP’s good books.  “It (this drone attack) was a blessing in disguise,” several people commented.

I have heard people particularly appreciating the precision of drone strikes.  People say that when a drone would hover over the skies, they wouldn’t be disturbed and would carry on their usual business because they would be sure that it does not target the civilians, but the same people would run for shelter when a Pakistani jet would appear in the skies because of its indiscriminate firing.  They say that even in the same compound only the exact room -- where a high value target (HVT) is present -- is targeted.  Thus others in the same compound are spared.  The people of Waziristan have been complaining why the drones are only restricted to targeting the Arabs.  They want the drones to attack the TTP leadership, the Uzbek/Tajik/Turkmen, Punjabi and Pakhtun Taliban.  I have heard even religious people of Waziristan cursing the jihad and welcoming even Indian or Israeli support to help them get rid of the TTP and foreign militants.  The TTP and foreign militants had made them hostages and occupied their houses by force.  The Taliban have publicly killed even the religious scholars in Waziristan.

I have yet to come across a non-TTP resident of Waziristan who supports the Taliban or al Qaeda.  Till recently they were terrified by the TTP to the extent that they would not open their mouth to oppose them.  But now, having been displaced and out of their reach, some of them speak against them openly and many more than before in private conversations.  They express their fear of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan whenever speaking against the Taliban.  They see the two as two sides of the same coin.

What we read and hear in the print and electronic media of Pakistan about drone attacks as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty or resulting in killing innocent civilians is not true so far as the people of Waziristan are concerned.  According to them, al Qaeda and the TTP are dead scared of drone attacks and their leadership spends sleepless nights.  This is a cause of pleasure for the tormented people of Waziristan.

Moreover, al Qaeda and the Taliban have done everything to stop the drone attacks by killing hundreds of innocent civilians on the pretext of their being American spies.  They thought that by overwhelming the innocent people of Waziristan with terror tactics they would deter any potential informer, but they have failed.  On many occasions the Taliban and al Qaeda have killed the alleged U.S. spies in front of crowds of hundreds, even thousands of tribesmen.  Interestingly, no one in Pakistan has raised objection to killings of the people of Waziristan on charges of spying for the U.S.  This, the people of Waziristan informed, is a source of torture for them that their fellow Pakistanis condemn the killing of the terrorists but fall into deadly silence over the routine murders of tribesmen accused of spying for the U.S. by the terrorists occupying their land.

--The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy.  She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.