Saturday, January 28, 2012

US Defense Chief Concerned About Pakistan's Treatment of Doctor

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he is concerned about a Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. find al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Panetta told the CBS-TV program 60 Minutes, Shikal Afridi provided key intelligence that was "very helpful" in the successful May 2 Navy SEALs raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.  Panetta's interview will be broadcast Sunday.

Pakistan has arrested Afridi, charging him with treason.  The doctor, who was working for U.S. intelligence, ran a vaccination program to collect DNA to verify bin Laden's presence in the compound.

Panetta says Pakistan's arrest of "somebody who was helping to go after terrorism" is a "real mistake." 

The U.S. defense secretary says he believes someone in authority in Pakistan knew where bin Laden was hiding. Panetta said there were intelligence reports of Pakistani military helicopters passing over bin Laden's compound, which was the largest one in the area and was surrounded by five-and-a-half-meter walls.

Panetta acknowledged he does not have any hard evidence Pakistan's government knew where bin Laden was, but his "personal view" is that "somebody, somewhere probably had that knowledge."

Fugitive Ishraq tells The Economist: Sk Hasina letting Bangladesh turn into Indian-run 'Bantustan'

Ishraq Ahmed, one of the men accused of leading the plot behind the foiled recent coup attempt, has said the present government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is letting Bangladesh be “turned into a Bantustan” run by India.

Speaking to influential London-based weekly The Economist, Ishraq, who is in hiding abroad, most likely Hong Kong, also denied religious extremism on either his part, or those arrested in connection with the attempt, while conceding they are his “friends”.

While there is no direct denial of any coup plot, in an apparent challenge to the government, Ishraq says the government “can show no troop movements, no guns, anything” as evidence to prove their claims.

Ishraq claims he and other like-minded “nationalists” are merely trying to oppose what they view as a “coup-by-stealth” by Sheikh Hasina, that is apparently turning Bangladesh into a vassal state for its giant neighbour.

In a clear attempt to distance himself from religious extremism, Ishraq revealed his “painstakingly collected” cellar of wines, Armagnacs and malt whiskies had been seized by the authorities.

In the article “Turbulent House”, published in the latest issue of The Economist that hit newsstands worldwide on Friday, Ishraq goes on to make many other claims consistent with the anti-India sentiments evident in some of the literature propagated by the alleged coup plotters via the internet, and leaflets distributed in the capital by their supporters.

Elaborating upon the presence and activities in Bangladesh of RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, Ishraq says for two years, they have had an office with the headquarters of Bangladeshi Intelligence- understood to mean the DGFI.

From this office, RAW has a “direct submarine cable for communications” with their Indian headquarters, Ishraq goes on to say.

He also accuses them of conducting electronic surveillance in the country, and kidnapping “suspects” from Bangladeshi cities.

In another claim echoing the literature distributed in the accused plotters’ defence, Ishraq blames Indian “prodding” for the government’s supposed crackdown on “anyone with beards”.

Any practicing Muslim is apparently vilified and “portrayed as Taliban”.

The Economist also spoke to Gowher Rizvi, adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, who rubbished almost all of Ishraq’s claims. 

Rizvi conceded that some individuals are arrested here and taken over the border for prosecution, but insisted they don’t include Bangladeshis. 

It is understood that he meant some leaders of the insurgencies in India’s north-eastern states, who had been hiding in Bangladesh.

Withdraw ban, counter-programme: Khaleda

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia called upon the government on Saturday to withdraw a ban on rallies and processions and cancel Awami League’s "counter-programme" for Sunday. 

The opposition leader came up with the call hours after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police imposed the 18-hour restriction from 6:00am on any kind of rallies and processions in the capital. 

She alleged that the ruling party planned its rally on the same day in a bid to thwart BNP’s mass processions in the city. 

The former premier made the comments while addressing the 19th National Conference of the diploma engineers in the city. 

Stating that peaceful and orderly demonstrations are the democratic rights of the people, she said the "failed government" has been detached from the people. 

She threatened the government to face dire repercussions if Sunday’s programme is obstructed. 

BNP has convened an emergency meeting of its national standing committee in the evening. 

Khaleda announced the mass processions from a grand rally in Chittagong on January 9 to mount pressure on the government for the reinstatement of the caretaker government system. 

DMP bans rallies, processions Sunday

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has imposed a ban on any kind of rally and procession in the capital for Sunday.

The restriction will remain in force for 18 hours since 6:00am, Additional Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman told The Daily Star.

Asked about the ban, Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker told The Daily Star that law enforcers will take actions against anyone who tries to destabilise the law and order.
The law enforcement agencies have been instructed to remain alert so that none could create any anarchy, he added. 

The police chief urged all the law-abiding people to refrain from any such activities which can hamper the security of lives and properties of the people. 

Replying to another question if there is any apprehension of subversive activities, the IGP replied in the negative saying, "We're prepared for any development."

He said necessary additional forces will be deployed and vigilant activities will be intensified in the capital so that none could take any scope to break the law. 

DMP Commissioner Benazir Ahmed has clamped the ban as ruling Awami League and main opposition BNP have called separate programmes in the capital on Sunday, police sources said.

The order issued by the DMP on Saturday also imposed ban on carrying sticks and bamboos on the city streets.

The announcement came on Saturday when BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is set to lead mass processions in the city on Sunday aiming to drum up public support in favour of her demand for restoration of the caretaker government system.

Khaleda on January 9 declared this programme at a mammoth rally in Chittagong.

AL has also set Sunday for a rally in front of its party office at Bangabandhu Avenue.

The additional deputy commissioner said the DMP has decided to impose the restriction to avert clash between the two arch-rival parties.

As tension is prevailing centring the two programmes, BNP leaders have threatened the government to face dire consequences if it tries to obstruct their Sunday’s programme.