Alternative Energy is Key to Ending Power Shortage – Nawaz

Solar panels in Thatta (Credit:
Solar panels in Thatta
ISLAMABAD, June 27: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said that Pakistan’s huge alternative energy potential holds the key to overcoming the acute energy crisis facing the country.

“All avenues need to be explored and every effort needs to be put in to tap in the alternative energy potential of the country,” the prime minister emphasised while speaking at a presentation given to him on solar energy resources in Pakistan and investment opportunities for a consortium of foreign and local companies. Nawaz expressed these views while speaking at a presentation given to him on solar energy resources in Pakistan and investment opportunities by a consortium of foreign and local companies.

The consortium showed confidence in the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and said that the pro-investor policies of the present government have attracted them towards investment opportunities in Pakistan. While addressing the meeting, the prime minister said that his government would go an extra mile to facilitate those companies and firms which transfer technology through their investments in the alternative energy sector in Pakistan.

The prime minister observed that Pakistan possesses huge potential of solar and wind energy and has a reservoir of coal and other fossil fuels to produce electricity which, if utilised optimally, would help improve people’s standards of living. Nawaz also took notice of non-provision of gas to thermal powerhouses and ordered that they be supplied the fuel on immediate basis and sought a report from the concerned authorities. It is noteworthy that electricity generation was affected due to the non-provision of gas to thermal powerhouses.

Nawaz Sharif will personally monitor the latest data on electricity, including availability and consumption. In this regard, the Ministry of Water and Power has installed equipment to provide latest data on electricity generation and its consumption at the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad. Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif has said that now the prime minister will personally monitor the latest electricity data and will issue directives in accordance with the situation. agencies

Multi-pronged attack in Balochistan kills 23

Jinnah's Ziarat residence burnt (Credit:
Jinnah’s Ziarat residence burnt
DAWN.COM | Syed Ali Shah

QUETTA/ISLAMABAD, June 15: At least 23 people, including 14 female students and the deputy commissioner Quetta, were killed Saturday in multiple bomb and gun attacks by militants in the capital of insurgency-hit Balochistan province.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters at a press conference that several parts of the Bolan Medical Complex, taken under siege by terrorists, have now been cleared by security forces.

An operation was being carried out by security personnel to free the Bolan Medical Complex from heavily armed militants who had taken over parts of the hospital and were reported to have taken several people hostage.

A large number of patients and doctors were trapped inside the complex when heavily armed militants took the hospital under siege.

According to security forces, parts of the hospital have been cleared while four gunmen are still believed to be inside the complex.

Nisar confirmed that 35 hostages had now been freed by security forces.

“According to our official reports, four terrorists have been killed in the operation while one suspect has been arrested from outside the hospital,” said the interior minister.

The interior minister said further details of the ongoing operation to clear the hospital would be announced later.

Condemning the earlier attack on Ziarat Residency, he said that orders have been issued to re-build the historic monument of the country. Chaudhry Nisar also revealed that outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed responsibility of the rocket attacks in Ziarat.

Nisar said the total death toll from the attacks in Quetta has now risen to 22, including four terrorists, four Frontier Corps personnel, Deputy Commissioner Quetta Abdul Mansoor Khan and 14 female students of the Sardar Bahadar Khan Women’s University.

The female students were killed earlier when an improvised explosive device ripped through a bus inside the university campus.

“The bomb exploded just when female teachers and students gathered inside the bus around 3 pm to proceed for Quetta city from the university,” CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood said.

The CCPO said that most of the victims were female teachers and students. He said the bus caught fire after the powerful blast.

The injured were shifted to the Bolan Medical Complex, where half an hour later sounds of explosions and gunfire spread panic and chaos among the patients and doctors.

Several people were trapped inside the complex for hours as security personnel engaged in a grueling operation against the militants.

Security forces have now cleared most of the complex and evacuated the civilians, although CCPO Mir Zubair Mehmood said it might take another three hours to confirm that the hospital was clear of all terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has officially announced to observe a “day of mourning” on Sunday.

Earlier Saturday, militants attacked the Quaid-e-Azam residency in Ziarat with hand grenades, destroying the historical monument where the founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah spent his last days.

A policeman was killed in the attack on the Jinnah’s monumental residency.

Officials had confirmed that most of the old memorials inside the monument were destroyed, with historic photographs of the founder burnt to the ground in the resulting fire.

It was unclear if the attack on the Quaid’s residency in Ziarat was related to the later attacks in Quetta.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervez Rashid assured full support to the Balochistan Government in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Balochistan.

Speaking to media representatives in Islamabad, Rashid strongly condemned the attacks. He said that those involved in these terrorist acts were the enemies of Pakistan and Balochistan.

He said that the entire nation was with the people of Balochistan at this critical juncture.

U.S. Presses Taliban on Qatar Office in Bid to Save Talks


KABUL, Afghanistan — In a diplomatic scramble to keep alive the possibility of peace talks with the Taliban, American officials on Wednesday pressed the insurgents to backtrack on their effort to present themselves as essentially an alternative government at the office they opened Tuesday in Qatar, Afghan officials said.

The Afghan government, furious that assurances from the Americans that the Taliban would not use the Doha office for political or fund-raising purposes had been flouted, suspended bilateral security talks with the Americans earlier Wednesday and said they would not send their peace emissaries to Qatar to talk to the Taliban until there was a change.

American officials, worried that painstaking efforts to restart the peace process after 18 months of deadlock were crumbling right at a breakthrough moment, moved quickly to try to resolve the Afghan government’s objections to what increasingly appeared to be a publicity coup by the Taliban.

Afghans of nearly every political stripe expressed outrage and concern at widely broadcast news images of insurgent envoys raising the white Taliban flag from their days in power and speaking as if they had set up an embassy for a government in exile — including raising a sign that described the office as the political office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the formal name of the old Taliban government. Qatari-based news organizations, including Al Jazeera, later broadcast several interviews with the envoys making their case for international attention.

Hours after President Hamid Karzai canceled talks with the Americans over a post-2014 security agreement, accusing the Americans of saying one thing and doing another, and then boycotting the Qatar peace talks, his spokesman said that he had received assurances from Secretary of State John Kerry that the Taliban office would be curbed.

The State Department spokeswoman, Jennifer R. Psaki, confirmed that, saying that Mr. Kerry had spoken twice with Mr. Karzai, on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday.

Mr. Kerry told him that Qatar’s government had assured that the Taliban’s office in the capital, Doha, had removed the Islamic Emirate sign. “The office must not be treated as or represent itself as an embassy or other office representing the Afghan Taliban as an emirate government or sovereign,” she said.

However there was much to repair from the events of the last two days, and the Afghans said they felt betrayed by their American allies and by the Taliban.

In lashing out, Mr. Karzai again showed his willingness to unilaterally halt American initiatives when his allies displeased him, after reining in American detention operations and Special Operations missions earlier this year. It struck directly at two of the most critical parts of the Obama administration’s long-term vision for Afghanistan: entering peace talks with the Taliban to help dampen the insurgency as Western troops withdraw, and reaching an agreement to allow a lasting American military force past 2014.

At the same time, it became increasingly apparent that the Taliban, at little cost in binding promises or capital, were seizing the peace process as a stage for publicity.

The rapid-fire developments on Wednesday came a day after the American military formally handed over control of security in all of Afghanistan to Afghan forces, a development that was followed hours later with the three sides’ announcement that peace talks would begin in Doha.

The opening was hailed by American officials as a breakthrough after 18 months of stalled peace efforts, though they cautioned that a long road remained ahead.

Meanwhile, the Taliban played to the cameras.

Opening their Doha office with a lavish ceremony that included a ribbon-cutting and the playing of the Taliban anthem, insurgent officials said they intended to use the site to meet with representatives of the international community and the United Nations, interact with the news media, “improve relations with countries around the world” and, almost as an afterthought, meet “Afghans if there is a need.” They did not mention the Afghan government.

Some of the other language the Taliban used closely followed the American framework for peace talks. The insurgents seemed to agree to distance themselves from Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, saying the Taliban’s aims were only within Afghanistan and that they did not support the use of Afghan soil to plot international attacks.

In one move, showing a sudden and surprising willingness to open an office after months of resistance, the insurgents could appear to accede to an exhaustive international effort to start peace talks, even while using Qatari territory — and its globally reaching news outlets — in a new bid for acceptance as a political force.

“The way the Taliban office was opened in Qatar and the messages which were sent from it was in absolute contrast with all the guarantees that the United States of America had pledged,” said the statement from President Karzai’s office.

The statement also seemed to lump in Qatar, for its active role in facilitating the Taliban office, with the United States. “Recent developments showed that there are foreign hands behind the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar. Unless the peace process is led by Afghans, the High Peace Council will not participate in the Qatar negotiations,” the statement said, referring to a body Mr. Karzai established in 2010 during earlier peace efforts.

“The Taliban cannot call themselves an Islamic emirate,” said Aminuddin Mozafari, a member of the High Peace Council and a former mujahedeen commander who fought the Russians. “They are just a group of insurgents with no legal status.”

American officials said the Taliban overture was relatively sudden, initially signaled by Qatari officials toward the end of May. The timing, too, offered some surprise. Taliban forces in Afghanistan had been stepping up their attacks as summer neared, bloodying Afghan Army and police forces who have been taking the lead in security operations as American troops stepped back to a support role.

Almost as a reminder that the Taliban, too, could borrow a page from the “fight and talk” American road map for diplomacy in Afghanistan, insurgents struck within hours of the Doha office opening. Insurgents tripped a deadly ambush on an American convoy near the Bagram Air Base north of the Afghan capital, killing four American soldiers, Afghan officials said.

Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting from Washington, and Sangar Rahimi, Sharifullah Sahak, and Habib Zahori from Kabul.

Pakistan’s first war-ready female fighter pilot wins battle of sexes

Ayesha Farooq (
Ayesha Farooq

MUSHAF AIR BASE, Pakistan: With an olive green head scarf poking out from her helmet, Ayesha Farooq flashes a cheeky grin when asked if it is lonely being the only war-ready female fighter pilot in the Islamic republic of Pakistan.

Farooq, from Punjab province’s historic city of Bahawalpur, is one of 19 women who have become pilots in the Pakistan Air Force over the last decade — there are five other female fighter pilots, but they have yet to take the final tests to qualify for combat.

“I don’t feel any different. We do the same activities, the same precision bombing,” the soft-spoken 26-year-old said of her male colleagues at Mushaf base in north Pakistan, where neatly piled warheads sit in sweltering 50 degree Celsius heat (122 F).

A growing number of women have joined Pakistan’s defence forces in recent years as attitudes towards women change.

“Because of terrorism and our geographical location it’s very important that we stay on our toes,” said Farooq, referring to Taliban militancy and a sharp rise in sectarian violence.

Deteriorating security in neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year, and an uneasy relationship with arch rival India to the east add to the mix.

Farooq, whose slim frame offers a study in contrast with her burly male colleagues, was at loggerheads with her widowed and uneducated mother seven years ago when she said she wanted to join the air force.

“In our society most girls don’t even think about doing such things as flying an aircraft,” she said.

Family pressure against the traditionally male domain of the armed forces dissuaded other women from taking the next step to become combat ready, air force officials said. They fly slower aircraft instead, ferrying troops and equipment around the nuclear-armed country of 180 million.

Less of a Taboo
Centuries-old rule in the tribal belt area along the border with Afghanistan, where rape, mutilation and the killing of women are ordered to mete out justice, underlines conservative Pakistan’s failures in protecting women’s rights.

But women are becoming more aware of those rights and signing up with the air force is about as empowering as it gets.

“More and more ladies are joining now,” said Nasim Abbas, Wing Commander of Squadron 20, made up of 25 pilots, including Farooq, who fly Chinese-made F-7PG fighter jets.

“It’s seen as less of a taboo. There’s been a shift in the nation’s, the society’s, way of thinking,” Abbas told Reuters on the base in Punjab’s Sargodha district, about 280 km (175 miles) east of the capital Islamabad, home base to many jets in the 1965 and 1971 wars with India.

There are now about 4,000 women in Pakistan’s armed forces, largely confined to desk jobs and medical work.

But over the last decade, women have became sky marshals, defending Pakistan’s commercial liners against insurgent attacks, and a select few are serving in the elite anti-terrorist force. Like most female soldiers in the world, Pakistani women are still banned from ground combat.

Pakistan now has 316 women in the air force compared to around 100 five years ago, Abbas said.

“In Pakistan, it’s very important to defend our front lines because of terrorism and it’s very important for everyone to be part of it,” said avionics engineer Anam Hassan, 24, as she set out for work on an F-16 fighter aircraft, her thick black hair tucked under a baseball cap.

“It just took a while for the air force to accept this.”

ATDT Next Stop – Hyderabad Sindh

Author addresses PPP leaders and senior media personnel in Karachi
Author addresses PPP leaders and senior media personnel in Karachi

After completing a successful launch in Karachi, Aboard the Democracy Train will launch its newly published Pakistan edition in Hyderabad on Feb 13 (Wednesday).

The event will be addressed by Urdu and Sindhi speaking intellectuals at the Hyderabad Press Club at 5 pm.

The program will be kept interactive in order to enable a free exchange of ideas on the history and politics of Sindh, as documented by the author in the 1980s when she worked as the only woman reporter in Dawn during the Zia era.

Pakistan’s Impossible Year: Elections, Army Intrigue, and More

Goodbye to 2012 (Credit:

Washington DC, Dec 29: On the brink of a new year, Pakistan faces an unstable future. Can the son of assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto break through the chaos?

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, stepped onto the national stage for the first time this week, to give a speech marking the fifth anniversary of Benazir’s murder. Still too young to run for office, the 24-year-old Bhutto’s coming out adds more drama to what will be a pivotal year for Pakistan. National elections, turnover at the top military position, and the denouement in the war in Afghanistan all promise to make 2013 a critical year for a country that is both under siege by terrorism and the center of the global jihadist movement.

Bilawal’s grandfather, uncles, and mother all were murdered in political violence. Zulfikar Bhutto was hung in 1979 by Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, his two uncles died in mysterious plots, and his mother was assassinated by al Qaeda and the Taliban. His family story resembles Pakistan’s reality. Pakistanis a country in the midst of a long and painful crisis. Since 2001, according to the government, 45,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorist-related violence, including 7,000 security personnel. Suicide bombings were unheard of before the 9/11 attacks; there have been 300 since then. The country’s biggest city,Karachi, is a battlefield. One measure of Pakistan’s instability is that the country now has between 300 and 500 private-security firms, employing 300,000 armed guards, most run by ex-generals. The American intelligence community’s new global estimate rates Pakistan among the most likely states in the world to fail by 2030.

wanted on America’s counter terrorism list live in Pakistan. The mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai massacre and head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed, make no effort to hide. He is feted by the army and the political elite, appears on television, and calls for the destruction of India frequently and jihad against America and Israel. The head of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, shuttles between Pakistan intelligence (ISI) safe houses in Quetta and Karachi. The emir of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is probably hiding in a villa not much different from the one his predecessor was living in with his wives and children in Abbottabad until May 2011.

Pakistan also has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than Great Britain’s. The nukes are in the hands of the generals; the civilian government has only nominal control. President Zardari has only nominal influence over the ISI as well; indeed it deliberately botched the security for Benazir to help get rid of her, and it has conspired for five years to get rid of him, too.

Against the odds, Zardari has survived. By next fall, he will have served five years, becoming the first elected civilian leader to complete a full term in office and pass power to another elected government. It will be a major milestone for Pakistani democracy. Zardari has served years in prison. He often has been called a criminal by many, including in his own family, and the national symbol of corruption. Yet as president he presided over an major transfer of power from the presidency to the prime minister’s office, even the titular National Command Authority over the nukes, to ensure the country is more democratic and stable.

The parliamentary election in the spring will be a replay of every Pakistani election since 1988, pitting Nawaz Sharif’s party against the Bhuttos. Needless to say, many Pakistanis are sick of the same old stale choices. But the odds favor the old parties. Both Sharif and Zardari are committed to cautiously improving relations with India and trying to reform the Pakistani economy. Both have troubled relations with the Army.

If Sharif returns to the prime minister’s job for a third time, it will be a remarkable next turn in his own odyssey. Sharif was removed from the office in 1999 in an illegal coup and barely escaped alive to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. His decision to withdraw Pakistan’s troops in 1999 during the Kargil War prompted his fall from power, but it also may have saved the world from nuclear destruction. It was a brave move. I remember talking to him and his family in the White House the day after he made the decision to pull back. You could see in his eyes that he knew the Army would defame him, but he knew he was in the right.

But many Pakistanis want a new face to lead their country. Out of desperation, some are turning to cricket star Imran Khan to save Pakistan. The ISI is probably helping his campaign behind the scenes to stir up trouble for the others. He is a long shot at best. He is much more anti-American, anti-drone, and ready to make deals with the Taliban to stop the terror at home. Yet he understands well that Pakistanis a country urgently in need of new thinking.

Whoever wins will inherit an economy and government that is in deep trouble. Two thirds of the 185 million Pakistanis are under 30; 40 million of the 70 million ages 5 to 19 years old are not in school. Fewer than 1 million Pakistanis paid taxes last year. Power blackouts are endemic. Clean water is increasingly scarce, even as catastrophic floods are more common. Growth is 3 percent, too little to keep up with population demand.

It is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable while they guard their prerogatives and decide national-security issues.

So it is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable while they guard their prerogatives and decide national-security issues. As important as the elections next spring will be, the far more important issue is who will be the next chief of Army staff.

The incumbent, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was given an unprecedented three-year extension in 2010. He is the epitome of the Pakistani officer corps and the so-called deep state. Pervez Musharraf made him director general of the ISI in 2004. On his watch, the Afghan Taliban recovered and regrouped inQuetta, Osama bin Laden built his hideout 800 yards outside Kayani’s alma mater—the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad—in 2005, and planning began for the 2008 Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai. His term expires in September.

The history of civilians choosing chiefs of Army staff is not encouraging. Zulfikar Bhutto chose Zia ul-Haq, whom he called his “monkey general” because he thought he was apolitical. Zia staged his own coup and then hanged Zulfi. Nawaz Sharif picked Pervez Musharraf, quarreled over the Kargil War, and fired Pervez, who then staged his coup. No wonder Zardari just rolled over Kayani for another three years in 2010. It was the easy way out.

The next COAS will come from the shadowy group of a dozen corps commanders who run the Army. They do not advertise their political views as a rule. By next summer, a consensus will probably emerge in the inner circle on who should succeed Kayani, and the whole world will try to decipher the implications of the choice.

Washington will be watching all of this carefully. U.S.-Pakistan relations are at a low point and may get worse. It is in Afghanistan that the relationship will be most tested in 2013. This past September, the Taliban attacked a base called Camp Bastion, destroying eight U.S. Marine jet aircraft and killing two Marines. The interrogation of the surviving Taliban fighter indicated the attack was planned at an ISI safe haven in Pakistan with Pakistani army expertise. Then in December, the head of Afghan intelligence, Asadullah Khalid, was almost assassinated by a terrorist who the Afghans say came from Pakistan and was sent by the ISI. Incidents like these promise to make 2013 another year of strained relations in the U.S.-Pakistan deadly embrace.

Five female teachers killed: Pakistan aid work imperiled

Grieving family in Swabi district (Credit:

Islamabad, Jan. 2: Pakistani police on Wednesday searched for the gunmen behind the brazen murder of five teachers and two health workers, amid fears that public health campaigns would suffer and lead to a resurgence of polio and other preventable diseases.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which occurred Tuesday in Swabi, a city in the troubled northwest. The Pakistani Taliban has in the past vowed to target, among others, health workers involved in campaigns to wipe out polio.

Last year, 15 health and aid workers were killed in Pakistan, making the country one of the most dangerous in the world for aid workers, according to the British-based consultancy Humanitarian Outcomes. Most were women. Development sector experts now express concerns that those working on the ground will shy away from assignments.

“In the past, local volunteers, be they teachers, medical workers or social mobilizers, considered themselves safe and worked hand in hand with foreign aid workers and paramilitary personnel in even the most dire of circumstances,” says Hassan Belal Zaidi, a development and communication specialist, based in Islamabad. “But now, it would not be unreasonable for them to think twice and even refuse to travel to remote parts of the country if they know there is a chance they may get shot.”

The six women and one man were traveling in a van when gunmen on motorcycles stopped it Tuesday afternoon after it left a children’s community center, according to Abdur Rasheed Khan, chief of the Swabi police force. The four gunmen took a 4-year-old boy belonging to one of the women from the van, and then raked the vehicle with gunfire, he said. The child was unharmed and was later turned over to police by bystanders, he said.

Recommended: How much do you know about Pakistan? Take this quiz.

These murders come a few weeks after nine health workers with national polio campaign were killed in different parts of the country in what police said was a coordinated attack. That prompted the Pakistani government and the United Nations agencies to suspend their vaccination drive for the disease, which has seen a uptick in cases in recent years.

Pakistanis one out of the three countries where polio persists; at least 57 cases were registered in 2012. The World Health Organization last year warned Pakistan that it could face travel and visa restrictions and sanctions imposed by other countries if polio continues to spread

Distrust of public health initiatives like the polio campaign is particularly strong in districts of Pakistanwhere religious extremists have tightened their grip. That sentiment deepened in 2011 after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden. A CIA-led operation to confirm Mr. bin Laden’s location in the city of Abbottabad used a hepatitis B vaccination campaign to gather DNA evidence on bin Laden.

The recent attacks are likely to further frighten people from working with foreign and Pakistani aid and development organizations, says Bushra Arain, chairwoman for the All Pakistan Lady Health Workers Welfare Association, which counts more than 100,000 registered members.

“We are the backbone of Pakistani health sector. If the attacks continue, with the state showing the inability it currently is demonstrating in stopping us from being targeted, we will stop working,” Ms. Arain says.

The Taliban and affiliated groups are targeting aid workers for several reasons, says Khadim Hussain, who heads one of the largest private charity school networks in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. First, the militants think aid groups have an anti-Muslim agenda, spying on the local population, a suspicion that was deepened by the raid on bin Laden. Secondly, the groups equate health campaigns with modernizing society, in opposition to some fundamentalist tenets for Islamic radicals. Some groups also believe the vaccine is intended to sterilize Muslim children.

“If the attacks by the Taliban continue, there will be widespread de-motivation amongst aid workers, which I am already witnessing,” Mr. Hussain says.

While some development advocates say there needs to be a coordinated, public response by Pakistani and foreign NGOs to the attacks, others say the government should stop public education campaigns altogether and just allow aid workers to operate quietly.

“The less attention we get, the less vulnerable we will be as targets for the terrorists,” Ms. Arain says.

“We are involved with anti-polio drive, infant health awareness programs, family planning, etc. and if the government does not pull its act together, many deadly diseases can spread rapidly inPakistan,” she says. “The situation can get out of hand.”


US drone strike kills top militant Mullah Nazir in Pakistan

Maulvi Nazir (Credit:

US drone strikes today killed a senior Pakistani militant commander in the tribal region of South Waziristan, and also reportedly claimed the lives of three suspected al-Qa’ida operatives in Yemen.
Mullah Nazir, leader of one of Pakistan’s four main militant groups, was a target for US forces despite having agreed a ceasefire deal with Islamabad. Under the agreement his group was no longer launching attacks inside Pakistan, but was still active in Afghanistan. He also hosted al-Qa’ida members at his base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

According to Pakistani officials, Nazir was in a meeting at a house in the village of Angoor Adda when he and eight others were killed. Four more militants were killed in Mir Ali in North Waziristan by a second wave of missiles. The attacks were the first by US drones in Pakistan this year.

In return for his co-operation, Nazir was allowed to run his fiefdom with little interference from the Pakistani army. He had either killed or chased out his tribal and political enemies and recently ordered that polio vaccinations in the area be stopped, declaring the progamme to be a CIA spying ploy and also an invidious plot to make Muslims infertile. The ban was followed by murder of health workers in the region.
But it was the Mullah’s activities in Afghanistan that made him a prime target for the Americans. His group was responsible for a rise in suicide bombings and also for sending Punjabi Pakistani fighters across the border to bolster the Afghan Taliban, who have suffered heavy losses.

Pakistan’s former chief of intelligence in the country’s north-west, retired brigadier Asad Munir, maintained that Nazir’s killing will “complicate” the fight against militants in the tribal region, and could prompt retaliatory attacks against the army in South Waziristan.

Yesterday’s other strike, in southern Yemen, was the fifth by a pilotless plane in the country in just 10 days. The US has recently stepped up its assault on Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror network’s Yemeni wing which is regarded as its most dangerous by many in the West. A government official shortly after yesterday’s strike said the attack was by a Yemeni aircraft, but locals said it came from a missile-firing drone.

US drone attacks in Pakistan, which have increased markedly under President Obama, have long been hugely controversial issue. Pakistani leaders have condemned the infringement of their sovereignty and stressed that large numbers of civilians die in the strikes.