Pakistan defiant on Iran gas deal
‘US money in Afghanistan lands up in hands of Taliban’
China reels under heavy floods
Pakistan defiant on Iran gas deal
Retracting from his earlier statement of honouring US sanctions against Iran, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday said Pakistan will go ahead with plans to built $7.6 billion Pak-Iran natural gas pipeline even if the US levies additional sanctions on that country.
“As far as the US is concerned, we are not bound to follow these [sanctions], but if these are put in place by the United Nations, we will consider these under the obligation of international laws,” Prime Minister Gilani said while speaking at a luncheon in honour of lawmakers in the Parliament House here.
His statement came only a day after he had stunned everybody, particularly Iran, saying his government, widely reported within and abroad, would abide by anticipated US sanctions against Iran. Talking to reporters in Garhi Khuda Bux (Sindh) on occasion of celebration of birthday anniversary of slain premier Benazir Bhutto, Gilani said: “If the US imposes sanctions, they will have international implications and Pakistan as a member of the international community will follow them.”
Gilani’s statement was interpreted by political and diplomatic observers here as signaling the demise of the controversial project that had brought energy-starved Pakistan under intense US pressure. It came following a warning by US representative for the region Richarad Holbrooke advising Pakistan to exercise caution on the project and wait for the impending additional US congressional curbs proposed in a draft legislation. Holbrooke said it may impact Pakistani companies. .
The Prime Minister clarified his remarks made on Monday saying he was misquoted. Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also hinted on Sunday at keeping in mind the US sanctions though he insisted that according to Pakistani experts the UN sanctions do not cover the pipeline project.
The ambitious project inked recently in Islamabad with Iran, is scheduled to get operational by 2014.
Until now Pakistan had faithfully abided by all kinds of sanctions imposed by the United Nations, whether they were against Iraq, Iran or any other country. But Islamabad rarely adhered to similar sanctions imposed by one country on another as a result of political or diplomatic rows, especially if they were against its national or economic interests.
Washington, June 22
The Congressional investigation “Warlord, Inc: Extortion and Corruption Along the US Supply Chain in Afghanistan” was released by the Report of the Majority Staff, Congressman John F. Tierney, Chair of the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The report released yesterday says funds spent to protect US convoys in Afghanistan were being funneled to the Taliban and other warlords.
Private security subcontractors paid to transport US supplies across the country are buying off local strongmen along the main highway to avoid being attacked, the report argues, strengthening warlords who are inimical to a strong Afghan government.
“The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking,” said Congressman Tierney.
“In short, the Department of Defense designed a contract that put responsibility for the security of vital US supplies on contractors and their unaccountable security providers,” he wrote.
“This arrangement has fueled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others. Not only does the system run afoul of the Department’s own rules and regulations mandated by Congress, it also appears to risk undermining the US strategy for achieving its goals in Afghanistan,” he said.
After a six-month investigation, the report exposes the circumstances surrounding the Department of Defence’s outsourcing of security on the supply chain in Afghanistan to questionable providers, including warlords, it said.
The report said the evidence indicates that little attention was given to the cost-benefit analysis of allowing the system to continue in a fashion that injected a good portion of a $2.16 billion contract’s resources into a corruptive environment. The ‘fog of war’ still requires a direct line of sight on contractors, it said.
According to the report, the principal private security subcontractors on the HNT contract (the main contractor) are warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders who compete with the Afghan central government for power and authority.
Providing “protection” services for the US supply chain empowers these warlords with money, legitimacy, and a raison d’etre for their private armies.
Although many of these warlords nominally operate under private security companies licensed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior, they thrive in a vacuum of government authority and their interests are in fundamental conflict with US aims to build a strong Afghan government, the report said.
The report said the HNT contractors and their trucking subcontractors in Afghanistan pay tens of millions of dollars annually to local warlords across Afghanistan in exchange for “protection” for HNT supply convoys to support US troops.
Although the warlords do provide guards and coordinate security, the contractors have little choice but to use them in what amounts to a vast protection racket.
The consequences are clear: trucking companies that pay the highway warlords for security are provided protection; trucking companies that do not pay believe they are more likely to find themselves under attack.
As a result, almost everyone pays. In interviews and documents, the HNT contractors frequently referred to such payments as “extortion,” “bribes,” “special security,” and/or “protection payments,” it said.
According to the report, within the HNT contractor community, many believe that the highway warlords who provide security in turn make protection payments to insurgents to coordinate safe passage.
“This belief is evidenced in numerous documents, incident reports, and e-mails that refer to attempts at Taliban extortion along the road,” it said.
However, the report said the Subcommittee staff has not uncovered any direct evidence of such payments and a number of witnesses, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, all adamantly deny that any convoy security commanders pay insurgents.
According to experts and public reporting, however, the Taliban regularly extort rents from a variety of licit and illicit industries, and it is plausible that the Taliban would try to extort protection payments from the coalition supply chain that runs through territory in which they freely operate, it said.
The Congressional report said the largest private security provider for HNT trucks complained that it had to pay $1,000-10,000 in monthly bribes to nearly every Afghan governor, police chief, and local military unit whose territory the company passed.
The contractors themselves reported similar corruption at a smaller scale, including significant numbers of Afghan National Police checkpoints.
“US military officials confirmed that they were aware of these problems,” it said. — PTI
Beijing, June 22
The heavy rains and floods have ravaged 10 southern Chinese provinces for over a week, leaving an estimated 200 people dead and 123 missing as of today, officials of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
Seventy six people were killed and 79 are missing in eastern Fujian province alone, official media reports here said.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao today called for all-out efforts to combat the floods and save lives after a dyke collapsed in heavy rain in east China’s Jiangxi Province.
The dike at a section of the Fuhe River burst last evening at 6:30 p m and threatened nearly 80,000 residents in Fuzhou.
Thousands of panicked residents fled their homes after the dam burst threatening to inundate the residential areas.
The breach in the dam spread to 400 meters today further threatening the safety of people.
More than 68,000 people have been evacuated to safety so far, Xinhua reported.
However, about 12,000 people living in low-lying areas or dangerous buildings were awaiting evacuation till noon local time, said Wu Xinxiong, the provincial governor.
Hu ordered 800 soldiers from the Nanjing Military Zone to help with the rescue work in Fuzhou City of Jiangxi, where the Fuhe River burst its bank last evening. More than 10,000 soldiers and civilians, mobilised by the provincial government, battled dangerous conditions to rescue the people and bring relief.
So far 2.376 million people have had to be evacuated, an official statement said. — PTI