India, Pakistan break the ice, but chill remains

Good chemistry but poor trust mark the dialogue

M K Bhadrakumar


Amid much grandstanding, the India-Pakistan “dialogue” got off to a start in New Delhi on Thursday – albeit a somewhat bumpy one. No immediate breakthrough in frosty ties was expected, nor was one achieved. The United States, which is brokering the structured talks at the Foreign Ministry-level, should heave a sigh of relief that the ball is rolling after a 14-month hiatus.

The approach of the Indian and Pakistani sides presents a study in contrast, although both saw the other as desperately keen for talks to resume. India always held dialogue as a trump card to force Pakistan to respond to its demands to curb the activities of terrorist groups. On its part, Islamabad presumed that India “panicked” at the prospect of regional isolation on its part after placing itself brilliantly to seek leverage with the US from its “strategic assets” – the Taliban – in the endgame in Afghanistan.

Neither assumption is valid. Delhi ought to realize that despite its stubborn refusal to talk, Islamabad parried its demand to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure with links to the Pakistani security establishment that bleeds India. Indeed, indications are that Pakistan envisages the continued use of terrorism as a state policy vis-a-vis India. (more…)


Israel`s Region-wide Underground War

Palestinians carry a picture of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing, as others carry his coffin, left, during his funeral procession at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus. File photo: AP.

Seumas Milne

Imagine for a moment what the reaction would be if Iranian intelligence was almost universally believed to have assassinated a leader of one of the organisations fighting the Tehran government in a western-friendly state.  Then consider how Britain, let alone the US, might respond if the killers had carried out the operation using forged or stolen passports of citizens of four European states, including Britain, with dual Iranian nationality.
You can be sure it would have triggered a major international storm, stentorian declarations about the threat of state-sponsored terrorism, and perhaps a debate at the UN Security Council, with demands for harsher sanctions against an increasingly dangerous Islamic republic.
Substitute Israel for Iran, and the first part of that scenario is exactly what happened in Dubai last month. A senior Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, was murdered in his hotel room in what was widely assumed from the start to be an operation by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.  Less than a month later, strong suspicion has turned to as good as certainty with the revelation that the hit team had used the passport identities of six Britons with dual nationality and currently living in Israel.
But instead of setting off a diplomatic backlash, the British government sat on its hands for almost a week after it was reportedly first passed details of the passport abuse.  And while the Foreign Office finally summoned the Israeli ambassador to “share information”, rather than protest, Gordon Brown could yesterday only promise a “full investigation”.
In parallel with this languid official response, most of the British media has treated the assassination more as a ripping spy yarn than a bloody scandal which has put British citizens at greater risk by association with Mossad death squads.  It was an “audacious hit”, the Daily Mail enthused, straight out of a “Frederick Forsyth page-turner”, while theTimes revelled in an attack that resembled nothing so much as a “well-plotted murder mystery”.
Running throughout all this is a breathless awe at Mossad’s reputation for ruthless brilliance in seeking out and destroying Israel’s enemies.  In reality, the Dubai operation was badly bungled, as the Israeli press has already started to acknowledge.  Despite having the relatively easy target of an unarmed man in a luxury hotel in a non-hostile Gulf state, Mossad managed to get its agents repeatedly caught on CCTV and effectively exposed Israel’s responsibility through the ham fisted passport scam.
Dubai follows a long history of Mossad bungles, from its accidental 1970s killing of a Moroccan waiter in Norway, mistaken for a Palestinian Black September leader, through its failed assassination attempt against the Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al in Jordan in 1997, when agents had to take refuge in Israel’s embassy and the US forced Israel to produce the antidote for the nerve toxin used in the attack.
In that case, the would-be assassins were carrying the Canadian passports of Israeli citizens, apparently with their knowledge.  But while Mossad has used British documents in other attacks, it has naturally steered clear of faking the passports of its US sponsor.  So at the same time as Israel is demanding the British government change the law without delay to prevent the arrest of visiting Israeli leaders on war crimes charges, what is Britain planning to do over the abuse of its citizens’ identity to carry out state-directed murder?
Very little, it seems.  Part of the explanation has to be that Britain and the US have of course been carrying out their own assassination campaigns, in violation of the laws of war, in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In his new book on secret SAS operations in occupied Iraq, Mark Urban estimates that 350 to 400 were killed in covert British attacks.  The Joint Special Operations Command run by General Stanley McChrystal, now US commander in Afghanistan, was responsible for perhaps 3,000 deaths.  In Pakistan, US drone assassination attacks are now routinely carried out against Taliban and al-Qaida targets, real or imagined.
And since launching its war on terror, the US has also adopted Israel’s practice, stretching back decades, of carrying out killings far from the theatre of war.  First, Israel’s attacks were targeted against PLO leaders; more recently against the Islamists.  But since the fiasco of the Mish’al plot, its assassinations have mostly been confined to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Israel made a determined attempt over the past decade to decapitate Hamas of its entire leadership.
Now that focus has again widened. Under the direction of Mossad director Meir Dagan, Israel is running a region-wide underground war against the leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas — which have both maintained an effective ceasefire for more than a year — and their Syrian and Iranian backers.  Since the killing of veteran Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, Israeli-hallmarked assassinations have multiplied in Lebanon, Syria and Iran.
But coldblooded killing isn’t only a morally repugnant crime. The lesson of colonial history is that decapitation campaigns against national resistance movements don’t work.  In the short term they can disrupt and demoralise, but if the movement is socially rooted, other leaders or even organisations will take their place.  That was Israel’s experience when it killed the Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Musawi and his family in the early 1990s, only for him to be succeeded by the more effective and charismatic Hassan Nasrallah.
Such campaigns also tend to spread the war. Unlike the historic PLO factions, Hamas has always confined its armed attacks to Israel and the Palestinian territories.  Writing in the Guardian in 2007, Mish’al confirmed the principle that the resistance should only be fought in Palestine. But in the aftermath of the Dubai assassination, Hamas leaders have started to hint strongly that policy could now change, and that they could respond to Israel’s attacks in “the international arena”.
If so, it would give an added dimension to the assessment by Ben Caspit in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv yesterday that the Dubai killing had been a “tactical operational success, but a strategic failure”.  So far the response of British ministers to Mossad’s provocation has been craven.  Unless that changes fast, they can only increase the risk of being drawn further into a conflict ready to erupt again at any time.


–Seumas Milne [MrZine Monthly Magazine] is a Guardian columnist and associate editor. He is also the author of The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners. This article was first published by the Guardian on 18 February 2010; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.
Source: Mathaba
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.



Marjah: ‘This is not Fallujah’

Operation Moshtarak, the largest operation in Afghanistan since the Taliban were overthrown, will be worth the human costs that will be suffered, says British General Sir Richard Dannatt.



Eric Walberg


So says McChrystal, as the US surge goes full steam ahead in Marjah — a new “gentler” war.

Apart for Abu Ghraib, Fallujah is perhaps the Iraq war’s defining moment. The hatred and resentment of the occupied people found a catalyst in the four Blackwater mercenaries, who were killed and strung up, and no doubt deserved their fate, certainly as symbols of a cynical, illegal invasion. The US soldiers — who are just as mercenary, being a professional army invading a country sans provocation — came and “destroyed the village to save it.”The “success” of the blitzkrieg war in Iraq has been difficult to duplicate in Afghanistan, “the heart of darkness”, one British commander quipped to his troops as they went into battle, despite dropping far more bombs — many of them radioactive.
The unflagging resistance of the Afghans, their refusal to submit to the occupiers, is that because they realise the invaders are not there for their purported altruistic motives. The thousands of civilians and resistance fighters who have been killed by airstrikes — none of them guilty of anything more egregious than defending their homeland — is more than ample proof, as is the craven propping up of a US-imposed government, and the proliferation of US bases in the country. The unapologetically un-Islamic ways of the invaders, their lack of even the remotest understanding of the people they are occupying, is a constant insult to a proud and ancient people.
The new exit plan, so it goes, involves “clearing” all regions of Taliban — US Marines call it “mowing the grass”, acknowledging that as soon as they murder one group of resisters and leave, more pop up. The “new” strategy is to bring in ready-made Afghan administrators and police to create a prosperous, peaceful society once the “enemy” have been destroyed, “winning the hearts and minds” of the locals. “We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” said chief honcho General Stanley McChrystal.

But wait a moment. Is it possible the invaders are the enemy? And who are these newly discovered Afghan officials? Are (famously corrupt) Afghan government officials and police nominally loyal to NATO forces, trucked in by the invaders, going to be welcome in remote villages as ready-made trusted representatives of the people? And wasn’t this precisely the failed policy the US followed in Vietnam ? This old “new” policy was what convinced United States President Barack Obama to go along grudgingly with the Pentagon’s demands to radically increase NATO force — though on the condition that the whole operation be complete by next year. He clearly was given no choice in the matter, and his “ultimatum” was dismissed by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates moments after Obama made it.

Not surprisingly, NATO forces have met strong resistance in Marjah as their onslaught enters its second week, from both the incredible, ragtag resistance and from locals, who doubt that the postwar reality will correspond remotely to the picture the invaders are painting. Tribal elders in Helmand this week called for an end to the “Moshtarak” offensive, citing Western troops’ disregard for civilian lives. Realising their “shock and awe” bombing kills civilians and turns locals against them, the invaders have reluctantly cut back, now authorising them only under “very limited and prescribed conditions.” Even so, over 50 civilians are among the dead so far — 27 in an airstrike in Uruzgan Province — and “friendly fire” killed seven Afghan police. Six occupiers were killed in one day alone, bringing NATO losses to 18 at the time of writing.

The latest propaganda ploy is to accuse the Taliban of using locals as “human shields” and of holing up near civilians. But surely it is the NATO forces that are using locals as human shields, invading their homes in search of the “enemy”, forcing them to betray their children and friends, often under torture in Afghan-run prisons. Even those Afghans who collaborate with the occupiers, taking their dollars, guns and uniforms, are in effect human shields for the troops. And when they realise their lives are on the line, they flee their paymasters. How else to explain the 25 police officers who left their posts last week and “defected” to the Taliban in Chak?

But Marjah is really just a microcosm for what the US is doing at this very moment around the globe — waging a veritable war on the world, in Iraq, Pakistan, expanding into Yemen, Somalia, Iran, supplementing bombs and soldiers with militarised sea lanes, forward military and missile bases on every continent, encircling “enemies” Russia and China.

The process is merely accelerating as the US loses its traditional edge in the world economy, outpaced by China . It is the logical next step for a deeply illogical economic system. It can’t be repeated too often: the US is frantically trying to consolidate its sole superpower status militarily before it loses the economic war.

Marjah also represents the US project of replacing the UN with NATO as the world’s peacekeeper. The coalition of almost 60 nations is pursuing an illegal war launched by the US, with the UN — the only legitimate forum for world peacekeeping — now in tow solely as window dressing. Though not quite. Deputy special representative of the secretary general Robert Watkins said the UN will not be involved in NATO’s reconstruction plans for Marjah “because we would not want to have the humanitarian activities we deliver to be linked with military activity.”

Today’s Russia, unhappy with the Yelstin-era acquiescence to a subservient role in the US empire, is the only country standing up to the US empire. The new military doctrine announced by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier this month is unwavering in its condemnation of US plans. The fact that NATO is attempting to “globalise its functions in contravention of international law” is threat Number One, followed by NATO’s encirclement of Russia and US forward missile bases, now rapidly being deployed around the world — and Russia. International terrorism is ninth out of 11 threats listed. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reiterated this on Tuesday, saying Russia will give priority to nuclear deterrence, space and air defense in its military reforms.

The Russians argue that the OSCE should have been the vehicle for European security after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but instead, the US chose to expand NATO. This meant not uniting Europe, but merely moving the dividing line east, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week at the Munich Conference on Security. Lavrov pointed to the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the tragedy in the Caucasus in August 2008 as evidence that the OSCE had failed to rise to the challenge of maintaining peace in Europe. The OSCE Permanent Council knew about the Georgian leaders’ preparations for a military attack but took no measures. The Russia-NATO Council also failed when members blocked Russia’s request to convene an urgent meeting when the military actions were at their height.

Last month’s London conference on Afghanistan was presented in the West as a benign effort to provide economic development and humanitarian aid. It was not a UN conference, but “the international community coming together to fully align military and civilian resources behind an Afghan-led political strategy”, graced by the UN secretary general’s presence. It was preceded by two days of meetings between top military commanders of almost a third of the world’s nations at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and followed by two days of meetings by NATO and allied defense chiefs last week in Istanbul, the latter attended by Israeli Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

The brazen involvement of Israel in a war against Islamic Afghanistan, where Israeli drones have killed and continue to kill civilians and resisters, suggests what this war really represents. The invaders should note that their nickname “Moshtarak” (collective) derives from the same Arabic root as shirk (idolatry). Though Pentagon planners don’t register such subtleties, the locals surely do.

Marjah is indeed Fallujah. Like Fallujah, it will become a symbol, the defining moment in the war against the Afghan people. US Marines may “mow the grass”, eradicate the “weeds”, and plant their sterile seeds of Western-style democracy and economic prosperity as much as they like. However, “the Taliban is the future, the Americans are the past in Afghanistan,” as former head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Hamid Gul recently told Al-Jazeera. This is clear to any sensible observer.

Gul angrily notes that it is Afghanistan’s neighbours, in particular, Pakistan, that will be left holding the bag when the inevitable arrives. “The OIC and the Muslim countries will have to come in and play their part. Then Afghanistan can redeem itself.” The sooner the US accepts the inevitable, the fewer will be the needless deaths of both Americans, Europeans and Afghans.


Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly

Source: text- Originally published in Information Clearing House, cross posted at Op-Ed News Title Image:

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Tear gas in Kashmir

women shout slogans during the funeral procession of teenager Zahid Farooqon the outskirts of Srinagar, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010. Fresh protests erupted fueled by the death of the second teenager on Friday, as thousands of soldiers in riot gear patrolled the streets in the capital of Kashmir valley for three straight days to quell protests.





When you fire a tear gas shell, you’re supposed to aim below the chest. That’s basically agreed upon, it’s written somewhere: an understanding extracted from a code of conduct housed in an operating manual stuck in someone’s desk drawer. “The policemen are trained to fire the tear gas shells in a parabolic way and not directly,” the Inspector General of Kashmir’s police force told a local paper, describing in a decidedly sterile manner the intended trajectory of a little steel projectile whose intended target is, after all, civilians.

It’s also understood that often, this does not happen. Tear gas shells rocket off walls and ricochet and dance and skip across the concrete, so “non-lethal” intentions don’t necessarily beget non-lethal results. You don’t know where the thing is going to end up really, and sometimes — in the case of especially zealous protesters — where it ends up is hurtling back through the air at you. So you fire them where you want the gas to go and hope you don’t learn later that it hit a soft part of someone’s body, producing the precise inverse of the effect you intended. “Minimum force” weapons can prove plenty forceful, and “crowd control” measures sometimes wind up rousing bigger and angrier crowds.


The wayward tear gas canister is perhaps an apt metaphor for India’s problem in its Himalayan northwest, where it administers to a province of people who don’t want it there, and where it is trying to control the population with enough force that Indian authority is respected; not so much that it’s resented.And it’s a wayward tear gas canister that catalyzed violence last fortnight in Kashmir, after an incident that began when a 14-year-old boy headed out to play cricket with his friends on January 31.

By way of explanation, if not necessarily apology, for the events that followed, the director general of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) later said that “stone pelting” is “a new form of gunless terrorism.” He lamented bodily injuries of unspecified severity suffered by his men, and cited “close to 400 vehicles damaged in the last one-and-a-half year.”

He might have gone on to complain about name-calling and rude language. Indeed, for all its tactical prowess, the CRPF falters when it comes to PR. Its concept of a public information campaign is a series of signs at security checkpoints across Kashmir that read enjoy the beauty, we are on duty, an almost satirically blithe appeal coming from hardened counterinsurgency men with big weapons and grim faces.


And yet, one can’t fault them for trying to make their name smell a little better in a place where they’ve come to stand for everything the people hate. To many Kashmiris, the very presence of the paramilitary CRPF constitutes an insidious kind of insult. Not just because the paramilitaries are viewed as a Hindu force in the majority Muslim Kashmir, but because they’re perceived to be hard men trained to fight militants, and having them keep the peace on city streets feels a little like calling in Navy SEALS to mediate bar fights.

That New Delhi sends paramilitaries to do crowd control in Kashmir suggests to Kashmiris that India regards the people there as indistinct from al Qaeda, Lashkar-e Tayyaba, or other Pakistan-based militants. In other words, despite New Delhi reducing the paramilitary presence in Kashmir year by year, Kashmiris feel their being there at all is an indication that India thinks of all Kashmiris — Indian citizens — as terrorists.

So was the situation in Kashmir during last Sunday of January sitting at a high simmer, when an assistant sub-inspector with the Jammu and Kashmir police force fired a teargas canister in an apparently un-parabolic manner, hitting a teenage boy named Wamiq Farooq in the head and killing him.

A number of things happened next. Protests erupted in towns and villages all over the valley, people taking to the streets as reports emerged of another boy taking a plastic pellet in the forehead and losing his sight, one getting a canister in the belly and losing his spleen, still others struck through with pellets but preferring to forgo treatment for fear of police waiting at hospitals, ready to arrest those carrying proof of participation in protests on (or in) their bodies. Each story instigated new and more intense protests, as local journalists reported that the government arrested close to 100 peopleby its own count and many more by everyone else’s, and injuries suffered by citizens, police, and paramilitaries numbered in the hundreds.

As news of the violence made its way west, Pakistanis already planning to demonstrate for “Solidarity Day,” an annual day of protest against Indian control in Kashmir took to the streets to support their (mostly) Muslim brothers on the Indian side of the Line of Control, forming human chains in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad, holding rallies in Lahore and Peshawar.


Last Friday amidst growing protests, a member of one of the paramilitary forces operating in the valley shot and killed a 17-year-old named Zahid Farooq (no relation to Wamiq), sending the situation over the edge. Cries of “blood for blood” and “we want freedom” sounded out at his funeral a day later, and Srinagar fell under an even tighter grip of government forces. The government restricted the assembly of more than four people, and shut down roads.

I reached a journalist friend on the phone, out of breath and frantic, who told me “everything is closed. We are not being allowed to go to places, I tried my best to go to one of the places where they imposed the curfew and are now protesting.” As he spoke, he became so exercised that that he began pushing keys on the dial pad accidentally. “Downtown area Srinagar,” he said, “I can’t get there, nobody is being allowed, the protesters are only getting there through back alleys.” Before hanging up, he told me, “It is totally different this time. The youth are very angry; I see rage in their eyes, more so than ever before.”

Here is what’s strange about the latest boiling-over in Kashmir: the youth in the streets aren’t responding to orders, they’re giving them. The main Muslim party in Kashmir, the All Parties Hurriyat conference, initially declared a one-day strike, but a group of twenty or so young men assembled a conference of their own and announced they wouldn’t listen to Hurriyat leaders; they wanted a longer strike, four days instead of one. The people struck for four. And after more violence, they struck some more.


As influence in Kashmir has percolated from state officials down to religious leaders, and finally, to young men, New Delhi will have a harder and harder time finding people to negotiate with. A government minister can’t hold two-party talks with teenagers, but increasingly it’s the disenfranchised youth who have the pulse of the people, and the inclination to act decisively.

Frustrated young men are taking the torch from older separatist leaders who’ve become more ruminative in their twilight. “After twenty years of violence, the new generation which is now on the street was born on a battlefield,” says Inpreet Kaur, another Kashmiri-born journalist. “They are born under the shadow of a gun. For them, these agitations are part of life. The protests are part of life.

Violence is a point or normalcy for this generation.” So youth make up the new power bloc, a phenomenon that in both origin and implication is not unlike the Taliban (“the students”) storming forth from the madrassas in Pakistan in the nineties, or al Shabaab (“the lads”) lording over war-torn Somalia.

India does not appear to be addressing disenfranchised youth in Kashmir very well. India has been remarkably proactive in advocating negotiations with Pakistan, and deserves credit for any progress the two countries make. The Byzantium of backroom negotiations that characterize Indian geopolitics is dizzying, and because most negotiations related to Kashmir are necessarily secret, it’s impossible to fairly evaluate New Delhi’s efforts to mitigate the Kashmir crisis.

Two weeks ago, however, India appointed a new national security advisor with a more flexible stance towards Pakistan than his predecessor, and for this weekend, India publicly proposed foreign-secretary-level negotiations with its archrival. If Pakistan responds favorably to these steps, India’s higher-road statecraft could lead to tangible progress. But it will do little to defuse Kashmir, because even if Pakistan and India were, hypothetically, to agree on Kashmir, Kashmiris likely wouldn’t.


While India is closer to bilateral talks, “trilateral” talks — negotiations which actually include Kashmir — could never be publicly entertained. Negotiations with Kashmir would suggest that Kashmir is an autonomous region, that it’s not is one of India’s central contentions. Kashmir does not belong to Pakistan, Kashmir belongs to India, so goes the logic, and that Kashmir might belong to itself is not an option India has political room to consider.

They’ve tried to, even recently. New Delhi held “quiet diplomacy” talks with Kashmir’s Hurriyat conference last fall, but when The Hindu reported the story, the project was scuttled, and Kashmiris were left to doing what they’ve been doing as long as they can remember: watching Pakistan and India volley back and forth over their heads, feeling sometimes ignored, sometimes like puppets between two disputants, children manipulated by two feuding parents.

It is fitting, then, that the region’s fate depends on its children. Some of the young Kashmiris have taken to calling themselves the Asian Palestine, and they believe they’re fighting the Kashmiri intifada.


The antidote is better development, hospitals, opportunities for work and normalized political engagement. But as it stands, “the only relief the young people are getting is through religion,” the Kashmiri journalist Kaur says. “On the ground you don’t see job opportunities.

So what is happening is that you’re starting to hear of local young people getting involved in militancy against the government.” The trend is shifting from Pakistani terrorists hopping (or being shoved) across the Line of Control into India to wreak havoc, more now to Indian citizens training to confront India. Official estimates place the number of Kashmiris who’ve gone into Pakistan for training at 800, but the figure could be significantly more.


Riding the metro in New Delhi as he spoke to me, speaking low and covering the receiver so as not to be overheard, Kaur explained the significance of a recent report that eight teenage boys were arrested on their way to Pakistan, allegedly intending to receive militant training. “According to the police,” he said, “all these boys were from South Kashmir, they were young new recruits. What is the true story? We don’t know.” But when young people get caught or go missing in Kashmir, everyone assumes the worst.


On Tuesday, shops reopened and the government cleared roads they had blocked, returning Kashmir to a tentative kind of normalcy. “But that doesn’t mean Kashmir will die off,” Kaur says. “The situation is best suited for pan-Islamic militants, and they’re growing into a mass movement. They need a political solution. This disease is slowly growing.”


Jeffrey Stern is the international engagement manager at the National Constitution Center and a journalist who spent much of the last two years traveling across South Asia.
Source: text: afpakforeignpolicy.comTitle Image
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Sikh Killings By Militants Confirm Deep RAW-TTP Links

A large number of Sikh families have migrated from Orakzai after having been threatened by Hakimullah Mehsud led militants. —AP/File Photo



by Afrasiab Khan & Pramjeet Kaur


First a news item that appeared in the daily Dawn datelined 22 Feb. 21010.

LANDI KOTAL: Militants have beheaded a kidnapped Sikh in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency after his relatives failed to pay ransom, according to his family. (more…)

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