Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vandals desecrate Muslim cemetery in Greece

SE Times

ATHENS, Greece -- Vandals have desecrated a Muslim cemetery in the northern city of Komotini, a police source said on Saturday (August 14th). In all, about ten gravestones were smashed Friday night, which spurred a spontaneous demonstration by around 30 members of the Turkish minority living in the city. Government spokesman George Petalotis condemned the act, describing it as vandalism on the part of "marginal groups trying to sow hatred". (AFP, Hurriyet - 14/08/10)

Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents


WASHINGTON - At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province's deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh's decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration's shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries - from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife - the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency's drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.

Instead of "the hammer," in the words of John O. Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, America will rely on the "scalpel." In a speech in May, Mr. Brennan, an architect of the White House strategy, used this analogy while pledging a "multigenerational" campaign against Al Qaeda and its extremist affiliates.

Yet such wars come with many risks: the potential for botched operations that fuel anti-American rage; a blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies that could put troops at risk of being denied Geneva Convention protections; a weakening of the Congressional oversight system put in place to prevent abuses by America's secret operatives; and a reliance on authoritarian foreign leaders and surrogates with sometimes murky loyalties.

The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.

The administration's demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan's mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret "Execute Orders" have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

A Proving Ground
Yemen is a testing ground for the "scalpel" approach Mr. Brennan endorses. Administration officials warn of the growing strength of Al Qaeda's affiliate there, citing as evidence its attempt on Dec. 25 to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner using a young Nigerian operative. Some American officials believe that militants in Yemen could now pose an even greater threat than Al Qaeda's leadership in Pakistan.
The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government's new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes - carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets - had been approved by Yemen's leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.

"Where we want to get is to much more small scale, preferably locally driven operations," said Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, who serves on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

"For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us," Mr. Smith said, referring to Al Qaeda. "And we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war."

Some security experts draw parallels to the cold war, when the United States drew heavily on covert operations as it fought a series of proxy battles with the Soviet Union.

And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.'s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie "Charlie Wilson's War," is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.

Still, it has astonished some old hands of the military and intelligence establishment. Jack Devine, a former top C.I.A. clandestine officer who helped run the covert war against the Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said his record showed that he was "not exactly a cream puff" when it came to advocating secret operations.

But he warned that the safeguards introduced after Congressional investigations into clandestine wars of the past - from C.I.A. assassination attempts to the Iran-contra affair, in which money from secret arms dealings with Iran was funneled to right-wing rebels in Nicaragua known as the contras - were beginning to be weakened. "We got the covert action programs under well-defined rules after we had made mistakes and learned from them," he said. "Now, we're coming up with a new model, and I'm concerned there are not clear rules."

Cooperation and Control
The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed "around 34" Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.

The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh's approval for the strike - rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana - was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.

The accounts of the American strikes in Yemen, which include many details that have not previously been reported, are based on interviews with American and Yemeni officials who requested anonymity because the military campaign in Yemen is classified, as well as documents from Yemeni investigators.

As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.

"Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you," the Qaeda operative, standing amid angry Yemenis, declared. "There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!"

A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.

American officials cited strained resources for decisions about some of the Yemen strikes. With the C.I.A.'s armed drones tied up with the bombing campaign in Pakistan, the officials said, cruise missiles were all that was available at the time. Drones are favored by the White House for clandestine strikes because they can linger over targets for hours or days before unleashing Hellfire missiles, reducing the risk that women, children or other noncombatants will fall victim.

The Yemen operation has raised a broader question: who should be running the shadow war? White House officials are debating whether the C.I.A. should take over the Yemen campaign as a "covert action," which would allow the United States to carry out operations even without the approval of Yemen's government. By law, covert action programs require presidential authorization and formal notification to the Congressional intelligence committees. No such requirements apply to the military's so-called Special Access Programs, like the Yemen strikes.

Obama administration officials defend their efforts in Yemen. The strikes have been "conducted very methodically," and claims of innocent civilians being killed are "very much exaggerated," said a senior counterterrorism official. He added that comparing the nascent Yemen campaign with American drone strikes in Pakistan was unfair, since the United States has had a decade to build an intelligence network in Pakistan that feeds the drone program.

In Yemen, officials said, there is a dearth of solid intelligence about Qaeda operations. "It will take time to develop and grow that capability," the senior official said.

On Dec. 24, another cruise missile struck in a remote valley called Rafadh, about 400 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital and two hours from the nearest paved road. The Yemeni authorities said the strike killed dozens of Qaeda operatives, including the leader of the Qaeda branch in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his Saudi deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri. But officials later acknowledged that neither man was hit, and local witnesses say the missile killed five low-level Qaeda members.

The next known American strike, on March 14, was more successful, killing a Qaeda operative named Jamil al-Anbari and possibly another militant. Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch acknowledged Mr. Anbari's death. On June 19, the group retaliated with a lethal attack on a government security compound in Aden that left 11 people dead and said the "brigade of the martyr Jamil al-Anbari" carried it out.

In part, the spotty record of the Yemen airstrikes may derive from another unavoidable risk of the new shadow war: the need to depend on local proxies who may be unreliable or corrupt, or whose agendas differ from that of the United States.

American officials have a troubled history with Mr. Saleh, a wily political survivor who cultivates radical clerics at election time and has a history of making deals with jihadists. Until recently, taking on Al Qaeda had not been a priority for his government, which has been fighting an intermittent armed rebellion since 2004.

And for all Mr. Saleh's power - his portraits hang everywhere in the Yemeni capital - his government is deeply unpopular in the remote provinces where the militants have sought sanctuary. The tribes there tend to regularly switch sides, making it difficult to depend on them for information about Al Qaeda. "My state is anyone who fills my pocket with money," goes one old tribal motto.

The Yemeni security services are similarly unreliable and have collaborated with jihadists at times. The United States has trained elite counterterrorism teams there in recent years, but the military still suffers from corruption and poor discipline.

It is still not clear why Mr. Shabwani, the Marib deputy governor, was killed. The day he died, he was planning to meet members of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch in Wadi Abeeda, a remote, lawless plain dotted with orange groves east of Yemen's capital. The most widely accepted explanation is that Yemeni and American officials failed to fully communicate before the attack.

Abdul Ghani al-Eryani, a Yemeni political analyst, said the civilian deaths in the first strike and the killing of the deputy governor in May "had a devastating impact." The mishaps, he said, "embarrassed the government and gave ammunition to Al Qaeda and the Salafists," he said, referring to adherents of the form of Islam embraced by militants.

American officials said President Saleh was angry about the strike in May, but not so angry as to call for a halt to the clandestine American operations. "At the end of the day, it's not like he said, ‘No more,' " said one Obama administration official. "He didn't kick us out of the country."

Weighing Success
Despite the airstrike campaign, the leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula survives, and there is little sign the group is much weaker.

Attacks by Qaeda militants in Yemen have picked up again, with several deadly assaults on Yemeni army convoys in recent weeks. Al Qaeda's Yemen branch has managed to put out its first English-language online magazine, Inspire, complete with bomb-making instructions. Intelligence officials believe that Samir Khan, a 24-year-old American who arrived from North Carolina last year, played a major role in producing the slick publication.

As a test case, the strikes have raised the classic trade-off of the post-Sept. 11 era: Do the selective hits make the United States safer by eliminating terrorists? Or do they help the terrorist network frame its violence as a heroic religious struggle against American aggression, recruiting new operatives for the enemy?

Al Qaeda has worked tirelessly to exploit the strikes, and in Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen, the group has perhaps the most sophisticated ideological opponent the United States has faced since 2001.

"If George W. Bush is remembered by getting America stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's looking like Obama wants to be remembered as the president who got America stuck in Yemen," the cleric said in a March Internet address that was almost gleeful about the American campaign.

Most Yemenis have little sympathy for Al Qaeda and have observed the American strikes with "passive indignation," Mr. Eryani said. But, he added, "I think the strikes over all have been counterproductive."

Edmund J. Hull, the United States ambassador to Yemen from 2001 to 2004, cautioned that American policy must not be limited to using force against Al Qaeda.

"I think it's both understandable and defensible for the Obama administration to pursue aggressive counterterrorism operations," Mr. Hull said. But he added: "I'm concerned that counterterrorism is defined as an intelligence and military program. To be successful in the long run, we have to take a far broader approach that emphasizes political, social and economic forces."

Obama administration officials say that is exactly what they are doing - sharply increasing the foreign aid budget for Yemen and offering both money and advice to address the country's crippling problems. They emphasized that the core of the American effort was not the strikes but training for elite Yemeni units, providing equipment and sharing intelligence to support Yemeni sweeps against Al Qaeda.

Still, the historical track record of limited military efforts like the Yemen strikes is not encouraging. Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines in a forthcoming book what he has labeled "discrete military operations" from the Balkans to Pakistan since the end of the cold war in 1991. He found that these operations seldom achieve either their military or political objectives.

But he said that over the years, military force had proved to be a seductive tool that tended to dominate "all the discussions and planning" and push more subtle solutions to the side.

When terrorists threaten Americans, Mr. Zenko said, "there is tremendous pressure from the National Security Council and the Congressional committees to, quote, ‘do something.' "

That is apparent to visitors at the American Embassy in Sana, who have noticed that it is increasingly crowded with military personnel and intelligence operatives. For now, the shadow warriors are taking the lead.

Muhammad al-Ahmadi contributed reporting from Yemen.

Top Iran footballer sacked for not fasting

Popular Iranian footballer Ali Karimi, sometimes described as "the Maradona of Asia," has been fired by his club for not fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the club said on Sunday.

Steel Azin FC said on its website that it was "forced to sack one of its players, Ali Karimi, for being disobedient and not fasting during Ramadan," when devout Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

Karimi, who was the Asian Player of 2004, had even "insulted officials of the (Iranian) football federation and the Tehran team's supervisor who confronted him on the issue," Steel Azin said.

His sacking comes after he criticized in an interview on his website the management style of the club's managing director and former official of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mostafa Ajorlou.

The Islamic republic's state news agency IRNA, meanwhile, reported that the club's chairman, Hossein Hedayati, was unaware of the decision and was against Karimi's sacking.

Karimi, 31, who has been dubbed by some Iranian commentators as Maradona of Asia, is the second most capped player and the third highest scorer for the Iranian national team.

He also had a two-year stint in the Bundesliga, scoring four goals in 50 appearances for Bayern Munich.

Ramadan started in Iran on Thursday and under Iranian laws, all Muslims are required to observe the holy month, while those who do not fast, including non-Muslims, are expected to abstain from eating or drinking in public.

Muslims observe Ramadan by abstaining from food, drink and sex from dawn until sunset. Pregnant and menstruating women, the sick, travellers and pre-pubescent children are exempt from the fast.

Afghanistan finds new oil deposits

An oilfield with an estimated 1.8 billion barrels has been discovered in the north of Afghanistan, the country's ministry of mines has said.

The discovery of the deposit between northern Balkh and Shiberghan provinces was made after a survey conducted by Afghan and international geologists, a spokesman for the ministry of mines told Reuters news agency.

"I do not know its price in the market but the initial survey says there are 1.8 billion barrels of oil and I think there will be more than what is estimated," Jawad Omar said on Sunday.

He gave no more details on how the estimates were made but said the country would offer the reserves for development along with other minerals in the coming months.

Omar said the actual exploration of the mine would begin after three years.

He also said an earlier plan for the tender of a 1.6bn barrel Afghan-Tajik oil block in early 2011 was still on track.

Untapped resources
He said that by the end of the year Afghanistan would retender a deposit of iron of 1.8bn tonnes it had scrapped earlier this year due to the global recession and changes in the world markets.

The untapped mineral resources include iron ore, copper, lithium, oil, gas and gems, which Afghanistan hopes to develop in the near future despite rising insecurity in recent years - the bloodiest period since US-led troops ousted the Taliban in 2001.

The US department of defence estimated earlier this year that Afghanistan's mineral resources could top $1 trillion, but experts say the fragile security situation could delay seeing the benefits of this wealth for years.

Afghanistan hopes that untapped mineral deposits could help reduce the need to rely on Western cash for bankrolling its impoverished economy and for its soldiers to maintain security when foreign troops pull out of the country.

In 2007 China's top integrated copper producer, Jiangxi Copper Co and China Metallurgical Group Corp, became the first major investor in Afghanistan.

They are involved in the exploration of the vast multi-bilion dollar Aynak Copper Mine to the south of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

WikiLeaks to release more war files

WikiLeaks says it will publish the last batch of classified documents on the Afghan war within weeks, despite the Pentagon's efforts to stall the release.

The whistle-blower website is planning to release 15,000 more classified files on the Afghan war, which the Pentagon says will be even worse than WikiLeaks' initial release of some 76,000 war documents.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned of the "potentially very severe" consequences the release of the documents may have on American and allied soldiers as they "convey a huge amount of information about our tactics, techniques and procedures" which the Taliban and al-Qaeda may take advantage of.

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, however, told reporters in Sweden on Saturday that "this organization will not be threatened by the Pentagon or any other group."

"For the Pentagon to be making threatening demands for censorship of a press organization is a cause for concern, not just for the press but for the Pentagon itself," Assange told AP.

He further pointed out that WikiLeaks will be working with media partners in releasing the remaining documents.

According to Assange, all the documents will be reviewed "line by line" and the names of "innocent parties" will not be disclosed.

While no country has tried to shut down WikiLeaks, Assange says some countries, including Australia and the UK, have been gathering intelligence on the organization.

This comes after over 76,000 secret military files containing highly confidential information about the US-led war in Afghanistan were published last month.

The documents included accounts of how the coalition forces had killed or wounded Afghan civilians in unreported attacks.

Assange argues that the US secret war files show a systematic pattern of criminal behaviors by the US military forces.

Meanwhile the United States is scared that these documents will put their national security at risk.

U.S. Offers Aid to Rescue Pakistanis and Reclaim Image

WASHINGTON - As the Obama administration continues to add to the aid package for flood-stricken Pakistan - already the largest humanitarian response from any single country - officials acknowledge that they are seeking to use the efforts to burnish the United States' dismal image there.

Administration officials say their top priority is providing much-needed help to a pivotal regional ally in the fight against Al Qaeda.

But when senior officials from the White House, State Department, Pentagon and Agency for International Development hold their daily conference calls to coordinate American assistance, they are also strategizing about how that aid could help improve long-term relations with Pakistan.

According to a survey conducted last month by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 68 percent of Pakistanis have an unfavorable view of the United States. So American officials hope that images of Navy and Marine Corps helicopters ferrying supplies and plucking people from rain-swollen rivers will at least begin to counteract the bad will generated by American drone strikes against militants in Pakistan. Many Pakistanis blame the strikes for a devastating series of insurgent attacks in Pakistan.
"If we do the right thing, it will be good not only for the people whose lives we save but for the U.S. image in Pakistan," Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said Thursday on the PBS program "The Charlie Rose Show."

"The people of Pakistan will see that when the crisis hits," Mr. Holbrooke continued, "it's not the Chinese. It's not the Iranians. It's not other countries. It's not the E.U. It's the U.S. that always leads."

American officials say they also hope to build greater trust with the Pakistani military, which has become increasingly wary that President Obama plans to withdraw American troops quickly from neighboring Afghanistan, leaving the Pakistanis to deal with the consequences.

The flooding, which began late last month, has killed 1,384 people, according to Pakistani government figures, disrupted the lives of about 14 million people and swamped a fifth of the country.

On Saturday, the latest flood surge of the Indus River brought further devastation to Punjab and Sindh Provinces, and aid workers confirmed the first cases of cholera, in the Swat Valley in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province and in the remote Rajanpur district in Punjab Province.
Water submerged Rajanpur again on Saturday.

"Don't ask me about the disease outbreak at this moment," said Dr. Tanveer Fatima, medical superintendent of a hospital in the district. "We are seeing our hospital drowning in front of our eyes.
"The water is five to six feet high and rescue teams are shifting patients from this to other hospitals of the district and the neighboring district. Water is rising today."

Pakistani officials toned down or canceled Independence Day celebrations across the country, replacing them with somber flag-raising ceremonies.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani appealed to the international community for more aid in a televised address early Saturday. "I appeal to the world community to extend a helping hand," he said.

The floods have commanded a sizable and high-level American response, including $76 million in donations.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates dispatched 19 more helicopters last week to replace six aircraft on loan from the military campaign in Afghanistan, and he invoked Mr. Obama's personal directive to "lean forward" in providing assistance. American aircraft have rescued more than 4,000 people since Aug. 5.

The Pentagon announced Friday that ships carrying more relief supplies and helicopters had left the East Coast and would arrive in the waters off Pakistan in late September.

The American response is putting to a practical test Mr. Obama's strategy to engage Pakistan as a strategic partner on multiple levels, including economic development, counterinsurgency, law enforcement and judicial reforms, and intelligence sharing.

It comes as the American ally in that effort, President Asif Ali Zardari, is facing withering criticism at home for paying a state visit to France and Britain during the flooding, the worst in Pakistan's history.

"This is a country where we have an enormous interest in their going after the Taliban and other extremist jihadi groups," said Mark L. Schneider, a senior vice president at the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on conflict resolution. "If this kind of activity supports the Pakistani government and people supporting the Pakistani government, it's all to the good."

Some experts on the region had recently warned that public resentment of the government generated by the floods could wear away public support for the military campaign against militants, integral to American goals in the region. Those worries only deepened as hard-line Islamist charities rushed to fill the void in humanitarian aid left by the government's slow and chaotic response.

Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who leads the Foreign Relations Committee, said Friday that he would visit Pakistan soon to assess the damage and whether the United States needed to rethink how $7.5 billion in long-term, nonmilitary aid to Pakistan would be spent as a result of the flooding.

American officials say they are trying to rekindle the same good will generated five years ago when the United States military played a major role in responding to an earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 that killed 75,000 people.

Many of the same American and Pakistani leaders who worked together during that crisis have reunited in this calamity, including Nadeem Ahmad, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general, and Vice Adm. Michael A. LeFever, the senior American officer in Pakistan. But American officials warn that the glow from the earthquake assistance faded quickly without more enduring development programs.
"LeFever clearly understands the P.R. value of flood assistance, but he also knows that absent other high-profile public diplomacy efforts, the half-life of any improvement to Pakistani impressions of the U.S. will be short," said John K. Wood, a retired Army colonel who was senior director for Afghanistan on the National Security Council in the Bush and Obama administrations.

The American aid drawn from giant warehouses in Dubai and in Pisa, Italy, includes 500,000 halal meals, 12 pre-fabricated bridges to help replace the hundreds that have washed away, 14 rescue boats, and six large-scale water-filtration systems. Last week Pakistan submitted a several-page request for additional supplies, including more boats and bridges, a senior Defense Department official said.

"The U.S. has been forthcoming on providing what we need," said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

Still, the United States is aware that the relief effort could backfire, or at least include some negatives. Mr. Gates said relief would be paced according to Pakistan's request, in part to avoid any perception that the United States is running the relief effort.

The United States will also have to be mindful of how the Pakistani public perceives what will be a growing American military presence in country, though largely restricted to an isolated military base. By the end of this week, when the last of the 19 helicopters begin rescue and aid missions in the Swat Valley, about 250 American troops will be operating with Pakistani troops.

It remains difficult to calculate the long-term effects of the floods on America's goals in the country, which include focusing the Pakistani government on fighting the militants that threaten it and use Pakistan as a base to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan.

It has been difficult to assess, for instance, how far the flooding has set back reconstruction efforts in the Swat Valley. The rebuilding is considered crucial to keeping the area from falling back under the influence of militants the government drove out in an offensive last year.

The magnitude of the flooding is also demanding a greater role from the Pakistani military, which in turn leaves some American military officials concerned that the army's counterinsurgency campaign could falter in the northwest border regions.

Mr. Gates told reporters last week that the Pakistani military had not been expected to launch any new offensives against militants in the short term, and he said it remained to be seen whether the flood would have a significant impact on the Pakistani government's campaign against extremists.

"Clearly, they're going to have to divert some troops, and already have, in trying to deal with the flooding," Mr. Gates said.

Reporting was contributed by Salmon Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan, Waqar Gillani from Lahore, Pakistan, Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations and Thom Shanker from Washington.

Pakistan flood response prompts rising anti-government resentment

Under fire president Asif Ali Zardari tries to ease public anger amid fears he could be overthrown
Saeed Shah in Islamabad

Pakistan's government faces the threat of social unrest or even military takeover after its shambolic response to the floods that have devastated the country, leaving 1,600 people dead and 2 million homeless, say analysts.

Fears that Asif Ali Zardari, the president, could be overthrown - possibly through an intervention by the army - have grown as the government's failure to adequately tackle the crisis has fuelled long-held grievances.

"The powers that be, that is the military and bureaucratic establishment, are mulling the formation of a national government, with or without the PPP [the ruling Pakistan People's party]," said Najam Sethi, editor of the weekly Friday Times. "I know this is definitely being discussed. There is a perception in the army that you need good governance to get out of the economic crisis and there is no good governance."

Rescuers are struggling to help the 14 million people affected across the country, with fresh flood warnings today forcing even more to flee the city of Jacobabad. But the impact of the disaster will be felt throughout Pakistan's 170m population.

The agricultural heartland has been wiped out, which will cause spiralling food prices and shortages. Many roads and irrigation canals have been destroyed, along with electricity supply infrastructure.

"The immediate risk is one of food riots," said Marie Lall, an Asia expert at Chatham House. "There is already great resentment in Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where people had to be cleared during the government offensive. Now there is the threat of social unrest as various factions, families and ethnic groups compete with each other in the event of a breakdown in government."

The World Bank estimates that crops worth $1bn (£640m) have been ruined and the Pakistani finance secretary warned today that the disaster would cut the country's growth in half.

The government may have to spend $1.7bn on reconstruction, and has said it will have to divert expenditure from badly needed development programmes.

With the economy currently surviving on an IMF bailout, experts predict that another may be necessary. Experts believe that the floods could now knock 2 percentage points off projected economic growth for this year.

US and European diplomats are gravely concerned about the situation, as Pakistan is crucial in the fight against al-Qaida and the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Cathy Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said the west could not afford to abandon the country: "Pakistan is faced with so many issues, not just floods, terror, development, India. It's in the EU's interest to have a stable and prosperous Pakistan."

Zardari, who left the country after the floods began and continued on his trip to France and Britain even when the scale of the disaster became apparent, is the focus of much of the anger. Despite the outcry, he is to go ahead with a visit to a regional summit in Russia next week. A spokesman said the president had cut the planned two-day trip to "a couple of hours". Only the courts could legally dismiss him but, as his PPP is a minority government reliant on coalition partners, behind-the-scenes military pressure on those partners could bring it down, while keeping parliament in place, said Sethi.
With the government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, Islamic groups, including extremist organisations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, have stepped into the gap. The military has also distributed aid in areas where locals complain that government help is almost entirely absent.

"If the military takes over now, I can assure you that it will be the end of Pakistan, an end which will be punctuated by a very bloody civil war," said Asad Sayeed, an analyst based in Karachi. "Pakistan is a very divided country right now."

Pakistan has lurched from crisis to crisis in its 63-year history. The break-up of the country in 1971 can be linked to another natural disaster, when authorities responded slowly to a devastating cyclone. A secessionist movement in East Pakistan capitalised on public anger to successfully fight for independence as Bangladesh.

In the flood-hit areas, people are bewildered by the government's response, with accusations and conspiracy theories abounding. At the side of the Indus river in Sukkur town, Sindh province, shopowner Ali Sher gave a scathing reaction to promises of aid.

"They [the government] want to drown Sukkur," he said. "They want to show some bodies, so they can ask for more aid from other countries. They are after dollars."

Cholera in Pakistan as Prime Minister says 20 million affected by floods

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that 20 million people had been affected by the worst floods in the country's history, as the UN confirmed the first cholera case.

Independence day celebrations in Pakistan were cancelled as floods continued to bring misery to millions and aid agencies warned of a "second wave" of deaths from disease.

"The floods affected some 20 million people, destroyed standing crops and food storages worth billions of dollars, causing colossal loss to national economy," Mr Gilani said in a televised address to the nation.

Pakistan floods affect 14 million "I would appeal to the world community to extend a helping hand to fight this calamity."

The United Nations has appealed for $460 million (£295 million) to deal with the immediate aftermath of the floods but charities say the figure falls far short of what is needed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Pakistan on Saturday to discuss the relief effort and visit flood-hit areas.

"This is the worst-ever calamity for us and the entire nation will have to show courage to face it," Mr Gilani said, adding: "I am pretty confidant that the nation will once again emerge victorious from this crisis".

"Outbreak of epidemics in the flood-hit areas is a serious threat, which can further compound the already grave situation," Mr Gilani added, as the UN authorities confirmed the first cholera case.
"There has been at least one cholera confirmed case in Mingora," said Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.

Mingora is the main town in the northwestern district of Swat.

Mr Giuliano said at least 36,000 people were reportedly suffering from acute watery diarrhoea.

"We're not suggesting that everyone who has acute watery diarrhoea has cholera, but cholera is certainly a concern and that's why we're stepping up our efforts to treat cholera," he said.

Charities said relief for those affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan's history was lagging far behind what was needed.

"There are millions of people needing food, clean water and medical care and they need it right now," said Jacques de Maio, head of operations for South Asia at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"Clearly at this point in time the overall relief effort cannot keep pace with the overall scale of the emergency," he said.

Humanitarian agencies in Pakistan were monitoring the risk of "a second wave of deaths induced by the floods in the shape of waterborne diseases", Mr de Maio said, adding that it was impossible to measure the full scale of the disaster.

Celebrations marking the anniversary on Saturday of Pakistan's 1947 independence from British colonial rule have been scrapped by President Asif Ali Zardari.

The embattled leader has come under fire from flood victims and the opposition after pressing on with a trip to Europe last week, despite the mounting emergency.

Mr Zardari arrived in Nowshera on Saturday to visit flood-hit areas and attend a briefing on destruction caused by the floods and measures being taken by authorities to provide relief.

In his independence day message, Mr Zardari said: "The best way to celebrate this day is to reach out to the victims of the natural disaster, heal their wounds and help them to help themselves."

"I salute the courage and heroism of flood victims and assure them that the government will do everything possible to alleviate their suffering."

The United Nations believes 1,600 people have died in the disaster, while Islamabad has confirmed 1,343 deaths.

UN officials warn that the damage to infrastructure and the economy will put volatile Pakistan back years.

Mr Ban was due to arrive late on Saturday afternoon to "discuss relief efforts with government leaders on Sunday and visit flood-devastated areas the same day", the foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.

With up to two million people requiring emergency shelter and six million depending on humanitarian assistance to survive, troops distributed national flags among the people in the flood-hit northwestern town of Nowshera on Saturday.

Meanwhile 90 per cent of the 500,000 residents of Jacobabad left for safer ground after authorities warned that flood waters might deluge the southwestern city, provincial agriculture minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo said.

£300m earthquake aid 'misused by Zardari'

More than £300 million in foreign aid for victims of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake has been diverted by President Asif Zardari's government to other causes, officials have told The Daily Telegraph.
Dean Nelson in Islamabad

They now fear that the alleged diversion of funds will deter donors from giving further aid after the country's devastating floods.

According to senior officials, schools, hospitals, houses and roads planned with money given by foreign governments and international aid groups remain unbuilt almost five years after the earthquake which killed 80,000 and left four million people homeless.

International donors gave £3.5 billion to rebuild vast swaths of Pakistan's Kashmir and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces after the earthquake destroyed the region's infrastructure.

However, senior Pakistani officials yesterday said more than £300 million given in aid has yet to be handed over to the country's Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's opposition leader, last night said suspicion among potential donors was hampering the fund-raising effort to help more than 14 million people displaced by the floods which have swept away buildings, bridges and roads in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab provinces.

"There's reluctance, even people in this country are not giving generously into this flood fund because they're not too sure the money will be spent honestly," he told The Daily Telegraph.

Mr Zardari has already been criticised for his handing of the floods after failing to cancel his foreign trip, which included a meeting with David Cameron at Chequers, despite scale of the disaster. So far 14 million people need help and 1,600 have died, making it the world's worst humanitarian disaster, according to the UN.

Mr Zardari has now failed to cancel a trip to Russia next week but has scaled it down from a two-day visit to a one-day visit.

Earthquake reconstruction directors were first told their budgets were being cut in March 2009 when 12 billion Pakistan Rupees (£90 million) was diverted from their budget to other government projects. They were told: "When we have the money we will pay you," said one senior official. "All the money was given by Western governments, but they said 'we have so many other problems,'" he added.

In June this year, ERRA staff were told their 2010-2011 budget of 43 billion Pakistan Rupees (£322 million) had been but down to just 10 billion Rupees (£75 million).

In Balakot, where 5,000 of the town's 25,000 people were killed in the earthquake, thousands of families were told their entire town would be rebuilt six miles away because it stood directly in the 'red zone' directly above the fault line.

But despite promises that the new town would be completed by last month, not a single new road has been completed nor a building construction begun on the site of "New Balakot". When the Telegraph visited the "new town" this week mechanical diggers stood rusting and security guards said there had been no work on the site for more than a year. Officials said contractors had not been paid since April and were still owed £22.5 million. Kamal Nawaz,30, of Gairlat Village, where families of 14 are living in tiny two room temporary huts, said:"they told us they could build three new Balakots but we're still waiting for one." A minute of an ERRA meeting to discuss the funding crisis earlier this month decided there would be "no further work on all on-going projects," while an internal letter dated August 6th explained that as a result of the "rationalization exercise" several offices would have to be closed and assets auctioned. Plans have also been made to cut its 3000 staff down to 800.

Officials said as all the earthquake reconstruction projects had been identified and budgeted for with funds donated by foreign governments and aid agencies, there was no justification for the cuts.

Pakistan's finance secretary Salman Siddiq said the government had rejected requests for extra funds because of the country's fiscal deficit but denied any foreign aid funds had been diverted. "No cuts were imposed last year," he said.

Bahrain renews ban on mosque loudspeakers

DUBAI (Al Arabiya)

Bahrain renewed a ban on the use of exterior loudspeakers in Mosques during prayers, ending a year-long contentious debate on the religiously sensitive issue in the Kingdom.

The decision was made by the Bahraini Sunni Endowment Department (Awqaf) of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs , which said that the blaring loudspeakers in mosques should not be used for anything other than the traditional Muslim call to prayer.

" Prayers are between a person and Allah, and there is no need to make one's prayers heard by people walking in the streets in markets "

Mohammed Ali al-Sitri
The religious authorities used SMS text messaging to instruct all callers to prayer, known as Muezzins, to respect the ban, but said the move is merely a regulatory one and an offense is only made if a complaint received.

"Prayers are between a person and Allah, and there is no need to make one's prayers heard by people walking in the streets and in markets," said Mohammed Ali al-Sitri , the King's Advisor for Legislative Authority Affairs.

Former Member of Parliament Hamad al-Mahindi opposed the ban saying, "There should be a manifestation of God's rituals during the holy month of Ramadan."

"There are people that want to hear the prayers through the loudspeaker," al-Mahindi added.

Cholera confirmed in Pakistani flood disaster


ISLAMABAD — A case of the deadly waterborne disease cholera has been confirmed in Pakistan's flood-ravaged northwest, and aid workers expect there to be more, the U.N. said Saturday. The discovery came as new flood surges hit the south and the prime minister said the deluge has made 20 million people homeless. The flooding disaster has battered Pakistan's economy and undermined its political stability at a time when the United States needs its steadfast cooperation against Islamist extremism. The U.N. has appealed for an initial $460 million to provide relief to Pakistan but has said the country will need billions to rebuild once the flood recedes.

Because of the crisis, Pakistan canceled celebrations Saturday marking its creation and independence from Britain in 1947. President Asif Ali Zardari met with flood victims in the northwest, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to visit country soon, possibly over the weekend.

The floods have killed about 1,500 people, and aid workers have warned that diseases could raise that toll.

One case of cholera was confirmed in Mingora, the main town in the northwest's Swat Valley, U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano said Saturday. Other cases were suspected, and aid workers are now responding to all those exhibiting acute watery diarrhea as if it is cholera, Giuliano said.

Cholera can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment, and containing cholera outbreaks is considered a high priority following floods.

The Pakistani crisis began in late July, when unusually heavy monsoon rains tore through the country from its mountainous northwest. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed. Agriculture has been severely hit, with an estimated 1.7 million acres (nearly 700,000 hectares) of farmland wiped out.

U.N. officials, citing government figures, have said around 14 million Pakistanis were directly or indirectly affected.

But in a televised address to the nation Saturday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said 20 million were now homeless. He did not elaborate, and it was unclear how many of those people were briefly forced to leave their homes and how many had lost their houses altogether.

Later Saturday, Gilani agreed to a proposal from opposition leader Nawaz Sharif that an independent body be appointed to raise relief funds and oversee their spending in a transparent manner to boost Pakistan's credibility in the eyes of the international community.

The two made the announcement amid signs that the global response to the flooding has been less generous than to previous calamities. Some aid experts have said perceived corruption in the government could be holding back some donors.

Fresh flood waves swelled the River Indus on Saturday, threatening nearby cities, towns and villages in southern Sindh province, said Mohammed Ajmal Shad, a senior meteorologist. The Indus was already more than 15 miles (25 kilometers) wide at some points — 25 times wider than during normal monsoon seasons.

Authorities were trying to evacuate or warn people in Jacobabad, Hyderabad, Thatta, Ghotki, Larkana and other areas. Already, many flood victims are living in muddy camps or overcrowded government buildings, while thousands more are sleeping in the open next to their cows, goats and whatever possessions they managed to drag with them.

"My house was swept away in the floodwater. I have no shelter, no clothes and nothing to eat. I am living in misery," said Allah Wasai of Muzzafargarh, a flood-hit region in Punjab province. "I lost everything. I'm now at God's mercy."

The damage to the Pakistani government's credibility, which was already shaky, may be hard to repair, especially after fury caused by Zardari's decision to visit Europe as the crisis was unfolding. Zardari has tried to make up for that public relations gaffe by meeting with flood victims in hard-hit areas since returning.

"We are with you. Pakistan is with you, and the people of Pakistan are with you," he told survivors at a relief camp in the northwest's Nowshehra city Saturday. He promised the government would rebuild victims' homes.

The United States has donated the most to the relief effort, at least $70 million, and has sent military helicopters to rescue stranded people and drop off food and water. Washington hopes the assistance will help improve its image in the country — however marginally — as it seeks its support in the battle against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

"So far, if anyone has practically given us maximum help, it is America," Gilani said Saturday when a Pakistani reporter suggested the U.S. has done little since the crisis started.

As President Barack Obama congratulated Pakistan on its Independence Day, which also marked the Muslim-majority nation's separation from India, he insisted the U.S. would not abandon the country in its time of need.

"We will remain committed to helping Pakistan and will work side by side with you and the international community toward a recovery that brings back the dynamic vitality of your nation," Obama said in a statement.

ChildLine talks to over 100 kids a week about parents' drinking or drug-taking


More than 100 youngsters a week call ChildLine to talk about their parents' drinking or drug-taking. Terrified kids as young as five are pouring out their hearts on the NSPCC's free 24-hour helpline, the charity revealed yesterday.

Many tell of horrendous cruelty, abuse and neglect - but above all they are desperate to keep their families together.

One tormented 10-year-old revealed: "I feel scared and lonely. I look after mum when she drinks and put her to bed. She shouts and hits me.

"I don't want to feel pain. I want to die."

The NSPCC said children of mothers and fathers who drink or take drugs often end up caring for their siblings - and even the parents.

They are also three times more likely to suffer beatings or sexual abuse.

Sue Minto, head of Child-Line said: "This is a ticking timebomb in many children's lives. We need to find ways to help them sooner."

UK police officers face charges of assaulting Muslim

 Two Circles

London : Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer announced Thursday that four police officers will face assault charges over the wrongful arrest of computer expert Babar Ahmad nearly seven years ago. Ahmad, who is currently in jail contesting a US extradition request to face alleged terrorism charges, welcomed the state's decision to prosecute PC Mark Jones, PC James-Bowen, PC Cowley and PC Donoghue for occasioning actual bodily harm.

“A jury will hear the evidence in this case and it will now be for the jury to determine whether any police officer should be punished for the assault upon me in December 2003,” he said in a statement released through his solicitors, obtained by IRNA.

The decision comes after London’s Metropolitan Police agreed to pay £60,000 damages in March last year when it was admitted that he had been subjected to “grave abuse, tantamount to torture” while being arrested under Britain’s anti-terrorism legislation.

The compensation followed five years of legal proceedings launched by the 35-year old computer specialist, claiming that officers “punched, kicked and choked” him and also mocked his Muslim faith, when being forcing into the prayer position and asked, “Where is your God now?”

Ahmed was released without charge after being held for six days but was subsequently re-arrested in 2004 under a US extradition warrant claiming he run a website supporting Chechen and Afghan insurgents and has been in prison ever since.

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights temporarily froze his extradition, saying it wanted further time to consider concerns that he may face “cruel and unusual punishment” if he was sent to the United States.

‘Rising anger and resentment’ over Pakistan flood response

 Channel 4

As more monsoon storms threaten to surge flood levels higher in the swollen beds of the Indus River in Punjab and Sindh Provinces, Channel 4 News Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Miller writes about the “rising anger and resentment” among the Pakistani people he has met over the past 10 days. Pakistan’s super-flood is panning out as feared, with threats multiplying as time elapses.

The slow-burn catastrophe is posing a logistical nightmare to relief agencies, still struggling to deliver food, shelter and safe drinking water to the six million people most seriously affected. Relief workers say many areas remain unreachable other than by helicopter or by boat.

“The tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan were like a heart attack,” Mohammed Qazilbash, of Save the Children, told us ”This is like a cancer. It just keeps spreading.”

The evacuation camps
The hardest hit have been the poorest of the poor, in this country of 190 million people. There are tens of thousands of cases of potentially fatal water-borne diseases and deepening concerns of a cholera epidemic just waiting to happen.

The UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is unable to accurately assess needs because access to some areas is still proving difficult or impossible.

“Children are dying now, as we speak, because of lack of access to clean drinking water,” said Pascal Cuttat, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Islamabad, today. The UN said there are now 36,000 cases of acute diarrhoea.

In evacuation camps visited by Channel 4 News, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest, through Punjab and in Sindh province in the south, we have seen many people sick with fever, dysentery and with festering skin infections.

Most displaced people live in makeshift encampments with no sanitation or access to safe water.

Agricultural industry in tatters
The economic impact of the floods has been huge. The World Bank says the value of ruined crops will top a billion dollars. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning of major economic harm and shortages.

Today, 200km south of Sukkur, on the River Indus in Sindh Province, we found vast areas of farmland under water, after a “bund” – a protective dike along the west bank of the river – was breached. More than 200 villages in the district of Dadu have been flooded and evacuated after the water level rose more than 12 metres.

We met local farmers returning from their submerged village by boat. They had gone back to scavenge for construction materials on the roofs of their former homes with which to build temporary lean-to’s in nearby Dadu town. They said all their crops were destroyed.

Across Pakistan, floodwaters are reported to have inundated 700,000 acres of cotton, 200,000 acres of rice and 200,000 acres of sugar cane. The chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, Mohammed Ibrahim Mohgul, is quoted as saying that half a billion metric tonnes of wheat has been ruined and 300,000 acres of animal fodder destroyed.

As wheat and sugar prices rise, there are food security concerns about the ramifications of Pakistan – the world’s sixth most popular country and a major rice and grain exporter – being forced to import food staples.

Mr Moghul added that 100,000 heads of livestock had also been killed. The rotting carcasses of cattle remain a major contaminant to the water supply. The flood water has poisoned ground water, rendering shallow village wells unsafe.

Anger and resentment
Throughout our 10 days in Pakistan reporting on the super-flood, we have encountered rising anger and resentment from those who blame their government for mounting an inadequate response. Commentators in Pakistan say increased desperation could lead to social unrest.

Samina Ahmed, of the International Crisis Group, told Channel 4 News however that “Pakistan is a poor country. After nine years of military rule, it’s no surprise that the civilian government is struggling. They can’t deliver overnight.” The well-funded army, she said, has all the resources and has spearheaded much of the Pakistani relief effort.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, has today promised that his government will be transparent in the disbursement of relief. But the disaster has failed to win sufficient pledges from international donors to tackle the enormity of the crisis.

The United Nations has appealed for US$459 million but so far just US$195 million has been pledged. The UN Secretary General arrives in Pakistan tomorrow.

Floodwaters are receding in some areas, but further monsoon storms could bring more destruction. The National Disaster Management Agency said major peaks in the Indus River water level are expected in Punjab and Sindh next week.

In the northwest, bad weather has once again grounded the US army’s helicopter airlift to people in the Upper Swat Valley, cut-off by landslides and broken bridges. Only 3,089 people have been evacuated since the airlift started on 8 August.

The first two of the 19 extra helicopters ordered by the US Defence Secretary to deploy to Pakistan were unable to land at Ghazi Army Aviation base, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, due to persistent rain.

“We want to warn everyone that the crisis facing Pakistan is enormous,” said Mengesha Kebede, of the UN refugee agency today. ”There continues to be massive destruction as the bloated rivers flow inexorably southwards across the plains.”