The News, Nov. 2, 2002

Disappointed repatriates likely to re-enter Pakistan

PESHAWAR: It was 4.30 pm. Everyone was in a hurry on both sides of the border at Torkham crossing point. All of them knew that the gate might be closed at 6 pm and they would have to take a long way in the treacherous mountains to cross the border into Pakistan. Dozens of personnel of security agencies on this side of the border were busy blocking the entry of those desperately pushing each other to enter the country while a same number of youngsters clad in Afghan army uniforms were beating their countrymen with thin sticks like animals to herd them away from the gate.

Most of them were requesting their army jawans to allow them cross the border from a corner of the gate. A number of others were standing for their turn and signal from their "middle men." Every one seemed worried for him and had nothing to do with others. The beating up of these people was not a new phenomenon for any one. The mismanagement and rush was so severe that none of the officials on both sides of the border could check the movement of minor children, who usually cross the border while hanging from the snake-paced moving trucks. It is a routine for them. They carry spare parts from Afghanistan on their backs to Torkham crossing and get Rs 19 to 15 per trip.

Realizing the nature of their job and the treatment being meted out to them by the unkind guards, the children cover their back with clothes and rubber sheets to bear the mighty sticks. One among them said they are used to the job. He said he earns Rs 40 to 50 for the whole day labour.

A number of officials on this side of the border were busy checking documents of passengers in flying coaches, who had just arrived from Kabul. Dozens of loaded trucks were parked at a distance from the gat waiting for their clearance to enter Pakistan.

Commenting on this worst attitude with his own countrymen, a young Afghan soldier wearing a star on his shoulder while waving his stick in the air said as to how could he control the mob without it.

When asked officials at the Torkham gate said a more pathetic situation remains in the morning. He asked the correspondent to visit the crossing point early in the morning to see the rush of the people. He said now the situation is under the control. He said the number of returning refugee was increasing with the passage of each day and it would further increase when winter sets in.

"We have apprised our high ups of the situation and asked for a decision in this regard," said a security official on condition of anonymity. The people on both sides of the border should be allowed to continue their trade legally, he advocated.

He reminded that during Taliban government, only one Talib used to control these people without the use of force. "He usually sat on a chair and asked the people politely and they would obey but now you can judge the situation yourself," he added.

The residents at Landi Kotal and Torkham complained that their business had been badly affected as trucks loaded with tyres and other material were stopped on the other side of the border and denied entry.

They alleged that the customs authorities further added fuel to the fire by registering the trucks in Peshawar in contravention of the relevant rules and regulation.

Haji Gul Zaman Shinwari, president of Old Tyres Dealers Association asked the governor NWFP and collector customs to take notice of the situation and hold an inquiry as to how the trucks were not being cleared at Torkham. He said the clearance of trucks at Peshawar has not only affected their business but the government exchequer as well. Earlier the government cleared 30 to 40 trucks each day at Torkham charging Rs 800 per truck but now a few trucks were registered. He alleged that the clearance was being carried out illegally in collusion with customs authorities thus causing a huge loss to government exchanger.

The News, Oct.25, 2002

The anguish of people crossing Pak-Afghan border

Syed Bukhar Shah

WP - A new book says President Bushīs advisers had grave doubts about the early course of the war in Afghanistan and suggests that the ultimate defeat of the Taliban was due largely to millions of dollars in hundred-dollar bills the CIA handed out to Afghan warlords to win their support.

"Bush at War," by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, draws on four hours of interviews with Bush and quotes 15,000 words from National Security Council and other White House meetings in reconstructing the internal debate that led to U.S. military action in Afghanistan and the decision to aggressively confront Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

In detailing tensions within Bushīs war cabinet, the book describes Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as frequently at odds with Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and struggling to establish a relationship with Bush. But it depicts Powell as determined to make his case that military action against Iraq without the help of allies could have disastrous consequences, a chance he finally got at a dinner with Bush last Aug. 5.

While the dinner has been previously reported, the book describes in detail the case Powell made -- reading from an outline on loose-leaf paper -- that the United States has to have international support against Iraq. "Itīs nice to say we can do it unilaterally," Powell told the president bluntly, "except you canīt."

The dinner persuaded Bush to seek a resolution from the United Nations over the objections of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

The book reports that despite their outward optimism, Bushīs advisers had deep doubts about their strategy of bombing the Taliban while relying on ground forces from the Northern Alliance, the ragtag, factionalized opposition. At one point, the Pentagon developed plans to send in 50,000 U.S. troops. Bush, according to the book, hated what he saw as "hand-wringing" by his aides, but even he expressed doubts about the strategy, roaring at one point that he was "concerned about the fact that things arenīt moving."

At a climactic meeting in the Situation Room two weeks into the campaign, Bush went around the table, demanding that his aides affirm their support for the strategy. They pledged allegiance to his plan, and his call for alternatives was met with unanimous "noīs."

"Donīt let the press panic us," Bush said.

According to "Bush at War," the CIA spent $70 million in direct cash outlays on the ground in Afghanistan, a figure that also included money for setting up field hospitals. "Thatīs one bargain," the president said in an interview with Woodward last August. The money was handed out by about a half-dozen CIA teams spread through the country, starting with a 10-man paramilitary team code-named "Jawbreaker" that landed in Afghanistan on Sept. 27, 2001. The team leader carried $3 million in a single attache case.


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