January 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Pakistan: Congress: Pakistan Link: Norm Coleman pays surprise visit to Wana in Pakistan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Pakistan: Peace Corps Pakistan : The Peace Corps in Pakistan: January 15, 2005: Headlines: COS - Pakistan: Congress: Pakistan Link: Norm Coleman pays surprise visit to Wana in Pakistan

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-13-244.balt.east.verizon.net - on Friday, January 21, 2005 - 10:32 pm: Edit Post

Norm Coleman pays surprise visit to Wana in Pakistan

Norm Coleman pays surprise visit to Wana in Pakistan

Norm Coleman pays surprise visit to Wana in Pakistan

US senators pay surprise visit to Wana

PESHAWAR Jan 15 : Amid tight security, four US Senators led by the Senate majority leader Bill Frist paid a flying visit to Wana, where Pakistan Army troops are currently engage in an operation against foreign militants, and met 13 tribal elders.

It was the first time that US politicians undertook a trip to the troubled tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The unannounced visit took everyone, including the Ahmadzai Wazir tribal elders who were taken for the meeting with the US Senators, by surprise.

The one-hour meeting that began at 12 noon took place at the Pakistan Army’s Zarinoor Camp outside Wana town, media report said.

Major General Niaz Khattak, general officer commanding, Kohat and commander of the troops hunting down al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked suspects in South Waziristan, gave company to the American Senators during their Wana visit.

Two gunship helicopters circled overhead as long as the US Senators were in Wana. Some tribesmen also saw pilotless spy planes in the sky during this period. Security was also strict on the ground, particularly in the vicinity of the Zarinoor Camp.

Senator Bill Frist was accompanied by Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Norm Coleman and Senator Mike DeWine during the landmark trip to South Waziristan. They have been on a visit to Pakistan since January 11 and have already met President General Pervez Musharraf and Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri. The delegation, comprising members of the US Senate belonging to the Republican Party, visited Iraq and India before coming to Pakistan.

Tribal sources said that 20 Ahmadzai Wazir elders were invited for the meeting. However, the meeting took place at such a short notice that only 13 tribal elders were able to make it in time. Assistant political agent, Wana, Khan Bakhsh Marwat, took the tribal elders to the Pakistan Army Camp at Zarinoor for the meeting. Some of the tribal elders later said they weren’t told about the meeting with the US Senators. Instead, they were told that they were going to meet Pakistan Army officers at the Zarnoor Camp.

Military and civil officers tried to keep the meeting secret. They were also denying that any meeting with the members of the US Senate had taken place. However, the secret was out when the tribal elders started talking about it with fellow tribesmen and relations. By afternoon, it had become talk of the town in Wana.

One of the tribal elders, Malik Jamil Khan Tojikhel in an interview with the BBC Urdu Service confirmed the meeting with the US Senators and said they were asked about the presence of foreign militants in South Waziristan and the major problems and needs of the people in the area.

He said the tribal elders told the US Senators that foreign militants had left the Wana area and other parts of South Waziristan following the military operations conducted with support of the local population. Some of the Ahmadzai Wazir elders said an American woman also attended their meeting with the US Senators. They said she was wearing a coat with a badge of the US Army.

The tribal elders listed lack of electricity and educational institutions as their two major needs. They also mentioned poor roads, shortage of health outlets, lack of agricultural and irrigation services, etc as some of their remaining problems. When asked as to how they got information, the tribal leaders said they had access to radio, television and newspapers but their major source of news was the Urdu and Pashto services of the BBC World Service.

The elders of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe profusely praised the Pakistan Army during the meeting and explained how it was carrying out development activities for the benefit of the people in South Waziristan. They stressed that the military operations against foreign militants enjoyed the support of the tribes.

The visiting Senators reportedly assured the tribal elders that they would make efforts to provide them more assistance to help resolve their problems. They pointed out that the US government was assisting Pakistan in carrying out development activities in South Waziristan and other agencies in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to bring them at par with rest of the country.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Pakistan Link

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Pakistan; Congress



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