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Taliban kidnap cadets | HEC recognise Dr Atta's services

Taliban kidnap over 500 students
Peshawar, June 02: Tribal militants kidnapped over 500 students of the Razmak Cadet College from the Bakkakhel Frontier Region, Bannu, adjacent to the North Waziristan tribal region, on Monday, according to government and police officials.

"This is a serious development and will have far-reaching repercussions," a senior security official said.

Details were sketchy but the official said that 33 vehicles had started off from Razmak, with 540 cadets, teaching staff and their families after the principal of the college ordered its closure amid apprehensions about an impending military operation against militants.

Officials acknowledged that in accordance with an agreement with the government, local militants affiliated with Commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur in Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan, had escorted the vehicles, along with Khasadars, till the tribal region's boundary with F.R. Bannu.

"The vehicles were waylaid by armed militants in the Bakkakhel area and commandeered towards Marwat Canal," the official said.

Police said that some women and children were later freed. But, the militants carrying rockets, grenades and automatic machine guns boarded the vehicles and commandeered them to some unspecified place.

Another coach, carrying 17 people, including 10 students, a librarian and a doctor, managed to reach the Miryan police station in Bannu. They were later escorted to the Cantonment police station for their onward journey to their destinations, the police official said.

The number of those kidnapped varied, but one official put the figure at close to 518, including cadets and members of the teaching staff.

District Police Officer of Bannu Iqbal Marwat, however, said that 67 cadets had managed to reach the police, while over 400 were missing.

"The Taliban are behind the kidnapping," Mir Sardar, Assistant Sub-Inspector of the Miryan police station, told The New York Times by phone from Bannu.

Marwat Canal leads to South Waziristan's Spinkay, through Frontier Region Tank, linked up by a nullah frequently used by militants to bypass security checkposts.

Gul Bahadur, leader of the Ittehad-i-Shura Mujahideen, North Waziristan, has wide influence in Bakkakhel and some officials believe that the kidnapping could not have taken place without his blessing.

"He thinks that he can hoodwink us by escorting these students and teachers to fulfil his commitment not to harm them in his area of influence and then have them kidnapped from Bakkakhel. But we all know whose people operate in Bakkakhel," the official said.

He said that three militant commanders -- Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan leader Baitullah Mehsud, Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur -- had forged an alliance to help each other in the event of a military operation.

Citing recent reports, the official said that Maulvi Nazir who didn't trust the TTP leader, had sent men to fight for him against any possible military operation.

"They are all one," the security official said. He said the kidnapping would have far-ranging consequences since most of those kidnapped belonged to the federally administered tribal regions.

Security officials said that militants from all over the tribal region were converging on the Mehsud part of South Waziristan amid reports that a military operation was imminent.

There has been an increase in clashes between militants and security forces in the Mehsud territory after the military made inroads for what it calls 'readjustments' to link up vital communication network.

Baitullah Mehsud warned of attacks if troops do not withdraw from his area, after a jirga failed to mediate between him and the tribal administration.

Officials said that the militant leader would like to use the kidnapped students to secure the release of his comrades under detention and force the government to not only withdraw its forces from the region but also halt the military operation.

The political administration in F.R. Bannu and North Waziristan has tasked a jirga of tribal elders to locate the kidnapped cadets and staff members and secure their early release, the official said. Dawn

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HEC wakes up to recognise Dr Atta's services
Islamabad: For the first time Higher Education Commission (HEC) has cared to recognise invaluable services of Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman former Chairman HEC, in higher education sector.

In its last meeting, the HEC Board of Governors unanimously acknowledged and appreciated the efforts, services and contributions of Dr Atta for leading renaissance of higher education sector in keeping with the recommendations of the Task Force on Higher Education and Steering Committee on Higher Education Reforms of 2001.

There are 18 members in the commission including 4 provincial government representatives, eminent citizens, vice chancellors and eminent educationists.

It was the second meeting of the commission after the resignation of Dr Atta.

Dr Muhammad Akram Sheikh, former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission offered his sincere appreciation for Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman and observed that his vision, leadership and hard work has diametrically invigorated the higher education sector in Pakistan. Mazahar-ul-Haq Siddiqui, Vice Chancellor, University of Sindh, Jamshoro seconded Dr Akram's views.

The BoG members observed that this was accomplished through successful implementation of inter-linked initiatives, strategies and innovative programmes in academics, research assurance, IT and physical infrastructure, faculty esteem and status, etc.

The commission desired that the appreciation may be formally conveyed to the former Chairman HEC Prof Atta and he may also be invited to a felicitation gathering to appropriately recognize his valuable contribution.

Shahnaz Wazir Ali, In-charge, HEC observed though she had been acknowledging the role and headship of Dr Atta on different occasions, it is all important that the commission formally recorded its acknowledgement and tributes for the former chairman whose leadership was appreciated by those within the country and abroad.

"It enabled the commission to accomplish unparalleled growth in access and equity, quality of academics and research, improvement of infrastructure, standardization and quality assurances processes, governance and management of higher education sector in a very short span of time" she added.

Dr Atta had another two years of his 4-year contract left when he resigned.

He tendered his resignation in protest against sharp cuts in the budget of the higher education sector which had caused suffering to the 4,000 students who had been sent abroad on foreign scholarships, and the derailing of a large number of critically important projects in the higher education sector, including the foreign engineering universities which were scheduled to start classes in October 2008, but the programme was abandoned mid-way by the government, causing huge international embarrassment.

It may be mentioned here that Dr Atta has been conferred the highest Civil Award of the Government of Austria for bringing about revolutionary changes in the higher education sector in Pakistan, unparalleled in any other developing country, and that the Senate Standing Committee on Higher Education, Science & Technology had passed a unanimous resolution after his resignation acknowledging his monumental contributions to this sector, and appealing to the government that he should be requested to return as Chairman HEC. The Nation

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Summer holidays in schools of Baluchistan hot areas
Hub: Summer holidays in government schools in hot areas would begin from June 2. According to a notification issued by Provincial Education Department, government schools in hot areas of the province would remain closed for summer vacations form June 2 to August 17, 2009 and would reopen on August 18. Ppi

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