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Pakistan earthquake hits Afghan Taliban haven

The massive Pakistan earthquake caused minimal damage, welcome news to a government trying to keep inquisitive reporters away from the Afghan Taliban stronghold of Balochistan.

By Staff Writer / January 19, 2011

Children stand near a wall which collapsed after an earthquake in Kharan, located in southwest Pakistan's Baluchistan province, Jan. 19. A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.2 shook southwestern Pakistan early on Wednesday, jolting residents of cities as far apart as Delhi and Dubai, but doing little damage in the sparsely populated region, police said.

Rizwan Saeed/Reuters

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New Delhi

Preliminary reports have found minimal damage from a 7.2 earthquake that struck Pakistan early today, alleviating several major concerns for a nation still recovering from last summer’s massive flooding.

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The earthquake was felt in neighboring India and as far away as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, prompting initial fears that Pakistan had yet another calamity on its hands. In addition to dealing with fallout from the 2010 floods, the shaky Pakistani government and overstretched humanitarian groups are also tending to internal refugees displaced by fighting in the nation’s tribal belt.

Officials in Islamabad have an additional reason to breathe a sigh of relief. The temblor struck in the highly sensitive province of Balochistan where government restrictions, along with poor security conditions, have minimized access for foreigners. Light damages there means the international spotlight will not be focused on the area, widely considered to be a haven for Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership.

Epicenter of more than a quake

The earthquake struck some 200 miles southwest of Quetta, the provincial capital and alleged headquarters of the main faction of Taliban leaders, which is referred to as “the Quetta Shura" and led by Mullah Omar.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top US commander in Afghanistan, wrote in his 2009 war assessment for President Obama that “at the operational level, the Quetta Shura conducts a formal campaign review each winter, after which Mullah Omar announces his guidance and intent for the coming year.”

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