ISLAMABAD: Former ISI official Colonel Imam and a British journalist of Pakistani origin Asad Qureshi were released on Thursday in North Waziristan by a militant group calling itself the Asian Tigers.
The group belongs is believed to be operating in North Waziristan and kidnapped the two on March 26, 2010. Among the people abducted was former ISI official Khalid Khwaja, who was recently killed by the group.
Khwaja’s body was found near a stream in Karam Kot, about seven kilometres south of North Waziristan’s main town of Mirali.
Locals said they had seen Khwaja’s body, but did not pick it up for fear of attacks from the militants.
A senior official said a jirga of residents and clerics deputed by the local administration finally retrieved Khwaja’s body.
Officials said Khwaja’s body was taken to Islamabad and handed over to his family. A note was found with his body which said that Khwaja was working for the Americans and anybody working for them would meet the same fate. — DawnNews
PESHAWAR: Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad Omar has reportedly sent a jirga to negotiate the safe release of kidnapped former Inter Services Intelligence officials Colonel Imam, who was abducted along with his murdered ex-colleague Khalid Khwaja.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Javed Pracha claimed that a jirga sent by Mullah Omar has reached Miranshah to hold talks with the kidnappers without any preconditions. The Asian Tigers, the group which claimed to have kidnapped both Imam, Khwaja and a British journalist of Pakistan origin, had asked Pracha to negotiate with the government.
[Depending upon what happens in Kandahar, the scenario that finally plays-out in Afghanistan could be very similar to the one described in the following report. In the end, the US may well leave behind a partitioned Afghanistan, with one half belonging to Sunni Taliban and the other to Tajik and Uzbek Northern Alliance. If that is the American solution, then "Pashtunistan" would be the logical next step.]
Indrani Bagchi, TOI Crest
Whether we have a Pakistan version of WikiLeaks in the making is secondary.What is of greater importance is the tangled web of Pakistan government assistance to the Taliban and associated terror groups,their apparent blowback inside Pakistan and the future of Afghanistan and the US-led war in there.And why,despite WikiLeaks,nothing will change.
The 92,000 US military documents made public by WikiLeaks,a whistle-blowing organisation,early this week were intriguing.They detailed the grim reality of the war: the hunt to kill insurgent leaders,the death of Afghan civilians,the unreliability of Afghan forces,the corruption of political leaders and Pakistan’s perfidy.One “knew this all along”,but somehow the proof in black and white still robbed you of your breath.
For the US,though,the leaks are not going to change policy on the ground in Afghanistan.This became clear when US president Barack Obama got Congress to clear a $59 billion war funding bill,a couple of days after the WikiLeaks expose.It may not be a “blank cheque”,but the cheque is nonetheless substantial.Moreover,experts point out that the revelations contain few surprises.Says terrorism analyst Bill Roggio,”The documents really do not shed any new light on the situation there,and I do not perceive the public to be upset enough to pressure the government over Pakistan’s complicity in the Afghan war.”
The US has been careful not to openly criticise Pakistan or its army chief Ashfaq Kayani (who was DG ISI during much of the time in question and,therefore,responsible for running the Taliban),because ultimately,the US needs Pakistan.It needs Pakistan’s cooperation to target Taliban/al-Qaida operatives and leaders in northwestern Pakistan;it needs to keep Pakistan stable;it needs Kayani on their side so he can go after some parts of the Taliban;most important,it needs him to ensure their supplies travel from Karachi to Khyber without being torched or attacked.
Despite the importance of Kayani,who got a three-year extension,there is a subtle shift in the US stance.It sent a strong signal when it banned some of Pakistan’s favourite terrorists in the Haqqani network.Politically,the pressure on Pakistan is only likely to intensify.Hillary Clinton fired off on the Pakistan government knowing where Osama bin Laden was.But a stronger message was sent via British prime minister David Cameron.”I choose my words very carefully.It is unacceptable for anything to happen within Pakistan that is about supporting terrorism elsewhere.It is well-documented that that has been the case in the past,and we have to make sure that the Pakistan authorities are not looking two ways,” he told BBC Today.These remarks were promptly endorsed by the US State Department,which means the UK and US may be reading from the same sheet of music.
But that’s pressure Pakistan has been able to withstand all these years.Certainly,under Kayani,there has been greater clarity that Pakistan would pursue its own interests regardless of what Washington thought of them.Ultimately,Pakistan wants to bring together all the Taliban/Islamist groups to form part of the power structure in Kabul.
Unfortunately for Pakistan,this goal is going to become more and more difficult to achieve,particularly as the Taliban groups – like the Afghan,Pakistani and Punjabi Taliban as well as non-Taliban groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba – slip in and out of each other’s lives.That’s how a group like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,a creation of the Pakistan establishment,appears to have gone over to the dark side.The Haqqanis are close to the Pakistan army,but not so all the other Taliban groups.Pakistan’s balancing act will become more and more difficult as these groups make common cause in their dislike for the Pakistani establishment and as a new generation of Taliban leaders take over the reins,one with more tenuous links with the Pak army.
Antonio Guistozzi at The Century Foundation,who has written perhaps the most authoritative study in recent times,’Negotiating with the Taliban’,puts it clearly.”The Pakistani army clearly sees the Taliban as a useful tool for its geopolitical ambitions in Afghanistan,but among the Taliban,the Pakistani patron is far from popular.Apart from Haqqani and his network (always the closest to the Pakistanis),the other networks tolerate Pakistani influence rather than appreciate it.To some extent,the distinction between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban is arbitrary.”
Despite this,Pakistan will continue to play the Taliban and the US,because its ultimate enemy is India,and it needs to secure itself with US aid against what it believes is a rampaging India.To the extent that the US negotiates for an honourable exit from Afghanistan,the Americans will continue to play this game,intermittently letting their anger get the better of them.
George Friedman of Stratfor,a global intelligence company,puts it in a geopolitical context.The Taliban know they are not being defeated on home turf.Pakistan knows the US is leaving but will continue to need the US as their security against India.And the US will support Pakistan because it doesn’t want to have India as the sole regional power here.”Since the US wants neither an India outside a balance of power nor China taking the role of Pakistan’s patron,it follows that the risk the US will bear grudges is small.And given that,the Pakistanis can live with Washington knowing that one Pakistani hand is helping the Americans while another helps the Taliban.”
The churn on Afghan policy in the wake of WikiLeaks converges with a growing assessment among experts that the US is prosecuting affairs wrongly in Afghanistan.
In the past few years,Guistozzi points out,the Taliban have been extending their governance outreach in the southern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan,where they are in control.On the other hand,between the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan government,the record has been dismal because they’re spending more time securing themselves.In fact,many have suggested that the international community work harder to secure the northern and western areas of Afghanistan,which still has a relatively thinner Taliban presence.
Last week,this idea was sharply articulated by Robert Blackwill,former US ambassador to India and deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration.”Washington should move to ensure that north and west Afghanistan do not fall too,using,for many years to come,US air power and special forces – some 40,000-50,000 troops along with the Afghan army and the help of like-minded nations.Such a de facto partition would be a profoundly disappointing outcome to America’s 10 years in Afghanistan.But,regrettably,it is now the best that can realistically and responsibly be achieved.” This would be a de-facto partitioning of Afghanistan,enabling the US and the international community to arm and fund the erstwhile Northern Alliance or the non-Taliban Pashtuns (if any).
Pakistan won’t like it,because it could spawn the cancer of Pashtunistan again.But the idea has gathered resonance among many Afghan watchers,though there is no sign the Obama administration is anywhere close to that yet.Even if it isn’t,it’s a good way of ensuring greater Pakistani cooperation for the US project in Afghanistan.
But helping the non-Taliban forces in Afghanistan in the wake of a US withdrawal is exactly what countries like India,Iran,Uzbekistan,Tajikistan and Russia plan on doing.India will not countenance an extremist Sunni configuration in Kabul.Iran,though it has been funding some Taliban groups in the past couple of years,is equally clear that a Sunni dispensation in Kabul is against its interests as is Russia – a conclusion sharpened after the recent terror attacks in Moscow.China will continue to play the Pakistan card,so despite extremist threats to its Xinjiang province,China is not likely to get into the act here.
The WikiLeaks revelations are not about to change the course or direction of the war.The foreseeable future will depend on how the coming Kandahar offensive by General Petraeus plays out,not by whistleblowers.The damning truth is less the documents than the fact that most of this was known and the war continues to be lost.That’s the reality laid bare by WikiLeaks.
Azerbaijan, Baku, July 30 / Trend A. Badalova /
Nabucco gas pipeline consortium, designed to transport gas from the Caspian region and the Middle East to the EU countries, postponed the pre-qualification tender for the supply of pipes. Bloomberg reported that with reference to the representative of the “Nabucco” project in Vienna Gabriele Egartner that the cause of delay was the large number of applications for participation in the tender.
“Now we have more participants than expected”, Egartner said.
She said that the tender will be continued, as soon as a list of contenders is checked.
The consortium announced about the beginning of the pre-qualification tender for the supply of durable goods (pipes, valves) for the construction of Nabucco gas pipeline in April. The total cost of the tender package is 3,5 billion euros.
One of the parties which declared its interest in participating in the tender was German company Europipe.
The Nabucco gas pipeline project worth 7.9 billion euro envisages gas supplies from the Caspian region to EU countries. Participants are the Austrian OMV, Hungarian MOL, Bulgarian Bulgargaz, Romanian Transgaz, Turkish Botas and German RWE. Each has an equal 16.67-percent share.
Construction is planned to launch in 2011, with first supplies being commissioned in 2014.
Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at email@example.com
Washington (CNN) — A verbal flash-fire erupted on the House floor Thursday night over nine-year battle to pass a benefits bill for emergency workers who were first on the scene of the 9/11 attacks.
Frustrated with Republican votes against the $7.4 billion measure because Democrats suspended the rules to prevent them from offering unrelated amendments — and at the same time requiring a two-thirds majority to pass — Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner excoriated the minority party.
“It’s Republicans wrapping their arms around Republicans rather than doing the right thing on behalf of the heroes,” Weiner said during an impassioned, 90-second speech. “It is a shame. A shame! If you believe this is a bad idea to provide health care–then vote no! But don’t give me the cowardly view that ‘Oh, if it was a different procedure.’”
The bill failed to get the 291 votes it needed for passage, polling just 255 votes. But that 255 votes easily surpassed the 218 needed for a simple majority. Democratic New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney — the sponsor of the bill who has been working on the legislation since just after terrorist attacks — is working to convince her party’s leadership to hold a simple majority vote before the ninth anniversary of the attacks. She told CNN Friday that passing the bill under suspension rules was “a very high bar.”
“My goal is to have it on the floor again under regular rule, majority rule, which would require only 218 votes. We clearly had the 218 votes to pass it,” Maloney said.
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, another Republican, opposed the legislation on the basis of cost. He called the bill an “irresponsible overreach” that “does not contain the necessary protections to safeguard taxpayer dollars from abuse, waste and fraud.”
“I think this is another example of the Democrats’ insatiable appetite for the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars,” Smith said Thursday night on the House floor.
But Rep. Pete King, R-New York — who actually voted in favor of the bill — tipped the debate in another direction, focusing on the Democratic tactic that kept the Republicans from offering up an amendment on illegal immigration.
“But what we are doing tonight is a cruel hoax and a charade,” King said from the House floor, every bit as passionately as Weiner would moments later. “Everyone knows that this bill will not get the two-thirds majority required on the suspension calendar. Everyone also knows that this bill would pass with a clear majority if the Democrat leadership would allow it to come to the floor under the regular procedures of the House.
“The reason H.R. 847 is not being brought up under regular order is because the majority party is petrified of having its members face a potential vote on illegal immigration,” he said. “You can blame it on the Republicans — and I’ve been strongly critical on the Republican position on this issue — but the reality is you could pass this bill if you wanted to.”
King’s words set off Weiner.
“It takes great courage to wait until all Members have already spoken and then stand up and wrap your arms around procedure,” Weiner began. “We see it in the United States Senate every single day when Members say, ‘We want amendments. We want debate. We want amendments, but we’re still a ‘no.” And then we stand up and say, ‘Oh, if only we had a different process, we’d vote yes.
“You vote yes if you believe yes,” he said. “You vote in favor of something if you believe it’s the right thing. If you believe it’s the wrong thing, you vote no.”
King tried to interject, but Weiner refused to yield the floor.
“The gentleman gets up and yells, trying to intimidate people into believing he’s right — he is wrong!” Weiner shouted. “The gentleman is wrong! The gentleman is providing cover for his colleagues rather than doing the right thing!”
“I will not stand here and listen to my colleague say, ‘Oh, if only I had a different procedure that allows us to stall, stall, stall and then vote no.’ Instead of standing up and defending your colleagues and voting no on this humane bill, you should urge them to vote yes, something the gentleman has not done,” Weiner concluded, punctuating his final words with an index finger in the air.
King told CNN Friday that if the bill went to simple majority vote he “would sit with the Democrats all day and defend the bill against the Republicans.”
Weiner defended his outburst and acknowledged that many people are unhappy with what they see as partisan bickering in Congress, but he said that many people may not understand what’s actually happening. Suspending the rules for certain votes, he said, “is a common procedure … used all the time.”
“Frankly, it was beyond a lot of people’s understanding why anyone would want to politicize this and make it a long, drawn-out fight,” he told CNN.