Pakistan retaliation puts NATO in lurch

Pakistan retaliation puts NATO in lurch

CBS News
Afghanistan-bound trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces are parked as authorities closed the border at Torkham, in Pakistan, Sunday, Nov 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Qazi Rauf)

(AP)  PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Hundreds of trucks carrying supplies to U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan backed up at Pakistani border crossings Sunday, leaving them vulnerable to militant attack a day after Islamabad closed the frontier in retaliation for coalition airstrikes that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops.

As Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani attended the funerals of the victims, including a major, the U.S. sought to minimize the fallout from the crisis, which plunged Washington’s already-troubled relationship with Islamabad to an all-time low.

Pakistan also ordered the U.S. to vacate an air base that is used by American drones to target al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country’s tribal region along the Afghan border. The U.S. has relied heavily on drone strikes in the past few years, partly out of frustration with Pakistan’s refusal to target militants using its territory to stage attacks against American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

There are forces working against a total rupture in the relationship. Pakistan still relies on billions of dollars in American military and civilian aid, and the U.S. needs Islamabad’s help to push Afghan insurgents to engage in peace talks.

But tensions could rise further if militants unleash attacks against the stranded trucks ferrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan.

Suspected militants destroyed around 150 trucks and injured drivers and police a year ago after Pakistan closed one of its Afghan border crossings to NATO supplies for about 10 days in retaliation for a U.S. helicopter attack that accidentally killed two Pakistani soldiers.

People offer funeral prayers for victims of Saturday’s NATO attack, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov 27, 2011. 

(Credit: AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

The situation could be more dire this time because Pakistan, outraged at the alleged NATO attack before dawn Saturday, has closed both its crossings. Nearly 300 trucks carrying coalition supplies are now backed up at Torkham in the northwest Khyber tribal area and Chaman in southwestern Baluchistan province. Last year, Pakistan only closed Torkham.

“We are worried,” said driver Saeed Khan, speaking by telephone from the border terminal in Torkham. “This area is always vulnerable to attacks. Sometimes rockets are lobbed at us. Sometimes we are targeted by bombs.”

Khan and hundreds of other drivers and their assistants barely slept Saturday night because they were worried about potential attacks, he said.

Some drivers said Pakistan had sent paramilitary troops to protect their convoys since the closures, but others were left without any additional protection. Even those who did receive troops did not feel safe.

“If there is an attack, what can five or six troops do? Nothing,” said Niamatullah Khan, a fuel truck driver who was parked with 35 other vehicles at a restaurant about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from Chaman.

NATO ships nearly 50 percent of its non-lethal supplies to its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan. The trucks are periodically targeted by suspected militants as they travel through the country, and their drivers are sometimes killed. NATO has said these attacks do not significantly impact its ability to keep its troops supplied.

An official closely involved with the Afghan war said there will likely be no immediate negative effect from Pakistan’s decision to close its border crossings. NATO has built up a large stockpile of military and other supplies that could enable operations to continue at their current level for several months, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

NATO has reduced the amount of non-lethal supplies it ships through Pakistan from a high of around 80 percent by using routes through Central Asia. The northern logistics link could be expanded to make up for the Pakistani closure, but it would leave NATO heavily dependent on Russia at a time when ties with Moscow are increasingly strained.

Some critical supplies, including ammunition, are airlifted directly to Afghan air bases.

Pakistan eventually relented and reopened Torkham last year after the U.S. apologized. But the number of alleged casualties is much higher this time. The relationship between the two countries has also severely deteriorated over the past year, especially following the covert U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town in May. Islamabad was outraged because it wasn’t told about the operation beforehand.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday that the alleged NATO attack negated all progress in improving the tattered alliance between the two countries.

She told Clinton in a phone call that the alleged NATO attack was unacceptable, showed complete disregard for human life and sparked rage within Pakistan, according to a press release issued by the Pakistani prime minister’s office.

In addition to closing its border crossings, Pakistan gave the U.S. 15 days to vacate Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan. The U.S. uses the base to service drones when they cannot return to their bases inside Afghanistan because of weather conditions or mechanical difficulty, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The Pakistani army said Saturday that NATO helicopters and fighter jets carried out an “unprovoked” attack on two of its border posts in the Mohmand tribal area before dawn, killing 24 soldiers and wounding 13 others.

Pakistan held funerals for the soldiers Sunday at the army’s headquarters in Peshawar, the most important city in the country’s northwest. Mourners said prayers in front of caskets wrapped in green and white Pakistani flags.

A spokesman for NATO forces, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, said Saturday that Afghan and coalition troops were operating in the border area of eastern Afghanistan when “a tactical situation” prompted them to call in close air support.

Afghan officials said Sunday that the call was made after Afghan soldiers came under fire. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the incident.

Jacobson told BBC television that it was “highly likely” that the airstrikes caused Pakistani casualties, but an investigation is being conducted to determine the details.

U.S. officials have expressed their sympathies over the incident and have promised to work closely with Pakistan as NATO carries out its investigation.

NATO’s top official, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, offered his “deepest condolences” and said the coalition was committed to working with Pakistan to “avoid such tragedies in the future.”

“We have a joint interest in the fight against cross-border terrorism and in ensuring that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists,” Rasmussen said in Brussels.

Pakistan may boycott Afghan summit

Pakistan may boycott Afghan summit

Funerals held for soldiers killed in Nato attack at border post as Pakistan considers staying away from Bonn conference

Pakistan funeral

Prayers are said for the Pakistani troops killed in the border post attack. Photograph: Mohammad Sajjad/AP

Pakistan is considering boycotting an international conference on the future of Afghanistan in retaliation for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers who came under attack from Nato helicopters at a border checkpost.

The Pakistani military alleged that the attack 1.5 miles inside Pakistani territory in the early hours of Saturday was deliberate, as it was a well-known position manned by regular troops. US officials have suggested the Nato force was acting in self-defence.

Funerals were held for the dead soldiers in Peshawar on Sunday. Prayers conducted in front of 24 coffins, each wrapped in a Pakistani flag, were televised live. The army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, attended the service at a military base, as did leading officials from the north-west provincial administration.

Television channels repeatedly replayed images of the funeral, set to patriotic music usually reserved for wartime. Kayani, considered the most powerful man in the country, visited a hospital in Peshawar to meet soldiers injured in the incident.

The conference in Bonn, scheduled for 5 December, will mark a decade since the German city hosted the first international meeting to chalk out Afghanistan’s future. It had once been hoped that the meeting might kick off the peace process in Afghanistan, but expectations had already been lowered even before this weekend.

If a key regional player such as Pakistan stays away, the event will appear even more hollow. Pakistan’s co-operation is considered vital for stabilising Afghanistan and bringing the Taliban into negotiations.

Tehmina Janjua, of Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs, said the Bonn issue was “being examined and no decision has yet been taken in this regard”.

Pakistan announced late on Saturday that it had blocked supplies to Nato forces passing through the country. Half of Nato supplies pass by land through Pakistan. Islamabad also said it would expel the US from use of the Shamsi airbase, in the west of the country. Shamsi had been used in the past to fly drone aircraft, which target suspected militants in Pakistan’s tribal area; it is unclear whether the base was still used for armed drones.

Nato pledged a full investigation into the attack. “I have written to the prime minister of Pakistan to make it clear that the deaths of Pakistani personnel are as unacceptable and deplorable as the deaths of Afghan and international personnel,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato’s secretary general. “This was a tragic unintended incident.”

Events leading up to the incident remain unclear. In the past, much confusion has been caused by Taliban insurgents firing into Afghanistan from positions close to Pakistani checkposts, making it appear to Nato and Afghan troops that they are coming under attack from the Pakistani posts. Pakistani soldiers have previously shot into the air to warn Nato helicopters that they have crossed the border, but that has been mistaken by the aircraft crew for incoming fire.

Green Gills In A Reddened Sea

[India is not the superpower that Indian and American leaders would like to pretend her to be (SEE: Investing Your Future In A Poison Peace Process    ).  Every dollar wasted on setting itself up as America's policeman is a dollar that could be invested in the people of India.  No other nation, except perhaps the US, shows such a glaring disparity between the super-capitalists at the top and the untapped sea of potential workers and consumers at the very bottom.  How can its leaders justify buying and building, eventually, aircraft carriers, to enforce US sea lane controls?]

Green Gills In A Reddened Sea

Does India have a role in Southeast Asia or will it be all at sea?

It seems a veritable habit of outsiders to affix the tag of ‘Great Power’ to India in an effort to advance their own agendas. In the 1950s, during the Cold War years, Moscow described India thus in the hope that it would relinquish its avowed non-aligned stance. It is now the turn of the United States and its allies in East and Southeast Asia to dub India as a great power. The reason: they believe adding to the hype surrounding India could inspire it to undertake a bigger role in stabilising the Asia-Pacific region, which seems perturbed at China’s growing assertion.

Realpolitik underlies the coining of the fancy labels that Indians seem to love. Since China’s rise is seen to mark the relative decline of America—manifest in its economic woes—Washington wants to create space for India to play a role beyond the confines of the Indian Ocean. Evolving international politics introduces new nomenclatures—Asia-Pacific is consequently now the Indo-Pacific, a term underlining the centrality of India in the new balance of power game. “The Indo-Pacific is the western Pacific plus India and mainland Southeast Asia,” Robert Kaplan, an American author-commentator of the Centre for New American Security, told Outlook. “It’s a term that allows American experts and policymakers to include India into western Pacific diplomatic, economic and military power calculations.”

“China’s proclivity to seek to change the status quo (in the South China Sea) unilaterally is indeed worrisome for India.”Pradeep Kaushiva, Vice-Admiral (Retired)

As other countries fete India, the establishment in Delhi has been mulling and debating two vital issues. One, what role does America and its allies want India to play? Two, does India have the requisite naval strength to meet these expectations? Says an Indian diplomat in South Block, “Whether we like it or not, for most countries in the region, China is the elephant in the room.” This was indeed the sentiment at the recent East Asia Summit (EAS) in Bali, where the US, Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and the 10 ASEAN member-countries met. The participants discussed the need to turn the EAS, which focuses on trade and economic issues, into a forum for thrashing out political and security issues and evolving a collective mechanism to resolve disputes arising among the countries in the region. This does not mean a NATO-like security alliance, but rather an “open, balanced and inclusive regional architecture, which will be in the region’s long-term interest”.In this scheme, Kaplan says “India will have a central role in protecting sea-lines of communications between the energy-rich Middle East and the hundreds of millions of middle-class customers in East Asia”. He makes no bones about the fact that much of India’s role has been scripted vis-a-vis China. “It has much to do with China’s rise. India in the future should have the capability to play a significant role as a counter-weight to China,” he explains.

For months now, this has been the hot topic of discussion in the US establishment, which has been subtly changing its hierarchy of priorities. In a speech to NATO a few months ago, former US defence secretary Robert Gates spoke of America increasingly turning its focus onto Asia—the growth engine of the world economy. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been describing the region as the ‘Indo-Pacific’ to ensure the Indians get the message about Washington’s expectations. Ditto President Barack Obama, who harped on this theme on his recent visit to Australia and again in Bali. These comments the Indian establishment has greatly appreciated.

“India should, in the future, have the capability to play a significant role as a counterweight to China in the region.”Robert Kaplan, Centre For New American Security

But, really, does India know what is desired of it? “Indo-Pacific,” says former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran, “springs from the perception that the Indian and Pacific Oceans are a seamless continuum and a single strategic space. For example, a very large amount of oil moves from the Gulf to East Asia and the Pacific Rim now more than the traffic westwards. The sea-lanes traversing the Indian Ocean into the Pacific have, therefore, become a single maritime space. Hillary has used the term to reflect this new reality.”As is always the case with diplomacy, there are potential pluses and looming minuses. Many in the Indian establishment, no doubt, are enthused at the new opportunities for safeguarding, and promoting, the country’s vital national interests in the region. An equal number is circumspect about New Delhi’s over-dependence on the US, as also about over-stretching India’s naval capabilities. Nevertheless, India’s location in the Indian Ocean has provided it with a “maritime destiny”. Take a look at some figures—more than 90 per cent of India’s trade by volume and 77 per cent by value is seaborne. To quench its thirst for energy required for development, India has to ensure that the straits of Malacca, Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb and the South China Sea are not imperilled in any way. The cluster of countries around these sea lanes are India’s major source of investment and trade, and home to millions of Indians.

These maritime aspects explain why India would not want a single power dominating any of the sea lanes. Vice admiral (retired) Pradeep Kaushiva of the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi, says India fully understands China’s attempt to bolster its navy to ensure the safety and security of the sea lanes for its own growth. Yet, simultaneously, India cannot just accept China invoking history to lay exclusive claims on waters shared by others, says Kaushiva, adding, “China’s proclivity to seek to change the status quo unilaterally is indeed worrisome.” He is referring to Chinese claims to the South China Sea, which seeks to nullify the rights of Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Yet there exists doubt about the Indian navy’s ability to ensure China does not become the single dominant naval power in the region. Says Saran, “India’s naval capabilities are significant, but its power projection capabilities are still limited.” He points out that India has a strong naval presence, both in the western and eastern reaches of the Indian Ocean, which enabled it to provide relief fairly quickly to countries like Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia during the 2004-05 tsunami. Saran, however, adds, “Beyond this, we currently do not have the capability, but we are building up our naval assets.” He points out that the Indian navy is soon to be in possession of at least two aircraft carriers and an augmented submarine fleet.

“India’s naval capabilities are significant, but its power projection capabilities are limited. We are building them up.”Shyam Saran, Former Foreign Secretary

Others contend that India should emulate the model adopted by the US in the 19th century—it consolidated its strength even while “free-riding” the era’s pre-eminent naval power, Britain. “Transposed to today, this would mean that New Delhi will be largely amenable to cooperation with the US (although opposed to any formal alliance) while it works on economic development and constructs a military adequate to fulfil its political aims,” James Holmes of the US Naval War College told Outlook. He added, “To me, an India that can police its own home region is a good thing, not only for itself, but for the region. Not least, this would relieve the US military some of the security burden at a time when we could use some relief.”India has a “blue water” navy, which means that it has the capacity to operate at least 200 miles away from its shores on the high seas. It also boasts the fourth largest navy in the world. Says Holmes, “The Indian navy is a more than respectable fleet. The measure of a navy is whether it can concentrate combat power at a decisive point, not whether it matches up with potential adversaries in the pages of Jane’s Fighting Ships.” Agrees Commodore (retd) C. Uday Bhaskar, “Currently, India is still a medium naval power, (but one) which is also handicapped since much of the critical hardware is still imported.”

“Currently, India is still a medium naval power that’s also handicapped since much of the critical hardware is still imported.”C. Uday Bhaskar, Commodore (Retired)

India’s naval weaknesses prompt sceptics to warn that India should not rush in to act as a counter-weight to China. Their caution stems from the belief that the US is not a reliable partner. As proof, they offer that India did not even receive mention in Obama’s first speech on Asian security delivered in 2009; while in the next 24 months, Washington has U-turned and begun to talk of the region as the Indo-Pacific. So, what changed in two years could well come in for a further review in, say, 2013.Even the Indian naval establishment does not see “balancing China” as a top priority. With progressive improvement in India’s nautical capacity, Bhaskar feels the much-needed “equipoise” in the Indo-Chinese relations would naturally follow. In other words, he means India should consciously improve its navy—but not in order to match China’s. As he explains, “I believe India should not seek to either balance or equal China in military terms. Equipoise that will ensure that India is neither deferential nor belligerent is the preferred posture and this has to be complemented by political perspicacity and will.”

This, perhaps, is the course India should set out for itself in the coming years, at least till such time it manages to grow into a real “oceanic power”. For a reality check to all the hype, know this to be fact: emerging as an oceanic power has not yet become part of the Indian navy’s perspective planning.

Juan Manuel Santos: ‘It is time to think again about the war on drugs’

Juan Manuel Santos: ‘It is time to think again about the war on drugs’

Colombia’s president speaks frankly of the price his country has paid and his success in dismantling the cartels

Juan Manuel Santos

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos. Photograph: Felipe Caicedo/AP

The security detail at the presidential offices in Bogotá was understandably heavy. Armed police and the military were much in evidence as President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia hosted the leaders of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru for a regional economic summit. The security forces outside the Palacio de Nariño in the city centre had extra reason to be on high alert – the summit last Tuesday came only days after Colombian special forces shot and killed Alfonso Cano, leader of the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla group.

It was a major success for Santos, an increasingly influential figure in Latin American politics. The former Brazilian president, Lula da Silva, said recently that Santos, who comes to Britain in two weeks, was assuming the mantle of a continental leader.

Da Silva’s compliment is true in at least one respect, since Santos has emerged as the leading voice on the international political stage calling for a major rethink on the war on drugs. Santos’s call for a new debate about drug regulation is heavily symbolic, since Colombia has suffered more than any other country at the hands of narcotics traffickers.

Santos has drawn attention to the damage suffered by the producing nations in Latin America as they continue to serve the growing demand for drugs in the consuming nations of the west. His voice is becoming the key one in trying to set the terms for a new international discussion about the war.

Santos, an urbane, affable 60-year-old, who was elected last year, is well placed to lead the global debate. He is a keen internationalist and was educated at Harvard and the London School of Economics. One colleague described London as his “dream city”. His visit to Britain will be part of his attempt to rebrand his country – from the failed state of 10 years ago to an emerging economic powerhouse in Latin America. The killing of Cano is the latest stage in that journey.

Santos’s response in the days since Cano’s death – widely described in the local media as the most significant blow to the Farc – has avoided triumphalism. And with good reason. In the month leading up to Cano’s assassination, more than 20 soldiers were killed by the Farc. With those deaths came the first signs of public disquiet that the security gains made in the previous 10 years were starting to slip away. As the leading political magazine, Semana, said: “The killing of Cano couldn’t have come at a better time for the government.”

The Farc emerged in the mid-60s as a Marxist-Leninist group determined to overthrow a state which it saw as riven by inequalities, one where power and high office, both economically and politically, was dominated by an elite group of families. Farc’s leftwing ideology was driven by a clutch of university-educated young men and women and was part of a wider movement in Latin America where revolutionary groups were taking up arms in search of social justice and in response to the grinding poverty and gross inequalities across the continent.

At the height of its power in the 1990s the Farc controlled a third of Colombian territory. Now that it is much reduced and scattered to the remotest parts of the country in the wake of the decade-long military offensive, many Colombians believe the Farc’s ideological fervour has mostly disappeared. But in its place has come an increasing appetite for drug trafficking.

Colombia is now emerging from its darkest days of guerrilla and narcotics warfare. It is attracting ever more foreign investment to its born-again cities of Bogotá and Medellín. Where strife and terrorism were once routine, there are now real signs of a civic and economic revival – cities being regenerated, booming tourism and impressive growth rates. It is this economic story which Santos will relay on his visit to Britain.

But Colombia’s recent history still bears the deep scars of its battle with drugs. As Santos says: “We dismantled the drug cartels. Those big cartels that had our democracy on its knees – they no longer exist. The only big cartel still is the Farc but we have weakened them more and more.”

It is in this context – as the president of a country that was very nearly broken by a combination of drug cartels and guerrilla narcotics traffickers – that Santos’s recent pronouncements on the war on drugs are all the more remarkable. Last month he said: “The world needs to discuss new approaches… we are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years.”

Santos has gone further than any other leading politician in opening up the debate. In an interview with the Observer he spelled out the radical ideas which he hopes will create a fresh approach. He said: “A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking… If that means legalising, and the world thinks that’s the solution, I will welcome it. I’m not against it.”

But he is clear that any initiatives need to be part of a co-ordinated international plan of action and he rules out any unilateral action by Colombia. “What I won’t do is to become the vanguard of that movement because then I will be crucified. But I would gladly participate in those discussions because we are the country that’s still suffering most and have suffered most historically with the high consumption of the UK, the US, and Europe in general.”

Santos is prepared to go much further than others – he is opening up a debate about legalising marijuana and perhaps cocaine.

“I would talk about legalising marijuana and more than just marijuana. If the world thinks that this is the correct approach, because for example in our case we used to be exporters, but we were replaced by the producers of California. And there even was a referendum in California to legalise it and they lost it but they could have won. I ask myself how would you explain marijuana being legalised in California and cocaine consumption being penalised in Idaho? It’s a contradiction. So it’s a difficult problem where you set the limits. It’s a difficult decision. For example, I would never legalise very hard drugs like morphine or heroin because in fact they are suicidal drugs. I might consider legalising cocaine if there is a world consensus because this drug has affected us most here in Colombia. I don’t know what is more harmful, cocaine or marijuana. That’s a health discussion. But again, only if there is a consensus.”

Santos is not alone. There is a growing impatience in the producing countries of Latin America that suffer acutely as their drug cartels feed the demand in the consuming countries.

For Santos and his country, the issue of drugs looms much larger than for the consuming nations. For Colombia, drugs are “a matter of national security” whereas, for others, “it is mainly a health and crime issue”. He speaks eloquently of the price his country has paid – and continues to pay – for feeding the west’s appetite for illicit drugs. “We have gone through a tremendous experience – dramatic and costly for a society to live through. We have lost our best judges, our best politicians, our best journalists, our best policemen in this fight against drugs and the problem’s still there.”

It is difficult to overestimate the symbolic importance of a Colombian president entering the debate with such force, given the central role drugs have played in his country’s recent bloody history. Santos is all too aware of the symbolism and of the role he is playing. “Yes, I know, and I’m conscious of what this means. I’ve told President Calderón [of Mexico], ‘You and I have a lot more authority to talk about this because our countries have spilled a lot of blood fighting drug traffickers and we should promote this discussion.”

If the war on drugs has failed, it has failed most abjectly in Latin America. That is where the bodies are buried. Or not so much buried, since the Mexican drug gangs prefer to litter the bodies of their victims along the byways and highways of the border towns with America, or leave them hanging from bridges to serve as a public warning to anyone who gets in their way.

Last week drugs gangs beheaded a blogger in Nuevo Laredo for reporting on the activities of the Zetas, the narcotics gang that all but controls the Mexican city that sits on its border with America. A month earlier, they beheaded a 39-year-old woman who blogged for the same site. In September, they hanged a couple from a highway overpass and left a note saying they had been killed for “their social media activity”. These are four killings out of about 42,000 in the past five years. The price of drugs in Latin America can be costed in dollars, but in wasted lives too.

The fallout from the interminable war goes deeper – since the vast funds of narcotics trafficking have been used to corrupt their bodies politic. One former Colombian president, Ernesto Samper, has been publicly accused of having been swept to power on the back of the Cali drug cartels. Drugs have posed a threat to the very existence of civic institutions in many of the countries on the frontline of the war on drugs.

But Latin America is starting to take the fight to the consuming nations in Europe and the US. President Felipe Calderón of Mexico joined the debate in September when he used a speech in New York to hit out at consumer nations that were not doing enough to reduce demand. He took direct aim at the US, saying: “We are living in the same building. And our neighbour is the largest consumer of drugs in the world and everybody wants to sell him drugs through our doors and windows.”

Calderón went further and suggested that if the consumption of drugs could not be limited, “then decision-makers must seek more solutions – including market alternatives – in order to reduce the astronomical earnings of criminal organisations”. The phrase “market alternatives” was widely assumed to be a call for a new debate in the US about whether legalised or regulated drug markets might be an alternative to the war on drugs.

The more vociferous these Latin American voices become, the more difficult it will be for the leaders of the consuming nations to remain silent in the debate over the effectiveness of the war.

It was these western leaders that the Global Commission on Drug Policywas addressing when it released its landmark report earlier this year. The 19-person commission includes former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former US secretary of state George Shultz, former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil and César Gaviria of Colombia.

The report’s first line was: “The war on drugs has failed.” After detailing the costs, ineffectiveness and harmful effects of the drugs war, it made this plea: “Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately… that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.”

This week a House of Lords event on drugs policy reform, organised by Baroness Meacher, will include an impressive list of attendees from around the world. It is an attempt to engage the debate, but no frontline British politicians will be there to hear people such as the Colombian interior minister speak. Privately, many senior British politicians support the initiative to try to help generate a new debate on drugs – but publicly they are invisible.

So it is left to Santos and others to stir the debate and try to promote a wider discussion. “I hope there is a shift in the debate. I am open to, and I welcome these discussions and this debate,” he says. “We are the country who has suffered most of any country. Hopefully the world will enter into a fruitful and dynamic debate on this issue and if they find a new solution I’ll be even more than happy to support it.”

But political leaders in the consuming countries have not yet shown any appetite for joining the debate. In fact, quite the opposite. “This is a very sensitive political subject and there’s a lot of hypocrisy there,” says Santos. “Many leaders, in private, they will say something and they tell me something and in public they say, ‘But I can’t do this probably because my people will really crucify me’.”

One of the most glaring contradictions is in the United States. While on the one hand a growing number of states in the US have semi-legalised marijuana (it is freely available from cannabis dispensaries with an easy-to-obtain doctor’s prescription) on the other hand the country pours billions of dollars into helping the Mexican military fight the drug cartels which are busy trying to get marijuana into the US.

Barack Obama declared the war on drugs to be “an utter failure”. He went on to say: “We need to rethink how we are operating in the drug wars because currently we are not doing a good job.” But that was in January 2004.

There are, of course, isolated victories in the war and the manner in which Colombia disrupted much of the drug trade is a case in point. This was principally because of Plan Colombia, which involved a massive programme of financial and military aid. While Plan Colombia is credited with having saved the Colombian state, the “victory”, as even Santos admits, is a Pyrrhic one.

“We are now helping other countries, the Caribbean countries, Central American countries, Mexico, because our success means more problems for them,” he says. “There’s the balloon effect.” Meaning, that the problem is simply displaced, to another country – or even another continent, as in the case of Guinea Bissau in west Africa.

The other indices of the war on drugs do not make for encouraging reading. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that nearly 23 million Americans are illicit drug users. That is 8.9% of its adult population, up from 2008-09 when the rate was 8%. The number of marijuana users has gone up from 14.4 million in 2007 to 17.4 million in 2010.

As for the amount of land given over to the planting of coca – the raw material of cocaine – estimates vary. The UN suggests that coca production has fallen in Colombia – but neighbouring countries have seen a rise. The balloon effect plays out here too – if planting and transporting are disrupted in one part of Latin America the problem goes away – to a neighbouring country.

Santos is sketching a new future for Colombia and trying to imagine one that will not involve his country being held back by either narcotics or guerrilla warfare. His military attacks on the Farc go hand in hand with a determined attempt to try to wipe out the country’s extreme poverty – the social and economic malaise which first brought the guerrilla group into life.

By Colombia’s own reckoning, there are up to seven million people living in extreme poverty (favela-like housing with no electricity or clean water). Santos says: “We want to be a country with a competitive edge in the world. And a country with a solid democracy. To do that we need to attack the social problems, and extreme poverty is probably the worst of those. People in the UK don’t imagine what it is to live in extreme poverty here in Colombia or anywhere in the so-called third world.”

“I think that we are trying to move towards the first world slowly but surely. But we must do a good job for the people left way behind. That’s why extreme poverty for us is a priority. There was a phrase that President Kennedy used to use a lot, ‘You cannot be rich if you’re surrounded by poor’. And Colombia is a very unequal country, one of the most unequal countries in the world. If we don’t correct that we will never be really competitive and we will never really have a solid democracy.”

His impressive poverty tsar, Samuel Azout, a former businessman and philanthropist, is leading the drive to eradicate extreme poverty. In his office there is a framed portrait of Kennedy and a series of large framed signs. One reads: “A business that only makes money is a poor business.” Another says: “The causes of poverty are interconnected, so the solutions should be joined up too: health, education, housing, justice.”

“Less poverty aids economic growth,” says Azout. “Economic growth is necessary but not sufficient in lifting people out of poverty. You also need direct action. Extreme poverty is an obsession for me, and for President Santos too.” A hugely ambitious programme launched last week involves housing, child development centres, social workers and the establishment of “extreme poverty-free zones”.

Perhaps even more significant for his country is the law Santos passed in July, the victims and land restitution law – an attempt finally to restore millions of acres of land to Colombians driven from their homes by the decades of violence. Many Colombian observers feel that this will be Santos’s legacy. In the past 20 years, nearly 4 million people across an area of 6.5m hectares (16m acres) have been displaced by armed conflict.

Santos says: “In 10 years’ time I hope that people will say finally we are a country that is living in peace and that we have a very strong democracy, a dynamic democracy that has been able to progress socially and that we no longer have this shameful title of being one of the most unequal countries in Latin America.”

When Santos arrives in London, it will be to sell the new Colombia and help to drive British investment, which he sees as potentially a key player in his country’s development. He is not likely to spend much time talking about drugs, but he has this message for young Britons: “I will say to them that, besides the blood that every sniff of cocaine produces, it’s also producing something to which the UK youth and the European youth and the youth around the world are more and more sensitive. It’s creating havoc to the environment. Cocaine is probably the worst enemy of tropical forest. Much of the deforestation that you see in Colombia, in Peru, in Brazil is because of cocaine production. So it is not only the blood that it creates, the violence it creates – it’s destroying the world.”

DRUGS BY NUMBERS

100% Three Andean countries – Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – are responsible for virtually all global coca leaf production, the raw material for cocaine.

149,100 In 2010, coca was cultivated on 149,100 hectares in the Andean countries – an area roughly one and a half times the size of Hong Kong – down from 221,300 hectares in 2000.

6% In 2010, the global area under coca cultivation decreased by 6%, mainly due to a significant reduction in Colombia that was not entirely offset by a small increase in Peru.

732,000 The amount of cocaine seized worldwide in 2009 was 732,000kg – which refers to seizures unadjusted for purity. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that between 46% and 60% of cocaine produced was seized – an indication of the amount manufactured the previous year.

444,000 The best reading of data and estimates suggests that about 440,000kg of pure cocaine was consumed worldwide in 2009. This would be in line with a production estimate of about 1.1m kg and purity adjusted seizures of 615,000kg, plus agricultural and other losses of about 55,000kg (which represents 5% of production).

$85bn The value of the global cocaine market is lower than in the mid-1990s, when prices were much higher and the US market was strong. In 1995, the global market was worth about $165bn, while, in 2009, this had been reduced to just over half of that.

99% Of that $85bn income from global cocaine retail sales in 2009, traffickers are estimated to have reaped about $84bn (almost 99%). The rest went to Andean farmers.

5m The US has the highest prevalence of cocaine use (2.4% of the population, or five million people, aged 15-64), but there are indications of cocaine use declining in the last few years.

$33bn The amount of cocaine consumed in Europe has doubled in the last decade. The volume and value of the western and central European cocaine market, currently valued at $33bn, is now approaching parity with that of the US ($37bn).

80% Two thirds of European cocaine users live in three countries: the UK, Spain and Italy. With Germany and France, these countries represent 80% of European cocaine consumption.

272m Globally, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that between 149 and 272 million people – 3.3%-6.1% of the population aged 15-64 – used illicit drugs at least once in the previous year.

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Plan Colombia not over

Colombian right-wing paramilitary AUC.

United States Undersecretary of State James Steinberg, speaking in Bogota on October 26, claimed the future relationship between Washington and its most favoured client in Latin America, Colombia, would be based on “reciprocity and mutual respect”.

The stated purpose of Steinberg’s visit was to “re-launch the agenda” of US-Colombian relations” by initiating a “High-Level Partnership Dialogue”.

Steinberg’s remarks tied in with similar recent statements by other senior US diplomatic officials. The new rhetoric has been interpreted as nothing less than “the unofficial end of the ‘Plan Colombia’ era” by Just the Facts, a think tank specialising in US-Latin American relations.

It is true that the Obama administration has sought to distance itself from the multi-billion dollar “aid” package to the brutal Colombian regime initiated during the Clinton administration and expanded by Bush.

But it is clear that underlying foreign policy objectives have not changed.

Plan Colombia was sold to the taxpaying public as a necessary component of the “war on drugs”. In fact, it was a vehicle for furthering the traditional designs of US imperialism, of which there is a long and bitter history in Colombia.

Under Plan Colombia, which first received US congressional funding in 2000, billions of dollars have flowed to the Colombian military supposedly to combat the menace of drug trafficking.

This approach flew in the face of research that consistently showed the best and most cost-effective way to deal with the drug problem was by investing in measures to reduce domestic demand.

Planners were well aware that militarising the problem would not lead to a net reduction of cocaine production in the Andean region, but that scarcely mattered.

The drug war provided a justification for the projection of US power into regions controlled by the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas in southern Colombia. This projection used conventional military units and affiliated paramilitaries who engaged in narcotics trafficking on a far greater scale than any of Colombia’s rebel groups.

Having spent US$7.6 billion, Plan Colombia has yielded some noteworthy results. This includes the violent reduction of the FARC’s estimated strength from 20,000 to 8000 (a point dramatically underscored by the November 4 assassination by Colombian special forces of FARC leader Alfonso Cano).

In reality, however, the targets of Washington’s Plan Colombia offensive are not only armed FARC or National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas but also any peasant and indigenous groups standing in the way of capitalist globalisation.

Human Rights Everywhere estimates that today, of the 32 indigenous Colombian peoples faced with the imminent threat of annihilation, 20 are directly threatened by the huge expansion of mining operations.

It would therefore be wrong to describe Plan Colombia as a complete failure. Of course, it has failed miserably to make an impact on drug flows into the US, but in other areas it has proven well worth the investment of public monies on behalf of private economic power.

The corporate legal news outlet Mondaq said on October 17: “The mining industry has progressively gained an important role in the Colombian economy …

“In the past decade, Colombian mining and petroleum industries have doubled their exports; in the first trimester alone of 2010 this sector grew 13.2 percent.”

Colombia possesses the largest coal reserves in the hemisphere. Growth in this sector is predicted to increase exponentially in the next few decades.

It is no accident that this capitalist success story the conquest of Colombia痴 natural resources has coincided with the violent implementation of Plan Colombia.

Military and paramilitary aggression, and chemical warfare via aerial spraying by US contractors, has led to tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more 2.5 million internal refugees the largest refugee crisis in the Americas.

Every refugee has a horrifying story to tell, such as the following testimony provided by a member of the Kwet Wala reservation to Colombian human rights monitoring agency Verdad Abierta: “A family that went out of the reservation disappeared in 2001: father, mother and a nine-year-old child. They were found a few days later in a shallow grave near the [right-wing paramilitary] AUC encampment.

“Their severed sexual organs had been stuffed in their mouth. The child had been scalped with a machete.”

NATO Reveals Airstrike In Support of Troops On the Ground In Pakistan

NATO reveals troops were on the ground in Pakistan

An ISAF spokesman made the startling revelation on Saturday that the Mohmand attack by NATO-ISAF helicopters was in response to a call by ISAF ground forces in the area who called for help when they were attacked.

It was an operation of the Afghan national security forces and coalition forces close to the border in eastern Kunar very early in the day in the darkness. In the situation that developed on the ground, close air support was called by the ground force and it is highly likely that this air support that was then brought forward caused the incident, spokesman Carlston Jacob told a private TV channel. Spokesman Jacob made the disclosure while refusing to give details of the incident.
If his statement is correct it means that US/NATO ground forces were already in the area and when they were trapped or confronted they called for air support which came and killed Pakistan Army troops and officers.
He repeatedly said that he was waiting for the result of investigations and once the full picture was available he would comment.
He also declined to give a time line for concluding the investigation and said it will take its time. We have to go through the process and have to talk with Pakistani side and find out what led to the incident, he said.
He said he regretted the loss of life but did not offer any apologies until the probe was completed. 

The Universal Declaration of Human rights and Its Violation in Balochistan

The Universal Declaration of Human rights and Its Violation in Balochistan

There are 30 articles of Universal Declaration of Human rights, which are violated in Balochistan by Pakistan state and its forces and guilty of all human rights violations but the silence of human rights organizations is a question mark?, A blind man who can’t see but he knows that atrocity is on its peak in Balochistan because he hears the cry of innocent Balochs everyday, as well as dumb who can not speak but he also know about atrocity on Balochs everyday, he can see mutilated dead bodies of Baloch missing persons, but the dumbness of UN and many human rights organizations and NGOs which they are serving in Balochistan can hear well and feel better every thing but are still silent WHY ??? The state has violating all the articles of Universal Declaration of Human rights in Balochistan, Here I have exposed some articles of Universal Declaration of Human rights which are violated in Balochistan by Pakistan on daily basis, every one can hear, see and feel easily.

1.* All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

2. * The behaviour of Pakistani rulers with Balochs are visible, the whole world is watching that Pakistani state enslaved Baloch nation and acting what kind of inhumane treatment with them.

3.* Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. * In 27 march 1948 Pakistan altered liberty of Baloch nation from British colonials into slavery. Since that day until now, not a single day passes a mutilated dead body of a Baloch son has found to their relatives. Everything is unsafe for Balochs.

4.* No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. * On 27 March 1948 Pakistan state forcefully occupied sovereign state of Balochistan and oppressing the Baloch nation and Pakistan itself bargaining Balochistan’s coast and resources with other countries and firming its economy by genocide of Baloch Nation, which is not noticed by any Human rights bodies yet.

5.* No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. * As far as the tyrant inhuman treatment, degrading punishment and cruel torturing is concerned, the state and its secret agencies has tortured to death thousands and thousands of innocent Balochs in their torture cells and still doing it. The cruelty, degrading treatment and inhuman acts including such as giving high electric shots, wipe out the nails of hands and foot and its tops, cut the corpus and then pouring peppers on fresh wounds, taking off all the clothes and then hang up inverted, emitting and taking off the teeth, throw deadly acid and urinate on faces, tighten up and hang up inverted without clothes in extremely cold nights under the open sky, keeping in caves with warm fabrics in extremely hot season, cutting off the hands, arms and foot from entire body and then shot in head and then throw away the dead bodies like a plastic bags. Such inhuman torturing to death, cruelty and tyranny is on daily basis in Balochistan.

6.* Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Violation. * The state law has never considered Balochs as humans or at least the citizens. 8.* Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law. * The state’s court and justice system has never accepted the Freedom of Balochs, and never release those Baloch Freedom lovers who abducted by agencies, the International court of justice is also being silent spectator, they cant hear the voice and feel the pain of Balochs, when 400 people died in Libya the UN reached the sky for Libyan people, but here the thousands and thousands people are been killed since the day of illegal occupation of Balochistan, thousands and thousands are been killed in just last couple of years, the UN is being silent spectator here. 9.* No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. * The Pakistan state since the day of occupation from 1948 till now has arrested thousands of innocent Balochs (including under aged), kidnapped and abducted, among many of them are tortured to death and killed brutally they never came back till today now, themothers and sisters of abducted missing Baloch people protest in front of press clubs on daily basis thinking that their loved ones will return one day home, but not knowing they will never come back and are tortured to death and killed brutally in torture cells of Pakistan, because of this fear thousands of Balochs are living their life in exile outside of their motherland.

10.* Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him. * The rulers and its state agencies arrest and abduct Balochs and put them in torture cells without any tribunal and court charges, later the agency’s death squads shot them to death without any court charges what so ever, no one take them to state court of justice, from last more then 60 years only a very few number has been expounded to courts but they spent their most of their lifetime and even entire lifetime as prisoners, the examples of victims are Wahid Qambar Baloch, Fazul Haider etc and many more.

12.* No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. * Balochs have no value in Pakistan; the state doesn’t ever value Baloch people what so ever, for them we are just criminals. The Pakistani air force has destroyed the homes, personal properties, burned down the vehicles and agricultural properties of Baloch people in heavy military offences since the day of occupation till now still going on, their number is countless, even no any media coverage is allowed, Those Baloch journalists who expose the tyranny and these atrocities are been killed to death by forces without any court charges. Fact is that Pakistan and Pakistanis want ‘Balochistan’ not “Baloch people”, they want to make us slave and colonize us like this forever so they loot Balochs’ resources and give zero in return and we only accept their slavery. As fair as the Honor and reputation is concerned the Pakistan state and its rulers have done and still doing every cheap propaganda, to degrade the Baloch code of Honor and Baloch reputation with the help of their puppet paid sardars, for them we are only criminals, they are been taught in their books Baloch people as criminals and thieves, not only they destroyed and destroying Baloch Honour and reputation, occupied Balochs’ sovereign country and looting Baloch resources but also destroyed and destroying Baloch ancient History, culture and language, everything! by which Nation is known as, they want to wipe Baloch (people) Nation from the face of earth forever (like native Red Indians of America), in order to steal and loot Baloch national treasure, resources from Baloch homeland.

14.* (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. * (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. * Many Baloch leaders are living in exile in abroad leaving their homeland, leaving personal properties, leaving their parents because of state’s continuously tyranny, cruelty and atrocities, even in abroad the state tyrants don’t allow them freely to live peacefully and talk about Baloch and Balochistan’s Freedom, the big examples are arresting of Haribiyar Marri and Faiz Baloch in UK only cause of the millions lies and creating propaganda of Pakistani officials, now they seeking and making propaganda against Brahamdagh Bugti in Switzerland as well by blaming him as terrorist and denying the actual fact that the actual terrorists are state officials, its forces and intelligence agencies death squads, infact, who abduct, kill and then dump dead bodies of innocent Balochs on daily basis in their own homeland, by making Baloch people refugee in Baloch homeland, make us slave, name us as criminals invade Baloch land and occupy Baloch resources and kill Baloch in their own homeland. This leave doubt, don’t know how many Baloch leaders and activists who struggle for the Freedom of Balochistan in abroad are been assassinated and killed secretly by death squad, so that Baloch voice of Freedom don’t spread to world.

15.* (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. * (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. * In Pakistan no any Baloch is allowed to be Baloch Nationality, rather they changing Baloch original identity and nationality from Baloch to fundamentalists lunatic Pakistani forcefully, many Pakistanis have non liberal and non secular mindset, unlike the secular Balochs, for becoming Pakistani we have to be Pakistani (which means non liberal and non secular and possess Talibani-Mulla mindset) which Baloch people don’t accept it at all and the state is changing their original identity and nationality by force, by brainwashing them and taught them the wrong history, since the day when Pakistan occupied Balochistan Baloch people have never accepted Pakistan neither Pakistan state has accepted them as their citizen other then just criminals the state changing Baloch real identity and nationality by force. From the day of occupation on March 1948 till now those thousands and thousands of Baloch been abducted and been killed is because they have always talked about their original nationality, they have been tortured to death.

19.* Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. * In Pakistan no one has right of freedom of speech, opinion and expression, only those have rights who express and give opinion in favour of Pakistan, no matter if their opinion and expression is full of lies, misguidance, aberrancy and misleader or not, but no one has right to talk veritable actual truth or talk in favour of downtrodden for those who victims of tyranny, they have no any right, what so ever, if anyone do then according to Pakistani law they will be called as criminal and will drag to biased court and judges, after the release they will be either abducted and killed to death and their bodies will be found in jungle, or will be blamed in false fraud cases.

26.* (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. * (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. * (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. * All Baloch parents want that their children learn their mother tongue Balochi in schools, as well as scientific studies, but Pakistani state has never tolerated that Baloch people learn their national mother tongue or develop; there is no Balochi language in schools in Pakistan, not even a single school. The only thing Baloch kids are been taught the history of non Baloch (Indian/Pak) history, Indian people, history of Punjap. The wrong history, which is not even related to Baloch and Balochistan and ignore Baloch ancient history. There is only one single University in whole Balochistan (the largest and richest in resource country), in which the quota seats are given to all non Baloch people in majority from Punjap, there is no education for Balochs under the Pakistani regime.

27.* (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. * (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author. *During historical Cultural day of Baloch people on 2nd March 2010, the state facist terrorist forces ambushed on cultural day festival ruined the cultural show and killed several members of Baloch students organization among them Shaheed Junaid Baloch, Shaheed Sikandar Baloch and others, mocking the cultural traditional dress of Baloch people and harassing them by cutting their lower part of Shalwars is not new thing, its in daily basis. Pakistanis and Pakistan state has not only occupied Balochistan and looting Baloch resources but also destroyed and destroying history, culture, traditions and language. Everything! Pakistan is violating all 30 articles out of 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights in Balochistan against Baloch people everywhere, above are those articles which are slap on UN and Human rights organizations, I think there is no any other country is doing that Human rights violation then Pakistan who is violating the Human rights and doing crime against Humanity since 1948, But the UN and Human rights organization are silent. In last I appeal to the UN and Human rights organizations that they should send their officials themselves to Balochistan to see the Human right violation against the Baloch people in their own occupied homeland, and witness the tyranny and atrocities with their own eyes.

(This Article was published in Daily Tawar, written by Johar Baloch Awarani, translated into English by Beebark Kalmati)

On Islamic Sacred days also Baloch received mutilated bodies

On Islamic Sacred days also Baloch received mutilated bodies

Bolan Voice Report

In Islamic state prior to holidays like Eid people return to homes and join families for rejoice and celebration but ill-fated Balochs received mutilated bodies on the eve of this ritual. Instead of joy victim families mourned on this day of happiness and many of them spent entire day protesting for making visible to their missing beloved, because they are in great worry due to ongoing series of tortured bodies throwing. They are jeopardized whether theirs endear may not be next subject to death by torture. In previous month several reports of this story appeared in media, which are as like.

From Lasbela bullet riddled bodies of Faraz Naseem S/o Ulfat Naseem and Omid Ali were found from Windar area of district Lasbela. Eye-witnesses said that bodies of both victims bore clear signs of torture and bullet wounds on their heads. “The bodies bore multiple marks of torture. The bullets passed through their skulls,” family sources confirmed. Faraz Naseem and Omid Ali were abducted by forces in broad day-light in front of scores of people on 9 October 2011 from industrial town of Hub in Balochistan.

Two bullet-ridden bodies were found from different parts of pasni; the first body was founded abandoned in kappar area of the coastal town which was later identified as that of Mulha Bux son of Ibrahim. He was a resident of Nalyt area of Gwadar. The second body was found in Cahlunk region of Pasni town. The corps was identified as that of Zubair Zahid Baloch son of Bashir Baloch. He was a resident of Pasni and had been abducted on October 8, 2011 when he was on his way to Pasni from Gawadar.

Meanwhile two mutilated body have been discovered from Quetta and Mastung town of Balochistan. Sources reported one was found from Sabzal Road Quetta while the other was discovered from Zargat area of Dasht.

Police recovered three bodies from Turbat and Khuzdar. The victims were killed under-custody and abandoned in desolated areas. The bodies have been identified to be of Abdul Samad from Khuzdar and Ex-president of Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Mand zone, Gwahram S/o Khalid, a resident of Mand town. The third body was identified as of Ayyam S/o Mohammad Umer, he too was a resident of Mand town of Balochistan. Both Ayyam and Gwahram Baloch were abducted by security forces few months ago.

Another Baloch Journalist killed. According to reports a brutally tortured bullet-ridden body was found from Gazgi Chowk (Roundabout) area of Khuzdar town in Balochistan. The local authorities shifted the body to a nearby hospital where he has been identified as Jawed Naseer Rind Baloch. Naseer Rind was a Baloch Journalist, Columnist and member of political party Baloch National Movement (BNM). He was abducted on September 10, 2011 about 9 Pm by security agencies from his computer shop in Hub, the lone industrial town of Balochistan. Eye-witnesses had reported that over a dozen armed men came in two cars and ransacked the Baloch Journalist’s shop; a while later they saw the men dragging Naseer Rind to their car and drove off. Jawed Rind’s whereabouts remained unknown until 5-11-2011 when the unknown killed him under torture and dumped his body away.

A mutilated body of Baloch youth found from Dasht area of district Mastung. Afterward he had been identified as Mir Ahmed Marri, who was abducted from Hyderabad few days back. The relative of victim buried corpse in New Kahan in the suburb of Quetta an allocated ground for Baloch Martyred graveyard. The witness told media men that Mir Ahmed Marri was killed by torture and was signs of bullets on his upper torso.

If India is Most Favorite Nation, then who is responsible in Balochistan turbulence? Lashkari Raisani

If India is Most Favorite Nation, then who is responsible in Balochistan turbulence? Lashkari Raisani

By Asghar Khan Baloch

In previous days state foreign policy got somersaulted when Pakistani Foreign Minister Ms. Hina Rubbani Khar during press briefing to media representatives announced that Pakistan is going to declare India “Most Favorite Nation (MFN)” for trade. She claimed that present People Party government has taken all institutes in confidence about this resolve. Contrary to Ms. Khar claiming several personalities, politicians, parties including institutes have expressed dissuasion about this initiative. Because this decision doesn’t match with Pakistan’s ideology of structure, which has been teaching to country citizens from its day of creation that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations. In this regard state institutes and authorities policies and claims become baseless or slacken that India is involved in Balochistan insurgency. Because by now state is going to knot trade ties with those who are heathen and pagan as well natural enemy of fortress of Islam Pakistan, called by state authorities. From this it seems that powerful or state does always right and powerless Baloch and Sindhi nationalists’ deeds are sinful. Former president of Pakistan People Party Balochistan and presently holding seat in senate Haji Lashkari Raisani expressed amazement on declaring India Most Favorite Nation. In past rulers who had made ties with India had declared traitor and they were banished, as well they were severely tortured, and that’s why now state has to apologize to those leaders. He said. Talking to media men Mr. Raisani said that from first day the small provinces adopted stance that India isn’t our foe but she is our neighbor. The state wasn’t agree to concede this logic. I am amazed on declaring India as Most Favorite Nation by state. He expressed. We have been taught for six decades that India is not our neighbor but only enemy and she is involved in Balochistan turbulence through her agency “Raw”. But now suddenly enemy state is being declared Most Favorite, so being a Balochistani this question raises in my mind that if India is Favorite Nation then who is responsible for unrest in Balochistan? He inquired. Mr. Raisani queried that they need explanations of this blame, if favorite country is not involved in Balochistan disorder, then might be state’s agencies or international powers responsible for this? The divulging of this mystery is also responsibility of state. Mr. Raisani remarked. In past political leaders had been declared traitor by state for making efforts to establish ties with India. Such leaders had suffered in agonies of prison by state, but today Pakistan is declaring India as Most Favorite Nation, thus present rulers also have to apologize for doing this misdeed. He emphasized. Mr. Raisani expressed concern about non-commence of negotiation process in Balochistan due to lacking seriousness in matter, hence this process is not advancing. Albeit President and Prime Minister have made authorized to Chief Minister and Governor Balochistan for negotiations with estrange Balochs, now it depends on them how to deal the matter in large interest of province and country. He is unaware whether CM and Governor have contacted to someone or not. Mr. Raisani Maintained. I found both sides groups faulty because of contradiction in allegations. But I consider responsible state for being more powerful. Some people had contacted me and were intended to be part of negotiation honorably, but I have not received positive response from state authorities, because of that I got disappointed. We are living in an interconnected society; hence interactions with each other are natural facts. Mr. Lashkari Raisani informed.

In the words of a zealot…

In the words of a zealot…

Swami Aseemanand’s chilling confession is the first legal evidence of RSS pracharaks’ involvement in the Samjhauta Express and 2006 Malegaon blasts. ASHISH KHETAN scoops the 42-page document that reveals a frightening story of hate and deliberate mayhem

IN THEWORDSOF AZEALOT

ON 18 DECEMBER 2010, a team of CBI sleuths escorted an elderly Bengali man Naba Kumar Sarkar, 59 — popularly known as Swami Aseemanand — from Tihar jail to the Tis Hazari court in Delhi, where he was produced before metropolitan magistrate Deepak Dabas. Aseemanand is the key accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast that killed nine people. This was his second court appearance in a span of little over 48 hours. On 16 December, Aseemanand had requested the magistrate to record his confession about his involvement in a string of terror attacks. He stated that he was making the confession without any fear, force, coercion or inducement.

In accordance with the law, the magistrate asked Aseemanand to reflect over his decision and sent him to judicial custody for two days — away from any police interference or influence.

On 18 December, Aseemanand returned, resolute. The magistrate asked everybody except his stenographer to leave his chamber. “I know I can be sentenced to the death penalty but I still want to make the confession,” Aseemanand said.

Over the next five hours, in an unprecedented move, Aseemanand laid bare an explosive story about the involvement of a few Hindutva leaders, including himself, in planning and executing a series of gruesome terror attacks. Over the past few years, several pieces of the Hindutva terror puzzle have slowly been falling into place — each piece corroborating and validating what has gone before. First, the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Dayanand Pandey, Lt Col Shrikant Purohit and others in 2008. The seizure of 37 audio tapes from Pandey’s laptop that featured all these people discussing their terror activities. And most recently, the Rajasthan ATS’ chargesheet on the 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast. Aseemanand’s confession, however, is likely to prove one of the most crucial pieces for investigative agencies.

Unlike police interrogation reports or confessions, under clause 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), confessions before a magistrate are considered legally admissible evidence. Aseemanand’s statement, therefore, is extremely crucial and will have serious ramifications.

According to him, it was not Muslim boys but a team of RSS pracharaks who exploded bombs in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, on the Samjhauta Express in 2007, in Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and Mecca Masjid in 2007. Apart from the tragic loss of innocent lives in these blasts, what makes this admission doubly disturbing is that, in keeping with their habitual practice, scores of Muslim boys were wrongly picked up by the Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra Police, in collusion with sections of the Intelligence Bureau, and tortured and jailed for these blasts — accentuating the shrill paranoia about a vast and homegrown Islamist terror network. Many of these boys were acquitted after years in jail; some are still languishing inside, their youth and future destroyed, their families reduced to penury.

In a curious twist, however, in one of those inexplicable human experiences that no one can account for, according to Aseemanand, it was an encounter with one of these jailed Muslim boys that triggered a momentous emotional transformation in him, forcing him to confront his conscience and make amends. This is what Aseemanand told the judge: “Sir, when I was lodged in Chanchalguda district jail in Hyderabad, one of my co-inmates was Kaleem. During my interaction with Kaleem I learnt that he was previously arrested in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case and he had to spend about oneand- a-half years in prison. During my stay in jail, Kaleem helped me a lot and used to serve me by bringing water, food, etc for me. I was very moved by Kaleem’s good conduct and my conscience asked me to do prayschit (penance) by making a confessional statement so that real culprits can be punished and no innocent has to suffer.”

At this point, the magistrate asked his stenographer to leave so the confession could continue without restraint.

Tell-all evidence? A photocopy of Swami Aseemanand’s 42-page confession before the magistrate
Tell-all evidence? A photocopy of Swami Aseemanand’s 42-page confession before the magistrate

In a signed statement written in Hindi that runs into 42 pages — and which is in TEHELKA’s possession — Aseemanand then proceeded to unravel the inner workings of the Hindutva terror network. According to him, it was not just a rump group like the ultra-right wing organisation Abhinav Bharat that engineered blasts but, shockingly, RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar who allegedly handpicked and financed some RSS pracharaks to carry out terror attacks.

“Indreshji met me at Shabri Dham (Aseemanand’s ashram in the Dangs district of Gujarat) sometime in 2005,” Aseemanand told the magistrate. “He was accompanied by many top RSS functionaries. He told me that exploding bombs was not my job and instead told me to focus on the tribal welfare work assigned to me by the RSS. He said he had deputed Sunil Joshi for this job (terror attacks) and he would extend Joshi whatever help was required.” Aseemanand further narrated how Indresh financed Joshi for his terror activities and provided him men to plant bombs. Aseemanand also confessed to his own role in the terror plots and how he had motivated a bunch of RSS pracharaks and other Hindu radicals to carry out terror strikes at Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer. (TEHELKA tried contacting Indresh several times for his side of the story. He said he would call back but didn’t.)

While evidence of the involvement of RSS pracharaks in the Mecca Masjid and Ajmer blasts has been growing with every new arrest, Aseemanand’s confession is the first direct evidence of the involvement of Hindutva extremists in the 2006 Malegaon blasts and the Samjhauta Express blast. The evidence — both, direct and indirect — pieced together by the CBI shows that the broad terror conspiracy to target Muslims and their places of religious worship was hatched around 2001.

Three RSS pracharaks from Madhya Pradesh — Sunil Joshi, Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange — were apparently at the core of this conspiracy. As the three became more audacious in their terror ambitions they started inducting like-minded Hindutva radicals from other states, mainly Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. While the new entrants were mostly from the RSS, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, some members of fringe saffron groups like Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram also joined the fray.

However, Joshi, Kalsangra and Dange took the precaution of not sharing too many details with members outside the core group. Joshi strictly followed the doctrine of division of work on a ‘need-tok-now’ basis, with each member knowing only his part of the job.

Aseemanand, who ran a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Dang, first came in contact with Sunil Joshi in 2003 but it was only in March 2006 that he became actively involved in the terror plot.

It was the spirited investigation into the 2008 Malegaon blast by Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare that first blew the lid off this broad Hindutva terror conspiracy. Karkare arrested 11 Hindutva radicals, including Lt Col Purohit, who was attached with the military intelligence unit at Nashik; Dayanand Pandey, a self-styled religious guru who ran an ashram named Sharda Peeth in Jammu and Sadhvi Pragya, an ABVP leader turned into an ascetic, for their role in the 2008 Malegaon blast.

But Karkare’s sudden and ironic killing at the hands of Islamist jihadis in the Mumbai 26/11 attack derailed the saffron terror investigation. The Maharashtra ATS under its new chief KP Raghuvanshi failed to arrest Ramchandra Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange and instead passed them off as minor players in the chargesheet.

The investigation picked up pace again in May 2010 with the arrest of two RSS pracharaks — Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma — by the Rajasthan ATS which was probing the Ajmer blast case. Gupta was the RSS Vibagh Pracharak of Muzaffarnagar, Bihar. He provided logistical support to Joshi, Kalsangra and Dange and harboured the latter two in RSS offices while they were on the run from agencies.

Lokesh Sharma was a RSS worker close to Joshi. He purchased the two Nokia phones that were used to trigger bombs at Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif. It is Sharma’s interrogation that revealed for the first time that RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar was a key figure in the terror conspiracy. The joint investigation of the Rajasthan ATS and CBI, in fact, went on to reveal that, except Pragya Singh Thakur, all those who were arrested by the Maharashtra ATS in 2008 were actually fringe players while the core group comprising Indresh Kumar, Kalsangra and Dange allegedly held the key to the full terror plot.

In June 2010, the CBI examined a witness named Bharat Riteshwar, a resident of district Valsad in Gujarat and a close associate of Swami Aseemanand. Riteshwar told the CBI that Sunil Joshi was a protégé of Indresh and had his approval and logistical support for carrying out terror attacks.

On 19 November 2010 the CBI cracked down on a hideout in Haridwar and arrested Swami Aseemanand, who had been a fugitive for over two years since Sadhvi Pragya’s arrest in October 2008. His arrest unlocked many more pieces.

NABA KUMAR — alias Swami Aseemanand — was originally from Kamaarpukar village in Hooghly district in West Bengal — the birthplace of Ramakrishna Paramhansa. In 1971, after completing his BSc (honours) from Hooghly, Naba Kumar went to Bardman district to pursue a master’s degree in science. Though he was involved with RSS activities from school, it was during his post-graduation years that Naba Kumar became an active RSS member. In 1977, he started working full-time with the RSS-run Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Purulia and Bankura districts. In 1981, his guru Swami Parmanand rechristened him as Swami Aseemanand.

From 1988 to 1993, he served with the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram at Andaman and Nicobar islands. Between 1993 and 1997, he toured across India to deliver sermons on Hindu religion among the tribals. In 1997, he settled down in the Dangs district in Gujarat and started a tribal welfare organisation called Shabri Dham. Aseemanand was known in the area for his rabid anti-minority speeches and his relentless campaign against Christian missionaries.

Aseemanand is seen as being close to the RSS leadership. In the past, leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, former RSS chief KS Sudarshan and current chief Mohan Bhagwat have attended religious functions organised by him at Shabri Dham.

While Aseemanand was known for his vitriolic anti-minority positions, according to his confession, it was the heinous massacre of Hindu devotees at Akshardham temple by Islamist suicide bombers in 2002 that was the first real kindle for their retaliatory terror attacks.

“The Muslim terrorists started attacking Hindu temples in 2002,” Aseemanand said. “This caused great concern and anger in me. I used to share my concerns about the growing menace of Islamic terrorism with Bharat Riteshwar of Valsad.”

In 2003, Aseemanand came in contact with Sunil Joshi and Pragya Singh Thakur. He would often discuss Islamist terrorism with them as well. Finally, according to him, it was the terror attack on Sankatmochan temple in Varanasi in March 2006 which was the real flashpoint for them.

“In March 2006, Pragya Thakur, Sunil Joshi, Bharat Riteshwar and I decided to give a befitting reply to the Sankatmochan blasts,” Aseemanand told the magistrate.

Aseemanand gave Rs. 25,000 to Joshi to arrange the necessary logistics for the blasts. He also sent Joshi and Riteshwar to Gorakhpur to seek assistance from firebrand BJP MP Yogi Adityanath. In April 2006, Joshi apparently held a hush-hush meeting with the Adityanath, infamous for his rabid anti-Muslim speeches. But Aseemanand says, “Joshi came back and told me that Adityanath was not of much help.”

However, this did not deter Aseemanand. He went ahead with his plans.

In June 2006, Aseemanand, Riteshwar, Sadhvi Pragya and Joshi again met at Riteshwar’s house in Valsad. It proved to be a chilling one, with far-reaching consequences. Joshi, for the first time, brought four associates with him — Dange, Kalsangra, Lokesh Sharma and Ashok alias Amit.

“I told everybody that bomb ka jawab bomb se dena chahiye, (I told everyone we should answer bombs with bombs),” says Aseemanand. “At that meeting I realised Joshi and his group were already doing something on the subject,” he adds.

“After the combined meeting,” Aseemanand says, “Joshi, Pragya, Riteshwar and I huddled together for a separate meeting. I suggested that 80 percent of the people of Malegaon were Muslims and we should explode the first bomb in Malegaon itself. I also said that during the Partition, the Nizam of Hyderabad had wanted to go with Pakistan so Hyderabad was also a fair target. Then I said that since Hindus also throng the Ajmer Sharif Dargah in large numbers we should also explode a bomb in Ajmer which would deter the Hindus from going there. I also suggested the Aligarh Muslim University as a terror target.”

According to Aseemanand everybody agreed to target these places.

“In the meeting,” Aseemanand continues, “Joshi suggested that it was basically Pakistanis who travel on the Samjhauta Express train that runs between India and Pakistan and therefore we should attack the train as well. Joshi took the responsibility of targeting Samjhauta himself and said that the chemicals required for the blasts would be arranged by Dange.”

Aseemanand’s confession goes on in grave detail. “Joshi said three teams would be constituted to execute the blasts. One team would arrange finance and logistics. The second team would arrange for the explosives. And the third team would plant the bombs. He also said that the members of one team should not know members from the other two teams. So even if one gets arrested the others would remain safe,” Aseemanand told the magistrate.

Hate and anger had slipped off the edge into mayhem.

‘Since Hindus throng the Ajmer Sharif Dargah we thought a bomb blast in Ajmer would deter Hindus from going there,’ the Swami said

ON 8 SEPTEMBER 2006, at 1.30 pm, four bombs exploded in the communally tense town of Malegaon in Maharashtra. Besides being a Friday, the Muslim festival Shab-e-barat was being observed. Three bombs went off in the compound of the Hamidiya Masjid and Bada Kabrastan. A fourth bomb exploded at Mushawart Chowk.

Out of three bombs, one was placed at the entrance gate of Hamidiya Masjid and Bada Kabrastan, the second on a bicycle parked in the parking lot situated inside the compound and the third was hung on the wall of the power supply room situated in front of Vaju Khana, inside the compound. The fourth bomb went off in the crowded junction of Mushawart Chowk, which was placed on a bicycle, near an electric pole. The attack was meticulously planned; the bombs exploded in quick succession. Thirty one Muslims were killed; over 312 were injured.

In a suspiciously swift investigation, the Maharashtra ATS arraigned nine Malegaon Muslims within 90 days. Eight of these were members of the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), the outlawed radical Muslim outfit. Another three Malegaon Muslims were shown absconding. Stringent provisions of the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) were invoked.

On 21 December 2006, the same day that the ATS filed the chargesheet against the nine Malegaon Muslims, the Maharashtra government asked the CBI to take over the probe. In effect, the CBI was presented with a fait accompli: the case had already been so-called solved and the accused had been chargesheeted.

A year ago, the CBI filed a supplementary chargesheet but failed to produce any material evidence. For over four years, these nine Malegaon Muslims have been languishing in prison. Aseemanand’s confession now seems proof that the boys were innocent and had been arrested merely to deflect criticism and create a false sense of security among Indian citizens that the blast cases were being “solved”. The real mastermind, according to Aseemanand, was Sunil Joshi. And it was Aseemanand himself who had persuaded Joshi to explode bombs in Malegaon.

This is what he told the magistrate. “Joshi came to see me at Shabri Dham on Diwali in 2006. The Malegaon blasts had already happened. Sunil told me the blasts were carried out by our men. I said the newspaper reports had mentioned that Muslims were behind the blasts and a few Muslims had also been arrested. Sunil assured me the blasts were carried out by him but he refused to reveal the identity of our men who had executed the blasts.”

ON 18 February 2007, on the eve of the then Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri’s visit to India to carry forward the peace dialogue, two powerful bombs went off around midnight in two coaches of the cross-border Samjhauta Express, running between Delhi and Lahore. The train had reached Diwana near Panipat, 80 km north of Delhi. The coaches turned into an inferno. The third bomb placed in another coach failed to detonate. Sixty eight people were killed. Dozens were injured. The peace dialogue received a big setback.

Investigation revealed that three suitcases filled with detonators, timers, iron pipes containing explosives and bottles filled with petrol and kerosene had been smuggled into the three coaches.

The needle of suspicion veered immediately to Pakistani extremists. Depending upon which investigating agency you were speaking to, Pakistan-based terror outfits mainly Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)were blamed for the blasts. Even the US State Department called the terror attack a joint operation of the LeT and HUJI. The Haryana Police tracked down some of the material used in the blasts as being procured from a market in Indore but the trail soon went cold.

In November 2008, the Maharashtra ATS told a court in Nashik that Lt Col Purohit had procured 60 kg of RDX from Jammu & Kashmir in 2006 and a part of it was suspected to have been used in the Samjhauta Express blasts. But the ATS subsequently failed to back its claims with any evidence and was forced to retract. The Haryana cops travelled to Mumbai and interrogated Purohit and other Malegaon accused but could not find any evidence that could link them to the Samjhauta blasts.

In July 2010, the Samjhauta blast probe was handed over to the National Investigating Agency (NIA). Though it still leaves some questions and loose ends, Aseemanand’s confession now joins many other dots in relation to the Samjhauta Express.

The massacre of Hindu devotees at the Akshardham temple by Islamist bombers in 2002 was the first real kindle for the retaliatory attacks

“In February 2007,” Aseemanand told the magistrate, “Riteshwar and Joshi came on a motorbike to a Lord Shiva temple in a place called Balpur. As we had fixed this place for our meeting, I was already there, waiting for the two. Joshi told me in the next two days there would be a piece of good news and I should keep a tab on the newspapers. After the meeting I came back to Shabri Dham and Joshi and Riteshwar went their way. After a couple of days I went to meet Riteshwar at his Valsad residence. Joshi and Pragya were already present there. The Samjhauta Express blasts had happened. I asked Joshi how he was present there while Samjhauta had already happened in Haryana. Joshi replied that the blasts were done by his men.”

“In the same meeting,” Aseemanand continues, “Joshi took Rs. 40,000 from me to carry out the blasts in Hyderabad. A few months later, Joshi telephoned me and told me to keep a tab on the newspapers as some good news was in the offing. In a few days the news of the Mecca Masjid blast appeared in the papers. After 7-8 days, Joshi came to Shabri Dham and brought a Telegu newspaper with him. It had a picture of the blast. I told Joshi that in the papers it had appeared that some Muslim boys had been rounded up for the blast. But Joshi replied it was done by our people.”

LIKE IN the case of the 2006 Malegaon blast, 17 May 2007 was a Friday. At 1.30 pm, as over 4,000 Muslims assembled to offer their Friday prayers at the iconic Mecca Masjid, situated near the Charminar in the old city of Hyderabad, a bomb went off near the Wazu Khana (fountain) meant for doing wazu (ablution before prayers) inside the mosque.

Another IED contained in a blue rexine bag was found hanging near the door-way at the northern end of the mosque. Miraculously, this bomb had not exploded. With no substantive clue emerging from the blast investigation, in a cynical move, the Hyderabad police launched a mop-up operation against local Muslim boys, who were associated with Ahle Hadess, the doggedly fundamentalist sect among Sunni Muslims. Friends and family members of some known local Muslim extremists like Shahid Bilal, who had fled to Pakistan, were also rounded up. In a span of two weeks, over three dozen boys from Malakpet and Saidabaad were picked up and tortured. However, when the police failed to link them to the Mecca Masjid case, they registered three separate bogus cases and implicated the detainees in these cases.

On 9 June 2007, the CBI took over the investigation into the Mecca Masjid case.

A few months later, on 11 October 2007, during the month of Ramzan, at 6.15 pm, as Muslim devotees had begun their iftaar at Ajmer Sharif dargah, a powerful bomb went off near a tree in the compound, killing three people and injuring over a dozen. Investigators found one more unexploded IED at the site.

Swami says, ‘Joshi told me to keep a tab on the papers as some good news was in the offing. Soon after, news of the Mecca Masjid blast appeared’

According to Aseemanand, this blast had been executed by Muslim boys provided by Indresh Kumar. “A couple of days after the Ajmer blast Joshi came to see me. He was accompanied by two men named Raj and Mehul who had also visited Shabri Dham on previous occasions. Joshi claimed his men had perpetrated the blast and he was also present at Ajmer Dargah at the time of the blast. He said that Indresh had provided him two Muslim boys to plant the bomb. I told Joshi that if the Muslim boys get caught, Indresh would get exposed. I also told Joshi that Indresh might get him killed and told him to stay at Shabri Dham. Joshi then told me that Raj and Mehul were wanted in the Baroda Best Bakery case (12 Muslims were killed by rioters in Best Bakery in Gujarat 2002). I told Joshi not to keep Raj and Mehul at the ashram as it would not be safe for them to stay in Gujarat. Joshi, along with the two men, left for Dewas the next day,” said Aseemanand.

Barely two months later, on 29 December 2007, in a sudden twist, Aseemanand’s fears came true. Sunil Joshi was mysteriously murdered outside his house in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. His family claimed he had been murdered by his own organisation. After her arrest, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur also suggested this. But the Madhya Pradesh Police failed to solve the case and filed a closure report in the court.

At the end of December 2010 though, acting on fresh leads, the Madhya Pradesh police finally accepted that Joshi had been murdered by his own friends in the RSS. They charged Mayank, Harshad Solanki, Mehul and Mohan from Gujarat, Anand Raj Katare from Indore and Vasudev Parmar from Dewas with Joshi’s murder. While Mehul and Mohan are still on the run, Solanki was brought before the Dewas court where he confessed to the murder. However, even these arrests don’t join all the dots. The police claim internal rivalry as the motive for the murder. The CBI, though, believes the real motive behind Joshi’s murder was to silence him. Joshi knew too much about the terror conspiracy and his masters were perhaps wary that they might get exposed.

ABDUL KALEEM ABDUL KALEEM, 21
The Muslim boy who triggered an unlikely conversion in jail
Kaleem, a cell phone seller, was arrested and tortured in 2007 for a blast at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad. He spent a year-and-half in jail before being acquitted. Soon after, he was back in jail on another charge, when he met Swami Aseemanand. The Swami was struck by the boy’s kindness. When he heard that Kaleem was blamed for a blast that he and his comrades had done, he was profoundly affected and decided to confess as an act of penance.

Sunil Joshi’s murder leaves many unanswered questions. If he was one of the key figures in the terror conspiracy, as many of those arrested testify that he was, why would his comrades want to bump him off? If he was a protégé of Indresh Kumar, acting on his orders and with his sanction, why would his mentor want him dead? What could have created a rift or fallout between all of them? The murder suggests a murky and inexplicable factionalism within the sinister grouping.

With Joshi dead and much of Aseemanand’s confession based on things Joshi had told him about the blasts, it might seem that Aseemanand’s confession runs thin in certain portions and is, therefore, of uneven consequence. But Joshi was not the only piece in the puzzle. Aseemanand’s confession is powerful because it implicates himself at every juncture and points to a network of Hindutva pracharaks, who not only participated in the terror plots but were moved around and sheltered by sections of the organisation while they were on the run. Investigators believe that the arrests of Kalsangra and Dange would provide the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Joshi’s death didn’t mean the end of the horrific blasts — at least from the ultra-Hindutva side. The terror infrastructure he had created along with a few other RSS men continued to function.

ASEEMANAND CONFESSED coming into contact with the shadowy saffron terror outfit Abhinav Bharat in January 2007. Col Purohit was one of the founder members of the outfit. Aseemanand has confessed to proposing more terror strikes in a meeting of Abhinav Bharat held at Bhopal in April 2008. Sadhvi Pragya, Bharat Riteshwar, Col Purohit and Dayanand Pandey were also present in the meeting. “I participated in many Abhinav Bharat meetings and proposed to carry out more terror strikes,” Aseemanand told the magistrate.

On 29 September 2008, horror struck again. During Islam’s holy month of Ramzan, an IED went off at Bhikku Chowk, a Muslim neighbourhood in Malegaon. The bomb was concealed in a motorcycle parked in front of a locked office of SIMI. Given the paranoia that had grown around Islamist terror, it had become an accepted maxim that members of SIMI were behind every blast. No proof was ever required. Placing a bomb in front of their office, therefore, was an act of deadly symbolism for the Hindutva outfits.

A similar bomb blast was triggered almost simultaneously hundreds of miles away in a small town called Modasa in Gujarat. Like in Malegaon, the blast took place in a Muslim colony named Sukka Bazaar, outside a mosque when special Ramzan prayers were being offered. Like in Malegaon, the bomb was again concealed in a motorcycle. The two blasts were separated by a gap of five minutes.

The Malgeaon blast killed seven Muslims, including a three-year-old boy. The Modasa blast resulted in the death of a 15-year-old boy. Several others were injured.

‘I told my comrades that since the Nizam had wanted to opt for Pakistan during Partition, Hyderabad was also a fair target for us,’ the Swami said

It is a measure of the deep-seated bias that had crept into the Indian justice system that even when deadly blasts went off in the midst of Muslim neighbourhoods and mosques, Muslim boys were still automatically blamed for them. It was beyond anyone’s imagination that Hindutva groups could be behind the inhuman acts.

But as Aseemanand says, “Sometime in October 2008, Dange phoned me and said he wanted to come to Shabri Dham and stay there for a few days. I told him that since I was setting out for Nadiad (Gujarat), it would not be a good idea for him to stay there in my absence. Then Dange requested me to pick him up from a place called Vyara and drop him to Baroda which was on the way to Nadiad. I picked up Dange from Vyara bus stop in my Santro car. He was accompanied by Ramji Kalsangra. Both were carrying two or three bags stuffed with some heavy objects. They told me they were coming from Maharashtra. I dropped them at Rajpipla junction at Baroda. I later realised that it was just a day after the Malegaon blast,” said Aseemanand, before concluding his statement. His confession further corroborates the evidence put together by Karkare.

After the Maharashtra ATS arrested Sadhvi Pragya in connection with the 2008 Malegaon blast, Aseemanand went absconding. He was finally arrested by the CBI from Haridwar on 19 November 2010.

THE EMERGENCE of Hindutva terror does not leach away the horror of Islamist terror attacks on places like the Akshardham temple, Sankatmochan mandir and German Bakery in Pune, amongst others. But Aseemanand’s confession will raise many uncomfortable questions for the RSS. It is no one’s case that the actions of a few tars an entire organisation. But there are urgent questions the RSS needs to confront within itself. And answer to the nation.

Given the growing evidence about the involvement of RSS pracharaks in a series of terror blasts, how will the RSS leadership respond?

Many of these terror blasts display a high degree of sophistication in the planning and devices used, with RDX and complex bomb designs being deployed in several of them. Given that most of the foot-soldiers accused for these blasts are of very humble backgrounds, is it possible that they could execute these blasts without support and sanction from the top? Given the strictly hierarchical and disciplined nature of the organisation, is it possible that they were acting without the knowledge of their superiors? Most crucially, given the gathering evidence about the involvement of several RSS pracharaks and other affiliates in this series of terror blasts, how will the RSS leadership respond? If it is true that some members of their organisation have turned rogue, will they seek the most stringent punishment for them? The Hindutva worldview may be politically opposed to minority rights, but will it go far enough to watch some of its members drag the country further down the suicidal course of competitive terrorism between Islamist and Hindutva extremists? Or will it opt for the saner option of a cleansing within.

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ashish.journo@gmail.com

India must face up to Hindu terrorism

India must face up to Hindu terrorism

India’s anti-minorities bias is so strong that it has failed to acknowledge the threat posed by Hindu radicalism

Indian Hindu priests

The Indian state’s pro-Hindu stance has left it unwilling to tackle Hindu extremism. Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images

For far too long, the enduring response of the Indian establishment to Hindu nationalists has rarely surpassed mild scorn. Their organised violent eruptions across the country – slaughtering Muslims and Christians, destroying their places of worship, cutting open pregnant wombs – never seemed sufficient enough to the state to cast them as a meaningful threat to India’s national security.

But the recently leaked confession of a repentant Hindu priest, Swami Aseemanand, confirms what India’s security establishment should have uncovered: a series of blasts between 2006 and 2008 were carried out by Hindu outfits. The attacks targeted a predominantly Muslim town and places of Muslim worship elsewhere. Their victims were primarily Muslim. Yet the reflexive reaction of the police was to round up young Muslim men, torture them, extract confessions and declare the cases solved.

Pundits now conduct cautious enquiries on television. Does this revelation mean India is now under attack by “Hindu terrorism”? But to treat this as a new phenomenon is to overlook the bulky corpus of terrorist violence in India that has its roots in explicitly Hindu-political grievances. Why is the attack on a Jewish centre in Mumbai by Pakistani gunmen an example of “Islamic terrorism”, but the slaughter of a thousand Muslims by sword-wielding Hindus in Gujarat in 2002 not proof of “Hindu terrorism”, particularly when the purpose of the violence was to establish an Hindu state in India? How do we describe attacks on churches, the kidnappings of pastors, the burning to death of a missionary? What do we make of the war-cry pehle kasai, phir isai: first the butchers (Muslims), then the Christians? What has prompted this debate over “Hindu terrorism” is not Aseemanand’s confession: it is the fact that, in carrying out their violence, his accomplices appropriated methods which, in popular imagination, have become associated exclusively with Islamic terrorism. Detonating bombs in crowded areas: isn’t that what Muslims do?

It is when you look at the reactions to non-Hindu extremism that you absorb how strongly majoritarian assumptions inform the state and society’s conduct in India. In 2002, the Indian government banned the radical Muslim group Simi (Students’ Islamic Movement of India) citing the group’s charter, which seeks to establish sharia rule in India, and the terror charges some of its members were facing. But the Hindu radical outfit RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the National Volunteer Corps) remains open for business – even though it campaigns, very openly, for a Hindu state in India, and its members incite and perpetrate violence against Muslim and Christian minorities. Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin was a member of the RSS, as are Aseemanand and his confreres. To get an idea of which of the two groups poses a more immediate threat to India, consider this: the government that banned Simi was headed by the BJP, the political wing of the RSS.

The principal cause of Hindu radicalism, much like its Muslim counterpart in Pakistan, is the partition of India in 1947. The departing British hacked India apart to accommodate the Muslim League’s demand for an exclusive homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims – and so, the Hindu nationalist logic runs, the territory that remained should logically be identified as the land of Hindus. If Pakistan’s Muslim majoritarianism crystallised around the bogey of “Hindu raj”, the Hindu nationalist project thrives by casting the burden of partition on India’s Muslim minorities – fifth columnists whose coreligionists tore India apart by claiming, in spite of a millennium-long sojourn in India, to be foreigners by virtue of their faith.

For all the saffron calumny, it is impossible to find a community more emphatically committed to India than its Muslims. India’s Hindus never had to make a choice. The Muslims did. Consider what an ordinary Muslim family in 1947 would have had to deal with: terrified by the violence that the partition had unleashed, their coreligionists were fleeing in the millions to Pakistan; Hindu and Sikh fanatics were actively seeking out Muslims for slaughter and rape; the possibility of being betrayed by neighbours and friends was far from remote. Sardar Patel, the second most powerful functionary in the Indian government, was openly hostile to Muslims – hostility which no doubt would have been seen by many Hindus as tacit endorsement of their actions. Amidst all this, the sole authoritative source of reassurance would have been the distant pledges of a better tomorrow by Jawaharlal Nehru. The Muslims who remained, who refused to vacate the hell that was India despite the blandishments of paradise next door in Pakistan, affirmed their faith in India with their lives.

After all this, it is staggering that the Hindu right gets away so easily by routinely humiliating Indian Muslims. From demographics to diet, personal laws to places of worship, Muslims are suspect in everything they do. Adding a dash of foreign authority, glamour and fuel to this unbridled bigotry is the lavatorial “scholarship” of frustrated European converts to Hinduism such as François Gautier and Koenraad Elst. Misfits in their own societies, they have flourished by exploiting communal tensions in a miserably poor country. What the Muslims did to Hindus was worse than the Jewish Holocaust explains one, while the other warns Hindus that they are being outbred by Muslims. The JNU historian Tanika Sarkar was perhaps right in identifying “penis envy and anxiety about emasculation” among the principal reasons for anti-Muslim bigotry.

The Indian state has failed appallingly in its obligations to Muslim citizens. There are 150 million Muslims in India, but as the government’s own figures show, only 4% are graduates, 5% have public employment, an overwhelming majority remain locked out of public institutions, and their access to government loans and education is severely restricted. If this institutional exclusion should breed resentment, and the resentment produce violence, no one will hesitate to call it another instance of Islamic terrorism. But when self-pitying Hindus massacre minorities and detonate bombs in the midst of Muslim crowds, we are expected to be polite. No, let us call it what it actually is: Hindu terrorism.

Deconstructing Imran Khan’s Taliban narrative — III

Deconstructing Imran Khan’s Taliban narrative — III

—Farhat Taj

The government led by Mr Zardari’s party can be questioned for giving in to the establishment’s pressure by surrendering its authority and responsibility regarding foreign policy but to blame it for anything wrong with the foreign policy, including the war on terror, is misleading

Imran Khan claims that there were no suicide attacks in Pakistan before the US drone attacks and Pakistan Army operations in FATA. This is factually wrong. Suicide attacks have been happening before the US drone attacks and/or military operations in FATA. One of the deadliest suicide attacks was on the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995. The other devastating suicide attack, also known as Karachigate, was on French engineers in Karachi. Both attacks have nothing to do with FATA, its people, culture and the US drone attacks or the Pakistan Army operations in the area. The attack on the Egyptian embassy was carried out by al Qaeda Arabs and the other attack is said to be revenge from the French authorities over a dispute about kickbacks in a French submarine sales contract with Pakistan. The French investigators have also been investigating al Qaeda linkages to the attack.

The suicide attacks rooted in FATA began to happen in Pakistan after the ISI implanted the jihadi infrastructure in the area through fake military operations that killed innocent civilians but left the Taliban unharmed, and peace deals that slipped the area into the hands of the Arab, Uzbek, Punjabi and Pakhtun militants. The last ethnic group of the militants, the local Pakhtun, were also strengthened through awards of development contracts, including those funded by western donors, to the relatives and friends of the Taliban.

In other words, the Pakistani state surrendered its internal sovereignty by design to the terrorists in FATA, some of whom are conducting ‘unauthorised’ attacks inside mainland Pakistan in response to their disputes with the their handlers in the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. But several of the attacks inside Pakistan, such as those on the ANP workers and leaders, should be seen as ‘authorised’ attacks to keep the Pakhtun nationalist party under pressure and above all to cut it off from reaching out to the people while at the same time keeping the field open to right-wingers like Imran Khan and the religious parties to reach out as much as they wish to spread the strategic depth propaganda. The ANP is an anomaly in the calculus of strategic depth. Imran Khan is clearly guilty of distorting the facts when he claims that the ANP wants negotiations with Taliban. As far as I understand, the ANP does not want negotiations with the Taliban but is forced by the establishment through acts or threats of terrorism to compromise such as on the occasion of the Swat peace deal.

Imran Khan is also playing fast and loose with the truth when he blames President Zardari for the way the war on terror is conducted by Pakistan. Everyone knows that the Pakistani generals are running the country’s foreign policy. The government led by Mr Zardari’s party can be questioned for giving in to the establishment’s pressure by surrendering its authority and responsibility regarding foreign policy but to blame it for anything wrong with the foreign policy, including the war on terror, is misleading.

Imran Khan’s claim that the Pakhtun tribes have successfully resisted world powers in the past is a misleading sweeping judgement. One really has to go into history to see that the real situation is not so black and white. For example, it is true that certain tribes or clans in FATA put forward an excellent resistance to the British, but is it not also a fact that many other tribes, clans and even people within the tribes resisting the British, cooperated with the colonial power? How were the British able to establish the FCR system in FATA if all tribes were united against the British? The tribesmen joined the British Imperial Army, the paramilitary forces established by the British, and became Khasadars (tribal police force) in the British administration in FATA. The tribes, clans and individuals who have been closely cooperating with the British were never eliminated through massacre by the other tribesmen who were resisting against the British even after the departure of the colonial power. This is unlike the Taliban who have massacred anti-Taliban tribesmen across FATA. In other words, what we see in tribal history is pragmatism in relation to foreign powers rather than an exclusively violence-driven resistance across the tribes.

Suicide attacks in Pakistan cannot be a tribal response to the US drone attacks. The US drone attacks on FATA intensified in 2008. Before that there have been only a few drone attacks on the area since 2004. Bu the suicide attacks inside Pakistan had intensified before 2008.

Imran Khan is running a propaganda for the so-called ‘civilian casualties’ in the drone attacks but has not uttered a word about hundreds of anti-Taliban tribal leaders target killed across FATA since 2003. The government of Pakistan never investigated those targeted killings and will never do it either as long as the generals dominate Pakistan. Do the families of these tribal leaders not deserve justice? But Imran Khan, I am afraid, will never raise his voice for justice for these families because any independent investigation into those assassinations will establish the establishment’s deep links with the Taliban and al Qaeda. Such an investigation will also elaborate the ISI tactics whereby it has been able to trigger an artificial insurgency in FATA and convincingly present it to the world as the popular tribal backlash to Pakistan’s alliance in the war on terror.

Imran Khan highlights the violation of Pakistan’s external sovereignty by the US drone attacks, but never points to the violation of the country’s internal sovereignty by foreign al Qaeda and Taliban militants based in FATA who are carrying out attacks inside Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan on the US, NATO and Afghan forces as well as Afghan civilians. Their attacks across the border are causing the drone attacks, most of which have actually targeted the foreign terrorists in the area rather than the Taliban. The internal violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty has to stop before one can demand a stop to the external violation.

OIC Now Singing Hillary’s Tune, Selling Islamic Silk Road/Minus Iran

OIC/Afghanistan: Reconciliation bid OIC to hold Afghan Ulema assemblage

BY 
IINA

ISLAMABAD, Muharram 1/Nov.26 (IINA)-Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has said that his organization was committed to holding an Ulama Conference at an appropriate time in cooperation with the Afghan authorities with the aim of contributing to Afghan reconciliation process.

This will be the first intra Afghan OIC initiative of reconciliation following announcement of US troops withdrawal from war-worn Afghanistan, a process hoped to complete by 2014.

He also disclosed that member states of OIC made contributions in supporting and facilitating regional cooperation aiming at peace, security and development in Afghanistan and the region, particularly in intensifying cooperation and dialogue between Afghanistan and her neighbours.

Prof Ihsanoglu made these remarks in his recent address to an Istanbul hosted Afghanistan event, and stressed “the importance of Afghanistan as a rich country possessing enormous human and natural resources. It is a bridge in the Heart of Asia, connecting South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East”. Afghanistan’s strategic location and historical position, may serve as a catalyst for the promotion of security and cooperation in the region, he added.

He explained that projects relating to the rehabilitation of rail transportation in Afghanistan have been enlarged as is evident from the on-going project building Dusanbe-Mazar-i Sharif-Herat railway, pointing out that Afghanistan has recently started to participate in the OIC Plan of Action for Cooperation in Central Asia.

The OIC Plan envisages cooperation in various areas such as agriculture, rural development and food security, trade exchanges, health, education, poverty alleviation, transport as well as research and scientific cooperation.

AH/IINA

Mullah Omar Pushing Pak Taliban To Reconcile With Pak Govt Join Afghan Jihad

‘Mullah Omar pushing Pak Taliban to reconcile with govt.’

Islamabad,  ANI

Islamabad, Nov 26 (ANI): Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar is pushing Pakistani militants based in the tribal areas to strike a peace deal with the government, and advised the chief of the Haqqani network to mediate between them, a source has revealed.

 

“We have received a message from Ameerul-Momineen that there should be an end to our activities inside Pakistan .

..he wants us to make peace with the government and focus on Afghanistan against infidels,” the Express Tribune quoted a Taliban associate, as saying.

 

However, it is not clear as of now when and how the terror leader had sent his message.

 

At least two Taliban affiliates, one in Miramshah, North Waziristan and the other in Wana, South Waziristan, said that communication between representatives of Mullah Omar and Pakistani militants took place in an Arab country this Ramazan.

 

But a tribal elder, who claimed to have knowledge about the ongoing talks, said that the son of a slain Afghan militant leader came to Waziristan as Mullah Omar’s representative.

 

The young messenger travelled from Kandahar to South Waziristan, the stronghold of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) TTP, immediately after Ramazan and held meetings with members of a powerful shura that takes policy decisions for Pakistani militant groups, he added.

 

In September, Pakistan’s top political and military leadership had expressed desire to open peace talks with its ‘own people’ operating from the country’s tribal areas.

 

Since almost half a year now, Pakistani cities have been relatively calm, and life is reportedly returning to normalcy after years of violent attacks by the homegrown Taliban. (ANI)

Two Pak Army Outposts Attacked By NATO Helicopters and Jet Fighters

28 Pakistani troops killed in NATO attack, outrage in Islamabad

Reuters |

28 Pakistani troops killed in NATO attack, outrage in Islamabad
NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops.

ISLAMABAD: NATO helicopters and fighter jets attacked two military outposts in northwestPakistan on Saturday, killing as many as 28 troops and plunging US-Pakistan relations, already deeply frayed, further into crisis.

Pakistan retaliated by shutting down vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan, used for sending in almost half of the alliance’s non-lethal materiel.

The attack is the worst single incident of its kind since Pakistan uneasily allied itself with Washington in the days immediately following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on US targets.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan, its ally in the war on militancy, have been strained following the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US special forces in a raid on the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May, which Pakistan called a flagrant violation of sovereignty.

The Pakistani government and military brimmed with fury.

“This is an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. “We will not let any harm come to Pakistan’s sovereignty and solidarity.”

The Foreign Office said it would take up the matter “in the strongest terms” with NATO and the United States.

The powerful Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, said in a statement issued by the Pakistani military that “all necessary steps be under taken for an effective response to this irresponsible act.

“A strong protest has been launched with NATO/ISAF in which it has been demanded that strong and urgent action be taken against those responsible for this aggression.”

The commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen, said he had offered his condolences to the family of any Pakistani soldiers who “may have been killed or injured” during an “incident” on the border.

A spokesman for the force declined further comment on the nature of the “incident” and said an investigation was proceeding. It was not yet clear, he said, whether there had been deaths or injuries.

The US embassy in Islamabad also offered condolences.

“I regret the loss of life of any Pakistani servicemen, and pledge that the United States will work closely with Pakistan to investigate this incident,” ambassador Cameron Munter said in a statement.

Early morning attack Two military officials said that up to 28 troops had been killed and 11 wounded in the attack on the outposts, about 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the Afghan border. The Pakistani military said 24 troops were killed and 13 wounded.

It remains unclear what exactly happened, but the attack took place around 2 a.m. (2100 GMT) in the Baizai area of Mohmand, where Pakistani troops are fighting Taliban militants.

“Pakistani troops effectively responded immediately in self-defence to NATO/ISAF’s aggression with all available weapons,” the Pakistani military statement said.

About 40 Pakistani army troops were stationed at the outposts, military sources said. Two officers were reported among the dead.

“The latest attack by NATO forces on our post will have serious repercussions as they without any reasons attacked on our post and killed soldiers asleep,” said a senior Pakistani military officer, requesting anonymity.

Reflecting the confusion of war in an ill-defined border area, an Afghan border police official, Edrees Momand, said joint Afghan-NATO troops near the outpost on Saturday morning had detained several militants.

“I am not aware of the casualties on the other side of the border but those we have detained aren’t Afghan Taliban,” he said, implying they were Pakistani Taliban operating in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan border is often poorly marked, and differs between maps by up to five miles in some places.

The incident occurred a day after Allen met Kayani to discuss border control and enhanced cooperation.

“After the recent meetings between Pakistan and ISAF/NATO forces to build confidence and trust, these kind of attacks should not have taken place,” a senior military source told Reuters.

Blocked supplies Nato

Supply trucks and fuel tankers bound for Afghanistan were stopped at Jamrud town in the Khyber tribal region near the city of Peshawar hours after the raid, officials said.

“We have halted the supplies and some 40 tankers and trucks have been returned from the check post in Jamrud,” Mutahir Zeb, a senior government official, told Reuters.

Another official said the supplies had been stopped for security reasons.

“There is possibility of attacks on NATO supplies passing through the volatile Khyber tribal region, therefore we sent them back towards Peshawar to remain safe,” he said.

The border crossing at Chaman in Baluchistan was also closed, Frontier Corps officials said.

Pakistan is a vital land route for 49 percent of NATO’s supplies to its troops in Afghanistan, a NATO spokesman said.

A similar incident on Sept 30, 2009, which killed two Pakistani troops, led to the closure of one of NATO’s supply routes through Pakistan for 10 days.

NATO apologised for that incident, which it said happened when NATO gunships mistook warning shots by the Pakistani forces for a militant attack.

US-Pakistan relations were already reeling from a tumultuous year that saw the bin Laden raid, the jailing of a CIA contractor, and U.S. accusations that Pakistan backed a militant attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

The United States has long suspected Pakistan of continuing to secretly support Taliban militant groups to secure influence in Afghanistan after most NATO troops leave in 2014. Saturday’s incident will give Pakistan the argument that NATO is now attacking it directly.

“I think we should go to the United Nations Security Council against this,” said retired Brigadier Mahmood Shah, former chief of security in the tribal areas. “So far, Pakistan is being blamed for all that is happening in Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s point of view has not been shown in the international media.”

Other analysts, including Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador to Afghanistan, said Pakistan would protest and close the supply lines for some time, but that ultimately “things will get back to normal”.

Paul Beaver, a British security analyst, said relations were so bad that this incident might have no noticeable impact.

“I’m not sure US-Pakistan relations could sink much lower than they are now,” he said.

Libyan Rebel Govt. To Arm Rebels In Syria

[The CIA is repeating its mistakes (from the point of view of all decent human beings) from the anti-Soviet phase of the grand terror war--training terrorists in advanced military skills and then turning them loose upon the rest of the world.  This is the fine art of projecting "respectable" evil in its highest form.  The American Imperialists get to play "Good Guys" on both ends of this process--We claimed to be providing "humanitarian assistance" to Afghanistan since the late seventies, when we created the first "mujahedeen" (highly skilled military specialists) who later became known as "al-Qaeda"; we have repeated the process today in Libya, and now, the Libyan "mujahedeen" spread their disease to Syria.  Through this finely honed art of state-sponsored terrorism, we have successfully undermined nearly all of the Middle Eastern allies of the Palestinians.  The war against Syria and Hezbollah is intended to unleash the full force of American airpower, in order to carry-out the mission that Israel alone could not accomplish in 2006.  (Despite all the years of Israeli bluster, the IDF has not defeated any adversary by the mere power of its threats.  It has been symbolically parading its military prowess down the streets of Teheran since the American terror war began, but they have not fazed the Revolutionary Guard, even with Stuxnet and all the back-biting assassinations over the years.  Israel's only formidable power is its nuclear arsenal. 

The time for words is over.  Obama's revolutionaries and his partners in crime (particularly Turkey) have taken the "irregular warfare" to Syria.  The thing about irregular war is that it can easily turn into regular warfare at any given moment.  When it becomes apparent that Western asymmetric forces cannot defeat Syria and Hezbollah, then waves of regular bombers can be called in, just like in Libya.  From the Imperial view, it becomes apparent that the "mistake" of creating the Islamist mujahedeen armies has not been a mistake at all.  It was always obvious where it would lead, if you created armies of highly-trained veteran "holy warriors" and released them upon the world.  This is America's greatest war crime--its premeditated state terrorism.] 

Libya to arm rebels in Syria

Ruth Sherlock

Pro-Syrian regime protesters appear from a huge Syrian flag as they wave Syrian and Baath party flags, during a protest against the Arab League decisions, in Damascus, Syria.Divided … a demonstration for Bashar al-Assad. Photo: AP

MISRATA, Libya: Syrian rebels have held secret talks with Libya’s new authorities, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it has been revealed.

At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested assistance from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms and, potentially, volunteers.

”There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria,” a Libyan source said, on condition of anonymity. ”There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”

It has also emerged that preliminary discussions about arms supplies took place when members of the Syrian National Council – the country’s main opposition movement – visited Libya earlier this month.

”The Libyans are offering money, training and weapons to the Syrian National Council,” said Wisam Taris, a human rights campaigner with links to the council.

The disclosure came as the Syrian military said rebels had raided an air force base outside the city of Homs and killed six pilots.

Rebel attacks have become daily occurrences since the onset of the insurrection. The conflict has claimed at least 3500 lives, mainly as part of a crackdown on protests by the government.

Syria’s regime has continued to defy pressure from the Arab League, ignoring Friday’s deadline to accept the deployment of 500 human rights observers, raising the possibility that economic sanctions might be agreed upon this weekend.

Last month, Libya’s interim government became the first in the world to recognise Syria’s opposition movement as the country’s ”legitimate authority”.

Activists said large shipments of weapons had not yet been sent, mainly because of logistical difficulties. But proposals for a ”buffer zone” inside Syria, monitored by the Arab League, or the likely emergence of an area inside the country controlled entirely by rebels could solve this problem.

”The [Libyan] council’s offer is serious,” Mr Taris said. Turkey, which has denounced Mr Assad’s regime, is already sheltering about 7000 Syrian opposition activists, including the leader of the Free Syrian Army, the nascent rebel movement, in a ”safe zone” along Turkey’s border with Syria.

Sources in the Libyan town of Misrata suggested that some weapons might already have been sent. Some smugglers were caught selling small arms to Syrian buyers in Misrata, said a man who trafficked guns to Libya’s rebels during the country’s civil war.

However, Libyan officials denied some of the claims. ”This is what you hear in the street,” said the leader of the Misrata military council, Ramadan Zarmoh. ”Officially there is none of this. I would never send any fighters to fight outside the country.”

Ministers from the Arab League are expected to meet in Cairo this weekend to consider sanctions against Syria.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, pledged on Friday to keep up talks with Syrian opposition groups in an attempt to support a transition to a stable democracy.

Meanwhile, a United Nations human rights panel has called on Syria to respond to reports its security forces had tortured children in their crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The Committee against Torture said in Geneva that it had received ”numerous, consistent and substantiated reports” of widespread abuse occurring since the start of the uprising against Mr Assad’s government eight months ago.

”Of particular concern are reports referring to children who have suffered torture and mutilation while detained,” said the panel’s chairman, Claudio Grossman.

He also cited reports of ”extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; arbitrary detention by police forces and the military; and enforced and involuntary disappearances.”

The committee normally reviews each country’s record every four years, but took the unusual step on Friday of issuing a spontaneous demand to the Syrian government to explain its actions.

Telegraph, London; Associated Press

Georgian War Prevented NATO Expansion Eastward

Moscow deterred NATO expansion

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia — Russia’s military action against Georgia in 2008 prevented NATO from expanding its footprint eastward, the Russian president said.

Russian forces responded when the Georgian military invaded the separatist republic of South Ossetia in 2008. The conflict spilled over to engulf forces from Abkhazia, another separatist republic.

Moscow recognized both republics shortly after the conflict and signed agreements in 2010 to build permanent military installations in the breakaway regions.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said military action in Georgia prevented NATO allies for a campaign of expansion.

“If we had wavered in 2008, the geopolitical layout would have been different; a range of countries which the North Atlantic (Treaty Organization) tries to artificially ‘protect’ would have been within it,” he was quoted by Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying.

Medvedev maintained Russian forces invaded to prevent a major humanitarian crisis in the region.

South Ossetia had presidential elections in mid-November. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Western alliance didn’t recognize its rights to have elections, however.

NATO sided with Georgia when Abkhazia had elections earlier this year.

NATO’s presence along the borders of the former Soviet Union, meanwhile, is a “nuisance” to the Kremlin, Medvedev said.

URL: http://www.upi.com/

NATO airstrikes kill six children in Afghanistan

NATO airstrikes kill six children in Afghanistan

DPA

Airstrikes by NATO-led forces in southern Afghanistan killed nine people, including six children and two insurgents, Afghan officials said on Thursday.

Two girls were also injured in the airstrikes in Kandahar province, the president’s office said.

“NATO military helicopters identified five insurgents who were planting bombs along the road. The helicopter killed two of them, while two others ran away and hid in Siacha village,” said Niyaz Mohammad, a local governor. One insurgent was injured.

“Later, military helicopters bombed the location where they (the insurgents) were hiding and as a result six children who were playing nearby were killed,” the governor added. A man injured in the second attack died later in hospital.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the aerial attack in a statement. NATO said it had launched an inquiry into the incident.

“Protecting the Afghan civilian population is central to our mission here in Afghanistan and we will investigate this situation fully to determine exactly what took place and whether any further actions need to be taken,” said General John Allen, commander of NATO-led forces.

In a separate incident, a NATO helicopter made a safe emergency landing, the military alliance said, denying a Taliban claim that it had shot down the aircraft.

The Taliban said in a statement its fighters had shot the helicopter down over the province of Kabul, killing 33 NATO soldiers.

“Initial reporting indicates that there was no enemy activity in the area”, said NATO spokesman Christopher DeWitt, adding that all crew members were unhurt.

Meanwhile Taliban killed at least seven private security guards in an ambush in western province of Farah on Thursday.

The guards were in a convoy belonging to a private company that provides logistics for international forces when they were attacked.

Pakistan blocks Afghanistan NATO supplies after checkpost attack

Pakistan blocks Afghanistan NATO supplies after checkpost attack

The supply has been suspended due to the NATO attack in Mohmand Agency, official sources confirmed. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

PESHAWAR: Pakistani authorities on Saturday blocked the NATO supply route to Afghanistan after an attack on a border checkpost killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers. The attack by NATO helicopters on a checkpost located in Mohmand Agnecy killed at least 24 soldiers and injured 12.

Official sources confirmed the suspension of supplies, adding that all containers were stopped at the Takhta Baig checkpost in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency.

“We have suspended the supply and will not let even a single container move ahead,” the official added.

“We have stopped NATO supplies after receiving orders from the federal government,” Mutahir Hussain, a senior administration official in Khyber tribal region, on the Afghan border, told AFP. ”Supply trucks are being sent back to Peshawar.”

Takhta Baig is the first checkpost followed by four more check-posts in the tribal areas and is the shortest possible route to Afghanistan.

Gilani condemns attack

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has strongly condemned the attack on the checkpost in Mohmand Agency.

Speaking to the media in Multan, Gilani said that a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and the foreign secretary was currently underway in Islamabad, and added that he would be joining them soon. The prime minister has cut short his three-day visit to Multan to return to the capital.

statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the matter was being taken up in the “strongest terms” with NATO and the US on the directions of the prime minister.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has also said that no action against Pakistan’s would be tolerated.

She said that the attack will be condemned on all forums and the government will also take up the issue internationally.

Pakistan lodges protest with the US

Iffat Gardezi, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Pakistani Embassy in the US,  has lodged a verbal protest over the attack.

A Pakistan Embassy spokesperson told The Express Tribune that Iffat Gardezi had contacted the State Department at midnight (Eastern Standard Time).

The spokesperson said that Gardezi had in strong words raised the issue of the death of Pakistani soldiers by ISAF and termed the incident as “unprovoked”.

(with additional reporting by Huma Imtiaz)

NATO Helicopters Kill 24 Pak. Army Soldiers In Their Sleep–Border Outpost Decimated

[This couldn't have happened at a worse time for the NATO war on Afghanistan.  Last week's terror attack on the NDN (northern distribution network) railway in Uzbekistan has stopped land movement of war supplies from the north.  If Pakistan has stopped NATO transit over its roads, then we are left with a war effort sustained solely by air.  The expense of air transit and the limited number of heavy airlift planes spells trouble in the days ahead for the ground war.  If this latest outrage has been enough to cause a real breach in relations between the two former friends and paper allies then it will surely be used to justify extreme measures to assert American dominance. 
This attack was either a disaster in US planning, or a planned coup de grâce (“finishing blow”) to a faltering relationship.  Things can only get dramatically worse from here on out.  Did this decision by Pakistan prove to be the final straw (SEE:  ISAF containers: Pakistan to double service charges from 2012)?]

Sources say, nearby areas were also attacked by the helicopters. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

PESHAWAR: An early Saturday morning attack by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) helicopters killed at least 24 security personnel and injured 12 soldiers on a Pakistani checkpost in Salala, which is located in the Tehsil Bayzai area of Mohmand Agency on the Pak-Afghan border , sources said.

Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) sources confirmed the attack, but could not determine the number of casualties as the interrogation was still underway.

The incident took place in a village of Salala, which is an area bordering the Kunar province of Afghanistan.

At least 40 soldiers were stationed at the checkpost.

An official on the condition of anonymity told The Express Tribunethat there was consistent shelling on the Pakistani checkpost, which resulted in security forces retaliating.

“The actual number of casualties might rise, as it cannot be determined at the moment,” the official said.

The official added that nearby areas were also attacked by the helicopters.

“It is a matter of national security and we are still interrogating it,” said a security official. “The matter will be taken up at the highest level.”

“This is an attack on Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty, “said Masood Kasur, the governor of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. “Such cross-border attacks cannot be tolerated any more. The government will take up this matter at the highest level and it will be investigated.”

The situation remained unclear as the political administration did not give any information about the incident.

The incident comes a day after Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani met Commander of Coalition Forces in Afghanistan General Allen Jones to discuss measures of enhancing border control on both sides.

The attack will likely worsen US-Pakistan relations, already at one of their lowest points in history, following a tumultuous year that saw the bin Laden raid, the jailing of a CIA contractor, and US accusations that Pakistan backed a militant attack on the US Embassy in Kabul.

An increase inUS drone strikes on militants in the last few years has also irritated Islamabad, which says the campaign kills more Pakistani civilians in the border area than activists. Washington disputes that, but declines to discuss the drone campaign in detail.

Earlier, it was reported that Nato jets had attacked the border post.

ICC Prosecutor’s Career Move Switches Horses and Legal Theories in Libya

The Troubling Case of Saif Gadhafi

ICC Prosecutor’s Career Move Switches Horses and Legal Theories in Libya

Franklin Lamb

Zintan, Libya

Despite the claims of the National Transitional Council of Libya (NTC) that Saif al Islam Gadhafi, the apprehended subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant that ordered his transport to The Hague, is in a secure hidden location near Zintan, Libya, a town approximately 85 miles southwest of Tripoli, this is not the case.

 

Neither are the assurances by Steven Anderson, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who on 11/23/11 announced that Saif al-Islam’s injuries had been “taken care of,” nor his profuse assurances that Saif is in good health.  In point of fact, following the ICRC assurances, the Ukrainian-born Doctor Andrei Murakhovsky who lives in Zintan reported that “Saif’s wound is covered with gangrenous tissue and necrotic tissue.”  He added that “This wound is not in good condition and requires amputation. His index finger has been ripped off at the level of the middle phalange (finger bone), the bones are all shattered. It’s the same thing with the thumb of that hand.” Dr. Murakhovsky told the Reuters news service.

 

The morning of 11/24/11, Libyan NTC Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib still insisted that “Saif al-Islam is receiving the best possible treatment, but for now he is not in the hands of the provisional central government and we don’t know where he is.”

 

Regarding Saif al Islam’s “secure and hidden location”, most people in the village of Zintan know where he is being held, as does this observer who visited a motley group of B-western movie types who are currently guarding and “protecting” Saif.

Although armed with a Power of Attorney from one of Saif’s family members to visit him, the group refused my request to visit Saif with the excuse that they had to consult their commander who was not expected to return for a few days since he was now the new NTC Libyan Defense Minister.

 

On the question of Saif’s health, there is increasing concern also because his guards claim they cannot take him to Zintan’s only hospital because someone would likely kill him in order to collect on the substantial rumored Qatar/NATO offered cash reward for whoever assassinates him thus presumably helping “the new Libya” and its allies avoid a messy trial.

Meanwhile, after what he claims in a change of heart, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, now professes that Libya, not The Hague, is the best place after all for Saif al Islam and his trial. Since its establishment by the United Nations in 2002, the ICC has had just one Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. To the reported expressed relief of many international defense lawyers, several ICC staff and ICC judges, plus legal commentators familiar with his prosecutorial work, the ICC will have his successor chosen next month in New York.  This coming weekend in New York, the legal defense organization, Avocats Sans Frontiers (ASF, ie Lawyers Without Borders) will meet in order to try to agree on a successor to propose to the 18 ICC Judges who will decide.

 

Prosecutor Ocampo’s visit this week to Libya caused some raised eyebrows among the groups noted above when he suddenly announced that the ICC would not invoke its UN Security Council-granted power and proceed with Case # ICC 01/11. This case was opened at the ICC on March 3, 2011, having been assigned to the ICC by the UN Security Council following the preceding month’s uprising in Benghazi, Libya.

 

Speculation among some in The Hague, in Libya and from ASF lawyers is that knowing that he would not be re-elected for another term as ICC Prosecutor, due to among other reasons he has not won one case during his 9 year term, has repeatedly incurred the wrath of ICC judges for bringing cases which they ruled lacked sufficient evidence and his penchant for self-aggrandizing publicity and making inaccurate claims about cases and defendants that border on judicial misconduct, Ocampo decided to switch horses.

One egregious example of his making false representations is the current ICC case involving Saif al-Islam Gadhafi in which Ocampo made several inaccurate headline-grabbing statements over the past several weeks claiming to be negotiating “indirectly” with Saif al Islam to give himself up to the ICC. Saif has emphatically denied Ocampo’s grandstanding claims and presumably, were Ocampo to attempt to personally prosecute his case Saif’s legal team would immediately file a motion to replace Ocampo for cause, as provided by ICC rules.

 

Given these problems, Ocampo, according to someone who accompanied him during his visit this week to Libya, decided to accept a lucrative offer from the NTC to advise the oil-rich country on setting up a legal system to try Saif al Islam and others.

 

The assurances by Moreno-Ocampo, NATO officials and American UN Ambassador Susan Rice that Libya is currently fully capable of currently handling trials of former regime loyalists are nonsense. Rice exhibited ignorance and surprise here last weekend when she claimed not to know that Libya had the death penalty and would apply the death penalty in the ICC case if given the chance.  The Libyan public’s apparent preference is for the death penalty by hanging in the two Libya ICC cases. This was the case with Rwanda, which is one reason the Ruanda Tribunal did not allow the government of Rwanda to conduct certain trials even though that government assured the UN it would not actually carry out a death penalty sentence. Libya has offered no such assurances to the ICC against the use of the death penalty nor has it submitted a legal challenge to ICC jurisdiction over the Saif al Islam or Abdullah Sanussi cases, as the Rome Statute requires.

 

Despite switching jobs, Ocampo has not lost interest in prosecuting the Saif al Islam case which he views as his best chance of finally winning at least an ICC related case, but not at The Hague where there is the possibility that Saif would not be convicted, given Court rules of procedure and ICC legal staff resources that would actually assist an accused in presenting his defense before the court.  Ocampo is said to be betting on gaining a victory in Saif’s high profile case by working with the NATO-created NTC government in Libya and running the prosecution as a behind the scenes “consultant” and helping Libya’s NTC keep the UN and ICC at bay while allowing the NTC to try both Saif’s case and that of Abdullah Sanussi if and when the latter is proven to have been captured.  Ocampo is said to relish the job of becoming the “Father of Libya’s new legal system.”  Ocampo is now explaining that it was never his role “to tell Libyan officials how to hold a fair trial and the  standard of the ICC is that it has to be a judicial process that is not organized to shield the suspect and I respect that it’s important for the cases to be tried in Libya.”  He then added, “There are so many different traditions; it is difficult to say what is a fair trial.”

 

No sooner had the surprising news and Ocampo’s sudden vagueness about what constitutes a fair trial begun to ricochet around the Internet than this observer received an email from an international criminal lawyer whose office is two blocks from the Carl Moultrie Courthouse in Washington, DC. The American lawyer was appalled: “Paying Ocampo as a consultant for the new Libyan government on criminal trial procedures is a ridiculous thought/idea.  He has no idea of fair trial rights and has not achieved a conviction in his nearly 9 years at the ICC.”

 

Nor were the ICC judges thrilled at the perceived betrayal.  The ICC quickly fired off a reminder to Ocampo, to the new Libyan government and the media that it is the ICC judges, and not the ICC Prosecutor, who will decide whether a case will be held in The Hague or in the country where the alleged crimes occurred and only they will decide if Libya has the ability to conduct a fair trial. The ICC is signaling that the Ocampo-generated international headlines to the contrary notwithstanding, the issue of trial venue in Libya has not settled in ICC case # 01/11.

 

Prosecutor Ocampo knows well that once the ICC decides to open an investigation of a case, national courts may not investigate that case and are relieved from their obligation to do so. In addition, since the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against Libyan defendants, all states – including Libya – are obliged to cooperate fully with the Court. 

Following  the public dressing down from The Hague, Ocampo  has now retreated a bit and told CNN on 11/23/11 that: “ The only condition is the new Libyan government has to present their position to the International Criminal Court judges and the judges will decide if the case can be prosecuted in Libya. Libya will present evidence to ICC judges that the country can hold the trial, and the judges will decide if they are satisfied,” Ocampo explained.

 

The ICC, if it takes up the question as expected, should rule in the developing Saif al Islam case, precisely as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found in ruling against that country’s request for trial jurisdiction, although like Libya today, Rwanda claimed to have a “modern functioning court system.”   The reason is that an initial review of Libya’s criminal judicial system and discussion with Libyan criminal defense lawyers as well as with international criminal defense lawyers with years of experience in international tribunals’ practice, shows that it is very clear that persons accused of serious crimes in Libya currently do not have even the most minimal judicial rights that are required by international norms. Today Libyan defendants do not benefit from adequate legal representation, financial support for indigent accused, travel and investigation support for defense teams,  or security for defense teams. Libya’s central and local governments place impediments curtailing defense teams in the discharge of their functions.

An admittedly cursory inquiry in Libya among lawyers here also reveals nonexistent or inadequate accommodation and transport arrangements for witness, as well as a lack of arrangements for protection of witnesses before, during and after testifying in court. In addition, the NTC is engaging in a pattern of threatening potential witnesses preparing to testify against NATO in another case. Similarly the NTC is failing to provide safe and secure travel for Libyan witnesses living abroad, including in Algeria, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, and Egypt. Interviews with Libyan lawyers and officials as well as visits to detention facilities in Libya reveal that conditions are not in compliance with international standards and that there is widespread torture of prisoners in Libya and threats against the families of prisoners.

One could wish Luis Mareno-Ocampo good luck in his new career as would be “Father of the New Libya’s Legal system,” but the current ICC case # 01/11 is too critical for all involved to wait to learn whether his project gets completed and meets international standards.

 

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Libya and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

The Turks found a base in Syria Kurdish separatists

Kurdish separatists.  Archive photo © AFP
Kurdish separatists. Archive photo © AFP

The Turks found a base in Syria Kurdish separatists

The Syrian authorities have established in their territory training camp of militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, acting against the Turkish newspaper Milliyet.

According to the newspaper, which refers to the Turkish intelligence sources, the camp is located near the town of Ras al-Ain near the border with Turkey, there are military and political training to more than 150 people. In addition, the separatists are considering the transfer of other bases in northern Iraq (where safe) in Syria.

Camp, the newspaper said, was a response to the actions of Damascus, Ankara, which hosted the leadership and staff of the National Council of Syria – the structure of the opposition, which is seeking the resignation of Bashar al-Assad .

Turkish border guards working in the region have already begun to install additional security at the border because they fear infiltration of Kurdish militants from Syria.

Recently, relations between Turkey and Syria deteriorated sharply: Ankara demands from Damascus to political reform, to renounce the use of force against the demonstrators and prevent the country of foreign journalists. In response to the Syrians blame the neighbors of interfering in its internal affairs.

Ankara, however, their claims are not denied, but the Turkish media is actively discussing the possibility of entering Syria to the north of the Turkish troops to protect the local civilian population. However, such an invasion of a suitable excuse not yet located.

Russian Press Claims Tajik Arrest of Russian Pilot was Plot to Free Alleged Relative of President Rahmon

Foreign Ministry denied rumors on the exchange pilot at Rustam Hukumova

Lenta.ru

The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the reports of the exchange was released in Tajikistan, the Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy to convict the alleged relative to the RF President Emomali Rahmon. On November 25 it informs “Interfax”.

According to the director of the Third Department of the CIS countries Maxim Peshkov, appeals about the exchange on Sadovnichiy Rustam Hukumova the Ministry has been reported.

Peshkov said he did not have any information that khukum was released, but reports of his relationship with Rahmon – just rumors.

Rustam khukum in 2010 was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison: the detention in the suburban Schelkovo he and his three accomplices have found ten kilograms of Afghan heroin. It was reported that the son of the chief khukum railroad Tajikistan.In addition, he is the brother-in-law of President of the Republic.

In November 2011, “Komsomolskaya pravda” wrote that the pilots of Rolkan Investments Ltd, Russia’s Vladimir Sadovnichy and an Estonian citizen Alexei Rudenko, who were sentenced in Tajikistan to 8.5 years in prison for smuggling and border violations, were sentenced to be exchanged for Hukumova and his accomplices, traffickers.

Pilots who have been convicted on November 8, were subsequently released – at the request of Attorney General of Tajikistan, their terms were reduced to half that pilots served, is under investigation.

Court decision was preceded by a conflict between Russia and Tajikistan, in course of which began to expel Russia from Tajik migrants.

Asian Dev. Bank Pours $17 Billion 100 Central Asian Development Projects–(updated)

[If the Silk Road revival idea was originally Chinese, then who gets the credit if the idea becomes a reality?  I guess the answer to that question will come with either the exclusion or the inclusion of Iran in the final Silk Road project.  It is likely that India may turn out to be the decider of that question, as it either tries to breath life into Washington's latest pipe dream, or it helps link the road to Iran.  This would appear to be the wiser solution, given all the money and effort that India has already spent developing Afghanistan's "ring road" and the new port facilities at Chahabar, Iran.  It boils down to this--is Washington more likely to pull-off its bullshit visions, or will it be forced to accept a new reality of welcoming a nuclear Iran into the community of nations?  According to this report, ADB was partners with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in these projects.]

JALALUDDIN RUMI

ISLAMABAD – Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) has approved over 100 CAREC-related projects worth $17 billion. The projects include six land transport corridors that cover 3,600 kilometers of roads and 2,000 kilometers of railways. They traverse the CAREC region north-south and east-west; linking Europe, East Asia, South Asia, Middle East, and beyond; connecting all member countries.
Secretary Economic Affairs Division Abdul Wajid Rana and officials from ministry of commerce and finance represented Pakistan at the 10th ministerial conference at Baku, Azerbaijan.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) has allocated $4.7 billion over the next three years to support Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC), 2020’s goals of trade expansion and improved competitiveness.
ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda, while announcing the allocation for CAREC 2020 goals at ministerial conference said we stand ready to assist in accelerating the development of physical infrastructure connectivity, the development of economic corridors, and the improvement of the knowledge base needed to support CAREC’s priorities.
Established in 2001, CAREC brings together Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It promotes the implementation of regional projects in energy, transport, and trade facilitation from northern China to Caucasus and Europe, and from Kazakhstan to the warm water ports of Karachi, Gwadar and beyond.
About 4,000 km of road and 2,250 km of railway lines have been built or upgraded, opening up corridors of trade and opportunity. Streamlined custom procedures are moving people and their businesses across borders, faster and at a less cost. The electricity transmission lines and upgraded power plants are beginning to boost the vital energy trade in the region that will bring prosperity and security.
The ministers and senior representatives of development agencies have discussed support for the new 10-year strategy for Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme.
The six multilateral institutions support the work of CAREC that includes ADB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and World Bank. ADB has served as the CAREC secretariat since 2001.
The multilateral institutions at the forum echoed their support for the work of CAREC and some also offered substantial financial assistance over the next decade. Senior representatives of bilateral agencies from France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States also attended the forum and supported CAREC 2020. The three-day conference wrapped up with a ministerial retreat where participants discussed how CAREC countries could individually and collectively contribute to a prosperous Asia by mid-century.

Troops of Five Nations Occupy Spratly Islands In Pacific Hotspot the Size of Iraq

“The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Taiwan have troops on the Spratlys, a group of islands and reefs with a total land area equivalent to 1 1/2 times the size of New York’s Central Park spread over an area roughly the size of Iraq. Vietnam occupies the most islands in this group.”

[Interactive Spratly's Map]

Vietnam Boosts Presence in South China Sea, Targets Protests

By Bloomberg News

(Adds prime minister’s comments in third paragraph.)

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) — Vietnam plans to continue building roads and schools to assert sovereignty on islands also claimed by China while moving to stifle any protests that display false patriotism, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said.

Vietnam will expand its presence on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and seek talks on the Paracels now occupied by China, Dung told the National Assembly today. The government also urged the legislature to pass a law on demonstrations after “signs of disorder” earlier this year, he said.

“We ask to keep the status quo, without further complications that may affect regional peace and stability,” Dung said. While the government “appreciates, welcomes and praises” any act of patriotism it will “discourage and tackle in accordance with law” any act that pretends to show patriotism, he said.

The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia and Taiwan have troops on the Spratlys, a group of islands and reefs with a total land area equivalent to 1 1/2 times the size of New York’s Central Park spread over an area roughly the size of Iraq. Vietnam occupies the most islands in this group, Dung said.

Chinese vessels in May sliced cables of a survey ship doing work for Vietnam and in March, Chinese ships chased away a ship working for U.K.-based Forum Energy Plc off the Philippines. The incident sparked anti-China protests in Vietnam that the government eventually quashed.

Vietnam and the Philippines have pushed China to redraw its maritime boundaries according to the United Nations Law of the Sea, a move that would cost it large swathes of its claims in the waters. Under the law, maritime claims stem from occupation of islands.

Oil reserves in the South China Sea, which contains two disputed island chains, may total as much as 213 billion barrels, according to Chinese studies cited in 2008 by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. The Paracels are fully controlled by China, which ousted fellow claimant Vietnam from the 30 islets and reefs in a 1974 battle in which 71 soldiers were killed.

–Daniel Ten Kate, with assistance from K. Oanh Ha in Hanoi. Editor: Mark Williams

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

Resistance Asks Lebanese Govt. to Counter CIA Spying

Hezbollah, Amal urge govt. to counter espionage by CIA

The Daily Star
Hezbollah and Amal Movement officials meet in Nabatieh, south Lebanon, Friday Nov. 25, 2011.
Hezbollah and Amal Movement officials meet in Nabatieh, south Lebanon

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Amal Movement slammed Washington Friday for allegedly spying on the resistance group in Lebanon and urged authorities to counter espionage by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

A joint statement at the end of a meeting between local Hezbollah and Amal officials in Nabatieh, south Lebanon, condemned the “flagrant assault on Lebanon’s sovereignty by U.S. intelligence.”

It said spying by the CIA in Lebanon was no “less dangerous” than Israeli intelligence work and that the two were “complementary.”

The statement called on the Lebanese government to take the “necessary legal and security measures” and task Lebanese security services to counter the alleged CIA network.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press – citing current and former U.S. officials – said the CIA’s operations in Lebanon had been badly damaged after Hezbollah identified and captured a number of U.S. spies.

In recent months, CIA officials have secretly been scrambling to protect their remaining spies – foreign assets or agents working for the agency – before Hezbollah can find them, the AP said.

The Cabinet discussed Wednesday reports that the CIA had operatives working for the agency in Lebanon.

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly met with Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour before Cabinet meeting amid reports that she had been summoned in connection with the alleged CIA spying network in Lebanon. Connelly did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

Information Minister Walid Daouk denied that Connelly had been summoned at the Foreign Ministry over this issue.

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson told The Daily Star Connelly’s meeting with Mansour had been prescheduled, adding that the CIA issue was not addressed during the discussions.

Earlier Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed victory in what it described as its “intelligence war” with the CIA.

“Lebanese intelligence vanquished U.S. and Israeli intelligence in what is now known as the intelligence war,” Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah.

“The resistance blinded American intelligence eyes,” he added.

The Daily Star

India’s China anxiety an ‘inferiority complex’

Overcoming Inferiority Complex

India’s China anxiety an ‘inferiority complex,’ says Xinhua

ANANTH KRISHNAN

“Today’s India is far from potent and prosperous to act of its own accord”

India’s “jitters” and fears of encirclement by Chinese influence in South Asia reflected an “inferiority complex” and “loud jealousy” over China’s rise, State-run Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Thursday.

India was “living under the delusion that China lays out a strategic chessboard to lock up and contain India,” said the commentary, the latest of a series of editorials in China’s State media outlets that have taken a hard line on India following disagreements over ONGC Videsh’s cooperation with Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea.

While it struck a similar tone voiced by a number of Communist Party-run papers in recent weeks, including the nationalistic Global Times and PLA Daily, this commentary was unusual because it was issued by the official government news agency, and posted prominently on the front page of its website.

It was authored by Li Hongmei, a columnist known for her particularly nationalistic views.

“India jitters at the sight of China gaining prestige in Asia, in particular, in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and takes China’s ever-growing regional influence in recent years as a strategic encirclement to target and contain India,” the commentary said.

“It sounds nothing more than a loud jealousy, for the simple reason that China has done what India could not, especially when India perceives that China’s influence has well reached to its doorsteps and created tremendous impact on those who should have banked on India as imagined.”

The Xinhua commentary follows editorials last month by the official People’s Liberation Army Daily and the Global Times, which hit out at India for “stepping into the South China Sea issue.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in talks in Bali last week, on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, that ONGC Videsh’s projects were conducted on a purely commercial basis, and did not mean India was taking sides with Vietnam, one of more than ten countries that contests China’s claims of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has since taken a more measured tone on relations with India, playing down differences following the meeting between the two leaders. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said this week there was “no power in the world that can prevent the development of bilateral relations between the two countries.”

Chinese officials and analysts had hoped the Prime Ministers’ meeting would draw a line over differences over the South China Sea, which they said had created strains, although exaggerated by the media on both sides of the border.

However, analysts acknowledge that a series of editorials in influential Party papers — and now in the official news agency — underscore prevailing views, at least among an influential section of the Party and Army leadership.

The Xinhua commentary, the first of its kind published by the official news agency, said India had “put sand in the wheels of its own progress” by not allowing foreign investment from Chinese companies because of its “iron-clad suspiciousness.”

India’s “jealousy” and “inferiority,” it said, were a legacy of the 1962 war which left “deep-seated mistrust.”

“By currying favour with China’s neighbour[s], in particular, those who have brewed disputes with China, India would assume it could instigate these smaller nations to engage in a gang fight against China and contain China’s growing clout in the region,” it said.

“Today’s India,” the commentary added, “no matter how anxious it intends to lead the region and even the world, is far from potent and prosperous to act of its own accord … To grow up to be a real power and stand as a sound competitor, India needs to, first and foremost, break through its own psychological fence.”

Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network

[The following article is from a right-wing publication which I normally avoid reading, nonetheless, the ideas expressed therein are very relevant to the war against "Islamist" terror (SEE:  America's Islamists).  America's pseudo-Islamists are mercenary proxies who operate on anti-Islamic false doctrine of Wahabbism.  Their adherence to this belief system makes them susceptible to outside control, since they are easily manipulated into taking violent actions, believing them to be in the "name of God."  Much Islamist terrorism is by these mind-washed jihadis, in reaction to intelligence agency stimulation of their known psychological triggers.  This is what I mean when I speak of "Islamist terrorism."]

Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network

Posted by Jamie Glazov

FrontPage’s Interview’s guest today is Deborah Weiss, an attorney, freelance writer and public speaker.  A 9/11 survivor of WTC attacks in NYC, she formerly worked for the Committee on House Oversight in Congress and the Office of the Corporation Counsel under Giuliani.  She is currently President of Vigilance, Inc., and is an expert in OIC UN resolutions.  She has written a chapter in the  new book, Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network: America and the West’s Fatal Embrace. She can be reached at Deborah.Weiss@vigilancenow.org.

FP: Welcome Deborah.  Glad you could join FPM today.

Weiss: Thank you for inviting me.

FP: Let’s begin with you telling us a about Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network.

Weiss: Thanks, Jamie.

As you know, Western petro-dollars have made Saudi Arabia a rich country. The Saudis use the money in part to export a radical Islamist ideology into the West. The ideology is antithetical to the Western values of freedom, equality and human rights.

The book was put together and edited by Sarah Stern, President of Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).  It has chapters by various experts and well-known authors, including James Woolsey, Steve Emerson, Daniel PipesRachel Ehrenfeld and others.  Your readers are probably familiar with many of the authors.

For decades now, the West and America in particular, has been pretending that Saudi Arabia is our ally. This book lifts the veil off that myth by demonstrating the various ways that Saudi ideology has infiltrated America and the West, posing a threat to our freedom and way of life. It includes chapters on Saudi penetration into American NGO’s, American so-called “mainstream Muslim” organizations, the American school curriculum, finances, and more. The point is to illustrate the negative impact our addiction to oil will ultimately have on our society. It’s really about the stealth jihad.

FP: How did you got involved in the book?

Weiss: I am a 9/11 survivor from NYC, and have been working on the issues of non-violent radical Islam for years, as you know, Jamie.  Every year, there is an event on Capitol Hill, timed to coincide around the time of 9/11, that showcases speakers and experts on the topic of Saudi infiltration.  I was one of the speakers the last two years.  So when Sarah asked me if I’d be willing to contribute a chapter on the same subject, of course I said yes.

FP: What is your chapter about?

Weiss: My chapter is titled, “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Defamation of Religions, and Islamophobia.”  The OIC is the largest Islamic organization in the world, comprised of 56 member states plus the Palestinian authority.  Its members tend to vote together as a bloc in the UN, so they hold quite a lot of power and sway.  Yet, most people have never heard of them.

They are an Islamist organization, which seeks to make Islam a victorious political power and to deny freedom to anyone who doesn’t want to live under Sharia law, including Muslims who don’t want to live under Sharia law.  One of its main goals is to eventually internationally criminalize free speech on any Islam-related topic, including Islamic theocracies, Muslims, Islamic terrorism, Islamic human rights violations, and Sharia law.  I know it sounds crazy, but partly because the public is not paying attention to this issue, and partly because the OIC’s strategy is to achieve its goal in small increments, it is actually making significant inroads.  The OIC has successfully targeted various UN bodies with resolutions on this issue, called “Defamation of Religions” and it has targeted several EU Parliaments as well.  The language is presented in a watered down form, so instead of asking for speech to be criminalized, the OIC will ask for states “to take effective action” or “condemn” the speech or discourage the speech.  It has also presented Muslims as the victims of so-called “Islamophobia” in order to win more support for their cause.

FP: What exactly is the Defamation of Religions?

Weiss: Well, in America we have the concept of defamation of individuals or groups.  Generally, defamation in the U.S. has to be a false statement and with negligent or reckless disregard of the truth, depending on whether you’re defaming a public figure or a private citizen.  And it has to be a statement that is likely to result in either a pecuniary harm or harm to that person’s reputation.  In America, truth is a complete defense.  And I might add that in our system, defamation only applies to statements of fact.  The First Amendment gives us protection to express any opinion we desire, no matter how negative it might be.

Defamation of Religions by contrast, gives protection to an idea, in this case a religion, as opposed to protecting a person or group.  Also, it constitutes protection from criticism, even if the statement is true.  And to boot, the way it is applied in countries that implement it, and the way the OIC interprets it, it is really only applied to Islam.  In fact, the original title was called Defamation of Islam, but in order to get more support for it, the OIC changed the title.  Still, Islam is the only religion mentioned in the text, and in practice it is only Islam that is afforded protection from criticism.  Believe me, the OIC is totally fine with Defamation of Judaism and Defamation of Christianity.  Additionally, the Muslim countries that have these types of laws usually impose a harsh criminal penalty for its violation, rather than a civil penalty.  People who “defame Islam” are often jailed, flogged, sometimes even executed.

FP: Implementing Defamation of Religions laws obviously harms people.

Weiss: Yes, Jamie, it does.  What’s ironic about it is that the OIC wants to make “Defamation of Religions” a human right.  But in reality, it constitutes the very opposite of a human right.  In countries that have this law, there are gross human rights violations.  Not only are the penalties very harsh, but it also has the effect of oppressing those with minority religions.  For example, if you are Christian and you say, “I believe Jesus is the Son of G-d”, that is not only blasphemy, but could be considered Defamation of Religions.  Saying this could have dire consequences.  This law even hurts Muslims who have a minority interpretation of Islam that differs from the official interpretation of the government.  For example, in Pakistan it is illegal to be an Ahmadiyya Muslim.  Ahamadiyyas are peaceful, loving, egalitarian-minded Muslims.  But because they believe in a Prophet after Mohammad (named Ahmad), the Pakistani government considers them heretics and openly practicing their faith is a crime.

FP: Defamation of Religions is clearly harmful to religious freedom and human rights.  What are some other negative implications?

Weiss: The ramifications also include the hampering of national security and terrorism prevention efforts.  If you know anything about war, the threat doctrine dictates that the first rule of war is that you must know your enemy and be able to name it by name.  Unfortunately, to the degree that the West censors discussion of Islam and Islamic terrorism, it hamstrings the ability of intelligence professionals to come up with strategies to defeat the problem.

FP: Here in America, we are still allowed to discuss these things, right?

Weiss: So far, America is the last bastion of freedom in terms of free speech. Unlike Europe, we do not have hate speech laws – yet.  However, we have moved from self-censorship to having our government and other institutions issue restrictive guidelines on speech.  For example, DHS, the State Departmentand the NCTC have all issued memos to their professional employees discouraging them from using words such as Islamic terrorism.  The National Security Strategy Memo, which guides our whole US national security policy, also has had all references to Islamic terrorism deleted.  There have been various other measures taken, especially in this administration, to cleanse all official and unofficial policy from discussion, mention, or even acknowledgement of Islamic terrorism.

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China and Pakistan Stage Publicity Demonstration of Anti-Terror Cooperation In Lahore

“Pakistan and China friendship is everlasting.”

China, Pakistan boost anti-terror cooperation

Pakistan and Chinese soldiers take part in a joint exercise in Jhelum, Pakistan Thursday, Nov 24, 2011. At the conclusion of the joint exercise, Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that elements of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are operating in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan even there we have exchange of intelligence and we have done utmost to eliminate this threat of ETIM and other extremists for China. 
Pakistan and Chinese soldiers take part in a joint exercise in Jhelum, Pakistan Thursday, Nov 24, 2011. At the conclusion of the joint exercise, Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that elements of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) are operating in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan even there we have exchange of intelligence and we have done utmost to eliminate this threat of ETIM and other extremists for China. (AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)
By Chris BrummittAssociated Press / November 25, 2011

JHELUM, Pakistan—The Pakistani and Chinese attack choppers swoop low across the valley, strafing a mock terrorist hideout and a bomb-making factory. Then a joint commando team storms the camp — to the gentle applause of top brass from both nations watching from the stands.

The fact that such a drill is needed reflects a new concern troubling their long-standing alliance: Chinese militants along the Afghan border allegedly aiding separatism in China and plotting terrorist attacks there

Countries around the world, especially the U.S., share Chinese concerns about Pakistan’s militant-infested tribal regions, but few get the same kind of public commitment of help as Beijing. It’s a legacy of China’s oft-hailed “all-weather friendship” with Pakistan.

Anti-terror cooperation is the latest example of the special relationship between the neighboring countries.

China’s good will is vital to Pakistan: China is its largest defense supplier, and it has helped construct two nuclear reactors. Chinese investments help keep the Pakistani economy afloat.

Chinese economic interests are also threatened because militants have made parts of the country no-go areas. Chinese companies are investing in oil, gas and coal extraction to fuel their country’s rapidly expanding economy. There are hundreds of Chinese citizens working in Pakistan, and some have occasionally been attacked or kidnapped.

Its main interest in Pakistan is countering rising Indian power in the region, a goal that is shared by Islamabad, which views India as an enemy.

As ties with Washington have deteriorated this year, some Pakistani leaders have suggested China could fill the economic, diplomatic and military void if America scales back its commitment.

Part of the concern centers on the bitter aftermath of the May 2 U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, including reports that Pakistan gave China access to the damaged high-tech stealth helicopter left behind by U.S. commandos when they killed bin Laden. China denied that.

Despite the tensions following the raid, some American counter-terror cooperation with Pakistan has continued. The Pakistani army still allows Washington to fire missiles at militants in its northwest regions. That also cuts into the ability of Chinese militants to train and forge links with other extremists there.

Thursday’s dramatic war games in the dusty, hilly Punjab countryside were the kind of Pakistani public display of international anti-terror cooperation that Washington could only dream of, given the environment of mistrust and suspicion with Pakistan.

“Terrorism is something which is a threat to China, in some ways, and to other countries in the world as well,” Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani told journalists alongside China’s deputy chief of general staff, Gen. Hou Shusen. “There is a need to share our experiences with our Chinese friends,” the Pakistani army chief said.

Militants from China, mostly Uighur-speaking Muslims from the Xinjiang region, are present in Taliban-controlled parts of northwest Pakistan, where they live and train alongside terrorists from around the world. Visitors to North Waziristan, a militant stronghold, say they are known locally as “Chinese Taliban.” A few times a year, they release videos threatening Beijing and demanding freedom for Xinjiang.

Beijing blamed a spate of unrest in July this year in Xinjiang on one group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, said to be based in Pakistan. In an unusually blunt charge, China alleged the terrorists were trained in Pakistan. The Pakistani government and army quickly publicly pledged more help.

Many China watchers and Uighur activists call the Chinese accusations a smoke screen to obscure the anger and hopelessness among Uighurs they say are driving the violence. By blaming outside forces, they say China hopes to avoid shortcomings in policies aimed at reducing tensions there.

Kayani acknowledged ETIM’s presence in Pakistan. The military rarely refers to Chinese militants when discussing the concerns of Afghanistan and the United States about militants using North Waziristan as a base for attacks across the border.

“We have done our utmost to eliminate this threat of ETIM and other extremists for China,” said Kayani. “We have had a very close cooperation and we do exchange intelligence.”

Pakistan has handed over Uighur suspects to China, but actual joint anti-terror operations, as opposed to simulated ones targeting terrorists on Pakistani soil are not expected to happen.

China does not have a military presence in Pakistan and is not known to be pursuing one. That contrasts, with the U.S. Army, which had more than 100 trainers embedded with Pakistani troops fighting militants in the northwest. They were ordered out in the aftermath of the bin Laden raid, which enraged the Pakistani army because it was carried out without its knowledge.

Pakistan’s military is not known to have directly targeted Chinese militants in the border regions. Indeed, it has long rebuffed American requests for action in North Waziristan, saying it doesn’t have enough troops to do so effectively.

Tensions between China and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries, rarely make their way into the public domain, and there were none on display during the anti-terror drill.

The mock operation involved around 500 soldiers from both nations. It began with a spectacular parachute drop of Chinese troops from 3,000 feet (1,000 meters).

Helicopters dropped other soldiers close to the buildings. They raided the structures and then detonated them, sending balls of orange flames and mushroom clouds of smoke into the early winter air, before flying off.

After the drill was over, the generals enjoyed a Pak-China feast of goat curry, nan bread, sweet and sour soup and Chinese-style chicken. Presents were exchanged. In a final symbol of their alliance, both sets of troops lined up, chanting in unison, “Pakistan and China friendship is everlasting,” pumping their fists.

 

Russia unveils major rescue for Belarus

Russia unveils major rescue for Belarus

By MarketWatch

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin unveiled a major Russian rescue package for Belarus Friday, winning a major stake in its neighbor’s economy, just a day after Minsk jailed a top rights campaigner.

Putin said ahead of a meeting with visiting Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko that Russia was slashing the price Minsk has to pay for gas to less than half the average paid by other European states.

In an important quid pro quo, Russia will acquire the half of its neighbor’s gas transport network it does not own already and also win full control of the Yamal gas pipeline to Europe that stretches through Belarus.

Putin said the price Belarus pays for Russian gas would drop from the $244 per thousand cubic meters this year to $164 at the start of 2012. Minsk would start paying Russia’s own domestic price by 2014.

“This is a substantial rebate. It will help to keep at least $2 billion in Belarus,” Putin said in televised remarks.

“At the same time, we agree that the Russian company Gazprom is acquiring the entire 100% stake in Beltransgaz–the gas transport system of Belarus.”

Putin initially said Ukraine before quickly correcting himself. Ironically, the slip came as Moscow also presses ahead with efforts to win control of Ukrainian gas pipelines in exchange for cheaper shipment costs.

Russia in addition offered Belarus a $10 billion loan over 15 years for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in ex-Soviet Ukraine.

Moscow initially agreed to finance the project in June 2009.

The deals’ signature comes as Belarus struggles with a massive current account deficit that has forced it to devalue its currency by some 65% and sell stakes in its prized economic assets to Russia and other states.

The economic turmoil stoked protests against Lukashenko’s 17-year old regime that led to the arrests of hundreds of demonstrators and convictions of top opposition leaders.

The former Soviet republic’s rights record drew more European condemnation on Thursday when a Minsk court jailed leading human rights campaigner Ales Beliatsky for 4.5 years for tax evasion.

Russia has offered only mild criticism of Lukashenko’s crackdown and is now securing economic deals that analysts say should afford Minsk at least another year to deal with the economic crisis.