The crisis gives the US new financial power

The crisis gives the US new financial power

By Ricardo Hausmann

Published: December 15 2008 19:19 | Last updated: December 15 2008 19:19

The economic crisis in the US signals the end of American global hegemony. Or does it? Pundits from different camps, some with fear and others with glee, contemplate a future where the US will have a much diminished weight in global affairs. But if the US plays its hand well, things will turn out to be just the opposite.

It is useful to remember that power is a relative, not an absolute concept. True, the US has been hurt by the current turmoil but so have many others. The Dow Jones is down by almost 40 per cent so far this year but this makes it pretty much the best performing stock market in the world.

More importantly, as far as power is concerned, unfriendly states such as Russia, Iran and Venezuela are suffering from a dual collapse in the price of their oil exports and the value of their sovereign bonds.

Remember the dangerous scenario this past summer with Russia intervening in Georgia and threatening Europe with the energy card?

Now, Russian policymakers perform daily prayers just to be able to open the stock market for regular business.

More broadly, the financial meltdown has translated into a sudden stop in capital flows to emerging and developing countries, which threatens to destabilise their growth, their financial systems and their government accounts.

Contrary to popular opinion, the current crisis has very little to do with the Armageddon that Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University, predicted over the past few years. In his mind, the widening US current account deficit would eventually top the willingness of the rest of the world to fund it, causing the US dollar to crash while long term interest rates on US Treasury bonds would soar.

That has little to do with this crisis: the US has become the only remaining super-borrower, able to issue thousands of billions of dollars in debt at record low rates while the dollar strengthens. People are unwilling to lend to almost anybody except for the US Treasury. This has allowed the US to provide – at record low cost – about $5,000bn (£3,325bn, €3,700bn) to bail out its financial system and organise a Keynesian reflation of its economy.

At the same time, fairly well behaved countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and Turkey have essentially lost access to external finance.

What should the US do with its newfound financial power? While it is tempting to use this power only for domestic policy purposes, it would be a mistake to do so.

First, the US is already running a large current account deficit, a reflection of the fact that domestic spending is well above output. Using the capacity to borrow just to spend it domestically is going to aggravate this deficit and leave the US with a worsened external balance that will limit growth down the line.

Second, net public debt is rising sharply just as baby boomers will begin to collect their social security cheques, worsening long-run fiscal solvency.

Third, many countries across the world are going to suffer the consequences of the lack of access to finance at a time where the decline in their export earnings would have warranted more borrowing to smooth things out. If unchecked, this will cause their economies to shrink and their imports to decline, hurting US exports just when they are most needed. Under these conditions, there is the risk that countries will shut themselves off from the global economy and impose the financial equivalent of the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 . This can lead to an unravelling of the consensus for globalisation that has characterised the post-cold war era.

Fourth, if the US re-circulates financial resources, by on-lending to well behaved countries that have lost access because of the financial crisis, it would not increase its net debt but instead would make money for the US taxpayer while helping increase demand for US exports.

Fifth, re-exporting capital to the rest of the world would prevent the inconvenient strengthening of the dollar.

Finally, exercising this function would give the US enormous soft power in the world. Countries would have to decide whether they want to play ball with market democracy and benefit from access to the financial resources that the US and others can mobilise, or try to form a separate camp with Russia, Iran or Venezuela just as the rug has been pulled from under them.

Re-circulating the money in the needed scale will require more than business as usual at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and regional development banks. These institutions have been lending well below $100bn a year but the collapse of financial markets represents some $700bn in lost access.

Moreover, countries are afraid to ask for assistance for fear of scaring the markets. The US Federal Reserve has already broken new ground by offering $120bn in swap agreements with Brazil, Korea, Mexico and Singapore but this is geographically limited and unilateral. Intervening directly by creating a fund to purchase globally public and private securities, as is being done at home, and the Latin American Financial Regulation Shadow Committee – of which I am a member – has recently recommended, may be a promising way forward.

The author is the director of Harvard’s Center for International Development and a member of the Latin American Financial Regulation Shadow Committee

The Mumbai Massacre And Pakistan’s New Nightmares

The Mumbai Massacre And Pakistan’s New Nightmares

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

15 December, 2008

Focus, Germany

(This interview of Pervez Hoodbhoy was conducted by Cristina Otten for FOCUS. It may be found on-line in German here. A more readable pdf version is also attached here.)

CO: Tensions between Pakistan and India have been growing after the Mumbai attacks. Are we close to a military escalation?

PH: In spite of vociferous demands by the Indian public, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has withstood the pressure to conduct cross-border strikes into Pakistan. Correspondingly, in spite of the bitter criticism by Islamic parties, Pakistan’s government has moved against the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), the jihadist organization that is almost certainly behind the attacks. For now, the tension has eased somewhat but another attack could push India over the fence.

CO: What makes the LeT so different from other militant groups? Is Pakistan really moving against it?

PH: LeT, one of the largest militant groups in Pakistan, was established over 15 years ago. It had the full support of the Pakistani military and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for over a decade because it focussed upon fighting Indian rule in Muslim Kashmir. Today it is one of the very few extremist groups left that does not attack the Pakistani army and state; in contrast almost all others have turned into fierce enemies. We now hear that a few members of LeT, who were named by India, have been arrested. Time will tell whether this was a serious move, or if this was a ruse to ease the enormous pressure against Pakistan. If serious, then the Army and ISI will have earned the bitter enmity of yet another former ally. They are afraid of a repeat of their experience with Jaish-e-Muhammad, a formerly supported Islamic militant group that now is responsible for extreme brutalities against of Pakistani soldiers captured in FATA, including torture and decapitations. It’s a nightmarish situation for the Pakistan Army.

CO: How have Pakistanis reacted to the Mumbai massacre?

PH: The initial reaction was of sympathy. I did not see any celebrations, contrary to those that I saw after 911. But then, as the Indian TV channels started accusing Pakistan and demanding that it be bombed in retaliation, the reaction turned to that of anger and flat denial – Pakistanis did not want to accept that this attack was done by Pakistanis or had been launched from Pakistani soil. Subsequently one saw amazing mental gymnastics. Popular TV anchors, and their guests, invoked far-out conspiracy theories. Years ago, some of the same anchors had confidently claimed that Kathmandu-Delhi Indian Airlines Flight 814 (IC814) had been hijacked by RAW to malign Pakistan. They had also ridiculed the notion that Pakistan was involved in the Kargil invasion. Now, pointing to the RSS hand in the Samjhota Express bombing, they are alternately ascribing the Mumbai attacks to radical Hindus, or to Jews and Americans. It is sad to see intelligent persons losing their marbles.

CO: Pakistan has always stressed that it will deliver the first nuclear strike if it feels threatened by India? Do you see any signs on the Pakistani sign to carry out its threat?

PH: About a week before the Mumbai massacre, President Asif Ali Zardari had given the assurance that Pakistan would not use nuclear weapons first. India had announced a no first use policy almost ten years ago. But Zardari is not taken seriously by the Pakistani generals who actually control the Bomb, and the Indian NFU declaration is frankly of no consequence. Cross-border raids by India could well ignite a conventional war. If that happens, all bets are off and it could escalate without warning into a nuclear conflict. For many years US defence strategists, belonging to various think tanks and war colleges, have been simulating conflicts between Pakistan and India. They say that a conventional war will almost certainly lead to a nuclear conclusion. Fear of nuclear weapons has made deterrence work. More accurately, deterrence has worked only thus far. No guarantees can be given for the future.

CO: Why did the assassins choose India instead of committing attacks against Western allies in Afghanistan?

PH: LeT is based around Lahore, which is on the Pakistan-India border, in a town called Muridke. This has a huge militant training and charity complex. LeT’s membership is mostly Punjabi, which makes it linguistically and culturally quite unsuited for fighting in Afghanistan. You could say that LeT is an India-specific, Kashmir-specific group. Indeed, over the years it has had many military successes in Kashmir against Indian forces. But LeT, like other militant groups in Pakistan, sees a nexus between Indians, Americans, and Israelis. Hence they are all seen as enemies and fair game.

CO: What did the Mumbai terrorists want?

PH: No demands were made and all hostages were killed. So the purpose of the attack was never formally declared. On the other hand, the stated goals of LeT and similar organizations based in Pakistan leave little doubt. The attack clearly sought to hurt India’s economy and its newly acquired reputation as an economic powerhouse, and to create a climate of war between India and Pakistan. If Pakistan moves its troops towards the eastern border the pressure on the Pakistani Taliban in FATA, which is close to the western border, would be lessened. Still another reason would be to encourage pogroms against Muslims in India. This would swell the ranks of the extremists, and also have the added benefit of destabilizing both the Pakistani and Indian states. Finally, the attack was a means of releasing hatred against non-Muslims.

CO: What differences and parallels do you see between the Mumbai attacks and the attack in the in Marriott Hotel in Islamabad?

PH: They were quite dissimilar in how they were executed. The Mumbai attacks were extremely intricate, used GPS and voice-over-internet protocols for communication purposes, involved extensive military training, and probably required planning over a period of a year. The goal was to kill foreigners, particularly Jews and Americans, although Muslims were also collateral casualties. On the other hand, the Marriot bombing in Islamabad was a relatively simple affair involving a single dump-truck with a suicide bomber, and its victims were principally Muslims. The basic purpose, however, was similar – to destabilize the Pakistani state, take revenge on the US (2 of the 58 killed were US marines), and raise the cost of war in Afghanistan and FATA.

CO: In the West experts talk about a new dimension of terror in India. Do you also see tight connections between Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaida?

PH: One is naturally tempted to guess a nexus between LeT and Al-Qaida. Of course, they do share similar goals. But in the world that extremists inhabit, mere similarity is insufficient – it has to be much closer than that because small ideological differences are amplified out of proportion. As yet there is no proof of joint operations or cooperation. So presently this is no more than a plausible hypothesis.

CO: What role does Kashmir play in the current conflict?

PH: Since 1987, Kashmir has been in a state of upheaval. Fraudulent elections conducted by India led to widespread resentment, followed by a horrifically bloody crackdown by Indian security forces. Pakistan’s army saw opportunity in this, and waged a covert war in Kashmir using jihadists to “bleed India with a thousand cuts”. The United Jihad Council, which oversees the activities of an estimated 22 Pakistan-based organizations, acts outside of the domain of the Pakistani state but it has had active support from the country’s army and intelligence agencies. The Kargil conflict in 1999 brought matters to a head when General Musharraf initiated a war with the assistance of jihadist forces. This inflicted severe damage on Indian forces but Pakistan was ultimately forced to withdraw. Jihadists subsequently celebrated General Musharraf as a hero, and vilified Nawaz Sharif for a cowardly surrender.

CO: In January 2002, General Musharraf had declared that no groups on Pakistani territory would be permitted to launch cross-border attacks. Was this promise fulfilled?

PH: Subsequently there indeed was a decline in cross-border infiltrations, and some lessening of the covert support given by Pakistani agencies. But this was far from zero and they maintained a strong presence. On a personal note: soon after the terrible October 8, 2005 earthquake, I had gone to various areas of Azad Kashmir for relief work. There I found the Lashkar-i-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Sipah-i-Sahaba, and other banned jihadist organizations operating openly and freely using military-style six-wheeled vehicles, as well as displaying their weapons. Their relief efforts were far better organized than that of the Pakistan army and, in fact, they were pulling injured soldiers out of the rubble. When I mentioned this fact to General Musharraf a few months later at a Kashmir peace conference, he was very angry at me for discussing a tabooed subject.

CO: On the one hand, we have radical extremists in Pakistan who want to bring strict Islamic law into force and demonize the West. On the other hand, however, the government presents itself as a friend and ally of the United States. Could you please describe this antagonism and explain where it originates from? What does this tell us about the growth of extremism in Pakistan?

PH: Radical extremism is the illegitimate offspring of a union between the United States under Ronald Reagan, and Pakistan under General Zia-ul-Haq. Twenty five years ago, the two countries had joined up to harness Islamic fighters for expelling the Soviets from Afghanistan. The US was quite happy to see radical Islam spreading because it served its goal at the time. Simultaneously, Pakistan saw a major social transformation under General Zia. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for university academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was declared essential for every Muslim. But today the government is in open conflict with the radicals. It has to deal with a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – as yet in some amorphous and diffuse form – is more popular today than ever before as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state. Even though the government and military in Pakistan are allied formally to the US, the people are strongly against the US.

CO: What parts of the Pakistani society support al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden?

PH: Baluchistan and Sind are far less supportive than Punjab or the NWFP. The amazing fact is that parts of Pakistan’s upper class – which is very Westernized but also very anti-Western – also support the Islamists. I find it tragic that there is no uproar in the country when Taliban suicide bombers target mosques, funerals, hospitals, girls schools, and slaughter policemen and soldiers. People have become so anti-American that it has blinded them to these atrocities. Even the Pakistani left is thoroughly confused and mistakes the Taliban as anti-imperialist fighters.

CO: And where do you stand on this matter? Do you see anything that the Islamists have to offer?

PH: The people of Pakistan need and deserve everything that people everywhere else want. This means food, jobs, houses to live in, a system of justice and governance, and protection of life and property. Equally, people need freedom of worship and thought, education for both males and females, and protection of their freedom as summarized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These are everybody’s primary needs. After this – a distinct second – come matters that deal with national sovereignty, foreign policy, various global issues, etc. Frankly, I cannot see Pakistan’s Islamists offering anything positive. They are against population planning, educating females, tolerating other sects or religions, etc. They neither know the outside world, nor want to know it. All they know – and know well – is how to make war. Fortunately, as their rout in the recent elections showed, most Pakistanis do not want to live under their narrow doctrines and belief system.

CO: President Asif Ali Zardari promised to hunt terrorists and to destroy terror camps in Pakistan? But his affirmations seem to be halfhearted. Can’t he do more or doesn’t he want do more?

PH: It is not up to him to do more. The real power lies with the Pakistan Army, which is still undecided as to who the real enemy is. The Army has lost nearly two thousand soldiers in battles with extremists. But it still cannot convince itself that they constitute an existentialist threat to Pakistan. One can understand this reluctance. Over the years, officers and soldiers were recruited into the Army on the basis that they were defenders of Islam and would always fight India. Instead they now have to fight forces that claim to be even better defenders of Islam. Worse, they are no longer being called upon to fight India, which is what they were trained for. So there is confusion and demoralization, and practically zero public understanding or support. Therefore, Pakistani soldiers are not fighting well at all in FATA. Many have surrendered without a fight.

CO: Do you support the government’s war against extremists?

PH: This is the first time in my life that I feel the Army should be supported, but only to the extent that it fights the extremists without killing innocents. Unfortunately, the Army’s current tactic is to flatten villages suspected of harbouring terrorists. The collateral damage is huge and completely unacceptable.

CO: Pakistan has armed and financed the Taliban after the US invasion of Afghanistan. The CIA pays Pakistan to arrest al-Qaeda operatives, but Pakistan uses the money to fund the Taliban resurgence in northwest Pakistan. Any changes under the new president?

PH: It will take time – and perhaps still more suffering – to kick an old habit. Even though the Army is being literally slaughtered by the Taliban, it continues to make a distinction between the “good” and “bad” Taliban.

The good ones are, by definition, those who attack only US/Nato or Indian interests in Afghanistan, but do not attack the Pakistan Army. The good ones are seen as essential for having a friendly Afghanistan when, as will surely happen some day, the Americans withdraw. Among the good Taliban are jihadist leaders such as Jalaludin Haqqani. On the other hand, Baitullah Mehsud or Maulana Fazlullah, are considered bad Taliban because they attack the Army and the state. Interestingly, Army inspired propaganda paints the bad Taliban as Indian agents – which is quite ridiculous. This false differentiation is the real reason for the Army’s ambivalence and inability to deal effectively with the Taliban menace.

CO: Pakistan is a nuclear state. Should we fear that one day the Taliban or al-Qaida could get access to the nuclear arsenal?

PH: I am more worried about extremists having access to nuclear materials, particularly highly enriched uranium, rather than a completed weapon. Because of secrecy requirements, it is very difficult for outsiders to monitor the output of uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing plants. Interestingly, we are seeing a shift away from nuclear weapons in the West. The unusability of nuclear weapons by national states is being recognized even by mainstream politicians in the US and Europe because nuclear weapons now no longer guarantee the monopoly of power. This makes possible the ultimate de-legitimization of nuclear weapons, and hence winding down of fissile material production globally. This may be our best long-term hope of countering the nuclear terrorist threat, whether by Al-Qaida or other terrorist groups. Meanwhile, in the short term, great care must be given to watching over suspicious nuclear activities.

CO: What should India do and what is your forecast for the region?

PH: India should not attack Pakistan. This would be counter-productive in every possible way. Even if it wins a war, it will be a pyrrhic victory. On the other hand, a small attack can be no more than a pin-prick. This would do more harm than good because it will unite the army and the jihadists who, at this juncture in history, are in serious confrontation with each other. Worse, even a small attack could lead to large response, and then escalate out of control. Nuclear armed countries simply cannot afford skirmishes. I think India’s demand for action against jihadist groups is entirely legitimate, but this must be done by Pakistan, which is susceptible to international pressure. To get rid of militants and extremists – whether Muslim or Hindu – is in the best interests of both Pakistan and India.

CO: Will Pakistani extremists win or can the West still bring about a rebound?

PH: It’s a grim situation but not irreversible. The invasion of Iraq, and US imperial policies over the last decades, created a hatred for Americans that ultimately translated into support for all who fight them. Most Pakistanis do not approve of the Taliban’s fundamental and primitivist social agenda. But, by virtue of fighting the Americans, popular sentiment is still with them. So, reducing anti-Americanism is the key. One hopes that Barack Obama will be able to undo some of the harm his country did to Pakistan. Let’s see. But basically it is for Pakistanis – not Indians or anybody else – to fight it out. We Pakistanis have to realize that this is a war for our very existence as a civilized nation. Western support for Pakistan must be very judicious and not too overt. Similarly, isolating Pakistan, or inflicting harsh punitive measures, could easily backfire. The Taliban and allied extremists have a real chance of winning in Pakistan. The state is already crumbling in places and it could disintegrate quite rapidly, leaving the fanatics in charge. One cannot think of a bigger disaster for Pakistan.

Pakistan: The War of Drones

Pakistan: The War of Drones

Pervez Hoodbhoy

Drones, machine and human, have drenched Pakistan with the blood of innocents. On the one side are US-made drones such as the MQ-1B General Dynamics Predator – a remote controlled, self-propelled, missile-bearing aerial system. On the other side are the low-tech human drones, armed with explosive vests

stuffed with ball bearings and nails. These lethal engines of destruction, programmed by remote handlers, are very different. But neither asks why it must kill, nor cares about the death and suffering it causes.

On January 13 2006, a bevy of MQ-1Bs hovering over Damadola launched a barrage of ten Hellfire missiles at the village below. They blew up 18 local people, including five women and five children. Such cold statistics say nothing about the smashed lives of the survivors, or the grief of the bereaved. The blame was put on faulty local intelligence.

Then, on October 30 2006, a Hellfire missile hit a madrassa in Bajaur killing between 80-85 people, mostly students. Even if those killed were allegedly training to become Al-Qaida militants, and even if a few key Al-Qaida leaders such as Abu Laith al-Libi have been eliminated, the more usual outcome has been flattened houses, dead and maimed children, and a growing local population that seeks revenge against Pakistan and the US.

The human drone has left a far bloodier trail across Pakistani cities. From 6 suicide attacks in 2006, the tally went up to 62 in 2007. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, at least 1,523 civilians were killed in terror-related violence in 2007 and more than twice that number injured. The average is now more than one per week – the last week saw four in a row. Those praying in mosques, imambargahs, or at funerals have been no safer than others at political rallies or while crossing a road. Beards and prayer marks on the forehead are no protection either.

It is possible to imagine how an American soldier or CIA operative controlling a Predator drone can distance himself from the death and destruction it causes in a remote country on the other side of the world that they imagine is full of enemies. For them, it is a job and a way to defend their country. What is harder to understand is how the Pakistani suicide bomber can kill people who are so close to him in so many ways.

A spine-chilling suicide bomber training video, one of the several videos that freely circulate in Pakistan’s tribal areas, offers the beginning of an explanation. About 30 masked fighters are filmed in this video, speaking a language that is not any of Pakistan’s regional languages, Arabic, or Persian. They are training in some barren, mountainous area. One fighter, randomly selected by their leader, proceeds to climb a huge rock, perhaps 100 feet high. He reaches the highest point, and then stands motionless. His arms are outstretched as though on a diving board. On a signal from the leader below, without hesitation, and without closing his eyes, he hurls himself into the void.

The camera cuts to the body lying on blood-soaked ground. It slowly pans over the faces of the other masked fighters. Their eyes betray no emotion. A second signal from the leader, and they trot military-style to the body, dig a shallow grave, toss their dead comrade into it, and cover it up. Then, amazingly, they march over the grave several times, chanting Quranic verses. This is astonishing, because to trample a grave is the ultimate mark of disrespect in a Muslim culture.

Why sacrifice a human life for a few minutes of footage? English sub-titles reveal that this is obviously a propaganda video. Its message: the group’s fighters have overcome the fear of death, and have willingly surrendered their lives to the group leader, and their individual powers to reason and decide.

As troubling as the murders is the response of Pakistanis. While the murder of innocents by the MQ-1B has rightly led to condemnation in Pakistan, the even greater carnage by suicide bombers has provoked less criticism. Some editorials, mostly in English language newspapers, have been forthright. But there are few full-throated denunciations to be found in Urdu newspapers.

On the other hand, implicit justifications abound. In January 2008, thirty leading Deobandi religious scholars, while declaring suicide attacks “haram”, rationalized these as a reaction to the government’s misguided polices in the tribal areas. They concluded that “A peaceful demand for implementing Shariah was not only rejected but the government was also not willing to give ear to any reasoning based on Quran and Sunnah in support of the Shariah demand.

Apparently, these circumstances led some minds to the frustration that manifested itself in suicide attacks.”

What are these ulema telling us? That we should adopt the Shariah to avoid being attacked? This amounts to encouragement and incitement, not condemnation of the suicide bombers’ actions. But even civil society activists, who have bravely protested the dismissal of the Chief Justice by General Musharraf, have not held any street protests against these ghastly crimes.

Why do so many Pakistanis suddenly lose their voice when it comes to condemning suicide bombings? Is it because the bomber kills in the name of Islam? Are people muted in their criticism lest they be regarded as irreligious or even blasphemous?

Or, is the silence political? Many choose to believe that the suicide bomber is a consequence of Pakistan’s acquiescence to being America’s junior partner in its war against terror. Conversely, there is a widespread opinion that suicide attacks will disappear if Pakistan dissociates itself from this war. But, few admit the brutal fact that even if America retreats, or an elected government calls off the army, the terror of jihadism will remain.

It is true that suicide bombings were a rarity in Pakistan until the army acted against Islamic militants in the tribal areas on US prodding. Army action against the Lal Masjid militants was another turning point. But the majority of today’s dead and wounded are perfectly ordinary people. Many were pious Muslims, and some were killed in the act of prayer. They had absolutely nothing to do with American or Pakistani forces.

Even with evidence staring them in the face, most Pakistanis seem locked into a state of denial. They refuse to accept the obvious fact that more and more mullahs have created cults around themselves and exercise control over the lives of worshippers. An enabling environment of poverty, deprivation, lack of justice, and extreme differences of wealth is perfect for demagogues.

As the mullah’s indoctrination gains strength, the power to reason weakens. The world of the follower becomes increasingly divided into absolute good and absolute evil. Doubt is replaced by certainty, moral sensibilities are blunted. Reduced to a mere instrument for murder, the human drone is left with no room for useless things such as judgment, doubt, or conscience. As other human beings become mere objects rather than people deserving of love and compassion, the metamorphosis from human to drone becomes complete.

The last thoughts of a suicide bomber cannot be known, but remorse or doubt is unlikely. There is no lower depth to which humans can fall to. Except, perhaps, those who control them – and towards whom we still dare not point a finger at.

Dawn, Sunday, 9 March 2008

Nepal denies arresting Ajmal Kasab in 2005

[AGAIN THE NEPALESE CONNECTION RAISES ITS HEAD. Dawood, whose reach had spread from Dubai to Karachi and Colombo to London, regarded Kathmandu as his strongest base. In fact the mafia don even considered shifting to Kathmandu for a while.”  The more that real evidence is revealed, the more it becomes obvious that CIA-asset Dawood Ibrahim was the mastermind behind these attacks, thus proving this to be just another secret imperial war.]

Nepal denies arresting Ajmal Kasab in 2005

Nepal’s home ministry on Monday rejected the claim by a Pakistani lawyer that Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist to have been captured alive after the Mumbai attack last month, was arrested in Kathmandu in 2005 and handed over to the Indian authorities.

“We have no such information,” home ministry spokesman Nabin Kumar Ghimire told IANS.

The denial came after a Pakistani lawyer, CM Farooque, claimed that Kasab had gone to Kathmandu “before 2006” on a business visit when he was arrested by Nepal police and handed over to India.

The lawyer also claimed that nearly 200 Pakistanis were held along with Kasab in a secret detention place so that they could be used to serve some “ulterior designs” later.

According to the lawyer, he filed a case in Nepal’s Supreme Court asking for their release. The case, according to Farooque, is still being heard with a hearing scheduled later this month when he would be visiting Kathmandu to argue on behalf of his clients.

“The people arrested in Nepal had gone there on legal visas for business but Indian agencies are in the habit of capturing Pakistanis from Nepal and afterwards implicating them in the Mumbai-like incidents to malign Pakistan,” the lawyer alleged.

However, Supreme Court documents showed that in February 2007, the Pakistani lawyer had asked Nepal’s apex court to free two Pakistanis, Asif Ali and Walid Sajjad, who had been reportedly arrested from a hotel in Kathmandu in 2005.

Indian officials dismissed the lawyer’s allegations as “sheer propaganda.”

“Kasab’s parents in Pakistan have acknowledged him as their son and media reports from Pakistan established that he was recruited from there by the Lashkar-e-Taiba to take part in the Mumbai attacks,” a senior official said on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s also been established that the attackers came by boat from Pakistan.

“Obviously, the Pakistani lawyer’s allegations are sheer propaganda trying to indicate that Kasab came from India.”

To Zardari-Gilani-Qureshi-Durrani: Why Humiliate Pakistan?

To Zardari-Gilani-Qureshi

Durrani: Why Humiliate


Now Mr. Zardari wants to ‘own’ Indian airspace violations. He already ‘owns’ American violations as well. In less than ten days, the Zardari-Gilani government transformed Pakistan into the main culprit in the Mumbai attacks. So keen was President Zardari for Pakistan to be implicated that his prime minister offered the ISI chief to the Indians, in partial admission of guilt. It was also an attempt to put the Pakistani military under the spotlight. Subsequently, every opportunity was missed to confront India about loopholes in its story. And lastly, our government confirmed Pakistan’s guilt by taking action against its own citizens without evidence and offered no resistance to a biased U.N. resolution that is entirely based on Indian and American ideas. Even Chinese diplomats were stunned at the Pakistani government’s behavior. So are we.


Monday, 15 December 2008.


ISLAMABAD, PakistanOn a talk show on Express News TV, I watched Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira, a federal minister in the Zardari-Gilani government, excitedly defend his government’s partial admission of responsibility in the Mumbai attacks and the orders to arrest Pakistani citizens to please the Indians.

The only word that came to my mind was ‘shameless’. He was under orders from President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, and the national security adviser Mehmood Ali Durrani, to lie. He was lying through his teeth. He could have chosen to resign and refuse to compromise on Pakistan’s honor. But obviously he has no respect for his people and his homeland–a standard practice for Pakistani politicians who normally seek support and approval abroad, especially in Washington.

Washington, coincidentally, happens to be the godmother of this current Pakistani government. Almost all the seniors in office in Islamabad today owe their luck to a deal brokered by the U.S. Department of State with a weak Pervez Musharraf a year ago.

Minister Kaira could have said his government had to do whatever it did under pressure; that he doesn’t like it but there was no other way. Instead, Mr. Kaira was in pain to turn an Indian problem – the Mumbai comedy of failures – into a Pakistani problem.

“How can we allow non-state actors to sideline state actors?” the minister questioned in a phony display of sincerity. Almost all the ministers of the Zardari government are following the same line, with the silliest one reserved for the world’s most courageous defense minister, Mr. Ahmed Mukhtar, who lied to reporters when he said over the weekend his government had no option but to accept the biased U.N. Security Council resolution to avoid being declared a terrorist state. The statement created a mini stir in Washington when reporters there besieged Bush admin spokespeople to know if Washington had actually made the threat to Pakistan. They had to deny, of course.

In the short span of ten days, President Zardari, his prime minister and his cast of ministers have led Pakistan into a series of diplomatic defeats, turning Pakistan into the main culprit in the Mumbai attacks, something that the Indians could not have achieved on their own no matter what.

Indian lies are passing without check, not even from Pakistan’s side, where the government and its media and diplomatic arms should have been at the forefront of ripping apart the Indian version of the story, which is filled with loopholes that are conveniently ignored by the British-American media, especially regarding the lone surviving attacker. The lone survivor was also the only one who was photographed by an unknown Indian photographer. The other nine attackers conveniently escaped the camera. They were all killed, fake photos of Pakistanis in Indian jails were produced as evidence, and there is no word about their bodies, fingerprints, DNA tests, etc.

Now reports are emerging from Kathmandu, Nepal, revealing that the lone survivor also happens to be someone who disappeared during a visit to Nepal in 2006. A case filed by his lawyer before the Nepal’s Supreme Court accuses Nepalese police of handing him over to Indian intelligence officers posted at the Indian embassy there.

On Sunday, Mr. Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, had the audacity to lecture Pakistanis on how terrorist acts in Britain were traced to Pakistani soil. We are sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Brown, but you shouldn’t forget your country’s share of the problem. And it’s a huge share. A smarter and a more nationalist Pakistani President standing beside you could have reminded you of this. Sad that Mr. Zardari didn’t. London during the 1990s emerged as a global safe haven for terrorists and anarchists from countries as far away as Saudi Arabia and Russia. The British intelligence used them as political leverage. Many of the anarchists from the Middle East were religious extremists who were accorded protection by the British government despite protest from their home countries. Maybe those people radicalized your own Muslim population, Mr. Brown. And let’s not forget how your country cut and ran from Afghanistan in 1992, leaving Pakistan to deal with the mess.

Mr. Zardari’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, was humiliated in New Delhi for three days, where the Indian prime minister and foreign minister refused to meet him. You would think he would turn down a second chance to meet the Indians. Not so. Mr. Qureshi rushed to attend the Paris Conference of Afghanistan’s neighbors and superpowers. Iran refused to attend the event because Tehran was angry at a statement made by France’s president. Pakistan should not have attended the conference at all. First of all, Indians are not direct neighbors of Afghanistan and Pakistan should not endorse any such conference attended by the Indians, unless of course the Pakistani government endorses the expanded Indian intelligence and military presence in that country under American protection. Second, Pakistan should have shown its displeasure at the blatantly pro-Indian positions of the British and the American governments, the parties most troubled by the developments in Afghanistan.

What A Nationalist

Pakistani Govt. Would

Have Done

The Zardari-Gilani-Qureshi-Durrani team could have taken a bold and clear stance from the start, based on four principles:

  1. Pakistani sympathy for Indian tragedy victims
  2. Help India in any way possible
  3. Reject accusations without verifiable evidence
  4. Reject any Indian attempt to exploit the tragedy for political mileage

Ambassador Munir Akram, our staunchly patriotic and Pakistani nationalist envoy to the United Nations, was humiliatingly removed from his position by the Zardari-Gilani government and replaced by Mr. Husain Haroon, an inexperienced person who couldn’t state Pakistan’s position when the Indians and our so-called American friends pushed a biased resolution in the Security Council that reflected Indian claims without verifiable evidence. Such a move would have been artfully confronted by Ambassador Akram. No wonder the Zardari government had him removed and replaced by the likes of Mr. Haroon and Mr. Husain Haqqani, our ambassador in Washington, who continues to take defeatist stances on Pakistani issues with the main concern – both his and his government’s – being appeasing Washington and its pro-Indian lobby.

A more competent team in Washington and New York would have challenged the Indian and American attempt to include Pakistani names in the U.N. resolution without concrete evidence. It would have forced India to at least share the strong evidence they claim to have. A better prepared team looking after Pakistani interest and not American interest would have dispelled the impression that Jamaat al-Daawa is a front for a banned group and thereby dispel the impression that Pakistan was hiding something. The Daawa people in fact did a better job than the Haroon-Haqqani team by immediately opening their huge compound in Muridke near Lahore to foreign journalists to confirm the group’s charity credentials through actual work on the ground. If the government had any competent people, they would have been able to use this opportunity in order to defend Pakistan against spurious allegations.

© 2007-2008. All rights reserved.

US: Blackwater used grenades on unarmed Iraqis

US: Blackwater used grenades on unarmed Iraqis


Blackwater charges: 14 counts of manslaughter

WASHINGTON – Blackwater Worldwide security guards opened machine gun
fire on innocent, surrendering Iraqis and launched a grenade into a
girls’ school during a gruesome Baghdad shooting last year,
prosecutors said Monday in announcing manslaughter charges against
five guards.

A sixth guard involved in the attack cut a plea deal with
prosecutors, turned on his former colleagues, and admitting killing
at least one Iraqi in the 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square.
Seventeen Iraqis were killed in the assault, which roiled U.S.
diplomacy with Iraq and fueled anti-American sentiment abroad.

The five guards surrendered Monday and were due to ask a federal
judge in Utah for bail.

“None of the victims of this shooting was armed. None of them was an
insurgent,” U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said. “Many were shot while
inside civilian vehicles that were attempting the flee from the
convoy. One victim was shot in the chest while standing in the street
with his hands up. Another was injured from a grenade fired into a
nearby girls’ school.”

The guards were charged with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts
of attempted manslaughter. They are also charged with using a machine
gun to commit a crime of violence, a charge that carries a 30-year
minimum prison sentence.

The shootings happened in a crowded square where prosecutors say
civilians were going about their lives, running errands. Following a
car bombing elsewhere in the city, the heavily armed Blackwater
convoy sought to shut down the intersection. Prosecutors said the
convoy, known by the call sign Raven 23, violated an order not to
leave the U.S.-controlled Green Zone.

“The tragic events in Nisoor Square on Sept. 16 of last year were
shocking and a violation of basic human rights,” FBI Assistant
Director Joseph Persichini said.

Witnesses said the contractors opened fire unprovoked. Women and
children were among the victims and the shooting left the square
littered with blown-out cars. Blackwater, the largest security
contractor in Iraq, says its guards were ambushed and believed a
slowly moving white Kia sedan might have been a car bomb.

“We think it’s pure and simple a case of self-defense, ” defense
attorney Paul Cassell said Monday as the guards were being
booked. “Tragically people did die.”

Prosecutors said the Blackwater guards never even ordered the car to
stop before opening fire. In his plea agreement with prosecutors,
former guard Jeremy Ridgeway, of California, admitted there was no
indication the Kia was a car bomb.

Though the case has already been assigned to U.S. District Judge
Ricardo M. Urbina in Washington, the guards surrendered in Utah. They
want the case moved there, where they would presumably find a more
conservative jury pool and one more likely to support the Iraq war.

The indicted guards are Donald Ball, a former Marine from West Valley
City, Utah; Dustin Heard, a former Marine from Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan
Liberty, a former Marine from Rochester, N.H.; Nick Slatten, a former
Army sergeant from Sparta, Tenn.; and Paul Slough, an Army veteran
from Keller, Texas.

Ridgeway’s sentencing on manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and
aiding and abetting has not yet been scheduled.

An afternoon court hearing was scheduled on whether to release the
guards. Defense attorneys were filing court documents challenging the
Justice Department’s authority to prosecute the case. The law is
murky on whether contractors can be charged in U.S. courts for crimes
committed overseas.

The shootings caused an uproar, and the fledgling Iraqi government in
Baghdad wanted Blackwater, which protects U.S. State Department
personnel, expelled from the country. It also sought the right to
prosecute the men in Iraqi courts.

“The killers must pay for their crime against innocent civilians.
Justice must be achieved so that we can have rest from the agony we
are living in,” said Khalid Ibrahim, a 40-year-old electrician who
said his 78-year-old father, Ibrahim Abid, died in the shooting. “We
know that the conviction of the people behind the shooting will not
bring my father to life, but we will have peace in our minds and

Defense attorneys accused the Justice Department of bowing to Iraqi
pressure .

“We are confident that any jury will see this for what it is: a
politically motivated prosecution to appease the Iraqi government,”
said defense attorney Steven McCool, who represents Ball.

Based in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater is the largest security contractor
in Iraq and provides heavily armed guards for diplomats. Since last
year’s shooting, the company has been a flash point in the debate
over how heavily the U.S. relies on contractors in war zones

The company itself was not charged in the case. In a lengthy
statement, Blackwater stood behind the guards and said it
was “extremely disappointed and surprised” that one of the guards had
pleaded guilty.

Associated Press writers Jennifer Dobner and Paul Foy in Salt Lake
City and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Guns and Ammo Deter Tyranny


Guns and Ammo Deter Tyranny

by Jacob G. Hornberger

You may have noticed the many articles detailing the big run-up in the sale of guns and ammunition since the November elections. Apparently gun owners are concerned that President-elect Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress will enact bans on semi-automatic weapons and ammo.

Of course, that begs the question: What do they need all these weapons and ammunition for?

Well, one reason for the increase in demand might be simply the forbidden-fruit concept. Once government makes something illegal, it becomes more attractive to some people to have it.

Another possible reason is the fear of civil unrest. If such were to happen, people with guns would have the ability to deter marauding criminal gangs or to defend themselves from them.

Of course, some gun owners might want more guns for hunting, although it would seem that that would be the least likely reason for the big run-up in gun and ammunition sales.

Regardless of the particular motives of the gun and ammo buyers, we should never lose sight of the core reason that our American ancestors enshrined the right to keep and bear arms within the Second Amendment. That core reason is this: so that the American people could protect themselves through violent action from the tyranny of their very own federal government.

Now, that notion is shocking to some modern-day Americans. In their view, the federal government is their provider, their friend, and their benefactor. It’s the entity that bails them out of financial crises. It gives them their food stamps. It protects them from the terrorists, the drug dealers, the Muslims, and the illegal aliens. It helps their children get an education. It provides their retirement and healthcare.

Why in the world would Americans need to have weapons to protect themselves from their chief provider, protector, and benefactor?

The answer is simple: The federal government is the biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people. That’s correct — it’s not the terrorists, the communists, the Muslims, the drug dealers, the illegal aliens, or any foreign dictator that constitutes the biggest threat to the American people. The biggest threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people is the federal government itself.

In fact, the entire Constitution and Bill of Rights is an explicit acknowledgement of that fact. That’s why those documents place express constraints on the powers of federal officials.

Could things ever get so bad that Americans would have to take up arms against their own government? Of course they could. That’s the whole idea behind the Second Amendment — to provide people with the means of violent resistance should such ever become necessary. Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals referred to this concept as a “doomsday” provision — one that is unlikely ever to have be used but which is critically important to have. Here’s what he wrote in the case of Silveira v. Lockyer:

“The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”

Ironically, the current increase in gun and ammunition sales makes the prospect of tyranny less likely. The reason is obvious: When would-be tyrants know that people have the means to resist tyranny with violence, the would-be tyrants are more cautious about implementing their tyrannical plans.

What is the first thing U.S. officials do when they invade some Third World country? They ensure that the citizenry remain disarmed. Why do they do that? To ensure that people readily obey whatever orders are issued to them. U.S. officials know what foreign dictators know: that a disarmed citizenry is an obedient citizenry.

Now, let’s assume an enormous crisis in which federal officials are threatening tyrannical measures against the American populace. At their staff meetings, at least one of the would-be tyrannical bureaucrats is certain to say, “Hey, this isn’t some Third-World country where everyone is disarmed and therefore obedient. This is the United States of America, where people have stockpiled enormous amounts of weaponry and ammunition in their homes. If we adopt these harsh tyrannical measures, things could get pretty nasty. I say we back off.”

Thus, the right to keep and bear arms not only serves as a sort of doomsday insurance policy in the event the worst were to happen, it also, at the same time, serves as an enormous deterrent to tyranny. The Second Amendment keeps Americans safe not only from burglars, thieves, and robbers but also from would-be tyrants.