Meteoric’ rise of a Pakistani agitator – An Interview with Zaid Hamid

‘Meteoric’ rise of a Pakistani agitator – An Interview with Zaid Hamid

Salman Masood, Foreign Correspondent
The Nation

 

Zaid Hamid, a defence analyst, standing in front of the Pakistan flag at the Brass Tacks office in Rawalpindi. Katherine Kiviat for The National

RAWALPINDI // When Zaid Zaman Hamid, a television personality and defence analyst, is not saying something on television that can be viewed by some as controversial or conspiratorial, he is busy denying the controversies that surround him.

On a recent morning, Hamid was telling a caller at his office in Rawalpindi that he does not have a profile on Facebook, the internet social networking site, and that he is not looking for “dating” as had been described in the profile.

Hamid knew who was behind these fake profiles on Facebook and another networking site, Orkut. “The Indians!”, he said.

“I am probably the most hated man in India right now. So, it is quite understandable that they are doing a psychological warfare against me.”

Indians are incensed because in a recorded show last week, Hamid predicted a final confrontation with India that would result in conquering Delhi, the Indian capital. The television network refused to air the episode. It was, however, leaked on YouTube.

But Indians are not the only ones who Hamid regularly, and passionately, castigates in his television appearances.

He equally loathes Americans and Israelis. In fact, the list is quite long and includes Afghans, al Qa’eda, the Pakistani Taliban and the current Pakistani political government, said Hamid, who surprisingly for all his venom and bravado comes across as pleasant and good-humoured.

Just two years ago, Hamid, 44, was a relatively unknown self-styled threat and defence analyst who was running the think tank Brass Tacks in Rawalpindi, the garrison city that is the headquarters of the Pakistani military.

His rise to fame has been quick – “meteoric” in his own words.

Media in Pakistan has mushroomed in the past several years. Dozens of new television networks have sprung up and are battling for superiority. Political talkshows have become popular, even more than the soap operas, and talk show hosts are new sensations.

Hamid has a weekly television show, also called Brass Tacks, on a local television network, NewsOne. He also frequently appears on shows on other television networks and radio stations.

Hamid said in his programme, he analyses and points out the security threats that Pakistan is facing.

Critics say Hamid thrives on grand conspiracies and they find his staunchly nationalistic jingoism outlandish. Bloggers keep writing for and against him. Op-eds have appeared against his show and label him as a Pakistani neoconservative.

“Unlike liberal critics that have been pointing to deficiencies in the rule of law, the inadequacies of institutions, the lack of due process and the general devolution of Pakistani civic sensibilities, these Pakistani neoconservatives want to edify our violent capabilities into moral superiority,” wrote Rafia Zakaria, in a recent column in Daily Times, a newspaper based in Lahore.

What Hamid is doing, Ms Zakaria wrote without naming him in the article, is “ingenious in its repackaging of Islamism in a supposedly ‘scholarly’ form that can be digested by middle-class audiences fishing for pseudointellectual discourse”.

But Hamid said he is simply a man on a mission to save Pakistan.

Hamid claims the United States is out to denuclearise Pakistan. “It is applying what I call the Yugoslavia Solution,” he said.

“The ultimate game plan is to ultimately take out Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programme. To achieve that, the US needs to do certain steps. Everything is heading to that direction.

“But the Americans don’t want to make a false move. Because, that can backfire very severely. So, there are multiple ways by which they are trying to achieve this. Number one is by imposing a politically corrupt government, which will implode Pakistan from within. Create an environment of mismanagement and financial corruption to the extent Pakistan becomes a dysfunctional and failed state. That was the most fundamental component of the Yugoslavia strategy,” he said.

“Secondly, support insurgencies on the ground. Where they will further accelerate the dismemberment of the country.”

It is quite a turnaround for a man who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan in a war that was mainly funded by the United States.

An engineer by qualification, Hamid fought for six years in Afghanistan but returned to Pakistan in 1992 when different mujahideen factions started fighting among themselves for the control of Kabul.

“The life that I have spent behind is full of experiences and adventures where I had practically dealt with every issue which this nation is facing today in terms of security, in terms of politics, in terms of religion. These are the main issues today. I have been thick into this.”

In 2000, Hamid opened his think tank. “I realised there was a vacuum of proper security consultants in Pakistan,” he said. And of course, it was absolutely niche concept. Practically people would laugh at me when I would go to the corporate environment that I am a security consultant. They would ask me what do I sell. I would say I sell nothing but ideas. They said we only need guards. I said no, I will develop your security policy. People didn’t know what a security policy is.”

He denies that he is forming a cult based on his own personality.

“Nothing can be further from truth than that,” he said.

“I am trying to bring people to an ideology. Ideology as Muslims and identity as Pakistanis.”

Hamid said he was not intimidated by the fact that he talks against almost everyone, and was not concerned about the threats or dangers to his personal security.

“When the nation is at stake and at risk, individuals don’t matter. I know if I become silent today because of my personal security, tomorrow the entire country’s security will be at stake.”

smasood@thenational.ae

Baitullah Mehsud’s Time Is Up

Baitullah Mehsud’s Time Is Up

Dan Qayyum | PakistanKaKhudaHafiz.com

It seems Baitullah Mehsud has outlived his shelf-life and is of no further use to his American and Indian masters.

After receiving a kicking in Bajaur and the implementation of Sharia in Swat, he has now been cornered into South Waziristan with his area of influence having been greatly reduced in recent days. In what seemed like a sign of desperation, he hit out at Kashmiri jihadi groups last week, threatening to eliminate their leaders if they did not join him in fighting the Pakistan army.

Accusing them of ‘only fighting external enemies such as the US and India’, Baitullah Mehsud’s ‘Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’ (TTP) justified attacking members of these Jihadi outfits by pointing out that these outfits ‘do not fight the Pakistan Army’ and commit mass murder of innocent Pakistani citizens like the TTP has been doing for a some time now.

It is also interesting to note that the Afghan Taleban’s Supreme Commander Mullah Mohammad Omar had issued a statement over a year ago distancing himself and the Afghan Taleban from the TTP and its chief Baitullah Mehsud. He had also condemned Baitullah Mehsud in strong words for fighting against the Pakistan Army instead of with the NATO forces.

This recent report in NYT makes interesting reading.

It is unclear why the Obama administration decided to carry out the attacks, which American and Pakistani officials said occurred last Saturday and again on Monday, hitting camps run by Mr. Mehsud’s network. The Saturday strike was aimed specifically at Mr. Mehsud, but he was not killed, according to Pakistani and American officials.

For months, Pakistani military and intelligence officials have complained about Washington’s refusal to strike at Baitullah Mehsud, even while C.I.A. drones struck at Qaeda figures and leaders of the network run by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a militant leader believed responsible for a campaign of violence against American troops in Afghanistan.

According to one senior Pakistani official, Pakistan’s intelligence service on two occasions in recent months gave the United States detailed intelligence about Mr. Mehsud’s whereabouts, but said the United States had not acted on the information. Bush administration officials had charged that it was the Pakistanis who were reluctant to take on Mr. Mehsud and his network.

It now increasingly looks like Baitullah Mehsud is living on borrowed time. It would be interesting to see who gets to him first, the Pakistanis or the Americans. Pakistani Army would be well advised to attempt to capture him alive, something that the Americans and Indians would try and ensure does not happen.

Officials fear US may cut military aid

 THE ZIONIST BEAST IS MOST DANGEROUS WHEN FACED WITH CUTS IN ITS ARSENAL OF GENOCIDAL DESTRUCTION.

Officials fear US may cut military aid

The Defense Ministry is concerned that US President Barack Obama will cut military aid to Israel in an effort to pressure the new government to take action against illegal outposts and settlement construction, defense officials said.

The officials spoke with The Jerusalem Post ahead of both a visit later this week by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and the Obama administration’s anticipated release of the fiscal 2010 budget, which includes funding for foreign aid.

“Mitchell is a known opponent of the outposts and the settlements,” a senior defense official said. “The Americans may try to use the military aid as a way of pressuring the new government into dismantling outposts and freezing construction in settlements.”

Already last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak held consultations on the matter.  But the Defense Ministry’s jitters regarding US military aid were not shared by the Prime Minister’s Office or the Finance Ministry.

Officials in the latter two offices said they had not heard of any plans to cut American military aid to Israel, which was set out in a 2007 memorandum of understanding signed by both countries.

It promised that Israel would receive $30 billion over a 10-year period. This year, Israel received $2.5b. of that sum, and it is expected to receive $2.7b. in 2010. The amount is scheduled to increase until it levels out at $3.1b. in 2013.

It is limited to that sum for the remainder of the agreement. Seventy-five percent are expected to go toward purchasing US-made weapons, with the bulk of the remainder going to domestic defense purchases.

At the time of the signing, president George W. Bush assured Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the US would help Israel retain its qualitative edge in the Middle East.

According to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, nothing has changed on that score with the Obama administration.

The US-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on military assistance reflects the “unshakeable commitment of the United States to Israel’s security,” said embassy spokesman Stewart Tuttle.

Consistent with such a commitment, the US government has no intention of changing the terms of the agreement, he added.

Still, the fact that the pledged sum of money is sent to Israel only after approval by the House of Representatives and the Senate has raised some concern in the Defense Ministry, even though both bodies have a strong record of military support for Israel.

At issue is a line in the memorandum stating that “both sides acknowledge that these funding levels assume continuation of adequate funding levels for the US foreign assistance overall and are subject to the appropriation and availability of funds for these purposes.”

Defense officials speculated that if the US decided to cut the funding, it would not say it was doing so due to outposts and settlements, but would cite the global financial crisis as the reason.

However, a Finance Ministry official said he had not heard anything to indicate that the aid would be cut as a result of Israel’s settlement activity.

“Everyone is afraid of cuts, because there is a new administration in Washington,” he said.

According to the Finance Ministry official, Israel has not heard of any anticipated cuts.

According to sources on Capitol Hill, even if a there were a few lone politicians who called for cuts in military aid to protest settlement construction, it wouldn’t stop the approval of foreign aid for Israel.

But military aid cuts are not the only issue that concerns the Defense Ministry ahead of Mitchell’s visit.

Concern is also growing in the IDF’s Central Command that America will push Israel to begin transferring security over West Bank towns to the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian security forces, trained by Jordan and US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, are already deployed in Jenin and Hebron.

According to Israeli officials, these forces played a key role in preventing terror attacks in the West Bank during last month’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Additional PA forces are also deployed in Bethlehem, Tulkarm and Nablus.

While the IDF is satisfied with the PA forces, it is concerned that Mitchell and Dayton will use the success to push for an expansion of the deployment, including the transfer of security to the PA.

The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has been pushing the Americans for further Israeli concessions, sources in the IDF said.

In recent talks, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni told Dayton that in principle he supported the transfer of security to the PA, but that the process needed to be gradual. Two weeks ago, Shamni signed an order permitting the opening of 12 new Palestinian police stations in Area B, which is under Israeli security control.

“The PA forces are doing an effective job in enforcing law and order, but they are not yet completely ready to combat terrorism,” one military source said.

The officials noted that Mitchell was likely to open a permanent office in Jerusalem.

US launched air attack inside Pak after verifying ISI-Taliban link: Book

WHO WILL REVEAL THE CIA-TALIBAN LINK?

US launched air attack inside Pak after verifying ISI-Taliban link: Book

NEW DELHI: The US national security agency (NSA) has intercepted messages to indicate that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence was in “complete coordination” with the Taliban, according to a US journalist.

New York Times’ White House correspondent David E Sanger has claimed in his latest book that the US decision to launch air attacks inside Pakistan’s western borders was taken after “one such high-level conversation was intercepted” in which a speaker said the Taliban was a “strategic asset” for Pakistan.

Excerpts of the book ‘The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the challenges to American power’ were published by Pakistani newspaper The News.

The daily said former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf called a press conference recently to “repeatedly deny” allegations in the book that he had held a series of parleys with slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto about her security, following which she returned to Pakistan.

The book also claimed that NSA had intercepted messages indicating ISI officers of helping Taliban in planning a big bomb attack in Afghanistan although the target was unclear.

After some days, Kandahar jail was attacked by Taliban and hundreds of their militants were freed, it said, adding that the US decision to invade Pakistani territories was taken “after CIA reached a conclusion that the ISI was absolutely in complete coordination with the Taliban”.

According to the Pakistani daily, Sanger also wrote that the telephones of all senior army officers, including its chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, were bugged by NSA and CIA.

The author “claims that American intelligence agencies were intercepting telephonic conversations of army officers and the decision to attack Pakistan through drones was taken after one such high-level conversation was intercepted claiming the Taliban as a ‘strategic asset’ for Pakistan”, it said.

The US scribe “seemed to have been given direct access to the secret record of several meetings held at the White House before George Bush left on January 20,” the daily said.

The book said NSA had picked up intercepts like someone giving advance warning of what was coming to Taliban when the Pakistan Army was getting ready to hit places in tribal areas.

According to ‘The News’, the book also claimed that the Americans were in “full knowledge of the facts on the ground and they started attacking territories inside Pakistan as they thought the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies were no more interested in fighting the Taliban.”

It also speaks of a two-star general as saying that supporting Taliban was absolutely necessary as “Indians will rein when Americans pull out”.

The Pakistani daily said it had sought a detailed response from the Inter Services Public Relations to its report and promised to give it “equal and similar space”.

The CIA: Beyond Redemption And Should Be Terminated

The CIA: Beyond Redemption And Should Be Terminated

By Sherwood Ross The Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) has confirmed the worst fears of its creator President Harry Truman that it might degenerate into “an American Gestapo.” It has been just that for so long it is beyond redemption. It represents 60 years of failure and fascism utterly at odds with the spirit of a democracy and needs to be closed, permanently.

Over the years “the Agency” as it is known, has given U.S. presidents so much wrong information on so many critical issues, broken so many laws, subverted so many elections, overthrown so many governments, funded so many dictators, and killed and tortured so many innocent human beings that the pages of its official history could be written in blood, not ink. People the world over regard it as infamous, and that evaluation, sadly for the reputation of America, is largely accurate. Besides, since President Obama has half a dozen other major intelligence agencies to rely on for guidance, why does he need the CIA? In one swoop he could lop an estimated 27,000 employees off the Federal payroll, save taxpayers umpteen billions, and wipe the CIA stain from the American flag.

If you think this is a “radical” idea, think again. What is “radical” is to empower a mob of covert operatives to roam the planet, wreaking havoc as they go with not a care for morality or, for that matter, the tenets of mercy implicit in any of the great faiths. The idea of not prosecuting CIA interrogators (i.e., torturers), as President Obama has hinted, is chilling. These crimes have to be stopped somewhere, sometime, or they will occur again.

“The CIA had run secret interrogation centers before—beginning in 1950, in Germany, Japan, and Panama,” writes New York Times reporter Tim Weiner in his book “Legacy of Ashes, The History of The CIA”(Random House). Weiner has won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the intelligence community. “It had participated in the torture of captured enemy combatants before—beginning in 1967, under the Phoenix program in Vietnam. It had kidnapped suspected terrorists and assassins before…”

In Iran in 1953, for example, a CIA-directed coup restored the Shah (king) to absolute power, initiating what journalist William Blum in “Rogue State” (Common Courage Press) called “a period of 25 years of repression and torture; while the oil industry was restored to foreign ownership, with the US and Britain each getting 40 percent.” About the same time in Guatemala, Blum adds, a CIA-organized coup “overthrew the democratically-elected and progressive government of Jacobo Arbenz, initiating 40 years of military government death squads, torture, disappearances, mass executions, and unimaginable cruelty, totaling more than 200,000 victims—indisputably one of the most inhuman chapters of the 20th century.” The massive slaughter compares, at least in terms of sheer numbers, with Hitler’s massacre of Romanian and Ukranian Jews during the holocaust. Yet few Americans know of it.

Blum provides yet other examples of CIA criminality. In Indonesia, it attempted in 1957-58 to overthrow neutralist president Sukarno. It plotted Sukarno’s assassination, tried to blackmail him with a phony sex film, and joined forces with dissident military officers to wage a full-scale war against the government, including bombing runs by American pilots, Blum reported This particular attempt, like one in Costa Rica about the same time, failed. So did the CIA attempt in Iraq in 1960 to assassinate President Abdul Kassem. Other ventures proved more “successful”.

In Laos, the CIA was involved in coup attempts in 1958, 1959, and 1960, creating a clandestine army of 30,000 to overthrow the government. In Ecuador, the CIA ousted President Jose Velasco for recognizing the new Cuban government of Fidel Castro The CIA also arranged the murder of elected Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961 and installation of Mobutu Seko who ruled “with a level of corruption and cruelty that shocked even his CIA handlers,” Blum recalls.

In Ghana, in 1966, the CIA sponsored a military coup against leader Kwame Nkrumah in 1966; in Chile, it financed the overthrow of elected President Salvador Allende in 1973 and brought to power the murderous regime of General Augusto Pinochet who executed 3,000 political opponents and tortured thousands more. In Greece in 1967, the CIA helped subvert the elections and backed a military coup that killed 8,000 Greeks in its first month of operation. “Torture, inflicted in the most gruesome of ways, often with equipment supplied by the United States, became routine,” Blum writes.

In South Africa, the CIA gave the apartheid government information that led to the arrest of African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, who subsequently spent years in prison. In Bolivia, in 1964, the CIA overthrew President Victor Paz; in Australia from 1972-75, the CIA slipped millions of dollars to political opponents of the Labor Party; ditto, Brazil in 1962; in Laos in 1960, the CIA stuffed ballot boxes to help a strongman into power; in Portugal in the Seventies the candidates it financed triumphed over a pro-labor government; in the Philippines, the CIA backed governments in the 1970-90 period that employed torture and summary execution against its own people; in El Salvador, the CIA in the Nineties backed the wealthy in a civil war in which 75,000 civilians were killed; and the list goes on and on.

Of course, the hatred that the CIA engenders for the American people and American business interests is enormous. Because the Agency operates largely in secret, most Americans are unaware of the crimes it perpetrates in their names. As Chalmers Johnson writes in “Blowback”(Henry Holt), former long-time CIA director Robert Gates, now Obama’s defense secretary, admitted U.S. intelligence services began to aid the mujahideen guerrillas in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion in December, 1979.

As has often been the case, the CIA responded to a criminal order from one of the succession of imperial presidents that have occupied the White House, in this instance one dated July 3, 1979, from President Jimmy Carter. The Agency was ordered to aid the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul—aid that might sucker the Kremlin into invading. “The CIA supported Osama bin Laden, like so many other extreme fundamentalists among the mujahideen in Afghanistan, from at least 1984 on,” Johnson writes, helping bin Laden train many of the 35,000 Arab Afghans.

Thus Carter, like his successors in the George H.W. Bush government — Gates, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Colin Powell, “all bear some responsibility for the 1.8 million Afghan casualties, 2.6 million refugees, and 10 million unexploded land mines that followed from their decisions, as well as the ‘collateral damage’ that befell New York City in September 2001 from an organization they helped create during the years of anti-Soviet Afghan resistance,” Johnson added. Worse, the Bush-Cheney regime after 9/11 “set no limits on what the agency could do. It was the foundation for a system of secret prisons where CIA officer and contractors used techniques that included torture,” Weiner has written. By some estimates, the CIA in 2006 held 14,000 souls in 11 secret prisons, a vast crime against humanity.

That the CIA has zero interest in justice and engages in gratuitous cruelty may be seen from the indiscriminate dragnet arrests it has perpetrated: “CIA officers snatched and grabbed more than three thousand people in more than one hundred countries in the year after 9/11,” Weiner writes, adding that only 14 men of all those seized “were high-ranking authority figures within al Qaeda and its affiliates. Along with them, the agency jailed hundreds of nobodies…(who) became ghost prisoners in the war on terror.”

As for providing the White House with accurate intelligence, the record of the CIA has been a fiasco. The Agency was telling President Carter the Shah of Iran was beloved by his people and was firmly entrenched in power in 1979 when any reader of Harper’s magazine, available on newsstands for a buck, could read that his overthrow was imminent—and it was. Over the years, the Agency has been wrong far more often than it has been right.

According to an Associated Press report, when confirmed by the Senate as the new CIA director, Leon Panetta said the Obama administration would not prosecute CIA officers that “participated in harsh interrogations even if they constituted torture as long as they did not go beyond their instructions.” This will allow interrogators to evade prosecution for following the clearly criminal orders they would have been justified to disobey.

“Panetta also said that the Obama administration would continue to transfer foreign detainees to other countries for questioning but only if U.S. officials are confident that the prisoners will not be tortured,” the AP story continued. If past is prologue, how confident can Panetta be the CIA’s fellow goons in Egypt and Morocco will stop torturing prisoners? Why did the CIA kidnap men off the streets of Milan and New York and fly them to those countries in the first place if not for torture? They certainly weren’t treating them to a Mediterranean vacation. By its long and nearly perfect record of reckless disregard for international law, the CIA has deprived itself of the right to exist.

It will be worse than unfortunate if President Obama continues the inhumane (and illegal) CIA renditions that President Bill Clinton began and President Bush vastly expanded. If the White House thinks its operatives can roam the world and arrest and torture any person it chooses without a court order, without due process, and without answering for their crimes, this signifies Americans believe themselves to be a Master Race better than others and above international law. That’s not much different from the philosophy that motivated Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich. It would be the supreme irony if the American electorate that repudiated racism last November has voted into its highest office a constitutional lawyer who reaffirms his predecessor’s illegal views on this activity. Renditions must be stopped. The CIA must be abolished.

 

*************(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations consultant and columnist who formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News, the New York Herald-Tribune, and wire services Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)

The Psychology Of The Taliban

The Psychology Of The Taliban

In our coverage of the globe from World News Service-affilated writers, we explore the way other nations view U.S. politics and policies.

Taliban fighters
Taliban fighters
Photo: textually.org

(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) – Since the Pakistan Army started its operation against Taliban in 2003 in the Waziristan region, the Taliban have humiliated the 4th largest army of the world, time and time again.

There were a couple of instances in which several hundred Pakistan army troops were captured and traded for Taliban fighters inside Pakistani jails.

The uncompromising General Musharraf who ruled the country with an iron fist and almost always had things go his way had no option but to negotiate with the Taliban. Whenever the negotiations broke, the Taliban captured more territory.

The government was held hostage to the Taliban. The army could not launch a full scale attack inside the tribal regions for, if they did, the Taliban would attack key targets in main cities (example: Federal Investigations Authority HQ bombing in Lahore) or the Wah Cantt Ammunitions bombing in which they also claimed responsibility.

The situation worsened until we reached the present situation.

The government suffering from increased attacks from the Taliban in the tribal regions and within the main cities decided to start a new kind of attack. After the ouster of Pervez Musharraf the new Army Chief decided, much in the interest of Pakistan, to go after the terrorists who were ONLY a threat to Pakistan. Many of those people were even funded by the CIA.

U.S. Pressure

USA angry with this ‘selfish’ attitude of Pakistan has started to violate the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan by using un-manned drone airstrikes. Although the strikes have only killed one major leader of Al-Qaeda, most of these un-manned strikes have only killed civilians notably women and children.

The strikes however have drawn angry reactions from the Pakistani government and Pakistani people, however, not as angry as from the Pakistani military.

There have been speculations about a possible Pakistani government deal with the USA. The deal was that Pakistan would verbally denounce the strikes but will not do anything significant to stop them. In exchange the USA would let IMF grant Pakistan loans that Pakistan so desperately needed. (see: U.S., Pakistan made deal on air strikes)

However the media hype of this deal created a rift between Pakistani government and military. The Pakistan Air Chief Marshall said Pakistan can shoot down drone strikes if the government allowed it. (see: Pakistan can shoot down US drones, says Air Chief)

Earlier the defense minister of Pakistan had said that shooting down US drones was not possible. Clearly, the military leadership washed off its hands of the affair by virtually saying, that they can shoot down the plane if the government allows it.

The media hype created over the attacks wasn’t merciful either. The media time and time again blasted the government for showing leniency over the drone strikes. After the attack happened in Bannu, the government summoned the US ambassador and gave a final warning. (see: Pakistan Views Missile attack in Bannu; 5 dead). After that the attacks have almost stopped.

The Pakistan government much in the interest of its own people has turned defiant to the US government. Although publicly condemning terrorism like the USA, the government, however, has reviews its definition of terror and now considers only those people terrorist who are a threat to Pakistan.

Although US pressure is mounting and the USA is also getting India to pressurize Pakistan, it is unlikely that Pakistan will be a poodle of America anymore. After all, it’s hard to look up to some nation which is humiliated and on the verge of defeat. It’s difficult to take orders from a country which is in an economic crisis that seems hopeless.

Pakistan has openly admitted, probably for the first time in its history that relations between Pakistan and USA are not good. The Pakistan People’s Party, the most liberal and pro-US party has conceded the fact that relations between the two countries are as Prime Minister Yousaf R. Gillani put it “dragging along.”

The New Taliban

One question that comes into mind is how can the Taliban stand up to and humiliate the most powerful armies of the world time and time again. The answer to that question actually requires at how we define the Taliban. I think a good definition of the Taliban will be people who are standing up against USA in Afghanistan, the context in which they are most probably referred in the mainstream media.

There are two types of people fighting for the Taliban.

1) People who are religiously motivated

2) People fighting for other reasons (mainly Afghan nationals dissatisfied or angry at the Afghan government for obvious reasons)

Now people religiously motivated include madrassah students from across the border and within Afghanistan and as far as German converts to Islam fighting for the Taliban. But that’s not the strength of the Taliban.

By Taliban own accounts people in the resistance who are true Taliban (meaning foreign fighters or madrassah students) do not compromise more than 30-40% of the Taliban. This goes to tell you something. The Taliban movement is not a religious movement anymore. It is a national movement. (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/19/AR2008091903980.html?wpisrc=newsletter”>The Washington Times: A Modernized Taliban Thrives in Afghanistan)

But there’s more to these people than just being multiethnic. They’ve got a big victory under their belt, a victory which crippled Communist Russia. We are not talking about USA fighting against ‘sheep’ armies of the Middle East in Arab-Israeli wars or the Gulf War.

We are talking about war-veterans who know the Afghan terrain and who are undoubtedly the best experts of guerilla warfare. And who have trained thousands of willing, sincere fighters under their command to do their job in the mid to late 90s.

The Only Option

Faced with the dilemma of facing a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan or leaving in retreat, the US government has publicly admitted that its stooge government of Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate with the Taliban. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar has said that he will not negotiate with anyone unless foreign forces leave Afghanistan.

Just consider the irony of this situation. Just try to remember the countless movies that you have seen in which a senior US official says: “We do not negotiate with the terrorists!” And that’s the most important dialogue of the whole film. And now the situation has changed. Now those same people are trying to negotiate with the Taliban and the Taliban are saying: “We don’t negotiate unless our conditions are met” And that “We will kick foreign forces out of Afghanistan”.

The USA is desperate for a quick solution knowing that its economy is sinking and that wars are very expensive. This is especially true after a British commander in Afghanistan said that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won (Times Online: War on Taliban cannot be won, says army chief) by military alone, but only through a deal with the Taliban. But will the Taliban deal?

Taliban Strategy

Let’s say you are playing the world number one chess player. In the beginning of the match the world number one says “Hey you know what let’s call this game a draw!” Will you agree Of course! But let’s take another scenario. Let’s suppose you have fought hard against this chess player.

You have solidified your game and are on the verge of winning, the opponent then says “Hey let’s call it a draw!” Will you say “yes”. Of course not! The same is the case with the Taliban. They are on the verge of victory. Why stain the fabric of your glory? The Taliban are waiting. They are very patient.

They know the longer the US stays in Afghanistan, more and more number of people will join the Taliban cause. If I am right, the Taliban’s best strategy would not be to give a sudden blow to the US and NATO forces, but rather a slow and painful defeat. This is exactly what they are doing. Except for a few large attacks the Taliban are using classic guerilla warfare to checkmate their enemy.

Aftermath

With Pakistan being ‘selfish’ and not listening to the USA and I don’t think that is going to change and should change, the USA’s defeat is inevitable. But what will happen if we let the Taliban take over. Terrorism acts all around the world. A world in anarchy! Perhaps not!

When the Taliban were in power, Osama Bin Laden was not allowed to conduct any terrorist attacks outside Afghanistan. In fact, the Taliban were a comparatively responsible government when it came to foreign affairs (though certainly very stupid internally). Certainly their return would mean a lot of influence over Pakistan. But they already have a lot of influence over Pakistan right now. Pakistan is showing an attitude of indifference towards war on terror, in that it is least bothered who wins.

The Taliban have matured. At least they are certainly much more mature and objective-oriented than the current administration in Washington. People in power generally do become responsible after they achieve power. And giving Afghanistan to the Taliban would not be such a big blowback to the West.

It’s who has the influence over Pakistan, Afghanistan’s nuclear armed nation that is the bigger threat to the USA. As of now, the Taliban have a great influence over Pakistan. They have a lot of Pakistani territory under their name already. They have their own sharia laws in the region. The Pakistan army doesn’t dare step into those tribal regions under Taliban control.

But if Washington really wants to influence Pakistan, they should do what the Clinton administration did in mid-90s. Secure Pakistan’s democratic institutions. Give aid to Pakistan. Stop supporting dictators. Invest in Pakistan and let Afghanistan have it its own way. Defeat and humiliation might be inevitable and not what the West wants in Afghanistan. But it is what the West deserves!

Mehsud stops support to Taliban groups

Mehsud stops support to Taliban groups

24/02/09  ISLAMABAD :Chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Baitullah Mehsud has stopped his support in strategic planning and training to Taliban groups, operating in different areas of Fata and Swat. The announcement came after Mehsud formed a new alliance with Maulvi Nazir and Qari Gul Bahadar – the pro-Pakistan leaders, who are signatory to still intact North Waziristan peace agreement with the Federal government.

The new alliance, “Ittehad-ul-Mujahideen,” in the twin agencies of Waziristan with Mulla Omar as its supreme leader, indicates that the TTP will remain in allegiance to the former Afghan ruler, who totally disowns and opposes the Taliban activities against the military and paramilitary forces inside Pakistan.

Informed sources told Business Recorder here on Monday that the formation of new alliance is the opening of a new chapter in the Taliban history that would have direct impact on the ongoing militancy both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To a question if the new alliance is a tactical move by the Taliban leadership to prepare fighters for upcoming summer offensive in Afghanistan, the sources said that it would be premature to assume that.

“There could be some good news for both Pakistan and Afghanistan during next few months. There could be some good news for the new US government,” the sources said. They said that it was encouraging that the international community did not out-rightly reject the agreement between the government and the defunct Tehrik Nafaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) on establishing Qazi courts in Malakand division and Kohistan district.

“Some US officials expressed their reservations on the agreement, but there were others, who praised it. Expressing reservations on an issue is one thing and opposing it or pressing a government to abolish it is another,” the sources said. Though it was too late to give peace a chance, the new governments in Pakistan and the US had realised that peaceful means were never sincerely tried, they said.

The sources said that Pakistan’s former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf (Retd) and the ex-US president George W Bush were not trying to give peace a chance because they were of the view that this development could have been judged as their weakness. Though Musharraf government had signed the peace agreement with Taliban in North Waziristan, he and his government were unable to use this agreement for the benefit of Pakistan as a whole. Musharraf was not at all liked either by the Taliban leadership or Fata people, they added.

New US President Barrack Obama’s administration was not under any compulsion to go ahead with what it inherited from his predecessor, they said, adding that the widespread hatred for America was actually targeted towards Bush. The new US President could turn the table and he could find some love if the US policy of deterrence and use of force was revisited, they added.

The back channel negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, they said, had been going on and some Gulf countries had been actively engaged in these efforts. The formation of “Ittehad-ul-Mujahideen” and the 13-member Shoora to look after the affairs of the TTP was also an indication that Baitullah Mehsud almost agreed to Maulvi Nazir and Qari Gul Bahadar not to carry out any activity inside Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud never said that he was anti-Pakistan.

On the other hand, he expressed his readiness to defend Pakistan following India’s war threats in the backdrop of November 2008 Mumbai attacks, they said. The sources said pro-Mulla Omar members would dominate the Shoora. In the past, Mulla Omar clarified several times that he had nothing to do with Taliban activities inside Pakistan. Nearly all the Taliban groups owe allegiance to Mulla Omar, they added.

FATA: some more fantasies

FATA: some more fantasies

Tuesday, February 24, 2009
By Farhat Taj
This is in response to articles by Shireen Mazari on these pages on Feb 4 and 11. She has written that the Iranians are upset over the presence of Jundullah in Baluchistan. This outfit has been involved in terrorist activities in Iran and its presence in Pakistan is clearly damaging the country’s relations with Iran. I completely agree. The government of Pakistan must make sure that no terrorist activity on Iranian soil is facilitated by or originates in our side.

But, often, Ms Mazari and most other analysts do not mention an equally if not more serious factor that has been creating bitterness in the relationship between the two countries for years: the targeting of Shias in Pakistan and the failure of the state to protect them. They are citizens as well and it is the intitutional responsibility of the state to protect the lives and properties of its Shia citizens. If the state fulfills its responsibility, a strong reason poisoning the relationship of Pakistan with Iran will be removed.

In NWFP and FATA the killers of Shias (and of course of Sunnis) are Taliban, especially those linked with the Punjab based sectarian outfits. Why have successive governments of Pakistan failed to protect its Shia citizens? There are two perceptions among Pakhtuns. One is that sectarian outfits (both Taliban and non-Taliban) are linked with powerful Wahabi elements in Saudi Arabia whom the government of Pakistan does not want to displease – by coming down hard on the outfits. To this, is added the perception among some that the military establishment does not want to eliminate these outfits either because they may be of use in jihad in Afghanistan and India. These Pakhtun are angry at governments in Pakistan for allowing both Iran and Saudi Arabia to fight their proxy ideological war on Pakistani soil.

Many Pakhtun argue there has never been any Shai- Sunni problem among them and what we saw were tribal rivalries which were given a sectarian color in the heat of the moment. They argue that they can manage their tribal or sectarian problems within the tribal code of Pakhtunwali, if both Saudis and Iranians leave them alone or the government of Pakistan fulfills its constitutional obligation and counters the deadly ideological interventions of the two countries in Pakistan.

Shireen Mazari says that existence of Al-Qaeda safe havens in FATA is just as much a ‘reality’ as were the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that warranted the US invasion of the country. The fact of the matter is that Al Qaeda does not have pockets, so to speak, of safe havens in FATA but rather the whole of FATA’s territory is a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and Taliban. FATA is now occupied territory – nothing less – and the occupiers (Arabs, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Punjabis and Pakhtuns) are hell bent upon writing off the Pakhtun culture of the area.

I recently interviewed a singer from Waziristan for my documentary film on the area. With tears in his eyes he told, it is his culture that is under harshest assault by the Al Qaeda and Taliban militants. His brother has been killed by the Taliban, because his brother, he said, was a brave man and challenged the high handedness of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in his village. The singer has received many death threats for singing Pashto music. He lives as an internally displaced person in another place in Pakistan. He told me he will never give up singing. This, he said, is his ‘cultural Jihad’ with which he will continue to defy the Al Qaeda occupation of his homeland.

Ms Mazari has urged the prime minister and the president to go to Swat and FATA to see the fate of their people they have left unsecure against attacks by the US. What attacks? If she means drone attacks, there has never been any drone attack on Swat, although people of Swat have been praying for the US drones to attack the headquarters of the Swat Taliban. Moreover, I have already explained in my article of Feb 17 how the people of FATA see the drone attacks – not quite what is depicted in the mainstream media. I would urge Ms Mazari and other analysts as well to go to FATA to see the reality there.

As for her argument that the current approach of the government towards FATA is military-centric and that there should be a political framework, one is in agreement. However, there is a caveat to this, and that is that the political framework must be formed in consultations with the tribes, not Taliban or Al Qaeda. Also, it should be remembered that no political framework can function without a territory. The state has lost territory in FATA. Where shall the political framework be implemented when there is no territory in state control for the purpose? First the territory has to be retaken to be followed by a political framework to be implemented. Unfortunately the territory has to be retaken by force. Al Qaeda and Taliban are not going to give up the territory they have conquered or was willfully surrended to them.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email: bergen 34@yahoo.com