Around 3,000 people gathered for a rally in the Swat Valley of Pakistan on April 10 in support of the bill paving way for the implementation of Islamic law there
Rashid Iqbal/European Pressphoto Agency
Supporters of Islamic law on Thursday in the Swat Valley, a Pakistani region where the Taliban exploited class rifts to gain control.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.
The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab Province.
In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.
To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.
The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.
“This was a bloody revolution in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.”
The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal.
Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and
even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.
Analysts and other government officials warn that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab, saying that the province, where militant groups are already showing strength, is ripe for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas.
Mahboob Mahmood, a Pakistani-American lawyer and former classmate of President Obama’s, said, “The people of Pakistan are psychologically ready for a revolution.”
Sunni militancy is taking advantage of deep class divisions that have long festered in Pakistan, he said. “The militants, for their part, are promising more than just proscriptions on music and schooling,” he said. “They are also promising Islamic justice, effective government and economic redistribution.”
The Taliban strategy in Swat, an area of 1.3 million people with fertile orchards, vast plots of timber and valuable emerald mines, unfolded in stages over five years, analysts said.
The momentum of the insurgency built in the past two years, when the Taliban, reinforced by seasoned fighters from the tribal areas with links to Al Qaeda, fought the Pakistani Army to a standstill, said a Pakistani intelligence agent who works in the Swat region.
The insurgents struck at any competing point of power: landlords and elected leaders — who were usually the same people — and an underpaid and unmotivated police force, said Khadim Hussain, a linguistics and communications professor at Bahria University in Islamabad, the capital.
At the same time, the Taliban exploited the resentments of the landless tenants, particularly the fact that they had many unresolved cases against their bosses in a slow-moving and corrupt justice system, Mr. Hussain and residents who fled the area said.
Their grievances were stoked by a young militant, Maulana Fazlullah, who set up an FM radio station in 2004 to appeal to the disenfranchised. The broadcasts featured easy-to-understand examples using goats, cows, milk and grass. By 2006, Mr. Fazlullah had formed a ragtag force of landless peasants armed by the Taliban, said Mr. Hussain and former residents of Swat.
At first, the pressure on the landlords was subtle. One landowner was pressed to take his son out of an English-speaking school offensive to the Taliban. Others were forced to make donations to the Taliban.
Then, in late 2007, Shujaat Ali Khan, the richest of the landowners, his brothers and his son, Jamal Nasir, the mayor of Swat, became targets.
After Shujaat Ali Khan, a senior politician in the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, narrowly missed being killed by a roadside bomb, he fled to London. A brother, Fateh Ali Mohammed, a former senator, left, too, and now lives in Islamabad. Mr. Nasir also fled.
Later, the Taliban published a “most wanted” list of 43 prominent names, said Muhammad Sher Khan, a landlord who is a politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, and whose name was on the list. All those named were ordered to present themselves to the Taliban courts or risk being killed, he said. “When you know that they will hang and kill you, how will you dare go back there?” Mr. Khan, hiding in Punjab, said in a telephone interview. “Being on the list meant ‘Don’t come back to Swat.’ ”
One of the main enforcers of the new order was Ibn-e-Amin, a Taliban commander from the same area as the landowners, called Matta. The fact that Mr. Amin came from Matta, and knew who was who there, put even more pressure on the landowners, Mr. Hussain said.
According to Pakistani news reports, Mr. Amin was arrested in August 2004 on suspicion of having links to Al Qaeda and was released in November 2006. Another Pakistani intelligence agent said Mr. Amin often visited a madrasa in North Waziristan, the stronghold of Al Qaeda in the tribal areas, where he apparently received guidance.
Each time the landlords fled, their tenants were rewarded. They were encouraged to cut down the orchard trees and sell the wood for their own profit, the former residents said. Or they were told to pay the rent to the Taliban instead of their now absentee bosses.
Two dormant emerald mines have reopened under Taliban control. The militants have announced that they will receive one-third of the revenues.
Since the Taliban fought the military to a truce in Swat in February, the militants have deepened their approach and made clear who is in charge.
When provincial bureaucrats visit Mingora, Swat’s capital, they must now follow the Taliban’s orders and sit on the floor, surrounded by Taliban bearing weapons, and in some cases wearing suicide bomber vests, the senior provincial official said.
In many areas of Swat the Taliban have demanded that each family give up one son for training as a Taliban fighter, said Mohammad Amad, executive director of a nongovernmental group, the Initiative for Development and Empowerment Axis.
A landlord who fled with his family last year said he received a chilling message last week. His tenants called him in Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, to tell him his huge house was being demolished, he said in an interview here.
The most crushing news was about his finances. He had sold his fruit crop in advance, though at a quarter of last year’s price. But even that smaller yield would not be his, his tenants said, relaying the Taliban message. The buyer had been ordered to give the money to the Taliban instead.
One man finds corruption in a part of Somalia like Puntland:
Not surprisingly, the official line among Puntland´s government ministers was that “piracy is a global problem that found headway in Somalia´s porous waters in recent years.” One after another, they told me that Puntland isn´t tooled to combat this problem, because pirates are well-armed, well-financed and multi-jurisdictional. (That´s to say that pirates operate in places like Haradheere in central Somalia).
But surprisingly, and below the official line, there´s a wide belief among Puntlanders that “pirates [they don´t even use this word!] are heroes, because they are protecting Somalia´s unguarded resources, looted by international companies.”
Quite the contrary, so many people, including former government officials and journalists told me that pirates have deep connections in the highest ranks in Puntland´s regime. In fact, people could list names of government ministers whose own militia are the pirates.
Few weeks ago, when pirates kidnapped a Japanese vessel outside Somalia´s international waters (which is quite routine, and, remarkably, counter-argument to those who say that pirates are “guarding” our resources), U.S. and French naval ships cornered the pirates near Boosaaso, the business capital of Puntland. The pirates, I was told, were able to disembark from the kidnapped ship every night to chew Khat and hang out with friends and family members, while other “substitute” pirates replaced them!
Eventually, the ordeal ended with the Japanese tanker being released unharmed, and pirates getting away with an undisclosed amount of ransom. The pirates´ front-men are senior government officials, who typically convince kidnapped ships to pay ransom (usually less then than pirates originally demanded). I found that this scenario occurred no less than three dozen times in the last few years.
n addition to piracy, human trafficking is pandemic in Puntland. More than 35,000 people have perished since 1991 trying to cross the short, but dangerous distance between Boosaaso and Yemen, using makeshift rafts.
Even back in the days when President Yusuf was the president of Puntland, the administration there made a noise that it will crack down on traffickers, whenever the international attention was zeroing on the issue.
However, hardly anything has been done. In fact, human traffickers, who like pirates have deep connections to the corridors of power, have flourished. In Boosaaso and nearby towns, journalists and other sources sent me the photos of the homes of well-known human traffickers and pirates, whose villas and latest-model Land Cruisers have dazzled me.
Last week, when Gwen Le Gouil, a French journalist tried to do an investigative report on human trafficking, he was kidnapped for nine grueling days. Remarkably, he was seized on his way to Shimbiraale, the infamous village known for its human and weapons traffickers. Insiders told me that his kidnappers were Puntland intelligence officers associated with both human traffickers and pirates.
A Taste of AFRICOM: Somalia did find peace and tried to stop piracy until the US bombed the shit out of it in 2006
There has been a lot of talk lately about Somali pirates, so it’s probably a good time for a little summary.
In 2006 “the CIA propagated that Al-Qaeda had made its base in Somalia where three senior leaders were residing. CIA then encouraged Ethiopia to invade Somalia in support of weak TFG forces (Transitional Federal Government) against UIC fighters (Union of Islamic Courts) and promised to provide intelligence and air cover. Ethiopian troops backed by USA invaded Somalia on 28 December 2006. The UIC was quickly defeated in a sweeping offensive and the six-month peace period was shattered. It was believed that the UIC leadership fled into Kenya or to Yemen and the hard-line fighters cached their arms and melded back into their clans leaving the mostly untrained, new recruits to face the Ethiopian troops. Soon after the UIC rout, two US air strikes targeted alleged Al-Qaeda bases in southern Somalia on 13 January 2007 but only innocent civilians got killed.”
“‘My four-year-old boy was killed in the strike,’ Mohamed Mahmud Burale said. ‘The plane was firing at other areas in Ras Kamboni. We could see smoke from the area. We also heard 14 massive explosions.’”
“The air strikes came 16 days after Ethiopian forces entered Somalia to back pro-government troops driving out an Islamist movement that had taken control of much of the country from the weak transitional administration.”
click to enlarge – source
The Islamist movement that US and Ethiopian forces were attacking were the same people that had been trying to prevent Somali pirates from seizing ships:
In 2008 “the Islamist fighters attacked the pirates in Hobyo, 450 kilometres (270 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu … just after they had released a Jordanian-flagged cargo ship seized nearly a week earlier. ‘Two Islamists and several pirates died in the fighting which lasted more than an hour,’ one of the elders, Abdinasir Diriye, told AFP by telephone. An Islamist leader said four pirates and two Islamists had been killed in the shoot-out, adding that they had also arrested several of the pirates… Local elders had said Islamist fighters had threatened to attack the pirates if they did not release the ship.”
click to enlarge – source
“Due to the tribal organization of Somalia and the lack of a central government, combined with Somalia’s location at the Horn of Africa, conditions were ripe for the growth of piracy in the early 1990s. Since the collapse of the state, boats illegally fishing in Somali waters were a common sight. Pirates at first were interested in securing the waters before businessmen and militias became involved. Acts of piracy temporarily subsided following the rise of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. However, pirate activity began to increase after Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December 2006.”
It’s important to point out that “the radical Islamists in Somalia never had much following until the Somali people became aware that an outside power was supporting the corrupt and thuggish military chieftains. The popularity of the Islamist movement then surged, allowing the Islamists to take over much of the country. In sum, where no problem with radical Islamists previously existed, the U.S. government helped create one.”
“For the Somali people, the Ethiopian invasion of December 2006 could not have started at a worse time. Defeating the Union of Islamic Courts and propping up the Transitional Federal Government was Ethiopia’s immediate rationale for invading Somalia. The larger goal was to forge a partnership between Washington and Addis Ababa in order to execute the ‘war on terror.’”:
“To keep the invasion and Africa’s worst humanitarian catastrophe going, heavy and modern weapons, including airplanes were used. One was a United States Air Force AC-130 gunship that attacked and killed Somali villagers and countless livestock in the hunt for three foreign men suspected for the 1998 bombing of American embassies in Africa, who yet remain at large.”
The shear madness of firing artillery from navy destroyers and gunships to try and kill two or three people in a town occupied by thousands of civilians, is only surpassed by the indifference displayed by the US military, the US media, and the US citizenry as to the number of innocent civilians being killed and displaced. How many civilians did the United States kill in these bombardments?
In January 2007 more than 100 people were killed in US bombings in just one week, and in April, just three short months later, four days of fierce fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces and Islamic insurgents killed 381 people.
It is beyond my understanding how killing nomads and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians was going to make Somalia, Ethiopia or the United States any safer. Of course according to many analysts, this US led war in Somalia was really just about oil and resources, not about Islamic extremists.
“Although Africa has long been known to be rich in oil, extracting it hadn’t seemed worth the effort and risk until recently. But with the price of Middle Eastern crude skyrocketing, and advancing technology making reserves easier to tap, the region has become the scene of a competition between major powers that recalls the 19th-century scramble for colonization. Already, the United States imports more of its oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia, and China, too, looks to the continent for its energy security.”
Since it was formed two years ago, the US African Command (AFRICOM) has been very busy creating death and destruction in Africa in an attempt to obtain control of precious resources, which is why the war in Somalia is expanding to the rest of Africa.
Even though “Africa is united in rejecting US requests for a military headquarters” inside Africa, there are reports that “from oil rich northern Angola up to Nigeria, from the Gulf of Guinea to Morocco and Algeria, from the Horn of Africa down to Kenya and Uganda, and over the pipeline routes from Chad to Cameroon in the west, and from Sudan to the Red Sea in the east, US admirals and generals have been landing and taking off, meeting with local officials. They’ve conducted feasibility studies, concluded secret agreements, and spent billions from their secret budgets.” This is the future that awaits Africa with AFRICOM and the agenda to control the “oil, and the diamonds, and the uranium, and the coltan.”
If you find the idea that Africa can become bloodier than it is inaccessible, then consider this: Contrary to popular belief, the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa is not Darfur, it’s Somalia, and it all started in 2006, when the United States and Ethiopia started a war with Somalia, ending six months of the only peaceful period Somalis had known for years. The end result has been the same as all other wars that the United States has started this century. Not only is Somalia devastated but the war is spreading.
So while our Western Mainstream Media continues to feed us government sanctioned news, we should remember why and how Somalia became a failed State, some of the reasons as to why Somali pirates have become so active in the region, and we should never forget that it was the Union of Islamic Court fighters, the same organization that the United States bombed the shit out of in 2006 all the way up to 2008, that initially tried to prevent Somali pirates from seizing ships off the coast of Africa.
Note: A lot more discussion on AFRICOM will follow in the future.
IN this wretched, unfortunate land, anger and despair have been wasted emotions. After all, while we may never have known how to fix things, at least we could be relatively sure that they wouldn’t get much worse.
But as things begin to fall apart, the assumptions of yore are crumbling before our eyes. And the good and the great – the few that there are – are on the retreat. Many have written of their horror at the pact with the butchers of Swat, the grotesqueness of signing a Sharia deal with men who stand outside the pale of any religion. But it’s something else that has horrified me: the absence of unqualified rejections.
Listen carefully to what the critics are saying. The butchers of Swat are not men of religion. You can’t trust them. You can’t force them to give up their ways. They will only grow stronger.
It’s all very carefully calibrated. Cause minimal offence, upset no sensibilities, avoid stepping on toes. Can no one in this country stand up and say this: we do not want to live in a society where a man, woman or animal is flogged, where anyone’s limb is hacked off, where anyone is stoned. Period.
It doesn’t matter who is demanding it or why. Be it the purest of hearts or the most evil of men; be it with the best of intentions or the worst.
We do not want to live in a society where such punishments have the sanction of the state. Period.
How did we get to this point where it is so difficult for anyone to just say that, and only that? Without qualifications, without apologies, without lowering his voice.
We do not want to live in a society where anyone is flogged, where anyone’s limb is hacked off, where anyone is stoned. Period.
When did it become a radical idea to simply state we don’t want to live in the imagined land of the Taliban? And this is where many get it wrong – that the Taliban are reverting to an ideal. That they are going back to a glorious past. That they are going back to an Islamic past.
Friend Rafia Zakaria writing in The Hindu has laid bare the inherent fakeness of the Taliban project. I can do no better than quote her.
‘It is necessary first to appreciate the imagined Islam of the Taliban as an act of construction rather than reversion. Doing away with hundreds of years of jurisprudence of classical Islamic law, of administrative procedures and methods of reasoning, of sources of law and juristic analysis, the Taliban have redefined Sharia as a performative tableau rather than a jurisprudential exercise.’
‘An entire judicial system thus is reduced to the application of hadd punishments, floggings, beatings and amputations. Thus the qazi, arguably the most integral of those involved in justice provision, is nearly always invisible, while the crowd, the victim and those meting out a punishment play a central role. Justice is redefined as a means to subjugate and punish, with the entire collective crowd partaking in its … enactment.’
After the flogging video sent shock waves around the world, a predictable debate started here. Was the video real or fake? Was it the work of westernised, secular, illegitimate people trying to sabotage peace? Some denounced it as un-Islamic. But here’s what distressed me: otherwise sensible voices decided to take on the Taliban on their terms.
The flogging was wrong because the girl’s guilt wasn’t determined properly. The process was flawed. There was no trial. The punishment wasn’t administered properly. The wrong number of lashes was served.
And then, helpfully, the right process was laid out by these critics. Well, if they had done this or they had done that and followed this particular rule or that particular principle, then the punishment would … would what? Be acceptable?
How about a simple, we won’t accept such a country under any circumstances? Doesn’t matter if the right process or the right whip or the right intention is present.
How did we arrive at this point? Trite answers abound. We’re regressing. We’re uneducated. We have lost our way. Perhaps. But there is an underlying problem, one that isn’t sexy or simple enough to attract much attention.
Ejaz Haider first set me thinking about it a few years ago. We in Pakistan have still not resolved first-order issues of the state. The basic stuff. How is power to be divided between the various institutions of the state; what is the raison d’être of the state; what are society’s grundnorms; what is the social contract on the basis of which the state and its people are to interact. Simply, we haven’t yet figured out the framework within which we are to solve what we consider our real problems.
Ejaz contrasted us with India, which also fails to provide adequate goods and services to many of its people. There are still poor people in India, there is illiteracy, there is hunger, rights are routinely denied. But hardscrabble as life may be in India, the Indians have worked out a consensus on what kind of state – the first-order issue – will address its people’s problems, the second-order issues. In India, a constitutional democracy that embraces fundamental rights is the agreed framework in which to pursue economic and social betterment.
Here in Pakistan we have no such consensus. Sixty-one years of not agreeing on how the state is to be organised has made it impossible to work on the people’s problems. But that failure also always left the door open to anyone who could promise the people a better future at the cost of reorienting the state.
So now that the Taliban are trying to barge in, we have few ripostes. Well, at least they promise peace. At least there will be law and order. At least Green Chowk in Mingora will not see bodies strung up every morning. And if they do all of that in the name of Islam, well, maybe it is time we tried another nizam after all. The current one hasn’t proved any good.
As Rafia put it, the Taliban have slyly latched on to a simple and persuasive line: ‘the more visibly different from the epithets of modernity that the Taliban can be, the more automatically Islamic it becomes.’
Fighting back is difficult because we have never developed a consensus on an alternative. Jinnah’s Pakistan versus Ziaul Haq’s Pakistan – having never quite figured out what we want to be, we now face the very possibility that the Taliban may decide for us.
Submitted 4 hrs 29 mins ago
At least 1,9 42 terror incidents were reported during last 15 months in Pakistan. The statistics were presented in National Assembly in reply of a query. According to details, a compensation of Rs.250 million paid to terror victims in Islamabad and other four provinces. During last 12 months, 28 million paid to terror victims in Islamabad, 103 million in Punjab, 70 million in Sindh, 99 million in NWFP and 47 million in Balochistan. The statistics showed 1,395 people were killed during 1,942 terror incidents happened in last 15 months. From January 2008 to March 2009, seven terror incidents occurred in Islamabad in which 87 people were killed.
Will this incident of an Indian teacher killing a student cause an international uproar equal to the Swat flogging? Not likely.
NEW DELHI: The eleven-year-old girl, who slipped into coma after she was brutally beaten by her teacher, died on Friday in a state of coma.
She was battling for her life ever since she slipped into a state of coma on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Government and the Centre have promised strict action against those involved in an incident that led to an eleven-year-old girl battling for her life while in coma.
Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare Renuka Chowdhury has promised justice will be done.
An inquiry has been ordered by the Municipal Council of Delhi (MCD) into how Shannoo Khan, a student of Class 2 at ND Primary School in Narela, North Delhi, fell into coma.
An inquiry has been ordered and the principal and teacher placed under suspension.
The incident allegedly occurred when Shannoo failed to recite the English alphabet in class. Angered by this, the teacher allegedly hit Shannoo’s head against the table and made her stand in the sun for over two hours. Unable to stand the heat, Shannoo fainted and was found unconscious by her younger sister, who studies in the same school.
The girl then informed their mother, Rihanna, who rushed Shannoo to hospital. Shannoo’s father, Ayub Khan, who works as a waiter in a catering company, was away in Haryana for work.
Police said they had confirmed that the child was punished at school.
“We have confirmed from various sources that the child did face corporal punishment and investigations are on. We will file an FIR only after we receive the medical reports,” said police official.
MUMBAI: Ajmal Kasab on trial in India for last year’s Mumbai attacks wants to retract his confession, claiming it was extracted by torture, his defence lawyer told reporters Friday.
“On his instruction, a retraction application has been filed, retracting the so-called alleged confession,” said Abbas Kazmi, who is defending Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.
“He’s going to plead not guilty,” he added.
The lawyer told reporters that Kasab claimed the confession, made to a local magistrate while he was in police custody, was “extracted out of coercion and force and it was not a voluntary confession.”
He quoted Kasab as claiming he had been “physically tortured.”
Since the killing of the three Somali captors of Captain Richard Phillips in the waters off Somalia all the lunatics have come out and are calling for more blood; bloodshed everywhere.
One prime example of such lunacy is a Wall Street Journal columnist, Daniel Henninger, whose article appears in today’s Journal under the headline “Pirates Vs. the Rest of Us.”
One can tell from the heading alone where the column is headed. Well it’s up to level-headed folk to push back at such lunacy; so here goes.
After the conclusion of the Capt. Phillips ordeal, president Obama had said, “Those who commit acts of piracy,” Henninger wrote, should be “held accountable.”
Extending President Obama’s logic, the U.S., or as Henninger puts it, the “civilized world” (read White-dominated), should then, having killed the three Somalians, go after the “big pirates.”
And who are these? “They live in North Korea, Iran and in al-Qaeda’s hideouts along Pakistan’s northwest frontier. They are Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Janjaweed in Darfur,” Henninger writes, and adds: “Hugo Chavez is the pirate King of Latin America.”
Is it just me or is it just a coincidence that these “pirate” countries also happen to be at political odds with the United States? Isn’t this the same Bush doctrine of “you’re either with us; or you’re against us”?
Wasn’t this the doctrine just buried in the dustbin of history with the results of the last election? Isn’t that the doctrine what got us mired in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Isn’t that the contemptuous attitude that caused us to be so dismissive of the Somalis during the 1990s, when dealing with the renegade general Mohammed Aidid in Mogadishu when the U.S. dismissed a multi-lateral intervention in favor of unilateralism?
Left to his own wisdom, President Obama would not have wanted to have the three Somali captors of Capt. Phillips shot; especially when they seemed neutralized and their boat had been tethered to the U.S. Destroyer Bainbridge when they ran out of food and fuel.
There was a blood-thirsty drum beat in media, including on CNN; so intense that it probably invited the specter of Somali “savages” hungry and without food even contemplating Capt. Phillips as a potential meal.
These, like Henninger, are the same type of armchair pundits who now advocate for an aggressive unilateral U.S. role in “ending” the scourge of “piracy” all over the world. So the new dictum is “You’re either with us; or you’re a pirate.”
What absurd and perverted logic.
There are those who are even now calling for outside intervention on Somali land territory to pursue pirates. People are not born with a sign “pirate” stamped on their forehead—to the extent that the Somali state has collapsed, the hijacking of ships has increased in proportion.
Many of also don’t suffer from dementia. We recall that the U.S. 1990s unilateral intervention in Somalia did not end well. It became the “Us” vs. “them” approach that Henninger promotes. It provoked enmity and American service men, initially welcomed when they went on a humanitarian mission, became targets. It culminated in the Black Hawk downing. The bodies of American servicemen were dragged in the streets of Mogadishu and mutilated.
Two years ago, Ethiopia, acting as proxy for the United States, sent in 50,000 troops to Somalia, routing the sitting government which the U.S. feared was harboring al-Qaeda elements.
The Ethiopians occupied the country, depopulated whole regions, and committed human rights abuses. The Somalis buried their difference, conducted a guerrilla campaign, and routed Ethiopia out of the country.
Anyone that advocates a new occupation of Somalia, no less by American and European forces, does not know what they are talking about. It would cause more massive bloodshed and destruction; occupying armies would be routed, taking us back to square one. Somalis survive using a by-any-means-necessary approach. The bandits hardly see themselves as pirates under such anarchic conditions.
Ironically, their criminal acts could focus sufficient attention on Somalia, inviting high-level multi-lateral engagement with the country –not U.S. unilateralism—to promote a national dialogue and create a stronger government there; absent which there is no hope.
Such a government can be assisted in reining in all the sea bandits; the Somalis as well as the Europeans that have been illegally dumping toxic waste off Somalia’s shores, while also stealing millions of dollars in fish and shrimps from Somali waters.
This is hardly the time for the jingoism espoused by Henninger.
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“Speaking Truth To Empower.”
|By Najad Abdullahi|
Somali pirates have accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast and are demanding an $8m ransom for the return of a Ukranian ship they captured, saying the money will go towards cleaning up the waste.
The ransom demand is a means of “reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years”, Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirates, based in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, said.
“The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas.”
The pirates are holding the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware, off Somalia’s northern coast.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, 61 attacks by pirates have been reported since the start of the year.
While money is the primary objective of the hijackings, claims of the continued environmental destruction off Somalia’s coast have been largely ignored by the regions’s maritime authorities.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia confirmed to Al Jazeera the world body has “reliable information” that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline.
“I must stress however, that no government has endorsed this act, and that private companies and individuals acting alone are responsible,” he said
Allegations of the dumping of toxic waste, as well as illegal fishing, have circulated since the early 1990s.But evidence of such practices literally appeared on the beaches of northern Somalia when the tsunami of 2004 hit the country.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported the tsunami had washed up rusting containers of toxic waste on the shores of Puntland.
Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesman, told Al Jazeera that when the barrels were smashed open by the force of the waves, the containers exposed a “frightening activity” that has been going on for more than decade.
“Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there,” he said.
“European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.
“And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it.”
Nuttall also said that since the containers came ashore, hundreds of residents have fallen ill, suffering from mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments.
“We [the UNEP] had planned to do a proper, in-depth scientific assessment on the magnitude of the problem. But because of the high levels of insecurity onshore and off the Somali coast, we are unable to carry out an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem,” he said.
However, Ould-Abdallah claims the practice still continues.
“What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean,” he said.
Ould-Abdallah declined to name which companies are involved in waste dumping, citing legal reasons.
But he did say the practice helps fuel the 18-year-old civil war in Somalia as companies are paying Somali government ministers to dump their waste, or to secure licences and contracts.
“There is no government control … and there are few people with high moral ground … [and] yes, people in high positions are being paid off, but because of the fragility of the TFG [Transitional Federal Government], some of these companies now no longer ask the authorities – they simply dump their waste and leave.”
Ould-Abdallah said there are ethical questions to be considered because the companies are negotiating contracts with a government that is largely divided along tribal lines.
“How can you negotiate these dealings with a country at war and with a government struggling to remain relevant?”
In 1992, a contract to secure the dumping of toxic waste was made by Swiss and Italian shipping firms Achair Partners and Progresso, with Nur Elmi Osman, a former official appointed to the government of Ali Mahdi Mohamed, one of many militia leaders involved in the ousting of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia’s former president.
At the request of the Swiss and Italian governments, UNEP investigated the matter.
Both firms had denied entering into any agreement with militia leaders at the beginning of the Somali civil war.
Osman also denied signing any contract.
However, Mustafa Tolba, the former UNEP executive director, told Al Jazeera that he discovered the firms were set up as fictitious companies by larger industrial firms to dispose of hazardous waste.
“At the time, it felt like we were dealing with the Mafia, or some sort of organised crime group, possibly working with these industrial firms,” he said.
“It was very shady, and quite underground, and I would agree with Ould-Abdallah’s claims that it is still going on… Unfortunately the war has not allowed environmental groups to investigate this fully.”The Italian mafia controls an estimated 30 per cent of Italy’s waste disposal companies, including those that deal with toxic waste.
In 1998, Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian weekly magazine, claimed that although most of the waste-dumping took place after the start of the civil war in 1991, the activity actually began as early as 1989 under the Barre government.
Beyond the ethical question of trying to secure a hazardous waste agreement in an unstable country like Somalia, the alleged attempt by Swiss and Italian firms to dump waste in Somalia would violate international treaties to which both countries are signatories.
Switzerland and Italy signed and ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which came into force in 1992.
EU member states, as well as 168 other countries have also signed the agreement.
The convention prohibits waste trade between countries that have signed the convention, as well as countries that have not signed the accord unless a bilateral agreement had been negotiated.
It is also prohibits the shipping of hazardous waste to a war zone.
Abdi Ismail Samatar, professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota, told Al Jazeera that because an international coalition of warships has been deployed to the Gulf of Aden, the alleged dumping of waste must have been observed.
“If these acts are continuing, then surely they must have been seen by someone involved in maritime operations,” he said.
“Is the cargo aimed at a certain destination more important than monitoring illegal activities in the region? Piracy is not the only problem for Somalia, and I think it’s irresponsible on the part of the authorities to overlook this issue.”
Mohammed Gure, chairman of the Somalia Concern Group, said that the social and environmental consequences will be felt for decades.
“The Somali coastline used to sustain hundreds of thousands of people, as a source of food and livelihoods. Now much of it is almost destroyed, primarily at the hands of these so-called ministers that have sold their nation to fill their own pockets.”
Ould-Abdallah said piracy will not prevent waste dumping.
“The intentions of these pirates are not concerned with protecting their environment,” he said.
“What is ultimately needed is a functioning, effective government that will get its act together and take control of its affairs.”
A battle is currently raging between Egyptian security forces, backed by armor and helicopters, trying to smash secret bases in Central Sinai, set up by a joint clandestine operation between Al Qaeda and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah. Iran’s intelligence and security service, and Al-Quds, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards whose mission is to assist Shi’ite militias and organizations throughout the world, have deployed “sleeper cells” of agents, who are activated on call from Tehran. On Sunday, an Egyptian cabinet minister of state, Mofeed Shehab, said the Hezbollah ringleader, whom Nasrallah had called Sami Shihab was actually named Muhammad Youssef Mansour. Mansour had traveled to Egypt on two fake passports and had been organizing plans to recruit members, indoctrinate them and send them to Lebanon to train for “hostile operations” inside Egypt. The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, considered a mouthpiece of the regime, reported that among the arrested are two employees of an Iranian television station that has offices in Cairo.
During Operation ‘Cast Lead’ against Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah called on Egyptian army officers and the public to demonstrate against the regime. The next day the clandestine operatives were supposed to carry out the attacks inside Egypt, but had already been apprehended.
As early as last year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Iran had created an ‘Islamic republic’ in Egypt’s backyard, referring to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Their next objective clearly seemed Egypt proper. Jordan, also viewed as central to what has been described as the Arab world’s moderate Sunni axis, is facing a similar effort by an Iranian sponsored terror network. In both cases, intelligence chiefs in Amman and Cairo realized that Iran, operating subversive elements by proxy, was stirring the cauldron.
Reports from Cairo claim that Iranian agents started purchasing apartments on the upper floors of tall buildings near the Suez Canal coast, some of them right on the waterline, in order to monitor passing traffic in the strategic canal. Analysts warn, that last week’s official reports over the 49 agents captured by the Egyptian police, may well have been just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Incapacitating a large ship in the canal would have had a serious impact on the country’s economy, as the canal is a major source of revenues for the local economy, worth several billion dollars a year.
By planting logistical and intelligence gathering cells at strategic locations, Iran would plan linking up with their established clandestine cells already operating out of Somalia and Sudan opposite the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Tehran’s official strategy wishes to provide Iran with an outer safety belt, but the same strategy could well serve in its offensive mode against Sunni nations, like Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt. The recent reports of the mysterious arms smuggling convoys attacked in the Sudan desert, on their way to Egypt, may indicate what is already shaping up in the Shiite Mullah plans to outflank both Sunni Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in what Israel’s President Shimon Peres said this week: “Sooner or later, the world will realize that Iran wishes to take over the Middle East, the conflict between an Arab-Sunni Middle East and an Iranian minority that wants to conquer it is inevitable”.
Photos: Sinai mountains: sinai.org, Suez Canal: Univ. of Illinois
By Simon Assaf
The escapades of Somali pirates made headlines last week. But the media has ignored the injustice behind the phenomenon.
When the Asian tsunami of Christmas 2005 washed ashore on the east coast of Africa, it uncovered a great scandal.
Tons of radioactive waste and toxic chemicals drifted onto the beaches after the giant wave dislodged them from the sea bed off Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill after coming into contact with this cocktail. They complained to the United Nations (UN), which began an investigation. “There are reports from villagers of a wide range of medical problems such as mouth bleeds, abdominal hemorrhages, unusual skin disorders and breathing difficulties,” the UN noted.
Some 300 people are believed to have died from the poisonous chemicals. Many European, US and Asian shipping firms – notably Switzerland’s Achair Partners and Italy’s Progresso – signed dumping deals in the early 1990s with Somalia’s politicians and militia leaders.
This meant they could use the coast as a toxic dumping ground. This practice became widespread as the country descended into civil war. Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Program said, “European companies found it was very cheap to get rid of the waste.
“It cost as little as £1.70 a ton, whereas waste disposal costs in Europe was something like £670 a ton. “And the waste is of many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it.”
But despite the evidence uncovered by the tsunami, an investigation into the practice of toxic dumping was dropped. There was no compensation and no clean up. In 2006 Somali fishermen complained to the UN that foreign fishing fleets were using the breakdown of the state to plunder their fish stocks. These foreign fleets often recruited Somali militias to intimidate local fishermen.
Despite repeated requests, the UN refused to act. Meanwhile the warships of global powers that patrol the strategically important Gulf of Aden did not sink or seize any vessels dumping toxic chemicals off the coast.
So angry Somalis, whose waters were being poisoned and whose livelihoods were threatened, took matters into their own hands. Fishermen began to arm themselves and attempted to act as unofficial coastguards. They began to seize ships in late 2005. These were released after a ransom was paid. Among them were cargo vessels, luxury cruise liners and tuna fishing boats.
Januna Ali Jama, a Somali pirate leader, explained that their actions were motivated by attempts to stop the toxic dumping. He said that the £5.4 million ransom they demanded for the return of a Ukrainian ship would go towards cleaning up the mess.
Ali Jama said the pirates were “reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years. “The Somali coastline has been destroyed. We believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas.”
But the nature of this piracy soon began to change. Members of the Somali government, who were part of the then Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), started to get involved. They transformed the piracy operation into a multi-million dollar industry that funded their lavish lifestyles.
The TFG was ousted during a popular rebellion in July 2006 led by the Union of Islamic Courts. Later that year the US backed Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia to drive the Islamic Courts out.
This provoked an insurgency labeled by some as the “third front” of the “war on terror”. The US became embarrassed when it emerged that its allies in the TFG were deeply involved in piracy. As concerns grew for the safety of ships heading towards the Suez Canal, global powers began to take notice.
Indian and US warships began to sink Somali fishing boats if they sailed too close to cargo vessels or trawlers. These warships transformed Somalia’s coastal waters into a “free fire zone”. When a giant Saudi oil tanker was seized, these powers declared all-out war on the pirates.
British foreign minister David Miliband recently boasted that Britain would be taking the lead in cracking down on the pirates. The Royal Navy will take command of a European fleet of warships as part of “Operation Atalanta”, he said.
The target will be the Somalis – not the vessels dumping waste or the illegal foreign fishing fleets. As global powers dispatch their warships to the Somali coast, the problems that caused this outbreak of piracy remain unresolved.
European, US and Asian ships will continue to dump hazardous waste and plunder coastal fishing stocks – leading to continuing misery for Somalis.
Detailed map of the horn of Africa region showing recent hijackings and pirate attacks by Somali pirates preceding Wednesday’s attempted hijacking of the American ship Maersk Alabama.
Something doesn’t add up in the way the U.S. government says the hostage crisis involving captain Richard Phillips ended on the Sea off Somalia on Sunday.
We are happy that Capt. Phillips was rescued unharmed by U.S. Servicemen. Yet, there is a disconnect in the story that the U.S. Navy and the Administration is trying to sell the world.
There has been much crime on the waters off Somalia. By the Somalis and also by Europeans who have been dumping toxic and nuclear wastes off Somalia’s coastline and stealing millions of dollars worth of fish and shrimps further out at Sea. Hint: news tip for CNN and The New York Times.
With respect to Capt. Phillips’ reported dramatic rescue, consider the following:
The Somali captors of Captain Phillips had already run out of fuel. They had abandoned their own vessel after their failed attempt to seize control of Phillips’ ship. They ended up escaping with the captain as captive, on a lifeboat.
Then they ran out of food. Their lifeboat was then tethered to the U.S. Destroyer with a rope merely 100 feet long. The Somalis had no way out. The captors, in addition to Phillips, had now become hostages; nay, in fact, the captors were the hostages by Sunday.
And yet we are to believe, as the Navy suggests, and CNN and the New York Times and all the other clueless non-critical media accept, that it was at that precise moment, when they had lost their all their bargaining strength, that the Somali captors of Phillips decided that they should kill him, hence necessitating their own demise at the hands of Navy Seals sharpshooters aboard the U.S. Destroyer Bainbridge?
We have a bridge to sell in Alaska.
Once the Somalis lost food, fuel and their ability to escape, they needed Capt. Phillips to be alive more than anything else in the world in order for them to even have a remote chance of staying alive. They needed for Capt. Phillips not even to develop a fever or headache. Any harm to Phillips, the Navy would have allowed the Somalis to drift further away, and then torpedoed their lifeboat.
Capt. Phillips’ captors knew that the worse that could happen to them, if they did not kill Phillips, was to be arrested and handed over to the authorities in Kenya for prosecution or shipped to Guantanamo Bay.
Given these cost-benefit analyses –and anyone who knows will tell you that Somalis are one of the shrewdest business people in Africa—it is incredible that the Somalis would have chosen to murder Phillips.
The authorities tell us that a fourth captive had been transferred back to the Destroyer to be treated for the wound he suffered in the aborted attempt to commandeer Phillips’ vessel. We are told that once on board he started demanding ransom payment. On what basis? What was he using as the bargaining chip? Once on board the Destroyer, it must have been as clear as daylight to the Somali that he and his three comrades had now become the hostages.
Excuse us for not buying the Navy’s story. Our brain tells us there is the smell of a rotten fish somewhere.
Many people will conclude that Capt. Phillips’ captors got what they deserved.
Yet, by killing Capt. Phillips’ captors, if indeed, they had already been neutralized by circumstances, might the Navy not have just escalated the situation?
There has already been a fresh attack on a US flagged ship. This time the Somalis came with rocket-propelled grenades blazing. Fortunately, no one was harmed. What will tomorrow yield?
At the end of the day, the only solution is for a multi-national task force to police the waters off Somalia from all pirates—those from Somalia and those from Europe dumping killers wastes on Somalia’s shores and stealing its fish after having depleted their own waters in Europe of fish.
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Justice Department review finds that agency’s eavesdropping program had exceeded limits set last year
Washington – Congress is investigating a “serious” failure by the National Security Agency to comply with legal limits on its domestic eavesdropping activities, key lawmakers said Thursday.
An internal review by the Justice Department and the NSA found that the spy agency’s monitoring program had exceeded limits set by Congress last year designed to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens. The Justice Department said that steps have been taken to correct the problem, discovered as the Obama administration was preparing to seek renewal of the surveillance program.
“We haven’t found any evidence that anyone at NSA had deliberately broken the law,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who chairs a House Intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA.
The Baltimore County Democrat said his panel has held four classified briefings on the matter and is continuing its investigation.
Separately, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee described details of the NSA’s “overcollection” of domestic communications, first reported in The New York Times, as “serious allegations.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said her committee “is looking into this, and we will hold a hearing on this subject within one month.”
Ruppersberger, in an interview, described the NSA’s breach as “a serious failure to comply with the FISA court.”
Before the NSA can eavesdrop on the private communications of Americans suspected of involvement in terrorist activity, it is generally required to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.
However, legislation approved last fall gave the NSA the right to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on the enormous volume of international communications that passes through the U.S. every day.
The NSA and its intelligence partners in more than 30 countries monitor over a billion communications daily, on average, including e-mail, phone calls and other records, said Ruppersberger.
What remains unclear, according to the congressman and others, is the extent of potential privacy violations. Beyond the surveillance of known or suspected terrorists under FISA warrants, the NSA’s eavesdropping program is believed to focus mainly on patterns of communications that could turn up evidence of potential threats.
The bulk of the data collected by the NSA’s highly classified program is believed to involve communication “envelopes,” rather than the content of e-mails or phone conversations, for example.
Ruppersberger said that none of the information that had been improperly collected by NSA had gone to other agencies. But he said the breach pointed up the need for “more diligent checks and balances internally,” given the enormous quantity of data being intercepted, and he said the task of internal monitoring needs to involve everyone from lawyers to engineers.
The NSA, headquartered at Fort Meade, has struggled with public relations problems through much of the post-9/11 period. The agency’s warrantless wiretap program, secretly authorized by President George W. Bush, raised widespread concerns about potential violations of civil liberties.
In 2008, TheWall Street Journal reported that the NSA was monitoring vast quantities of domestic communications and records, from e-mails and phone calls to Internet searches, credit-card transactions and travel records.
NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel said officials there “maintain rigorous internal mechanisms and are subject to external oversight” by the director of national intelligence, the Justice Department and Congress. She said that employees “work tirelessly for the good of the nation, and serve this country proudly.”
The Justice Department said that officials at Justice and the NSA had “detected issues that raised concern” about NSA’s “compliance with existing laws and court orders” during a routine review.
After “corrective measures were taken and new safeguards” adopted, Attorney General Eric Holder sought authorization from the FISA court for renewal of the eavesdropping program, according to a Justice statement.
“The Justice Department takes its national security oversight responsibilities seriously and works diligently to ensure that surveillance under established legal authorities complies with the nation’s laws. …” the statement concluded.
[“Al Qaida” is a flexible term that can be stretched to fit any official government lie.]
* American newspaper claims agreement for unmanned aircraft to strike in Tribal Areas initially negotiated with Musharraf, later with Zardari
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: While both Pakistan and the United States sides have grown accustomed to a diplomatic dance around the drones, behind the scenes, Pakistani officials may put up with the drones for more than Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s statement last week would suggest, The New York Times has claimed.
“If the government of Pakistan was not convinced of the efficacy of the drone attacks, why would they be asking for the technology?” the newspaper quoted Prof Riffat Hussain as saying rhetorically. Professor Hussain lectures at the National Defence University.
Musharraf, Zardari: The paper claims that permission for the aircraft to strike in the Tribal Areas was negotiated by the Bush administration with former president Pervez Musharraf and later with President Asif Ali Zardari. It insists that the cooperation has been successful. Nine out of 20 senior operatives from Al Qaeda on a list compiled last year have been killed – an American claim Pakistan does not dispute.
But Pakistanis’ discomfort with the drones is real. The issue is the trade-off between decapitating the militant hierarchy and the risk of further destabilising Pakistan by provoking retaliatory attacks from terrorists, and by driving the Taliban and Al Qaeda deeper into Pakistan. Then there is the matter of the civilian casualties. The deaths make it difficult for any Pakistani leader to support the drones publicly, and the Pakistani disavowals only reinforce the popular notion that the war on terror merely furthers America’s interests, not Pakistan’s own.
About 500 civilians have been killed in the drone attacks, according to Lt Gen (r) Talat Masood. But, he says, the government has not pointed out that many of those killed may have been hosting Al Qaeda militants.
According to a limited survey, people living in the Tribal Areas under the militants’ grip may be more accepting of the attacks than other Pakistanis. The survey, described as unscientific, was conducted in North and South Waziristan and Kurram Agency, by a group belonging to the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy.
Meanwhile, the US media has said that the US drone programme is actually weakening Pakistan’s defence against the insurgency by killing large numbers of civilians based on ‘faulty intelligence’ and discrediting the Pakistani military, according to data from the Pakistani government and interviews with senior analysts.
“Some evidence indicates, moreover, that the top officials in the Barack Obama administration now see the programme more as an ‘incentive’ for the Pakistani military to take a more aggressive posture towards the terrorists rather than as an effective tool against the insurgents,” said the Inter Press Service (IPS). “Although the strikes have been sold to the US public as a way to weaken and disrupt Al Qaeda, which is an explicitly counter-terrorist objective, Al Qaeda is not actually the main threat to US security emanating from Pakistan,” according to some analysts. “The real threat comes from the broader, rapidly growing insurgency of Islamic militants against the shaky Pakistani government and military,” they observe, and the drone strikes are a strategically inappropriate approach to that problem.
“Al Qaeda has very little to do with the militancy in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan,” said Marvin Weinbaum, former Afghanistan and Pakistan analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence Research at the US Department of State and now scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute.
John McCreary, a senior intelligence analyst for the Defence Intelligence Agency until his retirement in 2006, agrees with Weinbaum’s assessment. “The drone programme is supposed to be all about Al Qaeda,” he told IPS in an interview, but in fact, “the threat is much larger.”
McCreary observes that the targets in recent months “have been expanded to include Pakistani Pashtun militants”. The administration apparently had dealt with that contradiction by effectively broadening the definition of “Al Qaeda“,according to McCreary. Ambassador James Dobbins – the director of National Security Studies at the Rand Corporation, who maintains contacts with a range of administration national security officials – told IPS in an interview that the drone strikes in Pakistan are aimed “in the short and medium term” at the counter-terrorism objective of preventing attacks on Washington and other capitals.
But as they have shifted to Pakistani Taliban targets, Dobbins said, To degree the targets are insurgents and are Pakistanis not Arabs it would be correct to assess that they are part of an insurgency.” That raises the question, he said, whether the drone programme “is feeding the insurgency and popular support for it”.