Right at the Edge

[Once in a while, the New York Times does some real reporting.]

So here was Namdar — Taliban chieftain, enforcer of Islamic law, usurper of the Pakistani government and trainer and facilitator of suicide bombers in Afghanistan — sitting at home, not three miles from Peshawar, untouched by the Pakistani military operation that was supposedly unfolding around us.

What’s going on? I asked the warlord. Why aren’t they coming for you?

“I cannot lie to you,” Namdar said, smiling at last. “The army comes in, and they fire at empty buildings. It is a drama — it is just to entertain.”

Entertain whom? I asked

And then the retired Pakistani official offered another explanation — one that he said could never be discussed in public. The reason the Pakistani security services support the Taliban, he said, is for money: after the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani military concluded that keeping the Taliban alive was the surest way to win billions of dollars in aid that Pakistan needed to survive. The military’s complicated relationship with the Taliban is part of what the official called the Pakistani military’s “strategic games.” Like other Pakistanis, this former senior official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of what he was telling me.

Right at the Edge

Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

DÉJÀ VU: The Vice and Virtue brigade has taken control of a large swath of Khyber agency near the Afghanistan border. At the commander’s compound in Takya, the author and photographer encountered a group of armed men and boys sitting in a Toyota pickup truck, reminding them of Kabul in the 1990s.

PAYING THEIR RESPECTS: Munsif Khan, a spokesman for the Vice and Virtue brigade, greeting visiting Talibs at the Takya compound. He was injured in a car-bomb attack last year.

Late in the afternoon of June 10, during a firefight with Taliban militants along the Afghan-Pakistani border, American soldiers called in airstrikes to beat back the attack. The firefight was taking place right on the border itself, known in military jargon as the “zero line.” Afghanistan was on one side, and the remote Pakistani region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, was on the other. The stretch of border was guarded by three Pakistani military posts.

The American bombers did the job, and then some. By the time the fighting ended, the Taliban militants had slipped away, the American unit was safe and 11 Pakistani border guards lay dead. The airstrikes on the Pakistani positions sparked a diplomatic row between the two allies: Pakistan called the incident “unprovoked and cowardly”; American officials regretted what they called a tragic mistake. But even after a joint inquiry by the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it remained unclear why American soldiers had reached the point of calling in airstrikes on soldiers from Pakistan, a critical ally in the war in Afghanistan and the campaign against terrorism.

The mystery, at least part of it, was solved in July by four residents of Suran Dara, a Pakistani village a few hundred yards from the site of the fight. According to two of these villagers, whom I interviewed together with a local reporter, the Americans started calling in airstrikes on the Pakistanis after the latter started shooting at the Americans.

“When the Americans started bombing the Taliban, the Frontier Corps started shooting at the Americans,” we were told by one of Suran Dara’s villagers, who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being persecuted or killed by the Pakistani government or the Taliban. “They were trying to help the Taliban. And then the American planes bombed the Pakistani post.”

For years, the villagers said, Suran Dara served as a safe haven for jihadist fighters — whether from Afghanistan or Pakistan or other countries — giving them aid and shelter and a place to stash their weapons. With the firefight under way, one of Suran Dara’s villagers dashed across the border into Afghanistan carrying a field radio with a long antenna (the villager called it “a Motorola”) to deliver to the Taliban fighters. He never made it. The man with the Motorola was hit by an American bomb. After the fight, wounded Taliban members were carried into Suran Dara for treatment. “Everyone supports the Taliban on both sides of the border,” one of the villagers we spoke with said.

Later, an American analyst briefed by officials in Washington confirmed the villagers’ account. “There have been dozens of incidents where there have been exchanges of fire,” he said.

That American and Pakistani soldiers are fighting one another along what was meant to be a border between allies highlights the extraordinarily chaotic situation unfolding inside the Pakistani tribal areas, where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban, along with Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, enjoy freedom from American attacks.

But the incident also raises one of the more fundamental questions of the long war against Islamic militancy, and one that looms larger as the American position inside Afghanistan deteriorates: Whose side is Pakistan really on?

PAKISTAN’S WILD, LARGELY ungoverned tribal areas have become an untouchable base for Islamic militants to attack Americans and Afghans across the border. Inside the tribal areas, Taliban warlords have taken near-total control, pushing aside the Pakistani government and imposing their draconian form of Islam. And for more than a year now, they have been sending suicide bombers against government and military targets in Pakistan, killing hundreds of people. American and Pakistani investigators say they believe it was Baitullah Mehsud, the strongest of FATA’s Taliban leaders, who dispatched assassins last December to kill Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister. With much of the North-West Frontier Province, which borders the tribal areas, also now under their control, the Taliban are increasingly in a position to threaten the integrity of the Pakistani state.

Then there is Al Qaeda. According to American officials and counterterrorism experts, the organization has rebuilt itself and is using its sanctuaries inside the tribal areas to plan attacks against the United States and Europe. Since 2004, six major terrorist plots against Europe or the United States — including the successful suicide attacks in London that killed 52 people in July 2005 — have been traced back to Pakistan’s tribal areas, according to Bruce Hoffman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University. Hoffman says he fears that Al Qaeda could be preparing a major attack before the American presidential election. “I’m convinced they are planning something,” he told me.

At the center of all this stands the question of whether Pakistan really wants to control the Talibs and their Qaeda allies ensconced in the tribal areas — and whether it really can.

This was not supposed to be a major worry. After the attacks of Sept. 11, President Pervez Musharraf threw his lot in with the United States. Pakistan has helped track down Al Qaeda suspects, launched a series of attacks against militants inside the tribal areas — a new offensive got under way just weeks ago — and given many assurances of devotion to the antiterrorist cause. For such efforts, Musharraf and the Pakistani government have been paid handsomely, receiving more than $10 billion in American money since 2001.

But as the incident on the Afghan border suggests, little in Pakistan is what it appears. For years, the survival of Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders has depended on a double game: assuring the United States that they were vigorously repressing Islamic militants — and in some cases actually doing so — while simultaneously tolerating and assisting the same militants. From the anti-Soviet fighters of the 1980s and the Taliban of the 1990s to the homegrown militants of today, Pakistan’s leaders have been both public enemies and private friends.

When the game works, it reaps great rewards: billions in aid to boost the Pakistani economy and military and Islamist proxies to extend the government’s reach into Afghanistan and India.

Dexter Filkins, a correspondent for The Times, reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1997 to 2002. He is the author of ‘‘The Forever War.’’

About 50 Palestinians wounded in confrontations with IOF troops, settlers


About 50 Palestinians wounded in confrontations with IOF troops, settlers

PIC

April 25, 2009

NABLUS, (PIC)– Jewish armed settlers backed by Israeli occupation forces fired at Palestinian citizens in Ourif town, south of Nablus, wounding 13 civilians amidst widespread confrontations between West Bank Palestinians and IOF troops and settlers on Friday.

Local sources in the Ourif village said that six masked settlers opened fire at the citizens wounding six of them, and added that IOF troops then barged into the town, imposed a curfew and fired bullets and teargas canisters wounding seven more citizens.

The IOF command claimed that three guards of the nearby settlement of Yitzhar were wounded when armed Palestinians fired at them.

In Bil’in, Ramallah district, 25 demonstrators were treated for light to medium injuries when IOF soldiers used force to quell a peaceful anti separation wall demonstration.

Eyewitnesses said that the soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets and tear bombs at the participants in the weekly march, who included Luisa Morgantini, the deputy president of the European parliament, and Mairead Maguire, the Nobel peace laureate.

Four Palestinians were wounded in IOF shooting at a march in Ni’lin, also in Ramallah district, who were marching against the separation wall.

The IOF declared the area a closed military zone before the march started with the participation of 1,000 people including a number of foreign solidarity activists.

The IOF soldiers wounded four Palestinians in Masara village, Bethlehem district, when a massive march, grouping foreign activists including Israelis and Italians, hit the streets of the village while chanting national slogans and calls for bridling IOF crimes.

The soldiers battered the citizens after they removed barbed wires on their way to the separation wall.

Jewish settlers in Al-Khalil district attacked Palestinian farmers in Beit Ummar village while on their way to tend to their farms near the settlement of Gush Etzion.

Locals said that 20 settlers attacked the farmers with batons and other “sharp tools” and blocked their way to their farms.

IOF soldiers rounded up three young men from Nablus city on Friday and four others east of Jenin late Friday night.

In the Gaza Strip, IOF troops bulldozed cultivated lands in two incursions on Friday in central and northern Gaza.

Local sources told PIC reporter that the soldiers in armored vehicles escorted bulldozers and fired at random before the bulldozers started damaging vast cultivated areas.

Uzbek Trouble makers in Pakistan’s Frontier Regions Rogue Element Within “al Qaida”

[SEE: The IMU in Pakistan: A Phoenix Reborn, or a Tired Scarecrow?]

Turkish wing of al-Qaeda at odds with leadership, says report

A report by the Security General Directorate has stated that there is discord between Turkish al-Qaeda militants based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and the terrorist organization’s high-level factions.

Thirty-seven people were detained in Turkey during police operations into the organization in five cities earlier this week. In addition to this major blow from the police, the recent report of the directorate revealed conflict within the organization. The report indicates that the Turkish wing of al-Qaeda has caused discord within the organization. According to the Security General Directorate’s report on al-Qaeda, a fissure appeared within the organization after disagreements between the al-Qaeda administration and the Turkish al-Qaeda militants located along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The report claims that Turkish al-Qaeda members left the camps of the organization commanded by a high-level al-Qaeda member with the codename Ebu Ahmed since they did not approve of his ideas.

The report also draws attention to the fact that al-Qaeda uses Turkey as an area of logistic support in terms of acquiring funding and fake passports. It also notes that al-Qaeda members of North African descent have started to use Turkey as a transit route on their way to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The counterterrorism units of the Gaziantep, Konya, Adana, Kahramanmaraş and Şanlıurfa police departments staged simultaneous raids on a number of houses in their respective cities earlier this week. One of the suspects, M.G.B., who was detained in Gaziantep, was found to have spent time in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, along with six other detainees. They were reported to be forming a new organization affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Counterterrorism units and police teams in a number of Turkish cities have been cooperating for months to root out cells aligned with Turkey’s al-Qaeda network; as it progresses, the investigation has yielded a significant number of arrests throughout the country. Thirty individuals allegedly linked to al-Qaeda were detained in Eskişehir earlier this month.

25 April 2009, Saturday

SEDAT GÜNEÇ ANKARA

Comprehensive education policy soon: Gilani

Comprehensive education policy soon: Gilani

LARKANA (updated on: April 25, 2009, 16:09 PST): Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said Saturday that a comprehensive education policy would be given soon and stressed that education is important for the efforts to rid the society of extremism and terrorism. Addressing the 17th Parents Day of Cadet College Larkana, he said the policy would be in line with the needs of the time in the field of education.

He said no nation could develop without focus on education, adding that health care and education were the present government’s top priorities.

Gilani said that federal ministers for health and education, who both belong to this region, were employing all their capabilities day and night to produce results in their respective spheres.

The PM said the foundation of Cadet College Larkana was laid about 35 to 40 years ago by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and it was inaugurated by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

He said he was happy to know that some 500 cadets were acquiring education here from the interior Sindh.

Announcing Rs 150 million for the Cadet College the Prime Minister said, “I am impressed by the discipline of this College.”

More such cadet colleges will be established in remote areas of Pakistan, he said.

Why we are where we are

Why we are where we are

By Irfan Husain

A Taliban militant stands guard at a road in Buner district. - AP photo

The jihadis cannot be defeated with money alone: political will and a broad consensus backed by military might are needed. So far, there are few signs of any of this happening. – AP photo

IN the middle of Karachi stands the concrete shell of a 30-storey building. This is the structure of the Hyatt Regency hotel started in the mid-seventies, and which has remained a building site since work was abandoned in 1977.

In a sense, this hulk is a metaphor for Pakistan: a state launched with much fanfare, enthusiasm and good intentions, but which can neither be completed nor pulled down.

Any state has a number of prerequisites to function effectively: settled borders; an accord on the measure of autonomy to be exercised by the federating units; the official language; and a broad consensus on the nature and direction of the state. Another element relates to national identity. Finally, any modern state must establish its monopoly on the use and means of violence.

As an artificially created entity, Pakistan was required to define and establish these parameters. Unfortunately, it failed to do so, largely because of the long delay in forging a consensus on the constitution, and partly because of the frequent military interventions that repeatedly eroded respect for the constitution and the rule of law. Poorly educated military dictators with no sense of history attempted to come up with half-baked concepts that have laid waste to the institutions we inherited from the British.

An early problem the new state faced was the issue of borders that were left undefined by the departing colonial power. Pakistani rulers have struggled with this question, opting for military confrontation instead of dialogue and discourse. It is true that our neighbours have not been very helpful in settling the matter. Pakistani militarists have driven our foreign and defence policies, arming to repel real and perceived dangers from abroad, while creating a Frankenstein’s monster that now threatens to devour us.

As a result of this single-issue agenda, money that should have been spent on education and health was diverted into the insatiable black hole of bloated military budgets. As our population has increased without check, millions of young people remain uneducated and unemployed. Filling the educational vacuum are the thousands of madressahs, many financed by Saudi Arabia, that do not equip students for careers in the modern world. There is thus a fertile breeding ground for the Taliban and their fellow extremists to recruit foot soldiers from.

The last six decades have amply demonstrated the difficulty inherent in building a national identity based solely on religion. Talk to any conservative Pakistani today, and he will assert that as Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, the Sharia should be the law of the land. It would be futile to point out that Jinnah visualised a secular state in which all Pakistanis would be equal citizens. This lofty vision would be scant comfort to the Sikh families who have had to flee their homes in the tribal areas because demands for jaziah, the old Muslim tax on non-Muslims, were made by de facto Taliban rulers.

In order to justify the partition of the subcontinent, rulers have resorted to bewildering mental contortions. Many have tried to move our roots to the Middle East from our true origins in South Asia. This confusion is reflected in school textbooks and the media. Thus, we have young people unsure of their past, and unable or unwilling to claim their rich cultural patrimony.

The insecurity caused by the wrenching experience of Partition has seen military and civilian rulers looking to the West for military and economic assistance. For years, these anti-Communist alliances made us feel stronger than we actually were. But they also isolated us, and when the balance of power began to shift against us, the army built up a force of extremists to further its agenda in Afghanistan and Kashmir. These are the militants who threaten our very survival today.

Instead of fighting them, the ruling elites continue their double game of playing footsie with the Taliban, while laying claim to billions in western aid. But the jihadis cannot be defeated with money alone: political will and a broad consensus backed by military might are needed. So far, there are few signs of any of this happening. While the Taliban walk into Buner and Dir after their uncontested victory in Swat, the army continues its policy of studied indifference, while the politicians play their power games.

The divisions in the ranks of Pakistani society over this threat are visible in the media. In a sense, this is the inevitable product of decades of brainwashing about the nature of the Pakistani state. Many people are confused about the issues underlying this crisis: having been told that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, they are now being asked to accept that the real enemy is not Hindu India, but fanatics who want to impose their stone-age rule in the name of Islam.

Such contradictions cannot be easily resolved, especially in a deeply conservative society where illiteracy is rampant. When simple, poorly educated soldiers are warned by mullahs that they will not be accorded a Muslim burial if they fall fighting the Taliban, it is understandable that they should be reluctant to go into combat. Generations of army officers have been indoctrinated at military academies into believing that India is the real enemy. It is hard for them to face reality, and reorient our defence to the west.

Since Zia began promoting Wahabi madressahs across Pakistan in the eighties, we have faced bitter sectarian strife. Anti-Shia militias have been in the forefront of the jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir, acquiring arms, training and large amounts of money in the process. These forces are now formally allied with the Taliban, and have presented their erstwhile handlers in our intelligence services with the difficult task of keeping them on our side, while simultaneously appearing to fight them.

In the long wish list prepared by the army for the Pentagon’s consideration, night-vision goggles are high in our priorities. Well-informed friends in Peshawar tell me that this equipment is on sale in the local arms bazaar, having been looted from US and Nato convoys. But if our army doesn’t want to buy the locally available goggles, could I ask them to consider fighting during the day, at least?

When you next drive past the looming shell of the Hyatt Regency, spare a thought for what might have been.

irfan.husain@gmail.com

US created Taliban and abandoned Pakistan: Clinton

US created Taliban and abandoned Pakistan: Clinton

By Anwar Iqbal

US Secretary of State acknowledged that the US too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.

WASHINGTON: Two days of continuous congressional hearings on the Obama administration’s foreign policy brought a rare concession from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who acknowledged that the United States too had a share in creating the problem that plagues Pakistan today.

In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, Mrs Clinton explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the US-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

‘We can point fingers at the Pakistanis. I did some yesterday frankly. And it’s merited because we are wondering why they just don’t go out there and deal with these people,’ said Mrs Clinton while referring to an earlier hearing in which she said that Pakistan posed a ‘mortal threat’ to the world.

‘But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. We also have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan,’ she said.

‘Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.’

‘They invaded Afghanistan… and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work… and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea… let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen.’

‘And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.’

‘And guess what … they (Soviets) retreated … they lost billions of dollars and it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.’

‘So there is a very strong argument which is… it wasn’t a bad investment in terms of Soviet Union but let’s be careful with what we sow… because we will harvest.’

‘So we then left Pakistan … We said okay fine you deal with the Stingers that we left all over your country… you deal with the mines that are along the border and… by the way we don’t want to have anything to do with you… in fact we’re sanctioning you… So we stopped dealing with the Pakistani military and with ISI and we now are making up for a lot of lost time.’

It was question from Congressman Adam Shciff, a California Democrat that spurred Secretary Clinton to delve into history and come out with an answer that other US politicians have avoided in the past.

The congressman noted that while the US had provided ‘a phenomenal amount of military support for Pakistan,’ they had not changed the paradigm.

‘And more pernicious, there are elements within the Pakistani intelligence services, the ISI that may be working at cross-purposes with us.’

‘How we can possibly be funding the Pakistani military if elements of the military or intelligence services are actually working against us and having the effect of killing our troops next door?’ he asked.

Musharraf ready to ‘run’ Pakistan

[If Pakistan brings back the American puppet who destabilized Pakistan for Bush then it deserves whatever he does to it next!]

Musharraf ready to ‘run’ Pakistan

LAHORE: Former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf has said he is prepared to return to office if the political and economic situation continues to deteriorate. Interviewed by Sir David Frost for the Al-Jazeera television channel, he said he would consider serving another term if he felt he could make a valuable contribution. Musharraf told Frost he had decided to resign because if he had remained in office he would have become “some kind of an impotent president. I’m not the kind of person who sits around uselessly. I can’t be a useless man”. But since stepping down, he said, he was “despondent” about what was happening particularly now that the Taliban have been allowed to introduce sharia law in Swat. He said he believed the Taliban now constituted a far greater threat to Pakistan than Al QaedaMusharraf blamed the US for the ‘trust deficit’ between Washington and Islamabad. He said President Barack Obama had not helped change the US attitude towards Pakistan and is little different from his predecessor.

Sec. State Hillary Hardsells Intervention In Pakistan

Pak dispersed nukes greater risk: Hillary

LAHORE: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday warned that Pakistan had dispersed its nuclear weapons throughout the country, increasing the risk they could fall into terrorist hands. New satellite images have been interpreted as suggesting that Pakistan is increasing its capacity to produce plutonium. Referring to a truce with Taliban, Clinton said, “Why are we so concerned about this? One of the reasons is nuclear weapons.”“We spend a lot of time worrying about Iran. Pakistan already has them, and they are widely dispersed in the country.”

Handling the Taliban and Balochistan

Handling the Taliban and Balochistan

By Inayatullah | Published: April 25, 2009

Admiral Michael Mullen is back to ensure that General Kayani remains on course. Pakistan is at the top of his agenda. He keeps hopping from Washington to Islamabad as if it is next door. Pakistan worries him all the time. Before leaving USA he spoke to NBC news: Pakistan is a country that has nuclear weapons, he said; should its descent into chaos continue there will be the worst possible outcome. This time Holbrooke was not accompanying him. The special envoy made up his absence by directly calling Zardari and gave him a piece of his mind.
General Patreaus too talked of an existential threat to Pakistan while addressing the Harvard University. His boss Robert Gates says that he is deeply concerned about the Taliban successes in Swat and the neighbouring districts. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has forcefully expressed her apprehensions while testifying before the House Foreign Relations Committee. What she said about the situation in Pakistan merits serious notice: “I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists.” She was referring to a deal Pakistan concluded with the Taliban militants in Swat. On Tuesday, she said: “The militants also took over Buner, just 60 miles from Islamabad.” She urged Pakistanis, living both in and outside the country, to realise how terrorism threatened the very existence of their state and added: “Pakistan poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world…And I want to take this occasion to state unequivocally that not only do the Pakistani government officials, but the Pakistani people and the Pakistani diaspora need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents. The Government of Pakistan must begin to deliver government services, otherwise they are going to lose out to those who show up and claim that they can solve people’s problems and then they will impose this harsh form of oppression on women and others….(we) cannot underscore the seriousness of the existential threat posed to the state of Pakistan by the continuing advances now within hours of Islamabad that are being made by a loosely confederated group of terrorists and others who are seeking the overthrow of the Pakistani state. I don’t hear that kind of outrage or concern coming from enough people that would reverberate back within the highest echelons of the civilian and military leadership of Pakistan.”

Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is the author of the pockmarked Pakistan Enduring Assistance and Cooperation Act of 2009. He is troubled because of the extremists based in the western border regions “turning their guns on the Pakistani state.” Senator Kerry who heads the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and who a few days spent time in Pakistan told the USA TODAY: “Pakistan is in a moment of peril.” One may also recall the remarks of two former secretaries of state Brzezinsky and Henry Kissinger who recently discussed the situation in Pakistan. According to Kissinger Pakistan is “a country that has numerous nuclear weapons but no government.” Brzezinsky wondered how long a country could be backed which is passing through “internal chaos.”
While the Americans are so strikingly worried about the happenings in Pakistan and have their contingency plans, we, who are facing the disaster have yet to evolve a nationally acceptable policy to manage the worsening situation. The Swat deal is beginning to crack with Talibans asserting their own interpretation of the settlement and expanding their hold in areas beyond Swat. The central government is having second thoughts. There is no clarity. No in-depth analysis of various factors and forces at work. What will be the options if the agreement breaks down? Will the military resume its operations? Will the American drone strikes escalate? (When, in Pakistan, Senator Kerry was pressed by newspaper correspondents about the undesirability of these attacks, he had promised to communicate the sentiments of the people of Pakistan to the administration in Washington. Back home he has “praised President Obama” for “stepping up attacks against insurgents in Pakistan by US drone aircrafts” adding that “it has had a dramatic impact.”)
If drone attacks increase and the army resumes its fighting in the Malakand agency, will it be possible to stop or contain the threatened spurt in suicide attacks?

It is essential that the situation is thoroughly reviewed and a policy adopted which best serves our interests and needs. We have to explore all possible ways to come to grips with the challenges we face. In this context it is relevant that the approach suggested by Imran Khan is considered seriously. In an article appearing in the press on Thursday, he has identified 6 myths which need to be “debunked.” The first myth relates to the controversy if the so-called War On Terror is indeed “Pakistan’s war.” According to him it was thrust on Pakistan when Musharraf surrendered to the American diktat. By sending the army into FATA we turned the hitherto loyal tribesman against us: “The most shameful aspect of the lie that this is our war is that the government keeps begging the USA for more dollars…if it is our war then fighting it should not be dependent on funds and material flowing from the US.” Another myth is that the next terrorist attack will come from the tribal areas. Why not from the 70 percent areas of Afghanistan, presently under the Taliban control? Drone strikes, Imran demands, must be stopped and a delegation sent to Washington to convince Obama that the current strategy is a disaster both for Pakistan and US? He advocates a consensual national policy to combat extremism and militancy, centring on dialogue, negotiation and assertion of the writ of the state. The state should use strengthened “paramilitary forces, not the army.”
His other recommendations: All the educational institutions including the madrassahs should have one form of syllabus and examination system. Provide better governance. Make all appointments on merit. Cut non-productive expenditure. The leadership should adopt “an austere life style.” The rulers must bring their money back from abroad. Cut down indirect taxation. Disarm all militant groups. Fundamentalism must be fought intellectually with sensitivity shown to religious and heterogeneous roots and a culture of tolerance and understanding encouraged. The threat of extremism is directly related to the performance of the state and its ability to deliver justice and welfare to the people.
The eruption of a near revolt in Balochistan, aided by India and others poses a grave threat to the integrity and future of Pakistan (greater in my view, than that of the northwestern tribal areas). Because of cussedness we lost the eastern half of our country letting India finish the job. Let us stop alienating our deprived and justly aggrieved, Balochi brothers. Let us talk to them at the highest level, show wisdom and magnanimity, agree to their controlling most of their resources and let them govern themselves. The escalating crisis has to be addressed urgently. The most desirable step would be for the prime minister and Nawaz Sharif to, together, constitute a two-man commission which would hold talks with all the major Balochi leaders and arrive at a settlement of the major issues with guaranteed assurance of time-bound implementation.
The writer is a political and international relations analyst
E-mail: pacade@brain.net.pk

In the name of Islam

In the name of Islam

By Fakir S. Ayazuddin | Published: April 25, 2009

Since the last thousand years, the winter sports of the Afghanis was raping and pillaging India. A warrior race with no interest other than in fighting killing and looting, very much like the Vikings of Europe. They swept into India, taking whatever they felt like. In the Spring they went back to their country because of the Indian heat. Taking with them whatever they could carry including women, as spoils of war. In this century however the world developed superior weapons, and the British Army a fine fighting force established their defences in the North of Pakistan, so the marauding raids stopped. The British could not conquer Afghanistan, but it was a respected truce between the two.
After 1947 the situation changed as a strong army was established in Pakistan mainly to defend itself in case of an Indian attack, as the Indians had never really reconciled to the break-up of India. And so the equilibrium was established and continued, barring a few skirmishes which never lasted more than a few days not even a week. So strong had both sides become, that the conquest of either side would have been disastrous and mutual destruction was assured.
In 1980 when the Soviets attacked Afghanistan, the Americans saw their opportunity and helped suck the Soviets deeper, with heavy weapons and their entire bag of tricks. The Afghans fought the mighty Russian Army to a standstill till the use of the helicopter gunships turned the tide against them. However the stinger missiles neutralised the gunships and by 1988 the Russians packed up and left Afghanistan, defeated for the first time in history. All of this could not have been achieved without the masterstroke of pitching Islam into the battle of the Infidel (Russian) versus the Holy warrior (mujahideen).
In War strategies, the Russian-Afghan war is considered the greatest defeat or the greatest victory in ‘history’. To beat the ‘mighty’ bear in his own backyard remains bigger than any myth.
However, the situation today is very complicated.

The Taliban have realised that there is no future in the war in Afghanistan, no spoils, no lands, and at a punishing price. I stated in 2005 that the Taliban would look for a softer target, and sure enough they have turned their aim towards Pakistan. Realising that over the last two years the inept civilian governments, and the double-dealing by some of the agencies within Pakistan, thinking that their protégés, the Taliban who had been so carefully nurtured by their handlers would now wish to fly solo.
In the takeover of Swat, so easily, with the Pakistan Army ordered to sideline (inexplicably) the whole of the north is now under threat. The Americans are rightly worried that Taliban could sweep throughout the subcontinent. However this myth is far greater than reality, for the Pakistan Army has not begun to fight, and it must soon be called upon to do so. The talk of won’t fire on their fellow Muslims is rubbish. The handlers have not yet ordered the engagement, with the enemy. The Pakistan Army is too professional a war machine, and this order is yet to come. The reason for the delay are not understood, needless to say the handlers may have over delayed the moves.
It is pointless going into the details, but the ease with which the Taliban moved into Swat is disconcerting, but it has lulled the Maulana Sufi to declare a euphoric ‘Tomorrow the world’. Sadly for the Maulana that tomorrow will never come.
The Europeans, and the Americans and the Pakistanis fully realise that the Taliban must now be disbanded. The Islamic cloak has been exposed by their own volition, and the Pakistani soldier is now fighting for his country. This country was created after a bitter fight with the Indians and will not be handed over easily to any Taliban under the flag of Islam. Put simply No country, No Islam.
The world has now realised the horrific barbarism that has been unleashed on the world – in the name of Islam, and the genie that was created by the CIA was taken over by other handlers and now threatens the world.
Pakistan is ready for the fight. This time it is for Islam – our Islam.
The writer is a political analyst

Militants stop troops from entering Swat: Taliban spokesman

Militants stop troops from entering Swat: Taliban spokesman

Submitted 2 hrs 16 mins ago

Taliban fighters on Saturday prevented a convoy of security forces from entering their stronghold in the northwestern Swat valley, a day after the Pakistan Army chief pledged to eliminate militants who challenge the writ of the state. A convoy of seven army trucks was stopped by armed Taliban militants at Qambar, a small town near Mingora, the main city in Swat valley, witnesses and Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said. Witnesses said the convoy withdrew from Qambar after the Taliban forced the troops to go back, averting any clash. There was no official reaction to the Taliban preventing the convoy from entering Swat. Sources said local authorities were consulting Taliban leaders to convince them to allow the convoy to move into the area. The Taliban action could lead to a worsening in the situation as army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani announced yesterday that his force is “determined to root out the menace of terrorism” and “would not allow the militants to dictate terms to the government or impose their way of life on the civil society”. Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told reporters that the deployment of additional troops in Swat is against a peace deal signed in February to introduce Islamic laws in Malakand division, which includes Swat. Khan said the militants could not allow the troops to be deployed in Swat after the peace agreement. Official sources, however, said the agreement allowed the free movement of security forces. The Taliban and security forces declared separate ceasefires after the peace deal but militants continue to occupy many parts of Swat, local residents said. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said yesterday that his government could review the peace deal in Swat if the Taliban did not stop interfering in the administration’s affairs. Interior ministry chief Rehman Malik has also warned the Taliban to vacate all villages in Swat. However, local residents said the Taliban now control over 80 per cent of Swat, which was a popular tourist destination till about two years ago, and patrolling all the key roads in the valley.
They said the Taliban had also set up their own courts despite the agreement that envisages the constitution of Qazi or Islamic courts in Swat. Hundreds of Taliban from Swat who entered Buner district, some 100 km from Islamabad, have withdrawn from the area in the wake of threats of action by the security forces.

Who will save Pakistan?

[This could have been written about the United States; it should have been written about us, our abusive governments and the solutions to them are the same.  We get the government we willingly tolerate, not the ones we deserve!]

Who will save Pakistan?

Roedad Khan

As he left the constitutional convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an admirer, “Dr Franklin what have you given us?” Franklin turned to the questioner and replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it”. Not too long ago, we too possessed a great country earned for us by the sweat of the brow and iron will of one person. Once we walked tall with straight backs. Today we are haunted by the apocalyptic nightmare of the Dream Gone Sour. Where giants walked, midgets pose now. Our rulers, both elected and un-elected, have done to Pakistan what the successors of Lenin did to the Soviet Union. They derailed Jinnah’s legacy. They perverted Jinnah’s heritage. Sixty-two years after Mr Jinnah gave us a great country, little men mired in corruption, captured political power and hijacked Pakistan.

Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty. Many nations in the past have attempted to develop democratic institutions, only to lose them when they took their liberties and political institutions for granted, and failed to comprehend the threat facing their countries. Pakistan is a classic example. Born at midnight as a sovereign, independent, democratic country, today it is an American lackey and a “rentier state” in the grip of a grave political and constitutional crisis. Sixty-two years after independence, the kind of Pakistan we have today has lost its manhood and is a ghost of its former self. Our entire political system has been pulled into a black hole caused by foreign intervention and prolonged misrule.

There are periods in history which are characterized by a loss of sense of values. The times we in Pakistan live in are pre-eminently such an age. If you want to see a free nation stifled by indigenous civil and military dictators through its own apathy and folly, visit Pakistan. The great French thinker, Montesquieu, said in the 18th century: “The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy”.

Politics will never be cleaner in this country, unless and until citizens are willing to give of themselves to the land to which they owe everything”. Today apathy is the real enemy. Silence is its accomplice. Long ago, Karl Marx, famously borrowing from Hegel, said: “Everything happens twice in history, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce”. In our case, history has a habit of repeating itself again and again ad nauseum and is nothing more than a series of endless repetitions, each more debased than its predecessor.

Today we have an elected parliament, a civilian government, multiple political parties, a “free” press and all the other trappings of democracy. But all these are mere symbols which hide the reality of power structure and play no role in determining policy decisions. Isn’t it a great tragedy that at a critical time like this, the only office that matters in Pakistan, is the presidency? Democracy is in limbo. Parliament is paralyzed. The opposition languishes in torpid impotence. The constitution is a figment; all civil and political institutions remain eviscerated. All power is concentrated in the hands of Mr Asif Ali Zardari. He is the president, Supreme Commander and party co-chairperson, to boot. He wields absolute power without responsibility and is accountable to none. Nothing moves without his approval.

This is the bleakest era in the history of Pakistan since 1971. The independence of Pakistan is a myth. Pakistan is no longer a sovereign, independent country. It is splattered with American fortresses and CIA centres, seriously compromising our internal and external sovereignty. People don’t feel safe in their own country. Any citizen can be picked up by FBI agents in collusion with our government and smuggled out of the country, making a mockery of our independence and sovereignty. To apply the adjective sovereign to the people in today’s Pakistan is a tragic farce. American military personnel cross and re-cross our border without let or hindrance. They violate our air space with impunity and kill innocent men, women and children. Everyday I ask myself the same question: How can this be happening in nuclear Pakistan? How can this go unchallenged? Where are the guardians of our frontiers?

An evil spirit hangs over Pakistan. Is it our destiny that there must always be darkness at high noon, there must always be a line of shadow against the sun? Why is the better sort of the nation so silent today? Why have the intellectuals adopted ‘the genre of silence’? Why is there no public outrage against American drone attacks or interference in our internal affairs? Why is there no loud protest? The creative intellectuals seem to have been driven to ramshackle ivory towers or bought off.

It gives me no pleasure to say that Jinnah’s Pakistan no longer exists, by that I mean the country of our dreams, our hopes, our pride. Today a moral crisis is writ large on the entire political scene in Pakistan. The Pakistan dream has morphed into the Pakistan nightmare. This sad state of affairs reminds me of one of Prime Minister Chou En Lai’s poem written in the early days of the struggle:

A whirlwind pounds

Our heartsick land.

The nation sinks

And no one minds.

When politics or politicians fail to resolve or even address the great issues people face, what often happens is that civil society rises up to change politics. Historians calls these moments “great awakenings” which lead to big changes in society. Today we Pakistanis may be on the edge of such a time with a younger generation of lawyers as its cutting edge. Today the civil society, more vibrant than ever, holds the promise of inspiring and empowering ordinary people in ways unimaginable before. At last, people have found their life mission, something to fight for, something to die for. They have also found the tool to achieve this mammoth task: street demonstrations.

Is there a way out? Can we stem the rot? My short answer is yes. It has been done before. Why can’t be it be done again? Examples abound. On March 1, 1883, a retired civil servant addressed a soul-inspiring letter to the Graduates of Calcutta University, inviting them to come forward and dedicate themselves to the service of their country. “If you, the picked man, the most highly educated of the nation, cannot, scorning personal ease and selfish objects, make a resolute struggle to secure freedom for yourself and your country…then India truly neither lacks nor deserves freedom or any better government than she now enjoys”.

He reminded them that “whether in the case of individuals or nations, self-sacrifice and unselfishness are the only unfailing guides to freedom and happiness”.

In response, a galaxy of some 70 Indians, professionals like lawyers, teachers, journalists, doctors etc. for the most part, gathered in Bombay to form the Indian National Congress. Is it too much to expect no more than 100 committed Pakistani graduates, unaffiliated with any political party, with a mania for martyrdom, to get together, form a nucleus and launch a resolute struggle to save Pakistan? A successful movement like this never requires more than a handful. It only needs a silent majority to watch and sympathize.

We live in a profoundly precarious country. The current course is unacceptable. The good news is that we are finally getting united and beginning to channel this anxiety into action. If people who owe everything to this country take to the streets – as they have in other countries and as they have in the past in this country in defence of our core institutions, things will change.

The status quo will shift, authoritarianism will crumble, and people will once again believe in the power of the powerless. The long nightmare will be over. It will be morning once again in Pakistan. This is the last chance. The last battle. If we shall not standout into the streets, the long polar night will descend on Pakistan.

So cast off despair. “Buckle up, be up and doing!

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, http://www.roedadkhan.com

The billion-dollar mirage

The billion-dollar mirage

The flogging video has been deemed as “false and fake,” concocted by jealous minds bent on tarnishing the impeccable image of Pakistan. Order and calm has been restored in the Malakand and Swat regions according to the wishes of 160 million Pakistanis. There is optimism in the air once again as our tireless leader has returned with a bagful of money from his Far East trip hailed as a major diplomatic triumph.

It is heartening to learn that our leadership has evidently eschewed the Mills & Boon collection that traditionally dominated the family library (according to William Dalrymple), grappling instead with all sorts of historical matters which he may not have had time to focus on back in the idyllic Pedinton College days. It seems as though the president may have not attached too much weight to the fact that appeasement is universally acknowledged as the supreme disaster leading to World War II. But times have changed and the president put his understanding of history and statesmanship to expert use by announcing to his Eastern audience and the “Friends of Pakistan” that the country can only be saved from extremism by a massive new “Marshall Plan.” To his credit, it seems his plea struck a chord and his argument bolstered by an increasingly photogenic smile managed to secure a bounty of $5 billion big ones, bigger still if you start counting in ¥en.

But as we get ready to thump our desks in juvenile bravado and fantasise about how an injection of $5.2 billion is going to help us roll back extremism, the truth is, nothing will change for that pathetic creature with which the Taliban their swelling their ranks: the miserable, downtrodden, uneducated and hopeless Pakistani.

How much of the $5.2 billion will be spent on ordering more VVIP protection, more bullet-proof Mercedes cars so that our leaders can have their egos massaged, more privileges and perks?

In his research the president will have discovered that the Marshall Plan was devised, to an extent, as a means to curtail the creeping menace that Churchill had referred to as the Iron Curtain, the menace of communism. Though the US channelled vast sums of money to resurrect the battered economies and infrastructure of post-World-War Europe, the motivations were not entirely altruistic. The US made sure that its own economy would be the biggest beneficiary while the political objective of containing the cancer of communism would also be served perfectly.

To be fair, the Marshall Plan achieved its immediate objectives. But to bring the clock forward to the present scenario in 2009, the menace to established World Order is not communism but a hideously deformed, mutated and hatred-filled doctrine that disgraces the faith it claims to represent. However, in the case of Pakistan, if you strip away the pseudo-religious layers of that doctrine, you will discover an uprising against a system that has seen the Colonial masters replaced by an elite of brown-skinned replicants in cahoots with, as Altaf Hussain put it so eloquently, an immovable “feudocracy.”

The impending revolution is being ordained not by any hidden hand or conspiracy hatched in Tel Aviv or Delhi but by a massive uprising of the underclass led by a Dark Age gerontocracy posing as God’s official self-appointed cheerleaders. Yet, this scenario could have been avoided, not by doing “an Ataturk,” but by making sure each and every Pakistani child, male and female, had a decent schooling based on fact, not fiction, and free of indoctrination. For 60 years we have been weakening the very resource that could have provided some inbuilt protection against the barbarism that surrounds us today. Intolerance thrives best in abject poverty and well protected from the bright lights of knowledge.

Alas! while our nation-builders chose to send their offspring to colleges and universities abroad, they totally neglected to provide avenues for the masses at home to free themselves from the grip of those who thrive on illiteracy and the power of terror and fear. They also never summoned the courage to tackle the crucial issue of land reform and realise that nurturing a medieval feudal system only creates conditions ripe for the most violent of revolutions.

For all the horrors that the Taliban have perpetrated in the name of Allah perhaps the worst is their attempt to demean one of civilizations great faiths by equating its message to the length of a man’s facial hair or the tilt of a skull-cap? But to the futility of a new Marshall Plan in the current situation in Pakistan – utterly pointless because the money will never affect those it needs to affect most of all. By the time it reaches the blighted, the cash would have evaporated into a mirage. True to the form displayed by our esteemed assortment of leaders over a period of 62 years (uniformed or not), the familiar vultures will swoop and all that will reamin for the people are fatigued platitudes at election time.

One of the reasons the Marshall Plan was able to achieve many of the objectives it set out to is because of the systems of the countries in question, and not in spite of them (and “system” here loosely refers to “the method by which things are done”). The crucial difference is that here in Pakistan, more so than at any time in our history, the system is crippled by endemic corruption at every level of the state and society similar to most basic law of the jungle where the “social order” is defined by the ability to subjugate and kill.

Nothing in Pakistan today can be achieved without having to deal with levels of corruption that have become so deeply embedded in our environment that it has essentially become our way of life; alas, even our culture. Worst of all is the fact that we the populace are so totally defeated and completely resigned to “the way things are done” that there is hardly any discernable outcry. Most Pakistani’s have been systematically conditioned so that we can take things in our stride and look the other way — despite all the moralistic babble about righteousness we are subjected to on a daily basis. In the Land of the Pure, whenever and wherever a person may have the misfortune of crossing paths with officialdom regarding even the most trivial matter, nothing is achieved without the mandatory grovelling and greasing of palms.

Over 60 years this style of getting work done has completely eroded the sanctity of each and every state institution in the land, nothing remains untarnished. So, if and when the Marshall Plan is revived in order to bolster Pakistan as a frontline state against the bristling menace of extremism, it is least likely to make any impression on the common man’s misery – the underlying cause of Talibanization.

Last week I was lent a piece of valuable advice from a member of “officialdom.” Without the slightest flicker of shame looking me straight in the eye, he advised me to make sure that I would provide services to “officialdom” at specially reduced rates and to also make sure that whenever any member of “officialdom” of several thousand employees happen to show up at my venue of business, to make sure that they should be “accorded due respect” as well as favourable rates at all times. If I would fail to abide by these rules I should expect to be victimised in every sphere possible.

All the manifestos of our self-sacrificing political parties employ catchy crowd-pleasing phrases yet every Pakistani knows that when it comes to practical use, the only manifesto of each Partiy and Junta that has successively raped our land for 60 years is: “Gorge, pillage and hog in gulps, as tomorrow you may find your time is up for feasting on the bounty-turned-carcass that is Pakistan.

For inspiration in these testing times at least, we can turn to cheery folk such as the information secretary of the current administration who could be heard screaming at the top of her voice on one of the media channels about “Pakistan’s fantastic progress.” She cited soaring literacy rates and a booming economy as just two of many examples of our nation’s tremendous advancement. One must admire her stoic optimism at least as much as her ability to keep a straight face.

The writer is a filmmaker and entrepreneur. Email: omar@bubonicfilms .com

Army alarmed as Taliban eye Mardan, Swabi’

Army alarmed as Taliban eye Mardan, Swabi’

NEW YORK, Apr 24: After the Taliban take over Buner and roll into Mardan, it will be the end of the game, a senior Pakistani law enforcement official in NWFP told The New York Times On Wednesday. The report claimed that when the Taliban entered Buner, the Pakistan army did not put up a defence, apparently abiding by the agreement signed by the Zardari government in Swat.

A local politician, Jamsher Khan, told NYT that people were initially determined to resist the Taliban in Buner, but that they were discouraged by the deal the government struck with the Taliban in Swat.

‘We felt stronger as long we thought the government was with us,’ he said by telephone, ‘but when the government showed weakness, we too stopped offering resistance to the Taliban.’

The newspaper said the takeover of Buner was particularly significant because the people there have tried last year to stand up to the Taliban by establishing small private armies to fight the militants. Last year when the militants encroached into Buner, killing policemen, the local people fought back and forced the militants out.

Buner, home to about one million people, is a gateway to Mardan, the second largest in NWFP, after Peshawar.

Similarly, the Wall Street Journal reported that ‘militants have been moving into Buner since the Swat peace deal was signed with the government in February. But starting Tuesday night they seized control of the entire district, which has a population of more than one million people. Heavily armed militants streaming in from Swat, occupied government offices and set up their own check posts. Terrified residents fled their homes.’

Dozens of hooded fighters carrying rocket launchers and machine guns ransacked the offices of international aid and development agencies working in the district and took away their vehicles. Some employees of the agencies were also briefly taken hostage. The militants set up their headquarters in the town of Buner after driving out government officials, the WSJ report said.

American officials led by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton sounded ominous alarm bells Wednesday. Mrs Clinton said she was concerned that Pakistan’s government was making too many concessions to the Taliban, emboldening the militants and allowing them to spread by giving in to their demands.

A senior American official said Mrs. Clinton’s remarks were prompted in part by news of the Taliban takeover in Buner.

The officials said that the further erosion of government authority in an area so close to the capital ought to stir concern not only in Pakistan but also among influential Pakistanis abroad.

The NYT reported that staff members of local nongovernmental organisations have been ordered to leave, and their offices have been looted. Pakistani television news channels showed Taliban fighters triumphantly carrying office equipment out of the offices of the organisations.

The Taliban advance had been building for weeks, with the assistance of sympathisers and even a local government official who was appointed on the recommendation of the Taliban, the report said.

The US media noted that the Taliban incursion comes after the government of President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the imposition of religious laws in Swat, as part of a deal with the Taliban.

But with a beachhead in neighboring Swat, and a number of training camps for fresh recruits, the Taliban were able to carry out what amounted to an invasion of Buner, the media reported.

The Taliban expansion into Buner has begun to raise alarm among the senior ranks of the Pakistani Army, said a Western official who was familiar with the Pakistani military.

On Wednesday, one of the highest-ranking army officers traveled from Islamabad to Peshawar and met the officers of the 11th Corps, the army division based in Peshawar, to discuss the ‘overall situation in Buner’, the media reported.

One of the major concerns is that from the hills of Buner the Taliban have access to the flatlands of the district of Swabi, which lead directly to the four-lane motorway that runs from Islamabad to Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province.

The Pakistani military does not have a presence in Buner, Pakistani and Western officials told Times. The main government authority in Buner is the police, who have become demoralised by their low pay and lack of equipment in the face of the Taliban, Pakistani police officials say.

The Taliban have set up checkpoints in a number of villages in Buner, intimidating policemen and forcing them into their police stations, residents told reporters.

The militants were patrolling the bazaar in Daggar, residents said. Women, who used to move freely around the bazaars, were scarcely to be seen, they said. Those who did venture out were totally covered.

The militants were helped by the actions of the commissioner of Malakand, Javed Mohammad, who is also the senior official in Swat and who was appointed on the recommendation of the Taliban, the US media reported said.


Kayani to militants: Don’t dictate terms

Kayani to militants: Don’t dictate terms

Muhammad Tahir Khan

RAWALPINDI: Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in his firstever strong remarks against the militants, on Friday vowed to defeat terror and militancy in the country. Speaking to top army generals, the army chief declared that Army’s rank and file has resolve to fight to eliminate the militants, who endanger the lives of peaceful citizens of the country and challenge the writ of the State, a statement said. The statement coincides with reports that Taliban militants have moved to other areas from the restive Swat valley including Buner and Shangla districts. Gen Kayani reassured the people that with their support, Army is determined to root out the menace of terrorism from the society. “It will not allow the militants to dictate terms to the Government or impose their way of life on the civil society of Pakistan,” he said while presiding over an operational meeting at the General Headquarters, Rawalpindi. He condemned pronouncements by outside powers raising doubts on the future of the Country, according to the statement. A country of 170 million resilient people under a democratic dispensation, strongly supported by the Army, is capable of handling any crisis that it may confront, he said. Gen Kayani stated that the victory against the terror and militancy will be achieved at all cost. He praised the rank and file for continuing to fight under challenging and arduous conditions. The Army Chief stated that operational pause, meant to give the reconciliatory forces a chance, must not be taken for a concession to the militants. While addressing the participants he said that he was aware of the doubts being voiced about the intent as well as the capability of the Army to defeat the militancy in the Country. He made it clear that Pakistan Army never has and never will hesitate to sacrifice, whatever it may take, to ensure safety and wellbeing of people of Pakistan and country’s territorial integrity. Praying for the souls of those killed of Armed forces, Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies and civilians, the Army Chief assured the bereaved families and the nation that the debt of their sacred blood will be paid back by the Army, and safety of the people and the country ensured at all costs.

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings

24. April 2009. | 10:21

Source: Amnesty International

Ten years on, no-one has been held to account for the NATO attack on the Serbian state radio and television building that left 16 civilians dead. Sixteen civilians were also injured during the air attack on 23 April 1999 on the headquarters and studios of Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) in central Belgrade.

Ten years on, no-one has been held to account for the NATO attack on the Serbian state radio and television building that left 16 civilians dead. Sixteen civilians were also injured during the air attack on 23 April 1999 on the headquarters and studios of Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) in central Belgrade.

Those killed included a make-up artist, a cameraman, an editor, a programme director, three security guards and other media support staff. An estimated 200 staff are thought to have been working in the building at the time.

“The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime,” Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert said.

NATO officials confirmed to Amnesty International in early 2000 that they targeted RTS because of its propaganda function, in order to undermine the morale of the population and the armed forces.

“Justifying an attack on the grounds of combating propaganda stretches the meaning of ‘effective contribution to military action’ and ‘definite military advantage’. These are essential requirements of the legal definition of a military objective – beyond acceptable bounds of interpretation.

“Even if NATO genuinely believed RTS was a legitimate target, the attack was disproportionate and hence a war crime,” Sian Jones said.

NATO officials also confirmed that no specific warning of this particular attack was given, even though they knew many civilians would be in the RTS building.

The raid was part of NATO’s “Operation Allied Force” against the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999. Approximately 500 civilians were killed and 900 injured during the course of the conflict.

Many of these casualties were caused by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and a failure to take necessary precautions to protect civilians.

In several attacks, including the Grdelica railroad bridge on 12 April 1999, the road bridge in Lužane on 1 May 1999 and Varvarin bridge on 30 May 1999, NATO forces failed to suspend their attack after it was evident that they had struck civilians. In other cases, including the attacks on displaced civilians in Djakovica on 14 April 1999 and Koriša on 13 May 1999, NATO failed to take necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties.

“Civilian deaths could have been significantly reduced during the conflict if NATO forces had fully adhered to the laws of war,” said Sian Jones. “Ten years on, no public investigation has ever been conducted by NATO or its member states into these incidents.”

Amnesty International recommended as early as 2000 that the victims of violations committed by NATO receive redress. Yet the victims of the RTS bombing and their relatives have never received any redress or reparations, including compensation, despite proceedings in domestic courts in Serbia and further applications to the European Court of Human Rights (Banković and others v Belgium and others and Markovic v Italy), which ruled the cases inadmissible.

Many of the problems that undermined compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in “Operation Allied Force” – such as lack of clarity in the command structure and decision-making processes on target selection, divergent understanding among national contingents of applicable international law – persist in the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan.

“It now appears that NATO has failed to learn from the mistakes of Operation Allied Force. If anything, NATO appears to have taken a step backward in transparency, releasing less information about attacks it carries out in Afghanistan than it did during Operation Allied Force,” said Sian Jones.

“The most powerful military alliance in the world cannot afford but to set the highest standards of protection of civilians according to international humanitarian law. It must be held accountable for any violations of that law.”

Pakistan needs $50bn economic stimulus plan (at minimum)

Pakistan needs $50bn economic stimulus plan

* Report says Pakistan must prevent economic collapse which can undermine state authority

Daily Times Monitor

LAHORE: The US and the United Nations should jointly craft emergency economic rescue packages for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which Pakistan alone could require a five-year stimulus plan of up to $50 billion, an Asia Society report says.

The report warns that to the many problems that plague Afghanistan and Pakistan has been added the global economic meltdown. “Afghanistan and Pakistan are both facing an immediate economic crisis,” it says. “In Pakistan, perhaps the most urgent priority is to prevent economic collapse, which could undermine state authority even in major urban areas in the next few months. Such a collapse could create yet more ungoverned space into which insurgents and terrorist groups could move.”

Analysis: The report offers a damning critique of US and NATO policies in Afghanistan and suggests a series of sweeping reforms — including an end to Operation Enduring Freedom, the US anti-terrorist mission. It emphasises that no amount of foreign soldiers can solve the problems of Afghanistan without a sustained diplomatic and political effort. Tucked away among such recommendations are stark new warnings of an emerging economic threat.

“Despite the huge resources required by our own economic crisis, the United States must lead the international community in crafting an emergency rescue package for the economies of both Afghanistan and Pakistan,” it says. In Pakistan, annual economic growth has plummeted from roughly seven percent to 2.5 percent and a million urban workers have become unemployed in the last six months. In Afghanistan drought and famine threaten as many as nine million people — a third of the population.

Unemployment, food shortages and economic slowdowns not only help insurgent groups recruit members, but also threaten government authority, the report says, particularly in Pakistan where government spending and subsidies have been curtailed recently.

Mullen Coordinates With Pakistani Air Chiefs

Mullen calls on Air chief, JCSC chairman

ISLAMABAD: US Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen separately met Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Tariq Majid and Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Rao Qamar Suleman on Thursday. According to an Inter-Services Public Relations statement, Adm Mullen and Gen Majid met at the Joint Staff Headquarters at Chaklala and discussed the prevailing security situation. Mullen assured Gen Majid that the US would honour all pledges that it had made with the military leadership of Pakistan. According to a Pakistan Air Force statement, Mullen also met ACM Suleman at Air Headquarters, and talked about mutual professional interests.