A Nuclear Free World is a Matter of Conscience and or Faith

A Nuclear Free World is a Matter of Conscience and or Faith

eileen fleming

On May 5, 2009, Vice President Biden reassured AIPAC/American Israel Public Affairs Committee that while USA foreign policy will change, America remains committed to the peace and security of the state of Israel but that the election of President Obama was a call “to change the trajectory that the world was on.”

Self proclaimed Zionist, Biden admitted that “All the good intentions of the last decade have not resulted in a more secure, more stable Middle… we will pursue direct, principled democracy with Iran [and the U.S.] will approach Iran initially in the spirit of mutual respect.”[1]

Mutual respect requires that all sides are treated equally and held equally accountable under the same criteria.

Also at the AIPAC conference was Biden successor as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who sucked up and misspoke that “Israel is more than just an ally and fellow democracy.”

Israel’s status as ally has been in question by many ever since that other day in infamy on June 8, 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson crucified the truth and failed to support the troops because he would “not embarrass an ally.”

The USS LIBERTY was an unarmed spy ship that sailed in international waters during the Six-Day War that was attacked by Israeli fighter jets and torpedo boats rendering thirty-four sailors dead, 170 wounded and all scarred for life because the survivors “were ordered to remain silent under threat of court martial, imprisonment or worse…The U.S. government has never challenged the obviously phony Israeli excuse of ‘mistaken identity’ nor have they attempted to expose the dishonorable cover up that continues to date. Truth and America’s honor were ignominiously sacrificed to provide cover for Israel’s transparent lies and despicable act of perfidy.” -Phillip F. Tourney, President USS LIBERTY Veterans Association, June 8, 2007. [Read more: http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=700&Itemid=180 ]

Israel is also not a democracy “but is an Ethnocracy, meaning a country run and controlled by a national group with some democratic elements but set up with Jews in control and structured to keep them in control.”-Jeff Halper, American-Israeli, Founder and Coordinator of ICAHD/Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Kerry did call for talks with Iran for, “If diplomacy is to work, it must be backed by the prospect of tough, escalating, and multilateral sanctions strong enough to actually change behavior.”

He also called on the Arab states to start treating Israel “like a normal country” and I imagine if America only had done that, Israel could be one.

“In 1963, President Kennedy tried to force Prime Minister Ben Guirion to admit the Dimona was not a textile plant, as the sign outside proclaimed, but a nuclear plant. The Prime Minister said, ‘The nuclear reactor is only for peace.’ Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection. He wrote letters demanding that Ben Guirion open up the Dimona for inspection. When Johnson became president, he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit, the Israelis would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came, but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them. Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986, there were over two hundred bombs. Today, they may have enough plutonium for ten bombs a year.” – Excerpt from June 2005 interview with Mordrechai Vanunu

On October 5, 1986, the world was made aware that Israel had already manufactured upwards of 200 nuclear warheads in a London Times article that published Vanunu’s interviews/interrogations with nuclear experts and some of the photos from the two rolls of film he shot in various top secret locales inside of Israel’s clandestine underground WMD Facility.

Israel has never allowed international inspectors into the Dimona and they are now suspected of possessing the Jericho III ballistic missile system, which is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead at a distance of up to 7,000 kilometers.

America’s favored relationship with the Jewish State has also allowed Israel to escape at least 65 UN resolutions for their human rights abuses and disregard of international law.

American tax payers are complicit because we the people provide more than $6.8 million per day to Israel that all goes to continue the 41 years of military occupation of the indigenous people of the Holy Land.

Also on May 5th, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller called on Israel to join the NPT as, “Universal adherence to the non-proliferation treaty itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea…remains a fundamental objective of the United States.” [2]

On April 19, 2009, Gideon Spiro, a founding member of The Israeli Committee for A Middle East Free from Atomic, Biological and Chemical Weapons wrote to President Obama:

“The task of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear arms is an important one, and the way to achieve that objective is not by military action, but through an international effort to create a Middle East free of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. It is impossible to achieve that objective without dealing with the main cause of the Middle East nuclear arms race – Israel.

“Israel pushed the Middle East onto a course of a WMD-race. Israel is armed with hundreds of atom and hydrogen bombs. If we take into account the additional biological and chemical weapons that Israel produces in the Nes Ziona Biological Institute, a frightening picture emerges: a state, smaller than most Congressional Districts in the United States that is a powder-keg of weapons of mass destruction.

“It is an historical irony that Israel, which is home to many Holocaust survivors, has become a hotbed of radical leaders who would create the next holocaust – a nuclear holocaust. But the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran will extend far beyond our region. It is most likely they will have devastating global consequences that will also cause massive harm to the United States….no one knows what Iran is hiding in its facilities, but it can be helpful to draw an analogy from Israel’s case…The only effective and peaceful way to end this destructive WMD-race is through regional nuclear disarmament…Israel’s power rests to a great extent on US military and economic aid. Without the billions of dollars that the US transfers to it, Israel would be unable to finance the Occupation, the settlements, the army, and of course, its nuclear arsenal.”

Israel’s hold on power also rests in the efforts of AIPAC, but due to their influence “it is business as usual in Washington: criminal wrongdoing continues to corrupt America’s core values, rule of law, and Middle East policy, as the Israel lobby’s crosshairs shift almost completely to Iran.”

In 2002, Harvard economist Thomas Stauffer estimated the total cost of the prolonged conflict in the Middle East at $3 trillion and lays a good deal of the blame for this at the doorstep of AIPAC. [3]

On April 5, 2009, President Obama stood on the world stage in Prague and stated, “As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act…When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. We know the path when we choose fear over hope. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy but also cowardly thing to do. That’s how wars begin. That’s where human progress ends… the voices of peace and progress must be raised together…Human destiny will be what we make of it…Words must mean something.”

The United States has produced over 70,000 nuclear weapons of 72 major types. By the end of the Cold War [1991] the United States had an active arsenal of some 23,000 weapons of 26 major types and nearly 2,000 remain on hair-trigger alert ever since the end of the Cold War in 1991. An estimated 150 – 240 tactical nuclear weapons remain based in five NATO countries and the United States is the only country with nuclear weapons deployed on foreign soil. American taxpayers provide over $54 billion annually to maintain our nuclear arsenal-a drop in the bucket of the overall U.S. military spending.

American money is imprinted with “IN GOD WE TRUST” but our foreign policy chooses to live by the sword. On Armistice Day, 1948 General Omar Nelson Bradley warned, “We live in a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants, in a world that has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. We have solved the mystery of the atom and forgotten the lessons of the Sermon on The Mount. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about dying than we know about living.”

Individually we are powerless to dismantle the insanity of nuclear weapons, but for people of conscience and those with faith in a nonviolent God of love, compassion, justice and peace it is a moral, ethical and spiritual call to work towards the abolition of war and nuclear weapons.

A movement of American Christians under the banner of “The Two Futures Project: 2FP” has evolved and we believe “that we face two futures and one choice: a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them. We support the multilateral, global, irreversible, and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, as a biblically-grounded mandate and as a contemporary security imperative. Our change strategy is based around the creation of a nonpartisan, conscience-driven, enduring majority of Americans who are committed to a nuclear weapons-free world. By joining together with one voice of Christian conscience, we seek to encourage and enable our national leaders to make the complete elimination of nuclear weapons the organizing principle of American nuclear weapons policy…The field of our service is primarily the church and believers, and secondarily—so that our words will be credible—the government of our nation and all nations.

“As a matter of Christian conviction, we choose a world free of nuclear weapons. We believe that we face two futures: a world without nuclear weapons or a world ruined by them. We proclaim that nuclear weapons today are unjustifiable theologically, politically, and militarily. We renounce nuclear weapons as sin against God and neighbor. We repent of apathy toward devices that cause indiscriminate destruction. We urge the American President’s leadership in fulfilling existing commitments toward global and complete nuclear disarmament. We pledge our support to the elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide, to the glory of God.” [4]

The goal of a world free of nuclear weapons can be equated to what appears to be an insurmountable mountain whose top is clouded by the status quo that reaps cynicism and a lack of imagination that keeps one grounded in despair and apathy. Continuing on the path of inertia will only descend us further down the slippery slope of violence and death. Silence is complicity and people of conscience and those with faith in a nonviolent God of justice and peace are seeking the highest ground together, for only in solidarity will we reach the mountaintop; a world without war, a world when all swords are put down and plowshares are raised up.

AIPAC currently has 515 lobbying appointments scheduled on Capitol Hill.

People of conscience are sending emails to President Obama and their representatives in support of nuclear disarmament through the fill in forms available @

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/161/t/288/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=911

http://twofuturesproject.org/?page_id=130

Sources:

  1. http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/biden-defends-outreach-to-iran-in-aipac-speech-2009-05-05.html
  2. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/131213
  3. http://www.wearewideawake.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=959&Itemid=202
  4. http://twofuturesproject.org/

Nearly 4000 militants are active in Swat: ISPR

Nearly 4000 militants are active in Swat: ISPR

Submitted 4 hrs 25 mins ago

Nearly 4000 militants are active in Swat: ISPR

Pak Army has claimed of killing 143 militants in last 24 hours of ongoing operation in Swat, Buner and Lower Dir districts, report said. Army also announced to continue its ongoing operation in Swat till the restoration of peace and cleaning the area from militants, army spokesman said here Friday. “Army has been called to help civil administration in Swat and now the operation against militants is underway with full swing,” Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told media persons in a briefing. “According to an estimate near 4,000 militants are present in Swat,” Abbas said on a query, adding that the militants are using civilians in the area as human-shield. In Friday’s action, army has captured Khuwazakhela and Chamkali and the two towns have been wiped out from militants. Five miscreants and one soldier were killed in the operation, he said.

Edge of the abyss

[The best description of the brand of Islam regurgitated out by the Wahabbi radicals.]

Unable to effectively deal collectively with a world of ever increasing complexity, we sought instead answers in re-assuring faith rather than discomforting reason. An instinctively familiar body of ideas, long lying frozen in temporal cold storage, was re-heated in the microwave oven of the state, and force-fed to the people over decades as the high protein diet of national interest.

Edge of the abyss

—Munir Attaullah

History is not only about recounting our glorious past to motivate the present generation; it is also equally, if not more so, about remembering our painful mistakes, the better to avoid them

This, the final instalment of an extended essay, will consider the related issues of terrorism and the Taliban, in the Pakistani context. Here is the critical crisis of our state.

As discussed earlier, most other crises of state (including forms of terrorism best thought of as essentially criminal in nature) are a reflection of the times, and shared with much of the world. There are no two ways about it: poor governance, corruption, infrastructure shortcomings, chaotic urbanisation, lack of basic amenities etc. will take decades of patient forbearance and dedicated hard work to mitigate.

The question is, must the same hold true also when we consider the particular crisis of state brought about by that unique and distinctive brand of terrorism that is of our own deliberate making and nurturing?

For, in this particular case, muddling along is not really an option anymore. Not only have the internal dimensions of the problem steadily multiplied, but major international powers have added an external dimension we cannot just wish away. For good reasons or bad, we now must make hard choices

How and why has this come about? And what, if anything, can we now do about it?

Start with the fact that we have become, progressively, an obsessively inward looking nation. It was not always so (and it certainly need not have been so), but let us forget that as now being irrelevant. What matters is that now we routinely reject as an essential part of our mental diet many of the wisdoms so painstakingly cooked and prepared by a wider humanity in the furnace that is its bitter common experience. Worse, many of us take great pride in such an attitude.

Unable to effectively deal collectively with a world of ever increasing complexity, we sought instead answers in re-assuring faith rather than discomforting reason. An instinctively familiar body of ideas, long lying frozen in temporal cold storage, was re-heated in the microwave oven of the state, and force-fed to the people over decades as the high protein diet of national interest.

But the warp of ideology is a terrible bind because, enmeshed in it, time stands still. This is a serious and debilitating handicap in a fast moving, ever changing world. As a consequence, we pile blunder upon blunder, knowing not how to deal with the double whammy of simultaneous problems of internal and external conflict resolution.

Actually, our dilemmas are even greater. Are we — to be blunt — even agreed that this is a serious problem that threatens to spin out of our control? Or, is it the case that the confident psyche that developed the ‘doosra’ to fool batsmen believes the problem to be no more than ‘a little local difficulty’ it is quite capable of handling on the side, while it gets on with the grand strategic prize of outfoxing everyone in the regional ‘great game’?

Come to think of it, is this alleged ‘great game’ for real (to what end? ‘Grab’ Central Asian energy resources? Deny them to the Chinese? Strip us of our nuclear weapons? Impose on us Indian hegemony etc.)? Or is this ‘game’, in the 21st century, merely a remnant figment of the overheated imagination of our out-of-date strategic geniuses, as I think it to be?

To borrow the words of the master, “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!” In such a situation, rich and powerful players can often afford the luxury, unavailable to others, of a serious mistake. We cannot.

Be that as it may, there is one conclusion — IK, and others of his ilk, please note — that should be clear to any sane man: history is not only about recounting our glorious past to motivate the present generation; it is also equally, if not more so, about remembering our painful mistakes, the better to avoid them.

Is this possible if we fear the truth, and therefore suppress, hide, or distort it? Indeed, can we even know what the truth is, without open and fearless debate?

It is a failing, I know, to get carried away by interesting digressions, so let me get back to today’s subject.

What is so different and special about our terrorism problem that makes it so intractable and dangerous? It is the doctrine of jihad fi sabilillah (the motto of our army) that such fanatical groups ostensibly espouse. The success in Afghanistan, and the tying down of the Indian Army in Kashmir, by these trained proxies of our army willing to die in the name of Allah and go to heaven, was an inspirational tonic. It reinforced the belief that jihad could not only resist but also eventually overcome all, for the greater glory of Islam.

Now local ambitions are one thing, but international aspirations are quite another ball game. The world did not much care if Shias and Sunnis blew each other up in Pakistan, or that we aspired and fought to wrest Kashmir or gain ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan. As far as the world was concerned, that was regrettable but no more, as evidenced by its relative unconcern with our neighbourhood for some fifteen years around the nineties.

Rightly or wrongly, 9/11 changed international thinking. Meanwhile the cause of international jihad was rapidly gaining ground in Pakistan. It was not unthinkable that the state of Pakistan, the so-called ‘Fortress of Islam’ (as every politician was fond of repeating) could be persuaded (and if not, then coerced) into fully subscribing to those tenets. For obvious reasons, this latter possibility, remote or otherwise, was unacceptable to the international community.

Thus it is that, as an economically weak state, we thrash about fearfully, not knowing what to do when caught squarely in the middle. But the Musharraf policy of artful wriggling — a bit of this and a bit of that — will no longer do. The time has surely come to make hard choices.

Remember those fierce debates a few years ago about Waziristan? Who even talks about that place now as a part of our country? Sorry, I should correct myself: it is Pakistan, but only as far as drone attacks. Is the same to be the case in due course where Swat is concerned? Or will our army finally do what is necessary, fully supported by everyone, including Mr Sharif?

Yes, there will be massive collateral damage. But we should be ready for that as a regretful necessity (and our foreign friends can help immensely here by generously funding vigorous rehabilitation efforts). This is war. But it is a war I have no doubt can be easily won, should everyone really want to.

The question remains why most of us can only see what is plain and obvious to any sane man only when standing at the edge of the abyss. Was it that difficult to see what a ‘truce’ in Waziristan would lead to? Was it not obvious to any but an idiot what Sufi Mohammed and his son-in-law are all about? Must we really continue to give the benefit of doubt as to the true intentions of the Lal Masjid lot?

A final thought. I see that many media pundits (and, Allah be praised, even a section of the ulema) are now talking tough about the Taliban types in our midst. In the days preceding the ‘Long March’, one channel was obsessively fond of re-playing old clips meant to emphasise the government’s betrayal of its promises. I request them to replay for us now some old clips of their own where muzakirat were urged with much righteous indignation.

This is the final article in a four-part series. The writer is a businessman. A selection of his columns is now available in book form. Visit munirattaullah.com.

Pakistan and Afghanistan introduce new border security

Pakistan and Afghanistan introduce new border security

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior A. Rehman Malik addressing a press conference in Islamabad. –APP Photo

WASHINGTON: The Heads of Pakistan and Afghanistan interior departments announced Friday a series of steps to improve border security between the two countries including a new a system of providing identification documents to both countries expatriates who habitually cross borders without any papers.

‘This is being done to eliminate the terrorists groups marauding in the two countries without any scrutiny or control,’ they stressed.

Addressing a joint press conference in Washington following series of trilateral and bilateral meetings , Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Mallik and Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Abdul Hanif Autaf they said that both countries had also accepted a road map to eliminate non-state actors who are involved in killing the civilian population.

Afghan Minister identified four groups which are responsible for playing havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan, they are: 1) Afghan Taliban 2) Pakistan Taliban, 3) Central and Asian republics citizens and 4) Al-Qaeda from other various parts of the world.

Pakistan’s interior chief also told reporters that the United States had facilitated both countries in agreeing to extend cooperation against terrorists and other criminals who are undermining the integrity and sovereignty of both countries.

‘We are evolving a common strategy to combat the common enemy in order to eliminate the curse of terrorism,’ said Mallik.

Mr. Mallik announced that both countries would undertake a massive campaign to sensitize population on both sides to accept a identity programme.

He pointed that over 50,000 nationals of both countries cross borders without any identification. There are some 1,000 border control posts on Pakistan side and only 100 on the Afghanistan side.

He said that both countries would create task forces to improve the border control management with the help of the United States.

They also announced the creation of training centers in Pakistan Universities for training Afghan law enforcement officials.

Jets bomb Taliban, 60 dead

Jets bomb Taliban, 60 dead

* Taliban commander Ibne Aqil reported killed in Matta
* Nine soldiers also killed, seven in ambush on convoy in Mingora

PESHAWAR: Jet fighters and helicopter gunships pounded Taliban hideouts and centres in various parts of Swat and Lower Dir on Thursday, killing 60 Taliban.

“We have carried out airstrikes today on known centres of militants killing around 60 [Taliban] in Swat and Lower Dir,” chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told Daily Times by telephone from Islamabad.

Military sources said 12 Taliban were killed in Shamoozai area in Kabal tehsil of Swat and eight others in Malam Jaba. Fourteen Taliban were killed in Matta, Shahdheri and Kooza Cheena.

Taliban commander Ibne Aqil was also reported killed in counter-attack by the police when the Taliban attacked Matta police station, military sources said.

Nine soldiers: “In 24 hours, we lost nine soldiers and about 10 of them [were] injured,” General Abbas told AFP. Seven of the soldiers were killed when Taliban ambushed a convoy at the entrance to Mingora.

Two soldiers were killed in the valley north of Matta,” the military spokesman told the news agency.

In Lower Dir, district administration officials said the Taliban abducted 11 paramilitary troops after attacking the Malakand Levies Fort in Chakdara. They said three soldiers had been killed in the attack.

Authorities agreed in February to a Taliban demand for the introduction of sharia law in the former tourist valley but the Taliban refused to disarm, and spread out of Swat into neighbouring districts.

The advance raised alarm and led to accusations the government was capitulating to the Taliban.

Security forces launched an offensive on April 26 to expel the Taliban from two of Swat’s neighbouring districts, Lower Dir and Buner.

Security has deteriorated sharply in Swat as armed Taliban started patrol in the restive valley.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that a humanitarian crisis was escalating in the area, AFP reported. It said the government had made preparations for up to half a million displaced from Swat.

The Taliban have claimed to control “more than 90 percent” of Swat, it said. staff report/afp

Taliban, Pakistan and the occupiers Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

Taliban, Pakistan and the occupiers

Dr Muzaffar Iqbal

The Taliban have the Pakistani secularists scream so loud that in a comic reversal of roles, the western media has picked up their phobia: major media networks in Canada and the United States have been reporting that the Taliban are about to descend on Islamabad. This bizarre reversal of roles must have given some relief to those who have raised a storm in a teacup and painted this nonsensical scenario of bearded men descending down from the Margalla hills and taking over Islamabad. In any case, it did loosen a few knots on the money belt held tight by those who want to buy their stay into the land of the Afghans by throwing a few million dollars into the bottomless coffers of a state that never does enough for the buck it receives, or at least that is the perception of those who are always thinking of more strings to be attached to their dollars. Whatever the short-term gains of this screaming may have been, the axiom of a Taliban commander remains true; the occupiers may have the watches, but we have time on our side.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are here to stay, no matter how many more soldiers and how many more dollars are brought into that unconquerable land. Americans are not able to comprehend this, as each successive regime works on a four-year timeframe, and thinks in presidential terms, rather than the grand historic time which is second nature to the Afghans. All surveys of the western agencies confirm that the general populace in Afghanistan has turned against the occupiers and since the Taliban are the only organized group fighting against the occupation, the tide has turned in their favour.

It is true that the Taliban are excessively harsh in their ways. It is also true that their understanding of Sharia is flawed. It is also true that their attitudes toward women are more tribal than Islamic, and it is also true that their way of enforcing Sharia is counterproductive, but with all of this against them, they have the distinction of being the only organized resistance against an alien force that has occupied their land. And this tilts the balance in their favour.

Caught in between the occupying forces and the Taliban, the government of Pakistan was left with no choice but either to side with one or the other party and it chose to be on the side of the occupiers. That it did this under a military dictator, and without the consent of its people is a historic fact. That military dictator is no more, but the government of Pakistan is unable or unwilling to re-examine its position on the Afghan occupation. That is the root of its dilemma and the cause of all its troubles now descending down on its major cities. This, in a nutshell, is the root of Pakistan’s self-imposed “existential” threat.

There is really no logical necessity for the state of Pakistan to side with the occupation forces in Afghanistan now, when there is a so-called elected government, which can easily re-examine its role by taking the case to parliament and do what Turkey did in a similar situation: have the elected representatives say “no” in a loud and clear voice and then forcefully appeal to the world to listen to its voice.

This option is available, however, only if the government of Pakistan is willing or able to stand on its own feet, on the strength of its own people. But that is where the whole dilemma lies: the government is beholden to the foreign masters for its existence, more or less the same way as the military dictator was, even though it should not be, since it has come into existence through an election. Understanding and utilizing this fundamental distinction between the illegitimate rule of a military dictator and the legitimate rule of an elected government is the key to a new possibility that can open up for Pakistan, if the government of Pakistan wants, but the government is obviously not interested in this possibility.

As it is, the equation remains more or less than same as it has been since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Bush administration. Since time is on the side of the Taliban, the loser in this increasingly tragic situation is obvious and those who have chosen to side with the losers will obviously lose as well. The newly launched effort by the Obama administration has to run its course and hence, it will not be until the fourth year of Obama’s term that one would hear phrases such as the “exit strategy” and the “failed war” coming out of Washington DC and New York. And when those words and phrases, reminiscent of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, emerge, it will be too late for Pakistan, for by then, its rulers would have brought upon themselves and their state untold calamities, death and destruction.

Today, the Taliban have the secularists scream, tomorrow, no screams will matter, only the writ of a fait accompli, the sad and tragic repetition of history.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

No talks with ANP, Baitullah directs TTP

No talks with ANP, Baitullah directs TTP

By Mazhar Tufail

ISLAMABAD: Talks between the Awami National Party-led NWFP government and the militants operating in Swat are now almost impossible, it was learnt on Thursday.

“The Swat chapter of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has decided not to enter into talks with the government anymore,” a source in the ranks of the militants told The News via telephone requesting anonymity.

“The decision has been taken after TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud advised the Swat chapter of his outfit not to fall into the governmentís trap and to fight the security forces fiercely,” he said. Meanwhile, Information Secretary of the Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Zahid Khan, while talking to this correspondent, said: “The chapter of talks has been closed now. On which point talks can be held now. There can no benefit of talks until these people (militants) lay down their arms.”

He added: “We antagonised the whole world and were abused by all and sundry for doing good to them (militants) but no positive outcome could be achieved.” The ANP senator said neither the enforcement of Shariah nor Nizam-e-Adl was the agenda of the militants, who were out to wreck the very foundations of the country. However, he vowed, the ANP would not allow this to happen.

When asked about fresh threat to the ANP leadership from the Taliban, Zahid said that they threatened the ANP leadership immediately after the Swat peace process hit a deadlock and the militants refused to accept the governmentís plan to set up the Darul Qaza.

“They explicitly threatened to eliminate the entire central leadership of the ANP, including its President Asfandyar Wali Khan, NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti, peace envoy of the NWFP government Afrasiyab Khattak and NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain,” the ANP spokesman confirmed when asked about the latest threat. “They are also talking about elimination of the ANP leaders in their internal communication.” When approached for comments, Ameer Izzat, spokesman for the Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), said nobody had talked to them about the dialogue. “What is the use of talks now,” he asked.

“The ongoing operation in the Malakand region should be stopped forthwith. I am ready to debate the issue that the government did not accept our demands vis-a-vis the scrapped peace deal and enforcement of Shariah. The ANP leadership is powerless and working on the agenda of others. They have been promising with us something but have been doing something else,” the TNSM spokesman claimed.

Ameer Izzat contended that the announcement about the setting up of the Darul Qaza was unilateral and just like building a castle in the air. He said they had no contact with the Taliban but were supporting innocent people of the troubled region. He said the Taliban operated from the platform of their own organisation. He warned that if the government would fight them, the Taliban would definitely defend themselves.

On the suicide bombings, the TNSM spokesman said the Taliban were carrying out suicide attacks out of frustration in the Swat region while those committing suicide bombings in other cities of the country did not belong to Swat. He said there was no need for talks now, which could not be held amid fighting. Responding to a question, he said the TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad would not desert his native region.

PM declares all-out war against militants

PM declares all-out war against militants

Gilani orders armed forces to launch operation; says govt not to bow before terrorists; seeks nation’s support; announces Rs 1 bn for IDPs

By Asim Yasin

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday ordered the armed forces to launch an operation against the militants and terrorists so as to flush them out completely from Swat and Malakand in order to ensure security, restore honour and dignity of the homeland and for the protection of the people.

“The government will not bow before the militants and terrorists but will force them to lay down their weapons and will not compromise with them,” he said in his 20-minute televised address to the nation on Thursday night.

The prime minister, before addressing the nation, had an extensive discussion with the civil and military leadership. On Wednesday, he held a lengthy meeting with Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani while on Thursday he held crucial meetings with Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman and parliamentarians belonging to Swat and Malakand division. Following these hectic meetings, PM Gilani addressed the nation, announcing the launching of the operation against the militants and terrorists.

In his 20-minute speech, the prime minister also appealed to the nation, political leadership, civil society, religious leaders and all the institutions of the country to lend their complete support to the government and the armed forces for the cause of Pakistan.

The prime minister said the time had come to show unity in our ranks and stand up against those who wanted to make Pakistan of Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal hostage on gunpoint. “The nation should get united and support the armed forces and the government to foil their designs,” he appealed to the nation.

The prime minister also said that one billion rupees had been provided for the rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). He said employment would be given to one member of each family that had lost any of its members at the hands of terrorists.

The premier also talked about his government’s seriousness to implement the Nizam-e-Adl agreement, saying that since the day one the government took seriously the situation in Swat and made efforts to resolve the issue through dialogue. “The federal government even respected the agreement signed by provincial government of the NWFP and took this agreement to parliament. “We got a consensus from parliament and after it, the president signed it without any delay,” he said.

The prime minister said for the peace in swat, the government had sustained internal and external pressure but stuck to the agreement. “There was criticism on the government that it took an internal decision on external pressures but the peace deal in Swat proved that it was taken in the best national interest and according to the wishes of people of Pakistan,” he added.

The prime minister said the accord envisaged that after the enforcement of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation, militants would lay down arms for the sake of complete peace in the Malakand division. However, he said the militants continued violating the accord, attacked security forces and targeted government installations and buildings. “They started taking hostile actions against the constitution, parliament, democracy and judiciary, which amounted to challenging the writ of the government, necessitating the decisive action,” he added.

He said the militants misconstrued the government’s desire for peace as its weakness. He said the government had decided not to bow down before the terrorists and extremists and would force them to lay down their arms.

He said the government was determined to protect life and property of the people at all costs and there could be no compromise on it. He said aggressive activities of the militants had forced hundreds of thousands of people to migrate from their homes and they deserved our fullest attention.

The prime minister said the country was facing security and economic challenges and both were interlinked. He asked the people to come forward to safeguard the sovereignty of Pakistan. “We would not allow anyone to disrupt peace,” he said and added, “We would not hesitate to offer any sacrifice in eliminating those who are bent upon disturbing peace of the nation.”

He urged the Ulema and Mashaikh to help project Islam’s true spirit. “We have to highlight before the world that there is no place in Islam for suicide attacks and that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood,” he maintained. He said it was a baseless propaganda that Islam was spread through the force of sword.

Pak-Afghan joint border security force to be formed

Pak-Afghan joint border security force to be formed

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to form a joint border security force.

Addressing a press conference, the interior ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan also said that both the countries will exchange prisoners.

On the occasion, Pakistani Interior Minister said agreement has also been made between the two countries to share intelligence.

He said facilities will be provided to Afghanistan for the training of Afghan law enforcing institutions.

Afghan interior minister Muhammad Hanif said it would be incorrect to call all the anti-state elements as Taliban.

Swat operation to continue till elimination of terrorists: Army

Swat operation to continue till elimination of terrorists: Army

ISLAMABAD: The Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Athar Abbas has said that an all-out offensive has been launched in Swat to flush out anti-state elements and terrorists from the restive valley.

In a press briefing here on Friday, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said that the army had been tasked to eliminate the terrorists from Swat. He said the armed forces will take the operation to its logical conclusion.

The military spokesman said the ground intelligence estimates indicate the presence of about 4000 militants in Swat. Abbas said the security forces have taken control of Khwaza Khela and Chamkanai areas. “Five security personnel were martyred while five militants were killed in the operation”, he said.

At least 13 policement were killed in a militant ambush on Matta police station. Twenty militants were killed in Takhtaband and Kabal areas. The security forces also killed 15 militants including two commanders in Maidan. Abbas said that six militants were killed during operation in Buner and Kalpani while two others were arrested.

The ISPR chief said nearly 143 militants have been killed in last 24 hours. Athar said the army also destroyed many militants’ hideouts and training facilities. He said approximately 64000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have so far got themselves registered with the government.

Rolling Out the Product: A New Full-Court Press for Pakistan War

Rolling Out the Product: A New Full-Court Press for Pakistan War

Chris Floyd

May 6, 2009

font face=”georgia,palatino”>We asked for signs,
And signs were sent.

– Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

I.
We are now in the midst of a full-blown campaign to “roll out the product” for a new war: this time, in Pakistan. Anyone who lived through the run-up to the invasion of Iraq should be able to read the signs — anyone, that is, who is not blinded by partisan labels, or by the laid-back cool of a media-savvy leader far more presentable than his predecessor.

We noted some of these signs in a long post yesterday and won’t belabor them here. But today brings yet another bumper crop of panic buttons and alarm bells from the powers-that-be, with ever-increasing emphasis on the “Taliban kooks with Muslim nukes” theme: one more variation on the old “mushroom clouds rising in American cities” ploy that has worked like a charm for our militarists lo these 60 years or more.

Some of the war-pushing powers-that-be are public figures in the Obama Administration (including Obama himself, who has dutifully taken on the Bushian mantle of Fearmonger-in-Chief), and some of them are shadowy, unnamed eminences in the military-security apparat, clearly aiming to act for Obama as those daggers of the mind did for Macbeth: “Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going.”

The first story to greet America’s political class as they sat down to their prunes and Post Toasties this morning was a big New York Times spread with one loud, clanging message: You cannot defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan without going deep into Pakistan.

It seems the Times has discovered an unusually loquacious “Pakistani logistics tactician” who for some reason has spent the last six months spilling the beans on the Taliban’s strategy to the leading newspaper of  the American establishment. The anonymous 28-year-old guy from somewhere in Pakistan’s tribal lands told a harrowing tale of the “workings and ambitions of the Taliban” as they prepare to defeat Obama’s Afghan surge from their safe havens in Pakistan, then seize Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.

What’s more, the “logistics tactician” has provided his American enemies with a ready-made, pre-positioned “justification” for the mass civilian slaughter that will inevitably accompany Obama’s surge:

He acknowledged that the Americans would have far superior forces and power this year, but was confident that the Taliban could turn this advantage on its head. “The Americans cannot take control of the villages,” he said. “In order to expel us they will have to resort to aerial bombing, and then they will have more civilian casualties.”


This is of course the precise “reason” trotted out every time American-led occupation forces kill a group of civilians in Afghanistan: the Taliban made us do it. This happened just yesterday, in the village of Gerani, where village leaders tried to shield children, women and elderly men in housing compounds far away from fighting between Taliban forces and Afghan troops with American “advisors.” But the advisors called in an airstrike that destroyed the civilians’ safe haven, killing between 70 and 100 innocent people, as two of the New York Times’ non-stovepipe reporters, Taimoor Shah and Carlotta Gall, report.

Mohammad Nieem Qadderdan, the former top official in the district of Bala Baluk, said he had seen dozens of bodies when he visited the village of Gerani. “These houses that were full of children and women and elders were bombed by planes. It is very difficult to say how many were killed because nobody can count the number, it is too early,” Mr. Qadderdan, who no longer holds a government position, told The A.P. by telephone. “People are digging through rubble with shovels and hands.”


The outraged and grieving villagers gathered up at least 30 of the slain and took them to officials in the provincial capital as proof of the massacre: a grisly, desperate measure forced on them by the American’s constant denials and denigrations of reports of civilian casualties, as we saw last year, when an American air assault killed up to 90 civilians in Azizabad.

But now the great and good can turn from this disturbing story to the convenient divulgings of the unnamed 28-year-old guy from an unnamed place in Pakistan, and see that such slaughters are all just part of the Taliban’s fiendish plan. In fact, he provides grist for the PR mill of the great imperial blood libel of them all: There no “civilians.”

The tactician says he embeds his men in what he described as friendly Afghan villages, where they will spend the next four to six months with the residents, who provide the weapons and succor for the missions against American and NATO soldiers.


There, you see? Every villager is a two-faced sneak, working to kill Americans.  If they die — then they deserve it. Boy, that makes the prunes and Post Toasties a little easier to digest, doesn’t it!

But Anonymous Guy is not done toting water for the militarists yet. Not only does provide cover for collateral damage, and red-flag the hot-button issues of the new roll-out — Pakistan as the true epicenter of the Good War in Afghanistan, and kooks with nukes — he also praises the effectiveness of their most beloved new toy: the robot drones that rain remote-control death on Pakistani villages:

The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones � virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.


Of course, they have also killed almost 700 Pakistani civilians (as of last month), according to the Pakistani government. But what of that, when the remarkably top-heavy leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban has been pruned a bit — at least, according to some anonymous guy from somewhere in Pakistan. (Surely no organizations in history have ever had so many “top leaders” as America’s Terror War enemies, who, according to Washington, have been felled in their hundreds over the years in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan.)

In any case, the anonymous guy from somewhere or other could hardly have put the militarists’ case for war in Pakistan any better even if they had, you know, paid him to do it or something.

II.
But the New York Times is only one front in the new campaign. On the same day as Anonymous Guy was working his militarist mojo, McClatchy Newspapers fired off a resounding fusillade of largely unnamed “experts” from the military-security apparat, all of them, remarkably enough, with the same message: Pakistan is falling to the Muslim kooks who want them nukes.

It is an astounding performance. The story, by Jonathan Landy, marshall’st a multitude of nightmare scenarios now coming true before our very eyes. But this is not to say the story is unbalanced in any way: there are two short passages, buried in the middle and at the end of the story, that take a different view. Such as this one:

Many Pakistanis, however, dismiss such warnings as inflated. They think that the militants are open to dialogue and political accommodation to end the unrest, which many trace to the former military regime’s cooperation with the U.S. after 9/11.


But this nugget of genuine insight gleaned from, you know, the actual people who live in the actual country in question, is swamped by waves of heavy-duty doomsaying from anonymous Washington savants. Such as:

A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there’s little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists, posing a greater threat to the U.S. than Afghanistan’s terrorist haven did before 9/11.

“It’s a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution,” said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly…

“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American army, and the headquarters of al Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control,” said David Kilcullen, a retired Australian army officer, a former State Department adviser and a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.


Significantly, one of the few people named in the article is directly connected to the White House, giving an official seal of approval to the other, anonymous alarmists.

The experts McClatchy interviewed said their views aren’t a worst case scenario but a realistic expectation based on the militants’ gains and the failure of Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to respond.

“The place is beyond redemption,” said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified so he could speak freely. “I don’t see any plausible scenario under which the present government or its most likely successor will mobilize the economic, political and security resources to push back this rising tide of violence.

“I think Pakistan is moving toward a situation where the extremists control virtually all of the countryside and the government controls only the urban centers,” he continued. “If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants.”


Are you scared to death yet? Or even better: are you scared enough to give your approval to “whatever it takes” to save us? After all, the president himself says that the situation in Pakistan is a “mortal threat” to the sacred Homeland; a view reiterated by his special “Af-Pak” envoy, Richard Holbrooke, who told Congress yesterday (on yet another front in the roll-out campaign) that “our most vital national security interests are at stake,” in Pakistan. A mortal threat to our most vital interests — can there be a greater, more urgent, more noble casus belli?

Again, Pakistanis have a different view of their own country, which is large, diverse, cosmopolitan, and made up overwhelmingly of adherents of Sufi Islam, as well as non-violent, non-militant Sunnis and Shiites. These ordinary human beings enjoy the arts, popular entertainment, sports, technology eating out, running businesses, pursuing scientific research and intellectual studies, raising their families. As Ahsan Iqbal, a top aide to opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told McClatchy:

While militants will overrun small pockets, most Pakistanis embrace democracy and will resist living under the Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Islam, he said.

“The psychology, the temperament, the mood of the Pakistani nation does not subscribe to these extremist views,” Iqbal said.


But of course, the anonymous unipolar dominationists of the American power structure know better:

The U.S. intelligence official, however, said that Pakistan’s elite, dominated since the country’s independence in 1947 by politicians, bureaucrats and military officers from Punjab, have failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

“The Punjabi elite has already lost control of Pakistan, but neither they nor the Obama administration realize that,” the official said. “Pakistan will be an Islamist state � or maybe a collection of four Islamic states, probably within a few years. There’s no civilian leadership in Islamabad that can stop this, and so far, there hasn’t been any that’s been willing to try.”


We noted yesterday that Islamabad has been carrying out military operations against insurgents for many years, losing hundreds of soldiers in the campaigns. But this history is being erased and rewritten to accommodate the new narrative: The United States will be forced to intervene directly in Pakistan because the Pakistanis are too stupid to realize the danger posed by the militants, and too weak and cowardly to even try to stop them. The whole damned place was “beyond redemption,” so we have to step in.

We have been here before, and not so long ago either. The signs are there — for anyone who wants to see them.

The New Discourse on anti-Semitism

The New Discourse on anti-Semitism

Shafiq Morton

May 6, 2009

Those who criticize Israel or those who interrogate Zionism (the ism that gave birth to Israel) are often labeled “anti-Semitic” by the Zionist lobby. This lobby, a world-wide movement, is seen to be most influential in the United States where it vigorously defends the interests of Israel.

To view Israel unsympathetically means vilification by this group: it avows political critique is something that threatens the existence of all Jews. Yet, ironically, some of the most ardent critics of Israel have been Jews – academics and political liberals who have not denigrated their Jewishness in any way because of their conscience.

The truth is that the Jewish community (13, 3 million worldwide) is hardly a monolithic group that unquestioningly supports Israel’s policies. Studies by American academics, such as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have graphically – if not uncomfortably – pointed to this.

In the multi-faceted Diaspora, it’s becoming evident – particularly since Gaza – that reservations have emerged about Zionist hasbara. This is the spin that suggests Israel is a country enjoying an exclusive right to be a victim, and that Israel can spurn international law because of this.

Often depicted as the “Israeli David” versus the “Arab Goliath”, the scenario is met in the Arab street with the comeback that the reverse is true. Israel has the deterrent of nuclear power and the best-equipped military in the Middle East. The Palestinians don’t even have generals.

The curse is that if a Jewish person breaks ranks with Israeli policy or Zionist ideology on humanitarian or political grounds, he or she becomes “self-loathing”. This is similar to Islamic extremism, which deems that I’m a hypocrite if I don’t subscribe to its edicts.

But as Not in My Name founder Steven Feuerstein has explained: “We criticize Israel because of, not in spite of, our Jewish values.”

One wonders then what people such as Professor Judah Magnes, founder of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, would think of today’s situation. He warned over 50 years ago of the dangers of nationalist Zionism becoming an “idol” of the Jewish people.

This is the peril of ideology being the sole medium of a nation’s socio-political discourse. The result is that the mores of humanity, and faith, are minimized. Ideology, often a virulent form of nationalism, is elevated to the altar of the black-white absolute. This is exactly where these isms become idolatrous extremes unto themselves.

In 2009 the ethos of the Zionist voice “being everywhere and saying the same thing” (as suggested by James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute) has seen Zionism becoming the demi-god of anti-Jewish conspiracy. The mantra of a “Jew behind every bush” happens precisely because the lobbyists have created this monster themselves.

This leads to the question: can the development of 21st century anti-Semitism be traced directly back to the lobbyists, to their total obeisance to Israel?

What role have organizations such as the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the international Zionist Congresses played in bringing the anti-Semitic house down on not only themselves, but possibly all Jews?

My response would be that they have played a hugely significant role. That and the nagging intransigence of Israel – a political reality, yes – but nevertheless a state in as much need of moral introspection and political rectitude as her dictatorial and corrupt Arab neighbours.

It’s my belief that conspiracy has led to a totally new discourse on anti-Semitism. And whilst I’m in agreement with a number of Jewish scholars that the nature of anti-Semitism might have changed, it’s obvious that I already differ on its dynamics.

For example, Canadian MP Professor Irwin Cotler – co-founder of the inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism – would most likely be aghast at my idea that the growth of 21st century anti-Semitism could ever be self-inflicted.

However, I do agree with him on a point made in the Jerusalem Post (24 February 2009) that anti-Semitism has shifted from Jewish people in host societies to Israel. But where I would wholly disagree is that Israel – the so-called “collective Jew” – is an innocent victim still seeking acceptance in the world of nations.

Prof Cotler cannot wish away historical truths, such as the 1948 Nakba. This is the Palestinian catastrophe, one that caused two-thirds of the indigenous Arab population to be displaced. The Professor has to concede that the painful legacy of the Nakba is still unresolved after 60 fractious years.

He also has to concede that even the Israeli bete-noire, Hamas, has acknowledged the reality of Israel: for why has it spoken of a truce based on 1967 borders? And if Hamas is anti-Semitic due to its disavowal of the Zionist state, then it must be mentioned that Likud’s manifesto refuses to acknowledge Palestinian statehood too.

Coherent criticisms against the policies of Zionism – as we’ve already said – are concerns about humanitarian and socio-political issues in the Zionist state, not Judaism. There is a vital distinction. Zionism is a man-made, political system that cannot be exempt from scrutiny.

In his Jerusalem Post article Prof Cotler says that contemporary anti-Semitism is “the canary in the mineshaft of evil” and identifies three kinds: genocidal, ideological and legalized.

Prof Cotler writes that the most “lethal” type of modern anti-Semitism is genocidal. It manifests itself in three forms: state-sanctioned (Iran), in movement charters (Hamas) and in religious writs (fatwas) where “Death to Israel” takes on real meaning.

The second type is ideological. Here the Prof argues that it “disguises” itself as part of the struggle against racism. He expresses discomfort at Zionism being equated with racism, and with Israel being labeled an “Apartheid” or “Nazi” state”. These he sees as tools of ideological anti-Semitism.

The third category is legalized anti-Semitism, where all of the above join to de-legitimize and to actively seek out Israel “for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena”.

And whilst I find Prof Cotler’s points interesting, if not contentious, my departure point is more the language of the discourse, rather than his fears – real or imagined.

For like Abraham Weizfeld, a Canadian-based Jewish activist, I believe that the “inflated language” currently used in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become thoroughly demeaning.

As he points out, the fear-mongering of Israel’s Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, that Hamas rockets would bring a second “Shoa” (Holocaust) upon the people of Gaza, hardly justified it becoming an extended metaphor.

The subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza saw violations of the Geneva Convention and possible war crimes, but it was not a “Holocaust”. Calling Gaza a “Holocaust”, he said, was not even useful. Rather than illustrating what happened, it thoroughly degraded the Palestinian cause.

Indeed, in the Middle East I’ve seen “inflated” language detract from the real concerns, thus allowing politicians to avoid the hard questions and for the issues to become clouded with emotionalism.

For example, a Palestinian figure shouting “Jewish pigs”, the “disciples of Satan” and “Nazis” is hardly indulging in constructive political oratory. However, can Menachim Begin proclaiming that Yasser ‘Arafat is “a beast with hair”, or Yitzak Shamir pronouncing that Arabs are a “plague of locusts”, be regarded as any less publicly anti-Semitic?

In my own personal experience, the above kind of Middle East tête-à-tête has had horrific consequences. The language of anti-Semitism can be a deadly, double-edged sword.

When the late Hamas leader, Dr ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Rantisi, told me in an interview that suicide was forbidden in Islam, but that “when they [the Israelis] stop killing our children, we’ll stop killing theirs,” I was shocked.

But then Dan Halutz, a former IDF chief-of-staff, had refused in Ha’aretz newspaper to call Palestinians “innocent civilians”, bizarrely persisting with “uninvolved civilians” instead. His chilling reply to innocent bystanders being killed in Israeli operations was almost identical to Rantisi’s:

“…I am very sorry about innocent children who are killed. But anyone who sets out to murder children in Israel has to take into account that [his] children are liable to be killed [too]…”

After one particular visit to Palestine/Israel after the 2000 Intifada, I had had to seriously ask myself whether the conversation between the sons of Abraham had become so debased we now had justify killing children. I felt deeply that all of us had to disengage quickly from this hateful dialogue in the interest of lucid thought, and for the sake of future generations.

But how? It was a depressing moment. If people couldn’t even speak to each other, there was little hope. Through despair and self-doubt, I consulted the Qur’an. Had our anti-Jewish rhetoric and inflated language derived somewhere from creed?

The Holy Book mentions the Bani Isra’il, the Jews, more than twenty times. Qur’anic verses are interpreted according to two principles: ‘am (general) and khass (specific). General verses become rulings. Specific verses, which refer to specific historical instances, don’t.

The Qur’anic verses concerning Jews spoke of reminders of God, of favors, of broken covenants, of the consequences of disputing Sacred Law, of Moses and of the human condition. And more pertinently, the verses were overwhelmingly specific.

In other words, there was no Qur’anic decree permitting me to dishonor Jews. Together with Christians and ancient Sabians, they were to be regarded as “People of the Book”, a people worthy of esteem.

Prophetic example spoke only of the same. Muhammad [SAW] honored the Jewish tribes in Medina, his capital, and only acted against them when they broke pacts and agreements.

Traditions reveal that a young Jewish boy used to accompany Muhammad [SAW], that the Rabbi Mukhairiq fought with him in battle, that he married a Jewish woman and that even his suit of armor was borrowed from a Jew. And when a Jewish funeral bier passed by, he stood up out of respect, telling his Companions that the dead man was a son of Adam too.

A brief examination of Jewish commentary was equally illustrative. The Babylonian Talmud revealed that gentiles had to be honored by Jews. Poor gentiles had to receive charity and their sick had to be visited. Understood in proper context as an interpretation of G-d’s word, the Talmud evinced no hostility to Muslims (or Christians) whatsoever.

If the holy traditions spoke with such eloquent nobility, and if authentic religion was not the root of the problem, I had to ask what had gone wrong with Muslim-Jewish relations. What had fostered the inflated language of hatred and calumny so characterizing the discourse today? The sorry answer screamed from the page: political Zionism.

Prof Cotler was right. Israel had become the focus of anti-Semitism, but – as I’ve already explained – for reasons of self-imposed conspiracy and political obduracy on humanitarian issues. Yes, indeed, the canary is singing in the mineshaft of evil, but not for the reasons the honorable Prof Cotler thinks it is.

-Shafiq Morton is a Cape Town based photo-journalist, author and radio show host. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Oppose the Afghanistan-Pakistan war

Oppose the Afghanistan-Pakistan war

Peter Symonds


7 May 2009

The US summit with Afghanistan and Pakistan currently underway in Washington marks the onset of a major escalation of military violence in both countries. The purpose of the meeting is for the Obama administration to bully into line its stooges—Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari—and map out a comprehensive war strategy to pacify large areas on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border currently controlled by Islamist rebels.

The significance of the tripartite summit is underscored by the presence of key figures of the US military, intelligence and foreign policy establishment, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta, FBI head Robert Mueller and US Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus, and their counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further tripartite meetings are planned to coordinate the joint war that will inevitably take a further terrible toll of lives in both countries.

Flanked by Karzai and Zardari, Obama told the media yesterday that America was on the side of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such remarks should be rejected with the contempt they deserve. US imperialism is stepping up its wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan not “to advance security, opportunity and justice” for the local peoples, but to pursue Washington’s strategic goal of dominating energy-rich Central Asia.

Under intense US pressure, the Pakistani military is currently waging an offensive in the Buner district involving 15,000 heavily armed troops backed by helicopter gunships and warplanes. The operation, which is being applauded in Washington, has already sent long lines of refugees fleeing for safety. According to local officials, 40,000 have already left the region and the exodus could reach half a million.

In neighboring Afghanistan, US air strikes that killed up to 150 people in the western Bala Baluk district early this week are just the latest atrocity in a war aimed at terrorizing the Afghan people and suppressing any opposition to the neo-colonial occupation. Obama barely referred to the incident, simply repeating pro-forma that the US would make “every effort” to avoid civilian casualties. Ominously, he warned that there would be more violence, but that US “commitment will not waiver.”

Both the Afghan and Pakistani presidents pledged their fealty to Washington and its “war against terrorism.” While Obama referred to them as “democratically elected leaders,” the US would have no compunction in removing them, by one means or another, if they failed to follow orders. In recent months, US officials have been highly critical of Karzai, who is facing an election in August, for his corrupt and ineffective administration as well as his criticisms of the US military for their killing of civilians.

Top US officials have also put Zardari on notice over this reluctance to launch an all-out war against Taliban guerrillas. The New York Times cited an unnamed senior administration official as saying that the war in Pakistan would hinge on the Pakistani military, “particularly given the country’s refusal, thus far, to allow American troops on the ground.” While the US military has been intensifying its missile strikes with impunity, Washington is clearly pressing for a far greater military role inside Pakistan.

The same newspaper has published a rash of sensational stories in recent days highlighting the danger of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of Islamist extremists—the same pretext that was used by the Bush administration to carry out “regime change” in Iraq. The Obama administration is obviously weighing a range of options to replace Zardari if he fails to live up to his pledges in Washington.

Editorials yesterday in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal gave uncritical and fulsome support for Obama’s new war plans. Both newspapers urged Congress to rapidly pass Obama’s request for billions in supplemental funding to bolster the Afghan and Pakistani governments and militaries, with the Wall Street Journal demanding no political caveats from Congress that would “gum up the requests” and place restrictions on the US military’s conduct of the war.

This consensus demonstrates that the entire American political establishment—the liberal Democratic wing no less than its conservative Republican counterpart—is backing Obama’s two-front war. The escalating conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan underscore the fact that the previous criticisms made by Obama and sections of the media of the war in Iraq were of a purely tactical nature. Obama was selected and thrust to the fore in last year’s election by sections of the US ruling elite that regarded Iraq as a disastrous diversion from more crucial American aims and interests in Central Asia.

Having won the election by appealing to widespread anti-war sentiment, Obama is now carrying out the mission for which he was chosen. Overseen by key Bush personnel—Defence Secretary Robert Gates and General Petraeus—the US military has prepared the ground for a major summer offensive in Afghanistan with the doubling of US troop numbers to 68,000. At the same time, the Pentagon has secured alternate supply routes in the event that the planned escalation of warfare in neighboring Pakistan threatens existing supply routes that pass through that country’s border areas.

The Wall Street Journal concluded its editorial by urging the Obama administration to make clear that “the US is committed to the region’s security for the long run,” adding: “The greatest danger is that Pakistan’s weak institutions and uncertain leaders lose their will to defeat the Islamists. That is how the Shah of Iran fell in 1979. We don’t want a repeat in Islamabad.”

In fact, the ruthless US-backed dictatorship in Iran fell not because the Shah lost his will to imprison and murder opponents, but as a result of a popular uprising which fell under the sway of the Islamic clerics. Already there are signs in Afghanistan and Pakistan of broad social and political opposition to the US and its puppets. The Wall Street Journal’s advice to Obama is that the US must do whatever is necessary and for as long as necessary to violently suppress any challenge to US economic and strategic dominance in the region.

Obama’s escalating war can only have a profoundly destabilizing impact across the region, laying the seeds for even wider and bloodier military conflagrations. It cannot be opposed by appeals to the Democratic Party or to Congress, but only through the independent mobilization of workers in the United States together with the working class and oppressed masses of South and Central Asia and internationally. That struggle must be based on a socialist perspective to overturn the capitalist system which is the source of imperialist oppression and war.

Afghan Police Fire on Anti-US Protest


Afghan Police Fire on Anti-US Protest

Associated Press

bala_baluk_wounded2.jpg
A 12-year-old injured girl in Farah General Hospital. (Photo: RAWA)

May 07, 2009

KABUL — Police fired on rock-throwing protesters angry over civilian deaths they blamed on American bombing runs in western Afghanistan, a local official said today, as the U.S. military rushed a team to the site to investigate.

In the melee outside the governor’s office in the capital of Farah province, one protester was wounded by a bullet and five more suffered other injuries after they tried to storm the main government building there, said Gul Ahmad Ayubi, a health department official in the province.

The group was protesting the deaths of civilians in the villages of Ganjabad and Gerani, said Belqis Roshan, a provincial council member. The international Red Cross and local officials said the people were killed by U.S. bombs, though the military said that may not have been the case.

Mohammad Nieem Qadderdan, a former district chief of Bala Buluk who visited the site of this week’s battle, said 100 to 120 people were killed. If 100 civilians died in the fight, it would be deadliest case of civilian casualties since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The Red Cross said women and children were among dozens of dead.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the U.S. “deeply, deeply” regretted the loss of innocent life while opening a meeting with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long pleaded with the U.S. to minimize civilian deaths during its operations, contending that such killings undermine support for the fight against the Taliban.

He ordered an investigation, and the U.S. military dispatched a brigadier general to Farah to head a U.S. probe, said Col. Greg Julian, a U.S. spokesman. Afghan military and police officials were also part of the team. The team did not reach the site of the bombings Wednesday but hoped to today.

But Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, voiced doubts about whether the deaths were due to an American airstrike.

McKiernan said U.S. military personnel had come to help Afghan forces who may have been ambushed by Taliban militants Sunday. He said the Taliban beheaded three civilians, perhaps to lure police.

“We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of the civilian casualties,” McKiernan said. He would not elaborate but said the United States was working with the Afghan government to learn the truth.

A senior U.S. defense official said late Wednesday that Marine special operations forces believe the Afghan civilians were killed by grenades hurled by Taliban militants, who then loaded some of the bodies into a vehicle and drove them around the village, claiming the dead were victims of an American airstrike.

A second U.S. official said a senior Taliban commander is believed to have ordered the grenade attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

Two other senior defense officials said the grenade report comes from villagers interviewed by U.S. investigators who went to the site, but there is no proof yet that the report is right.

Reto Stocker, the head of the international Red Cross in Afghanistan, blamed an airstrike for the death of his organization’s volunteer and 13 members of his family who were sheltering inside a home.

Tribal elders called the Red Cross during the fighting to report civilian casualties and ask for help, Stocker said.

Villagers said they gathered children, women and elderly men in several compounds near the village of Gerani to keep them away from the fighting, but the compounds were later hit by airstrikes.

Provincial authorities have told villagers not to bury the bodies, but instead to line them up for the officials conducting the investigation, Qadderdan said.

Taliban militants often take over civilian homes and launch attacks on Afghan and coalition forces. U.S. officials say the militants hope to attract U.S. airstrikes that kill civilians, thereby giving the Taliban a propaganda victory.

After a massive case of civilian casualties in the village of Azizabad last August, McKiernan ordered forces to consider backing off from a fight if commanders thought civilians were in danger. Afghan officials and the U.N. say 90 civilians died in Azizabad; the U.S. says 33 died.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press

Hundreds of Millions May Face Starvation in the Next 5-10 Years

Hundreds of Millions May Face Starvation in the Next 5-10 Years

By J.s. Kim
06 May 2009 @ 02:26 pm EST

More than 2-½ years ago when I predicted a global stock market crash on my investment blog, even foreshadowing the duration and the severity of the impending crisis by naming it the Peak Investment Crisis, many called my predictions ludicrous and far-fetched. In that article, I specifically stated that the declines in global stock market indexes could easily “dwarf the pullbacks that caused a 10% decline in the London FTSE, a 35% decline in the Indian markets, a 30% decline in the Brazilian markets, and 20% decline in the Japanese markets over a several week period in 2006″ and that “it [was] a potential disaster that 99% of people [were] unaware of.” Today, I foresee another enormous disaster with far wider-reaching and more serious implications than even our current global financial crisis. This disaster is the very likely mass starvation of hundreds of millions all over the world.

Below, I’ve summarized pertinent points of this growing food crisis:

• Though the mass media has continued to virtually ignore this massively important story, food riots, instigated by soaring food prices, occurred in about 30 countries last year, including Haiti, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. Due to shrinking food stocks, leading agricultural commodity exporters such as India and Argentina imposed bans on overseas sales of food products.

• Last year, global rice stocks fell to a 30-year low after droughts decimated crop yields in China and Africa. At one point, during a two-week period in April of 2008, prices of rice rose 50%. Rice is the staple food for more than 3 billion people. According to the World Bank, the real price of rice and wheat respectively rose to a 19-year and a 28-year high last year.

• At the recent G8 Agriculture Ministers meeting held in Treviso, Italy in April of 2009, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated that climate change had materially affected the challenge to feed the world’s population – expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 from today’s current number of 6.5 billion. As a solution, he called on the G8 to back the use of science in agriculture, including genetically modified organisms, to boost productivity.”

• In 2009, for the first time ever, the United Nations reported an unprecedented 1 billion+ people went hungry every day and predicted that this number would continue to rise due to persistently high food prices and the continuing economic crisis.

Though the above unfolding catastrophe should be the leading story of every major media outlet in the world, instead swine flu has trumped this potentially much greater catastrophe. World Health Organization (WHO) officials have currently assigned the worldwide risk of swine flu to a Phase 5 level indicative of an “imminent pandemic”; if starvation were considered a disease, the risk factor of this hunger catastrophe would be assigned the WHO’s highest rating of Phase 6.

Beyond the surface points I noted above, there are some truly disturbing facets of this hunger catastrophe that lie beneath the surface. Given that the WHO has labeled swine flu a pandemic with a recent figure of confirmed cases at 1,316 worldwide, it is no exaggeration to consider a hunger pandemic that currently has more than 1 billion victims a catastrophe. Though droughts, low crop yields, and the spectacularly foolish, inefficient experiment to turn food into biofuels have all significantly contributed to the imminent mass starvation problems that will soon materialize, the truth is that the easiest and most efficient way to address the hunger catastrophe is purposely being obfuscated and hidden by the world’s Central Banks and financial oligarchs. Ironically, one of the most significant components of the troubling rise in food prices, monetary inflation, is also the easiest symptom to attack and solve as opposed to other solutions that seek to raise crop yields through the increased use of biogenetically engineered seeds. In addition, though poor climate conditions have undoubtedly contributed to low crop yields in recent years, the real effect of monetary inflation on plunging food stock levels is often obscured by governments through highly inaccurate and deceptive PPI (producer price index) numbers.

Of the current 6.5 billion people in this world, 50%, or 3.25 billion, live on a daily wage of $2 that has not changed in years, despite the fact that significant erosion in the purchasing power of these $2 over the past decade. In turn, the billions of people that subsist on $2 a day spend $1 on food daily. Simple math dictates that if the price of basic diet staples in the developing world (rice, corn, wheat, etc. but specifically rice) rises to $2 or $3 a day or more, more than 3 billion people will no longer just be hungry, but will begin to die from starvation. In previous essays of mine, I have outlined a strong argument for significant inflation in our future despite the persistent campaigns to spread deflationary beliefs. If time proves my arguments to be correct, then a doubling, or even a tripling or quadrupling in the prices of basic food staples is a real and distinct threat to the mortality rates of billions of people. Given the magnitude of this moral crisis, no matter one’s stance in the debate of inflation versus deflation, it is imperative to grant consideration to the possibility of strong inflation in imminent years and its implications for 3.25 billion of our fellow citizens.

This is precisely why the moral disaster of mass global starvation that looms in our near future must first and foremost be approached as a direct symptom of the foolish and dangerously destructive monetary policies now being implemented by the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, and the European Central Bank. The United Nations, in their press release, stated that mass global hunger today is attributable to rising prices, and none other than former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in a rare moment of clarity, stated in 1997 that “price increases are really the same thing as depreciation of the currency”. There is little doubt in my mind that one of the largest components of rising food prices over the next five years will be a very significant “food tax” that is directly attributable to the debasement of all major global fiat currencies. Thus, one of the most efficient and effective steps we can implement to prevent our current global hunger catastrophe from evolving into a global starvation catastrophe is to re-institute a sound monetary system in which all money is backed by gold or silver or a combination of both.

During the recent G8 Agriculture Ministers meeting in Italy, when US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack used this platform to promote the business interests of the biogenetic agricultural industry, such chatter was a smokescreen designed to deflect attention away from the true culprit of this catastrophe – monetary inflation. Given Vilsack’s history of well-documented supported for bio-genetically engineered agricultural crops, including his award as Governor of the Year by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in 2001, his preferred solution to this crisis offers no surprises. Those who invest in Monsanto (NYSE:MON) now, in terms of monetary profits, will likely emerge smelling like roses a couple years down the road. Still, a larger moral question than the debate over the safety of bio-genetically engineered food or the morality of using a crisis to promote business interests must be answered – “How significant are the contributions of our unsound monetary system to the greatest potential humanitarian crisis of our lifetime?”

Given the course of monetary policies being implemented by our global Central Banks, though this is a prediction I hate to make and detest even more if it comes true, the likelihood is very strong today that hundreds of millions of people will starve to death within the next five to ten years. Though many will find this prediction outrageous, remember that many of my predictions that were considered outrageous 2-3 years ago have now come true. I write this article not for shock value, but for the simple reason that this crisis is avoidable if we begin altering our solutions to the global financial crisis today. However, a persistent refusal to acknowledge the primary role of our fraudulent monetary system in creating this worldwide financial crisis will only serve to cement this obscene prediction in future years.

Should this grim hunger catastrophe continue to progress as increasingly seems likely, growing numbers of food-inspired riots and complex national security issues caused by mass migration issues will arise that will necessitate a response from our world leaders. Should this happen, I have no doubt that our world leaders will spin the starvation catastrophe as attributable to every reason imaginable but the true culprit – our unsound monetary system. Should this problem progress, eventually millions of rural poor will migrate to urban centers, driven by a need to earn higher wages to buy increasingly more expensive food. Ironically the consequence of flooding urban areas with cheap labor in developing countries will be significant wage depression for higher income earners and the rapid deterioration of the middle class into the poor.

Historical precedent for this outcome already was already set during the post NAFTA-years in Mexico, when NAFTA policies created a mass migration of poor into urban centers and effectively destroyed the wage potential of the middle class. Thus, this hunger crisis will not only affect the survival rates of 3+ billion people, but it will also negatively impact the earning potential of billions of urban dwellers in the future as well. Hopefully, this potentially epic humanitarian and moral disaster will finally serve as the necessary blaring alarm to citizens of the world to address the equivalent moral disaster that is our fiat monetary system.

JS Kim is the President & Founder of SmartKnowledgeU, LLC, a fiercely independent investment research & consulting firm that helps clients create wealth during this ongoing global financial & monetary crisis.

Caught in the crossfire

Amanda Hodge,

ON the floor of her tent in a miserable refugee camp in Peshawar, Jahan Zeba lifts her veil to reveal a puckered bruise on her neck, the result of a Pakistani army bullet.

Eight months ago, the 32-year-old mother of eight was caught in crossfire between government troops and Taliban militants in her village in the remote Bajaur Agency, part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan.

“There was a vet who used to look after my cows who stopped the bleeding. He arranged for me to get out but we were stopped by the army and they would not let me go until we paid them money,” she says bitterly.

The Taliban terrorised Jahan’s village, as they did so many in Bajaur Agency, in the months leading up to the military campaign launched last August to flush out the extremists. Girls were warned off attending schools, barbers’ shops were destroyed, bridges and roads were bombed.

But far from delivering them from evil, the Pakistan army rained fresh hell on the people of Bajaur, razing entire villages in an intensive aerial bombing campaign that locals say killed far more civilians than militants.

“There was not a single Talib in our village,” Jahan says. “All those the army captured were just ordinary people; most of them were government employees.

“There were more than 400 houses in my village; six are left. We are left with nothing.”

Across the Kacha Garhi refugee camp – a swamp of human misery and rising resentment – similar stories are told.

The Government has since claimed to have won the battle against militants in Bajaur. But in the minds of an estimated one million Pakistanis in billeted slums and refugee camps across the country’s collapsing North-West Frontier Province, there is little that separates the villainous acts of the Taliban from those of government forces.

Both are responsible for the mass internal displacement that is now straining government and humanitarian agency resources and threatening to entrench militancy among a vast population of destitute and disaffected Pakistanis.

At Kacha Garhi’s UNICEF-run tent school, 10-year-old Rabia Naimat Ullah says her school received numerous warnings from the Taliban to shut down.

“Some of the big girls were picked up by the Taliban for going to school and later were slaughtered,” she says through an interpreter.

In the days before her family home was destroyed by military bombing last August, she says her family spent hours huddled together in a trench dug by her father.

Despite the trauma, Rabia says she wants to return to Bajaur.

“I miss my house and the trees and the fields,” she says. “All I do in the camp is come to the school, and that’s it.”

When asked who she blames she says: “We’re angry with both of them. One of them stopped us from going to school and the others have destroyed our houses.

“Our parents say, ‘Why have they involved the common people in something that was not our fault?”‘

Many believe the Bajaur offensive, which began just days after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited Washington, DC last July, was launched at the behest of the US administration. The Government is also suspected of aiding US drone attacks on militant hideouts in South Waziristan, despite its public objections that the strikes are turning civilians against the US.

This week, all eyes were on Washington as US and Pakistani leaders met once again to discuss the country’s security crisis. Amid the mutual assurances of support and commitment to fighting the militant scourge, there was little sign in the public statements yesterday that a clear military strategy for defeating the Taliban had emerged.

US President Barack Obama said he was pleased that Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari “fully appreciate the seriousness of the threat that we face, and have reaffirmed their commitment to confronting it”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the talks had shown “very promising early signs” and she was impressed by how Pakistan was taking the fight to the Taliban, after she had last month castigated the Government for abdicating to the militants.

Zardari said: “We stand with our brother Karzai and the people of Afghanistan against this common threat, this menace, which I have called a cancer.”

But no evident progress was made on the desperate need for emergency funds to deal with the humanitarian crisis developing in Pakistan’s northwest.

Analysts, humanitarian agencies and even Pakistani officials have warned that failure to address the human suffering will lead to disaster. More than half of Bajaur Agency’s estimated 600,000 people are believed to have been displaced since August.

Of the 16,000 people in Kacha Garhi camp, at least 80 per cent are from Bajaur. Fifty minutes down the road, Bajauris represent a similar proportion of the 50,000 refugees in the Jalozai camp.

And many, many more are coming.

As many as 500,000 people are said to have been displaced from neighbouring Swat Valley during the Taliban’s bloody 18-month campaign for control of the district. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have been forced from their homes as the Taliban have marched from the FATA to Swat and, in recent weeks, Mardan, Lower Dir and Buner, the last of which is just 100km from Islamabad.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees set up three new camps this week in the NWFP towns of Mardan and Swabi, both of which share a border with the new Taliban front in Buner. The Government is also setting up an additional three camps.

In eight months the UNHCR has registered almost 560,000 internally displaced people. About 94,000 of those – the most desperate, who have no resources or families to lean on – are living in refugee camps across NWFP.

Islamabad-based UNHCR spokeswoman Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian says the number of Pakistani refugees migrating from the ever-shifting nucleus of militant violence and army reprisals is probably much higher. Most analysts estimate the number to be at least one million. On Monday and Tuesday alone, the UNHCR registered another 3500 displaced families, representing about 22,000 people. The official total of displaced people from Lower Dir and Buner is about 50,000, but it is expected to rise sharply.

Renewed fighting in Swat Valley this week is adding to the humanitarian toll. Local officials have estimated as many as 500,000 people will flee in coming days as the two sides engage in intense fighting in the region’s main cities and settled areas. At least 36 civilians were reportedly killed in fighting on Wednesday in Swat; most of them were caught in the crossfire or targeted by the army for breaking the government-imposed curfew.

The Swat peace deal struck in February – in which the federal Government agreed to impose sharia law in Swat and the Malakand region in exchange for the militants’ laying down their arms – is in tatters. Rather than disarming, Swat-based Taliban appeared to view the accord as an invitation to extend their reach from the mountains of NWFP, where they have proven their mettle in counter-insurgency battles against government troops, to the plains.

Security forces responded more than a week ago with a new offensive to expel the militants, sending in helicopter gunships and ground troops to fight hundreds of armed Taliban. Thousands of civilians have since been forced from the region.

“It’s a desperate situation and with this new outflow of people it’s only going to get worse,” Farman-Farmaian tells The Australian. International donations for the displaced have been slow to trickle in. An urgent plea to donors last September fell largely on deaf ears.

A new plea in January brought little more enthusiasm.

All agencies working with the internally displaced people face serious budget shortfalls. UNICEF, which finances and runs schools and health centres across the camps, estimates its shortfall is $11 million for this year; the figure that is bound to rise with the new wave of internal refugees.

Farman-Farmaian says it is the same across all agencies, and donors are just beginning to realise the gravity of the situation. Donors include Australia, which has pledged funds for education and sanitation facilities in the Jalozai camp.

“The trouble is that from the time we receive the funding to when we can deliver on the ground can take months. It could be three months before that poor person who has come in today receives that,” she says.

“We’re trying to get people to see the merit in helping FATA people living outside of there; to give them the assistance they need and deserve and to act as a buffer, because tomorrow if they don’t get a chance and some other group – maybe militants, or Taliban – offers them funds, then they are going to takethem.”

Kacha Garhi’s camp administrator Arbab Arshad, a physically imposing man with a gentle disposition, says the people in the camp are angry all the time and take their frustrations out on management.

So far he is managing the delicate security situation by negotiating with tribal elders, but the climate inside the camp remains very tense. “Naturally they’re angry. Anybody should be if they’re displaced. Living in this camp is very difficult,” he says.

The Government fears Taliban are hiding among the vast numbers of displaced people now spread across the NWFP and other Pakistani cities, and want to ensure the people return to their villages.

Arshad says he has yet to see any sign of Taliban in Kacha Garhi but has no doubt the camp harbours many relatives of the extremists. He believes forced repatriations are imminent but wonders how people can be sent back when the road back to Bajaur, the same one that leads to Lower Dir, is now filled with displaced people streaming out in the opposite direction.

Humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Washington talks and the passage of a US bill that proposes spending $US7.5 billion ($9.95billion) over five years to rebuild devastated communities and create opportunities in some of Pakistan’s poorest regions.

Since taking office in January, the Obama administration has placed Pakistan at the centre of its fight against Islamic militancy and talked of the need for social as well as military investment.

But Obama has also warned that any further US military aid will be conditioned on Pakistan’s success in routing jihadis from the FATA tribal areas and sealing the porous border with Afghanistan.

Pakistani analyst and Taliban expert Ahmed Rashid says the latest military action is indicative of the army’s usual stop-go approach to fighting the Taliban.

“Both the US and Pakistan are handling militancy the wrong way,” he says.

“We’re not conducting a proper counter-insurgency strategy. There’s been no sustained campaign. The civilian development component has been completely missing even as we tackle militancy in Swat and Buner.

“We have more than one million refugees in NWFP. What’s needed on the Pakistan side is money: development aid, budgetary support, international humanitarian aid.”

Farman-Farmaian says there has never been a more urgent need to win the hearts and minds of Pakistanis.

“They’re angry with the Government, the militants, everyone. Their lives have been disrupted, they’ve had to leave everything behind. They have no hope or future.

“We need to show these people that somebody cares and that help is on its way. That their children will go to school and they will have a future. If we don’t, there’s no telling what could happen.

“We can’t wait another nine months.”

DO YOU WANT HIM BACK, PAKISTAN?

DO YOU WANT HIM BACK, PAKISTAN?

BUSH, PAKISTAN'S MUSHARRAF MEET AT WHITE HOUSE
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 7 (UPI) — Whether former President Pervez Musharraf will return to Pakistan during the ongoing crackdown on the Taliban is questionable, observers said.A close aide, retired Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, said Musharraf, currently in Europe, won’t be return to Pakistan in the near future.

“I have no idea how long the former president will stay abroad,” Qureshi said. “Though I am still in touch with him, I have no exact idea on this count.”

Musharraf left Pakistan for a private visit to Saudi Arabia April 19 and then headed to Europe for a lecture tour. A trip to the United States is expected after that, the Press Trust of India reported.

Pakistan says army will eliminate “terrorists”

Pakistan says army will eliminate “terrorists”

By Junaid Khan

MINGORA, Pakistan, May 7 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s government ordered the army to eliminate militants on Thursday, setting the stage for a major offensive against Taliban fighters battling security forces in a northwestern valley.

The government’s handling of the Swat valley has become a test of its resolve to fight a growing Taliban insurgency that has alarmed the United States.

President Asif Ali Zardari, in Washington for talks, assured U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday of Islamabad’s commitment to defeating al Qaeda and its allies. [ID:nN06529377]

Security forces used jets and helicopters to pound Taliban positions in Swat, 130 km (80 miles) from Islamabad, as thousands of civilians took advantage of a break in a curfew to flee.

With hundreds of thousand of people already displaced by fighting, aid groups said the new exodus of tens of thousands was intensifying a humanitarian crisis.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said in a televised address the militants were trying to hold the country hostage at gunpoint.

“Decisive steps have to be taken,” Gilani said.

“In order to restore honour and dignity of our homeland and to protect the people, the armed forces have been called in to eliminate the militants and terrorists.”

Gilani did not announce the launching of an offensive but said the government would not bow before terrorists and would force them to lay down their arms.

Reinforcements have been arriving in Swat as a peace pact collapsed. On Wednesday, soldiers launched assaults in the outskirts of the region’s main town of Mingora, where the Taliban have occupied important buildings.

Authorities agreed in February to a Taliban demand for the introduction of Islamic sharia law in the former tourist valley but the militants refused to disarm, and pushed out of Swat closer to nuclear-armed Pakistan’s capital.

That raised alarm in the United States. Pakistani action against militants in its northwest is vital for U.S. efforts to defeat al Qaeda and stabilise Afghanistan.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Islamabad of abdicating to the Taliban while Obama expressed grave concern about the “very fragile” government.

Security forces launched an offensive on April 26 to expel militants from two of Swat’s neighbouring districts, Dir and Buner, and security has deteriorated sharply in Swat since then.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani told his top commanders earlier the army was fully aware of the gravity of the internal threat and would “employ requisite resources to ensure a decisive ascendancy over the militants”.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, speaking to reporters in Kabul shortly before Gilani’s announcement, said the Taliban had overreached by attacking Buner, 100 km (60 miles) from Islamabad, and he was “very satisfied” with the Pakistani response.

There was “very little chance” of the militants gaining control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, Gates said.

Investors in Pakistani stocks have been unnerved by the fighting and the main index .KSE ended 1.02 percent, or 73.20 points, lower at 7,125.66 points on Thursday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees expressed his deep concern about the safety of people displaced by the fighting while the International Committee of the Red Cross said a humanitarian crisis was intensifying.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had to halt its emergency medical care because of the fighting which had trapped untold numbers of people in their homes.

Many fled when the authorities relaxed a curfew.

“We can’t stay here when bombs are falling,” said resident Mohammad Hayat Khan as he loaded his family of 14 onto a pick-up truck. He said there had been shelling near his home.

Many others were heading out of Mingora on foot, loaded up with whatever they could carry.

A son of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad, who brokered the Swat deal, was killed in a clash in Dir district, the military said, adding nine other militants were killed. (For other stories on Pakistan and Afghanistan double click on [ID:nSP102615]; for a graphic on Pakistan see URL: here ) (Addtional reporting by Augustine Anthony and Zeeshan Haider; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Jerry Norton)