Pakistan Says No to Indian Transit Route

No transit route to Afghanistan for Indian trucks: Pak

December 26, 2009 12:53 IST
Notwithstanding United States’ pressure, Pakistan has denied allowing Indian goods to pass through its territory to Afghanistan.

According to The Nation, Pakistan has strongly opposed the US proposal of granting transit facility to Indian trucks to Afghanistan through its soil.

“Washington has swallowed the bitter pill and given up its moves to get land route transit facility for India [ Images ] through Pakistan,” a senior government official, who is privy to the issue, said.

Insiders said Pakistani authorities rebuffed the demands by pointing out towards India’s alleged involvement in terror activities in Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas through Afghanistan.

However, Pakistan has agreed to allow Afghanistan more than 60 trucks a month for transporting of its goods up to the Wagah border.

Sources said both Pakistan and Afghanistan have also agreed to maintain a track of the supply trucks through an electronic tracking system.

The drivers of these vehicles would be responsible for the ultimate delivery of the goods in transit while Afghan goods arriving at Pakistani seaports will have to reach Afghanistan within 30 days after their clearance.

India Looking to Dominate In Afghanistan

Let India help Afghanistan

India’s close ties with Afghanistan mean it is well placed to step in when the west has flown its last soldier out of Kabul Shashank Joshi Friday 25 December 2009
In the 19th century, Indian armies twice crossed the Hindu Kush, hoping to stitch together the patchwork political authority of the territory in the service of their British masters. Over a century later, the sovereign republic of India once more has a renewed presence in what was once its mountainous buffer from the Tsarist, and then Soviet, giant to the north.

A year ago, Indians completed the construction of Afghanistan’s new parliament building and, to compound the symbolism, provided training to the legislators who would make the country’s laws. Over a billion dollars in aid and investment, multiple consulates, and a little-reported thousand-strong troop presence all testify to the flourishing ties between the two democracies.

India is Afghanistan’s fifth-largest donor, pledging $1.2bn since 2001 and providing aid that spans education, health and infrastructure. The most eye-catching project, a 215km road connecting the Iranian border to Afghanistan’s arterial highway, will eventually allow India to transport goods by sea to an Iranian port it is developing, and thence to Afghanistan and beyond. This circumvents the overland route, blocked by Pakistan, but also gives a fillip to Indo-Afghan trade ($538m during 2007-8). Hamid Karzai, himself educated in India and the beneficiary of Indian military support during the 1990s, visited India four times in the first five years of his tenure. The Afghan national army, the linchpin of the new American strategy to pacify the country, receives training across India.

Not everyone is happy with the widening Indian footprint. Pakistan, long reliant on Afghanistan as a source of “strategic depth” has invoked fears of encirclement and Indian-sponsored separatism. This is in addition to the panoply of wild “conspiracy theorists who insist that every one of Pakistan’s ills are there because of interference by the US, India, Israel and Afghanistan”, says Ahmed Rashid, a noted Pakistani journalist.

Among other attacks, a car bomb at the Indian embassy in Kabul killed 41 in July 2008. According to the New York Times, American officials quickly presented “intercepted communications between Pakistani intelligence officers and militants who carried out the attack” to demonstrate Pakistani culpability and “the ISI officers had not been renegades”.

Then in September 2009, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, suggested in a leaked assessment of the war that “while Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India”. The scarcely veiled threat of further bloodbaths such as Mumbai prompted renewed anger in the Indian media.

India has responded cautiously. Indian defence minister AK Antony insisted “categorically there is no question of Indian military involvement in Afghanistan not now, not in the future”. A former head of India’s foreign intelligence service has said that “sending troops is not an option”.

There are sound and perhaps compelling reasons for this reticence. There remain bitter memories of the 1,200 deaths suffered by an Indian peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka, and although Indian security forces have six decades of counterinsurgency experience, they face multiple intensifying guerilla wars at home from Maoists and separatists. Moreover, India’s coalition politics, featuring local parties with parochial interests, is hardly suited to sustaining ambitious foreign policies.

Yet more than 1,000 members of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police are deployed in Afghanistan. President Obama’s affirmation to withdraw US forces by 2011 has generated a prospective vacuum, inducing Pakistan to renew its support for the Taliban. This has produced loudening, though still marginal, Indian voices in favour of more boots on the ground.

Amir Taheri, writing in The Times, suggests that a military commitment is “surprisingly popular in India”. One former diplomat argues that “influential sections of Indian opinion are stridently calling for an outright Indian intervention in Afghanistan without awaiting the niceties of an American invitation letter”.

The editor of the “realist” journal Pragati writes that “military involvement will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and the Indian mainland”. An affiliated blog draws on the idea of “force fungibility” to argue that “since it is not feasible for Indian troops to directly attack Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex, India should ensure that US troops do so” by “reliev[ing them] of duties in areas where they are not actually fighting the Taliban – especially in western and northern Afghanistan”.

Others have suggested that “the best contribution might be in the areas of combat training and creating capacities in logistics and communications”, still sorely lacking in the embryonic Afghan national army.

Support for the war is faltering in western capitals, partly because citizens cannot see how it furthers homeland security. The frequency and scale of attacks on India mean that Indians have no such trouble. National caveats on force employment – particularly from France, Italy, and Germany – hinder the efficacy of Nato troops, but Indian casualty sensitivity is almost certainly less than that in, say, Britain.

India’s longstanding cultural ties to Afghanistan – Bollywood movies are wildly popular there, for instance – mean that Indian soldiers would be less likely to be stigmatised as occupiers, with 73% of Afghans professing a favourable view of India (and 91% holding the opposite view of Pakistan).

India is also experienced at counterinsurgency, enjoys good relations with regional powers such as Iran and Russia (including bases in Tajikistan), and the large reserves of available forces. India has nearly 9,000 troops with the UN, and just withdrew 30,000 from Jammu and Kashmir.

The obstacle to India’s involvement is Pakistan. Yet few stop to evaluate the absurdity of having “today’s most active sponsor of terrorism” as a frontline ally against terrorists. In December 2009, the New York Times reported Pakistan’s refusal to crack down on Siraj Haqqani, the strongest Taliban commander in Afghanistan, on the basis that he was a “longtime asset of Pakistan’s spy agency”.

The truth downplayed in western capitals is that India is one of the only interested parties, the US included, that has an interest in both state-building and counterterrorism on the Afghan side of the Durand line. Creating incentives for it to expand its provision of security could lay the groundwork for a commitment that will last long after the last western soldier is flown – or desperately airlifted – out of Kabul.

Afghan soldier kills US service member at army base

Afghan soldier kills US service member at army base

* 2009 proves to be bloodiest year for international troops

HERAT: An Afghan soldier killed a US service member and wounded two Italian soldiers when he opened fire on foreign troops at an army base in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, said a senior Afghan army officer.

The shooting is the latest in a string of such incidents, at a time when Western countries are pouring resources into training Afghan soldiers and police to fight the Taliban insurgency. “The soldier opened fire on the two Italians and one American in a joint Afghan and foreign base,” a senior officer, General Khair Mohammad Khawari told Reuters.

“Two Italian soldiers were wounded and one American soldier was killed,” Khawari said. “The assailant comes from an area north of the Afghan capital Kabul and is thought to have mental health problems”, said Khawari.

A spokesman for NATO-led forces said a US service member had died following a shooting incident in western Afghanistan. Foreign and Afghan forces were investigating the incident, he said, but declined to give further details. Italian Defence Ministry officials said the attack, which was deliberate and not a case of friendly fire, occurred during a routine supply operation.

One Italian was lightly wounded in the thigh and the other in the hand and leg but both have returned to their duties. Violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest levels in the eight-year war and 2009 has been the bloodiest year for foreign troops. More than twice as many Americans have died in Afghanistan this year than in 2008.

Attacks by Afghan soldiers on their foreign mentors highlight the sometimes testy relations between the two and have prompted public debate in the West about the war and concern over the safety of troops embroiled in an increasingly unpopular conflict. Four US troops were killed and three wounded by Afghan soldiers in two other incidents earlier this year, one in the northeast and one just south of Kabul.

Karachi tragedy a planned conspiracy, says Iftikhar

Karachi tragedy a planned conspiracy, says Iftikhar

By Zakir Hassnain

PESHAWAR: NWFP Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain said on Tuesday the Karachi tragedy on Youm-e-Ashur was a well-planned conspiracy to create chaos, lawlessness and confusion in the city.

Iftikhar, also the spokesman for the provincial government, said it was not the mourners that burnt buildings, a huge number of shops, banks and vehicles, adding it was in fact the anti-state elements that burnt and devastated property which showed it was a well-planned conspiracy to disrupt peace and create lawlessness and confusion.

Addressing a press conference, the spokesman condemned on behalf of the government and the people of the Frontier province the Karachi bomb blast claiming innocent lives and causing colossal damage to the property.

The minister expressed grief and sorrow over the tragic incident and sympathised with the bereaved families. Mian Iftikhar lauded the role of ulema that condemned the Karachi incident. The spokesman said the provincial government was determined to put an end to existence of terrorists and militants.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claim Karachi bombing

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan claim Karachi bombing

Vehicles are on fire after a bombing struck a Shia procession in Karachi, December 28, 2009. — AP Photo

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 43 people in Karachi, and threatened more attacks.

“My group claims responsibility for the Karachi attack and we will carry out more such attacks, within 10 days,” Asmatullah Shaheen, one of the commanders of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, who spoke by telephone to a Reuters reporter in Peshawar.

The prospect of more violence comes at a tough time for embattled President Asif Ali Zardari. He already faces political pressure because corruption charges against some of his aides may be revived.

And Zardari has yet to formulate a more effective strategy against the Pakistani Taliban, despite relentless pressure from Washington, which wants his government to root out militants who cross over to attack US and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan and then return to their Pakistan strongholds.

The scale of his challenges was clear on Monday, when a suicide bomber defied heavy security around a Shia procession, killing 43 people and triggering riots.

In a sign of mounting frustrations, Pakistani religious and political leaders called for a strike for Friday to condemn that attack, one of the worst in Karachi since 2007.

The bloodshed illustrated how the Taliban, whose strongholds are in the lawless northwest, have extended their reach to major cities in their drive to topple the government.

“The bombing itself was bad enough, but the violence that immediately erupted was also very well planned,” said Sunni scholar Mufti Muneebur Rehman, who blamed Pakistani authorities for the chaos.

“We want the government not only to compensate those killed in the attacks, but also those who lost their livelihoods, and so we are calling for a complete strike on Friday,” he said.

The Taliban campaign and their hardline brand of Islam — which involves public hangings and whippings of anyone who disobeys them — angered many Pakistanis.
But the Karachi bomb suggested growing violence has raised suspicions of Pakistan’s government.

“The government is using the Taliban as an excuse for everything that is happening anywhere in the country,” said Noman Ahmed, who works for a Karachi clearing agency.

“The organised way that all this is being done clearly shows that the terrorists are being sponsored either by the government itself or some other state that wants to destabilise Pakistan.”

Security policy

Pakistan’s all-powerful military sets security policy. So the key gauge of public confidence may be how the army’s performance is viewed. In the 1980s, Pakistan’s army nurtured militant groups who fought Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan. The Taliban emerged in the 1990’s after a civil war in Afghanistan.

Now Pakistan’s army faces home-grown militants.

“I don’t buy that foreign hands are involved (in the Karachi attack). They’re domestic elements. They’re those who were nurtured, trained and protected in late 1990s,” said Sajid Ali Naqvi, head of the influential Shias’ Islami Tehrik movement.

The bombing was one of the bloodiest in Karachi since an October 2007 attack on former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on her return to the country that killed at least 139 people.

Shia leaders, as well as Karachi’s dominant Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party, backed the strike call, which could bring the teeming city of 18 million to a standstill.

The high-profile bloodshed had all the hallmarks of the Taliban, who often bomb crowded areas to inflict maximum casualties. The blast led some Pakistanis to conclude that several hands must have been involved.

“The Taliban, or whoever is behind this, cannot do it without the support of a government,” said Shahid Mahmood, whose perfume and watch shops were torched in the riots.

“They know that Karachi is the heart of Pakistan and if it goes down, the country will go down.”

Obama’s War, From Pakistan to Somalia

Terror havens in four states: US

“We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland.” – Photo by AP.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has identified Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as the four places where terrorists were hatching plans to attack the United States.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, Mr Obama also vowed to track down the plotters behind the attempted Christmas Day aeroplane bombing attack.

He said the attack was a serious reminder of the danger his nation faced.

Mr Obama said he also had ordered a thorough review of the airport screening process to determine how the alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was able to fly into the United States.

Commenting on an attempt to bomb a US airliner while it was landing in Detroit, the president said he had directed his national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack his country. “We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defences,” he said.

“We will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the US homeland.”

Mr Obama noted that apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in the US security system, but not on a watch list, such as the so-called no-fly list.

“So I have ordered a thorough review, not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened,” he said.

The second review would examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel, he added. “We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.”

Evidence Suggests Phosphorus Used In Karachi Arson Attacks

Chemical used in ‘well-planned’ arson attacks

By Imran Ayub
A bulldozer work at a market which was burned by angry mob in Karachi. — Photo by AP
A bulldozer work at a market which was burned by angry mob in Karachi. — Photo by AP

KARACHI: As firefighters succeeded in dousing the flames engulfing more than 2,000 shops on M.A. Jinnah Road following over 20 hours of effort on Tuesday, they found ‘obvious’ signs of chemicals used in the arson, lending credence to the suspicions of traders and investigators who see the arson as a premeditated and well-planned strike after a deadly attack on the Muharram procession that killed about 43 people on Monday.

Though the traders of more than a dozen wholesale markets found themselves clueless to the reason behind the violent reaction of the bomb attack, investigators, perhaps for the first time in the violent history of Karachi, enjoy immense technological edge provided by the city government’s command and control system.

“Our system has recorded each and every movement,” claimed City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal. “We offered the facility to the police for the procession’s surveillance despite the fact that it’s not our responsibility to make security arrangements. But we will do the same if they need help in investigations.”

The city nazim, who monitored the firefighting operation in the nearly 18 different wholesale markets housed in various buildings on M.A. Jinnah Road, said the firemen performed 36-hour duty before and after the tragic events despite the fact that they faced stiff resistance from arsonists who attacked the fire tenders and firefighters.

A few firefighters Dawn spoke to termed the blaze the worst in decades which went wild due to arson coupled with flammable products in different shops and stores.

“There are visible signs of phosphorus used in the fires,” said an official at the city government’s fire department. “Further description of the particular chemical used in the arson can only be established through proper chemical examination, which has not been ordered from any side, including the investigation agencies.”

He said the markets were set on fire one by one in a matter of minutes on M.A. Jinnah Road and the blaze raged from shop to shop and floor to floor.

Though the city police still look for more clues to the number of and links to the suspected suicide bomber, the investigators said they had acquired all the footage recorded by the city government’s surveillance cameras, which could help spot the arsonists.

“We have been analysing and further enhancing the footage to make them more effective,” said Capital City Police Officer Waseem Ahmed. “A sabotage attempt behind the fires can’t be ruled out but there is a question mark over the capability and performance of our fire department.”

He referred to the fact that delays in the arrival of fire tenders to the scene finally forced the police to call a recently-acquired anti-riot vehicle carrying 2,000 gallons of water for firefighting.

Ateeq Meer, the chairman of the Alliance of Market Associations, a common platform for nearly 300 markets and traders’ associations, echoed the same sentiments. But he also blamed the police for not rising to the occasion.

“They left the arsonists free to do what they willed,” he said. “Iqbal Market, Light House market of cloth, Kapra Market with wholesales markets of imported FMCGs (fast moving consumers goods), perfumes, glasses, chemical and medicine have been burnt to ashes. It has already made some 12,500 people unemployed as they were directly associated with the business in these markets, and turned about 2,500 traders into paupers.”

He cited the initial assessment, which estimated that more than Rs30 billion worth of losses were suffered by the traders, but was not ready to believe the government’s announcement for compensation.

“It has been more than two years when the government had come up with the same lollypops following violence in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination,” Mr Meer said. “They would again set up a committee to assess the damages, claims and then recommend just peanuts. That didn’t work in the past, neither it will work in the future.”