Pakistan’s Villification Is Complete–The World Doesn’t Care

Why is the world unmoved by the plight of Pakistan?

Angry flood survivors are turning to a banned Islamist charity, reports Andrew Buncombe from central Punjab

A flood survivor in tears as she talks about her home being washed away by heavy flooding

A flood survivor in tears as she talks about her home being washed away by heavy flooding

Surrounded by brown, fast-shifting water on all sides, the 40 or so families in the village-turned-island had received no food, no medicine and no news as to when they might be rescued.

“We’re dying of hunger,” shrieked the woman, Sughra Bibi, as volunteers on the boat handed over plastic bags of lentils and cartons of milk to the villagers who gathered around her. One of them shouted out: “We don’t care if it’s the chief minister or the prime minister, but no one is sending anything to us. We are only waiting for God’s help.”

Across a huge swathe of central Punjab, Pakistan’s famously fertile agricultural belt, now besieged by unprecedented floods, such scenes are being played out a thousand times or more. While countless numbers have by now been rescued from the waters, hundreds remain cut off from dry land.

Both the rescued and the stranded are hot and angry, tired and bewildered, having seen their livelihoods destroyed and struggling now with just the barest of assistance from the authorities. Even if they had heard the news, few would have been moved by President’s Asif Ali Zardari’s belated return to the country and his appearance at a photo opportunity yesterday in the south, where he handed out supplies.

Here, amid the small villages west of the city of Multan, home of the country’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Gilani, everyone tells the same story as to what happened four days ago: the waters came silently during the night, like a thief slipping into the village. Those who heeded warnings of the anticipated surge had gathered together what they could, and moved themselves to higher ground. Others awoke to find themselves scrambling for their lives amid a landscape of shimmering water where once there had been fields. All they could do was wait for the rescue boats.

The boat which The Independent accompanied flew the black and white banner of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the supposedly banned Islamic charity, accused by the UN Security Council of being a front for militants who allegedly planned and carried out the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.

In this natural disaster, as in several before, the Lahore-based group has played a central role delivering aid, rescuing people and providing emergency medical help. With the army and civilian rescue teams utterly overstretched by the scale of the disaster – now estimated to affect a quarter of the country – the charity’s efforts have been embraced by the public. When they deliver food or rescue somebody, they ensure that people know who is providing this help.

“We are taking out food to people who are stranded,” said Navid Umar, a friendly but serious young man from Lahore, who was the group’s leader. “We’re doing 25 trips a day.”

The journey to reach the stranded villagers cut through an unlikely landscape of flooded buildings and verdant date palms, half-submerged by the water, past houses on scraps of land where people lay on charpoy beds and waited for the water to recede.

Elsewhere, small groups struggled through the floods to try and reach help, belongings balanced on their heads, feeling their feet uncertainly in the current. At one point, a man guided his wife, who was covered in a bright white burqa, through a long stretch of water that came up to their waists. Children, oblivious to the nature of the crisis, splashed and played.

It was blisteringly hot, even by the furnace-like standards of a south Asian summer, and on one journey a young woman lifted into the boat to be transported to the “mainland” fainted from the heat. It was suggested that her family try and cool her down by fanning her, but the only thing to use was a slightly sodden Jamaat-ud-Dawa pamphlet, proclaiming the charity’s good deeds. The family gladly took it and started to waft it back and forth in front of her face as she lay quietly, her head tilted back.

Aside from the heat, the rescue mission was made more difficult, said Mr Umar, by the likelihood of snakes in the water and the amount of weeds and debris that kept becoming entangled around the propeller shaft of the boat’s outboard motor. He said that several times the boat had become grounded and that on one occasion they found themselves stuck on the roof of a flooded house.

In addition, yesterday was also the first day of Ramadan, the month-long fast during which Muslims are not permitted to eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. Islamic teaching makes exceptions for the ill, or else those involved in such emergencies, but the volunteers on the boat said they were observing the fast. Indeed, even though he was delivering food to those in need, Mr Umar appeared a little unsure whether they should actually be taking it.

“Are you fasting,” he asked a little sternly of one man who was standing in dirty brown water up to chest. The man, seemingly bewildered, replied: “No, not in these conditions.”

Mr Umar was not convinced and demanded to know why. The man sheepishly smiled and headed off with his bag of lentils.

Indeed, Mr Umar appeared to relish the challenge that confronted him and felt no need in any way to dilute his religious obligations. He said that on occasions he and his team had been unable to fulfil all of the five daily prayers according to schedule – catching up the missed one later, as is permitted – but often they would steer their boat towards a piece of land, get out and pray. Asked why a merciful God would permit such deadly, devastating floods, he replied without hesitation: “It is a test for the pious. For those who are not pious, it is a punishment.”

While the men from Jamaat were at the forefront of the rescue efforts, they were not the only ones helping the needy of central Punjab. Civilian rescue teams were in attendance, as were the army and, rather incongruously, a group of adult, uniformed Scouts, complete with scarves and woggles.

While followers of Lord Baden-Powell may have had the best uniforms, it was the army that had the best equipment, and a large green truck of the 9th Balouch Regiment thundered through the flood waters, carrying people and sacks of food that had been donated by the local Lions Club.

“The water on this side is going down but on the other side it may be rising,” said Mohammed Arshad, a 25-year army veteran, who was also not eating or drinking. “Just two days ago the water was up to the windscreen.”

Yet while the water may be slowly receding, at least here, the anger and frustration of people is not. Tens of thousands of people, who had little before the floods arrived, have been evacuated, dropped off at emergency camps in Multan and nearby Muzaffargarh, or, more likely, forced to find shelter on the side of the road leading away from the floods where countless families are camped out. Elsewhere across Pakistan, more rain is predicted and several cities in the southern province of Sindh still risk having their flood defences breached.

About five miles from the floodwater’s edge, a group of 38 families from Baseera, all of them kiln-workers, had taken over a sandy hillock. There was no water, no shade, and unlike other families who had managed to save their livestock – buffalo, camels and cattle – this community had just two tethered goats. Each family was occupying a tiny makeshift home constructed from two rope beds and a mat. “All we are left with is what you can see,” said Mehboob Ahmed, one of the villagers.

Everyone agreed that they would return as soon as they could, as soon as the water that had taken their homes had gone. They also agreed that these terrible floods were like nothing anyone had ever witnessed before.

Except, perhaps, for Mallick Yaru. Across the string of besieged communities, people spoke of the elderly man who had witnessed the floods of 1929, which also devastated this area and other parts of the country. He was 85, 90 perhaps even 100 years old, they said, and he lived in a village called Chowkgodar, eight miles away, where he had built a mosque on land that he owned.

At the mosque, Mr Yaru was indeed to be found, a wispy, white-haired old man who said he was 85 and resting on a charpoy. Yes, he said, he remembered the floods of 1929. There were fewer people here back then, but the waters had torn through the villages. He was only a boy of four or five at the time, but he insisted that he remembered the floods very clearly. “Those floods that came in 1929 were nothing like this,” he declared. “These are very much worse.”


Flooding Pakistan Back Into the Stone Age–Next the Peasant Rebellion

Pakistan flood response prompts rising anti-government resentment

Under fire president Asif Ali Zardari tries to ease public anger amid fears he could be overthrown

Women receive food in Muzaffargarh, Pakistan Flood-hit women stretch their shawls to receive food from Pakistani troops in Muzaffargarh, near Multan. Photograph: K.M. Chaudary/APPakistan‘s government faces the threat of social unrest or even military takeover after its shambolic response to the floods that have devastated the country, leaving 1,600 people dead and 2 million homeless, say analysts.

Fears that Asif Ali Zardari, the president, could be overthrown – possibly through an intervention by the army – have grown as the government’s failure to adequately tackle the crisis has fuelled long-held grievances.

“The powers that be, that is the military and bureaucratic establishment, are mulling the formation of a national government, with or without the PPP [the ruling Pakistan People’s party],” said Najam Sethi, editor of the weekly Friday Times. “I know this is definitely being discussed. There is a perception in the army that you need good governance to get out of the economic crisis and there is no good governance.”

Rescuers are struggling to help the 14 million people affected across the country, with fresh flood warnings today forcing even more to flee the city of Jacobabad. But the impact of the disaster will be felt throughout Pakistan’s 170m population.

The agricultural heartland has been wiped out, which will cause spiralling food prices and shortages. Many roads and irrigation canals have been destroyed, along with electricity supply infrastructure.

“The immediate risk is one of food riots,” said Marie Lall, an Asia expert at Chatham House. “There is already great resentment in Swat and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where people had to be cleared during the government offensive. Now there is the threat of social unrest as various factions, families and ethnic groups compete with each other in the event of a breakdown in government.”

The World Bank estimates that crops worth $1bn (£640m) have been ruined and the Pakistani finance secretary warned today that the disaster would cut the country’s growth in half.

The government may have to spend $1.7bn on reconstruction, and has said it will have to divert expenditure from badly needed development programmes.

With the economy currently surviving on an IMF bailout, experts predict that another may be necessary. Experts believe that the floods could now knock 2 percentage points off projected economic growth for this year.

US and European diplomats are gravely concerned about the situation, as Pakistan is crucial in the fight against al-Qaida and the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Cathy Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said the west could not afford to abandon the country: “Pakistan is faced with so many issues, not just floods, terror, development, India. It’s in the EU’s interest to have a stable and prosperous Pakistan.”

Zardari, who left the country after the floods began and continued on his trip to France and Britain even when the scale of the disaster became apparent, is the focus of much of the anger. Despite the outcry, he is to go ahead with a visit to a regional summit in Russia next week. A spokesman said the president had cut the planned two-day trip to “a couple of hours”. Only the courts could legally dismiss him but, as his PPP is a minority government reliant on coalition partners, behind-the-scenes military pressure on those partners could bring it down, while keeping parliament in place, said Sethi.

With the government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, Islamic groups, including extremist organisations such as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, have stepped into the gap. The military has also distributed aid in areas where locals complain that government help is almost entirely absent.

“If the military takes over now, I can assure you that it will be the end of Pakistan, an end which will be punctuated by a very bloody civil war,” said Asad Sayeed, an analyst based in Karachi. “Pakistan is a very divided country right now.”

Pakistan has lurched from crisis to crisis in its 63-year history. The break-up of the country in 1971 can be linked to another natural disaster, when authorities responded slowly to a devastating cyclone. A secessionist movement in East Pakistan capitalised on public anger to successfully fight for independence as Bangladesh.

In the flood-hit areas, people are bewildered by the government’s response, with accusations and conspiracy theories abounding. At the side of the Indus river in Sukkur town, Sindh province, shopowner Ali Sher gave a scathing reaction to promises of aid.

“They [the government] want to drown Sukkur,” he said. “They want to show some bodies, so they can ask for more aid from other countries. They are after dollars.”

One Hundred Fears of Solitude by Hal Crowther: extract

[It is articles like this one that confirm our suspicions that the only thing that will save our humanity is an extended Great Depression, in order to unplug us all.  Video game addictions are more powerful than heroin addiction.]

One Hundred Fears of Solitude by Hal Crowther: extract

American children are even more plugged in to new technology than ours – and are paying the price as electronic gadgets prove more addictive than heroin, says Hal Crowther. Will this digital obsession destroy the creativity of future generations?

By Hal Crowther

Robbie Cooper, Immersion 1, 2010 Photo: Andrei Maynard, Bradley Bryant & Thomas Mcguire playing Call of Duty 4, 2008, Robbie Cooper, courtesy of National Media Museum, Bradford

The other day, I found myself reading the back-to-school edition of The New York Times’ Circuits section with my usual stunned incomprehension and a heightened sense of alarm. The electronic gadgets that have become standard equipment for a 21st-century undergraduate bear generic names, brand names, acronyms, model and serial numbers (DVP-CX995? PIXMA MP760?) that no doubt mean something to many, but nothing whatsoever to me. A Times reporter interviewed a Duke University undergraduate named Eddy Leal, who confessed to owning three laptops with multifarious accessories (“It’s like another world in my dorm room”) as well as, of course, a cellphone and a 500-song iPod which are, he says, “with me no matter where I am – I wouldn’t mind if I could have them implanted in my body”.

“I know, it’s kind of crazy,” said Leal of his three-computer installation, guessing that he was eccentrically overwired – but guessing wrong. Other students in this same article boasted even more bewildering batteries of personal hardware, far beyond my vocabulary to describe. Returning college students in the United States now spend more than $8 billion to rewire themselves, two thirds of what they’ll spend on textbooks, and of course each year the gap decreases.

The long-term implications of mechanised education are overwhelming, but first let’s deal with the subject of silence. I’m not ancient, yet my college education 40-plus years ago was pretechnological, by current lights antediluvian. Though telephones and television had been invented, none of us, not even the most affluent, had installed them in our rooms, far less on our bodies. My fraternity house contained one of each, a battered basement television set with a small clientele and a payphone next to which we waited for hours, playing cards and drinking beer and coffee, for our turns to call home or plead our cases with girls.

Cellphones and email had not yet made their appearance in science fiction. Ninety-eight per cent of communication was verbal and face-to-face. If you had an urgent message for someone, you stuffed a note in his box at the student union or trudged half a mile across an icebound campus and hoped you’d find him in. Only juniors and seniors were allowed to drive cars.

Winter or summer, that was a lonely walk, silent, a time to think without threat of interruption. Blessedly disconnected. “Alone with his thoughts”, now a literary anachronism, was a commonplace reality. Without that freedom to disconnect, then and now, I for one would have gone mad. And at this point most readers under 45 may disconnect. How could Eddy Leal understand that if a cellphone and an iPod were implanted in my body, I’d pay virtually any price to have them removed?

Computers and allied technologies have created the most intimidating generation gap in human history, one so wide and so rapidly created that I stand staring across the chasm like an aborigine watching Krakatoa split the sky.

Not long ago, it was generally accepted that humanity’s most creative achievements, from art and poetry to major scientific discoveries, were the precious fruits of solitude. But in a single heartbeat on history’s timeline, this sacred, fecund privacy has become the unpardonable social sin for the generation on which future creativity depends. I’ve tried to explain to young people that unspoilt privacy is the most important thing a person like me could ever ask from his life. Just so they know where I stand. Urgent warnings that technology is recklessly exposing our darkest secrets to every eager peeping Tom – official, corporate or criminal – fall on deaf (or at least numb and overtaxed) ears. The traditional concept of privacy, which anchors America’s Bill of Rights, is a tough sell to technophiliacs who spend half their waking hours on sites such as MySpace and YouTube, recklessly exposing themselves.

A recent US study (published in January 2010) found that eight to 18 year-olds log an average daily exposure of just under 11 hours of electronic media. An increase of two hours daily since 2004, it includes computers and social networks, cellphones, instant messaging, television, video games and iPods. Media consume nearly all their waking hours when they’re not in school. Privacy has deep, deep roots in Western civilisation, yet a few mediocre gadgets uprooted it in less than a decade. Who knew the young were so lonely, so susceptible, so desperate for connection? Who’s to blame for their loneliness, for their seduction and metamorphosis into electro-cyborgs who bear only a physical resemblance to their parents? What sort of lives were they leading before they were wired? It’s as if prisoners buried in the dungeons of the Chateau d’If, with no previous communication except tapping on the stone walls of their separate cells, were suddenly issued mobile phones with email. What else but a compulsive frenzy of messaging, no content required?

Digital products seemed harmless enough in the beginning, meeting obvious demands for faster, more efficient commercial communication. Business will have its way. But the personal computer and all its derivative technology were not so obvious, not to most of us now left behind. We were sure it was boring – to liberal arts majors of my vintage, most tools more complex than a hammer are invisible. We never dreamed it was more addictive than heroin. “I lost my cellphone once,” a 25-year- old woman with a master’s degree told a reporter. “I felt like my world had just ended. I had a breakdown on campus.”

Some of the wizards who fathered the digital revolution have had misgivings. The late Joseph Weizenbaum, an MIT mathematician and computer scientist who authored one of the first conversational computer programs, became a profound sceptic about technology’s influence on the human condition. Weizenbaum, who was a child in Nazi Germany, believed that obsessive reliance on technology was a moral failure in society and an invitation to fascism.

Weizenbaum’s scepticism was shared by American computer pioneer and mogul Max Palevsky, who died recently at 85. Palevsky, founder of the computer-chip giant Intel, told an interviewer in 2008, “I don’t own a computer. I don’t own a cellphone, I don’t own any electronics. I do own a radio.” Given decades to reflect on what they wrought, it’s eerie that many of the scientists who created our electronic cocoon sound like the scientists who worked on the atom bomb at Los Alamos.

The wailing of the wire-wary only aggravates the captive multitudes and widens the dreadful gap. But we can’t just fold our tents and quit the field, because we, the pre-wired generations, bear most of the blame. We betrayed them. We turned them over to habit-forming, mind-altering, behaviour-warping gizmos when they were helpless children. There was almost no resistance. Politicians, colleges, school boards, doomed publishers, libraries and media all welcomed these technologies uncritically, enthusiastically, like Stone Age savages fainting with wonder over a transistor radio. Americans have always been suckers for technology – our love affairs with automobiles, television and nuclear power haven’t turned out well either. But this was the most pitiful submission, and may prove the most fateful.

No one denies the impact of these new devices, or their usefulness. Who at my age, watching precious time fly, wouldn’t bless email for the pointless, time-consuming conversations it replaces? Who denies that Barack Obama’s epic rout of the Republicans would have been impossible without his mastery of internet communication? But with truly revolutionary technology no one stops to factor in the human cost.

Chronic, epidemic obesity among American children, along with unprecedented levels of juvenile diabetes and heart disease, coincides exactly with the advent of “personal technology”. An alarming study that followed 4,000 subjects for three decades indicates that 90 per cent of American men and 70 per cent of American women will eventually be fat.

Worse news is that the American mind is emulating its body – it’s turning to suet. A few years ago the educational benefits of the new technology were hyped hysterically, with futurists and investors predicting an intellectual renaissance anchored by computers.

The reality seems to be just the opposite. Though the educational potential of the internet is limitless, it’s becoming apparent that students use technology less to learn than to distract themselves from learning, and to take advantage of toxic short cuts such as research paper databases and essay-writing websites. Entrance exams administered by ACT Inc establish that half the students now entering college in the US lack the basic reading and comprehension skills to succeed in literature, history or sociology courses. Reading and writing skills among eighth graders decline each year, as internet penetration rises. Only three per cent now read at the level scored “advanced” and the state of Maine recently scrapped its eighth grade writing test because 78 per cent of the participants failed. Half the teenagers tested by the advocacy group Common Core could not place the Civil War in the second half of the 19th century, a quarter drew a blank on Adolf Hitler, a fifth failed to identify America’s enemies in the Second World War. A third of America’s high school students drop out – one every 26 seconds – and two thirds prove incapable of higher education.

Doubts are spreading, though perhaps too late. In the spring of 2007, Liverpool High School in upstate New York made national news when it abandoned its laptop programme as a failed experiment and went back to books. “After seven years there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement – none,” said Mark Lawson, president of the Liverpool school board. While their test scores stagnated, Liverpool students used their laptops to cheat on exams, message friends, hack into local businesses, update Facebook profiles and download pornography.

“The teachers were telling us that when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the machine gets in the way,” Lawson concluded. “It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

There’s so much more to dislike about our cocoon woven of wires, our house built of chips. Thieves, grifters and predators of every description have flourished in the cyber-forest; the signature crime of the 21st century is identity theft. The internet is the greatest gift to the paedophile community since the Vatican stood its ground on celibate priests.

But if you think these are all quibbles compared with the joy and comfort your hardware provides, try out your polished indifference on the prospect of environmental apocalypse. “E-waste”, as it’s now called, is the sobering dark side to even the rosiest view of an all-wired future. In the US in 2005, more than 1.5 million tons of discarded electronic devices ended up in landfills, where hi-tech’s toxic metals, including lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, find their way into the soil, the water tables and the air.

In China, which produces a million tons of e-waste annually and imports, for profit, 70 per cent of the world’s lethal garbage (estimated at as much as 50 million tons), whistle-blowers are already blaming high rates of birth defects, infant mortality and blood diseases on e-waste. With their reliance on instant obsolescence and limited commitment to recycling, hardware manufacturers create an unmanageable flow of poisonous trash that the planet can’t possibly tolerate: Americans alone discard 100 million computers, cellphones and related devices every year, at a rate of 136,000 per day. Half a billion of the US’s old cellphones sit in drawers, dead but not buried. There is no place and no plan for all this stuff. Our world has been wired by wildly inefficient technology – it takes roughly 1.8 tons of raw materials (fossil fuels, water, metal ores) to manufacture one PC and its monitor, and mining the gold needed for the circuit board of a single cellphone generates 220lb of waste. These industries are self‑evidently unsustainable. They are not environmentally sane.

The case against technology is not a difficult one to make, not even for someone from a generation like mine, which chose to fry millions of healthy neurons with LSD, psilocybin, cannabis and cocaine. The walking wounded from that excess are still around, but most of us kicked our habits and descended safely from those treacherous highs.

High tech is a habit too new to boast any record of survivors, recovering addicts, successful rehabs. So far, no one’s coming back. In the words of recovery programmes, users have yet to acknowledge that they have a problem. Or that there is a problem. Staring for hours at glowing squares, gossiping with needy strangers, poking away at little keyboards, playing half-assed violent games – does this strike anyone as an interesting and honourable life, or even a preparation for one? And the answer, more often than not, would come back, “Sure, what’s your problem?”

With that last outburst, I probably sacrifice half the readers I have left. But if you’re offended or threatened, console yourself with the impotence and rapid extinction of my kind. We pose no threat to your habit.

Technology’s sceptics are ageing and thinning out. Soon, by conversion or attrition, they will vanish. Soon, when everyone is born wired into the hive, no more of them will appear. All the more reason to have our say, leave our protests on the record, exit cursing and fighting.

‘Immersion’, the photographic series here is by Robbie Cooper. See a slideshow of the images


American/Saudi/Israeli Militant Leader Eliminated In Lebanon

Fatah al-Islam Key Leader Abdul Rahman Awadh Killed in Chtaura Army Intelligence Ambush

Lebanese troops on Saturday killed two Islamic militants including a head of the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam which fought the army three years ago, a military spokesman said.

“Abdul Rahman Awadh, one of the key leaders of Fatah al-Islam,” was killed along with another militant known as Abu Bakr during clashes in the eastern Bekaa Valley region, the spokesman told Agence France Presse.

A judicial source said Abu Bakr was Awadh’s key deputy who provided military training to members of the shadowy group said to be inspired by al-Qaida.

In 2007, Fatah al-Islam fought a fierce battle against the Lebanese army at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon that lasted more than three months and cost 400 lives, with 168 soldiers among the dead.

Judicial authorities accuse Awadh of having “incited” militants to carry out attacks two years ago in the port city of Tripoli, near the Palestinian camp, that killed 21 people, including 13 soldiers.

Those found guilty of incitement to carry out deadly attacks can face the death penalty under Lebanese law.

Awadh, one of the most wanted Islamists in Lebanon, opened fire at troops along with his comrade and the soldiers responded killing the pair, the spokesman said.

The clash broke out in the Bekaa Valley town of Chtaura and both men were travelling on false identities, the army said.

Earlier, the spokesman said the army had been pursuing the pair since they emerged from another Palestinian refugee camp, Ain al-Hilweh in south Lebanon, but he did not give a timing.

Several extremist groups are suspected of having taken refuge in the north and east of the country, and in the 12 Palestinian camps scattered across Lebanon of which Ain el-Hilweh is the largest.

Awadh had been sheltering in Ain el-Hilweh for more than a year, according to the army, and is considered by some as the head of Fatah al-Islam.

Authorities also charge that the wanted Islamist was monitoring the movements of Lebanese army troops as well as of U.N. peacekeepers stationed in south Lebanon.

In August 2007, the U.S. State Department designated Fatah al-Islam, which denies formal links with al-Qaida, as a “terrorist” group.

Shaker al-Abssi, the head of Fatah al-Islam at the time of the Nahr al-Bared showdown won by the army, also figures among the top wanted Islamists but appears to have since fled the country.

Earlier Saturday, an Army Command-Orientation Directorate statement said: “After surveillance and inquiries, an Army Intelligence Directorate patrol managed to identify the location of two terrorists and to track them down, and when the patrol tried to arrest them in Chtaura’s square this morning, they opened fire on the patrol’s members who responded by shooting back, leaving the two terrorists dead.”

“Their bodies were moved to one of the region’s hospitals and the weapons and fake ID cards in their possession were confiscated, as investigations got underway,” the statement added.

Future News TV reported that two Palestinians wanted on terrorism and forgery charges were killed during a chase with security forces in the Bekaa town of Chtaura.

A third suspect managed to flee the scene, Future News added.(Naharnet-AFP)

The American Jihad Network–Drawing Fighters From All Over the World

[The American militant/weapons pipeline flows just as smoothly today as it did thirty years ago.  Reagan’s “Jihad” is coming back to bite Obama on the ass.]

Foreign militants boost insurgency in eastern Afghanistan

JALALABAD, Pakistan – The Associated Press
A Black Hawk helicopter machine gun operator waits as wounded NATO soldiers are placed in the aircraft to be evacuated in Kandahar province's Arghandab Valley on Friday. AFP photo
A Black Hawk helicopter machine gun operator waits as wounded NATO soldiers are placed in the aircraft to be evacuated in Kandahar province’s Arghandab Valley on Friday. AFP photo

As the spotlight of the Afghan war focuses on the south, insurgent activity is increasing in parts of the east, with Arab and other foreign fighters linked to al-Qaeda infiltrating across the rugged mountains with the help of Pakistani militants, Afghan and U.S. officials say.

Security in eastern Afghanistan is critical because the region includes the capital, Kabul, which the insurgents have sought to surround and isolate from the rest of the country. The east also borders Pakistan, where al-Qaeda’s leaders fled after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power.

Gen. Mohammed Zaman Mahmoodzai, head of Afghanistan’s border security force, told the Associated Press that infiltration by al-Qaeda-linked militants has been increasing in his area since March.

“One out of three are Arabs,” he said, coming mostly from Pakistan’s Bajaur and Mohmand tribal areas where the Pakistan military is battling Pakistani Taliban insurgents.

The advent of spring makes it easier to move through mountain passes into Afghanistan, though Mahmoodzai believes the influx of Arabs has been greater than can be explained by seasonal trends.

A NATO official said he thought Mahmooodzai’s estimate of Arab infiltration was high but acknowledged that activity by foreign fighters was running “a little more than average” in the east. He said most of them were believed to be Pakistanis, Chechens and Tajiks although it was difficult to determine their origins.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because the information is sensitive.

Militants from Pakistan

In some cases, militants enter the country through legal crossing points such as Torkham, 56 kilometers east of Jalalabad. Mahmoodzai said the infiltrators carry fake passports and visas provided by Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group that India blames for the 2008 attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that left 166 people dead.

“We know it is Lashkar-e-Taiba because we have sources inside the Afghan Taliban,” Mahmoodzai said. “They said the Arabs are coming here through Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

The mixture of insurgent groups adds to the complexity of the war in the east, often fought in terrain much more rugged and challenging than in the north or south.

In eastern Afghanistan last year, the U.S. Army pulled out of two outposts in the mountains of Nuristan province after insurgents nearly overran the bases in two battles that claimed a total of 17 American lives. Insurgents operating from bases in the eastern part of Nuristan are believed to have killed the 10 members of a medical team, including six Americans, gunned down last week in a northern province.

Longtime smuggling routes through the east link militant sanctuaries in Pakistan with northern provinces such as Kunduz and Baghlan, where insurgent attacks are increasing. Al-Qaeda’s links to a Taliban faction led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin are believed stronger than with Taliban groups in the south.

The Haqqani group was believed to have played a major role in the Dec. 30 suicide bombing at a CIA base in the eastern province of Khost that killed seven agency employees.

A NATO official said that if al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan, it’s probably in Kunar, the eastern Afghan province along the Pakistani border where Osama bin Laden maintained bases in the 1990s. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information to the media.

Gen. Mohammed Afzal, the Afghan army’s commander in the east, said the insurgents were focusing their eastern operations in the provinces of Kunar and Nuristan – which also borders Pakistan – and the area south of Jalalabad, the region’s main commercial center.

“The enemy changed their tactics this year, and al-Qaeda has started to become even stronger this year,” he said.

He cited greater use of suicide attacks and roadside bombs – many against NATO supply convoys coming in from Pakistan. Such tactics had not been used as frequently in the mountainous east as in the south.

“The government is there by day, but by night it is the Taliban who are in control,” said Malik Naseer, who is running for parliament in next month’s election from a district of Nangarhar. “Residents say there are some foreigners among them.”

The NATO official said the Taliban were accelerating a campaign of intimidation in Nangarhar, including letters left in front of homes warning residents against dealing with foreigners and government officials or listening to music.

The role of Lashkar-e-Taiba is especially disturbing because of the group’s extensive network throughout South Asia and its purported links to Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

The Pakistani agency helped organize Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure, two decades ago to launch attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the disputed mountain region that lies at the heart of the rivalry between the two nuclear-armed nations.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the U.S. military refers to as LeT, is believed to have played a role in the Feb. 26, 2010 car bombing and suicide attack on two guesthouses in Kabul frequented by Indians, and in the October 2008 car bombing at the gates of the Indian Embassy that killed more than 60 people.

Pakistan says it broke ties with the group after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States. Nevertheless, it is widely believed that some factions within Lashkar are still close to the Pakistani military, which has not pursued the organization as vigorously as it has other Islamic militant groups that have staged attacks inside Pakistan.

“I’ve watched them since 2008 … move to the West, become more active in other countries and more active throughout the region and more engaged with other terrorist groups,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told Pakistani reporters in Islamabad last month. “So there is an increased level of concern with respect to where LeT is and where it appears to be headed.”

The NATO official speculated that Lashkar-e-Taiba is using Afghanistan to “get up their jihadi street credentials” among the militants’ support base.

Was Benazir Working for the Americans?

Was Benazir Working for the Americans?

By Dr Sachithanandam Sathananthan,

The author  earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He serves as a Visiting Research Scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University School of International Studies.

Sep 12, 2008
There is great euphoria among Pakistani liberals over the presumed ‘return to democracy’. They are yet to discover Late Neo-colonialism. The manoeuvres against Musharraf bear uncanny resemblances to organised ‘people’s power’ the CIA unleashed during ‘colour revolutions’ and upheavals against Hugo Chavez.

The widely expected victory for PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari in the presidential election brought to a high point the tortuous process of regime change in Pakistan. Anyone who has followed the ‘colour revolutions’ that installed pro-American rulers in Georgia (Rose Revolution, 2003), Ukraine (Orange Revolution, 2004) and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip Revolution, 2005) could surely not have missed the tell tale signs.

The earliest foreboding surfaced in the backroom manoeuvres by United States (US) and British intelligence services to engineer panic about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. It was a repeat of the duplicitous hysteria they generated over non-existent weapons of mass destruction that Iraq allegedly possessed. A carefully worded article, co-authored by former State Department officials Richard L. Armitage and Kara L. Bue, signalled the shift in US policy. After formally acknowledging then President Pervez Musharraf’s many achievements, the authors continued: ‘much remains to be accomplished, particularly in terms of democratization. Pakistan must…eliminate the home-grown jihadists…And…it must prove itself a reliable partner on technology transfer and nuclear non-proliferation.’ And the denouement: ‘We believe General Musharraf…deserves our attention and support, no matter how frustrated we become at the pace of political change and the failure to eliminate Taliban fighters on the Afghan border.’

Translation: Musharraf has to go.

Almost simultaneously a 2006 country survey in The Economist, titled ‘Too much for one man to do’, began on a jingoistic overkill: ‘Think about Pakistan, and you might get terrified. Few countries have so much potential to cause trouble, regionally and worldwide’. The following year a Carnegie Endowment report faulted western governments that ‘contribute to regional instability by allowing Pakistan to trade democratisation for its cooperation on terrorism’. Senior US State Department officials repeatedly accused Musharraf of ‘not doing enough’ to combat Islamists within Pakistan and prevent their infiltration across the Durand Line into southern Afghanistan.

Sensing the way wind was blowing, then Benazir Bhutto redoubled efforts to convince Washington and London that, if she were to become Prime Minister, she would gladly do their bidding. She underscored her enthusiasm to serve and ensured her party was fully responsive to America’s Late Neo-colonialism. She summoned senior party members to Dubai on 9 June 2007 for a ‘briefing’ by a team from the US Democratic Party’s National Democratic Institute (NDI), ostensibly on the subject of elections in Pakistan. The ruling Republican Party’s International Republican Institute (IRI) had conducted the previous four ‘briefings’ in June and September 2006 and March and April 2007. Benazir leaned towards the Democratic Party in the last one no doubt as a hedge against the party’s possible victory at the forthcoming US Presidential Election.

Even a cursory knowledge of US Imperialism’s standard operating procedure is sufficient to surmise at least some among the IRI and NDI officers were covert intelligence operatives; and that their ‘briefings’ went beyond ‘tutelage of natives’. Rather they have been grooming the PPP as America’s satrap.

Benazir’s predilection to collaborate with the West has its roots in the Bhutto family’s micro political culture. Her grandfather, Shah Nawaz Bhutto was a minor comprador official in the British colonial regime. The British rewarded his ‘loyal’ services with the title Khan Bahadur and later appointed him President of a District Board and still later elevated him to knighthood.

Her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s populist programmes did not dilute that legacy, which left a lasting impression on Benazir; she firmly believed the path to political power in Pakistan meanders through the Embassy of the United States, the current neo-colonialist.

She promised to offer the International Atomic Energy Agency access to Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan to ’satisfy the international community’, an euphemism for the major powers; and to allow the US-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to operate inside north-western Pakistan. By the time Benazir visited the Senate in September 2007, she had convinced the Bush Administration of her unswerving loyalty; for ’she received a standing ovation from a select gathering of US lawmakers, diplomats, academics and media representatives. This contrasted sharply with her previous visits to the US capital when she received little attention.’ To deepen ‘Washington’s renewed interest in her, Benazir cautioned that supporting Musharraf was ‘a strategic miscalculation’ and pleaded ‘the US should support the forces of democracy’, which, of course, refers to her PPP.

So, President George W Bush enabled Benazir’s return from exile by arm-twisting Musharraf to promulgate the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The NRO of 5 October granted amnesty to politicians active in Pakistan between 1988 and 1999 and effectively wiped the slate clean of corruption charges for Benazir and her husband Asif Zardari. Three weeks later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made it appear the Bush Administration wished to bring together ‘moderate’ forces, implying a scenario in which Musharraf and Benazir would join forces as President and Prime Minister respectively; and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte corroborated Rice: ‘Our message’, he intoned, ‘is that we want to work with the government and people of Pakistan’.

However, Musharraf saw through the US Administration’s transparent ploy to lull him into believing it would not remove him and install Benazir in his place. So, he swiftly invited Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), back from exile in Saudi Arabia to counter Benazir. But he could not consolidate his position, especially because he mishandled the judiciary, and was compelled to resign on 18 August 2008.

In a nutshell, the reason for ‘Washington’s renewed interest’ in Benazir is Musharraf’s firm opposition to US Late Neo-colonialism, to its manoeuvres to occupy, pacify and ravage Pakistan. In the 19th century British colonialism waged the ‘war on piracy’ on the high seas ostensibly to bring ‘the light of Christian civilization’. But the British were the most successful pirates, as Spanish and Portuguese historians would gladly confirm. The ‘war on piracy’ was the duplicitous justification trotted out to dominate lucrative maritime trade routes that were in the hands of Chinese, Arab and Tamil maritime empires and to invade kingdoms and/or countries essential to control trade and plunder resources. During most of the 20th century heroic anti-colonial movements and anti-imperialist wars rolled back much of colonial rule, which in some instances however morphed into neo-colonialism. Indonesia after Sukarno, Iran after Mosaddeq and Chile after Allende are well known examples.

The ‘war on terror’ and ‘promoting democracy’ are the 21st century equivalents of the 19th century British gobbledygook. American Late Neo-colonialism purveys them as moral justification and uses as political cover for intervening and, where necessary, invading resource-rich and strategic countries to overthrow nationalist leaders, install puppet regimes and savage the countries’ wealth. And of course the US is by far the most powerful terrorist force.

It succeeded in Iraq (for now); but the CIA-organised regime change could not dislodge Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who rejected the neo-colonialist 1989 Washington Consensus and supported alternative nationalist economic models.

Politically challenged Pakistani liberals — a motley crowd that includes members of human rights and civil liberties organisations, journalists, analysts, lawyers and assorted professionals — are utterly incapable of comprehending the geo-strategic context in which Musharraf manoeuvred to defend Pakistan’s interest. So they slandered him an ‘American puppet’, alleging he caved in to US pressure and withdrew support to the Afghan Taliban regime in the wake of 9/11 although in fact he removed one excuse for the Bush Administration to ‘bomb Pakistan into stone age’, as a senior State Department official had threatened.

Nevertheless American discomfort with Musharraf’s government was palpable by late 2003, after he dodged committing Pakistani troops to prop up the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. When he offered to cooperate under the auspices of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), naïve Pakistani media and analysts lunged for his jugular, condemning him once again for succumbing to US demands. But in fact he nimbly sidestepped American demands: he calculated that diverse ideological stances of the 57 Muslim member-counties would not allow the OIC to jointly initiate such controversial action and therefore Pakistan’s participation cannot arise, which proved correct.

Washington of course was not amused and the Bush Administration grew increasingly hostile to Musharraf’s determination to prioritise Pakistan’s interests when steering the ship of the state through the choppy waters of the unfolding New Great Game, in which the West — led by the US — is manoeuvring to contain growing Russian and Chinese influences in Central and West Asia. His foreign policy decisions over time convinced Washington that under his leadership, Pakistan would side with enemies of US and Britain in the New Great Game. First, he refused to isolate Iran; instead he vigorously pursued energy cooperation to build the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in the face of stiff American opposition. Second, Washington was alarmed by Musharraf’s preference for deepening Pakistan-China bilateral relations and forging nuclear cooperation; and more so when he offered Beijing naval facilities at the Gwadar port on Balochistan’s Arabian Sea coast overlooking the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic chokepoint through which passes approximately 30 per cent of world’s energy supplies.

Perhaps the last straw was his success in gaining Observer Status for Pakistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Russia and China are spearheading the SCO, which includes four other countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; Iran and India are also Observers. The SCO is widely perceived as a rising eastern counterweight to western security and economic groupings and Islamabad drifting towards the SCO was simply unacceptable in Washington.

To rub salt into its wounds, Musharraf refused permission to interrogate Dr. AQ Khan and firmly rejected Washington’s demands that NATO troops be allowed into the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his associates.

By early 2006 it was clear Washington was looking for nothing less than a pliable leader in Islamabad, a firm political foothold in Pakistan and a Pakistani foreign policy that complemented US strategic aims in Central Asia.

What perhaps angered Washington the most were actions Musharraf took to wind down the ‘war on terror’ within Pakistan.

Immediately after taking power, he outlawed three Islamic extremist groups and, after 9/11, intensified military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan.

Washington would have gone along with Musharraf had he focussed on military operations to curb Islamists. Military action alone cannot defeat guerrillas; but it can kill many of them and in turn induce new recruits — well known points reiterated by William R Polk in Violent Politics (2007) – so that the so-called ‘war on terror’ would not end any time soon.

That could supplement US Administrations’ assiduous manufacture of the ‘Islamic threat’ through the 1990s to launch an endless ‘war on terror’ — the New Cold War — to rescue America’s permanent war economy. For after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US economy (and by extension west European economies) faced perhaps its biggest crisis: the ‘Communist threat’ ceased to be credible; it could not be exploited to terrify the American people into acquiescing to rising military expenditure that keeps wheels of the permanent war economy rolling and to expanding the repressive security apparatuses.

So the Bush Administration deftly replaced the ‘Communist threat’ with the ‘Islamic threat’, no doubt following Machiavelli’s famous advice in The Prince, that a wise ruler invents enemies and then slays them in order to control his own subjects. The apparently counterproductive bombings, arrests, torture, kidnappings and disappearances (sanitised as Extraordinary Rendition) carried out by US forces while the CIA covertly funded, armed and supported Islamists are intended not to eliminate the ‘Islamic threat’ but to contain it within manageable limits and to spawn the next generation of ‘terrorists’.

Sometimes, plans go awry; ‘culling’ may not contain the resistance, as seen in Afghanistan from time to time. Nevertheless, the strategy is to ‘feed terrorism’ and simultaneously ‘cull terrorists’ so that the perpetual New Cold War oils America’s moribund permanent war economy.

Musharraf, however, did not play ball. He complemented military force to defeat Islamists with political initiatives.

He signed a peace treaty with tribal elders in North Waziristan (within FATA) to marginalise the Islamists. To combat the Islamists’ religious ideology, he promoted ‘enlightened moderation’, a veiled reference to secularism and tolerance. Musharraf’s vision of a secular Pakistan has its roots in exposure to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s legacy when he attended school in Ankara during his father’s diplomatic posting to Turkey. In fact, after taking power in Pakistan he often held up Ataturk as his role model. He planned to ‘wean away’ the people from the ‘extremists’ through education is how he described his approach to this writer. Towards this end, he introduced educational reforms and re-wrote school history text books; enacted laws protecting women’s rights and diluted Islamic laws against women; and he liberalised the media. To deny Islamists their traditional rallying cry — Kashmir — he opened path breaking negotiations with India to remove that arrow from the Islamists’ quiver.

When Musharraf skilfully combined military operations against Islamists with a political front promoting secularism to ideologically disarm them, the US administration saw red. By secularising Pakistani society over time Musharraf would de-fang the ‘Islamic threat’ within Pakistan and extricate the country out of the contrived orbit of ‘war on terror’.

That would greatly diminish Washington’s leverage to intervene in the country to distance Islamabad from Beijing and exploit energy resources abundantly found in Balochistan and, in the long run, perhaps derail US administration’s well laid plans to bring Afghanistan to heel and to dominate Central Asia and its oil-rich Caspian Sea basin.

But Musharraf was in no mood to back down. So the Bush Administration slipped regime change into gear. Taking advantage of his missteps, the anti-Musharraf media blitz, NGO and student mobilisations, lawyers agitations, protests by political parties and civil society organisations seemingly coming from all directions in fact displayed a fantastic degree of organisation, coordination and financing clearly beyond the ken of the fratricidal activists and often ad hoc institutions and never witnessed before in the country. Very likely they will not be seen again either; indeed later the activists were singularly incapable of organising any significant agitation when three women were buried alive for defying their parents’ choice of husbands. The manoeuvres against Musharraf bear uncanny resemblances to organised ‘people’s power’ the CIA unleashed during ‘colour revolutions’ and upheavals against Hugo Chavez.

The Bush Administration began reaping the rewards of unseating Musharraf within 24 hours of his resignation. Chief of Army Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani travelled to Kabul to meet NATO and Afghan commanders on 19 August. About 10 days later Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen informed a Pentagon news conference on 28 August that Kayani and his lieutenants held a ’secret meeting’ with their US counterparts on a US aircraft carrier, reminiscent of American gun boat diplomacy in Latin America and unthinkable in Pakistan under Musharraf’s watch..

Mullen touchingly chronicled how he ‘learned to trust’ Kayani and bent over backwards to emphasise that Kayani is no American puppet, that Kayani’s ‘principles and goals are to do what’s best for Pakistan.’ But a few sections of the US media, weaned on decades of Pentagon-speak from the debacle in Vietnam to the illegal invasion of Iraq, saw through the verbal obfuscation. And when a reporter pointedly queried Mullen whether Kayani’s ‘goal for Pakistan also aligned a hundred per cent with the US goal’, the Admiral waffled: ‘[Kayani] knows his country a whole lot better than we do. And again, I just think that’s where he is, that’s where he’ll stay.’ Translation: US administration has got Kayani on tight leash.

And to maintain there is no substantial change from Musharraf’s policies, Kayani’s spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas and Mullen alleged the meetings had been arranged several weeks earlier, when Musharraf was President, to facetiously imply he had approved the contacts.

The import of ‘coordination’ between American, NATO, Afghan and Pakistan militaries will become clearer over the next weeks and months. For now the suspicion is unavoidable that the US Administration has at long last begun frog-marching Pakistan into the US-created Afghan quagmire to further destabilise the country and justify intervention.

Musharraf had resolutely opposed precisely this eventuality. He rejected US demands that the Pakistani army assist NATO forces in Afghanistan. He underlined the country will not repeat the catastrophic mistakes of the 1980s when it got embroiled in America’s war in Afghanistan against the then Soviet Union, for which the Pakistani people continues to pay a heavy price. Rather, he insisted his army will fight only Pakistan’s war within Pakistan’s borders.

The consequences of the PPP leadership following the US into the Afghan quagmire will soon be evident. Already, within 16 days of Musharraf’s resignation, US forces carried out the first ground assault in Angoor Adda area within Pakistan’s borders — which Musharraf had disallowed — with the connivance of the new leadership. Obviously there is more to come since the Bush Administration has eagerly caricatured the Pakistan-Afghanistan border as ‘The New Frontier’ in the New Cold War.

For the moment, there is great euphoria among Pakistani liberals over the presumed ‘return to democracy’. The comments by Ayesha Tanmy Haq are typical: ‘We have removed a dictator by the citizenry showing that real power lies with them.’ The hapless liberals have yet to discover Late Neo-colonialism and its devious manoeuvres for regime change; they have in fact effectively legitimised them by opposing Musharraf. They are agonisingly unaware of the labyrinthine geo-politics and economic imperatives underlying the New Cold War. They are blissfully going along with the collaborationist leaders who are bartering away the country’s future for the proverbial pieces of silver.