Military blocking Pakistan-India trade deal, says Shahbaz Sharif

Shahbaz SharifSecurity networks’ distrust of increased business dealings is counter-productive, warns Pakistani PM’s brother

By in Lahore and in Delhi, theguardian.com

The powerful brother of Pakistan‘s prime minister has warned the military establishments of both India and Pakistan not to block efforts to sweep aside trade barriers between the two distrustful neighbours.

On Indian affairs Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, is widely seen as the de facto Pakistani foreign minister, conducting diplomatic missions to Delhi on behalf of his brother Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister.

But speaking to the Guardian he warned that distrustful “security agencies” in both Pakistan and India were one of the two main “blockages” holding back plans to liberalise trade, which the Sharifs believe will provide a desperately needed boost to Pakistan’s moribund economy.

“Security agencies on both sides need to really understand that in today’s world, a security-led vision is obviously driven by economic security,” he said. “Unless you have economic security then you can’t have general security.”

While the Sharif brothers, in common with most mainstream politicians in Pakistan, are impatient for a rapprochement with India, the military is far more wary.

Read more » theguardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/13/military-block-pakistan-india-trade-deal-sharif

Election 2014: Death Knell of Strategic Depth?

PashtunAfghanistan has voted. And wow, what a lot of voting there was! Millions of Afghans turned out and voted in an election where a vote for anyone was a vote against Mullah Umar and his backers. Now it may be that the results will not be accepted, that the winners will fight each other or that the good feeling will evaporate as some future Taliban offensive shakes the state. But if the results are credible and are accepted, then it may well be (to quote journalist Tahir Mehdi) that April 5th 2014 will be to strategic depth what December 16th 1971 was to the two-nation theory.
Of course, one may then point out that the Two Nation theory has had a very healthy Zombie existence since 1971. But even the healthiest Zombie is still a Zombie. Dying is forever.

Read more » Brown Pundits
http://brownpundits.blogspot.ca/2014/04/election-2014-death-knell-of-strategic.html

Book Review: ‘The Wrong Enemy’ by Carlotta Gall

talibanPakistan’s intelligence agency hid and protected Osama bin Laden. The chief of the army even knew of the cover up. Some ally.

By Sadanand Dhume

In the 13 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, $1 trillion has been spent, and 3,400 foreign soldiers (more than 2,300 of them American) have died. Despite our tremendous loss of blood and treasure, Afghanistan remains—even as we prepare to exit the country—”a weak state, prey to the ambitions of its neighbors and extremist Islamists,” as Carlotta Gall notes in “The Wrong Enemy.”

Could we have avoided this outcome? Perhaps so, Ms. Gall argues, if Washington had set its sights slightly southward.

The neighbor that concerns Ms. Gall—the “right” enemy implied by the book’s title—is Pakistan. If you were to boil down her argument into a single sentence, it would be this one: “Pakistan, supposedly an ally, has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons.” Though formally designated as a major non-NATO U.S. ally, and despite receiving more than $23 billion in American assistance since 9/11, Pakistan only pretended to cut links with the Taliban that it had nurtured in the 1990s. In reality, Pakistan’s ubiquitous spy service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), foments jihad against NATO in Afghanistan much as it did against the Soviets in the 1980s.

At this point, accusations of Pakistani perfidy won’t raise the eyebrows of anyone with even a passing familiarity with the region. For years, a chorus of diplomats, analysts and journalists have concluded that the Taliban and its partners in jihad would be incapable of maintaining an insurgency without active support from across the border. In 2011, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, called the Haqqani network—the group responsible for some of the worst violence in Afghanistan, including an attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul that year—”a veritable arm” of the ISI.

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Why the Taliban won’t succeed in Afghanistan now

Hamid KarzaiBy

History does NOT repeat itself. If ever it looks like it’s stuck in a rut and moving in circles, do take a closer look. Each circle may be wider than the previous one or it might have tilted along a different axis. The trajectory of events in Afghanistan cannot defy this basic rule of history.

The Taliban rose to power in mid-1990s and were ousted when the US and its allies launched military operations in Afghanistan on 7 October 2001, starting what is termed as ‘War on Terror’. The Taliban, however, have managed to loom large as a specter for the past 12 years and now threaten to make a comeback or so some want us to believe. Will they be able to do that? I think not. Here are my five reasons why:

1: There is no anarchy in Afghanistan now

When the Taliban rose to power in the mid-1990s, Afghanistan was in utter chaos. The decade-long crippling war was succeeded by internecine fights among the greedy, ruthless and brutal mujahedeen warlords – it seemed endless. The country had lost even a semblance of a state, rule of law had completely departed and social order rested on simple tribal ‘principles’ like might is right. The weakest and the poorest suffered the most.

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REUTERS – Afghanistan’s surprises

By David Rohde

REUTERS – In a nation more associated with calamity than consensus, the initial results of Saturday’s Afghan presidential election are startling.

Despite Taliban threats to attack polling stations nationwide, the same percentage of Afghans turned out to vote – roughly 58 percent – as did Americans in the 2012 U.S. presidential race. Instead of collapsing, Afghan security forces effectively secured the vote.

And a leading candidate to replace Hamid Karzai is Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank technocrat who has a PhD in cultural anthropology from Columbia University, a Lebanese Christian wife, and an acclaimed book and TED talk entitled “Fixing Failed States.”

“Relative to what we were expecting, it’s very hard to not conclude that this was a real defeat for the Taliban,” Andrew Wilder, an American expert on Afghanistan, said in a telephone interview from Kabul on Monday “And a very good day for the Afghan people.”

Two forces that have long destabilized the country – its political elite and its neighbors – could easily squander the initial success. Evidence of large-scale fraud could could undermine the legitimacy of the election and exacerbate long-running ethnic divides. And outside powers could continue to fund and arm the Taliban and disgruntled Afghan warlords, as they have for decades.

Read more » REUTERS
http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/04/08/afghanistan-election-analysis-idINDEEA370EP20140408

 

Down with the Taliban.

This guy's finger was chopped off by Taliban in 2009 for voting yet he's voting again in 2014.

This guy’s finger was chopped off by Taliban in 2009 for voting yet he’s voting again in 2014.

Salute to the courage & the spirit of  Afghans! Don’t underestimate the power of people. Massive turn out in Presidential Elections is clear message of Afghanistan as nation they don’t want Taliban. More power to the Afghans working for a liberal, sovereign and diverse Afghanistan. Also to the People who are kind of stereotype about Afghans and Pashtuns; Afghan Election has proved (by peoples’ large participation in the voting) that Afghans/Pashtuns are anti-Taliban, and they are pro-democracy & pro peace.

Courtesy: via Facebook

Afghan elections: As it happened

Afghan house wifeMillions of Afghans braved Taliban threats Saturday to vote for a successor to President Hamid Karzai in a landmark election held as US-led forces wind down their long intervention in the country.

Polling stations officially closed at 5:00 pm (1230 GMT), officials said, after a day without major security incidents. But voting was set to continue for some time as voters in line at polling stations would be allowed to cast their ballot, a senior official with the Independent Election Commission said.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1097718

7 jihadists blown up while making roadside bombs in a mosque

indoctrinated“7 militants blown up while making roadside bombs in a mosque in Ghazni,” Khaama Press, March 30, 2014 (thanks to Jack)
At least seven militants were killed while making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
The interior ministry following a statement said the incident took place inside a mosque in Deh Yak district on Saturday. The statement by interior ministry further added that the explosion left seven militants dead and there were no other casualties.

- See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2014/04/7-jihadists-blown-making-roadside-bombs-mosque.html/#sthash.2j0DvBRX.dpuf

http://pamelageller.com/2014/04/7-jihadists-blown-making-roadside-bombs-mosque.html

A shameful act of waging war against the innocent students of University of Sindh

 

Pakistani Security forces indiscriminately firing  on peaceful gathering by the students of university of Sindh.

Pakistani Security forces indiscriminately firing on peaceful gathering of “Sindh Day” by the students of university of Sindh.

By Zulfiqar Shah

A shameful act of waging war against the innocent students a couple days ago in Sindh University because the students were holding a peaceful gathering on ‘Sindh Day’. Pakistan has an army that is trained only to kill its own citizen. It is a modern reflection of what they did in Dhakka, Bangladesh in 1971. – - – - According to Ab Takk Tv News, security forces have arrested 15 students and 3 female students of University of Sindh in a crime to attend a peaceful gathering of “Yom-e-Sindh/ Sindh Day”.

More Details» Ab Takk Tv

via › Facebook

Canada Confronts Pakistan on Bleak Human Rights Record

Muzafar BhuttoCanada also demanded that Pakistan address mistreatment of minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis.

By Tahir Gora

The Pakistani Consul-General in Toronto, Muhammad Nafees Zakaria, was not happy when he had to listen to Canadian Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander. The Minister’s message was clear: Pakistan must address its human rights violations and mistreatment of minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis.

Alexander was speaking to the International Christian Voice’s event in memory of Pakistani parliamentarian Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated by the Taliban three years ago for demanding an end to the country’s blasphemy law. The blasphemy law is like a black sword hanging over the heads of Pakistan’s minorities. There is even a shameful declaration form for Ahmadi Muslims that declares them to be non-Muslims at the Consul-General’s Toronto office.

Alexander mentioned the Pakistani state authorities’ bleak record on free press. He talked about a journalist, Saleem Shahzad, who was allegedly killed by the notorious intelligence agencies.

Pakistani Consul-General Zakaria did not say a single word about repealing the blasphemy law. He didn’t even say he’d deliver the message to the Pakistani government. He couldn’t even bring himself to tell Canadian parliamentarians that he’d pass on their concerns to Islamabad, even if he doesn’t agree with Alexander.

Instead, Zakaria blamed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for the problem of the Taliban in Pakistan. He framed the Taliban as a product of the covert U.S. effort against the Soviets, leaving Pakistan innocent and noble. This is a common excuse used by the Pakistani establishment that doesn’t want to take responsibility for their involvement in creating the problem of the Taliban and other extremists.

Pakistan’s establishment still considers those Islamic terrorists and their sharia-bound ideology as an asset for them strategically, even as the growing anarchy in the region and the actions of different Taliban groups force the Pakistani government to take a stronger stance.

Read more » THE CLARION PROJECT
http://m.clarionproject.org/analysis/canada-confronts-pakistan-bleak-human-rights-record

PAKISTAN – As a state and society, are we a basket case?

Comment by Shahab Usto

In Karachi–Jinnah’s Mausoleum has been shut for security reasons. Among a host of no-go areas, this new addition is the most tragic and shameful of all.

In Lahore–A poor christian has been sentenced to death on a cooked-up blasphemy charge. If the judiciary itself plays to the gallery, instead of following law and constitution, then from where would the ‘minority’ citizens seek justice and protection.

In Hyderabad–A Kali Mata temple has been set ablaze by the ‘soldiers of Islam‘. And then we expect the world to condemn Chief Minister Narendra Modi for enacting a pogrom against the Muslims in Indian Gujarat?

In Thar–for all the tall claims, the children continue to die of dearth and disease. Yet our ‘august’ rulers continue to harp on claiming that they are not dying of famine but malnourishment, and hence they are absolved of all their duties to protect the citizens!

In Waziristan–Our official interlocutors are grovelling before a bunch of terrorists and mass killers to extend the ‘cease-fire’ with the nuclear-armed state, possessing the sixth largest armed forces in the world and a land of 200 million people!

With the prevalence of such levels of apathy, injustice, absurdity and incorrigibility, is there any doubt that we as a state and society have completely turned into a hopeless basket case??

Courtesy: » via Facebook

Leasing out Pakistan

By Najam Sethi

The Saudi Kingdom has granted $1.5b to the Nawaz Sharif government. Another such donation will accrue in due course. A quick fix of $3b is a lot of free money for Pakistan’s forex-strapped economy that is struggling to cope with significant international debt payments and a rising trade gap that is putting pressure on the rupee and fuelling inflation. Indeed, the Saudi injection has reversed the rapid fall of the rupee, proving that the finance minister, Ishaq Dar, was not bluffing when he warned exporters six weeks ago not to hoard their dollars. Why then all the hush-hush about the Good Samaritan who has eventually bailed him out?

Significantly, the PMLN government has been at pains to hide the Saudi largesse. But after we discovered that the cause of the sudden reversal in the fortunes of the rupee was due to an uplifting shot in the arm of the State Bank, we were told not to ask about the “friendly” source and amount of funds. Then, after we found out about the donor, we were told that the Saudi “donation” was a measure of the personal relationship between our prime minister and the Saudi monarch. That is when our happy surprise turned to suspicious incredulity and the game became crystal clear.

A clutch of high-powered Saudis, including the Crown Prince, has descended upon Islamabad in recent weeks. The prime minister and the Pakistan army chief have made unexplained flying visits to the Kingdom. In due course a joint statement or communiqué was issued from Islamabad stressing the demand for a “transitional” government in Syria while emphasizing that there was no change in Pakistan’s position on the issue. Indeed, the foreign office spokesperson, an apparently haughty lady, was quite aggressive in ticking off inquiring hacks who argued that the demand for a transitional government amounted to a veritable “regime change” in Syria and smacked of a definite policy about-turn. Mr Sartaj Aziz, the de facto foreign minister, has also executed some verbal gymnastics to try and obscure the truth. But we, the public, are not stupid or ill-informed. We are not ready to buy this story hook, line and sinker. We know there are no free lunches, let alone free feasts, in relations amongst nations. So what’s the $3b quid pro quo?

The truth is that Pakistan has agreed to supply, among other weapons, anti-aircraft and anti-tank rockets to the Saudis. Mr Aziz says the End-User Certificate conditions will guarantee that these are not used outside Saudi Arabia. This is a load of nonsense. Why the Saudis should suddenly turn to Pakistan for these weapons when traditionally they have tapped the US and Europe has, however, given the game away. These potential game-changing weapons are clearly meant for use by Saudi-backed Wahhabi-Salafist rebels in Syria who are fighting to overthrow the Baathist secular Asad regime. The Americans haven’t supplied the Saudis because they don’t want such radical Islamist forces any more than Al-Qaeda to succeed in Syria and are therefore having serious second thoughts about regime change in Syria. Indeed, the Saudis’ sudden embrace of Pakistan portends shifting sands in the Middle-East.

The Saudis and the Emirates-Gulfdoms are feeling insecure because of the Shia revival in their heartlands. This is because the restless Shias are sitting on their oil reserves. Iran, too, is unremitting in opposing Saudi influence. Iraq and Qatar, two competitive energy suppliers, are not playing ball either. Egypt and Libya haven’t bought into the Saudi Islamist line. Worse, the Americans are seeking negotiated nuclear solutions in Iran instead of succumbing to Saudi pressure for military action. And American self-reliance on shale gas is the first definite step against continued dependence on Saudi oil.

On the heels of the Saudi VVIPs now comes the King of Bahrain to Islamabad. The PMLN government claims that foreign investment deals are in the offing. But the small print betrays the real motive behind “renewed manpower exports”. The Bahraini Emir wants well-trained and equipped Pakistani military mercenaries to beef up his police and security forces to repress the rising democratic impulses of the majority Shia populations. It is as simple as that.

It is the same old treacherous story. Since independence in 1947, the Pakistani ruling classes and military establishment have lived off rents from leasing out their “services” to the highest foreign bidder instead of standing on their own feet and not meddling in other peoples business. In the 1950s, 60s and 80s, they sold their services to the Americans, first against the USSR and then against the Taliban; now, in the 2010s, they are rolling up their sleeves to stir the Middle-East cauldron at the behest of a rich “friend”. The extremist Sunni blow back from the first lease to the US in the shape of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is now primed for escalation and blow back during the proposed second lease to the Saudi-Emirates network. We are making another irrevocable blunder, so help us Allah.

Courtesy: Friday Times

http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/leasing-out-pakistan/

- See more at: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/leasing-out-pakistan/#sthash.1RVncGs5.nqqjY6V8.dpuf

23rd March: Sindhis Towards Freedom March

Ahmed MakhdoomBy Dr. Ahmed H. Makhdoom

Today, “Freedom, Freedom, Freedom for Sindh” is the only Echo thundering in Karachi, the capital city of Sindh, and valleys, hills, plains and the corridors of Sindh!

Everyday, simple, innocent, and peace-loving sons of Sindh are abducted by the savages and scavengers of the deep security state – mercilessly and brutally tortured, massacred and then their mutilated and mangled dead bodies burnt beyond recognition! Such is the brutality, inhumanity, wickedness and barbarism happens in this ill-gotten, ill-conceived, corrupt, rogue, and dark deep state every day.

Yesterday, they burnt, disfigured, lacerated and crushed bodies of two of Sindh’s worthy and filial sons – Martyr Maqsood Quraishi (younger brother of Martyr Bashir Quraishi, who was Martyred not very long time ago) and a young Martyr Salman Wadho’s bullet riddled charred bodies – were found in a burnt car, in which they were travelling!

Why? What was their fault? Their ONLY ‘crime’ was that they loved their Motherland, and sang songs in praise of the brightness, beauty and brilliance of their gregarious Land! They demanded justice for the people of Sindh – which is a right of every citizen to do so!

Condemnations for such barbarism and savagery and appeals for justice for the people of Sindh to the ‘civilised’ world has proven futile, useless and in vain! World had presented a “Deaf Ear” to the screams of “Help” from the tortured, tormented and terrorised citizens of Sindh and Balochistan!

People of Sindh are being suffocated! But sadly, tragically and unfortunately  – NO ONE CARES A DAMN!

Today, on 23rd of March, through the freedom march people of Sindh have denounced the Lahore resolution of 1940 and have demanded sovereignty and Freedom for their Ancient and historical Land, Sindh – a 7,000 to 10, 000 years old Indus Civilisation! Millions of people of Sindh have marched towards the Capital City of Sindh, Karachi where they have formally declared Freedom from the slavery and servitude of this miserable, devilish dark deep security state!

Dr. Ahmed H. Makhdoom
23rd March, 2014

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups + social media

CNN report – Millions of Sindhis Want freedom

By ShoukatZ

SINDH – Karachi: Pakistan is under the threat of Disintegration and after Baluchistan Now Sindh is also demanding freedom from the state of Pakistan. To show this demand Politically one of the Sindhi Nationalist Party Jiye Sindh Qomi Mahaaz (JSQM) called for a freedom March in the provincial capital of Sindh Province.

The leaders in there speeches were telling the audience about the atrocities of the State and specially brought recently burnt after being Shot dead two of the leaders bodies in protest.

Sanaan Qureshi a young leader and son of the slain Nationalist leader Bashir Khan Qureshi told the audience that we are betrayed and our rights are violated by the state of Pakistan. Demanding own right to live is not a Sin but when we demand it we get killed. He said enough is enough. our survival is in freedom and the state of Pakistan has to demolish.

Niaz Kalani the vice chairman again reminded about the extra judicial killing of Nationalists leaders by state agencies and condemned it. He said our province meets the demands of Pakistan like 70% of Tax revenue, 83 % of natural Gas, Sea ports and the biggest coal mines in thar Desert but our people are dieing of Hunger.

He said this is the right time to show the world and world should see this that millions of peoples are on streets but except regional Sindhi media there is no media Coverage. He further said how long will you suppress our voice, how many people will you kill??. The leaders demanded World Community to Take notice of Extra judicial killings & human rights violation of Sindhi People

The rally was attended by almost 5 million people and the majority was youth of Sindh. After speeches they performed the funeral prayers of their slain leaders whose bodies were brought in the rally.

Courtesy: CNN
http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1111164

Censorship goes an extra mile – Pakistan erased an entire International New York Times cover story

Pakistan erased an entire International New York Times cover story

By Chris Welch

Today’s edition of The International New York Times was stripped of its cover story in Pakistan. Instead of seeing a lengthy report on “What Pakistan knew about bin Laden,” readers were greeted with an enormous section of white space that dominates the paper’s front page.

Elsewhere in the world, the International New York Times published a story by Carlotta Gall that closely examines links between Pakistan and Osama bin Laden. Gall’s report traces the common accusation that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence unit, may have knowingly provided shelter for the al Qaeda leader before he was killed during a United States raid in 2011. Apparently Pakistan’s government doesn’t want its citizens reading that content, and instead we’re left with one of the most visually arresting examples of censorship in years.

Read more » THE VERGE
http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/22/5536676/pakistan-erases-international-new-york-times-cover-story

What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden

By

Excerpt;  America’s failure to fully understand and actively confront Pakistan on its support and export of terrorism is one of the primary reasons President Karzai has become so disillusioned with the United States. As American and NATO troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this year, the Pakistani military and its Taliban proxy forces lie in wait, as much a threat as any that existed in 2001.

 

In January 2013, I visited the Haqqania madrasa to speak with senior clerics about the graduates they were dispatching to Afghanistan. They agreed to let me interview them and gave the usual patter about it being each person’s individual choice to wage jihad. But there was also continuing fanatical support for the Taliban. “Those who are against the Taliban, they are the liberals, and they only represent 5 percent of Afghans,” the spokesman for the madrasa told me. He and his fellow clerics were set on a military victory for the Taliban in Afghanistan. Moreover, he said, “it is a political fact that one day the Taliban will take power. The white flag of the Taliban will fly again over Kabul, inshallah.”

Pakistani security officials, political analysts, journalists and legislators warned of the same thing. The Pakistani military was still set on dominating Afghanistan and was still determined to use the Taliban to exert influence now that the United States was pulling out.

Kathy Gannon of The Associated Press reported in September that militants from Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, were massing in the tribal areas to join the Taliban and train for an anticipated offensive into Afghanistan this year. In Punjab, mainstream religious parties and banned militant groups were openly recruiting hundreds of students for jihad, and groups of young men were being dispatched to Syria to wage jihad there. “They are the same jihadi groups; they are not 100 percent under control,” a former Pakistani legislator told me. “But still the military protects them.”

The United States was neither speaking out against Pakistan nor changing its policy toward a government that was exporting terrorism, the legislator lamented. “How many people have to die before they get it? They are standing by a military that protects, aids and abets people who are going against the U.S. and Western mission in Afghanistan, in Syria, everywhere.”

When I remember the beleaguered state of Afghanistan in 2001, I marvel at the changes the American intervention has fostered: the rebuilding, the modernity, the bright graduates in every office. Yet after 13 years, more than a trillion dollars spent, 120,000 foreign troops deployed at the height of the war and tens of thousands of lives lost, Afghanistan’s predicament has not changed: It remains a weak state, prey to the ambitions of its neighbors and extremist Islamists. This is perhaps an unpopular opinion, but to pull out now is, undeniably, to leave with the job only half-done.

Meanwhile, the real enemy remains at large.

This article is adapted from “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014,” to be published next month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Carlotta Gall is the North Africa correspondent for The New York Times. She covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for the paper from 2001 to 2013.

Editor: Joel Lovell

Courtesy: The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/magazine/what-pakistan-knew-about-bin-laden.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Dancing to TTP’s tunes

By Intikhab Amir

PESHAWAR: The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) holds the centre stage, changing directions of the game every now and then. In short, it is TTP’s sweet will that is holding the sway.

When it decides to hit and kill us, we bow our heads and get killed. When it decides to talk and kill us as well, we oblige: we fly our helicopter to North Waziristan to facilitate its emissaries to meet their bosses and at the same time we keep collecting corpses from Peshawar to Karachi.

And now when the state’s fighter jets and helicopters have conducted surgical air strikes targeting TTP’s sanctuaries, the terrorists announced ceasefire and we feel happy to oblige and live peacefully with them for the next one month.

Think the one month period in terms of the possibility: no bomb blasts and IED attacks. This has not happened for the past so many years. So we should be happy!

What is more interesting is the fact that the day TTP was about to make the ceasefire public in the evening, its operatives attacked polio vaccinators in Khyber Agency in the morning.

If the TTP bosses were giving serious thoughts to the idea of giving peace a chance, they should have postponed the Saturday morning attack in Khyber Agency.

But who cares? Ceasefire is the buzzword. The other catchphrase these days is ‘on the same page’.

Earlier, doubts were being spewed whether the civil administration and the military leaders were on the same page or not. Now, at least, the TTP bosses are on the same page with the government.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1090698/dancing-to-ttps-tunes

Liberal newspaper Express Tribune cowed into silence by Pakistani Taliban

Media group opts for self-censorship on terrorism after Taliban admits murder of three employees for critical reports on militants

By Jon Boone, in Islamabad

When it was launched four years ago, the Express Tribune set out to become the house newspaper of liberal-minded Pakistanis.

A newcomer to a market dominated by conservative-inclined papers, it made a point of writing about everything from the relentless rise of religious extremism to gay rights.

But in recent weeks the paper has been cowed into silence by an unusually blatant display of power by the Pakistani Taliban.

The paper was forced to drastically tone down its coverage last month after three employees of the media group, which includes another newspaper and television channel, were killed in Karachi by men armed with pistols and silencers on 17 January.

The attack was later claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a large coalition of militant groups, which accused the media group of disseminating anti-Taliban propaganda.

Read more » theguardian
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/28/liberal-newspaper-express-tribune-silenced-pakistani-taliban

Get them or get eliminated

By Marvi Sirmed

Since almost a decade we have been hearing from assorted quarters in religious and political circles that Taliban have been doing what they have been doing because ‘America attacked Afghanistan”. Politicians as tall as Imran Khan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and various others, have been feeding the nation with this narrative for many years now. It is however, a minor detail that Mr. Khan was hand-in-glove with then dictator General Musharraf in 2001-2002, when he backed ‘America’s attack on Afghanistan’. It is also a minor detail that the ‘attack’ was sanctioned by United Nations to a multinational alliance we know as NATO. Never mind.

But just when I’m writing these lines, I hear that the terrorists and killers (who were recognized as ‘stakeholders’ by the current government supported by ‘all parties’ including Pakistan Army are part of this so-called All Parties Conference) have issued their 15-points Charter of Demands (CoD). The Charter does not even refer to the ‘attack on Afghanistan’. Surprise!

Going by the reports in media, the demands include: 1) Stop drone attacks; 2) Introduce Sharia law in courts; 3) Introduce Islamic system of education in public and private schools; 4) Free Pakistani and foreign Taliban captured in jails; 5) Restoration and remuneration for damage to property during drone attacks; 6) Handover control to local forces; 7) Withdrawal of army from tribal areas, shut down check posts; 8) All criminal allegations held against the Taliban be dropped; 9) Prisoners from both sides be released; 10) Equal rights for poor and rich; 11) Families of drone attack victims be offered jobs; 12) Amnesty for all Taliban commanders wanted by the government; 13) Stop supporting the US on the war on terror, end relations with the US; 14) Replace the democratic system with the Islamic system; 15) End interest based system of banking.

They start with demand to end drone attacks. Why? They certainly have no particular respect for human life considering their glorious track record of playing with the blood of thousands of innocent humans in the name of Sharia. Drones must be proving fatal to their existence. Similar pain for their comrades could be seen in Points 5 and 11 of their Charter whereby they demand restoration & damages for the properties of and jobs for the families of drone victims. Please note the absence of such sensitivity towards the victims of their bombs rocking the cities of Pakistan since last almost a decade. Wouldn’t it sound fair if the government of Pakistan demands damages and blood money for 50,000 Pakistanis killed by these so-called ‘stakeholders’?

The next two demands ask for Islamic system in courts and schools. Although nothing un-Islamic can ever get to both these institutions under the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (emphasis added).What then, they mean by this? For a clue, let’s go back to the Taliban years in neighboring Afghanistan. Girls were barred from going to schools permanently. A year ago I met one of their apologists, then serving in ISI, who enlightened me about this order of Taliban regime by justifying it on the pretext that no resources were available for girls’ separate schools, hence the measure by Taliban.

If people didn’t want their daughters to be in co-education schools, why did they put them in these schools in first place? If their daughters’ education was more important for them than lack of separate girls’ schools before Taliban came, why did Taliban mess with their personal priorities? Although there are no co-ed schools running in FATA, their Pakistani comrades have been regularly bombing girls’ schools. Seems their Sharia prohibits girls’ education in stark contradiction with Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings.

About Sharia in courts, the lesser said the better. The kind of justice seen under Taliban regime in Afghanistan would put Huns, Tartars and Mongols to shame. Personal choices of women, like work and dress of women and of men, like how much and where to shave unwanted hair from, were most pressing issues for the regime. Barbarism was synonym to justice in those days. Many apologists of those days keep regurgitating the praises for the ‘exemplary peace and rule of law’ under Taliban. Just that most of civilized people won’t agree with their definition of peace and rule of law. Just like absence of guns is not peace, absence of citizens’ rights is not rule of law. Justice was rushed and crushed in the name of ‘speedy trials’ by Fazlullah’s in his previous job at Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi in Swat. He is now CEO of another terror corporate, TTP that regularly engages itself in arson and kidnap to generate funds. High profile kidnappings of the sons of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, Yousuf Raza Gillani alongside various others are cases in point.

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Sufi Sindhis under siege by fanatics Taliban

8 Killed in Attack on Sufi Gathering

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KARACHI, Pakistan — Gunmen threw grenades at a Sufi Islamic religious gathering on Sunday in the port city of Karachi and then opened fire on the people assembled to offer prayers, killing eight, officials said. Eight others were wounded in the attack, said Aftab Chanur, an official at a hospital where the injured were taken.

The four gunmen, who were on motorcycles, first lobbed grenades at a building where a Sufi cleric was receiving his followers, then raked it with automatic fire, said Javed Odho, a police official.

He said women and children were among the dead and wounded. Pakistan is 95 percent Muslim, and the majority are Sunnis.

Sufism is a mystical branch of Islam. But Sufi shrines and followers have come under attack from Sunni militants who do not consider them to be true Muslims.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But suspicion is likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban or their affiliated sectarian groups, which follow a strict interpretation of Islam that considers many other Muslims, like Sufis or minority Shiites, to be heretics. In recent years, militants have often attacked shrines, which they consider to be sacrilegious.

In January, militants killed six people at the shrine of a Sufi saint in Karachi. After that attack, militants threatened the cleric whose gathering was attacked Sunday, telling him he should close down the house of worship where he receives his followers, Mr. Odho said.

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Shrine of Sufi poet set afire in Pakistan

KARACHI: The shrine of Pakistani Sufi poet Mast Twakali, revered across the subcontinent, has been set afire by unknown persons in the restive Balochistan province.

The shrine, visit by hundreds of devotees each day, has been partially damaged in the fire, authorities in Kohlu district said.

Kohlu deputy commissioner Ejaz Haider said some unknown persons had entered the shrine on Saturday and set it afire.

“But because people of the area gathered quickly and put out the fire the shrine was saved but a big portion has been damaged,” Haider said.

Five suspects have been arrested in connection with the case, he added.

Towaq Ali Mast – popularly known as Mast Twakali – was born in 1828. He spread the message of love for the humanity through his poetry.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups, which consider going to shrines as un-islamic, have in the past targeted them.

Read more » THE TIMES OF INDIA
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Shrine-of-Sufi-poet-set-afire-in-Pakistan/articleshow/30164949.cms?intenttarget=no

Is Pakistan Going to Become a Taliban State?

Distinguished anchor of Rawal TV, Tahir Aslam Gora, discusses the current negotiations of Government of Pakistan & Taliban, with Arshad Mahmood an astute political commentator in Bilatakalluf (Straight Talk). The language of the talk show is Hindi (urdu).

Courtesy: Rawal Tv » Bilatakalluf with Tahir Gora, Episode 131 »» YouTube

“If the talks succeed, we may see a metamorphosis of the state”

by Alefia T. Hussain

Ayesha Siddiqa, defence analyst, talks about the implications of the on-going talks with TTP 

The News on Sunday (TNS): How does the government’s approach to counter terrorism through talks look like to you — a compromise, a time buying tactic or you expect something substantive to come out of it?

Ayesha Siddiqa (AS): The only substantive thing that may come out of the talks (and, mind you, I am not using substantive positively or negatively) is change in the overall nature of the state. If the talks succeed, we may actually see a metamorphosis of the state from a hybrid-theocracy, which it is at the moment, to a complete theocracy. The Taliban and their allies, including both good and bad militants, want implementation of sharia in Pakistan. Even if there is an agreement on limited implementation in parts of the country, it will eventually trickle down to the rest.

Everything will depend on how far the military and civilian leadership wants to go in accommodating the Taliban demands. Although a more important question would be how comfortable is the leadership in changing the nature of the state. The Taliban may not want to compromise on anything less than implementing sharia — also release of prisoners, which means adding to the militant force that aims at capturing the state.

So, if we have made up our mind to surrender, there is no way anyone will challenge the Taliban. If not, then yes, some form of conflict is inevitable.

Like many people, I’ve also heard an operation is inevitable. But, I’m not sure. Because, how can an operation take place with your backs against the wall. When some generals in GHQ, Rawalpindi, thought the 1986 Indian military exercise Brasstacks was a plan for war, General Hamid Gul and some others disagreed. They argued that India could not launch a war with its back totally exposed and vulnerable. This was with reference to the insurgency in East Punjab back then.

Similarly, how can we think of an operation when we have all kinds of militants sitting in our heartland, in Punjab and Sindh. I’m not just referring to Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) but also TTP and Lashkar e Khorasan, allegedly part of al-Qaeda and has men that were once part of JeM. These organisations are thriving in Punjab and Sindh. They even have links with the politicians and military establishment.

So, if we can’t take care of our own backyard, how will we launch an offensive.

I’m not even sure if the military has a plan to abandon the good militants/Taliban. The good Taliban are connected to the bad Taliban by blood, friendship and alignments. You can’t separate the wheat from the chaff. If we want to use some of them after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, we can’t really be serious about launching a serious operation. Or can we?

Read more » The News
http://tns.thenews.com.pk/talks-succeed-may-actually-see-metamorphosis-state/#.Uvgz17Th3g8

PAKISTAN – Religious extremism and Punjab

During the last 66 years, Bengalis, Sindhis, Pakhtuns and Baloch have been declared traitors turn by turn but Punjabis — never

Bitter truth about the composition and character of the Pakistani state where Punjab is dominant and others are dominated.

By Abdul Khalique Junejo

Since more than a decade, Pakistan has been in the grip of religious extremism, which has now assumed the proportions of more than just a crisis. Pakistani society as a whole is occupied by chaotic conditions while the Pakistani state is facing the severest challenge to its authority, so much so that for the first time in 66 years, the guardians of Pakistan (read the military) have changed their security doctrine, replacing the external threat with an internal one as the number one challenge.

This scourge of religious extremism, threatening both the state and society, is nowadays the most dominant issue in the Pakistani media, discussed and explored from different angles and aspects. One such aspect, which is increasingly acquiring more importance and space, is the position in/of different provinces regarding religious extremism and terrorism.

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Sharif risks straining ties with military, warns US intelligence report

By Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may strain his relations with the new army chief if he continues to expand his policy-making powers, warns a US intelligence report.

The report, presented before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday, notes that Mr Sharif is seeking to “acquire a more central policy-making role” for civilians in areas that the Army has traditionally dominated.

“His push for an increased role in foreign policy and national security will probably test his relationship with the new Chief of Army Staff, particularly if the Army believes that the civilian government’s position impinges on Army interests” the report warns.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1084027

Pakistan’s march to theocracy

There are growing concerns that the country was fast moving toward a theocratic order.

It was a quick call from my editor’s office in Karachi informing me not to bother writing anymore about the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or any other militant outfit, religious party or even the cricketer-turned-politician’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). I was told I couldn’t even mention TTP and its other sister organisations. The call came in the wake of an attack on a vehicle carrying staff of a media group which killed three people and injured another four.

The TTP was quick to take responsibility. The spokesman of the militant outfit Ehsanullah Ehsan even appeared on a television program and warned the media group about giving the TTP bad press. The channel’s anchor Javed Chaudhry had to promise a “balanced” representation of views about the militants and their agenda. Furthermore, Ehsan claimed the attack was an attempt to force Pakistan to meet the promise of imposing Sharia law in the country.

A day later on January 19, another 20 Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers were killed and about 30 injured in a suicide attack in Bannu Cantonment in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). This was followed by an attack on January 20 in Rawalpindi Cantonment near the Pakistan Army’s GHQ, bringing the death toll up to 33 and the number of wounded to 63. Not to mention the constant targeting of polio workersacross the country.

These attacks happen despite the civilian government’s claim to engage the Taliban in a dialogue to end the violence. The first attack on the television channel came the same day as the statement by the TTP spokesman announcing his group’s willingness to talk with Pakistan’s government as long as the latter ensured the implementation of Sharia law in the country.

Read more » aljazeera
http://m.aljazeera.com/story/20141266302173397

Times Square bomb plot: Pakistani Army major arrested

A Pakistani Army major, who was until recently a serving officer, has been arrested in connection with the failed Times Square bomb plot.

By Rob Crilly, in Islamabad

Pakistani and US sources say there is evidence that mobile phone calls were exchanged between Major Adnan Ejaz and the suspected would-be bomber, Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested on May 3 as he attempted to fly out of New York.

A Pakistani law enforcement sources said that the major had mobile phone contact with Shahzad on the day of the attempted bombing, including one conversation at the same time the bomber was allegedly parking his car loaded with propane tanks and explosives.

He had also met the naturalised American in Islamabad, he claimed.

Shahzad, the son of a retired Pakistani Air Force officer, has told interrogators he received training from the Pakistan Taliban in its rugged mountain stronghold of Waziristan.

Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have a long history of working with Jihadi organisations as an instrument of foreign policy.

Read more » The Telegraph
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/7772507/Times-Square-bomb-plot-Pakistani-Army-major-arrested.html

At the mercy of men of straw

Ayaz AmirBy Ayaz Amir

Except; … What a contrast with our mighty men of straw moving about in their gleaming motorcades, bullet-proof vehicles, hundreds of men for their protection, yet consumed by fear, fear sitting in their hearts, and therefore seeking endless excuses for their irresolution.

The Taliban are in no doubt. They have virtually declared war against Pakistan, its army and its people. What does it take to see that their aim is not the emirate of Waziristan, or even drawing a line at the Indus but something higher, the whole of Pakistan? Yet far from being goaded into action, the men of straw in command of the republic’s destiny seek endless excuses for not doing anything. Hamlet’s “to be or not to be…” would seem a model of decision compared to their indecision.

The enemy is not at the gates; he is within. And while the Taliban make an art of the hidden roadside bomb, their deadliest weapon as it was of the insurgency in Iraq, the governing class hailing from Punjab – along with that other gift to clarity, Imran Khan – continues to weave bandishes (variations) on the raga of talks.

The Taliban kill a general of the Pakistan Army – Maj Gen Sanaullah – and our men of straw are for talks. A Peshawar church is bombed and they are for talks. Imran’s party men are killed in KP and he is for talks. Pakistan’s toughest cop, Chaudhry Aslam, is killed and the talks mantra does not change. In Hangu young Aitizaz sets an example for the entire country to follow but his sacrifice is in vain because those who should take heed remain men of straw.

So what should we do? God knows this is not a country of Athenian or Spartan warriors. But whatever bit of pluck and daring there may be, it is being held in check – nay, dissipated – by the ruling lot a blind Providence has been pleased to place upon the people of this country. Of what avail another Chaudhry Aslam, another Aitizaz, when the nation’s caravan is led by such heroes?

Read more » The News
http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-226460-At-the-mercy-of-men-of-straw

Al Qaeda’s Next Comeback Could Be Afghanistan And Pakistan

It is an argument for working with Kabul to keep a robust U.S. counter-terrorist capability in Afghanistan after 2014 to deal with threats both on Afghan territory and from safe havens like Abbottabad across the border for the foreseeable future. Over the longer term America will need a more realistic and tough policy toward Pakistan. We should continue to engage the government and the army seriously but with much reduced expectations. We should help those Pakistanis who are ready to fight extremism but not expect miracles. As former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani has written, it is time to put aside our “magnificent delusions” about Pakistani-American partnership for good. We will need to protect our own interests there with or without their help. Only that will prevent another al-Qaeda renaissance in the most dangerous country in the world, Pakistan.

By: Bruce Riedel

Al-Qaeda has staged a remarkable comeback in Iraq in the last year. Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones has called it “al-Qaeda’s renaissance.” This year, most if not all American forces and those of our allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will finally come home from Afghanistan. Will al-Qaeda have another renaissance in South Asia?

There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before 9/11—the terror organization moved into Iraq only when Osama bin Laden saw George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were getting ready to invade Iraq in 2003. He set a trap. By 2006 Al-Qaeda in Iraq had plunged the country into civil war, pitting Shia against Sunni. Only the brave efforts of American Marines and GIs prevented the complete collapse of the state. Now al-Qaeda has come back in Iraq, raising its black flag over territory once fought over so hard by Americans.

Can the same tragedy be repeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan? The longest war in American history will largely end for Americans this year. It will not end for Afghans or Pakistanis. Pakistan will continue to be the principal supporter and patron of the Afghan Taliban, the enemy that we have been fighting for so long. Pakistan provides the Taliban with safe haven and sanctuary to train and recruit its fighters and protects its leaders, including Mullah Omar. The Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, helps train and fund the Taliban.

For the last few years America has also fought a second war from Afghanistan, the counter-terrorist war inside Pakistan. Al-Qaeda found a new base in Pakistan after we toppled Mullah Omar’s Afghan emirate in 2001. The highlight of this second covert war was the SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. More frequent have been drone missions to disrupt al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan: By one count, 340 lethal missions since President Obama took office, and more than two dozen just last year.

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Pakistan: Nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fatima Bhutto

Pakistan is a country plagued by natural disasters, endemic political corruption, religious fundamentalism and is claimed by many to be the central headquarters of Islamist terrorism. And it’s a nuclear power. Fatima Bhutto, scion of the Pakistani political family, addresses the current state of her country in her Opening Address at the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2011.

Fatima Bhutto is an Afghan-born Pakistani poet and writer. She is the granddaughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and niece of Benazir Bhutto (both assassinated). She is active in Pakistan’s socio-political arena but has no desire to run for political office. She currently writes columns for ‘The Daily Beast’, ‘New Statesman’ and other publications.

Courtesy: Blip.tv
http://blip.tv/slowtv/pakistan-nation-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown-fatima-bhutto-5236151

Gates says he never thought of Pakistan as an ally

by Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The United States never thought of consulting Pakistan before raiding the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad because it feared that the ISI was protecting him, writes former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1079709/gates-says-he-never-thought-of-pakistan-as-an-ally

Best of Frenemies: Pakistan’s Husain Haqqani has tough words for his home country -and for its supposed ally, the United States

Hussain Haqqani

Hussain Haqqani

By Adnan Siddiqi

Pakistan and the United States aren’t allies – they “just pretend to be allies.” Or so says Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S. He’s making waves with his latest book, Magnificent Delusions, which speaks hard truths about the difficult relationship between the two countries. In 2011, Haqqani was forced to resign as Islamabad’s envoy to Washington following a controversy in which he was accused of delivering, through an intermediary, a note to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff asking for U.S. help to ward off a supposed coup in Pakistan after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden. (He has denied the episode and also said there was no attempted coup.) He was investigated by the Supreme Court at home for treason, and he eventually left the country, saying his life was at risk. Haqqani returned to the United States and now teaches international relations at Boston University. Newsweek Pakistan spoke with him by email about his book and the delusions that continue to impair Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S.

NW: You have been a consistent advocate of resetting Pakistan-America relations on the basis of pragmatism. What exactly does this entail?

HH: For 66 years, Pakistan has sought close ties with the U.S. with the sole purpose of offsetting India’s size and military advantage. This has been a security relationship. But no nation can become a regional power while also being dependent on assistance from other countries. A better option for Pakistan would be to normalize relations with India and Afghanistan and then have a broader, nonsecurity relationship with the United States. Pakistanis resent the U.S. partly because we have been dependent on it. The United States had not been constant in its relations with Pakistan, but it was also wrong on Pakistan’s part to expect constancy. I have studied several models of partnership with the United States and wondered why most other U.S. allies since World War II have prospered while Pakistan has not. The answer came down to our unwillingness to have an honest relationship. South Korea and Taiwan aligned their security policies and perceptions with the Americans. Pakistan refused to accept U.S. advice, especially when its regional view was questioned. My vision, encouraged by [former prime minister] Benazir Bhutto, was for a strategic rather than tactical relationship. It would not be based on asking for military aid in return for providing some services to the Americans in their concerns. We need to build a self-confident Pakistan, free of the burdens of past blunders, especially jihadist misadventures. American assistance should be directed toward standing on our own feet. We need a relationship involving education, tourism, investment, and trade – like other countries have – not one that is all about seeking military equipment and aid in private and abusing America in public.

Read more » NewsWeek
http://mag.newsweek.com/2014/01/03/best-frenemies.html