No justification to detain Dr Shakil: Clinton

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Pakistan has no justification for holding Dr Shakil Afridi, who had a role in the CIA operation to hunt down Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad.

This she said while addressing US Congress Committee. Hillary Clinton said Dr Shakil Afridi provided key information to US before the Abbotabad operation, adding that he served for the interest of both Pakistan and the US.

Clinton said Pakistan has no basis for detaining Dr Shakil.

Courtesy: The News

http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-37643-No-justification-to-detain-Dr-Shakil–

DAWN – Hameed Gul a complimentary member of US intelligence

Hamid Gul a complimentary member of Stratfor, says report

KARACHI: Former spy chief of Pakistan General Hamid Gul was reportedly a member of the US intelligence firm Stratfor, it emerged on Wednesday.

A report published in the Indian daily Times of India says that approximately five million emails of the Texas-based think tank were revealed by WikiLeaks.

“Whereas seemingly large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave complimentary membership to General Hamid Gul, the controversial former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006,” the report said. ….

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Waking up to the war in Balochistan – BBC

Attitudes are hardening in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province against the government, but the state is now belatedly reaching out to the Baloch separatists. Writer Ahmed Rashid considers whether after years of civil war, talks could end the bloodshed.

It took an obscure United States congressman holding a controversial hearing in Washington on the civil war in Balochistan to awaken the conscience of the Pakistani government, military and public.

For years the civil war in Balochistan has either been forgotten by most Pakistanis or depicted as the forces of law and order battling Baloch tribesmen, who are described as “Indian agents”.

Just a few weeks ago, Interior Minister Rehman Malik even hinted that Israel and the US were supporting the Baloch separatists, while the army had totally ”Indianised” the Baloch problem.

On 23 February, Mr Malik did an about-face, saying that the government was withdrawing all cases against Baloch leaders living in exile and asking them to return home for talks. ”I will receive them in person,” he told journalists.

Don’t expect Baloch leaders to turn the other cheek at Mr Malik’s sudden shift – the Baloch have seen too many such U-turns before.

Brahamdagh Bugti, head of the separatist Baloch Republican Party and living in exile in Geneva, remains sceptical.

His grandfather Sardar Akbar Bugti, the head of the Bugti tribe, was killed in 2006 on the orders of former President Pervez Musharraf in a massive aerial bombardment, while his sister Zamur Domki and her 12-year old daughter were gunned down in Karachi in broad daylight just in late January – allegedly by government agents.

He told journalists last week: ”I have seen this all before… I am not an optimist.” Nevertheless, for the first time in years his face appeared on every Pakistani TV channel as he and other Baloch leaders gave interviews.

Broken promises

Continue reading Waking up to the war in Balochistan – BBC

Sufism [Sindhyat/ Humanity] binds millions of hearts in subcontinent: Abida Parveen

Sufi legend Abida Parveen, who is on a trip to New Delhi for the Jahan-e-Khusrau festival said Sufism binds millions of people in the subcontinent and that the forthcoming festival is an effort to create a spiritual mood. The 10th edition of the three-day festival starts March 2 in New Delhi at Humayun’s Tomb. “Sufism has evolved from the beginning of this universe. It bridges the gap between the hearts. This festival brings different colours together. This is a message from heart to heart. This is an effort to create a spiritual context for the common people,” she said. Organised by the Rumi foundation and designed and directed by filmmaker-painter Muzaffar Ali, the three-day festival was announced by Ali and Abida Parveen and Sharmila Tagore-members of the Rumi Foundation. Parveen had been a part of the festival since its beginning, but couldn’t attend the festival last year due to health reasons. Jahan-e-Khusrau 2012 will see performances by Abida Parveen, Ali Zafar, Hans Raj Hans, Andrea Griminelli (Italian flautist) and will also introduce new faces like Indra Naik, Vidhi Sharma, Rajesh Pandey, Vidhi Lal, and Shivani Varma. Reminiscing on her long association with the festival, Parveen said that whenever she comes to perform for Jahan e Khusrau “an extraordinary noorani (blissful) process begins. The Rumi Foundation knows how to collect different colours and create an atmosphere which is so pure and durgahi that no difference is felt between the one who’s singing and the one who’s listening. Even if one person gets attached with the Sufi saints in such an atmosphere, it’s enough to break all barriers of faith and territorial boundaries,” she said. “Tasawuf (a Sufi term that means focusing on one’s relationship with God) is God’s name. We don’t need any language or identity to understand Allah,” added the singer. Celebrating 10th year of Jahan-e-Khusrau, Muzaffar Ali maintained that the journey of Jahan e Khusrau began with the thought of bringing all pure souls together on one platform in Delhi, a city of great souls and saints. Over the last decade, Jahan e Khusrau has presented rare poetry of the mystics of the sub-continent. It has showcased Sufi singers, dancers and musicians, including Azam Ali, Masood Habibi, Shubha Mudgal, Shafqat Ali Khan, Shubjaat Hussain Khan to introducing fresh promising talent such as Zila Khan, Archana Shah, Indira Naik and Rajesh Pandey among others.

Courtesy: Pakistan Today

Zardari and the Generals’ consensus

By Praveen Swami

Pakistan’s civilian rulers seem to have averted a possible coup with a little help from inside the army itself.

Eight weeks ago, as rumours of an imminent coup swirled around Islamabad, few seemed to doubt democratic rule in Pakistan would soon be marched before a firing squad.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the United States, had been recalled to face charges of conspiring to sack top military officials. There was even talk of a treason trial targeting President Asif Ali Zardari himself — with Mr. Haqqani as the Army’s star witness.

Events since, however, haven’t quite panned out as hardline Pakistani generals might have anticipated: instead of capturing power, the army has found itself in retreat.

Mr. Zardari, Pakistani media have reported, is almost certain to deny the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, an extension to serve until 2013 — a blow directed at Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and a sign of civilian confidence.

In November, Pakistan’s military had shut down the Shamsi airbase, used to stage United States drone attacks against Islamist insurgents: actions intended to distinguish them from political rulers too-willing to please the United States. Last month, though, drone strikes resumed — directed by United States intelligence officers located at the Shahbaz airbase near Abbottabad.

Politicians have become increasingly defiant of ISI authority: even Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who has long shied away from controversy, warned against efforts to run “a state within a state”.

The Generals’ consensus

LONG held together by a Generals’ consensus on the direction Pakistan ought to head in, the army now seems divided as never before. Last month, at a January 13 meeting of the corps commanders conference, where Gen. Kayani briefed generals on the evolving political crisis , he ran into unexpected in-house resistance, leading to a 10-hour debate.

The toughest questioning, a Pakistani government source privy to the discussions told The Hindu, came from Lieutenant-General Tariq Khan — the commander of the Mangla-based 1 corps, and a veteran of counter-insurgency operations who is considered among the most competent of the army’s commanders

Gen. Khan, the source said, made clear the army was unprepared to take power, and demanded to know how the army chief intended to resolve the still-unfolding showdown with the civilian governments. He noted that the army had no coherent plan to address its increasingly-fragile relationship with the United States, too. Backed by other key officers, like Gujaranwala-based XXX corps commander Raheel Sharif, Gen. Khan pushed for the army to pull back from the brink.

Ever since the killing of military ruler Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1998, the corps commanders conference has been a key instrument of what Mr. Haqqani once described as “military rule by other means”. The resistance faced by Gen. Kayani within the institution is, therefore, of great significance.

Ever since he took office, Pakistan’s army chief had worked to rebuild the army’s relationship with the jihadist groups it had patronised for decades. Terrorism in Pakistan, he argued, had come about because the country had become enmeshed in the United States’ war against jihadists in Afghanistan. Building peace, he argued, necessitated reviving this relationship — even at the cost of ties with the United States.

In 2008, Gen. Pasha delivered an off-the-record briefing to journalists, where he described Tehreek-e-Taliban commanders Baitullah Mehsud and Maulana Muhammad Fazlullah — responsible for hundreds of killings in Pakistanas “patriots”.

Following the raid that claimed Osama bin Laden last year, Mr. Pasha put the case for an aggressive anti-United States line to Pakistani legislators: “At every difficult moment in our history”, he said “the United States has let us down. This fear that we can’t live without the United States is wrong.

Gen. Kayani’s line, the government’s decision not to allow his spymaster to serve on suggests, no longer represents the army’s institutional consensus.

The path to peace he envisaged involved costs the army isn’t willing to pay.

Political resurgence?

Continue reading Zardari and the Generals’ consensus

Osama was in routine contact with ISI officials in Abbottabad: Report

LONDON: Osama bin Laden was in routine contact with senior members of Pakistan’s spy agency while hiding in his Abbottabad-safe house, secret intelligence documents have revealed.

E-mails from the private US security firm, Stratfor, which were published by WikiLeaks, revealed that up to 12 officials in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency knew of the Al-Qaida leader’s safe house.

The internal email did not name the Pakistofficials involved, but said the US could use the information as a bargaining chip in post raid negotiations with Islamabad, The Telegraph reports.

“Mid to senior level ISI and Pak Mil with one retired Pak general that had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safehouse,” the email said. ….

Read more » TOI