Pakistani Liberals Are No Leap of Faith

This beleaguered minority in the country still deserves international support.

BY SADANAND DHUME

This isn’t the best time to be a Pakistani liberal. Opinion polling shows most Pakistanis thinking of America as an enemy, democracy as an unwelcome concept and the imposition of Shariah law as a no-brainer. Meanwhile, recent news out of the country involves the judiciary taking down an elected prime minister and politicians like Imran Khan riding high by invoking anti-imperialist and Islamist ideas, even as an Urdu-language media remains saturated with hyper-nationalism.

Against this backdrop, the world can’t be blamed for regarding the Pakistani liberal as an exotic hothouse flower with no roots in the country’s unforgiving soil. As the United States enters a shaky new period of detente with Pakistan following the reopening last week of supply routes to Afghanistan, it’s fair to ask if these liberals deserve notice at all. Doesn’t it make more sense for the West to instead engage more intensely with the powerful army and assertive hardliners such as Mr. Khan?

The answer is no. It’s always tempting for the West to do business with whoever’s powerful, but this is a recipe for the kind of trouble America right now faces with its troublesome “ally.” Pakistan’s liberals are not only less weak and less of a fringe phenomenon than they’re made out to be, they’re also the only ones who hold out the promise of a better future for their country.

One recurring complaint against liberalism is that though Pakistan regained its democracy four years ago, President Asif Ali Zardari’s civilian government still can’t wrest decision-making away from the military. But no civilian government could realistically be expected to immediately assert its authority over an army that has directly ruled the country for 34 of its 65 years, and continues to command the lion’s share of national resources. As the experiences of Indonesia and Turkey show, only when democracy grows roots do politicians acquire the finesse and self-confidence to take on generals accustomed to command. This takes patience.

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If Pakistan does not release Dr Shakil Afridi, Senator Rand Paul will hold up the US Senate to deny Islamabad all aid.

Paul may hold up Senate over Pakistan

By MANU RAJU and TOMER OVADIA

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul is threatening to bottle up the Senate if he doesn’t get a vote on his plan to dramatically cut foreign aid to Pakistan.

In an extraordinary step, the Republican freshman is warning that he may file a motion to shut down debate and push a vote on his proposal, a right typically granted strictly to the Senate majority leader. But Paul is angry that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to give him an up-or-down vote on the proposal, and now appears poised to use arcane Senate procedures to force a vote even if it ties up the Senate for days.

Paul’s bill would halt billions of dollars in foreign aid that the United States provides Pakistan until the country frees a doctor jailed for providing Americans information that helped lead to the death of Osama Bin Laden. And it could put some of his colleagues in a tricky diplomatic spot, as they rail against government spending but also fear provoking tensions with a country whose relations with the United States have frayed.

“I have worked consistently to bring awareness to Dr. [Shakil] Afridi’s plight, and I have offered legislation to deny any current or future foreign assistance to the Pakistani government until they reverse course and free Dr. Afridi,” Paul wrote in the letter. “In pursuing a resolution to this situation, I have gained the necessary number of signatures on a cloture petition to force a vote on my legislation on the Senate floor. If Dr. Afridi is not released upon appeal, I will seek such a floor vote at the earliest opportunity.”

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Militants coming from Afghanistan take scores of villagers hostage in Pakistan – Is PaK military learning any lessons?

By: Wichaar Desk

KHAR, Pakistan — Dozens of militants coming from Afghanistan took scores of villagers hostage in Pakistan’s northwest on Thursday, sparking fighting with the army that killed at least 14 people, Pakistani officials said.

The incident is the latest chapter in a broader infiltration trend that has seen Islamabad railing against Afghan and NATO forces for not doing enough to stop the cross-border attacks, which it says have killed dozens of members of its security forces.

There has been little sympathy from the U.S. and Afghan governments however, which have long complained Pakistan allows sanctuary to militants fighting in Afghanistan, warning Islamabad that instability in the war-torn country poses a threat to it as well.

On Thursday, Taliban gunmen opened fire on a compound in eastern Pakistan housing police trainees, killing nine of them, officials said.

The militants who staged the cross-border attack appeared to be targeting members of an anti-Taliban militia in Kitkot village near Pakistan’s Bajur tribal area, said Tariq Khan, a local government official. They came from Afghanistan’s Kunar province and took hundreds of villagers hostage, including anti-Taliban militiamen, he said.

Hundreds of Pakistani soldiers surrounded the village and killed 12 militants, Khan added. Two militiamen were also killed in the fighting.

Soldiers have retrieved scores of villagers, but dozens more are still held by the militants or trapped in their homes by the fighting, said Khan and two security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The army called in gunship helicopters for support but have not used them yet for fear of civilian casualties, said Khan.

The information could not be independently verified because the area is largely off-limits to reporters.

The police targeted in the eastern city of Lahore were training to become prison guards, said Habibur Rehman, the chief of police in Punjab province, where Lahore is the capital.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was revenge for police torture of their fighters in prison. He spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.

In addition to the police who were killed, eight were also wounded, said Salman Saddiq, a government official.

One of the wounded, Shafqat Imran, said that eight to 10 attackers, who had their faces hidden behind hoods, stormed into the compound and started shooting randomly. They shouted “God is great,” then shot the policemen one by one, said Imran, speaking from a hospital bed.

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Pakistan’s strategic assets at work

Strategic Assets hard at work …

By: Omar

“Taliban militants”, riding a car and three motorbikes, drove up to a hostel where 30 under training policemen were living (this is in Lahore, capital of Punjab), walked in, said the usual Allah O Akbar and started shooting whoever they could. Killed 10 or so, injured a few more. Got on their car and motorbikes and drove away. The chief of police said “its retaliation for NATO supplies”, thus conceding that in his capital city, there are armed men who can get into their cars and come shoot up random poor soldiers and leave anytime they want if they are upset over NATO supplies. Where did they come from? where did they go? Can they be stopped? Apparently we have no idea… other than Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif appealing to the Taliban to please not attack Punjab province because HIS govt doesn’t agree with the “pro-NATO” policies of the federal govt (he actually said this, look it up).’

Meanwhile, in Bajaur, which has been “cleared” of militants several times, the taliban came in their hundreds and took practically a whole village hostage. Pakistan will blame Afghanistan (and by extension, NATO) but who missed the chance to work WITH Nato to fix this problem?

If any ruling elite deserves to be screwed with sharp edged instruments it has to be the Pakistani ruling elite, but its mostly its poor soldiers and poor people who get killed. Which is par for the course in this world, but still painful. I have known a couple of these Pakhtoon soldiers and my father and my uncle have served with many many more and they are just outstanding human beings. They are dirt poor but they are proud and honorable and they are incredibly tough. And they are being sacrificed with abandon while the ruling elite plays its double games with America and dreams of strategic depth and other bullcrap. Its too sad for words.

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Terror Is Their Family Business – Why won’t the State Department designate the Haqqanis?

By JEFFREY DRESSLER

The Haqqani network is the most aggressive terrorist organization targeting U.S. and host nation forces in Afghanistan. Founded by aging patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani, the network is now managed by his sons Sirajuddin, Badruddin, and Nasiruddin, and their uncles Ibrahim and Khalil. They have carved out a terrorist mini-state in North Waziristan, just across Afghanistan’s eastern border, where they host a who’s who of high-value terrorist targets, including senior members of al Qaeda.

So why hasn’t the State Department designated what U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker called “a group of killers, pure and simple” as a Foreign Terrorist Organization?

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