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Pakistan has been playing us all for suckers

Britain is spending millions bolstering Pakistan, but it is a nation in thrall to radical Islam and is using its instability to blackmail the West

by Christina Lamb

When David Cameron announced £650m in education aid for Pakistan last week, I guess the same thought occurred to many British people as it did to me: why are we doing this?

While we are slashing our social services and making our children pay hefty university fees, why should we be giving all this money to a country that has reduced its education budget to 1.5% of GDP while spending several times as much on defence? A country where only 1.7m of a population of 180m pay tax? A country that is stepping up its production of nuclear weapons so much that its arsenal will soon outnumber Britain’s? A country so corrupt that when its embassy in Washington held an auction to raise money for flood victims, and a phone rang, one Pakistani said loudly: “That’s the president calling for his cut”? A country which has so alienated powerful friends in America that they now want to abandon it?

As someone who has spent almost as much time in Pakistan as in Britain over the past 24 years, I feel particularly conflicted, as I have long argued we should be investing more in education there.

That there is a crisis in Pakistan’s education system is beyond doubt. A report out last month by the Pakistan education taskforce, a non-partisan body, shows that at least 7m children are not in school. Indeed, one-tenth of the world’s children not in school are in Pakistan. The first time I went to Pakistan in 1987 I was astonished to see that while billions of pounds’ worth of weapons from the West were going to Pakistan’s intelligence service to distribute to the Afghan mujaheddin, there was nothing for schools.

The Saudis filled the gap by opening religious schools, some of which became breeding grounds for militants and trained the Taliban. Cameron hopes that investing in secular education will provide Pakistan’s children with an alternative to radicalism and reduce the flow of young men who want to come and bomb the West.

“I would struggle to find a country that it is more in Britain’s interests to see progress and succeed than Pakistan,” he said. “If Pakistan is a success, we will have a good friend to trade with and deal with in the future … If we fail, we will have all the problems of migration and extremism that we don’t want to see.”

As the sixth most populous country, with an arsenal of between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, as the base of both Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership, and as homeland to a large population in Britain, Pakistan is far more important to our security than Afghanistan. But after spending two weeks travelling in Pakistan last month, I feel the situation has gone far beyond anything that a long-term strategy of building schools and training teachers can hope to restrain.

The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington — its paymaster to the tune of billions of dollars over the past 10 years — is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the House foreign affairs committee and has been dealing with Pakistan since working in the Reagan White House, says he now realises “they were playing us for suckers all along”.

“I used to be Pakistan’s best friend on the Hill but I now consider Pakistan to be an unfriendly country to the US,” he said. “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder and when you tie that with the realisation that they went ahead and used their scarce resources to build nuclear weapons, it is perhaps the most frightening of all the things that have been going on over the last few years.

“We were snookered. For a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards and look western they fooled a lot of people.”

Christine Fair, assistant professor at the centre for peace and security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, is equally scathing. “Pakistan’s development strategy is to rent out its strategic scariness and not pay taxes itself,” she said. “We should let them fail.”The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, comes from one of Punjab’s largest land-owning families. Watching Cameron sign over the £650m, he said: “I think the root cause of terrorism and extremism is illiteracy. Therefore we are giving a lot of importance to education.”

If that were the case one might expect Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the most elite universities in the country, to be a bastion of liberalism. Yet in the physics department Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics, sits with his head in his hands staring out at a sea of burqas. “People used to imagine there was only a lunatic fringe in Pakistan society of these ultra-religious people,” he said. “Now we’re learning that this is not a fringe but a majority.”

What brought this home to him was the murder earlier this year of Salman Taseer, the half-British governor of Punjab who had called for the pardoning of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. The woman, Aasia Bibi, had been convicted after a mullah had accused her of impugning Islam when she shouted at two girls who refused to drink water after she had touched it because they said it was unclean.

Taseer had been a key figure in Pakistan’s politics for decades and had suffered prison and torture, yet when he said the Aasia case showed the law needed reforming, he was vilified by the mullahs and the media. In January he was shot 27 times by one of his own guards. His murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, became a hero, showered with rose petals by lawyers when he appeared in public.

After the killing, Hoodbhoy was asked to take part in a televised debate at the Islamabad Press Club in front of students. His fellow panellists were Farid Piracha, spokesman for the country’s biggest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulana Sialvi, a supposed moderate mullah from the Barelvi sect. Both began by saying that the governor brought the killing on himself, as “he who blasphemes his prophet shall be killed”. The students clapped.

Hoodbhoy then took the microphone. “Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed I managed to say that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan. I said I’m not an Islamic scholar but I know there are Muslim countries that don’t think the Koran says blasphemy carries the death sentence, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.

“I didn’t get a single clap. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said you have Salman Taseer’s blood on your hands, he looked at them and exclaimed: how I wish I had done it! He got thunderous applause.”

Afterwards, “I came back and wanted to dig a hole in the ground,” he said. “I can’t figure out why this country has gone so mad. I’ve seen my department change and change and change. There wasn’t one burqa-clad woman in the 1980s but today the non-hijabi, non-burqa student is an exception. As for the male students, they all come in turbans and beards with these fierce looks on their faces.”

Yet, he points out, these students are the super-elite, paying high fees to attend the university: “It’s nothing to do with causes normally associated with radicalism; it’s that the mullah is allowed complete freedom to spread the message of hate and liberals are bunkering down. Those who speak out are gone and the government has abdicated its responsibility and doesn’t even pretend to protect life and property.”

Raza Rumi, a young development worker and artist who blogs regularly, agrees. As we sat in a lively coffee bar in Lahore that could have been in the West until the lights went off in one of the frequent power cuts, he said: “Radicalism in Pakistan isn’t equated with poverty and backwardness — we’re seeing more radicalisation of the urban middle and upper class. I look at my own extended family. When I was growing up, maybe one or two people had a beard. Last time I went to a family wedding I was shell-shocked. All these uncles and aunts who were regular Pakistanis watching cricket and Indian movies now all have beards or are in hijabs.

“I think we’re in an existential crisis. The moderate political parties have taken a back seat and chickened out as they just want to protect their positions. What is Pakistan’s identity? Is it an Islamist identity as defined by Salman Taseer’s murder, ISI [the intelligence service], the jihadists? Is that really what we want to be?”

He does not know how much longer he will write about such things. “I’ve been getting repeated emails that I should leave the country or shut up,” he said.

When I left the cafe I was followed for the rest of the day by a small yellow car.

Courtesy: thesundaytimes.co.uk

Who Will Bell The Intelligence Agencies In Pakistan?

Presidential Spokesperson, Farhatullah Babar says that apparently no law exists to hold intelligence agencies accountable in Pakistan and parliament should draft such laws. This depicts a very sorry state of affairs and seriously undermines the concept of across the board accountability of all institutions in a democratic dispensation. In this episode of Reporter, Arshad Sharif tries to find out how and who will bring the intelligence agencies of the country under rule of law.

Courtesy: DAWN News (Program “Reporter” with Arshad Sharif) – You Tube

Obama Gives Gadhafi the Ultimatum

Obama Gives Gadhafi the Ultimatum: Stop Violence or Face International Military Action

U.S. President Stressed that Europe, Arab States Would Lead Military Action Against Libya, if Needed

By JAKE TAPPER, HUMA KHAN and MARTHA RADDATZ

President Obama today gave an ultimatum to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that he must immediately implement a ceasefire in all parts of Libya and allow international humanitarian assistance or risk military action against his regime.

“Moammar Gadhafi has a choice. The [U.N.] resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a ceasefire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop,” the president said today. “Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya.”

“These terms are not subject to negotiation,” he added. “If Gadhafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences and the resolution will be enforced through military action.”

Obama’s speech indicated that coalition forces are giving Gadhafi time to change course, but are also gearing up for an attack if their demands are not met. …

Read more : ABC News

ENEMIES OF DEMOCRACY INVITING ARMY & JUDICIARY TO PLAY UNCONSTITUTIONAL ROLE AGAINST ELECTED DEMOCRATIC GOVT.

N’ reaffirms judiciary, army proposal

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (N) on Wednesday said it considered the army and the judiciary major stakeholders in the country’s national affairs as it justified Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s controversial call for inviting representatives of the two institutions at a proposed all-party conference to prepare a broad-based national agenda to steer the country out of crisis.

“Since the country’s constitution has assigned roles to both the judiciary and the army, besides the executive, the call for inviting the army chief and the chief justice for consultation on national issues is not something extra-constitutional,” PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal told a joint news conference with the party’s former information secretary, Siddiqul Farooque, and MNA Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry at the party’s central secretariat here.

The PML-N leaders announced that if the government did not stop recruitment in state-owned corporations on ‘political grounds’, their party’s parliamentarians would ‘gherao’ (besiege) these institutions.

The Punjab chief minister told journalists after inaugurating a three-day polio campaign in Lahore on Monday that the deteriorating situation in the country demanded that all stakeholders, including the political leadership, army and the judiciary, sat together and discussed the challenges facing the country.

He also said he had already contacted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “on the advice of (party chief) Nawaz Sharif to suggest to him to sit together with the army and the judiciary and discuss a strategy to steer the country out of the current situation”.

Wednesday’s news conference seemed aimed at countering criticism of Mr Sharif’s statement from the federally ruling Pakistan People’s Party and various sections of society and media, with some political observers terming the call as an open invitation to the army for a direct intervention in the country’s political matters.

Read more : DAWN

As Pakistan battles extremism, it needs allies’ patience and help

By Asif Ali Zardari, The writer is president of Pakistan.

Just days before her assassination, my wife, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, wrote presciently of the war within Islam and the potential for a clash between Islam and the West: “There is an internal tension within Muslim society. The failure to resolve that tension peacefully and rationally threatens to degenerate into a collision course of values spilling into a clash between Islam and the West. It is finding a solution to this internal debate within Islam – about democracy, about human rights, about the role of women in society, about respect for other religions and cultures, about technology and modernity – that shall shape future relations between Islam and the West.”

Two months ago my friend Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was cut down for standing up against religious intolerance and against those who would use debate about our laws to divide our people. On Tuesday, another leading member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs and the only Christian in our cabinet, was murdered by extremists tied to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

These assassinations painfully reinforce my wife’s words and serve as a warning that the battle between extremism and moderation in Pakistan affects the success of the civilized world’s confrontation with the terrorist menace.

A small but increasingly belligerent minority is intent on undoing the very principles of tolerance upon which our nation was founded in 1947; principles by which Pakistan’s founder, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, lived and died; and principles that are repeated over and over in the Koran. The extremists who murdered my wife and friends are the same who blew up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and who have blown up girls’ schools in the Swat Valley.

We will not be intimidated, nor will we retreat. Such acts will not deter the government from our calibrated and consistent efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism. It is not only the future of Pakistan that is at stake but peace in our region and possibly the world.

Read more : The Washington Post

With the Mubarak gone there may be changes or the ruling elite could just find a new public face

Mubarak’s departure marks the end of an era for Egypt

If real reforms are achieved, Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – and its impact will be felt across the Middle East

by Ian Black

Hosni Mubarak’s dramatic departure marks the end of an era for Egypt and the Middle East. Thirty years of his rule has left a deep impression on his country’s domestic affairs and external relations. Without him, much could change on many fronts — at home and across the region. …

Read more : Guardian.co.uk

Current wave of extremism in Pakistan

Statistical ambiguity society

Just how some recent events of our surface politics offer an interesting study of the deep politics

By Dr Ahsan Wagha

It started with the worst ideological polarisation promoted by the military generals in the 1970s when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was forced to invite Saudi ambassador Riaz Al-Khatib to mediate between him and the opposition, a practice that was reverberated during the Musharraf-Nawaz conflict and has almost culminated into becoming one of the basic features of our foreign policy. The phenomenon can be investigated in the background of the history of Arab colonisation of this region.

Continue reading Current wave of extremism in Pakistan

Sindhi Gathering in Washington

By Khalid Hashmani

A Sindhi Sham with focus on Sindhi Rights was graciously hosted by Mrs. Nasreen and Mr. Iqbal Tareen at their residence on Sunday, January 9, 2011. The main purpose of the get-together was to meet a visiting young Sindhi leader Mr. Nizam Nizamani and exchange views on Sindhi affairs. However, the discussion soon turned into taking a candid look at the state of Sindhi Rights and potential solutions for resolving issues faced by Sindhis. The discussion group included Mr. Sohail Ansari, Mrs. Ayesha Babar, Mr. Aleem Brohi, Mr. Khalid Hashmani, Mr. Nizam Nizamani, Mr. Zahid Makhdoom, Mr. Ali Nawaz Memon, Mrs. Nazli Siddiki, Mr. Shafique Siddiki, Mrs. Nasreen Tareen and Mr. Iqbal Tareen. The session lasted several hours and resulted in some tangible recommendations – mainly that all Sindhi groups and political parties should formulate a minimum tangible agenda on which every one is in agreement and diligently work together until those goals are achieved. A synopsis of the meeting, organized by the main topics discussed at the meeting is shared below with the hope that Sindhis all over the world will have similar sessions in the cities, towns, and villages where they live so that a unified campaign can emerge to further the cause of Sindhi Rights. …

Strengths and Weaknesses of Sindhis

Some of the participants were of the views that Sindhis are a much stronger and organized nation than perceived by some. They gave the example of total shut-down of Sindh for several days after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as an evidence that Sindhis are much stronger and willing to show force. Another example provided was that Sindhi political parties were able to organize large gatherings attended by hundreds of thousands of people in Karachi, Sindh was a sign of emerging organization and strength of Sindhis. The fact that there were six (6) Sindhi television channels, several FM radio stations broadcasting in Sindhi, and scores of Sindhi newspapers and magazines demonstrates clearly that Sindhis are successfully protecting and advancing their culture and heritage.

The counter point of view was that the Sindhis were not organized and had neither leadership nor direction. The strong reaction of Sindhis after the state murder of Benazir Bhutto was rather an exception prompted by emotions, and not an evidence that the reaction was well-calculated, well-articulated. … They gave an example that in spite of hundreds of thousands of Sindhis living in the core central areas of Karachi, Sindhis do not have a single Sindhi-medium school. … Another example they gave was that many leaders of key political parties live in Qasimabad area of Hyderabad and yet the area has no civic services. There is no sanitation system. All garbage is simply piled up in front of houses on the main streets of Qasimabad. How are these leaders going to help us to achieve Sindhi Rights when they cannot even organize people of one small area to create a rudimentary system that keeps streets of Qasimabad clean and safe?

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, January 15, 2011.

G. M. Syed

G. M. Syed (January 17, 1904 — April 25, 1995) was a Sindhi nationalist, leftist, revolutionary, writer and a Sufi. G M Syed was the first leader who proposed the bill for Pakistan in Sindh Assembly. Before, it Muslim league had presented resolution in Lahore  and the full council of Muslim League in the leadership of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had unanimously passed 1940 Lahore Resolution, later known as Pakistan Resolution. The full council of Muslim league granted only three aspects of governance–currency, foreign affairs, and defense related communication–to a future federation and Sindh had joined Pakistan on the condition that the states (provinces) will be ‘independent states’.

Unfortunately, the 1940 resolution was not implemented in letter and in spirit — Sindh, Bengal,  Balochistan and NWFP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) — were deprived of all their rights and its people treated as slaves. Due to it, one province of the federation named east Pakistan or Bangladesh has already seceded from Pakistan. However, G. M. Syed became the first political prisoner of Pakistan because of his differences with the leadership of the country.

Continue reading G. M. Syed

Colonial prejudices —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Unfortunately, the ‘establishment’ and its supporters with their colonial mindset and prejudices consider ruling the Baloch, Bengalis, Sindhis and Pashtuns their birthright and find it extremely unpalatable to even think that they are capable of managing their own affairs. …

Read more : Daily Times

Pakistan at knife’s edge

Karachi – Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) is organizing the launching ceremony of the book “Pakistan at knife’s edge” by late M. B. Naqvi at Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Aewan-e-Sadr Road, Karachi on January 9, 2011 at 3.00 pm. Former diplomat, Former Union State Minister for External Affairs, Ex-Member of Indian Lok Sabha (lower house) and central leader of member of the Indian National Congress party Mani Shankar Aiyar will the chief guest on the occasion.

Guardian – US Has Taken Over Pakistan!

WikiLeaks shows America’s imperious attitude to Pakistan

The WikiLeaks US embassy cables reveal just how dangerously involved the Americans are in every aspect of Pakistan’s affairs

by Simon Tisdall

Pakistan was already under the American hammer before the WikiLeaks crisis blew. But leaked US diplomatic cables published by the Guardian show the extraordinary extent to which Pakistan is in danger of becoming a mere satrapy of imperial Washington.

The US assault on Pakistani sovereignty, which is how these developments are widely viewed in the country, is multipronged. At one end of the spectrum, in the sphere of “hard power”, US special forces are increasingly involved, in one way or another, in covert military operations inside Pakistan.

These troops are being used to help hunt down Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the tribal areas and co-ordinate drone attacks, as revealed by the Guardian’s Pakistan correspondent, Declan Walsh. Their activities come in addition to previous air and ground cross-border raids; and to the quasi-permanent basing of American technicians and other personnel at the Pakistani air force base from which drone attacks are launched.

The US hand can be seen at work in Pakistan’s complex politics, with the standing and competence of President Asif Ali Zardari seemingly constantly under harsh review. At one point, the military chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, reportedly consults the US ambassador about the possibility of a coup, designed in part to stop the advance of the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif. …

Read more : Guardian.uk.co

via Siasat

Pope Benedict weighs in : The Pakistani power corridors will act only when important foreign leaders weigh in. Otherwise, every person will be slaughtered like goats and chickens!

LAHORE: Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti on Thursday called for a thorough re-investigation and fair appeal for Aasia Bibi, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, after the pope called for her release.

On November 8, Aasia Bibi was sentenced to hang in after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in 2009.

Bhatti told AFP that Aasia had filed an appeal at the Lahore High Court (LHC).

“We have requested the Punjab government that the trial should be fair in the high court. She must also be provided security in jail,” he said.

Aasia’s supporters say the case is baseless and that her first trial “was not heard properly,” Bhatti said.

“We have, therefore, asked the Punjab government that the case be reinvestigated properly.”

Governor Punjab Salman Taseer also expressed his support for a fair trial for Aasia Bibi on Thursday when he tweeted:

Aasia bibi’s appeal has been filed in the High Court. I am personally supervising the case.inshallah I will ensure she is not victimised.

Pope Benedict XVI this week called for her release and said Christians in Pakistan were “often victims of violence and discrimination.”

“I feel close to Aasia Bibi and her family and I ask that she be released as soon as possible,” he said on Wednesday.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said he was told during a visit to Islamabad last week that Pakistan was committed to changing the blasphemy law and promised to join the fight to save Aasia. …

Read more : THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

The divorce of religion and politics – Dr Manzur Ejaz

Sufis were witnessing the misuse of religion by qazis and other ‘pillars’ of religious institutions. They were aware of the corruption, nepotism and injustice being practiced in the name of Islam. Therefore, to save the spirituality of religion, they preached the separation of religion from the state and other worldly affairs. …

Read more : Wichaar

Does Pakistan make sense? — Haider Nizamani

State and nation alignment is an ideal that very few, if any, states in the world meet. As a result, when overly centralised states like Pakistan try to erase social and political differences within a diverse society like theirs, in the name of creating a ‘true Pakistani’, the project is bound to be challenged.

Continue reading Does Pakistan make sense? — Haider Nizamani

U.S. Navy and Israeli warships moving towards Iran

– Aporrea.org

June 19, 2010 – More than a dozen U.S. warships and Israel, including an aircraft carrier, passed through the Suez Canal on Friday and head towards the Red Sea. “According to eyewitnesses, U.S. battleships were larger than crossed the Channel for many years,” reported the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi on Saturday.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the Egyptian opposition members criticized the government for cooperation with the U.S. and Israeli forces and allow the passage of ships through Egyptian territorial waters. The Red Sea is the most direct route to the Persian Gulf from the Mediterranean.

Continue reading U.S. Navy and Israeli warships moving towards Iran

New York: Discussion on Sindh

A New York Dinner with Congress G. Ackerman

A group of concerned Sindhis had a two-hour long meeting with Honorable Congressman Gary Auckerman yesterday in New York over dinner at Waldrof Astoria. Dr. M. Halepota, Dr. W. Baloch, H. Bursch, M. Laghari, Shahmir and Mahmir Halepota, Dr. N. Lal, congressman’s chief of staff and Professor Dr. Aftab Kazi participated. They discussed U.S., Sindh/Pakistan and Central and South Asian affairs. Dr. N.Lal was  gracious host.

June 14, 2010

Sukkur’s misery

by: Altaf Hussain Qureshi

Sukkur, the third largest City of Sindh , because of its excellent geographical location, was considered to be one of the most prosperous, culturally, socially as well as economically, not only after partition of subcontinent but even before that. Unfortunately for some time this once beautiful city has been completely ignored by the very people who are made in charge of its civic affairs. As a result its entire roads and lanes are in complete shambles; sewerage gutters are flowing into the houses of low-lying areas where most the poor and middle class people live and multistory buildings have mushroomed with so much of speed with the active blessing of its Nazim that even pedestrians find it difficult to cross streets. One such building which was built few months back has collapsed due to substandard material used in the construction. This horrible incident has taken many innocent lives…

Of all the miseries, although Sukkur is on the bank of River Indus yet its residents have no potable water available, therefore they are forced to drink unhygienic water resulting in spread of hepatitis C.

I also urged the government, if it is really interested in the well-being of the people of Sukkur to please hold impartial audit of the funds allocated to city. But of course there should not be party politics involved so far audit of the funds is concerned.

11th January 2009