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I will go down like Allende, not Nawaz Sharif – President Zardari

President Asif Zardari

By Tarek Fatah

Few leaders have emulated Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who in 1985 relinquished all of his powers and voluntarily stepped down as president of the country. At a time when African dictators, Arab Kings and Latin American generalissimos adorned themselves in bizarre military uniforms, medieval costumes and got appointed ‘life presidents’, Nyerere, known to his people simply as Mwalimu or “teacher”, quietly passed on the torch. Other Afro-Asian leaders have done the exact opposite. Notably, Mugabe, Qaddafi and the King of Saudi Arabia it seems will only leave office when the angel of death descends.

From Canada, it seems impossible to imagine that anyone at the top would ever dare to relinquish power. Whether it is the Saudi kings or Mugabe or Qaddafi, it seems in the third world, only divine intervention brings about change.

However, a quarter century later, on Monday, April 19, an echo of Nyerere’s rare statesmanship was heard and witnessed on another continent. With a simple signature, President Asif Zardari of Pakistan signed away most of his executive powers he had inherited from military predecessors to become the country’s ceremonial head of state. For 40 years military dictators who had overthrown elected governments had ruled unconstitutionally with a complicit judiciary that had legitimised their acts of treason. Zardari’s action nullified decades of damage to give Pakistan the chance for a fresh start.

In the words of columnist Raza Rumi, Pakistan “crossed a major milestone” when all of the country’s political parties — the ruling alliance and the opposition — reached a consensus on the 18th Amendment to the country’s constitution. He wrote, “The distortions inserted by the military rule have been done away with. Political elites this time, however, have gone a step further and improved the state of provincial autonomy. Perhaps this is where a civilian negotiation and democratic politics of compromise has been most effective. Who would have thought a few years ago that this was achievable? There were many sceptics who thought that the amendments might not be approved. However, the ‘corrupt’ and ‘incompetent’ politicians have proved everyone wrong.”

Few years ago when Zardari was unanimously elected president by the country’s National Assembly, Senate and all members of the four provincial legislatures, he had promised that he would work to amend the country’s constitution so that no future president was able to dismiss an elected parliament or usurp power. At the time few people believed he would do what he was promising. After all, who in his right mind gives up power, willingly?

Zardari has proven all his critics wrong and in doing so has changed the course of Pakistan’s history. The man lampooned unfairly by the country’s powerful establishment — the media, the generals and the judges — as “Mr Ten Percent” has in fact given “One-Hundred-and-Ten Percent” back to the country. While the nation celebrates, still in disbelief that anyone at the top was willing to curtail their own powers, his critics in the armed forces and the judiciary are foaming with anger, unable to stop him from enshrining democracy as an immutable reality in Pakistan.

The country’s Punjab-dominated judges and generals, though smarting from this setback, still wield the power to undo this historic development. In fact, as he signed the document, President Zardari did not shy away from suggesting there may still be some generals lurking in the shadows who may stage a military coup with the backing of the judiciary.

After the signing ceremony Zardari took everyone by surprise when he said while the doors stood closed to dictators, “mishaps” could not be ruled out. Asked about the possibility of another dictatorship, he said, “I am fully confident that no dictator would dare step in now, but then, who can rule out mishaps?”

Ever the realist, the man who has witnessed the murder of his wife, the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the judicial assassination of his father-in-law, Prime Minister ZA Bhutto and two of his wife’s brothers, Zardari has seen death at close quarters and I am told he has warned the military as well the judiciary that any attempt to stage a military coup will have to contend with his dead body. “I will go down like Allende, not Nawaz Sharif,” he told a common friend and those who know him since his days at a military cadet college say the man keeps his word.

Continue reading I will go down like Allende, not Nawaz Sharif – President Zardari

BAAGHI: Sindh fights back in Shikarpur

BAAGHI: Pakistan fights back in Shikarpur —Marvi Sirmed

Shikarpur was to the old Sindh what Karachi is today to Pakistan. Having trade links with Central Asia, from Qandahar to Uzbekistan to Moscow, Shikarpur was the gateway of Sindh to the world

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan saw yet another moment of national shame right on the day of Eid-ul-Azha when four Hindus, including three doctors, were brutally killed in broad daylight. Conflicting media messages and false claims about the motive are but an ugly attempt to justify the crime. According to the story given out to the media, the murders took place after a boy from the Hindu community sexually assaulted a girl from the Muslim Bhayo tribe. Bhayo is the third most influential tribes of Shikarpur after the Jatois and Mahars in Chak town of Shikarpur. Hindus make around 6,000 out of the total 40,000 people in Chak town and are the predominant contributors to Sindh’s economy through trade and other professions. In the local politics of the area, the Hindu community has never been as muted as it is now, after the advent of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), working openly through their unmarked offices and representatives since at least a decade.

One was appalled listening to the people of the town about the immunity with which the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) operates in Shikarpur in cahoots with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Fazl (JUI-F) and with the support of local tribal chiefs and state machinery, especially the police. The accused Bhayo tribe has its members in not only the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (the main accused Babul Khan Bhayo is district head of the PPP), but also in pro-Taliban  Ulema-e-Pakistan-Fazl (JUI-F) and proscribed militant extremist organisation, the SSP.

According to the details gathered from the local communities, a young girl from Bhayo community went to see her Hindu friend on Diwali night. The girl was seen entering the autaq (sitting area used by males), which was unusual in the local culture. Discovering the boy and the girl together, community elders (Hindus) reportedly beat the boy and sent the girl back to her home. The event triggered the ‘honour’ of the Bhayo tribe. What made things worse was the boy’s religion. The Bhayos felt doubly humiliated.

The Bhayo members of the  Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Fazl (JUI-F) started threatening the entire Hindu community since that day. The community requested the police for security after which the police established a small picket near the Hindu neighbourhood. But two hours before the incident, policemen vanished from the scene only to come back half an hour after the ambush. Just when the police pretended to start searching for the culprits, SSP and JUI-F workers gathered around the police station and amid the slogans of Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) and Jihad Fi Sabilillah (war in the cause of God), they intimidated the police staff and asked to close the case. Resultantly, the FIR could only be registered around 36 hours after the crime. The victims’ family does not agree with the facts described in the state-registered complaint.

Noteworthy is the fact that the victims were not even remotely related to the Hindu boy accused by the Bhayo tribes of being ‘karo’ (accused boy). According to a much-criticised tradition, when an unmarried couple is caught together, they are murdered after the Panchayat is informed. The accused girl (kari) is usually murdered before or with the accused boy (karo). According to the tribal code, karo can only be the one directly involved in the ‘illicit’ relations with the kari. In this case, even the principles of this tradition (unapproved by educated Sindhis), karo-kari (honour killing), were not followed. It is a case of simple and direct targeting of the Hindu community, which remains an endangered one after the religious extremists were installed in the area for running the madrassas.

Madrassa tradition in Shikarpur is almost 40 years old, which is the age of the oldest madrassa here. According to the locals, Pashto speaking Niazis from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjabis from south Punjab were brought in over a decade ago. Totally alien to the local culture and traditions, they tried to impose strict Islamic code, which initially did not work. But after more than a decade, an entire generation has been out of these madrassas in the social life of Shikarpur. When I spoke to over a dozen people from the local Muslim community, I found them extremely opposed to and fearful of the Islamisation being brought to Sindh, which they saw as a part of the larger design of ruining the Sindhi culture.

The fact that the common people still value local pluralistic culture is evident from the fact that over the last few days, people — mainly Muslims — are coming out in the streets every day in almost 500-600 villages and towns of rural Sindh against this incident. It was heartening to know that not only thousands (6,000 according to a conservative estimate by a member of the local Press Club) of Muslims participated in the funeral of their four fellow citizens; hundreds of them have taken upon themselves to ensure the security of the frightened Hindu community. They stay day and night at the entrance of the Hindu neighbourhood. These common people, one Hindu resident of the area said, are not only from the influential Mahar and Jatoi communities but also some Bhayos are seen among them.

When asked how the pro-Taliban Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Fazl (JUI-F) guys got such an influence in an otherwise sufi and secular culture of this city, the people proudly said that the fact that these extremists need political backing, support of the tribal influentials and police machinery, is enough evidence of their weakness. Had they had a popular support, they would not have needed any of these tactics. A local rights’ activist (Muslim), who is a key organiser of a protest rally today (Monday) at 12 noon in Hyderabad, wanted me to tell the world that Pakistanis would fight extremism till the last drop of their blood.

This is Pakistan! Those in the charge of things must realise that the people of Pakistan are committed to their pluralistic values ingrained in their sufi culture. Any effort to dismantle plural and secular social base would be met with fierce resistance. The ones who believe that we, the ‘liberal fascists’, are few in number and are irrelevant, should see how this battle is being fought by a common citizen in Sindh, original home to a wonderful Hindu community who made Shikarpur mercantile hub of Sindh before the Talpurs came in. Shikarpur was to the old Sindh what Karachi is today to Pakistan. Having trade links with Central Asia, from Qandahar to Uzbekistan to Moscow, Shikarpur was the gateway of Sindh to the world. And in Shikarpur, it was our Hindu trader community that started the system of payments through cheques. Home to poets like Sheikh Ayaz, this city has produced seers and litterateurs alongside professionals of the highest quality. Today Shikarpur is determined to fight extremism more than ever.

Continue reading BAAGHI: Sindh fights back in Shikarpur

No Good News for Pakistan: BBC Claims Pakistan ‘supports Taliban’

– Claim Pakistan ‘supports Taliban’

Allegations that Pakistan has actively been supporting Taliban insurgents, while acting as an ally of the US in public, have been made to a BBC investigation.

Last week Pakistan said it could do more to prevent militant groups operating within its borders, but the allegations suggest Islamabad has been secretly backing the Taliban. Pakistan denies the allegation. David Loyn reports. ….

Read more » BBC

via » Siasat.pk

Sen. Graham Doesn’t Rule Out Military Action Against Pakistan if No Crack Down on Extremists

– Graham Doesn’t Rule Out Military Action Against Pakistan if No Crack Down on Extremists

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday wouldn’t rule out U.S. military action if Pakistan’s intelligence agencies continue supporting terrorists who are attacking American forces.

Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen last week accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency of backing the Haqqani network, a terror group active in Afghanistan but based out of Pakistan who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan and detonated a truck bomb that wounded scores of American soldiers.

Arguing that Pakistan has made a “tremendous miscalculation” in allowing the Haqqanis to operate without consequence, Graham said the U.S. won’t make the same mistake with Pakistan.

“The sovereign nation of Pakistan is engaging in hostile acts against the United States and our ally Afghanistan that must cease. I will leave it up to the experts, but if the experts believe that we need to elevate our response, they will have a lot of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill,” the South Carolina senator told “Fox News Sunday.”

White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Mullen and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with their counterparts in Pakistan last week and made the point that safe havens and support for the Haqqani Network will not be abided.

But Plouffe wouldn’t say if the U.S. would cut aid to Pakistan if it didn’t crack down on the Haqqanis.

Graham, who’s on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the relationship with Pakistan is flawed but is not spoiled to the point of abandonment. However, he did suggest that the U.S. could “reconfigure” assistance to Pakistan.

“No longer are we to designating an amount of aid to Pakistan. We’re going to have a more transactional relationship,” Graham said.

Read more:→ http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/25/graham-doesnt-rule-out-military-action-against-pakistan-if-no-crack-down-on/#ixzz1Z0sHhaS2

via → Siasat.pk

Admiral Mike Mullen says Pakistan’s spy service is backing violence against U.S. targets in Afghanistan

U.S. TURNS UP THE HEAT ON PAKISTAN’S SPY AGENCY

by: Reuters

ISLAMABAD — Washington’s stunning charge that Pakistan’s spy service is backing violence against U.S. targets in Afghanistan has pushed Islamabad into a tight corner: either it cleans up the powerful agency or it faces the wrath of an angry superpower.

There has never been much doubt in Washington that the shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) plays a “double game,” supporting some militants to extend its influence in Afghanistan and counter India, while targeting others.

But the gloves came off on Thursday when U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen bluntly described the Haqqani militant network as a “veritable arm” of the ISI and accused Pakistan of providing support for the group’s September 13 brazen attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

It was the most serious allegation leveled by Washington against the nuclear-armed South Asian nation since they allied in the war on terror in 2001, and the first time it has held Islamabad responsible for an attack against the United States.

“Mullen has finally put Pakistan on the spot and I don’t think he has left any ambiguity about the feelings of the U.S. about the ISI,” said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, an Islamabad-based academic and political columnist. “Mullen has thrown the ball into Pakistan’s court.”

A STATE WITHIN A STATE

Pakistan’s equivalent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) — with which it has a paradoxical relationship of cooperation and deep distrust — the ISI has tentacles so far-reaching that it is often seen as a state within a state. Widely feared by Pakistanis, it is widely believed to employ tens of thousands of agents, with informers in many spheres of life. ….

Read more → msnbc

The Economic Times report: ISI hand in Taliban’s free-run in Pakistan’s Baluchistan

NEW YORK: Taliban has been given a free-run in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan and its hardscrabble capital city of Quetta, which has been declared off-limits by Pakistani military to US predator strikes.

The outfit’s military chief Mulla Abdul Qayyum Zakir , ranked number two after Mullah Omar, and his men are operating with impunity in the high-desert landscape and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence ( ISI )) seems to be giving them a free hand, ‘Newsweek’ reported.

“They are coming and going in groups without end,” says a senior Quetta politician, an ethnic Pashtun.

“Whatever the Taliban is doing is supervised and monitored by the [Pakistani] intelligence agencies”, he said.

Old hands among the insurgents say it reminds them of 1980s Peshawar, where anti-Soviet mujahedin operated openly with the ISI’s blessing and backing, the magazine reported.

The free rein to the Taliban fighters, the magazine said comes at a time when the terror outfit is planning its biggest surge- Operation Badr, the spring offensive in Afghanistan, where it is hoping to push in every single cadre.

The magazine however said that the Taliban preparations were overshadowed by the America’s commando assault which felled the al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The assault has left Taliban cadres and commanders stunned, despondent and uncharacteristically worried, ‘Newsweek’ quoted Zabihullah, a senior Taliban adviser. “It conveys a message to all Taliban leaders that no one is safe”.

The new Taliban military chief 38-year-old Zakir, a former Guantanamo inmate who was released to Afghan authorities holds eight to ten meetings a day in Quetta’s teeming, impoverished ethnic-Pashtun neighbourhood trailed by half-a-dozen aides on motorcycles.

‘Newsweek’ said, thousands of Taliban slogans cover the walls in and around the dusty frontier town of Kuchlak, some 14 kilometres northwest of Quetta. “The Only Solution Is Jihad Against the Invaders,” says one. “Mullah Omar Is a Dagger Raised to Strike Each Occupier,” says another.

A local government councillor says the area’s mosques and madrassas are packed with insurgents in need of temporary lodging as they head back to Afghanistan. Way stations have been set up all over the region in rented houses, he says, and swarms of Taliban pass through town on motorbikes every day. Most carry Pakistani national identity cards. “They’re enjoying the hospitality of the ‘black legs’ [derogatory slang for the ISI],” he says. He worries that the local culture is being Talibanized.

At least 20 local madrassa students have disappeared, most likely to join the fight in Afghanistan, he says, and Taliban backers are even trying to stop the traditional music and dancing at weddings. “‘How can you sing and dance when we’re dying?’ they tell us.”

A senior intelligence officer says he’s heard that Mullah Omar considers this year an important test for Zakir. “Our emir is giving Zakir a chance to prove himself,” he says. “If he does well, he stays; if not, there are others who can take over.”

Of course, no one has seen Omar since he fled into the mountains on the back of Baradar’s motorcycle nearly 10 years ago. And Zakir might do well to remember what happened to Osama bin Laden.

Courtesy: The Economic Times

The Haqqani Network in Kurram

By Reza Jan, Jeffrey Dressler

This paper details the expansion of the Haqqani Network in Pakistan’s tribal areas through peace accords signed between rival Sunni and Shia factions in Kurram Agency, Pakistan. The peace accords brought nearly four years of continuous fighting to an end. Despite the appearance of legitimacy, the peace accords were manipulated by the Afghanistan-focused Haqqani Network to serve its own ends. In exchange for brokering the peace between Sunnis and Shias, the Haqqanis allegedly received the authority to operate through Shia-controlled terrain in central and upper Kurram which will aid their ongoing insurgency against Afghan and coalition forces throughout eastern Afghanistan. The Haqqanis have also demonstrated their growing power and influence in the Pakistani tribal region in areas beyond their historical stronghold of neighboring North Waziristan Agency.

The Haqqani Network is Afghanistan’s most capable and sophisticated insurgent network. The Haqqanis enjoy sanctuary in the tribal areas in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. With the backing of elements within the Pakistan security establishment, the Haqqanis have used their sanctuary in the North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan to operate across the border in southeastern Afghanistan.

In response to increased coalition activity against the Haqqani Network in both Pakistan (via drones) and Afghanistan (via Special Operations Forces), the Haqqanis have increasingly sought new Pakistani sanctuary and additional infiltration routes in order to continue to battle coalition forces for control of southeastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network has increasingly turned their attention to Kurram Agency over the past several years as a potential sanctuary for the Haqqanis and affiliated terrorist organizations.

Kurram is a region of special strategic importance to Afghanistan-focused insurgents. It served as a base to the Afghan Mujahideen during the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Kurram remains coveted terrain today as it facilitates convenient access to several Afghan provinces and is also the shortest route to Kabul from anywhere in Pakistan. …

Read more :  criticalthreats.org
http://www.criticalthreats.org/pakistan/reza-jan-jeffrey-dressler-haqqani-network-in-kurram-may-9-2011