Archive for March, 2010

Progress, For a Price, in Pakistan

By Doyle McManus for The Los Angeles Times

In 2001, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, President George W. Bush gave Pakistan’s then-leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a choice: He was either with us or against us. Musharraf chose to become an ally, but the question ever since has been whether that shotgun marriage can mature into a healthy adult relationship. At times, the prospect has seemed far from reach.

The world’s second-most-populous Muslim country is caught in a brutal internal struggle between extremism and moderation. Most of its people tell pollsters they don’t like the United States and wish we’d go away. The tribesmen of its western frontier shelter Osama bin Laden and the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban. And the United States can’t forget how, in the 1980s, Pakistan built nuclear weapons — and then later exported nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran.

But in recent months, there has been progress in the relationship. Military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has increased significantly. Pakistan has allowed the CIA to increase its missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities have arrested several Taliban leaders and allowed U.S. intelligence officers to question them. And now Pakistan is offering to increase its own military operations in North Waziristan, the presumed lair of Bin Laden. All that cooperation came at a price, of course: a flood of U.S. military and economic aid.

And last week, the Pakistanis came to Washington to press for more. The academic criticism of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is that it is “transactional” — nothing more than a series of bargains between buyers and sellers who don’t trust each other much. That’s still mostly true. Pakistan’s delegation arrived with a 56-page shopping list covering everything from military equipment to education and cultural exchanges. And one Pakistani official, asked during the visit whether his government was truly willing to act against the havens that allow the Taliban to maintain bases in Pakistan, replied frankly: “Yes — but at a price.”

After a series of meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pakistan’s ebullient foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, declared: “I think we are going to move from a relationship to a partnership.” But he used the future tense. In the meantime, there are things to work out. Pakistan is clearly worried about what happens when the United States begins pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 2011.

Although Obama administration officials have tried to reassure Pakistan that Washington’s commitment to the region is for the long haul, uncertainty remains. “Our fear is . . . that we get into a fight with these guys [the Taliban], and you walk away, and we’re still there,” a Pakistani official said. Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, spent part of his time in Washington visiting Congress with PowerPoint slides to show that Pakistan has committed more troops to its fight against insurgents than the United States has on the ground in Afghanistan, and that it has suffered almost 30,000 killed and wounded in the process.

According to U.S. officials, Kayani made a strong case that Pakistan can do more if it gets more modern military equipment from the United States, especially helicopters to ferry troops into the rugged badlands where Al Qaeda and the Taliban hide. The United States has helped Pakistan acquire some helicopters, but not as many and not as quickly as the Pakistanis would like. U.S. officials said they would try to speed the delivery of more. In the past, U.S. officials complained that Pakistan used much of its U.S. military aid to bolster its eastern front with India instead of its fight with internal insurgents; but since Pakistan’s 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley, that criticism has been stilled.

The delegation also added a new item to Islamabad’s wish list: a nuclear agreement under which the United States would help Pakistan develop its civilian nuclear energy industry — to mirror a similar U.S. agreement with India, Pakistan’s longtime enemy. The United States told the Pakistanis that would have to wait. The memory of having to clamp sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program is still too fresh. But it was a sign of improving relations that the idea wasn’t rejected completely.

 In 2001, the United States sought a new relationship with Pakistan mostly because it was next to Afghanistan — and thus a country we would need for moving military supplies and basing drones. But that thinking has slowly evolved. In the long run, with its population of 170 million people — not to mention its cache of nuclear weapons — Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan.

“We’re engaging with Pakistan because we’re afraid of it,” says Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University. “It’s the scariest country in the region. Because of Afghanistan, it’s been treated as if it were a subsidiary issue. But Pakistan should be the primary issue.” The Americans are working hard to convince the Pakistanis that they are interested in Pakistan’s stability for its own sake, not just because it’s next door to Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are working hard to convince the Americans that they are committed to defeating the extremists in their midst. It’s not a strategic relationship yet. If it’s a partnership, it’s still a wary one. But that’s progress.

Pakistan-Born Cabdriver In Chicago Accused of Helping Al-Qaeda

By Carrie Johnson for The Washington Post

A Chicago taxi driver born in Pakistan was arrested Friday on two charges of providing material support to terrorists — allegedly attempting to funnel money to al-Qaeda and discussing an attack on a U.S. stadium.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen, does not pose an imminent danger to Americans, prosecutors said. But they said Khan, 56, had claimed he knew Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistan-based extremist leader with close ties to al-Qaeda.

Kashmiri faces criminal charges in the United States for allegedly conspiring with another Chicagoan, David C. Headley, to kill employees of a Danish newspaper that published derogatory cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

The court papers in Khan’s case describe a March 11 phone call in which he appeared to discuss attacking an unnamed U.S. stadium in August with bombs that go “boom, boom, boom, boom.”

Authorities sent an undercover agent to meet with Khan and give him $1,000 to send to Kashmiri, the court papers said. Khan, 56, of the North Side, was then charged with two counts of providing material support to terrorism in a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago and unsealed Friday following his arrest, the release said. The investigation is continuing.

India Becomes Only Country In the World To Possess Maneuverable Supersonic Missiles

By DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR  for ArabNews.com

 

NEW DELHI: India successfully tested Sunday a “maneuverable” version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which it has jointly developed with Russia, news reports said.

The vertical-launch version of the 290-kilometer range BrahMos was tested from a warship in the Bay of Bengal off India’s eastern coast, the PTI news agency reported. “The vertical-launch version of missile was launched at 11:30 (0600 GMT) hours today from Indian Navy ship INS Ranvir and it manoeuvred successfully hitting the target ship. It was a perfect hit and a perfect mission,” BrahMos aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai was quoted as saying. “

After today’s test, India has become the first and only country in the world to have a maneuverable supersonic cruise missile in its inventory,” Pillai said.

Named after India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva rivers, the BrahMos can carry a 200-kilogram conventional warhead. Variants of the missile fitted with inclined launchers are already in service with the Indian Navy, NDTV news channel quoted defense sources as saying. Sunday’s firing was part of pre-induction tests for the vertical launcher variant, the sources said. The BrahMos has also been inducted into the India Army and preparations are on to develop air-launched and the submarine- launched versions, the sources said.

Obama Pledges To Work With ‘Peace-Loving’ Pakistanis On Occasion of 70th Pakistan Day 3/23

By Lalit K Jha for The Press Trust of India  

Greeting people of Pakistan on the occasion of its National Day, US President Barack Obama today pledged to remain a partner of all Pakistanis who “seek to build a future of peace and prosperity”.

Sending his best wishes to the people of Pakistan and all those of Pakistani descent in America and around the world observing Pakistan National Day, Obama said: “Seventy years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and those of the independence generation declared their dreams of self-determination and democracy.

“Today, the people of Pakistan are carrying on the great work of Quaid-e Azam,” Obama said in his message issued on the occasion of Pakistan National Day, being marked on March 23.

“Here in the United States, our country is enriched by the many Pakistani Americans who excel as doctors, small business owners, students, members of our armed forces and in many other fields. On this National Day, we give thanks for the contributions of these fellow Americans, and the United States pledges to remain a partner of all Pakistanis who seek to build a future of peace and prosperity.”

“In these efforts, the American people are proud to join in the education, health and economic partnerships that can improve the daily lives of Pakistanis and their families,” he said.

A Recap of The Whole Health Care Reform Legislation Process

By Anonymous at Digg.com

Democrats: “We need health care reform”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Give us a majority and we’ll do it better”
Democrats: “Done, you have majority of both houses”

12 years later, health care is irrefutably worse in every respect for every single person in the United States

Democrats: “We need health care reform”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Americans are tired of partisan politics!”
Democrats: “OK, let’s compromise”
Republicans: “OK, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done”
Republicans: “Too liberal, get rid of half your ideas”
Democrats: “Done. Time to end debate”
Republicans: “Too liberal, we need more debate, we will filibuster to prevent you from voting”
Democrats: “OK, we’ll vote–sorry guys, debate is ended. It’s time to vote on the bill”
Republicans: “Too liberal, we vote no”
Democrats: “OK, it passed anyway–sorry guys.”

One month later

Republicans: “Wait–wait, OK, we have less of a minority now so we can filibuster forever.”
Democrats: “Sorry, the bill already passed, we need it to pass the House now”
Republicans: “But we have enough to filibuster”
Democrats: “Sorry, the bill already passed, we need it to pass the House now”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You haven’t listened to our ideas! You’ve shut us out of this whole process!”
Democrats: “Sorry, show us your proposal”
Republicans: “Smaller government”
Democrats: “That’s not very specific”
Republicans: “OK, here’s our detailed proposal–It’s our common-sense ideas we spent 12 years not enacting”
Democrats: “OK, we’ll add a bunch more of your ideas”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You included all these back-room deals”
Democrats: “OK, we’ll get rid of the back-room deals”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You’re using obscure procedural tricks to eliminate the back-room deals!”
Democrats: “No, we’re using reconciliation, which both parties have used dozens of times for much larger bills”
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! You’re pressuring Congressmen to vote for your bill! Scandal!”
Democrats: “It’s called ‘whipping’, it’s been done since 1789″
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Can’t you see the American people don’t want this?”
Democrats: “This bill is mildly unpopular, doing nothing (your proposal) is extraordinarily unpopular”
Republicans: “We need to start over! We need to start over!”
Democrats: “We should really consider voting–“
Republicans: “Liberal fascists! Start over! Clean slate! Common-sense! America!”

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

Greek Debt Crisis Affects Europe, World Economy

A Victory For Obama, From An Unlikely Quarter-Pakistan

By Fareed Zakaria for Newsweek

President Obama gets much credit for changing America’s image in the world—he was probably awarded the Nobel Prize for doing so. But if you asked even devoted fans to cite a specific foreign-policy achievement, they would probably hesitate. “It’s too soon for that,” they would say. But in fact, there is a place where Barack Obama’s foreign policy is working, and one that is crucial to U.S. national security—Pakistan.

There has been a spate of good news coming out of that complicated country, which has long promised to take action against Islamic militants but rarely done so. (The reason: Pakistan has used many of these same militants to destabilize its traditional foe, India, and to gain influence in Afghanistan.) Over the past few months, the Pakistani military has engaged in serious and successful operations in the militant havens of Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, and Bajaur. Some of these areas are badlands where no Pakistani government has been able to establish its writ, so the achievement is all the more important. The Pakistanis have also ramped up their intelligence sharing with the U.S. This latter process led to the arrest a month ago of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, among other Taliban figures.

Some caveats: most of the Taliban who have been captured are small fish, and the Pakistani military has a history of “catching and releasing” terrorists so that they can impress Americans but still maintain their ties with the militants. But there does seem to be a shift in Pakistani behavior. Why it’s taken place and how it might continue is a case study in the nature and limits of foreign-policy successes.

First, the Obama administration de-fined the problem correctly. Senior ad-ministration officials stopped referring to America’s efforts in Afghanistan and instead spoke constantly of “AfPak,” to emphasize the notion that success in Afghanistan depended on actions taken in Pakistan. This dismayed the Pakistanis but they got the message. They were on notice to show they were part of the solution, not the problem.

Second, the administration used both sticks and carrots. For his first state dinner, Obama pointedly invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—clearly not Pakistan’s first choice. Obama made clear that America would continue to pursue the special relationship forged with India under the Bush administration, including a far-reaching deal on nuclear cooperation. But at the same time, the White House insisted it wanted a deep, long-term, and positive relationship with Pakistan. Sens. John Kerry and Dick Lugar put together the largest nonmilitary package of U.S. assistance for the country ever. Aid to the Pakistani military is also growing rapidly.

Third, it put in time and effort. The administration has adopted what Central Command’s Gen. David Petraeus calls a “whole of government” approach to Pakistan. All elements of U.S. power and diplomacy have been deployed. Pakistan has received more than 25 visits by senior administration officials in the past year, all pushing the Pakistani military to deliver on commitments to fight the militants.

Finally, as always, luck and timing have played a key role. The militants in Pakistan, like those associated with Al Qaeda almost everywhere, went too far, brutally killing civilians, shutting down girls’ schools, and creating an atmosphere of medievalism. Pakistan’s public, which had tended to downplay the problem of terrorism, now saw it as “Pakistan’s war.” The Army, reading the street, felt it had to show results.

These results are still tentative. Pakistan’s military retains its obsession with India—how else to justify a vast budget in a small, poor nation? It has still not acted seriously against any of the major militant groups active against Afghanistan, India, or the United States. The Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani group, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and many smaller groups all operate with impunity within Pakistan. But the Pakistani military is doing more than it has before, and that counts as success in the world of foreign policy.

Such success will endure only if the Obama administration keeps at it. There are some who believe that Pakistan has changed its basic strategy and now understands that it should cut its ties to these groups altogether. Strangely this naive view is held by the U.S. military, whose top brass have spent so many hours with their counterparts in Islamabad that they’ve gone native. It’s up to Obama and his team to remind the generals that pressing Pakistan is a lot like running on a treadmill. If you stop, you move backward, and, most likely, you fall down.

Nigeria’s Muslim-Christian Violence Blamed For Hundreds Of Deaths

By Ahmed Saka and Jon Gambrell for The Associated Press

JOS, Nigeria — Christians and Muslims once shared their lives together in Nigeria’s fertile central belt, buying each other’s goods in mixed neighborhoods and cultivating each other’s farms across a sun-baked plateau.

But growing religious hatred, political and ethnic rivalries, and increasing poverty have led to two outbursts of savage violence already this year. Men, women, children and even babies were butchered, and that harmony seems lost forever.

Now, many people carry weapons and man impromptu road blocks, fearful of the military, the police and each other.

Sunday’s bloodshed was mostly about revenge: Christian villages near the city of Jos were attacked before dawn, less than two months after Muslims were targeted and a mosque torched. Hundreds had been killed in January, their corpses stuffed into wells and sewage pits.

Survivors of the weekend attack say simple, one-room houses were set ablaze, the flames illuminating villages that have no electricity. Residents, mostly of the minority Berom ethnic group, ran from their burning homes. Assailants with machetes were waiting. Many of those who were cut down were children. At least 200 people died.

One 20-year-old man arrested for allegedly taking part in Sunday’s attacks said his family members died at the hands of rioters in January. Of those who were attacked on Sunday, he said: “There are some people that kill all our parents. We went to avenge what they did to us.”

Nigeria, a nation of 150 million people, is almost evenly split between Sunni Muslims in the north and the predominantly Christian south. The recent bloodshed has been happening in central Nigeria, where dozens of ethnic groups vie for control of the nation’s fertile “middle belt.”

“Jos is a mini-Nigeria. All segments of Nigeria are here,” said state police commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba.

After the January violence, human rights groups said text messages had been sent with the addresses of mosques and churches. Texts also offered instructions on how to dispose of bodies. One read: “Kill them before they kill you.”

Survivors said the weekend attackers asked people “Who are you?” in Fulani, a language used mostly by Muslims, and killed those who did not answer back in Fulani.

Aduba, though, said some attackers had been paid by organizers to commit the killings Sunday, but he declined to give any specifics.

National leaders appear to have little control over this region in Africa’s most populous nation. The police and army failed to prevent these horrific massacres. Acting President Goodluck Jonathan promised security forces will bring the city and outlying areas where 1 million people live under control, but many of Jos’ Protestant Christians fear the Muslim-dominated police force and military.

Local youths armed with kitchen knives and machetes have formed self-protection gangs in neighborhoods and scrutinize each passing vehicle.

Sixty kilometers (38 miles) from Jos, in the village of Ku-Got, men armed with machetes, homemade swords, slingshots, and bows and arrows stand guard amid arid cornfields. Barricades made of boulders and cacti manned by frightened locals block many roads. Nigerian security forces rarely, if ever, patrol these areas. They’re usually beyond cell phone range and there’s no electricity.

“It’s clear these people are unprotected here. If you have to carry a bow and arrows in your own town, you are unprotected,” said Mark Lipdo, who leads a Christian foundation in Jos.

Despite once working on farms belonging to the Muslim Fulani ethnic group, the Berom people of Ku-Got now look out over the silhouetted mountains and worry that armed Fulani herders will be coming down the ridge. Villagers say they buried two old women killed by Fulani raiders Sunday. The attackers razed their homes, broke a glass pulpit at the Christian church and destroyed the community’s only satellite television receiver.

“They want to inherit the land,” said the Rev. Joshua T. Dafom, who preaches at the church. “They want to wipe us out to inherit the land to graze their animals.”

Fulani community leader Sale Bayari denied that Fulanis took part in Sunday’s killings.

He says groups of armed Fulanis now guard their herds of cattle rather than watching over their animals alone and unarmed as they once did. The men fear another “guerrilla war” against the ethnic group that left many of them dead during the January rioting.

Bayari says they are prepared: “My people have an instinct for survival,” he said.

Bayari is being sought by police for allegedly inciting the Sunday attacks. He spoke to The Associated Press by mobile telephone from a neighboring state.

Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital, has long been known as “The Home of Peace and Tourism.” It has unspoiled savannas, wild animals like leopards and hippos, waterfalls and curious rock outcroppings. But the monicker is now a sad irony.

Jos was also once a hub for tin mining, but its economic fortunes have waned in the last decades. Muslims are locked out of stable government jobs because the state views them as settlers, not Christian “indigenes.” Christians have a strained relationship with the Hausa-speaking Muslims who run businesses and live in the region.

All these tensions boiled over in September 2001 in rioting that killed more than 1,000 people. Mobs of Christian young men roved the streets of Jos, asking people if they were Christian or Muslim. When a person answered Muslim, the mob would attack with knives, machetes and sticks.

Another convulsion of violence hit in 2004, in which 700 people were killed. More than 300 residents died during a similar upheaval in 2008.

Now, instead of talk of peace, there is talk of more revenge and of pre-emptive attacks.

“Plateau state has become a jungle,” Bayari said.

Lahore bombing is Pakistan’s bloodiest this year

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

A bombing in the eastern city of Lahore has killed at least 43 people – the fifth terrorist attack this week as extremists in Pakistan demonstrate their continued ability to strike.

The bloodiest terrorist strike in Pakistan this year was carried out by two attackers wearing suicide jackets who walked into a busy market in a high security military district and blew themselves up. The target appeared to be passing military vehicles but most of the victims were civilians. Shops in the market were ripped apart, with children crossing the road and people waiting at a bus stop among the victims. About 10 soldiers were killed and 100 injured, said the Lahore police chief, Parvaiz Rathore.

“There were about 10 to 15 seconds between the blasts. Both were suicide attacks,” a senior local government official, Sajjad Bhutta, said at the site. “The maximum preventative measures were being taken but these people find support from somewhere.” The bombers struck at 1pm, around the time of Friday prayers, in the cantonment area, home to the local army garrison and one of Lahore’s most upmarket residential districts.

Lahore is the bustling cultural hub of Pakistan and had enjoyed several weeks of relative peace. It is the capital of the eastern Punjab province, Pakistan’s most densely populated area and its political heartland. The suicide bombings were followed in the evening by three smaller blasts in a residential area across town. They caused panic but damage was reported to be minor. The authorities repeated their regular assertion that the Taliban and other extremist groups have been defeated. The provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah , said: “We broke their networks. That’s why they have not been able to strike for a considerable time.”

But it was the second bombing this week in Lahore. A car bombing on Monday at a police interrogation centre killed 14 people. Other attacks this week included a gun and grenade assault on a US Christian aid agency’s office in the north-west, killing six of its staff, all Pakistani nationals. “They (the extremists) are trying to project their power, telling the government that they are still alive,” said analyst Imtiaz Gul, author of The al-Qaida Connection. “They are still far from broken. It’s going to be a long haul.”

In 2009 that Lahore was dragged into the bloody insurgency in Pakistan, which claimed around 3,000 lives last year, with a series of spectacular attacks including a gun assault on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. The last major attack in Lahore was in December when a market was bombed, killing at least 49 people. The launch of a military offensive in South Waziristan, on the Afghan border, the base of the Pakistani Taliban, in October last year was accompanied by a vicious spate of terrorist reprisals but the country had been relatively peaceful this year.

With or without Republicans, Healthcare needs to be passed in the United States

Pakistan and India Are Back At the Peace Table

By Manzer Munir

Islamabad, Pakistan- India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is scheduled to visit Islamabad later this month as both India and Pakistan are back on track to resume their high level diplomatic talks. The discussions between the two so far are considered “preliminary” and are a “first step” in the words of Secretary Rao. She had earlier restated India’s concerns about terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and provided additional information related to the Mumbai attacks. Her counterpart in Pakistan, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, stated that “Pakistan is doing all that it can to fight terrorism”. Expressing his sympathy with the victims of the Mumbai attacks, he focused on Pakistan’s core concern that “terrorism should be looked at more broadly”. He believes that the two countries should address the root causes of the terror campaign and, from that perspective; Kashmir is the “core issue.” Pakistani officials believe that if India was a bit more flexible on Kashmir, then all the outstanding issues between the two countries can be resolved.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to sincerely desire to make a “breakthrough” in relations with Pakistan and has been vocal about it too in recent interviews. During the elections last year, he had highlighted his efforts to promote back-channel diplomacy for conflict resolution during the rule of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He also met last year with the current Pakistani Prime Minister to pledge to resume peace talks.

In Pakistan there also appears to be a significant shift in foreign policy. The American and Pakistani militaries and intelligence agencies are working closely and have had some recent successes together to stop the al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US commanders have been full of praise of the Pakistan army and its recent offensives against the Taliban. The Pakistani army has disrupted the al Qaeda and Taliban network over most of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This has come at a steep price as more than 2,500 soldiers have been killed.

This sacrifice by the Pakistan army has not gone unnoticed as the United States has increased both military and economic aid to Pakistan. The US is nudging both India and Pakistan to the peace table since a peaceful border with India will allow Pakistan to focus entirely on its western border at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This will facilitate the Obama administration’s ability to eradicate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda once and for all from the region with Pakistan army’s help.

For far too long since Pakistan’s independence, the army has always felt India to be the biggest threat to the nation’s sovereignty and freedom. But for the first time in its history, an enemy has surfaced and proven to be much more detrimental to Pakistan’s survival as a nation and security for its citizens. And that enemy and threat is the radicalized groups such as the Taliban both from Afghanistan and inside Pakistan as well as the largely Arab Al-Qaeda network that operates in the area. Also militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others also pose the biggest threat to the nuclear armed nation. The danger from the extremists has allowed elements inside Pakistan’s army leadership to reconsider the threats to Pakistan.

The dialogue between India and Pakistan has been off again and on again for over 63 years. But in the current climate of mistrust and hatred coupled with tensions still simmering from the Mumbai attacks, there is little room for error on both sides. It is hoped that the upcoming talks prove to be a step in the right direction of normalizing relations between these two nuclear armed neighbors who share almost an 1800 mile long border known in this part of the world as the Berlin Wall of Asia.

Prosperity of Future US Generations in Harm’s Way From Current Deficit Spending

Some Experts See Fatwa As A Significant Blow To Terrorist Recruiting

By Kiran Khalid  for CNN.com

A fatwa, or religious ruling, issued this week is roiling theological waters after it took aim at those notorious for targeting others: terrorists.  The anti-terrorism fatwa by renowned Muslim scholar Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri pulled no punches, declaring that terrorism was “haraam,” or forbidden by the Quran, and that suicide bombers would be rewarded not by 72 virgins in heaven, as many terrorist recruiters promise, but with a suite in hell.

Qadri, the founder of the Minhaj-ul-Quran International, an Islamic movement with centers in 90 countries, told a news conference in London, England, on Tuesday that his decree categorically condemns terrorism and suicide bombings in the name of Islam. “Until now, scholars who were condemning terrorism were conditional and qualified what they said,” Qadri said in a phone interview, noting that his 600-page ruling left no room for interpretation. “I didn’t leave a single, minor aspect that, in the mind of radicals or extremists, can take them to the direction of martyrdom.”

The 59-year-old Pakistani scholar called his fatwa an “absolute” condemnation, going as far as to label the terrorists themselves “kafirs,” a term in the Quran meaning “unbeliever.” “This fatwa has the potential to be a highly significant step towards eradicating Islamist terrorism,” Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank based in London, said in a statement.

Manan Ahmed, assistant professor of Islam in South and Southeast Asia at the Institute for Islamic Studies in Berlin, agreed, calling the fatwa “unprecedented.” “This is a landmark theological study — a careful and systematic treatment of a thousand years of legal tradition dealing with armed resistance against the state, rules of engagement, aspects. The fatwa itself … is categorically and comprehensively against terrorism in any form and for any cause,” Ahmed said.

Many skeptics questioned whether an intellectual dismantling of al Qaeda’s religious philosophy could have any impact on recruiting terrorists in places like Pakistan, where many potential foot soldiers don’t have access to education, much less academic discourse. Ahmed says it can. “This is not an academic or an intellectual argument alone. This is a theological argument, based in the Qur’an and Sunnah [practice of the Prophet],” Ahmed said. “What it provides are easily available argumentation and proof for the millions of preachers across Pakistan, who can, in turn, incorporate this into their weekly sermons.”

Ahmed says where it will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark is online. Just this week, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Custer, head of intelligence at the U.S. military’s Central Command, told the CBS program “60 Minutes” that “without a doubt, the Internet is the single most important venue for the radicalization of Islamic youth.”

In the recent case involving five young Americans from the Virginia area, known as the “D.C. Five,” who are in a Pakistani jail potentially facing terrorism charges, the so-called ringleader Ramy Zamzam allegedly had contact with radical Islamist Web sites. Last week, 24 year-old Afghan-born American Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to conspiring to blow up high-density targets in New York City. Prosecutors allege he, too, communicated online with terrorists.

Salman Ahmad, the lead singer of the Pakistani rock band “Junoon” and author of “Rock & Roll Jihad: A Muslim Rock Star’s Revolution,” says it’s young men in the West who can be influenced the most by Qadri’s arguments.

“The fatwa by the Pakistani Islamic scholar is an important positive religious ruling and it has been made in the West, where a lot of young impressionable Muslim kids are being brainwashed by the terrorists to commit murder and suicide in the name of Islam,” Ahmad said.

“It’s about time Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda realize that Muslims will not allow their faith and identity to be hijacked by a bunch of thugs masquerading as holy men.”

U.S. to Offer Smart-Bomb Kits, Drones to Pakistan

By  Yochi Dewazen The Wall Street Journal

Washington DC—The Pentagon will transfer sophisticated laser-guided-bomb kits to Pakistan, escalating the Obama administration’s recent push to better arm Islamabad for its military campaign against the country’s Islamic militants. U.S. military officials said Pakistan will soon receive equipment capable of converting 1,000 traditional munitions into “smart bombs” that can more precisely strike targets on the ground. American officials hope the reconfigured bombs will help Pakistan minimize civilian casualties as it battles insurgents in the country’s tribal regions.

Pakistan will also soon take possession of a dozen American-made surveillance drones and 18 late-model F-16 fighter jets, sharply expanding the Pakistani military’s ability to track and strike targets in remote, insurgent-controlled parts of the country. The laser-guided-bomb kits could spark some unease in India, where officials have been warily watching the expanded U.S. military aid to Pakistan and wondering if the weapons would one day be turned against them. India lobbied against recent U.S. legislation giving Pakistan billions of dollars in new nonmilitary aid, though the measure passed anyway.

The Indian reaction to the planned American F-16 sale to Islamabad was far more muted, in part because India’s air force is far larger than Pakistan’s and employs more-advanced planes. Providing advanced munitions to Pakistan would once have aroused fierce opposition within the U.S. Congress, where powerful lawmakers from both parties have questioned Islamabad’s willingness to take tough measures against the country’s militants. Washington has also long charged that elements in Pakistan’s intelligence service maintain close ties to the Afghan Taliban, an accusation Islamabad denies. But the new weapons transfers are unlikely to spark much controversy in Washington, a reflection of how much the concern about Pakistan has ebbed in recent months as Islamabad deepens its military and intelligence cooperation with the U.S. In mid-February, Pakistani and American intelligence operatives jointly captured Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top military commander of the Afghan Taliban. Islamabad has also tacitly allowed the U.S. to sharply expand its campaign of drone missile strikes against insurgent targets inside Pakistani territory.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell last week praised Pakistan for mounting a serious campaign against the militants operating along the porous Afghan-Pakistani border. U.S. officials say they believe the leadership of both al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban are hiding in Pakistan, with several top officials allegedly operating out of the Pakistani city of Quetta. “The commitment that the Pakistani government, the military, its intelligence forces have demonstrated over the past several months to combating this threat within their midst is commendable,” Mr. Morrell said. “We are here to help them in any which way they are comfortable.” The clearest example of that assistance is the stepped-up U.S. military aid to Pakistan. A new American counterinsurgency assistance fund for Pakistan is slated to increase to $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2011 from $700 million in fiscal year 2010, allowing Islamabad to acquire more U.S.-made helicopters, night-vision goggles and other military equipment.

Pakistan, which is smaller and poorer than neighboring India, uses American grants to fund most of its arms purchases. The smart bombs should help Pakistan expand its military offensive in the insurgent stronghold of South Waziristan. The laser-guided munitions can be dropped from Pakistan’s current fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, allowing Islamabad to improve the accuracy of its bombing runs while it waits to take possession of new F-16s later this year. “This is sort of a short-term discussion, but it’s one that’s important to them because they’re involved in current operations right now,” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told reporters Tuesday. “They’ve been trying to improve their capabilities in the short term while they wait for these aircraft.”

Lt. Col. Jeffry Glenn, an Air Force spokesman, said Pakistan will receive 700 kits capable of converting 500-pound traditional bombs into laser-guided munitions, as well as 300 kits that can be used with larger 2,000-pound bombs. The kits, which are made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co., contain computerized guidance systems for the fronts of the bombs and fins that are designed to be attached to the backs of the munitions for better lift and stability. Once the kits have been properly configured, pilots or ground-based troops can use laser beams to guide the smart bombs to their targets.

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