Archive for December, 2011

Pakistan murder testimony doctor Baqir Shah shot dead

As Reported By The BBC

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A doctor who testified that Pakistani security forces had killed a group of unarmed foreigners has himself been shot dead.

Dr Baqir Shah was gunned down in the city of Quetta.

He had contradicted police reports earlier this year which suggested the five victims had been suicide bombers.

Dr Shah was in his car when gunmen pulled up alongside him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

He died soon afterwards in hospital.
It was Dr Shah who, back in May, carried out the autopsies in a controversial case.

Two men and three women of Russian and Tajik origin died at a checkpoint just outside Quetta, in the province of Balochistan.

One of the women had been heavily pregnant, but police insisted they had all been militants and that they had been carrying explosives.

Police said that they died as they detonated a bomb.

They said at the time of the attack they had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.

The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that Dr Shah’s autopsy corroborated what many witnesses said – that they had in fact died after being shot many times at a distance by the security forces. Witnesses also said they had been unarmed.

Hours after he filed his testimony, Dr Shah was dragged out of a restaurant and beaten by a group of unidentified men. He later complained that while he was supposed to receive protection, he never got it.

Imran Khan’s rally defies Pak’s ruling party

As Reported by IBN Live

Pakistan’s former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan brought at least 100,000 people into the streets of Karachi on Sunday in a massive rally that increases pressure on the civilian government and cements his standing as a political force.

Khan, 59, is riding a wave of dissatisfaction with the government of President Asif Ali Zardari, who co-chairs the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, and is facing challenges from the military, the Supreme Court and political opponents after a year of cascading crises.

Police estimated the rally had been attended by between 100,000 and 150,000 people. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf, or Pakistan Movement for Justice, estimated the crowd at more than 500,000.

Even at the lower estimate, it is among the largest political rallies held in Karachi in recent years.

Khan, in a rousing speech punctuated with patriotic musical refrains, pledged, if elected, to curb Pakistan’s endemic corruption.

“We need a government that changes the system and ends corruption, so we need the PTI to come to power,” Khan told the crowd. “The first thing we need to do is end corruption.”

“I promise we will end big corruption in 90 days,” he added.

Khan’s massive rally comes at a time of crisis in Pakistani politics. Tensions are rising between Pakistan’s civilian leaders and its generals over a memo that accused the Army of plotting a coup after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

There are signs that Pakistan’s powerful Army is fed up with Zardari and wants the Supreme Court or early elections to force him from office. The Army chief dismissed any rumours of a coup, however, as “speculation”.

“It’s time for a change and only PTI and Imran Khan can bring about that change,” said Sabina Saifi, 28, a school teacher. She was wearing a PTI cap and had come with her two brothers.

Several recent polls have shown Khan is Pakistan’s most popular politician. He is especially favoured in urban areas.

“He is riding a wave of popular politics right now,” said Mutahir Ahmed, a professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi. “There is a lot of frustration among ordinary people, as well as political workers right now, which he is cashing on.”

On October 30, Khan staged a similar rally in Lahore that observers said pulled between 100,000 and 200,000 people, then one of the largest political rallies ever in Pakistan.

“He has… managed to bring people out on the roads, and this is a big achievement, especially in Karachi, where three months back people were not ready to come out of their houses because of rampant violence and killings,” Ahmed said.

But popularity doesn’t always translate into political power. The majority of Pakistan’s voters are rural, where feudal relationships determine generations of political loyalty.

Khan, for all the enthusiasm shown for him among young people and the urban middle class, has yet to demonstrate the party machinery that the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-N faction have had decades to perfect.

In the last 15 years, the PTI has only briefly held one seat in Parliament – Khan’s. Most analysts say Khan could score an upset of 20 to 30 seats in Parliament, but that’s not enough to give him the premiership. It is enough to make him a major political player, however – or even a kingmaker.

“It’s too premature to get into speculation of whether he becomes prime minister or not but the chances of his party getting into Parliament look very good,” said security analyst Imtiaz Gul.

He also has a touchy relationship with the United States, Pakistan’s ally and aid donor.

He says that if elected prime minister, he would end cooperation in the fight against militants based in tribal areas, end the covert campaign of bombings by US drones and refuse all US aid, which totals some $20 billion since 2001.

Relations with the United States have reached a crisis point because of a November 26 cross-border incident in which NATO aircraft killed 24 Pakistani troops. Pakistan has since shut down NATO supply routes into Afghanistan and demanded an apology.

NATO’s full report on the incident, which Pakistan has already rejected based on media leaks, is expected to be released on Monday. It reportedly faults both sides in the incident.

Khan’s anti-American stance is often thought to reflect the views of the security establishment, which includes the powerful Army and its Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, however, said in November that he didn’t see Khan as anti-American.

“Imran Khan is, as far as he tells me, for the same kind of values that we think are important,” Munter said on a popular talk show on November 22. “He says he’s for democracy, he’s for governance that’s clean, he’s for economic growth. We’re all for those things.”

Pakistan Military Denies Conspiracy to Seize Power

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

The military command in Pakistan issued an unusual refutation on Friday of rumors that it was planning to take power, publicizing a pledge by the top general that it is committed to democracy a day after the prime minister warned of conspiracies to subvert the civilian government.

But the pledge, by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, did little to assuage anxieties about a possible coup in a country with a history of military interventions. The anxieties were reinforced on Thursday by an extraordinary outburst about just such a possibility from the normally soft-spoken prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, who also said the military generals in Pakistan behaved as though they were “a state within a state” and that they should be accountable to Parliament.

“The army will continue to support democratic process in the country,” General Kayani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the military command. It said General Kayani had made that pledge on Thursday as he visited troops stationed in the northwestern regions of Mohmand and Kurram.

General Kayani “dispelled the speculations of any military takeover and said that these are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues,” according to the statement by the military.

However, General Kayani stressed that “there can be no compromise on national security,” alluding to the differences with the civilian government over investigations into a contentious memo that suggested the civilian government had sought help from the United States in trying to constrain the Pakistani military.

The public back-and-forth came as the Pakistan military’s relations with the United States, already aggravated by the memo issue, have plunged to new lows over a deadly American-led airstrike on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last month that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan’s military has rejected results of a Pentagon inquiry that said both sides were at fault but that Pakistani forces opened fire first. In a new sign of the Pakistani military’s anger, a senior official said Friday it had canceled a planned visit by the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, to brief his counterparts on the Pentagon inquiry.

The tensions over the memo began after Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistani origin, wrote an op-ed article for The Financial Times in October saying that a Pakistani diplomat had asked him to deliver a memo to Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, after American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in a May raid on a Pakistan safe house. That raid, which deeply embarrassed Pakistan, raised questions about whether Bin Laden, the most-wanted fugitive Al Qaeda plotter of the Sept. 11 attacks, had been protected by elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service. Mr. Ijaz described the memo as saying that the civilian government sought help in preventing a possible coup, offering in exchange to dismantle part of the intelligence service.

Since then, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the powerful military have been arguing over the veracity of the memo , which is seen as authentic by the military and as a conspiracy by the civilian government.

Husain Haqqani, the former ambassador to the United States, was forced to resign in November after allegations that he had orchestrated the memo, a charge he denies. Mr. Haqqani returned to the country and is barred from traveling abroad, a step seen as a violation of his fundamental rights, according to his lawyer.

The top generals have urged the country’s Supreme Court to investigate the origins of the memo. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said Friday that the court is pursuing those investigations but that it would not validate any army coup.

The statements by both Mr. Gilani and General Kayani signified that deep mistrust and tensions exist between the two sides.

“Things don’t look stable at all,” said Enver Baig, a former senator, who predicted that the “civil-military relations will not settle down peacefully.”

Pakistan Most-Deadly Nation for Journalists

As Reported by The Wall Street Journal

Seven journalists died in Pakistan during the year in direct relation to their work, out of a total of 43 journalist killed worldwide in the year, the report said.

There were no deaths in India, after one killing in 2010. In 2008, four Indian journalists died either while covering the conflict in Kashmir or through target killings due to their investigations of criminal activities.

In combat zones such as Libya, where five journalists died in 2011 — the joint second-highest number with Iraq – the killings tend to be random, with reporters caught in the broader fighting. But Pakistan continues to suffer largely from target killings.

These deaths occur when a reporter has unearthed details about militancy or a business deal and is targeted to stop this information getting out. Five of the seven deaths in Pakistan were targeted killings and all remain unsolved, the CPJ said.

In the past five years, 29 journalists have died carrying out their work in Pakistan. Five journalists died in India during the same period.

The best-known case in Pakistan this year involved Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for Asia Times Online, who died in May after writing a report which alleged al Qaeda had infiltrated Pakistan’s navy.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based advocacy group, said Mr. Shahzad before his death had complained of receiving threats from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate military spy agency. ISI officials deny the threats and any involvement in his killing. The case is unsolved.

“Long-term CPJ research shows Pakistan to be among the worst countries in the world in bringing the killers of journalists to justice,” the report said.

Five journalists also died in Iraq from both insurgent attacks and targeted killings, illustrating an entrenched level of violence there as the last U.S. forces pulled out the country at the weekend.

Three journalists died in Mexico, including the first case of a reporter killed for work on social media, the report said. Many of the dead had taken on Mexico’s powerful drug traffickers in their reports.

The Arab Spring revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa led to the first cases of journalist deaths in Syria and Tunisia since the CPJ began recording fatalities in 1992, the report said. The committee independently confirms that journalists died while covering their beats.

America’s Dark Age of Islamophobia

By Tony Norman for Philly.com

Muslims really thought they were doing the world a favor by pulling Europe and its mostly illiterate Christians out of the Dark Ages. But just because they foisted algebra, trigonometry, optics, astronomical charts, the classics, Arabic numerals, advanced surgical techniques, perspective in art, the lute, and artichokes on the world – while the Christian kings of Europe were smothering free inquiry – we’re not about to give them any credit a thousand years later.

Particularly in America, we remain ignorant of Islamic contributions to Western life. We suffer from a profound cultural amnesia when it comes to remembering our millennia-long debt to our Muslim brethren. But as the song goes, what has Averroes done for us lately?

Americans are so used to thinking of Muslims as an exotic “other” that many fail to realize they’re an inextricable part of who we are and have been since the nation’s earliest days. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims see them as Manchurian candidates crouching in the shadows with explosive vests, waiting for the signal to wage terror on America’s malls. If you ask the average American citizen about Islam’s role as an incubator of Western ideas, expect stares of incomprehension.

If this ignorance were restricted to the margins of society, it wouldn’t be half as embarrassing. But Islamophobia, like its twin brother, anti-Semitism, has a way of injecting itself into the cultural discourse. Contempt for Muslims remains an acceptable prejudice for millions who continue to equate the religion with terrorism.

Recently, TLC began running an innocuous reality show called All-American Muslim. It documents the lives of five Muslim families in a Detroit suburb that boasts the highest concentration of Arabs and Muslims in America. The 99 percent of Americans who don’t share their faith are invited to explore the possibility that these very misunderstood Americans don’t have horns or drink the blood of infant Christians and Jews.

It didn’t take long for a conservative group calling itself the Florida Family Association to complain that the TLC series is “propaganda that riskily [sic] hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

Of course, there’s nothing on the show to indicate a subversive religious agenda, other than its blatant attempt to portray Muslims as humans.

Lowe’s Home Improvement couldn’t be bothered with such nuances. It pulled its ads from the show and issued the wimpiest justification of corporate cowardice ever: “Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views.”

Ted Lieu, a state senator in California, called Lowe’s capitulation to intolerance “un-American” and is considering calling for a boycott of the retailer. Lowe’s isn’t worried about a boycott from America’s Muslims, who number fewer than two million, but a sympathy boycott by fair-minded Americans of all faiths and political persuasions would be a nightmare for the company.

Crawling out of this depressing sequel to the Dark Ages won’t be easy.

Pakistan PM Seeks to Dispel Rumors of Army Rift

By Chris Brummitt for Boston.com

Pakistan’s prime minister dismissed speculation of a rift between the government and the military over a secret memo sent to Washington seeking its help in averting a supposed military coup, saying the country was committed to democracy.

Political tensions have soared in recent days as the Supreme Court begins a hearing into the circumstance surrounding the memo. The absence of President Asif Ali Zardari, recovering from a likely “mini stroke” in his Dubai home with no word on his return, has only added to rumors that the current civilian administration is in possible fatal trouble.

Zardari’s plentiful critics are hoping the scandal will lead to his ouster, and delighted in portraying his trip to Dubai on Dec. 6 as a flight from the fallout from the memo. The president’s aides have denied that, and most independent analysts believe the veteran politician, who has outlasted numerous predictions of his demise since taking office in 2008, will ride it out.

Late Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met with army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to discuss the memo.

Gilani said in a statement he rejected the nation of a “standoff” between the army and the government.

“The government of Pakistan and its institutions remain committed to their constitutional roles and obligations to a democratic and prosperous future for Pakistan,” he said.

Tensions between the army and the government could complicate American attempts to rebuild ties with a country seen by many U.S. officials as key to shepherding peace in Afghanistan. A raid by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan in late November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, hammering relations already strained by American suspicions that Islamabad is playing both sides in the Afghan war and virulent anti-U.S. sentiments inside Pakistan.

Pakistan has a long history of army coups or behind the scenes meddling by the generals to engineer pliant regimes, often with the support of the judiciary. That has left the country’s 180 million people specially receptive to the idea that the collapse of the government is just around the corner.

SHINE’s Impact on Armadeus Davidson

Volunteers Extraordinaire Todd Shea of SHINE Humanity and Armadeus Davidson of Empact Northwest of WA doing humanitarian work in Pakistan.

The Pakistanis Have A Point

By Bill Keller for The New York Times

As an American visitor in the power precincts of Pakistan, from the gated enclaves of Islamabad to the manicured lawns of the military garrison in Peshawar, from the luxury fortress of the Serena Hotel to the exclusive apartments of the parliamentary housing blocks, you can expect three time-honored traditions: black tea with milk, obsequious servants and a profound sense of grievance.

Talk to Pakistani politicians, scholars, generals, businessmen, spies and journalists — as I did in October — and before long, you are beyond the realm of politics and diplomacy and into the realm of hurt feelings. Words like “ditch” and “jilt” and “betray” recur. With Americans, they complain, it’s never a commitment, it’s always a transaction. This theme is played to the hilt, for effect, but it is also heartfelt.

“The thing about us,” a Pakistani official told me, “is that we are half emotional and half irrational.”

For a relationship that has oscillated for decades between collaboration and breakdown, this has been an extraordinarily bad year, at an especially inconvenient time. As America settles onto the long path toward withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan has considerable power to determine whether the end of our longest war is seen as a plausible success or a calamitous failure.

There are, of course, other reasons that Pakistan deserves our attention. It has a fast-growing population approaching 190 million, and it hosts a loose conglomerate of terrorist franchises that offer young Pakistanis employment and purpose unavailable in the suffering feudal economy. It has 100-plus nuclear weapons (Americans who monitor the program don’t know the exact number or the exact location) and a tense, heavily armed border with nuclear India. And its president, Asif Ali Zardari, oversees a ruinous kleptocracy that is spiraling deeper into economic crisis.

But it is the scramble to disengage from Afghanistan that has focused minds in Washington. Pakistan’s rough western frontier with Afghanistan is a sanctuary for militant extremists and criminal ventures, including the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the notorious Haqqani clan and important remnants of the original horror story, Al Qaeda. The mistrust between Islamabad and Kabul is deep, nasty — Afghanistan was the only country to vote against letting Pakistan into the United Nations — and tribal. And to complicate matters further, Pakistan is the main military supply route for the American-led international forces and the Afghan National Army.

On Thanksgiving weekend, a month after I returned from Pakistan, the relationship veered precipitously — typically — off course again. NATO aircraft covering an operation by Afghan soldiers and American Special Forces pounded two border posts, inadvertently killing 24 Pakistani soldiers, including two officers. The Americans said that they were fired on first and that Pakistan approved the airstrikes; the Pakistanis say the Americans did not wait for clearance to fire and then bombed the wrong targets.

The fallout was painfully familiar: outrage, suspicion and recrimination, petulance and political posturing. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief of the army and by all accounts the most powerful man in Pakistan, retaliated by shutting (for now and not for the first time) the NATO supply corridor through his country. The Pakistanis abruptly dropped out of a Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan and announced they would not cooperate with an American investigation of the airstrikes. President Obama sent condolences but balked at the suggestion of an apology; possibly the president did not want to set off another chorus of Mitt Romney’s refrain that Obama is always apologizing for America. At this writing, American officials were trying to gauge whether the errant airstrike would have, as one worried official put it, “a long half-life.”

If you survey informed Americans, you will hear Pakistanis described as duplicitous, paranoid, self-pitying and generally infuriating. In turn, Pakistanis describe us as fickle, arrogant, shortsighted and chronically unreliable.

Neither country’s caricature of the other is entirely wrong, and it makes for a relationship that is less in need of diplomacy than couples therapy, which customarily starts by trying to see things from the other point of view. While the Pakistanis have hardly been innocent, they have a point when they say America has not been the easiest of partners.

One good place to mark the beginning of this very, very bad year in U.S.-Pakistani relations is Dec. 13, 2010, when Richard C. Holbrooke died of a torn aorta. Holbrooke, the veteran of the Balkan peace, had for two years held the thankless, newly invented role of the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The antithesis of mellow, Holbrooke did not hit it off with our no-drama president, and his bluster didn’t always play well in Kabul or Islamabad either.

But Holbrooke paid aggressive attention to Pakistan. While he was characteristically blunt about the divergent U.S. and Pakistani views, he understood that they were a result of different, calculated national interests, not malevolence or mere orneriness. He was convinced that the outlooks could be, if not exactly synchronized, made more compatible. He made a concentrated effort to persuade the Pakistanis that this time the United States would not be a fair-weather friend.

“You need a Holbrooke,” says Maleeha Lodhi, a well-connected former ambassador to Washington. “Not necessarily the person but the role.” In the absence of full-on engagement, she says, “it’s become a very accident-prone relationship.”

On Jan. 27, a trigger-happy C.I.A. contractor named Raymond Davis was stuck in Lahore traffic and shot dead two motorcyclists who approached him. A backup vehicle he summoned ran over and killed a bystander. The U.S. spent heavily from its meager stock of good will to persuade the Pakistanis to set Davis free — pleading with a straight face that he was entitled to diplomatic immunity.

On May 2, a U.S. Navy Seals team caught Osama bin Laden in the military town Abbottabad and killed him. Before long, American officials were quoted questioning whether their Pakistani allies were just incompetent or actually complicit. (The Americans who deal with Pakistan believe that General Kayani and the director of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, were genuinely surprised and embarrassed that Bin Laden was so close by, though the Americans fault the Pakistanis for not looking very hard.) In Pakistan, Kayani faced rumbles of insurrection for letting Americans violate Pakistani sovereignty; a defining victory for President Obama was a humiliation for Kayani and Pasha.

In September, members of the Haqqani clan (a criminal syndicate and jihadi cult that’s avowedly subservient to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar) marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with two theatrical attacks in Afghanistan. First a truck bomb injured 77 American soldiers in Wardak Province. Then militants rained rocket-propelled grenades on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, forcing our ambassador to spend 20 hours locked down in a bunker.

A few days later the former Afghan president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, spread his arms to welcome an emissary from the Taliban to discuss the possibility of peace talks. As they embraced, the visitor detonated a bomb in his turban, killing himself, Rabbani and the talks. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, without any evidence that American officials are aware of, accused Pakistan of masterminding the grotesque killing in order to scuttle peace talks it couldn’t control.

And two days after that, Adm. Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took to Capitol Hill to suggest that Pakistani intelligence had blessed the truck bomb and embassy attack.

His testimony came as a particular shock, because if the turbulent affair between the United States and Pakistan had a solid center in recent years, it was the rapport between Mullen and his Pakistani counterpart, General Kayani. Over the four years from Kayani’s promotion as chief of the army staff until Mullen’s retirement in September, scarcely a month went by when the two didn’t meet. Mullen would often drop by Kayani’s home at the military enclave in Rawalpindi, arriving for dinner and staying into the early morning, discussing the pressures of command while the sullen-visaged general chain-smoked Dunhills. One time, Kayani took his American friend to the Himalayas for a flyby of the world’s second-highest peak, K2. On another occasion, Mullen hosted Kayani on the golf course at the Naval Academy. The two men seemed to have developed a genuine trust and respect for each other.

But Mullen’s faith in an underlying common purpose was rattled by the truck bombing and the embassy attack, both of which opened Mullen to the charge that his courtship of Kayani had been a failure. So — over the objection of the State Department — the admiral set out to demonstrate that he had no illusions.

The Haqqani network “acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” he declared. “With ISI support, Haqqani operatives planned and conducted that truck-bomb attack as well as the assault on our embassy.”

Several officials with access to the intelligence told me that while the Haqqanis were implicated in both attacks, there was no evidence of direct ISI involvement. A Mullen aide said later that the admiral was referring to ISI’s ongoing sponsorship of the Haqqanis and did not mean to say Pakistan authorized those specific attacks.

No matter. In Pakistan, Mullen’s denunciation led to a ripple of alarm that U.S. military “hardliners” were contemplating an invasion. The press had hysterics. Kayani made a show of putting the Pakistani Army on alert. The Pakistani rupee fell in value.

In Washington, Mullen’s remarks captured — and fed — a vengeful mood and a rising sense of fatalism about Pakistan. Bruce O. Riedel, an influential former C.I.A. officer who led a 2009 policy review for President Obama on Pakistan and Afghanistan, captured the prevailing sentiment in an Op-Ed in The Times, in which he called for a new policy of “containment,” meaning “a more hostile relationship” toward the army and intelligence services.

“I can see how this gets worse,” Riedel told me. “And I can see how this gets catastrophically worse. . . . I don’t see how it gets a whole lot better.”

When Gen. David H. Petraeus took over the U.S. military’s Central Command in 2008, he commissioned expert briefing papers on his new domain, which sprawled from Egypt, across the Persian Gulf, to Central Asia. The paper on Afghanistan and Pakistan began, according to an American who has read it, roughly this way: “The United States has no vital national interests in Afghanistan. Our vital national interests are in Pakistan,” notably the security of those nuclear weapons and the infiltration by Al Qaeda. The paper then went on for the remaining pages to discuss Afghanistan. Pakistan hardly got a mention. “That’s typical,” my source said. Pakistan tends to be an afterthought.

The Pakistani version of modern history is one of American betrayal, going back at least to the Kennedy administration’s arming of Pakistan’s archrival, India, in the wake of its 1962 border war with China.

The most consequential feat of American opportunism came when we enlisted Pakistan to bedevil the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s. The intelligence agencies of the U.S. and Pakistan — with help from Saudi Arabia — created the perfect thorn in the Soviet underbelly: young Muslim “freedom fighters,” schooled in jihad at Pakistani madrassas, laden with American surface-to-air missiles and led by charismatic warriors who set aside tribal rivalries to war against foreign occupation.

After the Soviets admitted defeat in 1989, the U.S. — mission accomplished! — pulled out, leaving Pakistan holding the bag: several million refugees, an Afghanistan torn by civil war and a population of jihadists who would find new targets for their American-supplied arms. In the ensuing struggle for control of Afghanistan, Pakistan eventually sided with the Taliban, who were dominated by the Pashtun tribe that populates the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. The rival Northern Alliance was run by Tajiks and Uzbeks and backed by India; and the one thing you can never underestimate is Pakistan’s obsession with bigger, richer, better-armed India.

As long as Pakistan was our partner in tormenting the Soviet Union, the U.S. winked at Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program. After all, India was developing a nuclear arsenal, and it was inevitable that Pakistan would follow suit. But after the Soviets retreated, Pakistan was ostracized under a Congressional antiproliferation measure called the Pressler Amendment, stripped of military aid (some of it budgeted to bring Pakistani officers to the U.S. for exposure to American military values and discipline) and civilian assistance (most of it used to promote civil society and buy good will).

Our relationship with Pakistan sometimes seems like a case study in unintended consequences. The spawning of the mujahadeen is, of course, Exhibit A. The Pressler Amendment is Exhibit B. And Exhibit C might be America’s protectionist tariffs on Pakistan’s most important export, textiles. For years, experts, including a series of American ambassadors in Islamabad, have said that the single best thing the U.S. could do to pull Pakistan into the modern world is to ease trade barriers, as it has done with many other countries. Instead of sending foreign aid and hoping it trickles down, we could make it easier for Americans to buy Pakistani shirts, towels and denims, thus lifting an industry that is an incubator of the middle class and employs many women. Congress, answerable to domestic textile interests, has had none of it.

“Pakistan the afterthought” was the theme very late one night when I visited the home of Pakistan’s finance minister, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. After showing me his impressive art collection, Shaikh flopped on a sofa and ran through the roll call of American infidelity. He worked his way, decade by decade, to the war on terror. Now, he said, Pakistan is tasked by the Americans with simultaneously helping to kill terrorists and — the newest twist — using its influence to bring them to the bargaining table. Congress, meanwhile, angry about terrorist sanctuaries, is squeezing off much of the financial aid that is supposed to be the lubricant in our alliance.

“Pakistan was the cold-war friend, the Soviet-Afghan-war friend, the terror-war friend,” the minister said. “As soon as the wars ended, so did the assistance. The sense of being discarded is so recent.”

A Boston University-educated economist who made his money in private equity investing — in other words, a cosmopolitan man — Shaikh seemed slightly abashed by his own bitterness.

“I’m not saying that this style of Pakistani thinking is analytically correct,” he said. “I’m just telling you how people feel.”

He waved an arm toward his dining room, where he hung a Warhol of Muhammad Ali. “We’re just supposed to be like Ali — take the beating for seven rounds from Foreman,” he said. “But this time the Pakistanis have wised up. We are playing the game, but we know you can’t take these people at their word.”

With a timetable that has the United States out of Afghanistan, or mostly out, by the end of 2014, Pakistan has leverage it did not have when the war began.

One day after 9/11, Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, summoned the head of Pakistani intelligence for a talking to. “We are asking all of our friends: Do they stand with us or against us?” he said. The following day, Armitage handed over a list of seven demands, which included stopping Al Qaeda operations on the Pakistani border, giving American invaders access to Pakistani bases and airspace and breaking all ties with the Taliban regime.

The Pakistanis believed from the beginning that Afghanistan had “American quagmire” written all over it. Moreover, what America had in mind for Afghanistan was antithetical to Pakistan’s self-interest.

“The only time period between 1947 and the American invasion of Afghanistan that Pakistanis have felt secure about Afghanistan is during the Taliban period,” from 1996 to 2001, says Vali Nasr, an American scholar of the region who is listened to in both academia and government. Now the Bush administration would attempt to supplant the Taliban with a strong independent government in Kabul and a muscular military. “Everything about this vision is dangerous to Pakistan,” Nasr says.

Pakistan’s military ruler at the time, Pervez Musharraf, saw the folly of defying an American ultimatum. He quickly agreed to the American demands and delivered on many of them. In practice, though, the accommodation with the Taliban was never fully curtailed. Pakistan knew America’s mission in Afghanistan would end, and it spread its bets.

The Bush-Musharraf relationship, Vali Nasr says, “was sort of a Hollywood suspension of disbelief. Musharraf was a convenient person who created a myth that we subscribed to — basically that Pakistan was on the same page with us, it was an ally in the war on terror and it subscribed to our agenda for Afghanistan.”

But the longer the war in Afghanistan dragged on, the harder it was to sustain the illusion.

In October, I took the highway west from Islamabad to Peshawar, headquarters of the Pakistan Army corps responsible for the frontier with Afghanistan. Over tea and cookies, Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the three-star who commanded the frontier (he retired this month) talked about how the Afghan war looked from his side of the border.

The official American version of the current situation in Afghanistan goes like this: By applying the counterinsurgency strategy that worked in Iraq and relying on a surge of troops and the increasingly sophisticated use of drones, the United States has been beating the insurgency into submission, while at the same time standing up an indigenous Afghan Army that could take over the mission. If only Pakistan would police its side of the border — where the bad guys find safe haven, fresh recruits and financing — we’d be on track for an exit in 2014.

The Pakistanis have a different narrative. First, a central government has never successfully ruled Afghanistan. Second, Karzai is an unreliable neighbor — a reputation that has not been dispelled by his recent, manic declarations of brotherhood. And third, they believe that despite substantial investment by the United States, the Afghan Army and the police are a long way from being ready to hold the country. In other words, America is preparing to leave behind an Afghanistan that looks like incipient chaos to Pakistan.

In Peshawar, General Malik talked with polite disdain about his neighbor to the west. His biggest fear — one I’m told Kayani stresses in every meeting with his American counterparts — is the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces, an army of 170,000 and another 135,000 police, responsible for preventing Afghanistan from disintegrating back into failed-state status. If the U.S. succeeds in creating such a potent fighting force, that makes Pakistanis nervous, because they see it (rightly) as potentially unfriendly and (probably wrongly) as a potential agent of Indian influence. The more likely and equally unsettling outcome, Pakistanis believe, is that the Afghan military — immature, fractious and dependent on the U.S. Treasury — will disintegrate into heavily armed tribal claques and bandit syndicates. And America, as always, will be gone when hell breaks loose.

General Malik studied on an exchange at Fort McNair, in Washington, D.C., and has visited 23 American states. He likes to think he is not clueless about how things work in our country.

“Come 2015, which senator would be ready to vote $9 billion, or $7 billion, to be spent on this army?” he asked. “Even $5 billion a year. O.K., maybe one year, maybe two years. But with the economy going downhill, how does the future afford this? Very challenging.”

American officials will tell you, not for attribution, that Malik’s concerns are quite reasonable.

So I asked the general if that was why his forces have not been more aggressive about mopping up terrorist sanctuaries along the border. Still hedging their bets? His answer was elaborate and not entirely facile.

First of all, the general pointed out that Pakistan has done some serious fighting in terrorist strongholds and shed a lot of blood. Over the past two years, Malik’s forces have been enlarged to 147,000 soldiers, mainly by relocating more than 50,000 from the Indian border. They have largely controlled militant activities in the Swat Valley, for example, which entailed two hard offensives with major casualties. But they have steadfastly declined to mount a major assault against North Waziristan — a mountainous region of terrorist Deadwoods populated by battle-toughened outlaws.

Yes, Malik said, North Waziristan is a terrible situation, but his forces are responsible for roughly 1,500 miles of border, they police an archipelago of rough towns in the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, and by the way, they had a devastating flood to handle last year.

“If you are not able to close the Mexican border, when you have the technology at your call, when there is no war,” he said, “how can you expect us to close our border, especially if you are not locking the doors on your side?”

Americans who know the area well concede that, for all our complaints, Pakistan doesn’t push harder in large part because it can’t. The Pakistan Army has been trained to patrol the Indian border, not to battle hardened insurgents. They have comparatively crude weaponry. When they go up against a ruthless outfit like the Haqqanis, they tend to get killed. Roughly 4,000 Pakistani troops have died in these border wars — more than the number of all the allied soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

“They’re obviously reluctant to go against the Haqqanis, but reluctant for a couple of reasons,” an American official told me. “Not just the reason that they see them as a potential proxy force if Afghanistan doesn’t go well, but also because they just literally lack the capability to take them on. They’ve got enough wars on their hands. They’ve not been able to consolidate their gains up in the northern part of the FATA, they have continued problems in other areas and they just can’t deal with another campaign, which is what North Waziristan would be.”

And there is another, fundamental problem, Malik said. There is simply no popular support for stepping up the fight in what is seen as America’s war. Ordinary Pakistanis feel they have paid a high price in collateral damage, between the civilian casualties from unmanned drone attacks and the blowback from terror groups within Pakistan.

“When you go into North Waziristan and carry out some major operation, there is going to be a terrorist backlash in the rest of the country,” Malik told me. “The political mood, or the public mood, is ‘no more operations.’ ”

In late October, Hillary Clinton arrived in Islamabad, leading a delegation that included Petraeus, recently confirmed as C.I.A. director, and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Mullen’s successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Petraeus used to refer to Holbrooke as “my diplomatic wingman,” a bit of condescension he apparently intended as a tribute. This time, the security contingent served as diplomacy’s wingmen.

The trip was intended as a show of unity and resolve by an administration that has spoken with conflicting voices when it has focused on Pakistan at all. For more than four hours, the Americans and a potent lineup of Pakistani counterparts talked over a dinner table.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about the dinner was the guest list. The nine participants included Kayani and Pasha, but not President Zardari or Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who provided the dining room at his own residence and made himself scarce. The only representative of the civilian government was Clinton’s counterpart, the new foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, a 34-year-old rising star with the dark-haired beauty of a Bollywood leading lady, a degree in hospitality management from the University of Massachusetts and, most important, close ties to the Pakistani military.

For a country that cherishes civilian democracy, we have a surprising affinity for strong men in uniform. Based on my conversations with American officials across the government, the U.S. has developed a grudging respect for Kayani, whom they regard as astute, straightforward, respectful of the idea of democratic government but genuinely disgusted by the current regime’s thievery and ineptitude. (We know from the secret diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks that Kayani has confided to American officials his utter contempt for his president and “hinted that he might, however reluctantly, have to persuade President Zardari to resign.”) Zardari, whose principal claim to office is that he is the widower of the assassinated and virtually canonized Benazir Bhutto, has been mainly preoccupied with building up his patronage machine for elections in 2013. The Americans expect little from him and don’t see a likely savior among his would-be political challengers. (As this article goes to press, Zardari is recovering from chest pains in a hospital in Dubai; there are rumors he won’t return.) So, Kayani it is. The official American consensus is less enamored of Kayani’s loyal intelligence underling, General Pasha, whose agency consorts with terrorists and is suspected of torturing and killing troublemakers, including journalists, but Pasha is too powerful to ignore.

The day after the marathon dinner, Clinton’s entourage took over the Serena Hotel for a festival of public diplomacy — a press conference with the foreign minister, followed by a town meeting with young Pakistanis and then a hardball round-table interview with a circle of top editors and anchors.

Clinton’s visit was generally portrayed, not least in the Pakistani press, as a familiar ritual of America talking tough to Pakistan. In the town meeting, a woman asked why America always played the role of bossy mother-in-law, and that theme delighted editorial cartoonists for days.

But the private message to the Pakistanis — and a more careful reading of Clinton’s public performance — reflected a serious effort to reboot a troubled relationship. Clinton took care to pay tribute to Pakistani losses in the war against terror in the past decade — in addition to the military, an estimated 30,000 civilian dead, the equivalent of a 9/11 every year. She ruled out sending American ground troops into Pakistani territory. She endorsed a Pakistani plea that U.S. forces in Afghanistan do a better job of cleaning up militant sanctuaries on their own side of the border.

Questioned by a prominent television anchor, she repudiated Mullen’s testimony, not only disavowing any evidence of ISI complicity in the attack on America’s embassy in Kabul but also soft-peddling the spy agency’s coziness with terrorists.

“Now, every intelligence agency has contacts with unsavory characters,” she said. “I don’t think you would get any denial from either the ISI or the C.I.A. that people in their respective organizations have contacts with members of groups that have different agendas than the governments’. But that doesn’t mean that they are being directed or being approved or otherwise given a seal of approval.”

That particular riff may have caused jaws to clench at the C.I.A. compound in Langley, Va. The truth is, according to half a dozen senior officials with access to the intelligence, the evidence of Pakistan’s affinity for terrorists is often circumstantial and ambiguous, a matter of intercepted conversations in coded language, and their dealings are thought to be more pragmatic than ideological, more a matter of tolerating than directing, but the relationship goes way beyond “contacts with unsavory characters.”

“They’re facilitating,” one official told me. “They provide information to the Haqqanis, they let them cross back and forth across the border, they let this L.E.T. guy (the leader of the dangerous Lashkar-e-Taiba faction of Kashmiri terrorists) be in prison and not be in prison at the same time.”

And yet the Pakistanis have been helpful — Abbottabad aside — against Al Qaeda, which is America’s first priority and which the Pakistanis recognize as a menace to everyone. They have shared intelligence, provided access to interrogations and coordinated operations. Before the fatal border mishap Thanksgiving weekend, one U.S. official told me, anti-terror cooperation between the C.I.A. and Pakistani intelligence had been “very much on the upswing.”

The most striking aspect of Clinton’s trip, however, was her enthusiastic embrace of what is now called “reconciliation” — which is the polite word for negotiating with the Taliban.

Pakistan has long argued that the way to keep Afghanistan from coming to grief is to cut a deal with at least some of the Taliban. That would also mean Afghanistan could get by with a smaller, cheaper army. The notion has been anathema to the Americans tasked with killing Taliban; a principled stand against negotiating with terrorists is also a political meme that acquires particular potency in election seasons, as viewers of the Republican debates can attest.

Almost unnoticed, though, reconciliation has moved to a central place in America’s strategy and has become the principal assignment for U.S. officials in the region. Clinton first signaled this in a speech to the Asia Society last February, when she refocused Afghanistan strategy on its original purpose, isolating the terrorists at war with America, meaning Al Qaeda.

The speech was buried beneath other news at the time, but in early October, Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security adviser, met Kayani in Abu Dhabi to stress to skeptical Pakistani leaders that she was serious. Clinton’s visit to Islamabad with her generals in tow was designed to put the full weight of the U.S. behind it.

Clinton publicly acknowledged that the ISI (in fact, it was General Pasha in person) had already brokered a preliminary meeting between a top American diplomat and a member of the Haqqani clan. Nothing much came of the meeting, news of which promptly leaked, but Clinton said America was willing to sit down with the Taliban. She said that what had once been preconditions for negotiations — renouncing violence, shunning Al Qaeda and accepting Afghanistan’s constitution, including freedoms for women — were now “goals.”

In diplomacy, no process is fully initiated until it has been named. A meeting of Pakistani political parties in Islamabad had adopted a rubric for peace talks with the Taliban, a slogan the Pakistanis repeated at every opportunity: “Give peace a chance.” If having this project boiled down to a John Lennon lyric diminished the gravitas of the occasion, Clinton didn’t let on.

Within the American policy conglomerate, not everyone is terribly upbeat about the prospect of reconciling with the Taliban. The Taliban have so far publicly rejected talks, and the turban-bomb killing of Rabbani was a serious reversal. There is still some suspicion — encouraged by Afghanistan and India — about Pakistan’s real agenda. One theory is that Pakistan secretly wants the Taliban restored to power in Afghanistan, believing the Pashtun Islamists would be more susceptible to Pakistani influence. A more cynical theory, which I heard quite a bit in New Delhi, is that the Pakistani Army actually wants chaos on its various borders to justify its large payroll. Most Americans I met who are immersed in this problem put little stock in either of those notions. The Pakistanis may not be the most trustworthy partners in Asia, but they aren’t idiots. They know, at least at the senior levels, that a resurgent Taliban means not just perpetual mayhem on the border but also an emboldening of indigenous jihadists whose aim is nothing less than a takeover of nuclear Pakistan. But agreeing on the principle of a “stable Afghanistan” is easier than defining it, or getting there.

After Clinton left Islamabad, a senior Pakistani intelligence official I wanted to meet arrived for breakfast with me and a colleague at Islamabad’s finest hotel. With a genial air of command, he ordered eggs Benedict for the table, declined my request to turn on a tape recorder, (“Just keep my name out of it,” he instructed later) and settled into an hour of polished spin.

“The Taliban learned its lesson in the madrassas and applied them ruthlessly,” he said, as the Hollandaise congealed. “Now the older ones have seen 10 years of war, and reconciliation is possible. Their outlook has been tempered by reason and contact with the modern world. They have relatives and friends in Kabul. They have money from the opium trade. They watch satellite TV. They are on the Internet.”

On the other hand, he continued, “if you kill off the midtier Taliban, the ones who are going to replace them — and there are many waiting in line, sadly — are younger, more aggressive and eager to prove themselves.”

So what would it take to bring the Taliban into a settlement? First, he said, stop killing them. Second, an end to foreign military presence, the one thing that always mobilizes the occupied in that part of the world. Third, an Afghan constitution framed to give more local autonomy, so that Pashtun regions could be run by Pashtuns.

On the face of it, as my breakfast companion surely knows, those sound like three nonstarters, and taken together they sound rather like surrender. Even Clinton is not calling for a break in hostilities, which the Americans see as the way to drive the Taliban to the bargaining table. As for foreign presence, both the Americans and the Afghans expect some long-term residual force to stay in Afghanistan, to backstop the Afghan Army and carry out drone attacks against Al Qaeda. And while it is not hard to imagine a decentralized Afghanistan — in which Islamic traditionalists hold sway in the rural areas but cede the urban areas, where modern notions like educating girls have already made considerable headway — that would be hard for Americans to swallow.

Clinton herself sounded pretty categorical on that last point when she told Pakistani interviewers: “I cannot in good faith participate in any process that I think would lead the women of Afghanistan back to the dark ages. I will not participate in that.”

To questions of how these seemingly insurmountable differences might be surmounted, Marc Grossman, who replaced Holbrooke as Clinton’s special representative, replies simply: “I don’t know whether these people are reconcilable or not. But the job we’ve been given is to find out.”

If you look at reconciliation as a route to peace, it requires a huge leap of faith. Surely the Taliban have marked our withdrawal date on their calendars. The idea that they are so deeply weary of war — – let alone watching YouTube and yearning to join the world they see on their laptops — feels like wishful thinking.

But if you look at reconciliation as a step in couples therapy — a shared project in managing a highly problematic, ultimately critical relationship — it makes more sense. It gives Pakistan something it craves: a seat at the table where the future of Afghanistan is plotted. It gets Pakistan and Afghanistan talking to each other. It offers a supporting role to other players in the region — notably Turkey, which has taken on a more active part as an Islamic peace broker. It could drain some of the acrimony and paranoia from the U.S.-Pakistan rhetoric.

It might not save Afghanistan, but it could be a helpful start to saving Pakistan.

What Clinton and company are seeking is a course of patient commitment that America, frankly, is not usually so good at. The relationship has given off some glimmers of hope — with U.S. encouragement, Pakistan and India have agreed to normalize trade relations; the ISI has given American interrogators access to Osama bin Laden’s wives — but the funerals of those Pakistani troops last month remind us that the country is still a graveyard of optimism.

At least the U.S. seems, for now, to be paying attention to the right problem.

“If you stand back,” said one American who is in the thick of the American strategy-making, “and say, by the year 2020, you’ve got two countries — 30 million people in this country, 200 million people with nuclear weapons in this country, American troops in neither. Which matters? It’s not Afghanistan.”

Bill Keller, a former executive editor of The Times, writes a column for the Op-Ed page.

Lowe’s Errs in Muslim Ad Uproar

By Laura Berman for The Detroit News

Lowe’s used to be the home supply store for macho do-it-yourselfers who want to pick up a chain saw or a sledge hammer along with a box of garbage bags.

Now it’s steeping in a political mess, the result of acceding to the demands of a “pro-family” group — a warm-and-fuzzy sounding way to describe a group that specializes in email campaigns targeted against TV shows that treat minorities as human beings.

In this case, the target was “All-American Muslim,” The Learning Channel’s new reality show that depicts five Muslim families in Dearborn as they entertain, bicker, laugh and get married. The show’s premise — that Muslims are Americans, too — verges on the silly in its obviousness, or so most would think. But the Florida Family Association branded the show, which premiered a month ago, as “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

The group launched its email campaign in November, then triumphed when Lowe’s — among dozens of other sponsors — disappeared from the show in subsequent episodes.

Its big beef was the lack of negative portrayals of Muslims on the show: Insufficient underwear bombers and radical clerics. The FFA wants ordinary, tooth-brushing, family-friendly Muslims “balanced” with scary, America-hating radical Muslims, apparently as a way to keep suspicion and prejudice alive.

This strikes me as un-Christian to the max. But Lowe’s bought in or, more likely, tried to gracefully bow out of the political arena by removing itself from the show’s list of sponsors.

Lowe’s next error: releasing paragraphs of corporate mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-apologies that fueled the growing uproar. Now there’s a festive holiday season cultural eruption centered on Dearborn. Dearborn’s Muslim community leaders are denouncing Lowe’s, while the Florida Family Association brags online about its successful campaign to eliminate advertisers for “All-American Muslim.”

In the FFA’s version of All-American, only “God fearing” Christians are real Americans, released from requirements to be portrayed, at least some of the time, as crucial components of the axis of evil.

This xenophobic, self-justifying bigotry is, in fact, just as American as our more widely copied ideas about equality for all and a universal right to pursue happiness. But it’s hard to believe what a persistent undercurrent conspiracy theories are in American culture.

The Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Richard Hofstadter described 50 years ago what he called “the paranoid style” in American politics, giving as an example a 1964 campaign by the John Birch society to boycott Xerox for advertising on a television show about the United Nations.

Just as American Muslims are now subjected to bigotry and suspicion, Masons and Catholics were singled out by 19th century Americans bent on protecting their country through conspiracy theories, and Japanese Americans were forced into 20th century concentration camps.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” Hofstadter wrote, describing a state of mind that flourishes in America today.

The problem isn’t only anger but, also, how fear so easily drowns out even a chain-saw-wielding corporation’s All-American supply of courage.

Amir Khan Was Mugged By Dubious Judging

By Jeff Powell for The Daily Mail

Not only the politics stink here. Amir Khan must have felt like going out to join the Occupy Washington protesters in their tents after his grand design for global supremacy was set back for at least a year by some of the most controversial officiating decisions the sport has witnessed.
The only consolation for Britain’s unseated world champion, after he was mugged in the darkness near Capitol Hill, is that he will be given an immediate chance to regain his unified light-welterweight title from Lamont Peterson — the local hero who benefited from the latest of the charitable donations which are another feature of life in this power-crazed city.

A referee who deducted two points from Khan for the obscure infringement of pushing off his opponent and a pair of judges who couldn’t — or wouldn’t — see straight have also put on hold the mega-millions of dollars Khan is hoping to bank from a super-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Now, instead of challenging Manny Pacquiao’s rival as the best pound-for-pound fighter on earth next May, he can expect to face Peterson for a second time on March 31, probably in more neutral Las Vegas.

And Mayweather can now conveniently ignore Khan, at least until he regains his WBA and IBF belts from Peterson and then goes on to beat one or two more world-class boxers.

Khan’s plans have been knocked so badly awry by this split-decision defeat in a real thriller — the excitement of which has been lost in the controversy of yet another of the injustices which have plagued boxing of late — that his career may have to be prolonged beyond his nominated retirement age of 28. Khan reached his 25th birthday last Thursday and is unlikely to land his bonanza fight before 2013, at the earliest.
Trainer Freddie Roach insists: ‘Yes, Amir can get back on track by beating Peterson and still become the next pound-for-pound king.’

But the road to that summit is even steeper now.
Instead of going straight to Mayweather or easing himself up to welterweight against a manageable British opponent like Matthew Hatton, Khan is obliged to stay at 10 stones and strive to regain — and then defend — his light-welter titles.

That may be a blessing in disguise. Although Khan’s courage and relish for battle contributed to another Fight of the Year candidate, he does not look as ready for Mayweather just yet as he and Roach had imagined. Not that Floyd Jnr will be willing to accommodate him for a while now.

This defeat, however unfair, moves Khan back in the queue for glory. It also puts more testing obstacles in his path.
Although my scoring was within a point of the one judge, Nelson Vasquez, who voted 115-110 in favour of Khan on Saturday, he must expect another tough night against Peterson.

And although he says ‘I hope Lamont has the nerve for coming to England that I showed in giving him this chance in his home town,’ the reality is that the rematch will go to Las Vegas, not least on economic grounds. This first fight was a real barn-burner and HBO will be as keen as Sky in Britain to do it all over again. That is a somewhat enriching consolation for Khan as he nurses his wounds and his grievances.

But then, assuming he beats Peterson, the most logical fight will be against Timothy Bradley in a bid to become the undisputed world champion at light-welter. And it was Bradley who stamped the only loss on Peterson’s record, with a hefty points victory two years ago.
Bradley is like Peterson — albeit a superior version. He is a hungry street-fighter who uses his head as a third fist and Khan reasoned how that tactic obliged him to push Peterson back ‘to avoid a head coming in lower and lower’.

That does not explain local referee Joe Cooper’s decision to penalise a professional prize-fighter for pushing, something rarely if ever witnessed outside the amateur ranks. Nor does it excuse judges George Hill and Valerie Dorsett giving Peterson the verdict by a single point, 113-112, following the deductions.

Although Peterson was mightily persistent, there were periods when Khan boxed his ears off. Even as he intensified the ring-quartering pressure in the middle rounds, there were spells when Khan boxed almost as beautifully as Muhammad Ali to stay away from trouble and land his combinations.
And when Khan was caught by Peterson’s big shots, he proved once again that his supposedly suspect chin is as punch-resistant as any in this hard old game. Scoring a fight is a subjective business but there is a growing need for boxing to take steps to make judging and refereeing as fair and impartial as possible.

It was a mistake by Team Khan to accept the hometown referee who not only gave Peterson his two-point advantage, but who ruled that the local homeless boy made good was knocked down only once, not twice, in the first round.
Every little point counts in fights like this.

Neutral, scrupulous officials have to be the first part of a solution to the decisions which are not only cheating honest fighters like Khan, but are damaging boxing’s credibility in the eyes of the public. From Watergate to Khangate, Washington has much to answer for in the political and sporting arenas.

Are Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Secure?

Qaiser Farooq Gondal for The Washington Times

Pakistan is again facing the possibility of instability, raising concerns that its nuclear weapons are not in safe hands. Once again the ability of Pakistan’s army to secure the weapons is in doubt. The big powers of the world often ask whether Pakistan will be able to overcome this new danger or not. They also worry that if Pakistan suffers from instability, crisis will bleed over the border to Afghanistan.

After the 1979 Islamic revolution of Iran, the world was very much worried as to the spread of the effects of Iranian revolution to Pakistan. But 32 years after revolution in Iran, Pakistan is still safe and free from the effects of revolution in Iran.

In 1979, after the invasion of Afghanistan by the former USSR, alarmists feared that the Soviets would reach the hot waters of Arabian Sea. In fact, USSR did not threaten Pakistan, and it was because of Pakistan’s army that the USSR failed in Afghanistan and retreated back in 1989.

America has been concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons since 2004, and there have been media reports that America has plans to send special security forces to safeguard the nuclear arsenal in case of instability in Pakistan. But America has denied any such reports and Pakistani authorities ridiculed the idea of US troops coming to the country to help safeguard nuclear weapons. Pakistan argues it can protect its own nuclear weapons, and earlier this month, the Pakistani government stated that it will train 8,000 additional troops to protect its nuclear weapons.

One major priority for the United States is to ensure that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not reach the hands of terrorists. Multiple attacks on Pakistani military facilities in recent years heightened those fears. In reality, none of the attacks were of any serious nature and all the culprits were captured and trialed in military courts.

China has played a major role in the development of Pakistani nuclear weapons, as the western countries made it impossible to export nuclear weapons and technology to Pakistan. China is also supporting Pakistan to construct institutes to generate nuclear energy as Pakistan is facing shortages of energy.

The main reason for acquiring nuclear weapons by Pakistan is to prevent any future attack by India. There has been no war between India and Pakistan since both the nations conducted nuclear tests and residents of both countries hope nuclear weapons will continue to deter any attacks.

Since 2001, the US has supplied Pakistan with about 100 million dollars to safeguard its nuclear weapons. Pakistan has developed a weapons release program which requires checks and balances. Pakistan is meeting the international standards in order to fulfill the international pressure over the issue of the security of its nuclear weapons.

Pakistan has been developing strategies to survive a possible nuclear war, as it has developed hard and deeply buried nuclear launch facilities to retain a nuclear strike capability after a nuclear attack.

Pakistan is increasing its capacity to produce plutonium, a fuel for atomic bombs at its Khushab facility and is believed to have about 200 nuclear weapons.

In other words, despite continued Western fears, Pakistan retains firm control of its nuclear weapons. The country has taken extensive measures to safeguard them, and will continue to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. The US should stop worrying and trust Pakistan to secure its own weapons.

Fire at Indian Hospital Kills 89, Injures Dozens

By Mark Magnier for The LA Times

At least 89 patients died and dozens were injured when a fire raced through a hospital in India’s eastern city of Kolkata early Friday amid unconfirmed reports that it started in an underground parking lot used to store oxygen cylinders and flammable material.

Most of those who died in the multistory AMRI hospital in the southern part of the city died of suffocation, fire officials said. Hundreds of angry relatives, distraught at the lack of information and the idea that such a tragedy had occurred in a place dedicated to healing, reportedly went on a rampage, smashing glass in the reception area and looting hospital registers.

This was the second fire at that hospital in three years and one of the worst in Indian history. Mamata Banerjee, the top elected official in West Bengal state, where Kolkata is located, called it an “unforgivable crime,” adding that the private hospital’s license had been revoked. She promised a full investigation and harsh punishment for those found guilty of wrongdoing. Five fire engines brought the fire under control a few hours after the 3 a.m. blaze broke out, their arrival delayed by the narrow, congested streets surrounding the site.

Neighbors and passersby helped rescue stranded occupants of the 160-bed facility. Some told local television reporters that hospital staff had abandoned patients and fled for safety. Among the 73 people confirmed dead in the conflagration, three were hospital workers, said Satyabrata Upadhyay, a senior vice president of the AMRI hospital company.

Indian television showed dead bodies being removed from the building wrapped in sheets, with some of the living and dead lowered from windows by rope.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- We are saddened by this loss of life in neighboring India and pay our condolences to the relatives of the deceased. We urge the Indian government to make an urgent inqury into the cause of this disaster and hope that better emergency plans are laid out as a result on all public buildings, especially hospitals and nursing homes.

Virginia Man Admits Conspiring With Pakistan Spy Agency

By Tom Schoenberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

A Virginia man admitted to aiding what prosecutors said was a “decades-long” operation by Pakistan’s spy agency to influence U.S. policy on Kashmir through unregistered lobbying and campaign contributions to members of Congress.

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and one count of impeding the administration of tax laws. He faces as long as eight years in prison when he’s sentenced on March 9. U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady agreed to let Fai remain free until sentencing.

Fai admitted to helping funnel at least $3.5 million from Pakistan’s government through the Washington-based Kashmiri American Council to sway the attitudes of U.S. lawmakers on the disputed territory with campaign contributions and other lobbying activities.

The council, which was headed by Fai at the time of his arrest in July, is “actually run” by elements of the Pakistani government, including Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI, prosecutors said.

Pakistan and India, which have split control of the territory since 1948, fought wars over Kashmir in 1965 and 1999.

‘Paid Operative’

“For the last 20 years, Mr. Fai secretly took millions of dollars from Pakistani intelligence and lied about it to the U.S. government,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement. “As a paid operative of ISI, he did the bidding of his handlers in Pakistan while he met with U.S. elected officials, funded high-profile conferences, and promoted the Kashmiri cause to decision-makers in Washington.”

Fai, a Pakistani immigrant and U.S. citizen living in Fairfax, Virginia, was charged in July with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lying to federal agents. He was charged along with Zaheer Ahmad, 63, a U.S. citizen who remains at large, according to prosecutors. The pair failed to disclose their affiliation with Pakistan’s government as required by law, prosecutors said.

On Nov. 23, the government separated Fai’s case from Ahmad’s and added the charge of impeding the Internal Revenue Service.

As part of his plea, Fai agreed to pay about $200,000 to the IRS and forfeit about $143,000 the government seized from five bank accounts in Virginia and Washington, according to court papers. Fai also agreed to cooperate with any federal investigation.

Fai’s Admission

Fai said little during today’s plea hearing. He answered “No sir” when O’Grady asked if he disagreed with any of the information contained in the statement of facts submitted by the government outlining the conspiracy and his ties to the ISI.

Fai admitted that during an interview with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in July, he “falsely denied” that he or the council received money from the ISI or the government of Pakistan, according to the statement of facts.

A search of Fai’s home, office and a storage facility turned up documents detailing the council’s Washington strategies, including budget requirements for contributions to members of Congress and trips to Kashmir for lawmakers, money for opinion pieces distributed to the media, as well as money for seminars and conferences, prosecutors said in a court filing. One document found in the search called for $100,000 for contributions to members of Congress in 2009, prosecutors said.

Annual Budget

Fai, who admitted the conspiracy took place from 1990 until July 18, said he submitted annual budget requests of about $500,000 to $700,000 to officials of the government of Pakistan, including the ISI.

Since the mid-1990s, Ahmad, an American living in Pakistan, has moved government funds through a network he ran to Fai and the council, which also has offices in London and Brussels, prosecutors said.

The council’s goal is to build support for Pakistani interests in Kashmir and offset lobbying by India over the disputed territory, the U.S. said in court papers.

Fai has donated more than $10,000 to federal politicians in the past five years, according to data compiled by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

Among his political contributions, Fai, in 2008 and again in 2010, gave $2,000 to U.S. Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, according to the center. He also gave $5,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2006, followed by a $1,000 contribution in 2008. He gave $250 to President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and $250 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2009.

The case is U.S. v. Fai, 11-00561, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

Pakistan President Zardari in Dubai For Treatment as Coup Rumors Intensify

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

Pakistan’s embattled president, Asif Ali Zardari, has been hospitalised in Dubai with a heart condition, triggering speculation that it could be used as an excuse for him to step down amid growing pressure from the military.

A government adviser said Zardari had suffered a “minor heart attack”, but this was at odds with the official spokesman for the president, who said the president had gone for routine tests for a pre-existing heart condition.

Rumours of a coup or a resignation forced by the military consumed the media and the internet, fuelled by a report in Foreign Policy magazine that said Zardari was “incoherent” on Monday night during a telephone conversation with Barack Obama.

Zardari’s son and political heir-apparent, Bilawal, met prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad, adding to media hysteria about imminent change. Bilawal is chairman of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party.

The speculation hit a receptive, febrile political atmosphere, rocked by a diplomatic scandal and the recent jolt to relations with the US over the deaths of Pakistani soldiers at a border checkpost.

Pakistan has been ruled for half its existence by the military, and the armed forces have pulled the strings the rest of the time, meaning that the threat of coups are ever present .

Zardari’s aides said he would not resign. The president is deeply unpopular with Pakistan’s military establishment, which is widely believed to be behind repeated attempts to oust him.

“He had a minor heart attack on Tuesday. He flew to Dubai where he had an angioplasty. He’s in good health now. He will come back tomorrow. There’s no question of any resignation,” Mustafa Khokhar, the government’s adviser on human rights told the AFP news agency.

However, Farhatullah Babar, the president’s spokesman, dismissed media speculation, saying “Zardari is in a Dubai hospital for medical tests and checkup as planned”.

The president is under pressure from the “memogate” scandal in Pakistan, where he is accused of being behind a written offer delivered to the US military leadership in the days after the raid on Osasma bin Laden in May this year.

The anonymous memo offered to rein in the Pakistani military, in return for US support. Pakistan’s former US ambassador and close Zardari aide, Husain Haqqani, has already been forced to resign over the issue and faces possible treason charges.

Ali Dayan Hasan, of Human Rights Watch, the international campaigning group, warned against any military intervention. “Constitutional rule of law must be followed and civilian supremacy must be maintained,” he said. “Governance must be through genuine periodic elections.”

Pakistani Actress Veena Malik Sues FHM Magazine Over Nude Cover Photo

A nude shot of a sultry Pakistani starlet on the cover of an Indian lad mag has sparked an uproar between the two nuclear rivals.

Pakistani actress Veena Malik appears on the cover of FHM India’s December issue wearing nothing but a steamy gaze and the initials of Pakistan’s fearsome intelligence agency, ISI, tattooed across her arm.

Conservative Muslim clerics in her home country slammed the shot as an insult to Islam, while Pakistan’s government has promised to investigate whether the image was doctored, London’s The Telegraph reported.

Malik, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against the magazine, saying that she agreed to pose topless — along with a cheeky dig at her home country’s spy service — but the editors digitally altered the shot to make her appear totally nude.

“I agreed to a photo shoot and having an ISI tattoo in a humorous way but I did not have any nude photos. My pictures have been morphed,” she told a Pakistani television station.

The suit is seeking $2 million in damages. FHM India editor Kabeer Sharma insists the cover is legit.

“Maybe she is facing some kind of backlash, so maybe that’s why she is denying it,” Sharma told Agence France-Presse.

“We have not photoshopped or faked the cover. This is what she looks like, she has an amazing body.” Sharma says a video from the cover shoot would prove the photos are real.

An alternate cover that has surfaced online shows Malik clad in a dinky military cargo belt while nibbling on the pin of a grenade.

The 33-year-old Muslim actress and model was best known as a Pakistani TV star before hitting it big in India in 2010 as a contestant on the fourth season of the reality show “Bigg Boss,” a version of “Big Brother.”

In January, she got in a much-publicized verbal spat with a conservative Muslim cleric, who called her an insult to Pakistan and Islam for cozying up with a dashing Indian actor on the show.

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