Archive for the ‘ Pakistani Taliban ’ Category

Pakistan Leans Toward Talks With Taliban, Not Battle

By Karin Brulliard and Haq Nawaz Khan for The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD — Amid growing American frustration with Pakistan’s handling of Islamic militancy, the government here appears less willing than ever to challenge insurgent groups and is more inclined to make peace with them.

In a series of recent statements, Pakistani officials have rejected the notion of robust military action against insurgents based in its tribal belt and instead called for truces. At a recent summit, political leaders issued a resolution that did not condemn terrorism but said their policy is dialogue. The decree was widely viewed as having been rubber-stamped by the powerful military, whose top two figures briefed the conference.

The approach has puzzled U.S. officials and renewed debate in Pakistan about how to handle insurgents who have killed thousands in attacks nationwide.

Much remains unclear about the potential for peacemaking, including which militant groups would be included or willing. But some analysts say Pakistan has lost the resolve to battle homegrown insurgents who many here view as disgruntled brethren.

“Everyone went along with what the army wanted” at the recent political summit, said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a Pakistani journalist and expert on militancy in the northwest. “It became obvious that the military has no appetite for military operations.”

Many here express skepticism about talks, arguing that such efforts had failed in the past. But the idea is backed by Islamic parties and other political leaders.

In interviews, politicians and security officials said Pakistan views the Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella insurgent group that is an offshoot of the Afghan movement, as splintered enough to be open to peace deals mediated through tribal elders or clerics. And the United States, they note, is supporting a similar approach in Afghanistan.

“If by giving a chance to peace, any terror is eliminated, it’s the best option,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik, a leading ruling party figure, said in an interview. He added that he had received armistice offers from militants: “They want to talk.”

Pakistan’s fragile civilian government regularly condemns terrorism, and the army has executed several operations in the country’s northwest, including against Pakistani Taliban factions in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan. The battles have scattered some militant leaders, leaving the organization weakened but still capable of carrying out deadly attacks. But there is little public enthusiasm for large-scale military action, which could displace millions of people.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is jockeying for inclusion in any Afghan political settlement, which security officials here believe will bring Afghan Taliban representatives into the government. The army therefore sees little incentive to antagonize Pakistan insurgents, who commingle with their Afghan counterparts, security analysts said.

‘A focus on peace’

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called last month’s political conference as tensions with the United States soared over American allegations of Pakistani state support for the Haqqani network, an Afghan group based in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan. Participants, in a rare show of unity, unanimously rejected the U.S. claims and called for a “new direction and policy with a focus on peace and reconciliation” with “our own people in the tribal areas.”

Two days later, Gilani told local media that a parliamentary committee would monitor talks that could include all Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network, but warned that failure could prompt military action. Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, however, suggested otherwise to reporters, saying: “Military operation is not a solution to every problem. We’re done with those operations where we had to.”

An American official said the United States was unsure what to make of the resolution. “We’ll be watching, of course, and asking through military channels what the [Pakistanis] have in mind,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive relationship.

The United States has stepped up a campaign of drone strikes against the Haqqani network, targeting the group with several strikes in recent days.

Taliban reaction to the Pakistani overture has been wary. One top commander, Faqir Mohammed, was quoted by local media as saying he welcomed talks — but that they must lead to the establishment of Islamic law. Mohammed later denied willingness to talk.

“There have been contacts between the government and militants through indirect channels,” said a tribal elder from the Waziristan region. “Both sides are seeking guarantees before starting.”

A Pakistani intelligence official pointed to the recent defection of one Pakistani Taliban commander, Fazal Saeed Haqqani, as an argument for truces, which he said exploit insurgent infighting. Pakistan, the official said, “met Haqqani’s demands,” including by releasing some of Haqqani’s imprisoned relatives.

Others bemoan the idea of talks as surrender, though many critics remain enthusiastic about reconciliation in Afghanistan. Javed Ashraf Qazi, a senator and former intelligence chief, said the Afghan Taliban is fighting a foreign occupation, while the Pakistani Taliban seeks to create an Islamic caliphate.

“These are our own citizens who have revolted against the state . . . and therefore they should be subjected to the law,” Qazi said. “They have the blood of innocent people on their hands.”

Pakistan’s numerous past attempts at peacemaking with domestic insurgent groups provide ample reason for doubt. Some analysts say a 2006 deal in North Waziristan helped create a haven in the area, from which the Haqqani network and other fighters now operate freely.

The Pakistani army has maintained truces with a few factions, including one led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose North Waziristan-based forces attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan and are closely allied with the Haqqani network. Some analysts speculate that the army has struck other secret deals that it wants to avoid jeopardizing.

The military and the Taliban are “ happy nowadays because there are fewer attacks — on both sides,” Yousafzai said.

Special correspondent Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Pakistan, US Pledge to Strengthen Alliance

As Reported By The Khaleej Times

Pakistani and US diplomats on Thursday vowed to strengthen their troubled alliance two days after Washington acknowledged for the first time that it is waging “war” against militants in Pakistan.

US special envoy, Marc Grossman, on Thursday met Pakistani leaders in Islamabad as US drone strikes killed 10 militants, including a commander in the Haqqani network that the US military has linked to Pakistani intelligence.

“We tried to think about the future and way to keep our strategic dialogue going,” Grossman told a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

“We also talked about how can we continue in a systematic way to identify the interests that we share with Pakistan, and there are many, and then find ways to act on them jointly,” he added.

Grossman said they had been preparing for conferences on the future of Afghanistan, in Istanbul next month and in the German city of Bonn in December.

US officials openly acknowledge that the relationship with Pakistan is complicated, but say it is important to persevere no less because Pakistan is a key stakeholder in any eventual political settlement in Afghanistan.

Khar said both sides would “build on this partnership which is not only important for the two countries but also for the region and the whole world”.

On Tuesday, acknowledging for the first time that the US is waging a war in Pakistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described Washington’s relationship with Islamabad as “complicated”.

“And admittedly, there are a lot of reasons for that. We are fighting a war in their country,” Panetta said.

He said the two countries sharply disagreed over “relations they maintain with some of the militant groups in that country,” a reference to Washington’s demand that Islamabad crack down on the Haqqani network.

A covert CIA drone campaign that the US government declines to discuss publicly has seen around 30 missile attacks in Pakistan since American troops killed Osama bin Laden near the capital Islamabad on May 2.

Wake up Pakistan

By Najam Sethi for The Friday Times

US- PAK relations have broken down. The United States has “ suspended” military aid and all but closed the Kerry- Lugar- Berman tap of funds for the civilians. Proud Pakistanis have puffed up their chests and vowed to eat grass, if necessary, in order to defend their country’s “sovereignty”. What’s the big deal, they aver, US aid was peanuts anyway, and our traditional friends like China and Saudi Arabia can bail us out of our problems.

To be sure, our relationship with the US has been no small disaster.

In the 1950s, we begged the US to befriend us instead of India, cheerily going along with the US into the Cold War against the USSR when it wasn’t our war at all. In consequence, the military became the dominant theme of our life and wrecked the budding impulse of democracy. Once again, in the 1980s and 2000s, we tripped over ourselves to rent out our services to the US in Afghanistan.

Today we are reaping the terrorist whirlwind of our greed and opportunism.

But a little introspection is in order to prove that we don’t need the US as an enemy because we are our own worst enemies.

More Pakistanis are eating “ grass” now than ever before. The number of Pakistanis below the poverty line has increased from 27 per cent five years ago to 33 per cent in 2011. And this has nothing to do with the US. The growth rate of the economy has fallen from 6.5 per cent five years ago to 3 per cent now. The fiscal deficit is yawning at 7.5 per cent of the GDP today compared to 4.5 per cent five years ago. And this has nothing to do with the US. The Rupee has fallen from 77 to the dollar five years ago to 90 today. General inflation is running at 15% and food inflation at 25%. And this has nothing to do with the US. The tax to GDP ratio is down to 8.7% in 2011 from 11.5% five years ago. And this has nothing to do with the US. Floods continue to devastate the lives and produce of millions of poor people across the country.

And this has nothing to do with the US. Sunni extremists are rampaging, killing Shias. Ethnic parties continue to mow down people in Karachi. And this has nothing to do with the US. Power breakdowns have made the lives of tens of millions wretched and miserable while rendering millions of others jobless.

And this has nothing to do with the US. Instead of rooting for Pakistani nationalism, we are proud to undermine it as Muslims first, or Sindhis, Muhajirs, Baloch, Pakhtun, Punjabi, Seraiki, Hazarajat, Kashmiri, Sunni, Shia, Deobandi, Barelvi. And this has nothing to do with the US. We are counted amongst the most corrupt countries of the world. We have waged four wars with India and lost each of them, in the bargain losing half of Pakistan.

And this has nothing to do with the US. As if this litany of self- induced failures isn’t enough, there is the hypocrisy of double standards to contend with too. Of course, the US has violated our sovereignty by raining drones on FATA. But so have the Afghan Taliban and Al- Qaeda who have established safe havens there too. But we are quick to blast the US and quicker still to pretend that Al- Qaeda doesn’t exist and the Taliban are innocent refugees for whom our traditional hospitality is on offer.

The story doesn’t end here.

The IMF is not welcome. How dare it demand that we tax the rich, plug the bleeding in public sector corporations, stop the theft of power, and spend according to our means. US aid is dispensable.

We don’t need to build dams and reservoirs for managing our natural resources, we don’t need schools and teachers for our children and hospitals for the poor.

Our all- weather friends are China and Saudi Arabia. Never mind that China doesn’t help us much when we are ravaged by earthquakes and floods or when we are short of cash to pay our foreign bills.

NEVER MIND that Saudi Arabia treats our migrant workers like slaves, rents our military to crack down on Shia majorities in Bahrain and exports extremist “ Islam” to our lands.

At the end of the day, who eats grass when we rise to defend our sovereignty? Not our pot- bellied traders and businessmen. Not our golf- playing generals. Not our Defence Housing Society residents.

Not our foreign- asset holding politicians whose kids go to English- medium private schools at home and abroad. Not our self righteous media Mughals who berate our slavish black- skins and white masks. Not our corrupt judges and civil servants. It’s the wretched of the earth, the poorest of the poor, who eat grass.

For too long we have made foreign scapegoats for our own failures and corruptions. It is time to wake up and set our house in order without begging or berating the US.

Gunmen Attack Shiite Muslims in Pakistan, 12 Dead

As Reported By USA Today

Suspected Sunni extremists opened fire on Shiite Muslims traveling through southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 12 people and wounding six others in the latest apparent sectarian attack to plague the country, police said.

Sunni militants with ideological and operational links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings against minority Shiites in recent years, but the past couple weeks have been particularly bloody.

The gunmen who attacked Tuesday were riding on motorbikes and stopped a bus carrying mostly Shiite Muslims who were headed to work at a vegetable market on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, said police official Hamid Shakeel.

The attackers forced the people off the bus, made them stand in a line and then opened fire, said Shakeel. The dead included 11 Shiites and one Sunni, he said. The wounded included four Shiites and two Sunnis.

Sunni extremists carried out a similar attack on Shiite pilgrims traveling through Baluchistan about two weeks ago, killing 26 people. Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 percent Shiite.

Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan became the scene of a proxy war between mostly Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, with both sides funneling money to sectarian groups that regularly targeted each other.

The level of sectarian violence has declined somewhat since then, but attacks continue. In recent years, Sunni attacks on Shiites have been far more common.

The groups have been energized by al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni and share the belief that Shiites are infidels and it is permissible to kill them. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of the country’s most ruthless Sunni militant groups, claimed responsibility for the attack in Baluchistan two weeks ago. One of its alleged leaders, Malik Ishaq, was released from prison on bail in July after being held for 14 years on charges, never proven, of killing Shiites.

Ishaq was re-arrested about a week ago after making inflammatory speeches against Shiites in the country. He was not charged but detained under a public order act, which means he can be held for three months.

It’s not clear if Ishaq’s speeches have been connected to the recent wave of sectarian attacks.

Analysis: Pakistan’s Double-Game: Treachery or Strategy?

By John Chalmers for Reuters

Washington has just about had it withPakistan.

“Turns out they are disloyal, deceptive and a danger to the United States,” fumed Republican Representative Ted Poe last week. “We pay them to hate us. Now we pay them to bomb us. Let’s not pay them at all.”

For many in America, Islamabad has been nothing short of perfidious since joining a strategic alliance with Washington 10 years ago: selectively cooperating in the war on extremist violence and taking billions of dollars in aid to do the job, while all the time sheltering and supporting Islamist militant groups that fight NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has angrily denied the charges, but if its critics are right, what could the explanation be for such duplicity? What strategic agendas might be hidden behind this puzzling statecraft?

The answer is that Pakistan wants to guarantee for itself a stake in Afghanistan’s political future.

It knows that, as U.S. forces gradually withdraw from Afghanistan, ethnic groups will be competing for ascendancy there and other regional powers – from India to China and Iran – will be jostling for a foot in the door.

Islamabad’s support for the Taliban movement in the 1990s gives it an outsized influence among Afghanistan’s Pashtuns, who make up about 42 percent of the total population and who maintain close ties with their Pakistani fellow tribesmen.

In particular, Pakistan’s powerful military is determined there should be no vacuum in Afghanistan that could be filled by its arch-foe, India.

INDIA FOCUS

Pakistan has fought three wars with its neighbor since the bloody partition of the subcontinent that led to the creation of the country in 1947, and mutual suspicion still hobbles relations between the two nuclear-armed powers today.

“They still think India is their primary policy,” said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and prominent political analyst. “India is always in the back of their minds.”

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani – unprompted – complained that Washington’s failure to deal even-handedly with New Delhi and Islamabad was a source of regional instability.

Aqil Shah, a South Asia security expert at the Harvard Society of Fellows, said Islamabad’s worst-case scenario would be an Afghanistan controlled or dominated by groups with ties to India, such as the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, which it fears would pursue activities hostile to Pakistan.

“Ideally, the military would like Afghanistan to become a relatively stable satellite dominated by Islamist Pashtuns,” Shah wrote in a Foreign Affairs article this week.

Although Pakistan, an Islamic state, officially abandoned support for the predominantly Pashtun Taliban after the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001, elements of the military never made the doctrinal shift.

Few doubt that the shadowy intelligence directorate, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has maintained links to the Taliban that emerged from its support for the Afghan mujahideen during the 1979-1989 Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Until recently, there appeared to be a grudging acceptance from Washington that this was the inevitable status quo.

That was until it emerged in May that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – who was killed in a U.S. Navy SEALs raid – had been hiding out in a Pakistani garrison town just two hours up the road from Islamabad, by some accounts for up to five years.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have been stormy ever since, culminating in a tirade by the outgoing U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Mike Mullen, last week.

Mullen described the Haqqani network, the most feared faction among Taliban militants in Afghanistan, as a “veritable arm” of the ISI and accused Islamabad of providing support for the group’s September 13 attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The reaction in Islamabad has been one of stunned outrage.

Washington has not gone public with evidence to back its accusation, and Pakistani officials say that contacts with the Haqqani group do not amount to actual support.

However, Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer-turned-populist-politician, said this week that it was too much to expect that old friends could have become enemies overnight.

He told Reuters that, instead of demanding that Pakistan attack the Haqqanis in the mountainous border region of North Waziristan, the United States should use Islamabad’s leverage with the group to bring the Afghan Taliban into negotiations.

“Haqqani could be your ticket to getting them on the negotiating table, which at the moment they are refusing,” Khan said. “So I think that is a much saner policy than to ask Pakistan to try to take them on.”

REGIONAL GAME

The big risk for the United States in berating Islamabad is that it will exacerbate anti-American sentiment, which already runs deep in Pakistan, and perhaps embolden it further.

C. Raja Mohan, senior fellow at New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research, said Pakistan was probably gambling that the United States’ economic crisis and upcoming presidential elections would distract Washington.

“The real game is unfolding on the ground with the Americans. The Pakistan army is betting that the United States does not have too many choices and more broadly that the U.S. is on the decline, he said.

It is also becoming clear that as Pakistan’s relations with Washington deteriorate, it can fall back into the arms of its “all-weather friend,” China, the energy-hungry giant that is the biggest investor in Afghanistan’s nascent resources sector.

Pakistani officials heaped praise on Beijing this week as a Chinese minister visited Islamabad. Among them was army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, arguably the country’s most powerful man, who spoke of China’s “unwavering support.”

In addition, Pakistan has extended a cordial hand to Iran, which also shares a border with Afghanistan.

Teheran has been mostly opposed to the Taliban, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims while Iran is predominantly Shi’ite. But Iran’s anti-Americanism is more deep-seated.

“My reading is the Iranians want to see the Americans go,” said Raja Mohan, the Indian analyst. “They have a problem with the Taliban, but any American retreat will suit them. Iran in the short term is looking at the Americans being humiliated.”

ARMY CALLS THE SHOTS

The supremacy of the military in Pakistan means that Washington has little to gain little from wagging its finger about ties with the Taliban at the civilian government, which is regularly lashed for its incompetence and corruption.

“The state has become so soft and powerless it can’t make any difference,” said Masood, the Pakistani retired general. “Any change will have to come from the military.”

Daniel Markey, a senior fellow for South Asia at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, said the problem lies with a security establishment that continues to believe that arming and working – actively and passively – with militant groups serves its purposes.

“Until … soul-searching takes place within the Pakistani military and the ISI, you’re not likely to see an end to these U.S. demands, and a real shift in terms of the relationship,” Markey said in an online discussion this week. “This is the most significant shift that has to take place.”

U.S. Refrains From Declaring Haqqani Terrorist Group on Pakistan Concerns

By John Walcott and Viola Gienger for Bloomberg News

The Obama administration isn’t ready to declare the Haqqani group in Pakistan a “foreign terrorist organization” even after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group attacked the U.S. embassy and American troops in Afghanistan.

“We are continuing to review whether to designate” the Haqqani organization, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday.
Mullen’s declaration in Senate testimony last week that Haqqani operatives acted as a “proxy” for Pakistan’s intelligence service may have further complicated the question.

Taking the first step — adding the Haqqani group to the list of terrorist organizations — would lead to demands that Pakistan be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. That would put at risk Pakistan’s cooperation as the U.S. tries to snuff out al-Qaeda’s core and other militants in the country’s tribal areas.

For now, the U.S. has designated the Haqqani network’s founder and other leaders. It has made clear to Pakistan that clamping down on the group “is job one, that we want to do it together, and that’s the conversation that we’re having now,” Nuland said.
Designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism would put it in the company of only four other countries — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and might trigger a nationalist backlash in Pakistan. It would require halting U.S. aid to Pakistan, force the U.S. to oppose World Bank loans to Pakistan, and end cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism and trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pariah State

Naming Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism “would turn it into a pariah state,” Robert Lamb, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “That would complicate a lot of aspects of the relationship, which is complicated enough already. It’s ugly, but it’s not unsalvageable.”

The administration is under new pressure to designate the Haqqanis a terrorist organization alongside 49 others, including al-Qaeda, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

After Mullen testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Haqqani group “meets the standards for designation” as a terrorist organization. So far, said congressional officials, Clinton hasn’t responded.

Congressional Pressure

“I think there’s going to be increasing congressional pressure on them to list the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization,” said Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and now a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation policy group in Washington.
“If we know that the Haqqani network is behind these major attacks on U.S. interests and we fail to confront them, that is a signal of weakness and it simply invites more attacks,” she said.

Nuland and other administration and military officials signaled a reluctance to sanction Pakistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said yesterday that the U.S. wants to “maintain a relationship with Pakistan that’s grounded in common interests, to include going after terrorists that threaten both countries.”
“There are differences from time to time,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon. “Those differences have been made public, and we continue to discuss those differences in private. We look forward to working with the Pakistanis to try to resolve them.”

Stretched Thin

Pakistani military officials told reporters in Islamabad on Sept. 25 that they had decided not to take action against the Haqqani group because their forces are stretched too thin.

If tensions escalated, Pakistan might again, as it did in a previous diplomatic confrontation, cut supply lines to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan from its port city of Karachi. Alternative land or air routes are more costly and difficult.
The Pakistanis, said two U.S. intelligence officials, also might abandon secret agreements that permit unmanned U.S. drones to collect intelligence and attack targets in designated areas of Pakistan.

The U.S. already is restricted from operating over the Haqqanis’ suspected base in North Waziristan or the border city of Quetta, home to the main Afghan Taliban group. They also might expel some or all of the classified number of U.S. intelligence officers and special operations forces who are training Pakistani troops and helping target drone attacks, the officials said.

ISI Role

Designating the Haqqani network a terrorist organization would do little to stop the group, said Curtis of the Heritage Foundation. The Haqqanis, she said, probably still would be able to garner financial support from their allies in the Persian Gulf region and backing from the Pakistan spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, known as ISI.
A U.S. designation of the Haqqanis isn’t likely to change Pakistani policy either, said Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

The ISI and the Pakistani military regard the Haqqani network and other militants as allies in their campaign to maintain Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and prevent arch- rival India from getting a toehold on Pakistan’s western border, said Fair and other specialists.
“They believe that the Haqqanis would protect Pakistan’s interest in any future setup in Afghanistan,” Curtis said.
Rejecting the charges that his government uses the Haqqanis as a proxy, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a Sept. 25 statement that U.S. policy on Afghanistan shows “confusion and policy disarray.”

“We may just let this ride,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a former Afghanistan and Pakistan intelligence analyst at the State Department and director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “We know what direction the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is going, and now we have no idea what the bottom looks like.”

US Links Militant Group to Pakistan Government

As Reported by ABC News

The United States says there is evidence linking the Pakistani government to the militant group that carried out last week’s attack on the US embassy in Kabul.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, claims there are links between the Pakistani government and high-profile terrorist group the Haqqani network.

In blunt comments broadcast by state-run Radio Pakistan, Mr Munter said: “Let me tell you that the attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago that was the work of the Haqqani network,” he said, referring to a deadly miltant attack in on Tuesday.

“There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.

“We have to make sure that we work together to fight terrorism.”

Asked to provide evidence of the link with the Pakistani government, Mr Munter said only “we believe that to be the case”.

The Haqqani network, which is closely allied to the Taliban, has been blamed for several high-profile attacks against Western, Indian and government targets in Afghanistan.

The group is believed to be based in Pakistan but Islamabad has consistently denied links with militant groups.

The US has long urged Pakistan to take action against the Haqqani network and suspected the group had support within the Islamabad administration.

Strained ties
Acknowledging that the past year had been tough, Mr Munter urged joint action against terrorism and said that the United States and Pakistan were “fundamentally on the same side”.

But the public comments are a mark of strained ties between the fragile anti-terrorism allies, with relations fractious since the US raid on Pakistani soil that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May.

The Haqqani network is thought to have been behind a number of attacks in Afghanistan, where NATO plans a gradual withdrawal of troops after a gruelling 10-year war.

Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the network, and his son Sirajuddin, who now runs the group, have both been designated “global terrorists” by Washington.

Mr Munter’s remarks follow a warning by US defence secretary Leon Panetta, who said after the Kabul attack that the US would retaliate against Pakistan-based insurgents.

“Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis and we’ve made very little progress in that area,” Mr Panetta said Wednesday, a day after the Kabul siege.

“I’m not going to talk about how we’re going to respond. I’ll just let you know that we’re not going to allow these kinds of attacks to go on,” he said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned those remarks as “out of line”, saying that “terrorism and militancy is a complex issue”.

Pakistan WSJ Ad Unlikely to Change Narrative

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

Pakistan has taken out a half-page advertisement in The Wall Street Journal to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in an attempt to shift what Islamabad feels is an anti-Pakistan narrative in the American media.

“Which country can do more for your peace?” the ad asks, sitting below a story on page A10 of the U.S. Journal’s Saturday/Sunday edition titled “When the Towers Came Down.”

“Since 2001 a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of world’s 7 billion!” it continues.”Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan…Promising peace to the world.”

Pakistani army and civilian officials complain that in the U.S. their country is often portrayed in the media and by members of Congress as a double-dealing ally that takes billions of dollars in U.S. aid but secretly helps the Taliban kill U.S. soldiers.

Pakistan’s leaders have been publicly trying to promote a competing narrative, but with almost no success.

In their telling, Pakistan did foster Islamist militant groups, first to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan and then Indian soldiers in Kashmir. Pakistan military and civilian officials point out the U.S. was all for the Mujahideen war against Moscow in the 1980s. But in the past decade, Pakistan’s army has severed its links with militants, who have unleashed a bloody war against Pakistan’s army and government, according to Islamabad’s narrative.

Pakistani officials regularly tell this version of events in public speechs and to visiting U.S. officials and journalists. The military has even made a local TV drama featuring real soldiers to publicize its sacrifices in the war against militants.

The advert in the Journal seeks to give the message to a wider audience.

To underline its point, the ad carries a picture of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister who was assassinated by Islamist militants in 2007, next to the slogan, “The promise of our martyrs lives on…”

The ad cites a series of statistics. Almost 22,000 Pakistani civilians have died or been seriously injured in the fight against terrorism, the ad said. The army has lost almost 3,000 soldiers. More than 3.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting and the damage to the economy over the past decade is estimated at $68 billion, it added.

People will quibble with these statistics from a country where reporters often find it difficult to get basic data.

It was not clear whether the ad was carried in other U.S. publications. Pakistan’s government also tried to place it in the New York Times. The Times asked for “more clarity in the ad about who was placing it,” according to a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The Times did not hear back from the government and so has not yet run the ad, she said.

The ad as printed in the Journal carries a line at the bottom in small font saying “Government of Pakistan” next to a web address for the government. A spokeswoman for the Journal declined to comment.

Will the advertisement be effective in shifting the narrative? It’s unlikely.

The points raised are all fair enough. Pakistan has been hammered by suicide bombings by Islamist militants against civilian and army targets. It’s perhaps fair to say that many in the U.S. have failed to recognize the changes in Pakistan, especially in the past few years, that have led to its domestic war against militancy.

Still, many in the U.S. and elsewhere are likely to shrug their shoulders. In the U.S. and India, where Pakistani-based militants are viewed as a daily threat to security, many politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens blame Pakistan for failing to stop the export of terrorism and being selective in which Islamist militant groups they go after.

Pakistan has waged a war against homegrown Pakistan Taliban militants for the past three years, suffering large casualties. But U.S. defense officials say publicly they are concerned that the country continues to protect Afghan Taliban fighters that don’t attack inside Pakistan. It’s these fighters who use Pakistan soil as a base from which to launch attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, they say.

Some U.S. officials say they believe Pakistan’s argument that it’s too stretched fighting the Pakistan Taliban to open new fronts in its war against militants. But many members of Congress and U.S. defense officials say Islamabad wants to keep ties strong with the Afghan Taliban so it can influence politics over the border once the U.S. pulls out its troops by 2014.

India blames Pakistan for failing to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group which carried out the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, killing over 160 people, and has hit Indian targets in Afghanistan. LET has not carried out any attacks against the Pakistan state.

Decade After 9/11, Afghans Languish in Pakistan

By Qasim Nauman and Rebecca Conway for Reuters

When Ghulum Nabi’s father heard U.S.-backed troops toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban after the September 11, 2001, attacks, he rushed to their family home in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan to spread the news.

Perhaps, one day they could all return to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan supported by a Western superpower.

After 10 years of U.S.-led efforts to pacify one of the world’s most turbulent countries, Afghan refugees in Pakistan have little hope for stability in their homeland.

“I grew up here and Pakistan is my country. When my father pushes me to go back to visit, I end up having a fight with him. I’m never going to live there. I want to get Pakistani nationality. This is my home,” said Nabi, 22, who runs a crockery shop.

“It doesn’t matter if it is America or anyone else trying to watch over Afghanistan. I will still be looking around to see if anyone is pointing a gun at me.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai would welcome a return of the millions of Afghans living in Pakistan.

It would be a vote of confidence in his administration, which faces many problems, from widespread allegations of state corruption, to a resilient Taliban.

SOVIET INVASION TRIGGERED LIFE OF UNCERTAINTY

Many of the refugees are skilled labourers who could boost reconstruction and help revive a weak economy if they return. But it’s unlikely to happen.

Most of the refugees in Pakistan arrived after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The conflict that followed consumed their homeland. After the mujahideen warriors defeated the Russians, warlords turned on each other and tore Afghanistan apart.

Many refugees fear a repeat of that chaos as a U.S. troop withdrawal looms.

Some would like to go home but feel they can’t. Others regard Pakistan as home despite its many disadvantages. Without proper Pakistani identification cards, Afghans can’t open bank accounts or buy or lease property.

Many are openly mistreated by Pakistanis who have little fear of being held to account.

On August 14, the anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, Saeed Anwar’s landlord showed up with three men armed with AK-47 assault rifles at his clothing shop at a busy bazaar in the city of Haripur, home to 80,000 Afghan refugees who live in camps.

“They threw around my merchandise and said I need to pay them a 300,000 Pakistani rupees ($3,450) advance on the rent. I had already paid the rent,” said Anwar, wearing traditional, loose Pakistani trousers.

“I went to the police to register a case. But when they see a dispute between a Pakistani and an Afghan, they automatically assume the Afghan has done something wrong.”

Still, many Afghans believe its wiser, and safer, to just accept the frequent humiliation than return to a homeland still shattered, despite a long U.S.-led military campaign against militancy and billions of dollars in Western aid.

Afghans — from elders who vividly remember the first Soviet gunship helicopters in Afghanistan, to teenagers who have only visited a few times — work for Pakistanis as welders or carpenters and tailors in Haripur and other cities.

Most of them prefer to run their own small businesses, from food carts to car dealerships. It’s the only sense of independence they have in the camps which consist of small cement and mud housing units near a reservoir.

The elders have set up a jirga, or tribal gathering, to settle internal disputes, as is done in much of Afghanistan. Cricket games are the only form of entertainment and leisure activity for most youths.

Two years ago Pakistan agreed to let displaced Afghans stay until the end of 2012, after a resurgence of militant violence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border hindered repatriation.

Still, people like Sherullah, whose nine children were born in Pakistan, feel vulnerable. What if Pakistan asks them to leave one day?

“There is a lot of confusion. If there’s one thing I want, it’s for this confusion to go away, for us to know if we will be staying or not,” said Sherullah, who was cutting women’s clothing in his tailor shop.

“There are many people living here that can afford to build a proper house but don’t want to. They think ‘what if next year we are told to leave?’. So they continue to live in mud houses.”

Aside from 1.7 million officially registered Afghans in Pakistan, there are an additional 800,000 with no documentation.

According to the United Nations, Pakistan is home to the world’s largest refugee population, mostly Afghans, who strain the country’s troubled economy.

Pakistan would like to repatriate them.

There are, however, few incentives for refugees to head back to Afghanistan. So life in camps may drag on for many years.

Even though the U.S. disengagement is gradual, it brings back painful memories of what was widely seen as American abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet exit in 1989. Warlords soon took over and bloodshed returned.

Haji Aslam, 65, an elder in one of the camps, has seen conflict in Afghanistan over the last 30 years — from the battlefields where he fought the Soviets to what he sees today on his television screen. He is betting on the Taliban to prevail once the Americans leave.

“Even if just 10 Taliban show up, the Afghan government will flee Kabul,” said Aslam, a man with a white beard wearing a traditional flat Afghan cap. “In Pakistan, I am at peace. I know my children are safe.”

Al Qaeda’s Roots Grow Deeper in Pakistan’

As Reported in Zee News

Ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent “war on terror” launched by United Stated-led forces against al Qaeda, the terrorist outfit “continues to pose a serious threat to the world as it keeps surviving and thriving mainly on the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt”, a senior Pakistani journalist and author has said.

“In these rugged areas, it [al Qaeda] has established an effective jihadi network that increasingly exploits its Pakistani affiliates to carry on the global jihadi agenda of Osama bin Laden, despite his May 02 killing in a United States military raid in Abbottabad in Pakistan,” Amir Mir wrote in a piece for Asia Times Online.

Until recently, analysts have been mostly focusing on the dangers posed by the growing Talibanisation of Pakistan, he noted.

“Yet, it has now become abundantly clear that the time has come to pay more attention to the bigger dangers posed by the Pakistanisation of al Qaeda,” he added.

Mir, who has written several books on the subject of militant Islam and terrorism, the latest being ‘The Bhutto murder trail: From Waziristan to GHQ’, said that the al Qaeda leadership’s choice of using the FATA region, especially the North and South Waziristan tribal agencies as their hideout, has enabled the terror outfit to build a new power base, separate from Afghanistan.

“As a result, despite Pakistan’s extensive contribution to the “war on terror”, many questions persist about the extent to which al Qaeda and its allied groups are operating within Pakistan,” he observed.

He said that al Qaeda’s success in forging close ties to Pakistani jihadi groups has given it an increasingly secure haven in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas, which have “replaced Afghanistan as the key training and indoctrination grounds for al Qaeda recruits to be used in operations abroad and for training those indoctrinated and radicalised elsewhere.”

The journalist also said it appears that al Qaeda not only remains in business in its traditional stronghold in the Waziristan tribal region, it has “also clearly advanced to the urban areas in all four provinces of Pakistan”.

“This is confirmed by the growing belief of the Barack Obama administration that if there is one country that matters most to the future of al Qaeda, it is Pakistan,” he added.

A Monster Roaming The World

By Paul Mcgeough for The City Weekly

Search for a firm footing in Pakistan and there is none – all is quicksand … strategically, politically, morally.

Here in south Asia, strategically sandwiched between failing Afghanistan and the China and India powerhouses, is a country in which journalists are abducted in the night by agents of the state and murdered; in which the only advance after a decade in which Washington has tried to buy friendship with cheques for more than $20 billion, is the expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal – which is on the verge of surpassing Britain’s as the fifth biggest in the world.

In Pakistan, a 50-year-old woman is sentenced to death on a dubious blasphemy charge – and politicians who dare to speak in her defence are gunned down; and a woman is gang-raped and paraded naked through her village on the orders of a local council, over bogus claims that her 12-year-old brother has offended a 20-year-old woman from the clan of the men who defiled her.

But that’s village life. In the leafy garrison town of Abbottabad, an hour’s drive north of Islamabad, Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the attacks of September 11, 2001, was able to hide in plain sight for years. The location of his fortified bunker, a stone’s throw from a prestigious military academy, made it harder to give any credence to the generals’ repeated denials that significant elements of Pakistan’s extensive security apparatus sheltered the al-Qaeda chief and continue to give succour to the Taliban and other insurgency and terrorist movements.

In the south-west, in the wilds of provincial Baluchistan, there have been 150 ”kill and dump” operations this year. Most of the victims are Baluch nationalist rebels. Their killers are the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and other elements of Pakistan’s national security forces – driven to brutality by a belief, which could be correct, that Pakistan’s arch foe, India, stirs the local nationalist pot. In turn, the Baluch nationalists are accused of running their own death squads – their victims are Punjabi ”settlers”, government workers brought in from other parts of the country.

Baluchistan is half Pashtun, which also makes it a sanctuary for the Taliban from adjoining Afghanistan, where Washington and the world still struggle, with little success, to impose a semblance of democracy on the bones of a fracturing, failing state. Here then is another of the ironies that puts a serious question mark over the bona fides of the Pakistani security forces: the leadership of the Afghanistan Taliban sequesters in Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, but the various Pakistani security services are so busy putting the Baluch nationalists through the mincer they don’t have time to take down the Taliban command-and-control centre. Instead, they reportedly socialise with the Taliban and sit in on their strategy meetings.

West from Baluchistan is the sprawling port city of Karachi, where the spiralling death toll in renewed ethnic turf-wars gives raw meaning to what local novelist Kamila Shamsie broaches obliquely, recounting how the city ”winks” at her. “Yes, the city said, I am a breeding ground for monsters, ” she writes, “but don’t think that is the full measure of what I am.”

This drab, chaotic home to 18 million people who account for 65 per cent of Pakistan’s economy is being carved up by bullets that this year have accounted for as many as 1000 ”wrong place, wrong time” deaths as gunmen randomly select their targets – sending messages to whole communities, not the individuals with whose blood they paint the rough pavements. As the suburbs seethe, police do little, because they are cowed by the systematic elimination of those in their ranks who intervened in the last iteration of these ethnic wars. Provincial and federal governments and the security forces only wring their hands.

In Karachi everyone lies. No one denies turf wars are being waged. They simply blame everyone else – all the political parties deny any links to the militias that prosecute their bloody agendas and to the crime, drug and land-development mafias that prosper in their wake. And the city’s once-dominant Urdu-speaking Mohajirs fight to maintain their control of corrupted city politics, amid an influx of Pashtuns fleeing upheavals along the Afghan border.

“Tension rises, we see killings and then scores must be settled,” an adviser to the provincial governor says. “We are at war – the political parties say they are not involved, but the mafias take shelter from the parties as they exploit the situation.”

In Islamabad, enter any of the city’s newsrooms, and see fear in the eyes of journalists who risk death and torture for going about assignments. Consider the words of their Karachi colleague Madiha Sattar – “a growth of intolerance has forged an extreme, murderous antipathy to freedom of expression.”

Most shocking in this campaign of fear and intimidation against one of the pillars of democracy was the disappearance in late May of Syed Saleem Shahzad, an investigative reporter for the respected, Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online. Two days after his abduction, Shahzad’s battered body was found at Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometres south-east of the capital. The reporter left detailed accounts of the threats he had received from the ISI; in Washington, senior officials unflinchingly confirming that Shahzad’s death had been ”sanctioned” by the Pakistani government.

Umar Cheema might just as easily have been their victim. Behind a door marked ”Investigation Cell” off a basement corridor in the Islamabad offices of The News, the 34-year-old father of two explains that the shock in his colleague Saleem Shahzad’s murder was a realisation it might just as easily have been him.

As Cheema drove home from a party in the early hours during Ramadan last year, 12 men who identified themselves as police commandos abducted him, he says. Informing him first that he was a suspect in a killing, they pulled a bag over his head and hauled him away.

“They took me to a building where the leader stripped off my clothes. Then I was ordered to lie on the floor and they beat me on the back and shoulders for 20 or 25 minutes with leather straps and wooden canes.

“I was writing about corruption in the government and the lack of accountability in the military and intelligence agencies – they said they were beating me because of my reporting. Then they shaved my head and eyebrows – that’s what is done to thieves in rural areas to humiliate them.

“Shahzad’s death left me speechless,” he says. “I was the second last victim before they took him. So I felt very much that this was a message for me – it was very, very personal.”

In Islamabad, the government of Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani is as overwhelmed as it is complicit in the nation’s failings. The economy is in crisis and the government has ceded control of more than half the country to the military or to extremist militias. “None of the cogs of state mesh to make it do what must be done,” Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Kamran Arif said.

Just south of Islamabad is Rawalpindi, a more typical Asian city than the sanitised and empty boulevards of Islamabad. As home and headquarters to the men and institutions that comprise Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, this is the centre of absolute power in Pakistan. And it is here that a deep-fried sense of humiliation over the American raid to kill Osama bin Laden, in May this year, is felt most acutely.

“After the bin Laden raid, it’s a question of the survival of the state,” the defence analyst and director of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Maria Sultan, says. “The problem now is that by this very public humiliation, the US has lost its biggest supporter – it’s not the capability of the Pakistani military that is affected, it’s its credibility.”

A close reading of ”Getting Bin Laden”, The New Yorker’s inside account of the May 2 raid, reveals the mission was not just a single US incursion that managed to evade Pakistan’s air defences. On the night, there were effectively three separate American missions, none of which was detected by a military-security complex that demands indulgence by the people of Pakistan on the grounds that it is their only protection from the Indian hordes.

Pakistan’s generals faced a grim choice – they had to admit to deceiving the world in harbouring bin Laden, or to incompetence by not knowing he was lounging in their backyard. So supine were they in opting to plead incompetence there were fears of a mutiny in the middle ranks of the security services.

The US signal to the world of just how much it could not trust its south Asian ally came hard on the heels of serial embarrassments at the hands of the Taliban and other militant groups in Pakistan.

There have been a series of militant attacks on the most secure and sensitive defence establishments. The latest, which some observers concluded could not have been undertaken without inside help, saw a 10-man assault team storm the Mehran naval aviation base in Karachi. It took hundreds of Pakistani navy commandos, marines and paramilitaries to retake the base, but not before two aircraft were destroyed, hostages taken and the base had been occupied for the best part of a day.

But it takes a discerning Pakistani general to differentiate between militants – some are ”strategic assets” of the security apparatus and the generals refuse to go after them.

Dr Ayesha Agha, whose military and political commentaries appear in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, explains: “The military depends on these ‘assets’ – they are a cost-effective means to fighting wars that the Pakistani military wants to fight in India and Afghanistan.” Extrajudicial killings by the military now are counted in the hundreds.

When men in uniform were filmed recently murdering a detainee, the reckoning in human rights circles was that far from being a lapse of judgment, the recording had been allowed in the knowledge that its distribution on the internet would serve as a useful warning to the wider community.

A Karachi taxi driver becomes excited as he ferries us from the airport to a downtown hotel – “Pakistan lovely country,” he bellows. “Terrorism? No, no, no.”

But a single graphic in a 200-page study of Pakistan, published in May by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, reveals an impossible security challenge. Last year alone, 2113 terrorist attacks, 369 clashes between the security services and militants, 260 operational attacks by the security forces, 135 US drone attacks, 69 border clashes, 233 bouts of ethno-political violence and 214 inter-tribal clashes resulted in more than 10,000 dead and as many injured.

The death of bin Laden and the reported death of al-Qaeda’s new No. 2 figure, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in an American drone attack last week, are still being factored into a running debate among intelligence specialists on the extent to which al-Qaeda offshoots elsewhere in the world, especially the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], have taken the baton from the Pakistani organisation.

But a July study by the New America Foundation of 32 ”serious” jihadist terror plots against the West from 2004 to 2011, finds 53 per cent had operational or training links to jihadist groups in Pakistan – compared to just 6 per cent being linked to Yemen. And the rising tempo of the drone attacks has failed to dent the rising frequency of Pakistan-linked plots against the West, the study finds.

Implicit or explicit in any discussion on Pakistan’s volatile mix of militant violence and governmental chaos, is the level of anxiety around the world about the security of its nuclear arsenal. Confronted with claims such as that by bin Laden that acquiring a nuclear weapon was a ”religious duty” and the hope expressed by one of his lieutenants that such a weapon one day might be seized in Pakistan, officials in Islamabad invariably boast that all is tightly locked down.

But when we ask a Pakistani diplomat how secure were the weapons in the aftermath of the US mission to kill Osama bin Laden, he replies: “Less so, now that the Americans have revealed to the world that it is possible to sneak into Pakistan undetected, to take something that you really want.”

President Obama’s public appeal that Pakistan not become the world’s first ”nuclear-armed militant state” gives context to disclosures by The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh of the existence of a US Special Operations rapid-response team which would be parachuted into Pakistan in the event of a nuclear crisis.

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former director of intelligence and counter intelligence at the US Department of Energy, is boldest in setting out the fears of Washington, London and other capitals – some of which were disclosed without diplomatic varnish by Wikileaks last year.

Writing in Arms Control Today, Mowatt-Larssen, who served 20 years at the CIA, bills Pakistan as the most likely setting for terrorists bent on acquiring a nuclear device to co-opt a nuclear insider – of whom there are estimated to be as many as 70,000 in Pakistan.

“There is a lethal proximity between terrorists, extremists, and nuclear weapons insiders,” he writes. “Insiders have facilitated terrorist attacks. Suicide bombings have occurred at air force bases that reportedly serve as nuclear weapons storage sites. It is difficult to ignore such trends.

”Purely in actuarial terms, there is a strong possibility that bad apples in the nuclear establishment are willing to co-operate with outsiders for personal gain or out of sympathy for their cause.”

“Not possible,” says Maria Sultan. “About eight to 10,000 personnel working at the strategic level on security,” she says, ticking off seven or eight interlocking layers of complex security, the first of which she says would trip most intruders before they came within 80 kilometres of a nuclear facility. “The idea that a terrorist can walk in and get hold of a device is just not possible.”

Such is the bind in which Pakistanis find themselves. But if it is true feeble and corrupt civilian administrations make circumstances ripe for a military takeover, it is hardly surprising the generals have no respect for democratic fundamentals.

As revealed in one of the Wikileaks cables, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was ready to force President Asif Ali Zardari from office – save for the fact the general thought even less of Zardari’s likely civilian replacement. And historically, Washington has opted to connect with Pakistan through the military power of the generals, rather than the people power of the civilian leadership.

Bruce Riedel, a veteran CIA analyst, sets out the connections in Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad. “…Richard Nixon turned a blind eye to the murder of hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis to keep his friends in Pakistan’s army in power, a strategy that ultimately failed,” Riedel writes. “Ronald Reagan entertained Zia-ul-Haq even as Zia was giving succour to the Arab jihadists who would become al-Qaeda. George W. Bush allowed Pervez Musharraf to give the Afghan Taliban a sanctuary from which to kill American and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.”

And in the judgment of Bushra Gohar, an elected MP from Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, Washington still prefers to deal with the military rather than the country’s civilian leadership. “That’s not a role that the military has under the constitution,” she says during a break in the business of the National Assembly in Islamabad. “There has been a democratic transition in this country and we expect the international community to support it.”

Power vacuums become ripe for exploitation, as was revealed with frightening clarity earlier this year when two of three elected figures who had dared to speak out against Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws were assassinated. In January, Punjab provincial governor Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his state-provided security men; in March, the Minorities Minister and the only Christian in Gillani’s cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, died in a hail of gunfire as his car left his mother’s home in Islamabad.

Taseer’s killer confessed and became a national hero. His home is a shrine, he is garlanded with rose petals and, in the oddest twist of all, the young lawyers’ movement that effectively bundled Pervez Musharraf, the last dictator, from power in 2008, has taken the side of this cold-blooded murderer – not the principle for which his victim died.

A visitor leaves Pakistan wondering if anyone here speaks the truth. The dictators habitually resort to amping up religious parties – either to drown out secular ones that might be interested in the ideals of selfless democracy, or to further marginalise the country’s Shiia Muslim minority.

“And people like Musharraf have two faces,” Kamran Arif of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said. “He would say all the right things for the West and do just what he wanted to do at home.”

Some foreign analysts fall back on the seeming failure of Pakistan’s religious parties at the ballot box as a hopeful sign. But a sense of rising radicalisation, particularly in the military and the middle classes, suggests an asymmetric contest for control of a highly unstable society – the non-religious parties fight in the parliament, but the religious parties are street brawlers.

Sherry Rehman, the only elected figure in the country to defend the convicted blasphemer Aasia Bibi, makes the same point in explaining how that debate was lost. “The discourse shifted from the parliament to the street,” she says.

“We have to keep the agenda in the parliament, and not with the gun-toting thugs who make inflammatory speeches outside.”

Like the financial institutions in the 2008 global financial crisis, Pakistan is deemed by Washington to be ”too big to fail”. Between them, however, Washington and Islamabad have been unable in the past decade to make this relationship work – credibly or creditably.

Predictions of imminent collapse in Islamabad are exaggerated, but perhaps not overly so. “The government does not have the capacity to tackle any of the issues,” says the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Arif. “Things will just keep getting bad … and I don’t discount the fact that we can fall into chaos.”

Like many other analysts, Bruce Riedel laboriously sets out the policy options by which Washington and Islamabad might work together to defeat the global jihadist movement – before he concludes that none is easy or guaranteed.

An adviser to several US administrations and now with the Brookings Institution, Riedel sees Pakistan under siege from a syndicate of radical terrorist groups unified by the notion that nuclear-armed Pakistan could be the extremist jihadist state they have never had.

“They want to hijack Pakistan and its weapons,” he says. Alluding to Islamabad’s role in creating a monster, as often as not with Washington’s sponsorship, he writes: “An extremely powerful jihadist Frankenstein is now roaming the world, with equally powerful protectors in Pakistani society, right up to the very top.

“Who cannot fear that the ‘long beards’ will prevail?”

Kidnapped US National Was Doing Humanitarian Work in Pakistan

By Hussain Kashif

The abducted US expert Warren Weinstein was doing large scale humanitarian work in different public sectors including small and medium industries, agriculture and infrastructure development, which was responsible for bringing significant foreign investment and development in Pakistan.

He was a country director of JE Austin Associates Incorporation, Arlington, Virginia, US, which is a development contractor that works with the aid arm of the US government. Weinstein had also worked on a dairy project in Pakistan and imported dairy chillers to boost the productivity of rural farms in the country, resulting in $63 million in new investment to Pakistan, at least 2,150 new jobs, and a 25 percent boost in producer productivity.

His company is working here on US Agency for International Development (USAID) projects, including one to set up small businesses and create jobs in the restive Tribal Areas in Pakistan. Warren Weinstein was recognised by his company as an expert in international development of industries but they have removed his profile from their website after his kidnapping. The company also worked on helping small businesses in the gem and marble trade in the lower districts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

According to Daily Times sources, he had worked on a multimillion-dollar USAID project to improve dairy, horticulture and mining in Pakistan, including the terrorist-infiltrated Tribal Areas. Sources said that his projects had finished here in Pakistan and that his contract with his Virginia-based company, JE Austin Associates Incorporation, ended on August 15 and that he was planning to return his home in the US.

A California-based website states, “Warren had been managing an office in Pakistan for over four years, building a strategic reputation in the dairy, furniture, marble and leather sectors, which led to projects for the Pakistani government. He was granted an African Affairs Certificate from Columbia University and he is also a Fulbright Scholar. A former political science associate professor, Weinstein is an expert on international development, experienced in bilateral and multilateral organisations, as well as NGOs. Highly experienced in designing and implementing training programmes, and fluent in seven languages, Dr Warren Weinstein is well known within international banking and finance circles.”

According to media reports, Dr Warren Weinstein celebrated his 70th birthday last month at his US residence in Rockville, Maryland. Weinstein was linked with the global community through the Internet on the social media website ‘LinkedIn’, where a complete profile of him was available, along with some personal and professional data.

According to his profile, he is a Jewish American and his full name is Dr Warren Weinstein, which was confirmed by the US Embassy in Pakistan. A PhD in International Law and Economics and a Masters of International Relations, Warren is also fluent in at least seven languages, including Urdu, and has authored and edited around 13 books on African development since 1966. His wife’s name is Elaine who is living at Weinstein’s home in Rockville with other family members. According to his friends and colleagues, “He’s a short, funny man with a quick wit”. A local journalist who last saw Weinstein about a year ago said he could speak a fair amount of Urdu and was a laid-back guy not too worried about security issues.

Weinstein has lived in Pakistan for seven years and maintains a principal residence in Islamabad, but also has a home in Lahore where he was living alone. Warren Weinstein was living in a rental residence in Model Town. His double-storey house has two gates and walls that are about 1.8 metres high. The street on which his house is situated contains private security checkpoints, which are usually unmanned during the day. At night, watchmen hired by neighbours are on duty from dusk till dawn. There are around five security cameras installed in his house, but they have been inactive for a year. He was kidnapped by unidentified armed men late on last Saturday. Police have taken his security guards and a driver into custody for questioning, but no clue has been found as to the identity of his captors and the motive behind his kidnapping.

He had eight servants in his Lahore residence, including five guards from a Defence-based security company who were retired commandos of the army’s Special Services Group and a driver, a cook and a housekeeper who was responsible for maintenance of the house and ironing his cloths. One of his security guards named Muhammad Aurangzeb from Sargodha was court-martialled from the army. The second guard, Muhammad Abbas, belonged to Chichawatni, the third, Muhammad Sarwar was from Sheikhupura, while the fourth guard, Fazal Elahi, was from Charsadda and ran away from his military service. Police sources further said that his company had requested local police to provide security to Warren Weinstein, but that he personally refused, saying that he did not want to stand out. About Weinstein’s driver, sources said that his name is Israr and he belonged to Swabi district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and had been working with JE Austin Associates for the last four years, while his cook was also from FATA.

The FBI is also investigating the case along with local police investigators. According to sources, investigators were informed by Weinstein’s employees that he never received any threat from any side in Pakistan as far as they knew.

It is worth mentioning that the security guards’ mobile phones, which the kidnappers snatched, remained active for around 45 minutes after the kidnapping and that the last connectivity was detected on the motorway. Kidnappers later switched off the phones. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The police, with the help of the guards and the driver, have developed sketches of the suspects, who were wearing shirts and trousers and were speaking Urdu. Sources said that a laptop, cellphones and other items found in the victim’s room were being thoroughly examined.

Panetta: ‘No Choice’ in US Relations with Pakistan

By David Gollust for Voice of America

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that the United States has no choice but to maintain close relations with Pakistan, despite government links with Islamic militants including the Haqqani network. The State Department, meanwhile, put sanctions on another Haqqani network commander.

Panetta, who took over as defense secretary in June after two years of heading the CIA, declined comment on news reports that Pakistan allowed China to inspect the wreckage of an advanced U.S. helicopter lost in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

But at a public forum with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Washington’s National Defense University, the defense chief was unusually candid about U.S. problem issues with Pakistan.

Panetta said Pakistan has “relationships” with the Haqqani network – militants based in western Pakistan who conduct cross-border attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and with Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who have attacked India.

Both groups are listed by the United States as terrorist organizations. Despite complaints that Pakistan has withheld visas for U.S. citizens being posted there, Panetta said the relationship remains essential.

“There is no choice but to maintain a relationship with Pakistan,” said Panetta. “Why? Because we are fighting a war there. We are fighting al-Qaida there. And they do give us some cooperation in that effort. Because they do represent an important force in that region. Because they do happen to be a nuclear power that has nuclear weapons, and we have to be concerned about what happens with those nuclear weapons. So for all of those reasons, we’ve got to maintain a relationship with Pakistan.”

Secretary of State Clinton said the Obama administration considers relations with Pakistan to be of “paramount importance.”

She said there have been “challenges” in bilateral ties for decades with valid complaints on both sides, and that she credits the Islamabad government with lately recognizing its shared interest with Washington in confronting terrorism.

“I was very pleased when the Pakistanis moved into [the] Swat [Valley] and cleaned out a lot of what had become a kind of Pakistani Taliban stronghold,” said Clinton. “And then they began to take some troops off their border with India, to put more resources into the fight against the Pakistani Taliban. Now, as Leon [Panetta] says, we have some other targets that we discuss with them – the Haqqanis, for example. And yet it’s been a relatively short period of time, two-and-a-half years, when they have begun to reorient themselves militarily against what is, in our view, an internal threat to them.”

The State Department on Tuesday designated a key Haqqani network commander – Mullah Sangeen Zadran – a terrorist under a 2001 White House executive order, freezing any U.S. assets he has and barring Americans from business dealings with him.

At the same time, Sangeen was designated a terrorist by the U.N. sanctions committee, which will subject him to a global travel ban, an asset freeze and an arms embargo.

A State Department statement said Sangeen, is a “shadow governor” of Afghanistan’s southeast Paktika province and a senior lieutenant of network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. It said Sangeen has coordinated the movement of hundreds of foreign fighters into that country and that he is linked to numerous bomb attacks and kidnappings.

We Are Not All CIA Agents

By Michael Kugelman for The Express Tribune

Wondering about America’s latest reason for being unhappy with Pakistan? Look no further than the case of aid worker Warren Weinstein, the US citizen recently abducted from his residence in Lahore. I am not suggesting that Americans resent the fact that Pakistanis kidnapped Weinstein. Many of us (though by no means all of us) understand that abductions of Americans in Pakistan are very rare and realise that those Pakistanis who relish the thought of kidnapping Americans constitute a small percentage of the population.

What I am suggesting is that Americans are upset with what Pakistanis are saying about Weinstein. It is striking how quickly some Pakistanis have proclaimed that Weinstein is a CIA agent (and to be fair, a number of Americans are making the same assumption). An American in Pakistan doing aid work in the tribal areas? Wearing the native dress? And spending so much time in the country? Clearly the hallmark traits of a spy, they conclude. Never mind his advanced age (how many near-septuagenarian spooks are prowling around Pakistan?), or the fact that he was living quite conspicuously in a large home in an affluent area of Lahore. Also striking is who is making these accusations. One expects such views from the likes of Shireen Mazari, who famously had an altercation with a western-looking man in a restaurant when he inadvertently bumped into her chair, referring to him as a “bloody CIA agent”. Or from those impressionable masses who fall prey to the anti-American narratives propagated by school textbooks, mullahs and the media.

However, it is quite another matter to see readers of this newspaper — who, by virtue of their English-language aptitude and willingness to read The Express Tribune, are not narrow-minded ideologues — posting good-riddance comments about Weinstein and his presumed CIA bonafides.
Yes, Americans in Pakistan have been and are connected to security contractor firms and intelligence agencies. Yes, many of the alleged conspiracy theories about CIA agents crawling around the country have been proven true; Washington has sometimes emerged with egg on its face after prevaricating about the intelligence affiliations of its citizens stationed in Pakistan.

And, yes, ‘development work’ can be code for spy craft. Nonetheless, to reflexively assume that any American in the country is tied to the CIA is not only unfair, but also insulting — because it sweepingly dismisses the highly beneficial work done by many Americans in the country, such as, presumably, Weinstein himself. Just as there are Pakistanis who admire America (albeit not necessarily its foreign policies), there are Americans — with and without government affiliations — who hold Pakistan in high esteem and who dedicate their lives to making positive contributions there. Some may single out school-building superstar Greg Mortenson; I would cite the likes of the somewhat lesser-known (and therefore more typical) case of Todd Shea — a musician by training who, moved by televised images of suffering in Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake, travelled to Pakistan to provide relief aid. Shea has been there ever since; he now runs a hospital in a remote part of Kashmir.

There are other Todd Sheas in Pakistan. They may not want their stories publicised, but they are there, serving as healthcare trainers, conducting research on drone strikes’ impacts on civilians and helping promote women’s rights. Some work for NGOs, others represent non-intelligence agencies of the US government and others still — perhaps the most honourable of them all — act as volunteers and represent only themselves.

Pakistanis often lament, and rightly so, how so many of their most humanitarian and peace-loving citizens — from Abdul Sattar Edhi to Shehzad Roy — are relative unknowns in the US. Americans are equally justified for being indignant about the lack of recognition accorded to the selfless work of their countrymen in Pakistan — work that has little to do with cloaks and daggers and much more to do with benevolence and social upliftment.

Karachi Attack: Pakistan Officers Face Court-Martial

As reported by the BBC

Three Pakistani naval officers are to face a court martial on charges of negligence after a militant attack on a naval air base in Karachi in May.

Ten soldiers died and 15 were wounded in the attack which took place at the Mehran naval aviation base on 22 May. It took the security forces some 17 hours to secure the base.

A naval official said the three officers were facing trial because they held positions of responsibility, not because of a connection to the attack.

The accused are Cmdr Raja Tahir, base commander at the time of the attack, and two officials beneath him, at the rank of captain and commander, according to naval sources quoted by several news agencies.

Daring attack

Cmdr Tahir was replaced two days after the attack during which several foreigners were taken hostage before being rescued.

“They face charges of negligence during the attack on PNS Mehran in May,” an unnamed official told Agence France Presse.

No date was given for the start of the court martial.

“They are being tried because they were at a responsible position, and were responsible for the security and other affairs of the base,” an unnamed official was quoted as telling Reuters.

The Pakistan Taliban said the raid was to avenge Osama Bin Laden’s killing by US special forces in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on 2 May.

The attack at the heart of Karachi, the country’s economic hub and Pakistan’s largest city, underlined the military’s vulnerability.

Two attackers were killed and a third blew himself up during the attack when militants disguised as naval officials stormed three hangars housing aircraft at the naval base.

During the daring raid, they used rocket-propelled grenades to damage and destroy several warplanes, including two multi-million dollar anti-submarine and marine surveillance aircraft – the US-made P-3C Orion.

The planes were believed to be crucial for Pakistan’s maritime surveillance capabilities. A former Pakistani navy commando, Kamran Ahmed, has been detained along with his brother in connection with the attack.

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