Posts Tagged ‘ Afghan ’

Taliban Commander Turns Self in… For Reward on ‘Wanted’ Poster

As Reported by Kevin Sieff for The Washington Post

Mohammad Ashan, a mid-level Taliban commander in Paktika province, strolled toward a police checkpoint in the district of Sar Howza with a wanted poster bearing his own face. He demanded the finder’s fee referenced on the poster: $100.

Afghan officials, perplexed by the man’s misguided motives, arrested him on the spot. Ashan is suspected of plotting at least two attacks on Afghan security forces. His misdeeds prompted officials to plaster the district with hundreds of so-called “Be on the Lookout” posters emblazoned with his name and likeness.

When U.S. troops went to confirm that Ashan had in fact come forward to claim the finder’s fee, they were initially incredulous.

“We asked him, ‘Is this you?’ Mohammad Ashan answered with an incredible amount of enthusiasm, ‘Yes, yes, that’s me! Can I get my award now?’” recalled SPC Matthew Baker.

A biometric scan confirmed that the man in Afghan custody was the insurgent they had been looking for.

“This guy is the Taliban equivalent of the ‘Home Alone” burglars,” one U.S. official said.

Wanted posters are often distributed by NATO forces, but rarely have such a direct impact on the apprehension of an insurgent. In restive Paktika province, civilians are typically afraid to pass on intelligence that might lead to an arrest. And insurgents tend to shy away from the urban centers where they’re being hunted, particularly while carrying evidence of their own transgressions.

Officials have guessed at what the unusual details of Ashan’s arrest might tell us about the state of the insurgency — its desperation, its lack of resources, its defiance of law and order.

But, for now, the consensus has landed on the singularity of Ashan’s act, and the intellectual calculus that led to it.

Rural Tinkerer Builds The First Airplane Made in Afghanistan

By Tom A Peter for The Christian Science Monitor

Afghanistan’s rural Ghazni Province usually appears on the news radar only to herald a tragedy: Five Polish soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb days before Christmas. A group of armed men accused a widow and her daughter of adultery in November and stoned the pair before shooting them in front of their home.

In other words, it’s not the sort of place you’d expect to find a hobbyist aviator in his backyard building what he describes as the first airplane ever designed and constructed in Afghanistan.

Yet, over the past three years Ghazni-native Sabir Shah managed to fashion a one-man “microlight,” aircraft at his family home using instructions from the Internet and parts from the local market.

While impressive compared with a Wright Brothers’ creation, the plane is far from a marvel of modern aviation. But Mr. Shah hopes it’s enough to inspire government support or private investment in Afghan aviation.

So far though, aside from modest, but passing interest from a few government officials, he’s received little attention. Most Afghans, including his own family, have called him crazy and told him to get a regular job. Still, Shah remains determined to create a business building airplanes for Afghanistan.

“I believe that if you want something, you can get it,” he says.

Shah is an unlikely candidate to be Afghanistan’s aviation advocate. A high school graduate with no pilot training nor aeronautical engineering background, he’d never even traveled by airplane when he started building one.

For Afghans wishing to learn how to fly, the options are extremely limited. The country has a fledging air force, but there are no other practical opportunities for pilot training. The Ministry of Transportation and Aviation offers flight classes, but ministry officials admit that few students actually take the courses because Afghan airlines almost exclusively hire foreign pilots with better training and more experience.

After high school, Shah considered going on to college. Yet even though public universities are free, his family couldn’t afford losing the extra pair of hands.
Given his circumstances it’s easy to understand why people were skeptical when Shah announced his plans to build a microlight airplane after seeing one featured on a documentary and doing a bit of Internet research.

“I didn’t have money and there was no one to help me,” says Shah. “Everyone was saying, ‘Have you studied about airplanes? Do you know anything about airplanes?’ I would say, ‘I have got some recommendations from the Internet.’ Nobody believed I could build it.”

Undeterred, Shah continued his research and worked a series of odd jobs to save up money for parts and equipment. As he progressed, friends and family donated money. An uncle in Australia gave him a vital $2,000 donation and even Afghan Vice President Abdul Karim Khalili contributed $1,000 when he learned of the project.

After three years, Shah had constructed a microlight airplane using a propeller he made himself, a small Toyota car engine, a homemade fiberglass body, a wing made of a metal frame and cloth, and some spare gauges he bought at the market for his instrument panel. The project cost Shah a total of $12,000, a small fortune here.

When it came time for his first test flight, the Afghan Ministry of Defense agreed to use a military helicopter to transport Shah and his plane to an airfield north of Kabul. The trip was the first time Shah had ever traveled by air. “I was frightened a little when I was looking down,” he says, recalling the trip.

Before Shah climbed into the pilot seat, a retired Afghan pilot who’d flown jets for the Soviets and now managed the airport gave him a few pointers. Otherwise, he was relying on manuals he’d collected on other microlight aircraft.

As his plane sped down the runway, his fear momentarily faded. The flight lasted less than a minute before he set it down on the runway again.

In a total of four takeoffs, his longest and last flight traveled about a quarter of a mile – nothing compared with professional tests, but 11 times farther than the original Wright Brothers’ flight. However, that final flight ended when he crash-landed just off the runway. Though he walked away from the crash, the plane was damaged beyond repair.

Considering that it’s been 64 years since a pilot first broke the sound barrier and 25 years since a plane circumnavigated the globe without stopping or refueling, Shah’s achievement may seem hardly worth mentioning. But his accomplishment is much less about the actual plane he built and more about his creativity and inventiveness in a country where innovation and ingenuity are in short supply after three decades of war.

“Innovation doesn’t mean anything in this country,” says Daoud Sultanzoy, a former member of parliament from Ghanzi, who has been a pilot since 1973 and is now starting his own airline. “We always look at the past and behind us instead of looking forward…. He’s a young man who must have used his own know-how to build his own airplane, which should be encouraged.”

Despite the challenges, Shah says he’ll keep working. If he can find a scholarship to study abroad he will, but he doesn’t know how to look for such an opportunity and doubts it will happen. For now, he hopes his initial success will attract investors as he endeavors to start his next project, an eight- to 10-seater airplane that he hopes can be used for domestic travel in Afghanistan.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- What an amazing story of ingeunity and ambition that Sabir Shah demonstrates that should make all Afghans and Pakistanis proud. Just imagine what amazing talents could be nurtured with several billion dollars in seed money in start-ups in Kabul instead of all the money lost on wars~

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.

Pakistan threatens to withdraw troops from Afghan border over US aid reduction

By Rob Crilly for The Telegraph

Pakistan has warned it will withdraw troops from the Afghan border where they are fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents if the US does not reinstate $800m in military assistance which has been suspended amid a worsening diplomatic row.

The cash includes $300m to reimburse the Pakistan military for deploying troops in the mountainous tribal areas close to Afghanistan.

Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, the country’s defence minister, said without it Pakistan could not afford to keep troops at 1,100 checkpoints near the mountainous border.

“The next step would be that the government or the armed forces will pull back the forces from the border areas,” he told the Express 24/7 news channel. “We cannot afford to keep military out in the mountains for such a long period.”

Officials say 147,000 troops are deployed in the tribal areas, where they are engaged in operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda cells.

Relations between the two countries have been fraught ever since they were forced into an awkward alliance in the aftermath of 9/11. This year they have plunged to new depths.

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Pakistan’s military officers are furious that the Pentagon did not inform them of a covert raid to kill or capture Osama bin Laden in May in the town of Abbottabad, only 30 miles from the capital Islamabad.

Since then they have stepped up condemnation of CIA drone strikes against terror suspects and expelled American military trainers, as they try noisily to distract domestic attention from their own failure to find bin Laden or spot the American helicopters as they flew through Pakistani air space.

In return, US officials have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to tackling militants and accused the government of assassinating a troublesome journalist.

At the weekend it emerged that the Pentagon was to end a third of its annual $2.7bn assistance to the Pakistan military.

In Washington, Colonel David Lapan, Pentagon spokesman, said the military aid could be resumed if Pakistan increased the number of visas for US personnel and reinstated the training missions.

However, analysts in Islamabad said such threats would be counterproductive and warned of an anti-American backlash.

“The US needs to treat Pakistan as a country it’s not trying to bully into submission,” said Cyril Almeida, a columnist with Dawn newspaper.

In the meantime, the US has begun using land routes through Central Asia to resupply troops in Afghanistan in case Pakistan shuts the Khyber Pass to convoys carrying food and fuel.

A fresh wave of drone attacks may also exacerbate tension. At least 45 suspected militants were killed by missiles in Pakistan’s northwest, according to local intelligence officials on Tuesday, one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.

Pakistan Issues Shoot-On-Sight Order as Karachi Violence Escalates

As Reported by The Voice of America

Pakistani security forces have been ordered to shoot on sight when confronting disorders in Karachi, where days of political and ethnic violence have left up to 85 people dead.

About 1,000 additional police and paramilitary forces were deployed in Karachi on Friday with new orders to shoot any armed “miscreants” they encounter.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that dozens of suspects have been detained in connection with a series of targeted killings since Monday. At least 34 people died on Thursday alone when gunmen opened fire on buses.

Police say the killings are part of clashes between political groups in Sindh province, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and its rival, the Awami National Party (ANP).

The MQM largely represents the Urdu-speaking community, and until last month was part of the ruling coalition in Sindh. ANP represents ethnic Pashtuns. Both those groups and the ruling Pakistan People’s Party are believed to have links to armed groups in Karachi.

Shops were closed and streets were deserted in the southern port city Friday after the MQM called for a day of mourning and protest rallies.

MQM leader Raza Haroon has said his movement’s supporters are being targeted because the party quit the coalition.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 490 people were victims of targeted killings in Karachi in the first half of this year.

On Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appealed for peace and security in Karachi, saying it was important for the economic development of the country.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter called on all parties to refrain from further violence and work toward a “peaceful resolution of differences.”

Amnesty International criticized the government’s order for security forces to “shoot on sight” armed men involved in the violence. The rights group said Friday that by giving troops such power the government is effectively declaring Karachi “a war zone” and encouraging further lawlessness and violence, citing what it said was the army’s record of human rights violations.

About 18 million people live in Karachi, the country’s economic hub. The city also has been the scene of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims and militant attacks.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan’s northwest, military officials say troops backed by jets have killed 11 militants in the Kurram tribal region along the Afghan border. Officials say nearly 50 militants have been killed in Kurram since a military operation began there this week.

Military Puppet. Or Rising Star?

By Rubab Shirazi for Tehelka Magazine

If The unfolding political crisis in Pakistan does not upset junior foreign and economic affairs minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s elevation as full-fledged foreign minister, she appears all set to travel to New Delhi for meeting her Indian counterpart SM Krishna this month for the ministerial meeting of the resumed dialogue process. Her promotion is needed to remove the protocol hitch for the ministerial meeting.

When Khar, 34, became the minister of state for foreign affairs in February, hardly any eyebrows were raised — more so because the ceremonial position has been used since 2004 to accommodate scions of influential families in the Federal Cabinet. Khar’s entry was instead seen as a bid by the government to prioritise the economic aspect in its diplomacy.

But the news of her elevation was met with strong criticism because she was seen as being too young and raw to handle complex foreign policy issues, even though she had been part of the Cabinet since 2004. For a good part of her political career, which started with her election as member of the National Assembly in 2003, Khar has been a low-key politician.

In a country that already has an accidental president (Asif Ali Zardari) and prime minister (Yousuf Raza Gilani), it wouldn’t be a surprise if the foreign minister is also accidental. If things go as planned, she would take oath this month as Pakistan’s 26th foreign minister and bag the honour of being the first woman to hold the post. But, Foreign Office (FO) bureaucrats, who derisively refer to her as “the girl” in private, say that she is no match for most who have occupied this crucial post.

Khar comes from a privileged background, being the daughter of well-known politician Ghulam Noor Rabbani Khar and niece of infamous playboy and former Punjab governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar. The latter’s wife Tehmina Durrani wrote My Feudal Lord, which caused controversy by describing her abusive and traumatic marriage with Ghulam Mustafa and her experience of life in a patriarchal society. Despite her feudal upbringing, Khar graduated from Pakistan’s best business school, Lahore University of Management Sciences and obtained her masters in hospitality from the University of Massachusetts.

Khar’s likely appointment is coming at a time when the country’s foreign relations are not in the best of shape — the alliance with the US is withering away fast; cross-border controversies are marring Pak-Afghan bonhomie; and though the Indo-Pakistan dialogue is progressing, the Thimphu spirit is fading as indicated by recent bilateral meetings.

Even if Khar succeeds in getting the post, diplomatic observers think she will not be the real decision maker — the power would still lie with the military. Having an inexperienced person like Khar as the FO boss, who would depend heavily on bureaucracy for policy as well as administrative matters, suits the military establishment at Rawalpindi GHQ in maintaining its control over Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Unlike her predecessor Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who lost his job for taking a hardline position on immunity for CIA operative Raymond Davis (involved in fatally shooting two youth in January), Khar isn’t thought to be independent minded.

No one at the FO knows about Khar’s views on important issues like relations with the US, Europe, India, Afghanistan and about the War on Terror. She hasn’t given any interviews or delivered speeches on foreign policy ever since she moved to the FO in February, even though she was the de facto boss during this time.

Though much has been written about her meteoric rise in politics, she still remains an enigma. Her credentials for being considered for the crucial post are her two stints as minister of state for economic affairs; a brief assignment as special assistant to the prime minister on finance, revenue and economic affairs; and more lately her FO job.

No one knows Khar’s views on important issues like the war on terror, Indo-Pak relations, or the strained partnership with the US

According to her curriculum vitae, foreign affairs was not a subject of interest until lately. She avows interest in finance, economic affairs and agriculture development. But, quite contrary to her fondness for the three subjects, she runs an upscale restaurant in Lahore. Her husband Feroze Gulzar is a textile industrialist. For most of her career, Khar had been dealing with international loans and grants. Foreign Service officials, who don’t want to be named, caution that real-time diplomacy is a different ball game.

Administrative chaos at the FO, another officer says, grew under the overachieving lady, who had been promoted by the PPP government as an astute manager. Khar was responsible for economic affairs during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Economic mismanagement turned out to be the major cause of the defeat of her previous party, PML(Q), in the 2008 elections. Fearing that she wouldn’t be given a party ticket, she changed her loyalties weeks before the polls and joined the PPP.

IF SUCCESSFUL in achieving the prized foreign ministership, it would not be the first time she would be filling someone’s shoes. In 2003, she contested elections in place of her father, who couldn’t run for National Assembly as he was not a graduate; in 2009 she became the first woman minister to present the federal budget because former finance minister Shaukat Tarin was not an elected Parliamentarian.

Her inexperience aside, party colleagues say that Khar is deceptively wily and ambitious as they point to how she smartly outmanoeuvered other contenders in the race for the foreign ministry, including former law minister Babar Awan, former foreign minister Sardar Assef Ali and National Assembly speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza — all political heavyweights.

One of her weaknesses is that she isn’t a media darling. Searching online for her interviews turns up a little-known Saturday Post article, that too dated several years ago. On this count, she would turn out to be a weak and ineffectual representative of her country’s foreign policy. In her first media appearance alongside a visiting US functionary Thomas Nides, Khar was unimpressive. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir hurriedly scripted a few lines for her to deliver before PTV cameras, but according to one official, she struggled with it. Days later, when speaking to the media alongside UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, when she was asked about the prospects of a peace deal with Afghan Taliban, Khar started speaking about a failed peace deal with militants in Swat to prove Islamabad’s commitment to peace with militants. Pakistan, she probably forgot, does not equate Afghan and local Taliban. The government has been treating the two entities differently.

Online discussion boards have been filled with negative comments on her expected elevation. “What a farce. We are at one of the most critical junctures in our foreign affairs, so we decide to hand out perhaps the most important portfolio to a 34-year-old with a degree in hospitality management!” reads a posting on a discussion platform called Pakistan Defense.

What goes in her favour is that apart from allegations by her critics of tax evasion, something normal for a Pakistani politician, she has no major controversies attached to her name.

The Illiteracy of Hate

A News and Opinion Special Report by Manzer Munir for Paksitanis for Peace

Alleged Taliban Member pic courtsey of Boston Globe

The Taliban are not just simply a bunch of illiterate thugs and bullies for they too often prove to be even worse than animals and barbarians.

Nowhere else in the world has a country experienced a more tragic and callous attack as the one on Christmas day, the birth day of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, than the one Pakistan experienced. In an attack described by President Obama as an “affront on humanity”, the cowards attacked helpless women, children and men while they queued up in food and aid distribution site such as the WFP depot, people who mind you are already suffering from the ongoing war, once in a lifetime floods, and the poverty and radicalism of a generation of desperate, hopeless and increasingly uneducated young men brainwashed by the Taliban and other radical Muslim extremists.

I am still disturbed by the disdain for basic human life that this new attack proves about this radical and extreme enemy. I imagine another one of their brain washed ‘walking zombies’, this time purportedly a woman suicide bomber, a first, even for Pakistan, killed in excess of 43 people in Bajur Pakistan at a World Food Program rations and aid storage and distribution center.

The Pakistani authorities and several domestic and foreign NGO’s who provide food aid at various centers in the area are temporarily closing these centers in order to have increased security. This means that aid distribution will come to a crawl and up to several hundred thousand people will now have to suffer at the hands of the attacker and their backers, the Taliban who have claimed responsibility. The authorities will have to ensure the safety of aid organizations and their personnel for both Pakistani and non Pakistanis relief workers involved in getting food, water and medicine to many people who are either suffering from the war or from the floods.

This catastrophe, although not of near Biblical proportions, does present both a security and humanitarian problem to both the government of Pakistan as well the suffering citizens in the northwest areas of the country where; Taliban fighters take sanctuary from the war in Afghanistan to regroup and return to the fight in warmer weather after the winter months as we have seen in years past. In fact, the reach of the Taliban in Pakistan is now not only reputed to be in the headquartered areas such as in Quetta Pakistan among the restive Baluchi population, now they are so often found to be in major cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and many points in between as they use their religious cover to endear themselves to certain impressionable, weakened or illiterate individuals that are so commonly found in throughout the country. 

Here are the some of the depressing facts. Pakistan, a nation approaching 180 million people at current estimates, perhaps only boasts to having about 60-65% of the male population at a literate level and at best, the females to be only at 40-45% of the total female population. Sadly, what this means is that 4 out of 10 Pakistani males are completely illiterate while up to as many as 6 out of 10 women are not able to read or write. Poverty breeds extremism since there is no support from any government programs or hope for any solution.

Time and time again throughout history and not just of Pakistan’s, we can see that the role of the church, synagogue or mosque in building the community is deeper than that of any government initiatives or other measures. The poverty for these young men along with the lack of jobs like for those individuals who are either very poorly paid construction site workers, household labor or servants, or beggars and sewer workers, a job sadly almost seems to have been reserved for Pakistan’s Christian community members as many can attest in Pakistan of their unfortunate and depressing state. One does not need to remind the reader of the plight of Asia Bibi (also Aasia and Ayesa), the Christian Pakistani woman who is still awaiting her fate in Pakistani courts after more than a year and a half since first being accused of a BS blasphemy charge and being in jail ever since. 

The medieval mentality of these radical extremists is not something that needs to be described as the evidence is here in this latest attack . Certainly anyone alive in any part of the world outside Pakistan and Afghanistan with eyes, TV, radio or newspaper within their reach can see plenty of near daily reminders of the carnage that many natives of these lands see, and to what they have painfully become accustomed.

 The Pakistani and Afghani Talibans have by all the various reports in newspapers and media sources over the last several years have pointed out to the fact that these groups all have too often similar goals. Not only that, these groups all share the same characteristics. The anti-Americanism, the pro-Wahaabi or Orthodox version of Islam, the need for justice for the ‘suffering of the Palestinian people’ , and the anti-colonial and often times anti western sentiment amongst these groups. The radicalization of certain Muslim groups be they Hamas and Hezbollah in the Mideast or Lashkar e taiba, or any other militant outfit operating in this part of the world as mentioned in this quote a few days before he passed, the late Richard Holbrooke of the US State department said that there are a range of militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and that “an expert could add another 30.” His exact words are in quotations. 

The radical Muslim groups who take prey of the weaker, cannot think for themselves because they are scions of those abjectly illiterate segments of the society who are only educated in the madrassahs of Pakistan. This is the de facto way of educating Pakistan’s poorer children in little mosque schools which consist of nothing but Qu’ranic surahs and words of ‘wisdom’ or ‘interpretation’ by the local mullah of the said mosque/school. Most probably these children in many Pakistani madrassahs, especially the ones who live near the border areas within the NWFP or North West Frontier Province of Pakistan as this is the part of the country most affected by its close proximity to Afghanistan.

The people in this area of Pakistan, as well as their cousins in Afghanistan have been fighting one enemy or another for the better part of 100 years now. Whether to them the enemy be the British, during the height of the British Raj rule in India, or to the Soviets and the Red army and the Cold War, then in chronological order came the infighting after the Russian withdrawal as various Tajik, Afghani, Uzbek, Pakistani warlords came in to try and consolidate power to now us Americans and the Pakistanis who are our allies in this war.

Granted we do often hear that the Pakistanis can be doing more. By all accounts, the Pakistani government can do more in terms of fighting this war on terror. Numerous western reports and articles in respected dailies have alleged that small elements within both Pakistan’s Army as well as the spy agency, the ISI, have sympathizers to either the Taliban’s cause or they want to be on favorable terms with a powerful entity that most in Pakistan’s establishment believes that Pakistan will be dealing with and not a weakened Karzai once the US begins to draw down troops and end the war by 2014. If this is indeed true, then these ‘officers’ and supposed ‘leaders’ of Pakistan should realize that the colluding with the enemy, which in this case is the Taliban, is tantamount to treason, and the members of the armed forces of Pakistan as well as the intelligence community should not be assisting the enemies of all concerned: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. 

Of course we must not kid ourselves and assume that only alleviating the illiteracy and poverty of the Pakistani youth will and bettering the education system of the Pakistani poor, particularly that of the refugees and residents of the northwest areas near the Afghan border. No there needs to be a study and introspection by the people of these two countries where this hatred breeds. To to get out of this darkness, the population needs be provided not only safety when delivering food aid and or medicine but aldo most importantly give them a book, a pen, and a paper. And teach them how to fish for knowledge with basic comprehension and deductive reasoning skills that can reject a radical and violent view of Islam too often manipulated by the clergy. This is the only way we can come to end this illiteracy of hate.

-Manzer Munir, is a proud and patriotic Pakistani American, an author, who plans to write a book on Pakistan, who is also a blogger and journalist, and as the Founder of Pakistanis for Peace  can be found at www.PakistanisforPeace.com, www.DigitalJournal.com ,www.Open.Salon.com, www.Examiner.com, as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Obama and the Pakistan Dilemma

By Matthew Kaminski for The Wall Street Journal

Islamabad, Pakistan- America can’t win in Afghanistan as long as assorted Taliban insurgents find safe haven in Pakistan. That’s the no-brainer dressed up as revelation in leaks this week about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate regarding both countries.

The proposed solution is tidy, too: Lean on Pakistan to cut links to extremists in the tribal regions along Afghanistan’s eastern border and in southern Baluchistan, even as the CIA ramps up the number of covert drone strikes on those groups.

The assumption is that Pakistan can bring the extremists to heel at its pleasure. After all, the Pakistani military began nurturing Afghan and other jihadists in the 1980s and has kept them on as “strategic assets” throughout the American long war brought about by 9/11. So, we think, if Islamabad cuts its support and makes life difficult for the jihadists, this unfortunate genie can be put back in the bottle. President Obama might even meet his self-imposed deadlines for drawing down the 98,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

This is all a useful fiction, maybe even a necessary one. American bribes, threats and pleas have prompted Pakistan into its own troop surge in the tribal regions. Over the past 18 months the Pakistanis have more than quadrupled their presence there, to 140,000, and have taken heavy casualties. Last year the Pakistani army cleared Swat Valley and South Waziristan, which had been overrun by militants.

Today’s White House review of the war, which comes a year into the Obama surge, will likely highlight such progress. The president can consider his administration’s spirited engagement with Pakistan a foreign policy success. Credit is also due to “bulldozer” diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who developed close relations with the Pakistani civilian leadership before his untimely death Monday evening.

But Pakistan hasn’t turned. The insurgents who kill American troops in Afghanistan—principally the Taliban, whose leadership is in Baluchistan, and the militants loyal to the legendary fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani in the tribal regions—operate all too freely from Pakistan. President Obama should note that, too, today.

The year ends sourly for U.S.-Pakistani military relations. American frustration with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has grown over broken Pakistani promises and a perceived lack of urgency. Summer floods diverted Pakistani troops away from the tribal areas, but the military doesn’t have that excuse now. The Pakistanis have also denied American requests to expand drone coverage to the area around Quetta, the city in Baluchistan that is the heaquarters-in-exile of the Taliban.

Pakistani officials say that Gen. Kayani will move his forces into North Waziristan, the tribal region that hosts the Haqqani network, in his own time. Some 50,000 troops are said to be ready to go in. No one wants them to lose, but they could against Haqqani’s respected force. A U.S. official says, “We don’t want them to do it if they’re not ready, but we don’t want them to think it’s not important.”

The Pakistanis may have found a way out. Analysts here say that the military is giving Haqqani time to relocate to a neighboring tribal region, Kurram, before soldiers go in to “clear” North Waziristan. A U.S. defense official here says that he’s seen no evidence to back the claim. But in the past most insurgents have simply melted away in the face of Pakistani advances.

Haqqani also figures as a trusted ally in Islamabad’s plans for a postwar Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some American officials are open to talks with the Taliban, if they bring peace in exchange for power sharing. Also, who knows, America may get fed up and pull out before it wins. With all that in mind, Pakistani leaders may protect Haqqani, their favorite “asset,” thinking he and his Taliban allies may get power in Kabul one way or another.
Instead of sending drones over Quetta, the CIA this summer was allowed to set up shop on the ground. Across Pakistan, several such “fusion cells” pair CIA operatives with officials from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence. A Pakistani official says that this takes courage, as “ISI officers are murdered for helping Americans.”

Many circles here welcome U.S. pressure on the military and state to act. Islamic extremists are putting down deep roots in society, to the consternation of educated and moderate Pakistanis. This goes well beyond the mountainous regions that are the traditional home to religious warrior tribes. The state is losing its grip on Baluchistan. The country’s largest city, Karachi, is a militant hotbed. Parts of all Pakistani provinces have been radicalized, including the most populous, Punjab. Terrorism now touches all Pakistanis.

Pakistan is becoming more like Afghanistan—only with a more advanced economy and nuclear weapons. The people who cross the porous border between them, an arbitrary line drawn up by the British in the 1890s—already consider them the same country. Pakistan’s military has yet to show that it wants to—or that it can—control the Islamist wave. Many groups have slipped their leash and look at their old patron, the ISI, with distrust.
Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander in Afghanistan, certainly has contingency plans for Pakistan that go beyond extra doses of drones or diplomacy. Putting American boots in Waziristan is an obvious idea. But, like so many options, it is unappealing. The fallout in Pakistan would be hard to predict.

So for the moment, America gets to pretend that Pakistan can do this on its own. A successful terrorist attack on the U.S. with a Pakistani return address might quickly change that.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note
- As we have noted on several occasions before, Pakistan must do a lot more to hunt down the Taliban, its leaders and other militants on its side of the border. Already the violence and acts of terrorism within Pakistan are at an all time high as noted in this article and have touched every Pakistani and every corner of the country. Not eliminating the Taliban completely only allows them to get stronger.

Pakistan needs to stop playing a double game and stop thinking of the Taliban as a strategic asset as they never were nor ever will be an asset in any way. Pakistan must eliminate the safe havens for the Taliban within its territory, otherwise the United States will be compelled to act, with or without Pakistan’s blessings, and shall be correct in doing so to prevent attacks on its homeland emanating from Pakistan based militants.

Clinton Reaffirms US Commitment to Pakistan

By Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

Concluding a second round of the so-called U.S.-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Islamabad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday announced more than $500 million in several new aid programs for Pakistan.

The string of new projects unveiled by Clinton during a joint press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Memood Qureshi are designed to help Pakistan meet its energy needs and boost power generation, health and agricultural development. The programs are the first to be launched under U.S legislation passed last year tripling civilian aid for Pakistan to $7.5 billion during the next five years.

Secretary Clinton said the United States hopes the new aid will translate into real life improvements for families and communities, describing them as long-term investments in Pakistan’s future.

“We are committed to building a partnership with Pakistan that of course strengthens security and protects the people of Pakistan, but goes far beyond security,” Clinton said. “We want to help you drive economic growth and prosperity, strengthen your democratic government institutions and expand access to the tools of opportunity.”

Pakistan is playing a key role in the international fighting against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. But public opinion in Pakistan still views U.S. motives with a considerable amount of suspicion. The skepticism stems from the U.S decision to abandon support for Pakistan after Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan.

But Secretary Clinton says she can see positive change resulting from what she called deeper and broader bilateral engagements in recent years.

“We have moved beyond a standoff of our misunderstandings that were allowed to fester and not addressed… to a position where we are engaged in the most open dialogue that I think our two countries have ever had,” she said.

Foreign minister Qureshi also agreed that the enhanced U.S cooperation in various fields such as energy, power, health, agricultural and education sector is critical for changing the public perception in Pakistan.

“The opinion of the United States will change when the people of Pakistan see that their lives have changed,” said Mr. Qureshi.

Sunday, Clinton attended the signing of a landmark trade deal reached by Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of negotiations. The United States has been pushing Afghan and Pakistani leaders to improve bilateral relations it says will contribute to the fight against extremists.

Secretary Clinton’s next stop as part of her Asia trip will be Kabul, where she will attend an international conference on Tuesday.

At the news conference in Islamabad, she reiterated that insurgents who wish to reconcile must lay down their arms, renounce partnership with al-Qaida and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.

“It seems to us that there will be some who are willing to meet those conditions and others who are not. And we would strongly advise our friends in Afghanistan to deal with those who are committed to a peaceful future where their ideas can compete in the political arena through the ballot box, not through the force of arms.”

Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and U.S-led coalition forces in recent months. More than 50 foreign troops have died in July while the previous month was the deadliest for international forces since the war against Taliban and its allies began nine years ago.

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