Posts Tagged ‘ President Barack Obama ’

Pakistan President Zardari in Dubai For Treatment as Coup Rumors Intensify

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nominee Questions Pakistan’s Battle Plan

By Julian E Barnes for The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—The Marine general chosen by President Barack Obama to lead the Afghanistan war raised doubts about Pakistan’s willingness to go after militants who cross the Afghan border to attack U.S. and allied troops.

In a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. John Allen also said he believed that the Afghan insurgency’s momentum has been halted and even reversed in key parts of the country, and backed Mr. Obama’s troop drawdown plans.

But Pakistan, as a haven for militants, looms large over the war in Afghanistan. Gen. Allen said Pakistan continues to “hedge” against a precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by supporting anti-American militant groups, including the Haqqani network.

The statements were a rare public show of military skepticism about Pakistan’s intentions, reflecting the military’s increasing view that relations with Pakistan are deteriorating.

Gen. Allen, deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, argued that it would be ultimately in Islamabad’s interest to expel militant groups from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

“We will encourage and will continue to encourage our Pakistani friends to bring pressure to bear upon those safe havens,” he said. “It’s not just good for the outcome of our strategy and for the president’s vision on the outcome in Afghanistan; it’s good for Pakistan as well.”

Appearing alongside Gen. Allen, Adm. William McRaven, nominated to lead Special Operations Command, also said Pakistan is unlikely to move against the frontier militant havens anytime soon.

The admiral oversaw the Navy SEAL team that last month killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout in a Pakistani garrison town.

The officers’ testimony shined a light on the fragile state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, which have grown combative in the wake of the bin Laden raid.

Military leaders have made plain they are displeased with the declining cooperation by Pakistan, but insist the U.S. can’t walk away from the relationship.

“We’re giving them $4 billion,” said Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.). “And yet sometimes we don’t know if they’re in or they’re out, are they with us or [are] they not?”

After Adm. McRaven said Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is likely hiding in Pakistan, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) demanded Pakistan hand him over.

Pakistani officials have said limited military capacity—not lack of will—is inhibiting their operations against militant groups.

Gen. Allen said he backs President Obama’s decision to pull 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan this year, and the remaining 23,000 surge troops by the end of next summer. After the drawdown, the U.S. would still have 68,000 troops in the country, he said.

But he acknowledged that the military didn’t recommend a drawdown schedule as aggressive as the one Mr. Obama chose.

Under questioning from Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.), a critic of the Obama administration’s drawdown plan, Gen. Allen suggested that if conditions deteriorate he would advise Mr. Obama to alter the plan.

“It is my responsibility to the chain of command and to our commander-in-chief to ensure—should I be concerned about the progress or the execution of the campaign—that I so advise the chain of command,” he said.

Neither the Afghan Taliban nor the Haqqani network has directly targeted the Pakistani government. And Islamabad remains wary of a hasty U.S. withdrawal and sees the militant networks as potential future allies in Afghanistan.

Gen. Allen said even as troops leave Afghanistan, the military would continue to implement its current counterinsurgency strategy, which is aimed at protecting civilians from the insurgents while helping the government extend its reach and legitimacy.

Sen. Graham asked if Gen. Allen would have enough forces to continue that strategy, which requires large numbers of troops to secure population centers.

“How can we maintain counterinsurgency if all the surge forces have gone?” Sen. Graham asked.

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.

Mosque Near Ground Zero Divides Sept. 11 Relatives

By Samantha Gross for The Associated Press

Talat Hamdani traveled to Mecca to pray that her missing son, an EMT, was safe in the days after 9/11. She held out hope that his Muslim background had led to his detention as a suspect, considering it better than the alternative.

When part of his body was returned to her — his lower half shattered into 34 pieces — it was final proof he had indeed been killed when Islamic extremists brought down the World Trade Center. As Americans take sides over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque blocks away, Hamdani says it feels personal.

“Why are we paying the price? Why are we being ostracized? Our loved ones died,” she said at her Lake Grove, N.Y., home. “America was founded on the grounds of religious freedom,” and opposition to the cultural center “is un-American. It’s unethical. And it is wrong.”

The thousands of relatives of the 2,976 victims have no single representative and no unified voice, even as another 9/11 anniversary approaches. The conflict is dividing a group that in many ways has never been united, with some saying the cultural center would reopen old wounds too close to hallowed ground and others saying that opposing it is tantamount to bigotry.
And some, like Vandna Jain, walk a middle ground.

“It is unfair to persecute the group, however, in turn, there should be some respect for the feelings of the people that are forever attached to this site due to their losses,” the New City, N.Y., resident, whose father, Yudh, died in the north tower, wrote in an e-mail. “I think people have a right to be upset about it, just as much as people have a right to build a mosque.” Jim Riches, a former New York Fire Department deputy chief whose son, Jimmy, was killed at the trade center, believes the dispute has nothing to do with religious freedom.

“We’re not telling them not to practice their religion. … It’s about location, location, location,” he said, asking why the mosque couldn’t be built farther away from the land that he still considers a cemetery. “It’s disrespectful. You wouldn’t put a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor.”

Liza Murphy feels differently. Her brother, Charlie, died at ground zero, but she says she doesn’t lay claim to the sprawling, 16-acre site. “It’s a place where a terrible tragedy took place, but I don’t see what makes it sacred,” said the Brooklyn resident. “Nine years later, that now belongs to the public. And my brother and his death are private and belong to me.” Murphy says she has no objection to the planned mosque and wouldn’t want to judge one group of Muslims based on the actions of another.

But Peter Gadiel says he owes no apologies for singling one group out. Since his son, James, was killed at the trade center, Gadiel has argued publicly that all Muslims should share some collective guilt for what happened on 9/11.

“The fact is that Islam does not coexist well with other religions, and you can’t separate that from Islam,” the Kent, Conn., resident said, explaining his stand against the mosque. “If that sounds intolerant on my part, that’s too bad.” The families’ impassioned responses to the prospect of the mosque have influenced the public debate.

Gov. David Paterson has suggested moving the project further away from the trade center site out of respect for opponents’ feelings, while Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out in support of the mosque, calling it a test of the separation of church and state.
President Barack Obama has said he believes Muslims have the right to build the Islamic center as a matter of religious freedom, though he’s also said he won’t take a position on whether they should actually build it.

The imam leading plans for the center on Friday called extremism a security threat in both the West and the Muslim world. Feisal Abdul Rauf made his comments to Associated Press Television News in Bahrain during a Mideast tour funded by the U.S. State Department, but he wouldn’t discuss the uproar over the Islamic center.

Relatives of those slain on Sept. 11 have made their diverging voices heard on a number of issues over the years — from whether to try the suspects in a civilian court to the location of a proposed freedom museum at ground zero that is no longer planned for the site.

Charles Wolf, who lost his wife, Katherine, at the trade center, says emotions among family members are especially raw right now.
“This is anniversary season. It’s really, really hard,” the Manhattanite said. “Passions are up and this is bringing up a lot of hurt in people.”

He says he worries that any decision to respond to public pressure and move the mosque would be used by extremists to paint Americans as intolerant.

“The powers of evil were piloting those airplanes,” he said of the Sept. 11 attackers. Now, with the mosque dispute, “here is where we’re falling into the terrorists’ trap … trying to tear each other apart. Good people fighting other good people — does that sound like evil at work?”

Analysis: Turkey Looks East, Snarling Key US Goals

By Steven R Hurst for The Associated Press                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    President Barack Obama scored two key foreign policy victories this week _ a new round of U.N. sanctions on Iran even as he kept Israeli-Palestinian talks on life support after the Israeli attack on Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza.  The unintended costs may be heavy.

Both issues threaten key alliances with Muslim Turkey. And both test the ability of the U.S. and Israeli to cope with Ankara’s move out of the Western and NATO orbit toward largely Islamic regions of the Middle East and Central Asia. That matters because the United States is losing sway with its longtime NATO anchor, a democracy that bridges Europe to Asia and the Middle East.

Israel too is struggling to avoid Turkey’s threatened estrangement _ a break that would cost the Jewish state its only Muslim military ally. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Israel after its establishment more than six decades ago. The widening fissures in both alliances likely carry heavier psychological than strategic implications for the time being, particularly for Israel.

Here’s why. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “suddenly is the most popular politician in the Arab world and he doesn’t speak a word of Arabic,” asserts Henri Barkey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Erdogan’s popularity grew exponentially after the Israeli commando raid on a Turkish-sanction flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza. Muslims across the Middle East are holding him up as a hero for his tough talk against the Jewish state in their midst. That’s a stunning reversal. Turks, who migrated into modern day Turkey from Central Asia centuries ago, had always been seen in the Arab world as heirs to the Ottoman empire that had oppressed Arabs for 400 years.

Erdogan received a thunderous reception from fellow Muslim leaders Thursday at the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum that opened with calls for an international investigation of the May 31 Israeli raid that killed eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American teenager. Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002 in a landslide victory, a clear shift away from Turkey’s secular traditions that were established in the modern state, the post World War I and shrunken remnant of the Ottoman Empire.

The political shift was a clear precursor of Turkey’s move toward a more comfortable and powerful place in the Muslim world, despite continued efforts for membership in the European Union. Erdogan has since taken to championing the Palestinians’ cause, often more loudly than their fellow Arabs. That had badly strained Israeli-Turkish relations even before the crisis that blew up around the Gaza aid flotilla.

Then there was Turkey’s insertion of itself into the effort to move Iran away from uranium enrichment and its alleged program to build a nuclear weapon. After Iran rejected a deal to swap nuclear fuel last fall, the United States was determined to impose a fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Tehran. Washington had the backing of fellow U.N. Security Council members France and Britain all along and was on the verge of announcing that Russia and China also were on board.

Turkey, with help from Brazil, suddenly announced that it had revived the swap deal and that Iran had agreed. That agreement, more than a half year after initially rejected by Iran, was deeply flawed.

And the next day the United States said a new sanctions package had unanimous support from all five permanent Security Council members. It thanked Turkey for its efforts but said the train had already left the station. When the council voted earlier this week, only Turkey and Brazil cast no votes. Those did little but register protest since neither country holds a veto.

In spite of its rhetoric and obstructionism, Turkey does not appear ready any time soon the break fully from the West. It has vast interests intricately woven into NATO and the European Union. Turkey has a customs union agreement with its top trading partner, Europe, and wants to become part of the EU. But there is no doubt that the tone in Turkey’s foreign policy is changing.

Although the United States has been its chief ally since the Cold War, Turkey opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq through Turkish soil, triggering tensions with Washington. Until the late 1990s, Turkish relations with Iran were tense, with its secular, westernized government accusing Tehran of trying to export its radical Islamic regime to this predominantly Muslim but secular country. Today, Turkey wants to build deeper trade ties with Iran.

Erdogan also is building support for next year’s election by playing the Islam card _ one that appeals heavily to traditionalist, rural and Muslim voters who make up the vast majority of the electorate. “This is not being driven by foreign affairs,” said Jonathan Adelman, professor at the University of Denver. “Erdogan is winning points at home _ going back to the country’s Muslim roots.”

India, Pakistan And U.S. Strategic Dialogue

By Apoorva Shah for The American Enterprise Institute

At this week’s first U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C., talks between the two countries will cover the spectrum of bilateral and multilateral issues, from trade and economic cooperation to terrorism and regional security. 

American participants may even feel the need to bring up India’s strained relationship with Pakistan. But it would serve them well to first consider a Times of India story from earlier this year, which went almost unreported in the United States.

According to an interview in the Indian newspaper with former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, India and Pakistan in 2007 were days away from reaching a comprehensive accord on their territorial dispute over Kashmir, the axis of the countries’ six-decade-long rivalry and casus belli of three wars between the two nations.

Kasuri, Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf’s chief diplomat from 2002 to 2007, said in April that the secret deal had been in progress for more than three years and would have led to a full demilitarization of both Indian- and Pakistani-occupied areas of Kashmir and would have awarded the region a package of loose sovereignty at a point “between complete independence and autonomy.” Not only were Indian and Pakistani leaders on board (including, most importantly, the Pakistani military), so was every Kashmiri leader except for one hard-line separatist, Syed Ali Shah Gilani.

The accord was slated to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Islamabad in February and March of 2007, but before the trip ever occurred, a country-wide lawyers’ protest in Pakistan had turned into a broader opposition campaign against General Musharraf. The rest of the year would be one of the most tumultuous in Pakistan’s history, marked by the siege of the Red Mosque in July, the return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in October and her subsequent assassination in December, and the return of popular leader Nawaz Sharif from exile in September.

By August of the following year, public opposition had peaked, and Musharraf was forced to resign his post as president, ending his decade-long tenure as leader of Pakistan. After Musharraf’s ouster, it appears that the deal had lost much of its momentum.

Then in November, the accord suffered another setback as ten Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists took India’s largest city, Mumbai, hostage for almost 72 hours, killing more than 160 people and injuring scores more. The attack was quickly coined “India’s 9/11,” and the evidence pointed directly to Pakistan, where the gunmen had been trained and equipped.

In protest, India cut off all diplomatic talks with Pakistan almost immediately; there were even rumors that the country was preparing military action against its northern neighbor. Within a span of less than two years, the India-Pakistan relationship had traveled the spectrum from apparent rapprochement and compromise to mutual suspicion and renewed hostility.

Since then, the signs have only appeared to worsen: for example, in 2009, when Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor publicly introduced revisions to his country’s “cold start” military strategy.

This military modernization and training program, which was developed in response to the army’s sluggish mobilization to the Pakistani border following the December 2001 terrorist attacks on the Indian parliament, remained mostly under the radar for most of the early 2000s, relegated to defense journals and the occasional news article.

It was only following the 2008 attacks that “cold start” began to receive renewed attention from the media on both sides of the border and was more publicly discussed by Indian military officials like General Kapoor. Indeed, it appeared as if the next breakthrough in Indo-Pak relations would occur through hard rather than soft power.

Concomitantly, India and Pakistan’s post-Mumbai attempts to return to diplomatic talks also appeared fraught with danger and seemed to only fuel more discord rather than reconciliation.

In February this year, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir resumed high-level talks for the first time since November 2008, but both sides appeared unprepared (they could not even agree on the specific subject of the talks prior to sitting down) and spent more time bickering through separate press conferences.

For example, while Bashir accused India of covertly supplying weapons to militants in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Rao complained that Pakistan had “not gone far enough” in the 2008 Mumbai attack investigation. As India presented a dossier of evidence against one of the Mumbai attack perpetrators, Pakistan responded by calling it a “piece of literature not a dossier.”

It’s hard to see how any progress could be made on improving Indo-Pakistani relations in the midst of this hostility. But does Kasuri’s revelation provide hope that a resolution on Kashmir could be revived? First, excepting Musharraf and Kasuri, many of the supporters of the failed 2007 accord—including Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s current track II special negotiator Riaz Mohammed Khan, and, on the Indian side, Prime Minister Singh—still hold high-level positions in their respective governments.

And second, the secrecy of the original deal shows that outward indifference, or even enmity, between the two countries can belie an internal desire for change. In a relationship where hostility is status quo and where amicable relations seem aberrant if not bizarre, a furtive accord lets ruling elites make slow, institutional changes in the relationship while preserving outward form and precedent. It also allows deal-makers to keep tempestuous domestic politicians and party leaders at arms length while deliberating sensitive issues.

Even India’s traditionally hyperactive media seems to understand: A subsequent editorial in the Times of India noted, “the fact that such a deal exists emphasizes the importance of maintaining contact with Islamabad.”

So what can we expect in the months ahead? Indian officials will undoubtedly continue to pressure Pakistan to confront Lashkar-e-Taiba and other terrorist groups that plan to attack India, and another attack could indeed result in Indian military action. There will also be more bickering between the sides—on water rights, “most-favored-nation” clauses, and even cricket.

Yet the revelation of the secret deal should be both a lesson and a sign of hope. It is a lesson because it proves that progress on an entrenched conflict like Kashmir can occur without the United States’ public mediation.

American officials at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue this week should keep in mind that the accord was pursued during the final years of the Bush administration, in which the United States made it a point to separate the U.S.-India relationship from the more sensitive Indo-Pak relationship.

It is a sign of hope because, despite the outward appearance of discord between the countries, internally, leaders on both sides have—at least at some point in recent memory—wanted to move forward on a resolution.

As Pakistan continues its domestic offensive against terrorists and India pursues closer economic engagement with its northern neighbor, wanting change may be the best sign that change is on the way.

Obama reaches out to the Muslim world

 

President Barack Hussein Obama told the Muslim world on Tuesday that “The Americans are not your enemy” and urged the the Palestinians and the Israelis to return to the negotiating table.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV channel, President Obama stated that the Israel and Palestinian situation should not be the only focal point, but rather the situation in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Pakistan and other flash points across the Muslim world should be considered as well in regards to peace in the Muslim world.

“My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives,” said President Obama during the interview.

“But if you look at the track record… America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.”

President Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than wait several years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for Middle East peace, following the recent Israeli war against Gaza.

But he said he also believed “that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people”. “Instead, it’s time to return to the negotiating table” he said.

Earlier in the week, Obama met with his new US Mideast envoy George Mitchell at the White House along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mitchell left Tuesday for a mission to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, London and Paris in his attempts to jump start a dialogue between the Arabs and the Israelis in the region and other important players in helping broker a peace deal such as the UK and France along with the US.

To the Muslim world, a more receptive and open president in the white house who is deemed fair when dealing with the contentious issues of Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya to name a few hot spots will be a welcome change from the past when they have felt virtually ignored. There is also deep suspicion on the part of many in Arab street and the Muslim world in Mr. Obama’s intentions as many will always see a US president as a staunch one sided ally of Israel no matter what the issue and situation.

It will be a very difficult job for the new administration to turn the public opinion in the Muslim world around towards the US after years of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and violence in Israel and Palestine. Pakistanis for Peace believes that the new administration is very well positioned to make some major advancements in the area of peace in the Middle East as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. With capable leaders in Obama, Biden, Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and Richard Holbrooke, the US foreign policy team is filled with star studded powerful and connected individuals that we hope will shake up the political map in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent and bring some much needed change to this part of the world deemed the most dangerous. We wish him and his team the best of luck and look forward to intense negotiations and diplomacy that will ensure an agreeemnt to the elusive peace between all the sides.

Report filed for PakistanisforPeace.com by Manzer Munir

 

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