Posts Tagged ‘ terrorism ’

Malala Attack Fuels Pakistani Conspiracy Theories

As Reported By The Daily Times

It’s a well-known fact in Pakistan that Osama bin Laden died in 2006 and that the US commando raid on his compound in May 2011 was merely a “drama” orchestrated by US President Obama to help win re-election, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Of course, if that were true, Obama might have waited until after the first presidential debate of the campaign season to fake the al Qaeda leader’s killing. But no matter. Pakistanis love a good conspiracy theory.

According to the report, some national newspapers and TV cable outlets routinely report the US is behind terrorist attacks and supports the war the Pakistani Taliban are waging against Pakistan’s government and military. The US Embassy in Islamabad has to regularly churn out “Corrections for the Record” that take Pakistani media to task for carrying outrageous claims.

Now, the latest conspiracy theory to gain traction is the notion the US was behind the Taliban attack this month on Malala Yousufzai, the student from Swat who criticised the extremist group for denying girls access to education. The purported purpose of the ruse: to make the Taliban look really bad and, thus, generate public sympathy for drone strikes – and whip up support for a Pakistan Army invasion of North Waziristan to rout Haqqani network based there.

A Taliban spokesman was quick to assert responsibility for the attack on the schoolgirl and her two classmates. Yet, the idea of US involvement has spread widely, even generating its own meme on Facebook. The Washington Post says a photo of Obama sharing a hearty laugh with members of his staff is making the rounds, being circulated and “liked” by thousands on social media sites. Its caption reads, “Sir, they still believe that Taliban attacked Malala.”

The newspaper states to many Pakistanis, Malala is a national hero. But others say she is a spy because she once met with then-US envoy Richard Holbrooke – another photo shared on the Internet.

Part of the reason there’s so much conspiracy thinking is because Pakistanis live in a security state many believe is controlled by the shadowy spy apparatus known as the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. It is widely seen – and feared – as a hidden force capable of steering domestic and foreign affairs.

AZ Hilali, chairman of the University of Peshawar Political Science Department, said politics is also behind much of the conspiracy mongering. “When the incident happened with Malala, the people thought the security establishment might be involved because there is pressure from the USthat they have to take action against the Haqqani network,” Hilali said. “That perception was already existing in Pakistan. Right-wing parties just exploited the situation.”

But now, WP quotes Hilali as saying, “right-wing parties are in a great crisis because Malala has deep sympathies from the common people… they believe the Taliban have crossed a boundary. Malala has become this symbol, and the right wing is losing support”.

Nasreen Ghufran, an international relations professor at the university, said a common sentiment in Peshawar is the horrendous deed had to serve other agendas. “They think that Taliban on their own would not do anything unless the ISI and the army are behind it,” she said.

The paper says as for the theories that besmirch Malala as an agent of the West, they will ultimately come to naught and even enhance her stature, Hilali said. The Islamists “were already against that girl, but there is not just one Malala, there are many Malalas”.

Why Our Pampered Teens Need A Role Model Like Malala

By Sinead Moriarty for The Independent

Most teenagers getting the bus home from school chat to each other, play on their phones or try to get some of their homework done. Not so for Malala Yousafzai.

This Pakistani teenager was shot in the head on her way home from school. A man boarded her bus and shot her at point blank range for daring to stand up for her basic human right of an education.

A friend recently told me of her teenage daughter’s refusal to go to school, apparently she wasn’t “in the mood”. What are you going to do? I asked. “What can I do,” she said. “She’s two feet taller than me. I can’t drag her there.”

Perhaps she should tell her daughter the story of this Pakistani heroine who risked her life for an education. Perhaps we need to take down the posters of Cheryl Cole and Rihanna from our teenagers’ bedrooms and replace them with posters of Malala Yousafzai.

Our children’s role models now fall into two categories — sports stars or popstars (with the occasional WAG thrown in).

They watch talentless wannabes on reality TV, selling their souls to the devil for fame. Ask teenagers what they want to be when they grow up and the majority will say “famous”. Nobody seems to remember all the people who won the ‘X Factor’ and are now back working in their local fish shop.

In this post-feminist world, girls have become commodities. Where are the young women who want to shatter glass ceilings?

Where are the girls who want to change the world, not the size of their breasts? Where are the teenagers who want to grow up and rule the world, not the tabloids?

Nowadays teenage girls look at footballers’ wives and think, ‘I want that’. I want to live in a big house, drive a flashy car and shop in designer boutiques.

But what about the fact that so many of these husbands sleep with other women, prostitutes and even sometimes their brothers’ wives? None of the teenage girls ever seems to notice that side of the equation. If he provides you with a plush lifestyle, diamonds and furs, then he can do whatever he wants. And these young wives grin and bear it. They say nothing and they do nothing. No divorce is called for, because they know that once they’re dumped their ‘life’ is over. The limelight will shift to the new Mrs X. They’ll be ‘normal’. Who the hell wants to be ‘normal’ when you can be a famous doormat?

Just when you despair for young women, just when you wonder if your teenager will ever find a decent role model, a girl like Malala comes along and puts us all to shame. Her shooting was not the action of a random gunman. It was a carefully planned assassination attempt on a young lady the Taliban found threatening.

Malala’s crime was to be a female who wanted an education. In 2009, when the Taliban seized control of the area she lived in, the women were forced to wear burquas and banned from going to the market and girls were banned from going to school. But Malala spoke out.

In an anonymous blog for the BBC’s Urdu service, she said the ban on going to school was choking her and so she: “decided to stand against the force of backwardness.”

As she continued to blog, complaining of the terrible plight of women under the Taliban, fellow students recognised her and her anonymity was blown. But she still continued to speak out and now she lies in a hospital in Birmingham that was built to deal with injured service personnel. It is fitting that this young woman will lie side by side with injured soldiers as she begins her long road to recovery. After all, Malala is the heroine of a war, the war on human rights.

We in the West take for granted the rights for which Malala almost died. We need to tell our children her story. We need to show them that life is not about being on TV or having the latest phone, boots or bag . . .

We all want to protect our children from the difficulties that life will throw at them, but stories of courage like Malala’s will surely inspire them.

Her story might actually make our teenagers stop texting for five seconds and think about how lucky they are. They may still dread being ridiculed by fellow classmates for having the ‘wrong’ bag, but at least they know they won’t get shot in the head for it.

It’s Too Early to Consider Al-Qaeda a Dwindling Force

By Paul Koring for The Globe and Mail


Amid an uneasy anniversary of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a daring U.S. special forces raid, there’s a temptation to consider the war won.

Al-Qaeda’s infamous leader is dead; the cunning mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackings, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, goes on trial this week in Guantanamo; while missile-firing Predator drones have grimly decimated al-Qaeda’s commanders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

More than a decade later, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, $1.2-trillion in spent bullion, 6,000-plus lost American lives – and perhaps 50 times that many other lives – the “war on terror” is, at least, a defunct term, banned by President Barack Obama’s administration as it shifted rhetorical focus in the struggle against violent, extremist Islam.

But the broader conflict remains unresolved and may have become far more complicated.

No significant terrorist strike has hit an American target since 2001. The Madrid and London bombings of 2004 and 2005 were the last major attacks on Western cities. Al-Qaeda has been battered and decapitated. Yet the threat still looms.

“It’s wishful thinking to say al-Qaeda is on the brink of defeat,” warns Rand analyst Seth Jones. Yet even in the Muslim world, support for al-Qaeda is way down. Only in Egypt does its approval rating top 20 per cent, according to a recent Pew Research poll. In Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed in a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and anti-U.S. fervor runs high, barely 13 per cent hold a positive view of al-Qaeda, and in much of the Arab world support is mired in single digits.

The violent fringes of radical Islam seem to have lost traction among even disenfranchised and repressed Muslims. At the same time, political Islam is emerging as a key force in the change sweeping aside repressive regimes in the Middle East.

As the terror threat and fear of another spectacular attack like the catastrophic destruction of New York’s twin towers diminishes, the nature of the struggle against radical, repressive Islam remains unfinished and the West’s role is increasingly unclear.

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is winding down. The coalition of Western nations that sent combat troops – including Canada – is falling apart as nations head for the exits. The dream of transforming Afghanistan from a haven for terrorists run by Taliban brutes into a modern democracy where girls go to school in an oasis of central Asian stability has been eclipsed by harsher realities.

The war’s aims have been reduced to propping up the Karzai regime, talking to the Taliban and hoping Afghanistan doesn’t slide back into a narco-state run by warlords or return to a Taliban fiefdom.

Neighbouring Pakistan, once the supposedly key ally in former president George W. Bush “war on terror” may pose an even greater threat than Afghanistan should it collapse.

Meanwhile, as popular uprisings topple repressive regime across the Arab world, the inherent contradictions in Western policy are being exposed. Backing dictators and monarchs as long as they repressed radical Islamists, kept cold peace with Israel and the oil flowing, was the pragmatic, successful, strategic policy for decades.

In its place is a rapidly evolving effort to stay on the right side of history. So Washington jettisoned longtime loyal ally, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and then sent warplanes to back the Libyan rebels who ousted and killed Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Still backing pro-democracy forces isn’t a one-size-fits-all shift in policy. Mr. Obama’s support for the Saudi royal family remains unflinching while the unfolding violence in Syria seems to have hamstrung the West.

Al-Qaeda’s new leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, continues to issue calls to arms, urging jihadists to seize the moment. That rallying cry seems, so far, to have had little resonance among the tens of millions of Muslims seeking – and in some nations tasting – freedom across the Arab world. But there has been a spate of suicide bombings – hallmarks of extremist jihadists – in Syria.

If moderate, democratic, freely-elected governments – likely including Islamists – fail to deliver in Egypt and elsewhere, the unfulfilled expectations of tens of millions may provide new recruiting grounds for the extremists.

“Al-Qaeda franchises are still a major factor,” former White House counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke told ABC. “Groups calling themselves al-Qaeda or claiming affiliation … have large, armed formations in Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and in the Magreb and the Sahel regions of Africa. They are conducting military-styled attacks in some countries and waves of bombings in others. They are participating in the ‘Arab Spring’ fighting in Libya and Syria.”

Why President Zardari’s Visit Is A Small Bonus

By Soutik Biswas for The BBC

Hope is not a policy, but neither is despair, as South Asia expert Stephen Cohen says in a recent essay on Pakistan.

So it is with relations between India and Pakistan.

The past few days have shown how fragile the relationship can be – even as India welcomed President Asif Ali Zardari’s private trip to India on Sunday – the first by a Pakistani head of state for seven years – and PM Manmohan Singh invited him for lunch, the $10m US bounty for Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, provoked the cleric to openly launch a fresh attack against India (and the US).

But people live in hope, so Indian media is gung-ho about Mr Zardari’s visit.

They say the Pakistani president must be applauded for trying to end trade discrimination against India, easing petroleum imports from across the border, and moving towards a liberal visa deal.

“Under Mr Zardari’s watch, India and Pakistan are considering a sweeping agenda for economic co-operation for the first time in decades. The prime minister has every reason to welcome Mr Zardari warmly and consider the next steps in consolidating the unexpected movement in bilateral relations,” the Indian Express wrote.

Analyst C Raja Mohan believes Mr Singh must make an official trip to Pakistan after his meeting with Mr Zardari. “For his part,” he wrote, “Mr Singh should convey to Mr Zardari his readiness to move as fast and as far as the Pakistan president is willing to go.” Others like Jyoti Malhotra actually find Mr Zardari’s visit to the shrine of a famous Sufi Muslim saint in Rajasthan loaded with symbolism in these troubled times. “Clearly, Mr Zardari has stolen an imaginative moment from the bitter-sullen history of India-Pakistan, by asking to come to pay his respects to a cherished and much-beloved saint across the Indian subcontinent,” she wrote.

The relations between two neighbours remain complex. A 2010 Pew survey found 53% of the respondents in Pakistan chose India as the greater threat to their country, and only 26% chose the Taliban and al-Qaeda. At the same time 72% said it was important to improve relations with India, and about 75% wanted more trade relations and talks with India.

Pundits like Mr Cohen believe that it will “take the [Pakistan] army’s compliance, strong political leadership, and resolutely independent-minded foreign ministers to secure any significant shift of approach towards India”.

None of this appears to be in much evidence at the moment.

Both countries have seriously weakened governments that makes them unable to move towards any radical confidence building measures. In the current circumstances, President Zardari’s visit can only be a small bonus. And as scholars like Kanti Bajpai suggest, India must remain patient (even if faced with another Mumbai-style attack), continue to engage with Islamabad, help the civilian government in Pakistan politically, try to resolve a few outstanding disputes like Siachen and Sir Creek, build a relationship with the army and explore the possibility of cooperating with Islamabad on the future of Afghanistan. Despair does not help mend a stormy relationship.

U.S. and Pakistan Take Step to Mend Relations

By Salman Masood and Declan Walsh for The New York Times

President Obama took a symbolic step toward improving ties with Pakistan on Tuesday when he met with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of a nuclear summit meeting in South Korea.

But even as the two leaders made polite, if freighted, comments about improved cooperation, harsh debate in Pakistan’s Parliament on Tuesday made clear that there may be very little political upside for any Pakistani warming toward Washington.

Speaking in Seoul, President Obama acknowledged “strains” in the relationship and voiced his support for a parliamentary review process in Pakistan that aims to get the relationship back on its feet. “I think it’s important for us to get it right,” he said at a joint news conference.

But Mr. Obama added that Pakistan must also respect pressing American security concerns centered on “national security and our needs to battle terrorists who have targeted us in the past.”

Mr. Gilani replied that he would help work with Mr. Obama “to have all the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world.”

Relations between the two countries plunged steeply after the American commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May, then worsened further after American warplanes fired airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border with Afghanistan in November.

The border strikes caused Pakistan to close NATO supply routes into Afghanistan and expel American officials from a remote air based used by the C.I.A. to launch drone strikes against militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the northwestern Pakistani tribal belt. More recently, a Pakistani parliamentary committee on national security demanded an end to drone strikes and an unconditional American apology for the airstrikes.

In Islamabad on Tuesday, Parliament was supposed to start a long-awaited debate that would pave the way toward re-engaging diplomatically with the United States. But the opposition stalled the debate, with some lawmakers expressing fury at news reports that the government had already promised to reopen the NATO supply lines.

Ayaz Amir, an influential lawmaker with the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party, questioned why Pakistan even bothered blocking the supply routes if it was assumed they would start right back up again. “We are fooling ourselves, and we are also fooling the Pakistani people,” he said.

The most scathing criticism came from Maulana Fazalur Rehman, an influential religious politician, who warned that if the government failed to win broad political backing for its review of American ties, he would take his protests onto the streets.

“We will not let such a decision to be implemented in the field,” he said.

Mr. Rehman asserted that given urgent efforts by the Americans to start negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, American weapons transported through NATO supply lines could ultimately be turned back on Pakistan, earning loud applause from fellow lawmakers. And he asked how the government intended to bring covert American operations in Pakistan under the law of the land.

Raza Rabbani, a senior government lawmaker, responded that the parliamentary committee’s recommendations on American policy were “broad policy guidelines” and not a final decision.

The session was adjourned until Wednesday evening, when the formal debate is due to begin. Meanwhile, outside Parliament, a newly formed alliance of religious parties and extremist groups, the Defense of Pakistan Council, held a large street rally against the reopening of the supply routes.

“If Parliament compromises on the security and sovereignty of the country, then we cannot guarantee the security of the lawmakers,” said Maulana Sami ul-Haq, head of the alliance, as hundreds of protesters chanted anti-American slogans.

Moment Terror Suspect, 25, Arrested Over ‘Bomb Plot’ in Florida Was Caught on Camera Brawling With Christian Protesters

As Reported by The Daily Mail

A Muslim accused of plotting to bomb locations in the U.S. has apparently been identified as the same man assaulting Christian protesters in a video posted online.

Sami Osmakac, 25, an immigrant from Kosovo, was said to have been planning an attack in Tampa, Florida using a car bomb, machine guns and other explosives.

In the first video clip, a man who appears to be Osmakac, confronted Christian protesters and assaulted one outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum – leaving the man bleeding from the mouth. He was later arrested by police.

In the second video with the title ‘Convert to Islam NOW! To all Atheist Christian (Non-Muslims)’ a man who looks and sounds like Osmakac threatened members of other religions.

The message from Abdul Samia, believed to be one of Osmakac’s aliases, warns viewers to convert to Islam ‘before it is too late’.  The YouTube videos were posted in December 2010 and in April last year.

Sami Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was charged yesterday with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Osmakac, of Pinellas County, Florida, allegedly bought explosives and guns from an undercover FBI agent, which had been made unusable. He allegedly told the officer that he wanted to ‘die the Islamic way’ in attacks at locations in Ybor City and South Tampa.

After being tipped off in September, the five-month investigation culminated with a sting operation at the weekend. Shortly before his arrest he made a video of himself explaining his motives for carrying out the planned attack, authorities said.

In the eight-minute video he is seen cross-legged on the floor with a pistol in his hand and an AK-47 gun behind him. He said in the video that Muslim blood was more valuable than that of people who do not believe in Islam, according to a criminal complaint.

Osmakac allegedly added that he wanted ‘payback’ for wrong that was done to Muslims and bring terror to his ‘victims’ hearts’ in Tampa.

A confidential source allegedly told federal officials in September 2011 that Osmakac wanted Al Qaeda flags. Two months later he talked with the source and ‘discussed and identified potential targets in Tampa’ that he wanted to attack, authorities said.

Osmakac allegedly wanted help getting the firearms and explosives for the attacks, and was put in touch with an undercover FBI employee.

Last month Osmakac met with the agent and allegedly told him that he wanted to buy weapons including an AK-47-style machine gun. He also allegedly wanted Uzi submachine guns, high capacity magazines, grenades and explosive belt.

Osmakac gave the agent a $500 down payment for the items in a later meeting and outlined his intentions to build bombs, authorities said.

Osmakac allegedly said at another meeting earlier this month that he wanted to bomb night clubs, a business and the Operations Center of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It is also believed he wanted to blow up an Irish pub and Starbucks coffee shop.

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- We are glad that the authorities apprehended Sami Osmakac before he was able to allegedly carryout any of the attacks that he is accused of planning. Congratulations to the Hillsborough Police Department in Tampa along with the federal authorities. Loss of any life and certainly innocent loss of life goes against the fundamental nature of our being at Pakistanis for Peace. Bring a Pakistani American as well as a Muslim American, attacks attempted or carried out by other American Muslims such as Faisal Shahzad or even Maj. Nidal Hasan, and now Sam Osmakc, hits at the heart of our peaceful American dreams. As a result of the whacked out few, we as a whole are marginalized. But until these terrorists and wanna be terrorists are all taken off the street, the war on terror must go on~

The National Defense Authorization Act: Our Disappearing Rights and Liberties

By Alton Lu for The Huffington Post

Back in the beginning stages of the War on Terrorism, President Bush enacted the Patriot Act. This allowed the government to spy on citizens, monitoring their activities in order to discern whether or not someone is a terrorist. It brought about changes in law enforcement that allowed agencies to search phones, financial records, etc.

One of the most controversial aspects of the law is authorization of indefinite detention of non-U.S. citizens. Immigrants suspected of being terrorists would be detained without trial until the War on Terrorism finished.

On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed a law known as the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2012 fiscal year, or the H.R. 1540. Congress passes this act every year to monitor the budget for the Department of Defense. However, this year the NDAA bill has passed with new provisions that should have the entire country up with pitchforks.

Normally, this is just an act which details the monetary calls of the Department of Defense which is passed every year. However, the act passed for the 2012 fiscal year changes the bill and can be seen as an extension of the Patriot Act. Now, the indefinite detention has been extended to U.S. citizens as well. If people are spied on and suspected of being terrorists, they may be detained indefinitely without trial.

In a country famous for the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty, this is an upsetting change that is being foisted upon the American people with many unaware of what it means.

The provisions of the Patriot Act allow the government to spy upon U.S. citizens and the NDAA allows the government to whisk a citizen away for no reason other than being suspected of terrorism.

So why has this law been passed when it is very easily seen as unconstitutional? The Fourth Amendment grants liberty from unreasonable seizures, while the Sixth guarantees every U.S. citizen a trial in front of a jury. No matter what supporters of the bill might have said about the provisions being misunderstood, the simple fact is that it is unconstitutional.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has made arguments for this provision, stating that the law would apply for US citizens’ turncoats who have aided Al-Qaeda or other associated organization. He gave a long-winded story of how a U.S. citizen might fly to Pakistan to receive terrorist training, then return home and shoot down fellow citizens a few miles from the airport.

It’s a disgusting show that Graham is pulling. He has made an example of how a single U.S. citizen might become a turncoat and because of that possible risk, the citizen’s right to a trial and jury has been abolished.

Supporter of the NDAA, Representative Tim Griffin stated in the Daily Caller:

Section 1022’s use of the word ‘requirement’ also has been misinterpreted as allowing U.S. citizens to be detained, but this provision does not in any way create this authority. This provision must be read in the context of Section 1022’s purpose, which is reflected in its title and relates solely to ‘military custody of foreign al Qaida terrorists.’ The term “requirement” does not mean that detention of U.S. citizens is optional under this provision.

He merely states that the people have ‘misinterpreted’ the provisions within the bill.

This is a situation in which they are able to detain U.S. citizens, but they won’t because that’s wrong. I will repeat: “They are allowed through the NDAA to detain U.S. citizens, but they won’t because that’s wrong.”

Similar to Griffin’s response, President Obama has released a statement regarding the H.R. 1540
(NDAA):

Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

President Obama says that his administration will not authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens. Yet Obama also said that he would close Guantanamo Bay. Obama also said he would recall the troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Obama also said he would end the Bush tax cuts.

It doesn’t matter the reason these promises were not kept. What matters is that they weren’t. Obama says his administration will not authorize the indefinite detention of citizens. But that could change. The interpretation of this bill can change on a dime. These politicians who say there is nothing to fear could quickly change whenever they see fit.

These implications grow larger as we know there is no single accepted definition of terrorism present in the United States. The State Department defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”

Under this definition, the entire United States can be seen as terrorists. The government had planned the operations in Iraq and has resulted in over 100,000 civilian deaths. It can also be said that the U.S. is changing views of terrorism throughout the world… influencing an audience. Terrorism cannot be specifically defined as attacks against the United States; therefore, the United States might have been terrorizing parts of the Middle East.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has stated that there are laws regarding terrorist suspects in America in place by the Department of Justice. Issues such as having an armed weapon or having a food supply lasting at least seven days can be grounds for terrorism.

I look to my well-supplied pantry filled with foods my loving mother had purchased from Costco. I’m not one to count it all, but I’d say it would last my entire family over a week.

My father legally owns a handgun. There’s something about protecting his family that is important to him, so he keeps a gun nearby.

I am writing a story that is against what the politicians in Washington have voted for. Can I be seen as aiding Al-Qaeda because I am attempting to change the views of the public to something that is against government; because there is a gun in my home and we have a well-supplied pantry?

Can I be seen as a terrorist under the definition of terrorism? Yes I can. Will I? I hope not.

Alton Lu is an 18 year old high school senior. Alton Lu: I see the name as the most uncommon thing about myself. I’m just a typical teenager in a stereotypical high school residing an in un-extraordinary town. I enjoy pretending that I’m a modern-day philosopher and political activist while still living out the generic high school experience. I am now embarking on the longest, most extensive campaign to the presidency. If you agree with my views, look forward to voting for me in about thirty years. If you disagree…I hope you’ll still vote for me.

Beyond Gaddafi, America Turns its Attention to Pakistan

By Peter Hoskin for The Spectator

It’s hard to recall a more grisly complement of newspaper covers than those this morning. Only the FT refrains from showing either Gaddafi’s stumbling last moments or his corpse, whereas the Sun runs with the headline, big and plain: “That’s for Lockerbie”.

The insides of the papers are more uncertain. There are doubts about the details, such as what has happened to Gaddafi’s infamous son Saif. And there are doubts about the general tide of events too. Several commentators, includingPeter Oborne, make the point that the passing of Gaddafi is only the first phase in Libya’s struggle towards democracy — and it is a struggle that might easily be forced off course by various factions, splinter groups and madmen. As the New York Times puts it, “The conflicting accounts about how [Gaddafi] was killed seemed to reflect an instability that could trouble Libya long after the euphoria fades…”

As significant as all this is, however, we should also alight on the news from another area of instability: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hillary Clinton visited Kabul yesterday, where she not only heard about the Gaddafi’s death in photo montage-friendly fashion, but took some very clear swipes at Pakistan for being the Taliban’s favourite holiday destination. Here are some extracts from the full transcript of her speech and Q&A here:

“We will be looking to the Pakistanis to take the lead, because the terrorists operating outside of Pakistan pose a threat to Pakistanis, as well as to Afghans and others. And we will have ideas to share with the Pakistanis. We will certainly listen carefully to the ideas that they have. But our message is very clear: We’re going to be fighting, we’re going to talking, and we’re going to be building. And they can either be helping or hindering, but we are not going to stop our efforts……So my message will be as it just was to you: We have to deal with the safe havens on both sides of the border. It is not enough to point fingers across the border; we must work together to end the safe havens. We must send a clear, unequivocal message to the government and the people of Pakistan that they must be part of the solution, and that means ridding their own country of terrorists who kill their own people and who cross the border to kill in Afghanistan.I think that how we increase that pressure, how we make that commitment, is the subject of the conversations that President Karzai and I have had, and that I will have in Pakistan. But we’re looking to the Pakistanis to lead on this, because there’s no place to go any longer. The terrorists are on both sides. They are killing both people. No one should be in any way mistaken about allowing this to continue without paying a very big price. So I will deliver the message on behalf of the mothers of Afghanistan andon behalf of my own country.”

Just words, perhaps. But these words are some of the firmest that Obama’s adminstration has directed towards Islamabad since the death of Osama Bin Laden. In a news interview last night (do watch it if you’ve got two minutes), Clinton suggested that “something has changed” in the relationship between the two countries, and that Pakistan needs to “make some some serious choices”. That change could well define much of what lies ahead for Afghanistan and the wider region.

U.S.: Al-Awlaki Believed Dead in Attack

As reported by the Detroit News

American forces targeted al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s convoy with a drone and jet attack and believe he’s been killed, a U.S. counterterrorism official said Friday.

The U.S.-born cleric known for fiery anti-American rhetoric has been suspected of ties to the Fort Hood attack and the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing in 2009.

The counterterrorism official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Word from the U.S. comes after the government of Yemen reported that al-Awlaki was targeted and killed Friday about five miles from the town of Khashef, some 87 miles from the capital Sanaa. He would be the most prominent al-Qaida figure to be killed since Osama bin Laden.

U.S. officials have said they believe al-Awlaki directed, led and planned attempted attacks on the U.S. He was believed to have inspired the Fort Hood shooter, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, and to have played a more direct role in the Christmas 2009 attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood, Texas.

On Sept. 13, an FBI Special Agent testified in Detroit that al-Awlaki played a key role in the radicalization of so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Abdulmutallab spent hours listening to al-Awlaki’s video clips posted on the Internet, Special Agent Timothy Waters testified.

Abdulmutallab faces up to life in prison if convicted of a host of charges stemming from his alleged attempt to blow up the plane from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Al-Awlaki’s death “will especially impact the group’s ability to recruit, inspire and raise funds as al-Awlaki’s influence and ability to connect to a broad demographic of potential supporters was unprecedented,” said terrorist analyst Ben Venzke of the private intelligence monitoring firm, the IntelCenter.

But Venzke said the terror group al-Qaida in the Arab Peninsula will remain the most dangerous regional arm “both in its region and for the direct threat it poses to the U.S. following three recent failed attacks,” with AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi still at large.

Venzke said al-Awlaki was due to release a new article in the next issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine justifying attacking civilians in the West.

“The article, which may already have been completed, was announced by AQAP on Tuesday as being entitled, ‘Targeting Populations of Countries at War with Muslims,'” he said.

Osama Bin Laden Hunted Down And Killed By US

By Brad Norington for The Australian

Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan and his body retrieved by a US strike team nearly 10 years after the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon killed more than 3000 people.

Announcing “justice has been done”, Mr Obama said bin Laden had been found hiding in Pakistan and a targeted operation launched today by a small US team.

“After a firefight they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” Mr Obama said, adding that no Americans were harmed in the assault.

“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s efforts to defeat al-Qa’ida,” the President said. “His demise should be welcomed by all that believe in peace and human dignity.

“It’s important to note our counter terrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he had been hiding.” “Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.

“There is no doubt that al-Qa’ida will continue to pursue attacks against us. “We must and will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

Despite the decade that has elapsed since the September 11 attacks, the event, one of the most traumatic in US history, still stirs raw emotions, and his demise will be celebrated across the United States.

Chants of “USA, USA” rang out from tourists outside the White House as the news of bin Laden’s death sent an electric charge through Washington.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the fence of the presidential mansion and sang the US national anthem and started shouting and cheering. Mr Obama said the United States people understood the cost of war, but would not stand by if threatened.

“As a country we will never tolerate our security being threatened nor stand idly by when our people have been killed,” he said. “We will be relentless in defence of our citizens and our friends and allies.

“We will be true to the values that make us who we are. “And on nights like this one we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qa’ida terror, justice has been done.”

The location of bin Laden and his family confirms recent speculation that he was hiding in comfortable surroundings and close to civilisation, not in the remote mountains dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan.

US armed forces have been hunting the Saudi terror kingpin for years, an effort that was redoubled following the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon which killed 3000 people. But bin Laden always managed to evade US armed forces and a massive manhunt.

The death of bin Laden will raise huge questions about the future shape of al-Qa’ida and also have steep implications for US security and foreign policy 10 years into a global anti-terror campaign. It will also raise fears that the United States and its allies will face retaliation from supporters of bin Laden and other Islamic extremist groups.

Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was a member of the wealthy Saudi bin Laden family and the founder of the jihadist organisation al-Qa’ida, most widely recognised for the September 11 attacks on the US and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets.

As a result of his dealings in and advocacy of violent extremist jihad, bin Laden lost his Saudi citizenship and was disowned by his billionaire family.

Bin Laden evaded US capture in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and since then he and his organisation have been major targets of the US war on terror.

Bin Laden and fellow al-Qa’ida leaders are believed to have been hiding near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in tribal areas that lie outside government control.

Teen says 400 Pakistan suicide bombers in training

As Reported by The Deccan Chronicle

A teenager arrested as an accomplice to Pakistan’s deadliest suicide bombing of the year has said that up to 400 suicide bombers are being groomed to wage carnage in the nuclear-armed nation.

Umar Fidayee, 14, said the would-be bombers were being trained in North Waziristan, the premier Al-Qaeda and Taliban fortress in Pakistan’s tribal belt where US officials want Pakistan to flush out militant strongholds.

He made the remarks in an interview aired Friday from his hospital bedside, where he is being treated after detonating a hand grenade in the April 4 attack that killed 50 people at a 13th-century Sufi shrine.

It was Pakistan’s deadliest bomb attack since November.

Police arrested Fidayee as an alleged accomplice and said they removed his own suicide vest, which he failed to detonate in a crowd of hundreds in Dera Ghazi Khan just minutes after two other bombers blew themselves up.

Shown covered in tubes and bandages, the teen appeared to express remorse and lifted the lid on harrowing details of his training at the camp in the Mir Ali district of North Waziristan, which lies on the border with Afghanistan.

“Three hundred and fifty to 400 would-be suicide bombers are getting training in Mir Ali in North Waziristan,” he said in the interview broadcast by Pakistani television channels Samaa, Express, ARY and Geo.

“I was trained for two months and saw many boys being trained there,” he said, going on to appeal on Pakistanis to “please forgive me”.

“God has given me a new life but I am sad that we killed innocent people, innocent children,” he said.

Fidayee said he was initially recruited on the understanding that he would be smuggled into Afghanistan to kill non-Muslims.

“But they brought me here to Dera Ghazi Khan. I told them ‘there is no kafir (non-believer) here’,” he said.

“They told me these people are worse than kafirs,” Fidayee said.

Exposing an apparently disturbing recruitment at the gates of an ordinary school in North Waziristan, the teenager claimed a man he identified as Qari Zafar convinced him to begin a life of militancy.

“He told me that all this education is useless and said ‘become a fighter and you will go to heaven’,” Umar told the reporters.

He said he was told to attack the shrine 30 minutes after the other two detonated their bombs, in order to cause maximum carnage among those rushing to aid casualties of the first two blasts.

In a message to other potential suicide bombers he said: “Please refuse to carry suicide attacks. Such attacks are forbidden in Islam.”

Islamist militants have increasingly targeted Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Dera Ghazi Khan is close to Pakistan’s tribal belt which is described by Washington as the most dangerous place on Earth and an Al-Qaeda headquarters.

More than 4,200 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on homegrown Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in July 2007.

Bombing kills 25 Near Intelligence Office in Eastern Pakistan

By Karen Brulliard for The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – A car bomb exploded near an office of Pakistan’s main intelligence agency in the eastern city of Faisalabad on Tuesday, killing 25 people in the type of militant attack that is growing more common in the country’s populous heartland.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack and said it was aimed at the intelligence office, the Associated Press reported.

Police said the bomb, which was detonated at a gas station, sparked additional explosions of natural gas cylinders, compounding the damage. The blast destroyed parts of several businesses, including an office of the national airline, and wounded at least 100 people.

Sectarian violence is common in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third-largest city and a textile-producing hub, but Tuesday’s blast was the first major militant attack there. Militants have often carried out bombings in other large cities, including Lahore, about 80 miles to the east. The attacks regularly target Pakistan’s security forces, who in recent years have mounted counterterrorism offensives against insurgent hideouts in the mountainous northwest.

Now, Pakistani authorities and analysts say, violent extremist organizations are spreading across Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital.

Southern Punjab is home to militant groups that traditionally focused attacks on Indian targets but are now thought to be deepening ties to Taliban factions in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The car bombing occurred nearly a week after the assassination of federal cabinet minister Shahbaz Bhatti, which a group calling itself the Punjabi Taliban said it had carried out.

Bhatti, a Christian, had spoken out against Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws, which are enforced most stringently in Punjab. The laws are defended by religious groups, which say that violators of the statutes – and supporters of the violators – deserve death.

The Real Blasphemers

As Reported by Cafe Pyala

Mera azm itna buland hai ke paraye shaulon ka dar nahin

Mujhe khauf aatish-e-gul se hai, ye kaheen chaman ko jala ne de

[My resolve is so strong that I do not fear the flames from without

I fear only the radiance of the flowers, that it might burn my garden down] 

— Shakeel Badayuni couplet referenced by Salmaan Taseer on Twitter, 8 hours before his assassination 

I had been hoping that I could post something light-hearted, more entertaining at the start to the new year, but today’s Pakistan it seems is not the place for these sort of things any more. Four days into January and we already have yet another tragedy that has evoked not only pain and sadness but also immense amounts of disgust at the depths to which we, the unfortunate inhabitants of this blighted country, have sunk.

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer‘s brutal and senseless murder in Islamabad today (Tuesday) is not only an intensely heavy blow for his family and friends – to whom our thoughts go out to – but also to the hopes for a saner public discourse about issues that certain people endeavour to keep out of the conversation altogether. He often said things that many think but are unwilling to say in public out of fear or aversion to stoking argument. Whatever anyone may have thought about Taseer’s personal life (not that it’s any of anyone’s concern) or his business practices, there is absolutely no doubt that he was a brave and outspoken man who did not compromise his personal beliefs for the sake of cowardly politics. Along with barely a couple of other politicians on the national level (Sherry Rehman being one), his was a rare voice that was willing to take on the rightist mullah mindset in the public domain.

And contrary to what his detractors claimed, he did so with full awareness of the moral responsibilities of a public figure. In a recent interview, he was asked why he chose to raise the issue of the unjust blasphemy laws when he knew that he would receive brickbats from the rightist parties and become the target of the extremists. He replied: “Because if even I don’t, how will others get over their fears?” On December 31, he tweeted: “I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy.Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing”

In Salmaan Taseer’s untimely death we have all lost a truly courageous individual. Those within his party who opposed his just stand on the abhorrent misuse of blasphemy laws, moral pygmies such as Babar Awan, should hang their heads in shame.

At the same time, one must also feel disgust at those who have either valourized Taseer’s self-confessed lunatic murderer Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, or used their weasely arguments to somehow try and justify the outrage. So-called-intellectuals like Irfan Siddiqui and bigots like Jamaat-e-Islami‘s oily Fareed Parachaand the ever-slimy Ansar Abbasi tried their best to claim (on Geo) that Taseer was somehow himself responsible for his fate because he had raised a “sensitive” issue.

I am not of the opinion that one should not speak ill of the dead only because he or she is dead, curse Zia ul Haq with every breath as far as I am concerned. But these gentlemen’s basic argument was this: even expressing your opinion about a warped law made by a warped dictator and endorsed by his warped proteges is enough to condemn you to death, so everyone should keep quiet about the misuse of religion and leave it all up to the mullah brigade. It’s time to tell them to shut the hell up themselves.

But the disgust does not end with a couple of morons trying to silence all discussion about religion to and other fanatics praising a criminal. The bigger issue, as we have been saying all along, is the refusal of society to see the inter-linkages of such acts of terrorism with the mindset that has been cultivated through the military establishment’s promotion of jihadi outfits, the propping up of so-called religious parties whose only agenda is bigotry, the pusillanimous and opportunistic silence over the treatment of minorities such as Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus and Christians and indeed all dissenters (religious scholar Javed Ghamdi being one), the valourization of criminals such as the illiterate Ilm Deen (dubbedshaheed [martyr] because he was hanged in 1929 for murdering a publisher), the rejection of rationality and logic, the marginalization of the arts and cultural traditions as something alien to our society, and the tolerance for hate-speech and incitements to violence such as that of this monkey.

It is this mindset, which has been cultivated by the state looking the other way at – if not directly promoting – acts of radicalization, that allows an entire police squad to see nothing wrong in one of their own planning to commit the murder of someone they are assigned to protect. (We now hear via Geo that Qadri had in fact confided to his colleagues in the Punjab ‘Elite Force’ about his plans and had even requested them not to shoot at him, a request they honoured.)

Our real disgust should be directed at all those parts of society that cannot put two and two together despite the evidence staring them in the face. We will inevitably hear a lot in the media about security lapses and administrative efficiency lapses that led to a criminal being part of a protective force (incidentally, Geo is also reporting through its sources that Qadri had been sacked from the Punjab Police’s Special Branch a few months ago because he was dubbed a ‘security risk’). But the only void that I think we really need to focus on is the one in our society’s collective brain.

So how do we deal with all this? I have heard a lot of dismay and hopelessness today and I can completely understand the feeling. For many people, this is another nail in the coffin of the idea of a viable future for Pakistan. The only option to counter this feeling of despondency, in my opinion, is to become more assertive and louder and to shame those who would stifle dissent.

The problem of course is that wishy-washy liberalism cannot fight fanaticism. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Simply put, we can either shut up, resign ourselves to our fate and disconnect from this country and society or we can fight back and refuse to cede the space that the bastards want us to. Nobody ever said it would be easy.

As a start, let us declare Qadri, all those who support Qadri and murderers like him, the Khatm-e-Nabuwatmovement and its ilk as outside the pale of Islam. Let’s see how they like being referred to as blasphemers andmurtids

Nobody said this fight would not be dirty.

American Promotes Global Peace by Building Schools

By Samreen Hooda for The Bayor Lariat

He is well known for his best-selling novel “Three Cups of Tea” and as the American who builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, yet his story began with an accident that changed his life.

Greg Mortenson first went to Pakistan on an attempt to climb the mountain K2. After getting lost twice, cold, sick and hurt, Mortenson stumbled upon the small village of Korphe where the locals nursed him back to health. It was here, Mortenson said during his recent visit to Dallas, that he first encountered what would become his new life.

“I saw 84 children sitting in the dirt doing their school lessons,” Mortenson said. “Most of them were writing with sticks in the sand. When I saw those 84 children sitting in the dirt and they asked for help to build a school, I made a promise that day that I would help them.”

Mortenson didn’t realize then that the climb ahead was still steep. He came back to the states and wrote letters to 580 celebrities asking them to donate to the cause. He got one response: a check for $100. But he did not give up, speaking at schools and appealing to people’s desire that all children have a right to an education. Mortenson eventually got the funds he needed to begin the school he had promised.

“I built that school and then 78 more and I’m still doing it today,” Mortenson said.

This is his life’s purpose and he constantly strives to fulfill it, said Sadia Ashraf, outreach coordinator for the Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit Mortenson started to promote education in remote regions of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is his passion for the cause that has made him so remarkable at what he does, she added.

It is this ability to mix passion with a unique perspective that many say makes him a revolutionary.

“I think philosophically speaking he’s looking at an issue that’s been there for many years, looking at it through completely fresh eyes and also looking at it through the perspective of an American, which is a little bit unique,” said Amir Omar, city councilman for Richardson. “And his ability to come back to the States and explain those needs in terms that other Americans would understand, I think that has a really compelling message to it. It not only impacts children in Pakistan but also it impacts the perceptions of Americans.”

Yet Mortenson’s vision is not just designed to change perspectives, but to alter future generations by educating today’s youth, especially women.

“When a girl learns how to read and write, one of the first things she does is teach her own mother,” Mortenson said. “The girls will bring home meat and veggies, wrapped in newspapers, and the mother will ask the girl to read the newspaper to her and the mothers will learn about politics and about women who are exploited.”

Teaching women, Mortenson says, is the way to changing the world.

“When someone goes on jihad, they first should get permission and blessings from their mother,” he said. “And if they don’t, it’s very shameful or disgraceful. And I saw that happen after 9/11. They were primarily targeting illiterate, impoverished society because many educated women were refusing to allow their sons to join the Taliban.”

But education of this sort can only take place when you don’t walk in as strangers to try and change the world, but first become family, Mortenson said.

That happens with three cups of tea.

“The first cup you’re a stranger, second cup a friend and the third cup you become family. That doesn’t mean you just go around drinking tea, having peace in the world,” he said. “But what it means is that first we have to build relationships and get to know each other.”  That’s how Mortenson believes in promoting peace: one school at a time.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Greg Mortenson’s humanitarian work in Afghanistan and Pakistan shows that one man can make a difference and leave a lasting mark in the lives of many. He is a great unofficial ambassador of the United States much like aid worker Todd Shea of Shine Humanity. We commend both individuals and many others for their honorable work on behalf of the people of these two neighboring nations.

The Nexus of US-India-Pakistan Relations

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

As President Obama wraps up his visit to India in the next day, a couple of things are important to point out about relations between the United States and India as well as how Pakistan fits into the equation.

The balance of power between India and the US still lies with the United States, however, India is set to make more and more gains in becoming more influential as its economy grows and as the United States looks to it to counter China in Asia.

The strategic partnership between the two countries and the importance of India for the United States is going to become vital as America uses India to contain China’s influence in the region and around the world.

We do believe that President Obama is correct in stating that relations between the two countries warrant being called the defining relationship of the century as there is no other country that compliments the United States presently in the world as does India. Not only do both countries share democratic ideals and a multiethnic population, but both countries are also increasingly dependent on each other’s economies. Add to this the nuclear cooperation as well as America’s support for India to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and it becomes evident that this relationship will continue to grow over time.

President Obama has offered criticism on Pakistan already but is careful in trying to walk the tight rope act that is India-Pakistan relations. There are certainly more behind the scene steps taking place that will chide Pakistan into doing more. But in our view, the single most important thing that the US and the Obama administration can do is to help India and Pakistan come back to the table to get the peace process moving along. There is widespread agreement with the President’s assessment that a prosperous and stable Pakistan is in the best interests of India, Afghanistan and the region. In this effort, we believe there needs to be done more by all parties involved.

India’s argument has always been that the terrorist infrastructure and support for some anti-India militant groups needs to end before New Delhi will resume the peace process with Pakistan.

India should not refuse extensive trade relationships with the US due to American support of Pakistan as it does not do anything to help India. India realizes the situation both inside Pakistan and America’s dependency of the Pakistan Army’s support in flushing out the Taliban. It would go against India’s interests if it put its relationship and advancement with the United States as being dependent on American support for Pakistan and its vital assistance in the war in Afghanistan and on terror.

Peace between India and Pakistan and in the Kashmir valley is the only solution to both the conflict between the two nations as well as it is in America’s interests for both countries and the region. Furthermore, peace between the two countries will allow both Pakistan’s full focus on the Afghan border in helping American troops against the Taliban as well as the elimination of anti-India militant groups within Pakistan, many of whom are alleged to still be receiving support from elements within Pakistan’s ISI spy agency, much to India’s chagrin.

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