Archive for January, 2009

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

 

Recapping the Bush Years

A Recap

A Recap

Acid Attacks on School Girls by the Taliban

 

A 19-year-old and her 16-year-old sister were attacked by two men with
acid in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The assailants wanted to deter the girls
from attending school. These were not the only attacks carried out that
November day of 2008. Several other students and teachers were attacked
on their way to the Meir Weis Mena School in Kandahar, the third-largest
city in Afghanistan. Families were frightened and the children did not
go to school for many weeks after the attacks.

In Kandahar, the Taliban had set up their headquarters and it was also
home for the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The Taliban were in power for
five years during which time they forbade girls to attend schools. If
they tried to go to school they were beaten. Their parents and family
members were harassed or even killed for allowing the girls to attend
school.

Since the Taliban fell in 2001, the government of Afghanistan has made
an effort to educate boys as well as girls. According to the government
figures, 2 out of the 6 million children attending schools are girls.

The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai and the President
of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari met to diffuse the tensions and agreed to
bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Afghanistan and
Pakistan both have radical groups who are against the education of
girls. Pakistan cooperated fully and in a brotherly fashion to the issue at hand. In the past each has accused the other of doing such crimes but this meeting proved to be different.

As for Shamsia, revenge would be getting an education. “Why wouldn’t I
want to come to school? I want our
country to persevere. I have to do something for my country, I must go
to school.”

This story brings to light the injustices in many countries that still
occurs in the name of religion and culture but they are nothing but
oppression. Islam has given women and men equal rights and education
empowers each to attain a better future for themselves and their future
generations. Islamic education as well as school education are
extremely important since each play a vital role in an individual’s
life. Due to the lack of education on both fronts, radical groups
ensnare and entrap their victims and use them to commit atrocious crimes
as above and worse. Education must be made as common as food and water
for all the people of the world so that hatred, poverty and terrorism
can be brought to an end.

Most of the 1300 girls of the Meir Weis Mena School, including all if the wounded ones in the attack two months ago have refused to be intimidated and cowed by the Taliban and are back in class studying and defying the demands of a group of ignorant men with guns and filled with hate. It is a testament to the world that their desire to defy their oppressors is greater than the Taliban’s desire of supression of basic human rights.

Pakistanis for Peace believes that the horrific attacks against girls by Taliban and other militants must end. The education of both boys and girls is necessary for a society to advance. Islamic teachings are very supportive of education and seeking of knowledge. Nowhere in the Koran does it specifically forbid educating girls and the use of religious rhetoric by the Taliban and its supporters seeks to confuse the public into believing that teaching girls is not Islamic.

Reported by M. Lameesa Ali and Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Seasoned Diplomat Appointed Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan

richard-holbrooke

On her very first day as the new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called on the Prime Minister of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari to advise him and the Pakistani government that the Obama administration has designated former US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A senior diplomat at the State department stated that it was a touch-base meeting between Clinton and Zardari but she also wanted to advise him that Pakistan would continue to be a crucial ally to the US and also a partner in fighting extremists in the region. It is noted that back in the 80’s the United States had appointed a similar envoy during the Afghan-Russian war and the individual had been instrumental in helping the Afghan resistance groups comprised of the mujhaideens fighters successful in repelling the Soviets with US and Pakistani backed assistance.

The US government terminated the special envoy position after the end of the war and the pullout of the Soviets but the incoming Obama administration is keen on reestablishing the important position.

Richard Holbrooke is seen as a very capable career diplomat very familiar with the two countries from his time as the American ambassador for the UN. He was also nominated 7 times for the Nobel Peace prize and is also the only person to have held the assistant secretary of state for two different regions of the world. He also was instrumental in brokering the peace agreement among the Bosnian warring factions that led to the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995. During Bill Clinton he was considered heavily for the Secretary of State position before eventually losing out to Madeline Albright as the head person in charge at the State department.

More recently he also served as a senior advisor for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President and is seen as a close confidant of the former first lady.  President Obama and Secretary Clinton have stated that the Afghanistan and Pakistan border and the situation in the two couuntries will be one of their top foreign policy concerns. The appointment of such an experience and powerful diplomat underscores this commitment by the new administration.

Pakistanis for Peace believes that the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as the special envoy to the region is a welcome sign to a region that will be a critial focus for the US and for this new president. An accomplished and well experienced diplomat such as Mr. Holbrooke will ensure that when he talks, Kabul and Islamabad are aware that it is essentially Secretary Clinton or President Obama himself that they are conversing with and this direct link back to Washington will enable the two countries to fight the militants better. There is not just change afoot in Washington DC, the appointment of Richard Holbrook signals the arrival of a more robust and engaging US policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.

-Reporting by Manzer Munir for  www.pakistanisforpeace.com .

Both Pakistan and India dogged by Extremists both internal and external

pakistan-and-india-cat-comic

Indian Army Officer Charged in Bombings in India

indian-army

An Indian army officer is among 11 people to have been charged in connection with a bombing in western India in 2008~

7 people were killed as a result of his actions and more than 100 people were also injured in the blast in the predominantly Muslim town of Malegaon.

 Among the list of accused are also a retired army major and some Hindu activists and right wing nuts.

Blamed on Islamic militants, several cities across India were plauged by bombings.

Questions about a Fair Trial

The accused policeman is Lt Col Srikant Purohit, who was the first serving Indian army officer to be arrested in connection with a bombing in India’s history.

 

Charges against him and 10 others in a special court for aiding, abetting and conspiring to carry out the blasts in September last year.

In a surprising twist, another of the accused is a female Hindu priest.

According to their pleadings, all 11 have denied the allegations leveled against them.

 Police are alleging that the accused had links with a Hindu group that conspired to attack Muslims in the region.

Many groups such as the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindu nationalist groups have questioned the allegations and have demanded that the accused receive a fair trial in India’s courts.

Across the nation the press and the people are talking and shocked that a serving member of India’s army could be involved in terror and destruction in a country where he himself as a soldier is also sworn to protect.  Meanwhile Pakistani groups and Kashmiri activists point to this example of cases where Muslim groups are not involved in any bombings or killings but get blamed nonetheless. An annonymous source within a NGO stated that until there is an honest effort on part of both the Indian and Pakistani governments, a lasting peace will never be achieved in South Asia.

INDIA-BOMBS/HINDUS

Report filed from Orlando, FL by Manzer Munir

Temporary Halt in Bombings

palestinian-boy-with-arafat-in-back palestinian-boy-with-arafat-in-back1palestinian-boy-with-arafat-in-back2palestinian-boy-with-arafat-in-back3arafat

 

January 19, 2009, Israel announced a cease-fire after 22 days of utter
chaos and destruction in Gaza.  Twelve hours later, Palestinian
militants followed suite and declared a week long cease-fire.  More
than 1300 people have died of which 1% are Israelis.
Earlier, a summit hosted  by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, called on International leaders to
discuss the crisis and its resolutions.

Also present were Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and UN
chief Ban Ki-moon.   Although no concrete resolutions came at the end
of the summit, each side did make its own unilateral declaration of
a cease fire.  Still far from any permanent peace agreement the Israelis and
Palestinians each declared their demands.  Israel demands a complete
halt to the missile attacks on their Southern border by Hamas or any
Palestinian militants.  Hamas wants Israel to withdraw from the Gaza
strip within a week and to remove all bans and allow access to
humanitarian needs.  Or as stated by Charles Clayton, the national
director of World Vision Jerusalem, an aid group, an “18-month
blockade of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza,” needs to come to an
end.  And he added that this blockade has “devastated the economy,
halted services, aisraels-wailing-wall2nd rendered the people of Gaza entirely dependent on
humanitarian aid.”  In the near future, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has planned
a meeting in Jerusalem.  Leaders of the UK, France, Germany, Italy,
Spain and the Czech Republic are expected to attend.  What, if any,
positive outcome will be reached at this meeting, remains to be seen.  As always, unless all sides are true and honest at the negotiating table, there will not be any lasting peace between these two long warring tribes of the children of Abraham.  Pakistanis for Peace calls on its Jewish and Muslim brothers in both countries to sit down and make an ever lasting peace with the help of perhaps the most important American President since FDR coming into office in Washington DC on Tuesday January 20, 2009. These two groups of people need to realize that with Secretary Clinton and President Obama on board, they have true allies in Real and Everlasting Peace and Never a better time than now to attain it. The Jews and the Muslims greet each other the same way when they meet their families or friends on the street. They say “Shalom” and the Muslims say “Salaam”. Both mean “Peace” in Hebrew and Arabic. Interesting that such a common word and form of greeting and salutation can be so uncommon in the lands of Jesus. Let’s continue to hope for peace in the region on the eve of this historic presidency in the United States across the Atlantic.

President Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States

President Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States

 

As  reported by Manzer Munir in Orlando, FL USA and Taneem Ali and M. Lameesa Ali in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Two Weeks of Conflict in the Middle East

 

It’s been about 15 days of fighting now.  Over 828 Palestinians are
dead of which 235 were children, 92 women and 62 elderly.  On Israel’s
side, 13 civilians and 10 soldiers have died.

This pointless brutality must stop.  The UN continues to call for a
cease fire.  Is it possible that Israel and Hamas may finally listen
and obey?  Israel claims that the operation is in its final days.
Hamas is still firing rockets into Southern Israel, down from the
50-30 range from 2 weeks ago to about 17 today.

The past 2 weeks have brought many conflictiing stories.  After the
air raids, Israel started an all out ground offensive on Hamas.  This
brought the onslaught of many Palestinians.  January 6th, Israel
bombed a UN school which was sheltering many Palestinians, mainly
children.  The UN had done its part and informed the Israelis of the
school’s coordinates.  The Israelis claim that there were Hamas
militants firing from the school and so they retaliated.  Witnesses
claim there were no Hamas militants and Chris Gunness, a spokesman for
the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that they are
99.9% sure that there were no such militants at the school.  The UN
run agency made vital atempts to investigate and seek the truth where
as the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) did not send troops to the school
for any such investigation.  But they claimed that two of Hamas’
militants, Iman and Hassan Abu Askar, were killed in the school. Since
the UNRWA lost aid workers, they annouced a halt to provide any aid.
What an absolute mess.  Loss of life based on miscommunication or loss
of life
due to carelessness.

Regardless of who’s claims are correct or not, Pakistanis for Peace
stands for peace.  We want to see an end to the bloodshed.  Death and
destruction for either side is not the answer.

India accuses Pakistani government agencies for Mumbai Attacks

 

India today accused Pakistan and more specifically Pakistani government agencies such as the spy agency ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) for complicity in the Mumbai attacks in November of 2008 that killed more than 170 people. Prime Minsister of India, Manmohan Singh, said that the Mumbai attacks must have had some official support from the Pakistani government. He also accused Pakistan of  “whipping up war hysteria” with its citizens by having war exercises and being on a high state of readiness.

Speaking to a meeting of chief ministers of various Indian states, Mr Singh said that the  “sophistication and military precision of the attack it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan”.

India says the men who carried out the attack were from the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which according to some analysts has longstanding links with Pakistan’s top spy agency, ISI.

Both LeT and Pakistan have denied any involvement in the attacks.

On Monday, Delhi handed to Islamabad evidence on the attacks said to include the interrogation of the surviving gunman, details of phone conversations between the attackers and weapons information.

The Pakistani High Commissioner in Delhi, said on Tuesday: “India has given us some material, we are examining it. There is no question of rejection or otherwise.” Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani promised to punish any Pakistani citizens if any “credible evidence” was found against them.

It remains to be seen if the evidence presented to Pakistan by the Indian government has enough proof to implicate any Pakistani citizens or even any Pakistani government involvement in the Mumbai attacks. As is often the case, the two sides trade accusations whenever there is attacks in their own countries. Too often Pakistan blames India and Indian government agencies in attacks that have happened inside Pakistan. Similarly, the Indian government has accused Pakistan in many other attacks in its borders such as the attacks at the Indian Parliment in 2001.

Unfortunately, the accusations of involvement by both sides in attacks of terror in each other’s territory is not new. The lack of trust and understanding between two neighbors who share more than just a long border is disheartening. Nowhere else in the world are there two border countries who have weapons of mass destruction and a lit fuse away from total mutual anhilation. Even North and South Korea have thousands of US troops and UN monitors helping prevent an accidental all out war whereas India and Pakistan have no such controls in place. Another incident like the Mumbai attacks can lead to an all out war that South Asia and the world can ill afford.

We would like to see Pakistan and India resolve their main dispute, namely Kashmir. Until the Kashmir issue is resolved, the accusations traded between the two countries and the constant mistrust between the two nations will continue and get worse. The people of India and Pakistan share the same language, culture, race, and customs. The difference in religious beliefs should not be such a dividing factor that it has been since partition in 1947 of the sub-continent. We hope and pray that the leaders of the two countries come to a realization during the aftermath of these horrible attacks in Mumbai that the only real solution between the two nations is peace as war is NOT an option considering the nuclear weapons that both countries possess. One can only hope that the leaders of the two countries come to this realization before it is too late.

Reported by Manzer Munir in Orlando, FL, USA.

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