Archive for June, 2010

Imran Khan Moves Supreme Court Against Drone Attacks

As reported on Despardes.com

Cricketing legend-turned politician Imran Khan has filed a lawsuit in Pakistan’s apex court asking it to declare drone attacks as war crimes.

According to published reports, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief on Wednesday filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking it to declare drone attacks as attacks on the sovereignty and defence of Pakistan and a war crime.

The petition, filed by Imran Khan’s lawyer Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, argues that the provisions of logistics and facilities to any foreign country or alliance for mass destruction through drone strikes inside the territory of Pakistan resulting into killings of Pakistani citizen is illegal, unwarranted, unconstitutional, in violation the United Nations Charter, universal declaration of human rights, international law as well as the international humanitarian law, a war crime and an attack on the sovereignty, solidarity, integrity and defence of Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s petition was filed today after a Lahore court Lahore cort ruled against drone strikes and called on the government to take appropriate measures to halt strikes by unmanned drones in Pakistan if they aren’t approved by Islamabad.

Federal authorities should take measures to stop drone attacks in Pakistan if they are carried out without formal approval, the court said on Wednesday. The court was responding to a petition that said drone strikes were a violation of national sovereignty.

Drone attacks have increased under the authority of U.S. President Barack Obama, notably inside Pakistan. The CIA, a civilian entity, said it is acting according to the code of law in carrying out the strikes.

Pakistan’s government publicly objects to the attacks, saying they violate its sovereignty. But it is widely thought there is a tacit agreement between the U.S. intelligence agency, the CIA, and Islamabad to allow such strikes, reported Voice of America on its website today.(http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/asia/Suspected-US-Missile-Strike-Kills-10-in-Pakistan-97396999.html)

Two missiles believed fired Tuesday by an unmanned drone struck a village in the tribal regions of Pakistan, killing militants including Hamza al-Jufi, an Egyptian allied with al-Qaida.

Aisam-Rohan Reach Wimbledon Quarter-Finals: Next Stop, Wagah

By Sehar Tariq for All Things Pakistan

Pakistan’s stellarly good-looking tennis champ Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi became the first Pakistani to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon when along with his Indian partner Rohan Bopannahe beat Lucas Lacko of Slovakia and Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine in straight sets in the Mens’ Double. Their straight set victory – 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2- in the Round of 16 now take them to the Mens’ Doubles Quarterfinals, and already place them in the top-8.

It was only two years ago that Aisam – who is Pakistan No. 1 and World No. 43 for Men’s Doubles –  became the first Pakistani to play at Wimbledon since 1976. Since then he has been steadily improving his game, including beating a doubles duo with Roger Federer in it last year. The news report in Dawn points out that “the Pakistani number one and world number 42 is a grass-court specialist and has been improving his performance at the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament in the last few years.”

But Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and his doubles partner Rohan Bopanna from India are also attracting a lot of attention for where they come from, and what they are doing together. The unlikely Indo-Pak pair have been playing as one team and they have been sporting tennis jackets that say “Stop War Start Tennis.” Now they have suggested a novel idea of a tennis match played at the Wagah border.

The world is not used to seeing India and Pakistan step onto any field as one team so the unlikely duo have been making headlines. And they are making full and good use of it by promoting the game of Tennis in the cricket dominated subcontinent and spreading the message of peace. Aisam and Rohan met at the age of 16 at a tennis camp and they have been good friends ever since. They are a good example of how friendship can overcome barriers or race, religion and nationality. While their international tennis playing status has allowed them to remain friends and see each other frequently, there are thousands of people on both sides of the border who long and yearn to see the people and places they once loved and knew as home but have been unable to see for over 60 years due to cruel visa regimes and heartless politicians who drive wedges deeper and wider between India and Pakistan for personal gain.

According to a report in the Guardian , the two tennis players want to play a tennis match at Wagah, the border separating India and Pakistan. The border will serve as the net. Aisam will play on the Indian side and Rohan will play on the Pakistani side of the border. I want very much for the two to win the Quarter-Finals at Wimbledon, but maybe even more than that I want to see them playing at Wagah Border Crossing!

The tennis stars are trying to turn this fantastic idea into reality. And at this point in time, I think that is exactly what the two countries need. Their performance at Wimbledon and the recent positive vibes coming from the governments as well as civil society in both India and Pakistan makes this a very good time to pursue this idea.

I don’t know much about tennis but I really want this match to happen! I will go to watch. And I promise to read up everything I can and ask anyone I can to help me understand the game better so I am prepared to watch the war of tennis at the border. And I’m sure a lot of other Pakistanis will too. As will many Indians. We all love a little bit of healthy competition with the Indians!

I don’t know how one goes about organizing a tennis match at an international border. But I wish I knew how to do it. So if any of you have ideas, please help.

I would like to see some Indo-Pak tennis and also some regional peace and good will. And while I watch this match, I will put aside my intensely competitive patriotic feelings and cheer loudly for Rahul Bopanna. So Rohan, you try to make this tennis match happen – and we the 170 million people of Pakistan will cheer you on with all our might!

As both Aisam and Rohan have been saying: Its time to “Stop War Start Tennis!”

U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan May Involve Greater Use of Special Operations Forces

By David S. Cloud and Julian E. Barnes for The Los Angeles Times

U.S. special operations troops in Afghanistan have stepped up a campaign to kill or capture insurgent leaders, senior U.S. officials say, an effort that began in March and is likely to expand as Army Gen. David H. Petraeus looks for ways to show progress.

Senior U.S. military officials said the raids by special operations troops have killed or captured 186 insurgent leaders and detained an additional 925 lower-level fighters in the last 110 days. That would mark a rare success for American troops in a war that has otherwise gone poorly in recent months.

The operations have been most effective in and around the southern city of Kandahar and in eastern Afghanistan, according to American military officials, who requested anonymity in discussing information that had not been released publicly, and outside analysts. Already, they said, there are signs in these areas that roadside bomb attacks have decreased and the Taliban control is weakening, as senior leaders are killed or captured.

A successful effort would support the contention made by Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials who are skeptical of the military strategy in Afghanistan: Special operations troops, with their small footprint and skill at tracking and killing the enemy, can be more effective than conventional forces in the difficult conflict the U.S. faces in that country.

Biden has argued for shrinking the U.S. effort and relying largely on special operations troops and airstrikes to disrupt the Taliban and Al Qaeda, officials say.

President Obama has sided so far with those who favor using large numbers of U.S. troops as part of a far-reaching counterinsurgency effort, a point that he reiterated last week in naming Petraeus to replace Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of the war in Afghanistan.

But if the special operations effort is the most successful element of the war effort, Biden and those who agree with him could be in a stronger position to argue for shrinking the U.S. military presence when the strategy is reexamined, perhaps as soon as the December review Obama has promised.

Supporters of the more limited strategy advocated by Biden believe special operations should be the main military effort in Afghanistan. Petraeus, however, argues that special operations troops are just one tool, albeit a highly effective one, in fighting an insurgency.

While leading the U.S. military force in Iraq, Petraeus advocated a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy aimed at combating militants with both special and conventional forces. He is expected to utilize the same strategy in Afghanistan.

Current and former Petraeus advisors also said the general will try to quickly reverse the perception that the Afghanistan war is going badly. When he appears before the Senate on Tuesday for a hearing on his nomination to lead the allied war effort in Afghanistan, he is likely to emphasize recent successes by special operations forces.

“Trumpeting the successes of ISAF [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s International Security Assistance Force] operations, Afghan operations, should be part of the strategy,” said Peter Mansoor, who served as Petraeus’ executive officer in Iraq. “The strategy is clearly to knock the Taliban back, but if you don’t show the world that is happening, what is the use?”

A senior military official in Afghanistan said the killings of leaders since March have reduced the effectiveness of the Taliban, making the militant movement less capable of threatening the Afghan population.

Officials did not release the list of 186 insurgent leaders they say have been killed since March. Last week, however, they did name two insurgent leaders slain last month in Kandahar.

In eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. has been trying to take out key commanders in the Haqqani network, a Taliban-aligned insurgency that maintains a safe haven in Pakistan, said Jeffrey Dressler, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

“We have seen over the last four weeks an increase in special operation maneuvers,” Dressler said. “And it is having a significant impact on the Haqqani network’s ability to operate.”

But Haqqani fighters still are able to use their base in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region to try and mount suicide bombings across the border in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and has been linked to several recent attacks, including a mortar barrage that disrupted a peace conference convened by Afghan President Hamid Karzai this month.

U.S. officials hope that continued special operations raids against insurgent leaders will encourage lower-level followers to lay down their arms and reconcile with the government in Kabul.

Skeptics of the administration’s overall strategy see the results of the special operations campaign as a powerful argument for shifting away from the counterinsurgency campaign crafted by McChrystal toward the strategy advocated by Biden.

“This is a great opportunity to reconsider the direction of the strategy and move it more towards what is showing some success, the strategy Vice President Biden advocated from the beginning,” said Charles J. Dunlap, a retired Air Force major general who writes extensively on counterinsurgency strategies.

A plan focused first on killing insurgent leaders will ensure that the U.S. does not have to remain in Afghanistan for decades building up the central government, he said.

But advocates of the current strategy said special operations forces alone can disrupt insurgent movements, hindering their advance, but are not enough to stabilize a country and help it take charge of its own security.

“There is a misconception that in counterinsurgency there isn’t any sort of assassinations or special operation forces doing targeted killings,” Dressler said. “As we have seen from Iraq, that is not the case. It is a critical part of counterinsurgency.”

World Cup 2010: Football’s India vs Pakistan

By Paul Beckett for The Wall Street Journal

It is standard for newspapers, including ours, to include the following sentence in almost any story about India and Pakistan: The two countries have fought three wars since Independence in 1947. You do not read the same about England and Germany: The two countries have fought two World Wars since 1914. Except at times like this.

For a series of reasons, part historical part psychological, there may be no match up in soccer that is quite equivalent to England versus Germany. Not for the quality of the football although Germany last night ran over England at the FIFA World Cup 2010 with some of the best football of the tournament so far, winning 4-1. Germany now advances to the quarter finals.

Nor does the significance of the game come from the fervor of football in each country. Yes, both are football crazy but there are plenty of countries that take football as seriously, if not more so, as these two do.

But there may be no bigger game when it comes to two nations who view each other as former enemies, now allies and rivals. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any other sporting event where two major nations weave so much national drama into men running around on grass, with the possible exception of when India and Pakistan play at cricket.

Why is this so?

India and Pakistan may have been separated at birth, but England and Germany have their own shared attributes (which certainly don’t get any attention at times like this): They are both northern, beer-drinking, sausage-eating nations; Britain’s current monarchy, the House of Windsor, has German origins; they may be more alike as nations than England is when compared with any nation outside the British Isles (just don;t tell the English.)

Of course, the situations have as many similarities as they do differences. England and Germany are friendly nations (despite what you read in the British press at times like this) bound together by the European Union and NATO. “It is high time to forget (World War II),” said Germany coach Joachim Loew, according to the Associated Press. “This is year 2010, we are all in the EU and it’s highly inappropriate to raise this subject.”

India and Pakistan, meanwhile, are caught in a diplomatic netherworld between war and peace that only now is showing signs of some thaw.

England and Germany, overall, have prospered in the past few decades, even if Germany’s industrial might means its economy has eclipsed that of the U.K.; India has prospered while Pakistan has struggled as the two nations took dramatically different courses, politically and economically, post Independence.

Yet there are times when sport comes to represent something that defines relations, seizes national imaginations and confirms dearly-held stereotypes, and that is the case with England versus Germany at football and India versus Pakistan at cricket.

It is not that the fans of either team hate the fans of the other (despite what you read in the British press at times like this.) It is a strange mix of respect, rivalry, historic ties, insecurities, bluster, hope, fear and a desire to read deeper meaning in a game of football that makes these games so compelling.

It is a time when entire nations stop to watch. When everything else is eclipsed in favor of one game and people want to think they are watching something that will go down in the history books, a marker of where they were when.

“It’s insane, the roads are completely empty here right now,” an Indian friend said in a text from London before yesterday’s kick-off. When Miroslav Klose in the 20th minute pierced a sloppy England defense to score, he followed with: “And the pub goes quiet.”

England also got the required controversial referee’s decision that will let it, as a nation, worry over its beads for years: a shot by Frank Lampard that clearly bounced over the line but which was not allowed as a goal.

That would have equalized the game at 2-2 and who knows what would have happened next, mate, it would have done the England team no end of good mate, you hear what I’m saying, it’s all about the psychology and that was devastating for the lads, just devastating wasn’t it and I’m not saying that Germany didn’t outplay them, mate, but you’re never gonna win when the ref’s an #%^& and mine’s a pint of lager.

“Fabio’s flops are battered in Bloemfontein,” said The Sun, a reference to English manager Fabio Capello. The headline ran on top of a picture of Frank Lampard realizing he hadn’t scored. “Three Lions Muller-ed by Germans…and the Ref,” said The Mirror, a reference to Thomas Muller, who scored goals three and four for Germany and the referee. Imagine an umpiring decision that incorrectly dismisssed Sachin Tendulkar from the crease against Pakistan.

This was a matchup that probably carried greater weight for England than for Germany, even before the opening whistle. Germany has had the better of England in big tournaments in the last several years. Germany also took a famously young side to these World Cup finals; many of them will return four years from now.

Not so England. Only are handful – and not including Steven Gerrard, John Terry, or Mr. Lampard – are likely to have a shot at Brazil 2014.

And now England can sink into its other national sport: getting depressed over the underperformance of its football team. As my friend in London texted: “All you hear is the german girl laughing. Totally quiet otherwise. This is amazing.” Not long after, he added: “This really tortured drunk guy screamed at Rooney at that last corner. And then put his head in his hands. Awesome.”

Pakistan Set to Ban More Web Blasphemy and Monitor Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, Bing…

By Rik Myslewski for The Register

Pakistan announced Friday that it will monitor Yahoo, Google, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Amazon, and Bing, and will block links and content that it deems anti-Islamic.

“If any particular link with offensive content appears on these websites, the [link] shall be blocked immediately without disturbing the main website,” Pakistan Telecommunication Authority spokesman Khurram Mehran told the Associated Press.

In addition to the link-blockage of the seven named high-traffic sites, Pakistan web-watchers have also completely blocked 17 lesser sites, including, for example, Islam Exposed, which includes links to blaspheming articles such as “Muhammad, A Symbol Of Terrorism” along with over-the-top posts such as “Joe Lieberman Spews Excrement!”.

The monitoring and blockage comes in response to a court order, as did Pakistan’s recent ban on Facebook due to its hosting of an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page — a page that was subsequently taken down, although Facebook officials claimed to have had no part in its removal.

The complete banning of Facebook was lifted after censorship official Najibullah Malik was satisfied that the site had lifted all all “sacrilegious material”.

In addition to the Facebook ban, Pakistan last month blocked, then unblocked YouTube for depictions of the prophet Muhammad, a practice that many Muslims find blasphemous.

“We decided that this kind of information was going to hurt people’s feelings. We have directed the [Pakistan Telecommunications Authority] to block all and any sites that display those caricatures,” Malik told The Guardian at the time of the YouTube ban.

The Guardian, reporting on internal controversy surrounding the YouTube ban, quoted one Pakistani tweeter as tweeting: “Way to go assholes. Why don’t you just cut us off from the internet and get it over and done with.”

Despite lifting the Facebook and YouTube bans, Pakistan hasn’t given up its censorship efforts. “At least 800 individual web pages and URLs have been blocked since the government’s orders to shut Facebook and YouTube,” Wahaj us Siraj, a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), told AFP.

In perhaps the most bizarre development in the country’s campaign to remove blasphemy from its interwebs, Pakistan’s Deputy Attorney General recently launched a criminal investigation against Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his role in the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” dust-up.

Although no charges have been filed in the case, the Pakistani newspaper The News International reports that the law that prompted the Zuckerberg investigation, Section 295-C of the penal code, carries with it penalties of “death, or imprisonment for life”.

Not all Pakistanis, of course, are in support of their government’s draconian crackdown on what Section 295-C refers to as “Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet … either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly.”

“It’s absurd,” journalist and filmmaker Hasan Zaidi told The Guardian. “They haven’t thought this through. The logical conclusion is that we should shut our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and ban the entire internet, even email.”

Nadeem Paracha of Pakistan’s Dawn news service wrote in his “Smokers’ Corner” column: “By continuing to tolerate a psychotic faith-based fringe for so long, we have actually helped it metamorphose into an unrestrained monster that has zero tolerance for what we think or do.” The problem, Paracha told The Guardian, is that “Anything to do with Allah, or the prophet, and everyone keeps quiet.”

And it must also be noted that the more extreme members of the Muslim world aren’t alone in taking angry offense at what they perceive as “blasphemy”. Remember, for example, the hue-and-cry that resulted from artist Chris Ofili’s elephant dung–encrusted The Holy Virgin Mary, or the attacks on the US National Endowment for the Arts over works such as Andres Serrano’s photograph, Piss Christ. But, to be fair, we must also note that neither Ofili nor Serrano were subject to a possible government-sanctioned death sentence.

–Editor’s note for Pakistanis for Peace- A true  democracy should  protect freedom of speech, no matter how hateful and unpleasant. Banning and censoring content on the interent is the action of communist states, dictatorships, monarchies or theocratic nations like Iran, not a democracy that Pakistan aims to be. There are certainly bigger problems in Pakistan than people visiting websites that are disparaging to Islam.  This is a clear indication of the power in the society still held by the mullahs~

Record Number of Indian-Americans Seeking Office

By Jesse Washington

Meet Reshma, Surya, Manan, Raj, Ami, Ravi, Nimrata and Kamala — a new wave of Indian-American politicians. At least eight children of Indian immigrants are running for Congress or statewide office, the most ever. The star of this trend is Nikki Haley, born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, who is favored to win the election for governor of South Carolina.

Indian heritage is where Haley’s similarity with the other candidates seems to end. She is the only Republican, the only one who has been widely mistaken for a white woman, the only one who has been accused of abandoning her heritage for converting from the Sikh faith to Christianity.

Yet when Haley’s motives are questioned and some suggest Indians must become less “foreign” to get elected, many of these new candidates are quick to ask: Who are we to judge the mashup of American ambition with an ancient culture?

Manan Trivedi, a doctor and Iraq war veteran who recently won a Democratic primary for Congress in eastern Pennsylvania, said he did not view his ethnicity as a handicap: “The American electorate is smarter than that.”

He called criticism of Haley’s name and religion unfounded. “Nikki Haley and (Republican Louisiana Gov.) Bobby Jindal are on the wrong side, but they worked their butts off, they had the bonafides to get the votes, and I think it had so much more to do with their work ethic than the fact that they may have changed their names and adopted a different religion.”

Jindal was elected the nation’s first Indian governor in 2007, at age 36. Named Piyush at birth, he told his Hindu parents when he was 4 that he wanted to be called Bobby, like the “Brady Bunch” boy. He converted to Catholicism as a teenager.

As Jindal’s star rose, the meaning of his assimilation drew much scrutiny. Many people outside South Carolina only learned Haley is Indian after a fellow South Carolina lawmaker used a racial epithet to describe her. Now her choice of names, marriage to a white man and Methodist conversion is raising similar questions.

Christianity is a more critical issue for white Republicans than other groups — could a Hindu who worships multiple gods, or a turbaned Sikh who doesn’t cut his hair, survive a statewide Republican primary in the Bible Belt?

Vidya Pradhan, editor of India Currents magazine, thinks not.

Haley and Jindal “were really ambitious about their politics, and they could not do it being Hindu or their old religion,” Pradhan said. “I do think it was a political move. They felt that not being a Christian would hurt them.”

Haley and Jindal declined to be interviewed for this story. But J. Ashwin Madia, a Minnesota Democrat who lost a congressional election in 2008 and is a follower of the Jain religion, says their faith is irrelevant.

“They can choose to be called what they want to be called, they can worship what they want to worship,” said Madia, a board member of the Indian American Leadership Initiative, which supports Democratic candidates. “I don’t think being Indian-American is this thing they need to strive for or meet some sort of purity test. They are finding the right balance for themselves.”

Madia stopped using his first name, Jigar, when he joined the Marines about age 22. “I’m not running from something or ashamed of it. I’m proud of my name and where I come from. But I was constantly explaining it or hearing it mangled.”

Barack Hussein Obama, known as Barry in his younger days, proved that an unusual name was not an insurmountable political barrier. Some Indian politicians seem to be following his blueprint as they embrace their Indian names while describing their faith in voters’ lack of bias.

“This campaign is all about vision and values and policies,” said Raj Goyle, who is battling for the Democratic congressional nomination in his hometown of Wichita, Kan. “I don’t spend time thinking about differences, I think about ways that Kansans can come together.”

Goyle worships at an Indian temple. His first name is Rajeev, but he has gone by Raj since childhood. In 2006, he became the first Indian-American elected to the Kansas Legislature and the first Democrat to hold his statehouse district.

He said he doesn’t worry about appearing more American or more Indian. “I am who I am, I’m proud of my background and what I’ve accomplished and my family. Kansas voters absolutely will choose the best candidate based on the merits.”

Indians began immigrating to the United States in large numbers about 50 years ago, but just two have been elected to Congress: Dalip Singh Saund in 1956 and Jindal, who entered Congress in 2004 and became governor midway through his second term.

In 2008, Madia says he was the only major Indian-American candidate for Congress. Today there are six, including Goyle and Trivedi. Ami Bera in California, Ravi Sangisetty in Louisiana and Reshma Saujani in New York face upcoming primaries, and Surya Yalamanchili won a primary in Ohio.

In California, Kamala Harris, the child of an Indian mother and black father, won the Democratic nomination for state attorney general and is favored to win the election this fall. Harris was raised in a black neighborhood, attended black churches and graduated from historically black Howard University. She also worshipped in her mother’s Hindu temple and has made many visits to her family in India.

“Running for office, you have to simplify or condense or put into pre-existing boxes who you are,” Harris said, “so people will have a sense of you based on what they easily and quickly identify.”

“I grew up in a family where I had a strong sense of my culture and who I am, and I never felt insecure about that at all,” she said. “Slowly, perhaps, with each of us taking on more prominent positions, people will start to understand the diversity of the people.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s  Note 11/03/2010We at Pakistanis for Peace want to congratulate Nikki Haley for winning the governorship of South Carolina in a very tough and hard fought race. Both as an American as well as ethnically being a person from the Indian subcontinent aka Desi, we are proud to see her elected to serve as governor, despite disagreeing with her party on many issues.

Her rise as well as that of Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to the top of American politics is a source of pride for all Desis, be they Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, etc. We invite people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds to join our Facebook group at Pakistanis for Peace and strengthen those who support peace between India and Pakistan and around the world. To join us on Facebook, click:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=37793413510&v=wall

At Talks, Pakistan, India Close the Gap

By Anita Joshua for The Hindu

Conscious of the historical baggage, but unwilling to be burdened by it, India and Pakistan on Thursday inched closer to each other during the Foreign Secretary-level talks here and both sides held out the possibility of some tangible outcome after the July 15 ministerial engagement.

However, both Foreign Secretaries refused to be drawn into chalking out a road map or identifying goal posts. “There is a constituency for peace in both countries, and we should avoid stock phrases like road map,” Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said at a “joint press stakeout” here, shortly after spending a greater part of the morning with her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir.

The talks, according to Mr. Bashir, began as an exploratory venture, but “after this round, we are much more optimistic of good prospects at the Foreign Ministers meeting.” He summed up the talks as a “good essay in mutual comprehension,” a phrase he admitted to have borrowed from Ms. Rao.

Optimism apart, both conceded that this would be a protracted process that may not yield quick results, but decided to work on the doables in the interim. As to how they proposed to insulate the process from another freeze in relations in the eventuality of a flashpoint, Ms. Rao said this would also be a subject of discussion.

The first indication of some forward movement came with the announcement of the “joint press stakeout” soon after the talks had wound up, and the Foreign Secretaries were breaking bread in the Foreign Office.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Bashir said the two sides decided to work towards restoring confidence and building trust to make it possible for a comprehensive, sustained and substantial dialogue.

Speaking in a similar vein, Ms. Rao described the talks as forward-looking with both sides trying to understand each other’s position. “We reflected on the modalities for restoring trust and confidence to pave the way for a comprehensive, sustained and meaningful dialogue in all areas. We have agreed that dialogue is the best way forward.”

Asked whether terrorism was discussed, she said both sides agreed that terrorists must be denied the opportunity to derail the process of dialogue while pointing out that Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had made an important commitment when he told his counterpart that efforts would be made to ensure that the Pakistani soil was not used for attacks on India.

Unlike in the past, when the two countries appeared to be speaking at cross purposes, this time the Foreign Secretaries seemed to complement each other.

If Ms. Rao deftly side-stepped a leading question on India’s reluctance to continue with composite dialogue by saying there was no issue over nomenclature, Mr. Bashir returned the favour by echoing this remark and refusing to be drawn into commenting on why Pakistan was not raising the issue of Indian-sponsored terrorism in Balochistan.

Instead, he broad-brushed the issue, stating that terrorism impacted Pakistan and was a concern to the region and the world. “Essentially, we have agreed to move from the rhetoric to the ways and means of addressing these concerns,” he said.

Aqsa Parvez: A Canadian Tragedy Lost in ‘Culture Talk’

By Uzma Shakir for Rabble Blogs

Aqsa Parvez is a “Canadian” tragedy — not an immigrant tragedy, or a Pakistani tragedy, or indeed a Muslim tragedy. In her formative years, Aqsa was raised in Canada; oppressed by her pathologically patriarchal father in Canada; failed by the family, the friends of the family, the education system, the student counseling services, the social service sector — in Canada. To make her tragedy a case of “these immigrant types with their medieval cultures” is to insult her memory and even worse learn nothing from it so that we can prevent it from happening again in the future — in Canada.

Like Aqsa and her father I was born and raised in Pakistan. Like Aqsa I grew up in a devout Muslim household. Unlike Aqsa’s father I came here as an immigrant while he came as a refugee. Like Aqsa and her father I was also raised with the notion of “honour.” In my upbringing there was honour in respecting your elders, there was honour in treating the women in the family with respect, there was honour in making sure that every child in the family had good education, there was honour in allowing your children (men or women) to make choices with regards to where they wanted to go for education or who they wanted to marry. My father and mother made decisions in the family by mutual dialogue and consent. As the only female child in the family and the youngest, my parents spent more money on my education than that of my brothers. And yes I had an arranged marriage — I arranged it myself, thank you. In fact, what was considered dishonourable in my family was to use physical force against women and children (my father used to say to my brothers “never raise your hand”), for adults to lie or cheat, to hurt someone and than justify it, and a particularly heinous act was to take a life — since, according to my dad, only God had that power. In fact, everyone I know in Pakistan or in Canada who is of Pakistani origin have similar values and family trajectories. Of course, my reality is very much conditioned by my family class background, my urban location, my family’s personal history, my parents’ education levels, and the socio-political context in which we grew up. So the question arises: who is the norm here and who is the exception? Who gets to define “the” Pakistani culture?

Neither Aqsa’s father nor I represent “the” Pakistani culture. We both experience it differently given our different locations of class, place, gender, education, family history etc. Mohammad Parvez may have suffered the same so-called culture shock in Lahore or Karachi as he is supposed to do in Toronto and Canada. Both Aqsa’s father and I immigrated to Canada but even our personal histories here are almost polar opposites — just like they were in Pakistan. Once again this is conditioned by our class, place, education, gender but this time it is further compounded by level of accessibility to the mainstream society in terms of language, economic opportunity, social inclusion and ultimately level of perceived cultural threat.

While I am lauded and praised by the mainstream society in Canada because I am “familiar” (probably the inevitable intimacy of bourgeois affinity), Mohammed Parvez was left in his own alienated world as the undesirable “other” facing what must have appeared to him to be a hostile world. Often enough Canadian experience is not just one of sampling diversity of cultural values but rather of hostile mainstream values actively undermining your perceived values as a cultural inferior. In my case, I can deal with this cultural assault because I have a voice in the public sphere and also I feel in control of my life because I have access to adequate financial, social, political and familial capital, while his control only went so far as his immediate family — and he exercised it to its grave end. However, to consider him to be more “cultural” than me, simply because he seems to exemplify what appears to be a “gaping divide” between the so-called traditional values and Western values, is patently absurd. We were divided about our notions of culture long before we came here because there is no neat little box that contains Pakistani monolithic cultural values that either of us can claim to be “authentic.”

Had we met in Pakistan he would have found me too urban and not Pakistani enough and I would have written him off as a fossil of entrenched feudalism and not Pakistani enough. However, if we meet here, he will find me to be Canadian and himself to be a Pakistani — a distinction encouraged by the mainstream notions of “our” and “their” values. But actually we are both the same — Canadian and Pakistani at the same time. This process of ‘othering’, denial and identity distinctions have more to do with Canada and immigrant experience here than with what might be or not be Pakistani culture. Over the years our experience of culture has changed, as has the Canadian society. So to turn this into either a case of “in our culture girls must obey their fathers” as an assertion of a simplistic fact by the Pakistani Canadian community or “he can’t handle our freedoms” as portrayed by the mainstream media is the worst form of myopia and chauvinism.

 These factors are critically important to understand because neither Aqsa’s father nor I represent either Pakistani or indeed immigrant “culture” but rather are a reflection of how our individual histories and personal interactions with the Canadian society shape our actions and responses — including our understanding of “culture.” However, ultimately Aqsa’s tragedy is about her father as an individual with his own pathological and uncontrolled desire for power and his own twisted notions of justifying his pathology through trumped up notions of “honour” and “shame.” To my mind the real dishonour and shame is to treat women and children as your personal property and not as equal members of society. The real dishonour and shame is to live in patriarchal societies where men exercise disproportionate power over women both personally and structurally — be it Pakistan or Canada. The real dishonour and shame is to brush off our collective responsibility and our institutional failures and treat a Canadian child’s tragedy as “their” problem or even worse our problem for allowing them to come here in the first place.

— Uzma Shakir is a community-based researcher, advocate, activist. She is the past Executive Director of Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). She has worked as a teacher, journalist and researcher. She blogs at www.rabble.ca

The Education System of Pakistan- Past, Present, and Future

By Nagwa Malik for Pakistanis for Peace

Pakistan, when it appeared on the world map was referred to  by the Muslims of India as the “Land of Dreams”—not just because of the ideology behind its creation, nor by the method of its creation, both of which were unique in world history, but also because of the untiring work put out immediately by the masses and the leaders together making the world sit up, especially China, Korea and Singapore who, inspired by the fast “overnight” progress Pakistan was making, decided to follow our footsteps and are now farther ahead of us.

The ideology penned down and explained at length by Dr. Allama Iqbal created a wave. This two-nation theory, once accepted by the practical renowned barrister Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was put to effect, and Pakistan was born in the name of religion (Gandhi had tried a truce with Jinnah, agreeing to divide the country as brothers divide property, but not in the name of religion. Jinnah maintained the ideology of Islam and the two-nation theory, refusing Gandhi’s offer), and it was born constitutionally. The people were so excited over the power to make their future, that no one lost time or drive to get down to it. Pakistan made the Muslim world sit up again through its people’s drive, sincerity, talent and growing renown in the field of science, following in the footsteps of  many Muslim scholars and doctors that first brought science in an organized manner to that part of the world.

Have we forgotten that Pakistan already? Has it been so long since Pakistan last made an impression? Have we forgotten that not less than 20 years ago royal families from around the world, especially the Arab and African world sent their sons to study in our schools and colleges and universities? Have forgotten the massive immigration to this “Land of Hope” from all over Asia whenever people wanted to live in peace and prosperity? Pakistan was called the “Country of Doctors and Engineers” in the West and when there was an educational boom in African countries, amongst the most wanted and accepted educationists were those from Pakistan.

Even today most of the engineers in America and Europe, securing good positions in their jobs are from Pakistan, and even today most of the competent doctors we find in the West are from Pakistan—difference is, today nobody seems to note that fact. Nobody seems to count it anymore.

In the late sixties, especially in 1969, articles were written on the youth of Britain referring them to be probably the best generation yet, where strings of charity and community works were detailed and even there Pakistani youths were mentioned amongst the immigrants that added to community work, for example the Pakistani boys in Southall, Middlesex, going shopping for elderly people, and in the process learning colloquial English.

What happened then? Where did all the disillusionment begin? Why did all this positive images of Pakistan suddenly allow itself to flicker and burn out? Why did the education system fail us not more than ten years ago? We know that even today our education quality is higher compared to the quality abroad—then why do we choose to go abroad for education? Because we have lost the standard, not the quality, of educational system. The system has broken the backbone of our educational sectors. We have fake degrees allotted, we have references, and we have papers switched. Nothing is wrong with the actual standard of our education even now—but then again, what good is quality education when we cannot benefit from it? Schooling till Matric level  is compulsory and reportedly free—but nobody avails himself of the government schools because there are no teachers, and despite the fact that it is claimed free, it is not: payment of books, of a lot of miscellaneous stuff add up to a normal tuition fee anyway.

Only the colleges and professional universities are managing to maintain their merit—then again, the system has penetrated them so it doesn’t matter either way.

What went wrong was the generations before us, especially the previous two, lost the meaning of Pakistan. They indulged in materialism, selfishness and corruption. They were greedy children who ate everything that was cooked, and plucked the unripe ventures. The youth today is no less than the generation that made Pakistan. This present generation has been given nothing to run. It has to build; it has to start from scratch. The problem is this generation isn’t given the tools or the chance to start anything. If given even the slightest chance, the youth of today is capable and has the loyalty and the drive to reach Pakistan to its heights with the same overnight progress that was made by the creators of Pakistan.

This generation needs to remember the glory days of Pakistan and to gain confidence in itself rather than sit glumly and state, “What can we do”. A nation of 160 million cannot do anything? That is not possible. Our ancestors made their chance to make Pakistan; they were not given any chance. Our youth needs to pick itself up and march forward, remove all the dead wood (the old generation that still sits in power even after corrupting the very soil of our country) and begin afresh.  To quote Adlai Stevenson, “Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public purse.” And to further quote a solution, “To fulfil a dream, to be allowed to sweat over lonely labour, to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy” (Bette Davis). Everything will be rendered useless without honesty. Our country, our individuals are corrupted to the core so that lying is as breathing: we must search our souls and bring back our lost integrity through honesty: the first and foremost rule in Islam.

A country that produced success stories in its diaspora all over the world in such a short space of time is a country worth working hard for, worth looking into. It is a promising country with a promising past and an equally promising future, if only we take the step.

We haven’t lost anything yet. We can relive the glory of our small but so rich country. We ourselves are enough to turn things around. We don’t need help from anyone. In order to get things done properly, one must do them oneself. Dependency results in and breeds despondency, as we have experienced these past years.

We only need confidence and unity. We are already patriots, of that there is no doubt. We are united in our hearts, but we lack the confidence of success, but without toil how can one know? It is better to try rather than to wonder for the rest of our lives how things could or would be had we taken action. It’s only been 60 years, and this is a small length of time for the country is still young and all the mistakes have been made, so there is no more mistake left to make—that is an encouraging factor. Pakistan can still shine again as it did, in education, in sports, in talent, in technology and in every other profession imaginable. We were a nation that inspired, what’s to stop us from inspiring again? It is just a matter of cause and effect as it has always been.

Indian and Pakistani Players Join Forces to Promote Peace Through Wimbledon

Valerie Amant for Peace-Support.org

Lotto spokesmen Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, Indian and Pakistani respectively, have decided to join forces as a doubles team at Wimbledon to help promote peace.

The two players, along with Peace and Sport, the Monaco-based and neutral international organization that works towards bringing together divided communities worldwide by encouraging dialogue and reconciliation through sport, have decided to team up at this prestigious sporting event, in order to help maintain and promote peace in their neighbouring countries.

Together with their technical supplier, Lotto Sport Italia, Bopanna and Qureshi have decided to promote this initiative by designing specially made t-shirts and sweatshirts with the high impact slogan “Stop War, Start Tennis”. The t-shirt will be worn during training sessions, whilst the sweatshirt will be used when entering the court before play.

Rohan, currently ranked 54th doubles player in the world, and Aisam, currently ranked 46th, have been friends for over ten years and have teamed up successfully for the last three years. Their respective countries have lived in a situation of unease and tension in the region of Kashmir since it won its independence from the British Empire in 1947. Peace and Sport would like to emphasise how much sport unites, as highlighted by the two players’ partnership.

The two tennis stars took the initiative to promote peace through sport after having noticed that communities from both countries forget hostility when they support them in international competitions. Indeed, during the first ATP tournament in Mumbai in 2007, Pakistani flags were waved inside the stadium during the final.

With the message “Stop War! Start Tennis!” Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi remind us that sport is a universal language that facilitates dialogue, going beyond political, racial, religious, ethnical and social differences.

Joël Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, said: « Rohan and Aisam are big stars in their respective countries. Their story of friendship through sport is a real inspiration for youngsters. By transmitting a message of peace, they hope to change the mentalities and attitudes in India and Pakistan as well as other areas of the world destabilized by conflict. We are extremely proud to support this message that will benefit from the extensive publicity that Wimbledon attracts.

Alberto Fraticelli Marketing & Communications Director, from Lotto Sport Italia adds : « It is with great pleasure and good will that we decided to develop this initiative, in fact we already support “FreeFromLaces”, the movement that through blogs, forums, social networks, music and video, collects and proposes to the entire web community content and ideas that invite the user to reflect and ponder on “laces” that limit our daily routine: those personal, mental, virtual, social, cultural and physical ties that often seem impossible to untie. Through their initiative and personal backgrounds, Aisam et Rohan are perfect incarnations of this philosophy; thanks to sport we can rise above the hate and prejudice that condemns mankind to perpetual conflict, and we are extremely proud to have international representation of our brand, through players like Rohan and Aisam.”

BP Stands for Let’s Blame Palin for the Recklessness of “Drill Baby Drill!”

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

As the BP Oil Spill passes into its 61st day, I began to wonder what the BP in British Petroleum could also stand for. Here is a list of things that I and some friends have come up with that could be the abbreviation for BP.

BP= Bad Planning- The Bad Planning and lack of a coherent emergency response in the event of a rig collapse such as the one that caused the BP Oil Spill and has made a bad situation worse as the company, now still in charge 61 days after a disaster of their own causing, struggles to find a way to stop the leak.

BP= Barely Plugging- More than 6 weeks after the spill started, BP was able to attach a pipe to the well at the bottom of the ocean and is able to siphon 250,000 gallons a day (one tenth of what is estimated to be spilling into the Gulf each day). This clearly is not a solution as this is Barely Plugging the oil spill that continues to poison the ocean and all that live in and around it.

BP= Beach Pollution= See also Bathing Prohibited. The oil from the spill has caused Beach Pollution in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Florida. The loss of revenue by the towns and cities in these states that would normally welcome millions of tourists in the summer months is going to have a very damaging effect to many of these states already reeling from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

BP= Bankrupt Probably- Many experts are saying that BP will not be able to financially survive this disaster and most likely will go Bankrupt Probably. If that happens, will the American public foot the bill as we did for the Wall Street failure? One thing is for sure, the company is looking at a very bleak future both criminally and financially.

BP= Be Prepared- This disaster shows the lack of planning for events such as these and underscores the reason for oil companies as well as government agencies such as the Minerals Management Service to Be Prepared in the event of disasters such as this spill. A lack of an emergency plan both by BP and the government is also at fault for making this disaster as bad as it has been.

BP= Bad People- Are the executives at BP Bad People for being at the helm of a company that caused the greatest disaster in history and worse yet for calling the residents of the Gulf “Small People” and showing great indifference to the plight of the residents of the Gulf and to the American public?

BP= Barren Planet- The oil spill is causing irreparable damage to the environment and to the ecology of the ocean and its long term effects are unknown by scientists at this point. One thing is for sure, water is the source of all life on the planet and as we kill the ocean and all living creatures in it with this oil spill, we are guaranteeing ourselves future where life will be hard to sustain on a Barren Planet.

BP= Behemoth Plume- The oil spill has created a Behemoth Plume that is at least 15 miles wide and 3 miles long and growing. This plume is a dead zone with no oxygen and a place where no living creature can survive. As the oil continues to flow and goes unchecked the size of this plume grows and there are reports of second and third oil plumes now forming in the Gulf.

BP= Beyond Pathetic- 61 days and counting and the leak has not been stopped. This is beyond pathetic for BP, and the government’s oversight departments.

BP= Be Patient- How long can the people of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the American people wait for BP and the government to fix the spill and stop the oil leak, not to mention clean up the gulf? And is that even a possibility?

BP= Barely Progressing- 61 days into the oil spill and it seems we are Barely Progressing as oil continues to spill into the Gulf at alarming rates.

BP= Bad Publicity- No amount of new splashy television or print advertisements will replace the Bad Publicity that the company of BP has received. Rarely in the annals of corporate history has a company ever faced such a public relations nightmare as has BP and it will be interesting to see if it ever recovers from this or ends up going under, much like the rig.

BP= Big Problems- The BP Oil Spill is perhaps the biggest of the Big Problems facing the Obama administration and the American people. The economy can be eventually fixed, the housing prices will come back up, people will eventually get rehired, wars will eventually be won or lost and will come to an end, but an ecological and environmental disaster such as this spill we will never fully recover from as a planet.

BP= Birds Poisoned- Tens of thousands of Birds Poisoned as a result of the oil spill. Many birds and animals that are unique to the Gulf region are feared irreparably harmed due to the disaster.

BP= Black Plague- The oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico and continuing to do so each day means that this spill has become the Black Plague of death not just to the people and the animals of the area, but indeed quite possibly for marine life and perhaps eventually for the planet as no one knows the true effects of this unprecedented disaster on the ecology of the planet.

BP= Broken Pipeline- The Broken Pipeline at the bottom of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spill as much as an estimated 1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons of oil a DAY into the ocean!

BP= Blood Pressure- Blood pressure was further raised for those living along the Gulf of Mexico as the administration imposed a ban on all new offshore oil drilling and exploration. This has caused many workers in the area who rely on this industry to feed their families, to be laid off by other oil companies as the government assesses the situation and the safety of offshore drilling.

BP= Boiling Point= The Americans affected by the oil spill that rely on the fishing, boating, and tourism in the area have long reached a Boling Point in their patience with BP and with the government’s response.

BP= Better Prosecute= Attorney General Eric Holder is assigned by President Obama to investigate the BP Oil Spill and into criminal charges against the company are now a certainty, especially given the deaths of 11 workers in the explosion that caused the Deepwater Horizon rig to collapse and start the spill on April 20.

BP= Black Pelicans= Pictures of Black Pelicans and other animals as environmentalists worry that number of dead and affected animals is in the tens of thousands. The animal and sea creatures of the Gulf region are expected to be devastated for many years to come.

BP= Billions Paid- This stands for the billions and billions of dollars already paid by BP and the untold billions that will be paid by them in the future and possibly all of us tax payers if the company goes under and becomes bankrupt

BP= Barack’s Problem- This disaster has become President Barack Obama’s Katrina. But at least with hurricane Katrina, the calamity passed within hours and the government started the clean up and rescue, whereas with the BP Oil Spill this is a disaster that keeps on spewing and keeps on polluting as today is the 61st day the spill has continued to flow. How he has handled himself at the onset of this disaster and its continuation could be the defining moment of his presidency as this is squarely Barack’s Problem, unlike the economy, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which all he inherited.

BP=Bankruptcy Protection- See also bankruptcy probably. The amount of damages and compensation that BP will have to pay out in claims and also in penalties could wipe out the company and it may have to seek Bankruptcy Protection.

BP= Brand Problems- See also Bad Publicity. The BP brand has been damaged forever and no amount of advertisements will change the public image and Brand Problems that the spill has created for BP.

BP= Bleeding Planet- The unchecked, endless, and prolonged seepage of the thick crude oil into the ocean is causing death to millions of wildlife and is making earth a Bleeding Planet which one wonders whether we can survive this catastrophe.

BP= Bathing Prohibited- See also Beach Polluted, hence bathing prohibited. And if no beach visitors, no revenue for many states like Florida from tourists and many other places in and around the Gulf of Mexico that depend on the billions of revenue dollars from the fishing and tourism.

BP= Blame Palin- Probably one of the most poignant points of this article and one ignored by major media publications is that there is a correlation to the BP Oil Spill and Palin’s “Drill Baby Drill” slogan during the presidential campaign. Her proposals of allowing the oil drilling everywhere during the 2008 campaign, including in some of America’s most pristine places such as Alaska, galvanized the oil industry and revved them up into a “Gold Rush” mentality where short cuts were taken and oversight lost by the government in a greedy push for more oil saw sloppiness and Bad Planning cause the worst environmentalist disaster in history.

BP= Bye Planet- If the oil spill continues to go on and spill up to 2.5 million gallons into the ocean each day, how long before it engulfs all our oceans and kills a large portion of plant and animal life on the planet? Would that mean the end of the world when that happens?

So in conclusion, BP stands for The Black Plague, because of the Bad Planning,  now let’s Blame Palin, for the Beach Pollution casued by Broken Pipes, with Billions Paid, now it’s Beyond Pathetic, as we’re Barely Progressing, while Black Pelicans, become Barack’s Problem, and the Behomoth Plumes, mean bye Bye Planet!

Pakistan Rejects Allegations of Taliban Ties

As reported by CNN

Pakistani officials Sunday rejected allegations that their country’s powerful intelligence agency still supports the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents after a paper from a Harvard academic accused the agency of continued links to the rebels.

The powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency does not “actually control the Afghan insurgency” and does not have “the ability to bring it to an end,” Matt Waldman argues in a paper for the London School of Economics. But the ISI provides “sanctuary, and very substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency,” giving it “strong strategic and operational influence — reinforced by coercion,” according to his report, which cites Taliban commanders among its sources.

The ISI is widely thought to have played a key role in creating the Afghan Taliban during the 1990s, but Pakistan officially denies supporting them now. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani military, called the claim “rubbish” on Sunday and said Waldman’s report “does not have a credible source or authenticity.”

“At best, it is speculative and only gives open sources without naming [them],” Abbas told CNN. “So, therefore, this kind of report requires a treatment which it really deserves. We are not going to formally respond to this, but we reject these allegations and accusation. If there are hard evidence, we would like for them to be brought out and we would be able to respond accurately.”

And Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari, called Waldman’s report “one-sided” and dismissed what she called its “wild accusations.”

“If Mr. Waldman had been a seasoned academic, he would have conducted interviews in Pakistan itself to balance his so-called research report,” Ispahani said. “The Pakistani government and its military have been performing an outstanding service to the world community as well as the region in its fight against militancy and extremism, and we can count the dead we have sacrificed in the thousands.”

Waldman’s report is titled, “The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan insurgents.” He based his conclusions on interviews with nine insurgent field commanders in three regions of Afghanistan, plus former Taliban officials, tribal leaders, politicians, experts and diplomats. The title comes from Taliban commanders’ claims that their relationship with Pakistani intelligence is “as clear as the sun in the sky.”

Waldman concluded that that Pakistan “continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies.” But Abbas dismissed the unnamed sources, calling the report “rubbish.”

“Has he named any Taliban commanders in this, has he named any officials?” Abbas said. “So, therefore, if it doesn’t have any specific source, which is not willing to disclose a name, it just becomes one of those reports that keep appearing. It is a serious allegation, but unless it has a credible evidence to support it or substantiate the report, only then it warrants a serious consideration for response.”

The ISI works not only with the Taliban, but also with the armed Haqqani network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, Waldman wrote. The Haqqani network sometimes cooperates with the Taliban and sometimes fights it.

The Taliban members interviewed believe that the ISI has a heavy influence on their leadership, which some of them said amounts to control, according to the report.

One of the southern commanders claimed: “If anyone rejects that the ISI backs or controls the Taliban, he has a mental problem … all our plans and strategy are made in Pakistan and step by step it is brought to us, for military operations or other activities,” the report says.

And southern Taliban commanders all complained of heavy ISI involvement, which they blamed for some attacks on civilians.

“One southern commander described their predicament as follows: ‘Another group of Taliban is directly supported by the ISI. They will never stop fighting in the country; they want to destroy the government and bring chaos. Behind all the attacks on … NGOs, schools, teachers, doctors, this is Pakistan. We cannot deny that it is Taliban; but there are Pakistan controlled groups among us. They want destabilisation …,’ ” the report says.

Waldman’s report comes two months after a U.N. report on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 — an attack blamed on Pakistani Taliban leaders — found that intelligence agencies hindered the subsequent investigation. The report concluded that the “pervasive reach” of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies left police “unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken,” the report states.

Afridi for Resumption of Indo-Pak Bilateral Cricket Series

As reported on Sify.com

Following coach Waqar Younis’ call for resumption of bilateral cricket series between India and Pakistan, skipper Shahid Afridi also wants more encounters with the arch rivals.

Afridi said India and Pakistan must play against each other more often, which would help in toning down the heightened tension between the two neighbouring nations.

“I have always enjoyed playing against India and I have been saying we should play more often against each other as it will only help improve relations,” The Nation quoted Afridi, as saying.

Pakistan and India last played in the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa in September 2009.

The newly appointed captain added that he was eagerly looking forward to the match against India in the Asia Cup, starting June 15 in Sri Lanka.

Afridi, however, pointed out that Pakistan’s opening match against Sri Lanka would also hold great importance.

“Certainly, the event will not be easy and the team would have to start it on a winning note to lift its morale. As a captain I would try my every bit to cash in on every opportunity to win,” he said.

Earlier, Waqar had also lamented the lack of bilateral series between India and Pakistan.

“I want to see the two teams revive bilateral cricket ties and for now I am eagerly awaiting their clash in the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka,” Waqar had said.

“It should be a great match as any contest between the two teams produces top quality cricket. It is unfortunate we are not playing against each other more often as Indo-Pak matches are watched by people all over the world and they are great for the sport,” he added.

India and Pakistan are scheduled to fight it out on June 20 in Dambulla.

Why Pakistan’s Ahmadi Community is Officially Detested

By Mohammed Hanif  for BBC

By Mohammed Hanif for BBC

When a Pakistani Muslim applies for a passport or national ID card, they are asked to sign an oath that no Muslim anywhere in the world is asked to sign. The oath goes like this: “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad an impostor prophet. And also consider his followers, whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group, to be non-Muslims.”

Like millions of other Pakistanis, I have signed this oath several times without giving much thought to exactly what Mr Ahmad stands for, or what the technical difference between Lahoris or Qadianis is. I want my passport, and if I have to sign up to a fatwa to get it, so be it.

But like millions of people from my generation I also remember that when I was growing up, the minority Ahmadi sect were considered just another Muslim sect.

When a Pakistani Muslim applies for a passport or national ID card, they are asked to sign an oath that no Muslim anywhere in the world is asked to sign. The oath goes like this: “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad an impostor prophet. And also consider his followers, whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group, to be non-Muslims.

Like millions of other Pakistanis, I have signed this oath several times without giving much thought to exactly what Mr Ahmad stands for, or what the technical difference between Lahoris or Qadianis is. I want my passport, and if I have to sign up to a fatwa to get it, so be it.  But like millions of people from my generation I also remember that when I was growing up, the minority Ahmadi sect were considered just another Muslim sect.

Like scores of others I had friends who were Ahmadis. We played cricket together, and sometimes, when our parents ordered us off to the mosque, we even prayed side by side.

Last month, when more than 90 Ahmadis were massacred in two mosques in Lahore, I remembered the precise moment in 1974 when it all began to change.  There were street protests by religious parties against Ahmadis demanding that they should be declared non-Muslims.

One day I saw some bearded activists standing outside a clothes merchant’s shop in our town, chanting anti-Ahmadi slogans and turning customers away, telling them that buying clothes from Ahmadis was haram – forbidden. At the time I was learning to memorise the Koran from a very kind, mild-mannered teacher. I asked him what exactly was wrong with the Ahmadis.  He explained to me that they didn’t believe that the Prophet Muhammad was the last and the final messenger.

I said OK, maybe that makes them kafirs, infidels, but who says that kafirs can’t sell cloth?  My teacher’s response was a full-handed slap, so sudden, so unexpected that it rang in my ears for days to come. That same year Pakistan’s first elected parliament declared Ahmadis non-Muslims.  Then in 1984 Pakistan’s military dictator and self-appointed guardian of the faith General Zia-ul-Haq inserted that oath in the constitution that we are all required to sign.  Because of the new laws, Ahmadis have been sent to prison simply for using the Muslim greeting Assalamu alaikum, or putting a Koranic verse in a greeting card.

Over the last three decades the hatred against Ahmadis has become so widespread that Pakistan is now embarrassed by the only Nobel laureate it has ever produced.

Dr Abdus Salam Khan won the Nobel Prize for physics and, as a proud Pakistani, accepted his award in national dress.  But he was an Ahmadi so there is no monument to celebrate him, no universities named after him.

The word “Muslim” on his gravestone has been erased. Even the town he is buried in has been renamed in an attempt to erase our collective memory. This hatred was evident in the reactions to the massacre. TV channels were more obsessed with making sure that in their broadcasts Ahmadi mosques were called “places of worship”.

When you refuse to call a place of worship by its proper name, you are implying that it’s not a mosque, it’s not a church, it’s not a synagogue, it’s a place where godless people do godless things. And all the various Islamic political parties, whose leaders often refuse to pray together, are united on this.

When Pakistan’s main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif used the phrase “our brothers” for the murdered Ahmadis, leaders from 11 political parties came together to condemn him and threatened to issue a fatwa declaring him a heretic.  Over the last three decades the siege has been so palpable that those Ahmadis who couldn’t afford to emigrate have taken to hiding their identity.

If you want to destroy someone in public life it’s enough to drop a hint that they are Ahmadi. In the 1980s, the former chief minister of Punjab and current federal minister didn’t attend his own mother’s funeral because there were rumors that she was an Ahmadi.  When the funerals of the massacred Ahmadis took place there were no officials, no politicians present 

Pakistan’s liberal bloggers and some English-language columnists did write along the lines that Ahmadi blood is on our hands.  Others were adamant that it was yet another Friday, yet another massacre by the Pakistani Taliban, and we should just fight this sort of terrorism and leave the sectarian debates alone.

Two incidents in the past week made me realize how pathological our response was. At a vigil to mark the massacre, where a handful of people had turned up, a passer-by asked me “Are you an Ahmadi?” My own loud and aggressive denial surprised me.

Then an Ahmadi friend whose father survived the Lahore massacre wrote to me saying: “You know we have been living like this for decades. Did something like this have to happen for you to speak up?”

–Editor’s Note- It is high time that this law be repealed and the Ahmadi community of Pakistan be given all the basic human rights and privileges enjoyed by all Pakistanis.

American Arrested in Pakistan was on Solo Mission to Hunt Bin Laden

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Gary Brooks Faulkner, a 51 year old construction worker from California was arrested by Pakistani police Monday night with a pistol, night vision goggles, and a 40 inch sword and apparently on a mission to kill Osama Bin Laden in revenge for the September 11 attacks on the US.

Faulkner was captured by the Pakistani police in the city of Chitral in the northwestern region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. According to a senior police officer, Faulkner was carrying religious Christian books and was reportedly on a mission to avenge the victims of the 9-11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

According to Pakistani officials, Faulkner arrived in Pakistan on June 3 and stayed in a local hotel in an area of Pakistan known for its spring festivals and frequented by foreign tourists also. Apparently this was Mr. Faulkner’s sixth trip to Pakistan since 2002. At a press conference in his present state of Colorado, Faulkner’s brother Scott Faulkner, a physician, stated that his brother Gary was “on a mission.”

“He’s not crazy,” Dr. Faulkner said of his brother. “He’s not a psychopath. He’s not a sociopath.” Because of Osama Bin Laden’s security and Gary Faulkner’s kidney condition, Dr Faulkner did not believe he would see his brother again as he dropped him off at the airport prior to his flight to Pakistan this month. “I did not think I was going to see my brother again,” Dr. Faulkner said. “That’s the nature of going to Pakistan and hunting a wanted man who is surrounded by people with automatic weapons.”

Dr Faulkner stated that his brother underwent kidney dialysis three times a week and that if he killed or capture Bin Laden, he would use the reward money to live the rest of his life in Nicaragua helping build houses for the homeless.

According to Pakistani police, Mr Faulkner disappeared from his hotel Sunday night and away from the posted police guards, who are customarily there for the security of foreigners. When he checked out without informing police, officers began looking for him, according to the top police officer in the Chitral region, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan. He was in custody after a 10 hour search in a forest area in a high security zone close to the border with Afghanistan. He surrendered without any resistance and was flown to Peshawar where members of the United States embassy were notified of the arrest of an American.

“We initially laughed when he told us that he wanted to kill Osama bin Laden,” Khan said. But when officers seized the weapons and night-vision equipment, “our suspicion grew.” He said the American was trying to cross into the nearby Afghan region of Nuristan.

Chitral and Nuristan are among several rumored hiding places for bin Laden along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is currently being questioned by members of Pakistan’s intelligence officials according to reports and is in Peshawar where at present he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Whether Faulkner was there on a half baked suicidal, Rambo style mission or he truly believed he could be successful in finding and infiltrating Osama’s inner circle in order to capture or kill him remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it is a testament to the American “Can-do” spirit that a patriotic yet perhaps disillusioned and aging construction worker could take it upon himself to go to dangerous areas of Pakistan in order to avenge the victims of September 11. Whether he is simply crazy or foolish, one can not deny his desire to capture one of the most wanted man in history. We can only dream of the possibilities of real capture or death of Bin Laden if the majority of people in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region wanted to capture Osama and the terrorist Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar and others who shelter him.

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