Archive for November, 2012

Why Palestine Won Big at the U.N.

As Reported by TIME

An instructive week after Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip tested Israel on the battlefield, the pacifist politicians who govern the West Bank notched a significant diplomatic win without much of a fight at all. Just before 5 p.m. New York time, the U.N. General Assembly voted 138 to 9 to bring Palestine aboard as a “nonmember state.” Another 41 nations abstained. Assured of passage by a whopping majority, Israel and the U.S. noted their objections mildly and mostly for the record, their effort to limit the fallout for the Jewish state itself limited in the wake of Gaza.

The status of “nonmember state” — emphasis on the “state” puts Palestine on the same level of diplomatic recognition as the Vatican, which is technically a sovereign entity. The Holy See has its own ambassadors but, for a few, may be better known for its busy post office off St. Peter’s Square, where tourists queue for what quiet thrills are afforded by a Vatican stamp canceled with the Pope’s postmark.

Palestine already has post offices. The particular marker of sovereignty it sought from the U.N. is even more bureaucratic: access to international organizations, especially the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Experts on international law say that, armed with the mass diplomatic recognition of the 150 or so nations it counts as supporters, Palestine will be in a position to bring cases against Israel, which has occupied the land defined as Palestine — the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — since 1967.

The ICC, as it’s known, is on record as inclined to regard Israel’s more than 100 residential settlements on the West Bank as a crime of war. (The Jewish state pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza in 2005 and argues that it no longer qualifies as its “occupier” under international law. Critics argue otherwise.) The physical presence of the settlements in other words would give Palestine a ready-made case to drag Israel before the court — or to threaten dragging it before the court. In the dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the real power lies in the threat. But in his last U.N. address, in September, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began to lay the foundation for charges based not on the settlements but on the violent behavior of some individual settlers, who attack Palestinian neighbors and vandalize property and mosques. Settler attacks have skyrocketed in the past two years, according to U.N. monitors, and now account for the majority of the political violence on the West Bank, despite the lingering popular impression of Palestinian terrorism dating back decades. On the West Bank, at least, the reality has changed.

“If you were in my place, what would you do?” Abbas asked TIME in a recent interview. “We will not use force against the settlers. I can use the court, but it’s better for the Israelis not to push us to go to the court. They should put an end to these acts committed by the settlers.” His address to the General Assembly in advance of the vote on Thursday made the stakes plain enough: Abbas blasted Israel for “the perpetration of war crimes” and “its contention that it is above international law.”

Abbas’ effort actually got an unlikely boost from Israel’s eight-day offensive in Gaza. Operation Pillar of Defense focused on attacking Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has governed Gaza since 2007. Hamas, and more radical groups also operating in Gaza, lost scores of fighters and rocket launchers to Israeli air strikes. But by standing up to overwhelming Israeli military power for more than a week — and sending missiles toward major cities previously left untouched — the militants stirred a defiant pride and solidarity across the Palestinian community.

“The armed resistance of Hamas in Gaza gave the people hope and the impressions that this is the only way to fight against the ongoing occupation,” Majed Ladadwah, 46, told TIME 0n a Ramallah street, in the West Bank. “I can’t say they won,” said Ladadwah, speaking before Thursday’s balloting, “but they surely gained a lot of points for Hamas in the streets of Palestine.”

That logic was pointed out to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visited Jerusalem to coax him toward a cease-fire. In the days that followed, Netanyahu’s government stopped threatening to punish Abbas for going to the U.N., a move Israel has called a threat to the peace process, which has been stalled for at least four years.

At the same time, European nations rallied around Abbas, intent on shoring up a leader who is secular, moderate — and already at political risk for cooperating with Israel to suppress armed resistance even before Gaza seized the world’s attention. Many of the “marquee” countries of Western Europe that Netanyahu had hoped to vote against Palestine statehood, like France, instead lined up behind Abbas. Others, including Britain, abstained, after seeking assurances that Palestine will not to go the ICC, or that negotiations with Israel will resume. Abbas has already promised the latter. Thursday morning brought news that Israel had lost Germany, a stalwart ally in the wake of the Holocaust, to the abstention column. “If there is a poor turnout, a poor vote, the radicals gain,” India’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters.

For their part, Palestinians overwhelmingly back the measure, despite an assortment of disappointments with Abbas — for wasting a year trying to get full U.N. membership in 2011 and for not visiting Gaza during the fighting, as foreign diplomats did. “We are for the U.N. bid because we anticipate this will help us legally to pursue our struggles and gain our rights,” said Ladadwah, the bank employee who spoke admiringly of Hamas’ stand in Gaza. Hamas itself said it backs the diplomatic effort, as do other factions.

“This is called resistance, whether armed resistance or peaceful resistance,” said Mahmoud Khames, 34, an unemployed West Bank resident, in advance of the vote. “It’s not a soccer match that someone has to win. Resistance is a matter of freeing one’s self and his people from the Israeli occupation.”

In downtown Ramallah, the crowd watching on an outdoor TV screen on Thursday night was large and festive despite the late November chill. Celebratory gunfire — fired by exultant uniformed police and soldiers — rent the night as the vote came in just before midnight local time. “I expect many things from this but the most important is the reconciliation of the two factions, Hamas and Fatah,” said Mohammad Abdel Moute, 40, a government employee who lives in a local refugee camp. “And now hopefully we’ll be able to address the world with our problems, and hopefully the world will be able to help us in obtaining our rights, to be able to live like normal human beings.” Nearby, Layla Jammal, 70, praised the strategy of putting the question of statehood to the General Assembly instead of to the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. routinely vetoes measures opposed by Israel.

“We heard threats from Netanyahu this evening before the voting, saying that a Palestinian state at the U.N. is unilateral, one-sided,” Jammal said. “And we laugh, because the wall that they built is one-sided! They didn’t ask us. From here it makes us it makes us a state against another state.”

— With reporting by Rami Nazzal / Rama

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Mumbai Attacks: Four Years Later

By Bruce Riedel for The Daily Beast

Four years ago Monday, the Pakistani terror gang Lashkar-e-Tayyiba attacked Mumbai, killing more than 160, including six Americans, in the deadliest and most brazen terror attack since 9/11. Then and now, LeT enjoyed the support of Pakistani intelligence and al Qaeda. Today, LeT is a ticking time bomb ready to explode again.

Ajmal Kasab, the only one of the 10 LeT terrorists who survived the attack, was hung for his crimes in India this week. He had confessed to joining the organization and to being trained in its camps in Pakistan for the operation. He implicated the senior LeT leadership in the plot. LeT’s founder and leader Hafez Saeed is not only still free and at large in Pakistan, he routinely speaks at large rallies attacking India, America, and Israel. He denounces the drones and demands Pakistan break ties with America. He eulogized Osama bin Laden as a “hero” of Islam after the SEALs delivered justice to al Qaeda’s amir last year.

Saeed’s patrons include the Pakistani army and its intelligence service, the ISI, which works closely with LeT. Kasab also implicated the ISI directly in the Mumbai operation, saying it assisted with his training and helped select the targets. Two Pakistani emigres, David Headley (an American) and Tahawwur Rana (a Canadian), have also confessed in American courts that they helped LeT plan the massacre in Mumbai and that the ISI was deeply involved in it. Both were found guilty. The ISI helped bankroll their reconnaissance trips to Mumbai to set up the attack.

In researching my forthcoming book, Avoiding Armageddon: America, India and Pakistan to the Brink and Back, it became apparent that there was a third party behind the scenes in the Mumbai plot: al Qaeda. Al Qaeda deliberately kept a very low profile, but helped the LeT plan and select the targets. Al Qaeda and LeT have long been close. Bin Laden helped fund its set-up, and LeT routinely helps hide al Qaeda terrorists at its bases in Pakistan. Al Qaeda had big hopes for the 2008 plot—a war between India and Pakistan that would disrupt NATO operations in Afghanistan and the drone attacks on al Qaeda. Instead, India chose to use diplomacy and avoid a military response. We all dodged a bullet.

Since 2008 LeT has continued to enjoy a free hand in Pakistan and plot more attacks. In 2010 it planned a major attack on the 19th Commonwealth Games held in New Delhi. The plot was thwarted by good intelligence work, especially by the British intelligence services. This summer the Indians arrested a major LeT terrorist, Sayeed Zabiuddin Ansari, a.k.a. Abu Jindal, who was plotting another terror attack from a hideout in Saudi Arabia. Abu Jindal was also involved in the Mumbai operation in 2008—he was in the LeT-ISI control room in Karachi from which the orders were given by cellphone to the terrorists to kill hostages, including the Americans.

The Mumbai attack took place just after Barack Obama’s election. It was his first crisis as president-elect. In the last four years his administration has tried to rein in LeT. This year a $10 million reward was offered for information leading to Hafez Saeed’s capture, and the U.S. helped capture Abu Jindal. But the group is free to plot and plan in Pakistan and it has cells in the Persian Gulf, Bangladesh, England, and elsewhere. It will strike again sooner or later. When it does, al Qaeda and the ISI will probably be co-conspirators again.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– It has been 4 years since the tragic days of November 26, 2008 and the alleged masterminds of the attacks, the leadership of LeT has still not been brought to justice. We at Pakistanis for Peace believe that in a good faith measure towards a lasting peace between India and Pakistan, the Pakistani government needs to apprehend the LeT leadership and extradite those remaining terrorists responsible for this tragedy to India to face their trial and punishment there. Only then, can Pakistan and India start a dialouge about peace.

Terrorist hanged over Mumbai massacre role

By Ben Doherty for The Sydney Morning Herald

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AJMAL KASAB, the lone surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, has been executed in India.

Kasab, a 25-year-old Pakistani national, was hanged at 7.30am on Wednesday at Yerawada jail in Pune, after a plea for clemency was rejected by India’s President, Pranab Mukherjee.

On November 26, 2008, four years ago next Monday, Kasab was one of 10 Pakistani terrorists who sailed into Mumbai, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, grenades and handmade bombs, and launched 10 co-ordinated bombing and shooting attacks. They laid siege to the city, including landmarks such as the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, for more than 60 hours, killing 166 people.

Kasab was taken from his cell on Wednesday morning to the jail gallows. He was asked if he had ”any final desires”, but said he did not. He was hanged at 7.30am and buried two hours later in the grounds of the jail.

”The entire process was executed very secretly. Pakistan has been informed but there is no demand for Kasab’s body,” the home minister, Sushil Shinde, said. Kasab was convicted of 86 offences, including waging war against India.

After his execution, Mumbai dhabawallahs, who deliver home-cooked lunches to office workers, burnt his picture in celebration and set off fireworks.

Israel keeps pounding Gaza by air, says it intercepted missile fired by Hamas at Tel Aviv

By Karin Brulliard and Abigail Hauslohner for The Washington Post

Israel’s four-day-old air offensive in the Gaza Strip expanded to target Hamas government buildings on Saturday and Palestinian militants continued firing a torrent of rockets at civilian areas in southern Israel as both sides stepped up diplomatic efforts to win support.

Israeli airstrikes over Gaza accelerated to nearly 200 early in the day, including one hit that reduced the offices of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to a smoldering concrete heap. That strike, along with others on a police headquarters and smuggling tunnels along the strip’s southern border with Egypt, raised questions about whether Israel had broadened its mission to including toppling the Hamas government that rules the coastal strip.

Just before sundown, Hamas said it had fired an Iranian-made Fajr-5 rocket at Tel Aviv, and air raid sirens sounded in that city for the third day in a row. The Israeli military said its newly deployed missile defense battery intercepted the rocket before it landed in the populous coastal city.

Even as airstrikes pounded the area Saturday morning, the foreign minister of Tunisia’s Islamist-led government, Rafik Abdessalem, arrived in Gaza with a delegation, underscoring Hamas’s newfound credibility in a region dramatically altered by the Arab Spring. Abdessalem expressed outrage at what he called Israeli “aggression” and pledged to unite with other Arab countries to end the conflict.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, whose prime minister visited Gaza on Friday, held meetings with Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani — both Hamas supporters — to discuss what Morsi and other regional leaders have promised will be a more robust response to Israel’s actions than during past conflicts. By Saturday night, rumors of Morsi, Erdogan and Hamas chairman Khaled Meshal hashing out a cease-fire plan were swirling but unconfirmed.

Also in Cairo, the Arab League held an emergency meeting of foreign ministers to discuss a response to the conflict. Many participants called for Arab assistance to the Palestinians and a “reconsideration” of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. But it was unclear if the usually ineffectual league would deliver decisive action by the end of its summit.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, took his country’s case to European leaders. In conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Italy, Greece and the Czech Republic, Netanyahu argued that “no country in the world would agree to a situation in which its population lives under a constant missile threat,” according to an Israeli government statement. The government announced that it was launching a special operations center for public diplomacy, centered on “the unified message that Israel is under fire.”

The White House reiterated its support for the Israeli operation, which the military says is intended to stop rocket fire that has escalated in the four years since Israel last invaded Gaza to stunt attacks by Hamas, an Islamist movement that Israel and the United States consider a terrorist group.

“Israelis have endured far too much of a threat from these rockets for far too long,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy U.S. national security adviser, told reporters traveling with President Obama to Asia. Rhodes declined to comment on the Israelis’ choice of targets, but he said White House officials “always underscore the importance of avoiding civilian casualties.”

The death toll in Gaza rose to 45 by Saturday evening, Health Ministry officials said. Three Israelis have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza since the operation began. An Israeli military spokesman said about 130 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel on Saturday, 30 of which were intercepted by a missile defense system known as Iron Dome.

Israel made preparations this week for a possible ground invasion, but there were no further signs of one coming on Saturday.

Israel: No shift in mission

The Israeli airstrikes, which continued to target rocket-launching sites and weapons depots, slowed throughout the day, even as Israel appeared to be channeling new efforts toward Hamas civilian institutions. Capt. Eytan Buchman, an Israeli military spokesman, said the strikes were “part of our overarching goal of toppling Hamas’s command and control capabilities” and did not mark a shift in mission.

Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, was apparently not at his office when it was hit.

According to the newspaper Haaretz, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

That is how it felt to Hossam and Sanaa al-Dadah, two teachers who had the misfortune of living next door to a house the Israeli military said belonged to a Hamas commander.

At 6 a.m., the family’s windows shattered and their walls burst open. The adjacent house, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, had been demolished in an airstrike, and suddenly theirs was ruined, too.

In the terrifying moments that followed, Hossam al-Dadah, 50, frantically dug his five children out of the rubble, and a few hours later, they had been taken away to their grandparents’ home. But a dust-caked Sanaa, 40, rushed from room to room, crying and gathering her children’s clothing, school bags and dolls and placing them on a sheet.

Israel says Hamas operates in populated areas to use civilians as human shields, and it has dropped thousands of leaflets over Gaza warning civilians to stay away from Hamas operatives. Sanaa said she never got the message.

“Where are we going to go?” she said again and again. “The Israelis are responsible. They are the enemy of God. What did we do? Did we carry any missiles? Did we launch any rockets?”

Outside the house, children played insouciantly in rubble and scorched cars. Rami Mukayed, a 12-year-old in gray trousers, said he reserved his fear for darkness.

“At night, come see me, I’m panicked,” he said. “I play in the morning. I hide in the evening.”

Effect on peace process

In a speech in Cairo, Erdogan said the Gaza conflict called for a new era of Egyptian-Turkish cooperation.

“If Turkey and Egypt unite, everybody will be singing of peace in the region,” he said. “And if we stick together, the region will no longer be dominated by crying and weeping.”

Speakers at the Arab League meeting made the same argument.

“We can no longer accept empty meetings and meaningless resolutions,” said Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, addressing the assembly at the start of the meeting. He urged Arab states to adopt a “strict stance” on the conflict.

Issandr El Amrani, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who heads a blog called the Arabist, said the Gaza standoff has presented the new Arab Spring governments and other regional heavyweights an opportunity to reconsider their position on Israel and the peace process in a series of talks that could have long-term regional implications.

For years, the Arab League has floated a proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that Israel never took seriously, Amrani said. Arab states might now choose to drop that proposal and adopt more aggressive approaches — Egypt could revise the terms of its peace treaty with Israel; Arab states might consider providing covert aid to Hamas; and others will amplify the pressure on Israel through diplomatic corridors, he said.

By Saturday night, despite mounting rhetorical and symbolic support to Gaza’s Hamas leadership, the Arab ministers’ meeting had announced plans to send a delegation to Gaza but had stopped short of pledging immediate material support to Hamas.

“I’ve seen a lot of talk about doing something and how there’s a collective Arab responsibility to act,” Amrani said, “but no one has suggested anything concrete.”

Pakistan Developing Combat Drones

As Reported by Joe Boone for The Guardian

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Pakistan is on the cusp of joining an elite group of countries capable of manufacturing unmanned aircraft capable of killing as well as spying, a senior defence official has claims.
Publicly, Islamabad, which officially objects to lethal drone strikes carried out by the CIA along its border with Afghanistan, says it is only developing remote-controlled aircraft for surveillance purposes.

But last week, during a major arms fair held in Karachi, military officials briefed some of Pakistan’s closest allies about efforts by the army to develop its own combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
“The foreign delegates were quite excited by what Pakistan has achieved,” said the official, who was closely involved with organising the four-day International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (Ideas). “They were briefed about a UAV that can be armed and has the capability to carry a weapon payload.”

The official said Pakistan wanted to demonstrate to friendly countries, principally Turkey and the Gulf, that it can be self-sufficient in a technology that is revolutionising warfare and which is currently dominated by a handful of countries that do not readily share the capability.

“It does not have the efficiency and performance as good as Predator,” he said, referring to the US combat drone widely used to attack militant targets. “But it does exist.”

He gave no details about the capabilities of the aircraft, or even its name.

Huw Williams, an expert on unmanned systems at Jane’s Defence Weekly, expressed doubts that Pakistan could have succeeded in progressing very far from the “pretty basic” small reconnaissance drones, which the country publicly exhibited at the weapons show, including the Shahpar and Uqab aircraft developed by the state-owned consortium Global Industrial and Defence Solutions.
“The smaller systems are not greatly beyond that of a model aircraft,” he said. “But the larger, long-endurance drones are a step up in technology across the board.”

Only the US and Israel are currently believed to have drones that can fire missiles. China and Turkey are also working on large-scale combat drones.
Both countries exhibited models of drones at the sprawling Karachi conference centre, which included Pakistani companies marketing everything from guns that shoot around corners to inflatable tanks intended to fox surveillance aircraft.

The big claims about Pakistan’s developing drone capacity highlights the enormous interest in the technology from armies around the world.

“Everyone has been asking us whether our drones can carry weapons,” said Raja Sabri Khan, chief executive of Integrated Dynamics, a company that showed off a wide range of small and mid-size reconnaissance drones. “But that’s a business for the big boys only.”
Khan has been deliberately refocusing his company’s efforts on smaller drones, many of which are launched by hand, which are mostly intended for civilian use.

A Pakistani army colonel attending the exhibition, after recently finishing a tour fighting against militants in the country’s border region, said such small drones were a vital tool.

“We have these small drones, but not enough of them and we do not always get them when we have operations,” said the colonel, who did not wish to be named. “They are excellent for observing the Taliban, their movements and deployments.”

It was the seventh arms fair hosted by Pakistan intended to show off the country’s defence industry.

Organisers conceded that this year had not been a major commercial success but were pleased with the turnout after the last event in 2010 had to be cancelled.

Several exhibitors said Pakistani companies – many of which are directly owned by the country’s military – offered a cheaper alternative to developing countries looking to buy everything from tanks to computer simulators used to train pilots.

Pakistan leader’s mangrove-to-metropolis dream

By Alex Rodriguez for The LA Times

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SHAH BANDAR, Pakistan — In his dreams, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari sees a spectacular metropolis rising up from the vast stretches of mangrove swamp and sea-salted wasteland along the mighty Indus River Delta.

High-speed rail zips people from place to place. Vacationers soak up the South Asian sun at seaside resorts. Universities, factories and a new seaport pump vitality into the region. Miles of bike lanes crisscross the city, whose population would eventually reach 10 million.

Zardari wants to call his jewel Zulfikarabad, after Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the founder of the country’s ruling party, a prime minister and president, and the father of Zardari’s slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto.

That’s a lot of dreaming for a country struggling with a dizzying array of afflictions: Millions of Pakistanis are dirt poor, struggling to find clean water, contending with unreliable electricity and living in fear of violent extremists. In addition, the president has continued jousting with Pakistan’s Supreme Court over long-standing graft allegations lodged years ago by Swiss authorities.

Such realities have put Zardari’s popularity in a tailspin.

Many observers suspect that the president’s enthusiasm for Zulfikarabad may be rooted in a burning desire to leave a legacy for this country of 180 million people. He’s seeking an enduring achievement, they say, by an administration widely viewed as rife with failure.

Government officials won’t place a price tag on the president’s lofty vision, which is bound to cost tens of millions of dollars. They say only that the government’s share would be limited to the construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure, with the rest shouldered by investors.

Officials also say they consider the proposed city a desperately needed engine for jobs and economic growth.

Karachi, the country’s largest city with a population of 18 million, is bloated with overcrowding and traffic jams, and needs a nearby city that can serve as a relief valve, they say.

“Karachi is getting choked,” said Iftikhar Hussain Shah, managing director of the Zulfikarabad Development Authority. “It’s going to suffer paralysis because there’s no more room. So the people who are trying to look for setting up industries, they are looking for space.

“You give opportunity to entrepreneurs, you lay down the infrastructure, you have a good clean administration and clear-cut laws, and people will come,” Shah said. “People will come if they see there is a good opportunity to make money.”

Officials said building on tidal flats along the Arabian Sea coastline would also help combat a burgeoning problem: the encroachment of the sea at a rate of 18 acres a day.

The goal makes sense, but the strategy remains a bit fuzzy. A splashy brochure touting the project suggests that a sea wall 100 feet high could keep Zulfikarabad dry. Even Shah, however, wonders whether building a sea wall in an area routinely flooded by monsoons will work.

“If you build a wall, what will happen to all that [flood] water?” Shah said. “Maybe we’ll go to [other] countries for that expertise.”

For inspiration, Zulfikarabad proponents look to Shenzhen, a city of 10 million in China’s Pearl River Delta region. Once a small fishing village, Shenzhen’s transformation began in the early 1980s after Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping designated it as one of that country’s special economic zones, a status that seeded growth through tax exemptions and other measures aimed at attracting foreign investors.

Today, Shenzhen is hailed as one of the world’s fastest growing cities, an economic powerhouse with its own stock exchange, a bustling port, and a gleaming glass-and-steel skyline.

“Within a span of four years, it went from a fishermen’s town to earning $2 billion a year,” said Shah, who along with other Pakistani officials has toured Shenzhen. “In another 10 years, they were earning $150 billion a year.”

Critics say Pakistan’s reliance on Shenzhen as a template is misguided because China is an economic juggernaut with a gross domestic product 23 times the size of Pakistan’s. The impoverished Indus Delta isn’t likely to have the same pull as Shenzhen, and, sure enough, no Pakistani magnate has committed to making the Zulfikarabad dream a reality.

Officials expect Chinese companies to play a crucial, if not dominant, role in Zulfikarabad. They said one Chinese firm, Sichuan Huantong Holding Investment, signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with Pakistan this summer to help develop the city. Investors from the Czech Republic, Turkey and even Pakistan’s nuclear-armed archrival, India, also showed preliminary interest by talking with Pakistani officials about the possibility of building wind-power farms in Zulfikarabad, said Mumtaz Ali, planning director at the Zulfikarabad Development Authority.

Skeptics who doubt Zulfikarabad’s prospects cite Pakistan’s troubled record with another urban planning mega-project, the port city of Gwadar in the volatile province of Baluchistan.

Nearly a decade ago, Pakistan enlisted China’s help in transforming Gwadar into a major deep sea port on the Arabian Sea. Since then, Gwadar has been largely dormant, with cranes along piers rusting from inactivity. Opposition by Baluch nationalists, who worry that the Baluch people would be marginalized by Gwadar’s evolution into a modern city, has played a role in the project’s stagnancy, as has the dearth of roads and rail lines connecting the port to the rest of Pakistan.

Nusrat Javed, a columnist and talk show host for Pakistan’s Aaj TV, said the Zulfikarabad project “reminds all of us of Gwadar.”

“When Gwadar was being developed, the Baloch nationalists and the local population thought that, even though Pakistan and China were investing $248 million there was no possibility or promise of any kind of economic uplift for the Baluch community,” Javed said.

“Our president is extremely excited about [Zulfikarabad]. But to my mind, it seems more like a pipe dream.”

Many of those opposing the Zulfikarabad idea are nationalist parties and movements championing the cause of Sindhis, the indigenous population of Sindh province. Sindhi nationalist leaders acknowledge that if Zulfikarabad produces what it promises many local Sindhis will prosper. But they worry that a healthy, vibrant Zulfikarabad would attract hundreds of thousands of migrants from other parts of Pakistan, turning Sindhis into a distinct minority in their own land.

“After Pakistan came into being, the population of Karachi was 400,000,” said Jalal Mehmood Shah, leader of the Sindh United Party, a Sindhi political movement. “Then migrants came into Karachi and we, local Sindhis, became the minority. So we don’t want another place where we will become a minority. And we don’t want another situation where we aren’t allowed to take part in the development.”

On a recent afternoon in Shah Bandar, a fishing village not far from where ground was broken this summer for a $39-million Zulfikarabad bridge, a group of sweat-soaked fishermen thumbed through a brochure promoting the city. They weren’t too ruffled because they remembered a similar idea laid out by Bhutto’s administration years ago to turn a nearby fishing hamlet, Keti Bandar, into a major sea port.

“Bhutto said it would happen,” said Wali Mohammed, a 30-year-old Shah Bandar fisherman, “but years passed and nothing was built.”

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