Archive for the ‘ terrorism ’ Category

India and Pakistan to discuss relations at NAM meeting in Egypt

Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt- The prime ministers of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit (NAM) in Egypt this week inviting hopes of a resumption of peace talks between the two nuclear armed neighbors.

The NAM consists of 118 member countries of developing countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and make up almost 60% of the world population.  NAM countries consider themselves not formally aligned with or against any major country or power bloc such as NATO.

The importance of this meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani PM Yousuf Raza Gilani is that this is only the second high level meeting between the Indian and Pakistani leaders since the Mumbai attacks of November 2008.  At least 173 people were killed and more than 300 wounded by terrorist attacks blamed on Pakistan based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Since the attacks, the relations between India and Pakistan worsened dramatically as India demanded Pakistan take action against the responsible parties. This week Pakistan announced that it will “probably” put the five accused attackers in its custody on trial next week. This is welcome news for the Indian government which has predictably  tied any improvement in relations with Pakistan on the prosecution of the accused for the attacks as well as curbing of violence on Indian soil from the Pakistan based militants.

Unfortunately, Pakistan has its hands full on its own soil when it comes to stopping the militants let alone preventing violence from groups inside its terroritory from carrying out attacks in India. But a willingness to fully prosecute any individuals or groups apprehended as well as dismantling the infrastructure of these organizations will go a long way in showing good faith to India in resuming a comprehensive peace agreement with its fellow nuclear armed neighbor.  Similarly India must be willing to consider Pakistan’s disputes with India over Kashmir from all sides and be able to negotiate a lasting and long term peace deal that is so desperately needed in the most dangerous neighborhood of the world and one that has been elusive for over 60 years.

 

Reported by Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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Four Pakistani Soldiers Feared Kidnapped by the Taliban

 

Swat Valley, Pakistan- Four Pakistani soldiers were kidnapped by unknown person in Pakistan’s restive SWAT valley over the weekend it was reported by private broadcaster, GeoTv.

The four soldiers were members of a paramilitary unit stationed in the Swat valley of the North West Frontier Western Province (NWFP). No group has claimed responsibility, however there are concerns by the authorities that the local Taliban are most likely to be responsible for the incident.

The Swat region is one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas of the country and has historically been a very popular tourist destination for millions of Pakistanis each year as well as a small number of foreign tourists. However since 2007, the area has become off limits to tourism as the Pakistan army has been been involved in battles with the Taliban who have regrouped inside the valley and have been successful in fighting the army to a standstill.

Earlier this winter the government of Pakistan signed a peace deal with the Taliban allowing for a ceasefire and giving into demands of the militant extremists in the valley to institute Shariah law in the region. The Shariah laws the Taliban now have gotten the government to allow in many parts of the NWFP province allows for punishment according to the Koranic laws rather than civilian and criminal laws of Pakistan. Sharia law refers to the Islamic system of law and the totality of the Islamic way of life.

An example of Shariah law is the allowance of getting revenge by an injured plaintiff to exact revenge-physical eye for a physical eye, and a tooth for a tooth. It allows for a thief to be punished by cutting off their hand. It allows for adulterers to be stoned to death by a mob as another example of what is allowed under Shariah law. Very often women’s rights are curtailed under Shariah law as two women’s testimony in an Islamic court is equal to that of one man and women are severely restricted in their movement, education, employment and political rights.

We at Pakistanis for Peace and moderate Pakistanis throughout Pakistan and around the world were astonished earlier this year when the government agreed to the Taliban’s demands and allowed a peace agreement and for the institution of Shariah law in the Swat valley. It was a very foolish and irresponsible action on the part of the Pakistani government that agreeing to the Taliban’s demands would buy the region peace and stability. Since the peace pact was announced in February 2009, the Taliban have continued to operate freely in the valley are have been harassing the local population into their brand of medieval governance of the region. In fact, the deal gave them legitimacy in the area and instead of getting peace, the Pakistan army is now being bullied and pushed around by a group of what amounts to nothing else but bearded thugs with guns with an extreme ideology.

And now news comes from the Swat valley that four Pakistani soldiers have been brazenly kidnapped and taken hostage by the same people whom with the government supposedly has a peace deal. When will the ineffective and weak government of Asif Ali Zardari wake up and realize that the cancer that is the Taliban is spreading like an unchecked tumor and is in danger of taking over the whole body? The government needs to break this truce with the Taliban and stop yoyoing between fighting and making deals with the tem and instead have a united and unrelenting strategy to flush out and end this menace once and for all before it destroys what is left of Pakistan.

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

US Intelligence Report: Pakistan in Danger of Becoming an Islamist State run by the Taliban and Warlords

 

Islamabad, Pakistan- There is growing concern in intelligence circles in the US that the Taliban in Pakistan are determined to make Pakistan an Islamist state controlled by warlords and terrorists and little or no central government authority or power to stop them.

 

Their strategy had its beginnings in the alarming success of the Taliban in gaining concessions from the authorities in the Swat valley this winter after fighting the Pakistan army to a standstill and getting the government to agree to instituting Islamic Shariah law in the valley and in parts of the NWFP province.

 

US intelligence officials believe that it is just a matter of time in as little as 10 years the the growing influence of the Taliban will overrun all the rural towns and communities and the government and the army will be relegated to city centers across the country with large swaths of land and power in the hands of the Taliban and other militant groups aligned with them and Al-Qaeda hell bent on instituting a new Islamic order throughout the country.

 

This scenario presents a very troubling outcome for Pakistanis, Pakistan’s immediate neighbors and the world at large. Pakistan is not a small undeveloped country torn by three decades of war like Afghanistan with only 3 million of its 30 million people living in Kabul and the rest spread out all over the country. Or like Iraq, another country of nearly 30 million people that also has experienced its share of turmoil the last 6 years.

 

Instead, Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world with over 170 million people living in major cities like Lahore (population 11 million) and Karachi the twentieth largest city in the world with a population of nearly 20 million people. With at least 100 nuclear weapons, several dozen highly organized and heavily armed militant groups, a weak and getting weaker by the day central government, abject poverty and high unemployment mixed in with rampant corruption and lawlessness, the country is ripe for a revolution. The Taliban have stepped into the vacuum created by the ineffectiveness of various governments who are more concerned with getting to and holding onto power and plundering the nation for their own personal wealth rather than be concerned with the future of the fragile nation with enemies of the state getting stronger from within. Many Pakistanis are more adept to believing in conspiracy theories of American involvement in various plots across the country rather than opening their eyes to the fact that the biggest threat and enemy of the nation is the Taliban and militants who use violence and terror in gaining bigger control across the country.

 

Furthermore, add religious violence amongst its Sunni and Shiite communities, a raging war and Al-Qaeda at its border in Afghanistan to the west. And an ever present historical feud with arch enemy India to the east who has fought three wars with Pakistan in the last 60 years makes this a country that has reached a boiling point. The disillusionment and hopelessness is very high amongst the majority of its moderate citizens who are intelligent and educated enough to know that the real enemy is the Taliban and militants that are determined to bring about Shariah law across the country but who do not see an effective partner in the government that will stand up to this growing threat. Instead the government capitulated to the Taliban in the Swat valley earlier this year and allowed Shari ah law there and agreed to a truce with the Taliban. Now their power and influence is growing in other parts of country as the Taliban are focusing on gaining strength in the populous Punjab state and other provinces across the country. The future has never looked bleaker for the country.

 

We at Pakistanis for Peace believe and have always believed that the biggest threat to the sovereignty and stability of Pakistan is the Taliban and Islamic militant menace that has begun to sweep the country after originating in the mountains of Afghanistan. The government of Asif Zardari has been quite ineffective in fighting the militant threat and there is not clear counterinsurgency strategy to tackle the Taliban and militant threat. Instead the government has done itself little favor by both half heartedly fighting and taking on the Taliban earlier this year and then agreeing to various truces with the militants to end the fighting. Pakistan needs to learn a lesson from the recent high drama at sea near the Somali coast involving the kidnapping of the American captain by the pirates. You do not negotiate and accept demands of the pirates, kidnappers, or terrorists. You speak to them in a firm manner to give up and surrender, if they do not do so, you bring the full force of your military and do so relentlessly until you gain victory. The country of Pakistan is too vital to regional and global peace for it to become a failed state like Afghanistan did in the 1980’s. Its possible failure and falling into the hands of the Taliban will be the greatest challenge and threat to US and world security for the next 30 years and all efforts must be made by Pakistan and its allies to ensure that never happens. Sometime to keep the peace, you have to go to war.

 

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

 

Four Day Deadline Set for US Hostage in Pakistan

 

Quetta, Pakistan- The group claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of American United Nations diplomat John Solecki last month have now set a new deadline for their demands from the Pakistani government. The Baluchistan Liberation United Front are demanding the Pakistani government release 1,109 activists from Baluchistan nationalist groups currently held in Pakistani jails.

The kidnappers are demanding that they be released and have set a deadline of four days in which they announced they will kill the diplomat if their demands were not met by the Pakistani government. The American diplomat who heads the United Nations Refugee agency in Quetta Pakistan was kidnapped on February 2nd and his Pakistani driver was killed during the kidnapping by the militants. They had announced that they would kill the captive within days if their demands were not met last month, but apparently had not followed through with this threat.

The kidnappers sent their most recent demand Sunday March 1st by sending a letter to the offices of a local news agency in Pakistan and also confirmed by a reporter for the Associated Press as well. UN officials reported that they were informed by the government of the latest developments and took the threat seriously.

“John Solecki’s mother and his relatives and international human rights groups should play a role for the recovery of thousands of our sons … who are in state-run torture detention cells,” the one-page letter said.

“The United Nations and state institutions … are forcing us to kill Mr. John Solecki in our protest,” it said.

Violent separatist groups have been waging a long campaign for independence for Baluchistan, an important province that is rich in natural gas and borders Afghanistan and Iran to the southwest. They have no known links to A-Qaeda and Taliban groups who are also fighting Pakistani and American forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s border regions. Militants have stepped up attacks on government institutions and also have increased attacking and kidnapping foreign workers in the area. Last month a Polish geologist was beheaded by the militants after the government did not respond to the militants demands for the release of some prisoners.

We at Pakistanis for Peace believe that the depreciable actions of these separatists are to be condemned and we hope that the government of Pakistan is able to secure the release of Mr. John Solecki as soon as possible. He was in Pakistan not as a mercenary or a soldier but as a humanitarian trying to assist the poor refugees of Afghanistan get assistance through the United Nations refugee agency. A person like him who came thousands of miles from his home in the US to assist the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan should be commended for his service and instead he has been taken prisoner and now is threatened with his life. These militants need to be brought to justice and Pakistan’s government should do all it can to secure his release and ensure his safety.

Unfortunately we know that the government of Pakistan is very weak indeed and has been unable to secure many parts of the country. The army is busy fighting the Taliban in the NWFP province and various other militant groups throughout the country. We hope and pray that the kidnappers listen to reason and act in an Islamic manner that does not sanction the killing of innocent people. Mr. Solecki is an innocent individual who is a guest of the country and a man of honor who is in Pakistan for humanitarian reasons and on this basis alone his life needs to be spared and he needs to be released immediately. We hope that his family and friends have the strength during this difficult time and that the kidnappers listen to reason and release him immediately.

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Charges to be Filed against Mumbai attacks suspect

 

Mumbai, India- The joint commissioner of police in Mumbai, India Rakesh Maria told reporters on Tuesday that the government expected to file charges against Pakistani citizen Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, also known as Kasab, who was arrested in India during the attacks on Mumbai in November of 2008.The charges are expected to be filed in the city courthouse according to the police commissioner. In addition to Kasab and nine other members of Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) militants, the charges may name around 20 more accused individuals believed to be in hiding in Pakistan, according to an official familiar with the situation who did not want to be named.

 

Indian laws require that individuals be charged formally within 90 days of being arrested. Kasab who was arrested on November 28, 2008 is a Pakistani citizen who along with other militants is accused of planning and carrying out the attacks from Pakistani soil in Mumbai, India and was one of the people responsible for the deaths of at least 173 people and the injury to at least 308 others. His charges include ‘making war against the country and murder’. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

 

The government of Pakistan earlier this month admitted to the fact that its soil was used by the militants for the planning and carrying out of the attacks. This was a great first step and Pakistan’s government needs to closely examine the charges and the individuals named in the sheet Wednesday and do everything in its power to cooperate fully in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

 

Pakistanis for Peace has long believed in the dangers of these groups operating inside its territory not only against the people of Pakistan, but also against its neighbors. This occasion gives Pakistan a great opportunity to cooperate with the Indian government and show its good faith and its commitment to eradicating terror groups inside its country and in the region. As the recent battles between the Pakistani army and the militants inside Pakistan’s North West Frontier Provience (NWFP) has shown, the militants are getting stronger by the day and their ability to carry out attacks at will should be a disturbing trend for the government of Pakistan and its citizens. Doing everything it can to assist the Indian government will go a long ways in bringing the two enemies back to the Kashmir peace talks that are currently on pause since the Mumbai attacks. We urge both the Pakistani and Indian governments to share every bit of information they have in bringing these heinous individuals responsible for so much death and destruction in Mumbai to swift justice. This is a great opportunity for both governments to act in a manner that illustrates what the people of both countries have longed for the last 62 years and that is to live in peace side by side as they have done for over 5,000 years.

Reported for www.PakistanisforPeace.com by Manzer Munir

American United Nations Diplomat kidnapped by militants in Quetta Pakistan

 

Quetta, Pakistan- On the heels of our recent report regarding an up tick in Taliban and militant activity in the Pakistani city of Quetta comes word that the head of the UN Agency for Refugees in Quetta Pakistan has been kidnapped by militants. American diplomat John Solecki, was seized by gunmen and taken hostage and his Pakistani driver was shot and killed Friday as he was headed in the morning to his UN agency office.

His United Nations labeled SUV was found rammed against the wall and at least one bullet hole was found on the vehicle. When the Pakistani police reached the vehicle, they found the driver shot and dead at the steering wheel and Mr. Solecki missing. The US expressed “extreme shock and dismay” at the abduction and the Pakistani government called his kidnapping and the killing of the driver a “dastardly terrorist act.”

The city of Quetta in Pakistan borders Afghanistan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has been involved for at least 30 years in the area helping the Afghani refugees from the war with the Soviets and then the internal conflict between the warlords and eventually the Taliban and now fleeing the war on terror between the American forces and the militants.

Police has increased patrols in the region and are fearing that Solecki may have been taken to the Afghani side of the region or he may very well even be hidden in a house in and around Quetta. Local police has confirmed that the American citizen Solecki has been working in Quetta for at least the last two years. He did not have a police escort and it is known that he did not like to have an escort with him on his way to the office.

A few hours after his abduction, a video was released by the kidnappers who identified themselves as being with the little known Baluchistan Liberation United Front, suggesting a link to local separatist groups who have waged an insurgency against Pakistan’s government. This suggests that the persons responsible may not be Al-Qaeda or even Taliban militants but rather local insurgents who are seeking an independent Baluchistan from Pakistan.

In the 20 second video, Solecki appears blindfolded and has a shawl draped over his shoulders and states that his message is addressed to the United Nations. “I am not feeling well. I am sick and in trouble. Please help solve the problem soon so I can gain my release,” he says. The kidnappers have threatened to kill Solecki within 72 hours if their demands of the immediate release of 141 women it says were held by the authorities. The militants recently beheaded a Polish engineer in the area after negogations for his release last week failed. It is feared that they intend to carryout their threat on Solecki if their demands are not met.

Pakistanis for Peace and the majority of the peace loving people of Pakistan and Afghanistan are extremely disturbed and saddened by the death of the Pakistani driver and of the abduction of Mr John Solecki. A committed humanitarian and diplomat interested in solving the refugee problem for the Afghani people in the area, all he was doing in the region was helping the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He and his agency’s work in this violent and volatile region is of paramount importance in providing assistance and relief to many thousands of people in the area. At risk to his life and liberty he happily worked in this part of the world as he believed in the cause of the UN Refugee agency. We are tremendously saddened by these turn of events and pray that there is a peaceful solution to the situation and that Mr Solecki be released immediately. The cowards responsible for his abduction should realize that individuals such as Mr Solecki are doing nothing but helping the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and for them to threaten his life goes against everything the religion of Islam and the hospitable nature of the people of the area in how their custom is to treat visitors and guests in their country. We Pray that he is released safely and immediately and that the terrorists responsible for his abduction be caught and brought to justice.

This is an image from mobile phone footage released by Online Photos Friday Feb.
Reported for www.PakistanisforPeace.com by Manzer Munir

Seasoned Diplomat Appointed Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan

richard-holbrooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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