Posts Tagged ‘ Afghanistan ’

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

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Obama to focus on terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan

 

The new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke is scheduled to meet leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad this week as part of a major US policy review aimed at combating the Taliban and extremists in the region. He is scheduled to meet Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and key military leaders as well as members of the Foreign Ministry.

US President Obama has stated that he is planning on sending an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan and has promised to stabilize the Afghanistan and Pakistan region as this was one of his stated goals during the presidential campaign. He is also hoping for additional troops from NATO in battling a resurgent insurgency in the Afghanistan and Pakistan border areas. Holbrooke will also be holding top level talks with Afghani and Indian leaders before reporting back to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

In his first televised prime time speech Monday evening, President Obama was asked about the safe havens inside Pakistan and what he was doing to root out the terrorists on the Pakistani side of the border. Obama stated that there is “no doubt” that there are safe havens on Pakistan’s side of the border and his envoy Holbrooke is going to try and convince Pakistan’s new government of President Zardari that the Pakistanis are endangered just as much as the United States from the threat presented by the Taliban operating from these areas. He stated that it is important for Pakistan to know that it is “not acceptable” for either the United States or Pakistan to have people in the border region who will act “with impunity” to kill innocent people. He also stated that he believes that the government of Pakistan “cares deeply” about getting control of the situation and that Pakistan will be effective partners in the anti-terror fight against the Taliban and the extremists.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Taliban have set up complex operations in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to play a significant role in stirring violence in southern Afghanistan and disrupting the supply of goods and services en route to US forces in Afghanistan. Although there has been some success against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Provience (NWFP) of Pakistan, the city of Quetta has fast become a central operations point for the Taliban in planning and carrying out attacks against the US forces out of this Pakistani city. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that the US will have a tough love approach to Pakistan and will threaten to cut off military aid to Islamabad if it does not cut down on militants operating from inside its territory.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani stated in an interview that if there is actionable intelligence against Al-Qaeda or Taliban in its territory, than Pakistan will act on that intelligence. However he admitted that there is not always good information coming out of Quetta as this is a very “messy area.” The province of Baluchistan where Quetta is the capital has long been hostile to the federal government of Pakistan. In fact, for several years now there has been a low level insurgency against the Pakistani government led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) who’s goal is the establishment of a separate Baluchistan government.

The BLA has been listed as a terrorist organization since 2006 by the Pakistani and British governments. It is a partnership of convenience for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters to unite with the BLA and base their operations from Quetta in Pakistan in fighting the American forces in Afghanistan. This new development is very troubling for the US forces as it allows the Taliban to organize and coordinate their attacks without much repercussion from the Americans as they are well inside Pakistani territory. Last week the Talliban was blamed for the execution and brutal beheading of a Polish engineer in the Baluchistan region who was held captive for several months before being savagely killed after negotiation for his release failed. Privately US officials admit that the Pakistani government has their hands full as they have been fighting the BLA for several years in and around Quetta and have not had great luck in building a network of sources and spies in the region as the Baluchi people of the area are sympathetic to the BLA against the Pakistani government.

It is the hope of peaceful groups like Pakistanis for Peace that the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan cooperate fully in their fight against the extremists in the region as they all share a common enemy. Whether the perpetrators of violence are Taliban, Al-Qaeda, or Baluchi separatists, they are the common enemy of the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It does not matter if the acts of terrorism are committed against Americans, Afghans, foreigners such as the Polish engineer, or average Pakistani citizens, it is high time that the allies on the war on terror unite and join forces in rooting out this evil from the area. It is going to require the united efforts and resources of all involved to bring the fight to the enemy. Pakistan must understand that the enemy within its borders is a much more serious threat to its sovereignty and statehood than any foreign army operating close to its borders. One hopes that the governments of Pakistan and the US settle their differences regarding terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and are able to find a successful strategy in battling and rooting out the terrorists operating in the region both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan as this is in the best interest for all countries involved in attaining peace and winning the war on terror.

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

Bullseye for the Bullies

 

The Taliban are the people’s enemy #1 for Pakistan and for people in Afghanistan. This menace must be wiped out and its leaders jailed and their weapons confiscated and if they are not willing to lay down arms peacefully to the will of the state, they should be made to bear full punishment by the rule of the law.

Editorial opinion by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Acid Attacks on School Girls by the Taliban

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seasoned Diplomat Appointed Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan

richard-holbrooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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