Posts Tagged ‘ Benazir Bhutto ’

A Brave Man Killed

A New York Times Editorial

Some twisted person has created a Facebook page in support of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, the bodyguard accused of assassinating Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province. Mr. Taseer was a brave man who had called for the repeal of Pakistan’s outrageous anti-blasphemy law.

Whoever killed Mr. Taseer must be condemned and repudiated, not extolled. Otherwise, Pakistan will certainly continue on a downward spiral in which intolerance and self-destruction triumph.

The governor’s death is a tragedy not just for Pakistan but for all who understand that just and stable societies need honest debate and full respect for minorities. Pakistan cannot afford to lose any fair-minded leaders, especially at a time when it is struggling with a virulent insurgency, an unraveling economy and an unraveling central government.

Mr. Taseer — a longtime ally of President Asif Ali Zardari and his wife, Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007 — was Pakistan’s most prominent defender of the rights of women and minorities. He had pressed hard for repeal of the blasphemy law, which imposes a mandatory death sentence on anyone convicted of insulting Islam.

The law is popular with the Muslim majority but is routinely manipulated to settle personal rivalries and persecute minorities. And Mr. Taseer had been particularly outspoken, calling for leniency for a Christian mother of four who was sentenced to death under the law, in a case that stemmed from a dispute in her village.

Pakistani officials, who have the bodyguard in custody, say he killed Mr. Taseer because of the governor’s opposition to the blasphemy law. But there are far too many unanswered questions: Did the suspect act alone? Why did the Punjab police assign a religious conservative to protect Mr. Taseer? News reports first said nine bullets were fired into Mr. Taseer, and hospital officials later said he was hit 24 times. Yet other members of the security detail did not shoot to stop Mr. Qadri, who surrendered with his hands up.

Pakistani authorities need to investigate thoroughly and share their full findings with the Pakistani people.

The United States and the international community must make clear their outrage over this killing. So must every Pakistani. The country’s political leaders and the Pakistani media also need to consider whether the way they have shaped the debate on the blasphemy law — some have argued that mentioning reform is blasphemy punishable by death — is further fueling conflict.

Ultimately, only Pakistanis can save their nation, and they must answer the more profound questions: Do they want a country in which Muslims and non-Muslims can peacefully co-exist? Or one in which religious zealots, espousing the most intolerant interpretation of Islam, kill anyone brave enough to defend the defenseless? That would be the true blasphemy.

Pakistan Police Officers to be Arrested Over Death of Benazir Bhutto

By Delacn Walsh for The Guardian

A Pakistani court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers in connection with Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, reviving hopes for a breakthrough in Pakistan’s most pressing political mystery.

An anti-terrorism court ordered the arrest of Rawalpindi’s former police chief, Saud Aziz, and his deputy Khurram Shahzad, who ordered the crime scene to be washed down less than two hours after the killing, destroying critical evidence.

“They were responsible for Bhutto’s security,” said special investigator Chaudhry Zulfiqar. “They ordered the crime scene to be hosed down despite resistance from other officials.”

A strongly-worded UN report into Bhutto’s death last April said the decision to wash the crime scene did “irreparable damage” to the subsequent investigation. Investigators speculated that Aziz had been influenced by powerful military intelligence agencies.

Aziz and Khurram, who are now retired from the police, could not be contacted today. They are due to be formally charged on 11 December along with five men already in custody.

The warrants are the latest twist in a torturously slow police investigation. Three years after Bhutto was killed in a suicide blast as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007, Pakistanis have little idea of who was behind her death.

Pervez Musharraf, who was president at the time, initially blamed Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but officials from Bhutto’s party, the PPP, have said that other forces, possibly including elements of Pakistan’s powerful military, played a role in her death.

Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Zardari, has vowed to unveil her killers, but made little progress in an investigation bogged down by controversy, recrimination and conspiracy theories – one popular rumour in Pakistan has it that Zardari himself was responsible.

The three-man UN investigation into the killing, headed by Chilean diplomat Heraldo Muñoz, published its report last April in an effort to bring some clarity. It dismissed the allegations against Zardari and blamed Musharraf for failing to protect Bhutto, while accusing police and intelligence officials of hampering the investigation into her death.

The UN team said that Aziz stalled the investigation for two days after Bhutto’s death, deliberately prevented a postmortem on her body, and gave the order to sanitise the crime scene just 100 minutes after Bhutto’s death. As a result crucial DNA evidence was lost and investigators gathered just 23 pieces of evidence instead of the “thousands” that would be expected, Muñoz’s team noted.

The UN focused on the actions of Aziz, who witnesses said was “constantly talking on his mobile phone” as doctors scrambled to save Bhutto’s life in a Rawalpindi hospital.

The UN received “credible information” that the Pakistani intelligence agencies had intervened. But Aziz refused to say who he spoke with, and tried to blame the failure to carry out an autopsy on Zardari – something that was “highly improper”, the UN said. “It suggests a preconceived effort to prevent a thorough examination of Ms Bhutto’s remains.”

The strongly-worded report represented a watershed in moribund efforts to solve the mystery of Bhutto’s death – Pakistan’s greatest political trauma since the dictator General Zia-ul-Haq died in mysterious circumstances in 1988. But it fell short of identifying those behind her death, and government efforts to advance the probe has since floundered.

Bhutto’s own party has been split by divisions. Last week Zardari suspended the membership of Naheed Khan, Bhutto’s confidante, following simmering tensions that included criticism of his failure to find Bhutto’s killers. Critics have also raised questions about the role of Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s security chief and now Pakistan’s interior minister.

The main suspect in custody remains a teenager from the tribal belt accused of helping the Bhutto assassins. His case, and those of the police officers, will be heard in camera at Adiala jail outside Rawalpindi.

But the government has not probed the role of the other parties mentioned in the UN report – former president Pervez Musharraf, currently in exile in London, and the intelligence services that are considered beyond the control of the civilian authorities.

‘Bhutto’: For Pakistan’s Heroine, A Hagiography

By Ella Taylor for National Public Radio

A new documentary about Benazir Bhutto lets a full hour go by before entertaining the mildest doubts about its subject, the hugely popular prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated on her triumphant return to Karachi from exile in 2007.

Bhutto is smart and thorough on the inflamed history of Pakistan. But as a portrait of the first woman elected head of state in an Islamic nation, it comes closer to hero-worship than to considered biography. Front-loaded with glowing testimonials from family and FOB’s East and West, the movie gives a startling degree of face time to its own co-producer, Mark Siegel, a political consultant and close friend of Bhutto who co-authored a book with her.

The director, Duane Baughman, also a political consultant, helped get Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton elected, so he knows how to brand a public figure, dead or alive.

Not that this particular public figure needs much enlarging. Bhutto’s sense of mission and her personal courage, as she returned again and again to try and democratize a nation whose military leaders blithely murdered their opposition, are beyond dispute. Like her adored father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s first democratically elected head of state (and the creator of its nuclear program), she struggled to bring basic services to a country mired in poverty, illiteracy and chronic conflict across its volatile borders with India, Afghanistan and Iran — to say nothing of its ambivalent dependency on a United States worried to death by the Taliban, al-Qaida and the enriched uranium in Pakistan’s nuclear arsenals.

About Bhutto’s failings and mistakes, however, the film is discreet to the point of squeamishness. Luckily, this magnificently complicated woman’s contradictions tumble out anyway. Almost despite itself, the movie offers a riveting melodrama about a daddy’s girl born into a close but feuding Western-educated dynasty known both for its populist politics and its champagne tastes. (The Bhuttos were thought of — admiringly, Baughman implies, though given the straits in which most Pakistanis live, one wonders — as the Kennedys of Pakistan.)

From grieving family and friends (inevitably, Arianna Huffington was a pal at Oxford), we learn of a serious-minded young woman freed from her burqa by Dad while still in her teens. At Harvard, where she roomed with Kathleen Kennedy, she absorbed feminism and leftist politics.

After Bhutto’s murder, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, became co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party — and the nation’s new president. After Bhutto’s murder, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, became co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party — and the nation’s new president.
Yet later she willingly submitted to an arranged marriage with a Karachi playboy-entrepreneur, Asif Ali Zardari, who has been Pakistan’s president since the fall of Pervez Musharraf in 2008. She prayed to Allah in public, yet worked hard to bring schooling to girls in an Islamic state vehemently opposed to rights for women.

Bhutto inherited her father’s charm, charisma and elegant tailoring, as well as his preference for backroom wheeler-dealing. Remarkably, her father chose Benazir over her two brothers as his successor, and her political career eerily echoed his, zigzagging between triumph, prison, exile and return to repeated rapturous welcomes from adoring masses.

Bookended by footage of the sniper fire and suicide bombing that killed her, Bhutto faithfully follows the hectic arcs of her life and death. Yet the movie glides smoothly past the corruption charges — never proved or disproved — that led to Bhutto’s exile and her husband’s imprisonment, effectively dismissing them as trumped up by her enemies. Much time is spent, meanwhile, on the moving but sentimental memories of her tearful family, topped up with new but unedifying audiotapes of Bhutto herself outlining her ideals, the harshness of her incarceration in a Pakistani prison and the loneliness of exile in Dubai.

Bhutto could stand a less adulatory tone — and more reliable skeptics than her clearly disgruntled niece, for instance, when it comes to topics such as Bhutto’s role in the mysterious plane crash that killed the military dictator responsible for her father’s murder. Despite herself, and for all her efforts toward reconciliation, Bhutto proved an enormously polarizing figure.

Perhaps she had no choice, in a country so riven by internal strife and external threat. At its best, Bhutto is a fascinating study in the difficulties of bringing democracy to a radically unstable nation plagued by its colonial legacy, by the cowboy politics of a dictatorial military, by daily terrorism and the sporadic interventions of world powers arguably less interested in rural voting rights than in pushing their own interests on the global stage.

Bhutto’s untimely death at 54 years old was a private tragedy and a tremendous loss for a country desperate for moderate leadership. But she was a heroine, not a saint. Eliding this distinction, Bhutto unwittingly diminishes her.

Pakistan Looks Ahead to End of Afghan War

By Olivia Ward for The Toronto Star

As NATO forces prepare to pull out of Afghanistan, worries about the country falling back to Taliban control are paramount. But in neighbouring Pakistan, where suicide bombings and brazen attacks on security forces have become regular occurrences, the stakes are also high.

“What happens in Afghanistan affects us and vice-versa,” says Akbar Zeb, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada. “We have four million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan, and it’s in our interest to have a stable country where we can send them back. A Taliban takeover won’t be just detrimental to Afghanistan. It would harm Pakistan and the whole region.”

Zeb said that under the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari, relations have improved with Afghanistan, and contrary to reports of friction, there are “frequent contacts” between the two countries that would be helpful in creating stability.

But he added that Canada, and other Western countries, should not repeat the mistakes of the post-Soviet era, when the West lost interest in Afghanistan and Pakistan as soon as the Soviet troops withdrew.

During the rule of Pakistan’s military leader, President Pervez Musharraf, groups of Taliban-linked militants got a foothold in Pakistan, but were not seen as a danger to the country until internal attacks began to spread. Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, and suicide bombings took the lives of hundreds of civilians. Under pressure from the U.S., the Pakistani military began a massive campaign against the Taliban along the Afghan border.

“We have managed to clear a lot of areas from the Taliban,” said Zeb. “Military campaigns are the only language they understand. But they alone won’t help to win the war. We have border regions with a lot of poverty, and backward elements that have been ignored for a long time.”

Canada has announced support for road and rail projects linking Afghanistan and Pakistan to speed trade between the two countries.

“It’s a very good initiative, but scope is limited,” said Zeb.”We wish the projects were larger and not just (confined to) those that involve both Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Talks with Islamabad are also ongoing on the use of ports in Karachi for shipping out Canadian troops and military supplies from Afghanistan.

But as the war continues, Pakistan has also been urged to be tougher on the Taliban. In the past two years it has carried out attacks against the militants in its border regions with some success, while American-launched drone strikes have killed high-ranking Taliban. The catastrophic floods that wiped out some of the most important agricultural areas of Pakistan brought a temporary truce, but militant attacks have resumed since the waters receded.

Last week, talk of a peace deal between the notorious Taliban-linked Haqqani network, and an opposing tribe in the remote northwest raised fears that it could open the way for Taliban access to strategic border areas. But the U.S. has also urged a Pakistani offensive against the network in North Waziristan, a volatile region where 400,000 civilians are vulnerable to displacement.

According to Pakistani officials, the country has lost some 7,000 security forces in a decade of fighting the militants — more than three times the coalition deaths in Afghanistan. Meanwhile 30,000 Pakistani civilians have died. The border region, a tangle of mutually hostile tribes, remains a haven for militants.

“It’s a difficult balance for Pakistan,” said Zeb. “Foreign troops may leave, and for them Afghanistan is a distant land. We’re Afghanistan’s neighbours. We helped with the fighting in the decade-long war against the Soviets. And we have to live with the outcome of this war.”

Pakistan’s Musharraf is Launching a Long-Shot, Long-Distance Bid to be President Again

By Zain Shauk for The Houston Chronicle

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf hopes to retake the leadership of his country, and he is actively campaigning — in Texas.

Musharraf, who relinquished his presidency in 2008, has a set of Houston meetings planned this week with wealthy Pakistani-Americans and corporate leaders.

He is scheduled to meet today with former President George H.W. Bush and Joanne King Herring, a longtime advocate for development in Afghanistan and Pakistan who was played by actress Julia Roberts in the film Charlie Wilson’s War.

Musharraf, a London resident, announced this month the creation of a new political party and a plan to run in Pakistan’s 2013 parliamentary elections.

But he has kicked off his campaign in the U.S., a decision that could say more about the perceived influence of the Pakistani-American community in cities such as Houston than Musharraf’s chances for success, experts say.

Musharraf said he believes connecting with Pakistanis in America will give him enough backing — financially and politically — to carry him to victory in Pakistan.

“I do need financial support, and I would ask the American Pakistani diaspora to support me … because I see darkness in Pakistan,” Musharraf said. “Because I don’t see a political party or a leader in Pakistan to be able to tackle the problems that Pakistan is facing.”

While Musharraf enjoys backing from the Pakistani-American elite, experts say he will be hard-pressed to develop a political base within his country and likely does not stand a chance against more established parties.

He is also in no position to campaign within Pakistan. Safety is a concern after multiple assassination attempts during his presidency, and he would likely face prosecution in connection with several criminal cases currently pending in Pakistani courts, experts said.

Still, Musharraf’s interest in wooing deep-pocketed Pakistani-Americans is revealing, said Walter Andersen, associate director of the South Asia program at Johns Hopkins University.

Not only do Pakistani-Americans play a role in financially supporting candidates, but their meetings in America are covered by Pakistani news media and seem to give politicians the idea that they are gaining traction, Andersen said.

Former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif also visited U.S. communities while campaigning, he said.

“Whether it works is not important,” Andersen said. “The perception among them (politicians) is that it works.”

Wide-ranging itinerary
U.S. communities don’t play a visible role in Pakistani elections, but Musharraf could stand to gain from his current North America tour, said Jamal Elias, an expert on contemporary Pakistan and chairman of the religious studies department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Musharraf’s itinerary will include stops in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Toronto. He visited Dallas last week.

“Appearing statesman-like is going to help him in Pakistan,” Elias said. “It’s not going to build a constituency, but it may help him.”

There are more than 75,000 people of Pakistani origin in the Houston area, which includes more than 800 doctors, executives in the energy and information technology industries and scores of business owners, according to the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston.

Many of them have in the past contributed financially to political parties in Pakistan and will likely do so again, said M.J. Khan, a former Houston city councilman and member of the Pakistani community.

Khan said he does not send money to Pakistani political candidates, but knows U.S. residents in Houston and elsewhere who do. “They’re an educated community, and they send a lot of resources to Pakistan,” Khan said. “So I think every politician in Pakistan feels the Pakistani-American community is an important group to reach out to.”

Tactics questioned
Some community members – including Sajjad Burki, president of a Houston chapter for a political party headed by Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan – were not sure of the former president’s legitimacy as a candidate. Burki questioned Musharraf’s campaign tactics and priorities.

“It doesn’t make sense for him to be creating a political party and campaigning abroad rather than campaigning in Pakistan,” he said.

Herring, who is hoping to build support for Musharraf’s candidacy, said she planned to back him because of his support for her development efforts in Afghanistan.

“I think that Musharraf is interested in my plan,” Herring said. “I know he is. He supports it.”

Seeks ‘legitimacy’
Musharraf, a retired general, said he hopes a possible election to office will give him “the legitimacy that maybe I didn’t have in the past” as someone who had seized control of the government in a 1999 military coup.

He spent much of a luncheon Tuesday discussing the threats to Pakistan created by instability and lack of development in Afghanistan. Asked how he would solve that and a host of other challenges, Musharraf paused and smiled at his audience.

“First of all, get me elected,” he said.

For Better or Worse, White House Bets on Pakistan’s Civilian Government

Reported by Josh Rogin for Foreign Policy magazine

The Obama administration has always been clear that the path to winning the war in Afghanistan goes through Pakistan. But if Bob Woodward’s new book is accurate, the White House considers its war effort much more dependent on the success and survival of Pakistan’s civilian government than was previously known.

Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars,” which hit bookstores Monday, sheds new light on the Obama administration’s vast outreach to the Pakistani civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari. It paints a picture of an administration working hard to court the Pakistanis while remaining somewhat confused about Pakistani thinking on a range of issues.

Obama himself was confused about the nature of Pakistani intentions during two crucial decision points in his administration’s Afghan policy — the March 2009 strategy rollout and the deliberations in November 2009, which resulted in a troop surge and a huge expansion of covert operations in Pakistan. However, based on advice from the majority of his key advisers, he nonetheless tried to entice Pakistan to commit to a deep and long-term partnership with the United States by offering the Zardari government incentive after incentive, with relatively few pressures.

According to Woodward’s account, the centrality of Pakistan was championed early on by Bruce Riedel, the Brookings scholar who was brought on as a key figure in the Obama administration’s March 2009 Afghanistan strategy review.

Riedel, who referred to Islamist extremists in Pakistan as the “real, central threat” to U.S. national security, personally convinced Obama, only two months after he took office, that Pakistan needed to be the centerpiece of his new strategy. Riedel’s plan involved arming the Pakistani military for counterinsurgency and increasing economic and other forms of aid to the civilian government. This marked the beginning of the term “Af-Pak,” which drove the administration’s belief that stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan were inextricably linked.

Riedel’s Pakistan focus was not due to his confidence that the civilian government could control the military and intelligence services. In fact, he referred to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as a “liar” with regards to the activities of the secretive Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), which is widely suspected of aiding the Taliban insurgency. Then Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair reportedly echoed Riedel’s views on this matter.

Inside the administration, Blair argued that Obama was approaching Pakistan with too many carrots and not enough sticks. He at one point advocated bombing inside Pakistan and conducting raids there without the Pakistani government’s approval. “I think Pakistan would be completely, completely pissed off and they would probably take actions against us … but they would probably adjust,” he once told Obama.

Obama, however, opted to pursue a less confrontational path. He concluded the central task would be convincing the Pakistani leadership to throw its lot in with the United States He said at the time of the initial strategy review in March 2009, “that we had to have a serious heart-to-heart with Pakistani civilian, military and intelligence leaders.”

Later that year, when making the decision to send an additional 30,000 “surge” troops to Afghanistan, Obama knew that his plans to also expand the U.S. military presence in Pakistan and widen drone strikes would be a hard sell to the Zardari government. In an attempt to sweeten the deal, Obama framed the policy as a new “strategic partnership” with Pakistan, even tying the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan to the survival of Zardari and the legacy of his deceased wife Benazir Bhutto.

“I know that I am speaking to you on a personal level when I say that my commitment to ending the ability of these groups to strike at our families is as much about my family’s security as it is about yours,” Obama wrote in a letter to Zardari delivered by National Security Advisor Jim Jones and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan.

Zardari’s response to that letter reinforced what many in the administration already suspected: Pakistan’s government was in the grips of an internal struggle over whether to embrace the United States. Zardari’s initial response focused heavily on India, though the Pakistani president only referred obliquely to his country’s strategic rival. Woodward reports that the White House believed the letter was written by the Pakistani military and the ISI. However, the Zardari government did end up accepting Obama’s offer.

Obama’s top advisors told the U.S. president that he would have to accept something short of complete success in convincing Pakistan to turn away from its longstanding obsession with the military threat it perceives from India.

When Obama had a meeting with Zardari in May 2009, he told the Pakistani president the he did not want U.S. taxpayers to be funding Pakistan’s military buildup against India “We are trying to change our world view,” Zardari told Obama, “but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

At times, Obama was downright puzzled by his advisors’ advice regarding Pakistan. For example, intelligence reports confirmed that Pakistani officials were afraid that the United States would leave Afghanistan too early, as they believed had occurred after the end of the resistance to the Soviet regime in the 1980s. On the other hand, Pakistan worried that if the United States was too involved in Afghanistan, it might aid in the establishment of a larger Afghan army than Islamabad was comfortable with.

“What am I to believe?” Obama asked his senior staff. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates all told him these were the types of contradictions that were commonplace when dealing with Pakistan.

For its part, the Pakistani government was just as confused and puzzled by the Obama administration. Woodward recounts one anecdote, in which Zardari tells the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad that he believed the United States was involved in orchestrating attacks by the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani civilian government.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani, a key go-between, tried several times to explain to the Obama administration how to court Pakistani leaders, comparing the dynamic to “a man who is trying to woo a woman.”

“We all know what he wants from her. Right?” Haqqani said in a meeting with Jones, Deputy National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and the NSC’s Gen. Doug Lute.

“But she has other ideas. She wants to be taken to the theater. She wants that nice new bottle of perfume,” Haqqani told them. “If you get down on one knee and give the ring, that’s the big prize. And boy, you know, it works.”

Haqqani said the “ring” was official U.S. recognition of Pakistan’s nuclear program as legitimate. He also warned that the Pakistanis would always ask for the moon as a starting point in negotiations. He compared it to the salesmanship of rug merchants.

“The guy starts at 10,000 and you settle for 1,200,” Haqqani told the Obama team. “So be reasonable, but never let the guy walk out of the shop without a sale.”

Although the Obama administration has had some success improving the relationship between the two governments, Pakistan’s civilian leadership still faces a series of difficulties in its goal of exerting control over its entire national security structure. Stability has also been threatened by the enormous pressures resulting from the war that it is waging inside its own borders, and political attacks leveled against it from the media and the courts. Zardari’s perceived sluggish response to the devastating flood crisis has cost him even more credibility among the Pakistani public.

But while the end of Zardari regime has often been predicted, it appears that he will remain in place for the foreseeable future. The Obama administration, meanwhile, is aware of how crucial his cooperation remains for the success of the mission in Afghanistan.

When Woodward sat down for his interview with Obama earlier this year, he asked the president if the situation was still that Pakistan is the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy. “It continues to this day,” Obama replied.

$11-Million Monument to Benazir Bhutto: APPROVED

By Shirin Sadeghi for The Huffington Post

This week, as flood waters ravage Pakistan’s land and 20 million of its people, and after Pakistan’s own president, Asif Ali Zardari, managed to muster only $58,000 of his own vast wealth to the flood relief (a donation nearly doubled by Angelina Jolie), yet another devastating blow has hit Pakistan: news that the government has now approved an $11-million statue of the President’s assassinated wife, Benazir Bhutto.

And yes, this is Pakistani taxpayer money.

The statue itself will cost 4.7 million dollars, and it will be built on land that is worth another 5.9 million dollars. Apparently, Mr. Zardari, whose personal wealth is estimated to be more than 1 billion dollars, just couldn’t afford to donate the land or the statue in honor of the mother of his children.

His government decided the people of Pakistan could afford it, though. People who, according to the World Bank, have an average per capita income of $870 annually.

Admirably, the people of Pakistan have taken it upon themselves to try and stop this misguided use of funds in the midst of a national disaster. A legal action failed, but now a petition is available online.

Another day, another battle in the Pakistani people’s war for a representative government.

Pakistani British MPs Slam Zardari Visit

As Reported by AFP

British MPs of Pakistani origin hit out at President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday, saying he should be back home sorting out the flooding disaster rather than launching his son’s career.

Some ethnic Pakistani politicians have pulled out of a planned meeting with Zardari, insisting he should abandon his visit to Britain to head up Islamabad’s response to the devastating floods.

Zardari starts his five-day visit later Tuesday. Alongside talks with Prime Minister David Cameron, Zardari was to meet with Pakistani-origin MPs, and attend an event Saturday which reports say is primarily to launch the political career of his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The 21-year-old is the son of Zardari and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. He is co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party alongside his father and has been studying at Britain’s Oxford University.

“I’m not going to meet with the president because I believe that a head of state needs to be in his country of origin when there’s a state of emergency,” Lord Nazir Ahmed told AFP.

“For him to spend tens of thousands of pounds (dollars, euros) on the launch of his son’s political career at a time when his country needs him shows that he’s out of touch and his advisors are ill-informed.

“Quite frankly, staying in five-star hotels with his huge entourage, tens of big cars that have been hired just to give him this protocol in London, it’s quite outrageous.”

Ahmed, from the opposition Labour Party, has pulled out of Thursday’s lunch event at a London hotel.

“I would rather the money should go to the flood victims than wasting money on a five-star lunch. I could have easily met him at the high commission for a cup of tea,” the Pakistan-born peer said.

Fellow Labour MP Khalid Mahmood has also turned down his invite, insisting Zardari should be in Pakistan rather than visiting Britain for political reasons.

“The issue is the huge environmental catastrophe that’s going on — a lot of people are dying there,” he said.

“No matter what he can do or can’t do, he should be there to try to support the people, not swanning around in the UK and France.”

A spokesman for Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, told AFP she will be attending the meeting.

Qassim Afzal, a senior Lib Dem politician of Pakistan origin, said he would attend the meeting, even if “British Pakistanis themselves feel that at this moment in time he should have stayed in Pakistan.”

“This Passport is valid for all the countries of the World, except Israel”

By Junaid Ghumman for Mideast Youth

The world Zionist movement should not be neglectful of the dangers of Pakistan to it. And Pakistan now should be its first target, for this ideological State is a threat to our existence. And Pakistan, the whole of it, hates the Jews and loves the Arabs. This lover of the Arabs is more dangerous to us than the Arabs themselves. For that matter, it is most essential for the world Zionism that it should now take immediate steps against Pakistan.” Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister of Israel.

This speech was first published in Jewish Chronicles on 9th August 1967. This statement risen many controversies bloggers like me have quoted it many times; various explanations were also given to disprove this statement, but still we read it on every article related to Pakistan and Israel.

Pakistan and Israel do share some history and ideology. These are only two countries in the world created in the name of Religion; Pakistan for Islam, Israel for Judaism and both countries have taken independence from same British Empire after World War II.

Then why my passport still says, “This Passport is valid for all the countries of the World, except Israel”?

Pakistan claimed its independence from foreign invaders after two centuries of struggle. In 1757 after Battle of Plessey, East India Company started ruling Indian Sub-continent. The first armed resistance was Battle of Independence in 1857 after which the power was transferred to British government. In 1885 the political movement of independence started as Indian National Congress. Some of the Muslim leaders soon separated and launched new movement in 1906 as All India Muslim League for separate Muslim state which led to the creation of independent Islamic state Pakistan on 14th August 1947, which then became Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973.

For Israel the timings was same and the rulers were also same as of Indian sub-continents, but events and circumstances were totally different. Israel declared its independence on 14th May 1948 from British Mandate of Palestine. But Israel independence movement was not against British Occupation; rather it was a movement of creating a Jewish State by silently invading the markets, trades and areas to make Jewish settlements. Hovevei Zion or Hibbat Zion refers to organizations that are considered the foundations of the modern Zionist movement. These movements led to creation of Rishon LeZion in 1882 which is the first Jewish settlement in Palestine; which was at that time under Ottoman Empire. First Zionist Congress held in 1897 started the unified Zionist Movement which was converted to World Zionist Organization in 1960. This movement was successful in legalizing its demand of separate Jewish state in Palestine after Balfour Declaration 1917, in which British Mandate of Palestine’s (1917 – 1948) foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour wrote letter to the leader of British Jewish Community Baron Rothschild, pledging British Empire support of creation of Jewish State in Palestinian Land.

So what kind of relationship does Pakistan and Israel has over period of 60 years?

While writing this blog I also tried to ask couple Pakistanis; their view points about Pakistan-Israel Relationship. Yousaf is Pakistani Engineer living and working in Saudi Arabia. Being in the region, Pakistanis here are emotionally and regionally attached to Middle East crisis. I asked him what kind of relationship both countries have. “Relationship between Pakistan and Israel are tied to the fact that how Israel government treats the Palestinians. In general, as Jerusalem is considered as one of the holiest places in Islam; this fact serves as a thorn in the eyes of Pakistanis.” Yousaf said.

Pakistan is among those 20 UN member nations which do not recognize Israel as an independent state. These 20 countries also include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chad, Cuba, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Unofficial media reports say that first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion send secret message to Muhammad Ali Jinnah to formally accept its existence, but no response was given back to him. At the time of independence of Pakistan, it was reported that some 2,000 Jews remained in Pakistan, mostly Bene Yisrale Jews. Many left to Israel after its declaration of independence. Jews from Karachi, Pakistan, now live in Ramla, Israel, and they also built a synagogue they named Magen Shalome after the Pakistani Synagogue which was demolished in 1980.

60s, 70s and beginning of 80s were the decades when for the first time both countries came face to face when Arab-Israel war started. In “Six-day Arab Israeli War” of 1967; Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) were flying under a joint command. PAF pilot Flt. Lt. Saiful Azam became the only pilot from the Arab side to have shot down 3 IDF/AF aircraft within 72 hours.

In 1973 Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War, 16 PAF pilots volunteered to support Syria and Egypt. On 23 October 1973 Flt. Lt. M. Hatif shot down the Israeli Phantom. On 26 April 1974, PAF pilot Flt. Lt. A. Sattar Alvi became the first Pakistani pilot, during the Yom Kippur War; to shoot down an Israeli Mirage in air combat. He was honoured by the Syrian government. Nur Khan, who was the Wing Commander received praised from Israeli President Ezer Weizman who wrote in his autobiography that: “He was a formidable fellow and I was glad that he was Pakistani and not Egyptian”. Pakistan also sent medical ambulances to Egypt and Syria.

After the Israeli attack on Iraq’s under-construction French-built nuclear Osirak-type reactor, Tammuz-I, south of Baghdad on 7 June 1981, Pakistan’s then President President Zia-ul-Haq directed PAF Air Headquarters (AHQ) to make contingency plans for a possible Israeli attack on Kahuta. Kahuta is noted for its nuclear research studies and nuclear development technologies in Kahuta Research Laboratories. On 10 July 1982, a special contingency plan was issued. In the event of an Israeli attack on Pakistan’s strategic installations, plans were drawn up for a retaliatory Pakistani strike on Negev Nuclear Research Centre. The Negev Nuclear Research Centre is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometres to the south-east of the city of Dimona.

On political level many statements were given. As chair of the Second Islamic Summit in 1974, then Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said: “To Jews as Jews we bear no malice; to Jews as Zionists, intoxicated with their militarism and reeking with technological arrogance, we refuse to be hospitable.”

In of his speeches in National Assembly of Pakistan, before Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, he said, “Mr. Speaker Sir! This is not Desi (local) conspiracy, it’s an international conspiracy. Let me make it quite clear for the history, whatever the future and fate of this individual will be; that doesn’t matter, but let me tell you again this is not a desi (local) conspiracy, this is not PNA conspiracy, this is massive, huge and colossal international conspiracy against the Islamic State of Pakistan.” (PNA was Pakistan National Alliance against the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party). Nowadays people like to refer this international controversy as Zionist or Israeli Conspiracy.

A controversial book was published in 2003, named Charlie’s Wilson war which conspire about use of Israeli weapons supplied to General Zia ul Haq to fight Soviets in Afghanistan (1979 – 1989). Famous Hollywood movie Charlie’s Wilson War was also released in 2007. After that the back door politics started between Pakistan and Israel.

The President of Pakistan General Zia ul Haq was assassinated in plane crash on 17 August 1988. Among the conspiracy theories; Mossad (Israeli Intelligence Agency) involvement is also believed to exist. In the fall 2005 World Policy Journal, John Gunther Dean, a former US ambassador to India, blamed the Mossad for orchestrating Zia’s assassination in retaliation for Pakistan developing a nuclear weapon to counteract India and Israel.

Ali is my friend living in Middle East. I asked him, can there ever be any friendship or peace between Pakistan and Israel, to which he replied, “Yes there can be, Israel is a small country with a group of people belonging to a group of faith. And also it is in its interest that it should be at peace with every country, and especially those countries that it feels can threaten its existence.”

It is believed that, at the time of Benazir Bhutto’s Government both countries had very strong relationship especially in countering terrorism. In 1993 Benazir Bhutto, along with her then-Director-General of Military Operations, Pervez Musharraf, intensified the ISI’s liaison with Mossad in 1993, and she too began to cultivate the American Jewish lobby. Bhutto is said to have had a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli diplomat, who flew to the U.S. during her visit to Washington, D.C. in 1995.

In 1996, Pakistan’s Intelligence Agency, FIA, started a secret war against Extremist in Pakistan under Rehman Malik. According to sources, FIA also contacted Israeli intelligence agency Mossad to help and send its officers to investigate the extremism. Even after these strong ties, controversies never left the scenario. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on 27 December 2007 in one political rally. This was considered to be typical Mossad Assassination style. It is believed that she was the one knowing the reality of 9/11 being inside job and death of Osama Bin Laden, which she also publicly stated in David Frost TV program. That program was edited before telecasting. But Jewish Journals and Media still believed in the opposite way. According to Jewish media, Miss Bhutto asked for Mossad help to protect her on her return to Pakistan as she was afraid she will be killed.

In 1998 Pakistan and Israel were again on the verge of war. On 27 May 1998, day before Pakistan conducted its nuclear test in Chaghi, Southern Province of Baluchistan, Pakistan; unidentified F-16 was found hovering around skies on border areas of Pakistan. Pakistan Air Force; taking is as repetition of Israeli Conspiracy similar to 1981, Air Bourne its fighters to foil any attack. But Pakistan and Israeli UN delegation met in UN soon after Pakistan Nuclear tests in 1998 to give assurance that Pakistan will not transfer its technologies to Iran, the arch enemy of Israel.

Musharraf’s nine years of rule was also golden times for both countries. In 2003, General Pervaiz Musharraf said on television interview, “Mainly Muslim Pakistan must seriously take up the issue of recognizing Israel and avoid dealing with it on emotional grounds”. This statement gave birth to local opposition, esp. among Religious Parties in Pakistan. “Jerusalem is not just an Arab issue, it is linked to the faith of every Muslim” said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, chief of Jamaat-i-Islami Pakistan, the largest and oldest religious political party. “Presenting Palestine as a sole Arab issue is a heinous conspiracy of the imperialists and colonists aimed at disintegrating the Muslims and shattering the concept of Muslim unity. It is for the same reason the colonist forces are trying to portray every Muslim issue as regional or bilateral” said Qazi.

In 2005 Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom met in Istanbul after Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza, Palestine hoping to start peace talks. However, following the meeting Musharraf said, “Pakistan will not recognize the state of Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established”.

An unofficial Pakistan-Israel Peace Forum was created the next day of the meeting. It was created by 3 friends Waleed Ziad (Pakistan), Dror Topf (Israel), and Michael Berenhaus (US), all currently based in Washington, DC. This forum was an unsuccessful attempt to lobby in UN, US, Israel and Pakistani political establishments, hoping that Pakistani might accept Israel as independent legal state.

Pakistan and Israel are also secretly involved in Weapons and Arms Development Race. Close ties between India and Israel, and arms business between them forces Pakistan to keep an eye on Israel’s weapons industry. Like for example; Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) developed POF Eye Gun and exhibited in 2008 to counter the Israeli made Cornershot Rifle which is also known as Jews Gun in Arab World.

Shall Pakistan recognize Israel as an independent state to which Yousaf and Ali shared the same answer, “Pakistan should only consider recognizing Israel if it gives an independent state to the Palestinians with Jerusalem at its capital. And completely cut off itself from the internal affairs of that state, only then Pakistan should even start to consider recognizing them.”

I thought why not to ask some of Palestinians who have been living in exile for almost six decades. Abdul-Rahman is originally from Nabulus, West Bank and Qasim is from Gaza. I asked them what role Pakistan can play any role in solving Middle East Crisis, to which Abdul Rahman replied, “May be or may be not. Pakistan has its own problems with India, in Kashmir and in Afghanistan.” And Qasim said, “Pakistan cannot play any role especially with the current government which is only thinking of business but not Islam or Muslims.” Which actually hit me hard but truth is truth. On inquiring the Pakistan’s nuclear threat to Israel, Abdul Rahman said, “Israelis are even scared of stones so obviously Israel want end to Pakistan’s Nuclear technology, the Islamic Bomb.” But Qasim stuck to his same point, “If Pakistani government wants it can use nuclear technology against Israel, not in war or something but also to play politics.” Then in the end I asked, shall Pakistan Recognize Israel as independent country. Both of them came up with different and interesting answers. Abdul Rahman said, “There is should be a procedure of acceptance. Israel should balance the power and control of every city between themselves and Palestinians, then Pakistan can recognize Israel.” Whereas Qasim said, “Pakistan should recognize Israel. Sitting outside and ending any communication will not resolve the Middle East problem. We need to enter the region to solve the problem and if Pakistan wants it can do that by taking first step of recognizing Israel.”

It was interesting journey going through all the historic events which Pakistan and Israel share and knowing different ideas and opinions. All these events which I have mentioned above, cannot be confirmed from any credible or authentic source as all this happened back stage, behind the camera. But whatever governments’ relationship may be it is true that people of Pakistan still want to call every conspiracy as Zionist conspiracy and this will keep on going until some peaceful solution is devised to Middle East crisis between Muslim Palestinians and Jewish Israelis

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.

Pakistan’s Mosques, Media and Intolerance

By Zeeshan Haider for Reuters

Pakistan has been fighting Islamist militants for years, but tough measures are needed to overturn a system breeding religious intolerance after the long failure of authorities to confront mullahs and hardline groups.

Analysts say the notion of religious mistrust is deeply entrenched in the predominatly Muslim country — even in the school system — and it is now up to leaders to mobilise public.

Last week’s massacre in the city of Lahore of more than 80 Ahmadis – a minority religious sect deemed non-Muslim and heretical by the constitution – has generated a heated debate in Pakistan, a U.S. ally, on how to tackle the issue.

In a sign of how hatred is propagated, The News newspaper said one of the two surviving gunmen caught by security forces said he had been persuaded that Ahmadis were “blaspheming” Islam.

Identified as Abdullah, he told investigators that his mentors had him believe that Ahmadis were drawing caricatures of Prophet Mohammad during a recent online contest and “so their bloodshed was a great service to Islam”, the newspaper said. That raised alarm bells in a country combatting militancy.

“The nagging feeling that the government has already lost the battle against extremism has now acquired the force of conviction,” Zafar Hilaly, a former ambassador, wrote in The News last week.

After joining the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Pakistan mounted a crackdown on militancy, outlawing several groups, arresting hundreds of suspects and warning hardline mullahs against delivering hate speeches and distributing hate literature.

The government also vowed to reform tens of thousands of Islamic seminaries, known as madrassas, many of which are considered as breeding grounds for militancy. Almost none of these measures, however, has been implemented.

Most outlawed groups have re-emerged under new names. Radical clerics still deliver fiery speeches against sects. The U.S. Embassy acknowledged the difficulties, given the importance placed on Pakistan helping Washington battle al Qaeda and its extremist allies.

“We recognise this is a problem,” an embassy official said, adding that the embassy encouraged Pakistanis to take part in exchange programmes to see a multi-faith United States.

Analysts say Pakistani leaders dating back to the 1970s, however popular, took no action to counter radicals. Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based political and security analyst said governments have lacked the stomach to implement reforms, particularly in school curricula.

“In textbooks used in government schools, Pakistan is equated with Muslims…They teach Pakistan is a country only for Muslims. They don’t teach that non-Muslims also live here,” he said.

Journalist and analyst Ahmed Rashid described school programmes as “the most sensitive issue. But it is an issue in which any attempt to change the curriculum would have a whole host of fundamentalist groups oppose you.”

In 1974, Pakistan’s first popularly elected Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, bowed to Islamic groups and won approval of a constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims. He also switched the weekly day off from Sunday to Friday.

But much of the upsurge in militancy occurred in the late 1970s and 1980s during the “Islamisation drive” by late military leader General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq and Pakistan’s support for the U.S.-baked Afghan jihad or holy war against the Soviet invasion which saw a rapid growth of radical groups and madrasas.

Haq introduced several laws, such as the notorious blasphemy law, which are deemed discriminatory against non-Muslim minorities and fuelled tensions between different Muslim sects. Subsequent governments did nothing to reverse the laws.

Military dictators, who ruled Pakistan for more than half of its existence, have also used militant groups to further policy objectives in Afghanistan and India and marginalise liberals.

“In earlier years, in order to pursue its foreign policy using the instrument of jihad, the state actively sought to create a religiously charged citizenry,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist and analyst. “But, now that the Pakistani military and political establishments have become a victim of extremism, they are foundering in confusion.”

Former President Pervez Musharraf, a military ruler, though he espoused a modern and liberal version of Islam, repeatedly failed to get the laws reviewed while in office from 1999-2008.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a pro-West politician and a vocal opponent of the militants, was killed in December 2007 in a suicide attack blamed on militants linked to al Qaeda. Civilian leaders are made even more cautious now in tackling radical groups by the tremendous fear of militants who have unleashed bomb and suicide attacks across the country.

“Religious intolerance is getting worse in Pakistan because the political leadership lacks the will to fight this,” said analyst Rizvi. “They don’t want to face the wrath of mullahs.”

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