Posts Tagged ‘ Pakistani Army ’

Terrorism Will Not Harm Pakistan Ties: China

As Reported By The Business Recorder

Cross-border terrorism in China’s ethnically divided far western region of Xinjiang will not harm the nation’s diplomatic ties with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries, a regional official said on Wednesday.

Chinese security authorities had found “countless ties between ‘East Turkestan’ terrorists and terrorists from our neighbouring countries,” regional government head Nur Bekri said, quoting the name used by members of the Uighur ethnic minority who seek an independent state in Xinjiang.

“But our neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, have been declaring officially that in terms of any violent activity aimed at China, they will maintain China’s national security and core interests,” Bekri told reporters on the sidelines of China’s annual parliament.

He said the basic interests of China, Pakistan and other countries bordering Xinjiang were “the same.”
“So just a few terrorists will definitely not harm the China-Pakistan relationship,” Bekri said.

He said the vast region – which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan – was “generally stable” despite recent ethnic conflict and the threat of terrorism.
The government has reported several terrorist attacks that killed dozens of people in Xinjiang in the past few years.

But Uighur exile groups have accused China of using the global fight against terrorism as an excuse to suppress political and religious activity among Uighurs.
Ethnic violence and a clash with police left about 20 people dead in southern Xinjiang’s Yecheng town last week, according to reports by international rights groups and state media.

Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, and other areas of Xinjiang have remained tense since protests by Uighurs escalated into rioting that left about 200 people dead and 1,700 injured in the city in July 2009.

Pakistan Military Denies Conspiracy to Seize Power

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

The military command in Pakistan issued an unusual refutation on Friday of rumors that it was planning to take power, publicizing a pledge by the top general that it is committed to democracy a day after the prime minister warned of conspiracies to subvert the civilian government.

But the pledge, by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, did little to assuage anxieties about a possible coup in a country with a history of military interventions. The anxieties were reinforced on Thursday by an extraordinary outburst about just such a possibility from the normally soft-spoken prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, who also said the military generals in Pakistan behaved as though they were “a state within a state” and that they should be accountable to Parliament.

“The army will continue to support democratic process in the country,” General Kayani was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the military command. It said General Kayani had made that pledge on Thursday as he visited troops stationed in the northwestern regions of Mohmand and Kurram.

General Kayani “dispelled the speculations of any military takeover and said that these are misleading and are being used as a bogey to divert the focus from the real issues,” according to the statement by the military.

However, General Kayani stressed that “there can be no compromise on national security,” alluding to the differences with the civilian government over investigations into a contentious memo that suggested the civilian government had sought help from the United States in trying to constrain the Pakistani military.

The public back-and-forth came as the Pakistan military’s relations with the United States, already aggravated by the memo issue, have plunged to new lows over a deadly American-led airstrike on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border last month that killed 26 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan’s military has rejected results of a Pentagon inquiry that said both sides were at fault but that Pakistani forces opened fire first. In a new sign of the Pakistani military’s anger, a senior official said Friday it had canceled a planned visit by the head of the United States Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, to brief his counterparts on the Pentagon inquiry.

The tensions over the memo began after Mansoor Ijaz, an American businessman of Pakistani origin, wrote an op-ed article for The Financial Times in October saying that a Pakistani diplomat had asked him to deliver a memo to Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, after American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in a May raid on a Pakistan safe house. That raid, which deeply embarrassed Pakistan, raised questions about whether Bin Laden, the most-wanted fugitive Al Qaeda plotter of the Sept. 11 attacks, had been protected by elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service. Mr. Ijaz described the memo as saying that the civilian government sought help in preventing a possible coup, offering in exchange to dismantle part of the intelligence service.

Since then, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the powerful military have been arguing over the veracity of the memo , which is seen as authentic by the military and as a conspiracy by the civilian government.

Husain Haqqani, the former ambassador to the United States, was forced to resign in November after allegations that he had orchestrated the memo, a charge he denies. Mr. Haqqani returned to the country and is barred from traveling abroad, a step seen as a violation of his fundamental rights, according to his lawyer.

The top generals have urged the country’s Supreme Court to investigate the origins of the memo. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said Friday that the court is pursuing those investigations but that it would not validate any army coup.

The statements by both Mr. Gilani and General Kayani signified that deep mistrust and tensions exist between the two sides.

“Things don’t look stable at all,” said Enver Baig, a former senator, who predicted that the “civil-military relations will not settle down peacefully.”

The End of AfPak

By Scott Malcomson for The New York Times

Remember how after 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s attacks on us could be linked to almost anything, from shopping habits to the rediscovery of Western values to carbon-pricing schemes? Something similar appears to be happening with Bin Laden’s death. Jihadism sure isn’t what it used to be. After 10 years, it seems, the time has come to go home. Troops are and will be coming back to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan. The military budget will be cut. The outgoing secretary of defense feels able to openly mock NATO because, presumably, he thinks he can afford to — because it doesn’t matter all that much. The global war on terror is being downgraded from Armageddon to something more out of Leviticus: a tricked-out police action, just as John Kerry, in this magazine, always said it should be. On Sunday, Helene Cooper and Mark Landler reported that “American success in the counterterrorism campaign would seem to bolster arguments for a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan.” By Tuesday morning, they were reporting that President Obama would announce his withdrawal plans on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a Harris poll revealed that 51 percent of Americans and 54 percent of Britons believed “the death of Bin Laden meant it was time to bring troops from their countries home.”

That isn’t quite how it looked when I was in Washington a few weeks ago and spoke with about a dozen current and former American officials and with Pakistanis. The impression they each gave was that American withdrawal would be speeded not because of Bin Laden’s death but because of Pakistan’s reaction to it. After the initial shock, Pakistan’s (government-influenced) press latched onto a narrative of “national humiliation” as a result of the American raid, rather than, say, one of jubilation at the demise of a killer whose fantasies have brought Pakistan nothing but misery. A younger generation of military officers — Pakistan is dominated by its military — seemed at times about to revolt in reaction to the insult to Pakistan’s sovereignty. And the Inter Services Intelligence (I.S.I.), Pakistan’s ubiquitous military intelligence outfit, reacted, as was subsequently reported, by scouring the neighborhood around Bin Laden’s house for … evidence of how the C.I.A. found out he was there, and to determine who had been helping the Americans.

Finally, the Pakistan government did not respond to the Bin Laden raid by pressing its new advantage and rolling up terrorist networks across the land. No, it did not do that at all. So Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, went to Islamabad and on May 27 presented a list of demands. These included the arrest or elimination of Ayman al-Zawahiri (of Al Qaeda), Ilyas Kashmiri (a long-sought semi-free-agent and former Pakistani military man), Sirajuddin Haqqani (of the AfPak-border based Haqqani network) and Atiya Abdur Rahman (Al Qaeda), and the shutting down of bomb factories in Pakistan.

By June 3, Kashmiri was dead. But this promising start now seems isolated. The other wanted men are still at large. The bomb-makers might well be getting tipped off. The revolt by younger Pakistani officers seemed only to get worse.

In short, the U.S. and Pakistan are really not getting along. Among members of Congress, beating up Pakistan has become ritualized; Senators McCain and Rogers were doing it again on the Sunday programs. I wondered: How many times can Pakistan be abandoned? As Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer and the head of President Obama’s first major AfPak review, shows in his excellent new book, “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of Islamist Jihad,” embrace and abandonment have formed the pattern of American-Pakistani relations since the majority-Muslim nation was formed out of the breakup of British India in 1947. Harry Truman’s lack of interest yielded to Dwight Eisenhower’s enthusiasm for Pakistan as an anti-Communist bulwark and a base for spying on the Soviets. The relationship was and remained built around security and intelligence. Lyndon Johnson reversed course when India and Pakistan went to war in 1965; he cut off both, but Pakistan had, unlike India, been a strong ally, and it felt betrayed. This set the pattern: ultimately, Pakistan was tactical and India was strategic.

Now, after almost 10 years of intense engagement, Pakistan and the U.S. appear set for another split; at least that was the consensus among the officials I spoke with. There was a pervasive sadness in these conversations. It was due in part to the sheer human effort that has gone into the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. A lot of spies and soldiers and diplomats and politicians have put years of their lives into making “AfPak” work, which requires making Pak work. A lot (not all) of that effort seems to be going down the drain, along with much of the billions of taxpayer dollars that financed it.

There is also personal sadness in that the AfPak effort was associated toward the end with Richard Holbrooke, whose death late last year brought the foreign-policy world up short. Holbrooke did not take great care of himself, so objectively his death could not be entirely a surprise, and among people over 70 the reactions I heard were more of the well-what-did-you-expect variety. But in the 35-to-65 range it was different. Holbrooke represented, very attractively, the assertion of youth and hope against experience. Even at 69 he had a distinct eagerness, even boyishness, alongside the baritone gravitas. He attracted bright young people. He could be young and old at the same time. Once he was gone, that sort of generational bridging disappeared. (Older figures are few in this administration.) The sense of continuity (as well as of optimism) is weakening. There’s something missing now.

There was also a sense of ideological loss of direction. For all their differences, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush shared a tangible optimism about American governmental involvement abroad. President Obama is different, and even if he weren’t the national mood is. The people’s representatives in Congress are vying to bring troops home faster, and if there is an internationalist remaining in the House he or she is keeping quiet. The Republican candidates for president seem to have settled on anti-war isolationism as a winning position. Obama’s great strength in foreign policy — his ability to repackage, and optimize, American power in a multipolar world — is the strategy that dare not speak its name, or it will bring accusations of “declinism.”

Finally, there is the tremendous sadness of Pakistan itself. The country doesn’t have enough water. It lacks the electricity to develop its industries. Literacy, by some reckonings, is actually declining. Democracy has been restored but the government is hardly stable. The one truly semi-stable institution, the military, is struggling against itself, just as Pakistanis are dividing, and attacking each other on an increasing scale (which is saying something).

But, in a way, the saddest thing of all, from a foreign-policy point of view — Pakistani or American — is that the one great card Pakistan has to play is to make itself a problem. Pakistan formed itself into a regional player through building its army, running terrorist proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan, indulging in enough Islamist millenarianism to make itself frightening, and developing nuclear weapons. None of these strategies have a good future. But in the absence of a long-term committed relationship — what Holbrooke promoted as a “strategic partnership” — with the United States or, perhaps, with China, Pakistan is left with fear as its most successful export.

There was some discussion in Washington as to whether Mullah Omar’s name was on that list that Clinton and Mullen presented in Islamabad. It almost doesn’t matter. The doubt itself is the message: Pakistan stays valuable because it has terrorist “ties” or “links” or “proxies” or whatever. As national existential dilemmas go, Pakistan’s is particularly nightmarish. The U.S. will leave them to it — abandonment again — and choose the happier relationship with India. Secretary Clinton will be at the regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in late July, helping to take her longtime initiative of eastward Indian engagement, and the integration of the United States into East Asian political structures, to a new level. This is part of a long-term strategy of accommodating the rise of China and of India.

And Pakistan, after 10 years, will be left behind; as the line in Washington goes, “There is no good solution.”

Pakistan Furious With US Over Fatal Raid, But There’s Little It Can Do

By Howard LaFranchi for The Christian Science Monitor

Pakistan has always bristled at US airstrikes inside its territory, but a helicopter gunship attack earlier this week that killed three Pakistani border guards has led to new frictions and exposed heightened sensitivities over Pakistan’s growing dependence on American support.

US and Pakistani officials have until now managed to paper over unresolved differences over how to deal with insurgents who attack US and NATO forces in Afghanistan from their command-and-control centers in neighboring Pakistan. But this time Pakistan closed a vital supply route for provisioning US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, causing US military and civilian leaders to scramble to attempt to undo the action.

US officials predict the border crossing – one of two Pakistani crossings used by NATO to move supplies into Afghanistan – will reopen soon. The Pakistani government, largely dependent on the US and the West, has no other choice, analysts agree. But the move to close the border crossing, they add, lays bare the government’s inability to react strongly to violations of its sovereignty.

“They don’t have too many cards to play without hurting themselves,” says Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Department Pakistan expert now at the Middle East Institute in Washington. Closing border crossings used by the US “in some ways is their trump card, but they are not really going to play it.”

“They know full well that if they persevered with this, they’d be putting the whole relationship with the US in jeopardy,” he says.

US and Pakistan: uneasy alliance

About three-quarters of the supplies for the 120,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan move through Pakistan. The US, meanwhile, provides Pakistan with about $2 billion in military aid annually.

The cross-border attack came at a time when the US was already stepping up unmanned drone attacks on Taliban and insurgent refuges inside Pakistan. The US launched a record number of these attacks in August.

The NATO helicopter attack that killed the three border guards – the fourth such manned cross-border strike in about a week – is part of an upswing in manned aircraft strikes. It reflects new NATO willingness to enter Pakistani airspace to pursue insurgents fleeing to refuge across the border.

But Pakistan’s tit-for-tat action also suggests a civilian government that is weak and desperate to demonstrate to the Pakistani public – already estranged by government corruption and an ineffective flood response – that it is standing up to the deeply unpopular Americans.

“I want to assure the entire nation from this house that we will consider other options if there is interference in the sovereignty of our country,” Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said Friday in a speech to parliament.

Mr. Gilani’s comments, in which he repeated Pakistan’s commitment to fighting Islamist extremists that have targeted the country’s civilian government, came a day after he took a call from Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign relations Committee, seeking to smooth out the rough patch in US-Pakistan relations.

A reminder of the fragility of the Pakistani supply line came Friday when gunmen attacked a convoy of NATO fuel tankers, burning as many as 40 vehicles.

How to ‘walk back’ now?

The key now will be some US effort allowing the Pakistanis to “walk back” from the border closing while saving face, Mr. Weinbaum says.

“If they [in the government] hadn’t shown some backbone here it could have really been devastating for them,” he says. “But now they will have to walk back on this, and the key will be the way they do it.”

“The US can help them do that,” he adds.

One possibility is a joint investigation into the incident.

Continuing deterioration in the Pakistani government’s standing with the public has led to speculation of a military coup.

But Weinbaum says he doesn’t see the military itching to topple the civilian leadership. “Yes, the military is putting pressure on the government, but the way I see it the military leadership really does want the government to do better,” he says. Pointing to the Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, he adds, “He would welcome the government being able to stand up more so that his hand isn’t forced.”

Pakistan Suicide Bombing Death Toll Jumps to 102

By Riaz Khan and Nahal Toosi for The Associated Press

The death toll from twin suicide bombings in Pakistan jumped to 102 with 115 people wounded on Saturday, making it the deadliest attack this year in the country.

Authorities continued to remove debris from the site of the attack in the village of Yakaghund in a northwest tribal region, after two bombers struck seconds apart Friday near a government office.

One of the bombs appeared fairly small but the other was huge, officials said. At least one bomber was on a motorcycle.

The attackers detonated their explosives near the office of Rasool Khan, a deputy Mohmand administrator who escaped unharmed. Tribal elders, including those involved in setting up militias to fight the Taliban, were in the building, but none was hurt, according to Mohmand chief administrator Amjad Ali Khan.

Video footage showed dozens of men searching through piles of yellow brick and mud rubble for survivors. Women and children were among the victims.

Mohmand is one of several areas in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt where Taliban and al-Qaida members are believed to be hiding.

Abdul Wadood, 19, was sitting in a vehicle at the time of the bombings.

“I only heard the deafening blast and lost consciousness,” said Wadood, who was being treated for head and arm wounds in Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) away. “I found myself on a hospital bed after opening my eyes. I think those who planned or carried out this attack are not humans.”

Some 70 to 80 shops were damaged or destroyed, while damage to a prison building allowed 28 prisoners — ordinary criminals, not militants — to flee, said Rasool Khan, who gave the casualty figures.

Friday’s was the deadliest attack this year in Pakistan. On New Year’s Day, a suicide car bomber struck a sports event near a meeting of tribesmen who supervise an anti-Taliban militia near the South Waziristan tribal area, killing 96 people.

Near the attack site, officials had been distributing wheelchairs Friday to disabled people and equipment to poor farmers, Amjad Ali Khan said. It was unclear how many participants in that event were among the victims.

Pakistani Taliban spokesmen could not be immediately reached after the attack. There were scattered reports the militant group’s branch in Mohmand had claimed responsibility and said it was targeting the elders.

The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand, but it has been unable to extirpate the militants. Its efforts to rely on citizen militias to take on the militants have had limited success there.

Nevertheless, there have been fewer attacks in Pakistan this year than in previous years — most notably in the northwest. In the last three months of 2009, more than 500 people were killed in a surge of attacks in the country.

Behind the Scenes of a Pakistani Suicide Bombing

By Chris Brummit and Asif Shahzad for The Associated Press

Abdul Baseer sent the grenades and explosive vest ahead, then boarded a bus that would take him to his target, accompanied by the 14-year-old boy he had groomed as his suicide bomber.

But before they could blow up their target, a luxury hotel in Lahore where they believed Americans would be staying, the two were arrested and are now in jail — Baseer unrepentant about having plotted to send a boy to his death, and the boy saying he never knew what was in store for him.

The story that unfolded in an interview with The Associated Press offers a rare insight into the world of a Pakistani militant, from his education at hard-line Islamic schools, through his professed participation in an attack on a U.S. patrol in Afghanistan, up to his arrest by Pakistani police along with the the boy, Mohi-ud-Din. His tale shares much with that of the thousands of other foot soldiers who make up the Taliban-led insurgency that is ravaging Pakistan, experts say. It also shows how the wars here and in neighboring Afghanistan bleed into each other.

The Associated Press, after several requests, was allowed to interview the two detainees, with police present for most of the meeting at a police interrogation center in Lahore, a political and military power center in eastern Pakistan. Baseer was born in 1985 close to the Swat Valley, which last year was overrun by Taliban and recaptured by the Pakistanis. The eldest of seven children, his father was a wheat farmer and earned barely enough to feed the family. Meat was reserved for guests, he recalled.

Like many who cannot afford a regular education, Baseer attended three Islamic boarding schools where children learn the Quran by heart and spend little time on secular subjects. The religious schools provide free board and lodging, but are widely criticized for indoctrinating students with an extreme version of Islam. At least one of the schools Baseer attended, Jamia Faridia in the capital, Islamabad, has been linked to terror.

“Through my studies, I became aware that this is the time for jihad and fighting the infidels, and I saw that a jihad was going on in Afghanistan,” said Basser, a rail-thin man speaking just louder than whisper. “I looked for a way to get there.” “A trip to Afghanistan is considered part of the profession for a militant,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “It is almost like you need to do it for graduation. “The American troops are there, and it’s a cause of resentment.”

Baseer said he spent three summer vacation periods in Kunar, an Afghan province just across the border from northwest Pakistan, which he reached through a network of sympathetic clerics. On his first trip, in his mid-teens, he cooked for around 30 or 40 other militants, most of them Afghans, who were living in a large cave complex. On his second stay he had military training and learned to make suicide jackets. On the final trip he took part in the ambush of a U.S. patrol after he and other fighters had lain in wait in the snow for two days.”I was happy to be in place where I could kill unbelievers,” he said. “I thank God that we all returned safely and had a successful mission.”

He said he was in the rear of the attack, in which automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades were fired. He said the vehicles were left smoldering and that later the assailants were told two U.S. soldiers were killed, but there was no way of confirming that.

Back in Pakistan, Baseer worked as a mosque preacher in the Khyber region, not far from the northwestern capital, Peshawar. He said it was there that he hooked up with a man named Nazir, a commander in the Pakistani Taliban, who was plotting the attack in Lahore. Baseer said he made 10 suicide vests for Nazir.

Lahore, a city of around 9 million, has suffered scores of attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers over the last 1 1/2 years. Last month, two suicide bombers killed 43 people in near-simultaneous blasts. Baseer boarded a passenger bus along with the boy, Mohi-ud-Din, heading down the smooth highway to Lahore, where they were supposed to pick up the bomb and grenades.

Police officer Waris Bharawan, as well as Baseer, said the plan was to hook up with other militants and storm the PC International, one of Lahore’s grandest hotels. They said the suicide vest for the attack was sent to the city before the strike. Baseeer gave only a rough outline of the plan: He and others were to hurl the grenades around the lobby or entrance gate of the hotel, and then Mohid-ud-Din was to run in and detonate his explosive belt. Did he feel any guilt about what lay in store for his traveling companion? No, he said. “I was feeling good because he was going to be used against Americans.”

As he sat in Bharawan’s office, handcuffed and dressed in robe and baggy pants, an officer brought in the vest, dropping it on the floor with a thud. The explosive pads studded with ballbearings looked like slices of honeycomb. Also in the evidence bag were 26 grenades. Baseer obliged with a demonstration, miming the yanking of a white cable that would detonate the vest. “My instructors used to say this was the most important weapon in the fight against the enemy,” he said. In the same lockup, a crumbling building built when Britain ruled the Indian subcontinent, police also briefly presented Mohi-ud-Din to the AP. He seemed nervous and tongue-tied, claiming only that he knew nothing about the alleged attack.

The pair were arrested as they arrived at the house of another suspect, just days before the attack was due to have taken place, said Bharawan, who led the arresting officers. He said they acted on surveillance work in Lahore, but declined to give details. Torture and beatings are common inside Pakistani jails, according to rights groups. During a short time when no police were present, Baseer was asked how he was treated. He said he was beaten, but by members of Pakistan’s shadowy and powerful intelligence agencies soon after his arrest, not by the police. Police said Baseer and the boy would be tried for terrorist offenses behind closed doors and without a jury, as is customary in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Parliament Approves Reforms Stripping President of Some Powers

By Sean Maroney for The Voice of America

Pakistani lawmakers have passed a constitutional amendment that strips President Asif Ali Zardari of powers originally given to the presidency by the country’s former military dictator two decades ago. Lawmakers in Pakistan’s upper house have passed a series of key reforms to the country’s constitution. Senate Chairman Farooq Naik announced the result of the final vote live on state-run television.

“The motion is carried by the votes of not less than two-thirds of the total membership of the Senate. And consequently, the bill stands passed,” he said. The lower house passed the reforms unanimously last week and the next step is approval from President Asif Ali Zardari, who is expected to sign the reforms into law.

Lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties drafted the constitutional changes, which will turn the president into a ceremonial head of state. In the 1980s, military ruler Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq assumed several powers to maintain control of the government, including the power to dissolve parliament and appoint judges and the heads of the country’s armed forces. These powers will now go to the parliament and the office of the prime minister.

A Senate opposition leader, Wasim Sajjad of the PML-Q party, addressed Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who attended the vote. “Mr. Prime Minister, today you are a powerful man,” he said. “The responsibility, the power, everything you have, now the country wants you to deliver. And I hope and pray and I wish that you will come up to the expectations of the people.” But there has been much controversy regarding a clause of the new 18th amendment that renames the North West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The new name will reflect the Pashtun ethnic majority of the province, which predominately speaks Pashto.

But the province’s Hindko-speaking population has been protesting the name change since last week. The protesters say they want the province’s name to remain unchanged or they will demand a separate province that will reflect their majority in the south. On Monday, the demonstrations turned violent, leaving at least seven people dead and more than 100 others wounded. But analysts say this request does not seem likely because it does not appear to have two-thirds approval in the Parliament. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani addressed the controversy.

He says that his sympathies are with the people of Hazara and he urges the provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to make sure that those people are properly included as the renamed province moves forward. Many in Pakistan believe the 18th amendment will lead to political stability, allowing the government to pay more attention to its fight against the Taliban in the regions bordering Afghanistan.

But critics remain skeptical about the constitutional changes, saying President Zardari, who remains the head of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, will still be able to exert his influence on the prime minister. Mr. Gilani is a member of the president’s party and is considered a Zardari loyalist. In addition, as party leader Mr. Zardari has the power to dismiss PPP politicians from power, including the prime minister.

Hamid Karzai Is Losing All His Marbles and His Credibility

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Kabul, Afghanistan- President Hamid Karzai’s troubling remarks this past Saturday that he would join the Taliban if he continues to come under pressure to reform by the United States and other “outsiders” has caused a stir in Washington DC.  Karzai’s comments came a week after President Obama’s surprise visit to Afghanistan at the end of March to pressure Karzai’s government to reform the political system, end corruption, and do a better job of fighting the Taliban.

Instead, what Karza delivered was a threat of the worse kind and quite possibly the most offensive and troubling thing one can say to a country that is risking countless soldiers lives daily to secure the country from the Taliban and other militant warlords in Afghanistan. In 8 short years, Hamid Karzai has gone from being the special guest of honor at George Bush’s State of the Union address to a leader who threatened to join our worst enemy. All because he feels that the US needs to stop badgering him to be a more responsible, fair, and an equitable leader as well as an effective partner in fighting the Taliban.

Karzai apparently made these unusual comments at a closed door meeting of lawmakers on Saturday, just days after accusing “foreigners” presumably the Unites States of being behind the fraud of the disputed elections of 2009. “He said that if I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban”, said Farooq Marenai, a lawmaker from the eastern province of Nangarhar.  Mareni also stated that Karzai appeared nervous and demanded to know why parliament last week rejected legal reforms that would have strengthened Karzai’s authority over the country’s electoral institutions. Several other lawmakers confirmed that Karzai twice threatened to join the insurgency and the Taliban.

Karzai’s comments are troubling on many levels. First and foremost, he gives legitimacy and strength to the Taliban as his comments present the Taliban as an alternative option to American support or view on the situation. Karzai’s statement will no doubt have traveled the length and breadth of Afghanistan as word will spread that there is a weakness in the American-Afghan coalition that has been fighting and hunting the Taliban since October of 2001, post 9-11. The remarks by Karzai also puts every American, NATO, and Pakistani soldier at risk as instead of liberators, the foreign armies would be thought of as invaders, literally overnight. Lastly, Karzai’s remarks prove to the fact that Karzai is no longer an ally nor a credible partner for the US , NATO, and Pakistani army that have been fighting the Taliban with all their might.

There are reports of widespread nepotism, corruption, fraud, looting of the treasuries, and even drug trafficking, as Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, has been alleged to be a prominent figure in Afghanistan’s world leading illegal heroin production, cultivation and its global distribution. These facts along with his inability to rule effectively and assist the United States in its exit strategy out of Afghanistan by end of 2011 has made the Obama administration weary of dealing with Karzai. Also his typically slow response in instituting political and social freedoms along with a renewed focus in fighting the Taliban, has also been a factor in displeasure from Washington.

The Obama administration has refocused on the Afghan war with 30,000 additional troops to help with the war effort and that initial surge has helped the commanders on the ground in running the Taliban out of certain areas. There have also been great recent victories by the Pakistani army to go after the Taliban militants on its side of the border and in helping cut down the bases of support for the Afghan Taliban from the Pakistani tribal areas sympathetic to their cause. So these comments come at the worst possible time when the Taliban are on the run both in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a strong coalition of US-Afghan-Pakistan resistance against them could help eliminate or destroy the militants for good. But instead, the US and its allies are left wondering what to do with Karzai and how much he could be trusted in this tenuous partnership against the Taliban.

Taliban 201- The Rise of The Pakistani Taliban

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Peshawar, Pakistan- Taliban militants attacked the U.S. consulate in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on Monday, using  powerful bombs and rocket launchers in a sophisticated and daring attack killing 8 people, just hours after a suicide bomber killed 48 people elsewhere in the Swat valley. The attacks came as the United States has increased its airstrikes on targets both inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. The nearly decade long war waged against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan since 9-11 has created safe areas inside Pakistan for these militants to regroup and band with Pakistani militants sympathetic to their cause. Often, the militants on the Pakistani side and the Afghani Taliban share the Pashtun tribal and ethnic links among the border areas of both countries.

The US bombing of Afghanistan since late 2001 had pushed the Taliban and Al Qaeda militants to the mountains near the border with Pakistan. With help from sympathetic militant tribal warriors from the Pakistani side, the Taliban were able to dig in and have been able to fight the American forces for nearly a decade now. The onslaught by US and NATO forces continues in Afghanistan, but now for most of last year and certainly this year, the war has shifted to the streets and cities of Pakistan.

Now, much like Afghanistan, Pakistan too is a country that finds itself engulfed in the flames of religious extremism at the hands of determined and highly disciplined thugs. It used to be back during the Soviet-Afghan War, the only place perhaps not entirely safe inside Pakistan was Peshawar. Now, not one city or town of Pakistan has been spared from the violence by the Taliban. Back then, Peshawar was a city where attacks would happen frequently and often. During the 1980’s, the city became a haven for both jihadi militants fighting against the godless system of communism, and a base for spies as both the United States and Saudi Arabia funded a mujahedeen guerrilla war to defeat the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. President Reagan and General Zia of Pakistan used the fervor of religion to incite able bodied boys and men of Afghanistan and their distant cousins from the border area in Pakistan, along with thousands of volunteer Muslim fighters from across the Arab and Muslim world, to come and fight the Soviet Red Army. It was seen as a duty to come defend a Muslim land from occupation by a regime that would not allow the worship of Allah as communism discourages religion and encourages a sectarian society.

That strategy by General Zia ul Haq to promote the fight against the Russians as a holy war or jihad was brilliant at first. It mobilized not just every Muslim male in Afghanistan to stand and fight for his faith and their way of life, while also defending the country from invaders, but it also garnered the sympathy and enlistment of thousands upon thousands of Pakistani and Arab Muslim fighters to join the cause of these mujahedeen, as one who engages in jihad is called. The riling up of religious fervor and militant Islam was deemed necessary by both Reagan and Zia at the time as they sought to defeat the communists at all costs from succeeding in Afghanistan. It would not seem likely at the time, that this very same entity would become enemy number one of both the US and Pakistan a decade later.

It was monumental, it was historic,” retired Pakistani general Hamid Gul, who headed the ISI military spy agency from 1987-1989, said of Reagan’s role in defeating the Soviets. “We were receiving arms and logistics from the CIA, we were partners in this struggle,” Gul said, estimating the CIA spent up to $7bn in supplying arms and logistics to Islamic fighters or “jihadis.” “The jihadis he supported. It was their resistance against the forces of occupation and repression – that’s what jihad is – that Reagan identified himself with,” Gul said. “His greatest achievement was that he stood behind the Islamic world when it was arrayed against the Soviet empire.”

Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari Rivzi stated that “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban took shape later on, but they grew from this period of jihadism against the Soviets and with the initial help of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia along with the military and economic assistance from the United States to fight the Soviets during the ‘80’s. Rizvi sees the roots of the militancy that now ravages Pakistan and Afghanistan as having its beginnings from this period of war against the Soviets army.

That war with the Russians lasted almost 10 years. By the time the USSR pulled out all its troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the country had been completely destroyed. What was left of any government or authority of any sort was now held in the hands of a few militias and various warriors who commanded thousands of tribal and other ethnic fighters under them. These militias immediately started warring amongst themselves for more and more control of the country. The already weak, nonexistent central government of Afghanistan, post Soviet pullout was not able to cope and quickly capitulated. During the power vacuum that resulted, Pakistan’s spy agency, the ISI, realized the chance to wield power inside Afghanistan and threw its support behind a religious student movement based out of Kandahar. The ISI had previously assisted the cause to fight the Soviets by helping gather and organize radical Muslims from around the world to come and assist the Afghani mujahedeen in fighting the Soviets and had therefore developed good contacts with various religious groups including the young Taliban students and the fast growing movement.

The Afghani population initially welcomed the Taliban as they represented fairness and a rule of law over the notorious corruption, brutality and constant infighting of the warlord militias. Soon, with popular citizen support, along with Pakistan’s help, the Taliban became the dominant group within the country and soon held the seat of power in Kabul. Its leader Mullah Omar, was a friend of Osama Bin Laden and when the US forces came to Afghanistan in the hunt for Bin Laden, he gave the Al Qaeda leader refuge and in essence, became a fugitive of the US in the process for harboring America’s Most Wanted.

Fast forward to nearly nine years later as the war in Afghanistan continues against the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda responsible for the 9-11 attacks. However, the Taliban have grown and laid roots inside Pakistan also now as the nearly decade long war at the border with Afghanistan has ratcheted up sympathy by locals Pakistani Pashtun tribes for their brethren being bombed by both Pakistani and American forces. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan known as the Pakistani Taliban formed soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan and the Pakistani army’s offensive at the tribal areas near the border to combat the militants. The Pakistani Taliban led by the recently killed Baitullah Mehsud, has been largely responsible for hundreds of attacks in all major cities of Pakistan including Monday’s bombing of the American consulate in Peshawar.

The war in Afghanistan by the US against the Taliban that harbored and sheltered Bin Laden and the 9-11 killers of Al Qaeda is much the same as the war between the Pakistani army and the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat valley and the North West Frontier Province as well as in various cities of the country. This war has been brought home to the citizens of Pakistan. Over the last few months, bomb blasts in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and various other cities have now personalized this conflict for the average Pakistani as no longer a battle or skirmish at the border far away in the northwest of Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan.

No, the nearly daily attacks all over the country by the militants on government installations, public institutions like universities, factories and residential areas as well as markets and restaurants has made the country much less safer than at any time in its 63 year history. Many Pakistanis now are beginning to realize that the Taliban, operating with impunity all over Pakistan, pose a much bigger threat to the sovereignty and republic of Pakistan than any threat from anywhere else, including from that eternal archrival to the east, India. It is now well understood by both partners in this fight that only a sustained and vigorous fight taken to the militants inside both countries by the US and Pakistan over a long period of time can hope to defeat this disease known as the Taliban.

For an earlier report titled Taliban 101- Origins and History, Please click on this link:

https://pakistanisforpeace.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/taliban-101-origins-and-history/

U.S. Aims to Ease India-Pakistan Tension

By Peter Spiegel and Matthew Rosenberg for The Wall Street Journal

President Barack Obama issued a secret directive in December to intensify American diplomacy aimed at easing tensions between India and Pakistan, asserting that without détente between the two rivals, the administration’s efforts to win Pakistani cooperation in Afghanistan would suffer.

Pakistani Rangers (L) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel perform the daily retreat ceremony at the India-Pakistan Border at Wagah on December 26, 2009. The directive concluded that India must make resolving its tensions with Pakistan a priority for progress to be made on U.S. goals in the region, according to people familiar with its contents.

The U.S. has invested heavily in its own relations with Pakistan in recent months, agreeing to a $7.5 billion aid package and sending top military and diplomatic officials to Islamabad on repeated visits. The public embrace, which reached a high point last month in high-profile talks in Washington, reflects the Obama administration’s belief that Pakistan must be convinced to change its strategic calculus and take a more assertive stance against militants based in its western tribal regions over the course of the next year in order to turn the tide in Afghanistan.

A debate continues within the administration over how hard to push India, which has long resisted outside intervention in the conflict with its neighbor. The Pentagon, in particular, has sought more pressure on New Delhi, according to U.S. and Indian officials. Current and former U.S. officials said the discussion in Washington over how to approach India has intensified as Pakistan ratchets up requests that the U.S. intercede in a series of continuing disputes.

Pakistan has long regarded Afghanistan as providing “strategic depth”—essentially, a buffer zone—in a potential conflict with India. Some U.S. officials believe Islamabad will remain reluctant to wholeheartedly fight the Islamic militants based on its Afghan border unless the sense of threat from India is reduced.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already taken the political risk of pursuing peace talks with Pakistan, but faces significant domestic opposition to any additional outreach without Pakistani moves to further clamp down on Islamic militants who have targeted India.

U.S. and Indian officials say the Obama administration has so far made few concrete demands of New Delhi. According to U.S. officials, the only specific request has been to discourage India from getting more involved in training the Afghan military, to ease Pakistani concerns about getting squeezed by India on two borders.

“This is an administration that’s deeply divided about the wisdom of leaning on India to solve U.S. problems with Pakistan,” said Ashley Tellis, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has discussed the issue with senior officials in the U.S. and India. “There are still important constituencies within the administration that have not given up hope that India represents the answer.”

India has long resisted outside involvement in its differences with Pakistan, particularly over the disputed region of Kashmir. But, according to a U.S. government official, a 56-page dossier presented by the Pakistani government to the Obama administration ahead of high-level talks in Washington last month contained a litany of accusations against the Indian government, and suggestions the U.S. intercede on Pakistan’s behalf.

The official said the document alleges that India has never accepted Pakistan’s sovereignty as an independent state, and accuses India of diverting water from the Indus River and fomenting separatism in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled that Washington isn’t interested in mediating on water issues, which are covered by a bilateral treaty.

The White House declined to comment on Mr. Obama’s directive or on the debate within the administration over India policy. The directive to top foreign-policy and national-security officials was summarized in a memo written by National Security Adviser James Jones at the end of the White House’s three-month review of Afghan war policy in December.

An Indian government official said the U.S.’s increasing attention to Pakistani concerns hasn’t hurt bilateral relations overall. “Our relationship is mature—of course we have disagreements, but we’re trying not to have knee-jerk reactions,” the Indian official said.

According to U.S. and Indian officials, the Pentagon has emerged in internal Obama administration debates as an active lobbyist for more pressure on India, with some officials already informally pressing Indian officials to take Pakistan’s concerns more seriously. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. government’s prime interlocutor with the powerful head of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has been among the more vocal advocates of a greater Indian role, according to a U.S. military official, encouraging New Delhi to be more “transparent” about its activities along the countries’ shared border and to cooperate more with Pakistan.

In interviews, U.S. military officials were circumspect about what specific moves they would like to see from New Delhi. But according to people who have discussed India policy with Pentagon officials, the ideas discussed in internal debates include reducing the number of Indian troops in Kashmir or pulling back forces along the border.

“They say, ‘The Pakistanis have this perception and you have to deal with the perception’,” said one foreign diplomat who has discussed India’s role with Pentagon officials. An Indian defense ministry spokesman said his country’s army has already moved about 30,000 troops out of Kashmir in recent years.

The State Department has resisted such moves to pressure India, according to current and former U.S. officials, insisting they could backfire. These officials have argued that the most recent promising peace effort—secret reconciliation talks several years ago between Indian Prime Minster Singh and then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf—occurred without U.S. involvement.

Progress, For a Price, in Pakistan

By Doyle McManus for The Los Angeles Times

In 2001, on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, President George W. Bush gave Pakistan’s then-leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a choice: He was either with us or against us. Musharraf chose to become an ally, but the question ever since has been whether that shotgun marriage can mature into a healthy adult relationship. At times, the prospect has seemed far from reach.

The world’s second-most-populous Muslim country is caught in a brutal internal struggle between extremism and moderation. Most of its people tell pollsters they don’t like the United States and wish we’d go away. The tribesmen of its western frontier shelter Osama bin Laden and the leaders of Afghanistan’s Taliban. And the United States can’t forget how, in the 1980s, Pakistan built nuclear weapons — and then later exported nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran.

But in recent months, there has been progress in the relationship. Military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has increased significantly. Pakistan has allowed the CIA to increase its missile strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistani territory. Pakistani authorities have arrested several Taliban leaders and allowed U.S. intelligence officers to question them. And now Pakistan is offering to increase its own military operations in North Waziristan, the presumed lair of Bin Laden. All that cooperation came at a price, of course: a flood of U.S. military and economic aid.

And last week, the Pakistanis came to Washington to press for more. The academic criticism of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship is that it is “transactional” — nothing more than a series of bargains between buyers and sellers who don’t trust each other much. That’s still mostly true. Pakistan’s delegation arrived with a 56-page shopping list covering everything from military equipment to education and cultural exchanges. And one Pakistani official, asked during the visit whether his government was truly willing to act against the havens that allow the Taliban to maintain bases in Pakistan, replied frankly: “Yes — but at a price.”

After a series of meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pakistan’s ebullient foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, declared: “I think we are going to move from a relationship to a partnership.” But he used the future tense. In the meantime, there are things to work out. Pakistan is clearly worried about what happens when the United States begins pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 2011.

Although Obama administration officials have tried to reassure Pakistan that Washington’s commitment to the region is for the long haul, uncertainty remains. “Our fear is . . . that we get into a fight with these guys [the Taliban], and you walk away, and we’re still there,” a Pakistani official said. Pakistan’s powerful army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, spent part of his time in Washington visiting Congress with PowerPoint slides to show that Pakistan has committed more troops to its fight against insurgents than the United States has on the ground in Afghanistan, and that it has suffered almost 30,000 killed and wounded in the process.

According to U.S. officials, Kayani made a strong case that Pakistan can do more if it gets more modern military equipment from the United States, especially helicopters to ferry troops into the rugged badlands where Al Qaeda and the Taliban hide. The United States has helped Pakistan acquire some helicopters, but not as many and not as quickly as the Pakistanis would like. U.S. officials said they would try to speed the delivery of more. In the past, U.S. officials complained that Pakistan used much of its U.S. military aid to bolster its eastern front with India instead of its fight with internal insurgents; but since Pakistan’s 2009 offensive in the Swat Valley, that criticism has been stilled.

The delegation also added a new item to Islamabad’s wish list: a nuclear agreement under which the United States would help Pakistan develop its civilian nuclear energy industry — to mirror a similar U.S. agreement with India, Pakistan’s longtime enemy. The United States told the Pakistanis that would have to wait. The memory of having to clamp sanctions on Pakistan for its nuclear weapons program is still too fresh. But it was a sign of improving relations that the idea wasn’t rejected completely.

 In 2001, the United States sought a new relationship with Pakistan mostly because it was next to Afghanistan — and thus a country we would need for moving military supplies and basing drones. But that thinking has slowly evolved. In the long run, with its population of 170 million people — not to mention its cache of nuclear weapons — Pakistan is more important than Afghanistan.

“We’re engaging with Pakistan because we’re afraid of it,” says Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University. “It’s the scariest country in the region. Because of Afghanistan, it’s been treated as if it were a subsidiary issue. But Pakistan should be the primary issue.” The Americans are working hard to convince the Pakistanis that they are interested in Pakistan’s stability for its own sake, not just because it’s next door to Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are working hard to convince the Americans that they are committed to defeating the extremists in their midst. It’s not a strategic relationship yet. If it’s a partnership, it’s still a wary one. But that’s progress.

US-Pakistan Talks Mark ‘Intensification’ of Partnership

By Suzanne Presto for Voice of America News

The United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington next Wednesday (March 24). U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke told reporters at the State Department Friday that these talks mark a “major intensification” of the U.S.-Pakistan partnership. Wednesday’s talks will be co-chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Holbrooke says delegations from both sides will include senior officials of their nation’s defense, diplomacy, finance and agriculture departments. The U.S. delegation will also include aid and trade officials, and Pakistan’s will include officials who handle water, power and social issues.
“This is a partnership that goes far beyond security, but security is an important part of it,” he said. Holbrooke told reporters Friday that U.S. officials want to see aid money for Pakistan distributed more quickly.

“We are doing more. We will announce more. We want to do as much as the Congress will support,” Holbrooke said. The Obama administration has made improving and broadening relations with Pakistan a top priority, but U.S. policies and drone strikes targeting militants in the region remain unpopular. Holbrooke said the U.S. supports Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions and economic development, handle energy and water problems, as well as defeat extremists. “Everyone is aware of the popular public-opinion polls, and we think that our support for Pakistan deserves more recognition among the people,” he added.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Pakistani and U.S. officials have been talking a lot, and in his words, “the time has come to walk the talk.” Holbrooke responded to Qureshi’s statement that next week’s talks would be a good opportunity to rebuild confidence and trust on both sides. “The first time I went to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Qureshi introduced me to the phrase “trust deficit,” and so I have heard it many times,” he said. “The last time I was there, we both said in a press conference that we thought we had made huge advances in that,” Holbrooke added. Secretary of State Clinton last visited Pakistan in October, where she spoke with officials and students alike.

Holbrooke said there are plans to hold the next set of strategic talks in Pakistan, likely within the next six months. He underscored that these bilateral talks do not replace the trilateral talks among the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan which he said are expected to resume later this year.

A Victory For Obama, From An Unlikely Quarter-Pakistan

By Fareed Zakaria for Newsweek

President Obama gets much credit for changing America’s image in the world—he was probably awarded the Nobel Prize for doing so. But if you asked even devoted fans to cite a specific foreign-policy achievement, they would probably hesitate. “It’s too soon for that,” they would say. But in fact, there is a place where Barack Obama’s foreign policy is working, and one that is crucial to U.S. national security—Pakistan.

There has been a spate of good news coming out of that complicated country, which has long promised to take action against Islamic militants but rarely done so. (The reason: Pakistan has used many of these same militants to destabilize its traditional foe, India, and to gain influence in Afghanistan.) Over the past few months, the Pakistani military has engaged in serious and successful operations in the militant havens of Swat, Malakand, South Waziristan, and Bajaur. Some of these areas are badlands where no Pakistani government has been able to establish its writ, so the achievement is all the more important. The Pakistanis have also ramped up their intelligence sharing with the U.S. This latter process led to the arrest a month ago of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban, among other Taliban figures.

Some caveats: most of the Taliban who have been captured are small fish, and the Pakistani military has a history of “catching and releasing” terrorists so that they can impress Americans but still maintain their ties with the militants. But there does seem to be a shift in Pakistani behavior. Why it’s taken place and how it might continue is a case study in the nature and limits of foreign-policy successes.

First, the Obama administration de-fined the problem correctly. Senior ad-ministration officials stopped referring to America’s efforts in Afghanistan and instead spoke constantly of “AfPak,” to emphasize the notion that success in Afghanistan depended on actions taken in Pakistan. This dismayed the Pakistanis but they got the message. They were on notice to show they were part of the solution, not the problem.

Second, the administration used both sticks and carrots. For his first state dinner, Obama pointedly invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—clearly not Pakistan’s first choice. Obama made clear that America would continue to pursue the special relationship forged with India under the Bush administration, including a far-reaching deal on nuclear cooperation. But at the same time, the White House insisted it wanted a deep, long-term, and positive relationship with Pakistan. Sens. John Kerry and Dick Lugar put together the largest nonmilitary package of U.S. assistance for the country ever. Aid to the Pakistani military is also growing rapidly.

Third, it put in time and effort. The administration has adopted what Central Command’s Gen. David Petraeus calls a “whole of government” approach to Pakistan. All elements of U.S. power and diplomacy have been deployed. Pakistan has received more than 25 visits by senior administration officials in the past year, all pushing the Pakistani military to deliver on commitments to fight the militants.

Finally, as always, luck and timing have played a key role. The militants in Pakistan, like those associated with Al Qaeda almost everywhere, went too far, brutally killing civilians, shutting down girls’ schools, and creating an atmosphere of medievalism. Pakistan’s public, which had tended to downplay the problem of terrorism, now saw it as “Pakistan’s war.” The Army, reading the street, felt it had to show results.

These results are still tentative. Pakistan’s military retains its obsession with India—how else to justify a vast budget in a small, poor nation? It has still not acted seriously against any of the major militant groups active against Afghanistan, India, or the United States. The Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani group, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and many smaller groups all operate with impunity within Pakistan. But the Pakistani military is doing more than it has before, and that counts as success in the world of foreign policy.

Such success will endure only if the Obama administration keeps at it. There are some who believe that Pakistan has changed its basic strategy and now understands that it should cut its ties to these groups altogether. Strangely this naive view is held by the U.S. military, whose top brass have spent so many hours with their counterparts in Islamabad that they’ve gone native. It’s up to Obama and his team to remind the generals that pressing Pakistan is a lot like running on a treadmill. If you stop, you move backward, and, most likely, you fall down.

Lahore bombing is Pakistan’s bloodiest this year

By Saeed Shah for The Guardian

A bombing in the eastern city of Lahore has killed at least 43 people – the fifth terrorist attack this week as extremists in Pakistan demonstrate their continued ability to strike.

The bloodiest terrorist strike in Pakistan this year was carried out by two attackers wearing suicide jackets who walked into a busy market in a high security military district and blew themselves up. The target appeared to be passing military vehicles but most of the victims were civilians. Shops in the market were ripped apart, with children crossing the road and people waiting at a bus stop among the victims. About 10 soldiers were killed and 100 injured, said the Lahore police chief, Parvaiz Rathore.

“There were about 10 to 15 seconds between the blasts. Both were suicide attacks,” a senior local government official, Sajjad Bhutta, said at the site. “The maximum preventative measures were being taken but these people find support from somewhere.” The bombers struck at 1pm, around the time of Friday prayers, in the cantonment area, home to the local army garrison and one of Lahore’s most upmarket residential districts.

Lahore is the bustling cultural hub of Pakistan and had enjoyed several weeks of relative peace. It is the capital of the eastern Punjab province, Pakistan’s most densely populated area and its political heartland. The suicide bombings were followed in the evening by three smaller blasts in a residential area across town. They caused panic but damage was reported to be minor. The authorities repeated their regular assertion that the Taliban and other extremist groups have been defeated. The provincial law minister, Rana Sanaullah , said: “We broke their networks. That’s why they have not been able to strike for a considerable time.”

But it was the second bombing this week in Lahore. A car bombing on Monday at a police interrogation centre killed 14 people. Other attacks this week included a gun and grenade assault on a US Christian aid agency’s office in the north-west, killing six of its staff, all Pakistani nationals. “They (the extremists) are trying to project their power, telling the government that they are still alive,” said analyst Imtiaz Gul, author of The al-Qaida Connection. “They are still far from broken. It’s going to be a long haul.”

In 2009 that Lahore was dragged into the bloody insurgency in Pakistan, which claimed around 3,000 lives last year, with a series of spectacular attacks including a gun assault on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team. The last major attack in Lahore was in December when a market was bombed, killing at least 49 people. The launch of a military offensive in South Waziristan, on the Afghan border, the base of the Pakistani Taliban, in October last year was accompanied by a vicious spate of terrorist reprisals but the country had been relatively peaceful this year.

Pakistan and India Are Back At the Peace Table

By Manzer Munir

Islamabad, Pakistan- India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is scheduled to visit Islamabad later this month as both India and Pakistan are back on track to resume their high level diplomatic talks. The discussions between the two so far are considered “preliminary” and are a “first step” in the words of Secretary Rao. She had earlier restated India’s concerns about terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and provided additional information related to the Mumbai attacks. Her counterpart in Pakistan, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, stated that “Pakistan is doing all that it can to fight terrorism”. Expressing his sympathy with the victims of the Mumbai attacks, he focused on Pakistan’s core concern that “terrorism should be looked at more broadly”. He believes that the two countries should address the root causes of the terror campaign and, from that perspective; Kashmir is the “core issue.” Pakistani officials believe that if India was a bit more flexible on Kashmir, then all the outstanding issues between the two countries can be resolved.

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to sincerely desire to make a “breakthrough” in relations with Pakistan and has been vocal about it too in recent interviews. During the elections last year, he had highlighted his efforts to promote back-channel diplomacy for conflict resolution during the rule of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He also met last year with the current Pakistani Prime Minister to pledge to resume peace talks.

In Pakistan there also appears to be a significant shift in foreign policy. The American and Pakistani militaries and intelligence agencies are working closely and have had some recent successes together to stop the al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US commanders have been full of praise of the Pakistan army and its recent offensives against the Taliban. The Pakistani army has disrupted the al Qaeda and Taliban network over most of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This has come at a steep price as more than 2,500 soldiers have been killed.

This sacrifice by the Pakistan army has not gone unnoticed as the United States has increased both military and economic aid to Pakistan. The US is nudging both India and Pakistan to the peace table since a peaceful border with India will allow Pakistan to focus entirely on its western border at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. This will facilitate the Obama administration’s ability to eradicate the Taliban and Al-Qaeda once and for all from the region with Pakistan army’s help.

For far too long since Pakistan’s independence, the army has always felt India to be the biggest threat to the nation’s sovereignty and freedom. But for the first time in its history, an enemy has surfaced and proven to be much more detrimental to Pakistan’s survival as a nation and security for its citizens. And that enemy and threat is the radicalized groups such as the Taliban both from Afghanistan and inside Pakistan as well as the largely Arab Al-Qaeda network that operates in the area. Also militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and others also pose the biggest threat to the nuclear armed nation. The danger from the extremists has allowed elements inside Pakistan’s army leadership to reconsider the threats to Pakistan.

The dialogue between India and Pakistan has been off again and on again for over 63 years. But in the current climate of mistrust and hatred coupled with tensions still simmering from the Mumbai attacks, there is little room for error on both sides. It is hoped that the upcoming talks prove to be a step in the right direction of normalizing relations between these two nuclear armed neighbors who share almost an 1800 mile long border known in this part of the world as the Berlin Wall of Asia.

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