Posts Tagged ‘ Quetta ’

Militants blow up historic Pakistan building linked to Mohammad Ali Jinnah : officials

As Reported by The AP

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Separatist militants blew up a historic building linked to Pakistan’s founding father in the country’s violence-plagued southwest after shooting dead a guard in a predawn attack on Saturday, officials said.

The attackers, armed with automatic weapons entered the 19th century wooden Ziarat Residency after midnight and planted several bombs, senior administration official Nadeem Tahir told AFP.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the driving force behind the creation of the Pakistan, spent his last days in the building which was declared a national monument following his death, one year after the country’s independence in 1947.

The building is in Ziarat town, 80 kilometres southeast of Quetta, the capital of insurgency-hit Balochistan province. “They shot dead the guard who resisted the intruders,” Tahir said. Police official Asghar Ali said militants planted several bombs and detonated them by remote control. “The Ziarat Residency, which had its balcony, floor and front made of wood, has been totally gutted,” he said.

At least four blasts were heard in the town, he said. The building caught fire and it took five hours to bring the blaze under control as Ziarat, a small hill station, has no fire brigade. A separatist-group later claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We blew up the Ziarat Residency,” Meerak Baluch, a spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army said from undisclosed location. “We dont recognise any Pakistani monument.” No one has been arrested, officials said.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but most undeveloped province on the Iranian and Afghan border, is racked by Islamist and sectarian violence as well as a long-running separatist insurgency, and attacks on official buildings and security forces are common. The attack came after the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party of prime minister Nawaz Sharif won the May 11 elections in the country.

Sharif appointed Baloch nationalist leaders as governor and chief minister, raising hopes that a coalition between PML-N and nationalist parties could address some of the long-held grievances in the province about its treatment by the federal government.

Prime Minister Sharif and several political leaders strongly condemned the attack while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar promised arrest of the attackers. Hundreds of people including, some party leaders and students staged a protest rally in the town demanding “exemplary punishment of culprits involved in the attack,” witnesses said.

Provincial Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob told reporters that “people involved in the colossal destruction of our national monument will not be spared”. “The government has ordered immediate steps to rebuild the Ziarat Residency in its original form,” he said.

“It was an undisputed structure, it had never received any threat in the past. Local people had special love for this site because it had been attracting local and foreign tourists,” he said. Ziarat, located at more than 2,500 metres above sea level and surrounded by Juniper trees is a popular tourist site.

The two-storey structure was built in 1892 and was formerly used by officials from the British Colonial rule in India. The furniture used by Jinnah and kept at its original place as national heritage since his death in September 1948, has also been destroyed, officials said.

To Fight India, We Fought Ourselves

By Mohsin Hamid for The New York Times

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On Monday, my mother’s and sister’s eye doctor was assassinated. He was a Shiite. He was shot six times while driving to drop his son off at school. His son, age 12, was executed with a single shot to the head.

Tuesday, I attended a protest in front of the Governor’s House in Lahore demanding that more be done to protect Pakistan’s Shiites from sectarian extremists. These extremists are responsible for increasingly frequent attacks, including bombings this year that killed more than 200 people, most of them Hazara Shiites, in the city of Quetta.

As I stood in the anguished crowd in Lahore, similar protests were being held throughout Pakistan. Roads were shut. Demonstrators blocked access to airports. My father was trapped in one for the evening, yet he said most of his fellow travelers bore the delay without anger. They sympathized with the protesters’ objectives.

Minority persecution is a common notion around the world, bringing to mind the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, for example, or Arab immigrants in Europe. In Pakistan, though, the situation is more unusual: those persecuted as minorities collectively constitute a vast majority.

A filmmaker I know who has relatives in the Ahmadi sect told me that her family’s graves in Lahore had been defaced, because Ahmadis are regarded as apostates. A Baluch friend said it was difficult to take Punjabi visitors with him to Baluchistan, because there is so much local anger there at violence toward the Baluch. An acquaintance of mine, a Pakistani Hindu, once got angry when I answered the question “how are things?” with the word “fine” — because things so obviously aren’t. And Pakistani Christians have borne the brunt of arrests under the country’s blasphemy law; a governor of my province was assassinated for trying to repeal it.

What then is the status of the country’s majority? In Pakistan, there is no such thing. Punjab is the most populous province, but its roughly 100 million people are divided by language, religious sect, outlook and gender. Sunni Muslims represent Pakistan’s most populous faith, but it’s dangerous to be the wrong kind of Sunni. Sunnis are regularly killed for being open to the new ways of the West, or for adhering to the old traditions of the Indian subcontinent, for being liberal, for being mystical, for being in politics, the army or the police, or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the heart of Pakistan’s troubles is the celebration of the militant. Whether fighting in Afghanistan, or Kashmir, or at home, this deadly figure has been elevated to heroic status: willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, able to win the ultimate victory, selfless, noble. Yet as tens of thousands of Pakistanis die at the hands of such heroes, as tens of millions of Pakistanis go about their lives in daily fear of them, a recalibration is being demanded. The need of the hour, of the year, of the generation, is peace.

Pakistan is in the grips of militancy because of its fraught relationship with India, with which it has fought three wars and innumerable skirmishes since the countries separated in 1947. Militants were cultivated as an equalizer, to make Pakistan safer against a much larger foe. But they have done the opposite, killing Pakistanis at home and increasing the likelihood of catastrophic conflicts abroad.

Normalizing relations with India could help starve Pakistani militancy of oxygen. So it is significant that the prospects for peace between the two nuclear-armed countries look better than they have in some time.

India and Pakistan share a lengthy land border, but they might as well be on separate continents, so limited is their trade with each other and the commingling of their people. Visas, traditionally hard to get, restricted to specific cities and burdened with onerous requirements to report to the local police, are becoming more flexible for business travelers and older citizens. Trade is also picking up. A pulp manufacturer in Pakistani Punjab, for example, told me he had identified a paper mill in Indian Punjab that could purchase his factory’s entire output.

These openings could be the first cracks in a dam that holds back a flood of interaction. Whenever I go to New Delhi, many I meet are eager to visit Lahore. Home to roughly a combined 25 million people, the cities are not much more than half an hour apart by plane, and yet they are linked by only two flights a week.

Cultural connections are increasing, too. Indian films dominate at Pakistani cinemas, and Indian songs play at Pakistani weddings. Now Pakistanis are making inroads in the opposite direction. Pakistani actors have appeared as Bollywood leads and on Indian reality TV. Pakistani contemporary art is being snapped up by Indian buyers. And New Delhi is the publishing center for the current crop of Pakistani English-language fiction.

A major constraint the two countries have faced in normalizing relations has been the power of security hawks on both sides, and especially in Pakistan. But even in this domain we might be seeing an improvement. The new official doctrine of the Pakistani Army for the first time identifies internal militants, rather than India, as the country’s No. 1 threat. And Pakistan has just completed an unprecedented five years under a single elected government. This year, it will be holding elections in which the largest parties all agree that peace with India is essential.

Peace with India or, rather, increasingly normal neighborly relations, offers the best chance for Pakistan to succeed in dismantling its cult of militancy. Pakistan’s extremists, of course, understand this, and so we can expect to see, as we have in the past, attempts to scupper progress through cross-border violence. They will try to goad India into retaliating and thereby giving them what serves them best: a state of frozen, impermeable hostility.

They may well succeed. For there is a disturbing rise of hyperbolic nationalism among India’s prickly emerging middle class, and the Indian media is quick to stoke the fires. The explosion of popular rage in India after a recent military exchange, in which soldiers on both sides of the border were killed, is an indicator of the danger.

So it is important now to prepare the public in both countries for an extremist outrage, which may well originate in Pakistan, and for the self-defeating calls for an extreme response, which are likely to be heard in India. Such confrontations have always derailed peace in the past. They must not be allowed to do so again. In the tricky months ahead, as India and Pakistan reconnect after decades of virtual embargo, those of us who believe in peace should regard extremist provocations not as barriers to our success but, perversely, as signs that we are succeeding.

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the novels “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and the forthcoming “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”

 

Suicide bomber devastates Shiite enclave in Pakistan, killing 83

By Nasir Habib and Holly Yan for The CNN

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Pakistani police have revised the cause of a blast that killed 83 people on Saturday, saying a suicide bomber was behind the attack that pulverized a busy marketplace.

The explosion targeted Shiite Muslims in Hazara, on the outskirts of the southwestern city of Quetta, authorities said.

Police now say a suicide bomber, driving an explosive-laden water tanker, rammed the vehicle into buildings at the crowded marketplace.

The water tanker carried between 800 and 1,000 kilograms (1,760 to 2,200 pounds) of explosive material, Quetta police official Wazir Khan Nasir said.

Previously, police said explosives were packed in a parked water tanker and were remotely detonated.

The blast demolished four buildings of the marketplace, leaving dozens dead and 180 injured.

The banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack, spokesman Abu Bakar Sadeeq told CNN Sunday.

The assault left some wondering what could stop the bloodshed in Quetta.

Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, the governor and chief executive of Balochistan province, told reporters Saturday that law enforcement agencies were incapable of stopping such attacks and had failed to maintain law and order in Quetta.

Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Sunni, has been plagued by sectarian strife and attacks for years.

Last month, two deadly suicide bombings in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Quetta known as Alamdar Road killed 85 Shiite Muslims.

Police described that double bombing as one of the worst attacks on the Shiite minority.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi also claimed responsibility for that dual attack.

According to its interpretation of Islam, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi believes that Shiites are not Muslims. The group believes Shiites insult close companions of Muslim’s prophet Muhammad. Therefore, the militant group believes killing Shiites is a justified in Islam.

Families of victims from Alamdar Road protested for several days bylaying their relatives’ bodies on a road in Quetta until the federal government dissolved the provincial government and imposed governor rule.

Although Balochistan is the largest Pakistani province in Pakistan, analysts and some locals have criticized the federal government for neglecting it, leading to instability.

The Shiite community has repeatedly asked for more protection but to no avail.

During the Alamdar Road protest, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met with Shiites in Quetta, Pakistani media reported. He agreed to toss out the provincial government and putting a governor in charge.

All administrative powers of the provincial government were given to the governor, who deployed paramilitary forces to maintain law and order in Quetta.

 

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- This attack and the continued attacks on Shiites, Christians and other minorities in Pakistan completely goes against the teachings of the prophet and civilized society in general. We are deeply saddened by this and past attacks and condemn all violent attacks in the name of religion and any other ideology. May God help Pakistan and soon.

Pakistan Minister Puts Bounty on Filmmaker

As Reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan’s railways minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has offered a $100,000 reward for killing the maker of the US film mocking prophet Mohammed. His comments came a day after 21 people died in violent protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” film.

A Pakistani government minister Saturday offered a $100,000 reward for the death of the maker of the anti-Islam film produced in the US that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.

Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour invited members of the Talban and Al-Qaeda to take part in the “noble deed”, and said given the chance he would kill the film-maker with his own hands.

Bilour was speaking to reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar a day after violent nationwide protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” film left 21 people dead and more than 200 injured.

“I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the holy prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000,” Bilour said, urging others to shower the killer with cash and gold.

“I also invite Taliban and Al-Qaeda brothers to be partners in this noble deed,” he said.

“I also announce that if the government hands this person over to me, my heart says I will finish him with my own hands and then they can hang me.”

Protests against the film, which mocks Islam and was made by extremist Christians, have erupted across the Muslim world, leading to more than 50 deaths since the first demonstrations on September 11.

The publication this week of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed in a French satirical magazine has further stoked anger.

The producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is reportedly a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and convicted fraudster — out on parole — who lives in Los Angeles.

US media say Nakoula wrote and produced the film, using the pseudonym Sam Bacile before being identified. He was questioned overnight Friday by police before going into hiding with his family.

Thousands of Islamist activists in Pakistan staged demonstrations again Saturday but there was no repeat of the previous day’s widespread violence.

More than 5,000 protesters marched towards the parliament in Islamabad, including hundreds of women, chanting “We love our Holy Prophet” and “Punishment for those who humiliated our Prophet”.

Some 1,500 people from the hardline Islamist Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Sunni religious groups rallied in front of the US consulate in the eastern city of Lahore, chanting “The US deserves only one remedy — jihad, jihad”.

Hundreds gathered in the southwestern city of Quetta, calling for the makers of the film to be killed while scores in Peshawar, where six people died in Friday’s protests, chanted anti-US slogans.

Religious groups rallied in the southern port city of Karachi, where 15 people were killed Friday, after the funerals of the demonstrators took place.

Witnesses estimated that nationwide rallies on Friday mobilised more than 45,000, mainly members of right-wing religious parties and supporters of banned terror groups, although the numbers were still small in a country of 180 million.

Police fought back with gunshots and tear gas as arsonists and looters attacked cinemas, banks, shops and restaurants in Karachi, where outbreaks of political and ethnically linked violence have killed hundreds this year.

Four more people died overnight from wounds they received during the protests, taking the number killed across Pakistan on Friday to 21, health department officials said.

The combined total of wounded in Karachi, Peshawar and in the capital Islamabad was 229. Overall, 23 people have been killed in Pakistan during protests over the past week.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– After a bone headed government declared a public holiday allowing the people to go and protest and then watched helplessly as private property got destroyed, with billions of rupees lost in revenue form business closure and or destruction, not to mention the loss of 23 Pakistani lives and countless others injured, along comes a Pakistani Minister of Railways who publicly puts a bounty on a person’s head! Oh Pakistan, you are the gift that keeps on giving! 😦

Pakistan murder testimony doctor Baqir Shah shot dead

As Reported By The BBC

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A doctor who testified that Pakistani security forces had killed a group of unarmed foreigners has himself been shot dead.

Dr Baqir Shah was gunned down in the city of Quetta.

He had contradicted police reports earlier this year which suggested the five victims had been suicide bombers.

Dr Shah was in his car when gunmen pulled up alongside him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

He died soon afterwards in hospital.
It was Dr Shah who, back in May, carried out the autopsies in a controversial case.

Two men and three women of Russian and Tajik origin died at a checkpoint just outside Quetta, in the province of Balochistan.

One of the women had been heavily pregnant, but police insisted they had all been militants and that they had been carrying explosives.

Police said that they died as they detonated a bomb.

They said at the time of the attack they had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.

The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that Dr Shah’s autopsy corroborated what many witnesses said – that they had in fact died after being shot many times at a distance by the security forces. Witnesses also said they had been unarmed.

Hours after he filed his testimony, Dr Shah was dragged out of a restaurant and beaten by a group of unidentified men. He later complained that while he was supposed to receive protection, he never got it.

Gunmen Attack Shiite Muslims in Pakistan, 12 Dead

As Reported By USA Today

Suspected Sunni extremists opened fire on Shiite Muslims traveling through southwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 12 people and wounding six others in the latest apparent sectarian attack to plague the country, police said.

Sunni militants with ideological and operational links to al-Qaida and the Taliban have carried out scores of bombings and shootings against minority Shiites in recent years, but the past couple weeks have been particularly bloody.

The gunmen who attacked Tuesday were riding on motorbikes and stopped a bus carrying mostly Shiite Muslims who were headed to work at a vegetable market on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, said police official Hamid Shakeel.

The attackers forced the people off the bus, made them stand in a line and then opened fire, said Shakeel. The dead included 11 Shiites and one Sunni, he said. The wounded included four Shiites and two Sunnis.

Sunni extremists carried out a similar attack on Shiite pilgrims traveling through Baluchistan about two weeks ago, killing 26 people. Pakistan is a majority Sunni Muslim state, with around 15 percent Shiite.

Most Sunnis and Shiites live together peacefully in Pakistan, though tensions have existed for decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan became the scene of a proxy war between mostly Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, with both sides funneling money to sectarian groups that regularly targeted each other.

The level of sectarian violence has declined somewhat since then, but attacks continue. In recent years, Sunni attacks on Shiites have been far more common.

The groups have been energized by al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are also Sunni and share the belief that Shiites are infidels and it is permissible to kill them. The Sunni-Shiite schism over the true heir to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad dates back to the seventh century.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of the country’s most ruthless Sunni militant groups, claimed responsibility for the attack in Baluchistan two weeks ago. One of its alleged leaders, Malik Ishaq, was released from prison on bail in July after being held for 14 years on charges, never proven, of killing Shiites.

Ishaq was re-arrested about a week ago after making inflammatory speeches against Shiites in the country. He was not charged but detained under a public order act, which means he can be held for three months.

It’s not clear if Ishaq’s speeches have been connected to the recent wave of sectarian attacks.

U.S. Refrains From Declaring Haqqani Terrorist Group on Pakistan Concerns

By John Walcott and Viola Gienger for Bloomberg News

The Obama administration isn’t ready to declare the Haqqani group in Pakistan a “foreign terrorist organization” even after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group attacked the U.S. embassy and American troops in Afghanistan.

“We are continuing to review whether to designate” the Haqqani organization, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday.
Mullen’s declaration in Senate testimony last week that Haqqani operatives acted as a “proxy” for Pakistan’s intelligence service may have further complicated the question.

Taking the first step — adding the Haqqani group to the list of terrorist organizations — would lead to demands that Pakistan be declared a state sponsor of terrorism. That would put at risk Pakistan’s cooperation as the U.S. tries to snuff out al-Qaeda’s core and other militants in the country’s tribal areas.

For now, the U.S. has designated the Haqqani network’s founder and other leaders. It has made clear to Pakistan that clamping down on the group “is job one, that we want to do it together, and that’s the conversation that we’re having now,” Nuland said.
Designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism would put it in the company of only four other countries — Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — and might trigger a nationalist backlash in Pakistan. It would require halting U.S. aid to Pakistan, force the U.S. to oppose World Bank loans to Pakistan, and end cooperation between the two countries in fighting terrorism and trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pariah State

Naming Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism “would turn it into a pariah state,” Robert Lamb, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “That would complicate a lot of aspects of the relationship, which is complicated enough already. It’s ugly, but it’s not unsalvageable.”

The administration is under new pressure to designate the Haqqanis a terrorist organization alongside 49 others, including al-Qaeda, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

After Mullen testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the Haqqani group “meets the standards for designation” as a terrorist organization. So far, said congressional officials, Clinton hasn’t responded.

Congressional Pressure

“I think there’s going to be increasing congressional pressure on them to list the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization,” said Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and now a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation policy group in Washington.
“If we know that the Haqqani network is behind these major attacks on U.S. interests and we fail to confront them, that is a signal of weakness and it simply invites more attacks,” she said.

Nuland and other administration and military officials signaled a reluctance to sanction Pakistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said yesterday that the U.S. wants to “maintain a relationship with Pakistan that’s grounded in common interests, to include going after terrorists that threaten both countries.”
“There are differences from time to time,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon. “Those differences have been made public, and we continue to discuss those differences in private. We look forward to working with the Pakistanis to try to resolve them.”

Stretched Thin

Pakistani military officials told reporters in Islamabad on Sept. 25 that they had decided not to take action against the Haqqani group because their forces are stretched too thin.

If tensions escalated, Pakistan might again, as it did in a previous diplomatic confrontation, cut supply lines to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan from its port city of Karachi. Alternative land or air routes are more costly and difficult.
The Pakistanis, said two U.S. intelligence officials, also might abandon secret agreements that permit unmanned U.S. drones to collect intelligence and attack targets in designated areas of Pakistan.

The U.S. already is restricted from operating over the Haqqanis’ suspected base in North Waziristan or the border city of Quetta, home to the main Afghan Taliban group. They also might expel some or all of the classified number of U.S. intelligence officers and special operations forces who are training Pakistani troops and helping target drone attacks, the officials said.

ISI Role

Designating the Haqqani network a terrorist organization would do little to stop the group, said Curtis of the Heritage Foundation. The Haqqanis, she said, probably still would be able to garner financial support from their allies in the Persian Gulf region and backing from the Pakistan spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, known as ISI.
A U.S. designation of the Haqqanis isn’t likely to change Pakistani policy either, said Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert at Georgetown University in Washington.

The ISI and the Pakistani military regard the Haqqani network and other militants as allies in their campaign to maintain Pakistani influence in Afghanistan and prevent arch- rival India from getting a toehold on Pakistan’s western border, said Fair and other specialists.
“They believe that the Haqqanis would protect Pakistan’s interest in any future setup in Afghanistan,” Curtis said.
Rejecting the charges that his government uses the Haqqanis as a proxy, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a Sept. 25 statement that U.S. policy on Afghanistan shows “confusion and policy disarray.”

“We may just let this ride,” said Marvin Weinbaum, a former Afghanistan and Pakistan intelligence analyst at the State Department and director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “We know what direction the U.S.-Pakistan relationship is going, and now we have no idea what the bottom looks like.”

Aman ki Asha’s Gift of Life to Six-Year Old Muzaffar

By Lubna J. Naqvi for The News International

He has the cutest smile. One that was nearly wiped out forever by a congenital heart disease that his parents had no means of getting treated in Pakistan.

Muzaffar Ahmed Khan was only three years old he developed a seemingly never-ending severe chest congestion and cold. His father Rozay Khan, a teacher at a private school in Loralai, took the boy to a medical specialist the nearest big city in Quetta, 260 km away – a long road trip by any standards, and more so for a sick child. The trip led to a doctor diagnosing the boy as having a congenital heart condition. The treatment – risky and expensive heart surgery – was way beyond the reach of his father.

The boy lived on with the help of various medications, but without the required surgery, he was not expected to live much longer. The despair and pain of the family, and the discomfort of the sick child, can only be imagined.

It was a news report in the daily Jang of October 2, 2010 that set them on a path they will forever be grateful for. The paper had a report about a nine-year old Pakistani boy Muhammad Sufiyan, who also had a congenital heart problem. The report said that Rotary International and Aman ki Asha had taken Sufiyan to India where he underwent a successful operation at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. Suddenly there was hope.

Rozay Khan contacted the Rotary Club representatives in Quetta, and provided them with Muzaffar’s medical documents. Things began to move. The Rotary officials contacted their counterparts in India and sent them the documents. Within a week the family was asked to make arrangements to travel.

Muzaffar was to be accompanied by his father and uncle Qaisar Khan. The Indian High Commission granted their visas within three days. Aziz Memon (President King Group) former governor of Rotary Club helped expedite the travel and other logistics.

They flew to Mumbai on May 5, 2011, and the next day, to Kolkata. There was some difficulty at the immigration, says Rozay Khan, but Rotary representatives in India helped smooth their way.

On May 7 Muzaffar was admitted to Kolkata’s Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. He underwent a two-and-a-half hour operation on May 11. He was discharged on May 19, with a month’s medication and a directive to avoid lifting heavy items for some time.

The doctors said that Muzaffar should get a medical examination after six months to be on the safe side, but that he was now perfectly healthy. It was like a miracle.

Barely a month later, Muzaffar and his father and uncle visited Aman ki Asha in Karachi on June 4, a day after they returned from India. If one had not been told, there were no signs that this smiling boy had so recently undergone a serious operation. He sat there beaming at us, shyly looking out from underneath long lashes that fringed his mischievous eyes. He would have pranced around the room like any other seven-year old, but was restrained by his father, who held him in his lap throughout the visit. Muzaffar was restless, and probably bored, but seemed to enjoy the attention.

Rozay Khan glowed with happiness at his son’s rapid recovery. A huge weight had been lifted off him, and his wife, who had been worried sick about their son, as his condition didn’t look too good before leaving for India. The first thing he did after Muzaffar’s successful operation was to call his wife over the phone. “It was an emotional time for all of us, but it has passed – all because of Aman ki Asha and Rotary Club.”

Rozay Khan was all praise for India. “I was given so much love and warmth in India that I didn’t even feel I was away from home,” he said.

“The Indians were very hospitable. They treated us just like brothers; they did so much for us that at times we were embarrassed. The hospital staff gave Muzaffar so much love and affection also. It was like we were still in Pakistan. Except for some of the people who didn’t speak Urdu or Hindi in Kolkata, I wouldn’t have known I wasn’t in Pakistan.”

Muzaffar’s uncle added that the Indians were amazed to hear them speaking Urdu – which they thought was Hindi. “They would ask us where we learnt to speak Hindi, and I would laugh and say we were not speaking Hindi we were speaking Urdu.”

He found the Indian people to be very interested in Pakistan. “They asked us so many questions and said they would love to come visit. However they lamented that they knew it would be impossible because of the visa issues. I told them that they should come, and be my family’s guests and see Pakistan.”

“So many people told us to convey their message through the media and Aman ki Asha to Pakistani authorities to ease travel to Pakistan,” said Rozay Khan. “They should do away with the obstacles that travellers have to face if they want to travel from India to Pakistan and vice versa.”

He said that in the nearly two months they spent in India they did not encounter any hostility – only got love and hospitability. “When people got to know that we had come for Muzaffar’s operation they were extra nice, even friendlier, more helpful and hospitable.”

Muzaffar gained health, love and friends across the border. His family wishes that the people of both countries were allowed to interact and visit each other more. They are grateful to Aman ki Asha and Rotary club for helping give Muzaffar a new life.

“We wish,” said Rozay Khan, “that the path of peace continues between the two countries through Aman ki Asha’s efforts. And we pray that we see peace between our two countries so we can visit our new friends again, and have them visit us.”

— Lubna J. Naqvi

Help Muzaffar’s dream come true

When total strangers from India and Pakistan joined hands to help Muzaffar, they did more than help save a life. They sparked off a determination in his family to get a good education for Muzaffar. They want him to be able to enter medical college and become a doctor himself. If anyone would like to contribute and help sponsor Muzaffar’s education to enable him to one day help others, please contact Aman ki Asha – amankiasha@ janggroup.com.pk

Pakistan Orders an Inquiry After Troops Kill a Teenager

By Salman Masood for The New York Times

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan ordered an investigation on Thursday into the shooting death of an apparently unarmed teenager by paramilitary troops in the southern port city of Karachi. The shooting, which was captured on video and broadcast on national television, has led to protests and has been condemned by political parties and human rights groups.

It was the second time in recent weeks that a video has shown paramilitary troops using extreme force against civilians. Last month, five Chechens were gunned down in Quetta, Pakistan.

The shootings are sure to feed complaints that Pakistan’s security forces are too aggressive and sometimes bypass the sluggish and corrupt judicial system. Pakistan’s military leaders are also still embarrassed by the American raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, which the armed forces did not detect.

The victim of the Karachi shooting, Sarfraz Shah, whose age was given as 18 or 19, was stopped by paramilitary troops on Wednesday and accused of being involved in an attempted robbery in a nearby park.

A spokesman for the troops said a gun had been taken from him, but in the video, Mr. Shah does not appear to be armed when he is shot.

The recording shows the young man begging for mercy before being led toward a group of troops. One points his gun at Mr. Shah before firing several shots. Mr. Shah crouches, asking forgiveness while bleeding profusely.

“My hand is gone,” Mr. Shah shouts. “Take me to the hospital.” The troops step back, out of the video frame. A government official said five of the troops had been arrested.

Mr. Shah was buried on Thursday in Karachi, accompanied by protests from family members.

The shootings in Quetta last month were also recorded. The police and paramilitary troops initially reported that the victims, three women and two men, were suicide bombers. They were killed near a checkpoint on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province in southwestern Pakistan, in a volley of fire as police officers stood by.

Video from local television networks showed one young woman raising her arm, as if to try to stop the gunfire. No weapons were recovered on the victims. An investigation of that shooting is under way.

The Pakistani security forces have repeatedly been accused of misusing their power. The army was accused of extrajudicial killings during a military operation to drive out militants that began in the Swat Valley in 2009. The army denied the allegations.

The country’s powerful intelligence agencies have also been accused of illegally detaining hundreds of terrorism suspects. And military intelligence has been accused of gross human rights violations in Baluchistan, where a separatist insurgency by Baluch nationalists has long simmered.

Pakistani Rangers, the group involved in Mr. Shah’s death, are controlled by the Interior Ministry. Rehman Malik, the country’s interior minister, announced the arrests in the case on Thursday evening, but he also accused Mr. Shah of being part of a gang involved in robberies, according to the local news media.

Mr. Malik said Mr. Shah had tried to steal a woman’s purse and was caught by guards in the park before being handed over to the Rangers.

The Rangers have been deployed in Karachi for several years and help the local law enforcement authorities in maintaining peace in the city, which is riven by political, ethnic and sectarian tensions.

Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. ‘Intelligence Fusion’ Cells

By David S Cloud for The Los Angeles Times

In a clear sign of Pakistan’s deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.

U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan’s demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus spearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan’s failure to control the militants.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration’s efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA’s ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.

In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.

Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.

Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden and four others at a compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan’s military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington’s decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan’s security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.

“There is lot of discontent within Pakistan’s armed forces with regard to the fact they’ve done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted,” Hussain said. “Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible.”

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army’s 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army’s 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan’s southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.

The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The Frontier Corps’ facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.

The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.

“We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps” at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. “But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets.”

Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a “U.S. Special Operations Command Force” was providing the Frontier Corps with “imagery, target packages and operational planning” in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.

In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified message that the fusion cells provided “enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations” and were “a significant step forward for the Pakistan military.”

The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan’s reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked “dozens” of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.

43 Dead in Pakistan Mine Blast, No Survivors

As Reported by The Associated Press

All 43 miners in a colliery in southwest Pakistan that was hit by a blast at the weekend have been confirmed dead, officials said Tuesday, as rescuers ended their search operation.

“All 43 bodies have been recovered,” Iftikhar Ahmed, provincial chief inspector of mines for the insurgency-torn Baluchistan province, told AFP.

“There are no survivors and the mine is being sealed,” Ahmed said.

President of Pakistan Mines Workers Federation Bakht Nawab confirmed the final toll.

The mine in the far-flung Sorange district of the troubled southwestern province was poorly ventilated, allowing poisonous gases to accumulate and trigger blasts that led to a collapse on Sunday, officials said.

The mine is run by the state-owned Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation and officials said they will launch an investigation into why the warnings to stop mining were not heeded.

Rich in mineral wealth, Baluchistan is plagued by an insurgency blamed on nationalist tribesmen demanding more jobs and royalties from the region’s natural resources. Hundreds of people have died in the violence since 2004.

Most coal mines in the impoverished province are notorious for overseeing poor safety standards and similar deadly accidents have occurred in the past.

 

Pakistanis, Indians want peace, friendship, says poll

As Reported by SANA (South Asian News Agency)

Despite a history of conflicts, mistrust and estranged relationship, an overwhelming number of Pakistanis and Indians want peace and friendship between the nuclear-armed South Asian nations, a survey conducted on both sides of the border has revealed.

The survey – conducted by independent research agencies and sponsored by the Jang Group of Pakistan and The Times of India on the first anniversary of their joint peace initiative ‘Aman Ki Asha’ – showed that 70 per cent of Pakistanis and 74 per cent of Indians want peaceful relations.

Although, the process of composite dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi remains stalled since the 2008 Mumbai carnage, 72 per cent Pakistanis and 66 per cent Indians hope to see ’sustainable friendly relations’ in their lifetime. Compared with last year, the number of Indians hoping to see peace in their lifetime has surged by 17 per cent.

The optimism at the people’s level appears in a stark contrast to the current bitter official positions. The Indian government accuses Pakistan of harbouring terrorists and not doing enough against the alleged sponsors of the Mumbai attack, while Islamabad says that New Delhi has been using this incident as a ‘propaganda’ tool to avoid talks on the core issue of Kashmir. Islamabad also blames India for instigating violence in Balochistan.

According to the survey, awareness of the Kashmir problem as being central to the state of relations between the two countries, particularly in India, has increased. The survey results show that 77 per cent Pakistanis and 87 per cent of Indians feel that peace can be achieved by settling the protracted Kashmir dispute.

The scientific survey covered 10 Pakistani cities and 42 villages, covering a cross-section of people from rural and urban areas. Pakistani cities where the survey was carried out were: Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Faisalabad, Hyderabad and Sukkur. In India, the survey was conducted in six cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad (Deccan) and Chennai. Adult population, both male and female, were represented in the survey.

This was the second survey on Pakistan-India relations. The first survey was conducted in December 2009; just before the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign was launched. Survey results show a consistent and marked improvement in perceptions about each other by people in both countries.

The survey showed that the issue of Pakistan-India relations featured in the thoughts of 73 per cent Pakistanis and 68 per cent Indians. The survey results said apart from settling the Kashmir dispute, 80 per cent Pakistanis and 91 per cent Indians think ’stronger relations and better defence’ would also contribute in achieving the goal of peace.

The survey tracked the impact of the Aman Ki Asha campaign in India by asking a similar set of questions to two groups of people – one aware of this peace campaign and the other not aware of it. On all four questions asked – perceiving Pakistan as a high threat to India, as a sponsor of terror, desire for peace and being hopeful for achieving sustainable peace – there was a marked difference in the responses of the two groups. The group that was aware of the Aman Ki Asha initiative had a much better perception of Pakistan.

Around 77 per cent of Pakistanis and 87 per cent Indians consider that international pressure may help in bringing peace, while 71 per cent Pakistanis and 72 per cent Indians pin hopes on greater people-to-people contact to pave the way for friendly relations. Eighty-one per cent Pakistanis and Indians see people-to-people contact as an effective ‘instrument of peace’.

An increase in business has also been tipped as a vehicle of peace by 67 per cent Pakistanis and 69 per cent Indians, the survey said. Among other steps needed to promote peace, 32 per cent Pakistanis pinned hopes on sports, 28 per cent on business, 22 per cent on tourism, 20 per cent on travel for health treatment and 13 per cent each on culture and higher education. The data from the Indian side regarding this questionnaire was not available.

For 51 per cent of Pakistanis, business can help bring peace, while 46 and 45 per cent of respondents said that it can also be done through sports and tourism respectively.

AMAN KI ASHA: The first of its kind peace drive ‘Aman Ki Asha’ was seen by a vast majority as articulating the aspirations of the people. Around 87 per cent Pakistanis and 74 per cent Indians were of the view that this sustained campaign ‘developed tremendous awareness about the Indo-Pak relationship’. Around 85 per cent Pakistanis and 61 per cent Indians said Aman Ki Asha communicated ‘peoples’ desire for peace to their governments, while 80 per cent Pakistanis and 86 per cent Indians said it ‘helped bring the people of the two countries together’.

The Jang Group and The Times of India have held a series of events over the last 12 months that involved a broad section of people, including students, intellectuals, artists, businessmen, doctors, information technology experts and ordinary citizens in an attempt to boost people-to-people ties.

In Pakistan, the recall of the ‘Aman Ki Asha’ campaign has been around an impressive 92 per cent. Shahrukh Hasan, Group Managing Director of the Jang Group, said this media-led civil society movement had made a huge contribution for peace at a time when tensions remained high between the two countries.

“The survey results should lay to rest any misgivings or apprehensions people may have had about the objectives or chances of success of the campaign,” he said. “The survey results show that Aman Ki Asha has brought about a sea change in perceptions in India about Pakistan. Every negative perception has decreased and every positive perception has improved. The Jang Group feels vindicated and is delighted that we have helped put across Pakistan’s point of view through honest dialogue, seminars, people-to-people contacts and cultural events.”

According to the survey, the terror perception in India about Pakistan is down to 42 per cent from 75 a year ago, of bomb threats to 29 per cent from 54 and awareness about the Kashmir dispute rising to 17 per cent from a mere four per cent. Hasan hoped that the Pakistani and Indian governments would continue to facilitate the Aman Ki Asha peace campaign and take advantage of the access to the hearts and minds of the people of the two countries that the Jang Group and the Times of India provided.

Obama and the Pakistan Dilemma

By Matthew Kaminski for The Wall Street Journal

Islamabad, Pakistan– America can’t win in Afghanistan as long as assorted Taliban insurgents find safe haven in Pakistan. That’s the no-brainer dressed up as revelation in leaks this week about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate regarding both countries.

The proposed solution is tidy, too: Lean on Pakistan to cut links to extremists in the tribal regions along Afghanistan’s eastern border and in southern Baluchistan, even as the CIA ramps up the number of covert drone strikes on those groups.

The assumption is that Pakistan can bring the extremists to heel at its pleasure. After all, the Pakistani military began nurturing Afghan and other jihadists in the 1980s and has kept them on as “strategic assets” throughout the American long war brought about by 9/11. So, we think, if Islamabad cuts its support and makes life difficult for the jihadists, this unfortunate genie can be put back in the bottle. President Obama might even meet his self-imposed deadlines for drawing down the 98,000 American troops in Afghanistan.

This is all a useful fiction, maybe even a necessary one. American bribes, threats and pleas have prompted Pakistan into its own troop surge in the tribal regions. Over the past 18 months the Pakistanis have more than quadrupled their presence there, to 140,000, and have taken heavy casualties. Last year the Pakistani army cleared Swat Valley and South Waziristan, which had been overrun by militants.

Today’s White House review of the war, which comes a year into the Obama surge, will likely highlight such progress. The president can consider his administration’s spirited engagement with Pakistan a foreign policy success. Credit is also due to “bulldozer” diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who developed close relations with the Pakistani civilian leadership before his untimely death Monday evening.

But Pakistan hasn’t turned. The insurgents who kill American troops in Afghanistan—principally the Taliban, whose leadership is in Baluchistan, and the militants loyal to the legendary fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani in the tribal regions—operate all too freely from Pakistan. President Obama should note that, too, today.

The year ends sourly for U.S.-Pakistani military relations. American frustration with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, has grown over broken Pakistani promises and a perceived lack of urgency. Summer floods diverted Pakistani troops away from the tribal areas, but the military doesn’t have that excuse now. The Pakistanis have also denied American requests to expand drone coverage to the area around Quetta, the city in Baluchistan that is the heaquarters-in-exile of the Taliban.

Pakistani officials say that Gen. Kayani will move his forces into North Waziristan, the tribal region that hosts the Haqqani network, in his own time. Some 50,000 troops are said to be ready to go in. No one wants them to lose, but they could against Haqqani’s respected force. A U.S. official says, “We don’t want them to do it if they’re not ready, but we don’t want them to think it’s not important.”

The Pakistanis may have found a way out. Analysts here say that the military is giving Haqqani time to relocate to a neighboring tribal region, Kurram, before soldiers go in to “clear” North Waziristan. A U.S. defense official here says that he’s seen no evidence to back the claim. But in the past most insurgents have simply melted away in the face of Pakistani advances.

Haqqani also figures as a trusted ally in Islamabad’s plans for a postwar Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some American officials are open to talks with the Taliban, if they bring peace in exchange for power sharing. Also, who knows, America may get fed up and pull out before it wins. With all that in mind, Pakistani leaders may protect Haqqani, their favorite “asset,” thinking he and his Taliban allies may get power in Kabul one way or another.
Instead of sending drones over Quetta, the CIA this summer was allowed to set up shop on the ground. Across Pakistan, several such “fusion cells” pair CIA operatives with officials from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence. A Pakistani official says that this takes courage, as “ISI officers are murdered for helping Americans.”

Many circles here welcome U.S. pressure on the military and state to act. Islamic extremists are putting down deep roots in society, to the consternation of educated and moderate Pakistanis. This goes well beyond the mountainous regions that are the traditional home to religious warrior tribes. The state is losing its grip on Baluchistan. The country’s largest city, Karachi, is a militant hotbed. Parts of all Pakistani provinces have been radicalized, including the most populous, Punjab. Terrorism now touches all Pakistanis.

Pakistan is becoming more like Afghanistan—only with a more advanced economy and nuclear weapons. The people who cross the porous border between them, an arbitrary line drawn up by the British in the 1890s—already consider them the same country. Pakistan’s military has yet to show that it wants to—or that it can—control the Islamist wave. Many groups have slipped their leash and look at their old patron, the ISI, with distrust.
Gen. David Petraeus, the American commander in Afghanistan, certainly has contingency plans for Pakistan that go beyond extra doses of drones or diplomacy. Putting American boots in Waziristan is an obvious idea. But, like so many options, it is unappealing. The fallout in Pakistan would be hard to predict.

So for the moment, America gets to pretend that Pakistan can do this on its own. A successful terrorist attack on the U.S. with a Pakistani return address might quickly change that.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note
As we have noted on several occasions before, Pakistan must do a lot more to hunt down the Taliban, its leaders and other militants on its side of the border. Already the violence and acts of terrorism within Pakistan are at an all time high as noted in this article and have touched every Pakistani and every corner of the country. Not eliminating the Taliban completely only allows them to get stronger.

Pakistan needs to stop playing a double game and stop thinking of the Taliban as a strategic asset as they never were nor ever will be an asset in any way. Pakistan must eliminate the safe havens for the Taliban within its territory, otherwise the United States will be compelled to act, with or without Pakistan’s blessings, and shall be correct in doing so to prevent attacks on its homeland emanating from Pakistan based militants.

Pakistan Rejects U.S. Drone Expansion

By Alex Rodriguez for The LA Times

Pakistan has rejected a request from the U.S. to expand a drone missile campaign against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, a decision that limits Washington’s use of one of its most effective tools against insurgents hiding in the nation.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Islamabad would not allow the U.S. to carry out drone strikes outside the tribal belt along the Afghan border and repeated the government’s request that Washington abandon its use of drones in Pakistan on the grounds that the program violates the country’s sovereignty.

Basit did not say which additional areas the U.S. wanted to target. However, the Washington Post reported Saturday that the request focused on areas outside the southern city of Quetta, where Afghan Taliban leaders have hideouts.

“We are allies of the United States in the war against terror,” Basit said. “However, Pakistan will not compromise on sovereignty.”

Islamabad’s refusal comes as little surprise, given the animosity that the drone campaign has stirred among Pakistanis for years, but even as the government publicly condemns the drone program, it tacitly allows the missile strikes to take place. Pakistan even provides intelligence to facilitate the targeting of the strikes.

The drone missions are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, where they are viewed as an illustration of President Asif Ali Zardari’s willingness to acquiesce to most demands that Washington makes. Allowing an expansion of the drone program could further aggravate the vulnerability of Zardari’s government, already weakened by its mishandling of this summer’s catastrophic floods and the country’s ongoing economic troubles.

Any expansion of the drone campaign into Baluchistan, the province where Quetta is located, would also represent a dramatic departure in policy for Islamabad because it is not part of the semi-autonomous tribal region where the drones are permitted now.

In addition, the Quetta region is a heavily populated area; the city itself has a population of 900,000. The core leadership of the Afghan Taliban insurgency, known as the Quetta Shura and headed by Mullah Muhammad Omar, has used Quetta and its outlying regions as a sanctuary for years.

In recent months, the U.S. has dramatically stepped up its use of drone strikes in the tribal areas. So far this year, the U.S. has carried out 101 drone missile strikes in northwest Pakistan, compared to 53 in 2009.

The attacks have focused largely on North Waziristan, a primary stronghold of militants and commanders belonging to the Haqqani network, an Afghan Taliban wing regarded by the U.S. as one of the biggest threats facing coalition forces in Afghanistan.

According to the Long War Journal website, which keeps track of drone missile strike statistics, 92 of the attacks this year occurred in North Waziristan.

God Bless Islam with Courageous Leadership

By Ebrahim Moosa for Religion Dispatches

As Muslim Americans and millions around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan 2010 what will they pray for? What was the spiritual harvest of the month of fasting, prayer, deep reflection, and discipline? Given the growing hostility directed towards Muslims in the United States and the horrible deeds perpetrated by persons aligned to Islam on 9/11 and elsewhere in the world, I for my part, will be making two prayers.

The first is to urge Muslims to affirm their solidarity with all of humanity. The words of this prayer come from a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. It reads:

Oh Allah, Lord (Rabb) of all things. I testify that You alone are the Lord of the world, Lord of all things… I testify that all servants of God are one family… Make me and my family truthful to you in every moment of life in this world and the next. Oh powerful and generous one, hear and respond to my prayers…

My second prayer is that God bless Islam with a religious leadership that has a modicum of Solomonic wisdom and tons of moral courage.

Why these two prayers? I think many Muslims have forgotten the message of humanism and solidarity with all creation that are the cornerstones of Islam. All servants of God are part of a single family, the Prophet Muhammad taught. So how can faiths be at war, if only to serve earthly gods? Many of our religious leaders have forgotten that our theologies, teachings, and practices were means to serve a transcendent Creator; not for idolatrous ends. Many of the most prominent Muslim religious and moral authorities the world over—clergy, intellectuals, scholars, politicians—have, through silence and inaction, invited a plague of craven violence on a number of Muslim societies. In a manner of speaking, in many places, the asylum is in charge of the mosque. Religious leaders are more interested in cowing to public adulation through demagoguery than in showing courage and exhorting people to piety and sanity.

Check if the sermon in the`Id al-Fitr (End of Fasting) sermon at your mosque hinted at the cowardly acts of al-Qaeda who killed thousands on September 11 and elsewhere. Or if deeds of the Somalian Shabab who killed dozens of Ugandans watching a soccer World Cup match in the suburbs of Kampala caused outrage. Has anyone been able to keep track of the death toll inflicted in Pakistan by Taliban suicide bombers, who most recently killed more than 60 people in Quetta because they were Shi’a? Did anyone even notice that a radical Muslim group in India chopped off the hand of a Catholic professor in the state of Kerala in July for apparently offending the image of the Prophet Muhammad in an exam questionnaire?

`Id is a day of celebration with family and friends. But it is unconscionable if Muslims do not think seriously and act in unison about the deep moral crises afflicting our communities here and abroad. To think critically is not to bow to the hate of the Islamophobes, it is a sign of strength and faith. Those who claim that there are no “moderate” Muslim voices denouncing acts of violence committed by Muslims are wrong, and yes, there are many good things happening in Muslim societies that do not make the headlines. Yet it is delusional to think that the evil masquerading as faith does not erode the belief and values each Muslim.

To Muslim Americans I say, next time you wonder why young men like the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad become entangled in conspiracies to commit acts of violence in this country and abroad please ask the following questions: What is the qualification of the imam at your mosque? Is he enriched by the best of American and Islamic culture, in tune with his environment, or is he preaching a theology no longer even appropriate for people in Iran, Egypt, or Pakistan? Does he teach the tradition creatively and help people think imaginatively? Or does he focus on impieties and promote the virtues of paraphernalia like the dress code and the mandatory length of facial hairs? If the imam is as wise as the religious leader in the Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, it will be a huge step up.

Mosque committees share their burden of responsibility too. Often they appoint preachers by applying the lowest and cheapest standard; theological diversity is frequently absent and enlightened thinking is considered too challenging and burdensome for them to contemplate. Will the smart Muslims in America and around the world stand up and be counted?

-Originally printed on Sep 9, 2010 for Religion Dispatches. Ebrahim Moosa is a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University and an author of several books on Islam.

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