Posts Tagged ‘ US Pakistan Relations ’

The End of a Geopolitical Affair

By Pramit Pal Chaudhri for The Hindustan Times

In Pakistan’s current crisis, why is its military is so reluctant to consider simply seizing power? One reason is that General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani cannot count on the US looking the other way. At a minimum, Washington would have to slap sanctions on an economically faltering country. At a maximum, it would be the last straw in a bilateral relationship at its lowest ebb since it was first woven in the 1950s.

Pakistan’s establishment claims it has been used and abused by the US, the most serious violation being that country’s stealth attack on Abbottabad that led to Osama bin Laden’s death. There has been the Raymond Davies affair, the endless drone attacks and the increasingly public accusation of double-dealing by senior US officials – the most notable being Admiral Mike Mullen’s linking of the Inter-Services Intelligence with terrorist groups.

There is some satisfaction for India in all this. It has been persistently claiming the existence of a military-terrorist nexus. Many in Washington agree. After Abbottabad, there is no one in Washington who doesn’t. The US-Pakistan relationship, says Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund, “was really at a historic high for the past decade but is diminishing.” But it might not matter as much to the US if relations fall apart, he says.

Other events are undermining the basis of the US-Pakistani bond. Islamabad had expected the US to totally retreat from Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan’s Taliban allies in charge. Instead, the US will leave a substantial force behind along with many drone bases. The US is talking with the Taliban, but only desultorily with groups that Islamabad patronises.

With the US Congress also pulling the plug on aid to Pakistan, what is left? The answer is nukes. “If Pakistan didn’t have nuclear weapons, with Al Qaeda almost gone, no one would care a fig about that country,” said one ex-US ambassador to the region. As they realise this, Islamabad is getting more paranoid about the security of its “strategic assets.” The more unstable they look, the more willing the US will be to try and do something risky to salvage Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

US officials are talking about a “new normal” in their Pakistan relations. This would cut ties to the bare bones: counterterrorism cooperation, limited military transit requirements, Afghan talks, narcotics and some humanitarian assistance. “We’ll have to work with the Pakistan military on a limited basis while negotiations with the Taliban proceed,” says John Schlosser, a former state department South Asia hand.

There seems to be no real understanding among Pakistanis that their leverage is dwindling or how much Abbottabad vapourised their credibility in the US. A parliamentary committee report on how to change the US relationship bizarrely demanded, for example, a civilian nuclear agreement.

It could get worse. “The relationship will fall further if the US finds [Al Qaeda chief] Zawahiri in Pakistan. Or there are terror strikes on India or the US,” says Bruce Riedel, former AfPak advisor to Barack Obama.

The worst thing is that Washington is decoupling just at a time when Pakistan, economically and otherwise, can least afford to lose their most generous international partner.

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New Year’s gift: Obama signs bill freezing aid to Pakistan

As Reported By Reuters

President Barack Obama signed a sweeping US defense funding bill on Saturday which includes new sanctions on financial institutions dealing with Iran’s central bank, and curtailing up to $850 million in aid to Pakistan. The bill was signed despite concerns about sections that expand the US military’s authority over terrorism suspects and limit his powers in foreign affairs.

The massive defense bill Congress passed on earlier in December freezes 60 per cent of the $850 million aid, or $510 million, until the US defense secretary provides lawmakers with assurances that Pakistan is working to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs). US lawmakers say that many Afghan bombs that kill US troops are made with fertilizer smuggled by militants across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” Obama said in a statement, citing limits on transferring detainees from the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and requirements he notify Congress before sharing some defense missile information with Russia as problematic.

The bill, approved by Congress last week after its language was revised, aims with its Iran sanctions to reduce Tehran’s oil revenues but gives the US president powers to waive penalties as required. Senior US officials said Washington was engaging with its foreign partners to ensure the sanctions can work without harming global energy markets, and stressed the US strategy for engaging with Iran was unchanged by the bill.

The bill may also prove problematic for Pakistan in ways other than providing assurances of concrete steps to counter the manufacture of IEDs. The sanctions placed on dealing with Iran’s central banks may weigh on Pakistan’s plans for the Iran-Pakistan pipeline which aims to provide gas to Pakistan.

Pakistan needs the gas supplies from Iran to augment its own gas reserves which have been shrinking fast, leading to widespread gas shortages affecting its industry and daily life.

SHINE’s Impact on Armadeus Davidson

Volunteers Extraordinaire Todd Shea of SHINE Humanity and Armadeus Davidson of Empact Northwest of WA doing humanitarian work in Pakistan.

US Hip Hop Troupe Praises Pakistan’s Rich Music

As Reported by Dawn.com

Pakistan has very rich music and through concerts we can open up conversations about different cultures and can make real relationships. The people we have met and worked with in Pakistan are amazing.

These were some of the views members of a United States hip hop troupe ‘FEW Collective’ that is currently visiting Pakistan as part of US cultural diplomacy programme shared with Dawn. The troupe is expected to perform in Lahore on Monday (tomorrow).

The troupe consists of six people — DJ Asad Jafri, Alsarah, a Sudanese-born singer and songwriter, Aquil Charlton, writer and performer, Manal Farhan, a performing artiste, Braveonk Daniel Haywood, dancer, and Jonathan St. Clair, aka Super Inlight, a multidisciplinary performing and teaching artiste.Throwing light on hip hop music and dance, Charlton said this genre of performing arts like rapping emerged in the United States at house parties in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Charlton said The band ‘FEW Collective’ was formed in 2005 and its objectives included to convey positive message through the hip hop forum, to become the voice of the young and voice of the marginalised wanted to stand as an example for types of positive things that could happen and could bring young people from different backgrounds together and fuse their thoughts.
He said hip hop had four elements i.e. DJ, graffiti, break dance and know yourself, but ‘FEW Collective’ stood for ‘Fifth Element
Warriors’ since we are fighting for the knowledge.

St. Clair said the group had performed in Algeria, Morocco and China while Pakistan was their fourth destination.

Farhan said that Asad Jaffri, also her husband, had visited Pakistan a couple of times since his family belongs to Karachi. She said it’s been great here in Pakistan.

Asad Jaffri is also running a community-based non-profit charity organisation – Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

Based in Chicago, IMAN organises works for social justice, provides direct services, and cultivates arts in urban communities.

Since 1997, IMAN has utilised arts as a vehicle for social change and to build bridges among communities and cultures. It also works closely with an international network of over 400 artists. This work includes artistic retreats, developmental workshops, and cultural exchanges. Through national and international efforts, IMAN stresses the importance of arts in creating mutual understanding, connecting cultures, and building community. Delivering a vast array of stories, music, movement and visual arts from rich cultures, IMAN highlights the work of Muslim artists and powerful artistic movements around the world.

The group members told Dawn that they had listened to Pakistani music which was very rich and they had also prepared a song ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’ in fusion with Pakistani instrumentalists.

During their stay in Lahore, they also worked and interacted with students of the BNU and LACAS.

The FEW is an artistic collective that believes in the power of art to engage, educate and inspire. It combines traditional forms of music, dance, and art with the elements of hip hop and theatre to address contemporary issues.

As representatives of hip hop culture, its members acknowledge the evolution of music, visual art, the spoken word, and dance as basic elements of the culture and knowledge as a master element.

Some know them as the Fifth Element Warriors, others relate them as From Every Walk, but they know themselves as always Finding Eternal Wisdom. The FEW specialises in hip hop theatre, concerts, arts workshops, team-building sessions and
leadership development.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– This is a great initiative by the US State Department to help foster better understanding between the two countries who have hit a rough stretch after 60+ years of a close friendship and mutual regard between the people of the two nations.

Caring for Pakistan’s Children

By Allison Zelkowitz for The Express Tribune

Every day we must each decide who to help, and who to ignore: the woman on the sidewalk begging for change, a neighbour carrying grocery bags up the apartment stairs, a colleague staying late in the office trying to finish a project. Sometimes we offer money, support, or time, and sometimes we walk by. Sometimes caring seems too hard.

These days, it seems that caring for Pakistan’s children is too hard. Millions of children are homeless, hungry, and sick in lower Sindh, which was devastated by flooding over a month ago. But Pakistan is not on the world’s good side at the moment — Osama Bin Laden was discovered here. Media reports on suicide attacks and terrorist networks abound. Relations between the US and Pakistan have soured. With so much negative news, it’s hard to feel good about helping Pakistan. Our hearts go out to the downtrodden and helpless, not those who are tinged with violence and controversy.

But Pakistan’s children don’t know this. They don’t know that if they had been born in a different country, they might not be going to bed hungry. They don’t know that if they spoke Japanese or Creole, rather than Sindhi, they might be sleeping in a waterproof tent, rather than under a plastic sack strung between trees. And they don’t know that, if they had survived last year’s floods, rather than this year’s – they might have clean water to drink.

More than two weeks ago, the United Nations launched a $357 million appeal to provide life-saving relief to over 5.4 million people affected by the floods, including 2 million children. Last year, when a $460 million appeal was issued to help victims of the 2010 floods, 64 per cent of this amount was committed by international donors in 18 days. This year, only 14 per cent has been pledged so far.

For aid workers like myself, the ‘humanitarian imperative’ guides our work — this principle avows that it is the duty of the international community to provide humanitarian assistance wherever needed. Our job is to save lives and reduce suffering when disaster strikes. We are trying to do this in flood-ravaged lower Sindh. Both the government and the humanitarian community in Pakistan have provided food, water, shelter, and medical care to hundreds of thousands of people. Save the Children — the organisation I work for — has reached over 240,000 people in less than four weeks. Yet there are still hundreds of communities who have received no support, and aid agencies will run out of funding soon. What, then, for Pakistan’s children?
In some areas of lower Sindh, it will take months for the flood waters to recede. While they wait, those with livestock will sell off their goats and cattle one by one, for ten to 20 per cent of their value, so they can feed their families. The less fortunate families, those without such assets, will take loans from wealthy landlords, and fall further into debt. Their children will eat once a day, and often only flatbread. They will suffer from skin diseases and diarrhoea, and some will contract malaria. As children become more malnourished, their immune systems will weaken. Soon many will die.

With so much need in the world, we often become deaf to cries for help. But national governments and international donor agencies are not deaf — they read the reports, they know the numbers. And 5.4 million people is no small number — it is more than the populations of Norway, Ireland, and New Zealand. Yet unlike these countries, the 5.4 million people in Pakistan affected by the floods do not have savings accounts or insurance. Right now, most have only make-shift shelters, a few clay pots, and some dirty blankets, and with that they are trying to get by.
Pakistan will likely remain at the forefront of global controversy for some time to come. But its children should not have to pay the price for this. The children in lower Sindh are not militants or politicians. They are like your children — hopeful, genuine, and kind — and they deserve to survive as all children do.

CIA Contractor Charged in Pakistan Deaths Arrested in Colorado

By Jim Spellman for CNN

Raymond Davis, who was charged with killing two men in Pakistan as a CIA contractor but was later released, was arrested Saturday after a fistfight at a shopping center in Colorado, authorities said.

Davis was charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct after allegedly getting into a fight over a parking space at a suburban Denver mall, according to Lt. Glenn Peitzmeier of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The incident at the Highlands Ranch Town Center began as an argument between 37-year-old Davis and 50-year-old Jeff Maes and then turned physical, Peitzmeier said. Davis was released after posting $1,750 bond, Peitzmeier said.

Davis’ wife, Rebecca, declined a CNN request for comment. Davis was charged with killing two men in Lahore, Pakistan, in January. He was released in March after compensation was paid to their families.

U.S. officials originally said Davis was a diplomat and tried to claim diplomatic immunity but then revealed that he was a CIA contractor.
Davis said he killed the two men in self-defense, though Lahore authorities called the case “clear-cut murder.”

Pakistan threatens to withdraw troops from Afghan border over US aid reduction

By Rob Crilly for The Telegraph

Pakistan has warned it will withdraw troops from the Afghan border where they are fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked insurgents if the US does not reinstate $800m in military assistance which has been suspended amid a worsening diplomatic row.

The cash includes $300m to reimburse the Pakistan military for deploying troops in the mountainous tribal areas close to Afghanistan.

Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, the country’s defence minister, said without it Pakistan could not afford to keep troops at 1,100 checkpoints near the mountainous border.

“The next step would be that the government or the armed forces will pull back the forces from the border areas,” he told the Express 24/7 news channel. “We cannot afford to keep military out in the mountains for such a long period.”

Officials say 147,000 troops are deployed in the tribal areas, where they are engaged in operations against Taliban and al-Qaeda cells.

Relations between the two countries have been fraught ever since they were forced into an awkward alliance in the aftermath of 9/11. This year they have plunged to new depths.

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Pakistan’s military officers are furious that the Pentagon did not inform them of a covert raid to kill or capture Osama bin Laden in May in the town of Abbottabad, only 30 miles from the capital Islamabad.

Since then they have stepped up condemnation of CIA drone strikes against terror suspects and expelled American military trainers, as they try noisily to distract domestic attention from their own failure to find bin Laden or spot the American helicopters as they flew through Pakistani air space.

In return, US officials have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to tackling militants and accused the government of assassinating a troublesome journalist.

At the weekend it emerged that the Pentagon was to end a third of its annual $2.7bn assistance to the Pakistan military.

In Washington, Colonel David Lapan, Pentagon spokesman, said the military aid could be resumed if Pakistan increased the number of visas for US personnel and reinstated the training missions.

However, analysts in Islamabad said such threats would be counterproductive and warned of an anti-American backlash.

“The US needs to treat Pakistan as a country it’s not trying to bully into submission,” said Cyril Almeida, a columnist with Dawn newspaper.

In the meantime, the US has begun using land routes through Central Asia to resupply troops in Afghanistan in case Pakistan shuts the Khyber Pass to convoys carrying food and fuel.

A fresh wave of drone attacks may also exacerbate tension. At least 45 suspected militants were killed by missiles in Pakistan’s northwest, according to local intelligence officials on Tuesday, one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.

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