Posts Tagged ‘ USSR ’

Are Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons Secure?

Qaiser Farooq Gondal for The Washington Times

Pakistan is again facing the possibility of instability, raising concerns that its nuclear weapons are not in safe hands. Once again the ability of Pakistan’s army to secure the weapons is in doubt. The big powers of the world often ask whether Pakistan will be able to overcome this new danger or not. They also worry that if Pakistan suffers from instability, crisis will bleed over the border to Afghanistan.

After the 1979 Islamic revolution of Iran, the world was very much worried as to the spread of the effects of Iranian revolution to Pakistan. But 32 years after revolution in Iran, Pakistan is still safe and free from the effects of revolution in Iran.

In 1979, after the invasion of Afghanistan by the former USSR, alarmists feared that the Soviets would reach the hot waters of Arabian Sea. In fact, USSR did not threaten Pakistan, and it was because of Pakistan’s army that the USSR failed in Afghanistan and retreated back in 1989.

America has been concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons since 2004, and there have been media reports that America has plans to send special security forces to safeguard the nuclear arsenal in case of instability in Pakistan. But America has denied any such reports and Pakistani authorities ridiculed the idea of US troops coming to the country to help safeguard nuclear weapons. Pakistan argues it can protect its own nuclear weapons, and earlier this month, the Pakistani government stated that it will train 8,000 additional troops to protect its nuclear weapons.

One major priority for the United States is to ensure that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not reach the hands of terrorists. Multiple attacks on Pakistani military facilities in recent years heightened those fears. In reality, none of the attacks were of any serious nature and all the culprits were captured and trialed in military courts.

China has played a major role in the development of Pakistani nuclear weapons, as the western countries made it impossible to export nuclear weapons and technology to Pakistan. China is also supporting Pakistan to construct institutes to generate nuclear energy as Pakistan is facing shortages of energy.

The main reason for acquiring nuclear weapons by Pakistan is to prevent any future attack by India. There has been no war between India and Pakistan since both the nations conducted nuclear tests and residents of both countries hope nuclear weapons will continue to deter any attacks.

Since 2001, the US has supplied Pakistan with about 100 million dollars to safeguard its nuclear weapons. Pakistan has developed a weapons release program which requires checks and balances. Pakistan is meeting the international standards in order to fulfill the international pressure over the issue of the security of its nuclear weapons.

Pakistan has been developing strategies to survive a possible nuclear war, as it has developed hard and deeply buried nuclear launch facilities to retain a nuclear strike capability after a nuclear attack.

Pakistan is increasing its capacity to produce plutonium, a fuel for atomic bombs at its Khushab facility and is believed to have about 200 nuclear weapons.

In other words, despite continued Western fears, Pakistan retains firm control of its nuclear weapons. The country has taken extensive measures to safeguard them, and will continue to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. The US should stop worrying and trust Pakistan to secure its own weapons.

Wake up Pakistan

By Najam Sethi for The Friday Times

US- PAK relations have broken down. The United States has “ suspended” military aid and all but closed the Kerry- Lugar- Berman tap of funds for the civilians. Proud Pakistanis have puffed up their chests and vowed to eat grass, if necessary, in order to defend their country’s “sovereignty”. What’s the big deal, they aver, US aid was peanuts anyway, and our traditional friends like China and Saudi Arabia can bail us out of our problems.

To be sure, our relationship with the US has been no small disaster.

In the 1950s, we begged the US to befriend us instead of India, cheerily going along with the US into the Cold War against the USSR when it wasn’t our war at all. In consequence, the military became the dominant theme of our life and wrecked the budding impulse of democracy. Once again, in the 1980s and 2000s, we tripped over ourselves to rent out our services to the US in Afghanistan.

Today we are reaping the terrorist whirlwind of our greed and opportunism.

But a little introspection is in order to prove that we don’t need the US as an enemy because we are our own worst enemies.

More Pakistanis are eating “ grass” now than ever before. The number of Pakistanis below the poverty line has increased from 27 per cent five years ago to 33 per cent in 2011. And this has nothing to do with the US. The growth rate of the economy has fallen from 6.5 per cent five years ago to 3 per cent now. The fiscal deficit is yawning at 7.5 per cent of the GDP today compared to 4.5 per cent five years ago. And this has nothing to do with the US. The Rupee has fallen from 77 to the dollar five years ago to 90 today. General inflation is running at 15% and food inflation at 25%. And this has nothing to do with the US. The tax to GDP ratio is down to 8.7% in 2011 from 11.5% five years ago. And this has nothing to do with the US. Floods continue to devastate the lives and produce of millions of poor people across the country.

And this has nothing to do with the US. Sunni extremists are rampaging, killing Shias. Ethnic parties continue to mow down people in Karachi. And this has nothing to do with the US. Power breakdowns have made the lives of tens of millions wretched and miserable while rendering millions of others jobless.

And this has nothing to do with the US. Instead of rooting for Pakistani nationalism, we are proud to undermine it as Muslims first, or Sindhis, Muhajirs, Baloch, Pakhtun, Punjabi, Seraiki, Hazarajat, Kashmiri, Sunni, Shia, Deobandi, Barelvi. And this has nothing to do with the US. We are counted amongst the most corrupt countries of the world. We have waged four wars with India and lost each of them, in the bargain losing half of Pakistan.

And this has nothing to do with the US. As if this litany of self- induced failures isn’t enough, there is the hypocrisy of double standards to contend with too. Of course, the US has violated our sovereignty by raining drones on FATA. But so have the Afghan Taliban and Al- Qaeda who have established safe havens there too. But we are quick to blast the US and quicker still to pretend that Al- Qaeda doesn’t exist and the Taliban are innocent refugees for whom our traditional hospitality is on offer.

The story doesn’t end here.

The IMF is not welcome. How dare it demand that we tax the rich, plug the bleeding in public sector corporations, stop the theft of power, and spend according to our means. US aid is dispensable.

We don’t need to build dams and reservoirs for managing our natural resources, we don’t need schools and teachers for our children and hospitals for the poor.

Our all- weather friends are China and Saudi Arabia. Never mind that China doesn’t help us much when we are ravaged by earthquakes and floods or when we are short of cash to pay our foreign bills.

NEVER MIND that Saudi Arabia treats our migrant workers like slaves, rents our military to crack down on Shia majorities in Bahrain and exports extremist “ Islam” to our lands.

At the end of the day, who eats grass when we rise to defend our sovereignty? Not our pot- bellied traders and businessmen. Not our golf- playing generals. Not our Defence Housing Society residents.

Not our foreign- asset holding politicians whose kids go to English- medium private schools at home and abroad. Not our self righteous media Mughals who berate our slavish black- skins and white masks. Not our corrupt judges and civil servants. It’s the wretched of the earth, the poorest of the poor, who eat grass.

For too long we have made foreign scapegoats for our own failures and corruptions. It is time to wake up and set our house in order without begging or berating the US.

Decade After 9/11, Afghans Languish in Pakistan

By Qasim Nauman and Rebecca Conway for Reuters

When Ghulum Nabi’s father heard U.S.-backed troops toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban after the September 11, 2001, attacks, he rushed to their family home in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan to spread the news.

Perhaps, one day they could all return to a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan supported by a Western superpower.

After 10 years of U.S.-led efforts to pacify one of the world’s most turbulent countries, Afghan refugees in Pakistan have little hope for stability in their homeland.

“I grew up here and Pakistan is my country. When my father pushes me to go back to visit, I end up having a fight with him. I’m never going to live there. I want to get Pakistani nationality. This is my home,” said Nabi, 22, who runs a crockery shop.

“It doesn’t matter if it is America or anyone else trying to watch over Afghanistan. I will still be looking around to see if anyone is pointing a gun at me.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai would welcome a return of the millions of Afghans living in Pakistan.

It would be a vote of confidence in his administration, which faces many problems, from widespread allegations of state corruption, to a resilient Taliban.

SOVIET INVASION TRIGGERED LIFE OF UNCERTAINTY

Many of the refugees are skilled labourers who could boost reconstruction and help revive a weak economy if they return. But it’s unlikely to happen.

Most of the refugees in Pakistan arrived after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The conflict that followed consumed their homeland. After the mujahideen warriors defeated the Russians, warlords turned on each other and tore Afghanistan apart.

Many refugees fear a repeat of that chaos as a U.S. troop withdrawal looms.

Some would like to go home but feel they can’t. Others regard Pakistan as home despite its many disadvantages. Without proper Pakistani identification cards, Afghans can’t open bank accounts or buy or lease property.

Many are openly mistreated by Pakistanis who have little fear of being held to account.

On August 14, the anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, Saeed Anwar’s landlord showed up with three men armed with AK-47 assault rifles at his clothing shop at a busy bazaar in the city of Haripur, home to 80,000 Afghan refugees who live in camps.

“They threw around my merchandise and said I need to pay them a 300,000 Pakistani rupees ($3,450) advance on the rent. I had already paid the rent,” said Anwar, wearing traditional, loose Pakistani trousers.

“I went to the police to register a case. But when they see a dispute between a Pakistani and an Afghan, they automatically assume the Afghan has done something wrong.”

Still, many Afghans believe its wiser, and safer, to just accept the frequent humiliation than return to a homeland still shattered, despite a long U.S.-led military campaign against militancy and billions of dollars in Western aid.

Afghans — from elders who vividly remember the first Soviet gunship helicopters in Afghanistan, to teenagers who have only visited a few times — work for Pakistanis as welders or carpenters and tailors in Haripur and other cities.

Most of them prefer to run their own small businesses, from food carts to car dealerships. It’s the only sense of independence they have in the camps which consist of small cement and mud housing units near a reservoir.

The elders have set up a jirga, or tribal gathering, to settle internal disputes, as is done in much of Afghanistan. Cricket games are the only form of entertainment and leisure activity for most youths.

Two years ago Pakistan agreed to let displaced Afghans stay until the end of 2012, after a resurgence of militant violence along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border hindered repatriation.

Still, people like Sherullah, whose nine children were born in Pakistan, feel vulnerable. What if Pakistan asks them to leave one day?

“There is a lot of confusion. If there’s one thing I want, it’s for this confusion to go away, for us to know if we will be staying or not,” said Sherullah, who was cutting women’s clothing in his tailor shop.

“There are many people living here that can afford to build a proper house but don’t want to. They think ‘what if next year we are told to leave?’. So they continue to live in mud houses.”

Aside from 1.7 million officially registered Afghans in Pakistan, there are an additional 800,000 with no documentation.

According to the United Nations, Pakistan is home to the world’s largest refugee population, mostly Afghans, who strain the country’s troubled economy.

Pakistan would like to repatriate them.

There are, however, few incentives for refugees to head back to Afghanistan. So life in camps may drag on for many years.

Even though the U.S. disengagement is gradual, it brings back painful memories of what was widely seen as American abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet exit in 1989. Warlords soon took over and bloodshed returned.

Haji Aslam, 65, an elder in one of the camps, has seen conflict in Afghanistan over the last 30 years — from the battlefields where he fought the Soviets to what he sees today on his television screen. He is betting on the Taliban to prevail once the Americans leave.

“Even if just 10 Taliban show up, the Afghan government will flee Kabul,” said Aslam, a man with a white beard wearing a traditional flat Afghan cap. “In Pakistan, I am at peace. I know my children are safe.”

Why The Mosque Needs To Be Built At Ground Zero

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

This is already my third article on the NYC Mosque controversy. When I started my Facebook group and website Pakistanis for Peace by the same name nearly two years ago, I did it in response to the tragic and callous terrorist attacks in Mumbai India in 2008 and my desire to see peace in that region and beyond. As a firm believer in God, but not a particularly religious person, I never would have imagined that I would end up making a big part of my focus not just peace between India and Pakistan, but also peace and understanding between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds as well. Heaven knows I have my own questions and issues with certain Muslim laws and practices and I of all people am the least suitable to be one of its defenders. However, I am a strict constitutionalist and as mentioned in my previous articles on this subject, I have advocated the building of the mosque simply on First Amendment religious freedom grounds.

Now here I am in less than one month, I find myself already writing a third article on the mosque controversy. Much has been written already by others on this topic also, but I wanted to give a few more opinions from a rational, moderate and patriotic American Muslim perspective, one which is missing in the current dialogue.

We know that many people who are opposed to the building of the mosque in lower Manhattan simply ask “Why there?” “Why would “they” possibly want to build it there of all places? It is seen as an affront by them that Muslims should want to build an inter-faith mosque, community center and a planned outreach ministry in the heart of Manhattan two city blocks from the site of the World Trade Center and the attacks of September 11, nine year ago. In fact, last night, while watching CNN, I saw Rick Sanchez ask former Governor George Pataki of New York about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy and his views on the subject. “Why there of all places would you build a mosque?” asked Gov. Pataki.  Why there?  As if he had fully bought into a favorite point of right wing groups that “Muslims build mosques at places they conquer” and that this is somehow a celebration of their “victory” over us because of the deaths of so many of our fellow countrymen on 9/11. That statement is wrong on so many levels that normally I would not even waste energy answering a clearly misguided assumption, but I will make an exception to clear the air as that is precisely what this article aims to do.

First of all, the 9/11 attacks were not a result of the actions of mainstream Muslims or the collective billion plus adherents of the religion but instead by members of a terror group known as Al-Qaeda, whose leader, Osama Bin Laden, we were very familiar and friendly with during the Soviet Afghan War of the 1980’s as he had assisted us in stopping the Red Army from conquering Afghanistan at the height of the Cold War between the two superpowers. Also a mosque is a place of worship. It is not a place where bombs are made and terrorists are trained either in ideology or practical training. To equate the building of a mosque to a direct link to terrorism or some other nefarious activity is in itself a deeply offensive argument to any Muslim, if one must speak of insensitivities.

So are we at war with Islam? This really is the only question we must ask ourselves to understand the debate over the mosque controversy. Debra Burlingame, the co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, issued a statement saying that “Building a 15-story mosque at Ground Zero is a deliberately provocative act.” This is simply not true as it is not exclusively just a mosque, but rather a multi layered structure that will house an auditorium, restaurant, gymnasium, library, conference rooms and multi-faith prayer halls devoted to allowing non-Muslim visitors the chance to come explore the center and at the same time take time to meditate and pray according to their own customs.

The center, as its leader Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf pointed out recently, “will establish this community as the place where the moderate Muslim voice condemns terrorism and works for new, peaceful, and harmonious relationships with all New Yorkers and indeed all Americans.” Just the fact that this center will have a restaurant, conference rooms, a library and multi-faith dialogue and prayer rooms, already makes this proposed building the most uniquely American mosque in the world. Nowhere else will one find a mosque so devoted to understanding and bridge building between Islam and other religions and no other place and location will it be more sorely needed in the years to come than in New York City! Too often, many non-Muslims complain about the self segregation practices of Muslims and indeed a characteristic of all minority communities to be in their own bubble and for not having a lot of interaction between other communities or faiths.

Many times my own non-Muslim friends have been curious and inquired on how Muslims pray and what they believe in and what exactly goes on in a typical mosque. But typically a small, regular mosque does not have the sort of access and resources to satisfy this curiosity and neither the infrastructure nor the logistics to handle curious visitors of other faiths. Primarily mosques in this country have been built with Muslims as its sole audience and occupants. This is the first time a mosque and cultural center is being proposed that will eliminate the barriers that many non-Muslims feel when it comes to understanding Islam and Muslims and actually takes into considerations its non-Muslim visitors when planning the structure. For many years to come, many Americans and indeed tourists from around the world will be coming to the proposed complex now under construction at the site of the World Trade Centers that will house the 9/11 Memorial. What better place  will there be than a few blocks away from the 9/11 Memorial where visitors can be told about the Islam of the great boxer Muhammed Ali and hall of fame basketball player Kareem Abdul Jabbar and not that of evil individuals such as Mohammed Atta and Osama Bin Laden? Where else should they be told of the difference between the Islam that is practiced by comedian Dave Chappelle and Oprah’s Dr Mehemt Oz versus the one practiced by the backward barbarian murderers known as the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan? Where else can they come to know of the type of Islam practiced by patriotic Bronze Star and Purple Heart decorated deceased US soldier Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan or the one practiced by the deranged Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused perpetrator of the Fort Hood Army base who sadly killed 13 fellow soldiers almost 1 year ago?

Now in order to satisfy the opponents and critics of the center, I also believe that all the funding needs to be transparent, there needs to be a multi-faith board of directors, and the Muslim leadership needs to be cognizant that this is indeed a very special place for all Americans and a place of national mourning. This mosque needs to therefore address the attacks of 9/11 and also needs to be a reminder not just to non-Muslims of the tragedy that was 9/11 but more importantly it needs to  serve as a constant reminder to the rest of the Muslim world of the terrible actions some have committed in the name of Islam.

Why build it here of all places you may still ask? Why not here? What other place in America, nay, what other place in the world did Islam take the biggest blow to its reputation and image? It is Ground Zero and lower Manhattan itself where this religion of over a billion people got literally hijacked and its message of peace and tolerance got forever destroyed in the eyes of the world’s non-Muslims by events of 9/11 and the actions of a handful of radical extremists who were terrorists and part of a network known as Al-Qaeda. So, why not build a monument to tolerance and understanding for the very religion that took the biggest hit to its global credibility by events that happened in this area?  I believe that it is not out of any provocation or insensitivities that Muslims want to build a community center near Ground Zero, but rather because this is the one place in the world where truth about the religion needs to be told and the need to showcase the real Islam of the world’s Muslims rather than allow the story of the hatred and violence perpetrated by the terrorists to be the only story one hears when discussing the religion of Islam. This center needs to be a part of the healing process we must go through as a nation and will be a testament for the rest of the Muslim world outside our shores of the grandeur of our nation and for our acceptance of Muslims and for not allowing the stereotyping of a religion of hundreds of millions of people over the actions of 19 evildoers. 

Trust me, the terrorists will triumph if this mosque does not get built.  We must not forget who we’re fighting against, and what we are indeed fighting for. The Taliban, the terrorists and other radical Islamists do not respect religious freedom or tolerance. Their distorted and narrowly interpreted Wahhabi views of Islam leave no room for dissent, debate or disagreements. These terrorists are responsible for more deaths of dissenting and or differing Muslims than of any other religion at their hands. These terrorists are Islam’s biggest enemy and threat and we must remember that this is not a war between us and the Muslim world. It is a war between us and Al-Qaeda. And to prevent moderate, peace seeking, bridge building, and patriotic American Muslims from building a structure that will help ease the pain and misunderstanding of the events of that dark day 9 years ago in September will only play into the hands of those who hate us for our freedoms. To have Muslim Americans potentially lose these very freedoms due to all the pressure, in this land built on freedom and liberty, will only strengthen the hands of the terrorists and bolster their claims that this is truly a war on Islam and that they are second class citizens who do not even have the fundamental rights to worship that is afforded to all Americans. This is a battle for Islam itself, one where the forces of evil are attempting to commandeer the entire religion towards their narrow minded interpretation of the sacred texts. We must hold steadfast to our principles and ideals and support moderate Islam in taking back the religion from the extremists and allowing this mosque to be built will go a long ways in turning the tide of radicalism, and ensuring that we stand for our time tested principles, no matter how unpopular they may be in the current climate.

-Manzer Munir, founder of Pakistanis for Peace, a proud Pakistani American and peace activist, is a freelance journalist that writes for PakistanisforPeace.com and other publications.

Taliban 101- Origins and History

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

Pakistan’s month long offensive against the Taliban continues in the Swat valley displacing up to 2.4 million people from their homes as the army fights the militants. The fighting is fierce and ongoing. Just who are the Taliban, where did they originate, and how did they become so powerful?

In December of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan with over a 100,000 Russian troops. In response to the Soviet occupation and as a part of its overall Cold War strategy, the United States responded by arming and militarily supporting the mujahideen who were Afghan citizens opposed to the Soviet invasion of their country and the pro-Soviet Afghan government at the time.
 

President Reagan’s administration found a great ally in the form of Pakistani leader General Zia ul Haq who was willing to allow Pakistan to be used as a base to receive American weapons and support to be funneled to the Afghani resistance fighting the Soviets. The United States and Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI, provided arms and funding to the Afghans resisting the invasion of Afghanistan. The ISI also assisted in the process of gathering radical Muslims from Afghanistan, Pakistan and indeed around the world to help in fighting the Soviets. With the help of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, a fundamentalist and well financed Saudi by the name of Osama Bin Laden became one of the key players in organizing training camps of radicalized Muslims eager to wage jihad against the communist regime of the Soviet Union. Soon, over 35,000 fundamentalists came to fight alongside the Afghani holy warriors. Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo III (1988) was based on this vision of the world: when the “good” guys were the Bin Laden and mujahideen “holy warriors” fighting the “evil communist” Soviet empire.

Rambo III-1

The origins of the Taliban started inside Pakistani religious schools known as madrassahs during this time as General Zia sought a steady flow of young men willing to die for the cause and saw it as their religious duty to defend Afghanistan against the atheist communists. It is estimated that there were as many as 11,000 to 15,000 madrassahs or religious schools throughout Pakistan helping churn out radicalized young men with a very strict and narrow interpretation of Islam.

After the Soviets accepted defeat and withdrew from Afghanistan, the various Afghani factions controlled by different hostile warlords started to fight each other and a civil war between the various groups ensued for several years. Fed up with lawlessness and chaos in their country, a group of Talibs or religious students with the help of the Pakistani army quickly won some territory in a few cities. Soon the average Afghani citizen supported these Talibans as they promised to bring order and a rule of law to a land that was without any form of governance thanks to the warlords. Eventually the Taliban managed to conquer several important provinces as well as Kabul in 1996.

The Taliban considered Osama Bin Laden a guest of their country and felt indebted to him for helping in fight the Soviets. During their rule leading up to 9-11, Al-Qaeda operated freely within Afghanistan and in fact had the support of the ruling Taliban government and Mullah Omar, their leader. With American forces dispatched by President Bush soon after 9-11 to go after Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda and their supporters, the Taliban quickly fled to the hills of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where they have been ever since, deploying guerrilla tactics and insurgency towards both the government of Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai as well as within Pakistan.

This brings us to the present time where the Taliban have used the rugged mountainous region of the Afghan-Pakistan border as well as the sympathies of the local population to find multiple bases from within which to operate. After trying to make peace deals with the Taliban in the Swat region of Pakistan only to see it fail, the Pakistani army has been unrelenting in its offensive against the Taliban and now the fighting has gone on for more than a month with over 2 million people displaced.

The people of Pakistan are fed up with the Taliban and although want to see peace return to the Swat valley as soon as possible, they are willing to wait as long as it takes to make sure the Taliban threat is eliminated from within Pakistan once and for all. And in order for the US to eradicate the Taliban in Afghanistan, they have to first eliminate all places of sanctuary for them inside Pakistan and that is why the current offensive against the Taliban in the Swat valley is of such paramount importance in defeating the Taliban in the region.

It is commendable that the Pakistani and US governments are now cooperating in working together to defeat the Taliban as this enemy is a very skillful and determined opponent who is used to a long fight. After all, they fought the Soviets for nearly a decade before the Russians admitted defeat and withdrew. The forces of Pakistan’s army and the people of Pakistan must realize that this fight will take many months, perhaps years before the Taliban threat is eliminated from this region.

But then again, nothing worthwhile comes easily and peace in the Swat valley, Pakistan and in Afghanistan is something that is well worth all the blood, sweat and tears as this enemy is not one you negotiate with as their actions in the past have proven. One hopes that the government does not lighten up on the Taliban and that the people of Pakistan continue to provide their support in this war against the militants.

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