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Showing posts from October, 2008

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning: Andrew J. Bacevich

Expanding War, Contracting Meaning
The Next President and the Global War on Terror
By Andrew J. Bacevich

A week ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration's conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.

President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future.

Yet, to a considerable extent, that very enterprise has become a fiction, a gimmicky phrase employed to lend an appearance…

Foreign Policy Challenges for the New US President - Taliban in Pak-Afghan Border Areas

Foreign Policy Challenges for the New US President – Part I
Exploiting a lack of jobs, the Taliban rises in Pakistan’s border region, threatening US strategy

Imtiaz Ali; YaleGlobal, 31 October 2008

NEW HAVEN: Gul Mohmmand Jan, a middle-aged man from the Bjure Agency in Pakistan’s tribal region, works odd jobs as a day laborer to support his six children. The tribal belt’s economy is based primarily on agriculture, but with effectively no private sector, work is scarce and compensation low. Jan sent two older sons to a local public school – a room in a mosque – but as Jan’s health failed, his sons were forced to leave school and work to cover the family’s cost of living.

Both boys started as day laborers like their father, but employment was inconsistent. They soon found the only regular work was as paid fighters with the Pakistani Taliban. It’s now two years since they joined the militia, a path all too common in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

Once dormant in Pakistan’s tribal areas, militants …

Book Review: A splash of civilizations

Book Review: A splash of civilizations
By Dr. Mohammad Taqi

Title: A Medical Doctor Examines Life on Three Continents - A Pakistani View
Author: Dr. Syed Akhtar Ehtisham; Publication date: September 12, 2008; Publisher: Algora Publishing NY; ISBN-10: 0875866336

Dr. Ehtisham’s chronicle of the events he witnessed and became part of, in his life lived on three continents, is not a roller-coaster ride. It is however, a fast-paced train journey that takes the reader from the villages of northern India, all the way to upstate New York. The peek out of the window on to Ehtisham’s canvas, arouses a curiosity to read and discover more about the tumultuous and epoch-making happenings narrated by this orthopedic surgeon who is not shy to hide the indelible Marxist imprint, received in his formative years in Karachi, from reflecting in his approach to issues such as the collapse of housing market in the USA.

The police retaliated by opening fire on a group of students in front of Paradise Cinema in S…

US risks overplaying hand with Pakistan strikes

ANALYSIS - US risks overplaying hand with Pakistan strikes
By Randall Mikkelsen, Reuters, October 30, 2008

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - U.S. strikes at militants in Pakistan are stoking Islamabad's anger at a time analysts say the two countries must work more closely to fight militants in the region along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan's government summoned U.S. Ambassador Anne Peterson on Wednesday to protest missile strikes by pilotless aircraft in the border region. The protest came two days after a suspected U.S. drone fired missiles that killed up to 20 militants in that area.

"It was emphasized that such attacks were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and should be stopped immediately," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Islamabad.

The United States has shrugged off previous Pakistani protests, including over a raid by U.S. ground troops last month. It says the attacks are needed to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan and kill Taliban and al Qaeda …

Foreigners were the primary target of Marriott Bombers?

FIA finds foreigners were the target at Marriott
The News, October 30, 2008
By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The authorities have identified the mastermind of the Marriott terrorist attack and have arrested some of his key accomplices, who have confirmed that the target of the deadly assault was the foreigners staying at the hotel.

The attackers reportedly belonged to Al-Badar, Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi while the mastermind is a resident of Peshawar. So far the authorities do not have evidence of the involvement of al-Qaeda or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the attack that killed more than 70, including four foreigners.

When approached, the DG Federal Investigations Agency Tariq Pervaiz, who is also the head of the joint investigation team probing the Marriott attack, confirmed to The News that the case had been solved.

He also admitted that it was also established that the target of the attack was foreigners staying at the Marriott. A senior Interior Ministry source also confi…

A New Deal for Pakistan?

view: A new deal — Brain Cloughley
Daily Times, October 29, 2008

There are many approach avenues, and there are plenty of clever people in Pakistan who can choose the best ones. Let them be given free rein to do so, because Pakistan can rise on the skills of its people — or it can fall and fail if their potential is not properly developed

I arrived in Pakistan last week, on the day that India launched a rocket to the moon. On the way from the airport there was the normal traffic chaos compounded by ineffective security checkpoints, and on arrival in Islamabad there was a power cut. India appeared to be shining while Pakistan looked dark.

When I went to the Rawalpindi bazaars the atmosphere was bleak. Shopkeepers, some of them friends of almost thirty years, were not so much complaining as gloomily despondent. The price of staple foods was rising and the amount of shop trade was falling. The spectre of terrorism didn’t seem to present as much of a threat as the close and very personal one…

As America votes Pakistanis cast a wary eye: Maliha Lodhi

As America votes Pakistanis cast a wary eye
The News, October 29, 2008
Maleeha Lodhi

When the moderator in the vice-presidential debate earlier this month asked whether a nuclear Iran or an unstable Pakistan posed a greater threat to the United States, neither Joe Biden nor Sarah Palin cared to take issue with the question. Nor did they point out that one of the two countries happened to be a longstanding friend of America.

Attitudes like this explain why, for all the attention the election campaign is receiving in Pakistan's media, many people are viewing it with deep cynicism. Indeed more and more Pakistanis believe that it won't make much of a difference whoever wins because the domineering American approach that they have become accustomed to, and dislike, is unlikely to change. This mood of cynicism has been reinforced by the latest dip in ties between the two countries. Dramatic ups and downs are a familiar feature in a relationship, historically characterized by almost pre…

Developments in FATA and NWFP

Hope and fear in NWFP
The News, October 28, 2008
Khalid Aziz

FATA and the NWFP are in the midst of "interesting times." According to the Chinese such periods are unstable and bring a whirlpool of difficulties. Pakistan has entered a sinkhole of problems and will need adroit handling to prevent a further slide.

When Pakistan joined the war on terrorism in 2001 it conceived an impractical game plan of trying to play two contradictions against each other. Gen Musharraf had prevailed on the US to accept a policy of more lenient handling of the Afghan Taliban by military and intelligence operations inside Pakistan, compared to a more coercive treatment of foreigners and al-Qaeda. This policy was implemented by Gen Musharraf to keep intact the goodwill of the Pakhtun political forces in Afghanistan as an asset to balance the increasing influence of India, as well to avert the ethnic backlash of the Pakhtuns in FATA and the NWFP in sympathy for Afghan Pakhtuns.

As the US pressure incre…

Al-Qaeda and McCain Presidency

The Endorsement From Hell
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, New York Times, October 26, 2008

John McCain isn’t boasting about a new endorsement, one of the very, very few he has received from overseas. It came a few days ago:

“Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” read a commentary on a password-protected Islamist Web site that is closely linked to Al Qaeda and often disseminates the group’s propaganda.

The endorsement left the McCain campaign sputtering, and noting helplessly that Hamas appears to prefer Barack Obama. Al Qaeda’s apparent enthusiasm for Mr. McCain is manifestly not reciprocated.

“The transcendent challenge of our time [is] the threat of radical Islamic terrorism,” Senator McCain said in a major foreign policy speech this year, adding, “Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House.”

That’s a widespread conservative belief. Mitt Romney compared the threat of militant Islam to that from Nazi…

Marriott blast accused make ‘startling revelations’

Marriott blast accused make ‘startling revelations’
Daily Times, October 26, 2008

LAHORE: The Marriott hotel blast accused have made startling revelations during interrogation, Samaa TV reported on Saturday

They said that in winters they would go to Dubai and other Arab countries to earn money and return to Pakistan in summers to carry out jihadist activities.

According to the channel, during the investigation, the accused said that all of them were well educated, adding that their group also included some doctors and engineers. Most of the accused belong to Charsadda and Mardan while the one who financed the attack and made residential arrangements for the accused hailed from Faisalabad. daily times monitor

Pakistan Blind to the Taliban Threat?

ANALYSIS: Blind to the threat — Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi
Daily Times, October 26, 2008
If the Taliban agenda was nothing more than the expulsion of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan their efforts to expand their domain to some of the settled districts of the NWFP makes no sense. And what is the justification of the sectarian violence in Kurram Agency?

The government and major opposition parties are euphoric over the unanimous passage of the resolution on militancy in the tribal areas during the joint session of parliament. They think that they have evolved a credible approach to dealing with the insurgency and its violent fallout in mainland Pakistan.

The government is pleased with the resolution because it can easily project this development as an indication of growing political harmony among Pakistan’s diverse political actors. Opposition parties had initially used the joint session to build pressure on the government. The PMLN leadership, for instance, criticised the government for its…

GOOD OMEN FOR SOUTH ASIA: India to support Pakistan in getting IMF help: Manmohan Singh

India to support Pakistan in getting IMF help: Manmohan Singh
The News, October 26, 2008

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that Pakistan is in serious difficulties, adding we want to see a strong and successful democratic government in Pakistan.

He said, “India will support Pakistan government's effort to tide over a serious financial crunch by backing Islamabad's plan to seek help from the IMF.”

"I wish the new democratic government in Pakistan well. We would like them to succeed," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, a day after he had a one-on-one meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Chinese capital Beijing.

"Pakistan is in serious difficulties and is going to the IMF. We will support Pakistan getting help from the IMF," Singh told reporters who accompanied him on his visit to Japan and China.

Singh said he and Gilani discussed "all issues having a bearing on our bilateral relations and I would say tha…

Pakistan's Westward Drift By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Pakistan's Westward Drift By Pervez Hoodbhoy
September 09, 2008; Himal South Asian

'Alif' is for Allah
'Bay' is for bundooq (gun)
'Hay' is for hijab
'Jeem' is for jihad
'Tay' is for takrao (collision)
'Zal' is for zunoob (sin)

For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian Peninsula. This continental drift is not geophysical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its Southasian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the alluvium that had nurtured Muslim culture in the Indian Subcontinent for over a thousand years. A stern, unyielding version of Islam - Wahhabism - is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis and saints.

This drift is by design. Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam onto its people. Prayers in government departments were d…

CNN Commentary: Candidates should seek votes of Muslim-Americans

Commentary: Candidates should seek votes of Muslim-Americans
By Nafees A. Syed
Special to CNN, October 24, 2008

Story Highlights
Nafees Syed: Candidates are courting voters like Joe the Plumber
Syed: They should reach out to Muslim-Americans, who feel shunned
Obama may not be Muslim, but he should campaign for their votes, she says
Syed: I applaud Gen. Colin Powell for recognizing we are Americans, too

Editor's note: Nafees A. Syed, a junior at Harvard University majoring in government, is an editorial editor at The Harvard Crimson as well as a senior editor and columnist for the Harvard-MIT journal on Islam and society, Ascent. She is chairwoman of the Harvard Institute of Politics Policy Group on Racial Profiling. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- During this election, we have seen the spectacle of two presidential candidates fighting over one voter while snubbing an entire segment of the American population worthy of their attention.

We in the Muslim-Amer…

Defence as a public good - Ayesha Siddiqa

Defence as a public good
By Ayesha Siddiqa, Dawn, October 24, 2008

THE Pakistan Institute for Legislative Development and Training just held an international conference on civil-military relations in Lahore.

The institute put in a lot of effort bringing people from Turkey and Indonesia to talk about their experiences. One wishes they had also invited people from Bangladesh and Latin America to deepen the international flavour of the conference. Also, while there were quite a few PML-N parliamentarians present, the PPP was conspicuous by its absence. Even if provincial assembly members had attended the conference it might have given them a few ideas about the future of civil-military relations in the world, especially in Pakistan.

But perhaps the ruling regime thinks that it knows all or the issue is not a priority for the government. After all, some of the foreign-based Pakistani advisers of the present government tag civil-military relations as one of the lowest-priority issues.

The confe…

Moved by a Crescent

Moved by a Crescent
By MAUREEN DOWD, New York Times, October 22, 2008

Colin Powell had been bugged by many things in his party's campaign this fall: the insidious merging of rumors that Barack Obama was Muslim with intimations that he was a terrorist sympathizer; the assertion that Sarah Palin was ready to be president; the uniformed sheriff who introduced Governor Palin by sneering about Barack Hussein Obama; the scorn with which Republicans spit out the words "community organizer"; the Republicans' argument that using taxes to "spread the wealth" was socialist when the purpose of taxes is to spread the wealth; Palin's insidious notion that small towns in states that went for W. were "the real America."

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been kille…

Consensus Anti-Terrorism Resolution in Pakistan Parliament

Historic 14-point anti-terrorism resolution adopted unanimously :

Nation united against terrorism: parliament
* Dialogue will be primary instrument of conflict resolution
* Redistribution of resources to resolve Balochistan violence
* Civil agencies will replace military in troubled areas
* Compensation for violence victims, rehabilitation for the displaced

By Irfan Ghauri and Muhammad Bilal, Daily times, October 23, 2008

ISLAMABAD: In a historic resolution on Wednesday, the parliament said the Pakistani nation was united against terrorism and sectarian violence and would tackle the problem by addressing its root causes.

The 14-point resolution, drafted after two days of rigorous negotiations, was passed unanimously. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani moved the resolution, which he said would serve as policy guideline to the government in framing a national security strategy.

“Extremism, militancy and terrorism in all forms and manifestations pose a grave danger to the stability and integri…

What Colin Powell Also Said

What Colin Powell Also Said
His comments on Muslims in America bear repeating -- and repeating.
Washington Post, October 21, 2008; A16

NATURALLY, WHAT garnered the most attention on the day after former secretary of state Colin Powell's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama was its political significance. But we hope that another message that Mr. Powell tucked into his endorsement isn't forgotten.

Like many people before him, Mr. Powell rebuked those who have spread or fed the rumor that Mr. Obama is Muslim, and like many before him Mr. Powell reiterated that the story is false -- that Mr. Obama is and always has been a Christian.

Mr. Powell then took the issue an important step further. "But the really right answer," Mr. Powell continued on NBC's "Meet the Press," "is, 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim American …

Police Affairs in Pakistan

Crimes and punishment
By Abdul Khalique Shaikh, Dawn, October 22, 2008

THE new government has immense challenges to meet. The most formidable of these myriad tasks is combating terrorism, which the president and the prime minister say is their administration’s top priority.

The internal, regional and international situation also makes it imperative for the government to successfully eliminate terrorism.However, the drive against terrorism is intrinsically linked to the government’s ability to establish the rule of law and to restore the writ of the state in various parts of the country.

No government which fails to control day-to-day conventional crime can expect to succeed at the enormous task of breaking the back of terrorism. The ongoing fierce battle against a highly organised network of terrorists cannot be won if the state apparatus is allowed to become too weak to defeat an ordinary criminal in the street.

Rule of law and writ of the government are prerequisites for attracting forei…

Tackling Taliban: How is Pakistan Doing?

‘Militants working as instrument of anti-Pakistan forces’
The News, October 22, 2008

PESHAWAR: Provincial president of Awami National Party (ANP) and peace envoy of NWFP government Afrasiab Khattak on Tuesday said that militants carrying suicide bombing are not doing any service for Islam.

He added that they in fact have become instrument of enemy forces striving to destabilize the elected democratic government in the country. Afrasiab expressed these views while addressing a ceremony arranged by Peace Foundation, an NGO, for distribution of cheques among some victims of suicide bombings in NWFP. The ceremony, held at Frontier House, was to be chaired by Chief Minister, Amir Haider but he could not attend the function due to an emergency meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari in Islamabad.

“Islam is a religion of peace and propagates the message of peace, but the militants are behaving totally against the teachings of our sacred religion,” Afrasiab Khattak said and added NWFP and especi…

Pakistan Secures China's Help to Build 2 Nuclear Reactors

Pakistan Secures China's Help to Build 2 Nuclear Reactors
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG
Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2008

Pakistan has secured China's help to build two new nuclear-power reactors in a deal being touted as a counterweight to rival India's recently concluded nuclear pact with the U.S.

But in his first official visit to Beijing last week, new Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari apparently failed to nail down a firm Chinese commitment for another urgent need -- money to help replenish the country's sharply dwindling foreign reserves. With reserves at a six-year low, a Pakistani finance official said Saturday that Islamabad might seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund "as a last resort" to shore them up if it can't raise enough funds from other sources.

The nuclear deal with China would give Pakistan an additional 680 megawatts of power a year, or just over a quarter of the country's estimated current electricity shortfall.

China's…

Powell Rejects Islamophobia

Powell Rejects Islamophobia
Abed Z. Bhuyan, Washington Post, On Faith Blog

On NBC's Meet the Press this weekend, former Secretary of State Colin Powell formally endorsed Barack Obama in this year's presidential election.

Pundits will spend the next few days debating whether or not this endorsement matters. In truth, his endorsement of a politician matters less than his strong rejection of the Islamophobia that has tainted this race and that continues to exist unabated in many parts of America.

In a moment that would have made Tim Russert proud, Secretary Powell firmly renounced the divisiveness that has been perpetuated by his own party. During his interview, Secretary Powell exhibited a gravitas that has been unmatched thus far by politicians and pundits alike when it comes to an honest discussion of the state of a presidential race that has increasingly gone negative.

Since the beginning of this way-too-long presidential campaign Americans of conscience have longed for someone o…