Showing posts from February, 2009

Judging the Swat Deal - Problems, Limitations and Prospects

In the Shadow of Shariah
PART I - Swat: the Past, Present and Future
By Dr. Mohammad Taqi

The rout of the secular forces in Swat is now complete. Pashtun nationalist leader, Khan Abdul Wali had once described the infamous Shariat Bill, presented in the Pakistani parliament, as Shararat Bill (mischief bill).Unfortunately, a much more perverse version of the Shariat or Islamic jurisprudence is being implemented in Swat, on the watch of Wali Khan’s son, Asfandyar Wali Khan.

Asfandyar Khan has joined the ilk of Jama’t e Islami and Imran Khan in dismissing the condemnation heaped on his Awami National Party (ANP), for imposing Shariat, as criticism by the nam nihad (so-called) liberals. Apparently the younger Khan has forgotten that most of these so-called liberals have remained associated with his father and his illustrious grandfather for the better part of Pakistan’s checkered history.

The right-wing political forces in Pakistan have gone blue in the face highlighting how fair, swift …

‘General Ashfaq Kayani key to US plans’ - Unlikely

Pakistan's Army Chief Key To U.S. Plans In Region
by Jackie Northam, NPR

Morning Edition, February 26, 2009 · Within the next few weeks, the Obama administration will unveil its new strategy — and goals — for Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the central figures in that strategy is Pakistan's army chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who has been meeting with U.S. officials this week in Washington.

When Kayani became chief of staff just over a year ago, there was a collective sigh of relief both in Pakistan and in the United States. Kayani replaced Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who also served as president. Musharraf stepped down under pressure and in disgrace after eight years of rule.

Kayani was quickly met with high praise from U.S. officials. The chain-smoking, stern-faced general is eloquent, enjoys a round of golf and studied at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

For complete article, click here

Also See:
Kayani visits US defence varsity, calls o…

Disentangling Layers of a Loaded Term in Search of a Thread of Peace - TERRORISM

Memo From Cairo
Disentangling Layers of a Loaded Term in Search of a Thread of Peace
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN, New York Times, February 25, 2009

CAIRO — If President Obama is serious about repairing relations with the Arab world and re-establishing the United States as an honest broker in Middle East peace talks, one step would be to bridge a chasm in perception that centers on one contentious word: terrorism.

The recent fighting in Gaza offered a potent reminder of the challenge Washington faces in mediating a dispute when the United States refuses to speak directly with some of the main players, including Hamas and Hezbollah, which it calls terrorist groups. Whether the United States has declined to speak with hostile groups because it considers them terrorists, or whether it slaps the terrorist label on groups it wants to sanction or marginalize, a battle over the term terrorist has become a proxy for the larger issues that divide Washington and the Arab public.

The perception gap, which g…

"Resolution of the Kashmir conflict Missed"?: The art of reading between the lines

Second Editorial: A ‘near miss’ on Kashmir?
Daily Times, February 24, 2009

A credible American source on Pakistan, journalist Steve Coll has revealed in an article that India and Pakistan had come within an inch of granting autonomy to the region of Kashmir before President Musharraf’s domestic trouble overtook the process of secret negotiations in 2007. Earlier, Pakistan’s former foreign minister Mr Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri had said much the same thing in his statement in the Pakistani media. President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were aiming to demilitarise Kashmir prior to a settlement but, just as he had muffed the chance of clinching Kashmir with the BJP government, Musharraf got lost in what can be called his “impermissible incumbency” politics.

Had Musharraf been able to clinch it, it would have brought on a paradigm shift in South Asia’s life. The Coll story says: “Under the plan, the Kashmir conflict would have been resolved through the creation of an autonomous r…

New Rport on Pakistan: "Comprehensive U.S. Policy Needed"

Pakistan Report: Comprehensive U.S. Policy Needed
Report by the South Asia Centre of the Atlantic Council of the United States,February 26, 2009

Executive Summary
A total of $4-5 billion above the (Biden)-Kerry-Lugar proposals is needed beyond the IMF and other loans from the U.S. and other sources. Of this, about $3 billion should go to the economic and social sectors directly.

About $1 billion of fresh or redirected funds would go to security forces -both military and law enforcement. Of this $1 billion, approximately $200 million would be applied to recruiting, training, and deployment of an additional 15,000 police within the next six months who are essential to bringing long-term law and order to all of Pakistan.

During 2008, several useful reports on Pakistan were published by some of the nation’s most respected think tanks. Each of these studies contained sensible analyses of what the United States should do regarding Pakistan and proposed sound recommendations accordingly. Rather t…

Need for "Strategic Renaissance" - Reinventing Iqbal's Dream

comment: Iqbal, Bacha Khan and terrorists — Suroosh Irfani
Daily Times, February 26, 2009

It might well be that the heartless war our homegrown jihadis and Afghan Taliban are waging against Pakistan exemplifies Islam’s dangerous inversion that Iqbal had warned against some three generations ago. Such inversion has virtually displaced Bacha Khan and Iqbal’s spiritual humanism by a jihadi extremism at war with humanity

“Muslims are at war with one another, in their hearts they only harbor schism. They cry out if someone else pulls a brick out of a mosque which they themselves shun” — Allama Iqbal, Armaghan e Hijaz (verse translated by Mustansir Mir)

When Muhammad Iqbal, the ‘spiritual founder of Pakistan’, wrote the above verses shortly before his death in 1938, the blowing up of mosques and beheadings of fellow Muslims had not yet become part of everyday Muslim life. Nor was the destruction of schools, or the ban on girls’ education and music part of a freedom struggle that led to the inde…

Democracy, Drama and Disqualification - Sharifs Out?

Sharif brothers declared ineligible, Shahbaz no more Punjab CM
The News, February 25, 2009

ISLAMABAD: The three-member Bench of Supreme Court has disposed off Sharif brothers’ electoral eligibility case by declaring them ineligible for contesting elections in its two-line short order announced here.

Shahbaz Sharif under this verdict has lost his seat in the provincial assembly and being no longer member of the Punjab House, he is no more Punjab chief minister, as SC has annulled the earlier notification about his being chief minister.

This case was under hearing of the SC three-member Bench headed by Justice Musa K. Laghari for the last eight months, in which, the Attorney General of Pakistan, Latif Khosa giving his arguments said that Punjab chief secretary and speaker were not the party in the case. Attorney General said that all the judges have taken oaths under the constitution and talking about the oath of the interim constitution was irrelevant.

He said that Nawaz Sharif’s propos…

Pakistan's extremist triumph - By Ahmed Rashid

Pakistan's extremist triumph
The government has caved in to the Taliban in the Swat Valley to avert more violence.
By Ahmed Rashid, Los Angeles Times, February 24, 2009

Writing From Lahore, Pakistan -- Maulana Sufi Mohammed, a radical cleric who was freed last year after spending six years in jail for leading 10,000 Pashtun tribesmen in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, has begun a new campaign. He is leading a peace march through the strategic Swat Valley in an attempt to persuade his son-in-law, Maulana Qazi Fazlullah, to accept the government's offer of a cease-fire and enforcement of an Islamic system of justice in the valley.

The fact that Mohammed has embraced the government's offer is a sign of how fully Islamabad has capitulated to the demands of extremists in the region. And the fact that the peace deal has not yet been accepted by Fazlullah, who leads the Swati contingent of the Pakistani Taliban and is closely allied with Al Qaeda, is a sign o…

Details of the Swat Deal

Sufi unveils nine-point peace plan By Delawar Jan
The News, February 24, 2009
Asks militants to stop activities; schools reopen in Swat

MINGORA: Tanzeem Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad, while expressing concern over the activities of the militants in Swat after the peace agreement, asked them on Monday to stop their militant actions.

The TNSM, whose black-turbaned activists are staying in a mosque here till ìrestoring peaceî, asked NWFP Chief Minister Ameer Haidar to visit the Taliban-infested Swat Valley, where until recently ministers and even MNAs and MPAs could not go.

Unabated activities by the militants even after a ceasefire have been causing a serious setback to the peace deal. The militants picked up the newly-posted District Coordination Officer (DCO), Khushhal Khan, and three other people on Sunday, who were released after six hours of talks.

However, cashier of the National Bank of Pakistan Yousaf, Akbar Zaman and Bakht Ghulam, who were kidnapped f…

Radio Pakistan Rises to the Occasion - Well Done Murtaza Solangi

Editorial: Radio Pakistan takes a revolutionary step
Daily Times, February 23, 2009

After a three-day conference of its station directors, Radio Pakistan has decided to initiate some reforms that clearly promise to revolutionise its role in society. It has decided to launch a special project of “radio schools” for children with little or no access to schools “in restive NWFP”. It also plans to “establish an Educational Channel to help promote literacy and create greater awareness in society about security, social and economic challenges”.

The conference also approved the new “community broadcasting” initiative, requiring the stations to plan new programmes focusing on the needs of local communities. Above all, it decided to increase local language programming to 70 percent, lowering the Urdu content to 30 percent. Information Minister Ms Sherry Rehman is to be congratulated for allowing this very bold departure from the traditional notion of “nation-building” that has ruled the functioni…

Sufi Islam Versus Salafi Islam

Faith Wars By Ayesha Siddiqa
Dawn, 14 Feb, 2009

Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani lauded the role Sufi Islam could play in keeping the society away from religious extremism. Lest we consider this a personal bias, since he represents the Sufi tradition himself, similar sentiments were expressed by others as well. One such example is the 2007 RAND Corporation paper, Building Moderate Muslim Networks, which identifies Sufi Islam as one of the potential forces within an Islamic society that must be strengthened to fight the rising intolerance, extremism, and violence in Muslim societies. Although the RAND report pertained to the Middle East, it could be equally applied to Pakistan, which suffers from a high risk of religious conservatism often bordering on extremism.

Pakistan, in fact, makes an interesting case study for the battle between Sufi Islam and the much more rabid Salafi Islam for two obvious reasons. First, it is a country with equally dominant traditions and…

In Support of John Solecki

Solecki’s mother appeals to public for help
Daily Times, February 22, 2009

ISLAMABAD: The mother of a United Nations (UN) official, kidnapped nearly three weeks ago, has urged the public to help secure her son’s release, in an audio-taped message released by the UN on Saturday.

"My name is Rose Solecki. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) worker who went missing in Quetta, John Solecki, is my son. I am appealing to the people of Balochistan for whatever support they can provide to secure my son's safety and freedom," the 83-year-old said in the tape, given to AFP by a local UNHCR official.

John Solecki, head of the UNHCR in Quetta, was abducted at gunpoint on February 2. His driver was killed in the ambush.

The UN has been trying to establish contact with the kidnappers, who have threatened to kill Solecki, AP reported.

The previously unheard of Balochistan Liberation United Front, which claimed to be holding Solecki, has demanded the release of 141 female detainees …

Flash Forward Pakistan By Samad Khurram

Flash Forward Pakistan: Pakistan online
By Samad Khurram, Dawn, 17 Feb, 2009

Samad Khurram speculates on the challenges which face this country in future years as part of's launch special 'Flash Forward Pakistan: Where do we go from here?'

In Swat, the army indulges in another never-ending battle with elusive militants who hold entire cities hostage to their whims. The silent victims of this violence are ordinary residents whose lives have been utterly devastated by the carnage. Sadly, there is no hope for peace until the residents of Swat and the people of Pakistan actively stand up and do their part in combating terrorism.

Speaking out against Islamic militants remains taboo in the minds of Pakistanis for many reasons. People are genuinely afraid of threats or falling victim to terrorism. Numerous editors have claimed to have been threatened by militants or their supporters. Furthermore, many who disagree with the militants in their actions may sympath…

Wariness in Pakistan - Swat Deal in Focus

Wariness in Pakistan
By Shuja Nawaz, Boston Globe, February 22, 2009

PROVINCIAL authorities in the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan struck a peace deal with local Taliban franchisees this week, and in it the government agreed to extend Islamic law in the area. Since then, commentators around the world have pretended to know what the agreement means. Some suspect a "hidden hand," whether it be the intelligence agencies or the United States. In a conspiracy-prone Pakistan, some even talk of an inside deal between the army and the militants - even as they ignore the hundreds of casualties that the army suffered in Swat. Never mind that facts may interfere with these pet theories.

In reality, only the locals know what the deal really means. I recently received the following account from a young woman from the area:

"For months and months the military has been trying to quell the militants. Two days ago their failure was accepted when the provincial government of the North-W…

Endgame is near ? - By Zaffar Abbas

Endgame is near? By Zaffar Abbas
22 Feb, 2009, Dawn

It’s not the endgame. Perhaps it cannot even be categorised as the beginning of the end. But the powerful salvo fired by a highly frustrated Nawaz Sharif towards Islamabad may change the course of events in the days to come. Already there are clear indications that the wedge between the Zardari government and Sharif-led opposition may soon take the form of an all-out confrontation.

In some ways it is vintage Pakistani politics, in which one year is too long a period in the life of an elected government, and destabilisation is the name of the game.

But then what has happened in the form of Nawaz Sharif’s outburst is also quite understandable.

The way some of the events unfolded in the last few weeks had in them many elements that were bound to alarm Sharif. The Sword of Damocles hanging over his head in the form of the disqualification case in the Supreme Court and the never-ending diatribe by a belligerent Punjab governor, were enough…

Pakistan face to face with Skepticism, Concerns, and Prejudice

In the face of chaos
The Economist, Feb 19th 2009 | ISLAMABAD AND LAHORE
How Pakistan’s army is failing, and what America must do, to crack down on rampant Islamist insurgencies in the region

IN A rooftop restaurant overlooking the old Mughal city of Lahore, Richard Holbrooke dined on February 11th with a group of liberal Pakistani businessmen, human-rights campaigners and journalists. He had come, midway through his inaugural tour as America’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a heavy question. Against a rising thrum from the narrow streets of the red-light district below, Mr Holbrooke asked: “What is the crisis of Pakistan?”

Well might he ask. Pakistan, the world’s sixth-most-populous country and second-biggest Muslim one, is violent and divided. A Taliban insurgency is spreading in its north-west frontier region, fuelled partly by a similar Pushtun uprising against NATO and American troops in Afghanistan (see article). Some 120,000 Pakistani troops have been dis…

Shia-Sunni Relations in Pakistan: Reconciliation is the Need of the Hour

Editorial: A Shia backlash in the offing?
Daily Times, February 22, 2009

After a suicide bomber killed at least 30 Shias and injured another 157 who were attending the funeral of an already murdered Shia leader in the southern district of Dera Ismail Khan in the NWFP, the victimised Shia community has staged protests in all the big and small cities of the country. The Shia youth organised under the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO), and led by their local clerics, clearly manifested signs of disquiet that may give rise to more widespread sectarian violence.

For some years now, the ISO has been lying low after realising that avenging Sunni violence is counterproductive. It was formed in 1972, and in the 1980s it aimed to protect the Shia community against a freewheeling spree of Shia-killing on the part of the politico-sectarian militias created by the state to fight jihad in Kashmir against India. Today, that policy of low-profile reaction could be coming under pressure simply because t…

Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan?

Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan
By MARK MAZZETTI and DAVID E. SANGER, New York Times, February 21, 2009

WASHINGTON — With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government.

The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.

The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies against terrorism suspe…

Afghanistan & pakistan on the brink: CSIS Report

Afghanistan & pakistan on the brink: Framing u.s. policy options
February 2009, CSIS
Authors: Frederick Barton and Karin von Hippel with Mark Irvine, Thomas Patterson, and Mehlaqa Samdani

Dramatic changes are needed in order to succeed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Almost daily, the people of the region experience deteriorating security and a worsening economic situation. At the same time, Afghans and Pakistanis will both be making tough political choices in the coming months, and the United States and major allies are in the midst of multiple policy reviews. The appointment of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke should provide the opportunity to transform the current approach into one that has clear goals and a compelling narrative.

Afghanistan and Pakistan on the Brink is the result of a 200 person conference, held on November 21, 2008 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and co-organized by the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Def…

Two US Congressmen Calls for Immediate Relief in Gaza and Change in Policy

Congressmen View Destruction in Gaza; Call for Immediate Relief and Change in Policy
(Congressman Keith Ellison and Congressman Brian Baird) - February 18, 2009

GAZA - February 19 - Two Members of Congress, Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Brian Baird (D-Washington) visited Gaza on Thursday to view first-hand the destruction from recent Israeli air and ground attacks, and to meet with international and local relief agencies.

The visit, which did not have the official sanction of the Obama Administration, is the first time anyone from the United States government has entered into Gaza in more than three years.

Prior to entering Gaza, the Congressmen met with the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority, and traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with Dr. Riad Malki, Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

On Friday, Ellison and Baird will tour the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, which have been the targets of numerous rocket attacks, repeatedly launched from …

The Fallacies of Mainstreaming ‘Jihad’ - Prof. Ayesha Jalal

The Fallacies of Mainstreaming ‘Jihad’
By Ayesha Jalal, Dawn, 14 Feb, 2009

Ayesha Jalal speculates on the challenges which face this country in future years as part of's launch special 'Flash Forward Pakistan: Where do we go from here?'

Not for the first time in its short and eventful history, Pakistan stands poised to make the proverbial descent into anarchy or, if wiser counsels prevail, settle down to being the normal place so many of its citizens and well wishers abroad would like it to be.

As on many occasions in the recent past, Pakistanis are divided and confused about how to avert disaster without compromising on what they value as emblems of their national sovereignty and Islamic identity. Whether reading newspapers or watching any of the newly set up television channels, it is impossible to avoid the sinking feeling that comes from a realization of an ever-widening gulf between ground realities and the sharply varied perceptions of them among Pakistanis. …

Pakistan - China Relations: Testing Times?

Pakistan and China: A Fraying Friendship?
By Vivian Salama, TIME, Feb. 19, 2009

There is an old Chinese proverb that says to attract good fortune, spend a new penny on an old friend. On Friday, an old friend is due to come calling in China. Pakistan's President Asif Zardari will make his second visit to China in four months for meetings with senior political and business leaders. A key ally in the U.S.-led "War on Terror," Pakistan — desperate for money and in need of a good friend — has recently found itself beckoning China for rescue. But is China willing to invest its pennies in Pakistan, much less play superhero for an old but now problematic ally?

Once an "all-weather friend," China stood with Pakistan during its old confrontations with India. Ties between the two countries date back to 1950 after Pakistan joined a small handful of nations in recognizing the communist People's Republic of China. In 1962, war broke out between China and India over the disp…

Pakistan's Taliban slayer - Hope is on the Way...

Embedded video from CNN Video

Continuing Controversy regarding Drone Attacks in Pakistan - Is Pakistan Government on Board

Pakistan Lends Support for U.S. Military Strikes
Leaders Continue to Condemn Air Attacks, but a Private Shift in Policy Aims to Aid Drone Assault on Militant Targets
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad, and SIOBHAN GORMAN and JAY SOLOMON in Washington, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2009

Pakistan's leaders have publicly denounced U.S. missile strikes as an attack on the country's sovereignty, but privately Pakistani military and intelligence officers are aiding these attacks and have given significant support to recent U.S. missions, say officials from both countries.

American unmanned Predator aircraft have killed scores of Islamic militants in Pakistan in more than 30 missile strikes since August, provoking outrage in the South Asian nation. Two in the past four days have killed more than 50 suspected militants. Yet, with the Taliban pushing deeper into the country, Pakistan's civilian and military leaders, while publicly condemning the attacks, have come to see the strike…

A 'Slightly' Different Take on Whats Happening in Pakistan Today!

The Great Game revisited
The News, February 19, 2009
Charles Ferndale

The Israeli army – which, despite Israel's veneer of democracy, actually runs that country -- has for some decades now pursued certain policies of direct relevance to Muslim countries in its vicinity. Amongst these countries are Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. First and foremost amongst these Israeli policies is the determination of that army to remain the pre-eminent military power in the region. And in order to retain its military hegemony, the Israeli army must necessarily prevent any Muslim country in the region from obtaining effective nuclear weapons. And if, like Pakistan, such a country already has nuclear weapons, then the Israelis believe it is essential to disable that country to the point where it ceases to operate as a nation militarily. Once we have understood the centrality of this policy to the Israeli army, then much of what has happened, and is happening, in the region falls into place.

For complete arti…

Musa Khankhel — murder of a brave journalist in Swat

Musa Khankhel — murder of a brave journalist
The News, February 19, 2009
By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Musa Khankhel used to tell his colleagues at The News International that he will be killed for his work as a journalist in Swat.
He was right.

On Wednesday, he was brutally murdered by unknown people while covering the vehicular procession of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, who is on a peace mission in Swat, from Mingora to Matta. The killers executed him after kidnapping him from Matta.

Musa Khankhel died with his boots on. He lost his life in the line of duty. He was the fourth journalist to be martyred in Swat since 2007 when violence first erupted in Pakistan’s most beautiful and peaceful valley. Sirajuddin, Aziz Khan and Qari Shoaib had been martyred earlier. However, Musa Khankhel’s murder was the first target killing of a Swati journalist.

His younger brother Isa Khankhel, who is also a journalist, was crying when he phoned this scribe to break the news of Musa Khankhel’s murder. He h…

The Advancing Enemy...In the Name of Justice

WASHINGTON DIARY: The advancing enemy — Dr Manzur Ejaz
Daily Times, February 18, 2009

Our ruling elites kept crying ‘Wolf!’ for decades to scare the West into supporting their tenures. And now, as the NWFP government prepares to promulgate sharia law in Swat and Malakand, the proverbial wolf has finally arrived. President Zardari’s statement regarding Taliban designs to take over Pakistan should have read: “The Taliban have already captured parts of Pakistan and they are on their way to grab the rest.”

Given the narrow vision of the governing elite, the prevailing anarchy in the country and absence of any alternative movement of resistance, the Taliban takeover of Pakistan or large parts of it seems a very real possibility now.

Up until the recent past, many of us believed that, beyond the tribal belt and its adjoining areas, the Taliban’s appeal could never be translated into a theocratic state. The underlying theoretical belief had been that backward ideologies cannot take over or overr…

Behind the violence in Gujarat, Gaza and Iraq is the banality of democracy?

Behind the violence in Gujarat, Gaza and Iraq is the banality of democracy
The moral deviancy of our elite no longer shocks. What is dispiriting is its tacit endorsement by electoral majorities
Pankaj Mishra The Guardian, 11 February 2009

In his memoir, Secrets, Daniel Ellsberg describes how he decided to risk years in prison by leaking the Pentagon Papers, the top-secret record of American decision-making on Vietnam, to the New York Times. Hoping that his wife, Patricia, would help him make up his mind, Ellsberg showed her a few memos on bombing strategies crafted by his former superiors at the Pentagon. She was horrified by some of the phrases in the documents: "a need to reach the threshold of pain"; "salami-slice bombing campaign"; "the objective of persuading the enemy"; "ratchet"; "one more turn of the screw". "This is the language of torturers," she told Ellsberg. "These have to be exposed."

I recalled this scene…

Pakistan - Swat Militants Deal - Pros and Cons?

Govt-TNSM deal a high-risk affair
The News, February 17, 2009
By Amir Mir

LAHORE: Islamabad’s decision to sign a peace deal with the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi by enforcing the ‘Sharai Nizam-e-Adl Regulation’ in the Malakand division of the NWFP, primarily to bring back peace to the Swat valley, is a highly risky affair for both Maulana Sufi Mohammad and the government since both sides have put their credibility at stake and will have to prove in the coming days that they are capable of honouring their part of the treaty unlike the past.

It is not for the first time that the TNSM and the NWFP government have inked a peace deal to end fighting in exchange for implementation of Shariah or Islamic law in a large region of the Northwest Frontier Province. It was on April 20, 2008 that the NWFP coalition government signed a six-point accord with the TNSM led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad whose son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah alias Maulana Radio calls the shots in Swat. The then imprisoned TN…

A Pakistani Cab Driver Writes a Book

‘For Hire’: Cabbie knows how to move pen and he does it well
By Mahtab Bashir, Daily Times, February 16, 2009

ISLAMABAD: Asif Hussain Shah, a taxi driver, has written a unique book titled ‘For Hire’ to relate his experiences on the wheel.

Feroz Sons published the book in January this year. Shah told Daily Times he quit studies at Grade 12 but his quest for learning still raged.

“I drive taxi to make ends meet. Sometimes I feel on the verge of break-down and sometimes exhausted. All the same, I decided to pen down my experiences in the form of short stories and I did it,” Asif said.

Born in Lalamusa, Asif was a plumber when he got married and came to Rawalpindi in 1993. Then he took to driving taxi, which he felt adventurous.

“Time is money for me. I don’t while away on roadsides, taking tea and smoking. Rather I read people and note down my experiences,” he said.

He said, “I have met some very interesting passengers over 15 years of my experience as a cabbie. I thought why not write shor…

Pakistan-Taliban Deal in Swat: A Way Out?

Govt, TNSM agree on Nizam-e-Adl in Malakand
By Daud Khattak, Daily Times, February 16, 2009

PESHAWAR: The NWFP government and Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) leader Sufi Muhammad have agreed on the implementation of Shari Nizam-e-Adl Regulations in Malakand, an official source told Daily Times on Sunday.

The decision was taken after a meeting between the government and Sufi Muhammad in Dir district. A member of the Swat Qaumi Jirga told Daily Times the two sides had signed an agreement whose key points were peace in Malakand division and implementation of sharia. Another key point was the formation of a committee to work towards freeing captured Taliban, Aaj Kal added.

Ceasefire: Hours after the meeting, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah announced a 10-day ceasefire in Swat through his illegal FM channel. “The Swat chapter of Taliban agrees with talks between the provincial government and TNSM chief Sufi Muhammad, and ceases hostilities for a temporary pe…

Benazir Bhutto and the Taliban

COMMENT: Benazir Bhutto and the Taliban —Zafar Hilaly
Daily Times, February 16, 2009

Created as a homeland for Muslims, Pakistan is ironically being destroyed in the name of Islam. The pace of this meltdown is bewildering.

In the course of a few months, the writ of the federal government has ceased to exist in four of the seven tribal agencies that comprise FATA, and is being seriously challenged in the remaining three.

In the settled areas too, like Swat, Dir and Mardan, where local law and order forces are weak, poorly equipped and indifferently-led, it seems only a question of time before they too are overcome by the contagion.

A discredited provincial leadership, an incompetent federal government, a confused public, fractured national parties, a broken economy and, not least, an army ill equipped to fight this war make up a lethal mix, presaging disaster. No wonder then that the resistance of the Frontier citizenry has been half hearted and an exodus of families from Swat and portions …