Showing posts from November, 2009

Is it really India? By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Is it really India? By Pervez Hoodbhoy
Dawn, 28 Nov, 2009

FOREIGN Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says that Pakistan is “compiling hard evidence of India’s involvement” in terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s public and its armed forces.

If he and the interior minister are correct then we must conclude that the Indians are psychotics possessed with a death wish, or are perhaps plain stupid. While India’s assistance for Baloch insurgents could conceivably make strategic sense, helping the jihadists simply does not.

As Pakistan staggers from one bombing to the other, some Indians must be secretly pleased. Indeed, there are occasional verbalisations: is this not sweet revenge for the horrors of Mumbai (allegedly) perpetrated by Lashkar-i-Taiba? Shouldn’t India feel satisfaction as Pakistan reels from the stinging poison of its domestically reared snakes?

But most Indians are probably less than enthusiastic in stoking fires across the border. In fact, the majority would like to forget that …

My compatriots' vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear: Tariq Ramadan

My compatriots' vote to ban minarets is fuelled by fear
The Swiss have voted not against towers, but Muslims. Across Europe, we must stand up to the flame-fanning populists

Tariq Ramadan, Sunday 29 November 2009

It wasn't meant to go this way. For months we had been told that the efforts to ban the construction of minarets in Switzerland were doomed. The last surveys suggested around 34% of the Swiss population would vote for this shocking initiative. Last Friday, in a meeting organised in Lausanne, more than 800 students, professors and citizens were in no doubt that the referendum would see the motion rejected, and instead were focused on how to turn this silly initiative into a more positive future.

Today that confidence was shattered, as 57% of the Swiss population did as the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC) had urged them to – a worrying sign that this populist party may be closest to the people's fears and expectations. For the first time since 1893 …

The awkward question

The awkward question
The News, November 28, 2009
Samad Khurram

“When I heard Taliban voices, I told myself: this was it,” exclaimed a young officer in white shalwar-qameez as he addressed a rally in support of the Pakistani troops. He adjusted his walking aid to steady himself, “I was ready to die but was not prepared to let my badge be humiliated.”

Captain (then Lieutenant) Omar Tirmizi said that since the injury to his leg made movement impossible, “I took out a grenade from my pocket and put it in my mouth. I decided to take the enemy with me.” The crowd was deeply moved; so was I. Capt Tirmizi, of FF Regiment, was moments away from sacrificing his life when his comrades rescued him.

Given the severity of his injuries, doctors had advised Capt Tirmizi complete bed rest. But, he came to the rally. despite the pain. “Please know that we have given our everything for this war and it hurts us dearly if the people we die for accuse us of not being serious about the war or playing doubl…

Links between the Taliban and al Qaeda have grown stronger

Links between the Taliban and al Qaeda have grown stronger
Kaustav Chakrabarti,; 24 November 2009

Rahimullah Yousufzai, the well-known Peshawar editor of The News International, has been covering Afghanistan and Pakistan for the past thirty years. Rare interviews with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar to his credit, he offers a deep insight into the evolution of the Taliban. Kaustav Chakrabarti spoke with him recently on the Taliban, terrorism and the future of India-Pakistan relations.

The current state of the Taliban

Kaustav Chakrabarti: Mr. Rahimullah Yousufzai, you have been following different armed movements in the region, particularly the Taliban, for several decades now. What do you think about the Taliban?

Rahimullah Yousufzai: The Taliban are an inward looking group. They are indigenous and they have been consistently saying and proving that they are only concerned about Afghanistan. But circumstances have placed them in such a position that they can't hel…

One Year after Mumbai - Lessons and Challenges for Pakistan: Op-ed in The Hindu

Lessons and challenges for Pakistan
Hassan Abbas, The Hindu, November 25, 2009

The tragic Mumbai attacks in November 2008 unfortunately derailed the India-Pakistan peace process in its wake. It should have brought both countries closer instead. The humanistic traditions and values of the Indian sub-continent and Indus Valley civilisation demanded so. On the contrary, masterminds of the terror attacks are succeeding so far because disruption of South Asian peace process was one of their prime targets. India legitimately expected that Pakistan would do its best to pursue and prosecute those involved in the heinous crime but in its hour of pain and grief it forgot that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism and is passing through turbulent times.

Pakistan has faced enormous challenges in 2009. It has been confronted with the growing menace of terrorism — ranging from militancy in the Swat valley to insurgency in parts of the Pashtun-dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas borderin…

Quaid-i-Azam Chair at Columbia University

Hassan Abbas gets Columbia University QA Chair

The News, November 22, 2009
News Desk

NEW YORK: Prof Hassan Abbas, a prominent Pakistani writer and scholar, has been named as the Quaid-i-Azam Chair by New York’s prestigious Columbia University. He will hold this professorship jointly at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and South Asia Institute at the School of Arts and Science, both at Columbia University.

For conmplete news item, click here
For more information about history of the chair, click here (pdf file)

Pakistan: Where's the counter-terror strategy?

Where's the counter-terror strategy?
The News, November 24, 2009
Mushahid Hussain

The writer is a senator and senior political analyst.

An interesting dynamic seems to be developing in today's Pakistan. There is an inverse relationship between the success of Pakistan's counter-insurgency and the failure of the country's counter-terrorism. Clearly, since the beginning of the military offensive in April, the militants are on the run but, concurrently, they have run amok by striking Pakistan's urban population at a time and target of their own choosing.

The government is reduced to expressing impotent rage, with the usual condemnation, compensation and commissioning an inquiry whose findings have never seen the light of day. There is now little doubt that Pakistan has no effective or workable counter-terror strategy. If we had one, it probably lies buried, tucked away in the locked files of officialdom.

Pakistan today is witnessing the worst type of terrorism in it…

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan
By Jeremy Scahill; The Nation, November 23, 2009

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on conditi…

500 Most Influential Muslims

500 Most Influential Muslims
Chief Editors: Prof John Esposito and Prof Ibrahim Kalin
The royal islamic strategic studies centre, 2009
The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

The publication you have in your hands is the first of what we hope will be an annual series that provides a window into the movers and shakers of the Muslim world. We have strived to highlight people who are influential as Muslims, that is, people whose influence is derived from their practice of Islam or from the fact
that they are Muslim. We think that this gives valuable insight into the different ways that Muslims impact the world, and also shows the diversity of how people are living as Muslims today.

Influence is a tricky concept. Its meaning derives from the Latin word influens meaning to flow-in, pointing to an old astrological idea that unseen forces (like the moon) affect humanity. The figures on this list have the …

Our faff-Pak policy: Indian Express

Our faff-Pak policy
Shekhar Gupta, Indian Express, November 14, 2009.
My alma mater of 12 wonderful years in journalism, India Today, just came out with a provocative idea on its cover: Can Pakistan Be Saved? I, however, dare to suggest that in India we need to ask that question a little differently: Should Pakistan Be Saved? Then you can proceed with follow-on questions and corollaries: is it good or bad for us if Pakistan is saved/ not saved? And if we conclude that it is good for us, in fact of vital interest to us, that Pakistan is not only “saved” but emerges a stronger, stabler, moderate, modernising and democratic nation through its current crisis, then we need to think what we can do to help that process.

For too long now both India and Pakistan have had their judgment clouded by contemptuous distrust of each other. The Pakistanis refer to us as their enemies rather more freely. We are a bit more cautious, hypocritical, and non-Punjabi about the use of such direct language. B…

Report warns of Pakistan's younger generation losing faith in democracy

Report warns of Pakistan's younger generation losing faith in democracy
• Swelling population 'risks demographic disaster'
• Cynicism and disaffection among disturbing findings
Declan Walsh in Islamabad, Friday 20 November 2009

faces a "demographic disaster" if its leaders fail to invest in a youth population that is disturbingly cynical about democracy, has greatest faith in the military and is resentful of western interference, according to a study published tomorrow.

The report, commissioned by the British Council, says the nuclear-armed country is at a critical point, with its population forecast to swell by 85 million, from its current 180 million, over the next two decades.

"Pakistan is at a crossroads," said David Steven, an academic who helped write the report. "It can harness the energy of that generation, and collect a demographic dividend. But if they fail to get jobs and are poorly educated, it faces a demographic disa…

No more homecomings - Pashtuns in America

No more homecomings
By Luv Puri exclusively for

11 Nov, 2009

NEW YORK: On a Saturday morning, 38-year-old Khalid Khattak is packing his luggage to move to Virginia in a last-ditch attempt to land a job appropriate to his skill set. A few months ago, Khattak was working as a recruiter in the human resource department of a large company and earning a decent salary. His wages covered personal expenses, including the rent for his two-bedroom, New York City apartment. After setting aside some savings, Khattak sent whatever was left over to his family living in Pakistan. Recently, however, Khattak’s company was hit by the economic recession and he was fired as part of a cost-cutting drive.

In his current predicament, Khattak resembles millions of immigrants – including American Pakistanis – who have lost their job. But unlike other immigrants who are choosing to return home to take advantage of a low cost of living while the recession rages on, Khattak finds that he is lacking in…

Female squash player from Waziristan defies the odds: Dawn

Female squash player from Waziristan defies the odds By Taimur Sikander
Dawn, 19 Nov, 2009

KARACHI: Top Pakistani squash players Aamir Atlas Khan and Maria Toor have been nominated for Professional Squash Association Young Player of the Year and Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) Young Player of the Year, respectively, by the World Squash Federation.

Both Aamir and Maria belong to the North West Frontier Province, home also to Pakistan squash legends Jahangir and Jansher Khan, where they train amidst constant threats from the Taliban. While it has been a comparatively easy ride for Aamir, by virtue of being a male in a part of the country where residents adhere to strict Islamic law, for the 19-year-old Maria it has been a journey of immense courage and perseverance.

Growing up in South Waziristan, Maria was a very different girl, often getting into brawls with boys and generally being very dominating, some very unusual traits for women in NWFP. She was eq…

Text of Nawaz Sharif’s interview with Geo News - What is Nawaz Up to?

Text of Nawaz Sharif’s interview with Geo News
Part I
The News, November 19, 2009

RAWALPINDI: Following is the transcript of exclusive interview of Nawaz Sharif with Geo News:

Hamid Mir (HM): In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful. Hamid Mir and Sohail Warraich are with you today. We are going to talk to a personality round whom the politics of Pakistan revolves nowadays. He is not a part of the government but people have started asserting that the government of Asif Zardari is surviving only because of him. I think you must have got the hint. I am talking about Mian Nawaz Sharif. Many questions are being raised and much is being written about him nowadays. We intend to talk precisely about the questions being discussed in political and cultural quarters. We will endeavour to ask him whether he has become lenient towards the incumbent government because of Saudi Arabia or because of United States; whether instead of an individual he is trying to save the system. …

China, US support improvement, and growth of Indo-Pak ties

China, US support improvement, and growth of Indo-Pak ties

* Joint statement also backs Pak-Afghan efforts to fight terrorism
Daily Times, November 18, 2009

BEIJING: China and the US support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism and Islamabad’s efforts to improve ties with New Delhi, a US-China joint statement said on Tuesday.

“The two sides welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia. They support the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan,” said the joint statement.

“The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region,” it added.

Briefing reporters after talks between Chinese leaders and US President Barack Obama, …

Why not a civilian head of ISI?: Dawn

Why not a civilian head of ISI?
By Kamran Shafi , Dawn, 17 Nov, 2009

IN view of the fact that the cardinal sin of the federal government to try and put the ISI under civilian control is cited as a reason behind all the obituaries presently being written about the imminent fall of a) just the president; b) all the major politicians; and c) the whole shoot, I’ve been trolling through the Internet to see how just many of the world’s top intelligence services are headed by serving military (in Pakistan’s case, read ‘army’) officers.

And how many are appointed by the army chief. Consider what I’ve come up with.

Except for two retired army officers in the early days, one a lieutenant colonel the other a major general, all the DGs of MI5, the “United Kingdom’s internal counter-intelligence and security agency were civil servants. The director-general reports to the home secretary, although the Security Service is not formally part of the home office”, and through him to the prime minister…

Pakistan Taliban taps Punjab heartland for recruits

Pakistan Taliban taps Punjab heartland for recruits
Pakistanis are increasingly concerned over the deadly collaboration between Punjabi militants from Sargodha and the Taliban.

By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2009

Reporting from Sargodha, Pakistan - One by one, recruits from Pakistan's Punjab heartland would make the seven-hour drive to Waziristan, where they would pull up to an office that made no secret of its mission.

The signboard above the office door read "Tehrik-e-Taliban." In a largely ungoverned city like Miram Shah, there was no reason to hide its identity.

The trainees from Sargodha would arrive, grab some sleep at the Taliban office and afterward head into Waziristan's rugged mountains for instruction in skills including karate and handling explosives and automatic rifles.

"Someone recruits them, then someone else takes them to Miram Shah, and then someone in Miram Shah greets them and takes them in," said Sargodha Police Chie…

Taliban under fire at Tablighi Jamaat gathering at Raiwand: A Good Omen...

Taliban under fire at Raiwind gathering

Participants vow to make Pakistan cradle of peace
The News, November 16, 2009

RAIWIND: Inayatullah Khan sits on a dusty rug and prepares to pray at Pakistan’s biggest religious gathering of 400,000 Muslims in Raiwind, cursing the Taliban for their unholy crusade against humanity.

Khan travelled all the way from South Waziristan to take part in the four-day event, one of the world’s largest Islamic gatherings, in Raiwind on the outskirts of Lahore.A resident of Kanigurram, a former Taliban hub that the military says it has captured during its ongoing five-week offensive in the northwest, Khan, 50, accused the Taliban of straying from the path of God and butchering Muslims.

“They call those who refuse to follow their brand of Islam infidels, not knowing they are inviting the wrath of Allah the Almighty by killing Muslims, which I call an unholy crusade,” Khan said.

A Muslim whose faith is important enough to make an arduous three-day journey and s…

The ‘It-is-not-us’ syndrome: Dawn

The ‘It-is-not-us’ syndrome By Hajrah Mumtaz

Dawn, 15 Nov, 2009

A couple of months ago, I wrote a column in praise of certain Pakistani pop stars and bands, arguing that there are a fair number of songs that display political consciousness and a related sense of responsibility. I referred to such songs as Junoon’s ‘Talaash’, Shahzad Roy’s ‘Lagay Raho’ and ‘Kismet Apnay Haath Main’, Noori’s ‘Merey Log’ and Laal’s rendition of Habib Jalib’s ‘Main Nay Uss Say Yeh Kaha.’

I find now that that argument was all very well – as far as it went. Such is the manner in which we are bound by our long-cherished prejudices and mental chains that it took a report by the New York Times’ Adam B. Ellick to show me what I had completely failed to notice: the music acts’ total refusal to either touch upon the topic of the Taliban, or to even acknowledge them as a concern.

In a video report shot in Lahore, Ellick asks a few of Pakistan’s top musicians why they have spoken out against corruption, politica…

Pakistan Expects Canada to lift arms ban: Toronto Star

Pakistan urges Ottawa to lift arms ban

Olivia Ward, Toronto Star, November 11, 2009

Another bloody day ended in Pakistan Tuesday with at least 24 people dead in a car bombing, apparent revenge for an army offensive along the jagged Afghan border.

It was the third attack in the past week that focused on Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province, which borders the turbulent tribal region where the Pakistani army is battling to dismantle Al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens.

And if Canada continues its 11-year arms embargo, denying Pakistan some badly needed border surveillance equipment, said Pakistan's Toronto Consul-General Sahebzada Khan, the violence is likely to escalate.

A U.S. troop "surge" against the Taliban in Afghanistan, under debate in Washington, could intensify the embattled country's problems.

"We have told NATO and the United States that new boots on Afghan soil will push Al Qaeda into Pakistan," Khan said in an interview with the…

Making Sense of Pakistan By Farzana Sheikh - Asia Society Event in New York - November 18

Making Sense of Pakistan
Featuring: Farzana Shaikh, Associate Fellow, Asia Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London

Nov 18, 2009 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Asia Society: 725 Park Avenue, New York, NY

Pakistan's transformation from a country once projected as a model of Muslim enlightenment to a state faced with a lethal Islamist challenge has dominated headlines in recent years. In her new book, Making Sense of Pakistan, Farzana Shaikh argues that while the failure of governance and the damage wrought by external powers have hastened this decline, Pakistan's problems are rooted primarily in its uncertain foundations as a nation and its ambiguous relation to Islam. Both have heightened the contestation over the meaning of Pakistan and the significance of "being Pakistani." This enduring ideological confusion has also thwarted a stable constitutional settlement, undermined the country's economic future and encouraged a new and danger…

Rejecting hyper-nationalists

Rejecting hyper-nationalists

Mosharraf Zaidi, The News, November 10, 2009

The voice of Pakistan’s emerging middle class will not always be amplified in ways that serve Pakistanis’ collective interests. The overwhelming majority of the Pakistani middle class takes great pains to conduct and promote an honest and open debate about the issues. Part of taking those pains includes introspection. There is an increasingly important deviant strain of hyper-nationalism mixing itself in with the voice of the Pakistani middle class. Pakistanis need to tackle it with the same integrity and purposefulness that has enabled the establishment of this middle class voice in the first place.

While it remains true that the majority of critique of the Pakistani media is malicious and motivated by attempts to delegitimise the country’s fragile middle class voice, it is also true that the low quality of research, fact-checking and integrity among Pakistani hyper-nationalists makes their work dangerously c…

The dream of reality: Allama Iqbal's 132nd Birth Anniversary

The dream of reality
Dawn, November 9, 2009
In his prose work, Allama Muhammad Iqbal foresaw the trajectory of the Pakistani masses, writes Khurram Ali Shafique.

The best resource for understanding the work of Allama Iqbal is the collective experience of the Pakistani masses, including the unschooled. Call it a dream, but I consider it to be reality.

Let me give an example. The greatest prose work of Iqbal is in English, and is called The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. It was first published from Lahore in early 1930, and later (with some addition) by the UK-based Oxford University Press in 1934. Few Iqbal scholars claim that they can explain even half of the seven lectures contained within that volume. Hence, there is not the slightest chance that the masses of Pakistan, mostly unschooled, may have read, studied, or even heard about it.

Yet, if we divide the history of our community from 1887 to 2026 into seven periods (and this division is based on certain principles a…

From Pakistan to Paris, by VW Beetle

From Pakistan to Paris, by VW Beetle
A French doctor is embarking on the 6,000-mile trip to promote a better image of Pakistan. 'It's not all about terrorism,' he says.
Declan Walsh, The Guardian, Monday 9 November 2009

Low-key is good in Islamabad these days, where the threat of Taliban suicide bombings has filled Pakistan's capital with checkposts, blast walls and a queasy air of anxiety. But one proudly conspicuous car rolled through the streets last week – a 25-year-old Volkswagen Beetle, painted in an explosion of trippy colours. At the wheel was a defiant doctor, Vincent Loos, headed for Paris.

"My dream was to return by road," says the 39-year-old Frenchman, who has just finished three years' work at a local hospital. Doctors without borders indeed – or perhaps doctors without sense. Only six months ago his ride was a dust-smeared wreck, collapsed at the bottom of an Islamabad street waiting for a final trip to the scrapyard. Loos, an intensive car…

Islamabad police shoot dead would-be bomber: Police Deserves Appreciation

Capital police shoot dead would-be bomber
The News, November 09, 2009 - By Shakeel Anjum

ISLAMABAD: The Capital Police, foiling an attempt of terrorism, gunned a suicide bomber at a police picket on the Margalla Road near E-11 as the suspected bomber cried ‘Allah-ho-Akbar’ while trying to blow him up.

The police targeted the head of the suicide bomber just before he triggered the explosive device.Experts and bomb disposal squad defused the explosive after an hour-long struggle and cleared the situation.

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Islamabad, Syed Kaleem Imam, terming it a great achievement of the police, said, “We are proud of the personnel who foiled the terrorism bid and protected the people’s lives in such perilous circumstances.”

The IGP said the police were trying to intercept the vehicle, which had dropped the terrorist. “It is premature to say that the vehicle was explosive-laden or it only facilitated the suicide bomber,” he said.

The interior minister, appreciating …

We will not solve the problem with troops alone: US National Security Advisor

We will not solve the problem with troops alone
Der Spiegel, November 7, 2009

US National Security Adviser James L. Jones talks to SPIEGEL about his skepticism regarding calls for more US troops to be sent to Afghanistan, the chances of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands and President Barack Obama's leadership style.

SPIEGEL: General Jones, it's now 20 years since the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union imploded. Has the world become a safer place?

James L. Jones: Tremendous accomplishments were made over a number of years to bring freedom and democracy to that portion of Europe that was left out of the drive. The events that took place 20 years ago meant for the whole of Europe much more peace and much more opportunity for the citizens that had lived on both sides of the wall.

SPIEGEL: But it was not yet the "end of history," as the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama and many others predicted. What is the gravest threat to the …

From Israel: Where all the friendships gone...

View From Israel
“Where Have All the Friendships Gone…”
The struggle over the Goldstone report is now at its height. In Jerusalem, the rising energy of the waves can be clearly felt. Does this portend a tsunami?
Uri Avnery, Outlook India, October 30, 2009

According to a Chinese saying, if someone in the street tells you that you are drunk, you can laugh. If a second person tells you that you are drunk, start to think about it. If a third one tells you the same, go home and sleep it off.

Our political and military leadership has already encountered the third, fourth and fifth person. All of them say that they must investigate what happened in the “Molten Lead” operation.

They have three options:

•to conduct a real investigation.
•to ignore the demand and proceed as if nothing has happened.
•to conduct a sham inquiry.
IT IS easy to dismiss the first option: it has not the slightest chance of being adopted. Except for the usual suspects (including myself) who demanded an investigation long before …

Islam in America: Muslims at Fort Voice Outrage and Ask Questions

Muslims at Fort Voice Outrage and Ask Questions
New York Times, November 6, 2009

KILLEEN, Tex. — Leaders of the vibrant Muslim community here expressed outrage on Friday at the shooting rampage being laid to one of their members, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who had become a regular attendee of prayers at the local mosque.

But some of the men who had befriended Major Hasan at the mosque said the military should examine the policies that might have caused him to snap.

“When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal,” said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. “But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad.

“Ultimately it was Brother Nidal’s doing, but the command should be held accountable,” Mr. Benjamin said. “G.I.’s are like any equipment in the Army. When it breaks, those who were in charge of keeping it fit should be held responsible for it.”

The mosque, the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, sits off Highway 195, near Fort Hood. Major Hasan began atte…