Showing posts from February, 2010

India and Pakistan (Barely) Talk: NYT Editorial

India and Pakistan (Barely) Talk
Editorial, New York Times, February 26, 2010

Low expectations for the first talks between India and Pakistan since the 2008 bombings in Mumbai were disappointingly on the mark. After the two sides met Thursday, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao of India said that she agreed only to “keep in touch” with her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir. No future discussions were scheduled.
That is not enough. Not for the United States, which needs tensions eased so Pakistan can focus more on fighting the Taliban and other extremists. And especially not for India and Pakistan.

India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, showed remarkable restraint when he decided not to lash back at Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. But the situation is too dangerous to depend on one man’s restraint. For the sake of both countries’ security, they need a sustained dialogue and a sincere common effort to build trust.
The two have much to talk about, including terrorism, their nuclear r…

The Changing Face of Militancy and Religious Extremism in Pakistan

Frustrated Strivers in Pakistan Turn to Jihad
By Sabrina Tavernise and Waqar Gillani
New York, February 27, 2010

LAHORE, Pakistan — Umar Kundi was his parents’ pride, an ambitious young man from a small town who made it to medical school in the big city. It seemed like a story of working-class success, living proof in this unequal society that a telephone operator’s son could become a doctor.

But things went wrong along the way. On campus Mr. Kundi fell in with a hard-line Islamic group. His degree did not get him a job, and he drifted in the urban crush of young people looking for work. His early radicalization helped channel his ambitions in a grander, more sinister way.

Instead of healing the sick, Mr. Kundi went on to become one of Pakistan’s most accomplished militants. Working under a handler from Al Qaeda, he was part of a network that carried out some of the boldest attacks against the Pakistani state and its people last year, the police here say. Months of hunting him ende…

A Journey for Peace

A journey for peace
Shujuaddin Qureshi
Dawn, February 25, 2010

It was an unusual gathering at Karachi’s Cantt railway station, where over 100 people from civil society organisations, intellectuals, political and trade union workers, and journalists had gathered for a peaceful cause. Sixty of those gathered, including more than a dozen women, were part of a Peace Caravan that left Karachi on February 13 for Peshawar to express solidarity with people of Peshawar and the Frontier Province. The women participants in particular, mostly trade union activists and labour leaders, were enthusiastic to join the caravan as it offered an opportunity to meet the womenfolk of the area worst affected by terrorism.

For complete article, click here

EVENT: Afghanistan and the Spectre of Vietnam - Feb 24, 2010 in New York

Afghanistan and the Spectre of Vietnam
Asia Society, New York, February 24, 2010

With a superb exhibition, Arts of Ancient Vietnam, Asia Society unveils an aspect of that country’s culture most Americans have never seen. But the catastrophic 14-year U.S. experience in Vietnam continues to haunt our foreign policy. In particular, how much relevance does the Vietnamese conflict have for our Afghan intervention?

Three distinguished historians and scholars examine the validity of a pervasive analogy and seek historical lessons in trying better to understand the challenges of state-building in an Afghan context. Is the US more likely to succeed today in counter-insurgency warfare than it was 40 years ago? Will the troop surge bring us closer to the establishment of conditions in which a viably democratic and truly national government is able to provide peace, prosperity, and stability for ordinary Afghan citizens?

Speakers include Max Boot, author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and…

Education Sector in Pakistan: PBS Interview with Mosharraf Zaidi

Pakistan: The Lost Generation
Extended Interview: Mosharraf Zaidi
PBS, February 2010

Mosharraf Zaidi is an American-educated Pakistani analyst and policy development adviser. He has worked as both a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor on education and as an adviser to the British government’s development arm. A strong supporter of Pakistan educational reform, Zaidi has become a widely followed columnist and contributing writer for newspapers in Pakistan, the United States, and the Middle East. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted in Islamabad in November 2009.

David Montero: I’m going to read you some statistics. India has an 83 per cent net enrollment rate for primary school. Sri Lanka has 90 percent. Nepal has 70 percent. Pakistan, 52 percent. Why is that?

Mosharraf Zaidi: Education is not a priority for the Pakistani state. The Pakistani elite benefit from the sustained illiteracy of the Pakistani people.

Benefit in what sense?

There i…

Iran arrests Jundallah chief Regi

Iran arrests Jundallah chief Regi from flight
The News, February 24, 2010

TEHRAN: Iran arrested a top Sunni militant on a flight from Dubai only 24 hours after it claimed he was at a US military base in Afghanistan, in what it hailed on Tuesday as a “defeat” for its Western arch-foes.

The claim came from Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, who said Abdolmalek Regi had even been issued an Afghan passport by the “Americans,” travelled to Europe and met with a Nato military chief in Afghanistan.

State television aired footage of a handcuffed Regi, dressed in a white shirt and Khaki trousers, as masked agents led him off an aircraft at an airstrip at an unknown location in Iran.

It was not immediately clear how the Iranian authorities were able to remove the leader of the shadowy rebel group Jundallah from the flight, which was said to be between Dubai and Kyrgyzstan.

Regi, Iran’s most wantedfugitive accused of launching deadly attacks from Pakistan, had been tracked by Iranian agents …

EPIIC symposium panelists explore conflict in South Asia

EPIIC symposium panelists explore conflict in South Asia
By by Katherine Sawyer and Saumya Vaishampayan

Tufts Daily, February 22, 2010

The 25th annual Norris and Margery Bendetson Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) symposium came to an end yesterday after five days of panels discussing pressing issues in South Asia. This year’s symposium, entitled “South Asia: Conflict, Culture, Complexity and Change,” featured an array of speakers from both the academic and political world.

Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) Director Sherman Teichman called the programming a success. “The content of the panels was sterling,” he told the Daily. “It’s been a very eclectic, very, very powerful five days.”

A key lecture on Friday evening, “Buzkashi: Afghanistan’s Recurring Great Game,” featuring Said Jawad, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, focused on the current situation in Afghanistan.

“The operation ... will put gradually Afghanistan and the Afg…

Mullah Baradar... a journey from Kandahar to Karachi

Mullah Baradar... a journey from Kandahar to Karachi

* Captured Taliban commander masterminded burqa-clad Mullah Omar’s escape on motorbike
* Elusive Taliban leader married burqa owner ‘out of respect, honour’
By Owais Tohid, Daily Times, February 20, 2010

I waited in the courtyard for news from inside, sipping endless cups of qahwa and watching young soldiers – sporting turbans, beards and uniform long hair – parade with submachine guns and rocket launchers. There was nothing else to peer at: Mullah Omar’s enormous house in Kandahar had no windows.

The top Taliban leadership was engaged in a closed-door session with a UN delegation, headed by Lakhdar Ibrahimi, as the group desperately vied for membership of the international body.

Next to me, then information minister Maulvi Mutameen strained at some invisible signal, and suddenly shouts of “Allah-o-Akbar” echoed through the surroundings, marking the arrival of the person all had been waiting for – Mullah Baradar. The armed warr…

Charlie Rose Show - On Pakistan and Afghanistan

Charlie Rose Show - On Pakistan and Afghanistan
February 17, 2010
Guests: Dexter Filkins, Hassan Abbas, and Seth Jones
To watch, click here

Reforming Pakistan's Civil Service: ICG Report - A Must Read

Reforming Pakistan's Civil Service
International Crisis Group, Asia Report 185; 16 February 2010


Decades of mismanagement, political manipulation and corruption have rendered Pakistan’s civil service incapable of providing effective governance and basic public services. In public perceptions, the country’s 2.4 million civil servants are widely seen as unresponsive and corrupt, and bureaucratic procedures cumbersome and exploitative. Bureaucratic dysfunction and low capacity undermine governance, providing opportunities to the military to subvert the democratic transition and to extremists to destabilise the state. The civilian government should prioritise reforms that transform this key institution into a leaner, more effective and accountable body.

General Pervez Musharraf’s eight-year military rule left behind a demoralised and inefficient bureaucracy that was used to ensure regime survival. There was a dramatic rise in military encroachmen…

U.S., Pakistan reap benefits of cooperation against Taliban: PBS Worldfocus

Mullah Abdul Baradar is the most senior member of the Afghan Taliban captured in the eight-year war against the movement.

The joint raid conducted by U.S. and Pakistani special forces suggests a change in tactics by Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence service. For years ISI was reluctant to target the Taliban, a movement initially cultivated by Pakistan to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan.

For more, Daljit Dhaliwal interviews Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani government official who is now with the Asia Society and the Quaid-i-Azam Chair Professor at Columbia University’s South Asian Institute.

Arrest of Taliban Chief May Be Crucial for Pakistanis - NYT
Profile of Mullah Baradar - Newsweek
Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander - NYT

Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim on the Judicial Crisis

Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim on the Judicial Crisis
From; Feb 14, 2010

We are again faced with a judicial crisis – not a bonafide crisis but a crisis created for ulterior reasons.

Ostensibly the crisis is the elevation of chief justice for the Lahore High Court in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the elevation of the next senior most judge Justice Saquib Nasir, as acting Chief Justice of Lahroe High Court (a la Zia ul Haq style).

Being of the view that more harm is done by ignoring seniority, which opens the door for exercise of discretion in principle, I am against seniority being ignored, particularly in judiciary.

My first reaction, therefore, was that the appointment of Chief Justice Lahore High Court to the Supreme Court and elevation of the next senior-most judge as Lahore High Court Chief Justice was justified.

I had assumed that in accordance with the Article 177 of the constitution, these appointments were made by the president after consultation with the Chief…

Pakistan Govt offers army chief Kayani two-year extension?

Govt offers Kayani two-year extension
The News, February 14, 2010
By Absar Alam

ISLAMABAD: The government has asked General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to accept an extension in his tenure as Chief of Army Staff for another two years. The verbal offer was made to sound out General Kayani whether he would agree to or turn it down.

The move has been made to ensure continuity in Pakistan’s policy on the war on terror and it also has a nod from Washington as the Army has achieved remarkable successes in the war on terror under General Kayani’s command.

General Kayani has not yet given his consent and is considering this offer, it was learnt.

The offer of extension has come at a time when battle lines for a second round have been drawn between the government and the judiciary. It was learnt that the Army has communicated its decision to all stakeholders that it would prefer not to be seen taking sides.

According to the sources, the extension in service cases of Chief of Army Staff General Kayani…

The Patronage Networks in Pakistan

The patronage networks By Ayesha Siddiqa
Dawn, 12 Feb, 2010

A COUPLE of months ago while walking through the F-9 park in Islamabad I met a young undergraduate studying information technology. He was critical of corrupt politics and the feudal mindset of the ruling elite. He was bitter about our leaders who he said do nothing but grab and exercise excessive power.

The conversation went fine until I asked him about his future plans. He wanted to take the civil service exams. Why won’t you pursue the profession for which you are training, I inquired. The answer was that he wanted to have power, since you cannot survive in the country without it.

I was reminded of a similar conversation I had with another person aspiring to join the civil service. This person was pursuing postgraduate studies abroad and wanted to become a bureaucrat to avenge the system that killed his parents. Being poor, the only option he had was to take his ailing parents to a government hospital without sifarish. …

Beyond redemption?

Beyond redemption? - By Babar Sattar
The News, February 13, 2010
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

Why is it that most people in Pakistan don't sound hopeful about the future, wondered the visiting head of an international research and development organisation, in a recent conversation. Are we really depressed as a nation? A bystander dispassionately observing our public discourse as well as cocktail conversations would probably argue that we seem to be reinforcing our collective sense of despondency. If you belong to the upcoming generation smitten with optimism (which the seniors lovingly call naiveté) and refuse to be cowed into defeatism, there are at least four theories that explain this phenomenon.

The first, and a personal favourite, is the incorrigible state of cynicism afflicting our older generation presently in control of the levers of socio-political change. This is the generation that was born around the time of Pakistan's independence, grew up in an ind…

When the 'Wild' Proved More Educated: A Must Read

(With Thanks to Hameed Bhutta)
By Majid Sheikh
Dawn, Sunday, 24 January 2010, Lahore Metropolitan Page # 16

When the British conquered Lahore in 1849, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, declared that he would educate the “wild illiterate Punjabis” in a new system of Anglo-Vernacular education. When they started the East India Company Board was shocked by what already existed.

The board was amazed to find that the literacy rate in Lahore and its suburbs was over 80 per cent, and this was qualified by the description that this 80 per cent comprised of people who could write a letter. Today, in 2010, less than nine per cent can do this, while 38 per cent can sign their name, and, thus, are officially ‘literate’. If you happen to read Arnold Woolner’s book ‘History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab’ you will come across some amazing facts we today just do not know. To understand the situation it would interest scholars to go through the ‘A.C. Wo…

A Deal with the Taliban?

A Deal with the Taliban?
By Ahmed Rashid, New York Review of Books, February 25, 2010

My Life with the Taliban - by Abdul Salam Zaeef, translated from the Pashto and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn; Columbia University Press, 331 pp., $29.95

1. For thirty years Afghanistan has cast a long, dark shadow over world events, but it has also been marked by pivotal moments that could have brought peace and changed world history.

One such moment occurred in February 1989, just as the last Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze had flown into Islamabad—the first visit to Pakistan by a senior Soviet official. He came on a last-ditch mission to try to persuade Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the army, and the Interservices Intelligence (ISI) to agree to a temporary sharing of power between the Afghan Communist regime in Kabul and the Afghan Mujahideen. He hoped to prevent a civil war and lay the groundwork for a peaceful, final tran…

Sectarian Terror in Karachi

Karachi Blasts
Dawn Editorial, February 6, 2010

The Shia community has again been targeted in Karachi on a day of religious observance. That one of the targets was a hospital where the dead and injured from an earlier blast had been brought only underlines the distressing reality of terrorism that is breaking new ground in ruthlessness.

If the Muharram blasts last December are any indication, we may not know for many weeks which group is behind the latest attacks. Suspicion, though, is likely to fall on Jundullah, a virulently sectarian militant outfit, four of whose members have been arrested in connection with the December blasts. So last week ended with ethnic violence breaking out in the city and this week ends with sectarian violence — a damning indictment of the city’s security situation that was for months talked up as a relative success.

However, we are not going to lay blame for yesterday’s blasts on a ‘security lapse’. We did not like the fact that the police quickly pointed …

Retired army Brigadier thrashes professor in Islamabad

Ex-brigadier thrashes professor over NRO brawl
The News, February 05, 2010
Students protest as investigation ordered
By Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: A retired brigadier, the registrar of the Army-run National University of Modern Languages (NUML), on Thursday assaulted his respected professor colleague when the latter questioned the role of General Musharraf in brokering a deal with the PPP through the NRO.

The staff room discussion on President Asif Zardari’s alleged corruption and Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s role in granting a clean chit through the NRO, infuriated Brig (retd) Obaidullah Ranjha to an extent that he started hitting Prof Tahir Malik like a punching bag, leaving the latter virtually unconscious.

The incident triggered protests by the university students, who blocked the road and chanted slogans supporting the victim professor, Tahir Malik, and demanding the removal of the brigade of brigadiers, led by Rector Brig (retd) Aziz Ahmad, and assisted by the brutal Brigadier Ranjh…

India and Pakistan: Future of Peace

India and Pakistan: Back from the Brink?
Asia Society, New York, February 4, 2010
To watch video of the program, click here

NEW YORK, February 4, 2010 - Progress towards peace is in sight for India and Pakistan, with the resumption of diplomatic talks, according to C. Raja Mohan, Kissinger Chair at the Library of Congress. "All indications are the talks are going to begin pretty soon," he said.

Mohan spoke at a panel discussion at Asia Society New York headquarters, moderated by Robert Templer, Director of the Asia Program at the International Crisis Group.

The five-year old peace process was suspended after the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Adil Najam, Director of the Pardee Center at Boston University, was decidedly optimistic. "The peace process is much less stalled than we think it is, than it has been historically... unofficial relations between the countries have been far more positive" than in the past.

Najam prescribed a three step solution to the confli…

The audacity of Afghan peace hopes

The audacity of Afghan peace hopes
M. K. Bhadrakumar, The Hindu, Februaty 4, 2010
The London conference on the Afghan problem certainly gives grounds for optimism.

Last Thursday the region took a ride in the raft of optimism to peace. The London conference on the Afghan problem certainly gives grounds for optimism. From the Indian perspective, however, what matters most is to be able to behold just in time that, as the Old Testament says, “there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand.” The little cloud is destined to rise higher and higher and become larger and larger with astonishing celerity and will burst in a deluge of rain on the parched earth. And like Elijah hastening Ahab home, India needs to head for the chariot and “get thee down that the rain stop thee not.” For, once the river Kishon gets swollen from the deep layer of dust in the arid plain being turned into thick mud that impedes the wheels, it becomes impassable.

The fact of the matter is that the deci…

Training Afghan Police: A Failing Project?

With Raw Recruits, Afghan Police Buildup Falters
By ROD NORDLAND, February 2, 2010, New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — The NATO general in charge of training the Afghan police has some tongue-in-cheek career advice for the country’s recruits.

“It’s better to join the Taliban; they pay more money,” said Brig. Gen. Carmelo Burgio, from Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri force.

That sardonic view reflects a sobering reality. The attempts to build a credible Afghan police force are faltering badly even as officials acknowledge that the force will be a crucial piece of the effort to have Afghans manage their own security so American forces can begin leaving next year.

Though they have revamped the program recently and put it under new leadership, Afghan, NATO and American officials involved in the training effort list a daunting array of challenges, as familiar as they are intractable.
One in five recruits tests positive for drugs, while fewer than one in 10 can read and write — a rate eve…

Pakistan doesn’t want a ‘Talibanised’ Afghanistan: Army Chief Kayani

Pakistan doesn’t want a ‘Talibanised’ Afghanistan
* COAS says Pakistan does not want to control Afghanistan

* Peace in Afghanistan crucial to Pakistan’s long-term interests
* NATO told to fully realise Pakistan’s strategic paradigm
Staff Report, Daily Times, February 2, 2010

RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Kayani has denied that Pakistan wants a “Talibanised” Afghanistan, and said his country has no interest in controlling Afghanistan.

“We can’t wish for anything for Afghanistan that we don’t wish for ourselves,” Kayani was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency on his return from Brussels in a rare address to foreign journalists – much of which was devoted to Afghanistan.

Kayani said peace and stability in Afghanistan were crucial to Islamabad’s long-term interests.

He said Pakistan’s military operations in 2009 had helped improve the situation in Afghanistan in terms of squeezing of spaces, better control of areas and a continuous flow of logistics.

The army chief …

Afghan Civil Society Fears Taliban Talks Will Compromise Rights

Afghan Civil Society Fears Taliban Talks Will Compromise Rights
Una Moore, UN Dispatch - February 1, 2010

At an international conference in London last week, seventy countries pledged to back Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to negotiate and reconcile with some Taliban. Despite reassurances from Karzai and western allies that reconciliation will not betray hard-won gains in social and political freedom, much of the rhetoric from power players at the summit gave civil society observers the impression human rights –and especially the rights of Afghanistan’s women– will be on the negotiating table.

Activists also expressed anger at the exclusion of women and civil society from preparations for the conference itself.

“Unfortunately Afghan civil society and women leaders were totally ignored in preparing the agenda of this conference and deciding what should be discussed,” said Orzala Nemat, a leading civil society activist and Taliban era dissident.

The Afghan government sent an all-m…

Waziristan: the option not taken

Waziristan: the option not taken

The News, February 01, 2010
Ayaz Wazir

Our media was taking great interest in the operation in South Waziristan before its launch on Oct 17. It was termed the “mother of all operations” by some. But when the facts emerged it dawned on everyone that it was just not that. The media was denied the opportunity of giving full and impartial coverage. Only journalists approved by the authorities could enter the area to cover the operation. The media was thus forced to apply the brakes in covering the territory, which pushed the operation to the public blind spot, where it remains now.

Almost all our armchair experts on FATA presented a rosy picture of the situation, saying that the operation would eliminate the militancy in Waziristan. Their argument may have been convincing for those not having visited the area, and those not being familiar with the terrain and the people of Waziristan. But it just does not cut any ice with those are familiar with the area …