Showing posts from November, 2010

What Wikileaks say about Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - II

Pakistan-Saudi Relations Appear Strained in Leaked Cables
Farhan Bokhari, CBS News, Nov 29, 2010

Pakistan's ties with Saudi Arabia appeared to be under fresh strain on Monday in the wake of revelations from classified documents released by WikiLeaks, which quoted Saudi Arabian King Abdullah calling Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari "the greatest obstacle" to the country's progress.

"When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body," Abdullah said of Zardari in one of the documents.

While Pakistani officials publicly condemned the claim as an attempt to undermine the traditionally close ties between the two countries, western and Arab diplomats warned that the revelations may have finally exposed genuine underlying tensions.

Both are prominent Islamic states: Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer and the birthplace of Islam while Pakistan has the distinction of being the world's only Muslim country armed with nuclear weapons.

'Afghan peace solution' by Arnaud Borchgrave - Very Insightful

Commentary: Afghan peace solution
UPI, Oct. 25, 2010

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- America's 17 intelligence agencies have spent more than half a trillion dollars -- more than $500,000,000,000 -- since 9/11, most of it on the global war on terror, and the Obama administration still believes that if Taliban supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar Akhund were to return to power in Kabul, al-Qaida would be back too -- "in a heartbeat." And this despite much evidence to the contrary.

Recent weeks have produced a number of reports about "negotiations" between some Taliban elements and the Kabul government as well as with U.S. and NATO intermediaries. There were contacts but no negotiations and none of the Taliban participants was authorized to speak on behalf of the reclusive and secretive, Mullah Omar, in hiding since the U.S. invasion collapsed his regime in October 2001.

Judging from Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric…

What Wikileaks means for the Muslim World?: Saudi Arabia Exposed, Turkey Ascendent, Iran under seige...

WikiLeaks Document Dump Exposes Muslim Governments' Hypocrisy
Muqtedar Khan, Huffington Post, Nov 28, 2010

WikiLeaks is in the process of dramatically transforming foreign affairs and international relations. It is revealing over 250,000 cables from US embassies worldwide to the State department and other classified documents. The consequences of this 'mega-scoop' will be very far reaching indeed.

For the United States the issues are both strategic as well as ethical. On a strategic level the leaks -- which expose frank assessment of foreign leaders by senior American officials and American thinking on many critical issues -- will complicate Obama administration's ability to deal with its allies and may increase global cynicism about US intentions.

Many of the allies will be angry and distrustful. They will also be afraid of being candid in the future. All players in the future will be trying to second-guess each other, unwilling to articulate what their real intenti…

What Wikileaks say about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar - I

(Updates - at the end of blog post)

1. Excerpts from New York Times about Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar:

A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, ‘they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,’ he argued.”
The cables show that nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States’ relations with the world. They depict the Obama administration struggling to sort out which Pakistanis are trustworthy pa…

Pakistan: Blasphemous distortion of Islamic law

Blasphemous distortion of Islamic law
The News, November 28, 2010
S Iftikhar Murshed

The death sentence handed down on Aasia Bibi over allegations of blasphemy has brought shame to Pakistan and been roundly condemned worldwide. It has also distorted the teachings of Islam. Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, despite his murky track record in politics, did the right thing for once by visiting the hapless woman and holding out the promise of a presidential pardon. This prompted obscurantist clerics to stage demonstrations in several cities of the province. On Nov 24 the Alami Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat issued a fatwa (decree) which declared him an apostate.

Blasphemy laws have existed in British India since 1860. In 1927, Article 295 was added to the Penal Code under which “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief” became a culpable offence. The law was non-discriminatory and conviction under its provisions depended exc…

Islam and the West: Reaching Intercultural Understanding - Madeleine Albright

Islam and the West: Reaching Intercultural Understanding
Madeleine Albright, Huffington Post, Nov 11, 2010

Last month, these nineteen former foreign ministers met in Madrid to conduct a far-reaching assessment of the relationship between the West and the "Muslim World." This post reflects their conclusions.

The signatories below and I welcome the many initiatives that are underway among governments, in civil society, and within the religious community to expand areas of cooperation between the Muslim community and other actors. President Obama's trip to Indonesia this week is an important example of the high-level attention that must be given to these relationships. Despite such efforts to enhance communications, serious obstacles remain. In almost every part of the globe, there continue to be people who have chosen -- whether out of ignorance, fear, or ill will -- to sow conflict where reconciliation is needed. It is up to responsible voices on all sides to make the case…

Intelligence Squared Debate: Racial and Religious Profiling at US Airports

"Don't forget that within the United States and all around the world, there are people among the Muslims, majority, mainstream, who are fighting extremists. Don't just lump all of them together by just your one policy choice. Don't isolate them. Don't lose the hearts and minds. So yes, do profiling, but don't lump everyone together. That will be something exactly opposite to all what this great country stands for." -- Hassan Abbas

Nov 22 Debate: For complete transcript, click here

Related: Racial profiling debate ends Intelligence Squared season - NYU News
Should Airports Use Racial And Religious Profiling? -WGBH (with NPR audio link)

Drone Strikes in North Waziristan: Pakistan may refuse to cooperate

Pak may say 'NO' to drone hits in NWA
Thu, Nov 25, 2010, The Nation/Asia News Network

ISLAMABAD - In a major policy shift, Pakistan is likely to say 'NO' to the US over its CIA-operated drone strikes in North Waziristan Agency, thus bringing an end to the policy of former military ruler General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf.

Well-placed sources told The Nation on Wednesday that Islamabad has decided in principle to convey Washington that it does not desire unabated drone strikes, and would rather like to tackle terrorism related challenges on its own.

When approached, the US Embassy spokesman expressed his ignorance about these developments. However, the government and military sources were of the firm opinion that the US drone strikes had aggravated the problem.

"The US might have achieved tactical gains through the drone strikes, but they too had caused enormous damage to Pakistan's efforts towards fighting the terrorism", military chief spokesperson Major …

Pakistan Bombshell or America Bombshell?

Pakistan Bombshell
Arnaud de Borchgrave, Atlantic Council, November 17, 2010

Some can't wait to get out of Afghanistan and some can't wait to see us leave. NATO allies now want out ASAP. Some have already left (Dutch troops), others are preparing to leave (Canadians) and soon the allied fighting force will be reduced to 100,000 Americans and 9,000 Brits.

And Afghan President Hamid Karzai now wants the United States to reduce its military footprint countrywide -- just as U.S. commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus seeks to widen it -- and begin negotiations with Taliban.

When NATO allies volunteered military units to assist the United States in rooting out al-Qaida's infrastructure in Afghanistan after 9/11, they figured they'd be home in a few months. Had their governments known that their troops would be in Afghanistan for a decade, they would have stayed home.

Most troublesome for U.S. and NATO allies is that al-Qaida, the original reason for dispatching troops "…

Counterinsurgency in Pakistan: The Inside View - At Spy Museum in DC - Nov 18 - 6:30 pm

Counterinsurgency in Pakistan: The Inside View
Spy Museum, DC - Thursday, 18 November - 6:30pm

"It's a crucial relationship.''—CIA spokesman George Little, July 2010

As the U.S. hunts for al-Qaeda in Pakistan, the Pakistan Intelligence Service, ISI, and the CIA work closely together. The two intelligence services have a long and rocky history, including rumors of double dealing and double agents, yet when the two partners collaborate they are very effective. But what is the future of this relationship? Are their endgames compatible? The Pakistani government is careful about public backlash towards the appearance of too close a relationship with the U.S., so where will this relationship take the two countries? Join this panel of experts to explore what’s really happening on the ground in Pakistan and their predictions for the future: Hassan Abbas, Quaid-i-Azam professor, South Asia Institute, Columbia University, Bernard Schwartz fellow at the Asia Society, and former P…

New US Blueprint for Afghanistan ?

New US Blueprint for Afghanistan
Asia Society, November 17, 2010

“If media reports (or leaks) are to be believed, then the Obama administration is all set to tweak its policy towards Afghanistan and unveil a plan to end U.S. combat operations by 2014. This fine-tuning was in the cards, though the earlier plan to start drawing down U.S. forces from July 2011 remains in place. Apparently, the drawing down process will be slowed. It is in fact realistic and pragmatic to pursue this approach, because the Afghan military and police will get more time to take up their responsibilities and settle down. Moderate elements among Afghan insurgents may also feel the pressure to come to the negotiating table.

However, deteriorating U.S. relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai are a big hurdle in this context. The new Afghan parliament is also expected to become assertive in the meantime. Relations between Pakistan and the U.S. are yet another part of the matrix -- partly fragile, partly unpre…

Holbrooke dismisses chances of Musharraf comeback

Holbrooke dismisses chances of Musharraf comeback
Dawn, Nov 17, 2010

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has very little chance of regaining power in 2013 elections and any return to military rule would be a disaster, a senior US official said on Wednesday.

“He has about as much chance of coming back to power as (former Soviet) President (Mikhail) Gorbachev,” Richard Holbrooke told a gathering of US diplomats and security experts.

Musharraf, who came to power in 1999 in a bloodless military coup, announced last month in London he had created a new party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, with an eye to competing in the 2013 polls.

Musharraf, who has lived in self-imposed exile since he stepped down under threat of impeachment in 2008, has said he believes he has “an even chance” of regaining power.

Holbrooke said Musharraf’s comments should be taken with “considerable skepticism” and that the former Pakistani ruler was responsible in large part for the current s…

Analyzing Al-Libi’s letter to bin Laden

Al-Libi’s letter to bin Laden
S Iftikhar Murshed, The News, Nov 16, 2010

Osama bin Laden has been accused by his former associate and comrade in arms, Noman Benotman, or Abu Muhammed al-Libi as he is known in Afghanistan, of betraying Mullah Omar, the supreme leader of the Taliban. This is elaborated in an open letter of Sept 10, 2010, to the Al-Qaeda chief in which al-Libi alleges that “Afghans, including Mullah Omar and his supporters, asked us to protect their country and its people. Instead, you wanted to use their country as a launch-pad for war against America, Israel, the West and the Arab regimes. What benefit has this brought the Afghan people? Separately, when Mullah Omar asked you on several occasions to stop provoking and inviting American attacks on his country, you ignored him. How can you claim to fight for an ‘Islamic state’ and then so flagrantly disobey the ruler you helped put in place?”

Al-Libi is no stranger to jihad, and his association with Osama bin Laden date…

Pakistan must be engaged, says Kashmir interlocutor: The Hindu

Pakistan must be engaged, says Kashmir interlocutor
Shujaat Bukhari, The Hindu, Nov 15, 2010.

“The year Pakistan got engaged with India, we saw considerable improvement on ground”

Advocating a role for Pakistan in finding an amicable solution to the Kashmir problem, academician Radha Kumar, one of the three interlocutors on Kashmir, on Sunday stressed the need for working towards credibility of the dialogue process.

Before winding up the second visit to Kashmir and Ladakh, Professor Kumar told journalists that dialogue was important to arrive at a consensus, though there were varied perceptions in Ladakh and Kashmir.

Emphasising that Pakistan's role could not be wished away, she said it was a “necessity” to engage Pakistan in finding a permanent solution to the problem.

“The year Pakistan got engaged with India, we saw considerable improvement on ground. We were close to the Kashmir solution. We would like to see the dialogue process restart from the point it was left off. Unfor…

Obama's Indonesia speech bridges a divide

Obama's Indonesia speech bridges a divide

By Edward Schumacher-Matos
Washington Post, Thursday, November 11, 2010

Barack Obama this week gave one of the most powerful and convincing speeches of his presidency, rising above the morass of policy minutiae to connect with people's emotions.
Too bad he gave the speech in Indonesia.

Obama spoke on religious and ethnic tolerance in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. Coincidentally, the speech was delivered a week after the normally sensible residents of Oklahoma gratuitously attacked Muslims by voting to ban sharia, or Muslim religious law. They did so even though no one in this country was trying to introduce it and no Oklahoma court is known to have cited it.
A federal judge this week issued a restraining order temporarily blocking the measure, but it comes on top of an ugly campaign season of baiting Muslims and immigrants, of tension-stoking by some Fox News commentators and of a sense of insecurity in the…

Kashmir and Obama's India visit

Kashmir’s Fruits of Discord
By ARUNDHATI ROY, New York Times, November 8, 2010
New Delhi
A WEEK before he was elected in 2008, President Obama said that solving the dispute over Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination — which has led to three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 — would be among his “critical tasks.” His remarks were greeted with consternation in India, and he has said almost nothing about Kashmir since then.

But on Monday, during his visit here, he pleased his hosts immensely by saying the United States would not intervene in Kashmir and announcing his support for India’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. While he spoke eloquently about threats of terrorism, he kept quiet about human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Whether Mr. Obama decides to change his position on Kashmir again depends on several factors: how the war in Afghanistan is going, how much help the United States needs from Pakistan and whether the government of India goes aircraft shoppin…

Pakistan: Angry Young Nation

Angry Young Nation
Mosharraf Zaidi, The News, Nov 2, 2010

On October 30, The Indus Entrepreneurs or TIE held a national conference on entrepreneurship whose theme was “Unleashing Change”. Without a generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, job creation in Pakistan will stay dormant, while our population and its appetite for consumption goes through the roof. TIECON 2010, as the conference was branded was a great success. It brought together many experienced entrepreneurs to share their experiences with aspiring tycoons. The issue of entrepreneurship and the value it adds to the economy, to society and to politics needs greater attention than it gets, and organiser Moonis Rehman did very well in bringing it to light through TIECON 2010.

The one aspect of the conference that disappointed however was an aspect, that in recent months, I have found to be common to virtually every conference, workshop, seminar or discussion I attended. It may be the single most disturbing aspect of publi…

Iran's Political Elite: The 49 Most Influential People - An Informative PBS Article

Iran Primer: Iran's Political Elite
by Mehrzad Boroujerdi and Kourosh Rahimkhani
PBS, 01 Nov 2010

Abdi, Abbas (1956- ) A leading journalist and political analyst. He was one of the students who took over the American embassy on November 4, 1979. In 1999, he took part in a debate with one of the former hostages at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. An engineer by training, he served after the revolution in the intelligence agencies, the judiciary, and the Center for Strategic Studies, which is affiliated with the Office of the President. He was imprisoned for eight months in 1993 for writing critical columns in the Salam newspaper and later served a three-year jail term (2002-2005) for conducting a poll on behalf of Gallup that showed more than 74 percent of Iranians were interested in rapprochement with the United States.

Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud (1956- ) A conservative populist politician who won 61 percent of the votes in a runoff presidential election against former president Rafsanjani in…

Islam and the Goal of Love By William C. Chittick (Huffington Post)

Islam and the Goal of Love
William C. Chittick, Ph.D..Professor of Religious Studies, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Huffington Post, November 6, 2010

Muslim scholars who claimed that Islam specifically and religion generally are based on love were not simply talking through their hats, as many readers of my previous post seem to think. They offered plenty of evidence. In order to see its logic, however, we need to remember the two axioms upon which all Islamic thought is built: the reality of God and the messengerhood of Muhammad.
The first axiom does not depend on the Quran. It needs to be accepted before there is any reason to consider Muhammad and the message. If God is not real, then God's "messages" will be even less real.

This first axiom states that there is only one true reality. Everything else -- the universe and all it contains -- derives from it. What we call "realities" are in fact non-realities dressed up in fancy clothes.

In the lan…

The Unending Terrorist Attacks in Pakistan: All Calculus, No Answers

All calculus, no answers
By Mosharraf Zaidi, AfPak Channel, Foreign Policy, November 5, 2010

Today at Friday prayers, a bomb detonated in a mosque in Darra Adam Khel, killing more than 66 worshippers. It was the work of, by most accounts, a suicide bomber. In the Pakistani press and on the two dozen news channels that feed us a constant and unrelenting stream of what is happening in the country, the total number of people in the mosque at the time of the attack was anywhere between 100 and 500. The roof either collapsed, or did not collapse. There were anywhere between 50 and 200 injured. Pakistani officials use the figure of 30,000 Pakistani victims of terrorism routinely. Three years since the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) launched this war into a different, much bloodier dimension, the official response to this mayhem seems only to show Pakistan still has no counter-terrorism strategy. As always, the only certainties in the aftermath of terror in Pakistan were two things. First, …

Obama in India: Agenda and Expectations

Obama to Visit India, and Both Sides Hope to Expand Ties
By Vikas Bajaj and Heather Timmons

MUMBAI, India — As President Obama pays his first visit to India this weekend, he may want to take his lead from Mary Kay.

Since Mr. Obama took office two years ago, America’s top economic policy makers have visited India numerous times but left with little to show for their long flights. This time, too, officials on both sides have tried to temper expectations, given the geopolitical and trade tensions between the two nations.

But, even without a big policy push from Washington, companies from both countries have already been forging deals at a fast and furious pace.

American brands as diverse as Mary Kay cosmetics, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Cinnabon sticky buns have recently set up shop or expanded in India, often with local partners helping them navigate this country’s notoriously convoluted bureaucracy. Meanwhile, American corporate giants like General Motors and the drug maker Bris…

China - Pakistan Relations and American Interests

At Odds with U.S., Pakistan Deepens Ties with ChinaBy Ishaan tharoor, TIME, Nov 1, 2010

Declarations of solidarity and the $2 billion in promised military aid received by a high-level Pakistani delegation in Washington last week belie the hardening of U.S. attitudes toward Islamabad. A White House report to Congress in early October accused the Pakistani army of avoiding "military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al-Qaeda's forces," suggesting this inaction was a "political choice." Mounting exasperation within the Administration at the failure of Pakistan to do its designated part in the U.S. war in Afghanistan is prompting calls in Washington to take a much tougher line with Islamabad. But rather than produce a more pliant Pakistan, an escalation of U.S. pressure could prompt Islamabad to strengthen its ties with a more forgiving ally, China.
Despite the Pakistani military's long-term reliance on U.S. support, anti-…

Rethinking a Middle East in Transition: MEI Conference

Conference: Washington DC
8:45-9:00am: Opening Remarks: Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, President MEI

9:00-10:30am: US Middle East Policy in the 2nd Half of the Obama Term
David Makovsky, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Suzanne Maloney, Brookings
Ambassador Edward Djerejian, Baker Institute
Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group
Moderator: Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Princeton University

10:45-12:15: New Approaches to Non-State Armed Actors
David Kilcullen, Center for a New American Security
Robert Malley, International Crisis Group
Mitchell Reiss, Washington College
Moderator: Roger Hardy, Woodrow Wilson Center

12:30-1:30: Keynote Luncheon featuring address by Dr. Saeb Erakat, Chief Negotiator for the PLO

1:45-3:15: Shifting Regional Dynamics: Turkey, Israel, Iran and the Arab States
Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich, Tel Aviv University
Omer Taspinar, Brookings
Shibley Telhami, University of Maryland
Alex Vatanka, Middle East Institute
Moderator: Geneive Abdo, The Century Foundat…

Civil Society Demands Immediate Inquiry Into Harassment of Sherry Rehman

Civil Society Demands Immediate Inquiry Into Harassment of Sherry Rehman
ATP Team;; November 2, 2010

Editor’s Note: A wide array of civil society activists from different fields and different persuasion have released the following statement on the recent harassment of former Information Secretary of the PPP and former Federal Minister of Information, Sherry Rahman. ATP joins in the sentiment and spirit of the statement.

We believe that freedom of speech which includes holding diverse opinion, is the fundamental right of every citizen and indeed forms the basis of every civilized and democratic society. In Pakistan we have fought long and hard to secure this right from dictators and democrats alike. We feel that we need to continue to be vigilant about growing attempts to muzzle free speech in the public domain. Most importantly, we must not allow our own inaction as citizens to lend sanction to the naked state-backed intimidation that we witnessed at the hand…

Shared Humanity: A Terrific Website:

The world has been slow to react to the enormity of the floods in Pakistan.Pakistan urgently needs the world to stand with her during this grave humanitarian crisis. Acumen Fund is sharing our perspective from the ground. We urge you to raise your voice in support for Pakistan by adding to the tapestry and highlighting other ways to help.

Tahir ul Qadri's Lecture in Washington DC - November 8

The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center For Muslim-Christian Understanding Invites You To: A Leading Islamic Authority Takes On The Radicals: A MAJOR FATWA AGAINST TERRORISM

Date: Monday, November 8th
Time: 12:15 p.m
Location: Copley Formal Lounge

Description: Dr. Muhammad Tahir-Ul-Qadri, Founding Leader, Minhaj-Ul-Quran International. In recent years, the world has witnessed some tragic terrorist attacks around the globe, including the U.S., justified through the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings. Such events have widened the gap between Islam and the West. Consequently it has left many in confusion about key concepts of jihad and the Islamic legal stance on suicide bombings and terrorism, while also causing another threat of home-grown terrorism. On March 2nd 2010, Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri issued a comprehensive 600-page 'Fatwa' (religious ruling) condemning the perpetrators which is regarded as one of the most comprehensive condemnations of terrorism to date by any lea…