Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Taliban controversy

The news media in North America and Europe has often criticized Pakistan for providing safe havens to the Taliban.  However, those who work on ground know it well that the problem lies at the other side of the Durand Line.

President Karzai does not enjoy much control over Afghanistan beyond his presidential compound in Kabul and therefore any assertion that the government in Kabul enjoys any control over what goes on in Afghanistan beyond a tiny patch of a few square kilometres is absurd.

The following article in the Boston Globe offers that unique perspective on what goes on along the Pakistan and Afghanistan border.


A different story emerges from Pakistan

H.D.S. Greenway / Oct 29, 2010

KHUR, Pakistan

WHAT CAN we do about Pakistan, you ask, the source of so many troubles for the United States? You wonder: Why can’t or won’t Pakistan eject the Taliban terrorists from their safe havens, or stop them from crossing the border to kill our boys in Afghanistan?

Let me be your guide. If you want to hear a different narrative, come with me for a visit into the so-called “lawless tribal territories’’ on the Northwest Frontier where Pakistan and Afghanistan meet. Here the trouble is that the Americans aren’t stopping the Taliban from crossing over from their safe havens in Afghanistan to attack Pakistan.

Come, you have been invited to lunch at the officers mess of the Bajaur Scouts, gleaming with the regimental silver and leftover traditions from the British who once tried, but never succeeded, in taming the Pashtun tribes. Semi-autonomous tribes traditionally rule themselves rather than be under the direct control of the government.

But first we must drive over the storied Malakand Pass, leaving behind, as Winston Churchill described it, “under the haze of heat’’ the flat lands, up where “the landscape is wild and rugged,’’ and down again into a broad valley like a cup.

“The country of the plains is left … A single step has led from peace to war … and we have we entered a strange land’’ he wrote a century ago, and it still holds true today. For then as now, Pashtun religious zealots, then called Ghazis and now called the Taliban, are making trouble in the tribal territories.

In 2008 they had just about taken over Bajaur on the Afghan border by killing elders, destroying schools, and imposing their strict brand of Islam. The 26th Regiment, and the Scouts, cleared, held, and now they are building. The casualties were heavier than most American units have suffered across the border in Kunar Province.

Unlike the regular army, the Scouts are all Pashtuns themselves. The British formed these frontier Scouts on the theory that it takes a Pashtun to catch a Pashtun. But the Scouts tell us that they had forgotten what their grandfathers and great grandfathers had known, and had to re-learn the guerrilla warfare of which the Taliban are masters.

Today Bajaur is all but pacified, at least for now. The markets are open, people can move freely, teachers are back in their schools. It’s a success story, and that’s why we have been invited here. Don’t be alarmed that we are escorted by pickups full of armed Scouts with machine guns mounted on the cabs. That’s just a precaution. You are not in danger, except, perhaps, “from suicidals,’’ the scouts say, or perhaps a roadside bomb.

Listen to the tribal “elders.’’ They once again represent tribal authority which the Taliban broke down. In town the Scouts have left one of the telephone poles which was refitted to be a gallows by the Taliban. You can see caves that the Taliban dug to hide in — “like the Viet Cong,’’ says one of the Scouts who has read about the tunnels of Cu Chi in Vietnam.

But come and look at this map. Those hatched marks are the bits where Taliban are still active, to be mopped up. There, straddling the border, there’s the weak point! The British drew the border separating members of the same tribe, so the tribesmen have always wandered back and forth at will.

No matter how successful the Scouts and the 26th Regiment have been in clearing out the Taliban from Bajaur, they say the Americans and the Afghan Army in Kunar Province aren’t preventing the Taliban from coming over from their safe havens in Afghanistan. It’s not for lack of will. It’s just the reality of porous borders and frontier fighting.

Whether Pakistan’s national leaders want to keep good relations with some Taliban in other parts of the frontier, as a hedge against when the Americans leave, is a matter above the Scouts’ pay grade. All they know is that Talibs from safe havens in Afghanistan are coming over to kill their boys.

Not quite what you’re hearing back home?

H.D.S. Greenway’s column appears regularly in the Globe.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Robert Fisk: The shaming of America - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The Independent

Robert Fisk, the legendary journalist, puts in context the latest release by Wikileaks, which reveals thousands of civilan deaths that were known to the American forces in Iraq.

Robert Fisk: The shaming of America

As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who'd been tortured and you'd be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or "collateral damage", or a simple phrase: "We have nothing on that."

Of course, we all knew they always did have something. And yesterday's ocean of military memos proves it yet again. Al-Jazeera has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the actual Iraqi families whose men and women are recorded as being wasted at US checkpoints – I've identified one because I reported it in 2004, the bullet-smashed car, the two dead journalists, even the name of the local US captain – and it was The Independent on Sunday that first alerted the world to the hordes of indisciplined gunmen being flown to Baghdad to protect diplomats and generals. These mercenaries, who murdered their way around the cities of Iraq, abused me when I told them I was writing about them way back in 2003.

It's always tempting to avoid a story by saying "nothing new". The "old story" idea is used by governments to dampen journalistic interest as it can be used by us to cover journalistic idleness. And it's true that reporters have seen some of this stuff before. The "evidence" of Iranian involvement in bomb-making in southern Iraq was farmed out to The New York Times's Michael Gordon by the Pentagon in February 2007. The raw material, which we can now read, is far more doubtful than the Pentagon-peddled version. Iranian military material was still lying around all over Iraq from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and most of the attacks on Americans were at that stage carried out by Sunni insurgents. The reports suggesting that Syria allowed insurgents to pass through their territory, by the way, are correct. I have spoken to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers whose sons made their way to Iraq from Lebanon via the Lebanese village of Majdal Aanjar and then via the northern Syrian city of Aleppo to attack the Americans.

But, written in bleak militarese as it may be, here is the evidence of America's shame. This is material that can be used by lawyers in courts. If 66,081 – I loved the "81" bit – is the highest American figure available for dead civilians, then the real civilian mortality score is infinitely higher since this records only those civilians the Americans knew of. Some of them were brought to the Baghdad mortuary in my presence, and it was the senior official there who told me that the Iraqi ministry of health had banned doctors from performing any post-mortems on dead civilians brought in by American troops. Now why should that be? Because some had been tortured to death by Iraqis working for the Americans? Did this hook up with the 1,300 independent US reports of torture in Iraqi police stations?

The Americans scored no better last time round. In Kuwait, US troops could hear Palestinians being tortured by Kuwaitis in police stations after the liberation of the city from Saddam Hussein's legions in 1991. A member of the Kuwaiti royal family was involved in the torture. US forces did not intervene. They just complained to the royal family. Soldiers are always being told not to intervene. After all, what was Lieutenant Avi Grabovsky of the Israeli army told when he reported to his officer in September 1982 that Israel's Phalangist allies had just murdered some women and children? "We know, it's not to our liking, and don't interfere," Grabovsky was told by his battalion commander. This was during the Sabra and Chatila refugee camp massacre.

The quotation comes from Israel's 1983 Kahan commission report – heaven knows what we could read if WikiLeaks got its hands on the barrels of military files in the Israeli defence ministry (or the Syrian version, for that matter). But, of course, back in those days, we didn't know how to use a computer, let alone how to write on it. And that, of course, is one of the important lessons of the whole WikiLeaks phenomenon.

Back in the First World War or the Second World War or Vietnam, you wrote your military reports on paper. They may have been typed in triplicate but you could number your copies, trace any spy and prevent the leaks. The Pentagon Papers was actually written on paper. You needed to find a mole to get them. But paper could always be destroyed, weeded, trashed, all copies destroyed. At the end of the 1914-18 war, for example, a British second lieutenant shot a Chinese man after Chinese workers had looted a French military train. The Chinese man had pulled a knife on the soldier. But during the 1930s, the British soldier's file was "weeded" three times and so no trace of the incident survives. A faint ghost of it remains only in a regimental war diary which records Chinese involvement in the looting of "French provision trains". The only reason I know of the killing is that my father was the British lieutenant and told me the story before he died. No WikiLeaks then.

But I do suspect this massive hoard of material from the Iraq war has serious implications for journalists as well as armies. What is the future of the Seymour Hershes and the old-style investigative journalism that The Sunday Times used to practise? What is the point of sending teams of reporters to examine war crimes and meet military "deep throats", if almost half a million secret military documents are going to float up in front of you on a screen?

We still haven't got to the bottom of the WikiLeaks story, and I rather suspect that there are more than just a few US soldiers involved in this latest revelation. Who knows if it doesn't go close to the top? In its investigations, for example, al-Jazeera found an extract from a run-of-the-mill Pentagon press conference in November 2005. Peter Pace, the uninspiring chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is briefing journalists on how soldiers should react to the cruel treatment of prisoners, pointing out proudly that an American soldier's duty is to intervene if he sees evidence of torture. Then the camera moves to the far more sinister figure of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who suddenly interrupts – almost in a mutter, and to Pace's consternation – "I don't think you mean they (American soldiers) have an obligation to physically stop it. It's to report it."

The significance of this remark – cryptically sadistic in its way – was lost on the journos, of course. But the secret Frago 242 memo now makes much more sense of the press conference. Presumably sent by General Ricardo Sanchez, this is the instruction that tells soldiers: "Provided the initial report confirms US forces were not involved in the detainee abuse, no further investigation will be conducted unless directed by HHQ [Higher Headquarters]." Abu Ghraib happened under Sanchez's watch in Iraq. It was also Sanchez, by the way, who couldn't explain to me at a press conference why his troops had killed Saddam's sons in a gun battle in Mosul rather than capture them.

So Sanchez's message, it seems, must have had Rumsfeld's imprimatur. And so General David Petraeus – widely loved by the US press corps – was presumably responsible for the dramatic increase in US air strikes over two years; 229 bombing attacks in Iraq in 2006, but 1,447 in 2007. Interestingly enough, US air strikes in Afghanistan have risen by 172 per cent since Petraeus took over there. Which makes it all the more astonishing that the Pentagon is now bleating that WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands. The Pentagon has been covered in blood since the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, and for an institution that ordered the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 – wasn't that civilian death toll more than 66,000 by their own count, out of a total of 109,000 recorded? – to claim that WikiLeaks is culpable of homicide is preposterous.

The truth, of course, is that if this vast treasury of secret reports had proved that the body count was much lower than trumpeted by the press, that US soldiers never tolerated Iraqi police torture, rarely shot civilians at checkpoints and always brought killer mercenaries to account, US generals would be handing these files out to journalists free of charge on the steps of the Pentagon. They are furious not because secrecy has been breached, or because blood may be spilt, but because they have been caught out telling the lies we always knew they told.

US official documents detail extraordinary scale of wrongdoing

WikiLeaks yesterday released on its website some 391,832 US military messages documenting actions and reports in Iraq over the period 2004-2009. Here are the main points:

Prisoners abused, raped and murdered

Hundreds of incidents of abuse and torture of prisoners by Iraqi security services, up to and including rape and murder. Since these are itemised in US reports, American authorities now face accusations of failing to investigate them. UN leaders and campaigners are calling for an official investigation.

Civilian death toll cover-up

Coalition leaders have always said "we don't do death tolls", but the documents reveal many deaths were logged. Respected British group Iraq Body Count says that, after preliminary examination of a sample of the documents, there are an estimated 15,000 extra civilian deaths, raising their total to 122,000.

The shooting of men trying to surrender

In February 2007, an Apache helicopter killed two Iraqis, suspected of firing mortars, as they tried to surrender. A military lawyer is quoted as saying: "They cannot surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets."

Private security firm abuses

Britain's Bureau of Investigative Journalism says it found documents detailing new cases of alleged wrongful killings of civilians involving Blackwater, since renamed Xe Services. Despite this, Xe retains extensive US contracts in Afghanistan.

Al-Qa'ida's use of children and "mentally handicapped" for bombing

A teenage boy with Down's syndrome who killed six and injured 34 in a suicide attack in Diyala was said to be an example of an ongoing al-Qa'ida strategy to recruit those with learning difficulties. A doctor is alleged to have sold a list of female patients with learning difficulties to insurgents.

Hundreds of civilians killed at checkpoints

Out of the 832 deaths recorded at checkpoints in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests 681 were civilians. Fifty families were shot at and 30 children killed. Only 120 insurgents were killed in checkpoint incidents.

Iranian influence

Reports detail US concerns that Iranian agents had trained, armed and directed militants in Iraq. In one document, the US military warns a militia commander believed to be behind the deaths of US troops and kidnapping of Iraqi officials was trained by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Robert Fisk: The shaming of America - Robert Fisk, Commentators - The Independent

Sunday, October 24, 2010

tehran times : Seven million still without shelter in Pakistan

"Seven of the 21 million Pakistanis affected by this summer’s floods are still without shelter, the United Nation’s Pakistan Office reported this week. And an estimated 14 million continue to need urgent humanitarian assistance.

These figures are an indictment of the Pakistan ruling elite’s incompetently organized and poorly funded flood relief effort. They also are an indictment of the imperialist powers. Under conditions where Pakistan has faced what the UN has repeatedly described as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades, the agency has repeatedly had to plead for the “international community” to come to assist Pakistan. "

tehran times : Seven million still without shelter in Pakistan

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mumbai spy says he worked for terrorists – then briefed Pakistan | World news | The Guardian

Mumbai spy says he worked for terrorists – then briefed Pakistan | World news | The Guardian

Mumbai spy says he worked for terrorists – then briefed Pakistan

Late in the evening of 26 November 2008, David Headley, a 48-year-old American living in Lahore, received a text from a man he knew as Sajjid, a senior militant in the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba organisation. "Turn on the television," it said.

Headley, a member of the group since 2002, did so and saw footage of carnage in Mumbai. He forwarded the text to another militant. Then he sat down, watched the scenes of mayhem and exchanged emails with his wife.

Headley, of mixed Pakistani and US parentage, had played a central role in preparing the operation he was watching. Over the previous two years, he had made nine trips to India to scout out targets. The tall, pony-tailed, multilingual US graduate was the perfect spy for the militant organisation, particularly after changing his name from Daood Gilani.

On one trip, he had stayed with his Moroccan third wife at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where 31 would die. On another he had videoed the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, where 58 would be gunned down. In April, he had spent five days taking boat trips off Mumbai, bringing back fish for his landlady – and finding the perfect location for the attackers to put ashore before fanning out across the city. On his final trip, in July, he had looked over a Jewish centre, and a cafe popular with tourists.

On his return to Pakistan he had met his militant associates in a safe house and handed them a memory stick with images and photographs of the targets. But this was not the only post-mission debrief the smooth-talking former video shop owner from Philadelphia had. According to the 106-page transcript of Indian investigators' interviews with Headley earlier this year, even before meeting Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders, Headley had sat down with "Major Iqbal", an officer in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the main military intelligence agency. Nor was this the first meeting with the man he called his handler. Before and after almost every visit to India, Headley told his questioners, he had met Iqbal to receive instructions or brief him.

When on a mission, Headley said, he usually recorded images of potential targets on two memory sticks, one for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the other for the ISI. And one reason that he had been able to avoid detection was because in 2007 Iqbal had trained him in clandestine techniques. The skills learned on the streets of Lahore and put to use in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and other cities across India only took Headley so far, however. Eleven months after the attacks, now involved in plots for attacks in the west, he was arrested in Chicago on his way back to Pakistan.

Headley's testimony, recorded in 34 hours of interviews with Indian investigators in the presence of FBI officials in June this year, does not just detail relations between the ISI and the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. It also provides a glimpse of the workings of one of the world's most secretive militant organisations. The attacks, his testimony suggests, grew out of the pressure on commanders of Lashkar-e-Taiba to wage a wider war against the west.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was formed in the early 1990s to send Islamist militants across the de-facto border which separates Indian from Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Since 2005, Headley says, splinter groups had been breaking away from the group, the biggest militant organisation in Pakistan and the closest to the security establishment. These dissidents were close to radical groups such as al-Qaida or those that were to become the Pakistani Taliban. Senior commanders "had a serious problem holding the LeT [together] and convincing them to [only] fight for Kashmir and against India," Headley told his interrogators. The ISI, he told his interrogators, was equally concerned and under "tremendous pressure to stop the integration of Kashmir-based outfits with Jihadi-based outfits" and hoped "to shift … the theatre of violence from the domestic soil of Pakistan to India".

However, despite detailing close contacts with his handler, the picture that emerges from Headley's interrogation is of a chaotic and complex relationship between the ISI and the militants, with the former not always fully aware of developments. Headley told his questioners that Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director general of the ISI, visited Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, the operations chief of LeT, in prison after the attacks in an attempt to "understand" the operation, implying that top level officers were not fully informed. Pasha replaced General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as head of the ISI just over a year before the attacks. Security sources have told the Guardian that they believe the ISI command lost "ownership" of the operation around that time.

Stephen Tankel, the author of a forthcoming book on LeT, said: "The ISI had more control over the LeT than they admit publicly, but probably less than they'd like to have privately."

The ISI denied any links to the Mumbai attacks yesterday.

Headley told his interrogators that he had formally joined Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 after seeing a banner advertising a fundraising drive by the group at the mosque where he prayed, and after attending lectures given by its founder and leader, Hafiz Saeed. Headley's ambition was to fight in Kashmir, and he had military training at camps in north-east and north-west Pakistan.

By January 2006, he had still not been given a combat mission and was feeling demoralised. When detained by the Pakistani police after travelling close to the Afghan border, Headley was interviewed by an ISI officer called "Major Ali" to whom he recounted his involvement in Lashkar-e-Taiba and "ongoing plans to go to India".

He was soon freed and was contacted on his return to Lahore by Major Iqbal. After a two-hour meeting with Iqbal and his immediate superior, a "Lieutenant Colonel Hamza", Headley travelled to America, where he changed his name and then returned to Pakistan where Iqbal arranged for his training.

In June 2006, Headley said, he returned to the US to get an Indian visa and then, in December, having received $25,000 from Iqbal, he travelled to India with the cover story of opening a visa facilitation agency in Mumbai. On his return, he gave a 2GB memory stick containing images of a variety of locations in Mumbai to Iqbal. Headley did not have the impression that any definite plan for attacks yet existed, he told his interrogators. In a safe house, Headley did, however, spend several hours viewing images of potential targets in India with Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT military operations chief, before returning to Lahore to continue training with the ISI.

Over the next year, Headley was to make a series of trips to Mumbai.

Tensions within Lashkar-e-Taiba were building, with one senior militant insisting that the group abandon its focus on India and Kashmir for a broader agenda. Lakhvi, the operations chief, argued that the "jihad" in Kashmir was more legitimate and important.

By September 2007, Headley's instructions from "Sajjid", his immediate handler in Lashkar-e-Taiba, were more precise, and he made an extensive study of the entries and exits of the Taj Palace. But the operation still involved only one or two militants who would try to make their escape after their attack, Headley said.

One meeting of four top militants he attended, he remembered, took place in Rawalpindi on the day when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, just a mile or so away. All present expressed their fervent desire that the former prime minister might die of her wounds, he remembered. Hours later, she did.

By the spring of 2008, the plan Headley heard his fellow militants discussing involved "multiple locations and multiple attackers" who would be sent by sea. In April, Headley scouted the landing sites, returning to give the images to Major Iqbal of the ISI and the GPS co-ordinates he had logged to Lashkar-e-Taiba high command.

In June, he was told a new target had been added, another consequence of the fierce internal debate within the group. It was a Jewish centre, the Chabad House.

There was also the Leopold Cafe. The attackers were still supposed to escape after their strike, so Headley said he was told to scout Chhatrapati Shivaji station, from where trains headed north.

By August, after further rows about attacking the Jewish centre, it was decided by Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders that the strike would become a suicide mission and the station became a target, not an escape route.

The training of the 10 attackers was adapted to include indoctrination on martyrdom, Headley said.

On the first attempt, the boat carrying the attackers to Mumbai foundered. On the second, it were nearly discovered by Indian coastguards. On the third, the attackers reached Mumbai, guided by the GPS co-ordinates Headley had provided. Hours later, Headley received the text telling him to turn on the TV.

Headley infiltrated drugs gangs for American authorities in the late 1990s after being jailed for heroin trafficking, and went on after the Mumbai attacks to become involved with a plot by Pakistani militants linked to al-Qaida to attack in Europe. He faces the death sentence. He has agreed to talk to authorities about his previous life in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.
David Headley

The 50-year-old militant was born Daood Gilani in Washington to a Pakistani father and an American mother. He attended a prestigious military boarding school in Pakistan but returned to the US, where he was convicted of drug trafficking in 1988 and 1997. In return for a reduced sentence, Gilani became an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

He started travelling to Pakistan to develop intelligence on major heroin smugglers, but this also led him into radical Islamist circles and he started to associate with Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the most active Islamist terrorist groups in south-east Asia. From 2002 Gilani spent at least five stints at its training camps in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, some lasting three months, where he was schooled in ideology, explosives and counter-surveillance.

In 2006 Gilani changed his name to David Headley, ostensibly to disguise his background, and started travelling to India and Pakistan to help plan the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

He reportedly has three wives – a Pakistan, an American and a Moroccan – two of whom tried to warn US officials of his militant links before the attack. But their warnings went unheeded for reasons that remain unclear.

In early 2009 Lashkar-e-Taiba deployed him to Denmark to plot against a newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. But he was detected by British intelligence and subsequently arrested by the FBI.

US officials describe him as a chameleon-like figure with a knack for deception and skulduggery.

"He's not an Islamic terrorist in the classic sense," one told the Washington Post recently.

General Ashfaq Kayani

The taciturn, chain-smoking Kayani is arguably the most powerful man in Pakistan. Since replacing Pervez Musharraf as army chief in November 2007 he has steadily expanded his authority. Last year he dispatched troops into Swat and South Waziristan to oust the Taliban from their mountain lair; more recently, he helped the US increase drone strikes. The army's budget is up 25%; this summer the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, granted Kayani an unprecedented three-year extension of tenure. The army was praised for its response to the recent floods.

Yet troubling ambiguities persist. Kayani headed the ISI between 2004 and 2007, a time when the spy agency faced persistent accusations that it was playing a "double game", cracking down on some groups while harbouring others. Kayani insists those ties have been severed but western officials remain sceptical, saying the army's world-view remains India-centric. The army's refusal to disarm "weapons" such as Lashkar-i-Taiba prove this, they say.

Kayani has vowed to pull the army out of politics and close the ISI's notorious "political cell". Yet Kayani himself has swelled into a political figure of import. He recently requested asked President Asif Ali Zardari to purge the most corrupt minister from his bloated cabinet, but persistent rumours of a military coup have proven unfounded – analysts say Kayani doesn't want to wield power directly. At any rate, there is no need. As it overshadows a weak civilian government, the army enjoys unchallenged control over the issues that are closest to every general's heart: policy on Afghanistan, India and the secretive nuclear programme.

Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha

Pasha has controlled the formidable Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency since October 2008. His spies are on the frontline of the fight against Islamist militancy – ISI buildings and employees have been attacked numerous times – yet also face frequent accusations of fostering favoured extremists. Pasha is the embodiment of these contradictions. A short man with a shy smile, he is a fluent German speaker and considered close to his boss, General Kayani. Earlier this year the two travelled to Kabul, offering to help broker Afghan peace talks with the Haqqani militant group. The Punjabi general preaches peace with India – "There will not be a war," he said in 2009 – yet has continued the agency's long-standing support, or at least tolerance, for Lashkar-e-Taiba. Like Kayani, his boots are firmly under the desk: due to retire last March, he was given a one-year extension of tenure.

Hafiz Saeed

As a young university lecturer, Saeed was drawn into the murky world of Islamist militancy during the 1980s "jihad" against Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Now he is Pakistan's most notorious Punjabi militant, a pudgy man with a thick beard who operates openly from his Lahore base, addressing rallies and meeting selected journalists. Nominally Saeed heads Jamaat ud Dawa, an Islamist charity, but is widely considered the effective leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a fiercely ideological and strictly disciplined group that cut its teeth attacking Indian soldiers in Kashmir in the 1990s. In recent years it has broadened its operations to include attacks on western troops in Afghanistan and western tourists in Mumbai. LeT has long-standing links with the ISI. Saeed was briefly detained in 2002 for his alleged role in an attack on the Indian parliament, and again in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks. In 2009 Interpol issued a "red notice" for his arrest. Profiles by Declan Walsh

Herbal magic - Pakistan media gripped by man marrying twice in one day

A Pakistani man's solution to the age-old dilemma of whether to embark on an arranged or a love marriage has captivated the country's media.

Television channels have provided live coverage of Azhar Haidri's decision to marry both women over a 24-hour period.

At first he refused to marry the woman selected by his family since childhood because he loved someone else...

BBC News - Pakistan media gripped by man marrying twice in one day

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nobel Peace Prize politicized: Pakistan - GlobalTimes

Pakistan's foreign office expresses its displeasure at the recent choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Pakistani foreign office observed: "This decision runs contrary to the established principles for awarding the Prize and, therefore, (distracts) from the prestige associated with this award."

What well-established principles. And why not we hand this task to the officials at Pakistan's foreign office who may pick a military general (serving off course) for the coveted prize. Has any one noticed that not a single senior bureaucrat from Pakistan's foreign service has ever refused to serve a military dictator.

Pakistanis are not alone in their critique. The other global vanguard of human rights, Saudi Arabia, is also up in swords against the decision. However, the Saudi writer has a reasonable argument. He observes: "A look at the list of persons so far honored with the Peace Prize would give the impression that, at times, the committee works as the extension of the US State Department."

Pakistan on Friday questioned the awarding of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a convicted Chinese criminal.

The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that it was "surprised and deeply perturbed" to learn about the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the Nation newspaper reported.

"This decision runs contrary to the established principles for awarding the Prize and, therefore, (distracts) from the prestige associated with this award," the paper quoted the ministry as saying.

"Liu Xiaobo had been sentenced by the Chinese judicial system and has done nothing that could possibly qualify him for the Peace Prize," the ministry said.

The politicization of the Peace Prize, for the purposes of interference in others' domestic affairs, is not only contrary to the principles of inter-nation conduct, but also a negation of the underlying spirit conceived by Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel Prizes, the ministry added.

A political commentator of Russia's RIA Novosti News Agency said in an article that the Nobel Peace Prize has always been extremely politicized, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"In the past few decades, the committee's sympathies have been with the US-NATO-Western Europe camp," the agency quoted Nikolai Troitsky as saying.

"To prove this, look at the last three Nobel Peace Prize laureates before Liu," the commentator said, referring to US President Barack Obama, Finnish former president Martti Ahtisaari and former US vice president Al Gore.

The Saudi-based Arab News published an article Sunday that expressed explicit opposition to the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, saying it goes against the wishes of Nobel.

"Whatever Liu may be doing, he is not promoting peace," said Muhammad Ismail, the article's writer. "A look at the list of persons so far honored with the Peace Prize would give the impression that, at times, the committee works as the extension of the US State Department."

Nobel Peace Prize politicized: Pakistan - GlobalTimes

DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Target killings in Karachi claim 30 lives

The killing fields of Karachi. The political violence is consuming the lower middle-class youth in Karachi. This does not bode well for the City or for the country. 30 dead in pre-poll violence suggests Karachi is fast becoming Mogadishu.

DAWN.COM | Metropolitan | Target killings in Karachi claim 30 lives

Wife of Mumbai terrorist warned of attacks | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

Further on David Headley. This is getting creepy.

Wife of Mumbai terrorist warned of attacks

October 17, 2010

(JTA) -- The ex-wife of an American citizen of Pakistani origin who pleaded guilty to participating in the Mumbai terrorist attacks reportedly warned U.S. authorities less than a year before the attacks.

Faiza Outalha told U.S. authorities in Pakistan that her ex-husband, David Headley, was planning an attack, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Headley pleaded guilty in March in U.S. District Court in Chicago to charges of laying the groundwork for the November 2008 attacks on several locations in Mumbai, India, that killed 166 people, including six at the Chabad house.

In 2005, another of Headley's three wives warned the FBI in New York that Headley was a member of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which allegedly was responsible for the attacks.

Indian investigators found that Headley visited all 10 Mumbai locations that were attacked, including the Chabad center, known as the Nariman House.

The warnings were reported initially by the investigative news organization ProPublica and in the Washington Post.

Mike Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Saturday in a statement that “The United States regularly provided threat information to Indian officials in 2008 before the attacks in Mumbai.”The Times cited federal officials as saying that the State Department and the FBI investigated the warnings about Headley but could not confirm the accusations.

Wife of Mumbai terrorist warned of attacks | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

America's man in Pakistan was scout for terrorists

It is becoming slowly apparent that the mastermind behind the murderous attacks on civilian tagrets in Mumbai, David Headly, was in fact an FBI operative and possibly a duble-agent.

It is imperative that Indians should determine if the FBI had prior knowledge of the attacks on Mumbai, and if FBI was privy to such insights, why then it failed to share the intel with their Indian counterparts. Of course, the other assumption in the last statement is that the Indians were not pre-warned by the FBI.

America's man in Pakistan was scout for terrorists

Sebastian Rotella, Washington
October 18, 2010

US FEDERAL officials have acknowledged that David Coleman Headley, the US businessman who confessed to being a terrorist scout in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was working as a Drug Enforcement Administration informant while training with terrorists in Pakistan.

Headley is the son of a Pakistani father and an American mother. He became an informant for the DEA in the late 1990s after he was arrested on heroin charges. His American wife told investigators that he told her he started training with Lashkar in early 2002 as part of a secret mission for the US government.

A federal official said Headley's work as an informant appears to have lasted until some time between 2003 and 2005. Another federal official said Headley was a DEA informant in ''the early 2000s''.

''I couldn't say it continued into 2005, but he was definitely an informant post-9/11,'' the official said.
Headley was well known both to Pakistani and American security officials long before his arrest as a terrorist. He went to an elite military high school in Pakistan, whose graduates went on to become high-ranking military officers and intelligence operatives. After arrests in 1988 and 1997 on drug-trafficking charges, Headley became such a valued DEA informant that the drug agency sent him back and forth between Pakistan and the US.

Headley's relationship with the US government is especially delicate because the investigation has shown he also had contact with suspected Pakistani intelligence officials and a Pakistani militant named Ilyas Kashmiri, who has emerged as a top operational leader of al-Qaeda.

Last year, Kashmiri worked with Headley on a plot against a Danish newspaper that had angered Muslims by publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. To advance the plot, Kashmiri put Headley in touch with al-Qaeda operatives in Britain, according to a senior anti-terrorism official.

British intelligence detected the meetings between the operatives, who were under surveillance, and Headley, who surfaced as a figure known as ''David the American'', the senior official said. That led to Headley's arrest by the FBI last October.

In March, Headley pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism in the Mumbai attacks and a failed plot to take and behead hostages at a Danish newspaper. He is co-operating with authorities. Kashmiri's network has played a central role in sparking the recent US alert about intelligence that al-Qaeda is plotting ''Mumbai-style attacks'' in Europe, US officials told ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism

''Kashmiri is directly linked to those threats, especially involving Britain and British Pakistanis,'' the federal official said. ''There is some linkage to Headley.''

For weeks, US anti-terrorism officials have been alarmed about intelligence that Kashmiri has a network in Europe of about 15 operatives with Western passports, according to two US law enforcement officials.


America's man in Pakistan was scout for terrorists

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DAWN.COM | World | Pakistan flood damage estimated at $9.7bn

BRUSSELS: The floods that swept Pakistan since July caused about 9.7 billion dollars in damage, almost double the amount caused by a 2005 earthquake, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank said Thursday.

The estimate was released by the two banks ahead of a key meeting in Brussels on Friday aimed at reviewing Pakistan's relief and recovery efforts.

The Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting gathers 26 countries and institutions.

The estimate covers damage to infrastructure, farms, homes, as well as other direct and indirect losses, said the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

That “is almost double the amount of damage caused by the 2005 Pakistan earthquake,” said Rune Stroem, ADB country director for Pakistan.

In carrying out the assessment, teams from the two banks examined the extent of the damage in 15 key sectors across Pakistan, looking at direct direct damage, indirect losses and reconstruction costs.

The agriculture and livestock sectors were the worst hit, followed by complete or partial damage to a large number of houses.

Roads were “hit hard particularly at the district and village levels, and irrigation facilities have also suffered serious damage,” a statement said.

One-fifth of the country was affected by the floods, with the populous southern Sindh province the worst affected, it added.

DAWN.COM | World | Pakistan flood damage estimated at $9.7bn

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pakistan needs up to $30 billion for flood recovery

From Daily Times:

Pakistan needs up to $30 billion for flood recovery

* WB, ADB joint assessment estimates $9.5bn damage

* Agriculture, livestock worst-hit with Rs 428bn loss

By Sajid Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) in their joint Damage Need Assessment (DNA) have estimated that Pakistan would need $30 billion to reconstruct infrastructure and rehabilitate affected people in the flood-affected areas.

The survey found that the country suffered a loss of $9.5 billion (around Rs 800 billion) to public and private property, crops and other infrastructure in all four provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The $30 billion estimate covers reconstruction and rehabilitation costs of destroyed infrastructure and compensation of losses in the public and private sector, official sources at the Ministry of Finance confirmed to Daily Times on Tuesday. The banks have shared these figures with the country’s economic managers and a formal announcement would be made at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) meeting, scheduled on October 14 in Brussels.

Minister of State for Finance and Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar will represent Pakistan at the FODP meeting, where ADB director general and WB vice president for South Asia are expected to announce the results of DNA. According to the sources, the assessment comprises two parts: estimates of damage caused by the floods and needs of the country for reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure and compensation of losses in the public and private sector.

Estimates about damage to public and private properties had been calculated on the basis of cost of the infrastructure at time of its construction. The “need” portion of the DNA had been prepared on the basis of cost of cement, steel, labour and other constructions in the market, explained the official sources. According to initial estimates, Punjab suffered Rs 253 billion loss; Sindh, Rs 350 billion; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rs 103 billion; Balochistan, Rs 55 billion and FATA Rs 5 billion. Most of the damage occurred in the agriculture and livestock sector, which was estimated at Rs 428 billion.

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Pakistan needs up to $30 billion for flood recovery

Monday, October 11, 2010

DAWN.COM | Front Page | Sharif removed Musharraf after a phone call: Gen Butt

Gen Butt offers his side of the story when Gen. Musharaf refused to follow the constituion f Pakistan in October 2008.

DAWN.COM | Front Page | Sharif removed Musharraf after a phone call: Gen Butt

IMF Survey: Chile: Strong Recovery After Devastating Earthquake

IMF Survey: Chile: Strong Recovery After Devastating Earthquake

Seven months after February’s devastating earthquake, Chile’s economy is expected to recover strongly in 2010–11, driven by reconstruction spending and a rebuilding of inventories.

The IMF, in its regular annual assessment, noted that Chile’s economy has shown remarkable resilience in the past two years. The economic recovery is fully under way, helped by appropriate policy responses to the two large adverse shocks—the earthquake and last year’s recession.

In early 2010 the Chilean economy was poised for a strong recovery. But on February 27, 2010 the country suffered a massive earthquake. Reconstruction costs were estimated to be close to US$30 billion. Yet, the economy rebounded in the second quarter of 2010 after a short contraction (see Chart 1).

Jammu & Kashmir's future with India: Deoband - The Times of India

"Which stupid person would want to go with Pakistan?"

The Indian Muslims, even the most conservatives of them, have spoken publicly about the fate of Jammu and Kashmir. It's about time that Pakistanis should listen to the Muslims of India.

Kamal Farooqui of the Muslim Personal Law Board in India, was more direct about his views as he eliminated one possible option about the future of Kashmir,"
Which stupid person would want to go with Pakistan?"

Farooqui is not alone. The Muslims I spoke with after the Friday prayers at the main mosque in New Delhi on my trip to India in 2004, and later in Agra, were of the same view. They couldn't understand why the Muslims in Pakistan were so concerned about the Muslims living in Jammu. "We have no problems with the Hindus of India", said one Muslim man who was resting in the shade with his family inside the main Delhi mosque. "We have to live and die here in India, not in Pakistan", he told me in 2004. Now Kamal Farooqui is saying the same rather more explicitly.

Is someone listening in Pakistan?

DEOBAND: Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, the powerful body of Deobandi clerics, on Sunday backed the demand to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and remove security forces and barricades from civilian areas in J&K.

In a resolution adopted at its Kashmir Conference organized here on Sunday, the JuH also demanded an independent inquiry commission to probe human rights violations and trace "thousands of lost and missing youths", repeal the Public Safety Act, and ensure compensation to victims.

It asked for the promise of a special economic package to be kept, and asked the Centre to take other steps to facilitate a settlement "within the framework of the Constitution".

This is the first time JuH has taken up the Kashmir issue. The resolution stressed, "We don't consider interests of the Kashmiri people to be separate from the interests of Indian Muslims." It also called all like-minded people and organisations to campaign for peace and justice in Kashmir and "thwart enemy forces bent upon disintegration of Kashmir".

When asked why were they silent so long, All India Muslim Personal Law Board's Kamal Farooqui said, "Muslims were not comfortable talking about Kashmir for fear of getting branded and harassment by police and intelligence agencies."

Asked about the prospect of resolution of the Kashmir issue, he said, "The country is in a reconciliatory mood, be it on J&K or Ayodhya. So, reconciliation within the Indian Constitution is the way out. An overwhelming section of Kashmiris want it, too. Which stupid person would want to go with Pakistan?"

The 11-point resolution slammed lethal methods of crowd control and appealed to protesters to adopt peaceful means to fight for their constitutional rights and abjure violence.

Jammu & Kashmir's future with India: Deoband - The Times of India

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A nation thirsty for revenge

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As I watched in disgust the video of the two teen-aged boys beaten to death by the mob near Sialkot, I wondered who those murderers were, what drove them to this fury, and why those who stood by and watched did not intervene.

When I watched closely the grainy TV video, I realized that I knew one of the accused very well. No, he is not the one beating the boys. But he has been accused by the TV reporters of not rescuing the two boys. He was the district police officer of Sialkot and it was his police force that stood idle. In fact, Geo TV broadcasts accused dpo Waqar Chauhan of being a passive witness to these senseless murders.

It was in 1989 that I first met Waqar who was then a soft-spoken, considerate young engineering student. He was a regular visitor to our house along with other friends of my younger brother who were civil engineering students at Taxila University. Over the next four years, our conversations focused on designing concrete beams, columns, and slabs.

Waqar remained a close friend of my brother through the university years and beyond. My younger brother was a committed engineer. He enjoyed designing infrastructure and thus he practiced civil engineering. Waqar was more like myself; an engineer interested more in the society than in the infrastructure that shapes it. I graduated from the engineering university in Peshawar and became a journalist. Waqar opted for the civil service and appeared in the qualifying exam for Banking and Finance Services Commission of Pakistan. He was ranked 7th in the entire country. He later earned a Masters in economics from Punjab University.

His quest for knowledge didn't end there. He later won a scholarship to study law at the prestigious London School of Economics. Waqar returned with a Master of Laws from LSE and resumed his duties as a public servant.

Over the past few weeks I have been perplexed to see his name mention on the TV networks along with the names of other accused in the Sialkot murder trial. I have been asking myself several questions. Is he the same soft spoken, gentle and considerate person that I have known for the past 20 years? Or has the police service changed him? Could these allegations against him be true?

I started digging in to the story myself after realizing that the media coverage remained far from satisfactory. I was alarmed even further when I read excerpts from Mr. Kazim Ali Malik’s report, which he had prepared for the Supreme Court. The report did not establish the chain of events on the morning of August 15 that left three, not two, people dead and another three injured with bullet wounds.

I contacted my former colleague from The News, Ansar Abbasi, who had already written about this tragic incident based on the reports from the intelligence agencies, which suggested that the crowd murdered the two brothers after another person from the Buttar village had been killed and another three injured in the early hours of August 15. Justice Malik's report remained silent on who was behind the first killing and the earlier shootout; a matter now to be resolved by the apex court.

I asked Ansar Abbasi if his investigation showed Waqar to be present while the crowd lynched the two brothers. His response was an emphatic no. Ansar mentioned that according to eyewitness accounts, Waqar reached the spot after the deaths had occurred and he prevented the crowd from further desecrating the dead bodies. Justice Malik’s report also confirmed that dpo Waqar Chauhan arrived at the scene after the murders had taken place.

Why did then the TV outlets present Waqar as an accomplice by sandwiching the clip, which shows Waqar on the scene after the murders, between the graphic footage of lynching? Geo TV broadcasts also repeatedly accused Waqar of being an accomplice. I emailed Geo TV representatives asking for the contact details of the reporter who narrated the story on Geo TV. A direct conversation with the reporter could have cleared the matter even further. I have, to date, not received any response from Geo TV.

Geo TV, however, is not alone. Even today (September 26), Shiraz Hasnat of Express 24/7 reported that "DPO Waqar Chauhan was also present" at the crime scene suggesting that he stood idle and did not attempt to save the lives of two brothers. It is surprising to see the false account is being repeated by the media even after the Supreme Court documents and several eyewitness accounts suggest otherwise.

This is not the first lynching incident in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it will not be the last. However, this is the first time that the mob brutality has been brought to our living rooms giving us the front-row seats to the brutal mob justice that many in Pakistan had naively desired and praised in the past after seeing the Taliban conducting public executions on the pretence of delivering speedy justice.

The brutal murders in Sialkot should have induced some introspection in the nation. Instead, it provoked even more rage in Pakistan, which has become one of the most violent places on the planet. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, the terrorist violence in Pakistan has left 32,000 dead since 2003. Sectarian violence alone has killed another 3,400 people since 1989.

The rage has also spilled on the Internet into the comments left after the YouTube videos of news reports about the Sialkot tragedy. I was equally disgusted to read the disparaging remarks and threats made against dpo Waqar Chauhan and his family by fellow Pakistanis. The filth disguised in anger is characteristic of the society. The most vulgar of expressions were targeted at Waqar by his own people, who relied on false reports by the news media.

What I find equally reprehensible is that the broadcast media in Pakistan in particular, and print media in general, depict the same lynch mob mentality. The media is out with a vengeance busy inciting even more rage that has already engulfed the entire nation.

I had the good fortune of learning the art and science of news reporting from the giants of Pakistani journalism, such as late Azeez Siddiqui of The Frontier Post, D. Shaw Khan and Salim Bokhari of The News, and M. Ziauddin of Dawn. I wonder who now trains the budding journalists, who are armed with ambition, cameras, and ignorance. With the exception of a few channels, the broadcast media in Pakistan did not train or equip its workforce, especially those involved in current affairs programming. It should therefore not come as a surprise that the new breed of broadcast journalists practice the TV-equivalent of tabloid journalism.

Albert E. Pillsbury in the prestigious Harvard Law Review wrote: “Lynch law [mob violence] is actual and concrete anarchy… It is idle to denounce anarchism in the abstract, or punish by special laws the killing of presidents or other officers of the government by anarchists, in a community where there is no system of laws adequate to protect the life of any and every person against mob violence.”

Pillsbury’s warnings should resonate with us as we demand justice for all in Pakistan. The former attorney general of Massachusetts warned Americans in May 1902 against the ills of mob violence in all its manifestations. It is sad to see that Pakistanis are undergoing the same social discord and chaos that the Americans had faced 108 years earlier when streets were ruled by gangs and mob justice prevailed.

DPO Waqar Chauhan has been an honest and upright officer. As recently as in June 2010, National Assembly's standing committee on human rights commended him in writing for his actions against the influential men who had abducted and raped a Daewoo hostess in Sialkot. He is also a brave officer. While serving in Wazirabad in 2003, he arrested the proclaimed offenders who had killed a former provincial minister, Chaudry Farooq.

In a police force badly in need of educated officers, Waqar Chauhan is an exception: he is well-educated and dedicated. His guilt or innocence has not yet been established, but he has already been sentenced by the news media. He is one of those dedicated and accomplished Pakistanis who could have left, but decided to stay in Pakistan. For this, he deserves no special treatment. However, the media and the viewers should also not be in a haste to lynch him. He is innocent until proven guilty.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Maersk Line Transportation Offer — Humanitarian Logistics Information

Maersk Line Transportation Offer


Maersk Line, through the Logistics Emergency Team (LET), has offered to support the Logistics Cluster Participants by offering free ocean freight (containerized cargo) from anywhere in the world to Port Qasim, Pakistan. Interested organisations should submit a Cargo Movement Request form by 3 October 2010. The form is available at: