Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pakistan Scrambles to Aid Earthquake Survivors in Balochistan

Kids in Pakistan quake zone beg for food
By Ashraf Khan, AP, October 30, 2008

WAM, Pakistan – Children begged for food from trucks passing through Pakistan's quake zone Thursday as the death toll rose to 215 and survivors prepared for another frigid night camped out amid wrecked mountain villages.

Provincial government minister Zamrak Khan said 215 people died and hospitals were still treating dozens of people who were seriously injured in the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck before dawn Wednesday.

Soldiers and foreign aid groups distributed blankets, warm clothes and tents, in Baluchistan province, near the Afghan border, but many among the estimated 15,000 homeless complained of receiving little help.

"The earthquake destroyed our houses, but now the government's slow response is killing us," said Moosa Kaleem, sitting with his wife and four children in the town of Ziarat. "We cannot spend another night in this chilling weather, especially the kids."

A poorly managed aid effort in Baluchistan could add to anti-government sentiment as the country's new leaders battle violence by Islamist extremists and try to fix mounting economic problems.

The region is home to a separatist movement but has been spared the level of militant influence and violence seen in other tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Members of hard-line Islamist political parties and groups, including one listed by the United States as a terrorist organization, were among the first to aid quake victims.

The same groups helped out in the aftermath of a quake that killed 80,000 people in Kashmir and northern Pakistan in 2005, something analysts say gave them added legitimacy.

Aid groups said emergency shelter and warm clothing were urgently needed. Temperatures are close to freezing in the worst-affected areas more than 6,561 feet above sea level.

Dozens of children lined main roads in the region running after trucks in the hope of being thrown food.

"I am hungry, my mother is hungry," said 9-year-old Zarin Gull. "We must get food. We last ate yesterday evening."

The need for shelter was specially acute because many people, whose homes were untouched or only partially damaged, were choosing to sleep outdoors for fear of aftershocks.

Local officials and lawmakers repeatedly called on the central government and international community to provide more help.

"It is a complete emergency here. Nobody has anything to eat and drink," said Ziarat Mayor Dilawar Kakar. "We need a lot of resources to reconstruct, and stabilize these trauma stricken people."

The U.N. World Food Program pledged to supply two months worth of emergency rations for those displaced by the disaster, while the Red Cross was distributing 2,500 tents.

In the hillside hamlet of Kawas, soldiers distributed blankets, tents and sleeping bags to an impatient crowd of 500 people and helped load two dozen trucks with supplies destined for other areas.

In the capital Islamabad, Farooq Ahmad Khan, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said Pakistan had not issued an appeal for foreign assistance, but any help would be accepted.

Pakistan is prone to seismic upheavals since it sits atop an area of collision between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, the same force responsible for the birth of the Himalayan mountains.

Also see,

Pakistan Scrambles to Aid Earthquake Survivors
WSJ, October 30, 2008

WAM, Pakistan -- Authorities scrambled to help earthquake survivors in the frigid mountains of southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, as the death toll from the temblor rose to 215.

The 6.4-magnitude quake hit an area of Pakistan's Baluchistan province near the Afghan border before dawn Wednesday, demolishing an estimated 2,000 homes in a string of villages.

"Oh God, what have you done?" wailed one woman as she surveyed the ruins of hard-hit Wam village. The woman, who didn't give her name, said she had lost two brothers, two sons and a sister-in-law.

More than 24 hours after the quake struck the impoverished region, residents and emergency workers mounted a final search for survivors or bodies buried in the rubble.

With reports still coming in from outlying areas, provincial government minister Zamrak Khan said the number of dead had risen to 215 and that hospitals were still treating dozens of seriously injured people.

The army airlifted supplies and medical teams into the hard-hit Ziarat district, where an estimated 15,000 people were left homeless in the region, which is some 26,561 feet above sea level.

Officials said several thousand people spent Wednesday night in tent camps erected by the military. But soldiers were unable to reach all outlying areas before temperatures plunged to around the freezing.

In the hillside hamlet of Kawas, soldiers distributed blankets, tents, jackets and sleeping bags to an impatient crowd of 500 people and helped load two dozen trucks with supplies destined for other areas.

Dozens of people had slept in the open near the rubble of their simple mud and stone houses. "We passed the night shivering and with the children crying. There were five of us wrapped in one blanket," said Ala Uddin, a 30-year-old farmer camped with about 15 relatives in an apple orchard.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was distributing some 2,500 tents while a medical team with one ton of supplies was helping at overcrowded hospitals.

"Overall, we think the situation is under control though there is urgent need for shelter and blankets because it is freezing up there," Red Cross spokesman Marco Succi said. The need for shelter was high because many people were too scared to sleep even in undamaged homes as aftershocks continued to rattle the region, he said.

The latest earthquake comes at a precarious time for Pakistan, with the civilian government battling al Qaeda and Taliban attacks as well as a looming economic crisis.

At least three hard-line Islamic organizations were quick to aid quake survivors, according to an Associated Press reporter who toured the area. Among them was Jamaat-ud-Dawa, designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government for links to Muslim separatists fighting in India's portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

In October 2005, the group set up relief camps for survivors of a 7.6-magnitude quake that devastated Kashmir and northern Pakistan, killing about 80,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Countries including the U.S. and Germany have offered to help with the latest disaster. However, officials say they can cope without a big international aid effort.

- AP

Monday, October 27, 2008

American involvement in Pakistan

A proxy occupation force?
Shireen Mazari, The News, October 22, 2008


"Coming back to the Pakistani state and its concessions to the U.S., while a complete picture is probably not possible, one does not require an in-camera briefing to make some general assessments as to what has been conceded by Pakistan post-9/11 to the U.S. But a reminder would be timely right now when we are seeing a resumption of the silence on continued U.S. attacks in FATA against our citizens and our sovereignty.

Certainly, in the early days of our entering the U.S.-led "war on terror," we offered certain strategic bases of which Jacobabad has since been returned apparently over two years ago (or so one is informed, but there is always the trust factor that is not totally there for us ordinary citizens). In any case, since our initial giving on this count, we have clearly given some base-like facilities to the U.S. around Warsak, although, ostensibly, here there are only "trainers" for the FC and other Pakistani units involved in anti-terror operations. But as we all know, even the presence of a few U.S. trainers requires a whole base-like infrastructure in terms of food (they do not trust the local variety), entertainment, logistics, communications (heaven forbid that they have to rely on ours), security, and so on. So, even if informally, we have a base presence in the Warsak area now. As for the Shamsi base in Balochistan where there are Predators, one can safely assume that the U.S. would find it tempting to target Iran from this prime location (westward of Khuzdar). It is time we took back this base which is undermining our own regional security parameters.

Beyond bases, Pakistan also agreed to information/intelligence sharing and so all the equipment at airports, ports, and so on, through which information is gathered is shared with the Americans. But it seems there is little reciprocity from the U.S. side on this count. What is unclear, and I wonder if we will ever know truly, the compromises made by Pakistan on renditions and the handing over of Pakistani citizens to the U.S.. What we do know is that some agreement on this count was also put in place, with some individuals actually making money as a result – to Pakistan's eternal shame. It would also appear that this agreement continues since Zardari, despite grandiose statements, did not even mention Dr Afia Siddiqui's name while in the U.S. recently.

It also appears that we allowed, and continue to do so, 24-hour overflights for U.S. and NATO tactical operations over/through Pakistani airspace. Such instructions have been given to our air traffic controllers. In addition, over briefings given in the past, we were told that all Predator/missile attacks the U.S. undertook were initially done with permission from Pakistan. But now it appears they have stopped seeking that permission. In fact, the Libbi strike was also carried out without Pakistani permission so we do not know when the U.S. altered policy and chose not to inform, let alone seek Pakistani permission for attacks on Pakistani territory.

What we do know is that there was no agreement on ground attacks by U.S. forces. Tut since the present government has been in power a question mark hangs over this aspect of so-called cooperation with the U.S. Especially since, after Zardari declared in New York, that Pakistani forces had not fired on U.S. intruders, there has been not even a murmur of protest at the increasing U.S. violations against Pakistani sovereignty and Pakistani citizens. In fact, so emboldened have the U.S. and NATO become that, for the first time, in a reversal of the earlier stance, the NATO command has declared support for U.S. intrusions into Pakistan! So, an intelligent conclusion would be that our new government has added to the concessions made by Musharraf."

Addressing Baloch Grievances

Balochistan matters
Dawn Editorial, October 28, 2008

THE Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Reconciliatory Committee on Balochistan that was formed last April is finally showing signs of stirring. On Sunday, it revealed a roadmap incorporating among other things a plan to work on reconciliation, reconstruction of national institutions in the province and the reallocation of resources. A jirga is scheduled for later this week to discuss the strategy that has President’s Zardari’s approval. It is to be hoped that there are no delays and its composition will be inclusive of all opinion. The government, in all sincerity, should attempt to implement the proposals aimed at dispelling Baloch grievances and bringing back the alienated people of the province into the national mainstream. True, there is some doubt on this score considering that some very concrete proposals made by a parliamentary committee in 2005 to address Balochistan’s woes fell by the wayside. But unlike the previous political dispensation, this government is the outcome of a popular mandate and there is greater pressure on it to turn in a better performance.

This is the right time to strive — and to be seen as doing so — for Balochistan’s uplift. The ceasefire declared by Baloch militants last month has largely held while the army has scaled back its operations. It may be difficult to effect a reconciliation among the various aggrieved segments of society at the moment, especially in view of the thousands of ordinary civilians who were made to feel the military’s wrath during an intense operation against the militants. But it is imperative that the path leading to reconciliation is paved with positive actions involving major development in the province, greater provincial autonomy, more equitable resource-sharing and job opportunities for the Baloch many of whom feel that outsiders are being given preference in employment.

Promises have to be translated into reality to make the Baloch have a real sense of ownership in their province. These include making the necessary constitutional amendments envisaged by the roadmap and promised earlier by the prime minister who said after the February polls that the Concurrent List would be abolished within a year to allow the provinces more autonomy in their affairs. It is equally important to give a fair hearing to Balochistan’s demand for more equitable resource distribution. It is incumbent on the new National Finance Commission to ensure that the next award guarantees satisfactory gains for the province which has long wanted factors such as poverty and under-development to be among the main criteria for distribution. Balochistan, along with the other smaller provinces, has strongly felt the injustice of a population-based formula that has favoured Punjab, and it is about time its voice was heard in this regard. Failing to do so would mean a return to militancy in the province and the consequent weakening of the state.

Pakistan wary of IMF demands

Pakistan wary of IMF demands
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider, Asia Times, October 28, 2008

QUETTA, Pakistan - Pakistan officials in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package aimed at helping the country resolve balance of payments difficulties will face harsh demands rather than negotiating points, according to local analysts.

The United States is using the Washington-based and largely US-financed IMF as a tool to impose its own terms and conditions related to the "war on terror", in which Pakistan has been declared by the US as a major theater of war, the analysts said.

An IMF-assisted program is seen as essential before Islamabad, which failed last week to win financial support from China, can secure assistance from other donor countries and international financial institutions.

Islamabad has come out strongly against the US launching air strikes and ground operations against Taliban militants in Pakistani territory. Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani recently said that Pakistan would not allow any incursion by the United States or other allies inside its territory and vowed to protect Pakistan's borders at all costs.

Islamabad wants to handle the terrorist threat by itself within its borders and is seeking to deter the US from mounting cross-border raids on al-Qaeda and Taliban targets.

"The IMF does not negotiate but dictates its terms and this time the US has in fact pressurized Pakistan to turn to the IMF by not giving much-needed cash to the country in the meeting last month of the Friends of Pakistan," economist Shahid Hasan Siddiqi said on a private TV channel.

The United States and Britain jointly launched an initiative to form Friends of Pakistan last month as alarm grew over the country's gradual economic meltdown, with fears increasing that financial chaos may allow terrorists to deepen their roots in Pakistan. The "Friends" delegation included representatives from the United States, Australia, Canada, Italy, Germany, Saudi Arabia, China, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey. The group's first working session will be held in Abu Dhabi in the UAE next month.

Islamabad claims it has not yet formally asked the IMF for a loan facility, but that it would borrow money from the IMF as its last option on its own terms and conditions.

The government "should negotiate safely with the IMF and not succumb to their tough conditions", Agence France-Presse on Sunday quoted leading Pakistani investor Aqeel Karim Dhedhi as saying.

While talks with the IMF continue this week, the government is trying to build public opinion in favor of an IMF program. An IMF-assisted plan may require Islamabad to cut defense, development and other current spending and raise taxes, which could hurt the poor. The government has already decided to bring non-taxpayer sectors into the tax net and to increase the tax-to-gross domestic product ratio to 15% from the present 10.5%.

The IMF has not asked Pakistan to cut military spending by a third, although it has urged the country to take a number of painful economic measures, Dawn newspaper reported at the weekend, citing an unnamed senior Pakistani diplomat. The US did, however, want Pakistan to "refocus its military strategy on fighting the militants" instead of devoting most of its resources on confronting India, the diplomat was quoted as saying.

Zardari recently returned from China without a commitment for much-needed aid. Pakistan is struggling to combat inflation, which has risen past 25% and is heading towards 30% and a collapsing currency. The central bank, meanwhile, holds barely enough foreign currency to cover five weeks of imports. Owing to the fast depleting foreign exchange reserves, local traders have canceled import orders worth as much as 5.5 billion rupees (US$67 million).

Worsening external liquidity may imperil the country's ability to meet about $3 billion in upcoming debt obligations, as foreign reserves held by the central bank have slumped to $4 billion from a record high of $16.5 billion last October. The country's total foreign exchange reserves (held by the central bank and commercial banks) plunged by $426 million to $7.3 billion during the week ended October 18.

Smuggling of US dollars to Afghanistan is helping to drive down the value of Pakistan's currency, the rupee, which has tumbled to a historic low of more than 82 against the dollar. In Peshawar, the provincial capital of North-West Frontier Province, adjoining Afghanistan, and an important center for exchanging currencies with as much as $4 million to $5 million smuggled to Afghanistan each day, the rupee has fallen to 86 to the dollar.

Not all the smuggled funds are for immediate use in Afghanistan, with large amounts being transferred to Dubai in the UAE, according to a recent Business Recorder report. The government has blamed the present decline in the currency on the policy of its predecessor administration under prime minister Shaukat Aziz, saying it maintained an artificially high rate of 60 and 62 rupees to the dollar.

Islamabad needs foreign capital inflows in the shape of loans, grants and investment to cover the ballooning gap in its current account. About $4 billion is needed immediately, while the balance of payments financing gap for the year to June 30, 2009, is projected at about $7 billion.

Slow foreign inflows and rising imports have already widened the current account deficit by 74% to $3.9 billion during the first quarter of the current fiscal year (July-September) against $2.27 billion during the corresponding period last year. The trade deficit rose 52.65% to $5.55 billion in the three months to September, from $3.63 billion a year earlier, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics.

The current global financial crisis has limited Pakistan’s options as many donor nations, including the United States, are embroiled with their own financial crises.

The IMF at the weekend announced an outline $16.5 billion loan agreement with Ukraine, after Iceland secured a $2 billion IMF loan last week. Hungary is also seeking an IMF deal as it reels from the impact of the global financial crisis.

Syed Fazl-e-Haider ,, is a Quetta-based development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of six books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan, published in May 2004 .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pakistan's deep crises

See my comments on this in a previous post, here

Time and Money Running Out for Pakistan
By Omar Waraich, Time, October 22, 2008

You wouldn't want to be the President of Pakistan: Even as the military finds itself embroiled in a war against militants that much of the country's elected leadership (and even more of the electorate) opposes, it's hard even to keep the lights on as the limits of the country's electricity supply mean daily blackouts in major cities. The economy, meanwhile, is in a perilous state, with inflation running rampant, the currency having lost a third of its value, and foreign currency reserves reduced to the point that they can finance no more than six weeks of imports. Pakistan, in fact, is in danger of defaulting on its substantial foreign debt if it can't get help either from its friends or from the IMF — and the price of such help will be politically unpopular: a stepped up effort against the Taliban and, perhaps, some tough domestic economic reforms.

No wonder, then, that the forthcoming U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Pakistan reportedly makes "bleak" reading. The NIE represents the consensus of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, and according to a McClatchy newspapers report, an official familiar with the contents of the document that will brief the next President says it warns that Pakistan has "no money, no energy, no government". Washington's primary concern remains al-Qaeda, which John Kringen, the CIA's director for intelligence, recently described as being "resurgent" and "well-settled" in Pakistan's tribal areas. But the presence of Bin Laden's group is enabled by an indigenous militant insurgency — the Pakistan Taliban — and Pakistani leaders remain divided over how to respond to this challenge.

President Asif Ali Zardari and his seven month-old civilian government have given priority to combating militancy, and having abandoned failed negotiations with the Pakistan Taliban, the army is currently fighting militants in the notorious arms manufacturing town of Darra Adam Khel, the scenic Swat Valley, and most visibly in the Bajaur tribal area. Although the U.S. NIE reportedly criticizes the Pakistan army for a "reluctance" to launch an all-out confrontation with the militants, military spokesmen point out that the Pakistan army has lost over 1,500 troops since it began confronting militants on its own soil. And they see the tide turning in their favor in the ten-week-old military operation in Bajaur, where they say the Taliban last week offered negotiations — a sign, say government officials, that the militants' resolve is weakening. "It was the first time that the government rejected an offer of peace," says Mehmood Shah, a former chief secretary for Pakistan's tribal areas.

Pakistani officials are also encouraged by the emergence of tribal militias who have turned on the Taliban. "We cleared them out of our area in a week," says Akhunzada Chettan, a lawmaker from a part of Bajaur, and there have been similar successes in Dir and, reportedly, Lakki Marwat. These developments are significant, officials say, because in the past the tribes had feared that the army would fail to protect them.

Although the current offensive in Bajaur and other areas has been applauded by Washington, Prime Minister Asif Zardari is having a harder time convincing his own people of the wisdom of waging war on the militants. While some had hoped that last month's horrific terror attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad would rally the nation to fight militancy, instead divisions have only deepened. Recent opinion polls still find a majority of Pakistanis opposed to their government's support for Washington's "war on terror" — despite their anger at the recent wave of suicide bombings, these Pakistanis believe the attacks are a consequence of Pakistan waging "America's war".

Zardari had hoped that holding a parliamentary debate on how to respond to militancy would help make the campaign "Pakistan's war" and give the military political support for its actions. But after more than two weeks of behind-closed-doors deliberations, parliament unanimously adopted a resolution urging a resumption of dialogue with the militants, and an end to military operations "as early as possible". Although the parliamentary debate reflected the power plays of a political culture in which parties rarely put the national interest above their own, it also reveals a profound difference in perspective even within the ruling coalition — Zardari's allies in the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party demanded an end to military operations against the militants.

"The military wants political back up, and the government is supporting them, but I do not expect all the parties to unite," says military analyst Hasan Askari-Rizvi. "The political leaders seem too interested in settling scores against each other."

The absence of a consensus on fighting the militants compounds Zardari's difficulties in tackling the economic crisis he inherited — a crisis that, in turn, threatens to deepen the militant challenge. Rising world oil and food prices have sent the inflation rate soaring to 25% (and as much as four times that on basic foodstuffs), while the political uncertainty over the past 18 months fueled extensive capital flight that has weakened the rupee and depleted forex reserves. A failure to increase the capacity of electricity production now plunges Pakistan's main cities into darkness for up to ten hours a day, with longer periods in rural areas. Industrial output has shrunk with employers now laying off employees they can no longer afford to keep. And Pakistanis have begun to take their anger to the streets. In parts of Lahore on Monday, scores of protesters laid siege to the local office of the electricity utility, ransacking the building and burning their electricity bills. The mounting economic crisis is likely to fuel social unrest — "The general mood is one of despair," says Yousuf Nazar, a leading economic commentator. And despair and anger among Pakistan's poor are likely to swell the ranks of the militants.

The bleak economic situation has prompted Pakistan to desperately seek aid from such long-term allies as Saudi Arabia, Britain, the U.S. and China. Despite Zardari flying to those countries in recent weeks to make his case, he has yet to secure the loans needed to avoid a default on Pakistan's debt. Pakistani officials insist that they have no intention of defaulting, and the Pakistani rupee rose this week amid signs that the International Monetary Fund might step in to rescue this frontline state in the war on terror. The IMF confirmed Wednesday that it would soon enter discussions with Pakistan over ways to assist its economy. But help from the international community will almost surely be conditional on a more robust effort against the militants — an option that raises political problems for Zardari — and also on economic reforms that might prove unpopular. There are clear and challenging downsides to any of the choices available to Pakistan's leadership right now. And playing for time may not be an option in the face of that dwindling pile of foreign exchange reserves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lebanese Shiite cleric opposes US-Iraq pact

Lebanese Shiite cleric opposes US-Iraq pact
AP, October 21, 2008

BEIRUT, Lebanon: Lebanon's top Shiite cleric criticized Tuesday a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact, saying the Baghdad government has no right to "legitimize" the presence of foreign troops.

Iraqi-born Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah says any security pact should call for an imminent and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Fadlallah's edict came in response to questions by some Shiite members of Iraq's parliament who asked the cleric to give his opinion about the proposed security pact.

The cleric was born in the Iraqi Shiite holy city of Najaf and wields some influence among Iraq's Shiite majority. He is one of the founders of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party.

"No authority, establishment or an official or nonofficial organization has the legitimacy to impose occupation on its people, legitimize it or extend its stay in Iraq," Fadlallah said in the edict released by his office.

The agreement provides for American troops to leave Baghdad and other Iraqi cities by the end of June and fully withdraw from the country by the end of 2011 unless the government asks them to stay.

It would also give Iraq limited authority to prosecute U.S. soldiers and contractors for crimes committed off-base and off-duty, limit U.S. authority to search homes and detain people and give Iraqis more say in the conduct of American military operations.

Fadlallah said that any pact should call for an "unconditional withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq," and put a "fixed and imminent timetable for a complete American withdrawal from Iraq."

He added that no U.S. bases or centers should be allowed to stay adding that any American presence would have to be based on normal diplomatic missions.

Fadlallah added that the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq should not be linked to the improvement of the security situation in the country because the Americans can cause security problems in order to extend the stay of their forces.
See IS comments on this issue, Thousands in Iraq protest security pact with US.

Also see,
Iraq Cabinet seeks changes in security pact with US, LA Times, October 21, 2008
Cleric in Iran issues fatwa against US-Iraqi pact, AP, October 21, 2008
Gates gives warning on US-Iraq pact, Aljazeera, October 21, 2008
Will Iraq finally end the colonial era?, By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CSM: Pakistan eyes 'peace pipeline' for region

Pakistan eyes 'peace pipeline' for region
It hopes a deal to ship Iranian gas to India via Pakistan can boost its energy supply, regional ties.
By Shahan Mufti, CSM, October 20, 2008

GWADAR, PAKISTAN - Along the scenic coast in Pakistan's gas-rich Balochistan Province, a weathered roadside shop advertises "fuel available at every price."

Inside, heady fumes fill a room stacked with cylinders of compressed gas and barrels full of gasoline – fuel smuggled from Iran through the rugged border region 50 miles west of this Pakistani city, explains Balach Abdullah, the owner.

From here, the fuel makes its way as far as Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.

The Pakistani government is hoping to turn this clandestine exchange into a major energy and trade route.

The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline proposal is a $7.5 billion project that would transport gas from the western Iranian Pars gas field to India through Pakistan along a 1,500-mile route.

The pipeline would be a triumph for Pakistan. The country hopes to make itself a major energy player linking the gas in Central Asia and the oil in the Middle East to the fast-growing economies of China and India.

But geopolitical considerations, among others, have so far blocked the proposal from becoming a reality.

The United States, which this month signed a nuclear trade deal with India, opposes the plan that would bind its main rival, Iran, with key allies in the region. Proponents of the deal counter that it could improve security by boosting relations in the often volatile region – and have even dubbed the proposal the "Peace Pipeline."

"Washington has minced no words saying that they are completely opposed to the pipeline deal," says Tariq Fatimi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States who is now a consultant with a Pakistani energy exploration company.

Now that India has signed a nuclear deal with the US, he says, it would be more inclined to support American policy in the region, which might mean pulling back from such deals with Iran.

Despite the US nuclear deal, India has not pulled out of IPI discussions. Iran and Pakistan also remain supportive of the deal. Two days after the US-India nuclear deal was finalized, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad and confirmed that the two countries would now begin work of the pipeline bilaterally.

"India may join the project whenever it is ready for this," the Iranian foreign minister said.

A 'Peace Pipeline'

Ismat Sabir, editor of the trade magazine Energy Update in Karachi says it would be "a win-win situation for everyone."

The three large Asian countries could become comfortably interdependent she explains, which would encourage trust in a region where neighborly relations have often been hostile.

"Iran will sell its gas over land to a major consumer, Pakistan will get some hefty transit fees, and India will finally start to meet its energy demands," she continues.

US urged to reconsider its position

In a report released this month, The Pakistan Policy Working Group, an independent and bipartisan group of top US experts on Pakistan in Washington, also suggested that the US "reconsider [its] opposition to the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project" as a way of easing regional tensions, especially between India and Pakistan.

The report also points out that the pipeline is tied in with the precarious security situation in Balochistan Province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.

An armed separatist rebellion has brewed in Pakistan's largest and least populated province for decades, and has intensified since 2006, when the Pakistani Army assassinated the high-profile Balochi leader, Akbar Khan Bugti.

In the latest incident of this low-intensity conflict, over the weekend a Balochi separatist group claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed three people in the Dera Bugti district, home to the country's largest gas reserves.

Iranian-Pakistani trade growing

In the past few months Iran and Pakistan have been warming diplomatically along the border that separates the two countries. In recent months a flurry of agreements have brought the two countries closer as they promise to transform the Balochistan region into an active transport, trade, and energy hub.

Over the summer, Iran and Pakistan signed four agreements that unveiled a new ground transport route and enhanced cooperation in the mining sector in the area rich in minerals.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also announced last week that Pakistan would import 1,000 megawatts of electricity across the border from Iran, as his country suffers from one of the worst energy shortages in its history.

Already the illicit trade of Iranian gas in Balochistan, run by Mr. Abdullah and other merchants dotting the thinly populated southern coast of Pakistan with their makeshift filling stations, attest to the country's demand for energy. It also illustrates the porous nature of Pakistan's 600-mile border with Iran, as well as a history of close relations among the ethnic Balochis who live on either side.

Over the summer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Islamabad and New Delhi to finalize the pipeline deal at a time when the prospects of India's civil nuclear energy appeared to be dwindling. Disagreements among the three countries over gas pricing and delivery points have also been a stumbling block to negotiations.

Representatives from all three governments had met at venues from Spain to Saudi Arabia to discuss the final details of the plan, including pricing and delivery points.

Despite its recent nuclear deal with the US, India, which imports 70 percent of its required energy, will "need the nuclear deal, the IPI gas pipeline and more," according to Abbas Bilgarami, who works in the local oil and gas industry.

As a result, India might find itself growing closer to the US, Pakistan, and Iran, he says.

"The compulsions imposed on this region," by the US in its security concerns here "will have to be reconsidered," says Mr. Bilgarami. "The regional vision is still very strong."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Thousands in Iraq Protest Security Pact with US

Reuters reports massive protest in Baghdad against a proposed security agreement which would extend US stay in Iraq.

With Nov 4 US presidential elections around the corner, the Republican camp wants a success story, an 'October surprise' if you will. But even more important is the Dec 31 deadline, when the UN mandate authorizing the US -led forces in Iraq expires. The US did not have this 'mandate' at the time of the invasion in Iraq. It was approved only later on, after the invasion, indicating once again the impotence of the UN against the powerful players in the international arena. But the deadline still matters, because a security agreement with the Iraqi government, replacing the mandate, will give an aura of legitimacy to the highly unpopular US occupation. If the proposed security pact is authorized by the Iraqi parliament, it will extend the US stay until 2011. The pact also gives immunity to US soldiers and "civilian contractors" (read: mercenaries) from Iraqi law. Hence, the UN deadline is quite urgent for the US hegemonic ambitions in the region, which will likely remain unaffected under either Rep or Dem administration. After all, the trillion dollar investment in Iraq and the construction of the largest US military-base/diplomatic-outpost of the world in Baghdad (and other smaller outposts across the country) are not for nothing.

What we are actually seeing is a blatant attempt at forging 20th-century style colonial rule, using security and reconstruction as ideological justifications, enforced through (covert and overt) military apparatus, divide-and-rule diplomacy, and economic coercion. The coming 75 days are likely to be quite volatile. We may see an increase in violence and intense political tug-o-war among various players. I really do hope otherwise for the Iraqi people.
Anti-US protesters rally against Iraq-US security pact, Gulfnews, October 18, 2008
Muqtada al-Sadr urges rejection of US-Iraqi pact, AP, October 18, 2008
Thousands march in Baghdad against U.S. pact, Reuters, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Afghan Security Personnel Turn Against the US Occupation

In the above Al-Jazeera report (Oct 15, 2008), Dari/Farsi-speaking ex- Afghan security personnel, who are now fighting against the US-led occupation, speak their mind. Many recent reports are suggesting that an increasing number of Afghans are turning to the Taliban. But their numbers remains unconfirmed. As I see, the increasing support for the Taliban is mainly due to the foreign occupation and their indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. Marginalization of Pashtun groups is another reason. The foreign reporters need to understand that prostitution and alcohol is not new to war-ravaged Afghanistan. That alone cannot be a sufficient reason behind the radicalization of the locals. They also need to understand that there are various strands of Taliban in Afghanistan. Do the defectors in the above clip belong to the same pre-US-invasion Taliban? I would also like them to engage with the question/critique that an increasing trouble in Afghanistan is providing a pretext to the US for staying longer in the region. Some also argue that the real problem is Afghanistan is not that the Taliban are getting stronger, but that the central government is weak. In the last eight years or so the US has spent in Afghanistan only a fraction of what it spends in Iraq in six months. No serious efforts have been put to reconstruct civic institutions and local infrastructure. Afghanistan remains a country ruled by poppy-producing war lords.

In a previous IS post, I wrote:

"...neglecting two factors is augmenting support for the Taliban. One, you cannot marginalize a whole ethnic group, the Pashtuns, in the political process, especially if that ethnic group happens to be a majority in Afghanistan (according to various estimates, Pashtuns are between 36 to 42%. Tajiks seem to be the second largest majority with a population of 27-33%. In any case, the Pashtuns comprise a significant proportion of the Afghan population). At least some segments of the Pashtuns are seeing the Taliban as their channel to be heard in politics. The answer to this problem is a fair, proportional representation of various Pashtun groups, including even the Taliban, in the political process. Two, the US policy failures and occupation, particularly its inability to provide security and its arbitrary killing of innocent civilians, is radicalizing the locals, who get recruited by, what Tariq Ali calls, the 'neo-Taliban' movement. However, as Tariq Ali argues, their concerns remain quite local, and they should not be conflated with al-Qaeda. The answer to this second problem is a complete withdrawal of occupying forces from Afghanistan. I quote Tariq Ali: "If NATO and the U.S. were to leave Afghanistan, their [neo-Taliban] political evolution would most likely parallel that of Pakistan's domesticated Islamists." Further, "What is really required in the region is an American/NATO exit strategy from Afghanistan, which should entail a regional solution involving Pakistan, Iran, India, and Russia. These four states could guarantee a national government and massive social reconstruction in that country. No matter what, NATO and the Americans have failed abysmally."

The reality of war in Afghanistan
By Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe, October 15, 2008

DESPITE their differences over how to pursue the US war in Iraq, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama both want to send more American troops to Afghanistan. Both are wrong. History cries out to them, but they are not listening.

Both candidates would do well to gaze for a moment on a painting by the British artist Elizabeth Butler called "Remnants of an Army." It depicts the lone survivor of a 15,000-strong British column that sought to march through 150 kilometers of hostile Afghan territory in 1842. His gaunt, defeated figure is a timeless reminder of what happens to foreign armies that try to subdue Afghanistan.

The McCain-Obama approach to Afghanistan, like much of US policy toward the Middle East and Central Asia, is based on emotion rather than realism. Emotion leads many Americans to want to punish perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. They see war against the Taliban as a way to do it. Suggesting that victory over the Taliban is impossible, and that the United States can only hope for peace in Afghanistan through compromise with Taliban leaders, has been taken as near-treason

This knee-jerk response ignores the pattern of fluid loyalties that has been part of Afghan tribal life for centuries. Alliances shift as interests change. Warlords who support the Taliban are not necessarily enemies of the United States. If they are today, they need not be tomorrow.

In recent weeks, this elemental truth has begun to reshape debate over Western policy toward Afghanistan. Warlords on both sides met quietly in Saudi Arabia. The Afghan defense minister called for a "political settlement with the Taliban." Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would not go that far, but said he might ultimately be open to "reconciliation as part of the political outcome."

Gates, however, struck a delusionary note of "can-do" cheeriness by repeating the McCain-Obama mantra: More US troops can pacify Afghanistan. Speaking days after a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the United States was caught in a "downward spiral" there, Gates asserted that there is "no reason to be defeatist or underestimate the opportunity to be successful in the long run."

In fact, long-run success in Afghanistan - defined as an acceptable level of violence and assurance that Afghan territory will not be used for attacks against other countries - will only be possible with fewer foreign troops on the ground, not more.

A relentless series of US attacks in Afghanistan has produced "collateral damage" in the form of hundreds of civilian deaths, which alienate the very Afghans the West needs. As long as the campaign continues, recruits will pour into Taliban ranks. It is no accident that the Taliban has mushroomed since the current bombing campaign began. It allows the Taliban to claim the mantle of resistance to a foreign occupier. In Afghanistan, there is none more sacred.

The US war in Afghanistan also serves as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda. It is attracting a new stream of foreign fighters into the region. A few years ago, these jihadists went to Iraq to fight the Great Satan. Now they see the United States escalating its war in Afghanistan and neighboring regions of Pakistan, and are flocking there instead.

Even if the United States de-escalates its war in Afghanistan, the country will not be stable as long as the poppy trade provides huge sums of money for violent militants. Eradicating poppies is like eradicating the Taliban: a great idea but not achievable. Instead of waging endless spray-and-burn campaigns that alienate ordinary Afghans, the United States should allow planting to proceed unmolested, and then buy the entire crop. Some could be turned into morphine for medical use, and the rest destroyed. The Afghan poppy crop is worth an estimated $4 billion per year. That sum would be better spent putting cash into the pockets of Afghan peasants than firing missiles into their villages.

Deploying more US troops in Afghanistan will intensify this highly dangerous conflict, not calm it. Compromise with Al Qaeda would be both unimaginable and morally repugnant, but the Taliban is a different force. Skillful negotiation among clan leaders, based on a genuine willingness to compromise, holds the best hope for Afghanistan. It is an approach based on reality, not emotion.

Stephen Kinzer is author of "A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It."

Civilian dead are a trade-off in Nato's war of barbarity
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian, October 16, 2008.

The killing of innocent Afghans by US bombs is the result of a calculation, not just a mistake. And it is fuelling resistance

While the eyes of the western world have been fixed on the global financial crisis, the military campaign that launched the war on terror has been spinning out of control. Seven years after the US and Britain began their onslaught on Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and capture Osama bin Laden, the Taliban surround the capital, al-Qaida is flourishing in Pakistan and the war's sponsors have publicly fallen out about whether it has already been lost.

As the US joint chiefs of staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen concedes that the country is locked into a "downward spiral" of corruption, lawlessness and insurgency, Britain's ambassador in Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, is quoted in a leaked briefing as declaring that "American strategy is destined to fail". The same diplomat who told us last year that British forces would be in Afghanistan for decades now believes foreign troops are "part of the problem, not the solution".

The British commander Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith was last week even blunter. "We're not going to win this war," he said, adding that if the Taliban were prepared to "talk about a political settlement", that was "precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this". The double-barrelled duo were duly slapped down by US defence secretary Robert Gates for defeatism. But even Gates now publicly backs talks with the Taliban, which are in fact already taking place under Saudi sponsorship.

This is the conflict western politicians and media continue to urge their reluctant populations to support as a war for civilisation. In reality, it is a war of barbarity, whose contempt for the value of Afghan life has fuelled the very resistance that western military and political leaders are now unable to contain.

In this year alone, for every occupation soldier killed, at least three Afghan civilians have died at the hands of occupation forces. They include the 95 people, 60 of them children, killed by a US air assault in Azizabad in August; the 47 wedding guests dismembered by US bombardment in Nangarhar in July - US forces have a particular habit of attacking weddings; and the four women and children killed in a British rocket barrage six weeks ago in Sangin.

By far the most comprehensive research into Afghan casualties over the past seven years has been carried out by Marc Herold, a US professor at the University of New Hampshire. In his latest findings, Herold estimates that the number of civilians directly killed by the US and other Nato forces since 2006, up to 3,273, is already higher than the toll exacted by the devastating three-month bombardment that ousted the Taliban regime in 2001. And over the past year civilian deaths at the hands of Nato forces have tripled, despite changes in rules of engagement.

But most telling is the political and military calculation that underlies the Afghan civilian bloodletting. "Close air support" bomb attacks called in by ground forces - which rose from 176 in 2005 to 2,926 in 2007 and are now the US tactic of choice - are between four and 10 times as deadly for Afghan civilians as ground attacks, the figures show, and air strikes now account for 80% of those killed by the occupation forces.

But while 242 US and Nato ground troops have died in the war with the Taliban this year, not a single pilot has been killed in action. The trade-off could not be clearer. With troops thin on the ground and the US military up to their necks in Iraq and elsewhere, US and Nato reliance on air attacks minimises their own casualties while guaranteeing that Afghan civilians will die in far larger numbers.

It is that equation that makes a nonsense of US and British claims that their civilian victims are accidental "collateral damage", while the Taliban's use of roadside bombs, suicide attacks and classic guerrilla operations from civilian areas are a sign of their moral depravity. In real life, the escalating civilian death toll is not a mistake, but the result of a clear decision to put the lives of occupation troops before civilians; westerners before Afghans.

Dependence on air power is also a reflection of US imperial overstretch and the reluctance of Nato states to put more boots on the ground. But however much the nominal Afghan president Hamid Karzai rails against Nato's recklessness with Afghan blood, the indiscriminate air war carries on regardless. Given that the US government spent 10 times more on every sea otter affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill than it does in "condolence payments" to Afghans for the killing of a family member, perhaps that shouldn't come as a surprise.

But nor should it be that the occupation's cruelty is a recruiting sergeant for the Taliban. As Aga Lalai, who lost both grandparents, his wife, father, three brothers and four sisters in a US bombing in Helmand last summer, put it: "So long as there is just one 40-day-old boy remaining alive, Afghans will fight against the people who do this to us."

That doesn't just go for Afghanistan. Gordon Brown recently told British troops in Helmand: "What you are doing here prevents terrorism coming to the streets of Britain." The opposite is the case. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq - and the atrocities carried out against their people - are a crucial motivation for those planning terror attacks in Britain, as case after case has shown. Now the US is launching attacks inside Pakistan, the risks of further terror and destabilisation can only grow.

Senior Pakistani officials are convinced Nato is preparing to throw in the towel in Afghanistan. Both Bush and the two US presidential candidates are committed to an Iraq-style surge, though the number of troops being talked about cannot possibly make a decisive difference to the conflict - and in Barack Obama's case may be as much about providing political cover for his plans for Iraq. But the strategic importance of Afghanistan doesn't suggest any early US withdrawal: more likely an attempt to co-opt sections of the Taliban as part of a messy and protracted attempt to rearrange the occupation.

It will fail. The US and its allies cannot pacify Afghanistan nor seal the border with the Taliban's Pakistani sanctuary. Eventually there is bound to be some sort of negotiated withdrawal as part of a wider regional and domestic settlement. But many thousands of Afghans - as well as occupying troops - look certain to be sacrificed in the meantime.

Agreement kindles hope of peace in Kurram

One certainly hopes for this agreement to last long(er). But one should also not neglect that the conflict in Kurram is larger than a mere confrontation between local tribes. There are external forces involved. That includes Taliban, who are still present in the agency and clashing with the locals (even after an initial agreement between tribes on Sep 27, 2008 to cease fire), and who are supported by extremist militant groups from other provinces, as well as rogue elements within the security apparatus of the state. Kurram is part of a larger game being played in Fata and across the Afghan border. The future of peace in Kurram is directly linked to the political outcomes in these regions. In Kurram, the government and the tribal elders are the key players who can make the peace agreement work. The opening and safety of the main Tal-Parachinar route is the most immediate challenge.

On a related note, one should also look into the conditions that made the current peace agreement possible. Why the forces that were earlier not willing to concede and open up the Tal-Parachinar road are now willing to concede? What changed?

Agreement kindles hope of peace in Kurram
By Bakhtawar Mian, Dawn, October 17, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Oct 16: A grand jirga of Kurram Agency has brokered a peace deal between warring sectarian groups in the region.

Under the agreement, the two sides agreed to exchange kidnapped people and reopen all roads in the area.

The agreement was signed after weeks of efforts made by the peace jirga comprising 50 representatives of each side.

Elders and Maliks of the two sects took part in the dialogue. Kurram Agency’s Political Agent Azam Khan represented the government and played the key role of mediator.

The talks were held in Islamabad and Murree and details of the agreement were announced at a press conference on Thursday.

The accord is expected to end the violence between Sunni Bangash and Shia Turi tribesmen that has plagued the agency bordering Afghanistan for one and a half years.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the clashes and the road to Parachinar has remained closed for several months, cutting off supplies to the agency’s main town.

People coming to Peshawar have been forced to travel via the Paktia province of Afghanistan.

The political agent said he was confident the accord would herald an era of peace in the agency because both the groups had agreed to cooperate with the administration for the purpose.

The agreement says that roads would be reopened to ensure supply of foodstuff, medicines and other essential items.

They also agreed to exchange bodies of people killed and tribesmen of the two sides kidnapped and captured and to allow the displaced people to return to their villages.

Both the groups have promised to provide protection to travellers. Bunkers would be vacated and handed over to the Frontier Corps.

A fine of Rs60 million will be imposed for any violation of the agreement. Any violation will be treated as a move against peace and violators will be dealt with accordingly.

The grand jirga will go to Kurram Agency on November 2 to ensure implementation of the agreement by both sides.

Another jirga will be held next month to resolve other contentious issues.

The tribal elders promised to cooperate with the government in maintaining peace.

They said the agency did not have the required strength of FC and the government would be asked to deploy more law-enforcement personnel.

The political agent proposed that the government should allocated funds as a peace dividend for development of the agency and to serve as an incentive for other agencies to strive for peace.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Suicide Attack Un-Islamic in Pakistan, says Ulema’s Edict

Suicide attack un-Islamic, says ulema’s edict
Dawn, October 15, 2008

LAHORE, Oct 14: Ulema of all major schools of thought have declared suicide attacks ‘haram’.

“It is a unanimous decree of the ulema that suicide attacks in Pakistan are haram and illegitimate. But it seems as if the government is covertly backing these attacks so that patriotic citizens may not assemble and launch a mass drive for the defence of the country,” said a joint declaration released to the media after a meeting held here on Tuesday.

It endorsed a decree earlier issued by religious scholars in Karachi. It alleged that US agenda was being pursued under the cover of terror acts.

The meeting called for convening an all-party conference, including representatives of parties outside parliament, for devising a joint strategy to steer the country out of the quagmire.

It called upon ulema across the country to condemn the US policies in their sermons on Friday and prepare the people for a mass movement.

It pledged to send a delegation of ulema to Bajaur and Swat for bringing the ‘facts’ to light.

The ulema called upon the nation not to leave the survival of the country to the rulers and parliament alone and to play a role in this regard.

It asked the government to take along ulema and other notables in every area in efforts for apprehending criminals, anti-state elements and foreign agents.

It also urged all Muslim countries to de-link their currencies from the US dollar and float their own common currency.

The meeting was attended by Jamia Naeemia’s Dr Sarfaraz Naeemi, Jamaatud Dawa amir Prof Mohammad Saeed, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Dr Farid Piracha, Muttahida Ulema Council’s Maulana Abdur Rauf Malik, Jamiat Ittehadul Ulema’s Maulana Abdul Malik, Shariat Council’s Maulana Zahidur Rashdi, Syed Niaz Husain Naqvi, Mufti Ghulam Sarwar Qadri, Saleemullah Khan, Hafiz Akif Saeed, Allama Zubair Ahmad Zaheer, Jamia Ashrafia’s Maulana Fazlur Reheem Ashrafi and Jamia Manzoorul Islam’s Pir Saifullah Khalid.
Daily Times Editorial: Fatwa against suicide bombings
October 16, 2008

A powerful group of clerics has gathered in Lahore and issued a fatwa against a freewheeling concept of jihad and the use of suicide-bombing in Pakistan. As if in exchange, it has also asked the government to stop military operations in the Tribal Areas and conduct “negotiations” with the terrorists there to end the state of militancy that has laid Pakistan low. The Mutahidda Ulema Council statement has asserted that “only the state has the authority to call for jihad (holy war), and individuals or groups are not authorised to do that”.

The conference that issued the statement was attended by all the important schools of clerical thought in the country: Jama’at Ahle Sunnat (Barelvi), Ahle Tashayyo (Shia), Ahle-Hadith, Jama’at-e Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (Deobandi), and the banned Sipah-e Sahaba (Deobandi). Therefore, on the face of it at least, the factions that endorsed the Council call comprised all the jurisprudential brands of Islam known in Pakistan. Also present were “renamed” versions of the banned militias known for their past jihadi activities.

The venue was Jamia Naeemia, known for its extremely stringent verdicts on the religious backslidings of the state, presided over by its firebrand leader Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi. This was meant to show that the fatwa was not being issued by “moderate ulema” who are no longer in vogue in Pakistan but a Deobandi-Ahle Hadith consensus that was not known in the past to issue such religious verdicts. In fact, when in 2005 a group of moderate ulema led by Mufti Munibur Rehman issued a fatwa against suicide-bombing, the group was condemned and also threatened by other radical ulema and their militant followers.

The gathering also put forward other views that can fall in the category of demands. Apart from the crucial demand that military operations in the Tribal Areas should be stopped forthwith, the ulema put forward other “items of the agenda”: they want General Musharraf’s pacts with the United States to be made public, Iran to be made an ally in place of America, and that for Iran’s case to be brought up at the OIC. Along with other angry references to America, the US-India nuclear deal was also condemned and deemed dangerous to Pakistan.

The big demand was the ceasefire in Bajaur and Swat. But it is the other demand, the stricture on suicide-bombing, which has been welcomed by the Interior Adviser, Mr Rehman Malik. Assuming that there are two respondents to the Council’s call, it is now up to Islamabad and those who run the campaign of terrorism to step up and comply with their pledges. It goes without saying that the Council, while reviewing the results of its call, will condemn Al Qaeda and the Taliban only if the government in Islamabad calls off the operation in the Tribal Areas.

The heavyweights at the Council gathering in Lahore also have electoral and “power” stakes in the Bajaur Agency, which is under pressure from a rather successful military operation. The local population has to endure the fallout of the ongoing battles while a number of tribes have formed their own lashkars against the terrorists to indicate some measure of actual success achieved by the army. The Council demands, while putting the onus of doctrinal abstraction on Al Qaeda and Taliban, require the Pakistan Army to retreat in concrete terms.

What will be the outcome of this two-sided position adopted by the Council? Will the army stop operations and even withdraw if suicide-bombings cease for some time? Will the terrorists or militants first see the Army stop operations before they announce their own acceptance of the Lahore fatwa? This process has been observed in the past. Both sides have resumed hostilities after accusing each other of bad faith and breach of agreement. All “deals” have so far made shipwreck and have been followed by more fierce attacks by the terrorists.

The past record of conflict tells us that whenever a ceasefire is agreed, it has redounded to the advantage of the terrorists by giving them the breathing period in which to regroup and renew their assault. Innocent populations are thereafter converted through intimidation in a hiatus of state power which has withdrawn under a ceasefire agreement. The ulema at Lahore have expressed their resolve to tour the affected areas to see the state of the conflict for themselves even though all the parties present have their representatives in the affected areas, all of them aligned against government action.

There are signs within the agenda of demands that certain institutions of the state may have helped in the organising of the Council in Lahore. This can be a useful underpinning but it can also blunt the state authority’s action to come to the defence of the people. At worst, it may point to the presence of many streams of state policy running in parallel and not always in harmony.

Saiyed Mohib Asad: Reform in FATA

Reform in FATA
By Saiyed Mohib Asad, The News, October 15, 2008

Whereas the government seems to be doing all within its resources to keep a lid on the very disturbed security situation in the country, it is imperative to think of ways and means to change the basic structures of areas and communities which generate these criminal activities. What is going on is basically patchwork. We need to refurbish the fabric.

The Adviser on interior gave a public statement the other day that heavy armament was being infused into the FATA area from across the border, and that there are at least three thousand foreigners present there who indulge in all kinds of terrorist activity. Combine this with home-grown criminals and the figure would be frighteningly higher. How this has come about needs to be analyzed dispassionately.

Firstly, the administration of NWFP is an amalgam which defies commonsense. There are four different systems in effect. There are the settled districts governed by the common law of Pakistan. There are FATA regions. There are PATA regions, and then there are Frontier Regions attached to settled districts. If you cannot make any sense of it, you are not alone. FATA, PATA, and the FRs have the Frontier Crimes Regulations as their criminal law, while the settled districts have the PPC and the Cr PC, with police , magistracy, and a High Court.

Israr Muhammad Khan, an officer of the Police Service of Pakistan, was a tribal Shinwari. He rose to command the Frontier Constabulary, and is since, lamentably deceased. He read a paper at the Administrative Staff College, where he was doing a command course in 1993, in which he thoroughly castigated the FCR as bad law and a denial of "due process." He said that it was an unjust system promulgated by a colonial power, to strengthen a cruel social system. He was especially critical of FCR 40, which gives the powers of summary arrest and detention to the political agent.

Secondly, the border with Afghanistan is not defined. There is a line of control called the Durand Line, which is presently the working border. This is as untidy as it can get. The Afghans claim some areas, and we claim some of theirs. The matter has not been resolved, as it suits both the countries. The Afghans want full and free access to a more prosperous Pakistan, and we are sold on the 'strategic depth 'theory. Pre-9/11 it was okay, but the ball game has changed drastically since then.

Thirdly, whereas FATA has representation in both the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan, there are no corresponding democratic institutions like the local bodies system in FATA/PATA areas. Democracy should be a package, not based on ad hoc political expediency.

Fourthly, FATA/PATA is administered through an archaic 'jirga system" where disputes are settled through consultations between tribal elders of the plaintiff and the defendant. There is no forum of appeal and the decision is enforced by collective force. It is well-known that the more powerful tribe gets the decision in its favour. It is said that this is based on ancient tribal 'riwaaj.' The funny part is that many of these tribal elders use mobile telephones to consult each other! What ancient practices are we talking about?

The Jirga system is nothing more than a ploy to continue with the status quo.

Fifthly, the FATA/PATA power structure of the 1950s and 1960s was thrown out when the Malik was replaced by the Mullah in the Afghan war days. This was done by the Pakistan-USA nexus of that time. In the recent past, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has either killed or sidelined the remaining pro-Pakistan Maliks. So now we have a serious leadership vacuum.

The charter of democracy signed by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif in London in May 2006 states in article 8 that FATA will be included in the NWFP province. The PPP manifesto issued before the February 2008 elections has a long list of steps to be taken with regard to FATA, keeping in view the problems that have arisen there. It says that all laws in effect in Pakistan shall be extended to FATA, along with the Political Parties Act. All elections would be on the basis of adult franchise. Also, regular courts would be established under the overall jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and that there would be a general uplift of health, education and welfare facilities. The PPP had moved the Supreme Court in this regard.

The PML-N manifesto is silent about the issue. But two coalition parties, the MQM, and the ANP, are agreed on the inclusion of FATA/PATA into the mainstream of national life. It is often said that the tribal areas joined Pakistan in1947 on condition that their special status would remain unchanged, and therefore it would be illegal for the government of Pakistan to change their status now, that we are bound by treaty obligations to stay with the present dispensation. But much water has flown down the Kabul River since 1947, and treaties can always be abrogated and renegotiated. FATA has lawmakers in parliament who represent the will of the people. So we should put the political process in gear and move on.

The people of Pakistan are feeling vandalized and betrayed. The daily incidents of bombings, kidnapping for ransom, gun-running, and narcotics smuggling are rightly or wrongly being seen as emanating from the FATA region. Basic structural changes need to be effected. In a democracy the ruling party has both the power and the mandate to initiate far-reaching reforms. It is therefore incumbent on the PPP to initiate action to operationalize its election promise regarding FATA.

The writer is a former director-general of the FIA. Email:

Pakistan's risky militia strategy

Real News talks to Dr. Tariq Amin-Khan on the issue

On how power is organized in Fata and other structural constraints, see Saiyed Moheb Asad's Reform in Fata

On the dynamics of this cooperation, see a previous IS post here

Pakistan's risky militia strategy
By Haroon Rashid, BBC Urdu service, October 15, 2008

After years of failure, the people in charge of running the "war on terror" in Pakistan's tribal areas are using militias as a new card.

But there remains a strong possibility that this strategy could make a difficult situation even worse.

Some analysts contend that it could lead to all out-war along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has deployed 180,000 highly trained members of its security forces in the tribal areas for the last seven years - but they have been unable to control the few thousand militants who operate there.

So what are the chances that the tribal militias will be able to succeed where the security forces have failed?

Hardened militants

The militias are made up of local tribesmen.

They have no specialised anti-terrorism training and unlike the Taleban they do not possess the latest arms and communications equipment.

It seems a tall order for untrained tribal militias to fight hardened militants who have turned parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan into a guerrilla battlefield.

Pakistani analysts also query why it is necessary to spend billions of dollars - mainly from US funds - on the security forces if it is down to ordinary Pakistani citizens to take on the militants.

If those ordinary citizens have to use generators for electricity, self-drilled wells for water and tribal militias for protection, what is the use of the state?

All this is an acknowledgment of the utter failure of the state to enforce its writ in Pakistan.

But what is even more dangerous is, to cover up its failures, another doomed operation is being conducted which will lead to many more civilian casualties.

Sources say the government has given the tribal militias a free hand against the militants.

The message being conveyed is "go ahead, kill as many militants as you can, no one will ask any questions".


It is not clear as to what help, aside from the "licence to kill", the government will provide to the militias.

Will it give them the latest weapons, and will there be financial rewards? All that remains to be seen.

And what happens to all those UN conventions which prohibit states from arming ordinary citizens?

It is easy to conclude that the current experiment is being done without serious thought to the future - or reference to the past.

There is now a strong possibility that the situation will end up producing men like Afghan warlords of old - such as Ahmed Shah Masood, Ismail Khan and Abdur Rasheed Dostum - in the tribal area.

The government might then have to raise other tribal militias to fight the first ones.

It's also argued that tribal society and culture are not compatible with the militia policy.

The "licence to kill" could well be misused by people to settle personal and tribal rivalries - with the government reduced to the role of spectator.

An interesting aspect of the Afghan war against the Soviets took place after their withdrawal from the country.

Ahmed Shah Masood and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the main commanders in Afghanistan, were at loggerheads for the overall leadership of the mujahideen.

But as the hostilities intensified, their field commanders continued to meet to "discuss matters".

These field commanders switched loyalties as the situation on the ground changed and developed.

In some cases, loyalties were not just switched from commander to commander, but to the communist government as well.

'American conspiracy'

Indeed, the issue of shifting loyalties in this region is ancient.

What guarantee is there that the militias will not eventually turn against Pakistan?

They have already stated quite emphatically that if the US interferes in this region, then they will stand united against any such aggression.

At least one US presidential candidate has insisted that the fight against militancy should be carried into Pakistan. But there is a danger that this will serve only to encourage the militias to side with the Taleban.

Raising militias in the tribal areas has been used in the past without success.

In 2003, locals marched to the beat of the drum against foreign militants and those who harboured them in Waziristan.

The results, however, were not impressive.

Uzbek militants were only chased out of the area by the pro-government Taleban commander Mullah Nazir in 2007.

After this, US drones began carrying out regular attacks against foreign militants in the tribal region.

So far only the Jamaat-e-Islami party opposes the formation of the militias, calling them an "American conspiracy".

If using US funds to get tribal leaders to move against the Taleban is indeed the main game plan, it holds potentially explosive consequences for the region.

The Taleban have sent a clear message as to their view of the tactic with the recent attack on the tribal council in the Orakzai region, as well as the beheadings of several captured militia leaders.

Whatever the proponents of raising militias do now, they will have to act with extreme caution - it is an area fraught with every kind of danger.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Burials after blast at anti-Taliban Meeting in Pakistan

AP: Dozens of slain anti-Taliban tribesmen mourned
Reuters: Pakistan tribes raze Taliban houses after bombing
Dawn: Bomber mows down 50 in attack on jirga
LA Times: Pakistan suicide bomber strikes anti-Taliban tribal elders
NY Times: Bomber Strikes Anti-Taliban Meeting, Killing More Than 40

Comments from a previous IS post on the role of of tribal elders in the peace efforts:

"The role of the tribal elders is another important factor. Unfortunately, in the past, those among the tribal elders who could have ensured peace in the area were systematically targeted by the criminal elements. At least 300 tribal elders have been killed in different areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) in these years. The elimination of this layer of leadership is one of the key reasons why there are insurgent militias ruling over FATA these days.

Some of these militias are Taliban-inspired, others are not and may in some cases be against the Taliban. Often they are locally based. But sometimes they also have foreign connections and membership too. In some cases, the local people have supported these insurgent militias against the tyranny of local leaders, state officials, and 'maliks', or against their rival tribes. More recently the American and Pakistani military incursions and the resulting loss of lives, property, and honor have also expanded the membership and support of these militias.

Some strands of these insurgent militias also had support of the state's security apparatus in the past, particularly during the Afghan War era. Some claim that they still do."

Thoughts on tribal cooperation with the government, from a previous IS post:

"The report also talks about the promise of cooperation by the local tribes for the military operations against the Taliban. However, exactly what kind of financial and territorial promises the establishment has made in return, we don't know. Local development of infrastructure might be part of it, but the most important thing for the locals is their territorial sovereignty. They don't like 'outsiders' on their soil - whether foreign militias or Pakistani forces. The territorial state boundaries are seen as arbitrary and fictitious. The Pashtun bonds are more real, and as one tribal elder is quoted in the report, the Durand Line cannot divide the Pashtun people living on both sides of the border. An important questions here is that would the tribes fight against the local, Pashtun insurgents, who are unhappy with military's incursions into their lands, and, to many locals, reacting for just reasons? How durable is this cooperation, it's difficult to say anything conclusively."

Robert Fisk: 'Collateral damage' or targeted killing, the effect is much the same

Robert Fisk's World: 'Collateral damage' or targeted killing, the effect is much the same
One grandfather lost all his sons and grandsons. His family line came to an end
The Independent, October 11 2008

All kinds of horrors flop on to my Beirut doormat. There's The Independent's mobile phone bill, a slew of blood-soaked local Lebanese newspapers – "Saleh Aridi's blood consolidates [Druze] reconciliation", was among the goriest of the past few days – and then there are files from the dark memory lane through which all Middle East history has to pass.

The repulsive Baath party archives of Saddam Hussein are the latest to find a place on my coffee table, all marked "Secret", unpublished – though they formed the basis for the old man's trial and for his depraved hanging by the Iraqi government more than two years ago. I reprint them now without excuse, for they have a bitter taste in the "new" Iraq and in the "new" Afghanistan about which we still fantasise as we send more Nato troops into Asia's greatest military graveyard.

The documentary evidence of Saddam's brutal inquiry into the killings at the Shia Muslim village of Dujail in 1982 provides frightening, fearful testament to the earnestness and cruelty of totalitarianism, the original files of Saddam's mukhabarat security services in their hunt for the men who tried to assassinate the Iraqi dictator more than a quarter of a century ago. Saddam was then the all-powerful leader of a nation at war with Iran – an eight-year conflict that would cost the lives of more than a million Muslims on both sides – and whose most ruthless enemies were members of the Iranian-supported Al-Dawa Party (including a certain Nouri al-Maliki). Saddam's closest allies at this time were the Gulf oil sheikhdoms – and the United States, which was sending military supplies, chemical precursors and satellite reconnaissance photographs to Baghdad to assist Saddam in his war against Iran, a nation he had invaded two years earlier.

On his passage through Dujail, Saddam's heavily armed convoy was attacked by 10 villagers armed with Kalashnikov rifles. All were killed at the time or hunted down and murdered later. In their subsequent investigations, however, the mukhabarat – in this case operating under the ominous title of the "Regime Crimes Liaison office" – were able to use the system of tribe and sub-tribe in Dujail to tease out the names of everyone associated with the attackers.

The patriarchal lineage – wherein all males carry their father's, grandfather's, and great-grandfather's names, sometimes back eight generations – enabled the secret police to trace the male line of entire families and thus to liquidate them all. Their womenfolk were tortured, many of them raped. The men were butchered. One grandfather lost all his sons and grandsons. His "treacherous" family line came to an end. The ruthlessness of Saddam's "Crimes Liaison Office" comes across in their surviving reports.

"Subject/Information Report

We were assigned by the party to submit the names of the opposing and malig-nant members of the treacherous Al-Dawa Party ...

A comrade's greeting. Dun Shakir to the Comrade Member of the State Command. Subject/Security report: Through the fact that the criminals from Al-Dawa Party have attacked our Great Commander the Secretariat of the State, the Striving Comrade Saddam Hussein, we raise the names of the hostile families that are against the party and revolution, knowing that we already raised several reports and surveys on these criminals whose names are below."

And there follows a sheaf of files listing the accused families and their menfolk. Of the Al-Tayyar sub-tribe of the Abu Haideri tribe of Dujail, for example, there is a great grandfather called Abdullah with three children – Asad, Mohammed and Suheil – who themselves have nine children – Sabri, Ali, Nayif, Jasim, Hassan, Qadir, Kabsun, Yasin and Hani. Saddam's secret police fell upon their sons: Ammar, Abdel Salam, Qasim, Sahib, Sa'ad, another Qasim (son of Qadir), Hashim, Ali, a second Ali (son of Yassin) and Thamir.

All of the latter were executed on Saddam's orders. So was another of Jasim's other sons – Nabil – and four more of Hassan's sons – Hussein (who was indeed involved in the assassination attempt on Saddam) and Fatih and Salim and Mohammed and Mahmoud. Five more of their first cousins – Ahmed, Abdullah, Mohammed, Mahmoud and Abbas – were also done to death. Thus only one male issue of great-grandfather Abdullah's entire family escaped Saddam's execution squads. But these were just the male children of one family. Saddam's murderers were after many more. The investigators at Saddam's trial noticed one telling trait among his secret police officers. If they were reporting an execution, they would scribble their signature. If they were sending intelligence information, they would sign their names in full. After the fall of Saddam, of course, it was not difficult to match up the full names with the scribbled signatures.

But now I ask a question. When US troops massacre Iraqi civilians in Haditha because their buddy has been murdered, what is the difference between their revenge and that of Saddam? When a Taliban attack on Nato forces in Afghanistan provokes a US air strike on a village and leaves women and children torn to pieces in the ruins – this now seems the inevitable result – what is the difference between those innocent deaths and the destruction of the families of Abdullah's grandchildren in Dujail?

Yes, I know that Saddam's thugs selected the relatives of his enemies and we merely kill anyone in the area of our enemies. And yes, I grant you the outcome is not the same. The Iraqi dictator was hanged in Baghdad in 2006, cursed by his hooded Shia "Al-Dawa" executioners as he stood on the scaffold. For us, there will be no hangings.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jewish human rights activists come to support Palestinian farmers

Jews protect Palestinians in harvest of hate
By Donald Macintyre in Awarta, West Bank, The Independent, October 10, 2008

In the shade of the trees where they have been picking olives all morning, in this wadi, south-east of Nablus, a Palestinian farmer, Jamal Otman Koarik, and two of his daughters share a lunch of home-baked bread, zatar, oil, courgettes and salad with three visitors. It's a bucolic scene that could have happened any time in the past century. But what makes it notable in 2008 is that the guests who have been helping Mr Koarik pick the olives are Israeli Jews: a rabbi, an anthropologist and a youth worker, Hellela Siew.

Born in Tel Aviv, Ms Siew served in the army, took a university degree, then a teacher's diploma. Thirty-six years ago, she took the tough decision to emigrate to London, telling her parents: "I won't come back until there's peace." Ms Siew, who is now 64, remains an Israeli citizen but now lives with her British husband in Hebden Bridge. She has kept to her word, except that each autumn she comes back to stay in her hometown with her relatives and spends each day of the two-month harvest season picking olives on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.

And Ms Siew does that for a purpose. Up on the ridge above us, you can see the red roofs of Itamar, a notably hard-line Jewish settlement, and she is here to help protect the Palestinian farmers from the threat of settler violence which has so often scarred the olive harvests.

Last year, she was in a group in the South Hebron Hills confronted by settlers who fired shots from a pistol and an M16 assault rifle, despite the presence of the army and police. "Then one of the soldiers said, 'Look, one of them is coming down with a jug of water for you'. The settler emptied the jug over me. It was full of human shit."

Mr Koarik, the olive farmer, says he has no difficulty distinguishing between the settlers who fired on and burnt out his tractor during the harvest six years ago and the Jews who come to help him. "I welcome them here like they are my family," the 40-year-old says. Looking up at the settlement, Ms Siew tries to explain, as a lifelong opponent of the occupation, why she comes each year. "When there was the big demonstration against the Iraq war in England people carried banners saying 'Not in my name'. I'm trying to do something against what is being done in my name."

Ms Siew was brought here by the Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights, led by Rabbi Arik Ascherman who has led a never-ending campaign to persuade the army and police to enforce the Palestinian olive growers' right to farm their land despite the settlers' attempts to stop them. RHR has made a special effort this year to maximise its volunteer numbers because of the growing incidence of settler violence against Palestinians in the past few months.

Rabbi Ascherman says that apart from one notably ugly and violent confrontation with aggressive settlers in Hebron last week, the harvest has been relatively quiet. But it has only just begun. And while the army insists that it will "strive" to ensure as normal a harvest as possible, Rabbi Ascherman is considering returning to the Supreme Court because of restrictions he says the military is still imposing on the farmers even in areas opened up under a 2006 order made by the Court.

Asked why he and his volunteers make this often risky mission each year, the US-born rabbi says "if we really believe" the Biblical text that all human beings are made in God's image, "we have got to put our money where our mouth is and be here in an active way to defend human rights". And he also cites the "dialogue of the olive groves" in which Israelis and Palestinians who "have to live and die here together" have "no choice but to communicate" if they also work together. "I think this is not only the just and right and Jewish thing to do, but it's the self-interested thing to do. We are going to survive."
Also see:
Settlers increase attacks on Palestinians as olive picking season begins (IMEMC, Oct 9, 2008)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mahmood Mamdani: The New Humanitarian Order

The New Humanitarian Order
By Mahmood Mamdani, The Nation, September 10, 2008
This article appeared in the September 29, 2008 edition of The Nation.

On July 14, after much advance publicity and fanfare, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court applied for an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, on charges that included genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Important questions of fact arise from the application as presented by the prosecutor. But even more important is the light this case sheds on the politics of the "new humanitarian order."

The conflict in Darfur began as a civil war in 1987-89, before Bashir and his group came to power. It was marked by indiscriminate killing and mass slaughter on both sides. The language of genocide was first employed in that conflict. The Fur representative at the May 1989 reconciliation conference in El Fasher pointed to their adversaries and claimed that "the aim is a total holocaust and no less than the complete annihilation of the Fur people and all things Fur." In response the Arab representative traced the origin of the conflict to "the end of the '70s when...the Arabs were depicted as foreigners who should be evicted from this area of Dar Fur."

The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has uncritically taken on the point of view of one side in this conflict, a side that was speaking of a "holocaust" before Bashir came to power, and he attributes far too much responsibility for the killing to Bashir alone. He goes on to speak of "new settlers" in today's Darfur, suggesting that he has internalized this partisan perspective.

At the same time, the prosecutor speaks in ignorance of history: "AL BASHIR...promoted the idea of a polarization between tribes aligned with him, whom he labeled 'Arabs' and...the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa...derogatory [sic] referred to as 'Zurgas' or 'Africans'." The racialization of identities in Darfur has its roots in the British colonial period. As early as the late 1920s, the British tried to organize two confederations in Darfur: one Arab, the other black (Zurga). Racialized identities were incorporated into the census and provided the frame for government policy. It is not out of the blue that the two sides in the 1987-89 civil war described themselves as Arab and Zurga. If anything, the evidence shows that successive Sudanese governments--Bashir's included--looked down on all Darfuris, non-Arab Zurga as well as Arab nomads.

Having falsely attributed to Bashir the racialization of the conflict, Moreno-Ocampo focuses on two consequences of the conflict in Darfur: ethnic cleansing through land-grabbing and atrocities in the camps. He attributes both to Bashir. He is again wrong. The land-grabbing has been a consequence of three different, if related, causes. The first is the colonial system, which reorganized Darfur as a series of tribal homelands, designating the largest for settled peasant tribes and none for fully nomadic tribes. The second is environmental degradation: according to the United Nations Environment Program, the Sahara expanded by 100 kilometers in four decades; this process reached a critical point in the mid-1980s, pushing all tribes of North Darfur, Arab and non-Arab, farther south, onto more fertile Fur and Masalit lands. This in turn led to a conflict between tribes with homelands and those without them. The imperative of sheer survival explains in part the unprecedented brutality of the violence in every successive war since 1987-89. The third cause came last: the brutal counterinsurgency unleashed by the Bashir regime in 2003-04 in response to an insurgency backed up by peasant tribes.

It is not just the early history of the conflict that the prosecutor is poorly informed about. In his eagerness to build a case, Moreno-Ocampo glosses over recent history as well. He charges Bashir with following up the mass slaughter of 2003-04 with attrition by other means in the camps: "He did not need bullets. He used other weapons: rape, hunger and fear." This claim flies in the face of evidence from UN sources in Darfur, quoted by Julie Flint in the London Independent, that the death rate in the camps came down to around 200 a month from early 2005, less than in South Sudan or in the poor suburbs of Khartoum.

The point of the prosecutor's case is to connect all consequences in Darfur to a single cause: Bashir. Moreno-Ocampo told journalists in The Hague, "What happened in Darfur is a consequence of Bashir's will." The prosecution of Bashir comes across as politicized justice. As such, it will undermine the legitimacy of the ICC and almost certainly will not help solve the crisis in Darfur. It is perhaps understandable that a prosecutor in a rush would gloss over all evidence that might undermine his case. But we must not. A workable solution to the conflict requires that all its causes be understood in their full complexity.

Darfur was the site of mass deaths in 2003-04. World Health Organization sources--still the most reliable available information on mortality levels then--trace these deaths to two major causes: roughly 80 percent to drought-related diarrhea and 20 percent to direct violence. There is no doubt that the perpetrators of violence should be held accountable, but when and how are political decisions that cannot belong to the ICC prosecutor. More than the innocence or guilt of the president of Sudan, it is the relationship between law and politics--including the politicization of the ICC--that poses a wider issue, one of greatest concern to African governments and peoples.

The New Humanitarian Order

When World War II broke out, the international order could be divided into two unequal parts: one privileged, the other subjugated; one a system of sovereign states in the Western Hemisphere, the other a colonial system in most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Postwar decolonization recognized former colonies as states, thereby expanding state sovereignty as a global principle of relations between states. The end of the cold war has led to another basic shift, heralding an international humanitarian order that promises to hold state sovereignty accountable to an international human rights standard. Many believe that we are in the throes of a systemic transition in international relations.

The standard of responsibility is no longer international law; it has shifted, fatefully, from law to rights. As the Bush Administration made patently clear at the time of the invasion of Iraq, humanitarian intervention does not need to abide by the law. Indeed, its defining characteristic is that it is beyond the law. It is this feature that makes humanitarian intervention the twin of the "war on terror."

This new humanitarian order, officially adopted at the UN's 2005 World Summit, claims responsibility for the protection of vulnerable populations. That responsibility is said to belong to "the international community," to be exercised in practice by the UN, and in particular by the Security Council, whose permanent members are the great powers. This new order is sanctioned in a language that departs markedly from the older language of law and citizenship. It describes as "human" the populations to be protected and as "humanitarian" the crisis they suffer from, the intervention that promises to rescue them and the agencies that seek to carry out intervention. Whereas the language of sovereignty is profoundly political, that of humanitarian intervention is profoundly apolitical, and sometimes even antipolitical. Looked at closely and critically, what we are witnessing is not a global but a partial transition. The transition from the old system of sovereignty to a new humanitarian order is confined to those states defined as "failed" or "rogue" states. The result is once again a bifurcated system, whereby state sovereignty obtains in large parts of the world but is suspended in more and more countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The Westphalian coin of state sovereignty is still the effective currency in the international system. It is worth looking at both sides of this coin: sovereignty and citizenship. If "sovereignty" remains the password to enter the passageway of international relations, "citizenship" still confers membership in the sovereign national political (state) community. Sovereignty and citizenship are not opposites; they go together. The state, after all, embodies the key political right of citizens: the right of collective self-determination.

The international humanitarian order, in contrast, does not acknowledge citizenship. Instead, it turns citizens into wards. The language of humanitarian intervention has cut its ties with the language of citizen rights. To the extent the global humanitarian order claims to stand for rights, these are residual rights of the human and not the full range of rights of the citizen. If the rights of the citizen are pointedly political, the rights of the human pertain to sheer survival; they are summed up in one word: protection. The new language refers to its subjects not as bearers of rights--and thus active agents in their emancipation--but as passive beneficiaries of an external "responsibility to protect." Rather than rights-bearing citizens, beneficiaries of the humanitarian order are akin to recipients of charity. Humanitarianism does not claim to reinforce agency, only to sustain bare life. If anything, its tendency is to promote dependence. Humanitarianism heralds a system of trusteeship.

It takes no great intellectual effort to recognize that the responsibility to protect has always been the sovereign's obligation. It is not that a new principle has been introduced; rather, its terms have been radically altered. To grasp this shift, we need to ask: who has the responsibility to protect whom, under what conditions and toward what end?

The era of the international humanitarian order is not entirely new. It draws on the history of modern Western colonialism. At the outset of colonial expansion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, leading Western powers--Britain, France, Russia--claimed to protect "vulnerable groups." When it came to countries controlled by rival powers, such as the Ottoman Empire, Western powers claimed to protect populations they considered vulnerable, mainly religious minorities like specific Christian denominations and Jews. In lands not yet colonized by any power, like South Asia and large parts of Africa, they highlighted local atrocities--such as female infanticide and suttee in India, and slavery in Africa--and pledged to protect victims from their rulers.

From this history was born the international regime of trusteeship exercised under the League of Nations. The League's trust territories were mainly in Africa and the Middle East. They were created at the end of World War I, when colonies of defeated imperial powers (the Ottoman Empire, Germany and Italy) were handed over to the victorious powers, who pledged to administer them as guardians would administer wards, under the watchful eye of the League of Nations.

One of these trust territories was Rwanda, administered as a trust of Belgium until the 1959 Hutu Revolution. It was under the benevolent eye of the League of Nations that Belgium hardened Hutu and Tutsi into racialized identities, using the force of law to institutionalize an official system of discrimination between them. Thereby, Belgian colonialism laid the institutional groundwork for the genocide that followed half a century later. The Western powers that constituted the League of Nations could not hold Belgium accountable for the way it exercised an international trust, for one simple reason: to do so would have been to hold a mirror up to their own colonial record. Belgian rule in Rwanda was but a harder version of the indirect rule practiced to one degree or another by all Western powers in Africa. This system did not simply deny sovereignty to its colonies; it redesigned the administrative and political life of colonies by bringing each under a regime of group identity and rights. Belgian rule in Rwanda may have been an extreme version of colonialism, but it certainly was not exceptional.

Given the record of the League of Nations, it is worth asking how the new international regime of trusteeship would differ from the old one. What are the likely implications of the absence of citizenship rights at the core of this new system? Why would a regime of trusteeship not degenerate yet again into one of lack of accountability and responsibility?

On the face of it, these two systems--one defined by sovereignty and citizenship, the other by trusteeship and wardship--would seem to be contradictory rather than complementary. In practice, however, they are two parts of a bifurcated international system. One may ask how this bifurcated order is reproduced without the contradiction being flagrantly obvious, without it appearing like a contemporary version of the old colonial system of trusteeship. A part of the explanation lies in how power has managed to subvert the language of violence and war to serve its own claims.

Subverting the Language of Genocide

War has long ceased to be a direct confrontation between the armed forces of two states. As became clear during the confrontation between the Allied and the Axis powers in World War II, in America's Indochina War in the 1960s and '70s, its Gulf War in 1991 and then again in its 2003 invasion of Iraq, states do not just target the armed forces of adversary states; they target society itself: war-related industry and infrastructure, economy and work force, and sometimes, as in the aerial bombardment of cities, the civilian population in general. The trend is for political violence to become generalized and indiscriminate. Modern war is total war.

This development in the nature of modern war has tended to follow an earlier development of counterinsurgency in colonial contexts. Faced with insurgent guerrillas who were simply armed civilians, colonial powers targeted the populations of occupied territories. When Mao Zedong wrote that guerrillas must be as fish in water, American counterinsurgency theorist Samuel Huntington, writing during the Vietnam War, responded that the object of counterinsurgency must be to drain the water and isolate the fish. But the practice is older than post-World War II counterinsurgency. It dates back to the earliest days of modernity, to settler-colonial wars against American Indians in the decades and centuries that followed 1492. Settler America pioneered the practice of interning civilian populations in what Americans called "reservations" and the British called "reserves," a technology the Nazis would later develop into an extreme form called concentration camps. Often thought of as a British innovation put into effect during the late-nineteenth-century Boer War in South Africa, the practice of concentrating and interning populations in colonial wars was in origin an American settler contribution to the development of modern war.

The regime identified with the international humanitarian order makes a sharp distinction between genocide and other kinds of mass violence. The tendency is to be permissive of insurgency (liberation war), counterinsurgency (suppression of civil war or of rebel/revolutionary movements) and inter-state war as integral to the exercise of national sovereignty. Increasingly, they are taken as an inevitable if regrettable part of defending or asserting national sovereignty, domestically or internationally--but not genocide.

What, then, is the distinguishing feature of genocide? It is clearly not extreme violence against civilians, for that is very much a feature of both counterinsurgency and interstate war in these times. Only when extreme violence targets for annihilation a civilian population that is marked off as different "on grounds of race, ethnicity or religion" is that violence termed genocide. It is this aspect of the legal definition that has allowed "genocide" to be instrumentalized by big powers so as to target those newly independent states that they find unruly and want to discipline. More and more, universal condemnation is reserved for only one form of mass violence--genocide--as the ultimate crime, so much so that counterinsurgency and war appear to be normal developments. It is genocide that is violence run amok, amoral, evil. The former is normal violence, but the latter is bad violence. Thus the tendency to call for "humanitarian intervention" only where mass slaughter is named "genocide."

Given that the nature of twentieth-century "indirect rule" colonialism shaped the nature of administrative power along "tribal" (or ethnic) lines, it is not surprising that the exercise of power and responses to it tend to take "tribal" forms in newly independent states. From this point of view, there is little to distinguish between mass violence unleashed against civilians in Congo, northern Uganda, Mozambique, Angola, Darfur, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and so on. So which ones are to be named "genocide" and which ones are not? Most important, who decides?

There is nothing new in legal concepts being used to serve the expedience of great powers. What is new about the "war on terror" is that action against certain forms of violence is simultaneously being moralized and legally deregulated. Is it then surprising that these very developments have led to violence run amok, as in Iraq after 2003 or, indeed, in Bashir's own little war on terror in Darfur in 2003-04? As the new humanitarian order does away with legal limits to pre-emptive war--thus, to the global war on terror--it should not be surprising that counterinsurgency defines itself as a local war on terror.

The year 2003 saw the unfolding of two counterinsurgencies. One was in Iraq, and it grew out of foreign invasion. The other was in Darfur, and it grew as a response to an internal insurgency. The former involved a liberation war against a foreign occupation; the latter, a civil war in an independent state. True, if you were an Iraqi or a Darfuri, there was little difference between the brutality of the violence unleashed in either instance. Yet much energy has been invested in how to define the brutality in each instance: whether as counterinsurgency or as genocide. We have the astonishing spectacle of the state that has perpetrated the violence in Iraq, the United States, branding an adversary state, Sudan, the one that has perpetrated genocidal violence in Darfur. Even more astonishing, we had a citizens' movement in America calling for a humanitarian intervention in Darfur while keeping mum about the violence in Iraq.

The International Criminal Court

The emphasis on big powers as the protectors of rights internationally is increasingly being twinned with an emphasis on big powers as enforcers of justice internationally. This much is clear from a critical look at the short history of the International Criminal Court.

The ICC was set up by treaty in Rome in 1998 to try the world's most heinous crimes: mass murder and other systematic abuses. The relationship between the ICC and successive US administrations is instructive: it began with Washington criticizing the ICC and then turning it into a useful tool. The effort has been bipartisan: the first attempts to weaken the ICC and to create US exemptions from an emerging regime of international justice were made by leading Democrats during the Clinton Administration.

Washington's concerns were spelled out in detail by a subsequent Republican ambassador to the UN, John Bolton: "Our main concern should be for our country's top civilian and military leaders, those responsible for our defense and foreign policy." Bolton went on to ask "whether the United States was guilty of war crimes for its aerial bombing campaigns over Germany and Japan in World War II" and answered in the affirmative: "Indeed, if anything, a straightforward reading of the language probably indicates that the court would find the United States guilty. A fortiori, these provisions seem to imply that the United States would have been guilty of a war crime for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is intolerable and unacceptable." He also aired the concerns of America's principal ally in the Middle East, Israel: "Thus, Israel justifiably feared in Rome that its preemptive strike in the Six-Day War almost certainly would have provoked a proceeding against top Israeli officials. Moreover, there is no doubt that Israel will be the target of a complaint concerning conditions and practices by the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza."

When it came to signing the treaty, Washington balked. Once it was clear that it would not be able to keep the ICC from becoming a reality, the Bush Administration changed tactics and began signing bilateral agreements with countries whereby both signatories would pledge not to hand over each other's nationals--even those accused of crimes against humanity--to the ICC. By mid-June 2003, the United States had signed such agreements with thirty-seven countries, starting with Sierra Leone, a site of massive atrocities.

The Bush Administration's next move was accommodation, made possible by the kind of pragmatism practiced by the ICC's leadership. The fact of mutual accommodation between the world's only superpower and an international institution struggling to find its feet on the ground is clear if we take into account the four countries where the ICC has launched its investigations: Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic and Congo. All are places where the United States has no major objection to the course chartered by ICC investigations. Its name notwithstanding, the ICC is rapidly turning into a Western court to try African crimes against humanity. It has targeted governments that are US adversaries and ignored actions the United States doesn't oppose, like those of Uganda and Rwanda in eastern Congo, effectively conferring impunity on them.

If the ICC is accountable, it is to the Security Council, not the General Assembly. It is this relationship that India objected to when it--like the United States, China and Sudan--refused to sign the Rome Statute. India's primary objection was summed up by the Hindu, India's leading political daily, which argued that "granting powers to the Security Council to refer cases to the ICC, or to block them, was unacceptable, especially if its members were not all signatories to the treaty," for it "provided escape routes for those accused of serious crimes but with clout in the U.N. body." At the same time, "giving the Security Council power to refer cases from a non-signatory country to the ICC was against the Law of Treaties under which no country can be bound by the provisions of a treaty it has not signed."

The absence of formal political accountability has led to the informal politicization of the ICC. No one should be surprised that the United States used its position as the leading power in the Security Council to advance its bid to capture the ICC. This is how the Hindu summed up the US relationship to the court: "The wheeling-dealing by which the U.S. has managed to maintain its exceptionalism to the ICC while assisting 'to end the climate of impunity in Sudan' makes a complete mockery of the ideals that informed the setting up of a permanent international criminal court to try perpetrators of the gravest of crimes against humanity."

Law and Politics in Transitional Societies

Human rights fundamentalists argue for an international legal standard regardless of the political context of the country in question. Their point of view is bolstered by the widespread and understandable popular outrage, not just in the West but throughout Africa, against the impunity with which a growing number of regimes have been resorting to slaughter to brutalize their populations into silence. The realization that the ICC has tended to focus only on African crimes, and mainly on crimes committed by adversaries of the United States, has introduced a note of sobriety into the African discussion, raising concerns about a politicized justice and wider questions about the relationship between law and politics.

In no country is the distinction between legal and political issues self-evident. In a democracy, the domain of the legal is defined through the political process. What would happen if we privileged the legal over the political, regardless of context? The experience of a range of transitional societies--post-Soviet, postapartheid and postcolonial--suggests that such a fundamentalism would call into question their political existence. Several post-Soviet societies of Eastern Europe with a history of extensive informing, spying and compromising have decided either not to fully open secret police and Communist Party files or to do so at a snail's pace. Societies torn apart by civil war, like post-Franco Spain, have chosen amnesia over truth, for the simple reason that they have prioritized the need to forge a future over agreeing on the past. The contrast is provided by Bosnia and Rwanda, where the administration of justice became an international responsibility and the decision to detach war crimes from the underlying political reality has turned justice into a regime for settling scores.

Those who face human rights as the language of an externally driven "humanitarian intervention" have to contend with a legal regime where the content of human rights law is defined outside a political process--whether democratic or not--that includes them as formal participants. Particularly for those in Africa, the ICC heralds a regime of legal and political dependence, much as the postwar Bretton Woods institutions began to pioneer an international regime of economic dependence in the 1980s and '90s. The real danger of detaching the legal from the political regime and handing it over to human rights fundamentalists is that it will turn the pursuit of justice into revenge-seeking, thereby obstructing the search for reconciliation and a durable peace. Does that mean that the very notion of justice must be postponed as disruptive of peace? No.

Survivors' Justice

If peace and justice are to be complementary rather than conflicting objectives, we must distinguish victors' justice from survivors' justice: if one insists on distinguishing right from wrong, the other seeks to reconcile different rights. In a situation where there is no winner and thus no possibility of victors' justice, survivors' justice may indeed be the only form of justice possible.

If Nuremberg is the paradigm for victors' justice, South Africa's postapartheid transition is the paradigm for survivors' justice. The end of apartheid was driven by a key principle: forgive but do not forget. The first part of the compact was that the new power will forgive all past transgressions so long as they are publicly acknowledged as wrongs. There will be no prosecutions. The second was that there will be no forgetting and that henceforth rules of conduct must change, thereby ensuring a transition to a postapartheid order. It was South Africa's good fortune that its transition was in the main internally driven.

South Africa is not a solitary example but a prototype for conflicts raging across Africa about the shape of postcolonial political communities and the definition of membership in them. The agreement that ended the South Sudan war combined impunity for all participants with political reform. The same was true of the settlement ending Mozambique's civil war. Had the ICC been involved in these conflicts in the way it is now in Darfur, it is doubtful there would be peace in either place.

About Mahmood Mamdani
Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, was director of the Institute of African Studies from 1999 to 2004. This article is excerpted from the conclusion to Mahmood Mamdani's book Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror, forthcoming from Pantheon in January.