Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Dawn Editorial, March 17, 2010
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has been excoriated by all right-thinking individuals across Pakistan for his shocking comments about the PML-N sharing a common cause with the Taliban.
But away from the politics of the war against militancy, on the security front alarming new trends are emerging in Punjab. Here’s what is known. Earlier this month, the names contained in the FIA’s ‘red book’, a list of the country’s most-wanted criminal suspects, were made public: 25 of the 119 names on the list were of suspects from Punjab, the highest number for any province.
The key suspects in many attacks on security targets in recent months are southern Punjab-based members of four militant groups: Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jaish-i-Mohammad, Sipah-i-Sahaba and Harkatul Jihad al-Islami. The increase in fidayeen-style attacks (in which death is likely but not inevitable as with suicide attacks) has in particular caught the eye of investigators. Fidayeen attacks are the bread-and-butter tactic of Punjabi militants. Then in the last two days alone several tonnes of explosive materials and other weapons favoured by terrorists have been found in raids in Lahore.
Everything points to the terrifying reality that Punjab has a home-grown terrorism problem that appears to be growing by the day. And yet some elements have mischievously tried to play down the Punjab-militancy nexus by pointing to the fact that the groups involved are not ‘Punjabi’ because they have members who belong to other provinces too. There is no doubt that the other provinces also have a terrorism problem in their midst and they need to beef up counter-terrorism measures rapidly. But the violence in Punjab is real, it is present and it shows no sign of abating. Quibbling over whether there is such a thing as the Punjabi Taliban is beside the point: there are militants who live in and are from Punjab, these militants are attacking the state and the people, and they must be captured or eliminated.
It is true that the Punjab government is doing something to fight the threat: despite Mr Sharif’s stomach-churning comments, the provincial administration he oversees has deployed significant law-enforcement and intelligence resources to track down the Taliban. But the authorities appear to be approaching the problem as a narrow counter-terrorism issue. The wider problem is the infrastructure of hate and religious intolerance that is thriving in the province, often under official patronage. No matter how many militants the state captures or kills, there will always be more if the pipeline of hate continues to churn out brainwashed foot soldiers. The Punjab authorities must find a way, and the will, to shut down the pipeline of hate and intolerance.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Editorial, Daily Times, March 17, 2010
A news report of Seattle Times made it sound as if Musharraf was heading back home the moment he was sure that support and applause await his return. While talking to journalists in Seattle, where he is on a lecture tour, he dropped a hint that a party with the name of All Pakistan Muslim League had been registered. Whether the former president, now mostly referred to as the dictator, is seriously planning on entering politics in the near future or not, we have the following advice and observations to make to him.
Musharraf is a coup-maker who should have been held accountable for his actions. He overthrew an elected government, violated the constitution, tampered with the political process by creating a king’s party, instituted a local bodies system that suited his purposes, and rigged the 2002 general elections. He subverted the judiciary and initiated a process whose legacy will haunt us for years to come. Sane observers feel that the over-assertiveness of the judiciary that has been restored after Musharraf’s departure is a reaction to the en masse dismissal of judges and the movement that followed, a phenomenon that may not be in the long term interests of the institution of the judiciary or the country.
Musharraf extols his contributions to the economy. However, the economic situation today is merely a reflection of the kind of unsustainable consumer demand-led economic model his managers devised. We all know how his government failed to manage the energy sector and upgrade its capacity, which has ruined the economy.
He dares comment on the Taliban and al Qaeda culture in Pakistan when he himself made the fundamental contribution in promoting it by following a dual policy post-9/11. Pakistan caught hundreds of al Qaeda operatives and handed them over to the US, but provided sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban. The Musharraf regime banned the extremist organisations in 2002, but allowed them to continue their nefarious activities under new names. We are reaping the bitter harvest of Musharraf’s policies now, which have resulted in the emergence of the Pakistani Taliban. Today Pervez Musharraf has the temerity to call Nawaz Sharif a ‘closet Taliban’. This transcends the limits of brazenness, because he himself acted more like an ‘open Taliban’ during his years in power.
Many of Musharraf’s crimes come in the category of ‘High Treason’ in the Constitution of Pakistan and are punishable by death. He had been let off the hook as a quid pro quo because of an understanding with the PPP, and partly because the institution he headed would not allow its former chief to be dragged over the coals. But it seems that his ambition is undiminished. This talk of a party and a contribution to Pakistan cannot be without reason. Does he once again want to present himself, this time out of uniform, as a saviour? If it is true, he does not seem to realise that the immunity against criminal proceedings ensured by his powerful connections could unravel and he may be held accountable for the wrongs that he has committed.
Therefore our advice to the former General Musharraf is that he should count his blessings and enjoy his safety while lecturing around the world, and lay his dream of returning to politics to rest. It will only make the murky waters of politics in Pakistan murkier.
Here is a summary of the development from DemocracyNow:
"The Pentagon has launched a criminal investigation of a Defense Department official who set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants. The New York Times reports the official, Michael Furlong, has been accused of running an off-the-books spy operation with the help of private contractors who gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps. It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies. Two of the contractors hired by the military were the writer Robert Young Pelton and Eason Jordan, the former chief news executive for CNN. Pelton said he and Jordan were hired by the military to run a public website to help the government gain a better understanding of the region but that their reporting was then used to kill people."
An interesting and potentially quite revealing line of inquiry would be to look into Michael Furlong's career and his connections to the "Special Operations" in Iraq and Af-Pak. The NY Times reports that he "hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan".
General McChrystal, the current commander of ISAF operations in Afghanistan, had previously served as Commander of Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008. Before his present assignment, he served in Iraq, where Michael Furlong is also reported to have carried out his covert activities. On the occasion of General McChrystal's assignment in Afghanistan by President Obama, Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch commented on the nature of General McChrystal's operations in these words:
"From 2003-2008, McChrystal ran a special operations outfit in Iraq (and then Afghanistan) so secret that the Pentagon avoided mention of it. In those years, its operatives were torturing, abusing, and killing Iraqis as part of a systematic targeted assassination program on a large scale. It was, for those who remember the Vietnam era, a mini-Phoenix program...
"Although he's now being touted in the press as the man to bring the real deal in counterinsurgency to Afghanistan (and "protect" the Afghan population in the bargain), his actual field is "counter-terrorism." He spoke the right words to Congress during his recent confirmation hearings, but pay no attention.
The team he's now assembling in Washington to lead his operations in Afghanistan (and someday maybe Pakistan) tells you what you really need to know. It's filled with special operations types. The expertise of his chosen key lieutenants is, above all, in special ops work. At the same time, reports Rowan Scarborough at Fox News, an extra 1,000 special operations troops are now being "quietly" dispatched to Afghanistan, bringing the total number there to about 5,000. Keep in mind that it's been the special operations forces, with their kick-down-the-door night raids and air strikes, who have been involved in the most notorious incidents of civilian slaughter, which continue to enrage Afghans.
Note, by the way, that while the president is surging into Afghanistan 21,000 troops and advisors (as well as those special ops forces), ever more civilian diplomats and advisors, and ever larger infusions of money, there is now to be a command surge as well. General McChrystal, according to a recent New York Times article, has "been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans... [He] is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan."Considering the nature and history of Michael Furlong's activities, it is quite likely that he is part of the current "Af-Pak" strategy of the US/ISAF Commander in Afghanistan and is running his business with the consent of the US Special Representative for the region, Richard Holbrooke.
The same NY Times report further indicates the following about Michael Furlong's involvement:
"Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.
Even in a region of the world known for intrigue, Mr. Furlong’s story stands out. At times, his operation featured a mysterious American company run by retired Special Operations officers and an iconic C.I.A. figure who had a role in some of the agency’s most famous episodes, including the Iran-Contra affair.
The allegations that he ran this network come as the American intelligence community confronts other instances in which private contractors may have been improperly used on delicate and questionable operations, including secret raids in Iraq and an assassinations program that was halted before it got off the ground."
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
See a similar investigative report by Dunya News that was released soon after the Ashura blast (December 28, 2010). It was very timely and insightful.
Below see a thoughtful perspective on tackling Pakistan's fundamental problems. Here I only want to comment on one causal factor (without discounting other contributing factors). I disagree with the part about "culture" when the author defines "anti-Americanism". I have the materialistic aspects of the American mainstream culture in mind here. Effective at the roots of many environmental, social, and economic problems, this materialism is corroding the American society itself and is part and parcel of American hegemonic expansionism in the world. It especially targets the middle and elite classes, who (often) get in the way of a meaningful social transformation with their materialistic self-indulgence, apathy, and/or active opposition. Not saying that these classes were not apathetic or exploitative before (other causal factors were definitely effective), but the problem amplified with corporate globalization (among other things, with the neo-liberal market reforms and hyper consumerism that it promoted).
In order to truly resist the American imperialism, we also need to resist the cultural imperialism. Toward the end of her famous 2002 speech, Arundhati Roy said it well: "Meanwhile down at the mall there's a mid-season sale. Everything's discounted - oceans, rivers, oil, gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum factories, phone companies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, eco-systems, air - all 4,600 million years of evolution. It's packed, sealed, tagged, valued and available off the rack. (No returns). ...The American way of life is simply not sustainable because it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America." (See part of that speech here).
I would frame the argument this way that the fight is not against American people or religions but against American imperialism - political, economic, cultural. Resisting this cultural imperialism is also about resisting Orientalism and the colonial ("brown sahib") mindset that develops at the receiving end.
I believe that any meaningful and sustainable change in Pakistan (and in the US and elsewhere) has to start with change of hearts, with a re-vision of individual and cultural values and priorities, and a re-definition of our interaction with fellow human beings and the environment. Of course, the challenge lies in defining the actual contours and details of this kind of vision.
The New Left revisited
By Asha Amirali, Dawn, Mar 09, 2010
The much-maligned and weakened Pakistani Left often comes in for more than its fair share of prescriptive remedies.
One such critical dose appeared on these pages on March 3 in which Mr Muhammad Ali Siddiqi expressed a cautious optimism about the recent merger of a handful of leftist groups, which has resulted in the formation of the Workers Party Pakistan (WPP).
He also, however, advised the ‘New Left’ to ‘not jump on the anti-American bandwagon’, recognise that the real enemy facing Pakistan today is religious militancy, welcome foreign investment, and follow the lead of New Labour in the UK and repackage itself given the realities of the post-Cold War world.
To start with the anti-Americanism aspect, I completely agree with Mr Siddiqi that a new leftist political formation in Pakistan must not limit itself to hollow slogans. There is an urgent need to objectively analyse the contradictions that exist within Pakistani society and put together a political programme that responds to them.
Not all of Pakistan’s problems can be blamed away, and Mr Siddiqi is right that there is an immediate need to debunk the anti-American hate-mongering of the right, with all its emphasis on waging war against kufr. But what most liberals and others who decry the Left’s anti-Americanism fail to see is that the Left is not anti-American, it is anti-imperialist. Those are two completely different political positions — the Left’s fight is not with a particular culture but with any state that seeks to destroy, coerce and manipulate others to its own advantage.
Most Pakistani people, and indeed people the world over, resent American interventionism in their affairs. The Left can only be a force for genuine emancipation if it heeds this sentiment and builds and articulates an alternative vision which privileges the democratisation of the global order. And while it is obvious, there is no harm in repeating a truth: without genuine democratisation of the global order, democratisation within national boundaries is impossible.
A second but related point is the policy regime that the international financial institutions have championed in Pakistan over the past three decades. The claim that the Pakistani people will benefit from uninhibited flows of foreign capital and technology has amassed little evidence in its favour.
Throughout the tenure of Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan experienced an extraordinary influx of capital and new information technologies. The result was a temporary bubble of growth which burst, leaving in its wake sharpened inequality and an economy teetering on termite-ridden stilts. The global financial crisis followed soon after and made clear just how viable and pro-people the radical free market capitalist model is.There is no doubt that Pakistan needs to employ its unemployed millions and increase productivity across all sectors, but the trickle-down effects from foreign capital have yet to show themselves in most of the Third World. So instead, why should the Left in Pakistan not look at the experiments being attempted in Latin America which reject the neo-liberal paradigm and emphasise growth and integration strategies that put people and the environment first? It seems the logical thing to do.
Finally, and very crucially, the greatest problem facing Pakistan at the present time is not religious militancy, but fragmentation along ethnic lines. Balochistan is (still) burning and a wide cross-section of the Baloch people are increasingly drawn towards separatism. Sindhi nationalist sentiment, while currently muted because the PPP is in office, is nevertheless simmering below the surface. A large number of Pakhtuns view the unfolding civil war-like situation in Pakhtunkhwa as a war in which a conspiring and duplicitous state treats Pakhtuns as nothing more than pawns on its chessboard.
Historically the Left and ethnic-nationalists struggled together against the unitary state. Today, the Left — particularly in Punjab — must make clear its commitment to a new social contract in which all nations within the state of Pakistan are considered equal and given rights and resources accordingly.
Religious militancy is growing, yes. It is instilling hatred and violence and negating all that progressive forces want to see realised in Pakistan. However, I believe it is essential for the Left to move beyond the liberal refrain about the Islamists constituting an existential threat to the Pakistani state. Islamism has established roots in parts of Pakistani society largely because of its historic patronage by the military establishment. Today it sustains these roots because of continued support by the state, the presence of western troops in the region, and the end of imagination that afflicts society.
Military operations against people who have been alienated from the social and political mainstream will not reduce the appeal of radical Islamist ideology. We must focus on causes rather than react to symptoms: the ‘real enemy’, as Mr Siddiqi put it, is not religious militancy, rather, it is the militaristic state and its Islam-centric ideology, the nastiest but perfectly logical manifestation of which is the Taliban. The ‘New Left’ in Pakistan will do well to create consensus amongst progressive forces on these most basic of issues. However, the clear differences between Mr Siddiqi’s point of view and the one propounded here indicate that such a consensus might be difficult.
Those who, in Mr Siddiqi’s words, are not sure how they “feel about the word ‘Left’”, are unlikely to support a strongly anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal programme. Unfortunately though, meaningful change is only possible if we travel this difficult path. There are no shortcuts.
Monday, March 8, 2010
US helped ISI create extremists: Petraeus
The News, March 07, 2010
“Our money, Saudi money, others joined together, helped the ISI, indeed, form these elements which then went in and threw the Soviets out of Afghanistan with our weaponry. And then we left and they were holding the bag,” he said, acknowledging that it was the US which helped ISI to form these extremist elements. General Petraeus, however, acknowledged that the interests of Pakistan and the US differ in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan and the US has the same interest in Afghanistan in not allowing al-Qaeda to re-establish safe havens. “But it also has an interest that is somewhat different than ours, and that is their strategic depth and always has been for a country that’s very narrow and has its historic enemy to its east. So again, we just have to appreciate this.
“This is not unique, of course, just to Afghanistan and Pakistan and throughout the world. We have interests, they have interests. What we want to do is find the conversion interest, understand where they are divergent and try to make progress together,” Petraeus said.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Is the Obama Administration Supporting Violent "Regime Change" in Iran?
by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
"We were in Tehran on February 24 -- the day when Iranian authorities announced the capture of Abdol Malik Rigi, the head of Jundallah. Jundallah (the name in Arabic for "soldiers of God"; the group is also known as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran) is a Sunni Islamist group that claims to be fighting for the rights of Sunni Muslims in Iran. Its activities are focused on Sistan-Baluchistan, which is the Islamic Republic's only Sunni-majority province. In recent years, the group has carried out a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in Iran. These include a 2005 attack on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's motorcade in Sistan-Baluchistan (one of Ahmadinejad's bodyguards was killed); a 2006 attack on a bus in Sistan-Baluchistan that killed 18 members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); the abduction and execution of 16 Iranian policemen in 2007; a car bomb attack on a security installation in Sistan-Baluchistan in 2008 that killed at least four people; a 2009 ambush in Sistan-Baluchistan that killed 12 Iranian policeman; and a 2009 bomb attack on a mosque in Sistan-Baluchistan that killed 25 people and injured 125.
Most recently, on October 18, 2009, Jundallah carried out a suicide bomb attack in Sistan-Baluchistan that killed 42 people, including several senior IRGC officers. We wrote on this attack at the time, as did Ben Katcher; we also published a guest post on the incident by Jasim Husain Ali.
Two days after his capture was announced, Rigi appeared on Iranian television, where he said, among other things, that Jundallah receives financial and military support from the United States; U.S. Government officials have denied such support on the record (though they have not denied any relationship with Jundallah). Some media reports claim that U.S. support for Jundallah is "indirect," in that the support is channeled through Pakistan and Gulf Arab states allied to the United States. Iranian officials have charged for several years that Jundallah receives support from the United States, as well as from Pakistan and Sunni Arab states allied to Washington.
Our impression in Tehran last week was that the idea the United States has some sort of ties to Jundallah and other groups considered "terrorists" by most Iranians seems to be widely accepted in Tehran as a "social fact," at least. We observed a genuine, deep, and strongly positive popular reaction to the news of Rigi's arrest that seemed to cut across class and political divides in Iranian society. When news of Rigi's capture broke, it was around midday in Tehran. We were at the University of Tehran's Faculty of World Studies, meeting with graduate students in a conference room that was equipped with a large-screen television. We were interrupted by an incoming flow of students and faculty, who apologized for the intrusion but explained that there was an urgent news story which they wanted to see on television. The television was turned on, and we watched the nationally broadcast press conference at which the Islamic Republic's Intelligence Minister recounted Rigi's arrest. As we went through subsequent meetings and conversations over the course of the afternoon, it seemed clear that the news of Rigi's arrest was a source of considerable popular satisfaction. That evening, in some residential neighborhoods, there were impromptu parties, with individuals distributing cake to their neighbors and other similar gestures of celebration. We were told that one of the senior IRGC officers killed in the Jundallah attack last October was a widely known and admired hero of the Iran-Iraq war.
Iranian officials are not the only sources claiming that U.S. intelligence is linked to groups carrying out terrorist operations inside the Islamic Republic. Some Western media reports -- citing former CIA case officers -- say that there are links between Jundallah and U.S. intelligence; for example, see this widely noted story published by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker in July 2008. Some of these reports say that Jundallah is one of a number of ethnic separatist groups (including Arab, Azeri, Baluch, and Kurdish groups) receiving covert support from the United States, as part of a covert campaign authorized during the George W. Bush Administration to press Tehran over the nuclear issue and destabilize the Islamic Republic. (For a recent discussion of the issue by a retired CIA officer, see here.) As we ourselves have written, there is considerable evidence that President Obama inherited from his predecessor a number of overt programs for "democracy promotion" in Iran, as well as covert initiatives directed against Iranian interests.
Obama has done nothing to scale back or stop these programs -- a posture that has not gone unnoticed in Tehran. We understand that, last year, the Obama Administration reviewed whether Jundallah should be designated a foreign terrorist organization, but decided not to do so. Why was that? And, even though the Muhahedin-e Khalq (MEK) retains its designation as a foreign terrorist organization, the Obama Administration continues to push the Iraqi government not to consider a longstanding Iranian request that MEK cadres in Iraq -- who were granted special protective status by the George W. Bush Administration -- be deported to Iran. Why is the Obama Administration trying to protect members of a U.S. government-designated terrorist group?Could it be that at least some elements of the Obama Administration believe that U.S. connections to groups like Jundallah and the MEK are potentially useful policy instruments vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic? Based on our conversations in Tehran, it seems clear that the perception of continuing U.S. involvement with and support for groups carrying out violent attacks inside Iran is having a corrosive effect on Iranian assessments of the Obama Administration's seriousness about strategic engagement with Iran and its ultimate intentions toward the Islamic Republic."
See the full text here.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Police Strive to Guard Dubai's Image after Killing
By Robert F. Worth, NYTimes, March 2, 2010
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The people who killed a Hamas operative in an airport hotel here in January seem to have thought they could pass it off as a natural death, or perhaps just another of this region’s macabre mysteries. They injected him with a muscle relaxant, suffocated him and then smoothed away any signs of struggle, reattaching the hotel door chain as they left the room, investigators say.
Instead, the Dubai police quickly unraveled the plot and identified 26 suspects, in a display of transparency that is almost unheard of in the Arab world. They released a 27-minute montage of video surveillance, exposing the techniques — including agents clumsily disguising themselves with wigs and fake beards — of what is now almost universally believed to be the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.
The fallout from the killing of the operative, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, has created a diplomatic mess for Israel and raised troubling questions about identity theft, the spread of surveillance, and the colliding definitions of terrorism and crime. But above all it has underscored this beleaguered city-state’s determination to protect its tourist-friendly image — and its powerhouse economy — from any further damage.
Dubai was hit hard by the global financial crisis, and it is keen not to let any more killers take advantage of its role as the region’s most open city. A troubling precedent came last year with the killing of a Chechen political figure. At each of the near-daily news conferences held in recent weeks by Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim, Dubai’s gruff, swaggering police chief, the subtext has been clear: do not settle your scores here.
“By being so transparent about it, Dubai is trying to send a very clear message of deterrence,” said Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a professor of political science at United Arab Emirates University. “This is probably the most diverse and open community in the Arab world, and to see these things happening not once, but two or three times — at a certain point you have to say ‘We will not tolerate this.’ ”...
Although the killers succeeded in their mission, the botched getaway has stunned many across the Arab world, where the Mossad is widely credited with almost superhuman skill and secrecy. Some have suggested that the agents knew they were being filmed, but most analysts agree that they could not have expected that so much of the operation would be made public.
It was fairly straightforward police work: once they saw the injection mark in the thigh of Mr. Mabhouh, Dubai investigators had only to start collating hotel records and reviewing security video with the help of face-recognition software, according to people familiar with the investigation....
The Mossad has a record of taking startling risks. Beginning in the 1970s, the agency carried out assassinations in Beirut, Lebanon; Rome; Athens and many other cities. They made some terrible mistakes, including the killing of an Algerian-born waiter in Norway in 1973, whom they mistook for a Palestinian militant. But never has an alleged Mossad operation been exposed in such detail as the January killing.
It is impossible to say how successful Dubai’s deterrence efforts will be. Its police work has certainly created a headache for Israel. Most of the killers seem to have used passport information stolen from dual nationals living in Israel, and the relevant governments have made angry complaints and begun investigations. The Dubai police have released information about credit cards used by the killers that also suggests an Israeli military connection, and Mr. Tamim has said he is “99 percent, if not 100 percent sure” that the Mossad is behind the killing. Israel is maintaining its customary mask of silence about accusations related to its spy agency.
In Israel, some columnists have expressed concern about the operation’s apparent sloppiness. But for the most part it has been treated as a joke. During the Purim holiday, when Jews traditionally dress up in costume, many wore tennis outfits and wigs, mimicking the disguises of the assassins.
Even here, many people seem to feel that the diplomatic uproar will soon die down. Certainly, no one here seems too troubled by the Jan. 19 killing of Mr. Mabhouh, who had a role in the killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and the smuggling of arms to Gaza.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Netanyahu: Israel will never cede Jordan Valley
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz, March 2, 2010
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel would never agree to withdraw from the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement signed with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Jordan Valley's strategic importance along the eastern border of the West Bank made it impossible for Israel to withdraw, according to a meeting participant.
Netanyahu also told delegates to the meeting that he was set on preventing the smuggling of rockets into the Palestinian Authority, attacking opposition leader Tzipi Livni for what he called her inability to secure Israel against such a threat.
"I see that for you, a piece of paper is enough to make sure that rockets don't enter the Palestinian territory," Netanyahu said, his words directed at Livni. "I was elected to make sure that this actually happens.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Jhang fears return of sectarian violence
By Khalid Hurral & Babar Dogar, The News, February 27, 2010,
PML-N sees no harm in seeking banned outfit’s blessing
JHANG/LAHORE: A defunct sectarian organisation, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), is rearing its head again and its leader’s participation in an election rally in PP-82 constituency, along with Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, has sent shivers down the spines of citizens here, who have seen sectarian bloodshed for over a decade before it subsided in 2002.
The city has witnessed inauguration of development projects by the chief of the defunct organisation. One can see SSP’s flags across the city, and all this is going on under the nose of the administration and police.
In the last general elections, Jhang voters rejected the SSP candidate and, for the first time in two decades, the SSP failed to secure any seat in the district. However, people allege that MPA Sheikh Muhammad Yaqoob, who won from the Pakistan Muslim League-Q platform, switched over to the Pakistan Muslim League-N and started backing the defunct organisation. Yaqoob denies he ever patronised the banned organisation.
People allege that local authorities, especially police, were turning a blind eye to the resurrecting outfit and show of force by its gun-toting activists.
Officials deny this charge when they are asked to explain the unchecked display of firearms. Some of the officials, however, do admit that the situation is alarming, but they refuse to say anything on record.
Their fear is not unfathomable. A few months back when some miscreants, allegedly belonging to the banned party, burnt a train and the government and private offices and property, police launched a crackdown on the law-breakers. However, later, the transfers of the district police chief and the city SHOs put them in a passive mode and they started showing reluctance in continuing the investigation into the cases of arson.
When they are reminded that the law is being flouted publicly and they are inactive, their response is usually a counter question: “Do you think we are greater protectors of the law than the law minister. Go and put this question to the law minister and the PML-N lawmakers.”
Sources revealed that the district police have discharged many SSP activists from the Fourth Schedule. Nowadays, the SSP leaders can be seen moving in the city with masked gunmen around. DPO Sultan Ahmed Chaudhry told The News he had sought a report from the police concerned about the SSP’s activities. After getting the report, he added, he would be able to say anything on the issue. He said the police were performing their duties according to the law.
When asked how come development projects had the names of a proscribed outfit’s chief, District Officer Roads Aslam Khan claimed he never issued any orders to that effect. When contacted, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah admitted that the SSP was a banned organisation and majority of its activists involved in criminal activities had been nabbed by the law-enforcing agencies. He said the organisation still had a huge following, who are not involved in any criminal activity. About Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, he said he was a runner-up in the 2008 general election, and he had grabbed 45,000 votes against the PML-Q’s Sheikh Waqas Akram.
“If Maulana Ludhianvi was an activist of the banned organisation, why he was allowed to contest the 2008 election?” He alleged that PPP’s Federal Minister Tasneem Qureshi had invited the Maulana to a lunch at his Sargodha residence to seek his support for the PPP candidate in Jhang by-polls. He claimed that some provincial and federal ministers of the PPP had also visited the Jhang residence of Maulana Ludhianvi to seek his support.
Nevertheless, he said, Maulana Ludhianvi, on his request, had decided to support the PML-N candidate, Azam Chela, and made an announcement in this regard at a public meeting, which was also attended by him (minister).
The minister said the PML-N had made him the in-charge of the election campaign in Jhang and he was present along with Maulana Ludhianvi at the public meeting. Moreover, he said, Sheikh Waqas Akram was supporting the PPP candidate in the Jhang by-polls and he was behind all this propaganda, to win over the Shia community votes and to neutralise Maulana Ludhianvi’s support for the PML-N candidate.
He claimed that he was not afraid of the propaganda as he had done nothing illegal or wrong. He further claimed that Federal Ministers Qamar Zaman Kaira, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and all provincial ministers, including Senior Minister Raja Riaz, were striving to win the support for their candidate and indulging in propaganda against him. He stated that Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer had also announced a visit to the constituency.
The minister’s view that the SSP chief was an electoral candidate raises a serious question: “Isn’t it a dereliction of duty on part of our state apparatus that a defunct outfit’s leaders went through the pre-election scrutiny?”
Violence mars Milad celebrations in two cities
By M. Irfan Mughal and Mohammad Saleem, Dawn, Mar 1, 2010
DERA ISMAIL KHAN/ FAISALABAD: Dera Ismail Khan and Faisalabad districts were in the grip of tension following clashes and attacks on processions taken out on Saturday to celebrate Eid Miladun Nabi (peace be upon him).
A curfew was imposed in three tehsils of Dera Khan and Section 144 was imposed in Faisalabad.
Troops were deployed in the troubled Dheki town of Dera Khan after clashes between two sectarian groups.
Police and hospital sources said that seven people had been killed and 32 others injured in an attack on a procession and an exchange of fire between law-enforcement personnel and rioters.
Trouble started when the procession passing by a seminary came under attack. Witnesses said that two men in the procession were killed and five others injured.
Immediately after the incident, a charged mob attacked the seminary. A police contingent trying to bring the situation under control also came under attack and five people were killed and 27 others injured when police fired back.
The town was calm but tense on Sunday with troops patrolling the streets. The main Dera city, Proa and Paharpur tehsils were under strict curfew.
NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti discussed the situation with Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on phone and appealed to him to cooperate with the government to promote sectarian harmony in the area.
According to a handout issued in Peshawar, Mr Hoti assured the Maulana that the government would take action against trouble-makers.
DIG Feroz Shah said that over 50 people had been arrested for firing at the procession and cases had been registered against them.
Officials said that a curfew had also been imposed in the adjacent Tank town.
The administration convened meetings of elders, Ulema and politicians to seek their help in maintaining peace in the town which has a history of sectarian clashes.
Police said a pick-up truck loaded with weapons was seized near the Cawar checkpost and a man was arrested.
In Faisalabad, four people were injured when a group of people believed to be hiding in Gol Mosque opened fire on an Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH) procession in Ghulam Mohammadabad locality of the city.
Some men in the procession allegedly vandalised the mosque and pelted it with stones.
A Gol Mosque spokesperson said that people in the procession had provoked them by throwing stones at the mosque. After the firing, a large number of people besieged the Ghulam Mohammadabad police station and set more than 200 vehicles and motorbikes on fire.
The protesters also ransacked the police station, forcing the personnel run away. Official vehicles of Gulberg traffic sector were also torched by the mob. Police tried to disperse the mob with teargas, but failed.
The charged mob also pelted policemen with stones, injuring a few constables.
The protesters blocked the Saddar Bazaar Road, Latif Chowk and Chandni Chowk and burned tyres. A number of shells fired by police also landed in houses.
The mob also attacked and allegedly looted the house of Gol Mosque khateeb Zahid Mehmood Qasmi.
About 48 people belonging to both sects, including Mr Qasmi, were arrested.
Punjab Inspector-General of Police Tariq Saleem Dogar arrived in the city on Saturday night.
Officials of police and district administration held a meeting with Ahmed Ludhianvi, chief of the proscribed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, and urged him to help calm the situation.
On Sunday, a mob attacked a mosque in Usman Town on the Millat Road and burned a motorcycle and a generator. Police arrested 12 people.
SSP (operations) Sarfraz Falki suspended Sargodha Road SHO Zahid Hussain for dereliction of duty.
Despite the imposition of Section 144, people belonging to the Gol Mosque sect took out a procession and held a meeting at the Clock Tower intersection.
The eight bazzars emanating from the Clock Tower remained closed.