Sunday, May 30, 2010

US rehearses unilateral strikes, increasing pressure on Pakistan

Below see some bits about one form of American pressure, the military might, that has been applied to Pakistan time and again, especially in the past three to four years. See previous IS posts here and here, which contain some pointers on the politics behind such pressures in the US-Pak relationship.

US rehearses strikes inside Pakistan: diplomats
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, May 30, 2010

WASHINGTON: The US military has already completed ‘dry exercises’ for a unilateral strike in Pakistan, in the event an attack on the American soil is traced to that country, diplomatic sources told Dawn on Saturday.

Also known as a dry run, this trial exercise is a rehearsal of a military’s combat skills without the use of live ammunition.

The trial run for a unilateral strike in Pakistan, however, did not involve US troops. Instead, it projected computer simulations of such an attack with an assessment of a possible counterattack and of the potential resistance US troops might face if they entered the Pakistani soil.

Diplomatic sources said the Americans had already informed Pakistan of their intention to conduct such an exercise before conducting the computer simulations.

The Bush administration had also planned live exercises close to the Pakistan border after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 and conveyed its decision to Islamabad as well, the sources added.

This caused the-then national security adviser, Mahmud Ali Durrani, to fly to Washington for convincing the Americans that such exercises would not help the fight against terrorism. Instead, they would have weakened the nascent democratic setup in Pakistan and eroded its ability to support the US-led war.

The Americans cancelled the exercise after US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and received an assurance that Pakistan would do its best to prevent extremists from using its soil for attacking other countries.

“The American decision to once again explore the possibility of a unilateral military strike is not a threat,” said a diplomatic source.

“It aims at convincing Pakistanis that now is the time to uproot extremists. A failure to do so may lead to an attack on the US soil, which, in turn, could lead to an American military strike inside Pakistan.”

The source explained that the Americans believed there were people in the Pakistani establishment who still sympathised with the jihadi elements.

While such people, according to this source, were no longer interested in protecting Al Qaeda or the Afghan Taliban, “they still have a soft corner for Pakistani jihadi elements, particularly those who fought in Kashmir.”

The Americans, however, “have concluded that all such groups are linked to Al Qaeda, whether they are fighting in Kashmir or Afghanistan, and want all of them uprooted,” the source added.

Diplomatic sources in Washington also observed that the decision to leak to the media the US military’s plans for a unilateral strike aimed at “persuading any elements in the power structure in Islamabad to do what is needed: share more intelligence, stop insisting that there are good Taliban and bad Taliban and to get serious about uprooting all jihadi groups.”

The Pakistani judiciary was also requested not to be lenient to people like Hafiz Saeed, the source added.

The US plans for a unilateral strike in Pakistan was first reported on Saturday by The Washington Post, which quoted top US military officials as saying that the Obama administration sought new options on striking Pakistan since a Pakistani-American attempted to attack New York City.

The report quoted unnamed US military officials as saying the US would only consider launching an attack in Pakistan in an extreme situation where current military action was not adequate. The CIA has been using drones to bomb Al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Pakistan.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scores killed as attackers target Ahmadi worshipers in Lahore

For a background on militancy and its causes in Pakistan, see related posts here, here, and here.

Attackers target Lahore’s Ahmadi worshippers; 70 dead
Dawn, May 28, 2010

"LAHORE: Gunmen attacked worshippers from the Ahmadi community in two worship places of Lahore on Friday, taking hostages and killing at least 70 people, officials said.

The gunmen opened fire shortly after Friday prayers and threw what could have been grenades at two Ahmadi worship places in residential neighbourhoods in Pakistan's cultural capital.

Sajjad Bhutta, deputy commissioner of Lahore, said at least 70 people had been killed in the twin attacks on worship places in Garhi Shahu and Model Town. A total of 78 were injured.

The death toll at Garhi Shahu was higher, Bhutta said, because three attackers blew themselves up with suicide vests packed with explosives when police tried to enter the building."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Conspiracy Theory, a National Sport in Pakistan??

It is so ironical that in the same NY Times (online), more or less on the same day, they had a story about General David Petreaus who months ago authorized clandestine operations in Mideast, Central Asia, and Horn of Africa. The same newspaper has recently published stories about private spy networks that are still operating in the "Af-Pak" region and are said to be part of US special operations in the region. The editors and reporters are fully aware of the incriminating report about Blackwater's presence in Pakistan by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation. And, yet, NY Times can publish a story like below without any serious attempt to engage the story with the ground facts. The magic word "Security" may placate many in the American audience, and it may be in line with Washington's primary concern about 'making America safer', but this foul justification is no help to those living in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the midst of political turmoils, suicide bombings, and drone attacks. They just don't see things that way.

Where there are 'conspiracies', there will be conspiracy theories - some way off the mark, but some right on target. The ongoing turmoil in the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan should also be a reminder that these regions were the actual battlefields of the Cold War, not America or Europe. And it is in these countries where billions of dollars were poured in for intelligence networks, weapons, and guerrilla warfare training.

However, this should not be taken as denying the political utility of conspiracy talk in Pakistan, however valid the theory itself may be. For one, the talk serves to mobilize nationalist sentiments while the security establishment continues to pursue its utilitarian interests. See related posts here, here, and here. My concern, as obvious from these three posts that I cite, is just to complicate the (over)simplistic portrayal of reality.

Such oversimplification is attempted in Pakistani news media too, with a narrow focus on "Taliban" without tracing the hands behind them, or by adding the security establishment and local politics in the equation but keeping the narrative primarily focused on the "internal" factors and discrediting any suggestions of foreign influence in Pakistani politics with the same label of "conspiracy theory".

Then there are those who do similar oversimplifications but from other extreme end.


U.S. Is a Top Villain in Pakistan’s Conspiracy Talk
By Sabrina Tavernise, NYTimes, May 25, 2010

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Americans may think that the failed Times Square bomb was planted by a man named Faisal Shahzad. But the view in the Supreme Court Bar Association here in Pakistan’s capital is that the culprit was an American “think tank.”

No one seems to know its name, but everyone has an opinion about it. It is powerful and shadowy, and seems to control just about everything in the American government, including President Obama.

“They have planted this character Faisal Shahzad to implement their script,” said Hashmat Ali Habib, a lawyer and a member of the bar association.

Who are they?

“You must know, you are from America,” he said smiling. “My advice for the American nation is, get free of these think tanks.”

Conspiracy theory is a national sport in Pakistan, where the main players — the United States, India and Israel — change positions depending on the ebb and flow of history. Since 2001, the United States has taken center stage, looming so large in Pakistan’s collective imagination that it sometimes seems to be responsible for everything that goes wrong here.

“When the water stops running from the tap, people blame America,” said Shaista Sirajuddin, an English professor in Lahore.

The problem is more than a peculiar domestic phenomenon for Pakistan. It has grown into a narrative of national victimhood that is a nearly impenetrable barrier to any candid discussion of the problems here. In turn, it is one of the principal obstacles for the United States in its effort to build a stronger alliance with a country to which it gives more than a billion dollars a year in aid.

It does not help that no part of the Pakistani state — either the weak civilian government or the powerful military — is willing to risk publicly owning that relationship.

One result is that nearly all of American policy toward Pakistan is conducted in secret, a fact that serves only to further feed conspiracies. American military leaders slip quietly in and out of the capital; the Pentagon uses networks of private spies; and the main tool of American policy here, the drone program, is not even publicly acknowledged to exist.

“The linchpin of U.S. relations is security, and it’s not talked about in public,” said Adnan Rehmat, a media analyst in Islamabad.

The empty public space fills instead with hard-line pundits and loud Islamic political parties, all projected into Pakistani living rooms by the rambunctious new electronic media, dozens of satellite television networks that weave a black-and-white, prime-time narrative in which the United States is the central villain.

“People want simple explanations, like evil America, Zionist-Hindu alliance,” said a Pakistani diplomat, who asked not to be named because of the delicate nature of the topic. “It’s gone really deep into the national psyche now.”

One of those pundits is Zaid Hamid, a fast-talking, right-wing television personality who rose to fame on one of Pakistan’s 90 new private television channels.

He uses Google searches to support his theory that India, Israel and the United States — through their intelligence agencies and the company formerly known as Blackwater — are conspiring to destroy Pakistan.

For Mr. Hamid, the case of Mr. Shahzad is one piece of a larger puzzle being assembled to pressure Pakistan. Why, otherwise, the strange inconsistencies, like the bomb’s not exploding? “If you connect the dots, you have a pretty exciting story,” he said.

But the media are only part of the problem. Only a third of Pakistan’s population has access to satellite channels, Mr. Rehmat said, and equally powerful are Islamic groups active at the grass roots of Pakistani society.

Though Pakistan was created as a haven for Muslims, it was secular at first, and did not harden into an Islamic state on paper until 1949. Intellectuals point to the moment as a kind of original sin, when Islam became embedded in the country’s democratic blueprint, handing immense power to Islamic hard-liners, who could claim — despite their small numbers — to be the true guardians of the state.

Together with military and political leaders, these groups wield Islamic slogans for personal gain, further shutting down discussion.

“We’re in this mess because political forces evoke Islam to further their own interests,” said Aasim Sajjad, an assistant professor of political economy at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

Lawyers in Pakistan have a strong streak of political Islam. Mr. Habib, who has had militants as clients, argues that Al Qaeda is an American invention. Their pronouncements are infused with anti-Semitism, standard for Islamic groups in the region.

“The lobbies are the Jews, maybe some Indians, working in the inner core of the American administration,” said Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, vice president of the bar association.

Liberals on Pakistan’s beleaguered left see the xenophobic patriotism and conspiracy theories as a defense mechanism that deflects all responsibility for society’s problems and protects against a reality that is too painful to face.

“It’s deny, deny, deny,” said Nadeem F. Paracha, a columnist for Dawn, an English-language daily. “It’s become second nature, like an instinct.”

Mr. Paracha argues that the denial is dangerous because it hobbles any form of public conversation — for example, about Mr. Shahzad’s upper-class background — leaving society unequipped to find remedies for its problems. “We’ve started to believe our own lies,” he said.

For those on the left, that view obscures an increasingly disappointing history. For 62 years, Pakistan has lurched from one self-serving government to the next, with little thought given to education or the economy, said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor at Quaid-i-Azam University. Now Pakistan is dependent on the West to pay its bills, a vulnerable position that breeds resentment.

“We acknowledge to ourselves privately that Pakistan is a client state of the U.S.,” Mr. Hoodbhoy said. “But on the other hand, the U.S. is acting against Muslim interests globally. A sort of self-loathing came about.”

There are very real reasons for Pakistanis to be skeptical of the United States. It encouraged — and financed — jihadis waging a religious war against the Soviets in the 1980s, while supporting the military autocrat Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, who seeded Pakistan’s education system with Islamists.

But Mr. Hamid is more interested in the larger plot, like the secret ownership of the Federal Reserve, which he found on the Internet. After three years of fame, his star seems to be falling. This month his show was canceled, and he has had to rely on Facebook and audio CDs to make his points. But it is not the end of the conspiracy.

“Someone else will be front row very soon,” said Manan Ahmed, a professor of Pakistani history. “It is the mood of the country at the moment.”

Salman Masood contributed reporting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Update on US "Af-Pak" Strategy

See related posts on intelligence network and special operations here and here. One way to interpret the current US strategy is that the special operations are a means to pressurize the insurgents, the old- and neo- Taliban-s that is, to come to the negotiation table. But nothing more. Not only because the US does not have the logistical capacity to get rid of the insurgency fully - the very US presence and its military operations are fueling Talibanization in Afghanistan - but also because if they could tame the beast which got out of their hands - that is, coopt the Taliban once again as they have tried several times already - the Taliban can be a useful pressure against neighboring Iran. The Saudis would like that too. The Pakistani security establishment - still wishing to develop that "strategic depth" against India - would not mind that either. The establishment's romance with the Taliban - albeit, only with the "good Taliban" now - is not over yet. Some level of turmoil in Afghanistan, moderate or extreme depending on political climate but as long as it is controllable, is also functional for the greater interests of Washington as that legitimizes the US presence in the name of combating "terrorism" - but not without raising concerns of regional powers like China.

McChrystal shifts to raids - and Wali Karzai
By Gareth Porter, Asia Times Online, May 26, 2010

WASHINGTON - General Stanley McChrystal's team once talked openly about the need to remove from power Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother and the most powerful man in Kandahar.

Last October, as reports of Wali Karzai's role in the opium trade were circulating, McChrystal's intelligence chief General Michael T Flynn said, "If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves."

"The only way to clean up Chicago," Flynn declared, "is to get rid of [Al] Capone." The parallel between the legendary crime boss and Wali Karzai could hardly have been clearer.

But by the end of March, Dexter Filkins was reporting in the New York Times that US officials had decided that Wali Karzai "will be allowed to stay in place".

That complete reversal on Karzai was the result of a decision by the US military to de-emphasize the much-touted promise of governance reform in the Kandahar operation and focus instead on Special Operations Forces (SOF) raids targeted against suspected Taliban leaders living in Kandahar city - operations for which McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, needs intelligence being provided by Karzai.

McChrystal's shift in emphasis toward the targeted raids against the Taliban was undoubtedly accelerated by the message from the Barack Obama administration in March that he had to demonstrate progress in his counter-insurgency strategy by the end of December 2010 rather than the mid-2011 deadline for beginning the withdrawal of US troops.

That earlier deadline, first reported by the Washington Post on March 31, was confirmed this month by US General Frederick Hodge, the director of operations for all of southern Afghanistan. "Our mission is to show irreversible momentum by the end of 2010 - that's the clock I'm using," Hodge told The Times of London

The Pentagon's report on the past six months of the war, written in late March and early April, reflected that shift from governance reform to night raids. It failed to mention McChrystal's "population centric" strategy as a factor in putting pressure on the Taliban but touted the "removal" of many "lower level" Taliban commanders, mainly by "special operations forces".

After a few weeks of watching the results of the Marjah operation, the officials of McChrystal's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) command conceded that the Afghan government had taken too long to put representatives of relevant ministries into the two key districts of Helmand province. They doubted that it would do any better in Kandahar, as The Times reported on May 11.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who frequently registers the latest thinking of the military leadership, wrote a column on April 1 clearly reflecting the downgrading of governance reform in the McChrystal war plan for Kandahar and the new emphasis on targeting the Taliban.

"Shaking up the power structure might put the United States on the side of the Pashtun man in the street," wrote Ignatius, "but it would open up a power vacuum that could be exploited by the Taliban."

For US commanders, Ignatius revealed, "There isn't time for risky experiments in Kandahar."

What Ignatius didn't say is that McChrystal had already ordered a major intensification of SOF raids in Kandahar city and that those raids are dependent primarily on intelligence supplied by organizations controlled by Wali Karzai.

In an interview with The Times published on May 7, Karzai boasted that he alone has supplied "the majority of intelligence in this region", adding, "I'm passing tons of information to them."

A former NATO official had confirmed that reality a few weeks earlier. "Most of our intelligence comes directly or indirectly from him," said the official, according to Time magazine on March 19.

Neither the ISAF commanders nor US SOF commanders have well-developed intelligence networks of their own in Kandahar.

Karzai has dominated the flow of intelligence to NATO forces by gaining control over both the police and official Afghan intelligence agency in the province, according to a new study of the power structure in Kandahar.

The study, published last month by the pro-war Institute for the Study of War, shows how Karzai completed his consolidation of political control over the national police in Kandahar after using the Karzai private militia used by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Kandahar Strike Force, to kill the province police chief and the chief of criminal investigation, who had been independent of his influence, in a June 2009 gunfight.

Even more important, Karzai controls the Kandahar branch of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which combines the intelligence and secret police agencies, as the study reveals. NDS has by far the largest network of informants in the province and has long taken the lead in carrying out the raids against the Taliban in Kandahar city, because of the ineffectiveness of the national police.

In an e-mail to Inter Press Service, a spokesman for McChrystal, Lieutenant Colonel Tadd Sholtis, acknowledged that the command accepts intelligence from Karzai, and said it would be "foolish" to refuse it.

Sholtis said he could not comment on how much weight the ISAF command put on intelligence from Karzai but asserted that the command has "multiple methods and sources for collecting intelligence" in the province, and that "we evaluate all human sources with respect to self-interest or bias".

ISAF can presumably draw on Afghan army intelligence in the province, but its assets are believed to be minimal compared with that of the NDS. The command also uses information from drone reconnaissance aircraft to supplement what it gets from Karzai-controlled networks.

Reliance on drones for targeting, however, leads to constant mistakes by US troops. Carlotta Gall reported in the New York Times on March 26 that drone strikes had killed farmers digging ditches and bringing goods home from market on three different occasions in recent weeks.

The ISAF command's dependence on Karzai for intelligence allows him to use US power against his political enemies. Time's Tim McGirk reported on March 19 that critics in Kandahar said Karzai had threatened to call down NATO air strikes or night raids by US SOF units on any tribal elders who defied him.

Karzai is widely believed to have used raids by security forces under his control to target a number of tribal opponents, according to the Institute's study. Karzai is deeply engaged in intervening in tribal politics across the province, creating new alliances and making new enemies, the analysis said.

The reaffirmation of ties between the US and Karzai ensures that the whole military effort in the province is locked into Karzai's political strategy for maintaining his grip on power. But McChrystal, the former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan, has made it clear he is ready to sacrifice the possibility for political change in order to be able to do what he does best.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Guardian: New evidence on Israel's nuke deal with apartheid South Africa

How Israel offered to sell South Africa nuclear weapons
Secret apartheid-era papers give first official evidence of Israeli nuclear weapons

By Chris McGreal, Guardian, May 23, 2010

Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.

The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence.

The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa's post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week's nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.

They will also undermine Israel's attempts to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a "responsible" power that would not misuse them, whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.


Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in developing nuclear arms. But the South African documents offer confirmation Israel was in a position to arm Jericho missiles with nuclear warheads.


See the full story here


In related news,

Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu jailed

BBC, May 24, 2010

Mordechai Vanunu, the technician who revealed that Israel had nuclear weapons, has begun a three-month jail term for violating the terms of his release in 2004.

Mr Vanunu was convicted by an Israeli court in December 2009 and sentenced to six months' community service.

He refused, saying he would be in danger of being assaulted by a member of the Israeli public.

The court then returned him to jail instead.

Mr Vanunu spent 18 years in jail for revealing the existence of the clandestine Israeli nuclear programme.

Before being led away he shouted "You didn't get anything from me in 18 years; you won't get anything in 3 months. Shame on you, Israel."

He was arrested on suspicion that he met foreigners, violating conditions of his 2004 release from jail.

His lawyer said his arrest was because of his relationship with his Norwegian girlfriend, not for revealing secrets.

After his release from prison in 2004, the Israeli authorities banned Mr Vanunu from speaking to foreign media and travelling abroad.

In 2007, Mr Vanunu, a Jewish convert to Christianity, was sentenced to six months in prison for breaking the conditions of his parole.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NYTimes: US is still using private spy network

In a previous IS post, I suggested that contrary to the suggestions about Michael Furlong being just a rogue element, he and his assignment are actually part of a well-established, current US strategy for the "Af-Pak" region: Furlong and the US Af-Pak Strategy

See the following report that confirms that connection and provides further information. [Edit May 26, 2010: See also, NYT's report (May 24, 2010): US Commander OK'ed Clandestine Missions in Mideast, Central Asia, and Horn of Africa]

U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts
By Mark Mazzetti, NYTimes, May 15, 2010

WASHINGTON — Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.

Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information — some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.

But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials and businessmen, and an examination of government documents, tell a different a story. Not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders and have become an important source of intelligence.

The American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying.

Military officials said that when Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in the region, signed off on the operation in January 2009, there were prohibitions against intelligence gathering, including hiring agents to provide information about enemy positions in Pakistan. The contractors were supposed to provide only broad information about the political and tribal dynamics in the region, and information that could be used for “force protection,” they said.

Some Pentagon officials said that over time the operation appeared to morph into traditional spying activities. And they pointed out that the supervisor who set up the contractor network, Michael D. Furlong, was now under investigation.

But a review of the program by The New York Times found that Mr. Furlong’s operatives were still providing information using the same intelligence gathering methods as before. The contractors were still being paid under a $22 million contract, the review shows, managed by Lockheed Martin and supervised by the Pentagon office in charge of special operations policy.

Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said that the program “remains under investigation by multiple offices within the Defense Department,” so it would be inappropriate to answer specific questions about who approved the operation or why it continues.

“I assure you we are committed to determining if any laws were broken or policies violated,” he said. Spokesmen for General Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, declined to comment. Mr. Furlong remains at his job, working as a senior civilian Air Force official.

A senior defense official said that the Pentagon decided just recently not to renew the contract, which expires at the end of May. While the Pentagon declined to discuss the program, it appears that commanders in the field are in no rush to shut it down because some of the information has been highly valuable, particularly in protecting troops against enemy attacks.

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the expanded role of contractors on the battlefield — from interrogating prisoners to hunting terrorism suspects — has raised questions about whether the United States has outsourced some of its most secretive and important operations to a private army many fear is largely unaccountable. The C.I.A. has relied extensively on contractors in recent years to carry out missions in war zones.

The exposure of the spying network also reveals tensions between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., which itself is running a covert war across the border in Pakistan. In December, a cable from the C.I.A.’s station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan, to the Pentagon argued that the military’s hiring of its own spies could have disastrous consequences, with various networks possibly colliding with one another.

The memo also said that Mr. Furlong had a history of delving into outlandish intelligence schemes, including an episode in 2008, when American officials expelled him from Prague for trying to clandestinely set up computer servers for propaganda operations. Some officials say they believe that the C.I.A. is trying to scuttle the operation to protect its own turf, and that the spy agency has been embarrassed because the contractors are outperforming C.I.A. operatives.

The private contractor network was born in part out of frustration with the C.I.A. and the military intelligence apparatus. There was a belief by some officers that the C.I.A. was too risk averse, too reliant on Pakistan’s spy service and seldom able to provide the military with timely information to protect American troops. In addition, the military has complained that it is not technically allowed to operate in Pakistan, whose government is willing to look the other way and allow C.I.A. spying but not the presence of foreign troops.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, dismissed reports of a turf war.

“There’s no daylight at all on this between C.I.A. and DoD,” he said. “It’s an issue for Defense to look into — it involves their people, after all — and that’s exactly what they’re doing.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Pentagon has used broad interpretations of its authorities to expand military intelligence operations, including sending Special Operations troops on clandestine missions far from declared war zones. These missions have raised concerns in Washington that the Pentagon is running de facto covert actions without proper White House authority and with little oversight from the elaborate system of Congressional committees and internal controls intended to prevent abuses in intelligence gathering.

The officials say the contractors’ reports are delivered via an encrypted e-mail service to a “fusion cell,” located at the military base at Kabul International Airport. There, they are fed into classified military computer networks, then used for future military operations or intelligence reports.

To skirt military restrictions on intelligence gathering, information the contractors gather in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas is specifically labeled “atmospheric collection”: information about the workings of militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan or about Afghan tribal structures. The boundaries separating “atmospherics” from what spies gather is murky. It is generally considered illegal for the military to run organized operations aimed at penetrating enemy organizations with covert agents.

But defense officials with knowledge of the program said that contractors themselves regarded the contract as permission to spy. Several weeks ago, one of the contractors reported on Taliban militants massing near American military bases east of Kandahar. Not long afterward, Apache gunships arrived at the scene to disperse and kill the militants.

The web of private businesses working under the Lockheed contract include Strategic Influence Alternatives, American International Security Corporation and International Media Ventures, a communications company based in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Czech ownership.

One of the companies employs a network of Americans, Afghans and Pakistanis run by Duane Clarridge, a C.I.A. veteran who became famous for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Mr. Clarridge declined to be interviewed.

The Times is withholding some information about the contractor network, including some of the names of agents working in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A spokesman for Lockheed said that no Pentagon officials had raised any concerns about the work.

“We believe our subcontractors are effectively performing the work required of them under the terms of this task order,” said Tom Casey, the spokesman. “We’ve not received any information indicating otherwise.” Lockheed is not involved in the information gathering, but rather administers the contract.

The specifics of the investigation into Mr. Furlong are unclear. Pentagon officials have said that the Defense Department’s inspector general is examining possible contract fraud and financial mismanagement dating from last year.

In his only media interview since details of the operation were revealed, with The San Antonio Express-News, Mr. Furlong said that all of his work had been blessed by senior commanders. In that interview, he declined to provide further details.

Officials said that the tussle over the intelligence operations dated from at least 2008, when some generals in Afghanistan grew angry at what they saw as a paucity of intelligence about the militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan who were regularly attacking American troops.

In October of that year, Mr. Furlong traveled to C.I.A. headquarters with top Pentagon officials, including Brig. Gen. Robert H. Holmes, then the deputy operations officer at United States Central Command. General Holmes has since retired and is now an executive at one of the subcontractors, International Media Ventures. The meeting at the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center was set up to inform the spy agency about the military’s plans to collect “atmospheric information” about Afghanistan and Pakistan, including information about the structure of militant networks in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Mr. Furlong was testing the sometimes muddy laws governing traditional military activities. A former Army officer who sometimes referred to himself as “the king of the gray areas,” Mr. Furlong played a role in many of America’s recent adventures abroad. He ran psychological operations missions in the Balkans, worked at a television network in Iraq, now defunct, that was sponsored by the American government and made frequent trips to Kabul, Eastern Europe and the Middle East in recent years to help run a number of clandestine military propaganda operations.

At the C.I.A. meeting in 2008, the atmosphere quickly deteriorated, according to some in attendance, because C.I.A. officials were immediately suspicious that the plans amounted to a back-door spying operation.

In general, according to one American official, intelligence operatives are nervous about the notion of “private citizens running around a war zone, trying to collect intelligence that wasn’t properly vetted for operations that weren’t properly coordinated.”

Shortly afterward, in a legal opinion stamped “Secret,” lawyers at the military’s Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Fla., signed off on a version of Mr. Furlong’s proposed operations, adding specific language that the program should not carry out “inherent intelligence activities.” In January 2009, General Petraeus wrote a letter endorsing the proposed operations, which had been requested by Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan at the time.

What happened after that money began flowing to Afghanistan remains a matter of dispute. General McKiernan said in an interview with The Times that he never endorsed hiring private contractors specifically for intelligence gathering.

Instead, he said, he was interested in gaining “atmospherics” from the contractors to help him and his commanders understand the complex cultural and political makeup of the region.

“It could give us a better understanding of the rural areas, of what people there saying, what they were expressing as their needs, and their concerns,” he said.

“It was not intelligence for manhunts,” he said. “That was clearly not it, and we agreed that’s not what this was about.”

To his mind, he said, intelligence is specific information that could be used for attacks on militants in Afghanistan.

General McKiernan said he had endorsed a reporting and research network in Afghanistan and Pakistan pitched to him a year earlier by Robert Young Pelton, a writer and chronicler of the world’s danger spots, and Eason Jordan, a former CNN executive. The project, called AfPax Insider, would have been used a subscription-based Web site, but also a secure information database that only the military could access.

In an interview, Mr. Pelton said that he did not gather intelligence and never worked at the direction of Mr. Furlong and that he did not have a government contract for the work.

But Mr. Pelton said that AfPax did receive reimbursement from International Media Ventures, one of the companies hired for Mr. Furlong’s operation. He said that he was never told that I.M.V. was doing clandestine work for the government.

It was several months later, during the summer of 2009, when officials said that the private contractor network using Mr. Clarridge and other former C.I.A. and Special Operations troops was established. Mr. Furlong, according to several former colleagues, believed that Mr. Pelton and Mr. Jordan had failed to deliver on their promises, and that the new team could finally carry out the program first envisioned by General McKiernan. The contractor network assumed a cloak-and-dagger air, with the information reports stripped of anything that might reveal sources’ identities, and the collectors were assigned code names and numbers.

Ginger Thompson and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting. Barclay Walsh contributed research.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Twenty dead in Karachi violence

BBC reports that "at least 20 have been killed" in yesterday's spree of target killings which appear to be part of ongoing ethnic-political rivalry between two groups in Karachi. See previous posts on this topic: Feb 2, 2010; May 25, 2009; May 11, 2009; May 1, 2009.

Eighteen dead as violence revisits Karachi
Dawn, May 20, 2010

KARACHI: At least 18 people were killed in a fresh wave of ethnic and political killings across Karachi on Wednesday.

A four-year-old boy was killed along with his father in one of the attacks.

The targeted killings staged a comeback just a day after the coalition parties reiterated their pledge to work together for peace and prosperity of Sindh.

Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah ordered agencies concerned to take effective measures for maintaining law and order.

Talking to a delegation of the Awami National Party, led by Amin Khattak, he gave the assurance that those involved in the killings would be arrested soon and taken to task.

He asked the administration and law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on the activities of miscreants, increase deployment of police and Rangers and ensure a round-the-clock police patrol.

The chief minister said that some miscreants were out to disturb the law and order situation in Karachi for “ulterior motives” and their designs would be foiled by the coalition parties with the cooperation of citizens.

Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and Karachi police chief Wasim Ahmad also attended the meeting.

The chief minister also went to the Governor’s House and exchanged views with Dr Ishratul Ibad on the law and order situation and other matters, including by-election for a vacant seat of the Senate.

Both leaders expressed concern over the incidents of lawlessness and ordered the authorities concerned to take immediate and effective action.

They also consulted leaders of coalition parties, including the ANP’s provincial chief Shahi Syed.

The governor and the chief minister stressed the need for the elected representatives to help improve the situation in their areas.

They appealed to people to maintain unity and keep an eye on miscreants.

Qaim Ali Shah and Ishratul Ibad asked the authorities concerned to point out the reasons for recurring incidents of lawlessness and elements involved in them.

“It is a matter of concern that criminal elements play with the life of innocent people after intervals for their nefarious designs,” they said.

The governor and the chief minister stressed the need for coordination between the allied parties at the lowest level.

They expressed hope that the coordination committee of coalition parties would sort out the matter on Thursday.

MQM Plea to ANP

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement appealed to the ANP and those leading a movement for Hazara province to refrain from issuing provocative statements and resolve all issues through dialogue.

In a statement, the MQM coordination committee said that like any political party, the people of Hazara had a right to demand a separate province. Like other communities, the people of Hazara also had a right on Karachi, it added.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Politics of a Scandal -- Hamid Mir, TTP, Leaked Phone Conversation

The English translation of the alleged Hamir Mir-TTP conversation can be seen here. The Urdu tape is available at this link (for the time being, at least). According to various news sources, Hamid Mir claims that the tape was doctored.

Toward analysis, on the politics of this scandal, I want to quickly comment on the points made by Ayesha Siddiqa, renowned analyst and political commentator, in her recent blog post, which was widely distributed on the net. I believe that her narrative focuses on the establishment and its internal politics too much at the expense of other relevant players in this game. The establishment, of course, has a long history of cultivating and planting its people in the media. This no news. But proper consideration should also be given to the current civilian government and those "foreign hands" behind it (see here) and the ongoing behind-the-scene tussle between the establishment and those foreign forces, all quite relevant for understanding the politics of this scandal.

Still, there are some quite useful points in her analysis - which I copy below - that should be engaged closely. The readers may also want to read her full post to evaluate the context of these points and related assertions.

The readers may also like to read a previous IS post that looks at the Ashura Bombing in Karachi last December and raises similar questions about the involvement of various players. One thing should be quite evident for any discerning reader that the current turmoil is Pakistan is more than simply an issue of mindless, religious fanaticism. There are larger interests and forces at play here.

Writes Ayesha Siddiqa (May 16, 2010): "There is not a single journalist, especially on the electronic media who comments on national security and is not fed by the military. I remember one very popular journalist who even writes for foreign press. He is considered an authority on military affairs. The poor chap cannot tell the front of a submarine from its back. Planting people in the media and intelligentsia is an old trick. The only matter of concern really is that how and why is the audio recording made available on the net? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation."

Further, "This telephone conversation could have been tapped by several intelligence sources including the ISI, MI and IB and the question is which one leaked it and why. Is there anything interesting happening between the PPP government and Hamid Mir due to which the conversation was leaked? The other possibility is that one of the army-run agency leaked it. The first explanation is that they wanted to deflect attention from themselves on Hamid Mir. It seems from the conversation as if Mir caused Khalid Khwaja's death by instigating the alleged Punjabi Taliban. The insistence on KK's links with Ahmedis and Americans could do the trick of inciting the Taliban against KK. But I am sure that was not Hamid Mir's intent. He was just trying to show-ff to the Taliban the superiority of his information. Such show-off comes with the territory that he operates in. But the conversation was then conveniently leaked so that it may appear as something in which the intelligence agencies had no involvement thats is in the killing of KK.

The other explanation is that the conversation indicates some chasm within the intelligence establishment. The conversation basically signifies the presence of multiple groups within the intelligence agencies. There are, at least, three ideological groups within the agencies: (a) the Islamiscsts, (b) the pro-West, and (c) pro-China. These groups exert influence and lobby for their perspective. This means that the flow of information to the top brass is conditioned by the ideological bias of the groups."

And, "The dealings with the US or even China reflect the military's utilitarian approach. It will happily use any of these states to build itself. Most countries behave this way. The name of the game is realpolitik which focuses on power of the state rther than power of the people. The Pakistani state had begun to steer towards Islamism at a very early stage after its creation. Naturally, the ideology rubbed on different elements in the society as well. This is what we can see in Hamid Mir's conversation."

Also, "The discussion of his involvement in misleading Maulana Abdul Aziz does not make sense because Abdul Aziz led his funeral prayers. There is something that doesn't make sense in the story. Whats more important to remember are that the jihadis (aka Pakistani Taliban) are well-entrenched in Pakistan's intelligence system and even its establishment. No wonder, Pakistan's courts have been acquitting jihadis like Lashkare Jhangavi's Malik Ishaq. Recently, the courts acquitted those accused of involvement in the Marriott bombing case and the suicide attack against Lt. general Mushtaq Baig. These decisions could have been changed if the agencies were willing to sort out the jihadis."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dawn: Militants kidnap 60 in Kurram tribal region

[Edit May 16, 2010: Dawn update - Militants free 50 hostages kidnapped on Saturday]

For a background of clashes in Kurram, see previous IS posts here.

Militants kidnap 60 in Kurram tribal region
Dawn, May 15, 2010

PARACHINAR: Suspected militants dressed as policemen kidnapped about 60 people in troubled northwestern Pakistan near the Afghan border on Saturday, government and police officials said.

Heavily armed militants first seized a vehicle belonging to the government power utility in the Kurram region and kidnapped four people travelling inside. The vehicle was set on fire.

Shortly afterwards, several vehicles were seized from a convoy of civilians travelling to Parachinar, the main city in Kurram.

Officials initially said 30 people were kidnapped but later said 57 people had been taken from the convoy.

“The militants were posing as policemen and wearing police uniforms,” said Mir Chaman, a senior police official in the nearby town of Thal.

Government officials in Kurram confirmed the incident and said efforts were under way to recover the kidnapped people.

The Pakistani military has mounted offensives against militants in their strongholds in the northwest over the past year, largely clearing several areas, killing hundreds of militants and destroying their bases.

A large number of militants, officials say, have fled to Kurram and neighbouring regions after the military launched a major operation against them in their South Waziristan bastion near the Afghan border in mid-October last year.

Security forces have intensified air strikes on militant targets in Kurram and adjoining areas in recent weeks.

The militants have shown resilience and carried out a wave of suicide and bomb attacks, mainly in the northwest, killing hundreds of people.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Malalai Joya: 'TIME distorts truth about US occupation in Afghanistan'

Reminds me of a similar story about Malalai Joya discussed earlier: see here.

"TIME distorts truth about occupation"
PressTV, May 11, 2010

Afghan political activist Malalai Joya has criticized TIME magazine, saying it has "painted a false picture" of her.

At the end of April, TIME named Malalai Joya one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010, but the write-up in the issue where the annual list was published did not mention her struggle against the US and NATO occupation of Afghanistan and even went so far as to lecture her and advise her that she should begin supporting the occupiers.

"I am very angry with the way they have introduced me. TIME has painted a false picture of me and does not mention anything at all about my struggle against the occupation of Afghanistan by the U.S. and NATO, which is disgusting. In fact every one knows that I stand side-by-side with the glorious anti-war movements around the world and have proved time and again that I will never compromise with the US and NATO, who have occupied my country, empowered the most bloody enemies of my people, and are killing my innocent compatriots in Afghanistan. What TIME did was like giving an award to someone with one hand and getting it back with another hand. I have sent my protest through my Defense Committee, but TIME did not bother to even answer the protest letter. Perhaps this is the kind of freedom of expression exercised by TIME and the US. But I'm happy to see that many of my friends and supporters have objected to the write-up and expressed it by posting their comments on TIME's site or sending me many emails," Joya said.

She made the remarks in an interview with Sonali Kolhatkar on Uprising Radio, which is broadcast on KPFK, the Pacifica network's radio station in Los Angeles.

The interview was posted on the internet on May 3.

The Defense Committee for Malalai Joya published the following response to the TIME magazine write-up:

"We strongly object to the inaccuracies in the write-up by Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Malalai Joya here.

"We believe it is disrespectful of Ms. Joya not to make clear her consistent and vocal opposition to the NATO occupation of Afghanistan. In fact, it is her opposition to war which has made her influential throughout the world, since in the vast majority of NATO countries public opinion is also opposed to the war.

"Hirsi Ali criticizes Ms. Joya's views on the NATO occupation of Afghanistan without ever actually letting the reader know what they are. Surely the TIME 100 honorees have all earned the right to have their own views represented in a non-patronizing, accurate manner to your readers.

"The very first sentence — 'To be a woman growing up in Afghanistan under the Taliban and to survive is in itself a major feat' — betrays an unfamiliarity with the subject's biography.

"In fact, Ms. Joya grew up in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. The Taliban only came to power in the period of 1994-1996, and Joya only returned to her homeland in 1998, at the age of 19.

"The whole tenor and content of the write-up plays into the common misconception in the United States that the only fundamentalist, reactionary political forces in Afghanistan are the Taliban.

"There is no reference to the civil war and the massacres carried out by fundamentalist warlords — many of whom have been returned to power under the Karzai regime."

Elsewhere in the Uprising Radio interview, Ms. Joya said:

"The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has an office that carefully monitors all media in Afghanistan and if they find any of them reporting against U.S. interests, they try using different means to stop it. Bribes are a very common means used. For the U.S. it's not just fighting a war through military means, but also on the propaganda front. I think propaganda plays a major role. They are trying to show the war is justified. When they kill civilians they immediately deny it and say that all the people killed are Taliban. When there is no chance for any independent confirmation, the lies are the only things reflected in the world media. There are only a few cases where some brave and justice-loving journalists like Jerome Starkey have come forward to unmake their shameful lies."

"But I will continue the struggle as long as these criminals are in power, these sworn enemies of democracy, women's rights, human rights, and as long as these occupation forces are bombing from the sky, and supporting the enemies of my people and killing innocent people of my country," she added.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Deobandi leadership still shies away from denouncing suicide bombings in Pakistan

For a brief historical background of the rise of extremism in Pakistan, see here; for current political dynamics, some bits could be seen here. It's interesting that for this story DAWN chose a picture with people protesting the clashes between two Sunni sectarian groups (see below link). For a little behind-the-scenes of those clashes, see here

Still shying away from condemning suicide bombings
By Nasir Jamal, Dawn, May 2, 1010

LAHORE: The Deobandi leadership in the country has for the moment refused to give a consensual nod of disapproval to suicide attacks and other acts of militancy — despite efforts by some members to reconcile the school to new realities.

A meeting held here recently was part of this initiative for reconciliation. Rising above their political and factional disputes, around 150 leaders representing different Deobandi groups, seminaries and political parties from Karachi to Bajaur converged in Lahore on April 15 for a rare meeting.

Over three days they shared space at the Jamia Ashrafia, one of the oldest and influential Deobandi institutions in the city.

Many participants are known to have links with Pakistan’s visible and invisible establishment. They included moderates such as Mufti Rafi Usmani and hardliners such as Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan.

Big names in politicis — Maulana Fazalur Rehman, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and Maulana Samiul Haq, whose Darul Aloom Haqania in Akora Khattak in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is credited to have given birth to Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, were also there along with heavyweights such as Maulana Saleem Ullah Khan and Hanif Jallundhry, who manage the Deobandi seminaries and education system in the country.

The objective of this rare Deobandi gathering, according to some participants, was to deliberate on terrorism, debate its causes, discuss impact on the economy and politics and suggest solutions and work together to stem the menace.

“The basic goal of this conference was to organise the movement for enforcement of Shariah through peaceful and democratic means, and discuss the reasons for terrorism in the country,” Qari Hanif Jallundhry told this reporter from Multan by telephone.

“The other objective was to draw public attention towards the need for defending Pakistan’s sovereignty and security.” More parochially, the organisers of the meeting were worried that growing militancy in the tribal backwaters of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and increasing incidence of terrorism in the cities in the rest of the country are exclusively being seen as a Deobandi phenomenon and has the potential to discredit the movement among the masses suffering because of it.

After all, the tribal fighters engaged in a pitched war with the military and killing its soldiers in the north-west or suicide bombers carrying out operations elsewhere in the country are either graduates of the Deobandi seminaries or are linked with Deobandi groups and organisations.


Qari Hanif conceded that militancy and terrorism could harm the Deobandi movement. “If terrorism can impact upon the economy and add to the troubles of common citizens of this country, how can we escape its effects,” he wondered.

Others say the meeting was organised at the behest of the government (read establishment), which is desperately looking for wider support from Deobandi pockets against militants fighting the army in the tribal areas. “The most important objective of those who arranged the assembly was to somehow convince the participants to issue a fatwa or religious edict censuring militants involved in terrorism and fighting the army and urging them to renounce violence at the behest of the government,” a participant from Balochistan told Dawn by telephone.

He said “a part of our leadership is under pressure (from the establishment?) to help evolve a wider consensus among all the Deobandi groups and organisations against the militants’ attacks on our soldiers and military installations as well as terrorist raids within the country”. If that was what the meeting aimed to gain, it was only partially achieved.

Maulana Ludhianvi and Hafiz Hussain Ahmed are said to have “turned the tables” on the organisers and forced them to restrict themselves to issuing a joint communiqué that was soft on militants and harsh on government and, obviously, the United States.

“Neither a fatwa triggered this war nor will it help stop one. If a fatwa could stop this war, we would have peace in our tribal areas and the rest of the country now,” another participant, who also refused to give his name, said. “Whatever is happening in Pakistan or Afghanistan today is a reaction to the American policies, its increasing influence and interference in Pakistan and our government’s inability to understand this fact and side with the West.”

The same source said a majority of the participants agreed that militancy and terrorism would continue to haunt this nation as long as the factors and causes responsible for forcing people to take up were not removed. This was exactly what the joint communiqué says. It blames the government’s policy of ‘toeing the American line’ on Afghanistan for growing terrorism. “..militancy and terrorism continue to haunt this country in spite of wide denunciation of such acts (suicide bombings and subversive activities) by all patriotic people as well as use of organised military force. The situation calls for a dispassionate analysis of the fundamental causes (of this situation). In our view it is the consequence of the foreign policy that Pervez Musharraf pursued (in the aftermath of 9/11) and the incumbent government continues to follow. We demand that the government separates itself from the war in Afghanistan and stops pursuing pro-American foreign policies and providing logistics support to foreign forces (for military operations in Afghanistan,” the communiqué says. The opponents of an edict against militants were vociferously supported by the participants from Swat and Bajaur and other tribal areas. “They are the people who are actually suffering at the hands of Americans and their allies in Pakistan. They are the people who have to bear the brunt of military action and drone attacks. How could they support pro-government edicts and decrees?,” the participant from Balochistan quoted above argued. Nevertheless, the communique did urge the militant groups to pursue peaceful means to achieve their objectives of enforcement of Shariah and expulsion of Americans from the country.

The paper calls for an end to all kinds of terrorist and subversive activities (by militant organizations). “If the government is following erroneous policies, it does not mean that we set our home afire. We, therefore, confidently and honestly believe that only peaceful struggle is the best strategy that can help enforcement of Islamic Shariah in Pakistan and secure it from the foreign influences.

The use of violence is contrary to Islamic teachings and detrimental to our objective of enforcement of Shariah in the country and efforts to expel Americans from this region. Rather, it is helping the United States deepen its influence in this region,” it argues.

Speaking to Dawn about the objectives and outcome of the meeting, Maulana Samiul Haq said: “We must avoid saying and doing anything that helps the evil forces (America in this case). And terrorism is helping the Americans.”

He made a distinction between what is going on in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal regions. “What is going in Afghanistan is essentially jihad. They (Afghan Taliban) are fighting for the freedom of their country from foreign occupation. Some of our people (Pakistani Taliban) also want to go there and help their brethrens in their war for freedom.” He pointed out that certain elements who have entered the ranks of Pakistani Taliban and are killing innocent civilians and soldiers, are responsible for obliterating the distinction between jihad and terrorism. “The present situation is quite worrisome for us because it can build up pressures against our seminaries. But, the Maulana said, it is wrong to expect that the use of force can stop the militants from carrying out their operations or stem terrorism from the country. “The only lasting solution to the issue lies in talks. If the government is willing to talk (to the militants) on some solid, concrete points, we are ready to act as a bridge and mediate between the two parties. But before proceeding in that direction the government has to distance itself from the American policy objectives. You cannot stop suicide attacks and terrorism as long as you are seen to be standing side by side with the United States,” he contended.

Another JUI leader said it is important for Pakistan to bring the militants to the negotiation table. “The Americans are talking to Taliban, the Afghan regime is talking to Taliban. Why can’t our rulers?” He was perturbed that Washington “ignored” Islamabad as it began peace talks with the Afghan Taliban in spite of the fact that we are the ones providing it logistics support and cheap oil for its operations there. The communique too urged the government to “realise that the lasting solutions to internal insurgencies lay in peace talks. It, therefore, should review its foreign policy in the light of recommendations of the in-camera session of the parliament and effect necessary shift in its policies.” A participant conceded that the moderate Deobandi leadership is worried about its loss of influence and control over younger graduates from the seminaries. “This loss of influence on younger generations is pushing them towards militancy. The communique particularly addressed the younger students of Deobandi seminaries and advised them to follow the opinion and views of ulema to stay on the right path.”