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Showing posts from September, 2008

Change of guards at ISI

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Pakistan’s New Spy Chief
by Steve Coll, New Yorker, September 30, 2008

Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kiyani, the country’s senior military leader, has appointed a new Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence or I.S.I., the Army’s main spy agency, notorious in the United States because of its long collaboration with Islamist militants, including the Taliban.

Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha succeeds Lt. General Nadeem Taj, who had been appointed by former President Pervez Musharraf. The leadership change is part of a much broader shakeup of senior assignments in the Pakistan Army involving fourteen or more new promotions and senior commands. The main theme of these appointments is an assertion of greater direct control by Kiyani, who succeeded Musharraf as Army chief late last year.

In addition to Taj’s removal at the spy agency, the two-star generals at I.S.I. in charge of liaison with Islamist groups and with internal Pakistani politics, Asif Akhtar and Nusrat Naeem,…

Kayani Replaces ISI Chief and Four Corps Comamnders (Including Rawalpindi)

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Picture: Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha
For background of Gen. Pasha and comments, click here, here and here

ISI chief, four corps commanders changed
* Ahmed Shujaa Pasha replaces Nadeem Taj as DG ISI
* Seven major generals promoted to lieutenant general
Daily Times, September 30, 2008

RAWALPINDI: In a major reshuffle in the Pakistan Army, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Nadeem Taj has been replaced by newly promoted Lt Gen Ahmed Shujaa Pasha.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the corps commanders of Karachi, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and Rawalpindi have also been changed.

Taj has been appointed Gujranwala Corps Commander.

Lt Gen Muhammad Yousaf has been appointed Bahawalpur Corps Commander and his predecessor Lt Gen Raza Muhammad has been appointed Joint Staff Director General at the Joint Staff Headquarters.

Lt Gen Shahid Iqbal has replaced Lt Gen Ahsan Azhar Hyat as Karachi Corps Commander, while Hyat has been appointed Inspector General (IG) Traini…

The most dangerous job on earth

The most dangerous job on earth
By Roger Cohen
International Herald Tribune/ New York Times, September 28, 2008

NEW YORK: Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's new president and the widower of Benazir Bhutto, does not mince words about the growing Taliban insurgency.

"It is my decision that we will go after them, we will free this country," he told me in an interview. "Yes, this is my first priority because I will have no country otherwise. I will be president of what?"

After the massive bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, that's a fair question. Its finances in a free fall, its security crumbling, nuclear-armed Pakistan stands at the brink just as a civilian takes charge after the futile zigzagging of General Pervez Musharraf's U.S.-supported rule.

I asked Zardari, who took office this month, if the assassination of his wife had motivated him to confront Islamic militancy. "Of course," he said, "It's my revenge. I take it every day.&qu…

Report on U.S. - Muslim Engagement

Report of the Leadership Group on U.S. - Muslim Engagement
Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World
Convened by the "Search for Common Ground" and "Consensus Building Institute"
September 2008

For complete Report, click here

Pakistan, the Media and the Politics of Nuclear Weapons

Pakistan, the Media and the Politics of Nuclear Weapons
The Unspoken War
By ANTHONY DiMAGGIO, Counterpunch, September 27-28, 2008

"We're on the brink of war with Pakistan…the fact remains that American forces have and are violating Pakistani sovereignty…the Bush administration's decision to step up attacks in Pakistan is fatally reckless, because the cross-border operations' chances of capturing or killing al Qaeda's leadership are slim. American intelligence isn't good enough for precision raids like this, Pakistan's tribal regions are a black hole that even Pakistani operatives can't enter and come back alive. Overhead, surveillance and intercepts do little good in tracking down people in a backward, rural part of the world like this…our going into Pakistan, risking a full-fledged war with a nuclear power, isn't going to stop them…Finally, there is Pakistan itself, a country that truly is on the edge of civil war. Should we be adding to the forc…

McCain and Obama 1: How to Tackle Pakistan?

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Picture source

New Debate Territory: Pakistan and Iran Policy
By DAVID E. SANGER, New York Times, September 27, 2008

For months, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have argued over whether Iraq was the right war to fight in 2003. On Friday night they delved for the first time into the problems one of them will face on Jan. 20: Whether America has to be ready to carry out military action inside Pakistan, an important ally, and against Iran’s nuclear program.

Curiously, there was more than a little role reversal in the first presidential debate. It was Mr. Obama who seemed more aligned with President Bush’s current policy of authorizing American special forces to cross the Afghan-Pakistan border into Pakistan’s tribal areas that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have used as a sanctuary.

In one of the more heated moments of the debate, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, argued that he would take the war to Osama bin Laden’s cave door, whether Pakistan cooperated or not. And it was …

The Long Road to Chaos in Pakistan: NYT

The Long Road to Chaos in Pakistan
By DEXTER FILKINS, New York times, September 28, 2008

Hours after a truck bomber slew 53 people last weekend at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, the country’s interior minister laid responsibility for the attack on Taliban militants holed up in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, the remote, wild region that straddles the border with Afghanistan.

“All roads lead to FATA,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

If the past is any guide, Mr. Malik’s statement is almost certainly correct.

But what Mr. Malik did not say was that those same roads, if he chose to follow them, would very likely loop back to Islamabad itself.

The chaos that is engulfing Pakistan appears to represent an especially frightening case of strategic blowback, one that has now begun to seriously undermine the American effort in Afghanistan. Tensions over Washington’s demands that the militants be brought under control have been rising, and last week an exchange of…

Friends of Pakistan

EDITORIAL: Friends rally around Pakistan
Daily Times, September 28, 2008

A permanent forum known as Friends of Pakistan was launched in New York on Friday with the mission to help Pakistan out of its economic crisis. It has been estimated that Pakistan would need around $15 billion to prevent its economy from collapsing. The Forum’s first substantive session, hopefully meaning actual execution of commitments, will be held in Abu Dhabi early October. The future host of the forum, UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, said in New York that his country fully backed the initiative to “show our commitment to Pakistan”.

Others too have shown commitment: the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We are engaged with Pakistan through international financial institutions. We will support the steps Pakistan must take for its economy”. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband saw “a very strong signal of political and economic support to the democratically elected government in P…

The kidnapping of Afghan Diplomat in Pakistan

The kidnapping of Farahi
The News, September 27, 2008
Rahimullah Yusufzai

Kidnapping for ransom is a flourishing business in Pakistan and not a day goes when a number of people aren't kidnapped in different parts of the country. But the issue is highlighted when someone important is snatched or the kidnappers make political demands such as release of people detained by the government.

Due to the government's weak writ in certain areas, Pakistan once again is faced with a difficult situation following the kidnapping of Abdul Khaliq Farahi, Afghanistan's ambassador-designate, from Peshawar on September 22. This incident happened at a time when the government was still looking for a breakthrough in recovering the two Chinese telecommunication engineers Zhang Guo and Long Xiao Wei, who were kidnapped by suspected Taliban militants in Khal area of Upper Dir district in NWFP on August 29. The recovery of the young engineers, who were employees of a Chinese company which had been co…

India - Pakistan Peace Process Resumes

Indo-Pak accord on four trade routes
The News, September 26, 2008
Singh assures Zardari of respecting Indus Waters Treaty
By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir

NEW YORK: Pakistan and India have agreed to resume trade through land routes and decided to open four points for this purpose, including two along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, while two would be on the international borders.

The agreement, without any tangible progress towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, is perceived to be a departure from Pakistan's historic position on Kashmir followed by the successive governments.

Meanwhile, India assured Pakistan that it would stand by the Indus Waters Treaty and Pakistan would get its share of river waters in accordance with the treaty. President Asif Ali Zardari raised the issue of water share in his maiden meeting on Wednesday evening with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his hotel in New York.

A joint statement was issued after the meeting and the two leaders also had a b…

U.S., Pakistan exchange shots at volatile border: CNN

U.S., Pakistan exchange shots at volatile border
CNN, September 25, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. and Pakistani troops exchanged fire Thursday along the Pakistani-Afghan border minutes after the Pakistani military fired shots at two American helicopters that were providing cover for the troops, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The U.S. Army OH-58D Kiowas, part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, were patrolling the Pakistani-Afghan border when the Pakistani military fired on them, NATO and U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani military said the fire was warning shots, and President Asif Ali Zardari said it was flares. Both Zardari and the Pakistani military said the helicopters had crossed into Pakistani territory -- a charge U.S. officials denied.

Rear Adm. Greg Smith of U.S. Central Command said the helicopters were providing cover for a small U.S. military unit accompanying an Afghan border police unit on a routine patrol.

After the shots we…

Disaster Management in Pakistan

Disaster and management
By I.A. Rehman, Dawn, September 25, 2008

THE people of Pakistan are living under double jeopardy. On the one hand, the scale of disasters caused by terrorists is escalating and, on the other, the management of emergencies is becoming more and more disastrous.

The havoc caused by last Saturday’s blast at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel is truly colossal. Besides resulting in the huge loss of life and property, it led to an enormous erosion of the people’s confidence in the government’s capacity to deal with terrorist attacks and their aftermath. As a perceptive analyst has pointed out, in view of the mounting evidence of the authorities’ inability to handle terrorists, the latter’s attacks are likely to increase in terms of both numbers and the scale of devastation.

Quite a few ominous developments have been reported since the Islamabad disaster. The death of the Czech envoy has raised Pakistan’s rating as a hazardous assignment and foreign governments could downgrade th…

Zardari Bush Discuss Ties

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President Zardari, Bush discuss ties, Bush pledges continued support for Pakistan
Associated Press of Pakistan, September 23, 2008

NEW YORK, Sept 23 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari and President George W Bush discussed strengthening bilateral relationship here Tuesday, with the U.S.leader acknowledging Pakistan’s sovereignty and pledging continued support for the country’s in economic and security fields. Bush welcomed the newly elected Pakistani leader at The Waldorf Asotria Hotel as they met on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly session. At the outset, the US leader expressed a profound sense of grief over the loss of life in the weekend bombing on the Marriott Hotel, Islamabad.

“Pakistan is an ally, and I look forward to deepening our relationship. We’ll be discussing, of course, how to help spread prosperity. We want our friends around the world to be making a good living. We want there to be economic
prosperity and we can work together, and of course we’ll be talking a…

US drone ‘shot down’ in SWAT?

US drone ‘shot down’ in SWAT
The News, September 24, 2008
Four US Predators violated Pak airspace
By Mushtaq Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Pakistani security forces and Wazir tribesmen Tuesday shot down a CIA-operated US Predator plane near Angoor Adda, in South Waziristan Agency (SWA) but AFP reported that the plane crashed.

Official and tribal sources informed this correspondent from Angoor Adda - a border town between Pakistan's South Waziristan and Afghanistan's Paktika province — that Pakistani security forces and armed Wazir tribespeople fired at the US spy plane and downed.

"Yes, the security forces and Wazir tribesmen fired at the plane and shot it down," said a security official based in the border town, but wished not to be named.The wreckage of the drone was reportedly lying scattered in a border village.

The official said the drone had been constantly flying over Pakistani border villages since Tuesday morning.Also, tribal sources from Wana, the headquarters of South Wazi…

Pakistani president and PM just miss hotel bomb blast: Guardian

Pakistani president and PM just miss hotel bomb blast
Last-minute change of mind saved Zardari and Gillani from Marriott carnage as 53 die in explosions
Guardian, September 22, 2008; Anil Dawar and agencies

The new Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, and his prime minister were due to dine at the Marriott hotel on the night it was devastated by a huge truck bomb, it was revealed today.

An interior ministry spokesman, Rehman Malik, said Zardari and Yousaf Raza Gillani had changed their plans at the last minute and decided to meet at the prime minister's house instead.

Malik declined to elaborate on why the decision was made.

"Perhaps the terrorists knew the Marriott was the venue of the dinner for all the leadership where the president, prime minister and speaker would be present," he told reporters.

"At the eleventh hour, the president and prime minister decided the venue would be the prime minister's house. It saved the entire leadership," Malik added.

For com…

Pakistan troops 'repel US raid': BBC

Pakistan troops 'repel US raid'
BBC, September 22, 2008
Pakistani troops have fired warning shots at two US helicopters forcing them back into Afghanistan, local Pakistani intelligence officials say.

The helicopters flew into the tribal North Waziristan region from Afghanistan's Khost province at around midnight, the reports say.

Tensions have risen after an increase in US attacks targeting militants.

The incident comes amid mounting security fears after a militant bomb attack on the Islamabad Marriott hotel.

Pakistan's army has said it will defend the country's sovereignty and reserves the right to retaliate to any border violations.

The government has said it will take targeted action against the militants, promising raids in some "hotspots" near the border with Afghanistan.

Meanwhile in the city of Peshawar, Afghan consul Abdul Khaliq Farahi was kidnapped after six unidentified men ambushed his car, officials say. His driver died in the attack.

'Firin…

Options for Pakistan?

What's next?
The News, September 21, 2008
Dr Farrukh Saleem

These are the most dangerous of times. The trajectory of events on the Pakistan-Afghan border has a shocking parallel to the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War had begun in 1959 and by 1966 -- seventh year of the war -- the Viet Cong had established safe sanctuaries across the border in eastern Cambodia. The Viet Cong crossed the border through the Sihanouk Trail; crossed the border to rest and to rearm.

For the following three years, a unit of US Special Forces conducted covert intelligence operations across the border. The collected intelligence was repeatedly presented to Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia. Inaction on part of Sihanouk resulted in a regime change whereby Lon Nol was brought in as the new president (Sihanouk ran to China and Russia for help). Cambodia under a new president, and American operations turned from covert to overt.

Look at how history repeats itself: the Viet Cong turned against the Cambodian army. Nixon ente…

Battle at Bajaur

Battle to be won or lost in Bajaur
By Ismail Khan, Dawn, September 21, 2008

THE battle in the Bajaur Agency has not only become a tipping-point for Pakistan’s internal security, it can also have a deep impact on the country’s status as a key US ally in the war against terrorism. In the second week of August, the operation started haltingly to prevent what looked like the imminent fall of Bajaur’s regional headquarters, Khaar, to the militants.

Having suffered initial reversals, the operation is now on at full throttle. It has created a surrender-or-die situation for the militants and a now-or-never moment for the country’s security forces.

Predictably, the militants are using everything they have to hold their ground. Government and security officials say that they are baffled by the resilience and stiff resistance offered by the battle-hardened fighters, by their tactics and the sophistication of their weapons and communications systems.

“They have good weaponry and a better communication…

Islamabad Bombing: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

The best and the worst of times
The News, September 21, 2008

By Shafqat Mahmood

LAHORE: The day gone by in Islamabad could not have been more eventful, truly reflecting the much repeated Dickens line in A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

It was the best because after a long time a civilian president addressed a joint session of parliament. The last military ruler came once to the parliament building, only to be greeted with a constant cacophony of catcalls and boos throughout his speech. This time the presidential address was heard in a civilised and orderly manner, reflecting the true traditions of a parliamentary democracy. It was something to cheer about.

It was the worst of times because the explosion in front of the Marriott was the deadliest car bomb in the history of the capital, killing about 100 people. This toll will probably rise after all the missing have been accounted for, including all the drivers who congregated in front…

Massive Suicide Bombing Attack at Islamabad Marriott

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Picture Source: NYT

Explosion at Pakistan Marriott hotel kills 40
By ASIF SHAHZAD – AFP, September 20, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — A massive suicide truck bomb devastated the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital Saturday, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100. Officials feared there were dozens more dead inside the burning building.

The blast targeting the U.S. hotel chain appeared to be one of the largest terrorist attacks ever in Pakistan, leaving a vast crater some 30 feet deep in front of the main building, where rescuers ferried a stream of bloodied bodies.

The five-story Marriott had been a favorite place for foreigners as well as Pakistani politicians and business people to stay and socialize in Islamabad despite repeated militant attacks.

The attack came just hours after President Asif Ali Zardari made his first address to Parliament and days ahead of the new leader's meeting with President Bush Tuesday in New York on the sidelines of the …

Taliban: From FATA to the NWFP

"From FATA to the NWFP: The Taliban Spread Their Grip in Pakistan" by Hassan Abbas
CTC Sentinel, volume 1, issue 10,September 2008

"Years of neglect, incompetence in governance and failure to devise an effective policy in the realm of fighting religious extremism has provided an opportunity for the Taliban and other extremist groups to expand their activities and influence in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Continuing instability in Afghanistan and the progressive loosening of the government’s writ in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has exacerbated the crisis. Pakistan also experienced a prolonged transition from General Pervez Musharraf’s rule to a democratic dispensation, and this proved to be a distraction that opened up more avenues for extremist forces to plan and implement their expansionist vision. A weakening of the independent judiciary further diminished the potential of the state as well as society to check the overall deteriorati…

Troika Re-emerges...

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Picture Source Getty Images/AFP

Troika vows to defend borders
The News, September 20, 2008
By our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: The country’s troika resolved on Friday not to allow the US to conduct air strikes or ground operations inside the Pakistani territory and showed its determination to defend the borders with full force.

It was the crux of an informal meeting President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr here on Friday.

“Matters of national and international interest came under discussion,” said an official announcement about the meeting. With the present set-up being fully in place, it was the first interaction between the three.

Sources privy to their discussions said that they focused on issues arising out of repeated US attacks in Fata, and Pakistan’s principled stand not to allow any foreign forces to conduct these operations. President Zardari is scheduled to meet President Bush next …

Troubling Revelations - Hamid Mir Interview from FATA

Unilateral actions cannot defeat militants, says Negroponte: Dawn

Unilateral actions cannot defeat militants, says Negroponte
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, September 19, 2008

WASHINGTON, Sept 18: Unilateral actions cannot defeat militancy in Fata, said US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte who also indicated on Thursday that the United States and Pakistan were working on a more collaborative approach to deal with this problem.

Diplomatic sources in Washington say that the two countries whose relations have been strained after a series of unilateral US military strikes in tribal areas are trying to develop a common strategy to defeat terrorists hiding in that region.

The sources say that they hope to finalise the new strategy before an expected meeting between Presidents George W. Bush and Asif Zardari in New York next week.

“Unilateral actions are probably not a durable or a viable solution over a prolonged period of time,” said Mr Negroponte, the senior-most US diplomat after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“I think the best way forward for both of o…