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Showing posts from December, 2008

Britain, US late to predict Iran's Islamic revolution: Newly Revealed Documents

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Britain, US late to predict Iran's Islamic revolution: documents
Katherine Haddon, Yahoo News, December 30, 2008

Britain and the United States clung to the belief that the shah of Iran would remain in power until shortly before the Islamic revolution, newly declassified documents from 1978 revealed Tuesday.

Officials thought Mohammad Reza Pahlavi would continue to rule in some form up to the final weeks of 1978, in spite of violence, protests and the increasing influence of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The shah left Iran in January 1979 and later Khomeini became supreme leader of the Islamic republic, the creation of which was one of the key events in 20th century Middle Eastern history.

"It is not so much that the regime is in danger; more that their car has bogged down in soft ground and it is difficult to see how they are going to pick up speed again," wrote Britain's then ambassador to Tehran Sir Anthony Parsons in May 1978.

A US official said in September that year th…

Pakistani Position on Ajmal Kasab and the Latest Wall Street Journal Report

SIM used by Kasab was issued from Austria, says Kamal Shah
By Tahir Niaz, Daily Times, December 31, 2008

ISLAMABAD: Interior Secretary Kamal Shah on Tuesday revealed that one of the mobile phone Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) allegedly recovered from the lone surviving gunman of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, Ajmal Kasab, was issued from Austria.

He told a group of reporters at the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) headquarters that NADRA record did not verify Kasab as a Pakistani citizen. He also expressed doubts over the authenticity of the letter reportedly written by Kasab to Pakistani authorities seeking legal assistance, saying the language and contents of the letter did not match those of a ‘real’ Pakistani.

"They (Indians) have simply tried to make up a story and they have even failed in that too," the interior secretary said. He said, "Why did the Indians not share the identity of the others accused in the attacks? They are talking just about …

Bangladesh: Awami League Returns to Power

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Bangladesh Election Won by Ex-Prime Minister Hasina
By Ed Johnson, Bloomberg, December 30, 2008

Dec. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s political alliance was swept back to power in national elections, ending two years of military-backed emergency rule.

Hasina’s Awami League won a parliamentary majority with results declared in 267 of 300 seats, S.M. Asadujan, the Election Commission’s public relations officer, said by telephone today from the capital, Dhaka, citing preliminary results.

Hasina urged supporters to “exercise utmost restraint” and wait until final results are announced later today to avoid clashes with the main rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the English-language Daily Star newspaper reported, citing party official Abul Kalam Azad.

The new government, which campaigned on a platform of cutting food prices and combating terrorism, faces the challenge of raising living standards in the nation of more than 150 million people, where alm…

Taliban Hit Pakistan Town That Fought Back: NYT

Taliban Hit Pakistan Town That Fought Back
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH, New York Times, December 29, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Four months ago, the people of the Pakistani mountain village of Shalbandi gained national repute after a village posse hunted down and killed six Taliban fighters who had tied up and killed eight local policemen. The posse displayed the Taliban corpses like trophies for other residents to see, and the village was celebrated as a courageous sign that the Taliban could be repelled.

On Sunday morning, the Taliban struck back.

A suicide car bomber set off an explosion at a school in Shalbandi that was serving as a polling place, as voters lined up to elect a representative to the National Assembly. More than 30 people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, according to local political and security officials. Children and several policemen were among the dead.

The attack was the latest demonstration of the Taliban’s bloody encroachment eastward …

Does Obama understand his biggest foreign-policy challenge?

Does Obama understand his biggest foreign-policy challenge?
The president-elect wants to work with the Pakistani government to "stamp out" terror. It's not nearly that simple.
By Juan Cole, Salon.com; Dec. 12, 2008

A consensus is emerging among intelligence analysts and pundits that Pakistan may be President-elect Barack Obama's greatest policy challenge. A base for terrorist groups, the country has a fragile new civilian government and a long history of military coups. The dramatic attack on Mumbai by members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Tayiba, the continued Taliban insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the frailty of the new civilian government, and the country's status as a nuclear-armed state have all put Islamabad on the incoming administration's front burner.

But does Obama understand what he's getting into? In his "Meet the Press" interview with Tom Brokaw on Sunday, Obama said, "We need a strategic partnership with all the …

"U.S. draws India into the Afghan war": The Hindu

U.S. draws India into the Afghan war
M.K. Bhadrakumar, The Hindu, December 25, 2008
The time has come to carefully assess the U.S. motivations in widening the gyre of the Afghan war, which commenced seven years ago.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States armed forces, Admiral Mike Mullen, has lent his voice to the incipient idea of a “regional” approach to the Afghanistan problem. He said the over-arching strategy for success in Afghanistan must be regional in focus and include not just Afghanistan but also Pakistan and India. The three South Asian countries, he stressed, must figure a way to reduce tensions among them, which involves addressing &# 8220;long-standing problems that increase instability in the region.”

Adm. Mullen then referred to Kashmir as one such problem to underline that if India-Pakistan tensions decreased, it “allowed the Pakistani leadership to focus on the west [border with Afghanistan].” He regretted that the terror attack in Mumbai ra…

If Gaza Falls?

If Gaza falls . . .
Sara Roy, London Review of Books, January 1, 2009

Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel’s siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady em…

Remembering Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)

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I will expose Benazir’s killers: Zardari
* President says he knows who killed Benazir Bhutto
* Democracy, dialogue, politics are solution to Pakistan’s problems
* Asks New Delhi not to push Islamabad for action
Daily Times, September 28, 2008

NAUDERO: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Saturday he knew the killers of Benazir Bhutto and that he would expose them.

He was addressing Pakistan People’s Party leaders who had gathered at Benazir’s family home in Naudero to honour her on her first death anniversary.

“I will expose the killers of Benazir Bhutto. I know the killers, I will expose the killers to save the country,” Zardari said. He appreciated a statement by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that the world body would soon initiate an independent inquiry into Benazir’s assassination.

“We will have to wait for UN even if it takes a long time,” he said, adding the ‘enemies of Pakistan’ were being impatient and provoking people. “They are the same people who had raised the slog…

Pakistani neocons and UN sanctions

POSTCARD USA: Pakistani neocons and UN sanctions — Khalid Hasan
Daily Times, September 28, 2008

Like bullfrogs out after heavy summer rains, Pakistani cyberspace and the realm of the printed word are full of the croaking of neocons who have convinced the already ignorant that the Security Council sanctions against Jama’at-ud Dawa and certain individuals only came because Pakistani officials were either sleeping at the post or had conspired with the 15-member Security Council to let the axe fall.

These people are not interested in facts. They only have opinions.

One cybercon who answers to the name Ahmed Quraishi writes on December 24, “We have a government with shady characters in key places, strongly backed by the Bush administration, acting and behaving as if they were representing a US occupation government in Pakistan.” Under “recommendation”, he proposes, “We need to start a witch-hunt in Pakistan to cleanse our academia and public life of such self-haters and defeatists who poison t…

One Year After Benazir's Assassination

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Tens of thousands gather for Bhutto commemorations
AFP, December 27, 2008

LARKANA, Pakistan (AFP) — Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have massed near the tomb of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto on the eve of ceremonies marking the first anniversary of her killing, according to officials.

More than 35,000 people had already arrived in rural southern Pakistan ahead of Saturday's ceremonies at the Bhutto family mausoleum in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) spokesman Ijaz Durrani told AFP.

People were travelling by train, bus, car, bicycle and even on foot to reach the site, he said. Hundreds of thousands were expected by Saturday.

Bhutto, 54, was assassinated on December 27, 2007 in a gun and suicide attack at an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, just two months after returning to Pakistan from exile.

Her killing threw the world's only nuclear-armed Islamic nation into chaos, sparking violence and leading to months of political turmoil that ende…

Pakistan moves troops toward Indian border

Pakistan moves troops toward Indian border
By SEBASTIAN ABBOT – AFP, December 26, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan began moving thousands of troops away from the Afghan border toward India on Friday amid tensions following the Mumbai attacks, intelligence officials said.

The move represents a sharp escalation in the standoff between the nuclear-armed neighbors and will hurt Pakistan's U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban taking place near Afghanistan's border.

Two intelligence officials said the army's 14th Division was being redeployed to Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. They said some 20,000 troops were on the move. Earlier Friday, a security official said that all troop leave had been canceled.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Indian officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Friday with the chiefs of the army, navy and air force to discus…

Jinnah's Birth Anniversary: His Views about Women Emancipation

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FOUNDING FATHER: Jinnah And Women’s Emancipation
Sharif al Mujahid discusses the Quaid’s commitment to the cause of women’s progress
Dawn, December 25, 2008

It would not be wrong to say that Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a liberal, par excellence. According to a quote by Hector Bolitho, his official biographer, Jinnah said, “… I happened to meet several important English Liberals with whose help I came to understand the doctrine of Liberalism … which became part of my life.”

In tandem with his liberal ethos and his consuming concern with human rights was his burgeoning passion for reversing the “wretched” condition of women, who stood marginalised, not only in the pre-modern East, but also in the modern West, in the later half of the twentieth century.

Miss Agatha Harrison, one of the speakers at a memorial meeting for Jinnah in London, on September 14, 1948, narrated, “When Jinnah was a student in London, the suffragette movement was gathering momentum; …young Jinnah always came to our meetings…

Barbarism in Swat

Barbarism in Swat
By Khurshid Khan, Dawn, December 25, 2008

SWAT’S Sangota Public School was blown to smithereens on Oct 7, 2008 — a dark day in the history of the area.

This convent school was established in 1964 by Miangul Jahanzeb, popularly known as Wali sahib, the last ruler of Swat who not only donated land for the school but also provided generous financial aid for its construction and operations. It was renowned for its quality of education in the entire Malakand region.

This epitome of architectural perfection was situated in a beautiful and enchanting location on the left bank of the meandering and bounteous Swat river, spreading the light of education. Most of the teachers were Irish nuns who had devoted their lives to educating Swat’s children. They arrived in the bloom of their youth and returned in the autumn of their lives. They also educated the young girls in neighbouring villages and hamlets, without any thought of financial gains, teaching them the same courses as were …

South Asia descends into terror's vortex: Two Perspectives from Asia Times

South Asia descends into terror's vortex
By M K Bhadrakumar, Asia Times, December 25, 2008

South Asians will watch the year end in a pall of gloom. The region is fast getting sucked into the vortex of terrorism. The Afghan war has crossed the Khyber and is stealthily advancing towards the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains.

Whatever hopes might have lingered that Barack Obama would be a harbinger of "change", have also been dashed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The Financial Times of London reported on Monday that in an exclusive interview Rice prophesied that the incoming Obama administration might have little option but to follow the current US approach on a range of foreign policy issues. Significantly, her prognosis figured in the course of a foreign policy review that primarily focused on Russia, Iran and Afghanistan.

South Asian security is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the United States made great strides in getting embedded in the region on a long-term fo…

Who assassinated Benazir Bhutto?

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Who assassinated Benazir Bhutto?
The News, December 23, 2008
By Lubna Thomas

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was attacked from three sides on December 27, 2007 in Rawalpindi. One of the assassins seen in the videos fired at her from the left side but the cause of her death was a wound on the right side of her head. Her vehicle was supposed to turn left towards Gawalmandi from the Liaquat Bagh but police blocked the road from the left side and her vehicle was forced to turn right after the public meeting and she was attacked immediately after taking the right turn.

These facts were revealed in a special investigative episode of Capital Talk on Geo News on Monday night. Hamid Mir conducted the investigations and interviewed all those who were present with Benazir Bhutto in her vehicle at the time of the attack. He also interviewed some key eyewitnesses who were injured in the attack.

Benazir Bhutto also wrote an email to an American journalist, Wolf Blitzer, on October 26, 2…

Islam in the West: Young Muslims Build a Subculture on an Underground Book

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Young Muslims Build a Subculture on an Underground Book
By CHRISTOPHER MAAG, New York Times, December 22, 2008

CLEVELAND — Five years ago, young Muslims across the United States began reading and passing along a blurry, photocopied novel called “The Taqwacores,” about imaginary punk rock Muslims in Buffalo.

“This book helped me create my identity,” said Naina Syed, 14, a high school freshman in Coventry, Conn.

A Muslim born in Pakistan, Naina said she spent hours on the phone listening to her older sister read the novel to her. “When I finally read the book for myself,” she said, “it was an amazing experience.”

The novel is “The Catcher in the Rye” for young Muslims, said Carl W. Ernst, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Springing from the imagination of Michael Muhammad Knight, it inspired disaffected young Muslims in the United States to form real Muslim punk bands and build their own subculture.

Now the underground success of Muslim punk…

Book Review: The Duel, Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power

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COVER STORY: Point Of Return
Reviewed By Shahid Javed Burki, Dawn, December 21, 2008

The Duel, Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power
By Tariq Ali

Tariq Ali’s latest book could not have been published at a better time. On November 26 Mumbai was attacked by a small group of terrorists who, it is said, came from the sea and took over a couple of five star hotels, the city’s main railway station, a hospital, and a Jewish centre.

According to the Indian intelligence agencies, there were only 10 terrorists who held some of the symbols of Mumbai’s economic power, social vibrancy and dynamism in their grip for three days. By the time they were overpowered, nearly 200 people were dead, many more were injured, the home minister of the Indian government had resigned and India and Pakistan were once again locked in a verbal dispute that could deteriorate into something worse by the time this review is published.

What is the relevance of this incident to the book under review? Tariq Ali looks d…

Newsweek's Global Elite - Pakistan's Army Chief is No. 20!

Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
NEWSWEEK, Published Dec 20, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Jan 5, 2009

In theory this mumbling, chain-smoking general answers to President Asif Ali Zardari. But Kayani and his troops remain the dominant power in what could be the most dangerous country in the world. He's responsible for Pakistan's nukes; for the battle against Al Qaeda and its tribal allies along the Afghan border; and for managing tensions with neighbor India. So far, his army has kept itself out of politics and seems focused on the battle against jihadists. In the wake of the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Kayani stood firm on Pakistan's sovereignty while also taking measures against the alleged sponsors of the outrage.

Kayani insists he's a committed democrat, but he nevertheless argues that military interventions (there have been four since independence 61 years ago) are sometimes necessary to maintain Pakistan's stability. He likens coups to temporary bypasse…

Arms recovered from Lal Masjid stolen from Islamabad Police Station

Arms recovered from Lal Masjid stolen
The News, December 22, 2008
SHO among 10 cops arrested; SSP removed, ASP suspended
By Shakeel Anjum

ISLAMABAD: Heavy consignment of arms and ammunition, recovered during the Lal Masjid operation in July last year, has been stolen from the Aabpara police station, police and intelligence agencies sources told The News. About 80 guns, including mortars, heavy machine guns (HMGs), light machine guns (LMGs), Kalashnikovs and a large quantity of bullets were among the stolen weapons.

Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik, taking serious notice of the incident, has removed SSP Islamabad Capt (retd) Ahmad Latif from his post with immediate effect and suspended ASP (city) Dr Shahzad Asif while station house officer (SHO) Malik Naeem Iqbal, five assistance sub-inspectors (ASIs), including Muharrar, a head constable and four constables have been arrested. The interior adviser has asked the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Islamabad to hold inquiry into the incident.

Indian Muslims and Mumbai

Indian Muslims and Mumbai
By Kunwar Idris, Dawn, December 21, 2008

THE agonising memories of the disintegration of Pakistan have returned to haunt at a time when rebels freely roam vast swathes of our territory in the northwest and India is growling in anger from across the eastern border.

Can it happen again? Hopefully, it will not. This hope is instinctive and not born of glib talk coming from the president and the prime minister assuring us that Pakistan is capable and ready to defend its integrity. Such assurances were plentiful in 1971.

As Karachi’s district magistrate in those fateful days, it was the lot of this writer to witness President Yahya and other leaders flying into Karachi from Dhaka one after the other and telling the people that the ‘miscreants’ had been crushed and that calm had returned to East Pakistan.

Gen Tikka Khan was the last to arrive past midnight one day. He was then surrounded by a gaggle of journalists who had been monitoring the news, contrary to official a…

Barbarians at the gate: Militant Islamist forces Vs. democratic forces of enlightenment

Barbarians at the gate
The News, December 21, 2008
by Ghazi Salahuddin

There has been no dearth, for some time, of foreign experts and analysts who imply that Pakistan is becoming a failed state. That Nawaz Sharif should now have reasons to corroborate this assessment is surely ominous. Reflecting the impression that the global media has projected about Pakistan being the most dangerous place in the world, he has said that the country has become ungovernable, though he pointedly attributes this to the damage done by the dictatorial rule of Pervez Musharraf.

If Pakistan is beginning to present the look of a failed state and if it is ungovernable in the eyes of a politician of Nawaz Sharif's importance – and that too in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage that has planted frightening thoughts in the minds of most Pakistanis – what lies ahead?

At one level, remarks made by the leader of his faction of Pakistan Muslim League in Geo's 'Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath' on Thursday ev…

Memo to the President: Expand the Agenda in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Memo to the President: Expand the Agenda in Pakistan and Afghanistan

To: President-Elect Obama
From: Vanda Felbab-Brown, The Brookings Institution
Date: December 18, 2008
Re: Expand the Agenda in Pakistan and Afghanistan

The Situation

You inherit a dangerous crisis in South Asia. The war in Afghanistan is not being won. Al Qa’eda has built a stronghold in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The November attacks in Mumbai painfully show the serious threat of jihadist terrorism. As a result of those attacks, tensions are running high between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries that have fought four wars.

Your administration will need to deal urgently with many interrelated dimensions of the crisis:

The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is becoming stronger and has succeeded in creating an atmosphere of great insecurity. In much of Afghanistan’s south and increasingly in its east, government officials, international advisers and even local district chiefs do not dare tra…

Murder she wrote

Murder she wrote
By Ayesha Siddiqa, Dawn, December 19, 2008

THESE days a common concern of many ordinary Pakistanis pertains to the conspiracy to destroy the country. But what happens when the country’s own institutions are involved in spinning a cobweb or falling into a trap that can cause ultimate damage to the state is a question worth asking. This line of questioning stems from a story recently published in Britain’s Sunday Times on Dec 14 and reported by Dawn the following day.

The story titled ‘UK may help find Pakistani general’s killers’ written by Carey Schofield is about the mysterious death of former Special Services Group Maj-Gen Amir Faisal Alavi. The article claims that Gen Alavi was not killed by militants in November 2008 as claimed initially but that those responsible may have been some of his senior colleagues about whom he had complained to army chief Gen Kayani with regard to their alleged involvement in evil and corrupt transactions with the Taliban. These officers, …

Thousands rally against US, NATO in NW Pakistan: AFP

Thousands rally against US, NATO in NW Pakistan
AFP, December 18, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Thousands of protesters rallied in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Thursday, demanding that Islamabad end its logistical support for US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The crowd of about 5,000 demonstrators chanted "Allahu akbar" (God is greater), "Crush America" and "No to NATO supplies" as they marched through Peshawar, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

The rally came amid a recent spike in attacks by Taliban militants on NATO and US supply depots on Peshawar's outskirts, close to Pakistan's lawless tribal areas -- a hotbed of Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity.

International forces in Afghanistan are hugely dependent on Islamabad for their supplies and equipment, with about 80 percent transported through Pakistan and then across the border.

The chief of the radical Jamaat-i-Islami party, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, told protesters: "It is a shame fo…

Who Killed Hemant Karkare?

Profile: All about Abdul Rahman Antulay
CNN-IBN, December 18, 2008

The Government appeared embarrassed on Wednesday after Minority Affairs Minister denied doubting that terrorists killed a senior police officer in Mumbai.

The minister denied making controversial statements on the murder of chief of Maharashtra police's anti-terrorist squad, Hemant Karkare, who was killed during the Mumbai terror attacks on November 26.

He told Parliament that he wanted to know who sent Kakare and two other police officers after terrorists.

The man who gave way to a new debate in the Parliament is Abdul Rahman Antulay. He is the Minority Affairs Minister in the UPA Government.

This 79-year-old minister is a four time Lok Sabha MP and represents the Kulaba Lok Sabha seat of Raigad, Maharashtra.

Antulay was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra from 1980 to 1982, the only Muslim politician to be the chief minister of the state so far.

He had to quit as chief minister in 1982 following the cement scandal an…

Pakistanis support crackdown on terrorists

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Pakistanis Support Tougher Stance on Terrorism
Nearly half of citizens (49%) say their government isn’t doing enough
by Julie Ray

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A recent Gallup Poll of Pakistanis suggests their government has domestic support for a crackdown on Pakistan-based extremists: 60% of Pakistanis interviewed in October said their government should take a tougher approach to rid their country of terrorist activities.

Since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, last month, Pakistan has been under intense international pressure to take serious action against militants inside its borders. At the same time, attacks have continued on Pakistan's own soil, such as the Dec. 5 bombing in Peshawar that killed 29 and wounded 100. Pakistanis have endured hundreds of terrorism-related incidents this year; one of the worst of which -- a suicide attack on the Marriott Hotel in the capital Islamabad -- took place shortly before the October Gallup Poll.

Gallup's survey shows substantial support acro…