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Posts from — May 2010

Taliban target Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, 70 killed

Taliban gun men revisited Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan on Friday May 28, targetted two mosques of minority Ahmadis and killed seventy people. At least 90 people were injured. The last major attack was in March when a double suicide bombing killed dozens. This was for the first time Ahmadis were attacked. Hitherto, militants were targetting Shia Muslims.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim and follow all Islamic rituals. But they were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan in 1974 and in 1984 they were legally barred from proselytising or identifying themselves as Muslims.

“Punjabi chapter” of the Pakistan Taliban, formally known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The attacks on minority communities were expected as banners of hatred against minorities were displayed in several parts of Lahore on Thursday. One of the anonymous banners in Ghari Shahu area read: “Jews Christians and Ahmedis are the enemies of Islam.”

Police said gunmen made the brazen attack shortly after Friday prayers at the Ahmadi mosques at Model Town and Ghari Shahu areas. Most of the worshippers were still inside the mosques as militants armed with AK-47 rifles, shotguns, grenades and other explosive devices entered through main gates, clearing their way with gunfire and hurling grenades,

The number of terrorists involved in the Ghari Shahu mosque is not known. while some were holed up inside the building  others took up positions on the  rooftop and minarets, and fired at security officials trying to enter the building. Six blasts were heard inside the mosque.

Four attackers were involved in the Model Town attack; two of them managed to climb over the wall of the mosque and threw grenades, while the other two opened fire outside,

Police and elite forces took control of the two buildings after battling with the gunmen for nearly three hours, according to reports.

May 29, 2010   No Comments

Endless squabbles: op-ed by Azam Khalil in the Nation, May 20

The writer is a freelance columnist in Pakistan.
The Pakistani politicians have consistently refused to learn from history. And the result is that the democratic forces have continued to suffer due to the endless squabbles between the politicians of different political parties.
Nevertheless, the failure of the present political leadership of the country to evolve a system of tolerance, fairplay, equity and due process of law has resulted time and again in the emergence of anti-democratic forces, which have made a mess of this country after coming to power. So when the two major political parties – Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) – agreed on the Charter of Democracy everyone believed that the politics of vengeance and vendetta had been buried for good. While a little maturity can be seen among the top political leadership of the country, unfortunately mudslinging has continued unabated, especially the lower tiers of every political party continue to relish in sniping against one another.
The most recent example is when Hamesh Khan, a key figure in the Rs 10 billion Bank of Punjab scam, was extradited from the United States; a vicious debate erupted between the PML-N and the PML-Q. Some members of the Nawaz League accused Chaudhry Pervaiz Ilahi and his son of leaving the country ostensibly fearing that they may be “exposed” by Khan, who may provide incriminating evidence against them. On the contrary, the PML-Q leadership accused their opponents of defaulting to a tune of Rs 1.30 billion with the same bank.
The ‘Q’ League also accused the family of CM Punjab of exerting undue pressure on the former President of the Punjab of Bank after what they said was Khan’s refusal to grant them a heavy loan. The incumbent leader of PML-Q has also publicly expressed his fears that the Punjab government might pressurise Hamesh Khan “to become an approver against the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Pervaiz Ilahi.”
As days passed, the debate is becoming extremely depressing with both sides making personal attacks, which could damage the already vulnerable image of the politicians in this country. Originally, this debate started when the issue of fake degrees possessed by some members of the National and Provincial Assemblies was being discussed across the country. In the past, there had been several setbacks for the politicians when, for example a lady MPA of the Punjab Assembly was caught purchasing goods with a stolen credit card. Likewise, the image of the politicians worsened when the newspapers flashed a report that the henchmen of a sitting MNA, from Sialkot, had kidnapped Director Education and forcibly obtained appointment letters for persons of his choice.
Anyway, while difference of opinion and criticism by the opposition parties is a legitimate phenomenon in a democratic set up; however, it should definitely not be used to derail the democratic process. But whenever criticism crosses the red line it creates despondency and confusion amongst the people, which further results in disillusionment. That eventually paves the way for intervention by forces that are in their very essence anti-democratic. But I hope that the issue of Hamesh Khan will not reach a point that could derail the institution of democracy.
The case of Bank of Punjab is presently subjudice and should be treated as a non-issue as far as the vital interest of the country is concerned. This does not mean that the corrupt and those who are involved in serious financial irregularities should not be punished; it means that the country should have a system and institutions that should be responsible to deal according to the law with all such issues that surface from time to time in this country. The basic point that must be remembered by the political leadership is that the case of Hamesh Khan should be dealt with strictly on merit and that the former chief of the bank should be provided with all the opportunities that are available under the law for his defence.
No political party should be allowed to manipulate or use the issue of Bank of Punjab scam as an instrument of politics. And Mr Khan should not be used by the Punjab government to damage or even harass their political opponents. At present, it is suspected that Mr Khan may never get a fair trial and it was now upto the justices, who are seized with the matter, to ensure that the due process of law is not derailed because of the media trial and the gamesmanship that has been mounted by rival political parties against one another on this issue.
One also hopes that the politicians would calm down and allow the case to proceed in a normal judicious way and try not to influence the outcome of the proceedings by issuing statements that could have a direct bearing on the case that is pending before the superior judiciary of this country. The politicians should also remember that they should only accuse their political opponents of the wrongdoing, if they have verifiable evidence, because while allegations may result in point scoring, but at the end of the day it would inevitably lead to tarnishing the image of the political institutions of Pakistan.
It is expected that both PML-N and PML-Q will come out of their present narrow mindedness and calculate the damage that is being caused by their unnecessary sniping against one another. They must remember that their interest would be served much better, if they evolve a system that benefits the common people and encourages the rule of law in Pakistan. http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/20-May-2010/Endless-squabbles

May 20, 2010   No Comments

Book Review:Pakistan: Democracy, Terror and the Building of a Nation by Iftikhar Malik

(New Holland, 208pp, £9.99, ISBN 9781847734532)
Book Review in Times Higher education. UK

Reviewer: Farzana Shaikh
Associate Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), London

It has become fashionable among Pakistan’s beleaguered liberal classes to try to dilute the influence of a heavily Islamised state narrative by promoting an alternative vision. Invoking the pre-Islamic history of the country’s ethnically diverse regions, it summons the idea of a Pakistani “nation” whose defining feature is not so much a shared religion – Islam – but the collective culture of communities long settled in the valleys of the River Indus.

This attempt to recast Pakistan as an “Indus Valley nation” has two objectives. The first is to settle the question of Pakistan’s national identity by identifying its “local” roots. By so doing, Pakistan appears as a nation that is heir to a distinct Indus Valley civilisation, whose appropriation of Islam is judged merely to highlight that which separated it from the predominantly Hindu societies of the Gangetic plains – differences formalised in 1947.

The second objective is to promote Pakistan as a “composite project” embraced by all communities indigenous to the Indus region without regard to their religion, race or ethnic background. The agenda is to widen the space for a more liberal-democratic and pluralist discourse in Pakistan than that allowed for by a state exclusively dedicated to Islam.

These themes find a strong echo in Iftikhar Malik’s analysis of Pakistan’s troubled engagement with issues of identity, democracy and pluralism since 9/11. Reflecting on the travails of this “modern nation in an ancient land”, he concludes that, notwithstanding significant odds, there are still some residual opportunities for “democracy, dialogue and distributive justice”. He points to feudal dynasties such as those of the Bhuttos, who were long accustomed to exercising seigneurial rights but have been forced to bow to the ballot box; to authoritarian military regimes, which have been obliged to surrender to the rule of law; and to medieval-minded religious extremists, who have been effectively contained by a nascent middle class committed to progress and tolerance.

Nevertheless, these tensions have taken a heavy toll. A widening Islamist insurgency, broken institutions, an ever-ambitious military and a virtually paralysed economy threaten the country. Their causes are complex, yet for Malik (as for most Pakistanis), the fault lies chiefly with foreign powers, notably the US and India. Their nefarious role looms large in his account of the spread of Islamic extremism in Pakistan, of the country’s failed experiments with democracy, and of the iron grip of its dominant military. Even the crisis triggered in 1971 by the secession of the country’s eastern province (East Pakistan), which led Pakistan to adopt a sharper Islamic profile, is blamed on others, namely India, for “push(ing) the Indus Valley nation into seeking greater commonality with West Asia and other Muslim states”.

This temptation to portray Pakistan as a victim whose history has been made and mangled by others is unfortunate, as it obscures what is otherwise a thoughtful exploration of this country and its many misfortunes. For Pakistan did make choices – choices that have left it today hopelessly vulnerable to the influence of foreign powers and their ideas. By choosing not to clarify its key relationship with Islam, the state fell prey to the tides of political Islam, whose roots lay beyond its borders. Equally, by choosing to elevate the cause of Kashmir above the welfare of its own citizens and pitting them in a futile conflict with India, Pakistan invited foreign interference. These facts, unpalatable though they are, need to be addressed if we are to move towards an intellectually honest interpretation of a country that demands to be better understood. www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=411636&c=2

May 20, 2010   No Comments

Name-calling didn’t trigger it: op-ed by Imran Khan in The News, May 20

The writer is an economist working in Islamabad.
In his article of May 18, Mr Kashif Jahangiri repeats his claim that the current movement for Hazara province is a reaction to the “contempt” shown by Pakhtuns to Hazarewals. As I mentioned in my earlier article, this labelling is not unique to Pakhtuns and Hazarewals, and it’s also not one-sided.

While Mr Jahangiri bemoans the label of “Punjabi” and the contempt contained in it, I would remind him of labels like “Khocha,” “Akhrot” and “Phairay Pathan” that are tagged on Pakhtuns by Hindko speakers. Of course, I speak of my own experience, and I certainly have not met every Hindkowan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to ascertain whether they think of Pakhtuns as mentally deficient lower-life forms. I also cannot conclude on the basis of my personal experience whether these comments end at banter or are signs of deep-seated hate in the hearts of Hindkowans. Any conclusion that I draw based on my own experience and anecdotes from my friends and family would be marred by subjectivity. Although the conclusion and evidence would make sense to me, it would definitely not be good enough to be used in a debate such as this.

It is for this reason that I consider a democratically elected provincial assembly as the ideal barometer to judge whether this ethnic labelling is merely jest or entrenched ethnic hostility. And whether the supposed “contempt” and “hatred” of the Pashto-speaking electoral base is confirmed by the attitude of their elected leaders. But, as mentioned in my last article, Pakhtun-majority assemblies in the province have had no qualms about electing Hindko-speaking chief ministers. Not only that, the former NWFP has had more chief ministers from Hindko-speaking Hazara Division than from any other division of the province. Even Pakhtun nationalists have accepted Hindko speakers as their leaders.

The champions of the Pakhtunkhwa cause on televised debates, ANP stalwarts Haji Adeel and Bashir Bilour, are both Hindko speakers from Peshawar. This evidence only highlights the harmony and bonding between these two communities. The sour experiences of a few individuals cannot be used as proof of the case being otherwise, especially when the evidence in support of the harmony is undeniable and massive.

Ethnic discrimination and contempt that is of any consequence is more than just verbal. Reaction to labelling and name-calling subsides as one ages, and is an essential part of one’s growing up. Only when this labelling is accompanied by a history of bloodshed and economic exploitation does it have the potential to mobilise whole communities, ethnic groups or races into action. For instance, the term “Nigger” does not just refer to the skin colour of a race, but has a history of bondage, slavery and exploitation that makes it a slur for those against whom it is used. Its counterpart “Red Neck,” also a racist slur, does not carry the same venom as the “N-Word” because of the different experience of those it is applied to.

The Bengalis, despite being an outright majority in united Pakistan, were treated in a despicable manner in Pakistan. President Ayub Khan’s reference to them as “rats” (for which he later apologissed) was based on the “martial race” concept. Our Bengali brothers were denied of many of their constitutional and economic rights. For instance, their representation in the army was negligible, a mere five per cent of all the commissioned officers in the Pakistani army in 1965, according to the Library of Congress Country Study.

The majority in East Pakistan received a much smaller share even in development spending. If one is to divide the development expenditure of East Pakistan over that of West Pakistan, then, from 1950 to 1970, the Eastern Wing received just 40 per cent of the amount that was spent on West Pakistan. In other words, for every Rs100 spent in the minority West Pakistan, Rs40 were spent in the majority East Pakistan (source: the Planning Commission of Pakistan).

I completely agree with Mr Jahangiri when he says that the treatment of Bengalis by West Pakistanis was too distasteful to be compared with the communities featuring in our discussion. It is also for this lack of bloodshed and a lack of economic exploitation between Hindkowans and Pakhtuns that the case presented by Mr Jahangiri does not hold against rational scrutiny.

I also agree with Mr Jahangiri when he says that the dismissive approach adopted by West Pakistan in dealing with the genuine demands regarding the Bengali language was one of the key reasons for the creation of Bangladesh. Sadly, this dismissive approach was not limited to Bengali and was adopted in the renaming of NWFP as well.

The officialdom of East Pakistan was also resisted by the Bihari minority at that time. But, as Mr Jahangiri would agree, the dismissal of that legitimate demand was a wrong incurred by the Bengalis, a wrong that cannot be justified by the citing of the Biharis’ opposition. Similarly, the minority opposition to the name Pakhtunkhwa should not have been used to incur a similar wrong on the Pakhtuns.

One has to acknowledge the fact that the name Pakhtunkhwa has been approved by the assemblies of the province in question, both with and without ANP majority, and thus is much more than a mere “unreasonable” demand by Pakhtun nationalists. Furthermore, the name Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is a result of a series of compromises on the part of those who had been demanding “Pakhtunkhwa.”

One of the earliest criticisms of the abbreviation “NWFP” was done by the founding fathers of Pakistan. The historic 1933 pamphlet Now or Never, which called for the creation of Pakistan, refers to “Afghania Province.” Chaudhry Rehmat Ali decried the name NWFP by saying “It is wrongful, because it suppresses the social entity of these people.”

The rejection of “Afghania” (the first “a” in “Pakistan”) was followed by the rejection of “Pakhtunistan,” and then “Pakhtunkhwa,” both names acceptable to and demanded by a majority of the province, but denied due to minority opposition. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was actually a suggestion from those who opposed the hyphenated name and its acceptance and showed magnanimity on the part of the Pakhtuns. But their criticism, rather than appreciation for their agreeing to it, is mind-boggling, to say the least.

The demand for smaller provinces is a justified demand, for which our Constitution does have provisions. These four provinces were created to administer the population back in 1947. Given the massive rise in our numbers since then, the creation of smaller provinces makes sense even on an administrative level.

But, unlike Mr Jahangiri, I would not dub the Sooba Hazara movement as a reaction to the label “Punjabiyaan.” I would not define this outpouring on the streets and calls for complete shutter-downs as a reaction to mere name-calling. Furthermore, there are Awans, Gujjars, Abbasis and Jatts in Hazara who do not have a Pakhtun lineage and for whom the “denial of true identity” argument used by Mr Jahangiri, does not hold. Given that, I am confused as to what Mr Jahangiri means when he says “…it is the rejection of the identity of Hazarewals that is being exploited to flare up emotions.” How is the slur “Punjabiyaan” a rejection of the identity of Awans, Gujars, Jatts, and other non-Pakhtun Hazarewals?

There is a fair chance that for the campaigners of the Sooba Hazara movement, getting a province means a true realisation of their identity, which is neither Pakhtun nor Punjabi, but Hazaraewal. Maybe they feel that with their own separate province they would be able to get a higher level of development and prosperity. More power to them if that is the case.

A non-violent and peaceful democratic struggle is the only way for the achievement of their goals. Their efforts would be a fine addition to the history of democratic struggles in Pakistan, and would make this country a stronger federation, as well as a more mature democracy. http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=240210

May 20, 2010   No Comments

JI supports demand for Hazara province

ABBOTTABAD/MANSEHRA: Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Wednesday staged protest rallies in support of a separate province for Hazara.
The rally in Abbottabad was led by JI Central Secretary General Liaqat Baloch, leaders of the Hazara Tehrik action committee including Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob, Abdur Razak Abbasi and Dr Azhar Jadoon.
The JI secretary general said it would lead to a revolution in the country if the Hazara province was not created forthwith. He added the JI would support the Hazara Tehrik long march towards Islamabad and receive the participants at Jhari Kas.
Liaqat Baloch flayed the Awami National Party (ANP) for promoting regional and ethnic politics. He asked the government to remove drawbacks in the 18th Amendment and establish Hazara province through another amendment.
Earlier, speaking at a rally in Mansehra, the JI leader said the ANP never accepted existence of Pakistan and it was striving for greater Pakhtunistan after deceiving the PPP leaders. Younas Khattak, Dr Tariq Sherazi, Syed Junaid Qasim, Hadayatullah Shah, Maulana Qudratullah Qadri, Rafique Rehman Qamar and others also spoke on occasion.
Liaqat Baloch said his party was in favour of more provinces in the country and would launch a movement for it.“It is the need of the hour that rulers listen to the voice of people and create a separate province of Hazara as more provinces can strengthen the federation,” he said.
The JI leader said that the rulers should refuse to take dictates from the US, but lamented that they were following the policy of divide and rule. Earlier JI staged a rally, which started from Markaz-e-Islami and culminated at Markazi Chowk.

May 20, 2010   No Comments

‘Govt will facilitate judiciary if SC summons Musharraf’

ISLAMABAD: The government will facilitate the judiciary if it decides to summon former president Pervez Musharraf, Law Minister Babar Awan said on Wednesday.
Winding up the debate on the president’s address to the joint session of parliament in the Senate, he said, “The government will not create any hurdles in the way of the apex court if it summons Musharraf in connection with the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).” However, he said the government was not ready to violate the constitution and the law pertaining to “certain issues”.
In his speech, the law minister praised the president, saying that Zardari’s third address to parliament was proof that the roots of democracy were being strengthened in the country.

He said the presidential address was a road map for the government and that following the map would result in progress on the country’s political, economic and democratic agenda.

Appear in court: “The Pakistan People’s party (PPP) believes in accountability, but it should be across the board and must not result in political victimisation… it should not be for a specific person or party,” the law minister said, adding that he would appear before the SC on March 25 to present the government’s point of view on the implementation of the NRO, which reflects the respect that the government has for the judiciary.

Two offices: Defending the president for holding two offices, the law minister said there was nothing in the constitution that suggested that more than one office cannot be held by a president.
The law minister condemned the competition of the blasphemous cartoons held by some foreign countries, saying the government would take up the issue at an international level. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\20\story_20-5-2010_pg1_3

Musharraf says he will return before next election

WASHINGTON, May 19: Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has said that he will return to Pakistan before the next elections.
At a news conference in Washington, the former military ruler also launched a group called Friends of Pakistan First, which included delegates from 26 US states.
The group will provide “financial, technical and intellectual” support to Mr Musharraf’s campaign for re-launching himself into Pakistani politics without the military’s backing.
“I have decided to return to Pakistan and participate in politics,” he told the briefing. “I have not fixed a date yet but there is a desire to return before the next elections, whether they are end-term or mid-term.”
The former military ruler disagreed with suggestion that his bid to re-launch himself would fail because he did not have enough political support in the country and also lacked an effective political institution to back his move.
“I do not overestimate myself but underestimation is also wrong,” he said. “I do not know why Imran Khan failed and I do not believe in such comparisons. But I think I can succeed.”
The former military strongman said that he already enjoyed some popular support, which he hoped would expand when he returned home.
“There are MPAs, MNAs and senators who already support us. And they will join our group when it is formally launched in Pakistan,” he said. www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/musharraf-says-he-will-return-before-next-election-050.

May 20, 2010   No Comments

Intelligence agencies confirm Hamid Mir’s voice in audio clip: The Daily Times, May 20

LAHORE: Intelligence agencies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence have presented an investigation report to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani regarding an audiotape of the telephonic conversation between TV anchor Hamid Mir and an unidentified Taliban militant, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday.
Quoting reliable sources, the channel said the report submitted by three intelligence agencies confirmed the authenticity of the audio clip after a detailed investigation.
Original: “The conversation between Hamid Mir and the Taliban militant is original and has been proved by the audiotape,” the report said.
Mir is currently working as Islamabad Executive Editor for Geo News channel.
According to BBC Urdu, the Jang Group has set up an investigation committee and has announced the conducting of an impartial investigation in this regard.
A large number of websites carry the contents of the audiotape, describing it a candid conversation on the telephone between Hamid Mir and a militant.
Mir, who finds himself in the midst of a raging debate on the issue of journalistic ethics, has described the taped conversation “doctored” and “concocted”.
Separately, Senator Faisal Raza Abidi said the government had verified the authenticity of the voices on the audio tape from intelligence agencies. He said the audio clipping proved Hamid Mir’s links with the Taliban.


Osama Khalid to lodge FIR against Hamid Mir
LAHORE: Osama Khalid, son of former Inter-Services Intelligence official Khalid Khawaja who was murdered by relatively less-known terrorist group the Asian Tigers on April 23, has said that he will take legal action and register an FIR against Geo News anchor Hamid Mir over what he called “playing an instigative role in his father’s murder”, a private TV channel reported on Wednesday.
Talking to the BBC Urdu, Khalid said the unidentified Taliban in the audiotape was Usman Punjabi who used an alias of Muhammad Omar while talking to various journalists.
Mir, who is in the midst of a raging debate on journalistic ethics, called the taped conversation “doctored”.
Original: Osama rejected Mir’s claims, saying the audiotape was original and he would prove it in court.
“Hamid Mir instigated the militants to murder my father,” he said, adding he would soon register a case against Mir for murdering his father.
He also requested the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo motu notice of the incident.
Kicking: Osama also demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter, and asked journalists to kick the “black sheep” out of the profession.
The audio clip had Mir divulging dirt on Khawaja, ostensibly to the Taliban militant who was to cross examine the former ISI official.
The person on the other end asks Mir for information on Khalid Khawaja. Mir goes on to link Khawaja to the CIA, an international network of Qadianis and an American named Mansur Ejaz. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\05\20\story_20-5-2010_pg7_20

May 20, 2010   No Comments

Anchor claims damning tape doctored ; By Amir Wasim and Nasir Iqbal in The Dawn, May 19

ISLAMABAD: The ripples caused by the emergence of an audio tape on the web last week of an alleged telephone conversation between a prominent Pakistani journalist and a Pakistani Taliban militant has blown into a full-fledged controversy, with the journalist and television anchor now completely denying his involvement and many others calling for a high-level investigation to establish truth.

Hamid Mir, who finds himself in the midst of a raging debate on the issue of journalistic ethics, has moved a step further from describing the taped conversation as doctored or concocted to completely denying that it was his voice. And for all this he is blaming the country’s top civilian intelligence service, the Intelligence Bureau Directorate which, according to him, was part of a larger game to malign him and a few others.

Shocking as it is, the telephone conversation revolves round the alleged dubious role of an Islamic hardliner and former ISI operative Khalid Khwaja, and that too when he was still in the captivity of a little known militant group Asian Tigers. The man posing himself to be Hamid Mir is heard accusing Khalid Khwaja of being a notorious double agent, who had been working for everyone from the American CIA to Qadianis, and having played a dirty role in the Lal Masjid episode.

The large number of websites where this audio tape is currently available describe it as a candid conversation on telephone between Hamid Mir and a Punjabi Taliban. Some have gone to the extent of accusing Mr Mir to be one of the instigators for what happened to Khalid Khwaja, as within days of this supposed conversation a video of Mr Khwaja was released in which he had made similar “confessions” of his involvement in the Lal Masjid saga, and of working for CIA. Within days of this video tape, Mr Khwaja was shot dead and his body was thrown on a road in North Waziristan.

However, Hamid Mir says he neither has anything to do with such a conversation, nor he can even think of getting involved in such an affair. He has also denied the content of a statement, purported to have been issued by the Taliban, who denied this telephone conversation but at the same time blamed the telephone company PTCL for illegally recording telephones of its subscribers.

In fact, talking to Dawn in his office on Tuesday Hamid Mir claimed that the entire tape recording and its uploading on the website was the work of IB and that too at the behest of President Zardari and the government to malign him as, according to him, he has been a bitter critic of President Zardari and others in his programmes.

Mr Mir claimed that the IB had used a special gadget through which they could change the voices. “They took my voice sample and changed it to look my voice through the special gadget,” he said. He warned that more such tapes involving some other journalists and politicians would surface in near future.

Mr Mir further claimed that he had been informed about this purported tape before time by Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “The interior minister took me to his Parliament House chamber on Thursday and told me that an audio tape had been prepared to implicate me in some terrorism-related issue,” he said, adding the minister also told him that his life was in danger. “The minister even advised me to keep some guards with me,” he said.

Mr Mir claimed that the audio tape was first released on a blog being run by some people belonging to the ruling PPP.

In the tape, Mr Mir is purportedly heard asking an unknown Taliban member to interrogate Khalid Khwaja over his links with the CIA and his role in the Lal Masjid siege. The journalist also narrates some incidents to prove that Khalid Khwaja was a CIA agent. In the conversation, Mr Mir tells the unknown person that Khalid Khwaja had arranged his meeting with an alleged CIA man Mansoor Ijaz in Islamabad. Similarly, Mr Mir has also narrated an incident as to how on the request of Khalid Khwaja he arranged a meeting of the widow of an alleged Al Qaeda man, Abdul Rehman ‘al-Kennedy’, with her son in the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Rawalpindi, and that later it was revealed that the woman was a Canadian national and also a CIA agent.

When asked about the contents of the controversial tape, Mr Mir said that in the recent past he had talked about Khalid Khwaja in detail on telephone only with an office-bearer of the PPP. He, however, denied that he had had any meeting with Mansoor Ijaz in Pakistan. He, however, confirmed the other part of the tape and admitted that he had “arranged a meeting of a woman with her son at the CMH on the request of Khalid Khwaja.” But, he said, later he came to know that one of the sons of the woman living in the US was working for the CIA and not that woman as claimed in the audio tape.

Mr Mir said he had met Mansoor Ijaz only once in New York in 1995 where he had gone as part of the delegation of the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto. “Mansoor Ijaz had come to see Ms Bhutto, but instead he met Asif Zardari,” he said.

When contacted, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Pervez Shaukat refused to comment on the issue, saying they would come out with some statement in the next few days after holding consultations with other office-bearers.

Legal Notice

Meanwhile, Hamid Mir has served a legal notice on Publisher of Daily Times Salman Taseer who also happens to be the Governor of Punjab, Editor Rashid Rehman and Staff Reporter and Chief Executive Officer Business Plus Mian Ehsanul Haq demanding to pay general damages of Rs250 million as a compensation for allegedly damaging his reputation, along with a written apology within 14 days that should also be published in the newspaper in a similar manner and prominence as the alleged defamatory report was published.

“Our client vehemently denies the conversation made in the alleged communication as fabricated and concocted one,” the legal notice served by Advocate Assad Ullah Jaral on behalf of Hamid Mir said for publishing, what he claimed to be a libellous report titled: “Hamid Mir’s terrifying indiscretions,” along with transcript of alleged communication in the newspaper on May 10, 2010.

Besides on May 17, 2010, a private channel Business Plus also aired the same ‘negative propaganda’ against Mr Mir, the notice said, adding the act of defamation in the television programme and news bulletin was deliberate.http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/anchor-claims-damning-tape-doctored-950

May 19, 2010   No Comments

Tribal fighting in NWFP: op-ed by Arif Ayub in The Nation, May 18

The author is a former Pak envoy
 Vangaurd Books have done a great service by republishing the book Tribal Fighting in NWFP by General Sir Andrew Skeen. This was first published in 1932 and surprisingly is still extremely relevant, particularly as the US and Pakistan army are testing their mettle against the tribes. General Skeen served in the British Indian Army rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff. He saw active service on the Frontier from Mastuj to Kalat and has written a remarkable book on his experiences and his recommendations for updating the 1925 Manual of Operations in the North West Frontier of India.
The book has also been reissued to the Pakistan army and would provide valuable guidance on how to reduce casualties, while operating in FATA. This seems to be absolutely necessary since under the previous command the army exhibited a remarkable degree of ineptitude, lack of professionalism and callousness towards loss of life, which one had come to expect from the author of the Kargil debacle. The result was that in a few years of fighting the army lost more troops than it had in the wars with India. Moreover, the incident of the capture of a convoy of 300 personnel by 30 tribesmen showed the deterioration in the professionalism of our forces. Luckily no such incidents have been reported from the recent operations in Swat and Waziristan, and the army seems to be recovering its balance. Hopefully, this book will play an important role in educating the platoon and company commanders, as it seems that the army would have to undertake operations in almost all the agencies of FATA as the situation is getting out of control of the Frontier Corps.
The last time this had happened was in 1937 when 61,000 men were involved and before that in 1919-20 when 83,000 men were engaged.
The British always respected the fighting qualities of the tribes and invariably placed the Mehsuds as the best, followed by the Wazirs. They were compared to the wolf pack and the panthers. The Afridis normally came third. General Skeen has however placed the Mamunds as second, but has called the tribes “the finest individual fighters in the east, really formidable enemies, to despise whom means sure trouble.” While praising the tribesmen’s mobility and cunning, he adds that the army can only redress the place by discipline and fire power. Modern arms had slowly been arriving in the tribal areas through the Gulf and Afghanistan, but the British always had the edge with machine guns, heavy artillery, armoured vehicles and aircraft to which the tribesmen did not have any answer. Unfortunately, due to the Afghan Jihad the tribes now have access to Kalashnikovs as the basic weapon and also the 12.7 mm and 14.5 mm machine guns. The RPG-7 has also reduced the effectiveness of armour, particularly in the hills and at ranges of less than 500 metres. Our army therefore has a much more difficult task in restoring the balance.
Two-thirds of the book covers employment of piquets. This means that the campaign takes the form of a series of marches, each followed by halts, during which supplies are filled up, sick evacuated and permanent piquets established behind and in front of the halting place to secure their communications. The vanguard moves in accord with the progress of the flanked piquets. Details are given on the setting up of the piquets, their defence and withdrawal tactics. While the US has managed to completely dispense with this practice due to its total dominance of the air and its capability to provide 24 hour coverage of the battlefield through the drones, the Pakistan army is constrained by its lack of similar resources. At one time during the campaign in Waziristan the army was down to only two functional Cobra attack helicopters. We do not therefore have the luxury of dispensing with the piquets which are quite a time-consuming manoeuvre and also require considerable manpower. However, failure to undertake what is one of the steps in frontier warfare leads to debacles like the one with the convoy.
General Skeen also recognises the grey areas in frontier fighting and the importance of the political officer, “who is always with the column in the capacity of staff officer for political affairs. He will have a lot of work with those of the enemy who want to be friends and these must have free access to him. The spy or jasoos is a quaint institution, whose conception of his duty is to take as much news to his friends the enemy as he does to his enemies the troops. In fact a most bitter compliant was lodged by hostile sections that they had been denied the privilege and the emoluments of having some of their own men employed as spies.” The basic aim of the campaign is to restore civilian control as soon as possible and it is most unfortunate that our civil bureaucracy has become so dysfunctional that it has still been unable to take control of the Swat Valley, despite the pacification by the army. The result has been that the army has had to be involved in development work as well, which is quite an inefficient way of restoring peaceful conditions.
The importance of the frontier militias (FC) is also highlighted. “Their training and equipment fits them for rapid movement over the roughest ground, and they are of great value for long raids into tribal territory by night or day, for ambushes, and for patrolling the bigger hills outside the piquets of a column. Khassadars should be regarded with respect and suspicion. If their own tribe is not in the fighting and they have not been intimidated by another they can be of great use in bringing in information.”
General Skeen was quite sceptical about air power and noted that “any tribe that has the will to resist will never be coerced by air action alone.” The British were very careful about collateral damage through air bombing and had instituted a system of dropping leaflets before bombing any built up areas. We need to be as sensitive as the British since the objective is not to destroy the tribe, but to put them in a more conducive frame of mind to negotiate with the political authorities.  http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Opinions/Columns/18-May-2010/Tribal-fighting-in-NWFP

May 18, 2010   No Comments

Enforced disappearance: Govt not ready to free JSQM men despite court move

The Dawn, May 18
LARKANA, May 17: Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz chairman Basheer Khan Qureshi said on Monday that despite Supreme Court having taken suo motu notice of enforced disappearance of party leader Akash Mallah and worker Noor Mohammad Khaskheli, the government was not ready to release them.

Addressing participants of a procession at Royal Chowk here, Mr Qureshi said that he feared threat to their lives and alleged that the government was trying to release accused in JSQM worker Mushtaque Khaskheli’s murder case. Khaskheli was killed when a procession led by him in Karachi in July last year was fired upon.

Activists of JSQM held demonstrations across the province to voice protest against enforced disappearances of their colleagues and undue delay in dispensation of justice in Khaskheli murder case.

Mr Qureshi said that certain conspirators were out to create a rift among Sindhi leadership.

He criticised local Hesco managers for what he saw as artificial power shutdown of 14 to 16 hours. It had compounded hardships for people and inflicted huge losses on traders, he said.

He urged Hesco managers to stop loadshedding in Larkana and other parts of the province and warned that JSQM workers and general public would surround the office of the superintendent engineer of Hesco if duration of loadshedding was not reduced.

A complete strike was observed in Larkana on a call given by the local chapter of the JSQM. All main trade centres remained shut and traffic was thin on the roads.

In Hyderabad, JSQM workers took out a procession and held a demonstration outside the press club.

They criticised acute shortage of water and artificial power loadshedding in Sindh, warning if their demands were not accepted the party would launch a movement throughout the province.

In Nawabshah, JSQM activists held a demonstration outside the press club.

Local leaders of the party said that Akash and Noor Mohammed had been missing for a long time and alleged that they were picked up by agencies.

In Naushahro Feroze, Moro, Tharushah, Bhirya city, Kandiaro, Mehrabpur and in other towns of the district JSQM activists took out processions and held demonstrations http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/enforced-disappearance-govt-not-ready-to-free-jsqm-men-despite-court-move-qureshi-850

May 18, 2010   No Comments