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Posts from — February 2012

Man killed, five injured in Jamrud blast

LANDI KOTAL/GHALANAI, Feb 15: One person was killed and five others received injuries when a remote controlled bomb went off at a market in Jamrud tehsil of Khyber Agency on Wednesday.

Officials told Dawn that the device was fitted in a motorcycle, which was parked outside a narcotics shop in Alarkhel market of Wazir Dhand area.

They said that six persons were injured in the blast. The injured were shifted to a hospital in Peshawar. One of the critically injured identified as Habibullah, a resident of Bara, later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital, they added.

“The blast could possibly be a result of rivalry between Zakhakhel tribe and banned militant organisation Lashkar-i-Islam as the motorcycle was parked outside the shop of a Zakhakhel tribesman,” officials said. They added that Zakhakhel tribe had recently raised an armed lashkar with the name of Tawheedul Islam against LI.

However, nobody claimed responsibility for the blast.

Also, in Ghundi locality of Jamrud, Khasadar Force recovered three abducted persons and arrested one kidnapper.

Officials said that the raid was conducted after they got information about the presence of some abducted peoples in the area.

In Bara, unidentified gunmen shot dead two persons in Niazi market on Wednesday afternoon. Identity of the deceased and motive behind their killing could not be ascertained immediately.

In Mohmand Agency, security force repulsed an attack on a newly-established checkpost in Marghano Jala area of tehsil Khwezai on Wednesday night.

Official sources said that militants attacked the checkpost with heavy weapons at midnight but security forces retaliated and repulsed the attack.

Spokesperson for Mohmand Agency Taliban Mukarram Khurasani claimed responsibility for the attack. www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/man-killed-five-injured-in-jamrud-blast-2.html

February 16, 2012   No Comments

Malik declines to appear before commission

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has declined to appear before the Abbottabad inquiry commission because of “his official engagements”.

Sources in the commission told Dawn that a letter was written three weeks ago to the minister, summoning him for recording his statement.

“The minister’s reply was received on Wednesday, saying that he could not attend the meeting due to some other engagement,” the sources said. Mr Malik was called by the commission to give a detailed presentation on the US operation in Abbottabad, visa policy and security issues.

But instead of appearing before it the minister invited the commission to the interior ministry for the presentation, the sources said.

The minister told the commission that it would be briefed on security and visa policy in a week.

Talking to reporters at a convention of Anjuman Tulaba-i-Islam, Mr Malik said the reports about his summoning by the commission had wrongly been interpreted.

He said the commission was seeking a briefing on security and visa policy, so it would be briefed within a week at the interior ministry.

“Whenever the commission will summon me I will appear before it,” he said.

The minister claimed that no foreigner would be allowed to stay in the country without a visa. If somebody tried to enter the country without a visa, action would be taken according to law.


February 16, 2012   No Comments

Bin Laden in Abbottabad: Commission struggling in pinning blame

By Zia Khan in The Express Tribune, Feb 16

ISLAMABAD:  Already a month past the deadline, the Abbottabad Commission braces for further delay in releasing its report as it struggles to determine how and with whose help al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden had been living in Abbottabad for years.

The government formed the high-powered inquiry commission last year to investigate the killing of Bin Laden by American commandos in a secret raid on May 2, 2011.

Its mandate also includes finding out whether the terror leader was aided by elements from within the secret agencies, as alleged by the West.

However, insiders told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that the commission is in a fix over the question of fixing responsibility.

“It looks like they can’t and won’t name anybody,” said an official, who is aware of the proceedings.

Chief of the commission Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal told the media last December that the report, encompassing all the aspects of the matter, will be completed by the end of the year. However, this is yet to happen.

Officials privy to the inquiry attributed the delay to the explosive question of naming and blaming those who were at the helm of affairs in secret agencies during the years Bin Laden was living in his safe house – which is literally in the backyard of the military’s top training facility.

At least four generals, including incumbent military chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, served as head of the country’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), from 2003 and 2011 — during Bin Laden’s years in Abbottabad.

There are suspicions in the West that the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks had a ‘support network’ within Pakistani spy agencies.

“Of course, somebody was responsible and the commission is responsible for identifying that somebody,” said an official. “But it seems the probe body is not going to do that,” he added.

Beating about the bush

An official, who claimed to have had a discussion with one of the commission’s members, said the probe had almost been completed by the end of last year, and what is being done now is nothing but wasting time.

“They are beating about the bush now,” the insider said, after the commission summoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik for questioning but he refused due to other ‘pressing’ engagements.

According to an announcement by the commission’s secretariat, a new date will soon be decided to have a session with the minister.

There wasn’t any word what the probe body wanted to question Malik about.

The Abbottabad Commission has also sought details of arrests of illegal immigrants in the last 10 years by the interior ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), The Express Tribune has learnt.

The commission has written a letter to the interior ministry, in this regard, asking for a detailed report.http://tribune.com.pk/story/337261/bin-laden-in-abbottabad-commission-struggling-in-pinning-blame/

February 16, 2012   No Comments

‘Brig Khan was conspiring against the govt’: Report

ISLAMABAD: As court martial proceedings against Pakistan Army’s Brigadier Ali Khan are underway, for suspected ties with banned group Hizbut Tahrir (HuT), the BBC’s Urdu service reported that it had acquired a copy of the official charge sheet against the senior army officer, on Wednesday.

The chargesheet was issued and signed by a high ranking army official in Sialkot, where the brigadier was serving.  The chargesheet cites three allegations against Brig Khan.

The first allegation states that the Brigadier Khan had admitted on various occasions to links with the HuT between 2008 and 2011.

Next, the chargesheet stated that Brig Khan was conspiring to topple the government of Pakistan and for this purpose was trying to coax other senior army officers into joining him.

The officers include, Brigadier Amir Riaz, head of the 111 Brigade, Brigadier Naeem Sadiq of the Defence Export Promotion Organisation and Air Defence Command Brigadier Mohammad Amin.

The 111 brigade is posted in Rawalpindi and is part of the X Corps. It has been known to play a pivotal role in military takeovers in the country, given it is a force of 4,250 strong, assigned to guard sensitive military and government installations, including the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi.

The third charge against Brig Khan was that of trying to instigate a mutiny within the army by launching an attack on the GHQ.

If proven guilty on all counts, the brigadier could be sentenced to death. He will also face a court martial in the officer’s unit of origin, in Multan.

Civilians were also named in the chargesheet, who the army say are British citizens and members of HuT.

Earlier on February 12, military sources confirmed that a trial against Brig Khan was under way.

The brigadier and four other officers were detained in 2011, soon after the May 2 incident in which US forces killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. He has been in custody for almost 10 months and was working at the GHQ in Rawalpindi at the time of his arrest. Brig Khan has denied the allegations against him.

His lawyer, retired Col Inam Rahim, said his client was detained for demanding that someone within the military be held accountable for the covert US raid in Abbottabad.

Security agencies had also arrested HuT deputy spokesperson Imran Yousafzai from Islamabad following the detention of the suspected officials. Four other HuT activists were also arrested from Islamabad and Multan.

The banned outfit has spearheaded criticism against the Pakistan Army for its ‘failure’ during the US raid in Abbottabad.

Leaflets distributed by HuT in major cities instigated army officers to mutiny against their top brass.

Brig Khan was due to retire on July 9, 2011, after completing his service in the Pakistan Army.http://tribune.com.pk/story/337013/hizbut-tahrir-links-brig-khan-was-conspiring-against-the-govt/

February 16, 2012   No Comments

US drone strike kills five militants in Pakistan: officials

MIRANSHAH: A US drone strike targeting a militant compound killed five insurgents in a northwest Pakistan tribal region near the Afghan border Thursday, security officials said.

“Two missiles were fired by a US drone on a compound used by militants in Spalga town near Miranshah and five militants have been killed,” a security official said.

The attack was confirmed by two other security officials in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan region, known as a stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda linked militants.

Security officials said several other militants were wounded but the exact number was not immediately known.

The latest attack came a week after US missiles killed Badar Mansoor, the most senior Pakistani in al Qaeda, one of America’s main targets in the country and wanted for attacks that killed scores of people.

Pakistani officials and a member of his group told AFP that Mansoor who reputedly sent fighters to Afghanistan and ran a training camp in North Waziristan, was killed in a drone strike near the Afghan border.

US officials say Pakistan’s tribal belt provides sanctuary to Taliban fighting in Afghanistan, al Qaeda groups plotting attacks on the West, Pakistani Taliban who routinely bomb Pakistan and other foreign fighters.

But the missile attacks fuel widespread anti-American resentment, which is running especially high in Pakistan since US air strikes inadvertently, killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

President Barack Obama last month confirmed for the first time that US drones have targeted Taliban and al Qaeda militants on Pakistani soil, a programme that has escalated under his administration.


February 16, 2012   No Comments

No Sandhurst, no West Point; op-ed by Muhammad Ali Siddiqi in Dawn, Feb 16

The writer is a member of staff.

THERE is something in Afghanistan’s colourless, awe-inspiring topography that resists foreign ideas and manages to impart to its people, especially soldiers and diplomats, an uncanny wisdom rooted in Afghan soil.

This indigenous wisdom is the source of their statecraft and generalship, unfortunately, though, it is a wisdom devoid of compassion. For millennia, armies and caravans have marched through its barren mountains and villages and cities without taking away from the Afghan people their pride in themselves.

China never sent its soldiers to Afghanistan in any significant numbers, only merchants as its trade caravans trudged along the Silk Route to the Middle East to sell silk whose manufacturing process they kept secret for centuries.

Other predatory nations sent a bewildering variety of men — traders, scholars, poets, preachers, adventurers, diplomats, spies and soldiers. They were Persian, Greek, Arab, Mongol, Tajik, Turkic, British and Russian. But never has Afghanistan hosted on its soil the array of races and ethnic groups as it does now in the form of the International Security Assistance Force. According to the Isaf website, it has 50 “troop contributing” states.

If anyone thinks that today’s Afghan militants would learn any lessons in strategy or tactics from Isaf generals then he better re-read Afghan history, especially of the last 200 years, for the modern world came to know what stuff the Afghans are made of when the British launched the first Anglo-Afghan war in 1839.

The Afghans have contempt for foreign soldiers and do not learn and do not want to learn. This has made better soldiers of them. When they lose a battle, as they did in October 2001, they keep their cool, for they know that a battle lost doesn’t mean a war lost. Afghans also make excellent diplomats, for no one should underestimate the quality of Afghan diplomacy because of the country’s socio-economic backwardness.

During the Great Game, they played their cards well. While there is no doubt it was the rise of Prussianised Germany that forced Britain and Russia into an embrace and compelled them to have a deal on Afghanistan, Kabul kings and their diplomats excelled at their jobs. As history shows, they correctly gauged big-power intentions, knew their limitations and in return got peace.

In the second half of the 20th century, Zahir Shah threw caution to the wind and suffered. Egged on by New Delhi and Moscow to pursue the Pakhtunistan stunt, the last of the Barakzay monarchs relied heavily on the Soviet Union, which flooded the country with its advisers. The rest of the story is known to us.

Neither the ‘Mujahideen’ of the US-led anti-Soviet ‘jihad’ in the 1980s nor those leading the Taliban now ever went to Sandhurst or West Point. In fact, it is doubtful they have even heard of what to Pakistani generals are the ultimate in war-making. Our generals flaunt their Sandhurst-West Point connections, and you only have to read their memoirs to realise how they cherish their association with Aucks and Montys.

How well the hooded Afghan cavemen in baggy trousers know the intricacies of war and how jealously they guard the sovereignty of their country is evident from a Nato report, which was made available to the BBC and The Times, the latter owned by Rupert Murdoch, the former being Murdochese in spirit without being owned by him.

The Taliban leadership, the report said, did not give carte blanche to non-Afghan fighters to act independently. The Taliban high command, according to the report, controls nearly all insurgent activity, and such groups as Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other non-Afghan militants have to get prior permission from Mullah Omar’s men before carrying out military operations. Imagine that they are so strict now when they are in the midst of a war and do not have a country.

Contrast this with our behaviour, when, since Ziaul Haq’s days, our governments have allowed foreigners — Uzbeks, Chechens, Indonesians, Arabs, Afghans and Azeris — unrestricted activity on a scale that enabled them to turn Pakistan into one big school of terrorism and hatchery for guerillas. If we had Afghan wisdom, we should have realised that these militants would one day turn their guns on their myopic benefactors.

Afghan warriors plan wars according to their conditions, think for themselves and win. Not for them, Staff College courses at Quetta — “where Field Marshal Montgomery studied”. Oh, no! There is no doubt the British make excellent soldiers. But the best in British tenacity is reflected in their air force and navy, both of which were a class by themselves in the Second World War.

The army is a different affair. In the two World Wars, it mostly surrendered and ran, saved only by American hardware and Russian winter. The infantry has a bulldog quality and, like the English cricket team, doesn’t give up easily. But it is the generals who are hardly in league with their German counterparts. So long as Pakistan’s army leadership has the English officer as his ideal and considers him the ultimate in soldiery, there is little chance the Pakistani high command will ever be able to think originally and devise a winning strategy.

PS: (1) It was a Sandhurst-trained general, Ayub Khan, who built our army and did many good things for Pakistan. (2) The Pakistani soldier is the world’s best, and officers up to the rank of colonel are second to none in professionalism and bravery, for they have been in the trenches and suffered perhaps one of the world’s highest rates of casualties among officers.http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/16/no-sandhurst-no-west-point.html

February 16, 2012   No Comments

Can Pakistan survive without US aid: by Murtaza Haider in Dawn blogs, Feb 15

The author is the Associate Dean of research and graduate programs at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Several policy-makers, politicians, and development professionals in the west believe that the economic survival of Pakistan rests on handouts from the United States. Often American legislators ridicule Pakistan for willingly accepting American dollars in charity, but not delivering on American demands in return.

The Westerners are not alone in believing that Pakistan’s survival rests on handouts from the US. While speaking on Canadian TV earlier this week, Raheel Raza, a Canadian of Pakistani origin, argued the same. “Ever since the inception of Pakistan the United States has given Pakistan aid without which it cannot survive,” said Ms. Raza.

The US economic and military assistance to Pakistan indeed has a long history stretched over decades during which several American governments have poured billions of dollars into Pakistan. The question, however, is to determine first why Americans aided Pakistan and second what was the money intended for. And even more importantly, one should determine if indeed Pakistan’s economic survival rests on American aid.

The British newspaper Guardian maintains an active database documenting six decades of American aid to Pakistan. The data is compiled by Wren Elhai of the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC. The database reveals that since 1948 the US assistance to Pakistan has largely been for civilian purposes. Of the $61.7 billion in total assistance (in constant 2009 dollars) provided to Pakistan between 1948 and 2010, $40.4 billion were provided for economic assistance and $21.3 billion in military assistance. The economic assistance to Pakistan peaked in the early 60s when in excess of $2 billion annually were provided to Pakistan.

Title: US Aid to Pakistan, 1948-2010, (millions, constant 2009 US$)  Source: Guardian.

Since 1982, the United States has provided $17 billion in military assistance compared to $13.5 billion in economic assistance. This has largely been a result of covert and overt American military operations in Afghanistan that began in late 70s. And while there has been a slowdown in economic and military assistance between 1992 and 2001, the US revived its economic and military assistance to Pakistan after 9/11. In fact, since 2002 the US military assistance to Pakistan at $13billion dollars is two-times the economic assistance it provided to Pakistan. The dramatic increase in military assistance to Pakistan in the recent past has contributed to the weakening of democratic and civilian institutions in Pakistan, while it has helped strengthen military’s grip on the socio-political spheres in Pakistan.

One cannot consider military assistance as a favour to Pakistanis. In fact, the US military assistance has been instrumental in reinforcing Pakistani armed forces against the civilian governments. The American military and economic assistance offered to General Zia in early 80s and later to General Musharraf since 2002 are examples of how American funds have strengthened military dictators against civilian setups in Pakistan. Notice in the above graph how the US assistance has largely been absent in the 1990s when parliamentary democracy prevailed in Pakistan.

In 2010, the US economic assistance to Pakistan equalled $1.8 billion. While the amount is indeed large, however on a per capita basis, this translates into a mere $10.3 for the 180-million Pakistanis. Should we believe that Pakistan’s survival has rested on a mere $10.3 per person in civilian assistance from the United States?

Some fact-checking is indeed in order. Pakistan is a $175 billion economy. Since 2002, the US has provided on average $825 million annually in economic assistance to Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistani expatriates have remitted on average $1 billion each month in 2011, making remittances an order of magnitude higher than what the US has been providing to Pakistan. I would argue that Pakistan’s economy owes much more to what the expatriates contribute than what comes in charity from the United States.

While I remain grateful to American taxpayers who have contributed billions of dollars to Pakistan, for instance, American help with the rescue and relief efforts after the floods in 2011 is indeed commendable, I must also point out that the American wars in the region have played havoc with Pakistan’s economic and social infrastructure. According to the Government of Pakistan, the direct and indirect costs from Nato’s war in Afghanistan, which began on October 07, 2001, has reached over $68 billion. These economic losses are an order of magnitude higher than what the US has offered in economic and military assistance to Pakistan. And who to account for the 36,000-plus Pakistanis who have perished as a result of the Nato’ war efforts in the region. A fair compensation would require the US to engage the United Nations to verify Pakistan’s claims and then reimburse Pakistan in full for proven claims.

-Source: Pakistan Economic Survey: 2010-11.* The 2010-11 figures are estimated from 8 months of data.

The nature of development aid business is such that large sums of donated money in fact return to the donor country in the form of contractual payments to consultants and manufacturers. I recall listening to the former World Bank president James Wolfensohn in 2004 at the 16th Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics in Washington DC where he offered his candid views about how development aid was misspent by donors. In 2003-04 development aid was estimated at $58 billion of which $14 billion were pocketed by the consultants alone.

The billions of dollars in US military assistance to Pakistan are no different which in fact help sustain the defense economy in the US. Pakistan ends up buying US-made weapons and fighter jets from the very military assistance it receives from the US, and money it borrows from international lenders.

I also recall listening to Hans von Sponeck, the former head of UN operations in Iraq who resigned in February 2000 to protest against UN sanctions. He explained in an interview in Islamabad how aid agencies prefer spending aid money on brick and mortar, and not on developing human capital. Furthermore, aid funds are often abused because of cost overruns. Consider the mismanaged construction of the waste water treatment plant in Fallujah, Iraq. An audit by the US Special Inspector General revealed that the plant was to be built for $35 million to serve a population of 100,000. Years later, the partially built plant served only 38,400 people after American contractors had spent over $108 million. Latest estimates suggest that the waste treatment plant would consume another $87 million before it will be completed in 2014.

In the proposed budget for 2013, the Obama administration has set aside $2.4 billion in spending related to Pakistan. $800 million out of the $2.4 billion are earmarked for counter intelligence in KP and Fata and for other security operations. $200 million have been earmarked for discretionary spending by the US diplomatic missions in Pakistan. While it appears that huge sums of money will again flow to Pakistan, the reality is that often the planned funds never reach Pakistan. Consider the

Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill (The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, 2009) that set aside a total of $7.5 billion in assistance to Pakistan spread over five years. The disbursement under the bill was to begin in 2010. However, the funds have not yet been appropriated. At the same time, the US legislators continue to chastise Pakistan for taking US funds (hitherto not provided) but not delivering in return!

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the US Congress for conducting hearings about the insurgency in Balochistan. The resolution stated: “the house rigorously condemns and does not accept the hearing by the US congress and considers any such attempt an open intervention in state’s sovereignty and its internal affairs.” Parliamentarians of all political complexions, who were deeply incensed by the US intervention in Pakistan’s domestic affairs, set aside their differences in passing the resolution. I believe that Pakistan’s Parliament should now pass another resolution stating that it will not receive any additional charity from the United States. Knowing that there have always been strings attached to the funds that came from the US, the Parliamentarians should therefore consider US economic and military assistance to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Refusing aid and other assistance is a prerequisite for Pakistan’s economic recovery. The billions of dollars in aid have distorted markets in Pakistan and have subsidised the civil and military elite. Pakistan’s foremost economists, such as S. Akbar Zaidi and others at the Planning Commission in Islamabad, have argued for a secession of aid as a precondition for restructuring Pakistan’s economy to make it self-sufficient over time.

Pakistan’s elite and middle class have to rise to the occasion to help resuscitate the faltering economy. Pakistanis have to pay taxes so that their government can refuse aid from others. Unless Pakistanis demonstrate the willingness to carry their own weight by paying taxes, there is no hope of an honourable existence for Pakistan in the community of nations.http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/15/can-pakistan-survive-without-us-aid.html

February 16, 2012   No Comments

This War Is Not Over Yet: op-ed by MARY L. DUDZIAK in the NY Times, Feb 16

The author is a professor of law, history and political science at the University of Southern California

THE defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, recently announced that America hoped to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013 as it did in Iraq last year.  Yet at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, the United States continues to hold enemy detainees “for the duration of hostilities.”

Indeed, the “ending” of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have no consequences for the ending of detention. Because the end of a war is traditionally thought to be the moment when a president’s war powers begin to ebb, bringing combat to a close in Afghanistan and Iraq should lead to a reduction in executive power — including the legitimate basis for detaining the enemy.

But there is a disconnect today between the wars that are ending and the “war” that is used to justify ongoing detention of prisoners. Originally, the war in Afghanistan was part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”  This framing had rhetorical power, but it quickly drew criticism because a war on terror has no boundaries in space or time, and no prospect of ever ending.

When he took office, President Obama abandoned the “war on terror” rhetoric, focusing instead on Iraq and Afghanistan. American war now seemed more manageable and traditional. A confined war in a specific war zone was a war that presumably could end once the enemy was defeated within that territory. But it was not so simple: Qaeda fighters slipped over the Afghan border to Pakistan, extending the zone of conflict.

Ending wars has never been easy, of course. On the Korean Peninsula, fighting came to a halt with an armistice agreement in 1953, but a peace treaty has never been signed, so there has been no formal end to that war. Faced with continuing threats from North Korea, American troops continue to maintain a presence in South Korea. Had today’s logic been applied there, Korean prisoners of war might still be serving the rest of their years in detention.

During the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese soldiers also crossed a border, into Cambodia. But once that war came to an end, the basis for ongoing detention of North Vietnamese enemy soldiers ended, even if a cold war against communism continued.

America’s recent wars have been hard to end, but our presidents have done their best to argue that our goals have been accomplished. President George W. Bush did this memorably when he declared victory in Iraq in May 2003 on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln under the banner “Mission Accomplished” — and yet that conflict was far from over.

President Obama had his own “Mission Accomplished” moment, when he declared the “end of combat in Iraq” in August 2010. Like Mr. Bush’s episode, Mr. Obama’s was principally a media event, as reporters spoke with excitement about the historic moment, as American combat troops crossed the border into Kuwait. Yet at the time, 50,000 United States troops remained in Iraq, and the Army quickly reassured them that, even though “conflict” had ended, “conflict conditions” persisted, and hence soldiers would still receive additional pay for serving in a hostile zone. That first “ending” of the Iraq war has now been largely forgotten, eclipsed by the December 2011 withdrawal — a much more extensive drawdown than initially planned.

The “end of combat” in Afghanistan, slated for 2013, could become yet another made-for-media event. But at the very least it should force Americans to confront the contradiction of ending two wars while invoking a nebulous and never-ending third one to justify the continued detention of prisoners.

Administration lawyers have an answer for this: the original post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force gave the president authority to act against Al Qaeda and its supporters.

Mr. Obama brought his definition of war into line with this more expansive view in January 2010 by declaring that the United States is “at war against Al Qaeda.” This broadened the scope of Mr. Obama’s rhetoric on war by divorcing it from geography. And it provided a way of bringing into the ambit of American war terrorists outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric tied to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was killed by an American drone strike in Yemen last September.

Like the Bush administration’s version of the war on terror, this war with Al Qaeda allows us to follow our enemies wherever they may go. It also enables us to continue framing terrorists as warriors, subject to detention without charges as long as threats related to Al Qaeda exist.

Mr. Obama is trying to have it both ways. Ending major conflicts in two countries helps him deliver on campaign promises. But his expansive definition of war leaves in place the executive power to detain without charges, and to exercise war powers in any region where Al Qaeda has a presence.

By asserting, for political purposes, that the nation’s two wars are ending while planning behind the scenes for a longer-term war against Al Qaeda terrorists, the man who pledged to bring America’s wars to an end has instead laid the basis for an endless battle.


February 16, 2012   No Comments

US overflights: edit in the News, Feb 16

Statements in recent days by both our leaders and the US Ambassador Cameron Munter have given the impression that Nato overflights are ‘continuing’ — but that is not the complete picture and there seems to be some confusion about what that picture is. Victoria Nuland, the usually well-briefed spokesperson for the US State Department, said that she ‘did not have an accurate answer’ when asked about the flights at a daily press briefing in Washington. Ambassador Munter has been equally at a loss for details. Last week the Pakistani government spoke of an ‘open skies’ policy — whatever that means — and then Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar on Tuesday shed some more light. The government had allowed certain perishable and food items destined for Afghanistan to be carried through our airspace, but only for a limited period. Further, only those items which were ordered before November 26 would be allowed transit. This does not sound like a carte-blanche permission to the Americans to fly whatever and whenever they please — but it is yet unclear if the flights are continuing or, the backlog of perishables having been cleared, they have now stopped.

Ambassador Munter may not have much idea about what is happening with overflights, but he appears to be on another planet entirely when it comes to the state and nature of the Pak-US relationship. Speaking at the Harvard-Kennedy School he said that ‘Pakistani politicians don’t want Americans to go away from their country.’ This may or may not be true of our politicians and it does seem to be something of a generalization; but it is not the view of probably a majority of the people of Pakistan. There is an antipathy towards the US that transcends the merely political and has, in recent years, become visceral. The reshaping of Pakistan’s relationship with America that was triggered by the Salala incident is still a ‘work in progress’ — but it needs to progress a little more swiftly than seems to be the case at the moment. Without the definition of shapes and the delineation of boundaries it is difficult for diplomats and politicians on both sides to have a working picture. Ambassador Munter may be sure that the relationship between the CIA and the ISI is yet intact, but the relationship outside the closed box of intelligence agencies is badly decayed. It is that relationship, the one that is harder to define, that requires care and maintenance. And some clarity on the matter of overflights might lower the temperature a little. http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=93010&Cat=8

February 16, 2012   No Comments

Sordid truth: edit in The News, Feb 14

Almost 150 people have now died in the mass-poisoning that is still taking lives in Lahore and its environs. Hundreds more remain ill. And now we are much closer to understanding what caused this appalling loss of life and injury thanks to the findings of the committee of enquiry headed by DIG Zulfiqar Cheema. The committee has recommended that a murder case be registered against 10 individuals, and on the basis of what has been uncovered this is entirely the right legal path to go down. Efroze Chemical Industry of Karachi was manufacturing two medicines simultaneously, and the contents of one contaminated the other. Company officials failed to follow pre- and post- manufacturing standard operating procedures and the company’s own production unit had identified the contamination with Pyrimethamine as long ago as September 21, 2011. This should have triggered an emergency within the company, but instead the information was not passed to the owners of the factory until eight days later, on September 29, 2011. This in itself must constitute criminal negligence. Further, a container of Pyrimethamine was found to be missing on October 4, 2011. The general manager emailed the owners to notify them but no action was taken.

Astonishingly, the senior quality control officer at the company said that ‘an unusual spike was detected during the post-manufacturing test’, and even more astonishingly the batch was cleared for distribution by the management and not recalled even though there were concerns about its quality. The committee learned that there were errors in the records at the PIC which received the medicines on October 8, 2011 with the contaminated batch not entered on the record. Clearly, a lot of people were aware that there was something very wrong, and nowhere in the chain did anybody blow the whistle. Every individual who failed in their duty of care to the wider public is culpable. And there is a lesson – perhaps many lessons – to be learned. There must be a properly constituted regulatory body with oversight and the ability to act where appropriate. The provincial and federal governments must resolve their differences on this matter. It is simply unacceptable to have a pharmaceutical industry that is short on regulation and scrutiny. This was an entirely preventable accident, and nothing like it must ever happen again.http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=92572&Cat=8

February 14, 2012   No Comments