Window on Pak Press: ‘Swat deal not sign of weakness’

18 02 2009

Source: Indiatoday

As the liberals inside Pakistan and the Western governments felt that the Zardari-Gilani government has fallen into the deadly Taliban trap by signing the deal with the militants to allow Sharia law to be imposed in the Swat Valley, the two leaders clarified that it (the deal) should not be seen as a ‘sign of weakness’. The newspapers on Wednesday splashed the meeting between President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to review the Swat peace deal and hoped it would pave the way for permanent peace in the whole country.

The Dawn, Daily Times among others said that the two leaders were of the view that the deal signed with Tehrik Nifaz Shriat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM) should not be construed as a ‘weakness’ as it was inked to restore peace for benefit of local people.

Daily Times quoting President Asif Ali Zardari said the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulations 2009 in Malakand division will not affect the government’s policy on the war against terror, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Tuesday. During a meeting with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, he said the agreement between the Taliban and the NWFP government was one part of an overall strategy for peace, a private TV channel reported.

Dawn explained that there have been mixed reactions from different quarters within the country and the international community over the deal. Some have termed it a ray of hope in restive Malakand Division and eventually in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) but some consider it a defeat for the government and security forces who. They say, are bowing their heads before militants and allowing them to implement their self-styled Shariat (Islamic laws) in the area.

According to Dawn, the President told Chinese newsmen that the government was pursuing a multi-dimensional policy in the war against terrorism and using economic, political and military options to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism. However, he added that, limited resources were compounding problems for the government.

He was of the view that force alone could not win the war against terrorism. “Maintenance of peace in Fata and the NWFP is the foremost responsibility of the government and providing protection to people is a challenge,” Zardari said.

But the Daily Times said Pakistan has gambled that an offer to implement Sharia in parts of the northwest will bring peace to the troubled Swat Valley, but analysts fear any lull won’t last long and appeasement is likely to embolden the Taliban.

Western officials fear Pakistan is taking a slippery road that would only benefit Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistani authorities believe the alternative of using overwhelming force on people who are, after all, Pakistanis poses a greater danger. The central government has said the Sharai Nizam-e-Adl – or the judicial system governed by Sharia – would be implemented in the Malakand division of NWFP, which includes Swat, unless the guns fall silent.

Islamic Law – Part of Constitution: Dawn also reported that the US State Department said on Tuesday that there’s provision for the Islamic law in the Pakistani constitution and the government’s decision to introduce religious laws in the Swat Valley was not an issue for anyone outside Pakistan. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was equally careful when asked to comment on an agreement between Pakistani authorities and the Swat militants that allows for the implementation of sharia in the valley.

She told reporters in Tokyo that the United States was studying the agreement and was trying to understand the Pakistani government’s ‘intention and the actual agreed-upon language. But the secretary warned that ‘activity by the extremist elements in Pakistan poses a direct threat to the government of Pakistan as well as to the security of the United States, Afghanistan and a number of other nations not only in the immediate region.’

The News on the other hand said the US State Department spokesman said, “We are in touch with the government in Pakistan, we are discussing the issue, but that is all I have for you at the moment.”

The News also reported that NATO too has expressed concern on Tuesday after Pakistan signed a pact with TNSM to introduce Islamic law in the Swat valley. “We would all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have safe haven,” Nato spokesman James Appathurai told a news briefing. Nato heads an international force battling Taliban militants in Pakistan’s neighbour Afghanistan and Appathurai said he did not know if the pact would make its task more difficult. However, he added: “It is certainly reason for concern.”

But peace was still elusive in the militancy-ravaged valley. The Nation reported as many as eight people including two assailants were killed and 17 others got injured, many of them critically, when a bomb planted in a car blew up outside the house of Union Nazim Bazid Khel, Faheemur Rehman, in Badabair area here Tuesday, police said. As many as eight people including two assailants were killed and 17 others got injured, many of them critically, when a bomb planted in a car blew up outside the house of Union Nazim Bazid Khel, Faheemur Rehman, in Badabair area on Tuesday, police said.

The blast occurred a day after the NWFP government signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in Swat. The blast damaged outer walls of the Nazim’s house and two neighbouring homes, besides two other cars, however, the nazim remain unhurt.

The deceased included Zar Muhammad, Ali and Qari Khalid, while the names of the killed attackers could not be confirmed till the filing of the report. The attackers were killed when people sitting in the residence of Faheemur Rehman opened fire at them.

The police the local people had apprehended three suspected persons who were being interrogated. The police also said that no one had claimed the responsibility for the attack so far. Around 15 to 20 kg explosive had been used in the blast, he added.

The other side of the story: Meanwhile, Dawn headlined an Associated Press story as “Pakistani Taliban militants publicly flog an alleged narcotic smuggler in Charbagh in Pakistan’s troubled Swat valley”

The story said: Pakistan has gambled that an offer to introduce Islamic law to parts of the northwest will bring peace to the troubled Swat valley, but analysts fear any lull won’t last long and appeasement will embolden the Taliban. Western officials fear Pakistan is taking a slippery road that will only benefit al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but Pakistani authorities believe the alternative of using overwhelming force on people who are, after all, Pakistani posed a greater danger.

The central government has said the Sharia Nizam-i-Adl, or the judicial system governed by Islamic sharia law, won’t be implemented in the Malakand division of North West Frontier Province, which includes Swat, unless the guns fall silent.

The Taliban announced a 10-day ceasefire on Sunday, while the NWFP government has said that while the military will remain deployed in Swat, there won’t be any offensives, only reactive actions.

Amnesty International estimates that between 250,000 and 500,000 people have fled their homes since late 2007, when the Taliban revolt began in Swat, an alpine region 130 km northwest of Islamabad. Tens of thousands have fled since August last year after an earlier peace deal broke down.

Public Beheadings: Known as Pakistan’s ‘Switzerland’ and once a popular tourist destination, Swat has become associated with sickening sights.

People in the scenic valley witnessed public beheadings and summary executions by Taliban fighters administering their brand of justice.

Bombs have targeted security forces, schools have been torched as part of a campaign against female education, and aid workers running immunisation programmes for children have been chased away by militants.

“If peace comes through this agreement, then we wholeheartedly accept it. After all, we’re Muslims and want Islamic system,” said Mohammad Naeem, a teacher in Mingora, the main town in Swat, whose own school was destroyed.

Analysts, however, see the pact as little more than a tactic to buy time, as the government seeks a firmer foothold in a region over which it had lost control.

They fear reluctance to permanently deal with reactionary forces will lead to greater problems later on. That has certainly been Swat’s history in the last two decades.

“I think this is going to be another blunder by the government,” said Khadim Hussain of the private Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. “There may be a lull for awhile, but I think the government will again be trapped in more fighting. There will be more violence.”

Monday’s agreement was the third such pact signed by Pakistani authorities with Sufi Mohammad, a radical cleric who began a violent campaign for the enforcement of Islamic sharia law in the region in the 1990s.

The first agreement provided for the appointment of a Qazi, or an Islamic jurist, to assist a judge in deciding disputes in line with Islamic injunctions, though the jurist’s advice was non-binding.

In the second pact signed in 1999, the advice of the jurist was made binding though it was never enforced.

The latest accord, sets time limits on how long a court can take to decide a case, and establishes a designated appellate bench, meeting two key desires by the people for better justice.

Analysts say the government may be trying to drive a wedge between hardline followers of the elderly Mohammad and even more radical militants led by his young son-in-law, Fazlullah.

Bad precedent? They said: It is a risk.

Even if the laws being brought are far softer interpretation of sharia than the harsh Taliban version, giving ground to religious hardliners would set a ‘bad precedent,’ analysts said.

It could convince the most irreconcilable militants that their violent campaign was working.

“The present Talibanisation is not just a movement for enforcement of sharia,” Asad Munir, a former military intelligence official who served in NWFP and adjoining tribal areas wrote in a Pakistani daily. “The mullahs want power, authority and a defined role in decision-making in the social system of Pashtun society.”

Pakistani authorities have struck a number of deals in the past with militants in the tribal areas, known sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Generally, the violence dies down for awhile and then flares again. Analysts didn’t foresee Fazlullah and his fighters staying quiet for long.

“The militants are not going to give up their control…They will be getting more capability to launch more strikes, more violence if the agreement does not work,” Hussain said.

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Jihad TV in Europe:It’s time to shut down Hezbollah and Hamas broadcasts to the Continent.

18 02 2009

Their propaganda notwithstanding, Hamas and, two years ago, Hezbollah suffered devastating military defeats that may diminish their ability to attack Israel with rocket fire. But these Iranian-backed terrorist organizations are deploying another dangerous weapon in their war against Western democracies — terrorist television stations.

[Commentary Europe] AP

Watching terror programs at your home in Duisburg.

Thanks to Arab satellite companies, Hezbollah’s al-Manar and Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV stations can still beam their incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants throughout the Continent.

Al-Manar, however, is not a mere propaganda tool. Founded in 1991 by Hezbollah guerillas, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization. Following a 2006 letter to then-President George W. Bush signed by a majority of the U.S. Senate, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Treasury Department designated al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity. This designation placed, for the first time, a media outlet on the same terrorism list as al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah itself.

The designation highlighted the role of al-Manar as more than just a station with objectionable content. The Hezbollah outlet was actively involved in recruiting and fund raising for Hezbollah, and providing preoperational surveillance for terror attacks. Undersecretary of Treasury Stuart Levey has observed that al-Manar is an “entity maintained by a terrorist group” and is therefore “as culpable as the terrorist group itself.”

Europe has also taken several steps against al-Manar. In 2004, the European Union and the governments of France, Spain and Holland determined that al-Manar violated a European law prohibiting incitement to hatred in broadcasting. This encouraged European satellite providers Eutelsat, Globecast, Hispasat and New Skies Satellite to cease transmission of the station.

Five non-European satellite providers have ended their broadcast of al-Manar, and multinational corporations discontinued about $4 million in annual advertising on the channel after their ad buys on Hezbollah television were exposed. In December 2008, two U.S. residents pleaded guilty in Southern District Court in New York to material support for Hezbollah after they were found to be broadcasting al-Manar and selling satellite equipment.

Yet the Saudi-based, Arab League-owned Arabsat and the Egyptian government-owned Nilesat still allow al-Manar to broadcast incitement and violence to Europe’s Muslim population on their satellites. During the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy, for example, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah urged al-Manar’s viewers “to take a decisive stand.” He said that “hundreds of millions of Muslims are ready and willing to sacrifice their lives in order to defend the honor of their Prophet. And you are among them.”

Al-Manar has become alarmingly popular with Europe’s young Arabic-speaking Muslims. On one German television program, young Muslims in Berlin cited al-Manar as a factor influencing their hatred of the U.S. and Jews. In November 2008, Germany banned the terrorist station on the basis that it promoted the use of violence. This ban prohibits al-Manar from doing business in the country, although its hate and incitement are still accessible in Germany via Arabsat and Nilesat.

Hamas, designated by both Europe and the U.S. as a terrorist entity, followed al-Manar and took its own brand of jihad to the airwaves in 2006. Today, Hamas’s al-Aqsa television disseminates its violent message on Arabsat. Eutelsat, France’s leading satellite operator and the world’s third-largest satellite company, also began broadcasting al-Aqsa on its Atlantic Bird 4 and Eurobird 2 satellites, enabling Hamas to incite, recruit and raise funds throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Al-Aqsa TV is notorious for its uninterrupted speeches of Hamas leaders calling for suicide bombings, for its youth-oriented music videos that incite viewers to murder, and programs aimed at children which glorify suicide bombers. Faced with world-wide outcry for using Disney-like characters, the show’s producers dropped the Mickey Mouse character — they told kids that Israel had killed the popular rodent — and found bees, bunnies and other animals to tout the virtues of jihad.

Policy makers, law enforcement officials and regulators should be worried about al-Aqsa, but so should every European parent. One haunting music video produced by al-Aqsa shows a mother preparing a bomb in her bedroom. Her young daughter naively asks whether she is bringing her a toy. Mama leaves home and explodes on her suicide mission. Her child says, “Instead of me, you carried bombs in your hand. . . . Only now I know what was more precious than me.” The little girl continues, “My love for Muhammad will not be merely words. I am following mama in her steps.”

Another broadcast shows mothers donning suicide belts and calling on women and girls to blow themselves up. The “martyrs” are assured that the “Zionist Entity” will be destroyed.

Al-Aqsa is an integral part of Hamas’s global strategy of radicalizing Muslims, subverting the peace process, raising funds for future attacks, and disseminating propaganda in the Palestinian territories and beyond. Like al-Manar, it is an operational weapon in the hands of a deadly terrorist organization.

While “free speech” activists decry action against these terrorist media outlets, European officials should recall prior campaigns against enemy media outlets. In 1999, during the Kosovo war, NATO planes bombed the Belgrade-based headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia. While 16 employees were killed, NATO defended the action as a legitimate attack against Serbian broadcasting of Slobodan Milosevic’s violent call to arms against Kosovo’s Muslims.

European states also have prosecuted hate speech as a war crime, first at the Nuremberg trials against Nazi officials after World War II and then at an international court in Tanzania in 2003, when three Rwandan media executives were convicted of running a radio station and publishing a newspaper calling for the systematic extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsis. In supporting the convictions, Reed Brody, legal counsel to Human Rights Watch, said, “If you fan the flames, you’ll have to face the consequences.”

Europe can act against Hamas TV under its own legal authority governing television broadcasting. France should enforce the warning its own audiovisual authority issued on Dec. 2, 2008, warning Eutelsat that al-Aqsa programming violates French communications law. Eutelsat’s recent decision to stop distributing al-Aqsa on only one of its satellites is not sufficient compliance, and Eutelsat should be held accountable for its continued broadcasting of al-Aqsa.

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama called for “a new way forward” with the Muslim world. But he also called for a strong defense against those who “seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents” and addressed leaders “who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West.” Working with Cairo and Riyadh to cease satellite broadcasts of these Iranian-backed, terrorist-owned media channels is key to addressing the radicalization threat in Europe for the continent’s leaders. But France should first get its own terrorist-media house in order.

Mr. Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Ms. Bonazzi, executive director of the European Foundation for Democracy, are co-directors of the Coalition Against Terrorist Media.





8 killed in Pakistan bomb blast

18 02 2009



2/17/2009 2:01 PM ET

(RTTNews) – 8 people, including two terrorists, have been killed and 16 others wounded in a car bomb explosion outside the home of a government official in Pakistan’s volatile North West Frontier Province (NWFP) Tuesday.

Reports quoting the police said the terrorists were apparently targeting the mayor of Bazidkhel near the city of Peshawar, who was campaigning against the Taliban. He survived the attack unhurt.

The terrorists, who tried to escape after detonating the bomb hidden in a car parked outside Mayor Fahim-ur-Rehman’s residence, were shot dead by local people.
A young girl was also reportedly killed in the blast.

Monday, a Taliban group agreed to ceasefire in the Swat valley on condition that the government in NWFP enforces Islamic Sharia law in the restive region.

by RTT Staff Writer