After busting terror plot, UK points fingers at Pakistan

11 04 2009

April 10, 2009 17:17 IST

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asked President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] to do more to root out terrorism emanating from Pakistan’s territory after police in the UK arrested a dozen Al-Qaeda [Images] suspects, including 11 Pakistanis, over a “very big terrorist plot”.
“Prime Minister Brown telephoned President Zardari and the two leaders discussed matters relating to bilateral relations as well as the fight against terrorism,” 
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said in Islamabad [Images], without giving details.
However, Dawn newspaper reported that Brown raised concerns about links between terrorists in the UK and Pakistan and demanded ‘intensified efforts to crush militants’.
The telephonic conversation between Brown and Zardari follow resignation of the UK’s top counter-terrorism expert Bob Quick after a security blunder by the police officer, who inadvertently disclosed a covert surveillance operation against Al-Qaeda suspects, forcing premature raids by police who arrested 12 suspects, including 11 Pakistanis.
Earlier, Brown said in the UK that there are ‘links between terrorists in Britain and terrorists in Pakistan. That is an important issue for us to follow through.’
‘One of the lessons we have learnt is that Pakistan has to do more to root out terrorist elements in its country,’ Brown told Sky News.
Brown said the British police raids on Wednesday targeted those behind “a very big terrorist plot”, which authorities “have been following for some time”.
The cell was believed to have been planning to carry out attacks during the Easter holidays.
Brown also sought Pakistan’s help in probing the terrorist plot — in which the 12th suspect arrested was a Briton with roots in the tribal areas while the 11 Pakistanis were in the UK on student visas.

British media reported that the mastermind of the terrorist cell was believed to have been Rashid Rauf, an Al-Qaeda suspect who was implicated in several other plots. He was reportedly killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan last year.
Al-Qaeda operatives in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region were highlighted as one of the major security threats confronting Britain in its government’s counter-terrorism strategy published last month.
Spokesman Babar said Brown and Zardari also discussed US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the fragile peace deal in the restive Swat valley. They also agreed to meet soon, he said.

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Sharif defiant, troops deployed in Pak capital

14 03 2009

Source: TOI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday ordered troops to be deployed at sensitive areas in the capital as the threat by the opposition to go for a mass

Protests in Pak

Pakistani journalists and employees of a private channel hold protest against the blockage of their channel transmission in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo)

sit-in outside the Parliament neared, but the army said the deployment would take place “only if the situation warrants.” Meanwhile, PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif has refused to negotiate with the government and said the Long March to Islamabad will continue despite government crackdown.

The army said it had received a request from the government to deploy troops at sensitive locations to maintain law and order during the protest by lawyers and opposition parties.

The troops will remain on alert and will “move only if the situation warrants it”, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn News channel.

He refused to identify the sensitive locations. The lawyers’ movement and opposition parties, including former premier Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, launched a “long march” on March 12 to pressure the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to reinstate judges deposed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

The organisers of the protest have said it will end with a sit-in near parliament but the government has said it will not let the demonstrators enter Islamabad.

The army’s Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade, which has usually played a crucial role in past military coups, held a meeting on Thursday to review the law and order situation in the capital and nearby areas.

Lawyers and opposition have said the authorities have detained over 1,200 people to thwart the protest.

Prohibitory orders banning protests and rallies have been imposed in Sindh, Punjab and North West Frontier Province but the protestors have said they are determined to march to the capital.

The authorities have sealed all highways leading to the capital and have forced halt to three big opposition motorcades converging towards Islamabad.





Rebellion roar in Pakistan

10 03 2009

Source: Telegraph India

Islamabad, March 9 (PTI): Pakistan today warned former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that his anti-government speeches amounted to sedition, shortly after he openly asked Pakistanis to rebel.
With the standoff between the government and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief showing no signs of easing, the army got the backing of former President Pervez Musharraf to deal with the crisis.
“If the country faced an internal threat to its integrity, it is the responsibility of the army to protect it,” Musharraf told reporters in Karachi shortly after returning from India. The former general said he would consider becoming President again if he could play a useful role in the post. “If I am offered the post of President and if I can be a useful President… then I will want to contribute to this country,” he said.
Sharif stepped up his offensive against President Zardari ahead of protests by his supporters and lawyers. He asked policemen at a charged rally in Jhelum not to abide by any illegal and unconstitutional orders of the government. Sharif urged the people to take to the streets and get ready for a “revolution”.
The Asia Times Online website (www.atimes.com) said the army may be forced to intervene into the government’s affairs. It quoted army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as asking Zardari to quickly end the standoff with Sharif by March 16.
After Sharif’s rallying cry, interior security minister Rehman Malik said in a televised news conference in Islamabad: “Inciting people for disobedience is sedition. … It could get life imprisonment and a fine.”
Malik said the government would not outlaw the march but said the protesters would not be allowed to rally in front of the parliament building or other downtown areas, as they are planning.
He suggested they protest in a park on the outskirts of the Islamabad.
The protesters have said the march will be peaceful, but that they will not leave streets close to the parliament until the judges are restored. Sharif’s supporters say that the judges were sacked as they had planned to take up cases that could weaken Zardari’s already shaky grip on power.
Referring to Sharif’s comments against the government after the supreme court banned Sharif and his brother and former Punjab chief minister Shabaz from contesting elections, Malik urged the former Prime Minister to hold talks with Zardari.
At a news conference in Karachi, Musharraf, who resigned as President in August last year to avoid impeachment by the Pakistan People’s Party-led government, said he had no plans to join any party.
“In the current environment, I have no intention of joining politics. Frankly, I haven’t given any serious thought to joining politics,” he said in response to a question.





Politicians let us down again: Pakistan media

10 03 2009

Source: NDTV
Tuesday, March 10, 2009, (Islamabad)

Is a military coup round the corner in Pakistan? As speculation of another military takeover grows, the media in Pakistan has warned the country’s politicians to slam on the brakes now and resolve their differences and put an end to the crisis.Arising out of the confrontation between the two mainstream parties, President Zardari’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, the warning comes amid media reports that the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has warned President Zardari to clean up the mess and that too by a deadline, March 16.

On that day, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif are planning a long march calling for the reinstatement of those judges who had been sacked by Musharraf, something Zardari has been reluctant to do.Pakistan’s The Daily Times said in its editorial, “Now that the two mainstream parties have virtually declared the doors of reconciliation shut, commentators are already talking of the possibility of the army stepping in “to bring the country back to normal”. We sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. The army is incapable of providing any political solutions as we have learnt from our bitter experience time and again. But if this does come to pass, this time too the politicians would be to blame”

Meanwhile, the Dawn’s editorial said, “Hurtling as this country is towards the brink of political chaos, there is still time for the politicians to slam on the brakes and reverse course. If not stopped immediately, the chain of events triggered by the ouster of the Sharif brothers from electoral politics and the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab will surely end in tears for everyone involved.”And The News said, “All this is despicable. There are no other words to describe what we are seeing. Politicians have once more let down people in a terrible fashion. The tall talk of national unity in the face of crisis has proven to be nothing more than a lie. Are we really to believe our leaders are oblivious of the fact that their country faces extreme peril?”





analysis: Swat under siege —Abbas Rashid

24 01 2009

Source: Dailytimes

Both India and Pakistan do not seem optimally positioned in terms of internal dynamics to deal with the pressing issues they face. The dissensions within will allow the militants to secure even greater space

One indicator of the state of Swat is the fate of its schools. According to one estimate, over the last fortnight, around twenty schools have been burnt down — more than one a day on average. The total number of schools in Swat that have been destroyed has now exceeded 150. Most are girls’ schools. In fact, few schools in the area are actually functioning because of understandable concerns on the part of parents and teachers for the safety of the children.

There are doubts expressed sometimes as to who is responsible for this. Obviously, it is not possible to rule out the involvement of more than one element. But the Taliban have often enough made clear their aversion to girls’ education and the experience of their rule in Afghanistan provides ample testimony as to their determination in this regard.

But what are we doing about the havoc being wreaked in Swat?

Earlier this week members of parliament passed a resolution expressing solidarity with the people of the valley, pledging to “stand up for the protection of their rights in the face of the onslaught by non-state actors”.

We are not quite sure just how this will happen. On Thursday, President Asif Zardari met security chiefs and politicians to discuss the violence in Swat and elsewhere in the northwest, and said the government was following a “three D” policy of dialogue, development and deterrence.

The problem, however, is that dialogue and short-lived peace deals have been tried before, only to have the Taliban return to the area stronger than before. Development interventions are not possible unless preceded by peace and a modicum of stability. And so far, the fairly substantial presence of military and paramilitary forces in the area has somehow not deterred the Taliban from terrorising the people of Swat and FATA, forcing large numbers to leave their homes and flee the area. The majority of the police force is no longer performing its duties and even the security advisor suggested as much when he declared Thursday that the police would have to work at restoring their credibility.

But Swat is now in the grip of a broader Taliban-led insurgency challenging the writ of the state in FATA and increasingly in the settled areas of the NWFP. And a successful counter-insurgency strategy operation cannot be carried out by a demoralised police force. While the military and paramilitary forces have carried out successful operations in the area, there is a general sense that the initiative still rests very much with the Taliban who seem to be running short neither of arms, men or money in what is nothing less than an unrelenting drive to take effective control over large areas of Pakistan and force millions of its citizens to do their bidding.

An ISPR spokesman Wednesday blamed the situation in the area partly on the two months of truce agreed by the new provincial government with the militants, giving them a chance to regroup and tighten their grip. That may be so. Earlier, this was a strategy followed by the military under President Pervez Musharraf as well.

Now, again, the federal government has sought the services of JUIF chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to negotiate with the Taliban. It is unlikely that the latter will agree to anything less than exercising effective control in large parts of the NWFP and imposing their own version of sharia that, among other things, rules out education for women and polio shots for children.

Clearly, a negotiated peace is the best option but it should not be a synonym for the surrender of the writ of the state. In the alternative, force has to be judiciously but effectively used to restore confidence in a terrorised populace. And while the Maulana may be the right person to negotiate with the Taliban, he might need reminding that his party lost in the last elections, held less than an year ago, and the ANP and the PPP won convincingly in the area: it says something about the preferences and aspirations of the people as opposed to those of the militants and terrorists.

Meanwhile, there is a level of uncertainly created by the fallout from the bomb blasts that killed so many innocent people in Mumbai last November. As the threats from India mounted, Pakistan made it clear that it would move troops fighting the insurgency to its eastern border and some were reportedly redeployed.

A major redeployment would obviously provide the Taliban with the opportunity to consolidate their gains and advance further. But, the pressure from India now seems to be receding and with the new US administration headed by Barack Obama, it is likely that there will be an attempt to put a regional initiative in place with regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Richard Holbrooke has been reported as Obama’s choice for the position of US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan But an important part of his mandate could be Pakistan-India relations as well. President Obama spoke during his campaign about the need to resolve the Kashmir issue and the recent remarks made by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband are indicative of the thinking in western capitals that a ‘regional’ solution may not be entirely possible without some kind of a settlement on Kashmir.

Pakistan, for its part, has made it clear that it will go along with any settlement acceptable to the Kashmiris, while India remains deeply suspicious of any third party involvement as indicated yet again by its sharp reaction to the Miliband’s remarks. However, India needs to resolve the Kashmir issue not for Pakistan but for itself just as Pakistan has to meet the challenge posed by the Taliban in FATA and the NWFP not in support of the US war on terror, but for its own integrity and survival as a nation-state.

For now, however, both India and Pakistan do not seem optimally positioned in terms of internal dynamics to deal with the pressing issues they face. The dissensions within will allow the militants to secure even greater space. To deal effectively with the growing menace of militancy and terrorism, both countries need to allow for a regional approach to the issue.

Abbas Rashid lives in Lahore and can be contacted at abbasrh@gmail.com





So they are terrorists now? By Dr Shabir Choudhry

13 10 2008

Source: pakistan christian post
When a head of state makes a statement it is regarded as an official policy of the country; and now it is official that Kashmiri struggle is ‘terrorism’ and all those associated with it, including leaders of APHC are ‘terrorists’, claims President of Islamic republic of Pakistan, Asif Zardari.

It is different matter that Pakistani establishment has hitherto projected leaders of the APHC as ‘holy cows’, which must not be criticised or opposed; if anything they must be respected and followed. Asif Zardari might have had his reasons and compulsions when giving this very bold interview to very prestigious newspaper Wall Street Journal.

But compulsions and requirements of powerful military and ISI, which is known as state within state, could be different from that of Asif Zardari; and it remains to be seen if they will accept this doctrine or will continue their old policies of supporting, training and promoting ‘jihad’ and militancy. It is not secret anymore that it was their considered policy to ‘keep India bleeding’ and to ‘keep India engaged’ or bogged down in Jammu and Kashmir; and that time it was perceived as in the best interest of Pakistan.

Nations best interests do change with time, but question is since when Pakistan has become a nation? Where and when they have discussed and reached a consensus that so and so policy is in the best national interest? There have always been forces within Pakistan competing against each other and undermining national interest. Policy of ‘adhocism’ always prevailed there with no system of check and balance or any kind of accountability or transparency.

My colleagues and I were fiercely attacked and a malicious campaign against us was launched with help of Pakistani agencies some years ago because we refused to accept the APHC as representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and demanded politics of accountability and transparency. We criticised role of these leaders and not only refused to follow them but also questioned about their sincerity, legitimacy and action plan for the Kashmiri struggle.

This vicious campaign was initiated against us because we challenged those who were puppets of the Pakistani establishment and were protecting and advancing ‘interest’ of Pakistani establishment. We stood our ground and claimed that the policy of communalising Kashmiri polity with violence, hatred and extremism will ultimately hurt people of Jammu and Kashmir; and might destabilise the Pakistani society as well.

When bombs were exploding outside the borders of Pakistan it was promoted as a ‘Jihad’ by Pakistani establishment and media because they were behind all this; and mosques and their imams and other Islamic organisations were urged to preach this ‘jihad’ and recruit people for waging it outside borders of Pakistan. For this ‘noble cause of jihad’ millions of dollars were spent and huge network was established.

We opposed this kind of ‘Jihad’ because it was a ‘proxy war’ of Pakistan presented to people of Jammu and Kashmir and the world at large as a Kashmiri struggle; also because it immensely increased suffering and problems of the people and unleashed forces of communalism, terrorism, extremism and hatred.

Asif Zardari has turned decades of Pakistani policy on its head; and it sent shock waves not only to the Pakistani establishment but also in many quarters around the world. It also shocked some Kashmiris as they still thought Pakistan was sincere with the cause of Kashmir; and in frustration and anger they burnt effigy of Asif Zardari.

Apart from the above U turn, he boldly claimed, “India has never been a threat to Pakistan”. That statement in practise means that it is always Pakistani military, which initiated wars with India and caused death and destruction of thousands of people in wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and not to mention proxy wars. Similar views have been expressed by some Pakistani writers, and Asif Zardari’s statement is supporting that view point, no matter if Pakistan’s strong establishment and military likes it or not.

In line with tradition of Pakistani politics the Pakistani government and members of establishment tried to limit the damage by saying that Zardari Sahib didn’t say that. But the fact is he did say it and no one is taking explanations of Ms Shery Rehman seriously. If he really has not said it then why doesn’t he sue Wall Street Journal? It is clear that he won’t because he has no legs to stand. He knows that the interviews of this kind are recorded and could be produced in the court.

Also Asif Zardari stunned everyone by acknowledging that the USA has permission to attack and kill militants and terrorists inside Pakistan. Of course with every strike more and more civilian are killed and maimed. Previously all government leaders were yelling that they will not allow any country to attack Pakistan or undermine its sovereignty. One wonders where they stand after this revelation. Either there was total lack of coordination, consultation and understanding among different branches of the government and rulers, or they were issuing these statements for public consumption knowing full well that they were wrong and didn’t mean anything.

However crucial question for people of Jammu and Kashmir is can they rely on Pakistan anymore? A government or rulers who feel no shame in killing their own people with F16 fighters, helicopter gun – ships, tanks and bombs even in holy month of Ramadan, will they spare us Kashmiris when and if we demanded and took certain measure that we want Pakistan to leave from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. One has to remember that despite virtual collapse of system because of militancy in 1990, killings, destruction and human rights abuse on the Indian side of the divide the authorities there did not use tanks or jet fighters to eliminate militants.

Moreover a government or rulers who give permission to foreign powers to violate Pakistani sovereignty, cross over to Pakistani territory and use their lethal weapons to kill people and destroy their properties, can we trust these rulers? Killing militants or Terrorists is one thing, but killing of innocent people men, women and children who are generally killed in these attacks cannot be condoned; and it is not proper to cover all these atrocities under the umbrella of ‘collateral damage’.

One can agree that extremists and terrorists are threat to every civilised society, but there must be unity of thought and action on this. You cannot pick and choose in this matter, and say that one kind of terrorism is justified because it furthers ‘our national interest’ or strategic policy; and the other kind of terrorism is wrong as it hurts us and directly challenges ‘our national interest’, writ of government and strategic policy.

If violence and terrorism is wrong in Pakistan then it is also wrong in Jammu and Kashmir, and appropriate measures need to be taken in order to stop and contain terrorism. Government of Pakistan and its agencies must abandon its old policies and stop supporting those who have been actively and deliberately promoting violence in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.

Also government of India and Pakistan must not give undue importance to those who took part in violence and have been promoting it for so many years, as that is tantamount to rewarding their past violent or ‘terrorist actions’. Both governments stop human rights abuse in their respective parts of the State and support those forces who believe in non military solution of the Kashmir dispute; those forces who promote liberal and democratic politics and rule of law.

*Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.