Pay-up time

12 02 2009

Source: Frontline
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

Pakistan: None of the first steps of the Obama administration has given the kind of unconditional reassurance that the Pakistanis want.

SHERIN ZADA/AP

A MAN CARRIES his elderly mother on his back as the family flees from the troubled Swat valley on February 1 as fighting between the militants and the security forces escalates.

THE bad news arrived quickly. Just three days after the Obama inauguration, the new United States administration made it plain to Pakistan that the winds of change sweeping America would not travel as far the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, at least not in the way that the rulers in Islamabad desired. If anything, the relationship might grow more difficult. The message came riding on two missile attacks on suspected militant compounds, within hours of each other, on the evening of January 23: one in North Waziristan and the second in South Waziristan.

The number of people killed in the attacks may have been 20. It is likely that there were both civilians and militants among the dead. It has always been impossible to verify such information. In Pakistan, the question is not so much if Al Qaeda operatives were among the dead. The missile attacks, launched from unmanned Predator aircraft, generically known as drones, are seen as violations of the country’s air space, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

There have been more than 30 such attacks since August 2008. Despite the Pakistani government’s protests against such incursions during the days of the Bush administration, the attacks continued, increasing in frequency and appearing to gain in precision. It led to the widespread belief that Pakistan’s civilian government was complicit in them. A Washington Post report in November 2008 said the Pakistan People’s Party-led government had given the Bush administration the green signal to carry out such attacks in the tribal areas. The understanding, according to the Post, gave Islamabad the right to protest against the attacks to keep domestic public opinion satisfied. Obama’s Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional committee recently that the drone attacks would continue and that the decision had been conveyed to the Pakistani leadership.

The government has strenuously denied any secret understanding with the U.S. on the attacks. From President Asif Ali Zardari to Prime Minister Yusouf Raza Gilani to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, all Pakistani leaders have made the point that the missile attacks were “counter-productive”: they fanned the flames of militancy that is eating the region – when civilians get killed, their fellow tribesmen, looking for revenge, swell the ranks of the Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda elements.

Pakistan’s influential media even went so far as to advise the government to stop the drones militarily, and, for a few days last year, the Pakistan Air Force flew sorties over the tribal areas in a sort of show of force. But as Qureshi once told reporters in his hometown Multan, when they asked him why the country could not stand up to the drone attacks in the same way that they had dealt with the alleged air space violations by the Indian Air Force in the wake of the Mumbai attacks: “Pakistan cannot equate the U.S. with India.” An indication that there was a limit to how far the government could go in challenging the drones. This also became evident when drones attacked a target in Bannu, which is not a territory in the lawless tribal region known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) but a “settled” district in North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Some days before the Obama inauguration, Gilani told the National Assembly, the lower house of the Pakistan parliament, that the incoming administration would not carry out missile attacks inside Pakistani territory. That turned out to be an incorrect reading of the new U.S. administration’s intentions.

In fact, none of the first steps of the Obama administration has given the kind of unconditional reassurance that the Pakistanis want from their patron country. In keeping with the new President’s campaign promise to focus on the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, his agenda for foreign policy, announced the day after his January 20 inauguration, gave top billing to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but not in the way Pakistan wanted.

The agenda document spoke about refocussing American resources to deal with what the document described as the “greatest threat” to U.S. security: “the resurgence of the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. It spoke of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan and asking the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to do the same, while promising more money for economic development to the war-torn country. The new administration has said it will make the Afghan government “do more” in terms of cracking down on the illicit opium trade and on corruption. For Pakistan, the new administration has promised more “non-military” aid, while holding it “accountable” for security in the border region with Afghanistan.

Hussain Haqqani, Islamabad’s Ambassador to Washington, told Geo television that if U.S. policy was not “positive”, Pakistan “will have to review its options”. He expressed the hope that President Obama would give a “patient hearing” to Pakistan’s concerns.

The increase in non-military aid is expected to come via the Biden-Lugar Bill, a bipartisan draft legislation sponsored by Joseph Biden – now the U.S. Vice-President – and adopted by the Senate in September 2008.

The Bill, which the House of Representatives is yet to take up – it lapsed with the inauguration of the new administration and will need to be reintroduced in the Senate – proposes tripling Pakistan’s non-military financial aid over the next five years in recognition of the need to stabilise the country’s economy and democratic institutions, making the bilateral relationship more oriented towards Pakistan’s people rather than its military. It also makes military aid conditional on greater accountability from the Pakistan security forces.

Specifically, the proposed legislation authorises $7.5 billion over the next five fiscal years ($1.5 billion annually) under the Foreign Assistance Act. It also advocates an additional $7.5 billion over the subsequent five years, subject to improvements in the political and economic climate.

ASIF HASSANAFP

JAMMAT-E-ISLAMI ACTIVISTS demonstrate against the missile strikes after Barack Obama took over as President, in Karachi on January 25.

It makes military assistance beginning in 2010, and new military sales beginning in 2012, conditional on certification by the U.S. Secretary of State that Pakistani security forces “are making concerted efforts to prevent Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups from operating in the territory of Pakistan; are making concerted efforts to prevent the Taliban from using the territory of Pakistan as a sanctuary from which to launch attacks within Afghanistan; are not materially interfering in the political or judicial processes of Pakistan”.

The increased non-military aid would address Pakistan’s contention that militancy must be tackled not by the military alone, but through economic development of the border regions, giving people education and jobs and “mainstreaming” them.

Pakistan had also hoped that Obama’s promised special envoy to the region would be mandated to work with India as well to press for a solution to the Kashmir issue. During his campaign, Obama said in an interview that a solution to the Kashmir problem was vital for peace in Afghanistan. The reasoning: the Kashmir issue is the cause of Pakistan’s insecurity with India, leading to its continuing quest for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan through jehadist proxies. Therefore, a resolution of the problem is as vital for the stability of Afghanistan as it is for peace between India and Pakistan.

In the event, the appointment of the tough-talking Richard Holbrooke as Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan caused disappointment in Pakistan that Obama had backed down, in the face of aggressive Indian diplomacy, from his resolve that the U.S. must help find a solution to Kashmir. But Pakistani leaders have continued to emphasise that Holbrooke’s mandate must be expanded to include India and Kashmir. In fact, the Foreign Ministry press release welcoming his appointment studiously avoided mentioning the two countries included in his mandate, stressing instead the word “region”.

The concern in New Delhi is whether Holbrooke will lean towards Pakistan’s view of the Afghan crisis or whether he will lean on the Pakistan military to produce the keys that can unlock the puzzle. Accepting Pakistan’s position would be no less than accepting jehad and terrorism as legitimate instruments of foreign policy. Leaning on the Pakistan military, on the other hand, would amount to challenging the nature of the Pakistani state.

Finally, the realisation that jehad is unviable has to come from within Pakistan, as it now has over the Taliban takeover of Swat. The picturesque valley in the NWFP, once a holiday destination for tourists, is now under the grip of a Taliban group under the leadership of Fazlullah, a mullah with extreme views who has thrown in his lot with the South Waziristan-based warlord Beithullah Mehsud.

Fazlullah’s marauding militants run a virtual parallel government in Swat. They brook no defiance and have imposed their extreme version of Islam on the people, making men wear beards and salwars that must end above the ankles, and women wear the shuttle-cock burkha, which was once unknown in that part of the world. Disobedience means death, with the body hanging in the main square in Mingora, the big town in Swat. The chowk itself has come to be known as “khooni chowk” (bloody square) or “chowk zibakhana” (slaughterhouse square). The valley was known for its vibrant singing and dancing, but that has ended, and an estimated 300,000 people of the total population of 1.6 million people have fled the district. No elected representative from Swat has dared to step into his constituency in months.

After a national outcry against the Pakistan Army for doing nothing to bring the situation under control, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the valley in a prelude to a fresh round of operations.

But Pakistanis still tend to see the situation in Swat in isolation, as if it has no connection with the larger issue of jehadist militant groups raised by the Pakistani state for proxy wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

These groups and their virulent ideologies are eating at the very vitals of the country, threatening to tear it apart politically and socially, while their actions abroad threaten to push Pakistan out of the comity of civilised nations.

The message from Swat is that it is easy to start a jehadist war but containing it means a systemic overhaul that is not possible only by pasting a democratic face to the state. And in this lies the challenge for U.S.-Pakistan ties, as much as it does for the India-Pakistan relationship.•

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Forget GAZA care about SWAT

12 02 2009

Source: The news
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By by Fasi Zaka
I think it would be absolutely inhuman not to care about the massacre in Gaza, the flagrant violation and cruelty demonstrated by the Israelis. But after talking to an old friend of mine, I can see how someone would be unmoved by the plight of the Palestinians.

A friend of mine called recently from the UK to announce the birth of his son. He was with me in university in Peshawar, and is a most amiable fellow. He is from Swat, and I had a good number of friends from that place during my student years.

The people of Swat are an extremely good looking people, and of a much more demure nature than most Pakhtuns, who are known to be boisterous. Several years after the completion of my education I went to Swat on a research project for the first and only time looking into the value chain of apple growers for the export market. I met many farmers, intelligent family men who were seeing hard times in agriculture but were optimistic about the future. Despite their hardships, they conformed to the gentleman farmer mould. If you had asked me at the time what would be the main concerns of Swat several years into the future I would have said it was the decimation of the population of bees due to pollution that was affecting the pollination of fruit-bearing trees. How wrong I was.

My friend who just had a son is in the UK, working; his wife and newborn are still in Swat. When he called he told me he was going to a protest in London to urge for action in his city. Several of his extended family had been murdered by the Taliban, and others threatened. The beauty of the valley is now irrigated by the blood of its slain innocents.

He asked me with what conscience could Pakistanis protest Gaza and be vocal about the atrocities there while remaining silent on Swat. He is right, it is unconscionable. More than the trouble in the tribal areas and FATA, Swat is problematic because it is indigenous Taliban without the benefit of being close to Afghanistan. When Swat goes, only a matter of time before Peshawar, and ultimately Islamabad too, if not the rest of the country, if the government does not detain these people.

How hard is it to take out a radio station there that Fazlullah uses to terrorise the citizens every night, announcing the roster of targets in his bloody workweek? What are the army and government thinking on this? There is already a report in the press that one of the ministers in the NWFP took out an advertisement in the local papers of Swat asking the Taliban to forgive him. Why is he still in office. The government has been shameless in only lauding Afzal Khan Lala, an octogenarian, the only resistance there is in the valley. Why is the burden of Swat on this old man?

The press has been irresponsible. Many commentators have romanticised the movement. But what is the core of the demands of the Taliban, other than regression of progress? Despite the horrific violence of the Communists, at least they gave their people education and quality healthcare that eventually helped undo the totalitarianism. The only way to undo the Taliban if they ever take over will not be education because there will be none. We will hark back to the days of brutes, leading short violent lives. There will not even be a noble savage amongst us. The moral relativism needs to end. They are massacring the people of Swat; the people live in terror every day while the army and the government watch on.

The Taliban have already issued their hit list to the media of politicians from the once serene valley. How long before they become even more ambitious and issue death verdicts to members of the legal fraternity, human rights lawyers and media men? Expect that soon. Where we can negotiate we should, no need for loss of life, even if it is enemies of the state, we need to preserve the sanctity of what is living. But sadly, we have moved beyond that phase because of the inaction of the both Musharraf and the current government.

The killing machine that the Taliban have become has created a new theatre of blood lust. They exhume graves of people to put corpses on display, they publicly kill people for minor offences, they fear education and ostracise it, they cut off people’s noses and ears. What kind of humanity is that? It’s not Islam, that’s for sure. It is an aberration.

Of all the coverage I have seen, the best came from unexpected quarters and in a totally different setting. While Hamid Mir is often criticised for being sensationalist, his reporting from Gaza was an unbelievable tour de force of mature and thought-provoking reportage. While surveying the damage in Gaza, he looked at the schools that were destroyed by the Israelis and pondered about Swat and the same that the Taliban manage to do with impunity. Without thinking everyone will denounce Israel, but hesitate to denounce what is happening in Swat. Why?

Gaza has been covered well by the world media and for the first time from both the west and the east there is tandem consternation over Israel, concentrating on it and ignoring our own plight is not sensible. The tragedy of Gaza doesn’t need to be replicated in Pakistan. We need to heal Swat, for the people of the valley and as a duty to our fellow citizens. The next generation will not forgive us for our silence.

The writer is a Rhodes scholar and former academic. Email: fasizaka@ yahoo.com





Pak to stop broadcast of Taliban radio in Swat, FATA

12 02 2009

Source: Merinews

During a meeting, officials from ISPR, PEMRA and Radio Pakistan informed the Information Minister of the Pakistan government’s ongoing efforts to procure equipment for jamming illegal radio transmissions in Swat and FATA..

PAKISTAN GOVERNMENT has said that it will intensify the government’s public outreach and strategic communications efforts to counter extremist propaganda and prevent terrorism.

Officials also said that they were procuring high tech equipment to stop the broadcast of Taliban radio in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

“Pakistan is confronted with a war of ideas – between tolerance and extremism, and between democracy and anarchy,” said federal minister for information and broadcasting, Sherry Rehman, while chairing a high-level public outreach and communications meeting held today at the Information Ministry to assess the government’s counter-terrorism communications strategy.

In this war for hearts and minds, Pakistan’s vulnerable population segments are exposed to terrorists’ message,” said the Information Minister.

“Our poor and uneducated youth become hapless recruits to their sinister recruiting techniques. Only a well-coordinated and synchronised national and international framework of public outreach and strategic communications undertaken by government departments and agencies will counter and thwart extremist propaganda that represents a major challenge to our country today.”

During the meeting, officials from ISPR, PEMRA and Radio Pakistan informed the Information Minister of the government’s ongoing efforts to procure equipment for jamming illegal radio transmissions in Swat and FATA.

The Minister was informed that the necessary equipment will be procured and installed in the sensitive regions in the next two weeks, followed by launch of an elaborate and aggressive FM radio campaign in the region to counter extremists’ transmissions.





Post-26/11: What India needs to do

31 01 2009

Source: DNA INDIA

In the introduction to her book What Terrorists Want, Louise Richardson explains why she studied terrorism “to try to establish why an otherwise responsible parent, student or teacher would chose to join a terrorist movement and remain in one and why a group of people would collectively choose to kill innocent people they do not know in order to advance some goal unlikely to be achieved in their lifetime.”
What happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and continued for three days raises just these and several other questions. And what we have seen is no longer a proxy war, but an all out assault on the Indian state. It is an attack on all Indians and all Indians will have to be prepared to fight this one. It is far too serious to be left to politicians.
It may be state policy in Pakistan to use jehad as a deadly instrument of foreign policy and as a force equaliser against the superior Indian military, but then that state has the manpower willing to act as its emissaries in this bloody game virtually sure that they will die. There is a terrorist rationality in this seeming irrationality — of dying unsung for a cause unfulfilled. Perhaps the incident itself is the rationale. Perhaps the incident coverage by the media provides the narrative and renown for the future. Or perhaps, the debate that ensues with the pseudo-liberal platitudes provides some justification.
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai were seeking a global audience for their expression of hatred and the spectacular act was part of their psychological warfare.
Their inspiration may be the desire of their leaders and ideologues — like Syed Qutb, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Ibn Taymiyah and even Hafeez Saeed — to return to the glory of 7th century Islam. This would inevitably put them into conflict with the 21st century world including a large percentage of Muslims. Pakistani rulers have used Kashmir as glue for organising groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a policy instrument against India. It may now be getting out of control.
Why now?The question that many ask is that given Pakistan’s present political uncertainties, an economic crisis despite having just received an IMF bailout, and a security predicament in the NWFP and US pressure to co-operate, given the kinds of peace overtures coming from the president, why did it feel it necessary to indulge in this kind of adventurism. Maybe these are the very reasons why this adventure was necessary. All this is part of a devious plot, to create a crisis on the eastern frontier by having this terrorist act which is difficult for the Indians to ignore, then move troops away from the Fata and NWFP which would alarm the US/Nato in their battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The ensuing tension on the eastern frontier would absolve Pakistan of having to fight America’s war in the west unless the US is able to assure Pakistan that its eastern flank is not endangered by Indians.
A major terrorist incident in Mumbai would provoke an Indian reaction, raise tension and alarm the US. Kashmir would be back on the radar screen of the new president. So, if India could be made to see reason in this, Pakistan would be able to help the American cause in Afghanistan. There is considerable writing in the US precisely on these lines and a major terrorist action would be useful in impressing the new president anxious to find a different path to solving the Afghanistan imbroglio. The hope would be that the Americans would be able to leave Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance, Pakistan would have access to Afghanistan and Kashmir and, finally, the LeT would be the heroes.
As it is, the Pakistan army has been fighting its Fata campaign very half-heartedly and has been more interested in obtaining steady cash inflow of money from the US. The Pakistanis do not want to eliminate the Taliban as they would have future uses for it in Afghanistan and Kashmir in a post-US phase.
Sushant Sareen feels that there will be immense US political, military and economic pressure on Pakistan to prevent it from entering into a deal with the Islamists. If the Pakistanis defy the Americans, then they risk economic collapse and military confrontation with the US.
On the other hand, acceptance of US demands will cause public outrage as the US and Pakistani forces take on the Taliban and the Taliban retaliate by hitting in major towns and cities. In this context, the Mumbai plot was a way to pre-empt this pressure.
Over time, the Pakistani Taliban have been able to or been allowed to take control of large chunks of territory in Fata and Swat. The startling disclosure that Baitullah Mehsud, till recently accused of assassinating Benazir Bhutto, had now been declared a Pakistani patriot, who would allow the army to pull out and concentrate on the Indian frontier, could be an indicator of the shape of things to come.
It is possible that there is a strong difference of opinion in the Pak army about priorities — whether Pakistan should be fighting America’s war in the NWFP and killing their own Muslim brothers in the province or fighting its own war in Kashmir and against India.
Possibly, there are those in the Pak army who feel that Pakistan must not be seen to be fighting its own people -although that never bothered the Pak armed forces whenever they have had to tackle the Baloch. Maybe this is a victory for the Islamists inside the Pak army.
The Pak army’s badge of professionalism is heavily imbued with Islamic overtones. The Pakistani soldier and officer are different from the officers who graduate from Khadakvasla, Sandhurst or West Point. The man from Kakul trains under the motto ‘Jehad fi’isbillah’ — Jehad in the name of God. He leads a modern Islamic army and genuinely believes that he is the ‘protector of the faith’ and the ‘defender of the realm’.
And this army is steadily losing control of parts of its territory in the northwest as the Taliban spread deeper into Pakistan.
Pak army’s guided missileThe LeT (Army of pure), whose involvement in the Mumbai attacks is now established, is an Islamic terrorist force in Asia with links to Al Qaeda. Its network extends across South Asia, has links in Afghanistan, and has received generous donations from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. Besides, it also has the support of the Pak army and the ISI. Seed money came from Osama bin Laden and there have been generous donations from rich Pakistani businessmen. Saudi Arabia has sustained this outfit with considerable funding.
The political wing of the LeT, the Markaz Dawa Irshad, (renamed Jamaat ut Dawa renamed Idara Khidmat e Khalq) today runs 200 mainstream Dawa schools, 11 madrassas, two science colleges, an ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Its recruits are not ill-educated madrassa students, but well educated and educationally qualified urban professionals.
The Lashkar continues to have training camps in Muridke, with its headquarters near Lahore. The LeT has conducted operations in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and SE Asia. The Lashkar is an invaluable asset to the Pak authorities as it enables it to keep the Kashmir option open even while supporting the US campaign in Afghanistan.
It is sometimes assumed, incorrectly, that the LeT is a Kashmiri outfit. It is a purely Punjabi Pakistani group. As an associate of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews and then later to include Hindus, its scope of activity is beyond Kashmir.
As Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation points out Hafeez Saeed’s favourite verse from the Quran is Wajahidu fi Sabilallah (Wage a holy war in the name of God). It was not too long ago when the LeT chief Hafeez Saeed told his followers in Lahore from where he usually doles out inflammatory sermons against India when he said, “India understands only one language — the language of Jehad”.
This was on October 13, 2008, a few weeks before the attacks on Mumbai were launched or as one can suspect, maybe by then the operation had already begun.

Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Reasearch and Analysis Wing. The second part of this article will appear tomorrow





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





TALIBAN says India is an "eternal enemy".

5 08 2008

Will India be able to counter this Eternal enemy the TALIBAN
Source: Rediff
August 05, 2008 17:29 IST

A top local Taliban [Images] leader has dismissed contentions by Pakistani officials that India is helping militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are true Muslims and true Pakistanis and are more concerned about the country’s safety than any other countryman,” Maulana Faqir Muhammad, “deputy commander” of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, told the News daily.

He said they consider India as an “eternal enemy”.

Muhammad, who leads the Pakistani Taliban in the Bajaur tribal region, also rejected reports that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed or wounded in a recent US missile strike in South Waziristan Agency.

Referring to the Taliban’s peace talks with the Pakistan government, he said the authorities were not sincere.

“We are very clear about the talks. We never denied talks with the government. If the government were not aggravating the situation here, we too would not do so. We do not want activities inside the country so that we can focus more attention across the border,” Muhammad said.

His comments came as pressure mounted on Pakistan from various countries, including the US and Afghanistan, to rein in militants operating from its soil.

He said the Pakistan government had committed “excesses” in the Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province. “If the government stopped the operations in Swat, the situation would automatically calm down within no time, but if the government continued the operation, it would face more resistance,” he warned.





TALIBAN says India is an "eternal enemy".

5 08 2008

Will India be able to counter this Eternal enemy the TALIBAN
Source: Rediff
August 05, 2008 17:29 IST

A top local Taliban [Images] leader has dismissed contentions by Pakistani officials that India is helping militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are true Muslims and true Pakistanis and are more concerned about the country’s safety than any other countryman,” Maulana Faqir Muhammad, “deputy commander” of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, told the News daily.

He said they consider India as an “eternal enemy”.

Muhammad, who leads the Pakistani Taliban in the Bajaur tribal region, also rejected reports that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed or wounded in a recent US missile strike in South Waziristan Agency.

Referring to the Taliban’s peace talks with the Pakistan government, he said the authorities were not sincere.

“We are very clear about the talks. We never denied talks with the government. If the government were not aggravating the situation here, we too would not do so. We do not want activities inside the country so that we can focus more attention across the border,” Muhammad said.

His comments came as pressure mounted on Pakistan from various countries, including the US and Afghanistan, to rein in militants operating from its soil.

He said the Pakistan government had committed “excesses” in the Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province. “If the government stopped the operations in Swat, the situation would automatically calm down within no time, but if the government continued the operation, it would face more resistance,” he warned.