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Old Monday, October 24, 2011
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Default south Asia

Obama & South Asia

THE besetting sin of South Asian analyses is a total indifference to any interests save one`s own. Indian reactions to President Barack Obama`s speech in Mumbai on Nov 7 and Pakistan`s reaction to his address to the Indian parliament the next day, provide an excellent case study of that.

At an interaction with college students on Nov 7, a 19-year-old student asked: “Why is Pakistan so important an ally that America has never called it a terrorist state?”

Obama complimented her for asking a “good” question; i.e. one commonly asked and deserved to be laid to rest. He did so by saying “Pakistan is a strategically important country, not just for America, but for the world. If Pakistan is unstable, that`s bad for India. If it`s good and prosperous, that`s good, because India is on the move. India and Pakistan can prosper and live side by side. Pakistan understands the threats from extremism. They now understand the threats within their borders. The progress is not as quick as we`d like.”

That the student asked the question she did is understandable. The instant reaction of TV anchors and panelists betrayed sheer professional incompetence. The United States Pakistan; not least for a decent exit from Afghanistan. The New York Times:

Less than three weeks earlier Mark Landler and Eric Schmitts had reported in “As Pakistani civilian and military leaders arrive here this week for high-level meetings, the Obama administration will begin trying to mend a relationship badly damaged by the US military`s tough new stance in the region.

“Among the sweeteners on the table will be a multiyear security pact with Pakistan, complete with more reliable military aid — something the Pakistani military has long sought to complement the five-year, $7.5bn package of non-military aid approved by the US Congress last year.” The Indians knew this before the guest’s arrival.

Obama knew next to nothing about this region before he became president and is learning on the job. On Nov 8 he said at a joint press conference with his host Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “The US cannot impose solutions to these problems. I have indicated to the prime minister that we are happy to play any role the parties think is appropriate in reducing tensions” and went on gratuitously to advise “They could start with other issues, with confidence-building measures”.

He should be informed by his advisers that, without any American help, official or from the busybodies who devise proposals for us, India and Pakistan had moved far ahead since 2004 and by 2007 reached the very outskirts of a Kashmir settlement. As Kissinger remarked; do not ask an American for advice. If you do, he will readily provide it.

India and Pakistan must settle their problems by themselves. Terrorism and confidence-building measures are important issues. So is Kashmir. In recent months Pakistan`s leaders have been urging the US to nudge India towards a Kashmir settlement while Indian leaders have pressed it to prod Pakistan for effective action against the perpetrators of the dastardly crime on Nov 26, 2008.

Not to be left behind Mir Waiz Umar Farooq, head of the `moderate` Hurriyat launched a signature campaign for US intervention in the Kashmir dispute. But the United States needs good relations with both Pakistan and India for its own strategic, political and economic interests. It cannot, will not alienate either to please the other.

In December 2001, the Bharatiya Janata Party regime massed troops along the Line of Control and the international border, after the terrorist attack on Parliament House in New Delhi. Its aim was two-fold — to put pressure on Pakistan to act against the perpetrators and on the US to join in the pressure.

The US had its own fish to fry on the issue of terrorism. It went along in a mediatory effort so long as it suited its interests — and washed its hands off. The advisories issued to American travellers in June 2002 swiftly induced second thoughts in New Delhi. By then the war in Afghanistan was well under way. Having made significant progress in bilateral talks Pakistan and India should concentrate now on pushing them ahead towards a settlement.

The Indian government cleared in the first week of this month a Rs2,000 crore proposal to acquire sophisticated equipment for the India Air Force. But India is in no hurry to sign the Logistics Support Agreement and the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement on which differences persist, as they do on curbs on export of dual-use technology.

After the initial euphoria sober thoughts have taken over on Obama`s cautious qualified words on support for India`s permanent membership of the UN Security Council. On China, India will follow its own line according to its own interests. On Oct 29, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a successful meeting with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at Hanoi. Both countries know that it is futile to rely on the US exclusively; still worse, to play the frayed American card. All three need good relations with the US — Pakistan, India and China; each for its own reasons.

Obama & South Asia | Newspaper | DAWN.COM
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Default India’s vote the talking point in Pak UN win

India’s vote the talking point in Pak UN win


Manjeev Singh Puri (top); Abdullah Hussain Haroon
New York, Oct. 22: In winning a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council yesterday, Pakistan defeated itself.

Islamabad barely squeaked through and secured its two-year term with not even one vote more than the bare minimum required in the election.

Much more than Islamabad’s lacklustre election, the excitement in the General Assembly hall — where voting for five non-permanent seats continued throughout yesterday — was over India casting its vote in support of Pakistan.

In doing so, India’s acting permanent representative to the UN, Manjeev Singh Puri, returned Pakistan’s favour last year in voting in support of India in a similar election.

Till then, there was no precedent of the two neighbours voting for each other.

It was a far cry from 1975, when India and Pakistan fought each other for an Asian seat in the Security Council through eight bitterly contested rounds in the General Assembly. Alas, India lost to Pakistan after the eighth round then.

In the press stakeout area outside the General Assembly, Puri and Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, hugged each other as Puri warmly congratulated Haroon.

Cheering them with broad grins were other diplomats at the UN and a large number of visitors who had arrived for this occasion, including Ravi Batra, a prominent New York lawyer who has played social diplomacy recently in bringing together the Indian and Pakistani envoys to the UN.

Haroon told NDTV in the stakeout area that “I have absolute confidence that they (India) voted for us”. Then he promised that “we will be talking a lot more” once India and Pakistan are both sitting at the Security Council’s horseshoe table.

Pakistan will take its seat on January 1 next year. India’s two-year elected term will end on December 31, 2012. Revealing that the two governments had discussed Islamabad’s candidature and agreed on Indian support for Pakistan, Haroon added that “we have been part of them, they have been part of us”.

He said “it is a great day for the subcontinent” that both the South Asian countries have been elected to serve together in the Security Council. “Asia is taking a leap into the world. We should be part of that leap.”

Despite the bonhomie, India’s 1975 defeat to Pakistan still rankles among South Block’s old UN hands. So does India’s humiliating rout at Japan’s hands in 1996.

India did not muster courage to contest for the Security Council for 14 years after that rout while Pakistan was once again elected in 2003. In all, Pakistan has so far served six terms in the Council.

Last year, India erased the blot of its defeats by winning the highest number of votes on record in any election to the Security Council in the previous six years.

New Delhi was not the choice for the 2011-12 Asian seat in the Council only for four members of the General Assembly among the 191 valid ballots cast in last year’s poll.

The General Assembly has 193 current members and two-thirds support among countries present and voting is required for election to the Security Council even if there is only one candidate for each geographical group at the UN.

Pakistan barely crossed that threshold for its election by securing just 129 votes, but that minimum figure enabled it to get elected in the first round itself.

Despite such poor showing, Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani today put the best face to the UN’s lack of enthusiasm for his country. The voting “demonstrated acknowledgement of Pakistan’s importance in the comity of nations”, Gilani said in Islamabad.

Haroon parried questions about Pakistan squeaking through by taking a practical view. “A win is a win,” he said.

Pakistan foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who is better known for her fashion accessories than her diplomacy, said in a separate statement that “as in the past, Pakistan will play its constructive role in the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security”.

Among the other countries that got elected along with Pakistan in the first round, Guatemala received 191 votes.

Guatemala’s candidature was uncontested for the Latin American and Caribbean group’s seat. Morocco received 151 votes for an African seat. Voting for a second African seat went as far as the third round when Togo obtained 131 votes, two more than Pakistan and eliminated Mauritania from the race.

There was no outcome for a fifth seat from Europe. Neither Azerbaijan nor Slovenia could get to the threshold of two-thirds majority even after nine rounds of voting in which a third candidate, Hungary, was eliminated.

General Assembly president Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said voting will continue on Monday.

Meanwhile, Talks are under way behind closed doors for a compromise between Azerbaijan and Slovenia so that one of them will pull out.

South Asian ambassadors at the UN are hoping that India’s election last year and Pakistan’s yesterday will be followed up by repeated and continuous representation for their region in the Security Council.

Until the mid-1990s there was an almost continuous South Asian presence on the Council with India, Pakistan, Nepal or Bangladesh occupying an Asian seat.

India’s vote the talking point in Pak UN win

Pakistan wins temporary UN council seat
By Huma Imtiaz

WASHINGTON: Winning the bare minimum required to win the hotly contested elections, Pakistan has won a seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a two-year term.

Securing 129 out of 193 votes in the United Nations General Assembly – exactly the two-thirds majority required to win the seat, Pakistan will now be a non-permanent member, replacing Lebanon, of the United Nations Security Council in a term that begins on January 2012 and will end in December 2013.

The seat is on the Asia-Pacific and Africa group, where Pakistan will join India amongst other countries as non-permanent members. Morocco was also elected as a member of the non-permanent seats in the UNSC. Pakistan’s sole competitor for the Asia-Pacific seat Kyrgyzstan managed to garner 55 votes.
According to reports, Pakistan had secured support from India, China and the UAE amongst other countries to help it win the election.

Pakistan’s earlier terms on the Council were in 2003-04, 1993-94, 1983-84, 1976-77, 1968-69 and 1952-53.

The Pakistan delegation, led by Ambassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon, appeared to be conf ident of victory. “We have worked very, very hard over the past months,” Ambassador Haroon said.

According to a press release, Haroon said Pakistan’s election to the Security Council is the acknowledgement by the international community of its services and its capabilities to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security which is the main function of the Security Council.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar thanked the international community for reposing trust in Pakistan. “Pakistan will play its constructive role in the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security,” a press release quoted the minister as saying.

Mian Jahangir, the press officer for Pakistan’s mission to the UN, said that the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister had also congratulated Ambassador Haroon on Pakistan’s victory at the UN Security Council.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has congratulated the nation on this victory. Pakistan will assume its seat on the Security Council from January 1, 2012.

She also congratulated the Foreign Office and Pakistan’s Permanent Mission in New York for their hard work in projecting Pakistan’s constructive role in the world.

Pakistan wins temporary UN council seat – The Express Tribune
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America’s Deep-Seated Motives
behind Arms Sales to Taiwan

By Zhang Shirong

Translated By Marjorie Perry

3 October 2011

he U.S. government announced on Sept. 21, 2011, a total of $5.8 billion in arms sales to Taiwan. This is the second arms sale to Taiwan by the Obama administration. These actions seriously violate three Sino-U.S. joint communiqués, especially the principles outlined in the August 17th communiqué. The U.S. arms sale to Taiwan seriously interferes with China’s internal affairs, undermines China’s national security and threatens to derail China’s peaceful reunification (with Taiwan); it also damages Sino-U.S. relations. China has expressed its strong indignation and resolute opposition to such transgressions.

Beginning with May 2008, the Taiwan situation entered into a new era of peaceful development and amicable cross-strait exchanges. Particularly after implementation of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, economic ties have been steadily deepening between mainland China and Taiwan. At the same time, as the U.S. and European debt crisis deepens, Sino-U.S. interdependence has gradually deepened. Comparing the current situation with the period where the Democratic Progressive Party carried out rampant “Taiwan Independence” activities — when there were tense cross-strait relations and the U.S. military, on the grounds of trying to balance the military capabilities on either side of the straight, frequently pushed for arms sales to Taiwan. These past two instances of arms sales come after Obama has taken office, when cross-strait relations have become markedly more peaceful; it is difficult to find a sensible interpretation for these recent arms sales. Thus we must look beyond the surface and examine the U.S.’s deep seated motivation for selling arms to Taiwan.

U.S. Core National Interests

In the U.S. administration, intermittent arms sales to Taiwan are taken as customary practice. In fact, using Taiwan to control China’s peaceful rise is America’s primary tactic in its efforts to deter China. Conservative U.S. forces have always viewed China as a major strategic competitor, not a major strategic partner. Even though the U.S. has recently been focusing more on internal affairs, the U.S. still uses the Taiwan issue to interfere with China’s peaceful ascension.

During the Cold War, Taiwan played a crucial role in the U.S.’s military expansion into Asia. In the 1950s and 1960s Taiwan was an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” in the U.S.’s attempts to contain socialist China. Taiwan has invaluable geostrategic value for the U.S. Meanwhile, Taiwan has largely accepted the American political model and American values. Conversely, the U.S. views Taiwan as being anti-Chinese and anti-Communist. Scholars point out, “In the global game of chess, Taiwan is a very significant piece, especially its ideology and values… and, in recent years, its democratization. These aspects are all fully consistent with U.S. interests.”* Zbigniew Brzezinski noted that Taiwan is

“a democratic success story…it is an example of what the blending of Chinese culture and democracy would look like; its example shows what the evolution of China may lead to. Taiwan’s example has important and long-term significance.”*

In the 1970s, China adjusted its foreign policy so that it could coordinate with the U.S. policy of concentrating forces against Soviet military expansion. The U.S. and China formed a united front against the Soviet Union and, according to U.S. pragmatism, adjusted policy towards Taiwan to make concessions for mainland Chinese interests. The signing of three joint Sino-U.S. communiqués — the Shanghai communiqué, the Diplomatic Communiqué and the August 17th communiqué — established that the Taiwan problem would temporarily be set aside. The U.S. would aid China in opposing the Soviet Union.

In the early 90’s, the Cold War ended, but the American Cold War mentality of dominating the world did not. After the Cold War, Taiwan’s position in the U.S.’s global strategy rose significantly; the reason lies in America’s wanting to use Taiwan to control the global ideological field and wield some control over a rapidly developing China.

In reality, the U.S. selling arms to Taiwan has always been a “the tail leads the dog” problem in the Sino-U.S. relationship. On May 5, 1982, Deng Xiaoping met with Vice President George H.W. Bush and, using his usual forthright matter, told Bush that the central problem in Sino-U.S. relations is American arms sales to Taiwan. The selling of arms to Taiwan tests the stability of Sino-U.S. relations and established relationship guidelines. Only after this problem is resolved, can the two sides begin to establish mutual trust. Deng pointed out that if the U.S. sold arms to Taiwan for an indefinite period of time, the U.S. is actually providing Taiwan with an umbrella.

In the early 1980s, America’s arms sales to Taiwan became a major obstacle to the development of Sino-U.S. relations. In order to overcome this obstacle, both sides engaged in arduous negotiations and on Aug. 15, 1982, reached an agreement. On August 17th they announced the Sino-U.S. Cooperation Communiqué (the “8-17 communique”). Within the document, both sides reiterated the original principles contained in the Shanghai Communiqué and Diplomatic Communiqué.

The U.S. gave its word not to pursue a policy of long-term arms sales to Taiwan; it also promised that the capabilities and number of the arms sold to Taiwan would not surpass those of the arms sold after the Diplomatic Communiqué. The U.S. also agreed to prepare to enter a phase of gradual reduction in arms sales to Taiwan; after a period of time both sides would seek a final resolution. Since then, throughout the 1980s, the U.S. complied with its alliance where China saw the need to control arms sales to Taiwan.

In recent years, especially after the start of the 21st century and the successful implementation China’s regional policy of being a “good, peaceful and prosperous neighbor,” only Japan and the Taiwanese province have been unstable factors in an overall peaceful environment. After the redefinition of the Japanese-U.S. alliance, Taiwan became the U.S.’s most powerful piece in its efforts to contain China.

In considering U.S. strategic interests, if China does not achieve unification, the U.S. has reason to intervene in cross-strait relations and provide the Taiwan province with arms. This allows China no choice but to maintain a comparable military force and thus it cannot completely focus its energy on modernization. At the same time, the U.S. is inclined to exaggerate the possibility of a military conflict between the mainland and Taiwan in order to cause other Western nations to doubt the soundness of investing in China. These exaggerations also cause China’s neighbors unease and cancel out the positive contributions China has made to the region as the center of economic activity, as well as the success of its regional and economic policies.

In terms of geopolitical strategy, America hopes to rely on contentious cross-strait relations so that it can use Taiwan as a natural barrier to China’s military power expanding into the Pacific. This way, American forces would not be exposed to the threat of a direct Chinese offensive.

U.S. Arms Sales Driven by Economic Interests

After the end of the Cold War, the U.S. came up with excuses that it needed to maintain a balance in cross-strait military prowess. As arms sales to Taiwan gradually escalated, it has given Taiwan independence supporters the illusion that their cause has the full backing of American power. This became a source of tension in the Sino-U.S. relationship.

Taiwan is currently America’s most important arms market. According to incomplete statistics, in the last 30 years, the U.S. has sold arms to Taiwan over 80 times. The total value of these past sales amounts to more than $40 billion. Some in the U.S. say that selling arms to Taiwan will help expand exports and raise employment. In 2010, due to the U.S. selling $6.4 billion in arms to Taiwan and President Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama, Sino-U.S. relations hit rock bottom. Exchange between Sino-U.S. military forces and high-level officials ceased.

In 2011, a new round of arms sales to Taiwan pushes the Obama administration’s total arms sales to $12 billion; this figure surpasses the total sold to Taiwan after the breaking of U.S.-Taiwan diplomatic relations. America possesses the world’s most advanced arms industry and is the world’s largest arms exporter.

According to U.S. national interests, selling large amounts of military armaments to Taiwan can increase the instability of the cross-strait situation and prolong the sustainability of pro-independence forces. This is a threat to American national security. Yet the U.S. military-industrial complex wields a significant influence over American politics, and they continue to use various lobby groups to influence the U.S. government to gradually lift the restrictions on arms sales to Taiwan.

The current U.S. military industry faces competition from Europe and Russia. Thus, although the American government and several high-ranking officials have categorically said that they would not sell enough offensive weapons to Taiwan to “change the status quo,” the military industrial complex continues to exert pressure on American authorities to sign large arms deals to ensure they maintain a sufficient profit margin.

U.S. Electoral Politics

The American political tradition has always emphasized domestic politics over international politics. In American electoral politics, the military industrial complex has always backed conservative forces. In September 1992, the Bush (senior) administration disregarded persistent objections from China over the sale of 150 advanced F-16 fighters. This sale led to a serious deterioration in Sino-U.S. relations.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the American economy has been listless and the unemployment rate has held at its historic high of nine percent. As the 2012 presidential election approaches, the economy and unemployment are the two key issues that both sides must focus on. With this context, Lockheed Martin and members of Congress have flown up the “raise employment and stir the economy” banner. They have said that increasing arms sales has the potential to add 80,000 jobs. With such rhetoric, it is easy to win the support of the American public — this places a great deal of pressure on the Democratic Party.

A former senior U.S. Department of Defense official recently told a “Global Times” reporter that the current sluggish economy is the largest obstacle to Obama’s re-election; Obama obviously can’t dismiss the arms sales as a possible job creator.

Taiwan Political Forces

Since the signing and implementation of the ECFA, cross-strait exchanges have been growing more intertwined. Both communities on either side of the strait and the international community benefit from this development. Yet the Taiwan side continues to exaggerate the threat posed by mainland Chinese military forces and ignore the overall peaceful development of the mainland China-Taiwan relationship.

Some media commentators on the Taiwanese island point out that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are fueled by the U.S.’s interest in preserving its national interests. Therefore, it must continually sell arms to Taiwan in order to make a profit and counter the mainland’s growing power. For some, the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan resembles a chain collar. As soon as Taiwan doesn’t listen to its U.S. shareholders, the leash holder tightens its grip.

At the same time, Taiwan independence forces are unable to remain out of the limelight; they even encourage the purchase of high-priced U.S. armaments in order to curry the support of the U.S. military industry and hopefully garner favorable policies from the government. These Taiwan independence forces hope to make the U.S. their tank in the fight for independence.

In reality, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan has already seen the transition from “seller’s market” to “buyer’s market.” It used to be that Taiwan was eager to buy; now it is the U.S. is eager to sell. The reasoning is multifaceted. For Taiwan, their internal politics have changed and since the Kuomintang has been in charge of executive power they have been very cautious about buying arms from the U.S. On the other hand, because the Taiwan economy is slowing, they have not had the same funds to buy huge amounts of armaments.

As for the American side, these about-faces in arms sales precisely reflect the strong influence of the military industrial complex on politics. As for how to expel these external factors, a frank and inclusive attitude will aid the most in the construction of a framework for peaceful cross-strait relations. This is a major issue facing Taiwanese authorities.
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Haqqanis will not talk Afghan peace alone: Commander
By Reuters
Published: October 25, 2011

PESHAWAR: The Afghan Haqqani network will not take part individually in any peace talks with the United States and negotiations must be led by the Taliban leadership, a senior commander told Reuters on Tuesday.

“They (the Americans) would not be able to find a possible solution to the Afghan conflict until and unless they hold talks with the Taliban shura,” said the Haqqani group commander, referring to the Taliban leadership council.

Earlier, NATO said Monday that about 200 Taliban-linked militants were killed or captured in major military operations by Afghan and foreign forces on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.

Pakistan and the Haqqani network
Continuing the tense US-Pak relationship, two days after her trip to Islamabad US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Pakistan will face “dire consequences” if it fails to contain terrorists operating from its soil.She added that the US administration does not want Pakistan to overtly launch a military offensive against the banned outfits and forces that attack US and Afghan forces, but carry out clandestine actions.

Improving security in Afghanistan

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan security is improving even more quickly than anticipated, a senior U.S. defense official said, despite concerns that a brisk troop drawdown might handicap the effort to build lasting stability.

However, the news agency Reuters reports even the most confident military officials recognize the obstacles to sustaining improvements made in places like southern Helmand, including a surge in high-profile attacks and insurgents’ability to shelter and resupply in western Pakistan.

While foreign forces have touted improved security in the Taliban’s southern heartland, the picture is much less encouraging in the Afghan east, where militants from the Haqqani network, blamed for a series of bold attacks on American targets, take advantage of rugged terrain and the porous border to the east.

Haqqanis will not talk Afghan peace alone: Commander – The Express Tribune
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China draft bill defines terrorism amid 'real threat'

China says it faces a terrorist threat in Xinjiang, but critics say its own policies are part of the problem

China is considering new legislation to define terrorism more precisely, in the face of what an official described as a "real threat".

State news agency Xinhua said the draft bill could pave the way for a renewed campaign against terrorist groups and allow their assets to be frozen.

China says it faces an organised terrorist threat from radical Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Many suspects have been tried under vague laws protecting social order.

Proponents of the new draft bill say it should make it easier to bring terrorism charges.

But critics say it is the Chinese government's economic policies and restrictions on cultural and religious expression which are fostering anger among Xinjiang locals, reports the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing.

'Public fear'

According to Xinhua, China's criminal law permits jail terms of up to 10 years for those found to have organised, led or actively participated in terrorist organisations.

But the law contains no specific definitions of what constitutes a terrorist, a terrorist act or organisation, it quoted the Vice Minister of Public Security, Yang Huanning, as saying.

This adversely affects "the fight against terrorism, control over terrorist assets, and international anti-terrorism co-operation", it quoted him as saying.

So a draft bill has been submitted by the state council, China's cabinet, for approval by the country's top legislature, the National People's Congress, supplying specific definitions.

"In the draft bill, terrorist acts are defined as those acts which are intended to induce public fear or to coerce state organs or international organisations by means of violence, sabotage, threats or other tactics," Xinhua said.

"These acts cause or aim to cause severe harm to society by causing casualties, bringing about major economic losses, damaging public facilities or disturbing social order.

"Instigating, funding or assisting with other means are also terrorist acts, according to the draft bill," Xinhua reported.

"China is faced with the real threat of terrorist activities, and the struggle with terrorism is long-term, complicated and acute," Mr Yang was quoted as saying.

BBC News - China draft bill defines terrorism amid 'real threat'

Reforms in Fata

Afrasiab Khattak

THE extension of the Political Parties Act to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is a development of historical proportions.

The political agency system started shaping up in the 1870s when the British occupied some Afghan territories and lumped them with British India.

Colonial authorities chose their finest military and civil officers to craft an administrative system that could cater to their interests in an area considered a ‘frontier’ of the empire with czarist Russia. Fata was first and foremost to be an additional buffer behind the buffer state of Afghanistan. So it was important to vigilantly guard it against political movements and influences.

The whole design of Fata was aimed at keeping the area as a political ‘non-conductor’ like a piece of dry wood that is not a conductor of electricity. One has to accept the fact that this colonial design succeeded to a great extent. Fata became more of a ‘strategic space’ than an area inhabited by people who could aspire to fundamental rights.

Fata proved itself effectively as a buffer zone by blocking the impact of social and cultural reforms introduced in Afghanistan by the modernist king Amanullah Khan and preventing these from entering eastern Pakhtun society. Similarly, Bacha Khan’s political movement remained confined to eastern Pakhtuns and could not penetrate Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, Fata could not be decolonised even after the departure of the British as the pro-West rulers of Pakistan decided to maintain the status quo. History vindicated the wisdom of the colonial strategies as politically dormant Fata was used for launching attacks against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the West’s war against the erstwhile Soviet Union. National andinternational terrorist groups have turned Fata into a no-go area and a black hole. The people of Fata are the worst victims of terrorists. Their tragedy is largely unregistered and unrecorded.

Political parties have had a de facto presence in Fata since the 1970s. Some groups were even able to get their nominees elected to the National Assembly and the Senate. But they could not contest elections as representatives of Pakistan’s political parties and were considered to be ‘independent-candidates’. Now after the extension of the Political Parties Act to Fata, political organisations are legally within their rights to hold political activities in the area.

A meeting was convened by the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Barrister Masood Kausar, to discuss a proposed code of conduct for political parties in Fata on Oct 14, 2011. Representatives of 10 political parties took part in the brainstorming session. It was pointed out during the discussion that conducting political activities involves the implementation of fundamental rights like the right to association, the right to freedom of expression, the right to vote and the right to access to information.

The aforementioned fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan are justifiable through higher judiciaries of the country. Since Fata is out of the jurisdiction of the higher judiciary, who will ensure the implementation of fundamental rights there? The governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assured participants at the meeting that his administration would leave no stone unturned to implement the people’s fundamental rights.
Political parties resolved that they would not allow armed people to join their public meetings and that they would refrain from indulging in hate speeches. The governor assured the participants that the political administration would also entertain the pleas of local political leaders for the resolution of day-to-day problems faced by the people. He asked all the political parties to introduce two representatives each in every political agency as their focal persons for coordination with the administration.

Initially, some religious parties will have the upper hand in terms of organising political activities as they are less likely to attract terrorist attacks (the Jamaat-i-Islami has already held a few public meetings). But in the long term, matters are expected to change completely as there is a lot of reaction in Fata against the brutal suppression of the local population by the extremists. Since some of the religious parties are closely identified with extremist militants, the Fata population holds them responsible for their agonies.
Apart form political parties, other elements present in civil society also need to be strengthened in Fata. Media networks and press clubs have mushroomed in Fata on an unprecedented scale but a number of Fata journalists have also been murdered or kidnapped. The state should be pro-active in providing security to journalists. A free media will play a very important role in the transformation of Fata into a modern society.
It goes without saying that socioeconomic and political development is possible only if the government is able to cleanse Fata of terrorism and reconcile the alienated tribesmen. Similarly, one would hope that the government will not wait for another 64 years to usher in the next instalment of reform to properly integrate Fata with the Pakistan state system.

The writer is a member of the Pakistan Senate Courtesy Dawn

Reforms in Fata | Articals | South Asian News Agency

World Bank accused of dithering over Bhasha dam

ISLAMABAD(SANA) With the United States seeking a gradual increase in the water tariff to recover the full cost of its delivery both for irrigation and urban uses as part of its proposed financing for the $12 billion Diamer-Bhasha dam, the World Bank has come under severe criticism from international development lenders for not funding this ‘highest priority project’.

Informed sources told on Monday that the forthcoming strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan ahead of a fresh round of discussions of the water sector task force (WSTF) of the so-called Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) would focus on Islamabad’s precise plans for water sector reforms and the World Bank’s lack of interest in the Diamer-Bhasha dam project. The two events are expected early next month.

The dam has been described by both Islamabad and Washington as the highest priority project. The two sides generally agree that the project with 7 million acre feet water storage and 4,500MW power generation capacity required support from external partners – both public and private – and hence the support of the FoDP member countries was critical.

The FoDP support is likely to lead to direct bilateral financing by member states and also help Pakistan obtain financing from multilateral institutions, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.
While the ADB has made initial commitments to extend between $2-4 billion for the project, the unwillingness of the World Bank has worried many bilateral lenders given the fact that the World Bank’s Operational Policy on disputed territories (OP 7.60) does not require a ‘no objection certificate’ from other party – India in this case as the dam site is in Gilgit-Baltistan.

According to some bilateral lenders, the operational policy of the WB required that in a case like Bhasha dam either Pakistan or the World Bank should ask the government of India to say in writing if it has any objection to the project on the grounds that such a project would prejudice the outcome of the territorial dispute.

If India raises objections in writing, the World Bank management should consider them and make an assessment about the merit of such objections. In proceeding with such projects, the World Bank documents state that it does not intend to make any judgment on the legal or other status of territories concerned or to prejudice the final determination of the parties’ claims.
On the other hand, it is generally believed that India has informally communicated its objection to Bhasha dam to the World Bank and for this reason the bank has not engaged itself in the project. Friendly lenders believe that if that is the case then the “bank management has not followed its operational policy on disputed territories”, an issue that needs to be addressed by US and other leading nations.

Interestingly, the World Bank helped India and Pakistan to sign a landmark Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 as part of the Indus Basin Development Plan which required Pakistan to build new major dams every 10 years but none has been built in 50 years.

The World Bank stance has also been found at fault in view of the fact that the 1960 treaty gives Pakistan the right to projects concerning waters of the Indus River. It may be mentioned that India helped finance the construction of the Mangla dam as part of ‘replacement works’ although the dam is located in disputed territory – Azad Kashmir.

Also, India has constructed and continues to construct a large number of dams in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and has not sought, nor received, non-objections from Pakistan. In fact, India has formally urged Pakistan to build storage dams on the Indus.

Informed sources said the US was supportive of the project, along with project financing, because of the fact that the dam would have enormous benefits – from energy, food and irrigation security to poverty reduction and environmental contribution and flood protection. It agrees that the Colorado and Murry Darling could store 1000 days of average river flows whereas Pakistan’s Indus project that can store only 30 days of flows and the Three Gorges Dam in China reduces the peak of the 50-year flood by 40 per cent against Tarbela’s negligible flood impact.

But before making any formal financial commitment, the US wants Pakistan to commit prioritising investments in on-farm water management in provinces and institutionalise full cost recovery of water distribution for better service delivery through fresh contracts with consumers – provinces, municipalities, farmer associations – for gradual increase of tariffs to sustain maintenance of water infrastructure. Khaleeq Kiani , Dawn

World Bank accused of dithering over Bhasha dam | South Asia | South Asian News Agency

Pakistan took security data from Indian chopper: Indian media

South Asian News Agency (SANA) ⋅ October 25, 2011

NEW DELHI(SANA) The Pakistan army allegedly breached Indian security and downloaded all the digital data from the Indian army helicopter that strayed into Skardu on Sunday, stated a report published in The Hindustan Times.
The report claimed that the data includes the GPS coordinates and location of all Indian helipads in the Siachen and Kargil areas.

“We are treating the incident with utmost concern as coordinates of all helipads in the 14 Corps including Siachen Glacier and LAC are now with Pakistan army with code signs and nicknames,” a senior official told The Hindustan Times.

Citing top government sources, the report claims that a high level probe has been ordered into the incident, and the Indian crew is being questioned about the airspace violation.
Pakistan released an Indian army helicopter just hours after it strayed across the tense border between the two countries on Sunday, officials said, underscoring a desire by the old rivals to avoid any crisis as they try to improve ties.

The Pakistani military had forced the Indian helicopter to land and detained four Indian army officials after it intruded into its territory in Olding sector in northern Skardu region near the border in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

But it was released after senior military officials from both sides spoke on a hotline.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Indian helicopter crashed into Pakistani territory.

Pakistan took security data from Indian chopper: Indian media | South Asia | South Asian News Agency

Pakistan set to ease Afghanistan transit trade

ISLAMABAD(SANA The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is expected to abolish the condition of ‘Jawaznama’ for Afghan importers, and reduce the number of copies of goods declaration (GD) from nine to six to be submitted by the Afghan businessmen for clearance.
The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is expected to abolish the condition of ‘Jawaznama’ for Afghan importers, and reduce the number of copies of goods declaration (GD) from nine to six to be submitted by the Afghan businessmen for clearance as far as transit trade consignments are concerned under the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

Sources told Business Recorder here on Monday that Pakistan may also take away the condition of printing ‘IN TRANSIT TO AFGHANISTAN’ on all packages of transit consignments for the genuine importers under the APTTA.

The FBR has also agreed to incorporate a provision in the relevant rules to allow transportation of perishable goods in transit (like fruits and vegetables etc) in open trucks.

The FBR has accepted proposals of Afghan customs authorities and importers to introduce comprehensive amendments in the Afghan Transit Trade Rules, 2011.

The Afghan side pointed out that nine copies of the GD are excessive and should be reduced to a reasonable number.

The FBR has agreed to reduce the number of copies of GD to six and promised to revisit the issue once Electronic Data Interface (EDI) is established between the two countries.

The Afghan side asked not to require ‘Jawaznama’ and authorisation from the Afghan traders, and undertaking from the concerned customs agent, as the same are not required under the agreement.

It was agreed that the Afghan customs would update the FBR on the official position for the requirement of ‘Jawaznama’ in their country to enable FBR to make necessary changes accordingly in the rules, if required.

Under the Afghan Transit Trade Rules 2011, the transport operator or the customs agent shall file the goods declaration accompanied by importability documents including valid ‘jawaznama’ for Afghan Transit Trade (ATT) commercial goods in original (import permit) attested or verified by the respective Afghan Consulate.

This condition of ‘Jawaznama’ for Afghan importers is expected to be abolished under the Afghan Transit Trade Rules 2011.

It was pointed out by the Afghan side that the definition of ‘Customs Security’ should be separated for goods and vehicles.

Responding to this, the FBR has agreed to bring the definition of ‘Customs Security’ in the rules in line with that given in Protocol 3 of the agreement.

According to sources, the Afghan side raised the issue of onward submission of duplicate copy of GD by the office en route to the office of destination at Afghanistan and stated that as transit terminates on the entry to Afghanistan and GD is filed at Border Crossing Point, therefore, as per the understanding of Afghan side of the agreement border check posts (BCPs) are office of destination.

The Pakistan side referred to the relevant Protocol of the APTTA in this regard.

In three of the agreement, three separate Customs offices ie Office of departure, Office en route and Office of destination, are mentioned and that according to Pakistan side the office of destination is where the GD is filed and duty/taxes are paid and that the Office en route and Office of destination can be the same or can be separate, depending on destination of the consignment.

It was decided that FBR would examine the issue in detail and inform the Afghan side before the next Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Co-ordination Authority (APTTCA) meeting.

Sources said that the Pakistan side highlighted the issue of non-verification of lists containing details of the duplicate and quadruplicate copies of the GD by the Afghan Customs at Torkhum.

The Afghan side promised to advise the local office to sort out the problem and co-ordinate with Pakistan Customs.

Sources stated that the issue of valuation was raised by the Afghan side and it was stated that correct values are not being applied on Afghan transit imports and discrimination is being exercised in this regard.

It was agreed that the value of goods in transit shall be ascertained at par with goods imported into Pakistan.

The Afghan side objected to the provision of 100 percent scanning of transit containers at office of departure and office en route.

The Pakistan side said that at present the provision of scanning is suspended and further course of action in this regard would depend on the installation/availability of scanners at the respective places.

It was agreed that all transit containers will be scanned, on availability of scanners, at the office of departure and that at the office en route scanning would be done on the basis of risk management.

The Afghan side pointed out that the existing provision of examination of 5 percent of the consignments is not in line with the APTTA.

It was agreed to re-phrase the rules in accordance with the agreement by mentioning examination of up to 5 percent of the containers.

The FBR also assured to ensure strict compliance of the examination related provisions of the Agreement.

The difficulties in complying with the requirement of marks and numbers ‘IN TRANSIT TO AFGHANISTAN’ on all packages of transit consignments were highlighted by the Afghan side.

They also said that this requirement is not given in APTTA.

The Pakistani side stated that they would look into this to ameliorate the hardships faced in this regard by genuine importers.

It was stated that since banks in Afghanistan are not coming forward to provide bank guarantee to the transporters, the proposal of issuing undertaking by the respective governments, instead of bank guarantee, may be considered for the movement of transport units through their respective territories.

The option of bilateral carnet-de-passage was discussed and it was agreed that the same would be proposed for approval of APTTCA.

Sources said that the understanding of Afghan side regarding Article 18 of Protocol Three is that ‘Customs Security’ should be released on the filing of GD (T1) on the Afghan side.

The Pakistan side pointed out that the Customs Security is to be released in accordance with Article 18 of the Protocol Three of the agreement.

It was decided that FBR would examine the issue in detail and inform the Afghan side before the next meeting of the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Co-ordination Authority (APTTCA).

The Afghan side stated that there is no need for verification/registration of transit consignments at different customs check posts inside Pakistan.

After discussion it was decided that only the last customs check post en route shall be used for verification/registration.

It was also agreed that once the tracking system is put in place the issue would be revisited.

Sources said that the Afghan side stated that the existing provision be re-visited and be made compliant with APTTA.

The agreement allows the Afghan empty trucks to enter Pakistan and to carry any goods from Pakistan for Afghanistan.

The FBR is of the opinion that the agreement is silent about the position and feels that the permission is currently being denied by default.

It was agreed to put up the Afghan position jointly before Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Co-ordination Authority (APTTCA).

The Afghan side stated that the provision of examination of transit goods/containers in the presence of the concerned Assistant or Deputy Collector should be done away with.

The FBR has agreed to amend the said provision by requiring the examination to be done by the concerned customs officer, sources added.

Pakistan set to ease Afghanistan transit trade | South Asia | South Asian News Agency

Iran offers Pakistan 10,000mw electricity
South Asian News Agency (SANA) ⋅ October 25, 2011

Tehran(SANA)At a time when Pakistan is facing resistance from the US in going ahead with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, Iran has proposed an electricity supply project which will provide 10,000 megawatts in the second year of its operation.
The quantity is more than the production of independent power producers in the country and almost half the country’s total production capacity.

Under an extensive package to resolve the energy crisis, Iran has also offered to build an oil pipeline and set up a refinery at Gwadar Port to provide oil on long-term deferred payment.

The country’s power production ranges between 5,000 megawatts and 14,800 megawatts against total installed capacity of 20,800MW. Internationally, 80 per cent power can be generated from the total installed capacity but Pakistan’s generation capability stands at 65 per cent due to inadequate upgrading of plants, poor maintenance and circular debt.

Under a plan submitted to the government, Iran will provide 1,000MW of electricity in the first year of the programme and increase it nine-fold to 10,000MW in the second year, sources said.

Iran made the offer during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit to Tehran on July 15. During the tour, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain also accompanied the president.

Asim Hussain confirmed to The Express Tribune that Iran had made the offer for export of 10,000MW of electricity.

Iran exported 3,940 gigawatt hours of electricity to its neighbours in the first half of the Iranian calendar year, according to Iranian broadcaster IRIB.

Iran’s electricity network is integrated into power grids of seven neighbouring countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

Feasibility study on 1,000MW project completed

Pakistan has already started work on another project costing $500 million, which will import 1,000MW from Iran.

An official of the Ministry of Water and Power said that the feasibility study on import of 1,000MW from Iran through Zahidan to Quetta had been completed. Iran has already started laying a transmission line at Pak-Iran border.

To expedite the process, Pakistan has offered the company laying the transmission line on the other side of the border to build it on this side as well to avoid delay caused by the bidding process, the official added.

Pakistan is currently importing 35MW of power from Iran to meet requirements of Gwadar while work on increasing it by 100MW is in process. The two sides signed an agreement on this project in 2007 which is expected to become operational next year.

Pakistan also has another project in the pipeline to import 1,000MW of electricity from Tajikistan. Feasibility report has been finalised on this project, while work is expected to be completed by 2016.

Moreover, India has also offered Pakistan to export electricity and a working group has been formed to undertake the assignment following commerce secretary-level talks held between the two countries in April.

Currently, independent power producers generate most of the electricity in the country by producing 7,600MW, followed by 5,000MW by Wapda and 2,000MW by power generation companies

Iran offers Pakistan 10,000mw electricity | South Asia | South Asian News Agency
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Afghanistan: Pakistan accused of backing Taliban

By Sam Collyns

Series Producer, BBC Two's Secret Pakistan

Pakistan has been accused of playing a double game, acting as America's ally in public while secretly training and arming its enemy in Afghanistan according to US intelligence.

In a prison cell on the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan Intelligence Service is holding a young man who alleges he was recruited earlier this year by Pakistan's powerful military intelligence agency, the ISI.

He says he was trained to be a suicide bomber in the Taliban's intensifying military campaign against the Western coalition forces - and preparations for his mission were overseen by an ISI officer in a camp in Pakistan.

After 15 days training, he was sent into Afghanistan.In Afghanistan we saw an insurgency that was not only getting passive support from the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, but getting active support”

Bruce Riedel,Adviser to President Obama in 2009

"There were three of us. We were put into a black vehicle with black windows. The police did not stop the car because it was obviously ISI. No-one dares stop their cars. They told me... you will receive your explosive waistcoat, and then go and explode it."

Taliban bases in Pakistan

The man recruited to be a suicide bomber changed his mind at the last minute and was later captured by the Afghan intelligence service.But his story is consistent with a mass of intelligence which has convinced the Americans that, as they suspected, for the last decade Pakistan has been secretly arming and supporting the Taliban in its attempt to regain control of Afghanistan.

These suspicions started as early as 2002, when the Taliban began launching attacks across the border from their bases in Pakistan, but they became more widely held after 2006 when the Taliban's assault increased in its ferocity, not least against the ill-prepared British forces in Helmand province.

The final turning point in American eyes was the attack on Mumbai when 10 gunmen rampaged through the Indian city, killing 170 people - two weeks after Barack Obama's US presidential election victory in November 2008.

Despite Pakistan claiming it played no part in the attack, the CIA later received intelligence that it said showed the ISI were directly involved in training the Mumbai gunmen.

President Obama ordered a review of all intelligence on the region by a veteran CIA officer, Bruce Riedel.

Because Obama put more troops into Afghanistan... so Pakistan's support for us increased as well”

[B]Najib[/B]Taliban militia commander

"Our own intelligence was unequivocal," says Riedel. "In Afghanistan we saw an insurgency that was not only getting passive support from the Pakistani army and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, but getting active support."

Training and supplies

Pakistan has repeatedly denied the claims. But the BBC documentary series Secret Pakistan has spoken to a number of middle-ranking - and still active - Taliban commanders who provide detailed evidence of how the Pakistan ISI has rebuilt, trained and supported the Taleban throughout its war on the US in Afghanistan.

"For a fighter there are two important things - supplies and a place to hide," said one Taliban commander, who fights under the name Mullah Qaseem. "Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly, they provide us with weapons."

Another commander, Najib, says: "Because Obama put more troops into Afghanistan and increased operations here, so Pakistan's support for us increased as well."

He says his militia received a supply truck with "500 landmines with remote controls, 20 rocket-propelled grenade launchers with 2000 to 3000 grenades... AK-47s, machine-guns and rockets".

Pakistani military

Evidence of Pakistan's support for the Taliban is also plain to see at the border where insurgents are allowed to cross at will, or even helped to evade US patrols.And the recent drone attacks in Pakistan have become increasingly effective as intelligence has been withheld from the Pakistanis, claims Mr Riedel.

"At the beginning of the drone operations, we gave Pakistan an advance tip-off of where we were going, and every single time the target wasn't there anymore. You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to put the dots together."

Osama Bin Laden's capture and killing followed this same model - the Americans acting on their own, to the humiliation of Pakistan. Trust between the two supposed allies has never been lower.Bin Laden was the reason America had attacked Afghanistan and overthrown the Taliban who had always refused to hand him over. His death has removed a major obstacle to peace.

Peace talks

But those who claim that Pakistan's hidden hand has shaped the conflict fear the same is now true of the negotiations for peace. Last year, in the Pakistani city of Karachi, Mullah Baradar, the Taliban's second-in-command, was captured by the ISI.

Secretly, Baradar had made contact with the Afghan government to discuss a deal that would end the war. He had done so without the ISI's permission and he was detained "to bring him back under control" according to one British diplomat.

More recently, Hawa Nooristani, a member of Afghanistan's High Peace Council, says she was called to a secret meeting.

Waiting for her was a commander from the most lethal faction of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, which first brought suicide bombing to Afghanistan. To her astonishment he said he wanted peace talks.

"He said it was vital Pakistan intelligence knew nothing of the meeting. He said not to disclose it because Pakistan does not want peace with Afghanistan and even now they are training new Taleban units.

"He was also scared that the Pakistanis will arrest him because he lives in Pakistan and he said it would be easy for them to arrest him."

Talks with the Taliban collapsed after the killing of former President Rabbani
The Afghan government began peace talks with the Taliban but these were abandoned after its chief negotiator, former President Rabbani, was killed by a suicide bomber purporting to be a Taliban envoy.Any future peace will have to be concluded with Pakistan President Karzai has since declaredTo American policy advisers like Bruce Riedel, the message is clear:

"The ISI may not be able to deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table, but they can certainly spoil any negotiations process. So far, there's very little sign, that I've seen, that Pakistan is interested in a political deal."

While denying links to the Taliban, Pakistan insists that it is doing no more than what any country would do in similar circumstances.

"We cannot disregard our long term interest because this is our own area," said General Athar Abbas, chief spokesman for Pakistan's military.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a recent visit to Pakistan: "The Pakistanis have a role to play, they can either be helpful, indifferent or harmful."

But there are those like Mr Riedel who fear that the forces unleashed in 10 years of war may yet come to haunt the whole world:

"There is probably no worse nightmare, for America, for Europe, for the world, in the 21st Century than if Pakistan gets out of control under the influence of extremist Islamic forces, armed with nuclear weapons...The stakes here are huge."

What happens in Pakistan may yet be the most enduring legacy of 9/11 and the hunt for Bin Laden.

BBC News - Afghanistan: Pakistan accused of backing Taliban
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Trade list for India being finalised

ISLAMABAD: The ministry of commerce on Tuesday announced a schedule of meetings with various trade associations, chambers for seeking feedback on changing trade regimes with India.

A press note issued by the ministry here said that the commerce ministry was in process of switching trade arrangements from existing “Positive List” to “Negative List” of importable items from India.

Earlier, the ministry set a deadline of October 15 for seeking comments from chambers, industry and associations for inclusion of items in the negative list. The negative list means that all those items in the list will not be importable from India.

Suggestions/recommendations sent by the stakeholders were under process in the ministry for compiling the negative list.

However, the official note said that Secretary Commerce Zaffar Mahmood would meet members of the various chambers and trade associations on October 27, 28 and 31. At the second round, the secretary would also meet businessmen on November 1, 3 and 4 to discuss issues and concerns before finalisation of the negative list.

Trade list for India being finalised | Business | DAWN.COM
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Deadlock in Kazakhstan as oil workers strike’

For five months, hundreds of workers from the oil fields of western Kazakhstan have been on strike demanding better pay and working conditions. Now the country's longest-running industrial dispute, it has led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenue, reports the BBC's Rayhan Demytrie.

"Do you believe in mysticism?" asked Kiikbay Eshmanov, the director of Ozenmunaigas, an oil field owned by Kazakhstan's state oil company Kazmunaigas.

From his office overlooking the main square in Zhanaozen - a small town in the desert of western Kazakhstan - groups of his former employees could be seen standing around in their red company jackets.

"I seriously think those people in the square have been hypnotised," he said. "In the past few years we've raised their salaries six times.

"Their wages are already way above the national average. Because of this strike the company has lost production of more than one million tonnes of oil."

Strikes since 2008 have generated pay rises - average salaries at Ozenmunaigas are between $1,000 (£625) and $1,500 a month.But the strike organisers claim that danger money for the tough conditions they work in is still owed to them.Local courts declared their latest strike illegal in May. Ozenmunaigas fired 1,000 of its staff after calls for them to get back to work failed. In early July police in riot gear were used to disperse a demonstration at the oil field.Since then, the strikers have decamped to the main square in Zhanaozen, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around the clock on carpets and blankets spread over the cold flagstones.

"There was a government decree to pay extra for working in dangerous conditions, but we are not being paid that money," said one of the protesters, Kaliyev Tangotar.

"There is no justice, the authorities only support the employer and our human rights are not respected."

The strikers say that even with above-average salaries the money is still not enough to get by. Zhanaozen is isolated and so everything must be brought in, making the cost of living high.

'No winners'

The Zhanaozen strike is one of several industrial actions to have hit western Kazakhstan's Mangistau region this year.Workers at Karazhanbasmunai, an oil field jointly owned by Kazmunaigas and a Chinese state corporation, took to the streets in the nearby Caspian port town of Aktao in May. Their protest was also broken up by police.Karazhan basmunai fired 993 of its workers. They too hold daily vigils outside the company headquarters in Akatu to demand their jobs back.The protest also spread to Ersai-Caspian Contractor, an Italian and Kazakh joint-venture operating in the region.Mr Eshmanov says the workers are paid better than most of their compatriots
The industrial unrest has hurt Kazmunaigas. It claims production is down by 7% from this time last year - largely because of the strikes. That has cost almost $600m in lost revenue.

"There are no winners," said Daulet Zhumadil, press secretary for Kazmunaigas Exploration Production (KEP), a London Stock Exchange-listed subsidiary of the national oil company Kazmunaigas.

"All sides involved are losing. The state as the main shareholder is losing its revenue in two ways - as tax revenue receiver and as the main shareholder it will get less profit. About 60% of shares in KEP belong to the state through the national company Kazmunaigas.

"I would like to reiterate that it is not labour dispute, it is an illegal action, because it's been recognised as such by courts."


In an attempt to stifle protests, the authorities sought the prosecution of strike movement leaders.Natalia Sokolova, a union lawyer who advised workers on their rights, has been jailed for six years for "inciting social discord".Another union representative, Akzhanat Aminov, has been given a two-year suspended sentence for organising illegal gatherings.Dozens of workers have been fined and sentenced on administrative charges for participating in strikes. There have been numerous claims of intimidation and harassment.But it was the killing of a trade union activist, Zhaksylik Turbayev, at his workplace that caused most anger among the workers. Police are investigating but have no suspects.In the wake of his death, hundreds of workers left the pro-presidential party Nur-Otan and joined the newly-formed opposition Popular Front movement, which was more sympathetic to their cause.Opposition politicians have also sought to make political capital. The leader of the opposition Azat party, Bulat Abilov, visited the Mangistau region in June.A Youtube video shows him addressing the striking oil workers at Ersai.

"They are not coming for an open dialogue with you. They are not paying attention to your demands. They say there is no money. We say there is money," he told the crowd.

"Last year alone the price of oil rose by 50%. Did your salaries rise by 50%?"

"No!" replied the crowd.

Political analyst Dosym Satpayev said the strikes showed government social policies were not working.

"Kazakhstan is a rich country with small population, but in those regions where there is plenty of oil and gas people continue to live in poverty. Now many people are beginning to ask why."

He warned that they could have a knock-on effect

"When the opposition tried to use it for its own political goals, I think some political structures became afraid that this social protest might spread to other regions of Kazakhstan," he said.

'Want to be heard'

While the company claims its former employees are no longer their responsibility, the workers on Zhanaozen square have no plans to back off.
A minivan with a surveillance camera keeps watch and the protesters eye it warily. Protesters say they can muster large numbers of supporters - their families - if the police try to move them.Five months into this dispute, the mood in the square is one of anger. It is no longer just complaints about fair pay - they are condemning the crumbling infrastructure and lack of development in a town that has helped to make the country rich.

"We want to develop civil society," said one protesting oil worker, Isa. "We want our voices to be heard, not just the bosses dictating what to do.

"We are so tired of this. For the 50 years since this city came into existence nothing good happened here. But this square is now turning into free Kazakhstan - we can say here everything that we want."

BBC News - Deadlock in Kazakhstan as oil workers strike
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Accord with US on Taliban ‘tri-logue’

WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan agree on a framework for holding direct talks with the militants and are now working to operationalise the plan, says the US State Department.

At a briefing for the press corps that accompanied Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week, two State Department officials explained what the secretary meant when she said in her recent interviews that the US and Pakistan had agreement on 90-95 per cent of issues they confronted.

They said the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan had already an understanding on holding a “tri-logue” with the Taliban militants.

They also agree that this has to be Afghan-led and has to be at the pace and scope that the Afghans decide on.

“That Pakistan has to play its part in this; it has to encourage reconciliation. And that as efforts are made at reconciliation, if the US can play a helpful role, that we would be available to do that,” said one official.

After agreeing on this framework, the US and Pakistan were now working on the need to operationalise it. “What does it mean? And particularly in the context of the awful, horrific experience that the Afghans had with the death of President Rabbani … we’re all working off the script that is going to protect against that kind of thing happening again,” the official said.

Operational details like where to hold the dialogue, who to talk to and in what form and formats and for how long were now being worked out, the official added.

“We needed to start with ensuring we were all on the same page in terms of the framework.” The two officials explained that in their meetings with the US delegation, which included the CIA and military chiefs, Pakistani leaders kept referring to the resolution passed by the all-parties conference on the proposed talks with the militants.

“What does the all-parties conference mean to them? It means that every party in Pakistan got together and agreed that reconciliation, if it can be done right and if it is Afghan-led and if it meets the red lines, is in Pakistan’s interests,” said the State Department official.

“And so as they seek to work with Afghanistan and with us on this, what we heard in general, was that they need to keep the Pakistani body politic together on this agenda. And they think that they have a framework for doing that with this agreement of the all-parties council,” the official added.

The two officials disagreed with a suggestion that the Pakistanis were refusing to take military action against the militants because they had failed to produce results.

“The conversation that we had was very much on the lines that we have to squeeze them,” said one State Department official.“But we also have to have a track for talking for those who are willing to come in off the battlefield within the parameters that the Afghans have set.

So I don’t think there’s any disagreement between us, that we have to fight and squeeze even as we talk.”

Another senior State Department official said that Pakistan also recognised that there were militant safe havens inside its territory and the two sides needed to work together to deal with them.In an interview to The Washington Post, Gen. Scaparrotti noted that until last year he enjoyed excellent cooperation with the Pakistani military and toured the battlefield with his counterparts from Pakistan along both sides of the porous border.

After the US raid on the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, “this relationship is not what it was, say, a year ago,” he said. “My intent is to start rebuilding this on a mil-to-mil basis, at least.”

A week before Secretary Clinton’s visit to Islamabad, Gen. Scaparrotti met top Pakistani military officials and pressed for re-establishing “routine daily communication” and discussions of how to deal with insurgents.

“If we work together, we can have a joint effect on [the insurgents], and we need to do so,” he said.

Meanwhile, former State Department official Vali Nasr, who was a senior adviser to the late US special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrook, noted that the Obama administration clearly wanted to re-engage Pakistan.

“Every one of our assumptions about our timetable of getting out of Afghanistan, our success on the ground with military operation has been predicated on the kind of at least minimal cooperation we have had with Pakistan over the past two years,” he told the US National Public Radio.

“If that cooperation ceases to exist and our relations get any worse than they are currently, it’s very difficult to see how the United States can meet its deadlines in order to be able to withdraw from Afghanistan.”

Accord with US on Taliban
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Balochistan problem: ‘Guerrilla war a real possibility’

The outbreak of another civil war between Baloch nationalists and the Pakistan Army is a real possibility unless the Baloch peoples’ minimum demands are met.

“Baloch nationalism is a reality that we cannot ignore or coop up by making promises,” said Dr Javaid Haider Syed on the second and final day of a conference on ‘Pakistan: Challenges to Democracy, Governance and National Unity’ at Punjab University here on Tuesday.

In his paper titled ‘Balochistan Problem: The Main Threat to Pakistan’s National Unity’ Syed said that after six decades of intermittent conflict, the people of Balochistan had a deep feeling of mistrust towards the central government.

“The risk of a prolonged guerrilla movement in Balochistan is quite real,” said Syed, who is with Quaid-i-Azam University’s Department of History.

However, he said that in the absence of foreign support, the Baloch movement was unlikely to prevail.Quaid-i-Azam University Department of International Relations Chairwoman Dr Lubna Abid Ali said that the basis of national unity should be Pakistani nationalism, not Muslim nationalism. She said Pakistan should be a multi-religious, multi-ethnic country with fundamental freedoms and respect for basic human rights.

“The challenges to democracy, governance and national unity in Pakistan include local and external factors. Internally, the current PP government is facing divisions within the party, radicalisation of society, corruption, price-hike, energy and food shortages, injustice, ethnic and sectarian violence, rise of non-state actors, Afghan Jihad, inconclusive military operations in Waziristan, floods, natural hazards and fight against terrorism. Externally, Kashmir and water issues, NATO and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, US-Iran conflict, worldwide economic crunch, regional and international challenges are major problems,” she said.

University of Peshawar Department of Political Science Chairman Dr AZ Hilali said that Pakistan’s elites had created the environment that led to the Taliban.

“Talibanisation has grave socio-cultural, economic and strategic implications for Pakistan,” he said, as the militants were not just an existential threat to Pakistan, but a threat to regional security and stability.
Dr Qalb-i-Abid of Punjab University read from his paper about the media role in shaping the public agenda.

Media is consistently inculcating the message that Pakistan needs a creative, innovative and incorruptible leadership in order to meet the present day challenges to achieve the goals envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah,” he said.

“The various channels … are deeply involved in redefining what the role of institutions in Pakistan should be. It is often noticed that it is the media, not the government or the opposition, that is setting the direction of change,” he said.

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