Friday, July 24, 2009

The deal that wasn’t

Dawn Editorial
It was the opinion of this paper that ‘the Pakistan government is counting its chickens before they’ve hatched.’ That assessment was made in mid-May, a few days after the foreign minister proclaimed that a nuclear power deal with France was all but done and dusted.

Even though Paris made no such promises, at least not in public, Shah Mehmood Qureshi insisted that ‘France has agreed to transfer civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan.’ Mr Sarkozy, he claimed, said there was no reason why Pakistan should be treated differently from India in terms of access to nuclear power technology. The French take was altogether different, with Mr Sarkozy’s office clarifying that he had offered to help Pakistan improve its nuclear safety capability. This position was confirmed on Thursday by the French secretary of state for foreign trade, who told the press in Islamabad that her country’s partnership with Pakistan in the realm of civilian nuclear energy would be limited to safety and security issues. Clearly the chickens haven’t hatched, and the government must be censured for acting with undue haste and indulging in hype.

That said, France’s refusal to sell civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan smacks of an obvious double standard. India, like Pakistan, is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India and Pakistan both conducted nuclear tests in the ‘90s that were widely condemned in the West. A US moratorium on nuclear trade with India, dating back to the ‘70s, was already in place and Pakistan too had been placed under sanctions. Yet, in a major deal, the US has since agreed to sell reactors to India while Pakistan continues to be ostracised by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Significantly, the US-India agreement does not require the latter to cap fissile material production at a time when most nuclear powers are cutting back on the same. And though a system of checks and safeguards have been guaranteed on paper, the American technology transferred to India could be used to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

None of this is India’s fault, of course. It pressed its case and used its clout and got what it wanted. New Delhi’s position was probably helped by the fact that, unlike Pakistan, India does not have a history of nuclear proliferation. But times have changed. Pakistan is trying to make a new beginning, and it must be recognised by the international community that this country’s economic and social progress is being impeded by an energy crunch that is worsening by the day. Nuclear power can go a long way in easing the burden.

Black males' fear of racial profiling very real, regardless of class

Los Angeles Times
Several African American professionals find professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s recent encounter with police all too easy to relate to. Their lingering question is when to speak up.
Like Henry Louis Gates Jr., they are professionals, men of status and achievement who have excelled in a nation that once shunned black men.

And for many of them, their only shock -- upon learning of the celebrated scholar's recent run-in with police -- was the moment of recognition.

They know too well the pivotal moment Gates faced at his Massachusetts home. It was that moment of suspicion when confronted by police, the moment one wonders, in a flash of panic, anger, or confusion -- Maybe I am being treated this way because I'm black.

Next comes the pivotal question -- Do I protest or just take it?

Kwame Dunston says he has made the calculated choice to take it -- repeatedly. The public school administrator says he has been pulled over more than 20 times in the last decade, but had rarely been issued a ticket. What factor other than race, he wondered, would account for all of those stops?

"It's more important for me to make it home than to fight for a cause I'm not going to win," he said.

Dunston, 36, a New York resident who was in Atlanta this week, pointed to the interior of his 2006 Toyota Camry. It was showroom clean. He doesn't want police to think he has something to hide.

"My job," Dunston said, "is to make sure they don't have any question about what's inside the car."

Such anxiety, deeply rooted in the African American experience, has endured into the era of the first black president.

For many black men, the feeling of remaining inherently suspect never goes away, no matter their wealth and status and the efforts by police forces to avoid abuses in profiling.

Lawrence Otis Graham, author of a book on affluent African Americans, said wealthy blacks may, in fact, be subjected to more racial profiling than others.

In upscale white neighborhoods, they sometimes stand out. In fancy restaurants, they're sometimes mistaken for help. "We become almost numbed by the constant presumptions," said Graham.

Those issues came crashing back into the spotlight with the arrest of Gates, a 58-year-old Harvard University professor, on July 16.

Early that afternoon, Cambridge police showed up at Gates' home, responding to a tip on a possible break-in. Gates was inside the house, after reportedly forcing open a stuck door.

According to his police report, Sgt. James Crowley asked Gates to step outside to talk, and Gates began screaming, accusing Crowley of being a "racist police officer."

Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, a charge later dropped. A number of people -- most prominently, President Obama -- rushed to his defense.

But Lorenzo Wyche, 32, is among those who wonder whether Gates picked the right time to take a stand. Wyche, a black restaurateur and Atlanta resident, said that his generation may not be as quick to ascribe nefarious motives to police as Gates' generation. "I didn't grow up with dogs chasing me down," he said.

And yet Wyche is also gripped at times by the gnawing suspicion that his black skin makes him a target. He was recently driving in midtown Atlanta. In front of him, an attractive white woman walked across the road, catching his eye. Behind him, a white policeman turned on his lights and pulled Wyche over.

But there would be no fireworks. The officer warned Wyche about an expired tag on his Porsche, and drove away.

"So that was my moment," Wyche said, with a laugh. "Did he run my tag just because I stared at this white girl?"

Wyche figures he will never know whether he was profiled. And he prefers this mystery to a truncheon or the butt of a gun. At the same time, however, the difficulty in proving profiling has created problems for police. Last year, members of the Los Angeles Police Department's civilian oversight panel were incredulous when LAPD officials announced that not one of more than 300 racial profiling complaints was found to have merit.

A later review of department documents by The Times showed that no claims of profiling -- more than 1,200 -- had been upheld in at least six years. (Racial profiling isn't confined to black men; women and other groups can be targeted as well.)

But LAPD Chief William J. Bratton dismissed the criticism, saying that profiling allegations hinge on what the officer was thinking at the time, and therefore are nearly impossible to prove without a confession.

"How," he said, "do you get inside someone's mind?"

For some black men, the solution is to try to avoid the possibility of confrontation altogether. Graham, the author, lives with his family on a large spread in the mostly white suburb of Westchester, N.Y. When the house alarm goes off, his wife goes to the front gate to meet police. He fears they will mistake him for an intruder.

Vibert White, a history professor at the University of Central Florida, recalled driving along a highway in Indiana, and spotting a line of cars that had pulled to the side of the road. All of the drivers were black men. So White, too, pulled over, figuring that was expected of black men.

An officer walked up and asked him why he stopped.

"I told him that I'd seen the line of cars and just reacted," said White, 51. "He told me, 'Sir, you can go on with your business.' I realized how deeply ingrained this lesson had become -- of not causing a ruckus, of just playing the game, of doing what you needed to do in order to live your life."

Years earlier, he had challenged a traffic stop and ended up in handcuffs.

In Detroit, Tony Spearman-Leach, 42, chief communications officer of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, said he gets tailed by police three or four times a year. He gets pulled over, on average, once a year, but has never received a ticket.

He keeps his replies clear, respectful and short. Each time the officer walks up to his black 1991 Volvo S-70 sedan, his mind weighs the same questions.

"I know it's because I'm black, and I'm driving the most conservative car you can get your hands on," Spearman-Leach said. "But you have to weigh what to do. If I fight, am I going to escalate the matter? Is this a battle worth fighting?"

Leach's answer has always been no. But before the Gates incident, other black voices had been encouraging people to say yes.

In January, Baratunde Thurston, a contributor to the influential blog Jack & Jill Politics (which bills itself as a voice of the "black bourgeoisie") argued that with a black president entering office, it was important to speak up about such issues, rather than bury the lingering problems of race.

In the past, speaking up has sometimes brought real change. In 1992, Robert L. Wilkins, a Washington, D.C., attorney, refused a Maryland trooper's attempt to search his rental car with a drug dog. His federal lawsuit forced the state to enact a new training regimen for troopers, and put an end to race-based blanket drug sweeps.

But fighting back does not always yield such clear results.

In 1997, Aaron Campbell Jr. argued with sheriff's deputies in Orange County, Fla., after being pulled over for a lane-change violation. He was pepper-sprayed and thrown in the back of a police car. Campbell also happened to be a major in the Miami-Dade Police Department.

"I think that if I was a white major on the turnpike, and was stopped unlawfully, they would have said, 'Hey major, go on about your business.' "

Campbell was found guilty of resisting arrest. The sheriff's deputies said race had nothing to do with it. Campbell's federal civil suit went nowhere.

Peshawar bazaar shut after bombing threat

PESHAWAR: The historic Qissa Khwani bazaar and nearby trade centres were closed and security outside mosques in the city was tightened for Friday prayers following intelligence reports that suicide bombers had been tasked to carry out attacks on places of worship.

The roads around important mosques in cantonment and city areas were barricaded and traffic was diverted to other routes for the prayers time. No one was allowed to park vehicles near the mosques, especially those near government offices. Guards were deployed outside the mosques to check every suspicious person.

“We have received tip-off that a suicide bomber has been assigned to carry out attack on worship places during the Friday prayers,” a police official, pleading anonymity, said.He added that initially there were reports that the attackers may be on motorbike, but later the reports suggested he would be using a car.

Heavy police contingents blocked the main Qissa Khwani Road by placing barbed wire outside the Khan Raziq Shaheed police station.Also, barriers were erected near Qasim Ali Khan mosque in Misgaran Bazaar to block the route from Chowk Yadgar side for the Friday prayers. The movement of vehicles into the area was banned after shopkeepers, vendors and customers moved out of the area. Apart from the main Qissa Khwani Bazaar, the Kabari Bazaar, Mohalla Jhangi, Jehangirpura, Dalgaran, Misgaran and parts of Koochi bazaar also remained closed for three hours.

“After every blast, hoax or tip-off, clients avoid visiting bazaars for several days. The trend has ruined not only our business, but of thousands of others having shops in Qissa Khwani and nearby markets,” said Abdul Majid, president of the plastic market, Muhammad Ali Johar road on the back of Qissa Khwani.

Good news on Balochistan in a few weeks, says minister

ISLAMABAD: There could be a ‘good news’ in two to four weeks about Balochistan as a result of secret ‘back-channel’ contacts, a minister told the Senate on Friday while ruling out talks with those seeking independence for the troubled province.

But Interior Minister Rehman Malik, while responding to an opposition member’s concern about a perceived ‘brewing conspiracy’ in the country’s largest but least populated province, ignored a query why Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had not yet convened a promised all-parties conference on Balochistan.

However, he assured the house that ‘all 14 points’ recommended by an earlier parliamentary committee on Balochistan ‘are going to be implemented’.

A young Pakistan Muslim League-Q senator from Punjab, Jamal Khan Leghari, complimented Mr Gilani for handing over to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh what Islamabad calls proofs of Indian involvement in Balochistan through its consulates in some border areas of Afghanistan when the two men met at the Egyptian seaside retreat of Sharm el Sheikh last week on the sidelines of a non-aligned summit.

The senator also voiced his serious concern about what he called a ‘East Pakistan-like situation’ developing in Balochistan where he said non-Balochi settlers, including teachers, were being ‘killed one by one’ and Pakistani flag was not allowed to fly on and national anthem not allowed to be sung in educational institutions in some areas.

Mr Malik, who said he ‘fully’ respected Mr Leghari’s sentiments, did not refer to India, which denies the charges, but told the house that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whom he met recently, had agreed to the establishment of three bio-metric checkposts on the border to stop movement of militants he said were being trained in training camps in Afghanistan.

The minister acknowledged that the situation in Balochistan, which has witnessed a low-intensity insurgency for the past few yeas, ‘was bad’, but said it was improving and would further improve in the future with the government seeking a consensus of all stakeholders about the future of the province.

‘But there can be no talks with those who talk of independence,’ he said and promised unspecified action against a Baloch nationalist leader, Harbayar Marri, over an allegedly separatist statement made in a recent interview in London for a Pakistani television channel.

‘With some back-channel talks going on, God-willing, problems will be resolved,’ Mr Malik said, and added: ‘Because of efforts to persuade those estranged, it is possible that I give you a still better good news in 2-4 weeks.’

Mr Leghari asked why the government was not seeking deportation of Mr Marri, reported to be a leader of the so-called Balochistan Liberation Army that has claimed many incidents of violence in the province, particularly after the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Khan Bugti inside a cave hideout in a military operation in August 2006.

The minister called Mr Bugti a ‘martyr’ and said it was a fact that Balochistan had not been given its due rights and that the “distress will remain” until these rights were given to the Baloch people.

He did not respond to Mr Leghari’s demand for the deportation of Mr Marri, a son of the veteran nationalist leader Khair Bkahsh Marri, but said ‘action will be taken’ regarding his statement that he did not recognise Pakistan.

America’s south Afghan offensive worries Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani officials voiced fears that a US-led offensive in southern Afghanistan could force Taliban fighters into this nation's restive southwest, but said they had not asked the Americans to stop or slow the operation.

The concerns surfaced Wednesday during a visit to Pakistan by special US envoy Richard Holbrooke, who assured Islamabad of Washington's desire to coordinate on anti-militant operations, even as he noted that the Taliban still move freely across the Pakistan-Afghan border.

'We want to be sure that we share with your government and your military, military plans so you can be prepared and coordinate because a lot of different things can happen here,' Holbrooke told reporters after meeting with Pakistan's prime minister.

The US is keen on ensuring Pakistan's cooperation in its efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. For years, attempts to crack down on militants in Afghanistan have been undermined by their ability to find safe havens across the lengthy, rugged and porous border in Pakistan.

Pakistan's role is especially critical now that the US has sent thousands more troops to Afghanistan to take on a resurgent Taliban.

Early this month, some 4,000 US Marines launched an operation against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, which borders Pakistan's Baluchistan province. The offensive comes ahead of next month's Afghan presidential elections.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said Islamabad has 'reservations' about the Helmand offensive because militants crossing the border could further destabilize Baluchistan, long the scene of a low-level insurgency by nationalist groups seeking more autonomy.

NATO's spokesman in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, said so far there was no sign that significant numbers of Taliban fighters were fleeing into Pakistan from Helmand and most were heading for safe havens 'that are yet to be cleared' by NATO and Afghan forces.

Pakistani officials agreed but said they had sent more troops to the 160 mile-long stretch of border from other parts of the northwest.

If a significant influx does occur, Pakistan may be forced to move troops from its border with India, the intelligence official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Despite American efforts to change the perception, Pakistani authorities still view India as their greatest threat because the two nuclear-armed nations have fought three wars over the past six decades.

Despite Pakistan's unease, a government security official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said Islamabad has not asked the US to stop or slow down the Helmand offensive.

The operation is considered a key test of US counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan and the US would likely have rejected any such request.

Pakistani officials have raised the issue of a militant influx with US officials in the past several months.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told a Senate committee in late May that he was worried about it, but that he was comfortable knowing the military was working to address any such problem if it arises. -AP

Obama regrets remarks in racially charged case

President Barack Obama backed down on Friday from a statement that police had "acted stupidly" in arresting a black scholar in a racially charged case that was rapidly becoming a distraction for Obama.

The president made a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room shortly after he spoke by phone to Cambridge, Massachusetts, police Sgt. James Crowley, who had arrested Henry Louis Gates, a prominent scholar of African-American studies at Harvard, last week.

"Because this has been ratcheting up and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I wanted to make clear in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. Crowley specifically," Obama said. "And I could have calibrated those words differently."

Crowley suggested Obama invite him and Gates, to the White House for a peace-making beer, and a plan was in the works to do so, Obama said.

Obama later called Gates, had a positive discussion, told him about his phone call with Crowley and invited him to join Crowley at the White House in the near future, the White House said.

The case quickly became a media frenzy, with Cambridge police in an uproar, Gates accusing Crowley of racist behavior and threatening a lawsuit.

For Obama, who took office as the first U.S. black president in January. the incident was a distraction when his signature legislative priority, a healthcare overhaul, was stalling in the U.S. Congress.

Obama said he hoped the event would end up being a "teachable moment, where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other" and improve race relations "instead of flinging accusations."

"Lord knows we need it right now -- because over the last two days as we've discussed this issue, I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody has been paying much attention to health care," he said.


The incident began last week when police received a call from a neighbor that a man appeared to be breaking into the Gates' house.

Gates, who returned home from a week in China to discover his front door jammed, entered his house through the back door. Police say Gates became belligerent when they went to the house and spoke with him inside.

At a news conference on Wednesday night, Obama weighed in on the case, saying the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police had "acted stupidly."

Obama pointed out that blacks and members of other minority groups tend to be stopped more frequently by U.S. police officers than whites.

Until Friday, Obama and the White House had defended Obama's remarks. The police union stoked tensions further, firing back at Obama.

"President Obama said that the actions of the Cambridge Police Department were stupid and linked the event to a history of racial profiling in America," Sgt. Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, said at a news conference in Cambridge.

"The facts of this case suggest that the president used the right adjective but directed it at the wrong party," he said.

With the incident threatening to escalate, Obama chose to engage in some damage control.

He did not say he had apologized to Crowley, but his words were regretful. Obama said his impression of Crowley was that he was an "outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in the phone conversation. And I told him that."

He said his choice of words had unfortunately given an impression "that I was maligning the Cambridge police department or Sergeant Crowley specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley."

Obama said he continued to believe that there was an overreaction in arresting Gates and that he also believed that Gates "probably overreacted as well."

Afghan president campaigns in capital

Kabul: Afghanistan's president shook hands and roused supporters during his first campaign rally in the capital, promising Friday to hold international troops more accountable for civilian casualties, house raids and arbitrary detentions.

Less than a month before Aug. 20 elections, President Hamid Karzai has done little public campaigning, since he is widely expected to win. He has sent representatives to most events and decided not to take part in a televised debate Thursday with his two closest competitors. The other two candidates went on with the debate next to his empty podium.

About 3,000 people - men wearing turbans and vests and some women in headscarves - crammed into an assembly tent in western Kabul to hear Karzai speak Friday.

The president said there had been many improvements in Afghanistan under his watch, noting that there are more roads, hospitals and schools than when he came to power eight years ago.

He said that if he is re-elected, he will revisit Afghanistan's agreement with international forces working to restore peace in the country to make sure they respect the rights of Afghan citizens.

Increasing civilian casualties plus house raids and detentions have caused too much friction between groups that are working toward a common goal, he said.

"I want to remove the fear between us and the international troops," he said. Karzai promised to review agreements with Nato and American forces to make sure that the government was in control.

Too often, he said, international troops make decisions without consulting the Afghan government.

"It should be clear who is the owner of the house and who is the guest," he said. The appeal prompted shouts and clapping throughout the crowd.

Syrian FM: We're looking forward to better ties with US

Syria's foreign minister said Friday his country was working to rebuild its diplomatic relationship with the United States.

Walid Moallem told reporters during a visit to London that his country was looking forward to a visit by US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell as "the first step of dialogue." Mitchell is due in Damascus on Saturday for his second visit to Damascus since he took up his post. The trip is part of the Obama administration's efforts to engage Syria and prod it into playing a US-friendly role in the region.

Syria is seen as a major player in the area because of its support for the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, its backing for Hizbullah in Lebanon, and its intermittent peace talks with Israel. Syria also maintains close links with Iran, whose disputed nuclear program is a matter of international concern.

Moallem said Syria would lobby Mitchell on the issue of the Golan Heights - a strategic plateau seized by Israel in 1967 during the Six Day War and which Syria wants back. Asked if a visit by President Barack Obama to Syria is being planned, Moallem said there was no formal invitation, but that "we welcome Obama if he wishes to come."

Moallem met his British counterpart, David Miliband, in London, and both expressed reservations about a French proposal for a new international conference on the Middle East.

Moallem said such a gathering would serve no purpose without prior agreements among the parties involved.

"Such conferences before have failed (with) repercussions for the region," Moallem told Miliband.

Miliband suggested that some Middle Eastern countries' patience with international peace conferences was wearing thin.

"They're pretty sick of processes - what they want is a plan," Miliband said.

The two ministers said they discussed Arab-Israeli relations and the situation in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan during their meeting.

Envoy calls Pakistani Taliban a threat

ISLAMABAD — President Barack Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan said Thursday that securing hard-fought gains in the Swat Valley and ensuring the safe return of refugees uprooted by the government’s anti-Taliban campaign should be Islamabad’s top priority.
Pakistan’s military is winding down an offensive that began in April in the country’s northwest and displaced some 2 million people from Swat and surrounding areas, according to the United Nations.
"The highest priority right now has to be to secure the areas in Swat and Buner as the refugees return,” Richard Holbrooke told reporters.
Security forces have also been carrying out strikes ahead of a promised new offensive in nearby South Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt along the Afghan border. The military says that operation is aimed at eliminating Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who heads a loose alliance of militant groups based in the tribal areas.
Mehsud has been blamed for scores of suicide attacks across the country, and Islamabad considers him Pakistan’s greatest internal threat.
Holbrooke said the U.S. has been slow in recognizing the importance of Mehsud, but stressed Thursday that eliminating him was "without a doubt” of strategic importance to the United States.
"I think Baitullah Mehsud is one of the most dangerous and odious people in the entire region and the United States paid insufficient attention to him until very recently,” he said.
Although the military has declared Swat cleared of most militants and civilians have been returning to the region for the past two weeks, violence persists in the region.
"Northern Swat is still insecure. And the leadership like Fazlullah has not been captured. So there’s a long way to go here,” Hollbrook said.
"They’re going after the people who pose the greatest threat.”

US envoy warns of imperfect Afghan poll

GHAZNI, Afghanistan — President Barack Obama's special envoy said Friday that Afghanistan's upcoming presidential contest will be imperfect, but the country cannot be held to a democratic standard that even the U.S. struggles to achieve.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, reported two more American service members died in combat, adding to what has already been the deadliest month for U.S. and international forces since they invaded the country eight years ago. A third soldier was reported killed in a clash Friday in eastern Afghanistan but officials would not disclose the nationality pending notification of kin.
Richard Holbrooke's trip to this central Afghan province coincided with President Hamid Karzai's first election rally in Kabul ahead of the Aug. 20 ballot. Karzai praised the role of foreign troops but promised that rules governing their presence will change if he wins re-election.
"Elections here will be imperfect," Holbrooke said between briefings at a military base run by Polish and U.S. troops. "But I am an American who lived through an imperfect election eight years ago. I am not going to hold Afghanistan to standards which even the United States does not achieve."
"What we want is an election that reflects the legitimate will of the Afghan people and whoever wins the international community will support," he added.
With insurgency threatening large areas of the country, there are fears that not enough voters will participate in the polls for the results to be accepted — especially among the Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group that forms the majority of the Taliban. Karzai is a Pashtun.
At the rally, Karzai shook hands and promised supporters he would hold NATO and U.S. troops accountable for actions that harm or ignore the rights of Afghan citizens, including killing civilians, raiding private homes and detaining people without charge.
Karzai has done little campaigning in the run up to the elections but is leading a crowded field of 41 candidates. He has sent representatives to most campaign events and bowed out of a televised debate Thursday with his two closest competitors. The other two candidates went on with the debate next to his empty podium.
During the Friday rally, about 3,000 people — men wearing turbans and vests and some women in headscarves — crammed into an assembly tent in western Kabul to hear Karzai.
The president said there had been many improvements in Afghanistan during his rule, noting that there are more roads, hospitals and schools than when he came to power eight years ago.
He said that if he is re-elected, he will revisit Afghanistan's agreement with international forces that are working to restore peace in the country to make sure they respect the rights of Afghan citizens. Increasing civilian casualties, house raids and detentions have caused too much friction between groups that are working toward a common goal, he said.
"I want to remove the fear between us and the international troops," he said.
Too often, he said, international troops make decisions without consulting the Afghan government.
"It should be clear who is the owner of the house and who is the guest," he said. The appeal prompted shouts and clapping throughout the crowd.
That theme was hammered home Thursday by Karzai's two leading competitors during the television debate.
Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani both cited civilian casualties, searching private homes without permission and arresting people without cause as major reasons for opposition to the presence of American and other international forces.
The two U.S. troops died in an explosion in southern Afghanistan, according to a U.S. military spokesman Lt. Robert Carr. No other details were released. Their deaths raised to at least 37 the number of U.S. service members to die in the Afghan war in July.
Roadside bombs now account for about two-thirds of the hostile-fire deaths suffered by Western forces in Afghanistan. On Friday, the British Ministry of Defense announced it was sending 125 additional troops to its 9,000-strong force here, including a company of explosives experts to counter the threat of roadside bombs.
The rising deaths have raised doubts among the U.S.-led coalition about the conduct of the war, forcing some governments to defend publicly their commitments at a time when the U.S. is shifting resources to Afghanistan from Iraq.
In Ghazni, Holbrooke said that the most difficult part of his assignment was to "make sure that the European and the American publics understand how important it is" to remain in Afghanistan.
"This is not Iraq. This is not Vietnam. This is a nation that is directly related to the attacks of 9/11," Holbrooke said, referring to al-Qaida's attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.
Holbrooke was accompanied by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and a number of Kabul-based European diplomats. Holbrooke said the joint visit showed "that the European Union and the U.S. are indispensable allies to each other."
Also Friday, Sweden's military reported that Swedish and Finnish soldiers killed three insurgents in a clash in the north.
The military says the fighting started late Thursday when a Swedish unit was attacked near Mazar-e-Sharif. Swedish and Finnish soldiers were called to assist and exchanged fire with insurgents throughout the night. No international troops were wounded.

Afghan president vows to regulate foreign troops

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai, setting out his election manifesto, vowed on Friday to make foreign troops sign a framework governing how they operate in a bid to limit civilians casualties.

Karzai, widely criticized for withdrawing from a televised debate with two of his main rivals in the August 20 presidential election the previous night, unveiled a manifesto covering foreign troops, talks with insurgents and reconstruction.

Civilian casualties caused by U.S. and NATO operations, particularly air strikes, became a source of increasing outrage among ordinary Afghans and their leaders this year, even as insurgent violence hit its worst levels in the eight-year-old war.

"We need to make an agreement to put the movements of foreign troops into a legitimate Afghan framework," Karzai told a campaign gathering in Kabul.

"NATO and America are our allies in the war against terrorism but we also want protection, honor, dignity and respect of our religion from our friends," he said.

General Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, issued a new tactical directive this month stressing the importance of avoiding civilian casualties and limiting air strikes against residential compounds.

U.S. commanders have acknowledged they took too long to move to cut civilian casualties. The protection of ordinary Afghans is now the centerpiece of a new counter-insurgency strategy.

McChrystal's directive was issued as thousands of U.S. Marines and British troops were engaged in major offensives in southern Helmand, Afghanistan's most violent province and long a Taliban stronghold.

The assaults are the first under U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and its Islamist allies and stabilize Afghanistan.

Washington is pouring thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan this year, in part to beef up security for the election. There are about 58,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 from other NATO members in Afghanistan, with U.S. numbers to rise a further 10,000 by year's end.


Karzai gave few details about his proposed framework, but the issue of limiting the operations of foreign troops was raised in Thursday's debate by rival Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister under Karzai and high-ranking World Bank official.

Ghani said he would seek an agreement with U.S. and NATO-led forces about how long they would remain and seek to close the main prison for detainees used by the U.S. military at its sprawling airfield north of Kabul within three years if elected.

A U.S. military report released this week called for changes in both U.S. and Afghan prison systems to prevent Islamist radicalization behind bars in Afghanistan.

Karzai is a clear front-runner ahead of 38 challengers. An opinion survey by a U.S.-based group published in May showed 31 percent support for Karzai, with Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah polling in single digits.

Karzai also proposed calling a loya jirga, or national council of elders, with the Taliban and other militant Islamist groups such as Hezb-i-Islami if he is re-elected to discuss ways to improve national security and Afghanistan's many problems.

The Taliban have repeatedly rejected such suggestions.

Karzai had been under pressure at home and abroad earlier this year over complaints of poor security and rampant corruption after eight years in power but has consolidated his position, striking deals with several would-be rivals.

Another potential rival, National Islamic Revolution of Afghanistan leader Sayed Hashemi, withdrew his candidacy and said on Friday he would back Karzai "for national unity."

Ousted president arrives at Honduran border

LAS MANOS, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Ousted President Manuel Zelaya arrived at Honduras' border on Friday vowing to return to power, but he held off from crossing into his country, where he faces an order for his arrest.Accompanied by a pack of international reporters and television cameras, the ousted leader in his trademark cowboy hat approached the border in a white jeep before walking toward the border in the small Nicaraguan frontier town of Las Manos.The leftist president was toppled on June 28 after angering critics over his alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States.

Chinese web users voice concern over US-India defense pact

The new US-India defense pact inked by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Minister of External Affairs S. M. Krishna on July 20 has made many Chinese web users concerned as they believe the agreement will likely to pose potential threats to China in the future.

This agreement allows the US to sell sophisticated military technology to India and conduct "end-use monitoring."

According to an anonymous poll on, 92.5 percent of 3,111 web users by 10 pm on July 23 agreed to the question, "Do you think that US-India military defense cooperation will threaten China?"

China and India are considered two emerging powers with the largest populations in the world.

"To support India can be partially regarded as a strategy to counter China," comments an Internet user. "Besides, China has a stake in Indian Ocean."
Another said, "If the US does not want to contain China, why bother coming all the way from another hemisphere?"

An anonymous web user compared the US-India military cooperation to an act of isolating China, saying, "The US has been cooperating with China's neighboring countries for fear that its hegemonic position will be surpassed by China some day. With Japan and other alliances, the US will stand firm on Asian-Pacific region. India is the best choice, for there is no huge development gap between China and India. A US-backed India will surely menace China. "

However, 7.5 percent of online voters who believe this cooperation won't be a threat.

"A country does not have permanent friends, only permanent interests," a voter quoted the classic statement from former British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston. "The US will never sell its most advanced weapon to India. But China needs to be on high alert." Another voter said developing ties is the most important thing for China. "Any cooperation between the countries and organizations is positive and we should not look at the international issues with prejudice."

Tales From Rural Pakistan, Lived and Shared
MUEENABAD, Pakistan – In the steamy heat of central Pakistan, a novelist is writing. He describes a hidden world of servants and their feudal masters, the powerlessness of poverty and the corruption that glues it all together.

These lives, tucked away in the mango groves, grand estates and mud-walled villages of rural Pakistan, are rarely seen by outsiders. But the writer, Daniyal Mueenuddin, a Pakistani-American who lives here, has brought them into focus in a collection of short stories, “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders,” published this year.

They are intimate portraits that raise some of the biggest questions in Pakistan today. Why does a small elite still control vast swaths of land more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state? How long will landlords continue to control the law and the lives of the peasants on their land in the same way British rulers did before them?

Mr. Mueenuddin, 46, offers a richly observed landscape that is written with the tenderness and familiarity of an old friend. This estate in southern Punjab, Pakistan’s biggest province, belonged to Mr. Mueenuddin’s father, a prominent Pakistani civil servant, and he used to come here as a boy.

His parents met in the United States in the 1950s. His father was negotiating a treaty, and his mother was a young reporter for The Washington Post. They later moved to Pakistan, but the country proved difficult with its web of expectations and relationships, and she took her sons back to America when Mr. Mueenuddin was 13.

Memories of this land stayed with him, however, and he returned after college in 1987 as an aspiring writer. He found upon arrival a decaying, colonial-era system, whose owners — his own family — had long stopped paying attention. The farm’s profits were declining, and its borders were shrinking: The managers were pilfering land and planting their own crops.

“It was in their mouths when I pulled it out,” Mr. Mueenuddin said, speaking on the estate, where he now lives with his Norwegian wife.

Mr. Mueenuddin slowly became part of the changing Pakistan he wanted to capture in fiction. The managers were powerful when he arrived, and extracting them from the business of running the farm was a delicate procedure. He was alone, without a phone or Internet. He slept with a gun and worried that his food might be poisoned.

“It occurred to me that they could kill me,” he said.

He began to assemble a team of people he trusted: A driver who, as a child, was his playmate, and the Koran instructor in the mosque, Hafiz Sahib, who had been low in the pecking order of the village but was honest. Slowly, he reclaimed the farm, which now does a brisk business in mangos, sugar cane and cotton.

In person, Mr. Mueenuddin is more American than Pakistani. He speaks Urdu, the national language, but his frenetic energy and fast gait sets him apart in this languid, sweltering land, where men walk with their bellies ahead of their torsos.

His characters, however, are convincingly local: Corrupt farm managers, conniving, spoiled children of wealthy landlords and servant girls desperate to improve their station in life.

The stories explore the power dynamic between servants and their masters. In one, a cunning young house servant, Husna, becomes the lover of an elderly landowner, K. K. Harouni, the patron who is present in many of the stories and is from the same class and generation as Mr. Mueenuddin’s father. She gradually improves her status through her connection to him, moving into better quarters and getting servants of her own, but is cruelly cast out when he dies.

The final scene offers a view of just how precarious servants’ fates are. Confronted by the man’s manicured daughters who are evicting her, Husna blurts out: “You are important people, and I’m nothing and my family is nothing. I have to obey.”

Mr. Mueenuddin is also a landlord, though he prefers not to think of himself that way. His family’s wealth started in the 18th century with his great-great-great-grandfather, who grew rich as the governor of Kashmir, a territory that is now disputed between India and Pakistan.

“I’m not a landlord,” he said, cringing. “I hope I don’t act that way.”

He argues that he is afarm manager whose business does well because he treats his workers fairly. He pays them $84 a month, triple the going rate, and instituted an American-style annual bonus system for managers. Last year, the most profitable producer on the farm received the equivalent of more than two years’ salary.

That is unusual for Pakistan, where landlords rarely delve into the business of their farms in detail and workers are paid around $25 a month.

“These guys don’t understand their own people,” Mr. Mueenuddin said of that class. “The hierarchy is so bred into them that they condescend to people.”

But the cast of characters is changing, a shift that Mr. Mueenuddin’s prose captures. Farm managers, the most powerful servants, have now become part of politics in some places. The two brothers who rule Mr. Mueenuddin’s district are sons of a spiritual leader, who was not a wealthy man. But instead of making the system fairer, he says, they have seized their own chance to profit, perpetuating feudalism.

Meanwhile poverty has become more pronounced. Local residents now get only a few hours of electricity daily, down from around six several years ago, and with Pakistan’s exploding population, jobs are ever harder to find.

“People are getting more and more desperate,” he said.

In recent years, there has been another shift in society. Mullahs of the fundamentalist Deobandi school have grown powerful in southern Punjab, spreading an aggressive, anti-Shiite, antistate message during Friday sermons in the religious schools, or madrasas, that have proliferated since the 1980s.

The spread has touched Mr. Mueenuddin. A religious group was building a mosque on the edge of his property, and one day a young man standing on its roof shouted at him, “The first thing you’ll know is when the bullet hits you in the forehead.”

He ordered a wall erected along the property line.

The religious extremists’ view of world is not unlike that of the Utopians in W. H. Auden’s 1955 poem, Horae Canonicae, Mr. Mueenuddin said, whose rigid views of the perfect society, oblique references to Soviet communism, are just as true today.

“I find it scary that extremists in Pakistan are trying to force their rigid prescriptions down our throats,” he said, invoking a comparison with Stalin, who ruthlessly consolidated his power by crushing any dissent.

The Utopian, he said, quoting from a book of Auden, dreams of “some August day of outrage when hellikins cavort through ruined drawing-rooms and fish-wives intervene in the Chamber,” and for a time when “those he hates shall hate themselves instead.”

But is the Pakistani elite in the same position as the Russian aristocracy before the revolution?

“It’s something that keeps me awake at night,” Mr. Mueenuddin said.

The fear recedes in daylight. It is unclear how strong the forces of extremism here are, and whether sweeping away the current order is among their aims. For the time being at least, the status quo seems likely to prevail.

“I don’t think the guys I’m dealing with are thinking in revolutionary terms,” Mr. Mueenuddin said. “They’ve not gotten that far.”

Obama says he didn't mean to slight Cambridge police

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts -- President Obama said Friday he spoke with the police officer who arrested a Harvard professor and told the officer he did not mean to malign the Cambridge Police Department.Obama's phone conversation came about two hours after police unions said Obama should apologize to members of the Cambridge Police Department for saying they acted stupidly, the president of a city police union said Friday.

Baloch separatists trained in Afghan camps: Malik

ISLAMABAD: Interior minister Rehman Malik has alleged that the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan are imparting training to Baloch youth to creating disturbances in the province, according to a DawnNews report.

He said that he himself held a meeting with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul and provided him with proofs regarding training camps in Afghanistan where Baloch insurgents were being trained.

The Interior Minister said that President Karzai had assured him about closing down these camps, which Malik claimed were being run by the Indian intelligence agencies on their soil.

Rehman Malik informed the House that President Karzai also agreed to put in place three biometric check-posts on the Pak-Afghan border by the first week of August.

He told the house that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had also raised the issue of Indian involvement in Balochistan with his counterpart Manmohan Singh in Egypt.

The demand for separation by Baloch separatists cannot be accepted, Malik declared.