Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Afghan Situation 'Serious'

The top U.S. commander for Afghanistan called the situation there "serious" but salvageable, in a sobering assessment issued Monday that is expected to pave the way for a request for more American troops, funds for Afghan forces and other resources. White House and Pentagon officials, while welcoming the assessment, cautioned that there is no guarantee such requests would be met.

The report by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has been tasked by President Obama to implement a revitalized strategy for the war in Afghanistan, concludes that the Taliban insurgency in the country is stronger than previously realized, according to senior Pentagon and administration officials familiar with McChrystal's thinking.

To tackle the problem, McChrystal believes above all that the ranks of Afghan soldiers and police must be increased, and that they must be trained more quickly, the officials said. That training is expected to require more U.S. and allied forces, although the assessment did not provide specific requests.

"The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable," McChrystal said in a statement. He added that progress will demand a revised strategy, greater "resolve" and a "unity of effort" by the NATO-led multinational force.

Although the assessment, which runs more than 20 pages, has not been released, officials familiar with the report have said it represents a hard look at the challenges involved in implementing Obama's strategy for Afghanistan. The administration has narrowly defined its goal as defeating al-Qaeda and other extremist groups and denying them sanctuary, but that in turn requires a sweeping counterinsurgency campaign aimed at protecting the Afghan population, establishing good governance and rebuilding the economy.

For instance, McChrystal thinks a greater push by civilian officials is vital to shore up local Afghan governments and to combat corruption, officials said. He is emphatic that the results of the recent Afghan presidential election be viewed as legitimate, but is also realistic in acknowledging that the goals of the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the coalition are not always as closely aligned as they could be, they said.

Separately, officials said, McChrystal's assessment finds that U.S. and other NATO forces must adopt a less risk-averse culture, leaving bases and armored vehicles to pursue insurgents on foot in a way that minimizes Afghan civilian deaths.

The appraisal comes amid declining U.S. public support for the war and growing tension between U.S. commanders in need of resources and a White House wary of committing to fresh troops. It echoes recent gloomy statements by top military officials such as Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the conflict is "deteriorating" and that the Taliban is far more sophisticated than it was just a few years ago. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday called Afghanistan "a mixed picture" and said "a very tough fight" lies ahead.

This year, tens of thousands of additional U.S. and allied troops have flowed into the volatile country, bringing the total to more than 100,000, of which 62,000 are American. Casualties among troops have risen to their highest levels since the U.S. military overthrew the Taliban government in the fall of 2001.

McChrystal, who took command in June after his predecessor was fired, is expected to follow his assessment with a formal, detailed request for forces, officials said. That request, expected to be primarily for military trainers, will be weighed in turn by the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and by Mullen, Gates and the military service chiefs before being delivered to Obama.

McChrystal could request any additional non-U.S. NATO forces through a separate NATO chain of command.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday that it is too soon to say whether Obama will authorize more troops for Afghanistan, and that McChrystal's report has not yet reached the president's desk. Still, he asserted, for years the war had been neglected.

"I think there's broad agreement that for many years, our effort in Afghanistan has been under-resourced politically, militarily, economically," Gibbs said. He called the mounting U.S. casualties and other problems in Afghanistan a consequence of the Bush administration's strategy there.

Gates said McChrystal's upcoming "resource recommendations" will be carefully examined, but he noted that "there are larger issues" to be considered.

"I have expressed some concerns in the past about the size of the American footprint, the size of the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan," Gates said on a trip to Fort Worth. "And, clearly, I want to address those issues. And we will have to look at the availability of forces; we'll have to look at costs. There are a lot of different things that we'll have to look at, once we get his recommendations, before we make any recommendations to the president."

In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Mullen said it might not be possible to fill requests from McChrystal for new troops.

If the demand for troops in Afghanistan goes up and is not offset by reductions in Iraq, it would delay the ability of the Army and Marine Corps to give heavily deployed ground troops more time at home between combat tours.

"That's a huge concern that I have," Mullen said in the interview. He noted that the concern was shared by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, as well as by other service chiefs.

Tensions grow over U.S. resources for Afghanistan war

The prospect that U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal may ask for as many as 45,000 additional American troops in Afghanistan is fueling growing tension within President Barack Obama's administration overthe U.S. commitment to the war there.
On Monday, McChrystal sent his assessment of the situation in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, the U.S. Central Command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and NATO.
Although the assessment didn't include any request for more troops, senior military officials said they expect McChrystal later in September to seek between 21,000 and 45,000 more troops. There currently are 62,000 American troops in Afghanistan.
The assessment came on a day that bombs were reported to have killed four NATO troops -- two Americans and two Britons -- ending the deadliest month of the war, The Associated Press reported.
The U.S. military said the two Americans were killed in separate explosions in southern Afghanistan but gave no further details. Their deaths brought to 47 the number of U.S. troops who have died in the Afghan War in August -- three more than in July, which had been the deadliest month.
In London, the British Ministry of Defence said the two British soldiers on a foot patrol were killed by a bomb north of Lashkar Gah, a southern Afghan city where Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid a surprise visit last weekend, the AP said.
Administration officials said that amid rising violence and casualties, polls show a majority of Americans now think the war in Afghanistan isn't worth fighting. With tough battles ahead on health care, the budget and other issues, Vice President Joe Biden and other officials are increasingly anxious about how the American public would respond to sending additional troops.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the media, said Biden has argued that without sustained support from the American people, the U.S. can't make the long-term commitment that would be needed to stabilize Afghanistan and dismantle al Qaeda. Biden's office declined to comment.
``I think they [the Obama administration] thought this would be more popular and easier,'' a senior Pentagon official said. ``We are notgetting a Bush-like commitment to this war.''
Monday's assessment initially was to include troop recommendations, but political concerns prompted White House and Pentagon officials to agree that those recommendations would come later, advisors to McChrystal said. Although the White House took a hands-off approach toward Afghanistan earlier this summer, Pentagon officials said they're now getting more questions about how many troops might be needed and for how long.

Accusation of Brazen Ballot-Stuffing Casts New Doubt on Karzai

KABUL, Afghanistan — Just a week before this country’s presidential election, the leaders of a southern Afghan tribe called Bariz gathered to make a bold decision: they would abandon the incumbent and local favorite, Hamid Karzai, and endorse his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

Mr. Abdullah flew to the southern city of Kandahar to receive the tribe’s endorsement. The leaders of the tribe, who live in a district called Shorbak, prepared to deliver a local landslide.

But it never happened, the tribal leaders said.

Instead, aides to Mr. Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali — the leader of the Kandahar provincial council and the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan — detained the governor of Shorbak, Delaga Bariz, and shut down all of the district’s 45 polling sites on election day. The ballot boxes were taken to Shorbak’s district headquarters, where, Mr. Bariz and other tribal leaders said, local police officers stuffed them with thousands of ballots.

At the end of the day, 23,900 ballots were shipped to Kabul, Mr. Bariz said, with every one marked for President Karzai.

“Not a single person in Shorbak District cast a ballot — not a single person,” Mr. Bariz said in an interview here in the capital, where he and a group of tribal elders came to file a complaint. “Mr. Karzai’s people stuffed all the ballot boxes.”

The accusations by Mr. Bariz, and several other tribal leaders from Shorbak, are the most serious allegations so far that have been publicized against Mr. Karzai’s electoral machine, which faces a deluge of fraud complaints from around the country.

The Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission said Tuesday that the number of complaints about vote stealing and other frauds had reached 2,615. Mr. Karzai’s campaign is accused of forging ballots, stealing votes and preventing people from going to the polls.

Mr. Karzai and his aides deny any sort of fraud, and they have hunkered down in the presidential palace to await the final results. But the allegations are casting a cloud over his re-election campaign, raising the prospect that even if he wins his presidency could be seriously tainted.

At the same time, the allegations are increasing the pressure on American officials to ensure that the accusations of fraud are properly investigated. An election widely perceived as having been stolen could deal a serious setback to the Obama administration, which has committed itself to prevailing here in the nearly eight-year-old war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Allegations like those described by Mr. Bariz are throwing the basic integrity of the election into question. Much of the story told by Mr. Bariz and the other tribal elders was impossible to verify. But their story appeared credible for a number of reasons; all three men spoke in great details. And all of them were willing to be publicly named and to have their photographs taken.

As recently as 10 months ago, Mr. Bariz said, he had considered himself an ally of President Karzai. He had been nominated by a group of Bariz elders to be the governor of the Shorbak District, a desolate stretch of sand and scrub that sits on the country’s southwestern border with Pakistan. Mr. Bariz’s nomination was ratified by Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar Province, who was appointed by President Karzai.

But as election day neared, Mr. Bariz and other leaders in his tribe said they could not bring themselves to support Mr. Karzai for another five-year term. The reason, he said: Mr. Karzai’s government had done so little good.

“There are no clinics, no schools, no roads, no water dams — nothing,” Mr. Bariz said. “We decided to support someone who would unify the country.” The leaders of the Bariz tribe picked Mr. Abdullah, a former foreign minister.

In theory, the decision by the elders sealed Mr. Abdullah’s victory in Shorbak: nearly everyone in Shorbak belongs to the Bariz tribe. As is common in many such societies, tribal leaders in Afghanistan often negotiate with politicians to deliver the votes of their tribe.

Mr. Abdullah’s campaign manager in southern Afghanistan, Esmatullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said the candidate met a large group of Bariz tribal elders in Kandahar on Aug. 12 to receive their endorsement. It was a joyous affair, Mr. Esmatullah said, for which even women turned out. But not everyone who wanted to come to the endorsement ceremony was able to make it.

“The police were blocking the roads,” Mr. Esmatullah said.

The next day, Mr. Bariz said, officials in Kandahar were furious. One of Kandahar’s senior officials, Mohammed Anas, ordered Mr. Bariz not to return to his home in Shorbak. Mr. Anas said he had no choice.

“When I asked him why he wouldn’t let me go home, he said, ‘Because your whole tribe is going to vote for Dr. Abdullah,’ ” Mr. Bariz said.

Mr. Bariz did not speak to Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s younger brother, only to more junior officials like Mr. Anas. But few decisions of any import are believed to be taken in Kandahar without the approval of Ahmed Wali Karzai. On the streets, his nickname is “The King of the South.” Last year, for instance, Ahmed Wali Karzai was widely seen as having replaced the governor, Rahmatullah Raufi, when he fell out of favor.

Attempts to contact Ahmed Wali Karzai were unsuccessful.

When election day finally came, the ballots were never delivered to the polling centers in Shorbak, said two Bariz tribal leaders who were charged with overseeing the sites. Instead of going to the polling places, all the ballots and ballot boxes were delivered to the district government’s headquarters. That place, the tribal leaders said, had been commandeered by the Afghan Border Police.

“The ballots were never delivered,” said Abdul Quyoum, a farmer from the village of Karaze, where one of the polling sites was supposed to be. “I waited all day.”

Mr. Quyoum was one of two tribal elders from Shorbak who traveled to Kabul with Mr. Bariz. The other was Fazul Mohammed, who told a nearly identical story.

When the ballots were not delivered to the polling site, Mr. Mohammed said, he walked to the district government headquarters to see what was wrong. The building, he said, was being guarded by officers of the Afghan Border Police. As an election official, Mr. Mohammed said, he was allowed to go inside.

“The border police were stuffing the ballots, hundreds of them, into the boxes,” he said. “And there were other people who were counting the ballots and keeping the records.”

Mr. Mohammed said he protested but was told to leave. Later, he said, he was told that a total of 23,900 ballots had been filled out, all in Mr. Karzai’s name.

“Dr. Abdullah did not receive a single vote,” he said.

Mr. Bariz, the governor, said he had not returned to Shorbak.

“I don’t think I am going to be governor much longer,” he said.

Schools, colleges still closed in Darra Adamkhel

KOHAT: Like other parts of the province, schools and colleges reopened on Tuesday after the long summer break with the exception of Darra Adamkhel where institutions were still closed.In a notification, the Education Department has directed the concerned officials in all the tribal and semi-tribal areas including Orakzai and Kurram agencies and the Frontier Regions to reopen schools and colleges. However, the sources said schools and colleges in Darra Adamkhel were yet to be reopened. They said in Darra Adamkhel the militants destroyed 17 educational institutes with explosives.The destroyed seats of learning included four govt-run high schools for boys, two for girls, six middle schools for girls, four primary schools for girls and a degree college for boys.District Coordination Officer Siraj Ahmad said the government was making final arrangements to raise tents at destroyed schools for the students to continue education. He added that soon the damaged bridges would be reconstructed and the Friendship Tunnel would be opened for 24 hours traffic.

105 militants surrendered in Pakistan's Swat

At least 105 militants surrendered to the Pakistani security forces in the insurgency-hit Swat valley on Tuesday, a military commander said.

The militants, including 18 wanted and a Taliban council member, were produced at a news conference at Kanju, three kilometers of Mingora, the main city in Swat of North West Frontier Province.

Brig Salman Akbar, who is in charge of military operations, said that all those surrendered militants belonged to Kabal area of the Swat. He said a Taliban council member Abdul Jabar was among those surrendered.

It is the second time in less than 10 days that Taliban militants surrendered in groups to the security forces. Last week, a group of 65 suspected militants surrendered to the security forces.

The surrendered militants also included a group of teenagers, who, according to the officials, were recruited for suicide bombings.

All surrendered men were sitting on benches during the press conference and were not allowed to speak to reporters.

"The locals inform us about the presence and activities of the militants," Akbar said. He said that those who did not surrender to security forces will be eliminated.

The surrendered militants will be produced in the Islamic courts, the army commander said.

"We are trying to boost up the operation in areas where the militants were resisting the forces", he said. The operation will continue till the goals are achieved, he added.

Meanwhile, search and clearance operations are continuing in Swat and 15 militants were arrested and cache of arms and ammunition recovered on Tuesday.

Shutter down strike observed in Balochistan

A shutter down strike is being observed in certain parts of Balochistan against the killing of Baloch National Movement leader Rasool Bakhsh Mengal.

Rasool Bakhsh went missing on August 23rd from Uthal area of Lasbela district and his body was found by police on the 30th of August from Bela area of the same district.

The call for the strike had been given by the Baloch National Front which was also endorsed by other Baloch nationalist parties.

The strike is being observed in Turbat, Awaran, Panjgur, Khuzdar, Kalat and some other parts of the province.

Sources say that all markets and shopping centres in these areas are completely closed and no business activity is being witnessed anywhere. Traffic was minimal on the roads while the turn out in offices and schools was also low.

The local administration has taken strict security measures to avert any untoward incident.

West faces losing battle over Afghan poll fraud

The Times

Widespread and systematic fraud during the Afghan presidential elections has tarnished the legitimacy of any future government and undermined the Nato campaign there, Western and Afghan officials have admitted.

Two more British soldiers were killed yesterday and the commander of the Nato forces in Afghanistan warned President Obama that the eight-year war was in a “serious” state and that big changes were needed if victory was to be achieved.

General Stanley McChrystal is understood to have recommended in a strategic review that counter-insurgency efforts be focused on protecting civilians rather than fighting militants.

August was one of Nato’s bloodiest months in Afghanistan, with 74 soldiers killed. More than 300 have died so far this year, making 2009 the worst year for Western forces since the Taleban were overthrown.

The latest British casualties — killed by a bomb while on foot patrol in Helmand — were from 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. They bring to 19 the number of British troops killed in August.

David Kilcullen, one of the architects of Nato’s anti-insurgency campaign, said that the failure of the Afghan Government to provide basic services in many areas was allowing the Taleban to establish its own courts, hospitals and security. “A government that is losing to a counter-insurgency isn’t being outfought, it is being outgoverned,” he said.

There have been more than 2,500 complaints about the August 20 vote, 691 of them involving serious charges of vote rigging, meaning that they could affect the overall outcome of the election.

One international election observer, who asked not to be named, said: “The pattern is of systematic and widespread fraud, which really does call into question the legitimacy of the election. This is large scale and it is across the country.”

Ahmad Nader Nadery, head of the Afghan Free and Fair Election Foundation, said the scale of the vote rigging was serious. The fraud presents Washington with a dilemma: to back President Karzai, who is already seen as an unreliable partner, after a disputed and discredited first-round victory or to force a second-round run-off. The latter could lead to months of political paralysis and a rapid erosion of support for a war that less half of Americans now view as worthwhile.

Groundwork Is Laid for New Troops in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — A new report by the top commander in Afghanistan detailing the deteriorating situation there confronts President Obama with the politically perilous decision of whether to deepen American involvement in the eight-year-old war amid shrinking public support at home.
The classified assessment submitted Monday by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who took over American and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June, did not request additional American troops, American officials said, but they added that it effectively laid the groundwork for such a request in coming weeks.
While details of the report remained secret, the revised strategy articulated by General McChrystal in recent public comments would invest the United States more extensively in Afghanistan than it has been since American forces helped topple the Taliban government following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Taking a page from the 2007 strategy shift in Iraq, he has emphasized protecting civilians over just engaging insurgents.
For Mr. Obama, who already ordered an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan this year, the prospect of a still larger deployment would test his commitment to a war he did not launch even as it grows more violent by the month.

He already faces growing discontent among his liberal base, not only over the war but also over national security policy, health care, gay rights and other issues.

An expanded American footprint would also increase Mr. Obama’s entanglement with an Afghan government widely viewed as corrupt and illegitimate. Multiplying allegations of fraud in the Aug. 20 presidential election have left Washington with little hope for a credible partner in the war once the results are final.

The latest tally, with nearly half of the polling stations counted, showed President Hamid Karzai leading with 45.9 percent against 33.3 percent for his main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, Reuters reported.

But the White House left open the possibility that Mr. Obama would send more troops. “There’s broad agreement that for many years, our effort in Afghanistan has been under-resourced politically, militarily and economically,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Monday. He went on to use the words “under-resourced” and “under-resource” six more times during his daily briefing.

The report comes after a sharp escalation of violence in Afghanistan, where more American troops died in August than in any month since the beginning of the war.

The military announced Monday that two American soldiers died in separate attacks involving homemade bombs, bringing the total killed last month to 51, according to the Web site icasualties.org. The number of such attacks has nearly quadrupled since 2007, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort,” General McChrystal said in a statement after sending his report to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of all Middle East forces.

A military official said General Petraeus immediately endorsed its findings and forwarded it on Monday to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who will review it before sending it to the White House.

The report coincides with an effort by the Obama administration to develop a series of benchmarks, or metrics, to measure progress in Afghanistan, much as was done in Iraq. Congress has insisted on evidence of improvement to justify the additional troops, financial investment and civilian reconstruction teams already committed by Mr. Obama.

Mr. Gates said Monday that despite the “gloom and doom” that has characterized recent discussion, Afghanistan today is a “mixed picture.”

He said he would consider any troop requests in the coming weeks, but told Bloomberg News that he was concerned about “the implications of significant additional forces in terms of the foreign footprint in Afghanistan, whether the Afghans will see this as us becoming more of an occupier or their partner, and how do you differentiate those.”

Shortly after taking office Mr. Obama ordered 17,000 more combat troops and 4,000 more trainers to Afghanistan, and once they all arrive the American force there will number 68,000. As the NATO commander, General McChrystal also has 40,000 additional foreign forces available to him, but some of their home governments have placed restrictions on how they can be used.

General McChrystal wants a large expansion of Afghan security forces and an acceleration of their training, according to American commanders. The Afghan government currently has about 134,000 police officers and 82,000 soldiers, although many of them are poorly equipped and have little logistical support.

Under the strategy described by General McChrystal and other commanders in recent weeks, the overriding goal of American and NATO forces would not be so much to kill Taliban insurgents as to make ordinary Afghans feel secure, and thus isolate the insurgents. That means using force less and focusing on economic development and good governance.

General McChrystal also intends to try to unify the effort of American allies like Britain, Canada, Germany and France, and possibly to ask them to contribute more troops, money and training.

With polls showing falling support for the Afghan war, critics in Congress have grown increasingly vocal in calling for withdrawal.

Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, returned from Afghanistan last week and said that despite the capable Americans now there, he was pessimistic about the chances of success and did not even know how to define it.

“I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that we’re getting sucked into an endless war here,” he said in an interview.

Some Afghanistan specialists said Mr. Obama might have to swallow his own doubts and defy his base. “I think he’s going to have to tough it out,” said James Dobbins, a former American envoy to Afghanistan. “The downside of a policy of disengagement and what would happen for now would be more severe both for the president and for the country.” Mr. Obama has said that deciding to send the additional troops was the hardest decision he has made during his young presidency. On Sunday, just before ending his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, he visited briefly at the Cape Cod Air Station with the family of a 21-year-old Marine who was killed in Afghanistan in July.

Mr. Obama had met the Marine, Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos, who was born in Hyannis, Mass., in February when he visited Camp Lejeune, N.C., to announce his plan to withdraw combat forces from Iraq. He told a story then of two Marines who stood in the path of a suicide bomber’s truck and stopped it from entering a Marine outpost in Ramadi, Iraq, losing their own lives but saving dozens of their colleagues.

One of those saved was Corporal Xiarhos. He later shipped out to Afghanistan, where he was killed in action in July.

5 militants killed; 28 captured in Bara operation

At least five militants including two of their commanders were killed Tuesday in a renewed military operation in Khyber agency, report said. Twenty-eight suspected militants were also detained in the second phase of the operation “Bayadar-e-Ilm” launched early Tuesday in Bara tehsil of Khyber tribal area against the banned Lashkar-e-Islam. Two militant commanders identified as Abdul Rehman and Murad were among those killed in the dawn raids. Twelve militants and three security personnel were also injured in the gunbattles. Seven houses allegedly belong to militants and their supporters were also demolished in the offensive.

Not Peshawar anymore


WITH the closure of the city’s only cosmopolitan hotel, the Pearl Continental, Peshawar is indeed poorer.The closure comes as a telling sign of the real impact the war against terrorism has had on the Frontier province on the whole, and its fabled, yet not too long ago modernising, capital. A majority of airlines have simply struck Peshawar off their maps.The provincial government’s demand that the war against terrorism and its impact must be counted among the factors that form the basis of an equitable distribution of the federal divisible pool among the provinces is more than legitimate.
The province stands quite high on the overall poverty index as huge swathes of its countryside comprise utterly underdeveloped towns and villages. Even a cursory look around the capital, Peshawar, reveals the extent of the damage the province has endured. The wounds inflicted by terrorism require much more than just a dressing of the emotional renaming of the Frontier as Pakhtunkhwa.
In the past year or so, many of Peshawar’s affluent businessmen have relocated to Islamabad and Lahore along with their families, taking their businesses with them, or keeping just a shadow of what these used to be in Peshawar. The Saddar area has lost its twinkle. The Saddar Bara and the adjacent high street, Arbab Road, with its department and bookstores and many rent-a-car outlets wear a deserted look. The old Dean’s Hotel, another landmark, sprawling property harking back to the pre-independence days, has long gone; in its place now stands a massive shopping mall, but where are the shoppers, you may ask.
The Mall (road) and its adjacent tree-lined boulevards are under security surveillance. Not many dare to venture out for pleasure after dark. The entire area around the chief minister and the governor house is cordoned off to the public. The Peshawar Club, another major venue for the chattering classes, and from where emerged the country’s squash legends, wears a deserted look. The sombre atmosphere at the Abaseen Art Centre and the Peshawar Museum, the repositories of popular culture and national heritage of the Gandhara civilisation, respectively, are matching. The museum houses the most spectacular of Gandhara sculptures (2nd century BC to 5th century AD).
In the city proper, the once bustling Khyber and Qissa Khwani bazaars and their many corollaries have seen a series of bombings in the past months. The Namak Mandi food street of sorts, the nearby carpet sellers’ and buyers’ mecca along Khyber Bazaar, the Afghan Metal Works, a handicraft workshop over the train tracks on Pajjagi Road, find few pilgrims. Gor Khatri, the eerie tomb of a fabled donkey, it seems, is all that remains as a sentinel of the cold winds of change that have been blowing over the vale of Peshawar.Unfortunately, the only places bustling with human activity are the Lady Reading Hospital downtown and its somewhat distant cousins, the Khyber Teaching Hospital (of the Afghan jihad days’ fame) and Hyatabad Medical Complex. For here are brought the victims of terrorism for treatment from far and wide, and the infirm from among the displaced persons. Not too far away, coffins ready to be filled with their cargo and trucked off to distant towns and villages line the main road. They must be selling; that’s why they are there.The Peshawar University, Engineering University and Islamia College campuses reflect the glum mood encompassing their surroundings. Not too long ago, the authorities here emphasised that men and women students and faculty should not walk on the same pavement. The girls got the pavement on the left of the road, the right-wingers obviously got the men on the right side. Some sense of priority. Nearby a number of shops showcasing Afghan wedding gowns draped over mannequins seemed so out of place.In Hyatabad, the city’s upscale suburb, security forces’ pickets and their patrolling vehicles are permanent sights. In Hyatabad itself and further up the road in the famous Barra market near Khyber Agency, the possibility of random shootouts breaking out between security forces and suspected militants looms. Peshawar is just not Peshawar anymore.Under the circumstances, the challenges before the ANP-led provincial government are daunting in their enormity. The province lies in a state of complete socioeconomic disarray. Peshawar as a melting pot of its original Hindko and Pushto-speaking dwellers is now home to hundreds of thousands of Afghans (and Central Asians) of different denominations and backgrounds, as well as the many internally displaced people hoping to eke out a living there. Reconstruction and rehabilitation of the multiple facets of life seems well nigh impossible given the inimical paucity of funds the Frontier faces.The province deserves special attention in terms of its diverse, emergency needs. Keeping the peace even in the capital itself has not been an easy task. The federal government must ensure that Peshawar is given its due share in the funds Pakistan has been begging the world to provide in order for it to cope with the consequences of the war against terrorism. The least Islamabad can do is release the overdue sums in hydropower production royalty to the Frontier government.The National Finance Commission award being considered now hopefully on the basis of multiple factors, and not just the size of a province’s population alone, should offer Peshawar an equitable share of funds in the federal divisible pool. But even that will not be enough and additional money must be made available to deal with the fallout of terrorism.No grievances will be fully addressed unless provinces are given fiscal autonomy over their own resources. This can only be done by drastically cutting down the federal concurrent list, and restoring to the federating units what is rightfully theirs. If a representative government does not do this, no one will.