Thursday, May 5, 2011

Osama no martyr, but mass killer of Muslims

al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was shot dead in his hideout by Special US forces in Pakistan, was a "mass killer of Muslims than anyone else and not a martyr as a few people are trying to portray," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.
In her remarks to the National Conference of Editorial Writers, Clinton said the State Department is now working on a narrative "that will convince people he was a murderer, not a martyr."
Noting that bin Laden had tremendous sway with so many impressionable people in many parts of the world, Clinton said the US is already seeing something of an effort by the al-Qaeda remnants to decide who comes next.
"Any succession crisis provides an opportunity. A lot of people say al-Zawahiri will step into it. But that's not so clear. He doesn't have the same sense of loyalty or inspiration or track record," Clinton said.
"So I think his death, his removal from the leadership, along with two very important points that need to be remembered is that Taliban did not give up al-Qaeda when President (George) Bush asked them to after 9/11, because of Mullah Omar's personal relationship with bin Laden. That's gone, so I think it opens up possibilities for dealing with the Taliban that did not exist before," she hoped.
Clinton said the effort to stop al-Qaeda and its syndicate of terror will not end with the death of bin Laden.
"In Afghanistan, we have to continue to take the fight to al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies. Perhaps now they will take seriously the work that we are doing on trying to have some reconciliation process that resolves the insurgency," she said.
Responding to questions, Clinton said there's no doubt that al-Qaeda is somewhat decentralized, but that bin Laden remained the brains behind the operation and the inspiration.
"He was the person who people pledged loyalty to when they joined al-Qaeda. It wasn't to an organisation; it was to an individual," she said.
"So our message to the Taliban hasn't changed; it just has even greater resonance today. They can't wait us out, they can't defeat us; they need to come into the political process and denounce al-Qaeda and renounce violence and agree to abide by the laws and constitution of Afghanistan," Clinton said.
"We have a very close relationship with Pakistan, and it was crucial in finally leading us to bin Laden. So the work that was done over many years had many contributors, including our partners in Pakistan," Clinton said in her remarks on Monday, according to the transcripts provided by the State Department today."We're going to be working to bolster our partnerships even now, particularly as people are digesting this news. We're going to look for ways to put this into the context of the larger debate we're having here at home about what it takes to stay engaged in the world," she said.

Insecurity, social taboos: Schools shut as fear drives teachers away

A local school in Wana, the main settlement in South Waziristan tribal agency, has been closed for several months, and the children only come to play games in the compound.

“We have no teacher at the school,” Rida Ali, 8, said. “So we just play or do chores at home.” The teacher who taught them before insecurity shut down schools in the area lives only 1km or so away, but is unwilling to come to work. The children in Wana have not attended class since November.

“Due to security issues, teachers, especially female ones, are not going to class and this affects the education of girls,” Syed Fawad Ali Shah, emergency education officer for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Pakistan, told IRIN.

According to media reports, fear of the Taliban has meant many teachers have not gone back to work even in areas like Swat, which are now clear of militants.

“I love teaching, but I will never teach again. My husband says I must not do so as it is too dangerous,” Aima Malik, 25, said from the Khyber Agency where she had taught at a school for girls from 2006 to 2009. “Fewer and fewer women are ready to teach any longer,” she added.

“It is better that they be safe and learn how to cook or sew at home,” said Maryum Bibi, a mother of two teenage daughters living in a rural area on the outskirts of Peshawar. Her daughter, Jamila, 13, dreams of being a teacher but now says: “It seems I will never even complete my matriculation.”

Abdul Monib, a secondary school teacher in the Bajaur Agency, told IRIN: “As a teacher, I always feel sad when pupils drop out before completing their education. Now so many can no longer continue because their families need them to work. Others fear the classroom because of bombings in the past at schools and refuse to come any longer.”

Literacy rates down

The insecurity is affecting literacy rates. “Barely 1 per cent of women are literate in these areas,” Roohi Bano, regional manager for the Peshawar-based NGO Khwendo Kor, which works for the education of girls, told IRIN.

“It has always been difficult to find teachers in these parts. Few women are educated and families prefer them not to work. The situation that has now arisen following the reign of the Taliban will make matters even worse, with fewer and fewer women wishing to take up this work,” said Azra Khan, headmistress at a private school in Peshawar.

In some cases, she said, threats had been made even against teachers in big cities. “At least two of my teachers no longer wish to work here,” she added.

The problem is compounded by the reluctance of parents to allow men to teach girls. “My husband has insisted we withdraw our daughter from her school because there are some male teachers there. He has orthodox views and says this is unacceptable,” said Zakia Bibi, 40, from the town of Mingora in Swat.

Other factors have also affected education. “There are many families who have suffered financially, using up their savings during the displacement and unable to find jobs now, even when they have returned,” said Ahsan Ullah, 40, who runs a small shoe-making factory in the South Waziristan agency. He says he receives “dozens” of requests for jobs each week, but cannot accommodate more workers.

In the town of Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkh’wa, Zainab Bibi, from the Orakzai Agency, wonders how to educate her four children. Her husband was part of the Taliban force in the area. “I fled on my own, with the children, in 2010, when fighting became fierce,” she said. “Some relatives helped us. I have not heard from my husband since then; my two older boys, aged 14 and 15, go out to work at an automobile workshop to bring in some kind of income – but I am desperate to see them back in school.”

Bibi is also concerned that unless they are educated, the boys may be tempted to join the Taliban. “A gun is a huge attraction for a young boy,” she said.—

Barack Obama to pay tribute to 9/11 victims

President Barack Obama on Thursday will follow up his triumph in the killing of Osama bin Laden by visiting New York's Ground Zero and meeting with families of people killed in the 9/11 attacks. The trip will be steeped in symbolism, with the president laying a wreath at the site of the September 11, 2001 massacre just days after he ordered the daring operation to kill bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

Yet the White House stressed that this was not a victory tour, but a form of homage to the victims of the attacks that triggered Washington's controversial, global war against Al-Qaeda nearly a decade ago.

Calling the death of bin Laden a "cathartic moment for the American people," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Mr Obama wanted to "honour the spirit of unity in America that we all felt in the wake of that terrible attack."

His wreath will be laid in remembrance of the hundreds of firemen and others killed trying to rescue people from the collapsing Twin Towers.

"He will also meet with families of the victims and first responders in private," Carney said. "He wants to meet with them and share with them this important and significant moment, a bitter-sweet moment, I think, for many families of the victims."

The killing of America's nemesis in such spectacular fashion - during a helicopter-borne commando raid deep inside Pakistan - is undoubtedly one of Mr Obama's chief political triumphs since taking office in 2008.

Polls showed an immediate surge in support and even the usually squabbling Washington political establishment has rallied around the president.

But the White House appears serious about its declared intent to avoid triumphalism or the temptation to exploit the event for electoral gains.

Mr Obama notably invited his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was president at the time of 9/11 and earned widespread international opprobrium for his so-called "war on terror," to join him at Ground Zero.

Although the offer was declined, the White House had made its point.

"This is a moment of unity for Americans and a moment to recall the unity that existed in this country in the wake of the attacks on 9/11," Mr Carney said. "The invitation was made in that spirit."

There will be no public speech during the Ground Zero visit and the meeting with families will be private, although Carney did not exclude that some off-the-cuff comments might be made.

That reticence was portrayed as part of the same attempt to retain an atmosphere of dignity in the wake of bin Laden's killing.

Mr Obama has personally ordered that photographs of the al-Qaeda chief's dead body remain secret - despite clamor from some for visual proof of his demise.

"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence," Mr Obama told CBS news's 60 Minutes programme.

"As a propaganda tool. You know, that's not who we are. We don't trot out this stuff as trophies," he said.

"The fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received. And I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he's gone. But we don't need to spike the football."

Pakistani Army, Shaken by Raid, Faces New Scrutiny

New York Times
The reputation of the army, the most powerful and privileged force in Pakistan, has been severely undermined by the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, raising profound questions about its credibility from people at home and from benefactors abroad, including the United States.

That American helicopters could fly into Pakistan, carrying a team to kill the world’s most wanted terrorist and then fly out undetected has produced a stunned silence from the military and its intelligence service that some interpret as embarrassment, even humiliation.

There is no doubt that the raid has provoked a crisis of confidence for what was long seen as the one institution that held together a nation dangerously beset by militancy and chronically weak civilian governments.

The aftermath has left Pakistanis to challenge their leadership, and the United States to further question an already frequently distrusted partner.

By Wednesday, members of Parliament, newspaper editorials and Pakistan’s raucous political talk shows were calling for an explanation and challenging the military and intelligence establishment, institutions previously immune to public reproach.

Some were calling for an independent inquiry, focused less on the fact that the world’s most wanted terrorist was discovered in their midst than on whether the military could defend Pakistan’s borders and its nuclear arsenal from being snatched or attacked by the United States or India.

“If these people are found to be incompetent, heads should roll,” said Zafar Hilaly, a prominent newspaper columnist.

Different questions were coming from Pakistan’s neighbors and Western allies, including the United States. In Congress, powerful lawmakers in charge of foreign military assistance delivered scathing assessments of the Pakistani Army as either incompetent or duplicitous, saying that renewed financial support was hardly guaranteed.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament it was unbelievable that the Pakistani authorities did not know that Bin Laden was hiding not far from the capital.

But the most urgent question of all is what to do about it, and whether the United States should continue to invest in a Pakistani military whose assurances that it does not work with terrorists carry less weight than ever.

Pakistani officials, who feel betrayed by the United States for not informing them in advance about the raid, are responding more defensively by the day.

The biggest question for Pakistan is whether the event prompts a reconsideration of its security strategy, which has long depended on militant proxies, including groups entwined with Al Qaeda.

American officials are certain to use the fact that Bin Laden had taken shelter in Pakistan to press the country for a clearer break from its past. Both sides have an interest in preserving some form of the status quo. Pakistan would like to keep the billions of dollars in aid that flow from the United States. The United States would like to prevent this nuclear-armed Muslim nation from turning more hostile, hosting terrorist networks and complicating efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. But the challenges ahead were revealed in how the outrage over the Bin Laden raid has cut differently in Pakistan and the United States.

For the United States, it has raised the issue of whether any assurance provided by the Pakistani military can be trusted, including the security of its nuclear arsenal. The army has insisted it is adequately protected from extremists, but has resisted security assistance from the United States that it considers too invasive. “We can press Pakistan until the cows come home on its nuclear program,” said Michael Krepon, a co-founder of the Stimson Center in Washington, which works on programs to reduce nuclear weapons. “But they are not going to do the things that we would like them to do that they don’t want to do.”

In Pakistan, commentators who consider the nuclear weapons the country’s most valued asset have raised another concern: In light of the American operation, are the weapons safe from a raid by the United States, or even India?

Meanwhile, the chief of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, have remained silent about what they knew or did not know about Bin Laden’s presence.

They have both met with President Asif Ali Zardari since the American raid, but no mention has been made in public of those discussions. Civilian politicians have been virtually absent.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani left for France on Tuesday, but said Wednesday that he would cut short his trip and return home. Senior ministers in the cabinet failed to turn up in Parliament to offer any explanations on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Instead, the Foreign Office and the information minister, apparently on orders from the military, issued statements intended to explain the shortcomings.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the American helicopters had evaded detection by radar “due to hilly terrain” and use of “nap of the earth” flying techniques, an account that failed to comfort almost anyone.

The Foreign Office defended the fact that Bin Laden was not detected because the high security walls at his house in Abbottabad were in line with a culture of privacy. These scant explanations fueled more speculation.

One of the military’s biggest advocates, Kamran Khan, a journalist whose nightly television show garners big audiences, led the chorus: “We had the belief that our defense was impenetrable, but look what has happened. Such a massive intrusion and it went undetected.”

Mr. Khan posed the question on many Pakistani minds: “What is the guarantee that our strategic assets and security installations are safe?”

In some Pakistani quarters, the failure of the army and intelligence agencies to detect Bin Laden, or to do anything about him if indeed his presence was known, prompted calls for an overhaul of the nation’s strategic policies.

“Instead of making more India-specific nuclear-capable missiles, the funds and the energy should be directed to eliminating the terrorists,” said an editorial in the newspaper Pakistan Today.

The editor, Arif Nizami, said the American raid made a mockery of the Pakistani military’s bravura that its fighter jets could shoot down American drones. “You talk of taking out drones, and you can’t even take out helicopters,” Mr. Nizami said.

Some Pakistanis said they were more concerned about the fact that known terrorists were living in their midst than the violation of sovereignty by the Americans.

“The terrorists’ being on our soil is the biggest violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Athar Minallah, a prominent lawyer. “If Osama bin Laden lives in Abbottabad, there could be a terrorist in my neighborhood.”