Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Will Obama 2.0 get tougher with China?

Although both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney made China-bashing shows in election campaigns, the delivered signal is not so optimistic. Judging from Romney's radical speeches, many Americans agree to take strong measures against China. Obama will probably make a big fuss on exchange rate issue in his second term of office. Currently, the primary tasks of the Obama administration are to improve employment and maintain competitive advantage. The former will impact China' textile and steel industries, which are the competitors of U.S. sunset industry, while the latter will put pressure on China's emerging industries, which can be seen from the suppression of Obama administration on China's Huawei, ZTE and Sany Group. The U.S. strategy of returning to Asia-Pacific region will also deteriorate the surrounding situation of China during Obama's second term. Obama will be most likely to take a hardline foreign policy to three countries: Containing China by returning to Asia-Pacific region, preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and promoting regime change in Syria. Obama will deepen the strategy of returning to the Asia-Pacific, which may increase the uncertainty of geopolitics in the region. It is not a coincidence that the United States started to refocus on Asia-Pacific region and tightened up the policies on China since China replaced Japan to become the world's second largest economy. Although the United States welcome the rise of China ostensibly, it did not put it into practice. In order to protect China-U.S. relations, China should be more courageous and tactful to participate in the international game and take some issues more seriously. Of course, there still is huge room for China-U.S. cooperation and deepening of the cooperation is beneficial to the recovery of U.S. economy. For example, the two sides have extensive cooperative prospects in new energy and China's huge market demand will bring fat profits and employment opportunities for the United States. After all, a China-U.S relationship of more cooperation and less antagonism is the most anticipated.

Obama considering John Kerry for job of defense secretary

By Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller
President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus. Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made. Petraeus’s resignation last week after revelations of an extramarital affair has complicated what was already an intricate puzzle to reassemble the administration’s national security and diplomatic pieces for Obama’s second term. The process has become further complicated by congressional ire at not being told that Petraeus was under FBI investigation, on top of what are likely to be contentious closed-door hearings this week on the administration’s actions surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Rice, one of an inner circle of aides who have been with Obama since his first presidential campaign in 2007, is under particular fire over the Benghazi incident, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Some Republican lawmakers have suggested that she was part of what they suspect was an initial election-related attempt to portray the attack as a peaceful demonstration that turned violent, rather than what the administration now acknowledges was an organized terrorist assault. Rice’s description, days after the attack, of a protest gone wrong indicated that she either intentionally misled the country or was ­incompetent, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday. Rice, he said, “would have an in­cred­ibly difficult time” winning Senate confirmation as secretary of state. But several White House officials said Obama is prepared to dig in his heels over her nomination to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has long said she will serve only one term. Rice’s post-Benghazi remarks on several television news shows were merely a recitation of administration talking points drawn directly from intelligence available at the time, said the senior administration officials, who agreed to discuss the closely held transition planning on the condition of anonymity. Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House would not comment on personnel matters. The upcoming hearings and an independent State Department review of the Benghazi attack — being led by retired diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — may reveal some intelligence lapses and security missteps, one official said. But they will also demonstrate that there was no attempt at subterfuge, the official added. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter also has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, as has been Michele Flour­noy, former undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon. The timing of a nomination for Panetta’s successor is unclear. On Monday, he said he had no imminent plans to step down but indicated that he was unlikely to stay in the job for the duration of Obama’s second term. “Who the hell knows,” Panetta said when asked by reporters traveling with him to Australia whether he would remain in office for four more years. “It’s no secret that at some point I’d like to get back to California.” Kerry did not respond to requests for comment on his possible nomination at the Pentagon. A spokeswoman, Jodi Seth, said: “Senator Kerry’s only focus right now is his job as senior senator from Massachusetts and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.” But administration officials, one of whom described Kerry as a “war hero,” said his qualifications for the defense job included not only his naval service in Vietnam but also his knowledge of the budget and experience in the diplomacy that has increasingly become a part of the defense portfolio. They said the Democrats’ retention of the Senate majority, with a net gain of two seats, in the election provided a cushion that allowed them to consider Kerry’s departure from the chamber. White House national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, principal deputy Denis R. McDonough and Benjamin Rhodes, deputy for strategic communications, are more likely than not to remain in place, at least initially, officials said. Antony J. Blinken, Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, is said to be under consideration for Rice’s job at the United Nations, as is Samantha Power, the National Security Council’s senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights. It was unclear who would take Brennan’s job if he leaves government or moves to the CIA. He was the top contender to lead the agency when Obama was elected in 2008, but he withdrew under criticism, which he deemed unfair, of his role in intelligence excesses in the administration of George W. Bush. Although that challenge is now seen as behind him, officials said he has not indicated whether he would like to be considered again to head the agency where he spent 25 years. Beyond complicating the overhaul of the national security team, Petraeus’s departure will send ripples through management layers at the CIA. Many had expected Petraeus to stay in place for Obama’s second term, and he had spent recent months planning transitions at other key posts at CIA headquarters. Now, four of the agency’s most critical positions — director, deputy director, head of the National Clandestine Service and chief of the Counterterrorism Center — have become question marks. Within hours of Petraeus’s resignation Friday, his biography was excised from the CIA Web site and replaced with that of Morell. If Morell ends up permanently in the job, he will need to designate a new deputy and would be in charge of other pending personnel decisions that Petraeus had been poised to make. Michael G. Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, also has been mentioned as a candidate for CIA director. The head of the clandestine service, John Bennett, was talked out of retirement to take that job and has signaled his intent to step down in the coming months, current and former officials said. The top position in the Counterterrorism Center, which carries out the CIA’s drone campaign, is also expected to come open. The current director, known by his cover name, “Roger,” has been in the job for more than six years. Former CIA officials said Roger has wanted to be named director of the clandestine service but has a reputation for harshness toward subordinates and had been expected to be passed over by Petraeus. Morell was considered a standout analyst at the CIA before entering the agency’s upper ranks and is highly respected among his colleagues and at the White House. Obama, a White House official said, “has enormous trust in [Morell’s] ability to lead the CIA for as long as is necessary.” He is also considered a possible candidate to replace Brennan at the White House.

Liberals Line Up At The White House

What a difference an election makes. In the wake of the 2010 drubbing of Democrats and the ascendancy of the Tea Party, President Obama was forced to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, angering plenty liberals in the party. Fast-forward two years later, and today those liberal allies of the president come to the White House under much different circumstances -- triumphant and assured that the president will stick by his campaign promise to rescind the tax cuts on the wealthy.
Today's meeting will include more than 10 labor and progressive leaders: Mary Kay Henry, SEIU; Lee Saunders, AFSCME; Dennis Van Roekel, NEA; Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO; Neera Tanden and John Podesta, Center for American Progress; Bob Greenstein, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; Laura Burton Capps, Common Purpose Project; Max Richtman, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare; Justin Ruben, MoveOn; Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change."I don't think we're that worried," one labor source told The Note on the eve of today's confab at the White House. "We think the administration is resolved to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the rich after arguing against them incessantly." But, this labor insider added, "We don't think that the Republicans will agree to that." And another labor source said, "We were really enthusiastic about the president's frame on Friday, particularly decoupling the middle class tax cuts as something we can all agree on. It's hard to see why Democrats would give on tax rates, since they achieve it in negotiations or through expiration at year's end. At the same time, we remain concerned that the level of cuts discussed last summer could reemerge, particularly in Medicaid and Medicare." FLASHBACK: According to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told The Huffington Post last week that his group would oppose any deal that cuts the three big entitlement programs. 'Yes. Yes. Yes. The voters yesterday rejected that notion soundly,' Trumka said at a briefing on Nov. 7. 'The answer is, if it includes benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, we'll oppose it.' Van Jones, co-founder of Rebuild the Dream, went further, noting that none of the progressive political institutions have 'demobilized' since the election. 'We are still on a complete fighting posture because we knew we had to win the politics in November and then on the economy in December,' Jones said. 'For the progressives who threw ourselves on hand grenades for the president over the past 24 months and especially the past six months, we are not going to be happy at all if he turns around and takes a chainsaw to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in pursuit of some misguided so-called grand bargain.'"

ANALYSIS: Mitt Romney's Loss Re-Examined

After every election, the losing side usually engages in a combination of introspection and rationalization. Currently, the Republican Party is both acknowledging that it has a demography problem, while also continuing to insist that this election was a demographic fluke. Republicans were shocked by the high percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics at the polls, but gave as much of the credit to Obama's superior turn-out operation as blame to their own inability to expand their base. Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics suggests that an unexplained seven million person drop in the white vote may be responsible for Obama's big win. His argument: "Had the same number of white voters cast ballots in 2012 as did in 2008, the 2012 electorate would have been about 74 percent white, 12 percent black, and 9 percent Latino (the same result occurs if you build in expectations for population growth among all these groups). In other words, the reason this electorate looked so different from the 2008 electorate is almost entirely attributable to white voters staying home.The other groups increased their vote, but by less than we would have expected simply from population growth. Put another way: The increased share of the minority vote as a percent of the total vote is not the result of a large increase in minorities in the numerator, it is a function of many fewer whites in the denominator." "I'm not a trained demographer," Walter notes, "but I can say with certainty that: 1) This country is not getting any whiter and 2) older people die." If winning an election depends on appealing to and then turning out a base of old, white people you are going to lose every presidential election from here on out. That model may still be enough to help Republicans win midterm elections -- older and white voters turn out at higher level than minorities and young people in off-year elections. More important, demography alone wasn't the only trend working in Obama's favor: --VOTERS WERE FEELING BETTER ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY: Last November, just 19 percent of Americans thought the country was "on the right track." Exit polls from Tuesday's election showed that number had climbed to 46 percent by Election Day. --VOTERS WERE FEELING BETTER ABOUT THE ECONOMY: [W]while a majority of Americans still disapproved of the job the president was doing on the economy, they gave him higher marks today than they did just a year ago. --ROMNEY NEVER OPENED A GAP IN 'TRUST TO HANDLE THE ECONOMY': Buoyed by a solid performance in the first debate, Romney opened up an eight point lead over Obama on October 24. But, just five days later, that lead shrunk to 2 points. Exit polls showed Romney ended the campaign with a measly one point advantage over the president on this question. --OBAMA'S JOB APPROVAL CONTINUED TO CLIMB: [H]is job approval steadily climbed to the high-40-s. And, by October, he was regularly polling at 50 percent. The final ABC/Washington Post tracking poll put Obama's approval rating at 51 percent.

Saudi religious scholar accused of torturing daughter to death

A prominent Islamic scholar in Saudi Arabia has been arrested and accused of torturing his five-year-old daughter to death after the girl died in a Riyadh hospital. Al-Arabiya reports that the girl, Lamaa, died in an intensive care unit of a hospital in the capital weeks after being admitted with broken arms, a skull fracture and head wounds. A medical report stated that Lamaa had been tortured with whips and electric shocks and had been burned with an iron. Lamaa's mother told reporters that her ex-husband, identified in multiple media sources as Faihan al Gameri, tortured the girl. According to Emirates 24/7, he did so with the help of his new wife. "He used all sorts of torture and abuse against Lamaa," the slain girl's mother told al-Arabiya. Al Gameri is a former drug addict who rose to national prominence as a television preacher who reached viewers with his story of sin and repentance. He and Lamaa's mother had a custody-sharing agreement under which each parent would spend time with the child. Lamaa never made it back from her last visit with her father. A hospital official told reporters that al Gameri brought Lamaa to the facility, but he did not say why. "I was shocked and could not believe what happened to Lamaa when I saw her," the mother told al-Arabiya. "I could not believe that there is no mercy in people's hearts." It was not the first time that Lamaa had been hospitalized due as a result of al Gameri's abuse. In April, he was accused of torturing the girl with batons and hot objects, fracturing her skull and causing brain damage. But women and girls have few rights in Saudi Arabia, where a strict brand of Islamic fundamentalism called Wahhabism reigns. Saudi women cannot vote or drive cars. They cannot be admitted to hospitals or travel without written permission from husbands or male relatives. Al Gameri continued to be able to see his daughter, and the abuse allegedly continued. He has now reportedly been arrested by Saudi authorities. "I appeal for the authorities and human rights groups to support my quest to have my ex-husband and his wife executed for murdering my daughter," Lamaa's mother told reporters. Saudi Arabia executes more people each year than any other nation on earth besides China and Iran, for "crimes" including blasphemy, prostitution, homosexuality, adultery and witchcraft. Executions are sometimes carried out by public beheading. Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/336779#ixzz2C7xA9xc6

Saudi Arabia in fear of democratic change in neighboring countries

While King al-Khalifa and the US State Department may agree on a democratic reform in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia would reject the notion, an analyst told Press TV. Recently in Bahrain, protesters took to the streets to show support for the families of the scores of demonstrators killed by regime forces over the past year. They were however met with teargas and rubber bullets. Surrounding these events Saudi Arabia has agreed on purchasing billions of dollars worth of weapons from the United States to keep US protection viable. Press TV has interviewed Hisham Jaber, the Director of Middle East Studies group in Beirut, about the ongoing people’s revolution and human rights situation in Bahrain. The Middle East expert expects more protests and a violent government response to the escalations over the period of Ashura. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview. Press TV: We are looking at a year ago when we had this international jurors that accused the regime’s forces of gross human rights abuses and a year from that time we are looking only at of the 26 measures only three have been completed. It doesn’t show obviously the intent by the regime there in Bahrain to come to any resolve with the opposition, of course since we see the different protests taking place almost on a weekly basis. Jaber: For 20 monthsm the people of Bahrain have been asking for legal demands; asking for democracy, for human rights and for equality. Those demands I think are the slogans of the United States and every country in the world. For 20 months, the people of Bahrain have been making peaceful demonstrations, but faced with violence by the government. I know personally of King Hamed (al-Khalifa) that the king was really willing to make reform in his country, but was faced with the right wing, which is under the pressure of Saudi Arabia. We always said that any democracy that may happen in Bahrain, it will move to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia will not tolerate it. Bahrain for Saudi Arabia is very important, it is the main gate. Also on the other hand for the United States it is a platform - America treats Bahrain like a military platform. Bahrain of course is the home of the US Fifth Fleet. I think the United States of America will not make any pressure on the government of Bahrain unless they are sure that the American interests will be protected if there is any change in Bahrain. We heard yesterday that the administration of Obama for the first time did condemn the government of Bahrain when it banned all protests. But this condemnation by the American administration is still shy and verbal and oral. I think the people of Bahrain will continue as they said and will decide to continue their demonstrations, their riots, even if the government faces this with violence. We have to understand something and to be practical and pragmatic to know that if there is no international pressure. I don’t think anything would change. We have to expect more violence and an escalation of the situation in the next few days because muharram starts and we have ten days of Ashura and I don’t think the government of Bahrain will tolerate those riots or those demonstrations even if those demonstrations are still peaceful, meaning the protesters don’t have any weapons. Yet I think and even by the American spokesperson - I will borrow an American statement from an American spokesperson from the State Department who said, “The decision to curb these rights in the country of Bahrain after professed commitment to reform, it will not help advance the national conciliation nor build trust among all parties.” If the Americans said this I think it’s time for the government of Bahrain to understand that this is enough and now it’s not too late and I think that the king of Bahrain still has time to make reform and to solve the problems of his country by for example making a Constitutional monarchy and establish democracy in this country whether Saudi Arabia likes it or not. I think the Americans will not be against this, but it is the only solution in my opinion. We have to expect the escalation of the situation in Bahrain. Nobody can guarantee that those demonstrations will not … be obliged to use weapons or violence against violence. I think, the only solution is to make international community wake up... to try to wake up the international community and make some pressure by mass media on the new American administration and by that I mean Obama in his second term to respect their struggles and to respect their human rights and to oblige the government of Bahrain to establish democracy in that country. Otherwise, we have to expect more escalation [of the situation] and more violence.

Bahrain forces attack protesters in NW, NE

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have attacked anti-regime protesters in the northwest and northeast of the Persian Gulf island, using teargas canisters and rubber bullets.
Bahraini protesters marched in the villages of Diraz in the northwest, Sitra in the northeast as well as the Muqabah village to show their support for the families of those killed in the regime crackdown of anti-regime demonstrations since last year. The protests were held despite the Al Khalifa regime’s ban on all demonstrations and public gatherings across the state. Diraz was the scene of anti-regime protests on Sunday as well where angry demonstrators took to the streets to condemn the Friday killing of a 16-year-old youth at the hands of regime forces. Ali Radhi was reportedly run over by a car while being chased by regime forces as they were attacking the protesters, who were heading towards the village to join the Friday prayers. Bahraini protesters say they remain resolute to continue demonstration until their demands, which include an end to the regime’s suppression of opposition, are met. Popular anti-regime revolution started in Bahrain in February 2011. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others wounded in the regime’s violent crackdown of the protests.

Bahraini protesters mark death of teen

Bahrainis have once again staged demonstrations against the Al Khalifa regime in solidarity with the family of a teenager killed in a recent protest. The demonstrations were held across the country on Sunday to condemn the death of Ali Radhi, who was killed during a protest near the northwestern village of Diraz on November 9. The 16-year-old was reportedly run over by a car while being chased by the regime forces, as they were attacking protesters heading toward the village to join the Friday Prayers led by Sheikh Issa Qassim. The protesters on Sunday condemned the regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protests. Meanwhile, the Manama regime said in a statement on the same day that it deployed paramilitary National Guards to several areas around the country to patrol “strategic locations” that were the scenes of clashes. However, the move was regarded as an apparent sign of efforts by the authorities to crush anti-regime demonstrations. Bahrain, which is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been the scene of anti-regime protests since February 2011, and scores of people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the regime crackdown. On October 30, the Al Khalifa regime imposed a ban on all public gatherings across the country. Bahraini protesters, however, say they will continue holding demonstrations until their demands for the establishment of a democratically elected government and an end to rights violations are met.

Hasina scraps plan to visit Pakistan

Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina yester scrapped her planned Pakistan visit later this month to join an international summit, officials said here today. “We have just been informed (by the PMO) that she (Hasina) is not going . . . she could not make it this time,” a senior foreign ministry official familiar with the situation told Gulf News preferring anonymity. The official could not elaborate further about the changed plan but said Foreign Minister Dipu Moni was likely to represent the premier at the summit of the Development-8, a grouping of eight nations with Muslim majority population, on November 22. The development came three days after the premier’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told media that she would go to Islamabad on a three-day tour as Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar handed her over an invitation letter from President Asif Ali Zardari.Khar arrived Bangladesh capital on a five-hour tour carrying the invitation when Dhaka reiterated its call for a formal Pakistani apology for the genocides the Pak troop carried out during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War as she held talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni. The summit in Islamabad is scheduled for November 22 and Hasina was expected to make her first tour to the Pakistani capital since her ruling Awami League was elected to power in December 2008 general elections. She, however, visited Islamabad as premier during the previous 1996-2001 tenure of her Awami League government. Dhaka-Islamabad ties in the past four years was limited to a visit of Bangladesh’s education and commerce ministers and the parliamentary speaker to Islamabad and foreign secretary-level official consultations in November 2010. The bilateral ties also witnessed a little strain two years ago as Bangladesh initiated a process to try its nationals who had joined hands with the Pakistani troops in carrying out the atrocities. But Dhaka insisted that the process would expose to justice only the Bangladeshi collaborators of the Pakistani troops on charges of “crimes against humanity” while Islamabad subsequently acknowledged it to be an internal affair of Bangladesh. The incumbent government has been demanding Islamabad’s official apology for the Pakistani troops’ atrocities during the 1971 Liberation War. But Khar told Moni since 1974 Pakistan “at different times and different manners expressed its regret for the 1971 incidents” while its the time to proceed forward burying the bitter past. Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf during a 2002 tour to Bangladesh visited the National Memorial for 1971 martyrs and wrote the visitor’s book “Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events of 1971. The excesses during that unfortunate period are regrettable. Let us bury the past in a spirit of magnanimity. In 1985, President Ziaul Haq visited the national memorial and told Bangladesh’s media persons, “Your heroes are our heroes.” Earlier, in June 1974, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited the memorial. Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in 1974, when the country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Islamabad to join an OIC summit. Repatriation of several million Urdu-speaking people who claim them stranded Pakistanis and sharing of wealth of pre-1971 undivided Pakistan remained to be outstanding issues in bilateral ties.

Taliban still a threat to Pakistani security, particularly in northwest

Despite some setbacks that they suffered from Pakistani security forces, the Pakistani Taliban have continued their target killings in the country's northwest, assassinating at least two leaders of peace committees and dozens of civilians in the latest wave of violent attacks. An anti-Taliban leader was shot dead in northwestern Lower Dir District in the first week of this month. Abdul Rehman was a prominent member of a pro-government militia in the area. He had survived two previous attempts on his life. A day later, at least five people were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing in Buner district, which is situated near Swat valley. A local anti-Taliban peace committee, Fateh Khan, was among those killed. There were two more target attacks in the region in recent days. The Taliban spokesman Sirajuddin claimed responsibility for the four attacks in Pakistan in text messages to the media persons. He said that the slain leaders were 'hurdles in the way of Islamic system and were behind the murder and arrest of Taliban militants'. In one of the brutal attacks, Taliban gunmen shot and injured a 14-year school girl, Malala Yousafzai, in the Swat District on Oct. 9 for her advocacy in promoting girls'education in Pakistan. She was critically injured and is now recuperating at a London hospital where she was brought for further treatment. The Taliban earlier claimed responsibility for the cowardly attack on an innocent school girl. After learning that Malala has survived the attack, the Taliban issued another warning that they would target her and her family again. The Taliban also stepped up their attacks on police officers in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and killed scores of policemen including three senior officers recently. Armed Taliban had been in an ultimate control of the scenic Swat valley and some other nearby areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province until the security forces killed and expelled most of them as the result of a major operation in May 2009. The Swat Taliban chief, Maulvi Fazalullah, escaped from the military operation and the Pakistan Army said that Fazalullah has regrouped his remnants in remote border regions inside Afghanistan and routinely launched attacks inside border checkpoints and villages inside Pakistan. The army claims that Pakistani Taliban militants have carried out 15 attacks in Pakistan in one year. Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Pakistan has formally asked the Afghan government to extradite Fazalullah so that he can be prosecuted inside the country for his crimes in Swat valley. But some Afghan officials consistently denied the presence of Pakistani Taliban along their side of the border and insisted that the Taliban insurgents are hiding in mountainous border areas which are out of the control of both countries. Although the Taliban are no longer in a position to take control of any area in Swat valley and its adjoining areas, their continuing armed attacks have caused great concern among government forces and peace volunteers. Concerned groups have called on Pakistan security agencies to improve the system of intelligence to monitor the activities of the Taliban hiding in Swat valley. Besides carrying out target attacks in the northwest, Taliban militants have also sneaked into Karachi, the country's commercial center and southern port city, police and political leaders said. Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said this month that the group will now launch attacks on the Mutahida Qaumi Movement or MQM, the major political party, in Karachi. Karachi is in now in the grip of target killings of political activists and the security officials blamed the Taliban for the killings in Karachi. Intelligence officials believe that many Taliban militants have penetrated Karachi from the northwest. The Supreme Court also ordered the law enforcement agencies to act against the Taliban in Karachi. But the police and the paramilitary force, Rangers, have not yet solved the killings in the city. Police sources said that nearly 30 people have lost their lives in three days of attacks in Karachi.

Zardari: Pakistan to continue every possible support to Afghans

President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday assured Afghan High Peace Council that Pakistan would continue to extend every possible support to its Afghan brothers in their journey towards peace and socio-economic development.
He said that a peaceful, stable and economically developed Afghanistan was vital for Pakistan's own stability and prosperity. He said that Pakistan firmly believed in the Afghan-led and the Afghan-owned reconciliation process, which was the most viable way to ensure permanent peace and stability in Afghanistan. The President said this during his meeting with an Afghan delegation led by Salahuddain Rabbani, Chairman Afghan Peace Council at the Aiwan-e- Sadr. The delegation included among others Muhammad Umer Daudzai, Afghanistan ambassador in Pakistan, Muhammad Masoom Stanekzai, Advisor to Afghan president, and HPC members Qaimuddin Kashaf, Din Mohammad Azizullah, Pir Mohammad Tanai, Fazel Karim Aimaq, S. Noorullah Burthani, Ms Hawa Alam Nooristani, Ms Najia Zewari, Muhammad Akbari, Haji Mohammad Anwar, Abdul Hamid Mubarez and Mohammad Qaseem Ludin. From Pakistan side, the meeting was attended among others by Syed Naveed Qamar, minister for defence, Spokesperson to the President, Senator Farhatullah Babar, Lt Gen Zaheer ul Islam, DG, ISI, Jalil Abbas Jilani, Foreign Secretary and Muhammad Sadiq Khan, Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan. Peace process in Afghanistan, regional situation and Pak- afghan bilateral relations were discussed during the meeting. Briefing about the meeting, Spokesperson to the President, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that President welcomed the delegation of Salahuddin Rabbani and said that the people of Pakistan had a special place for late Burhanuddin Rabbani and assured that Pakistan would continue to work with him in fulfilling his late father Burhanuddin Rabbani's unfinished agenda for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The President expressed confidence that like his father, Salahuddin Rabbani will be able to lead the process of Afghan peace and reconciliation in a manner that will take us nearer to our common goals and hoped that his visit will pave the way for further enhancing closer relations between the two countries. Commenting on efforts to curb extremism, the President said that terrorism was a common threat for Afghanistan and Pakistan and urged for working together on both sides for eliminating this scourge and to ensure peace and stability in the region. The President also stressed the need for the two countries to focus on curbing the financing of terrorism as there exist a clear nexus between the large scale heroin trade and terrorism. He said that the money generated from the heroin trade was being used to finance terror operations and said that we will conquer the heroin trade only through collective action. The spokesperson said that discussing recent incidents of shelling on the borders the two leaders urged for increased coordination between the two countries to stop such incidents in future. Salahuddain Rabbani thanked President Zardari for the support and cooperation Pakistan has been extending towards peace, stability and development of Afghanistan. He said that Afghanistan was keen to further strengthen its brotherly relationship with Pakistan as the destinies of the people of the two countries were inter-linked.

India can learn from Pakistan's poverty alleviation scheme: Nitish Kumar

Poverty is a cross-border phenomenon and India could learn from the experiences of the Benazir Income Support Programme, the Pakistan government's flagship poverty alleviation scheme, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said today. Kumar, currently on a week-long visit to Pakistan with a delegation of ministers and lawmakers from Bihar, was briefed on the BISP by Farzana Raja, the federal minister who heads the programme launched in the name of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto. Poverty is a cross-border phenomenon and several schemes aimed at poverty reduction and provision of jobs are being run in India, especially in Bihar, Kumar said. However, the BISP is a "unique intervention in the social sector as it offers various services under one roof", he said. Kumar said he intended to learn from the experiences of BISP as it tackles both poverty alleviation and women's empowerment. He also lauded the targeting and identification mechanisms adopted by BISP. Raja, a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari, described poverty as a "trans-national menace" and said Pakistan is ready to share its experiences in BISP with India. Pakistan and India face similar issues in the social sector that ought to be resolved by working together, she said. Under BISP, the federal government has issued special cards to the poor that enables them to avail of financial aid and access various welfare schemes. The programme was also used by the government to provide aid to those affected by the devastating floods of 2010 and 2011. Kumar also praised late Benazir Bhutto for having played a "pivotal role for the sake of democracy".

Video: Father of Malala Yousufzai, speaks about his daughter

Pukhtunkhwa Times Wishes for a joyous Diwali and a Happy New Year

India supports lasting peace in Afghanistan

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says his country supports durable peace in Afghanistan, calling for concrete steps towards rebuilding the war-torn country, Press TV reports. "India supports efforts to achieve a lasting peace in Afghanistan that brings together all sections of Afghan society while preserving the achievements of the last decade, including in the area of women's rights," Singh told reporters after a meeting with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in New Delhi on Monday. "We respect the choices that the Afghan people make of their own free will," he said. Singh added that India supports Afghanistan’s nation-building efforts, especially in the areas of governance, security, and development. For his part, Karzai said that attracting investment from Indian companies is a priority of his visit. The strategic partnership agreement signed between Kabul and New Delhi last year has also been reviewed by the two leaders. Singh reaffirmed commitment to deepen cooperation "in accordance with the vision outlined in the agreement." The deal has obliged India to provide training to Afghan soldiers. India has already invested over USD two billion in Afghanistan. Various Indian companies are involved in highway, hospital, and electricity projects in the war-ravaged country. Karzai, who arrived in the Indian capital for a five-day-long official visit, was welcomed by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday.

Quetta blast: Two killed, 11 injured

Two persons were killed and eleven others were injured in a blast that hit the FC check post at airport road in Quetta, Geo News reported Tuesday. According to initial reports, a blast hit the FC check post near airport that killed two persons and wounded 11 others. Many vehicles were also damaged due to the impact. Firing was also reported after the explosion. Law enforcement agencies and rescue teams immediately reached the spot to initiate rescue efforts. Security forces cordoned off the area and started investigation.

President Zardari to Host Diwali Dinner for Nitish

President Asif Ali Zardari will host a special Diwali dinner for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on learning that his meeting with the visiting Indian leader coincided with the Hindu festival of lights, officials said today. Kumar and his delegation were earlier scheduled to call on Zardari at the presidency this evening and the meeting was to be followed by a formal dinner hosted by the Foreign Ministry. On finding out that he would be meeting Kumar on the occasion of Diwali, Zardari decided to host a special dinner for the Indian delegation at the presidency, officials of the Indian High Commission told PTI. The President's decision reflected the importance being attached to Kumar's visit by the Pakistan People's Party-led government at the centre. Zardari has taken a personal interest in pushing for better ties with India, especially in trade and commerce, said Fawad Chaudhry, a special assistant to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. In a special message on the occasion of Diwali, Zardari greeted Hindus and called for strengthening interfaith harmony and protecting the rights of minorities. The festival of lights is a time for celebration and reflection, he said. "We partake in Diwali celebrations for promoting interfaith harmony as a means to fight religious apartheid and those who seek to impose their ideological agenda on the people," Zardari said. Hindus and all minorities of Pakistan are "equal citizens of the state and entitled to equal rights", he said. "Let it be made clear yet again today that no one will be allowed to victimise and hound members of minority communities in the name of religion and faith," he said. The Bihar Chief Minister began a week-long visit to Pakistan on Friday. Over the weekend, Kumar has shared his experiences in improving governance in Bihar with functionaries of the southern province of Sindh. Kumar toured the historic site of Mohenjodaro, visited an ancient Hindu temple and addressed a Hindu panchayat in Sindh. He has also spoken of the need for India and Pakistan to co-exist peacefully and work for good governance.

Pakistani media stoking anti-China feelings?

An influential state-run daily on Monday highlighted anti-China protests in Pakistan, regarded as an "all-weather ally" of Beijing and blamed Pakistani media for stoking anti-China feelings. Written by a Pakistani scholar, an article in the Global Times said the recent protests in Karachi against the development of a mega city project funded by Chinese companies is "being highlighted as a symbol of anti-China sentiments inside Pakistan". "However, the reality is entirely different from what is being portrayed in media reports," the article said. The writer wrote that the number of protesters was no more than 200, while the population of Sindh is more than 40 million, contending that the protesters were not representing the majority. "Had there been any anti-China sentiments, there would have been a bigger crowd," it said.

Gunmen Kill 3 Shia In Volatile Pakistani Province

Officials say gunmen have shot dead three Shi'ite Muslims and wounded two others in Pakistan's troubled southwestern province of Balochistan. Officials said the shooting took place on November 12 in the town of Mach, some 70 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital, Quetta. Local police officer Sher Ahmed said the three men from the Shi'ite Hazara community were killed and two others were wounded when gunmen on a motorbike sprayed bullets at two vegetable shops. Balochistan is rife with Islamist militancy, sectarian violence between majority Sunnis and minority Shi'ite Muslims, and a regional insurgency waged by ethnic Balochi separatists. In September, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said more than 100 Shi'ites had been killed in sectarian attacks in Balochistan this year. Islamabad Accuses Kabul Of Killing Civilians The Pakistani government has accused Afghan forces of killing at least four civilians in a cross-border shelling attack. Islamabad says the civilians were killed on November 11 when mortars exploded outside a house in the border village of Neiznarai in the South Waziristan tribal area along Afghanistan’s southeastern border. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani condemned the cross-border attack in a conversation with the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Mohammad Umar Daudzai. According to a statement from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, Jilani called the attacks "unhelpful and unproductive." The alleged attack came just as a senior Afghan official visited Islamabad to discuss peace talks with the Taliban. Pakistan is seen as critical to reaching a peace deal with the Taliban because of its historical ties to the group.

The fiction of 'good' and 'bad' Taliban

By Khaled Ahmed
Dividing the Taliban into 'good' and 'bad' creates complications that cannot be explained without destroying the credibility of Pakistan's future strategy in Afghanistan
Pakistan is increasingly relying on the subterfuge of dividing the Taliban into 'good' (Afghan) and 'bad' (Pakistani) Taliban as a prop to the Army's 'endgame' strategy in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. But there are complications encountered in this formulation that cannot be explained without destroying the credibility of Pakistan's future strategy, more focused on Afghanistan than on Pakistan's internal erosion of sovereignty. Pakistani Taliban are killing our citizens and soldiers and therefore it stands to reason that we should designate them as bad. But we have a hard time preventing this label from becoming blanket, enveloping the other category too, the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Umar. We are supposed to believe that Mullah Umar and his Shura are in Afghanistan, manfully battling the forces 'foreign invasion' engineered by Islam-hating America. We describe them as good because we suppose they don't kill our citizens and soldiers. Contradictions of good-bad doctrine:The polarity we wish to establish by setting up this good-bad designation is based on rejection of America which significantly supports India's Afghan strategy in our eyes, and challenges Pakistan's pursuit of 'strategic depth' in the neighbouring state. Fleshing out this formulation further, we assume that the Afghan Taliban do not wish to kill our citizens and soldiers while the Pakistani Taliban are doing so at the instigation of America. This formulation is supposed to please Mullah Umar and his Shura while exposing the Pakistani Taliban - who kill us because of our pro-America policies (sic!) - to internal fracturing. The doctrine assumes that pro-America Taliban are killing pro-American Pakistanis.There are insurmountable contradictions in this doctrine. Pakistan's madrassa network and the religious parties support the Pakistani Taliban and therefore attract the mischief of the doctrine that Pakistani Taliban are American stooges. But there is a problem here too. Since the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) - against the reopening of the NATO route - was organised and deployed by the ISI, the theory exposes the Pakistan Army and the DPC to the same accusation. It redefines the DPC as a handmaiden of America which is in contradiction of the underlying policy of using it against America and India. 'Good' outfits that support 'bad' Taliban:There are others who fall victim to the policy of describing Pakistani Taliban as an American policy instrument. Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) has adopted a policy of believing that the Pakistani Taliban are not American-funded but are alienated tribals who will relent only after the Americans are gone from Afghanistan and the Taliban government is restored in Afghanistan. It is a carefully crafted policy buttressing the anti-American strategy of the Army of getting America and India out of Afghanistan at the cost of the Northern Alliance empowered by these two external players. The non state actors of Pakistan linked to the madrassa network and religious parties are one strong factor that defies adjustment to the policy of 'bad' Taliban. Led by Jamaatud Dawa of Hafiz Saeed, these laid-off warriors have linked themselves to the Pakistani Taliban although some will partially 'disapprove' of their policy of killing Pakistani soldiers to the extent they (non state actors) are supported by the ISI. The non state actors are strong in Punjab, some having moved to the tribal areas and attracted the label of Punjabi Taliban, but they are growing strong in Karachi and interior Sindh too. PPP 'bad' because it calls Taliban 'bad':The power of the non state actors has influenced political attitudes in Punjab. Somewhat like PTI, the dominant Punjab party the PMLN also holds that Pakistani Taliban are not 'bad' and should not be attacked but instead engaged in talks. Both PTI and PMLN and to some extent the (pro-Lal Masjid) PMLQ now in electoral alliance with the PPP simply do not embrace the formulation of 'bad' Taliban. If one counts the generally anti-American media and the population of Pakistan the situation that emerges radically undermines the strategy of 'bad' and 'good' Taliban propounded by the PPP government through its Interior Minister Rehman Malik who in turn performs the function of reconciling his government's thinking with that of the Army. The most obvious victim of the doctrine of 'bad' Taliban is the PPP government, its genetically programmed bad governance already exacerbated by the slow death of the state at the hands of the Taliban. In the face of an overwhelming popular support of the 'bad' Taliban on the basis of the Army-directed anti-Americanism, the PPP along with its allies ANP and MQM runs the risk of getting ousted from the 'good' category. In other words, anyone who describes Taliban as 'bad' cannot be 'good' by reason of being close to the American view of Taliban. Afghan Taliban 'good' because Pakistan trains them:To consolidate his doctrine of 'bad' Taliban, Interior Minister Rehman Malik attributed the lawlessness of Karachi to 'bad' Taliban. He announced recently (The News, 4 Nov 2012) that 'Karachi has become a centre of Taliban activities while action against the Taliban was continuing'. Ironically, Karachi is also the city where the ISI is said to have located the Afghan Shura of Mullah Umar and is not terribly pleased with reporters, such as late Saleem Shahzad, who get too close to the Shura members there. In most areas where the Taliban are dominant the populations are once again manifesting signs of embracing the anti-American worldview of the Pakistani Taliban. How 'good' are the 'good' Taliban of Mullah Umar? How far does Pakistan control the 'good' Taliban? How will Pakistan stop the madrassa network and the non state actors from supporting the Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban at the same time? The fact is that in the coming post-withdrawal Afghanistan Pakistan will participate in a possible 'regional solution' without the ability to control the mujahideen that will inevitably go from Pakistan into Afghanistan to tilt the battle against the Northern Alliance. If 'facts on the ground' are to be created in favour of the 'good' Taliban then this infiltration will be inevitable even as a part of Pakistan Army's strategy. 'Good' Taliban support 'bad' Taliban:Morally speaking, if there are good and bad Taliban they should be opposed to each other. It would be absurd for Pakistan to defend this Manichaeism if the two categories are in fact merged. There is news that actually exposes the absurdity o0f Pakistan's artificially bifurcated thinking. In January 2012, the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban set up a five-member council to coordinate attacks in Afghanistan and resolve differences between factions on both sides of the border. Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan announced the development through pamphlets distributed in the markets of Miranshah, the main town of Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region. There are further definitional complications here. The good-bad Taliban council included representatives from the Haqqani network, which the US blames for attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan. Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the Haqqani network a 'veritable arm' of Pakistan's ISI. If the Haqqani network is 'good' Taliban in our lexicon then the Shia of Kurram Agency do not agree as they report that the network is involved in sectarian massacres in Parachinar. The 'bad' Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud who kills Pakistani troops is hiding in North Waziristan together with the 'good' Taliban who are supposed to kill only Americans. 'Good' Taliban too hate Pakistan:There is evidence that the 'good' Taliban too do not like Pakistan as represented by the ISI 'handlers'. In October 2011 the BBC broadcast its two documentaries titled Secret Pakistan showing ISI's handling of the Afghan Taliban in the Afghanistan battle zone, helping them kill US-NATO troops. The most disturbing factor in the revelation made in these documentaries was that most Afghan Taliban being 'handled' (trained) by the ISI hated Pakistan. Earlier in 2010 a British academic Matt Waldman working for London School of Economics interviewed a number of Afghan commanders who were not too enamoured of Pakistan. (Waldman worked in Afghanistan for two and a half years as Head of Policy and Advocacy for Oxfam and is now a fellow of the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He advised the Liberal Democrats on defence and foreign affairs from 2004 to 2006.) The Afghan Taliban resented the fact that they had to do what the ISI wanted in return for a pledge by Pakistan to release their leaders (Mullah Umar, etc) from Pakistani confinement. A Pakistan Army spokesman described the Waldman report as ridiculous and 'part of a campaign against the Pakistan Army and the ISI'. In Pakistan, most TV cables don't carry the BBC channel.

President Zardari fills a prescription for pharma industry

President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday urged the national pharmaceutical industry to acquire international standards of quality control and make the label “Made in Pakistan” a symbol of pride for the country. Addressing a signing ceremony here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr to make the Drug Regulatory Authority Bill into a law, the President said that the act would ensure availability of safe and quality medical services at affordable prices to the people. He said that the law would help prevent the sale of fake, sub-standard and non-registered medicines and stop hoarding by creating an autonomous drug regulatory authority. The President gave his assent to the bill at the special ceremony, which was attended among others by Minister for National Regulations and Services Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, federal cabinet members, parliamentarians and representatives of the pharmaceutical companies. President Zardari said that Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promulgated the first Drug Act of 1976. The credit goes to this coalition government to establish for first time the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) in the country like the developed countries, he added. He said that the DRA would ensure protection of the interests of the people and the pharma industry. He said that the industry had grown over the past decades and now it was time to take the next step in the technology. The President stressed the need to broaden base for research and development and said that bio-technology was the engine of growth of the present century. “Our pharma industry needs to harness this technology and the academia needs to work closely with the industry to ensure timely infusion of related knowledge.” He stressed on the pharma industry to focus on acquiring international standards of quality control and called for adopting corporate culture within the regulatory system. The President called for expanding the scope of pharma exports and making new advancements in the area. He congratulated the Parliament and all political parties and said that the unanimous adoption of the Drug Regulatory Authority Bill was a sign of wisdom and maturity of the Parliament and all political parties. He said that all the provincial assemblies and governments deserved to be commended for agreeing to permit the federation make the important legislation for the benefit of all. It is a measure of their political maturity, he added. The President said with the availability of cheap labour, necessary skills and other opportunities, there was no reason Pakistan’s pharmaceutical companies could not make their presence felt in the international markets. He complimented Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan and her team, especially Dr. Suhail Siddiqui, for their commitment and untiring efforts towards materializing such an important legislation. The President also distributed certificates among various pharmaceutical companies that achieved distinction in various pharma related fields. Later briefing the media persons, spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that a conscious and deliberate effort was made during the past several months to involve all the stakeholders in the finalization of the Drug Regulation Authority Bill. He said that the Pharmaceutical Association, the Pharma Bureau and the Pakistan Chemists and Druggists Association in addition to the standing committees of the National Assembly and Senate were included in the broad-based consultation and dialogue process to arrive at a consensus. Minister for National Regulations and Services Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, in her speech, said that the DRA had been designed along the lines of such bodies in advanced countries like the US and Canada to protect the interests of the patients, the pharma industry and officials working in the authority. She said that the pharma industry in the country had grown over the past decades, from just a few manufacturing units at the time of independence, to over 600 well developed units. She said that the PPP leadership supported the underpriveliged by bridging the gap between the rich and the poor and provision of quality drugs at affordable rates was part of the manifesto of the PPP in the 2008 general election. Dr Firdous said that the government was working on a strategy for the Drug Pricing Policy, the Policy of Import and Export of Drugs, and low markup on export of drugs financing.

Peshawar under siege

Another corpse with its hands and head cut off was found in Daudzai near Peshawar on November 10, marking Peshawar as the country’s third city under siege after Karachi and Quetta. In addition to the extermination of people openly opposed to the Taliban, the terrorists have steadily target-killed important police officers. Peshawar is especially targeted as the frontline city that the Taliban would like to control: Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa jail officials have been slaughtered in Lahore while under training. The truth is unsavoury. All three provinces are under attack, only Punjab is less of a victim. If Karachi and Quetta are practically helpless in the face of the growing strength of the terrorists, Lahore, too, is being eaten away at the peripheries since the kidnapping of Governor Salmaan Taseer’s son. The army men killed in Gujrat, some month ago, are no longer a mystery as agents of the Taliban involved in their killing have been captured. Lahore’s kidnappings are said to be connected to the fundraising activities of the Taliban-al Qaeda combine located in North Waziristan. In Quetta’s case, the Supreme Court has held that the government of Balochistan lost its legal right to govern the province. We could be nearing the point where the governments in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa may have to be similarly declared. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has lost more territory to the terrorists than other provinces. Kohat, Hangu and Bannu are virtually in the hands of the Taliban who mete out punishments to people there without hindrance, while civil servants stand aside and look to saving their own lives. Kohat, at least, is a strategic city housing an important base of the Pakistan Air Force. People are gradually learning to accept the writ of the Taliban active in the Orakzai-Mohmand tribal agencies. Swat, which once lived under this writ, learned the hard way that living under the Taliban is simply not possible without being coerced beyond endurance. Unfortunately, despite the presence of the army in the region, Swat is again under assault of the warlord who earlier fled to Afghanistan and is now sending his men to kill schoolgirls in the valley. Karachi has seen its good police and FC officials systematically eliminated by the terrorists. Although often confused with common killers, the Taliban have, nevertheless, increased their presence in the city and announced that they will take on the MQM, which wins majority seats in Karachi in the national elections. We might be looking at a war in the coming months as the 2013 election is around the corner. With three provinces under siege and the fourth endangered, what chances do we have of sustaining democracy in a country where the writ of the state does not run in over half the territory and the ‘safe’ parts are also vulnerable to kidnappings and bank robberies? Democracies, they say, do not fight external wars but are tough in internal wars. While our national strategy is more or less decided on the external conflict brewing in Afghanistan, there seems to be no consensus on how to tackle the war against terrorism inside the country. The tendency is to connect this internal war to Afghanistan where we often officially suspect the US and India to plan Pakistan’s undoing through the Taliban. Sadly, an entire community of madrassa, religious parties and non-state actors are supportive of the somewhat weak strategy of blaming terrorism on America and India and recommend an external war, while punishing those who are ‘agents of America’ inside Pakistan and do not agree to fighting this external war. Afflicted with internal conflict, Pakistan is focusing excessively on a possible external war in Afghanistan. The institutions of the state that underpin the country’s democratic system are not in agreement about what is to be done. Furthermore, there is conflict over what Pakistan’s national interest is. The growing outreach of the Taliban has brought the national economy down to its knees. The latest outrage in Peshawar is a reminder that the situation is worsening by the day.

Karachi: Violent upsurge

Karachi has followed a distinct pattern through the year: steady rounds of death, followed by periods during which the daily toll suddenly soars, marking a peak on the graph. We have seen many such peaks, with nearly 2,000 people killed so far in our largest city during 2012. Who knows what the number will be by the time we reach the new year. The situation certainly doesn’t seem to be heading in a better direction any time soon. In the latest spate of apparently targeted killings of mostly sectarian nature, scores of people have been killed within three days Who knows how long this senseless violence will continue, or what more we will have to bear in the coming days. These murders, eerily following a similar pattern, have gone on for too long. We know they are linked to the sectarian strains, together with ethnic and criminal tensions, that run through the city. The political nature of this violence only serves to further complicate matters. This is also one reason why law-enforcement agencies have remained so utterly unable to tackle the situation. Worse still, as has happened repeatedly in the past, there is every danger the situation could worsen. Karachi just needs a single tossed match to ignite a huge blaze of violence. The question is if there is still time to prevent this from happening. Somehow this violence has to be stopped before more lives are lost and more destruction wreaked on a city that today struggles to survive.

USAID to finance new Hazara varsity dept building

The groundbreaking ceremony for the building of the education faculty at Hazara University was held on Monday. The project will be completed with the $1.5 million financial assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Hazara University is the first among the seven countrywide universities, where USAID will provide $15 million for raising buildings for education faculty over the next two years to offer the associate degree in education programme. Hazara University vice chancellor Sakhawat Shah performed the groundbreaking in absence of Governor Masood Kausar, who failed to show up for being ill. State Minister for Technical and Professional Education Sardar Shahjehan Yousaf, Senior Education Adviser to USAID Tariq Khan and others spoke on the occasion. Speaking on the occasion, the vice chancellor said the USAID project would improve quality of education and strengthen academic and research work in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said new teaching programme would not only build the capacity of teachers but would also motivate students to mobilise their full intellectual potential in the learning process. On the occasion, minister Shahjehan Yousaf emphasised the importance of female education and regretted that the rate of female literacy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan was poor compared with that of Punjab. He appreciated United States Agency for International Development for beginning a programme for increasing the training capability and classroom performance of teachers through degree programmes. He said under the programme, teachers would be exposed to modern techniques of effective learning based on social values and psychological temperament of students in order to involve them with entire interest in the classroom teaching. Tariq Khan of USAID told participants that the building of new faculty of education would go a long way in improvement of quality of education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said during the next two years, USAID would provide $15 million for the construction of seven education faculty buildings across the country for offering the associate degree in education. Mr Khan said United States Agency for International Development in collaboration with the Pakistani government was striving for the improvement of education throughout the country. Later, the vice chancellor distributed medals, certificates and laptops to 49 female education graduates.

Pakistan’s economy is near to collapse

By:Syed Sadaqat Hussain
How long Pakistan’s economy will survive if the present situation of the Karachi city continued for few more years. Once again before starting the Muharram, Karachi is under the siege of fresh wave of ethnic and political violence and sadly saying that 28 killed in last 36 hours only, whilst the city where police and para military forces are forced to maintain law and order situation since a long time. Every time government vows to restore order in the southern port city of Karachi and would not tolerate a repeat of the disorder whist the situation is that they are totally fail to establish peace in the city having all machinery and funds to stop killing of innocent people in the city. The fresh situation is that there are so many groups in the battlefield such as political parties, different ethnical groups, religious factors, Talban are fighting each other and in the meantime they are fighting with police, and paramilitary forces as well. The targeted killing escalating its way and the situation in this context could not seen normal since a long time. It is really a mockery that how a government or state and its economy can bear such a huge loss of lives and trade where the Karachi is a pragmatic commercial hub of the country. It is the known fact that Karachi generates over 60 per cent of the total revenue of the country and provides fuel to its economy and also providing shelter and employment continuously to every walk of the people to its citizen but what the city is receiving back is: law and order situation, targeted killing, Bhatta, Politically captured areas and No Go Areas etc. etc. On the other hand, the government is not serious to establish peace in the city, which is a general opinion of every citizen of Karachi. The last week of this month was terrible in Karachi; the loss of lives continued through targeted killing and unavailability of CNG. Some analysts say that the potential reflects a civil war. In fact, the city is under civil war-like situation—there is no day gone without killing 7 or 10 persons. Whilst, the causes of clashes are purely existence of illegal weapons and the city has a long history of sectarian and ethnic strife. Now the political parties and their workers are very active for political control of the city. There are so many places in the city, which are No Go Areas. Business Community urged many a times to Army for taking over the control of the city. The City —vibrant few decades back—is now showing picture of a dead city. Business, educational, cultural activities are totally affected by daily killing. Unhealthy slogans, red, green, white, flags on every residential project can be seen showing control of the area from the political parties. Paramilitary troops have already been deployed in several areas of Karachi and now become a question mark. Even there is no rescue to protect life, property and work. In addition, Karachi plays a key role in the Afghan war, supplies for American and NATO forces are shipped to the city for trucking across the country and into neighboring Afghanistan. Karachi residents say that the government has failed in its responsibility to maintain law and order. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has often rushed here to mediate, but peace has never lasted. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or M.Q.M., which controls the city government, is a secular group that draws support from Urdu-speaking people whose ancestors migrated from India after partition in 1947. The Awami National Party, or ANP, has an Islamic Pashtun base that has been growing because of migration from the north, where the army has opened a series of campaigns against the Pakistani Taliban. Similarly, Jamat-e-Islami, and Ahl-e-Sunnat Waljamaat also have a larger exposure and influence among the citizen. The only solution to establish peace in the city is to deweaponize Karachi. Until and unless city would not clean up from weapon, political culprits and their dacoit workers, the peace will not be lasted here. We would like to see about the action by the provincial government of Sindh should be taken to ensure the economic hub of the country remains the safe, vibrant destination for locals, and visitors as it was always been in the few decades back. The prime responsibility of the government is to ensure public safety very seriously and employ a comprehensive approach to ensure the continued safety of the local and visitors to the city. We have increased spending on local law enforcement and dispatched additional forces to the city but the results are zero. Government should simultaneously take decisive action against the lawbreakers. This includes modernizing the city police, seeking more federal assistance to fight against all mafia and passing a new law to strengthen the penal code. A comprehensive and continued strategy would be developed to deweaponize the city. Most affected areas to be controlled by the Military. No Go Areas and politically held areas should be cleared with the help of Army. City’s exit points are watched carefully. Patrolling of army and construction of bunkers are necessary to better safeguard of the people. These measures would be very helpful if the authorities sincerely adopt the strategy.

Three rockets hit Afghan capital-police

A rocket landed near the Afghan intelligence agency in Kabul and two others struck near the airport highway and a private television station, security officials said. The rocket attacks were a reminder of Afghanistan's security challenges as most NATO combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of 2014. Kabul Police Chief Ayoub Salangi said insurgents positioned the rockets on the eastern outskirts of Kabul. He said three civilians were wounded and one was in critical condition. Militants have in the past launched several high-profile attacks in Kabul.

Afghanistan’s reconciliation process

At this critical juncture when the US-led ISAF forces are planning to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014, bringing peace to the war-weary country has become more critical than ever. The Taliban insurgency is still very much a fact of life, threatening continuing conflict in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. A delegation of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (AHPC) is in Pakistan to present a road map suggesting how Pakistan could help Afghanistan return to peace. Both countries have more than once agreed on a common strategy for ending the Afghan war through negotiations with the militants. Now that they are again sitting together to seek a solution through a mutually defined path, this is an encouraging development that howsoever late, if pursued with good and clean intentions, could yield positive results for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan’s economy is predicted to flounder once the international support dwindles after 2014. Any downturn in the already precariously placed economy could plunge the country into deeper chaos, including an all out civil war. This development could affect Pakistan as well because of the spillover effect. The AHPC, led by Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, son of the slain former head of the AHPC Professor Rabbani, has been invited to Pakistan by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to deliberate on the options for pushing the reconciliation process forward in Afghanistan. Pakistan is accused of having close links with the Taliban, especially their allied Haqqani network that has been instrumental in reversing the efforts of the international forces to stabilise Afghanistan. The safe haven of the Haqqanis in North Waziristan has been the catalyst for drone strikes in the area. In spite of the intelligence available on the presence of the Haqqanis in Pakistan and the latter’s support to the Taliban generally, the policy of denial adopted by Islamabad to delink itself from the two factions increasingly looks like it will end up harming Pakistan more than perhaps even Afghanistan. For example, Pakistan’s denial of the existence of a Quetta Shura, and therefore its inability to meet the request of the AHPC delegation for access to it and Mulla Omar would reduce the ‘show’ of adherence to reconciliation in Afghanistan to a farce. Further, Pakistan could end up with international sanctions being extended against it since the Haqqani network has now been declared a terrorist organisation by both the US and the UN. Collusion with, or support to the outfit now invites the possibility of international sanctions as a terrorist-harbouring state. The repatriation to Afghanistan of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s former second-in-command, in detention in Pakistan, has also been requested by the AHPC since his presence in Afghanistan is seen an effective conduit for negotiations with the Taliban leaders. If, instead of blatant denials and prevarication, both these requests are met, this could constitute a giant step forward towards kick-starting a peace process in Afghanistan. After the US’s halting, now on, now off efforts to reach out to the Taliban floundered, not the least because of Washington’s foot dragging over the release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, it became obvious that a unilateral US channel for negotiations would not be allowed to succeed by the ISI either, the latter fearing being left out in the cold in any eventual settlement. Pakistan’s involvement therefore is once again centre-stage in the attempts to normalise the situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s past reservations about talking to the ‘puppet’ Karzai government may yield to the new ground realities post-withdrawal. Kabul has been open to the setting up of a truly representative government that includes the Taliban, provided they lay down their arms and accept the post-2001 system in place. This is unlikely to come about with clearly demarcated phases of disarmament and political participation. More likely, and basing oneself on peace processes in other conflict situations, it will be a mixed bag of advances and retreats, with many a blip along the way. The only guarantee that the peace and reconciliation process might finally succeed is if both sides are sincere, open, and committed to the historic compromises that may be required. Also they must be prepared to persist in the face of any sabotage attempts by spoilers. Pakistan has to make a choice whether to become part of the solution by facilitating the negotiating process or remain part of the problem by persisting with support to Afghan jihadi extremists, at peril to Afghanistan, Pakistan itself, as well as the region and the larger world.

Pakistan vows to do all for Afghan peace

Daily Times
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Monday said the government of Pakistan would do all that it takes for a peaceful Afghanistan. He stated this while talking to Salahuddain Rabbani, chairman of the Afghan Peace Council, along with members of his delegation, who called on him at the Prime Minister’s House and discussed with him matters of bilateral interests. Raja said there is consensus in Pakistan that both Afghanistan and Pakistan should work together for peace in the region. He expressed the hope the delegation during its visit would hold discussions with Pakistani officials, which will pave the way for closer relations between the two countries. Rabbani said the people of Afghanistan were grateful to the people of Pakistan for the assistance extended to them during their struggle against the Soviet Union. Dilating on the incidents of cross-border shelling, both the leaders agreed there should be increased coordination between the two countries to stop such incidents in future. Raja said both countries had to work together and leave a legacy for coming generations, which is peaceful. Meanwhile, analysts warned that without Taliban involvement little would come of the negotiations. Support from Pakistan is seen as crucial to peace in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Afghan-Pakistani talks were derailed more than a year ago amid a welter of accusations when Rabbani’s father, Burhanuddin, then head of the peace council, was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Kabul. This week’s talks come as efforts to end the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan gain a new urgency as the withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops looms ever closer. But analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai warned no progress of any substance would be made this week, beyond Rabbani getting to meet the Pakistani side for the first time. “The problem is that the Afghan government has not been in contact with (the) Taliban. Even Rabbani has not been able to get in touch with the Taliban since he became chairman of the council,” Yusufzai told AFP. Yusufzai said while Pakistan has some influence over the Taliban it was unrealistic to think Islamabad could convince the terrorists to return to the negotiating table. Analyst Hasan Askari said while Kabul and Washington might be keen for some kind of accommodation with parts of the Taliban, the group had little incentive to talk, knowing NATO will leave in two years. “They are waiting for withdrawal of international troops and are confident that they can make life for (the) Kabul government miserable,” he told AFP.

Decision on Afghanistan Deployment Nearing, Panetta Says

White House and Pentagon officials hope to determine within weeks the number of American troops that will remain for the long term in Afghanistan after the bulk of United States forces come home in 2014, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday. That number will in turn determine the pace of the reduction over the next two years of the 68,000 American military personnel currently in Afghanistan. Administration officials have never publicly discussed what number might remain, although in Iraq, American commanders originally wanted as many as 20,000 troops to stay behind, but a deal with the Iraqi government collapsed and all United States forces came home late last year. Mr. Panetta said that Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, was overseeing the process. “General Allen has worked on several options that we are now reviewing and working with the White House on,” Mr. Panetta said. “And my hope is that we will be able to complete this process in the next few weeks.” The number, Mr. Panetta said, will be based on how many forces are needed for counterterrorism — that is, in commando raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden — as well as for training and providing air transport and other support to the Afghan security forces. In the past year, as a record number of American troops have been killed in attacks by their Afghan partners, there has been a growing sense among some in the administration that American troops should come home sooner rather than later. At the same time there is a concern that a faster withdrawal pace will signal defeat. Mr. Panetta made his remarks to reporters on his plane on the way to Australia, the first stop on a weeklong trip aimed at strengthening American military relationships in the Pacific and Asia. Mr. Panetta, along with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is to attend a United States-Australian security and diplomatic meeting in Perth on Tuesday and Wednesday. Mr. Panetta is then to travel to Thailand and a summit of Southeast Asian nations in Cambodia before stops in both countries by President Obama and Mrs. Clinton. One of Mr. Panetta’s main messages to nations in the region is that the administration’s “pivot” to Asia is real and bolstered by a commitment to military spending in the region. But defense officials say that what they prefer to call the “rebalancing” to Asia would be undermined by deep cuts to the Pentagon budget should Congress not reach a fiscal deal by the end of the year. George E. Little, the Pentagon press secretary, said that such a failure “at least temporarily could put our rebalance off balance.” In other comments on his plane, Mr. Panetta said the Pentagon was not able to counter the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11 as fast as it could have because defense officials were notified after the attack was under way. “For us to be able to move quickly, we have to have some advance notice that something is going to happen,” Mr. Panetta said, “and in this case, we didn’t have that.” But no American forces were deployed close enough to Benghazi to get there in time, and Mr. Panetta reiterated that a review of security at American diplomatic posts was under way. He also said that David H. Petraeus “took the right steps” in resigning as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a job that Mr. Panetta held in the first two and a half years of Mr. Obama’s presidency. “It was a very sad situation to have a distinguished career like that end in this manner,” Mr. Panetta said, referring to Mr. Petraeus’s decision to step down because of an extramarital affair. Mr. Panetta said he did not know how long he would remain as defense secretary. “It’s no secret that at some point I’d like to get back to California,” he said. “It’s my home.” Asked if he planned to stay for all of Mr. Obama’s second term, Mr. Panetta replied, “Who the hell knows?”