Tuesday, October 15, 2013
It's been quite a while since we heard of Veena Malik. Her film - the South version of The Dirty Picture made headlines a couple of months ago, but post that, there's been a lull in her fame factor. So, now, she's back with a bang. Recently, she slipped in a pair of hot pants, a tube top and flirted with the camera for a hto photoshoot.
A curious thing happened two weeks ago in the militancy-ravaged Pakistani city of Peshawar. An anti-terrorism court sentenced a man named Muhammad Saeed to two years in prison. His crime? Distributing pamphlets critical of the Pakistani army and election commissioner. Pakistan is a nation where anti-state insurgents and sectarian militants murder civilians with savage regularity -- yet are rarely arrested, much less prosecuted. It's also a nation where terrorist leaders live free and are protected by the state. And yet Saeed received two years' imprisonment simply for passing out anti-state literature. Stranger still, Saeed belongs to a global Islamic organization that embraces nonviolence and boasts a Pakistan-based membership numbering only in the hundreds-represented mainly, purportedly, by academics, engineers, and other seemingly innocuous educated elites. Tellingly, in recent months other Pakistan-based members of this organization, Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), have suffered fates similar to Saeed's. They've been arrested for hanging anti-government banners and handing out leaflets urging Pakistanis to boycott elections. They've even been jailed for violating the country's sedition law. Last year, the organization's spokesman in Pakistan, Naveed Butt, went missing. HuT says he was abducted by intelligence agents. So what gives? For starters, one can reasonably argue that HuT actually constitutes a considerable threat -- thereby justifying the draconian measures against its members. HuT vows to overthrow, via bloodless revolution, democratic governments worldwide -- and then establish a global caliphate. This campaign is to be orchestrated not by the masses, but by educated, affluent professionals and senior-level military officers -- strategically-placed elites with the capacity and clout to effect change. HuT has launched recruitment efforts at prestigious Pakistani universities, and earlier this year, according to Pakistani and Western media reports, activists descended on a Pakistani youth leadership conference at the University of Oxford to influence the discussions and disseminate marketing materials. Officers have also reportedly been recruited at Britain's Sandhurst military academy. And this recruitment strategy has apparently worked. Last year, 19 engineers, professors, and scientists were arrested in an affluent Lahore neighborhood for alleged ties to HuT. In recent years, senior military officials -- including a former Air Force base commanding officer and a Major-rank security officer for former president Pervez Musharraf -- have been arrested as well. Last year, five army officers -- including a brigadier named Ali Khan -- received jail sentences for their links to HuT. Another troubling aspect of HuT is its belligerent rhetoric, which belies its assurances of nonviolence. A pamphlet in Indonesia has depicted a decapitated Statue of Liberty flanked by a Manhattan skyline in flames. In Pakistan, official statements speak of "shattering the ribs" of traitors, and of military commanders leading "noble armed forces to the conquest of India." HuT's views are often indistinguishable from those of violent militant organizations -- and are quite distinct from more moderate global Islamist outfits like the Muslim Brotherhood. A recent press release, for example, blames America for last month's deadly church bombing in Peshawar, contending that Washington is "punishing" Pakistanis for refusing to support "the American occupation in Afghanistan." Then there are HuT's activities in neighboring nations. New Delhi has accused HuT of providing "intellectual and often financial assistance" to the Indian Mujahideen, an indigenous militant organization. Dhaka linked HuT to an unsuccessful 2012 coup attempt, and has since arrested university students for HuT ties. Moscow describes HuT as an "international terrorist organization," and has even blamed the group for organizing attacks on civilians. Finally, officials often accuse HuT of fomenting hatred in Central Asia -- a critical region in this story, given that analysts allege links between Pakistan's HuT chapter and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an extremist organization that claims to be fighting Pakistan's government. Not surprisingly, Pakistani security officials have painted a disturbing picture of HuT, a banned organization in the country. One intelligence official, speaking to a Pakistani newspaper, says it has a "potentially far more destructive method of operation" than al-Qaeda. The official, who was not identified, added that HuT members "target minds instead of strategic installations and personnel, using the power of the intellect instead of roadside bombs." No wonder Pakistan cracks down so hard. Yet there's likely another reason: Pakistan's relationship with the United States, one of Islamabad's chief sources of military and economic assistance. Washington regards Islamabad as either unwilling or unable to wage an all-out assault on extremism -- especially because several militant groups have ties to the Pakistani security establishment. Enter HuT. Unlike the Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), HuT has never been sponsored by the Pakistani state. And unlike the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), HuT does not use violence. In other words, it is neither a trusted proxy nor an active combatant. This allows Islamabad to demonstrate to Washington, without strategic or tactical obstacles, that it can and does take robust action against militant threats. It's an easy way to impress its American benefactor. Consider that Khan, the officer convicted for HuT ties, was arrested four days after U.S. special forces raided Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. Khan's detention can be interpreted as assurance to the Americans that despite the bin Laden debacle, Pakistan remains serious about apprehending militants. Similarly, according to his supporters, HuT spokesman Butt disappeared on May 11, 2012 -- four days before Pakistani and American officials announced an "imminent" deal to reopen NATO supply routes in Pakistan, which Islamabad had closed the previous November after NATO aircraft accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. This announcement came just after the United States agreed to invite then-President Asif Ali Zardari to Chicago for a NATO summit on Afghanistan -- an invitation Islamabad would describe as "critical" for a supply lines deal. Certainly Butt's seizure alone didn't prompt Washington's invitation to Zardari, but it nonetheless could have been a factor (the supply routes would reopen in July, after Washington apologized for the deadly airstrikes). Skeptics may argue, with reason, that Islamabad, in its zeal to demonstrate its countermilitancy bona fides, inflates the threat posed by HuT. The sensational charges originally leveled against Khan -- planning to have the Pakistani Air Force bomb a corps commanders' conference so that HuT could swoop in and implement Islamic rule -- were eventually dropped. In the end, he was convicted on more vague charges of "links with a banned organization." Khan has consistently denied any guilt. It also bears mentioning that the most alarmist assessments of HuT in Pakistan -- including one describing it as "a potentially more potent threat" than the TTP -- are expressed through anonymous quotations in media reports, and not through public statements. Furthermore, few if any serious charges against HuT have been proven in other countries -- from the Bangladesh coup allegations and Indian Mujahideen links to its reputed strength in the Caucuses (independent analysts actually say HuT has committed few if any attacks in Uzbekistan, and enjoys "virtually no support" in Turkmenistan). So perhaps HuT should ultimately be seen not as a destructive threat, but as an ultra-conservative and bellicose gadfly: more likely to disrupt conferences or, as seen in recent days, protest the Miss World beauty competition than to take up arms and pull off putsches. At least for now. Still, given Pakistan's nuclear status and pathological instability, HuT's presence and activities in the country are troubling -- and Islamabad's emphatic countermeasures are therefore laudable. If only Pakistan could be as vigilant toward the murderous TTP and LeJ as it is toward the likes of Muhammad Saeed, the hapless HuT member jailed for passing out pamphlets.
A bomb explosion killed the governor of central Logar province on Tuesday when he was delivering a speech to mark the first day of Eidul Adha, officials said. At least 18 people suffered injuries in the bombing that took place at the main mosque in the provincial capital of Pul-i-Alam. Crime branch police chief, Col. Mohammad Jan Abid, told Pajhwok Afghan News the bomb had been skillfully planted inside the microphone in the front part of the mosque. Jamal, who assumed office six months ago, was delivering the speech to worshippers after offering Eid prayers, when the bomb went off, he said. The governor’s spokesman, Din Mohammad Darwish, said the injured people were taken the main civil hospital in the city. Darwish said five of the wounded people were said to be in crucial condition. A doctor at the hospital, Samiullah, said they had been delivered 16 injured people. A witness, who declined to be named, said a spokesman for the provincial peace committee, Maulvi Sadiq, was also killed in the blast. Jamal, 47, was a close confidant of President Hamid Karzai and served as his campaign manager during the 2009 presidential elections. He also served as governor of eastern Khost province until he was appointed to his current post in Logar in April. A high-profile target, he had survived a number of assassination attempts in the past, including with suicide bombings. Jamal was recently in the spotlight following his revelation that a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban was taken into custody by American forces in Logar province on Oct. 5. US officials confirmed that Latif Mehsud, a leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, was captured by US forces in a military operation. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
له پاکستانه خپرېدونکې په ډيلي ټايمز کې ليکوال مير محمد علي تالپور ليکي، د پاکستان حکومت په قصده د نړيوالو مرستندويه ادارو پر مخ د بلوچستان زلزله ځپلي ولس ته د مرستو رسولو لارې تړلې دي. ليکوال کاږي، د بلوچستان صوبې بې اختياره اعلی وزير عبدالمالک بلوڅ دوه وارې نړيوالو ادارو ته د مرستو له پاره خواست وکړ، خو له افتونو د ژغورنې د پاکستان قامي اداره يې پر وړاندې د غټ خنډ په توګه ولاړه ده. له ليکنې سره سم، ښاغلي بلوڅ په دغه لړ کې د پاکستان مرکزي حکومت ته رسمي مکتوب هم ولېږه، خو دغه اقدام يې کارګر ثابت نه شو. د ليکنې له مخې، له افتونو سره د مبارزې د پاکستان مرکزي ادارې د روانې مياشتې په ۸ مه نېټه د ملګرو ملتونو د مرستندويه ادارو د ګاډو هغه يوه کاروان په لاره کې ودراوه، چې له کراچۍ څخه د بلوچستان د آواران سيمې پر لور روان شوی وو. په ليکنه کې وړاندې ويل شوي، د پاکستان يادې ادارې منلي چې په بلوچستان کې د زلزلې له راتللو شپاړس ورځې وروسته هم دغه ناورين ځپليو خلکو ته مرستې نه دي رسول شوي. ليکنه کاږي، پاکستانی ايسټيبلشمنټ غواړي، د آواران د خلکو پر مخ د مرستو بندولو له لارې د دوئ مورال کمزوری کړي، او زياتوي چې په دې ترڅ کې د پاکستان حکومت د بشريت پر ضد د جرم مرتکب کيږي. په ليکنه کې راغلي، د پاکستان امنيتي ځواکونه چې کله د صوبې زلزله ځپليو خلکو ته مرستې ورکوي نو ورته وايي چې د (پاکستان زنده باد) شعارونه ورکړي. د ليکوال په اند، د مرستو تر لاسه کولو له پاره دا رقم شرطونو د زلزله ځپليو خلکو عزت نفس مجروح کوي. د ليکنې له مخې، د پاکستان پوځ د آواران خلکو ته باور ورکول غواړي چې که دوئ غواړي د ښې ورځې خاوندان شي نو بايد له پوځ سره يو ځای شي او د بلوڅ بيلتون خوښو وسله والو ډلو له ملاتړ څخه لاس واخلي. د ليکوال په وينا، د پاکستان پوځ ډېره په اسانۍ سره دا خبره هېروي چې د بلوچستان د حالت خرابولو زمه واري پر بيلتون خوښو بلوڅانو نه، بلکې د دې هېواد پر پاليسي جوړونکو ادارو راځي. ليکوال زياتوي، د پاکستان حکومت د تېرو ۶۵ کلونو په موده کې يوازې د بلوچستان وسايل په نظر کې ساتلي او د خلکو يې د ښېګڼې چارې له پامه غورځولې دي.
By Ziad Haider
THE Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has called for talks with insurgents in Balochistan, listing in a report the steps necessary to improve affairs in the province. Essentially, the measures see the parties involved stepping back from their current positions and conducting themselves within legal boundaries, thus allowing the elected Balochistan government to spearhead attempts at finding a political solution to a long-standing problem. HRCP has reiterated that enforced disappearances and the killing of people after kidnapping is a big hurdle in the way of talks. Just as the insurgents have been reminded to give up their violent ways and give dialogue a chance, a significant demand has been made in pressing for the right of the chief minister to oversee the work of the Frontier Corps. HRCP wants powers for the “chief minister to write the annual confidential report on the chief of FC Balochistan” and to head “all security agencies tasked with maintaining law and order in the province”. The commission, which sent a fact-finding mission to Balochistan in June, demands rules where none exist. It wants a provincial rights commission set up after consensus between the political parties as also an adviser to the chief minister on human rights, mandated to raise resources from international donors to improve the situation. It recommends the framing of SOPs to govern the working of security and intelligence agencies which have been frequently accused of carrying out illegal activities, unanswerable as they remain to anyone and eager as they always are to hide their acts under the patriotic cover of national security. This is a bold yet essential charter for Balochistan which, unfortunately, remains a remote land for many in this country. HRCP’s must-do list may again be argued against by those who refuse to remove their blinkers and see the reality as it exists. The tendency is to blame the conflict in the province on the all-powerful and convenient ‘foreign’ hand and then pretend that it will be sorted out by the security agencies. The fact is that this latest report reconfirms what has already been established by similar exercises in the past by human rights groups and the media. It is not improbable that foreign agencies would want to intervene in an area of unrest, but the indigenous nature of this insurgency is something the Pakistani state can ignore only at its own peril. It has wasted much time in treating it as a law and order issue. The sooner it opts for talks the brighter the chances would be for a solution.
Balochistan, that ill-fated province, is the epicentre of attention nowadays, and as usual for all the wrong reasons. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has released a fact-finding report assessing the situation in Balochistan. It says violence is continuing unabated. The report addresses terror attacks on minorities and the Ziarat Residency in particular. One of the claims carried in the report, quoted from outside sources not connected to the HRCP, hints at how there is suspicion that sectarian militants are beginning to coordinate and work with Baloch nationalist insurgents. The HRCP has said it cannot verify this accusation, which requires investigation. The claim seems far-fetched and illogical on the face of it, given the gulf between the nationalists’ and terrorists’ worldview. The sectarian militants wish to cause harm and destruction based on warped perceptions of religion while the insurgents are fighting for Baloch rights. The paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and the intelligence agencies of the army stand accused by the nationalists for being behind the ‘kill and dump’ policy. In this background, the report has stated that it is imperative for the insurgents to lay down their arms and give peace a chance. How do the wise people at the HRCP believe this will ever happen when those the Baloch blame for their oppression are merrily going about abducting, torturing and killing without let or hindrance? It is commendable that the report has identified that a messy situation exists and that there are multiple perpetrators, but it has tipped the balance by laying more blame on the insurgents than those elements that are running a parallel government in the province, i.e. the FC and the military. It is these elements that are preventing international and local aid agencies from entering the earthquake-hit areas to provide relief. It is these same elements that are the cause of the insurgents’ armed resistance. To lump the nationalists with the terrorists is to add insult to injury; to lay the burden of a peace tantamount to surrender on the nationalists’ shoulders is to sprinkle salt on their wounds. Meantime 11 new ministers and some advisors are finally being sworn in to form the Balochistan cabinet after four months of keeping the province without a cabinet. Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has not been able to quell the fire burning throughout his province because of the deep state’s continuation of the repression against the Baloch people. The HRCP report thinks that a human rights chief commissioner and district commissioners, if appointed, could control human rights violations. What the HRCP ought to consider is that if the chief minister has not been able to do anything about the repression, a commissioner of any hue will not amount to much either, until and unless the FC/military combination stops its slaughter in Balochistan. Who will bell that cat?
By Timothy B. Lee Tea Partiers are the most enthusiastic advocates of America's system of government, with its divided powers, checks and balances and representative government. So it's ironic that their innovative organizing techniques have revealed a major weakness in America's system of government. Republican members of Congress feel intense pressure from tea party activists to stick to a principled conservative agenda. Any deviation from the conservative line is met with a flood of phone calls and a credible threat of a primary challenge. But Democrats control the Senate and the White House. They're not interested in signing onto the tea party's conservative agenda. And traditionally, this kind of standoff has been resolved by compromise. Leaders from both sides would negotiate a compromise and then sell it to their members. But largely thanks to the tea party, House Speaker John Boehner doesn't have much leverage over his members. He can't credibly offer to compromise with President Obama. As Obama has realized that, he has become less and less willing to compromise himself, leading to the current standoff. No compromise Our system of divided powers often requires negotiation. And negotiation works best when all parties don't just think about the present, but also the future. Good negotiators want to get the best deal they can today, but they also try to build a relationship that will make it easier to reach the next deal. That means being willing to meet the other party halfway and looking for deals that are good for both sides. But what do you do when you offer concessions and the other party doesn't reciprocate? For the past two and a half years, Barack Obama has faced this dilemma. He has offered concessions to help reach agreement with Republican leaders, but they haven't reciprocated. To the contrary, each time Democrats have agreed to cut spending, House Republicans have used the new figure as a new baseline for the next round of negotiation. In 2011, Democrats agreed to $39 billion in cuts (in one fiscal year) to avert a government shutdown. A few months later, they agreed to an additional $2.1 trillion in cuts (over 10 years) as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. The majority of those cuts took the form of across-the-board "sequestration"— indiscriminate cuts to virtually all discretionary programs. A "supercommittee" was supposed to come up with a more sensible package of cuts. But negotiations failed, so spending cuts were due to kick in at the start of 2013. A last-minute deal in January delayed those cuts until March, but the parties couldn't agree on a plan to replace them. The result of all this cutting is that, adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending levels have fallen dramatically in the past three years: The new, lower level of spending then became the Democratic position in the latest round of negotiations. House Republicans wanted spending to stay at the lower post-sequester levels and they wanted to delay Obamacare by a year. Meanwhile, Republicans have not given an inch on Democrats' desires for higher tax revenue. Taxes did go up for high earners at the start of 2013, but that increase was scheduled by Congress more than a decade ago. Republicans have steadfastly opposed any other proposals to increase tax revenue. And despite Democrats' flexibility, there seems to be no end in sight for the Republicans' strategy of perpetual brinksmanship. So far, the GOP has tried to use the threat of shutdown or default to extract policy concessions in March 2011, August 2011, February 2013, March 2013 and now October 2013. There's every reason to think that if Obama had made more concessions last month to avert a shutdown, Republicans would have come back for even more in 2014. In short, Obama is negotiating with a party that always demands further concessions and is never willing to reciprocate. After a certain number of rounds of this, any rational negotiator is going to dig in his heels and refuse to give more ground. Short-term thinking In a narrow sense, the Republican strategy has been a success, cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the discretionary budget. But it has two big flaws. The obvious one is that Obama finally called Republicans' bluff and allowed the government to shut down, and the public has overwhelmingly blamed the GOP, which could damage the party's prospects in future elections. But the more subtle problem with the strategy is that brinksmanship over the discretionary budget is unlikely to fix America's long-term fiscal problems. Those problems are largely caused by the growing cost of entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. These "mandatory" programs aren't subject to annual appropriations, so brinksmanship over appropriations bills isn't likely to change them. In past negotiations, Obama has signaled a willingness to accept some cuts to entitlement programs, but only as part of a "balanced" package that includes some tax increases. A rational Republican leader would have recognized some time ago that it's in the long-term interest of the Republican Party and the conservative movement (not to mention the country) to cut a deal with the president in which conservatives get some of their long-term policy priorities in exchange for giving Democrats some of theirs. Such a deal would help to burnish the party's image while making possible long-term fiscal reforms that they can't get by manufacturing a new crisis every few months. The tea party problem So why hasn't John Boehner done that? Because the tea party has emasculated the nominal leaders of the House Republican caucus. Boehner has so little control over his members that he can't credibly offer Democrats significant policy concessions. Boehner's impotence was vividly illustrated last December, when Congress was debating how to deal with the automatic tax hikes that were scheduled to take effect at the start of 2013. Boehner tried to pass a bill, known as "Plan B," to cancel scheduled tax hikes for everyone making less than a million dollars. He believed that the move would strengthen his hand in negotiations with the White House, which only wanted to cancel the tax hike for families making more than $250,000. But tea party activists portrayed Boehner's legislation as a tax hike, and helped defeat it. That left him with little leverage in subsequent negotiations, since Democrats could get the upper-bracket tax hikes they wanted without lifting a finger. So a few days later, Republicans were forced to accept a deal that canceled the tax increase only for families making $450,000 — a worse outcome from the tea party's perspective. So why does the tea party have so much power? A big reason is the threat of primary challenges. As The Post reported at the time, "several senior GOP aides said that many of the Republicans were wary of voting for Plan B" because it would draw a primary challenger who would portray it as a vote to raise taxes. Another factor has been the abolition of earmarks, a reform pushed by tea party activists. In the past, leadership could withhold earmarks from members of their caucus who refused to vote the party line. Now that source of leverage is gone. As a result, Boehner can't credibly offer significant concessions in negotiations with Democrats. He can't credibly offer higher taxes in exchange for spending cuts because grass-roots tea party activists will be able to intimidate many of his caucus members into voting against them. He can't even promise an end to brinksmanship, because the same grass-roots outrage that has forced him into a confrontational posture in the past will probably do so again in the future. In a sense, the tea party has made the Republican party the most democratic political party American politics has ever seen. Grass-roots activists exercise more power over the decisions of congressional Republicans than ever before. Unfortunately, this is proving self-destructive. A party that's effectively leaderless can't formulate a coherent plan and execute it. That leads to a confused political strategy and, even worse, an incoherent policy agenda. And in our system of government, a dysfunctional Republican Party can easily produce a dysfunctional government. Divided government requires compromise to function. And compromise can only happen if congressional leaders can credibly negotiate on behalf of their caucuses. Tea party activists like to emphasize that we're a constitutional republic, not a direct democracy. Some have even called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment that established the direct election of senators. Returning to a Senate elected by state legislatures would probably be overkill, but the tea party is right that our system of government depends on elected representatives being somewhat insulated from the day-to-day passions of the people who elected them. The tea party's rapid-response activism and the constant threat of primary challenges has made it difficult for Republican members of Congress to exercise the kind of independent judgement the Founders envisioned. That is producing a kind of slow-motion constitutional crisis, as our elected leaders find it harder and harder to reach the compromises necessary to keep the system functioning.