Monday, November 25, 2013

Obama Signals a Shift From Military Might to Diplomacy

The weekend ended with the first tangible sign of a nuclear deal with Iran, after more than three decades of hostility. Then on Monday came the announcement that a conference will convene in January to try to broker an end to the civil war in Syria. The success of either negotiation, both long sought by President Obama, is hardly assured — in fact the odds may be against them. But the two nearly simultaneous developments were vivid statements that diplomacy, the venerable but often-unsatisfying art of compromise, has once again become the centerpiece of American foreign policy.
At one level, the flurry of diplomatic activity reflects the definitive end of the post-Sept. 11 world, dominated by two major wars and a battle against Islamic terrorism that drew the United States into Afghanistan and still keeps its Predator drones flying over Pakistan and Yemen.
But it also reflects a broader scaling-back of the use of American muscle, not least in the Middle East, as well as a willingness to deal with foreign governments as they are rather than to push for new leaders that better embody American values. “Regime change,” in Iran or even Syria, is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in. For Mr. Obama, the shift to diplomacy fulfills a campaign pledge from 2008 that he would stretch out a hand to America’s enemies and speak to any foreign leader without preconditions. But it will also subject him to considerable political risks, as the protests about the Iran deal from Capitol Hill and allies in the Middle East attest.
“We’re testing diplomacy; we’re not resorting immediately to military conflict,” Mr. Obama said, defending the Iran deal on Monday in San Francisco. “Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically,” he said earlier that day, “but it’s not the right thing for our security.”
Still, diplomacy is a protracted, messy business with often inconclusive results. It is harder for a president to rally the American public behind a multilateral negotiation than a missile strike, though the deep war weariness of Americans has reinforced Mr. Obama’s instinct for negotiated settlements over unilateral action. White House officials suggest that the president always planned to arrive at this moment, and that everything that came before it — from the troop surge in Afghanistan to the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden — was cleaning up after his predecessor.
“In 2009, we had 180,000 troops in two wars and a ton of legacy issues surrounding terrorism,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “So much that was done out of the box was winding down those wars. We’ve shifted from a very military face on our foreign policy to a very diplomatic face on our foreign policy.”
Much of that diplomacy has been on public display in the hypercaffeinated travels of Secretary of State John Kerry, who, in addition to his work on Iran and Syria, has persuaded the Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations. A few hours after sealing the nuclear deal in Geneva, he flew to London for talks on the Syria conference. But some of the crucial dealings have occurred in the shadows. In March, administration officials said, Mr. Obama authorized a small team of senior officials from the White House and the State Department to travel secretly to Oman, the Arab sultanate, where they met face to face with Iranian officials to explore the possibility of a nuclear deal. The cloak-and-dagger was necessary, the officials said, because it allowed the United States and Iran to discuss the outlines of a nuclear deal without fear that details would leak out. Cutting out others eliminated the competing agendas that come with the six negotiating partners engaged in the formal Geneva talks. But the disclosure that the United States and Iran had been talking privately angered France, which registered its displeasure two weeks ago by warning that the proposal then being discussed was too lenient and that it would not accept a “sucker’s deal.” For all of Mr. Obama’s emphasis on diplomacy, analysts noted that the United States often depends on others to take the initiative. In the case of Iran, it was the election of Hassan Rouhani as president, with his mandate to seek a relaxation of punishing sanctions. In the case of Syria, it was a Russian proposal for President Bashar al-Assad to turn over and destroy his chemical weapons stockpiles, an option the White House seized on as a way of averting a military strike that Mr. Obama first threatened and then backed off from. “The C.W. deal made the Iran diplomacy much more viable and attractive to the administration,” said Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former Obama administration official. But he added, “Neither in Syria or Iran is there an ambition for something larger.”
Mr. Obama has called for Mr. Assad to give up power. But his diplomatic efforts on Syria have done little to bring that about, and next month’s conference in Geneva is likely to demonstrate that far from negotiating his departure, Mr. Assad is digging in. Similarly with Iran, the administration is adamant that it is negotiating what amounts to an arms-control agreement in response to a specific security threat. A broader opening to Iran — one that could make it a partner on regional issues like Syria or Afghanistan, or even open its political system — seems far-off. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr. Obama listed his priorities in the Middle East as Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Promoting democratic principles, while still important, was no longer an overriding interest.
That more pragmatic approach was on display this month when Mr. Kerry visited Egypt, where the military-backed government is prosecuting its ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, and cracking down on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Mr. Kerry emphasized continuity with Egypt’s generals and said little about their brutal tactics. For Mr. Obama, all of this may matter less than resolving the nuclear threat from Iran, an achievement that would allow him to reduce America’s preoccupation with the Middle East and turn to another of his foreign-policy priorities, Asia. “This was a president who was elected on the promise to wind down two wars responsibly,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former administration official who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “He can now also say he has avoided a third war.” Before he can be sure of that, though, Mr. Obama faces the treacherous task of negotiating a final agreement. This time, the administration will have to do the bargaining with its partners, and it faces vocal skepticism from Israel and members of Congress.
“The Iran talks are a four-ring circus,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state who coordinated Iran policy during the Bush administration. “This is going to be among the most complex and difficult diplomatic cases ever.”
“We’re trying to deal with very difficult, cynical countries through different means,” said Mr. Burns, who now teaches at Harvard, where he has started the Future of Diplomacy Project. “But the public is weary; they want us to work things out without fighting.”

Obama pushes back against critics of Iran deal

Without naming names, president tells detractors that ‘tough talk and bluster’ is not right for security
Pushing back hard against critics, President Barack Obama forcefully defended the temporary agreement to freeze Iran’s disputed nuclear program on Monday, declaring that the United States “cannot close the door on diplomacy.”
Without naming names, Obama swiped at those who have questioned the wisdom of engaging with Iran.
“Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it’s not the right thing to do for our security,” he said during an event in San Francisco. The president’s remarks followed skepticism of the historic accord expressed by some US allies abroad as well as by members of Congress at home, including fellow Democrats. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the fiercest opponents of the six-month deal, called it a “historic mistake” and announced he would be dispatching a top envoy to Washington to try to toughen the final agreement negotiators will soon begin hammering out.
“I spoke last night with President Obama. We agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, will go out to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party Monday.
The weekend agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries — the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany — is to temporarily halt parts of Tehran’s disputed nuclear program and allow for more intrusive international monitoring of its facilities. In exchange, Iran gets some modest sanctions relief and a promise from Obama that no new economic penalties will be levied during the terms of the six-month deal.
The groundwork for the accord was laid during four clandestine meetings between US and Iranian officials throughout the summer and fall. An earlier meeting took place in March, before Iranians elected their new, more moderate-sounding President Hassan Rouhani. Details of the secret talks were confirmed to The Associated Press by three senior administration officials. The temporary accord with Tehran is historic in its own right, marking the most substantial agreement between Iran and the West in more than three decades. The consequences of a permanent deal could be far more significant, lowering the prospects of a nuclear arms race in the volatile Middle East and perhaps opening the door to wider relations between the US and Iran, which broke off diplomatic ties following the 1979 Islamic revolution. However, Obama and his advisers know the nuclear negotiations are rife with risk. If Obama has miscalculated Iran’s intentions, it will vindicate critics who say his willingness to negotiate with Tehran is naive and could inadvertently hasten the Islamic republic’s march toward a nuclear weapon. Obama also runs the risk of exacerbating tensions with key Middle Eastern allies, as well as members of Congress who want to deepen, not ease, economic penalties on Iran.
Even some members of Obama’s own party say they’re wary of the deal struck in Geneva. “I am disappointed by the terms of the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 nations because it does not seem proportional,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a close ally of the White House. “Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions.” Despite Obama’s assurances that no new sanctions will be levied on Iran while the interim agreement is in effect, some lawmakers want to push ahead with additional penalties. A new sanctions bill has already passed the House, and if it passes the Senate, Obama could have to wield his veto power in order to keep his promise to Tehran. Some lawmakers are also concerned about concessions the world powers made to Iran on its planned heavy water reactor in Arak, southwest of Tehran. Two congressional aides said that under the terms of the agreement, international monitors will not being able to watch live feeds of any activity at Arak and will instead retrieve a recording from the preceding day during each daily inspection.
The aides were not authorized to provide details of the agreement and demanded anonymity.
Despite the weekend fanfare, administration officials said key technical details on the inspections and sanctions relief must still be worked out before the agreement formally takes effect. Officials said they expect to finalize those details in the coming weeks. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he expects the deal to be fully implemented by the end of January. European Union officials said their sanctions could be eased as soon as December. Those restrictions affect numerous areas including trade in petrochemicals, gold and other precious metals, financial transfers to purchase food and medicine, and the ability of third countries to use EU-based firms to insure shipments of Iranian oil again. With a short-term pact in place, world powers will now set about trying to negotiate a broader agreement with Iran to permanently neutralize the nuclear program and assuage international concerns. Those talks will tackle the toughest issues that have long divided Iran and the West, including whether Tehran will be allowed to enrich uranium at a low level. Iran insists it has a right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and many nuclear analysts say a final deal will almost certainly leave Iran with some right to enrich. However, that’s sure to spark more discord with Israel and many lawmakers who insist Tehran be stripped of all enrichment capabilities.

China: TIP jihadi video ‘proves group’s terrorist nature’

Claims of responsibility for last month's deadly Tiananmen Square suicide attacks by the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) in a video shows the organization's fundamental terrorist nature, the Chinese government said Monday, as it vowed to keep fighting strenuously against terrorism. "The Turkistan Islamic Party is actually the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)," Qin Gang, foreign ministry spokesman, said during a regular press meeting. "The video has revealed the group to be terrorists and revealed the truth to people who questioned it a while ago." The TIP recently released a video describing the car crash on Tiananmen Square on October 28 as a "jihadi operation by holy warriors" and threatened more attacks, according to US-based monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group last Friday. On October 28, a jeep drove through the crowds close to Tiananmen rostrum in central Beijing, killing five and injuring another 40 before crashing and bursting into flames. Beijing police described it as a terrorist attack and arrested five suspects. The eight-minute video is in the Uyghur language and includes a speech by the TIP leader Abdullah Mansour, according to a Reuters report. In the video, Mansour said such operations were "only the beginning of attacks on Chinese authorities." Mansour said that future targets would include the Great Hall of the People, where legislative meetings and ceremonial activities are usually held in China, according to SITE. Spokesman Qin Gang said the ETIM is a terrorist group proscribed by the United Nations and has performed many terrorist activities inside and outside China, causing a lot of casualties and damaging properties. The ETIM has also been recognized as a terrorist organization by the US government. Qin added that there should be no double standards in the fight against terrorism. In the wake of the deadly car crash, foreign media have carried reports questioning Beijing's terming of it as a terrorist attack. Some experts believe the ETIM reformed under the name of TIP, which is behind some of the terrorist attacks and threats to China, including releasing video warnings of attacks on the Olympics in China in 2008, said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. "The TIP has absorbed some mid-Asian terrorist group members, as well as some Uyghurs who escaped China from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region," he said. "But it often sends people inside China to cultivate more members and organize group terror attacks." The attacks organized by the TIP are usually group activities, sometimes from one family, Li said. The car involved in the Tiananmen suicide attack was driven by Usmen Hasan and contained his mother Kuwanhan Reyim and wife Gulkiz Gini. The reason for these family attacks is because the attacks are clouded in religious reasons, like the name "holy war" mentioned in the video, Li said. However, the religious names do not change the fact that these are terrorist attacks, Li said, and the TIP, or the ETIM, has always been branded as a terrorist group in China. Following an increasing number of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, China has increased anti-terrorist efforts. Security also topped the agenda for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Central Asia in early September. Qin said the foreign ministry recognizes the security threat made by the terrorist group. "There needs to be international cooperation in striking against terrorism. Fighting against the ETIM is an important part of counter terrorism. We hope there can be strengthened communication and cooperation internationally in the field to keep peace and stability," Qin said. Li said such threatening videos might have stimulating effects on the terrorist groups in China and might activate them for more attacks. The key to increasing defense against such attacks is strengthening the ability to collect intelligence, he said. "It's difficult to defend against this type of terrorist activities without knowing their plans of attacks. It's rather important to strengthen the ability to gather information," he said. Terrorism in Xinjiang According to police statistics, more than 100 violent crimes by terrorist groups have occurred each year since 2009 in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In 2012, more than 190 terrorist cases were reported, a large increase compared with the previous year. Most of the participants were young people born in the 1980s or 1990s, and 95 percent of them have only a junior high school or lower education background. Terrorists have also been spreading religious extremism online, disseminating rumors and provoking violent crimes. Areas in southern Xinjiang, including Aqsu, Hotan and Kashi, are major spots where members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) infiltrate and spread from. In the two months after the June 26 terrorist attack on police in Shanshan county, which left 27 dead, police arrested hundreds of people spreading rumors or even advocating "jihad." In the past few years, international forces advocating religious extremism, separatism and terrorism have been making use of the religious and ethnic identification from Muslims in Xinjiang, instigating ethnic hatred and promoting religious extremism.

World powers to Israel: Stop griping, work with us toward final Iran deal

Hague asks Jerusalem not to sabotage agreement; 'Focus efforts on shaping final agreement,' Western diplomats tell Jerusalem.
Many of the world powers that took part in the negotiations with Iran have sent communiques to the Israeli government over the last two days, both publicly and through back channels, all conveying the same message: The interim agreement with Iran is a fait accompli. Western diplomats stated that it was made clear to Israel that instead of complaining about what was, Jerusalem should instead focus its efforts on what will be, by beginning to work with the powers over the next six months, in advance of the negotiations with Iran over a final agreement. This message was one of the central points during a 30-minute talk between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon. Obama told Netanyahu that the United States is interested in hearing Israel’s position regarding the final agreement with Iran as soon as possible. It was also the bottom line of the telephone call held on Monday between Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The minister told Steinitz that he is interested in continuing to cooperate closely with Israel with regard to Iran, and urged Israel’s government to focus on the future.British Foreign Secretary William Hague publiclypublicly called on Israel not to try and sabotage the interim agreement with Iran. “We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement and we will make that very clear to all concerned,” Hague told parliament. Representatives of the world powers have told Israel during the last 48 hours that they themselves will not allow the interim agreement to become a permanent arrangement. The powers believe that since Iran seeks the removal of the most damaging sanctions – the oil embargo and the limitations on Iranian banking – even Tehran will not be satisfied with an interim deal. “The goal of a permanent agreement will be to dismantle significant portions of the Iranian nuclear program,” said one Western diplomat. “We would’ve been glad to do all this with the interim agreement, but that was unrealistic." The Prime Minister’s Office, as well as the rest of Israel’s defense establishment, is beginning to realize that it must face reality. To borrow from the Kübler-Ross model of grieving, the Israeli government on Saturday and Sunday underwent the stages of anger, bargaining, and depression. In Washington, London, and Paris, they hope that Israel will reach the acceptance stage as soon as possible, and focus on the future. During a Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu softened his tone, and was able to admit that the interim agreement also had some positive implications for Israel. “It’s true that the pressure we exerted bore some fruit, and brought about a better result than what was previously planned, but it’s still a bad deal,” said Netanyahu. Israel has begun to accept the interim deal between Iran and the world powers, albeit slowly and uncomfortably. Take for example yesterday's briefing that Steinitz gave to European Union diplomats in Israel, which focused on the shortcomings of the interim deal and on protesting the conduct of the world powers. Also, the memorandums that Israel sent on Sunday and Monday to Israeli embassies around the world from the PMO's national hasbara council and from the Foreign Ministry's department of strategic affairs, consisted mainly of complaints about the interim agreement, without any official Israeli position regarding the continuing negotiations toward a permanent agreement with Iran. Netanyahu stated yesterday that in the coming days a delegation headed by national security adviser Yossi Cohen will depart for Washington, to hold talks with senior American officials regarding the deal with Iran. Similar meetings will take place in the coming weeks with Britain, France, and Germany. At this time, however, the Israeli stance on a possible permanent agreement with Iran is not yet sufficiently consolidated, detailed, or creative. Israel is continuing to publicly express a maximalist goal that has little chance of being achieved. Netanyahu said on Monday during the Likud meeting that “the permanent agreement must have one result: the destruction of Iran’s military nuclear capabilities.” Netanyahu is demanding that the permanent agreement not allow Iran to enrich uranium on its soil, not even to 3.5 percent. The interim agreement, however, has already determined that the final agreement will allow for a uranium enrichment program, with the level of enrichment to be decided between Iran and the world powers.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is ranked among the worst offenders for censoring politically-sensitive content on the Internet and having inadequate safeguards against government surveillance, according to the 2013 Web Index Report released on Friday. The World Wide Web Foundation of Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee says its index is “the world’s first multidimensional measure of the Web’s growth, utility, and impact on people and nations.” This year’s report covers 81 countries and places Pakistan at a lowly No. 77.
Pakistan has been categorized as an “underperformer,” an assessment made from comparing the country’s composite Web Index rank to its wealth level—Pakistan is at No. 62 on the income rank, but at No. 77 overall. It also ranks poorly for “universal access” (No. 68), “freedom and openness” (No. 76), “relevant content” (No. 69), and “empowerment” (No. 67). “In the developing world, only a minority of mobile phone owners uses their phones to get online; the proportion ranges from a low of only 6 percent in Pakistan to a high of 37 percent in China,” says the report. “The most powerful information technology—the Internet—is still out of reach for three in five of the world’s people.”
The report also says that political parties in 60 percent of the countries surveyed used the Web to publish manifestoes or political analysis. It notes that in “newer democracies or countries facing political upheaval, like Pakistan, parties may have active Facebook pages but are not using online tools to recruit and register new members.” It notes that “online platforms are beginning to play a significant role in shaping opinions on political issues” in countries like Pakistan “where Web use is growing but still sparse.” But it warns that “government efforts to control, monitor or subvert electronic communications are [also] on the increase.”
Speaking at the report’s launch, Berners-Lee said this growing surveillance and censorship of the Internet “threatens the future of democracy.”
“One of the most encouraging findings of this year’s Web Index is how the [Internet] and social media are increasingly spurring people to organize, take action, and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world,” said Berners-Lee. “But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy … Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online.” Developing countries are most likely to block and filter online communications, but leaks from fugitive U.S. analyst Edward Snowden revealed that developed countries are more likely to spy on the Web, the report said. Sweden topped the overall Web Index for developed countries for the second year running, followed by Norway, Britain, the U.S., and New Zealand. Mexico topped the list of emerging market countries, while the Philippines came in at No. 1 among developing nations.

Get BSA signed in short order, says Kerry

Welcoming the approval of bilateral security agreement (BSA) by the four-day Loya Jirga, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday sought to sign the BSA quickly so that planning for a post-2104 American presence in Afghanistan begins as soon as possible. “The critical next step must be to get the BSA signed in short order, and put into motion an agreement which will lay a firm foundation for our two countries to continue working together toward a more secure and prosperous future for Afghanistan,” Kerry said. Afghans were rightly taking the lead in providing for their own peace and security, as the US remained committed to supporting those efforts and looked forward to signing an agreement that would enable them to do so, the secretary said in a statement. Kerry added the Loya Jirga, a gathering of thousands of representatives of the Afghan people, in accordance with a proud tradition, had powerfully backed the BSA which the two countries had been negotiating for quite some time. “Very significantly, the Loya Jirga also urged that the BSA should be signed before the end of the year. I can't imagine a more compelling affirmation from the Afghan people themselves of their commitment to a long term partnership with the United States and our international partners,” Kerry concluded. Also on Sunday, President Hamid Karzai on Sunday said he would consult with jirga and US leaders on amendments to the BSA before signing the vital security pact. “We want the US to be sincere in implementing this important deal,” the president told the concluding session of the tribal assembly in Kabul. He identified peace and transparent elections as the main objectives behind the accord. “Can we achieve this (goal) in a month’s time? If I sign this agreement and peace continues to elude the country, who will be held responsible?” Karzai asked after most of the 50 committees supported inking of the BSA before the April elections.

Economic Implications of the U.S. Afghanistan Withdrawal

By Farooq Yousaf
The departure of coalition forces from Afghanistan will have a large impact, especially on Pakistan.
With September 2014 fast approaching, all eyes are fixed on Afghanistan and the announced withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition forces. Although the Afghan Loya Jirga is still debating a limited presence of the coalition forces, a majority of the contingents are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. This mass military exodus from Afghanistan will shift the burden of security responsibility onto the Afghan Army and police. It is hard to predict whether the Afghan forces will able to cope with the post-withdrawal security situation or not. Yet the withdrawal will surely have a negative economic impact – not only on Afghanistan, but also Pakistan. According to Pakistan’s Post Crisis Needs Assessment (PCNA) 2010 for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would have major economic implications for Pakistan, especially the FATA. Irrespective of the security implications, the Pakistani economy would witness some contraction given that NATO cargo and supply is a major source of U.S. currency.
Clearly, the impact would be greater in Afghanistan, yet considering the number of livelihoods dependent on the transit cargo and ISAF forces, Pakistan is already preparing to provide alternatives for those who will be out of work after 2014. Not only the government, but also major international donors, such as the World Bank, have formed special funds for the region in order to neutralize the negative economic impact. The NATO cargo influx has created a transport sector boom over the past decade, with contractors and workforce earning three times what they used to make with commercial or national trade. This cargo accounts for a significant 25 percent of the total transit trade taking place from Pakistan into Afghanistan, meaning any halt or drastic decline in the NATO cargo would represent a major loss of revenue for Pakistan. Numerous businesses have flourished in Pakistan with the influx of NATO cargo since 2001, with transport and logistics firms the biggest winners. Although the accumulation of wealth and contracts has remained in relatively few hands, a large portion of the workforce from the underdeveloped FATA region gained from the overall movement. Khyber and Mohmand agencies (two FATA regions) were two of the main beneficiaries, as their drivers, helpers and security personnel were preferred because of their knowledge of the treacherous terrain.
According to estimates taken from the All Pakistan Traders association, some 20,000 truck drivers are associated with the NATO transit and cargo. Most are from the FATA region. With NATO gone, these drivers will have difficulty finding alternative employment given the very limited opportunities in the tribal areas. In fact, one of the best paying options in these areas is working for banned militant groups. These groups are not only involved in violent attacks, but also provide security on informal trade routes for illegal cargo in return for money. The amorphous, 2640 kilometer-long Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a hotbed of informal trade. According to the Pakistan Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI), two-way illegal trade crossing the border is worth $1 billion. If transit and commercial trade declines, transport outfits could be motivated to invest in informal trade, more commonly known as smuggling.
In addition to the NATO transit, bilateral/commercial trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan has surged in recent years. Afghanistan is now Pakistan’s third-largest trading partner, importing a number of important goods from Pakistan. According to the PAJCCI, Pakistan exports to Afghanistan in the 2010-2011 fiscal year were an impressive $2.3 billion. The number could plummet in a volatile security situation post 2014, badly hurting Pakistan’s economy. But even with a stable outlook, there are fears of foreign capital flight from Kabul that could weaken Afghanistan’s economy, reducing purchasing power, which in turn would affect imports from Pakistan. The World Bank has estimated that Afghanistan’s average economic growth will shrink from 10 percent in the first decade of this century to 6 percent over the coming few years. Afghanistan also hosts a large Pakistani workforce, especially in the nonprofit and reconstruction sectors. A weaker Afghan economy may mean that these workers will have to return to Pakistan, where their prospects are decidedly uncertain. Security concerns may also force many Afghans to emigrate to neighboring countries, especially Pakistan, adding further economic strain.
All this suggests that Afghanistan’s security and stability should be a top priority, particularly for Pakistan. The Afghanistan security landscape is not only the concern of the U.S. and its partners, but also of neighboring countries such as Iran, India and, most importantly, Pakistan. These three neighbors need to realize that a stable Afghanistan is needed for regional prosperity. While interference in Afghanistan’s fate would be unwise, a limited international security presence could be helpful in providing support for the nascent Afghan forces.

What future does security pact give Afghanistan?

Afghanistan's Loya Jirga - grand traditional assembly - of 2,500 delegates on Sunday endorsed a crucial security agreement with the US and urged President Hamid Karzai to sign it by the end of this year. The bilateral security agreement between the US and Afghanistan is one of the most important decisions in Afghanistan's recent history with far-reaching implications not only for the national security and politics of Afghanistan but also for the geopolitics of the whole region. According to the UN Security Council's mandate, the US-led international military force in Afghanistan is scheduled to hand over all security duties to Afghan forces before its full withdrawal by the end of 2014. But a signed "Security and Defence Co-operation Agreement" means that around 10,000 US troops could stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years. The main role of foreign forces will be to train and assist the Afghan military and police. But some US Special Forces will continue to hunt the al-Qaeda network and its affiliates as part of their "counter-terrorism operations". Afghanistan has had "limited sovereignty" since the US-led invasion under a 2001 UN Security Council resolution. With this agreement, which comes into force on 1 January 2015, Afghanistan will reclaim control and "full sovereignty" over its airspace, territory and waters. The deal means that the US forces will be based in nine strategically important "facilities and areas" across Afghanistan including provinces that border Iran and Pakistan.
Tough deal
The two countries have been bargaining over this agreement for more than a year. After approval by the Loya Jirga, the security pact will now be discussed in both houses of the country's parliament where it is also likely to receive overwhelming support. Finally, President Karzai has to sign it into effect. But he is reluctant, saying he needs more time to see it is being implemented by the US. This means he will continue negotiations with the US over the next few weeks and months before making a final decision. Mr Karzai fears that the US might not keep its promises to respect Afghan sovereignty and not interfere in domestic issues, especially with presidential elections due in April next year. He might also be hoping that the Jirga's decision will result in a last-minute change of heart by the Taliban to stop fighting and join the political process. They and their backers were apparently hoping to have a free ride after the withdrawal of all foreign forces after 2014. But this agreement will prove them wrong. Mr Karzai is also concerned about his legacy. He is asking for guarantees so as not to appear responsible for an agreement that might be seen in the future as selling out to foreign interests. Although this was a "consultative" Loya Jirga whose decisions are not binding, its verdict will make it more difficult for the government to ignore its judgment and advice. The US is also increasing pressure on Mr Karzai to sign the pact immediately. The war in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly unpopular in the US, as the longest and costliest war in its history. US officials insist the deal must be concluded by the end of 2013, saying any further delay will jeopardise the "financial and practical help" offered by the US and make the plan for its post-2014 presence "impossible". The Obama administration has warned that it will pull out all of its forces as it did in Iraq unless the Afghan government signs the deal. The Loya Jirga members say that the deal will contribute to the country's reconstruction. They are worried that the exit of all foreign forces could put at risk the $8bn that has been pledged annually to fund Afghan security forces and developmental projects.
Military support
Western military officials say that the nearly 350,000-member Afghan National Security Forces are not yet ready to secure the country and fight the militants on their own. Most Loya Jirga members say that Afghanistan's strategic location necessitated the country entering into a pact to protect itself against interference by neighbours. According to the draft agreement, the US will help Afghanistan in countering "external aggression", taking "political, diplomatic, military and economic measures". It gives the US full legal jurisdiction over troops and Defense Department civilians, despite deep divisions in Afghanistan over whether the Americans should have immunity from Afghan courts. It also addresses the contentious issue of night raids, saying: "US forces can only enter Afghan homes in extraordinary circumstances when the life or limb of Americans is at stake.'' The agreement will "remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond" unless terminated "by mutual written agreement or by either party upon two years' written notice". The Taliban have rejected the Afghan-US security agreement from the outset, calling the presence of US forces in Afghanistan "the prime reason for instability", and threatened to continue armed resistance. Their main condition for a ceasefire is the "full withdrawal" of foreign forces, which they consider an infringement of Afghan independence, and against Islam and Afghan culture. According to a senior Taliban commander, the security agreement will endanger peace talks and diminish the possibility of any political settlement in Afghanistan.
Regional anxieties
The two countries that seem unhappy with this security pact are Iran and Pakistan - neighbours blamed for most of the interference in Afghanistan. Iran has openly objected to both the pact and the presence of Western forces in Afghanistan, arguing that a foreign military presence will have a negative impact on Afghanistan as well as the region. Iran's main concerns are about possible interference by Western forces based in Afghanistan, and encirclement. Although Pakistan has been seen as the main backer of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani officials have generally blamed the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan for rising militancy inside Pakistan. It has concerns about the activities of US forces in Afghanistan and the possible presence of foreign forces hostile to Pakistan. It thinks that the US drone attacks on Pakistani territory will continue as long as US forces are in Afghanistan. Pakistan also fears that the stability brought to Afghanistan by the continued presence of US forces will further increase the influence of its arch rival, India. In addition, many in the Pakistani security establishment also view the US presence next door as a threat to their nuclear arsenal. But all other neighbours and regional players in Afghanistan - China, India, Russia and the Central Asian countries as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - all of whom either face or fear Islamic militancy, seem to be in favour of this deal. None of these countries apparently wants the permanent presence of US forces in the region. But they have accepted the short-term presence of US forces in Afghanistan as a "lesser evil", hoping it will work as a stabilising force that could keep militancy confined within Afghan borders.

Afghanistan: Reject Proposal to Restore Stoning

The Afghan government should immediately reject a proposal to restore stoning as punishment for adultery. A working group led by the Justice Ministry that is assisting in drafting a new penal code has proposed provisions on “moral crimes” involving sex outside of marriage that call for stoning. International donors, including those supporting the legal reform process, should send a clear message to President Hamid Karzai that inclusion of stoning in the new penal code would have an immediate adverse effect on funding for the government, Human Rights Watch said.
“It is absolutely shocking that 12 years after the fall of the Taliban government, the Karzai administration might bring back stoning as a punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “President Karzai needs to demonstrate at least a basic commitment to human rights and reject this proposal out of hand.”
The draft provisions, seen by Human Rights Watch, provide that if a couple is found by a court to have engaged in sexual intercourse outside a legal marriage, both the man and woman shall be sentenced to “[s]toning to death if the adulterer or adulteress is married.” The provisions state that the “implementation of stoning shall take place in public in a predetermined location.” If the “adulterer or adulteress is unmarried,” the sentence shall be “whipping 100 lashes.” Stoning was used as a punishment for adultery during the Taliban government, in power from the mid-1990s to 2001. The fall of the Taliban government led to the establishment of a new government that quickly signed on to international human rights conventions and pledged to protect human rights in Afghanistan, especially women’s rights. The penal code currently in force in Afghanistan, which was passed in 1976, makes no provision for the use of stoning as a punishment. While there have been isolated reports of executions by stoning in Afghanistan since 2001, there is no indication that any instances were condoned by the government.
The penalty of death by stoning violates international human rights standards, including prohibitions on torture and cruel and inhuman punishment. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Afghanistan has ratified, allows countries that continue to impose the death penalty – a dwindling minority – to do so only for the most serious offenses, which precludes such a sentence for adultery. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.
The proposal to allow stoning comes while Afghanistan is negotiating an agreement with the United States to ensure continued US support for Afghanistan over the next 10 years. The Bilateral Security Agreement, which is expected to form the framework for this support, was the subject of last minute negotiations in November 2013. Review of the document by 2,500 prominent Afghans during a four-day Loya Jirga (gathering of elders) in Kabul led to a recommendation by the Loya Jirga participants that the agreement be signed by Karzai and forwarded to the National Assembly with the goal of finalizing the agreement by the end of 2013. The US government has repeatedly told Karzai that if the agreement is not signed by then, the US will not have sufficient time to plan for support to Afghanistan following the end-2014 deadline for the withdrawal of international combat forces.
Agreements providing support from other countries and institutions, including NATO, have largely been on hold pending resolution of the US-Afghan agreement. Afghanistan also stands to benefit from US$16 billion in development aid pledged at the July 2012 Tokyo Conference, linked to benchmarks that include protection of human rights. At a follow-up meeting to the Tokyo Conference, many donors expressed disappointment with the Afghan government’s failure to make progress toward many of the benchmarks, with Norway proposing cuts in aid as a result.
“Donors need to make clear that international support to Afghanistan’s government is not a blank check,” Adams said. “International aid should generously support health and education and other crucial needs, but donor money shouldn’t pay for backsliding to Taliban-era abuses.”

Pakistan tribal elders in talks to free polio workers

Tribal elders in Pakistan's north-western Khyber region are reportedly negotiating with suspected militants to release kidnapped polio workers. The workers, said to be four teachers involved in a polio vaccination scheme for schoolchildren, were taken from a school in the Bara area. Polio vaccination workers are often targeted for kidnap by militants, accused of being Western spies or part of a plot to sterilise Muslims. Polio remains endemic in Pakistan. This is partly due to militant resistance to polio vaccination campaigns, say correspondents. A senior government official in Bara told the AFP news agency that the group behind the kidnappings was Lashkar-e-Islam. "Tribal jirga has started negotiations with Lashkar-e-Islam people," the official said. "We are hopeful for the early release of polio workers."

Congratulations to the Iranian & American politicians: lessons for Pakistan
An unnecessary crises was avoid. There is great need of engagement with USA. Definitely this negotiation process has full approval of the supreme leader of Iran. He deserves full appreciation for his foresightedness. This is a historic point of time. It will have considerable impact of the politics of Middle east. This should go for a permanent agreement despite resentment from saudi Arabia because it is in the greater interest of USA & Iran. US middle east policies were perceived by the world as great failure & supportive of the extremism. now USA & Iran have a common enemy – the religious extremists supported by the Arabs. They should go after it for a peaceful world. This is also a moment of relief for Russia. Israel’s apprehensions also needed to be addressed. Supporters of religious extremism should be isolated. Same is needed for Pakistan…Pakistani establishment should avoid hypocrisy & engage in meaningful dialogue with USA. 2014 is approaching and USA will be preparing for exit from Afghanistan. Fall out of this exit on Pakistan???? will things go in the hands of religious militants???? The pragmatism should take charge of the situation before it goes out of hand. NO to interference by Arabs through Al-Qaida & Talibans. The yesterday’s drama staged by the right wing parties against NATO supplies is a hypocritical show. However, the speeches made by the leaders are eye opener where they declared American assets in Afghanistan as their war booty!!!!
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Ramifications: Blockade may cost Pakistan $1m a day

The Express Tribune
The PTI’s decision to choke Nato supply routes could deprive Pakistan of billions of dollars it receives from the United States in financial aid, according to experts and government officials. Under the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) agreement with the US, Pakistan receives an estimated $1,500-1,800 for every truck that carries supplies for Nato forces through the country, government officials said. The bill amounts to roughly $1 million per day, they added. In addition to depriving Pakistan of the direct payment it receives for allowing Nato supplies to pass through its territory, violating the GLOC agreement may also prompt the US to withhold the $1.2 billion Pakistan hopes to receive under the Coalition Support Fund, the officials said. The amount has already been included in the country’s budget for the current fiscal year. According to senior analyst Kamran Shafi, PTI’s move could also lead to UN sanctions against Pakistan, which would further deprive the country of billions of dollars it earns from trade. Pakistan’s exports to EU countries, for instance, stood at $6 billion last year. Quoting the statement of the minister of state for finance that Pakistan is expecting exports to EU countries to yield an additional $700 million to $1 billion (this year), Shafi advised the PTI leadership to avoid listening to party hardliners. “They will not only isolate Pakistan but create trouble for the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government as well,” he said. Defence analyst Lt Gen (retd) Talat Masood said blocking Nato supplies has both internal and external implications for Pakistan. “Choking Nato supply routes definitely violates the UN resolution [on Afghanistan], our Constitution and all our agreements with the US and Nato… [It] will not only harm the work of international forces in Afghanistan, but will also harm our own national interests at a time when the US and Nato are set to withdraw from the country,” he said. The federal government has yet to decide what to do in response to PTI’s decision. According to some sources, the government could make alternative arrangements to allow supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan to pass through its territory. Options include providing an alternate route through the Chaman border or allowing the use of Pakistan’s airspace for Nato supplies in case protesters continue to stop trucks in K-P. Whether a decision had been made in this regard, however, could not be confirmed till the filing of this story. Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed said the federal government is closely monitoring the steps the PTI government in K-P has taken to block Nato supply trucks. “We will make a firm decision if the PTI carries out its plan… Frankly, it is against the state’s interest,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune. Speaking at an event earlier in Lahore, he stressed Imran Khan’s move would not serve the country well. “Imran appears to be bent on ruining Pakistan’s ties with international community… Pakistan cannot afford the politics of isolation, as it needs friends not foes in today’s world,” he said. Under the law, the K-P government cannot stop Nato supplies, said constitutional law expert Qazi Anwar. It’s the subject of the federal government, he said. “The only way the PTI can stop the supplies is by urging the public to block the routes… A federating unit does not have a say in abiding by or breaking with any international agreements or treaties.” Meanwhile, Foreign Office Spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said the foreign ministry has yet to receive any formal or informal reaction from the US or Nato. He made it clear, however, that the interior and finance ministries were dealing with all logistics agreements with the US and Nato countries.

Pakistan: Crocodile tears and drone attacks

By Nafisa Hoodbhoy
Different intelligence agencies have gotten behind the Taliban as they fight the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Nawaz Sharif government — perhaps because of its history of emerging from the womb of the army — appears to be eliminating the ‘bad Taliban’ much more covertly than its predecessors.
Behind the angry posturing of PML-N Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and a coterie of politicians publicly denouncing the US for sending a drone through peace talks, the US and Pakistan appear to be coordinating against the Taliban who threaten western interests and attack inside Pakistan. Still, the credibility of politicians like Sartaj Aziz goes on the line when their pledge to halt drone attacks is followed by a missile strike the next day.
The discrepancy between what Pakistan says and does came to light last month when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Washington. As Sharif denounced drone attacks in his meeting with President Obama on October 23, 2013, and victims of the attacks testified on the Hill, US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee member Alan Grayson told the media, “With all due respect to an ally, it is well within Pakistan’s capability to end those drone strikes tomorrow.” The congressman went on to tell the media that the Pakistan Air Force is “very powerful”, and has the capability of controlling its own air space.
Mark Mazetti, author of Way of the Knife, writes that Pakistan asked the US to launch its first predator drone strike to eliminate tribal leader Nek Mohammed in 2004, after he led a rebellion against the state. Afterwards, Pakistan claimed it had fired the missile that killed the tribal leader it had once patronised. Like his predecessors, Nek Mohammed and Baitullah Mehsud, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander, Hakeemullah Mehsud, killed in a drone strike on November 1, 2013, had apparently grown too big for his boots. The US offered five million dollars for his capture after Hakeemullah coordinated with a Jordanian agent in December 2009 and wiped out a sizeable staff of CIA employees stationed in Khost, Afghanistan. Pakistan put Rs 50 million head money on the TTP commander for his lethal attacks against the state and citizens.
Only a select cadre in the Pakistani government was apparently on board about the plans to take out Hakeemullah. The PML-N government had taken JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman into confidence about arranging a ‘peace meeting’ with the Taliban in North Waziristan. Still, while talks with militants were publicised, the drone strikes were kept well under the radar. Consequently, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit to Washington, followed by his announcement from London on October 31, 2013 that “peace talks with the Taliban have begun”, were met by puzzled silence in Pakistan. TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told journalists the same day that they were unaware of any talks. Parliamentary leaders publicly complained that they had been kept in the dark.
In North Waziristan, months of friendly communiqués between the government apparently put militants at ease. The administration’s imposition of curfew added to the impression that it was for upcoming TTP-government talks. On November 1, the Taliban gathered in a mosque near Hakeemullah’s sprawling farmhouse — bought by his cousin, Latifullah Mehsud — for a meeting on whether to talk to the government or not. The US apparently set the ball rolling shortly after NATO troops snatched Latifullah in early October from the custody of Afghan intelligence officials, and interrogated him at Bagram base. Latifullah was a key link between the Taliban groups that function on both sides of the border. The Karzai government had planned to use him as an interlocutor in ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban, despite the TTP’s known role of attacking state institutions inside Pakistan. These increased cross-border attacks have, in recent months, caused Pakistan’s Foreign Office to complain that Afghanistan is being used as a safe haven for TTP militants.
For two days, US drones fired missiles into North Waziristan searching for their target. The second attack on November 1 was successful. Hakeemullah and his two companions were killed outside his $ 120,000 farmhouse. Neighbours reported surprise at seeing the Taliban commander before his vehicle was struck. Hakeemullah was understandably a rarity here, being on the run from drone attacks that occur mostly in this Pak-Afghan border area. With the assassination of the TTP chief, and his replacement by Mullah Fazlullah, an enraged TTP has pledged attacks on the military and senior government officials in Punjab for being a ‘slave’ of the US.
However, Islamabad says it will continue to pursue peace talks with the Taliban. In so doing, it has found PTI chief Imran Khan's reactions especially useful to soak up the anger. Khan’s visible shock at Hakeemullah’s assassination and angry talk by the PTI and religious parties of stopping NATO convoys to Afghanistan, have served to deflect attention and let off steam. This is the same strategy that General Musharraf used after 9/11 when public anger at the US invasion of Afghanistan helped propel the coalition of Islamic parties in the border areas. Then, too, the US was allowed to become the favourite whipping boy of the masses. However, as the US prepares for withdrawal of its troops, and nations compete for a foothold in Afghanistan, Islamabad faces an uncertain future. Different intelligence agencies have gotten behind the Taliban as they fight the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan, while cementing tribal bonds across the Durand Line. The gunning down of Afghan Taliban financier Naseerullah Haqqani in Islamabad is the latest example of warring intelligence agencies. It also shows a falling out among multiple Taliban groups, once loosely commandeered by Hakeemullah Mehsud.
The drone attack in a madrassa in Hangu on November 21, 2013, which killed leading members of the Haqqani group, appears to have also hit at the Afghan militants plotting in a settled area of Pakistan. As a dozen years of war have revealed, the younger generation of Taliban is angrier and less controllable than the militants trained by Pakistan in the 1990s to take over Afghanistan. Indeed, there is a shortage of ‘good Taliban’ like Mullah Omar, Mullah Baradar and the Haqqani network taking refuge in Pakistan, who merely attack NATO troops in Afghanistan and do not attack state interests within Pakistan.
How Pakistan gets rid of its bad Taliban, while deflecting anger away from it, and simultaneously gains a foothold in Afghanistan, will be a high wire act worth watching.

Pakistan: PTI’s gimmick

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) staged a sit-in in Peshawar Saturday to initiate an anti-drone campaign countrywide. Sunday saw Lahore, Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) mobilised against drone strikes by PTI and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), while the NATO trucks were stopped at Torkham. In his speech to the participating protestors, Chairman PTI Imran Khan expectedly accused the US of sabotaging peace in Pakistan by throwing a spanner in the works of the peace process the government had decided to pursue with the terrorists. He accused the PML-N government at the same time of selling Pakistan short by not standing up to the US on the issue of drones. The panacea to every ill confronting Pakistan, according to Imran, lies in the US's complete withdrawal from the region and allowing Pakistan to follow its own destiny. Pressurising the US to halt drone strikes in Pakistan through blocking NATO supplies has not produced this result in the past and is unlikely to do so now. The supply lines at present are being used more to transport goods out of Afghanistan then sending them in. For Imran Khan, who had repeatedly demanded of the US to leave the region, this was not the time to put hurdles in the way of the NATO supply route. And if Imran Khan is not playing to the gallery, which everyone believes he is, then how does he justify the registration of a First Information Report on the drone strike in Hangu against 'unknown' persons? Is the KP government, run by the PTI, really 'oblivious' of the identity of the 'culprit'? The US is assisting the KP government through different financial aid and grant programmes, running into millions of dollars. Imran cannot run away from the allegation of playing a double game by simply saying that those were the former government’s initiatives. He can stop these as well, just as he thinks he could block the NATO supply route forever. Therefore Imran’s position on drone strikes is tilted inwards — to save the KP government from taking the direct heat of its inability to stem terrorism. The US’s position on drones is clear. They are raining hell on our country because the terrorists dangerous to the safety of the world are provided safe havens here. We had the option to eliminate them ourselves so as to avoid the question of violation of sovereignty and hold our head high in the comity of world nations. Instead, we chose to follow a policy of duality that has irretrievably weakened our case in the eyes of the world. Are we in a position to strike down the drones as is being demanded by PTI and the JI? Such affronts in the relationship with the US are even avoided by a Europe shocked by the extensive US surveillance programme over them. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, having every right to be offended by the US snooping (the US tapped her phones from 2002 until this summer) has been hesitant to show her anger beyond making a call to Obama to register her protest. She has been reported as saying that “The transatlantic alliance remains of utmost importance to us Germans.” Does Pakistan stand anywhere near Germany in terms of economic power? In fact our economic survival depends on the IMF’s assistance. We need donor agencies and lending institutions to reform our balance sheet. And all this cannot happen without the US’s approval. Realism calls for honest, pragmatic and sustainable assessment of the problem. Can Imran or his party stop NATO supplies forever throughout the country or for that matter force the US to stop drone strikes? Falling under the purview of foreign policy, this is in any case the constitutional prerogative of the federal government alone, a consideration that has kept the KP government from joining the protest in Peshawar. Imran’s accusations against the government, especially hitting the prime minister for bowing too low to the US, could at best be viewed as emotional rhetoric but not a sane man’s view. The government knows that the rage over the drone strikes is largely impotent unless the US is punished, something a country like Pakistan can only think of at the peril of the exacerbation of its political and economic weaknesses, while getting more isolated or maybe actually pushed into the Stone Age.

KPK police book 35 PTI activists for torturing containers drivers

Khyber Pukhtunkhaw (KPK) police have registered cases against 35 activists of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) for thrashing containers drivers heading to Afghanistan during their Sunday protests blocking Nato supplies here, Geo News reported. The rally came a day after a party led by politician and cricket star Imran Khan said it would prevent NATO supply trucks making their way to and from Afghanistan from travelling through KPK province until the US stops drone strikes. Some 100 PTI protesters on Sunday checked the documents of truck drivers, headed toward Afghanistan, as they passed through a toll- booth and also tortured some truck drivers. Sources said that the cases have been registered under Sections 141, 148, 149 and 341 PPC on orders of IG KPK at the Pishta Khara Police Station. Police parties are conducting raids to arrest the culprits.