Thursday, November 28, 2013

U.S. troops mark Thanksgiving in Afghanistan

U.S. forces enjoyed turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie as military bases throughout Afghanistan marked the Thanksgiving holiday.

America isn't leaving the Middle East, unfortunately

Seumas Milne
The Iran nuclear deal is a product of the failure of the war on terror. It should at least hand more control to the region's people
Remember how we got here. Three months ago, the US, Britain and France were poised to launch yet another attack on an Arab and Muslim country, this time war-wracked Syria. An unexpected, and unprecedented, vote by British MPs halted the bid to escalate the war. That stiffened resistance in the US Congress.
As Obama struggled to win support, Russia seized the chance to press for the UN-supervised destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. A deal was reached and the threat of attack abandoned. A couple of months on and Iran, Syria's closest ally, has now signed an agreement with the big powers to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief – and Syrian peace talks are back on the agenda for the new year. The west's August attempt to confront the Iranian-Syrian "axis of resistance" has been turned on its head. Russia has been bolstered without lifting a finger. The closest US allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are crying betrayal and demanding their supporters sabotage the deal in Congress.
In fact, both agreements simply reflect a recognition of reality after 12 years of failed wars of intervention across the Middle East. In the case of Syria, despite covert intervention by western and Gulf states, the Assad regime has been gaining ground as the rebel camp slips further into the grip of al-Qaida-linked sectarian jihadists. When it comes to Iran, the Shia Islamic republic has been hugely strengthened by the west's war on terror and the US-British invasion of Iraq in particular. Sure, Iran has been hurt by sanctions imposed by nuclear-armed states and the campaign of assassinations and sabotage waged by the US and Israel.
But the restrictions on its uranium enrichment programme agreed in Geneva on Sunday are significantly less onerous than those Iran offered in 2005, when its proposal of a centrifuge cap of 5,000 was rejected by the US out of hand. It now has upwards of 16,000.
What has changed is that the costs of confrontation with Iran have escalated for the US; the credibility of an all-out attack on Tehran is now vanishingly small; the west's Arab allies are in turmoil or immersed in an unwinnable regional sectarian war – and Iran holds a key to conflicts the US wants defused or settled, from Palestine to Afghanistan.
Whether the nuclear agreement lasts or goes further, Geneva is a measure of realism in a region turned upside down by increasingly bizarre alliances. Take Israel, the secular Jewish state, and Saudi Arabia, the Sunni sectarian autocracy. They are now not only working hand in glove against Iran, but both strongly backed the abortive attack on Syria and championed July's military coup against the elected Islamist president in Egypt. The US-backed theocratic Saudi dictatorship, along with the UAE, Jordan and Israel, are now in close alliance with the secular military regime in Cairo – which is busy buying weapons from Syria's ally Russia – while Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are the main backers of Islamist and jihadist rebel forces in Syria. In fact, the Saudi authorities have been offering to release their own jihadist prisoners if they agree to go and fight in Syria and Lebanon with al-Qaida-linked groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, Islamist Turkey, which also backs the Syrian rebels, is trying to move closer to Iran.
The chaos and cross-currents are a product of the war on terror and the Arab uprisings that flowed out of it nearly three years ago. The campaign that began in Afghanistan, and passed through the destruction of Iraq via drone wars against the terror groups it fuelled, reached its last phase in the attempts to hijack or crush the popular revolts across the Arab world. At every point, the war has failed in its stated aim of fighting terror and left a trail of destruction, death and sectarian conflict in its wake, from Pakistan to Libya. It has also revealed the limits, rather than the extent of US and western power to impose its will by military force. And it's that strategic defeat and overreach – paid for at such great human cost – that has been reflected in the deals made with Iran and Syria this autumn.
The US administration has now signalled it wants a more modest engagement in the Middle East, focused on Iran, Syria and the Israel-Palestine conflict, as it "pivots" towards Asia and the rising power of China. "We've got interests and opportunities in that whole world," as Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, puts it. That's been interpreted by some as the prelude to a US withdrawal from the most directly western-dominated region in the world, encouraged by declining US dependence on Middle East oil.
That would be too much to hope for. The US has been boosting its military presence and archipelago of bases in the Gulf, and the Middle East will continue to be crucial to the global energy market. But the failure of the war on terror and US decline means it is likely to try to use a reduction of tension with Iran to streamline and scale back its military involvement.
Which would, of course, be welcome for the people of a region trying to carve out their own future. The west's baleful terror war will carry on across the Arab and Muslim world in the form of drone attacks and special forces operations. But the appetite for full-scale air and land campaigns seems to have exhausted itself. That can only be good for all of us.

China: B-52’s defiance no reason for nervousness

The Pentagon revealed Wednesday that the US had flown two unarmed B-52 bombers over China's newly established East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Tuesday morning. The Pentagon claimed the flight was part of a long-planned training exercise in the area on the one hand and demonstrated its defiance against Beijing's new air defense rules on the other.
China's Ministry of National Defense responded to the so-called mission carried out by Washington by saying that it had monitored the entire process of the US bombers through the zone. The US deliberately ignored the existence of the new ADIZ of China which, however, made a powerful reply that the zone is in operation.
According to some reports from international media and reactions from Chinese Web users, the US seems to have gained the upper hand with its action that plunged China into a relatively passive situation. Nonetheless, it should be noted that the ADIZ has indeed given full play to its role of national defense.
Tokyo and Washington are unlikely to accept China's ADIZ through which Beijing will master all the US and Japanese military activities over the East China Sea. In actuality China will not inform them of its aircraft passing through their Air Defense Identification Zones. Not identical to airspace, the ADIZ is supposed to devote its role of identification to safeguard national security.
The air defense zone, however, has become a trigger of a political row over the East China Sea because it overlaps with the Japanese ADIZ over the Diaoyu Islands. Objectively speaking, China's establishment of the zone is conducive to identifying aircraft and thus avoiding unexpected frictions, but takes on another implication in public opinion.
Beijing has made a rather normal response to the flight of the two B-52 bombers by following and supervising them. What's unusual is that the US took a deviant move when disclosing that they had "conducted operations" in the area of the Diaoyu Islands and publicly posed a challenge to China's defense rules. This has nothing to do with military frictions but can only be viewed as a war of public opinion directed against Beijing.
China's ADIZ withstood the test but we failed in offering a timely and ideal response as we have been inundated with an inconceivably large amount of information that is adverse to the new zone and will probably even undermine the image of our military forces in this transient Internet age. Therefore Chinese authorities must make speedy reactions to various emergencies and challenges and delegate such power to relevant departments and officials, who should meanwhile assume more responsibility to cope with sensitive issues. Beijing needs to reform its information release mechanism to win the psychological battles waged by Washington and Tokyo. Increasing morale and cohesion of the Chinese people constitutes the fundamental cornerstone to properly handle diplomatic relations.

China dismisses Japanese claim of altering status quo

China's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea is completely justified and legitimate, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said on Thursday. Yang's comments were in response to a question about Japanese media reports that China had altered the status quo unilaterally by announcing the ADIZ on Saturday. "Japan has always accused or tarnished other countries without reflecting on their own deeds," Yang said at a regular news briefing. Japan announced in September 2012 that it would "purchase" the Diaoyu Islands despite strong opposition from China. It has frequently sent vessels and planes to detect Chinese ships and planes in regular navigation or training, which has severely hampered the freedom of navigation and overflight, Yang said. Japanese Coastguard warships intruded into the drill area of the Chinese navy on the high seas and interfered in their normal military exercise, Yang said. Japan also boosted its military capacity under various disguises, attempting to change the post World War II international order. Japanese authorities play up the so-called China threat through the media and openly create confrontations, Yang said. "Who is changing the status quo, accelerating regional tension, confrontation and jeopardizing regional security? I think the international community will make a fair judgement," the spokesman said. Japan established its own ADIZ in 1969, therefore it has no right at all to make irresponsible remarks on China's ADIZ over the East China Sea, said Yang. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that Japan was seriously concerned over the "unilateral" setup of the ADIZ and urged China to "retract the decision." "Should the decision be retracted, we ask the Japanese side to revoke its ADIZ first, we will then consider their demand 44 years later," Yang said.

Rabab Pashto Music


Continued US Troop Presence in Afghanistan in Doubt

Karzai, Obama play poker with Afghanistan

The strained relationship between the US and Afghan governments has descended into sheer brinksmanship over the bilateral security agreement. And it would be in no one's interest if the deal collapsed.
It's a risky game, and the stakes could hardly be higher. Afghanistan stands to lose billions of dollars in military and economic aid, while the US risks leaving the country in chaos after spending 12 years, and losing 2,300 US lives, to achieve a fragile stability. But in the past few months, the relationship between the US and Afghanistan, which has steadily deteriorated under President Barack Obama, has now descended into a game of brinksmanship over the proposed "bilateral security agreement" (BSA), meant to establish the terms of their partnership for the next 10 years. The talks came to a head on Monday (25.11.2013), during US National Security Advisor Susan Rice's visit to Kabul, where Afghan President Hamid Karzai refused to sign the BSA, defying not only the US, but also the Loya Jirga - Karzai's hand-picked assembly of chieftains - who endorsed the deal over the weekend and urged their president to seal it by the end of the year.
'Zero option'
In response, Rice said the US would have no choice but to invoke the "zero option" - the complete withdrawal of US troops after 2014 - unless Karzai signed by December 31 this year. Karzai's mulish attitude has baffled and infuriated the US government - as well as many Afghans. "He's playing chicken and hoping the Americans will swerve before he does," said Stephen Biddle, defense policy analyst at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations. "And the whole problem with chicken is that if you guess wrong then both sides die. You're threatening to kill everyone in order to get a little more of what you want. A total American withdrawal is neither in Afghan interests, or America's interests, or NATO's interests, but it's a distinct possibility." The Iraqi withdrawal in 2011 set a gloomy precedent, with the country since descending into sectarian violence. Michael Keating, Afghanistan specialist at the UK's Chatham House think tank, agrees that Karzai's brinksmanship is only harming Afghan interests. "For most Afghans the biggest problem at the moment is uncertainty, and what this is prolonging that uncertainty," he told DW. "If for whatever reason the BSA doesn't happen, then the political support in Washington for subsidizing the Afghan state is likely to be very badly dented, if not collapse. Afghanistan's national budget is 90 percent dependent on overseas development assistance, so this is very serious stuff."
Playing for time
At the same time, the deadline set by the US has ratcheted up the tension - some argue unnecessarily. Biddle thinks there is a good logistical reason why the US wants a decision to made sooner rather than later. "It takes time to plan for withdrawals," he told DW. "You can't expect 60,000 American troops to all of a sudden pick up and go tomorrow morning." Karzai appears to want the the deal to be delayed until after next year's election, which will determine his successor. Though this is planned for April, there is no guarantee, Keating argues, that a new Afghan government will be in place by then. "The elections could be contested, and then there would be a delay of 10 months rather than five," he said. Secondly, allowing a delay means that the BSA becomes one of the campaign issues in the election. "The elections are a wild card anyway," said Biddle. "But setting up a situation where you're empowering marginal political actors in Afghanistan - who want the US withdrawal - to bargain for influence with other more orthodox Afghan politicians. If the US presence is still up for grabs in April, you could imagine that one or another marginal could use this issue to manipulate politicians who favor the US presence."
31 new recommendations
The Loya Jirga's advice to Karzai to sign the deal before the end of the year was, meanwhile, only one of 31 new recommendations that it hoped might be attached to the BSA. These include a number of Afghan concerns, such as allowing Afghan observers to attend American military trials, banning Christian religious observances on US military bases, banning home raids by US forces, and releasing all the remaining prisoners at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. "Those concerns are legitimate," said Keating. "But I don't think those are the fundamental issues," he added. "The fundamental issue is whether Karzai will sign the BSA. I'm not belittling these problems, they're serious, but I don't think these are the problems holding up the signature."
Staying relevant
There is also speculation that Karzai's plan to delay the agreement is not just about winning as many of these concessions as possible. "Part of it is probably that this keeps Karzai relevant," said Biddle. "He knows that he's a potential lame duck, and one way to keep himself influential is to keep this agreement negotiation open. Also, he would like someone else to be labeled as the person who ensured long-term foreign presence in Afghanistan. And lastly I wouldn't be surprised if part of what he's doing now is personal frustration with the US administration." "By doing this, he keeps many cards in his hands," said Keating. "Including the choice of the next president. The assumption is whoever gets his blessing is likely to have a very good chance of winning." In an interview broadcast Wednesday by Radio Free Europe, Karzai appeared to soften his stance slightly, by saying he would sign the deal if the US meets demands to not raid Afghan homes and help restart peace talks, though he appears to have taken a small step back on his demand that the US guarantee free and fair presidential elections in April. Despite all this, he still refuses to sign the deal before the deadline. "It would be a very unwise poker player that put a big bet on any particular outcome at this point," said Biddle.

Pakistan Army's Senior most-officer after General Kayani, resigns ( Silent Protest )

Lt General Haroon Aslam has taken early retirement and tendered his resignation on Thursday. His resignation letter has been sent to the Defence Ministry from GHQ. Haroon Aslam had been serving as the Chief of Logistics Staff at the Army GHQ and was the senior most-officer after General Kayani. His resignation came a day after General Raheel Sharif was appointed Army Chief and General Rashad Mahmood CJCSC. Lt Gen Haroon Aslam registered his silent protest by not attending the prime minister’s dinner on Wednesday night. Sources claim that the corridors of power were already abuzz with the information that General Haroon had played a key role as Director of Military Operations on October 12, 1999 along with the-then DGMO Major General Shahid Aziz to oust Nawaz Sharif from power. Then, Brigadier Haroon led the team to arrest all the cabinet members, including the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Yes, Haroon was one of the two directors at the MO Directorate, under my command, who did whatever I ordered him to do on October 12, 1999,” Lt Gen (retd) Shahid Aziz told on July 7, 2013. Aziz was then a major general and DGMO who has openly confessed to his role in the last military coup in his recently-published autobiography ‘Yah Khamoshi Kahan Tak’. However, Shahid had added in the same breath that all the senior generals, including Haroon Aslam, were fit for the slot of the chief of army staff. On the other hand, Lt Gen Haroon had his side of the story that he used to tell his confidants. “What he did was not on his own. He was following the orders of his chain of command.” Another possible reason Lt Gen Haroon Aslam could not win any slot, according to the sources, is that he was a Special Services Group commando and Nawaz Sharif does not like commandos, particularly after his experience with Gen Pervez Musharraf. The sources in Islamabad also claim that somebody had already whispered to Nawaz Sharif regarding the background of Lt Gen Haroon Aslam. Yet another reason of Gen Aslam losing the top slot is the opinion of outgoing army chief Gen Kayani who was against the appointment of Haroon on any slot. The sources also claim that the newly-appointed Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmood was a full colonel working with the Chief of Staff to the Corps HQ on Oct 12, 1999 in Rawalpindi. However, he did not land in any controversy. Gen Aslam, as a token of silent protest, did not appear in the dinner hosted in the Prime Minister’s House on late Wednesday night. The sources had already predicted that he would tender his formal resignation today to the Defence Ministry and move to Lahore for finalising his future plans, thus, did not attend the change of command ceremony as well.

Afghanistan's Karzai stands alone in high-stakes game with U.S.

President Hamid Karzai's stubborn refusal to sign a pact that would keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is a high-risk gamble that Washington will give in to his demands, one that has left him isolated as the clock runs down on his presidency.
Diplomats said he may have over-played his hand, raising the risk of a complete U.S. withdrawal from the insurgency-plagued country where Western troops have fought Taliban militants for the past 12 years. It also risks a backlash at home by critics who believe he is playing a dangerous game with the country's future security.
If the bilateral pact is not signed, Western aid running to billions of dollars will be in serious jeopardy, and confidence in the already fragile economy could collapse amid fears that the country will slip back into ethnic fighting or civil war.
There was much dismay in Kabul this week after Karzai over-rode the near-unanimous decision of an assembly of nearly 3,000 Afghan tribal elders to back the agreement and introduced new conditions.
"What was the point of calling the Jirga (assembly) if Karzai wants to continue haggling with the United States?" said Haji Mursaleen, a prominent elder who travelled all the way from the eastern province of Kunar to attend the assembly.
Even Qayum Karzai, who is running in next April's election to succeed his younger brother - while being careful not to criticise the president - told Reuters this week that it was in Afghanistan's "vital interest" to get the pact signed. Hamid Karzai has repeatedly crossed swords with Washington since he became president in 2001, and - anxious about his legacy - he may want to show he is no push-over for the Americans before the elections bring his second and final term to an end. Underlining Karzai's distrust of Washington, Aimal Faizi, his urbane spokesman, told Reuters in Kabul's fortress-like presidential palace: "He has a very suspicious mind because of all the wrongdoings of the U.S. and NATO of the past." Diplomats and politicians say Karzai is likely to hold out as long as he can because, once the deal is signed, he will lose bargaining power and limp to the end of his term a lame duck.
"He is a very cunning person and he is in love with his power, more than (Muammar) Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein," said one senior Afghan politician, referring to the defeated leaders of Libya and Iraq.
"He has been going against the will of the people all this time ... He does not want to give away his power."
Karzai's surprise change of mind at the eleventh hour has triggered a storm of speculation in Kabul over whether it was a reflection of his often erratic and unpredictable character, or part of a longer-term strategy to retain power beyond next year. Karzai, constitutionally ineligible to run again for the presidency, said this week he would not sign the pact until after the election, a move some believe could be the opening gambit of a plan to declare the poll a failure and stay on as president.
"He clearly wants to retain control and stay in power, this is obvious. I would not rule out if he cancels or postpones the election for security reasons," said one foreign diplomat in Kabul.
"After all, many parts of the country are under Taliban control and elections there are not possible, so he could easily claim that any such election would be invalid."
Karzai appears to be betting that Washington will baulk at the so-called "zero option" - a complete withdrawal similar to the pull-out of U.S. troops from post-war Iraq two years ago. Such a withdrawal would leave Afghanistan's embryonic security forces to deal with the persistent Taliban insurgency on their own from 2015. Karzai's team says it is confident U.S. troops would stay. "According to our calculation there will be no zero option. The U.S. is not here to leave the country and withdraw all the troops," said Faizi, Karzai's spokesman. "The president is willing to sign this agreement now that this has been approved by the people of Afghanistan ... There is no doubt it will be signed. But the president has some pre-conditions." Karzai now wants the United States to guarantee that U.S. forces would not raid Afghan homes under any circumstances, that Washington would help kick-start stalled peace talks with the Taliban, and release Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. He also believes Washington is not putting enough pressure on neighbouring Pakistan to stop militants using its territory as a safe haven from which to wage the insurgency in Afghanistan, and may be using the pact as leverage to make the Americans try harder.
But he appears increasingly to be fighting a lone battle even at home, including among those who have long stood by him.
"He is alone and isolated on this. He doesn't seem to have much support," said one Western diplomat in Kabul. "Who is left with him on this? The only people who oppose (the pact) are Karzai and the Taliban."
As talks between U.S. and Afghan officials drag on, the United States appears to be losing patience, saying it may pull out all troops altogether if Karzai holds up the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) any longer. Karzai's assumption that Washington sees Afghanistan as too important a strategic interest to drop may be misplaced. Indeed, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who was in Kabul this week for a round of tense talks with Karzai, said if there was no deal soon, Washington would "have no choice".
"I must say that I was sad and disappointed that by the end of our meeting it was clear he (Karzai) is not yet prepared to sign that agreement promptly," she told Afghanistan Tolo TV.
Many Afghans agree, saying Karzai is attempting to appear anti-American in the eyes of the Taliban at a time when he is trying to engage the insurgents in peace talks. "It is not in the interest of Afghanistan to delay signing the BSA," said Hanayat Hafiz, a Jirga member from Wardak province. "Karzai's move is aimed at appeasing the insurgents."

New Film, Protests Highlight Disappearances In Pakistan

The families of suspected Baloch separatists, dubbed "missing persons," claim their loved ones are being abducted by Pakistani security agencies without charges.
These family members, as well as human-rights watchdogs, claim that the suspected Baloch separatists are frequently killed and their bodies dumped. Others remain missing years after having been picked up.
A new short film, "The Line of Freedom," hopes to shed light on this largely forgotten crisis. It depicts the story of a Baloch activist who was abducted and tortured and then dumped after being shot.
The movie is based on the "true" story of a young Baloch activist, Nasir Baloch. Activists in the region claim Baloch was abducted twice in 2011. He reportedly survived the first abduction after he was shot and left for dead. He was later killed after being kidnapped for a second time while on his way to the doctor to treat his wounds.
The thriller was produced by Baloch political activist Noordin Mengal, his brother Bhawal Mengal, and British filmmaker David Whitney. Mengal says his aim was to spread awareness about the problems in the province. The issue is also kept alive by family members of some of the victims of the disappearances in Balochistan. They are now holding a 700-kilometer-long march from Balochistan's provincial capital, Quetta, to Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. The protest, which began in late October, is being led by Mama Qadeer Baloch, whose son, Jalil Reiki, was abducted in 2009. His bullet-riddled body was found dumped in a remote corner of Balochistan in 2011.
Global human-rights watchdogs have criticized Islamabad for its "kill and dump" operations in Balochistan. A February 2012 briefing by Amnesty International noted that at least 249 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists, and lawyers disappeared or were abducted from October 2010 to September 2011. The briefing called on Islamabad to "immediately put an end to the practice of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, and extra-judicial and other unlawful killings carried out with total impunity by state forces in Balochistan."
In a July 2011 report titled "We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years," Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the "detailed descriptions of 45 cases of alleged enforced disappearances reported in Balochistan in 2009 and 2010." It called on Islamabad to "investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances until the fate of each victim is clearly and publicly established."
For years, the Pakistani Supreme Court has heard cases about the abductions but failed to push the authorities to either release the victims or hold transparent investigations into the issue. Elected civilian leaders in Balochistan have publicly admitted their failure in resolving the problem. Military officials, however, have largely been ambiguous about the practice.
Authorities in Balochistan now confirm some 2,500 people in the province remain "missing" since their arrest. Balochistan authorities say more than 590 mutilated bodies have been found in the province since 2010.
Baloch activists allege that more than 10,000 people, most of them sympathetic to separatists, have disappeared under unclear circumstances.

RawalPindi Police Chief: “No student of Taleem ul Quran killed in Rawalpindi on Ashura”
False propaganda and lies being spread by the Deobandi fanatics and outlawed terrorist outfits about Pindi incident exposed on Wednesday when Rawalpindi Police Chief said that not a single student of Madressa Taleem ul Quran was killed on the day of Ashura. Talking to reporters, DIG Akhtar Umer Hayat Laleka, CPO Rawalpindi, said that in all 11 people were killed but they included no student of the said religious seminary. It is relevant to add here that pro-terrorists and pro-rioters Deobandis had been claiming that 90 persons including women and children were killed that proved bundle of lies because no women or child were among the deceased.

Pakistan: Whither PTI?

Nadir Hassan
Nothing good has ever come from a marauding militia roaming the streets menacingly demanding of anyone who crosses their path, “Papers, please?” The sinister belief that patriotism can be judged by papers has now slunk into Peshawar, courtesy the PTI and its allies. Those to be tarred, blacklisted, excluded from right-thinking society are those truck drivers who have the temerity to deliver goods meant for Nato forces in Afghanistan. Legality and morality are two entirely different beasts so let us distinguish ourselves from Imran Khan’s vigilantes and not judge whether the truck drivers are right in aiding the US war effort. What we cannot deny is that they are entirely within their rights to earn a living this way.
The Pakistan government has an agreement with the US and Isaf forces to allow our territory to be used as a transit point. We can suspend or revoke that permission at any time – as we did after the Salala incident – but the proper authority for doing so is the duly elected government. This may sound like Civics 101 but there are many who seem to believe that there is an Imran Khan veto carved out in the constitution. If the PTI leader doesn’t like anything it stands invalidated.
The truck drivers may be making an honest living doing lawful work but the PTI as a party has explicitly endorsed mass lawbreaking across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Private citizens, even if their patrons happen to lead the provincial government, do not have the right to brandish weapons, demand identification and then take whatever action they see it. That is how mafias, normally a suffix we append to those organised elements illegally profiting from land, timber, construction etc, operate. Until the PTI keeps up this shakedown they should be considered a mafia, not a political party. In this regard, the PTI is a lot like the MQM which shuts down the city every time its sensitive feelings are offended.
For a columnist to point out the hypocrisies of politicians is like Dale Steyn bowling to Mohammed Hafeez: there is just no way to miss the target. The job description of politicians forces them to pay tribute to virtues that no human could consistently maintain. Even accepting that a certain amount of vice is to be expected, maybe even tolerated, among the political class, the PTI has demonstrated staggering hypocrisy. Here they are forcibly and illegally trying to deny truck drivers their income because they believe that US government money has been tainted by their illegal drone war.
At the same time, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government continues to gobble up money from the same US government. More than 10 percent, or Rs 35 billion, of the province’s revenues come from foreign aid. The US is one of the largest contributors of foreign aid. A single stroke of the pen and the PTI can rid itself of this tainted money. Instead it sends vigilantes to deny a living to those who need the money most.
Even when the PTI is right about something, it manages to end up being wrong. The drone strike in Hangu was an outrage, as were all the other attacks before that. The legality of the strikes is questionable at best. But even an entity like a political party that has little to gain from nuance should be able to hold more than one thought at a time. Yes, drone strikes should be condemned but the condemnation should be proportional to that dished out to other actors who are massacring us. The party may also warn about causality. To claim that an end to drone strikes will cause an end to terrorism is ludicrous.
A far more credible argument would have been that the fear and loss of life caused by drones adds to terrorism by minting fresh militants who may not have otherwise signed up for the cause. But ‘drones are pretty bad but everyone else is even worse’ is not the sort of rhetoric that brings out the repressed inner cop in thousands of overexcited supporters.
The tempting analysis is that the PTI has failed to mature from a party that existed only to generate fervour among the apolitical and condemn everything the PPP and PML-N stood for. That they haven’t yet learned that governing requires patience and compromise and lots of hard work. Such an interpretation wouldn’t be quite true. The party’s chief minister is a practiced politician – imbued with all the good and bad that entails – and the first budget it presented in the provincial assembly was impressive in its attention to detail. The Right to Information Law the party has championed is much better than the one that exists at the federal level.
Still, the PTI continues to succumb to its desire to suck up all the media oxygen on issues that could do with a lot less sensationalism. This is why Imran Khan asks for drones to be shot down, even though he must know that it will trigger an unwinnable war with the US. This is why he doesn’t stop his activists from taking over the streets. This is why his first inclination is to indulge in theatrics every time he disagrees with the ruling party.
There is a danger that the PTI will end up becoming like its ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami – a party for which street power is more crucial to maintaining its influence than representation in parliament. Instead of becoming a truly national party that can break the PPP-PML-N rut, the PTI may just end up becoming an irritant, there only to agitate against the ruling parties rather than govern itself. Our democratic project would be the biggest loser should this happen.

Pakistan: 'PTI-JI's Politics of sit-ins'

Editorial:Politics of sit-ins
Prima-facie, the PTI-sponsored sit-ins to block the Nato supply route through KPK over the last couple of days have not achieved what these were supposed to. It is not that sit-ins were defied and the Nato container-trucks crashed through them; a few truckers did turn up but were forced to return by angry protestors. The fact, however, remains that neither the Nato countries nor the government of Pakistan made any noticeable move as a response to sit-ins. Will they do it in near future? That is anybody's guess. But what the sit-ins did bring into play was gross disarray and disorder that prevailed as the protestors tried to interdict by force the traffic along the route which is also used by the local and Afghan transit trade transporters. There were quite a few scuffles when drivers refused to produce relevant documents to protestors, insisting that they were not bound to be checked or examined by anyone other than authorised officials. How come a party in power in a province creates a situation which results in flagrant violation of laws it is supposed to implement. This is certainly a display of street power; an art successfully honed by the Jamaat-i-Islami, PTI's coalition partner, and should have been discouraged by the country's second most popular political party. That the local police have now registered cases against those who took law into their own hands is as melodramatic as the sit-ins. How can you be both a custodian and a breaker of the law of the land? Blocking the Nato supply route by force is not the issue; the issue is: Should this route be blocked? Should the government decide to do so, it would be possible even without a one-man sit-in.
In late 2011, the government blocked the supply route in protest against the killing of 25 soldiers in a cross-border incident and kept it in force for more than a year - till the offenders apologised.
There is just no parallelism between the two blockades as some PTI leaders would like us to treat. At that time, it was the government's well thought-out move. Blocking Nato supply route should be acknowledged as a government prerogative; the PTI and its allies in power are expected to expend their energies towards the betterment of the people of the province under their control. Have they done it? Of course, the Nato can sleep over this 'irritation' and wait the sit-ins out, but not the others who too are being scared away from using the said route. Not only has the Afghan government protested the disruption of its transit traffic through the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, hundreds of local truckers also have gone off the route fearing violence by protestors. The leaders of the PTI and its coalition partners were offered tea by the US consulate official when they turned up to hand their protest memorandum - indeed a measure of the opacity Pakistan is confronted with on the issue of drone strikes. That the Hangu police can investigate the CIA or the US ambassador in Pakistan in connection with the drone strike that killed seven persons is a misperception that requires the PTI leader, who filed the FIR, to rethink his take. Is it that the PTI leadership honestly believes that the drones will stop coming because of these sit-ins or the FIR filed by it with the Hangu police station. Who is this party trying to befool? The crisis Pakistan is presently confronted with is too grave and lethal to be tackled on the streets. Yes we are a sovereign state, like 190-plus others, but in this interdependent world absolute sovereignty is a myth. The bitter truth is that Pakistan not only invited drone strikes, but even joined them for reasons thought cogent and in national interest as defined by the government of the day. And, this is also a hard fact that the government of today is not prepared to take the risk by shooting down drones or blocking the Nato supply route. The PTI leadership would do well by putting across its position on drones to the federal government with strong enough argument with a view to winning over its acquiescence. And even before that it should seek to win
over the confidence and support of its political opposition in the province. Sit-ins do work, but when at stake is the question that is as fundamental as Pakistan's multifaceted bilateralism with the Unit ed States and the Nato countries then that cannot be decided on the highway.

Peshawar: Day and… : ANP says supplies move freely at night

The Express Tribune
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) campaign to block Nato supplies is nothing but an act to deceive the public as the supplies are openly transported at night instead, said Awami National Party’s (ANP) Mian Iftikhar Hussain in Chota Lahor, Swabi during a ceremony on Tuesday. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak can just block the routes used to transport Nato supplies through the province by issuing an executive order, argued Mian Iftikhar. He claimed a few PTI workers standing at different parts of the route cannot stop the supply till the chief minister issues said order. While talking about the party’s membership drive and elections, he said anyone who wanted to have a designation in the party should submit an application and contest in party elections. Hussain was speaking at the event with the ANP’s Basheer Matta, Sardar Hussain Babak, Shagufta Malik and Arbab Tahir.

Pakistan: The Hangu strike and the Haqqani network

Dr Mohammad Taqi
While the PTI’s stance on the drones and terrorism is naïve at best and dishonest at worst, the PML-N has also been mum about the HQN’s top moneyman Nasiruddin Haqqani’s assassination
Another US drone strike last week near Hangu wiped out six associates of the Jalaluddin Haqqani terrorist Network (HQN), namely Kaleemullah, Abdul Rahman, Mufti Hamidullah Haqqani, Maulvi Ahmed Jan, Abdullah and Gul Marjan. Maulvi Ahmad Jan was a confidant of the HQN’s de facto boss Sirajuddin Haqqani and a financier and operational point man. The federal government, except its volatile interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, played down the incident and was content with a run-of-the-mill protest with the US ambassador. The ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and its coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), however, went to town over the incident. After holding a protest rally this past weekend, the PTI has been blocking the NATO supply route through Peshawar on a daily basis and has asked the provincial police chief to name the US and CIA in an FIR it has filed about the drone attack. While the PTI’s formula — stopping drone attacks and disrupting NATO supply lines — ostensibly to bring peace to the region, is essentially the same as that of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), it does have the right as the provincial government to find out about the drone strike in its territory. The PTI also has the responsibility to explain what exactly the HQN men were doing in the settled areas of Pakistan. The PTI chief, Mr Imran Khan, has claimed that many children were killed in the Hangu attack. He may wish to back up his claim with some evidence now. Mr Khan should also tell whether his provincial administration had secured the crime scene and if it indeed did, how were the bodies moved to North Waziristan (NW) Agency instantly? While the PTI’s stance on the drones and terrorism is naïve at best and dishonest at worst, the PML-N has also been mum about the HQN’s top moneyman Nasiruddin Haqqani’s assassination. Interestingly, the Islamabad crime scene was hosed and Nasiruddin’s corpse shipped to and buried in NW within hours. It is well known that Jalaluddin Haqqani’s brothers, Ibrahim and Khalil, have been in and out of the Islamabad/Bhara Kahu area for several years now. The HQN men have reportedly travelled from Pakistan to the Gulf Arab countries for fundraising. The practice originally started with Jalaluddin Haqqani himself who used to set up shop in Saudi Arabia at pilgrimage time to raise money and was perfected by his sons and associates. In tandem with the mystery around Nasiruddin Haqqani’s assassination has been the theory that the Pakistani security establishment has decided to abandon the HQN. A change in the Pakistan army’s, especially the ISI’s, mindset about its longest uninterrupted alliance with a jihadist group would certainly be welcome but it just sounds too good to be true. During the war against the Soviets and the Afghan communists, the ISI crossed over into Khost to help Jalaluddin Haqqani’s men recapture their infamous Zawara base, which had fallen to the Afghan army. Several writers, including the ISI’s mujahideen handler Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, have chronicled the battle in detail. If, and that is a huge if, the Pakistani establishment drops the HQN as a partner, that would imply a paradigm shift in not just its Afghanistan policy but will have ramifications for how other jihadist groups are handled. The Pakistani security establishment has abandoned its partners before, replacing the Afghan mujahideen with the Taliban, the JI with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and has discarded many Kashmiri militant factions too. In each of those instances, the replacement was more radical and ostensibly more manageable. The incentive or inducement for the establishment to cut the HQN loose now and the alternatives it might be looking at, may explain the professed change of heart. While the HQN was never the only show in town, the security establishment favoured it perhaps more than even Mullah Omar’s Taliban. While the HQN has had a symbiotic, not just patron-client relationship with Pakistan, it has grown too big for its size. The extortions, drug running, killings on Pakistani soil and, above all, the perpetual protection the HQN has given to the TTP have become increasingly hard to defend. One proposition could be that (facilitating) the decapitating attacks on the HQN will make it more pliable. A more manageable HQN could pull the rug from under the TTP as well as the Afghan Taliban’s feet. The TTP is unlikely to negotiate and will have to be tackled militarily. The Afghan Taliban are more amenable to dialogue and perhaps more so if they lose the HQN pivot. Could Pakistan be betting only on the Afghan Taliban in the last lap then? It is unlikely that the Taliban can or will score a decisive victory post-2014, especially if the bilateral security agreement (BSA) between the US and Afghanistan goes through. President Hamid Karzai’s tantrums notwithstanding, the BSA will eventually be signed as the US does not appear ready to leave the field open to al Qaeda and its allies like the HQN. If this scenario pans out, the Taliban might get seated in Kabul but not at the head of the table. The US has moved from trying to pry away the HQN from the Taliban, to designating it as a terrorist organisation, to decimating its top echelons now. The HQN has been known to be resilient but its time may just be up after all. The Pakistani security establishment may or may not have had a change of heart in the absence of any viable alternatives to its most favoured proxy. But, with the ringleaders of a designated terrorist group being found and killed on Pakistani soil, making unnecessary noise could have serious consequences. Chances are that the Haqqani terrorist network’s fate was presented to Pakistan as a fait accompli.

Pakistan: Lawyers attack Supreme Court

THE commotion in the Supreme Court on Tuesday proves that despite the passage of 16 years, little has changed in Pakistan. The only difference is that in 1997, it was PML-N supporters that had stormed the Sajjad Ali Shah-led court, while in the latest incident it was protesting lawyers from different parts of Punjab who attacked the nation’s highest seat of justice. The irony is quite evident: earlier it was political hotheads who had led the charge, angered by contempt charges against Nawaz Sharif, who was prime minister at the time. On Tuesday, it was members of the legal profession, who not too long ago had struggled for the ‘supremacy’ of the law and restoration of sacked Supreme Court judges, that were rampaging through the apex court. The incident is one of many in recent memory that clearly indicates the transformation of lawyers as a group from activists to vigilantes. The lawyers in Islamabad were ostensibly protesting against the non-establishment of high court benches in various Punjab cities. However, as past incidents have also proved, the black coats often resort to violence if things do not go their way. Lawyers accuse the police of resorting to brutality to break up the protest. While the unnecessary use of force by police cannot be condoned, the lawyers did not help the situation by delivering fiery speeches outside the court. The lofty reputation the lawyers had earned through their movement for the restoration of the chief justice has all but disappeared, thanks to the thuggish behaviour of some amongst them. Members of the legal fraternity have clashed with the police, journalists as well as other lawyers while judges have been intimidated in the days since 2007. But what is most troubling is the relative silence of bar associations and senior lawyers regarding the violent tactics of their fraternity. Either bar councils have kept quiet or slapped violent elements on the wrist for aggressive behaviour. Unless this attitude changes, it is unlikely such ugly incidents will end.

Pakistan: Mother of new Army Chief wants elimination of terrorism

The mother of Chief of Army Staff-designate, Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif Wednesday said she wanted terrorism to be eliminated from the country, Geo News reported. In an exclusive interview to Geo News sometime back, the new COAS’s mother said that those who look after their parents and work hard do achieve success in their lives. She was of the opinion that the civil government should always consult their soldier brothers for ‘purging our beloved country of the scourge of terrorism’. “The youth should put in sincere and dedicated efforts to deal with the challenges faced by Pakistan,” said the daughter of a soldier, widow of a martyred husband and mother of a martyred son. About her five children she said, all of them love one another.

Bilawal Bhutto congratulates new CJP
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has felicitated Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani for being appointed as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) today. He said nation hopes that rule of law will be restored and Pakistan will finally see a truly independent, unbiased and progressive judiciary with CJP Jillani in office.

Bilawal Bhutto felicitates new COAS, CJCSC
Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has felicitated Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif and Lieutenant General Rashid Mehmood on their promotions and being appointed as the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) today. In a press statement, he hoped that with the new military leadership in command Pakistan will be able to defeat its most dangerous enemy TTP and other terrorist organizations bent upon destroying our nation. He also said that nation bids farewell to General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani who served his country with honour and dignity, and obeyed the constitution besides commanding a successful operation against terrorists in Swat, Malakand and other tribal areas.