Monday, December 23, 2013

Noor Jahan - (Ghazal) - Hamari Sanson Mein Aaj Tak Woh

Battle rages in South Sudan, UN wants more peacekeepers

Israel and Saudi Arabia: Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

Recent reports and commentaries have suggested that a rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is underway. Indeed, both countries are eager to prevent Iran from achieving military nuclear capability and would like to curb Iranian attempts to attain regional hegemony.
In addition, both are perturbed by recent developments in US policy, particularly the reluctance to use force against Iran and Syria, and signs of a gradual shift away from the problems of the Middle East. However, in spite of the convergence of interests between Israel and Saudi Arabia, full normalization is not on the agenda as long as there is no significant political breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, there is a wide range between full diplomatic relations and a total lack of contact, and the two countries can take advantage of this.
Recent reports and commentaries have suggested that a rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is underway. Indeed, both countries are eager to prevent Iran from achieving military nuclear capability and would like to curb Iranian attempts to attain regional hegemony. In addition, both are perturbed by recent developments in US policy, particularly the reluctance to use force against Iran and Syria, and signs of a gradual shift away from the problems of the Middle East. However, in spite of the convergence of interests between Israel and Saudi Arabia, full normalization is not on the agenda as long as there is no significant political breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, there is a wide range between full diplomatic relations and a total lack of contact, and the two countries can take advantage of this.
With the publication of the Fahd initiative in 1982, Saudi Arabia abandoned, at least officially, the policy that had until then rejected Israel’s right to exist. Following the Madrid conference in 1991, a certain rapprochement took place between the two countries, and they participated in five working groups to deal with regional issues  water, the environment, economics, refugees, and arms control. The Abdullah initiative of 2002, the basis for the Arab Peace Initiative, went a step further, promising Israel “normal relations” with the Arab and Muslim world if it met a number of conditions. Israel initially rejected the initiative as a basis for dialogue with the Arab world, though subsequently a number of senior Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, expressed support for the positive aspects of the initiative while mindful of the problematic issues (e.g., normal relations were made contingent on completion of the peace process, a withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines, and a solution of the refugee problem on the basis of UN General Assembly resolution 194).
Apart from the Abdullah initiative, Saudi Arabia has remained on the sidelines of attempts to promote the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians (and Syria as well). Perhaps, then, the initiative was intended to counter the kingdom’s negative image following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Oman and Qatar, which are generally outside the consensus in the Gulf Cooperation Council, had formal  albeit partial  relations with Israel. Israel had diplomatic missions in both countries that were ultimately closed in the wake of the second intifada and Operation Cast Lead.
Israel is enjoying a certain amount of access to markets in the Gulf, as long as the products do not have Israeli labels. On several occasions, the Saudis have announced that they have no intention of making another move that could be interpreted as a gesture toward Israel, and the kingdom has even pressured the small monarchies to follow suit. Similarly, in recent years the Gulf states have refused to comply with the US request to take confidence building measures toward Israel in order to create a supportive regional atmosphere for the Israeli-Palestinian political process. At the same time, however, WikiLeaks documents indicate an “ongoing and secret dialogue” on the Iranian issue. Likewise, it was reported that Israeli companies have assisted Gulf states through security consulting, training of local military forces, and sales of weapons and advanced systems and technologies. In addition, senior officials from both sides have held ongoing meetings in and outside the region. The reports also indicate that Israel has softened its policy on weapons exports to the Gulf states as well as its attempts to restrict sales of advanced weapons by the United States to the Gulf states, in part as a signal that it sees a potential for partnership more than a possible threat. In addition, Israel is enjoying a certain amount of access to markets in the Gulf, as long as the products do not have Israeli labels.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states recognize Israel’s military power as well as its close ties with the United States (and its influence in Congress), and they see the value in maintaining some level of coordination with it. However, normal relations  the Saudis’ preferred phrase  are not possible, they claim, as long as there is no significant breakthrough in the political process with the Palestinians. Yet if and when Israel and the Palestinians reach a full or partial political agreement, it is far from clear that this will necessarily lead to a “political spring” between Israel and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Over the years, Saudi Arabia has made demands by the West for reform, openness in relations with Israel, and a contribution to regional stability contingent, first of all, on a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the other hand, the peaceful but cold relations with Egypt and Jordan and the upheavals in the Arab world have to some extent harmed the wherewithal of any Israeli government to present “normalization” to the Israeli public as proper compensation for “painful” concessions in the political process.
To Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, the cost of open relations with Israel at this time may be higher than the benefit To Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, the cost of open relations with Israel at this time may be higher than the benefit, given the position of the Arab street, which rejects recognition of Israel and relations with it. The Arab monarchies in the Gulf are currently benefiting from the fact that covert, unofficial relations allow them to enjoy the advantages of ties with Israel without having to pay a price in public opinion, which has become more vocal since the outbreak of the Arab spring. In addition, common interests are not common values. To a certain extent, covert relations are also more comfortable for Israel: Israel as such need not confront the moral aspects of ties with absolutist monarchies, and can even present Saudi hostility as another barrier to the confidence building that is essential to promoting the peace process and producing the fruits of peace.
Some have argued recently that Saudi Arabia and Israel’s shared disappointment with President Obama’s policy toward Iran and Syria constitutes a convergence of interests for formulating some kind of partnership between the two countries. However, Israel would do well to distance itself as much as possible from initiatives to form a common front with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others against the Obama administration. The perception that there is a united front against the United States could harm relations with Israel’s primary ally, which in any case are in a sensitive period. Moreover, a growing threat from Iran will not necessarily make it easier for Saudi Arabia and Israel to cooperate. Shared interests do not denote an identical view of the strategic environment. Thus, for example, the agreement with Iran and the fear of the Islamic Republic could lead Saudi Arabia, for lack of any other option, to hedge closer to Iran in a measured fashion, and later, to be more vocal about the Israeli nuclear issue, since “if Iran, then why not Israel?” In addition, Saudi Arabia may hope for an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructures, but it harbors reservations about any appearance of operational cooperation with Israel, lest it be required to pay the price for an Israeli attack. And on a more basic level, there is a psychological and religious barrier that complicates confidence building between Saudi Arabia and Israel and the establishment of a stable infrastructure for relations, with limited potential gains.
While Saudi Arabia thus sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor undermining stability, it perceives Iran as its main security and ideological problem. Furthermore, the basis for understandings between Israel and Saudi Arabia has expanded following the interim nuclear agreement signed by the major powers and Iran, which was not viewed positively in Israel or Saudi Arabia, and the agreement to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons, which gave legitimacy and precious time to the Bashar Assad regime. In addition, there are shared interests in the need to curb Iranian influence, the illegitimacy of the Assad regime, the support for military council in Egypt, and the basic approach that relies on the United States. These common interests, together with the shared fear of the consequences of the Geneva agreement with Iran and an Iranian-American rapprochement, do not have the power to lead to open cooperation and normal relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but can strengthen the covert coordination and the understandings between them.
Moreover, even this form of relationship is important, especially since these are ties between states that do not officially recognize each other. Dialogue helps maintain regional stability, and will certainly not hurt in promoting a political settlement. Yet it is highly doubtful that Saudi Arabia, which purports to lead the Gulf states, will grant Israel the elements of normalization straight away, and any attempt to change the relations from covert to overt could damage them. True progress in the political process between Israel and the Palestinians may expand the basis of common interests and allow Israel to demand greater support from Saudi Arabia to promote political initiatives and assist in building the Palestinian state, even if a comprehensive permanent status agreement is not achieved.

Saudi sentences protester to 30 years over Bahrain
A Saudi court has sentenced a citizen to 30 years in prison for leading demonstrations in 2011 against a crackdown on Shiite Muslims in neighboring Bahrain.
The official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday that the man, whose name was not released, was also fined $40,000.
The Specialized Criminal Court in the capital, Riyadh, convicted the man of leading anti-government protests in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The protesters burned police cars and threw rocks and firebombs at security officers, demanding the withdrawal of Arab Gulf forces from Bahrain.
Protests erupted in eastern Saudi Arabia, home to most of the country's minority Shiites, the same year that Saudi-led Gulf forces intervened in Bahrain to quell Shiite-led riots that threatened to topple the tiny island nation's Sunni monarch.

Assad:Syria facing major extremist offensive: Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says his country is being confronted by a major offensive led by Takfiri extremists.
"This is terrorism without limits, an international scourge that could strike anywhere and anytime," The Syrian president said in a meeting with a delegation of academics, researchers and activists from Australia, who had come to express their solidarity with the Syrian government.
The president also slammed Western countries, who "behave with duplicity and act according to their selfish interests, without understanding the reality or nature" of the Syrian conflict.
Syria's official SANA news agency reported that the delegation was led by Tim Anderson, a Sydney academic opposed to foreign intervention in Syria.
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011. According to reports, Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria. According to the United Nations, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over two years. Two million more Syrians are expected to take refuge outside the country while another 2.25 million are predicted to be internally displaced next year.
Several international human rights organizations have said that the militants operating in Syria are committing war crimes.

Mandela’s struggles for peace and justice in Africa

By Lansana Gberie
On 27 November 1995, a calm voice issued this jarring statement on the BBC: “Abacha is sitting on a volcano. And I am going to explode it underneath him.” It belonged to Nelson Mandela. He was 77, and had already been president of South Africa for a year. Mandela was referring to General Sani Abacha, an obdurate and corrupt dictator in Nigeria who, in addition to still holding the winner of his country’s presidential election in solitary confinement, had just executed the writer and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists from oil-blighted Ogoniland. The nine had been condemned by a military tribunal.
Mandela was angry; Abacha had rebuffed Mandela’s studiously private and civilised appeal for the release of Saro-Wiwa and his fellow activists. By doing so, Abacha had drawn the battle line, stoking the fiery passion for justice still burning in the breast of the aged champion of freedom: to his end Mandela lived by the dictum, which he articulated with great eloquence at his trial at Rivonia in 1964, that though he abhorred violence, he was willing to employ it to fight “tyranny, exploitation, and oppression”.
Mandela had to back down from his hard-line stance against Abacha amidst pressure from the “realists” in his government who were concerned that a newly liberated South Africa was on a collision course with some of those who had been among the staunchest backers of his African National Congress (ANC) during the terrible years of apartheid.
It was this vision that saw him in 1961 travel to almost all of independent Africa, drumming up support for his fledging armed struggle; it was out of this experience that he settled on his great legacy for the world: reconciliation and redistributive, rather than retributive, justice after the experience of tyranny and war—what has now (somewhat uneasily) become the sprawling and protean field of transitional justice. “I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people,” Mandela told the judges at his trial at Rivonia on 20 April 1964, “because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said.” He was not and never wanted to be seen as a pacifist: for him freedom and justice were worth fighting and dying for. His harsh journey from prison to the presidency enabled him to pursue his vision, which afterward needed to be broadly applied across Africa. The government of Abacha, secure in oil wealth and facing a fractured opposition whose leadership preferred comfortable exile to the necessary task of national leadership, was the first setback to Mandela’s vision in 1995. The following year he was appointed chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional economic bloc, and that brought him to confront an even more onerous problem: Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) was fast sliding into chaos under its long-term kleptocrat, Mobutu Sese Seko. Nothing could stop this slide, and the problems of that massive, unwieldy country still remain largely unresolved.
Such setbacks tested the nerve of the old warrior, so that when an electoral crisis in tiny Lesotho, which looks like a dot inside South Africa on a map, threatened to lead to a civil war in September 1998, Mandela quickly authorised military intervention. Though unpopular and messy—the South African forces, never completely weaned of the brutality of their past, sometimes carried out gratuitous attacks on civilians and local infrastructure—the intervention did succeed in preventing civil war.
It was, however, Mandela’s work on Burundi that assures his legacy as a peacemaker in Africa. Aging and in poor health, Mandela took over in December 1999 the position of chief negotiator of the long-running conflict in Burundi, after the death of Julius Nyerere, the erstwhile holder of the position. Peace, like freedom, like democracy, in Mandela’s clear-sighted and dignified vision, is a positive attribute: the conditions for its full enjoyment must be established before it is possible. This vision recalled his address to his judges at Rivonia in 1964: such was his principled consistency. “During my lifetime,” he said, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”
Burundi needed this breath of fresh air. Like its far more famous twin, neighbouring Rwanda, the country had been beset by ethnic conflict since gaining independence, first from Belgium as a United Nations Trust Territory on 1 July 1962, and then as a country on 1 July 1966. Communal fighting, mainly along Hutu-Tutsi lines, has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people over the decades. When the plane carrying Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwanda’s President Juvénal Habyarimana (both of them Hutu) was shot down over Kigali on 6 April 1994, widespread ethnic violence exploded once again. It was this event that triggered the genocide in Rwanda. Mandela, not yet in power when the plane was shot down, must have been particularly horrified by the genocide, which tended, in some people’s view, to undercut the great hopes that his election had unleashed for Africa.
Mandela helped hammer out the Arusha Accord that was signed on August 2000, and he caused to be deployed a large South African force to lead African Union peacekeepers in the country. (On 21 May 2004, by its resolution 1545, the UN Security Council established the UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB), which took over leadership of the African Union forces.)
The African Renaissance, an idea popularised by Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki and one that Mandela fully supported, has certainly not yet been realised. There are still petty wars and petty tyrannies, not to mention an unequal global economic and political system, holding the continent back. But Mandela’s life and work for the continent suggested that it is possible.

Netherlands sees rise in homeless people

The number of homeless people in the Netherlands increased in recent years, according to figures from the Central Bureau for Statistics published Monday. In 2012, 27,000 people living on the streets compared to 23,000 in 2010. Big cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and the Hague accounted for most of the homeless people. The survey included people whose primary nighttime residence was a homeless shelter, people who live on the streets or temporarily stay with friends or family. Most of the homeless people were men; only one out of five people living on the streets were women. Many of the homeless were non-western immigrants. The waiting lists for people using homeless shelters have grown considerably in recent years, while at the same time many municipalities plan to cut budgets for homeless shelters, Dutch media reported.

Remembrance: In Bilour’s death, Pukhtuns lost a great leader, says Asfandyar

“Bashir Bilour’s death was a great loss for Pukhtuns, creating a deep void in leadership,” said Asfandyar Wali Khan, Awami National Party’s (ANP) senior leader on Sunday. Asfandyar was addressing party workers and politicians in Nishtar Hall at an event commemorating Bashir’s first death anniversary. Asfandyar asked Pukhtuns to come together to uphold the legacy and sacrifices made by Bacha Khan, Wali Khan and 700 Pukhtuns who died in the upheaval following America’s invasion of Afghanistan. Senior provincial minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour and eight others died in a suicide blast in Qissa Khwani Bazaar on December 22, 2012. Bashir was the second senior politician who was assassinated following Benazir Bhutto’s death on December 27, 2007. At the town-hall style gathering, Asfandyar’s announcement that December 22 will be commemorated every year as ‘the day of Shaheed Bashir’ was met with a resounding ‘long live Bashir Bilour.’ Ghulam Ahmad Bilour also paid homage to his younger brother. “My brother did not have any personal enmity with the Taliban; he was fighting a war for this nation and he fought with great bravery,” said Ghulam. “I ask the Taliban to not target Pukhtuns anymore as they cannot benefit from slaughtering innocent Pukhtuns.” On NATO, drones and Hazara province Asfandyar, who was also the former chief of the ANP, stressed the “nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan” need to devise a concrete policy to deal with the post-Nato withdrawal situation. “Everything in Afghanistan has already been destroyed – there is nothing left to destroy further.” He postulated it was now Pakistan, especially Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s, turn to face destruction, referring to escalating militancy in the region. The ANP will support dialogue with the Taliban, reiterated Asfandyar. Facing the public after a brief hiatus, the senior ANP figure took the opportunity to discuss the party’s stance on both provincial and national issues. Publicly denouncing drone strikes, Asfandyar stated the ANP was the first party ever to hold demonstrations against the foreign strikes, in Bajaur Agency. “The Uzbek, Tajik, Chechen, Arab and people from other parts of the world have come here, and are participating in the insurgency, killing our children – why is Imran Khan silent about it? Are they not killing innocent people?” questioned Asfandyar. Discussing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Nato supply line blockade, he said, “The purpose of blocking Nato routes is to present Pukhtuns as extremists to the world,” alleged Asfandyar. “People come from Multan, Lahore, Mianwali to block routes in Peshawar; why can’t they stop Nato trucks in other parts of the country?” According to Asfandyar, the notion of a “Hazara province” is a conspiracy against Pukhtuns, “We will never allow further division; we are in Batagram, Mansehra, Torghar, Shangla and even in Haripur. Pukhtuns live in all main areas of Hazara division.” Both Kalabagh Dam and a separate Hazara province were termed as a conspiracy against the country and the unity of Pukhtuns. “We will never allow the construction of Kalabagh Dam – Pakistan and Kalabagh cannot coexist,” warned the senior leader. He was supported by Ghulam and other leaders present at the event. Former Azad Kashmir prime minister Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan also addressed the party workers and lauded the services of late Bashir Bilour. The central leadership of the party, including Afrasiab Khattak, Haji Adeel, Tajuddin, Mian Iftikhar Husain, party coordinator Bashir Matta, former chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, and others were also present at the occasion.


Sanu Nehar Wale Pul Te Bula Ke-NOOR JAHAN



Noor Jahan - The song I love the MOST!

Death anniversary of legendary singer Noor Jehan on Dec 23
The death anniversary of legendary singer Malika-e-Tarannum Noor Jehan observed on December 23.
Madam Noor Jehan, also known as `Melody Queen' was born in the Kasur district on September 21, 1926. She is considered to be the greatest film and music personality of all time of the Pakistan show business. Madam Noor Jehan started her film career at the young age of nine and soon became a renowned child artist. As she grew older she became famous for her acting and singing in Indian movies. She was the first female to direct a movie and debuted with her film "Chann We" in 1951. Her last film was "Ghalib", which was released in 1961. Madam Noor Jehan ruled the film industry for more than 35 years and sung appropriately six thousand songs for Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi films. Not only was she a celebrated playback singer but also a gifted Ghazal singer. With rigorous training in classical music, Noor Jehan employed the essential features necessary to present the ghazal in an exceptional manner.

Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley awaits the next fight with the Taliban

By David Zucchino
As U.S. troops prepare to leave, former militia members eye their weapons, doubtful the Afghan army will keep the Taliban at bay.
Astride his dappled gray stallion, Mohammad Karim looked like a weathered warrior, though he wielded a grain sack instead of a carbine.
Decades ago, Karim was a mujahid, a mountain tribesman who took up arms against Soviet soldiers and, later, the Taliban. Now 45, with white whiskers beneath his pakol, a traditional Afghan hat, he is again prepared to fight if his beloved Panjshir Valley is threatened. "If the Taliban tries to come back, we'll fight them and kill them," he said, as he rode his horse near the shimmering blue Panjshir River and hillside trees streaked with autumn gold. "We have plenty of weapons, believe me." There is talk of war now amid the dark gorges and snowcapped peaks of Panjshir, in northern Afghanistan, one of only two provinces never conquered by the Taliban when it ruled the country. With U.S. and other foreign combat troops withdrawing next year, many Panjshiris don't trust the Afghan army to hold back the insurgents. They say they have the weapons — and the will — to do it themselves.
A hundred miles south in Kabul, some former mujahedin warlords who fought beside Panjshiris against the Taliban also are threatening to revive their militias. Resentful that many Panjshiris and other strongmen of the old U.S.-backed Northern Alliance have been marginalized by President Hamid Karzai, they want their heavy weapons back. "No need for that" in Panjshir, cracked Abdul Khalil, a Panjshiri and former guerrilla fighter in Safid Shir, a muddy Panjshir farming village that lost scores of men to the Taliban. "We already have all the weapons we need."
Many Afghans say such talk is mostly bluster by aging warlords. But there is genuine concern that a poor showing by former mujahedin in April's national elections could trigger cries of fraud and a return to the savage civil warfare of the early 1990s. Afghans also are anxious about security because of Karzai's refusal to sign a post-2014 security agreement with Washington that would leave U.S. training forces in the country and continue billions of dollars in military and reconstruction aid. The street price of an AK-47 rifle, always a barometer of public fear, has risen recently to almost $1,400 from $1,000, compared with about $400 a decade ago. A senior officer with the NATO-led coalition said Afghan army commanders aren't overly concerned about fading warlords. But he predicted that calls for a return to the violent mujahedin era will remain an election undercurrent. "This country has a history of militias, so the idea of a single army on behalf of a sovereign state is a new concept for Afghans," the officer said. Panjshir was the domain of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir" and Northern Alliance commander. Massoud was assassinated by Al Qaeda suicide bombers two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan. Backed by U.S. airstrikes and special forces, the alliance helped topple the Taliban government three months later. Panjshiris dominated Karzai's first government in the early 2000s. Ninety of the first 100 army generals appointed by the first defense minister, Panjshiri warlord Mohammad Qasim Fahim, were Panjshiris. Karzai ultimately replaced many Northern Alliance warlords of all ethnicities with Pashtun technocrats, many of whom had returned from exile in the West. The former alliance turned against Karzai, said Atiqullah Baryalai, a former Panjshiri commander forced out by Karzai as deputy defense minister.
"The Panjshiris want to be seen as leaders of the national resistance" to the Taliban, said Baryalai, seated beneath a large portrait of Massoud in the salon of his Kabul compound. "They would never turn against the army, but they would fight the Taliban alone if it came to that.
"The Panjshiris are very special people when it comes to defending their homeland."
Most Afghan warlords disbanded their militias and surrendered heavy weapons under U.S. pressure. But Afghan security experts say the Panjshir militias never fully disarmed, stashing weapons in mountain caches. Panjshiris and other mujahedin criticize Karzai as too eager to negotiate with the Taliban. ***
Panjshir has always been a place apart, an ethnic Tajik enclave in the Hindu Kush with a wary eye on the polyglot capital, Kabul. Bumper stickers here proclaim "United State of Panjshir." It is one of the few Afghan provinces with a border station where officials log outsiders' names and license plates.
It's a stunning landscape of snowcapped peaks and orchards where men on horseback are a common sight, dressed in long, striped chapan cloaks with extended sleeves. They are fiercely independent.
"The Americans will go, the foreigners will go, but we will always be responsible for defending ourselves," said Haji Sediq, an elderly former warrior who fought the Russians and lost friends to the Taliban. He sat next to the rusted remains of a Soviet tank that Panjshiris keep as a reminder of outside threats.
Among the fiercest advocates of rearming is Ismail Khan, a former Northern Alliance commander and Panjshiri ally. Khan, 65, a Tajik, was forced out by Karzai as the self-appointed emir of Herat province in western Afghanistan, and he seethes with resentment. With his thick white beard, piercing eyes and white robes, Khan is a forbidding figure as he speaks in a drawing room of his heavily guarded Kabul compound. The U.S.-trained Afghan military can't defeat the Taliban, he said, without the backing of mujahedin militias like his own.
"I have thousands and thousands of people loyal to me, and it is their duty to be well-armed," Khan said. "It's not just the Panjshiris, but all the people of Afghanistan who want to take up weapons in our country's fight against the Taliban."
At a rally in Herat last year, Khan exhorted his followers to rearm, recruit new fighters and rebuild militia commands. Khan is a candidate for vice president in the April election. His presidential running mate is Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a former Northern Alliance warlord and extremist Islamist cleric and Taliban foe who has been accused of war crimes. Sayyaf also advocates rearming militias. A former top security advisor to Karzai agrees that Panjshiris are stockpiling weapons and says they have opened up arms pipelines to India and Russia.
"Karzai long ago lost the Northern Alliance — politically, not militarily. Not yet," the former advisor said. "These people are well-armed, with access to heavy weapons."
If the security pact with the United States is not signed, the advisor said, "you'll see the weapons come out." In Panjshir, former mujahedin say the Taliban will never penetrate their enclave. But like many other Afghans, they worry about a Taliban resurgence if the security pact fails or the election goes badly.
In May, seven Taliban suicide bombers detonated explosives at the provincial government and police center in Bazarak, the Panjshiri provincial capital. The Afghan army was so concerned this summer about a Taliban incursion from neighboring Warduj district that it mounted a major strike force to beat back advancing insurgents. The Afghan military "could not allow the Taliban to gain influence in Warduj," the senior coalition officer said. "It feeds into the northeast end of the Panjshir Valley, which feeds directly into Kabul."
Panjshiris long for the past and complain that lesser warlords abandoned the province to amass fortunes in Kabul, and that the U.S. has failed to provide roads, schools and clinics. Panjshiris also resent Americans for renaming their militias, initially called the United Islamic Front, to mask their religious foundation. In Bazarak, Habibul Rahman, 45, said America had done nothing for Panjshir, while failing to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. He mentioned schools, a hospital and soccer stadium he said were built by the Karzai government thanks to early Panjshiri influence in Kabul.
Told that local projects were financed by billions of dollars in U.S. and international aid, Rahman seemed surprised. Then he shrugged and said, "OK, the Americans built us a road, but it's already full of holes." As a mujahid, Rahman said, he fought the Taliban to keep it from overrunning Panjshir. Now, he said, Panjshiris are ready to take up arms again.
"The Americans? They should leave," he said. "We're the ones who will destroy the Taliban.",0,2142074.story#ixzz2oIjT8Fbt

Analysis: Even if foreign troops leave Afghanistan, U.S. has some options

U.S. officials have warned of the potential for catastrophe if Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails to sign a security pact to permit foreign forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
Unless a deal is reached to enable a modest U.S. force of perhaps 8,000 to stay in the country, the Taliban might stage a major comeback, al Qaeda might regain safe havens and Afghan forces might find themselves starved of funding, the officials say. The post-2014 U.S. force envisioned would train and assist Afghan soldiers and go after the most dangerous militants.
But even if the Obama administration abruptly pulls out its entire force of 43,000 a year from now, it would still retain a handful of limited security options in Afghanistan.
While U.S. officials have not discussed a possible post-withdrawal scenario in public, the United States might still, even under those circumstances, continue to provide small-scale support to local forces, mount some special forces missions, and use drones to counter al Qaeda and help keep the Taliban at bay. A narrowed security mission would in many ways track a decade-long shift in U.S. strategy, away from the counter-insurgency campaigns of the 2000s toward the Obama administration's preference for low-profile support to local forces combined with occasional targeted operations. Even so, full withdrawal of the main U.S. force would make it more difficult to prevent al Qaeda militants regrouping along the wild Afghanistan-Pakistan border and to stop the Taliban from solidifying control of its southern Afghan heartland. "We have a lot of capabilities, but without the (Bilateral Security Agreement), we are very limited," a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity, referring to the bilateral pact the United States is seeking with Karzai. For now, U.S. officials remain hopeful - in public at least - that Karzai will drop last-minute demands and sign the pact well before Afghan elections in April. They say they have not begun to plan for a full withdrawal or a possible post-withdrawal mission in earnest. But General Joseph Dunford, who commands international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul recently that, "If there's not an answer in December, I expect that we'll begin to do some more detailed planning about some other eventuality besides the (post-2014) mission." To understand what options the United States might have in Afghanistan following a full withdrawal, "you can look to places where we are already active countering terrorism, like Iraq, Libya, Somalia," another U.S. defense official said.
Even if all foreign troops do withdraw from Afghanistan, the United States might still send small numbers of special forces, such as Green Berets, to do limited, short-term training missions at the request of Afghan officials. They might also launch occasional raids against militants, as they have in Libya or Somalia. "This is a model that's used around the world," the first defense official said. In October, U.S. forces seized Abu Anas al-Liby, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies, in Tripoli, Libya. It is unclear what sort of authority it received from the Libyan government. The same weekend, U.S. special forces launched an operation against an al Shabaab militant in Somalia but failed to capture him, U.S. officials said. In Iraq, following the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011, the United States set up a large security office attached to its embassy in Baghdad to oversee military sales and provide limited support and advising to the Iraqi government. U.S. special forces have also been invited to return to Iraq to provide counterterrorism and intelligence support to Iraqi forces, the general who headed that office said last year, according to a report in the New York Times. The U.S. military also is providing some training and equipment to security forces in Yemen, defense officials have said, as the Obama administration seeks to weaken al Qaeda and other militants in the Arabian Peninsula.
Robert Grenier, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency's Counterterrorism Center, said that if withdrawal of the main U.S. force from Afghanistan becomes necessary, the United States should consider putting some special forces under CIA authority to train local forces or perform limited counter-terrorism activities, possibly along with some members of the CIA's small paramilitary force. "The U.S. footprint would be much smaller, and we would have many fewer capabilities. But it might not be a bad thing," Grenier said. A light U.S. footprint would give Afghan forces more of a leadership role in pursuing militants than they have had in the past, he said. Retaining even a very narrow ability to support elite Afghan soldiers could be especially important if plans for a larger training mission collapse along with U.S. efforts to finalize the security pact. Top U.S. officials have warned that the $4 billion a year in outside aid promised for Afghan forces would be less likely to materialize if the full departure of foreign troops limits lawmakers' ability to track U.S. aid. The administration would also have to rethink much of its development aid as well as its diplomatic strategy if U.S. troops depart. Without outside help, Afghanistan's central government will likely lack the means to pay police and soldiers, encouraging a fracturing of its military along ethnic or regional lines. "The biggest risk if we go to the zero option is that the Afghan military falls apart, and then the Afghan state falls apart," said retired Lieutenant General David Barno, who commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2003-2005.
The United States would likely seek approval from future Afghan leaders for most or all of post-withdrawal training activities and counter-terrorism activities - possibly including the use of drones, which have been a defining feature of the Obama administration security strategy in far-flung places. President Barack Obama said in May that he hoped progress against al Qaeda and other militants would "reduce the need for unmanned strikes" in the Afghan war theater by next year. However, the lack of a sizeable U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan could mean that drones become one of the few remaining tools the United States has against militant groups in the region. Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said it would be very difficult to continue the drone program if Karzai's successors decide against allowing launches from Afghan soil after foreign troops withdraw. Central Asian nations that might allow such flights are too distant from likely target areas, while the U.S. military currently has only limited ability to operate drones from ships in the Arabian Sea or elsewhere.
"Short of receiving basing access from a neighboring state, and overt overflight support from Afghanistan and Pakistan, it would be a very difficult operational risk to conduct drone strikes into Afghanistan or Pakistan," Zenko said.
In 2011, Pakistan's then-defense minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, said his government had asked the United States to vacate an air base in southwest Pakistan he said was used to launch U.S. drone flights. Grenier said Pakistan might be willing to allow future drone launches, provided it was given substantial control over drone activities and targets. "Under those circumstances, the politics surrounding Pakistani sovereignty might not be a big issue," he said.

ANP leader Asfandyar calls for joint fight against terrorism

The Awami National Party (ANP) leader, Asfandyar Wali Khan, has called for a joint Pakistan-Afghanistan strategy for restoring lasting peace in the militancy-plagued region.
At a ceremony marking the first death anniversary of ex-minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour in Peshawar, Khan asked rulers of the two countries to stem the tide of terrorism through comprehensive combined measures
“We seek an end to (US) drone attacks but we are also opposed to the movement of militants along Pakistan’s border and their sanctuaries in tribal areas,” he said, adding they were trying to unite Pakhtuns.
The ANP was still in favour of holding dialogue with the militants, but the government should take decisive steps in this regard as further delay could cause more bloodshed, the Pakhtun nationalist observed.
Bilour and eight others died in a suicide blast in Qissa Khwani Bazaar on December 22, 2012. He was the second senior politician assassinated after Benazir Bhutto’s death on December 27, 2007.
"Pakistan and Afghanistan need to devise a concrete policy to deal with the post-NATO withdrawal situation. Everything in Afghanistan has already been destroyed; there is nothing left to destroy further," he said.
"Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Arabs and people from other parts of the world have come here and are participating in the insurgency, killing our children..."
Ghulam Bilour, Bashir Bilour's elder brother and ANP stalwart, appealed to the Taliban to shun violence and stop killing of Pakhtuns. He recalled days before his assassination Bashir had advised his wife not to see his face if he received injuries in his back (a sign of timidity to Pakhtuns).

Pakistan: Polio drive postponed in Balochistan

Polio drive in twenty districts of Balochistan has been called off, Anti polio campaign was scheduled to start on 23 Dec, health sources said here on Monday. Home department requested the health officials to postpone the drive contending that it would be difficult to make drive a success on the eve of two holidays ie Chehulum of Karbala martyrs (24 Dec) and Jinnah’s Birth anniversary (25 Dec). Health department official said that next schedule for polio drive would be announced within couple of days.

Peshawar: All Saints church still bears scars of September bombing
All Saints church still bears the physical scars of the September 22 bombing.
For Christians in Pakistan s troubled, violent northwestern city Peshawar, Christmas this year will be dominated by absent faces.
Eighty-two people were killed when a devastating double suicide attack targeted their place of worship three months ago. All Saints church still bears the physical scars of the September 22 bombing, believed to be the deadliest ever against Muslim-majority Pakistan s small Christian community.
Two bombers blew themselves up in the courtyard of the church as worshippers exchanged greetings after a service in an attack that horrified even a country as hardened to violence as Pakistan. The courtyard walls are still peppered with holes gouged by the hundreds of ragged metal ball bearings that were packed into the explosive vests to cause maximum carnage.
Inside the church, a clock is stopped at 11:43 -- the time the bombers struck and for some worshippers the pain of that day is still fresh.
Anwar Khokhar, 53, lost six members of his family in the attack, including three of his brothers. For him, the season that for most Christians represents hope and happiness brings no joy but only a keener sense of the bitterness of his loss. "As Christmas gets nearer I miss them more and more. I miss them as much as it is possible to miss anyone," he told AFP after attending the last Sunday service before Christmas. "I miss our relatives so sadly, one of my brothers especially. It s so hard that he s not with us this Sunday and especially at Christmas." In his sermon the vicar, Reverend Ejaz Gill, tried to offer comfort, saying the victims are at peace and will join with their loved ones spiritually to celebrate Christmas. But for some the wounds are still too fresh and after the service a group of women gathered to weep in the courtyard, which is adorned with colour posters of the dead, stifling tears in their brightly-coloured "Sunday best" headscarves. One woman in particular was inconsolable, burying her face in one of the posters showing a bright-eyed teenage girl, sobbing uncontrollably.
The seemingly senseless slaughter of so many innocent civilians shocked Pakistan and it is still not clear who carried out the attack.
After an initial claim by a militant outfit allied to the Pakistani Taliban, the group s main spokesman denied any link. Christians have suffered attacks and riots in recent years over allegations of blasphemy, often spurious, but bombings such as the All Saints blast are very rare. They make up just two percent of Pakistan s overwhelmingly Muslim population of 180 million and most are poor, relegated to dirty, undesirable jobs. Being a small community they are close-knit and as housewife Nasreen Anwar explained, almost no Christian in Peshawar was untouched by September s carnage.
"In every family, one or two people were killed, so how can we celebrate Christmas? There will be no happiness," she told AFP. Anwar, 35, lost her 14-year-old daughter in the blast while her nine-year-old daughter was so badly wounded she now uses a colostomy bag and faces further surgery in the new year. "But everyone shared our sorrow -- Christian, Muslim came to our homes and shared our sorrows," she said. Gill agreed the tragedy had brought the community closer together. "We are not fractured. After the blasts it united us, not only the Christians of Peshawar but Christians all over Pakistan and the world came and showed their support for us," he told AFP. Security at the church has been stepped up since the attacks, with extra guards manning the gateway through the thick blast walls and barbed wire and a fingerprint-scan entry system installed but not yet operational. Gill is still waiting for the one million rupees ($10,000) the government promised to repair the damage to the church, built in the 1880s.
But even when the walls are pristine again, it will take rather longer to heal the emotional scars of his traumatised congregation.

Increase electricity rates, tax base: IMF tells Pakistan
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved the second tranche of 550 million dollars to Pakistan under the 6.6 billion dollar loan programme but has also handed over a list of demands. The IMF has demanded from the Pakistan government to increase the price of electricity in the country and directed that its impact should not be felt on the underprivileged. According to the Acting head of the IMF Executive Board Nemat Shafiq, electricity rates would have to be increased in Pakistan to take pressure off the government incurred due to the subsidy. Shafiq further said that reforms in the energy sector should continue. Shafiq added that problems in the tax collection system should be resolved and measures should be taken to increase the tax base in Pakistan.

‘Over 50 groups of extortionists active in Peshawar’

The incidents of kidnapping, threatening the well-off people through bomb blasts and hurling hand grenades at their houses for extortion of money have become a routine in the provincial metropolis though many gangs involved in such crimes have been busted during the past few weeks in the district. Terrorists have focused on accumulation of wealth and the latest way is to call for payment of extortion and in case of refusal attack houses of the targeted people through IEDs and hand grenades, sources say. They said that various groups were active in Peshawar, using Afghan SIMs to call the people first and those avoiding the payment were targeted through hand grenades or improvised explosive devices to terrorise them. A source said that a group of militants belonging to Adezai village was also involved in extortion and one of its members was recently killed in encounter near Khatko Pul area. The source said that over 50 groups were active in parts of the district and they had carried out at least 35 attacks during the past two months. He said that some of them had links with militants while the rest had different priorities. In many cases, police said that relatives and business rivals obtained the services of outlaws for scaring their competitors in various fields. Some of the victims avoided narrating their stories for fear of reprisal, but confirmed they had received calls for payment of extortion. One of them, a businessman, said that he had been asked to pay Rs5 million or face the wrath of alleged Taliban. “I didn’t pay heed to the call and few days later they attacked my residence with a hand grenade,” he said. SSP Najeebur Rehman told Dawn that 46 outlaws involved in extortion were arrested. They belonged to different groups and most of them were Afghans, he added. “We have seized 18,000 unregistered SIMs during a raid recently and arrested the accused, but police faced problems to stop its activation due to lack of MoU or treaty with Afghan government in this regard,” he said. The SSP said that the criminals seemed to be there but the location they were talking from showed to be in Afghanistan or tribal regions. Besides, he said, in record the population of Peshawar was 3.8 million, but due to shifting of Afghans and IDPs it had reached 6.5 million wherein criminals could easily change locations. The official said that victims avoided registration of FIRs and police had to request them for sharing information about the calls. SP Ismail Kharak told this correspondent that the main target of the criminals was the businessmen, who belonged to tribal regions especially Mohmand Agency. He claimed that those arrested so far were either Afghan nationals or IDPs, saying at least 20 per cent of them had used Afghan SIMs.

Brain drain: 2.7m Pakistanis have exited country in last 5 years

The Express Tribune
A total of 2,765,789 citizens, including 31,607 from Balochistan, have proceeded abroad for employment opportunities over the last five years, state the latest figures released by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development. According to the figures from January 2008 to September 2013, the selection of the workers was prerogative of the foreign employers which is based on the criteria “right person for the right job”. In an earlier report, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis had stated that 5,873,539 Pakistanis have emigrated from 1981 to 2012, out of which a staggering 41,498 professional and technical workers left in 2012 alone. The reasons may be varied, but Pakistan will lose out on human resource if the brain drain trend continues. The trend becomes more evident as the amount of remittances overseas Pakistanis send to their families residing in Pakistan keeps growing each year. Expatriate and overseas Pakistanis sent home a record $13.920 billion in the previous fiscal year (July 2012-June 2013), according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan. The figures show a growth of 5.56% or $733.64 million compared with $13.187 billion a year earlier. The top six destinations are Saudi Arabia, UAE, USA, UK, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) and EU countries, with Saudi Arabia topping the list because of the $4.105 billion Pakistanis sent back home from there between July 2012-June 2013.

In Pakistan, one school of thought dominating entire curriculum
There is a strong case for revisiting Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s speech on August 11, 1947 to the first Constituent Assembly in Pakistan, the tapes of which India handed over to Pakistan Radio in September.
Some school textbooks in Pakistan have distorted with abandon the speech , according to a new study by Prof A H Nayyar titled “A Missed Opportunity: Continuing Flaws in the New Curriculum and Textbooks after Reforms.”
Jinnah had said, “You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan …. We are all citizens and equal citizens of one state… Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”
The National Curriculum 2006 relegates Jinnah’s speech to a mere call for freedom of faith, writes Prof. Nayyar in his study for the Jinnah Institute which analysed the content of 27 Urdu textbooks and 30 English textbooks from class one to ten. Textbook writers have depicted the Quaid’s words to only mean that in the new state, religious minorities will enjoy the same rights as the majority, not telling students that the Quaid didn’t want religion to have anything to do with the state.
‘Islamic ideology’
The National Curriculum also inserted an ideological component to Pakistan’s foreign policy where none exists. For instance, Pakistan Studies for class ten says “In Pakistan, ideology and foreign policy are intertwined. Pakistan is an ideological state and is based on Islamic ideology.”
Authors have also been selective about historical facts. In describing the events of 1971, Prof. Nayyar says “Our textbooks put the entire blame on Hindus of East Pakistan, and never mention the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military and its collaborators.”
The textbooks based on the New Curriculum 2006, which came into force in 2012 due to various delays, suffers from three serious flaws, says Prof Nayyar. One, it violates the constitutional protection available to the country’s non-Muslim citizens; two, it demands a narration of ideological basis of the country and the history woven around it; and three, it adds content to the learning material that is contrary to fact. The resulting learning is hugely problematic, he points out. These form the first step in telling non Muslims that this country is not theirs, the study says.

Pakistan to face yearly loss of $145 million

With the Kishenganga debacle in The Hague court, Pakistan is to brave loss of $145 million every year for the power lost in Neelum-Jhelum (N-J) project following massive reduction in water flows.
More significantly, in drought conditions, as faced in 2001, Pakistan will face a loss of more than $544 million every year, Wapda officials told The News. This will be a huge loss to Pakistan’s strategic project’s financial viability, they said but did not dare to offer more comments on the development. However, they said that a thorough probe should be initiated against Pakistan’s team of legal and technical experts that failed to plead the case in an effective manner of the low riparian country.
“And on top of it, a more shocking development is that India plans to construct 10 more hydropower projects upstream Wullar lake that would inflict more damage to Pakistan’s water interests,” they confided to The News.
When contacted, eminent water and energy expert Arshad H Abbasi, presently associated as an adviser with SDPI (Sustainable Development Policy Institute), said the decision by the international court was a disaster for Pakistan not only for electricity generation capacity of the Neelum-Jheulm project but also for the ecology of the beautiful Neelum Valley.
Mr Abbasi, who has also been the part of track-2 diplomacy with India on water issues came down heavily on Pakistan’s legal team and experts arguing that Article 90 of decision of the Hague court speaks a lot about ineptness of Pakistan’s team that clearly says: “Pakistan has submitted no data on current or anticipated agricultural uses of water from the Kishenganga/Neelum. Pakistan has, however, stated that future development in the Neelum Valley will be contingent on the increased use of lift irrigation from the river and on a move away from subsistence agriculture. The parties disagree as to whether such potential future uses are relevant to the determination of the minimum flow.”
He said this is enough evidence to initiate a probe against the Pakistani team and put their names in the ECL.In case they are proven guilty, then a high treason case should be filed against them as they have compromised the vital water interests of the country. To a question, he said Pakistan receives 2.4 million acre feet of water every year if the average releases of water in last 30 years are kept in view. With diversion of water by India, Pakistan will be deprived of 45 percent of 2.45MAF water and in drought years, the country will be deprived of 90% of 2.4MAF.
Pakistan is going to complete by December 2015 the Rs278 billion Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower project in AJK on the Neelum River with the capacity to generate 969MW of electricity.
This means that the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower project is to produce 5,178 million units of electricity annually, but the diversion of water will negatively impact the flow of 58.4 cubic metres per second if India continues to undertake the Kishenganga hydropower project. The Kishenganga River is called the Neelum River in Pakistan, and a river that was named for its deep blue waters, will have significantly reduced water flows.Mr Abbasi said the Pakistani counsel and team seemed to be jubilant over the decision, and the former Adviser to the Prime Minister on Water and Agriculture Resources, Kamal Majeedullah, and Pakistan’s agent in Kishenganga case has been quoted as saying that the decision ruled “overwhelmingly in Pakistan’s favour.”
The newly elected government has also fallen into the trap of the same team, which had spoiled the whole case, he said.Abbasi apprehended stating the untruth that Pakistan had won the case, perhaps the legal team was trying to save face. “But the facts are incontrovertible according to which the court ruled in favour of India.”
When contacted, former Wapda chairman and well know water expert Shamsul Mulk said that he had not yet gone through the detailed verdict of the Hague court, but he will be able to speak on the subject after two days.However, he said that now time has come to speak the truth with the nation and the government should not hide the facts.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Malik Ishaq, Farooqi involved in murders of Allama Nasir Abbas, Shams Muavia
Intelligence Community believes that Malik Ishaq and Aurangzeb Farooqi of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba/Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were involved in the assassinations of their Punjab chapter chief Shams Muavia and renowned Shia scholar Allama Nasir Abbas.
Tamir-e-Pakistan website disclosed that Shams Muavia fell prey to the intra-party differences. Karachi-based notorious Yazidi terrorist was in Lahore and discussed the murder of Shams Muavia in a covert meeting with Malik Ishaq at Jamia Manzoor ul Islamia. Soon after, Shams Muavia was eliminated.
Ahmed Ludhianvi heads outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba’s renamed version Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat and Malik Ishaq and Farooqi have joined the renamed ASWJ but they did not inform Ludhianvi of that meeting. Malik Ishaq wants to strengthen his position in the ASWJ.
His group then shot martyred Allama Nasir Abbas in a bid to spark off Shia-Deobandi war in Pakistan.
Punjab Government and PMLN government at the Centre have already joined hands with the pro-Taliban ASWJ because Malik Ishaq and Ludhianvi mediated with Punjabi Taliban and wooed them not to target PMLN in Punjab.

Pakistan: General Raheel Sharif’s truth

Recent events in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) point to the hotbed of terrorist insurgents the area has become incrementally over time. A military check post at Mirali was hit by an explosives laden suicide truck attack the other day while the soldiers were saying their prayers. Five soldiers were killed and 34 wounded. The rescue party evacuating the dead and injured was also ambushed, which invited a counter-attack by the military in which the attackers were finally killed after a prolonged firefight that has given rise to claims that civilians, including women and children were killed as collateral damage. ISPR denies this, pointing out that operational commanders are under strict orders to avoid civilian casualties. The military’s effective response appears to be a departure from previous practice, which was reinforced by local understandings with militant groups of a ‘live and let live’ type. It is being reported that the attackers were Uzbeks and Turkmens, many of whom have made FATA, and particularly NWA, their home for many decades stretching back to the origins of the Afghan wars. ISPR has also stated that this was a localized self-defence action and does not signal the start of a generalized offensive in NWA, something many knowledgeable observers have been demanding for many years, but which has proved a nettle the military is reluctant to grasp. Under former COAS General Kayani, the military’s posture appeared to revolve around the fallout of such an operation as well as the necessity of ownership of any such move by the political leadership. Then and now, that ownership appeared conspicuous by its absence, morphing since the new government came to power into harping on about talks as the preferred option to bring peace, with lately Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ‘conceding’ the possibility of ‘other measures’ if the talks fail. All the eggs the government (and Imran Khan) have put into this talks basket have not so far hatched any chicks, not the least because the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has rejected any notion of engaging in talks since they are convinced a military operation is in the offing. If even at a stretch it is conceived that the TTP was willing in the past or at least in two minds, the killing of TTP’s chief Hakeemullah Mehsud by a drone strike put paid to the whole effort. His successor, Mullah Fazlullah, is even less amenable to talking to the government. This conjuncture suggests the ‘other measures’ may soon have to be resorted to, willy nilly.
In a morale boosting first visit to the Peshawar Corps Headquarters the other day in the wake of the Mirali battle, the new COAS General Raheel Sharif gave a very measured but clear statement as an exposition of the military’s stance. While supporting the government’s first option of talks, the COAS made it amply clear that the military will no longer sit quietly like sitting ducks if attacked by the terrorists. All cannons of warfare allow self-defence. But this still remains, in the absence of a proactive strategy, a defensive posture. NWA also figures in the calculus of post-2014 Afghanistan. But it is undeniable that sooner or later, and quite possibly as a response to developments on the ground, the hornets’ nest of terrorism in NWA will have to be tackled. The TTP now says that its past relationship with the Afghan Taliban, in which it acted as their hosts and supporters, has been reversed to the latter now financing and supporting the TTP. This ‘confession’ should give pause to the military in its long standing posture of covertly if not overtly backing the Afghan Taliban.
The Mirali encounter may have been a limited action, but it is not unreasonable to see in it the shape of things to come. While the government and Imran Khan pursue their (seemingly futile) efforts to woo the TTP to the negotiating table, the military needs to keep its powder dry and strategise what appears to many to be the inevitable conflict with the terrorists who have so far enjoyed safe havens in FATA (specially NWA) and represent a permanent threat to the security of state and society. A nettle cannot be gently stroked without damage and hurt to oneself. It can only and must be grasped firmly if success is to be had.