Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Malala Yousafzai: Obama Should Visit Syrian Border to See ‘Suffering’ Up Close

When Malala Yousafzai met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office last October, she boldly told him that drone strikes are “fueling terrorism” in her home country of Pakistan. Today, during a live appearance via satellite from the Jordanian-Syrian border on CNN, the 16-year-old activist had another message for the president: Come here and see the Syrian refugees’ “suffering” for yourself. “I would request that the president go to the Jordinian-Syrian border, or go to the border of Lebanon and Syria, and see how these people are suffering,” Yousafzai said when Wolf Blitzer asked her what more she thinks Obama should do about the civil war in Syria. “When he will look at it, he will feel it. And then he will understand what it happening here.” Yousafzai advocated for peace in Syria, not only when it comes to the Syrian government but also from the various opposition groups fighting against them. “Put your guns down, talk through peace,” she said, adding that she believes it’s always better to choose peace over war.

Pakistan: Taliban talks pointless now

Representatives of the Pakistani government have suspended peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban in the wake of recent attacks by the group, the Pakistani Prime Minister's office said Tuesday.A four-member government panel had been in peace talks with the group, also known as Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan, for 13 days. But during that time, the group has carried out several deadly attacks, the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said. The committee unanimously decided that continuing talks was pointless until the violence stops, the office's statement reads. The Pakistani Taliban has long been conducting an insurgency against the Pakistani government and has claimed a number of violent attacks in its history.

Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis Syria: An ill-conceived departure

Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis Syria has been non-interfering and neutral. Neither any solution to the dispute was offered nor did Pakistan side with any of the players in contention in that civil war-racked country. So far it was a benign, conciliatory and noncontroversial approach by any standards. As a result, our relations with Iran, China and Russia — major contenders in the Syrian war on one side — remained unaffected. All this is going to change now. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia, with a new veneer of collaboration, has affected our policy on Syria. Reflecting the Geneva I and II conferences’ declarations, Pakistan would also now seek a transitional government excluding Bashar al-Assad so that the country pulls out of the civil war it has been drenched in for three years. So far, taking their cue from the Libyan crisis where the US and NATO intervened in the name of protecting the people but instead engineered regime change, stoking the conflict into an unending war, countries like China and Russia did not allow a UN Security Council resolution to fool the world again and allow the US-led west another opportunity to remove the Syrian thorn from their plans for a Middle East re-ordered to suit their interests. The expanding imperial designs hidden behind the ‘right to protect’ slogan, which has exhausted its shelf life, has saved Syria from becoming another plaything of the western agenda. Russia, with its political and strategic alliance with the Syrian government, had made the excuse of intervention because of Syria’s chemical weapons null and void, avoiding thereby another western military intervention. The Syrian civil war, with its existing sectarian and ethnic overtones, is also the result of the Saudi and Qatari intervention through proxies to destabilise Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The overblown presence of al Qaeda and a rush of rebels with new weaponry have been made possible because of the US-Saudi-Qatari nexus. The regional power play wherein Iran and Saudi Arabia are trying to extend their influence in the Middle East through warfare laced in religious tones has neither served the regional cause nor would it do any good to Pakistan if it gets too close to the Saudis in this regard merely for the expedient goal of garnering more Saudi aid.
Pakistan’s present suffering, emanating from jihadi terrorism, is a product in part of our Saudi relationship. The manpower used in the Soviet-Afghan war was raised, trained and nurtured in the Saudi-funded madrassas across Pakistan. Having become a virtual industry, the madrassas are now churning out terrorists not only in Pakistan, but exporting them to the entire world. Converted into a weapon, ‘jihad’ is used to pressurise the other side, as the Saudis tried to do by threatening Russia on the Syrian issue with unleashing the Chechen jihadis on Russia if it refuses to toe the Saudi line. Already, Wahabi and Salafi theology is playing havoc in Syria and other parts of the world. The Taliban’s moral policing and their assault on the Pakistani state smacks of the outcome of Saudi Arabia’s design to spread its brand of Islam. The Shia-Sunni divide is the by-product of the same strategy that separates Wahabis from the rest of the Muslim world.
Why do we want to put our fingers into a seething cauldron that would only create more enemies and conceivably alienate our friends? Are we not already in the throes of enough problems that we should invite more through an ill-conceived departure from our hitherto wise policy of non-intervention? On the one hand the government of Nawaz Sharif had wanted to enhance Pakistan’s economic position through regional cooperation, on the other it wants to toe Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy prescriptions. Such diplomatic posturing would only expose our weak internal disposition on foreign affairs by exposing our opportunistic hankering for financial benefits from our allies at the cost of all principles.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari condemns killing of Army Officer

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned cowardly attack by militants on a military vehicle resulting in the martyrdom of Major Jahanzeb. Former President in a message paid tributes to valiant forces for fighting militants “the savage and barbarians who want to impose their distorted ideology by force on the people”. He said the people of Pakistan will never succumb before these militants and fight them to the finish. Former President Prayed to Almighty Allah for grant of eternal peace to the soul of Major Jahanzeb and courage and strength to members of bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss with equanimity. Our martyrs like Major Jahanzeb are heroes and the nation is indebted to them, he said.

Pakistan:Army major killed in militant attack near Peshawar

A senior army officer was killed on Tuesday in an exchange of fire with militants, the military said, after peace negotiations between the government and Pakistani Taliban insurgents broke down a day earlier. “(The) exchange of fire continues,” the ISPR said in a statement, adding the attack took place near Frontier Region Peshawar close to the Afghan border. Major Jahanzaib suffered bullet injuries and succumbed to his wounds, the military's media wing said, adding that three militants were also killed in the exchange of fire. According to news agency Reuters, a Pakistani Taliban militant from Peshawar confirmed the attack. However, there was no word from the main spokesman of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). “Militants attacked the convoy of a security official in Peshawar and killed one army major,” he said. “The official announcement will come shortly.” This is the second attack on security forces personnel in the last 24 hours. An attack on a security forces checkpost in Ladha area of tribal South Wazirstan agency killed one soldier late Monday night. The recent violence is likely to further hamper prospects of meaningful peace negotiations between the government and Pakistani Taliban militants. An attempt by representatives of both sides to meet and talk peace collapsed on Monday after insurgents said they executed 23 soldiers in revenge for army operations in the volatile tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.