Tuesday, June 10, 2014

China issues white paper on policy in Hong Kong

The Chinese central government on Tuesday published a white paper detailing the "one country, two systems" practice in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), stressing the policy as a basic state policy despite new circumstances.
Put forward by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s, the "one country, two systems" policy was aimed to realize the peaceful reunification of the country.
According to Deng, it means there is only but one China and under this premise the mainland adheres to socialist system while Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan may retain their capitalist systems over a long time to come. The policy was first applied to solve the question of Hong Kong.
The implementation of the principle of "one country, two systems" in the HKSAR has achieved widely recognized success, said the white paper, published by the State Council Information Office under the title "The Practice of the 'One Country, Two Systems' Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region".
This fully proves that "one country, two systems" is not only the best solution to the Hong Kong question left over from history but also the best institutional arrangement for the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong after its return to the motherland, it said.
Thanks to the policy, the HKSAR exercises a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the law, making Hong Kong continue to prosper, its society remain stable, and full development is being witnessed in all undertakings, the white paper said.
However, the central government has the power of oversight over the high degree of autonomy, it added.
The white paper said the policy enjoys growing popularity in Hong Kong, winning the wholehearted support from Hong Kong compatriots as well as people in all other parts of China. It is also thought highly by the international community.
The policy has ensured Hong Kong's smooth return to the motherland on July 1, 1997, and at the same time, the HKSAR was established and the Basic Law came into effect. Hong Kong entered a new epoch characterized by "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy, the white paper said.
After the return to the motherland, Hong Kong made new achievements one after another, as its residents' fundamental rights and freedoms are fully protected, the democratic political system has been steadily promoted. The HKSAR has maintained steady economic growth, its social programs have been further enhanced, and Hong Kong's international exchanges and its international influence have further expanded, the white paper said. In the meantime, the central government has made various efforts to support Hong Kong in meeting difficulties and challenges. It also supported Hong Kong in enhancing its competitive strengths, strengthening exchanges and cooperation with the mainland, and ensuring secure and stable supplies of basic necessities to the special administrative region. However, the white paper said while comprehensive progress has been made on all fronts in the HKSAR, the practice of "one country, two systems" has come to face new circumstances and new problems. "Some people in Hong Kong have yet felt comfortable with the changes. Still some are even confused or lopsided in their understanding of 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law. Many wrong views that are currently rife in Hong Kong concerning its economy, society and development of its political structure are attributable to this," the white paper said. The paper called for fully and accurately understanding the meaning of "one country, two systems" policy, saying that "the high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power." The white paper called for resolutely safeguarding the authority of the country's Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong, adding the Hong Kong people who govern Hong Kong "should above all be patriotic." Meanwhile, the white paper said it is necessary to stay alert to the attempt of outside forces to use Hong Kong to interfere in China's domestic affairs, and prevent and repel the attempt made by a very small number of people who act in collusion with outside forces to interfere with the implementation of "one country, two systems" policy in Hong Kong. Firmly advancing the cause of "one country, two systems" is the common wish of all the Chinese people, Hong Kong compatriots included, and is in the fundamental interests of the country and people, the general and long-term interests of Hong Kong and the interests of foreign investors, the white paper said.

Internet restrictions must not touch upon freedom of speech - Putin

Russian President has blasted any attempts to infringe basic Human Rights under the pretext of fighting against various negative phenomena on the World Wide Web as unacceptable.
The campaign against harmful tendencies in the internet, including pedophilia and propaganda of suicide cannot in any way justify restrictions aimed against civil freedoms and Human Rights, Vladimir Putin said at the Tuesday meeting with leaders of the Russian internet industry.
Putin added that all restrictions on the internet content must be introduced through the parliament and other public and political structures, through the joint effort of all citizens.
“We have had a lot of arguments over the bans, like those connected with pedophilia, propaganda of terrorism and illegal drugs, propaganda of suicide. But we are all grown up people. Do we really need to argue about this? Better to let us spare our children,” he told the participants of the Russian internet business forum.
The president also noted that the restrictions must not harm the interests of the free market.
At the same time, Putin said that there was no doubt that internet enterprises must be regulated by the law, just as any other aspect of social relations.
The Russian leader also suggested that the state could help the representatives of national internet companies to become truly independent and start expressing personal views. Putin said that those who are mentioning some special mission of internet companies must remember that such missions need pure sovereignty to become real.
“If all these companies [national search engines] have a single owner this is no longer a mission, this is a monopoly and monopoly is only good when it is your own,” Putin said and smiled. “In general it is a harmful thing.”
“Our mission is to help you – to help the national segment [of the Internet] and people who work in these prospective spheres to become independent. To help you express and formulate if not the viewpoint of the state and the society, but at least your own viewpoint in a way you feel necessary, because when it happens on the national basis, the state will eventually benefit,” Putin told the conference.
In late April this year, Vladimir Putin brought up the topic of relations between authorities, society and internet companies during the televised Q&A session with journalists and bloggers.
The head of the state admitted that “not everything was simple” in the situation, and promised that all decisions on the subject would be passed only after broad social discussion.

Video: President Obama Speaks on Student Loan Debt-June 9, 2014

Video: Hillary Clinton's interview with Sawyer

Hillary Clinton Issues Foreign Policy Memoir: 'Hard Choices'

Hillary Clinton has released a memoir of her time as President Barack Obama's first-term secretary of state. It's an opportunity to put her stamp on her record as America's top diplomat ahead of a possible run for the presidency in 2016.
Clinton said she had a team of researchers to help with the diplomatic biography Hard Choices, but the final story is hers alone.
"I had to take responsibility for every word. I had to be the one who decided how I wanted to describe a situation, how I thought it fit in to my overall view about where America is in the 21st century," she said.
As secretary, she carried abroad Obama's message of change from the diplomacy of former President George W. Bush. Public record U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann said, "I think she certainly succeeded in communicating to both publics and governments around the world that the Obama administration, when it comes to matters of foreign policy, is the anti-Bush, that there is a commitment to consultation, that there is a commitment to working through international institutions."
That made her Washington's most-traveled secretary of state, but limited individual diplomatic gains, according to American Enterprise Institute analyst Michael Auslin.
"The general rap on Clinton is that she really accomplished very little in her time as secretary of state, despite all of the frenetic, non-stop flying around the world. The one area that they could claim at least a policy break with the Bush administration was in Asia," said Auslin.
Clinton helped direct the Obama administration's so-called Asia Pivot of diplomatic, commercial, and military resources.
But Auslin said that pivot has withered under greater Chinese claims to disputed waters. "Very little is being done to materially affect what is happening in the region, i.e., the territorial disputes and coercion and the like. So I think that she can make a claim that, 'We had the better idea.'I don't think she can make the claim that, 'We had the better outcome,'" said Auslin. Clinton said her biggest regret is the 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. In her book, she said some "exploit" that attack as a political tool. Clinton testimony Clinton's Senate testimony on Benghazi was the most contentious of her tenure.
Republican Senator John McCain said, "There are many questions that are unanswered. And the answers, frankly, that you have given this morning are not satisfactory to me."
As she does now, Clinton then focused on bringing to justice those responsible.
"The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they would go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again," said Clinton.
Popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East were diplomatic opportunities missed, said Heydemann.
"Nothing that Hillary Clinton did while she was in office really changed the perceptions of the U.S. within the Arab world, at least, where our popularity continues to be pretty low," he said.
On the war in Syria, Heydemann said that Clinton pushed for a harder line than the president. "Everything that we know about Secretary Clinton's tenure in office suggests that she was an advocate for more direct engagement by the U.S. in Syria, and that she supported efforts for example to provide weapons to vetted elements of the armed opposition." Heydemann said the president may have been better served by taking Clinton's advice on Syria, a diplomatic difference she may use to distinguish herself from the president if she runs for the White House herself in 2016.


Afghanistan’s first computer manufacturer

A first for Afghanistan — an Afghan company has started manufacturing and assembling computers and components, with big plans for the future.
Blue Sonic is a company founded by an expatriate Afghan called Syed Hashmi. Syed has begun manufacturing some computer components in Afghanistan, and already assembles complete computers, phones and other household devices within Afghanistan. Based in Kabul, the company has an assembly line and is soon to open a showroom. The company has plans to roll out manufacturing and shops throughout Afghanistan.
Syed Hashmi, CEO, Blue Sonic, said, “Blue Sonic is the first Afghan IT or computer manufacturer.” Syed said, “Being a human, and the humans are all the same, why the rest of the world have all these services? Why not Afghanistan? As an Afghan, for me, whatever I have done in Canada or another part of the world, I want to bring those all good things to Afghanistan.”
“Why not give Afghans better service centre? Why not give them better trust on my product? Why not to give them reliability? Why I want to manufacture product in Afghanistan?” said Syed.
Syed is optimistic about his business in Afghanistan since there is no competition in his area as Blue Sonic is the first company to manufacture computers in Afghanistan.
According to Syed, 60 per cent of the Afghan population is comprised of youth that gives good numbers to start business in Afghanistan.
“We are making actually the computer casing and some other parts at this first stage. We have a plan to manufacture most of these things in a long term. Our business plan is to see the Blue Sonic company will be manufacturing not only computers, most of the electronic devices such as a TV, home appliances. This is in our plans,” Syed said.
He said, “Being an Afghan, it’s my responsibility to bring business to the country, bring hopes for the people, bring confidence for the rest of the people who are in business. Investors are coming from outside to Afghanistan. It’s a duty for all Afghan to come up front, give the hope for all other people to do business in Afghanistan.”
“I see good opportunity. It’s not only to make people happy, but it’s realistic, it’s real. There is a business. There is opportunity in Afghanistan,” Syed added.

IMF: 'More transparency' needed in Afghanistan

As Afghans head to the polls on June 14, there are growing concerns over the country's economic future after foreign troops leave. The IMF's Paul Ross talks to DW about the challenges facing the next government.
Afghans are set to go to the polls on Saturday for the second round of their presidential election. If successful, the vote pitting former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah against ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani will mark the first democratic transition of power in the war-torn country's history.
But there are also growing concerns that the scheduled drawdown of foreign troops might have a negative impact on an economy which is still largely dependent on foreign aid and rocked by corruption. Moreover, the drawdown comes at a time when the Afghan economy is starting to flounder, as growth fell to just 3.6 percent last year after an expansion of 14.0 percent in 2012,
Paul Ross, the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) mission chief to Afghanistan, says in a DW interview that economic reform, donor support alongside political and security stability are crucial for economic growth to continue in Afghanistan and adds that the incoming government needs to improve transparency and pass anti-money laundering laws to tackle the widespread problem of corruption. DW: What will be the biggest economic challenges for the future Afghan government?
Paul Ross: Afghanistan has made substantial progress in lifting living standards in the last decade, but poverty remains a challenge. Action will be needed to mobilize budget revenue by reducing leakages so taxes paid reach the treasury and can be used for spending on poverty reduction, education, health and infrastructure spending.
Increased access to financing for the population and small businesses will also be required. In order to achieve this, the new government will need to strengthen the banking sector. In addition it should improve the business environment to promote investment and broad-based job creation.
What must the new government do to bring the Afghan economic back on track given the recent economic slump?
Growth has continued in 2013-14, although at a lower rate than in previous years. To spur future growth, the new government should maintain low inflation, keep debt low, continue with a balanced budget, and maintain its international reserves position to support private sector development and investment. It should also continue reforms to strengthen its economic institutions, and promote growth and job creation through improving the investment climate and combating corruption.
What must the future Afghan administration do to combat the issue of corruption?
It should improve transparency and the rule of law. Specifically, it should strengthen economic governance with new laws for the financial sector (banking, anti money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism laws), for the budget (tax administration and value added tax laws), while also strengthening the capacity of regulatory bodies that fight corruption in the economy. These actions will also support private sector development and job creation.
Do you believe any future administration will be capable of tackling the problem of poppy cultivation and drug-trafficking, given that it is a major source of income in some parts of the country?
This is a subject that is outside of the IMF's scope of work. However, I think there's an opportunity for the incoming government to take stock of what has been done, to look at its own priorities, and then set the agenda.
How much will the scheduled withdrawal of foreign troops affect the Afghan economy?
The international troop drawdown has affected the economy since late 2012 by reducing aggregate demand through lower spending by international forces in Afghanistan. This has been partly offset by more spending domestically on security. Given that a large part of the troop drawdown has taken place already, going forward, the impact should be smaller.
Many analysts expect the level of violence in the country to increase as soon as the NATO drawdown begins. How might this affect decisions of potential foreign investors?
Stable security conditions will stimulate economic development and attract foreign investment. Political and security stability, as well as continued economic reform and donor support, will foster higher growth and job creation.
With the impending withdrawal of foreign troops, doesn't Afghanistan run the risk of being forgotten by the international community?
At the 2012 Chicago NATO summit and Tokyo donor conference, the international community pledged long-term financial commitments to support security and development in Afghanistan. These commitments extend into the next decade to provide aid to Afghanistan.
How do you expect the Afghan economy to perform over the coming five years?
The conditions for stable and sustainable growth are largely in place. The economy should continue to grow, provided there is political and security stability and that economic reform and donor support continue.
Paul Ross is the International Monetary Fund's mission chief to Afghanistan.

Five U.S. soldiers killed in Afghan friendly-fire incident

Five Americans troops were killed in an apparent coalition air strike in southern Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday, in one of the worst friendly fire incidents involving United States and coalition troops since the start of the nearly 14-year war.
The U.S.-led international coalition said the service members were killed in an apparent friendly fire incident, which an Afghan official said was an air strike in southern Zabul province. A statement said all five soldiers died on Monday but did not give further details on the attack.
Five American troops were killed yesterday during a security operation in southern Afghanistan. Investigators are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these fallen,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
“The casualties occurred during a security operation when their unit came into contact with enemy forces. Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation,” the coalition said in an earlier announcement.
One of the worst such incidents came in April, 2002, when four Canadian soldiers were killed by an American F-16 jet fighter that dropped a bomb on a group of troops during night firing exercise in southern Kandahar.
A senior police official in southern Zabul said the coalition soldiers were killed when they called for close air support.
Provincial police chief General Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay said there was a joint operation by Afghan and NATO troops in the area’s Arghandab district early Monday. After that operation was over, the troops came under attack from the Taliban and called in air support, he said.
“After the operation was over on the way back, the joint forces came under the attack of insurgents, and then foreign forces called for air support. Unfortunately five NATO soldiers and one Afghan army officer were killed mistakenly by NATO air strike,” Rooghlawanay said.
There was no way to independently confirm Rooghlawanay’s comments. The coalition would not comment and NATO headquarters in Brussels also declined to comment.
The only U.S. troops now involved in combat operations are usually Special Operations Forces that mentor their Afghan counterparts. They often come under fire and are responsible for calling in air support when needed. Because of constraints placed by outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, such air strikes are usually called “in extremis,” or when troops fear they are about to be killed.
Karzai blamed a similar airstrike called in by special forces mentoring an Afghan operation for killing a dozen civilians during an operation in northern Parwan province. The U.S. military vehemently denied the charge, saying that two civilians were killed in crossfire with Taliban militants and that air strike was called in when forces thought they were about to be killed by insurgents.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack against the joint force in Zabul.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said a battle took place on Monday night between foreign troops and Taliban fighters in the Arghandab district. Ahmadi claimed a “huge number” of NATO soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims.
Separately, a NATO statement said a service member died Monday as a result of a non-battle injury in eastern Afghanistan.
The deaths bring to 36 the number of NATO soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan, with eight service members killed in June.
The insurgents have intensified attacks on Afghan and foreign forces ahead of the country’s presidential election runoff Saturday. Officials are concerned there could be more violence around the time of the vote, although the first round in April passed relatively peacefully.
Casualties have been falling in the U.S.-led military coalition as its forces pull back to allow the Afghan army and police to fight the Taliban insurgency. All combat troops are scheduled to be withdrawn from the country by the end of this year.

Attack in Karachi is an indicator of many obstacles to peace in Pak

It was a spectacular and audacious operation by any standards. Ten gunmen wearing military uniforms staged a suicide attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi late on Sunday.
Armed with grenades and rocket launchers they detonated suicide vests and stormed an old terminal used for cargo and VIP flights, waging a night-long battle with Pakistan security forces that left 28 people dead. This is another blow to Karachi’s reputation, a teeming metropolis of 18 million that is somehow able to be both Pakistan’s commercial capital and its most violent city at the same time. Around 3,200 people were killed last year in sectarian, criminal and political violence.
The attack raises fresh questions about the security of sensitive facilities in Pakistan as militants were able to storm a heavily-guarded airport and create mayhem.
A Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman said the group carried out the attack “to send a message to the Pakistan government” and “to avenge the death of Hakimullah Mehsud”, the former head of the TTP who was killed by a US drone attack last November. The attack appears linked to increasing hostilities between the Pakistan army and the TTP in North Waziristan, after talks between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and Taliban’s intermediaries failed to make progress. The Pakistani military has in recent weeks bombed militant hideouts and launched a major offensive in the region. More reprisals are expected.
The TTP spokesman warned of an all-out war against the Pakistani State, starting June 10, and said the group will do more to avenge the death of civilians in army operations.
This attack vindicates commentators and civil society actors who urged Mr Sharif not to negotiate with groups like the TTP that seek to overthrow the Pakistan State and impose sharia. It underlines yet again the human and reputational costs on Pakistan imposed by the ill-conceived nurture of militants and religious extremists by its State agencies.
The attack is also a discouraging development to the new Indian government, as it again highlights the vulnerability of the Pakistani State to terrorist actions. Leaders on both sides cannot lose sight of that as they seek to take their dialogue forward.
- See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/attack-in-karachi-is-an-indicator-of-many-obstacles-to-peace-in-pak/article1-1227792.aspx#sthash.Yypx3EcB.dpuf

Pakistan: PPP, MQM walk out from Senate

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a walked out from the Senate session on Tuesday, DawnNews reported. PPP’s Raza Rabbani called for a walk out after he refused to discuss budget recommendations in protest of the absence of ministers. Rabbani said that the government’s attitude towards terrorism is "non-serious”. MQM’s Tahir Mashhadi said that the government was restricting them to table the Karachi crises.

Polluted Peshawar

Ali Asghar,Letter Published in THE NEWS
The people of Peshawar city are suffering the horror of polluted water. There is a shortage of water in the city, and what is available is terribly polluted. The Peshawar Municipal Corporation seems unable to solve this problem. According to a survey there are 200 tube wells in Peshawar but most of them are out of work. Most of the water pipelines are passing through sewerage lines and gutters, no doubt leading to serious disease. There are some areas in Peshawar where different types of worms are founded in the water. Despite all this, people are compelled to drink this polluted water. I request the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to solve this problem of Peshawar city as soon as possible.

​Pakistan shoots its messenger

Sreeram Chaulia
The suspension of the broadcasting license of Pakistan’s most popular private television channel, Geo News, for a 15-day period is a blow to the Fourth Estate and a barometer on the civil-military power imbalance, the bane of Pakistani history.
The orders to shutdown Geo News were issued by the same government whose civilian leaders (Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid) had hitherto publicly announced that that they respect the independent media and would never contemplate closing television channels.
Something drastic happened between the Pakistani government’s initial hints of solidarity for Geo — which had been facing fire from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for “acting illegally in furtherance of an anti-Pakistan agenda” — and the decision last Friday to take its channels off air.
The notorious ‘state within the state’, as the ISI is known, along with the military that is infamous as an ‘army with a state under it’, prevailed over the legitimately elected civilian government and forced Geo’s gagging. Ironically, Geo TV was last banned during a state of emergency declared in 2007 by the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf.
The immediate background to Geo’s latest victimization by Pakistan’s entrenched defense establishment lies in an assassination attempt in April on the channel’s most famous anchor, Hamid Mir, in Karachi. Mir, who miraculously survived six bullets, was raising hackles in the military elite due to his outspokenness against the army’s brutal counter-insurgency in Balochistan province and his criticism of anti-India extremism in Pakistan.
As Hamid Mir was fighting for life in a Karachi hospital, his journalist brother Amir Mir went live on Geo TV to unleash a broadside against the ISI chief, General Zaheer ul-Islam, for orchestrating the assassination. Geo responded to the brazen shooting of its star anchor in typical overblown fashion, carrying General Zaheer’s photograph in the backdrop as Amir Mir vented spleen at the holiest of cows in Pakistan’s security apparatus. The lesson of silencing Even for the in-your-face pugnacious universe of Pakistani private television, a taboo had been crossed with such no-holds-barred panning of the ISI. Geo News had to be taught a lesson to remind Pakistan’s entire media industry about the red lines. Immediately after Amir Mir’s bravura performance, the Defense Ministry demanded that Geo be closed as punishment for “false and scandalous reports” against the ISI.
The military’s campaign to intimidate and financially ruin Geo included fantastic canards that Hamid Mir was an agent of RAW (India’s external intelligence agency) and that his channel was a mouthpiece for “pro-India propaganda.” The Geo network’s public opinion-shaping peace initiative with The Times of India group (Aman ki Asha or Hope for Peace), and its coverage of liberal Indian popular culture, earned the ire of Pakistan’s belligerent military top brass.
But where the tide turned ugly was when the ISI’s plot for taming Geo TV was aided and abetted by internecine rivalries among Pakistan’s fiercely competitive private media houses. Professional jealousy and personality clashes among immensely wealthy TV titans were exploited by the military establishment to whip up a frenzy against Geo as an unpatriotic outlet that must be silenced.
Geo’s executives, who were facing this full-scale assault, even apologised for telecasting content immediately after Hamid Mir’s assassination attempt which was “excessive, distressful and emotional”. But the tirade went on until the Geo network was pulled out of the broadcasting lineup, depriving Pakistan’s news-hungry citizens of their favorite news source.
By downing Geo, the ISI scored a goal against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had begun to show old signs of independence from the military. In the bitter assessment of a Geo spokesman, “the government had finally surrendered in the face of tremendous pressure from unseen forces.” Political angle The Pakistani Prime Minister’s determination to keep prosecuting his past nemesis, General Musharraf, and his intent to pursue a path of peace with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP (which launched a sensational terrorist attack on Karachi airport this week) have ruffled feathers in the security establishment. Pakistani army officers do not see much value in negotiating with the TTP and prefer an all-out assault on it, even if that involves massive civilian collateral damage. Time alone will tell whether Prime Minister Sharif is being naïve in seeking a political solution with hard core Islamists of the TTP, but with the military at odds with his desires, his credibility as a negotiator is already weakened with the TTP.
Nawaz Sharif’s decision to attend Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in May was also contested by hawks in the Pakistani military, who remain wedded to the notion that ‘Hindu India’ is an eternal foe that must never be placated. Sharif had to dispatch his brother and Chief Minister of Pakistani Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif, to personally meet the Chief of the Army and secure his approval before visiting New Delhi for Modi’s swearing-in.
Hamid Mir and Geo are thus pawns in this bigger tug-of-war between a popularly elected civilian Prime Minister, who told an Indian TV channel that the Chief of the Pakistani Army must “work under the federal government”, and the men in camouflage who believe they have a birthright to run their country.
As is the wont of a penetrative and sophisticated intelligence agency like ISI, the bulk of the attacks on Geo’s ‘anti-national’ programming were delivered by fellow media persons rather than the powers that be. But the outcome of this episode, with Geo under a temporary ban and facing a bleak future, is one which Pakistan’s boisterous print and electronic media houses would come to regret.
Muzzling Geo just as it was upping the ante against the unaccountable military will shrink the political opportunity space in which all Pakistani media organizations thrive. Mir and his Geo TV may not be paragons of virtue, but they were awakening audiences to the Praetorian military menace that has crippled Pakistan for six decades. Shooting the messenger is a regressive step for Pakistan’s fragile democracy and an alarm bell for a country adjudged by international advocacy bodies as one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists.
Hamid Mir’s brush with death was preceded by a gun attack on another notable TV anchor and liberal intellectual, Raza Rumi, in Lahore in March this year. Rumi too barely escaped his assailants, suspected to be Islamist extremists who derive patronage from the intelligence agencies. He poignantly remarked in The Wall Street Journal that, “if the state doesn't kill you, non-state actors will.” Unlike Mir and Rumi, the investigative journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad (this author’s longtime colleague at the Hong Kong-based Asia Times) was kidnapped, tortured and killed in central Punjab province in 2011 for daring to probe the unsavory links between the ISI and anti-India jihadist groups.
The Pakistani military’s crackdown on media personalities and institutions which try to build confidence with India is a dreadful reminder of the thorny path to peace in South Asia. The harassment of Geo TV in the name of Pakistani nationalism shows that the minders of the airwaves will go to any length to ensure supremacy of the hostile narrative.

Pakistanis Fear Worst Is Yet to Come After Taliban Airport Attack

by Jason Ditz,
Peace Talks in Shambles After Coordinated Karachi Strike
Pakistanis have a pretty thick skin when it comes to terrorist attacks, after the 2001 US invasion of neighboring Afghanistan kicked off 13 years of increasing violence on their northern frontier. Yesterday’s strike on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi has many in shock, however.
That’s because the Pakistani Taliban is usually a northern problem, and yesterday’s attack struck their largest, best guarded airport in the far south. If they can hit here, where can’t they hit?
Many are worried the worst is yet to come, after the well-trained and heavily armed fighters stormed the Karachi airport, sparking an all-day gunbattle in which they aimed to hijack planes and destroy others. 29 were killed and many others wounded.
The attack reflects a growing aggressiveness among Taliban fighters, even as some were looking to break off and get peace talks with the government restarted, and while Pakistani officials tried to downplay the incident, the impact is obvious.
Not only is this another blow to Pakistan’s security forces and their already struggling credibility, it is also a sign that the Sharif government simply doesn’t have a handle on the nation’s Taliban problem. After promising peace talks they never followed through on, there’s very little reason to hope the Sharif government can prevent future attacks anywhere in Pakistan.

Pakistan: 'Taliban vows 'full-out war'... More violence erupts near Pakistan's busiest airport

By Holly Yan and Sophia Saifi
For the second time in two days, Pakistan's largest and busiest airport was forced to shut down after militants launched a brazen attack on airport security forces.
Tuesday's assault targeted the Airport Security Forces academy near Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, the airport's manager told CNN's Saima Mohsin in Karachi.
Gunfire rang out in the area, but it was not immediately clear how many casualties may have resulted. At least 30 ambulances rushed to the scene, Mohsin said.
Once again, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.
"This wave of attacks will be continuing in retaliation for the shelling and atrocities of the government," spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said by phone Tuesday from an undisclosed location. Ten militants stormed the same airport's cargo area late Sunday night, leading to an hours-long siege that left 36 people dead, including the assailants.
The Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for that assault, saying the attack was retaliation for the death of former chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in November in North Waziristan. The militant group, also known as the TTP, had warned of more carnage starting Tuesday. Shahid said earlier this week that the Pakistani Taliban would engage "in a full-out war with the Pakistani state, starting on June 10."
But the airport itself was safe Tuesday, Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority said.
"#Jinnah Airport is safe, #ASF academy is under attack," the aviation authority tweeted Tuesday. The Civil Aviation Authority said flights were temporarily suspended but later resumed Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, the situation was "under control," military spokesman Asim Bajwa said.
"3 to 4 terrorists fired near ASF Camp, ran away," Bajwa tweeted. "No breach of fence, no Entry. Chase is on, situation under control."
Airstrikes kill 15 militants Hours before the renewed violence in Karachi, the Pakistani military launched a deadly assault targeting nine militant hideouts Tuesday.
At least 15 militants were killed in the airstrikes on Khyber Agency, in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, the Pakistani military said.
A military spokesman said he could not confirm whether the airstrikes were directly related or in response to the violence at Karachi's airport earlier this week.
But it's those kinds of attacks that the Pakistani Taliban warned would spur more violence from their end. When the TTP claimed responsibility for Sunday's airport attack, it called on the government to end airstrikes -- or face more attacks like the Karachi airport terror attack.
Apparently, the TTP followed through with its promise. History of terror The Pakistani Taliban, formally known as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, has long conducted an insurgency against the Pakistani government.
"Their primary target is the Pakistani state and its military," said Raza Rumi of the Jinnah Institute, a Pakistani think tank. "It resents the fact that (Pakistan) has an alliance with the West, and it wants Sharia to be imposed in Pakistan." The U.S. Justice Department charged Mehsud in 2010 for his alleged involvement in a 2009 bombing at the United States' Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. The attack killed seven U.S. citizens, including five CIA officers and a member of Jordanian intelligence.
Mehsud took over from Baitullah Mehsud, a fellow clan member, in 2009 after the latter was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Four years later, Hakimullah Mehsud suffered the same fate.

Pakistan: Something is happening....but what?

Ayaz Amir
This government - more a family limited company with each passing day - now looks like a patient in a hospital ward, paralysed from the waist downwards. The few doctors around are wearing gloomy and mournful expressions.
The last time Nawaz Sharif was prime minister it took him two and a half years to blow his mandate, picking a fight with the then army chief, Pervez Musharraf, that any fool could have told him he could not win. This time he has arrived at the same position – locking horns with the army – in less than a year…at a time when the country is virtually in a state of war. The latest reminder of this war comes with the attack on the Karachi airport. Where’s the government in all this?
It lives now only in advertisements. If it weren’t for the ads – about metro-buses and bullet trains speeding into the Muzaffarabad mountains – it would be hard to judge of its existence. The army is not taking its orders from Islamabad. It is on its own in Fata, doing what it thinks best. The ISI looks to GHQ not the prime minister. In the media conflict the army and the ISI are dictating the score, the government still trying to act clever, but looking foolish in the process, and of course not getting its way.
When Pemra announced the 15-day ban on Geo the government responded with crocodile tears, saying in a statement it could ask for a stiffer penalty: “We reserve the right to take it up (sic) the matter at the next appellate level…We are ready and anxiously waiting to reply the suit (sic) filed by Geo …” Crisis management can wait. If this is the height of its drafting skills, the PM’s office is in more trouble than it thinks.
Our situation is strange and would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. The nation is in a state of war but has its head stuck firmly in the sand. The military are fighting this war and taking heavy casualties but, bizarrely, the government far from leading this war is locked in a cold war with its own army and leading intelligence agency.
Whether disenchantment with the PM is growing or not – and Professor Ijaz Shafi Gilani’s Gallup Pakistan can always be trusted to come up with findings that Nawaz Sharif remains wildly popular – the political opposition to him is becoming more assertive and vociferous. With Zardari openly siding with Nawaz Sharif, two months ago it looked as if there was no opposition in the country. But if a week is a long time in politics, so much can change suddenly.
Imran Khan is drawing huge crowds – which honestly I thought he wouldn’t be able to do – and Dr Tahirul Qadri is spitting fire and is all set to return from Canada to stoke up further the fires of discontent. Nawaz Sharif’s team, apart from a few ministers whose primary qualification rests on the strength of their vocal chords, is not functioning and he himself looks glum, as if not just at a loss for words but with little idea of what to do.
Happy the times when gimmicks were enough, lulling the Punjabi populace into slumber: laptops, flyovers, a road through the hills, etc. Much has been made of the youth loan scheme, which really is more PR than anything else. The latest fad is some kind of a health insurance scheme. Where the country needs leadership of some calibre, it is being made to watch these childish games. Nor is this all. The PM must also go and pick a quarrel, not with terrorists – perish the thought – but with the army and the ISI. The result is that the army is operating on its own, the PM and his office marginalised in the larger scheme of things. Watching on TV the aftermath of the attack on Karachi airport, even a casual observer could hardly have failed to notice that all the counter-measures were being taken by the army, Rangers, Airport Security Force… and it was the army chief promptly offering condolences for the dead. Missing completely from the picture was the federal government.
This is not the time to go into the history of military dominance. But let’s not kid ourselves. The fact remains that the army is the country’s most powerful institution. So someone must ask an increasingly clueless prime minister: where’s the sense in jousting with this very institution? And if you do end up in such a contest, what is left of your governing ability?
It is the army, air force, Rangers, Frontier Corps, the intelligence agencies engaged in this internal war against a hidden and not-so-hidden enemy, an enemy supported and sustained by a network of support across the country. And the government, far from taking responsibility for this war and giving the defence establishment a lead, has thought fit to put itself on the wrong side of this establishment. Is this what Nawaz Sharif has learned in 30 years of politics? Army and ISI built him up as an alternative to Benazir Bhutto and the PPP. Now he can’t get along with those very hands which propped him up.
This is an untenable situation and simply can’t go on. Something will break, something has to give way. Army and agencies are chafing at the bit. You don’t need a Nasa telescope to sense this. This anger is now part of the national scene. To be sure, the army is mounting no frontal assault on the shaking ramparts of the confused civilian authority. But its oblique assault – the indirect approach, from the sides, rolling up the flanks – is proving, as we have seen in the media affair, far more effective and deadly.
Other pieces are being moved on the chessboard, proxies launched from the shadows. In times past the army’s favourite weapon in domestic conflicts was the sledgehammer. This is the first time such subtlety is being deployed.
As a result of these moves the government is beginning to look isolated, although it has all the support and more that it needs in parliament. But this parliamentary force is beginning to look listless, as if the fight has been drained from it. In truth, a more apathetic parliamentary majority would be hard to discover. Should anything untoward happen, the flight of the bumblebees will be faster than anything we have seen before.
The civil-military breach is encouraging Imran Khan and Dr Qadri to become more aggressive and take to the offensive. Imran Khan is saying nothing new, election rigging in the last elections not a terribly exciting subject for political agitation. But people are still flocking to his rallies. Why? Is this a newfound enthusiasm for Imran or are the people of Punjab finally waking up from their dream and opening their eyes to the fact that the old coinage of the Sharifs, their laptop and yellow taxi approach to government, is of little use amidst the challenges Pakistan faces today?
Consider our luck. When Pakistan needs unity of command more than ever, a dispensation which can inspire and galvanise the nation, what it has been gifted by the stars is a plutocracy: government by the rich and for the rich and, to crown everything, a family limited company on top of this plutocracy.
Let’s be careful what we wish for. But, as noted above, this can’t go on indefinitely: something will have to give. So sooner than we think it likely, we may have to brace ourselves for that. The media affair was a trial run, an occasion to sharpen the knives and test the paces. If Nawaz Sharif continues to bumble, and there is nothing to suggest that he won’t, there is no discounting the bigger drama which may yet unfold.

Pakistan: Revenge In Karachi

The aftermath of TTP’s five-hour attack on the Karachi airport left over 20 dead, including 10 militants. Previous terrorist attacks have been on army bases like the one on GHQ in 2009, PNS Mehran in 2011 and on the Kamra airbase in 2012. This is the first large-scale attack on a civilian installation. The Taliban have taken responsibility and have said that the aim of the Taliban was a hijacking. A TTP spokesperson has said that this was a reaction to the army stepping up its operations, while the government speaks of negotiations, “Pakistan used peace talks as a tool of war”. Yet it was the Taliban in April who announced an end to the ceasefire and threw a monkey wrench into the talks. They have threatened that this is first in their attacks to avenge the killing of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
There are fears that the airport assault proves that negotiations have not helped and the government should have rather gone after the TTP with greater force. And if this brazen attack doesn’t shake up the state and make it really put all its pressure in ending the insurgency in North Waziristan, nothing will. For the TTP now, it’s all about petty revenge and tit for tat attacks and it is about time that they are eliminated before more cities catch fire. The death of innocents included eight ASF members, two officials from the paramilitary Rangers, one police officer and three staff members from state carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). It is clear that the TTP is hurting, what with two leaders being killed in drone attacks, a large important faction splitting from it, army conducting operations in North Waziristan, and the tribal Jirga also wanting to end the fighting and expel foreign fighters. At this time there are many questions, why did the intelligence agencies to fail to pre-empt an attack of this scale? The state’s incompetence was on display when even the fire trucks tasked with putting out the fires erupting on the scene were delayed because they were out of fuel. And how did these terrorists get to the airport armed to the teeth? Yet, the army foiled the Taliban attempt, and maybe it is time that support for the TTP erode and sentiments of nationalism and unity against violence prevail.

Pakistan: Karachi airport attack

If only we learn from our mistakes and follies, loss of precious human lives, dignity and honour of Pakistan, which has been seriously eroded by yet another TTP attack at Karachi airport, could have been avoided. It was in May 2011 that within a mile of a civil airport, a terrorist attack on Mehran Base in Karachi shocked this country.
It is time we understand that security should be sole criterion when utilising space in proximity of sensitive installations, civil or military airports and not petty commercial or welfare oriented projects that may feed insatiable greed of few. Have we forgotten terrorist attack at Karachi airport when four terrorists stormed a PN-AM B747 on ground in transit for Frankfurt in 1986 and entry point from where they entered fully armed?
In 2012-2013 a scam was unearthed when it was exposed that for one full year, aircraft of nonscheduled airlines, mostly cargo or charter services, landed and utilised this airport and more than Rs1.5 billion in landing and parking fees were pocketed by corrupt CAA officials and yet even after a year has elapsed, nobody has been held accountable nor revenue deposited. Thousands of irregular appointments without proper scrutiny, or security clearance were made in 2008- 2010 both in CAA and PIA, jeopardising national security interests.
We should have plugged loopholes exposed when serious security breaches took place in recent past. Even today, marriage halls in close proximity to Mehran and PAF Drigh Road located within sensitive zone exist and are functioning. The CAA Pakistan, which should have functioned solely as a regulator. However, blatant conflict of interest becomes visible when it assumes the role of managing and owning various commercial ventures located at airport, which under no circumstances should have been under administrative control of a regulator. Unfortunately as it stands, security stands compromised at the altar of commercialism and profits to be made by real estate and land developers nexus. This trend must be reversed if national dignity is to be secured.

Karachi Airport Attack: Bodies Of Seven Trapped Employees Recovered

The rescue teams late on Monday night recovered the bodies of seven persons who had been trapped in cold of cargo following the attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, Pakistan Tribune reported. In a gruesome example of criminal negligence, the Civil Aviation Authority had concluded the rescue operation without evocating the seven local employees of a foreign company who had taken refuge in the cargo complex but couldn’t come out after terrorists set the cold storage of firm ablaze. Early from Monday morning to evening, the families of employees repeatedly tried to get information about their loves ones but authorities failed to respond them satisfactorily. Irked over the attitude of authorities, the families of victims staged protest on Faisal Avenue and demanded immediate rescue operation. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took serious notice of the media reports about trapped employees and directed Army and rescue teams to launch rescue operation again. The operation was launched at about 10:00 PM. The teams of Army Engineering Core, CAA, Rangers and others participated in the rescue operation.
The bodies were recovered by destroying the wall of the cargo terminal, rescue sources said. The bodies of shifted to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), where they were identified as Saif, Nabeel, Fareed, Sultan, Farhan and Inayat. Hundreds of citizens flocked at cargo terminal site during the rescue operation and chanted slogan against CAA for its criminal negligence, saying the lives of employees could’ve been saved by launching operation early on Monday. The families of employees said that the people trapped in cold storage kept pleading for help continuously through mobile phones but all of their efforts went unheeded. A CAA official, speaking on the condition on anonymity, told a private channel that the authority had learnt early in the morning that some employees of a private company have been trapped inside cargo terminal and Manager Karachi Airport Afsar Malik had also informed Director CAA in this regard but all the authorities remained busy in providing protocol to visiting VIP officials and didn’t pay attention towards trapped employees. The latest deaths propelled causality toll in the incident to 24. 11 Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel, one Ranger, one Policeman and one employee each from PIA and CAA embraced martyrdom and all the 10 assailants were killed in six-hour siege at the biggest airport of Pakistan.
- See more at: http://www.pakistantribune.com.pk/15904/karachi-airport-attack-bodies-seven-trapped-employees-recovered.html#sthash.1xbskW4l.dpuf

KARACHI UNDER ATTACK: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for both attacks

Around three to four gunmen mounted a fresh attack on a security check post outside the airport a day after 37 people were killed after an all-night battle on Monday with militants who besieged Karachi airport’s old terminal, Express News reported.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for both attacks.
No casualties were reported in the latest incident. In the earlier attack, at least 37 people, including 10 terrorists, were reported dead in what is the first large-scale terrorist attack at the country’s largest airport in years.
According to reports, 12 ASF personnel, one each of the police, Rangers and Shaheen Air International are among the deceased. The dead also include eight people who were trapped inside a private company’s cargo office and found dead 28 hours after rescue operations had started. Twenty-six others were also injured in the first assault.

Pakistan: Karachi attack

Terrorists attacked Karachi airport on Sunday night, triggering a protracted siege at the airport, leaving as many as 20 people dead and more wounded, though that number is likely to change once the sequence of events becomes clearer. Reports say that just before midnight on Sunday, a group of terrorists armed with explosives and ammunition, carrying backpacks and dressed in Airport Security Force (ASF) uniforms entered the Fokker building at the old airport terminal, which is used mostly for cargo and occasionally for VIP movement. The terrorists gained access and began firing and lobbing hand grenades, killing several ASF personnel in the vicinity before going on a shooting spree that took them nearer the main terminals. The military was called in to back up the civilian security forces and a siege started. The last two terrorists were only caught in the morning, 14 hours after fighting began. Flights to and from Karachi were cancelled but resumed late on Monday afternoon. Two PIA planes were damaged and according to the initial report presented to the prime minister, the terrorists intended to destroy all the planes. Earlier reports said they aimed to hijack a plane being boarded at the main terminal and went on a rampage after being repelled. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack. While the government and the military are bandying about official sounding terms like ‘cleared and secured’, the attack highlights the many flaws in security arrangements and the laxity or incompetence of people charged with overseeing them.
First is the ease with which apparently any person in uniform can penetrate secure areas. Facial recognition, fingerprint identification, even electronically coded security badges could prevent an attack on what is meant to be a secure installation. One should also know in principle that terrorists and militants love attacking airports, as evidenced by every insurgency in twentieth century history. The psychological and economic impact of attacks on airports is appreciated by terrorists, as well as the possibility of immense physical damage. While PIA has restarted flights, will foreign airlines be likely to land in Karachi after this? We are fortunate that the terrorists were unable to do more than lightly damage standing aircraft and we were not treated to Hollywood-style pyrotechnics. Given this, the apparent lack of measures to keep terrorists from masquerading as security officials is criminally negligent. Once again, their ability to penetrate ‘high-security’ areas bespeaks a depth of intelligence and operational awareness that cannot be achieved without insider information. While we have been consistently told that security agencies were purged of terrorist operatives and sympathisers, as last week’s assassination of two lieutenant colonels near Islamabad and now this event show us, this is far from the truth. A concerted effort needs to be made to find people who are aiding terrorists from within state security organisations. It appears that after a few weeks of relative quiet and with an attempted negotiation strategy in place, the government and security agencies became complacent, which is extremely foolish. There can be no complacency in the fight against terrorism since it is not restricted to the tribal areas but is spread throughout Pakistan, and the vast, sprawling metropolis of Karachi is a known hub.
Furthermore, the negotiation strategy is bankrupt now, and a new comprehensive policing and military strategy needs formulation. Given the price our national security strategy has incurred, a fundamental re-evaluation of national security priorities and methods should occur in the near future. The jihadi proxy strategy and the national security state are clearly failures. The media began blaring hysterical reports of Indian weapons being found while at the same time broadcasting the movements of security forces. Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had to ask television reporters to stop live transmission of the scene so that terrorists would not get the information via television. While no one doubts the courage of journalists on the ground, this kind of ratings-obsessed, irresponsible journalism could become a casus belli for a return to state censorship. The attack then shows flaws in our state and social institutions that need redress urgently. Most importantly, the government and the military need to wake up to the terrorist threat and tackle it head on.

Pakistan: ‘Blame on Sindh government for Karachi tragedy isn't fair’

The Pakistan people’s party (PPP) senator and former interior minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday “all the airports across the country are declared federal territory therefore putting all the blame on Sindh government for Karachi tragedy isn’t fair”.
“The federal government is responsible to ensure security at all airports in the country and as such Karachi airport attack was a failure of the federal government. Sindh government is being blamed unfairly,” Malik said while taking to journalists. Malik also said that spots from where terrorists entered the airport could have been easily controlled, adding such an attack should be a source of concern for the government.
Malik demanded of the federal government to take immediate action against the terrorists. “Time has come to act against terrorism,” he asserted. Sindh government has been under fire especially after authorities’ failure to rescue around eight people who were hold up at a cold storage following the attack on Sunday night. All the bodies were recovered on Tuesday morning; hours after authorities including the federal government. Controlled Civil Aviation Authority declared that the airport is clear.

Pakistan: Attack on Karachi airport

IN the end, the loss of life and damage could have been much, much higher. But make no mistake about it, the storming of the Karachi airport on Sunday night by militants claimed by the outlawed TTP is a devastating psychological blow. Once again, the terrorists have demonstrated their reach and skill. Once again, Pakistan is in the news all over the world for all the wrong reasons. Once again, the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus has been shown to be inadequate. Once again, even the most secure of sites has been penetrated. Once again, Pakistanis have been reminded of just how vulnerable everyone is. And yet again, the government has been nowhere in sight, while the army has swooped in to finish the job and win over the public in the process.
At this point, there is little new that can be said in the aftermath of another familiar attack that should never have occurred. As ever, when it comes to spaces used by the public, there has to be a balance between access and security. But the problem is of a different kind here: the militants did not try and enter through the passenger terminal at Jinnah International, where security is smothering and concern for the public’s ease of passage minimal. Instead, the militants did what airport security should have done: they clearly reconnoitred the airport’s periphery, found the vulnerable spots and took advantage of them. Now, the near-inevitable will happen: a ‘high-level’ committee will be tasked to conduct a ‘thorough’ investigation and file a ‘comprehensive’ report, which will then likely never be seen or heard of again. And for a while, sites seen as high-risk across the country will be on ‘red alert’, until the memory of the Karachi attack fades in a few days and laxity and laziness set in again, exposing vulnerabilities everywhere once more.
If asking questions of a seemingly unaccountable and unwilling-to-be-shamed security apparatus never leads to anything — anything good or desirable anyway — perhaps a question can be asked of the Taliban apologists who quickly emerge to obfuscate the problem of terrorism and militancy and try and deflect attention to the ever-cited, never-proved foreign hand and/or outside powers. Every one of the attackers is reportedly dead and their bodies in the state’s possession — meaning who they are and where they came from can be established. Furthermore, the TTP itself has claimed the attack — and even if it is trying to take the ‘credit’ for something it may not have actually done, the very fact that the militant group wants the country to believe it has perpetrated this attack and is giving reasons for doing so ought to establish that the problems of terrorism and militancy are very much internal to Pakistan, not external. Perhaps if the apologists are challenged more forcefully, better sense will prevail all round.

Pakistan: More peace talks? Anyone?

Shyema Sajjad
The attacks are no longer confined to military and police bases. They are no longer targeting the poor common man in vegetable markets and mosques.
They have smoothly arrived where their penetration should have been hardest.
They have left their mark at a place where even the high and mighty of the country must frequent every now and then.
Is it time to get serious yet? Last night’s tragic and terrifying attack on the Karachi airport has left the country stunned. The international community is no less surprised, but let’s deal with reactions at home first. How? Well it’s all there. The disguises, the heavy weaponry and the intricate planning that apparently had been taking place since long before the peace talks were initiated.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan did not wait too long to claim responsibility for the attack that left at least 18 people dead. According to them, this attack was carried out to avenge the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike. They also claim that this is just the beginning… so where does that leave us now?
Hopefully united and on the same page? Or perhaps that’s still too much to ask of ourselves.
Our politicians started issuing their condemnations as soon as the news of the first victim’s death started flashing on our television screens. Some good those will do.
Then came our social media pundits.
Amongst the prayers for peace and harmony were sharp sarcastic comments against the PML-N government, as well as the PTI – PPP seems to be way down on the popularity list this year and was spared a mention. Why let such a good opportunity go – let’s point fingers at anyone we can think of and add them to the blame list. Yeah, that’s not going to yield any results other than some likes on your post perhaps.
This is the time to firmly and clearly denounce peace talks. It is time to demand action against those who have clearly made a mockery out of any peace efforts our government has initiated.
The PTI-appointed member of the government committee to negotiate with the TTP, Rustam Shah Mohmand has said that any talks for cessation of hostilities with the TTP will now be held on the government's conditions. About time. But, how many people will still support talks now, let alone rally for the upper hand on these ‘conditions’?
The government should get rid of any plans they have for talks and take direct action. Today the terrorists got inside the Karachi airport, tomorrow they can get inside a government premises or facility – is that when they’ll draw the line?
A salute to our forces for killing all 10 terrorists and recovering the heavy weapons but this isn’t where the exchange of information should stop. We have been told that the terrorists may have been foreign nationals – we need to be told more. How did they get in the country? Who is funding them? Where are they training and why aren’t we targeting those places yet? Setting aside our preferences for various political parties and our hatred for various foreign elements suspected for such attacks, we need to be united in our demand for action and the cessation of peace efforts. They are a farce and will remain so. Your enemy shot bullets into the few functional aircrafts you have left and had aimed to take out all. Your enemy gave a terrible welcome to the passengers who had just landed at the time and gave a terrible goodbye to those stuck on the tarmac. They took 18 innocent lives and promise to take more. When do you say enough? Blocking and barricading roads around the airport isn’t the answer and neither will that antenna search device help any longer. The president can call the terrorists cowards for as long as he likes but fact remains that these ‘cowards’ are bringing the country to its knees and mere lip service in regards to this will no longer do.
If we are stronger and braver than them, it is about time we prove that.
Calls for military action have been echoing since years but perhaps now our government and military may realise that the time is right and the situation extremely grave.
Ten men had the power to shut down an international airport for several hours, imagine what a thousand more like them would be capable of doing. Talk is cheap.

UN chief urges Pakistan to address terrorism

Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned attack on Karachi airport that killed 30 people.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned an attack on Pakistan s largest international airport that killed 30 people and called on the government to address terrorism and religious extremism.
Ban also condemned suicide attacks targeting Shiite Muslims in Pakistan s southwestern province of Baluchistan, which a local official told AFP killed at least 24 pilgrims.
The UN secretary general strongly condemned the two attacks and is "deeply concerned by this upsurge of violence across Pakistan," his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
"While acknowledging the measures already taken to maintain security, he urges the government of Pakistan to further increase its efforts to address terrorism and religious extremism, including with a view to protecting the rights of all people to safely practice their religion, and to bring the perpetrators of such attacks to justice," the spokesman added.

US offers help in Karachi airport probe

The United States Monday offered to aid Pakistan in investigating a deadly siege on Karachi airport and denounced the assault which left 30 people dead.
"The United States condemns the attack on the Karachi airport. And our hearts go out... to the families of the victims and those who were wounded in that attack," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Washington has offered "assistance to the relevant Pakistani authorities investigating this crime," added State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, although she was not aware if the offer had been taken up.
Ten militants were among the dead in the siege of Karachi´s Jinnah International Airport.
The TTP said the brazen attack was its latest revenge for the killing of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in November.
"Broadly speaking, we have supported the Pakistani government as they´ve undertaken counterterrorism efforts because it´s a fight we certainly share," she told reporters.
"The Pakistani government has a responsibility and an obligation to protect its citizens and to take appropriate counterterrorism measures."
Washington had advised the Pakistani authorities to "take civilian life into account," Harf said.
"But... the onus here is on these terrorist groups to lay down their arms, to stop attacking innocent Pakistani and other civilians," Harf added.

Pakistan: Gunmen attack Karachi Airport security training facility in second assault

Pakistani officials say a checkpoint at Karachi Airport is under attack by gunmen after another large assault earlier this week. The facility is now closed, all flights have been canceled. "The ASF academy is under attack. There is gunfire. The extent of the damage is not clear," a senior official at the Federal Investigation Agency told Reuters. It was unclear who was firing at whom. The checkpoint is 500 meters from the main entrance to the airport. Ambulances have been seen rushing to the scene, a witness told Reuters.

Pakistan: Firing at ASF camp; Karachi airport flight operations suspended

Security forces are engaged in a gun battle at the Airport Security Force (ASF) camp number 2, which is located at the ASF academy in Bitai Abad, Pehlwan Goth in Karachi. Heavy firing was reported at the ASF camp in the metropolis on Tuesday after four unidentified men entered the premises. DawnNews reported that sounds of explosions were also heard, causing panic among citizens in the vicinity. The camp is situated near the Jinnah International Airport which the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had cleared on Monday after a long battle between security forces and terrorists left 28 dead. A Twitter account allegedly operated by Omar Khorasani of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Mohmand faction tweeted on Tuesday that the group has carried out this second attack.
The Twitter account of the CAA, @AirportPakistan also tweeted that EK 606 from Dubai which was expected to arrive at Karachi airport at 12:50pm is now returning to Dubai. Roads leading to the airport have been cordoned off as the standoff between security forces and terrorists persists.

Assault on Pakistan Airport Signals Taliban’s Reach and Resilience

Only a week ago, the Pakistani Taliban appeared to be on the ropes. Violent rivalries had split the insurgency in two. Peace talks with the government had collapsed. Military jets had pounded militant hide-outs in the tribal belt.
Then on Sunday, the Taliban hit back.
A squad of militant commandos, disguised as government security forces, stormed Karachi’s international airport after dark. They carried food, water and ammunition, apparently in preparation for a long siege, and big ambitions: perhaps to hijack a commercial airliner, government officials said Monday, or to blow up an oil depot, or to destroy airplanes on the tarmac.
The 10 attackers were dead five hours later, shot by soldiers or blown up by their own suicide vests. Yet the audacious nature of the assault shook Pakistan to its core, offering a violent reminder that for all its divisions, the Taliban remain an astonishingly resilient force.
It has kept a reach far beyond its tribal redoubt along the Afghan border, with an ability to penetrate the country’s busiest airport in the largest city. And the discovery that Uzbek jihadis were among the attackers underscores how, even in splinters, the Taliban can draw on an international militant network to conduct sophisticated attacks — which means trouble not just for Pakistan’s government and military, but for American interests in Afghanistan.
The determined attack seems to bear out earlier warnings by counterterrorism experts that the Taliban split two weeks ago was unlikely to erode the group’s capacity for mayhem. “It’s become a hydra-headed monster,” said Najmuddin Shaikh, a retired head of Pakistan’s foreign service. “They had limited success in Karachi, but maybe that was just our good luck.”
Key to the Taliban’s strength is the web of alliances it has cultivated with fellow militant groups in North Waziristan, the tribal district along the Afghan border that since 2001 has evolved into a vibrant global hub of jihadi money, ideology and fighters — Punjabis, Chechens, Arabs, Central Asians, Afghan Taliban and a smattering of Westerners.
The Taliban’s major ally is the Haqqani network, a formidable force in the Afghan insurgency that held the American soldier Bowe Bergdahl hostage for five years until his release on May 31. But they have other allies too — fighters whose militancy was born elsewhere, but who have joined in the Taliban fight.
Chief among them are the Uzbeks, hard-bitten fighters who followed Osama bin Laden into Pakistan after September 2001, and who have since become an important element of the Taliban insurgency, offering Pakistan fighters what experts call a deep bench of militant training and expertise.
Uzbeks played a central role in two major jailbreaks and an attack on Peshawar’s airport over the past two years. And when Pakistani security forces displayed the bodies of the men who attacked Karachi airport on Sunday — a line of 10 shrouds, one of them topped with a severed head — they said that several of them were Uzbeks.
Speaking by telephone from Waziristan, a Pakistani Taliban commander said the foreign jihadis had participated in the operation in revenge for recent military airstrikes in Waziristan that targeted the Uzbeks. “The I.M.U. has always been a great source of strength for us,” the commander said, referring to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the main Uzbek group. “They were very furious at the strikes, which killed a dozen of their people.”
For Pakistan’s leaders, who for months have been wavering between talking and fighting, the Taliban’s robustness is likely to inform their next step. The prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is due to meet with the army leadership in the next two days, Pakistani officials said, to discuss a possible military response to the Karachi attack.
“This marks an escalation of the war,” said Adil Najam, a Pakistani analyst who is dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. “And it shows that this is going to be a long war.”
Details of Sunday’s assault underlined how well prepared the Taliban were.
The assault started around 11 p.m. when two teams of five militants, disguised as police and army paramilitaries, entered the airport complex over a perimeter wall and through an entrance frequently used by top government officials and foreign dignitaries.
As counterterrorism commandos scrambled to respond, some arriving in armored personnel carriers, the fighting centered on the airport’s old terminal, known as the Hajj terminal, and a nearby cargo building. The militants fought through the night as terrified passengers sat in airplanes stranded on the tarmac. The cargo building became engulfed in flames. When the battle finally ended an hour before dawn on Monday, officials said, the militants had killed at least 19 people, including four employees of Pakistan International Airlines, the state carrier.
A senior army officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the public, said that seven attackers were killed in the fighting, and another three died when they blew up their suicide vests.
By midafternoon the airport had been reopened for passenger traffic. But with many flights canceled or rescheduled, passengers gathered around airline information counters in an atmosphere that veered from apprehensive to resigned.
Elvina James, 46, who was hoping to fly to Lahore, was philosophical about using the airport so soon. “You have to take some risks in life,” she said.
Ahsan Hameed, a trader on his way to Dubai, said he was putting his faith in the Pakistani Army.
Dr. Sofia Yousuf, on her way to Saudi Arabia with her family for a religious pilgrimage, was still upset by the night’s events. “In Pakistan you get used to these things happening,” she said. “But I’m so sad about what will happen next.”
Karachi is already a city in political tumult. But the Taliban attack represented a rare assault on the privileges of the most affluent citizens of the country’s most cosmopolitan city.
Although some wealthy businessmen from Karachi have been kidnapped by the Taliban, most of the rich have insulated themselves from Taliban violence, which has most often targeted military bases, the police or markets where poor Pakistanis gather.
But Sunday’s attack closed, temporarily, a transport hub that for many is a gateway to meetings in Dubai, holidays in Thailand and summer homes in London.
Some Karachi residents said they feared that Western airlines might reduce their services, as some did after the Red Mosque siege in Islamabad in 2007. Others vented their frustrations on social media, remarking acerbically how airport security officials, who are famous for their great care in searching passengers for illegal alcohol, failed to halt the terrorists.
The Taliban’s boldness in Karachi may help provoke action in Waziristan. In recent weeks, tribal elders from North Waziristan have held meetings with senior government officials in Peshawar — an indication, some say, that they are girding for an impending army operation.
“The T.T.P. has closed the avenue for talks,” said Mr. Shaikh, the retired diplomat, using the abbreviation for the main Pakistani Taliban faction. “And the army knows that if it can get to the root, the branches will wither.”
But any action against the Taliban, as ever, is fraught with skullduggery and politics. There is little indication that, for all its tough talk against the Taliban, Pakistan’s military has abandoned its decades-old policy of indulging some militant groups, like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, who have been willing to further the army’s foreign policy aims.
The military also is caught up in simmering tensions with Mr. Sharif, the prime minister, who has clung to the idea that peace talks can still end the Pakistani Taliban’s insurgency.
“Now that the Taliban have splintered, we could see multiple groups fighting the government in different ways,” said Mr. Najam, the academic. “And so the real test is whether the political will can hold.”

Has Pakistan paid a heavy price for failing to rein in terror groups?