Monday, March 16, 2015

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The wives of Turkey's missing and a gender view of human rights

Wives of the disappeared have been at the forefront of the struggle for answers; their stories, human rights researchers say, have been neglected too long.
Kiraz Sahin was 20 years old when her husband Ismail Sahin was "disappeared" from the streets of Istanbul. It was January 1996; their daughter was then four years old, their son, one-and-a-half. Hundreds had already disappeared in Turkey - most are presumed to have been the victims of political murders, killed by Turkish security forces.
For 19 years, Kiraz Sahin struggled to find her husband, an experience she shared with hundreds of other wives. She never remarried, nor took formal work. With the support of family and friends she raised her children, cared for members of her husband's family, and became a grandmother, said Human Rights Association (IHD) members in Istanbul who knew her. She joined Saturday Mothers - now often referred to as the Saturday People - a group made up mostly of loved ones of other "disappeared" people. The group still gathers every Saturday at noon on central Istanbul's Galatasaray Square to commemorate and protest. In the past, the meetings were little tolerated, and even outlawed. Kiraz Sahin, like many Saturday gatherers, was repeatedly tear-gassed, beaten by police and arrested, IHD members said.
In January this year, on the 19th anniversary of Ismail Sahin's disappearance, Kiraz Sahin was unable to attend the Saturday Mothers' meeting. The best she could manage was to send along a recorded message to be played for those gathered on the square over the group's loudspeaker.
"As soon as I get up and out of this hospital bed," they heard her say, "I'll be there with you with my grandkids."
On Friday, 27 February, 2015, Kiraz Sahin died from stomach cancer.
"Kiraz Sahin was made to fit a 19-year search into 40 years of life," Maside Ocak, sister of another disappeared man, Hasan Ocak, told the next day's Saturday Mothers crowd. "Kiraz's life was still not long enough to learn the fate of her husband."
Up to 1500 people are thought to have been "disappeared" in Turkey since the 1980 coup d'etat, according to the Truth Justice Memory Centre in Istanbul. Hundreds more were victims of extrajudicial killings or died while in state custody. Such incidents peaked in the 1990s during a period of heavy fighting between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the 30-year conflict that has claimed 40,000 lives since 1984. While Kiraz Sahin's husband was a Turkmen Alevi and was disappeared from Istanbul, most of the disappeared were Kurds who went missing from Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast. Ninety-seven percent of the victims were male.
Ismail Sahin worked for the Istanbul municipality as a street cleaner. He disappeared while working along the very streets in central Istanbul where the Saturday Mothers gather today. The government shows little interest in investigating. Sahin's fate, like 67 percent of the forcibly disappeared, according to the Truth Justice Memory Centre, remains unknown. Ismail Sahin was a member of the Genel-Is trade union. His wife, Kiraz, had few politics to speak of.
"She was an apolitical person from an apolitical family," Zeynep Yildiz of the IHD told Middle East Eye. "She became politicised after her husband's disappearance."

Ripped from the sidelines of disaster

The wives, like Kiraz Sahin, have been at the forefront of the search and struggle for answers; their stories, human rights researchers in Turkey say, have been neglected for too long.
"I read every report on enforced disappearances in Turkey and I could find no references to gender," Ozgur Sevgi Goral, project director at the centre, told MEE during an interview at the organisation's offices.
"This was very striking because a disappearance is a very gendered process," she said. "The males are disappeared, firstly... . And secondly, the females are the ones looking for the [disappeared] males."
During field research Truth Justice Memory Centre staff noticed a trend. "Wives were always saying, 'It's not worth talking about me. Let's talk about him. Let's talk about what happened that day.' This was really heartbreaking for us," Goral said.
"It is hugely important what happened to the [women] for two reasons. First, you don't have a holistic story if you don't know what happened afterwards. An enforced disappearance is not a moment of catastrophe," she said. The before and after, characterised by the conflict and human rights violations that pervaded Turkey at the time, reveal the broader significance of the trauma, she said.
"You don't understand the outrageous aspect of the enforced disappearance if you don't know what happened after. Because what happened after is a tragedy. How did they raise their children?…How did they survive economically?…Were they forced to remarry?"

The necessity of the gender lens

In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances wrote "...the effects of enforced disappearances are lived and faced in different ways by women and girls due to gender roles, which are deeply embedded in history, tradition, religion and culture."
The observation has been borne out in Turkey in several particular ways. Patriarchal and traditional gender roles and family structures often produce an ambiguous identity for wives of the disappeared, Goral said. A 2014 report published by the Truth Justice Memory Centre, describes these women as "neither 'married', nor 'widowed', nor 'divorced'" and details how this complex social burden has interacted with identity, social status and the challenges of day-to-day living. Many wives must assume their husbands' responsibilities in the male-dominated society outside of the home.
Often these women can't speak Turkish; for years speaking Kurdish was forbidden in any official setting or institution.
Not only has this been an obstacle in daily life. "It changes the pattern of the search," Goral said. Non-Turkish speaking women cannot easily apply to local authorities for information about their husbands and often have to pursue less formal investigations. "It's another way women are prevented from having access to justice."
On average, the wives of the disappeared married at 15. Many have faced pressure to remarry, often to a brother-in-law, after a disappearance. Though many have refused, re-marrying can offer economic, social and emotional benefits and can relieve women of traditional connotations. As one woman told researchers, her rationale for re-marrying included "so that people don't call me a harlot."
Wives of a disappeared man can receive certain state benefits, but the husband's status must be defined as either "absent" or dead. Judicial and bureaucratic complications aside, the report's authors describe how many women resist the additional emotional trauma of having to formalise their husband's death.
"There is this pendulum of hope for the wives of the disappeared. Normally, at the end of one week they know he is dead… But still there are processes of waiting. Up to three years they have more hope… Maybe he escaped, they think, maybe he went to South Kurdistan [northern Iraq]."
Hopes are also kept alive by what Goral described as an "industry": people who often appear to be connected to security forces call or contact the family to offer information for money. "And the families, they pay," Goral said. The tip-offs are invariably lies.
Many wives and other family members refuse to rule out the possibility the disappeared will one day return. Goral described one wife who still rejects sympathetic eyewitness accounts of her husband's death (he was strapped tight with hand grenades and blown up), preferring, in her distressed mind, to believe her husband had in fact defected and become a Turkish intelligence agent.

A broader struggle

Women's rights are at the top of the national agenda in Turkey today. Turkish activists, journalists and politicians are working to raise awareness about what is a dismal situation. (See also here.) Their work is complicated. Turkish president Erdogan famously claimed last year that women and men cannot be seen as equals. (See here for more.)
But the struggle of the women who have been affected by enforced disappearances should not be mistaken as a simple subset of this struggle, Goral said. A gendered view of a human rights violation reveals the depth and diversity of the impact of the violation and allows us to have a broader view beyond that of the most obvious victims.
"Seeing the gendered, hierarchical relations within a human rights violation…is not the same thing as militating for women's rights. It's more than that," Goral said.
In having to overcome these hardships, the networks of solidarity and activism that these women have created have, despite the catastrophe at the core of their experience, produced something that may have otherwise proven elusive, Goral said.
"They have been empowered by a tragic event."
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Pakistan warns Turkey: Don’t make our mistakes

Fehim Taştekin

The armed uprising in Syria, with the goal of changing the regime, has given birth to organizations that are threatening the entire population of the region, but Turkey is continuing on its way in total disregard for the perils of "Pakistanization."
As Turkey was discussing the training and equipping of Syrian opposition militants in Turkey, Pakistan recalled its own painful experiences.
In Islamabad, Al-Monitor asked Mushahid Hussein, the chairman of the Pakistani Senate's Defense Committee, about his country’s role in Afghanistan and in creating the Taliban and how he sees Turkey’s involvement in Syria.
Mushahid Hussein, well known for his academic work on international relations and his rich journalism experience, said he had reminded Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu while he was visiting Islamabad about “Pakistanization syndrome.” Hussein added, "I warned Davutoglu when he was here, ‘You are repeating in Syria the mistakes we made in Afghanistan. Organizations you support now will turn against you.’ Pakistan was wrong in becoming party to the war in Afghanistan and was wrong in supporting the Taliban. We are now paying the costs of these mistakes."
No one took Pakistan’s warning seriously. Turkey's persisting with the train-and-equip program that will produce nothing but permanent armed groups shows that Turkey still does not intend to learn from the lessons of Pakistan.
Turkish and American officials are involved in intensive final preparations for the training to be given at Kaman, Kirsehir. On March 11, US CENTCOM Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin visited the training base, followed by visits to Ankara by retired Gen. John Allen, the special envoy of US President Barack Obama to the global coalition against the Islamic State (IS), and Brett McGurk, deputy undersecretary of the US State Department. Their meetings in Ankara focused on the train-and-equip program and Turkey’s contribution to the anti-IS operations. Reports say the program that will last three years will train 1,500-2,000 fighters.
Reading between the lines of the raging debate, it's easy to get the sense is that the idea behind the anti-IS program is to prevent the Damascus regime from taking over territory to be abandoned by IS. But it must also be considered how the region is to survive with so many armed organizations roaming around. Recalling the experience of Pakistan in such misguided adventures may provide Turkey with a guiding light.
You don’t have to walk the sensationally rough terrain of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or North Waziristan on the Afghanistan border. A visit to an Islamabad bookshop, where hundreds of books on Pakistan’s impasse are available, may be enough.
There are parallels between the process that drew Pakistan to Afghanistan and the motives that dragged Turkey into the Syrian quagmire: expanding spheres of influence and ambitions to become a regional power. There is not much difference between the ambitions of President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, who dreamed of expanding Pakistan’s sphere of influence first to Afghanistan and then to Asia, and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wanted to pray in Damascus' Emeviye Mosque and become caliph there.
A short reminder is in order here. In 1979, Pakistan, which, together with the CIA, organized the resistance against the invading Russian army, opened its borders to millions of Afghan refugees. Those refugees provided a ready pool of manpower for the anti-Soviet struggle. Fighters, particularly Pashtuns, were also recruited from religious seminaries in Pakistan.
The CIA and Pakistani intelligence services trained about 80,000 fighters in a $2 billion-$3 billion train-and-equip program. In 1989, after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, it was time to restore order to the country. When Pakistan’s trusted man in Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-i-Islami, could not consolidate his rule in Kabul, the Taliban was created. Students who were studying at Deobendi fought for two years at Pakistan’s guidance to eliminate other groups and capture Kabul in 1996. According to confidential documents of the US State Department, the Pakistani intelligence services continued with their support of ammunition, fuel and food to the Taliban after the group took over Kabul in 1996. After the 9/11 attacks against the United States, Pakistan had to readjust its relations with the Taliban, which then turned its guns on Pakistan. Taliban leaders who were toppled by the US intervention in 2001 settled down in north Pakistan’s Waziristan region, leading to the emergence of local Taliban groups. About 30 organizations that settled along the "Jihadist Highway" in 2007 came together to establish the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) under Baitullah Mehsud and quickly became Pakistan's biggest threat. Pakistanis, with their distinction between "good" and "bad" terrorists, began fighting TTP while continuing to work with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s ambassador in Islamabad, Canan Musazay, told Al-Monitor at the Think Tanks Forum of the Islamic Countries, organized by the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies, that Pakistan was still making the "good terrorist-bad terrorist" distinction, and that whether Turkey was still supporting extremism-inclined groups is also a topic of debate.
What kinds of risks are awaiting Turkey while it supports a military uprising and armed groups in its neighbor? Tahir Ahmad, a researcher with The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, made a comparison between Pakistan and Turkey, telling Al-Monitor, "There are stark similarities between these two cases. The groups trained are religious bigots, which would backfire as they want their own brand of Sharia-based governance and they reject democracy and any alliance with the Western countries or secular trends. The country is geographically contiguous. Proxy warfare can be fought only by ethnic or independence movements, not in this kind of religious warfare. Second, it will create indigenous support for such kinds of extremist groups, which can demand indigenous reforms and would create a security issue. Third, the humanitarian issue, in terms of refugees and sectarian conflicts that emerge from these conflicts, are more dangerous than the external threat. In Turkey, it can also be intra-religious clashes. Instead of going into a war, Turkey should play a diplomatic role. It is the best time for diplomacy and leadership, not proxy warfare."
In Turkey, our Islamic mindset is open to treating the war in our neighbor as jihad. We are now seeing the beginnings of a tragic Deobendi-esque transition from Sufism to radicalism, and so are not surprised to hear of hundreds of Turkish citizens joining IS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
While Pakistan could not control its border regions and saw them become a jihad highway, now Turkey cannot control its porous border, where opposition forces cross it freely.
All these symptoms point to Turkey’s subscription to a scenario of Pakistanization, making the warnings of Hussein, who wants nothing but friendship with Turkey, are extremely important.

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Tony Blair 'had no credibility' in Middle East process, says US official

By Peter Foster
All sides in Middle East peace process would roll their eyes at mention of Tony Blair's name, US government official involved in talks tells Telegraph
Tony Blair had “no credibility” left with the parties in the Middle East peace process, a former US government official who was closely involved with trying to revive the talks last year has told The Telegraph.
“Frankly all sides just rolled their eyes at the mention of his name,” the official said as it was reported that Mr Blair was being “eased out” of his role as head of so-called Quartet.
Rumours that Mr Blair was being asked to step down have been circulating for some days, but were apparently confirmed on Sunday night by The Financial Times. Mr Blair’s office has declined to comment. In his role, which he took up in 2007, Mr Blair represented the United States of America, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union as a Middle East peace envoy working with the Palestinians.
But in the last round of failed negotiations which began after John Kerry took over as US secretary of state in 2013 and broke down last year, Mr Blair had become “a standing joke”, the official said, speaking last week.
Officially the Obama administration has been supportive of Mr Blair, with officials describing him on Sunday as a “valued partner in trying to bring peace to the Middle East” but in private the former official was scathing. “He showed up, but was not effective,” the senior former official added. “Honestly, when the Kerry negotiations were going on, it was like he’d wait until Kerry was going to be in the region and show up at the same time and then do press releases. It was sort of unseemly. “In the end the Israelis didn’t mind him, because he was heavily tilted towards them, but the Palestinians couldn’t stand him and most of the rest of the peace-making community and other groups included, just rolled their eyes.
“Of course people met with him – he’s the former British prime minister and head of the Quartet – but beyond the media, there’s was really nothing much doing.”
Another diplomat, speaking to the FT, said Mr Blair's departure as Quartet envoy was “long overdue”.
“He has been ineffective in this job. He has no credibility in this part of the world," the source said.
Mr Blair has been under fire for some time, with three former British ambassadors last year backing a campaign for him to be sacked and accusing him of trying to “absolve himself” of responsibility for the crisis in Iraq.

Good riddance, Tony Blair – you’ve been tolerated as Middle East envoy for too long

By Francis Beckett

Blair’s stint as the Quartet’s representative has been a tragic waste, focused more on business than on peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

On 27 June 2007, Tony Blair stepped down as Britain’s prime minister and as an MP, and took up an appointment as Middle East envoy for the Quartet, a diplomatic group consisting of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. Eight years on, it looks as though the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has pulled the plug on the mission – not a moment too soon.
For years, it’s been clear that Blair in the Middle East is at best a passenger and at worst a liability. The failure is a tragedy because although controversial among critics of Blair’s role in the Iraq war, his appointment didn’t have to play out the way it did. It looked at first like one of George W Bush’s better ideas. Who better to help bring peace to the Middle East than the man credited with achieving a settlement in Northern Ireland? Where would you find a better diplomatic big hitter to knock heads together? Bush drove the appointment – “the guy sacrificed his career for me” he is said to have told an aide.
And even though Russia agreed reluctantly, and the Palestinian Authority was not consulted, a determined effort by Blair would have brought them round quickly. Expectations were comfortingly low. No one expected him singlehandedly to bring peace to the region. Blair would have been forgiven a lot, in Britain, even in Palestine, if he had been seen to put his heart and soul into trying. But instead the Israelis have tolerated him because he has been so tame, and no other player has any time or respect for him.
How did it come to this?
The first reason is that his mandate has largely limited him to helping the Palestinian economy. His predecessor, James Wolfensohn, an Australian-born, former World Bank president, was limited by the same mandate, and that’s why he resigned. Wolfensohn shared the opinion of business people such as Lord (Clive) Hollick and informed journalists such as Le Monde’s Laurent Zecchini and Israeli affairs specialist Max Blumenthal: that progress in peace talks comes first, and only when they have delivered some sort of stability will private investment follow.
Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi told me: “Jim Wolfensohn resigned because he is a man of great principle and courage who did not want to be used. They had to find someone who would play the game, and Tony Blair accepted the role.”
Blair, in a private letter to Hillary Clinton in 2009, when she was US secretary of state, talked of using the role to achieve a “transformative change” agenda. But it turns out that transformative change was to be achieved by the project Blair worked hardest on in the Middle East: securing the Israeli release of electromagnetic frequencies for the commercial launch of the Palestinian mobile telephone operator, Wataniya.
Getting competition in the Palestinian mobile phone market may or may not have been key to transformation, but it indirectly benefits the bank JP Morgan, where Blair is a consultant and whose clients include investors in Wataniya.
The second reason for Blair’s failure is that he has simply not put in enough time and effort. He says he spends about a week a month in the region, but all of our sources – including diplomats and Middle East correspondents, who monitor his activities as closely as he will allow – tell us that this may be an over-generous estimate. They say that during his one week of every month, he arrives at his Jerusalem offices on Monday evening, and leaves on Thursday evening. Ashrawi told us: “He is very part-time. His presence is not intrusive. It does not feel like a week a month. He certainly doesn’t report to me once a month.”
While Blair is there, his engagements may be on Quartet business but at least some of them are with people who form the bedrock of his lucrative consultancy business, and there is no transparency about what is discussed.
And that brings us to the third problem: the conflict with his other interests. No one can be quite sure if the person attending meetings is there solely as the Quartet’s Middle East representative, or because he is also the patron and founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, or the principal of Tony Blair Associates, or indeed all of these distinguished gentlemen.
Very early on in his tenure, Blair went to a meeting with the emir of Kuwait, allegedly on Quartet business. Yet he was accompanied not by anybody from the well-staffed Quartet office but by his former Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell, then a consultant with Tony Blair Associates. If anything to do with Middle East peace came out of the meeting, no one knows what it was; the emir eventually gave Blair a £27m consultancy contract.
Wolfensohn told us: “For Tony Blair to say ‘I would like to talk to you about the peace process’ is a very different entry point from saying ‘I would like to get an oil concession in the east of your country for a client, or I would like to become an adviser to your country’.”
The fourth reason for Blair’s failure is that he has not made sufficient attempts to get the Palestinians on board. Where he has stepped outside the mandate, it has been one-sided, in praise of Israel. His outspoken attacks on Islam, and his periodic calls for more war in the Middle East, are perhaps acceptable from a former prime minister with an involvement in faith debates and no current public responsibilities, but not from the Middle East envoy.
The letter to Hillary Clinton also shows that Blair could have moved into the political realm if he had wanted to, because in private he makes disparaging comments about the Palestinian security apparatus. Yet he has chosen not to do the one thing that Wolfensohn believed could make his mission mean something. No wonder exasperated members of the Palestinian Authority have called him “useless, useless, useless”.
Blair has lasted this long as the Quartet’s envoy only because the Israelis could be sure he would never bring them unwelcome news, and because he symbolised a comforting untruth to which American negotiators cling: that private-sector investment in Palestine can be used as a path to a two-state solution. The Quartet should now look for someone who will make peace their top priority.

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#NeverForget - Pakistan school terror survivors 'avenge' deaths by studying


The survivors of the Pakistani school attacked by terrorists in December are responding their peers’ deaths by showing no fear and returning to study in school, according to one of the country’s UN youth advocates.
The students of the Public Army School in Peshawar, where 145 people were killed, including 132 pupils, last December wanted to show “solidarity” by working harder and eradicating terrorism through education, she added.
Anusheh Aziz, an 18-year-old school student in Lahore, Pakistan, who acts as a youth advocate for the UN, said the reaction from her peers was the “complete opposite” from what the terrorists had intended.
“You can see there is this renewed urge among young people to study more and to drive terrorism out with a proper education,” Ms Aziz said at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on Sunday.
“That was the most positive thing that happened in the whole event and you feel this reflected by the actions of the students in Peshawar. In solidarity, they said they would use the same buildings [where the attacks took place]. They said we want to avenge this event by studying.”
According to research published by the University of Maryland in the US, Pakistan has suffered more attacks to its schools in the years between 1970 and 2013.
The most recent took place in December when seven extremists associated with the Taliban targeted the school in Peshawar in the north west of the country.
But the rise in attacks on schools in her country had not made Pakistan’s young people too afraid to attend lessons, Ms Aziz said.
“It renews this urgency within us to defeat terrorism,” she said. “To fight against it through education, specifically, because this is what they are afraid of. That the more enlightenment there will be in the country [then] people would not be indoctrinated.”
Gordon Brown, the former prime minister who now acts as the UN’s special envoy for education, has called for greater fortifications to be built into the country’s schools. But Ms Aziz disagreed.
“Personally, I don’t think having fortifications would make schools any safer,” she said. “You have to end terrorism. What happened in Peshawar was a security lapse, if you might call it that, so it can be a short term solution but we must work to a long term solution as well.”    

Pakistan - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto condemns twin blasts near Lahore Church

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned twin bomb blasts near a Church in Lahore resulting in loss of innocent human lives this morning.

In a press statement, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said terrorism of every kind has to be eliminated to secure the future of the country and its people adding such coward attacks would not deter the nation from its resolve to restore peace and tranquility.

He said from schools to hospitals, mosques to churches, bazaars to shopping centers, civilians and law enforcing agencies, the terrorists have been targeting every sign of human enlightenment.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed sympathies with those who lost their loved ones in the Lahore blasts and urged best possible medical facilities to those injured.

Obama may not reduce troops in Afghanistan

By Jim Acosta

President Barack Obama is considering whether to scrap his drawdown plan to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan to 5,500 troops by the end of this year.

A senior administration official said Saturday this is at the request of new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The two leaders spoke earlier this week via video conference.

The official said no final decisions have been made.

"Presidents Obama and Ghani have had regular discussions on the security transition and peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan, as well as planning for President Ghani's upcoming visit to Washington," the administration official told CNN. "In the context of supporting Afghanistan's evolving national security strategy and associated opportunities, President Ghani has requested some flexibility in the troop drawdown timeline and base closure sequencing over the next two years and we are actively considering that request."

During a trip to Afghanistan last month, shortly after he took office, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he might advise Obama to consider slowing the drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan -- partly because of better relations with the new Afghan government. Any review would be based on the reality on the ground.

There are about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Report Says Kabul Used $5 Million In Foreign Aid To Pay Al-Qaeda Ransom

A report in the New York Times newspaper says Afghan officials gave $1 million from a secret CIA fund and $4 million from other countries to pay for a hostage to be freed in 2010.
The report says the payments were just part of a long list of examples of how poor oversight and loose financial controls led the United States to inadvertently finance the militants it is fighting.
Documentation of the ransom payment was included in correspondence between Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda’s general manager Atiyah Abd al-Rahman that has been submitted as evidence by federal prosecutors at the Brooklyn trial of Abid Naseer.
Naseer is a  Pakistani Al-Qaeda operative who was convicted this month of supporting terrorism and conspiring in to bomb a British shopping center.
The letters were unearthed from computer files and documents seized by U.S> Navy Seals during the 2011 raid that killed Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
It had been classified information until it was introduced as trial evidence.


By Dr Subhash Kapila

The single-most striking feature of foreign policy formulations on South Asia of Britain and the United States are their flawed assessments on Pakistan’s strategic utility to their respective national security interests, singly and jointly.
Prevailing overwhelmingly in the strategic calculations of Britain and the United States centring on Pakistan are a number of flawed assessments that Pakistan is of great strategic value for the stability of South Asia and the region and that Pakistan is a reliable Western ally of long standing and strategic value in the furtherance of British and American security interests in South Asia and that Pakistan is an essential partner in combatting global terrorism.
Further, both Britain and the United States have bought the myth sold to them by successive Pakistan Army Chiefs that it is the Pakistan Army that shields the West from global terrorist outfits like the Al Qaeda earlier and now the ISIS as articulated by the present Pakistan Army Chief.
Flawed assessments of Pakistan’s strategic utility by Britain and the United States and imparting an over-sized strategic halo on Pakistan by both of them have encouraged Pakistan to box much above its strategic weight. Basking in this unwarranted strategic halo, Pakistan has pretentions of strategic equivalence with India, and hence its disruptive strategies in South Asia.
Pakistan as a dysfunctional and failing state stands reflected in many of the assessments of British and American intelligence agencies and in business risk-forecasting estimates. These estimates chiefly arise from the explosive mix of disruptive factors that characterise the Pakistan state in 2015. This explosive mix comprises political instability; constant spells of Pakistan Army rule; a Pakistan Army induced ‘garrison state’ and ‘siege mentality’; economic backwardness arising from disproportionate defence budgets dictated by the Pakistan Army; and, more significantly where nuclear weapons are bandied as ‘Islamic Nuclear Bombs’ combined with use of Islamic Jihadi terrorism as an instrument of state-policy; all of these threaten the stability of South Asia and contiguous regions.
Britain and the United States have no cogent reasons to offer to substantiate their strategic fixation that Pakistan is of great strategic value for the stability of South Asia. On the contrary, the historical record of the last over six decades of South Asia amply illustrate that South Asia would have been stable and secure but for the region-disruptive policies of Pakistan.
Strategically ironic is the fact that in British and American Pakistan-fixated policy formulations, there is a policy blindness and irresponsible obliviousness to the prevailing strategic and military delinquencies of Pakistan, the Pakistan Army and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI engaged in fostering proxy wars on both flanks of Pakistan through its Jihadi militias and terrorist outfits. British and American Forces fighting in Afghanistan against global terrorism were at the receiving end of Pakistan’s strategic delinquencies and double-timing.
Moving to the second point of Pakistan’s strategic utility to Britain and the United States as a staunch Western ally of long-standing and which can be relied upon to further British and American strategic interests in South Asia and the region, again, their policy establishments need to refer to their respective intelligence agencies’ assessments on Pakistan.
In this regard, one would like to first dwell on Pakistan’s record of strategic utility to the United States as its major strategic patron and then dwell on Pakistan’s strategic utility to Britain as the latter flows from the former.
Pakistan has been a rental state of the United States and the Pakistan Army a rental army available for furtherance of United States policy formulations of tactical expediency in South Asia. To this end the Pakistan Army was collusive in drone strikes on its own people, when with its own intelligence agency could have neutralised the terrorist elements nurtured by it in its frontier regions, without massive collateral damage to the rest of the population.
Pakistan moved out of the American strategic-utility orbit soon after 1962 when it exchanged the United States for China as its main strategic partner and military mainstay.
Pakistan Army’s double-timing of the United States post-US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 is well documented and too recent to be recounted. This Pakistani double-timing of the United States occurred despite large infusions of US military and financial aid by to Pakistan in the last fifteen years, not forgetting the earlier billions of aid pumped into Pakistan.
Moving to analysis of Britain’s flawed assessments on Pakistan’s strategic utility to Britain in South Asia and the region, let it be said without further analysis that Britain has no realistic strategic interests in South Asia which Pakistan can be used for furtherance of.
In my assessment, Britain’s strategic interests in South Asia get strait-jacketed into the loyal furtherance of United States strategic formulations on South Asia.
Britain does have legitimate political and economic interests in South Asia centring on the rise of India as an emerging power and the British imperatives to invest politically and economically in India’s potential and its strategically benign rise. In terms of South Asia it is India that is better placed strategically as opposed to Pakistan for Britain to carve a niche in South Asia.
However, for the furtherance of Britain’s above spelt strategic interests, Pakistan has no role to play. On the contrary, Pakistan-fixated British strategic formulations can not only distort British formulations in South Asia but also affect Indian public perceptions of Britain.
Britain’s chief interests in Pakistan arise from the British domestic politics factor where the nearly three million strong Muslim populations in Britain, predominantly from Pakistan, have emerged as a political factor in electoral politics in certain constituencies.
Going by recent reports on rise in Islamist tendencies in Britain and some terrorism attacks in the past, Britain should legitimately hope that Pakistan could be a strategic asset in calming the restlessness that seems to be shaping in the Muslim community in Britain.
In this direction, no evidence has emerged to suggest that Pakistan has contributed in any meaningful way to inject messages of reason and advice to the Muslim community in Britain that they should get assimilated as responsible citizens of the liberal British society. In that case Britain could have then considered Pakistan as a strategic asset to Britain. .
On a wider and higher strategic plane beyond the South Asian confines is the consideration as to what extent Pakistan as the staunch Western ally provided political and military support to British and American security interests and interventions in the Middle East? During the Gulf Wars when other Muslim nations were fighting along with the US-UK coalition in Iraq, where was Pakistan as the “Major Non-NATO Ally”?
Lastly, the myth bought by Britain and USA that the Pakistan Army stands as a wall protecting the West against global terrorist outfits like the Al Qaeda and the ISIS, let the facts available speak for themselves. The horrific 9/11 attacks on USA were conceived, financed and facilitated by Pakistan as per Western published sources. Osama bin Laden was ensconced in the heart of Pakistan Army’s most prominent garrison town for years until liquidated directly by US Special Forces actions.
Concluding, strong strategic imperatives exist contextually for the United States and Britain to revise their assessments of Pakistan’s strategic utility to their respective national security interests. Pakistan’s strategic utility is exclusively reserved for China and no amount of ‘strategic halos’ endowed on Pakistan by Britain and the United States will tempt Pakistan to wriggle out of China’s tight strategic embrace.

Pakistan - Fighting Terrorism on Social Media

Lahore church attacks: A lesser story than Pakistan's cricket triumph

The day when Islamists attacked churches in Lahore, most Pakistanis were celebrating the national cricket team's win over Ireland. Such is the apathy of the common Pakistanis regarding the plight of minorities.
People from the Christian community attend a protest, to condemn suicide bombings which took place outside two churches in Lahore, in Peshwar, March 16, 2015
(Photo: REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz)
"These attacks happen every second day in Pakistan. There isn't much to celebrate in this country, so why shouldn't we revel in the victory of our cricket team in the World Cup?" Hammad Yusuf, a university student in Karachi, told DW.
Yusuf's sentiments are also reflected in the local media: There was scant coverage of the suicide bombings on two churches in Lahore's Youhanabad area on Sunday, March 15 while TV channels gave more airtime to Pakistan's qualification to the Cricket World Cup's quarter-finals in Australia-New Zealand. The cricket story also dominated social media as Pakistan's Facebook and Twitter users congratulated the national squad on its triumph over Ireland.
Living in fear
But for the Christian community in Pakistan, which forms 1.6 percent of the country's population, the persecution, massacres, and the legal and social discrimination in the Islamic Republic are never ending.
The twin bombings in Lahore, which killed 14 people and wounded over 50, are a routine affair in the predominantly Sunni nation. In September 2013, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the courtyard of Peshawar's All Saints church, killing 82 people and leaving as many injured. The attack on the church in the northwestern Pakistani city is believed to be the deadliest ever against the Christian community.
Women from the Christian community carry a sign during a protest after a suicide attack on a church in Lahore March 15, 2015
(Photo: REUTERS/Mani Rana)
The Christians in Pakistan live under constant fear
One of the most violent attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Pakistan was carried out in 2009 in the central Gojra town of the Punjab when Muslims burnt more than 70 Christian houses and many churches, killing seven people, after a rumor that the Koran had been desecrated.
The Christians in Pakistan live under constant fear of the blasphemy law. Rights activists, however, say the law is often implemented in cases which have little to do with blasphemy. They believe the blasphemy law is used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas. Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis are often victimized as a result.
Experts say that Christians fear militants and common Pakistanis alike. The fact that most people did not unequivocally condemn the recent Lahore bombings and chose to revel in their cricket team's win was proof of anti-minority sentiment, some observers underline. "The days are gone when we said it was a small group of religious extremists, xenophobes, hate-mongers, and bigots who commit such crimes," Karachi-based journalist Mohsin Sayeed told DW. "Now the venom has spread to the whole of Pakistani society." He added that those who condemned such "barbaric crimes" were now a minority in the country.
Asad Butt of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) agrees: "Religious intolerance is definitely growing in Pakistan," Butt told DW.
Taking matters into their own hands
Some 5,000 Christians took to the streets in Lahore on Monday, March 16, and shouted anti-government slogans in a second day of protests against suicide bombings. The attacks also sparked mob violence with Christians smashing up cars and a bus station in a show of anger.
"We have taken to the streets to get justice, we want protection," 50-year-old protester Maqbool Bhatti told the news agency AFP. Bhatti, a government employee, said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government had failed to provide security to the country's Christians. "There was no proper security on Sunday, the government should protect all churches," he added.
Pakistan fans enjoy the atmosphere during the ICC Cricket World Cup warm up match between England and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on February 11, 2015 in Sydney, Australia
(Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cricket: Opiate of the masses?
Samson Salamat, a Christian community leader, said the government must formulate a national plan to deal with the situation. He denied reports that Christians were involved in violent protests. "I fear that some people are trying to tarnish the image of our peaceful community. Christians in Pakistan have never taken the law into their hands," Salamat told DW correspondent, Tanvir Shahzad, in Lahore.
Zaeem Qadri, spokesman of the Punjab's provincial government, told DW that adequate security was provided to churches prior to the attacks. "It was an attack on Pakistan. It was a reaction against operation Zarb-e-Azb which the government has initiated against extremists. We will not let militants damage relations between Muslims and Christians," said Qadri.
Despite government assurances, Pakistani Christians say they have no faith in the authorities anymore. Christian volunteers have set up their own check points around Youhanabad and have cordoned off their places of worship in various parts of the eastern city ahead of funerals planned on Tuesday for those killed in Sunday's attacks.
On Monday, special prayers were held at churches across the country, as well as candle-light vigils by Christian groups and members of civil society.
"The state has no intention to protect the minorities and the majority Muslims are least bothered about their plight," said Waqas Ahmed, a civil society activist in Lahore. "Holding vigils is the least we can do for our Christian brothers and sisters."