Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Who was Salam?
A tale of two documentaries
How Pakistan treated Salam after 1974
BY LARA SELIGMAN, ROBBIE GRAMER
America’s top general admits the war is at an impasse.
Another devastating suicide attack in Kabul on Tuesday and an independent report on the situation in Afghanistan serve to underscore what is now a growing consensus in Washington: that the United States is making no progress toward ending the 17-year-old war there.
More than 50 people were killed and at least 80 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a wedding hall in the Afghan capital, according to reports. This comes as a blow to the Trump administration’s strategy in Afghanistan, as American military officials had made defending major urban centers such as Kabul from the Taliban a linchpin of the effort.
Just days before the bombing, America’s top general admitted the war is at an impasse. The Taliban is “not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 17.
“We used the term stalemate a year ago, and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General on Nov. 19 released a gloomy report on the fight in Afghanistan for the second quarter in a row, citing little progress toward reconciliation. Operations in the country drew particular scrutiny over the past month after a high-profile Taliban attack in the southern province of Kandahar killedan influential Afghan police general and the local intelligence chief, narrowly missing U.S. Gen. Scott Miller, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
In the midst of increasing violence, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, reportedly held three days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar over the weekend. At a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, Khalilzad struck a decidedly more optimistic tone than his military counterparts on peace efforts—though he did not mention the talks in Qatar.
“I think there is an opportunity for reconciliation and peace,” Khalilzad said. “The Taliban are saying they do not believe they can succeed militarily, that they would like to see the problems that remain, resolved by peaceful means, by political negotiations.”
But the peace talks have sputtered and stalled in the past. While military leaders over the summer lauded a brief cease-fire between the Afghan government and the Taliban over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in June, the Taliban did not reply to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to implement a second cease-fire. Instead, the Taliban focused on disrupting preparations for the October parliamentary elections, according to the Inspector General report.
James Dobbins, a former senior U.S. diplomat who served as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2014, said there has been little progress in the past decade on bringing peace to Afghanistan. “Particularly for the last decade, we face a basic dilemma, which is that the best we can do is sustain the status quo—and that’s not a very satisfactory goal,” he said.
Meanwhile, the picture on the ground is increasingly dismal. For the past year diplomatic and military leaders have insisted that they are making headway toward the goals of the South Asia strategy, which in addition to defending population centers also includes airstrikes on Taliban narcotics labs and other revenue sources. The end goal is to pressure the Taliban into engaging in peace talks. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said“the president’s strategy is indeed working,” and Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, later expressed cautious optimism. Speaking to reporters in August, outgoing commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson also said he believed the strategy is working.
The Pentagon's statement came days after President Trump said that Pakistan does not do "a damn thing" for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad.
The US has suspended $1.66 billion in security assistance to Pakistan after President Donald Trump's directive, the Pentagon has said, in what experts believe is a strong signal of American frustration. The Pentagon's statement came days after President Trump said that Pakistan does not do "a damn thing" for the US, alleging that its government had helped al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden hide near its garrison city of Abbottabad.
"$1.66 billion of security assistance to Pakistan is suspended," Col Rob Manning, spokesman of the Department of Defence, told reporters in an e-mail response to questions on Tuesday. No further breakdown of the suspended security assistance to Pakistan was provided.
According to David Sedney, who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary Defence for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia during the previous Obama administration, the blocking of military assistance to Pakistan, which began in January this year, is a strong signal of American frustration. "But, so far Pakistan has taken no serious steps to address the core US concern - that Pakistan tolerates and often encourages groups which use violence against Pakistan's neighbours," Sedney told PTI.
"Pakistan's leaders have promised cooperation, but beyond words, serious cooperation has not happened, therefore President Trump is frustrated and so are most Americans," he said in response to a question.
"This frustration does not ignore the suffering that Pakistani people have undergone. It just asks Pakistan to recognise that it should act to help stop the suffering of others," said the Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.
Previously, Sedney was at the Department of State and the National Security Council, as well as Acting President of American University of Afghanistan. He was part of the Pentagon when Laden was killed in a raid by US commandoes in Pakistan's Abbottabad. Over the last few days, Trump has said that people in Pakistan knew about the presence of Laden.
"I agree with the views of Carlotta Gall of the New York Times who reported in her book 'The Wrong Enemy' that a very small group of very senior Pakistani military leaders knew about Laden's presence in Pakistan. I have not seen any evidence that his presence in Abbottabad was widely known by many in Pakistan," Sedney told PTI in an interview.
While Pakistan has suffered terribly from terrorism by Islamic extremists, Islamabad has also enabled extremist groups that attack its neighbours, he observed. After years of dithering, in recent years, Pakistan's security forces have moved strongly against the extremists that threaten the Pakistani state, Sedney said.
"What the US seeks, what President Trump is asking for, is for Pakistan to take the same kind of measures against the Taliban, Lashkhar-e-Taiba and against all groups in Pakistan that threaten Pakistan's neighbours," he said.
"But, we still see the Taliban moving weapons, fighters and money through Pakistan. We still see Taliban commanders taking refuge in Pakistan, keeping their families in Pakistan, holding meetings and conducting training in Pakistan and shipping explosives from Pakistan into Afghanistan," Sedney alleged, adding that leaders of sanctioned organisations acting freely in Pakistan and speaking publicly in favour of violence.
If Pakistan took some strong measures against the Taliban, peace would come to Afghanistan quickly, he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has roped in former top American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad for peace talks with the Taliban. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan would benefit from a huge "peace dividend", he asserted.
"Similarly, if Pakistan took strong measures against groups which act against India, Pakistan would harvest huge economic benefits from better economic ties with India," Sedney added.
Ties between the US and Pakistan strained after Trump, while announcing his Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August last year, hit out at Pakistan for providing safe havens to "agents of chaos" that kill Americans in Afghanistan and warned Islamabad that it has "much to lose" by harbouring terrorists.
In September, the Trump administration cancelled $300 million in military aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban active on its soil.
Supporters appeal for family to be given asylum in Europe or north America.
The family of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy before being acquitted three weeks ago, claim they are being hunted by extremists going house to house with their photographs to try to track them down.
Bibi’s family have been in hiding since her acquittal by the country’s supreme court. She is in protective custody as part of a deal between the government and a hardline Islamic party, under which violent protests were called off while a review of the court ruling was undertaken.
Bibi’s lawyer, relatives and supporters have appealed for the family to be given asylum in a European or north American country. Several countries have indicated their willingness to offer a home, but nothing concrete has emerged.
John Pontifex, of Aid to the Church in Need UK (ACN), which has campaigned on Bibi’s behalf since she was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010, said he had been in almost daily contact with her family over the past three weeks and they were very frightened.
“They have told me that mullahs had been reported in their neighbourhood going from house to house showing photos of family members on their phones, trying to hunt them down,” he told the Guardian.
“The family have had to move from place to place to avoid detection. Sometimes they can only operate after sundown. They have had to cover their faces when they go out in public. They have had to remove the rosary that hangs from their car rear-view mirror for fear of attack.”
Pontifex said the family’s faith was “sustaining them in this time of acute danger”. He added: “They say that if they are not allowed to find a future outside Pakistan, the fear is that sooner or later something terrible might happen to them.”
Bibi’s lawyer, who fled Pakistan shortly after the court ruling saying his life was in danger, said this week that talks on asylum were under way with several European countries. “I hope the western world is trying to help her,” Saiful Malook told reporters in Frankfurt.
Canada, Spain and France are thought to have offered asylum to Bibi. Germany and Italy have reportedly held talks with Pakistan on the issue.
The UK government has declined to answer questions about whether it is considering an offer of asylum, saying it does not want to further endanger Bibi and her family.
The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and many other MPs and peers have called for the UK government to act. Some reports have suggested that the government fears a backlash among British Muslims of Pakistani heritage if it offers Bibi asylum.
On Tuesday, Sayeeda Warsi told the House of Lords: “There have been press reports that Asia Bibi, if granted asylum in the United Kingdom, would potentially not be safe from some communities here … As someone who is deeply connected to British Muslim communities, I assure her that they are fully supportive of any asylum claim that Asia Bibi may have and that our country may afford her, and that she would be supported as she would be by all other communities in this country.”
The Muslim Council of Britain said in a tweet: “There are unfounded media reports that Pakistani national Asia Bibi is being denied asylum into the UK because of concerns from British Muslims. We find such insinuations to be as nonsensical as they are divisive. We see no reason why Asia Bibi should be denied asylum into the UK.”
After Bibi’s acquittal, Islamic hardliners called for her and the judges in the case to be killed, and they mounted protests that brought cities to a standstill. Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has been accused of capitulating to their demands.
Bibi, a farm labourer, was accused by Muslim villagers of insulting the prophet Muhammad in a row over a cup of water. The supreme court judgment said there was no evidence to support the charge.
پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی شہید شاہنواز بھٹو کی 60 ویں سالگراہ کے موقعے پر انہیں شاندار الفاظ میں خراج عقیدت
پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے شہید شاہنواز بھٹو کی 60 ویں سالگراہ کے موقعے پر انہیں شاندار الفاظ میں خراج عقیدت پیش کیا ہے۔ اپنے پیغام میں پی پی پی چیئرمین نے کہا کہ شہید شاہنواز بھٹو انقلابی اور بے خوف شخصیت کے مالک تھے، ظالموں نے انہیں جواں عمری میں ہی بے دردی سے قتل کردیا۔ انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ شہید ذوالفقار علی بھٹو کے عدالتی قتل کے بعد جمہوریت کے لیئے سرگرم عمل بھٹو خاندان کو مزید دکھ دینے اور حوصلے پست کرنے کی خاطر آمریتی عناصر نے سب سے پہلے شہید شاہنواز بھٹو کو نشانہ بنایا، کیونکہ وہ خاندن میں سب سے چھوٹے اور سب کو عزیز تھے۔ پی پی پی چیئرمین نے کہا کہ شہید شاہنواز بھٹو ہمیشہ جیالوں اور عوام کی دلوں میں زندہ رہیں گے۔ بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کارکنان و عوام سے اپیل کی