Friday, December 31, 2010

The American (Banana?) Republic versus the Rising Chinese empire

Paul Krugman’s op-ed piece in the New York Times today [12/31/10] refers to the United States as a Banana Republic. I have been wondering about how long this country can continue living as it does without there being a reckoning, a rude, even shattering, confrontation with reality. It would be easy to elaborate on the dangerous trajectory of affairs, something many have enumerated. In today’s rant Krugman specifically points to the “spectacular hypocrisy” of the Republican Party. But what strikes me is how unaware -- unconcerned? -- the American public seems to be. The leadership of this country, Democratic and Republican, seems unable to confront the great challenges of the times: the deficit, for instance: The Republicans trumpeted the necessity to resolve the deficit crisis before the election and then, once elected, immediately began to claim they would reduce taxes, a strategy well known to increase the deficit. Experts on virtually all sides claim that unless serious steps are taken the future for the United States is uncertain – a growing number say it could be catastrophic. Jared Diamond’s book Collapse provides plenty of examples of societies, even great empires, that simply ran themselves into oblivion: Witness the great statues of Easter Island, lifeless images of now-forgotten leaders who through these statues paraded their eminence as they competitively consumed the resources on which their societies survived.

In the mean time, as the United States eschews all measures necessary to ensuring its solvency, a new empire is rising in the east, China, which has an abundance of cash and no such deficit. The Chinese are reaching out to Africa and South America as well as the neighboring lands of Asia with an eye to their interests over the long term – and as we understand well, the “long term” for the Chinese can be centuries. They are granting loans for the reconstruction and development in such African countries as Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Zambia; and they are investing in such South American countries as Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba (see Foreign Affairs, Jan 5, 2010, Debora Braudigam; Timeline, March 15, 2010, Reuters). They are buying up rights to develop minerals in Afghanistan and other countries of Central Asia, they are building pipelines to ship gas as well as oil directly to industrial centers, and most interestingly, they are building up a navy and constructing ports (Gwadar, Pakistan) that will be supply stations for their navy -- and Gwadar in particular will be the terminus oil and gas pipelines that will bring energy to an ocean going port.

All this is taking place as many Americans seem fixed on a past that cannot return. The heroic legends of World War II still entrance; narratives of a great power that saved the world persist. Narratives of great generosity are taken at face value [the reality is that the US gives much less per capita than most industrial nations.]

The presumption is that American ingenuity will rise to the challenges of the future. No matter how bleak the prospects, how hopeless the outlook, the Americans will again come through; they will find a way, to the point of planting new colonies on the moon or Mars. This is the mind-set of the graduates of my high sckool -- as least as can be determined from the occasional newsletter they put out. Their comments about our times reveals how little they have internalized of the changes that have taken place in our world since our graduation day umpteen years ago. The world they live in and the world I seek to understand bear no resemblance to each other.

The problem for all of us is identifying the world as it is. There is a “reality” we all presume, but actually discovering it as it is turns out to be an interpretive exercise. We only see the world from perspectives that are familiar to us. So we tend to face the future with eyes informed by a past that is more real in our minds than actually exists. For me, it takes time and reflection to figure out what I think about what is going on in the world, but by the time I have figured out what I think about it I'm out of date.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The low-grade war between the Taliban and Pushtun tribal leaders

For a long time many people have pointed out that the drone attacks have fostered resentment among the local populations among whom the drones have been used. It’s easy to understand: who cannot appreciate the bitterness at those who barge in and kill?

But what about the obverse of this scenario? The Taliban have also been doing plenty of killing as well. Not collateral damage, but specific persons within the Pashtun community have been targeted. The Taliban / Al Qaeda fighters have been killing off leaders of the Pashtun tribes whenever they opposed them.

Contrary to what is presumed by some, the Taliban are not tribal; in fact, they are institutionally anti-tribal. They are organized around Islamic concepts; loyalty and influence are framed in religious terms. For years they have clashed with Pushtun tribal leaders even though they are themselves Pushtun. There is a kind of low-grade war between the Taliban and some of the Pushtun tribal leaders –inside both Pakistan and Afghanistan. And when people are killed, are not grudges developing? What about the young men whose fathers have been killed by Taliban? What is happening to that generation?

To indicate the scale of this conflict and the vengeance obligations that may be being generated in this conflict, I provide below a list of some of the notable instances when the Taliban killed Pushtun leaders [from new sources indicated below].

• Jan 7, 2008. “eight tribal leaders involved in efforts to broker a cease-fire between security forces and insurgents in Pakistan's volatile northwest, …. The suspected insurgents killed three of the men in a market in Wana, the region's main town, while the other five were killed in attacks on their homes” [,2933,320548,00.html]
• Sep 24, 2009. “The Pakistani Taliban killed seven tribal leaders who back the government during an attack in the district of Bannu in the Northwest Frontier Province. … The Taliban killed Malik Sultan and six other tribal leaders as they traveled to "mediate a dispute between local people, … Sultan is the tribal leader who raised the local anti-Taliban lashkar, or tribal militia, after the Taliban kidnapped more than 300 students and the staff from a cadet college in Ramzak in neighboring North Waziristan.”
• Aug 14, 2009. A Taliban suicide bomber killed a pro-government tribal leader in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan, and two pro-government tribal leaders were killed in Bajaur.
• Jan 2, 2010. “Tribal elders in a Pakistani village where a suicide car bomber killed nearly 100 people insisted Saturday that residents will keep defying the Taliban, even as the bloodshed laid bare the risks facing the citizens' militias that make up a key piece of Pakistan's arsenal against extremism.”
• Aug 23, 2010. The Taliban targeted pro-government leaders in coordinated attacks today in Pakistan's troubled northwest, killing 25 people in three bombings and suicide attacks. … The largest strike took place at a mosque in the town of Wana in South Waziristan.

So, if local families can resent drone attacks by the Americans can they not also resent attacks by the Taliban that kill their loved ones?

Put it this way: The Taliban/Al Qaeda can have a foothold, “safe havens”, in various parts of Pakistans tribal areas, but are they welcome everywhere? Are their “safe havens” safe because their hosts support their activities and subscribe to their agendas or because they armed to the teeth? Demonstrations against drone attacks are safe in the tribal areas, but does that mean that the local communities are happy to have armed camps of anti-constitutionalist warriors in their midst? What chance is there of demonstrating against the abuses of the Taliban in those places?

This is why the December 15th article in the New York Times by Carlotta Gall and Ruhullah Khapalwak on the recent souring of relations between the Taliban and their hosts in Kandahar province was arresting. [] As anyone who follows this part of the world immediately recognizes, that article departed from what virtually every other observer has said about the situation, for it says the local populations of the district are turning away from the Taliban. Is this a sign of authentic feelings rising to the surface or merely a strategic action to keep options open in an uncertain world?

What would the various players in this region want if they were free to expose their genuine preferences? Their situation appears to be overlain with coercive forces of several sorts, various and cross-cutting, so that for them to survive they must make the best of the hand they have been given. Is the scene changing in Kandahar so that people are opting out of their relationship with Taliban because they want to be rid of them? What feelings and preferences lie masked by the demands of war?

What seems fair to surmise is that beneath appearances the Pushtun peoples of the tribal regions are holding grudges that remain to be settled, some of them between the Taliban warriors and their tribal hosts. When the current issues are settled, others may rise to the surface.

Some new information on Al Qaeda's activities in Karachi

Information that seems authoritative on Al Qaeda is so rare that when any article appears with details we peruse it with great care. Here is an article worth perusing from the The Friday Times, written by Ali Chishti, that tells us about Al Qaeda's activities in Karachi; also, about the measures taken by the Pakistani government to apprehend them. I reproduce the main elements of the article here because the magazine is relatively unknown in the West even though it is a great source of information on South Asia. Thanks to a friend for making this available to me. []

On May, 2, 2003 a plot by Al Qaeda to crash a small aircraft loaded with explosives into the US Consulate in Karachi was uncovered after the arrest of Walid Ba'Attash who played a significant role in planning the September 11 attacks. By late 2001, Al Qaeda fighters started infiltration into Pakistan and made Karachi their base. Their modus-operandi was simple but elaborate. Local jehadi organizations were instructed to rent apartments across Karachi at least two months in advance and wait. They came in one by one, and it took the Al Qaeda's top echelons 15 to 20 days to occupy an apartment. By 2002 Al Qaeda re-established itself and made Karachi the centre of its activities.

Al Qaeda selected Karachi as its springboard because Karachi was known for its ethnic and sectarian violence, which made it prone to terrorism. With the arrival of Al Qaeda, a new dimension was added to worsening law and order problems - the culture of suicide bombing.

The suicide bombing of French Naval workers in Karachi in May 2002 came as a surprise to many and was officially the start of Al Qaeda operations in Karachi. It was also the first time a local jehadi group, Harkat ul Mujahideen al Almi, was used for logistics while the suicide bomber was an Al Qaeda operative. President Musharraf and the US consulate were targeted later in June 2002 in Karachi. By September 2002 Pakistan had extradited 422 Al Qaeda members, 86 of which were caught from Karachi alone. The first major breakthrough was the arrest of Ramzi Al Shaibah in Karachi who once worked for the Hamburg Cell of Al Qaeda.

Sheikh Khalid Muhammad (SKM), Al Qaeda's operational chief by 2002 had formed a close operational link with Lashkar e Jhangvi and ran Al Qaeda from flats in the posh areas such as DHA and Bahadarabad Society. The news about the location of SKM came in June 2002 when Al Jazeera anchor Yosri Fouda received an invitation from Al Qaeda to conduct an interview in Karachi where he met both SKM and Ramzi bin Al Shaibah. Finally in January 2003, Jack Thomas, an Australian Al Qaeda fugitive, was captured in Karachi and gave 'actionable intelligence' on the whereabouts of SKM who was finally caught from Rawalpindi in March 2003 but it was too late by then. By 2003, SKM with Sheikh Omar had beheaded Daniel Pearl and established a strong nexus with the local sectarian groups working in Karachi. Lashkar e Jhangvi turned into Al Qaeda's team B and transformed into Jundallah.

Jundallah's Karachi chapter was founded originally by a Jamaat-e-Islami's (JI) student activist, Attaur Rehman, in 2003. Jundullah was initially a well-knit cell comprising 20 militants, most of them in their twenties and thirties, educated from professional classes. Jundallah attacked Karachi Corps Commander General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, bombed a US Consulate and carried out a series of terrorist attacks, including last year's triple bombings in an Ashura procession in Karachi.

In March 2004, the Karachi police arrested brothers, Dr Akmal Waheed and Dr Arshad Waheed, linked to JI who were suspected of assisting wanted militants to escape from the authorities and providing medical treatment to three fugitives Abu Massab, Gul Hasan and Qassam Al Sani, who were wounded in the attempt on Gen Hayat. The Waheed brothers were sentenced in 2005 to 7 years imprisonment but were later acquitted. Following his acquittal Dr Arshad Waheed shifted his activity to South Waziristan and was running a clinic in Wana, FATA region until a US missile drone killed him. Al Qaeda's media wing, Al Sahab Media Foundation, released the third part of a series of videos entitled "The Protectors of the Sanctuary" in memory of Dr Arshad Waheed confirming his association with Al Qaeda. This was also the first time Al Qaeda had used Urdu instead of Arabic which was significant in confirming doubts that Al Qaeda had indeed turned "desi".

In Karachi, Al Qaeda remains the biggest mastermind and financier of terrorism where the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, Qari Zafar Group) with its huge Mehsud population based in the outskirts of Karachi provides logistical support and suicide bombers. The operational aspects are entirely outsourced to sectarian-terrorist groups such as Jundallah.

While it is important to understand that Al Qaeda has successfully merged with the local jehadi organizations, it should be noted that Al Qaeda is constantly shifting its base from North Waziristan to urban areas of Pakistan to avoid drone attacks. The central thesis of Al Qaeda's philosophy is to create "fitna". Al Qaeda spreads fitna with the help of Lashkar e Jhangvi, by attacking MQM's legislator Raza Haider to create anarchy, or more strategically abetting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks with manufactured Frankensteins to help its main ally, the TTP. Al Qaeda's plan in Karachi is to exploit the sectarian and ethnic conflicts, create a trap for the Pakistan Army in the commercial capital, and disrupt NATO supplies. Karachi with such a strong base of Al Qaeda remains the most dangerous and venerable cities in the world.

Ali Chishti is a writer based in Karachi. He can be reached at

The First Duely Elected Parliamentary Democracy in Central Asia

So far, no comments on the developments in Kyrgyzstan: a parliament-based government that may actually have the power to govern. As the report by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty indicates, this is the first duly constituted parliamentary democracy in Central Asia. We hope it holds.

December 17, 2010
Kyrgyzstan Approves New Government
Kyrgyzstan has approved a new government, ending more than two months of political uncertainty following parliamentary elections and effectively initiating Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy.

Deputies in the Kyrgyz parliament were confirming the majority coalition formed on December 15 that joins the Respublika Party with the Social Democratic Party and the Ata-Jurt Party. The coalition controls 77 seats in the 120-member legislature.

Later the same evening, deputies elected the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Russia-leaning politician Almazbek Atambaev, to be the country's prime minister. He won the support of 92 lawmakers.
... [For more, click on the title above or go to the url below.]

Written by Richard Solash with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and agency reports
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty © 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vital Concerns for the World: My Nightmare: Anthropology as Moral indignation

Vital Concerns for the World: My Nightmare: Anthropology as Moral indignation

My Nightmare: Anthropology as Moral indignation

As we were getting ready for bed my wife mentioned the article in the New York Times. “What is this with the Anthropology Association ditching the word ‘science’?,” she said. I hadn’t seen the Times that day, and immediately hunted up the article. Sure enough, the article by Nicholas Wade said the executive board of the AAA had stripped the word “science” from its long-term plan. The “science faction” in the Association was alarmed, blaming it on “the advocates for native peoples or human rights,” the moralists who want to change the world through anthropology. I knew it! The moralizers have taken over, the guys who want to abandon anthropology, the article said, because it was linked to colonialism.

The news was so upsetting that I couldn’t sleep. I had nightmares all night. I dreamed anthropology had been taken over by the “Moral Indignation” faction, driving the “science faction” to the margins, reducing it to only two panels at the AAA meetings. The whole scene left me confused and conflicted about what I had been doing. I had always thought I did “science” because I sought to ground my descriptions of the world by logically demonstrating my claims empirically. Trained in the dark age of the 1960s, I thought anthropology was “the science of history.” The moralists were now dissing my scientific pretensions -- and now they were in control of the AAA. At the same time, admittedly, I have been filling my blog with my own moral outrage, so in a way I am one of them. I can be as self-righteous as the best of them. And in my dreams I told them so: “Look at all the things I wrote about the neocons after 2000,” I told them. “I'm as good at moral outrage as the best of you; I’m on a par with Edward Said.” Anyway, I admitted it: I love to be self-righteous. And I have the evidence to prove it.

But there was a difference: I regarded my moral indignation as a diversion. What I have taken seriously has been my “science,” my grounded descriptions of a world that is tangled, conflicted, and changeable. But I never thought my self-righteous critiques were my most important contributions to my profession. Now the moralists are saying that I have it all wrong: my attempts to logically demonstrate descriptions of the world as I have found it cannot compare with the importance of my professional outrage.

I began to wonder what these moralizers might do to my discipline. My colleague John R Bowen has lately been producing brilliant reports on what he calls “an anthropology of public reasoning.” What will they do to that? Should his title instead have been, “A moral critique of public reasoning”? But it turns out that John is out of date too, because he grounded his reports on personal interviews with real people, even identifying them by their real names. Anyway, if he was going to write about the French, why couldn’t it be about the contemptible pretensions of “being French”? Or “French hubris.?”

I was uncomfortable with the moralizers for another reason: I am not used to being so au currant. When was my work ever so main-stream? It feels strange to be ahead of the curve for once. In my sleep I of course made the obvious decision: I now would emphasize my self-righteous critiques of the world; but once in a while I might write some “science” for diversion.

It was a hard night. When I finally woke up I googled the actual report of the AAA and found out what had really happened. The President of the Association, Virginia Dominguez, explained that the board had “replaced the term “science” in the preface of the planning document by a more specific (and inclusive) list of research domains” in order to accommodate those who don’t think they are doing science. Somehow, with the sun up, the world seemed better, more sane. The Morally Indignant faction hasn’t actually taken over the AAA yet. Things aren’t as bad as I feared. It was only a nightmare.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Another accusation of Blasphemy

An Ismaili doctor has now been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan -- another case in which those zealous for their faith can display their indignation at the way the rest of the world behaves. The sad part of such claims is that they appear to have become mere devices for intimidation of those who are marginal to those who consider themselves main-stream true believers. Christians, Ismailis, Shias are easy targets in Pakistan. Besides the Christian woman Asia Bibi we now have Naushad Valiyani to worry about.
The contradiction is that the more that pretenses of "faith" are enforced by public demand and by the courts the less "faith" can be authentic. The great creative innovation in the Western world -- originally established by Roger Williams in the new British colony of Rhode Island -- was the insistence that true faith could be authentic only where one can safely refuse to believe. Such a situation is only possible where the State guarantees the right to practice [or not] one's personal faith.
In the zeal to have a "Muslim" society some religious enthusiasts in Pakistan have turned religion into a litmus test of patriotism. In such a system authenticity -- genuine questioning, genuine doubt, a serious personal search for certainty on moral and metaphysical issues -- becomes dangerous, even an act of treason.
What can it mean to quench such personal searching in a whole society? What Pakistan has become may be an indication of what happens: The zealous parade their religiosity; the rest remain silent.

From the Express Tribune, Dec 12, 2010.
Doctor arrested on blasphemy charges

Activists chant slogans against Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who had been sentenced to death, during a protest in Karachi on December 3, 2010. PHOTO: IRFAN ALI
KARACHI: A doctor has been arrested on charges of blasphemy in Hyderabad, police said on Sunday.
Naushad Valiyani was detained on Friday following a complaint by a medical representative who visited the doctor in the city of Hyderabad.
“The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic,” regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.
“Faizan accused Valiyani of committing blasphemy and asked police to register a case against the doctor.”
Shah said the issue had been resolved after Valiyani, a member of the Ismaili community apologised but local religious leaders intervened and pressed for action.
“Valiyani had assured Faizan that he did not mean to insult the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) by throwing the visiting card in the dustbin,” Shah said, adding that the police had registered a case under the Blasphemy Act.
[For more go to:]

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Turkmenistan to India pipeline may become a reality

Most of the news outlets are ignoring a development that over the long term will be vital for Pakistan and possibly India, and certainly for Afghanistan. This is the signing of the the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project. It will be 1640 km long and terminate in Fazilka on the Indian border. President Asif Ali Zardari will sign the agreement with Turkmenistan in Ashgabat representing Pakistan on the 11th.

The significance of this is that these countries are going ahead with agreements for the disposition of Turkmenistan gas even before the war is resolved in Afghanistan, through which the pipeline must past. Evidently everyone surmises that the conflict there will eventually be resolved and that the construction of a pipeline will be feasible without serious interruption, even in territories that are currently roiled by conflict.

These are large commitments in a project that cannot yet be commenced. Evidently these four countries are more sure that this conflict can be brought to a conclusion than most Americans.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Shell Oil's Corporate Spying in Nigeria

Wikileaks reveals significant details about the way big corporations are operating in the modern world as well as about how governments operate. The latest leaks now give us information on how Shell Oil has penetrated "all the main ministries" of the Nigerian government, so that the company has "access to the politician's every move". Many of us have supposed that we live in a world in which companies play by the rules -- Isn't that what their advertising says? But we are coming to realize that besides having secrets and long term projects and plans like governments they have spies and practice espionage.

Such issues seem to me all the more significant the more stratified the world becomes. I have heard that the separation the top 1% from the lower 90% is greater than in American history. If so, the opportunities for the abuse of power through the manipulation of information sources is greater than ever. Not good for our country; not good for the world.

For a fuller report click on the title above, which links to the Guardian report:

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The threat of death to a Christian woman in Pakistan

What adds to the terror of this cleric's call for the death of this woman is that standing with him in the picture that VOA provides of him is a bloc of men who presumably consent to his edict. The last time a Christian man was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan he was exonerated by the court, but as he left the steps of the building he was gunned down by unknown assassins. In this woman's case, even if she is actually exonerated by the courts, she and her family can never be sure that she [or they] can ever be safe in Pakistan. It can be no comfort that several officials are embarrassed by the affair. The absence of a serious outcry by the public evinces how dangerous it is to be a Christian in Pakistan -- but not a Christian only: an Ahmadi or [in someplaces] a Shia. Minorities cannot be sure they are safe in Pakistan because religious zeal has become a device of politics. The people of the country have to bear this because its leaders suppose that extremists can be useful in a [supposedly forthcoming] war against India.

Pakistan Cleric Offers Reward for Killing Christian Woman

VOA News04 December 2010

A Pakistani cleric says if the government does not hang a Christian mother of five convicted last month of blasphemy against Islam, then his mosque will offer a reward of $6,000 to anyone who kills her. Yousef Qureshi issued the call Friday.

Pakistan's Minister for Minority Affairs Shabaz Bhatti has recommended that Asia Bibi be pardoned or released from prison if her pending court appeal is not quickly addressed.

Bibi has denied claims by local women that she made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

Bibi is the first woman condemned to die under Pakistan's blasphemy law. Convictions under the law are common, but no executions have ever been carried out.

During her trial, Bibi told the court Muslim villagers were pressing her to accept Islam. She said she is being prosecuted because of her religion.

Bibi's husband says the family has been forced to flee their home near Lahore because of threats on his wife's life if she is released from prison.

Pakistan's Christians, who make up less than five percent of the country's 175 million people, have long complained of discrimination. Christian and human rights groups have expressed shock at Bibi's death sentence and have begun an online petition calling for Pakistan blasphemy law to be repealed.

Find this article at:

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The US is helping improve Central Asia's Infrastructure

The infrastructural developments in Central Asia seem to be a major concern of the United States, owing to its evident importance as a vital line of supply for the in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Joshua Kucera's recent report reminds us of how critical Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are to the Americans. [Click on the title for a direct link.]

[Published First on (
Central Asia: Washington to Expand Traffic on Northern Supply Route
November 18, 2010 - 2:05pm by Joshua Kucera

The United States intends to expand security cooperation with Central Asian states, US diplomats say. One means to do so, they add, is increasing the capacity of the Northern Distribution Network, which ships military cargo bound for US and NATO forces overland through Central Asia to Afghanistan.

The United States now can ship over 1,000 containers per week to Afghanistan via the NDN, said David Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. “And we expect to increase this figure even further in the coming months,” he added. About 98 percent of that traffic passes through Uzbekistan [8], he said November 17 at a hearing of a House of Representatives hearing, titled The Emerging Importance of the U.S.-Central Asia Partnership.

“We must increase our engagement with Central Asia at all levels— working in the short term to expand logistical flows and, in the long term, expanding and deepening our relations from a DoD perspective, particularly in the security sector. Such engagement will help give our partners in Central Asia the support they need as we all work to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda,” Sedney said at the hearing.

Gen. James Mattis, the commander of US Central Command, was traveling through Central Asia, including visits to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. According to the US Embassy in Tashkent, Mattis signed the “2011 Program of Security Cooperation between USCENTCOM and the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Uzbekistan,” which it said was similar to the previous year's agreement.

“Through this increased engagement, we have seen an improved relationship with Uzbekistan, but many challenges remain,” said Robert Blake, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, who also testified at the hearing. “We continue to encourage the Uzbek authorities to address significant human rights concerns such as ending forced child labor [9], opening up the media environment, and demonstrating greater tolerance for religious activities. We are also encouraging building an investment-friendly business environment to enhance economic opportunities for American businesses and for the benefit of the Uzbek economy.”

The NDN could help expand Central Asia's economy, Sedney said in his written statement for the hearing. “By expanding trade linkages, the NDN has the potential to one day reconnect Central Asia to India, Pakistan, and other formerly closed markets, in a direct land route from the heart of Asia to the heart of Europe,” he said.

Both Sedney and Blake addressed the recent instability in Tajikistan, but neither appeared to endorse the Tajikistan government's explanation that transnational Islamist terror groups were behind the violence [10]. “In 2010, Tajikistan experienced a number of security challenges that the government told us originated with extremist elements,” Sedney said. Blake identified those fighting the government only as “former civil war combatants.”

Blake praised the performance of Kazakhstan as the chair-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [11]. “We think that Kazakhstan has done a very credible job,” he said. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the OSCE summit in December in Astana, and the U.S. wants the OSCE to adopt an action plan at the summit to focus on improving border security, countering trafficking and promoting legal commerce in Central Asia, Blake said.

[Editor's note: Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Joshua Kucera Afghanistan Tajikistan US Uzbekistan NDN War in Afghanistan
2010 © Eurasianet]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A "news" error at Politico again reminds us ...

Apropos of the layers of misleading, interested lies that try to pass for "truth" in the world, FP's Passport blog describes how Politico was hustled by the Russian media.


No sign in Kyrgyzstan that things are calming down.

Clashes interrupt Kyrgyz trial over April killings
17 Nov 2010 10:49:04 GMT
Source: Reuters

Angry relatives call for accused to be shot
* Defendants evacuated as trial descends into chaos
* Tensions remain in Kyrgyzstan after wave of violence
By Olga Dzyubenko
BISHKEK, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Relatives of protesters killed in an April revolt clashed with police in a Kyrgyz court on Wednesday, calling for the execution of those accused of killing scores in the uprising that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Dozens of relatives of the dead broke through police lines at the trial held in a Bishkek sports palace, trying to reach the 22 accused, who include Bakiyev's former defence minister, before the defendants were evacuated.
"They must be shot!" the attackers cried, some grabbing microphone stands and wielding them to fight police a few hours after the start of the first trial stemming from the killings.
"Death for death! We will burn down your homes!" some shouted as the trial began. "You are damned ... We will pluck your eyes," yelled others.
The April uprising in the capital Bishkek triggered a wave of violence in the ethnically divided Central Asian nation, which hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases.
Officials say 87 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded on April 7 when Bakiyev ordered his special forces to shoot into angry crowds storming government headquarters.
The south of the Muslim state bordering China saw seizures of administrative buildings in May and the worst ethnic riots in its modern history in June when at least 400 people were killed.
The accused are charged with aiding or committing premeditated murders and face from 10 years in jail to life imprisonment.

[For more, click on the title to reach the source.]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Asia Foundation's Survey of Afghanistan: Generally positive news

The Asia Foundation “Survey of the Afghan People” has been published and has a bundle of surprises. [Click on the title above for a link to the source.] Most of us are discouraged these days, but the survey, done in summer, 2010 before the elections, presents an image of a people who are more positive than they have been for years. Here are some specifics.

In 2010, 47% of respondents say that the country is moving in the right direction. This figure has been increasing since 2008 (38%) and 2009 (42%).

In 2010, Afghans give a more optimistic assessment of their economic situation than in 2009. More Afghans say they are better off now than a year ago in all domains, particularly in terms of the financial wellbeing of their household. However, the benefits of increased financial well-being are not evenly shared, with those in the highest income bracket significantly more likely to report an improvement in their financial well-being in the past year than those in the lowest income category.

The majority of respondents are also aware of development projects in their local area relating to education and the same is true for projects targeting the reconstruction or building of roads and bridges.

[R]espondents are positive about the level of reconstruction and rebuilding, which remains the second most important reason for optimism cited by respondents who say the country is moving in the right direction. As in previous years, respondents are most satisfied with the availability of education for children in their local area, and the opening of schools for girls continues to be mentioned as a reason for optimism in the country, although to a lesser degree than in 2009.

Satisfaction with the performance of the national government has risen steadily over the last three years and 2010 records the highest levels of positive assessments of national government performance since 2007 in almost all regions.

In terms of local government, respondents give the most positive assessment of the performance of Provincial Councils, followed by district authorities and municipalities.

Confidence in both formal and informal representative bodies, including community shura and jirga, Provincial Councils, Community Development Councils (CDC) and Parliament remains relatively high.

Support for the application of democratic principles of governance remains high.
But of course not everything is sweetness and light in a place like Afghanistan:

Good security is identified as the most important reason for optimism, although it is mentioned by fewer respondents this year than in 2009. … [I]nsecurity is also cited as the main reason for pessimism, and by slightly more respondents in 2010 than in 2009.

In 2010, the only activity in which a majority of people say they can participate without fear is resolving problems in their community.

Actual experience of crime and violence remains relatively low, although there has been a significant rise in reported criminal victimization amongst respondents in the North East and South East.

Support for the government’s approach to negotiation and reintegration of armed opposition groups is significantly higher in 2010 than in 2009, suggesting that an increasing proportion of the Afghan public is in favor of a political solution to the ongoing conflict in the country, rather than a purely military one.

In 2010, there has been a significant fall in confidence in both national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) compared to previous years.

The majority of Afghans continue to say that corruption is a major problem in all facets of life and at all levels of government. In 2010, there has been a sharp increase since 2009 in the proportion of respondents who identify corruption as one of Afghanistan’s major problems, and as a main reason for pessimism amongst respondents who say that the country is moving in the wrong direction.

So, at a time when on this side of the globe hope has been waning it seems to be slowly gaining strength inside Afghanistan itself.

Of course we know better than to take these things too literally, too confidently. But it is news worth perking up about.

Drought in Chad and Sudan

The referendum in Sudan is getting attention in the media, as it should. What many of us have not grasped is how important developments in Chad are to the course of affairs in Sudan, because of its connection to Darfur, a hinterland to both countries. And both countries are suffering because of the southward advance of the Sahel, creating famine in both countries. AlertNet has an article about how serious it is for the peoples of that region. [Click on the title to link to the source]

Droughts break up our families - Chadian women
15 Nov 2010 17:22:00 GMT
AlertNet Written by: George Fominyen
Ashta Idriss sieves earth from ant hills in Anzarafa.

Women in Chad's semi-arid Sahel belt say recurrent droughts are breaking up their families - and they've had enough.

They want some long-term solutions to the regular food shortages, which are so bad they often have to scavenge in ant hills for food.

When the crops failed this year and severe hunger set in most men in this part of Chad migrated to other towns, especially the capital N'Djamena.

But women I met in two villages, Roumou and Anzarafa, over 500km east of the capital, say they are fed up with always bearing the brunt of these food shortages at home.

"We stayed alone with the little kids and as the crisis deepened we sold everything including our little goats and sheep, loins (lengths of fabric) and kitchen utensils to have money to get some food," Alima Abdoulaye, a mother aged about 50, told me in Roumou.

"It was heartbreaking to see our sons and husbands leave but what could we do?"

At the height of the crisis, between February and June, the women had to go into the bushes to dig up ant hills, which they sieved to collect the grains and seeds stored by the insects.

"We have to set out very early to the places where we can find the ant hills and the time taken to dig enough for a meal means we return very late when the children have gone to sleep without food," said Ashta Idriss, a 50-year-old widowed mother of three.

The women urged the Chadian authorities to take measures to ensure that droughts do not separate families, as has been the case this year.

"If we can end this cycle of repeated hunger crises, if we can just get something to stop it, we, as women, will be very glad," Abdoulaye said.

She would like to see the authorities build wells and irrigation canals to help the villagers farm even when the rainfall is bad.

"All we want is good health, to see our children grow and be successful," said Kaltouma Adam, another mother in her 50s.

"We also want to eat well and be plumper. We are so thin now because we are coming out of long suffering - next time when you come you will not find us like this, by the grace of God," she told me.

See also Hungry Chadians eating ant food after locusts attack crops

Reuters AlertNet is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Anti-Taliban Community in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas

In a sense nothing seems to change in the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan against the Taliban. What is changing is the attitude of the outside world: More and more people are doubting that the American project can prevail.

However, there are occasional notes in the news that sound different. The blog Gandhara has reproduced an article by Amanullah Ghilzai of Radio Mashaal that reveals how at least some Pushtuns in Pakistan’s tribal areas are responding to the Taliban: They are fighting them “to the death.” []

This sounds like real news:

There were reports yesterday of a bombing in Adezai, Pakistan, a village under near-constant siege from the Taliban. Over the last two years, this small village, about 16 kilometers south of Peshawar, close to the border of the tribal region of Dara Adamkhel, has fallen victim to ruthless Taliban violence -- having lost several local community leaders, clan leaders, and ordinary citizens.

But the Taliban has yet to kill the fighting spirit of the local people.

Since 2008, the Adezai lashkar (local militia) has -- without any outside help -- successfully denied Taliban advances, confining the Taliban to the Dara Adamkhel tribal area, keeping the militants from operating freely. The militia was formed in the wake of the almost complete collapse of government control of the area. Prior to 2008, while under Taliban control, villagers were executed in public and police officers refused to leave the police station for fear of meeting the same fate.

Adezai is crucial if the Taliban has plans to control the provincial capital of Peshawar. There is a general belief in the region that without the Adezai lashkar, the Taliban would already be in control of at least some of the southern parts of the city. So far, the local population has successfully maintained law and order in an area under constant threat of Taliban attack and where the proper Pakistani government is rarely seen. Several girls' schools -- once forcefully closed by the Taliban -- have reopened (although they are closely guarded by local militiamen).

To do all of this, the village people have had to endure great sacrifices, including the assassination in late 2009 of one of its leaders, Abdul Malik. Soon after, his son Noor took over the Adezai lashkar.

It is believed that Noor Malik was the target of yesterday's attack. On Monday, he told Radio Mashaal that no matter what happens, his village people will fight against the Taliban "to the last drop of their blood."

''Not a single penny is paid by the government to us in the past two and a half years," he said. "Our elders and brothers have been killed and our houses and businesses were destroyed. We are fighting with our own money and arms. Despite that, we shall continue to fight as long as we can. We would prefer death instead of surrender [before the Taliban].''

The local Pashtun population is resisting the Taliban in many other parts of the tribal regions and Khyber Pakhtunkhas, with Adezai serving as a symbol of resistance where a handful of young men are holding out against the Taliban.

-- Amanullah Ghilzai, Radio Mashaal

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Abuses of minorities in some countries of the MIddle East and South Asia

There are more articles about the persecution of minorities in this part of the world. Here are some links worth following:

On Pakistan:

On Iraq:

In the first of these the issue is a law that is easily abused. But in both cases the criminal attacks on minorities are also henous.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Infrastructural Development in Afghanistan

Good Afghan News also reports on highway improvements that are in motion. Yes, good news. [Click on the title for a link.]

Road construction projects underway in Faryab, Kabul, Parwan and Bamiyan provinces

Earlier this week, Afghanistan’s Public Works Ministry announced that a 7.7 kilometer road will be built in Maimana, the capital of Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab. The project will cost $2.4 million and it is scheduled to take one year to complete. The ministry said that the government has given the construction work to a local Afghan company because they want to boost the private business sector in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, the mayor of Kabul, Muhammad Yunus Nawandesh, told reporters that a project to asphalt the Parwan-sea road, Badam Bagh Square, Lab Jar road, Chelmetra road, Tajor Sultan High School road and Malika Soraya road has started. A total of 5.2 kilometers of road will be asphalted once the project is completed. The work is expected to take 6 months to complete. Kabulis hope that once the project is completed, it will help reduce traffic congestion in the city.

Today, Afghanistan’s Public Works Ministry announced that work on a highway between Parwan province and Bamiyan province has started. The road will be 104 kilometers long and 11 meters wide, and it is scheduled to take one year to complete. Once the work has been completed, travel between the two provinces will be much easier and faster, and it will improve the economy as it will be safer to take goods to markets and it will reduce travel time.

A railroad through Afghanistan

Good Afghan News [A great name, right?] has reported that the Chinese are planning to build a railroad through Afghanistan. In the long run, railroads, pipelines, airports, good highways, cell phones -- these will transform Afghanistan by making the country accessible to more influences and more opportunities by reducing the price and time of contact with the wider world. But also, importantly, infrastructural improvements like railroads make heavy industries more feasible. The huge copper mine being developed by the Chinese as Aynak are the immediate inducement to the Chinese to develop this railroad, but that railroad, with an extension into Hajigak, might also carry iron ore.

The Chinese are thinking ahead 50 years while many of us in the US can think ahead barely four years at a time.

Here is the article [click on my title above for a direct link]:

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) signed an agreement today in Kabul in which the Chinese firm agreed to construct a railway corridor in Afghanistan.

MCC will construct a railway corridor from Aynak Copper Mine in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Logar to eastern Torkham and northern Hairatan border towns. Logar is 60 km south of the capital city of Kabul. “This northern railway is part of a wider plan to extend the Afghan rail network to connect Afghanistan to ports in Iran and Pakistan,” Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani told the media today.

Shahrani also told the media that the railway corridor will not only be used for transporting mineral deposits, but will also be used for the transportation of goods and passengers as well. According to the Ministry, MCC has also committed to employ Afghan workers as much as possible, and at all levels of the project.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who was the most profligate president?

Who was the most profligate president?

Many Americans seem to think that the Obama administration has been overspending wildly. And they seem to recoil from the recommendations of many economists, that the government should borrow even more than it has in order to get the economy moving, especially to fund improvements in the country’s aging infrastructure. The Republicans seem to have won over many folks to the view that the government should cut back spending at a time when it would be better to jump-start the flagging economy.

The discussion brings to mind a statement by Christopher Buckley, the son of the notable conservative William F. Buckley, on the PBS program NOW with Bill Moyers [3/3/06].

“President Bush has now borrowed more money than all other Presidents combined. The spending that he has enacted is amazing. It amazes me that he calls himself "conservative."”

I am ill equipped to know if this statement is correct. In fact, I’m unsure if anyone could know, because the Bush administration took the two wars they were fighting off-line. Presumably there is no good way to find out. Moreover, I don’t know if Christopher was a Republican like his father. But his statement is arresting, for it makes a claim about the profligacy of a recent Republican administration that American people have no idea of.

What worries me is that, unaware of exactly where the budget deficit came from, or who to blame for the collapse of the economy, the American people could elect back into office the very group of people that signed off on the profligacy of the former president.

And so bring the foxes back into the hen-house.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Text and Subtext in South Carolina Politics

Nikki Haley is likely to be elected governor of South Carolina, but to do that she has had to go through some hoops that reveal the actual nature of politics in South Carolina. Look at an article in the WSJ June 22, 2010: “Haley Keeps Taking the Southern Test.”

The article says that in order to pass muster with certain South Carolinans Mrs. Haley had to demonstrate that she identified with their “feelings” “about the state’s Civil War history.” In a debate with other Republican candidates she was questioned about her "compliance with conservative values." Mrs. Haley was, in fact, the only one to be asked “what she thought had caused the Civil War,” because she was the only one whose family had not been established in the state for several generations; she comes from a Sikh family although she now is Christian.

What startled me was the conception of the Civil War that stood behind this inquiry: “The South” here cannot mean the blacks of the south. Twenty-nine percent of South Carolina is black; the questioners had no interest in what those southern citizens "felt" about the Civil War. The Civil War: what could it mean to the blacks of South Carolina?

The “Southern Test” was of course a “White Southern Test”. A century and a half after the Civil War some people – white people -- in South Carolina are still fighting it. The subtext is race by another name.

If Nikki Haley is elected governor of the state it seems unlikely that she will represent the “feelings” of nearly a third of the state’s citizenry, the blacks whose “conservative values” will likely differ from those who demanded that she reconstruct the past into their particular image of it. The subtext of the past and of the present is, for these whites, the same.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

MIchael Moore's Challenge

Americans seem to be divided over the sources they have for news. What amazes me is that so many people are willing to believe those who say, "All of the other sources of news are biased except this one; listen to me and I will give you the truth." Through such means many Americans have been induced to avoid anything that appears in the "liberal" news. This is how they also discredit Michael Moore. I was interested that one of the executives of a major health insurance company has recently said that much of what Moore had to say in "Sicko" was quite true and they agreed with, but because Moore was critical of their industry they systematically sought to claim that "Sicko" was merely Hollywood, not to be trusted.
This is preparatory to encouraging everyone to read Michael Moore's recent blog, "If the Mosque isn't built, this is isn't America." I would happily reproduce it if necessary, and only wish I had the ability to put the situation so well.
Everyone: have a look. Give him a chance. Don't fall for the ploy that Michael Moore is a crank. Listen to the case he makes.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

An offense to Islam and to Christ

I consider this site a place where I as a professional person can formulate some of my ideas and concerns and questions about the world, mostly [my region of interest] about the Middle East, Central and South Asia. But I believe a certain affair is so outrageous that I must somehow speak out to the few people I know who look at this blog in terms that reveal more about my personal moral orientation than I normally would place on this site. But the issue demands, I think, an expression of outrage from the position of an insider. So I here share a letter I sent out to a list of personal friends, all of them Christians like myself. For that reason it is written in the language of a Christian. Forgive me.

In the last few years many of us have wondered why the main line of Muslims have not denounced the radical Takfiri Muslims who have hijacked Islam in order to justify their own heinous behavior – the senseless murder of innocent folks, most of them in fact Muslims like themselves, some of them, I suppose, more pious and devote than themselves. We have asked why more Muslims have failed to speak up against them? (Actually, there is a growing chorus of Muslims actually doing this: Note for exam the “New Age Islam” website.)

Now it’s our turn, those of us who identify with Christ, with his life and teachings, and claim his sufferings for the sin of the world as the ground of our own acceptance before God. A shameful event is about to take place: an otherwise undistinguished person who claims to be a minister of the gospel is planning to mark the attack of 9/11 by burning the Quran publicly. It’s now time for us to speak up against such an offense to the Muslim world and in fact to the gospel.

Since when is deliberate provocation a witness of the love of Christ? When did open and public scorn of the sacred symbols of other folks become a vehicle of Christian testimony to a world already deeply torn by conflict and hatred? How is it Christ-like to insult those we disagree with? If this pathetic figure considers Muslims his enemy, Christ has given him a specific command: “Love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you.” He would do better to regard the Muslims of the world – of whom many must be within walking distance of his own house – as neighbors. And again in that case Christ has given him a specific command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It is not Christian to parade our religious zeal. Of all the kinds of people Jesus dealt with only one group did he attack with bitter scorn, the religious leaders who paraded their piety. “Woe to you, blind guides!” “You blind fools…”, “Woe to you, .. hypocrites, for you cleanse the outside of the cup, but inside you are full of extortion and rapacity.” “You are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones.” “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” No wonder they killed him.

Instead, Jesus taught that we should avoid the ways of the outwardly pious, “who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men.” Rather, we should pray in secret to the Father who sees in secret. If we fast we should fast in secret, never to parade our piety before the world. It is easy to display our self-righteousness, but the true display of God’s character in the world is, as the scriptures say, through “love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.”

So this affair is also a provocation against the Christ to gave himself for us, against his offer of love and forgiveness to the world.

I urge all my Christian friends to speak up against this outrage against the Savior whose sufferings and display of kindness to us delivered us from our many sins and called us to live upright lives to represent him during his absence from the world.

The problem we all have – everyone in the world now – is that we are being ever more closely crunched up against each other. The world has been getting smaller for a long time but the process has accelerated in the last few years and will continue to accelerate as the technologies of communication and transport improve and become more widely available. All over the world people are responding by retrenching, claiming to return to values now threatened by the new situation: Not only the Takfiri Muslims, but the Hindutva movement in India, etc. This changing world provides a new challenge to Christians to find creative ways to display the character of the Savior they claim to represent. To that end, I would encourage us all to avoid insulting those we don’t agree with. We need instead to listen to them, and all the more so if we are to display the qualities of Christian character that the scriptures call us to. Indeed, as human beings all human beings, the scriptures say, share much common ground; the differences in appearance masque that commonality. It seems fair to say that if the Christianity we espouse is to gain respect in the world it has to be through a display of the character of a God who took the initiative to reach out to a world in need by allowing himself to be tortured and scorned, and to hurt as human beings are hurt. If we listen to them, come to understand their issues, our time to speak will come, and in any case our opportunity to display the character of God in the world exists in every situation. There is no lack of opportunity to show the “fruit” of the spirit. Let us call upon all those who want to hold forth Christ to a world that broken, “Let all men know your forbearance” (Phil 4:5). This is the love of Christ.

ADDENDUM: For those who want to see evidence that Muslim leaders have decried extremism among Muslims here are two sites that will direct you to what has been said by a number of notable scholars in a formal, public letter to the Pope and other leaders associated with Christianity in the West.

A Common Word:

On the response and subsequent interactions:

Also see:

Monday, September 06, 2010

The wonder of astronauts

For some time I have been thinking about an event that took place in space several months ago. On the sixteenth of February two astronauts, Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick, new arrivals to the International Space Station on the Endeavor, spent six hours in a space walk uncovering the shutters of a window on a new observation deck, called a Cupola, that had been attached to the space station. The window has seven panels, six of them arranged around a larger, central round portal resembling the petals of a flower. Thirty-one inches across, the largest space window ever built, the window would give the astronauts a 380 degree panoramic view of the universe around them.

What interests me, and keeps coming back to me, that scarcely anyone has mentioned, is the way the astronauts reacted to what they saw through that window as they looked out for the first time: they wept. Shuttle flight director Bob Dempsey said "the astronauts, who are accustomed to views that you and I can't really describe, were moved to tears when they looked out the windows of the Cupola for the first time tonight because the panorama is just spectacular." "I know we talk about the view a lot,” said astronaut Terry Virts, but this one takes your breath away."

A spontaneous moment. It was as if the astronauts, already familiar with the sights of the universe, were unprepared for what they saw. How can we name such a reaction? Was it awe? And how shall we anthropologists account for it? Where does it come from? We are now used to saying, in the words of Clifford Geertz, that human beings look out on the world through lenses that they themselves have spun. Did this reaction come from the lenses? Or was some essence, something more fundamental, even more visceral, in the human being aroused? So far, anthropology has left this quality unexamined.

An ancient shepherd people, who spent their nights under the stars, found words of a different sort for the sight of the universe around them: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows his handiwork.”
[Click on the title for a link to the source article.]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Death for believing what you believe

What's going on in Afghanistan these days is cause for worry. Karzai threatens to join the Taliban. Karzai suggests that the Americans were behind the attempt to attack the recent jerga. Karzai fires two of the most trusted members of his cabinet. It makes one wonder what Karzai sees on the horizon that the rest of us don't. Or is it what the rest of us don't want to see: a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan? There are even reports that Karzai doesn't believe the American/NATO enterprise in Afghanistan will succeed. With Karzai doubtful and even poisoning the waters against his own allies and with Pakistan committed to supporting at least some of the Taliban, what indeed are the prospects for success in this war?

And then there is the question of persecution because of what people believe and practice in private.

It's hard to get our minds around the abuse of individuals by a government simply because of what they say they believe. What people think, most of us suppose, should not be controlled by the state. But the news that people accused of believing in Christ are being searched out, imprisoned, even possibly sentenced to death, sounds like first and second century Rome, not twenty-first century anywhere. That is what is happening in Afghanistan. A member of the Afghan Parliament has demanded that anyone found to be an honest Christian -- that is, people who won't change what they say they think about Christ even when threatened with death -- should be publicly executed. A number of students in Kabul University say they agree, and about a thousand people in Mazar-e Sharif say they agree. We should not suppose that everyone, or even a plurality of Afghans, agrees, but it is true that in Afghanistan it's the law that anyone who says he thinks otherwise than the state on religious matters should be killed.

It makes you wonder: if there really are people willing to put their lives on the line because of what they believe, how many hold the same ideas but are unwilling to say so?

This is the regime, the legal opinion, and the public conscience that American troops are fighting for.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Protesting too much: Pakistan's pro-Taliban military

The sadest part of these new reports of Pakistan's complicity with Taliban is that they are not new. We have heard this for years. And Pakistan has been denying it for years. RLC

Australian Broadcasting System: a program on today.

Pakistan angry over Taliban support claims
Updated June 14, 2010 18:57:36

Pakistan has responded angrily to renewed allegations that its military intelligence agency, the ISI, is actively supporting Taliban militants in Afghanistan - and on a much larger scale than previously thought. The report, commissioned by the London School of Economics, says Taliban field commanders that it interviewed, suggested that ISI intelligence agents even attended Taliban Supreme Council meetings. The report follows one of the deadliest weeks for NATO troops in Afghanistan, with over thirty soldiers killed. [more ...]

From The Times
June 14, 2010
Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence accused of directly funding Taleban
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

Pakistan’s military intelligence agency directly funds and trains the Afghan Taleban and is officially represented on its leadership council, according to a report by a British academic. The study, published by the London School of Economics, also alleges that Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani President, met Taleban leaders imprisoned in Pakistan and promised them early release and future support.

Pakistan dismissed the report by Matt Waldman, a Harvard fellow who interviewed current and former members of the Taleban, as “baseless” and “naive”. A spokesman for the Pakistani Army said that the state’s commitment to opposing the Taleban was demonstrated by the number of soldiers killed fighting on the Afghan border.

Western officials and analysts have often accused elements within Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of supporting the Afghan Taleban, even as its army combats the Pakistani Taleban on the northwestern frontier.

However, Mr Waldman’s report goes further, arguing that support for the Afghan Taleban is “official ISI policy” and is backed at the highest levels of Pakistan’s civilian administration. “Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude,” the report says. “There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign,” it said. “Without a change in Pakistani behaviour it will be difficult if not impossible for international forces and the Afghan Government to make progress against the insurgency.”

The ISI helped to create the Taleban in the early 1990s, principally to prevent its arch-rival, India, from gaining a strategic foothold in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. It claims to have severed all links with the Islamist movement but remains determined to prevent a pro-Indian government from taking power in Kabul after Nato troops leave.

The report follows one of the bloodiest weeks for foreign troops in Afghanistan, with 30 Nato soldiers killed, and the announcement of a two to three-month delay in a counter-insurgency operation in Kandahar — the Taleban’s stronghold.

It also comes a few days after Amrullah Saleh, who resigned as head of Afghanistan’s intelligence service last week, described the ISI as “part of the landscape of destruction in this country”.

Mr Waldman worked in Afghanistan for two and a half years as Head of Policy and Advocacy for Oxfam and is now a fellow of the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He advised the Liberal Democrats on defence and foreign affairs from 2004 to 2006.

His study carries weight because it was based on interviews with nine Taleban field commanders and ten former senior Taleban officials, as well as Afghan elders and politicians, foreign diplomats and security officials. The ISI “provides huge support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies”, the Taleban field commanders are quoted as saying.

Major-General Athar Abbas, Pakistan’s military spokesman, described the report as ridiculous and “part of a campaign against the Pakistan Army and the ISI”.

Friday, June 11, 2010

News of conflict in southern Kyrghizstan

Strategy page is a site produced by "Strategy World" a site that seems devoted to the exaltation of war. The Strategy Page has information that is sometime very interesting. Here I reproduce a new article on the situation in Kyrghizstan.

Dirty Money To Die For
June 11, 2010: Ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has caused over 200 casualties in the last few days. In the south, where most of the Uzbek minority (14 percent of the population) lives, Kyrgyz supporters of ousted president Bakiyev are fighting local Uzbeks. Most of the violence is in the southern city of Jalalabad. While the violence appears to be ethnic, a lot of it is centered around Kyrgyz families that supported former president Bakiyev, had received jobs from him, and had been corrupt (either as government officials or businessmen). Bakiyev was himself was the head of a reform government, that replaced a corrupt one, and many Kyrgyz are wondering if the new reformers will be any cleaner. The Kyrgyz in the south, who supported Bakiyev, will lose a lot if the new government takes complete control of the south.

Russia is trying to get the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) to help with the unrest in Kyrgyzstan, and crippling the Afghanistan drug trade. The SCO consists of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, with Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran as associate members, or "observers". The SCO, unofficially, exists to keep the peace between China and Russia over economic activities in Central Asia. At the moment, China is winning the race to develop large oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. China needs the energy, and is willing to pay whatever it takes. Since the Central Asian nations are run by corrupt leaders, often dictators, the Chinese have an easy, if expensive, way to gaining control of natural resources. At the moment, Russia more concerned with halting, or much reducing, the flow of opium, hashish and heroin from Afghanistan to Russia. These drugs have created millions of addicts and major social problems. Russia has supplied the United States with extensive information on the drug gangs in Afghanistan, and throughout Central Asia, and how the smuggling networks operate. Russia is also trying to get more cooperation from Central Asian governments as well. But in many of these countries, senior officials are on the drug gang payrolls.

A naval arms race is brewing on the Caspian Sea (the largest lake in the world, and a major body of water for Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan). Iran recently built a 1,400 ton corvette at a Caspian shipyard. Russia, which controls access to the ocean via the Volga-Don canal, can bring in large warships (up to 140 meters long), and is doing so. Kazakhstan is seeking Russian help in expanding its fleet with three new corvettes and three new patrol boats.

June 6, 2010: Uzbekistan is preventing hundreds of railroad cars (loaded with NATO supplies for troops in Afghanistan) from crossing into Tajikistan, on the pretense that needed repairs must be made on several kilometers of rails. The real reason is a diplomatic dispute Uzbekistan has with Tajikistan. NATO must reroute these trains via other rail lines that enter Afghanistan.

June 3, 2010: Uzbekistan has removed its troops from a small portion of southern Kyrgyzstan. Uzbek troops had been there for nearly a week, to protect ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyz gangs loyal to deposed Kyrgyzstan president Bakiyev.

June 2, 2010: The new Kyrgyzstan government has blocked fuel shipments to U.S. aircraft using Manus air base. This has been done because the government believes that the family of recently deposed ruler Kurmanbek Bakiyev were receiving over a million dollars a week in kickbacks on the fuel contracts. As a result of the halt in fuel supplies, the U.S. is shifting its aerial tankers from Manas to other air bases in the region. © 2010

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Conflicted feelings about our "friends"

I've said plenty about how conflicted Pakistan is, and in fact, how conflicted the Muslim world is but it turns out that as I reflect on the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, places I care about and worry about, I am no less confused and conflicted myself. From one point of view, I support the war in Afghanistan/ Pakistan; I think it matters plenty [and I will soon present something about that]. But at the same time I grieve for the ways that the peoples and governments of these countries tolerate and even encourage the abuse of their own populations, abuses that are simply inexcusable.

So here is the other side of my view:

These countries as currently constituted are allowing and cultivating policies that makes support for them unpalatable. The United States and its NATO allies are investing heavily in a war in Afghanistan and Pakistan while the governments of these two countries demonstrate repeatedly an inability to defend and protect conventions of behavior that are taken to be essential and fundamental in the United States and Europe.

This is what we have heard in the news in recent days.
• Afghan Girls as young as 13 have been forced into marriage, and when they have run away even the police turn them back. Two of them were not only forced to return but flogged when brought back.
“Disguised in boys’ clothes, the girls, ages 13 and 14, had been fleeing for two days along rutted roads and over mountain passes to escape their illegal, forced marriages to much older men, and now they had made it to relatively liberal Herat Province. Instead, the police officer spotted them as girls, ignored their pleas and promptly sent them back to their remote village in Ghor Province. There they were publicly and viciously flogged for daring to run away from their husbands.”

• There is a new social ferment in Kabul over the publication of a video showing some Afghans who have been meeting secretly in Christian worship. Students at the university have been demonstrating, calling for these people to be killed. A member of Parliament declared,
"Those Afghans that appeared in this video film should be executed in public, the house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them."
Popular sentiment on the street, according to live television interviews, agrees. [Rah-e Nejat, June 2, 2010; International Christian Concern, June 2, 2010]

• The Pakistan government has been cultivating radical Islamist groups who are fighting the American and Nato soldiers in Afghanistan. Now that it is clear even to the Pakistanis that those Islamists are bent on overturning the Pakistani government the government lacks the commitment and possibly the means to restrain them. The great surprise is how long it has taken for them even to admit what they have been doing to their "friends" [the US/Nato] and to themselves.
“Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan, a senior Pakistani official declared in a surprising public admission that extremist groups were entrenched in the southern portion of the nation’s most populous province, underscoring the growing threats to the state. … The statements by the interior minister, Rehman Malik, after the killing of more than 80 people at two mosques last week here in Lahore, were exceptional because few Pakistani politicians have acknowledged so explicitly the deep roots of militancy in Pakistan. They also highlighted the seeming impotence of the civilian government to root out the militant groups, even in Punjab Province, providing a troubling recognition that decades of state policy to nurture extremism had come home to roost in the very heart of the country.”

This is what our troops are risking life and limb for.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dorronsoro's recommendation: Sue for Peace

In These Times has published an adaptation from Gilles Dorronsoro's April 2010 report "Afghanistan: Searching for Political Agreement," originally published on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.* Dorronsoro's experience and knowledge of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is so superior that his opinion needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness. This is not good news, but can we find anyone with better understanding of the situation on the ground? It is never wise to ignore wisdom.
I wish he were wrong... RLC

The Case for Negotiations Dealing with the Taliban is unsavory--but this war cannot be won.
By Gilles DorronsoroMay 24, 2010

The coalition's strategy in Afghanistan is at an impasse. The renewed efforts undertaken since the summer of 2009 have failed to temper the guerrilla war. A few tactical successes are possible, but this war cannot be won. The coalition cannot defeat the Taliban as long as Pakistan continues to offer them sanctuary. And increasing resources to wage the war is not an option. The costs of continuing the war--to use Ambassador Karl Eikenberry's expression in the leaked telegram to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton--are "astronomical."

The entire U.S. strategy revolves around a swift Afghanization of the conflict, yet the coalition's Afghan partner is weaker than it was a year ago. The state's presence in the provinces has declined sharply and the legitimacy of President Hamid Karzai's government is contested.

As a result of the massive fraud in the August 2009 presidential elections, the government has no popular legitimacy, and the legislative elections slated for fall 2010 will probably undermine the political system even further because fraud is inevitable. It is unlikely that the Afghan regime will ever be able to assume responsibility for its own security.

As a result, the coalition faces an endless war accompanied by an intolerable loss of life and treasure. A less costly alternative would be to negotiate a broad agreement with the Taliban leadership to form a national unity government, with guarantees against al Qaeda's return to Afghanistan. But even if such negotiations might occur, they hold no guarantee of success.

Yet the cost of their failure is negligible compared with the potential gain: a relatively swift way out of the crisis that preserves the coalition's essential interests. *Time* is not on the coalition's side. The United States should contact Taliban leaders as soon as possible rather than waiting for the situation to deteriorate further.

In pursuit of a losing strategy

The Taliban cannot be defeated militarily because the border with Pakistan is and will remain open for the insurgents. The Pakistani army, which refuses to launch an offensive against the Afghan Taliban, has never considered taking action against the Taliban leadership based in Pakistan. The February arrest of acting Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is probably a sign that the Pakistani military wants more control over the insurgency to prepare for the negotiation process.

What's more, the insurgency is now nationwide and cannot be contained by counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in two or three southern provinces. The COIN strategy cannot succeed because of the immense resources it requires. In a marginal, strategically unimportant district such as Marjah, the coalition would have to keep thousands of troops for years to prevent the Taliban's return. To replicate such strategy, even in one province, would overstretch the U.S. military.

In addition to COIN, military strategists think they can quickly weaken the Taliban through the creation of militias, the co-opting of Taliban groups and targeted assassinations. These policies will not strengthen the Afghan government's legitimacy or influence; to the contrary, they are destroying the Karzai government's credibility. The effects of this strategy are irreversible, and with the acceleration of political fragmentation, the coalition is faced with the prospect of a collapse of Afghan institutions.

The Karzai government is unlikely to engage in institutional reform, given that it is increasingly dependent on the networks that ensured its fraudulent re-election. Consequently, the coalition is having more and more trouble influencing Karzai. The weakness of the central political institutions means that the development of the army and the police force--the coalition's priorities--is occurring in a vacuum. Transferring security responsibilities to our Afghan partner will probably not be possible in the foreseeable future.

Afghans perceive their representative institutions as illegitimate. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of Afghan voters are believed to have supported Karzai during the 2009 presidential elections. All indications point to a high level of cynicism among the people and their rejection of the government; in fact, they massively refrained from voting even in places where security was reasonably good.

The legislative elections scheduled for September 2010 will further erode faith in the political system. The lack of security makes it impossible to hold credible elections in at least half of Afghanistan. And in February 2010, Karzai seized control of the ECC (Electoral Complaints Commission); there is no longer an independent institution to validate the process.

Aside from fraud and corruption, Karzai's lack of legitimacy is linked to his presumed lack of autonomy vis-à-vis the coalition. Internal U.S. Army studies, and the experiences of numerous journalists and researchers indicate that a majority of the population in combat zones now considers the foreign forces as occupiers. Military operations are polarizing the population against foreign forces and further weakening Karzai's regime, which appears irreparably unpopular and illegitimate. The coalition is perceived as the main provider of *insecurity*. Villagers do not want to see the establishment of coalition outposts that can bring only bombings and IEDs.

Furthermore, the coalition is hurt by the dependence of Karzai on his local allies, who generally oppose the coalition's objectives. The coalition is also undermined when the Afghan government aggressively distances itself from the coalition when civilians are killed by "friendly fire."

The failed Karzai government

The government in Kabul is now too weak to reassert control over the periphery of the country. As a result, the coalition is increasingly dependent on local strongmen who it helped put in place or with whom it has worked.

The weakening of the Afghan regime is very bad news for the coalition, which is promoting Afghanization in order to reduce its own investment. It is hard to build a military that is independent of the institutional network that constitutes the state. Problems such as ethnic tensions, local and national corruption, and the lack of a clear purpose make it hard to motivate soldiers and officers.

The coalition should recognize that an autonomous Afghan army is a very distant goal. The coalition's large offensive to "clear" Taliban territory will not work, because the Afghan army and the police are not ready. If the coalition tries to secure Taliban territory on a long-term basis, it will overstretch itself and casualties will increase significantly.

Modest objectives would be more realistic. Most observers recognize the impossibility of a military solution. Nonetheless, different arguments have been put forward to reject negotiations. First, the coalition needs more time. Reinforcements are not yet fully in place, so talk of failure is premature. Second, experts such as Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid explain that the Taliban have reached the height of their influence, implying that the coalition would be in a stronger position in the future.

One can counter that the coalition should begin negotiations now while it still has the means to exert military pressure. There is nothing to indicate that the Taliban are going to slow their advance. They are pursuing a strategy that includes expanding their influence in the cities. And nothing indicates that the Karzai regime won't be even weaker a year from now.

>From this perspective, the Afghan surge will have had the same result as all troop increases since 2003: a deterioration of security. Consequently, marginal military gains for the coalition in the next 18 months are the exact equivalent of a strategic defeat. Hence the need for a negotiated settlement.

But negotiations with Taliban leaders can be undertaken only if the Pakistani army agrees to act as a broker. Without Pakistan, there will be no solution in Afghanistan. Official negotiations must also include the Karzai regime and international guarantees preventing the return of radical groups to Afghanistan.

Along with negotiations, it is important to increase areas of cooperation with the insurgence. A ceasefire must therefore be observed during the negotiation process. The reduction in violence could help demobilize the Taliban and distance them from the radical groups currently in Pakistan, such as al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Likewise, aid must be demilitarized and NGOs must be permitted to negotiate directly with the Taliban in order to work in the regions under their control.

The privatization of security (reliance on militias, deals with individual tribes and private companies) is also dangerous. These groups will be difficult to control in the event of an agreement and are currently weakening Afghan institutions. The United States should immediately stop funding militias, which is counterproductive in the long term, and immediately bring an end to the proliferation of these armed groups.

Nothing guarantees that negotiations--if agreed to by the Taliban--will succeed. Furthermore, the regime that such negotiation will establish will be unstable for months, perhaps even years. But if the negotiations succeed, they will enable the formation of a national unity government in Kabul, a new constitution negotiated during a Loya Jirga, and both internal and international guarantees to prevent the return of al Qaeda.

Given the current impasse in which the coalition finds itself, such an outcome is the best that the United States can hope for.

*This essay was adapted from Gilles Dorronsoro's April 2010 report "Afghanistan: Searching for Political Agreement," which can be read on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website.*
*Gilles Dorronsoro*, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is the author of *Revolution Unending: Afghanistan 1979 to the Present

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pakistanis critique their own society

I wish I could say better things about Pakistan. The people of the country deserve better. The one thing that seems so crucial and obvious -- but is discussed far too little -- is that the war in Afghanistan will never end if Pakistan cannot desist from nourishing the Afghan Taliban who are trying to unseat the current regime in Afghanistan. That, in turn, is unlikely to happen unless the Pakistanis find a way to re-configure their country into a much more stable society, resolving some of the many internal contradictions in its essential structure.
Actually, what some Pakistanis have to say reveals the issues as starkly as anyone from the outside could. I pray for the Pakistanis to come to terms with themselves, for some of the elements in that country that are deliberately tolerated by those in power [which is to say the army] are at war with the rest. Nothing reveals more grotesquely how intense the war is than the attack on the two mosques that took place this week. And no statements can reveal more pungently how conflicted this country is than the statements I reproduce below. The first is by Najam Sethi who has earned his right to respect, having already been imprisoned and misrepresented by his government merely for saying in India what he had said publicly in Pakistan. The second is by a woman who replied to his comment. Their comments speak for themselves. Note that they appeared in the Muslim magazine Islamic Ideology. RLC

Islamic Ideology 28 May 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy
By Najam Sethi
May 28, 2010
PAKISTANI state and society is Pakistan’s own worst enemy. Consider. Fauzia Wahab, a PPP spokesperson, is in the dock because of remarks she made in the context of explaining why President Asif Zardari enjoyed constitutional immunity and could not be dragged before the courts. Sections of the media and mullahs argue that if Hazrat Umar could present himself before a Qazi court in the seventh century and be held accountable, why should a mere mortal like Mr Zardari enjoy immunity from prosecution today? Ms Wahab’s rejoinder was that modern democratic societies are governed by constitutions or social contracts between the state and people and that no such set of rules or laws defined state relations during the time of Hazrat Umar! But this, say her detractors, amounts to “blasphemy” because society was governed in accordance with the provisions of the Holy Quran at that time and there is no more comprehensive or sufficient “constitution” for governing Muslims than the Holy Quran. Accordingly, mullahs have been provoked to issue fatwas against Ms Wahab and at least one offended citizen has moved the courts to order the police to register a case of “blasphemy” against her.
There are obvious ironies here. Pakistan is an “Islamic state”, says Pakistan’s constitution as amended by General Zia ul Haq in the 1980s, and anything “repugnant to Islam” in it must be weeded out. The quest for “Islamising” Pakistan’s constitution, which led to the introduction of an omnibus clause defining “blasphemy”, has been going on since the dictator’s time, not just via the provincial high courts and supreme court but also via special institutions created for this purpose by the dictator, namely the Federal Shariat Court and the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Islamic Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court.
IT is strange then that the clause relating to presidential immunity should have been allowed to prevail in the constitution despite ten additional amendments to the constitution spread over half a dozen governments in the last thirty years. Indeed, the most pervasive 18th constitutional amendment enacted only a month ago by an unprecedented all- parties consensus studiously ignores this, despite a clause by clause pruning of the constitution for eighteen months by a parliamentary committee which led to a change in 105 clauses of the constitution.
Ms Wahab’s critics, it may also be noted, are among those who are in the forefront of the political struggle to empower the judiciary to become “more supreme” than parliament which is supposed to be supreme. No less significantly, they are also leading the political movement to “get Zardari” by hook or by crook. The irony here is that they want modern judges in Pakistan to appoint themselves and be totally independent of parliament or the executive, a sentiment that is outrageously at odds with “Islamic” practice during the time of the Caliphs when Qazis were appointed and removed by the “Islamic” executive authority! (Even today, the executive appoints judges in all countries that claim to be Islamic states, eg Saudi Arabia, Libya, etc) Indeed, these are the very groups which are agitating against the 18th amendment’s clause that seeks to introduce a judicial plus parliamentary commission to oversee the appointment of judges to the high court’s and supreme court.
The second issue which is agitating “Islamic” minds in Pakistan is a Facebook competition to draw images of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). The Lahore High Court has ordered the government to block a page on Facebook that has outraged Muslims. But officials are inclined to be more loyal-than- the king.
Therefore, in the guise of protecting the diverse sentiments of Muslims globally, they have blocked over 1000 sites, including Youtube, Flickr and Wikipedia, etc., which seemingly offend for one reason or another.
Ironically, though, the global Muslim response to Facebook does not reflect the same religious intensity as in Pakistan.
Where Pakistani Muslims are agitating on the streets, in parliament and on the internet, for religious reasons, certain Islamic states that claim to be custodians or guardians of Islam like Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran have been more inclined to censor political comment on the internet.
Iran, in fact, blocked Facebook in the run-up to the country’s presidential elections last year to stop supporters of the reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi from using the site for his political campaign.
Libya, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Egypt have also banned internet sites mostly to block political dissent. TURKEY doesn’t like Youtube because there are anti-Mustafa Kamal Ataturk videos hosted on it! In short, politics and religion continue to be combined in various ways in the Muslim world to quell political or religious dissent at home or abroad.
Unfortunately, Pakistan seems more prone to hurt itself than other Muslim states by constantly veering between democracy and dictatorship, religious extremism and moderation, global partnership and international isolation. “Jihad” is the norm in one decade, “Enlightened moderation” is up for grabs in another.
One day, the Taliban are fellow Muslims with whom peace deals must be signed; another day, they are terrorists against whom a bloody war must be waged. One day, American aid is self-righteously rejected; another day Pakistan is demanding a US-backed Marshal Plan. Today, the Holy Quran is being cited to deny President Zardari immunity from prosecution but the “basic structure of the Constitution” is being cited to stop modern day Qazis (judges) from being appointed or sacked by the Executive as in the days of Islamic yore.
Such hypocrisy and double standards in the name of religion cannot sustain, let alone nourish, modern nation-building.
The writer is Editor of The Friday Times
Source: Mail Today

date 29 May 2010 04:01
Subject: Harassment by personnel of different intelligence agencies
Respected sir,
I am a citizen of Lahore a social and peace activist, founder of Institute for Peace and Secular Studies. As such I have been involved in numerous social and right based activities for the last fifteen years. My activities involve peace initiative with our neighbours particularly India and additionally involved in campaign against various injustices prevalent in our society regarding minorities, women, poor and the underprivileged. For reasons that I cannot fathom these lawful activities have led to my constant harassment by the intelligence agencies of the country.
Following my protests against the horrors of Shantinagar massacre in 1999, my visits to India as part of people to people peace initiatives and visits of some Indian delegates to my home, I have been constantly harassed by various intelligence agencies.
I have been taken to various police station, forcibly picked up from the Lahore Press Club by the intelligence personnel to be later dropped outside their office near the Lahore Zoo, constantly threatened on the phone through “private caller ID” and harassed through regular visits to my home. Additionally my mobile phone and contact diary have been stolen. What is more depressing is that these agencies always ask the same questions’ who is you husband and provide us the detail of your family? ’Why are you interested in peace with India since India is our enemy’, ‘What is the source of your funding?’
I am a law abiding citizen of Pakistan with no links to any religious organization or a political party, and I work for the benefit of the people of my land within my constitutional rights and nothing to hide from anyone. If intelligence agencies have an issue with what I do, I appeal to you to kindly instruct all security agencies to carry out formal investigation where I should be permitted to answer all allegations, suspicions and question. This is my basic right and i request you to ensure it should not be denied.
Over the last few weeks I have found intelligence personnel stationed outside my house they have often sought entry into my house which I have not allowed without demanding the proof of their identity. Three officials have shown me their identity cards purportedly issued by the ISI, IB and the special branch. Sadly their manner of interrogation has always been impolite, menacing and threatening.
I urge you to please examine the following possibilities
• Are these officials harassing me under instructions from their seniors, or
• Is it possible that the higher authorities have nothing to do with the harassment of a woman who is a peace and human right activist and these officials are acting at their own .
In view of the above I appeal to you to look into my complaint and order these personal to refrain, from interfering with my right, and harassment, those found guilty for transgressing their powers and acting outside the law should be suitably punished under the law.
I should like to make it clear that if the intelligence personnel do not stop festering me I shall have no option but to take this grave personal issue to the superior courts.
Please note Since I have been harassed to the extent that I have begun to fear not only for my personal life, but the life of my children as well .I have deposited copies of my petition with my lawyer and human rights organizations so that they may take appropriate action in case something untoward happens.
Hope my submission will receive your sympathetic and immediate attention.
Mani, Germany