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India and Pakistan Teeter on the Brink of War: Bellicosity Encouraged by Washington…

Searching for Answers to the Balochistan Bombing

A New Wave of Militancy in the Kashmir Valley

Obama’s Drone War against Pakistan: Killing Taxi Drivers for Freedom

US refuses to finance F-16 fighter jets for Pakistan

Who Was Killed in Abbottabad in May 2011? Osama bin Laden or Someone Else? Pentagon Ordered Purge of Osama “Death Files” from Data Bank

Pipelineistan — the Iran-Pak-China Connection

Over 1,100 killed by heat wave in Pakistan

US Murdered First Elected Prime Minister Of Pakistan

Political crisis in Pakistan as Saudi Arabia demands it join war against Yemen

Kerry presses Pakistan to intensify anti-Taliban war

Pakistan parliament authorizes military courts

US steps up Pakistan drone murders amid crackdown over school attack

Pakistan escalates war offensive after school attack

Grisly Peshawar Slaughter – Who Created Taliban, Who Still Funds Them?

Global Research, December 17, 2014

money5Taliban militants stormed an army public school in the northern city of Peshawar, killing over 100, including many young students. It is believed up to 10 militants took part in the attack, dressed as soldiers to first infiltrate the school’s grounds before beginning the attack.

While the details of the attack are forthcoming, the background of the Taliban and the persistent threat it represents is well established, though often spun across the Western media.

Who Put the Taliban into Power? Who is Funding them Now? 

In the 1980′s the United States, Saudi Arabia, and elements within the then Pakistani government funneled millions of dollars, weapons, equipment, and even foreign fighters into Afghanistan in a bid to oust Soviet occupiers. Representatives of this armed proxy front would even visit the White House, meeting President Ronald Reagan personally. (see image below)

The “Mujaheddin” would successfully expel the Soviet Union and among the many armed groups propped up by the West and its allies, the Taliban would establish primacy over Kabul. While Western media would have the general public believe the US rejected the Taliban, never intending them to come to power, it should be noted that the Afghans who visited Reagan in the 1980′s would not be the last to visit the US and cut deals with powerful American corporate-financier interests.

In 1997, Taliban representatives would find themselves in Texas, discussing a possible oil pipeline with energy company Unocal (now merged with Chevron). The BBC would report in a 1997 article titled, “Taleban in Texas for talks on gas pipeline,” that:

A senior delegation from the Taleban movement in Afghanistan is in the United States for talks with an international energy company that wants to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan.

A spokesman for the company, Unocal, said the Taleban were expected to spend several days at the company’s headquarters in Sugarland, Texas.

Image: Unocal, now merged with Chevron, had attempted to build a pipeline across Afghanistan in cooperation with the Taliban and with the expressed backing of the US government – then operating under the Clinton administration. 

However, it was already claimed by the US that the Taliban had been “harboring” Osama Bin Laden since 1996, and had branded the Taliban’s human rights record as “despicable.” The Telegraph in an artile titled, “Oil barons court Taliban in Texas,” would report (emphasis added):

The Unocal group has one significant attraction for the Taliban – it has American government backing. At the end of their stay last week, the Afghan visitors were invited to Washington to meet government officials. The US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban’s policies against women and children “despicable”, appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract. The Taliban is likely to have been impressed by the American government’s interest as it is anxious to win international recognition. So far, it has been recognised only by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

It is clear that to the West, as they were during the proxy war against the Soviets, and during attempts to forge an oil pipeline across Afghan territory, the Taliban remain a tool, not an ally – to be used and abused whenever and however necessary to advance Wall Street and Washington’s agenda – a self-serving Machiavellian agenda clearly devoid of principles.

This can be seen in play, even now as the Taliban serve as a proxy force to torment the West’s political enemies in Pakistan with and serve as a perpetual justification for military intervention in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Global Post would reveal in a 2009 investigative report that the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan was mostly funded via redirected US aid. The report titled, “Who is funding the Afghan Taliban? You don’t want to know,” would state:

It is the open secret no one wants to talk about, the unwelcome truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, one of the richest sources of Taliban funding is the foreign assistance coming into the country.

The report would also reveal that Taliban members were in the capital city of Kabul, directly involved in redirecting the funds, apparently under the nose of occupying NATO forces:

A shadowy office in Kabul houses the Taliban contracts officer, who examines proposals and negotiates with organizational hierarchies for a percentage. He will not speak to, or even meet with, a journalist, but sources who have spoken with him and who have seen documents say that the process is quite professional. 

The manager of an Afghan firm with lucrative construction contracts with the U.S. government builds in a minimum of 20 percent for the Taliban in his cost estimates. The manager, who will not speak openly, has told friends privately that he makes in the neighborhood of $1 million per month. Out of this, $200,000 is siphoned off for the insurgents.

But the narrative of the “accidental” funding of Taliban militants in Afghanistan is betrayed when examining their counterparts in Pakistan and their source of funding. While the US funds roughly a billion USD a year to the Taliban in Afghanistan “accidentally,” their allies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia are confirmed to be funding the Taliban in Pakistan.

In the Guardian’s article, “WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists,” the US State Department even acknowledges that Saudi Arabia is indeed funding terrorism in Pakistan:

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton.

“More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she said.

Three other Arab countries are listed as sources of militant money: Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Pakistani terror organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – which maintains ties to the Taliban – has also been financially linked to the Persian Gulf monarchies. Stanford University’s “Mapping Militant Organizations: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,” states under “External Influences:”

LeJ has received money from several Persian Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates[25] These countries funded LeJ and other Sunni militant groups primarily to counter the rising influence of Iran’s revolutionary Shiism.  

Astonishingly, despite these admission, the US still works politically, financially, economically, and even militarily in tandem with these very same state-sponsors of rampant, global terrorism. In fact, Wall Street and Washington are among the chief architects and beneficiaries of this global terrorism.

Just as in Libya and Syria where the US and its Persian Gulf allies funded terrorist fronts in bids to overthrow each nation’s respective governments, this unholy alliance is working in Pakistan to create a militant front with which to menace political groups in Islamabad and reorder the country to reflect and serve their collective interests. And just as in Syria now, where the US feigns to be locked in battle with terrorists of their own creation, the fact that the US is funding their own enemy billions of dollars while allegedly fighting them in Afghanistan creates a perpetual conflict justifying their continued intervention in the region – overtly and covertly.

When a terrorist attack is carried out in Pakistan by the “Taliban,” it must then be looked at through this lens of global geopolitical reality. Attempts by the Western media to reduce this recent attack to mere “extremism,” preying on global audiences emotionally, provides impunity for the state-sponsors of the Taliban – those funding, arming, and directing their operations across the region, and then benefiting from their horrific consequences.

It appears, just as in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the West and its allies are waging a proxy war in Pakistan as well. Attempts to exploit the tragedy in Peshawar compound this insidious agenda. Those across Pakistan’s political landscape must understand that their is no line these foreign interests are unwilling to cross in achieving their agenda – be it a line crossed at a perceived ally’s expense, or a perceived enemy’s expense.

Pakistan mourns school slaughter

By Asia Times Online staff
Pakistan has begun three days of national mourning for the 132 children and nine staff killed in an attack on an army-run school in northwest Peshawar city on Tuesday for which the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. Seven militants died during the army efforts to retake the school.

The 141 people were killed when militants stormed the Army Public School, which is located near an Army Housing Colony and a medical school. A spokesman for Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the recent Pakistani military operation in the northwestern tribal areas, a region known as a haven for militant groups, RFEreported.

The army offensive, dubbed Zarb-e-Azb, has been continuing since the summer and has left an estimated 1,000 militants dead and tens of thousands of people displaced.

“We selected the army’s school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” a Taliban spokesman, Mohammed Umar Khurasani, was quoted as saying in a Guardian report. “We want them to feel the pain.”

In the wake of the school attack, which local commentators have described as the country’s “9/11”, the Pakistani military took swift punitive action by launching extensive air strikes against the border region strongholds of the Taliban militants.

The Afghan Taliban condemned the school attack, Reuters reported.

As funerals were getting underway for the victims of the school massacre, questions were being asked as to how it was allowed to happen. An editorial in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, headlined “New blood-soaked benchmark“, demanded to know “where was the intelligence?” that should have forestalled such an attack “in a city, and an area within that city, that ought to have been at the very top of the list in terms of a security blanket”.

It also questioned the time taken “to find and capture or kill the militants after the attack had begun. The sheer length of the operation suggests the commanders may not have had immediate access to the school’s layout and there was no prior rescue plan in place.”

The terrorists had fired indiscriminately in the school auditorium during their assault after entering the campus using ladders to climb over a back wall, military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in Peshawar. They made no demands and had attempted to plant explosives on the school grounds during the attack, and all seven perpetrators wore suicide vests, he said.

The Dawn editorial put the attack in the wider context of the Islamic militancy that for years has brought terror and death throughout Pakistan. It said a starting point “would be for the state to acknowledge that it does not quite have a plan or strategy as yet to fight militancy in totality. Denial will only lead to worse atrocities.”

The Tribune, noting that December 16 was also “the day when Pakistan lost its eastern wing [now Bangladesh]”, described the attack as “our 9/11 … an attack on Pakistan’s future, its young sons and daughters. The mass murder … is a manifestation of the most barbaric face of the Taliban insurgency which has been plaguing the country for more than a decade.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters in Peshawar: “This is a decisive moment in the fight against terrorism. The people of Pakistan should unite in this fight. Our resolve will not be weakened by these attacks.”

The attack did bring a lull in domestic political squabbling, with Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, calling off a countrywide shutdown scheduled for December 18. Khan has argued strongly for the army to withdraw from the tribal areas and wants the country also to withdraw from the US “war on terror”.

Even so, the Pakistani authorities hold an ambiguous view of terrorism in the context of Afghanistan and Islamabad’s future influence there amid the departure of US combat forces from its neighbor. In particular, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) makes use of its relations with often militant tribal groups living along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The public view of terror activities is also mixed. Sameer Patil, a former national security official in India who focuses on terrorism at Mumbai-based research group Gateway House, cautioned that “an element of anti-American feeling will always remain and complicate the public reaction” towards terrorism.

Patil told Bloomberg : “[E]ven the increasing violence is seen through the prism of the US war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Talat Masood, a defense analyst in Islamabad and a retired lieutenant general, however, in the same report suggested that amid the steady stream of photographs of dead boys, their innocent faces smeared with blood, a line may have been crossed.

(Copyright 2014 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Only 4% of people killed by US in Pakistan were Al-Qaeda members



President Barack Obama has largely developed his targeted killing program. Once a week, he oversees a meeting of his security officials in a White House basement to decide who will be his next victims, reported the New York Times [1].

The Nobel Peace Prize winner justified his action by claiming that all he is doing is taking out the leaders of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network [2].

A study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, conducted jointly with Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Center for Civilians in Conflict, reveals that during the past year, the United States unlawfully killed in Pakistan 2,379 people. Only 704 of the victims have been identified. Of these, merely 84 were known to be members of al-Qaeda, or 4% of the total number of victims [3].

With an annual budget of over $ 10 billion, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) operates covertly in 78 states, mainly Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, “to eliminate the terrorist threat” [4].

One may of course pretend that the US military consists of an incompetent bunch of people who violate international law by drawing a lottery, or question the wonder about the real goals of the “war on terror”.

[2] “Barack Obama: The future of our fight against terrorism”, Barack Obama, Voltaire Network, 23 May 2013

[3] “Only 4% of drone victims in Pakistan identified as al Qaeda members”, Jack Serle, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 16 October 2014.

[4] “The Globalization of Special Forces”, by Manlio Dinucci, Translation Roger Lagassé, Il Manifesto (Italy), Voltaire Network, 19 May 2014,…

India and Pakistan trade warnings over escalating border clashes

By Kranti Kumara and Keith Jones

10 October 2014

India and Pakistan have exchanged bellicose warnings over what are being described as the most serious border skirmishes in more than a decade.

Adopting rhetoric similar to that Israel routinely employs before launching some new aggression, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley declared Thursday that India is “a responsible state,” and “never an aggressor.” Then, invoking the “paramount duty of defending” the Indian people and its territory, Jaitley vowed that, “if Pakistan persists with this adventurism, our forces will continue to fight” and “make the cost of this adventurism unaffordable.”

New Delhi is refusing to have any talks with Pakistan until it is satisfied that all cross-border firing has ended. This includes, at least for the moment, ruling out “flag talks” between frontline military officers. Such talks have been commonly employed to reduce border tensions between the two nuclear-armed states.

Islamabad, for its part, is pledging to meet fire with fire. “We do not want the situation on the borders of nuclear neighbours to escalate into confrontation,” said a Pakistan Ministry of Defence statement. “India must demonstrate caution and behave with responsibility.”

Every night since Sunday, artillery shelling and machine gun-fire have erupted across the Line of Control that divides Pakistan’s Punjab province and Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir. The firing has killed at least twenty-two people, ten Pakistani and twelve Indian civilians, and wounded scores on both sides of the border. With both Indian and Pakistani military-security forces willfully targeting civilians with indiscriminate firing, some 30,000 poor villagers have been force to flee, transforming them into internal refugees.

According to press reports, just on Tuesday night, Pakistani troops shelled 63 Indian Border Security Force outposts, while the Indian side “retaliated” by firing a thousand mortar shells at 70 Pakistani army posts.

As is almost always the case in such clashes, it is impossible to say who first violated the ceasefire agreement the two countries signed in 2003. What is incontrovertible is that India’s new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has ratcheted up tensions with Pakistan in recent weeks and is now seeking to use the border clashes to impose new “rules of the game.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his top ministers have repeatedly declared that they are intent on demonstrating to Islamabad that things have “changed.”

Speaking Thursday at a rally for the October 15 Maharashtra state election, Modi lauded India’s military for “giving a fitting response to aggression.” “I don’t need to talk,” continued Modi, who when in opposition repeatedly denounced the previous Congress Party-led government for “appeasing” Pakistan. “Myjawans (infantrymen) are doing all the talking with their fingers always on the trigger. The enemy has to know that things have changed now, that their old habits can’t continue.”

Earlier this week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh similarly proclaimed that Pakistan must recognize that the “situation in India has changed.”

Clearly New Delhi calculates that Pakistan—which is riven by political and economic crisis and in the midst of a major military operation targeting the Pakistani Taliban—is susceptible to bullying. India has also been buoyed by the US and Japanese drive to make it a pillar of their efforts to strategically isolate and encircle China. This development has further tilted the military-strategic balance of power in South Asia sharply in India’s favour and caused a worried Beijing, long a close ally of Pakistan, to launch its own campaign to court India. To the consternation of Pakistan’s ruling elite, Chinese President Xi Jinping, citing security concerns over Pakistan’s ongoing political crisis, canceled a trip to Islamabad, when he visited South Asia, including India, last month.

The Times of India reported on Wednesday the BJP government and Indian military are prepared for a protracted confrontation with Pakistan. It quoted an unnamed Indian military source as saying, “We are prepared for the long haul… Our massive and targeted retaliation is not going to stop. If talks or flag meetings are held, it will be on our terms and only after Pakistan stops firing.”

Given the Indian government’s aggressive policy and the multiple crises enveloping Pakistan, there is a grave danger the current low-level military conflict could spin out of control with untold consequences for the Indian and Pakistani masses.

In the weeks preceding the current border skirmishes, Modi and his Hindu supremacist BJP made clear that they were intent on pursuing a new hard line against Pakistan.

In mid-August it abruptly cancelled a meeting between the two countries’ foreign secretaries scheduled for August 25. The ostensible reason given by the Indian government for this move was that Pakistan’s ambassador to India had met leaders of anti-Indian Kashmiri separatist groups that are officially tolerated by New Delhi. Previous Indian governments, including the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government, had allowed such meetings to take place and never made ongoing “peace-talks” between the two countries hostage to a demand that Pakistan cease such meetings.

When Modi travelled to the US late last month to participate in deliberations of the UN General Assembly and meet with President Obama and other American political and business leaders, he continued to ratchet up pressure on Islamabad. He flatly refused to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while meeting with the heads of government of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, told the UN General Assembly that the resumption of India’s long-stalled “peace dialogue” with Pakistan was conditional on Islamabad changing its behavior, and made a provocative speech to the US’s premier foreign relations think-tank.

India has long sought to isolate Pakistan by labelling it the “epicenter” of world terrorism. In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Modi asserted that all terrorism in India is “exported” terrorism, with the inescapable implication Pakistan was the culprit.

He conveniently ignored the Indian state’s long-record—stretching back to the communal partition of the subcontinent in 1947, out of which the reactionary strategic conflict between a Muslim Pakistan and a predominantly Hindu emerged—of conniving with violent Hindu extremists, to say nothing of the pogroms and other acts of terror perpetrated by the Hindu supremacist RSS and its allied organizations, the BJP among them.

As relations between New Delhi and Islamabad have deteriorated in recent weeks, Washington has repeatedly wrung its hands. Heightened tensions, let alone border clashes and the threat of all-out war, cut across Washington’s efforts to strategically reconfigure Afghanistan, as it draws down US troop levels. But the Obama administration has thus far confined itself to issuing pious statements about how it hopes New Delhi and Islamabad can work to resolve their differences. Washington’s principal concern is harnessing India to its strategic drive against China and toward that end it appears to be giving Modi a long leash in his dealings with Pakistan.

Visiting US Senators Timothy Kaine and Angus King told a New Delhi press conference Thursday that they are “concerned” by the border clashes. Their ensuing suggestion that the UN could perhaps play a role—UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had earlier issued a statement calling for a diplomatic solution to the border clashes—was a non-starter. For decades, New Delhi has angrily rebuffed any and all suggestions for the UN, the US or any other third-party to play a mediating role in its relations with Pakistan.

The BJP government’s hardline stance against Pakistan is aimed at asserting India’s claim to be the dominant regional power. But the “humbling” of Pakistan is also aimed at strengthening Modi’s hand politically at home so that he can push through the unpopular neo-liberal “reform” measures demanded by big business to kick-start India’s flagging economy.

Modi is being egged on in his aggressive campaign against Pakistan by the Congress Party. Trying to outflank the BJP from the right, Congress Party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has accused the BJP government of having done “nothing” to stop “repeated provocations” from Pakistan. Speaking at an election rally this week, Gandhi said Modi “used to speak of adopting an aggressive approach towards China and Pakistan. Now, despite so many provocations, the PM is not doing anything.”

Pakistani Taliban Pledges Support To ISIL

Pakistani Taliban says it will provide fighters “and every possible support” to help ISIL defeat its enemies.

By Al Jazeera and agencies

October 05, 2014 “ICH” – “Al Jazeera” –  The Pakistani Taliban has declared it is backing the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and ordered fighters across the region to help the group in its campaign to set up an Islamic caliphate.

In a message on Saturday marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, the Pakistani Taliban said it fully supported ISIL’s goals to set up a “caliphate” in the Middle East.

“Oh our brothers, we are proud of you in your victories. We are with you in your happiness and your sorrow,” said the statement by Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, on Saturday.

“In these troubled days, we call for your patience and stability, especially now that all your enemies are united against you. Please put all your rivalries behind you.

“All Muslims in the world have great expectations of you… we are with you, we will provide you with fighters and with every possible support.”

The statement was released in Urdu, Pashto and Arabic and came on a day when two attacks hit Pakistan.

An unnamed spokesman told the AFP news agency: “From the very beginning when ISIL did not exist we were supporting the fighters of Iraq and Syria.

He said that the Pakistani Taliban had sent between 1,000 to 1,500 to the Middle East.

“We will keep on sending Mujahideen to help ISIL. We completely support them. Because we think that this organisation was made to serve Islam.”

At least four people died and dozens were wounded in an attack on a predominantly Shia neighbourhood of the volatile Pakistani city of Quetta, police said.

At least six people were killed and 17 others wounded when a bomb exploded at a bus stop in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistani talks to end anti-government protests collapse

By Sampath Perera

12 September 2014

Negotiations in Islamabad with opposition leader Imran Khan aimed at ending anti-government protests broke down on Monday, deepening the political impasse facing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government.

Khan said he would not compromise on his main demand: the resignation of Sharif as the precondition for any settlement. “The sticking point is always going to be Nawaz Sharif,” he told AFP on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, a close confidante of Sharif who heads the government’s negotiation team, acknowledged the deadlock. He said “two contentious issues remain” and “one of them is not negotiable for us.”

Khan vowed to “unveil” more evidence this Saturday on his charges of election rigging by Sharif. This “grand show” is intended to mark one month of protests. He also urged his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI or Justice Party) supporters to extend the protests by two weeks to bring down Sharif.

Separate negotiations with the other protest leader, right-wing Sunni cleric Tahir ul-Qadri and his Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), have so far failed to convince him to withdraw his supporters from the tent city demonstration in the capital.

Earlier in the week, thousands of protesters retreated from the high security area where clashes with the police claimed three lives and injured hundreds on August 30 and 31.

The PTI and PAT campaign have nothing to do with any concern for democracy or the plight of workers and poor. Both parties have repeatedly stated their backing for the military and supported austerity measures dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They function as a crucial safety valve for mass discontent with Sharif’s government, while exploiting it to advance their own political interests.

Amid the continuing political impasse, a Reuters report on September 5 revealed growing pressure within the military to oust Sharif. According to the news agency, during an emergency meeting convened by army chief Raheel Sharif on August 31, five out of eleven commanders pushed for an intervention.

After four hours of debate, however, the commanders agreed that “the time was not right to overthrow the civilian leadership,” a position backed by the army chief. Among the generals who favoured a coup was the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence chief Zaheer-ul-Islam.

An Urdu language private channel reported the following day that the army chief, when he met the prime minister, demanded that he step down for three months until a judicial commission completed its investigation into the election rigging charges. Both sides later denied any such demand was made.

Sections of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) and the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) believe that the army is backing the PTI and PAT protests to create the conditions for its reassertion of power. The generals reportedly resent being side-lined by the government on foreign and defence affairs. They reject attempted peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and oppose the filing of a treason case against the former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf.

PPP leader Syed Khurshid Ahmed has urged the PAT and PTI to end their protests, essentially aligning with the government. However, all these parties, both the government and the opposition, depend on the military. The government has fully backed the ongoing three-month military offensive in North Waziristan, as have the PPP, PTI and PAT.

Khan told the Wall Street Journal this week that he was opposed to any outright coup, or to replacing Sharif with a long-term technocratic civilian government that would be overseen by the military. But he insisted that Sharif had to step down to avoid a popular uprising. “You have only two ways of dislodging the status quo,” he said. “One is a bloody revolution, the other is a peaceful one, by mobilising the masses. There is no third way.”

The Sharif government’s weakness is increasingly visible. Fearful a move against him if he leaves the country, Sharif cancelled his participation in the NATO summit in Wales on September 4 and 5, where a major topic was the political future of Afghanistan. Sharif received a further setback when Chinese President Xi Jinping cancelled his visit to Pakistan and with it the prospect of important infrastructure projects, including in the crisis-ridden energy sector.

Washington’s concerns about the volatile situation were underscored by a Congressional Research Service report released on Tuesday. It warned that “more openly direct control” over security and foreign policy by the Pakistani military would have a “negative” impact on US interests in Pakistan and the region.

The report highlighted US fears that a Pakistani junta could try to counter the growing influence of arch-rival India in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has always regarded Afghanistan as vital to its “strategic depth” in any conflict with India. Washington, however, has encouraged India to play a greater role in Afghanistan as a means of securing US interests in the country, particularly after it draws down troops at the end of the year. From the outset, the US occupation was aimed at transforming Afghanistan into a US base of operations in Central Asia and the Middle East.

The report cited a foreign policy expert on Pakistan who advised that “Washington’s most helpful role can come through full-throated support for the current government” in “strengthening Pakistan’s democratic system.”

At the same time, there is a considerable anxiety in Washington that the ongoing anti-government protests could inflame the growing popular opposition to the continued attacks on living conditions imposed on the working people as dictated by the IMF.

Despite its concerns about Afghanistan, there is no doubt that Washington would work closely with the generals in the event of a military takeover to forestall widespread social unrest. The military has ruled Pakistan for half of the period since formal independence in 1947 and the US has backed every junta.

Anti-government protests deepen Pakistan’s political crisis

By Sampath Perera and K. Ratnayake

2 September 2014

Pakistan’s political crisis has intensified after anti-government demonstrators demanding Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation clashed with the riot police over the weekend.

Protestors attempted to march to Sharif’s official residence and the adjoining parliament house in Islamabad. Three people were killed in the police attack and over 550 injured. Police also arrested more than 100 people.

Yesterday, protesters from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) fuelled the tensions by storming the Pakistan state television headquarters and ransacking it, before leaving upon the arrival of army troops.

The Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif stepped into the political crisis last Thursday at the prime minister’s request to mediate in the face of continued protests by the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), which is led by Tahir ul-Qadri, a Sunni cleric with dual Canadian and Pakistani citizenship.

Sharif later denied asking the military chief to intervene, after widespread criticism in the media and from opposition political parties, accusing him of giving in to the military. The army’s intervention was widely described as a “soft coup,” with the military asserting its authority in defence and foreign affairs.

Interior Minister Nisar Chaudhry Ali Khan then ordered a crackdown on the crowds who resumed the protests on Saturday. The police rained down tear gas, and opened fire with live rounds, as well as rubber bullets.

PTI and PAT supporters organised protests in Lahore, Karachi and several other cities on Sunday opposing the police violence. Around 30,000 police and paramilitary forces have been deployed in Islamabad alone.

On Sunday evening, General Sharif called an emergency meeting of corps commanders to discuss the latest developments, underscoring the military’s use of the crisis to strengthen its hand. After the meeting, its public relations office issued a statement expressing concern over “using force” to quell protests and insisting that “the situation should be resolved politically.”

The statement in effect rejected the interior minister’s justification for the police assault as being necessary to “protect state assets.” It also challenged Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif’s threat of a further crackdown on protestors.

Yesterday, General Sharif met with the prime minister to deliver the military’s message. No details were issued. However, private TV channels, including popular Urdu language Dunya TV, reported that the army chief advised Sharif to resign as prime minister for three months while an investigation was held into the PTI’s charges that Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) rigged the last election.

The government denied that the army chief made such a request. After a parliamentary joint session, Sharif vowed not to resign or go on leave for three months. The army’s public relation office described the media reports as baseless. Whatever the exact circumstances, the eruption of the rumour itself shows the depth of political crisis and the belief that the military is rapidly making inroads.

After the parliamentary session, Defence Minister Asif praised the military as “apolitical” and claimed it was committed to democracy. He also revealed, however, that the government would take the military’s advice to form a committee to hold discussions with Khan and Qadri.

Rifts emerged within the PTI, with party president Javed Hashmi calling a press conference yesterday to accuse Imran Khan of ignoring a party committee decision not to march to the prime minister’s house. Hashmi alleged that Khan received a message from “outside” to proceed with the march, implying the army instigated the confrontation. Khan denied the allegation, while the army claimed it had given no support to the PTI and PAT.

The PTI and PAT posture as fighters against corruption and for good governance, democracy and equality. As much as Sharif, these parties depend on the army, highlighting the anti-democratic nature of their agitation. When the army issued its statement on Sunday opposing police violence, both parties hailed it.

For all the praise by the PML-N and the opposition parties of the military as “apolitical” and “upholding democracy,” a discussion is now taking places within Pakistan’s political establishment on whether the military should take power, or at least a major share of power. The army has ruled the country for half of the 67 years since Pakistan’s creation in 1947. It consumes a large share of national income and controls much of the economy.

The Dawn newspaper, which previously ridiculed the demands of the PTI and PAT and opposed military intervention, yesterday published an editorial questioning the prospects of “salvaging” the government. It urged the government to “rally the democratic forces in the country to save the democratic system” and make “big concessions” to Khan and Qadri. This signals an accession to the military’s intervention.

Following the storming of the TV station, the London-based Financial Timesquoted a Western official in Islamabad who stated: “We are witnessing the continuous erosion of the government.” He added: “This is raising questions over the prime minister’s future.”

The United States, the main powerbroker in Pakistan, issued a statement opposing “any efforts to impose extra-constitutional change to the political system.” Washington has repeatedly indicated that it does not favour direct military intervention to topple Sharif’s government, at least for now.

The Obama administration’s main concern is that the military is discredited among the masses and the official political parties are in a fractious state, so that any coup attempt could unleash a worse political crisis.

There is deep discontent among the working class and poor, exacerbated by Washington’s ongoing war in Afghanistan, the US drone strikes along Pakistan’s western border and the American push for stepped-up repression inside the country. Washington provides $3 billion to Pakistan annually, with the lion’s share going to the military.

There is a growing anger among working people over the attacks on public spending and growing unemployment resulting from the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But Khan and Qadri fully support these measures.

Pakistan’s economy is in a fragile state. Foreign debt is ballooning. The IMF withheld the fifth $US6.67 billion instalment of its current loan after the government failed to implement directives to increase power tariffs and restructure the central bank. The government did not raise electricity prices for fear of the eruption of mass struggles against it.

The fear in ruling circles is that the ongoing political crisis could trigger a social upheaval outside of the control of the army and all the political parties.

India-Pakistan relations rapidly deteriorating

By Deepal Jayasekera

1 September 2014

Relations between India and its historic rival Pakistan have deteriorated sharply in recent weeks, especially after India’s government, now led by the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), cancelled a much anticipated meeting between the countries’ Foreign Secretaries.

Last month saw a dramatic rise in cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates the Indian- and Pakistani-held sections of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The cross-border shelling has resulted in at least a half-dozen deaths and terrorized villagers on both sides of the LoC.

By the beginning of last week, Indian government and military officials were issuing a barrage of threats against Pakistan. On a trip to Kashmir, Amit Shah, the BJP President and a close confidant of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pledged that India would give Pakistan a “befitting reply” if all cross-border firing did not cease.

Two “flag meetings” between locally-based Indian and Pakistani military officers were held at LoC checkpoints last week, the second of them on Friday. These meetings have done little to dampen tensions, as the two sides focused on trading accusations of responsibility for the surge in cross-border firing and incursions.

Speaking Saturday, Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said Pakistani violations of a 2003 ceasefire agreement were “extremely serious and provocative.”

On August 18, the Indian government announced that it was canceling the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting planned for the following week. This was justified on the grounds that a meeting between the Pakistani High Commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, and leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an alliance of legally-tolerated Indian Kashmir separatist groups, constituted “gross interference” in Indian affairs

Such meetings, however, have long been accepted and even facilitated by India’s government, including under the BJP-led governments that held power in New Delhi from 1998 to 2004.

That India’s actions constitute an attempt to rewrite the “ground rules” for Indian-Pakistan relations is openly conceded by the Indian media and by government officials in off-the-record remarks.

“That there is a discontinuity in India’s approach is exactly right,” observed C. Raja Mohan, an Indian foreign policy expert, in his Indian Express column. “The Modi government is now saying there is no place for the Hurriyat in the peace process with Pakistan. Delhi’s new approach is a bold gamble, to say the least.”

A senior government official told MailOnlineIndia that the decision to cancel the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting had been “made at the highest level” and was aimed at establishing “new ground rules” for India’s relations with Pakistan. With a Modi-led BJP-government in power in New Delhi, it would not be “business as usual” between the two nuclear-armed states, said the official.

When in opposition, the BJP chastised the Congress Party-led government for “appeasing” Pakistan But, in an unprecedented gesture that took most observers by surprise, Modi invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration last May.

After Sharif and Modi met and agreed that their Foreign Secretaries would soon meet there was much press speculation about a revival of the countries’ “comprehensive peace dialogue,” which has effectively been stalled since 2008, and of Modi engineering an historic rapprochement with Pakistan.

These unwarranted hopes have now been dramatically dashed.

Modi himself set the stage for the scuttling of the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting, when on August 12, during a visit to the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, he accused Pakistan of waging a “proxy war” in India’s only Muslim-majority state.

Since taking the reins of power, Modi and the BJP have repeatedly signaled their intention to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy. This has included highlighting their conception of India as the natural leader and regional hegemon of South Asia and accelerating the Indian military’s “modernization” program.

In this the BJP government is taking encouragement from Washington’s courting of India. The Obama administration has responded to Modi’s election by intensifying its longstanding campaign to woo India, so as to harness New Delhi more tightly to its drive to isolate and strategically encircle China—the so-called “US Pivot to Asia.”

India’s new government is also manifestly trying to exploit the grave crisis currently rocking Nawaz Sharif’s government, calculating that concessions can be extracted from it when it is on the defensive. With the encouragement of Pakistan’s military-security establishment, which resents Sharif’s attempt to assert greater control over foreign and national-security policy, Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the rightwing Canadian-based Islamic cleric Tahir-ul Qadri and his Pakist a n Awami Tehrik have mounted weeks of protes ts challenging the legitimacy of Sharif’s 15 month-old government. (See: “Pakistani military intervenes in political crisis”)

The Indian press has also noted that the BJP government’s aggressive stance against Pakistan falls in line with its plans to inflame communal tensions in Jammu and Kashmir in the run-up to state elections scheduled for October. Under conditions where the separatist, pro-Pakistani groups are expected to urge an election boycott, the BJP believes that it is well-positioned to secure a majority in the state legislature. This would then enable it to realize a longstanding goal of the Hindu-supremacist right and one repeated in the BJP election manifesto—abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution which gives Jammu and Kashmir special status within the Indian Union.

The US, which counts both India and Pakistan as important allies, has called the cancellation of the Foreign Secretaries’ talks “unfortunate.” But it has conspicuously refrained from criticizing India for seeking to change the diplomatic ground rules. US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Half urged New Delhi and Islamabad to “take steps to improve their bilateral relations … irrespective of why either side says the talks were cancelled.”

Clearly, the Obama administration does not want to risk antagonizing Modi prior to his visiting New York and Washington later this month in what will be his maiden US visit as India’s Prime Minister.

The flare up in Indo-Pakistani tensions is, nevertheless, a most unwelcome development for Washington. It further complicates the US effort to strategically and politically reconfigure Afghanistan, so it can withdraw most of its troops from the country while maintaining Afghan military bases from which it can project US power across energy-rich Central Asia and threaten China and Russia.

To the consternation of Islamabad, the US has strongly supported India’s growing influence in Kabul, including India’s role in training Afghan security forces.

Some Indian foreign policy specialists are warning that the Modi government’s provocative stance could backfire, including by helping Islamabad to “internationalize” the Kashmir dispute. But most of the Indian media has welcomed the hardline stance against Pakistan—no matter that events could quickly spin out of control. Not only are Indo-Pakistani relations highly explosive, intertwined as they are with communal relations and internal power struggles in both countries. US imperialism’s push to reassert its strategic hegemony across Eurasia is dangerously destabilizing all inter-state relations.

Pakistani military intervenes in political crisis

By K. Ratnayake

30 August 2014

The Pakistani army has intervened in the country’s political crisis in what has been described by some commentators as a “soft coup.” Army chief General Raheel Sharif intervened on Thursday night into the political standoff between the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and ongoing opposition protests calling for his resignation.

The protests organised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of former cricketer Imran Khan and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) of Canadian-based Islamic cleric Tahir ul-Qadri began on August 15. Protesters have camped near Red Square in Islamabad where the parliament building and main government administrative offices are located. Sharif has held several rounds of talks with Khan and Qadri, but has failed to reach a compromise.

Amid the continuing crisis, Prime Minister Sharif met General Sharif on Thursday for the third time in nine days to discuss the political situation.

The prime minister later denied that he had asked the army to intervene, but everything points to him doing just that. On Friday evening, the military’s top public relations official Asim Bajwa tweeted that “the COAS [Chief of Army Staff] was asked by the government to play [a] facilitative role for resolution of current impasse, in yesterday’s meeting, at PM House.”

According to the prime minister, “The army did not ask to play the role of mediator, neither have we requested them to play such a role.” Home Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan made similar denials, apparently to fend off criticisms in the media and from the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of the government’s appeal for the army’s intervention.

On Thursday evening, General Sharif summoned opposition leaders Khan and Qadri separately for discussions. Following the talks, Qadri hailed the army’s intervention as a victory, saying: “The army chief has asked us to give him 24 hours to solve the crisis.”

Similarly, Khan told his supporters that the army chief has assured him that a judicial commission would be formed to investigate opposition rigging allegations. He claimed that the general had promised to play the role of “neutral umpire.” Khan declared a compromise had been reached for Sharif to temporarily step down for 30 days while the investigation proceeds.

The subservience of Khan and Qadri to the military demonstrates that their protests have nothing to do with defending democracy or the social rights of the working people. These capitalist parties are seeking to exploit popular anger over the Sharif government’s attacks on living standards, police-state repression and support for the US led occupation in Afghanistan and AfPak war along the border region. Sharif came to power not by massive vote rigging, but by exploiting widespread discontent with the previous PPP government.

Both leaders have watered down their demands in line with the military’s call for compromise. Khan is no longer calling for Sharif to permanently step aside. And in recent days, Qadri has focussed solely on demanding punishment for those who ordered the police shooting of his supporters on August 9 that killed eight people. The Lahore police have taken a step in that direction on Thursday by registering a murder case in which ministers, including the prime minister, and police officials are named as suspects. Registration of a case simply means that charges are under consideration. Maintaining the protest on Friday night, Khan and Qadri declared that they were waiting for the Army chief’s next move.

Whether or not the government made the request, the intervention of the army into the current political crisis is an ominous sign that further inroads into democratic rights are being prepared. The military has directly ruled Pakistan for much of the time since formal independence in 1947 and has always been a major influence in Pakistani politics.

Sharif, who was ousted in 1999 in a military coup by former Army General Pervez Musharraf, won last year’s election. He claimed he would strengthen the “civilian rule” and was hailed by the bourgeois media for returning Pakistan to democracy. Over the past year, Sharif has sought to marginalise the military from politics, by taking over decision-making on defence matters and indicting Musharraf for treason.

The government’s actions have created deep tensions with the military. It appears that army is exploiting the political crisis to reassert its authority in political and defence matters. Earlier in the year, Sharif had pushed for a negotiated settlement with the Tehrik-i-Taliban or Pakistani Taliban. But under pressure from the army and Washington, he gave the green light in June for a major military offensive against the Islamist militia.

It is not clear what concessions Sharif has made to the military for its role in trying to defuse the crisis. However, some commentators have described the military’s actions as a “soft coup” that has forced the government to cede powers in foreign affairs and defence issues.

Analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told the Guardian that Sharif would now be a “ceremonial prime minister” for the rest of his term. “Any gains made in the last eight years [since Musharraf stood aside] to strengthen democracy have been rolled back,” she said.

While the Obama administration has publicly warned against a military coup, it has given its tacit support to the army’s intervention into Pakistani political life. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declared yesterday that the situation in Pakistan “seemed [to be] moving towards a peaceful resolution.”

Washington’s formal opposition to a coup is completely cynical. It has backed Pakistani military dictators in the past, including Musharraf, and would do so again. The US is currently supporting army juntas and their suppression of basic democratic rights in Thailand and Egypt.

However, the open seizure of power by the Pakistani military, as opposed to a “soft coup,” would trigger US legislation requiring the imposition of sanctions, complicating the close relations between the US and Pakistani armed forces. The US is widely despised in Pakistan where the latest Pew Research Centre polling showed that just 14 percent of people give it a positive rating and 7 percent have any confidence in President Obama.

Within Pakistan, there are deep concerns within ruling circles that the present political crisis could open the door for far wider opposition from working people. Rampant poverty, social polarisation, attacks on democratic rights, and above all the protracted US-led war in Afghanistan and its extension into Pakistan border has produced seething discontent. That the Sharif government is in strife just a year after winning power is a clear sign of this broader political and social crisis.

Political tensions escalate in Pakistan as protests demand PM’s resignation

By Sampath Perera

21 August 2014

Pakistan’s political crisis continued to mount yesterday, as twin protest marches demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation reached the parliamentary precinct of the capital of Islamabad.

Protest leaders vowed to storm Sharif’s official residence inside the city’s high security zone but postponed any action last night after negotiations began with government officials. The talks, which are due to resume today, remain deadlocked over the central demand for the prime minister’s resignation.

Former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Canada-based right-wing Islamic cleric Tahir ul-Qadri’s smaller political group, Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), are heading separate but simultaneous protests.

On Tuesday night, they entered Islamabad’s so-called “red zone,” which houses the Supreme Court complex, government buildings and foreign consulates as well as luxury hotels, in breach of previous agreements not to do so.

A huge contingent of 30,000 security personnel has been mobilised in the capital to face the protests. The “red zone” is the most tightly secured, with a layer of police in riot gear backed by paramilitaries and a 700-strong army unit closely guarding important locations.

According to the police estimates, up to 55,000 people remain involved in the protests, six days after the “Freedom March” left Lahore on August 14. After deadly clashes with police prevented PAT supporters from holding a march in Lahore on August 10, Qadri has mostly synchronised his protest with that of the PTI.

Among its list of accusations against the 15-month-old government, Khan insists that Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) was elected in a rigged election. Qadri condemns the government as corrupt, insisting that it be replaced.

Last Sunday, Khan issued an ultimatum for Sharif to resign. “After two days, I’ll no longer be able to stop this tsunami,” he said, referring to his supporters. The next day, he announced that the 34 PTI deputies in the 342-member national parliament would resign, and the same would happen in provincial parliaments, except in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI heads the government.

In a further attempt to exploit popular anger against the Sharif government, Khan called for “civil disobedience,” urging people to refuse to pay taxes and utility bills.

On Tuesday, Khan vowed to march into the “red zone,” raising the possibility of violent clashes with security forces. Protesters were allowed to clear their way into the zone by using a crane and wire cutters to remove shipping containers and barbed wire fences. Both Khan and Qadri moved into the zone in bullet-proof containers on the back of trucks.

Khan then threatened to storm the prime minister’s residence and turn the parliamentary area into “a Tahrir Square,” referring to the Egyptian uprising that deposed Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Sharif’s failure to contain the protests has led to media speculation of military backing for the marches, and the possibility of a coup. However, in comments to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, analyst Simbal Khan suggested: “It suits the military better to weaken Nawaz Sharif, not get rid of him, so that they can then have their way with the policies they want.”

Last week, Sharif sent two of his close aides to meet army chief General Raheel Sharif. According to one media report, they were told that the military had no intention of conducting a coup, but “if the government wants to get through its many problems and the four remaining years of its term, it has to share space with the army.”

At the very least, the military is exploiting the situation to insist on a greater say inside the political establishment. The military has directly ruled Pakistan for half the period since the state’s creation in 1947. Even under so-called civilian governments, the military has wielded considerable power behind the scenes.

Sharp tensions have emerged over the past year between Sharif’s government and the military, particularly over the trial of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf for treason. Now Sharif is attempting a reconciliation. He spent most of Tuesday afternoon in discussions with General Sharif.

Following Sharif’s meeting with the army chief, the military protecting Islamabad was placed on “high alert.” After Khan called for the storming of the prime minister’s residence, the military for the first time warned against such a move.

Military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said buildings in the “red zone” were “national symbols” protected by the army, and therefore their sanctity “must be respected.” He urged negotiations to “resolve the prevailing impasse” in “the larger national and public interest.”

Khan’s and Qadri’s calls for “democracy” and their feigned sympathy for the toiling masses are fraudulent to the core. They are attempting to exploit growing mass disaffection for their own political advantage. Neither party opposes the policies of successive governments that have produced extreme poverty and mass unemployment for the vast majority of Pakistanis, nor the military operations demanded by the US in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

The Obama administration, which considers Islamabad pivotal for its geo-political strategy in the region, has so far indicated it does not favour a military intervention, fearing the popular upheaval that could result. US State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said yesterday: “We are carefully monitoring the demonstrations in Islamabad. We urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law.”

A considerable section of the Pakistani bourgeoisie is also anxious that the situation could get out of control. The country’s main stock market in Karachi recorded a fall of about 400 points in its principal 100-share index on Tuesday, continuing a pattern of decline. Major newspapers have published editorials and comments condemning Khan and Qadri for destabilising “democracy.”

The uncertainty has been deepened by sharp disagreements between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the government over its failure to meet the conditions laid out for the IMF’s emergency $US6.8 billion bailout last year. Despite 12 days of discussions with the government, the IMF has not agreed to the release of the next $550 million tranche of the loan.

According to Dawn, the main contentions were the government’s failure to grant full autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan and to increase electricity prices. Sharif delayed the power tariff hike for fear of further arousing mass opposition ahead of the protest marches, but the IMF insists that the issue must be addressed “over the next three weeks.”

Pakistani opposition parties launch anti-government protest

By Sampath Perera

15 August 2014

The Pakistani government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday permitted large protest convoys, organised by two bourgeois opposition parties, to head toward the capital of Islamabad while imposing tight security and warning of a crackdown in the event of violence.

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT), a small right-wing political group of Canadian-based Islamic cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, called the “Freedom March” on the August 14 anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in 1947, to demand Sharif’s resignation.

Thousands of protesters started the convoys yesterday from Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, aiming to reach the country’s capital, 350 kilometres away, by today. The PTI and PAT are calling for the dissolution of the parliament, the establishment of an unelected government of technocrats and new elections.

Both parties claim that the elections held a year ago were “rigged” by Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN). Voting fraud is rampant in Pakistan but such irregularities were unlikely to have produced the PMLN’s victory.

Sharif’s right-wing party won 190 seats in the 375-member parliament. It capitalised on popular hostility toward the previous Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government’s attacks on living conditions, police-state repression and support for the US-led war in Afghanistan and border areas in Pakistan.

The government has mobilised around 25,000 policemen and para-military forces to Lahore and Islamabad. Earlier, it invoked laws to authorise the military to deploy soldiers to “assist” the police and civil administration in Islamabad. It also banned the assembly of people there, giving wide powers to the police. Highway entry points in Lahore and Islamabad were barricaded, halting vehicular movements.

The PTI and PAT claimed that the police had arrested more than 2,000 activists from the two parties by Wednesday. Earlier, on August 8 and 9, the police killed eight PAT activists when the party tried to hold a separate march.

In a bid to avoid a major confrontation, Sharif declared on Wednesday that he was ready to appoint a committee of three Supreme Court judges to investigate any irregularities in last year’s elections. PTI leader Khan refused the offer, however, saying it was “too late” and reiterated his demand for Sharif’s resignation and the formation of an interim administration.

In a further step, the government yesterday decided to permit the convoys to take place. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said, “if you want to protest you are welcome,” while warning demonstrators “not to take the law” into their hands. The government also ordered the removal of barriers, in order to allow the convoys, except around the “Red Zone” in Islamabad where foreign embassies and the main government offices are located.

The about-face demonstrates the government’s nervousness that the deepening political crisis could trigger a social explosion. Other political parties, including the PPP and the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, had criticised the government’s readiness to crush the protest, while not supporting the convoys for fear of igniting wider unrest.

Anxiety in ruling circles about the political tensions was reflected on the stock market in Karachi, the country’s main financial city. The share index, which had risen to 31,000—a 68-year high—on July 27, dropped to 28,000 by Monday. On Wednesday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar warned that the political crisis had already caused stock exchange losses of 300 billion rupees ($US3 billion).

Khan’s party won 34 seats in last year’s parliamentary election and also secured control of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial administration. However, its primary base of support is among the middle class in the urban centres.

Both Khan and Qadri are seeking to exploit widespread anger over worsening social inequality. Forty percent of people live below the global poverty line of $US1.25 per day. In urban centres, the wealthiest 20 percent consume 60 percent of total income. The bottom 20 percent share only 5 percent. Youth unemployment is officially 7 percent but that is a severely understated statistic.

Other sources of discontent, over many years, include rampant corruption and electricity supply failures, which hurt ordinary people as well as big business.

On top of this, popular disaffection has grown since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, after successive Pakistani governments have bowed to Washington’s dictates, including for the stepping up of military offensives and drone attacks in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.

Khan declares he is fighting for corruption-free “democratic governance.” Qadri claims he wants a “revolution” for poverty alleviation, eradication of corruption, electoral reforms, social rights and women’s rights, among other things.

These are utterly fraudulent statements. These capitalist parties have never opposed the International Monetary Fund’s austerity program, which every government has implemented, nor Washington’s AfPak war. They have supported the ongoing military offensive in North Waziristan, which the US had long pushed for.

Sharif has increasingly rested on the military. He participated in a military-organised Independence Day commemoration and showered praise on the armed forces, including for the North Waziristan offensive, which has killed hundreds of people and displaced about a million.

At a ceremony in the western city of Quetta, Sharif appeared along the army chief, General Raheel. “Can there be a bigger freedom march than Pakistan’s civil and military leadership sitting together to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day?” Sharif declared in his speech.

The military has not issued any statement or offered any hint about its position on the opposition calls for Sharif’s resignation. There remains much media speculation, however, that the military is backing the PTI-PAT demonstration.

Since Sharif took office, friction between the government and the military has been apparent. The generals have expressed displeasure over the government’s treason case against the former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf.

From 1947 onward, Pakistan has been ruled by military dictatorships for half its history. The last period of direct military government ended in 2008, but the military has retained considerable power and influence behind the scenes.

Under the previous PPP-led coalition government, which was in office between 2008 and 2013, President Asif Zardari quickly ceded control of foreign and security policies to the military.

Washington has backed and worked closely with military dictators in the past but the US ambassador in Islamabad has hinted that the Obama administration is not in favour of a military takeover at this time.

Source: WSWS

Farzana Parveen stoning shames Pakistan

Time to end the subcontinent’s family feud

By Arshad M Khan 

India is holding elections. A massive undertaking, the process is expected to take five weeks to allow the 800 million eligible voters an opportunity to vote. But the issue that can bring Armageddon to the subcontinent is not open to debate. Relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor have not improved, despite attempts by Pakistan’s newly elected President Mamnoon Hussain in the last year, because no party would like to appear soft on Pakistan prior to the election. However, the post-election period could present an opportunity. 

The next Independence Day will celebrate 67 years of self-rule for India and Pakistan. Yet the two countries are unable to resolve their differences, and extremism is on the rise in both. What a shame, because the cultural roots are identical, and the peoples lived in relative harmony for a millennia until proactive colonial policies sundered the fabric of a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society. But there are ways to leave differences behind, which the two countries can learn from the experience their own colonial power.

In 1906, the border between the US and British Canada was demilitarized when the British withdrew the last of their troops. It has remained so. Except for a nominal passport and customs check, people travel back and forth freely. How did this happen when the US and Britain had been intense rivals, fighting three wars in the previous century?

The road to peace began with a dispute (in the 1890’s) between British Guyana and Venezuela, when the British Admiralty informed their government they could not spare the resources to take on the US opposition to the British position. The British backed off and agreed to arbitration.

In return, the US softened its stance on several issues. Fishing rights were agreed upon, then the Panama Canal, which had been opposed by the British. Finally, the Alaska/Canada border was settled. Much of this was behind the scenes, and kept secret from the British public and even Parliament – the opposition would have skewered the government because public sentiment was strongly anti-American, given that the two countries had been at war off and on for more than a hundred years.

Thereafter, in 1898, Britain was the one major power that supported the US in the Spanish-American War. By 1903, US president Teddy Roosevelt was likening a war with Britain to fratricide. The special relationship was born.

How long standing rivals become friends is the subject of Charles A. Kupchan’s last book, How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace. It is noteworthy that while the agreements with the US were being cemented, Britain also signed a treaty with Japan. It was not successful because cultural dissimilarities prevented the two sides from overcoming fear and mistrust. Between the US and Britain, cultural similarities eased the transition, and one can envision a future where they will for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Returning to 1906, it was also the year when the Muslims in India, out of fear, launched a party to defend their interests, and the Muslim League was born. A decade later in the middle of the Great War, a young Muslim lawyer by the name of Mohammad Ali Jinnah prepared a proposal, supported by both the Hindu-dominated Congress Party and the Muslim League under the Lucknow Pact, for a post-war self-governing India as a dominion of the British Empire, not unlike Australia, New Zealand and others. Had the British agreed and cooperated, the fearful, frenzied and needless slaughter of millions of innocents during partition in 1947 would have been avoided, and India would still be whole.

Why is this so important? It is important because the problems the subcontinent will soon face – if the scientists are right – are extremely complex, and handled better as a federated whole than as fragmented units acting out of fear, suspicion and mistrust. Climate change cannot be handled individually by nations that share a space. And the worst-case scenario of severe water depletion from the increased ablation of the Himalayan glaciers threatens the granaries of the Indus and Gangetic plains.

India’s growth rate has been encouraging (although lagging lately), and the exploits of some of its businessmen make Indians abroad proud. That the Jaguar dealer a mile down the road from me sells cars made by an Indian-owned company brings a smile to the lips of anyone of Indian extraction. And Pakistan keeping up with India’s per capita gross domestic product, plus developing a hundred-bomb nuclear arsenal, merits some admiration. The fact is, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh share the same culture, and like the US and Britain, have within them the seeds of a lasting peace. 

There are, however, other reasons why coming together is important. Consider India and China: They both started at about the same place in the late 1940s. But a comparison now is embarrassing for the subcontinent: Pakistan is to an extent a client state; India lags far behind. Quite aside from Beijing’s stellar Olympics, showcasing Chinese skills to the world, and the distressing Indian act to follow in the Asian games, the economic statistics confirm the obvious. 

For 2013, China’s nominal GDP per capita as reported by the International Money Fund (IMF) was US$6,569 as compared with India’s $1,414, Pakistan’s $1,295 and Bangladesh’s $899. Countries like Singapore ($52,918), South Korea ($23,838), Taiwan ($20,706) and Malaysia ($10,429) are all substantially higher, which is sobering when we consider that the subcontinent achieved independence first.

China is now the world’s second-largest economy, but the subcontinent lags far behind. Transportation is the backbone of a modern economy, and China’s arterial roads are modern, its railways comparable with and sometimes superior to those in the West. The fast growing high-speed rail network is connected by 250 mph trains with record speeds under favorable conditions above 300 mph.

Television coverage of disasters is a window into rural lives rarely encountered by the urban elite or economic statisticians. Lately, such coverage leaves the impression of a burgeoning rural middle class in China, well-fed villagers in Pakistan and destitute farmers in many parts of India. A cogent statistic confirming this intuition is the percentage of low-birth-weight infants across Asia and the Pacific, as reported by UNICEF for 2008. China at about 2% of live births had the least, beating even New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Pakistan was at 18%, and Bangladesh at 22%, while India was dead last at an off-the-chart 30%. Low birth weight increases the chances of infants succumbing to illnesses, and such suffering surely deserves to be alleviated.

Unfortunately, in the growing middle classes’ headlong rush to consumerism, nobody seems willing to look over their shoulder at the ravaged detritus of policy folly left in their wake. As Mahatma Gandhi is reputed to have said: “There is always enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

The crippling expenditures of India and Pakistan’s wars – proxy or otherwise – and preparations for possible war do little to enhance security in the face of a mutual nuclear threat. Endless war means endless suffering and endless waste. Pakistan is faced with insurgencies in Baluchistan and the Frontier Province; India has kettles building up steam in the north, northeast, east, south and center.

Then of course, there is Kashmir, that cauldron of discontent where democratic delusion came face to face with reality in the summer of 2010. And thousands of unmarked graves have been discovered. The latest farce is the penalty imposed on university students for cheering a Pakistani cricket team – not surprising in view of the heavy-handed military presence there.

We started with the case of Britain and the US, and how cultural similarity abetted the relationship. Let’s also consider the long-standing, bitter and often bloody Franco-German rivalry. If one travels that border now, one only notes its absence. Not only is it undefended, but it no longer has customs or passport controls.

How that happened might well be a lesson for the subcontinent. It was a story of economic cooperation leading to a customs union, while maintaining political independence, as well as adequate safeguards for weaker economies. This European Community model could be one answer. An autonomous Kashmir within such a framework is a logical way of finessing that problem, and the money flowing to India and Pakistan from tourists on their way to the valley should quiet any cries of protest. We are past feudalism, and both countries have to realize that land belongs to the people who till it.

Imagine a prosperous subcontinent freed from the fear of war and nuclear apocalypse, on its way to joining the First World. It is a vision worth fighting for, in which a worthy people rid themselves of their painful legacy of colonialism.

Dr Arshad M Khan, a retired professor based in the US, is anoccasional contributor to the print and electronic media.


Pakistan: Taliban Peace Talks How To Make Sense, Out Of Nonsense?

By Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja

February 19, 2014 “Information Clearing House –  Secretive peace talks between PM Nawaz Sharif Government and Taharak Taliban Pakistan (TTP) groups overflowing conspicuous media headlines hardly tell the truth full of hatred and fear of the unknown. Both represent willing suspicion of disbelief that talks could render peace which none have to offer? After political fanfare, Sharif appeared vulnerable to credibility gimmick lingering to his past corruption and missing leadership. Talibans are ruthless convergent groups of unknown changing loyalties to all directions of political and economic maneuverability for their interests and survival. Who will stand on a solid ground for the reality check? There is no formal agenda for talks, no publicly engaged representatives directly at the table and no peace talks as such except rudimentary symbolic gestures carved out of the nowhere to ensure mutual distrust and time killing exercises to protect individualistic interests of the few warlords on both sides of aisle. Pakistani Taliban as media calls them owe their superfluous existence to the emergence of Taliban movement in Afghanistan that previously fought against the occupation of the former Soviet Union and now fighting against the US led NATO occupation of Afghanistan. The goal is to free Afghanistan and set-up an Islamic State of Afghanistan. Its diversion strategic aims have impacted the whole of Pakistan. The key rests with the US and its military priorities and futuristic presence in the region. The present Government under Nawaz Sharif and the Taharake Taliban (TTP) have lot in common to interact at a theatre of absurdities, intrigues and backdoor conspiracies as if they hold credibility in public perceptions. There is no timeframe and no visible indicators who will surrender the guns and bullets in return for peacemaking and a presence at the ballot box. They were a failure before and they are irrelevant in the contemporary global affairs to produce any recognizable legitimacy. Pakistani Taliban are not a political entity formed or shaped under known credible leadership but outcome of transitory political climate linked to the belligerent affairs overwhelming deaths and destructions in Afghanistan and onward to Pakistani towns. Nobody can speculate how and where the peace if at all it is “peace” the ultimate aim will grow out of the nowhere.

Nawaz Sharif has formidable problems of political integrity and intellectual leadership capacity and he was never a credible factor to contribute anything positive to the collective goodness of Pakistan. More precisely, a discredit businessman who twice previously stole and time and opportunities from the life of the nation to groom himself in national politics. Sharif being an outgrowth of the neo-colonial military regime, wanted an outlet to portray peace talks as a strategic change for his last time job as PM. He was twice dismissed as Prime Minister on corruption charges. General Musharaf tried him on “terrorism” conspiracy hijacking the PIA plane and wanting to kill all the passengers and sent him to ten years of exile to Saudi Arabia. For almost half of a century all Pakistani politicians have entered the reign of power through backdoor conspiracies and military coups and killings of the fellow countrymen. The tragic history tells its own narrative.

Pakistan lives in self-inflicted turmoil of political and military intrigues- all deceiving all – all trying to gain their footing in the powerhouse either by attracting foreign interventions or creating catastrophic political up hazards to dismantle the fabric of the originality of the Muslim nation. The stage actors want power and use it as a divine right of absolutism against the interests of the forgotten masses. Public interest was never a core thrust of the political governance in Pakistan except a shadowy window to patronize few sadistic monsters to play with the life and values of the people.

Taliban are not a legitimate political entity in Pakistani politics as their aims and guidance originates from the Afghanistan engagement. They are known to have enriched schemes of extortion, drug trades and killings the innocents in major cities across Pakistan. How could such lukewarm groups ever negotiate peace making deals? Is Sharif trying to imagine a new framework of political governance to suit his beleaguered powerbase? No matter how the talks progress, TTP are a continuing threat to civic, moral and intellectual consciousness of informed Pakistanis. They lack sense of moral and political accountability and to be a rationally organized construct of systematic politics. Their impulse of Islamic “Shariaha” hardly corresponds to the genesis of Islam and its real world functional apparatus. They would claim, take our “Shariaha” or leave it to guns and homemade bullets.

Alarming rates of domestic and foreign generated bloody conflicts –the “war on terrorism” have sucked up the resources of the poverty stricken nation for change and development goals. The 21st century emerging nations pitch in new ideas and ideals to encourage and support the educated, intelligent and talented people to compete for elections and to hold offices of national leadership responsibility. Pakistanis are not so lucky to have such opportunities and leaders and to be living in the competing values of moral and intellectual responsibility. The contemporary world does not appear to have so many failed and treacherous leadership role models as do Pakistan with a set contour of treason to and wholesale sell out of the primary interests of the nation to foreign masters. The Western media headlines and propaganda campaigns skillfully argue that Pakistan is a camouflage state of liars and being run by those who are conveniently available at the global market for cash payments. Pakistani rulers and their behavioral sinking typifies what can go wrong when leadership is indoctrinated and barricaded by the deliberate evolution of corruption, dishonesty and treason to national interests embracing a culture of convenient nepotism, looting, gangsterism and killing as a political engine to manage the military run politics of Pakistan. Consequently, the world is adding insult to pains and injuries of the morally and intellectually conscientious Pakistanis.

Disillusioned and disconnected with its roots, Pakistan continues to move forward – not towards change, normalcy and progress but to tragic events fermenting planned deaths of the citizenry, destruction of the social, economic and political infrastructures, incapacitated and broken lifelines and ultimately to become a battle ground for mindless ethnic and regional divides and national collapse. TTP is one of the factors in these imposed cruelties on the masses. If these trends resulting from the inhuman and barbaric policies and practices of the ruling elite remain in the pipeline, the nation could end-up losing its freedom and integrity. You wonder, what is the problem that is insolvable? Ignorance, lust of power and cruelty to the interests of the people just to specify few.

Taharak-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) claim adherence to one-way code insisting on the promulgation of “Sahariaha” as system of politics, of which they have no knowledge-based understanding or commitment except emotional outbursts and delusional perceptions of Islamic precepts. Islamic faith does not perpetuate systematic brutality against innocent people and it cannot sanction individualistic absolutism against the collective interests of the Ummah. The Taliban groups failed miserably to caption Islam as a force of moral and intellectual persuasion to spearhead change and reformation (“islaha”) in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Taliban appear to be a rogue and lose groups of many belongings and liabilities. Some could well be doing the proxy wars on behalf of the foreign master chipping-in cash dollars and obsolete weapons left-over across the Afghan old graveyards. Their physical presence could signal the changing outlook for more disasters to create ripple effects in Pakistani politics. Mr. Sharif and the Pakistani intelligence networks are not competent and have no clue how to manage the hidden conspiracies of the few against many impinging on the public nerve for a decade. The peace drama continues behind secluded doors and the nation is targeted daily and the innocent continued to be massacred unabated as if Taliban and some fake forces of vindictiveness are determined to undermine the freedom and integrity of the nation.

Pakistan’s major problem rests with domestic power politics. Those who grab the power through intrigues, political conspiracies, military coups, sectarian killings and large social-economic disruptions as is the on-going Pakistani elite supported and American-British led bogus War on Terror, would never cease to act or see an end to their hegemonic power control. For almost half of a century, Pakistani politics in groomed with military dictators and their few created and installed feudal lord families of the British colonial time- Bhuttos, Sharfis, Zardaris, and of course, some of the military Generals themselves – the chief instigators of individualistic governance and national decline. These are household names of hatred and disgrace to the thinking Pakistanis. The Nation that allows criminally indicted and most corrupt people to hold offices of national governance and responsibility cannot be viewed as Nation of moral values and honor.

The nation appears at moral and intellectuals crossroads. Prevalent corruption has darkened the insights of the thinking people. Even some of the most educated and intelligent ones cannot THINK out of the box. Whereas, able and educated Pakistanis look for escape from reality and are rushing to migrate to foreign lands. Consequently, Pakistan is run by ignorant, corrupt and cruel people who have nothing common in thoughts and values with the aspiring masses.

Pakistan is being destabilized and dehumanized by its own wicked so called politicians who lacked understanding of the ideology of the Muslim nation. The culture, intellect and values these military and political elite follow are foreign to the genius of the people of Pakistan. Pakistan appears to have its ennobling enemies within itself and daily death tolls and societal destruction provide ample data to think of the growing despotism and politically geared domestic madness to undo the foundation of its existence.

Pakistan’s future is not linked to Nawaz Sharif or peace talks with the TTP. The Government and the Taliban are buying time and opportunities to readjust the changing geo-political climate of the region. America is set to withdraw its NAT led forces in few months. Pakistani official and the TTP would hurry to fill the gap and to acquire upper hand in futuristic warfare. Pakistan security forces are relentlessly waiting which way to turn the table and to counteract the tide of bloody insurgency dipping into the political psyche of Pakistani culture. Unless the Thinking Hub of the Pakistani Freedom Movement and Foundational Values reactivate their thoughts and energies for a Navigational Change, the Nation is at critical crossroads for its own fragmentation and by its own so called monstrous political leaders. How to change the political cruelty and tyranny of the FEW unto ANEW value-based political system of institutions, responsible leadership and governance? Pakistan desperately needs people of New Vision, New Ideas and political imagination to safeguard the freedom of the nation from ultimate chaos and ruins. Those part of the problems cannot be part of the solutions. Taliban have no sense of harmony and political persuasion in talks and behaviors. Sharif has extended an undeserving label of political recognition to the TTP for which it had no political capacity to operate in conventional wisdom. It is hard to imagine that such divergent and people of divided consciousness of their own role and values could be mindful of the impetus of peace process and negotiation to bridge the widening gaps in thinking and practices for stability and the security of the people of Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has no vision of the future or leadership role to help Pakistan as daily bloodbath continues under one or another media headlines; nobody can predict how these unknown and halfhearted talks will change the political landscape for peace when the Nation’s own future is at stake.

Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in global security, peace and conflict resolution with keen interests in Islamic-Western comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of several publications including the latest: Global Peace and Conflict Management: Man and Humanity in Search of New Thinking. Lambert Publishing Germany, May 2012

The World Cannot Turn A Blind Eye To America’s Drone Attacks In Pakistan

The World Cannot Turn A Blind Eye To America’sDrone Attacks In Pakistan

Why was Karim Khan prevented from speaking out against drone warfare?

By Robert Fisk

February 16 2014 “Information Clearing House – “The Independent” – –  Karim Khan is a lucky man. When you’re picked up by 20 armed thugs, some in police uniform – aka the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – you can be “disappeared” forever. A mass grave in Balochistan, in the south-west of the country, has just been found, filled with the “missing” from previous arrests. But eight days after he was lifted and – by his own testimony, that of his lawyer Shasad Akbar and the marks still visible on his body – tortured, Mr Khan is back at his Pakistani home. His crime: complaining about US drone attacks – American missiles fired by pilotless aircraft – on civilians inside Pakistan in President Obama’s Strangelove-style operation against al-Qa’ida.

There are, as the cops would say, several facts “pertaining” to Mr Khan’s kidnapping. Firstly, his son Hafiz Zaenullah, his brother Asif Iqbal and another man – a stonemason called Khaliq Dad – were killed by a drone attack on Mr Khan’s home in December 2009. Secondly, he had filed a legal case in Pakistan against the American drone strikes, arguing that they constituted murder under domestic law. And thirdly – perhaps Mr Khan’s most serious crime – he was about to leave for Brussels to address European Union parliamentarians on the dangers of American drone strikes in Pakistan.

In Madiha Tahir’s recent documentary film Wounds of Waziristan, Mr Khan had talked about his family loss. His son Hafiz was a security guard at a local girls’ school, and also studying for Grade 10. Asif, who had a Master’s in English, was a government employee. Karim Khan saw what was left of their bodies, “covered in wounds”. He found some of their fingers in the rubble of his home.

Thanks to constant reports of his kidnapping in the courageous Pakistani media and to the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court who ordered the Pakistani government to produce Karim Khan by next Thursday, the anti-drone campaigner is safe. For the moment.

But this is going to set the world on fire. The “drone war”, as American journalists inevitably call it – after all, it’s not as if al-Qa’ida or the innocent victims are firing back with drones of their own – started under George W Bush, but most of the attacks, 384 of them since 2008, have been authorised by Mr Obama. The statistics of civilian deaths fluctuate wildly since most of the missiles are fired into the Pakistani frontier districts in which the government has little power. The minimum figure for civilian victims is almost 300 dead – some say almost 900 – out of a total of 2,500 killed. At least 50 people are believed to have been killed in follow-up strikes which slaughtered those going to the rescue of the wounded.

Of course, the drone syndrome has spread across the Middle East. The missiles rain down on al-Qa’ida and civilians alike in Yemen. The Israelis fired them into Lebanon in 2006; when a youth on a motorcycle fired at a night-time drone over Beirut, it fired back a missile that destroyed a downtown civilian apartment block. In Gaza, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported 825 deaths from Israeli drones during the 2008-09 war, a large percentage of them civilians.

Pakistani witnesses have told me that the missiles don’t just appear suddenly in the sky. The drones arrive in clusters – 10 or 12 at a time, circling villages for an hour or two – a looking for targets on behalf of their “pilots” in the United States. Until at least 2009, the Americans flew drones – the most impressive was called the Reaper – from air bases inside Pakistan. Hence the sensitivities of the boys from the ISI and their irritation with Karim Khan.

The ethical disgrace of the drone syndrome is not that Mr Obama – or some US officer near Las Vegas – decides on the basis of satellite pictures, mobile phone calls, numbers dialled and the speed of vehicles, who should live or die. The really shameful aspect is that the drone war has become normal. It has gone on so long – and been the subject of so much protest, so regularly – that it has become banal, boring, matter-of-fact.

It was just the same in the 1990s when the US and Brits went hunting for Iraqi targets over the so-called “no-fly zones” in Iraq. For years they bombed and missiled “military targets” that supposedly threatened them. In the eight months up to August 1999, US and British pilots had fired more than 1,100 missiles against 359 Iraqi targets, flying about two-thirds as many missions as Nato pilots conducted over Yugoslavia during the 78-day bombardment of the same year. As well as anti-aircraft batteries, oil pipelines were blown up, storage depots destroyed and dozens of civilians killed, including several in a Basra housing estate. But each air raid was merely “nibbed” in our newspapers – a nib is a single paragraph in an inside-page News in Brief column – so that an entire air campaign was effectively carried out behind the backs of the US and British public in the years before the 2003 invasion.

In southern Lebanon, the Israelis controlled for 28 years a torture prison at Khiam for insurgents and their families – women as well as men – and electricity was frequently used on inmates by Israel’s “South Lebanon Army” thugs. Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the International Red Cross complained. But I will always remember the words of a Swiss Red Cross official when I asked him, within sight of Khiam, why the world did not condemn this dreadful place. “It has become normal,” he replied.

And that’s it. Kill or torture often enough, over a long enough time – not too many massacres, just a dribble of deaths over months and years – and you’ll get away with it. If you kill the bad guys, it’s OK. Pity about the rest. Just make sure that the war is sufficiently prosaic, and don’t listen to Karim Khan.


Pakistan, a Victim of Ideological Colonization

By Dr. Ismail Salami

Global Research, January 12, 2014

pakThe distressing story of a Pakistani teenager who lost his life while he was making efforts to prevent a suicide bomber from detonating his school and unleashing a maniac massacre of innocent children in the country’s troubled north-west has gained colossal attention in the world.

Aitizaz Hasan, almost 15 years old, was standing outside as a punishment for being late to school in Hangu, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on Monday when the suicide bomber tried to gain access to the building.

Basically a Shia-populated town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, Hangu has become a scene of unrest and Takfiri-begotten hatred like many parts of the country.

What Aitizaz did has reportedly saved the lives of more than 2000 students who were at school at the time of the catastrophe.

 ”My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children,” his father, Mujahid Ali, told the Express Tribune newspaper.

Schools, mosques, and temples are the routine targets of the Takfiri groups in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. According to their definition, anyone but the Takfiris is an infidel and should be eradicated from the face of the earth.  Women and children are no exceptions to them. Muslims and non-Muslims are no exceptions to them. What is acceptable to them is complete belief in their twisted perception and interpretation of Islam.

In September 2013, a twin suicide attack on a historic church known as All Saint’s Church in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan killed over 80 people including women and children and injuring over a hundred people.

“Suicide bombers entered the church compound from the main gate and blew themselves up in the midst of the people,” a statement posted on the diocese website read.

In another incident, a suicide bomber struck a crowded Pakistan mosque in August 2013, killing 43 people and wounding more than 100 during Ramadan prayers. The bomber was wearing about 8-10 kg of explosives and was on foot. He had detonated in the main prayer hall.

In 2012, gunmen dragged 20 Shia Muslim travelers off a bus and killed them at point blank range in northern Pakistan. The bus was travelling between Rawalpindi and the mainly Shia northern city of Gilgit.

“Ten to 12 people wearing army uniform stopped the bus and forced some people off the bus,” said Khalid Omarzai, a Pakistani official.

“After checking their papers, they opened fire and at least 20 people are reported to have been killed. This is initial information and the final toll may go up. They are all Shias,” he said.

On January I, 2014, a suicide car bombing in Pakistan killed two Shia Muslims who were returning from a pilgrimage to Iran.

 The attack took place on Wednesday in Akhtaraba, on the outskirts of Quetta in Balochistan and targeted a passenger bus carrying Shia Muslims.

“An explosive-laden car which was parked along the roadside blew up as the bus passed by it, killing two people and wounding 17,” Abdul Razzaq Cheema, Quetta police chief, told AFP news agency.

Takfiri hatred is vented in different ways. A common way is, however, suicide bombing. Other forms include beheading, spilling acid over the victims’ faces and mutilating their bodies.

Takfirism, which is an umbrella name for Wahhabism, is lavishly funded by Saudi Arabia. For over three decades, Saudi Arabia has been spent over USD 100 billion on promoting Wahhabism worldwide with Pakistan being one of the early instances of such ideological colonization in Asia. In other words, big chunks of petrodollar earned by the House of Saud go to the dissemination of Wahhabism and the subsequent promotion of terrorism.

So, suicide bombing is nothing new in Pakistan and some of the countries infested by the influence of the Takfiri groups who are hell-bent on annihilating the rest of the world which they view as ideologically inferior.

By way of diverting attention from what is really happening, the West seeks to prescribe its own version of the realities and practically dictates how the media should report on any violence produced by this crooked ideology. In fact, the West substantially capitalizes on the discord sweeping across the Middle East on account of the efforts of the Takfiri groups such as Taliban, al-Qaeda, and al-Nusra and so on and so forth.

The western media unanimously attribute attacks of this nature to sectarian violence and the “rift deepening wider between the Shia and the Sunni Muslims” every day.  The fact of the matter is that these incidents happening in Pakistan and similar incidents taking place elsewhere have nothing to do with sectarianism and should not be treated thus.

Anyway, what is happening in Pakistan is an ideological product of the House of Saud and their ignoramus adherents.

 Sadly, Pakistani politicians frequently turn a blind eye to the myriad crimes committed by the Takfiri groups whom they use as political leverage to achieve their own malicious goals such as winning the elections in the country. So, instead of curbing the cruel current of extremism, they sit back and watch silently.

Aitizaz Hasan is the personification of innocence and the crystallization of a far-fetched hope on the dark horizons of the Pakistani community.

In a country corroded by blind ignorance, rampant political corruption and cancerous extremism, only people like Aitizaz Hasan can emerge as beacons of light to usher in the right path towards salvation.

India, Pak Nuclear War Could Put 2 billion People at Risk: Study

By Lalit K Jha

December 11, 2013 “Information Clearing House – “PTI” – WASHINGTON -A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would result in a global famine that could kill over two billion people — a quarter of the world’s population — and end human civilisation, a study warned today.

“A nuclear war using only a fraction of existing arsenals would produce massive casualties on a global scale—far more than we had previously believed,” said Ira Helfand, the study’s author and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

In a previous study in 2012, the Nobel Peace Prize- winning IPPNW and Physicians for Social Responsibility said that a nuclear famine could kill more than a billion people.

The new study ‘Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk?‘ is based upon research published by climate scientists who have assessed the impact of nuclear explosions on the Earth’s atmosphere and other ecosystems.

According to the study, a nuclear war using as few as 100 weapons anywhere in the world would disrupt the global climate and agricultural production so severely that the lives of more than two billion people would be in jeopardy.

“A billion people dead in the developing world is obviously a catastrophe unparallelled in human history. But then if you add to that the possibility of another 1.3 billion people in China being at risk, we are entering something that is clearly the end of civilisation,” Helfand said.

“Chinese winter wheat production would fall 50 per cent in the first year and, averaged over the entire decade after the war, would be 31 per cent below baseline,” it said.

“The prospect of a decade of widespread hunger and intense social and economic instability in the world’s largest country has immense implications for the entire global community, as does the possibility that the huge declines in Chinese wheat production will be matched by similar declines in other wheat producing countries,” Helfand said.

He said the study looked at India and Pakistan as the two sides have fought three full-fledged wars since 1947.

But the author also said that the earth would expect a similar impact from any limited nuclear war. Modern atomic weapons are far more powerful than the US bombs that killed more than 200,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

“Countries around the world — those who are nuclear-armed and those who are not — must work together to eliminate the threat and consequences of nuclear war,” Helfand said.

“In order to eliminate this threat, we must eliminate nuclear weapons,” he added.

The Story of Malala, and its Misuse for the Western Culture War


 by Peter Baofu, Ph.D.

The Story of Malala, and its Misuse for the Western Culture War. 51647.png

The story of Malala Yousafzai, the 16 years old Pakistani activist for girls’ education, is tragic, not because she endured the assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012, but because her historical narrative has been “misused” for the Western culture war around the world, especially (though not exclusively) as a propaganda tool of the West for the “war on terror” in the Muslim World (and beyond).

Right from its early beginning, the story of Malala was “framed” to promote Western soft power, especially in the Islamic world where innocent civilians die daily or weekly over the years (due to chronic Western military strikes) and authoritarian regimes remain in place (often with the ruthless support of Western powers).

For example, back in 2009, when Malala was only 12 years old, the BBC in the U.K. used the story of her life in the Swat Valley in Pakistan to depict the “oppressive” Taliban rule (in a blog under a pseudonym), at a time when the Western “war on terror” in the region killed a lot of people, often at a ratio of so many more innocent civilians for a few radical militants. Then, in 2010, the New York Times in the U.S. made a documentary about her life to further spread her story.

But this spread of her story against the Taliban led to the assassination attempt on her life by some Taliban gunmen on October 09, 2012, which encouraged the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle to call her “the most famous teenager in the world” (in January of 2013). Shortly after, the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown used his position as the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education to launch a UN petition, using the slogan “I am Malala.” On April 29 of 2013, Time magazine in the U.S. featured her on the magazine’s front cover as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” On July 16 of 2013, Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning director of Al Gore environmental documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” announced his intention to make a film about Malala. In September of 2013, the Library of Birmingham in the UK invited her to officially open the library. On 16 October 2013, the Parliament of Canada offered Honorary Canadian citizenship to Malala. And her Western advocates nominated her for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

The list of Western hands above is solely illustrative, not exhaustive, of course. But the question here is: Why does the West promote her narrative in this zealous way? There are three main reasons for the narrative of Malala to increasingly become a propaganda tool of the West in the contemporary “war on terror” in the Muslim World (and beyond), as explained below.

(1) The Propagation of the Western Ideology of the Right to Education

In regard to the first reason, Malala is too young to understand the historical genealogy of human rights, especially in the context of the “right to education,” The very idea of the “right to education” is connected with the value of “equality” which became fashionable after World War II, when rights related to equality were covered by “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” “the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights,” and so on.

Precisely here, the discourse on the “right to education” is highly problematic (ideological). Since I already explain this in my new book “Beyond Human Resources to Post-Human Resources” (2013, forthcoming), let me introduce two main examples below for illustration.

First, these international documents were originally based on three Western legal constructions like “the United States Bill of Rights” (in the U.S.), “the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” (in France), and “the Magna Carta of 1215 and the Rights of Englishmen” (in the U.K.). But Faisal Kutty aptly reminded us that “the current formulation of international human rights constitutes a cultural structure in which Western society finds itself easily at home….It is important to acknowledge and appreciate that other societies may have equally valid alternative conceptions of human rights.”

Second, the “right to education” is not really a “right” at all (and is politically contingent on the financial resources of a community), because the critics like Maurice Cranston argued that “if one person has a right, others have a duty to respect that right, but governments lack the resources necessary to fulfill the duties” implied by these so-called “rights.” It is not surprising, therefore, that poor countries often have difficulties to provide free education for all.

In light of these criticisms, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out two main types of problems with the discourse on “human rights,” namely, “the one questioning universality of human rights and the one denying them objective ground.” Indeed, the contentious  debate on “the clash of civilizations” among American academics (and others elsewhere) since the 1990s further accentuates this cultural disagreement.

(2) The Glorification of Western Liberal Education

In regard to the second reason, Malala is also too young to understand the dual faces of Western liberal education. After all, the Western framing of the story of Malala is to portray the Taliban as “ignorant,” “backward,” “dogmatic,” and “provincial,” which is to contrast with the “superior” Western liberal style of learning for “free thinking,” which is presumed to be “progressive,” “non-dogmatic,” “liberating,” “cosmopolitan,” etc.

For instance, the American Association for the Advancement of Science defined “a liberal education” in this way: “Ideally, a liberal education produces persons who are open-minded and free from provincialism, dogma, preconception, and ideology….”

But Western liberal education for “free thinking” has its dark side often unsaid in Western mainstream media, in that, while Western liberal education is “liberating,” it is ruthlessly “deconstructive” in contributing to the profound spiritual crisis in the Western world of our time. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote the catchy words “God is dead” in the modern Western world, but with “the death of God” in the modern Western world, everything is now permitted, be it good or evil, in the intoxicating name of “freedom,” figuratively speaking of course. This may sound “liberating,” but to those cultures which are deeply religious (say, in the Muslim World), the very discourse on the “death of God” is deemed as spiritually “decadent” and secularly “offensive.”

In my two-volume book titled “The Future of Civilization” (2000) or FHC in short, I already showed that “what stands behind the formal rationalizing process is the critical spirit of science whose questioning, deconstructive power has undermined all human ideals (e.g., of the Enlightenment and its enemies alike, and perhaps most self-reflexively, its own ideal of scientific objectivity as well). Indeed, this is so,…for all human ideals of the different forces in the pre-moderns…, the moderns…,” and now the post-moderns too.

When put into the service of what I called “capitalist modernity” (in FHC) at the social level, “free thinking” in Western liberal education has actually created an intensely troublesome spiritual disquietude, and in the last few centuries, there were different versions of “capitalist modernity” within which different forces had further fought themselves out in the Western world, and it mattered little whether or not the ideals for which they fought stood for the Enlightenment or against it.

In fact, it is on this basis that there is a nascent debate on “the decline of Western civilization” in our time.

(3) The Justification of Western Killing in the Non-West

And in regard to the third reason, Malala is also too young to understand how much her story is increasingly “misused” as a justification of Western killing in the Non-West, like the “war on terror” in the Muslim world (and beyond).

The dark (destructive) side of Western liberal education shows up in the inhumane Western justification of killing innocent civilians in the Non-West (like all those endless drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere over the years) as the necessary “casualties of war” (or “collateral damages”) in the “war on terror” (against the “tyranny” of the Taliban and other “terrorists”), with neither moral outrage nor political protests among many ordinary Western citizens at home.

The very fact that many in Western societies show no moral outrage against drone strikes (with the subsequent death of so many innocent civilians in the Non-West during all these years) really reveals how much the system of Western liberal education has failed those it is supposed to educate; that is, it indicts the system of Western liberal education for failing to teach what the Association of American Colleges and Universities once referred to as “a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement.”

But the continued use, with neither moral outrage nor political protests among many in the Western world, of drone strikes which have killed so many innocent civilians in Pakistan, or the use of military strikes which have killed so many ordinary folks in Iraq and Afghanistan in all these years, raises the thorny question concerning the extent to which there is something fundamentally wrong with the very foundation of Western liberal education.

This indictment remains, regardless of whether reason is argued to be “universal” or “relative.” On the one hand, if reason is “universal,” then the West cannot be immune from the moral outrage among many of those in the Non-West who have suffered from Western killing. On the other hand, if reason is “relative” instead, then the West cannot claim any objectivity of its so-called “moral high ground” when compared with the Non-West like the Taliban.

In any event, it is all the more disturbing for someone like President Barack Obama, who received his law degree from Harvard University and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to say about drone strikes in this cruel way: “I am really good at killing people,” as cited in a new book titled “Double Down: Game Change 2012” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, because President Obama told his aides that “he’s ‘really good at killing people,'” in a way to boast “about his proficiency in targeted assassinations,” as reported by CBS on November 03, 2013 (and also by other news networks in America).

After all, so many more drone strike deaths have occurred since Obama came to power, and therefore he now rightly earns the infamous title of the “drone strike” president, to the point that even “Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions,…has called on the Obama administration to justify its policy of assassinating…al Qaeda or Taliban suspects, increasingly with the use of unmanned drone aircraft that also take civilian lives,” especially “in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, in addition to conventional raids and air strikes,” as reported by Stephanie Nebehay for Reuters on June 19, 2012.

Whether Malala herself enjoys all the attention given to her in the West or not, or whether she and her family are glad to receive all the prizes and money from her Western supporters or not (such that she will be free from poverty for the rest of her life in a way that many of her contemporaries cannot), is besides the point here. The more important point to remember is how much the life story of a young girl can be so tragically framed for the service of the Western culture war, while its consequences in the human world have yet to be properly understood in the broader historical perspective of countless deaths, unspoken sufferings, and spiritual disquietude hidden from public view.

In the end, it is not surprising that her recently released (polemic) book “I am Malala” (written on her behalf by the British journalist Christina Lamb, using the propagandistic slogan “I am Malala” advocated by the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown) is now banned in her own country, or more correctly, by the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation in its 152,000 member institutions, by reason of its problematic hidden Western agendas.

Perhaps a nice way to end the story here is to remind us all that propaganda can smell good like perfume, but it is a mistake to swallow it.

Peter Baofu


Dr. Peter Baofu is the author of 64 books, all of which provide a visionary challenge to all conventional wisdom in the social sciences, the formal sciences, the natural sciences, and the humanities, with the aim for a unified theory of everything-together with numerous visions of the mind, nature, society, and culture in future history. For more info about his vision about the future of education, see his books titled “Beyond Human Resources to Post-Human Resources” (2013, forthcoming), “The Future of Post-Human Education” (2011), “The Future of Capitalism and Democracy” (2002), and “The Future of Human Civilization” (2000). His email is.

US expands its drone war on Pakistan

By Keith Jones 

23 November 2013

A US drone strike on a seminary in the Hangu district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed at least six people Thursday, including several civilians.

The three-missile attack was only the second-ever US drone strike in Pakistan outside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The previous such strike occurred in 2008.

Thursday’s attack came just one day after Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s chief foreign policy advisor, Sartaj Aziz, had told a parliamentary committee that Washington had pledged that it would not mount further drone strikes while Islamabad was holding peace negotiations with the Pakistan-based allies of the Afghan Taliban.

Washington has denied Thursday’s strike targeted a seminary and is boasting that it killed two senior leaders of the Haqqani Network—a Taliban ally reportedly responsible for several of the most daring and successful attacks on US and NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have disputed Washington’s account of what was, by any measure, a major escalation of the US’s patently illegal practice of violating Pakistan’s sovereignty so as to conduct summary executions. They have confirmed that some insurgents died, but report the killing of at least two seminary students, as well as the wounding of others.

“It has been consistently maintained that drone strikes are counterproductive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications,” said Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement issued Thursday. “Such strikes also set dangerous precedents in inter-state relations.”

This protest notwithstanding, high-level meetings of US and Pakistani officials—part of the countries’ recently resumed Strategic Dialogue—proceeded Thursday without a hitch. In Islamabad the “Security, Strategic Stability and Nonproliferation Working Group” discussed nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear energy, while in Washington the “Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group” discussed US and Pakistani military operations to suppress the Afghan Taliban insurgency over the next 13 months as the US reduces its Afghan troop strength to ten thousand or less.

On Friday, Sharif and several of his aides adopted a more strident tone in opposing the US drone-strike campaign, but this was clearly intended as political cover for Islamabad’s continuing close cooperation with Washington.

Opposition to the AfPak War and outrage over the drone strikes—which have killed thousands in FATA over the last five years and wrought untold psychological damage on villagers who experience buzzing drones hovering overhead daily—were a major factor in the rout of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government in last May’s national election.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the US could not be trusted and suggested it was seeking to derail Islamabad’s efforts to draw the Pakistani Taliban into formal peace negotiations. He added that he could not understand why Aziz would have publicly repeated “such fairy tales” as the US promise that it was suspending drone strikes.

Nisar Ali Khan had himself pledged a governmental review of Pakistan’s relations with the US, in the aftermath of the November 1 US drone strike that killed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud. That strike threw into disarray a months’ long government effort to persuade the Pakistan Taliban to enter talks.

Sharif, for his part, argued in a speech Friday that his government’s opposition to US drone strikes was “genuine.” He denied the government had any “double-standard” in respect to CIA and Pentagon drone strikes. “The government,” said Sharif, “has always taken a forthright and genuine stance in condemning drone attacks. We condemn these acts from the core of our heart.”

As proof, Pakistan’s Prime Minister noted that he had raised the issue with US President Barak Obama when he visited the White House last month.

Shortly after Sharif’s US visit, and in an obvious response to his complaints and to reports from a UN special rapporteur and human rights groups documenting widespread civilian deaths from US drone strikes, theWashington Post published leaked documents showing the Pakistani government and military have colluded in the US drone war from the outset. Not only have Pakistani authorities sanctioned such attacks, they have frequently helped identify targets.

In response to the November 1 drone strike and Obama’s insistence that the US reserves the right to launch drone missile strikes whenever it deems it in the “national interest,” the rightwing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party called earlier this month for protesters to prevent the US and NATO from using the Khyber Pass as of Saturday, November 23.

Led by former cricket star Imran Khan, the PTI is the third largest party in Pakistan’s parliament and leads the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Following Thursday’s drone attack, Khan and his PTI denounced the national government for its “muted” response and vowed to use their authority over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to block what is one of the two US-NATO land supply routes through Pakistan.

“We will announce at the protest on Saturday,” said Khan, “that we will permanently block the supply route until they stop drone attacks. If it’s in our hands, we will block it today. Our powers are that we can tell them that NATO supplies can’t pass through our province.”

A spokesman for the PTI Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa pointed to the deep popular anger over the US drone strikes: “I don’t understand why a drone at this time,” said Sheraz Paracha. “This will further incite the people here.”

Khan and his PTI were also-rans in Pakistani politics until they began to speak out against US drone strikes little more than two years ago. The PTI’s ability to capitalize on the popular resentment over the drone strikes and Pakistan’s complicity in the AfPak War is entirely bound up with the political prostration of Pakistan’s official “left”—a collection of Stalinist, Pabloite and other pseudo-left groups that have traditionally orbited around the PPP and continued to do so over the last five years as the PPP-led government gave its full support to the US occupation of Afghanistan and imposed IMF austerity.

For the past twelve years Pakistan has provided a lifeline to the US forces occupying Afghanistan. But NATO appears confident that the Sharif government will not allow the PTI to disrupt their supply routes and that Khan, who has himself repeatedly voiced his eagerness to have closer relations with Washington, means to stage little more than a publicity stunt.

“This protest,” said an e-mail issued by the joint command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and obtained by Bloomberg News, “will be largely symbolic and likely not last more than one day. It should have minimal to no impact on ISAF’s supply mission.”

The US and Pakistan: An Incompatible Couple

The US needs Pakistan for Afghan pullout, and Pakistan needs US funds

By Dilip Hiro

November 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  The United States and Pakistan are like an incompatible couple who can’t help bickering when together while well aware that divorce is not an option. The awkward joint appearance of US President Barrack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for a press briefing after their White House meeting on 23 October, when they declined to take questions from reporters, aptly summed up the troubled relationship. This dysfunctional kinship, however, is moving towards a climax as the US withdraws forces and equipment from Afghanistan primarily through Pakistan.

The bottom line is that the glue holding the two countries together consists of more negative than positive elements. Washington needs Islamabad in its ongoing war on Islamist terrorism – a desperate necessity at least until the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. And cash-strapped Pakistan is humiliatingly dependent on handouts from Washington and US-sanctioned International Monetary Fund loans.

This dependency exists against the background of mutual Pakistan-American mistrust at the popular level.

A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Centre shows that only 11 percent of Pakistanis have a favourable view of America. An earlier survey by the Pew Centre and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace revealed that only 10 percent of Americans have a great or fair amount of trust in Pakistan. It also showed that 97 percent of Pakistanis familiar with US drone strikes held a negative view of them.

Reflecting popular opinion, Sharif, appearing next to Obama, said, “The use of drones is not only a violation of our territorial integrity but they are also detrimental to our efforts to eliminate terrorism from our country.” His government was committed to bringing them to an end, he added.

Obama left Sharif’s words – delivered at the brief briefing in a tone so soft that reporters strained to hear him – stand alone, and refrained from making any related statement of his own. Strikingly, the word “drone” was missing in their 2,500-word joint statement. By contrast, the term “terrorism” appeared 13 times and “nuclear” 10 times – not in the context of parity with the US-India civil nuclear agreement that Sharif wanted, but in the context of “nuclear terrorism”.

Well practiced in the art of politically expedient leaks, the Obama administration disarmed Sharif’s protest on the drones – on which he had secured all party backing in Pakistan’s National Assembly – by briefing Greg Miller and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post.

On the day Sharif met Obama, The Post published their story. 0Citing hitherto classified documents of the US Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistan’s diplomatic memos, Miller and Woodward showed that, contrary to its vociferous denunciations of drone strikes for years, Pakistan’s government had clandestinely endorsed the campaign and received classified briefings on the attacks and casualty counts.

However, over the years the campaign has widened. Initially it was directed at “high value” Al-Qaeda targets, and their number was limited. Between December 2007 and September 2008, during the presidency of George W Bush, there were only 15 such attacks. In contrast, their number rocketed to 117 in 2010 under Obama, when Asaf Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party was his Pakistani counterpart. So far, according to Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, since 2008 the United States has launched 317 drone strikes in Pakistan, resulting in 2,227 deaths, including 67 civilians.

These attacks are set to continue despite the fact that the 18 October report by Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, concluded that they violate international law. With that died any chance of a peace agreement between the Pakistani government and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – or TTP, the Movement of Taliban in Pakistan – an umbrella organisation of militant Pakistani jihadist groups.

In mid-September, Sharif had secured all-party consensus in the National Assembly to negotiate peace with the TTP without conditions. TTP leaders then raised the stakes by insisting that the prime minister must first devise a policy that halts the US drone campaign against them in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands during the negotiations.

In the Pentagon’s drawdown plans in Afghanistan, to be completed by December 2014, Pakistan looms large. It is required to remove or transport at least 1.4 million pieces of equipment, ranging from small arms to massive wheeled and tracked vehicles. Pakistan provides the cheapest and quickest land routes for this purpose. On its part, Pakistan gains financially by charging transit fees while its private transport companies benefit from an estimated budget of up to $7 billion earmarked by the Pentagon for the pullout.

The Obama administration’s logistical dependence on Pakistan has led it to overlook its intelligence finding about Islamabad’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate’s ties with the Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan Tribal Agency, which has attacked Western and Indian targets in Afghanistan.

Ignoring Washington’s reported disapproval, Sharif’s government started releasing Afghan Taliban prisoners – including Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy leader of the Taliban – in September to facilitate what it called “reconciliation” in Afghanistan.

As yet, however, there is no sign that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the supreme leader of the Afghan Taliban, widely believed to be under surreptitious Pakistani protection, is ready to negotiate with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai whom he regularly denounces as an American puppet.

Why do Sharif’s words echo Obama’s while his actions run counter to US interests? The answer lies in the dire state of Pakistan’s economy. Pakistan’s GDP expansion of 3 percent is barely keeping up with population growth. Its budget deficit at 9 percent of GDP is high whereas tax collection at 10 percent of the GDP is one of the lowest in the world.

Facing economic crisis, Sharif’s newly installed government applied for a massive loan to the IMF. Thanks to Washington’s backing, a $6.7 billion loan was approved in early September to be paid over three years – despite the fact that Islamabad already owes the IMF nearly $5 billion from credit received in 2007.

A few days after the Sharif-Obama meeting, the US agreed to release $322 million in Coalition Support Funds to Islamabad and announced plans to release nearly $1.6 billion to Pakistan in the current fiscal year.

While the patchwork of compromise keeps Pakistan afloat and US drones hovering over the tribal badlands along the Afghan-Pakistan border, a denouement is expected in 2014, starting with the Afghan presidential poll in April and ending with the US pullout deadline of December. The US-Pakistani marriage may become even more fractious next year, testing its very survival.

Born in the Indian sub-continent, Dilip Hiro was educated in India, Britain and America, where he received a master’s degree at Virginia Polytechnic & State University. He has published 30 books. His latest book is “A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Middle East” (Interlink Publishing Group, Northampton, Massachusetts, and London).

Treason and Treachery CIA Consulted with Pakistani Government in Conducting Drone Strikes – Report


October 24, 2013 “Information Clearing House –  Pakistan’s top officials have not only had knowledge of the US drone program that is now deeply unpopular in the country, but have quietly been authorizing it for years, according to a report based on classified documents and internal Pakistani memos.

The Washington Post published a report Wednesday describing a top-secret Central Intelligence Agency file which, using maps and aerial photos taken between 2008 and 2011, details dozens of drone attacks.

Specific notations on those documents indicate that much of the file was created by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and intended to inform Pakistani government officials of successful operations that killed suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists.

While Islamabad’s implied approval of the drone strikes has long been an open secret in Washington – in part because of the CIA’s ability to land predator drones on Pakistani military airstrips – the documents add new insight to the relationship. At least 65 attacks are outlined in the report, with a detailed drone timeline revealing that the initial list of Al-Qaeda targets quickly blossomed into a shadow war against anti-American militant groups.

At least 15 strikes took place between December 2007 and September 2008, with each of the attacks save for two targeting Al-Qaeda suspects. Twenty-three strikes have occurred in Pakistan in 2013 alone, the latest on September 29 when three men accused of being involved with the Haqqani network were killed. The most attacks in a single year came in 2010, with 117.

A spokesman for the CIA refused to provide the Post with any comment on the report but did admit the files appear to be genuine.

Also included is a short history of the contentious relations between American and Pakistani leaders that exist to this day.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, once pressed her Pakistani counterpart to disclose the nature of the relationship between hostile militant networks and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Clinton cited “cell phones and written material from dead bodies that point all fingers” at an insurgency group in Pakistan.

“The US had intelligence proving ISI was involved with these groups,” the cable noted.

Most of the dates and statistics included were similar to the numbers previously disclosed by human rights groups. The number of civilians who have been killed or wounded though were all listed as “zero” in the CIA report, while hundreds of innocent Pakistanis are known to have been killed as a result of the strikes.

Former CIA deputy director Michael J. Morell regularly delivered briefings regarding the drone program to Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani. Morell shared with Haqqani maps of drone operations, which included orange logos to denote the locations of the strikes and gruesome images of charred bodies. These images have never been publicly available.

The Post’s publication comes on the same day Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with US President Obama and called on the White House to end the drone program.

Responding to an ongoing national outcry, the government of Pakistan has asserted that the drone program is a violation of international law. The issue has become a major point of contention, especially after a US Navy SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan without the government’s knowledge in 2011.

“I…brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes,” Sharif told assembled media after speaking with Obama Wednesday.

“The use of drones is not only a violation of our territorial integrity but they are also detrimental to our efforts to eliminate terrorism from our country,” he said earlier.

His request is not likely to be honored in Washington given the importance the White House has placed on the drone program, although Obama said the two countries hope they can work out their remaining security discrepancies.

“We want to find ways for our countries to cooperate even as we have differences on some issues, and we want to make sure that the trajectory of this relationship is a positive one,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday afternoon.

Pakistan TV Exposes Osama bin Laden Killing Hoax, Documentary Debunks 9/11 Official Story

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Global Research, October 18, 2013

osama“Pakistan TV Exposes bin Laden Killing Hoax” and Documentary Exposes 9/11 Official Story”

Original Bashir interview that contradicts Washington’s account of killing bin Laden

A website in the UK,, that downloaded the video from the link in my original report of the Pakistani TV interview with Mohammad Bashir has posted the interview with the original English subtitles. You can view it here: [1]

 This interview of an eyewitness to the entire event is powerful evidence that the Obama regime’s story of the killing of Osama bin Laden and his burial at sea is a hoax and a lie. Pakistani Samaa TV confirms that Bashir is who he says he is and that he lives next to the alleged bin Laden compound. Samaa TV also confirms that neighbors knew the residents of the “compound.” There has never been any mention of the Bashir interview in the presstitute media. [2]
Published on Oct 16, 2013
Mohammad Bashir, Abbottabad resident and neighbour to the alleged “compound” of Osama bin Laden, gives his eyewitness account of what he saw happen on 2 May 2011 (local time), when – according to the official story – US Navy SEALs assassinated Osama bin Laden. In this interview, soon after the event, with a Pakistan national TV station (, Bashir gives an account which fundamentally contradicts the official story.

For a transcript of the interview, please see: %5B4%5D
2. On YouTube: (Preview)  [5]

Earthquake kills more than 350 in Pakistan

By Sampath Perera 

27 September 2013

A major earthquake hit Balochistan on Tuesday afternoon, devastating swathes of Pakistan’s poorest province. The official death toll has risen to 350 and is expected to climb further, as large areas in the quake zone are yet to be reached. More than 600 people are injured and an estimated 300,000 people have been left homeless.

The earthquake registered 7.7 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre in Awaran district, 270 kilometres north of Karachi. The districts of Awaran, Kech, Gwadar, Panjgur, Chaghi and Khuzdar are severely affected. Tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi and Dubai, but no serious damage has been reported outside Balochistan. A small island, 30 metres high, emerged in the sea off Gwadar as a result of what geologists called a “mud volcano.”

National Disaster Management Authority chairman Muhammad Saeed Aleem told AFP that satellite imagery was needed to fully assess the impact. “It is difficult to estimate the real magnitude of the losses because the area is very vast, with small and scattered villages,” he said.

Provincial government spokesman Jan Muhammad Buledi told the media: “I fear there may be more bodies buried under the rubble … We are seriously lacking medical facilities and there is no space to treat injured people in the local hospitals.”

Tens of thousands of people lack shelter, food and health care. A survivor told Dawn: “There is nothing, patients are dying.” A paramedic in Awaran said: “We have no surgery equipment and we are only providing basic first aid to the survivors.”

According to a senior district official, Abdul Rasheed Baloch, the devastation was colossal in Awaran, the poorest district, where more than 290 people are dead already. “Around 90 percent of houses in the district have been destroyed. Almost all the mud houses have collapsed,” he said.

In the village of Dalbadi, almost all the 300 mud-brick homes were destroyed, Associated Press reported. A survivor, Noor Ahmad, rushed to his home only to find it flattened and his wife and son dead. Doctors were able to treat some of the injured, “but due to a scarcity of medicine and staff, they were mostly seen comforting the survivors.”

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent a contingent of 1,000 soldiers, along with 21 army doctors, 50 paramedics and six helicopters to Khuzdar and Awaran, but the relief effort is dwarfed by the magnitude of the disaster. The government has not announced any financial aid.

Some 700 tents have arrived in Awaran, along with 513 cartons of food supplies, according to assistant district commissioner Naseer Ahmed Mirwani. “We need immediate medical supplies for 10,000 people and food for at least 100,000,” he said. “There’s not even a glass here to provide water.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that 100 survivors demonstrated over the lack of food and shelter outside government offices in the town of Arawan yesterday. Temperatures in the area were well over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

By assigning the military to carry out the relief operation, the government has heightened tensions in the region, where the army has carried out repeated operations against Baluchi separatist militias. A military helicopter was fired on yesterday.

Successive governments have largely neglected the province, resulting in a lack of basic infrastructure. According to a 2012 survey by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 52 percent of households in Balochistan live below the poverty line.

Balochistan Express editor Siddiq Baloch told the Christian Science Monitor: “If the government had paid any attention to these areas from before and built health and medical facilities there, which are currently non-existent, things would have not been so bad. Many of the critically injured continue to die since they are receiving no help.” He predicted that the death toll could reach 1,000.

The government and opposition parties put on a display of sympathy for the victims, passing a resolution on Wednesday expressing their “grief.” After the vote, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf members walked out of parliament, criticising the government for “insensitivity” and “inaction.” The ruling Pakistan Muslim League countered by saying it was doing enough.

There is a long history of indifference by Pakistani governments, including those led by the PPP and the military, to victims of disasters such as the Balochistan earthquake.

In 2005, a major quake hit northern Pakistan, particularly Kashmir, killing 75,000 people and leaving millions homeless. In 2008 another killed more than 200 in Balochistan and rendered more than 100,000 homeless. In both cases, the inadequacy of the rescue and relief operations compounded the suffering of the victims.

Massive floods in the summer of 2010 inundated one fifth of Pakistan, affecting 20 million people and leaving more than 2,000 dead. The following year, more than 400 were killed and 5 million lost their homes in heavy floods in Sindh province. The flooding was worsened by the fact that powerful landowning families with close ties to the political establishment had overridden irrigation and flood control planning rules.

The US sent a ritual message of condolence for the victims of the latest earthquake but, to date, no financial or material assistance. The lack of aid is in marked contrast to the $10 billion given to the Pakistani military to assist in the suppression of Islamist militias in areas near the Afghan border, in order to bolster the US-led occupation of Afghanistan.

The continuing economic backwardness and poverty of Balochistan are not just a product of the neglect of Pakistani governments, but also of the exploitation of the country as a whole by the US and other imperialist powers. In the latest example, acting on behalf of global finance capital, the International Monetary Fund has just imposed harsh new austerity measures on Pakistan as the price for a $6.6 billion loan.

IMF imposes stringent austerity measures on Pakistan

By Sampath Perera 

26 September 2013

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $US6.64billion bailout loan on September 4 to increase Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves. In exchange, it demanded strict austerity measures that will devastate the living conditions of workers and the poor.

The cash-strapped Pakistan Muslim League (PML) government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to implement all the IMF’s demands. Agreeing to the IMF’s policy demands was a major part of Sharif’s election program to win the backing of global investors and Pakistani big business.

Without the bailout, Pakistan was heading to an imminent default on foreign loans. A total of $3 billion has to be repaid during the financial year started in July, including to the IMF. Pakistan’s dollar reserves stood at $6 billion—only enough for Pakistan to pay for six weeks of imports.

Western officials and media have criticized the austerity measures as “insufficiently stringent,” as the Financial Times wrote, adding that Washington is supporting Pakistan at the IMF mainly in return for Pakistani support for the “AfPak” war. The Pakistani regime provides critical transit routes to resupply US and NATO occupation forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, and allows continuing US drone strikes inside Pakistan itself.

One Western diplomat in Islamabad complained to the Financial Times that “Pakistan’s strategic importance is much too high for the US right now. Nobody wants to see an economic crisis which will deepen other crises” in Pakistan.

IMF Deputy Managing Director Nemat Shafik endorsed Pakistan’s austerity measures as “timely,” however, adding that Pakistan’s “vulnerabilities and crisis risks are high.”

The IMF’s mission chief for Pakistan, Jeffrey Franks, said the bailout aimed to “avoid a full-blown crisis and a collapse of the currency.” Pakistan is to receive $544.5 million immediately, relieving fears of an imminent collapse for now, though austerity measures and the worsening global recession will intensify Pakistan’s social crisis.

The conditions attached to the three-year loan program included:

*Savage budget cuts to lower the deficit from 8.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 6.3 percent during the fiscal year ending next year June. The government must cut the budget deficit further, to 3.5 percent of GDP, by mid-2016.

*Deficits are to be cut by eliminating most subsidies and raising taxes. One immediate target of subsidy cuts is electricity. The government agreed to a 30 percent increase in electricity prices for domestic users consuming more than 200 units, starting October 1. However, the so-called phasing-out of electricity subsidies is to continue. Gas prices will be “rationalized,” with a new levy aiming to generate revenues of 124 billion rupees.

*The Pakistani rupee is to be devalued further. Its value will be brought down to an average of 110 rupees to the US dollar. Currently, 105 rupees are enough to buy $1.

*Speeding the restructuring and privatization of state-run enterprises. Justifying the measure, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar claimed public-sector firms register a loss between $4 and 5 billion annually. He told the Wall Street Journal, “Surely, we can’t keep bleeding like that.” By the end of September, government will select 30 public firms for privatization, beyond the 35 that have already been chosen.

*The government will “aggressively” collect taxes to cut the budget deficit. Further increases in sales and other taxes are likely, as the IMF considers spending cuts alone insufficient to meet its budget deficit targets. The IMF has also demanded a significant increase in tax revenues from their current levels of 9.7 percent of GDP to 15 percent by 2018.

The previous Pakistani People’s Party (PPP)-led government obtained $11.3 billion from the IMF in 2008 to avert a balance of payments crisis. As the PPP failed to implement all the IMF’s conditions, the IMF withheld $3.7 billion, agreeing to a new loan only after Sharif publicly declared he was ready to adhere to its policies. He took some measures, such as increasing fuel prices, to convince the IMF of his loyalty.

The overall impact of these moves will be a harsh blow to the living and social conditions of workers and the poor. Pakistan Economy Watch, an independent think-tank, wrote: “Foreign loans have weakened the economy, eroded the currency, decreased the buying power of the masses, and have promoted the interests of the elite.”

Economic growth is expected to further decline to around 2.5 to 3 percent. IMF mission chief Franks said, “Growth may actually slip a little bit in the first year of the program, because of the necessary fiscal adjustment and the time lag before the structural reforms yield fruit.” Later, growth figures will go up to 4.5 to 5 percent, the IMF said.

Whatever the truth of these projections, Pakistan’s weak economy has been severely battered by the world capitalist crisis. The IMF stated that “an uncertain global and regional environment” is intensifying Pakistan’s economic problems.

The IMF program has been designed to extract as much as possible from working people, to pay for the crisis of big business and international finance capital. The IMF intervention in Pakistan is similar to its program for Greece—which has deepened the recession in that country, reducing working people’s conditions to miserable levels, increasing unemployment, imposing deep wage cuts, and wiping out medical programs.

Inflation will rise due to continuing devaluation of the rupee, and subsidy cuts and taxes will increase the cost of living unbearably, under conditions where the masses are already living in dire poverty. Twenty five percent of Pakistanis live below a poverty line of $1 per day. According to a definition of poverty established by the United Nations Development Programme, which defines poverty as being deprived of a number of key goods or social needs, 49.4 percent of Pakistanis live in poverty.

Pakistan is also seeking financing from other sources: $1.5 billion from the World Bank, $1.6 billion from the Asian Development Bank, and $2.4 billion from other countries.

Suicide-bomb attack on Christian church kills 80 in Pakistan

By Sampath Perera 

23 September 2013

Twin suicide-bomb blasts Sunday at a Christian church in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, killed at least 80 people and injured more than 140.

The dead included 34 women and 7 children, reported Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan. Medical officers at the Lady Reading Hospital, where many of the injured are being treated, have warned the death toll will likely rise further as many of the injured are in critical condition.

The attack on the All Saints Anglican Church in the predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Kohati Gate was designed to inflict maximum casualties. It was launched around 11 a.m. as some 600 parishioners were leaving Sunday morning mass and beginning to gather on the lawn outside the church for a free meal.

According to reports, the two bombers gunned down two policemen posted outside the church grounds. One subsequently detonated a bomb strapped to this vest, when confronted by a security guard outside the church. The other proceeded inside, then detonated his bomb. Preliminary investigation suggests at least six kilograms of explosives were used and indicate that the bombs contained ball bearings and other metal objects so as to maximize casualties.

A representative of Jundullah, one of the Sunni fundamentalist militia that make up the Pakistan Taliban, contacted several foreign-based news agencies, including the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France Presse (AFP), to claim responsibility for the attack.

Identified as Ahmad Marwat, the Jundullah spokesman said the attack had been carried out in retaliation for US drone strikes. “We carried out the suicide bombings at Peshawar church,” Marwat told the AFP, “and will continue to strike foreigners and non-Muslims until drone attacks stop.”

Reuters cited Marwat as saying, “(The Christians) are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land.”

Earlier this month an all-party conference chaired by Pakistan’s newly-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, had agreed to offer the Pakistan Taliban peace talks. But in the wake of Sunday’s bombing, Sharif signaled that the offer of negotiations is being rescinded.

“Such incidents are not conducive of peace talks,” Sharif said while en route to New York to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly. “Unfortunately, because of this, the government is unable to move forward on what it had envisaged, on what it had wished for.”

The Pakistani army, which for decades patronized Sunni fundamentalist militia as a domestic and foreign policy tool, reportedly held a dim view of the government’s offer of negotiations and its opposition hardened after two senior army officers were killed in a roadside bombing near the Afghan border last week. Speaking on September 16, the head of Pakistan’s military, General Ashfaq Kayani, said the Pakistan Taliban should not “take advantage of the military’s support to the political process.” “The army,” he continued, “has the ability and the will to take the fight to the terrorists.”

Sunday’s bomb blasts provoked revulsion and anger across Pakistan.

In Peshwar, outraged residents of the Kohati Gate neighbourhood closed down shops, blocked traffic, and attacked police. According to a report in the Pakistani English-language daily Dawn, relatives of the victims of the bombing smashed windowpanes at the Lady Reading Hospital “in protest against the absence of doctors and paramedics and shortage of beds and medicine.” These shortages and absences had led to the deaths of many of the injured, they charged.

There were also protests mounted by members of Pakistan’s Christian minority in cities across Pakistan, including Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Hyderabad, Faisalabad and the capital, Islamabad.

The protesters charged the authorities with failing to protect the Christian minority—echoing the complaints of Hazares and other members of the country’s Shia minority, who have been the target of mounting Sunni fundamentalist violence.

The local bishop for Peshawar, Sarfarz Hemphray, told the Associated Press , “We have been asking authorities to enhance security, but they haven’t paid any heed.”

Representing about two percent of Pakistan’s total population, Christians constitute one of Pakistan’s most economically-deprived groups, with many housed in slum colonies. They have been frequent targets of Pakistan’s reactionary blasphemy laws as well as sectarian violence.

Last March, police failed to come to the defence of the Christian residents of Lahore’s Joseph Colony when it was attacked by a mob of 1,000 people incited by accusations of blasphemy. More than 150 house and two churches were ransacked or destroyed by fire.

While Pakistan’s Christians have been the target of sectarian attacks in the past, Sunday’s bombing was far and away the most deadly ever attack.

It comes, however, within the context of mounting sectarian strife, most of its attributable to the Sunni fundamentalist militias, and widespread ethnic-political violence in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in the 18 months between January 2012 and June 2013 there were 203 attacks in Pakistan in which people were targeted because of their religion, resulting in 717 deaths.

The rise of sectarian violence in Pakistan can be traced back to General Zia’s US-backed dictatorship, which, at Washington’s urging, funnelled arms and money to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, while pursuing, with the help of the Saudi monarchy, an Islamacization policy at home that fuelled sectarian and ethnic strife.

Responding to Sunday’s terrorist atrocity, Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tahrik-e-Insaf forms the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said Sunday’s terrorist atrocity was aimed at scuttling the prospective peace negotiations. “Isn’t it strange,” said Khan, “that whenever peace talks are pursued, these attacks take place, and I want to point out that there was also a drone strike today.”

Khan was referring to a US drone strike Sunday that killed six people in North Waziristan.

Sharif is himself expected to raise the issue of drone strikes in his UN address this week. But the Obama administration has repeatedly ignored such protests. Its stated policy is to violate Pakistani sovereignty and summarily execute Pakistanis whenever it is in the “national interest.”

Tense standoff between India and Pakistan along their disputed Kashmir border continues

By Deepal Jayasekera 

31 August 2013

After more than three weeks of daily artillery exchanges, tensions between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir region appear to have subsided.

It remains, however, an open question as to whether Indian Prime Minister Manmoham Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet, as previously announced, on the sidelines of next month’s UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

Nor can it be excluded that the border tensions will soon erupt anew. The US’s promotion of India as a strategic counterweight to China has destabilized the balance of power in South Asia. New Delhi and Islamabad are locked in a fierce struggle for influence in Afghanistan, where the US is in the process of drawing down its occupation forces and reorganizing the Kabul government. Furthermore, in Indian-held Kashmir, where the Pakistan military-intelligence apparatus long provided logistical support to a separatist insurgency, the mass of the population remains disaffected, causing great anxiety in Indian ruling circles.

No publicly announced interaction between Indian and Pakistani government or military officials proceeded this week’s tapering off of cross-border firing. But as a “goodwill gesture,” Islamabad last weekend released 362 Indian fishermen whom it had detained during the past two years for straying into Pakistani waters.

The Indian government, for its part, has been preoccupied in recent days with stopping the plummet of the rupee, arresting the slide into the morass of “stagflation,” and forestalling a current accounts crisis.

This month’s border clashes quickly escalated after the Indian military blamed Pakistani Special Forces for the killing of five Indian soldiers by ambush within Indian-held Kashmir on August 6. Denying any involvement of their military in the incident, Pakistan instead accused India of violating the shaky 2003 ceasefire unprovoked and of having killed one of its soldiers in late July.

Thereafter, the two sides engaged in daily cross-border shelling, with both sides accusing the other of initiating each day’s fresh exchanges and of targeting civilians, while issuing bellicose threats. Last week Pakistan said Indian forces had killed two of its soldiers.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, who had been accused by the opposition parties of having given Pakistan “an out” by not immediately declaring the Pakistani military responsible for the August 6 ambush, vowed India “will take all possible steps—sometimes strong action—to effectively retaliate against every violation of the Line of Control,” that separates Indian- and Pakistan-held Kashmir. Antony suggested such retaliation could include a cross border raid, action that could easily provoke a rapid escalation.

As was the case in the two other border crises involving India this year, one with Pakistan last January and the other with China for three weeks in April-May, Indian political and especially Indian military leaders adopted the more bellicose public stance.

India’s military has become more assertive in recent years, frequently issuing provocative public statements directed against Pakistan and China. This new assertiveness has been fed by the increasing money and attention Indian governments have lavished on the military, which the Indian elite views as critical to realizing it ambitions of becoming a major Indian Ocean and Asian power.

The Official Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a raft of geopolitical and military-security experts, many of them retired military officers, seized on the cross border clashes to demand that the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government scuttle next month’s meeting with Sharif, which is a prerequisite for relaunching the two countries’ long-stalled “comprehensive peace dialogue”.

The BJP’s stance is clearly bound up with the calculation that it can score political gains by making a reactionary communalist appeal that couples accusations the Congress-led government is “soft” on Pakistan and “terrorism” with claims that it “appeases” India’s Muslim minority.

But its position also gives voice to the views of wide sections of the military-security apparatus that calculate India’s strategic alliance with the U.S. and economic expansion of the last decade have given it the geopolitical and economic leverage to force significant concessions from Islamabad. In particular they want to force Pakistan to distance itself still further from the Kashmir insurgency.

Ceding to the pressure for a stronger stance against Pakistan, the UPA government has indicated it is considering cancelling the meeting with Sharif. Speaking with the Hindustan Times August 16, an unnamed government official said, “The meeting between the PMs [Singh and Sharif] depends on what happens in the coming days. We expect Pakistan to address our concerns on terrorism, bringing the 26/11 attackers to justice and unprovoked action by its army along the LoC.”

During his campaign for last May’s Pakistan election and since, Sharif has repeatedly expressed his desire for better ties with India, saying they would give an urgently needed boost to Pakistan’s economy. But he has also come under increasing pressure from Pakistan’s military, which has justified its exalted political and economic position on the basis of its being the bulwark against Indian “aggression,” to take a tougher attitude towards India. Quoting “a senior official at the PM [prime minister] office”, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in his meeting with Sharif [last] Monday, had “conveyed the military’s reservations over the LoC and border violation by India.” Kayani has warned that the recurrence of such incidents was forcing “Pakistan’s military to respond even harder.”

The rivalry between India and Pakistan is rooted in the 1947 communal partition of the Indian subcontinent into a Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu-dominated India. The countries have fought three declared wars and several undeclared ones, with their rival claims to Kashmir remaining at the core of their dispute.

However, the US’s “pivot to Asia” and in particular its courting of India, which it has identified as pivotal to its plans to thwart the rise of China, have destabilized the region and enormously aggravated Indo-Pakistani tensions. China, it must be noted, is also a pivotal ally and arms supplier of Pakistan

In a further indication about the importance the US attaches to developing a military partnership with India, a top US Air Force General has said that Washington aims to station military aircraft in India.

Last week after the Indian military had complained that Chinese troops had stayed several days in an eastern border area that India claims falls within its Line of Actual Control, the Indian air force dispatched a C-130J “Super Hercules” tactical airlift to the remote and mountainous area. This action, which was hailed by the Indian media, was meant to showcase the Indian military’s new capabilities to rapidly deploy men and material in the event of a border clash with China.

Pakistan’s former US-backed dictator indicted for Benazir Bhutto’s murder

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