Category Archives: Pakistan: Waziristan

Violence Returns to Pakistan’s Major Cities



At dawn July 12, militants raided a prison guard residence in Lahore, Pakistan, leaving nine staff members dead and three more wounded. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the guards had mistreated prisoners who were members of the Pakistani militant group. The raid came just three days after militants ambushed an army camp in the district of Gujrat, killing seven soldiers and one police officer who were searching for a missing helicopter pilot. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan also claimed that attack.

Over the last two years, Pakistan has had something of a respite from dramatic attacks such as those that plagued the country from 2007 to 2010. During those years, a series of high-profile and highly disruptive attacks against police, army and intelligence targets challenged the government’s ability to control the country. The attacks occurred in Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, in cities such as Lahore and in the capital, Islamabad.

While suicide bombings and attacks in Pakistan’s troubled northwest (along the border with Afghanistan) have continued apace since 2010, major attacks in Pakistan’s Punjab-Sindh core have essentially ceased. The sole instance of dramatic violence involving government targets outside of the northwest since 2010 was an attack on a naval station near Karachi following the death of Osama bin Laden.

Despite the break from violence in Pakistan’s major cities, many of the same conditions present during the wave of attacks from 2007 to 2010 remain. Another escalation in violence is very possible, especially in Pakistan’s volatile climate and with elections coming up.

Timing of the Attacks

The two attacks (along with numerous other attacks and an attempted assassination) came the week after Pakistan formally reopened NATO supply routes through the country to Afghanistan. The supply routes had been closed for more than seven months after a deadly cross-border attack by U.S. forces in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The day the routes reopened, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan told journalists it would attack trucks carrying NATO supplies in protest.

But rather than an impetus for attacks, the reopening of the supply line is more likely a political opportunity for the Pakistani Taliban militants to promote anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. The NATO supply line is one of the most visible products of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and some political opposition groups have criticized the Pakistani government for helping Washington while the U.S. military conducted strikes killing mostly Pakistanis along the border with Afghanistan. By opposing the NATO supply line, the Pakistani Taliban militants are able to generate popular support across Pakistan.

The seven-month closure of the supply line gave NATO and the United States a chance to prove that they can use the Northern Distribution Network to bypass Pakistan. During the shutdown, there was no evidence in Afghanistan of an attempt to exploit the closed route, so it is hard to argue that the Afghan Taliban (or their Pakistani peers) gained any material advantages from the shutdown. If anything, the Pakistani Taliban militants can benefit from the supply route’s opening; the trucks are easy targets for looters and can provide revenue and supplies for militants in Pakistan’s northwest, and the militants can exact extortion payments from transportation companies.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s real motivation for resuming attacks in Punjab after a two-year hiatus is more complicated than the reopening of the NATO supply line. It involves a remote geographic region of Pakistan that has been dragged into the 10-year-old Afghanistan War, a struggling Pakistani economy, distrust of Pakistan’s current government and upcoming elections that are seen as an opportunity to address grievances against Islamabad. Most of these grievances are the same complaints that drove the violence from 2007 to 2010, when militant activities in Pakistan peaked. Since 2009, however, military forces have moved into many of the militant havens in Pakistan’s northwest, denying the Pakistani Taliban forces sanctuary. But this is not a permanent solution to Pakistan’s internal rifts.

The Broader Context

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is based in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the Pakistani northwest. During the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, Pakistan and the United States used Islam as the ideological motivation to rally militias in the border region to oppose the Soviet occupation. The United States turned its attention elsewhere after the Soviets withdrew, leaving Pakistan to manage a complex network of militants. Islamabad attempted to use these militants as proxies during the 1990s to exercise influence in Afghanistan and India.

But after 2001, the United States pressured Pakistan to restrain its militant proxies in Afghanistan in order to support the U.S. war against Islamist militancy. After a few years of wavering, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf did crack down on these groups’ leaders in Pakistan, beginning with the Red Mosque siege in 2007. It soon became apparent that the militant groups were more autonomous than believed. By 2009, radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah claimed the district of Swat as an Islamic emirate, threatening Pakistan’s territorial integrity within roughly 320 kilometers (200 miles) of the capital.

The Pakistani Taliban militants made it clear that their goal was to take over the Pakistani state, beginning in the mountains surrounding the Indus River Valley. This led the government to deploy forces to Swat in April 2010. These forces expanded their offensive to South Waziristan later that year and by the end of 2010, they had gone into every single district of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas save North Waziristan. Since the army’s operations in South Waziristan, one of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s strongest sanctuaries, militant attacks in Punjab have decreased.

The United States launched operations parallel with Pakistan’s, targeting Pakistani Taliban militant leaders using unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in North and South Waziristan. These strikes disrupted the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s leadership structure and likely affected the group’s ability to organize, train and conduct attacks in Pakistan’s core. Such disruptions would certainly affect the Pakistani Taliban militants’ ability to construct and deploy very large bombs, such as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The attacks in Gujrat and Lahore were both simple, involving gunmen on motorcycles. Such tactics do not require elaborate training or preparation and can be staged easily in Pakistan’s core.

Although its capabilities might be diminished, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has not disappeared. Fazlullah recently indicated that he and his forces are intent on retaking Swat from the military. Fazlullah and his followers based in neighboring Afghanistan’s Kunar province periodically have conducted cross-border raids against military outposts in Pakistan’s Dir district. Because of the continuing threat, the Pakistani military does not appear to be anywhere close to withdrawing troops from the area. Pakistan’s chief of army staff confirmed as recently as July 7 that troops are staying in the northwest.

Between the international economic turmoil and the parallel dynamics of a democratic uprising and jihadist insurgency that led to the fall of the Musharraf regime, Pakistan has been in dire economic straits since 2008. Chronic energy shortages, high military spending related to the counterinsurgency campaign and revenue shortfalls led Islamabad to sign an $11.3 billion package with the International Monetary Fund three years ago. However, in the last half of 2011, the fund withheld the final tranche of more than $3 billion largely because Islamabad had failed to take steps to reduce its budget deficit. (At the time, Pakistan, sensing slightly better economic growth and an inability to comply with the fund’s stringent budgetary demands, decided to pursue its own fiscal reform program.)

More recently, Islamabad has been forced to return to the IMF for a new loan arrangement to keep from defaulting on the existing loan. As with other countries implementing austerity measures in order to balance their budgets and qualify for outside help, the Pakistanis are finding that applying austerity measures hurts political popularity. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan will exploit this situation by pointing out the costs of deploying tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers to the northwest to combat militants.

Moreover, Pakistan’s supreme court is challenging Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on corruption charges. Zardari faces allegations that he embezzled millions of dollars from the Pakistani financial institution when his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.

Whether Zardari embezzled the money is somewhat irrelevant, since the case has been elevated to a political dispute between the executive and judicial branches of the Pakistani government over the limits of executive immunity and how much authority the supreme court has over the president. This is no insignificant challenge; the judicial branch politically damaged Musharraf during his presidency after he fired Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in 2007. Zardari’s current difficulty with the supreme court indicates that the political struggles between the two branches have not been resolved. The rift opened up by the legal conflict allows other parties to gain political support at the expense of Zardari and his ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

Even though the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan favors the adaptation of an extremely austere interpretation of Sharia to Pakistan’s current legal system, it is savvy enough to see a political opening and exploit it. The Pakistani Taliban militants will use Zardari’s case to paint the country’s politicians as corrupt and untrustworthy. Elections are slated for the first half of 2013 but could be held as early as the next quarter of 2012, given the mounting political crisis in the country. With the political environment in flux, this is the time for various elements to assert themselves to get attention from the political parties. The stronger the Pakistani Taliban militants can make their case, the more pressure they can put on any future government to relax military deployments in the northwest.

The Military as a Temporary Fix

Many factors in Pakistan have not changed since the spate of attacks from 2007 to 2010. The United States is still trying to negotiate the terms for its withdrawal from Afghanistan, and those terms depend on Pakistan’s ability (and willingness) to keep security in Afghanistan on its current track. The withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan will create a major security crisis for Pakistan, which is weakened and is racing to stabilize its side of the border before the 2014 deadline. The United States’ negotiations with the Taliban and with Pakistan are not making much progress right now, but the sooner Pakistan can get militants along the border under control, the stronger its negotiating position with the United States will be. The Pashtun tribes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border — the area from which the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan came — will certainly want a say in matters. Without meaningful political power, these groups will use violence to negotiate with Islamabad.

And as long as there are Pakistanis displeased with the regime and the economic situation, there will be Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan sympathizers in Punjab who support more radical change. These individuals provide the network and motivation for continuing attacks against the Pakistani government.

Military deployments to northwest Pakistan have kept militants in check for the past couple of years (at least in Punjab state), but that is not exactly a long-term solution. The military was supposed to provide security in Pakistan’s northwest to allow the civilian administrations to regain control of the districts. However, the federal and provincial governments have made little progress in reviving civil government at the municipal and district levels in Swat and the surrounding region. Meanwhile, the military continues to battle militants in the tribal badlands for which Islamabad lacks a political strategy, relying instead on the military’s continued presence.

Domestic military deployments are rarely popular and, though sometimes necessary for short periods, eventually become self-defeating and a drain on resources. Right now, Pakistan’s military presence in the country’s northwest is backed only by a feeble government. The lead-up to Pakistan’s elections is an opportunity for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan to make its case against internal military deployments. Should Islamabad’s political will shift and the military lose its advantage in the northwest, the militants could continue their campaign in Pakistan’s core, returning to high-profile, disruptive attacks.

Violence Returns to Pakistan’s Major Cities is republished with permission of Stratfor.”


American journalist Sebastian Rotella’s twin exposes in ProPublica – America’s botched chances to stop the American Lashkar operative David Coleman Headley behind India’s 9/11 and LeT operational head, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi’s jail life with all the trappings of status guest status, have coincided with the release in India of journalist Wilson John’s new book titled “The Caliphate’s Soldiers: The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s Long War”.  Read both works together. It becomes clear that despite investing the title of Man of Peace on the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and despite intense global scrutiny and sanctions, Lashkar-e-Toiba remains a grave threat to the world than ever before not only to the immediate neighbours of the ‘land of pure’ as Pakistan would like to project itself but to the entire world.

The LeT is more complex and orthodox to the core than even the Haqqani network, with which the Americans are disparate to hold talks or the Taliban with which Pakistan’s establishment is going through the motions of a dialogue for peace in an apparent bid to misguide the ears on the ground and eyes in the sky.

Sebastian and Wilson look at the Lashkar-e-Toiba phenomenon through different prisms; the American’s concern is how and why Pakistan army chief Gen Kayani is disregarding US concerns over LeT particularly Zak-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Headley. The Indian scholar goes beyond the headline and comes up with a scholarly work on LeT to add another feather to his cap as the only thorough bred terrorism expert in this part of the world, who has made the world to sit up and put on the thinking cap.

Though the Americans were loath to admit in public until the recent Mullen outburst, the US-Pakistan relationship has been strained because of LeT and its 2008 Mumbai attacks.  The state guest status that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi enjoyed ever since he was placed under custody to assuage world opinion did not help matters either. One of the luxuries accorded to Lakhvi is access to the outside world and with a mobile phone he is conducting LeT operations without hindrance. American officials took up the issue with Gen Kayani, and he rejected the request, says Sebastian, quoting a memo addressed to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and America’s National Security Council.

What about Headley, the half-Pakistani-half American, who is known to have juggled allegiances with militant groups, slipped with effortless ease through American cracks, and manipulated and betrayed wives, friends and allies? Official America is less than honest in sharing the unprecedented confessions he had reportedly made opening a door into the secret world of terrorism and counterterrorism in South Asia and America.

Why Washington acted in the way it did on the issue is linked to its fond hope of arm-twisting Pakistan to do its bidding in North Waziristan to tame the Haqqanis and Afghan and Pakistan Taliban.  The mission was doomed to fail and it had failed with the high-decibel interaction between the US and Pakistan offering a mild distraction.

Sebastian’s investigation report in ProPublica fills some gaps in the narrative by looking at Hedley’s past, particularly his growing up years in Pakistan as a devout Muslim, an enthusiastic jihadi, a young ideologue of Lashkar-e-Toiba and privileged informant for the US drug enforcement.  But real key to understanding the Headley phenomenon comes from looking at the bigger picture which has come to be identified with the LeT phenomenon.   And this is the canvas of Wilson John’s labours. His conclusion is disturbing to say the least as the LeT has been maintaining a very low profile and appears engaged in Dawa (religious preaching) activities through paid workers since the Mumbai attacks.

There are no visible signs of any disruption in the `strategic partnership` of LeT with the Pakistan army and ISI. Nor are there any visible signs of the Pakistani state ‘disengaging with’, and ‘dismantling the terrorist group’, according to the author.  In his assessment, Let remains the world’s most powerful, and resourceful, multi-national terrorist group. It is this what makes terrorist attacks directly carried out by LeT or by its proxies in India and elsewhere in the world a possibility and the threat will remain quite high in the coming years. ‘At least some of these attacks would be spectacular in visibility and impact, and will carry the potential of triggering a military conflict in the region’, Wilson opines.

With over 50,000 armed cadres trained in guerrilla warfare, intelligence gathering, explosives, and sabotage, LeT has a unique leverage vis-a-vis Pakistan military hierarchy. In fact, it has become a reliable military reserve force that can be outsourced work by the Pakistan Army like it did during the Kargil war waged by then army chief Gen Musharraf.

Today, , LeT runs scores of training centres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwah, Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and POK. The objective is to have an office and centre in every district of Pakistan.  LeT spends about $330 per trainee for the daura-e-aam course (basic) and about $1700 per trainee in the more advanced three-month daura-e-khaas course.  Its operational bill is over $5 million a year.

Pakistan Army and ISI reimburse the bill on training camps, and launching of attacks on India and Afghanistan.  Herald magazine from the stable of Pakistan’s most respected and sedate daily, Dawn,  reported in June 2006 that ISI pay off was as much as $50,000 -60000 every month. LeT also manages for a fee the terrorist campaigns of Pakistan Army/ISI and the extremist agenda of anonymous patrons in West Asia.

The other key source of LeT money is Islamic charities across the world, particularly those based in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Inside Pakistan, LeT acts primarily as a dawa group promoting a radical interpretation of Islam much on the lines of its Wahhabi patrons in Saudi Arabia and UAE. This alliance brings the group an enormous amount of petro-dollars as donations   to its madrasas and mosques in Punjab. A 2008 US estimate put this annual munificence at over $100 million a year. Some Pakistani business houses in Punjab have been supporting the group’s terrorist activities by giving money and food articles for the recruits.

Wilson John’s study brings to light another lesser known facet of Lashkar-e-Toiba. The group’s wide-ranging terrorist activities flourish under the guise of various charity organisations and trusts. These are not driven by any domestic agenda but a broader goal of establishing a Caliphate through jihad. It goes about the task in four ways though on a low key.

One it runs recruitment centres out of mosques, book shops, and social-welfare centres sprinkled across Pakistan. Two it taps kinship networks of maulvis, local terrorist/extremist allies, Afghan Jihad associates and its own alumni in South Asia.  Three it recruits bright faces in the West through allied or proxy groups in the home countries.  A former soldier, Sajid Mir, heads a well-funded external recruitment wing at the LeT headquarters.  Four, it has become a terror consultancy with military officials – retired, dismissed or resigned in its ranks.

Aftermath of a terrorist attack in Quetta

By the late 90s, LeT had set up its main training campus at Baitul Mujahideen near Shawai Nala in Muzaffarabad (PoK). The campus was expanded by 2001 to house several hundred recruits at any time. The training syllabus was overhauled under the supervision of former and current ISI and Army officers. Specialised courses were introduced, among them: intelligence gathering; communication technology; sabotage; and managing interrogation.   American authorities are aware of the danger posed by LeT’s global recruitment and consultancy. In-house research carried out by New York University’s Centre on Law and Security has brought into sharp focus how American citizens or residents had travelled to an overseas training camp or war zone since 9/11.

Simultaneously, LeT has been acting as an agent for al Qaeda and the Taliban to train their new cadres, procure weapons, and generate funds and give them protection. Result is that emergence of unparalleled jihadi alumni in as many as 22 countries and the ripples of the wave are being felt across many parts of the world. While it would be difficult to arrive at even a rough estimate of their numbers, it is fair to suggest that it would go beyond a few thousand, according to Wilson Johan. Difficult to disagree with his conclusion after seeing the spread of LeT tentacles through South Asia, and the emergence of double deep cover agents like David Headley in America, which has become the hate symbol for the jihadis of all hues.

Says Wilson: “This ability to infiltrate and implant agents far away from its natural harbour in Pakistan—and its capacity and willingness to train terrorists from different groups and nationalities, even individuals—strongly raises the possibility of LeT or any of its proxies, alumni, or trained cadre, executing a spectacular terrorist attack on the US homeland, or in any other western capital…in other words, LeT today has the operational capability, reach and resources to carry out an attack of the magnitude of 9/11 anywhere in the world”.

What makes LeT a greater threat than other outfits is its BPO service to eliminate other sectarian/extremist/militant groups which take on the Pakistan Army and  run protest campaigns, hold conferences and public meetings for the army, to create and shape public opinion especially against India and the US.  (Syndicate Features)

(* the author is a columnist on South Asian issues and terrorism)

B’desh reads riot act to Pakistan, Demands apology for 1971 genocide

By Malladi Rama Rao

Bangladesh’s renewed demand that Pakistan must tender a formal apology for the 1971 Genocide does indeed come as a surprise. Not its timing though.  The demand articulated on Sunday Nov 20 by Foreign Minister Dipu Moni has coincided with the commencement of trials in the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal headed by Justice Nizamul Huq.

Sheik Hasina government came to power promising to bring to book all the guilty men who had committed ‘crimes against humanity’ during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Topping the hit list are the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, who had openly collaborated with the Pakistani forces which killed 30 lakh people and raped 2 lakh women during the nine-month war.

Jamaat’s nayeb-e-ameer, Delawar Hossain Sayedee, has just been made to stand trial; the charge-sheet against him runs into 88-pages. And the charges range from genocide, killing, rape, arson, to abduction and torture of civilians in his home district of Pirojpur. These offences are covered by the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act.

Pakistan was in fact put on notice by Dhaka shortly after the SAARC summit at Addu Atoll, a Maldivian resort, by refusing to budge an inch on its opposition to EU waiving tariffs on Pakistani textiles. Hina Rabbani Khar, the foreign minister of Pakistan, had egg on her face as a result. Because, even before returning to Islamabad, she told the Pak media covering the summit that Dipu Moni admitted that its objection was an accident and would be withdrawn

EU offered US $ 140 million relief in import duties to flood-hit Pakistan over the next three years.  Relief is a euphemism as every trade analyst knows. It will confer an undue advantage on Pakistan by making its core exports cheaper than rivals Bangladesh including.

EU Council of Ministers, the apex body, takes the call on tax reliefs provided there are no objections from other countries to whom also EU is the white trading knight in shining armour, and if it is not made an issue at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

India raised objections in September last year itself fearing that its goods would face uneven competition while entering the EU market in the event of Pakistan getting the EU concession. But it has since yielded after some progress on the bilateral trade front.

Not Bangladesh. For it too, like for Pakistan, clothing and textiles make up 60 per cent of its exports to EU.  Knitted or crocheted gloves, with regular duties of 6.4 % to 8%, women’s cotton garments, which attract 9.6% to 12% and a wide range of cotton fabrics, knitted and woven clothes, totaling in all 75 goods, are the common export basket. Pakistan realizes 62.7 million Euros from yarn exports alone.

‘We support EU to help flood-hit Pakistan, but aid should not be at the cost of trade. Trade and aid should not be mixed’,   a Bangladeshi policy maker said as Dhaka firmed up its opposition to the EU move and conveyed its ‘concern’ to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  Its worry is mainly related to eight items – four are in knitwear sector, three in woven sector and one in leather sector.

EU offers tariff preference to the goods of the least developed countries (LDCs). For EU, Pakistan is a developed country, like India, and as such is ineligible for any tariff concession. This has been the ‘principle’ stand of the EU for long.

“We are firm on our position regarding the issue since our apparel export will face a serious challenge, if the Pakistani goods are granted tariff concession while entering the EU market” Bangladesh Commerce Secretary Md Ghulam Hossain told the a Dhaka daily on Nov 15. “Our proposal is either to remove the eight apparel items from the list of 75 items, or to offer the tariff concession up to 20 per cent of Pakistan’s last year’s export of the items to the EU market,” he said.

If the Pakistani leadership expected Bangladesh to wave the green flag, it could be either because of rank arrogance that dates back to the days of Yahya Khans and Zulfikar Ali Bhuttos or outright ignorance of history and global trade. If flood devastation in the textile belt of Sindh in 2010 was the reason for EU bending its rules, Bangladesh has a stronger case for such a relief since it is visited by devastating floods year- after-year.

As Dipu Moni told the new Pak envoy to Dhaka, Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi, ‘giving trade preference to a country solely on account of natural disasters is unprecedented’. She said Bangladesh, frequently visited by even more devastating natural disasters, was fully sympathetic toward the flood victims of Pakistan. And pointed out that a number of countries, including those from Latin America, opposed the initiative even before Bangladesh did.

For Mehdi Hashmi, the shocker was, however, Dipu Moni reading what was a virtual riot act.  “An early resolution of the outstanding issues will enable existing friendly relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan to make a great leap forward and create a wider space for cooperation,” she told the envoy.

Topping the agenda is the formal apology from Pakistan for the genocide and atrocities committed by the Pakistani military in Bangladesh in 1971. Next in priority is repatriation of stranded Pakistani Mohajirs, division of assets and war reparation. The Mohajirs as Bihari Muslims are known since they had migrated from Bihar to newly created Pakistan in 1947 have been living as stateless citizens in Dhaka since 1971.

Former President Pervez Musharraf, the first army ruler to visit Bangladesh, tried to meet the Bangladesh demand half-way in 2002. He termed the 1971 atrocities as ‘excesses’, which, he said, were ‘unfortunate’ and ‘regrettable.

On his arrival in Dhaka on July 29, Musharraf first visited the national memorial at Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka, to pay homage to the liberation war heroes. He wrote in the visitors’ book at the memorial: “I bring sincere greetings and good wishes from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for their Bangladeshi brethren and sisters. We wish this land and its people peace, progress and prosperity”. The Pakistani leader continued: “Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events of 1971. The excesses during that unfortunate period are regrettable. Let us bury the past in a spirit of magnanimity. Let not the light of the future be dimmed. Let us move forward together. I am confident that with our joint resolve Pakistan-Bangladesh friendship will flourish in the years to come”.

A section of the Bangladesh media projected these remarks as something as close as possible to a “formal apology” and argued that there was “no reason now” for Bangladesh “to remain antagonistic”. As if cashing in on ‘the opening’, he said at the state banquet: “My brothers and sisters in Pakistan share with their fellow brothers and sisters in Bangladesh profound grief over the parameters of the events of 1971. As a result of this tragedy a family having common religious and cultural heritage and united by a joint struggle for independence and a shared vision of the future, was torn apart. We feel sorry for this tragedy and the pain it caused to both our peoples”.

Khaleda Zia government of the day appeared satisfied. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia responded: “Thank you, Mr. President, for your candid expression on the events of 1971. This will, no doubt, help mitigate the old wounds”

Morshed Khan, then foreign minister, elaborated thus: “We don’t want to embarrass a guest by discussing issues like an apology for the 1971 war situation. It is the spirit of the people of the two countries that will decide that.” he said.  With Jamaat as a constituent of the ruling coalition, neither Khaleda nor Morshed Khan could have said anything else.

Veteran Bangladeshi journalist, Haroon Habib says: “…while his predecessors tried to shift the blame for the barbaric acts on the military or upon a few “generals”, Musharraf had gone a step forward by expressing regret for the events. However, he failed to pay due honour to the history that separated the two wings of Pakistan, overshadowing the pervasive influence of the two-nation theory of 1947.

By accepting, not avoiding, the truth of history in good grace, as Habib points out, Musharraf made a rapprochement possible between Pakistan and the erstwhile East Pakistan. The scars left behind by the war of independence are deep and cannot be erased easily. While time certainly is the biggest healer, a gesture like formal, unconditional public apology from Pakistan will heal the wounds and mollify the people of Bangladesh, who have proved sceptics like Henry Kissinger wrong, by braving all odds to carve out a place under the sun.

What Made Musharraf Pull Down A Portion Of His Farm HOuse…?


It is difficult to resist the comment that former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf has not lost the jest to pull off a surprise though  he  had bowed out of the country  in 2007 under a deal brokered by the Saudis, Americans, and the army chief Kayani. But for the deal he had negotiated for abdicating first the post of army chief and later on of the head of the country, he would have been another faceless NRP – non-resident Pakistani.

Today he is able to live in real comfort either in own house or houses arranged by the old loyalists in Washington, London and Dubai.  And his old friend, the US of A, queered the pitch, though unwittingly probably, for him as the voice of Pakistan for the western media and think-tanks alike.  So much so why he has asked his henchmen back home in Islamabad to pull down an extra structure on his sprawling farm house in a tony area on the outskirts of the Pakistan capital.

Dawn, the Karachi daily, which broke the story on its front page on Nov 12, said it was an entirely unanticipated move.

Musharraf, along with some 490 nouveau riche, has been hauled up by the Supreme Court for building their houses exceeding the permitted limit for covered area under the master plan for Islamabad. Musharraf’s five-acre farm sports a built up area of 12,500 sq ft.  Of this, 764 sq ft area was ordered to be demolished more than a year ago. Five notices were issued. He did not yield. But now, suddenly he did. The question is why

It is possible that the one-time strongman of Pakistan wanted to appear law abiding though his entire career that culminated in his taking over the reins of the country was a saga of twisting the law of the land to suit his ends.  There is a fresh non-bailable warrant for his role in the killing of a Bugti clan chief when he was the garrulous President. But it is not something that he has to worry since the foreign office and interior ministry have categorically stated that Musharraf is beyond the reach of the long arm of Pakistani law.
Being the commando at heart, he could be taking advance action to avoid booby traps as the count down for a mid-term poll has begun.  He will not like the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to haul him up for a petty offence like an extra shed on his farm house when he would be getting ready to face the electorate.

Secondly, and more importantly, the phenomenon of Imran Khan must have unnerved him, like it did his bête noire, Nawaz Sharif, who is determined to complete his unfinished term as Prime Minister of Pakistan. . Yesteryears playboy- cricketer is the new find of the army for leading democratic Pakistan just as Nawaz Sharif was once and Benazir Bhutto was in her first stint as Prime Minister. Political leaders pump primed by the GHQ have short shelf life in Pakistan. But when the going is good they put paid to the dreams of the likes of Musharraf. Well that is the Pakistani tradition.

Yet another important factor that propels him into a law abiding citizen is the feeling that his enterprise ‘self-anointed Army drum beater’ is reaching the stage of bankruptcy.  Washington and Rawalpindi have had their way with each other and they don’t need ‘Brand Musharraf’ any much longer. Put differently, Musharraf will have to be on his own and find a suitable turf space in the public domain to prolong his shelf life. What better way is there than to falling in-line with the directions of his nemesis of sorts, Chief Justice Chaudhry, and collect some brownie points along the way, which someday could be the IOUs.

Any how the demolished area, as Barrister Saif, the spokesman for the former president, told Dawn, is hardly 20 feet wide. It houses a cowshed. Pulling it down is not a big sacrifice when his main dream home  with five huge bedrooms, several lobbies and a swimming pool stands intact. Barrister Saif also stated that Musharraf’s personal staff had paid the fine of Pakistani Rupees 1.25 million slapped on him.

As if he is seeking a good conduct certificate, pictures of demolition of the farmhouse`s excess construction were submitted to the Capital Development Authority.

In politics, perceptions matter the most. And this is what Musharraf is targeting to achieve just in time for his second innings in public life.

The demolition gives him the privilege to say ‘Mai is mauqe pe Pakistan ki awam se muazrath khwa hoon’- (On this occasion, I seek forgiveness from the people of Pakistan).”

Any doubt?

Pakistan’s N-Power Ambitions Amidst R-leaks

By Malladi Rama Rao

Pakistan will purchase two atomic power plants with a combined capacity of 2,000 MW from China and the negotiations are in an advanced stage. The report does not come as a surprise because Pakistan is known to have turned to its all-weather friend to secure what the USA has denied to it in terms of N-parity with its South Asian nuclear neighbour. If there is indeed any surprise it is only in the delay both sides have made in going public with the plan.

To be designated Kanupp-2 and Kanupp-3, the new plants will become a part of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant complex to address the country’s growing energy crisis by producing 1000 MWs each.  Today power shortage in Pakistan is at around 8,000 to 8,500 MW at peak time. Long hours of outages have created law and order problem with people staging often violent demonstrations across the country.

Like in the past, this time around also, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) will collaborate with Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) in building the N-plants

China is also setting up two N-plants at Chashma, Punjab, under a contract signed in 2009. Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 reactors with 300-megawatt each are likely to be ready in another six-seven years.  Chashma already has two 330MW N-plants of China vintage. One of these, Chashma-2 was commissioned as recently as May by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Chashma complex is China’s first nuclear energy plant project abroad, and CNNC cast it as a launching pad for expanding into the global market.

China has three state-owned corporations -China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company (CGNPC) and China Power Investment Corporation (CPIC). All the three can own and operate nuclear power plants.

CGNPC currently operates four nuclear power plants of 3,758 megawatts in China and also involved in 16 other projects having capacity of 25,000 megawatts, which are under construction. The company’s focus has been on three-loop 1,000-megawatt plants.

It is not clear why Pakistan’s nuclear energy agency tapped CNNC and did not negotiate with the other two Chinese entities. This question was raised by Pakistan’s Planning Commission, according to the Express Tribune but was unanswered.  Chinese companies even though they are state owned are known to indulge in cut throat competition to secure orders. Concepts like fair competition don’t apply nor do worries related to intellectual property rights.

Chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Dr Ansar Parvez shares the Chinese belief. Speaking at the 55th IAEA General Conference in September (2011) he said: “We strongly believe that restrictions that have historically impeded the nuclear power in our country have long outlived any rationale they might have had”.

He said the Pakistan government is going ahead with plans to increase nuclear power generation from the current 425-megawatt to 8800-megawatt by the year 2030.

Qiu Jiangang, vice president of the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), told a meeting in Beijing some time ago that the company was looking beyond these deals to an even bigger plant. “Both sides are in discussions over the CNNC exporting a one-gigawatt nuclear plant to Pakistan,” he said.

The expansion of China’s nuclear power ties with Pakistan will magnify unease in Washington and other capitals worried about Pakistan’s role in regional security and nuclear proliferation particularly in the context of a leakage at the 80-MW Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, commonly known as KANUPP. The leakage took place around midnight of October 20 during a routine maintenance shut down. There have been no reports of injuries. Around 1,700 people work at the plant.

Pakistan, according to Prof Shahna Kazmi, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Karachi University, has no independent system to monitor radiation leaks at its nuclear plants. This makes difficult a proper scientific assessment of the October leak at KANUPP, though Zaheer Ayub Baig, the director-general of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) denied any radioactivity at the plant. The KANUPP spokesman Tariq Rashid added: “There was some level of radiation but nothing to worry about.” He however declined to quantify the heavy water that had leaked. ““I can’t state the quantity of heavy water that was leaked. We don’t quantify that,” he was quoted as saying in the Express Tribune.

Ayub has asserted that these plants are designed ‘considering that such problems will occur’. He said: “We have already taken a lot of precautions and one of those is that KANUPP won’t produce more than 80 MW.”

KANUPP is located about 30km (15 miles) from Karachi on the Arabian coast; it started operations in late 1972. It completed its 30-year life span in 2002 and since has been upgraded. But the plant is slated to be decommissioned by 2016, when the extension expires but a KANUPP official reportedly said on the condition of not being named in the media dispatches that the management was reviewing ways to upgrade the facility so that it can operate for two to three more years.

Chances of heavy water leaks rise as the plant ages, Prof Shahna Kazmi points out. Since KANUPP is a shore based plant there is danger of marine life in the sea if the radioactive content in the leakage is high.  Water surrounding Charna Island near Kanupp is known for its beautiful corals.

According to marine scientists, when radioactive material enters the sea and is consumed by shrimp or small fish, the magnitude of radioactivity multiplies 10 times in the sea animal which eats it. This process continues with the radioactive intensity increasing each time, and it nullifies in the process sea water’s inherent ability to dilute the radioactive substance. All this poses a natural danger to the human habitations on the coast.

Key word in N-plants should therefore ideally be safety and not mere concerns over the life cycle of the plants.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s Penetrates Pakistan Army

By Surender Kumar Sharma*

Pakistan intelligence agencies have instructed its units all over the country to constantly keep a watch on the activities of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other religious outfits such as Sunni Tehreek, Tabligh Jamaat and Dawat-e-Islami to thwart their possible penetration in Pak Army ranks. Reports published in the Pak press reveal that these outfits are barred from holding any kind of activities inside the cantonment areas. Even the preaching groups have been warned not to distribute printed literature or pamphlets within the cantonment boundaries. The action followed the Army’s confirmation that it had detained Brig. Ali Khan and four other officers for their links with Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

On May 15, suspected Hizb-ut-Tahrir militants distributed hundreds of leaflets in the Rawalpindi cantonment, which is the headquarters of the Pak Army. The leaflets accused the army of selling out to the US and called upon “honest officers” to rise against the military.   British Press reported in July 2009 that Islamabad police had arrested 35 members from whom banned literature; computers, mobile phones and 15 cars were recovered.  In May, 2009, Colonel Shahid Bashar was arrested along with a retired PAF fighter pilot Squadron Leader turned lawyer Nadeem Ahmed Shah and a US educated mechanical engineer and a Green Card holder Awais Ali Khan.

Pakistan government was also alarmed by a senior Hizb-ut-Tahrir leader’s revelation that many activists had been sent to Pakistan to bring about Sharia ‘by force ’ and that his outfit had converted four Pakistani army officers during their training at military academy in Sandhurst in England.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) is a radical political group dedicated to re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate across the Muslim world.  Active in Britain, it is banned in many Muslim countries for its calls to overthrow sitting governments.  The Pakistan government had slapped a ban on the outfit in 2004 following its plot to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf. However, the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court overruled the proscription orders in 2005, following the plea by Hizb-ut-Tahrir that it is non-violent.

But, paradoxically, the outfit still figures on the list of the banned organizations that the Punjab government had issued in 2008.  Imtiaz Gul, author of the ‘Most Dangerous Place’ and Director of Centre of Research Studies, Islamabad, says, “This also partially explains the lack of coordination and the state of confusion that accompanies governance at the central and provincial levels.”

Since the outfit is banned in Pakistan, it uses the internet for outreach, publishing a wide range of e-books, websites and videos in both English and Urdu. Writing in the Friday Times, Columnist Zia-ur-Rahman says that Hizb-ut-Tahrir’s former global leader, late Abdul Qadeem Zallum from Palestine considered Pakistan as an important future stronghold and a strategic base after the country went nuclear in 1999.  He also asked the party workers of Pakistani origin to return to the home country, organise the group in the country with influencing the military and recruiting senior officers as their prime motive.

Tayyib Muqeem, Naveed Butt and Imran Yousafzai are the prominent leaders of the outfit’s Pakistan chapter. Shahzad Sheikh, official spokesman of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Karachi openly admitted how members were actively persuading the army to instigate a bloodless coup against the present government.  The outfit is organized in small cells of five to six members.  The organization claims that it has over one million members worldwide. Financial support to the outfit for carrying out operations in Pakistan mostly comes from the UK chapter. The group targets educated people and professionals such as journalists, teachers, bureaucrats, engineers, besides army officers.

In the past, many retired and serving armed forces personnel have been involved in acts of terrorism. In the mid 1990s, a group of officers led by Major General Zaheer-ul- Islam Abbasi and  Brigadier Mustansar had been busted as it was planning to stage a coup against the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Later Captain Farooq, one of General Musharraf’s security officers was arrested and retired after it was detected that he is member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir.  In January 2005, a military court sentenced three air force officers to two to nine years for their alleged links with the Jaish-e-Mohammad. In September that year, another military court sentenced Major Adil Qudoos, Colonel Abdul Ghaffar and Colonel Abbasi to different terms on charges of indulging in activities that conflicted with their duties. The authorities could not prevent the attacks on the GHQ in October 2009 and May 22, 2011 attack on PNS Mehran- which were the work of all insiders, raising concerns about radicalization within the army.

Commenting on the activities of Sunni Tehreek and Dawat-e-Islami, columnist Ashraf Javed says both are Barelvi organisations with hundreds of thousands of followers across the country.  While Sunni Tehreek recently took part in several political movements and is reportedly involved in sectarian violence, Dawat-e-Islami is just restricted to Islamic teachings.  But the intelligence agencies have warned that “its growing influence in the armed forces will have serious implications”. The Express Tribune quoted an intelligence report that over Rs. 20 million were collected from the Pakistan Air Force for the organization during this Ramzan.

Dawat-e-Islami was founded by its present charismatic leader Ilyas Qadri in 1980 and was created as a reaction to Tabligh Jamaat which has established its network all over the world.  In October every year, it holds the biggest congregation in Multan rivalling the one held by Tabligh Jamaat in Raiwand near Lahore.  It may be mentioned that Mumtaz Qadri, the policeman who killed the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, was a follower of Dawat-e-Islami. Tabligh Jamaat also claims to be non-political and non-sectarian. It is proving to be an unwitting ally of jehadi and sectarian organizations writes Mohammad Amir Rana in his book titled ‘Gateway to Terrorism.’

Admitting that this “creeping coup of religious convertism” that had begun with General Zia-ul-Haq has not only infected the army but also large sections of society, Imtiaz Gul writes in the Newline (Karachi) that many Generals still reckon “Islam as motivating force” considering it crucial for the rank and file of the army. But he seeks to remind them that the Americans, Germans, French and the Canadians don’t motivate their soldiers by using Christianity or any other religion; similarly, the Indians do not invoke Hinduism to motivate their forces against Pakistanis or Chinese. He warned that one point should be clear: the moment religion is inducted into statecraft, the lines between state and non-state armies largely vanish.

Thankfully, the Indian Security Forces have not experienced any such penetration mentioned above. But it has always been observed that the developments relating to terrorism have its spill over effect on India. The penetration of terrorist elements motivated by religious fanaticism at the neighbourhood may motivate the religious fanatics to get into the security forces and destroy the secular structure of the security establishment. Here is a call for the state machinery to have a constant monitoring of the outfits charged with religious fanaticism to avoid any such penetration.

(* The author is a Columnist on South Asian Affairs)


Karzai Visits Delhi, Signs Strategic Partnership Agreement

By Shubha Singh*

“Breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore, dinner in Kabul and then breakfast in Teheran,” -Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai unveiled, with these words, his vision for the region as an area of seamless travel. The Afghan leader was tweaking Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s dream of breakfasting in Amritsar (India), lunch in Lahore (Pakistan) and dinner in Kabul to include Teheran.

It is good to have a vision for peace even if the reality on the ground makes it look like wishful thinking at present. But the Afghan leader was also making a subtle point that Afghanistan was not tied only to Pakistan but it existed in a wider region that included India and Iran. President Karzai referred to his country’s location as “Central South Asia” and emphasized the old linkages of trade and culture that existed within this region.
President Karzai was addressing a gathering of the capital’s elite while on a two-day visit to India, when he spoke of the ‘Europe model’ where they had much deeper conflicts and had fought wars but had gone on to build a region of peace and prosperity. A day earlier, the Afghan leader had signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which would broaden and intensify the cooperation between the two countries as well as grow into new areas.

It is a turbulent time for Afghanistan and President Karzai has had to make changes in his government’s policies after the assassination of former President Burhannudin Rabbani by a suicide bomber, who came in the guise of a messenger from the Taliban. The former president had headed the High Peace Council that was to conduct negotiations with the Taliban. President Karzai indicated a turning point in the peace process when he said in Kabul a day before his departure for Delhi, that his government would not talk to the Taliban either directly or indirectly.

Mr Karzai elaborated on the subject while giving a memorial lecture in Delhi. “We do not have their address, we don’t know where they are,” he said about the Taliban, adding that “the peace process would focus on countries and not on organisations.” The Afghanistan government would intensify its dialogue with Pakistan, a country that was also facing the menace of terrorism, he said.

Mr Karzai also sought to dispel any misgivings about the Strategic Partnership Afghanistan has signed with India, asserting that it was not against any country or entity. He said the partnership was to benefit Afghanistan from the strengths of India and help its people for a better way of life by improving skills and to train police, army, doctors and professionals. President Karzai described Pakistan and Afghanistan as twin brothers while India was a great friend. “The agreement with our friend is not against our brother,” he said.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement with India is the first one to be signed; similar agreements with the US and the EU are under negotiation. The agreement aims to boost trade, security and cultural links between the two countries. It is a reaffirmation of India’s commitment to the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan according to the wishes of the Afghan people; it was a commitment that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reiterated in his address to the Afghan Parliament in May this year.

India is among the major aid donors for Afghanistan, taking up projects from supplying fortified biscuits for mid-day meals for school children, to constructing the Delaram-Zaranj road, to providing medical assistance, telecom services, building the Parliament building and the electric transmission lines for Kabul. The main focus of India’s developmental assistance in Afghanistan is people-oriented. Its emphasis on health and education in its developmental projects together with capacity building in agriculture has built up much public goodwill among the Afghans. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Kabul in summer, India increased its developmental assistance to US $ 2 billion.

Significantly, India has, for the first time, agreed to assist in the training, equipping and capacity building for Afghan national security forces. While India has carried out training programmes for the police, and a few officers of the Afghan armed forces have attended courses in Indian defence institutes, but neither India nor Afghanistan were ready to undertake regular training of Afghan forces by India.

India had made a conscious effort not to take a high profile role in its engagement with Afghanistan, mainly because of Pakistan’s discomfort with India’s growing involvement in Afghanistan and the American dependence on Pakistan as an ally in the war against the radical forces in Afghanistan. India’s reluctance to get involved in regular training of Afghan security forces also stemmed from Pakistan’s hyper-sensitivity to India’s influence in Afghanistan. The Indian government’s policy for Afghanistan has focused on developmental projects and capacity building, but in the changing circumstances in Afghanistan, it is ready to step up its engagement with Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is also looking for investment from India and the two countries signed two preliminary agreements for development of mineral resources and exploration of natural gas. Indian companies are seeking to bid for the mining contract for the Hajigak mines, reported to be one of the largest unexplored iron ore reserves. Indian oil companies have also shown interest in exploring for natural gas in the northern Afghanistan.

President Karzai’s vision was echoed in a new initiative led by the US and Germany known as the New Silk Route, which was discussed at a meeting in New York last month. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Central Asian republics, as well as ministers from China, Iran, Pakistan, India, Canada, Norway and other countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had stressed at the meeting that the stabilisation of Afghanistan was linked to prosperity in the wider region.

The New Silk Route plan envisages Afghanistan as the centre of a network of trade corridors with railways, roads and trading facilities, with economic linkages connecting Central and South Asia. Such a network could restore Afghanistan to its age-old role as the bridge between Central and South Asia to the Middle East. And it can make possible travel in a day from Amritsar in India through Lahore in Pakistan, and Kabul to Teheran.

(* the author is a columnist on South Asian affairs)


New Delhi (Syndicate Features): This year again the Americans drained their emotions, as they have been doing for a decade on the day, on the 10th anniversary of the 11 September, 2001 terror attacks by Al Qaeda that had resulted in 3000 deaths and destroyed the Twin Towers in New York and a part of the Pentagon. President Barrack Obama repeated that his country was not at war with Islam and will never be.

That oft-repeated message from the US President may be politically and diplomatically correct, but time has come to ask: does it have the desired effect; does it change anything on the ground? India has to watch how our own security interests will be affected if after some ‘tough’ posturing, the US goes ‘soft’ on Pakistan. It will not be difficult to conclude that it can only mean more trouble for India from across the border.

The Muslim world does not seem to believe what the US or its President says. The people on the Arab streets who are out in revolt against their dictatorial regimes are not necessarily ready to welcome the Americans with bear hugs. Most leaders in the Muslim world say the US continues to ‘interfere’, if not ‘invade’, Muslim countries (in the Middle East) even when it supports the democratic aspirations in the troubled Muslim lands.

There is hardly any Muslim country where anti-US feelings are not widespread, both at the street level and higher echelons of power. The most glaring of this phenomenon is Pakistan where nearly 90 per cent of the population harbours anti-American sentiments.

Washington is well aware of this reality. The peak period in anti-Americanism in Pakistan probably started after the Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was killed last May in his hideout in Abbottabad cantonment near Islamabad by US Navy Seal commandoes. The relations between the US and its ‘ally’ in South Asia have been deteriorating since then to an extent that worries both countries.
So, what are the US and Pakistan doing so that their very old ties do not result in a divorce? The first thing that strikes is that the US keeps on finding ways to ‘award’ Pakistan with cash, if not all the military hardware of its choice. This, despite the fact that all the billions pumped into Pakistan since 2001 have only heightened the anti-American sentiments in the country, suitably aided and abetted by the ‘establishment’ and the ‘vibrant’ media!

As far as Pakistan is concerned it doesn’t feel the need to do much to initiate steps for improving relations with the US, secure in the belief that the onus of repairing the severely damaged bilateral ties lies largely on the US. All that Islamabad is willing to do is tone down the anti-US rhetoric from its ‘establishment’ while continuing to let the media and the ‘civil society’ spread the poison against the US.

Caught in a bind, the US has been making reconciliatory gestures towards Pakistan, beginning with what one suspects a covert assurance that Pakistan will have a lot of say in deciding the nature of government in Afghanistan after the (likely?) US troop withdrawal next year.

Pakistan no longer looks too worried about the suspension or cut in aid announced at the height of US-Pakistan spat after a CIA contractor was arrested and jailed by the Pakistanis on a charge of murder. This is not because the Pakistanis have actually started to believe in their own bravado (‘we don’t need US aid’), but because the US thinks that one of the best ways to silence the Pakistanis is to offer them heaps and heaps of cash and military hardware. Though he subsequently retracted it, Gen Pervez Musharraf had actually ‘sold’ terrorists of ‘foreign’ origin caught inside Pakistan!

As in the past, the US has been shutting its eyes to Chinese export of nuclear material to Pakistan. It is a US gesture related to its inability to accept the entire shopping list of the Pakistani military, which wants the latest and the most sophisticated military equipment to ‘fight terror’! The Pakistanis have played their Chinese card repeatedly in recent weeks, to tell the Americans that they have an unquestioning ‘all weather’ friend who will fulfil all their wish list, should the US decide to ‘abandon’ its South Asian ally from Cold War days.

The US has virtually stopped asking Pakistan to go after the terrorist networks holed up in North Waziristan even though the Drone attacks by US unmanned flying machines are no substitute for actual ground operation. The US has utterly failed to press its ‘ally’ to do something to stop regular attacks on Nato convoys that pass through Pakistan on way to delivering non-military goods for troops in  Afghanistan.

Succumbing to noises from Pakistan, the US has bought the Pakistani propaganda that its contribution to fighting terror is unmatched by any other nation. An advertisement taken out by the Pakistan government in some US publications on the occasion of the 9/11 anniversary this year quoted figures of high civilian and military casualties on account of attack by terrorists.

There is no doubt that a lot more Pakistanis have been killed in terrorist attacks than in many other terror-affected countries. But the unfortunate casualty figures have to be seen in light of the fact that Pakistan alone is regarded as the ‘epicentre’ of terror. That is to say that Pakistan is the breeding ground of terrorists and, therefore, it is not surprising that the casualty figures are high in that country.

The fact remains that a section of terrorists continue to operate unhindered in Pakistan. Most people believe that these terrorists enjoy state patronage; certainly that of the Pakistan Army. If you live in a menagerie of wild animals you are more likely to be injured by them than anyone else.

India’s protests, if any, are unlikely to make any impression in Washington where the countdown to the next Presidential poll has begun and all indications are that Barrack Obama is on a very tough wicket. And if he has to choose between India and Pakistan, he will certainly like to be seen to be placating Pakistan rather than India, as that may help him sell the idea to his people that he is doing something to minimise the threat of terror emanating from the land of the pure.   (Syndicate Features)

Repression in Balochistan – ‘brutal and inhuman’: Report

By Ali Ismail
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has come out with a  devastating exposure of the brutal and inhumane tactics Pakistan’s military and security agencies are using  in the country’s poorest province.

The 132-page report documents the widespread use of enforced disappearances in Balochistan and reveals how security forces use kidnappings, torture, and extra-judicial killings to terrorize the long-suffering Baloch people into submission. The report is a damning indictment of the PPP-led central government, under which Pakistan’s security services continue to commit atrocities in Balochistan and elsewhere with impunity.

Entitled “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan,” the report is based on interviews with a hundred individuals, including relatives of the “disappeared,” persons who had been secretly detained and then released, local human rights activists and lawyers and witnesses to kidnappings and killings perpetrated by Pakistani security forces. An appendix to the report contains detailed descriptions of 45 cases of enforced disappearances, the majority of which were reported in 2009 and 2010. Teachers, students, political activists, and journalists have all been targeted by the state.

“These cases show that Pakistan’s security forces, particularly its intelligence agencies, targeted for enforced disappearance ethnic Baloch suspected of involvement in the Baloch nationalist movement,” the report notes. People are often targeted for their tribal affiliation, especially after a particular tribe was involved in clashes with Pakistan’s armed forces.

It is unclear exactly how many enforced disappearances have been perpetrated by Pakistan’s security forces in recent years. Baloch nationalists claim that thousands are missing.

In some cases, representatives of intelligence agencies admitted their responsibility for abductions to Balochis searching for missing family members. Relatives of the disappeared overwhelmingly blame Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) for kidnapping their loved ones. Many of those abducted for belonging to or having links to groups like the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Baloch National Front (BNF), Baloch National Party (BNP) and Baloch Student Organization (Azad) (BSO-Azad) have never been seen again.

While the nationalist insurgency in Balochistan is rooted in oppression and discrimination, none of these groups express the interests of ordinary Balochis. Their reactionary nationalist orientation makes it impossible for them to appeal to workers and toilers throughout Pakistan and internationally. Various Baloch nationalist groups promote anti-Punjabi and anti-Pashtun sentiment in Balochistan and launch communal attacks against Punjabis and other non-Balochis residing in the province. The right-wing character of such groups is underscored by their increasingly explicit attempts to gain the political support of US imperialism.

Since the establishment of the Pakistani state through the communal partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, there have been five nationalist insurgencies in Balochistan. The current insurgency has been raging since 2004. In 2005, prominent Baloch nationalists Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri presented a 15-point manifesto to the Pakistani government, demanding greater control of the province’s resources and an end to the construction of military bases. The conflict intensified in 2006 after Bugti was killed by the Pakistani army, which had trapped him in his cave hideout.

Pakistan’s western-most province, Balochistan constitutes almost 45 percent of the country’s land mass. But, largely desert, Balochistan is sparsely populated, accounting for about 5 percent of Pakistan’s total population. The majority of the eight million people residing in Balochistan live in rural areas. The Baloch represent the largest ethnic group in the province and Balochi is the most widely spoken language, but there is also a sizable Pashtun population, especially in the northern districts of Balochistan. Thirty percent of the province’s population claim Pashto as their first language.

The most remote part of the province, Eastern Balochistan, contains the country’s richest (though mostly untapped) natural resource deposits, including oil, gas, copper and gold. The report notes that Eastern Balochistan is “the area where the struggle for power between the Pakistani state and local tribal elites has been most apparent.”

Balochistan is strategically located between Iran and Afghanistan, and contains the second most important supply route for the US-led occupation forces in Afghanistan. The strategic location and abundant natural resources of the province have made it the subject of an intensifying rivalry between the major capitalist powers, above all the United States and China, both of which seek to dominate the region so as to control and exploit its resources. In May, Pakistan proposed that China take control of the newly-built Arabian Sea port facility in Gwadar, located in southern Balochistan. The port has long been the focus of US strategic concerns because it could potentially allow China to transport oil and natural gas from the Middle East overland to western China, thereby bypassing the Straits of Malacca and other ocean “chokepoints.” China financed the construction of the Gwadar port, leading to repeated warning from US strategists that it could ultimately serve as a Chinese naval base.

While Balochistan is rich in natural resources, it remains by far Pakistan’s poorest and least developed province. 27 percent of children under the age of five in the province were found to be malnourished in 2010. Nearly half of the province’s population suffers from “extreme educational poverty,” having received less than two years of education.

“A vast majority of the people in the province—mainly in its Baloch-dominated central and southern regions—live below the poverty line with next to no means of earning a livelihood. They have minimal access to education, health, roads, electricity and other means of communication,” noted a recent report in the Dawn, a Karachi-based English-language daily. “Most of them have never heard about a flush toilet, a sewerage disposal system and running tap water. Their ramshackle abodes are as basic as the temporary shelters in a badly run refugee camp and their belongings as nominal as those of any asset-less group of people in a war-ravaged African country.”

These miserable social conditions are the result of decades of abuse and neglect by the federal government, and have long fueled resentment among ordinary Balochis and fostered nationalist sentiment among the local Baloch elite.

“Militancy in Balochistan has been fueled by ethnic Baloch anger over the Pakistani government’s efforts to harness local mineral and fossil fuel resources, maintain large numbers of troops in the province, and construct the Gwadar deep-sea port at the mouth of the Persian Gulf with non-Baloch workers,” states the HRW report.

Throughout Pakistan’s history, the national bourgeoisie has trampled over the democratic rights of the country’s workers and toilers, with civilian law enforcement authorities and military-intelligence agencies routinely perpetrating human rights violations against individuals even in those periods when the country has not been under military dictatorship. However, as the report notes, “the proliferation of enforced disappearances by the security forces has been a relatively recent development.”

Indeed, Pakistan entered a new era of human rights abuses following the US-led imperialist invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001. Under the US-backed dictator General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan made a strategic reversal, withdrawing its sponsorship of the Taliban regime in Kabul and providing logistical support for the neo-colonial invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Under Musharraf, Pakistan provided US imperialism with offshore torture sights. Moreover, hundreds, if not thousands, of ordinary Pakistanis were kidnapped by security forces and handed over to the US, often for money. Many of these individuals remain missing, their distraught families anxiously awaiting any news of their whereabouts.

While initially aimed at suspected Taliban-aligned militants, Pakistani authorities soon adopted these illegal and brutal methods against Baloch nationalists.

Confident of the support they enjoy from both Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders, security forces in Balochistan kidnap people in broad daylight, often in crowded public areas, and in the presence of many witnesses. The cases documented in the HRW report include victims who were dragged away from shops and hotels, university campuses, and places of work.

The ruthlessness of the security forces is demonstrated by their targeting of young children involved with Baloch nationalist groups or with relatives associated with such groups. According to the report, “On March 5, 2010, 14-year-old Nasibullah Langao and 12-year-old Abdul Waheed, students from Ismail village in Hudda district, were allegedly disappeared after they started making inquiries about the killing of Langao’s uncle, Abdul Majid Langao.” An active member of the Baloch National Front, Abdul Majid had been shot dead by FC soldiers and men in civilian clothes in front of multiple witnesses when he answered the door at his house just days before. “The men took away Abdul Majid’s body as well as various pieces of property from the house. In response to protests in the village, the body was eventually returned to the family, but not the property.”

According to their families, the boys Nasibullah Langao and Abdul Waheed have not been seen since they were snatched from the street in broad daylight a few days after they went to the Frontier Corps and police to find out what happened to Nasibullah’s uncle and to retrieve his belongings.

As in the Pashtun-dominated northwest tribal areas, the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies have used torture and extrajudicial killings to mercilessly suppress the nationalists and to intimidate the local population.

“The methods of torture,” says the HRW report, include “prolonged beatings, often with sticks or leather belts, hanging the detainees upside down, and food and sleep deprivation.”

HRW interviewed Bashir Azeem, a medical doctor and the secretary general of the Baloch Republican Party, who vividly described the gruesome torture he was forced to endure during his last illegal detention in 2009: “There was no floor in the cell, just the dirt ground, and a plastic bottle for urinating. They soon brought me for another interrogation. They hung me upside down by the feet, and kept asking who was financing us, and where the militants were. The following days they continued torturing me in various ways. They pushed pins under my nails, put a chair on my back and sat on top of it, and put me for 48 hours into a room where I could only stand but not move. When they took me out, my legs were so swollen that I collapsed on the floor and fainted.”

Some of those abducted are murdered while in custody, their bullet-ridden bodies turning up alongside roads around the province. The corpses often display signs of severe torture.

According to the report, “There is increasing evidence to substantiate the fears of many families that disappeared relatives who have been missing for months or years have been killed in custody.” Local groups have discovered 180 bodies in recent months, mostly of men who were reportedly kidnapped by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) in cooperation with Frontier Corps paramilitaries.

“The bullet-riddled body of 14-year-old Baloch Student Organization-Azad activist Mohammad Khan Zohaib was also found in Khuzdar, on October 20, 2010,” notes the report. “According to Baloch human rights activists, Zohaib’s relatives said that FC soldiers had abducted him in July 2010.”

Many released detainees, witnesses to kidnappings and arrests, and relatives of the victims have been threatened by the authorities for seeking information and demanding justice.

A 2007 hearing on nearly 200 cases of enforced disappearances submitted to the Supreme Court by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan led to the release of information regarding the whereabouts of 99 individuals and highlighted the role of the army and intelligence agencies in the abductions. Hopes were raised among some Balochis, who believed that the Supreme Court and higher courts would begin to take action to locate the disappeared and punish the perpetrators. However, Musharraf dismissed the chief justice and several other justices, partly to forestall judicial activity on such cases, but mainly because he feared they would not rubber stamp a staged election which was to be held later that year.

“Under President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s military ruler from 1999 until 2008, the situation deteriorated markedly,” declares the HRW report. “Two assassination attempts on Musharraf in 2005 and 2006 during visits to Balochistan resulted in a crackdown on Baloch nationalists by the armed forces and Military Intelligence (MI), its lead intelligence agency in the province. These operations ultimately led to the killing in August 2006 of influential tribal chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti and 35 of his close followers.”

Hopes were raised once again with the coming to power of a civilian government in 2008 led by the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP). PPP leaders paid lip-service to provincial autonomy and pledged to improve social conditions in Balochistan through a series of half-measures including giving local government authorities a greater share of resource-industry revenue and increased funding for development. However, these limited measures have been rejected by Baloch nationalist leaders who’ve stated that they do not adequately address their core grievances or enable greater provincial autonomy. Social indicators in the province have not improved in the slightest since 2008.

Moreover, the PPP government has refused to take any action to stop the practice of enforced disappearances. “The national government has done little to end the carnage,” said HRW’s Asia director, Brad Adams. “President Asif Ali Zardari has to realize it cannot just be wished away.”

The HRW report has been contemptuously dismissed by the Pakistani army. “It is a one-sided report and we outrightly reject the conclusion drawn by this report,” said army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.

While the grievances of the Baloch people are entirely legitimate, the various nationalist and separatist groups who claim to defend their interests are themselves responsible for numerous atrocities. Besides attacking gas pipelines, railway lines and electricity networks, militant Baloch nationalists have carried out ethnically motivated and sectarian killings, especially in Quetta. Their main targets are overwhelmingly ordinary Punjabis and Pashtuns, who they deride as “settlers.” Punjabi-owned businesses and schools have been attacked throughout the province, with many educators viciously assaulted and murdered simply for their ethnicity. At least 100,000 people are believed to have fled Balochistan since 2008 due to communal violence.

The nationalist perspective of groups such as the BRP and BNF does not in any way express the interests of Balochi workers and toilers, but rather those of a tiny tribal elite. The eradication of oppression, poverty and inequality in Balochistan and throughout the country will only be achieved through the revolutionary mobilization of the working class and rural toilers, united across ethnic and religious lines and armed with a socialist and internationalist perspective. (courtesy

India-Pak dialogue: Walking the Talk

The New Charming Face From Pakistan

By Subha Singh*

The India-Pakistan Foreign Ministers meeting in New Delhi ended without much hype. While External Affairs Minister, SM Krishna said that the talks had been “useful” and on the right track, his young Pakistani counterpart, was more upbeat about the bilateral dialogue process. And described her talks as the call for a “new era” of amity.

Ms Khar, who was recently elevated to the status of Cabinet Minister in the Foreign Office, lauded the “spirit in which we have been able to sustain the dialogue and, will hopefully take it through the next round.” Pakistan, she said, is committed to the dialogue process. “It is our desire to make it an uninterrupted and uninterruptible process,” she said. She believed that it was in both countries “national interest to have good neighbourly relations” with each other. Both sides should work to make the bilateral dialogue process to make it “a truly people centric process.” She expressed the hope that “a new generation in India and Pakistan will see a relationship which is going to be much different then the one we experienced in the last few decades”.

India-Pakistan relations are require a much wider consultation base in each country, while in Islamabad the Pakistani army leadership has a premier role in formulating the India policy

Krishna, on the other hand, was more sober when he expressed his satisfaction “at the progress achieved in this round of the resumed dialogue.” Both sides had reaffirmed their commitment to resolve all outstanding issues through a comprehensive, serious and sustained dialogue. “While being fully cognisant of the challenges that lie ahead, I can confidently say that our relations are on the right track”, he said.

The new Pakistani Minister’s optimistic, even fulsome remarks are unusual for a visiting Pakistani minister. They are in sharp contrast to her predecessor, Shah Mahmood Qureshi who had got in a public disagreement with Minister Krishna at the last Foreign Ministers meeting in Islamabad in July last year. Ms Khar said that she saw a “changed mindset” among the peoples of the two countries for a “friendly, cooperative relationship” between them.

India-Pakistan relations are not run by their respective Foreign Offices; they require a much wider consultation base in each country, while in Islamabad the Pakistani army leadership has a premier role in formulating the India policy. In this past year since Shah Mahmood Qureshi almost derailed the dialogue process with his grandstanding at the joint press conference last year, there has been a change in outlook of the Pakistani military leadership. Pressed into a tight corner by its deteriorating relationship with Washington in the past three months after the killing of al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, neither the Pakistani government nor its army chief, Gen Pervez Kayani would favour a hawkish stance on the dialogue process with India.

Pakistan is also beset with its own internal problems with Jihadi terrorism. An unnecessary controversy with India at this time would only add to the current difficulties with Washington which wants Islamabad to give its attention to the war against terror and not be diverted by an India-Pakistan disagreement.

Pressed into a tight corner by its deteriorating relationship with Washington in the past three months after the killing of al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, neither the Pakistani government nor its army chief, Gen Pervez Kayani would favour a hawkish stance on the dialogue process with India.

The stage had been thus set for a successful meeting and the Foreign Ministers talks covered all the outstanding issues in the India-Pakistan bilateral relationship, including the Mumbai attacks. They cleared up the air and “put the relations on the right track,” as the External Affairs Minister put it.

The Indian media was bowled over by the remarkably poised and articulate, Ms Khar’s personable appearance, which was a combination of western designer wear and Pakistani chic, but took umbrage at her meeting the separatist leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference shortly after she reached New Delhi. She also had a meeting with JKLF leader Yasin Malik in Lahore just before her trip to Delhi where she spoke about tripartite talks with “genuine Kashmiri leaders”. The meeting was attended by Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.

Visiting Pakistani ministers have often met the Hurriyat leaders but have rarely committed the indiscretion of doing so before meeting their hosts and holding official talks. And the Indian side conveyed its displeasure “in a free and frank manner.” But both sides emphasized in their joint statement that the Ministers had discussed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and agreed to the need for continued discussion in a purposeful and forward-looking manner.

However, the confidence building measures (CBMs) agreed to – the usual methodology to rate the success of India-Pakistan talks – were quite modest. There was some smoothening of the hassles that cross-Line of Control (LoC) travel and trade usually entail. Traders would be allowed multiple entry permits that are valid for six months, the telecommunications system would be enhanced, the number of days and hours on which trucks can cross the LoC would be increased. They also agreed to expand the cross-LoC travel to allow for tourism and religious pilgrimage. But an important demand of traders that would greatly increase the quantum of cross-LoC trade – establishing banking facilities – did not figure in the CBMs.

Trade across the LoC is through barter, which poses problems for traders of finding adequate products since there is a specific list on 21 items that can be traded. Kashmiri traders have been arguing that the volume of trade would increase if payments can be made for the goods instead of restricting the trade to barter. They have also asked for an expansion of the list of tradable items since there is a good market for Indian goods across the LoC.

Two other agreements were on reviving the India-Pakistan Joint Commission after more than two decades, with technical working groups to identify avenues of cooperation. They also agreed on separate meetings of Expert Groups on Nuclear and conventional confidence building measures to be held in Islamabad in September this year.

The Foreign Ministers talks have lived up to the expectations, as senior officials in New Delhi had said in the days before the ministers met that “Project Pakistan was no longer on life support, it has begun to breathe on its own.” The confidence building measures that were agreed upon are in line with the Indian government approach to take up “incremental, step-by-step” measures rather than build up euphoria and high expectations. And a courteous approach can help the process move a bit faster.

(*the author is a columnist on southasian affairs)

Action Against Haqqanis -Key to Success in Afghanistan

Jalaluddin Haqqani, who heads the dreaded Haqqani 'Taliban' network in Af-Pak region

By Surender Kumar Sharma
Columnist on South Asian affairs

The US has given Pakistan time until July to capture Taliban supremo, Mullah Muhammad Omar and Operations Chief of the Haqqani Network, Sirajuddin Haqqani and has warned of military offensive in North Waziristan if the two are not captured. Besides the two, the list also includes al Qaeda’s new chief, Ayman al Zawahiri and the Libyan Operations Chief of al Qaeda, Atiyah Abad Al Rahman. This warning was reportedly given by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Chairman of US Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen during a visit to Pakistan last month.

Admiral Mullen, when asked about the possibility of Pakistan launching an Operation in North Waziristan said it was critical to go after the militants in the region for the Afghan war to succeed; but he refused to discuss specific plans for the offensive.

The Haqqanis belong to Zadran tribe, which are mostly based in Paktia and Khost provinces of Eastern Afghanistan. However, their support base has always been in the FATA’s Northern Waziristan, where they run a number of Madrassas and training camps but operate mainly in South-Eastern Afghanistan, and provinces further North towards Kabul. The dreaded network is reportedly preparing for alternative safe haven for itself in Kurram Agency. Pakistan army holds the Haqqani Network, like the Taliban, as its reserve asset for the endgame in Afghanistan.

The Haqqanis belong to Zadran tribe, which are mostly based in Paktia and Khost provinces in the Eastern Afghanistan. Their support base has always been in the FATA’s Northern Waziristan, where they run a number of Madrassas and training camps but operate mainly in South-Eastern Afghanistan or ‘Loya Paktia’ and provinces further North towards Kabul. The Network’s patriarch, Jalaluddin Haqqani is believed to be influenced by radical Islamist principles drawn from the early Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which were prevalent among many of the religiously-motivated Afghan mujahedeen of that time. Jalaluddin Haqqani has been a militia leader for three decades and he received money and weapons from the US during the war against the Soviets.

The US and the Coalition Forces describe the Haqqani Network as the most dangerous threat to Afghan security. Haqqani’s connection with the ISI dates back to the times of the anti-Soviet Jihad. In fact, US Intelligence believes that Islamabad maintained relationship with Taliban-associated groups, which support and conduct operations against US and ISAF Forces in Afghanistan. According to a report, Pak Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani was heard referring to the Haqqanis as a ‘strategic asset’.

Malt Waldman, a Senior Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, claims that Haqqanis are getting financial aid from two sources; Gulf countries – especially Saudi Arabia, that is accessed through the Saudi Bank; and from the ISI, which is accessed from the Islamic Bank of Pakistan, in which the Haqqani Network has a representative. The report is corroborated by The Times (London-May 31, 2010) that said over $920 million had flowed from Saudi Arabian donors to Afghan insurgents, mainly via Waziristan, over the last four years. Jalaluddin Haqqani also frequently travelled to the Gulf Arab states, where he is highly respected and has key contacts from the times of anti-Soviet Jihad.

The Haqqanis established a close relationship with Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and it is not a coincidence that the first camp that bin Laden created in Afghanistan – Lion’s Den and some related infrastructure – were in Haqqani’s territory. Writing in the Long War Journal, its Managing Editor, Bill Roggio claimed that Haqqani Network is known to shelter Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) commanders and fighters. Both the Haqqani Network and IMU are closely allied with al Qaeda and carry out Joint Operation with the terror groups. And both Sirajuddin Haqqani and Abu Usman Adil, the leader of IMU sit on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis or Executive Council.

There are many factions in the Taliban – both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While all are (were) loosely associated with al Qaeda, they did not always obey it. In 2007, when al Qaeda declared that its ‘Enemy Number One’ was no longer the US but Pakistan, only two factions of the Taliban, both Pakistanis – Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan and Maulana Fazlullah in Swat – responded to that call. The move was condemned by all the factions of the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani group.

According to another related report in the Washington Post, the Haqqani fighters cooperate with the Taliban but “not fully support” Mullah Omar and sometimes extract toll from Taliban fighters, who transit through their territory. They slip into Afghanistan along the mountain passes and historic trade routes, including several border crossings used by hundreds of cargo trucks each day. These militants generally fight in Afghanistan for a break of several months. When in Afghanistan, these militants move from village to village, never spending more than one night in the same house.

Haqqanis are alleged by Afghan and American Intelligence officials to have been behind the recent simultaneous attacks on government buildings in Kabul, a suicide attack on Indian Embassy on July 7, 2009, assassination attempt on President Hamid Karzai in April 2008 and were behind the kidnapping of New York Times reporter, David S. Rohde, who escaped in 2009 after seven months in captivity. They also showed their muscles by staging an attack on Khost city Provincial Governor’s compound, the Police Headquarters and administrative buildings in May 2009.

An interesting thing about the Haqqanis is that about 150 of them are either killed or captured; but the group regenerates. The level of expertise in the Haqqani Network has helped the group strike targets far from its base. The UN added Haqqani’s name to its Watch List that equates to an “assets freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo against this individual” across all the UN member states.

Less famous than al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, nevertheless, poses an intractable problem for the US forces, particularly as the focus on war shifts towards the border. The Haqqanis are reported to have about 4,000 fighters under their command. It is widely believed that militants linked to Haqqani Network are hostile to the US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan and not to the Pakistan security forces. And President Obama has announced draw down of American forces this month (July 2011).

However, American officials say that deadly cross-border raids by Haqqani militants are fuelling the Taliban insurgency inside Afghanistan and threatening efforts to stabilize the country. Pakistan has denied these reports and said that it is unable to expand its Operations into North Waziristan because of shortage of manpower and military hardware.

After an intense focus on fighting the Taliban last year, US Administration is in talks with Mullah Omer’s Deputy. At the same time, the US is reportedly trying to approach Ibrahim Haqqani, a brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani to test if he is also prepared for peace talk. Meanwhile, American Enterprise Institute has said in a report that the dreaded Haqqani Network has been preparing for alternative safe haven for itself in Kurram Agency following a tip off by the Pak Army or its Intelligence that Pak Army is preparing for an offensive. This is because it holds the Haqqani Network like the Taliban as its reserve asset for the endgame in Afghanistan.

It is in this context CIA Chief Leon Panetta has warned Pakistan that American boots would be stationed there as long as the country could not be trusted. During his meeting with Pak Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani and ISI chief Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha in Islamabad (June 11), Panetta reportedly handed over satellite imagery showing two insurgent camps including the headquarters of Haqqani Network based in a girls school in Miranshah in North Waziristan.

US, therefore, should see that Haqqanis are not able to establish a Pashtun dispensation, friendly to Pakistan; and instead, seek India’ help in reviving the Northern Alliance. But if the Haqqanis succeed in their mission, it will destabilize Afghanistan and result in another round of civil war. “If that happens”, says Syed Iqbal Hasnain of the Stimson Center at Washington, “it would signal the collapse of nearly 10 years of American efforts, costing hundreds of billions of dollars to bring peace to Afghanistan”.