With Pakistan's election just around the corner on Saturday -- and amid a month-long campaign of violence that local papers have dubbed the "reign of terror" -- the New York Times reported Friday that Pakistan's Interior Ministry has demanded that the paper's Islamabad bureau chief, noted journalist Declan Walsh, leave the country. From the Times's report:
The ministry gave no explanation for the expulsion order, which was delivered via a two-sentence letter by police officers to the bureau chief, Declan Walsh, at 12:30 a.m. Thursday local time at his home.
"It is informed that your visa is hereby canceled in view of your undesirable activities," the order stated. "You are therefore advised to leave the country within 72 hours." The timing of the order means Mr. Walsh must exit Pakistan on the night of the elections.
Walsh has reported from Pakistan for the past nine years for the New York Times and the Guardian, and his journalism is characterized by an eye for detail and a knack for making a frequently perplexing country comprehensible. For the past month, his reports have focused on the run-up to Pakistan's May 11 election: political maneuvering and rivalries, patronage networks, and the string of attacks that have punctuated the campaign. We've collected some of his greatest hits from recent weeks below.
From his May 8 article on Pakistan's feudalistic patronage networks:
As a result, Multan has been transformed, residents say. The city is ribboned with new roads and expressways, while a modern airport, capable of accommodating wide-body jets, is near completion. The railway station has been overhauled, some neighborhoods have new sewerage and young students have been awarded generous scholarships.
A giant billboard outside Mr. Gilani's house lists his achievements: 34 major development projects, costing more than $280 million, all financed by Pakistani taxpayers. "Multan has become like Paris for us," said Muhammad Bilal, a 28-year-old laborer and enthusiastic Gilani supporter, at a rally last week....
Mr. Gilani, for example, was in jail from 2001 to 2006 during the rule of Gen. Pervez Musharraf on a charge of arranging 600 government jobs for his constituents during a previous administration in the 1990s. "If giving jobs is a crime, then I am a criminal," he told voters at one rally, to loud cheers.
In fact, the practice is institutionalized: The government gives each Parliament member, no matter the party, about $200,000 a year to spend on "development" -- effectively, a patronage slush fund.
He writes a riveting lede, like this one from his May 5 article about Pakistan's hardline Islamist candidates:
Dust swirled as the jeep, heralded by a convoy of motorcycle riders and guarded by gunmen in paramilitary-style uniforms, pulled up outside the towering tomb of an ancient Muslim saint.
Out stepped Maulana Abdul Khaliq Rehmani, a burly cleric with a notorious, banned Sunni Muslim group. Thanks to a deft name change by his group, he was now a candidate in Pakistan's general election, scheduled for Saturday.
Or this intro from his April 21 article on the Pakistani Taliban's intimidation tactics:
When Shahid Khan started talking, his gunmen clambered onto a school's rooftop, scanning the surrounding hills with flashlights, anticipating a possible attack.
In the past 10 days, militants have carried out five attacks against Mr. Khan's party.
Below them, Mr. Khan, a candidate for his region's provincial assembly, addressed potential voters - poor farmers and village traders, gathered on a cluster of rope beds outside the school, listening raptly to his promises. Then, after wolfing down snacks offered by his hosts, he abruptly left.
"They say it's not safe around here," said Mr. Khan, as he leapt into a waiting car, trailed by a bodyguard. "We'd better get going."
No stranger to Pakistan's extremist groups, Walsh profiled Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba, in February:
...Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.
"I move about like an ordinary person -- that's my style," said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. "My fate is in the hands of God, not America."
New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has written to the Pakistani interior minister protesting the decision, and journalists and analysts have voiced their support on Twitter.
100+ already dead in Pakistan election violence; 600k security to be deployed this wknd. Hence Pak expulsion of NYT reporter @declanwalsh.— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 10, 2013
Walsh, for his part, has so far only tweeted out the Times article about his enforced departure:
On eve of Pakistani elections, been asked to leave:nytimes.com/2013/05/11/wor…— Declan Walsh(@declanwalsh) May 10, 2013
With Pakistani elections looming on May 11, it seems like every day brings a new report about destabilizing attacks in the country. The unrelenting violence, which Pakistan's Express Tribune has dubbed the "Reign of Terror," includes assassinations that have delayed elections in several districts and left a staggering number of casualties. Bloomberg has compiled the most thorough timeline of the attacks and estimates that, in the past month, "at least 118 people have been killed and 494 injured."
Terrorists -- mostly from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but also Baluchi separatists -- have pursued politicians in particular, and candidates have been gunned down in the streets. On May 3, Saddiq Zaman Khattak, a parliamentary candidate for the secular Awami National Party (ANP), was shot and killed along with his three-year-old son while returning from Friday prayers in Karachi. Gunmen ambushed ANP candidate Muhammad Islam on April 27, killing his brother in the attack. And Fakhrul Islam, a provincial assembly candidate for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party in Hyderabad, was assassinated by the TTP on April 11.
Bombings, some of which have targeted candidates, have also indiscriminately killed their supporters. The deadliest blast killed at least 20 individuals at an ANP rally on April 16. The attacks have targeted election events, but also included car bombings and bomb and grenade attacks on campaign offices and potential polling places. Just today, gunmen abducted Ali Haider Gilani, a provincial assembly candidate for the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, after killing his bodyguards. It is the first time a candidate has been kidnapped in the rash of attacks.
"It is pretty clear that this is the most violent election I have witnessed in 23 years" of election monitoring in Pakistan, Peter Manikas of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs told the Washington Post. "It's a different type of violence in trying to disrupt the election as a whole. It makes everything unsafe."
Early in April, the TTP singled out three political parties -- ANP, MQM, and PPP -- as the targets of their attacks, but in the past week, not even the fundamentalist Jamiat-e-Ulema (JeU) party has been spared. On May 6, a JeU rally was bombed in Kurram, killing 25, though a TTP spokesman was quick to assert that the Taliban didn't oppose the party so much as the candidate, "who they said had betrayed Arab fighters to U.S. agents," according to Reuters. The next day, a suicide bombing in Hangu targeting another JeU rally killed 10. In a new statement quoted by Reuters, TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud expressed opposition to the political process as a whole, writing, "We don't accept the system of infidels which is called democracy."
The worst violence may in fact be yet to come, as Pakistanis head to the polls this weekend. TTP pamphlets posted in Karachi are warning potential voters to stay home, the Telegraph reports. "If you stay away you will protect yourself," one reads. "If not you are responsible for your fate.... If you go there you will be responsible for the loss of your life and your loved ones." In anticipation of attacks, more than 600,000 security personnel will be on duty for the elections, with five to ten guards at each polling place, according to the Associated Press.
It's a far cry from the atmosphere you'd hope for to mark the first time in Pakistani history that a democratically elected civilian government has finished its term.
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
Last time we checked in with Pakistan's falcon population, we reported on the surprising, feel-good story of how the Taliban have saved the fearsome birds in the tribal areas by fueling violence that has scared off poachers. Now there's a new wrinkle when it comes to the status of falcons in this troubled region.
On Monday, Indian security forces recovered a dead falcon that had been outfitted with a camera and an antenna (see photo above) near the fort city of Jaisalmer. According to Agence France-Presse, the wired bird has spooked Indian military officials, who say that while it may just be the work of hunters, "the possibility of it being an espionage attempt from Pakistan cannot be ruled out at this stage."
So, is Pakistan turning its great falcon glut into a low-tech drone fleet as part of its ongoing confrontation with India? Fueling suspicions in this case is the fact that the bird was recovered in an area used by the Indian military for war games. As recently as April 2012, India massed 50,000 troops in the area for joint exercises between its army and air force. A falcon would seem like the perfect countermeasure, no?
As it happens, this isn't the first time Indian authorities have insinuated that Pakistan is enlisting avian henchmen to spy on its nemesis to the south. In 2010, Indian authorities placed under armed guard a pigeon suspected of delivering messages across the border. The pigeon, police said, may have been on a "special mission of spying."
Could this also be part of a regional trend of using feathered friends to outwit high-tech aerial defenses? In 2011, Saudi authorities detained a vulture on charges that it was spying on behalf of Israel after learning that it bore a tag reading, "Tel Aviv University." And while officials eventually cleared the bird -- named R65, for its identification code -- on charges of espionage, is it too much to hope that, somewhere in the Pakistani hinterlands, an army of falcons-turned-surveillance drones is gathering strength?
Stay safe out there, feathered friends.
Two nuclear-armed countries conducted missile tests this past week -- and neither of them was North Korea. Instead, the missile launches came from nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.
Last Sunday, India fired a medium-range, nuclear-capable Agni-II missile. The missile, which has a range of over 1,200 miles, was launched successfully from Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal. Then, on Wednesday, Pakistan tested its own Hatf-IV/Shaheen-I missile. Pakistani officials said the missile successfully hit its target at sea, and demonstrates the country's ability to deliver a nuclear payload with a range of more than 500 miles.
The dueling missile tests aren't cause for alarm, though, says Shuja Nawaz, director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. "These tests are frequent with Islamabad and New Delhi keeping each other informed," he told FP. "Both governments have lowered the rhetoric recently. Pakistan is pausing for elections. So expect no officially sponsored crises."
"Missile tests by India and Pakistan are relatively routine and frequent," added Gary Samore, a former Obama administration WMD czar and now executive director for research at Harvard's Belfer Center. "We don't pay much attention to them." So we can all breathe easy -- for today at least.
In one of the odder reasons we've come across for stonewalling a politician's bid for office, a voter has formally objected to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shahbaz Sharif's candidacy in Pakistan's May 11 elections, citing the absence of his beard. Pakistan's Geo TV reports:
[The voter] claimed that the former chief minister didn't follow Sunnah [teachings of the prophet] and teachings of Islam. The applicant said Mr Shahbaz didn't grew a beard as per Sunnah so his nomination papers be rejected and be disqualified from contesting election.
While beards are prevalent among Muslim politicians, they are certainly not a requirement -- particularly in Pakistan, whose former and current presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Pervez Musharraf, both boast clean-shaven jaws. As Sharif tweeted on Thursday, "Never thought beard would be relevant to contesting elections."
The politician, a former chief minister of Punjab, isn't just facing opposition over his facial hair, however. As the Pakistani paper Dawn reported on Thursday, the country's National Accountability Bureau has also objected to the candidacy of Shahbaz and his brother Nawaz (a former prime minister), who "have been accused of accumulating money and assets beyond their declared means of income by misusing authority." Perhaps, then, the main issue is not Shahbaz's lack of a beard, but rather the man behind it.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
For the first time in Pakistan's history, a democratically elected civilian government has successfully finished its five-year term -- despite a flurry of anti-government protests. But what does that success look like?
Foreign direct investment collapsed after President Asif Ali Zardari's government came to power in 2008, and has continued declining since, according to the World Bank. Meanwhile, foreign aid from the United States spiked, more than doubling under the new government to over $4 billion a year before tapering off again in 2011.
The country's relative political stability has paid off in some respects. Child mortality is down. School enrollment has continued to improve as well, rising three percentage points between 2008 and 2011 (admittedly not as impressive as the 14-percent increase over the course of the previous five years). On the other hand, since 2009 the ratio of girls to boys receiving a primary or secondary education has declined, indicating that enrollment is increasingly skewing toward boys. Pakistan may have fallen from ninth to 13th place in the Fund for Peace's annual ranking of failed states between 2008 and 2012, but the slightly better finish was still pretty dismal (as Robert Kaplan's "What's Wrong with Pakistan?" article for FP's Failed States package last year attests).
Domestic security under Zardari's government got off to a rough start, but has started to improve more recently. Domestic suicide bombings surged in the last year of Pervez Musharraf's government -- from the single digits through the first half of the decade to 57 in 2007. Terror attacks hit their peak with 90 suicide bombings in 2009, but the number fell to 32 attacks in 2012.
For what it's worth, in the last five years there have also been 353 U.S. CIA airstrikes against terrorist targets that killed at least 2,376 individuals, compared to 12 strikes with a minimum death toll of 159 people from the start of the CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan in 2004 through 2007.
That figure does not include the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in May 2011 -- for which President Obama famously did not give advance notice to the Pakistani government because of concerns about al Qaeda sympathizers in the Pakistani military and intelligence service. At an event at the Brooking Institution last month, retired CIA analyst and South Asia expert Bruce Riedel speculated that bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is also being sheltered by the Pakistani military. If the civilian government is slowly finding its sea legs, it has a long way to go.
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
The United States and Pakistan have not had the greatest year -- or decade -- from a diplomatic perspective. Just today, for instance, Pakistan and Iran launched a natural gas pipeline that Washington has vigorously opposed. Reflecting on the state of U.S.-Pakistani relations at the end of 2012, one senior State Department official told reporters:
Obviously, if you sort of step back a little bit, for us, 2011 was as hard a year in U.S.-Pakistan relations as you can imagine.... And so we tried in 2012 to sort of get back into some sensible business with them. Our philosophy has been that it ought to be possible between Pakistan and the United States to systematically identify our shared interests and act on them jointly.
Apparently, 12-year-olds have no trouble doing just that. Through the Marshall Direct Fund's Global Kid Connect program, Aspen Country Day School in Colorado has been taking part in a pen pal exchange with Lahore Grammar School in Pakistan. In their letters, which the organization has posted online, the elementary and middle schoolers go beyond identifying "shared interests" (Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift), broaching some touchier subjects as well.
Audra, a seventh-grader, writes:
Not many of the Pakistani students' letters have been posted online. But judging from the responses by Aspen students, terrorism is a recurring theme in the exchanges, Here's Tristan, 13:
To answer your question. We don't think your country is all terroriscs [sic] but we think that your country has terrorists in it. Are there terrorists in your country?
Meanwhile, Sarah, a seventh-grader, unequivocally states her lack of an agenda when it comes to Pakistan:
Here's my personal favorite, from Andrew, 13, and Mat, 9:
You have to give these kids credit. It might be time for the State Department to recruit some junior ambassadors.
Many of you may have already read Vali Nasr's scathing inside account of the State Department's struggle to put diplomacy at the center of U.S. efforts to end the war in Afghanistan. If not, go read it right now. Are you back? Good. Now check out this fracas at Monday's State Department press briefing, conducted by spokesman Patrick Ventrell:
QUESTION: On Afghanistan. Vali Nasr, who used to be at the State Department, just came out with a new book detailing a little bit about the work with Richard Holbrooke and how President Obama's White House team kind of shut him out. Specifically, he writes that "the White House encouraged the U.S. Ambassadors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to go around the State Department and work with the White House directly, undermining their own agency."
I'd like your response to that, whether that's an accurate assessment, and whether the State Department felt that the White House was taking too much control over the Afghan - Af-Pak file.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, you know, Elise, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on the specifics in this book or our interagency discussions.
QUESTION: Why not?
MR. VENTRELL: That's not something that we do from this podium.
QUESTION: Well, there's a specific charge laid out in this book from someone who used to be in this building.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I'm not going to comment on a former official's characterization one way or another, or our interagency processes one way or another. But let me talk a little bit about Afghanistan, where we are, some of the progress we --
QUESTION: No, I don't - I mean, I'm specifically --
MR. VENTRELL: I'm not --
QUESTION: You can talk about Af - I'm happy to hear what you have to say --
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: -- about Afghanistan, but specifically, do you feel that the State Department has equal equity in the policy deliberations on Afghanistan and Pakistan?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I'm just not going to --
QUESTION: You don't know whether you do?
MR. VENTRELL: I'm not going to comment on a former official's characterization.
QUESTION: Well, I'm not asking you to - so don't comment on his book, but specifically, do you feel as if the State Department has equal equity on policy deliberations on Afghanistan and Pakistan?
MR. VENTRELL: We have an excellent working relationship with our White House and interagency colleagues. And let me just tell you a little bit about where we are in Afghanistan, because that's - some of the thrust of the book is talking about policy development on Afghanistan. We've increased the capacity of Afghan security forces to fight insurgents, transitioning Afghan security lead - transitioning to an Afghan security lead, building an enduring partnership with Afghanistan. We now have Afghan forces leading nearly 90 percent of operations across the country. We've signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement. We're working on a new - negotiating a new bilateral security agreement. We're working on preparations for a free, inclusive, and transparent election in 2014. So we really stand behind the record of the progress we've made in Afghanistan, but beyond that I'm not going to get into interagency discussions.
QUESTION: But it's not a new charge. I mean, it's a charge that analysts are making around Washington, that the foreign policy is being decided in the White House with not enough input, or very little input, from the State Department.
MR. VENTRELL: We make our input, but I'm just not going to characterize it beyond that.
QUESTION: Are you listened to? Do you feel that you're listened to properly in the White House?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, the State Department has - we have an excellent working relationship, as I said, with the White House, with the interagency, and --
QUESTION: You can't say whether you feel as if you're getting equal input?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I'm not going to characterize some sort of historical discussion about what happened in years past. All I'm going to say is --
QUESTION: I don't think it's historical, because it also goes to what's happening today in the White House.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, guys, I've said what I can on this. I think we've done what we can here. Thanks.
As far as holidays go, Valentine's Day seems innocuous enough. But for some Muslim groups, it's a lot more sinister than hearts and flowers.
In Pakistan, for example, the Electronic Media Regulatory Authority wrote a letter this week requiring television and radio stations to censor content related to the holiday, deeming it "not in conformity to our religious and cultural ethos."
Tanzeem-e-Islami, an Islamist organization in the country, took censorship efforts one step further, urging the government to block cell phone service in order to prevent "moral terrorism"-- otherwise known as the swapping of sappy V-Day sentiments. The same group also plastered Karachi with anti-Valentine's billboards (that look suspiciously Valentine's-y) with warnings to citizens like, "Say No to Valentine's Day" (another billboard posted on Twitter declared, "Sorry Valentine's Day, I am 'Muslim'").
It's no surprise, of course, that conservative,
Islamic clerics aren't enamored with this unapologetically consumerist, Western holiday named for a saint and and centered around romance. For many, the holiday
seamlessly intertwines anti-Western sentiment with the threat of loosening
moral values. The spokesman for the Pakistani Islamist organization
Jamaat-e-Islami said as much this week:
This is imposing Western values and cultures on an Islamic society.... Look at the West -- people love their dogs but throw their parents out when they get old. We don't want to be like that.
Pakistan isn't the first Muslim country to wage a war against Valentine's Day. In Indonesia this year, protesters took to the streets with signs reading, "Valentine, Infidel Culture" and, "Are you Muslim? Don't follow Valentine Day." As we noted last year, countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, and Uzbekistan don't feel the love this time of year either. And hey, at least Pakistan didn't mark the holiday by banning the color red.
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images
So far, Pakistan hasn't been mentioned once at the Republican or Democratic conventions. But what was lost in all the talk last week about Mitt Romney not mentioning Afghanistan in Tampa was the fact that, only days earlier, a campaign advisor had made an interesting case for why the Republican presidential candidate would improve U.S.-Pakistani relations.
After expressing concern about extremism in Pakistan and the security of the country's nuclear weapons, Mitchell Reiss, a former head of policy planning at the State Department, told foreign journalists that a Romney administration would treat Pakistan with a "little bit more respect," according to a Press Trust of India report. In return, Reiss explained, the United States would expect "more cooperation" from Islamabad on Afghanistan.
That posture is a departure from the aggressive rhetoric we heard from some Republican candidates in the primary, when Pakistan was mentioned more than 80 times during a pair of debates in South Carolina and Washington, D.C. Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, you may recall, called for the United States to zero out foreign aid to Pakistan and predicate future assistance on Pakistani cooperation. "[Y]ou tell the Pakistanis, 'help us or get out of the way, but don't complain if we kill people you're not willing to go after on your territory where you have been protecting them,'" Gingrich asserted.
At the time, Romney staked out a middle ground on Pakistan. Expressing support for drone strikes (he said the Pakistanis were "comfortable" with the practice), Romney noted that Pakistan was "close to being a failed state" and had several competing power centers. "We have to work with our friends in that country to get them to do some of the things we can't do ourselves," he explained.
This year's Republican platform reflects that sentiment. Sure, the document urges the Pakistani government to "sever any connection between its security and intelligence forces and the insurgents." And it appears to denounce the sentencing of a Pakistani doctor for helping the United States track down Osama bin Laden, declaring that "no Pakistani citizen should be punished for helping the United States against the terrorists." But, crucially, the manifesto adds:
The working relationship between our two countries is a necessary, though sometimes difficult, benefit to both, and we look toward the renewal of historic ties that have frayed under the weight of international conflict.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, who called for a "new partnership" with Islamabad in their 2008 platform, focus on Obama's commitment to hunting down terrorists in Pakistan in this year's edition. The document does state that Islamabad can "be a partner" in establishing peace in South Asia and that the United States will "respect Pakistan's sovereignty and democratic institutions." But there's no mention of restoring U.S.-Pakistani relations, which have deteriorated over the past four years because of the bin Laden raid, the Obama's administration's embrace of airstrikes against militants, and, most recently, the U.S. debate about whether to designate the Pakistan-based Haqqani network a terrorist organization.
Why is the GOP advocating a reset, if you will, of U.S.-Pakistani relations? For one thing, the stance plays into Romney's larger argument that the Obama administration has alienated America's allies and emboldened its enemies. The Romney campaign can also fend off charges that the governor hasn't distinguished his Afghan policy from Obama's by pointing to Pakistan. As Romney's campaign website explains:
We will only persuade Afghanistan and Pakistan to be resolute if they are convinced that the United States will itself be resolute. Only an America that appears fully committed to success will eliminate the incentives for them to hedge their bets by aligning with opposing forces.
As for whether the GOP position is a popular one, that's more difficult to discern. Americans overwhelmingly support drone strikes against terrorists, but they're not sure how to feel about Pakistan. Few view the country as a grave threat to the United States, but a Rasmussen poll last year found that 62 percent of likely voters see Pakistan as something in between an ally and an enemy. Sixty-five percent, meanwhile, support cutting off all military and financial aid to Islamabad.
Given those numbers, perhaps treating Pakistan with just a "little bit more respect" is about all the Republicans can get away with.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
U.S. and Pakistani officials signed a memorandum of understanding today, finally reopening supply routes to Afghanistan after a seven month blockade. In a statement to the press, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mozzam Ahmed Khan assured that public that the decision to restore supply lines was made "without any financial benefit."
That may be true for Pakistan, but not everyone is coming out of this empty-handed. The Associated Press reports:
"Stopping these supplies caused us real trouble," a Taliban commander who leads about 60 insurgents in eastern Ghazni province told The Associated Press in an interview. "Earnings dropped down pretty badly. Therefore the rebellion was not as strong as we had planned."
A second Taliban commander who controls several dozen fighters in southern Kandahar province said the money from security companies was a key source of financing for the insurgency, which uses it to pay fighters and buy weapons, ammunition and other supplies.
"We are able to make money in bundles," the commander told the AP by telephone. "Therefore, the NATO supply is very important for us."
The U.S. military estimates that theft, bribery and mismanagement put $360 million in the hands of the Taliban, regional war lords and criminals in 2010 alone -- with more than half that amount pinched from convoys along the supply routes.
Citing evidence "rang[ing] from sobering to shocking," a 2010 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report titled Warlord, Inc illustrated the extent of extortion and corruption along the Afghanistan supply routes and called for increased efforts to cut losses. Efforts to protect supply routes and diminish the influence of local power brokers have gained little traction and convoys remain a target for attack and theft.
Though today's MOU banned the transport of arms and ammunition, the Taliban's glee remains unabated. "We have had to wait these past seven months for the supply lines to reopen and our income to start again," cheered one commander, "Now work is back to normal."
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
She's young, stylish, sharp and pretty, and Indians are falling for her. Yep, it seems that Pakistan's new 34-year-old foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has accomplished what years of tense diplomacy haven't been able to -- create some genuine goodwill between the two constantly sparring nations. In her first official visit today to India since taking over the foreign ministry last week, Khar met with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna. The two agreed to boost security, trade, transportation, travel, and cultural links between the countries -- in what analysts called some of the most productive talks between the two sides since Pakistani militants killed 166 people in Mumbai three years ago. But it's her youth and glamour that are credited with creating a "fresh start atmosphere." She later met with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
But who really cares what happened behind closed doors. More importantly: she got high marks for wearing Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, classic pearl and diamond jewelry, a blue designer dress, and toting an Hermes Birkin bag. And thus ladies and gentleman, a glamour icon is born. We give it three months before Vogue comes calling... wait, maybe two.
Indian papers and news programs today gushed over Khar, praising her beauty and style. The Times of India headlined their front page story: "Pak Puts On Its Best Face." The Navbharat Times said the country was "sweating over model-like minister." The Mail Today said she had brought a "Glam touch to Indo-Pak talks" and asked, "Who says politicians can't be chic?" These are not the usual superlatives Pakistani diplomats are used to getting in the Indian press.
Of course, not everything was picture perfect. The Indian press did attack her for meeting with a Kashmiri separatist group later in the day.
But overall, it was hard not to sense the generational shift as Khar spoke about "a new generation of Indians and Pakistanis [who] will see a relationship that will hopefully be much different from the one that has been experienced in the last two decades" after meeting with the Indian foreign minister who -- through no fault of his own, save for his misfortune of being born 79 years ago -- did totally look like her grandfather.
As Seema Goswami, a leading Indian social commentator, put it, "She's incredibly young pretty, glamorous and has no fear of appearing flash. She wore pearls when she arrived and diamonds for the talks. We're so obsessed with her designer bag and clothes that we forget she first held talks with the Hurriyat [Kashmiri separatists]. She could be Pakistan's new weapon of mass destruction."
AFP/ Getty Images
The May 2nd Navy Seal raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad led to a crisis in relations between the United States and Pakistan that is still being felt. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in Islamabad now, is the latest high level envoy sent to try to mend fences. Officials say he is on a mission to "bridge the trust gap and repair ties" with his Pakistani counterparts in the intelligence world. But, as part of its fence-mending initiative, did the United States really promise Pakistan's government they wouldn't take a similar unilateral action again in the future?
That's what Pakistan's prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, is claiming in an interview today with the Guardian.
"They have assured us in future there will be no unilateral actions in Pakistan, and there would be co-operation between both agencies," he said, identifying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as personally pledging that to him.
Pakistan's President made a similar -- though less explicit -- statement after he met with Secretary Clinton back in May. He said, both sides agreed to "work together in any future actions against high-value targets in Pakistan."
No similar statements have come from the American side, however. In fact, public comments from Clinton and others would seem to contradict Pakistan's understanding. After the raid, Clinton told CBS News, "We've made it clear to people around the world that if we locate someone who has been part of the al Qaeda leadership, then you get him or we will get him."
President Obama has also said, given similar circumstances, the United States would act the same way.
"Our job is to secure the United States," he told the BBC in May. "We are very respectful of the sovereignty of Pakistan. But we cannot allow someone who is actively planning to kill our people or our allies' people."
In his interview with the Guardian, Gilani said the United States could have trusted Pakistan's intelligence service to help in May's raid, but since that didn't happen, the country "had a lot of reservations" about the operation.
He told the Guardian any future operation in its territory would be "totally unacceptable."
Public opinion would further aggravate against the United States and you cannot fight a war without the support of the masses. You need the masses to support military actions against militants.
Perhaps as a sign of the fraying relationship, last night Gilani told an audience of British and Pakistani business leaders in London that China -- not the United States -- was his country's most important foreign relationship.
"China is a rising power and Pakistan's all-weather friend. This is a relationship that has no parallel. Uniquely, there are no downs but only ups in Pakistan-China relations. China is a source of pride and strength for us," the prime minister said.
You can't even blame this one on Murdoch (we think). The Taliban denied today reports that its leader, Mullah Omar, had died. Spokesmen for the group said their mobile phones, email accounts, and a website they operated had been hacked into, and false messages were sent to media outlets.
Text messages sent from phone numbers belonging to Taliban spokespeople said, "Spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid has died" and "May Allah bless his soul."
The Taliban in recent years has expanded its media presence with websites, mobile phone ring tones and social media accounts. The group updates its websites frequently and sends messages to media outlets in several languages publicizing their attacks, according to Reuters.
"This is the work of American intelligence, and we will take revenge on the telephone network providers," a Taliban spokesman told Reuters.
A statement said that the "technical workers of the Islamic Emirate's Information and Cultural Commission" were looking into the matter. Yes, apparently the Taliban has an IT department.
The group also said there would be an investigation into the hacking. Hopefully, they will do a better job than Scotland Yard.
As defense analysts focus on escalating tensions in the South China Sea, recent events in Nepal confirm that China's geopolitical influence is growing in South Asia as well. From a report yesterday by the AP:
Nepalese authorities prevented exiled Tibetans from celebrating their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama's birthday on Wednesday over concerns that gatherings would turn anti-Chinese.…
Nepal says it cannot allow protests on its soil against any friendly nations, including China.
Police guarded the Chinese Embassy and its visa office in Katmandu against any protests, and areas populated by Tibetans were put under heavy security.
Authorities earlier said they would allow celebrations inside monasteries provided there are no banners or slogans against China.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Newt to Obama: ‘Tide of war' isn't receding
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked President Barack Obama's assertion in his June 22 speech announcing the troop drawdown in Afghanistan that the "tide of war is receding." He said the country is facing a "tsunami of violence building offshore," according to Politico.
"I want to challenge the president to withdraw the phrase because it totally misleads the American people, and presents a delusional version of the world," he said at a Maryland Republican Party dinner in Baltimore.
Gingrich said the White House should have taken stronger action against Pakistan after it reportedly arrested CIA informants who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden.
"We should have taken extraordinary actions against Pakistanis -- within 24 hours," Gingrich told the crowd. "We should have said if you don't release those people you can assume we have no relationship and we'll chat with you from India."
He also accused the president of "sleepwalking" through the threat of a nuclear Iran.
Romney to fundraise in London
One of Mitt Romney's favorite knocks on Obama is that he is too European. In the words of the GOP frontrunner, the president takes "his inspiration not from the small towns and villages of New Hampshire but from the capitals of Europe." So, it might strike some people as a little surprising that Romney is planning to travel to London next month -- which, after all, is one of those "capitals of Europe" -- to attend a fund-raiser, according to the Boston Globe. Very few presidential candidates have held fundraisers on foreign soil. Rudy Giuliani was the first in 2007 -- also in London -- and Obama held one in the London home of Rupert Murdoch's daughter, Elizabeth, in 2008.
According to the Globe, suggested contributions for the July 6 party at Dartmouth House -- "a building not far from Hyde Park that has marble fireplaces, Louis XIV walnut paneling, and a painted ceiling by Pierre Victor Galland" -- is $2,500 a person.
Santorum and Beck discuss Israel
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was on Glenn Beck's Fox News show yesterday, and the pair discussed more than just kissing "on the mouth" -- though they did discuss that too.
Israel -- and specifically efforts to delegitimize Israel -- came up. Santorum said the United States should not force Israel to take part in negotiations since the "Palestinian Authority [and] others in the Middle East refuse to accept Israel's right to be there."
"Do you think America has enough courage to turn the tide on Israel," Beck asked the presidential candidate."
"If we had a strong leader who had the respect of the world," Santorum said. "We see now...a president backing away, who is an internationalist, someone who sees his role as almost transcending the presidency...and sees his role as to work with the international community to their ends. Not to the ends of the national security interest of our country. Not to the end of supporting allies who are strategic for us. But to the ends of some greater goal."
Whenever the two get together, the Middle East seems to come up. In April, they agreed that there is a coalition of "Sunni, Shia, socialists, and Islamists and jihadists working together [to form] a caliphate," Santorum said. Beck said the caliphate "begins with Turkey, Egypt and Iran."
The New York Times is reporting today that a cell phone recovered from Osama bin Laden's safe house "contained contacts" to the militant group Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen (HUM), which has longstanding ties to Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The implication is the spy agency, or elements of it, may have had a hand in sheltering bin Laden.
While the revelation about the cell-phone contacts are interesting, there's nothing new about the group's longtime connection to bin Laden's terror network.
The links go all the way back to the founding of al Qaeda. Fazlur Khalil, one of HUM's leaders, even signed bin Laden's fatwa in 1998 calling for attacks on the United States and U.S. citizens around the world as part as the "World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders." And when the United States launched retaliatory airstrikes against al Qaeda after the embassy bombings in East Africa that same year, some of those missiles struck a HUM training camp in Afghanistan, killing 11 of its militants. At the time, the Clinton administration said the camps were "part of a terrorist network run by Osama bin Laden," according to a Times story from 1998.
According to Robert Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Islamabad, it's not clear if HUM and al Qaeda "shared camps on an organizational level," but there were definitely personal links forged at HUM camps between fighters of both groups.
The State Department put the group on its list of foreign terrorists after the 9/11 attacks (its precursor group, which went by a different name, had been placed on the list in 1997).
WikiLeaks offers more evidence of a connection. In one leaked threat assessment document about a detainee at Guantánamo with ties to HUM, an "analyst note" says: "Kamran Atif, a terrorist who was recently arrested by the Pakistani Crime Investigation Department (CID) Police revealed that [HUM] has links with Al-Qaida and that [HUM] and AQ are ‘in complete contact with each other.'"
In a threat assessment for another detainee with ties to both groups, HUM is described as "a Pakistani extremist group known to help al Qaeda members escape from Afghanistan."
HUM is also tied to the 2002 kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was killed in Pakistan, reportedly by al Qaeda's 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. According to a report released this year on the kidnapping from the Center for Public Integrity and Georgetown University, the mastermind of the operation, Omar Sheikh, had ties to HUM, among other militant groups in Pakistan.
Also, Pearl's remains were found in a shed owned by Saud Memon, reportedly HUM's chief financial backer who was later killed, according to the Associated Press.
The Times article says that Khalil, HUM's leader is living "unbothered by Pakistani authorities on the outskirts of Islamabad."
When the Associated Press called Khalil on his cell phone last month, he said that reports that he was in touch with bin Laden in Abottabad were "100 percent wrong, it's rubbish."
A just-released Pew poll holds some grim news about the Pakistani public's views toward the United States. For starters, almost two-thirds of Pakistanis don't approve of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And only 12 percent had a positive view of the United States in general; while 8 percent viewed President Obama favorably -- numbers that put him in the same class as former President George W. Bush.
Some key numbers from the poll, according to Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.
Bin Laden Raid
63 percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the operation
10 percent approve of it
27 percent don't have an opinion
18 percent believe the Pakistani government knew bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.
53 percent had no opinion.
12 percent have a favorable view of America
73 percent have an unfavorable view
8 percent have confidence in Obama
68 percent don't have confidence in him
In 2008, when the same question was asked about Bush, 7 percent expressed confidence.
12 percent have a favorable view of al Qaeda
55 percent have an unfavorable view
33 percent don't know
In 2008, those numbers were:
25 percent favorable
34 percent unfavorable
41 percent don't know
12 percent favorable
63 percent unfavorable
24 percent don't know
But that displeasure doesn't translate into support for government action against the groups.
37 percent support using the Pakistani army to fight extremists in the country's restive regions -- a figure that is 16 percentage points lower than two years ago, according to Pew.
26 percent oppose using the Pakistani army to fight extremists.
38 percent didn't give an opinion.
Military and political leaders
By and large, the Pakistani military remains the most popular institution in the country.
79 percent say the military is having a good influence on the country.
76 percent feel that way about the media
60 percent feel that way about religious leaders
41 percent -- the court system
26 percent -- the police
14 percent -- for President Asif Ali Zardari
View the full survey here.
Pakistan rounded up five informants who provided information to the C.I.A. that helped lead to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, according to the New York Times. The arrests, which reportedly include a Pakistani Army major who copied the license plates of cars visiting the compound, highlight once again how strained the relationship is between Washington and Islamabad. As Pakistan's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI) was able to uncover and arrest the alleged C.I.A. informants very soon after the killing, one might wonder what they could do if they put as much energy into locating some of the world's other most wanted people believed to be hiding out in the country.
Here are a few bad guys who remain at large.
The man believed to be behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008 is a shadowy figure with ties to militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and reportedly to the ISI, though they deny it. He directed the Mumbai operation as it was happening and can be heard on recorded phone conversations instructing the terrorists on the ground where to go, whom to kill, and when to go out in a storm of bullets. He also recruited the American David Headley to act as a scout for the group.
Bin Laden's longtime deputy, the Egyptian-born doctor is one of America's prime targets in Pakistan. Since bin Laden's death, the United States has upped the pressure on the Pakistani government, military and ISI to provide more information on his whereabouts, according to reports.
The current leader of the powerful Haqqani network sends weapons, recruits, and supplies to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The group is closely allied to the Taliban. Some analysts say it works as a proxy force used by the ISI, elements of which are accused of providing financial and operational support for their attacks in Afghanistan.
Perhaps the most mysterious fugitive in Pakistan, Iqbal is an officer in the ISI who helped plan the 2008 Mumbai attacks, according to testimony from David Headley, who claimed that he provided money and helped choose targets. He's named as Headley's ISI handler in a Justice Department indictment. But very little is known about him--including his real identity and how high up in the ISI he was.
In 2009, Forbes Magazine named. Ibrahim the 50th most powerful person in the world. The head of the Mumbai-based crime syndicate D-Company, he is also India's most wanted man, believed to be involved in everything from drug and weapons trafficking to terrorism (he's suspected of organizing attacks in Bombay in 1993 that killed 257 people and the U.S. says he has links to al Qaeda). He's reportedly hiding out in Pakistan, using plastic surgery to help avoid detection--as well as his connections in the ISI.
It's been a tough couple of weeks for al Qaeda. Since the successful Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the terror network has suffered additional losses that analysts say are taking a heavy toll on the group.
Ilyas Kashmiri, al Qaeda's operational leader in Pakistan, was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike earlier this month (though al Qaeda hasn't confirmed his death, reports of which have been incorrect before). And last week, an al Qaeda leader in East Africa -- Fazul Abdullah Mohammed -- was killed by Somali forces in Mogadishu. Mohammed was the most wanted man in Africa.
Analysts and U.S. officials say the deaths have created a power vacuum.
"The organization is in a great deal of turmoil," a U.S. counterterrorism official told Foreign Policy. "It's trying to sort itself out with what's going on."
Bruce Hoffman, director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, said Kashmiri and Mohammed were key operational figures, not easily replaced due to their long pedigrees of planning and executing attacks.
"They are especially important because they would have been looked on to plan and implement any acts of retribution [for bin Laden's death] from al Qaeda," he said. "Their killings knock them seriously off balance."
Of course, al Qaeda is well-known for its ability to replenish its ranks. Analysts like Hoffman and Evan Kohlmann, who has consulted with the U.S. government, see a few key names potentially emerging to fill the void.
1. Saif al-Adel
Born in Egypt in 1960 or 1963, according to the FBI. Currently believed to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal region.
Al-Adel was reportedly named the interim chief of Al Qaeda after bin Laden's death. After the 9/11 attacks, he fled to Iran, where he was eventually put under house arrest. In 2008, Iran swapped him for a diplomat taken captive by al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Signature attacks: Has played a hand in many al Qaeda attacks, allegedly dispatching Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, to meet Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; and aiding the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa.
Getty Images, AFP/Getty Images
Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, was gunned down by one of his bodyguards today in a crowded marketplace -- the highest-profile killing in Pakistan since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the latest blow to the country's beleaguered civilian government. Pakistan's interior minister has suggested that Taseer's killing was related to his support of repealing the country's controversial blasphemy law, which earned him the ire of Pakistan's religious parties.
Nevertheless, you'd think that those who supported Taseer's assassination would be relegated to the lunatic fringe -- or at least be reticent about shouting their praise for the act from the rooftops. Not so. Admirers of the gunman, Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, have set up a Facebook page to commemorate the killer. In a few short hours, the page has been flooded with hundreds of posts by supporters lionizing their newfound hero.
"May Allah protect Malik Mumtaz; he has indeed made us very proud as Muslims," reads one representative post written by Kamran Qureshi who, if his Facebook information is to be believed, resides in Lahore. Sounds like the Pakistani security services just got the names of a number of individuals with whom they might want to have a conversation.
A front-page story in Pakistan's The News today reports that new WikiLeaks cables have confirmed what reads like a laundry list of Pakistani suspicions and grievances against India:
A cable from US Embassy in Islamabad leaked by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks disclosed that there were enough evidences of Indian involvement in Waziristan and other tribal areas of Pakistan as well as Balochistan.[...]
An earlier cable ruled out any direct or indirect involvement of ISI in 26/11 under Pasha's command while Mumbai's dossier, based on prime accused Ajmal Kasab's confessional statement was termed funny and "shockingly immature."
WikiLeaks revealed that a cable sent from a US mission in India termed former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor as an incompetent combat leader and rather a geek.
His war doctrine, suggesting eliminating China and Pakistan in a simultaneous war front was termed as "much far from reality." Another cable indicates that General Kapoor was dubbed as a general who was least bothered about security challenges to the country but was more concerned about making personal assets and strengthening his own cult in the army. The cable also suggested that a tug-of-war between Kapoor and the current Indian Army chief had divided the Indian Army into two groups. [...]
An earlier cable described Indian Army involved in gross human rights violations in Indian-held Kashmir while some Lt Gen HS Panag, the then GOC-in-Chief of the Northern Command of the Indian Army, was equated with General Milosevic of Bosnia with regard to butchering Muslims through war crimes.
The only problem is that none of these cables appear to be real. The Guardian, which has full access to the unreleased WikiLeaks cables, can't find any of them. The story, which ran in four Pakistani newspapers, isn't bylined and was credited only to Online Agency, an Islamabad-based pro-army news service.
It's actually surprising this hasn't happened yet. The vast majority of the cables are still unreleased, but the newspapers which have access to them have often reported on some of the more salacious details before the original cables are actually available. (Take for instance, the famous "Batman and Robin" description of Putin and Medvedev, which appeared in newspapers days before the actual cable was available).
So, it's pretty easy to just make up cables to serve your political agenda. If the Pakistani forgers had been more sophisticated they would have invented quotes or even mocked up fake cables rather than just paraphrasing. This, in my opinion, is an argument for just releasing the full archive now rather than trickling them out at the newspapers' pace. It will be a lot easier to fact check false claims if we no longer have to rely on the Guardian as WikiLeaks' gatekeeper.
On another note, while the Pakistani revelations seem cartoonish, it wouldn't be surprising if some damaging cables from New Delhi are coming soon. In working to improve the political and economic relationship with India, both the Bush and Obama administrations have papered over a number of unpleasant facts, from India's tacit support to the Burmese military junta to still rampant governmental corruption. I'm guessing the embassy staff in New Delhi has probably been a lot blunter.
The WikiLeaks revelations about Pakistan mostly just confirmed how both governments not-so-privately already feel about each other. In the case of U.S.-India relations, there's a lot more to lose.
FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images
Of all the many foolish, self-defeating, and downright stupid U.S. policies -- from the Cuba embargo to agricultural subsidies to the prohibition on talking to Iranian diplomats -- tariffs on Pakistani textiles probably rank among the dumbest.
That's the conclusion I drew from the Council on Foreign Relations' thoughtful new report on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was just released this morning.
The 112-page report, whose lead author was the council's Daniel Markey, a former top State Department official for South Asia, offers a mild-mannered, but unmistakable rebuke to the recent optimistic rumblings coming from U.S. military leaders in Afghanistan.
The bipartisan task force behind the report -- headed by former State Department No. 2 Richard Armitage and Clinton-era national security advisor Sandy Berger -- lends "conditional" support to the Obama administration's current strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but recommends the U.S. downgrade its presence in Afghanistan if Obama's upcoming policy review finds that the current approach is failing. (Note: a number of task force members dissented from that conclusion.)
"We are mindful of the real threat we face," the report reads. "But we are also aware of the costs of the present strategy. We cannot accept these costs unless the strategy begins to show real signs of progress."
The group makes a number of other recommendations -- including a vague call for the U.S. to do something about Lashkar-e-Taiba -- but to me, the textile tariffs stand out.
"The textile sector industry accounts for 38 percent of Pakistan's industrial employment, this agreement could provide employment opportunities for millions of young Pakistanis, discouraging them from paths leading to militancy," the report argues.
Given that additional aid to help Pakistan recover from the horrific floods that devastated the country this summer will probably be a tough sell on Capitol Hill, and the likelihood that China and other low-cost producers, not the remnants of the U.S. textile industry, would probably be hurt by lifting the tariffs, this strikes me as a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, as the Wall Street Journal reported in August that there's little appetite in Washington (or Brussels) to help the struggling Pakistani textile industry, which is getting creamed by Chinese competition.
The link between unemployment and militancy is controversial, but it doesn't get any more direct than in Faisalabad, the hard-scrabble town that was home to one of the Mumbai attackers:
The textile crisis has hit Faisalabad-a grimy city of three million named in the 1970s for the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia-harder than anywhere in Pakistan. Scores of factories have closed recently here, in the heartland of Punjab province's textile industry.
Umer Apparel Ltd., a Faisalabad company that exports $15 million in goods to the U.S. annually, including brands like American Eagle and Aeropostale, has laid off almost a fifth of its work force of 1,500 and is running at only three-quarters of capacity, says its chief executive, Rana Hassan Sajjad.
Faisalabad officials are concerned about links between unemployment and a wave of Islamic extremism in the city. A number of suicide bombings by the Pakistan Taliban on government and civilian targets in Pakistan this year, including many in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, have been planned from Faisalabad, city police say."There's a valid link between joblessness and militancy," says Tahir Hussain, the chief federal government official in Faisalabad. "Wherever the militants are getting manpower, that's where the joblessness is."
About half a million Pakistani textile workers have lost their jobs, mainly due to Chinese competition, according to the Pakistani government. The United States charges a 17 percent tariff on Pakistani-made cotton shirts and pants -- lifting it entirely would net Pakistan as much as $4 billion a year, the government estimates. (Compare that to the paltry $150 million the U.S. offered after the floods, or the $7.5 billion Kerry-Lugar aid bill, which is spread over five years.)
Getting rid of the tariffs would not be without its complications. India would likely protest the move as unfair preferential treatment toward Pakistan, as would China. That isn't the real problem, though: U.S. textile producers would fiercely lobby Congress against the move, though American garment manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would mildly support it. And with a number of existing trade deals looking dead in the water, it's not clear such legislation would go anywhere.
Last year's experience is instructive: Congress tried to pass a bill establishing special trading zones in Pakistan to get around the tariffs, but Senate Republicans spiked it in a dispute over the law's labor provisions. In any case, as the New York Times noted in an editorial back in August, "The trade legislation that finally emerged from the House last year was so hemmed in with protectionist limits that it was almost worthless."
I hope this new report changes some minds, but betting on Congress to do the smart thing is never a good investment strategy.
Violence has engulfed Karachi since Oct. 16, with close to 90 dead across the city. An Oct. 17 special election to replace assassinated Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) legislator Raza Haider boiled over long-held tensions between the MQM and the Awami National Party (ANP). Haider was shot dead at the Jamia Mosque in Nazimabad, a suburb of Karachi, on Aug. 2.
Street violence is nothing new to Karachi; the army was forced to restore order in the 90's, and clashes have oft-occurred in the last few years. After Haider's death, MQM leaders insinuated that the ANP was responsible, sparking street clashes which left dozens dead. (The MQM and ANP, along with the Pakistan People's Party [PPP], rule Sindh province in a coalition government; on the national level, the PPP and the MQM rule together.) The MQM retained the seat as the ANP boycotted the poll.
While affairs in Pakistan's northwest grab the Western headlines, the street battles in Karachi are more important to the Pakistani state. The MQM-ANP violence is not merely political, but carries ethnic undertones. The MQM is largely composed of muhajirs, Urdu-speakers who fled India during the 1947 partition, while the ANP is backed by Pashtuns. Karachi has long been overwhelmingly muhajir, and politically dominated by the MQM, but Pashtuns -- including Afghan refugees and internally displaced Pakistanis, as well as economic migrants -- have entered the city in increasing numbers over the last three decades. Apparently, familiarity does breed contempt in Pakistan's most important city.
Karachi has been spared the widespread suicide bombings that have hit cities like Peshawar and Lahore, but the MQM has blamed increasing levels of violence on Pashtun migrants, alleging that they've both brought Taliban elements with them and are not doing enough to prevent the "Talibanization" of Karachi. The ANP, not suprisingly, disputes this. (For an example of MQM feelings towards the ANP, read this press release on the recent violence from its head, Altaf Hussain -- the ethnic code isn't very subtle.)
So while the attention paid by the U.S. military, politicians, and media to Pakistan focuses almost solely on the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), it is ethnic conflict, not militant Islam, that is a bigger danger to the stability of the Pakistani state. For now, the killings are alleged to be targeted -- though this round-up from Dawn seems to point to randomized violence as well. Karachi was entirely shut down Wednesday, and Pakistan can ill afford a situation in which its most vital economic hub is cut off.
The Pakistani military seems to have come to the conclusion that if they can keep the Afghan Taliban onsides by neglecting to crack down, they're willing to pay the cost of whatever the Pakistani Taliban -- at the moment, outside their nominal control -- dishes out. But the ethnic conflict exploding on the streets of Karachi this week may turn out to be the far more serious threat.
Dear Pakistani military officers Maj. Ali Sameer and Maj. Iqbal: You may want to delay that long-planned vacation to London. You see, Interpol has just issued warrants for your arrest over your alleged roles in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Interpol's action will further affirm many analysts' suspicion that the Pakistani military played a crucial role in planning the deadly attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 175 people. But to be clear, this isn't proof positive that the two Pakistani officers were involved: Interpol issued what is known as a red warrant, which calls for the "provisional arrest" of an individual based on another country's investigation.
In this case, a New Delhi court is calling for their arrest based on evidence Indian investigators gathered from their inquiry into the network of David Coleman Headley, a U.S. citizen who pleaded guilty to involvement in the attacks in March. The Indians are claiming that Maj. Iqbal was Headley's Pakistani handler when he traveled to India to scout out potential targets for a terrorist attack. This may or may not be true, but the arrest warrants are not based on anything other than the allegations of Indian investigators, which have long suspected Pakistan of complicity in the attacks.
With those caveats firmly in place, there does appear to be some agreement from the United States that Pakistani officers played a role in the attacks. As FP contributor Simon Henderson recently pointed out, the sole footnote in Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars noted that the CIA received "reliable intelligence" that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, the country's main spy agency, were involved in training the militants who went on to wreak havoc in Mumbai.
LORENZO TUGNOLI/AFP/Getty Images
Nearly across the board, the president's initiatives are going down in flames. Nowhere is this more true than in Pakistan where, Jane Perlez reported Wednesday, the civilian government in which the U.S. has invested billions is perilously close to collapse -- if not facing a military coup.
Now comes word that Pakistan is cutting off NATO's supply lines into Afghanistan in retaliation for U.S. helicopter strikes in Pakistani territory -- strikes made necessary because the Pakistani military can't, or won't, crack down on militants unless they threaten the Pakistani state directly.
As for the war in Afghanistan, it's going very badly.
Further east, the United States seems headed for a disastrous currency war with China, although Beijing's recent diplomatic blunders have sent Asian countries running into Uncle Sam's loving arms.
To the west, Iraq still has yet to form a government after seven months of post-election deadlock, and attacks on the Green Zone are metastasizing in a frightening way.
One rare bright spot is Russia where, despite the complaints of Cold Warriors and human rights campaigners, relations are at their highest point since the Yeltsin era. But much of the good work Obama's team has done could easily unravel, especially if the Senate deep-sixes the new nuke treaty.
As for Iran, it's a mixed bag. Obama has kept Europe on board with tough sanctions, and brought along a few other players. But China is likely to undercut those efforts and relieve the economic pressure, leaving the United States and Israel with few options for stopping Iran's nuclear drive. Meanwhile, the drums of war are beginning to beat in Congress.
Of course, if Obama really wants to make a hash of the world, I can think of no better way than to start launch airstrikes on Iran. But I doubt he's going to do that.
Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images
The Hindustan Times reports that Pakistan's ambassador to the United States thinks that Indian military activity in the Himalayas may have contributed to his country's recent catastrophic floods:
In an unusual remark, Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington Hussain Haqqani has said that one of the reasons for recent devastating floods in his country could be human activity on the heavily-militarised Siachen glacier. Haqqani told the American lawmakers that snowmelt pattern on the glacier was changing over the past few years, because of intense military activities and scientists in his country were studying whether this was adding to warming factor leading to bizarre climatic changes. Besides, the activity on the glacier, Haqqani said other contributing reasons for unprecedented rains in his country could be greenhouse gas emissions.
I would imagine that the troops on Siachen are probably a drop in the bucket of the larger climate factors causing the floods, but Haqqani is probably right to worry about a connection between climate change and his country's security.
Update: Haqqani has responded to FP, saying the remark was taken out of context:
"The Hindustan Times picked on half a sentence in a detailed briefing that focused on the possible relationship between climate disruption and Pakistan's floods. I referred to militarization of the Siachen Glacier only in response to a question about glacier melting and only in the context of the possible connection between human activity and enhanced glacier melting."
ANNIRUDHA MOOKERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
Thousands of politicians all over the world are now on Twitter, and not all are using the social networking tool wisely. Take Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, a businessman who owns the Daily Times newspaper and is said to have been close to Benazir Bhutto, the late prime minister.
On Saturday, he tweeted this ill-conceived joke:
"One of first politicians to condemn mad Florida pastor Terry Jones was Sara Palin who said 'it was inhuman to burn a Korean'! God bless USA"
Apparently not everyone got it, because he later tweeted:
"I'm amazed that the simplistic pathetic remarks to my JOKE that Sarah Palin can't tell difference between a KOREAN and QORAN! Humour?"
He followed up that tweet with this winner:
"My farms rice crop has never been better because of the rains.Almost ready now ,huge robust grain practically no canal water was required"
A bit insensitive, perhaps, given how the vast swaths of the country have been inundated by catastrophic flooding, not to mention the inherently sensitive politics of land ownership in Pakistan? No matter. When criticized by journalist Dean Nelson (@delhidean) of the Daily Telegraph, who asked, "will you give ur crop to farmers whose land was flooded by Sindh landowners?," Taseer tweeted resignedly: "These r retards i have 2 deal wth."
Amid last week's carnage in Lahore and Quetta, Pakistan is saying they've cleared Orakzai Agency of militants. They said the same thing barely three months ago (see here for more on June's "victory"). On Friday, militants blew up a girls school in Swat, seven months after announcing the district was "mostly clear", and a year after the army announced it had swept the district clean of Taliban.
Perhaps it's time to invent a term for the amount of time between a Pakistani declaration of victory over the Taliban in a district/province/city, etc., and when the Taliban reappear in the "cleaned" area. How about a "Kayani Unit"?
A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images
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