Another Khan in the making?

Posted by FS On Monday, 31 December 2012 0 comments

Politics in Pakistan is changing. New faces have come up, fresh ideas have emerged and on the whole, the nation is witnessing greater political awareness amongst the masses. Grassroots’ initiatives to actively participate in facilitating better living conditions and equality are spreading like wildfire. Last week, Tahir ul-Qadri returned to the political stage and in one swift move, condemned the current political structure and threatened consequences if issues were not rectified. 
On the face of it Qadri’s call for electoral reforms and purging the system from corrupt officials is something that all political parties and leaders have been advocating for. In many ways, this revived Imran Khan’s tsunami, the lasting effects of which were dwindling rapidly. But as the elections draw nearer, all parties are singing the same tune of democracy and human rights.
It was actually Qadri’s demands and their unclear, by many accounts even unrealistic, ways of implementation which have perturbed politicians and the masses. In his mission of saving the state, he gave the government a deadline of 2 weeks to introduce electoral reforms and set up a caretaker government composed of moral people with the consensus of all “stakeholders”.
First things first; why did Qadri pick this time, a mere few months away from the elections, to demand reforms? Especially when positive advancements had been made in deciding a Chief Election Commissioner, catching discrepancies in voter lists and reaffirming voters indicating the desire of political parties to hold free and fair elections. Qadri insisted that reforms be introduced prior to holding elections, in the presence of a caretaker government, even if this process takes longer than 90 days. Calling for reforms at the possible expense of delaying a democratic process seemed contradictory. Qadri, however, offered Article 254 as a justification for his demand. After all, a small sacrifice for the greater good is acceptable isn’t it?
The second worrisome factor in Qadri’s suggestions for improvement was involving all stakeholders in designing a caretaker government. However, it is unclear how far he wants the judiciary and more importantly the military involved in the electoral process. Rumors about Qadri’s hidden hark to a coup surfaced. In the past, military coups were in fact done to save the riyasat (state) by sidelining siyasat (politics), ironically the slogan for Qadri’s campaign. In a televised interview, following his rally, Qadri chose to clarify the inclusion of the military and judiciary as facilitators not drivers of electoral reforms. He also wanted all parties to be a part of this democratic process not just the PPP and PML-N deciding the fate of 18 million people.
What is more interesting is how political parties have reacted to the allegations and suggestions put forward by Qadri. PPP leaders challenged the moral compass upheld by Qadri. PML-N, the leading opposition party, saw Qadri as part of a larger conspiracy against their party. MQM curiously showed massive support for Qadri and even sent its senior representatives to attend his Minar-e-Pakistan rally. They have also agreed to participate in the Jan 14th long march to Islamabad. Odd how MQM supported Qadri’s anti-feudal system when in fact they are coalition partners with the largest feudal family of Pakistan. Analysts feel that MQM is less likely to turn their backs on PPP and supporting Qadri is just meant to gain some supporters in Punjab. Qadri was at best related to Imran Khan whose campaign’s crux was also transparency. Although there are some overlaps between the visions of the two leaders, PTI has chosen to assert its individuality and refusal to formulate alliances.
Political forces are suspicious of an upcoming announcement of Qadri’s plan for contesting elections. Qadri for his part has clearly denied any such intentions. So if he doesn’t plan to enter the electoral ring and political parties have kept him at an arm’s length, then what is Qadri planning to do? In Pakistan, sadly, public servants do not work only for the purpose of serving people; there is always some sort of return that they hope to gain. The multi million rupee rally was not done simply to awaken the masses and jolt the government. Similarly, the upcoming long march is less than likely to be for altruistic means. It seems too farfetched to believe that a rally was funded entirely by Minhaj-ul-Quran’s followers who donated their salaries and sold their jewelry, cars and other assets for a public procession. So who is supporting Qadri? And especially if he does not intend to run in the elections, then what forces does he represent which want to change the course of democratic process in Pakistan?

What the Afghan War did to Pakistan

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Afghanistan the neighboring country of Pakistan has been in war since one can remember. From Mongol Emperors to Russian invasion and now the country is facing war on terror. These...
Afghanistan the neighboring country of Pakistan has been in war since one can remember. From Mongol Emperors to Russian invasion and now the country is facing war on terror. These wars have shattered the base of Afghanistan and left it in ruins. It lacks proper administration, governance, and communication infrastructure. The Statistics available are not accurate as they should be. The estimated population of Afghanistan is about 31, 900,000 from which 28% are literate.
Overall View
Where Afghanistan has suffered from wars that has happened from time to time its neighboring countries have also suffered including Pakistan and Iran. After Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, more than 2.8 million Afghan refugees sought shelter in Pakistan and about 1.5 million have fled to Iran. Russia lost almost 15,000 soldiers and many wounded. In 1988 the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union signed an agreement by which the Russia would withdraw its troops, which completed in 1989. After Russian invasion a group of tribal and urban groups arose and all of these known collectively as the mujahidin and afterward they form into now known Taliban. Even after the end of Russian invasion, the Afghan refugees have stayed in Pakistan and caused extra burden on the economy of our country and they prove as cheap labor causing unemployment to local workers. Most of the Afghan immigrants have no documentation of any kind. Hardly any of them have ID or any record to their permanent location. This has given some of culprit’s an edge because they are not afraid to be identified or recognized. Most of the drug dealers, illegal arms dealer, car lifters, or smugglers are Afghan refugees that have made their permanent shops in the borders areas. The easy access to Illegal weaponry has promoted the Kalakov Culture and has made weaponry very easily available even to common person at a very reasonable price. For example, the 9mm pistol can be easily available at the low price of only Rs 3600, US$ 45 that is made in Dara Adam Khail. A point worth mentioning is that the weapons are made legal by puncturing, the original weapon caliber number with new number and then District Coordination Officer sanctions the weapon.
Drugs smuggling and effects on trade
The Taliban’s main source of income has been drug dealing and production. They gathered their resources from Opium cultivation according to data from CSIS (Central for Strategic and International Studies) Opium cultivation has continued to grow but has shifted into Taliban controlled areas. An opium survey was conducted by UN in 2007 which showed production of 185 Metric Ton opium in 2001 and 8200 Metric Tons in 2007. There are more than 20 unofficial border crossing points on Pak Afghan border from where opium is transferred to Pakistan in NWFP and Baluchistan Province. The trade route between Afghanistan and Pakistan has also been affected. Trade Route Torkham Jalalabad highway now considered as a danger zone. Dry fruits that were imported to Pakistan, have now reached sky high prices such as nuts, Walnuts, Almonds etc.
War on Terror
After 9/11 America invaded Afghanistan to end the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Regime but things seem to have gotten worse for both countries. Pakistan is now under pressure by US leadership to wipe out the Terrorist camps in the Northern borders of Pakistan. Pakistan has played a front line allay in the war against terror since 2001. According to a report released by an US Department in 2004, Pakistan had faced a loss of 10 billion by becoming an ally on war on terror. Assuming that in 2004 we were not in as much problems as now then after three years as a front line ally we have lost 40 billion minimum.
Taliban had only one rival group Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. NA was supported by India and Russia to fight against Taliban. When US attacked Afghanistan, Taliban was in great number and their only rival group Northern Alliance leaded by Ahmad Shah Massoud was US main hope. Eventually US supported NA in fight against Taliban. With time Taliban regime began to lose hold but did not end completely. The US army for the time became confident of their victory but their dreams shattered when Taliban rose again with more strength. By the end of 2006 there were more than 123 suicide attacks in Afghanistan and 69 in Pakistan. In assessment report of Pakistan by Institute for Conflict Management Database at least 3,599 persons, including 1,523 civilians, 597 security force (SF) personnel and 1,479 militants, were killed in 2007. These suicide attacks began after the US attack on Afghanistan.
Political Impacts
Pakistan had supported Taliban in war against Russia. Russia and India supported Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah but after US invasion against Taliban and using NA to their advantage Pakistan got cornered and had to leave his old allies Taliban. The Taliban consists of people belonging to a cast known as Pachtons. Most Pachtons live in the Pak Afghan Border area. US army used our Air Fields against Taliban such as Dera Ismail and Shahbaz Airbase which angered the Pachtons. Pak Army was also utilized in operations against the bases of Taliban in Northern, southern reigns and FATA. These things with time brought hatred in people of Northern and Southern regions that had a majority of Pachtons. The war on terror in Afghanistan has left us alone in many ways. In an survey of Afghan public opinion it shows that the Afghanis remains supportive of the US and major NATO/ISAF countries but the results showed high level hostility to Pakistan. We had to change our border policies Iran and China were also annoyed when we allowed US to use our land their home security was also threatened by US. We became the welcoming guest of US in Asia. This has caused us isolation from all sides we are in a state of being bankrupt and US has used us and left us as always.
Another dilemma is that our Borders have become unsecured from all sides. Our army which was being used to protect Kashmiri people is now also utilized on Durand line. Kashmir issue is becoming an issue of past and long forgotten even the dotted lines of Jammu Kashmir region is now removed from international maps and that region is shown as part of India. Kashmiri Mujahidin’s were engaging Indian army and kept them occupied but due to our incorrect policies the Kashmir movement is becoming weak day by day. This allowed Indian agencies to interfere in our conflicted regions supporting elements against Pakistan. Pak Intelligence has found evidence of outside meddling in FATA, Northern and Southern Regions. Advance Tactical equipment of foreign built, imported military hardware, digital maps, and many other gadgets which can be only available to army were gathered from taken over militant camps. Other than that we now have to defend from day to day suicidal attacks. Almost 80,000 of our army are being utilized on Pak Afghan border.
Ethnic and Tribal disputes
Growing pressure by US to increase military advancement is also becoming a hurdle rather than progress. The Pashtun’s and Baluchi living in FATA, NWFP, and Baluchistan are not something to overlook upon. Pashtun are living in border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan there are about 42% Pashtun in Afghanistan and 10% percent in Northern areas of Pakistan. Pashtun have blood relations in Afghanistan, after US attack, they became violent. Rage gathered in their hearts and minds that turned into clash between Pak army and Tribe leaders.
We are now standing at a very sensitive point. The recent bombings and gun battles by the Pak army have forced 200,000 people to flee from their homes in Northern Ares. Now and then women and children get killed. The tribal leaders want economic help to eradicate illiteracy and extremism but they have forgotten that economic giants start these wars. The thing we really want is to check our policies whether this war is right? The answer is easy. Wars are fought from slavery to freedom not from freedom to slavery.

India-Pakistan hold 6th round of talks for conventional CBMs

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The Sixth Round of Expert Level Talks on conventional Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan was held in New Delhi on Thursday, according to a press release from...
The Sixth Round of Expert Level Talks on conventional Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan was held in New Delhi on Thursday, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The two sides reviewed the implementation of existing CBMs, including the ceasefire along the LoC, exchanged ideas to further advance the CBM process and reaffirmed their commitment to continue discussions with the aim of strengthening conventional CBMs, said the press release.
The two sides also agreed to report the progress made during the current round of talks to their respective foreign secretaries.
The talks were held in accordance to an agreement between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan during their meeting on September 8, 2012 in Islamabad.

Reviewing the US-India nuclear deal

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Four years after a historic nuclear deal was signed, many in American policy circles deride the agreement as a failure. They’re wrong. The 2008 Indo-U.S. Civilian Nuclear Agreement was supposed...
Four years after a historic nuclear deal was signed, many in American policy circles deride the agreement as a failure. They’re wrong.
The 2008 Indo-U.S. Civilian Nuclear Agreement was supposed to mark a watershed moment for India – U.S. relations, ending the two democracies long-standing estrangement and ushering in a new era where New Delhi and Washington would be “indispensable partners.” But four years after the deal came into effect, much of the initial enthusiasm that it engendered has dissipatedEspecially in American foreign policy circles, many feel that the nuclear agreement has failed to meet expectations.
From India’s perspective, nuclear cooperation was a sine quo nonefor any meaningful growth in India-U.S. ties in other areas. That being said, there was also a genuine expectation in the U.S. that assimilating India into the nuclear mainstream would reap enormous economic, political and strategic dividends for the country. However, many of the deal’s strongest proponents at the time of its signing now claim that these gains failed to materialize.
Economically, the U.S. was attracted to the vast potential India’s large and growing nuclear energy market had for domestic nuclear firms. This viewpoint failed to take into account India’s domestic nuclear liability law, which obliges nuclear suppliers to be liable for damages their equipment results in. Many U.S. companies have balked at this requirement, and the economic gains of the deal have failed to materialize accordingly.
For many in Washington, the nuclear deal similarly failed to tie India closer to the U.S.-led global non-proliferation and arms control architecture. India has defied American expectations by making no concerted effort to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and has shown no interest in voluntarily halting its production of fissile materials (enriched uranium or plutonium). More troubling for many in Washington is India’s continued refusal to parrot the American line regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Lastly, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal had an explicit strategic dimension. By the turn of the 21st century, balancing China’s growing power had become a strategic imperative for the U.S., which saw India as a viable alternative to China because of its sheer size, geography, military capabilities, and democratic political values. The nuclear deal was supposed to provide the edifice of a robust security relationship between the two states centered on balancing Chinese power.
Rather than actively balancing China, India has mostly pursued a hedging strategy, as most prominently demonstrated by the unofficial but influential Nonalignment 2.0 report from earlier this year.  As Ashley Tellis presciently remarks, “for the U.S., which has just recovered from India’s Nonalignment 1.0, Nonalignment 2.0 is a strategic nightmare.” Whether India is explicitly pursuing a nonalignment reduxpolicy or not, there’s little doubt that it has tried to avoid creating an overwhelming dependence on American military hardware.
Based on the above evidence, many in Washington speak of the false promise of the nuclear deal in transforming India-U.S. relations. This general impression is compounded by the policy paralysis with which the Manmohan Singh government has suffered for most of its present term.
There are a number of problems with the above picture, however. First, it portrays the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal as a strategic fix to India-U.S. relations rather than a strategic bet. To be sure, the Bush administration fully understood that a single document would not realign India’s entire worldview to bring it in line with the America’s own outlook. That being said, it was a calculated gamble which, once it was decided that India mattered for the U.S. at the highest levels, was the most optimal strategy to transform the bilateral relationship.
Second, the critical view also discounts the complexities that domestic politics interject into the foreign policy decision-making of democracies like India. Third, four years is a very short time period for passing any judgment on the consequences of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and, in any case, strategic choices always take some time to produce their desired results.

But most importantly, the pessimist picture suffers from a selective marshaling of evidence. For example, the issue of liability notwithstanding, the interests of American nuclear firms are being advanced by the Indian government over other foreign suppliers. In fact, just before President Bush signed the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement into law, India promised to exclusively reserve approximately 10,000 MW of the nuclear reactor market for U.S. vendors. No such promises were made to other advanced nuclear technology powers. Similarly, by early 2009, two prominent locations in the industry friendly states of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh had been reserved for the American companies Westinghouse and General Electric. As Saurav Jha rightly argues, India has only offered two dedicated locations for reactor development to American firms. Furthermore, earlier this year, U.S.-based Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited signed an “Early Works Agreement” for setting up five nuclear reactors at Mithivadi in the state of Gujarat.
India’s nuclear liability law does indeed create an obstacle for U.S. firms. But it is more a result of India’s democratic processes and also, to a large extent, the changed perceptions of nuclear energy after the Fukushima crisis. In fact, when the law was initially proposed, the Indian government categorically rejected any liability claims against nuclear technology suppliers. However, the memories of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the legitimacy crisis which unfolded after Fukushima would bind the hands of the Indian government. In any case, under Indian law the supplier’s liability is limited in both the dollar amount that can be incurred — U.S.$91 million — and the time frame companies can be held liable for. Moreover, given the sheer size of India’s nuclear energy market, any amount incurred from one plant is almost certainly to be made up for by the profits made on other plants. This is especially true given the stricter safety standards of modern generations of nuclear reactors. Indeed, it’s telling that as American companies balk at the nuclear liability law, other advanced nuclear exporters like France are eagerly entering India’s nuclear market.
Additionally, whatever economic benefits the U.S. hasn’t obtained from India’s nuclear industry pale in comparison to the enormous profits U.S. defense companies have reaped from sales to India.  Despite India’s reservations about becoming too dependent on American military hardware, over the last seven years U.S. defense corporations have received more than U.S. $8 billion worth of contracts from India, increasingly displacing Russia as India’s preferred military supplier. This is occurring despite the enormous stipulations Washington places on arms contracts and the difficulty recipient nations often have in securing spare parts for their purchases over the entire course of the contract.
Strategically India and the U.S. have become extremely close. More than fifty joint defense exercises have taken place in the last seven years. Since 2005, India has supported all IAEA sanctions against Iranincluding those which reported it to the UN Security Council. India’s dependence on Iranian oil has also been reduced drastically, a fact that Hillary Clinton herself attested to recently.

With regards to China, India has offered strong support for the Obama administration’s rebalance strategy, including Washington’s increased focus on the Indian Ocean, a geographical area which New Delhi has historically guarded as its exclusive sphere of influence. New Delhi has also expanded its relationship with other U.S. allies like Japan, and has pledged to play a stronger role in protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Strategic convergence has also been greatly facilitated by the annual Indo-U.S. strategic dialogues that were initiated in 2010. Today the U.S. and India cooperate on a broader range of foreign policy issues than at any other time in the history of their bilateral relationship.
With President Obama’s reelection and Prime Minister Singh’s renewed focus on pursuing reforms and important policy decisions, a claim can be made that outstanding issues in the nuclear deal have a good chance to be resolved. But, while not denying the need for more engagement between the two nations in realizing the objectives of the nuclear deal, there is a strong case to be made that critics of the deal simply lack the patience that a historic strategic reorientation requires.

US-Pak to discuss new CSF deal next year

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The flow of US financial aid for the armed forces in the fight against terrorism has officially ended because Pakistan is reportedly not forwarding any pending bill to the US....
The flow of US financial aid for the armed forces in the fight against terrorism has officially ended because Pakistan is reportedly not forwarding any pending bill to the US. However, the two sides will discuss a new mode of anti-terror funding next year.
According to sources, the pending bill under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) was to be submitted by the end of the year, but Pakistan is not billing the US for the expenses incurred on the war against terror.
“There are many reasons and issues, but Pakistan has not forwarded any CSF bill since May last year,” said a senior official of the defence ministry, adding that working relations between the two countries had soured after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid in May 2011.
“The situation further aggravated after the Salala attack in November 2011,” he said. But, he added, old bills were currently being cleared by the US authorities.
Pakistan has submitted bills of $2.5 billion to the United States under the CSF arrangement. An amount of $1.2 billion has already been received while another $700 million is expected in the first week of January. The arrears stand at $600 million which officials believe will be the last tranche of the existing CSF arrangement.
“The US authorities have hinted that all the verified bills are being cleared. It implies that the money expected to be released on Jan 5, 2013, will be the final CSF payment,” a senior official of finance ministry said.
The CSF figures have always been an issue between the two countries because there is no counter-verification of the amount billed as the arrangement is between defence departments of the two countries.
Under the current arrangement, details of expenditures incurred by the armed forces are submitted to a desk headed by a Brigadier-rank officer in the Joint Staff Headquarters. After processing the bills as per the format provided by the US accounting authorities, the claims are forwarded directly to the US Embassy.
“The finance ministry or any other department comes in the loop when the CSF amount is disbursed in foreign exchange to the State Bank of Pakistan,” said an official of the finance ministry. “The CSF proceeds are converted into local currency and distributed at a ratio of 60 per cent to the armed forces and 40 per cent to the finance ministry for budgetary support,” he added.
However, the CSF contribution to defence is included in the annual budget of the armed forces and its CSF share is provided to the armed forces when the amount is released.
Since the existing CSF arrangement was agreed in the early 2000s but not formally signed, several departments and relevant authorities have not been included in the billing and clearing process. Besides, the outgoing arrangement also included rents and service charges for airbases outsourced to the armed forces of other countries.
Talking to reporters recently, Minister of State for Finance Saleem Mandviwala confirmed that work was in progress for signing a new CSF arrangement with the US. He said that during their recent talks both sides had agreed to reinitiate the CSF arrangement, adding that the first round of consultation on a new formula was likely to start in January when a US delegation would visit Islamabad.
“The new CSF agreement is necessary because the US will reduce its troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and need numerous supports, including logistics, for them,” Mr Mandviwala said.

400 militants kill 2, kidnap 22 in FR Peshawar

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More than 400 armed Taliban stormed security checkpoints in Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar late on Wednesday night killing two and kidnapping 22 Levies personnel. Assistant Political Agent (APA) FR Peshawar...
More than 400 armed Taliban stormed security checkpoints in Frontier Region (FR) Peshawar late on Wednesday night killing two and kidnapping 22 Levies personnel.
Assistant Political Agent (APA) FR Peshawar Naveed Akbar confirmed the kidnapping of 22 Levies men by the Taliban, who also killed two personnel and injured another.
“We had deployed 30 Levies personnel at two checkpoints in the Hassankhel and Janakor areas of FR Peshawar and 22 of them went missing after the Taliban attack on Wednesday night,” the APA said.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government spokesman Mian Iftikhar Hussain, who is also information minister, also confirmed the kidnapping of 22 Levies personnel by the Taliban. However, he said it was a tribal area and the provincial government would cooperate with the political authorities for the safe recovery of the security personnel.
Spokesman for the Darra Adamkhel-based Taliban, Mohammad, claimed responsibility for the attacks on the checkpoints and the kidnapping of the Levies soldiers. However, he claimed the kidnapping of 33 Levies personnel, adding that arms and ammunition were also snatched. There were reports that 10 of the kidnapped security personnel were found dead later, but it was neither confirmed by the government officials nor by the Taliban.
TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan also claimed responsibility for the attack and the kidnapping of the security personnel.
Official sources said more than 400 armed Taliban attacked the two checkpoints situated near the border with semi-tribal area Darra Adamkhel, using rockets, AK-47 rifles and hand grenades. Another government official told The News on condition of anonymity that the missing security personnel might have been shifted by the Taliban to their sanctuaries in the adjoining Darra Adamkhel or Khyber Agency.
The official said hundreds of armed militants attacked the checkpoints manned by the Levies but neither the police nor other security forces were sent for their rescue. He said the militants torched the two checkpoints and their vehicles before fleeing to their hideouts.
On Thursday morning, the official said, a search operation was conducted in the area but the kidnapped Levies personnel were perhaps taken to the remote tribal areas.
The APA said a grand jirga of elders of the FR Peshawar was also convened today (Friday) to ask them to play their role in the safe recovery of the kidnapped security personnel.

New terrorism strategies of the Taliban

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Peshawar is in grief after the brutal assassination of Awami National Party leader Bashir Bilour and other party workers and policemen last week, the same way it was in grief...
Peshawar is in grief after the brutal assassination of Awami National Party leader Bashir Bilour and other party workers and policemen last week, the same way it was in grief after Benazir Bhutto’s murder five years ago.
Like 2007, the year 2012 will also end on a sad note because the Taliban killed a political leader who questioned their use of violence in the name of Islam. He was on the special hit list of terrorists that is known by security officials as the love list. Someone on a hit list may get off the hook or fall off the radar at some stage, but there is no compromise on those who are on the love list. They remain a permanent target for “the crimes they committed against the Taliban”. The list includes top politicians and senior security officials who the militants see as the biggest obstructions to their terror campaign.
The year 2012 saw a staggering 25 percent increase in attacks on the police, and targeted strikes on politicians and other influential people rose by 17 percent. The province has seen the largest number of suicide attacks since 2006 – at least 187, compared with 54 in FATA. There have been 98 suicide attacks in all the rest of Pakistan since 2006.
Terrorist groups have changed their tactics in the last year. Firstly, they have started sending suicide attackers or snipers after high-value targets. Secondly, they chose to go after the security apparatus and strategic installations in a more organized way. These include strikes on police stations, checkposts, mobile police and paramilitary units, and strategic installations such as the Kamra airbase in August or the Peshawar airbase on December 15. Thirdly, the Taliban terrorists seem to be running out of cash, supported by an extortion drive in the greater Peshawar region.
In Shabqadar and parts of Orakzai and Mohmand agencies, for instance, dozens of people have received intimidating calls by unidentified men claiming to be Taliban, with demands for money. Locals say this is a new trend, suggesting the collusion of crime and militancy.
A travel agent in Shabqadar area of Malakand Division was recently gunned down when he refused to pay extortion money to unidentified men. In another incident of a similar nature, an affluent family was compelled to leave the area.
A fourth very alarming new tactic is the increased deployment of heavily drugged children under 15 to carry out suicide attacks. On at least three occasions in November and December, security forces were able to intercept and neutralize boys planning to make such attacks. They were all heavily intoxicated.
On November 20, police arrested two would-be suicide attackers Bilal (14) and Jahangir near Peeshtakhara police station, Peshawar. They were riding a motorbike. The police succeeded in engaging them in a discussion and eventually overpowered them. They, too, were found to have been drugged. But the most alarming aspect of this incident was the revelation that both the terrorists possessed airport entry passes. Bilal later confessed during a court appearance that their target was the Peshawar airport.
On December 15, another group of terrorists stormed the Peshawar military air base with rockets and foot soldiers, exposing weaknesses within the security apparatus and terrorizing the entire city.
And this brings us to the fifth frightening element – the shortcomings of, and the enemies within the security apparatus. A visit to the airbase vicinity adjacent to the Old Abdarra Road reveals that terrorists chose a site that was the most strategic in terms of location and assets.
A reconstruction of the events by residents suggests that the attackers first created a distraction by torching a small van in one of the small alleys, then drove the other explosive-laden vehicle next to the periphery wall of the air base and blew it up within a few minutes. Hundreds of kilograms of explosives rocked the entire settlement, caused a massive crater and the impact brought down a significant portion of the periphery wall.
The four terrorists, according to locals, then sneaked into one of the smaller alleys in the darkness (the power to the settlement had been turned off by then), and sat down in front of a house, probably for the dust to clear. One of the residents asked the suspects as to what they were up to, but he was forced to go back.
Already struck with the impact of the huge explosion, most residents retreated to their homes, and took positions on rooftops or terraces just in case these people tried to barge into their homes. The gang of four – of which one spoke Pashto and was probably their local facilitator – stayed there until 11, and eventually headed out to another street junction where a police checkpost serves as a first tier of protection for the airport periphery. They shot dead the only guard present there and disappeared in the dark, presumably in the direction of Pawakai.
Some locals say they informed the police several times about the presence of the suspicious men in their street but the police did not arrive until 2am. The air force police came to pick up a couple of bags the terror suspects had dumped behind on two locations. These bags contained mineral water, rocket propelled grenades, and hand grenades.
This raises questions about the preparedness of our security agencies. Why didn’t the police take these calls by residents seriously? Why did the intelligence agencies not respond to what the would-be suicide bomber Bilal told interrogators on November 20? How did the planners know about the extremely sensitive but vulnerable location of the military airbase? Also, did the security apparatus ever think that terrorists could use the entire residential area along the periphery wall of the airport to sneak in men and ammunition and to blow holes into the thinly guarded airbase?
Attacks on strategic installations had looked imminent after the raid and partial siege of the General Headquarters on October 10, 2009, the attack on PNS Mehran on May 22, 2011, and the Kamra airbase attack on August 16. Police and the military managed to defend the airbase and the airport, killing presumably all the attackers, but questions hang over their preemptive capabilities, such as information-gathering, planning and response. All that various segments of the security apparatus can do on a particular day is to defend their positions and put down the attackers. A stretched-out police (one fourth of which is deployed for VIP and protocol duties), exhausted and poorly-trained paramilitary (often guarding critical entry points from the tribal regions) as well as an intelligence network infested with double agents (informers for militant and criminal gangs ) are some of the factors that need urgent consideration. Without insider information, terrorists wouldn’t have been able to blow up the periphery wall at an extremely critical location.

Drone strikes see major drop

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US drone strikes against Islamist militants decreased in Pakistan’s tribal regions for the second year in a row but intensified in Yemen, according to figures compiled by a Washington think...
US drone strikes against Islamist militants decreased in Pakistan’s tribal regions for the second year in a row but intensified in Yemen, according to figures compiled by a Washington think tank.
In Pakistan, 46 strikes were carried out in 2012, compared to 72 in 2011 and 122 in 2010, the New America Foundation said, based on its compilation of reports in international media.
But Yemen saw an equally drastic increase in the clandestine attacks, with strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants rising from 18 in 2011 to 53 in 2012.
This “drone war” is officially classified, and the US does not provide any information on the strikes.
President Barack Obama, who has increased the use of drones compared to his predecessor, George W. Bush, only incidentally recognized their existence at the end of January in an online exchange.
The vast majority of the strikes in Pakistan hit in North Waziristan, Al-Qaeda’s main sanctuary and a stronghold for Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
Many of the strikes were in and around the regional capital, Miranshah. These strikes, with Reaper or Predator drones, killed between 189 and 308 militants and at least seven civilians, the New America Foundation said.
According to the Afghan spy agency, the operational leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, Badruddin Haqqani, son of the group’s founder, was killed in an August 21 drone strike — though the death has not been confirmed by other sources.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, between 397 and 539 militants were killed by drone strikes, according to the New America Foundation, which did not specify the number of civilian victims.
Some of the strikes in Yemen were conducted by US airplanes. The drones used there are operated both by the CIA and by the Joint Special Operations Command.
The intelligence agency has its own fleet of 30-35 devices, according to the Washington Post, while the Pentagon can count on 215 Predator and Reaper drones, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Attacks by unmanned US aircraft remain contentious. They are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but American officials are said to believe they are too important to give up.
Casualty figures are difficult to obtain. A report commissioned by legal lobby group Reprieve in September estimated that between 474 to 881 civilians were among 2,562 to 3,325 people killed by drones in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.

Khar meets with Saudi FM to discuss Syria

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Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is likely to visit Riyadh on Jan 1 for consultations on the aggravating Syrian crisis amid stepped-up international efforts to end the conflict. “The foreign...
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is likely to visit Riyadh on Jan 1 for consultations on the aggravating Syrian crisis amid stepped-up international efforts to end the conflict.
“The foreign minister will stop over in the Saudi capital on her way to New York,” a senior Pakistani official told Dawn.
Ms Khar is travelling to New York on the occasion of Pakistan assuming the United Nations Security Council’s rotational presidency.
Ms Khar was last week invited by her Saudi counterpart Prince Saud Al Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to visit Riyadh for urgent consultations.
Saudi Arabia, the official disclosed, is asking Pakistan to play a role during its UNSC presidency and persuade Russia and China to join a fresh western initiative on Syria. He did not disclose the specifics of the proposal being pushed by the West and Arab countries.
Russia has been diplomatically supporting the Assad regime and China has been blocking the UNSC resolutions for sanctions against Syria.
Pakistan has been maintaining an ambivalent position on the crisis. Unlike Tehran, Moscow and Beijing, Islamabad has never expressed its support for embattled President Assad, but has also stayed clear of endorsing the rebels.
“Regarding our policy on Syria, we are concerned about the security situation in the country and are also concerned about the killing of innocent people and hope that the issue will be resolved through peaceful means,” FO Spokesman Moazzam Khan said.
At the OIC foreign ministers’ meeting last month, Ms Khar had said that “democratic aspirations of the people of Syria can only be achieved in an enabling environment of peace”.
FO BRIEFING: At the weekly media briefing, the FO spokesman said that Pakistan, in principle, had no objection to hosting election observer missions to monitor the coming polls.
However, he said, it would be for the caretaker government and the Election Commission of Pakistan to formally invite the election observers.
The spokesman said the internal process for granting the Most Favoured Nation status to India was continuing. He did not say if Pakistan would be able to grant the MFN status to India by the promised date of Dec 31.
“Hopefully, these processes will be completed soon,” he said, adding that the government had already decided to grant this status to India.

PPP turns to Bilawal for election campaign

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NAUDERO: PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will lead the party’s election campaign for the coming polls. Briefing reporters after a special meeting of the central executive committee and federal council...
NAUDERO: PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will lead the party’s election campaign for the coming polls.
Briefing reporters after a special meeting of the central executive committee and federal council of the Pakistan People’s Party held at the camp office of President’s House here on Thursday night, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and PPP general secretary Jahangir Badar said it had been decided that a consensus of all parties would be developed for a caretaker set-up.
Asked about the role of Law Minister Farooq H. Naek in this regard, they said it was the prerogative of the president to assign any task to anyone.
They said that like the 18th Amendment, an impartial prime minister could also be brought with consensus.
They said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had sent a clear message to both democratic and anti-democratic forces in his speech at a public meeting earlier in the day. He was already acting as chairman of the party, they said in reply to a question.
The meeting, presided over by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, paid tribute to the leadership of Benazir Bhutto and offered Fateha for her and ANP leader Bashir Bilour who was assassinated last week.
In reply to a question, they said former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani briefed the meeting about the party’s standing in south Punjab. According to sources, a committee was constituted and Mr Gilani will look after the affairs related to the region, including development work and other issues.
The PPP leaders said the general election would be held 60 days after March 16, when the tenure of the assemblies would end.
“We welcome (Tehrik Minhajul Quran chief) Tahirul Qadri to the country and if he has any proposals regarding the polls, he should submit them to the Election Commission,” they said in reply to a question. He should contest the coming elections but decisions should not be imposed by force, they said.
When asked about Dr Qadri’s threat to launch a march on Islamabad, they said they had seen many such deadlines.
Senator Farhatullah Babar briefed the council about the progress made by a parliamentary committee led by him.

Military cooperation between Pak-Iran suggested

Posted by FS On Thursday, 6 December 2012 1 comments

The first Pakistan-Iran parliamentary dialogue on security recommended on Monday contacts between military and intelligence leaders of the two countries to address the underlying mistrust that refuses to go despite...
The first Pakistan-Iran parliamentary dialogue on security recommended on Monday contacts between military and intelligence leaders of the two countries to address the underlying mistrust that refuses to go despite enhanced political exchanges keenly flaunted by both countries.
The Senate Defence Committee, which has broken taboos in the realm of national security by opening up debates on defence budget, counter-terrorism policies, civil-military relations, had this time invited a delegation of Iranian parliament led by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman, National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of Majlis-i-Shura, for security dialogue.
Despite improvement in bilateral ties that followed elimination of Jundullah threat two years ago, security establishments of both countries remain wary of each other as reflected by sluggish progress on different mega projects that political leaders of the two countries have agreed.
Differences over tackling extremism, terrorism, human trafficking and border coordination have been contributing to the trust deficit. The US and Saudi influence on Pakistan has been yet another cause of divergences.
While Senator Kalsoom Parveen during the dialogue referred to some hidden tensions and distrust, the leader of Iranian delegation noted that he wasn’t satisfied with the current state of economic and political ties. “Big steps are needed,” he noted.
Chairman of the Senate defence committee Mushahid Hussain hoped for stronger political, economic and security ties, saying it was very much possible because the two countries did not have any conflict of interest.
The two sides discussed various issues pertaining to security ranging from counter-terrorism, nuclear issues and narcotics control to Shia-Sunni sectarian strife.
The most significant proposal for strengthening the bilateral relationship came from Senator Mohammad Khan Sheerani of the JUI-F who called for military-to-military contacts.
Senator Mushahid Hussain, his counterpart Mr Boroujerdi and members of the committee immediately concurred and it was agreed to recommend a regular interaction of military and intelligence officials.
The leader of the Iranian delegation also called for expediting the visit of Iranian defence minister to Pakistan that had been held up for several reasons.
Discussing Iran’s nuclear programme, Mr Boroujerdi said Iran withstood all western pressure and upheld its right to peaceful civilian nuclear programme.
In a rare admission, the leader of Iranian delegation said Iran was arming Palestinian groups Hamas, Jehad-i-Islami and Hezbollah, providing them everything from bullets to missiles and surveillance drones.
OBL COMPOUND: About the landing of a US drone RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft last year by Iranian Army’s electronic warfare unit, Mr Boroujerdi said information decoded from the drone related to reconnaissance of Osama bin Laden’s compound before the Al Qaeda leader was taken out in a raid by US Special Forces.
But he didn’t disclose if the information had been shared with Pakistani authorities, who had been probing the incident.
He said they (the Americans) knew that Iranians had been able to access some of that information.
Presidency’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said the PPP government firmly remained committed to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project and resisted all sorts of pressures. “This government would take this project to conclusion,” he said.

Pakistan and Korea on Tuesday inked six accords dealing with modernisation of Pakistan Railways, construction of LNG terminal and cooperation in banking sector, in a bid to further solidify bilateral...
Pakistan and Korea on Tuesday inked six accords dealing with modernisation of Pakistan Railways, construction of LNG terminal and cooperation in banking sector, in a bid to further solidify bilateral ties.
The signing of agreements in various sectors came during President Asif Ali Zardari’s state visit to the Republic of Korea, during which he met his counterpart and had several meetings with the CEO’s and heads of various top companies.
President Zardari who witnessed the signing of almost all the Memorandums of Understanding urged the Korean investors to benefit from Pakistan’s generous incentives. Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak also witnessed the signing of two accords at the President’s Office.
The ceremony at the Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, following the summit level talks between the two sides, was also witnessed by members of the Pakistani delegation including Minister for Water and Power Ch. Ahmad Mukhtar, Minister for Commerce Makhdoom Amin Fahim,    Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Amad and the leader of PML-Q Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
A major breakthrough came in the area of modernisation of railways. Pakistan, under the agreement, will seek high speed railways, communication systems, signaling, rail stock, modernisation of operation and management, development of logistics parks and freight terminals.
Along with this will be an exchange of construction and maintenance technologies for infrastructure including tracks, bridges, overhead electrification and power supply systems.
The agreement was signed by Muhammad Arif Azim Secretary Railways and Minister of Railways of South Korea Kwon Do-youp.
President Zardari in his meeting with President KORAIL Chung Chang-Young said Pakistan desired modern and efficient railways to help meet its growing industrial, agricultural and freight needs.
He said that the current fleet of Pakistan Railways was unable to meet the needs of a growing nation and there was an urgent need to upgrade it.
The president said Pakistan was a prime place for foreign investors as the country’s large consumer population promised good profits and lucrative business.
He said a large number of Korean companies were already operating in Pakistan and doing good business. He said other companies can invest in many new areas while the existing ones can expand and diversify their operations.

HANGU: Three classrooms and the boundary wall of a government girls middle school was destroyed after a bomb planted by unidentified militants exploded in Togh Sarai, Hangu district on Tuesday. SHO...
HANGU: Three classrooms and the boundary wall of a government girls middle school was destroyed after a bomb planted by unidentified militants exploded in Togh Sarai, Hangu district on Tuesday.
SHO Saddar Zakeem Khan said a huge explosion was heard a little after midnight near Tango Adda.
“The girls school was razed to ground as most parts of the building were destroyed,” said Khan. About four kilogrammes of explosives were planted in a canister along the wall, said an official of the bomb disposal squad. This is the fourth school destroyed in the district.
about four kil
The first school to be demolished by militants – a primary school for boys – was destroyed on June 21, 2011. On November 20 this year, a girls middle school was destroyed in Kotiki, while a boys middle school on the outskirts of the city was destroyed on November 27.
4 school
Despite claims of police officials to launch a search operation on the outskirts of Hangu, no action has yet been taken to nab the perpetrators.

Last week’s failed suicide attack on Mullah Nazir in his Wana stronghold in South Waziristan Agency could be the precursor to a violent blood feud in the Tribal Areas and...
Last week’s failed suicide attack on Mullah Nazir in his Wana stronghold in South Waziristan Agency could be the precursor to a violent blood feud in the Tribal Areas and highlights the vulnerability of the so-called good Taliban, according to information available with Pakistan Today.
Nazir heads the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe in SWA, and despite his affiliation with al Qada and the Taliban, has upheld a negotiated truce with the government that rules out attacks on the Pakistani military, even as his forces remain committed to the anti-ISAF insurgency in Afghanistan.
Over the last few years, he has emerged as the most prominent in a bunch of commanders bolstered by the military to confront the uprising in the Tribal Areas, assuming the proverbial lynchpin status in the official counter insurgency (COIN) strategy.
Though different accounts of the attack itself, and subsequent developments, have reached the press, it is widely believed that the hit was orchestrated by rival Mehsud tribesmen dominating the TTP, including its leader Hakimullah Mehsud.
The Wana grand jirga’s Saturday decision to expel all Mehsuds from Wazir areas by December 5 confirms the suspicion. “The burden of proof is now on the Mehsuds,” says Rasheed Safi, head of news at Radio Burraq that transmits news in the Tribal Areas. “But for now they will have to leave their sanctuary in Wana, or blood will flow”.
Yet Nazir is an enigmatic leader whose views have not always confirmed with dominant currents in the area, and whose freewheeling and sometimes self-contradictory positions have drawn enemies from all around, including the four-party shura-e-murakeba that includes the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqanis. He has survived several assassination attempts, including drone strikes, and his list of enemies remains extensive. And despite the straightforward narrative confirming Mehsud guilt, conspiracy theories abound, including possible divide and conquer tactics central to the official COIN campaign.
Usual suspects: The Wazir-Mehsud rivalry is a part of the complicated web of tribal conflicts as old as the rugged, unconquerable hills of Waziristan, yet the two have been known to join hands in typical Pashtun chivalry whenever a foreign force has upset the regional balance. And it was no different when a confluence of foreign and internal forces – NATO invasion in Afghanistan, Pakistani military action, refugee influx – forged the TTP in 2007-08, an uncomfortable umbrella alliance brokered by al Qaeda, with Mehsuds at the top.
And it wasn’t long before differences emerged, especially as cracks developed between Mullah Omer’s and al Qaeda’s visions with regard to the overall insurgency – the former wishing to restrict it to the NATO invasion inside Afghanistan and the other with a more globalist agenda, with Pakistan among the prime targets.
The good Taliban label comes from this time when the Pakistani intelligence was able to leverage Nazir’s and Omer’s reluctance to engage in the Pakistani frontier and initiate a squabble between the formation’s top ranks.
Nazir subsequently cooperated with the military to expel Uzbek fighters from his area, who had begun a ruthless campaign against Pakistan after its leader, Tahir Yudashev, issued a fatwa regarding prioritising attacks on the Pakistani military.
Uzbeks formed a crucial part of the al Qaeda network that infiltrated the Tribal Areas with hopes of expanding the war deeper into Pakistan, and never forgave Nazir for the 300-odd massacred.
Like the Mehsuds, they have had reasonable cause against Nazir, and may well have tried to take him out. If true, these Uzbeks have just deepened the cleavage within prominent factions of the insurgency. Mullah Omer has called for cessation of attacks on the Pakistani military since 2008, yet the Mehsuds in the TTP have leaned towards al Qaeda’s demands of deeper incursions inside Pakistan.
Omer’s Quetta shura has been restricted in its criticism, though, since it depends on ‘personnel’ from the agencies for its own operations in Afghanistan.“It is a very complicated situation,” said Raheemullah Yousafzai, a veteran journalist and noted expert on the insurgency. Nazir’s refusal to comply with al Qaeda demands made him a natural target, he adds, and the move against the foreigners was bound to generate ill will.
Nazir was one of the commanders that viewed al Qaeda as guests as opposed to their strangely accepted status as ideological mentors in the tribal belt. He repeatedly complained of deepening al Qaeda influence to Mullah Dadullah, Mullah Omer’s deputy, early in the insurgency. Yet al Qaeda succeeded in financing a conglomerate of splinter groups and deepened penetration in Pakistan. The TTP, supposedly loyal to Mullah Omer and al Qaeda, actually negated the former’s orders of concentrating solely on Afghanistan. It could well be, sources tell Pakistan Today, that al Qaeda engineered the hit on Nazir to drag his group into the main Pakistani theatre of war, something the Wazirs have resisted so far.
There are also hints that the military might be involved.
Breakdown of the attack: “It’s a strange sequence of events. Much is unclear, just like an Ignatius novel,” says a retired army officer familiar with COIN strategy. A little boy, or a teenager, either carried a wheel barrow, or rode a motorcycle loaded with explosives into Nazir’s SUV, just when he was outside taking a phone call, maybe surrounded by bodyguards, but most probably still visible enough, and clearly not in the vehicle. He got a scratch in the leg, and did not need airlifting to Pindi CHM like another, smaller Taliban commander Taasil Khan earlier from Shakai in SWA. In strictly military terms, he says, the “info” is not sufficient to prove whether it was an assassination attempt or a “warning shot”.
The more counterinsurgency becomes “intel intensive”, the more the official machinery positions pockets against one another, he adds, the classic divide and conquer doctrine. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that three TTP members were arrested on suspicion shortly after the attack and the following gunfight in Wana’s main Rustam Bazaar.
“We cannot confirm this development, but sources indicate all three were let loose, obviously with Nazir’s approval,” says Saifullah Mahsud, Director at the FATA research centre, an Islamabad based think tank specialising in the Tribal Areas.
“If that is true, then perhaps it is more complicated than simply Mehsud vendetta. And I’m pretty sure he knows who is behind it all.”Still, things remain far from clear. “Intelligence agencies around the world have been known to employ such tactics, pitting one against the other, but the matter of the three released, even if true, could be for a number of reasons,” says Raheemullah Yousafzai. “It is more likely an internal issue.”
For now, the jirga’s word is final and, guilty or not, the Mehsuds must leave.And whether it was the rival tribe, or foreign militants, or the wider al Qaeda network, or even the government itself that was responsible, last week’s development is certain to mark a new chapter in the tribal insurgency.
If the TTP has violated the oath and come after him, the tribal compulsion of badal will mandate war. If al Qaeda has bankrolled another external incursion, the wazirs will again join the government to flush out foreigners. And if there is official hand, the blowback is bound to affect COIN efforts.
Whichever party was behind the attack, it has most likely succeeded in luring Mullah Nazir back to Pakistan’s war, however much he avoided local confrontation, even sheltering rival Mehsuds despite government disapproval. As these former guests leave, all parties concerned will prepare for more war.
“If the Mehsuds don’t leave there will be blood,” says Rasheed, and the “TTP will be affected. Most will just make it to Bannu and DI Khan. The IDP situation will deteriorate. Winter is setting in. TTP logistics and coordination will be disrupted. Things will get worse”.

US to release $600 mil CSF funds

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ISLAMABAD: The United States is expected to release $600 million in financial assistance under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan in the latest sign of improving ties between the...
ISLAMABAD: The United States is expected to release $600 million in financial assistance under the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan in the latest sign of improving ties between the two otherwise disenchanted allies.
The breakthrough on CSF was achieved during two days of talks between senior defence officials of the two countries in Rawalpindi, official sources said.
The meeting of the Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group was attended by Pakistan’s Defence Secretary Lt Gen (retd) Asif Yasin Malik and US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Dr James N Miller, among other senior officials from the two sides.
The group, which last met in May 2011 in Washington, is the primary forum for exchanging views and coordinating defence policy with the goal of strengthening cooperation to support each country’s security interests.
At a joint news conference with the head of the US delegation, Malik hinted at progress on the CSF issue, saying significant headway had been made to ensure the reimbursement of held up payments under CSF, a programme designed by the US in 2001 to reimburse countries for the cost of counter-insurgency operations.
In August, the US released overdue payments under CSF amounting to $1.2 billion, the first installment of its kind since December 2010, after Pakistan agreed to reopen vital land routes for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.
As a result of the breakthrough, the government subsequently submitted fresh claims of $600 million for the period between May and November in 2011.
Furthermore, Pakistan requested the US to release the amount during the ongoing fiscal year so that it could bridge the budget deficit.
A senior Pakistani official told The Express Tribune that the US side had indicated that the funds would be released soon.
A joint statement issued after the talks also confirmed that the two sides discussed CSF and other defence requirements of Pakistan.
The government
“Recognising the enduring security requirements on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the two delegations agreed to cooperate on a prioritised set of Pakistan’s defence requirements which will inform follow-on consultations on security assistance,” the statement added.
Both sides acknowledged that bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation is critical to weakening extremists and “underscores the importance of continuing cooperation to complete the defeat of al Qaeda and its affiliates in the region.”
The two countries affirmed their mutual commitment to a strong defence relationship which they stressed should focus on achieving common objectives. Pakistan also conveyed its position on the US drone campaign inside the country’s tribal belt, according to the defence secretary. James Miller noted that the discussions were held in an amicable atmosphere in the wake of tense relations between the two countries last year. “The ties are on the mend now,” he added.
Khar-Clinton meeting
Meanwhile, as part of their regular consultations, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Secretary Clinton met in Brussels to discuss US-Pakistan relations and Afghanistan, according to a statement issued by the foreign ministry in Islamabad.
They discussed counter terrorism, support for the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, the post 2014 transition in Afghanistan and discussed various measures to further strengthen bilateral relations including the need to move the US-Pakistan economic agenda from aid to trade, emphasising market access and investment.
According to a readout provided by a senior State Department official, the two leaders reviewed progress in their countries’ relations based on their commitment to identify shared interests and act on them jointly.
By Kamran Yousaf

The evolving nature of Middle-Eastern politics

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When hostilities flared in Gaza last month, it seemed like the same old story was repeating itself. The world again witnessed a bloody and senseless surge of violence between Israel...
When hostilities flared in Gaza last month, it seemed like the same old story was repeating itself. The world again witnessed a bloody and senseless surge of violence between Israel and Hamas, in which the main victims were innocent civilians maimed and killed on both sides.
This time, however, things were not what they seemed, because the Middle East had undergone a significant change in the past two years. The political epicentre of this troubled region has shifted from the conflict between Israel and the Palestine to the Arabian Gulf and the struggle for regional mastery between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and now Egypt on the other. In the emerging struggle between the region’s Shiite and Sunni powers, the old Middle East conflict has become a sideshow.
Today, the key confrontation in this power struggle is Syria’s civil war, where all of the region’s major players are represented either directly or indirectly, because that is where the battle for regional hegemony will largely be decided. This much is clear: Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his Alawite/Shiite power base will not be able to maintain control against the Sunni majority in the country and the region as a whole. The only question is when will the regime fall?
When it does, it will be a major defeat for Iran, not only entailing the loss of its main Arab ally, but also jeopardising the position of its client, Hezbollah, in Lebanon. At the same time, a variant of the Muslim Brotherhood will come to power in Syria, as has been or will be the case almost everywhere in the Middle East as a result of the “Arab Awakening”.
From Israel’s viewpoint, the rise to power of Sunni political Islam throughout the region over the past two years will lead to an ambivalent outcome. While the weakening and rollback of Iran serves Israeli strategic interests, Israel will have to reckon with Sunni Islamist power everywhere in its vicinity, leading directly to a strengthening of Hamas.
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots has come at the expense of secular Arab nationalism and the military dictatorships that supported it. Thus, the Brothers’ rise has de facto also decided the internal Palestinian power struggle. With the recent war in Gaza, the Palestinian movement will align itself, under Hamas’s leadership, with this regional development. Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party will be unable to offer much opposition — more so in view of Hamas’s break with Iran (despite ongoing arms deliveries) a year ago.
This development most likely means the end of prospects for a two-state solution, because neither Israel nor Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood has any interest in it. Hamas and the Brothers reject territorial compromise, because, for them, a Palestinian state means a Palestine that incorporates all of Israel.
This is by no means a tactical position or an expression of political naivete. On the contrary, the territorial question has morphed into a religious one and has thus fundamentally redefined the conflict.
Hamas is playing a long game. As long as it lacks the strength to achieve its more ambitious objectives, its intransigence in no way precludes negotiations with Israel or even peace treaties, as long as such agreements advance its long-term goals. However, such agreements will produce only truces of shorter or longer duration, not a comprehensive settlement that ends the conflict.
The recent success of Abbas in the UN General Assembly, securing observer-state status for Palestine, will not alter the basic aspects of this trend. Palestine’s promotion is an alarming diplomatic defeat for Israel and a demonstration of its growing international isolation, but it does not imply a return to a two-state solution.
Paradoxically, the position of Hamas fits the political right in Israel, because it, too, puts little stock in a two-state solution. And neither the Israeli left (of which little remains) nor Fatah is strong enough to maintain the two-state option. For Israel, a future as a bi-national state entails a high long-term risk, unless the option of a West Bank-Jordan confederation, lost in the 1980s, is rediscovered. This is again a possibility.
Indeed, after the Al Assad regime falls, Jordan could prove to be the next crisis hotspot. Israel’s policy of colony-building in the West Bank would then have a different foundation and take on new political significance. While I do not believe that a West Bank-Jordan confederation could ever be a viable option, it might be the last nail in the coffin of a two-state solution.
Along with Syria, two issues will determine the future of this new Middle East: Egypt’s path under the Muslim Brotherhood and the outcome of confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme and regional role.
The Egyptian question is already high on the agenda. Indeed, it spilled into the streets after President Mohammad Mursi’s non-violent coup attempt. Mursi’s timing was remarkable: The day after winning international acclaim for his successful efforts to broker a truce in Gaza, he staged a frontal assault on Egypt’s nascent democracy.
The question now is whether the Brothers will prevail, both in the streets and by means of Egypt’s new constitution (which they largely wrote)? If they do, will the West withdraw its support for Egyptian democracy in the name of “stability”? It would be a bad mistake.
The question of what to do about Iran’s nuclear programme will also return with a vengeance in January, after US President Barack Obama’s second inauguration and Israel’s general election, and will demand an answer within a few months.
The new Middle East bodes poorly for the coming year, but one thing has not changed: It is still the Middle East, where it is nearly impossible to know what might be waiting around the corner.