Tag Archive for 'Terrorism'

Malala Yousafzai speech at the United Nations

The Bin Laden Files

A series of Al Jazeera reports on leaked files from the Abbottabad Commission which reveals Osama bin Laden’s life on the run and the “collective failure” of the Pakistani military and government to locate him. (Read here)



A night of terror on Nanga Parbat

Peter Miller in National Geographic:

Late last Saturday night, gunmen dressed in paramilitary uniforms entered Base Camp at Nanga Parbat, Pakistan’s second-highest peak, and murdered ten foreign mountaineers and a Pakistani cook. A spokesman for an Islamist militant group later claimed credit for the killings. It was the first time climbers had been targeted in that manner in Pakistan. The victims included three Ukrainians, three Chinese, two Slovaks, a Nepali, a Pakistani, and a Lithuanian named Ernest Marksaitis.

Sher Khan, a Pakistani climber, returned to Base Camp at Nanga Parbat at about two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, June 22. He’d been suffering from the effects of high altitude at Camp 1 and wanted to rest. Besides the other mountaineers at Base Camp, many of whom were also sick, there were about a dozen members of the staff, mostly local people. After a cup of light soup, he climbed into his sleeping bag, still not feeling well.

In this interview, he tells National Geographic what happened on the mountain that night.

What was the first sign of trouble?

I woke up suddenly around 9:30 [in the evening]. I heard noises around my tent. What’s going on, I thought. Is somebody fighting or what? I opened my tent flap a little and saw a person carrying a Russian Kalashnikov about 20 meters away. He was wearing a local camouflage uniform.

Then right in front of my tent I saw someone with a terrorist. His name was Ernest, a climber from Lithuania. And he was saying, “I am not American. I am not American.”

From another direction I heard, “Go out. Go out. Go, go.” They were trying to pull the Chinese out from their tents. “Taliban! Al-Qaeda! Surrender!” They were trying to tell the foreigners to surrender. More:

The man who killed Osama bin Laden

[This video is based on a series of interviews with the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden. To protect his identity, we are not using his real voice. Phil Bronstein, executive chairman of the board of the Center for Investigative Reporting, conducted the interviews. Bronstein's story also appears in the March issue of Esquire.]

For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story. Phil Bronstein at the Center for Investigative Reporting:

I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway.

There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal.

The SEALs had nightscopes, but it was coal-black for bin Laden and the other residents. He can hear but he can’t see.

He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting. He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit. I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he was standing and moving. He was holding her in front of him. Maybe as a shield, I don’t know.

For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That’s him, boom, done.

I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think.

I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath. More:

I love India, I don’t like Indians

Avirook Sen in The Express Tribune:

I love India. I hate many things about it. I cannot stand its poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and often, impotence. But I think what makes me bristle is its celebration of death, when cloaked in the gaberdine of retribution. Ajmal Kasab, a labourer from Faridkot, was hanged on the morning of November 21 and India celebrated.

He was ‘jhatka’ meat. ‘Operation X’ (the evocative codename for the macabre process of getting him to the gallows with the least fuss) was clean, efficient and secretive. There were no sly YouTube videos, even the prime minister didn’t know. The judicial proceedings — I read them with interest — were almost flawlessly fair. Then, it came down to the mercy of the highest authority in the land on such matters — the president. And the heavy, invisible will of that strange entity called “the people”.

I do not like “the people”. There are many of them. They rejoiced, gloated, when news of the hanging came in. I report on a murder trial in India on a regular basis — one that has the possibility of a similar result. On my way to court, I heard the radio — a jockey cracked a joke about the hanging; a young reporter with a mock under-teen delivery asked the hangman “how he felt”. Television took the story forward: why not use the “momentum” (!) to also hang Afzal Guru for the parliament attack case? More:

What scares the Taliban

Pat Bagley in The Salt Lake Tribune:

Sabrina De Sousa: a spy’s story

Seema Sirohi on how Sabrina De Sousa, a former US diplomat of Indian origin, was swept up in the undertow of the war on terror. In The Caravan:

Sabrina De Sousa had agreed to meet me earlier this summer, but only after doing a background check of sorts. Diplomatic caution, after all, never fades. It was a sweltering afternoon, and the fit, young-looking 56-year-old walked into a café in downtown Washington, DC, dressed in a black floral dress and heels. For someone with a Europol warrant out against her, she seemed cheerful and upbeat.

Sabrina was engaging yet cautious about revealing the details of what she called her “troubles”. As a former US diplomat, she said, she is “under legal obligation not to discuss details” of her work. (News reports have quoted her former colleagues identifying her as a CIA agent.) Now she has a court case against her in Italy and is fighting the US government to get protection.

In a mildly English-Indian convent-school accent harking back to her years growing up in Bombay, Sabrina raced through names of people related to her case. She was sentenced in 2009 by an Italian court to five years in prison, along with 22 other Americans, following a trial in absentia (none of them has been extradited). Speaking to me, she threw out pointers, counted the landmarks in her struggle, offered up opinions and key dates. She seemed consumed by it all, almost a quasi-lawyer herself. But it also seemed to animate her greatly. Fighting back, she declared, was “a matter of principle”. She called herself “collateral damage” in the war on terror.

An Italian reporter had compared Sabrina to Mata Hari, calling her an “aggressive” CIA agent who had built a chain of relationships in Milan to get information. She was dubbed “the Tiger with stiletto heels and fists of steel”—a description that better sums up her life today, she told me. More:

And here in WPost

The poetry of Al Qaeda and the Taliban

Faisal Devji in the NYT Sunday Review. [Devji is a fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of the preface for the forthcoming anthology “Poetry of the Taliban.”]

In fact, poetry has long been a part of Muslim radicalism; the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran, for example, was the author of a large collection of verse. Today, the Taliban’s Web site features poems written by the group’s members and sympathizers, both men and women. Recitations are frequently recorded and stored on cellphones and transferred from one person to another by way of Bluetooth technology.

Many Afghan and Al Qaeda poems — which come from distinct but hybrid literary traditions — are, as might be expected, political. In a statement broadcast on Al Jazeera in December 2001, Osama bin Laden quoted the following verses from one of his favorite contemporary poets, Yusuf Abu Hilala, changing the last line and replacing the word “castles” in the original with “towers,” as a reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center:

 Though the clothes of darkness enveloped us and the poisoned tooth bit us,

 Though our homes overflowed with blood and the assailant desecrated our land,

 Though from the squares the shining of swords and horses vanished,

 And sound of drums was growing

 The fighters’ winds blew, striking their towers and telling them:

 We will not cease our raids until you leave our fields.


Afghanistan: The Taliban’s high-tech urban strategy

Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai in Newsweek:

Qari Jamal has returned safely from a reconnaissance mission in Kabul. Short, thin, and immaculately dressed, the fresh-faced 25-year-old relaxes in a house near the Afghan-Pakistan border and tells how he toured the city with his digital camera, looking like an innocent civilian as he scouted sites for future Taliban attacks. “The work is both easy and difficult,” he says. “We have to photograph and survey the area, get the exact GPS coordinates, and note the daily movements of the security forces guarding the installation, without getting caught.” Polishing his glasses on his long, spotlessly white shirttail, he mentions one of the targets he and other undercover Taliban have been casing near NATO headquarters: the Ariana Hotel—a CIA operations center, Jamal calls it. “This is a most attractive target for the fedayeen,” he says. He’s talking about suicide bombers.

The young Afghan belongs to a dangerous new breed of Taliban militants. He grew up in a city, not in a mud-hut village in the backcountry, and he got his education not only at a madrassa but also at a public high school in Pakistan, and then at a college where he majored in information technology. His beard is neatly trimmed, and he doesn’t even carry a gun. Instead, he says, his weapons are a MacBook computer, a clutch of mobile phones, and an array of IT gadgets, from digital cameras to webcams and GPS devices. Citified techies like him are playing an essential role in helping the guerrillas to reshape their strategy with attention-grabbing surprise assaults in places that previously were spared from the heaviest fighting. More:

The Peshawar Bomb Disposal Squad

Kiran Nazish in The Express Tribune:

Just as I had almost given up hope that he would tell me his story, he looked up and spoke: “I can’t remember exactly which wire I was on when the explosion took place, but I was almost done defusing the bomb.”

I tried to make sense of what he had said, and he looked as confused as I felt, but then he explained further. “There were two bombs planted in this girls’ school, but we knew of just one. While I was defusing this one,” he stretched out his hands, as if working on an invisible bomb, “there was an explosion from the other side.” His eyes grew wide and he leaned forward as he spoke, “Eleven young girls were killed, and so many were injured. I just lost one finger from the shrapnel.” He shook his head, seeming disappointed at having lost ‘just’ one finger.

Saleem Khan, 45, has defused more than a hundred bombs in his time with the Peshawar Bomb Disposal Squad and once he starts telling his tale, it’s not hard to see why the loss of a finger seems like a small thing to him.

Many of his friends in the squad have lost an arm or a leg while defusing bombs, but some have lost much more. Two of his best friends died in blasts while on duty — friends he had grown up with. One of them, an eager young man called Mushtaram, joined the Peshawar bomb disposal squad because he could not find any other means to support his wife and four-year-old son. More:

Taliban cut nursing woman’s breast, asked others to eat pieces

Iftikhar Firdous in The Express Tribune:

Peshawar: Kashmala Bibi* says her cousin’s breasts were cut into pieces when five militants walked into their house and saw the woman breastfeeding her child. One of the insurgents then asked the other women around to eat the pieces.

This is one of the many tales of horror recorded in a report titled “Impact of crisis on women and girls in Fata”.

The report, released by human rights organisation “Khwendo Kor” (Sisters’ Home in Pashto) with financial support from UN-women, is based on case studies of women from the tribal belt living in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s IDP camps.

Women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are more susceptible to violence and abuse in a post-conflict scenario, whether or not they are part of the conflict, it says.

Another stark revelation made in the report is that women in camps were forced to have sexual intercourse in exchange for food and non-food items. Girls and widows were at greater risk.

The surveys from Nahqai and Jalozai camps further show that women were uncomfortable going to restrooms because there was little privacy as men constantly lurked around.

“A security officer forced me to have sex in exchange for cooking oil and pulses when I was collecting food at the main entrance of the camp,” a 22-year-old woman Nighat* from the Jalozai Camp is quoted as telling the discussion group. More:

The ally from hell

Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic:

SHORTLY AFTER AMERICAN NAVY SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.

General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama. But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.

Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists. More:

Lesson from Mumbra

Samar Halarnkar in Hindustan Times:

On June 15, 2004, the school and the suburb awoke to the depressing news that Ishrat Jahan Shamim Raza, 19, a pretty, round-faced alumna of the school was one of four people dead in a shootout with the police across the state line in Ahmedabad. The bodies of Ishrat and three men, two of them supposedly Pakistanis, were laid out for the media beside the alleged getaway car, a Blue Indica. AK-47s lay by their side. Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) DG Vanzara, head of the 21-man police squad, said Jahan and her associates were operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and they were planning to assassinate Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s chief minister.

In the seven years since, much of that story collapsed.

In 2009, an Ahmedabad Metropolitan magistrate ruled the “encounter” a staged, extra-judicial killing. When the Gujarat government appealed against the verdict, the Gujarat High Court set up a special investigation team (SIT), which on Monday — after four chiefs, detailed ballistic examinations (including one that showed the officer who supposedly shot the “terrorists” never once fired his weapon) and interrogation of the police officers involved — agreed there was never a shootout. As for Vanzara, feted once as a hero, he was arrested in the extra-judicial killing of a suspect in another case. He is presently in jail.

Mumbra was seething and sorrowful when Ishrat’s body came home. She was, after all, a local role model. The eldest daughter of a lower-middle-class migrant family from Bihar, Ishrat studied science at Mumbai’s Guru Nanak Khalsa College. Her father dead, she ran tuition classes and undertook embroidery jobs in Mumbra to supplement the family income. When the SIT verdict came this week, Ishrat’s family and Mumbra rejoiced, saying they knew all along she was never a terrorist.

Was Ishrat, then, an innocent teen shot by brazen officers in search of reward and promotion? More:

The interconnected nature of food and politics in Pakistan

Jason Burke at Guernica [via 3quarksdaily]:

Not much happened in Islamabad in 1998. Not much happened in Pakistan, in fact—or at least not much that troubled editors, viewers, readers, or policy makers in Europe or the United States. The country had slid inexorably away from international attention since the end of the war fought by the mujahideen against Soviet troops in neighboring Afghanistan almost a decade before. Most media organizations covered Pakistan from India. It was not a big story. The rediscovery of Pakistan and Afghanistan would come, with breathless haste, on September 12, 2001.

Just behind my apartment in Islamabad that year was a plot of land covered in mimosa trees, wild cannabis, and scrub. It was a graveyard, and though no one tended it or came to grieve at the dozen or so mounds of earth that lay among the rubbish under the trees, no one built on it either—though the potential for profitable development of such a prime piece of urban real estate was high. To one side of the graveyard was the substantial embassy of North Korea, to whom, it was whispered, Pakistan sold blueprints for nuclear bombs. These rumors were later proved to be at least partially true. Watching the embassy were two plainclothes intelligence agents, who usually sat on the pavement in the shade below a eucalyptus tree and read popular local-language newspapers. I knew them quite well after a while, and they smiled sheepishly when we greeted each other.

On the other side of the graveyard was the home of Benazir Bhutto. More:

[Reprinted from Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar: Stories of Food during Wartime by the World’s Leading Correspondents]

Talk in Pakistan: When will US attack?

Salman Masood from Islamabad in IHT:

The United States might still be weighing its options about how to deal with Pakistan, but many politicians, retired army generals and popular television talk show hosts here have already made up their minds that America is on the warpath with their country.

Such is the media frenzy and warmongering that popular talk show hosts have even begun discussing possible scenarios of how Pakistan should react if the United States attacks the country. One television news channel has even aired a war anthem.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has called on a conference of opposition political parties and government’s allies for Thursday to discuss the crisis. The government is also enlisting allies.

Islamabad, the capital, has seen a flurry of diplomatic activity with the visits of Chinese and Saudi officials. The American ambassador, Cameron Munter, has also met with President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. More

The Haqqani clan: the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war

In The New York Times:

They are the Sopranos of the Afghanistan war, a ruthless crime family that built an empire out of kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, even trucking. They have trafficked in precious gems, stolen lumber and demanded protection money from businesses building roads and schools with American reconstruction funds.

They safeguard their mountainous turf by planting deadly roadside bombs and shelling remote American military bases. And they are accused by American officials of being guns for hire: a proxy force used by the Pakistani intelligence service to carry out grisly, high-profile attacks in Kabul and throughout the country.

Today, American intelligence and military officials call the crime clan known as the Haqqani network — led by a wizened militant named Jalaluddin Haqqani who has allied himself over the years with the C.I.A., Saudi Arabia’s spy service and Osama bin Laden — the most deadly insurgent group in Afghanistan. In the latest of a series of ever bolder strikes, the group staged a daylong assault on the United States Embassy in Kabul, an attack Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged Thursday was aided by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. More: And more here

In Kabul, it’s not MTV, it’s a mission

The man who brought us rock videos is advising a media group in Kabul that is shaking up television in Afghanistan. David Carr in the New York Times:

The missile strike was in Afghanistan, where Mr. Freston lived during the 1970s when he was in the clothing business. Now he is serving as a board member and adviser to the Moby Group, which owns a burgeoning string of television and radio networks in a country where simply owning a television was illegal not so long ago. Forget about wanting their MTV, Afghans just wanted their TVs.

The Moby Group owns Tolo TV, a Dari language network; Lemar TV, which beams out in Pashto; two FM stations; and Farsi1, a joint television venture with the News Corporation that serves millions of Farsi speakers in Iran as well. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, it all but criminalized most of pop culture, so it’s remarkable that Moby is broadcasting shows in which men and women interact, often to hilarious effect, and the radio station has a male and a female D.J. bantering away the morning. And the audience apparently is there: Tolo TV has a 45 percent market share, according to Saad Mohseni, the head of Moby.

In Afghanistan, many women still wear burqas, and freedoms are limited, so working with the guy who helped bring “Beavis and Butt-Head” into public consciousness would not seem especially helpful. But Mr. Mohseni said Mr. Freston has been critical to the enterprise.

“He is a prolific e-mailer and always available for making connections for even the smallest things,” said Mr. Mohseni, speaking by phone during a visit to the United States last week from Afghanistan. He said that Mr. Freston had introduced him to Rupert Murdoch, among others. “When he comes here, he talks with the producers, the managers, the people doing the work,” Mr. Mohseni said.

In the ’70s, Mr. Freston ran a clothing company called Hindu Kush — “I had no idea what I was doing,” he said — out of Kabul and New Delhi. He developed a lasting crush on Afghanistan and now, more than 30 years later, he’s traveling there about three times a year. More:

Also read: Studio Kabul

Why they get Pakistan wrong

In the New York Review of Books, Mohsin Hamid reviews

The Scorpion’s Tail: The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan—and How It Threatens America by Zahid Hussain (Free Press, 244 pp., $25.00)

Pakistan: A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven (PublicAffairs, 558 pp., $35.00)

The past decade has been devastating for Pakistan. The country’s annual death toll from terrorist attacks rose from 164 in 2003 to 3,318 in 2009, a level exceeding the number of Americans killed on September 11. Some 35,000 Pakistanis, including 3,500 members of security forces, have died in terror and counterterror violence. Millions more have been displaced by fighting. It is difficult to convey how profoundly the country has been wounded. In 1989, my Lahore American School classmates and I (including children from Pakistan, America, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and Korea) were able to go to the beautiful valley of Swat by bus for a weeklong field trip with no security arrangements whatsoever. In 2009, the battle to retake Swat from Taliban militants involved two full divisions of the Pakistani army and hundreds of casualties among Pakistani soldiers. (Similarly, until a few years ago, there had never been a suicide bombing in Lahore. Now one occurs every three or four months.) The Pakistani government puts direct and indirect economic losses from terrorism over the last ten years at $68 billion.

Of the $20.7 billion in US funding allocated to Pakistan from 2002 to 2010, $14.2 billion was for the Pakistani military. On paper, economic assistance came to $6.5 billion, less than a third of the total. In reality the civilian share was even smaller, probably less than a quarter, for the $6.5 billion figure reflects “commitments” (amounts budgeted by the US), not “disbursements” (amounts actually given to Pakistan). The United States Government Accountability Office reports that only 12 percent of the $1.5 billion in economic assistance to Pakistan authorized for 2010 was actually disbursed that year. Independent calculations by the Center for Global Development suggest that $2.2 billion of civilian aid budgeted for Pakistan is currently undisbursed, meaning that total economic assistance actually received from the US over the past nine years is in the vicinity of $4.3 billion, or $480 million per year. (By comparison, Pakistanis abroad remit $11 billion to their families in Pakistan annually, over twenty times the flow of US economic aid.)

Pakistan is a large country, with a population of 180 million and a GDP of $175 billion. Average annual US economic assistance comes to less than 0.3 percent of Pakistan’s current GDP, or $2.67 per Pakistani citizen. Here in Lahore, that’s the price of a six-inch personal-size pizza with no extra toppings from Pizza Hut. More:

Who was behind Pakistan’s 9/11 ad?


Pakistan’s officialdom is proving reluctant to take responsibility for dreaming up a half-page advertisement taken out in The Wall Street Journal last weekend to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The ad asked, “Which country can do more for your peace?” It went on to list the sacrifices that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism over the past decade, including suffering almost 3,000 deaths of armed forces personnel.

One Pakistani government official said the idea for the ad came from the army’s public relations division, which has been keen to counter the U.S.’s contention that Pakistan continues to harbor Taliban militants. More:

Also in WSJ: It was not clear whether the ad was carried in other U.S. publications. Pakistan’s government also tried to place it in the New York Times. The Times asked for “more clarity in the ad about who was placing it,” according to a spokeswoman for the newspaper. The Times did not hear back from the government and so has not yet run the ad, she said.

Pakistan newspaper Dawn, which describes the ad as “a feeble attempt” to reach out to the American public, said it was first offered to the New York Times “but they refused to publish it, forcing Pakistani officials to go to a business newspaper with a specialised but influential readership.”

Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit

On September 11, 2011, Shoshana Hebshi, who describes herself as a “half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife,” was aggressively cuffed and detained from Frontier Airlines Flight 623, then strip-searched, for the apparent crime of being ambiguously “ethnic” and sitting next to two Indian men she didn’t know who got up to use the toilet in succession. The two Indians, too, were detained. A fellow passenger on her flight had told a flight attendant that she and her dark-skinned seatmates (all of whom were strangers to one another) were “suspicious.” This is her story:

Silly me. I thought flying on 9/11 would be easy. I figured most people would choose not to fly that day so lines would be short, planes would be lightly filled and though security might be ratcheted up, we’d all feel safer knowing we had come a long way since that dreadful Tuesday morning 10 years ago.

But then armed officers stormed my plane, threw me in handcuffs and locked me up.

My flight from Denver landed in Detroit on time. I sent a text message to my husband to let him know we had landed and I would be home by dinner. The plane stopped on the tarmac, seemingly waiting to have the gate cleared. We waited. I played on my phone, checking Facebook, scrolling through my Twitter feed. After a while of sitting there, I decided to call my husband to tell him the plane was being delayed and I would call him when I got off the plane.

Just as I hung up the phone, the captain came over the loudspeaker and announced that the airport authorities wanted to move the airplane to a different part of the airport. Must be a blocked gate or something, I thought. But then he said: Everyone remain in your seats or there will be consequences. Sounded serious. I looked out the window and saw a squadron of police cars following the plane, lights flashing. I turned to my neighbor, who happened to be an Indian man, in wonderment. What is going on? Others on the plane were remarking at the police as well. Getting a little uneasy, I decided the best thing for me to do was to tweet about the experience. If the plane was going to blow up, at least there’d be some record on my part. More:

After 9/11, hate begat hate

Ahmed Rashid, a journalist and the author of “Taliban” and “Descent into Chaos”, in The New York Times:

In their shock after Sept. 11, 2001, Americans frequently asked, “Why do they hate us so much?” It wasn’t clear just who “they” were — Muslims, Arabs or simply anyone who was not American. The easy answer that many Americans found comforting was equally vague: that “they” were jealous of America’s wealth, opportunities, democracy and what have you.

But in this part of the world — in Pakistan, where I live, and in Afghanistan next door, from which the Sept. 11 attacks were directed — those who detested America were much more identifiable, and so were their reasons. They were a small group of Islamic extremists who supported Al Qaeda; a larger group of students studying at madrasas, which had expanded rapidly since the 1980s; and young militants who had been empowered by years of support from Pakistan’s military intelligence services to fight against India in Kashmir. They were a tiny minority of Pakistan’s 150 million people at the time. In their eyes, America was an imperial, oppressive, heathen power just like the Soviet Union, which they had defeated in Afghanistan.

Now, with the United States about to enter the 11th year of the longest war it has ever fought, far more of my neighbors in Pakistan have joined the list of America’s detractors. The wave of anti-Americanism is rising in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, even among many who once admired the United States, and the short reason for that is plain: the common resentment is that American plans to bring peace and development to Afghanistan have failed, the killing is still going on, and to excuse their failures Americans have now expanded the war into Pakistan, evoking what they did in the 1960s when the Vietnam war moved into Laos and Cambodia. Moreover, while Pakistanis die for an American war, Washington has given favored deals to Pakistan’s archenemy, India. So goes the argument.

The more belligerent detractors of America will tell you that Americans are imperialists who hate Islam, and that Americans’ so-called civilizing instincts have nothing to do with democracy or human rights. A more politically attuned attitude is that the detractor doesn’t hate Americans, just the policies that American leaders pursue.

But both groups feel trapped: Afghanistan is still caught up in war, and my country is on the brink of meltdown. And so now there is something beyond just disliking America. We have begun to ask the question of 9/11 in reverse: why do Americans hate us so much ? More:

9/11: Portraits of grief

A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, The New York Times revisited families to learn how they have coped, changed and carried on since that day.


Slain Pakistan governor Salmaan Taseer’s son kidnapped from Lahore

From Dawn, Karachi:

The son of a Pakistani governor who was killed by his bodyguard for his opposition to a harsh blasphemy law this year was kidnapped in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday, police and the family said.

Four men on motorbikes intercepted Shahbaz Taseer in his car in the upscale Gulberg area and took him to a nearby street before kidnapping him, police said, quoting witnesses.

“Shahbaz was out with a friend when four unidentified people kidnapped him,” his brother Shehryar Taseer told Reuters.

Shahbaz Taseer is a director in several companies his father founded, including Pace Pakistan Ltd., First Capital Equities Ltd., Media Times Ltd. and First Capital Securities Corp. Ltd.

“Our family has been receiving threats from the Taliban and extremist groups,” Shehryar said, adding they could be behind the abduction.

No one has yet claimed responsibility.

More here, here

Pakistan: why the US must think outside the ‘military’ box

Manan Ahmed, a historian of Pakistan at Freie Universitat Berlin, in The National. He blogs at Chapati Mystery.

“Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?” In November 1999, the question stymied the US presidential hopeful George W Bush. “The new Pakistani general, he’s just been elected – not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that’s good news for the subcontinent,” he replied, blanking on the name. The oversight was quickly brushed away by an electorate generally uninterested in global foreign policy.

A few months later, in March 2000, President Bill Clinton landed in Islamabad for a brief five-hour visit and gave a televised address to the Pakistani people, wishing them a speedy return to democracy. However, the United States had by then held Pakistan under sanctions for nearly a decade – no aid had been extended during that period and, further, a refund of nearly $700 million (Dh2.6bn), put down by Pakistan as payment for undelivered F16 fighter planes, had been consistently withheld by the US – and Clinton’s words fell on unreceptive ears. The president could offer no incentive to the military regime.

The “chief executive” of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, who had deposed Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, met Clinton, promised elections in another year and shrugged off the threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda as part of a “people’s dynamic” that operated on tribal affiliations. In 2000, Pakistan was unknown. And what was known about it was severely restricted. More here in The National.

Pakistan’s middle class extremists

Graeme Blair, C. Christine Fair, Neil Malhotra, Jacob N. Shapiro in Foreign Affairs:

The stakes are particularly high in Pakistan. The country provides haven for Islamist terrorists that operate in India and Afghanistan and is itself the victim of a militant insurgency that has killed or injured some 35,000 Pakistanis since 2004. Currently, programs meant to address the problem of homegrown Pakistani militancy by alleviating poverty dominate the Western aid agenda. The 2009 U.S. Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, for example, proposed spending $7.5 billion on economic development in Pakistan, with the express aim of “combating militant extremism.” To test the assumption that poor people are more likely to become radicalized, we fielded a 6,000-person, nationally representative survey of Pakistanis in the four provinces of Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) in the spring of 2009.

The survey measured attitudes toward four important militant groups: al Qaeda; the Afghan Taliban; the so-called Kashmiri groups, which include Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, among others; and sectarian groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba. The survey was much larger than any previous effort and, for the first time, included rural Pakistan. Previous studies had been undermined by low response rates, perhaps because they asked Pakistanis directly about their support for militant groups. Instead, we measured attitudes toward the groups using an indirect questioning technique called an “endorsement” experiment. We presented respondents with a set of four policy issues, including World Health Organization’s administration of polio vaccinations and the redefinition of the Durand Line separating Pakistan from Afghanistan, and asked how much they supported each. Some respondents were told that one of the four militant groups supported the policy. Comparing the support for each policy of those who were told a militant group supported the policy with those who were not gives the measure of support for the group. More:

Dreams of Mumbai

Sonia Faleiro in IHT. She is the author of “Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars,” which will be published next month.

Varanasi — In Delhi where I grew up I knew a girl who carried a meat knife. Tired of daily molestations, she used to say that the next stranger who fondled her, in the bus, or on the street as he brushed past, would feel it.

I didn’t carry a knife, but I wore my sister’s baggy salwar kameezes. This way, I told myself, men wouldn’t stare and they wouldn’t touch. When I was 24 years old, I left Delhi for Edinburgh to study for a master’s degree. After I returned to India I found that I no longer wanted to dress like someone else, and I still didn’t want to carry a knife. So I moved to Mumbai.

My boyfriend, an American recently arrived in the country, moved as well. Mumbai offered me the freedom I had experienced only outside the country, and it gave him freedoms he took for granted in his own.

Before relocating I had heard that young women did things in Mumbai that were unthinkable in Delhi — they wore shorts in public and returned home on their own after dark, even if they had been drinking. But it was in Mumbai that I became the person, and in time the writer, I now am.

Only in Mumbai could a young female writer safely attend a late-night birthday party hosted by a madam in a brothel. Only in Mumbai could I have lunch with a known gangster and leave the conversation feeling even more alive than when it had begun. More:

The maximum threat

Dilip Bobb in The Indian Express:

As Mumbai’s Boswell, Suketu Mehta captured the dark side of Mumbai as effectively as he did the wonder and iconic status that define the metropolis. The alluring mistress of hope, the devil of despair, the maximum city in every which way, whether providing nightmares or building dreams. It also detailed why and how Mumbai can become an addiction. Above all, it defined what makes a Mumbaikar. It is a peculiar definition, but it manages to say a lot, much like one speaks of someone being a New Yorker. Wednesday’s terror strike has brought Mumbaikars into tragic focus once again — their legendary “resilience” and “spirit” starting to invite anger rather than pride from those who face the reality of being the favoured target for terrorists.

The reasons for that targeting go beyond the cliché of being “the financial centre”. No other city in India has that aura, and sense of destiny, that Mumbai commands. Like New York, with which it is often compared, Mumbai stands for something unique: a city that energises those who live in it, and instills a desire to excel. Such cities have become “command centres in the borderless domain of the new global economy,” as an American architect recently wrote. These are cities that cause prominent writers like Mehta, Vikram Chandra (Sacred Games, Love and Longing in Bombay) and now Aravind Adiga (Last Man in Tower) to use them as a backdrop to their novels, because of their iconic status, of the kind of people who inhabit them, and the dynamics of its neighbourhoods. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire could only have been filmed in Mumbai to bring alive the grime and the glamour, the ambition and drive, and the dreams that it encourages its inhabitants to dream. It is that spirit which invites the terrorist’s wrath, the obsessive desire to see it broken. Mumbai is more a symbol of emerging India and its growing economic clout than any other city in India, and that’s what keeps the fidayeen plotting their twisted conspiracies while preparing the ammonium nitrate. More:

What do you get when you put a terrorist inside of a brain scanner?

Virginia Hughes in the blog “The last word on nothing“:

It’s not the setup of a bad joke. For years, the U.S. military has likely used brain scanners to try to read the minds of suspected terrorists. Some bioethicists have argued, and I tend to agree, that using neuroimaging during interrogations is not only ineffective, but could also exacerbate the abusive treatment of prisoners of war.

We want terrorist suspects to disclose reliable information. So the push for technology that can distinguish truth from deception makes sense, especially when you consider how older methods have failed. Physical torture, of the sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding varieties, almost always, if not always, gives interrogators buckets of unreliable information. (It has some pesky ethical problems, too, but I’m not going there.) ‘Truth serums,’ such as scopolamine, sodium pentothal, and sodium amytal, act like sledge hammers on rational cognition and produce punch-drunk gibberish no more illuminating than the pronouncements of David After Dentist. And then there’s the polygraph, whose infamous squiggles reveal not the truthfulness of information, but rather the interrogee’s emotional response to it. Polygraphy is pretty much useless in all situations, not to mention those in which the subject is exhausted and/or drugged and/or relying on a translator.

Enter our colorful hero, the brain scan. The most famous is called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures blood flow in the brain. More:

U.S. Admiral ties Pakistan to killing of journalist

Elisabeth Bumiller in NYT:

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that he believed that the government of Pakistan had “sanctioned” the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of Islamic militants into the country’s security services.

Admiral Mullen, who is due to retire at the end of September, is the first American official to publicly accuse Pakistan, an American ally, of the kidnapping, torture and death of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40. His comments about a case that has intensified criticism of the government in Islamabad are certain to further aggravate the poisoned relationship between the United States and Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed in an American raid in May.

Admiral Mullen said he could not specifically tie Mr. Shahzad’s death to Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, known as the ISI, although Obama administration officials believe that the ISI ordered the killing. But Admiral Mullen made clear that he thought Pakistani officials were complicit in Mr. Shahzad’s death.

“It was sanctioned by the government,” Admiral Mullen told journalists during a Pentagon briefing. “I have not seen anything to disabuse the report that the government knew about this.” More:

Also in NYT:

Pakistani Army linked, in letter, to nuclear sale

The emergence of a single-page letter supposedly written by a senior North Korean official 13 years ago has become the strongest evidence yet suggesting that Pakistan’s top military officials were involved in a secret sale of equipment to North Korea that enabled it, years later, to begin enriching uranium.

The letter is said to have been written to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani who built the world’s largest black market in nuclear weapons technology, by Jon Byong Ho, a North Korean whom American intelligence has long put at the center of the North’s trade in missile and nuclear technologies. It reports that the chief of the Pakistani Army at the time, Gen. Jehangir Karamat, had been paid $3 million and asked that “the agreed documents, components, etc.” be placed on a North Korean plane that was returning to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, after delivering missile parts to Pakistan. More: