Tag Archive for 'Terrorism'

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Pakistani military still cultivates militant groups, a former fighter says

Carlotta Gall in The New York Times:

The Pakistani military continues to nurture a broad range of militant groups as part of a three-decade strategy of using proxies against its neighbors and American forces in Afghanistan, but now some of the fighters it trained are questioning that strategy, a prominent former militant commander says.

The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.

Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said.

The former commander’s account belies years of assurances by Pakistan to American officials since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that it has ceased supporting militant groups in its territory. The United States has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid over the past decade for its help with counterterrorism operations. Still, the former commander said, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has not abandoned its policy of supporting the militant groups as tools in Pakistan’s dispute with India over the border territory of Kashmir and in Afghanistan to drive out American and NATO forces.

“There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals,” he said. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals. “These people have a very big role still,” he said. More:

Also in NYT: Pakistan’s spies tied to slaying of a journalist

Obama administration officials believe that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency ordered the killing of a Pakistani journalist who had written scathing reports about the infiltration of militants in the country’s military, according to American officials.

New classified intelligence obtained before the May 29 disappearance of the journalist, Saleem Shahzad, 40, from the capital, Islamabad, and after the discovery of his mortally wounded body, showed that senior officials of the spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, directed the attack on him in an effort to silence criticism, two senior administration officials said.

Pakistan: The end of the affair?

Omar Ali in 3quarksdaily:

We have been here before, but it is being said that the unhappy marriage between the Pentagon and GHQ has deteriorated further and once again, those watching this soap opera are wondering if this union can last? Writing in Al-Arabiya, GHQ’s own Brigadier Shaukat Qadir says that the US appears to be “gunning for Pakistan’s top generals”, who are said to be bravely resisting this latest perfidious American plot against General Kiyani. And why is the US trying to undermine the good General? Because at a meeting with President Obama he made clear “ that this soft-spoken, laid-back, easy-going general, far from being overawed by the privilege of meeting President Obama, would still give back better than he got.”

This interesting article (I highly recommend reading it twice to get the full flavor) can be read in a number of ways, all of which are worrisome. One is to assume that Brigadier sahib means exactly what he is saying. That there is some core Pakistani interest that General Kiyani bravely insisted on defending, and for that sin, he is now being systematically undermined. Note that Pakistan’s elected government did not decide what this core interest is supposed to be, nor was it consulted before General Kiyani decided to defend this core interest against US imperialism. In fact, Brigadier sahib hints that the elected regime may include “powerful individuals who have no loyalty to this country and its people”. No, this core interest, for which Kiyani sahib is supposedly willing to risk a clash with the United States (and by extension, NATO, Japan, etc) is defined by GHQ, as it has been for decades.

Strategic depth”, it seems, is alive and well and we can live with bombings, insurgencies, electricity shortages and all sorts of economic and social crises, but we cannot live without strategic depth. For the sake of this strategic depth, we kept the Taliban alive and made sure the new American-installed regime in Afghanistan would not stabilize. And when the Americans leave (something that everyone in GHQ seems convinced is happening very soon), we will restart a civil war in Afghanistan, with “our side” led by the Haqqanis and Mullah Omar. More:

Dying to tell the story

Umar Cheema, investigative reporter at The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language daily, in The New York Times:

On Sept. 4, I was driven to an abandoned house instead of a police station, where I was stripped naked and tortured with a whip and a wooden rod. While a man flogged me, I asked what crime had brought me this punishment. Another man told me: “Your reporting has upset the government.” It was not a crime, and therefore I did not apologize.

Instead, I kept praying, “Oh God, why am I being punished?” The answer came from the ringleader: “If you can’t avoid rape, enjoy it.” He would employ abusive language whenever he addressed me.

“Have you ever been tortured before?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“These marks will stay with you forever, offering you a reminder never to defy the authorities,” he replied.

They tortured me for 25 minutes, shaved my head, eyebrows and moustache and then filmed and photographed my naked body. I was dumped nearly 100 miles outside Islamabad with a warning not to speak up or face the consequences.

The following months were dreadful. I suffered from a sleep disorder. I would wake up fearing that someone was beating my back. I wouldn’t go jogging, afraid that somebody would pick me up again and I’d never return. Self-imposed house arrest is the life I live today; I don’t go outside unless I have serious business. I have been chased a number of times after the incident. Now my son asks me questions about my attackers that I don’t answer. I don’t want to sow the seeds of hatred in his heart. More:


Interview: Ehsan ul-Haq, Pakistan’s former ISI chief

Charles Homans in Foreign Policy:

Foreign Policy: Where were you when you heard about the 9/11 attacks?

EH: On 9/11 I was co-commander in Peshawar, with responsibility for the western border with Afghanistan and security in the tribal areas of Pakistan and our northwestern province, what is now called Khyber-PK. And of course, it was shocking news for everybody — it was for me personally. And I didn’t realize how much it would impact on my personal life, how the world would change, how Pakistan would change.

FP: From there to the end of your tenure in 2007, what was your understanding or suspicion of where bin Laden was?

Ehsan ul-Haq: I was asked [to take over as lead of IS] on Oct. 7, 2001, when the bombing of Kabul began … Of course, our awareness of al Qaeda at that stage was very limited because al Qaeda was not operating in Afghanistan — it was an Arab phenomenon. Yes, it was transiting through Pakistan and Iran and other countries, but since they had not really operated in Pakistan, so we were not much aware of its dimensions, its role, its intentions, its objectives-these were things that were new to us, and it took time for us to really reconcile with it. But very quickly, we did achieve very substantial successes and close cooperation with other intelligence services, particularly the CIA.

As far as Osama bin Laden is concerned, frankly speaking, after Tora Bora we only heard the information that was shared with us at the time. After that, there were never any authentic reports on Osama bin Laden until his killing in Abbottabad. More:

Pakistan after Osama

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal Southasian:

Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on its people as a matter of ideology. Prayers were made compulsory in government departments, punishments were meted out to those civil servants who did not fast during Ramadan, selection for academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was propagated through schoolbooks. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of the spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal that has been the result of the years of grooming. A generation of poisoned minds that holds the external world responsible for all the country’s ills has led the country into collective xenophobia and psychosis. Signs suggest that a fascist religious state may be just around the corner.

A necessary condition for fascism – a sense of victimhood, mass delusions and a disconnection with reality – has now been met. A majority of all Pakistanis believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy, think the dynamiting of schools and suicide attacks on shrines are the work of Blackwater (the US defence contractor now called Xe), see India’s hand behind Pakistan’s deepening instability and, refuse to accept Pakistan’s responsibility in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Many welcomed the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in January, despite the fact that his only ‘crime’ was to protect a poor peasant Christian woman against charges of blasphemy. Surveys also show that a majority believes that senior army officers do not support the Taliban, and think that peace will return to Pakistan once the US leaves Afghanistan.

Those holding such distorted views of the world greeted the news of bin Laden’s killing with outright disbelief and denial. Pakistan’s capacity for self-deception should not be underestimated. An online survey conducted two days after the operation by a global opinion pollster revealed that a staggering 66 percent of Pakistanis thought the person who was killed by US Navy SEALs was not bin Laden. Participants in satirical TV shows burst into peals of laughter as they poured scorn on America and its claims. The supposed killing of bin Laden was nothing but high drama, said popular TV anchors. General Mirza Aslam Beg, former army chief and the formulator of the notion of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, fully agreed. He wrote: ‘Osama’s look-alike prisoner from Bagram was picked-up and brought to Abbottabad and killed in cold blood, in front of his family members, who were living there. In fact, Osama had been killed in Afghanistan some time back and his body may still be lying in a mortuary in Afghanistan.’ Beg says it was all a ploy to defame the Pakistan government, the Pakistan armed forces and the ISI.


Over decades, Pakistan has adapted to its changing strategic circumstances by renting itself out to powerful states. Territory and men are part of the services provided. Payment comes not just from the US, but Arab countries as well. For fear of public criticism, the arrangements have been kept hidden. Pakistan’s supposedly vibrant press has chosen to steer off such controversial issues. But post bin-Laden, the clatter of skeletons tumbling out of Pakistan’s strategic closet is forcing some secrets out into the open. More:

Curse of the bomb

Rafia Zakaria in Dawn:

IT is said that Pakistan was born on Aug 14, 1947. But like other hazy snapshots in the tampered-with album of our wishful history, this fact, nurtured through rote and repetition, has faltered under the weight of reality.

If the fervour of homage and sacrifice is a reason to reconfigure Pakistan’s creation story, then the country was actually born on May 28, 1998. On that day, Pakistan announced it had carried out five successful nuclear tests; patriotism in Pakistan would henceforth be defined as a belief in the power to kill millions.

Since that day, a large section of Pakistanis have dutifully worshipped their bomb, imagining in its capacity to destroy, a safety that would insulate them from incursions by nosy neighbors and meddling powers, from wars that would chip off territory and skirmishes that would disrespect borders

The bomb will save us, they believed, it will sustain us in these trying times (we cannot be backward if we have the bomb) and save us from trying too hard (who needs a super economy if you have a super bomb?). In times of trouble and fear, when watching the bombing elsewhere — a punished Baghdad amidst its dusty ruins, a desolate Kabul with its bombed-out streets — these Pakistanis turned to the bomb for comfort, however elusive. More:

Who killed Pakistani journalist?

A well-known Pakistani journalist who recently wrote an article about al-Qaeda infiltration in Pakistan’s Navy has been found dead. Saleem Shahzad was abducted over the weekend in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad. His body was found in a canal in Mandi Baha Uddin in Pakistan’s northern Gujarat district.

After his disappearance, the Human Rights Watch alleged that Shahzad had been picked up by the ISI and that the intelligence agency had threatened him last year as well when he had reported on the quiet release of Mullah Baradar, an aide to Mullah Omar, who had been captured by Pakistan earlier. More in Dawn and in The News.

Click here to read his article in Asia Times Online: Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike

Is the ISI involved? In Time: While the ISI was said to have bristled at previous reports by Shahzad, his disappearance happened two days after he wrote a story for Asia Times Online that said that al-Qaeda had attacked a naval base in the port city of Karachi on May 22 after talks had broken down between the Pakistan navy and the global terrorist organization.

The hawks of South Asia: in Foreign Policy

Pakistan and India: A rivalry that threatens the world

In The Economist:

Outsiders, especially Indians, have expressed dismay ever since Osama bin Laden was killed this month in Abbottabad, a prim military town in Pakistan. Here is a state that both fights, and protects, Islamic fanatics. Even when Pakistanis themselves are the main victims of attack by jihadis, the state fails to act.

On May 13th suicide-bombers sent by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Pakistani Taliban, killed 80, mostly young army cadets, in Shabqadar, a town in the north-west. That attack was claimed as retaliation for bin Laden’s death, but such strikes have grown dismally common. As America’s ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, puts it, “If you grow vipers in your backyard, you’re going to get bitten.”

At moments Pakistan sounds ready to co-operate with America against extremists. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whizzed through Kabul and Islamabad this week and claimed, after four hours of talks with General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, that the troubled bilateral relationship was again “on track”. Pakistan will hand over the remains of the stealth helicopter blown up in the Abbottabad raid. And America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will visit in the coming weeks.

Outsiders, especially Indians, have expressed dismay ever since Osama bin Laden was killed this month in Abbottabad, a prim military town in Pakistan. Here is a state that both fights, and protects, Islamic fanatics. Even when Pakistanis themselves are the main victims of attack by jihadis, the state fails to act.

On May 13th suicide-bombers sent by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Pakistani Taliban, killed 80, mostly young army cadets, in Shabqadar, a town in the north-west. That attack was claimed as retaliation for bin Laden’s death, but such strikes have grown dismally common. As America’s ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, puts it, “If you grow vipers in your backyard, you’re going to get bitten.”

At moments Pakistan sounds ready to co-operate with America against extremists. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whizzed through Kabul and Islamabad this week and claimed, after four hours of talks with General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, that the troubled bilateral relationship was again “on track”. Pakistan will hand over the remains of the stealth helicopter blown up in the Abbottabad raid. And America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will visit in the coming weeks. More


The double game

Lawrence Wright, author of Looming Tower, on the unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan. In the New Yorker:

It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor. Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.

The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?

India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.

American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself. More:


Noam Chomsky: My reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death

In Guernica:

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president. More:

At scienceblogs: Another reason not to pay Noam Chomsky any mind

In WSJ: The professor dons the militant’s cap: It fits.

A reporter’s quest for Osama bin Laden

John F. Burns in The New York Times:

As reporting opportunities go, few can have been more spectacularly flubbed than the one that came my way on a long-ago spring day in the former Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. The year was 1989; the location a cramped room at a ramshackle indoctrination camp for Arab militants in the hinterland outside Peshawar, the frontier town that was a staging area for the mujahedeen who forced Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan earlier that year.

At the back, in a corner, sat a tall, straggly-bearded man in his early 30s, silent, taut-faced, and plainly, by his body language, deeply upset by a reporter’s intrusion. His name, I learned later from an officer of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, was Osama bin Laden. I never spoke to him that day, on what proved to be the only firsthand sighting I would have of the man whose terrorist murderousness — and success for so long in eluding history’s biggest manhunt — was to recast the story of our time.

For me, as for many foreign correspondents of my generation, Bin Laden was to become an obsessive figure, a sort of unholy grail, just as he was for the American commandos who finally tracked him down. A handful of reporters succeeded in interviewing him in the decade after my own encounter, always under cloak-and-dagger conditions, always at one of his hideaways in Afghanistan. But none were to meet him after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he became a figure to be seen only in the smuggled videotapes that became his sermons — and now his epitaph — for the world. More:

Pakistan is playing dumb

Fatima Bhutto in The Daily Beast:

For twenty four hours after Osama bin Laden was (or was he?) shot dead with two bullets to the face by Navy SEALs from the Joint Special Operations Command—“sort of like Murder Incorporated,” a former colonel explained to author Jeremy Scahill—no one heard a peep out of Pakistan’s president. Normally ensconced so securely within the president’s house in Islamabad, venturing out only for foreign junkets and dealing with domestic bothers from behind his fortified walls, President Asif Ali Zardari had met the news that the world’s most wanted man was killed two hours away from his nation’s capital with catatonic silence.

Instead of a televised address to the nation or a press release, he did what all hapless leaders do when in trouble—Zardari wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post. Claiming that his government had no role in the killing, he waxed lyrical about his personal travails. He applauded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seconded President Obama’s morally ambiguous speech, and resurrected nothing short of a stump speech for why his government should please be left in power because they really are very democratic even though Zardari himself was never elected to office.

It is not surprising that Pakistan’s president would insist he had no idea bin Laden was living comfortably in one of the country’s most famous garrison towns—the Pakistani establishment has been feigning ignorance for years.

It takes a certain aplomb to insist that you didn’t know Public Enemy No. 1 was living in your country—and in a leafy city, not in a South Waziristani cave; that American helicopters entered your airspace, perhaps using one of your air bases at Tarbela Ghazi; and that the Americans had been planning to take out said Public Enemy No. 1 for the past nine months. The modus operandi of recent years has been to look the other way while keeping their purse at the open.More:

Pakistan and Osama bin Laden: What did they know?

From The Economist blogs:

Whichever way you cut it, Pakistan’s authorities are in a bind over the discovery, and killing, of Osama bin Laden by American Navy Seals in Abbottabad, a military town just north of Islamabad. The hollow claims made for many years by Pakistani rulers, military chiefs and spooks that Mr bin Laden, other al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban bosses were being allowed no refuge inside Pakistan, have been spectacularly exposed. The fact that he had last been holed up not in some wretched mountain cave but in a specially built, fortress-like compound within a mile of a prestigious military academy, in a town bristling with Pakistani military men, is a damning detail to which Pakistan’s authorities are struggling to respond.

It is possible—just about—to imagine that Pakistan’s rulers, notably the revered military intelligence network, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), were too incompetent to spot the world’s most-wanted man hiding under their noses. On this reckoning, America’s spies were able, eventually, to track him to a compound known locally as “Waziristan Mansion” and then to deploy a team of 30 to 40 Navy Seals to kill him, whereas the local men, despite enjoying significant local, linguistic, cultural and other advantages, were outfoxed by al-Qaeda’s boss. More:

The curious case of Osama bin Laden

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune:

Pervez Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad

Osama bin Laden, the figurehead king of al Qaeda, is gone. His hosts are still rubbing their eyes and wondering how it all happened. Although scooped up from Pakistani soil, shot in the head and then buried at sea, the event was not announced by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or by President Asif Ali Zardari. Instead, it was the president of the United States of America who told the world that bin Laden’s body was in the custody of US forces.

Suggestions that Pakistan played a significant role ring hollow. President Obama, in his televised speech on May 1, said “our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden”. But no sooner had he stopped speaking that his top national security aides declared that the United States had not told Pakistani leaders about the raid ahead of time. Significantly, Obama did not thank Pakistan. An American official pointedly declared that the information leading to bin Laden’s killing was shared “with no other country” and this top secret operation was such that “only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance”.

Today, Pakistan’s embarrassment is deep. On numerous occasions, our military and civilian leaders had emphatically stated that bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Some suggested that he might be in Sudan or Somalia. Others hinted that he might already have died from a kidney ailment, or perhaps that he was in some intractable area, protected by nature and terrain and thus outside the effective control of the Pakistani state. More:

Who shot bin Laden?

Manuel Roig-Franzia in The Washington Post:

Who shot Osama?

He’s out there somewhere, an instant icon in the annals of American conflict, the ultimate big-game hunter. But an enigma, too, his identity cloaked for now, and maybe forever.

He is the unknown shooter. The nameless, faceless triggerman who put a bullet in the head of the world’s most notorious terrorist.

Yet there are clues, and the beginnings of a portrait can be pieced together from scraps gleaned from U.S. officials. A trio of former Navy SEALs — Eric Greitens, Richard Marcinko and Stew Smith — helped us fill in the blanks, drawing from their experiences to develop a kind of composite sketch of an elusive historic figure in real time.

He’s likely between the ages of 26 and 33, says Marcinko, founder of the elite “SEALs Team 6” — now known as DEVGRU — that many believe led the assault on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. More:

Bin Laden’s body’s journey

From The Washington Post:

After he was killed at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden’s body was flown by helicopter to Afghanistan for identification, then airlifted to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in an undisclosed location on the Arabian Sea.

Burial at sea

Bin Laden’s preparation for burial included some traditional Muslim practices, according to an unnamed senior Defense Department official. Muslim scholars disagree about whether the burial was, in fact, done according to Islam’s mandates. What we know about the 50-minute rites:

1. Washing

Bin Laden’s body was washed while on the aircraft carrier. Islam dictates that male relatives or a surviving spouse wash the body with soap and water in very specific ways, three, five or seven times. The official did not give details as to who washed the body or how it was done.

2. Covering

The body was wrapped in a white sheet. Islam requires three clean, preferably white sheets, tied around the body with rope. The body is to be placed in a specific position with the hands on the chest. More:

What after Osama?

Ayesha Siddiqa in The Express Tribune:

In the days to come, the death Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad at the hands of the US military is likely to raise more questions about Pakistan’s intention in fighting terrorism than as a major achievement of Pakistan-US cooperation in the war on terror.

Islamabad, as it is obvious from the bland tone of the Foreign Office statement, cannot even openly claim any deep responsibility out of fear of repercussion from supporters of al Qaeda and militant jihadis within the country. The fact that he was living so close to the capital city undetected for so long will give cause for many to point a finger at Pakistan and say “didn’t we always say that?”

The pro-jihad, pro-GHQ media will most likely spring into action and decry the story as yet another propaganda campaign. One possible argument will be that Pakistan is being denied the glory of facilitating the operation.

Geo-politically, this capture could result in an acceleration of the already-planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan since the United States has now attained one of the primary objectives of its military presence in South Asia. However, this withdrawal may not necessarily mean lead to scaling down of CIA operations in Pakistan. More:

Unny in The Indian Express

Osama’s ghost, and Zia’s

Ayesha Siddiqa in The Indian Express:

We would not be told exactly how deep the Pakistan’s military’s involvement went, given the fear of repercussions. The local al-Qaeda franchises will not take kindly to the news, and there is a fear that these forces will strike at the Pakistani state, especially if they suspect any involvement. And there are people inside the security establishment and in society at large who are sympathetic to jihad and to organisations such as al-Qaeda.

Indeed, the death of bin Laden is just an event and not the end of a trend in Pakistan and the region. In fact, Osama’s death has an uncanny resemblance to General Zia-ul-Haq’s death on August 17, 1988 — it was hard to believe that the man had died. We in Pakistan had lived for so long with General Zia; and now with bin Laden, that it will take a while before the reality begins to sink in. In fact, the pro-jihad media outlets, anchors and commentators did not wait long before they started spewing venom against the US and calling this some big conspiracy.

There are many who have begun to cast doubts on the story. Then there are others who have started to raise concerns about US secret operations inside the country and so close to the national capital. One such journalist got fairly offensive when I reminded her that a more credible question for her to ask was: what does Osama bin Laden’s presence so close to Islamabad mean for Pakistan’s security? More:

The Osama bin Laden I knew

Hamid Mir in The News. Mir works for Geo TV. He interviewed Osama bin Laden three times. He was the last journalist to interview OBL after 9/11. He is also writing the biography of OBL:

“I am son of a rich father, I could have spent my life in luxury in Europe and America, like many other wealthy Saudis. Instead I took up arms and headed for the mountains of Afghanistan. Was it personal interest that drove me to spend each moment of my life in the shadow of death? No! I was merely discharging a religious obligation by waging Jihad against those who attacked Muslims. It does not matter if I die in the course of fulfilling this responsibility; my death and the death of others like me will one day awaken millions of Muslims from apathy”.

These were the words of Osama bin Laden, which he spoke to me one morning during March 1997, in the cave of Tora Bora mountains of eastern Afghanistan. I was the first Pakistani journalist to interview Osama bin Laden. In May 1998, I encountered him for the second time in a hideout near the Kandahar Airport for many hours. He mentioned his possible death again and again to me in that long conversation and said: “Yes, I know that my enemy is very powerful but let me assure you, they can kill me but they cannot arrest me alive”. I received his messenger within a few hours after the 9/11 attacks and he praised all those who conducted these attacks but he never accepted the responsibility of the 9/11 attacks. It confused me. I tried to meet him again. I took the risk of entering Afghanistan in November 2001 when American warplanes were targeting Al Qaeda and Taliban from Jalalabad to Kabul.

I was lucky to meet him for the third time on the morning of November 8, 2001. I was the first and the last journalist to interview him after 9/11. Intense bombing was going on inside and outside the city of Kabul. He welcomed me with a smile on his face and said: “I told you last time that the enemy can kill me but they cannot capture me alive, I am still alive”. After the interview, he again said: “Mark my words, Hamid Mir, they can kill me anytime but they cannot capture me alive; they can claim victory only if they get me alive but if they will just capture my dead body, it will be a defeat, the war against Americans will not be over even after my death, I will fight till the last bullet in my gun, martyrdom is my biggest dream and my martyrdom will create more Osama bin Ladens”. More:

Osama bin Laden is dead

From The New York Times:

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced.

In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.

The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Throughout downtown Washington, drivers honked horns deep into the night.

“For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” the president said in a statement televised around the world. “The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.” More:

How the Bin Laden announcement leaked out

After Osama Bin Laden… Nicholas Kristof in The new York Times

A Pakistani husband’s agony

Tahir Wadood Malik in Asia Sentinel:

Terrorism was something that happened to others.

Upon seeing news of another terrorist attack, I would simply change the channel. That is, until Oct. 5, 2009, when I received a phone call that would change my life forever. The caller said that there had been a bomb blast in the office of the UN agency in Islamabad where my wife Gul Rukh worked.

I do not remember whether I drove, or how I reached the office. All I know is that somehow I got there. But there was nothing to see, and no one to meet.

Someone told me that Gul Rukh had been taken to the medical centre. Driving there in a daze, I began asking myself the eternal question people in such situations ask: “Why us?”

My name is Tahir Wadood Malik, a retired major in the Pakistan Army. My career provided me with a comfortable lifestyle, and I considered myself to be part of Pakistan’s “privileged” society. In many ways I felt aloof from many of the everyday people of Pakistan.

Upon reaching the medical centre, I stood surrounded by chaos, until a doctor took me to a gurney covered in a white sheet. Lifting it, I saw the face of Gul Rukh, drawn of all colour, lifeless.

As I stood there, numb and glued to the floor, I heard a scuffle. Looking up, I saw a hospital staff member pushing a television camera man away from near where I was standing. He’d been filming the chaos in the hospital as well as my reaction, and I realised that I had become the nameless, unknown face on the television that was shocked and stunned from the carnage of a terrorist attack. I was that “common” Pakistani no one really wanted to see. More:

The Nanny who saved Baby Moishe

Aimee Ginsburg in Open:

No one but me notices the petite, self-assured woman entering Leopold Café and making her way towards my table, two plastic carrybags in hand, her youthful wavy hair tied determinedly off a face that has grown lovelier since I last saw her. If they knew that she was Sandra Samuel, the Heroic Nanny of 26/11 Who Saved the Baby at Nariman House, everyone would crowd around, but, unrecognised, she negotiates her way smoothly past the round tables. When the waiter hands her a menu and pours her a glass of cool water, I can’t help but wonder: was he here at this Mumbai café when it happened? Does he relive those moments in an endless loop as well? Although I have prepared myself for the rush of memories and decided to staunchly ward them off until later in our meeting, I feel my vision split into two distinct fields, ‘now’ and ‘then’, the ‘then’ so real it would overtake the ‘now’ if not for the vibrant presence of this woman sitting by my side.

“Look what I have brought for you to see!” she announces merrily, pulling out two large framed pictures from her bag. One, a photo she has taken of ‘Moishe Baby’, in which he is tumbling on some greener than green grass, with squinty eyes, a delighted grin. The second is a drawing Moishe has made for her, of a house, grass, flowers and a sun, with ‘from Moishe to Sandra’ scrawled in childish Hebrew letters.

Sandra smiles in loving pride, but, simultaneously, I see her face as it was that day—gaunt, stark, her eyes so dry they threaten to crack open, sitting on the floor of our safe house in Mumbai, in the same clothes she’d been wearing in the three days since it happened; endless days of caring for Baby and praying, hoping, dreading the final news that I have now delivered. Moishe, crying by her side for ima (mommy). She, pressing her cheeks hard, exclaiming in disbelief, “Both?” “How can it be both? No, no, it is not possible, it cannot be both.” Then, she collects herself, looks out the window, and says: “We must not scare the baby, we must stay calm.” More:

How Obama lost Karzai

Ahmed Rashid in Foreign Policy:

A few weeks before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an exiled Afghan leader I had known for nearly 20 years paid a visit to my home in Lahore. His name was Hamid Karzai, and his problem, he told me, was that he was rapidly losing faith in the West’s concern for his country.

Karzai was the scion of a prominent Pashtun family in southern Afghanistan, one with a deep-rooted enmity for the Taliban regime. The Taliban, which had ruled the country since 1996, had gunned down Karzai’s father in front of a mosque in the Pakistani city of Quetta two years earlier. Now the younger Karzai was clandestinely sending money and weapons across the Afghan border for an eventual uprising against the ruling regime. But he had just been served notice by Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) that his visa had been revoked — the Taliban, with its close links to the Pakistani intelligence agency, had urged the ISI to get rid of him. Karzai was making the rounds of Western embassies in Islamabad to ask whether anyone would support him if he went inside the country and raised the standard of rebellion. But nobody offered to help. Several ambassadors refused to see him.

By the time U.S. bombers pounded the last remnants of the Taliban out of Kabul just a few months later, everything had changed. Karzai had gone from pariah to president and, in the eyes of the U.S. government, from combatant in an obscure regional conflict to vital strategic partner. Yet when I met with Karzai not long ago at the presidential palace in Kabul for a lengthy conversation, one of many in the decade since our pre-9/11 meeting in Lahore, it was remarkable how much his relationship with the United States seemed to have come full circle. More:

Al-Qaeda’s beauty tips

Julius Cavendish from Kabul in The Independent:

The cover of Al-Shamikha magazine

Not content with launching an English-language magazine that debuted with a feature called “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom”, al Qa’ida’s media wing has followed up with a magazine for women, mixing beauty tips with lessons in jihad.

The 31-page glossy, Al-Shamikha, which translates loosely as “The Majestic Woman”, features a niqab-clad woman posing with a sub-machine gun on its cover.

Much like Elle or Cosmopolitan, it includes advice on finding the right man (“marrying a mujahideen”), how to achieve a perfect complexion (stay inside with your face covered), and provides tips on first aid and etiquette.

Alongside sisterly advice such as “not [to] go out except when necessary” and to always wear a niqab for protection from the sun, the magazine runs interviews with martyr’s wives and praises those who give their lives in the name of the editors’ interpretation of Islam. “From martyrdom, the believer will gain security, safety and happiness,” it says.

For those readers not quite ready for such a drastic step, it argues the pros and cons of honey facemasks and lobbies against “towelling too forcibly”. More:

After Pakistan’s latest assassination, apathy.

Fasih Ahmed in Newsweek:

“Shahbaz, from your blood revolution will come!” Thus the protesters outside the Lahore Press Club some four hours after the assassination on Wednesday of Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for minorities. If this scant, disorganized protest—some clutching umbrellas, others holding up blood red crucifixes as irate motorists splashed by—is any indication, this crowd is more likely to be at the wrong end of any revolution here in Pakistan

Despite the widely known threats to his life, which started in 2009 after Pakistani Christians were massacred in the small Punjab town of Gojra, Bhatti was not traveling with his security detail when he was attacked. Like Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab who was assassinated barely two months earlier, also in Islamabad, Bhatti was slain in an audaciously public manner. Bhatti, 42, had just left his mother’s house for a cabinet meeting when a white Suzuki Mehran stopped his black Corolla. Wajid Durrani, inspector-general of capital police, says three men stepped out and opened fire. Bhatti was shot 30 times, according to the autopsy, including in the head. His driver survived the attack.

“Bhatti’s ruthless and cold-blooded murder is a grave setback for the struggle for tolerance, pluralism and respect for human rights in Pakistan,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, country representative for Human Rights Watch. “An urgent and meaningful policy shift on the appeasement of extremists that is supported by the military, the judiciary and the political class needs to replace the political cowardice and institutional myopia that encourages such continued appeasement despite its unrelenting bloody consequences.” More:

Sherry Rehman next on Pakistan militants’ hitlist, friends fear

With the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the liberal parliamentarian has lost her second ally in opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Declan Walsh from Islamabad in The Guardian:

And then there was one. Of the three brave Pakistani politicians who stood up for Aasia Bibi, an embattled Christian woman flung on to death row last year, just one is still alive: Sherry Rehman. The liberal parliamentarian from Karachi, known for her glamorous style and outspoken views, spearheaded efforts to reform the much-abused blasphemy law after Bibi, a mother of four, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Rehman, 50, was joined in her lonely struggle by two men – the Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, and the minorities minister, Shahbaz Bhatti. Now both of them are dead and worries are growing that Rehman is next. “Make no mistake: she is in grave danger, like nobody else,” one friend said.

Rehman, is currently in New Delhi, visiting the Indian capital for a conference, in a rare public appearance. Since Taseer was gunned down by his guard outside an Islamabad cafe on 4 January she has lived in near hiding. She spent most of January holed up inside her Karachi home, surrounded by police and advised by senior government ministers to flee Pakistan lest she be assassinated.

“I get two types of advice about leaving,” she said then. “One from concerned friends, the other from those who want me out so I’ll stop making trouble. But I’m going nowhere.” More:

An extremist takeover of Pakistan is probably no further than five to 10 years away

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Dawn:

Over time, then, the country’s nuclear bayonet has gained more than just deterrence value; it is a dream instrument for any ruling oligarchy. Unlike Napoleon’s bayonet – painful to sit upon – nukes offer no such discomfort. Unsurprisingly, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf often referred to them as Pakistan’s “crown jewels”. One recalls that immediately after 9/11 he declared these “assets” were to be protected at all costs — even if this meant accepting American demands to dump the Taliban.

But can our nukes lose their magic? Be stolen, rendered impotent or lose the charm through which they bring in precious revenue? More fundamentally, how and when could they fail to deter?

A turning point could possibly come with Mumbai-II. This is no idle speculation. The military establishment’s reluctance to clamp down on anti-India jihadi groups, or to punish those who carried out Mumbai-I, makes a second Pakistan-based attack simply a matter of time. Although not officially assisted or sanctioned, it would create fury in India. What then? How would India respond?

There cannot, of course, be a definite answer. But it is instructive to analyse Operation Parakram, India’s response to the attack on the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001. This 10-month-long mobilisation of nearly half a million soldiers and deployment of troops along the LOC was launched to punish Pakistan for harbouring the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which, at least initially, had claimed responsibility for the attack. When Parakram fizzled out, Pakistan claimed victory and India was left licking its wounds.

A seminar held in August 2003 in Delhi brought together senior Indian military leaders and top analysts to reflect on Parakram. To quote the main speaker, Major-General Ashok Mehta, the two countries hovered on the brink of war and India’s “coercive diplomacy failed due to the mismatch of India-US diplomacy and India’s failure to think through the end game”. The general gave several reasons for not going to war against Pakistan. These included a negative cost-benefit analysis, lack of enthusiasm in the Indian political establishment, complications arising from the Gujarat riots of 2002 and “a lack of courage”. That Parakram would have America’s unflinching support also turned out to be a false assumption. More:

A CIA spy, a hail of bullets, three killed and a US-Pakistan diplomatic row

Declan Walsh from Lahore in The Guardian:

On 27 January, Raymond Davis, a bulky 36-year-old CIA agent with a shock of grey hair, was winding through the chaotic Lahore traffic when he stopped at a red light. A motorbike carrying two men, coming from the opposite direction, swerved in front of his Honda Civic. The pillion passenger was carrying a gun. Davis, a former special forces soldier, whipped out his 9mm semi-automatic Glock pistol and, still behind the wheel, opened fire. Five shots sliced through the windscreen. Muhammad Faheem, a 19-year-old street criminal, fell dead.

Davis got out of the car and took aim at the motorbike driver, Faizan Haider, who had started running. Another five shots rang out and Haider fell to the ground, having run 30ft; a postmortem indicated he was hit three times in the front and twice in the back.

Davis walked back to his car, called for help on a military-style radio, then started to photograph the dead men. Anwar Khan watched from his restaurant across the street, amazed at the American’s sang-froid. “He was very peaceful and confident. I was wondering how he could be like that after killing two people,” he said.

The American rescue squad consisted of a Toyota Land Cruiser, probably manned by fellow CIA agents, that careened through the streets towards Davis. Nearing Mozang Chowk, where the shooting took place, the driver saw the road jammed with onlookers and traffic so he ramped the vehicle over the central reservation and continued at speed against the flow of vehicles. He hit and killed a cosmetics trader riding his motorcycle, Ibad ur Rehman, then pressed on. But Davis was gone.

Apparently panicked by a crowd, the CIA agent had already taken off towards central Lahore, ignoring police who tried to wave him down. At Mozang Chowk, a warden tried to stop the Land Cruiser. Witnesses later told police that one American swung open his door, brandished a rifle and threatened to fire on anyone who got in his way. The Toyota retreated to the US consulate, jettisoning a number of items along the way including 100 bullets, knives, gloves, a blindfold and, oddly, a piece of cloth with an American flag. More:

Opium wars

A key step to securing peace will be to wean Afghan farmers off growing poppies. Robert Draper in National Geographic Magazine:

The chief of police has a memorable way of demonstrating that he’s not afraid of the drug smugglers. He holds up his right hand, revealing the absence of his middle finger. Four years ago, Brig. Gen. Aqa Noor Kintuz was hired as provincial chief of police in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan and charged with destroying its plentiful poppy fields. “After I finished one of the first eradications,” he says, “my vehicle was blown up by a remote-control bomb.” He rolls up his right shirtsleeve. His forearm is badly mangled. In the years since, he has received innumerable death threats. Women and children of poppy farmers have hurled stones at his policemen. One of his eradication tractors was torched.

The grim axiom defining today’s Afghanistan, 85 percent of whose citizens are farmers, is that its economy relies on two dueling revenue streams. One flows from Western aid, in the hopes that the country will renounce the Taliban. The other flows from opium trafficking supported by the Taliban, which use the proceeds to fund attacks on Western troops. Only recently has the Afghan government seemed to take stock of the obvious: For the outside world’s largesse to continue, the national economy’s addiction to opium must end. The poppy fields must be destroyed. But just as this devoutly Muslim nation did not become the world’s leading opium supplier overnight, uprooting Afghanistan’s poppy mind-set promises to be a complicated endeavor.

In Badakhshan, chief of police Kintuz appears to be making some headway against poppies. Five years ago the province was Afghanistan’s second-biggest opium producer, after the Taliban-controlled province of Helmand. For a brief period after a Taliban ban on poppies in 2000, Badakhshan even took the lead in poppy cultivation, because the province was controlled by the Northern Alliance militias, rather than the Taliban. When Kintuz started his job in 2007, 9,000 acres were planted with poppies. Two years later fewer than 1,500 were. More:

WikiLeak: Rahul Gandhi on Hindu terror

From The Indian Express:

A leaked US diplomatic cable quotes Rahul Gandhi as saying that Hindu radical groups pose a bigger threat to India than the Lashkar-e-Toiba as they create “religious tensions” with the Muslim community.

Another US cable, put out by WikiLeaks, criticises Sonia Gandhi’s leadership in the run-up to the civil nuclear Bill in Parliament in 2007 and describes CPM leader Prakash Karat as an “extortionist”.

In a conversation with US Ambassador Timothy Roemer in July last year, Rahul Gandhi is quoted as saying that while there is evidence of local support for the LeT in India, the greater threat for the country is the growth of radicalism within the Hindu community.

“Responding to the Ambassador’s query about Lashkar-e-Toiba’s activities in the region and immediate threat to India, Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the group among certain elements in India’s indigenous Muslim community. However, Gandhi warned, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalized Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community,” stated the leaked cable. The cable is based on a conversation between Roemer and Rahul on July 20 last year during a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. More:

WikiLeaks: Diplomatic cables highlight US-Pakistan differences

Jane Perlez, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt in The New York Times:

Islamabad: Less than a month after President Obama testily assured reporters in 2009 that Pakistan’s nuclear materials “will remain out of militant hands,” his ambassador here sent a secret message to Washington suggesting that she remained deeply worried.

The ambassador’s concern was a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, sitting for years near an aging research nuclear reactor in Pakistan. There was enough to build several “dirty bombs” or, in skilled hands, possibly enough for an actual nuclear bomb.

In the cable, dated May 27, 2009, the ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, reported that the Pakistani government was yet again dragging its feet on an agreement reached two years earlier to have the United States remove the material.

She wrote to senior American officials that the Pakistani government had concluded that “the ‘sensational’ international and local media coverage of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time.” A senior Pakistani official, she said, warned that if word leaked out that Americans were helping remove the fuel, the local press would certainly “portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.”

The fuel is still there. More:

And read The Indian Express: Washington, we have a problem