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Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan

Red Cross pretty much says goodbye to Pakistan after beheading

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Khalil Rasjed Dale

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday it was halting most of its aid programs in Pakistan due to deteriorating security and the beheading of a British staff doctor in April blamed on Taliban insurgents.

The independent agency, which had already suspended operations in three of Pakistan’s four provinces in May pending a security assessment, said it would carry on working in the country “but on a reduced scale”.

“All relief and protection activities are being stopped. All projects of rehabilitation, economic projects, have been terminated,” said Jacques de Maio, head of ICRC operations in South Asia, on one of the organization’s blog.

“We have closed a number of offices. We are also terminating all visits to detainees in Pakistan,” he added…

The agency, which rarely suspends its operations even in war zones, has worked in the country since the end of British colonial rule in 1947…It was providing mainly health services and physical rehabilitation for victims of violence and natural disasters, many of whom have lost limbs.

The ICRC said it would focus on treating patients wounded in fighting and aimed to reopen a surgical field hospital in Peshawar. It has been closed since the murder of staff member Khalil Rasjed Dale, abducted by suspected militants in January.

The beheaded body of Dale, who ran a health program in the southwestern city of Quetta in the Baluchistan province, was found on April 29.

Sometimes it just ain’t worth the lives of brave people – committed to aiding the cause of human relief – inside a nation incapable of minimum standards of law and order, unable to provide safety and succor to its citizens and volunteers aiding those citizens.

This is Pakistan’s loss.

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Written by Ed Campbell

August 30, 2012 at 2:00 am

A new low in Pakistani “honor killings” – wife in disputed marriage murdered in court by her brother

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So-called honour killings by families who believe their daughters have disgraced them are increasingly common in Pakistan. But the gunning down last week of a woman by her brother, a lawyer, in front of dozens of witnesses in a packed courtroom in the bustling city of Hyderabad marks an alarming new low.

The family of 22 year-old Raheela Sehto had already made their fury at her marriage to Zulfiqar Sehto – a love match struck without their permission – abundantly clear. They reacted by filing a claim with local police that their daughter had been kidnapped by her 30-year-old husband, a life-long neighbour who had wooed Raheela over the years, although largely through clandestine mobile phone conversations.

Her uncle had tried to throttle her with a scarf at an earlier appearance at the high court in Hyderabad in July. The couple had petitioned the court for its protection and to try and have the kidnapping charges thrown out.

But Sehto, a university graduate working for the local electricity company, said they felt they had no reason to fear for their lives in court, even when in the earlier part of the morning he was sitting almost directly in front of his wife’s eventual killer, Javed Iqbal Shaikh, her brother.

Shortly after the two judges had returned to their seats after a break, Shaikh, dressed in the black suit and tie of his profession, produced a gun he had smuggled into court, lunged at Raheela and shot her point-blank in the left side of the head…The gunman, Shaikh, then tried to shoot Sehto, but was overpowered by police.

According to the latest survey of violence against women by the Aurat Foundation, a rights group, there were 2,341 honour killings in 2011 in Pakistan – a 27% jump on the year before. The report also said there were more than 8,000 abductions and 3,461 rapes and gang rapes…

Pakistan law sounds as if it is as useless to building better lives for the people of the nation as, say, the elected government or bureaucrats down to the level of local judges. Life surely ain’t getting better.

Written by Ed Campbell

August 6, 2012 at 10:00 pm

NATO supply line back in business — “We are able to make money in bundles” says Taliban commander

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As the United States trumpeted its success in persuading Pakistan to end its seven-month blockade of supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan, another group privately cheered its good fortune: the Taliban.

One of the Afghan war’s great ironies is that both NATO and the Taliban rely on the convoys to fuel their operations — a recipe for seemingly endless conflict.

The insurgents have earned millions of dollars from Afghan security firms that illegally paid them not to attack trucks making the perilous journey from Pakistan to coalition bases throughout Afghanistan — a practice the U.S. has tried to crack down on but admits likely still occurs.

Militants often target the convoys in Pakistan as well, but there have been far fewer reports of trucking companies paying off the insurgents, possibly because the route there is less vulnerable to attack…

“Stopping these supplies caused us real trouble,” a Taliban commander who leads about 60 insurgents in eastern Ghazni province told The Associated Press in an interview. “Earnings dropped down pretty badly. Therefore the rebellion was not as strong as we had planned.”

A second Taliban commander who controls several dozen fighters in southern Kandahar province said the money from security companies was a key source of financing for the insurgency, which uses it to pay fighters and buy weapons, ammunition and other supplies.

“We are able to make money in bundles,” the commander told the AP by telephone. “Therefore, the NATO supply is very important for us.”

“We have had to wait these past seven months for the supply lines to reopen and our income to start again,” said the Taliban commander in Ghazni. “Now work is back to normal.”

Does that give you a clear idea of what an exercise in futility this war is?

Written by Ed Campbell

August 1, 2012 at 6:00 am

Doctor who aided CIA find Osama bin Laden is sentenced to prison

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The Pakistani medical official who ran a fake CIA vaccination programme to help find Osama bin Laden has been jailed for 33 years.

A spokesman for Khyber Agency, an administrative unit in Pakistan’s restless frontier, said Dr Shakil Afridi would face decades in jail – despite calls from senior US officials to release the man who helped with efforts to track down the al-Qaida chief.

The tough sentence for the former surgeon general of Khyber will be taken as another sign of the terrible state of US-Pakistan relations.

Also a sign of the terrible state of what passes for justice in Pakistan.

And it will further alarm western critics of Pakistan who say the country has put far more effort into trying to understand how US spies and special forces were able to plan and launch the Bin Laden raid than into how the al-Qaida leader was able to remain for so long in the Pakistani army garrison town of Abbottabad.

The sentence was announced just days after Barack Obama snubbed the Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, by refusing to hold a formal meeting with him at the NATO conference in Chicago…

There had been hopes that Afridi would eventually be quietly released after the controversy surrounding the Bin Laden raid had subsided…

With friends like this…

Why not take something like 10% of the money we waste by handing it over to the Pakistan government – and just use it to bribe the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban? Let them divvy it up among local gangsters.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Pakistan government unblocks Twitter

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Micro-blogging website Twitter has been restored in Pakistan on Sunday night, after an almost day long ban.

Sources have confirmed that Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has spoken to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who ordered concerned authorities to unblock the site.

Micro-blogging website Twitter had been temporarily banned across Pakistan on Sunday by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Express News correspondent Suhail Chaudhry had reported that the access to Twitter was blocked due to an ongoing “competition” of Prophet Muhammad’s caricatures…

Earlier, PTA Chairman Dr Mohammad Yaseen said the regulator was asked by the Ministry of Information and Technology to block the website in the country…

Pakistan’s government had asked Twitter to stop a discussion on Prophet Muhammad, which was considered derogatory, Yaseen said, adding that “Twitter refused our request…”

The PTA blocked the access to Twitter directly from the upstream links without notifying the ISPs, said Wahajuz Siraj, convener for Internet Services Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK).

Here’s where the tough questions come in – at least if you can get your head beyond the definitions of nationality. On one hand, of course, any nation has the right to manage communications as they see fit. That’s modified by international conventions and protocols – most of which are designed for throughput and don’t involve questions of content. The basic definitions of sovereignty supersede ideology.

You’d think.

But, then, we’ve decided the United States has the most advanced system of governance in the world – even though our own government tries their best to renege on the concepts all the time – for our own good, you understand. Because of our political ego, we presume we have the right to tell everyone else to do what we say they should do – and they should realize we’re right. Guess what? Everyone else also feels they have a right to come to their own conclusions.

I believe there isn’t a more productive and honest system than democracy as most of us understand it. That doesn’t include the crap filters in Congress, the CIA, NSA or the White House who think they can make our decisions for us. Well, the same right holds true for foreign governments.

The whole dialectic gets straightened out long-term in the marketplace of commerce as well as the marketplace of ideas. That’s why I’m confident in democracy, in free expression, in the freedoms that science offers through testing and re-evaluation and growth instead of tight little ideologies and religions.

Things change. Never enough for this week’s flavor of anarchy. But, they change.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm

No one expects Pakistan to reopen Afghan war supply routes soon

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Fuel tankers crammed into a compound in Karachi
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

As the Taliban kicks off its spring fighting season in Afghanistan, an agreement with Pakistan that would help NATO supply its troops there could be weeks or months away, forcing military leaders to spend two-and-a-half times as much to ship some supplies through Central Asia.

The Obama administration remains locked in negotiations with Pakistan to reopen the key supply routes into Afghanistan, and officials do not expect talks bogged down over proposed tariffs and U.S. military assistance to reach resolution anytime soon…

A deal is almost certainly impossible before May 20-21, when Obama will host NATO leaders in his hometown of Chicago. There, Western leaders will define plans for moving out of Afghanistan and for funding local troops they hope can contain a resilient insurgency when NATO withdraws…

A deal would require agreement on Pakistan’s proposal to impose tariffs on NATO supplies, including how tariffs would be formulated, where that money would go, and how the West would ensure those funds were being used appropriately.

Another issue stalling the talks is disagreement over how much the United States should reimburse Pakistan for counter-terrorism activity by Pakistani forces…

In a report released this week, the Defense Department warned that a prolonged closure of the supply routes could “significantly degrade” withdrawal operations as NATO nations try to establish a modicum of stability in Afghanistan before most of their troops are pulled out at the end of 2014…

“Certainly the domestic situation in Pakistan has a role to play” in the negotiations, the U.S. official said.

That’s putting it mildly. We’re paying off the leaders of a country – who have little control over that country. They haven’t civil management of much of the nation – especially those tribal portions sharing the border with Afghanistan.

That government’s own internal security apparatus, the ISI, manages an Islamist version of foreign and domestic policy which is not only counter to what Uncle Sugar is trying to achieve in traditional fumble-fingers fashion – they aren’t especially loyal to their own elected politicians.

What is being discussed in practice is how much of a bribe in US taxpayer dollars will be slipped to the paper leadership of Pakistan to aid us in our continuing war in Afghanistan. And in the process, occasionally kill off some of the tribal warlords who attack Pakistani soldiers as often as they do American and NATO forces. The dollar amount is all that counts.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 6, 2012 at 10:00 am

Pakistan rallies remember bin Laden — With friends like these….

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Hundreds of supporters of Osama bin Laden rallied in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta to pay tribute to former al-Qaeda chief on the first anniversary of his death.

Around 1,000 activists from the pro-Taliban Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam religious political party gathered on Wednesday in the city’s central Mezan square. They were carrying bin Laden posters, shouting “Long Live Osama” and torched a US flag…

“Osama was a hero of the whole Muslim world, he was the real mujahid [holy warrior],” Abdul Qadir Looni, a party leader said while addressing the rally…

Pakistani officials said security agencies had been ordered to be “extra vigilant” on Wednesday. Last year, the Taliban carried out a string of revenge attacks that included a suicide bombing on a police training centre that killed nearly 100 people…

Wednesday’s anniversary of one of the most humiliating episodes fro Pakistan caps a devastating year for the country.

Its reputation has been dragged deeper through the mud and its relationship with the US is as bad as ever, as questions about Islamabad’s intelligence failures or complicity with al-Qaeda remain unanswered.

A year after the al-Qaeda leader was found living with his three wives on the doorstep of Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point, the country is still accused of sheltering a string of the Washington’s most-wanted terrorism suspects.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor, is suspected to be in Pakistan, as is Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the de facto leader of the Haqqani network blamed for last month’s assault on Western targets in Kabul, the largest co-ordinated attack by armed groups in 10 years of war, is based in the tribal belt on the Afghan border, as is Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

Last month, Washington offered $10m for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed, the Pakistani accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, who lives openly in Pakistan.

No claims for any rewards, yet, BTW.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan home being sold brick by brick

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Osama bin Laden’s last home is being sold off brick-by-brick after his secret Pakistani hideaway was demolished.

Two baths and a homemade TV aerial have also been put on sale by the enterprising contractor who bulldozed the three-storey home in February.

While Pakistan’s political and military leaders are keen to obliterate any memory of how the world’s most wanted man evaded capture for so long, Shakeel Ahmed said his salvage yard in Abbottabad had become a tourist attraction for visitors looking for a souvenir.

“These bricks can be used by people to build new houses,” he said, pointing to a heap of some of the 180,000 bricks he collected from the site. “Some come here looking for just one as so they can have them as a gift…”

In recent months the country has tried to obliterate his memory. Bin Laden’s three widows, along with their children and grandchildren were flown to Saudi Arabia last week and the house itself is now nothing but a pile of bricks in Mr Ahmed’s yard.

As one of the best-known contractors in the town, he was hired to flatten the compound.

The rubble was put up for auction but with other builders too frightened to bid, he said, he scooped the lot for 500,000 rupees or about £3300.

Now the bricks are on sale for anyone who wants to negotiate a deal for 1000 or more – at little more than £20 a lot.

He also snapped up two olive trees, cooking oil and window blinds but fears that his role in disposing of bin Laden’s house could attract the attention of Islamist militants…

The flattened site has become turned into a makeshift cricket pitch for dozens of children who live nearby as the town tries to forget its recent notoriety.

Which all goes to reinforce the questions still asked about the political sense of maintaining Pakistan as our sham ally.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Kidnapped Red Cross doctor found beheaded in Pakistan

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Khalil Rasjed Dale
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The beheaded corpse of a British aid worker has been discovered in the Pakistani city of Quetta, almost four months after he was kidnapped.

The body of Khalil Rasjed Dale was left on a road outside the city, in southern Baluchistan province, with a note attached which said he had been killed because a ransom had not been paid to his captors.

Dale, who had been working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was kidnapped in January while driving near the organisation’s Quetta office. He was abducted by gunmen as he made his way home in a clearly-marked ICRC vehicle on 5 January. His assailants are said to have bundled him into a car about 200m from an ICRC residence.

At the time, police in Quetta said Dale was abducted by unknown assailants…following a visit to a local school. He was travelling with a Pakistani doctor and a driver, who were not seized.

Quetta police chief Ahsan Mahboob said the killers’ note read: “This is the body of Khalil who we have slaughtered for not paying a ransom amount.”

Dale had been a Muslim convert for more than 30 years…

We are devastated,” said ICRC director general Yves Daccord. “Khalil was a trusted and very experienced Red Cross staff member who significantly contributed to the humanitarian cause.

“All of us at the ICRC and at the British Red Cross share the grief and outrage of Khalil’s family and friends.”

One can only have the strongest contempt for lowlife thugs who commit crimes against humanity like this. They may pretend to have political motivation, they may pretend to be Pakistan’s answer to Robin Hood. They are nothing less than the scum of the earth and deserve to be treated as such.

Whether or not Pakistan’s papier mache police do anything – is another issue, another question.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 29, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Taliban insurgents arrested with 11 tons of explosives en route from Pakistan to Afghanistan

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Afghanistan National Policeman in front of a banner of assassinated president Burhanuddin Rabbani
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Afghan security forces have arrested five militants with 11 tons of explosives that they had brought from Pakistan to use to carry out a massive attack in Kabul, as well as another three planning an assassination attempt against the vice president…

The reports of new planned attacks in the Afghan capital came just days after militants said to be part of a Pakistan-based group launched brazen coordinated assaults in the heart of Kabul and in other cities.

U.S. officials say they have stepped up pressure on Islamabad to crack down on that group, the Haqqani network, which specializes in high-profile strikes against well-protected targets.

Three of the five men arrested with the explosives were members of the Pakistani Taliban, while the other two belonged to the Afghan Taliban, National Director for Security spokesman Shafiqullah Tahiry said at a news conference. He said their orders came from militant leaders with ties to Pakistani intelligence. He did not say when the arrests took place, nor what their intended target was…

Tahiry said the captured explosives were in 400 bags and hidden under potatoes loaded in a truck with Pakistani license plates…

He claimed that the three Pakistani members of the group picked up the explosives just outside the Pakistani city of Peshawar, and were under the orders of two local Taliban leaders named Noor Afzal and Mohammad Omar, who Tahiry said had ties with the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI…

Washington has long demanded that Pakistan target the Haqqani network. They are seen as more ideologically tied to Al Qaeda than some of the other militant groups, and they have been particularly adept at sophisticated strikes…

Not that our criticism, arrests made by joint NATO-Afghan forces or any concrete evidence will make much difference in American foreign policy, American foreign aid to the Pakistan government. Our politicians have been as uncreative about foreign policy since early days of the Cold War as they are about education, taxation, the environment and issues more visible to the average American voter.

A plague on both your houses — adequately describes the usual response to Congressional politics. But, changing nothing about who is elected means nothing is changed by those elected and serving. As if we actually expected leadership and service from hacks who learned to “follow the money” long before the phrase became fashionable.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 22, 2012 at 10:00 am

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