Friday, March 21, 2014
Thousands of Bahrainis have staged a fresh anti-regime protest condemning sectarian discrimination in the Persian Gulf Arab country. The Bahraini demonstrators took to the streets on Friday, accusing the authorities of what they called sectarian discrimination in a systematic way. They carried posters of prominent opponents who have been jailed over the past three years, and demanded their release. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters. According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested. Physicians for Human Rights say doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have "evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police" in the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
After three years of relative online freedom during which Saudis, inspired by the Arab uprisings, took to social media to demand political and economic reforms or to organize consumer boycott or women driving campaigns, the government is stepping up harassment of Twitter users and bloggers. Three lawyers who criticized Justice Minister Mohamed al-Issa on Twitter because of the glacial pace of reforming the country’s antiquated legal system are being sued by the ministry. They are accused of defaming the ministry and retweeting caricatures critical of the minister. They have been interrogated since November by the prosecutor general as well as the online publication committee in the information and culture ministry. New accusations have been added, including "disobeying the ruler and defying the regime," the lawyers said. "This is a scandal. They added up all sort of false political accusations to the original complaint because we dared to criticize the minister," said Bander al-Nogaithan, an outspoken Harvard-trained lawyer who is one of the three attorneys in the case. "[The] condition of freedom of expression now is a far cry from how it was two years ago. There is an atmosphere of fear and confusion." The justice ministry did not respond to requests for comment. The $2.2 billion judicial overhaul plan, which Issa was supposed to speed up when he was appointed in 2009, included training judges, codifying Sharia law and introducing specialized courts. Lawyers have often complained in newspaper articles and on Twitter about the unpredictable or erroneous court rulings and cases that took decades to be resolved because of the overburdened court system and lack of codified laws. For years, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s government tolerated, even encouraged, criticism of the judiciary because the judiciary was the bastion of the ultraconservatives who opposed the king’s economic and administrative reforms. But as Saudi Arabia grew more wary of the power of people organizing on Twitter and the impact they had on shifting the public opinion and increasing political awareness in the absolute monarchy, the kingdom’s rulers are increasingly targeting not just human rights or political activists who have questioned the country’s governance, but also ordinary people who express any hint of dissent or criticism. Prosecuting the lawyers also reflects a growing trend inside the government. Several ministries have warned their staff recently that whatever they write on social media or blogs will be monitored and "violators" will be interrogated and reprimanded. Some teachers who kept blogs have been dismissed or reprimanded. "During the Arab Spring, the ceiling of freedom of expression was very high because they could not go against the regional trend and thought they would be able to control it if they let people vent some steam," said Waleed Abualkhair, a Jiddah-based human rights lawyer, who was sentenced to three months in prison for signing a petition demanding fair trial for detained activists. "But now they want to be in total control. They want to roll back every thing to the pre-Arab Spring era. They started with human rights activists, but now they target everyone." A prominent blogger has been periodically interrogated in the past few weeks. Though no official case is filed, he is indirectly threatened that his writings might affect the small business he owns. "The security calls me to invite me for 'tea,'" he said, preferring to remain anonymous. "They ask about every single tweet I write and what I mean and if I oppose the regime. I tell them these are just harmless opinions. There is nothing formal yet, but there is a tacit threat that this could turn serious any time." In another sign of the growing paranoia, even nonprominent Twitter users were targeted. A Jiddah-based young woman, who has no political or human rights activities, has been called for interrogation days ago because her Twitter bio was vaguely saying the regime has to fall; the slogan of the Arab uprisings, according a human rights lawyer. Her father was called in to promise to "control her," she was asked to sign a pledge not to tweet and her mobile phone and computer were confiscated. Saudi Arabia, a key Western ally, has been spared the kind of protests that toppled Arab autocratic rulers in the region, but it has faced sporadic street protests in the oil-rich eastern province by its Shiite population. In the capital, Riyadh, and in al-Qassim province, the families of political prisoners held without trial staged several small rallies, which were quashed quickly by the police. Female students in Abha, in the southwest of the kingdom, held rare demonstrations in 2012 to protest bad conditions in the university cafeteria and dorms. Pictures and YouTube videos of the protests were posted on Twitter, spooking the government. Prominent clerics, activists and even members of the royal family like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal used Twitter and Facebook to post demands for political and economic reforms. While the government ignored such demands, it could not ignore the public debate it has created. In the absolute monarchy, which has no political parties, unions, elected assemblies or independent media outlets, social media have played a key role in creating political awareness through online discussions. Ordinary people have been following closely the work of rights activists who used social media to spread the culture of political and civil rights. Prominent among them were economics professor Mohammad al-Qahtani and Abdullah al-Hamid, co-founders of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA). They raised questions about corruption in the government and royal family and tweeted details of their interrogations. Last year, they were sentenced to 10 and 11 years in prison, respectively. Iman al-Qahtani, a young Saudi journalist, was banned from using Twitter and from traveling because she was tweeting live the trials of al-Qahtani and al-Hamid. "They were a bit tolerant at first and even tried to listen to some of the social demands to offset anger, but when activists started using Twitter for street mobilization or for even nonpolitical campaigns, like the driving campaigns, they got nervous," said Abualkhair. Other Gulf monarchs, worried by the ouster of other Arab leaders, and by protesta in Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, have also put activists in prison and introduced tough online laws. In the United Arab Emirates, Islamists were on trial on charges of trying to topple the regime. Qatar has introduced a law curbing online speech and jailed a poet for 15 years for indirectly criticizing the ruling family in a poem. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/03/saudi-twitter-crackdown-political-dissent.html#ixzz2wcXxRyhp
Ancient censorship mechanisms are no longer a problem for the young Turks who co-ordinate anti-government dissentThursday was Twitter's eighth birthday. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's birthday present to the social media giant, and to millions of Turks who use it daily, was to block the site. At about 11.20pm last night, those who wanted to use Twitter were greeted by a message from the Telecommunications Presidency referencing a court order that blocked access to it. Within minutes, detailed methods of bypassing the block by changing DNS numbers and using VPNs were shared via Facebook, WhatsApp and text message. Hashtags using the Turkish for "Twitter Is Blocked in Turkey", "Turkey Blocked Twitter" and "Dictator Erdoğan" began trending worldwide almost immediately. When the official Turkish account of Twitter tweeted, "Turkish users can send Tweets using SMS" and gave detailed instructions, Turks were already ahead of the game. Actually, there were no shortage of tweets sent from Turkey at all. TwitTurk, a website that records statistics of Turkish Twitter users, reported that more than 500,000 tweets were sent in the first two hours of the ban. Ironically enough, star names of Erdoğan's Justice and Development party (AKP), such as deputy prime minister Bülent Arınç and mayor of Ankara Melih Gökçek, continued tweeting well into today. What's more, the AKP also continued to create promoted tweets and trends – services Twitter provides for a hefty amount of money. The hashtag "Gökçek Kuzey Yıldızı" (Gökçek North Star), a campaign sponsored by AKP's Ankara branch to promote Gökçek's controversial project to build a giant mosque in the capital, became the number one trending topic in Turkey in the first couple of hours of the ban. Another pro-AKP account promoted the ruling party's recent television broadcast, depicting hundreds running towards a Turkish flagpole – in the fashion of zombies from World War Z – after hearing Erdoğan's voice reading the national anthem. As they did during the Occupy Gezi days, Turkish citizens created memes mocking the Twitter ban. However, neither the jokes nor the fact that tech-savvy Turks bypassed the ban without batting an eyelid are enough to shield us from the grim reality behind recent censorship. Twitter has become pivotal in organising anti-government dissent in the past year: the Occupy Gezi movement, which marches against the recently passed internet censorship bill that allows the government to block any content within four hours without a court order, and the massive street protest and the funeral attended by hundreds of thousands after the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, were initiated via social media. Twitter has also become the main channel for talking about corruption allegations implicating Erdoğan and his family. Anonymous accounts leak alleged phone recordings of Erdoğan. Waiting for new recordings to surface around 9pm each night has become the most popular pastime of millions of Turks, who then spread the news like wildfire. These accounts have been announcing that the mother of all recordings will come out on 25 March, a mere five days before the upcoming local elections. Erdoğan, aware of this, said yesterday in an election rally hours before the block took effect: "We will eradicate Twitter. I do not care what the international community says." It looks like the Turkish public does not care what Erdoğan says either. Recent history around the world and in Turkey shows that social media is a serious threat to autocrats. Ancient censorship mechanisms, archaic politics and Orwellian threats do not work in the face of technological dissent and the voice of the streets. When your old uncle gets you something out-of-touch for your birthday, what do yo do? You say thank you and then return it. Well, thank you Erdoğan, but we do not want your gift of censorship. Here is the receipt.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India thrashed Pakistan by seven wickets in the World T20 opener to keep their unbeaten records against the arch rivals in World Cups intact. The men in blue avenged their Asia cup humiliation in style as they chased down the 131-run target with 9 balls to spare at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on Friday. Virat Kohli remained the top scorer for India as he stayed unbeaten after scoring 36 while Suresh Raina scored 35 not out. Earlier, Dhawan (30) and Rohit Sharma (24) got India off to a fiery start after spinners performed admirably to restrict Pakistan to a modest 130 for seven. The duo shared 54-run stand for the first wicket. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to field three specialist spinners -- Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin -- and bowl first on a slowish track was vindicated as the trio gave away only 63 runs between them in the 12 overs and also removed three Pakistan batsmen, thereby putting brakes on their scoring rate. Mishra (2/22), Jadeja (1/18) and Ashwin (0/23) all got a bit of help from the track which had a bit of bite and turn on offer. While Ashwin bowled round the wicket to deny the batsmen any room to chance their arms, Jadeja bowled wicket to wicket with the odd delivery turning away from the right-hander. Mishra too was bang on target with his flighted leg breaks and varied the length of his deliveries and pace through the air. Dhoni rotated his bowlers brilliantly not letting the opposition batsmen to get away easily, frequently changing the ends. For Pakistan, only Umar Akmal looked good during his 30-ball 33-run knock but couldn't go on to get a big score. Kamran Akmal hit a couple boundaries --- one each off Ashwin and medium pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/21) before his partner Ahmed Shehzad's indiscretion brought about his downfall. The call was Shehzad's, who came halfway down the track only to retreat back as Akmal couldn't make it back to his crease. Bhuvneshwar did well to pick up and throw down the stumps on his follow-through. Skipper Mohammad Hafeez (15) never looked comfortable during his 22-ball stay at the wicket. He should have been gone for five had his mistimed pull off Mohammed Shami been taken by a diving Yuvraj Singh at deep square leg boundary. But it did not cost India dearly as Hafeez gave Jadeja the charge only to mistime the shot and give a skier that was pounced well by Bhuvneshwar. Shehzad (22 off 17 balls) did the initial hard work but Mishra out-thought him with a flighted delivery that turned away after pitching. It was a classical leg-break that drew the batsman forward and beat by flight as Dhoni gleefully whipped off the bails. Umar Akmal played himself while Shoaib Malik (18) announced his arrival with a huge straight six off Mishra. The duo added 50 runs in seven overs but that certainly wasn't enough. Malik could have been out on 14 when he pulled an Ashwin carrom ball which Bhuvneshwar diving in-front failed to catch as the ball went past the boundary ropes. But Mishra had his revenge when Malik was holed out at long-off boundary by Raina. Umar also followed suit lofting Shami to Raina at long-off. Shahid Afridi's (8) hit and miss game didn't work today as he tried to sweep Bhuvneshwar but gave Raina, his third catch of the day in the deep. While Sohaib Maqsood hit Shami for a six and four to score a quickfire 21 off 11 balls, it wasn't enough for Pakistan to get to a decent score.
The fast-fermenting crisis across Ukraine is still unfolding with the bid for independence in the contested Crimea. Though Ukraine has undergone numerous periods of turbulence during the past 20-odd years and especially since the 2004 "Orange Revolution," the present upheaval lasting for several months has again plunged the geopolitically important country on the edge of collapse. The Ukraine crisis broke out abruptly and unexpectedly, but was actually ignited by a wide spectrum of thorny conundrums both home and abroad. From a domestic perspective, the government has been used to neglecting the willingness of a certain number of constituencies when formulating major state policies, thus incurring a political participation crisis. When the ignored voters were strongly discontented with the government and the system, they resorted to violence, inevitably leading to bleeding scenarios. However, we should tap into the underlying causes behind the current riots. On the one hand, because of its history scarred by wars and split over nationhood, the western region of Ukraine boasts a culture, ideology and religion similar to Europe, in particular Poland and the Republic of Lithuania, while the east has been Russianized to a certain degree. For instance, Ukraine's upper classes traditionally wrote in Russian instead of Ukrainian. It should be noted, nevertheless, that cultural differences do not necessarily give rise to social conflicts and confrontations. The turmoil that has never died down throughout Ukraine's society can be called "Ukraine's crisis of European integration," which means social controversies are triggered by suspensions in the process of being integrated into Europe. Plus, there has long existed an institutional deficiency in Ukraine. Its president, parliament and the opposition failed to cultivate an institutional culture, leaving political parties entangled in a zero-sum game with no room for compromise. Last but not least, the political elite, as the major body of the constitutional democracy, exerts a significant role in the society as well as immense influence upon every single crisis. Although the Ukrainian government has set up the framework of checks and balances, outdated institutions are pervading across the whole society, and there are many legal grey areas. Political parties and elites selectively utilize laws and regulations to obtain maximum benefits. Against a lackluster judicial institution and democratic system, the elite in the opposition party are keen on engaging in street politics that brings about immeasurable losses to the people. Ukraine's elite is also unstable. They cooperate based on personal interest instead of political views and ideologies. Furthermore, they tend to amplify cultural differences and use them as a tool to mobilize voters, who end up in becoming a social force jeopardizing the stability of the whole society and the destiny of the nation at large. On the other hand, Ukraine's special geographical position also plays a decisive role in its wretched fate. After the end of the Cold War, the West is still led by the US and the EU, while Russia has not blended itself into the so-called Western geopolitical system despite a series of changes in social system. And it is exactly in this geopolitical crevice that Ukraine has had to survive, whether actively or passively, by figuring a way out. That could explain why every time a political crisis struck Kiev, various competing actors, the US, the EU and Russia, began to squabble over which direction Ukraine should take. We cannot afford to ignore the role of external powers in the Ukraine crisis. The EU and the US are solely preoccupied in supporting the opposition party, disregarding violent terrorist activities by extreme nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. Consequently the situation across the country has spiraled out of control. The crisis will wield an irrevocably devastating impact on Ukraine's democratic transformation. However, it could serve as a harsh test for the political elite as well as a profound lesson for the public.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Friday on the ratification of the treaty providing for the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia. The treaty had been already ratified by both houses of the Russian parliament. Under the decree, the Russian Federation will have 85 regions, up from the previous 83. The Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which has a special status within the region, were added as subjects of the Russian Federation following a referendum Sunday in the Black Sea region, which saw over 96 percent of voters in the region back the motion to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Putin also signed a decree making Simferopol the capital of Russia’s new federal district of Crimea, the Kremlin said. Oleg Belaventsev, who previously headed a Defense Ministry affiliate, Slavyanka, was appointed presidential envoy in the district. Russian President Vladimir Putin along with Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov and other leaders of the region signed an agreement Tuesday in the Kremlin stating the Republic of Crimea was now to be considered Russian territory. Leaders in the predominantly Russian-ethnic republic refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev that came to power amid often violent protests last month, instead seeking reunification with Russia.
Michelle Obama met Chinese president Xi Jinping on the first day of a week-long China visit, in a sign the leaders of the world's two largest economies are seeking to build stronger bonds. The formal meeting between Xi and the first lady took place in the company of Xi's wife Peng Liyuan and the first lady's daughters and mother. The visit is being seen as a prelude to an upcoming meeting between Xi and President Obama at a nuclear security summit in The Hague. Obama, the first US president's wife to visit China independently, was earlier hosted by Peng on a tour of a Beijing high school and the former Imperial Palace. She thanked Xi for the warm reception, telling him: "We have had a wonderful first day here in China." He said: "I cherish my sound working relationship and personal friendship I have already established with your husband. We stay in close touch." The meeting was not on the first lady's official itinerary, but had been expected. Teng Jianqun, director of the American studies department at the China Institute of International Studies, said: "It is only logical for President Xi to meet her, because it is a matter of etiquette for the head of the household to meet the guest of his wife." US aides have said the first lady is staying away from contentious issues, but will promote education and people-to-people exchanges during the seven-day visit to three cities. Earlier in the day, Obama played table tennis at Beijing's elite Second High School and met students who were building robots. The school has 33 American exchange students, and some of its Chinese students aspire to study in the US. In a calligraphy class arranged for her, the first lady, on her first visit to China, practised writing the Chinese character for "eternal" under the guidance of 16-year-old student Lu Yuhong. "I'm nervous," Obama said. "Don't be nervous," Peng replied in English. Lu said: "The first lady was so amicable. She was very approachable." Later in the morning, Peng escorted Obama to the former Imperial Palace in central Beijing. That was to be followed by a private dinner and a performance. The first lady is also preparing to deliver a speech at Peking University. An aide said: "She will talk about the value of the free exchange of ideas and the internet, and how that, in her view, has made our country stronger. How even when you can be the object of criticism, as she and her husband have been, that that's not a system she would change." The White House hopes by travelling with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and mother Marian, Obama's trip will resonate with Chinese families, who value multi-generational activities. "China views Mrs Obama's trip most positively," said Shen Dingli, professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai. "If she is humble and respectful, she will win the support from the Chinese public for building good relationships with the United States under the leadership of her husband." The Obama delegation is also due to visit the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum, and a panda-breeding facility.
Four Taliban gunmen opened fire inside a luxury hotel in Kabul Thursday evening, killing nine civilians, including four foreigners, before being gunned down by Afghan forces, officials said. There are four women, two of them foreigners, and a child who have been killed in the shooting on the Afghan New Year's Eve, said the Afghan Ministry of Interior. The four foreigners killed in the attack were citizens of New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan and India, said the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Sediq Siddiqi, in a press conference on Friday. The four Taliban attackers who were in traditional Afghan dress hid six small pistols in their socks and penetrated several layers of security at the Serena hotel, in the heart of the Afghan capital. "The four young attackers entered the hotel at about 6pm pretending to be guests and started to attack at 9pm," Sediq Siddiqi, the interior ministry spokesman, told reporters, adding the gunmen were all under 20 years old. All the militants were gunned down after a three-hour operation by Afghan elite police force. "Two of the attackers were gunned down in the restaurant inside Serena, third in a nearby corridor and the forth inside a bathroom," Mr Siddiqi told reporters. At least two guards have been wounded in the shooting. The Ministry of Interior blamed Serena security for the failure, saying they had asked the hotel to allow the police to provide security, a request Mr Siddiqi said, was rejected by the management of Serena. The police questions Serena security personnel as it remains a key question that how the men managed to carry guns inside the heavily guarded hotel. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban had first attacked the Kabul Serena hotel in 2008 and had killed eight people. The Serena attack on Thursday came on the same day that seven Taliban suicide attackers stormed a police station in the eastern city of Jalalabad killing 10 policemen. The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections early next month.
BY ISAAC CHOTINERCarlotta Gall's blockbuster story in The New York Times Magazine this week claims that the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) had knowledge of Osama Bin Laden's hiding place in Abbottabad. According to Gall, the ISI and Pakistan's military establishment also supported the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The piece is an excerpt from her new book, The Wrong Enemy: American in Afghanistan, 2001- 2014, which argues that the failing American mission in Afghanistan is largely the result of Pakistani duplicity, which has consisted of the country taking American aid dollars while still covertly supporting the Taliban and other extremist groups. Gall has reported extensively from Pakistan and Afghanistan for The New York Times, and is currently the newspaper's North Africa correspondent. We spoke by phone this week about the details of Pakistan's relationship to Bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan, and the long, depressing history of U.S.-Pakistan relations. Isaac Chotiner: What is the newest or biggest revelation about Bin Laden and his relationship with the ISI? Carlotta Gall: The ISI was actually running a special desk within the organization to handle Bin Laden, which meant hide him and talk to him. They knew he was there and protected him. That has never been said before by anyone. I only have one source but it’s very convincing source and it had to be said and put out there. IC: You took some criticism for the single source but there were two other interesting revelations. The first is that when you brought the issue of Pakistani knowledge up with American of icials, who don’t want to criticize a nominal ally, they were sympathetic to what you had heard. CG: Yes. IC: And the second point, which I found the most convincing, was that Bin Laden was communicating with ISI assets, such as Hafiz Saeed, who is the head of a Pakistani extremist group. The point, I think, is that he wouldn’t be communicating with these people if he was concerned about the ISI finding him. CG: Yes, he was communicating with people that the ISI talks to and is in close touch with. IC: Do you have any sense of the substance of those communications, for example how much Bin Laden was revealing about where he was or what he was up to? CG: There was a cell phone in the compound that revealed numbers to other connections in Pakistan. There were letters between him and Mullah Omar and him and Hafiz Saeed, and those are two people very close the ISI. It is inconceivable to anyone who follows all this that the ISI did not know he was corresponding with them. IC: But do you think he was communicating where he was? CG: We know from the Americans that his courier was going to Peshawar and talking to people and bringing black flash drives with news and email for Bin Laden. IC: When, in the past, you brought up the idea of Pakistani knowledge of Bin Laden, you got similar, stone-faced responses. CG: Yes there was a moment after the raid where they were talking quite a lot and we had some complaints about the Pakistanis. And then everything went quiet because I think Pakistan must have complained. One official said they were all walking on eggshells to mend the relationship and try to repair things and bring them back to normal. I don’t agree with this idea. I think it is a huge mistake. It should be openness. That can change Pakistan, and I don’t have any qualms revealing what I have got. More recently, when I took all this information about ISI knowledge and an ISI desk to American officials, there was this feeling that this is what they always suspected and knew and that it makes complete sense. But no one would say precisely what they knew. IC: For over 40 years we have been paying part of Pakistan’s military bill, and thus in a way we were paying for them to hide Osama Bin Laden, or at the very least to aid groups sympathetic to him. CG: Yeah, it is like the relationship with Saudi Arabia. IC: The devil’s bargain hasn’t worked out. CG: It really doesn’t work. And it deceives the people of both countries, even Congressmen. It is angering. But there is a real division between the military in America who would say that we were on the right track in investigating these things, and the diplomats who don’t want to admit what is going on or don't know what is going on. There is a big divide here between the departments. That is where everything goes wrong IC: Your colleague Mark Mazzetti has written about that divide well. A colleague of mine said something interesting today, which is that in a way it is shocking that no one has been protesting this today at the Pakistani embassy or wherever. People are so used to this. And Congressmen are not shouting about this. CG: Yes, yes. IC: The broader argument of your book is that the war in Afghanistan has largely been sabotaged by Pakistan. If this hadn’t been the case, do you think things would be much better in Afghanistan? CG: 100%. Without Pakistan or with a cooperative Pakistan that strove to demobilize the Taliban, it would have been all over. It was all over in 2002. They were defeated, the people had turned against them. Without Pakistan it wouldn’t have happened. I really do think they did a callous and misguided thing to support the Taliban and bring them back. It is a military-led policy which is not in the interest of Pakistan either. IC: Yes, Pakistani civil society and even the military have been completely degraded by this choice. Tens of thousands of Pakistani are dead. CG: They are in a cycle and can’t stop. They need the civilians to get ahold of the military. IC: I thought the most shocking part of your story concerned Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister who was assassinated in 2007. It has always been assumed that it was the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda who did this, and you note that Al Qaeda ordered the attack, but you also put more blame on the military government. They didn’t just provide inadequate security. You argue that they willed her death as well as covered it up. CG: That is a good choice of words, “willed.” The subject is a difficult one to read. But there was a meeting where the military heads discussed it and there was some suggestion that they wanted it to happen. Many people who know this stuff believe the Pakistani Taliban and the ISI and Al Qaeda are all one thing. They all work together. Whichever way you look at it, I think they have a great deal of guilt. IC: You seem to be saying that we have made too many excuses for Pakistan, but what would full-on confrontation look like? That is very scary. CG: I hope I am not suggesting that. Some people think I have it in for Pakistan. I don’t. I think the right course is diplomacy and pulling out of Afghanistan but still supporting both those countries and trying to move them to a better place. More openness with their people is required. You have to run a better government with more democracy and more openness. You have to discuss this. They need civilians to come in and get a grip on the country. Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//article/117074/osama-bin-ladens-hideout-and-pakistan-and-american-knowledge
Carlotta Gall covered Afghanistan and Pakistan for The New York Times (NYT) from 2001 to 2013. Amongst her other accomplishments, she was deported from Pakistan for being ‘undesirable’. Now Ms Gall has written a book, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014. Excerpts from the book have been published by the NYT, some of which make sensational reading. For example, the article alleges that ex-president Pervez Musharraf and ISI chief Lt-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew of the presence in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden (OBL) at his sprawling compound in Abbottabad. Further, that the ISI had established a special desk to handle OBL, manned by an officer who was empowered to make his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He allegedly handled only one person: OBL. The report cites an unnamed Pakistani official alleging that the US had direct evidence implicating Pasha. The report goes on to allege that evidence found in OBL’s residence in Abbottabad showed he was in correspondence with Hafiz Saeed of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Mullah Omar of the Afghan Taliban, amongst other extremist leaders. Further allegations paint a picture of cells in the ISI working against and fighting the Taliban, while others were supporting them. OBL, the report suggests, travelled to the tribal areas for a meeting with Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the latter blamed by a Pakistani intelligence source of planning to assassinate Benazir Bhutto on her return to Pakistan in 2007 and that General Musharraf was aware of the plan. Sensational as some of these allegations and accusations are, it comes as no surprise that top intelligence officials, ISPR and the Foreign Office, not to mention sources in Pakistan’s Washington embassy, have flatly rejected the report as ‘fabricated, baseless’ and even a ‘pack of lies’. These institutions reassert that no one in Pakistan knew of OBL’s presence in Abbottabad. Ms Gall stands accused in turn by these spokespeople as interested in maligning Pakistan and its secret agencies, especially the ISI. Hafiz Saeed for his part has flatly denied ever knowing or corresponding with OBL. Mullah Omar, it seems, has left the building and is not available for comment. It may be recalled that after the 2011 Abbottabad raid by US SEALS that ended with the killing of OBL, the military and ISI were hugely embarrassed by the debacle. General Pasha attempted to take responsibility for the intelligence failure and offered to resign, but parliament granted him and all the top brass a reprieve and a clean chit of at best incompetence rather than being complicit in harbouring OBL. The resurrection of allegations of complicity in the NYT, and perhaps even more embarrassingly in the detailed account in the forthcoming book, has put everyone in authority at the time in an uncomfortable place. Perhaps only when the book is available and can be perused for any evidence the author can muster for her serious allegations will objective observers be in a position to judge the veracity of the bombshell accusations. However, irrespective of that outcome, what may be triggered even further by such accusations is the strengthening of an increasingly vocal caucus in the US Congress that refuses to accept Pakistan as a US ally, arguing for a cut off of aid to Pakistan. That argument is unlikely to be settled only on the basis of Ms Gall’s ‘revelations’. Washington has many concerns about maintaining the relationship with Islamabad going into a future that has several critical markers. One is the withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year and the subsequent fallout in Afghanistan, handling which will require the cooperation of Pakistan. Pakistan’s own internal terrorism problem too is on the US’s radar, recognising as it does the risks of a nuclear-armed state under terrorist siege. US aid is an investment in the stability, prosperity and peaceful development of Pakistan, a goal considered very important given the experience of Washington taking its eye off the regional ball after 1989, which opened the door to 9/11. So, while looking forward to a good read of a book that promises thrills and spills but whose truth will only be judged on whatever evidence is produced, the US and Pakistan have already turned a corner from 2011 and the estrangement that followed to forge a relationship that hopefully looks forward, not back.