Saturday, September 13, 2014
Thousands of supporters of both sides in the Scottish referendum debate have taken to the streets on the final weekend before the vote.
BARACK OBAMA’s prime-time address of September 10th, bracing America for an open-ended campaign against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, marked a stunning turnaround for a cautious president, a once-again-hawkish Republican Party and—most strikingly—for a public galvanised by the beheading of two American journalists, after ignoring soaring death tolls in the Arab world (see chart). Mr Obama’s presidency is on the line, as critics ask whether he knows how to keep Americans safe.
When he proudly declared in 2011 that America’s war in Iraq would soon be over, Mr Obama can hardly have imagined that, three years later, public opinion would oblige him to deliver an address from the White House, assuring the country that almost 500 American troops will head to Iraq to join hundreds already there, where they will support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with advice, training, intelligence and equipment. New Iraqi national guard units in Sunni towns will also receive support, he said. Allies on the ground would be backed by “systematic” air strikes against IS in Syria as well as Iraq. American combat troops would not fight on foreign soil, he promised, choosing his words with legalistic precision. But: “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”Since uprisings began against the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, Mr Obama has resisted calls from aides, among them his first secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to arm relatively-moderate rebels on a large scale, or risk leaving a vacuum for extremists to fill. On August 8th the president deemed it a “fantasy” that the Syrian government could be beaten by arming moderates he called: “essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth”. A month later in his TV address, Mr Obama announced expanded aid for Syrian rebels, adding that in the fight against IS, “we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorises its people.” He compared this strategy—involving air power and support for regional allies fighting on the ground—to missions he said were succeeding in Somalia and Yemen.
Though the president believes he has the legal authority to launch air strikes, and bipartisan backing for his larger strategy, he renewed a call for Congress to authorise funds needed to train and equip large numbers of Syrian fighters. A request for $500m to help Syrian rebels has been stalled in Congress since June.Asking Congress to approve a ramping-up of American counter-terror firepower might seem to answer complaints from members of Congress who have denounced Mr Obama as a “reluctant commander-in-chief” and demanded to be consulted. Yet in the hours before Mr Obama’s address, leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate were divided over how central a role to seek. Lots of Republicans are happily rediscovering hawkish instincts, jointly accusing Mr Obama (and Mrs Clinton, a putative 2016 presidential challenger) of running a feckless foreign policy. But with elections less than two months away, many in Congress fear taking war votes that might be held against them. As an unusually candid Republican congressman told reporters, many of his colleagues prefer a simple approach: they will denounce Mr Obama if his plan goes awry, and, should it succeed, “ask what took him so long”.
Approval of Mr Obama’s foreign policy is at record lows. But the public mood is far from consistent. After Syria used chemical weapons on its people last year, only one in five Americans thought striking the Assad regime was in their national interest. Voters flooded Congress with calls opposing even limited missile strikes.
Now the polls show nearly three-quarters of Americans backing air strikes on Iraq, two-thirds backing strikes on Syria and 61% believing action against IS is in America’s interests. The new public hawkishness is linked to the reporters’ beheading, pollsters report. Americans paid more attention to those murders than to any other news event in the past five years, according to one survey. America is still tired of war. But it wants to feel safe.
Ruthless and indiscriminate terrorist methods, refined by ever more sophisticated techniques, have characterized the activities of those extreme Islamists who have taken the fight into the West.At long last the Western world is waking up to the fact that it faces a real and present danger - nothing less than a determined assault on its very existence. Appeasement is not a practical option. This is an enemy fired up by religious zeal, utterly committed to its unacceptable purposes and not susceptible to discussion or negotiation. In short, as much as liberal opinion in the civilized world may flinch from the prospect, there is a battle to be fought and won. On Wednesday, September 3 -- coincidentally 75 years to the day after Britain declared war on Nazi Germany -- US President Barack Obama said: “Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL [the self-styled Islamic State(IS)].” For his part, UK prime minister David Cameron has vowed that IS will "be squeezed out of existence". His remarks, made to a packed House of Commons, appeared to be preparing the ground for a broad coalition to drive out IS, following a formal invitation from the Iraqi government. At last week’s NATO summit in Wales, US Secretary of State John Kerry pulled together a coalition made up of Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark, along with Australia, to do just that, however long it takes.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry that any international coalition against terrorism should not just focus on Islamic State militants, the presidency said in a statement on Saturday. Sisi also expressed concerns about foreign fighters in Islamic State and the danger they posed to their home countries because of Western passports that can get get them through airports undetected.
Egyptian security officials have said Islamic State has established contacts with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the country's most dangerous militant group, which has killed hundreds of security forces since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year after mass protests against him.Egypt would certainly welcome action against Ansar as well as Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, which it has declared a terrorist group.
Sisi said any international coalition to combat terrorism "should be comprehensive and not exclusively target a specific organization or eradicate a certain terrorist hotspot", said the presidency."Rather, the coalition should extend to encompass combating terrorism wherever it exists in the Middle East and African regions."
The statement added that Sisi "warned of the repercussions from the involvement of foreign militants in ongoing regional conflicts".
Rehman Malik member of political jirga of opposition parties here on Saturday called for the release of workers of Pakistan Aawmi Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Speaking to media persons on Saturday at Karachi Airport, Malik said that talks must continue after the release of detained political workers. He warned that there could be a confrontation if a peaceful solution was not found out of the crisis. “It is a ego-lock, not deadlock,” he said in response to a question. This lock, he said, could be opened by people only. He said that political jirga played a major role to end the deadlock between protesting parties and government.
BY FAZUL RAHIM Instead of breaking their months-long deadlock, Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates appear to be pushing their country toward the brink of a breakdown. The political insecurity is rocking the lives of ordinary Afghans, sending crime and unemployment rates soaring – along with fears of spiraling violence and a resurgent Taliban. "Afghanistan is on the brink of descending back into chaos and civil war,” Afghan lawmaker Nisar Haress told NBC News. “The situation is getting worse every passing day." Kabul property dealer Payenda Mohammad Ehsan is one of the millions of Afghans feeling the effects. "People do not feel safe," the 62-year-old said. "It is the ordinary people who are most affected by the current crisis." The deadlock is especially troubling for the U.S. and NATO ahead of the planned withdrawal of combat troops by the end of the year. "Afghanistan’s failure would be catastrophic for the U.S. and the West,” Afghan lawmaker Nisar Haress told NBC News. “Afghanistan can become another Iraq very quickly and it will be impossible to contain if that happens." The outcome of the April election was seen as a make-or-break moment for Afghanistan’s future, with billions of dollars of funds tied to the success of a free and fair election. The U.S. had high hopes for the vote, deeming it a critical test not just of Afghanistan’s ability to ensure a stable transition but also to measure the impact a decade of Western intervention had had on the country. Former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani led preliminary election results. But after his opponent Abdullah Abdullah alleged widespread vote-rigging, Secretary of State John Kerry swooped in to broker a power-sharing deal and convince the two to agree to a recount and unitary government. While Kerry was hailed a hero at the time, in the two months since talks to form a government have broken down. The U.S. secretary of state has visited yet again, and President Barack Obama also has reached out to the candidates in phone calls. The official results of the recount are expected next week – though Abdullah has said won’t respect the outcome and Ghani said Wednesday he did not want "a two-headed government." The bitter feud and ensuing political uncertainty has led to a "sharp rise" in unemployment and crime across the country, a senior security official told NBC News, speaking on condition of anonymity. Rahim Shirzad, a 42-year-old laborer, has not been able to find work since the start of the election fiasco and said he might have to sell his home to repay debts. "I have no savings left,” he explained. “I had to sell my wife’s jewelry to buy food and basic supplies." His only hope, he said, was for Kerry to step back in to force the parties to break the deadlock – though Ehsan admitted even that seemed far-fetched. "People have lost faith in these politicians who are only interested in their own agenda," he said. Analysts and officials are fearful the political impasse could embolden the Taliban to stage more brazen attacks – and to seize the opportunity to present themselves as a viable alternative to out-of-touch and paralyzed politicians. Already, the handover of security control by NATO troops to the Afghan National Army has imbued the Taliban with confidence, according to The International Crisis Group. "Ongoing withdrawals of international soldiers have generally coincided with a deterioration of Kabul's reach in outlying districts," an ICG report said in May. Kawzia Hakin, a 32-year-old mother of four, said she is terrified of what could come to pass. “There is a real danger of the Taliban coming back and that will be the worst thing that could happen to us,” the government clerk told NBC News. “As a mother, I appeal to the leaders to please, think of the people, and compromise for the sake of the people."
THE newly-formed Indian subcontinent division of transnational terror group al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for Saturday night’s attack on a Naval dockyard in Karachi — the organisation’s first strike since its existence was made public last month. The attackers, the statement said, were former Pakistan Navy officers-turned-jihadists who were attempting to hijack a missile frigate to stage an attack on a United States aircraft carrier. The claim was made in a statement released online on Thursday — the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks — by Usama Mahmood, the spokesperson for Qaidat al-Jihad fi’Shibhi al-Qarrat al-Hindiya, or al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Few details are available on the attack, in which a Pakistan Navy officer was reported killed along with two terrorists. Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo told the media that the slain attackers included former Naval official Owais Jhakrani, the son of senior police officer Ali Sher Jhakrani. Pakistani media reports said the attackers succeeded in briefly seizing control of the Chinese-made F22P-type frigate, the Zulfiqar. Mahmood’s statement — in Urdu — says, “The Naval officers who were martyred on Saturday in the attack in Karachi were al-Qaeda members. They were trying to attack American marines and their cronies”. Following training at an al-Qaeda camp, the men were tasked with hijacking the missiles through which they were to attack an American carrier, says the note. “They had taken over control of the ship and were proceeding to attack the American carrier when they were intercepted by the Pakistan military,” the statement says. “These men thus became martyrs. The Pakistani military men who died defending enemies of the Muslim nation, on the other hand, are cursed with hell”. In a brief statement which did not describe the circumstances of the attack, the Pakistan Navy said four attackers had been arrested, leading to raids by “intelligence agencies which led to arrest of other collaborators and accomplices from different parts of the country.” Karachi-based newspapers have reported that those arrested included two Naval officers, but there has been no official confirmation. Mahmood’s statement promises that al-Qaeda will soon released the videotaped last testaments of the attackers — a longstanding practice of the organisation. The release of the videotapes could enhance the credibility of the claim, which comes in the wake of similar but less-detailed statements by two rival factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — both, however, with links to al-Qaeda. In March 2011, Tehreek-e-Taliban and al-Qaeda cadre had stormed the PNS Mehran airbase near Karachi, destroying military assets including P-3C Orion aircraft valued at $35 million, and killing 15 military personnel. Muhammad Aqeel, one of the terrorists captured during the strike, was a former Pakistan Army nurse, while three Naval officers were court-martialled for aiding the attack. Brigadier Ali Khan, serving at the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, was held in connection with a 2009 terrorist attack on the Pakistan Army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, while three Air Force personnel were held after investigations into the 2012 strike on a Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra.
Pakistan - Karachi Naval Dock Attack: Jihadists' Attempt to Storm American Ship on 9/11 Thwarted by Pakistan Military
The newly formed Indian wing of Al-Qaeda made an attempt to launch an attack on the anniversary of 9/11, but the group's first ever attack mission ended in failure, a complete embarrassment to the branch launched only last week with much pomp and pageantry.The offshoot of the deadly militant outfit formed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, suffered a major setback when three of its fighters were killed and seven arrested thereby thwarting a major terror attack, reportedly aimed at destroying an American aircraft.
Heavily armed militants attacked a naval dock in Karachi's sea port last Saturday night in what seems to be their mission to first capture the dock and use the Navy missile system present in the vessel to target an American aircraft. But before they could execute their plans, Pakistan Navy overpowered them in a counter-ambush capturing many while killing others among the militants.
"It was a complete failure, they did not do any kind of damage, some were captured and we caught more, seven so far and may be more to come. They were well-equipped and came with the intention of taking a ship into their custody but they were caught in the initial stages," The Telegraph quoted a senior source close to the investigation, as saying.The Indian wing of Al-Qaeda, which was unveiled by Zawahiri last week in order to step up its competition with the growing hardliner Sunni militants, Islamic State, soon claimed responsibility for the attack on Thursday and revealed that Pakistan Navy had carried out the attack. It is not clear if the Navy men were themselves members of the outfit, or the attackers were disguised as navy members.
"The Naval officers who were martyred on Saturday in the attack on Karachi were al-Qaeda members. They were trying to attack American marines and their cronies", the group said in a statement as noted by reports.The statement further added that the militants had seized an American vessel but were thwarted by Pakistan navy troops. "The Pakistani military men who died defending enemies of the Muslim nation...are cursed with hell", they said.
Forget electoral crises and terrorism — Pakistan’s dangerous demographics might be its biggest threat.The Financial Times ran an interesting article a couple of days ago on the threat runaway population growth poses to Pakistan. According to the Population Council, a non-governmental organization based in New York, Pakistan’s population is projected to reach 302 million by 2050. Pakistan’s current population is around 200 million people while in 1947, the year it gained independence, Pakistan had only 33 million people. The article notes that Pakistan’s rapidly increasing population will strain its “natural resources (especially water), government services, infrastructure, and families,” all of which are already overburdened. The future economic and political consequences of this population growth are dire, especially since Pakistan has not experienced the type of economic growth or industrialization necessary to employ millions of young people. This is yet another example of how the Pakistani government’s failure to get its house in order and implement long-term developmental strategies is coming back to haunt it. Like many South Asian states, Pakistan’s state institutions are relatively weak, a problem compounded by the fact that it inherited little of British India’s institutions. However, instead of emphasizing governance and building up the capacity of the state, successive Pakistani governments have neglected economic development, industrialization, education, and government itself (in many tribal areas). As a result, Pakistan is ill-prepared to implement the sort of economic reforms needed to employ its entire population or implement the family planning strategies necessary to curb population growth. A comparison to Bangladesh is instructive. When both East Pakistan – today’s Bangladesh – and West Pakistan (today’s Pakistan) were one country between 1947 and 1971, East Pakistan had more people than West Pakistan. However, today, successful family planning policies in Bangladesh have led to an almost stable but gradually growing population of around 150 million people. Bangladesh’s success surprised many observers but is now widely upheld as an exemplar. Many of Pakistan’s neighbors, including Iran, have also managed to lower their fertility rates. The Indus valley and the Punjab region of Pakistan (Punjab means five rivers) are among the most fertile regions in the world. The world’s largest continuous irrigation system dominates the Indus valley. As a result, Pakistan has generally had a greater ability to generate and absorb a large population than many other countries with large fertility rates. However, Pakistan’s ability to sustain more people is reaching its limits. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s attitudes towards India often obscure the problem in Pakistan. On one hand, there is some belief that Pakistan can only challenge India with a large population; therefore, it is not in Pakistan’s interest to limit population growth. On the other hand, many in Pakistan seem to believe that Pakistan is actually just growing at a “normal” rate but is being sabotaged by Indian dams upriver. However, it is obvious to most observers, including many Pakistanis, that Pakistan’s rivers are drying up because there are simply too many people, resulting in too much demand for water and agriculture. There are indications, however, that many Pakistanis, both men and women, want to have fewer children but cannot do so due to a lack of knowledge or a lack of contraceptives. Additionally, family planning is not widely or openly discussed in Pakistan due to the influence of religious leaders. Pakistani politicians need to stop playing their game of thrones if they want to save their country. Ultimately, implementing necessary policies is more important than pursuing individual goals, as many of Pakistan’s political actors seem to be doing today. However, human nature being what it is and given that Pakistan in particular is so politically unstable, it is unlikely that the country’s demographic problem will be solved anytime soon. This is unfortunate because it means that Pakistan’s tendency towards extremism and violence will continue to grow as it is slowly beset by a host of other socio-economic problems.
.shiapost.comShia Muslims in Pakistan have staged rallies nationwide to protest persisting killing of Shias across the country, blaming provincial and federal governments for failing to prosecute the perpetrators.
“Takfiri criminals are facilitated in jails and purposely allowed to escape to kill Shia Muslims,” said MWM leader in Karachi, Ali Hussain Naqvi.The demonstrators condemned Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah for what they described as his incompetence to deliver on his promises.
“Why are they killing us? Because we love this country? Because our blood is in the foundations of this country? I think the shameless government of Nawaz Sharif should step down now as they cannot provide us security,” said a protester.
Experts say the government is downplaying the fresh security threats even after newly surfaced ISIL messages in Peshawar. The Takfiris distributed pamphlets calling on the people to join the terrorist group, an issue that has sound the alarms for many in Pakistan.
Despite its geopolitical importance and abundant natural resources, Balochistan has been staggeringly deprived of development due to the state policy towards it. What raises concerns now is the parasitically growing religious extremism in the region. Below are the recent events that alarmingly indicate the seriousness of this threat.Paralyzing the Education Sector In Pakistan’s least inhabited province, successive governments have failed to ensure a considerably progressing literacy rate over the course of time. Currently, several educational institutes in Balochistan face threat of attacks from ensemble extremist groups. In the past ruthless attacks have been carried out on education in the province. In June 2013, a female suicide bomber blew herself up in a bus carrying students of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University, Quetta. Later, the sectarian extremist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack. A survivor of the deadly blast, lying in bed with a broken leg and shrapnel cuts across her face resolved, “Such incidents will never stop me from receiving education. As soon as I get better, I will go back to the university.” In June, 2012, at least five students died, while 69 were injured when a powerful blast occurred near an IT University located in Jinnah Town, Quetta. A police officer investigating the scene revealed, “The bomb targeted the bus as it carried a majority of Shia students.” The growing Islamic extremism in the region is evident by wall chalking in several localities and messages from extremist groups declaring co-education and learning English language “haram”. Recently, all private educational institutes in Panjgur were shut down in the aftermath of threats by a shadowy militant organization called Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan whose armed militants have attacked schools and torched vans. The children in Panjgur remained deprived of education until the institutes were reopened after the government assured them of providing protection. Presently the strength of students is minimal; how can parents dare to send their children especially daughters to schools amid continuous threats by militant outfits? The series of attempts to paralyze the education sector in Balochistan continued when a private school was set on fire in Kech. A pamphlet left by the assailing militants warned the people that they should not send their children to schools or English language centers for learning English. It further advised parents to send their children to religious seminaries only or else get ready to face serious repercussions. To reassuringly restore the continuity of education in the province, it is necessary to take strict action against the militants. Acid Attacks An outcome of the militants’ teachings unfolded when women were attacked with acid for stepping out of the four walls of their houses. Reportedly, 12 women have been separately targeted in recent province-wide acid attacks carried out by men riding motorcycles. Back in 2013, Balochistan’s government had unanimously passed the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill after an extremist group claimed responsibility of acid attacks on two sisters aged 11 and 13 while they were out shopping. But the recent events viciously targeting the freedom of women have raised questions on the capability of government to ensure safety to women in an already culturally patriarchal society. Sectarian Violence The atrocious culmination of religious extremism and ethnic cleansing was witnessed when a bus carrying pilgrims belonging to the Zikri sect of Islam was blown up in Khuzdar by a remote bomb. The sect has never been targeted in a manner so malevolent before. The followers of the Zikri sect have been in jeopardy since the attack and have been targeted multiple times. It appears as if Pakistani media and authorities have neglected them altogether. Sectarian violence is not new to Balochistan. The Shia genocide in the region continues ruthlessly despite worldwide condemnation. Two young men from the Hazara community were remorselessly killed near Sabzal Road, Quetta a day before Eid. The victims were conventionally forgotten and the killers (like usual) were never found. The spree of religiously motivated violence in Balochistan can be traced back to the ideological propaganda encouraging jihadi groups in order to weaken Baloch nationalism (a secular movement heavily influenced by leftist Marxist ideology). This politicization of religion is eventually leading to a total disaster. Now there are several terrorist and extremist groups in Balochistan that remain a blockade in Balochistan’s way to achieving peace and prosperity. University buses have been blown up, a number of women have been defaced, different minority sects of Islam are constantly targeted, mass media has been pushed back to the intimidating confines of censorship, and religious minorities continue to be threatened to convert to Islam. Furthermore, the culprits manage to get away most of the time and the issues are reprehensibly underestimated by the national media. While the security apparatus responsible for the protection of common citizen is failing, the people of Balochistan are left asking whom to hold responsible for the lives lost to religious fanaticism and lack of accountability of the state institutions.
See the N league talk its way out of this one.Politicians are forgiven for interpreting events in terms of mileage. Democrats, for example, must have secretly cheered at the ’07 recession. Obviously that didn’t mean they liked people suffering as a rule; only near election time when the other party had office. It’s strictly politics. Similarly, politicians leveraging tragedies for political survival may be in bad taste morally, but in an industry run on the principle of ‘art of the possible’, it is accepted. So, as chatter goes, N hated it when the floods came again, because of the harm that would come to the people, of course. But the N league huddle calculated in terms of survival. How good do the dharnas look now when people are drowning? The government has more important things to take care of than these senseless protests. That, and fly the CM, and his camera crew, along with a couple of PDMA bureaucrats with blank cheques to knee deep areas, and things will be back to normal. But there’s a reason the déjà vu didn’t work out well. It turns out the CM repeated this exercise every year; because rains and floods brought disaster every year. And roads and bridges are fine, but his government has not done much to deal with one of the province’s most chronic problems. So pictures of Shahbaz Sharif sympathising with victims conveyed exactly the opposite message. Journalists learn early that politics also means posturing. A picture is worth a thousand words. At the end of the day, the N league did not do well in terms of damage control. It didn’t help, of course, that reports soon came out of advance warnings of harsh rains and heavy flooding, but the government did nothing. And suddenly, the initiative N had regained from the dharnas after so much manoeuvring, was lost. Main news was again government incompetence, to the point that hundreds were killed, millions made homeless, and a blow to the economy that is known to knock a couple of percentage points off the GDP, at least. Imran and TuQ might have ended up looking silly, especially after the opposition threw in its lot with N, but their accusations of ineptitude and a senseless government gained currency. Surely Nawaz didn’t expect crowds in Azad Kashmir to disrupt his address with Go-Nawaz-Go chants. And surely even Imran would not have expected crowds in Sargodha to do the same. So there’s a limit to the extent the party can now parade the brothers. Surely Nawaz didn’t expect crowds in Azad Kashmir to disrupt his address with Go-Nawaz-Go chants. And surely even Imran would not have expected crowds in Sargodha to do the same. So there’s a limit to the extent the party can now parade the brothers. It’s not even double edged anymore. It’s an unviable gambit. Who, then, will present the message? Hold people’s hands and tell them it’ll be ok. Kh Saad? His debating skills have carried on from university days and he definitely passes the fire-in-the-belly test. But what’s the minister for railways doing explaining the floods all alone? Ahsan Iqabl with his Vision 2025? He may run out of points after explaining why his strategy is typical N thinking, and it too makes little mention, if any, of dealing with structural problems – like draining floodwater from annual rains – that usually precede infrastructural mega projects – like motorways, flyovers, etc. They will realise, eventually, that it’ll have to be Kh Asif, the water and power minister. As if dealing with the electricity crisis was not enough for him. He’ll now have to answer for the Sharifs’ non-response to warnings about the floods. Again, and this merits repeating, the failure to move at the right time, or have a priority list that did not entertain massive floods, has cost hundreds of lives, made millions homeless, and hit the economy like the dharnas cannot even if Imran and TuQ pitch in their tents all the way to the next general election. But there’s another problem. Khwaja sb would do all that and more for the party, but his time is cramped since he’s also the defence minister. Again, typical N league. Second largest party in the country with a heavy mandate government, and all important ministries are still heaped on the close inner circle, in the province and the centre. Now Asif has to deal with Zarb-e-Azb, the power crisis (circular debt and all), and the floods. If nothing else, the multi-minister does take credit for outdoing so many others who could manage only one of these ministries at a time, and still find it difficult to cope with the work load. Interestingly, since he holds these crucial ministries, Kh Asif would also be one of the few people who can tell the prime minister how his disregard for the disaster is also compromising the anti-terror drive in the long run. We have an enduring tradition where natural disasters give militant organisations, the kind whose friends are on the wrong side of the NW operation, a foot in the door. They have always been at the forefront in terms of relief work. In the old days, and some say still, this trend had to do with the mullahs being military proxies. And since N himself is as much a product of the khakis as the Taliban, putting this sort of two and two together would not be hard even for him. Interestingly, since he holds these crucial ministries, Kh Asif would also be one of the few people who can tell the prime minister how his disregard for the disaster is also compromising the anti-terror drive in the long run. But the lashkars and jaishs were prominent in relief work even after Gen Musharraf outlawed a good many in the early days of the war on terror. The ’05 earthquake, and massive floods every year, saw them reach disaster sites long before the government machinery could even begin mobilising. Even now their workers, especially Jamaatud Dawaa’s and Jaamat-e-Islami’s, are seen rescuing people, providing ambulances, helping with relocations, and taking food and water to places days before official sources are able to reach. There they are within earshot of people they are otherwise unable to reach, especially with the restrictions and the operation. And since they do a commendable job of helping people in need, especially when the government is just as slow in reacting to the crisis as it was in preparing for it, it is only natural for locals to return the mullahs’ embrace, with gratitude. Of course it would be difficult for the best equipped government to react to such crises immediately and any sort of help is welcome when it comes to the people. But that is exactly why not heeding advance warnings is criminal. The Sharifs have run Punjab long enough to be up to scratch on the floods. That this year, if not before, much of the damage could have been avoided by simply running the government properly, but was not, speaks volumes about the Sharifs’ politics and priorities. Now the huddle, especially Kh Asif, must have figured out that the old approach will not do. They will have to answer for the floods. The timing could have been better – less opposition pressure, no dharnas, etc – but what are the options now? The CM can suspend half the secretariat, the PM can mobilise all his Khwajas and Chaudhrys, but more will be needed. How quickly things have changed, they must think. Time was not long ago, when the heavy mandate was new, that everything was falling in place. They were all over the assembly, the opposition was divided, and even the military was kept in place. They could poke at Musharraf all they wanted and the boots were unable to react. But then Model Town happened, and it was bungled. Then the dharnas happened, and they were bungled. Then they had to go to the boots for ‘facilitation’. Forget the Musharraf case now. Then they had to rely on the PPP to stay in office, who remembered memogate, and rubbed it in all the way. And now the floods have happened, and they have been bungled for a long time. Perhaps they’ll count on another national crisis to save them from this one.
A blast near the Satellite Town area in Quetta on Saturday left three people dead and 19 others injured. According to the police, unidentified men planted explosive material in a vehicle and detonated it via remote control. SSP Operations has reportedly said that 40 kilogrammes of explosives were used in the blast. The injured were taken to a local hospital for medical treatment where hospital sources said that four of them were in critical condition. Police and FC officials have cordoned off the area and further investigations are underway.
The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a United States government agency responsible for national and international counterterrorism efforts, has reportedly told the U.S. Senate that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains a significant threat in Pakistan despite the military offensive launched by the Pakistani government in North Waziristan and the change in leadership last year. While briefing the senate on issues of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, NCTC Deputy Director Nicholas Rasmussen said on Wednesday that the attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi that killed 30 showed the threat posed by the group inside the country, reported The Express Tribune. The attack was claimed by the TTP. He also said that the U.S. was constantly monitoring terrorist groups, networks, or individuals in Pakistan who are actively pursuing or have decided to incorporate operations outside of South Asia as a strategy to achieve their goals.