Thursday, October 9, 2014
Once again Turkey has proved to be America’s, and NATO’s, least reliable “ally.”When the United States and NATO asked Turkey to help prevent a humanitarian disaster in Kobani, near its border, Turkey once again sat on its hands. The reason is obvious. The leaders of Turkey would like to see as many Kurds as possible massacred. The Kurds of Turkey, Syria and Iraq have been seeking an independent state far longer than the Palestinians, and with a much stronger basis in law, diplomacy, morality and ethnic identity. Historically, the Turks have always had an answer to those who seek independence – massacre. The Turks massacred the Armenians, though they still deny complicity in this well-documented genocide. Indeed they have made it a crime to admit that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians. Now the Turks are facilitating the massacre of another one of their enemies, the Kurds. As one Kurd aptly put it: “They don’t want to help what they say is their enemy. That is why it is in Turkey’s favor that Kobani falls to ISIS.” Even before this recent treachery, the Turkish government refused to allow NATO forces landing rights and other passive logistical support in the war against Islamic State, that is ISIS. What good is an “ally” when that ally refuses to help during times of crisis. The Turks have also turned viciously against Israel, America’s most reliable ally in the area, using as an excuse that Israeli soldiers and sailors defended themselves against potentially lethal attacks by Turkish citizens, some of whom turned out to be terrorists, who were illegally trying to break an entirely lawful Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, designed to prevent importation of Hamas rockets. The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, used anti-Semitic tropes in his election campaign and has turned his country against Israel, which had previously been an important political and military ally of the nation-state of the Jewish people. The egomaniacal Erdogan demands abject apologies – from US Vice President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – even when no apology is warranted. Then, after receiving the apologies, he breaks his words and persists in his bad ways. But it is Turkey’s adamant refusal to satisfy its obligations as a NATO partner that has infuriated the Obama administration and American allies. This is the way one senior official in the Obama administration put it: “There’s growing angst about Turkey dragging its feet to act to prevent a massacre, less than a mile from its border. After all the fulminating about Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe, they’re inventing reasons not to act to avoid another catastrophe. This isn’t how a NATO ally acts when hell is unfolding a stone’s throw from their border.” Experts opine that Erdogan is holding the civilians of Kobani hostage in an effort to extort concessions from the United States and from Kurdish leaders. If his demands are not met, he will allow Islamic State to massacre thousands of Kurds. And massacre they will. There are 12,000 civilians in Kobani, which has been called “a bastion of democracy and secularism.” If the city is taken by Islamic State, it is likely that its residents will be put to the choice of conversion or death – if they are lucky. Other captured Kurds were not given any choice. They were simply beheaded or shot. If Erdogan seem like a poor-man’s Vladimir Putin, it is because the Turkish autocrat has tried to model himself on the Russian autocrat. Both have become immensely popular at home by their take-no-prisoners, confrontational approach to foreign policy. They don’t give a damn what the world thinks of them or their tactics, while they hypocritically lecture other nations for not complying with standards and rules that they defy. The only reason Turkey remains in NATO – and the reason it was admitted in the first place to an organization with “North Atlantic” origins – was its strategic location and powerful army. But these strengths have not been shared with their NATO allies, so of what benefit are they? There is, of course, another country in the region with a strategic location and a strong army that is a reliable ally of the United States, and would be a reliable ally of NATO. That nation would never refuse an American request to help it defeat Islamic State or to help it prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. That nation is Israel, which has never been offered membership in NATO. The substitution of Israel for Turkey as NATO’s reliable ally in the region, would be a win-win. But don’t hold your breath.
http://www.thehindu.com/U.S. Senators Timothy Kaine and Angus King said they are “concerned” over the rising tensions at the India-Pakistan Line of Control. Speaking to journalists in New Delhi on Thursday, the senators raised some eyebrows by also suggesting that the United Nations could play a “bigger role” in the conflict. “I welcome the comments of the U.N. Secretary General calling for diplomatic efforts and dialogue to end the worrying situation between India and Pakistan,” said Mr. King, referring to a statement from U.N. Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephanie Dujarric asking India and Pakistan to “resolve their issues”. While the U.N. Secretary General stuck to India’s stated position on a bilateral resolution to the LoC with Pakistan, the U.S. Senators may have stepped out of line by calling for a greater role in the dispute, adding “As a promoter of peaceful resolution of disputes the U.N. does a good job and in that sense their participation should be welcomed.” Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Kaine said he also welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s statement that a resolution would be found “very soon” and called it “very encouraging”. Senator Kaine said his visit to India, including meeting defence officials and visiting Mumbai to interact with businessmen had given them an “opportunity to better understand India’s concerns”. Just before visiting India, Mr. Kaine had also met with Pakistan’s Ambassador to US Jalil Jilani. According to an official statement quoted in Pakistani papers, Mr. Kaine “appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to address terrorism, and assured of US support for peace and stability in the region.”
Thousands have fled their homes in the disputed region of Kashmir as Indian and Pakistani troops keep up their cross-border firing. The rising tensions stem in part from a recent breakdown in talks, says Sumit Ganguly.Indian and Pakistani troops continued to exchange heavy fire over their border in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir on Wednesday, October 8, leading to the death of five more civilians. The area, claimed in its entirety by the nuclear-armed neighbors, has been the scene of some of the most intense fighting between the two countries in years, with both sides trading accusations of targeting civilians and violating a border truce. A total of nine Pakistani and eight Indian civilians have been killed since fighting erupted more than week ago, according to media reports. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the territory which is currently divided along a disputed border, known as the Line of Control (LoC). The latest outbreak of hostilities comes after New Delhi called off peace talks with Islamabad last month following Pakistan's consultation with Indian Kashmiri separatist leaders. Sumit Ganguly, India expert and professor of Political Science at the Indiana University Bloomington says in a DW interview that while the current escalation is a reflection of the current state of bilateral ties, it is unlikely that the cross-border shelling will escalate into a major conflict as both sides seem aware of the enormous human and material cost this would have.
DW: Who do you believe is responsible for the latest flare-up of violence along the border?Sumit Ganguly: It is hard to apportion blame. However, I suspect that it stems from the recent breakdown in talks between the two countries.
Pakistani and Indian troops are said to regularly exchange fire along the disputed border. What are the main reasons behind this?Simply stated because a cease-fire agreement has long expired, Pakistan's military is probably ramping up for renewed hostilities as it turns its gaze eastwards given the impending withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. It is also, in all likelihood, testing the resolve of the Modi government.
What impact will the latest ceasefire violations have on the ties between the two countries?Not much. Relations are already at fairly low ebb. There were hopes of a thawing in ties following Modi's invitation to Sharif to attend his inauguration as prime minister in May. But after that the peace talks between the two countries were canceled as Abdul Basit, the Pakistani ambassador to India, chose to invite Kashmiri separatists on the eve of the talks despite a clear injunction from New Delhi not to do so.
What are the chances of such violations escalating into a major conflict?I doubt that it will escalate as both sides are well aware of the costs thereof. The costs would be both human and material and would be worse for Pakistan given the dire state of its economy, its internal disorder and its lack of substantial external supporters barring China and Saudi Arabia. Even the Chinese may have second thoughtsabout supporting Islamabad.
How do these flare-ups affect the lives of people living along the border?It all depends on how close their villages are located near the Line of Control. Newspaperreports from both sides of the border indicate that civilian lives have been lost in these recent skirmishes. Sadly, periodic flare ups have become part of their lives.
What measures should be taken by the two South Asian nations to avoid such ceasefire violations?Frankly, any such process would not be symmetric. In India, the military cannot take initiatives along the border of its own accord. The same is, however, not true in Pakistan. Despite the presence of a democratically elected, civilian government in Pakistan, the military remains first amongst equals. It has in the past and still continues to enjoy considerable leeway in determining Pakistan's foreign and security policies and especially as they apply to India.In the absence of external pressure on Pakistan or a robust Indian response, these provocations are likely to continue.
Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley has accused Pakistan of making unprovoked attacks on Indian-controlled Kashmir and has warned that further violence could lead to heavy retaliation. Speaking in New Delhi on October 9, Jaitley said: “If Pakistan persists with this adventurism, then our forces will continue to fight,” and the cost to Pakistan would be “unaffordable.” At least nine Pakistani and eight Indian civilians have been killed by cross-border shelling during the past week along a 200-kilometer stretch of the Line of Control that separates Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the Muslim-majority territory since the end of British colonial rule on the subcontinent in 1947. Indian-administered Kashmir is to hold elections in December and Kashmir’s status – divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both countries – is a volatile issue.
These fears are heightened by India’s rapidly developing economy, political stability and fast paced modernization of its armed forces resulting in growing international status and standing. For Pakistani military fed on the belief as Christian Fair puts it ‘accepting the status quo with India is a defeat, such a scenario is an anathema that it is loathe to accept. This ideological perspective is important and remains the driver that is forcing the Pakistani Army in taking calculated military risks as a manifestation of its continued struggle which it must continue and persevere, if it is not to accept defeat. According to Fair this behaviour of Pakistan is a result of it being fundamentally a dis-satisfied state which seeks to increase its prestige, through spread of its ideology and religion in pursuit of its revisionist policies. Pakistani Insecurity Seen in the above context Pakistan’s attempts to hot up the LoC with unprovoked firing is an attempt to breach the status quo and to persevere with ‘India threat’ syndrome. The question is what are the larger strategic motivations for provoking India? Firstly, Pakistan looks upon itself as an incomplete state whose political, economic and security ambitions have been thwarted by it being used as a pawn in the great game played largely on the American behest. As a consequence it finds itself both economically and internally unstable and on the verge of being a failed state. Furthermore the political entities in Pakistan believe that this state of play has allowed the military to gain an upper hand in civil military relations dynamics effectively undermining all attempts to build strong political and economic institutions that would have helped 186 million Pakistani’s to come out of their perpetual poverty. There is a sense of envy not only against its larger neighbour India but other SAARC countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, who are relative economic success stories. Pakistani military on the other hand believes; it is the inept political class and their personal ambitions together with the machinations of the great ‘Satan’ the United States which responsible for the deplorable state of affairs in the country. Support to radical forces, involvement in Afghanistan and support to terrorist elements to fight proxy war are all underwritten as ‘just cause’ as also the perfidy to bleed India through thousand cuts. Nuclear weapons are seen as the crown jewels that provide Pakistani state security from any Indian misadventure in the backdrop of growing conventional asymmetry. Pakistani military believes that nuclear umbrella provides impunity from executing successful proxy war against India With fractious political structure and growing threats to the nationals security and mind set of being cornered from multiple directions Army believes that it is the only coherent and capable instrument of the state that can meet the multiple challenges and threats that the country faces. Hence despite democratic pretensions Pakistan remains a country under military siege with largely blurred democratic pretensions. This scenario for Pakistan is hugely exacerbated by politically stable and rapidly developing India, fast emerging as an important regional and global actor. What is worse is that developing India could in the medium run become economically and militarily as strong as to practically create an unbridgeable asymmetry in comprehensive national power. Further in Pakistani perception if the power gap is allowed to grow it could lead to great internal turbulence resulting in the country’s balkanisation given the dilemma of internal insurgencies in Baluchistan, FATA and instabilities in Karachi, Sind embers of which are heating up Southern Punjab as well. Why Continued Firing along the LoC Within the above backdrop firing along the LoC has three possible manifestations. At one level it is an attempt to keep pressure on Kashmir and create insecurity along the border by the combined nexus of Pak Army, ISI, the terrorists under the UJC supported by the separatists in the J&K. Aim is to keep the status quo in flux. By putting stories of great efforts by Pakistani Army to thwart Indian armies nefarious designs an attempt is being made at national mobilisation under trying and highly unstable political situation at home. It is also to gain public sympathy and support for the army providing it greater flexibility in flawed civil – military relations. In short it is an orchestrated plan by the Army in support of which it is quite capable of provoking India and even escalating to achieve its objectives. Pakistani army believes that it can take such a risk of escalation in the back drop of its effective nuclear capability. Second is the “K” factor. Over the last few years there has been perceptible decline in militancy and cross border terrorism. Kashmiri separatist leaders like Gilani either too old or Mirwaiz Umar Farookh too weak to sustain the so called separatist struggle, other leaders like, Yasin malik and Shabir Shah are attempting to pick the gauntlet but have yet to establish their credibility. It is in this milieu Pakistan is now trying to revamp its entire apparatus in the Kashmir valley, with eye on the forthcoming elections (likely to be postponed to Mar – Apr 2015 owing to floods). This is being done by attempting to induct as many as possible of the nearly 1000 militant cadres reported to be waiting to infiltrate across the LoC. What is worrisome for Pakistani handlers is that militancy and terrorist strikes are not providing any tangible results, or attempts to exploit post floods anger working. In the last one month alone nearly 17 terrorists have been killed in the Kashmir Valley (including dozen of them in attempted cross LoC. infiltration). In addition owing to effective counter infiltration and terrorism operations over the last one year there is no worthwhile terrorist leadership left in the valley capable of leading disruption of impending polls or spread antipathy and instigate civil strife during the forthcoming months. Thus it has become an imperative to induct and embed terrorist leadership before the onset of winters. Interestingly attempts at infiltration in North and South Kashmir, traditional focus of infiltration has been far and few. There appear to be two reasons; one Pakistan does not want to be seen as disrupting the flood relief work in the valley, something which could become potential source of alienation and second; vulnerability of its Lines of Communication should India resorts to massive retaliation. For these apparent reasons focus of Pakistani firing and escalation has shifted to South of Pir Panjal. As a result Pakistani firing is largely concentrated to traditional areas of Rajouri and Punch as also cross International Border that includes, sectors such as Sambha, Rabirsinghpura, and Chicken’s Neck in Akhnoor etc. Pakistan, increase in intensity and firing on civilian positions both along the border and in depth is part of an orchestrated strategy aimed at provoking India to relocate civilians to depth areas thereby facilitating infiltration. Locations of cross border tunnel are proofs of Pakistan’s nefarious designs. Third aspect of the Kashmir factor is the impending elections. Successful elections which could throw up electoral arithmetic in which centrist forces become powerful power brokers would result in a government that would follow strong nationalist policies severely curbing the separatist space. The manner in which India reacted to Huriyat leaders meeting Pakistani High Commissioner should have made absolutely clear to leadership that India with growing international support will brook little or no dissidence from these groups operating outside the constitutional process. Apart from above factor it appears that Pakistani military is attempting brinkmanship to bring beleaguered Pakistan back into global relevance by focusing on Kashmir (the forgotten dispute) lest it loses its relevance with western and global focus shifting to new kind of Islamic radicalism the ISIS. India’s Response Need to follow three pronged strategy, swift, sharp and effective response backed by controlled escalation, must form the military response to Pakistan’s provocations. India should be in no doubt that Pakistan as is its wont could attempt at escalation misreading Indian resolve. It is imperative therefore that both the Indian political and military leadership leaves it in no doubt the cost of such escalation. Second India should expose Pakistan’s crass attempts to rake up tensions in the subcontinent, by adequately exposing its nefarious designs both in Kashmir and rest of the country. There should be no talks till such time Pakistan mends its ways and agrees to meaningful dialogue. On Kashmir post flood reconstruction work must gain both momentum and fair distribution. State administration must be encouraged to show empathy in distribution of relief. Time has also come for another round of dialogue with all shades of opinion in Kashmir including separatist leadership but strictly within the confines of Indian constitution. In so far as dialogue with Pakistan is concerned should be made clear that India wants peace but will not bow down to such provocations. Pakistan must rescind from cross border firing and terror.
The demand has created a lucrative industry in Pakistan. There, scorpion hunters one-up each other to get their critters sent abroad at lucrative rates: Al Jazeera English reports that a black scorpion weighing 60 grams can bring in $50,000 or more. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2007 that scorpion venom was going for roughly $39 million a gallon. In California, scorpion smugglers have been detained at Los Angeles International Airport, described by authorities as a hub of exotic animal trafficking.Tracing back the scorpion supply chain brought Al Jazeera reporter Maham Javaid to a remote area of Pakistan’s Sindh region, where he describes a complex trade that begins with the scorpion broker, passes through a middleman who negotiates prices for certain parts of the creature and then ends with a purchaser named Naveed Gauri Khan, who told Al Jazeera he was buying the scorpions for a Swedish pharmaceutical firm. The trade is technically legal in Pakistan—though the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province banned it in August—but the country’s Dawn newspaper reports that it could have irreparable effects on the environment. The mass hunting of scorpions, which are consumed by gecko lizards and then snakes on the animal food chain, could throw off nature’s balance, and lead to the increase of other species that are harmful to the environment.
Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will address the public gathering which is scheduled to be organised here at Mazar-e-Quaid on October 18.
Co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari referring current political chaos as wrestling between two combatants of Punjab said that PPP is not the part of this battle, ARY News reported. Addressing to the meeting of PPP Rawalpindi division in Bilawal House, Lahore, Asif Zardari said wrestling is tradition of Punjab and people should enjoy it. “Party workers are complaining that I am supporting PM Nawaz but this isn’t correct. My support is for democracy not for Nawaz”, he said. Former President said that PPP is an unbiased political and supporting the system. Speaking about Gen. Rtd. Pervaiz Musharraf, Asif Ali Zardari said he dealt with Musharraf in a better way to keep him out of politics unlike Nawaz Sharif, who detained him. Asif Zardari said Pakistan is strengthened today because of Benazir Bhutto and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. “Pakistan’s condition would be same as of Syria and Libya, if we do not have nuclear and missile technology”, he said. Asif Ali Zardari expressed grievance that world powers have taken the notice of atrocities in Syria but ignoring the war crimes in Egypt. - See more at: http://arynews.tv/en/wrestling-is-being-fought-in-punjab-ppp-is-not-its-part-zardari/#sthash.E3hJy9wg.dpuf
The Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has awarded the civil works contract for the 128-mega watts (MW) Keyal Khwar Hydropower Project to a joint venture (JV) of Sinohydro and Hajvairy Associates. Sinohydro has been debarred by the World Bank. The Rs14 billion Keyal Khwar Hydropower Project is going to be constructed on a tributary of the Indus River in the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The project has been funded jointly by the European Investment Bank (EIP), the German Development Bank (KfW) and the government of Pakistan. The EIP and the KfW are providing 100 million and 97 million Euros, respectively, for the project. According to documents available with The Express Tribune, Sinohydro was debarred by the World Bank in December 2013 and the investigation against it still continues. According to a Central Contract Cell official, who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media, Sinohydro Corporation, facing an investigation and impending suspension for alleged wrongdoing in an African contract, had applied under a new name, Sinohydro Group. Any firm debarred by the World Bank is automatically blacklisted by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA). It can neither participate in bidding nor execute a project. The affidavit provided to the Wapda by the bidders reads: “We, SinoHydro-Hajvairy (JV) hereby confirm that, Sinohydro Corporation Limited that was temporarily suspended by the World Bank, is a subsidiary of Sinohydro Group Limited, a leading company of Sinohydro-Hajvairy (JV).” Wapda’s response: In a written reply, a Wapda spokesman stated that the authority had not awarded any contract to a firm under suspension by any financial institution. “The contract for civil works of Keyal Khwar Hydropower Project has been awarded to Sinohydro-Hajvairy JV, which is a joint venture of Sinohydro Group Limited (SGL) and Hajvairy Associates Pvt Limited. The World Bank temporarily suspended Sinohydro Corporation Ltd (SCL), which is a different entity from SGL. Therefore, the question of violating rules of PPRA or financial institutions, including World Bank, does not arise at all.” “The Compliance Department of the KfW has thoroughly investigated the matter and expressed its satisfaction with the matter after obtaining necessary clarifications from the stakeholders and assurances and issued a no objection letter (NOL) to the Wapda for awarding the contract for civil works of Keyal Khwar Hydropower Project to Sinohydro-Hajvairy (JV). It is on the basis of this NOL, that the Wapda has awarded the contract to Sinohydro-Hajvairy,” the spokesman said. “Compliance with the procurement guidelines of KfW is part of the project loan agreement. The bank has been closely involved in monitoring the implementation of their guidelines during the entire bidding process,” the spokesman said. The spokesperson had no comments on the financial status of Hajvairy Associates. However, a senior Wapda official familiar with the project argued against the explanation. He noted that Sinohydro Group had no qualification as it had recently been established. “It uses all the relevant experience of Sinohydro Corporation. Wapda is trying to cover up for Sinohydro,” he said. “The NOL from KFW does not absolve the Wapda of its responsibility,” the official said.
The Express TribuneIndia has warned Pakistanis applying for a visa to the country not to use fake polio vaccination certificates. The Indian High Commission issued a statement on Wednesday warning that such visa applications would be rejected and the applicants permanently denied entry to India. “It has been reported that forged polio certificates are being submitted with India visa applications. This is a serious offence. Detection of any forged documentation would result in summary rejection of the visa application and permanent denial of visa for future travel also,” reads the statement. Visa applicants are being advised to comply strictly with the polio certification requirements. Pakistan leads a list of the remaining few countries in the world where polio cases are still being reported.
A blast in Mohmand agency killed two polio workers and injured one more on Wednesday, the third day of Eid. No terrorist organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack as of yet, which is why it is still uncertain whether the polio workers were the ones being targeted. But even if no one has owned up to the attack, the bomb’s close proximity to the house of the workers tell us that this was no coincidence. Over 60 polio workers have been killed since 2012, and this does not include the tally of those that died protecting the workers in similar attacks over the past two years. The highest number of refusals to vaccinate have come from the agencies that connect to the Durand Line, as do most of the attacks on polio workers. Statistics alone tell us that if an effective immunization campaign is to be carried out, it must be largely focused in the tribal agencies, or the spread of the disease will continue unmitigated. Operation Zarb-e-Azb brought about an increased movement of unvaccinated people from North Waziristan to the rest of the country, which means that the last three months of the year are likely to see another flurry of cases reported. The militants have been carrying out a war against polio vaccination, and the government’s inability to protect workers and fight the narrative against the vaccine has made Pakistan an 80 percent contributor of polio in the world. The year’s total is at an all-time high in 14 years, and this upward trend does not look to be going in a different direction anytime soon. Pakistan would do well to look at India, which became a polio-free nation at the end of 2013, even though they had over 700 cases as recently as 2009. The only way we can rid ourselves of the disease is if the protection of polio workers is made top priority, treating it as a part of the fight against militants. This is terrorism, pure and simple. The safety of polio workers cannot be stressed enough, and it is a dismal failure of state and intelligence agencies, that they are still being systematically targeted and brutally killed.
The North Waziristan (NW) operation was badly needed to eradicate terrorism that has obliterated the ability of the government to function effectively. The entire structure of the state seemed to be crumbling when the terrorists literally looked in command of the situation. NW had been the sore in the international community’s eye, especially of the US and Afghanistan. The efforts of the US-led NATO forces to root out terrorism from Afghanistan fell flat due to the sanctuaries NW provided to the terrorists. The tribal region of Pakistan has played host to the terrorists fleeing Afghanistan, allowing them to regroup, reorganize and regenerate their ability and mettle to recapture Afghanistan. Operation Zarb-e-Azb, according to ISPR, has so far been successful in not only killing about 1,000 terrorists but stopping infiltration from across the border. According to ISPR, most of the areas in NW have been cleared of terrorists. We do not have any independent source to verify the claim, but the stories from some observers suggest that things are not moving in the right direction or in the direction most suitable to make NW and its adjoining agencies terrorist-free in the real sense of the word. For long Pakistan has tangled itself in the dichotomy of the good and bad Taliban. Those we nurtured to keep a toehold in both Afghanistan and Kashmir became strategic assets. These are the blue-eyed boys who have been spared the rod in spite of their dirty deeds. The rest have been destined to hell. Allegedly, the operation Zarb-e-Azb is heading in the direction of killing the rotten ones while saving the assets. It is a fact that most of the Taliban fled NW when we had been contemplating and shifting between the option of peace talks or taking the bull by the horns through force. We have reasons to be sceptical about the results of the operation. Of all those killed so far, no recognizable name could be seen. The Haqqanis have disappeared. Mullah Fazlullah is hiding in Afghanistan. So, who are we fighting against? Who is the enemy here? Is it a real war or a shadow we are chasing once again to post some good figures on the wall? It would be a misadventure to fight the wrong enemy at this stage when Afghanistan is once again on the tip of a civil war in the wake of the US withdrawal. The penchant to discriminate between good and bad terrorists has already made Pakistan a virtual pariah state, and any renewed effort to this end will only serve to isolate us further.
Despite government restrictions, banned militant groups are believed to have managed a share in the hides of animals slaughtered in the twin cities during the Eidul Azha festival. Local authorities had no way to catch their proxies and the sympathetic local clergy who openly collected the coveted hides in the name of their mosques, madressahs and religious trusts. Indeed, some of them are viewed as front offices of banned militant groups, such as the mosque in G-9 Markaz and madressah Jamia Rasheedia in Aabpara whose managers hold key positions in the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), the reincarnation of the banned Sipahe Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). However, their spokesmen claim the donations they collect are spent on running the institutions. A senior official of the Islamabad Capital Territory administration told Dawn that the issue of banned groups and their open activities has been raised with the government several times but no policy directives followed. “In the situation the maximum the district administration could do was to deny permission to a certain mosque or madressah to collect skins and hides. But what to do when they don’t seek permission and carry on the business in other ways,” said the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ASWJ Islamabad information secretary Uneeb Faroqui said the religious party did not manage any mosque or madressah, but it does operate Al-Ehsar Welfare Trust, whose patron is the ASWJ leader, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi. “We collect donations, skins, etc., for the welfare trust and it is all with the permission of officials and within the parameters of law,” he told Dawn. Even in small neighbourhoods, people collected skin and hides for the banned groups, like the Tehreek-i-Islami, which was blamed for the massacre that took place in the Parade Lane in the heart of the garrison city of Rawalpindi. “I cannot tell details because I am afraid of them but my neighbours who belong to this group asked us for the skin but we politely declined,” said a resident of sector G-15 of Islamabad. It is a serious but complex issue as there is no ban on mosques to collect donations nor the people and groups affiliated with them are barred from indulging in political activities. All they are required is not to hoist the flags. An Islamabad based social scientist says that not only the preventive laws suffer from serious lacunas but also their implementation. “All donations, including the skins and hides of sacrificial animals, go unaccounted for,” he said. “It is up to the management of mosques or any other institution to put whatever figure they want to in the annual statement.” According to him funds could be channelised not just to terror and other illegal activities but also to political activities. “The issue is that the donor is giving money or skin to a mosque or madressah for its own use and not for the political activities of any unknown party,” he said.
THE escalating violence between Pakistan and India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in the disputed Kashmir region has, as ever, murky origins. India blames Pakistan, Pakistan blames India; meanwhile, the worst sufferer is the civilian population on either side of the divide. More lives have been lost and with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reduced to urging India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes diplomatically and through dialogue, there is a very real fear that more violence could result in more lives lost in the days ahead. With the blame game continuing and with few independent sources to verify how violence broke out, there is though a sense that both sides are determined not to back down — though it is difficult to see why either side would want the conflict to spiral out of control. For Pakistan, conflict in Kashmir cannot militarily be a goal at this juncture with the North Waziristan operation ongoing and strains on military resources because of overall troop commitments in Fata. For India, with the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in Delhi eyeing gains in elections in India-held Jammu and Kashmir scheduled for November-December, prolonged conflict should not be part of a winning electoral strategy. Yet, logic often does not work as it should in this most disputed of regions and, occasionally, events in Kashmir are tied to wider struggles that Pakistan and India may be engaging in. Consider that the Modi government has taken a decidedly tough line with Pakistan despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanting to pursue dialogue while simultaneously struggling with civil-military issues at home. The rapturous tone of the recent visit by Mr Modi to the US may have encouraged the Indian security establishment to pile further pressure on Pakistan. Meanwhile, on the Pakistan side, that very tone of Mr Modi’s visit and the successful inclusion of Pakistan-specific militancy concerns in the joint US-India statement may have rankled, and sections of the security establishment here may have decided that India, and the world at large, needs reminding that the Kashmir dispute is still very much alive and a flashpoint that should invite international attention. The path to military de-escalation at least remains well-known. Purposeful and result-orientated contact between the directors general of military operations of Pakistan and India can help dampen the violence along the LoC and the Working Boundary — but will the two countries decide to activate that option themselves, or will the international community have to put pressure behind the scenes? The approaching winter — while still distant in the present context — should also help dampen hostilities, though it remains to be seen if the elections will be held on time or postponed until the new year after an ongoing visit to Jammu and Kashmir by the Election Commission of India. As ever, little can be said with certainty on Kashmir.