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from The Great Debate:

Risky business: Talking to the Taliban

If one event crystallizes Pakistan’s helplessness in confronting its political future, it is the recent assassination-by-American-drone of Hakimullah Mehsud, erstwhile leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

Islamabad had only just acknowledged its plan to hold “peace talks” when Mehsud was killed. Mehsud -- with a $5 million bounty on his head, and thousands of civilian deaths to his movement’s credit -- was immediately eulogized as the key to peace in Pakistan.

Or so it had seemed to the wishful among Pakistan’s politicians. But the country’s labyrinthine military and political makeup and its often opposing foreign and domestic interests make it difficult to imagine how any Pakistani government can negotiate a deal that brings peace to a time of many terrors. If it is unclear what it means for Pakistan to negotiate its political compact with the Taliban, it is also unclear what it would take to make any deal stick.

To the unwary, this would seem to be the Taliban’s moment.

More than 12 years after the fact, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, James Dobbins, has concluded that ignoring Afghanistan’s Taliban post-2001 was a mistake -- an observation that others, including United Nations Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, reached a decade ago.

from The Great Debate:

Let Pakistan’s Taliban talks fail without us

Adding to an unenviable list of challenges that already includes earthquakes, sectarian violence and an economy teetering near collapse, Pakistan’s leaders are attempting to open a new round of high-stakes peace negotiations with homegrown insurgents, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The United States cannot do much to help these talks succeed, but President Barack Obama should use his October 23 summit with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to ensure that if Pakistan’s Taliban talks fail, they fail in ways that unite mainstream Pakistanis in the fight against violent extremism rather than creating new rifts between Washington and Islamabad.

from The Great Debate:

Impressions of a Pakistan election monitor

Voters at a polling station on the outskirts of Islamabad May 11, 2013. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra Pakistan’s national and regional elections Saturday marked the first peaceful transition from one civilian government to another since the country’s founding in 1947.

As expected, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party, which held power several times in the 1990s, won a plurality of the National Assembly seats, and is likely to form a government.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s political crisis

gilani kayaniNever in the history of Pakistan has a democratically elected civilian government served out its full term and then been replaced by another one, also through democratic elections. It is that context that makes the latest political crisis in Pakistan so important.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is scrambling to save his PPP-led government after it lost its parliamentary majority when its coalition partner, the  Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), announced it would go into opposition.  A smaller religious party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), already quit the coalition last month.  If the government falls and elections are held ahead of schedule in 2013, the opportunity for Pakistan to have a government which serves its full term will be lost. 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Punjab minister asks for mercy from Taliban, earns woman’s scorn

After the chief minister of Pakistan's biggest province reportedly asked the Taliban to spare his region from attacks, he kicked off an uproar and earned the scorn of a woman member of a provincial parliament, who sarcastically offered him her scarf and said "the women of the frontier province" would protect him.

Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, on Sunday said he didn't understand why the Taliban were targeting the Punjab when his party -- the PML-N -- and militants alike opposed the policies of former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, who allied with the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Fear drives conspiracy of silence in Pakistan

Many Pakistanis and their leaders may hate the Taliban, but few dare speak openly against them for fear of reprisals from the hardline Islamist group.

The militants have carried out four attacks and killed at least a dozen people since the army launched an assault on their South Waziristan stronghold, while more than 150 people were killed in a deadly spree preceding the offensive - including a brazen raid on army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s missing people and judge Chaudhry

Among the black-suited crowd celebrating Pakistani judge Iftikhar Chaudhry's reinstatement as the head of the Supreme Court outside his home in Islamabad this week was a  woman with a bouquet in her hand and a prayer in her heart.

Amina Janjua's husband went missing in July 2005, one of hundreds that rights activists allege have been held without judicial process in secret detentions centres as Pakistan's part in the campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Her husband's case was one of the dozens that Chaudhry had taken up in his campaign to fix accountability for the missing people, before he was sacked in November 2007.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s “long march” in the streets and on the Internet

Pakistani authorities banned public protests and detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition workers nationwide to prevent them from launching Thursday's planned "long march" towards the capital Islamabad to force President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate a former Supreme Court judge.

Many went into hiding according to these reports, vowing to press on with the cross-country motor convoy that will set off from cities in Baluchistan and Sind and then Puinjab on Friday before culminating outside the parliament building in the capital.

from The Great Debate (India):

Pakistan in a maelstrom?

udaybhaskar1( C. Uday Bhaskar is a New Delhi-based strategic analyst. The views expressed in the column are his own)

The Ides of March have been linked with deep political intrigue and pre-meditated violence and history notes that Caesar paid a very heavy price for not paying heed to the sage advice rendered unto him.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Taliban ready to defend Pakistan against India

                  By Robert Birsel and Zeeshan Haider

Pakistan's Taliban have indignantly criticised what they said were India's "unfounded" threats against Pakistan in the wake of  the Mumbai assault and they vowed to rally to the defence of the country in the event of an Indian attack.
 
"If they dared to attack Pakistan then, God willing, we will share the happiness and grief with all Pakistanis," said Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar.
 
"We will put the animosity and fighting with the Pakistani army behind us and the Taliban will defend their frontiers, their boundaries, their country with their weapons.

"We will defend the Line of Control in the same way as we are defending the Durand Line," he told Reuters by telephone referring to the frontier  with India in disputed Kashmir and the border with Afghanistan.
 
"We will show Pakistanis whether we are miscreants or defenders of the country."

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