Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the doomsday scenario

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised the possibility in April of Islamist militants taking over Pakistan and its nuclear weapons, her words were dismissed as alarmist - and perhaps deliberately so as a way of putting pressure on Islamabad to act.

The problem with Pakistan is that it is almost impossible to come up with a view that is not either alarmist or complacent. It is such a complex country that nobody can agree a frame of reference for assessing the risk. It is the base for a bewildering array of militants including Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda and anti-India groups, yet also has a powerful and professional army which would be expected to defend to the last its Punjab heartland and nuclear weapons against a jihadi takeover.  Its potent mix of poverty and Islamist sympathies among a significant section of the population make it ripe for revolution, yet it also has a strong and secular-minded civil society which was willing to go out into the streets earlier this year to demand an independent judiciary.

You can assess the risk in Pakistan by looking at the rate of decline in stability there, and that was faster than anyone expected over the past year or so until a military offensive against the Taliban in Swat  which began in April halted the slide.

Or you can look at the worst case scenario, of Islamist militants taking over a nuclear-armed Pakistan, and decide that even if that outcome is unlikely, the potential dangers arising from it are so great as to put Pakistani stability at the top of global risks.

from FaithWorld:

Baghdad church bombings leave tiny Christian minority trembling

baghdad-church-1A spate of bombs targeting churches in Baghdad this week has Iraq's minority Christian community trembling at the prospect of being the next victim of militants trying to reignite war.

Iraqi Christians, one of the country's weakest ethnic or  religious groups, have usually tried to steer clear of its many-sided conflict. For the most part, they manage.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, from Swat to Baluchistan via Waziristan

The Pakistan Army is engaged in what appears to be a very nasty little war in the Swat valley against heavily armed Taliban militants.  With journalists having left Swat, there have been no independent reports of what is going on there, though the scale of the operation can be partly measured by the huge numbers of refugees - nearly 1.7 million - who fled to escape the military offensive.

Dawn newspaper carried an interview with a wounded soldier saying the Taliban had buried mines and planted IEDs every 50 metres.  ‘They positioned snipers in holes made out of the walls of houses. They used civilians as human shields. They used to attack from houses and roofs," it quoted him as saying. ‘They are well equipped, they have mortars. They have rockets, sniper rifles and every type of sophisticated weapons."

Post-Iraq, would-be militants eye Pakistan

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By William Maclean

The flow of foreign militants to Pakistan worries Western governments, which fear the south Asian country has replaced Iraq as the place to go for aspiring Islamists planning attacks on the West.

The camps will probably be smaller and the skills on offer less photogenic to al Qaeda’s online video audience, but that is no deterrent to Arabs, Central Asians and Europeans making their way to the turbulent northwestern tribal areas.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Are the Pakistan Taliban charting an independent course?

For some weeks now there have been persistent reports about Taliban leader Mullah Omar, asking fighters in the Pakistani Taliban to stop carrying out attacks there and instead focus on Afghanistan where Western forces are being bolstered.

The reclusive one-eyed leader had in December sent emissaries to ask leaders of the Pakistani Taliban to settle their differences, scale down activities in Pakistan and help mount a spring offensive against the build-up of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a report in the New York Times said as recently as last week.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

How will Obama tackle militants in Pakistan?

Read President Barack Obama's speech on his new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and compare it to what he said a year ago and it's hard to see how much further forward we are in understanding exactly how he intends to uproot Islamist militants inside Pakistan.

Last year, Obama said that "If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot." Last week, he said that, "Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders.  And we will insist that action be taken -- one way or another -- when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Has Pakistan become the central front?

In a report released late last month, the U.S. Atlantic Council think tank warned that the ramifications of state failure in Pakistan would be far graver than those in Afghanistan, with regional and global impact. "With nuclear weapons and a huge army, a population over five times that of Afghanistan and with an influential diaspora, Pakistan now seems less able, without outside help, to muddle through its challenges than at any time since its war with India in 1971."

The report, co-sponsored by Senator John Kerry and urging greater U.S. aid, said time was running out to stabilise Pakistan, with action required within months. It's not even been two weeks since that report was released, and already events in Pakistan have taken a dramatic turn for the worse - from the confrontation between President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to Tuesday's attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore.

Best reads of January

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Gaza gets 180 minute respite to shop, bury the dead – “For 180 precious minutes, Israeli warplanes and tanks held their fire, giving 1.5 million shell-shocked residents of the coastal enclave a chance to check on family members, shop for essentials and bury their dead.”

Spain’s jobless lose homes, tensions mount - “‘One day this place is going to explode,’ said unemployed waiter Miguel Roa, a Spaniard. Since December, he has lost his job and his home as well as seeing his family split as economic crisis ended 14 years of growth in Spain.

from Africa News blog:

Somalia’s new chance

How times change. Somalia’s new Islamist president has been feted in Ethiopia, whose army drove him from power two years ago - with Washington’s backing - when he headed a sharia courts movement.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was greeted with a standing ovation from African Union leaders at a summit in Ethiopia, which pulled the last of its troops out of Somalia last month, leaving the government in control of little beyond parts of Mogadishu. The hardline Islamist al Shabaab militia control much of the rest of southern Somalia.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The other Guantanamo

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo military prison closed within the year, but what about the detention centre in Bagram, the U.S. military base in Afghanistan, which has an equally murky legal status ?

An estimated 600 detainees are held there, without any charge and many for over six years, rights activists say. That makes it more than twice the number held in Guantanamo, and according to military personnel who know both facilities, it is much more spartan and with lesser privileges as this report in the New York Times says.

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