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from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

One year on, same questions swirl around Bhutto’s murder

The anniversary of Benazir Bhutto's assassination has reminded everyone just how much we still don't know about her killing in a suicide gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007.
 
The same questions that transfixed the shocked country in the days after her death, such as why was the crime scene hosed down so quickly, was she killed when the blast smashed her head into the lever on her vehicle's escape hatch or by a bullet, why was no autopsy performed, are again being raised.
 
Investigations by the previous government and the U.S. CIA accused an al Qaeda-linked militant, Baitullah Mehsud, of killing Bhutto, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy.
 
That would seem logical enough but, as we've seen with the Mumbai attacks, any militant attack on or linked to Pakistan seems to raise questions about possible links to old allies in the powerful intelligence services.
 

The News newspaper published a report citing unidentified people privy to the investigations as saying unravelling the mystery could led to "startling revelations ... with serious political implications".
 
Irfan Husain, writing in Dawn, said Bhutto was unacceptable to both the military establishment and the militants, though for different reasons.
 
"For the military establishment, she was simply unacceptable because she was a Bhutto and a Sindhi ... the jihadis and their sponsors did not want to face a popular leader who was against everything they stood for," Husain said.
 
"Benazir Bhutto understood that this was a war to the end, and no negotiated settlement was possible with a foe that wanted to impose its stone-age views on the rest of us."
 
Not surprisingly, the anniversary of Bhutto's murder has also raised a lot of "what if" and "what next" questions.
 
Veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai believes Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) would not have won the general election without the sympathy vote her murder generated.
 
Instead, Yusufzai says in a column in the News the election would have brought a balance of power between the PPP and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party, which would have been a better arrangement for the country.
 
Of course, Bhutto's death also catapulted her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, into power and the presidency after former army chief Pervez Musharraf stepped down in August.
 
Journalist Shaheen Sehbai wrote a provocative piece in the News newspaper entitled "Asif Zardari given enough rope to hang imself" looking at how the PPP has fared and how long Zardari and his government would remain in power.
 
He says "the Zardari group" has taken over Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party "outmanoeuvring the others through opportunities created by circumstances followed up cleverly by a web of deceit, chicanery and in some specific cases simple lies and cheating".
 
He doesn't think the Zaradri-led set up will last long.
 
"How and on what issue the party cracks up is moot, but pressure from the opposition, a wink from the right quarters and one major blunder by Zardari is all it will take."
 
A former journalist and Zardari loyalist, Aniq Zafar, published a rebuttal in the same newspaper the next day denouncing what he said was an unwarranted attack on Zardari and adding: "The Zardari is nothing but the Benazir Bhutto group."
 
Bhutto's old friend, Mark Siegel, told the Daily Times he disregarded the "speculations" over Bhutto's death, which he said was obviously an attempt to create instability.
 
On her legacy, Siegel said: "She was the voice of modern Islam; she was a symbol of what a Muslim woman can accomplish; she was a modern force, she was committed to technologically moving the country to the 21st century; she was committed to human rights, student unions, labour unions, electrification of villages; these were the steps towards modern Pakistan. Her legacy would be a moderate tolerant Pakistan."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan?

India is piling on the diplomatic pressure to convince the international community to lean on Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants blamed by New Delhi for the Mumbai attacks.

According to the Times of India, "India has made it clear to the U.S. and Iran as well as Pakistan's key allies, China and Saudi Arabia, that they need to do more to use their clout to pressure Pakistan into acting..." The Press Trust of India (PTI), quoted by The Hindu, said India had used a visit by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to Delhi to drive home the same message.

from FaithWorld:

Lots of advice for Obama on dealing with Muslims and Islam

President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia.  Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)

Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Do Obama’s Afghan plans still make sense post-Mumbai?

The United States is aiming to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer, according to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The plan is not unexpected, and from a military point of view is meant to allow U.S. and NATO troops not just to clear out Taliban insurgents but also to bring enough stability to allow economic development, as highlighted in this analysis by Reuters Kabul correspondent Jon Hemming.

But does it still make sense after the Mumbai attacks -- intentionally or otherwise -- sabotaged the peace process between India and Pakistan?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Brinkmanship in South Asia

Pakistan said two Indian Air Force planes violated Pakistani airspace on Saturday, one along the Line of Control in  Kashmir and the other near Lahore  in Pakistan proper. Pakistani officials said Pakistani jets on patrol chased the Indians away and that the Indian Air Force, upon being contacted later, told them it had happened accidentally.

  The Indian Air Force, though, has told the media that none of its planes had violated Pakistani airspace.  There has been no official response from the Indian government.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

China, Pakistan and India

 

According to Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times, Pakistan's decision to crack down on the Jammat-ud-Dawa, the charity linked to the Laskhar-e-Taiba, came as the result of pressure from China. Jammat-ud-Dawa was blacklisted by a UN Security Council committee this week.

The Daily Times noted that earlier attempts to target the Jamaat-ud-Dawa at the Security Council had been vetoed by China. "It is the Chinese “message” that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came," the newspaper said. "One subliminal message was also given to Chief Minister Punjab, Mr Shehbaz Sharif, during his recent visit to China, and the message was that Pakistan had to seek peace with India or face change of policy in Beijing. Once again, it is our friend China whose advice has been well taken..."

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the United Nations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India has asked the United Nations Security Council to blacklist the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Pakistani charity which it says is a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed by New Delhi for the attacks on Mumbai. But how far is India prepared to go in engaging the Security Council, given that it has resisted for decades UN invention over Kashmir?

Indian newspapers have suggested that India invoke UN Security Council Resolution 1373, passed after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, and requiring member countries to take steps to curb terrorism.  The latest of these calls came from N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of Indian newspaper The Hindu, who said India must respond to the Mumbai attacks "in an intelligent and peaceful way".  

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Assessing U.S. intervention in India-Pakistan: enough for now?

In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India's response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?

According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was "irrefutable evidence" that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The riddle of India, China military exercises

India and China are holding joint troop exercises this weekend in southern India.  As exercises between nations go nowadays these games named “Hand-in Hand 2008" are fairly low level and limited in scope. Certainly not on the scale of the naval, air and ground exercises that India and the United States have embarked upon in recent years.

But this is a difficult time in South Asia following the attacks in Mumbai which New Delhi says were orchestrated from Pakistan and for which it is seeking decisive action. So, for China, - Pakistan’s all weather ally -  to be sending a bunch of  troops to India at this fraught moment is certainly worthy of note, if nothing else.

Breaking the news in Mumbai – literally

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The concept of a televised war was born in January 1991, when news networks reported live on the missiles slamming into Baghdad and millions watched from the comfort of their living rooms as tracer fire lit the sky above Iraq’s capital. A decade later,  the world watched in minute-by-minute horror as the twin towers came crashing down in New York. 

Now, with the ferocious militant attacks in Mumbai, we have arrived in “the age of celebrity terrorism“. Paul Cornish of Chatham House argues that apart from killing scores of people, what the Mumbai gunmen wanted was “an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion”. 

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