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from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan: street rage and sectarian bombings

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us flagOne of the more troublesome aspects of the current situation in Pakistan is how subdued - at least relative to the scale of the deaths - are protests against suicide bombings on Pakistani cities. Travelling from Lahore to Islamabad last month, my taxi driver winced in pain when I told him I had a text message saying the city we had just left, his city, had been bombed again. Yet where was the outlet for him to express that pain, or indeed for the many grieving families who had lost relatives?

I was reminded of this reading Nadeem Paracha's latest piece in Dawn on the outcry over Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist  jailed in the United States after being convicted of shooting at U.S. soldiers. She has been claimed as the "daughter of the nation" who must be rescued from an American jail.

"Never have the highly vocal keepers of our women’s sanctity even superficially censured the aggravating antics of monsters like the Taliban and al Qaeda at whose hands thousands of innocent Pakistanis have lost their lives," writes Paracha. "None of the many women, children and men who were mercilessly slaughtered by the extremists, it seems, were good enough to also be celebrated as brothers, sisters and children of this nation."

Saba Imtiaz made a similar point in Foreign Policy last month. "Political parties rarely call for protests after suicide bombings, but the Jamaat-e-Islami called for countrywide protests shortly after Aafia's sentencing. Breathless condemnations of the sentencing came in almost instantly from political parties,"  Imtiaz wrote.

from Afghan Journal:

America takes the war deeper into Pakistan

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PAKISTAN-NATO/ATTACK

One of the most interesting things in Bob Woodward's re-telling of the Afghan war strategy in his book "Obama's Wars" is the approach toward Pakistan. It seems the Obama administration figured out pretty early on in its review that Pakistan was going to be the central batttleground, for this is where the main threat to America came from.

Indeed, the mission in Afghanistan was doomed so long as al Qaeda and the Taliban were sheltered in the mountains of northwest Pakistan straddling the Afghan border. The question was how do you deal with Pakistan?

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Claiming Jinnah’s mantle: Musharraf joins the queue

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jinnah flagThe minute I entered the elegant book-lined club in central London where Pervez Musharraf was about to launch his political career, it was clear who was to dominate the proceedings - Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-e-Azam, Founder of the Nation, Father of Pakistan. In his trademark peaked Jinnah cap, it was his photo alone which was hanging prominently on the platform where the former military ruler was to speak; and his photo on the little entrance ticket they gave you to get past security.

It was his spirit which was invoked even in the name of Musharraf's political party -- his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) was a deliberate echo of the pre-independence All India Muslim League, through which Jinnah created the state of Pakistan in 1947.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Does that U.S. “retribution plan” for Pakistan still stand?

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flagburningOne of the more interesting details in the advance reports of Bob Woodward's "Obama's Wars" is that Washington had prepared a "retribution plan" in the event of a major attack on the United States which is traced back to Pakistan.

"While no contingency plans exist for dealing militarily with a collapse of nuclear-armed Pakistan, there is 'a retribution plan' in place, developed by the Bush administration, if the United States suffers another 9/11-style terrorist attack," according to the Los Angeles Times. "That would involve bombing and missile strikes to obliterate the more than 150 al Qaeda training and staging camps known to exist, most of them in Pakistan, which presumably would suffer extensive civilian casualties."

from Afghan Journal:

‘Obama’s Wars’ and clandestine operations

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AFGHANISTAN

Bob Woodward's new book "Obama's Wars" is making waves for laying bare the policy divisions and the personality clashes within the administration over the U.S. President's Afghan policy. The author, according to the excerpts published by the New York Times and the Washington Post ahead of the book's release next week, exposes the colliding egos of senior political and military figures in even more stark detail than Rolling Stone's profile of General Stanley McChrystal that cost the U.S. commander his job.

But what may turn out to be even more explosive in the theatre where America's longest war is being waged is the revelation that the CIA is running a 3,000-strong Afghan army to carry out clandestine operations in not just Afghanistan, but more importantly over the border in Pakistan. The idea that an Afghan army is fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants inside Pakistan is not something that Islamabad can tolerate easily. Or at least the public disclosure of it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, India and the value of democracy

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gilani kayaniOf the many comments I heard in Pakistan, one question particularly flummoxed me. Was democracy really the right system for South Asia?  It came, unsurprisingly, from someone sympathetic to the military, and was couched in a comparison between Pakistan and India.

What had India achieved, he asked, with its long years of near-uninterrupted democracy, to reduce the gap between rich and poor?  What of the Maoist rebellion eating away at its heartland? Its desperate poverty? The human rights abuses from Kashmir to Manipur, when Indian forces were called in to quell separatist revolts? Maybe, he said, democracy was just not suited to countries like India and Pakistan.

from Andrew Marshall:

Risks to watch in Asia: Country guides

For Reuters analysis of risks to watch in Asian countries, kept updated in real time and with graphics and video, click on the links below.

AustraliaChinaIndiaIndonesia/

JapanMalaysiaMongoliaNew Zealand

PakistanPhilippinesSingapore/South Korea

Sri LankaTaiwanThailandVietnam

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Giving a voice to Pakistan’s flood victims

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charpoyIf you were to give the flood victims in Pakistan a voice, they would tell you that they need seeds to replant the crops destroyed by the water and enough emergency relief to tide them through the winter. After that the land, newly fertilised by the floods, could yield bumper crops in the years ahead.

The children would tell you that the floods hit so powerfully that the memory of feeling in panic while loudspeakers broadcast warnings from the mosques will be forever etched on their minds. They don't blame the government for a disaster so big that not even in the tales of their ancestors had they heard stories of such floods. They just want enough help to rebuild their homes so they don't have to sleep in half-destroyed buildings with sunken floors, worrying about them collapsing on top of them in the night.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan-India; a $5 million downpayment on a peace initiative

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tentsHistorical parallels can be misleading, so I am a little bit wary of reading too much into a comparison between the devastating cyclone which hit then East Pakistan in 1970 and the current floods in Pakistan. But on the surface the similarities are there.

In 1970, the Pakistani government was criticised for not doing enough to help the victims of the Bhola cyclone, exacerbating tensions between the western and eastern wings of the country ahead of a civil war in which East Pakistan broke away to become Bangladesh. In 2010, the Pakistani government has been criticised for not doing enough to help the victims of the floods; potentially exacerbating tensions between the ruling elite and the poor -- usually the first to suffer in a natural disaster. At the same time the country is fighting what is effectively a civil war against Islamist militants, for whom poverty and alienation provide a fertile breeding ground.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Helping Pakistan; not if, but how

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morefloodsOutside President Asif Ali Zardari's political rally in Birmingham last weekend, I chatted to a middle-aged woman passing by about the floods in Pakistan. "I have every sympathy for Pakistan and the Pakistanis, but he is not helping them much, is he?" she said. Another woman asked me to explain why it was that the  protesters were not focused on the floods but demonstrating "about all sorts".  Inside the rally, a young British Pakistani who had recently returned from a visit to his family home in Kashmir complained about negative stereotyping in the media of Pakistan that had reduced a country of some 170 million people to "a terrorist threat".

If there is a common thread to the relatively slow western response to one of the worst catastrophes in Pakistan's history, it is a sense of confusion, not about whether to help, but how to help. That, and the dehumanising impact of stereotypes - corrupt politicians, angry bearded protesters, suicide bombers to name but a few -- that obscure the impact of the floods on the very real people - 14 million of them - affected by the disaster.

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