The Great Debate UK

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.

But the winners and losers matter less than the historic process. For the first time, the entire nation was galvanized by election fever. A stunning 36 million new voters registered, especially women and young people. Voter turnout was 60 percent compared to 44 percent in 2008. An unprecedented 15,600 people ran for national or regional political office. Many from outside the ranks of Pakistan’s traditional leaders.

I experienced some of this national enthusiasm because I served as an international election monitor in Lahore. (More information on the mission is here.) Our rickshaw driver and tour guide proudly showed us his name on the candidate list. He said he wanted to help create a new Pakistan.

Pakistan floods show Asia’s vulnerability to climate change

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By Lord Julian Hunt and Professor J. Srinivasan. The opinions expressed are their own.

It is more than a year since the devastating July and August 2010 floods in Pakistan that affected about 20 million people and killed an estimated 2,000. Many believe that the disaster was partially fuelled by global warming, and that there is a real danger that Pakistan, and the Indian subcontinent in general, could become the focus of much more regular catastrophic flooding.

from The Great Debate:

Help Pakistan rein in the ISI

By David Rohde
The opinions expressed are his own.

Admiral Mike Mullen’s blunt declaration on Thursday that a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network acts as a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency is a welcome shift in U.S. policy. After a decade of privately cajoling the Pakistani military to stop its disastrous policy of sheltering the Afghan Taliban, the United States is publicly airing the truth.

Pakistan’s top military spy agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), supported the Haqqanis as they carried out an attack on the American embassy last week, Mullen said during Congressional testimony. Last year, they arrested a Taliban leader who engaged in peace talks without their permission, according to American officials. And many Afghans suspect ISI involvement in the assassination this week of the head of Afghan peace talks that did not involve Pakistan.

from Afghan Journal:

America in Afghanistan until 2024 ?

The Daily Telegraph  reports that the status of forces agreement that the United States and Afghanistan are negotiating may allow a U.S. military presence in the country until 2024 .  That's a full 10 years beyond the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops and handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.

The negotiations are being conducted under a veil of security, and we have no way of knowing, at this point at least, if the two sides are really talking about U.S. troops in the country for that long. ( The very fact that a decade after U.S. troops entered the country there is no formal agreement spelling out the terms of their deployment is in itself remarkable)

from FaithWorld:

Pakistan’s patchy fight against Islamist violence sows confusion

(A man takes a nap next to a poster of Osama bin Laden at the Chauburji monument in Lahore May 13, 2011. The message written on the posters read: "The prayer absentia for martyr of Islamic nation is a duty and a debt"/Mani Rana)

At the rehabilitation center for former militants in Pakistan's Swat valley, the psychiatrist speaks for the young man sitting opposite him in silence. "It was terrible. He was unable to escape. The fear is so strong. Still the fear is so strong." Hundreds of miles away in Lahore, capital of Punjab province, a retired army officer recalls another young man who attacked him while he prayed - his "absolutely expressionless face" as he crouched down robot-like to reload his gun.

from Afghan Journal:

Drone strikes are police work, not an act of war?

Launching an air strike in another nation would normally be considered an act of aggression. But advocates of America's rapidly expanding unmanned drone programme don't see it that way.

They are arguing, as Tom Ricks writes on his blog The Best Defense over at Foreign Policy, that the campaign to kill militants with missile strikes from these unmanned aircraft, is more like police action in a tough neighbourhood than a military conflict.

from FaithWorld:

Pakistan’s booming female madrassas feed rising intolerance

(Covered Pakistani female madrassa students take part in an anti-government demonstration in Islamabad August 27, 2004 after a government raid in their mosque and Islamic seminary/Mian Khursheed)

Varda is an accountancy student who dreams of working abroad. Dainty and soft-spoken, the 22-year-old aspires to broaden her horizons, but when it comes to Islam, she refuses to question the fundamentalist interpretations offered by clerics and lecturers nationwide.

from Afghan Journal:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the bin Laden raid

In conducting a raid deep inside Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden, the United States pushed the boundaries of military operations,  inter-state ties and international law, all of which are the subject of a raging debate in the region and beyond. 

 One of the less talked-about issues is that the boots-on-ground operation by the U.S. Special Forces also blows a hole in a long-held argument that states which have nuclear weapons, legitimately or otherwise,  face a lower chance of a foreign strike or invasion than those without them. Thus  the United States didn't think twice before going into Afghanistan within weeks of the September 11 attacks or striking against Libya now because there was no nuclear threat lurking at the back of the mind. Even Iraq was a tempting target because it was not known to have a well-established nuclear arsenal  although the whole point of the invasion was that it had weapons of mass destruction. That only turned out to be untrue.

from Reuters Investigates:

Bin Laden “wanted to be a martyr.” U.S. obliged.

Today's special report "The bin Laden kill plan" is based on interviews with two dozen current and former senior intelligence, White House and State Department officials. It explores the policies and actions of the United States in its 13-year hunt for Osama bin Laden. 

Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state in Bush's first term, voiced the view that prevailed through two presidencies. "I think we took Osama bin Laden at his word, that he wanted to be a martyr," Armitage told Reuters.  

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Liveblog: What’s next for Pakistan? Ask your questions here

On Tuesday, May 10 at 3 p.m. BST/10 a.m. EST, Reuters is hosting a liveblog about Pakistan and what's next for it after Osama bin Laden's death. Reuters journalist Myra MacDonald, who runs the "Pakistan: Now or Never?" blog on Reuters.com, will answer your queries and respond to your comments so please leave them below in the "comments" section at the bottom of this post.

More specifically, Myra will discuss the role of the military in Pakistan, and its relations with both the United States and India. Her latest piece, "Pakistan's mixed messages on bin Laden sow confusion", tries to get to the bottom of whether Pakistan was involved with the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. For more of her pieces, click here.

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