Pakistan: Now or Never?

Pakistan and the battle for Peshawar

June 28, 2008

June 27 photo of Peshawar protestPeshawar is such an important city for Pakistan that it can be hard to write about it without sounding shrill.  It is significant strategically since it lies near the entrance to the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.  But it is also important emotionally – not only is it a Moghul city and an ancient Silk Route trading hub, but it is also a Pashtun town on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line , the ill-demarcated border between Pakistan and Afghanistan imposed by British colonial rulers that splits the Pashtun people of the region in two. For Pakistan, fighting for control of Peshawar is probably comparable to what France and Germany felt about Alsace Lorraine before World War Two.

What does showdown over Iran mean for Pakistan?

June 27, 2008

File photo of Iranian President Mahmoud AhmedinejadIt’s early days yet, but people are already trying to work out what any Israeli attack on Iran would mean for Pakistan. (The idea that Israel might attack Iran to damage or destroy its nuclear programme gained currency this week when former U.S. ambassador John Bolton predicted in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that it would do so after the November U.S. presidential election but before the next president is sworn in.)

Pakistan, India and the view from China

June 25, 2008

File photo of India Pakistan border at Wagah/Munish SharmaThe People’s Daily does not run editorials very often about Pakistan and India, so when it does, I pay attention.  It just published an op-ed about the latest talks between India and Pakistan on counter-terrorism. The talks themselves appeared to yield little in actual results. Yet according to the People’s Daily, it was an “important step towards mutual political trust”.

from Global News Journal:

Enter the new farmers

June 25, 2008

Wheat field in RomaniaWhat's with farming these days? The humble, even if slightly romantic vocation, is attracting a new breed of participants as investing in farmland and agriculture becomes the latest fad in the world of investments.
 
With financial markets in tumoil and commodity prices at record highs, traditional financial players such as investment banks and hedge funds, and even sovereign wealth funds of cash-rich emerging economies are increasingly looking at farm land as the next major investment avenue.

from FaithWorld:

Survey says world’s top 10 intellectuals are Muslims

June 25, 2008

Foreign Policy July/August issue coverThe bimonthly U.S. international affairs journal Foreign Policy has just published a survey of the world's top 20 public intellectuals and the first 10 are all Muslims. They are certainly an interesting group of men (and one woman) but the journal's editors are not convinced they all belong on top. In their introduction in the July/August issue, they wrote: "Rankings are an inherently dangerous business." It turns out that some candidates ran publicity campaigns on their web sites, in interviews or in reports in media friendly to them. So intellectuals who many other intellectuals might have put at the top -- say Noam Chomsky or Richard Dawkins -- landed only in the second 10 or in a much more mixed list of post-poll write-ins.

Fears grow of U.S. attack on Pakistan

June 24, 2008

Some people have begun to voice what has been for some time an unspoken fear in Pakistan - that of a U.S. attack.

India and Pakistan: watch out for water fights

June 22, 2008

Boy bathes with his pet monkey in Indus river in KarachiDefence analysts in South Asia have been saying for so long that India and Pakistan might solve their problems over Kashmir only to end up at war over water that I had almost become inured to the issue. That was until I read the following comment on an earlier blog about Gulf investors buying up farmland in Pakistan to offset food shortages at home:

Pakistan’s lawyers: recovering from the anti-climax

June 21, 2008

Lawyers protest in Rawalpindi/Mohsin RazaWith hindsight, it seems clear that a mass movement named after Mao’s Long March but also claiming Gandhi’s principles of non-violence risked disappointing its supporters.  The failure of the Long March by Pakistan’s lawyers to restore judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, and its dispersal last Saturday, has prompted much debate about why its leaders gave up without at least staging a sit-in.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama, McCain camps spar over bin Laden comment

June 20, 2008

binladen.jpgCHICAGO - Republican presidential candidate John McCain's campaign is attacking rival Barack Obama for saying that if al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is caught, the United States should avoid making him into a martyr.
    
Allies to McCain have suggested the comment shows the Democratic candidate opposes the death penalty for bin Laden -- an interpretation the Obama campaign says is false.
    
The Illinois senator was asked on Wednesday how he would proceed if bin Laden were captured. He said he was not sure if bin Laden would be caught alive because of shoot-to-kill orders.
 
Concerning how to try the al Qaeda leader, Obama said it was important "to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he's engaged in and not to make him into a martyr and to be sure that the United States government is abiding by the basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism."
    
McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann seized on the word martyr.
 
"Now, the last time I checked the definition of martyr, it's someone who dies for a cause or is killed for a cause and it seems to be that Sen. Obama is ruling out capital punishment for Osama bin Laden were he to be captured alive under U.S. jurisdiction," he said.
 
The Obama campaign said that interpretation was wrong and noted Obama is on record saying he believed bin Laden "would qualify for the death penalty."
    
When he spoke about bin Laden on Wednesday, Obama cited the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals after World War II as an example of how the United States "advanced a set of universal principles" in bringing to justice people who committed heinous acts.
    
After the Nuremberg proceedings, 10 top Nazi figures were hanged following the main trials and several dozen lower-lever figures were hanged following other trials.

Pakistan-U.S. alliance scarred

June 19, 2008

A New York Times report about Pakistan threatening to postpone or cancel an American programme to train a paramilitary force because of last week’s U.S. air strikes has been widely picked up in the Pakistani media.