Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Bangladeshi group fingered for Indian serial blasts linked to Osama

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In the absence of any claims, and a denial of involvement by the main local separatist group, the Indian media is  are starting to point the finger at a Bangladeshi militant Islamist group for Thursday’s multiple bombings that left 65 left dead and more than 300 wounded in Assam state.

 

If it is indeed the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HuJi) Bangladesh that orchestrated one of the most deadly attacks in the far flung northeast state, then it could end up hardening the mood in India against not just Bangladesh, but also once again against Pakistan.

 

For the group, which was formed in the early 1990s to establish Islamic rule in  Bangladesh, is an organisation with tentacles running all the way to Afghanistan and to Osama bin Laden and in so doing, is seen as linked with Pakistani militant groups, some of whom have enjoyed backing in the past from the Inter-Services Intelligence. (more…)

America’s escalating “Predator war” in Pakistan

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In the dying days of the Bush administration, the United States military has stepped up missile strikes by remotely piloted Predator aircraft against militants in the mountains of Pakistan.

 

The raids have become deeper – as much as 25 miles into Pakistani territory – and more targeted like the latest one in a compound in South Waziristan where militants had gathered to mourn the victims of a previous strike two days before.

Will the U.S. have to turn to Iran for help on Afghanistan?

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Will the United States have to turn to its old nemesis Iran for help in Afghanistan? A couple of articles out this month suggest it will.

In this article published by the MIT Center for International Studies, the authors argue that the hostility between Washington and Tehran has been bad for the United States, Iran and Afghanistan, and played into the hands of the Pakistan military, the Taliban and al Qaeda.

IMF bailout: the coming medicine for Pakistan?

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Is the International Monetary Fund going to force Pakistan to swallow its classic bitter pill – which to some is worse than the disease – as a price of rescuing it from economic meltdown?

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said loans to countries hit by the global financial turmoil would be faster, and with fewer conditions, than in the past. Conditions for lending should be defined by what is needed for the programme and should not be an “attempt to fix the world”, the IMF Survey magazine quotes him as telling staff.

India, Japan in security pact; a new architecture for Asia?

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While much of the media attention during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan this week was focused on a free trade deal the two sides failed to agree on, another pact that could have even greater consequences for the region was quietly pushed through.

This was a security cooperation agreement under which India and  Japan, once on opposite sides of the Cold War, will hold military exercises, police the Indian Ocean and conduct military-to-military exchanges on fighting terrorism.

Seeking regional peace for Afghanistan

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Given the focus on U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan since 9/11, it’s easy to forget the regional context. In an article in Foreign Affairs, Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid try to set that right, calling for a regional approach that would take account of the interests not just of Afghanistan, but also of Pakistan, Russia, Iran, India and China.

“Both U.S. presidential candidates are committed to sending more troops to Afghanistan, but this would be insufficient to reverse the collapse of security there. A major diplomatic initiative involving all the regional stakeholders … is more important,” it says.

from Reuters Editors:

What does journalism owe to its subjects?

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Is there a responsibility owed by journalists to the countries we report on?

A big topic, for sure, and one I was thinking about during a debate organised by The Orwell Prize on 'Is journalism failiing failing states?' Ostensibly the panel were discussing the adequacy of coverage of places like Congo, Burundi and Afghanistan. Adequacy for what, you might ask, and the discussion revealed a gap between the role some wanted journalism to play in crisis zones and what it actually achieves. Some sense of duty to inform, to shine a light in dark places and to educate motivates a lot of coverage of the world's trouble spots. Yet the high-minded pursuit of truth is compromised by the impatience of viewers and readers, who respond to human drama rather than deep detail and nuance. It is also compromised by the ego indulgence of reporters who put themselves rather than their subjects at the centre of a story. And it is compromised by the decreasing ability of big news organisations to fund foreign reporting. John Lloyd of the FT and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism suggested we can no longer expect to get in the mass media the complex information needed for deep understanding. We must turn to books, long-form journalism and blogs, he argued, which necessarily have smaller audiences.

So if 'failed state' reporting is often flawed, is it still worth doing? By and large yes, the panel agreed. For what purpose, though? That discussion touched on the efficacy of the journalism of engagement versus the school of dispassionate observation. The BBC's Jeremy Bowen recalled the coverage of the Bosnian war was motivated by a burning sense that the injustices and inhumanities of that conflict could not remain concealed. It was derided as 'something must be done' journalism by the then Conservative government in Britain, but arguably it had an effect on awakening public opinion. Panellist David Loyn of the BBC, who has just published on Afghanistan, wondered if  coverage there since 2001 has actually been unhelpful. Over-simplification, distortions of history, failure to portray the perspectives of ordinary Afghans and unquestioning acceptance of a flawed Western strategy were hallmarks of most reporting on the confict, he argued.

Al Qaeda – From bin Laden’s cave command to regionalised “franchise company”?

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Osama bin Laden is no longer involved in the day-to-day planning of attacks, Germany’s spy chief says, arguing that al Qaeda has turned from a centralised force into a regionalised “franchise company” with power centres in Pakistan, North Africa and the Arab peninsula. Does this weaken or strengthen the Islamist militant group? And how does it influence its operations, planning of attacks and its efforts to recruit new followers?

Ernst Uhrlau, who heads the BND foreign intelligence agency, Germany’s equivalent of the CIA, says al Qaeda’s “concept” has changed significantly over the past few years. “After the centralisation phase and the break-up of its bases in Afghanistan, when it had the backing of the Taliban government, we have seen a regionalisation over the past four years — something like a franchise company.”    “Today, there is al Qadea in the Maghreb, al Qaeda on the Arab Peninsula, in Iraq, in Yemen,” Uhrlau told Reuters in an interview this week. (more…)

from Global News Journal:

Al Qaeda and the financial crisis

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uhrlau.jpgThe  global financial crisis has become a topic of feverish debate for al Qaeda sympathisers on militant Internet forums.

According to  the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors  al Qaeda-linked propaganda on the Web and translates it for the benefit of security analysts and counter-terrorism officials, the militant chat rooms have been buzzing for weeks with excited comment.

Pakistan, IMF to begin crisis talks

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Pakistan will begin talks with the International Monetary Fund over the next few days to secure funding to avert a balance of payments crisis, the IMF said in a statement from Washington.

The statement came after days of speculation that seemed to have gathered pace after President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to China where according to these media reports he failed to win a commitment for cash to shore up the country’s reserves, barely enough to cover six weeks of imports.

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