Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

U.S. groups urges civilian control for Pakistan’s ISI

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Members of the Pakistan Policy Working Group, a bipartisan U.S. group of a about a dozen experts on U.S.-Pakistan relations, have been in Islamabad, presenting their recommendations on the direction they think U.S. policy on Pakistan should take, that they released in September.
(http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2008/09_pakistan_cohen.aspx).

Much has happened since then, said Lisa Curtis, a former diplomat who is currently a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said over coffee with a group of journalists, but recent events, including the Mumbai attacks, had only reinforced the group’s recommendations.

The United States has little to show for $12 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001, Curtis said, and she and her colleagues are recommending an overhaul of U.S. policy towards Pakistan.

The Barack Obama administration “has a unique opportunity to recast the relationship” in a way that both brings Pakistan back from the brink of financial and political collapse and convinces the Pakistan leadership and public of the immediate need to rein in the militant threat, she said.

Russia points to Dawood Ibrahim in Mumbai attacks

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Indian newspapers are reporting that Russian intelligence says underworld don Dawood Ibrahim – an Indian national who India believes is living in Karachi in Pakistan — was involved in the Mumbai attacks.

The Indian Express quotes Russia’s federal anti-narcotics service director Viktor Ivanov as saying that Moscow believes that Dawood’s drug network, which runs through Afghanistan, was used to finance the attacks. Ivanov said these were a “burning example” of how the illegal drug trafficking network was used for carrying out militant attacks, the paper said, citing an interview in the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

India, Pakistan and covert operations. All in the family?

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Do read this piece by Gurmeet Kanwal, the head of the Indian Army’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies, about how India should respond to the Mumbai attacks with covert operations against Pakistan.

He says that ”hard military options will have only a transitory impact unless sustained over a long period. These will also cause inevitable collateral damage, run the risk of escalating into a larger war with attendant nuclear dangers and have adverse international ramifications. To achieve a lasting impact and ensure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are targeted, it is necessary to employ covert capabilities to neutralise the leadership of terrorist organisations.”

India and Pakistan: remember Kaluchak?

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History never repeats itself exactly, but it does leave signposts. So with India and Pakistan settling into a familiar pattern of accusation and counter-claim following the Mumbai attacks, it’s worth remembering what happened after the December 2001 assault on India’s parliament brought the two countries to the brink of war. Or more to the point — thinking about the less remembered follow-up attack on an Indian army camp in Kaluchak in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2002 that nearly propelled India over the edge.

Following the attack on parliament that India blamed on the Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, both Pakistan-based militant groups, India mobilised its troops all along the border, prompting a similar mobilisation on the Pakistani side. Then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf went on national television in January to promise to crack down on Islamist groups; the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were curbed, and tensions abated somewhat.

Pakistan and those shoes

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It seems that everyone is talking about shoes these days, so much so that I expect the expression “to throw a shoe” will soon acquire a meaning far broader than the original incident.

According to The News in a report from Rawalpindi, “the episode of hurling shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush remained talk of the town, as people belonging to different walks of life expressed their extreme excitement over the incident and praised the ‘brave act’ of the Iraqi journalist. ‘The News’ interviewed a number of people who were all praise for Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi…” it said.

The shoe-throwing has also fired the imagination of the Pakistan blogosphere, providing a perhaps welcome respite to discussion about the extent of Pakistan’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks. Changing up Pakistan (CHUP) has matched up a YouTube video of Bush in Baghdad with footage of protesters hitting a former chief minister of Sindh province with a sandal.

And now the Chinese navy in Somali waters…

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Chinese naval ships may soon be steaming into the Gulf of  Aden to join a growing fleet of international warships fighting  Somali pirates.

A first probably for a navy that has long confined itself to its own waters, the move is certain to stir interest in the strategic community stretching from New Delhi to Washington.

Brinkmanship in South Asia

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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.

China, Pakistan and India

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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…”

Time to relax India’s gun control laws, to fight militants?

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Should India ease up on its tight gun control laws to arm citizens so that they can put up a fight next time they are attacked in their hotels, train stations and even a hospital as it happened in Mumbai last month?

Some people are arguing that if the people, or at least some of them such as hotel security staff and police at a railway terminal, had been properly armed there would have been some form of resistance to the Mumbai attackers instead of the spectacle of them moving around a city of 18 million as if they owned it.

Pakistan, India and the United Nations

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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”.  

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