Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

India-Pakistan – cricket, spooks and peace

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cricket  refugee“Cricket diplomacy” has always been one of the great staples of the relationship between India and Pakistan. The two countries have tried and failed before to use their shared enthusiasm for cricket to build bridges, right back to the days of Pakistan President Zia ul-Haq, if not earlier.

So when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced last week that he was inviting Prime Minister Yusuf  Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup in Mohali, India, the temptation was to dismiss it as an old idea.

Yes, it would be the first visit by a leader of either country to the other since the November 2008 attack on Mumbai.  Yes, the invitation came at a time when relations between the two countries were already thawing. And yes, the Middle East is changing so fast that you would expect –  in the way that warring siblings do — that India and Pakistan would bury their differences at a time when the outside world has become so unpredictable.

But the instinct for cynicism is unerring. India and Pakistan have tried and failed to make peace for so long that it is easy, lazily easy, to predict that this latest initiative will also come to nothing. Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, himself a participant in cricket diplomacy in 2005, wrote it off in 2000:

from FaithWorld:

Islamic bloc drops 12-year U.N. drive to ban defamation of religion

(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the high level segment of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud)

(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the Human Rights Council in Geneva and urges it "to move beyond a decade-long debate over whether insults to religion should be banned or criminalised," February 28, 2011/Valentin Flauraud)

Islamic countries set aside their 12-year campaign to have religions protected from "defamation", allowing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Genea to approve a plan to promote religious tolerance on Thursday. Western countries and their Latin American allies, strong opponents of the defamation concept, joined Muslim and African states in backing without vote the new approach that switches focus from protecting beliefs to protecting believers.

On Taliban talks and driving out al Qaeda

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osamaIn the debate about the possibility of reaching a peace settlement with the Taliban in return for them breaking with al Qaeda, it has never been entirely clear how that breach would be defined. While on one hand the international community would expect the Taliban’s break with al Qaeda to be public and irreversible, few expect them to turn on al Qaeda’s leaders, preferring instead for them to leave the Afghanistan and Pakistan region.

 Somewhere in there is a huge grey area that has not yet got the attention it deserves. The Century Foundation in its newly released report (pdf) calling for a negotiated settlement to the Afghan war has come up with a suggestion which at least forms the basis of debate.  Its key point — or at least the one that jumped out at me — is that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar would declare the jihad over: 

from India Insight:

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trial

Amnesty International has accused the government of detaining hundreds of people each year in Kashmir without charge or trial under a "draconian" Indian law.

Amnesty says hundreds detained in Kashmir without charge or trialThe rights group said India's Public Safety Act (PSA)  had been used to detain up to 20,000 people without trial over the past two decades. Public Safety Act allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

The “sound and fury” of U.S.-Pakistan ties (Part II)

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I have (somewhat belatedly) got around to reading the full text of the statement made by Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemning last week’s drone strike in North Waziristan which killed more than 40 people. The strike has reignited tensions with Washington, and came only a day after Pakistan released Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis, after a bruising row with the United States. 

The Pakistani media has put forward many reasons as to why Kayani issued such a public condemnation, and indeed on why the United States chose to  launch such a lethal drone attack just as tempers were beginning to cool over the Davis row (for a must-read round up of the different views of officials and analysts in Peshawar, see Cyril Almeida at Dawn.)

The “sound and fury” of U.S.-Pakistan ties

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rayjmonddavisphotoWith the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the United States and Pakistan have put behind them one of the more public rows of their up-and-down relationship.  It was probably not the worst row — remember the furore over a raid by U.S. ground troops in Angor Adda in Waziristan in 2008, itself preceded  by a deluge of leaks to the U.S. media about the alleged duplicity of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in its dealings on Afghanistan.

But it was certainly one which by its very nature was guaranteed to get the most attention – an American who shot dead two Pakistanis in what he said was an act of self-defence, denied diplomatic immunity and ultimately released only after the payment of blood money. Adding to the drama were two intelligence agencies battling behind the scenes.

Guest contribution-a tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti

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shahbaz(The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK)

SHAHBAZ BHATTI: A TRIBUTE TO A BRAVE HEART

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Shahbaz Bhatti’s memorial meeting at the Pakistan High Commission (March 16) was a profoundly sad occasion for all to remember a person who laid down his life for a united and strong Pakistan.

Will S. Arabia broker a deal to repair Pakistan-US ties?

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With the U.S.-Pakistan dispute over CIA contractor Raymond Davis stuck in Pakistani courts, newspapers are reporting that the two countries’ common ally, Saudi Arabia, may step in to defuse the deepening crisis between them.

The high court in Lahore, where Davis shot dead two people in what he said was an act of self-defence in January, on Monday declined to rule on whether he  has diplomatic immunity. The court referred the question of immunity to a criminal court which is dealing with murder charges against him.

Keeping Raymond Davis and Lashkar-e-Taiba in perspective

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tajmumbaiAccording to the New York Times, Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor arrested in Pakistan for shooting dead two Pakistanis in what he says was an act of self-defence, was working with a CIA team monitoring the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

The article, by Washington-based Mark Mazzetti, was not the first to make this assertion. The NYT itself had already raised it, while Christine Fair made a similar point in her piece for The AfPak Channel last week (with the intriguing detail that “though the ISI knew of the operation, the agency certainly would not have approved of it.”)

Towards a review of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

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rehman malikAfter two assassinations, Pakistani politicians are finally beginning to address tensions over the country’s blasphemy laws.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in an interview politicians should be able to reach a cross-party consensus on preventing the misuse of the blasphemy laws, as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) religious party. ”Its misuse is being, of course, taken into account and the party leaders are going to sit together as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman … and I hope this matter can be thrashed out, whenever this meeting takes place.” 

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