Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

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.

It was also the first serious row since the Obama administration began to build what it promised would be a new strategic relationship with Pakistan.

As I wrote earlier this month, overall relations between the United States and Pakistan were rather better than they looked (or at least than they appeared at the height of the Davis row).  Compared to two years ago, Pakistan is more likely to talk now about the need for stability in Afghanistan than strategic depth (the extent of this shift is open to debate). The United States has also moved closer towards meeting Pakistan’s calls for a political settlement in Afghanistan by holding direct talks with representatives of the Taliban, according to several official sources with knowledge of those contacts.

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.” 

Pakistan’s debate on drones, lifting the secrecy

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droneIn a rare admission of the effectiveness of drone strikes, a senior Pakistani military officer has said most of those killed are hard-core militants, including foreigners, according to Dawn newspaper.

It quotes Major-General Ghayur Mehmood as telling reporters at a briefing in Miramshah, in North Waziristan, that, “Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners.”

From Afghanistan to Libya; rethinking the role of the military

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ras lanufIn a report this month calling for faster progress on a political settlement on Afghanistan, the influential UK parliamentary foreign affairs committee was unusually critical of the dominance of the military in setting Afghan policy.

“We conclude that there are grounds for concern over the relationship between the military and politicians. We further conclude that this relationship has, over a number of years, gone awry and needs to be re-calibrated  … we believe that problems in Afghanistan highlight the need for a corresponding cultural shift within Whitehall to ensure that those charged with taking foreign policy decisions and providing vitally important political leadership are able to question and appraise military advice with appropriate vigour,” it said.

In Pakistan, an assassination and the death of words

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bhattiWhen I first heard about Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination, there seemed to be nothing sensible to be said about it.  Not yet another prediction about Pakistan’s growing instability, nor even an outpouring of anger of the kind that followed the killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer in the English-language media.  The assassination of the Minorities Minister did not appear to portend anything beyond the actual tragedy of his death.  And nor could anyone say it came as a  surprise. A loss of words, then. A painful punctuation mark.

Cafe Pyala has now articulated far better than I could what went through my mind when I first heard about the assassination.

U.S.-Pakistan relations better than they look

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raymond davisGiven the high-decibel volume of the row over Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore in January, it would be tempting to assume that overall relations between Pakistan and the United States are the worst they have been in years.

At a strategic level, however, there’s actually rather greater convergence of views than there has been for a very long time.

from India Insight:

Kashmir seeks extradition of accused army soldier

A former Indian soldier, accused of killing a Kashmiri human rights lawyer, has been arrested in the United States on charges of domestic violence.

Major Avtar Singh fled the country in the 1990s after he was accused of kidnapping and brutally killing Jaleel Andrabi, a Kashmiri lawyer and human rights activist.

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