Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
from Afghan Journal:
Launching an air strike in another nation would normally be considered an act of aggression. But advocates of America's rapidly expanding unmanned drone programme don't see it that way.
They are arguing, as Tom Ricks writes on his blog The Best Defense over at Foreign Policy, that the campaign to kill militants with missile strikes from these unmanned aircraft, is more like police action in a tough neighbourhood than a military conflict.
These raids conducted by sinister-looking Predator or Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen - and since last month in Somalia - should not be seen as a challenge to states and their authority. Instead they are meant to supplement the power of governments that are either unable to or unwilling to fight the militants operating from their territories.
They are precise, limited, strikes aimed at taking down specific individuals, and in that sense are more like the police going after criminals, rather than a full-on military assault. Ricks writes:
from Afghan Journal:
Pakistan Defence Minister Mukhtar Ahmad's comments this week that the government had ended U.S. drone flights out of Shamsi air base deep in southwest Baluchistan province has injected new controversy in their troubled relationship. U.S. officials appeared to scoff at Mukhtar's remarks, saying they had no plans to vacate the base from where they have in the past launched unmanned Predator aircraft targeting militant havens in the northwest region.
Washington's dismissal of the Pakistan government's stand is quite extraordinary. Can a country, even if it is the world's strongest power, continue to use an air base despite the refusal of the host country ? The United States is effectively encamped in Pakistan using its air strip to run a not-so-secret assassination campaign against militant leaders including Pakistanis while Islamabad fumes.
By Faisal Aziz
For once, the government of President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party does not seem too bothered about the decision of its junior partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), to say good-bye to the ruling coalition.
Perhaps it is too late a call by the MQM to pile pressure on the government, and that too if it sticks to its decision. The MQM, which has long dominated urban parts of Sindh province and is now aspiring to make a mark at the national level, is not new to such resignations, and has done so in the past, in what has been an uneasy relationship with the PPP. But the sweet talk by the PPP has been able to lure back its partner one way or the other.
from India Insight:
By Annie Banerji
As India and Pakistan begin diplomatic talks between the two countries' foreign secretaries, Pew Research Centre published a survey this week that shows Pakistanis are strongly critical of India and the United States as well.
Even though there has been a slew of attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani targets since Osama bin Laden's killing in May, the Pew Research publication illustrates that three in four Pakistanis find India a greater threat than extremist groups.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just said in public what many have been saying for months in private, that the United States is holding talks with the Taliban to try to reach a settlement to the decade-long war in Afghanistan. “Peace talks are going on with the Taliban. The foreign military and especially the United States itself is going ahead with these negotiations,” he said in a speech in Kabul.
We have been hearing reports about these talks for months. In the climate of disinformation that threads through the Afghan war, it is hard to say exactly when they started, but I first heard last November that the Americans had begun direct talks with representatives of the Taliban and if that was correct, they must have begun some time before that.
Rarely does the perennial struggle for power between civilian and military authority punch to the surface quite so openly in Pakistan, yet thanks to the increasing use of the internet, it is now being played out in public across websites, Twitter, blogs and online newspapers. It is a struggle that is every bit as important as those taking place in the Middle East, and like those of the Arab spring, one that has the potential to tip the country into even greater instability or steer it onto firmer ground.
The renewed and very public debate started with the May 2 raid by U.S. forces which found and killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. That unleashed an unprecedented wave of criticism against the military — both for failing to find the al Qaeda leader, and for apparently failing to detect and react to a U.S. raid in the heart of the country. The anger rose after militants attacked a naval air base in Karachi, and swelled further when the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was accused of beating to death Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad – an allegation it denied.
Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of the al Qaeda-linked Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), has been reported to have been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan in Pakistan. He had been pronounced dead before in 2009, only to have his death disproved through an interview he gave to the late Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. So any assessment of the significance of his death needs to carry a big health warning.
That said, there appears to be rather more evidence this time around of his death, including a statement faxed to Pakistani media from someone who claimed to be a spokesman for HUJI. And if accurate, it would be very significant for reasons which go far beyond one man.
Of the many issues dividing India and Pakistan, resolving the conflict in Siachen has always been seen as potential game-changer. Compared to the big intractables like Kashmir and what India calls the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan, the Siachen conflict is easier to solve.
But the conflict is also a big enough cause of tension that its resolution would give real momentum to the peace process revived by India and Pakistan this year. An agreement on Siachen, moreover, would allow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make a long-awaited visit to Pakistan, giving him something of substance to announce during his trip.
When President Barack Obama telephoned Pakistan’s president to say U.S. forces had found and killed bin Laden, he offered him a choice. He could say Pakistan helped find bin Laden, or that it knew nothing, according to a senior western official. Pakistan initially chose to stress the former – that it had helped – but later shifted to condemning what it called the U.S. violation of its sovereignty.
The story illustrates the complicity between the United States and Pakistan in their deliberately ambiguous relationship. This ambiguity has its uses. It allows Washington to keep working with Pakistan in the face of angry questions at home about why Osama bin Laden was living there. And it lets Pakistan cooperate with the United States, for example on drone attacks, while trying — not particularly successfully — to minimise the domestic backlash.
from Afghan Journal:
First, China helped develop Pakistan's Gwadar port from scratch on the Baluchistan coast to take the pressure off the country's main port of Karachi, a few hundred miles to the east. Now Pakistan's defence minister has said that it would like its long-time ally to build a naval base at Gwadar, which sits on the doorstep of Gulf shipping lanes, less than 200 kms from the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz.
China, which provided more than 80 percent of the port's $248 million development cost, has moved quickly to distance itself from Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar's remarks about a naval base in Gwadar. The foreign ministry said China was not aware of any such proposal.