Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Obama’s Kashmir comments hit a raw nerve in India

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Barack Obama has hit a raw nerve in India by suggesting the United States should try to help resolve the Kashmir dispute so that Pakistan can focus on hunting down Islamist militants on its north-western frontier — who in turn threaten stability in Afghanistan — rather than worrying about tensions with India on its eastern border. India is extremely sensitive to any suggestion of outside interference in Kashmir, which it sees as a bilateral dispute, though Pakistan itself has long chafed against this position.

“The most important thing we’re going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan,” Obama said in an interview last week with MSNBC. “And we’ve got work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says, terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you. We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants.” (more…)

Pakistani kids vote for Obama, hope he won’t rain missiles

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A group of Pakistani kids have voted with their wallets (including Eid savings) for U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama, hoping he would resolve the conflict raging in their troubled northwest corner of the country through peaceful means.

The children in Peshawar, capital of the North-West Frontier Province which along with the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has become the central front in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, had collected $261 for “Uncle Obama’s election campaign,”  The News reports.

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.

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…)

Is Pakistan’s war against militants India’s too?

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Time was when every time militants set off a bomb in Pakistan, India’s strategic establishment would turn around and say “we told you so”. This is what happens when you play with fire … jihad is a double-edged sword, they would say, pointing to Pakistan’s support for militants operating in Kashmir and elsewhere.k2.jpg

Not any more. When India’s opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party – which has consistently advocated a tougher policy toward Pakistan – tells the government to be watchful of the fallout of the security and economic situation in Pakistan, then you know the ground is starting to shift.    

U.S. military a threat to Pakistan -poll

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us2.jpgU.S. government and military leaders worry that  the next attack on the homeland will emanate from western Pakistan, believing al Qaeda to have reconstituted there.

But Pakistanis worry too for their security and their fear is  the U.S. military itself.

Does anyone care about bin Laden any more?

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May file photo of Pakistani TalibanThere have been many contradictory reports this week about whether Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, had died. Pakistan’s Geo television channel said that the leader of the Pakistani Taliban had died of kidney failure after a long illness, while a Taliban spokesman dismissed the report.

I’m not going to add to that speculation here. What does strike me, though, is that the attention paid to talk of Mehsud’s death was greater than that given to reports that frequently do the rounds about the fate of Osama bin Laden.

The mystery of a downed drone in Pakistan

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Last week, the Pakistan Army said it had recovered the wreckage of an unmanned aerial vehicle in the South Waziristan region, but it didn’t identify the aircraft.

The United States military, which has stepped up flights of the Predator, its main unmanned aerial vehicle, on the Afghan-Pakistan border and into Pakistan in recent months, said none of its planes had gone down inside Pakistan. One of its aerial vehicles had crashed but that was in Afghanistan, about  60 miles west of the Pakistani border and U.S. forces had immediately recovered the aircraft.

U.S. ground raids into Pakistan halted, Army Times says

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Pakistani troops patrol in BajaurThe United States has decided to halt cross-border ground raids by Special Ops forces into Pakistan, according to the U.S. Army Times. It quotes a Pentagon official as saying U.S. leaders had decided to hold off on permitting ground raids to allow Pakistani forces to press home their own attacks on militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

“We are now working with the Pakistanis to make sure that those type of ground-type insertions do not happen, at least for a period of time to give them an opportunity to do what they claim they are desiring to do,” it quotes the Pentagon official as saying. This did not apply to air strikes launched from Predator drones.

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