Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

How would Pakistan fare under Obama?

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Senator Barack Obama/Steve MarcusWith Senator Barack Obama looking increasingly confident about winning the Democratic nomination, there have been a new spate of articles on what it would mean for Pakistan if he becomes president.

The most eye-catching, perhaps, was a story in The News  about how President Pervez Musharraf’s family in the United States have been giving donations to Obama’s campaign.  ”President Pervez Musharraf’s family members here are supporting and giving donations to a US presidential candidate who strongly opposes the Bush administration policy of supporting and keeping the retired general in the presidency,” it says.

The Daily Times, in an analysis by former Pakistani foreign secretary Najmuddin A Shaikh, says there would be little difference between Obama and the Bush administration on the need to hunt out al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan — if needs be through unilateral U.S. action – and on keeping its nuclear weapons safe. What the writer sees is a difference in tone,  which would be welcomed in Pakistan:

“What one can expect, however, is that Obama will be less averse – as the candidate for change – to recognising that extremism in the Muslim world flows from causes other than religious injunctions, no matter how this may be portrayed by so-called spokesmen for Islam or misguided scholars in the West,” he says. “He certainly will not be talking about crusades nor will he oppose direct talks with adversaries.”

Who will be left standing when the Afghan war ends?

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                                                                            U.S. marine in Afghanistan/Goran Tomasevic

“War does not determine who is right — only who is left.” (Or so said the British philosopher and anti-war activist Bertrand Russell.) So who is going to be left standing once U.S. and NATO forces have finished battling it out with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan?

Pakistan: Breaking down the stereotypes

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An economy growing at an average of 7 percent for six years now with a construction  and consumer boom, a rising middle-class that has just voted out a government, a free  press, a thriving fashion scene. Another emerging market star?

Yes, but this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, better known these days for its  suicide bombings, a nuclear arsenal and labelled as  the epicentre of Islamist extremism including perhaps the last  redoubt of Osama bin Laden in the lands straddling the Afghan border. “Jihadistan” as one reader wrote on this blog. People outside a restaurant in Islamabad after a bomb  blast 

Americans start asking about Predators in Pakistan

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A story in the Washington Post “U.S. Steps Up Unilateral Strikes in Pakistan has attracted attention worldwide. It says the United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that Pakistan’s new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations there. 

File photo of Predator drone“Over the past two months, U.S.-controlled Predator aircraft are known to have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives,” it says. “The moves followed a tacit understanding with (President Pervez) Musharraf and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani that allows U.S. strikes on foreign fighters operating in Pakistan, but not against the Pakistani Taliban.”

Taking on al Qaeda with comic strips?

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Cover page from comic strip/interior ministry handoutInteresting piece by Reuters Security Correspondent Mark Trevelyan about German authorities using comic strips to combat the appeal of militant Islamism to European youths. The comic strip, distributed to schools in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, features Andi, his Muslim girlfriend Ayshe and her brother Murat, who comes under the influence of a radical friend and an Islamist “hate preacher”.

The idea is to offer young people an alternative world view to combat the “narrative” of al Qaeda. ”We have learned from our opponents. This is exactly the age at which the Islamists are trying, through Koranic schools and other means, to fill young people with other values,” says Hartwig Moeller, from the German state’s interior ministry.

Obama on Pakistan: commitment or contradiction?

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barack obama/john sommersFor those who missed, it’s worth looking closely at Barack Obama’s latest comments on Pakistan made in a speech this week in which he repeats a call for the United States to shift its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. ”This is the area where the 9/11 attacks were planned. This is where Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants still hide. This is where extremism poses its greatest threat.”

His plan is to rethink U.S. policy towards Pakistan – which has traditionally depended on cooperation with the military rather than civilian governments — to bolster the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people, condition aid to Pakistan on its action against al Qaeda,  and show Pakistan that America is on its side.

Policy differences between al Qaeda and the Taliban?

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Thanks to openDemocracy for highlighting this piece on EurasiaNet about a row between the Taliban and al Qaeda which it says has surfaced among bloggers on a website in Egypt.

“Islamic extremists who regularly post messages to a pro-Al-Qaeda website in Egypt are accusing Afghanistan’s Taliban of straying from the path of global jihad,” it says.  “Internet criticisms of the Taliban follow a February statement from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar announcing that his movement wants to maintain positive and ‘legitimate’ relations with countries neighbouring Afghanistan.”

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