Steve Coll, the president of the New America Foundation and a South Asia expert, has raised the issue of the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the wake of the assassination of the governor of most populous Punjab state by one of his bodyguards. It’s a question that comes up each time Pakistan is faced with a crisis whether it a major act of violence such as this or a political/economic meltdown or a sudden escalation of tensions with India obviously, but also the United States.
Pakistan’s security establishment bristles at suggestions that it could be any less responsible than other states in defending its nuclear arsenal, and its leaders and experts have repeatedly said that the professional army is the ultimate guardian of its strategic assets.
Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy law has been in the spotlight since November when a court sentenced a Christian mother of four to death, in a case that has exposed deep rifts in the troubled Muslim nation of more than 170 million people. While liberal Pakistanis and rights groups believe the law to be dangerously discriminatory against the country’s tiny minority groups, Asia Bibi’s case has become a lightning rod for the country’s religious right.
On Tuesday, the governor of the most populous state of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who had strongly opposed the law and sought presidential pardon for the 45-year-old Christian farmhand, was gunned down by one of his bodyguards.
SINGAPORE, Jan 5 (Reuters) –
Asian stocks slid on Wednesday following a broad
commodities sell-off but the U.S. dollar edged higher after
stronger-than expected U.S. factory data offered further
evidence of an economic recovery.
Oil fell for a second day as investors took profits from a
sharp year-end rally. Gold inched up, though, after sinking
more than 2 percent in the previous session.
SINGAPORE, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Japanese stocks led Asian
equities higher, climbing to their highest since May, and oil
prices were perched near a 27-month high on Tuesday, with
investors betting the improving U.S. recovery may be reflected
in jobs data later in the week.
The dollar also rose while U.S. Treasuries dipped in Asia
as investors kicked off the year turning to riskier assets
such as high-yield credit, on signs that growth in the world’s
biggest economy may accelerate in 2011.
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stocks advanced on Tuesday and oil hovered near a 27-month high, supported by U.S. data suggesting a recovery in the world’s biggest economy was gathering momentum.
Japanese shares hit a 7-1/2 high on Tokyo’s first trading session of the New Year, a day after the United States reported manufacturing grew at its fastest clip in seven months in December. U.S. stocks hit new two-year highs overnight.
SINGAPORE, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Japanese shares advanced on
Tuesday in sight of an eight-month high, and oil held steady
near a two-year high, supported by U.S. data reflecting a
sustained recovery in the world’s biggest economy was gaining
The dollar was also broadly firmer on news that U.S.
manufacturing grew at its fastest pace in seven months in
December, driving U.S. stocks to two-year highs on the first
trading day of the New Year.
India and Pakistan exchanged a list of each other’s nuclear installations on Saturday like they have done at the start of each year under a 1988 pact in which the two sides agreed not to attack these facilities. That is the main confidence building measure in the area of nuclear security between the two countries, even though their nuclear weapons programmes have expanded significantly since then. Indeed for some years now there is a growing body of international opinion that holds that Pakistan has stepped up production of fissile material, and may just possibly hold more nuclear weapons than its much larger rival, India.
Which is remarkable given that the Indian nuclear programme is driven by the need for deterrence against much bigger armed-China, the third element in the South Asian nuclear tangle. The Indians who conducted a nuclear test as early as 1974, thus,may be behind not just the Chinese, but also Pakistan in terms of the number of warheads, fissile material and delivery systems.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has supported a proposal to open an office for the Taliban in a third country such as Turkey. Such a move could help facilitate talks with the insurgent group on reconciliation and reintegration of members back into society, and Kabul was happy for Turkey to be a venue for such a process, he said last week, following a trilateral summit involving the presidents of Turkey and Pakistan.
The question is while a legitimate calling card for the Taliban would be a step forward, the insurgent group itself shows no signs yet of stepping out of the shadows, despite the best entreaties of and some of his European backers. The Taliban remain steadfast in their stand that they won’t talk to the Afghan government unless foreign troops leave the country. More so at the present time when U.S. commander General David Petraeus has intensified the battle against them and the Taliban have responded in equal measure.
Even before Saturday’s horrific attack in which at least 40 people were killed in Pakistan’s Bajaur region on the Afghan border, the current year is turning out to be the most successful for suicide bombers in the country since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
According to an analysis by Amir Mir in The News, 1224 people were killed and more than 2100 wounded in sucide bombings during the year, slightly up from the previous year which was itself a record since Pakistan signed up for the war on terrorism. The number of suicide attacks, by itself, fell by as much as 35 percent, which means the attacks that took place had a greater strike rate.
SINGAPORE – (Reuters) – Indian security forces fighting a 20-year insurgency in Kashmir beat suspects, subjected them to electric current and tortured them with water in widespread human rights abuses, the Red Cross told the U.S. embassy according to a leaked diplomatic cable.
The 2005 cable, released by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian, documents systematic prisoner abuse by Indian police and paramilitary forces based on visits the International Red Cross made to detention centers in Kashmir and elsewhere between 2002-2004.