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Showing posts from January, 2009

Replicating the Al Anbar model in FATA?

Replicating the Al Anbar model in FATA?
The News, January 31, 2009
Farhat Taj

Al Anbar is a region in Iraq that was devastated by Al Qaeda inflicted violence. Several Sunni tribes of the region formed an alliance, supported by the US, and took up arms against the terrorists. The tribes successfully controlled Al Qaeda terrorism and stabilized the region. In media it was called 'Al Anbar Awkening'.

All over the world think tanks studying the situation in FATA debate and discuss whether an Al Anbar style awakening is possible in FATA? Can FATA tribes take up arms against the Taliban and Al Qaeda? In my opinion there is tremendous potential for an Al Anbar style awakening in FATA. But there is one huge obstacle: the mistrust of the tribes in the military leadership, especially the intelligence agencies. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have been target killing tribal leaders and so far the military has failed to protect the latter. So far no one has even been officially accused or arrested …

For Holbrooke, Situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan Is 'Dim and Dismal': Bruce Riedel

Interview: For Holbrooke, Situation in Pakistan, Afghanistan Is 'Dim and Dismal' By BRUCE O. RIEDEL AND BERNARD GWERTZMAN, New York Times, January 28, 2009
Interviewee: Bruce O. Riedel, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, Council on Foreign Relations

Bruce O. Riedel, an expert on South Asia, who has worked for the CIA, Pentagon, and National Security Council, says new special envoy Richard Holbrooke inherits a "dim and dismal" situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. What is needed, he says, is for Holbrooke to reverse the negative momentum in both countries. He says the Taliban's military successes in Afghanistan have to be reversed, and Pakistan must help close their sanctuaries on Pakistani territory. But Riedel says "trying to get that cooperation out of the Pakistani government in my judgment will be the single hardest test that Ambassador Holbrooke faces…

Tackling the worsening crisis in Swat

EDITORIAL: Army chief’s ‘signalling’ in Swat
Daily Times, January 30, 2009

The chief of army staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Kayani, visited the troops in Swat yesterday and told them that the “Pakistan Army has the will and the resolve to defeat terrorists, restore peace and establish the writ of the state in violence-hit areas”. He was putting the stamp of his authority on the third phase of Operation Rah-e-Haq against the Taliban led by warlord Fazlullah. The message to the troops was no doubt also intended for the rest of the country and for the world community that has become less and less sure about Pakistan’s “will and resolve” after the first two phases of the Swat operation were seen as failures.

The visit came in the wake of a statement made by the interior adviser, Mr Rehman Malik, promising the ouster of the terrorists from Swat “in fifteen days”. The statement ran the risk of being treated as a meaningless hyperbole since he had earlier promised a similar “solution” to the sect…

Turkish PM Erdoğan storms out of heated Mideast debate

Turkish PM Erdoğan storms out of heated Mideast debate
Zaman, January 30, 2009

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of a debate on the Middle East at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, saying he might never return to the annual gathering of the rich and powerful.

Israel's President Shimon Peres had launched a fiery defense of his country's assault on Gaza over the past month and, with a raised voice and pointed finger, questioned what Erdogan would do if rockets were fired at Istanbul every night.

As the debate, which also included United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, was ending, Erdogan was cut short as he tried to respond.

"I don't think I will come back to Davos because you don't let me speak," the Turkish prime minister said, as he stood up and walked out of the conference hall in the Swiss ski resort.

"The president spoke for only 25 minutes. I have only spoken for half of that."

Turkey…

An Open Letter -- From Pakistan -- To President Obama

Commentary
An Open Letter--From Pakistan--To President Obama
Imran Khan, Forbes, January 29, 2009
The U.S. and NATO should withdraw from Afghanistan.

Dear President Obama,

Your extraordinary ascent to the U.S. Presidency is, to a large part, a reflection of your remarkable ability to mobilize society, particularly the youth, with the message of "change." Indeed, change is what the world is yearning for after eight long and almost endless years of carnage let loose by a group of neo-cons that occupied the White House.

Understandably, your overarching policy focus would be the security and welfare of all U.S. citizens and so it should be. Similarly, our first and foremost concern is the protection of Pakistani lives and the prosperity of our society. We may have different social and cultural values, but we share the fundamental values of peace, harmony, justice and equality before law.

No people desire change more than the people of Pakistan, as we have suffered the most since 9/11, …

Revealed: the letter Obama team hope will heal Iran rift: Guardian

Revealed: the letter Obama team hope will heal Iran rift
Symbolic gesture gives assurances that US does not want to topple Islamic regime
Robert Tait and Ewen MacAskill in Washington guardian.co.uk, Thursday 29 January 2009

Officials of Barack Obama's administration have drafted a letter to Iran from the president aimed at unfreezing US-Iranian relations and opening the way for face-to-face talks, the Guardian has learned.

The US state department has been working on drafts of the letter since Obama was elected on 4 November last year. It is in reply to a lengthy letter of congratulations sent by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on 6 November.

Diplomats said Obama's letter would be a symbolic gesture to mark a change in tone from the hostile one adopted by the Bush administration, which portrayed Iran as part of an "axis of evil".

It would be intended to allay the ­suspicions of Iran's leaders and pave the way for Obama to engage them directly, a break with p…

How a Thirteenth-Century Islamic Poet Conquered America - By Ryan Croken

Found in Translation: How a Thirteenth-Century Islamic Poet Conquered America
By Ryan Croken, Religion Dispatches, January 28, 2009

I am / not the one speaking here. Even so, I’ll stop. / Anything anyone says is your voice.
–Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

The best-selling poet in America today could never have known that someday there would be such a thing as America. Born over eight centuries ago in what is now Afghanistan, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī, a Sufi mystic, has traversed some rather astonishing cultural and temporal boundaries to become one of the most improbable leaders in American letters. A study of Rumi’s success, however, would not be complete without exploring the relationship between the poet and his most popular translator, Coleman Barks.

On the spiritual and textual plane in which Rumi and Barks encounter one another, we find not a clash, but a fusion of civilizations, out of which has emerged a 13th-century Sufi devotee who is devastatingly fluent in post-modern A…

The Saudisation of Pakistan - By Pervez Hoodbhoy

The Saudi-isation of Pakistan
A stern, unyielding version of Islam is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis in Pakistan.
By Pervez Hoodbhoy, Newsline, January 2009

The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.

For 20 years or more, a few of us have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. In fact, I am surprised at how rapidly these dire predictions have come true.

A full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, resulting in thousand…

What Should President Obama Say to the Middle East?

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Speaking Clearly:
What Should President Obama Say to the Middle East?
By Stephen McInerney (ed.); Project on Middle East Democracy, January 2009

As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office this month, the world anxiously awaits the policies of the new American administration. Amid generally high expectations worldwide, many across the Middle East remain skeptical of the future of U.S. policy toward that region. The inaugural address on January 20 will be watched carefully and analyzed for signals of changes in policy. President Obama is also widely expected to give a major foreign policy speech in the Islamic world during his first 100 days in office. Until now, there has been more debate over where such a speech should be given than over what its content should be. But that content will be listened to intently and is critically important – when he addresses the expectant audience of the Arab and Muslim World, what should President Obama say?

To help answer this question,…

Activities of the Indian Lobby in America

The India Lobby
Drunk with the Sight of Power
By VIJAY PRASHAD, Counterpunch.org, January 26, 2009

On January 27, 2009, a newly formed task force of Indian American organizations is set to overrun Capitol Hill. The Indian American Task Force will take their message to Congress and to the new administration, asking them to be much tougher on Pakistan. The impetus for this new combine and its lobbying is the Mumbai attacks of December 2008. But this is not just about justice for the victims of Mumbai. There is another dynamic involved, which is to walk the Jewish American road, to create a “India Lobby” that resembles the “Israel Lobby.” The investment among these Indian Americans is to follow the remarkable success of the Israel Lobby, which has been able to leverage its relatively small numbers (7 million, only 2.5% of the U. S. population) into considerable political power. An even more impressive story is that of the Cuban Americans (1.6 million; 0.5% of the U. S. population), but the…

ISI's Role in Swat?

What Pakhtuns think
The News, January 28, 2009
Farhat Taj

There are many Pakhtun who argue that some elite state intelligence agencies and the Taliban, as of Swat for example, are 'natural allies' and feed on each other. The Taliban want a besieged and helpless population whom they can rule with impunity. The ISI, they claim, is facilitating this rule and in return the Taliban create chaos and violence. Some may ask the obvious question: why would any one want chaos and violence in the area?

Two arguments are put forward by many Pakhtuns in this regard. Some refer to the well-known but often-discredited theory of strategic depth, which envisions that Afghanistan will become the fifth province of Pakistan and that the central Asian Islamic states will become its client states. Thus Pakistan will become a robust regional power vis-a-vis India in South Asia and acquire a leadership role in the Muslim world. Therefore, by having a region close to Afghanistan which is full of violence…

President Obama's Policy Towards the Muslim World - Al-Arabiya TV

Counterinsurgency Field Manual: Afghanistan Edition - Foreign Policy

Counterinsurgency Field Manual: Afghanistan Edition
By Nathaniel C. Fick, John A. Nagl, Foreign Policy, January/February 2009

Two years ago, a controversial military manual rewrote U.S. strategy in Iraq. Now, the doctrine’s simple, powerful—even radical—tenets must be applied to the far different and neglected conflict in Afghanistan. Plus, David Petraeus talks to FP about how to win a losing war.

For the past five years, the fight in Afghanistan has been hobbled by strategic drift, conflicting tactics, and too few troops. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, got it right when he bluntly told the U.S. Congress in 2007, “In Iraq, we do what we must.” Of America’s other war, he said, “In Afghanistan, we do what we can.”

It is time this neglect is replaced with a more creative and aggressive strategy. U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is now headed by Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the U.S. military’s counterinsu…

US envoy hands over $1.5m security gear to Pakistan's Frontier Corps - A Positive Step

US envoy hands over $1.5m security gear to FC
The News, January 27, 2009: Bureau report

PESHAWAR: The United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W Patterson, Monday handed over security equipment worth $1.5 million to the Frontier Corps (FC).

A formal ceremony to this effect was held at the FC Training Centre, Warsak, near here, where the equipment was handed over to Major General Tariq Khan, Inspector General FC.The equipment included protective helmets, bulletproof vests, communication and office equipment.

This is part of ongoing efforts to assist and recognise the efforts and sacrifices of FC and Frontier police, said Patterson, while speaking on the occasion.More equipment, including armoured vehicles and Lead Acid Batteries, would be provided to FC in the next few months. The US has donated to the FC $43.8 million security equipment to date.

Lynne Tracy, principal officer US Consulate, Peshawar, Brigadier General DiBartolomeo, Office of Defence representative Pakistan, US Embassy, I…

How Not to Lose Afghanistan: New York Times

How Not to Lose Afghanistan
By The Editors, New York Times, January 26, 2009

Barack Obama has said that his priority in the war on terrorism is Afghanistan, and is poised to increase troop levels there, perhaps by as many as 30,000. How should the United States deal with growing strength of the Taliban? Is increasing troop levels enough? We asked some analysts for their thoughts on military and political strategy in the region.

Kori Schake, former national security adviser; Andrew Exum, former United States Army officer; Bruce Riedel, former C.I.A. officer; John Nagl, former United States Army officer; Parag Khanna, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation

The Taliban Problem Crosses Borders
Parag Khanna, senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, is the author of “The Second World: How Emerging Powers are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-First Century.”

Even if an additional 30,000 American and NATO troops were deployed i…

India’s stealth lobbying against Holbrooke's brief?

India’s stealth lobbying against Holbrooke's brief
Foreign Policy, The Cable, January 23, 2009

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- flanked by President Obama -- introduced Richard Holbrooke as the formidable new U.S. envoy to South Asia at a State Department ceremony on Thursday, India was noticeably absent from his title.

Holbrooke, the veteran negotiator of the Dayton accords and sharp-elbowed foreign policy hand who has long advised Clinton, was officially named "special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan" in what was meant to be one of the signature foreign policy acts of Obama's first week in office.

But the omission of India from his title, and from Clinton's official remarks introducing the new diplomatic push in the region was no accident -- not to mention a sharp departure from Obama's own previously stated approach of engaging India, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, in a regional dialogue. Multiple sources told The Cable that India…

Report: Obama's Policy Options in Pakistan's FATA

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President Obama's Policy Options in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) - Hassan Abbas
Institute of Social Policy and Understanding, January 26, 2009

Introduction:
There is an emerging consensus among foreign policy experts that the growing insurgency and militancy in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) poses the greatest security challenge not only to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also to the United States. Some scholars even project that a major terrorist act with al-Qaeda footprints in the United States might result in an American strike and ground invasion of this area. President-elect (delete) Barack Obama has repeatedly talked about stepping up military action in Afghanistan as a panacea to the expanding crisis in that country and hinted as early as August 2007 that if elected, he would sanction direct military strikes in FATA if there were “actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets” and if Pakistan failed to act. Situ…

Radio Amplifies Terror of Taliban in Pakistan: NYT

In Pakistan, Radio Amplifies Terror of Taliban
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH, NEw York Times, January 25, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading.

Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.

“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”

Int…

Islamic Peacemaking Since 9/11: United States Institute of Peace

USIP: January 2009, Special Report No. 218
Islamic Peacemaking Since 9/11 By David Smock and Qamar-ul Huda

Summary
■ Muslims in general and Muslim leaders particularly have often been severely criticized for not more energetically condemning the violent acts of Muslim extremists.
■ Violent extremists are on one edge of the Muslim community. They are counter-balanced by a growing movement of Muslim peacemakers.
■ Equally as notable as Islamic militancy but less noted are Muslims’ 1) widespread condemnation of terrorism and other violent acts; 2) promotion of interfaith dialogue; 3) education of Muslim youth and reeducation of extremist Muslims; and 4) promotion of peaceful conflict resolution.

About the Report
The Religion and Peacemaking program conducts research, identifies best practices, and develops new peacebuilding tools for religious leaders and organizations. It also helps define and shape the field of religious peacebuilding.

USIP’s Religion and Peacemaking program has produced a …

Mystical Power of Sufis

Mystical power
Why Sufi Muslims, for centuries the most ferocious soldiers of Islam, could be our most valuable allies in the fight against extremism
By Philip Jenkins, Boston Globe, January 25, 2009

THIRTY YEARS AGO this month, the collapse of the Shah's government marked the launch of Iran's Islamic Revolution, and since that point the topic of Islam has rarely been out of the headlines. All too often, we hear about Islam in the context of intolerance and, often, violence -- of Al Qaeda savagery, of Taliban misogyny, of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and perhaps in Iran itself. Even in Europe, many fear the growth of a radical Islamic presence. For three decades, Western observers have worked fervently to comprehend Islam's global power and appeal, its ability to inspire the poor and to topple governments. But in all that intense attention, most observers have missed a crucial part of the story: a global web of devout religious brotherhoods that by all logic should be a criti…

Will Pakistan survive as an idea?

Book review: Will the state survive as an idea? — by Khaled Ahmed
Daily Times, January 25, 2009
Pakistan ka Tasavvur;
By Stephen Philip Cohen; Translated into Urdu by Shafiqur Rehman Mian; Vanguard Books Lahore 2008; Pp358

Shafiqur Rehman has competently rendered into Urdu Stephen Cohen’s 2004 book The Idea of Pakistan. This will the first book of its kind in Urdu because of Cohen’s well known habit of looking at his subjects from new angles of inquiry.

Stephen Cohen grasped Pakistan from the right end of the stick; he wrote about the Pakistan army first. He is different from other writers on Pakistan today because he shuns mere cataloguing of facts. He develops insights, theorises on the basis of multiple versions of reality felt in Pakistan, and focuses on personalities in order to define them. The last bit he does to account for the wisdom that where state institutions are weak men drive political evolution.

He reads the literature on Pakistan he thinks provides the most innovative appr…

Obama Approved Drone Attacks in Pakistan's FATA

President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area
Ewen MacAskill in Washington The Guardian, Saturday 24 January 2009

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks. Although Obama has abandoned many of the "war on terror" policies of George Bush while he was president, he is not retreating from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders.

The US believes they are hiding in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, and made 30 strikes last year in which more than 200 people were killed. In the election, Obama hinted at increased operations in Pakistan, saying he thought Bush had made a mistake in switching to Iraq before completing the job against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For complete article, click here

Also See:
Thousands attend funeral of drone victims - The News
Fata toughest challenge for Obama, says Holbrooke - The News
Dialogue only solution to FATA problems: president -…

Continuation of Drone Attacks in Pakistan

Strikes in Pakistan Underscore Obama’s Options
By RICHARD A. OPPEL JR, New York Times, January 24, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two missile attacks launched from remotely piloted American aircraft killed at least 15 people in western Pakistan on Friday. The strikes suggested that the use of drones to kill militants within Pakistan’s borders would continue under President Obama.

Remotely piloted Predator drones operated by the Central Intelligence Agency have carried out more than 30 missile attacks since last summer against members of Al Qaeda and other terrorism suspects deep in their redoubts on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.

But some of the attacks have also killed civilians, enraging Pakistanis and making it harder for the country’s shaky government to win support for its own military operations against Taliban guerrillas in the country’s lawless border region.

American officials in Washington said there were no immediate signs that the strikes on Friday had killed …

Obama’s double hyphenation and Pakistan's "Blank Cheque" to China

INSIGHT: Obama’s double hyphenation — Ejaz Haider
Daily Times, January 24, 2009

Until now Pakistan could cite the obnoxious unilateralism of the Bush administration for creating difficulties for it and not allowing it to sell the counter-insurgency efforts to the public. Obama, by genuinely changing the approach, could deprive Pakistan of that argument

US President Barack Obama has appointed Richard Holbrooke as special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Holbrooke, a former US ambassador to the United Nations and broker of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords which ended conflict in Bosnia, has had a long and distinguished career as diplomat, writer, academic and businessman.

The appointment has caused some consternation among analysts in Pakistan because it seems to hyphenate Pakistan and Afghanistan while leaving India out of the equation.

Is the apprehension justified?

Consider three main strands in Obama’s approach to the war on terror.

For complete article, click here

ALSO SEE:
Pakistan gives …

Iran gets Afghan transit trade

Editorial: Iran gets Afghan transit trade
Daily Times, January 24, 2009

On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Indian Foreign Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee opened a new road that will help link Afghanistan with the port of Chabahar in Iran and “challenge Pakistani dominance of trade routes into the landlocked country”. The 220km road in the southwest Afghan province of Nimroz is the culmination of the $1.1 billion Indian reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. Pakistan, if it remains wedded to its old strategy, is fated to be a loser.

The road, entirely funded by India with $15 million, runs from Delaram in Nimroz to Zaranj on the Iranian border, which connects to the Iranian port of Chabahar. The route is clearly intended as an alternative route if one looks at the concessions already offered at Chabahar. Afghan exporters will use the port with a 90 percent discount on port fees, a 50 percent discount on warehousing charges, and Afghan vehicles will be allowed full transit rights o…

US - Pakistan Relations Under Obama

Obama pledges to work closely with Pakistan
* US president pledges to seek stronger partnerships with governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan
* Names Holbrooke special envoy for Pakistan, Afghanistan
Daily Times, January 23, 2009

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama on Thursday vowed to work closely with Pakistan and deepen engagement with the people of the South Asian country as part of efforts to overcome security challenges along the Pak-Afghan border through a regional approach that will also focus on the creation of economic opportunities for the people of two countries.

Partnership: “We will seek stronger partnerships with the governments of the region, sustain cooperation with our NATO allies, deepen engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani people and a comprehensive strategy to combat terror and extremism,” said Obama while naming former diplomat Richard Holbrooke as America’s special representative for the two countries, in the presence of Vice President Joe Biden and Secreta…

London Review of Books Contributors on Gaza

LRB contributors react to events in Gaza
London Review of Books, January 15, 2009

Yonatan Mendel
It’s very frustrating to see Israeli society recruited so calmly and easily to war. Hardly anyone has dared to mention the connection between the decision to go to war and the fact that we are only a few weeks away from an election. Kadima (Tzipi Livni’s party) and Labour (Ehud Barak’s) were doing very badly in the polls. Now that they have killed more than 1000 Palestinians (250 on the first day – the highest number in 41 years of occupation) they are both doing very well. Barak was expected to win eight seats in the Knesset; now it is around 15. Netanyahu is the one sweating.

I am terribly sad about all this, and frustrated. On the first day of the operation I wrote an article for the Walla News website and within four hours I had received 1600 comments, most calling for my deportation (at best) or immediate execution (at worst). It showed me again how sensitive Israeli society is to any opp…

How can Obama Administration Deal with Iran?

How to Deal with Iran
By William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, Jim Walsh
The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 2 · February 12, 2009

Three of the most pressing national security issues facing the Obama administration—nuclear proliferation, the war in Iraq, and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan—have one element in common: Iran.[1] The Islamic Republic has made startling progress over the past few years in its nuclear program. Setting aside recent, misleading reports that Iran already has enough nuclear fuel to build a weapon, the reality is that Tehran now has five thousand centrifuges for enriching uranium and is steadily moving toward achieving the capability to build nuclear bombs.[2] Having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon is not the same thing as having one, and having a large stock of low-enriched uranium is not the same as having the highly enriched uranium necessary for a bomb. But the Obama administration cannot postpone dealing with the nuclear situation i…

Pakistan in Peril By William Dalrymple

Pakistan in Peril By William Dalrymple
The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 2, February 12, 2009

Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
by Ahmed Rashid, Viking, 484 pp., $27.95

Lahore, Pakistan

The relative calm in Iraq in recent months, combined with the drama of the US elections, has managed to distract attention from the catastrophe that is rapidly overwhelming Western interests in the part of the world that always should have been the focus of America's response to September 11: the al-Qaeda and Taliban heartlands on either side of the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The situation here could hardly be more grim. The Taliban have reorganized, advanced out of their borderland safe havens, and are now massing at the gates of Kabul, threatening to surround and throttle the capital, much as the US-backed Mujahideen once did to the Soviet-installed regime in the late Eighties. Like the rerun of an …

Obama Agenda on Pakistan

US to increase non-military aid to Pakistan: Pakistan to be accountable for FATA security: US
Staff Report, Daily Times, January 22, 2009

LAHORE: The new US administration will increase non-military aid to Pakistan, but hold Islamabad accountable for security along the border region with Afghanistan, according to a US foreign policy document released soon after President Barack Obama assumed office.

The document – available on the White House website – says, “Obama and [Vice President Joe] Biden will increase non-military aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.”

Refocus: It says that Obama and Biden would ‘refocus’ American resources on the “greatest threat to our security – the resurgence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. “They will [also] increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, press our allies in NATO to do the same, and dedicate more resources to revitalise Afghanistan’s economic development. Obama and B…

Status of Women in Pakistan

The state and status of women by Sarwar Bari
The News, January 22, 2009

For many years we have been witnessing women being prevented to participate in the electoral process both as voters and candidates. Shamelessly, despite their cutthroat competition, the religious and so-called liberal parties engaged in this fraud. And the Election Commission of Pakistan has never taken any action against this clear violation of its code of conduct. In addition, the state has been ominously silent on the closure and burning of girls' schools and women's colleges in some parts of the country. It also must be noted that recently, when the Islamic Ideological Council announced some pro-women recommendations on divorce, the mullahs aggressively opposed them, while the so-called pro-women parties did not bother to defend the recommendations.

Is it not an irony, especially when the Constitution of Pakistan (Articles 25 and 34) guarantees equality between the two sexes? Let us not forget that Pakis…

Obama seeks ‘new way forward’ with Muslim world

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Obama seeks ‘new way forward’ with Muslim world
By Anwar Iqbal, Dawn, January 21, 2009

WASHINGTON, Jan 20: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” said Barack Husain Obama after he took oath as America’s 44th president.

Over two million people watched as Mr Obama, as America’s first African-American president, etched his name on “the hard stone of history”, in the words of Congresswoman Dianne Feinstein who introduced him.

And four miles ahead of Mr Obama — over the heads of the people who had come to see history unfold — shimmered the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It was on these steps, on Aug 28, 1963, that civil rights leader Martin Luther King had shared his dreams with another generation of Americans for an America free of racism.

And beyond those steps is the memorial for the man — Abraham Lincoln — who abolished slavery.

Mr Obama remembered both. “Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a cha…

Letter to Obama on the Muslim world

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Commentary: Letter to Obama on the Muslim world
By Arsalan Iftikhar
Special to CNN, November 14, 2008

Editor's Note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of www.TheMuslimGuy.com and contributing editor for Islamica Magazine in Washington. This is one in a series of letters to the new president that will appear on CNN.com in the next several weeks.

(CNN) -- First of all, as one of more than 66 million Americans of all races, religions and ethnicities who voted for you, your electoral victory was one of the proudest moments of our collective lives.

As our American political history witnessed the magnitude of our nation's first African-American president, our society was also able to collectively (and finally) exhale, knowing that the mailbox at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would now read "Obama" instead of "Bush."

With hardly a moment's rest, as you transition toward Inauguration Day, our nation (and the rest of the world) will not wait f…