Monday, May 9, 2011

Rally for resolution of Parachinar problems

The Nation Newspaper Pakistan Monday, May 09, 2011

Rally for resolution of Parachinar problems

LAHORE – A protest demonstration, launched under the aegis of the Youth of Parachinar, entered its 13th day on Sunday. The campaign is seeking early resolution of the problems of the Parachinar residents.
The participants of the protest were carrying placards and banners reading slogans such as "Is Parachinar not a part of Pakistan"? Leader of YoP Hussain Bangish, addressing the participants, said that if the government did not pay any heed towards their demands the YoP would march towards Islamabad.
The participants of the demonstration demanded the Pakistan government to manage the release of 33 hostages of Parachinaar from Taliban.
The government should implement the Murree Accord in a true spirit and violators of the agreement should be punished, he further urged. The protesters demanded the government and the establishment not to back Taliban they have to take the patriotic the Toori and Bangash tribes in their confidence.
The PIA services should be started on emergency basis and also Kurram militia needs to be brought back to Kurram Agency. They also demanded the reopening of Tal-Parachinar road and army check posts should be established, at distance of 1 kilometer each, on the road to ensure safe traveling of people.
"When the Taliban were defeated, they blocked they main Tal-Parachinar Road and started targeting the Shia passengers travelling to Peshawar and other parts of the country. The miscreants killed hundreds of passengers on this road and also made them hostages and brutally killed them after long imprisonments. When these incidents of killing, kidnapping and looting convoys occurred again and again, the people started to go to Peshawar via Afghanistan. But later on, the government sealed the Pak-Afghan border due to security concerns and the people of the Upper Kurram were besieged there," the protest leader said.
He further told the participants that later on an agreement was inked between the tribal elders and the Taliban, with the help of then government, at Murree in 2008. "But the government failed to implement the Murree Accord," he said.
Then the government again called on a grand Jirga comprising some 50 members, including the Taliban. Interior Minister Rehman Malik was also a part of the peace accord, he said. This was also violated by Taliban stationed at Bagan Lower Kurram. Though this peace agreement was warmly welcomed by Shia and Sunni tribes and were considering a hope towards peace and harmony. It was violated at least 13 times by militants but the last violation resulted in a huge loss i.e. dozens of people were killed and 41 were kidnapped, said Bangish.

Two killed over minor dispute

Monday, May 09, 2011
Two killed over minor dispute

By our correspondent

PARACHINAR: Two persons were killed and another sustained injuries when two armed groups exchanged fire over a minor dispute in Balishkhel area of Kurram Agency on Sunday, tribal sources said. The sources said Maqbool Hussain and Muhajir hailing from Malikhel village opened fire on each other after an exchange of harsh words over a minor dispute near Malikhel security checkpoint. The sources said both were killed on the spot while an official of the political administration, Iftikhar Hussain, sustained injuries in the exchange of fire.

Pakistan asks Iranian minister to cancel visit

The Express Tribune 

Pakistan asks Iranian minister to cancel visit

Published: May 9, 2011
The minister was due to hold discussions on Pakistan’s alleged support to Jundullah.
Faced with enormous accusations, domestic anger and harsh criticism as a result of the Osama bin Laden episode, Pakistan has asked the Iran’s interior minister to cancel his trip to Islamabad, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar was due to arrive in Islamabad next week along with an official delegation, including his deputy minister, to discuss Pakistan’s alleged support to Balochistan-based Jundullah. Najar had a lengthy agenda that he was keen to discuss with top Pakistani leaders, including Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The matter of Pakistan’s alleged support to Jundullah had also come under discussion when Malik met his Iranian counterpart in Tehran last month.
Recently, relations between the two countries soured over a variety of issues ranging from Pakistan’s support for Manama’s Al Khalifa regime and decision to send manpower for Bahranian armed forces and police as one of the core issues.
Pakistan on the other hand is seriously aggrieved by Iran’s interference in Islamabad’s internal affairs, particularly its alleged role in instigating sectarian clashes in the Kurram Agency. Iran’s ambassador in Islamabad Masha’allah Shakeri was summoned by the ministry of foreign affairs last month to lodge a protest over Tehran’s unfriendly behaviour with Pakistani diplomats in Iran.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2011.

The Perfect Storm in Af-Pak

With the killing of Osama bin Laden, attention has shifted to the endgame in Afghanistan. But a persistent problem remains inside Pakistan: the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban. This homegrown terrorist organization swore war against the state when the army was sent into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) bordering Afghanistan. For the past eight years Pakistan has chosen to use its military to fight this insurgency, devoting some 150,000 troops and members of the locally recruited Frontier Corps and other community police to the mission. It has cleared areas in each of the seven agencies that comprise FATA only to find that the Pakistani Taliban resurfaces elsewhere. Even persistent U.S. drone attacks, one of which killed the founding leader of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud, failed to destroy the organization. If the battle against these terrorists does not improve, Pakistan faces a grim future, especially after the United States begins to exit from Afghanistan and funding for the fight for Pakistan declines, either as a result of general cut backs or because of differences with Pakistan over the Pakistani lack of vigor in battling Al Qaeda.
After the October 2009 invasion of the Pakistani Taliban's headquarters in the Mehsud territory of South Waziristan, the leadership, under Baitullah's successor Hakimullah Mehsud, was forced to flee to other parts of the FATA. Reportedly Hakimullah first went to the Orakzai Agency and may have moved elsewhere as military-clearing operations mounted in the region. Dislocation from his tribal base puts Hakimullah Mehsud at a disadvantage in the FATA's Pashtun culture, where he now must rely on the protection of his tribal hosts but he has also become more dangerous, since he has fixed his sights on coalition forces in Afghanistan and may also be liaising with Punjabi Taliban, who are entering the fight inside Afghanistan. Poor intelligence means that Pakistani forces cannot trace and then kill or capture Hakimullah on their own. Are they waiting or the U.S. drones to do their job?
The Pakistani Taliban comprises numerous local leaders, some of whom are new to their role, having usurped traditional tribal elders. Some are mere "tax collectors," living off transit fees or robbery. Others are involved in smuggling and transporting drugs. A few also allegedly operate as freelancers, paid by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency. But their loyalties keep shifting. A local saying is "you cannot buy a Pashtun, but you can always rent him!" They have a loose affiliation across the region and even with groups outside the FATA.
The Pakistani military maintains that it has cleared most of the FATA of these terrorists except pockets in the border between the Orakzai and Kurram Agencies, the Tirah Valley in the Khyber Agency that extends towards the Afghan border, and a sanctuary on the Kunar side of the Afghan border. Yet the war has not been won, nor is it likely to be anytime soon. Absent a broader and deeper involvement of the civilian side and the creation of jobs and opportunities in the FATA, as well as the political, social and economic integration of these tribal areas into Pakistan proper, the problem is likely to persist. A bigger issue may emerge if the Coalition Support Funds that currently sustain the Pakistani effort dry up in the wake of the contretemps following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistan does not have the budgetary resources or equipment to carry on the fight at the level and pace that it has up until now. Its army still has not created integrated units that would mimic the Provincial Reconstruction Teams or the National Solidarity Program that seem to work in Afghanistan.
Even more dangerous is the potential hookup of the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, including the Punjabi Sunni extremists. In the latter category are groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Jaish-e-Muhammad, who have participated in sectarian violence against the Shia Turi tribe in the Kurram Agency. Reports have surfaced recently that the Afghan Taliban leader Siraj Haqqani and his forces are moving into Kurram and trying to make peace between these warring sectarian groups. If Haqqani moves into the Parrot's Beak territory of Kurram that protrudes into Afghanistan, he would have a launching pad even closer to Kabul than his current base in North Waziristan.
Until recently, Pakistan's military has made deals with Haqqani and adopted a laissez-faire policy, allowing his forces to use North Waziristan as a sanctuary. In return, Haqqani has not attacked the army directly and has also allowed rations to be supplied to Pakistan's border posts—border posts that are designed to interdict movement across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The irony and contradiction of all this is glaring. What use are the posts if the people whom they are supposed to monitor and stop are the ones that allow the posts to be supplied?
Times may be changing. There are some reports from regimental-level officers in the territory that Haqqani forces or their allies have given sanctuary and support to escapees from South Waziristan, escapees who have attacked and killed army and Frontier Corps soldiers periodically. If true, the army may have good reason to want to push Haqqani back into Afghanistan. Thus far Pakistan has held off from moving against Haqqani for two reasons: first, his perceived usefulness as a bargaining chip in ensuring that there is Pashtun representation in an Afghan government after coalition forces withdraw; second, Pakistan does not have the force needed to effectively mount a cleanup operation. But as Pakistan talks directly with the Afghan authorities and reaches an understanding of what the shape of a Kabul government will be in years to come, it may find Haqqani more of a liability than an asset: he is known for his independence and likely will not follow Pakistani orders. Further, Pakistan is now moving forces from Swat and will have at least one extra division, if not more, to move into North Waziristan to supplement the seven division troops based there. If debate in the Pakistan military high command continues over what to do about Haqqani, it is possible that military action may occur. But the sorry state of U.S.-Pakistani relations may affect the timetable adversely. Among other things, the Pakistanis will be looking for signs of U.S. troop movement into the regional command opposite North Waziristan to indicate U.S. resolve to take on Haqqani in his own territory with more than just Special Forces. U.S. success may embolden the Pakistanis to act against Haqqani. But they will also be watching what happens in the overall allied effort in Afghanistan after this summer's deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Pakistan faces a more serious problem in the hinterland. There is no evidence of a strategy to take on the Sunni militants that are fighting the state nor outward-facing groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba. Even if Afghanistan settles down, Pakistan faces a long war for which it is not fully prepared. The result may be continuing instability inside Pakistan and creeping radicalization may become a reality in society at large and perhaps even infect the military over time. In nuclear-armed Pakistan, this may pose a regional and global threat to peace and stability. Pakistan needs to begin this fight at home. If it takes the first steps, the world may be able to help it. The alternative is unimaginable.