Pressure From U.S. Strains Ties With Pakistan

The New York Times
October 26, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Obama administration is putting pressure on Pakistan to eliminate Taliban and Qaeda militants from the country’s tribal areas, but the push is straining the delicate relations between the allies, Pakistani and Western officials say.

The Pakistani military’s recent heavy offensive in South Waziristan has pleased the Americans, but it left large parts of Pakistan under siege, as militants once sequestered in the country’s tribal areas take their war to Pakistan’s cities. Many Pakistanis blame the United States for the country’s rising instability.

When Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives in Pakistan this week, as she is scheduled to do, she will find a nuclear-armed state consumed by doubts about the value of the alliance with the United States and resentful of ever-rising American demands to do more, the officials said.

The United States is also struggling to address Pakistan’s concerns over the conditions imposed on a new American aid package of $7.5 billion over five years that the Pakistani military denounced as designed to interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

The Obama administration has endorsed the Pakistani Army’s recent offensive in South Waziristan, suggesting it showed overdue resolve. But it has also raised concerns about the Pakistani Army’s long-term objectives. How South Waziristan plays out may prove to be a bellwether for an alliance of increasingly divergent interests.

The special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, said Friday that the Obama administration would be trying to find out whether the army was simply “dispersing” the militants or “destroying” them, as the United States would like.

From the number of troops in South Waziristan, it was not clear that the army wanted to “finish the task,” said a Western military attaché, who spoke on the condition of anonymity according to diplomatic protocol.

The army would not take over South Waziristan as it had the Swat Valley, where the military is now an occupying force after conducting a campaign in the spring and summer that pushed the Taliban out, the officials said.

It remains to be seen how the campaign will play out in a region where the army has failed in the past, analysts said. The army has sent about 28,000 soldiers to South Waziristan to take on about 10,000 guerrillas, a relatively low ratio, according to military specialists.

In all, of the roughly 28,000 soldiers, there are probably about 11,000 army infantrymen, said Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier. Instead of a ratio of one to one, he said, the ratio should be at least five to one. Continue reading

Politics, not extremism, is to blame for Pakistan’s plight

Mosharraf Zaidi
Posted: October 26, 2009, 1:15 PM by NP Editor

“The most recent research demonstrates that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly against religious extremism, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and all related manifestations of violent expressions of political Islam.”

Every school, college and university in Pakistan is closed. The seemingly most impenetrable building in Pakistan, the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army has been breached, and breached emphatically. Mosques, police stations, hospitals, street corners, market places. Every imaginable area of public interaction in Pakistan has been targeted by terrorists. Oh and in case anyone  has forgotten, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated less than two years ago, ostensibly by the same terrorists that are now devouring Pakistan like a cancer.

In these desperate times, defining the conflict properly is of vital importance. One recurring theme in the English language press in Pakistan, and across the Western media, is the shaping of the current crisis as a war against religious extremism. This is erroneous at best, and disingenuous at worst. An irrational national discourse is not the same thing as the ascendancy of extremism. When we repeatedly shape the conflict as a contest between extremists and non-extremists (we should avoid the word moderate, given its enormous baggage), we validate and certify our approval of the Pakistani state’s utter incompetence and failure in dealing with crises that have been manufactured by its own stunted volition. The focus on extremism allows state machinery to easily escape any scrutiny or accountability for the horrific counter-terrorism, and law and order failures that have produced episode after episode of successful terrorist strikes. Continue reading

Glen Greenwald: Calling for greater religious strife with Islam

Monday Oct. 26, 2009 08:27 EDT

The New York Times today, in the form of Ross Douthat’s column, has published what could fairly be described as a call for a Christian religious war — certainly metaphorical and perhaps literal — against Islam.  Douthat praises recent efforts by Pope Benedict to recruit disaffected Anglicans back into the Catholic Church by dispensing with the last half-century’s practice of religions “being exquisitely polite to one another.”  Douthat claims — approvingly — that Benedict’s current recruitment efforts are grounded in “Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.”  Declaring Islam to be “Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe,” Douthat says that many Christians want confrontation — not accommodation, “conciliation,” or “appeasement” — with Islam, and thus may flock to the Catholic Church to get behind Benedict’s forceful denunciations of the faith of 25% of the world’s population:

Where the European encounter is concerned, Pope Benedict has opted for public confrontation. In a controversial 2006 address in Regensburg, Germany, he explicitly challenged Islam’s compatibility with the Western way of reason — and sparked, as if in vindication of his point, a wave of Muslim riots around the world.

By contrast, the Church of England’s leadership has opted for conciliation (some would say appeasement), with the Archbishop of Canterbury going so far as to speculate about the inevitability of some kind of sharia law in Britain.

There are an awful lot of Anglicans, in England and Africa alike, who would prefer a leader who takes Benedict’s approach to the Islamic challenge. Now they can have one, if they want him.

So, Douthat excitedly suggests, Anglicans may unite behind the Catholic Church out of eagerness to directly “confront” and denounce — rather than accommodate — Islam, which, the leader of this movement argues, is incompatible “with the Western way of reason.”  Increased attacks by Christians on Islam is supposed to be a good thing?  And is an institution which demands acceptance from its followers of “papal infallability” — and ingrains in them disturbed and warped sentiments about sex like this — really an ideal candidate to lead the crusade in defense of “the Western way of reason”?  How ironic that someone who is virtually calling for a worldwide religious conflagration is simultaneously condemning his targets for lacking “Western reason.”

It’s obviously true that some Islamic extremists are inherently incompatible “with the Western way of reason,” but that’s just as true of Christian extremists and Jewish extremists and a whole array of other kinds of extremists.  And some measures taken in the name of accommodating Islam are in tension with core liberties — just as laws enacted in order to impose Judeo-Christian dogma are.

But the claim that Islam itself — and the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims — cannot be accommodated by, or peacefully co-exist with, Western values or Christianity specifically is bigotry in its purest and most dangerous form.  It’s hard to imagine anything more inflammatory, hostile and outright threatening than a call for Christians of all denominations to unite behind the common cause of fighting against Islam as Christianity’s most “enduring and impressive foe.”  No more “conciliation” or appeasement.  What, exactly, does Douthat have in mind for vanquishing the Islamic menace from Europe?  What weapons will this “united Anglican-Catholic front” employ against its reason-hating enemy?  Which “accommodations” of Islam exactly should cease? Continue reading

US hits out at bid to bar religious defamation

By MATTHEW LEE (AP) – 10 hours ago

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is opposing efforts by Islamic nations to bar the defamation of particular religions, saying such measures would restrict free speech.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that attempts by Muslim and Arab states to push resolutions at the United Nations condemning insulting or offensive language and images directed at religions are misplaced.

Clinton says a person’s ability to practice religion is unrelated to another person’s right to free speech.

Her comments come as Islamic states press the U.N. Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution that would designate religious defamation a human rights violation

Pakistani women are worst hit by climate change

Pakistan 12th most vulnerable country to climate change, suffer disproportionately

By Bushra Khaliq


Pakistan is among the countries which will be hit hardest in near future by effects of climate change even though it contributes only a fraction to global warming. The country is witnessing severe pressures on natural resources and environment. This warning has recently come from the mouth of Pakistan’s prime minister in a recent statement. The PM[1] has alarmed the countrymen by disclosing that Pakistan is the 12th most vulnerable country in the world, to environmental degradation, would cost five per cent of the GDP every year.

Very few Pakistanis took such warnings serious. There is no media uproar, no popular movement and no political clamoring over the issue. Sad! The majority of the Pakistani policy makers have no time to think about the horrifying picture of the future, caused by the worsening climatic conditions. The country is busy fighting US-led war on terrorism and now almost trapped in a complex political quagmire where it has found itself fighting a war with itself. Therefore, very little time planners find to apprise the people of Pakistan on the repercussions of adverse climatic effects.

The climate experts in the country are hinting at severe water scarcity saying that water supply, already a serious concern in many parts of the country, will decline dramatically, affecting food production. Export industries such as, agriculture, textile products and fisheries will also be affected, while coastal areas risk being inundated, flooding the homes of millions of people living in low-lying areas. Continue reading