Thursday, 28 February 2013

Can Zardari defy US pressure?

I am among millions of Pakistanis who still believe that completing Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project will not be an easy task, especially because of the pressure from the United States. Though, the date for ground breaking ceremony has been fixed for 11th March the question is getting louder, can Pakistan defy US pressure?

According to media reports after a wait of almost two decades, the groundbreaking of $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline has been scheduled for 11th March on the Pak-Iran border by the presidents of the two countries. The ceremony will be held at Gabd zero point on the border from where the Pakistan section of the gas pipeline starts.
The pipeline issue is likely to bring Pakistan-US ties under renewed stress as Washington has been staunchly opposing the project.

“It’s in their best interests to avoid any sanctionable activity, and we think that we provide and are providing … a better way to meet their energy needs in some of the assistance we’re providing,” deputy US State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Wednesday.
In Tehran, President Zardari, while rejecting the US pressure, said “We deeply believe in boosting bilateral ties. The international and regional players have tried in vain to prevent expansion of Iran-Pakistan ties but the people have learnt how to act against the enemies of Islam.”

Experts seem clearly divided in two groups, one that believes that project will be completed in time and the other that says a project that has been on cards will remain an unfulfilled dream as the US has already started playing its mantra. The US is now following carrot and stick policy, rather than of dire consequences.

This change in the US strategy may have appeared because of the demand that Pakistan must be treated at par with India. It is on record that United States has agreed to provide India nuclear technology for civilian use as a reward for deserting Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline but not ready to offer the same to Pakistan.

The pressure is also mounting on the incumbent government to pull Pakistan out of proxy US war being fought in Afghanistan. Though, troops pull out has begun, there is overwhelming perception in Pakistan that a large number of combat soldiers along with armaments and other equipment would remain there in post 2014.

A positive point is that religious parties are extending support to President Zardari. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Chief of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) said Pakistan should not come under US pressure for abandoning the Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project as it is a sovereign country and has a sovereign right to sign bilateral agreement with another country.

Despite pressure from the United States and contrary to general expectation President Zardari reached Iran on two-day visit, met Supreme Leader and President of Iran and the two sides reiterate commitment to support each other for the welfare of their people.

The commitments included: 1) to vigorously pursue the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project as well as other major projects between the two countries, 2) to take full advantage of each other`s resources and expertise and 3) to working hand in hand in overcoming the challenges resulting from the emerging situation in the region.

President Zardari proposed a free trade agreement between the two countries, easing of visa restrictions and revisiting the tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. In fact the two countries together with Turkey enjoy the potential to provide fresh impetus to the ECO that would strengthen bonds among the people and promote trade and socio-economic development in the region. Greater cooperation can help in overcoming border security.

Iranian Supreme Leader said US$7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project must go ahead despite US opposition. Accessing safe energy sources should be the first priority Pakistan as Iran is the only country that not only offers safe energy resources but also ready to help Pakistan in overcoming looming energy crisis. These include financial assistance for the construction of gas pipeline and an oil refinery at Gwadar.

While the global and regional players have been using all sorts of tactics to stop the two countries from this project, the people have learnt how to coupe up with the opponents. Iranian President Ahmadinejad said building the gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan is a great and important event, and it serves the interest of both the nations.

Experts are of the consensus that external powers are trying their best to flare up animosity among Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan only to demolish Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline only to create justification for Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. Their best efforts are also to stop oil export from Iran to keep crude oil prices high in the global market.

While Pakistanis may appreciate the bold step of President Zadari, one of the opinions is that it is only an eye watch because the present assemblies will be dissolved shortly to ensure timely elections. Therefore, the fate of pipeline will depend on the next elected government. They ask, if the present government was serious, why it didn’t take such a step soon after coming into the power. They fear once the present government is gone the project will also go into the cold storage.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Syrian Rebels Supplied Arms by the US and its allies

From the very beginning apprehensions were expressed that Syrian rebels were getting arms from outside. The critics also said that after demolishing Syrian regime ‑ which enjoys cordial relationship with Iran ‑ the next target will be Pakistan and then Iran would be attached.

Some of the critics attributed this to ‘provoking anti US sentiments’ and alleviating Pakistan’s stature. However, the time has proved that this belief was right and that the rebels are fighting proxy war of United Sates in Syria.

According to a report published in The Washington Post rebel advances in Syria are being fueled by an influx of heavy weaponry by outside powers. The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent into the province of Daraa to support the groups fighting in the south.

The arms are the first heavy weapons known to have been supplied by outside powers to the rebels battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad against whom the uprising began two years ago. However, the rebels have remained mostly unsuccessful as the encounters spread over two years failed to yield any results.

According to The Washington Post, the officials declined to identify the source of the newly provided weapons, but they noted that those most closely involved in supporting the rebels’ campaign to oust Assad have grown increasingly alarmed at the soaring influence of Islamists over the fragmented rebel movement.

The supporters are believed to the United States and its major European allies, along with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two countries most directly involved in supplying the rebels. It is on record that security officials from those nations have formed a security coordination committee that consults regularly on events in Syria.

Although, the Obama administration continues to refuse to directly arm the rebels, the administration has provided intelligence assistance to those who are involved in the supplies, and it also helps vet opposition forces. Though US officials declined to comment on the new armaments but those who had followed uprising in Libya don’t rule out such an arrangement.  

It is believed that the objective of these renewed deliveries is to reverse the unintended effect of an effort last summer to supply small arms and ammunition to rebel forces in the north that was halted after it became clear that radical Islamists were emerging as the chief beneficiaries.

According to The Washington Post report Louay al-Mokdad, the political and media coordinator for the Free Syrian Army, confirmed that the rebels have procured new weapons donated from outside Syria, rather than bought on the black market or seized during the capture of government facilities, the source of the vast majority of the arms that are in the hands of the rebels. But he declined to say who was behind the effort.

Though, strict secrecy is maintained and even those receiving the weapons can’t say with certainty who is supplying these, it is widely assumed that the arms are being provided by Saudi Arabia, with the support of its Arab allies, United States and some European countries.

According to the report, despite full secrecy being maintained arms influx was publicized by Eliot Higgins, a British blogger who uses the name Brown Moses and who tracks rebel activity by watching videos rebel units post on YouTube.

In a series of blogs, he noted the appearance in rebel hands of new weapons that almost certainly could not have been captured from government arsenals. They include M-79 anti-tank weapons and M-60 recoilless rifles dating back to the existence of Yugoslavia in the 1980s that the Syrian government does not possess.

He also noted that most of the recipients of the arms appear to be secular or moderate Islamist units of the Free Syrian Army. In a sign of how organized the effort is, he said, one of the recent videos shows members of the local Fajr al-Islam brigade teaching other rebels how to use some of the new weapons.

The M-79 anti-tank weapons in particular appear to be giving the rebels new confidence to attack government positions and armor, said Jeff White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who says he also noted the unexpected appearance of the weapons in rebel videos several weeks ago.

The rebels have also been asking for anti-aircraft missiles to counter the government’s use of air power against their strongholds. But there has been no indication that they are acquiring those in significant quantities outside the few they have captured from government bases.

The real aim of the international effort is to provide the rebels with just enough firepower to pressure Assad into accepting a negotiated settlement but not enough to enable them to overthrow him.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Does LeJ aim at initiating civil war in Balochistan?

The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) has announced to stage more demonstrations on Sunday and blocking all major national highways linking Quetta to Karachi, Jacobabad, Taftan and Afghanistan.

This announcement came after at least seven persons were injured on Saturday when gunmen opened fire on a rally of the ASWJ at Liaquat Baazar, downtown area of the provincial capital.

Soon after the shooting, leaders and workers of ASWJ reached Civil Hospital Quetta and staged a sit-in to protest against the incident. Reacting to the incident ASWJ activists also blocked Jinnah Road.

According to some analysts selection of Quetta to stage a rally was aimed at challenging the Hazaras that ASWJ not only has the capacity to kill members belonging to the sect but also the courage that they can move around freely. This is evident from a picture placed on the website of Dawn newspaper.

The Hazara community on Saturday demanded that Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ) Chief Malik Ishaq be put on trial, a day after he was arrested following deadly sectarian attacks in Quetta. Ishaq, who leads the banned militant outfit, was held on Friday after two recent bombings in the southwestern city targeting the Shia Hazara and killing more than 180 people, sparking nationwide protests.

 “We have always been demanding arrest of all those involved in any act of sectarian violence, irrespective of their party affiliation,” said Abdul Khaliq Hazara, leader of the Shiite Hazara Democratic Party. “Ishaq must be brought to justice and punished for involvement in violence,” he added.

Ishaq, who has been arrested before, was released by a court on bail in July 2011, even though he has been implicated in dozens of murders. His latest arrest – which came a day after the Pakistani army denied any links to LeJ – should not be an “eye wash”, said Sajid Naqvi, leader of the Shia Ulema Council.

The LeJ leader said on Friday that he had been arrested in connection with the Quetta bombings. Earlier, he has been detained by authorities for one month a week after the banned religious outfit claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in Quetta killing over 90 people. Speaking to reporters prior to his arrest, Ishaq denied any involvement in the Quetta bombing or any such incident.

A spokesman for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in Punjab, Pervaiz Rasheed, confirmed the news and said Ishaq would be held for one month. “There were complaints against him, that he had been making provocative speeches in the past month,” he said. Interestingly he forgot to mention that LeJ has been accepting responsibilities of targeting Shias, particularly Hazaras.

Ishaq is said to be one of the founders of LeJ, which is accused of sectarian killings and has accepted claim of several attacks on the ethnic Hazara Shia population in Balochistan. According to police records, Ishaq was involved in more than 40 cases relating to sectarianism and terrorism in which 70 people, most of them Shias, were killed.

The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) has demanded of the federal government to convene joint session of the parliament to discuss the killings of ethnic Shia Hazaras in Quetta.

Addressing a press conference on Saturday, Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) Central Chairman Abdul Khaliq Hazara said, “We have buried more than 1,200 people during last few years,” He also claimed that the victims of targeted killings and suicide attacks also included a large number of women and children.

“We have always been demanding arrest of all those involved in any act of sectarian violence, irrespective of their party affiliation,” said Abdul Khaliq Hazara. “Ishaq must be brought to justice and punished for involvement in violence,” he added.

South Asia Media Summit in Islamabad

The two-day South Asia Media Summit (SAMS) initially scheduled for January was held this month amid much uncertainty and confusion. The Summit organized by All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) was graced by Prime Minister Raja Ashraf, despite his hectic schedule.

The delight was presence of Indian media tycoons, who managed to finally reach Islamabad, despite fog and closed roads. The summit was scheduled to take place last month but had to be cancelled due to sits in called by Tahir-ul-Qadri and those protesting against genocide of Hazaras in twin attacks in Quetta a few days in January in which around 100 Shias were killed. 

Organizers of the Summit once gain faced similar situation but finally emerged successful. The blast on 16th February killed another 100 Hazaras which once again led to sits in various cities, especially in Quetta where mourners refused to bury the killed unless their demands were met.

The SAMS aimed at dwelling upon challenges faced by main stream media in the emerging situation, due to enormous growth of digital and social media. One of the reasons is that mainstream media still suffers due to ‘policies’ either determined by the media owners or by the government.

In a rather suffocated environment digital and social media has emerged as safety valve. However, often issue of credibility arises, mainly because of armature handling and inexperience.The digital and social media still suffers from resource constraints and at times it has to also rely on main stream media.

It is believed that while there may be certain lessons for the main stream media, the difference in the mindset of Pakistani and Indian media owners and professionals often creates highly undesirable situations. Though, a lot of efforts are being made under ‘Aman ki Asha’ the ongoing process is often derailed on the smallest pretext, the latest being tension at LoC.

It is often that to reduce the tension between the two countries their economic interest should be integrated. There are two opinions; first that Pakistan gives MFN status to India that will pave way for the resolution of Kashmir issue, second that trade should not be allowed until resolution of Kashmir.

However, it is often said that media becomes subservient to hawks present on both sides of border. If Pakistani hawks insist on not granting MFN status to India, it is the reaction to the demand of Indian hawks who say’ “We will not allow another division of India on the basis of religion.

Though, India often blames Pakistan for providing safe sanctuaries for militants and cross border terrorism, similar allegations are also made by Pakistan. This statement of aggression mainly emerges because hawks present on both sides of borders often emerge stronger than the government. This attitude becomes too obvious when Indian channels initiate a campaign against Pakistan, which also try to respond in the similar manner.

India has emerged as ‘Big Brother’ in SAARC as many of its endeavors aim at proving itself a regional super power. While it is true that enormous size of India gives it the reasons to claim this position, at times it is felt that the United States is trying to create its own hegemony in South Asia by supporting India.

This perception gets come credence when one looks at the involvement of India in the construction of Chabahar port in Iran and rail and road links connecting the port to Central Asia via Afghanistan. While there is enormous pressure of United Sates on Pakistan not to buy Iranian gas, India has not been stopped from undertaking this billions of dollar investment in Iran, enduring economic sanctions for more than three decades.

It is true that geo politics often drives foreign policy and economic agenda of India and Pakistan but carrying a huge load of unresolved issues will not allow the two neighbors ‑ now atomic powers ‑ to benefit from the strengths of each other. Unless the prevailing mindset is not changed ‘Aman ki Asha’ will remain a far cry.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Pakistani politicians to discuss Taliban talks offer

Awami National Party (ANP), a coalition partner in the present government, has convened All Parties Conference (APC) on Thursday to deliberate on the Taliban offer for talks by Taliban.

It is expected that the moot will be attended by at least 26 parties. However Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamat-e-Islami (JI) have declined to attend the APC.

This APC, a brainchild of ANP, was being pursued following the assassination of senior ANP leader and provincial minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour in December 2012. Taliban had claimed the responsibility his killing.

It is expected that the mainstream political parties will try to come up with a consensus strategy to deal with TTP menace. According to ANP, the conference will be held in camera because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

Some experts say that some of the political parties are sympathizers of TTP, though they refuse to accept this. As they know that entire proceeding will be recorded they prefer to stay away from this.

According to ANP all the major parties, including the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, JUI-F and the MQM have accepted the invitation to attend the conference. It is regretted that JI and PTI had declined to participate in the event.

While JI refused to attend the conference, the PTI leadership even declined to meet the ANP delegation which wanted to extend the invitation.

Political pundits have termed the conference a significant development after TTP expressed willingness to hold conditional talks with the Government of Pakistan (GoP).

TTP spokesman had expressed the willingness to talks if PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and JI Amir Syed Munawwar Hasan acted as guarantors for the talks. Nawaz has welcomed the peace talk offer but refused to be a guarantor.

The GoP has appreciated the willingness of TTP to talks but urged it to announce a 30-day ceasefire as a precursor to peace talks. It is on record that TTP stepped up attacks in recent months.

“First there should be ceasefire and peace talks can be held only after it,” said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

“The nation has rejected the system of Taliban, this is voice of majority, come forward, announce a one-month ceasefire and then hold negotiations,” added Malik.

Some of the critics have rejected TTP offer and accused the authorities of appeasement in trying to broker peace with TTP in the past. They say such deals give militants time to regroup before launching further attacks.

As opposed to this some quarters had expressed fears that believe the recent attacks by TTP were creating fears that violence could mar general elections scheduled to take place by mid-May this year.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Growing Incidents of Violence in Karachi

According to media reports at least 15 more people lost their lives on Monday in the ongoing wave of violence in Karachi. These Killings have been reported from different parts of the metropolis having diversified ethnic and sectarian concentrations.

Indiscriminate killing in large numbers spread fear throughout the metropolis having a population of nearly 20 million or 10 percent of Pakistan’s total population. The city having two ports is termed the hub of industrial and commercial activities and shops and small businesses are shut down soon after the killing. Public transport also goes off-road.

On Monday the special investigation department of CID police has arrested three people including two alleged members of banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). According to police, those arrested were allegedly involved in several acts of extortions and targeted killings.

Those killed include four activists of the MQM and two policemen. A police official Syed Mukhtar Rizvi was killed apparently for sectarian reasons. He was posted in the headquarters of the security zone of the police organizational structure. A young man said to be a sympathizer of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat was shot dead. Bodies of two young men were found from a garbage dump in Abbas Town bearing torture marks and gunshot wounds. Police believe that the victims were killed somewhere else.

In the evening confusion surrounded an explosion near Qayyumabad Bridge near Karachi’s posh area when three different reports regarding nature of the blast surfaced. The explosion was heard from far distances and spread fear among residents of neighboring areas.

According to gas supplying company, Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) it was a cracker attack that affected walls of a sub-station but equipment installed there remained safe. As opposed to this, police sources said the explosion ripped through a gas pipeline near the Bridge injuring a policeman. Later, the bomb disposal squad of Karachi Police suggested that it was an act of terrorism. They said the planted bomb was detonated by a time device and around 200 kilos of explosive material was used in the blast.

The MQM, coalition partner at the federal and provincial levels has termed the increase in target killings and incidents of terrorism in Karachi part of a well-planned conspiracy and called upon the country’s leadership to take effective steps for protecting the life and property of citizens.

One can still recall that MQM chief Altaf Hussain had forewarned about the threats when terrorists started making Karachi a center of their activities. At that time, other political and religious parties denied the reality. They alleged that the MQM wanted to frighten the people and it was talking against a particular community. Now media reports highlight that many areas in Karachi had become places similar to Waziristan where even law-enforcement personnel could not enter.

The general perception in Karachi is that while leaders of political and religious parties have been criticizing the Sindh Government over the incidents of terrorism and target killings they are not ready to talk openly against elements responsible for violence, bloodshed and terrorism in Karachi.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Withdrawal of Nato Troops from Afghanistan

The much awaited withdrawal of Nato troops has started. The first phase of withdrawal from Afghanistan began on Sunday with the entry of 25 containers into Pakistan. Security sources confirmed that the Convey would be provided with routine security for its journey from Torkham to Karachi. Custom officials also confirmed that several containers were examined and cleared after these entered into Pakistan.

US General, Joseph Dunford has assumed command of Nato forces in Afghanistan on Sunday, He took over the charge from General John Allen as the coalition prepares to withdraw the bulk of combat troops by next year. Marine General Dunford will likely be the last commander of the United States’ longest war. He has been entrusted the enormous task of taking the combat soldiers along with their equipment back home after more than 11 years and overseeing the transfer of Afghan security duties to local forces.

With the commencement of withdrawal two other more pressing issues also need resolution; on top of the agenda is release of Taliban. Pakistan has agreed to give a formal role to Afghan High Peace Council in the release of remaining Taliban detainees. Pakistani authorities would consult the Council through a new coordination mechanism being put in place before setting more Taliban prisoners free. The new mechanism gives a say to the Council about who should be released for being useful in the peace and reconciliation process.

It has been agreed between Pakistan and Afghanistan to put in place arrangements to strengthen coordination of Taliban detainee releases from Pakistani custody in support of the peace and reconciliation process. Pakistan has already released 26 Taliban. Those released included some high-profile Afghan commanders and political leadership of the Taliban regime.

“We would send lists of Taliban prisoners that we intend to release to the Afghan High Peace Council which would comment on the names in those lists,” Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

However, rather odd situation seems to prevail with regards to CIA-operated drone attacks. The Senate Committee was told that Pakistan could not afford to shoot down US. “We cannot bear the fallout of shooting down drones,” said Jilani while listing the options available for Pakistan to deal with US drones violating Pakistan’s airspace.

He said Pakistan’s policy for dealing with drones is two pronged — reiterating the policy position that drone strikes were counter-productive and a violation of international law; and holding talks with the US for getting them stopped. But, he underscored that the best possible option for Pakistan was to rid its tribal areas of all foreign militants.

“We need to have a comprehensive policy for expelling all foreign fighters having sanctuaries in Fata,” Jilani said. His views were endorsed by Senator Mushahid Hussain who said the presence of foreign fighters gave excuse to other countries to violate our sovereignty.

Pakistan estimates that some 1900 — 3000 people have been killed in US drone attacks. Chairman Foreign Affairs Committee Senator Haji Adeel noted that there were about 473 Pakistanis among those killed by drones. He said that relationship of Pakistani victims with the targets of the drones was not clear.

Another dimension is that the former commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal said that there was widespread resentment against drone strikes in Pakistan. Earlier he had said that US drone strikes were “hated on a visceral level”. 

He warned that too many drone strikes in Pakistan without identifying suspected militants individually can be a bad thing. He asked the Americans how they would react if a neighboring country like Mexico started firing drone missiles at targets in Texas.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Should Pakistan negotiate with TTP?

According to media reports Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has expressed willingness to talk to the Government of Pakistan (GoP) and has set two conditions for the talks. It has blamed the GoP for not taking earlier ceasefire offer seriously.

The TTP spokesman expressed lack of confidence over the military but expressed willingness to talk if Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Munawar Hasan, and Nawaz Sharif came forward for being the guarantors.

The second condition is release of three of its militants, Muslim Khan, Haji Umar and Maulana Mehmood. While there are suggestions that the GoP should start negotiations some quarters strictly oppose this because they consider TTP a collection of mercenaries working against Pakistan and killing Pakistanis. They also don’t accept them as Mujahedeen fighting against foreign occupiers in Afghanistan but their accomplice.

When TTP spokesman Ehsnaullah Ehsan talked to media at an undisclosed location near Pak-Afghan border in this video released on February 3, 2013, the prime convict in the Pervez Musharraf attempted suicide attack case; Adnan Rashid was sitting beside him. One can recall Adnan Rashid was freed by TTP fighters during the Bannu Jail break in July last year.

Analysts term TTP a cluster of various militant groups and their stated objectives are: 1) assault on Pakistan and its Army, 2) enforcement of their interpretation of Sharia and 3) a plan to unite against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. It is often believed that the TTP is not directly affiliated with the Afghan Taliban movement, with both groups differing greatly in their histories, strategic goals and interests, although both belong to the Deobandi sect.

The TTP is at war with Pakistan Army in the tribal belt but has lately extended its operations to urban areas of Pakistan. TTP's main group consists of fighters and commanders who never took part in war against USSR or Nato in Afghanistan but they started their actions against Pakistan Army.

It is often alleged that they gets funds and arms from external source. They have started their activities near Durand Line but their main target is Pakistan not the occupying forces in Afghanistan. It is also alleged that their target is nuclear assets of Pakistan because TTP is contently keeping Pakistan Army engaged and distracting its attention from Indian border.

According to some experts about a hundred thousand Pakistanis have been killed or wounded and nearly 10,000 men in uniform martyred but TTP has been pushed back into Afghanistan from where they are now launching their operations against Pakistan. Experts have the consensus that TTP is a group of terrorists and it has no links or relations with Afghan resistance groups fighting against Nato-led forces.

Some analysts believing in conspiracy theories openly accuse that they are getting arms and funds from India and America. They even go to the extent of saying that CIA is killing leaders of Afghan resistance groups through drone attacks or through TTP. Therefore, TTP is not eligible for negotiations. Instead it must be weeded out completely else it will regroup and attack Pakistan with renewed power. TTP will actually do what the ‘godfathers’ will tell them to do.

TTP has been attacking mainly strategic installations in Pakistan and destroying equipments which have been procured at very high cost. They attacked PNS Mehran and destroyed AWACS planes which are very important for Pakistan’s maritime security. They attacked Peshawar Airbase and targeted fuel tanks there which were designated for fighter aircrafts for negotiating any aerial threat from West. They even attacked GHQ of Pakistan Army.

In Pakistan, they recruited many tribal and Punjabi youngsters in the name of Jihad but are now using Tajiks and Uzbeks for their operations against Pakistan. It is believed that Tajik and Uzbek fighters are being supplied by India operating military bases in Tajikistan. These bases are located just a few kilometers away from Uzbek border inside Tajikistan.

It is believed that TTP does not feel comfortable in Afghanistan. It fears after the withdrawal of Nato-forces from Afghanistan, Afghan resistance groups will try to eliminate them because they had caused huge damage to them.

 In a May 2010 US General David Petraeus described the TTP's relationship with other militant groups as difficult to decipher: "There is clearly a symbiotic relationship between all of these different organizations: al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi. And it's very difficult to parse and to try to distinguish between them. They support each other, they coordinate with each other, sometimes they compete with each other, [and] sometimes they even fight each other. But at the end of the day, there is quite a relationship between them."

Another offshoot of the TTP is The Tehreek-i-Taliban Punjab, alternatively called the Punjabi Taliban. It is also said to be a loose network of members of banned militant groups based in South Punjab. Major factions of the Punjabi Taliban are said to be Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and Jaysh-i-Muhammad. It has increasingly provided the foot-soldiers for violent acts and has played an important role in attacking Ahmedi, Shia, Sufi and other civilian targets throughout Pakistan.

The bottomline is that the mercenaries may wear different caps but their objective is common, plunging Pakistan into anarchy. These groups are getting funds and arms from outsides and hire ruthless people to kill and sabotage.

The time has come to weed them out without the slightest consideration that they are Pakistanis. The outlaws deserve no mercy, especially because they have been killing the innocent and helping Pakistan’s enemies to achieve their ulterior objectives.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

India overreacting on Gwadar port issue

India seems to be suffering from a tendency of making unnecessary hue and cry on any action taken by Pakistan, even if it is purely of commercial nature.

This point was proved once again when Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony said, “China's role in operating a strategically important port in Pakistan is a matter of concern for India”.

However, Salman Khurshid, Indian Foreign Minister later tried to pacify by saying there was no need to overreact to Pakistan’s transferring the management of Gwadar port to China from Singapore.

"I don't think we should overreact to everything that Pakistan does or everything that China is involved in. We need to take these matters in our stride and in the normal course," said Khurshid. He added, "There is a delicate balance in the entire region and I think none of us should be doing something which will upset that balance."

Transfer of management control of Gwadar port to China has become matter of concern India because it considers the port, which is close to the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane will open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China. India also believes that China will get the capacity to deploy its forces in the region.

To be honest, transferring control of Gwadar port to China should be of no concern to India, it is Pakistan’s prerogative. The country signed a deal with Singapore that didn't work out as desired. Singapore's PSA International and the Chinese have settled the deal amicably and give no opportunity to any country to even discuss the issue.

China has already made clear that Gwadar is a commercial project and part of longstanding bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Historically, China has been supporting Pakistan to overcome its economic woes, especially in the areas Pakistan faces opposition from the United States.

It is pertinent to mention that the United States refused to treat Pakistan at par with India when the question of transfer of nuclear technology for civilian use came. India was given this technology as reward for not participating in Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

It is also on record that the United States has not stopped India from constructing Chabahar port in Iran and also the rail and road link up to Central Asia passing through Afghanistan. Chabahar port is located even closer to the Strait of Hormuz.

Experts are of the consensus that the United States has been busy in creating its hegemony in South Asia and MENA (Middle East and North Africa). To achieve this it has joined hands with India and promoting its as regional super power.

Construction of Chabahar port is aimed at undermining importance of Pakistan and especially Gwadar port. India is often alleged of supporting rebel groups of Balochistan, which are demanding transferring control of Gwadar port to the provincial government.

A lot of money is required to make Gwadar port efficient and cost effective and the provincial government does not have the funds. It must be recalled that China has extended funds and technical support in the contraction of this deep sea commercial port and also willing to extend more funds, may be this is not liked by India and United States.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Kashmir Can Initiate Third World War

Since 1990 Kashmir Solidarity Day is being celebrated on 5 February every year as a day of protest against Indian occupation of Kashmir. Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is a disputed territory and its final status must be determined by the people of Kashmir. Certain Kashmiri groups believe that Kashmir should be independent of both India and Pakistan. But the resolution seems difficult because both India and Pakistan consider Kashmir their lifeline and are not ready to abandon it at all.

One of the apprehensions is that the third world war will be fought on water and this time it will not be in any other continent but Asia, and most probably in Kashmir. Since independence India and Pakistan have fought three wars and all of these were ignited because of Kashmir, a thorn British Raj had left when it decided to quit the subcontinent.

Some say the Raj couldn’t decide the fate of Kashmir but the growing perception is that it was not on the agenda. The Raj wanted to leave a permanent point of conflict for the newly independent states so that at no stage these two countries even think about cooperating with each other. In fact the Raj was right that this permanent conflict will neither allow these countries to become an economic power. In fact these would become the biggest buyers of armament and the history has proved the Raj was right.

Over the years India has been saying that Kashmir is its integral part and the latest stance it ‘we will not allow another division of Hindustan on the basis of religion’. They even go to the extent of saying that division of India on the basis of religion in 1947 was wrong. In fact the followers of extremist Hindus believed that Pakistan would not survive beyond a few months and also made efforts to weaken Pakistan on one or the other pretext.

 The Kashmir issue has not only resulted in three wars but the countries have been spending billions of dollars annually on procurement of conventional and non-conventional arsenal. Since the two countries have attained the status of atomic powers world leaders have been stressing the need to resolve the Kashmir dispute to avoid an eventuality that may cause a catastrophe in the region. Kashmir is the nuclear flash point of Asia, surrounded by three nuclear powers.

India has been saying that Kashmir is its integral part, though the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, stated after the 2010 Kashmir Unrest that his government is willing to grant autonomy within the purview of Indian constitution to Kashmir if there is consensus on this issue. Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is the disputed territory and its final status must be determined by the people of Kashmir. China states that Aksai Chin is a part of China and does not recognize the addition of Aksai Chin to the Kashmir region. Certain Kashmiri independence groups believe that Kashmir should neither be a part of India nor of Pakistan but should be given an independent state.

In 1989, a widespread popular and armed insurgency started in Kashmir. This resulted in the formation of militant wings and beginning of the Mujahadeen insurgency, which continues to this day. India contends that the insurgency was largely started by Afghan Mujahadeen who entered the Kashmir valley following the end of the Soviet-Afghan War. Yasin Malik, a leader of one faction of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, was one of the Kashmiris to organize militancy in Kashmir. Since 1995, Malik has renounced the use of violence and calls for strictly peaceful methods to resolve the dispute. He developed differences for shunning the demand for an independent Kashmir.

India claims these insurgents groups get support from Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Afghanistan. They claim Pakistan is supplying munitions to the terrorists and training them in Pakistan. India states that the terrorists have been killing many citizens in Kashmir and committing human rights violations but don’ accept that their own armed forces are responsible for extra judicial murder of thousands of Kashmires and worst abuse of human rights.

Kashmir, as disputed territory between India and Pakistan, is one of the most militarized places in the world. Decades of violence and brutality have divided Hindu and Muslim communities, forcing over nearly half a million people to flee their homes. Military convoys and soldiers armed with AK-47 rifles on the streets are a common scene.

India holds that the Instrument of Accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India, signed by Maharaja Hari Singh (erstwhile ruler of the State) on 25 October 1947 and executed on 27 October 1947 between the ruler of Kashmir and the Governor General of India was a legal act. It says that The Constituent assembly of Jammu and Kashmir had unanimously ratified the Maharaja's Instrument of Accession to India.

India does not accept the two-nation theory that forms the basis of Pakistan and considers that Kashmir, despite being a Muslim-majority state, is an integral part of India. The common accusation is that insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir is being fueled by Pakistan. The Government of India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of waging a proxy war in Kashmir by providing weapons and financial assistance to terrorist groups in the region.

Pakistan accuses India of hypocrisy, as it refused to recognize the accession of Junagadh to Pakistan and Hyderabad's independence, on the grounds that those two states had Hindu majorities. In fact, India had occupied and forcibly integrated those two territories. Pakistan asserts that the Maharaja held no authority in determining Kashmir's future. Pakistan argues that even if the Maharaja had any authority in determining the plight of Kashmir, he signed the Instrument of Accession under duress, thus invalidating the legitimacy of his actions.

Pakistan says: 1) the popular Kashmiri insurgency demonstrates that the Kashmiri people no longer wish to remain within India. Pakistan suggests that this means that Kashmir either wants to be with Pakistan or independent. 2) According to the two-nation theory, which is one of the theories that is cited for the partition that created India and Pakistan, Kashmir should have been with Pakistan, because it has a Muslim majority. 3) India has shown disregard to the resolutions of the UN Security Council and failed in holding a plebiscite to determine the future allegiance of the state.

Experts say that the real reason for the dispute over Kashmir is water. Kashmir is the origin point for many rivers and tributaries. The river basin is divided between Pakistan, which has about 60 per cent of the catchment area, India with about 20 per cent, Afghanistan with 5 per cent and around 15 per cent in China. The river tributaries are the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, which primarily flow into Pakistan while other branches—the Ravi, Beas, and the Sutlej—irrigates northern India. The Kashmir dispute and the dispute over the water control are somehow related and the fight over the water remains as one of the main problems when establishing good relationships between the two countries.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

US buying Iranian oil suspected

There is consensus that super powers violate globally agreed policies, when their own interest is at stake. Though, one can come up with a long list of such policy violations, stories of world’s leading economies defying economic sanctions imposed on Iran have started appearing as headlines in global media.

The latest story publish in Eurasia Review has raised suspicions that even United States, the mastermind of these sanctions was involved in buying Iranian oil. The expected copybook reply could be “We placed order with an exporter and were not aware that the load was blended with oil of Iranian origin.”

Eurasia Review report says, “There is a high probability that US sanctions against Iran have been violated by its own army. Part of the $1.55 billion in fuel the US bought from Turkmenistan for the Afghan army in the last five years may have originated from Iran.”

A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has also suggested that “despite actions taken by DOD to prevent the purchase of Iranian fuel with US funds, risks remain that US economic sanctions could [have been] violated” from 2007 to 2012.

The suspicion rises because most of the fuel being used in Afghanistan comes from neighboring Iran. Because of the US sanctions on Tehran restricting the trade of Iranian oil and petroleum products, the ISAF has been required to abide by the regulations and buy petrol from eight Afghan-owned companies that deliver petroleum from Turkmenistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan is a major regional oil producer, which also sells petroleum products made in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and even Iran. Petrol vendors in Turkmenistan use flexible supply schemes, meaning that fuel of various origins could potentially be blended together.

In response SIGAR report, the US Embassy in Kabul stated “It is possible that if blending is taking place in Turkmenistan it could contain some Iranian fuel,” but refused to admit that fuel imported from Russia could also be blended with Iranian fuel prior to its export to Afghanistan.

It is believed that suppliers are unlikely to blend Iranian fuel, or any other product, with other sourced fuel because of the potential that blending could cause product deviation from specification standards and potentially cause a rejection of the entire shipment, said the Embassy.

A Reuter report says the US believes that the most common trick Iran uses to dodge sanctions is ship-to-ship transfers (STS), in which large tankers leaving Iran’s ports offload Iranian oil to smaller vessels. Then, the Iranian oil is blended with that of another country to disguise it. After that, new shipping documents are issued, giving the blended oil shipment a new identity.

One can still recall that when restrictions were imposed on buying oil from Iran many countries were exempted only to save their economies from sudden and grave shocks. Some of the countries are still buying oil from Iran.

In the recent past Iran was OPEC’s second largest oil producing member, exporting 2.2 million barrels oil per day. The economic sanctions have more than halved oil exports to 890,000 barrels by September 2012.

However, Iranian crude oil exports once again rose to 1.4 million barrels per day lately. Most of this oil was bought by three leading Asian economies; China, India and Japan, where demand for energy has been on the rise. The expansion of tanker fleet by Iran has also helped it to export more oil.