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Archive for May, 2008

Following yesterday’s breaking news story that the coalition government reportedly agreed to “expel” Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf from office, media outlets today reported that the Pakistani military and the Presidency moved to quell these notions. Although The News reported that Musharraf met with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Ashfaq Kayani at the Army House late Wednesday [PST], after which he reportedly “made up his mind” to quit the government, Reuters cited a statement issued by the military today, in which Kayani “regretted that a section of press is trying to unnecessarily sensationalize routine functional matters.” A spokesman for Musharraf also rebutted The News’ assertion that the president agreed to leave his official residence in Rawalpindi, noting, “Neither has there been any discussion of the president moving out of the President’s Lodge, nor is there any plan for him to do so.” His spokesman called the rumor that the army asked Musharraf to step down from power, “totally wrong.” Reuters noted, “Despite pressure from several sides to quit, Musharraf has sat tight and watched cracks develop in the new coalition over how to tackle him.”

The recent political speculation and rumors has had a drastic effect on the country’s stock market. Media outlets Thursday reported that the recent rumors that Musharraf was resigning from office were one of the reasons for falls of more than 4 percent on the Karachi Stock Market on both Wednesday and Thursday. BBC News reported today,

The country’s stock market has responded to this ongoing crisis by shedding nearly 3,000 points in trading in two months. The Pakistani rupee has also lost more than 10% value during the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the gap in trade balance has exceeded $10bn, due to a rising oil bill.

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari met with members of the Karachi Stock Exchange [KSE] in Islamabad on Wednesday, where he said the government “would focus on economic issues once the political issues are out of the way.” However, given the volatile nature of the economy and its detrimental ramifications for the country, one can only hope these political problems can be solved sooner rather than later.

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UPDATE [1240 EST]: The Associated Press cited statements by Farzana Raja, a spokesman for Asif Ali Zardari, who told the news agency that there was “no specific talk” of impeaching Musharraf in Tuesday’s discussions. The AP added, “She said her party wanted to avoid a confrontation with the presidency and was focused on a package of constitutional amendments that would strip him of the power to dissolve parliament and appoint top officials.” Meanwhile, Musharraf’s spokesman denied speculation that Musharraf was considering quitting, “talk that sent Pakistan’s stock market spinning lower Wednesday.”

Nawaz Sharif, the head of PML-N, announced today that Pakistan’s ruling coalition has agreed to “expel” President Pervez Musharraf from power. According to the AFP, Sharif said PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari agreed in talks on Tuesday to oust the president, telling reporters, “I have spoken with Mr. Zardari that we should throw him out to respect the mandate of the people of Pakistan, and he agreed yesterday to do so.” Speaking to “a charged crowd” in Lahore today, Sharif added, “Musharraf did not fulfil his promise to quit the presidency if people did not vote for his party.” Moreover, The News reported that the PML-N leader asserted the president should be “indicted on charges of treason,” adding, “There is no need for giving him a safe passage.” The AFP reported that Sharif made these statements amid chants of, “Hang Musharraf, hang Musharraf.”

A statement from the PPP or the Presidency on the development has not yet been issued. Although Zardari called Musharraf “a relic of the past” during an interview last week, he has not openly called for the president’s resignation. CHUP will continue to update this post as more updates come in.

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On Sunday, Pakistan’s acclaimed rock band, Junoon, performed in Srinigar, the summer capital of the Indian-administered region of Jammu & Kashmir, (J&K). The concert, organized by the NGO, the South Asia Foundation, was “also a part of celebrations held to mark the inauguration of the Kashmir Study Institute at Kashmir University,” reported BBC News. Junoon was the first international group to perform in the conflict-torn Kashmir in the past twenty years. However, the event sparked major controversy when leading Kashmiri militant, Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, urged the Pakistani government not to allow Junoon to travel to Srinigar. According to the BBC, “He argued that the performance would have a negative impact on the ‘disputed status’ of Kashmir and would send a wrong signal to the international community that ‘Kashmir was an integral part of India.’” An editorial in The News today also reported that the United Jihad Council opposed the performance for similar reasons. 

Despite this opposition and the reported death threats on the group members, Junoon performed some of their most famous songs for thousands of their screaming fans on Sunday.  Dawn quoted lead singer, Salman Ahmed, who told the crowd during the concert, “This is the 10-year-long tryst with destiny that today Junoon is with you.” Although a few Pakistani singers and musicians visited Kashmir last year, “the Sunday event was the first on a large scale,” noted the AFP.

The concert is significant given the violence and conflict that has plagued Kashmir, which has claimed more than 43,000 lives in the past two decades. Moreover, according to the AFP, such performances have been shelved since the outbreak of an Islamist insurgency in 1989, which greatly affected the region’s entertainment industry, “with the rebels targeting cinemas, liquor shops, video parlors and other sites deemed threatening to Islamic culture.” However, noted The News editorial, “…the message of peace, brotherhood and goodwill that dominates the Sufi tradition, and has been taken up by Junoon, is well-suited to the conflict-hit Valley of Kashmir today.” Junoon, which is well-known for raising awareness on issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to corruption in Pakistan, has already done a great deal to bolster Indo-Pak unity and understanding. Their concert on Sunday, noted the editors, “helped humanize the often faceless people of Kashmir and prove that their will does not necessarily coincide with that of the militants who see violence as the only means to achieve freedom for the territory and its people.” Goodwill measures like these, therefore, [see past posts CHUP has done on film diplomacy], should serve as an example to our countries’ governments, which should work in conjunction with such alternative roads of diplomacy in order to achieve a resolution on this issue. [Images from the AFP]

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The Pakistani government’s peace negotiations with Taliban-linked militants has faced hesitation from U.S., British, and NATO officials, who fear a ceasefire will only allow these forces to regroup and increase attacks on foreign troops located across the border in Afghanistan. This sentiment was further exacerbated when Tehreek-e-Taliban leader Beitullah Mehsud told reporters Saturday that their jihad would continue against these forces in Afghanistan, despite Pakistani authorities signing a 15-point peace deal with these militants in the Swat Valley last week, [see previous post]. Given the reported contention surrounding these developments, CHUP thought it important to talk with Farhana Ali, a Policy Analyst at RAND Corporation who has done extensive research on jihadist networks and religious extremism, and could therefore shed light on the recent string of events.

Q: News coverage of the negotiations between the government and Islamist militants has reported a “back-and-forth” in the process – from militants pulling out of the talks because authorities refused to pull troops out of the tribal areas to news sources recently reporting that a truce was signed with militants in Swat. Do you think such a peace agreement will last? What factors must be in place to ensure its success and differentiate it from past agreements?

Agreements like these have been “on and off” in the tribal areas/FATA and NWFP, but this is the first time an agreement was reached with tribals in the settled areas, a new trend. I think the agreement can hold if the government withdraws troops, and tribals stick to their word of mitigating violence and attacks against the army and/or government (i.e., hard targets). The ultimate point I make is that these agreements have always favored the tribal lords and their Taliban backers, who receive much more than the points enumerated in the press. Tribals always come out ahead in the negotiation process – they are allowed to assert their independence, their way of life / cultural norms, and most of all, uphold a rule of law that is amenable to their tribal/traditional structures, hence, weakening the government’s influence or ability to influence this area.

Q: What do you think about the part in the 15-point deal in which the government agreed to establish Sharia law in Swat Valley?

The 15 points that the government and tribals agreed to is in the favor of the tribal lords and ultimately, the Taliban. Through this deal, they are able to maintain their Sharia court and assert their own law and order. This is not startling after all there always had been Sharia court system, but never in Swat, a settled area. It is understandable in FATA, but to allow tribals affiliated or sympathetic to the Talibs impose their own legislation grants them enormous autonomy, which means this settled area and others like it will never fall under the government’s jurisdiction.

Q: The media has consistently framed the negotiations as “the authorities” who are talking with “Taliban-linked militants” or “Islamic militants.” Who are these militants and what networks do they encompass? More importantly, how centralized is their authority?

The authorities are representatives of the Pakistani Government and most likely defense/security officials. The militants are a kaleidoscope of groups/networks; they are not all hard-core militants nor all non-violent individuals. What is clear is that the militants all agree to a system of governance that falls outside the state’s purview and Constitution. The militants abide by a structure, law, culture, and even religious dogma that differs from Pakistanis not living in the tribal areas, which separates them from the average Pakistani. Bear in mind that there is and always has been three kinds of Taliban: Afghani, Pakistani, and Punjabi. They all converge on certain issues but also widely differ. And their leadership varies, ranging from local emirs in charge of given territories (i.e., villages), though there is a loose pyramidal structure (top-bottom approach) that can been seen in the form of a Jihad Counsel (for Kashmiri-based groups) and Shura Council (for Afghan/Pak-based Taliban groups).

Q: Can you shed light on the role of the Frontier Corps versus the Pakistani military? How are they recruited and have they been effective so far? Can their backgrounds be used to fight this battle and uphold a potential peace agreement more effectively?

Briefly, FC requires additional training, equipment, and most of all, motivation. They lack the latter, given their ethnic ties and loyalties to the people of the tribal region. Their effectiveness has waned in recent months, and can be witnessed through defections.

Meaningful peace in this region requires more than military might; there needs to be a political and economic solution that coincides with the use of force, which at this point is likely to be minimal, if at all, should the negotiations last. A political solution will empower the local people, grant them the ability to define and choose their leaders rather than live in a climate of fear and coercion. The Pakistani Army certainly has a role to play in the tribal region, though it is not clear at this point how and what kinds of operations will be sanctioned, in the new climate and under the new civilian leadership.

Another point worth mentioning is Washington’s hesitation, or rather, disappointment with Pakistan’s negotiations with tribals linked to the Taliban. There is great concern even from NATO that these alliances only allow militants to rearm, regroup, and recharge their networks, which over time, strengthens them.

Q: A recent Newsweek article noted that as the negotiation process has been occurring, “some U.S. counterterrorism officials fear their “worst nightmare” is unfolding: a scenario in which Al Qaeda leaders in the area will have more freedom than ever to recruit and train new members.” However, the administration is unsure how to approach the situation, especially given the anti-American sentiment in the region. Do you have any suggestions? What do you think of this U.S. fear – is it founded?

These fears are based on historical precedence; previous agreements- albeit a failure – enabled militants to maintain their sanctuary, secure their base of operations, and continue logistic activities. The current government’s willingness and desire to negotiate with the Taliban is a policy that the state deems necessary to quell previous levels of violence and attacks against the state. The concern some have is that negotiations with terrorists rewards their activities and sends the message that they are legitimate non-state actors. But, after eight years of military operations against the tribals/Taliban, Islamabad may feel that there is no other alternative but to negotiate on terms that are mutually acceptable to both parties.

What is not clear is if and how these negotiations will deter al-Qaeda and other groups from exploiting Pakistan’s culture of sanctuary.

A point of contention of course is who to negotiate with and what the terms of negotiation should be. As indicated earlier, I think the bargaining power rests with the Taliban and their cohorts (ie, tribal leaders sympathetic to the group). The government’s recent release of Taliban, including senior members, in exchange for Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan is one example of the militants’ bargaining power; the state denies this in press reports but there are other sources that confirm the exchange.

For more of CHUP’s past interviews, click here.

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Beitullah Mehsud, the head of the militant umbrella organization, Tehreek-e-Taliban, told a group of reporters on Saturday that their jihad would continue in Afghanistan, since “Islam does not recognize boundaries.” His announcement comes just days after Pakistani authorities and militants signed a peace agreement, [see previous post] in Swat. Although Mehsud emphasized his Taliban-linked militants would uphold this ceasefire, they would continue to attack foreign forces across the border. The AFP quoted the leader stating, “In the fight between Pakistani forces and Taliban, both sides are suffering, it should come to an end.”

Do these statements validate U.S. and NATO fears that Pakistan’s peace agreement will provide militants a base to launch attacks against foreign forces? Arguably so. However, the Tehreek-e-Taliban is technically upholding their end of the bargain, [despite a recently reported roadside bomb in Peshawar], which includes recognizing the government’s authority and halting suicide attacks. But today’s statement will nevertheless exacerbate Washington’s feelings towards this peace process. How should Islamabad respond? On Saturday, the Daily Times cited statements by PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who noted on Thursday that there “is a difference in opinion” between Pakistan and the United States on how to tackle the militant problem. Commenting on  Washington’s concern about the peace talks, Zardari emphasized, “People have had bad experiences in the past. So they are not acting out of malice, they’re acting out of past experiences… One has to find a better model. I refuse to believe that there is not a better model available.”

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On Thursday, Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, in an interview with the Press Trust of India, “launched a tirade” against President Pervez Musharraf, reported Pakistani news outlets. According to the Daily Times, Zardari called Musharraf “a relic of the past,” standing between the people of Pakistan and democracy “and there is tremendous pressure on the new government to ensure his ouster from office.” He added, “He has taken off his uniform thanks to the dialogue by my (late) wife (and former premier Benazir Bhutto) and the world pressure…But that does not make him into a democrat or a civilian president.” According to Pakistani news agencies, Zardari said he is under tremendous pressure to oust Musharraf from office, noting that the public was telling the PPP, “We don’t want bread, we don’t want electricity, but we want him out.”

Dawn quoted Zardari telling the PTI that the PPP was working to “come up with a liveable formula” for ushering in a full-fledged democracy because “after all that has happened, you cannot have an unelected and non-democratic president.” The PPP co-chairman was referring to the party’s constitutional package, which would provide Musharraf indemnity for his unconstitutional actions in return for his resignation, [see related post on the topic]. According to the Associated Press, “[Zardari] said his party would present the 62-point draft to the prime minister later Friday and send copies to partners in the seven-week-old coalition government.” On Friday, a piece in the Daily Times commented on this package, which media sources noted would “erase the legacy” of the president. The news agency noted:

Though the PPP government “publicly” claims that it wants a working relationship with the president, Asif Zardari’s comment that the ruling coalition has to abide by the wishes of the people who are against President Musharraf suggests that the Presidency and the government are at odds over the proposed constitutional package prepared by the PPP.

The Daily Times cited “insiders,” who say the package, which will also include amendments to restore the judges deposed by Musharraf and strip him of many powers, “would create an environment of hostility between the government and the Presidency.” Sure enough, media outlets reported that Musharraf has reacted strongly to Zardari’s statements yesterday, as well as to the package’s amendment that the will resign from office. According to The News, The Presidency has decided to end all backdoor contacts with Pakistan Peoples Party” following the PPP co-chairman’s remarks, and Musharraf will express these reservations to PM Yousaf Raza Gilani in a meeting today or tomorrow. Moreover, although media outlets previously reported that the president had been consulted on the constitutional package, a presidential spokesman dismissed these claims, adding there had been no contact between Musharraf and Zardari on the proposed legislation.

Therefore, it appears that Musharraf’s “safe exit” may not be as impending as news sources reported days earlier. Moreover, as the AP noted, observers predict the constitutional package “will quickly bog down in political horse-trading,” since constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority. So we may soon find ourselves back at square one – again. [Image from The News]

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 Following weeks of negotations, [see most recent post on the talks], Pakistan’s coalition government signed a 15-point peace deal with “pro-Taliban” militants in Swat Valley on Wednesday. The announcement garnered media attention today, and the Associated Press deemed the development, “a breakthrough for a policy that Western officials worry could take the pressure off Taliban and Al Qaeda hardliners.”  BBC News, in its coverage, reported that the provincial government in the NWFP agreed to pull troops out of the area “as the situation improves” and release prisoners, adding that authorities “say they will also allow the militants to impose Sharia law in Swat…” In return for the government concessions, the Associated Press noted, “Militants agreed to recognize the government’s authority, halt suicide and bomb attacks and hand over any foreign militants in the area.” They also reportedly agreed not to target girls’ schools, music shops and barbers, “all targets of the hardline militants who follow an interpretation of Islam echoing the 1996-2001 Taliban regime in Afghanistan,” the AFP reported. NWFP minister and committee member Wajid Ali Khan told the news agency today, “The agreement was signed today between the government committee and representatives of local Taliban. We are very positive that this agreement will end violence and ensure lasting peace in the region.”

The AP report underlined, “The deal is the first since a new government came to power promising to negotiate to end violence in the area.” However, the negotation process has faced opposition from U.S., British, and NATO officials, who have criticized previous Pakistan deals with militants, alleging they  led to an increase in suicide attacks on international and Afghan troops across the border. On Tuesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said the United States had advised Pakistan “not to negotiate” with militants, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “We have real reservations about negotiated agreements with extremists…There is a lot at stake here and we have made the point repeatedly.” Dawn reported the U.S. official “also indicated that Islamabad did not consult Washington before making the new peace move as the U.S. learned about it from the media.” However, following these statements, Negroponte assured Pakistan’s leaders that the U.S. opposition to the proposed deal “should not be seen as a rejection of the country’s democratic set-up,” noting, “We are now working equally hard with Pakistan’s leaders, including the moderate Awami National Party which won elections in the NWFP, to explore how we can help the new government of Pakistan extend the authority of the Pakistani state to the tribal areas.” So far, a U.S. statement following the signing of today’s peace agreement has not been released.

India and Pakistan flags

The aforementioned peace deal is actually the second agreement initiated by the newly elected government this week. On Tuesday, following two days of bilateral talks, Pakistan signed an accord with neighbor and long-time rival India, “granting greater access to prisoners in each other’s jails,” reported the BBC today. The News quoted Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who said “there would be positive progress on Sir Creek and Siachin soon and detailed discussions were also held on ways to relax visa [restrictions] and ‘to improve the environment’ between India and Pakistan.” Although “talks are progressing on a constructive manner on the issue of Kashmir,” there are still many issues to be discussed, reported the Associated Press. A follow-up round of talks is scheduled to take place in July.

Despite daily reports on the constant obstacles facing the ruling coalition, [see today's earlier post], it is both notable and somewhat refreshing that there can still be progress on other fronts, and that the issues facing Pakistan are not necessarily mutually exclusive. [Images from the BBC, AFP]

 

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On Wednesday, The News, quoting unidentified sources, reported that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf “has offered to resign in return for indemnity by parliament for his unconstitutional steps taken on November 3, 2007.” However, what exactly were these unconstitutional steps? According to The News, which cited “legal and constitutional experts,” there were three main steps taken by Musharraf – “The first was the removal of independent judges. The second was installing his own handpicked judges and the third was indemnifying the controversial and illegal National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).” This package, if approved, will potentially pave the way for what media outlets deemed as Musharraf’s “safe exit” from office.

The Daily Times quoted Law Minister Farooq Naek, who told Dawn News Tuesday that the Pakistan People’s Party “was preparing a draft constitutional reforms package and might consult the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and other parties after presenting it to the federal cabinet.” Naek also told Geo News that the package would also “balance the powers of the president and prime minister.” Bloomberg cited statements by party spokesman Farhatullah Babar, who said in a phone interview today, “The constitutional package is one of the most critical issues right now,” and will be discussed May 24. The news agency added, “The constitutional changes will cover the appointment and removal of judges, the work of the Election Commission and presidential authority.”

What has the PML-N reaction been to this indemnity discussion? Although Bloomberg noted that PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif would support coalition efforts to curb Musharraf’s powers, the Daily Times reported that party leaders “reacted strongly” to Naek’s comments on Wednesday. The news agency noted:

PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq and PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal told Dawn News that giving indemnity to Musharraf was not in the national interest…Farooq said the people of Pakistan had voted on February 18 against Musharraf’s policies and his unconstitutional actions, and offering him indemnity would be going against their wishes.

Should Musharraf be granted indemnity for his actions in November 2007? Although this move may not be the most desirable option, it would still essentially allow for his voluntary exit from office. That in effect could be viewed as more legitimate than forcing him out of power.

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Last week, media coverage in Pakistan was dominated by political developments following the PML-N resignation from the federal cabinet. While news outlets were in-depth in their coverage, I was curious to read the reactions of President Pervez Musharraf to these developments. How would he react to the PML-N exit and the speculations surrounding the future of the ruling coalition? Do these developments help his tarnished reputation or do they serve to villify him further? On Sunday, a feature article in the Washington Post assessed these very questions. Entitled, “Sidelined Musharraf Still Exerts Influence,” the Post’s Pamela Constable and Robin Wright wrote,

Bereft of his uniform, crucified in parliamentary elections and derided in graffiti as America’s pet dog, President Pervez Musharraf has virtually vanished from public life in the past three months…But even from the shadows, Musharraf’s presence has continued to influence the country he ruled as an army general from 1999 to 2007. The issue of whether he should remain in office has already divided the ruling coalition, eclipsed pressing national needs and revived conspiracy theories about American meddling in Pakistani affairs.

The coalition’s split over the judiciary issue has “generated talk of Musharraf as the political beneficiary, chortling at his adversaries’ failures and sensing a chance for political muscle-flexing if not rehabilitation,” Constable and Wright noted. Although virtually no one believes Musharraf will attempt another military coup or dissolve the newly elected Parliament – one can only imagine the public outrage if such a thing should occur – the reported “rift” within the coalition may “lessen the chances of his being impeached by Parliament or legally challenged by the former Supreme Court chief justice he fired last year,” the Post reported.

Do you agree with such an assessment? A Reuters blog on Sunday highlighted an analysis in the Daily Times by Hasan Askari-Rizvi, who suggested a split over the judiciary restoration issue could instead produce further backlash against Musharraf, “particularly given a pledge by the lawyers’ movement to hold a major protest on June 10 to champion the restoration of the judges.” Rizvi added, “The lawyers and many civil society groups are expected to start street protests for the restoration of the judges. Several political parties are also expected to join them…The movement will target the government, especially Musharraf, and Asif Ali Zardari.”

What do you think? Does Musharraf benefit from the reported divisions within this new government and the stunted progress of the judiciary issue? Will he still, as many analysts have predicted, prepare for a graceful exit or use a potential power vacuum for his political advantage? His press secretary, Rashid Qureshi was quoted by the Post saying that “the president’s only desire is to act as the constitutional president and see Pakistan move into a total civilian dispensation…[but as] things stabilize, the right time will come for him to move away and say goodbye.” Moreover, Constable and Wright asserted, “Although Musharraf may have reaped some temporary benefits – or at least some satisfaction – from the current tiff among his civilian adversaries, analysts said he has been permanently weakened by his heavy-handed actions last year and further diminished through his military retirement.” So what are your thoughts? Do you predict a graceful resignation from the former military leader or an attempt to seize power once again? [Image from Reuters]

 

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On Saturday, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan was freed unharmed after being held hostage for 96 days by suspected Taliban militants. According to the Associated Press, “Tariq Azizuddin disappeared Feb. 11 along with his driver and bodyguard as they drove from the Pakistani city of Peshawar toward the border. In a video aired April 19 on an Arab satellite channel [see video below], Azizuddin said Taliban militants had abducted them, [see past post for further details].” Although Azzizudin’s brother told outlets he did not know how authorities secured his release, The News reported that government sources “flatly denied there had been any deal whatsoever for the release of the ambassador.” Despite these claims, the news agency cited Taliban sources that said the envoy was released in return for the release of 12 Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.

An official told Dawn that Azzizudin’s last day before the release “was reportedly in Shaktoi, a small town in the Mehsud-dominated part of South Waziristan.” He insisted that Azizuddin’s kidnappers initially did not know who he was, telling reporters, “They just spotted a vehicle bearing a red registration number plate and thought that it was carrying someone important…It dawned on them later that the guy they were holding was an ambassador.” The ambassador remained with the Taliban over the 96 days, although the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the umbrella organization led by Beitullah Mehsud, denied it was holding him.

BBC News reported on the release in light of the rescue of two other foreign contractors, who were kidnapped near Herat, Afghanistan almost a month ago. The news agency noted, “Tariq Azizuddin said he had been released in the Pakistani tribal area of north Waziristan on Friday, but was vague about the identity of his kidnappers.” Moreover, despite the government denials noted above, the envoy said his release had been the result of a “chain of actions set about on the order” of the Pakistani prime minister and his government. Moreover, the BBC’s Barbara Plett noted that “informed observers” suspect Azzizudin was released as part of a prisoner swap in the midst of government-militant peace talks. [Image from AFP]

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