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Posts Tagged ‘Security’

Bye Bye Raymond Davis

AP/NYT

The now infamous case of Raymond Davis ended Wednesday, when the American, who was indicted Tuesday for murder, was released after he reached a settlement to compensate the victims’ families. According to the NY Times, “After meeting with the American officials for more than six hours at the jail where the contractor, Raymond A. Davis, was held, the families accepted the money, ending the case.” According to Al Jazeera English’s Kamaal Hyder, under Sharia law, “when blood money does change hands and the family agree to drop charges, the court has no other option but to let the man go.”

Nevertheless, speculation is abound. Hyder, in his report, added, “But the family is not to be seen anywhere near their house, raising speculation that part of the deal was to settle the families in the U.S.” Moreover, according to the lawyers of the families, they were “forcibly taken to Kot Lakhpat Jail by unidentified men and made to sign papers pardoning Davis.” The lawyer, Asad Manzoor Butt, was quoted by the NY Times saying he was prevented from speaking to his clients all day and was warned not to speak to the news media.

Ultimately, though, the families did accept the blood money, or diyat, meaning that the courts had no choice but to release Davis. Punjab Law minister Rana Sanaullah told private television, “The family members of the slain men appeared in the court and independently verified they had pardoned [Davis].” And, while sources vary slightly on the blood money amount, (ABC News reported that $700,000 was paid to each family, totaling around $1.4 million, while Dawn reported the amount was $2.35 million), it is clear that this case is over. Raymond Davis has already left the country. The family, regardless of how they came to the agreement, accepted the settlement. The courts cannot do anything more, and frankly, neither can we.

Was this case shady? Of course. I have no doubt that there was some back-end wheeling and dealing by both U.S. and Pakistani officials to reach this conclusion. It was in the interest of the Pakistani government to not be seen as cow-towing to U.S. pressures to release Davis under diplomatic immunity. It was in the interest of the U.S. government to get Raymond Davis out, whatever the financial and diplomatic costs. So they both got their wish, didn’t they? Davis was indicted for murder charges yesterday, and he was swiftly released today after paying off the families of the men he killed in cold blood. But this was not justice, and really, it didn’t fool anyone. As Joshua Foust noted very succinctly at Registan,

What’s terrible about this outcome is, now there will be no justice in the Raymond Davis case. The best solution would have been for the Pakistani legal system to allow Davis to be extradited on the condition he be charged with murder in the U.S., and allow that trial to proceed away from the burning effigies and chants for his lynching. Unfortunately, both sides dug in their heels—first when Pakistan decided to reject the U.S.’s claims to Davis’ immunity, and then when President Obama called him “our diplomat in Pakistan” (which was clearly untrue). As both countries went further down these paths, the rhetoric became worse and worse until it seemed the two countries were heading toward a serious standoff. And now, since charges were brought and dropped, because the families of the victims have forgiven Davis, there will be no trial, and no justice.

So Raymond Davis is gone. But given the escalation of this case in the past month, I very much doubt the controversy will be completely over.

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Image Credit: Ishtiaq Ahmed via Flickr, a police parade in Lahore

Image Credit: Ishtiaq Ahmed via Flickr, a police parade in Lahore

In the last several years, Pakistan has seen an increase in violence – ranging from suicide bombings to armed attacks. A frequent target of these attacks has been the country’s police force – in March, 13 people were killed and more than 100 were injured when gunmen attacked the Manawan police academy near Lahore. Just last week, at least 18 officers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a police training center in Mingora. Aside from these dangers, Pakistan’s police force – despite being the country’s first line of defense – are generally underpaid, undertrained, and underappreciated. As a result, it may not be the go-to career for many Pakistanis. Or that’s what I thought until I met Qasim Tareen, a well-educated young Pakistani who recently left a career in journalism to take the Central Superior Service (CSS) exam and join the police force. Below, Qasim explains his decision and provides some interesting insight into Pakistan’s police:

Q: According to Hassan Abbas, a former police officer in Pakistan who is now a research fellow at Harvard University, militants have killed about 400 police each year in suicide bombings, assassinations, and other heinous crimes since 2005. Given this fact, what propelled you to pursue this career field? Did your family support your decision?

You could say that the danger faced by Pakistani Police was what motivated me to pursue a career in the police service. I mean if the police, those responsible for upholding the law and protecting common citizens, were not safe in Pakistan, what chance did my family and I have? Law and order are two words you hear a lot in Pakistan, especially after violent terrorist attacks have wreaked havoc across the country in recent years. If i am not mistaken, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently said that approximately 15,000 Pakistanis have been killed in more than 3,000 various terrorist attacks since 2001. Just the other day, headlines about police cadets in Mingora being the latest victims of a suicide bomber glare at and remind me about the importance of police in Pakistan. Only last month, I remember reading about how volunteers for police duties in Mingora and Swat had far exceeded the requirement. People of Swat volunteered for police service even though they were well aware of the risks involved in taking on terrorists. That says something about a people who have been widely neglected by the rest of the country. And it only makes me more determined to at least attempt to provide a vital and much needed service in a place I like to call home, a luxury the people of Swat did not have for at least four months this year, when they became refugees in their own country.

My decision to pursue a career in the police force did not come as a shock to my family as both my mother and father come from military backgrounds. My mother was not in the army but her father and her brother were. My father, two of his younger brothers and their father were all in the army. So the concept of providing security to others was not something they had a hard time understanding.


Q: What is the process like for someone like you who decided to join the Pakistani Civil Service versus someone who decides to just sign up for the Pakistani police force? Is there a singular ideology or rhetoric that exists and unifies the police force?

From what I understand, there are a two ways of joining the police service of Pakistan. You could walk into a police station and volunteer, after which you are tested and trained, and begin at the rank of a constable. Second, you can take the annual Central Superior Service (CSS) exam, for which there is an age limit of twenty-eight years, an educational prerequisite of a college degree, and a maximum of three attempts (further details are available at http://www.fpsc.gov.pk). After taking the CSS exam and interviews, if you are lucky enough to be selected by the Federal Public Service Commission for police service, you jump start your career as a seventeen grade federal officer with the rank of Assistant Superintendent. There is a third way but that only applies if you are in the army. The army has a fixed quota in the police service.

As far as unity within the police force is concerned, in my inexperienced opinion, there is little unity within the service. From what I have studied, the structure of the Pakistani Police Service essentially remains unchanged from the time of the British. They used police as money collectors and strongmen. Pakistani Police Service is two pronged; one part is made up of constables all the way up to Station House Officers (the notorious S.H.Os) the other part is made up of only officers, starting from Assistant Superintendents all the way up to Inspector Generals (or Capital City Police Officers, CCPOs). There seems to be little unity between these two parts, so much so that it is widely believed that SHOs are much more influential than Inspector Generals, even though they are much junior in rank. Mostly because SHOs are directly involved in law enforcement operations while Inspector Generals and other high ranking officers have more of a disconnected managerial role in law enforcement. Unity among police officers is fractured further between ‘Rankers’ and CSS inductees. Rankers, police officers who have started from low ranks and worked their way up the rankings, resent officers who have been inducted right from the start as Assistant Superintendents after taking the CSS exam. The division between these officers is so marked that Rankers who may be at the same rank as a CSS inductee wear different uniforms. Their rank badges are designed differently and Rankers will wear black belts and boots and CSS inductees wear dark brown belts and boots.

This wide gap between the lower ranks and senior officer ranks has not helped Pakistani Police services. Not to mention the extremely politicised nature of police service and ranking appointments. My father has warned me that I will be ‘no more than a hand-maiden to the politicians in power’ throughout my police career.

Q: Although Pakistan’s military has been fighting the recent offensive against the Taliban, some analysts have suggested the police should take a bigger role in these efforts. Specifically, Christine Fair from RAND Corporation wrote in the Wall Street Journal in July, “A police force-led effort would be better than one led by the army, as the history of successful counterinsurgency movements in disparate theatres across the globe shows.” Do you agree with this notion as it applies to Pakistan?

The army belongs on the borders and the police belong on the streets. Today, Pakistan faces an enemy with no clear identity which attacks deep within the country’s territory. Lahore has been the victim of some of the most brazen terrorist attacks in recent times. One of those attacks targeted the Manawan police academy in March this year. Even Pakistan’s enemies realize the importance of the police and have targeted police to shake people’s confidence in the state’s ability to provide security. People don’t expect army soldiers to patrol the streets unless extraordinary circumstances or emergency situations arise. The army’s presence on the streets will probably do more harm than good, causing panic and protest. Unlike the army the police are a better choice for sustained law enforcement within Pakistan’s territory.

Given the more civilian nature of police compared with the army’s institutional nature, police informers would be able to provide much more intelligence than the army’s heavy handed tactics. There is a common perception amongst most Pakistanis that the police are involved in most criminal activities within Pakistan. If such a perception is true, then most of the crime, including terrorist activities within Pakistan could be solved through police reforms. Criminals may need police compliance to succeed but the police do not necessarily need criminals to be successful law enforcers. Police could use their close links with the underworld to combat terrorism within Pakistan in more effective way than the army.

Q: What do you think are some of the main issues facing Pakistan’s police force today? Do you see it progressing/reforming in the future?

Driving on the streets of Islamabad, one regularly comes across off-duty police looking to catch a ride home. Police constables often complain about having to pay for bullets. According to sources familiar with police operations, Station House Officers (SHOs) often give their subordinates instructions to collect large sums of money every month to pay for the stations operating expenses. I spoke with a friend of mine who is a now a Superintendent, a rank that qualifies him as an eighteen grade federal officer, which is a senior position considering twenty two is the highest grade. He said that he gets a monthly salary of 20,000 rupees, free utilities and more than 600 liters of free fuel every month. He finds it close to impossible to support his family on such a salary package. And on the other hand, criminals will offer him bribes close to one million rupees every month.

Police salaries and the modus operandi seem to breed corruption within the Pakistani Police Service. There is always talk about police reforms but I believe that there is no will to reform a system that often compliments the all pervasive corruption within the Pakistani Government.

Pakistani Police Service requires drastic measures to improve, that I am in no position at the moment to even suggest. I can only hope that the police in Pakistan begin being just that, police.

Q: What do you hope to achieve while on this career path? What advice would you give someone else considering a similar field?

Before sitting for the CSS examination, I attended lectures organized by the University of Karachi, where our first lecturer advised all of us present not to join the Civil Service if we wanted to change the system. “There is no room for idealism in the Pakistani Civil Service,” he said, “You need to be realistic.” At first I was surprised, but then I gave much thought to what he said. To be able to change a modus operandi of an institution such as the Pakistani bureaucracy would be a gargantuan task, but certainly, being able to change it from within would be less difficult than from without. So I have decided to first find out all I can about the system before I make any judgments about what I want to achieve.

I would strongly recommend taking the CSS exam and joining the Pakistani Civil Service. Just by taking the exam, I have learned a lot about Pakistan today and understood a little about what it takes to help Pakistan. For those already interested, I would advise them to prepare themselves for a long term commitment and not to rely on nepotism.

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I am currently working on a pretty elaborate article related to the UK-Pakistan terror path, (i.e. requiring me to use more than two sources, none of which include the beloved Wikipedia), but a friend sent me this Amazon product link that I thought made a pretty hilarious buffer post, particularly given how the war on terror has impacted many of our experiences at international airport security. Being a Muslim from Pakistan definitely makes for some interesting and lengthy encounters with immigration, to say the least.

Meet Playmobil‘s Security Checkpoint toy model. For only $62 (a bargain!), children between the recommended ages of 4-7 years receive a passenger, and not one, but two security personnel (male and female – who can accuse Playmobil of not being gender sensitive!). The product description from the manufacturer reads, “The woman traveler stops by the security checkpoint. After placing her luggage on the screening machine, the airport employee checks her baggage. The traveler hands her spare change and watch to the security guard and proceeds through the metal detector. With no time to spare, she picks up her luggage and hurries to board her flight!”

The clincher, though, lies in the reviews of the product. One happy customer wrote,

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said “that’s the worst security ever!”. But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.

Another customer, not as enthralled, announced that he/she was “holding out for the Guantanamo Bay playset. Hopefully this will come with an extrordinary rendition option.”

Just the kind of toy that makes me warm & fuzzy about what we teach our children nowadays – don’t you agree?

DISCLAIMER: The aforementioned product is not a real vendor – hence, this post is all in good fun, meant for comic relief. The reviews – at least I hope – are also concocted for humor purposes. Thank you!

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AFP Image, Body being carried from the blast scene

AFP Image, Body being carried from the blast scene

Breaking news today: Media outlets are reporting that 48 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque near the town of Jamrud in the Khyber agency in northwest Pakistan. Tariq Hayat, the top administration official in Khyber, told the AFP, “Forty-eight bodies have been pulled out of the debris and many others may still be trapped under the rubble…More than 70 people were wounded. There may be many more dead…The bomber was present inside the mosque and blew himself up when Friday prayers began.”

BBC News’ Barbara Plett reported that the mosque is near a tribal police checkpoint, “and was crowded with about 250 worshipers, including many police.” The news agency added, “Pakistan’s security officials have recently concentrated forces in the Khyber region, and especially the Jamrud area, to fight militants attacking convoys carrying supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan.”

The blast followed a string of attacks that have recently occurred in the country. On Monday, a police officer was killed in a suicide bombing at the gate of a police station in Islamabad, and yesterday, a suicide blast killed 11 people at a restaurant in the tribal region. CNN reported, “That attack was most likely part of the ongoing fighting between militants loyal to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and members of the Turkistan tribe.”

For a suicide bombing to occur at all is horrific, but to strike a mosque while people are praying is truly atrocious. GEO Television cited residents of the Jamrud area, who said “militants had earlier threatened to blow up the police post next to the mosque,” although there had been no immediate claim of responsibility after today’s attack. Hayat told GEO, “It’s surprising, those who claim that they are doing jihad and then carry out suicide attacks inside mosques during Friday prayers…They are infidels. They are enemies of Pakistan. They are enemies of Islam.” Al Jazeera’s correspondent Zeina Khodr, however, pointed to something different when she noted, “But the political agents are saying that, and I quote, ‘no Muslim could carry out such a crime  suggesting that foreign hands were responsible'”

CHUP will post more details on this story as they come in.

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Happy Pakistan Day!

Image credit: Islamabad Metblogs

Image credit: Islamabad Metblogs

Pakistan has always been a focal point in the news media, but I feel like some pretty hefty stories and statements have surfaced in the last few days. Here are the ones I found most noteworthy:

  • David Kilcullen, U.S. CENTCOM adviser to Gen. David Petraeus warned, “The Pakistani state could collapse within six months if immediate steps are not taken to remedy the situation.” Kilcullen told the Washington Post Sunday, “Pakistan has 173 million people, 100 nuclear weapons, an army bigger than the US Army, and al-Qaeda headquarters sitting right there in the two-thirds of the country that the government doesn’t control.”
  • Pakistan was also raised in an interview with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher [click to 3:20 in the clip below]. She noted, “For me, Pakistan has everything that gives you an international migraine. It has nuclear weapons, corruption, poverty, extremism…[Bill Maher interjects: "Crazy Muslims"]…well it certainly has enough of those, and also a weak government…”
  • Dawn also reported that Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram suggested that Pakistan is “perilously close” to becoming a failed state and that its government is “pretty disfunctional today.”
  • Speaking of our government, an article in Friday’s Foreign Policy ranked President Asif Ali Zardari as the world’s fifth biggest loser [just to give some context, Bernie Madoff was number three and Josef Fritzl was first]. The FP’s David J. Rothkopf wrote, “Locked in a bitter struggle with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, Zardari showed his weakness by capitulating to demands to reinstate Pakistan’s former Chief Justice per Sharif’s demands…He’s on the ropes, his opposition is gaining strength, and meanwhile fraught, dangerous, complex Pakistan is hardly being governed at all.”

Let me just note that none of these statements are very suprising or new. In fact, ever since Newsweek’s infamous cover story deemed Pakistan “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth“, similar labels have been thrown about, sometimes with gleeful abandon. However, maybe because it’s Pakistan Day, maybe because I read the aforementioned stories in quick succession, but I was left feeling especially indignant today. I often wonder if Pakistan would be as singled out by pundits and the media if it wasn’t such a strategic U.S. security issue. It is not that I don’t agree with several of the assertions, [in fact, I was quite amused reading the FP Zardari ranking] – I have acknowledged our weak governance issues, our economic problems, and the danger of rising extremism frequently on this blog.

However, there is a major difference between highlighting the negatives and focusing solely on the negatives. Pakistan is a nation that has many positives – and they pertain mostly to our people. In the past few years, our media has become increasingly influential – and for the most part sees themselves as a check on the establishment. And, despite how you may feel about its outcome, the Long March showed what a stronger civil society can help accomplish in Pakistan. Technology tools like Twitter, Facebook, and the overarching blogosphere have also created a new class of citizen journalists. As for me, I am constantly inspired by the people I have interviewed and the organizations I have spotlighted. What is both amazing and overwhelming is that I really never run out of positive figures or work to highlight. Pakistan is far from perfect, but amid the chaos there are still pockets of light that keep me optimistic. Happy Pakistan Day, everyone.

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Western media outlets are reporting that gunmen kidnapped a United Nations worker and killed his driver today. According to the Associated Press, “Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry called the abduction a “dastardly terrorist act,” but it was not clear who seized John Solecki, the head of the U.N. refugee office in the city of Quetta, as he traveled to work.” The AFP reported, “Quetta, which has an estimated population of just under one million, is considered a possible refuge for Taliban leaders who fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in late 2001 that toppled the hardline regime,” [although CNN's Reza Sayah asserted in his coverage that the city is not a Taliban stronghold]. The region is also home to a low-level insurgency, [see CHUP's backgrounder on Balochistan], but, as the AP noted, “the Baluch groups are not known to target foreigners.” Moreover, although the kidnapping of foreign officials is not uncommon, [see related post on the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat in Peshawar], “police said they could not recall another foreigner being kidnapped in Quetta.”

News agencies on Monday framed the incident in light of the deteriorating security situation in Pakistan and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon‘s upcoming visit to the country. The Washington Post reported, “Poor security, endemic poverty and mounting concerns about hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis displaced by recent violence in the country’s North-West Frontier province and troubled tribal areas probably will be at the top of Ban’s agenda when he meets with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on Thursday.”

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On Friday, media outlets reported that Pakistan has cancelled leave for “operational” armed forces personnel and redeployed troops to the Indian border amid simmering tensions with New Delhi. According to the AFP, “Both sides have said they do not want war, but warn they would act if provoked.” Although Pakistan’s chief military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas declined to comment on the development, a “senior defense ministry official” told the news agency, “We do not want to create any war hysteria but we have to take minimum security measures to ward off any threat. Leaves of all operational personnel of the armed forces have been canceled as a defensive measure.” Although the NY Times cited a senior official who reportedly refused to say where the troops would be redeployed, the Associated Press provided more details in its coverage, noting, “Two intelligence officials said the army’s 14th Division was being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. They said some 20,000 troops were on the move.”  A senior security official told AFP the new deployments on the Indian border were not in “significant numbers, but only in areas opposite the points where India is believed to have brought forward its troops.” The forces are reportedly being pulled from the Afghan border, deepening concerns among American officials “about Pakistan’s commitment to battling Taliban militants in the country’s lawless western frontier regions,” noted the Times.

According to the NY Times, “The redeployment came as Indian authorities warned their citizens not to travel to Pakistan given the heightened tensions between the two nations, news agencies reported, particularly since Indian citizens had been arrested there in connection with a bombing in the Pakistani city of Lahore.” On Friday, the Indian media reported the country’s PM Manmohan Singh had summoned leaders of the Indian armed forces to further discuss the current security situation.

While it appears that tensions are reaching a climax, we should all hope that neither India nor Pakistan take that first step towards an “all-out” conflict. Although nationalist sentiment is increasing in both countries, a war is not the solution to any of the domestic or regional issues at hand. Let’s hope this action-reaction cycle of tensions and violence will stop before this conflict snowballs out of control.

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Media coverage of Pakistan today was dominated by news of the government protesting India’s alleged airspace violation. According to Dawn, “Pakistan has said that Indian air force planes ‘inadvertently’ violated its airspace last week, flying over the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir and the eastern city of Lahore.” Reuters added in its coverage, “Pakistan said its own fighter jets were scrambled to chase off the intruders, but it also played down the incident by describing the violations as ‘technical‘ and ‘inadvertent.'” On Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry reportedly “summoned” India’s deputy high commissioner, Manpreet Vohra, and gave him a written letter against the intrusions, “saying they contravened a 1991 agreement aimed at preventing such incidents.” AAJ Television reported, “The note conveyed the ‘concern of the government of Pakistan on technical and airspace violations by Indian aircraft on December 12 and 13 in non-conformity with a bilateral agreement.'”

Reuters quoted an Indian Air Force spokesman, Mahesh Upasani, who reiterated India’s claims that they had not violated Pakistan’s airspace. He told the news agency, “We stand by what we said earlier, that we have not violated their airspace. This is not true.” After the incident allegedly took place last week, GEO Television reported, both President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yousaf Raza Gilani called the incident, a “technical error.”

India on Tuesday stated that the Indo-Pak peace process has been placed on “hold,” although it emphasized that it “was not preparing for war.” Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also made diplomatic statements Wednesday, expressing confidence that bilateral dialogue would resume. However, given the current state of affairs, India canceled their 2009 cricket tour of Pakistan, which was slated to take place during the months of January and February. CNN reported, “Indian Cricket Board officer Ratnakar Shetty confirmed they had been notified about the government’s decision although he did not rule out the matches going ahead at a neutral venue.” He told the news agency, “No decision has been made on playing Pakistan at a neutral venue…We have not planned an alternative tour as yet.” BBC News added in its coverage, “It is the third major cricket tour to Pakistan this year to be canceled on security grounds. Australia pulled out of their scheduled visit in March, while the International Cricket Council also postponed the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in September.” The news agency added, “The Pakistan Cricket Board fears this latest decision could cost it £13 million.” [Image from Reuters]

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On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund announced that its executive board had approved a credit of 7.6 billion dollars for Pakistan, “the Fund’s first rescue in Asia since the global financial crisis began,” reported the AFP. According to USA Today, “The IMF said a first installment of $3.1 billion will be transferred immediately.” The news agency quoted IMF acting Chairman Takatoshi Kato, who said, “By providing large financial support to Pakistan, the IMF is sending a strong signal to the donor community about the country’s improved macroeconomic prospects.” The AFP also cited the statement, which noted that the 23-month credit line will “support the country’s economic stabilization program.”

The Associated Press reported, “Pakistan’s young government had been reluctant to go to the IMF but had little choice after close allies — the United States, China and Saudi Arabia — turned down pleas for significant bilateral aid.” The lead-up to today’s development faced much opposition in Pakistan by parties and political figures who argued that the IMF will “impose austerity measures that will hurt ordinary Pakistanis, two-thirds of whom live on $2 dollar a day or less.” PML-N‘s Javed Hashmi told the AP, “This IMF loan the government is getting is in fact poison, and the nation has been forced to drink it.” Nevertheless, said Muazzamil Aslam, an economist at the Pakistani securities firm, KASB, “The loan removes the most pressing risk facing the country – that it would not be able to repay dollar-denominated government bonds due to mature early next year.”

According to USA Today, “With the IMF deal now in place, Pakistani officials hope those three and other nations in the “Friends of Pakistan” group will move forward with their own assistance packages.” In related news, Pakistan reached several deals with neighboring countries in the region. Yesterday, media outlets reported that Zardari and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan met on Monday and expressed their resolve to upgrade and further strengthen their existing bilateral ties, particularly in the trade and economic fields. According to The News, “In the delegation-level talks, there was unanimity of views on bilateral matters with focus on encouraging UAE public and private investment in joint ventures in the fields of energy, agriculture, construction and infrastructure development.” Dawn reported that the leaders also “stressed the need for joint efforts to improve the security situation in the region.” [Above image from The News]

Officials from India and Pakistan also discussed security-related issues today. GEO News reported Wednesday that the neighboring states “agreed to boost cooperation between their civilian investigation agencies to control terrorist activities, illegal immigration, influx of fake currency and liberalize the visa regime under a joint anti-terrorism mechanism.” The news agency added,

Under the joint anti-terrorism mechanism, a two-member committee has been formed, comprising additional foreign secretaries of the two sides. The committee will exchange information about terrorists.

Visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband praised the recent developments between Pakistan and its regional neighbors, particularly Afghanistan and India, asserting that the new “zeal” in its foreign policy was vital as the region struggles with Islamist terrorism. According the Associated Press, Miliband further noted that it was “very important in turning Pakistan outwards and making clear that it sees itself as a cooperative force for stability in the region.” [Left image from AFP]

While Pakistan’s foreign policy meetings this week are certainly significant, a domestic development is also noteworthy. According to the Financial Times yesterday, the Pakistani government “has disbanded the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the notorious military-run spy agency, in a bold move intended to reduce sharply the military’s influence in politics.” The news agency added,

The effort to refocus the intelligence agency came a day after Asif Ali Zardari made one of the strongest overtures of any Pakistani president to India. He offered to abandon Pakistan’s first-strike nuclear threat, sign a South Asian nuclear non-proliferation treaty and join India in an economic union.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi termed the move a “positive development,” telling reporters, “The ISI is a precious national institution and it wants to focus fully on counter-terrorism activities.” However, Tariq Azim, leader of the opposition party PML-Q warned that a permanent end to the military’s role in politics “would only be achieved when civilian governments were more robust and effective.” He asserted, “The quality of governance remains very weak in Pakistan and the government today has failed to take charge on a number of fronts…We must always remember . . . that every time a civilian government has become weak and controversial, the military has used that as a pretext to take charge in the name of improving the country’s outlook.”

Do you agree that the current government has exhibited weak governance? Have the recent foreign policy and domestic-related developments shown that Islamabad is attempting to take charge of the number of issues facing Pakistan, or are they all superficial attempts to address Pakistan’s deeper underlying problems?

Also, an interesting read: Dawn discusses the dynamics of Pashtun (Pathan) violence, and how that has mystified Western intellectuals.

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U.S. Missile Strike Kills 5

According to media outlets today, a suspected U.S. drone attack fired two missiles at a house in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least five and wounding seven. According to CNN, “The strike targeted a home outside the tribal areas that U.S. intelligence says have become a haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters battling U.S. and NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan, and was deeper inside Pakistani territory than previous attacks.” ABC News framed the incident similarly, noting, “The attack was the first to hit an area outside the semiautonomous tribal belt that directly borders Afghanistan, something which could trigger extra anger among Pakistanis.” [Image from the AP]

The Associated Press reported, “Hours after the strike, a large Islamist political party warned it would block two major supply routes for U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan that run through Pakistan unless the attacks ended.” The news agency quoted Qazi Hussain Ahmed, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, who said, “If these missiles attacks continue, then we will ask the people to create hurdles in the way of supplies for NATO.” The AP added, “The party has shown it can easily mobilize thousands of supporters at short notice. The supply lines have never been blocked by protests but militants and criminals often attack trucks traveling with them.” [Left image from the AP of a rally on Tuesday. The slogan reads, "U.S. subservient Pakistani rulers immediately stop the military operation."]

Earlier this week, Pakistan temporarily blocked supply routes for convoys carrying supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, “after militants hijacked several trucks whose loads included Humvees bound for the US-led coalition,” reported Dawn on Monday. A Washington Post article reported today that, due the rise in Taliban attacks along the NATO supply route, U.S. officials are seeking alternatives, “including the prospect of beginning deliveries by a tortuous overland journey from Europe.” The Post, in its coverage, noted,

About 75 percent of NATO and U.S. supplies bound for Afghanistan — including gas, food and military equipment — are transported over land through Pakistan. The journey begins in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi and continues north through Pakistan’s volatile North-West Frontier Province and tribal areas before supplies arrive at the Afghan border. The convoys then press forward along mountain hairpin turns through areas of Afghanistan that are known as havens for insurgents.

A Pakistani truck driver told the news agency, “The Taliban, they tell us, ‘These goods belong to the Americans. Don’t bring them to the Americans. If you do, we’ll kill you…From Karachi to Kabul there is trouble. The whole route is insecure.” The security situation is further compromised by U.S. missile attacks like the one that occurred today. According to ABC News, the U.S. has been accused of carrying out 20 cross-border attacks since August, although “the U.S. rarely confirms or denies the strikes, which are believed to be carried out mainly by the CIA.” According to GEO News, “A U.S. newspaper calls [these attacks part of] ‘a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.'”

Although today’s attack could incite further anger among Pakistanis, an Arab Al Qaeda operative were among the five militants killed. Reuters reported that the fighter was identified as Abdullah Azam al-Saudi by an intelligence official based in Dera Ismail Khan. The official told the news agency, “He used to coordinate between Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, and had also been responsible for recruiting people.” Other news agencies have not yet corroborated these reports.

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