List of banned outfits: excision or exemption??

While Interior Ministry’s list of 31 organizations banned from collecting sacrificial animal’s hides include disused names of sectarian and Jihadi outfits. It misses two very important names. Jamaat-ud-dawa and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat. One can understand why JuD is missing in the list but ASWJ exclusion may raise a few eyebrows.

For starters let me remind that banned Sipah-e-Sahaba/Millat-e-Islamia and its militant wing Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are operating under a new name Ahl-e-Sunnat wal Jamaat. It is led by Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and is operating in cities of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Ironically the new adopted name is excluded from the list of banned outfits with restrictions on their fund raising and other activities. Is that a blunder, negligence or omission? Those observing their recent activities after the new embodiment can understand the reasons behind this excision.

The name of Sipah-e-Sahaba is synonymous to killing and obliterating lesser Muslims i.e. Shias, Ahmedis, Barelvis, lesser Pakistanis, i.e. Christians and Hindus and even lesser Deobandis. In the last two decades, while it has killed hundreds of Shias, it has not held itself back from killing dissidents in their own sect. Most of the attacks and bombings on security agencies personnels, offices and other places were carried down by the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and were involved in the attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team. The much reprobated Shahbaz Sharif call to Taliban for discontinuing attacks in Punjab was actually an appeal to the leadership of SSP/LeJ, which has not been let down by them.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP) has many of its prominent leaders from SSP/Lej ranks. The present chief Hakimullah Mehsud, suicide bombing specialist Qari Hussain and one of their spokesmen Asmatullah Muawaia’s sectarian leanings are not a secret. SSP activists have jeered at Shias call of  “Salaam Ya Hussain” as “Salaam Ya Qari Hussain”, which I had seen an year ago on the shutters of a fair price shop of “Abdullah Enterprises” , a textile company located at 100 yard distance of Jamia Binoria SITE, and opposite to SITE Police station Karachi. In bughz-e-Shias they have cheered up a mass killer who is specialized in mass killings via his trained suicide bombers.

A new trend egressed since the political uprising in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the banned SSP leaders suddenly turned into patriots and admirers of Pakistan Army. They are openly carrying on public meetings in support of Pakistan Army’s decision to send troops to Behrain. In a meeting there in Karachi, their provincial head, Rab Nawaz Hanafi  was extolling Behrain king’s oppression of his shia population and aid by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan Army, saying “Behrain mey tau khoob pitaai horahai hei shiaon ki”.

Ahmad Ludhianvi, the man who was provided an opportunity of spreading hatred against Shias in Dunya TV talk show hosted by Asma Chaudhry too was full of extolments for Pakistan Army in their stance on the good Haqqanis, and offered 200 thousand volunteers in case of an encounter with United States.

And it’s the reason; its present leadership is enjoying political support and a free run in big cities of Punjab and in Karachi. Their central, provincial and lower leadership is conducting public meetings, processions and fund raising activities. Their flags, graffiti and slogans can be seen on the walls varying in their contents from place to place. One can see this variation by comparing what has been sprayed in Orangi and Baldia Town and painted near Asghar Ali Shah Stadium North Nazimabad.

Diplomatic bargaining at the edge — I —Prof. Ijaz Khan

Prof. Ijaz Khan is an academic and active commentator at various discussion forums, mailing groups and social networks. He is associated with Peshawar University and is Chairman, Department of International Relations.  He annotates on US Af-Pak policy, Pakistan Afghan policy and its implications on the region and the people living in it. Here’s first part of his take on the current row of overheated bargaining between US and Pakistan and Pakistan wishlist in post US withdrawal scenario in Afghanistan.(ali arqam)

The conflict in the Af-Pak region has entered a new phase, which may be termed the pre-2014 phase. This phase is currently witnessing a serious row between the US and Pakistan, supposedly allies in the ‘war against terrorism’. All parties want to influence the outcome in 2014 so that the post-2014 situation best meets its perceived interests. To influence that outcome Pakistan and the US are pursuing policies that appear to be at odds. Both also consider the behaviour of the other to be vital for achievement of its goal. So they are using various means to influence each other’s behaviour. The current row between the two allies can be explained as an overheated diplomatic bargaining.

President Obama announced disengagement from active combat in Afghanistan by 2014, thus the withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan. This was announced along with a plan to enable the US to do so after succeeding in Afghanistan and not losing the war there. The plan was based on the US’s increased action at different levels: one was an increased military action through increased military presence, the so-called ‘surge policy’, and two, raising of the Afghan Army and a viable governance system. The strategy also includes peeling away as much of the Taliban as possible through negotiations. The purpose is to strengthen the Afghan government in relation to the Taliban resistance. The US does not intend to abandon Afghanistan, as it does not want a repeat of the 1990s when Afghanistan became a safe haven for terrorists from all over the world, especially Al-Qaeda.

Given adjustments for language, style and rhetoric, Pakistan’s Afghan policy has continuously been guided by two considerations: security threat perceptions from India and the question of the Durand Line. It was hosting most of the mujahideen leaders of the 1980s since the early 1970s or becoming a front-line state in the 1980s against Soviet intervention in Afghanistan or the half-cooked ideas of ‘strategic depth’ in the 1990s leading to the rise of the Taliban. Pakistan appeared to have taken a U-turn after 9/11. However, that perception soon proved wrong by what Ahmad Rashid called a ‘double U-turn’. Pakistan has been playing the role of a broker between the US and the Taliban even before 9/11. After 9/11, Pakistan — while announcing support for the US — tried its best to salvage whatever was left of its Afghan policy that banked on a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Pakistan tried to bridge the gap between the Taliban and the US, with the aim of saving the Taliban from any military action against them. It continued its diplomatic relations with their government in Kabul to the very end. However, when the US attacked and dislodged the Taliban government, Pakistan adjusted its policy accordingly. Since then its policy has aimed to get a government in Kabul in which it will have a strong say and Indian influence will be minimum. For that end, Pakistan has been acting against the Taliban with a policy that will limit them but not eliminate them. Pakistan also wishes to see a complete withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, however only after meeting Pakistan’s concerns. Pakistan now wants to limit Afghanistan’s military capability as well, so a recent Pakistan foreign policy elite study proposed limiting of the Afghan Army.

Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban have been quite complex. It is like you construct a canal to direct the flow of water over whose flow you do not have much control. You stop the Taliban from acting where you do not want them to and shut your eyes when they act where you want them to. Whether Pakistan controls some of them and to what extent is debatable, however, it finds their defeat unless Pakistan’s concerns are met as not desirable. Its actions or inaction against them must be understood in this background. It is this policy that angers and frustrates the US.

The US is also facing a dilemma. It is aware of Pakistan’s position and its role. It also knows how vital that role is for the current phase of the Afghan imbroglio. Admiral (retd) Mullen’s as well as other statements, including those from the White House itself, clearly establish that the US has not been able to make Pakistan act the way it wants to with a policy that can largely be described as that of carrots and the threat of use of sticks.

With 2014 approaching fast, the US’s choices are getting limited. The American leadership seems to be getting convinced that carrots are not convincing enough and neither are the threats. Pakistani policy makers know that the US will bend over backwards as much as possible to avoid materialising of the threats — to avoid the use of sticks. They bank on US calculations that it must not entangle itself in a country bigger than both Afghanistan and Iraq put together. This does not mean that Pakistan is a match for the US militarily. Even the Pakistani establishment knows that. This means the US would need much more troops afterwards and still much more resources. Pakistan cannot be just hit, destroyed and left for the extremists to take over. If the US ever decides to hit decisively against Pakistan then it has to commit for a much longer, bigger and direct commitment than it can be worth in terms of interests — security or economic, both immediate or strategic. This is what emboldens Pakistan and pushes it to bargain hard.

Read the 2nd part here..

Courtesy: Dailytimes

Another D-Day for Pakistan over militants

Pakistani security forces last week blocked the main artery into the South Waziristan tribal area from Afghanistan. The writer argues that the Taliban needs to keep supply lines open in order to move more men across the border into Pakistan. By keeping up the fighting, the militants hope to derail the US and Pakistan’s original plan for dealing with the Taliban which was to “chop off” the more hardline elements through special operations by US-trained Pakistani units and then leave the local Jirgas to attempt to find a middle ground with the remaining, more moderate elements. Unfortunately, the military operations in Swat and Al-Qaeda’s “chaos strategy” after the Lal Masjid operation has put a halt to these plans and the Pakistan government is now faced with the decision of how far to go to against people like Mehsud.

Article: Another D-Day for Pakistan over militants
Author: Syed Saleem Shahzad
Publication: The Asia Times Online