Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pakistani Editorial

Below in its entirety is an editorial in the 2 September Daily Times. There are some interesting points raised which are worth noting, specifically the analysis about Iran's role in Afghanistan.

It does show that the Muslim world is no more monolithic than the West and that some serious issues exist between several nations in the region.

Peace with our neighbours...Daily Times (Pakistan)

2 September 2008
At an All Parties Consultative Conference held by Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUIF) in Peshawar on Sunday, Maulana Rehman recommended that Pakistan should form a “regional bloc to put an end to the lingering Afghan imbroglio, which was impinging on peace and security in NWFP”. He also said, “The conference deems presence of world powers in Afghanistan a threat to the interest of Asian countries, and invites the regional states to play their role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and FATA”.

One must study “the neighbourhood” more carefully before opining on the Maulana’s proposal. But there is another interesting opinion printed in a paper on Monday in which Mr Masood Sharif, an ex-Intelligence Bureau boss and a former member of the Central Executive Committee of the PPP, writes that only Iran is not hostile to Pakistan among its neighbours. He also takes a particularly Pashtun view of the situation and accuses the Pakistan Army of killing his fellow ethnic clansmen. On India, his opinion is of a piece with core sections of the Urdu media: India’s “policy is devastating for Pakistan because it pins down the Pakistani Army, pits it against its own people and limits its operational options elsewhere, besides subjecting it to war fatigue and attrition”.

When Maulana Rehman talks of “world powers”, he means America and the consensus in Europe against Al Qaeda and its ability to train terrorists on Pakistani territory and send them to the West. But in the most recent missile hit by NATO forces in our Tribal Areas, there were two Muslims of Canadian origin. Canada is the most peace-loving of all the states in the West, but it is in Afghanistan because it fears that Pakistan is no longer able to control what goes on inside its territory. But if we believe that the world powers are making mischief against Pakistan — and compelling warlords like Baitullah Mehsud to kill innocent Pakistanis including Pashtuns through his suicide-bombers! — how can we at the same time assume that the “region” is with us?

Maulana Rehman probably wants us to get together with Iran, Uzbekistan and India to discuss the matter of “world powers intervention”. But all three are behind the Northern Alliance which has become dominant under the government of a Pashtun president in Afghanistan. Iran’s interest may clash with that of America on its western borders but it lies squarely with the Northern Alliance in general and the Tajik community in particular whom it backed against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 1998, when the Taliban overran Mazar-e-Sharif, they killed Iranian diplomats in the consulate there, following which Iran accused militants from Pakistan of doing the deed.

These days, Iran has a sensible policy on the Pakistanis crossing the border into Iran as illegal migrants. Unlike India, it doesn’t kill them but hauls them up on a daily basis to the Pakistani border and hands them over. But have the Maulana and Mr Masood Sharif thought about what Iran thinks of the massacre of the Shia allowed by Islamabad in the Kurram agency? The news is that after Pakistan abandoned its Shias to the mercy of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, warriors from the Hazara region of Afghanistan are coming in to defend their brethren in faith. And who has traditionally helped the Hazaras in Afghanistan? And who is training the Hazara warriors and making them capable of fighting the Sunni fanaticism of Afghanistan and Pakistan? No matter how badly Iran may want to punish the US in Afghanistan, it is not going to support any strategy proposed by Islamabad.

Uzbekistan has the same kind of economic and cultural nexus with Mazar-e-Sharif as Iran has with Herat. Just as Iran saw Herat being ruled by Col Imam of the ISI from Pakistan under the Taliban, Uzbekistan saw the massacre of innocent citizens of Mazar by the Taliban in 1998, and accused Pakistan of masterminding the attack. Today our Tribal Areas are crawling with rebel Uzbek warriors who were trained in Pakistan earlier and have been trying to kill the president of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is backed by Russia and the real punch of the anti-Pakistan alliance in Afghanistan comes from Russian backing. Should we therefore consult with Russia too as a regional “friend”? Are we aware how many heads the “neighbours” would want delivered on a platter before they even talk to us?

As for India, the perception in New Delhi is that Pakistan is strategically frozen in its revisionist stance and is still not ready to abandon its policy of asymmetrical conflict. (There is some evidence that we are reviving the “option” again!) The Indians are therefore entrenching themselves in the very area that we used when we trained jihadists for fighting in Kashmir. The policy that will suit us today is to promote normalisation and trade, including investment, with India, at a fast pace without however retreating from our position on Kashmir. Any other “brave” policy of confrontation will harm us. The real crisis is internal and it can be solved only by preventing our soil from being used to harm our neighbours.

Second Editorial: ...and the missing Chinese

If there is one neighbour with whom we can discuss our predicament in the Tribal Areas with any self-confidence, it is China. But the latest news in this regard is not good at all. Two Chinese engineers, along with their driver and a security guard, have gone missing while checking installations in the NWFP near the border with Afghanistan. The two belonged to Zhongxing Telecommunications and were probably supervising their communications tower in the area. The case is that of kidnapping. If it is done by the local criminals posing as Taliban, they will ask for money and will sell them either to China or to its enemies who are also found in our Tribal Areas.

China is one “neighbour” that expects to be sympathetic to our plight, but there is a limit to Chinese tolerance too, given the fact that Islamist insurgency in the Western Province of China is being stoked in part from our Tribal Areas, as confessed by ex-president Pervez Musharraf not long ago. In any conference of our neighbours China can only sit silently watching our helplessness in the face of the mischief being hatched against the world from our territory.

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