16th October, 2011

Jagjit Singh – a tribute

by guest at 5:51 pm    

This is a guest post by Parvinder Singh.

The music legend Jagjit Singh sadly passed away on Monday in the Indian city of Mumbai. He was 70 years of age and had died of a brain hemorrhage. Like myself, millions had grown up with his music and songs. Many of them he had earlier sung with his beautiful and talented wife, Chitra Singh. Over the years though, the couple have had to endure horrific tragedies, particularly in relation to the deaths of their son and daughter. That pain and loss would cast a shadow on much of Singh’s compositions.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Jagjit Singh perform live in London and was immediately captivated by his soft and warm voice and his take on the Ghazal, the musically form of Urdu ‘shayari’ or poetry. Without realising it, he had brought alive the words of the 19th Century poet Mirza Ghalib like no one before him. Such was his impression on me then, that I began to learn to read the Urdu script so to understand fully what was being said.

Yet Jagjit Singh was no ordinary singer from the subcontinent. He crossed borders and faiths in his quest to bring poetry to ordinary folk. From the Urdu verse and the Punjabi poetry of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, to the Punjabi Tappe, Hindu Bhajans and Sikh Shabads. Before his untimely death, he was in the middle of a tour with renowned Pakistani ghazal legend, Ghulam Ali.

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13th October, 2011

Sayeeda Warsi on Britain – Pakistan relations…

by guest at 2:33 am    

guest post by Rima Saini

The first of a series of four events presented by the RSA, City University London and the Samosa was a resounding success with a keynote speech by Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi followed by a fiery Q and A session with Anwar Akhtar, director of The Samosa.

Anwar Akhtar began the lecture with an insight into his personal connection with Pakistan, drawing attention to the inspiration that British Pakistanis such as Amir Khan and Baroness Warsi herself are to those both here and in Pakistan, as strong British patriots with a love for their ancestral home.

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31st May, 2011

Why the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad matters

by Sunny at 6:14 pm    

Pakistani TV is reporting that the body found today of a dead man was indeed that of journalist Saleem Shahzad. I hadn’t heard of this case earlier but I’ve been horrified by it.

A few days ago Shahzad wrote an investigative article for Asia Times pointing out that Al-Qaeda elements and the Pakistani navy had been negotiating over some prisoners. When the talks broken down, Karachi naval base got bombed.

Al-Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and al-Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links, an Asia Times Online investigation reveals.

Pakistani security forces battled for 15 hours to clear the naval base after it had been stormed by a handful of well-armed militants.

Shahzad was Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He pointed out that the Pakistani security forces were getting worried that senior people were harbouring sympathies for al-Qaeda. When these people were arrested, al-Qaeda elements got involved and eventually stormed the base.

A few days ago, before the second part of the investigation was published, Saleem Shahzad went missing. Human Rights Watch pointed said the Pakistani ISI had him. Now he’s found dead, with signs that he was tortured. Sickening.

Ahsan Butt on FiveRupees is spot on:

I literally cannot believe that the ISI acted with such impunity. They can pick someone one up, torture and murder them, and expect absolutely no legal recrimination.

Remember, these people’s job is to protect us. But they torture and kill us, and protect Osama bin Laden and Hafiz Saeed instead.

They do this in Balochistan most every day, what with student activists, nationalists, and regular party workers ending up in gutters, but they have made the entirely rational calculation that no one in Pakistan cares about Balochistan — watch the video in this Cafe Pyala post if you don’t believe me. This feels somehow different, because his abduction was front page news. And yet they still went ahead and killed him.

This isn’t just about the intimidation and murder of journalists. This is also about hiding the truth that Pakistan has more to fear from Al-Qaeda and militants than it does from the Americans. But since the media is intimidated into keeping quiet the true extent of al-Qaeda infiltration.

3rd March, 2011

Death of Shahbaz Bhatti

by Rumbold at 11:10 am    

Earlier in the week Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian member of the Pakistani government, was murdered because of his support for a Christian woman facing execution and for his desire to reform the blasphemy law. He became the second high profile politician to be killed following the murder of Salman Taseer earlier in the year. As Pakistani blogger Raza Rumi put it at Pak Tea House:

It is time for Pakistan’s political parties to take stock of this situation and get their own ideological house in order before they are wiped out as well. Pakistani state organs have been appeasing the Right and Islamofasicsts for too long. It is time to stand up. If they think they can be safe then they ARE WRONG.

PTH condemns this murder and recalls that Pakistan was not created for this violence and bigotry that is now our halmark and has made us a joke in the international community. Taseer’s murderers have to be booked, Benazir Bhutto’s murderers have to be brought to book and Bhatti’s murder should not go to waste. Wake up Pakistan and our appeal to Pakistanis: stand up for your rights for living in a secure, tolerant society.

Liberals and secularists are becoming an endangered species in Pakistan.

28th January, 2011

Bulleh Shah, “blasphemy”, and Pakistan

by Jai at 9:00 am    

Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Salman Taseer (the assassinated Pakistani Governor of Punjab), recently wrote a poignant Guardian CiF article about her father’s murder which also mentioned Bulleh Shah:

“My father was buried in Lahore on 5 January under high security. Cleric after cleric refused to lead his funeral prayers – as they had those of the sufi saint Bulleh Shah – and militants warned mourners to attend at their own peril. But thousands came to Governor House on that bitterly cold morning to pay their respects. Thousands more led candle-lit vigils across the country. But the battle is not going to be over any time soon.”

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) is one of the most famous and revered Sufi Muslims in South Asian history; he was also one of the historical role models of the late Pakistani Sufi Muslim singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his family, who have themselves been Sufis since the medieval period. The saint’s shrine is in the Punjabi city of Kasur, now in Pakistan, and can be seen in the photo at the top of this article.

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20th January, 2011

Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 2

by Jai at 9:00 am    

This article follows on directly from Part 1, which detailed the Mughal crown prince Dara Shukoh, his philosophy and his interpretation of Islam. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below.

Shah Jahan temporarily fell ill during the late 1650s. False rumours spread, claiming that he had died and that Dara Shukoh was now the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb exploited this as an opportunity to grab power by mobilising his own military forces, ignoring his sister’s urgent correspondence confirming that their father was indeed still alive and that Aurangzeb was therefore committing an action of treason, and eventually imprisoned Shah Jahan opposite the Taj Mahal. During the resulting war of succession, Dara Shukoh was given some military assistance by the 7th Sikh Guru during one of the battles, but the prince was ultimately defeated later in the conflict, as Aurangzeb had greater experience as a military commander and was a far more ruthless individual. Dara’s weakened wife had already died while the family had been attempting to reach the safe haven of Persia, and Dara sent her body with an armed escort to Mian Mir’s shrine in Lahore for burial nearby.

The 44-year-old Dara Shukoh and his 15-year-old son Sipihr Shukoh were captured after being betrayed by an Afghan “ally” they’d sought refuge with (ironically, Dara had previously saved the Afghan from being executed by Shah Jahan). A few days later, Dara was humiliatingly paraded through the Mughal capital of Delhi, resulting in a huge outcry from the city’s inhabitants due to his immense popularity. He wouldn’t even survive for a single day afterwards, because Aurangzeb could see that Dara’s popularity amongst the mass population posed a severe risk of a huge uprising against the fanatical regime attempting to engineer a political coup, and Dara was also a clear final barrier to his own desire for the imperial throne.

Aurangzeb had access to some ultraconservative mullahs sympathetic to him, and rapidly had his brother impeached, declared an “apostate”, and sentenced to death on trumped-up charges of “heresy”. On the night of 30th August 1659, Dara Shukoh was unceremoniously beheaded in his prison cell, in front of his young son Sipihr, although Dara had put up a fight to try to physically defend himself. Dara’s older son Suleiman Shukoh was also eventually captured; as per Aurangzeb’s instructions, over an extended period of time the incarcerated Suleiman was gradually poisoned by being fed large quantities of opium extracts which, after effectively lobotomising him, ultimately killed him.

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19th January, 2011

Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 1

by Jai at 9:00 am    

The recent murder of the Governor of Punjab in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, and the increasing escalation of visible religious extremism in that country brings to mind a notable historical precedent, involving a major figure in South Asian history who was also the governor of Punjab for a time. There are some serious implications for both Pakistan and the rest of the world if history is allowed to repeat itself.

The painting at the top of this article, commissioned circa 1650, depicts the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, meeting the crown prince Muhammad Dara Shukoh (sometimes also spelt “Shikoh” or “Shikuh”). Dara Shukoh is the figure standing on the right.

Dara Shukoh, born in 1615, was Shah Jahan’s favourite son and nominated heir. Like most of the major Mughals during their reign in India, Dara was a liberal patron of music, dancing and arts (an example of an album of pictures he personally painted as a gift for his wife Nadira Banu can be viewed via the British Library); Dara was also closely affiliated with the Qadiri Sufi order, especially the Muslim saint Mian Mir, who had been invited by one of the Sikh Gurus to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The land for the temple complex and the city of Amritsar itself had been granted to the Sikhs by Dara’s great-grandfather, the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, justifiably known as Akbar the Great.

Dara Shukoh himself was similarly heavily involved in promoting religious moderation, friendship and understanding between people of different faiths; with the assistance of some Hindu Brahmin priests, his activities included translating more than 50 of the most important ancient Hindu scriptures (especially the Upanishads) from Sanskrit into Persian so that Muslims could understand them better, with the intention that this would prevent unwarranted prejudice based on ignorance. Dara’s translations later proved invaluable in helping colonial-era Europeans understand the Hindu texts concerned, as they were originally more familiar with Persian than Sanskrit.

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5th January, 2011

Pakistani rallies for peace

by Rumbold at 8:03 am    

Pakistan often gets a bad press. If a country was defined by media coverage, then Pakistan would be solely a land of terrorism and violence, punctuated by frequent coups, rigged elections and natural disasters. Yet the vast majority of Pakistanis reject terrorism and Taliban style government, judging by the lack of votes won by such parties in Pakistan’s history. Understandably, terrorist attacks and communal violence make headlines more regularly than an opposition to terrorism and communal violence. That is why it was heartening to see such strong support for rallies throughout Pakistan in favour of peace and an end to state and non-state repression and violence:

The rallies took place across 108 Pakistani cities and towns.

It brings to mind the old adage that Pakistan is a “moderate country held hostage by extremists.” Given the murder of the governor of the Punjab, a leading moderate, recently, these rallies are needed more than ever.

(Via Rezwan at Global Voices)

Filed under: Pakistan,Terrorism
10th September, 2010

On Eid, The Success of a Pakistani Tennis Player is a Great Story

by Shariq at 11:34 pm    

For those who don’t know Pakistan’s Aisam ul Haq Qureishi reached the final of the men’s double and mixed doubles at the US Open tennis. This post contains my reflections on his achievements and compares his story to that of Mohammad Amir, the Pakistani cricketer currently suspended for his role in the alleged ‘spot-fixing’ scandal.

Pakistani cricketers are often seen as players blessed with talents from the Gods. Like footballers in this country, when they are successful they are put on a pedestal, and when as recently they perform poorly and disgrace themselves, they are vilified.

One of the players implicated in the spot fixing scandal is the young fast bowler Mohammad Amir. His story is remarkable and one which resonates throughout the world. As a boy he was once delayed to getting to practice because of a Taliban blockade. Despite his humble background and the many obstacles in his path, he became the most exciting talent in the game. Then, as if part of a Shakesparean tragedy, it appears he succumbed to the temptation of money, leading to his downfall.

Aisam ul Haq Qureishi’s story is not Mohammad Amir’s story. His mother was Pakistan’s number 1 tennis player, his grandfather was a top tennis player and his father is a successful businessman. His world is not Mohammad Amir’s world. Playing tennis growing up he would have been served by the ball boys seen at the elite private clubs throughout Pakistan.

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25th August, 2010

UK public ‘shaming the world’ on Pakistan flood donations

by Sunny at 4:56 am    

This is a nice bit of news.

The generosity of the British public in helping Pakistan’s flood victims is “shaming politicians around the world”, the head of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has said. Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said the UK public was leading the way in donations, but that further funds were urgently needed.

The DEC’s Pakistan Floods Appeal has now raised more than £30m.

I’m going to a fund-raiser this Friday, do attend if you can. All money goes to the DEC appeal.

18th August, 2010

Contrasting coverage of Pakistani floods with Haiti earthquake

by Sunny at 1:05 pm    

There’s an excellent post by the Five Rupees blog:

Earlier this week, I learned of a remarkable statistic from the BBC. According to their calculations, there has been $6.82 pledged as donation per survivor of the flooding in Pakistan. Most of this is “unconfirmed” pledges which usually go unfulfilled. Be that as it may, the world at large has given $6.82 per survivor. The corresponding figure for the Haitian earthquake earlier this year? $669.60.

Now, there are many reasons for this. Donor fatigue would be one. The hatred the world has for Pakistan and Pakistanis would be another — and if you don’t believe me, have a look at the comments on this article. Bad economic times another possibility (though it bears mentioning that the global economy wasn’t exactly booming eight months ago). And the lack of comparable media attention would be a fourth. It is this last one that I want to focus on for a bit.

He goes on to show, via research, how much coverage the Pakistani floods have gotten, at the New York Times, compared to the Haiti earthquake. And even then, the article focused mostly on Islamists there.

In contrast, it looks like CNN is doing a marginally better job.

Filed under: Pakistan,South Asia
5th August, 2010

Trouble in Pakistan

by Sunny at 5:39 am    

In addition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the North-West, thanks to flooding (this is what climate change does, deniers!), there is major trouble in Karachi as well. (links via @ImanQureshi)

Five people have been injured in a grenade attack in the Sakhi Hassan area of Karachi on Wednesday. Two unidentified men on a motorbike hurled a hand grenade inside Jamia Shamsul Ulum Suroor. The attack took place when people had gathered at the mosque for Isha prayers.

Earlier, four bodies were recovered from various localities of Orangi Town in Karachi, while one person was shot dead and three others were injured in firing incidents in the Kharadar area.
The death toll in the wake of Karachi violence now stands at 73 and 130 have been injured.

Bloody hell. According to Dawn newspaper, most of Karachi is under strict lockdown.

Back to the main crisis, over 3 million people have been affected so far

18th June, 2010

Pakistan through a lens (ends this Sunday)

by Sunny at 11:37 am    

guest post by Anwar Akhtar

A recurring theme when you speak to many Pakistanis, both in Pakistan and among the diaspora, is a prolonged list of complaints about how Pakistan and Pakistanis are presented in the media.

The diversity, cultural heritage and complexity of Pakistan, a vast, beautiful, complex country, which encompasses the great metropolises of Karachi, Faisalabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi, to the mountain regions of North West Frontier Province and Balochistan, and also hundreds of villages, towns and the fertile plains of the Punjab.

Pakistan Through a Lens showcases a Pakistan rarely highlighted by the mainstream media.

It is a Pakistan that is thankfully being highlighted by increasing interest in the photography coming out of Pakistan as well as its neighbours, as seen in the recent Three Dreams exhibition in Whitechapel.

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8th June, 2010

Could this mean a change in Pakistani attitude towards Ahmadis?

by Sunny at 9:02 am    

Express India reports (via @afpakchannel):

Former Pakistan Prime Minister and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif has created ripples in Pakistan’s political and religious circles by saying that the members of the minority Ahmedi sect are his brothers and sisters and that militants should be flushed out wherever they are active.

Speaking a week after 95 Ahmedis were killed during terrorist attacks on two mosques of the sect that has been declared “non-Muslim” under Pakistani laws, Sharif said the Ahmedis too are citizens of the country.

Excellent and brave stance, in a country where militants have always been allowed to get away with massacring Ahmadis for decades without any blowback. Some extremists have inevitably attacked him, but I wonder if this marks a turning point in the debate. I can’t see this being an electoral stunt given it’s more likely to lose him votes than gain any. Although the extremists are suggesting Obama put pressure on him to say that… Say what, Pakistan watchers?

Filed under: Pakistan,South Asia
31st May, 2010

Rock and Roll Jihad

by Jai at 12:51 pm    

”Follow the music and it will show you the way.”

As discussed in my previous article ”The Music of Unity and the Politics of Division”, music can be a very powerful medium to overcome boundaries between different groups of people and convey the humanitarian message by the sheer emotional force of the music itself.

In religious terms, this is also a concept integral to Sikhism, most mainstream South Asian versions of Sufi Islam, and many devotional versions of Hinduism. The famous 13th century Persian Sufi Rumi eloquently summarised it: “Follow the music and it will show you the way”.

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29th May, 2010

Ahmadis slaughtered in Pakistan

by Rumbold at 3:35 pm    

Over eighty Ahmadis were killed in Pakistan yesterday after extremists attacked two of their mosques. The Ahmadis are a Muslim sect which some Muslims consider to be unislamic (a theological position equivalent to that of Mormonism within Christianity). The sect originated in Pakistan but its adherents have long been persecuted there, both legally and socially:

Three of the attackers blew themselves up with suicide vests packed with explosives when police tried to enter the mosque, officials said.

Police were searching for at least two militants who managed to flee the scene.

11th March, 2010

Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah

by Rumbold at 9:47 am    

On Tuesday evening I attended the UK book launch of Jaswant Singh’s biography of Jinnah, founder of Pakistan. The buzz around the book had been created by the reaction to it in India. One state banned it (no prizes for guessing who runs that state) and Jaswant Singh was expelled from the BJP as a result of writing it, despite being a former defence minister and a current MP.

Mr. Singh’s crime? To have absolved Jinnah from some of the blame for partition and instead criticised Nehru and Vallabhai Patel. Not that this was a one-sided book, as the British, Jinnah, and Congress rightly all come in for plenty of criticism. Mr Singh bemoans the failure of all sides to step back from the detail and take in the bigger picture, which is fair to a certain extent, but fails to take into account that at this point the devil really was in the detail.

The book was well sourced and contained some material I hadn’t come across before. It calls for both India and Pakistan to have a greater understanding of one another’s ‘growing pains’ in the immediate aftermath of partition. It is written in a nice style, but I was disappointed with his reluctance to only briefly touch on the impact Jinnah has had on India’s psyche today. As we have seen with the treatment of minorities in India (such as the Sikh massacres of 1984), India in some senses still hasn’t come to terms with minorities who are aggressively or confidently pushing for reform or more autonomy. Somewhat of a generalisation perhaps, but with ongoing conflict in areas like Kashmir and the Naxalite heartlands, it is still an important topic.

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6th February, 2010

Pakistan Fashion Week

by Jai at 4:21 pm    

Given the ongoing discussions about niqabs, burkhas and so on, along with some of the scaremongering caricatures of Muslims which are being promoted in some quarters, this may be a good time to mention Pakistan Fashion Week. It’s a major annual event involving Pakistani designers and high-end fashion shows in major cities such as Lahore and Karachi, where such fashion shows occur on a regular basis.

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Filed under: Pakistan
4th February, 2010

Terrorists in Pakistan hit girl’s school

by Sunny at 11:03 am    

Huffington Post reports:

A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and partly destroyed a girls’ school in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday in an attack that drew attention to a little-publicized American military training mission in the al-Qaida and Taliban heartland.

The blast also killed three schoolgirls and a Pakistani soldier who was traveling with the Americans. Two more U.S. soldiers were wounded, along with more than 100 other people, mostly students at the school, officials said.

The explosion flattened much of the school, leaving books, bags and pens strewn in the rubble. “It was a horrible situation,” said Mohammad Siddiq, a 40-year-old guard at the school. “Many girls were wounded, crying for help and were trapped in the debris.”

Siddiq said the death toll would have been much worse if the blast had occurred only minutes later because most of the girls were still playing in the yard and had not yet returned to classrooms, some of which collapsed.

Completely sickening, but then this has been happening for a while in Pakistan and the media hasn’t really noticed. This is also the reason why I support forcing the Pakistani establishment to confront the menace that is Al-Qaeda and the Taliban – and withdraw institutional support.

Even if the Americans leave the terrorists will still want to take power and they will continue to bomb schools and kill innocent people until they get their way.

29th January, 2010

Pakistan massacres sabotage Baloch peace deal

by guest at 1:50 pm    

contribution by Peter Tatchell

This was first published on Guardian CIF, and Peter wanted to discuss it here too.

A series of massacres of peaceful protesters by Pakistani security forces look set to sink hopes of a settlement deal between the government in Islamabad and Baloch nationalists who are campaigning for self-rule. There are fears that the sinister, shadowy Pakistani military and intelligence agencies are behind these killings, in a deliberate attempt to sabotage the reconciliation package put forward by the government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

On 15 January, at least two Baloch political activists were shot dead and four others seriously wounded after Pakistani security forces opened fire on a peaceful, lawful protest organised by the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan.

The rally had been called to protest against the recent murder of Baloch citizens in Karachi and the launching of a new military crackdown in Pakistani annexed and occupied Balochistan.

The shootings are the latest of many Pakistani killings of Baloch protesters and nationalist leaders.

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22nd January, 2010

Pakistan and the IPL

by Rumbold at 2:26 am    

Indo-Pak relations have soured once again after the Indian Premier League’s auction of cricket players failed to produce a single bid for a Pakistani cricketer. This was in spite of the fact that Pakistan can boast some of the world’s top cricketers. One IPL grandee claimed it was because they were unsure whether or not they could get visas for Pakistan players. Yet surely the Indian government could have confirmed or denied this before the auction? More plausible was the reason given by an unnamed source:

But another franchise official – who said there had been no formal ban by the Indian authorities – told the Hindustan Times: “The IPL is a commercial proposition, owned by businessmen and no one wanted to risk upsetting the government.”

Is if this true, then it is wrong-headed on a number of levels. Apart from the sporting angle, diplomatically it is also foolish, as it has antagonised Pakistan for no reason. Sport can be a divider (see Egypt and Algeria), but more often than not it brings them a bit closer (‘soft diplomacy’). I can’t see the rationale behind it.

Filed under: India,Pakistan,Sports
30th December, 2009

Mother Beloved and Bradistan: an obituary

by guest at 5:25 pm    

This is an obituary on the 1st death anniversary of Mrs Aziza B Qureshi, the mother of Fun Da Mental frontman Aki Nawaz.

by Dil Nawaz

Mother Beloved was born in Undivided British India; she could have got her British Passport on that criteria alone. She was a proud Pakistani but used to call herself “Mother India”, that movie by Communist Muslim film director mahboob became the “manifesto” for her family. It was initiation as an adopted son that I memorised the whole screenplay, dialogues and songs etc(well not all of it but you get the picture).

Mother Beloved moved to her Heavenly abode on 27 December 2008, but a part of her died a year earlier in the catastrophe that struck Pakistan on 27/12/2007 when an alleged Islamist suicide bomber killed former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Afterwards, when Mr. Asif Zardari was declared the self-appointed leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, she broke all links with that painful memory, even though the whole family used to cry every time a Bhutto was ‘martyred’ in Pakistan. Mother safely stored all memorabilia, portraits and family photos with Bhuttos’ visit to Bradford and never opened that closet again.

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19th December, 2009

What will Pakistan do with Musharraf now?

by Fe'reeha at 1:19 pm    

The much anticipated verdict on NRO was announced this week in Pakistan. The NRO is the national reconciliation order formed by Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto’s party to give her and her husband amnesty from the corruption charges against her put forward by Nawaz Sharif’s government.

The news that country’s top court recognized the controversial amnesty as a menace to democratic and lawful set up is being embraced with happiness all over. For Pakistanis, it is time of happy news. Which does not come much often in the often tragedy struck region.

In a brief order issued shortly after 10 PM, the bench all cases withdrawn under the NRO would be reopened and convictions quashed under the law would stand restored. The apex court also declared as unconstitutional letters written to Swiss authorities during the regime of former military Pervez Musharraf to close corruption cases against Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto. It directed authorities to reopen these cases.

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Filed under: Pakistan
16th December, 2009

Taliban continue terrorism in Pakistan

by Sunny at 1:40 am    

Al Jazeera reports:

At least 33 people have been killed and 70 injured in a car bomb blast in the town of Dera Ghazi Khan in Pakistan’s Punjab province, local officials have said. The blast on Tuesday occurred in a market, close to the house of Zulfiqar Khosa, an adviser to the chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

“There are many people trapped in the rubble after the powerful blast demolished some 10 shops … The rescue work is under way and we fear the toll may go up,” Hassan Iqbal, the town commissioner, said. “It was a terrorist activity, similar to those being carried out in other parts of the country.”

The attacks seems to have been aimed at Pakistan’s minority Shia Muslims – who would be under even more attacks if the Taliban were allowed to regain a foothold in the country and neighbouring Afghanistan.

2nd December, 2009

Why Obama made the right decision on Afghanistan

by Sunny at 9:21 am    

Obama has finally announced his plans with regards to Afghanistan. His plans are outlined here.

Why I like it:
1. He didn’t blindly heed General McChrystal’s view that chucking troops at Afghanistan will solve the problem.

2. Announced July 2011 as the date when U.S. forces in Afghanistan will begin handing over security responsibilities to Afghan soldiers and policemen. It’s good he recognises the importance of training up Afghanis to deal with the Taliban – but I feel that’s too early. We’ll have to see, as so far it’s only a tentative goal.

3. He recognises that the Hamid Karzai govt has become deeply corrupt and unless that is addressed – chucking money and troops won’t work.

4. It’s enough time for Pakistan to work on and sort out its own Taliban problem – which really is the main issue here. Without Pakistan, the Taliban cannot survive. If Pakistan manages to completely pulverise the Taliban then they won’t be as much of a menace in Afghanistan.

5. Civilian aid to Afghanistan will be restructured to epmhasise agricultural development instead of big reconstruction projects to revitalise its economy.

The criticisms:
1. The problem is Pakistan too. I don’t think they’ve quite given up the idea of controlling Afghanistan, or at least preventing it from having Indian influence. So the tendency to use the Taliban to control Afghanistan continues unless it is offered some incentive not to.

To that extent – my main criticism is that India and Pakistan should have been brought closer into the equation. Unless they both also worth to strengthen the current Afghani government against the Taliban – this surge won’t work for very long.

These documents, which illustrate that the Soviets faced the same problems in the 80s, make the same point: that the Soviets failed because they couldn’t bring in an international coalition. My fear is that Obama will fail at that unless he is planning to actively work that angle once signalling his own commitment.

2. Even then, the commitment still doesn’t go far enough. In 5 years time Afghanistan may revert back into Taliban hands, in which case the whole area will become destabilised again and al-Qaeda will once again use it as a base for activity.

3. There is the danger that by adopting Bush’s war as his own – he ends up owning it and ultimately falling with it. But Obama has made the choice to make a sensiblle, principled decision instead of one that benefits him only politically.

4. It will cost a lot. Around $1million a soldier – money that may have been better off spent somewhere else.

But to the honest, this was probably the best decision out of the bad choices available to him. At this point I’m more hopeful than optimistic.

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